So most of what you know about Australia probably involves kangaroos and boomerangs, but what you may not know about the nation is that it’s a tech savvy capital doing pioneering work in mobile. With it’s proximity to Asia, Australia picks up some of the best tech trends from places like China and Japan and adapts them for Western markets and has a large talent pool for development. Most of these apps don’t scream “Aussie” but they are proudly from down under and are competitors to watch particularly as iPad grows.
We’ll start with the very best, Real Racing is one of the crown jewels of Aussie app developments and has become a real success story for the nation as well as for the app developers everywhere, encouraging the move to selling better games at higher prices and working with advertisers to offer sponsored lite games. Firemint’s Real Racing is one of the first games I advise for new iPhone owners (especially guys) and in recent months it has dropped in price from close to $10 down to about $5. The game has great graphics, communication and game play and is sure to be even more awesome on iPad. The company has already stated on its website that its rearing to go for iPad and with a device sized at almost exactly the width of a steering wheel, what happens should be awesome. If you aren’t yet ready to spring $10 you can try Real Racing GTI, a sponsorship with Volkswagen offering racing with the GTI sport hatches.
Our second app is also from Firemint, but rather than terrestrial vehicles this app takes to the air. Become an air traffic controller in this slyly addictive game that pioneered its own “line draw” genre. Being in a control tower sounds like a tough job, but this game starts by granting you a genius status and just leaves timing to you and that’s not as easy when it comes to coping with planes helicopters and (in a nod to its Aussie heritage) The Royal Flying Doctors service. Don’t expect the same sort of experience as Real Racing, this game is far simpler and priced accordingly but it is a challenge enough that it will be a long time before you delete this one.
So I almost feel bad including this game in the list because it really isn’t supposed to be more than a promotional piece of its development company Millipede, but I’ve actually really enjoyed the game and the fact that I’ve spent hours of my time at its namesake station makes me have a special attachment. For those who haven’t yet been to Melbourne (where Millipede is based) Flinders is a glorious gold train station in the heart of the city, but unfortunately in this game it is under siege by ninjas. From your platform you have to toss throwing stars at your attackers as the challenges get tougher and trains and passengers start going by. This is by no means Millipede’s best work but I’m not bored of it yet.
Don’t be fooled by this app’s Silicon Valley ties, it’s headed up by an Aussie. Although founder Ben Keighran now lives in California he is a native Australian and still keeps strong ties with the startup and tech community there. Chomp is one of Ben’s many startups and is a simple app review app and (just recently) app review site. The app has garnered some big praise from the likes of TechCrunch but faces stiff competition in the growing world of app review site (can anyone say Appolicious?) Chomp is developing a loyal following though and differentiates itself with short 140 character reviews similar to Twitter.
This app could become particularly useful with the advent of the iPad and the Aussie company behind it, Syncode, is ready with an iPad app. Synotes is great for students, or anyone who religiously uses their mobile device for notetaking and should be a natural for the educational applications of the iPad. This app will store your notes in the cloud, organize by icon, creation date or edit date and synch them to your computer and the web through a great web interface. This isn’t a super flashy one, but sticks with Syncode’s style of useful apps like Syncopy and iTweetReply.
Melbourne Bar Secrets – A Melbourne bar guide
This app actually started from the most low-tech of origins. Deck of Secrets was originally just that, a deck of a cards. The cards revealed some of the hippest bars hidden in Melbourne laneways and obscure Sydney neighborhoods and became a staple stocking stuffer for Australians. Taking the physical cards and putting them into digital apps was a natural leap and now the cards have expanded to cover cities around the world as well as restaurants, drinking and shopping. These apps are a bit of a different way of approaching a location search, you won’t find the sophistication of augmented reality or crazy GPS, but they do have what made them famous and that’s good descriptions of difficult-to-find locations in some of the world’s best cities.
Lingopal Danish – talking phrasebook
You get a pretty good impression of this app the minute you download it and it warns you about objectionable material. Australians are travelers, with a normal work holiday of four weeks and the tradition of a gap year for students, Aussies get around the globe. And let’s be honest, when we travel sure we want to see the sight and sample foreign foods, but there’s also some other things we want to sample…like the opposite sex. If this is your goal then LingoPal can help you achieve it, in fact they have a whole foreign language app strictly for multi-lingual flirtation. Developed by Aussie company mogeneration, this app represents lots of different languages and sure they also have useful business and emergency phrases, but how many other language apps are going to tell you how to say “Since I met you my trousers feel tighter”?
Sun Seeker: 3D Augmented Reality Viewer
The uses for Sun Seeker may not be immediately apparent for you, or at least they weren’t for me. Why exactly would I want to track the path of the sun outside of being some solar or meteorological nut? Well once I started talking to friends of mine it turns out there’s actually a lot of uses for this augmented reality app with real practical, professional applications. Developed by Australian company Ajnaware, Sun Seeker can tell you the path of the sun today or any other day and offer either an AR view through your camera or a flat compass view. This is incredibly useful for people like photographers and videographers who need to know how long they will have the right light for a scene, and on one Ajnawar entry they describe its use for Realtors to show a home in its most spectacular light. This is actually a very sophisticated app that, for the right person, can be priceless.
Also by mogeneration (and yes, the company’s name is indeed spelled entirely lower case), this app makes the social media life just a little bit easier by putting all your Facebook, Flickr, AIM, Myspace, Yahoo, Google, imeem and iPhone contacts together all in one spot. It’s a bit like an address book for all your social networks where you can see everyone’s status and update your own status..basically it condenses what might take four or more apps into one.
App developer BigTinCan has actually found a fair amount of success in the BlackBerry market, largely due to the lack of competition and their BuzzMe app that controls the lights, sound and vibration of the BlackBerry and has entertained top-of-the-chart rankings. Think of this app as using VoIP as compared to your regular phone lines, almost everything you can do with your phone you can also use Connect for but at a cheaper VoIP rate and although you have to buy credit, the app starts you out with a bit to begin with. Another awesome aspect is the MyFiles folder, which allows you to put multimedia in a file online and then access it from your computer. This company’s flexibility between mobile devices makes them an unexpected competitor to watch in the app space.