Weekly App Store Roundup: Jan. 31, 2009


Good Saturday and a Happy Weekend to one and all, it’s time to sit down, relax and wrap your big eyes round this week’s App Store Roundup.

This week on TheAppleBlog, we got in there super fast with an in-depth look at iMovie ’09, iPhoto ’09 and iWeb ’09. Of particular note was our very own Liam Cassidy describing iWeb as an, “embarrassing, backward cousin,” to the breathtaking updates of iMovie and iPhoto.

And in other news, Darrell Etherington reported on rumblings from two separate sources about a potential new iPhone.

With some of the week’s most notable news out of the way, let’s roll on to our weekly App Store Roundup.

This week I’ve been looking at Distant Shores, Sax Man, Photo fx and LifeTicker.

distantshoreDistant Shore (99 cents)
Frankly I’m not a fan of LOST. The same location again and again, the same characters every episode, the same premise… it’s infuriating. I’ll take my re-runs of Cheers any day, thank you. However, this app — a virtual desert island which you can wander at your pleasure, soaking up the tropical ambiance — is a wonderful concept. You’re even able to cast off a message in a bottle and read messages from other stranded players. Think of it as LOST, albeit without the uncannily beautiful people, the perpetual onslaught of pointless puzzles or the hairy hobbit rockstar.

saxmanSax Man (99 cents)
The folks over at Yudo are doing good things with their 1 Dollar Game series. The latest addition, while not strictly a game, is a fun little musical toy. Indeed, as a virtual saxophone Sax Man allows you to seriously get your jazz on.  In a control-scheme reminiscent of the utterly breathtaking Ocarina for iPhone, to play the Sax you simply blow in to the iPhone’s microphone while holding the corresponding key combination for a given note. It’s not too tough for beginners and musicians, particularly those experienced with wind instruments will find playing Sax Man to be a breeze.

photofxPhoto fx ($2.99)
Like Quantum Leap’s Sam, leaping from place to place and searching for a way home, my journey — from one disappointing photo app to another — searching for the perfect set of iPhone camera tools continues. The developers, The Tiffen Company, actually make real photographic filters, so it seems they know a thing or two about photography. The app itself is intended to simulate Tiffen’s glass filters, optical lab processes and photographic effects. On first look, this app is incredibly promising — feature-rich, easy to use and a wealth of interesting filters and effects.

lifetickerLifeTicker ($9.99)
Allowing you to keep track of important events in your life — meetings, birthdays, medical appointments — LifeTicker could be an essential tool for some. Or at least as essential as a calendar. I’m gonna skip the pleasantries on this one: the app looks ugly, is light on features and vastly overpriced (even at $9.99 which is, apparently, a limited time 50 percent off launch-price). Users looking for an alternative that integrates more effectively with your lifestyle should try checking out Google Calendar (with NuevaSync) or Apple’s iCal (with MobileMe), both of which sync with your iPhone and are robust enough to feature notes, reminders and contact invitations.

Just One More Thing

Earlier this week, TheAppleBlog’s Darrell Etherington spoke about the recent rumors pertaining to a possible Premium Game Section in the App Store. Currently, in the game section of the store, the sub-categories relate to gaming genres such as puzzle, racing or casino.

If the rumors actually happen, it means that Premium Games will be an additional category in the App Store. Within this category would be products from the big game companies and the pricing would reflect this, with a download costing around $20 (regular players will know that games currently range from free to around 8 bucks).

EAs disappointing MySims Kingdom for Nintendo DS
EA's disappointing MySims Kingdom for Nintendo DS

When I say that the substantial price increase is a reflection of the fact that these are games from big companies, to be more specific, I mean that the big game companies desire to charge you more, much more, for games. This potential move by Apple absolutely does not mean that the games will be higher quality, better graphics or deeper gameplay.

So why is this happening? It’s all a matter of perception: as Pocketgamer.biz note, Apple sees the touch and iPhone as serious contenders in the handheld game wars, up against the DS and PSP where games are upwards of twenty bucks each. This new section in the App Store means that there will be a special shelf in the store for the games from the larger global publishers.

I’d argue that we’re seeing more innovation, more compelling gameplay, and more quality produce at appropriate price-points since launch in the App Store than on the DS and PSP combined. This is because the App Store allows independent developers to bring their wares directly to us on the same store shelves as the big boys, something which just does not happen (at least not enough) on Sony and Nintendo’s handhelds.

And while Apple’s potential move won’t directly stifle this innovation, it may draw the flow of cash towards premium products from risk-averse game publishers, towards games that some consumers will incorrectly perceive as higher-quality and better value for money and away from independently developed gaming pearls like Rolando and Trace.

That’s all for this week’s App Store Roundup, as ever, thank you for joining me for a rundown of the week’s most interesting releases. I’ll be back next Saturday with my picks from the week, in the meantime, drop by the comments and let me know which apps you’ve downloaded this week.