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Tom Standage

A Game, a Gadget and an App

A kettle for coffee nerds, and a winner in this autumn’s game of phones

Tom Standage | September/October 2013

A GAME Infinity Blade II

Like Doctor Who, gaming consoles regenerate every few years. Gamers are abuzz over the approach this autumn of the next Microsoft Xbox, confusingly called the Xbox One, and the new Sony PlayStation, the PS4. But the real question is whether dedicated games consoles still make sense at all, when phones and tablets do gaming so well. If you doubt this, check out "Infinity Blade II", which, although 18 months old, is by far the best-looking game for iPad or iPhone. It’s a simple yet stylish fighting game: you hack and slash your way past a series of increasingly capable adversaries, upgrading your kit as you go. It can be played in short bursts and does not demand an investment of 35 hours or £35. It looks so good because it uses Unreal Engine 3, the software behind heavyweight console games ("Gears of War", "Mass Effect"). With Apple and Google showing more interest in gaming, Microsoft and Sony are busy talking up the other features of their consoles, such as their ability to stream TV and movies. "Infinity Blade II" encapsulates the fight over the future of gaming, as mobile insurgents take on the incumbent console-makers.
Infinity Blade II for iPad, iPhone & iPod touch, £4.99

A GADGET Bonavita Electronic Gooseneck Kettle

Obsessive coffee fans know that you are supposed to brew coffee using water slightly below boiling point. Water at 92˚C is said to be best, though true coffee nerds like to match the temperature to the beans. I’m not quite that finicky, but my current coffee set-up pairs a classic Chemex glass coffee carafe with a Bonavita cordless electronic kettle, which produces water at your chosen temperature—for me, the perfect 92˚C. A display in the base shows the temperature as the water heats up, and can switch to timer mode if you want to measure the steeping time. And the neck, which really is goose-like, allows for precise pouring of water. If you’re getting serious about your drip coffee, this is the kettle for you.
Bonavita gooseneck kettle around £85

AN APP Beethoven's 9th Symphony
Neither a book nor a documentary, this impressive app is a sort of travel guide to one of the best-known pieces in the classical repertoire. At its heart are four complete recordings of Beethoven’s 9th, which you can switch between seamlessly to appreciate differences in tempo, interpretation and, in the case of John Eliot Gardner’s version using period instruments, pitch. A scrolling score with subtitles explains what’s going on, and video interviews with conductors, performers and commentators bring out the complexities of the symphony and the controversies surrounding its interpretation. All this lets you dig into the music from a variety of angles, so that when you switch the app to simple audio playback, you’ll appreciate it in new ways.
Beethoven’s 9th Symphony for iPad and iPhone, £9.99

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