New Apps + Games
Layout from Instagram (free) — Instagram’s latest addition to the App Store allows users to quickly and easily create photo collages and share them. While Layout is far from the first iOS app to do this sort of thing, it’s definitely one of the best designed that we’ve seen, providing the ability to quickly select a group of photos, choose your favorite layout, and then even make drag-and-drop adjustments to move your photos around, adjust them within each section, mirror or flip them, and even adjust the borders between the different sections. Photos can be selected from the camera roll or you can take quick shots with the iPhone camera using the built-in Photo Booth feature. A “Faces” tab lets you filter your camera roll to only include photos with people in them, and you can save your results to your device’s camera roll or share them on Instagram, Facebook, or other services.
Periscope (free) — Broadcast live video to the world. That’s basically the tagline for Twitter’s latest app that pretty much lets you show off your exhibitionist side to the world. The idea behind this app, as with the also recently-released Meerkat, is literally to create a live stream that you can share with pretty much anybody who feels like tuning in. While the concept seems sort of cool for people who might actually be doing useful and interesting things, our quick trip through the app mostly showed people broadcasting video of their pets, or driving around in cars commenting on the weather and nearby pedestrians. But there’s plenty of potential. Like most social apps, Periscope lets you build a network of followers, who can receive push notifications when you’re broadcasting, and can then comment on your videos and send you “hearts” in real time to show their appreciation for whatever it is you might be doing. The app ties in to Twitter for authentication and building follower lists, of course, and you can choose to share your Periscope broadcasts directly on Twitter for anybody to see on the web, and the option to broadcast privately is also provided, as well as the ability to make broadcasts available for replay later. Although the app is rated 4+ on the App Store, there are no clear policies on what type of content can be broadcast live, so we sort of wonder if this one is going to follow the same path as Twitter’s earlier Vine app in terms of the nature of content that starts appearing, particularly with the private broadcasting option. Despite the rating, we’d recommend that parents exercise more than a little bit of caution before letting their kids anywhere near this one.
The Trace: Murder Mystery Game ($ 5) — This new murder mystery adventure game gives players a chance to play police detective, searching for clues and trying to catch the culprit. The game is well designed and immersive, basically combining the elements of a hidden object game with a whodunit that requires players to piece evidence together and analyze crime scenes to answer questions and hopefully solve the case. Graphics here are quite well done, with live flow between scenes and a lot of interaction as the player moves about, a refreshing change from many hidden object games where the player more or less just statically moves from room to room.
Apple Watch app updates
This week we also saw the first swarm of iOS app updates adding support for the Apple Watch, presumably paving the way for their respective companion apps when Apple’s new wearable device arrives next month. The release notes of each provide us with a “glance” into what sort of features we’ll be seeing in the Apple Watch version for each.
Air Canada (free) — Apple Watch users will be able to view status of flights departing within the next 24 hours, see Glances with countdowns to boarding times, get check-in and boarding notifications, Handoff from the Apple Watch to the iPhone to complete check-ins, and see Passbook Electronic Boarding passes on the Apple Watch display.
Evernote (free) — The Evernote app for the Apple Watch will allow users to dictate notes directly into the Apple Watch, view recently created, updated, and viewed notes from your wrist and receive reminder notifications, and even dictate searches by voice to pull up resulting notes on the Apple Watch.
Sky Guide ($ 2) — With the Apple Watch version of Sky Guide, astronomy enthusiasts can now see a calendar of upcoming astronomical events on the Apple Watch, including full moons, meteor showers, eclipses, and more. Notifications can be sent to the Apple Watch when an event is about to happen at your location, and you can even get an alert when the International Space Station flies over, so you can tweet at one of its astronauts. In addition to Apple Watch support, this update also now includes all satellite information at no extra cost, including timetables, illustrations, and historical data, with sightings calculated based on the user’s location.
Transit App (free) — The Apple Watch seems an ideal place to have ready access to public transportation information, and the popular Transit App steps up to the plate with an update that will let you check nearby departure times and routes based on your current location, so you don’t even have to reach for your iPhone to find out when the next bus or train is coming.
Twitter (free) — This new “Twitter but littler” update will allow users to tweet, retweet, reply, and mark tweets as favorites right from the Apple Watch, as well as view recent Tweets and top trends.