Calculator replacement and a drift racing game: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include a slick-looking and useful calculator app and a drift racing game that challenges you to master the controlled slide.


The big news this week was Apple's announcement Friday morning regarding the antenna issues on the iPhone 4. Steve Jobs came to the stage in a very unique Apple event to talk about the iOS 4.0.1 update that he says shows signal strength much more reliably. As a way to quell concerns about dropping calls by gripping the iPhone 4 a certain way, which Jobs admitted decreases signal strength in some circumstances, Apple is offering free bumper-style cases for everyone. Those who have already bought the bumper will receive a full refund. iPhone 4 users will be able to sign up for a free bumper or refund starting next week at Apple's site.

I have had the iPhone 4 for exactly a week now and I haven't experienced any connection issues so far, but I bought the bumper a couple of days ago for protection, in case I drop it. I was wondering what Apple would do with people like me who already bought the bumper (most people I talked to agreed that I was out of luck), so it was a pleasant surprise to hear I would get a refund, too.

This week's apps include a slick-looking and useful calculator app and a drift racing game that challenges you to master the controlled slide.

Run your numbers then swipe down to see the history tape or to the left for advanced functions. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Calcbot (99 cents for a limited time) from the makers of stylish currency converter Convertbot brings more than your iPhone's included calculator wrapped up in a nice package. Like other apps from Tapbots, when you launch Calcbot, the first thing you notice is the slick-looking design. Features include a live as-you-type expression view so you know you have all your values correct, a history tape so you can track back to earlier calculations, and an advanced functions screen, all accessible with a swipe of your finger.

For all of Calcbot's class and functionality, it's not the most feature-rich calculator in the iTunes App Store. But if all you need is to make basic calculations (and some advanced functions) and the ability to send your work elsewhere, Calcbot is an attractive option. A swipe downward brings up the history tape, and a swipe to the left brings up the advanced function screen. I'm a little disappointed there is no graphing calculator, but Calcbot is an excellent alternative to the iPhone home screen calculator.

Drift Mania Championship (99 cents) is a drift racing game that offers excellent controls, smooth graphics, and challenging gameplay, and even though it's a little short on content, the price makes it a must have for drift racing fans. The precise tilt controls work better than most racing games in the iTunes App Store, letting you truly control how you attack each corner. Your speed is controlled by where you place your finger on the throttle bar on the right side of the screen, and you'll need to adjust your speed a lot to get the best drift through each turn.

Drift Mania Championship
Use the stripes to determine the best line to enter each turn, but keep your speed up for more drift. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

The object of Drift Mania is to race around a track maximizing your drift through the turns to be judged in four key areas: your line into turns, the angle of your car during a slide, how much speed you carry through the turns, and your ability to put on a show. Stripes on the track show you the optimum line for your slide, but you'll need to hit the corner at just the right speed and tilt your iPhone to maximize your angle. You'll also need to stay consistent all the way around the track to get the most points. With a little practice, the result is a very satisfying racing experience across the three included tracks. You start with only one car, but you can unlock four more cars with different horsepower and weights by finishing each track in first place.

Overall, with three fun tracks, five cars, and three difficulty levels, Drift Mania Championship is worth more than its price, but I can't help but think this title would benefit from more tracks and cars. Judging by the polish of this well-designed and unique racing game, I have a hunch that additional content will become available in future releases with in-app purchases. Until then, Drift Mania Championship is a steal at 99 cents for the clean graphics and unique racing style.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Are you satisfied with Apple's free bumper offer? Do you have a calculator that you recommend over Calcbot? Is it possible that Drift Mania Championship will always be 99 cents for such a great game? 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.