Make collages and play ice hockey: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include a photography app that lets you organize multiple images into a collage and a big-name ice hockey game that's both fun and loaded with features.

When I bought my 32GB Wi-Fi only iPad, one of the first apps I downloaded was Netflix. With the added screen real estate and the capability to use the Netflix Watch Instantly library, the iPad became a great device to watch a movie on the go. I quickly found that the iPad-Netflix combo also works great as a personal movie screen when the rest of the people in the house are watching something else.

Just this week, Netflix announced they updated the Netflix app to work on the iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Now, along with being able to update your Netflix queue while away from your computer (previous iPhone app functionality), you'll be able to watch full-length movies and TV shows right on your iPhone as long as you're a Netflix member. The free Netflix app even works work connected via a 3G network,  so you can watch on your commute or really anywhere as long as AT&T's 3G coverage is strong in your area.

With the iPad I think this functionality made a little more sense because of the size of the screen. I wonder whether watching movies and TV on the iPhone is something that will really take off. Let me know in the comments what you think about watching Netflix on your iPhone. Will you use it?

This week's apps include a photography app that lets you organize multiple images into a collage and a big-name ice hockey game that's both fun and loaded with features.

Diptic ($1.99) is a fairly simple program that lets you make cool-looking collages using photos you take with your camera or what you have stored in your iPhone's photo library. You start by selecting from 20 different layouts, such as one photo across the top with three smaller ones across the bottom, or one big image on the left with four small shots down the right side, as examples. Then, just add images to each frame and move or zoom each one to make it fit just right. From there you can rotate an image 90 degrees within a frame or create a mirror image of the shot using the Transform features. Finally, you can adjust color, brightness, and contrast to bring out certain shots or make them similar to the others.

Diptic is a great idea for creating quick collages, but it seems like it needs a couple more things for it to be a great app. For one thing, you can't add text to your collages or individual images, which could be useful for calling out each picture. You're also limited by your sharing options with only the capability to e-mail your finished collage or saving it to your library. Something like Facebook (or other social site) connectivity would be better. But even with these minor issues, Diptic offers a fun and easy way to make neat looking collages quickly, and is a good option for people who want to do something more with their iPhone images.

2K Sports NHL 2K11 ($1.99) brings console-like hockey gameplay to your touch screen and manages to pull it off well with only a few annoyances. If you've played console hockey games, you'll feel right at home--pick from any of the NHL licensed teams (with all your favorite players) and hit the ice for an Exhibition game, play an entire 82 game season, or you can practice in the Free skate and Shootout modes. There is no multiplayer option in NHL 2K11 (Wi-Fi or otherwise), but hopefully that's slated for later versions.

The control system consists of an onscreen joystick on the left and buttons for passing, shooting, checking, and turbo boost on the right. For the most part, it works well for controlling your players, making quick passes, and getting around the ice, but can feel a bit muddy in fast break situations and shootouts (it's hard to replace a console controller for precision). At the same time, NHL 2K11 for iPhone shares a lot of the depth of console versions, letting you sub in any player, adjust strategy, switch your matchups, trade with other teams, check for available free agents, and much more. You also can browse individual and team stats (including shot charts and penalty summaries) as you progress through an 82 (or 41) game season.

With great gameplay, and tons of extra content, NHL 2K11 is easily the best hockey game for iPhone on many fronts, but it has a couple of annoyances. As a longtime console hockey gamer, I like to manually make line changes, and it is admittedly amazing that it's even available on the iPhone version at all. Still, the interface is less than ideal. The selection method sometimes results in face offs where your line will leave the ice right as the puck is dropped--I turned the feature back to "auto" pretty quickly. Also, the graphics are mostly smooth during normal gameplay across several available camera modes, but suffers during replays where the camera is close to the action. Perhaps the trade-off of having all these options and content means the player graphics take a hit, but it seems like it could be better.

Overall, 2K Sports NHL 2K11 is an excellent way to get your hockey fix on the iPhone, providing fun and challenging gameplay and all the big hits and satisfying slap shots you could want. While the game has its issues, it's a must-have for any hockey fan.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Will you watch movies on your iPhone or iPod Touch? What do you think of Diptic? Am I being too hard on the details of a full-fledged hockey game that I can play on my phone? 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.