Sunday, 16 January 2011

iPhone Scrabble apps

Round 1... FIGHT!

A quick review on the difference between the big 2 iPhone Scrabble apps - Newtoy Inc.'s Words With Friends and EA Nederland's Scrabble.

The 2 Scrabble games have surprisingly large differences in the game modes they offer.

Words With Friends offers:
  • Online play (either with friends or with a random stranger). Notifications are sent to the phone to let the player know when the other player has played.
  • 'Hotseat' play with another person on the same phone. 
Both of these modes are 2 player only.
Scrabble offers:
  • 'Hotseat' play with up to 4 other players.
  • Single player against the computer.
  • 2 player multiplayer, using a local wifi. 2 separate iPhones with the Scrabble app are required to play this mode.
Both offer useful game modes. In fact my Scrabble habits mean I keep both on my phone for the differing modes offered. Words With Friends online remote play is great. It means I can play with friends no matter when/where they are (I'm having an exciting game with a friend in America right now). The notifications are a nice touch as it means it's hard to forget about a game (even if it does play havoc with my work!).

Scrabble's ability to play against the computer is great for when I just want to play several turns in a row then and there. Words with Friends must be played with another person... making it a slow game (much like real scrabble really). I also make heavy use out of the 'hotseat' play, as it means many people can get involved at once.

One of the more surprising inclusions is Scrabble's 'online' play, needing a local wifi connection and 2 phones. This is very restrictive, and even when this is the case, it's just easier to use the 1 phone!

While both apps have advantages and disadvantages with regards to their functionality, there's 1 clear winner with the user experience of the apps.

Words with Friends is so much more engaging than Scrabble. This is apparant throughout your interation with the app:
  • The most obvious difference is the responsiveness of the touch controls. Using Words with Friends the pieces flow around the screen responding to your every touch. Scrabble seems sluggish and unresponsive in comparison.
  • Words With Friends allows you to have several concurrent games being played at any 1 time. I'm not what the limit is, but I've never hit it. Scrabble, on the other hand only allows 1 game to be ongoing at any one time. Half way through playing against the computer, but want to play hotseat with your friends? Which do you want more?
  • In order to continue a game using Scrabble required 3 'clicks'. Words with Friends needs 1. It's so much quicker to pick up a your phone and get playing. This is particularly unforgivable as Scrabble can only save 1 game at a time anyway, it's pretty obvious what game I want to play!
  • Both offer the 'shuffle' ability - shake the phone to see your pieces jumbled up. The aim is to give you inspiration for your next move. With you shuffle using Scrabble you need to shake the phone fairly hard (I thought the app didn't offer the feature at all at first!). The pieces drop off the screen, returning in a different order. Removing them from the screen is a mistake. When this first occurred I thought I'd swapped all my letters! Words with Friends shuffles much more easily, a small flick of the wrist is all that's required. During the shuffle the letters remain on the screen. Significantly reducing the risk of mis-interpreting what's occuring.
  • Finally, the visibility of Words with Friends is is so much greater than Scrabble, which has tried to stick with the 'Scrabble' style. While this works with the board game. It's less successful on a small screen.

Which is easier to read?
  • It's not a one-way street though. Words with Friends MUST have signal before it can be opened. You can't plan your next move on the tube. A real irritant. I'm surprised it doesn't save your move for when signal returns... or at least allow you to look.
  • BONUS NEW FACTS - Another finding I couldn't reproduce earlier. Blank tiles. To place a blank tile using the Scrabble app the user must scroll through the alphabet using left and right arrows. This may take some time. However using the Words with Friends app the screen is replaced with the alphabet. 1 press is all that's required.
     Much faster = happier player.
1 app requires 1 click, 1 can take up to 26!
    Of the 2 applications, Words with Friends is a much better experience to play with. Throughout the whole interaction, it shines with a polish Scrabble can't even approach.


    1. Do you know which app I can get whereby I can play against the computer (on my Iphone 4)?

      The one I have now only allows me to play against ppl and I know no one with whom to play.

      I have these random ppl that just sit there and do nothing.

    2. Nice article! Why wasn't wordfeud included?

    3. Good question - I afraid I wasn't aware of it at the time... I should have added the words 'other apps are also available!'.

      How do you feel it stands up against the 2 I've talked about here?