Remote computer access and 2D car racing: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps include a free productivity app to gain access to your computer remotely and a 2D driving game that's surprisingly fun and addictive.

iPhone
Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

The big news of the day is the announcement of when Apple's latest creation, the iPad, will be available. According to Apple, the "magical and revolutionary" product will be in stores April 3 starting at $499, but you can preorder the device as early as March 12. Only the Wi-Fi model will be available at first, with the Wi-Fi/3G capable iPad to come later in April.

There is already plenty of analysis all over the Web about who will buy the iPad and whether it's truly a viable alternative to laptops and Netbooks. Most reviewers seem to be predicting that the device will only appeal to tech and Web novices, or those with enough disposable income to spend their money on what reviewers deem no more than a luxury device. The consensus seems to be that it's "neat," but not very useful to serious tech fans.

As an iPhone app reviewer, I think the iPad will indeed be a revolutionary device. With now more than 150,000 apps in the iTunes Store and developers dedicated to upgrading old apps and creating new ones that take advantage of the added processing power and screen real estate, I think the iPad will prove to become much more than just a luxury item. I think once the iPad gains some traction, we're going to see more and more useful apps that will be exclusive to the device, with options and features that would be impossible on smaller devices like the iPhone and iPod Touch. I guess what I'm saying here is that I think it's dangerous to write the iPad off before we really get to see what it can do. I have a feeling that reviewers and tech Web sites will be humming a different tune once the iPad is in the wild. Now that we know when they're coming out, we'll just have to wait and see what happens when they actually get into people's hands.

This week's apps include a free productivity app to gain access to your computer remotely and a 2D driving game that's surprisingly fun and addictive.

TeamViewer (iPhone)
Use the icons at the bottom to bring up the iPhone keyboard for input, perform right-clicks, quick zoom, and adjust settings. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

TeamViewer (free) for iPhone lets you remotely view and control your computer's desktop and applications and comes in handy for remotely supporting your friends and family members. In order to use this program on the iPhone, you will need to install TeamViewer on the computer you wish to connect to (Mac or Windows). Once installed on a desktop computer, TeamViewer gives you an ID and password so you can connect using the iPhone app remotely. Once connected, you can set various permissions in the settings to allow viewing privileges and even to give remote users full access to your desktop and files.

We already liked TeamViewer for both Mac and Windows machines and the iPhone app is also extremely useful. There is a little bit of lag time, and TeamViewer for iPhone is certainly not as easy as using your desktop computer, but for demonstration purposes, remote support for family and friends, and transferring files, TeamViewer for iPhone does an admirable job. To make things easier on the iPhone, TeamViewer comes with touch-screen gestures you can use to perform certain tasks such as right-clicking, window scrolling, drag-and-drop actions, and zoom. You also have the ability to browse recent connections and create bookmarked locations with partners. This version is not for commercial use (the commercial version of TeamViewer is $99). Overall, if you want a way to access files, demonstrate actions, or perform remote support for friends, this free app is the one to download.

Alpine Crawler World
The unique pedal controls require that you touch then pull down the pedal for precise throttle and braking. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Alpine Crawler World (99 cents) is a 2D side-scrolling driving game that's not immediately impressive visually, but quickly becomes more impressive as you explore the levels and environments. There are three game types including Free Ride, Time Trial, and Challenge. Free Ride lets you practice unlocked courses, and Time Trial challenges you to get to the end of a course in the least amount of time. The Challenge game type lets you race on courses from multiple different environments one after the other. You'll need to finish all the courses in an area on Time Trial to unlock new areas to race. The unique driving pedals let you control how much throttle is applied as well as how hard you touch the brakes. Once you've completed a few races, Open Feint support lets you view leaderboards and see if friends are playing.

Alpine Crawler World isn't particularly impressive graphically on first blush, but real-life physics, weather effects, and night and day courses made me appreciate the overall look the more I played. You get several cars and trucks you'll need to unlock, all with different engine sounds and physical attributes that will affect the way you handle the terrain. You can choose between five different drivers, though you'll mostly just see their head bobbing in the car as you race. You also can choose the color of your vehicles from a large color palette. Overall, with numerous tracks across several different locations, real-time physics, and tons of customization options, Alpine Crawler world is a great time-waster with plenty of replayability.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Do you think the iPad will be a hit or a dud? Are you glad to finally have a way to remotely help your family members with computer issues on your iPhone? What do you think of Alpine Crawler World? Let me know in the comments!

 

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