• 12:26 pm, 25th July 2008
  • devices
  • 2 Comments

Waiting for iPhone 2.0.1… or 2.1?

I’m writing this post on my iPhone, using the new WordPress application. Like the vast majority of iPhone (and iPod touch) apps at the launch of the new app store, it’s a little light on features but brings some welcome functionality to my iPhone. I’m sure in the coming weeks it will be updated with bug fixed and additional features but I’m more concerned with the state of the phone’s firmware.

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While it’s debatable whether apps crashing is due to the individual apps themselves or the underlying firmware, the OS itself seems less responsive and more prone to crashing than in version 1.1.4. When that causes me to miss a phone call, it’s a serious problem. It is supposed to be a phone after all.

In addition, Apple are putting a lot of weight behind the iPhone as a serious mobile gaming platform. However, when a crashed game will not restart, forcing me to re-install it and lose all my progress (damn you Super Monkey Ball!), I cannot put confidence in the device and so wouldn’t want to play longer, more involved games for fear of losing my progress. My DS allows me to simply shut the lid and my progress is saved until I open it again, it would be great if iPhone games could incorporate a similar feature, but I guess it’s still very early days for the platform. A more pressing inclusion is the ability to listen to the iPod app while playing any game. There is a hack to do it, but may be Apple should make it a requisite of the platform, like Microsoft do with custom soundtracks on the Xbox 360.

It seems Apple are on the case with firmware 2.0.1 and will be releasing 2.1 with some new features in the coming weeks.

Other than a small tidy up, I managed to write this post on the iPhone. Hopefully this app will force me to updating fridayforward more often :)

Microsoft’s surprisingly strong E3

In the lead up to this year’s E3, Microsoft were touting that their press conference would be “game changing“. While I it wasn’t up there with Steve Jobs announcing the iPhone, fanboys around the world would have been shocked when Square Enix announced Final Fantasy XIII for the Xbox 360.

The bulk of the presentation centred around the new Xbox Experience, integral to which is a complete dashboard overhaul. Microsoft have unsurprisingly chosen a different direction for the new dashboard interface to that proposed by the community but are clearly listening to Xbox Live’s now over 12 million members. Looking like a close relation of the Windows Media Centre dashboard, Microsoft do not hide the fact that the new Xbox 360 interface is aimed squarely at the living room family audience. The introduction of ‘avatars’ might be a natural extension of gamerpics but on the face of it look like Nintendo’s Miis with a few more polygons.

Identity and community have always been integral to the Xbox Live experience – something Microsoft has excelled at – and they are taking this further in the dashboard overhaul. An integrated 8-player party system means players can team up with their friends across games, media and chat. The idea of consuming media with your friends virtually is something many people have investigated (including me during my time at BBC R&D) and it will be interesting to see if the Xbox implemtation will work. I simply don’t use my 360 in that way so am skeptical at the moment but a cross-game party system should benefit casual and hardcore gamers alike.

It was a safe bet that Microsoft would continue to probe the newly expanded casual game market. Their challenge is making the Xbox 360 the platform of choice for everyone while keeping die-hard Halo fans happy. Not easy. But by stealing long-standing PlayStation exclusives from Sony, grabbing exclusive downloadable content from cross-platform titles and showing some awesome new Gears of War 2 footage, I think the Xbox’s core audience will see this as a strong showing too.

Time for Dashboard 2.0

I’m sure its obvious to most Xbox 360 owners that the dashboard (originally developed by AKQA) is in need of a comprehensive re-design. There is simply too much content in Marketplace for the current format to work and de-listing poorly selling Live Arcade titles won’t really help. Having not spent any time with Sony’s XMB interface in the PS3 I can’t say whether they’ve done a better job but their redesigned PlayStation Store certainly looks a lot more inviting than Xbox Live Marketplace.

The Fanboy's Dashbaord 2.0

The Fanboy‘s excellent take on what Dashboard 2.0 (or perhaps the ’2008 Fall Update’?) could look like is probably a step too far for Microsoft but then there are rumours they may be developing something even more ambitious. Roll on E3.

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