Update: In light of recent changes to WordWise, my new favorite Scrabble-like app is definitely Wordfeud.
It’s no secret that the Android Market isn’t quite as well stocked as Apple’s App Store, for the time being. Nonetheless, the Market continues to grow at an exciting clip. And perhaps more importantly for the platform as a whole, the relatively small selection of applications means that developers have incredible opportunities to cash in on missing “must-have” apps.
One such noticeably missing app is an official or unofficial version of Scrabble, the classic crossword game. Rumor has it that EA, who holds the distribution rights for mobile-friendly versions of Hasbro’s Scrabble, developed and subsequently pulled an official Android version (you can search for the .apk file that is floating around the nets and install at your own risk). Why? Who knows. But it left quite an opportunity for an unofficial version to fill the gap.
Enter WordWise. Definitely not the prettiest app out there (frankly, it’s UI is rather hideous IMHO), but Polyclef Software, the company developing WordWise, is on to something here. Available in both free – WordWise Free (play up to 3 games at once – ad-supported) – and paid – WordWise Pro (up to 100 games – no ads) – versions, the app is the closest thing us Droids have to Scrabble at the moment.
Once downloaded and installed, WordWise asks you to allow it to log-in using your Google account credentials (similar to how Facebook Connect or Twitter OAuth-compatible sites/apps work). At first, you could only use the Google Account associated with your Android device, but in more recent updates the developers (whom, to their credit, are very responsive to questions and suggestions posted in the WordWise Google Group) have made it possible to log-in with any Google Account you might have.
Despite its less than optimized user interface, WordWise (which has its own unique rules and board layout) provides satisfying head-to-head, wireless (i.e. over 3G or WiFi) Scrabble-like gaming. You can either play against someone you know or allow random users to challenge you to a game.
Not surprisingly, in order to play a friend they must have an Android device with WordWise installed, and you need to know the email address they have associated with the game. This isn’t the most friction-free of experiences, but it does prevent you from receiving any unsolicited requests to play. Alternatively, you can opt-in to allow random users to challenge you as well without divulging any contact info (that is, unless you email the opponent – then they will have your email address).
Overall, I give Polyclef a lot of credit for getting the first real, Scrabble-like app to the Market. It’s not nearly as polished as similar apps on other platforms, like Words with Friends or the official Scrabble for iOS, but it is a good start. Hopefully if it continues to grow in popularity, the developers will find more inspiration for improving the user interface. Thanks to other Android apps, such as Twitter for Android, we know that shiny / attractive interfaces are entirely doable.
Nonetheless, if you’ve jumped on the Android bandwagon and have been looking for a Scrabble-type game, look no further than WordWise.