Weekly App Store Roundup: Jan. 10, 2009


After our first week proper in 2009, we’ve run smack-bang in to a hurricane of Apple news courtesy of this year’s Macworld event.

Over at Apple’s final MacWorld Keynote, standing in for Papa Jobs, Uncle Phil unveiled brand new iLife and iWork suites, alongside completing the Macbook Pro lineup with a 17″ model touting 8 hours of battery life.

And, to finish proceedings off, Apple revealed special singing guest Tony Bennett, allowing the adoring audience to bask in the warmth of his orange glow as he crooned the keynote to a close.

While everyone else at TheAppleBlog has had their eye on Macworld, I’ve been rolling around in the App Store and getting friendly with the latest additions.

This week I’ve been looking at Keynote Remote, Wallpaper Notes, Cisco WebEx Meeting Center and Bank Panic.

keynote-remoteKeynote Remote ($0.99)
If you’re passionate and prepared, presenting can be a true pleasure. Keynote, being the polished application that it is, makes both preparation and execution a breeze. When I present, the Apple Remote is a key tool: enabling me to present in a fluid and relaxed manner. Using the Remote, I’m not looking at a screen or even notes, I’m looking at — and engaging with — the audience. If you want your presentations to be more effective, don’t bother with this app, go back to basics — learn your subject inside out, practice, relax and, on the day, enthuse.

wallpaper-notesWallpaper Notes ($0.99)
Apple’s embedded Notes app is already out-dated; there’s no desktop or web sync, no reminders functionality, no bells and a distinct absence of whistles. I replaced Notes with Evernote, which incorporates a cavalcade of note-taking features. Wallpaper Notes does nothing special, bar one killer feature: saving notes as iPhone wallpaper, meaning that a quick check of the screen keeps you informed. A cunning work-around indeed.

webexCisco WebEx Meeting Center (free)
Back when I worked for the European-arm of an American mobile media publisher, I learnt two important things: a white vest and organic American Apparel underwear are only ever acceptable work-wear when working from home, and, when we conducted large-scale meetings with our cousins ‘cross the pond, Cisco’s WebEx was an invaluable tool in bringing us together. Long-awaited by iPhone-touting business folk, this mobile implementation of WebEx incorporates audio-visual presentations and even chat functionality.

bankpanicBank Panic ($0.99)
It’s a morbidly apt premise for a simple iPhone game and I love it: bankrupt stock brokers have taken to hurling themselves out of high-rises due to the global financial crisis. It’s your job to stop the depressed Dow dealers snapping their supple skulls on the hard floor by catching their falling bodies in your miracle blanket. Now if this deliciously horrid plot wasn’t reason enough to purchase the game, here’s the really clever bit: the game’s difficulty is linked to the real-world value of the Dow Jones — the lower the Dow drops, the tougher the gameplay gets.

Just One More Thing

It seems that this week’s Roundup has been of a decidedly productive nature, covering tools for meetings, note-taking and presenting. Even Bank Panic has serious under-currents with its amusing use of the declining Dow Jones feeding the stock-brokers’ suicide rate.

So it’s time we lighten the mood a little as, like Sauron’s great big burning eye in the sky, I’m going to turn my cyclopean gaze to the future and draw your attention to a very promising iPhone game due out soon.

traceBovine Dragon Software are the designers behind Trace, an inventive game that involves drawing the platforms that your character traverses in each stage, released last year. About to pop its youngling head out from the womb of development is Bovine Dragon’s latest creation, Gomi.

From the cutesy preview videos, it seems that Gomi is a mash-up of Mario Galaxy, Katamari Damacy and LocoRoco, wrapped in graphics that look like they were drawn in Microsoft Paint. According to the developers, the eco-friendly, grinning Gomi will be out by February, in the meantime, check out the videos to see the game in action.

Over the course of the holiday season, I decided to invest in Gameloft’s Uno for iPhone. The game is bug-ridden, clunky and slow, certainly not worth the five bucks I paid for it. And I should have known better — I’ve previously worked for a big mobile publisher and developer, based on my own experience and general industry chit-chat with my peers, I know exactly what goes in to the development of these games.

unoPerhaps it’s an effort to appease the needs of licensors, or to hit unrealistic release dates promised by uncommunicative marketing and sales departments, maybe it’s to please investors (who are often shielded from a proper overview of the business by misguided MDs) or it’s as distasteful as knowingly rushing a title out with a recognizable logo pasted on to it (that acts as a horridly misleading seal of quality), there are a multitude of possible reasons as to why games from the big developers and publishers are often offensively shoddy disappointments.

I’ll summarize my point as such: look at Tapulous, Hand Circus and Illusion Labs —  bastions of quality independent development. It’s time the big guys started taking notes from the little guys.

That’s all from the App Store for this week, I’m quitting my jibber jabber for another 7 days and I’ll be back next Saturday with more apps. In the meantime, drop by the comments and let me know what apps you’ve been looking at.