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July 15, 2008

Shiny new iPhone

Yes, of course I have a 3G iPhone. I now have a proper, bona fide, Apple queueing experience under my belt also. Which resembled a silent movie in which primitive iPhone hunters of Walthamstow ran back and forth between the O2 shop and the Carphone Warehouse shop depending on which was currently being the least disorderly.

CW won the day for me at least; they had more iPhones, and they were better organised. O2 had only 15 iPhones, and could only sell them to people who were upgrading as their systems had crashed. CW had clearly rather more than 15 iPhones, and could sell them to anyone, but only new customers could easily walk out of the store with them, because the credit check for existing customers required a search on the O2 system, which was just as crashed at Carphone Warehouse.

Anyway, after a couple of hours I had an 8Gb iPhone 3G, so that was one game won I suppose. I realised I had no idea how to transfer my SIM over, or even where the SIM was. The internet clued me into the need for a paperclip; we appear to live in a post-paperclip society but I eventually found one. Days later I discovered that the 3G iPhone comes with a Official SIM extraction tool.

The new phone is very nice, and 3G and GPS are £99 worth for me at least (yes, I know there's a contract extension too, but in the UK at least the tariffs are perfectly reasonable.) I noticed the yellow tint before reading about it.

I immediately set about getting apps for it, including social networking and games. AIM and Twitterific will work better once the much-heralded message count in background is implemented. AIM is a bit pointless if you have to actually be in AIM to tell if someone's messaging you. The best free app to give your mates a laugh is Carling iPint. Yes, it's advertising. That doesn't stop it being funny. The best free games appear to be the rhythm game Tap Tap Revenge, the currently unavailable Cube Runner and match-3 RPG Aurora Feint.

Other handy free apps include Apple's iTunes remote control (but just as with the Apple remote, better to control everything on your Mac, not just iTunes, and I'm sure someone will offer this soon); Light, which turns your phone into a handy torch; and eReader, which should read your eReader.com and fictionwise.com bookshelfs, but in my case at least only reads eReader books. It's a start, but I'm waiting for FBReader.

Exposure, a slick Flickr browser, demonstrates a likely iPhone business model. Like Twitterific, you can have this app free and ad-supported, or in a premium, paid-for, ad-free version. The App Store doesn't appear to support free trials in any obvious way, so this is an alternative approach. Exposure delivers a powerful hit of icy-cool future shock, with its 'Near Me' button; click it, and you can see the photos on Flickr taken near where you happen to be at the moment.

And what of paid apps? I've bought two so far. Super Monkey Ball is the poster demonstration game for the iPhone, and well worth £5.99 to amaze people. However, as other reviewers have noticed, it's incredibly hard and unforgiving, and it breaks the first rule of portable gaming, which is that you should make it easy for people to quit and resume at any moment. It also breaks the second rule of portable gaming, as I discovered while playing as a car passenger; whenever we drove round the corner, my poor little monkey flew helplessly into the ocean. So, it's very pretty and very clever, but you can't really play it when in motion, or when you only have a few minutes to play.

The second was Zen Pinball: Rollercoaster. The iPhone's a good shape for pinball games, and this table's reasonably interesting and a good price at £2.99. As I wasted many many hours playing the various Pro Pinball tables, I'm always slightly disappointed by other pinball sims. This one is a bit cluttered; some of the shots are not obvious and the modes are not as imaginative as they might be. But it's a reasonable attempt, and after all, you're gaming on your phone.

Which brings me to the great catch of iPhone gaming. Will the iPhone be a serious competitor for the Nintendo DS? No. Why not? Because the iPhone already has the battery life of a geriatric firefly; a few minutes' gaming and it's turning up its toes. To test the games I've bought, I've played with the iPhone plugged in; at which point it drains power faster than it charges.

The solution is clearly to power my phone through my bra, either by solar power or harnessing my natural bounce. I can't wait.

Posted by Alison Scott at July 15, 2008 04:21 PM


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