Apps: Kickstarter, Kindle 3.6, Real Racing 3 + Slacker 4.0

Kickstarter has unveiled an official free app for the iPhone and iPod touch, which functions much like a mobile version of the crowd funding site. Most users will use the app to discover new projects, watch videos, and get updates on projects they’ve funded straight from the app. Allowing location services also lets users find new nearby projects automatically. On the flip side, project creators can track their project’s progress, connect with backers, and post updates from anywhere. While we’re generally very hesitant to treat Apple-focused Kickstarter campaigns as real news, based on the frequency of delays, over-promising in campaigns, and other issues, users who are interested in trying their luck with the service may like the app.

Amazon’s free Kindle app has been updated to version 3.6 with several new features. Multicolored highlights allow users to select from four different colors to highlight important passages. After finishing a book, readers can now easily share that fact with friends on Facebook and Twitter, as well as rating the book and writing a review. Other books of interest can then be added to a wish list. Also, the brightness control within the app will now be saved, so when a user’s device goes to sleep, the settings will no longer be changed and needed to be reset.


Having been purchased by Electronic Arts and merged with fellow Australian developer Iron Monkey, Firemint—renamed Firemonkeys—was primed for major changes to its flagship Real Racing franchise. Now universal for iOS devices, Real Racing 3 arrives with massive visual upgrades including iPad-grade Retina graphics, cinematic pre- and in-game camera work, and mostly fluid frame rates that earlier versions lacked on day one. Polygonal details and reflections on the over 45 licensed cars are particularly impressive, with background art in the real-world race tracks showing major improvements over Real Racing 2, as well. Add a compelling new soundtrack, plus a superior career mode that merges seamlessly with an online multiplayer mode, and the only question you’ll ask is “how much does this cost?” The surprising answer: “nothing.” While Real Racing 3 has gone freemium, a step we’ve generally found objectionable in past iOS titles, the pay-to-play model has been cautiously implemented so casual players needn’t cough up a dime. EA expects, however, that people will want to spend real-world cash to unlock additional tracks, car upgrades, and additional play time; given how impressive this title looks, perhaps they will. We’re not wowed by the substantially unchanged, slow-starting gameplay, but fans of simulation-style racers will want to give this a spin the moment it’s available here. For now, it’s available internationally, but not in North America.



Despite formidable competition and some early problems on iOS devices, Spotify quickly became a leading music streaming service by offering simple, nearly free access to a huge library of content—a change that left rivals scrambling to redefine themselves. Just released in the App Store, Slacker Radio 4.0 (Free*) is Slacker’s complete rethinking of its iPhone and iPod user experience; the iPad UI overhaul is yet to come. Gone are the prior version’s list-like main menu and dark tones, replaced by a white and primary color interface inspired by Microsoft’s Metro. High-contrast icons now rest on box and label-like surfaces that pop up from the background, with menus consisting primarily of large, touchable boxes rather than thin lines of text. Related content can be accessed using buttons and gestures, which the app teaches you on your first run-through. Underneath the clean new interface are a nice collection of services—ABC News, ESPN Radio, over 200 curated radio-like stations, custom-built stations based on your tastes, and search-based access to over 10 million songs. As before, the free app offers instant iOS access to stations, while a $4/month Plus subscription enables commercial free station access with some offline listening, and a $10/month Premium service adds full offline listening and unlimited on-demand access to songs, albums, and stations. The only bummer: Slacker’s similarly redesigned web interface requires Flash. Yes, seriously.

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