Week two of the all-new, all-inclusive weekly app roundup brings some truly excellent iPad games — Osmos, Monkey Island 2, and Samurai: Way of the Warrior — in addition to a whole host of other excellent apps for both iPhone and Android.
Archetype: An exceptionally shiny first person shooter optimised for the iPhone 4, with slick, functional controls. Best of all is the 5 v 5 team deathmatch mode, which is just like the multiplayer action you're used to on the consoles--including multiple guns, grenades, maps, and medals--except this one you play while you're sitting on the toilet. Mulitplayer works with Wi-Fi or, slightly less well, with 3G, but all in all you get a lot of pocket-size FPS intensity for just $3. Quite an achievement.
Chase Mobile: OK, very cool for Chase customers, not quite as cool for everyone else, but the latest update to Chase's app lets you take deposit checks by snapping pictures of them with your iPhone. Chase isn't the first bank to do this sort of thing, but they're definitely the biggest, and when gigantic companies like JPMorgan Chase do some futuristic stuff like adding cameraphone check depositing, it's nice to take a second out of your day to appreciate the effort. Free. Also available for the iPad
My TSA: You certainly don't want the Transportation Security Authority in your business any more than they have to be, but it turns out having them on your phone isn't all that bad. Their well-designed new app has real time status updates on major airports including info on delays and wait times for individual security checkpoints, as well as a fun 'Can I bring my…' feature where you tap in a word--'shampoo,' I tried--and it gives you a full rundown on whether or not you'll be able to bring it on an aeroplane. Free (My TSA is part of USA.gov's new collection o' apps. Helpful!)
NYCMate: An iPhone version of the Android standby, NYCMate offers free, official pinch-to-zoom maps of New York's subways and bus routes. And once you figure out where to find your transportation of choice, it has schedules to tell you when exactly you should head in that direction. Free.
I just had a videochat over 3G and it was the most amazing thing I've experienced all day. There was some lag, voice quality wasn't perfect, and video was sometimes jittery. But I loved every minute of it.
Why am I so excited about something so ridiculously simple? Because as much as I adore my iPhone 4 and its FaceTime feature, I hate that I have to rely on Wi-Fi and can only call friends who own iPhone 4 devices. But with the updated Fring iPhone app I can now call anyone who uses Skype or Fring-on their computers or mobile devices. I can even call from a beach without a single Wi-Fi spot near.
Of course, some of these configurations work better than others, but if you got a taste of FaceTime and want more more more, Fring's free app opens up many more mugs for you to check out.
Expenditure: As far as they go, Expenditure is a gorgeous way to track expenses on your iPhone, giving you big, pretty buttons to add new expenses, file them in appropriate categories, and see overviews of your recent activity. I can't imagine many people diligently filing their every single transaction, but for say keeping track of how many lunches your buddy owes you or wrangling receipts on a business trip (with the helpful photo note feature), it's a solid option that's both simple and polished. $2
Light-O-Matic: This week, Apple let a flood of flashlight apps into the App Store, which is kind of exciting because maybe sometime you'll want to use your LED flash as a flashlight but even more exciting because it's a rare instance of Apple giving developers the OK to use their precious for a function it was not explicitly designed for. Baby steps, people! Of this flash flood, Light-O-Matic stands out as one of the best designed and most fully featured, and it's only a buck. But if you're a real cheap-o, there are plenty of free options like LED Light for iPhone 4 Free. Straight shooters, those guys.
Dreamscape: What's the one thing I learned from playing Dreamscape? Popping bubbles is incredibly satisfying, even when those bubbles are fake. The pretty backgrounds give you a pleasant place to pop, and the bubble popping noise is just right (this, of course, is very important.) Free today (Friday, June 9), less free thereafter.
The game, which is adapted from a well-regarded PC version and costs $5 in the App Store, puts you in control of a tiny blue organism, a mote, which you direct around the screen, growing in size as you absorb the smaller blobs around you. Of course, all sorts of challenges, including bigger motes trying to absorb you, complicate that mission.
But what's really special about Osmos is the experience of controlling that game play. Tapping behind your mote scoots him around the screen, predictably, but at any time you can pinch to zoom in or out, allowing you to navigate a tight passage or survey the level at a distance. Additionally, you can swipe with one finger to alter time-drag left and all the motes slow to a crawl, drag right and they shoot around like bouncy balls. Different speeds and levels of zoom have situations in which they're uniquely useful, and these elegant controls are the perfect complement to the game's polished visuals.
Night Browser: Who would've thought that the iPad's lowest brightness setting could sometimes be WAY TOO BRIGHT. Night Browser adds another layer of darkness on top of your browser, allowing you to surf the web after hours without blasting your eyeballs or disturbing who or whatever might be laying next to you. It could be a pet! $1
Droptext: Droptext isn't nearly as pretty as Dropbox's official app, but it has one simple feature that makes it worthwhile: the ability to edit text files. If you're a frequent mobile Dropbox user and have started at documents in frustration knowing you can't make a little edit here or there, this could well be worth the $1. Also works on the iPhone
Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: The Monkey Island (sequel) you know and love, gorgeously redone for the iPad. Jesus, resident Monkey Island expert, says it's nearly perfect, with great graphics and excellent controls. If you're still not convinced, he'll be telling you all about it very soon. $10
StreamToMe: LifeHacker's new Handbrake profiles for iPad make encoding videos a snap, but most of the time I skip that step all together and just stream stuff directly from my computer, and StreamToMe's my favourite app for the job (other people like AirVideo). Anyway, StreamToMe just got a whole lot better with a recent update: A new, split-pane interface lets you browse your computer's files while you're playing one back on your iPad, and the app now lets you play a folder of items in succession. Share your iTunes folder on your computer and stream a full album right to your iPad. $3 Also works on the iPhone
Sure, Samurai is just a game, but it's a clear example of how cool the iPad could be. Why?
It's not the beautiful graphics-a combination of hand drawn ink drawings with cartoon-rendered three-dimensional models in a 3D world. It's not the effective animation and the special effects-especially the blood splattering. And it's not the touch control, which just requires point and click to move your warrior, and slash your finger to attack the enemy.
No, it's none of those factors alone but the combination of all of them with this thin touchscreen computer. On another platform, Samurai would be a nice game. On the iPad, it's a nice game which is really extra fun just because of the way you interact with it and look directly into it. Even the comic book story line, which you can read between stages, feels perfect in the iPad (like the Marvel and DC comic apps show).
ESPN Radio: It's ESPN Radio. On a phone. So you can listen to the talking heads of ESPN make sense of Lebron on live sports radio streams and over 40 different sports podcasts (including Bill Simmons). There's Sportscenter updates too. Sports radio can be a screaming mess, but ESPN Radio has some good content. It's $5, so only buy if you'll really listen.
Pricegrabber: Like the 10 million other barcode scanning apps for Android, but it's hooked into Pricegrabber. The big feature is its 'BottomLine' pricing, which adds in shipping and tax, so you know how much something actually costs. Free.
1Password: Maybe it's a little scary to have all your passwords on a mobile device, but 1Password is the best password manager around. It keeps track of all of your complicated 'G2zs01Tt'-type passwords in a simple program, using a single master password as the key. You have to manually import your passwords onto your phone from your computer, which is annoying. It's still in beta, so it's a bit rough around the edges. Technically free, but requires $39.95 purchase of the desktop version. Android 2.1+
Borders eReader: Powered by Kobo (which has its own Android app) but with Borders gloss. It looks and works decently enough, but is mostly nice for big Borders shoppers, since it links up to Borders Rewards program. The app also supports automatic bookmarking and customised font and type sizes. Free. Android 2.0+
With the Fast Web Installer add-on for AppBrain, you can head to AppBrain's own market, search and sort to find an app, then click 'Install' and see it instantly download onto your phone.
Which makes getting apps onto your phone way easier. Browsing app stores on your phone is convenient, but certainly not fast by any measure. It only works with free apps.