Pinball Wizard, a new pinball game for Apple Arcade starring an actual wizard, has all the elements of a great subway game: It’s easy to learn, challenging as you keep going, and it doesn’t always need all of your attention.
Pinball Wizard is basically pinball, but with spells. Your wizard is the ball, and you tab the bottom corners of the screen to activate the bumpers and send them flying. By hitting enemies, you damage them, and you can also hit barrels that will give you more health, or coins, which you use to upgrade your skills, or energy, which you need to use your skills. There’s a bunch of passive skills, like ones that reduce the amount of damage you take when you fall off a level. There’s also two offensive skills—a dash attack that allows you to change the direction of your wizard mid-flight, and another than summons an extra ball.
The greatest boon to Pinball Wizard is that the levels go quickly, and there’s only so much you can do to control the wizard careening around them. A lot of the game is hovering your thumbs over the bumpers, waiting for the wizard to come around again. This is punctuated by using your skills, but they deplete your energy. You can’t just spam the dash attack until everything’s dead, and the glidey physics of the game make the ball harder to accurately control. Sometimes when I think I’m aiming my wizard dead at an enemy or an item I need, it’ll hit the wall right next to it and then shoot off in a random direction.
The ultimate lack of control makes this perfect for the subway. I can still have an ear out for when I’m hitting my stop because I don’t need to be fully engaged all the time. Still, when I pull off a tricky move or bump into some torches and trigger a secret in the level, the game has my full attention. It’s a pleasant ebb and flow for my admittedly short attention span.
What I especially like about Pinball Wizard is what the game does when I lock my phone. When I do reach my stop on the subway, getting off the train before the doors close on me really should have my full attention. Often I only have enough time to lock my phone and shove it in my pocket before disembarking. When I reopen Pinball Wizard, the game is already paused, with my wizard frozen in place until I need to kill another 20 minutes underground.
I was not aware that game developers were legally permitted to make action on mobile games that’s as good as the fighting in Bleak Sword. When it comes to games, touchscreen controls are a thing that we just kind of deal with in the hopes that someone comes up with an ingenious use for them, like with The Room series of games. Barring that, most just settle for fine—rare is the truly bad touchscreen control scheme these days, but few are exceptional. This is doubly true for precise, intense action games—touchscreens are just not the best input medium.
At least that’s what I used to think before Bleak Sword, an Apple Arcade game so good I’m furious I have waited so long to upgrade my old-ass iPhone, with its battery that lasts maybe three hours if I ask nicely. Developed by Spanish developer Luis Moreno Jimenez, also known as more8bit, with music by Jim Guthrie and sound design by Joonas Turner, Bleak Sword is a black-and-white (and a little red) action game that casts you as a little pixelated warrior in small isometric arena, assaulted by all manner of horrible monsters. Defeat them all, and you move on to the next level, earning experience, leveling up, and finding items to give you stat boosts. Lose, and you drop your items, lose any experience that hasn’t already been applied to your next level-up, with one chance to try again and win it back.
It’s got a killer pixel-art style, with an aesthetic that seems in step with Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, only more grotesque and in monochrome. But again, what really elevates Bleak Sword are its tight, impressive controls. There are two schemes, a two-handed one and a one-handed one, both in portrait orientation. In the former, tapping the left side of the screen is devoted to attacking—you tap it to parry, or touch and release to swing your sword. A brief touch is a light attack, and a longer touch charges a heavy attack. On the right side, you swipe in any direction to roll and dodge.
In the one-handed control scheme, all of this is done regardless of what part of the screen you touch; you just have to make sure you’re making the right gesture. So you swipe to roll in one direction, tap to parry, and make short or long touches to make your desired attack. This is my preferred control scheme, not just for convenience, but because it makes Bleak Sword’s combat feel more rhythmic, like a dangerous dance with a zombie that also wants to eat you.
This, combined with stamina the game’s stamina meter, works to means every foe has to be taken seriously and the space of each stage navigated mindfully. And those stages are much more varied than their simple looks might make you think: Maybe you’ll find yourself staring down skeleton soldiers on a bridge, or dueling through a swamp full of tentacles that spring up out of nowhere. Dealing with map hazards as well as foes with their own attack patterns helps Bleak Sword keep things fresh, even though it’s got combat so rock-solid it could probably sustain less variety with no complaints from me.
And boss battles? They’re real good.
I’m very sorry, but I’m going to compare Bleak Sword to Dark Souls—but only because Bleak Sword truly seems to be aiming for an experience best described as Dark Souls: Mobile. It’s got the fraught risk and reward of that game’s combat, but in bite-sized combat dioramas. It’s also incredibly responsive in a way that’s actually too fluid for the Dark Souls comparison, but necessary for imprecise nature of touchscreen controls. It’s extremely good, and I can’t get enough of it, at least until my battery dies. It’s probably time for me to get a new phone.
Mario Kart Tour is available today on iOS and Android, bringing some portable kart action to phones and other devices. If you want to enjoy tough races with a faster pace, though, it turns out you’ll need to shell out some money.
Mario Kart games have always had different racing tiers. This usually means starting with the slower 50cc races before moving up to higher-speed races. In Mario Kart Tour, the 200cc tier is actually locked behind a subscription service that costs $4.99 a month. The 50, 100, and 150cc tiers are unlocked from the start. Nintendo outlined the program in a press release this morning:
Players can sign up for a free two-week trial subscription to the Mario Kart Tour Gold Pass by tapping the Gold Pass purchase button in-game. With the Mario Kart Tour Gold Pass subscription, players can unlock the extra-fast 200cc mode, obtain additional in-game rewards from racing and gain access to bonus goals exclusive to Gold Pass holders. Once the two-week free trial period ends, it will convert to a monthly subscription for $4.99/month, unless canceled.
A free trial is nice, but asking for a subscription to unlock additional game modes might be ambitious. Mario Kart Touralready has microtransactions that allow players to buy an in-game currency to spend on randomly acquired things like different drivers and kart parts. Nintendo’s mobile games have been hit or miss, with successes like Fire Emblem Heroes and stumbles like Dr. Mario World. It’s not surprising to see experiments in monetization, but it’s also hard to imagine anyone but the most hardcore players paying a monthly fee for speedier races.
Nintendo’s latest free-to-play mobile game, Mario Kart Tour, launches tomorrow on iOS and Android. Every two weeks the nickley, dimey racer will test players in tours, special races inspired by real-world locations. The first destination is New York, New York, where players can earn Musician Mario and Super Mario Odyssey Pauline as playable racers.
New York City, huh? Kind of the obvious place to kick off a world tour, but the course looks nice and the racers even nicer. Mario is decked out in a jazzy sort of suit.
While Pauline should probably be wearing a helmet or something.
The New York announcement comes courtesy of the first installment of the official Mario Kart Tour News. It’s hosted by Lakitu. You know, the jerk who drops stuff on your head in proper Mario games. This Lakitu is particularly charming, but he doesn’t fool me.
I don’t know much about soccer, but I love how seriously its fans take it. I can’t count the number of Saturday mornings when I’ve been woken up by shouts coming from the English pub a block from my house when there’s a Premier League game.
FootballDrama, coming out Wednesday for PC and phones from Italian developer Open Lab Games, is a weird, unique take on soccer management simulators that captures both soccer fans’ excitement and the shadowy world that surrounds the game.
You play as Rocco Galliano, a Frenchman who’s been tapped to coach an English soccer team, Calchester Assembled, though to the finals of the Thiefa League (get it?). Rocco has a spotty past that’s followed him into his new job. Through snippets of dialogue, the player learns about his previous clashes with the soccer league’s president and the shady world that exists around the league.
You can shape Rocco, to an extent, through the dialogue options you choose. Different responses will raise your “karma” or your “kaos,” as well as affect your relationship with characters like Calchester’s owner, Rocco’s mysterious lover, the press, and Rocco’s cat.
The other half of the game is taken up by Calchester’s matches against other teams in the league. Before a match, you get the option to train a certain skill, like goalkeeping or tactics. Then, you select up to five virtual cards that represent calls Rocco can make from the bench. You earn new cards after matches and in dialogue options. According to the developer, the cards you get are influenced by your karma or kaos. Cards can range from formations of your players to specific soccer strategies to wasting time during a match or calling fake fouls.
The most interesting aspect of the cards mechanic is that cards don’t take effect right away. Rocco shouts his orders from the bench and the players eventually act on his advice, which can either succeed or fail. This highlights the feeling of being a coach: You’re in charge, to an extent, but you can’t actually control the action. Successful actions will affect some of the 16 “dimensions” that influence a soccer game’s moment-to-moment play, such as attack, midfield, dominance, or harmony.
These dimensions feel astonishingly complicated compared to the simplistic portrayal of the matches themselves. Most of the time, a match is represented by a soccer ball moving across the field. During attempts on goal, it switches to moving colored dots that roughly play out the action. Despite the basic graphics, I found myself engaged when my team or my opponents were shooting, even shouting “Come on!” like an excited fan. As with the cards, you can make choices, but things are ultimately out of your hands. You’re playing a video game, but you’re also watching a virtual soccer match.
Aside from the cards, you play a match by choosing between risky or less risky actions—shooting the ball or keeping control of it when it’s in your possession, tackling or marking when you’re on defense. These actions are controlled by meters; do too many risky actions and you have to let your risk cool down again.
It all looks simple, but the developer says there’s a ton going on under the hood regarding your team’s dimensions, and some calculations regarding who dominates a match at a given time. Despite this complexity, my gameplay mostly boiled down to keeping an eye on my risk meter and periodically playing cards. The underlying math never really figured visibly into my choices, and once I stopped trying to parse all the information, I found the game an engaging combination of light strategy and unpredictability.
There’s a lot of Football Drama I just don’t get. The dialogue can be overly poetic or inscrutable, and there are occasionally weird turns of phrase, like the press saying “we will storm your remarks on social media.” I wondered whether the latter was a translation issue or a poetic commentary on Twitter.
At one point in the game there’s a dream sequence featuring Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, which made me think the game’s oddness was an intentional homage or part of the game’s arty, dramatic vibe. Dream Pasolini calls football “a system of symbols,” and that idea certainly fits Football Drama’s aesthetic. Everything feels like it’s pointing toward something bigger than the moment or than the game of soccer, even if I finished the game not quite sure what that thing was.
Football Drama is a pretty long game. The 18 matches and the stories between them took me about 10 hours to complete. It can feel repetitive to play for long stretches at the PC, but it has so many of the makings of a great mobile game, with simple controls and a structure that will make it easy to play during commutes without forgetting what’s happened. My Rocco steered Calchester to the championships pretty easily, but there are choices I didn’t make, including intentionally throwing matches, purchasing illicit performance enhancers, or getting involved in illegal dealings. Rocco can even be fired, permanently ending a run. Football Drama is strange but compelling, and even if I didn’t get all of it, it stuck with me.
Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite had its first Community Day this past Saturday. There was a heat wave in my area, but I headed out to play the game anyway. Ever since Wizards Unite came out, I haven’t run into anybody else playing it, and I figured the Community Day would be the chance to finally see how popular (or unpopular) this game is. The heat wave ruined my chance to answer that question.
Wizards Unite is the latest augmented reality game from Niantic, the developer of Pokémon Go. It’s a more complicated and activity-packed game than Pokémon Go, but it seems to be far less popular. During Pokémon Go Community Days, I tend to see dozens of people outdoors playing the game, picking up whichever special Pokémon or rewards are available as part of the in-game event. You can tell they’re playing the game because they’re standing near specific places the game designates PokéStops and gyms, doing the characteristic finger-flick for a Pokéball toss or the frenzied tapping that accompanies a gym battle. Sometimes, you’ll overhear people talking to each other about Pokémon, or you’ll even end up in a conversation yourself about the game. It’s fun.
I’ve been playing Wizards Unite since it came out, and I keep looking for other people playing. When I see people on their phones, I surreptitiously watch to see if they’re tracing out spell patterns. So far, I’ve only ever seen one other person who I thought was playing, but many cell phone games involve tracing patterns on the screen, so who knows?
The power of this curiosity dragged my girlfriend and me outside, with our phones, on Saturday afternoon, despite stifling humidity and temperatures in the 100s. We hoped the Community Day, which provides special in-game rewards and the opportunity for more experience points, would bring other secret players out of hiding—if they do in fact exist. But we also knew it wouldn’t be pleasant to play in that level of heat.
Whenever we could, we sought out Wizards Unite inns and greenhouses (the in-game equivalents to PokéStops) that happened to be situated under shady trees. We took a break at a convenience store to buy lemonades. Somehow, we survived the short but brutal walk to the nearest park, which was packed with fortresses, inns, and greenhouses. We figured that’s where other people would be. We thought, at last, we would meet other Wizards Unite players. We were wrong.
Even Wizards Unite did not think we should have left the house that day. The game issued a weather danger warning that told us to head back inside, but the Community Day bonuses were still in effect. The Diagon Alley shop still had a complimentary gift of spell energy. Confoundables were still appearing in higher numbers, including ones associated with the in-game event, like sparkly Hedwigs. Our Baruffio Brain Elixir potions granted us three times the experience points. I leveled up not once but twice on that Saturday afternoon. I could have leveled up even more, but it was not fun to be outside. Even the dopamine rush that I got from ascending more levels wasn’t enough to make up for my body screaming at me to go back indoors. If only the game had somehow provided me with a bag full of ice cubes to stuff in my pants.
When we finally got to the park and stood under yet another shady tree, we looked around for fellow players. We saw two different guys in two different cars, each tracing what looked like spell casts on their phones, their air conditioners blasting. There was only one good explanation for this bizarre behavior: they were Wizards Unite players. Of course, my girlfriend and I were the ones truly suffering for our experience points, as well as saving the planet by not blasting my car’s AC. The game had told us not to do it, but we had done it. It seems other people had decided to listen to the game’s weather warning. Or perhaps no one else is playing the game at all, besides me, my girlfriend, and those two guys in their cars.
Instead of walking back from the park, we got on a public bus back up the street. It was a short ride, but it was worth it. We drank our lemonades. We went back into an apartment with one air conditioner and multiple fans. We plugged in our phones and collapsed onto the couch. We had leveled up. But at what cost to our poor, overworked sweat glands?
Wizards Unite is a delightful game. Tracing spell patterns and collecting potion ingredients still provides more of a challenge than Pokémon Go ever did. But I’m still, apparently, one of the only people in my area who is actually playing it. I may someday meet other people who are, if they can ever manage to leave their air conditioned cars.
If you play HQ, a trivia app that supposedly doles out cash prizes, this kind of story might be familiar to you: someone won money from the game but can’t cash out and have access to it. The “someone” in this case is controversial Jeopardy player Alex Jacob, who has been trying to get his $20,000 jackpot for the past month to no avail.
Alex Jacob, a former professional poker player and six time Jeopardy champion, is now in that camp of people who want HQ to give him his money. According to a tweet from last night, Jacob won a $20,000 jackpot on June 10, and still hasn’t been able to cash out a month later.
During his run on Jeopardy, where Jacob both thrilled and frustrated fans by jumping around categories looking for Daily Doubles and then betting so much money that no one could overtake him, Jacob earned over $150,000 and also won the $250,000 grand prize during the Tournament of Champions. To him, $20,000 might not be all that much money, but as he wrote in his tweet, he still wants HQ to “honor their jackpots.”
“I am getting a lot of interview requests,” Jacob said in a follow up tweet. “I would honestly rather just get paid and not have to do any of them. Please make this right HQ Trivia.”
Kotaku reached out to both Jacob and HQ, and neither responded in time for publication.
There’s still a chance that Jacob could get paid, or even that HQ’s subscription model could turn things around, but it seems like the audience for HQ is ready to move on. Good news for people who schedule events for bars and community centers—as long as you deliver on your prizes, there are thousands of people who desperately need a trivia fix.
Flappy Royale, released today in beta on mobile and PC by game designers Orta Therox, Em Lazer-Walker, and Zach Gage, seems like a lot of things: clever, opportunistic, a joke. But it’s also fun.
Inspired by the 2013 mobile sensation Flappy Bird, Flappy Royale has you compete against 99 other poor souls to see who can survive the longest against a maze of deadly pipes. You can customize your look, and each level begins with all of the Flappys dropping in off a bus. Like in the original game, you tap the screen to make Flappy fly higher, or do nothing to watch him sink, all as part of an elaborate dance to avoid obstacles. Hit the ground, or anything else, and you’re dead.
But, unlike in the original game, you don’t die alone. In Flappy Royale, you die alongside an anonymous mass of other Flappys who are also desperately trying to cling to life. It feels more affirming. Even after the 20th straight failure without making it past the fourth pipe. Even if most or all of the other players aren’t actually real people (it’s not entirely clear). And honestly, how would you even be able to tell?
The battle royale genre is often a dark one. Fortnite might be full of colors, costumes, and goofy dances, but that’s all in service of a zero-sum struggle over limited resources that ultimately leaves all but one of its participants dead. As a result, Fortnite and other games like it are seen by some people as a cynical way of monetizing societal angst in the face of impending environmental collapse.
A sense of futility is pervasive in Flappy Royale as well, but it’s counter-balanced by the fact that everyone is doomed together. Or, at least, almost everyone. Some Flappys are really good at Flapping, and who knows what happens to them as they fly out of sight beyond the fifth and sixth pipes. Like Mario Royale (RIP), Flappy Royale is refreshing and entertaining despite its simplicity, in part because no one’s competing directly against each other. The sound effects are also really funny, and seeing all of the Flappys doing their best against impossible odds is heartwarming as hell.
The game’s currently available to check out on iOS, Android, and in your web browser over on itch.io.
Picking a smartphone to accompany you through life isn’t just about choosing between iOS and Android: It’s also about deciding which apps you’re going to pick for your emails, your driving directions, your music and so on. Having used both sets of native apps for years at this point, here’s our definitive verdict on the state of play in 2019.
For the sake of brevity, we’re going to focus on the iOS experience for the Apple apps and the Android experience for the Google apps. Though they don’t stand alone. Google’s apps are all available on both iOS and Android and it is much better at building web apps to accompany their mobile version. Apple lacks broader support but promises to hold a much tighter rein on your privacy.
These extra factors will play into your decision about which apps you’re going to use but we’ll save those discussions for another day. Here we’ll look specifically at what the user experience and feature set is like for each app on its native platform.
Apple Mail vs Gmail
It’s hard to see past Gmail here, with its slick sorting algorithms, modern-looking interface, intuitive use of labels, inline attachment previews and more besides. Gmail is full of useful features, like the option to only receive notifications for emails that Google’s algorithms deem to be important to you (Apple Mail has a sort-of manual equivalent with its VIP lists).
Apple Mail is by no means terrible—both apps let you manage multiple accounts with relative ease, group conversations into threads, swipe through your inbox to archive messages, and generally get your inbox business done—but there’s a reason a lot of third-party apps have tried to improve the emailing situation on iOS.
From scheduling emails to go at a certain time to snoozing conversations until later, Gmail has more features, as well as implementing most of the basics (such as adding attachments) in a smarter way. Plus, the searching and sorting are lightning fast, as you would expect from Gmail.
And the winner is… Gmail
Apple Maps vs Google Maps
All joking aside, Apple Maps is getting better than it used to be—hey it’s getting Street View in September—but that seven-year head start Google Maps has had is still showing. It has quite an extensive list of features that Apple Maps doesn’t, including cycling directions, multi-stop navigation, and manual offline map downloads if you know you’re going to be without an internet connection ahead of time.
Aesthetically there’s not much to choose between the two—greens and blues and browns abound—and they’re both fast to load and responsive. It’s difficult for us to compare the mapping data between these two apps across the entire planet, though both Apple and Google are heavily investing in this. Chances are one works better than the other in your part of the world, and you’ll know which one that is.
Google Maps is better at recommending new places and surfacing extras like warnings of traffic on your commute to work—because it knows more about you, natch—and also lets you leave reviews, photos, and ratings of the places you visit, which may or may not be important to you. This head-to-head is closer than it used to be in the core areas, but Google Maps still offers more overall.
And the winner is… Google Maps
Apple Music vs YouTube Music
Apple Music has the distinction of being the only Apple app for Android (besides the Move to iOS app…) and after a few teething problems now does a decent job of mixing a local iTunes library with an on-demand streaming one—or letting you stick to one or the other. In terms of recommendations, lyrics, playlist management, online radio and more, it’s one of Apple’s most impressive apps.
YouTube Music is very much a work-in-progress, with Google Play Music slowly getting pushed out. While it’s good enough as a music player, and can now play local files stored on an Android device, perhaps the only area where it beats Apple Music is in support for music videos… as you would expect it to.
It’s the Google Maps and Apple Maps comparison but flipped: Apple has much more experience and expertise in building music apps and working with digital music libraries, and it shows. From the design and feel of the app, to building up playlists and queueing up tracks, Apple Music wins out (even if you don’t pay the $10 a month and stick to your purchased MP3 collection).
And the winner is… Apple Music
Apple Safari vs Google Chrome
We have to confess to having a slight preference for Chrome over Safari on the desktop, just because of the way it looks and works, and how everything is tab-based. It feels more modern than Safari does, even if it is prone to slowing down once you’ve got a few dozen different tabs loaded up.
On mobile, those interface differences matter much less, which means Safari ends up being our favorite on a smaller screen. Everything feels a bit easier to find, from bookmarks to navigation buttons to private mode, and given Safari’s continued push for limiting how much you can be tracked online, Chrome has some catching up to do.
This is one area where your choice really is going to depend on what other apps and services you use—if you use Chrome on the desktop, for example, you’re going to default to it on mobile too—but taking everything but the core of the app out of the equation, we’d say Apple is ahead here.
And the winner is… Apple Safari
iOS Messages (and FaceTime) vs Android Messages (and Duo)
This is a head-to-head that comes with numerous caveats—like how many of your friends are also on iPhones—but in terms of the core messaging experience, it’s the Apple app that wins out. If you’ve got iMessage enabled, the difference is particularly stark: End-to-end encryption, Animoji and Memoji, dozens of useful apps… Android just can’t compete at this stage (and has only ever really got close with Hangouts).
Besides the problems Google has had getting the SMS successor RCS adopted by carriers, the Android Messages app is clunky and basic by comparison. It’s showing signs of improvement—GIF support, location sharing, and more comprehensive search options are slowly rolling out—but it’s a long way behind still.
The Apple FaceTime vs Google Duo contest is a little closer, with both offering a polished and straightforward video calling experience, with support for group video calls too. Again, FaceTime just about has the edge, but Duo has a few neat tricks of its own (like previews of who’s calling before you answer).
And the winner is… iOS Messages
Apple Photos vs Google Photos
Apple Photos and Google Photos really show the two tech giants playing to their strengths. Apple’s app is neat and tidy, with an increasing number of useful editing options, and some handy features for highlighting your best photos and videos. Google’s app goes big on the search and AI features (like face and object recognition), without as much attention given to edits or visual appeal.
It’s a tough one to call because both apps work well on their native platforms. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that Google Photos offers unlimited storage for free, if you can put up with a bit of resizing and compression, or own a Pixel phone. Neither company charges exorbitant rates for cloud storage, but if you want an online backup without paying anything, Google Photos fits the bill.
Having used both apps extensively, it’s fair to say Apple Photos is the best option for iOS users and Google Photos is the best option for Android (or multi-platform) users. Options like sharing, searching, and editing are pretty evenly matched, or not different enough to make one stand out against the other. Look for a constant barrage of improvements in both these services going forward, as well.
And the winner is… a draw
Apple Notes vs Google Keep
Apple Notes has been given a series of useful updates over the last few years, and there are more coming with iOS 13: Visual thumbnails for notes, shared folders, improved searching (including searching within images), new checklist options and more. It’s grown from offering the absolute basics to something much more Evernote-esque.
Google Keep has also developed from humble, simple beginnings into a comprehensive tool for note-taking. Features such as note tags, searching within images, support for reminders and shared notes, and an appealing interface have helped make it one of the best apps Google has to its name.
A very close call in this round then, but we reckon Apple Notes just about edges Keep out in terms of overall polish and usefulness. It’ll be interesting to see how Google responds to the changes to Notes arriving with iOS 13.
And the winner is… Apple Notes
Apple Calendar vs Google Calendar
Both Apple Calendar and Google Calendar benefit from years and years of development—they’ve both grown into very capable, very solid calendar apps with all the features you’re going to need, from recurring events to sharing calendars with others to getting alerts when it’s time to leave for an appointment.
We think Google wins it in interface terms, as its Calendar is one of those apps where the Material Design really pops and works well—the use of color and space is a bit easier on the eye than in Apple Calendar, and the use of stock imagery behind months of the year and regular appointments (like the dentist) is a nice touch.
Google Calendar also incorporates Goals (like exercise) and Reminders very neatly, which are features Apple’s developers haven’t gotten around to yet. You may prefer one or the other based on a particular feature or integration with a particular service (such as Gmail or Apple Mail), but taken on their own, Google’s is the better-looking and more functional calendar app of the two.
And the winner is… Google Calendar
Apple News vs Google News
The news apps from Apple and Google continue to evolve and change with the times, both offering up a selection of popular trending stories as well as articles personally recommended for you. You can dig into news based on topic or region in both these apps, though it’s slightly easier in Google News.
Apple News makes more of an attempt to create a Flipboard-style interface that’s pleasing to the eye, and when it works, it works very well—though when it doesn’t work it looks rather ugly. Google News is happier just to lift content straight from the web, which means it’s often both faster and less aesthetically consistent.
It’s another tight round because both Apple News and Google News do a decent job of serving up headlines for you and personalizing content, and both these apps can look stylish on one screen and disjointed on the next. We have a slight preference for Google News, just because it’s more natively welded to the web, and better for it.
And the winner is… Google News
And the rest…
That’s probably enough comparisons for now, but there are several more apps where Google and Apple are directly competing against each other. With its TV app, Apple seems to be moving ahead of Google in terms of how well it delivers movies and TV shows, for example, just as it has the lead in music too.
We can probably all agree that Google Drive is a more comprehensive and capable offering than iCloud Drive at the moment, with Apple still finding its feet in the cloud storage stakes (you’ll actually be able to share an iCloud folder before the end of the year). With apps like Reminders and Contacts, meanwhile, they’re pretty much even.
If you’ve been keeping score you’ll notice that Apple and Google are locked level on points after our rundown of their app offerings, but of course you’re going to have a mobile platform of preference and that’s going to influence your own picks for your favorite apps—you might even overlook a few failings as long as a particular app integrates well with whatever OS your phone runs.
During the WWDC 2019 keynote on Monday, we heard about a ton of features coming to iOS 13, the new iPadOS, and macOS Catalina—but Apple itself admitted that there was much more it didn’t have time to showcase. Here are some of the best and coolest software tweaks heading to iPhones, iPads, and Macs later this year.
iOS 13 and iPadOS
Wifi selection from Control Center: The next versions of Apple’s mobile OSes are going to let you select a wifi network directly from the Control Center. At the moment, you can only toggle wifi on and off, so it should save us all numerous trips to the Settings app in the future.
Relationship labels for your Contacts: Contacts gets a tweak with the option to define your relationships with certain people—like your brother or your significant other. It should go some way to helping you manage your sprawling contacts list more easily.
Share to Messages: Tapping the Share button inside an app gives you extra options in iOS 13 and iPadOS—specifically the ability to share directly to people in a Messages conversation.
Mute threads in Mail: Don’t let a busy email conversation distract you anymore. Once iOS 13 and iPadOS land, you’ll be able to mute threads for a specific time period, so they don’t prompt a notification. The muting works across all your Apple devices.
Mouse support: Hold on to your hats, because mouse support is coming to iOS 13 and iPadOS as an Accessibility feature. A click works like a finger press, and while there isn’t an official list of supported devices yet, we know it’ll work with USB and Bluetooth mice.
Control who your kids are chatting with: Among a selection of new features coming to Screen Time is the option to set limits on who your kids are communicating with at certain times. You’ll also be able to manage the contacts that appear on your children’s devices.
Block senders in Mail: Speaking of the default email client on Apple devices, iOS 13 and iPadOS will let you block specific senders—messages from those people get sent straight to the trash, and again, the rule gets applied on all your synced Apple gadgets.
More complex photo searches: Apple continues to add improvements to its Photos apps, as we saw on stage at WWDC. One new feature that wasn’t demoed is more complex searches—you’ll be able to combine terms such as “beach” and “selfies” in a single query.
Volume on screen: There’s a new volume indicator to enjoy in the upcoming software refreshes—it starts off chunky and then shrinks down as you adjust the volume using the buttons on your device. You can also tap and drag on the screen to change the volume.
Download larger apps on cell networks: The default limit for apps downloaded over cell networks on iOS is 200MB, but Apple is making it easier to override this in the next OS refreshes. You can choose to remove the limit entirely or get a prompt each time.
Low data mode: Want to keep data usage down to a minimum? The new Low Data Mode toggle switch in Cellular Data Options under Cellular in Settings is for you. Apple’s in-line blurb says it helps apps “reduce their network data use”—that’s all we know so far.
Optimized battery charging: This new Settings option in iOS 13 and iPadOS changes how your devices charge. Instead of getting pushed right back up to 100 percent every time you plug in, it’ll learn from your daily routine and habits to work out when you’ll need a full charge. This could help your battery last longer.
Auto-close idle tabs in Safari: Dive into the Safari section of Settings, and you’ll see some new options for automatically closing down tabs you’ve forgotten about in iOS 13 and iPadOS. The options areAfter One Day, After One Week, or After One Month.
Take full-page screenshots on the web: Want to take a full-page screenshot of a website? No problem, with the new software updates Apple is rolling out soon: Simply take a screenshot of Safari as you normally would, then tap the Full Page option up at the top.
AirPlay 2 comes to Apple Home: You’re going to be able to add AirPlay 2 speakers to scenes and automations in iOS 13 and iPadOS.
Access your Apple Account: Apple is finally dragging some of the account management settings that were previously only available on the web into macOS. From a new System Preferences option, you’ll be able to manage devices, your Apple subscriptions, and so on.
Unsubscribe from emails: As well as getting the ability to mute threads and block senders in Mail that we’ve already talked about above, Mail on the desktop will also get an unsubscribe button for mailing lists in Catalina.
A virtual Touch Bar with Sidecar: We heard that your iPad could be used as second display via the new Sidecar feature, but one neat extra detail is a virtual Touch Bar that appears on the second screen for compatible apps.
Picture-in-picture for QuickTime: QuickTime already has a PiP mode of sorts, but it’s becoming official with the arrival of macOS Catalina, and it will work across multiple spaces and in full-screen mode. It’ll be available with a single click from the navigation controller.
Share folders in iCloud Drive: iCloud is catching up with Dropbox and its ilk. In macOS Catalina (and indeed with iOS and iPadOS), you can share entire iCloud folders with other people, rather than individual files. You can also grant permission to add files to a folder.