Opera for iPhone / iPod Touch Initial Thoughts

After initially being surprised to hear that Apple approved this, I proceeded to download and check this out. First impressions were good. The browser is very fast, it definitely appeared faster than Safari on the first gen iPod Touch that I have. I like the Chrome style new tab page and the selectable and customisable search engines. However there are some big snags I’ve quickly noticed. On youtube and other video sites, you can’t watch videos at all in the app which safari does let you do.

Another downside is that sometimes the touch screen feels too sensitive in this application and sometimes clicks things when you don’t mean to while just browsing around the new tab page for example.

Using the double tap to zoom and panning don’t feel as smooth and well done as in Safari and there is no rubber banding effect when you reach the edge of the page. This isn’t exactly a fault but it makes it feel less like an iPhone app and the feeling of the page just stopping is a strange one to get used to.

Overall, there aren’t a lot of problems with this app. If you want a good, fast browser and want the advantages in speed and some functionality that Opera brings, then it’s a good alternative to Safari.

Normally I would be put off by the lack of a wikipedia search box or a new tab page in safari but I’ve been using it for so long now that I’m used to it and have adapted how I use the browser. Therefore, for me I’m happy to stick with the official browser for the time being.

With that said, I am very excited to see the possible future offerings from Google and Mozilla should they create iPhone versions of Chrome and Firefox.


iPhone OS 4.0 Thoughts

Before I get into the new features that Apple announced for OS 4 yesterday, I just want to quickly point out that while these things are cool, I probably won’t be able to use many of them at all on my iPod Touch 1st Gen. I guess now is when the hardware differences in power and function really start to render my model obsolete. It’s unfortunate because there isn’t really anything wrong with the one I have, and no real reason for me to upgrade still. I will probably stick with what I have for as long as I can but once it starts to get to a point where I can’t buy new apps because they aren’t compatible, then I’ll have to think about buying a new version.

Hopefully by then they’ll have released new ones with double storage and even faster performance to help justify the extra cost. At the end of the day though, the iPod Touch is by far the best Gadget other than a full computer that I’ve ever owned and buying another one wouldn’t really trouble me if it stays as good as it is now and keeps getting better which I’m sure it will.

With that said, here are the 7 main topics that Apple covered yesterday and my thoughts on each.

  1. Multitasking. This is clearly the biggest addition and really adds a lot of extra usability to the iPhone / iPod Touch. The UI for this is simple and seemingly elegant. I’m wondering what happens to an app when you return to the home screen. I’m assuming that all apps continue to run until you power off the device. That may not be my personal preference especially if I open and close a lot of apps, but even so, I’m sure it will be implemented in the best way possible.
  2. Folders. This may not be a huge announcement but for me personally, I can certainly get behind this. I do try to keep apps as organised as I can but folders will make it far easier. The fact that you can add folders to the dock (which now actually looks like a dock) in a similar way to stacks on the Mac is a nice addition.
  3. Improved Mail. The mail app for me has always been adequate and has done everything I would want. Maybe a “delete all spam now” button would be nice to have but aside from that I’m fairly happy with it. The new improvements though do add a bit extra to the app for people who are a bit more picky than myself. There is now a unified inbox option (which may get confusing), quick inbox switching, threaded messages like in Gmail and the ability to open attachments in 3rd party applications which could prove very useful. Highlights for me are the quick inbox switching and threaded messages.
  4. iBooks. This was quite an obvious announcement when you think about it. iBooks has just launched and is yet another way for them to make a lot of money from selling digital content. In a very similar move to when they put the App Store on iPod Touch as well as the iPhone, this is even more of an obvious choice. The iPad has only just launched and currently is the only way to read books on one of Apples devices. Even though the iPad is the best device for this function, Apple can put the iBooks app on the two other smaller devices with huge install bases and instantly increase their potential book buyers by 10s of millions of people. Not only is it potential extra revenue, but it’s also good for iPad owners as they will be able to sync their current page online so that when they are out without their iPad, they can continue their book on the less ideal device but for shorter reading lengths.
  5. Enterprise Features. There are several new additions to the enterprise element of the iPhone OS. You can now have multiple Exchange Accounts. Employers can distribute specialist company apps over the air and there is better data protection. Not exactly my thing but if it helps apple be more successful as a business device, then I’m all for that.
  6. iAd. It is weird to talk about ads as a feature of an OS, because of course we hate to be spammed with ads. However, I thought it was interesting how Steve talked about interactivity combined with emotion. It’s absolutely true. While you see your fare share of terrible, annoying ads on TV and online, sometimes you do see something that really is well made and makes you interested in that brand. Judging from the demo ads they showed, I can definitely say that I would much prefer this kind of advertising than any others. Not only does it not take you out of your app to the browser (which on a slower 1st gen touch is even worse), but the ads really can offer something to the consumer rather than annoying them and making them less interested in a product. Yes, Apple can even make ads cool.

Overall, it was a pretty good show. I should also just mention that the allowing of home screen wallpaper and the new dock really enhance the look and I hope they give us some good wallpaper options similar to the ones on Snow Leopard when this comes out.


3DGalaxy 2009 Game Awards – iPod Touch / iPhone

App Store 2009 Awards

Quick note: Only games that I’ve played / am excited to play soon will be eligible to win awards.

Best Music Game – Rock Band

Rock Band has great production value for an iPhone game, very good graphics and as you would expect, a good set list of songs to play. The controls of the game can be inconsistent from my experience which can make the game frustrating sometimes.

Best Puzzle Game – Peggle

Peggle is a great game, and this port is the perfect title to keep you occupied for a few mins every now and then.

Also notable: Bookworm

Best Strategy Game – StarDefense

StarDefense is another quality game from ngmoco that takes tower defence to a whole new level. Each level takes place on a 3D planet which you can scroll around freely. It’s a very unique take on the genre with high production values.

Best Visual Quality – Zen Bound

Zen Bound is a very unique, stylish game which is all about a relaxing experience. You simply use your finger to manipulate the object on screen and wrap the rope around it as much as you can.

Best Use of Sound – Zen Bound

The sound of the game compliments the relaxing gameplay well, providing a great overall experience.

Best Multiplayer – Eliminate

Eliminate is an impressive online multiplayer game on the App Store. While I’m not big on playing shooters with touch controls, I can appreciate a well designed and executed online game on a platform where you might not expect it. Plus, the game is free barring any downloadable add-ons.

App Store Game of the Year – Peggle

Possibly the best casual game of all time was perfectly recreated on iPod / iPhone with great controls and the same fun gameplay that the PC and other versions have for years.

Also notable: Uno, StarDefense, Zen Bound

Coming Soon: Overall Awards