The iPhone 11 Pro Max Smart Battery Case

Back in February, I wrote a review for the, then new, iPhone Smart Battery Case for the iPhone XS.

While I had mixed feelings about the case, I summarised my feelings thusly:

All in all, I’d say if you really need an extra boost of life in your phone, you’d get no better quality and integration than Apple’s own case, though I wouldn’t recommend using it every day. Unless you like your phone feeling like a brick phone from the 80s that is. Each to their own, however. Given the price, I can’t justify the case sitting in my drawer for the majority of the year so it will be going back to Apple, but I will consider picking one up again should the need for longer battery life become more frequent for me.

I now no longer have that case, or the iPhone XS if once adorned. I upgraded to the iPhone 11 Pro Max in September and with it came an incredible battery performance boost. At the time Apple claimed it could out perform the iPhone XS Max’s battery by 5 hours and it definitely does perform admirably.

The incredible battery life, coupled with my less than perfect relationship with the case first time round, made me instantly dismiss the new Smart Battery Case for iPhone 11 Pro Max. And then I saw the camera button …

Now, fast forward a day and my Pro Max is wrapped in another hideous battery case, but this time it has a camera button. I’m not going to review the case here. There’s nothing much I can add that I haven’t said already though I did want to share a few thoughts about that camera button, and what’s changed for me.

Firstly, design-wise, it does feel a little strange. The button itself is at the bottom right hand side of the case, when looking at your phone. The button feels slightly oddly placed, in that it’s near the back, not centred on the side as I imagined it would be. It’s also recessed a little, and the button is concave, curving into the device. I would imagine both things are true so as to avoid accidental presses, which works me and I think it’s more visually pleasing than a further protruding button. A finger rests nicely in the little groove it sits in. Movement on the button itself is smooth, yet robust feeling.

Upon first pressing the button, once I added it to my device, I thought it was not working. A short tap on the button has no effect, you instead need to hold the button down for about a second or two. While, obviously, that’s a tiny amount of time, it did feel like it should be a bit more responsive and when you’re expecting a result to be instantaneous it’s a little jarring. While it feels like it should launch quicker, I also believe this is again a safety feature to prevent a million accidental pocket photos. To this end, the delay does make a lot of sense.

I had the last battery case for a few days before returning it and nothing about the old one that I disliked has changed. I still really don’t like the silicone material, it’s pretty ugly, it makes my svelte and beautiful phone a heavy and chunky monstrosity and yet, I think this time I’ll be keeping it. As Habib wrote in his article on Chambyte, it’s going to come in handy for longer photo walks and days out. My mistake last time was thinking that this would be my new case. It’s really not feasible for every day use and frankly it’s not necessary, given how good the battery is on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. I will instead be treating it as the accessory it was meant to be. A case that can be put on, as and when needed, when you need that little extra juice. An additional 50% battery life, which the case provides, is not an insignificant amount, so I’m sure I will get value from the device.

Taking the case on and off is simple enough, though I’m interested to see how well it lasts over time. To remove it you need to bend the top back, so you can slide the bottom of your phone out, so it disconnects from the small protruding lightning connector at the bottom. It feels like, after a few tries at that, the silicone / rubber may start to crack, but I’ll see how it goes I guess.

All in all, this case will spend more time in my drawer than it will on my phone, I imagine, but this time I’m okay with that. When it does come out and onto my phone it’ll be the perfect camera case and companion and will easily get me through whatever I want to throw at it.

Moderation Review: Meal Tracking For The Rest Of Us

Trying to eat the right thing, and improve my health has been a constant battle for me over the years. As with many things in my life, I often turn to technology to help me through. To this end, I’ve tried a lot of food tracking apps over the years, however none have ever stuck with me for more than a day or two.

The issue with most food tracking apps is that you already have to be very familiar and au fait with the food you’re eating. Unless you’re eating a meal from a packet, in which case you can simply scan the bar code, you need to be able to enter the measurement of what your eating, along with an approximate calorific count. Let me tell you, if you know how to measure an amount of food by sight alone, and know the calories contained within you don’t need to be tracking your calories. You’re already on top of it.

These are the exact reasons why I’ve never stuck with a food tracking app for long, and is also the reason why I was so pleased that Dominic Williams, the developer behind Moderation, shared the details of his app with me.

Moderations tag line is: ’A Radically Simple Food Diary’, which sums it up pretty well actually. Moderation is a food diary for the rest of us. It’s an app for people that are either just starting their journey towards a healthier diet, or for those just looking to maintain some top level detail about how well they’re eating over a certain period of time.

When you open Moderation you’re presented with a very clean, simple, yet beautiful main screen. On this screen, for each meal you have, or are having, throughout the day you simply need to indicate if it was ‘Healthy’ or ‘Unhealthy’, and that’s it! This basic approach to recording how healthy each meal is will likely not be enough for real health freaks out there, but it works ideally for me.

After a few days of use you will start to build up a very clear indication of how healthy your meals have been across breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. With this information to hand you will have a better idea of what needs improving without a large, and laborious, data entry dance after every meal, which you’d have in a more traditional food tracking app.

As well as the main ‘Food’ tab where you record the information about each meal, there is also a ‘History’ that allows you to see a month by month view of your eating habits. The calendar view is colour coded for each day you’ve recorded some information, so you can see at a glance how many red (unhealthy) or green (healthy) days you’ve had in that period along with a helpful bar graph detailing a breakdown of meal healthiness from your entire history. Finally, this page can display a historic view of your best and worst days, which can help you identify which days you’ve really excelled or let yourself down.

I think one of the things I like most about this app is that it’s not there to shame you, or make you over think your dietary short comings. It’s simply there to provide some top level analysis which you then fill in the blanks on. You don’t record what that meal was, or how many calories it included etc. You may, sometimes, mark a high calorie meal as ‘healthy’ because it is healthy in relation to your usual diet, or if you have a reason that you need high calories on a given day. The way you record things in Moderation allows the user to be far more subjective than other tracking apps, in what is healthy or unhealthy for you and your diet, may be completely different for someone else.

There is some light gamification included as well, in that you can start building up a streak after at least two successful ‘healthy’ days which is a nice touch. There are also achievements available as you progress. While the achievements pop up on screen as you obtain them, I don’t believe there is currently a way to view them. It sounds like, however, this is coming soon.

From a design point of view the app is also a joy to use. It’s clean, lightweight and includes a lovely dark mode theme, which is always a winner for me. When Dominic contacted me about his app, he told me he’s working on a big update to Moderation that will include:

  • Smarter Notifications: Understand if you have logged a meal already
  • Interactive notifications
  • Reminder for when you didn’t log your food yesterday
  • More variety in notification messaging
  • Siri Shortcuts
  • Achievement cabinet
  • Better Insights: See your 7 day Healthy % Monthly Summary Card
  • Meal Summary Card
  • Streak Summary Card

That’s certainly a strong development pipeline, so I’m looking forward to seeing how Moderation continues to develop.

While I’m a big fan of the app, one big omission for me is a Apple Watch app. Given the simple ‘healthy’ / ‘unhealthy’ approach to meal logging it feels ripe for a basic Watch app so you can quickly rate a meal at the time of consumption. Including this in the Siri Watch face so it surfaces a button around breakfast, lunch, and dinner time would be really helpful. Interestingly it doesn’t seem to be in Dominic’s immediate development pipeline, but that’s not to say it’s not something that could come at a later date.

The app is currently free, but I would actually like an opportunity to pay something for the app, perhaps in exchange for some custom icons or themes. I’m a real sucker for paying for cosmetic unlocks in an app, as a way of supporting independent developers, whilst also getting something for yourself (beyond the app itself of course). I definitely think Dominic is missing a trick here. He’s built a gorgeous, and extremely helpful app which I’m sure people would be willing to pay for. I can totally understand leaving the core app free, but I would personally look to add some options for those of us that want to give him money and support for his efforts a way of doing so.

Unlike any food tracking app before it, Moderation has slipped easily into my day to day life. Updating my meals is a real breeze and it’s already making me a lot more mindful of what I’m eating. Moderation is a free app, with a rare 5/5 score on the App Store currently, so there’s nothing stopping you from taking it for a spin.

Adobe Photoshop for iPad: MVP

To you all U.S. sports fans out there, no I’m not refering to Adobe Photoshop for iPad the Most Valuable Player. I am, instead, refering to the term ‘Minimum Viable Product’.

With Photoshop and many other hugely ambitious projects / releases from large companies, there seems to be a lack of basic understanding for how these kind of things work. It seems to be a growing trend recently, when a big new software release comes out, that people have extremely high and unrealistic expectations on what it may be. The below is one such example of this:

There seems to be an expectation that from day dot a software release will have every feature you could ever imagine, will never crash, and will do everything another piece of software can do. Photoshop, in this example, has had a version built for a specific architecture that has been iterated on for almost three decades, yet a complete rebuild for a completely different device type should have feature parity on day one? No chance. Beyond that, I don’t understand why someone would expect it.

Is it better to have a product out there, in users hands so it can be iterated in, or kept behind closed doors for years until it’s some product managers idea of ‘ready’? I appreciate there are different schools of thought on this, but this Agile approach has been adopted for a lot of software and development teams for some time now and it works.

After putting a short version of this post up earlier, one of the Photoshop team responded with the following:

It’s clear from this that Adobe are serious about this product, and they literally had to start somewhere. My plea to people reading this, and sending out a lot of ill feeling about this release, and others, please consider the following:

  • This software doesn’t just appear one day. It’s been built by human beings, with feelings and pride in the hard work they’ve done. If it isn’t exactly what you wanted, maybe consider some constructive feedback, via the correct channels, instead of blanket statements of ‘Wow, this sucks!’
  • Consider that the new piece of software is rarely the only way of achieving what you want to do. In this example, the normal Photoshop is still wherever it is you left it. Continue as you were, whilst experimenting with a new version to see if you can help improve it.

An interesting point about this is that it doesn’t seem to be the same when users take part in a TestFlight beta, for example. There, you may get some bad builds along the way, but by testing the MVP and helping the developer iterate upon it via feedback and just using the app you will help drive improvements. An MVP product release is, to me, no different.

Homescreen: November 2019

Unbelievably, it’s November already, so I thought I’d do a quick Homescreen update post. First things first, here it is:

My main Homescreen has remained pretty static for months now, with only a few tweaks here and there. I’ve recently moved from Overcast to the stock Podcasts app for my podcasting needs. While it is, of course, far more basic and sync can be a little flakey between devices, I’ve been enjoying a more integrated experience. I’ve started using the excellent ‘Handoff to HomePod’ feature from iOS 13.2 as well. This isn’t unique to the Podcasts app, however. While I’m trying to spend less time on podcasts, and more time listening to audiobooks, a simpler and streamlined experience has been working well.

I’m also experimenting with replacing 1Password with the iOS keychain, so I have a simple Shortcut, represented by the key icon, that will jump straight to that page in settings. So far, it’s working well.

Lastly, I’ve added Federico Viticci’s excellent Reminders+ Shortcut to my dock, for quick access.

I don’t usually share the second screen, because that’s where my ugly folders or junk is kept, but I’ve been experimenting with more basic, but helpful, Shortcut actions recently so I thought I’d show these too. Currently I have Shortcuts to:

  • Switch my current audio output to, or from, one of my HomePods. I can pick the HomePod to send or retrieve audio from within the Shortcut.
  • One very simple one that just switches the audio to my AirPods Pro. This is just a quicker way of doing it than going through the Control Center.
  • Podcast episodes lets me pick from one of my subscribed podcasts and plays the latest episode.
  • YouTube time turns on one of my Apple TV’s, opens the YouTube app and launches the remote on my phone. This works well from my Living Room HomePod also.
  • The Meeting Shortcut simply puts my device into DND and turns the volume off at the start of a meeting and reverses this, setting volume to 25% when I leave.
  • And, finally, ‘Detailed’ gives me a quick, yet detailed, weather report as and when I need it.

I’ve also started using more Shortcuts widgets in the notification center panel, but that may be something to share another day.

AirPods Pro Review: Is Silence Golden?

Before I get started with this post, allow me to set the scene a little bit. I am, by no means whatsoever, an audiophile. My experience with audio equipment, especially headphones is limited to the extreme. Since I started buying iPhones I’ve been using the supplied EarPods and then the AirPods, since their introduction in 2016. I’m mentioning this early doors so you can get a bit of perspective on what past experiences I will be bringing to bear when discussing the AirPods Pro. If I was a betting man, I would have thought the vast majority of people out there are coming from a fairly similar place, to be honest. With that being said, and assuming you’re still reading, let’s move on.


The first thing you’ll notice when unboxing the new AirPods Pro is the redesigned wireless charging case. It’s now a shorter, wider version, but still retains that fairly distinctive look. While it isn’t especially important, I think I prefer the squared off look of the past generations, though perhaps I’m just used to it.

Flipping up the lid gives you your first glance of the new, redesigned AirPods themselves. The snug fit of the AirPods in their case, as seen in the first two generations looked good, but also made it easy to almost roll each bud out. The AirPods Pro doesn’t have either of these things. As you can see from the comparison shot below, the normal AirPods fit into the case snuggly, but leave a nice amount to grip when you need to pull them out.

The AirPods Pro, on the other hand, sit into a space far less moulded to the shape of the bud. I know this sounds pretty anal, and I admit it is, but they just don’t have that same premium feel you get from the standard versions as you put the AirPods back in and they are gently pulled into place. The Pros feel a bit less secure, I’m less confident they are touching the charging area, and they are far more fiddly to remove.

The AirPods themselves are quite different this time around as well. I’ve always been very lucky with the EarPods, and then AirPods, in that they have always fit into my ear perfectly. One way or another they seemed to fit with the contours of my ear and I’d forget they were even there sometimes. The AirPods Pro, on the other hand, not so much. Granted, I’ve only had them for a day or so, so they may just take some getting used to. I used them at work for quite an extended period of time and I think I’m slowly getting more familiar with the feeling in ear. Again, coming from someone with limited headphone experience, I’m used to my ear buds just slipping into the shape of my ear and then thinking noting more of it. Due, in part, to the new shape and new rubber tips, it’s been taking a lot more thought to get them in. When I bring them to my ear they’ve not been slipping neatly into place and so far I’ve not got then in in such a way that has felt instantly comfortable or even secure, more than a handful of times.

Once they are in, so far at least, it’s not been the most comfortable experience, though again it does feel like my ears are, somewhat at least, getting used to them. They certainly haven’t blended into the background of my consciousness like the standard AirPods do. In fact, the feeling that I have something hard and uncomfortable jammed awkwardly into my ear is more prevalent than any sounds I may be playing at the time. This experience is, as you’d imagine, incredibly subjective, however, and your milage not only may vary, it almost certainly will. I’ve been very spoilt so far, having a near perfect fit with everything Apple has supplied or sold up to this point. I am going to keep trying on this front, however. It may just require a new angle of placement compared to what I’m so used to to get the fit I like.

Also, before anyone writes me a letter, yes I have tried different tips. I tried the default medium size first, and have swapped to the small ones to try currently.

Performance and software

So, comfort and fit aside, how well do they actually work? Once again, as a non-audiophile user I have never tried a noise cancelling set of headphones or earbuds so I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but it feels like there is some real Apple magic going on on this front. Once they’re connected you have three options available to you. These are:

  • Noise Cancellation
  • Transparency
  • Off

The noise cancellation is truly a thing to behold. It’s incredibly effective and works like a charm. When I first turned it on it was a pretty strange experience and felt a little jarring to be honest. Initially I had nothing playing, so the almost eerie silence threw me a little. It felt like I was in some kind of vacuum. As soon as I started playing a song, however, it started to normalise a bit. Once I got used to the feeling it felt great.

You can switch between modes via a long hold / squeeze of the AirPods stem, or via a long press on the volume control in the Control Center

I have to admit that despite being very impressed with the technology itself, I’d never personally thought about why someone would want noise cancellation. My main use for AirPods currently has been at work, but while I’m working I’ll often have someone come up to my desk for something, and felt I should always have an ear open, both literally and figuratively. That being said, I used them for most of the day today and have to say I found it pretty incredible. My work is quite technical, and while I have to help others quite a bit throughout the day, sometimes I really need to just concentrate on what I’m doing. Throughout my first day using the tiny buds, I was able to completely drown out the surprisingly loud background noise of my office and really focus on my work. The noise cancellation, combined with a relaxing flowing river noise from Dark Noise was an extraordinary zen experience. I think I’m a convert.

The next option available for the AirPods Pro is the Transparency setting. Once again, this feels like some patented Apple magic at work. Because the new AirPods include rubber tips they, by their nature, already provide a physical form of noise cancellation or blocking. That’s where the Transparency mode comes in. I’ve written about five different paragraphs trying to explain what this mode is, and I’ve fallen short each time, so I’ll let Apple explain it:

“Transparency mode provides users with the option to simultaneously listen to music while still hearing the environment around them, whether that’s to hear traffic while out for a run or an important train announcement during the morning commute. Using the pressure-equalizing vent system and advanced software that leaves just the right amount of noise cancellation active, Transparency mode ensures that a user’s own voice sounds natural while the audio continues to play perfectly.”

This, like the noise cancellation, works incredibly well and really does make the surrounding noise clear and natural, completely mitigating the rubber bud in your ear.

Finally you can just turn it all off completely and the buds will then function just like standard AirPods, though slightly more audibly restrictive due to the rubber tips as mentioned previously.

I’ve heard a lot of people reporting that they think the AirPods Pro sound better than regular AirPods, but I can’t hear that personally. They do sound better with noise cancellation on, but only because you can hear the sound more clearly without as much background noise. Beyond that, however, they sound identical to me, personally.

To sum things up, did I need new AirPods? No, not at all. Do I need noise cancellation on the AirPds I don’t need? No, no I don’t. Am I going to keep them, regardless? Damn right I will. The siren call of interesting and enjoyable Apple tech cannot be ignored, it seems.

The Art Of The Draft

One of the main things keeping me from posting more, I think, is that I have a bad habit of only ever writing a post / article in one sitting. I can’t remember a time I’ve ever just started writing a bit and then come back to add a bit over a few days. The fact I don’t come back to a piece is probably fairly evident in the quality of my posts, unfortunately.

While doing a post from start to finish each time seemed like it would be a better way of getting more posts out, it’s ended up with me just thinking I don’t have enough time to finish anything of substance right now so I don’t even start. I think this is a mindset I need to get out of. I have plenty of ideas currently, and some reviews to share of some interesting new apps I’ve had shared with me by various developers, nothing seems to be progressing all that much.

Right now, I should have a handful of draft posts somewhere where I can keep adding points as I go along before compiling them into a final post at some point. Instead I have a bunch of emails sitting in my inbox, with Reminders entries attached to them. The closest I get to drafting things right now is writing some posts in my head while I drift off at night.

This is probably where an app like Drafts might actually come in useful. I’ve never been able to find a compelling reasons to stick with it, but this may be it.

I need to stop thinking that I have no spare time to write or podcast, and start making better use of whatever time I do have.

Apple Arcade Adds 5 New Games

It looks like Apple aren’t slowing down with their new Apple Arcade launches quite yet. Just 5 days since the last update Apple has released a further 5 titles onto their subscription service. Judging by the short introduction videos on the App Store, they look to have the same high quality of the previous additions and they bring the total up to 80.

Image courtesy of the Apple Arcade Twitter account

Let’s have a quick look at what has been added:

  • Decoherence - This game looks like a bit of a strategic, competitive arena game featuring robots. What game isn’t made better by the inclusion of robots??
  • INMOST - At first glance this one looks really interesting. It features a very retro looking graphical style. It’s a ‘story driven puzzle platformer’ which already makes it sound pretty interesting. I’m looking forward to giving this one a go. It’s been developed by Chucklefish, the team behind the amazing Stardew Valley. If that’s not reason enough to jump in I don’t know what is!
  • Mind Symphony - This one was developed by Rogue Games, a very prolific App Store developer. A lot of their games are very IAP focused, so I’m interested in seeing one of their games without the crippling monetisation.
  • ShockRods - Car-based deathmatches. ‘Nuff said! The preview video makes it look like a mix between PS1 classic Twisted Metal and Rocket League. ShockRods looks like great fun.
  • Stella - Stella looks to be a stunning looking 3D / First Person platformer. Of all the new releases this week, this one looks ideal for the Apple TV. Performance on other games I’ve tried has been far from optimal, so I’m keen to give this one a try.

I’m looking forward to jumping into this new selection ASAP. I need to get back to doing some reviews on all of these, but I’m just having too much fun playing them!

PSA: New Apple Arcade Games Now Available

For those keeping up, it looks like there are some new additions to Apple Arcade that have sprung up overnight, bringing the current total to 75.

The new additions are:

  • NIGHTMARE FARM - This looks like an interesting, if not a little strange title. After reading the App Store description it’s a little hard to even see what this ones about, but it’s labelled as a ‘simulation’. You apparently have to visit a farm and give the creatures there food and toys. Fair enough!
  • Pilgrims - Again, this looks like an artistic and quirky game. It looks like you need to interact with people you meet as you journey across the land and try to make friends and ‘help them complete their little stories’.
  • Redout: Space Assault - This appears to be a space-based action shooter. From the screenshots it looks pretty good, though the early reviews suggest it may be a bit buggy.
  • The Bradwell Conspiracy - This one is described as being a ‘highly stylised, narrative-driven experience’, which sounds good to me! The game has an impressive team behind it and looks like the cream of the latest additions crop.

I’m looking forward to diving into this new selection of Apple Arcade games soon.

iOS 13 Tidbit: Convert Live Photo's into videos

Since its introduction in iOS 11, Live Photo’s has truly been one of the core iOS features that keeps me in the eco-system. While this may sound a bit strange to some of you, I find it to be a truly invaluable feature of my everyday camera. I like to think of it as parent mode because, to be honest with you, I can’t imagine many people outside of this demographic that would find it as compelling feature as I do. I’ve lost count of the amount of mediocre pictures I’ve taken, only to review the Live Photo later to realise I’ve captured something truly special being said, or a reaction, that would normally be lost to the ether.

I found out about an interesting feature that has become available in iOS 13, a rare enhancement to Live Photo’s that I wanted to share. It seems it’s now possible to select multiple Live Photo’s, that were taken in quick succession, and create a video out of them. Apple shared a short ‘how to’ video explaining the process, on their YouTube channel, which you can see below:

This is a seemingly small feature but, for me at least, it’s a really powerful one. I’ve tried it myself and it works perfectly. It doesn’t do much to make the transition between videos all that smooth, but it’s highly serviceable and something I can see myself using a fair bit. Now that I know it exists …

The Brydge Keyboard

To me, a sign of a good review is how much reading / watching it makes me want to go and try out the product that’s being reviewed. Prolific YouTuber Christopher Lawley’s recent Brydge Keyboard review was not only fantastically presented, as always, it also really made me want to use the Brydge Keyboard.

If you haven’t seen the video yet, stop what you’re doing and watch it below:

Normally, there would be nothing unusual about a review making me want to try a new product. What struck me about this review, however, was that it didn’t make me want to try a new product. It made me want to try a product that I already owned, and actually really disliked, which is a first, and a testament to how well Chris reviewed the device.

Why I don’t like the Brydge keyboard

One of the major deciding factors for me choosing to use an iPad as my main home computing device1 was the flexibility the form factor afforded me. I work a normal full time day job, and much of my spare time is spent with my wife, young daughter and Toy Poodle. I have very little time to fully dedicate to blogging or podcasting and the like, but when I do get the time, I need to be as flexible on where I do these things as possible. The iPad Pro, paired with the fantastic Apple Smart Folio Keyboard, allows for the most flexible computing exerience I could hope for.

I was excited to get my hands on the Brydge keyboard, and quickly ordered one as soon as it became available. After slotting my iPad Pro into the case I was in awe of just how fantastic it made my beloved iPad look. This admiration, however, was pretty short lived. Whilst sat at a desk, the Brydge keyboard looked perfect. When I needed to move away from the desk, however, things got a little less idyllic. The Brydge keyboard is heavy. There’s no getting around it. Strapping that beast of a keyboard to a 12.9” iPad Pro instantly doubles its weight and, in doing so, reduces it’s flexibility and ease of use by the same proportion. When desktop / laptop fans see the Brydge keyboard in use you’ll often get the tired comment ‘Why don’t you just get a MacBook?’ While the answer to that particular question would be best answered another day, in another post, I did get the feeling that I was just using a heavy, cumbersome laptop, which is most certainly not something I would want, or expect, when using my svelte and portable iPad.

Chris touched on the squisy feeling of the keys and I definitely experienced this. They can also, at times, be fairly unresponsive, especially when compared to the excellent keys and travel of the Smart Folio. I’ve never been that fused about my keyboards, though it seems to be very important to many. Now that I’ve been using the Smart Folio, and it’s predecessors, for so long, however, I have gotten used to the low travel and typing noise. I’ve never understood those people that enjoy a loud clack, clack from their keyboard. I’m not sure if it’s down to the Bluetooth connection, the fact the keys are less accurate if you don’t press them perfectly in the center, or a combination of the two, but I definitely have to type slower, and more precisely when using the Brydge. Things aren’t all bad, however …

Things I do like about the Brydge keyboard

While I’ve been pretty negative about the keyboard so far in this post, there are some areas that really do appeal a great deal about the keyboard.

Firstly, as I’ve already touched on, the device looks absolutely beautiful. I won’t dwell on this point too much, but it really is a great looking accessory to an already tasty looking bit of kit.

While the keys are, indeed, squishy, and they miss keystrokes far more often than I’m comfortable with, the addition of function keys to control volume and adjust brightness, among others, is a great touch and it’s something I wish Apple could somehow squeeze into the Smart Folio moving forward. The keyboard also features backlit keys which, despite being a nice inclusion, was ultimately a bit wasted on me. I’ll very rarely write / use my iPad in the dark it seems.

Another thing I found myself liking the Brydge keyboard for was using the iPad on the desk in my study. Whilst only in certain situations, I found myself using the Brydge keyboard, when I knew I’d be sitting at my desk for some time, whilst connected to 4K monitor and my Logitech mouse. While this is very close to the MacBook I wanted to avoid, it is nice for the aforementioned specific situations that call for it.

Ultimately, for me, it came down to the particular way I used my iPad. At the time, I was rarely sitting down for any extended period of time at a desk so using the keyboard made little sense. It doesn’t lend itself well to someone that wants to move around a lot, unless you want to develop arms like Popeye from lugging the thing around.

Going full circle back to where this article started, Chris’ video has encouraged me to dust off the Brydge keyboard2 and give it another shot. I’ve written this article using it and, despite the slower than usual typing speed I’ve had to employ, I have to say I’m quite enjoying it. A few months ago, as soon as I got home, my iPhone would be set to charge and my iPad would be my evening companion should I need to do anything. Since getting the new iPad Mini, however, I’ve found I actually am using my iPad Pro in a more static configuration, so I’m presented another opportunity to put it through its paces. I must say I’ve enjoyed my time spent using it to write something a bit different.

This article wasn’t intended to be a review, it started life as just a link post to Chris’ great video. It hasn’t really ended up as a review either, but I would have still liked to have offered up a conclusion to my thoughts on the Brydge keyboard to anyone that had made it this far. As is probably evident from the above, however, I’m still pretty torn. 90% of my time will still be spent with the Smart Keyboard Folio. I just love it. For the rare occasions that I’m strictly desk bound, and equally rare occasions I write anything more than a few hundred words, the Brydge keyboard may well see the light of day.

  1. For those interested, I’m using the 2018 iPad Pro 12.9” in space grey. [return]
  2. I did actually try to return it early on, but the Brydge support team told me there would be a restocking fee to pay and that they would assess the device and send me a refund of whatever amount they thought suitable. Erm, what? [return]

Oprah's Book Club - The Water Dancer 📚

I’m not sure if anyone is interested in following Oprah’s Book Club on Apple TV+ when it launches in November, but for those of you that are, Apple are currently selling the Audiobook of the first book that will be covered, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates for less than the eBook version.

This is a completely non-staged photo of Oprah loving the heck out of this book.

It’s currently £7.99 for the audiobook, versus £9.99 for the eBook.1

To be completely honest with you, it doesn’t sound like a book I’d normally be into. I am, however, an Apple sheep as you may well know, so I’ve picked up the book and will listen to it ahead of the Oprah Book Club launch. I’ve always been kind of interested in a book club idea, but I’ve never done anything about it. Now that I’ve been getting into audiobooks more, given my long commute, it seemed like a fair investment.

Having never taken part in a book club before, I’m not entirely sure what to expect from Oprah’s show, but I’m interested in finding out. Assuming I enjoy the book that is …

  1. This is in the UK of course, as you can guess by the price. I hope, and assume, the same will apply in the US and other places across the world. [return]

Apple Arcade Daily #9 - Word Laces

Whilst surving bullet storms or going on an adventure across the world can be great fun, you sometimes need to step back a bit in life and time the pace down a bit.

Beautiful graphics or a pumping soundtrack usually make for an interesting gaming experience, but in the right situation, something far simpler is called for. It’s this time when quiet, relaxation and simpler time is required that today’s comes into its own. The game is Word Laces, by Australian development studio MiniMega Games.

These micro reviews are always supposed to be short, and my review of Word Laces is likely going to be the shortest so far1. Don’t take that as a reflection on the game, however, because I’ve probably sunk more time into it than any other game that I’ve reviewed so far.

The aim of the game is simple. Each level includes an image in the top half of the screen2 and a collection of letters on the bottom half. You then need to swipe through the collection of letters to form set words that are associated with the image. In the image shown below, for example, you would link together J-A-CK-E-T which will earn you some points and then remove that set of letters from play. You continue this until you have enough letters to move onto the next level / image. It really is that simple …

It’s this simplicity that makes the game so engrossing, however. This isn’t a game you’re going to necessarily veg out with for hours on end, but it is a perfect game to fire up when you have a few minutes whilst waiting in a line, or before bed to give your brain a bit of a tune. It only takes about 4-5 words before you move onto the next image, so even this keeps it fairly fresh and gives it a ‘just one more to’ style that has, if I’m being completely honest, and a little gross, kept me on a toilet for a little longer than I should have.

The design style is very simple, but again this isn’t a bad thing. The game is what it is and it’s not trying to be anything else by employing fancy, distracting graphics. The laces part of the game comes from the fact you’re linking the letters together via the laces of various shoes / boots you unlock as you earn points through completing each level. It’s a slightly odd premise, but again the graphical details really are secondary. Each new show unlocked gives the game a new background theme and lace design. It’s a nice touch, but doesn’t really effect the game one way or another.

The game includes a whopping 1,000 levels currently, along with a ‘daily puzzle’ which could keep you coming back even after finishing all of the main levels. There are also over 50 shoes to unlock. Because this, and all Apple Arcade games, are lacking IAPs you can freely use the help option as much as you want, which will highlight the start of the word you’re trying to find. The fact this is available for use whenever you want is great, and stops you getting stuck and frustrated at any point. This is another win for no IAPs!

Word Laces won’t stretch your Apple devices to their limits and it won’t have you on the edge of your seat. It will, however, keep you just as entertained and is a perfect example of a quick in and out game that I can see myself coming back to a lot over the coming weeks and months.

  1. Spoiler: it turns out it wasn’t the shortest. I wrote this line first, and then realised I waffled no longer than expected. [return]
  2. From a beach scene, to a man up a ladder looking at clouds, to a duck in a suit. [return]

Apple Arcade Daily #8 - Exit The Gungeon

Enter The Gungeon is one of my favourite games I own on the Switch, so when I heard that there was a sequel, of sorts, heading to Apple Arcade I was all in.

The new game, Exit The Gungeon, by developer / producer Devolver Digital, takes what was enjoyable about the original, and creates a new, interesting mobile first experience.

Described as a ‘bullet hell dungeon climber’, the game sees you take on the role of one of four different Gungeoneers. Unlike with the original game it doesn’t seem to make much (any?) difference who you pick. Once your selected your character you need to make your way through each level to, you guessed it, escape the Gungeon. The method of getting your character out is where things get interesting. Exit The Gungeon is the first game I remember playing where the method of control you decide to use makes the game fundamentally different and one method makes it a great game, the other makes it an impossible mess. Let me explain.

I first tried the game using touch controls. Using touch you can swipe to leap forward and back or hold down on the screen to enter a slow motion ’bullet time’ which was a key way of avoiding the hundreds of bullets that are shortly going to come your way. Whilst in this mode your character will auto shoot the myriad of excellently designed enemies that swarm the level. All you really need to focus on is getting near the baddies whilst jumping and diving about avoiding getting hit. While that sounds pretty simplistic, and it is really, it’s great fun and a true challenge.

After enjoying it with touch controls on the iPhone I jumped onto my iPad and wanted to try it with an Xbox controller. What a mistake that was. Whilst in this mode, at least with the default settings, jumping and diving seemingly doesn’t slow the action down making the game near impossible to survive for more than a few minutes at a time. Add to this the fact that your character also doesn’t auto shoot, or even auto aim, and you have an impossibly difficult mess of a game. It’s actually crazy how bad adding a controller to the mix makes the game at that point. If you’re going to play Exit the Gungeon, and you really should, definitely go with touch controls.

Once you master the jumping and rolling mechanism you can have a lot of fun in this game. Whilst things can feel chaotic and it’s difficult to even find a second to glance at your health most of the time, it’s hugely satisfying if you make it through a level. As you play through you’ll pick up and swap between a huge collection of weapons, all pretty unique and battle with an equally vast array of enemies in your mission to escape. The design style is what drew me to the original Enter the Gungeon and it definitely carries over into this version. It’s a real delight to look at and helps you forgive just how painfully hard the game is.

Out of the games I’ve given some decent time to in Apple Arcade, so far, this is definitely one of the best. I’d highly recommend giving it a try. It’s a rare game that works just as well across smaller screens as it does big and with progress getting synced via Game Center you can always keep a copy to hand when you need to let off a little steam.

Apple Arcade Daily #7 - Hexaflip

The last game I reviewed, Oceanhorn 2 is, as mentioned within, best experienced on the biggest screen you can, and ideally with a controller. Now that the weekend is over, I wanted to today look at a game that’s less time consuming and one that works well on the iPhone instead. Something fun for some short, weekday break bursts.

When I’ve seen anyone on Twitter recommending an Apple Arcade game that is good to use on the iPhone, particularly in portrait mode, I’ve seen todays game recommended more often than not. This game is Hexaflip: The Action Puzzler by Rogue Games. I didn’t realise this as I started to write this review, but this is the same developer behind another Apple Arcade game that I reviewed a few days ago, Super Impossible Road. The former title didn’t impress me all that much, as I wrote at the time, but thankfully Hexaflip was a bit more of an engrossing experience.

The aim of the game, which you’d never guess from the name is to … flip a hexagon. Yes, that’s right, you tap on the left hand side of the screen to flip your hexagonal avatar to the left and tap the right to flip to the right. To complete the level you just need to get to the end without dying. Along the way you will come across various obstacles like gaps to fall down, spikes, hammers, lasers and various other nefarious inanimate objects. Breaking up all the danger there are also various blocks that flip you in the direction they indicate, or moving hexagons that transport you around the map.

There are no time limits in each level, so if you wanted to you could crawl your way to the end of each level, as slowly as you like, just to get it done. In order to encourage some speed, and in turn more danger there are 3 gems in each level, with countdown timers that start as you start the level. Once the timer runs down the gems disappear. You’re encouraged to get to the gems as quickly as possible to collect them before they’re lost. If you collect enough over various levels you’ll unlock some skins for your avatar. Seeing as your avatar is just a hexagon, the skins are fairly uninspiring, so it’s not really going to be worth your time to push yourself too hard here. Unless you really like to put different colours on a hexagon … there’s always someone I guess.

On the face of it, Hexaflip is a pretty dull game. The setting is just a bunch of hexagons laying out on a map. It reminds me of Blockbusters which, for those of a certain age, isn’t a good thing. For a reason I cannot explain, however, and despite all of this, it’s actually a really fun, and addictive game. It’s very much a ’just one more go!’ type of game so I can actually see why it’s being recommended by so many people.

The game’s simple, yet good looking1 and fairly addictive. If you’re after something to pick up for quick sessions while you’re trying to pass your time in a queue, or waiting for your Costa coffee order, you can do a lot worse than firing up Hexaflip. Happy flipping!

  1. Well, as good looking as a game like this can look. I’m not sure it’s ‘console quality’ like the App Store listing says, however. [return]

🎙27: Give A Cat A Crayon

This weeks episode is all about goodies and games. I talk briefly about my initial thoughts after a couple of days with an iPhone 11 Pro Max and Series 5 Apple Watch, then move onto talking about  Arcade. Yes, I know, I’ve not spoken about that too much this week have I?

Give it a listen, if you can, because I have a question for you all in there also.

You can find links to the show below:

You can also find a direct link below.

Apple Arcade Daily #6 - Oceanhorn 2

It was, and is, my intention to keep these micro reviews true to their name. To keep them short and sweet, and to simply act as a quick guide to whether or not a particular title is worth your time amongst the fairly crowded Apple Arcade line-up.

A review for the game I want to look at today, Oceanhorn 2, should really just read: ’This game is fantastic and you’d be mad to not play it’, but I guess I should perhaps expand, just a little …

Oceanhorn 2, by Cornfox & Brothers Ltd. is the sequel to one of the best iOS games there has ever been, namely 2013’s Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas. The original game took heavy inspiration from early The Legend of Zelda games, and this sequel has gone full on Breath of the Wild.

If I didn’t know better, Oceanhorn 2 could come across as a complete rip-off of Breath of the Wild, much like some of the older Gameloft classics, but while Oceanhorn 2 does, indeed, borrow very heavily from Breath of the Wild, it’s also extremely put together and designed in its own right.

Much like the Zelda franchise, Oceanhorn 2 plays fast and loose with timelines, and is actually set 1,000 years before the original game. If you’ve played Breath of the Wild, or any Zelda game really, you’ll be instantly familiar with the game-style as soon as you fire it up and you’ll certainly notice the borrowed aspects, from a Link like roll, climb, fighting style, treasure chest opening style, jumping grunt noise, stamina reducing climbing … I really could be here all day with this …

Like I said, however, Oceanhorn 2 isn’t just some Zelda rip-off, it really does stand on it’s own as one of the best games I’ve ever played on an iPad. The graphics, music and general aesthetic are gorgeous, the world is immersive and I can’t wait to get through the entire (15 hour approx.) journey.

Another unique part of Oceanhorn, further setting it apart from The Legend of Zelda franchise, is the team you can form quite early on into the game. You can join forces with Trin and Gen, a pretty cool looking robot, who fight along side you. You can even issue commands to them to help you out with various puzzles which is a really nice touch. The light steam-punk aesthetic of the world is really quite cool as well, from the hero’s unique looking gun, to the robots and, from what I’ve seen in the trailer, motorbike like devices and airplanes.

One of the problems with attempting this, frankly stupid, daily Apple Arcade review challenge I’ve set myself, is that my limited free time is being spread very thinly. Because of this, I’ve not been able to dig through as much of the game as I would have liked, and I’m now going to have to move onto the next game to try out before I can come back to more, but I will certainly be back to it as often as I can until I’ve completed it. The other games I’ve reviewed so far are nice to dip in and out of, but Oceanhorn 2 is definitely one to settle down with a nice cup of tea, dim the lights, fire up the Xbox controller and get adventuring.

If you have an Apple Arcade subscription you owe it to yourself to jump into Oceanhorn 2 with both feet and soak it all in.

iPhone 11 Quick Tip - Wiggle Mode

Since people started getting hold of their new iPhones 11, I’ve been seeing a lot of complaints or concerns about how fiddly it is now enter ’wiggle mode’ to rearrange icons.

This is probably known to most people, but I just thought I’d share this quick little tip to make it a bit easier. If you long press on an icon and as the menu pops up, start to drag away and you’re good to go. Like I said, not ground breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it may be helpful to someone.

You can see an example of what I mean by this below.

Apple Arcade Daily #5 - Super Impossible Road

Merriam Webster defines the world ‘impossible’ as something which is:

Incapable of being or of occurring

With that in mind, the next game I’ve chosen to look at in my daily Apple Arcade daily reviews, could be written up under the Trades Description Act. Not only was the first game not actually impossible, neither is this reimagining of an App Store classic, Super Impossible Road. While it may not really be impossible, it is a bit bloody hard …

Super Impossible Road has been created by Rogue Games Inc. If you check their page on the App Store, you’ll see that Rogue Games are a very prolific developer. They’ve been a staple in the store for some time, so it’s perhaps suitable that they’re part of the initial launch group for Apple Arcade with Super Impossible Road.

While the game does have a loose story1,it really is irrelevant. All you need to know is that Super Impossible Road sees you speeding down a twisting and coiling track set against some very nice looking intergalactic backgrounds. There are, currently, five different game modes to play through, which are:

  • Career - This mode tasks you with taking part in a plethora of different races, involving simply finishing in the best time, crossing X amount of gates etc.
  • Race - This mode includes only offline races against AI opponents.
  • Online Race - This is, you guessed it, races but … online!
  • Time Gate - this is, essentially, a time challenge. You must cross each gate before the time runs out. Each gate will grant a few extra, precious nano-seconds.
  • Classic Mode - This seems to be a survival mode, where you simply have to survive as long as possible.

Super Impossible Road is fairly unique in that the game appears to be equally as playable with touch controls as it is with MFi / Xbox / PS4 game controller support. Xbox controller support is very important to me with this Apple Arcade lineup, so that’s a bit +1 from me.

In each review, so far, I’ve mentioned how impressed I’ve been with the Apple Arcade line up. Super Impossible Road is my first disappointment. The only reason it’s a disappointment, however, is the strength of the competition. Taken in isolation Super Impossible Road is great fun to play, runs well, looks even better and once again the lack of IAPs helps to elevate a title that would definitely have been riddled with them in the past. For me, however, the game is a little too retro and, if I’m being completely honest, boring.

Standards have been set so high, right now, and options are so vast, the Apple Arcade games are going to need to be something special to keep me playing. In a normal world Super Impossible World would be a strong entry into the App Store. As it stands, it’s fairly mediocre. All that being said, it’s presence in the Apple Arcade lineup is welcome and while it’s not a game I will dedicate time to right now, while there are so many to work my way through, I’m sure I’ll spend some time with it in the future.

  1. Something, something future, something, something racing … [return]

Apple Arcade Daily #4 - tint.

After a manic week of work, family and digging through endless Apple Arcade games I needed a break and a little relaxation and, luckily I didn’t even have to leave the Arcade to find it.

The next stop on my whistlstop tour of Apple Arcade is the ’relaxing col(u)or-mixing puzzle’ game, tint., by Bangkok based developer Lykke Studio.

tint.1 requires you to solve a multitude of different puzzles through the power of watercolours. In order to solve each puzzle you’re required to match your paint strokes to the colour of the origami pieces on each page of a book. This starts off simple enough, matching red paint to red origami and blue paint to, you guessed it, blue origami. This quickly moves on, however, requiring you to mix the paint trails together as you go along to match to non-primary colour origami pieces.

While this premise is very simple, the execution is absolutely stunning.

You select the level, or page, you want to play in my leafing through a gorgeously rendered art book whilst being serenaded by some superbly relaxing and soothing music and sound effects. Each section of the book is themed around different seasons, from crisp autumnal colours and aesthetics to bright summer tones and everything in between. It really is a gorgeous looking game, and experience.

Not only does the game look beautiful, it also sounds it. According to the Apple Arcade listing the full binaural audio experience has been crafted by hand using real objects found in nature and in an art studio. I’m not sure what sort of sounds you get inside an art studio, to be fair, but if this is what it sounds like I may need to visit more often …

I’m going to keep todays review short and sweet, because I think simply reading about a game like this cannot do it justice one little bit. All I will say is that if you have an Apple Arcade subscription, and I imagine you do if you’re reading this in the first place, you owe it yourself and your mental well being to give this game a try. Get home from work, have a bath, make a cup of tea, put your feet up, pop in some headphones and unwind with this beautiful, entrancing and soothing game. You can thank me later.

  1. Yes, the lower case name and full stop is the way the studio write it, it’s not a typo, but thanks. [return]

Apple Arcade Daily #3 - Bleak Sword

The previous Apple Arcade reviews that I’ve written have been for games that, in my opinion, are best experienced on a larger screen1. In order to bring a little balance to the force I wanted to try a game that’s more at home on the iPhone.

To that end, today’s Apple Arcade Daily micro-review is for Bleak Sword from Devolver Digital.

The Apple Arcade listing for the game describes it as featuring Dark Fantasy Dioramas which is a perfect description of the graphical style used in the game. Bleak Sword sees you facing off against a myriad of increasingly dangerous and powerful beasts and monsters across some compact, yet beautifully designed diorama battlefields.

The controls are easy to pick up, yet difficult to master. With a simple tap, hold, and swipe you’re able to direct your avatar to roll, parry, attack, and counter-attack the various creatures that populate each small level. Controller support is also available, which is always welcome, though as mentioned before, is certainly not necessary. The Apple Arcade listing doesn’t actually indicate controller support is included, but the developer description does. With a little practise you’ll soon be rolling around the screen and slashing your sword around like a pro. Once you get the hang of it it’s very satisfying.

The aim of the game is simply to defeat each levels monsters, whilst taking as little damage as possible. Remaining health rolls over into the next level. Between levels you have a chance of finding various items that increase your stats, such as a sword that adds +1 attack power, or a bracelet that adds +1 health and +2 attack. You get the idea. If you should die along the way you will lose everything you’ve collected and all experienced points you’ve earned so far. You are given an opportunity to get it all back, instantly, by clearing the level out that you last died in. If you fail to do so it’s gone forever. This is essentially a mini Dark Souls and it’s great.

The art style is sparse, but strangely beautiful. The level design, whilst small, still looks oddly detailed, despite the 8-bit graphical style. The dioramas feature a quite hypnotic parallax effect which works really well in my opinion. Each battle is fairly quick paced, so you will often get little time to stop and appreciate just how cool looking each level is, which is a shame really.

A list of over 30 achievements to unlock and an Arena mode help add some further depth to the game as well.

Bleak Sword is great fun to play and works really well as a game to have a quick go on when you need to burn a few minutes2 in a queue or … when doing something else that rhymes with queue.3 Yet again, this Apple Arcade title is a winner, and well worth some of your time.

  1. Which, in my case, was the 12.9” iPad Pro. [return]
  2. Though longer sessions would work just as well. [return]
  3. It’s okay, we’ve all done it from time to time … [return]

Apple Arcade Daily #2 - Agent Intercept

Next up in our journey through the Apple Arcade catalogue is the excellent Agent Intercept by prolific development house PikPok.

Agent Intercept sees you take on the role of a James Bond come Austin Powers type secret agent tasked with completing various missions in order to stop the dastardly CLAW organisation. The missions all, conveniently, involve chasing, racing, destroying and otherwise generally bothering a plethora of bad guys in your souped-up secret agent vehicle from the start of the course to the end.

The graphics are quite pretty, especially on the iPad Pro where I’m doing most of my Apple Arcade gaming at the moment. The music is also suitably retro and ‘secret agenty’, which is a nice touch.

On the face of it, the game appears to be a fairly standard iOS game, but there are some features of this title that make it stand out amongst its non-Apple Arcade peers.

One of the major selling points of Apple Arcade is the fact that, in order to be included in the collection, the games have to be made fully available to the player. By this, I mean that In-App Purchases (IAPs) are not allowed. Agent Intercept is a perfect example of how a game that, without Apple Arcade, would have almost certainly been absolutely crippled by IAPs. As I mentioned on Twitter a few days ago, the lack of IAPs catapults Agent Intercept to a really enjoyable game that you can dip in and out of. If IAPs were allowed, it would almost certainly be something you’d play once or twice, until you hit the inevitable blocker or paywall, at which point you’d be hounded by requests to buy some agent bux or the like.

Games with IAPs always feel like they’re out to get you. They walk a fine line between making sure you’re enjoying yourself, whilst also working against you to prevent progress at every turn. Agent Intercept feels so much better for the fact that you’re left completely free to just enjoy the ride, whilst taking out some CLAW scum along the way.

While it’s not necessary (or possible) to monetise the game in the, now, standard way of IAPs, PikPok have come up with a smart way to keep you coming back to the game. I’m not sure what the monetisation model is for inclusion in Apple Arcade, but I can only assume that the more your game is played, the more you get paid. To this end, the game has a daily rotation of missions available to you. Are you finding todays mission too hard? No problem, just stop playing and come back again tomorrow for a new challenge. I think this is a really smart way to keep eyes on your game, whilst also giving players a genuine, none manipulative reason to keep coming back.

Another high point of the game for me is the fact the game includes controller support. While Hot Lava, which I looked at yesterday, was pretty unplayable without a controller, Agent Intercept works very well with touch controls. Controller support does, however, really take things up to 11.

I’ve been really impressed with the Apple Arcade line up so far, and Agent Intercept is another strong offering. While it doesn’t really offer anything all that unique, the lack of IAPs, allowing the game to be just that, a game, is a unique selling point unto itself. I think this game, along with its peers amongst the other Apple Arcade titles, is really going to change the App Store paradigm and I can’t wait.

Apple Arcade Daily #1 - Hot Lava

With the (early) launch of Apple Arcade to iOS / iPadOS beta testers, early adopters now have access to an impressive library of some really fun and interesting new games. While, right now at least, the list of available games is somewhat shy of the promised ‘over 100’1, it’s still an ample launch catalogue.

Since it was first announced at this years WWDC I’ve been looking forward to trying Apple Arcade, so as soon as I spotted it had launched I jumped all over it. I’ve since downloaded all of the available games to my iPad Pro and am slowly working my way through.

I’ve been enjoying gaming on iOS more and more over recent months, so this has come at a perfect time for me. To celebrate the launch of this service I’m planning on writing a series of posts, one each day, looking at a different game in the catalogue each time. Some micro reviews as it were.

To this end, I’m going to start with the title that’s impressed me the most so far2, namely Hot Lava.

According to the Apple Arcade listing:

Hot Lava transports you back to your childhood imagination.

If any child has an imagination this extravagant then all the best to them!

The game is, essentially, a digital The Floor Is Lava game, on steroids. The aim of the game is simple, get to the end as fast as possible. As is often the case with any (good) game that appears simple, however, there’s more to it than that.

Firstly, each level you enter has a set of goals you can aim for in order to really master the level. These goals range from completing the level under a certain time, finding hidden golden poles, or avoiding certain platform types, which in turn forces you to find a more complicated or hidden path through the level. Earning stars unlocks various cosmetic items such as avatars, clothing and tags you can use to stand out from the crowd a little.

The world of Hot Lava can also include other players that are currently online at the same time, which adds a competitive element to the proceedings. You can compete with these strangers, or your friends, to get the best times or scores throughout each level.

One word of warning I would give before you jump into Hot Lava is that, personally, I think a gaming controller is a must to play this game properly. You can play without one, of course, but the gyro controls are very fiddly and tedious. I’d go so far as to say if you don’t have a controller available to use, give this game a pass. I’ve been playing it with an Xbox Controller which works perfectly. Once you get into a decent rhythm, and get an understanding of the map, you can really fly through each level.

I’ve found Hot Lava to be fun, yet challenging game, and one that I’ve found myself coming back to over and over again for a quick game. This is a perfect game for a service like Apple Arcade. It’s simple enough to pick up and play for short bursts when the mood takes you, but also deep enough to sink hours into while you try and perfect your time in a given level. If this first game is anything to go by, Apple Arcade is going to be a fun ride!

  1. There are about 51 games as of right now. [return]
  2. After some albeit it very limited time across the library. [return]

🎙26: The iPhone 11 Pro Max Super Hyper Mega Phone 3000

You’ve heard the best, now hear the rest … or something.

This years iPhone event has been and gone so I wanted to share a few (brief) thoughts I had about the event, and what was announced over in the Steve Jobs theatre on Tuesday.

I should just mention, as I do in the episode itself, that I was experimenting with a different mic setting / location so audio quality is questionable at best this week. Please let me know what you think on Twitter, but my intention is to move back to the old setup from next episode, so apologies for any inconvenience caused to all 3 of my subscribers!

You can find links to the show below:

You can also find a direct link below.

🎙25: The iPhone Event 2019 Preview

The Dent podcast is back … again

In this weeks episode I have a quick cyat about a few of the things that I’m expecting, and am looking forward to, with the upcoming ‘iPhone event’ to be held in the Steve Jobs theatre on the 10th September.

Grab a cup of tea, have a listen and enjoy!

You can find links to the show below:

You can also find a direct link below.

An Unexpected Benefit To Mouse Support in iPadOS

I’m in a very lucky position in my life that, generally speaking, I can usually keep up to date with the latest Apple / tech products and trends. As I’ve mentioned in the past1 my main device at home has been an iPad, and I have been, and am, very happy with this setup and have never regretted the move.

Something did make me question this a little recently, however. My daughter, in her first year of real school, has been learning to use computers at school. The basics they are learning involves using a mouse to navigate around some basic learning apps. My daughter has always been quite good at using an iPad2 and other Apple based mobile devices so it broke my heart a little when she came home to tell me she needed help at school with the mouse. I know this is a bit over the top, but you never want to think you’ve not given your child every opportunity to do as well as possible.

Fast forward a few months after that conversation and Apple launches the first iPadOS beta and with it, albeit it a bit hidden … mouse support. I took to this instantly and have been loving it ever since, but it didn’t strike me initially that this may be perfect for a child too. The quite large pointing target seems a bit too big for many able bodied users that I’ve seen talk about it, but it’s great for the visually impaired, as it’s originally designed for, but also as it turns out, kids!

Now, thanks to iPadOS and some great CBeebies, and other applications, my daughter can wiz around my laptop as she calls it3 like an old pro. As soon as we’ve stopped the lessons she very quickly reverts to using touch to get back to YouTube for some crappy princess videos, however!

  1. A few too many times, I know! [return]
  2. Only for short spells, occasionally. Don’t get angry with me Mumsnet folks! [return]
  3. Interestingly she started calling it a laptop as soon as I added the mouse. Before that, it was just ‘the iPad’. [return]