The big news this week was Apple's special event to announce the coming release of iPhone OS 4. Among the more than 100 new features in the updated operating system, Apple announced some big changes that both iPhone users and app developers will appreciate. According to Apple, the OS upgrade will be available to iPad users this fall.
Perhaps the biggest announcement of all was the addition of multitasking. This long-awaited feature will let you run multiple apps at a time so you can, for example, run Pandora to listen to music, while you play your favorite game or work on another project (currently you can only listen to music stored on your iPhone while using another app). As I mentioned in an earlier post, this has been a big user requested feature though I haven't really had a need for it up until now.
Some of the other more prominent changes include a new folder system for apps, and iAd, Apple's new advertising system for third-party developers. The new folder system will be great for putting similar apps together (e.g., a racing games folder or a folder of apps related to your work) and make it much easier to open the apps you want to use quickly.
The new advertising system, iAd, lets developers make in-app ads that don't force you to leave the app you're using. With the new system, Apple has given developers more options to include expanded ad content in apps, which means they will be able to release more free, ad-supported content. Though ads can sometimes be an annoyance, it's nice to see that Apple is trying to make it as convenient as possible for both users and developers.
This week's apps are both games, with a fun mobile version of a classic TV game show and a game where you slowly build your own kingdom.
Press Your luck ($2.99) is an iPhone game that's based on the popular game show "Press Your Luck" from the 1980s. The app does a great job of recreating the format of the original TV version, with three contestants who battle to answer four trivia questions in order to add to their spin count for when they face The Big Wall at the end of the round. Each correctly answered question gets you 3 more spins at the Big Wall. Once it's your turn to spin, you'll have the option to spin or pass, which you will choose based on how much money you've won so far and how much you want to risk getting a Whammy, a cartoon character that takes all your money and prizes.
For the uninitiated, Press Your Luck (and everything I've written about it so far) will probably sound like silly nonsense, and frankly, it probably is. The game also requires you to wait while the other contestants answer, which can get a bit frustrating. But if you're like me and enjoyed this game show, Press Your Luck for iPhone is true to the original with funny Whammy animations, contestants that actually say "No Whammies, no Whammies, stop!" and multiplayer options so you can pass your iPhone back and forth among friends. You also get a staggering amount of customization for your character's outfits, which only adds to the fun. Overall, Press Your Luck will probably appeal more to those who have seen the show, but people who like trivia with a mix of cash and prizes will appreciate the attention to detail in this game.
We Rule (Free) is a real-time kingdom simulation game where you'll need to earn money to expand your kingdom. Earning money in We Rule requires that you grow crops and build factories and shops that will bring in a steady income over time. The touch-screen interface is fairly intuitive for choosing what type of objects you want to build, but lacks descriptions of buildings making it difficult to predict how much income you will gain by placing a specific type of building. Part of the fun is finding out which building will net you the most cash. You also can invite your friends to play We Rule and trade resources to earn money and help each other build.
While the game is oddly both addictive and fun, you'll need to commit quite a bit of time to expand to the higher levels of the game. Crops require a very specific amount of time to be ready for harvest, with growing times that can be as little as 45 seconds to big money crops that can go well beyond 12 hours. What ends up happening (from personal experience, I'm ashamed to admit) is you'll need either to set an alarm, use the limited push notification features, or remember what time of day to harvest your crops before the land spoils. You also have the option to purchase extra "Mojo" from within the game, a magical solution you usually earn small amounts of by gaining levels, that makes your crops grow immediately resulting in more cash. Overall, if you like games like Farmville (popular Facebook game) or are looking for a time waster that sucks you right in, We Rule is a good option on the iPhone.
What's your favorite iPhone app? Are you happy to hear about multitasking for the iPhone? Are you a fan of Press Your Luck? Is We Rule nothing more than a colossal waste of time (I think it might be, but I can't stop playing!)? Let me know in the comments!