Reviews

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

My latest iOS gaming obsession is Monument Valley, a new platformer inspired by the art of M.C. Escher. You play as Ida, a silent princess who must navigate a series of seemingly impossible architecture by solving puzzles and avoiding the Crow People and other strange inhabitants.

Each level presents a structure that looks impossible to traverse at first, but by moving or rotating sections of the environment, you can alter these optical illusions to create a path where none existed before. Watch the official trailer and you'll see what I mean.

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As noted in a behind-the-scenes video, every stage is like a different work of art, beautiful enough to be printed out and hung on a wall. As you interact with Ida's world, you are greeted with pleasant sound effects and music, so I recommend playing with headphones for the best experience. (I wonder if the developers plan to release the soundtrack, because I would buy it.)

Monument Valley is one of the most gorgeous and thoughtfully considered games I've seen on iOS, one that answers the question, "Are video games art?" with a resounding yes! And it's only $4, so there's not much reason to stay away.

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Review: Pocket Casts 4 for iOS 7

Review: Pocket Casts 4 for iOS 7

If someone had told me a month ago that Pocket Casts was about to usurp Instacast's spot on my iOS dock, I would have looked at them like they were crazy.

For as long as I could remember, Instacast was the podcast app that I felt provided the best overall experience on the App Store, and the one I recommended to everyone else who asked. But as it turns out, Instacast's recent 4.0 update sadly resulted in a step backwards in usability. I talked about this a bit in my recent article about the state of podcast apps on iOS 7:

“The playback controls cover up some of the podcast artwork, the advanced toolbar […] can no longer be hidden, and the cloud sync service no longer seems to work properly.”

Replacing an app on my dock is a pretty rare occurrence since I'm picky about what gets put there in the first place, but Instacast just hasn't been cutting it for me anymore. And so, I found myself doing something I never expected: I decided to give Pocket Casts another shot.

Review: Simplenote for iOS 7

Review: Simplenote for iOS 7

 Ever since sometime in 2008, I've been a user and ardent fan of Evernote. Over the years, it's been the place where I've dumped just about everything I possibly can — interesting articles from the web, recipes, tutorials, project ideas, blog drafts, purchase receipts, shopping lists, inventories, gift ideas, bits of inspiration…the list goes on and on.

It was my Everything Bucket — my external brain. And for a while, it was a pretty good one.

My Squarespace 6 Wish List

As you may know, Unretrofied is a site powered by Squarespace 6. There are a whole lot of things to like about the service, but it's certainly not without its faults. Considering the way Squarespace seems to be keeping the entire podcasting industry afloat with all those ad-spots and sign-up offers, it would appear that a lot of people are still switching to the service in droves.

I think it's only fair that they know what to expect after signing up, don't you? So what I've done below is write something of an open letter to Squarespace, asking them to fix these basic issues that have been lingering around for months and months.

Now, I should note that I have absolutely zero information about what the developers are working on behind the scenes. For all I know, they could already be ironing out at least some of the issues I'm about to list. This is just my list of complaints as it stands right now.

Review: Quotebook for iOS

Review: Quotebook for iOS
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
– Carl Sagan

Sometimes when I’m browsing the web, or reading a book or article somewhere, I happen across a quote that strikes me in some way, and I feel compelled to save it somewhere for later. The reasons vary of course, but the most common one is simple: inspiration.

I’m not talking about the fluff you’d find on cheesy motivational posters, but rather genuine insight given to us by the great minds of the world. The kinds of teachings that show us how to be more than we are; that inspire us to achieve greatness.

Review: Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover

As my readers may or may not know, I recently took a week-long trip to Disney World. I just happened to be there the week before Stephen Hackett, who I work with over at Tools and Toys but haven’t yet had a chance to meet in person. We flew back maybe a day or two before he got there, which, talk about timing, right? I just hope he was able to locate all the “easter eggs” I’d strategically strewn about the various Disney parks for him.

Although I could have asked Shawn ahead of time to take off from my Tools and Toys duties, I figured I could just continue posting during downtime at the hotel each night. I mean, those posts aren’t required to be insanely long or anything, and I already had a few ideas lined up. Easy peasy right?

Wrong.


Status Board for iPad

Three years and one month ago, the guys at Panic (one of my favorite Mac/iOS development studios) unveiled a cool project for their office: the Panic Status Board. It contained all kinds of useful and up-to-date info concerning:

  • Ongoing projects (deadlines, who's working on what, etc).
  • The number of support emails that are queued up for each of their apps.
  • The office calendar.
  • A revenue tracker.
  • Even a local bus route schedule.

And what kinds of results did they see in the office after putting up the Status Board? Here's how they described it:

Mophie Juice Pack Air

 MacStories recently featured a crazy-good-but-temporary deal: $15 for a refurbished Mophie Juice Pack Air for iPhone 4. If you're not familiar with the Air, it's a rechargable power case that allows you to essentially double your phone's battery life. Normally, these things go for at least $60 brand new, and we just happen to be going on a trip to Disney World in a couple weeks, so I couldn't pass this deal up.

In fact, I bought two of them; a white one for myself (I wanted a red one but they were sold out already), and a black one for my wife. They just arrived in the mail a couple days ago, and I wanted to share my thoughts so far.

Stephen Hackett Reviews the Pebble

"It’s clunky, and made worse but the fact that when the Pebble and iPhone lose connection, the Pebble has to be re-setup.

This means turning off the iPhone, flipping it to Airplane Mode or simply leaving it on your desk when you go to lunch means your phone will forget what its supposed to do. Or leaving your watch inside when you mow the grass. Or leaving your phone in your bag when you workout. Or do anything a normal human does, really. It blows.”

Yikes. Glad I didn't hop on the Kickstarter bandwagon with this one.

'Conditions' Weather App

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A lot of people have been talking about the latest simple weather app for the iPhone, Conditions. It's only a buck, so I decided to check it out for myself.

Right off the bat, I loved the interface. Very clean and minimal, which is exactly what I like in my weather apps. I don't require barometric pressure readings, nor do I need to have a list of various cities. Just give me a description of the current local weather and maybe show what the next few days will be like. That's exactly what Conditions does.

The typography is nice, the icons are charming, and there's even a nice little pull-to-refresh thermometer animation. Another nice touch is that you can simply tap the screen to dismiss or display the 5-day weather report. Very nice if you don't care about anything but the current temperature.

I think this will be my go-to weather app for a while.

App Store link

Riposte for App.net

I've been spending more and more time on App.net recently, for a few reasons:

  • I like the slower-moving pace of my feed over there. If I don't check on it for a day or two, I can still catch up pretty easily.
  • The quality of conversation is typically higher than what you'll find on Twitter. I think this is in part because...
  • ...It allows you to write 256 characters per post rather than only 140.

The thing is, none of the 3rd-party ADN clients have looked all that great to me. I've been using Netbot since I'm familiar with the interface, being a Tweetbot user and all, but it gets old switching between two apps that look almost exactly the same.

Well, now there's a new client known cleverly as Riposte (pronounced like "repost") that people have been clamoring over for the past week or so. I decided to drop the $5 and check it out, and I'm glad I did.

Day One Review

When it comes to New Year's resolutions, some people will often say something to the effect of, "Why wait for the new year? Just start right creating a habit rightnow."

While I understand where they're coming from, one can't ignore the simple power in the changing of years. Of course, we all know that it simply marks another revolution of the earth around the sun, and yet, the psychological effect remains profound.

It evokes a sense of sweeping away the old and bringing in the new. It helps us compartmentalize our successes and failures, making them easier to track throughout our lives. For those of us procrastinators who have egregiously passed on earlier opportunities to better ourselves or form new habits, the start of a new year can be a wonderful catalyst.

Review: Twitterrific 5 for iPhone

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For quite a while now, I've been a dyed-in-the-wool Tweetbot user. I've tried just about every major Twitter client out there over the years, but for me, nothing ever really came close to the experience produced by the guys at Tapbots. Until recently, it had a permanent slot on my iPhone dock.

Well, nearly two weeks ago another contender entered the ring: Twitterrific 5. I took this as an opportunity to do an experiment. I've grown perhaps too comfortable with Tweetbot, so I decided to remove it from my phone entirely while I gave Twitterrific 5 a shot, thereby preventing me from succumbing to temptation and switching back at will.

Before I get to the review, I should briefly discuss the history of Twitterrific. The original Twitterrific was the first Twitter client to be released for the Mac. The later-released iPhone version was a landmark in app design, in fact the winner of an Apple Design award in 2008. It originated several Twitter conventions we now take for granted, including the use of birds in its imagery, the word 'tweet', and even the character counter displayed while composing tweets. You can view a timeline of the app's UI progression here, put together by the developers themselves.

Up to speed now? Good.

With Twitterrific 5, The Iconfactory has overhauled the entire design from the ground up, and it's beautiful. I usually don't enjoy dark themes in apps because they tend to make me recall some awful, awful Winamp themes from my teenage years, but Twitterrific 5 pulls off the dark look very nicely. The use of various pastel colors on a black background creates a pleasant Star Trek vibe.

Even if I hadn't enjoyed the dark theme, the developers have graciously included a light theme that switches the background from black to white. There's a setting to auto-switch to dark mode at night, if that's your thing. Other colors (i.e. text) are unfortunately not configurable, but the app is surprisingly theme-able otherwise. There are five typefaces to choose from: Helvetica, Proxima Nova (my current choice), Signika, Museo Slab (my 2nd favorite), and Calluna. You can also change font size, avatar size, and even line spacing.

Animations are fluid for the most part. One standout is the pull-to-refresh animation, which features an egg hatching into a bird that flaps its wings as the timeline loads, then teleports into nothingness when finished. Some people have expressed distaste for this animation, but I find that it supplements the app's charm.

What I can't get over is just how simple it feels to get around in the app. Switching between multiple accounts is a breeze (simply hold down on your avatar for a couple seconds and the list appears), your lists are only a tap away, and the main navigation buttons (Home, Mentions, Direct Messages, Compose) are prominently displayed at the top of the screen for easy access. Tap to highlight a tweet, and you'll be presented with several methods of interaction, like retweeting or even translating the tweet. Tweetbot-like gestures have also been included: swipe right on a tweet to reply, swipe left to view conversations/responses.

There are all sorts of other tips and tricks I won't go into here, but they're all listed under [Settings > Help] if you want to check them out.

Twitterrific finally handles blocking correctly, as opposed to other apps out there. With most Twitter clients, if you block someone it won't remove their previous tweets from your timeline, it will only prevent future ones from appearing. In Twitterrific 5, blocking someone immediately removes all of their tweets from your sight. Not a feature I use a lot, but it's nice to see it implemented correctly for once.

Of special note is the new icon, designed by The Iconfactory's own David Lanham. I've been a big fan of his work for years now, so it's a pleasure to have one of his designs sitting on my iPhone's dock.

As much as I love the app, there are a couple issues to mention. While they nailed the fluidity of animations within the app, it still takes an oddly long amount of time to refresh the timeline or other pages. Tweetbot always felt nearly instantaneous in this regard, so the extra several seconds it takes for Twitterrific to complete the same actions is mildly irritating. I'm spoiled, I suppose.

Another oddity is that my DMs tab hasn't once displayed anything since I purchased the app. It's just an empty black screen, no matter how many times I refresh. I re-downloaded Tweetbot just to make sure I'm not crazy, but my DMs are indeed showing up there. Hopefully Twitterrific fixes this in a future update.

One last thing I should talk about is how this is definitely not an app for power users the way Tweetbot is. According to the developers, it was specifically designed to be a casual Twitter experience and power users would do well to stick with Tweetbot or something similar, especially if they like to manage their lists.

Lists are viewable in Twitterrific 5, but you can't edit them, create new ones, or add users to existing lists, at least not that I'm aware of. There are also no push notifications or "streaming" features, two things I know are already keeping certain users away. Doesn't bother me personally, though.

In conclusion, I would highly recommend this app to anyone but the most hardcore power users. What started as an experiment of going without Tweetbot for a while has turned into having a new favorite Twitter client in its place. It's a breath of fresh air in an otherwise overcrowded marketplace.

As of this writing, they're still having a 50%-off launch sale, meaning the app is going for $3. It's universal app as well, so it's basically a steal at that price. Go check it out.

One Night, Two Major iOS Releases

First up, Google Maps.

I've been playing with this app for the last hour, and I have to say that it's pretty nice. Animations are smooth, most settings are easy to find, and the voice navigation works well. One really cool feature: when using Street View at a particular location, tap the little double-arrow icon at the bottom left, and you can move the phone around to pan the camera on-screen, augmented reality-style.

One setting I disabled immediately was the 'Shake to Send Feedback' option. I won't be sending feedback to Google about incorrect map data enough for this setting to be useful, and in fact might be a hindrance if triggered accidentally. Also, when I first opened the app, I had the option to uncheck a tiny box that sends data to Google automatically. It's got to be one of the most difficult checkboxes I've ever attempted to tap.

In the end, I don't have any real reason to switch back from Apple Maps, but very nice work by Google here. Also, it seems that this app is only available for iPhone, no iPad version yet? Odd.

Next, 1Password.

Developer Agile Bits has released an entirely new version of their popular password generator/storage app. Everything has been redesigned from the ground up, and it looks great. Kinda reminds me of a Tapbots app, really (which is a good thing). The new icon is especially lovely. Currently on sale for $8, over 50% off from the normal price.

If you're at all concerned about password security, or if you're the type to use the same password for everything, you should get this app. You'll wonder how you lived without it before.

If you want a super-detailed review, Macstories has you covered.

Kind of a crazy day, what with these two apps plus Flickr's wonderful update earlier.

New Flickr App for iPhone

This morning saw an update to Flickr's maligned and oft-ignored iPhone app. Until today, it was basically usable for browsing photos and maybe uploading here and there, but the experience wasn't all that great. With this new update though, Flickr has decided to bring their 'A' game.

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Clearly the new UI has been inspired by Instagram, right down to the addition of photo filters. As popular as Instagram has become, I guess it was inevitable that Flickr would one day see them as a competitor.

While the old app was a big sluggish and weird, the new app is sleek, beautiful, and quick. Photos load nearly instantaneously, and scrolling through the gallery of recent uploads by my contacts has been a joy. The new photo filters aren't too bad either. This was my first test shot:

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I only recently started getting back into Flickr after years of neglect, but it feels like I'm late to the party because I don't see as much activity going on around there as I used to. Of course, there are still a few remaining diehard fans who have poured years of their lives into the service, but the rest? Who knows.

Now, with this fantastic update, I can imagine lots of people returning to their Flickr roots and I'm honestly pretty excited about that. It's Yahoo's one killer service and I think it deserves a chance to stick around for a long time. It's certainly been the topic of discussion on my Twitter feed today, and I'm taking that as a good sign.

Either way, I'll certainly be spending even more time on the service.

Slim Wallet by Supr

Back in August, I backed the Slim wallet on Kickstarter. The Slim is a tiny wallet made out of an elastic material, and is only designed to hold a few of your most commonly used cards, rather than any cash or other items people tend to keep in their wallets.

The project was a resounding success, managing to get over $200K from backers when their goal was only $10K.

Since then, they've been releasing updates about the R&D/manufacturing process, with a few delays along the way, and about a month ago they began actually shipping the wallets out from their factory in Chicago. I just received mine last night, and wanted to share my thoughts from the first 24 hours.

I love how minimal the packaging is.

I love how minimal the packaging is.

Coming from a large wallet I bought from Wal-Mart years ago, I'm now having to narrow down to my most essential cards. I've managed to distill my main collection down to five items: two debit cards, my driver's license, a loyalty card that I use a lot, and my GoGo Stand (which comes in handy more than you'd think).

Rarely-used items being left behind — stuff I can grab from home as needed — include my voter ID, some medical/dental insurance stuff, several business cards I've collected, and a ton of other loyalty cards that will now live in my wife's purse, since we're usually eating at those restaurants together anyway. I was able to comfortably cut out a surprising number of things.

View from above.

View from above.

The Kickstarter promo video claims that the Slim is capable of holding up to ten cards, and that's true, but that's a very snug fit and I quickly found that anything more than five items made it difficult to retrieve any specific cards when I needed to, instead forcing me to pull everything out at once. Not ideal.

The Slim definitely lives up to its name. I can't get over how thin and light it feels in my pocket. I'm still getting used to checking the inside of my pocket to make sure it's there, rather than patting the outside of my jeans as I used to.

A few small points:

  • I like that the Slim's minimalist design has forced me to rethink what's truly important to have on me at all times.
  • The elastic feels like it will hold up well, but only time will tell for sure.
  • I don't often carry cash, but if you're the type who does, this might not be the wallet for you.

If you're interested in one for yourself, you'll have to wait a while as they complete their first batch from the Kickstarter campaign, but you can sign up to be notified when that happens. I definitely recommend it.

Review: Fantastical for iPhone

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I've used several different calendar apps on my iPhone (Agenda Calendar and Calvetica spring to mind) but haven't really found one I enjoy using.

Until today, that is.

Fantastical is an immensely popular menubar app for Mac that allows you to type out event titles using natural language. You can type "Lunch with Mom on Sunday" and it will brilliantly parse this information to create an event at noon on the nearest upcoming Sunday. Today, developer Flexibits is bringing this same functionality to the iPhone.

Simply Designed

Fantastical's lovely icon was designed by one of my favorite artists, David Lanham, and it has made the transition over to iPhone very nicely, although I could do without the staples at the top.

The staples also appear in the app itself:

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These are the first of several mild skeuomorphisms seen throughout the app (another of which is the fake texture of the red bar). I mildly dislike the staples, not because of some irrational hatred of skeuomorphic design, but because I find them a little distracting. My eyes keep being drawn to them for some reason.

If you've been a user of Fantastical for Mac, you'll notice that the iPhone version isn't just the same interface being ported over. This app introduces a new feature called the DayTicker, which is the horizontally scrolling list of dates at the top. This can be swapped out for a month view at any time.

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Tap any visible date and the DayTicker will scroll there. No matter where you end up scrolling, you can simply tap the red menu bar above to return back to today's date. When appropriate, each date is filled with colored "blobs" that indicate events occurring that day.

The blobs actually correlate with the length and calendar-type of each event, making it easy to quickly scroll through the DayTicker and still have a concept of what's happening on a given day. This way, you don't need to see any event titles to know that Wednesday is pretty much booked, or that a bunch of bills are due Monday (if you have a 'Bills' calendar like I do, anyway). Very simple yet effective design.

Another nice touch is the "ripped paper" graphic that denotes any gaps between days on the DayTicker.

So Animated

Animations within the app are very well done.

As you scroll back and forth in the DayTicker, the list of events below scrolls with you. Scroll the event list instead, and the DayTicker follows. It's all very fluid and synchronous.

When creating events, as with the Mac app, you simply type an event the way you would say it out loud. As you type, your words will "float" down into the event preview pane and change things on-the-fly (no pun intended) as Fantastical parses the information.

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I'm writing this review on a Thursday, so notice that when I typed "tomorrow night" it automatically moved the event to Friday at 8pm. How awesome is that?

You don't even have to type if you don't want. Bring up Siri from the keyboard, say something like you would to a person, and Fantastical will still parse it just like it would the text version. I'm finding myself dictating more events than typing just because it feels more natural.

[Side note: The 'Show Details' button you see on the New Event screen simply brings up advanced options like you'd see in the default iOS calendar app, so there's no real need to discuss it at length here. Just know that it's available when needed.]

When you've finished creating the event by tapping the 'Add' button, the page folds up and flies into the background, merging with the DayTicker on the appropriate date. Another skeuomorphic design, but I can't see why this would bother anyone.

So What's the Catch?

Actually, there are very few negatives I've come across so far. The biggest one involves the DayTicker/Calendar transition.

Pull down on the DayTicker, and a month view will slide down over it like a window shade. To switch back to the DayTicker, my natural impulse is to swipe back up on the month view to send it flying back up where it came from, but instead you must swipe down again and the month view slides down and flies behind the DayTicker, which has suddenly appeared back at the top.

It's hard to describe this animation, but trust me, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about when you use the app. Something about it just feels...wrong, although it's nothing I can't get used to.

Another weird thing: I changed the colors of all my calendars to what I wanted them to be, but the DayTicker and event list wouldn't reflect these changes until I force-quit the app and restarted it.

Finally, if you tap the 'Help' menu under 'Settings', the two available options ('Tips and Tricks', 'Frequently Asked Questions') take you to webpages that haven't been completed yet. Would be nice if they had taken care of that stuff before releasing the app. Not that these sections are particularly needed, since the app is so simple to use.

The only feature request I have would be a way to change the calendar type while creating the event, but without having to go into the 'Show Details' menu. Perhaps a hashtag system (ex: #personal #work #bills)? If this type of feature already exists, I haven't found it.

[Update: I've been informed that you can add '/calendar name' (ex: /personal) to the event and it will change accordingly.]

Wrap Up

Fantastical is a lovely, easy-to-use calendar app, and it has quickly become my new favorite. Since it's on sale for a limited time introductory price of $1.99, I recommend picking it up right now. I think you'll love it.

iPad Mini First Impressions

I wanted to write this post up yesterday, but things didn't really go according to plan. I had to go into the office for most of the day, and when I finally made it to the mall where our local Apple Store is, the entire place was so packed that I couldn't find parking, and the baby was screaming anyway so it just wasn't in the cards.

A little later in the evening, while on a dinner run for my wife and I, there was just enough time to stop at a Best Buy on the way (where the parking lot was practically empty, *snicker*).

I found that this clearly wasn't the ideal way to check out the iPad mini, because their display table keeps the devices tethered in such a way that it requires actual effort to keep the thing in your hands without it snapping back to the table like a bungee cord. I wanted to see if the thing was as light as everyone keeps saying, but it was nearly impossible to tell. Oh well, at least I got to overhear a Best Buy associate refer to another customer as a "moron" so the trip was still worth it.

I was determined to make it to the Apple Store today to check this thing out properly, and managed to do so just before the mall closed. I just returned from there, and here are my thoughts.

First of all, the iPad mini truly is amazingly light. I was blown away at how easy and comfortable it was to hold one-handed. Reading in iBooks and across the web felt very natural, and since reading is likely to be one of my primary uses for the device, I was pretty excited that they nailed the experience so perfectly. Now I see why people are being so forgiving of the lack of Retina display.

Even without Retina, the screen is actually quite crisp to my eyes (the disclaimer being that I have appalling eyesight without my glasses, of course) and I had to put the screen up to my nose to really make out any pixels. I managed to find a demo area where an iPad 4 and mini were sitting right next to one another, and it was only when comparing the two side-by-side that I noticed the difference.

Many companies have tried releasing "iPad killers" over the last few years, but I think the only real threat to the standard iPad would be an iPad mini with Retina. That product will absolutely dominate the market when—not if—it releases.

While I had the 4 and the mini side-by-side, I decided to try some basic speed tests, such as opening the same apps simultaneously, visiting web pages, that sort of thing. Overall, the lack of an A6X processor doesn't seem to hurt the mini in the slightest. In fact, there were certain apps that opened even faster on the mini than on the 4, although I admit that could also be chalked up to whatever the 4 was running in the background at the time.

Typing in portrait was way more comfortable than I expected, and landscape wasn't too terrible but I did have to stretch my thumbs a bit when accessing the middle of the keyboard. Not uncomfortable, but it dampened my typing speed somewhat.

A few smaller observations:

  • The mini was quite cool to the touch, while the 4 was bordering on hot. This may be an instance where not having a Retina display is actually a benefit rather than a drawback.
  • Due to the slimmer lengthwise bezel of the mini, picking it up off a flat surface while the screen is on can be somewhat awkward, and may still require two hands if you don't want to accidentally tap something on-screen in the process. I don't personally feel negatively about this, but felt I should mention it.
  • On-screen elements on the mini were noticeably smaller than they were on the iPad 4. It's a bit odd holding something the size of a tablet and having to tap things that are sized equivalently to what you'd see on an iPhone screen, but again, this wasn't something that bothered me personally. Your mileage may vary.

After getting to see the device in person, I now realize that my concerns about a lack of Retina display were unfounded. The iPad mini is definitely the one I'm going to purchase, and I would recommend the same to anyone that doesn't require an iPad for professional purposes. If you're a web designer or professional photographer, or even a cafe owner using it as a Square register, I'd say stick with the larger iPad.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the iPad mini simply becomes the standard iPad one day, while the larger device becomes the "iPad Pro," in the same vein as MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

I'm truly impressed with the iPad mini and can't wait to pick one up soon.

Loren Brichter's New Game, 'Letterpress'

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Loren Brichter, creator of Tweetie (now known as the official Twitter client for iOS), is back to developing apps independently. Today, he has released a new game called Letterpress for the iPhone and iPad.

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(note: both of these screenshots display the 'Retro' theme and not the default 'Light' theme)

It looks a bit like SpellTower, but the mechanics are totally different. The object of the game is to take turns with another player, creating words on a 5x5 board of letter tiles. As each player creates words, letters on the board are highlighted in their respective colors, until either the entire board is colored or both players have passed their turn in a round. The biggest difference between this and SpellTower is that you can create words using letters that are not connected together in any way.

The rules as explained in the app:

  • Words must have at least two letters.
  • Words may only be played once.
  • Words may not be a prefix of a previously played word. For example, if Player 1 plays the word "QUILTS", Player 2 cannot play "QUILT" (but "QUILTED" and "QUIT" would both be fine).

The sounds and animations in the app are charming, the asynchronous nature of the online multiplayer makes it easy to pick-up-and-play whenever you feel like it, and even the typography is pleasant.

The game itself is free, but you can also unlock the full version for $0.99 within the app, which allows you to have multiple games going and also unlocks the other themes. I definitely recommend this game.

Letterpress (App Store Link)

Update: MacStories did an interview with Loren, wherein he described how he created the sound effects used in the game. Not what I expected.