Angry birds and a tour of our solar system: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include a educational 3D tour of our solar system and a funny game that has you launch birds to take down structures.

iPhone (Credit: CNET)

Did you know you could get a refund for your purchase of an iPhone app? I didn't until I watched a new CNET TV How-to with Brian Tong. In the video, Brian details the process for getting a refund on an app he wanted to buy for the iPad, but chose the iPhone version by mistake. It's a bit complicated to explain the process here, so you'll want to check out the video linked above to get a detailed visual how-to for getting an app refund.

As Brian points out, though you have the ability to get a refund on an unwanted app, it's not a good way to test apps because you'll need to have a fairly good reason to receive a refund (like buying the wrong version). He also makes a couple of other great points: Don't forget that the developers who create apps are a large part of what makes these devices so great and getting a refund on a fairly cheap app just isn't worth the trouble for anyone involved. Remember you can only get a refund if it's within the first 90 days of owning the app.

Though I can't think of any apps I want a refund for, it's good to know there's a way to get your money back if you make a purchase in error or buy the wrong version. Hopefully, you'll never want a refund on an app I talk about here!

This week's apps include an educational 3D tour of our solar system and a funny game that has you launch birds to take down structures.

Solar Walk 3D

When you're done reading the info, you can drill deeper for more info (arrow) or zoom back out.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Solar Walk 3D Solar System ($2.99) lets you explore a 3D model of our solar system on both your iPhone and your iPad (this universal app only requires one purchase for both devices). Your first destination is Earth and you can swipe your finger to rotate the view, pinch to zoom, and reverse pinch to see more of the solar system. The camera is trained on the sun, a planet, or the moon, but you can hit the info icon in the upper left corner to view more-detailed information. When you're done looking at an object, click the solar system icon in the lower left to zoom back out. As you explore you're treated to space-age music that goes very well with the scenery.

Solar Walk 3D is a simple, but well-designed educational app that both kids and adults will appreciate for the amount of information about each celestial body. When you zoom into a planet and hit the info button, you get a brief overview, detailed information about the size, mass, gravitational pull, and other statistics with helpful info of how the stats relate to Earth. Hit the arrow to move on the next page to see detailed information about the makeup of the planet, including data about the various layers of each body. Overall, with beautiful graphics, eerie music, and detailed information about our solar system, Solar Walk 3D is great for anyone who wants to learn more about what lies outside of our atmosphere.

Angry Birds

You wouldn't know it, but this second shot took down the whole structure (I swear!).

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Angry Birds (99 cents) is a fun pick-up-and play game in which you're challenged with knocking down a structure using birds fired from a slingshot. In the game, the silly storyline involves the evil Green Pigs who have have stolen the birds' eggs and now the birds are ready for revenge. The cartoonlike graphics and funny sounds make this game fun for the whole family, and there's plenty of challenge once you start to bring down some of the bigger structures. A level starts with a view of the structure, then the camera pans to your giant slingshot and the available bird "ammo" for that level. From there, simply touch the bird and drag to pull the slingshot back for power and swipe up or down to adjust the trajectory. Launch the bird at weak points in the structure to bring the whole thing down.

Angry Birds was one of those games I was reluctant to try out because it seemed too silly to be fun, but once I got to the more advanced levels, I realized there was plenty of challenge for even the most experienced gamer. You'll need to study each structure to find the weak points and you often have a limited number of birds to launch, making your shot selection all the more critical. Inside each structure are your Green Pig enemies and you'll receive bonus points for each one you take out as you bring the building down. Overall, Angry Birds is a cute, yet challenging game with plenty of levels to explore. It will be a great purchase for anyone who's looking for a fun and funny time-waster.

What's your favorite iPhone app? What do you think of Solar Walk 3D? Is Angry Birds as challenging as I say, or is this game just for kids? Let me know in the comments!

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