Better HDR images and arcade football: iPhone apps of the week

This week I check out an app for improving your pictures and an excellent sequel to a fun football arcade game I reviewed in the past.


When iOS 4.2 was released, I didn't update my iPhone right away. I waited until I was back from Thanksgiving vacation, where I could sync my iPhone on my home computer. Once I got home, like any responsible iPhone user, I backed up my iPhone first then hit the update button. From there it went through its usual process of downloading the update, some rebooting of the phone, and the rest of the updating procedure. Everything seemed to be running smoothly until the end. That's when I got an error (1013) and my iPhone went into recovery mode and would not come out, which basically means my phone was dead. No calls, no texts, and no apps.

I looked around online for similar issues and found forums filled with complaints, some with fixes that seemed to work for others, but didn't work for me. I ended up getting an appointment at the Genius Bar the next day at the busy downtown San Francisco Apple store. Once I got in there, the Apple employee was very nice, restored my iPhone to factory settings, and sent me on my way in less than 20 minutes. Never once did he mention this was a common problem, but at that point I was more worried about getting my favorite toy back (and getting back to work) rather than grilling him on Apple's update practices. Once home, I was able to restore my apps and info from the backup I made (Note to everyone: always back up your iPhone before updating!) and now I'm totally up to speed. Obviously, this chain of events is less than ideal when all I wanted to do was update my firmware.

I know I'm not the only one who had this issue. I'm interested to see what kind of issues readers have had with updating their iPhones. I'd also like to hear about Genius Bar visits and what your experience has been. My visit was pretty smooth, but I'm guessing not everybody gets in and out of there like I did. Tell your stories in the comments.

This week I check out an app for improving your pictures and an excellent sequel to a fun football game I reviewed in the past.

Line up your shot, and you'll get instructions based on which capture mode you chose. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

TrueHDR (99 cents for a limited time) for iPhone helps you take better pictures by giving you control over the process of combining images to create a resulting image that has richer colors and better lighting. The iPhone 4 offers the option to take HDR images and does a fairly good job, but with this app you have a number of options for making your images even better. The interface is very simple: you have four options for taking an HDR image. Auto Capture automatically detects light values in your shot, snaps two photos, and combines them to give you the best result. Semi-auto mode lets you choose light and dark exposure settings by tapping on the screen before snapping and combining images. Manual mode lets you control each part, having you select a light value, snap the shot, select the second light value, and snap the second shot before combining. You also have the option to improve photographs from your library.

TrueHDR doesn't come with a lot of bells and whistles, but I've managed to get some great results using the available capture modes. Having a little more control over how the HDR process combines the images lets you experiment with different light settings that might be better than what you would get with the regular iPhone 4 camera.

Once you're satisfied with the results, TrueHDR has a couple of quick options for sharing your work on Twitter, FaceBook, and through e-mail, or you can simply save the image to your photo library. Overall, if you want a little more control over your HDR images, TrueHDR has a simple approach with just enough options to make brighter, more color-rich photographs.

Backbreaker Football 2: Vengeance
You'll be challenged with aggressive defenders and on-field objects before reaching the end zone. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Backbreaker Football 2: Vengeance ($2.99) is the sequel to Backbreaker Football (99 cents), a game that put you in the shoes of a football player running and dodging tackles to get to the end zone. Just like the original, beautiful 3D graphics and solid animations give you the feeling of powering your way down the field. But in BackBreaker Football 2: Vengeance, you now have the ability to play on the other side of the ball as a defender who needs to dodge blockers and ultimately tackle the ball carrier. You start off by customizing a player with a few options for jersey number, skin tone, and uniform, but you'll be able to unlock more uniforms and other goodies as you play the game.

Once on the field, Backbreaker Football 2: Vengeance adds new moves and features to keep the game exciting. In addition to the spin, juke, and sprint moves found in the original, you can now jump over low tackles and objects by tapping on the middle of the screen. You also have a "trucking" move that turns your player into a power runner, bulldozing your way through high tackles and under props on the field. Having a low solid object to jump over or a low hanging bar to "truck" under look a little out of place on the football field, but BackBreaker Football is an arcade game, and the new additions definitely make for some complicated challenges. You also can't help but feel a sense of accomplishment after a long line of jumping over objects, dodging tackles, and showboating into the end zone.

Like the original, you get more points if you can showboat or high step into the end zone at the end of your run. The Showboating move slows you down, making it possible for tacklers to catch up to you, so you have to choose the right time to start showing off in order to make it to the end zone while racking up the most points. Backbreaker Football 2: Vengeance takes showboating a step further with an extra button that makes your showboating move even more exaggerated and quite a bit slower while doubling the points you'll receive if you make it to the end zone. Don't be surprised if you end up eating the turf 5 yards short of the end zone before you get the hang of it.

Overall, Backbreaker Football 2: Vengeance is an excellent sequel that keeps the best things about the original, and adds a fun new game type and more moves to help you make defenders miss. The game mechanic is very addictive, and as you progress, you'll need to use every move at your disposal to reach the end zone or tackle your opponent. Anyone who played the first game or likes the idea of an easy to pick up and play football game will appreciate the challenge and polish of this sequel.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Do you have a better app that gives you more control over HDR photos? Were you surprised at how fun it is to play defense on Backbreaker Football 2: Vengeance? 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.