I used simple criteria for selecting my top apps: One, I didn't chuck the app after a week, and two, I used it nearly every day. The following are my five favorites, along with some brief comments about them. In all but one case, I asked the app developers to share their thoughts on how they designed these winners.
Land Air Sea Warfare
This game is an astounding tribute to what a single programmer, in this case, James Bryant of Isotope244, can do on a superior mobile platform. LASW is a sophisticated strategy war game. The graphics, sounds, and scenery are all top-notch!
Developer comments: "When starting a new game, I gather any ideas and drawings I have about it and create a design document that lists features that must be in the game and features that are very cool but probably won't make it into the game…. Finally, as I near completion of the app, I start hacking off features that aren't really needed, or ones that would take too long to incorporate into the app—otherwise the game will never get done...."
SPB TV Free
If you want to get lost in free streaming TV from all over the globe, this is the app for you. I especially like the channel preview mode, channel selection, and programming guides in this app. My favorite feed is the classic Sci-Fi TV channel. SPB Software has been coding quality apps for small screens for a long time, and this app shows it. Oh yeah, did I mention... it's free?
Developer comments: "We wanted to give users a real TV-like experience....SPB Software has developed a special, patent pending TV technology that is optimized for the mobile TV experience: a channel selection screen that collects all the channel information needed for making an informed decision in one screen."
Tilt to Live
Some games are great because of their complexity, like Land Air Sea Warfare mentioned previously. However, some don't need any bells and whistles to be great—Tilt to Live is a good example. In this game, you do nothing more sophisticated than dodge around red dots. I played it for many hours one night (far too many for a grown man to admit) just trying to get the next power-up to pop.
Developer Comments: "From the very start, we chained ourselves to the idea of it being a "tilt only" title that was accessible and easy to pick up and play. That means that every time we had a neat idea for a weapon, we refused to use a "tap to fire" button with it or provide instructions. That's what wound up making the combat feel so intense; you're never "armed" with a weapon you can fire. You just worry about getting to them!"
Solar Walk – 3D Solar System model
Solar Walk is a trip–a trip through our solar system in 3-D. Did you know that Jupiter's moon Io is a steaming volcanic cauldron while Europa is an icy waste? Solar Walk lets you experience the wonders of our solar system without having to eat space rations or learn how to live in zero-G!
Developer Comments: "We got tons of e-mails and requests from our users to add satellites for the planets to Star Walk…. It turned out that the best solution was to make a separate app that let us show the solar system as a 3-D model with the ability to view movements of planets and satellites."
Stanza is a free eBook reader that makes it easy to get tons of free eBooks from a variety of sources. Through services like Feedbooks, you can find some awesome eBooks and download them for free to your iOS device. Links to more works by an author are posted in the forward and final sections of each eBook.
One of my favorite eBooks is For The Win by Cory Doctorow, which I downloaded from Feedbooks. It's a great gamer story with thought-provoking lessons in economics, strategy, and much more. This book reminds me of a novel written over 100 years ago by Upton Sinclair called The Jungle. It's a social discourse that highlighted the shocking working conditions in the U.S. meat-packing industry. When I started playing video games as a kid, I would never have imagined there would be factories exploiting video game players—as horrid today as were the meat plants of the last century.