Viber finally comes out with a proper iOS 7 version

If you managed to keep installed Viber after all the other mobile messaging apps redesigned their apps, you are in luck. The purple messenger has finally come out with an updated version that properly blends in with the iOS 7 style we have now grown accustomed to. The end result is quite good too.

Apart from a technical update on 3.1 last November, which added basic support to the old Viber, not much had been going on the iOS front. For an app that for many is an instant messenger on the phone, having to use the old keyboard was less than ideal. The kind of thing really noticeable even for light users. Although this year we've seen the truckload of instant messengers update — WhatsApp took some time too — and new promising projects like Telegram launch, Viber kept iPhone users waiting until now.

The first impression is pretty good. The app adopts the typical interface paradigms without the influence of Viber apps on other platforms, but keeping some personality there. The most remarkable note is the use of the chat bubble shape used on the logo. This type of inflated rectangle with rounded corners is used in interface elements and most icons. You can see this on the user profile pictures, breaking the design trend to put all the avatars on circles. This is clearly staying away from the designer mock-ups of what a new Viber would look like, making it easily recognisable.

Similar navigation structure

Despite the new look, the features and navigation are all in the same place. You can find the messages, recent calls, contact lists, and keypad and sticker market on the bottom menubar. There are some new details worth mentioning. The awful owl default background has been changed to something more abstract using a colour palette Apple already suggests on its backgrounds — the beach and one of the gradient backgrounds that come with iOS 7.

The calling screen also echoes some of the design decisions at Cupertino, although this time not really keeping up to date. The call screen mimics the iOS 7 phone app, which has changed in the latest 7.1 version. In summary, you get a blurred background with the picture or avatar of your contact and the name displayed prominently on the top in a narrow Helvetica Neue. The button layout follows the one you are used to, now using hair thin design and custom iconography that matches perfectly the squirqle theme.

There's more to it than the new appearance. The very popular feature of blocking users is now available, which will inevitably trigger some questions to know who is actually blocking. Some users on App Store reviews note the blocking might accidentally add numbers mentioned on the messages but I haven't been able to test it myself. For group texts, there's the option to mute in case they get too active, instead of leaving the group altogether. There's also an enhance multimedia picker, allowing you to select multiple pictures at once and even send video — playing the catch up game with Telegram, which excelled at quick file sharing.

I'm not that interested on the monetisation options that have been added slowly to the app. The first launch will throw a splash screen reminding you about the option to place calls to normal mobile and landline numbers, annoying, but similar to past updates. The sticker shop keeps using the icon badge to alert you of new sticker packages, purposely confusing you to open the app expecting a new message. Not that I use stickers, but if I had to, Line does a better job with its design and emoticons.

The mobile instant messenger space has gained interest from investors, seeing the purchase of WhatsApp by Facebook and the own Viber by the retail giant Rakuten months earlier. This time, I'm glad I didn't discard Viber, as I was almost moving away from the app due to the weak user experience on iOS. Having tested the app for just some hours, I'm confident I'll keep it for calls abroad and group messages with friends and family we've kept going for a while now.

Growing your board game collection as an iOS gamer

Three ways to know when to buy

There is a dirty little secret I'll have to admit to introduce this article. Whenever you hear people complaining about the App Store it has to be either about free to play, discoverability or the race to the bottom in pricing. I don't like to see developers playing the sale game dropping the price, angering early adopters but it doesn't mean I like sales way after the product is released.

For those situations you have AppShopper: a site that keeps track of new releases and price changes on the App Store. There is also the satisfaction of knowing you are grabbing a good deal or discovering something cool your might have originally overlooked. In addition, AppShopper is also one of the most user-friendly ways to keep track of new releases on the App Store, which probably accounts for a lot of the launch day sales.

The reason I'm talking about this is because I'm looking for an AppShopper type of site to feed my new-found hobby: board games. The first thing you realise when you start looking at those Euro style board games is that they can be quite expensive! Things as mainstream as Settlers of Catan, Carcassone or Ticket to Ride are anywhere between £20 and £50, so some budgeting must be in place if you are attempting to begin your board game collection from scratch. And that's exactly what I'm doing.

Check out Kickstarter regularly

A good place to begin is Kickstarter. My experience with crowdfunded projects has been a hit-and-miss affair but there seems to be a promising flourishing community on the tabletop games section. The great thing of looking for expansions of popular independent games, is that you get the chance to get hold of the original, which might have limited copies. As part of the backer deal, shipping costs are reasonable and a lot of the projects have an EU-friendly tag these days. This means they are shipped from Europe and are not subject to surprise custom charges.

A good example of this approach are the Tokaido and Viticulture - Tuscany kickstarters. You get the original game, some limited edition content plus the expansion that is being funded for production. There's the added benefit of the community, as people supporting the project tend to mingle on the comment threads discussing very interesting topics. I cannot put a value to this, but community interaction and contact with the creator it's definitely one of the best things of buying board games this way.

Proper Kickstarter people say the site is kind of broken although I find the discover fine for my needs. I filter the results with active projects and most funded everywhere and look what's going on. Kicktraq is usually mentioned as the best alternative to keep on top of new projects, so you can use a filter for board games pledging too.

Go to your local game shop

I haven't found the reason yet, but for those living outside the US, buying games online, bidding on eBay or trading on BoardGameGeek can involve prohibitive shipping costs. This list contains independent shops specialised on board games and I'm lucky enough to have Orcs Nest and Leisure Games in London. It's always worth checking their sites, calling to check for stock and just visiting to browse. More often than not you'll bump into something that would be too expensive to ship home. On top of supporting your local community, popping by the local game shop can be a nice opportunity to chat about games with experts, people really passionate about what they do.

Use price trackers

For someone starting a game board collection from scratch, I have the advantage of wanting older classics that are available on sites like Amazon for a good price. Those not sold by third party merchants usually come with some free delivery and a competitive price.

Whenever I read about a cool game on sites like Board Game Quest, I used Amazon's wishlist feature to remember them. This allows you to bookmark products on your account for the day you want to treat yourself. I've taken this to the next level using the price tracking site Camel and have set up alerts whenever there is an actual sale of a game I have tracked with them.

Even if I decide that I'm not that interested in a game to set up an email alert, I've found the site to be really useful. You can get the price history for a product and know if the current price is a good deal or not. Kingdom Builder, for example, currently sells for £30.88 but was as low as £20.98 last summer. The Amazon listing says it's currently £30.88 and that I'm saving 23% from the last price of £39.99 — which is only half true because that was its highest price one year ago for one day. I've found this price tracker to be very useful, saving me some money in games I wanted to buy but had no rush in getting them.

In summary, growing a game board collection slowly can be managed in an economic manner following these three tips instead of pure impulse purchases. Using the remind me option on Kickstarter to know when a project in nearing the end of the pledging stage as well as making a list of wished for titles is essential. There is the added benefit of the interactions with very knowledgable people using these methods, which is invaluable.

Top image by Jess Loughborough