The Christmas week blues come but once a year, but with the help of your handy little mobile device, you can avoid being driven to distraction by unsilencable relatives. In an attempt to help keep the peace, we’ve rounded up a few essential apps this Christmas to ensure those smiles stay radiant and festive all week long.
I, Partridge iPhone app
Sure, the Alan Partridge app is an unashamed marketing tool intended to boost sales of the recent autobiography, but the handful of added extras are well worth 69p. The dicatophone is a nicely imagined function that plays snippets from the great man’s audiobook, and the Partridge playlist is a cool bit of character development, though it’s missing the Wings classic ‘Jet’ (any Partridge fan worth his salt will tell you exactly why that’s a crime). Best of all is the lined notebook, on which the reader can peruse notes-from-self (‘Unfriend Eamonn Holmes. Status updates doing head in.’), each one an entirely new tidbit to add to the Alan quotes canon. We expect you to have all 60 memorised by the time you get back to work.
12 Days of Christmas iPhone app | iPad app
Who says all big corporations are Scrooges? For the second year running, Apple are sharing the goodwill (and gifts) with their 12 Days of Christmas app. Entirely free, iOS users who download it will get a gratis gift everyday for 12 days, beginning December 26. We’re talking songs, eBooks, apps – each one a well kept surprise to keep your device well stocked and unputdownable.
Great British Chefs Feastive app iPhone app | iPad app
If you’ve not used an eCookbook before, the Great British Chefs Feastive app is a great place to start. Gathering together the culinary skills of 21 popular British chefs, the app presents 105 different recipes in Glorious Technicolor. It’s a visual delight, but the buttons and gadgets really make it shine. If you’re not sure how to make edible foam with a gas canister, for example, up pops a little instruction video to help you along. And if you’re afraid of getting squid ink all over your shiny new iOS device, fear not – the recipes are voice controlled, meaning you can scroll through them using the words ‘next’ and ‘back’, without having to touch anything with your messy digits. Throw in a timer, a notebook and a tickable shopping list, and this guide to Christmas feasting is looking well worth the £1.99 price tag.
Instamory iPad app
One of our favourite apps this Christmas is this digital take on the children’s favourite Matching Pairs game. Integrated with Instagram, gamers can choose to use cards sourced by tags or their own Instagram snaps. Upload pics of family members and you’ll keep the kids entertained for hours – we’d write more about Instamory if we could, but our copy has been hijacked, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting it back anytime soon. A steal at £1.49.
Fatbooth iPhone app | iPad app
An oldie, but a goodie, especially if the family has run out of things to say to each other. This 69p app does exactly as you’d expect it to, adding blubber to your freshly snapped photograph, finally spitting out a shockingly realistic approximation of what you’d look like after several hundred kilos worth of greed and sloth. Carry on eating those mince pies at the rate you’re going, you’ll have a good idea of how accurate it is fairly soon.
Richard Dawkins: The Magic of Reality eBook iPad app
The digital version of Dawkins’ latest bestseller is one of those apps that really highlight the power and potential of the iPad, presenting what might normally be fairly dry content in an irresistible manner. Want to know a bit more a bit more about natural selection? Play the frog killing game, in which you select the frogs most likely to be capable of dealing with nature’s onslaught. Want to know how species migrated and continued to breed in new surrounds? Play the wind and whirlpool game and use your tablet’s microphone to stir up currents strong enough to guide your critters to brave new shores. Good Christmas fun for all the family – unless you’re all creationists.
Trivial Pursuit iPhone app | iPad app
In the absence of a decent Charades app and an official version of Pictionary, we’ve plumped for the Trivial Pursuit app as the best way to keep the modern, digital gathering entertained. There’s not a lot here to shock or surprise – the app works exactly as the original board game did, only with the bonus of keeping everything together (no lost pie pieces turning up in the ball of your foot during a bleary-eyed 3am trip to the toilet). The questions are more up to date than we remember them, too – if you don’t have Bruce Wayne’s most recent numberplate tattooed into your memory, you don’t have a bat-in-daylight’s chance of winning. The app costs 69p, though extra question packs come as purchasable add-ons.
Plaques iPhone app
The perfect Blue Plaque app has yet to materialise. The current offerings are either too basic in their functionality, or too threadbare in terms of plaque data. The best is probably Plaques, a free app which offers scant information on the people behind each marker, but links to their Wikipedia page for further reading. It also comes with an itinerary function so that you can plot a walking route before you set out. Note to the developers: we’d love to see each entry tagged so that you can draw up an itinerary by subject – a rock’n'roll walk function would be pretty darn hip, don’tcha think?
Museum of London iPhone app
Making excellent use of augmented reality technology, this app allows users to hold up their camera to hundreds of London streets, sights and landmarks and grab detailed info on whatever they’re looking at. Better still, their camera presents them with versions of the sight as it looked in decades gone by. Want to see what Carnaby Street looked like at the height of its fame? Streetmuseum can show you. Interested in the grimy wharfs of Victorian London? Hold up Streetmuseum and the plush media offices decay into aged filth. It can’t show you the latest film at the nearest cinema (though we know of an app that can), but if you want to see the world’s greatest city as it once was, Streetmuseum is pretty hard to beat.
Imperial War Museum Posters (Volume 1) iPhone app | iPad app
One of the best apps we’ve seen in a while, the first (free) volume of wartime posters to appear in app form range from the familiar (‘Keep calm and carry on’) to the understandably obscure (‘Doctor Carrot: the children’s best friend’). It’s impressively laid out, especially on the iPad version where the posters fill the screen, with information on the artist and history behind each image. You can also order prints and share each poster via Facebook and Twitter, spreading history and knowledge from the comfort of your favourite hibernation hole.
Grand Theft Auto iPhone app | iPad app
Bored dads everywhere will weep for their lost youth, while unleashing ill-will and festive hell to all men. Yes, it’s 10 years since ‘Grand Theft Auto III’ shook our little world, and Rockstar have marked the anniversary by re-releasing the game, this time on iOS platforms. In truth, the iPhone version may be a tad small (driving without killing is a bit of a bitch, though there will be those that say that’s the point) and it has a tendency to crash on our first generation iPad. Load it up on an iPad 2, however, and it’ll be just as good as you remember it. The trick now will be keeping it away from the kids – those catchphrases won’t go down too well in the classroom.
Table tennis iPhone app | iPad app
Very simple, very free. This game comes with no frills or fancies – it’s just a simple rally over a virtual ping pong table. If we have one criticism it’s that the iPad screen is a teensy bit small for two adults to gather around without bashing skulls, but that’s hardly the developers’ fault. It’ll keep the kids quiet, and in one-player mode it’s pretty damned addictive.
Football Manager Handheld 2012 iPhone app | iPad app
Another app to keep dad quiet, this is the latest handheld version of the notorious Championship Manager/Football Manager series – the game that launched a thousand divorces. Naturally, it has been stripped down for the iOS platforms, giving it a retro aspect that older fans may find appealing. It’s also a lot harder to win on than the more developed versions, which we think makes it less addictive. Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing might make or break your marriage, so we’ll leave it for you to decide.
Beatwave iPhone app | iPad app
In the past, the autoharp has been the perfect instrument for non-musicians, allowing anyone with fingers to press buttons and play serviceable chord structures. A modern version of this, known as the Tenori-on, recently appeared in Japan – fans of the singer Little Boots will know it well. Unfortunately, it comes with a 900 quid price tag, so this Beatwave app comes as a blessed (and free) alternative. Turn it on, draw a series of lines and pics, layer them up on a selection of different screens and watch as your finger art turns into rhythmic blips and melodic bleeps. Give it half an hour or so, and you’ll be ready to host your own private rave – remember to hide your stash from grandma.
Rockmate iPad app
We’ve seen it referred to as a poor-man’s version of Garageband, but in truth Rockmate is not really aiming for the same market. The app is laid out so that each corner of the iPad contains a different instrument. Sure, you can record them all in a multitrack manner, but the real fun is to be had in getting four friends around one device and letting them reek aural havoc. It takes a little bit of time and effort to master, but you could call that paying your dues – no band ever got it right first time, after all.
Bebot iPhone app | iPad app
Essentially a basic synth, this app is likely to find an audience among wannabe Theremin maestros, and – like the Theremin before it – has the possibility of sounding utterly sublime or painfully cacophonous depending on whose wavering hands it falls into. The perfect way to pass the time in a houseful of cooped up people pretending to like each other, then. Jon Wilks
Happy Christmas, one and all.