I upgraded my original iPhone to the 2.0 firmware release on Thursday night (before all the activation problems started), and have been using it for a couple days now. As others have written at length elsewhere, the 2.0 software release has a ton of improvements. While those are nice, I barely notice them. The real breakthrough (for me) is in the App Store, and having third-party applications on my phone.
Although individual applications are mostly $10 or less, buying a bunch of them adds up. Since everything is so new, there’s not a lot of reviews, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on some of the applications I like.
I’ve downloaded and tested the following applications:
- Bejeweled 2 — What a terrific game. Stands head-and-shoulders above the (free) web-based version I’ve been playing for the last year, in game play, sound effects, graphics quality. Well worth the $10. My only complaint: it takes over sound output, so I can’t play when listening to my own audio. So I still play the web-based version when I’m listening to audiobooks. I’d love a mute option, so I could stick with the native version at all times.
- Morocco — Reversi / Othello, and free. Nicely done, and you can’t beat the price.
- Muddled — This is a neat word game, and for $2 a great deal. You can think of it as speed training for Scrabble or Boggle, but it’s a good game in and of itself. A few interface quirks, where moving the letter tiles can be awkward or get stuck, but this is minor, and probably easily fixed in an update.
- Quordy — Kind of a Boggle clone, but it makes outstanding use of the touchscreen, to make selecting a word incredibly simple. Great use of the iPhone’s features, and $3 is a nice price.
- Scrabble — I consider Scrabble an all-time classic game, and having it in my pocket was a no-brainer, especially for only $10. I managed to beat the computer my first game, but just barely. Nicely implemented on the small touch screen. I look forward to testing multi-person play.
- Solebon Solitaire — Smallware has been making challenging solitaire games for the Mac and Palm for many years, and their attention to detail is spectacular. This is not a flashy game, with lot of custom card designs, flashy animations, etc. The focus is on highly readable cards, interesting games, and graceful game play. If you want a mindless card game, this is not it. The solitaire variations available are “hard,” which means that you don’t have to get lucky with the shuffle of the cards; with thought you can win most games. Challenging, interesting, deep. I chose this game because I love one of Smallware’s other solitaire games, Solavant for Mac. There are a lot of solitaire options in the App Store; I don’t know about the others, but this one is worth the $10.
- Texas Hold’em — For the production value, this may be the best deal in a game in the App Store. Apple has clearly set the price low ($5) with the expectation that they’ll make their money on volume. It’s a very well made game, with great graphics, video of opponents with lots of variations, and thoughtful interface touches for the iPhone touchscreen, like double-tapping to check, flicking your cards to the dealer to fold, and flicking your chips to go all in.
There seem to be a couple of games with lots of competing versions on the App Store. As noted, solitaire is one of them, and since there are no trial versions available, I’ve only tried Solebon. That was an easy decision, since I knew I could count on Smallware’s quality and game play.
There are a bunch of casino-style games, like blackjack and video poker, in which I have no interest. Lots of Sudoku, again no interest. And there are a bunch of Mahjong versions, in which I am interested; I’m looking forward to a review of the options, since trying them all would be a bit pricey.
- Evernote — Evernote is an interesting service that I am still trying to figure out how to integrate into my information collection and management practices. But one thing about it leapt out at me: the application is free, and takes voice recordings. Most of the other recorder applications cost money. That
makesought to make Evernote a no-brainer. Update: Other reports of Evernote are less kind, and it does seem problematic at the moment. Hopefully updates will fix the issues.
- Mobile News Network — Their web-based version was a great example of how to make a great iPhone web application. This native version, also free, is even better. Currently the best general news reading application for the iPhone, IMHO.
- Things — An early version of a promising tasks manager. The developer is offering a steep discount (50% or so) right now, in recognition that some critical features, like desktop syncing, are not yet there. Those will come in a free update, when they are completed. If you have faith in the vendor and don’t mind waiting for missing features, $10 is probably the lowest price this app will ever see.
- Twitterific — I’m currently using the free version, since I have yet to really “get” Twitter. I think it will evolve into something really interesting, but right now it interrupts me more than it helps or entertains me.
iPhone 3G Thoughts
While the vast majority of the improvements in the iPhone come through the software, and thus work on my original iPhone, I’m planning on getting an iPhone 3G for a couple reasons. One, I have definitely found the speed of data access on the EDGE (2G) network to be limiting, especially with Maps. And looking up who-starred-in-what-movie to settle drinking discussions takes way too long. The faster data rate of 3G will get used.
Two, I want the location services of GPS. The simulated GPS in the original iPhone works pretty well, but adding true GPS makes it better, more accurate and in more places. A lot of the third-party iPhone applications already take advantage of knowing your location, but this is only getting started. Location-based services are going to be huge.
Finally, I learned today that phone calls go directly to voicemail if you’re using the EDGE data network, i.e., surfing the web, checking email, etc. This would explain a lot of the voicemails that appear on my phone, when the phone never rang. The 3G network does away with this limitation.