Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) wrote,
Dave Van Domelen

App review: AppZilla 2

Yeah, I don't normally review the apps I get for my iPod, but this one amuses me sufficiently I wanted to comment on it. This is going to get long, since it's a bundle of over 100 apps for a buck, so here's a jump-cut.

Today on the Free App A Day app they have the free version of AppZilla 2, and presumably this free version will be around for a while, so you can give it a shot without plunking down a buck. I was sufficiently impressed by the free version (in terms of there being actual useful stuff) to pay my 99 cents for the full version.

If you've ever spent time looking around for free iPhone/iPod/iPad apps, you'll have noticed they tend to fall into three main categories: crippleware ("Here's the first level of the game, if you like it you can unlock the other twenty for $1.99!"), old stuff being given away to promote the company's new stuff ("If you liked the freePizza Nun Wars, check out Ninja Pig Surfing, just click here to get it for $1.99!") , and apps that are clearly examples of what people have made when teaching themselves how to make an app ("Here's another flashlight app!").

AppZilla 2 (and presumably the original AppZilla) is a huge stack of what seems to be mostly that third type of app. Some of them are insanely lazy, but others are quite clever and would almost tempt me to pay 99 cents for on their own. The selling point of AppZilla is that you're getting a HUGE pile of mostly crap for a buck, and the odds are good that at least one or two of the apps will make it worth your money. Keeping in mind that updates will likely change this lineup over time, here's short comments on each of the apps in the current iteration. So that I don't have to repeat some things over and over, here's a glossary for some of the more common comments:

Duplicate - This app does something that a built-in function of iOS already does, it just looks different or sounds different.

Skin - This app is a new wrapper on something else, like giving a way to quickly use Maps to find a certain class of destination.

Redundant - This app is an interface for something that already offers a free app (like a Google Docs interface).

Filter - Adds a filter to the built-in camera program.

Soundboard - The app has a bunch of sound files you can play back.

Dilettante - If you actually care about the thing this app does, you probably already have something better.

Note, the main framing app does have the option to hide things you know you'll never use. And as far as I can tell, only one AppZilla app can run at a time, although I'd hope things like alarm clocks still run in the background. Annoyingly, sometimes when you exit to the main menu it resets to the start of the menu...all the more reason to hide things.

And now, the apps!

  • Alarm Clock: An LED-simulating alarm clock. Duplicate, although it does allow you to set it to play a specific song with the alarm.
  • Area Code: Enter an area code, it gives a list of cities that use that code.
  • Auto Camera: Adds a settable timer to the built-in camera.
  • Battery Life: This gives an estimate of how much time you have left on your battery, a bit more precise than staring at the little battery icon to estimate the charge. Useful, if limited. Part of the free package.
  • Big Button: Soundboard, using a slider menu and a single big button.
  • BMI Calc: Calculates your Body Mass Index and tells you where you fall in the rough categories (overweight, underweight, etc). Dilettante.
  • BMR Calc: Enter some physical data and it tells you your caloric needs for different levels of activity. Dilettante.
  • Book Lamp: Flashlight program supposedly optimized for use in reading hardcopy under poor lighting conditions.
  • Bug Zapper: Emits high frequency sound to repel insects. Except that there doesn't seem to be any evidence that ultrasonics actually WORK for that purpose (they can't hear it either). Might annoy dogs.
  • Buzzer: An X button and a check button with editable sounds for right and wrong answers. Might annoy everyone.
  • Checklist: A checklist program. Already have several.
  • Clinometer: This uses the built-in tilt sensors to create a virutal "bubble level". Not only does it have a graphic of the bubble in the round, it lists the tilt in X and Y in degrees, radians and percent from true. It works really well. This is the one that most impressed me in the free assortment.
  • Coin Flip: Flips a coin image. Supposed to work when you shake the device, but it seems to be miscoded, mine only works when the image is flicked.
  • Color Detect: Another of the apps I really think I'll get some use out of. It tells you the RGB and HSL (Hue, Saturation, Lightness) values of the color at the center of a crosshairs in the camera. It's limited by the quality of the camera, of course, and you need really good lighting to get a true value, but I do sometimes want to estimate the RGB on a color (usually when reviewing toys).
  • Color Calc: Drag a reticle around a rainbow map and it'll tell you the RGB, HSL and hexcode values of the selected color. A color wheel in an app.
  • Cook Timer: A display of six gas burners that act as timers, so you can manage several things at once. I almost never have more than one burner going at the same time, so not too useful for me. :)
  • Crystal Ball: Randomly says yes or no. Whee.
  • Currency: A currency conversion calculator, can be updated when you have internet access. If a currency is listed on the exchange, it can convert for you. Nice little app, although if you have internet access there's plenty of webpages that will do the same thing.
  • Date Calc: This tells you how many days between now and a chosen date, or between two chosen dates. Yyyeah.
  • Days Until: How many days until a chosen date, but can be programmed with several events. I suppose it might be useful for tracking deadlines, but definitely a Practice App.
  • Decibels: A sound meter with peak, average and current levels. "Peak" is "the most in the past second or so". There's also a virtual analog dial. A nice science toy.
  • Dice6: Will roll up to 6 six-sided dice, letting you lock some results while rerolling the rest. Eh. The lock function is nice, but Crit is a much better dice program.
  • Dice12: Same program, but with 12-sided dice so it's even LESS useful. At least there's plenty of games that use multiple d6s.
  • Dictionary: Enter word, it looks it up. This passes my "fungible autochthon" test (i.e. it knows both of those words) and therefore gets thumbs up from me.
  • Dog Clicker: It makes a clicking noise, presumably useful in dog training. I have no pets, so I couldn't tell you if it's effective.
  • Drum Set: A virtual drum kit, with the full set of stuff. Including cowbell. May annoy YOU.
  • Emoji: Emoticons for iOS. It basically lets you add a new keyboard style that makes the emojis, so even if you accidentally enable it (like I did) it supposedly won't do anything unless you follow the rest of the instructions.
  • Face FX: Four "goo" effects that can be applied to face pictures. Yawn.
  • Facts: Random factoids, some of which are probably untrue, and all of which are the kind of crap you defriend people to avoid seeing.
  • Flashlight: A flashlight program. And not even a very good one.
  • Full Camera: Changes the built-in camera so that you use the entire screen as a viewfinder and can take a picture by tapping anywhere on the screen. I suppose it's useful if you don't want to worry about missing the pic button.
  • GeoMonitor: Doesn't work on iPod, requires GPS.
  • Glow Paint: Draw glowy lines on the screen. Gimmicky sketch program, basically.
  • Goog*: There are nine apps like GoogBooks, GoogCal, etc...redundant, since Google has free apps for all its stuff.
  • Grill Timer: Like Cook Timer, but with an image of a grill, and ways to select advice on different food types. Dilettante.
  • Health Map: Shows maps of things like pollen levels, flu outbreaks, etc. Basically grabs Weather.com maps for you. Might be more useful if there was an overall pollen level map, instead of being broken into all the different types.
  • Hearing: Plays various high frequency sounds so you can tell how your hearing is deteriorating with age. Or how bad your speakers are. I seem to top out at 17 kHz. Another annoyance tool.
  • Heart Rate: Calculates your target heart rates based on your age and resting rate. Dilettante.
  • Holidays: A big scrolling list of holidays, in order. You can select different countries. Or you could look this stuff up on Wikipedia.
  • Homeland: Shows the current terror alert...except that the old five color system has been discontinued so this app no longer even works.
  • Horoscope: The graphic interface is interesting, but it's still a horoscope program.
  • Hot Topics: Skin for Google news hot topics, apparently. Launches Safari to actually read the results, which are just Google search pages.
  • Jokes: Random joke. See "Facts".
  • Journal: An offline diary program. Yawn.
  • LED Light: Not supported on my iPod. Apparently if you have a device with an LED camera flash, it lets you use that LED as a flashlight.
  • Level: Another bubble level, but this one is the tube variety. It can be set to vertical, horizontal or 45 degrees. Like the other one, it also lists degrees, radians and percent in addition to the bubble image.
  • Loan Calc: Enter the terms, it tells you your payments. Dilettante.
  • Lighter: For concerts, I suppose. A picture of a lighter, that you can flick on. Four skins available for the lighter appearance.
  • Locator: Not terribly useful in an iPod without GPS. About all it can tell me is the lat/long to six decimal places, based on what the built-in position finder says.
  • Massager: Doesn't work on iPod. I suppose it uses the vibrate ring mode to act as a massage device.
  • Match It: A "concentration" card matching game.
  • Metronome: A metronome, might be more useful if it could go more slowly than 60 bpm.
  • Moon Calc: Move to a date (by swiping only, no way to enter a date manually) and it'll show the phase of the moon. Eh.
  • Morse Code: Enter a message, and it'll flash that message on a virtual semaphore lamp in morse code.
  • MotionAlert: Put it on a flat surface and activate. If the surface moves, it will sound an alarm (or, if an iPhone, call you). Rather silly use of a $300+ device, though. I suppose it could be used to act as a theft alarm for itself.
  • Music Box: Plays one of two classic "pegs against metal comb" music box tunes while showing an image of one playing.
  • Night Vision: Probably the lamest app in the set. It's a green monochrome camera filter. It doesn't even try to crank up the brightness levels when ambient light drops.
  • Parking: A parking meter alarm.
  • Passwords: Generates random password strings for you, with options for how nasty you want them.
  • Path Tracker: Requires GPS.
  • Pitch Pipe: Set it to one of the notes on a standard pitch pipe, and it plays the note...sounding like an analog pitch pipe. Can be set to the key of C or F.
  • Plumb Bob: Another level program, but this one uses the iPod held vertically.
  • Police Scan: Tunes to internet radio feeds of various police bands. There's a pretty long list, but only larger cities (i.e. Riley County KS wasn't included).
  • Price Calc: Lets you compare unit costs of two products that may have different sizes. Eh.
  • Price Check: A barcode scanner. Supposedly it looks up prices on the web for the code scanned (and it'll do QR codes too). I tried on a few codes and it didn't do anything.
  • Protractor: A virtual protractor. Since it doesn't use the camera to show what's behind the iPod, it's not all that useful.
  • Quotes: See "Facts". This one is searchable, though.
  • Random #: A random number generator, with various options of how you want it to simulate randomness (i.e. simple, Student t-distributed, etc).
  • Reaction: Tests reaction speed. This is actually kinda useful in teaching physics.
  • RDictionary: A reverse dictionary. Enter a phrase and it tries to find a word that is defined as that. A bit shotgun-ish in approach, though.
  • Ruler: See Protactor.
  • Rhymes: Searches for rhymes of the entered word. Not smart enough to be snarky when you type in "orange".
  • Sale Price: Helps calculate the final price of something with a percentage discount, secondary markdown, and then sales tax. Kinda redundant with the calculator.
  • Sleep Aid: Generates various "soothing" sounds for a preset time, including running your iTunes on a timer.
  • Sound Box: 12 sound clips, two of which are farts. Yyyyeah.
  • Stink Bomb: Mr. Yuk's face on a bomb, it sets a timer countdown to a whoopie cushion sort of sound. So that's more fart sounds from AppZilla.
  • Spell Check: A spellchecker.
  • Sports Radio: A radio tuner with options for a bunch of sports radio online feeds.
  • Strobe: A flashlight program that only strobes. Okay, possibly lamer than the night vision filter.
  • System Info: Grabs some of the sort of thing you get in System Profiler on a desktop Mac.
  • Tally: Counts the times you hit the + or - key on the screen. Pretty weak even as tally counters go.
  • Teslameter: Turns the built-in compass that the iPod lacks into a magnetic field meter. Cool, but not functional on my device.
  • Thesaurus: What it says.
  • Tip Calc: Enter the check total, the tip percentage and how many people are paying, and it evenly splits the bill. Redundant as all get-out.
  • Toon FX: Camera filter, a really bad cel-shading filter.
  • Translator: This is a really good one, at least in terms of the number of languages available. It's only a visual translator, though, and if you translate into something with non-Roman letters (like Chinese) there's no guide to pronunciation or transliteration. There's also no zoom for the trickier characters.
  • Trip Wire: Sets off an alarm when sound levels get above an established level. On an iPhone, it can also call you. Of course, if you set the threshold below the loudness of the alarm itself, it will NEVER TURN OFF. :)
  • Unit Calc: Not a very good unit conversion program. I checked for Pressure, and it only had Pascal to atmospheres (along with kPa, millibars, etc). No mmHg or inches.
  • Vintage FX: Camera filter, a grainy sepiatone effect.
  • Voodoo: Virtual voodoo doll, screams when you place pins in it.
  • Walkie: Uses bluetooth to turn an iPod or iPhone into a push-to-talk device.
  • Weathermap: Skin for weather.com stuff.
  • Whiteboard: Sketch program with wide marker tips.
  • WalkNType: Lets you type short messages while showing the camera input as the background...so you can see where you're going, I guess. Unless you prefer typing with your iPod shoved in your face, though, not that useful.
  • Wonders: Skin for Maps, with pre-loaded coordinates and info about various natural and man-made wonders.
  • Words: Generates a random word. Oookay.
  • Distort FX: Rippled filter for camera.
  • Photo Wiz: Lets you apply some basic photomanip stuff (contrast, brightness, tint, etc) to camera images without having to offload them to a desktop.

As you can tell, most of these apps are stupid, boring or pointless. But the handful of good ones justify the price, and you might find use for some of the ones I didn't care for.

ETA: I decided to leave the following apps visible, bringing me down to one screen's worth: Battery Life, Clinometer, Color Detect, Color Calc, Currency, Decibels, Dictionary, HealthMap, Hearing, Level, Metronome, Pitch PIpe, Plumb Bob, Reaction, Rhymes, Sleep Aid, System Info, Translator, WeatherMap, Whiteboard.

Addendum: at least one of the apps is a major battery hog, hopefully not one of the ones I like. :)
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