March 24, 2010

Apps Weekly: Articles + Pictionary Multiplayer Apps!

Wikipedia, while not the most reliable source of information on the web, is still one of the biggest free encyclopedias ever conceived, and it still ranks as one of the top go-to websites in history. While iPhone users have the option to browse Wikipedia using the Safari browser, there are still some limitations brought upon by the mobile version of the website, one complaint primarily being: you can't copy nor cut. And as we all know, Wikipedia is for research as Justin is to Biology.

AHEM, but I digress.

This is where people start looking for Wikipedia apps in the App Store. While Wikimedia has its own official app, I've found that the paid app Articles is so much better.

Sophia Teutschler
Requires iPhone 3.0 or later

Featuring a very clean interface, Articles starts off with a friendly notice: "Tap the search bar to start...". The user-friendly nature of the app encourages you to just do what you'd normally do with Wikipedia.

The fact that it looks like it was built for the iPad is kind of noticeable, so you feel like you're living in April 3.

But anyway, the resembles Safari in a lot of ways. The lower buttons are especially reminiscent to that of the browser, and it works just as you'd expect. There's a back and a forward button, an "add bookmark (or E-Mail article)" button, a "view bookmarks" button, and lastly a multi-page button which somewhat acts like "tabs" or "windows" in a browser.

Still, there's more than meets the eye in this Wikipedia app.

The content rendering for most articles look extremely good, with a font large enough to read for a relatively reasonable amount of time.

When you push on a picture, you'll be able to see a higher-resolution rendering of the picture after a few seconds.

If it's an information chart or a table, the app will feature a custom view for them as well.

Usually, you'll only be able to view them if you press on a section that would normally contain a chart or table.

In the bookmarks view, the app also utilizes the iPhone's GPS capabilities, because it has a rather unique "Nearby" option that likely brings out information about your location or something. I wasn't able to try this because I was on an iPod touch and the Philippines doesn't have the triangulation thingy.

It also contains a "Surprise Me!" button which summons a random articles, and pre-loaded bookmarks like "Famous Paintings" and "Post Impressionism". They're all editable so you can delete them.

Also, the app contains the ability to lock the orientation; basically if you pull the app down Tweetie-style, you'll see an arrow and text that says, "Release to lock orientation". This will enable the app to not turn into either landscape or portrait mode when you change the iPhone's position. The app also features a unique way to navigate the entire article: after double-tapping the screen, you can scroll up or down to navigate through the article's various sections, thus removing much need for the Table of Contents. The feature isn't really stated enough in the app, because it's a rather convenient and useful gesture.

True, it doesn't have in-page searching and some people prefer that the table of contents be readily presented to them, but the app's ease of use and gorgeous interface more than make up for its shortcomings.

Rating: 8/10

If you like Pictionary, you'll probably be pleased to know that there are a few online multiplayer Pictionary apps present in the App Store. If you don't know what Pictionary is though, then it's pretty much guessing the object a person is drawing, but the real board game has a few more intricacies and twists to it.

One of them is the free game, Depict.

Technically, I shouldn't even preview this app as it has been released since December. However, the major thing about the app is that it has just transitioned into free territory, and the developer's only source of revenue would be in-app purchases, which consist of game modes and custom avatars.

It pits you against 5 players and if you guess the answer in the quickest way possible, you'll earn much points. Still, unlike actual Pictionary where the choices available to you are in the imagination, the game does the imagination for you; you'll pick among 6 choices that contain the answer. It is powered by OpenFeint, which is free and powerful.

Another online multiplayer Pictionary app is Charadium which costs a buck.

The premise is somewhat similar to that of Depict's but the difference is that instead of providing you with choices, the game actually leaves you to guess the object being drawn correctly and quickly through typing the damn thing. Revision3's AppJudgment says that the iPhone's native auto-correct feature stands in the way of fun but the developers have swiftly responded to this rant. It's also powered by the gaming network plus+.

The game looks somewhat more polished than Depict but the difference is that Depict's pixely aesthetic allows for more precision in drawing. But that shouldn't really stop you from enjoying any of this.

At the end of the day, choosing a great Pictionary online multiplayer app will have to depend on your preference. Both are fundamentally the same, but Depict lets you save time typing by providing you with choices instead (and it's free), while Charadium lets you type out the actual word thus encouraging more of your imagination to work (and it's not free). They both look rather good, but the problem is that they don't really provide much in the way of local multiplayer, meaning you can't pit yourself between a Bluetooth powered iPod touch or iPhone that's nearby which is a bit of a sad oversight.

A warning: when playing online, be wary of pervs who draw gonads.

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