Technologizer posts about iPhone App Store

Unpleasant Horse is Too Nasty for Apple

By  |  Posted at 9:15 am on Friday, April 8, 2011

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Apple’s iOS App Store policies have claimed another high-profile victim.

This time, it’s Unpleasant Horse, the first game by Popcap’s experimental 4th and Battery publishing label. Popcap is best-known for the Bejeweled series and Plants vs. Zombies, the latter of which was among the most popular paid iPhone apps of 2010.

Popcap spun off 4th and Battery to experiment with games that aren’t warm and fuzzy enough for the Popcap label. Unpleasant Horse looks cute and cuddly, but it’s actually quite sinister. From the game’s description: “Your idea of a good time is bouncing from cloud to cloud and on to the backs of other, cuter flying ponies, who will thus be sent plummeting to a gruesome, bone-chewing demise, thanks to an unfortunately placed series of meat grinders on the ground below.”

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Atari Finally Sets Up Shop in the iPhone App Store

By  |  Posted at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, April 6, 2011

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You may now count Atari among the classic video game systems to find a home in the iOS App Store.

Atari Greatest Hits should be available for the iPhone and iPad sometime this evening for U.S. users. The app includes Pong for free, and includes 99 games from the Atari 2600 and arcade system for purchase. Games are sold in bundles of three or four for $1 each, or $15 for the entire collection. A handful of games include local multiplayer over Bluetooth.

Some of the classics include Yars’ Revenge, Super Breakout, Centipede and Missile Command. I’m saddened but not surprised that Activision’s Atari games, such as Pitfall and River Raid, aren’t on the list. No Pac-Man or E.T., either, but that’s probably for the best.

This isn’t Atari’s first endeavor in the iPhone App Store. The publisher has previously launched modern-looking versions of Centipede, Missile Command and Super Breakout, but the games in Greatest Hits are the actual old-school versions. It’s also Atari’s first store within a store, joining Commodore 64 and VH1 Classic Presents: Intellivision in the iPhone’s roster of classic video game emulators.

I wouldn’t expect to see an Android version. As we learned from the Kongregate debacle, in which Google temporarily removed a Flash game portal from the Android Market, stores within stores are one way to run afoul of Market policy. But that shouldn’t be a problem for Android users, who are free to purchase a third-party Atari emulator and play the console’s entire catalog without paying a dime to Atari. Makes sense to me.



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MOG Mulls Higher Prices and Other Options as Apple’s Subscription Rules Loom

By  |  Posted at 1:11 pm on Sunday, February 27, 2011

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With Apple declaring that subscription-based iOS apps must offer in-app sign-ups and hand over 30 percent of the subscription revenue, streaming music service MOG is considering every option — even a price hike.

MOG costs $10 per month for unlimited mobile access to its on-demand streaming music library, the same price as competitors Rdio, Napster and Rhapsody. After the music labels and publishers get their share, and after MOG pays other fees for things like bandwidth, hosting and reporting of listening data, the company will lose money on every in-app subscription if Apple takes a 30 percent cut.

“We don’t understand why Apple should get more from our business than we get,” MOG’s founder and chief executive David Hyman said in an interview.

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Warner Bros. Stuffs Movies Into iPad/iPhone Apps (Or, the Fanciest DRM Ever)

By  |  Posted at 9:45 am on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

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In a world of Netflix, Redbox and cheap iTunes rentals, Warner Bros. has hatched a new plan to entice you to purchase more movies.

The studio is now selling movies as standalone iOS apps, starting with Inception and The Dark Knight. Both apps are free to download, with the actual movies available as in-app purchases. Buying the film unlocks streaming and downloadable versions, along with bonus features such as games, trivia and soundboards. While watching, you can also send and view status updates on Facebook and Twitter.

If you’re keen on the idea of buying a movie once and owning it for all of your devices, Warner Bros.’ apps are not for you. The in-app movie is completely separate from iTunes (and for Inception, $2 more expensive, at $12 for the full movie), so you’re forever bound to an iPhone or iPad. At least with iTunes, you can watch the movie on a computer or Apple TV.

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Word Lens is Like a Great Google Audition

By  |  Posted at 4:42 pm on Friday, December 17, 2010

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I’m no business guru, but from the moment Word Lens splashed onto the iPhone App Store, developer Quest Visual seemed like an obvious candidate for a Google acquisition.

Quest Visual’s iPhone app translates text in real time when held in front of the phone’s camera. And Word Lens doesn’t just give you a plain translation, it literally swaps old text for new on your screen, as if the thing you’re looking at was never in a foreign language at all.

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EA’s iOS Game Sale Comes With Ulterior Motive

By  |  Posted at 10:17 am on Friday, December 17, 2010

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Christmas is closing in, so Electronic Arts’s $1 iOS game sale is a big deal. But as GigaOM’s Darrell Etherington argues, it’s also a clever tactic to crowd out iPhone and iPad app charts during the busiest sales period of the year.

The move rubs right up against a glut of new game launches from publishers big and small. NOVA 2, The 7th Guest, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and a bunch of other games were all released on Thursday. Infinity Blade, published by Epic Games, launched last week. Etherington calls the EA sale a bully tactic that robs other publishers of top billing.

He’s right about sales volume, at least. Looking at the app charts on my iPad, every game in the top 10 paid app chart is published by EA. But the list of top grossing apps proves that EA’s strategy doesn’t spell doom for other publishers.

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mSpot for iPhone: A Cool App I Won’t Be Using

By  |  Posted at 9:34 am on Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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Smartphones aren’t always big enough to hold an entire music library, so mSpot hopes to ease the burden by storing your tunes in the cloud.

The mSpot service, previously available for Android phones, now has an iPhone app as well. You can store up to 2 GB of music for free to mSpot’s servers, and get another 40 GB of storage for $4 per month.

I have no major complaints with the mSpot app or service. Installation was painless, and you can filter uploads by artist or existing playlists, so it’s easy to create a 2 GB playlist in iTunes specifically for mSpot. The app is simple to navigate, and I like how you can swipe your finger to switch tracks (iTunes really needs something driver-friendly like this). There’s also a web app for playing your library from any PC.

Yet, I think the idea behind mSpot has limited appeal.

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Games Dominate iPhone App Charts (But Not iPad)

By  |  Posted at 5:29 pm on Thursday, December 9, 2010

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Take a look at the top iPhone and iPad apps of 2010, as listed by Apple:

iPhone:

  • Free: Facebook, Angry Birds Lite, Words With Friends Free, Skype, Tap Tap Revenge
  • Paid: Angry Birds, Doodle Jump, Skee-Ball, Bejeweled 2 – Blitz, Fruit Ninja
  • Grossing: MLB At Bat 2010, Angry Birds, Call of Duty: Zombies, Bejeweled 2 – Blitz, FriendCaller 3 Pro

iPad:

  • Free: iBooks, Pandora, Netflix, Google Mobile, Solitaire
  • Paid: Pages, Goodreader, Numbers, Angry Birds HD, Keynote
  • Grossing: Pages, Numbers, Keynote, LogMeIn Ignition, Scrabble

Video games are clearly the killer apps on the iPhone, but productivity and media consumption rule on the iPad. However, I’m not convinced that the year’s top app charts tell the whole story.

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iPhone Radio Station Apps Not Welcome Anymore

By  |  Posted at 9:04 am on Friday, November 26, 2010

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Apple’s become more relaxed about the iOS App Store recently, with policy revisions and the notable admission of Google Voice for iPhone, but that’s not stopping Apple from rejecting app categories that it simply doesn’t like.

The latest victims are single-station radio players, according to a developer who builds and submits these apps to order. Jim Barcus, owner of DJB Radio Apps, claims that Apple recently rejected 10 of his radio apps, on the grounds that they’re essentially spam and are no different than generic fart apps. He even appealed to Steve Jobs, who reportedly wrote back, “Sorry, but we’ve made our decision.”

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PayPal’s iPhone Check Deposit: It Works!

By  |  Posted at 1:12 pm on Thursday, October 7, 2010

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PayPal added check deposit capabilities to its iPhone app on Wednesday, and hey, I just got a check in the mail. Let’s see how PayPal handles the job.

Before you start, PayPal hits you with a bunch of disclaimers. You’ve got to keep the check for 15 days, just to make sure nothing goes wrong, and you can’t deposit more than $1,000 per day or $3,000 per month. So if your employer cuts checks instead of offering direct deposit, PayPal might not be able to handle your earnings. PayPal’s deposit feature seems best-suited for those nagging little checks that aren’t worth the effort of going to a bank.

Depositing a check through PayPal is simple enough. Under the “tools” section, you press “Add Money From Checks,” and then snap a photo of the check’s front and back sides. Then, you must enter in the amount of the check. (Or, at least I did. The handwriting on my check was a little messy, so I’m not sure whether PayPal ever tries to guess the amount, like some smart ATMs.)

Deposits take roughly six business days to show up in your account, PayPal says. Unfortunately, there’s no option to automatically pass the check on to your bank account. You’ve got to transfer it yourself, which usually takes another three or four business days.

Ideally, my own bank, Bank of America, would offer check deposits through its iPhone app. Chase and State Farm Bank already do, and USAA supports deposits the iPhone and Android phones. If you’re not a customer of those banks, and you’ve got an iPhone, PayPal provides a decent workaround as long as you don’t need the cash right away.



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PlayOn Goes Native With iPhone App

By  |  Posted at 9:29 am on Thursday, September 30, 2010

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With Apple’s approval, PlayOn finally has a native iOS app for skipping Hulu Plus and streaming heaps of web TV shows to the iPhone.

PlayOn uses PC software to pull in web video from Hulu, Comedy Central, ESPN3 and elsewhere, and then makes the content available to other networked devices, like game consoles, certain set-top boxes and now the iPhone. The iPhone app is free, but you’ll also need the PlayOn PC software, which costs $40 per year or $80 for life. You can try it free for 14 days.

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Parts of Apple’s new App Store policy may be encouraging, others not so much. But Kyle Orland picked through the policy and found some very disturbing declarations. (For example, “If you want to criticize a religion, write a book.”)

Posted by Jared at 7:22 am

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Groveshark’s Brief App Store Stint is Over

By  |  Posted at 3:53 pm on Tuesday, August 17, 2010

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The iPhone App Store now plays host to many kinds of subscription music apps, but Grooveshark is no longer one of them.

Apple brought the axe down on Grooveshark after five days in the App Store, and all it took was one complaint from Universal Music Group’s U.K. office, according to Grooveshark’s official blog. “This comes as an absolute surprise to us, and we are not sleeping until we figure out exactly how to fix this—and get Grooveshark for iPhone back in the App Store,” says the Grooveshark crew.

Grooveshark for iPhone was like a lighter, less-committed version of MOG or Rdio. For $3 per month, users could search for and play any song on-demand, and create playlists of their favorites, but the app didn’t allow users to create full music libraries, like you can with the aforementioned $10 per month apps. Grooveshark’s website does include these capabilities, and the ad-supported version is free.

Grooveshark’s rates are low because it doesn’t license music from any major labels except EMI, which negotiated a deal after suing the service. Instead, music is uploaded by users at their own risk and shared with the masses. I don’t know why Grooveshark has escaped the wrath of other labels, but I do know labels are particularly demanding with mobile phones. This is why Rdio costs $10 per month for smartphone access instead of $5 for PC-only, and why Napster acknowledged nearly a year ago that high licensing fees for mobile streaming would make its $5 per month plan impossible.

Curiously, Grooveshark remains available for Android, Blackberry, WebOS and Symbian phones. Maybe Apple was the only company Universal complained to, but unless the label thinks it can cripple Grooveshark without any further action, I doubt it will be the last.



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OpenAppMkt: The iPhone Gets a Web App Store

By  |  Posted at 10:28 am on Friday, July 30, 2010

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Plenty of websites and services use slick web apps in lieu of, or in addition to, native software for the iPhone App Store, but they had no storefront of their own until now.

OpenAppMkt is an HTML app store that launched today, with everything I’d expect to see in a mobile app market. It has a clean interface for searching or browsing by category, along with a website that’s equally polished. iPhone users can “install” OpenAppMkt by adding the website to their home screen, and individual apps are installed in the same way, creating icons on the home page as if they were native apps.

The app selection is small for now, with only a handful of apps in each category, but nicely curated. When installed, all of them run full screen, without Safari’s navigation bars. You’ll find a bunch of Google’s offerings, such as Google Voice and the excellent YouTube web app, plus some gems such as Glyphboard, which presents a chart of symbols and emoticons for copying and pasting.

Apple does have its own list of Web apps, which is much lengthier than OpenAppMkt, but it lacks user reviews and screenshot galleries, and there’s no iPhone-optimized storefront. It’s safe to assume that Apple is concentrating on the App Store and isn’t going to push web apps anytime soon.

The problem with OpenAppMkt has everything to do with the curent state of web apps. Most of them don’t compare with native apps, and a few selections in OpenAppMkt cheerfully remind you that a better experience awaits in the App Store. It’s true; native apps can handle high-end graphics, multitask, make better use of the accelerometer and allow easy billing through iTunes.

We may see HTML-based apps catch up some day, but right now the best ones are glorified web pages with killer interfaces. At least now there’s a reliable place to find them.



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App Store Dev Disses Apple, Messes With Prices, Pays

By  |  Posted at 3:36 pm on Friday, March 19, 2010

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An iPhone game developer has learned the hard way that one of the following we’ll get your app banned: Publicly slamming the iPhone App Store, or gradually increasing prices until someone pays hundreds of dollars for a simple time waster.

I’m inclined to think it’s the latter, but let’s backtrack.

According to Kotaku, Tommy Refenes’ game, Zits & Giggles (a simple pimple-popping game), disappeared from the App Store this week with no explanation from Apple. Refenes isn’t an unknown developer; he’s part of the team working on Super Meat Boy, a highly anticipated indie game for the Wii, Xbox 360 and PC.

As such, Refenes was one of the speakers during the “Indie Gamemakers Rant” at last week’s Game Developers Conference. These events encourage the speakers to vent on whatever they like, and Refenes chose the iPhone App Store as one of his targets. Not everything he said is suitable for our family-friendly blog, but he did liken the iPhone to those Tiger Electronics LCD games of the early 1990s, which often carried big brand names but weren’t particularly fun to play.

Now for the other facet of the story: Refenes had been playing around with the game’s pricing, noting that people continued to buy the game even as its cost reached $15, $50 and $299. On Monday, someone paid $400 for the game, the same day Apple pulled the plug.

It’s amusing to think that Apple squashed Zits & Giggles because of Refenes’ insolence during GDC, but I have a tough time believing the game’s price wasn’t to blame. It’s not like Apple hasn’t removed apps because of ridiculous prices before. Of course, all this speculation could have been avoided if Apple had explained to Refenes why the app was pulled, or given him a chance to settle on a price, but alas, communication isn’t Apple’s strong suit.

I’m tempted to dig into Refenes’ comments on the quality of iPhone gaming, but that’s an issue best saved for another day and a fresh blog post. On a related note, I do kind of miss those Tiger LCD games…



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Trent Reznor Dissed, Parental App Guard Needed

By  |  Posted at 5:35 pm on Monday, May 4, 2009

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quakenailgunammoFor as little as we know about Apple’s approval process for iPhone apps, I kind of expected the nin:access program — which allows fans of the band Nine Inch Nails to enjoy streaming music and other perks  — to pass with flying colors. Apparently I was wrong, as the latest update to the application was denied.

In a scathing, profane forum post, frontman Trent Reznor said the objectionable content resided in music from NIN’s “The Downward Spiral” album. If you’ve ever heard the tune “Closer,” you can probably imagine what lit up the censor button.

These songs could just as easily corrupt virgin ears through iTunes, except that the iTunes Store has parental controls. It’s high time the App store added similar functionality, if only so adults capable of withstanding the occasional f-bomb won’t be subject to draconian censorship.

Such a feature is on the way with the iPhone’s 3.0 operating system, and rumor has it that apps with explicit content may have a better shot at approval. iLounge reports that one developer, Makayama, heard as much when its Newspaper(s) application was blocked for including The Sun, a British paper notorious for including a naked centerfold in each edition. In a rejection notice, Apple reportedly said it “would be appropriate to resubmit your application for review once this feature is available.” (Makayama instead removed The Sun and successfully resubmitted the program.)

We’re still waiting on an official release date for the 3.0 OS, but it’s losely scheduled for this summer. In the meantime, Reznor has no plans to ditch the iPhone (though he may take nin:access to jailbreakers) because “nobody has an Android phone,” Blackberry has “inconsistent” hardware and “WinMo straight-up” um, does not meet his quality standards. (We have self-imposed parental controls here, Trent.)



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