I recently heard about a trick for iPhone 3GS owners who have the latest version of the Yelp app. Yelp, as you probably know, lets you search for restaurants or other services and read user-written ratings and reviews. I've noticed that the Yelp app particularly comes in handy when I'm on vacation: it lets me find out right away what the locals think about a particular restaurant without having to find out for myself. But a hidden feature in Yelp for iPhone 3GS owners has been revealed recently that adds a whole new dimension to Yelp ratings.
Make sure you download the latest version of Yelp (free) to try it out. Start up Yelp, then shake your iPhone a few times until a blue dialog box appears. This will unlock a button in the top right of the Yelp interface called The Monocle. Touch the button and you should be looking through your iPhone camera lens, but now you will be able to see restaurants, theaters, stores, and more with their ratings displayed on the actual location. This means that if you were in a busy area with restaurants and shops, you could look through The Monocle to get ratings for each place you're looking at in what they call augmented reality.
I had seen a demonstration of augmented reality on a jailbroken iPhone some time ago, but this is the first iPhone app in the iTunes Store to use augmented reality. Like I mentioned before, this will only work for those with the iPhone 3GS because The Monocle is using the compass (not available for iPhone 3G) along with GPS data to figure out which direction your pointing so it can display the correct reviews. If you get a chance, check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.
This week's apps include a useful tool to browse Craigslist and a fun new first-person shooter game.
CraigsPro (99 cents) lets you browse Craigslist with numerous features for searching and viewing listings and even posting your own listings. If you need to do a quick search, use the search bar at the top of the interface to search all listings. But for more-refined searches, you can adjust several post-type specific attributes by going into the Options screen. CraigsPro has buttons across the bottom to store favorites, sort listings by category, and search listings by city (you can add or remove cities to widen or narrow your searches). There also is a post tab where you can choose the category, write your post, and immediately attach pictures from your iPhone camera or select images from your iPhone photo library.
In some ways, CraigsPro is better than browsing listings on the actual Web site. Search result lists show up with photos and the first few lines of each posting so it makes finding what you want much easier without having to open up each listing. The Favorites tab is especially useful when you're apartment hunting, for example, because you have all of your chosen locations handy on one page when you're out visiting apartments--no need to write anything down. Overall, if you want a better way to search or post to Craigslist on your iPhone, CraigsPro has plenty to offer, with several added features to make finding what you want easier.Modern Combat: Sandstorm ($6.99) is a brand-new first-person shooter for iPhone and it might be the best one yet. The game is set somewhere in the Middle East, and you will find and use several different kinds of weapons as you complete mission objectives in dry sandy locales. You have three different types of control schemes to pick from, with variations of onscreen joysticks and touch-screen actions. I found the default control method to work best for me with a movement joy stick on the left and using the touch screen to aim and fire with my right thumb. Some added controls appear in certain situations where you need to pick up an item or jump down from a wall, for example. You can reload your weapon with a single tap on the gun in the upper right or you can double tap to switch weapons.
Though the iPhone touch screen will never be as easy to use as a keyboard or console controller, Modern Combat: Sandstorm manages to make the controls fairly easy to use. Autoaim (found in the options) helped a lot to offset the less-than-optimal controls in the beginning, but after spending some time with the game I was able to turn it off for a more realistic experience. Along with the great gameplay, Modern Combat: Sandstorm has great audio, with explosive-sounding guns, and good voice acting in-game and during cut scenes. Overall, if you've been waiting for a good first-person shooter to come to the iPhone, Modern Combat: Sandstorm is an excellent choice with exciting gameplay, challenging missions, and a control scheme that's fairly easy to get used to.
What's your favorite iPhone app? Have you tried the augmented reality Easter egg in Yelp for iPhone 3GS? Have you used a better Craigslist app? Are you excited to see more complicated games like Modern Combat: Sandstorm on the iPhone? Let me know in the comments!