Cheap texting and extreme jogging: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include a chat app that could save you a lot of money and an extreme jogging game that's just as challenging and silly as it sounds.


An interesting news item over at AppleInsider caught my eye the other day, but I'm not sure how I would feel about this particular rumor if it turned out to be true. Apparently Apple is investigating the use of hover gestures on its devices as an alternative to multitouch. A few of the ideas include the ability to make the OK gesture with your hand or use hitchhiker thumb gestures to navigate around. As a tech writer, I can't wait to see how something like this would be implemented, but as an iPhone user who will be using the device in public, the idea of using my hands in front of the screen sounds silly.

I'm trying to imagine the scenario: There I am riding the bus home with several other tired commuters and I'm "That guy" who's doing a complicated hand dance trying to browse my iPhone 7. Just imagine if my hitchhiking thumb gesture didn't take on the first or second try--it would be like I was practicing a dance move out of the disco era.

Don't get me wrong, I am still quite excited to see where this particular rumor goes (and on desktops I could see how hand gestures could be very useful), but I think I'll wait before saying hover gestures are a good idea.

What do you think about hover gestures? Let us know in the comments.

This week's apps include a chat app that could save you a lot of money and an extreme jogging game that's just as challenging and silly as it sounds.

One of the perks of this app is having a big list of premade away messages. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

WhatsApp Messenger (99 cents) has been around for quite a while, but it's an app I have come to rely on so much that I thought I should write about it here. With this chat app installed on your iPhone, you'll save a considerable amount of money on text charges through your carrier. The only catch is that you'll have to persuade your most frequent texting friends to download the app, too, but once they see WhatsApp's advantages, they'll probably pony up the cash.

Much like the texting app that comes on the iPhone, WhatsApp Messenger shows your chats in little text bubbles, gives you a time stamp for messages, and lets you include photos, audio notes, and videos within your conversations. But WhatsApp Messenger also lets you change your background, notifies you when a text has been viewed by your recipient, and gives you the ability to send your GPS location on an interactive map. You also get premade away notes such as "I'm busy" or "Available," and you can block specific contacts from within the app.

There aren't that many extra features, really, but the real advantage to WhatsApp Messenger is the money you save. As of this writing, AT&T charges $5 for 200 texts per month, and $15 for 1,500 texts per month. After the first month with your iPhone, most people probably realized 200 texts is incredibly limiting (causing you to go over your allotment and incurring extra charges), whereas 1,500 is probably far too much, but who wants to add on to an already expensive phone bill? With WhatsApp Messenger, and a little cooperation from your most texted friends and family, you could easily go back to the $5 plan and save $10 a month on your phone bill.

Overall, WhatsApp Messenger is not much different from the text app on your iPhone, offering a few neat extras that make it a little more fun. But if you do a lot of texting, this app is a must-have, giving you unlimited texts with other users without having to worry about extra charges.

Remember that you're not controlling just one jogger, but a whole team of them. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Grim Joggers (99 cents) is an interesting take on the running game genre made famous by the innovative and artistic game Canabalt. As in all games in the running genre, your goal is to survive as long as possible in a dangerous, fast-moving landscape. While you'll mostly be trying to beat your previous high scores, Grim Joggers also supports Game Center so you can match up your best distance with other players around the world.

What sets Grim Joggers apart is, instead of just one character to control, you're controlling an entire team of joggers you'll need to keep alive as long as possible to shield you from your impending death. With a long train of extreme joggers behind you, you not only have to be aware of timing your own jumps, but also whether your timing will send members of your team over a ledge or into the waiting mouth of man-eating plants (in the opening jungle level). Apparently, in the sport of extreme jogging, pits and walls of spikes are commonplace, so you'll need to be extra-quick to save both yourself and your team.

Grim Joggers currently comes with three levels and you'll need to complete various achievements to unlock the second two. The developers have plans for at least one more level with a placeholder already in the game that says "Coming soon," but there is plenty of content here to keep you busy in the meantime.

Overall, if you like the running game genre, Grim Joggers adds a couple of unique gameplay twists that make it both fun and challenging. The overarching humorous theme of extreme jogging and the somewhat gruesome (but funny) deaths of your team members is just icing on the cake.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Am I being to hard on hover gestures? Are you new to WhatsApp Messenger? What do you think of extreme jogging? Let me know in the comments!

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.