Reviews

iOS 4 review

Complete review of Apple's iOS 4 software for iPhone and iPod touch

iOS 4 (previously iPhone OS 4.0) continues Apple's relentless yearly mobile OS update cycle. If 2007 was the mainstreaming of the multitouch user interface, 2008 all about the App Store, and 2009 was filling in the feature list, then iOS 4 promises to be... well, that's why we're here.

(And yes, iOS. That's the new name Apple has licensed from trademark-holders Cisco to represent the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch -- and maybe soon the Apple TV and who knows what else -- family.)

Back on April 8 at the sneak preview event, Apple promised 7 "tent-pole" features and 100+ general user features overall, along with 1500 major new API for developers. We're going to walk you through the ones that matter most.

Note: iOS 4.1 is now available. See our complete iOS 4.1 walkthrough for the latest on Game Center, HDR photography, Ping social music network, and the other new features.

See also our iPhone 4 review for more on hardware specific features.

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iPhone 4 preview

Everything you need to know about Apple's new iPhone 4

iPhone 4 is the most significant hardware revision to Apple's widescreen iPod, breakthrough internet communicator, and phone since the original iPhone 2G was released in 2007. But how significant is it? Apple CEO Steve Jobs said there were over 100 new features and singled out 8 for special attention. We'll take the most interesting of both and see just how important they are, after the break.

(For more on the software, see our massive iOS 4 feature walkthrough).

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Guitar Hero for iPhone - app review

During the WWDC 2010 keynote, Activision announced and released Guitar Hero on the iPhone. This game is well made and provides a lot of enjoyment for players as they strum, tap, slide and whammy to the beat of popular rock songs.

The gameplay of Guitar Hero is fun, unique and includes much more than tapping notes. An arrow pointing left or right indicates that you need to tap the note where the arrow begins and slide your finger to where the arrow ends. This action needs to happen fairly quickly. If two or more notes are connected by lines, then you must tap the first note and slide your finger to the next notes. Your finger needs to reach each note connected in the line at the appropriate time that corresponds to the beat of the song. A vertical line means that you must hold down the note until the line ends. Sometimes these appear at the end of an arrow which mean you must slide and hold. The last thing that comes up is an orange bar that is the length of all four notes. This bar simply needs to be tapped at any location.

Some notes have stars on them. Successfully hitting all these notes in a sequence adds to your star power. There is blue bar on the right of the screen which indicates how much star power you have. Once it reaches half-way, a blue bar will appear above the note catchers. Tapping this activates your star power and doubles your score multiplier. The more star power you have, the longer it lasts.

Guitar Hero also offers character customization, leaderboards, Faecbook sharing, and in-app purchases. If you want more than the 6 songs included with Guitar Hero, then you must purchase songs in bundles of three. Each song pack costs $1.99. There are no free songs available for download.

Guitar Hero includes the following 6 tracks:

  • Queen – “We Are The Champions”
  • Rise Against – “Savior”
  • The Rolling Stones – “Paint It Black”
  • Vampire Weekend – “Cousins”
  • Weezer – “Say It Ain’t So”
  • The White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army”

The downloadable song packs via in-app purchase are grouped by the following artists:

  • The Faint, Minus the Bear and Silversun Pickups
  • Band of Skulls, Obits and The White Stripes
  • Darkest Hour, The Dillinger Escape Plan and Protest the Hero
  • A Day to Remember, AFI and Breaking Benjamin
  • Vampire Weekend
  • Queen

I have thoroughly enjoyed the short time I've spent playing Guitar Hero and don't plan to stop playing anytime soon. The game runs great, looks great, and is very well designed. It's only a matter of time before I become a famous rock star!

Videos and screenshots after the break!

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MathBoard for iPad - app review

MathBoard for iPad is an educational application designed to help you or your child excel in arithmetic operations. The level of difficulty is customizable, making MathBoard a great learning tool for children in kindergarten through elementary school as well as adults who wish to brush up on their basic math skills.

MathBoard is simply a multiple choice quiz generator. You can customize which topics you wish to be quizzed on, how many questions are in the quiz, and what range of numbers you want in the problems. Topics include addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, squares, cubes, and square roots.

While taking a quiz, there is a small area at the bottom of the screen where you can use your finger (or stylus, if you prefer) to work on the problem as if you were using a pencil and paper. This is an excellent feature of MathBoard, however, the area is too small. For example, when working out a multiplication problem of two numbers with two or more digits, you quickly run out of space to complete all the calculations in the traditional manner. Instead, you must continue your work next to the work you already did. This can be very confusing for a child who is new to the procedure. I would like to either see a pop-up to do scratch work on or landscape support. Most of these problems require vertical space to work out and rotating to landscape may solve the lack of space issue.

After completing the quiz, MathBoard displays your score and gives an option to save the quiz. If you do, you can come back to it later and retake the entire quiz or just the questions you got wrong.

Despite the small scratch work space, MathBoard is an excellent application for learning arithmetic. The interface is very beautiful and much more enjoyable than taking printed quizzes with pencil and paper!

Video and screenshots after the break!

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Chaos Rings for iPhone- app review

Chaos Rings is the ultimate RPG thus far on the iPhone. Square Enix has done a fabulous job bringing the console RPG experience we have come to love on to our beloved Apple devices.

Our story begins with several pairings of unlikely partners thrust into a battle they do not wish to fight in a tower competing for rings. Starting the game you are given two choices for characters. Both teams include two people and you are always a party of two. When beginning, you are given a choice of two pairs and both have a similar story but different dialog. Each team has a stronger "fighter" type of character and the other is more of a support/magic character.

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Case-Mate Gelli Kaleidoscope Case for iPad - accessory review

If you're looking for a nice, fashionable, and well-made skin for your iPad, the Case-Mate Gelli [$36.95] may be the case for you.

The Case-Mate Gelli is made from cutting-edge flexible thermoplastic material that Case-Mate claims to be more resilient than silicone and rubber. It fits very snuggly onto the iPad even after removing it several times. The skin feel great in your hands and adds some traction to your grip. It is also very thin; so it adds additional protection without adding unnecessary bulk. All ports are accessible with the Case-Mate Gelli.

The Case-Mate Gelli comes in two different chic designs: Kaleidoscope and Checkmate. I took a look at the Tomato Kaleidoscope skin and it is very beautiful. The thin, translucent case looks great with the iPad's aluminum back. The Apple Logo and iPad branding show through the skin perfectly. The noticeability of the circles designed into the Kaleidoscope case is enough to look great, yet not stand out so much that it seems to be screaming "look at me!" The Kaleidoscope case comes in Tomato, Pink, and Aurora (yellow/gold). The Checkmate skin comes in green, blue, and gray.

I have been very happy with the Case-Mate Gelli case and highly recommend it to anyone interested in a skin case for their iPad.

Video and photos after the break!

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Documents to Go for iPad- app review

As a user of Dataviz's Documents to Go product for years, I was ecstatic for the iPhone release and now even more so for the universal binary for iPad. Documents to Go is a mobile office productivity suite that allows you to create and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint formatted documents and file types on your iPad.

Let's first look at how we can access our documents, there are a few different ways. First, you can create documents on the iPad. Next, you can sync with your desktop (PC or Mac). You can install a free desktop sync tool. This allows you to pick a folder on your computer and sync those documents to the iPad, or use the built-in iTunes sync if that is your preference. Last but not least you can connect to a few different web services in the "cloud" and edit your documents and save it right back to the cloud. Documents to Go supports these services:

  • Google Docs
  • Box.net
  • Dropbox
  • iDisk
  • Public Disk (iDisk)
  • Sugar Sync

Syncing your documents to the cloud is truly fantastic and is something Apple's own iPad iWork suite does not offer beyond iWork.com.

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Pregnancy Tracker from WhatToExpect.com for iPhone - app review

What to Expect when Expecting is one of the most popular pregnancy books available, and they also have an app to compliment their book and website. Pregnancy Tracker from WhatToExpect.com is an iPhone application for pregnant women to keep track of their pregnancy.

There are 5 sections of Pregnancy Tracker. The home screen, called "tracker", is where you see your due date, a countdown to your due date, Baby's gestational age, what trimester you're in, and something to compare your baby's size to. (This week, my baby is the size of a butternut squash!)

The Weekly tab provides useful information about what to expect with your body and also the changes that are happening in your baby's development. This section is very thorough and gives quite a bit of information.

The Daily tab is my favorite part of Pregnancy Tracker because I haven't seen this in another pregnancy application before. Here you are given a new tip, fact, or reminder each day. Most apps have something similar, but it only changes weekly.

You can store photos related to your pregnancy in the Photos tab.

The last tab is for Forums. This is a great section to communicate with other moms and moms-to-be about pregnancy or anything else related. What makes the forums even better is that they are the same forums that you can find on WhatToExpect.com. This opens up the conversations to anyone, not just iPhone users.

Pregnancy Tracker is a great pregnancy application that is packed with information. The main thing it's lacking is good pictures; It would be really nice if nice pregnancy related pictures were added to the app. Other than that, I have been very happy with Pregnancy Tracker. And the best part... it's free!

Video and screenshots after the break!

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iKlenz cleaner solution for iPad and iPhone - accessory review

iKlenz Cleaner Solution for your iPhone and iPad removes, dirt, grime, fingerprints, bacteria and germs, while repelling dust. iKlenz gives your iPhone and iPad ascreen a streak free shine.

If I had to name my top 5 items I should always have for my iPhone and iPad this would most definitely be one one them. Since I do a lot of videos, I always ensure my iPhone and iPad are clean before a shoot. I also know that water and/or a shirt (iChadman, bellyrub?!) do not cut it when it comes to fingerprints and oil. Also Windex can cause damage to the delicate surface of the iPhone and iPad, so I never use that on my precious iPhone and iPad.

You just spray the solution on the cloth a few times, wipe the screen clean lightly then fold and dry off with the other side of the microfiber cloth (which comes with iKlenz). It works like a charm and lasts for a long time.

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Galactic Untangle HD for iPad - app review

Galactic Untangle HD for the iPad is a puzzle game. It is simple, yet challenging, and can easily keep you occupied for hours.

In each level, you are a given a bunch of points connected by lines, and your goal is to move the points around until there are no lines crossing. In mathematical terms, you are given a graph and it is your job to rearrange the vertices until no edges are crossing, i.e., result with a planar representation of the graph. This game is very strait-forward and simple, but not generally easy to beat. As you progress, the graphs become much more complicated and difficult to beat.

There are two modes in Galactic Untangle HD. In "free mode", there is no stress of being timed and you can relax and play at a leisurely pace. In "challenge mode" you are being timed and you have an option to submit your score to the world scoreboard. However, even though you are asked to enter your name, the world scoreboard does not display names. As someone who holds a few of the records, I find this annoying.

Galactic Untangle is an excellent game. It is designed well and looks beautiful on the iPad's screen. It has a simple objective, yet challenging gameplay. And best of all, it's a fun way to give your brain some exercise!

Video and screenshots after the break!

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