Review: iPod Solitaire

by James Bain Aug 11, 2006

I want to call out a dark conspiracy that I have uncovered, one that dates back to the far ages of computing history. For everyone who read or saw the Da Vinci Code, I want to stress that my research here is more extensive and more probable and you can, with very little effort, verify at least some of my ‘facts’ yourselves.

As background, my Mother taught me Solitaire as a child, I think it was 34 years ago now. I asked her what she was doing with that deck of cards one day and she told me she was playing a game. It seemed interesting. I asked her to teach me how it worked, and she did.

Shuffling the deck, building the spread, dealing the cards, the draw, making the King red, Queen black, Jack red and so forth in ordered columns. For a while, the fugue-like regularity of it, bringing order to a random deck, fascinated me.

It was amazing.

But as I grew a bit older other things began to interest me more, Soccer, building forts, playing with the neighborhood kids, all these took over my attention and for many years I gave up this solo card game entirely.

When I next played Solitaire it was thanks to Bill Gates and Windows 3.1.

And this is where the conspiracy theory begins. The Redmond Code!

I have won so darned many games of Windows Solitaire over the years that it’s not funny. The Windows version of the game is nothing short of easy.

Other versions of Solitaire? Well, they’re not so easy.

I have a Palm PDA. I have had three, a Palm IIIC, a Palm M130, and my present, a Palm Tungsten 3. On each, I have installed one version or another of Solitaire and while waiting in airports, or bunkers, or client’s lobbies I have again played countless games over countless hours. I really don’t win that often. It’s actually quite hard.

I thought back to my Windows days and was surprised. I was better than this. But I guess not. My play to win ratio was, on my Palms, well, pathetic.

And then the iPods started shipping with Solitaire.

The first game, that Brickles thing, was an Easter Egg on my 1G, and was pretty boring. Apple eventually updated the firmware, those wacky Infinite Loop folk, so the game wasn’t so hard to get to. But it was still pretty boring.

Then when I got my 4G, I found there were other games. Yeah, that Brickles thing was there again. But now they had included Solitaire. Oh, bliss!

Well, sort of.

I played it exactly six times on my 4G. It was hard. I never won once. Never. Ever!

And when I later bought my Video iPod, I tried to play again. It was still hard but I persevered, probably since I stopped carrying my Palm around with me wherever I went but always had my iPod with me. Since then, I’ve won 8 times. Eight!

Certainly not good for the ego, and I wish the iPod kept stats so I could tell out of how many dozens or hundreds of games that was. I really do.

I got suspiciously curious then as to why my play to win ratio was so much higher on Windows than on my iPod, or my Palms earlier. So I played Solitaire again under Windows, and promptly won the very first game. I played a few more games, and then a few more. Out of a total of eight games, I won three. And felt a bit like a super hero again! Solitaire Man! Faster than a hyperactive croupier!

The point of this?

I think Windows Solitaire is made easy to win by design.

Why was Windows bundled with Solitaire, and those other games like FreeCell and Mine Sweeper, when it was supposed to be a business operating system?

Well, what else could you do until your support call was answered? Until your help desk called back or the hardware technician arrived to fix your network card? Play Solitaire of course!

By allowing more wins then, Microsoft bolsters the egos of its users while they are waiting to do something productive. Or are, perhaps, just decreasing their productivity voluntarily by avoiding all the other features of Windows, but in the end winding up feeling better about their mastery of at least one aspect of their computer.

It’s got to be intentional, this combined distraction and bonding tool. It has to be!

Brilliant strategic marketing if it is. Blindingling brilliant.

So, ratings? This is a review after all.

IPod Solitaire? It’s realistically and reasonably difficult. Which is not a good thing when wanting an ego boost, but excellent when wanting to clear your head and get a reality check. It’s right there when you need it: difficult and a real mental challenge.

Maybe in some future revision, Apple could add a few features finally, like saving games, keeping statistics, putting in a way to change the deck art, and adding options Vegas Rules or something.

But, for now, honestly Apple, thanks for keeping me humble, and productive, all these years.



  • Interesting article. Blindingling is a nice word =]

    angawi had this to say on Aug 11, 2006 Posts: 2
  • I agree, its very hard to win on ipod, too easy in windows. Just another example how apple is better!! I did win once, april 05, on a 4g ipod photo. one win, 2 years, not bad huh?

    Nicholas Houllis had this to say on Aug 13, 2006 Posts: 2
  • No!
    Ipod solitaire has a bug!!! I can’t believe you didn’t notice three red 2’s, or three black kings during the hundreds of times you attempted solitaire. it’s not that they’re so tiny- and I’m confusing hearts with diamonds or spades, with clubs- I’m saying three black kings.
    all three never make it to the playing board- but that means that the stack is ever changing.
    not ok.
    I hope this makes you feel better for not winning- but still you didn’t notice the extra cards.

    deniz had this to say on May 01, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Building forts!!

    Benji had this to say on May 01, 2007 Posts: 927
  • I never saw an odd combination of cards like that, deniz. Weird. Must have been remembering building the forts or something.


    Now I just work, or play Mahjong occasionally.

    James Bain had this to say on May 01, 2007 Posts: 33
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