Founder and Editor in Chief with the 148Apps Network since July 16, 2008
Hi there, I'm the founder and publisher of this site, the best gosh-darn iPhone site this side of Mars. My team and I do our very best to bring you the best reviews and iPhone news every day. If you think there's something we've missed, let me know.
Google made some far reaching announcements today that give it an even stronger leg up in the mobile world. Android has gone from being a weak, buggy mobile OS to a fully mature ecosystem and these announcements encompass enhancements to every part of that Android ecosystem. These announcements cover consumer-facing updates and changes as well as developer changes that make the app development and support lifecycle much easier. They honestly ate Apple’s lunch today, and they did so with prestige and without mentioning Apple. To me this implies that Google at least thinks they have already won the war. And perhaps they have.
The big focus this year, across all non-Android service announcements, was that the OS doesn’t matter, but the services. And Google wants to bring their services, equally, to any OS, and iOS was a key target. We’ve already seen Google release better apps than Apple’s own apps on iOS. Expect that to continue with updates to Google Search, Google Play for Games, Google+, and Google Music.
There was something slightly smug about the announcements today, though. In the past, Google sounded like they were running to catch up; this year they spoke from the head of the table. They never directly mentioned Apple, but iOS was mentioned multiple times. In fact, iOS devices were demoed, shown, or mentioned at just about every non-Android announcement. Google is taking their mobile assault to iOS, but from the inside. Of course, when mentioning Google Maps, Google could not resist taking a jab at Apple’s beleaguered Maps app.
One big announcement was Google Play for Games, which is Google’s answer to Apple’s Game Center. Play for Games includes multiplayer features, leaderboards, achievements, etc. Google announced that it will be bringing this service to iOS in the near future.
Google continues to advance in the education world, an area that has traditionally been a stronghold for Apple. Apple hasn’t really kept up with the technological changes. Google announced a few additions to Google Play–called Google Play for Education, and Google Apps for Education–that make administration of apps on groups of devices, like in a school, much easier. This is something Apple needs to respond to, and soon.
Make no mistake, the announcements today from Google were not a declaration of war in the mobile ecosystem, they were a victory dance. Apple needs to respond strongly at WWDC next month. Apple and the iOS app development ecosystem has been rather stagnant over the past year or two.
Big changes were announced in the executive structure at Apple late last year. Those changes were meant to streamline and integrate various product lines. It may be too soon to hope for some of those sweeping changes to be announced, but a sea change in direction and focus needs to be paramount. Let’s not gloss over this, Google has taken the lead in mobile in just about every way you can measure. Apple must come on strong at WWDC to keep from facing a big loss in both mindshare and stock price.
Newt Gingrich may be a bit past his prime, and one could even think a bit out of touch. While he seems to know what a cell phone that takes pictures is, but he does not know what to call it. While twirling around an iPhone and talking about what it can do, he seems unwilling to call it a “handheld computer.” He needs your help to come up with a good name. I’m going to suggest “wonderbox,” I think just might catch on.
Take a look below at Newt’s call for help. And if you have any suggestions for what to call these mystical devices obviously derived from alien technology, please give Newt a call at (703) 678-2231 or leave us a comment below and we’ll pass it on.
Ah, Canada. The land where poutine is the national dish, ham is called bacon, and they worship hockey players as gods. They also seem to get many iOS games early. Since it’s a smaller country at about 10% of the population of the US, it makes a good test market. Every once in a while we like to pop in to the Canadian App Store and see what’s new. This time we take a look at the upcoming movie tie-in game from Kabam, Fast & Furious 6: The Game.
Fast & Furious 6: The Game seems to loosely follow the movie. If familiar with CSR Racing, this game will seem familiar. It’s a reaction time game in which players hit buttons to shift the car, hit a button to drift, and hit nitro at just the right time for maximum speed.
FF6 adds a bunch of other race types as well, where CSR racing only has the single drag race type. There’s also the usual upgrade system that can be used to increase the performance of a car or change the look. All of that, of course, requires earning in-app currency or purchases.
FF6 also relies on the weak crutch of lazy game design, an energy system. Sounds harsh, but it’s a concept that has become an indication of a game more focused on pushing players to pay than it is on pushing entertainment. A player can only race so much without putting the game down and waiting for the energy system to recharge. Of course, a player can also spend money to recharge quickly, so there’s that.
It should be noted that this game and all of the games that we feature in this series should be considered pre-release. They are not final, and are in Canada for a reason: to test and balance the gameplay. We will never review an app based on a testing launch such as this.
Hipstamatic has been a bit of an odd duck on the App Store. While it was one of the first photo apps to gain a strong following, it has already been used to take over two billion photos. But, it has been somewhat forgotten now that social sharing has taken center stage. Don’t get me wrong, it still has a large and very vocal following, and also a very creatively talented following, but it doesn’t have the mindshare of an app like Instagram. Somewhat forgotten even though it’s still going strong with over four million monthly users. The reason for it losing mindshare could be that Hipstamatic lacks an integrated social stream like Instagram and others. Well, that is until oggl is released later this week.
Instagram was a great idea, and a very wonderful creative stream of photos, for a short while anyway. But now it’s filled with duck faces, selflies, and bad pictures of food. While oggl is open to anyone, it is expected that it will maintain a much higher quality clientele than what is currently seen in Instagram. While Instagram is mean to share, oggl is mean to inspire. Some of the artists on there already are truly astonishing.
Expected to be on the App Store on Thursday, oggl takes the high quality filter system that Hipstamatic pioneered and adds a sharing community on top of it. They do this for free, ad-free, and the artists retain full rights to their photos. How can they do this? Add-ons of course. The Hipstamatic community is pretty crazy for new lenses and films, the add-ons that add new effects to photos in Hipstamatic. So you can buy them in Hipstamatic and access them in oggl, or you can subscribe to oggl for $0.99/month or $9.99/year and get access to all of the lenses and films ever made.
Now the bad news, oggl will be granting access slowly, over time to those that request it at http://oggl.com/. The slowed down access is to ensure that the service quality isn’t degraded as it ramps up. So, head over there now and request access.
This is an interesting move, if not completely unexpected one for Hipstamatic. It should be a great community for photographers and creative types. That is if they can keep the duck faces to a minimum.
We recently ran into Barry Dorf, Senior Director of Third Party for DeNA, previously ngmoco:). Dorf mentioned that we just might be surprised what we saw in the App Store this week. And surprised we are indeed. The ngmoco:) classic iOS game Topple 2 is getting re-released!
You may or may not remember ngmoco:), so a little history first. ngmoco:) was the first game development studio set up purely for iOS game development. Heavily funded by the iFund, and founded by industry veteran Neil Young, ngmoco:) was a studio created before its time. Unfortunately, its games were critical successes, but relative sales failures. This was when the market was considerably smaller and focused only on paid games. ngmoco:) tried to make the switch to free to play games with Rolando 2–the first game to take advantage of in-app purchases on iOS. But that was not enough to make the ngmoco:) model a success. In came DeNA from Japan, looking for a US foothold. ngmoco:) was the perfect fit and was absorbed into the company. Initially ngmoco:)/DeNA US released a few games that did well, but not amazing. These were great games, now pulled from the App Store like GodFinger, We Rule, etc. Those have all been archived. Recently the majority of the games released by DeNA in the US have been English versions of games popular in Japan. Rage of Bahamut is an example of an extremely successful import. In my opinion, these are less interesting games, but obviously money makers.
Topple 2 is the now-classic block stacking game first released by ngmoco:) way back in what could be considered the golden age of iOS gaming. All of the early games from ngmoco:) were interesting, designed well, unique, and all sported a very touch-centric control scheme. But these early games are, if nothing else, a huge part of the short history of gaming on iOS. So it’s great to think for a moment that those classics may be updated and re-released for modern iOS devices and playable by the now 400+ million iOS gamers. An iPad version of Star Defense or Rolando would also be amazing.
We spoke with Barry Dorf about the updated classics.
148Apps: So, Topple 2 is coming back?! That’s fantastic. What lead to it being revived from the archive?
Barry Dorf: At DeNA we always strive to delight consumers. We saw an opportunity to bring back Topple 2 from the archives and provide fans a fun gameplay experience while also introducing new players to the game.
148Apps: ngmoco:) has some fantastic games in the portfolio. Some of the first big iOS games from 2009-10. I would even argue that the ngmoco:) games were ahead of their time and that could be why they didn’t make amazing amounts of money. We’d love to see more of them come back, updated for the new screen sizes and for the iPad. Any chance we’ll see Star Defense, Rolando, Dropship or any of the other classics too?
Barry: How come you didn’t mention MazeFinger and Dr. Awesome?
DeNA’s portfolio of games is pretty amazing. We’re going to wait and see how Topple 2 does before we consider reviving more titles. We encourage everyone to download Topple 2 and give us a reason to revisit bringing back other games.
So there you have it, the classics may live on. Hopefully we will all enjoy this updated game from the early days of iOS gaming. Let us know–do you think it was a game before its time, or does it seem dated now? What other ngmoco:) classics would you like to see come back?
Take a look at this video of the original Topple 2 trailer. We’ll let you know when Topple 2 hits the App Store; it could be as early as today.
Posted by Jeff Scott on May 2nd, 2013 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Developed by San Francisco based Impending, best known for their Clear list management app, Heads Up! may turn out to be a great party game.
The game starts with a guesser picking a category like “Act it Out” or “Pop Star Overload” and placing their iPhone on their forehead facing out toward the other players. The players are given answers and must get the guesser, the one holding the phone, to guess the answer without saying it directly or rhyming with it. Now here’s the real genius of this app, while the game is going on the front facing camera is capturing what the players are doing and saying and recording it as a video. Once the game is complete that video can be saved, shared, or even sent to Ellen for possible use on her show. What a great idea.
For more on the game, here’s Ellen playing with actress Alison Sweeney:
Posted by Jeff Scott on April 29th, 2013 iPad Only App - Designed for iPad
Update: 4/30 – We got word back from the folks at Paradox that they have pulled the game from the App Store due to the multiplayer issue. An update has been submitted and the game should be back within a couple days. We’ll keep you posted.
The warship battle game, Leviathan: Warships that we have been looking forward to for months has finally been released. We got access to the game earlier today. But, unfortunately some last minute gremlins got into the app and the multiplayer system is totally borked. So, while we are looking forward to bringing you our review, we are going to hold it until we can kick the tires of the multiplayer properly. We’ll hopefully see an update in the next couple days.
Apple has released a new ad for the iPhone, that’s nothing new. What is new is that the ad gets back to what Apple advertising at it’s best. The ad tugs at your heartstrings and really works well. So while Samsung is trying to add more sparkles to their Unicorn Apocalypse game, Apple shows how people really use the iPhone to improve their lives. Take a look.
When AppGratis CEO Simon Dawlat spoke out about AppGratis being pulled from the App Store, he said he was shocked about the reasons the app was pulled. We learned today via marketing emails forwarded to us from potential clients of AppGratis what the real reason it was pulled could be.
With over 12 million users when the app was pulled, AppGratis had a bit of a mob going with their app. The large number of users allowed them to drive massive numbers of downloads to a targeted app quickly. It called this ability to drive large amounts of downloads at a rapid pace “bursting.” Bursting allowed them to make the app rise in the charts at sometimes phenomenal rates. In the slide below, from late last year, they show off a few of their successful campaigns.
The large number of users gave AppGratis effective control of the App Store Top 10 Free Apps list. To grow that number of users organically is a commendable thing. But to use that control to sell top 10 placement on the App Store is unquestionably bad for the App Store ecosystem.
In an email forwarded to me by one potential customer of AppGratis, the sales representative touts:
With around 4 million users we reach high amount of downloading that translates in to the best top list rankings on the App Store.
The sales rep goes on to list the countries that AppGratis has enough users in to push an app to the top charts and the position on the charts those users can drive.
Apple has made moves in the past to keep the App Store, especially the top 10 lists, as organic as possible. This recent move comes as no surprise, especially in the light of AppGratis selling their influence on the top 10 list on a per install basis.
We’ve contacted AppGratis’ PR agency for comment, but at the time of this writing we have yet to hear back. We’ve also contacted Apple for comment. We’ll update or follow up with another post if we hear back.
Recently, the NYC police department announced that they have created a special division to deal with iPhone and iPad device theft. It has become such a problem in large cities that police are devoting special teams to cope. Dear Apple, it’s time for you do do something about it.
I’ve known many people that have had iPhones and iPads stolen right from their hands. Criminals often grab the devices out of their victims’ hands and disappear before the victim even knows what happened. This almost happened to me yesterday; I was oblivious to what was going on, and it was pure luck the criminal missed getting a good hold on my device and I got to keep my iPhone. Many others aren’t as lucky.
iPhone snatching is a crime of opportunity and Apple has the ability to eliminate that opportunity or at least make it much less profitable.
Apple devices are hotly sought after, and that will always make them a target for crime. Even so, technology should be able to alleviate much of the resale value and limit the potential for data being lost. The issue is really in two parts: data security and device security.
There are a few things that Apple can do to help with data security. One big issue that seems to be a glaring omission is that an iOS device can be turned off even if it’s locked. This provides the criminal with the opportunity to avoid remote tracking and erase via Find My iPhone by just turning off the device.
If the device couldn’t be turned off when locked, the opportunity would be there to at least track or even wipe the device remotely. The piece of mind the ability to wipe a device would give to victims is immense.
But how about doing something about the actual resale value of devices? Apple tracks every single iOS device. With that ability comes the opportunity to permanently disable devices reported as stolen. Remember that registration screen that pops up when a new iOS device is activated? It shows up either in iTunes or on the device itself. That information all goes into a database at Apple. If your device is re-registered to someone else, or even connected to a network, Apple knows about it.
Apple, how about giving the registered owner the ability to report a device stolen? And if it’s seen on the Internet after being reported as stolen, deactivate it permanently. Something like this would make iOS devices, without some sophisticated and very expensive modifications, worthless for resale.
Wouldn’t that help reduce crime, if criminals knew that a stolen device would be unusable and therefore nearly worthless?
Interim steps could be taken as well. For instance, with prompts for configuration, turn on Find my iPhone by default when the device is registered. Getting users to verify their registrations and giving them tips on protecting their device and what to do if it is lost or stolen would also help.
iPhone and iPad theft it a huge deal around the world. I think it’s time that Apple stepped up and helped users keep their devices secure. The technology and the need is most certainly there, will Apple help?
Editors note: I know that open letters are pretentious and stupid. It’s really just a method to get ideas out there. They maybe ignored, but at least I got this off my chest.
[ Image credit: By Poulpy (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons ]
Our sister site Pocketgamer.biz is reporting that an Apple game controller announcement could come as early as April. While it’s been known that Apple has been developing a game controller for many months, whether it would be released or not was the big unknown.
This week Pocket Gamer’s Jon Jordan and we have been asking developers if they have heard anything. Many developers have either directly or indirectly confirmed that an Apple controller of some type will be announced the first half of this year.
An Apple controller really only makes sense when tied with TV game play. As if the TV is the display you can’t look down at your iOS device to see the virtual buttons. This leads us to believe that the Apple TV and particularly games for Apple TV will be announced too.
EA is showing off an update to Real Racing 3 that adds many player requested features. Much needed cloud save is in. Cloud save will allow you to play on multiple devices and even multiple platforms with keeping your progress in sync.
Chevy is also being added with three cars hitting this update and more promised for future updates. A new racing mode, Hunter has also been added. A one on one race where you must beat another car, one that has a 30 second head start.
In addition, lots of tweaks and big fixes have been implemented. Many were immediately evident when looking at the game.
This update is expected for mid April. Many more updates are promised as Firemonkeys plans to support and expand the game for years to come.
Today we saw and got to play the new game from Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride developer Halfbrick. Fish out of Water is a fish skipping international high score competition. Looks very well done and is out really soon.
The original Knights of Pen and Paper is a critically acclaimed RPG with a ton of humorous cultural references. Not to mention a really good game. Paradox Interactive today announced that the +1 edition will be release that builds in lots of requested features to the original.
Features like dungeons for looting, taverns to allow you to swap players in and out of your party.
Solitaire Blitz was a pretty big hit on Facebook when it debuted there last year. That game is now coming to iOS and is currently live in the Canadian App Store.
Here’s an video of the game being played on the iPad. We play through a couple hands and it is enjoyable though not as good as the similarly-playing Fairway Solitaire from Big Fish Games in the current version.
Solitaire Blitz seems to be set up to be as a free to play game and it’ll be interesting to see how aggressive the monitization of Solitaire Blitz will be. As of now, you can play 5 times for free with one more free game coming every ten minutes.
It should be launched globally soon. We’ll let you know as soon as it’s live.
Posted by Jeff Scott on March 13th, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Match Up! the real time tournament style game from Big Fish is available in the App Store now. The game developed by Jawfish Games, founded by former professional poker player Phil Gordon, hopes to solve real time multiplayer on iOS by creating rapid, real time tournaments. Match Up! contains three different games, a match-3, mahjong, and word scramble type games that you can play with 1 to 15 other players at once. Grab it now and let us know what you think.
The first time I saw a preview of Badland I was immediately struck by it’s beautiful design. The silhouette foreground and the brightly colored background is a very striking look. Now that I’ve had a little hands-on time, I’m even more impressed.
Badland is an auto-runner from developer Frogmind where the player controls the wing flapping of a little furry dust bunny. Or at least it looks like a dust bunny. Traveling through 2D mazes with various things that both change the size of the bunny, the speed, and even the number of them. Getting through tight spaces, blockades, avoiding falling garbage, and avoiding being crushed is what players must do to get to the end of the level.
All in all, Badland is a very compelling, fun game that’s presented in a story mode of sorts. There’s also an option to play any of the levels already completed with specific goals for each level.
Multiplayer support is also included and makes Badland a single screen party game. In multiplayer mode, up to four players can fight it out in a survival of the fittest test. Each player’s character tries to fly to the end and not get left behind. The 2-4 players each control their on-screen flyer by touching on a corner. Here’s a quick demo of the multiplayer in Badland.
Take a look at this exclusive video from the first few levels of the game.
Badland is a well done game and seems very fun. It’s a Universal iOS app and should hit the App Store later this month.
We showed you a little bit about Magicka for the iPad earlier this year. We just got the word that it will be hitting the App Store this week.
This casual and very funny multiplayer RPG will certainly entertain with both the single player campaign and the amazing multiplayer party mode. Here’s a quick look at the beginning of the single player campaign mode.
Posted by Jeff Scott on March 7th, 2013 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Angry Birds, the biggest selling game of all time with over 1 billion downloads has gone free on the App Store for the first time. On the off chance that you haven’t bought it yet, grab it now for guaranteed fun. Both the iPhone version and the iPad Version are free for a week week as the App Store App of the Week.
Posted by Jeff Scott on March 6th, 2013 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
MessageMe is entering a very busy space, one that’s dominated by WhatsApps, the one of messaging apps. That said, I’ve been testing MessageMe for a few weeks and it is very well designed, feature rich, and overall well done. Give it a shot.
★ Unlimited chat for FREE. Uses WiFi, 3G, EDGE or LTE. No annoying ads ever!
★ No carrier or network charges. No international SMS costs. Chat for FREE all over the world!
★ Adding contacts is easy. Use Facebook or a secret PIN like BBM.
★ Group chat feature keeps all your friends in touch!
★ Share photos from Facebook, Instagram or your camera. Share your own videos as well!
★ Post music & YouTube videos directly into messages.
★ Share your location. Let friends & family know where you are!
★ Push-to-talk recording & walkie talkie feature.
★ Draw & doodle! Then add one of hundreds of stickers & emojis available to express yourself with!
★ All-in-one sharing to Facebook and Twitter
Integration with iPad/iPhone Rating:
Hardware Design Rating:
Re-Use Value Rating:
+ Attractive, well-designed camera
+ Excellent picture quality
+ Easy to setup
- Yearly service plan to use all features
- WiFi range could be much better
- Slow support
Dropcam is a small wifi enabled camera that can be used as a home security camera, baby monitor, or just to watch a dog sleep while away from home. As long as it’s in range of a wifi router, the image can be viewed from anywhere.
I was introduced to the Dropcam at CES this year. It’s an attractive package, both the hardware and the app. With the service plan it also includes some really interesting features not generally found on app-enabled web cams.
The hardware part of the Dropcam consists of a small camera shaped a bit like a 1/2 size hockey puck. The camera has a mini USB connection to allow the device to get power and to connect it to a computer for setup. The base that the camera fits into is very sturdy and fairly easy to mount. Though neither the camera fitting into the base nor the base fitting into the wall mount instill much confidence in their security.
Setting up the camera is easy and inventive. When plugged into a USB port, the camera looks as though it is a USB drive and has the software application needed to configure it right on board. Setup was quick and almost painless. I’ve found the first major restriction of the Dropcam is that it have a relatively short wifi range. The setup software requires that the wifi connection be extra strong to complete the programming. Once programmed, the wifi connection range seems to be a bit more forgiving. But it still seems to fail to connect where other devices wifi devices I have connect without issue. Contacting Dropcam support was of little help with a two week wait for reply.
Once the hardware is ready, the Universal iOS Dropcam app is needed to view the camera. Once signed into a Dropcam account, connected cameras will pop right up. The camera can be viewed them from there or further configured as needed. It must be noted that the picture quality of the Dropcam is the best I have seen in the half a dozen or so wifi cameras I’ve tested. It’s advertised at 720p and it not only looks sharp, but the color and contrast are very good as well. The camera also allows viewers to listen in to what is happening near the camera and even talk back via the app.
The iPad app is far and away easier to use over the iPhone version. The iPhone version of the software could use an update to bring it closer in features and ease of use to the iPad app.
The basic Dropcam service, which is free, allows connection to Dropcams over the Internet — wifi or cellular connection — from anywhere. Dropcam can also send push or email notifications of the configurable motion alerts.
A Plus plan ($9.95/month) gives one of the best features of the Dropcam, cloud-based DVR of video from the camera for up 7 days. This gives the ability to rewind what the Dropcam saw, view motion events, or view a specific time in the past 7 days. A Pro plan ($29.95/month) extends the DVR feature to 30 days recording. Both paid plans offer a discount for multiple cameras on one account, but extra charges do apply.
The app on both the iPhone and iPad does need a few obvious features. For instance, there’s no pinch to zoom on the camera image. Instead, the zoom region must be chosen from one of 5 zones to zoom in on in the Settings app, and it’s static from that point. Also, the camera must be connected to view the cloud based stored video with the DVR feature: an odd omission there.
Small issues aside, the Dropcam is the best app-enabled network camera I have yet tested. The software issues in particular I expect to be resolved over time. The monthly fee is a bit steep, but considering what it’s actually doing, understandable.
Overall, the picture quality and the great app make the Dropcam a great network camera, even without the fairly expensive DVR service.