Digital Life: Hold the front page for the camera-phone pic exclusive
When The New York Times printed a cameraphone image on its front page to illustrate a report about soldiers in Afghanistan last month, debate raged about whether it spelled the end of photojournalism or signalled a new dawn.
This was no snatched image from Joe Public of a terrorist attack, but a snapshot taken by professional photographer Damon Winter with his phone.
"Composing with the iPhone is more casual and less deliberate," Winter said.
"And the soldiers often take photos of each other with their phones, so they were more comfortable than if I had my regular camera."
Winter was also following the maxim that the best camera to use is the one you always have with you -- in most cases, that's now your phone, with many handsets capable of stunning images in the right conditions.
Nokia's N8, for instance, houses a camera that rivals a standalone digicam.
The iPhone 4 has more modest specs, but is one of the most popular cameras in the world at online photo sites.
That stems from the ease of sharing your photos but also the vast range of apps that can enhance mobile photography -- some of which have Android equivalents.
Paradoxically, many apps centre on making your images look unrealistic or aged, as if you'd pulled an old print from a dusty shoebox.
Damon Winter used Hipstamatic (€1.59) for his Afghan-istan pictures, applying a super-saturated look that mimics the output of a cheap film camera.
Hipstamatic's doggedly retro vibe has netted it more than 1.5 million downloads thanks to its huge range of options that imitate using different kinds of lenses, flashes and film types.
Most of these cost extra, but you can pick and choose the ones you like best.
Instagram (free) has been described as Twitter for photos, enabling you to instantly view the snaps your friends are taking and vice-versa.
You don't have to share anything you don't want and the app is packed with a variety of filters to spruce up even the most mundane of images.
Camera+ (€0.79) works like a replacement for the iPhone's built-in camera app, enabling much finer control and adding an image stabiliser for those shaky hands.
It too includes a bucket-load of filters and fixes for common problems.
Tiltshift Generator (€0.79) taps into the fad for faking miniatures in which objects or people are made to look like toys.
In the real world, it requires a costly lens on your camera -- here it's available with a simple tap.
Moto GP 10/11
The trouble with annually updated franchises is that adjacent versions are often separated by no more than the thickness of the paper on which the marketing blurb was written. A few cosmetic additions and a couple more bullet points for the back of the box often suffice.
At first, that seems to be the problem with the 10/11 update to the motorbike sim, which suffers from lack of exposure and glamour by comparison to its F1 cousin.
The more refined handling and nuanced physics are difficult to pinpoint, but last year's effort was no slouch anyway. More disappointing is the lack of progress on the graphical front, with trackside scenery and bikes looking merely passable compared to the splendour in the likes of Gran Turismo 5.
Yet at the heart of MotoGP 10/11 beats a fine simulation, in which learning to lean, tuck and wear leather with style is your passport to victory.
Not another match-three puzzler, you cry. Yes, 4 Elements rests its hat on the hoariest of game clichés but at least it spawns a twist.
It begins, rather confusingly, as hidden-object puzzle in which you must find the missing elements of sacred items, such as, er, a watering can. But it quickly shifts into match-three gear, where finding adjacent tiles opens up a channel for water to flow in a maze. Keep it flowing in the right direction and you'll complete the level.
Despite peculiar diversions back into hidden objects or spot the difference, the core gameplay is fast-paced and just addictive enough to keep puzzle fans on the hook.
If you were going to pick highlights from the back catalogue of the pioneering Dreamcast console, this paltry lot of four titles wouldn't trouble the top of the list.
There's some nostalgia on tap for revisiting Crazy Taxi and maybe Space Channel 5: Part 2 but Sonic Adventures and Sega Bass Fishing don't cut it.
Classics such as Jet Grind Radio or Shenmue would be far more deserving of a compilation.
Bits and bytes
Gamefication at a valuable level
- Gamefication is one of those horrible buzz words coined by marketers.
But you'll hear a lot more of it this year as companies catch on to the idea of turning life into a game to alleviate the boredom of mundane tasks.
It could be as simple as awarding you "points" for personal goals achieved or as complex as the Chromaroma public transport game launched late last year in London, which encourages you to get off at different stops and explore.
Location-based services FourSquare and Facebook Places already play with gameification and the hottest app to get in on the act is SCVNGR.
Like FourSquare, you "check in" to a venue (pub, restaurant, etc) but the difference is that instead of just winning badges, you can be rewarded with discounts or freebies.
Try the app yourself on iPhone or Android -- but be warned there's not much SCVNGR activity in Ireland yet.
'Call of Duty' in the black
- We all knew Call of Duty was a licence to print money, but latest figures show that CoD: Black Ops (pictured below) has become the best-selling game of all time.
After netting $1bn (€700,000,000) in its first six weeks, Black Ops has gone on to sell 13.7 million copies in the US alone. That puts it just ahead of Wii Play, with its tally of 13 million, but Black Ops is still flying off the shelves and hanging around in the top 10 chart.
Vital app for blood donors
- Do your bit for the Irish Blood Transfusion Service and download its iPhone app that shows you live information about which blood types are needed most critically.
It can also help you find the nearest blood donation clinic and connect you by phone to make an appointment.