Avatar Creator is a new iOS app from independent developer Yuki Tsujihara, aka Q-Blitz. It’s available now as a free ad-supported download from the App Store, and carries no additional in-app purchases at this time.
Avatar creation tools are a mainstay of the social Web, and have been growing in popularity on mobile recently. The most recent example was iMadeFace, which was a short-lived viral phenomenon on a variety of social networks. Tsujihara is obviously aiming to court the same demographic with this new app.
Upon starting Avatar Creator, users are presented with a blank canvas on which to begin working. Different categories of parts may be selected from a toolbar on the right of the screen, and specific individual pieces may be added to the avatar via a larger palette at the bottom of the screen. Only one item from each category may be used at a time, so there is no possibility of creating outlandish characters with four eyes or three noses, for example.
Each part may be customized in two main ways after it has been placed. Color may be selected by using a combination palette and brightness control, while the position and size of the element may be customized using a detailed set of controls.
Positioning an element may be accomplished either by dragging it around directly on the preview area, or with greater accuracy using the on-screen controls. Using these buttons and sliders, it becomes possible to accurately position the item in a pixel-perfect manner, rotate it, flip it and independently adjust its horizontal and vertical sizes. Not all elements support all controls, however — it’s impossible to make a hat worn at a jaunty off-center angle, for example, since accessories may only have their vertical position adjusted.
Once an avatar has been completed, it may either be saved to the “face album” in the app, which allows it to be re-edited at a later date, or shared via a variety of different means including email, Twitter, Facebook and Line — the latter being a particularly popular mobile-social network in Tsujihara’s native Japan. It may also be saved to the user’s camera roll, assigned to a contact or printed. The app’s options menu also allows users to customize the output size and quality of the resulting image file, ranging from 320×400 up to 1280×1600.
Avatar Creator does not presently feature any in-app purchases and instead locks some of its content away until the user has left a review on the App Store. Tapping on a locked item prompts the user to leave a review, and accepting this prompt pops up an App Store overlay similar to that seen when tapping on an ad in the official Facebook app rather than switching to the dedicated App Store app. However, like most apps that promise rewards for reviews, there is no actual obligation for the user to leave a review — the app simply unlocks the content when it detects the user has followed its link to the App Store, and the popup can simply be dismissed after a moment. The App Store description suggests that the “unlocks for reviews” deal is a temporary arrangement — presumably a future update will replace this function with an in-app purchase instead.
Avatar Creator is a solid app that produces some good-looking results, but it’s not perfect. Its most serious flaw is the fact that it brings even more powerful iOS devices such as the iPhone 4S to their knees with a noticeably impacted frame rate while the app has focus. This can sometimes lead to seemingly unresponsive controls that have to be tapped several times. It’s not entirely clear why the app is demanding so much processing power, as it is not doing anything particularly demanding. At present, the issue is significant enough to impact the user’s enjoyment of the experience — it doesn’t stop the app from actually working, but it does make the experience suffer somewhat.
If this issue can be resolved in an update, Tsujihara’s take on avatar creation has the potential to be another big (if perhaps short-lived) hit like iMadeFace. It’s a solid app with plenty of potential for customization and self-expression — it’s just a shame the experience is marred by performance issues at present.
You can follow Avatar Creator’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.