This page is dedicated to iPhone apps. Here, I will be updating my top apps, or the latest apps I have downloaded and liked so far. I will limit this number to 15 for now, but I am aiming at 10 – 5 games and 5 “utilities”. The purpose here is to help people discover apps they would not have known otherwise, so I hope this will be useful!
You will soon find out that I am not that into long games, but rather short multi-level ones without a specific story in which to evolve. I believe the iPhone is not suitable for games such as Driver, but I acknowledge that some great efforts have been made to adapt games such as Resident Evil to the iPhone.
These top iPhone apps correspond to the latest ones I have downloaded and that made it into my favorite apps. I will also try to avoid talking about well-known apps such as eBay or Facebook.
However, there is a limit. I am not the kind of guy who spends a lot of money on apps, and most of them I got for free. In the French App Store, there often are promotions, so fee-paying apps become free for a limited time. These are the apps I will be writing most about.
So, here they are, my top iPhone apps – games & utilities:
Alpine Crawler Desert
Alpine Crawler Desert is a real-physics highly addictive game. There are six levels, in which you will have to use 2 different cars – a refuse lorry and a jeep. Basically, you have to get to the end of the race alive, and with a good time, if possible. Do not hesitate to use the brakes! The game seems difficult at the beginning, but once you get used to it, you will love it! Some things could be improved, especially as regards the menus – speed and ergonomics – but all in all this is a great app. I have not completely finished all the levels yet, but I have been through all of them, and I can say I like the Jeep levels way more than the refuse lorry ones.
There are other apps developed around the same general gaming theme, but I have not had a chance to test them yet. The latest one is Alpine Crawler Wild, and there is also the basic Alpine Crawler – available for free – and Alpine Crawler World.
Download Alpine Crawler Desert on iTunes
Tiki Totems Premium is another highly addictive game. It reminds of Jenga, this board game made out of wood, in which players had to take wood blocks out of a huge tower without making such tower collapse.
Yet, here, it is about stone blocks. The aim is to withdraw a specific amount of blocks while preventing the totem to touch the ground. Some stones cannot be withdrawn or need a particular element in order to disappear.
There are many levels, so the fun will last, and for people who will pay for this app: it’s worth it. I believe the app is free now, since the sequel was launched. I have not finished all the levels yet, and I have to say I have spent some time on some! If a level starts driving you crazy, you can simply skip it; I like challenges, though, so I try to avoid skipping levels.
There is a new version of the game, Tiki Totems 2, I still have not had the chance to try, but I expect a huge app. Tiki Totems developers have been working on better graphics and crazier levels. You will also be able to create your own levels, which can be added to the official game if they belong to the best.
Download Tiki Totems on iTunes
Here is an interesting app. Why? Because it consists in chopping vegetables with your fingers. The concept is simple, but fun is guaranteed!
In Veggie Samurai, your finger becomes a samurai blade. You will have to flick over all of the veggies in order to slice them as much as possible. There are 6 different game modes for you to play: Samurai, Harmony, Chaos, Sort, Match and Training. Each one has a particular condition, but basically you will have to slice some vegetables and avoid slicing other objects – or other vegetables!
My favorite game modes are Samurai and Sort. In Samurai mode, vegetables rise from the bottom of the screen, and you will have to slice as much of them as possible before they fall out from the screen again. But careful, you must avoid cutting through poison bottles, which will cost you 1 life. The other mode I like, Sort, consists in… sorting. This time, vegetables will come from the left to the right side of the screen, and you must let only on kind go all the way. The others must be sliced to prevent them from adding up to the veggie pile on the right side of the screen. Slicing a “good” veggie or letting a “bad” one pass will cost you 1 life.
Download Veggie Samurai on iTunes
OK, it is just – yet – another version of Space Invaders, but it makes the trick, and it is a game that can be adapted for the iPhone very easily and with good and smooth results.
But again, what is nice about this app is the graphic work. The name says it all: radiant. Aliens, the spaceship and even menus have been reviewed in a very nice way, so playing with this app is a real pleasure. Even sound effects have been transformed in some sort of new-age chill-out music elements.
Oh, and about the gameplay, I do not think I need to explain further: shoot. And enjoy.
Download Radiant on iTunes
Capcom Arcade is actually a multi-game app. You can play Street Fighter II and SF II Championship Edition, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, 1942 and Commando. But here I will focus on Street Fighter.
At the beginning of this post, I wrote that I was not that into apps that are hard to adapt on iPhone. Well, this is one of them. I believe that nothing can replace the feel of arcade buttons and joystick, so touch screen is out of the question. However, I really enjoyed being able to play these games again, especially Street Fighter, on my phone.
I find that the multitouch interface makes it hard to know – or rather, feel – what exact button you are punching on, and it obviously adds difficulty to the game. But characters’ special moves can be achieved more easily – depending on the character.
For obvious reasons, and for the sake of nostalgic businessmen and other iPhone owners, graphics have not been improved. The big advantage of this app is that is it permanently free, although this limits the game to 3 “arcade machine coins” per day. You can buy an arcade machine inside the app to get full access and play as many times as you want.
Download Capcom Arcade on iTunes
Now, this app is one that you must absolutely try! High Noon is a Western duelist online game in which you will have to kill your opponents to ear gold and “wampums” – a local highly appreciated currency.
The interesting thing here is that you actually use your iPhone as some sort of a gun. Once you start a duel, you must tilt your phone downwards as if you were preparing to pull out your weapon. A bell – and vibration – will indicate the start of the shooting. Here again, you will have to tilt your iPhone to aim at your opponent, then touch the screen to shoot.
This app is free, so it is accessible to everyone. There is, however, a paywall. In order to fully access High Noon, it is very likely that you need to buy wampum to get special weapons or accessories. You can buy many things with standard gold currency, such as a limited choice of guns, clothing and accessories. You earn gold each time you win a fight. But each fight will take a life point from you – no matter whether you win or lose. So, after eight fights – or eight life points – you will have to wait at least 20 minutes in order to get 1 life point back, or, again, pay for full access.
High Noon also offers different ways to get a “Shitlist” or contact list with whom to interact – fight, chat, or steal gold. You can add your friends – or enemies – through their avatar profile, their High Noon ID number or Facebook. The app also supports Game Center.
Download High Noon on iTunes
You just have not excuse for not getting this app right away. There is a lite version of Mr.AahH!! for people who want to try it beforehand or do not want to pay for an app – which I totally understand. This is an app I first got in its lite version, and then had the chance to download for free in its full version in one of those promotion days in the French iTunes Store.
Mr.AahH!! seems inspired from Spider Man. You control a white stick man that jumps from one platform to another, with the help of some sort of rope – or spiderweb? The aim is to fall as close as possible from the center of each platform – red in the picture. This gives extra points, and a bonus if you get to do this several times in a row. Of course, if you fall from a platform, you lose 1 life point.
Difficulty rises during the gameplay, and you will have to adapt to changing gravity and wind, which will be indicated in the top left corner of the screen. There are many levels, even in the lite version, so prepare for several hours of fun with this highly addictive app!
Download Mr.AahH!! on iTunes
Here is the last “game” app I have to review. Smule Ocarina is an ocarina simulator that most of you may already know, but may have never tried. The principle is quite simple: you have four “holes” disposed on your screen, and you have to blow in the iPhone’s microphone to get sound. Easy, isn’t it? Just like a flute or an ocarina.
I also got this app for free in a promotion, and I must say I had been waiting for a long time for this app! I am a Legend of Zelda fan, so for the ones among you who also loved the Nintendo 64 Ocarina of Time game, get this app!
Once you get familiar with the instrument, you will be able to change some settings that will change the way the ocarina sounds – pitch, tone… Another interesting feature is the “social” aspect of the app. You can browse the entire earth looking for people who are playing a song live, and you can also broadcast your own tunes. There are some recording options as well.
OK, this app is quite known to all of you. But I really wanted to make a short review of it. But first a short history. I just found out VideoLAN Client was created in France, as a student project at the French École Centrale Paris, in 1996. It was made Open Source in 2001, and became what we know today as VLC. There is also the VideoLAN non-profit organization, based in France, the members of which belong to the VideoLan Project.
So, back to the app. As you already know, VLC “plays it all”. And that is what is good about the iPhone app: it plays it all. Remember all the time spent converting videos on iSquint to be able to watch them on your iPhone or iPod Touch? Well, that is over with VLC. It is as simple as that: you only need to sync your iPhone with iTunes, go to the “apps” tab and on the bottom of the page, in the app File Sharing section, you will be able to add as many video content as you want.
Yet, like every great app, it has a drawback. Users of the iPhone 3G will not be able to use this app. I am not aware of the specific reason, but it is likely to be linked to the processor’s capacity. Anyway, I find this quite disappointing, as not everyone owning an iPhone 3G can upgrade to 3GS or 4, and I do not see why playing videos with VLC on a 3G would be a problem since the iPhone’s iPod app can.
I have never used it to watch a full movie, but I love watching short videos or maybe even a TV episode – no, not downloaded on iTunes, but ripped from my own DVDs! Anyway, the app is free, just like the computer version, so enjoy!
Download VLC on iTunes
Reactor is not a real app, but rather a web app made for iPhone, that works with the internal Quicktime software. Basically, it is a web radio that streams Mexican radio station Reactor 105 – you can listen to it in Mexico at 105.7 FM. The advantage here for me is that I can listen to this radio station from France, on my iPhone, 24/7. I really love this radio station and hate most of the French ones, so this is a good option for people in my situation or curious ones wanting to discover Mexican radio and music!
I guess there is some equivalent for Blackberry or other smartphones – I do not think this web app works on those.
And now some history about Mexican radio – or nostalgia, rather. The first radio station I ever listened to was Rock 101, that disappeared in 1996 after broadcasting for more than 12 years in Mexico. There was never another station that matched its independent views on rock in English and Spanish.
However, former Rock 101 listeners switched to Radioactivo 98.5 FM, the most suitable option at the time, but far more commercial than Rock 101. Then Órbita 105.7 FM, a government dependent station, was launched and cohabited with Radioactivo until both were take out of the air in 2004. But actually, the core of Radiactivo was transferred into former Órbita to become Reactor 105 FM – this is debatable, but come on, even the names are alike.
So this is it, Reactor 105 is what is left of all this crushing of Mexican rock stations. And it is quite good, you can also listen to it on the official website. For the web app, you will need an Internet connection, which means Wi-Fi for iPod Touch users. You can “install” the web app by adding a bookmark from Safari to your springboard. Wait a minute, I have just found out that Rock 101 boradcasts again since 2010, on the Internet! If you want to give it a try, it is supposed to continue being what it was back in the 1990s.
Listen to Reactor 105 on your iPhone (works also on a computer)
Listen to Rock 101 online
I do not know whether this app is available in all App Stores, it is in France, at least – and Belgium for sure – and is fee-paying. Le Chat app is inspired in the homonymous character Le Chat – The Cat -, created by Belgian comic-strip author Philippe Geluck. This character features a Bande Dessinée (BD) – French-Belgian version of comics – with short stories about… everything, or nothing. Geluck’s sense of humor is quite special, but I think you can have a good time reading the strips. I have just found out that Geluck is publishing his BDs in English!
But back to the app. With Le Chat, you can have a daily one-drawing comic strip to cheer up your day, you can get some news about Geluck and his cat, and even play some funny games. There is a localization feature to find the nearest Belgian chocolate maker and bookstores where you will be able to find Le Chat BDs. The app comes with in-app purchases. You can buy electronic versions of Le Chat, eCards, videos and sound files.
Personally, what I use most is the daily drawing feature, which I find very nice. You get a new exclusive drawing everyday, and even some sort of draft version, sometimes. The app’s games are quite simple, funny for a quick play while queueing at the doctor’s, but not enough to keep you playing for hours. But I am a big fan of Le Chat, so this app will remain on my iPhone until Philippe Geluck stops drawing everyday – or at least posting everyday.
Download Le Chat on iTunes
Rue89 is not just another news app. It has a particular point of view, very user-centered and participative, on the left of the French political spectrum. The app is free, of course. I hope that it is available outside the French iTunes Store.
There are not many new posts a day, but most of them are quite interesting. The journalists from Rue89 tackle issues more openly than mainstream newspapers of other media, and foster active reader participation. That is what is good about this news organism – and about the app, consequently.
But it was not so good for the reporters and journalists. They are former journalists from Libération, a French news and analysis magazine. There were editorial conflicts and those who where ousted from “Libé” created Rue89. It started as a website only, added an economic version, Eco89, then developed into a monthly magazine. There also are Québecois and Japanese versions of Rue89. That is the basic story. And actually, I am quite happy with it. I never read Libération, but I am a regular reader of Rue89, which I often complete with Le Monde, the New York Times, and the BBC News iPhone apps or websites.
Download Rue89 on iTunes
Wikipedia – Rue 89
This is the best polaroid-like photo app ever. But it is fee-paying – only €0.79 or £0.59. I have to say, this is the only app I have ever paid since I have an iPhone! So believe me, it is worth it. For people like me who prefer not having the big fat white stripe on the bottom of each picture, ShakeItPhoto is for you. You will only get a thin and regular white stripe on each side of the pic, a perfect square polaroid-like picture.
And that is basically it. Of course, colors have this nice saturated touch, which make pictures look like real Polaroids. You can share your pics right from the app itself – I never do this, though. The only drawback – besides the cost, as compared to all the similar free apps available – is the processing time. OK, it is fun at the beginning to have the picture unveil in front of your eyes, and be able to shake your iPhone to “speed” the process. But and option to turn this off would be appreciated! Especially when you are in a hurry or want to take – or process – several pictures in a row.
Anyway, do not hesitate about this app, it is nice – even the logo is very nice -, simple and easy to use, and even print versions of the pictures are good! I resorted to Virgin Mega/Hewlett-Packard Snapfish and Photobox.
Download ShakeItPhoto on iTunes
Now this is a useful app. And it is free in both the French and British iTunes/App Stores – even in the US. The name says it all: MetrO helps you with all your public transport trips. Not only with underground trains – subway – but also buses, tramways, etc. And the best about this app is that you do not need an Internet connection to use it. You will only need to download the cities where you will use the app, and once this is done, you are good to go.
You will be able to choose between the shortest trip or the one with the least changes. In some big cities you will even be able to use your position for the app to find and tell you which station is the best for you – I tried this in Paris and it works just great.
But, as always, a little drawback. Since the app is not constantly connected to the Internet, it does not benefit from precise live updates as regards closed stations or the like. For instance, MetrO indicates that a bus line that I use quite often is closed for renovation, and thus I cannot get any directions which would include such line. I know the line is under renovation, but it still works, so I would like to get proper directions! That is quite annoying, especially if you are using the app in a city that you do not know at all.
But, again, the app is free and lets you have some directions abroad without overloading your data plan and your credit card. Try it and see by yourselves!
Download MetrO on iTunes
And last but not least: Create Ringtones. In fact, there are lots of ringtone apps now, but this is the first I downloaded, and I liked it very much, so I have chosen to talk about this one – I also use Ringtone Designer, but the Pro version is fee-paying, and the free one not as complete as Create Ringtones.
Here you can either import one of your favorite songs from the iPod app on your iPhone or record sound to edit. You can choose the ringtone’s length, fade and volume. Finally, you can manage the ringtones from your phone – which is not the case in all ringtone apps.
The general drawback of this kind of app is that, in order to actually use these ringtones, you will have to sync your iPhone with iTunes, so you still depend on your computer even if you no longer need Garageband. The ringtones will get on your iPhone by themselves, and you will be able to access them from your settings – and the ringtone manager within Create Ringtones. The app is not very precise either, as you can only cut your songs in seconds as the smallest unit, so if you really like precise ringtones that start and finish at precise moments in a song, you may be quite frustrated.
And of course, ringtones only work for calls, not for text messages. I really think Apple should do something about custom text message ringtones. I know, they added some new tones, but it really lacks the full customization feature – and the new ringtones are way too long for a text message.
Download Create Ringtones! on iTunes