Over the year and a bit that I’ve had my iPad, I’ve tried a variety of apps. Many of these I’ve spotted in reviews on a variety of tech websites, and some of which I’ve located myself in the app store (which can actually be surprisingly difficult). Some are imposed by Apple when iOS is updated. Here’s a brief review of some recent apps I’ve tried.
The recent iOS5 update seemed to go quite smoothly for me at least. As an aside, I decided to do that update because of updates to Pages, Keynote and Numbers, though the real impact of those changes seems pretty invisible to me. One of the things that appeared on my iPad desktop was the Newsstand app, which is effectively a folder for organising magazine subscriptions. If you don’t want it, tough, you can’t get rid of it. Anyway, I was already a subscriber to New Statesman magazine – this is an app operating outside Newsstand, and really is only of interest for the weekly download of a copy of the magazine. It behaves pretty much like a pdf reader – OK but not exciting. The rest of the New Statesman app seems pretty ineffective.
But when I noticed The Guardian was to be available in Newsstand, I was interested. Especially since it’s free for the first few months before it moves to £9.99 per month. I downloaded it and I’ve been using it for about a week and a half. It presents The Guardian six days a week, with rapid download of each new issue (though I’ve noticed that the download sometimes needs a couple of attempts). Each issue remains on my iPad for a week (this cam be 1 day to 1 month, but 1 week is the default). The newspaper is presented with an attractive tiled front page that lets you get to the sections and stories pretty quickly. Navigation is well thought out and intuitive. Onward links in each story aren’t as frequent as one might have expected – but when they are there, they’re very useful. Highly recommended, and it’s likely I’ll take up a sub in January.
Regular reading of this blog will know I’m interested in cycling. I’ve had a paper sub to ProCycling for several years, and I noticed that it was available in Newsstand. Obviously I wasn’t going to subscribe while my paper sub was still active, so I downloaded a sample issue. This doesn’t seem to be much other than a direct version of the print issue, looking very much like a pdf version with a convenient page navigation along the bottom edge. Email addresses are activated by a tap, as are URLs relating to some of the product reviews. But the advantages of the iPad don’t seem to be realised – where The Guardian scores and ProCycling loses is in the ability to navigate around the magazine and beyond.
I have a couple of uPnP media devices on my network (separate from my music system, of which more later. I’ve tried three uPnP media players to handle viewing images and short videos in my photo library (TwonkyMedia on my NAS box) and recorded TV programmes on my mythbuntu box.
Plugplayer (£2.99) is able to see both the TwonkyMedia and Mythbuntu servers, but I think is best as a photo viewer (though every photo is preceded by a low resolution thumbnail image generated by the NAS photo gallery app). With the Mythbuntu server, video playback seems to be a bit unresponsive. Airplayer (£2.99) , on the other hand, works well with the photos albeit with slow loading. Video playback from the Mythbuntu server is quite smooth. Unfortunately, stepping through a recording is a bit hit and miss. Subtitles are supported. The smoothest video replay comes with 8player (£2.99) – it has a lovely front page with customisable image and icon sets. Video playback from Mythbuntu is great, it’s easy to fast forward and rewind within the video, and subtitles are available. What’s not so good on my system is viewing photos on TwonkyMedia – all I see are the thumbnails. Each of these three apps works with some aspect on my multimedia, and each quickly and accurately identifies the servers in my home network. 8player is my choice for video playback, and Airplayer for the photo gallery.
I am not a particularly enthusiastic game player. I tend to try and like smaller arcade style games to occupy an occasional 5 minutes or so, rather than spending long periods of time playing games. But as a long-time Tintin afficionado, I just had to try the iPad Tintin game (The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn – The Game). Unfortunately the whole thing comes across as a marketing exercise for the Spielberg film. The film is getting mixed reviews, with some absolute stinkers from the serious Tintin fans out there in the press. So far, I haven’t had the patience to persist with the game, so that’s as far as this review can go.