Noon Studios has developed a cute, 3-D snow globe for the iPhone and iPod touch. It doesn't do a lot of things, but what it does, it does well. You may never see your iPhone again if your 5 year old manages to get hold of it. It's also a great conversation starter at the office Christmas party.
I looked at several of the customizable snow globes in iTunes. Snow Globe Maker allows you to design a static, 2D Snow Globe and, say, e-mail it to friends. Other snow globes got iffy reviews because they didn't work well. Snow Globe Free is free because it's laden with ads and pitches. However, this app "Cute 3D Snow Globe" received the best ratings. It's also just what I wanted, a realtime snow globe that can be rotated around with gestures and which makes even more snow when you shake it.
Side view (slide finger to rotate, tip)
The app has three themes: 1) a winter scene with pine trees, a hut, and a snowman, 2) a sunken ship, and 3) a New York skyline with the Statue of Liberty. You can resize the view with a two finger pinch or drag the globe to see it from different perspectives. Below is a screenshot, looking down onto the globe.
Top View of Winter Scene
The small "i" provides complete instructions for use. Also, one can pick from four different kinds of snow flakes. The app launched fast and ran flawlessly on my 3GS. When you tip the globe to see the bottom, it will reveal the name of the developer on the bottom, seemingly engraved in gold. That's a nice touch. Shake the iPhone/iPod touch to generate even more snow.
The only thing I could wish for is some built-in Christmas music for the winter scene. It would be nice if the app could draw from a Christmas song specific playlist on the iPod side.
Of course, I'd always prefer a real snow globe, but this is the next best thing. What's nice is that if you have a cradle for the iPhone, you can just leave it running at your desk while you work. No worries about broken glass and water.
However, you may find a real snow globe for $9.99 at Target preferable to having your child's wondering eyes discover the app on your iPhone and run away with it. The words "prying from little fingers" and "screaming" come to mind.
Cute 3D Snow Globe from Noon Studios is priced at US$0.99 and requires iPhone OS 2.0 or later.