As our iPhones have matured, so have our apps. What used to be a sea of simple utilities with very mobile mindsets has evolved into a rich landscape of powerful tools, which continue to amaze us with what can be accomplished on a 4-inch screen. Zippy is the sort of app that shows us just how far our devices have come. As a basic to-do manager, it does its job well enough for a recommendation, but developer Amit Wadhawan embraces the power and modernism of iOS 7 to pump a little pizzazz into the stale concept and put it over the top.
MLB.com At Bat was so ahead of its time, it felt as fresh during the 2013 World Series as it did upon launching in 2008, despite little more than a series of relatively minor updates between earlier versions. Still, Major League Baseball used the offseason to give the pro sports-leading formula its first major update. But while it brings a slew of visual changes that freshen things up for iOS 7, the overhaul is mostly cosmetic in nature, leaving a somewhat streamlined experience that doesn’t quite deliver the home run we hoped for.
Shattering a pane of glass can bring a moment of sheer joy — or abject terror, depending on intentions — but the resulting expense and hassle rarely balance out the fun. Smash Hit provides a remarkably vivid simulation of splintering glass, letting you toss metal balls at shiny digital sheets and watch the shards fly, but it’s not a gimmick app. That sensation instead forms the core of an entertaining and smartly balanced survival game, wherein precise timing and aiming let you continue crashing ahead through the colorful levels.
Sector is a totally unique, vastly powerful, and well-designed beat manipulation tool for iPad that stirs together audio and math in a way that astounds and delights. The description of a “stochastic sample slice sequencer” might scare some off, but fear not: this is a beauty of a beast. Imported audio files are mapped into a circular, looping display, and sliced into a specific number of sectors, or segments (from two to 32 chunks), each with its own color.
Here we find that most elusive of creatures: a 4X (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) strategy game for iOS that's not compromised by a free-to-play model. Autumn Dynasty Warlords scores a victory on that front alone. This tale of martial ambition in ancient China may have a harder time conquering on some other fronts, but its simple strengths usually suffice to rout its flaws. It's essentially Shogun: Total War Lite, delivering a compact take on that PC favorite. Warlords is designed for conquests on 10-minute subway rides, and thus it lacks the depth of, say, Sid Meier's Civilization – though what's here does the trick.
Arithmetic has never been so strangely fun as in Calculords, a collectible card game from developer Ninja Crime and comedy writer Seanbaby that puts math calculations at its very core. It has a bit of a learning curve, and its NES-inspired retro art style may prove divisive, but there’s a lot to like once you get over that initial hump. Computer-controlled opponents give as good as — or even better than — they get, complete with snappy taunts and humorous sci-fi-referencing one-liners, and you can easily find yourself locked in battles for hours without noticing how much time has passed.
If there's one thing that playing Out There expertly imparts, it's that space can be a cold, lonely, and rather depressing place. The dangerous homeward journey of a cosmic explorer lost amongst the stars proves pretty grim in this turn-based sci-fi explorer. With fuel, oxygen, and ship repair materials in short supply, every light jump in the right direction also pushes you closer to the potential for a premature demise. It's gloomy stuff to be sure, but it pairs well with the intensely moody atmosphere and comic book presentation, which make the experience feel distinct from what's come before.
While we can generally figure out how to operate most new apps with little instruction, Peek Calendar required a trip to the tutorial before we got started — one of several we made during the course of reviewing the app. It's not so much that Peek is overloaded with powerful features or intricate gestures, but rather it rarely led us in any logical direction. Peek Calendar pushes the iOS 7 human interface guidelines to their limits with its ridiculously minimal, gesture-heavy approach, but while it tries to limit the amount of time you spend interacting with your calendar, its unique concept is ultimately too smart for its own good.
Social networking is a great tool for groups or businesses to communicate with the masses, but getting the message out across multiple services can be like pulling teeth. Like most everything these days, there’s an iPhone app for just such a purpose — no toothache necessary. Postcard is a free app for iPhone that simplifies the task of cross-posting to multiple social networks at once. Rather than switching between different apps or services, you'll simply tap out your missive once and then sit back as it’s posted to the relevant websites of your choosing.
Every notes app worth its salt needs to strike a balance between form and function, combining speed, effortless navigation, and easy organization into a simple tool that gets out of our way as we work. UpWord Notes doesn't just hit all of these marks — it does so in such an elegant way, we can't help but wonder if we've finally found the perfect app for quick note taking.