Kindle Apps Blog

    Unofficial and unbiased reviews of Active Content for Amazon Kindle

    The newest of the new Kindle devices have begun to show up on doorsteps all over the US this week.  As a result, we can finally get some direct information about the improvements made by the new hardware.  Today we can take a look at a hands-on review of the new Kindle Touch eReader, the latest in Amazon’s popular line.

    Overall, aside from being somewhat smaller, this is the same sort of Kindle that users will be used to.  The display is exactly the same as both the Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) and the Kindle 4 non-touch model.  As a whole it measures only slightly larger than the cheaper Kindle 4 and users will note little difference in perceptible weight between any of these devices.  The battery life remains impressive at approximately 2 months between charges, assuming 30 minutes per day of reading on average.  This is twice the battery life of the other Kindle 4 model.  Also distinguishing it from the earlier releases, the Kindle Touch completely lacks physical buttons aside from ‘Power’ and ‘Home’.

    These more superficial differences have been known for some time now, however.  The interesting details come from the actual use.  The biggest change in how you use your Kindle Touch will obviously be the interface.  Moving to the touchscreen has produced a slightly different experience.  A tap on either side of the display will turn a page in the associated direction, as will a swipe either left or right.  A swipe toward either the top or bottom of the screen will result in moving to the next or previous chapters respectively.  While some users will find this occasionally difficult to use, particularly in the case of the left-handed who will be forced to swipe for page turns when reading one-handed, for the most part it comes naturally after a few moments of use.  Speed of navigation has been increased at least in part by only doing a full screen refresh every 6 page turns.  If the ghosting becomes a problem, and from time to time it might, this can be turned off.

    Interacting with the text is much easier now, as a result of the touchscreen.  To look up a word in the dictionary, just touch and hold it.  To highlight, all you need to do is tap, drag, and tap again to confirm the selection.  Searching and annotating have changed little besides the change to a virtual keyboard.  Since there is a very slight delay in on-screen response to input (barely longer than the similar delay when using the physical keyboard on older Kindles) it can be slightly strange at first, but that fades quickly with continued use.

    The localization features that seemed likely given Amazon’s recent push into international markets are indeed present.  Non-latin languages such as Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and more are all to be found on the device.  There will no longer be any need to hack in additional fonts.  Even if your language of preference is not present in the default setup, the new Kindle Format 8 eBook format should allow for the inclusion of fonts with books.  I would expect this to be widely implemented in the near future.  Included with the device are 3 typefaces (regular, condensed, sans-serif), 8 sizes configurable by two-fingered zooming, 3 spacing options, and 3 options for “words per line”.  That last seems unnecessary, but I’m sure it comes in handy for somebody?

    The Kindle Touch features Amazon’s most recent Kindle software, unsurprisingly.  Kindle 5.0.0 compared to the non-touch version’s 4.0.1.  Obviously this newer software exists in part to accommodate the completely altered physical interface, but a few new features are present as well.

    PDF functionality is greatly improved.  The new software allows for both better navigation through the inclusion of working Table of Contents options as well as Text-to-Speech.  This latter is at best situationaly useful given the peculiarities of the format and how it handles text, but it is a step in the right direction and works more often than not.  Oddly enough the ability to switch over to landscape mode while reading a PDF has been eliminated, though.  This is at best strange and will, we have to hope, be fixed in a future update as it makes browsing many documents quite difficult without extensive zooming and scrolling.  While these are easier with the touchscreen, it gets tedious.

    The biggest advertised feature, Kindle Touch X-Ray, does not disappoint.  While it is only working on a limited selection of books at the moment, Amazon has indicated that the numbers will improve in the near future.  It seems to draw on Amazon’s Shelfari site for book data, providing character lists based on proper noun occurrences, character bios that include detailed plot information (with spoilers hidden by default), and a fairly good plot summary.  It isn’t perfect, sometimes picking up on pieces of introductions or afterwords, but people who were worried that it was going to be nothing but a glorified search function will be pleasantly surprised.

    In summary, anybody who is interested in a Kindle Touch will find it to be basically a slightly polished new Kindle with a better interface method.  It is far more easy to use than the non-touch Kindle 4, even in terms of basic things like chapter navigation thanks to the placement of the less expensive device’s directional control.  The 3G model will be worth it for some, if travel purchasing or lack of local WiFi signal is a concern, but unlike the previous Kindles this will not allow users to browse anything besides the Kindle Store and Wikipedia so some of the value is removed. The improved PDF support is nice, as is the X-Ray functionality, but in general the big draw is the touchscreen.  Being able to select, highlight, look up, zoom, etc. without menu navigation or the use of a 5-way controller is very nice.  Losing the keyboard to make the new Kindle even lighter and easier to hold is even nicer.

    Let’s face it, there was nothing wrong with any of the other Kindle products when it came to the reading experience.  That said, the Kindle Touch stepped things up and made a good thing even better.

    For a more extensive and detailed review, check out Andrei’s over at BlogKindle

    Bubble Pop

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    Bubble Pop is the first game that I’ve gotten the opportunity to compare both Kindle 2 and Kindle Touch versions.  The Kindle Touch version wins hands down as far as navigation goes, but this game is rated quite highly on both Kindle Touch and non touch screen Kindles.

    Bubble Pop is pretty self explanatory.  Simply pop matching bubbles until you run out of moves.  If you run out prematurely, the game is over.  Try to match the biggest groups of one color as you can because the bigger groupings get more points.

    There are two game types; Classic and Puzzle.  Classic constantly fills the board as you pop the bubbles until you no longer have any moves left.  The puzzle mode takes away bubbles until they are all gone or until you run out of moves.

    With the Kindle Touch, all you have to do is touch the matching bubbles and they pop.  For Kindles that include a toggle button, you have to move the cursor around until you get to the bubbles you want to pop.  The toggle button slows everything down considerably, but it is still a fun game regardless.

    Bubble Pop’s graphics are about equal for both types of Kindles.  The bubble colors are distinguished by different shades or patterns.  They look really crisp and easy to see.  If you get stuck, there is a hint option.  The game isn’t timed, but the best thing you can do is to try to beat your own previous scores.

    So, overall, Bubble Pop is easy to learn and is great for all ages.  You know how it can be fun and addicting to pop bubble wrap?  Well Bubble Pop is the same type of deal.

    Hard2Please

    “A great game for having some quick mindless fun just poping bubbles willy nilly, or a game of strategic moves that maximize a high score.This game moves very fast given that you’re playing on a Kindle. Another good feature is that the game tells you when no more moves are possible so you aren’t just spinning your wheels.”

    Lady Galaxy

    “This game reminds me of the very first game I ever downloaded to my little Mac Classic when the world of computers was oh so new and oh so simple. It’s easy to play. It doesn’t require that you learn or remember a lot of complex keystrokes to play. All you need on a Kindle Keyboard is the 5-way controller and a few minutes of spare time. The hard part is stopping. Popping all those bubbles is a great way to rest your mind.”

    I wrote an earlier post about the holiday themed Kindle games that were released at the beginning of December.  Now, with the holidays upon us, there are several more that have been added to the collection.  All games are going for a great deal at $.99.

    Christmas Cocoa Stand is a unique strategy game for all ages.  The object of the game is the sell the most cocoa each day.  In order to do so, you have to maximize the flavor and keep track of how many customers you have.  The better your cocoa tastes, the more customers you’ll get.  It is a good way to teach kids some simple business tricks.  Yet, it also provides enough challenge to make it enjoyable for adults.  This game is one of the top rated in the list of holiday games.

    If you’re looking for some adventure, check out Mystery Castle: Winter’s Night.  Mystery Castle; Dawn of Illusion’s Monty returns to tackle the demons of the Ice Palace.  Build bridges and blow up barriers with bombs.  Lots of fun with a wintery twist.

     Mahjong Solitaire Holiday Edition is similar to the original version that consists of uncovering matching tiles.  This game takes a little strategic thinking because you can’t just uncover any tile.  Tiles can be matched when they’re not attached to adjoining tiles.  There are 10 games to choose from with two holiday sets.  So, instead of matching up shapes, you’ll be matching up pictures that go with the season.  This game is compatible with the Kindle Touch.

    Snakes Christmas is just a holiday themed version of the simple game: Snakes Basic.  The object is to collect as many pellets as you can without running into your growing tail.  It gets a bit tricky once the snake gets longer, and you can make it go faster in the medium or hard levels.

    If you’re planning a trivia night or are spending a lot of time in the car over the holidays, Ultimate Christmas Quiz might be a good game to try.  HandyX has a number of quizzes and all of them can be quite challenging.  So, this is a great game for teens and adults.  Test your knowledge on all things Christmas, and see how well you do.  The questions tend to run in strings of hard ones, then an easy one will pop up to give you a breather.  you can challenge yourself further by adding a timer.

    Puzzazz is offering a holiday collection of word games for free called Puzzazz Holiday Gift.  The collection includes word searches and Sudoku and Wordoku puzzles.

    Not a bad collection of holiday games for Kindle.  All are available for Kindle devices up to the 4th generation with a few available for the Kindle Touch.  The $.99 sale runs until January 2.  Happy Holidays!

    Battleship

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    Battleship is the latest to join top quality Kindle games by Electronic Arts.  It is one of my favorite games from childhood, so I am stoked to see it on the Kindle.

    Battleship is a two player game, and each player strategically places ships around the board.  The object is to destroy your opponent’s ships before they can destroy yours.

    The best part about the Kindle edition of Battleship is that it is much more portable.  The regular version includes a bunch of bits and pieces that can be easy to lose.  Lots of family fun to be had, especially with the heavy travel going on during the holiday season.

    The Kindle edition includes three different modes: Classic, Salvo, and Superweapon.  Classic is the traditional battleship game with opponents going back and forth with one shot.  Salvo allows for the amount of shots as ships you have available.  Superweapon has multiple shots going at once.  I can imagine how much fun and chaotic that mode can get!

    There are quite a few customizations in that can be applied based on the player’s preferences.  The ships can be placed automatically, or manually.  You can also choose to play against the Kindle, or against a friend in Pass ‘N Play mode.

    All navigation is done via the 5-way toggle button.  It did get away from me at times when trying to position my shots, but overall it worked fine.  The graphics are great.  There is a well written help section if you need it.

    The only thing I wish the Kindle could do with Battleship is call out the coordinates and ships sunk like the original version does.  That is one of my favorite parts of the game.

    This is a really good time to grab any of the Electronic Arts Kindle games because they are going for a steep discount.  Normally $4.99, they are all currently $.99.  So, stock up while they’re cheap.  Electronic Arts has some of the best games out there for the Kindle.

    Battleship is available on the latest generation Kindle, as well as earlier models.

    Battleship has the best reviews so far that I’ve seen in awhile.  Nothing less than 5 stars.

    J. Chambers

    “I loved to play the old board game version of Battleship when I was a kid many years ago. Since then I’ve played it in a number of electronic versions, but the Kindle is a perfect platform for this game. The 5-way controller is all you need to choose where to attack the enemy ships, and the monochrome graphics are excellent for displaying the ship locations.”

     

     

    Most are familiar with the hit Nickelodeon cartoon, Spongebob Squarepants.  It is amazing how such crazy ideas can become a favorite among kids everywhere.

    Now you can get Spongebob on your Kindle with the game Spongebob’s Treasure Quest.  Surprisingly enough, the game provides a good challenge for both kids and adults.  So, get ready for some silly family fun!

    The object of the game is pretty simple.  Spongebob and his buddy Patrick are out to find treasure, but they must get to it before the evil Plankton and his cousins do.  Using the Kindle’s 5-way toggle button, you can move Spongebob around the map to uncover the coveted treasure.  As you progress through the easy levels, the harder ones will unlock.  The game boasts an “unlimited” amount of treasure maps to choose from.

    To dig for treasure, you select the square you want with the toggle button.  If you uncover one that doesn’t have treasure, a plankton will show up to tail you around.   They are pretty freaky looking, and can trap you really quickly.  So, watch out!

    Spongebob’s Treasure Quest is written in the same goofy way that we know and love from the TV show.  I couldn’t help but chuckle a few times at the exchange between Spongebob and Patrick.  The graphics are pretty clean and easy to see.  The squares on the grid are nice and big, which helps a lot with navigation.

    The only concern I would have is that the constant use of the 5-way toggle button can get cumbersome.  That is a common issue with most Kindle  games, however.   Just be careful that you don’t try to go too fast around the grid, or you’ll accidentally run into some obnoxious plankton tails.

    There are some clues that are important to take note of.  On the top of each row and column, there are numbers that tell you how much treasure is in that row or column.  Those numbers come in handy, and so do the various objects that are scattered around the grid.  The objects are roadblocks, but at least you know for sure that there is no treasure underneath them.

    Spongebob’s Treasure Quest is compatible with the latest generation Kindle, as well as earliier generation models.

    David Barry

    “We’re huge fans of SpongeBob in our house. Downloaded this app for my kids; great game. I had thought that the Kindle wouldn’t cope that well with its black and white screens, but the game works surprisingly well! It has various levels of difficulty too, and I found myself having trouble beating some of the more challenging levels. It’s a great combination of original classics Sudoku and Snake.”

    Jujuba Software, the creators of the hit Kindle app Calendar Pro, also released Task List Professional earlier this year.  Task List Professional joins a growing selection of time management apps for the Kindle, but this one takes it to a new level with its aim at professional Kindle users.

    The thing that impresses me the most about Task List Professional is how clean the text and graphics are.  As you move through the app with the Kindle”s 5-way controller, you can see where you are by watching the cursor.  The only thing that isn’t totally straightforward is how to start writing tasks.

    In order to create tasks, you need to navigate to the text box.  The whole box will be selected.  Once the box is selected, hit the toggle button, and the text cursor will show up.  After figuring this out, it is pretty easy to do.  It just took me a little longer to do so than navigating the rest of the tool.

    When you first start Task List Professional, it provides a tutorial.  Despite the simplicity of the app, I still encourage new users to run through the tutorial to get a feel for how everything works.  The tutorial can be accessed anytime after you complete it if you still need a refresher.  In addition to the tutorial, there is a “help” button at the bottom of the screen that provides a quick summary of how to use the app.

    The aspect of Task List Professional that makes it a better fit for professionals is the ability to assign priorities to each task.  This cuts out having to search through each one to find the ones that need to be checked off quickly.  Also, for tasks that require long descriptions, you can write them on the computer and download them to your Kindle.

    If you are looking for a Kindle app that you want to use just for quick lists and notes, Notepad might be a better bet.  But, for the same price, Task List Professional provides more tools that are ideal for complex tasks.

    Right now, Task List Professional is available on generations up to the Kindle Keyboard.  I will continue to keep an eye out for future updates that might make this app compatible with the Kindle and Kindle Touch.

    ~Rasimov

    “With features like alphabetical listing, priority listing and 2 click checkmarks this program also make an excellent budget tracker.
    Page listing and paid checkmarks with dates due are also good budget features.
    Nice….”

    The holiday Kindle games are really starting to pour in.  There are about six so far, and as the holidays approach, I’m sure there will be more added to the Kindle game collection.  These games will be great for traveling, and as fun activities for the whole family.

    Pixel Perfect Holiday Puzzles is holiday edition of Pixel Perfect Puzzles, a game developed by Amazon that is one of the most popular games in the whole Kindle game collection.  The goal is to create a picture by grouping sets of blocks together on a grid.  Each row and column has a set of numbers that tell you how many blocks to put down.  The trick is to figure out how far to space each set of blocks so that they’ll make a picture.  The holiday edition includes themes such as Winter, Christmas, New Years, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.  This game is free, so you can’t go wrong, especially with it being top quality.  I like that it includes themes from all of the major holidays of the season.

    Picture Cross is the same type of game as Pixel Perfect Puzzles, and it comes in a Christmas edition.  This game has 100 Christmas themed puzzles, and even though it isn’t free, it is still pretty cheap at $.99.  So, if you get done with all of the puzzles in the free game, check out the Picture Cross version.  Picture Cross Christmas Edition is a fun game for all ages.

    Word Search is one of my favorite word games.  There are many versions available for the Kindle, and to celebrate the season, you can grab Holiday Word Search for just $.99.  The object of the puzzle is to find the words hidden vertically, horizontally, or diagonally into a grid.  All of the puzzles in Holiday Word Search are part of different categories such as songs and movies, and are related to the season.

    Cryptograms are scrambled words or phrases that you have to decode.  To me, they are quite challenging, at least as far as word puzzles go.  Puzzle Baron’s Holiday Cryptograms add a fun twist that includes cryptograms with themes from the season.  I find that it is helpful to pick up context clues from the letters already in the slots.  The categories are Wintertime, Gifts and Giving, Friends and Family, New Years, and Holiday Season.

    Futoshiki is one of the top rated Kindle games, so I am excited that there is a holiday version that brings even more great Futoshiki puzzles.  Futoshiki is basically a Sudoku puzzle game, but it includes < and > signs to make things more interesting.  The rules remain the same in Futoshiki Holiday Eidtion, but the board becomes more cheerful with the addition of trees, stockings, and presents.

    Blossom is another top rated Kindle game, and has awesome reviews.  A holiday edition of the hit flower irrigation puzzle has been released.  Instead of flowers, your goal is to spread holiday cheer by transforming ugly lumps of coal into beautifully wrapped presents.  The basic concept of the game stays the same.  You connect pipes from a center source to different parts of the board.  Each puzzle is complete when all of the pipes are connected.  It can take a bit of maneuvering, so don’t leave any lumps of coal behind!

    All of these games are compatible with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation Kindles.  The only one currently compatible with the Kindle Touch is Word Search, which is unfortunate, but with the user interface now touch screen, it will take some reworking on the developers’ part.  The Kindle Fire has its own separate set of games that can be found in the Amazon Android marketplace.  The prices range from free to $1.99, with most being $.99.  Happy Holidays!

     

    November has been a big month for the Amazon Kindle.  The Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire shipped on November 14, and the reviews are pouring in.

    Black Friday is fast approaching and people are already starting to camp out at stores like Best Buy and Walmart.  Amazon is celebrating Black Friday Week by offering deals on its Official Black Friday page.

    Consumers already have a wide variety of Kindles available for unbeatable prices.  The Kindle 4 starts at $79.  The Kindle Touch starts at $99 and the Kindle Fire is $199.

    Barnes & Noble quickly responded with an update to its NookColor and calls it the Nook Tablet.  The Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire will be going head to head during the 2011 holiday shopping season.

    Holiday editions of Kindle games are starting to trickle in.  Pixel Perfect Holiday Puzzles has been out for a couple of weeks.  Reviewers raved about the original Pixel Perfect game created by Amazon.  Both the original and holiday versions are free.  Hard to believe a free game would beat out its paid counterparts. Picture Cross and Nonograms by a long shot.

    Pixel Perfect Holiday Puzzles is a logic puzzle.  Starting with a grid, you have to fill in the number of blocks that the numbers at the top and end of the row indicate.  Sometimes, there are more than one numbers, so you have to figure out where to place each set of blocks.  For example, 6 3 would mean 6 blocks separated by one or two empty blocks, then 3 blocks.

    The holiday edition includes puzzles that are symbols of all of the holidays that come around this time of year: Christmas, New Years, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

    The only other holiday themed Kindle game that I’ve seen so far is Puzzle Baron’s Holiday Cryptograms.  This game includes quotes about all things holiday: winter, friends and family, New Year’s, gifts and giving, and the holiday season.  There are 100 quotes that are scrambled into cryptograms.  This one is around 3 bucks, but the original one got great reviews.  I wouldn’t expect anything less than great reviews for this version as well.

    To be honest, I thought there would be a much bigger holiday game selection by now.  Maybe developers are focusing more on recreating games to be compatible with the new Kindles.  There are very few games compatible with the Kindle Touch so far.

    But, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a big game sale for Black Friday.  Now that the Kindles are all in the hands of consumers, it is only natural that great deals on games and accessories will not be far behind.

     

    Braintonik Games is the creator of bestselling games: Futoshiki, Blossom, and Strimko.  So, any Kindle app made by this company is going to be top quality.  The Periodic Table of Elements is no exception.

    There’s really not much to this tool except that it serves as a quick reference guide to the Periodic Table.  When you highlight each element such as Na (sodium) or Mg (Magnesium), then the box at the top will display the chemical attributes of each element.

    It has been over 10 years since I took Chemistry, so I had forgotten about most of the elements.  Its one of those things where “if you don’t use it, you lose it.”  It was good to have a refresher though.

    The Kindle‘s 6″ display is a small screen to cram the whole Periodic Table into, and still make it large enough to see.  The text used for the descriptions were on the small side, but it was still very readable.

    Since Periodic Table of Elements is only one page, there are vary few menu and navigation options.  You just need the Kindle’s 5-way toggle to move across the table and select the elements.  Press menu, and it will give you the option to flip the screen.

    Periodic Table of Elements is available on the latest generation Keyboardless Kindle, as well as older models.

    The following reviewer mentions that it would be great if each element linked to a more detailed page about the selected element.  I think that is an excellent idea for future updates to the tool, but the current version definitely serves as a good quick reference guide.

    Kersi

    “What would have qualified this product for 5 stars? If each element box acted as a link activating a more detailed page containing more data would have been great. There is a FREE Periodic Table available at the Amazon Kindle store. However that product has poor resolution on the table itself but has excellent detailed information on each element. So my suggestion would be to use this 99cents product as a brief overview and the free product for details should you need them.”

    D. Webb

    “I like this little Kindle app quite a bit. It’s a very handy reference for a science educator, student, or anyone who needs to refer to the Periodic Table of the Elements. It’s perhaps a bit basic; but it provides the essential information most people need from the Periodic Table. I think it’s an excellent value for a very reasonable price. “

    POGO Hearts, Spades and More is a lot like the games you find on your Mac or PC.  There are five games included in the Kindle version: Hearts, Spades, Euchre, Gin, and Canasta.

    Hearts is the one I’m the most familiar with.  The goal is to finish the game with the fewest points possible.  The card to avoid is the queen of spades.  This will add 13 points to your score.  If a player gets up to 100 points, they automatically lose.

    In Spades, you pair up into two teams.  The team that bids and wins the most number of hands wins.  You have to play against the Kindle for all of the games in POGO Hearts, Spades and More.  They present a challenge, but not overly so.

    Euchre is played in pairs as well.  the goal of this game is to get as many tricks per game as possible.  In order to get a trick, you have to play the highest trump card or highest card in the suit if there is no trump card.

    The object of Gin is to make sets of cards based on matching rank or runs in suits.  The player with the most matches wins.

    In Canasta, each player makes sets of seven cards.  The first player to make sets out of all of their cards wins.

    There is a very detailed tutorial included, and when you begin a game for the first time, it will prompt you to decide whether you want to try the tutorial or not.  I haven’t played any of these card games in a long time so it was good to have a refresher.

    Most of the EA games are top quality, and Pogo Hearts, Spades, and More is no exception.  Everything was crisp and easy to see.  the only drawback is that it only lets you play Kindle players as opposed to playing with friends or family.

    Topaz22

    “I play these games regularly on POGO and was delighted to find them packaged for my Kindle. They are fun, easy to play, and the response time on the Kindle is excellent. The graphics are good and navigation is easy. I have also downloaded (and love) other EA games and am thrilled to have these card games available. I have test driven all 5 of them and they play very smoothly, as I expected they would. Euchre is my favorite. Just one more thing to compete with my reading time! ”

    Becky B

    “Love it….now let’s get a Blackjack game that has at least 3 to 4 players. It’s hard to put down! Was playing it in a restaurant and now one of the servers wants to buy a Kindle! “