App of the Week: Words with Friends

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App: Words With Friends Platforms: iPhone, Android, Online through Facebook Web site: WordsWithFriends.com Cost: Free ad-supported or $1.99 without ads

Yesterday, I was sitting in a local government office waiting to fill out some paperwork and I was bored. Thankfully, I had my phone. Since I got an iPhone a few years ago, I realized that I almost never get bored even in the most boring situations. Even without an Internet or cellular data connection, I have apps that keep me busy. It also got me to thinking what the hell I did before that.

One of the great diversions of the smart phone is the gaming app. Whether it is Angry Birds or Paper Toss or Solitaire, there's an app for that and they are great time killers. A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Words with Friends and, quite frankly, it's a HUGE waste of my time...and I love it.

Several years ago, I played an online Scrabble game through Facebook with some knockoff title like Scrobble or Scribble or something. It was eventually shut down by the makers of the actual game and a hole was left in the online social gaming world. WWF fills that hole quite nicely.

The company that manufactures WWF also has other games like Hanging With Friends -- an online version of the "God, I'm so bored and it's summer and, MOM, there's nothing to do" game Hangman. But, WWF is the one most everyone loves.

The basic interface is just like a Scrabble game. You can choose an opponent to challenge or ask for a random one to be generated. There are a LOT of people playing this game, so finding a partner isn't tough. If you sign in using Facebook, anyone who uses it via FB will be visible to you and you can invite others. It's easy to get a game going, really.

There's also a chat function for each game to send messages like, "QI? SRSLY?" When you are online, you can access the game through Facebook if you have linked your WWF account to it, which is not necessary, but makes a difference if, like me, you have a bunch of word-nerdy friends. If you are linked to Facebook, anytime a new friend starts using WWF, a little alert shows up next to the Facebook icon.

The notifications are a little complex and I have friends who have struggled getting them to either turn on or off. There are two separate sets of notification settings -- one inside the game settings and one in the phone general-notifications settings area -- making it all the more confusing. I'm hoping they will address that in future updates.

Also, splurge on the $1.99 ad-free version. The ads really do slow down the ease of use of the game. Some of the other games offer paid help or clue tokens, but that's only for the really hardcore gamer and that ain't me.

Still, playing Scrabble can be educational -- who knew JO was a word? -- and it's a really good time-killer, particularly when you are waiting for the painfully slow crawl of bureaucracy to amble in your direction.

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