App of the Week: Drive

Create Digital Media

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS or up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod touch 3rd gen or up


iOS 5.1


Available here

Don’t use your phone while driving.

From nationwide campaigns to motherly warnings, we’ve had that simple message drilled into our heads for as long as we’ve had cell phones. Most people know the dangers, and most agree with the idea in principle, but unlike other driving safe philosophies, like “don’t drink and drive” or “wear your seatbelt,” the idea of putting down your smartphone while driving is not catching on any time soon. You see it all of the time, and probably have been guilty of it yourself a few times, yet as much as it seems like common sense, it’s pretty obvious people are not in a hurry to stop doing it in mass.

Developers Create Digital Media seems to realize this and have created a compromise of sorts. If you are going to use your phone while driving, then at least limit yourself. They’ve removed your game apps, Facebook, keyboard, and Twitter, and have designed the app Drive, which trims your smartphone down to four main functions, all grouped together and handled by a beautifully minimalist design.

The functions are call, music, text, and map. Coupled with the large font, brightly colored ways they are displayed, the actual methods to using these features are also pleasantly simple and often require only bold gestures and swipes.

For instance, the music app allows you to change songs by horizontal swipes, and change the volume with two finger vertical motions (you can also play the music randomly via a shuffle playlist). Texts and calls use simple scroll and tap methods for going through your contacts, and for texts you are able to program general important statements for quick sends. The map features is maybe the least developed of the bunch, but it does provide integration with Apple Maps as well as standard directional functions and a nice, easy to view on the fly general map in tune with your current location.

The developers of the app are promising to keep developing all of its functions, with the map feature seeming to be a main point of emphasis with these updates. Even in its early stage though, Drive provides one of the more complete driver friendly apps I’ve ever seen as it successfully allows you to use the most important abilities of your phone without severely impairing your ability to drive. It’s an incredibly intelligent app, that with enough improvements you could evolve into a standard mode for all out of the box smartphones as it presents a realistic idea for handling the using your phone while driving problem, and also provides and alternative, simpler phone use option for any other times when your ability to use your phone to its full extent is hindered.

If you’re guilty of using your iPhone or, even worse, iPad, while driving then you owe it to yourself, and honestly other drivers, to give Drive a shot. Not only is it sleek, intuitive, and incredibly user friendly, it’s also my app of the week.


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App of The Week: Jar on a Bar

Compatible With:
iPhone 3GS
iPhone 4
iPhone 4S
iPod touch (3rd Gen)
iPod touch (4th Gen)

*Requires iOS 4.0 or greater

Price: $0.99 (Buy it here)

There’s really nothing original to “Jar on a Bar.” Aesthetically, it immediately brings to mind “Angry Birds,” and the basic concept is so dated that they used to call it “Jenga.” But that doesn’t matter, because for a mere 99 cents, you get one of the most addictive puzzlers to come to the app market in some time, originality be damned.

Let me backtrack a bit and explain. “Jar on a Bar” stars a fish in a bowl trapped precariously atop a ready to fall stack of pallets, glass, and other increasingly nefarious obstacles. Your job is simple: Get that fish to the ground and back into the water without breaking the bowl, all while trying to spill as little of the water in it as possible for bonus points. Sounds simple, right? Well, as you can imagine, as the game progresses through its 60 plus levels, things keep getting more and more complicated, until the point that this game of “Jenga” becomes a real mind-twister.

I mentioned “Angry Birds” earlier, and that’s because at its core, the game’s main concept of removing various obstacles to reach your goal is highly reminiscent of that classic app. However, “Jar on a Bar” is more about manipulation than destruction. Its well implemented physics system accounts for everything from weight to momentum, and forces you to master it before you can make any progress in the later stages. You may have to push a block to a certain point to gain just the right leverage, or momentarily put the fish in danger in order to set up the right move correctly. You not only have to consider your next step at all times, but the next several after that as well. It creates just the right combination of on your feet decisions and long term strategy that makes the best puzzle games so memorable, and executes it very well. There is also an in-app store but, while it does feature some cool objects, overall it doesn’t add much to the core gameplay of “Jar on a Bar.” The good news is it doesn’t have to, and it far from hinders the experience.

I could be wrong on this, but I don’t expect “Jar on a Bar” to take over the world like some of the games that inspired it have. However, the 99 cent asking price is a steal, turning this into a must-buy for anyone that has half an interest in puzzle games. Quite simply, it is one of the best and most addictive new puzzlers, and overall app games, I’ve come across in a while, and it is a more than deserving app of the week.