Aug 8th, 2008
This is my first post in my series of travel tips gleaned from Camp Jean.
I described in an earlier post how the iPhone is an indispensable part of my savvy aunt’s toolkit. A good chunk of my trip preparation time was spent downloading the latest software for iTunes and the iPhone so that I could install some of the new third-party iPhone applications. (Of course, I backed up my computer completely before attempting to do any of this, with my favorite Mac backup utility, SuperDuper.)
Until the iPhone App Store was launched, there was no way to put games onto the iPhone. You could play them online using a wi-fi or AT&T network connection, but if you were without a connection… no games. I knew that our destination, the Oregon Coast, was not going to be well served by any internet service. I have often bribed Dash with a game of Bejeweled on the iPhone, and I didn’t want to be without this vital element of my aunt coping skills.
(I did learn that it was a bad idea to let Dash play with the iPhone Calendar.)
I loaded up a lot of free games from the App Store that looked like they might be fun for the kids. In the end, I did not download Bejeweled for the iPhone because it was priced at $9.99, and I think Dash was already starting to get tired of it. It took a little time to find good things to download: you can go to a page of the top iPhone free apps, but that will include lots of stuff besides games good for kids.
To save you time and money, fellow iPhone-owning aunts, here are the best ones I found. The links go to the iPhone App Store in iTunes, so if you don’t use iTunes, you don’t want to click on them. (and why aren’t you using iTunes?)
(Disclaimer: I’ve already documented. on this blog that I am willing to let my niece and nephews play with a $600 gadget. Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack are not particularly destructive and the iPhone is remarkably hardy. In the year since I bought the iPhone, we have had a few drops, but nothing has damaged the phone so far. As they say, YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary!!)
PhoneSaber (no longer available)
This will sound really silly to a lot of people, but trust me: this is one of the most fun apps. It turns your iPhone into a Star Wars light saber. When the app is launched, you can wave the iPhone back and forth, up and down, and it emits the appropriate sound effects.
Age group: 3 and up. Most adult geeks I know love playing with this too, so good for uncles/boyfriends…
Tip: You did read the disclaimer, right? Kids could easily get carried away and iPhones could go flying out of little hands. I use the Speck ToughSkin iPhone Case which gives more “grippage” to promote a firmer hold.
Update: Oh no! George Lucas has forced them to pull PhoneSaber from the iTunes App Store. The rumor is that a licensed version might be available. So far iTunes hasn’t deleted this from my phone, but lots of kids and adults are going to be sad about this.
Age group: 7 and up. Too fast and complex for the little ones.
Tip: There is a co-op mode where two players can play against each other. Try to imagine two children tapping on your iPhone simultaneously. Re-read the disclaimer. Put the iPhone on a table so they don’t have to hold it, and to decrease the chances of the iPhone being dropped.
This is a matching game. It can use your photos to create a game over 3 to 42 card-pairs, which means you can set it to be easy for the little ones or more difficult for the older ones. It’s very basic. Tap one card to turn it over, then tap a second card. If they match, the pair gets put in your pile. If they don’t, the cards are flipped over and you try again.
Age group: 3 to 10. It can be customized to have as few as 3 pairs, and using your own photos makes it fun for older kids who have otherwise grown out of matching games. There is a timer and it counts how many tries you take, so there is a competitive element that appeals to the older ones (including Uncle Bob) as well.
Tip: This is 1000% more fun for kids if you customize it with photos of them and things they know, like your house, pets, toys, etc. Click the little “i” icon in the lower right corner to access the customization options and then click on “Available Photos.” By default, there are a bunch of photos of European locations and lusty young women. (Typical…) You can delete these and add photos from your iPhoto library or your iPhone Camera roll. It’s a little tedious, but worth it.
This provides a piece of digital bubble wrap that you tap on to pop the bubbles. It’s fun in a silly way that works for Jack-Jack (age 3), but it is also a game. After you’ve popped a number of bubbles, some of them randomly re-inflate and you have to pop them again. There is a timer and a score, which appeals to Violet (9) and Dash (8).
Age group: 3 and up. Adults have fun with it too.
Tip: As I might have mentioned, some of these games are potentially hazardous to your iPhone’s health. A good case and a steady surface on which to place your iPhone will help minimize your risk.
I’ve downloaded some others that look promising, like DizzyBeeFree and JirboBreak (which is not free, but only 99 cents). The kids have played with them briefly, and I’ll review them and more apps as we find them in future posts.