I ran out today and picked up a newly available DSi. Ever since hearing that Nintendo was adding an integrated app store to their device, I've been pretty keen on checking it out.
The hardware itself is very slick... nearly iPhone slick. At first glance, its pretty similar to the DS light, but if you put the two next to each other, the differences really show. It's a little slimmer, a little sleeker, with a matte finish, and most importantly, the screens are much bigger (albeit the same resolution).
The next thing I noticed was that the manual is HUGE (and really well designed). It basically details all the new functionality as far as the built in camera and audio recording apps, etc. The audio/camera features are a lot of fun, letting you play with and distort audio recordings and photos (reminds me of our snap app). These apps are a lot of fun, and designed with Nintendo touches, making them super accessible and toy-like.
But I was mostly interested in the DSi Shop, so I jumped right into that, and redeemed my free 1,000 DSi points.
The DSi really is like a pocket Wii - the Shop looks and feels much like the Wii shop. This comes with both the good and bad of that experience.
On the good side:
The Shop is tightly integrated into the device - simply tap it from the home screen and you're up and running. The DS home screen is similar to the Wii's, in this case, showing you a row of "buckets" where you can install apps. The DSi has some built-in memory - you don't need a SD card to get started downloading right away. The familiar sorting and searching features are available, with a new option to filter by price which is nice. They use the dual screens effectively displaying app info, descriptions, and screenshots on the top screen with your main menu of choices on the bottom touch screen (this is actually an improvement over the Wii shop). Overall, its a very friendly shopping trip, complete with happy "elevator music" that plays throughout, making it easy to spend some time browsing.
On the bad side:
You might get sick of the elevator music because the store can feel really slow... it takes 25-30 seconds on average between the time you launch the shop, and you finally get the main menu. This is an eternity compared to the iphone which is more like 5 seconds even on a cell connection. Factor in that the DSi Shop forces you through several clicks before you're really browsing (for example: start shoping -> DSi Ware -> Find Titles ->Newest Additions), AND the fact that each tap or click here is another network request, you might be looking at a full minute before you're browsing a list of titles. Of course, they show recommended apps on the front screen, so going that route is much shorter. Overall, the gripes here are pretty small, and I was expecting them since this is largely the same experience you find on the Wii.
Compared to the iPhone, the DSi feels more like the toy it is once you get past the slick exterior. It's not quite the connected device it could be, missing some key elements for sharing the cool media you can create with the mic and cameras. If you're a Wii owner, you pretty much know what to expect as Nintendo cautiously dips its toe into the icy cold internet.
Still, having an integrated store on the device is really tight, and I can't wait to see what kind of apps appear online. The new cameras are really exciting. I tried out the downloadable "Warioware snapped" which uses the camera as an interface device (EyeToy style). My wife, Dawn and I had some serious laughs trying it out. I probably haven't laughed this hard at a video game since the first time I played PaRappa.