Hardly a week goes by without me writing about one LEGO-related mobile application or another. Today we received a press release for a new iPhone/iPod Touch app called 'LEGO Hobby'. Here's what it said:
"To mark the worldwide launch of the LEGO Hobby iPhone App, anyone who downloads the LEGO Hobby App from the App Store before 31 December stands to win $650 worth of LEGO.
"The LEGO Hobby App contains every set of instructions for building any LEGO set which the user can possibly imagine. The LEGO Hobby App has a slick and intuitive interface with tabs at the bottom for the various functions. The user can search the App by number, year and theme, from Star Wars to Indiana Jones, from Trains to Batman. Want to put your own collection together, look something technical up about LEGO or DUPLO, find news about LEGO activities, or share instructions with your friends? The LEGO Hobby App allows you to do all this.
"Are you up to the challenge? The LEGO Hobby App can be downloaded via the App Store for just $1.99."
Sounds good, eh? Well, as you probably recall I don't have an iPhone but I do have an iPad, so I thought I'd burn a couple of dollars (or £1.19 in my case) and check it out. Now, as wth most iPhone apps, it looks very polished and follows all the usual UI conventions of the platform, so is easy to use. It comes with a database of sets, which seems to be comprehensive, and which are indexed by theme, years and set numbers. Each set has a somewhat grainy thumbnail to aid identification.
Once you've found the set you're interested in you can mark it as a favourite, or view instructions which it then downloads via whatever data link you have available. The instructions have not been made specially for the app: those for later sets are the PDFs available from LEGO customer services (which we link to here), and those for older sets are scans that have probably originated from http://www.brickfactory.info/: I'm guessing that because that site, and this app. originate in Holland.
So it's all very well and good, but is there any point to it? The iPhone has a relatively small screen so any reproduction of instructions on it are going to be tiny and really not much use if you're planning on reconstructing the set.
However, although it is not an iPad app, it will run on it and then it becomes more useful. Although the iPad scales up iPhone apps and generally they look pretty awful (this is no exception) the actual instructions are shown at whatever resolution they are available in, so are much more usable and I can imagine having the instructions on the iPad on my building table alongside a pile of bricks and actually being able to build from them.
To conclude then, this has a nice little app and if you don't have an iPad there's no reason not to buy it for a couple of dollars, if just out of curiosity. But if you do, I'd hold off buying it until a native iPad version becomes available when it will suddenly become much more interesting and usable.
Update: I've heard from the author that an iPad version will be released in November and it'll be a free upgrade. So, I guess there really is no reason not to buy it now if you have an iPad.
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