• iPhone App Reviews - Facebook, Ramp Champ

    This week we look at the latest release of the insanely popular Facebook app and Ramp Champ, an arcade-style game with a clear focus on beauty.


    Facebook


    Reviewed by Rémy

    Facebook 1

    After what feels like an eternity of waiting, the official Facebook iPhone app was finally updated to "Version 3.0" last Friday morning. Bringing a truckload of much needed new features and bug fixes, developer Joe Hewitt (who also helped out with Firefox's creation) has done an outstanding job of bringing most of the features of Facebook's web platform to a native iPhone app.

    Before reviewing Facebook for iPhone, however, I wondered if there was much point in writing this article. After all, chances are that if you're using Facebook and you own an iPhone or iPod touch, then you'll be using the Facebook app. Heck, it's the most popular free app of all time. So, I guess the purpose of this review is to provide some sort of insight into the update, and while I'm at it, I've set the rather ambitious goal of convincing some of the Facebook haters out there to think about signing up.

    Facebook 3.0 is so very, very different to previous versions of the same app that it's almost like downloading an entirely new app. Facebook for iPhone's central area for accessing your profile, photos, events, requests, notes and so on is similar to the iPhone's own home screen in functionality. Icons can be reorganised according to your preferences, and your own friends (and pages you have become a fan of) can be added to the screen.

    img_0891

    Those lucky few amongst us can now upload videos with their iPhone 3GS (although they can't be watched, which will be discussed later on), and photo uploading/management has been vastly improved - you can now set profile pictures, create and edit photo albums and multi-touch zoom into photos.

    Facebook 3.0 brings some more web features to the app with it too - the biggest amongst these is the addition of the "like" button so widely used online, plus the ability to view pages, create and edit notes and the ability to RSVP and view upcoming birthdays and events. All in all, it's a big update, and it works brilliantly. A few bugs in the initial release were sorted out (and approved by Apple) quickly with the 3.0.1 update, and everything in the 3.0 version feels very fast and very smooth. Previous versions of the Facebook app suffered from a buggy interface and frequent crashes, especially when iPhone OS 3.0 arrived.

    There's still potential for further development with Facebook for iPhone. As mentioned above, you still can't watch videos, because they require Flash to be viewed. There's two options here - follow YouTube's footsteps and encode videos in the H.264 format (that would require Facebook's engineers to completely convert millions of videos, a tedious and time consuming task), or wait for Apple to get their act together and add Flash content for the iPhone. Either way, it's going to be a long time before we see video in the Facebook app. Similarly, Facebook Apps run almost entirely on Flash, so again, we're going to see developers create their own separate, native apps for the iPhone or wait for Apple.

    For now though, it's a very welcome update, and brings much of Facebook's web functionality to a native app. Aside from it's various flaws (and there are certainly many flaws), Facebook is a brilliant way to connect and share content with friends online, and Facebook 3.0*makes the it an absolute pleasure to use on your iPhone.

    Version reviewed: 3.0.1
    Price: Free
    Developer: Facebook
    ageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/itunes.apple.com');" href="http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=284882215&mt=8">App Store

    Ramp Champ


    Reviewed by Rémy

    img_0894

    Ramp Champ is the newest game to come from those lovely folks over at The Iconfactory, who (if you didn't already know them) also developed the similarly addictive Frenzic and Twitterrific apps for the iPhone. As soon as you open the app, it's fairly clear that Ramp Champ was created by a team of hard working graphic designers. In a word, it's gorgeous.

    After initially recovering from the sheer beauty of the app, you realise that there's actually a game to be played. Your goal is to throw balls with a flick of your fingertip (you get nine per game) at the on screen targets, in exchange for tickets, which in turn can be redeemed for toys and gifts that are stored for your viewing (and boasting) pleasure. There are also twelve goals to achieve (three for each themed game), with trophies as a reward for your achievements. If you've ever been to Luna Park, you'll know what these kinds of "sideshow" games are like, and the "Clown Town" part of the game is particularly reminiscent of those.

    Ramp Champ also makes use of In-App Purchases, introduced in iPhone OS 3.0. It comes with four differently-themed games, and two additional "themes", with new goals and prizes, can be purchased for $1.19 each. It works well, but even on a relatively quick (i.e. not Optus 3G) connection I found that the extra levels downloaded quite slowly, taking up to ten minutes for each download attempt.

    img_0896

    There are a few issues I have with Ramp Champ - the biggest being the controls of the game. It seems to me that playing Ramp Champ can be slightly unreliable. Even if you try to develop a certain style of playing, it's more of a "flick and hope" action in some instances. The game also runs a little slow on my iPhone 3G, but having played the game briefly on Apple's newest model, I imagine 3GS owners will not share my concerns.

    Ramp Champ is fun and, as said before, a really beautifully designed game to play. It's well worth the $2.49 asking price and demonstrates just how powerful the iPhone's animation capabilities can be. The iconfactory should be congratulated on a very well developed application and despite a few shortcomings here and there, it's a great game to have sitting on your iPhone - and who knows, you may even form an addiction!

    Version reviewed: 1.0
    Price: $2.49
    Developer: The Iconfactory
    ageTracker._trackPageview('/outbound/article/itunes.apple.com');" href="http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=284882215&mt=8">App Store
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