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Tom Standage

A Game, a Gadget and an App

Match the dots, stand your phone up and stabilise your videos

Tom Standage | January/February 2015

A GAME TWO DOTS
This dot-matching game belongs to the same genre as “Candy Crush Saga”. You know the kind: the game is free to download, has a simple matching mechanic, and relies on artificial scarcity. You are given only a certain number of lives or plays per hour, and a quota of special power-ups to help with difficult levels, but you can get more of both—provided you pay real money. This approach only works if the underlying game is fiendishly addictive. Such games also pose the deeper challenge of a meta-game: can you finish without paying a penny? Some artificial-scarcity games (“Disco Bees”, for one) soon become impossible without paid-for power-ups. But “Two Dots” gets the balance just right, keeping things challenging without being frustrating, and continually adding new twists. And whereas the garish graphics of “Candy Crush” bruise the eyeballs, “Two Dots” has a relaxing, Scandinavian, minimalist feel. So try it—and the meta-game too.

Two Dots for iOS, Android and Amazon devices, free

A GADGET UNE BOBINE
A charge-and-sync cable with a difference, and not just because it has a French name and originated as a Kickstarter project. Une Bobine is a metal-clad cable that can be twisted to form a stand, with a coil acting as the base, like a cobra. It even supports my giant new iPhone 6 Plus, holding it up alongside the computer screen while I work, so I can see incoming messages, e-mails and alerts at a glance. It’s also great for video calls—a remote caller can join a group sitting around a table—and as a tripod for smartphone photography. It’s not sturdy enough on its own to act as a car mount, so extra supporting clips are available. But as a desk stand, it’s a star.

Une Bobine for MicroUSB/Android £19.99 and Lightning/iPhone £24.99

AN APP HYPERLAPSE BY INSTAGRAM
Other apps let you shoot time-lapse videos, but Hyperlapse, from the folks at Instagram, adds a brilliant twist: it uses the gyroscopic sensors in your phone (the ones that know when you turn it sideways) to measure your movement while you’re filming. This information is then used to stabilise the resulting video. The result is mesmerisingly smooth time-lapse footage, even when you’re on the move. It’s another example of something a phone can imitate (in this case, a professional Steadicam rig) with a dose of clever software. Set the playback speed, hit share, and that’s it: Hyperlapse is ridiculously simple to use. For examples, see #hyperlapse on Instagram. Alas, there’s no Android version—yet.

Hyperlapse for iPhone, free

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