All Posts By Ben Harvell

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Ben Harvell

with the 148Apps Network since April 29, 2010

I'm a freelance journalist with over six years experience in print and online publishing. Formerly the editor of iCreate magazine, I write for a wide range of technology blogs and magazines. I love my iPhone and iPad and am very excited to be contributing to 148Apps.

Ben is not currently writing for the 148Apps Network.
Personal site :: http://www.benharvell.com

Personalizing your iPhone wallpaper isn’t a difficult process, the hard part is finding the right image. This could be made a great deal easier with the recently updated iWallpapers app from JokeShuffle.net. The free app offers over 15,000 images with more added daily, all sized to perfectly fit your iPhone or iPod touch screen. The images are also of surprisingly good quality across a wide range of categories from movies to sports.

What sets this app apart from its rivals is a unique navigation and feedback system that makes picking a background easier and keeps the focus on the images not menus. When viewing a background, a translucent bar floats to the side of the image and offers a number of options from downloading the image to your phone, through giving feedback and even watching a slideshow of images within this category. The app requires an internet connection to work properly and we would recommend Wi-Fi to keep things running smoothly. As it’s free, iWallpapers is also ad-supported, but beyond this it’s a brilliant tool to have to hand when you feel like spicing up your iPhone and will also become even more important when the custom background feature in iPhone OS 4.0 is released.

FREE!
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-12-28 :: Category: Photography

Backflip Studios, the developer behind Paper Toss and Ragdoll Blaster has announced that it will be launching five new games on the App Store this month, all of which will be free. The company has also announced that it has seen over 26 million downloads in its first year of app development with many more to come. On top of this success, Backflip will also be publishing a number of games from other developers over the next few months. While some complain about apps that are supported by advertising, nobody can complain about great games that don’t cost a penny and it seems Backflip is happy to provide us with just that.

So what does Backflip have in store for us?

Strike Knight
First on the roster is Strike Knight, a puck bowling game similar to arcade machines of the past, that sees the user compete for a high score while being taunted by The Strike Knight himself. This app just went live for iPhone and can be downloaded here.

Harbor Havoc 3D Free
Later this month, Harbor Havoc 3D, Backflip’s popular “Flight Control with boats” game will be rereleased as a free app.

Graffiti Ball
Graffiti Ball, slated for an early June release, involves using your iPhone to direct a ball to a target while also picking up bonuses using a spray paint can and gravity.

Paper Toss HD
Of the over 20 million users of the highly addictive Paper Toss, those with iPads will be excited to see Paper Toss HD arrive in mid-June.

Ninjump
Coming in late June is Ninjump, which sounds like a lot of fun. The game sees a ninja, being pursued by other ninjas, climbing up two buildings, jumping between the two and picking up bonuses.

Hit the jump for more screenshots from upcoming Backflip Studios games.

Continue reading Backflip Studios Announces 5 Upcoming, Free Games »

A forum post over at Mac Rumors has shed a little light on the hugely delayed availability of internet tethering for the iPhone on AT&T. Announced at the iPhone OS 3.0 event (yes, that long ago!) AT&T is yet to introduce the feature that allows users to share their iPhone’s 3G connection with a computer via Bluetooth or USB.

The forum post shows two images found within the iPhone 4.0 Beta that is being seeded to developers and shows a Setup Internet Tethering option as well as a popup screen explaining that in order to enable tethering the user must contact AT&T. AT&T remains the sole carrier of the iPhone in the US and has been dogged by issues with its network including dropped calls and poor 3G coverage. Many believe that its delay in rolling out tethering to the iPhone is due to worries that it may put too much strain on the network.

Will the launch iPhone OS 4.0 be the moment those desperate for tethering have been waiting for? We guess all will be revealed at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference this June.

[ via Mac Rumors ]

Something is going horribly wrong with Apple’s legendary veil of secrecy. Following the highly documented iPhone prototype leaks already this year, it now appears that a prototype iPod touch has escaped into the wild as well. The same Vietnamese website that, to the best of our knowledge, still has an iPhone 4G prototype is now posting images of a prototype iPod touch with a built-in 2 megapixel camera. As before, Tinhte.vn has also posted a video of the device in action that appears to be running some kind of diagnostic tool with some very un-Apple graphics, but it does show the camera working. Last time we posted about Tinhte.vn we mentioned the dramas Jason Chen of Gizmodo encountered when showing off video of an Apple prototype and urged a little caution. The guys in Vietnam obviously missed that post or simply don’t care, this time they even include footage of them walking into their office!

While this is clearly a prototype model, it may not be that new. Apple is alleged to have scrapped an iPod touch with a camera shortly before its iPod event in September 2009 where it instead launched the iPod nano with video. Images circulating on the web around that time also looked very similar to these. Mac Rumors claims that the codename N18 on the sticker one of the images makes this model a third-generation iPod touch prototype, manufactured in June 2009. Whether or not Apple is planning to return to the iPod touch with camera remains to be seen but these pictures at least prove that they have tried it.

And meanwhile, across the South China Sea, more iPhone prototype information is being spilled. Taiwanese website Apple.pro has posted what appear to be shots of the next generation iPhone’s front fascia. This isn’t exciting in itself, given that we’ve seen what we expect to be the finished product already, but what is interesting is one of these front panels is white. Apple already sells the iPhone with a black or a white back panel and, if these images are true, now plans to sell a completely white version as well. We’re not sure we like the idea of an all-white iPhone, especially if the aluminum seen on the black prototype is included on this white version. We may well think differently when we see the final product, however, with Apple being a company synonymous with beautiful products. Then again, Apple used to be a company synonymous with pre-launch security…

[ via Tinhte.vn ]

[ via Apple.pro ]

Following our report on the launch of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s Square app and payment service for iPhone, Visa and DeviceFidelity have joined the iPhone payment market with a solution named In2Pay. This time, enabling iPhone uses to make contactless payments with their device rather than receive them.

Announced today, the In2Pay solution allows iPhone users to make “contactless transactions” by positioning their iPhone in front of a contactless payment terminal. In order to use the service, the iPhone must be housed within DeviceFidelity’s protective case, which uses microSD technology. The case is said to allow “mobile contactless capability” to the iPhone and is compatible with the 3G and 3GS models.

In a press release, Visa says: “By placing a removable In2Pay microSD into the protective case, iPhone users can take advantage of In2Pay’s secure contactless capabilities where contactless transactions are offered. They range from buying goods in retail stores and at unattended kiosks, to transit ticketing, and even securely accessing buildings and computers networks.”

Trials of the service are scheduled to start during the second quarter of this year.

The service builds on Visa’s payWave technology for contactless transactions and uses the DeviceFidelity In2Pay technology to make use of any mobile phones with a microSD memory slot. This suggests that the iPhone may not be the only device Visa is aiming In2Pay at. The iPhone, of course, does not currently support microSD and therefore needs a casing to house the microSD card.

“The more than 200,000 apps on the App Store are an integral part of iPhone users’ lives.” said Amitaabh Malhotra, COO, DeviceFidelity. “With our In2Pay solution, we want to give both iPhone users and app developers the power to do even more, by putting the convenience of interactive secure mobile transactions, right at their fingertips, anywhere they are.”

The In2Pay case is apparently designed to stay attached to the iPhone and offers a micro USB slot for charging and syncing their device.

It will be interesting to see how the service will be priced by Visa when it comes to roll out the service and, whether or not the DeviceFidelity case will be free or part of a subscription package. While the additional case could be seen as a benefit to some, many iPhone users dislike the idea of any housing that adds weight or thickness to the device and others preferring specific cases.

There are some things that we know the iPhone can do, from play games to make calls, however, until this app came along we doubt anyone thought about adding their face to a poster in a movie. But that’s what ModdedMovie offers, and it does a brilliant job of it.

The process of making your movie is easy, simply pick a background, choose the type of poster or billboard you want and then add a photo of someone’s face from the iPhone’s camera. You then simply position the face using pinching and dragging gestures and adjust the color and exposure of the image to make it look as natural as possible. We found that picking images focused on a face rather than a group shot worked well and, where possible, shooting a photo specifically for the app provided the best results.There are a bunch of initial styles to choose from including Car Advertising, Advertising hoardings and billboard advertising and, within each, there is a selection of advertising types. These include Happy Birthday, a wanted poster, movie poster, fashion poster and an I Love You message.

Once you have picked your theme and added an image, the fun really starts. The image is rendered within a movie that shows a street scene with a poster containing your picture in the background. The video clip looks a little like handheld footage so you could easily use the output as part of a “have you seen this?!” prank to play on friends. You can view finished movies from within the app or send them to your iPhone’s Camera Roll for sharing online or syncing to your computer. The output is pretty impressive however does need an iPad or iPhone 3GS in order for it to work. In our initial inspection we did encounter a couple of crashes when rendering or choosing certain themes but we hope these will be ironed out with an update. This is version 1.0 after all.

You might be asking, what on earth would I use this app for, and we thought the same, however once you get to grips with it, ModdedMovie does offer a whole host of possibilities including personalized birthday greetings to friends and loved ones. You could even add the video to your own website if you have one or to a home movie as a dynamic introduction. Regardless, this is an enjoyable app to use and, while slightly pricey at $2.99, does offer a number of possibilities and will be great for kids.

ModdedMovie iPhone application Intro from dudeStock.com on Vimeo.

FREE!
$1.99
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2010-04-12 :: Category: Entertainment
FREE!
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2010-04-19 :: Category: Entertainment

If you’ve ever had the urge to push someone down a flight of stairs but didn’t want to deal with the legal proceedings that follow, Stair Dismount is for you.

The physics-based game from Secret Exit, the studio that created Zen Bound, has just been updated as a universal app meaning that it now runs natively on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Available for $0.99 on the App Store, the iPad version features a user interface optimized for the device which includes contextual menus and more detailed textures. Snapshots of your dismounts, which are a little gruesome but make up an integral part of the game, are also of higher quality when taken on the iPad.

For ragdoll physics and laughs aplenty, this is a must-have app for users of all iDevices.

FREE!
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-11-25 :: Category: Games

Compression Game Goes HD And Free

There’s only one thing we enjoy more than a quality iPhone game updated for the iPad, and that’s a quality, free game for the iPad. That’s exactly what dropped into our inbox with the announcement that the excellent Compression for iPhone is now available on the iPad as Compression HD.

The game plays like a sadistic version of Tetris using the same matching of falling colored blocks but with the added dimension of the walls closing in on you – after every three blocks that fall! This unique feature adds even more excitement to a very addictive game that makes full use of the iPad’s screen with beautiful textures and colors. The game also features an ominous yet immersive soundtrack and OpenFeint compatibility.

Compression is a prime example of simple but effective game design for the iPhone and iPad and the fact that the HD version is available for free is the icing on an already delicious cake.

FREE!
iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2010-05-17 :: Category: Games

It’s hard to avoid the daily (sometimes hourly) Twitter updates and Facebook posts informing you that a friend has “checked-in” at Starbucks. Apps and services like Foursquare and Gowalla have taken the mobile market by storm with millions of downloads and as many users sharing their locations in order to earn points and become the virtual “mayor” of a specific spot.

If you’ve never used such a service, it’s easy enough to disregard these ventures as pointless playthings for those with too much time on their hands. However, this appears not to be the case if news from Booyah Inc. is true across the location-based mobile app market. The company has recently closed a $20 million round of financing which sees prominent investor, Jim Breyer, join its Board of Directors.

Booyah is the creator of MyTown, a popular location-based social game where users “virtually” buy their favorite stores and locations. As they do so they earn points, charge rent on owned locations, unlock rewards and earn cash to be spent in real locations. The New York Times said “MyTown Turns the Real World into Monopoly” however it appears that the money to be made by developers in this market is very, very real. MyTown is currently played by over 2 million users and is growing at a rate of 100,000 new users week over week, according to a Booyah Inc. press release. MyTown has also passed 60 million check-ins and 250 million virtual item impressions per month with users spending an average of 70 minutes using the app each day. What DO these people do for a living?

This latest injection of funds is to be spent on igniting and accelerating the company’s “real and digital world offerings” which doesn’t offer much insight. However, with Jim Breyer, the Director of Wal-Mart Stores and Dell on board, we’re willing to bet some significant retail-based features are soon to be available for MyTown players. Breyer is also on the board of companies including Brightcove, Facebook, Etsy and Marvel Entertainment.

“Booyah is at the epicenter of the fastest growing markets today–mobile, social, and interactive gaming,” said Breyer. “Not only are they a next-generation entertainment company, but they are bridging the gap between consumers and businesses. The Booyah management team has both the passion and talent to innovate and create a wholly unique experience.”

If you’re yet to try out MyTown for yourself, it seems like now might be the time to get involved. The app is available for free on the App Store with a number of In App Purchases available.

FREE!
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-11-30 :: Category: Entertainment

You know that tone of voice the receptionist gives you when you call up hotel room service at four in the morning to get them to re-stock your mini bar? They’re trying to be chirpy but you know they’re not happy. That could become a thing of the past if the latest innovation from the Hilton San Diego Bayfront catches on.

Using a unique iPhone and iPad app and online portal, guests can now order food, drinks and amenities from their own device or those that are table mounted within the hotel. Guests are also able to chat directly with staff through the app.

The Hilton plans to offer users of its swimming pool facilities their own iPod touch, pre-loaded with the app this coming summer for the ultimate in poolside decadence. There are also plans to extend the app’s functionality to ordering from the hotel’s in-house Starbucks. Within the Odysea Lounge at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, visitors can use the Odysea Lounge iPad app to book tours of the local area or order food and drink. When away from the hotel, users of the app can order the Lincoln Town Car service from the waterfront as well as discover local attractions of interest.

“San Diego has an amazing coastal culture and lifestyle: It’s informal yet stylish and relaxed yet innovative,” says Konstantine Drosos, Director of Finance at Hilton San Diego Bayfront. “We try to embody those qualities in everything we do, particularly guest services. Since most of our guests travel with some type of web-enabled device, it seemed natural to enhance their stays by offering our guest services and amenities through them.”

The app itself looks both handy and a little too useful in our opinion and will likely see a rise in revenue for the hotel should such enticing combinations as Pomegranate Margarita and Crab Cakes continue to feature. Unique touches include the My Drink My Way option that allows hotel visitors to mix their own drink and have it delivered to their table. How easy could it be to get carried away with your iPad and this app with these features available?

Not only does this use of technology improve efficiency for the hotel but it offers customers more flexibility when it comes to ordering, and the ability to view what they are ordering before purchase is a major plus. The technology behind the new app comes from GBCblue, a guest computing technology and support service. This innovation in guest-services looks to be a big market with the iPad selling in such high numbers and the presentation of such a service can only help Apple shift more units too.

It seems, with its embracing of new technology, The Hilton San Diego Bayfront may have removed the clicking of fingers and the word “garcon” from a customer’s vocabulary.

If you plan on visiting the hotel the app can be downloaded for free here:---

For those who enjoy the thought of creeping around with a loaded weapon (in a virtual sense, of course), Gameloft has announced the upcoming release of Splinter Cell Conviction for iPhone.

The popular console franchise will arrive on the iPhone on May 27 and, from the looks of the video below, will bring a number of the exciting new features to iPhone screens.

Based around stealth and covert operations, you take on the role of the game’s hero Sam Fisher on a mission to avenge the death of his daughter. The game appears to offer an exciting new look and 3D world that brings the thrill of the console version to the iPhone’s handheld format.

Gameloft tells us that there are no concrete plans to introduce an iPad version of the game at the moment.

Check out the video below for a sample of what you can expect when the game is launched at the end of this month.

Note: we got a little hands on time with Splinter Cell Conviction on the iPhone a few days ago. Look for our preview coming up later this week. – ed.

A lot of excitement was generated by a new App Store submission a while back that promised the ability to sync your iPhone with your computer using Wi-Fi, doing away with the need for a physical connection via USB.

Greg Hughes’ aptly named Wi-Fi Sync app has now been rejected by Apple for security reasons as well as that fact that it encroaches on “what they can and cannot allow” on the App Store, according to the developer who explained the rejection to Engadget.

With new file sharing features available for the iPad, another reason for Apple to reject this application could be that it’s planning a similar feature in future versions of iTunes.

Greg notes that the app will be available on the unofficial Cydia app store for iPhone users who have jailbroken their device, however interested iPad users may have to wait a little longer. Writing on his homepage, Greg says that the app isn’t officially supported on the iPad, but he is “working on this”.

[ via Engadget ]

If you’re one of those sociable types who has more friends than you can keep track of, your best chance of staying in touch is to use the power of social networking.

But what if you got caught up in the MySpace explosion and then jumped on the Facebook bandwagon only to be lured by Twitter and Buzz? You can’t just ignore one network and stick with the most popular one. Well… you could but that just wouldn’t be sociable now, would it.

No, your only hope is to let everyone you have ever met via social networking know what you’re doing by updating your status message on each service. But logging in to each site in turn and posting about how you had eggs for breakfast is probably going to keep you busy until it’s time to let your followers know about the contents of your lunchbox. This is where Hellotxt comes in.

The suitably text speak-titled service gathers all of your social networks into one place and allows you to update everything in one go. The aggregation idea is nothing new, but what sets Hellotxt apart from the pack is the sheer number of social networks it supports. Over fifty of them!

Scanning the list, the usual suspects are present but there are some that we have never heard of and some you don’t usually see in this type of app.

The interface is clean and simple and has a few nice details such as a character count (handy for Twitter’s 140 maximum) and link shortening and you can add photos from your iPhone’s Camera Roll to the updates you send out. You can also select which services your update goes to rather than fire out a message to all of them each time. Handy if you’re attempting to mix business with pleasure in the social network world.

You will need to use the Hellotxt.com website to attach your accounts to the Hellotxt service before using the app and you also have to register with Hellotxt which is free, but beyond that there’s no additional setup to worry about.

While we’re sure none of you out there will need to update every social network supported by Hellotxt, if your online updates are starting to wear you down and eat up your time, this free app will be an essential download.

FREE!
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2010-04-15 :: Category: Social Networking

By now you’ve probably spent a decent amount of money on iPhone apps, so wouldn’t it be nice if you could make some of that money back?

Well the Field Agent app might be able to help you do just that, claiming to be the first app that actually pays you, the user. By signing up to become an “Agent” you fit into a very simple ecosystem: A “Client” creates a job, the “Agent” (you) completes the job, the client and agent are happy.

What does this mean in the real word? Well, a client is a company or service that has signed up at FieldAgent.net and needs information on competitors, consumers or wants to check whether its products are being correctly sold. The agent is someone who has download the Field Agent app and receives notification that a client needs a job done, carries it out and is paid a small fee for their troubles.

While it sounds very James Bond meets Foursquare, the app and its assignments are for real as far as we can tell and actually do pay. While no explicit information is given as to the purpose or beneficiaries of these “assignments”, it’s a safe bet that most of them are market research for the Fortune 50 clients who back the app.

Fortunately, the agent jobs required by the clients don’t involve horses heads in beds or extortion either. Most of the assignments involve checking prices at stores or filling out surveys and pay between $3 and $12 if completed properly and within a set time limit. Jobs often require a verifiable GPS location and a photograph in order to keep the clients happy so an iPhone 3G or 3GS is recommend.

Once an agent has made their money it can be transferred to a PayPal account within 48 hours.

Agents also develop a Rep Score that shows how good a job you’re doing for your clients. Starting with 85 points, agents gain points up to a maximum of 100 for successful, accurate jobs with higher rep leading to more frequent jobs. Of course, if you fail at your task or submit inaccurate results you lose points and aren’t at the top of the pile when the next assignment comes in.

It seems that agent jobs are somewhat scarce at the moment with a number of iTunes reviewers giving some pretty harsh feedback that has prompted a response from the company. Apparently the number of agents has increased by 500% in a week and they are waiting for the client growth to catch up. This does sound like a cleverly worded way of saying “companies aren’t quite as interested in the service as consumers who stand to make money” but apparently more jobs are coming soon.

We’re keeping a close eye on this intriguing service that has the potential to be groundbreaking but could also end up wasting a lot of people’s time.

Firemint has launched an update to its popular Flight Control game for iPhone. The update, available now, includes a new map, updated graphics, safe fast-forward plus new sound and music settings.

Flight Control is a highly addictive strategy game in which users take control of a selection of airstrips and must guide different planes and helicopters to their destination. While things start off easy, you’re quickly swamped by jets and light aircraft that need to be designated a runway before they crash into others.

First things first, the new map. Windy Airfield brings a new dimension to the already frantic action with runways opening and closing at timed intervals. Users will need to keep an eye on a windsock in the middle of the level that moves around to denote a change in wind direction. The direction of the wind affects which runways are open. Aircraft already on approach will still land but you’ll have to find an alternate runway for the rest.

So far, the new map is generating excitement among players with many uploading their score to the online leader board. A Google map is currently displaying where the high scores are coming from around the world. Check it out here

Flight Control’s graphics also receive a boost in this update with much brighter colors to help you spot those incoming planes quickly.

Another big addition to Flight Control is the safe fast-forward option that was launched in Flight Control HD for iPad. There are now three speed settings from “Off” through “Locked Fast Forward”. “Safe Fast Forward” speeds up the game but alerts players when a collision is imminent and slows the game back down to normal speed so you can avert disaster. Fast forward is sometimes required during the game to speed up the action and get on to higher scores but, use it carefully or you could cause an aeronautical pile up.

As far as settings go, Flight Control will now remember a user’s sound and music settings which can be altered in the app’s Pause Menu so you don’t have to change them each time you play the game.

As an added bonus to celebrate the update, Firemint has also released a free Flight Control wallpaper for iPhone users which can be downloaded from the Firemint site here.

iPad and desktop wallpaper is also available.

This is a great update from Firemint and we look forward to many more soon as well as tweaks to the iPad app. Check it out today by heading to the updates section of the App Store via your iPhone or in iTunes and, if you haven’t downloaded the game already, do it now!

If you know your Latin then you’ll understand that Fortis means strong, courageous and heroic. That’s apparently what it takes to beat this new game from Encore due on the App Store this month. From the previews we’ve seen this looks much like a spruced up version of the old Asteroids games with some beautiful backgrounds and fluid gameplay.

Compatible with iPhone and iPod touch, Fortis will offer 36 levels split over 3 stages with a bonus level at the end of each stage. As with all games of this type, powerups are the key to success and there are four different weapons available in Fortis, all of which can be upgraded as you progress through the game. As well as weapons there are other items to collect including energy, shields, points, money and extra lives.

It’s exciting to see some of the classic games of the past making a comeback on the App Store and Encore looks to have done a great job resurrecting this genre with Fortis which will likely pickup fans of existing games like Geometry Wars.

Encore will be offering a promotional starting price for Fortis so make sure you check the App Store and this site regularly for news of its release which could be any day now.

Find out more here

Expedia has made a major update to its TripAssist app including all-new interactive features to make it easier for travelers reach their destinations.

A YouTube video has been posted explaining the new features using an example case study.

Some of the best enhancements include itinerary tracking, real-time SMS and email alerts, online booking, alternate flight options and SeatGuru seat maps. Ideal for those last minute alterations to your trip or unexpected ash clouds from Iceland.

From within the TripAssist app, users can now plan their route or follow that of others by looking up flights or checking an entire itinerary. A new horizontal view shows you where you should be at any given point in your trip including arrival and departure times, hotel and rental car locations.

The SeatGuru seat map feature allows you to find where you are seated on your flight to allow for any last minute changes.

The app is free and available now in the App Store.

FREE!
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-05-06 :: Category: Travel

For those of us of legal age and discerning taste, there’s nothing better than a decent glass of wine. We’re also big fans of social networking and can often be found enjoying a tipple with Twitter of an evening. If you’re following this train of thought so far, why not take it to the next level by combining the two disciplines with one iPhone app? That’s what you get when you download the free GrapeVine app, a social network for wine lovers.

Whether you know your Pinot from your plonk or not, GrapeVine aims to bring the world’s wine drinkers together to share new flavors and find out more about the drink they love.

Friends can quickly be found within the app and categorized by the types of wine they drink. Comments can be added to wine picks and networks created as well as friend lists. As one reviewer says, GrapeVine is “like Twitter for us wine folks”.

The app itself is neatly designed and offers a range of customization options including skinning and profile creation. You can even add friends from your iPhone’s Address Book to begin sharing their tastes on “The Vine” which is where most of the grape-based banter flows. Each wine suggestion comes complete with information on the wine type, country and year and also includes a short description of how the wine was discovered by the user, along with pictures. Fortunately, Twitter’s 140-character limit doesn’t apply here.

The Wine Geek section of the app provides a regularly updated mini blog covering all of the latest wine news and accessories as well as opinion on the latest wine trends.

Among the networking flavours found in this full-bodied app, hints of commerce also mingle, with a clever shopping list feature that helps you track down suggested wines at your local store. Not only that, but GrapeVine is open to the wine industry so sellers can promote their upcoming wines and promotions directly to the consumer via the app.

“We’re democratizing wine”, says GrapeVine co-founder Helena Mitchell. “Every wine drinker is now a respected tastemaker and potential trendsetter on GrapeVine. Every wine business can contribute to GrapeVine’s consumer conversation and discovery experience, regardless of size, location or budget.”

After a quick play with this app we were excited by its potential and look forward to seeing how this new type of social network develops. Of course, those who prefer a cold Bud and a burrito (and believe us we do too) may not be quite as entertained by this app, but if you’re even a little bit curious about the world of wine, we’d recommend giving GrapeVine a try.

An iPad app is also in the works according to GrapeVine’s managing director, Kim Alexander:
“iPad is definitely in the plan. The multimedia aspects of wine shares on The Vine and content we provide in Wine Geek are perfect for iPad and will look even more beautiful there. As a distributor of people’s proprietary content, our job is to offer platforms like iPad, to make the content its best. You’ll see us move more and more into celebrity, lifestyle and entertainment wine content, also making it critical to provide a beautiful aesthetic. We have some very exciting and new ways to talk about wine in the works, including a bit of a makeover ourselves.”

GrapeVine is available for free on the App Store for iPhone and iPod touch users. Free registration is also required to begin using the app.

Why isn’t there a native Facebook app for iPad yet? It’s not like the company hasn’t had the time or lacks the resources to update its existing iPhone app. For the time being, iPad users have to choose between blowing up the iPhone app to almost unusable dimensions for the larger screen or use the web app which, to be fair, is acceptable.

That said, it does seem strange that such an obvious iPad app hasn’t yet made its way to the App Store. Thank heavens then for the guys at sobees who have taken it upon themselves to put together a Facebook client for the iPad and, from our initial inspection, have done a brilliant job!

Blurring the lines between an RSS reader and Twitter client, sobees for Facebook manages all of the most commonly used sections of a Facebook account such as Status updates, links, images and video.

The interface is mapped out like the newspaper apps we’ve become accustomed to on the iPad with each section dedicated its own scrollable space. One cool feature is the Breaking News section that grabs a recent wall post or status update and positions it as a breaking news headline for your friend group. The Latest Hot Images section shows recently posted images and lets you swipe through them direct from the front page of the app.

While it takes a little time to load, the People section serves as an attractive who’s who of your Facebook friends, using their profile images as a wall of pictures. The Photos section takes a cue from the iPad’s own Photos app, grouping albums into Event-like galleries. Sadly, the pinch features in Apple’s native Photos app doesn’t feature here.

Events is one of the most handy of sobees for Facebook’s features, a simple calendar interface with small icons on each day to denote a birthday or other event. In most instances throughout the app, clicking on a friend’s profile picture brings up a neat contextual menu that offers a route direct to their profile.

Of course, sobees for Facebook isn’t just for consumption, it also allows you to update your Status, comment on videos and images and post on your friends walls. At the moment it seems you have to manually update via a small refresh button with no obvious option we’ve found to auto-refresh. That, however, is a small price to pay for an excellent app that, for the time being, is free and provides a beautiful alternative to Facebook’s web app on your iPad.

FREE!
iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2010-05-11 :: Category: Social Networking

FIFA World Cup Review

FIFA World Cup Review

iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
With the World Cup in South Africa fast approaching, many will be hunting for a decent iPhone soccer game. Is EA’s latest international offering what sports fans are looking for?

Read The Full Review »

After the media circus surrounding Gizmodo and its potentially lost/stolen iPhone 4G prototype last month, it seems there’s another iPhone 4G in the wild. Possibly not a prototype this time.

Mac Rumors has been provided with a link to a Vietnamese forum, Taoviet.vn, where more pictures of the new iPhone have been posted. According to a Mac Rumors’ source, the device was purchased in the USA along with an iPad. The device is shown from a number of new angles and a teardown of the product is also shown.

A video of the device has been posted to YouTube (see below).

Little new information has been provided by these pictures, however the iPhone’s casing shows that it’s a 16GB model, whereas Gizmodo’s featured XXXGB on the back.

The casing appears more polished on this version with no screws found near the dock connector, suggesting that this is a near finished product. However, in the photos and video, the phone appears to be running some kind of diagnostic firmware and doesn’t look like it responds to presses on the home button. In the teardown images, what looks like a processor with Apple branding can also bee seen.

This new information is set against the sad backdrop of yet another suicide at Hon Hai Group in China where Apple’s iPhones are manufactured. This is the sixth death at Hon Hai this year and follows Hon Hai’s suspension of a member of its security team after a worker killed himself when an iPhone prototype was lost.

After Jason Chen, Gizmodo’s editor, had his home raided by police and his computers and other items taken as part of an ongoing investigation, this Vietnamese poster is playing a risky game. It also brings into question whether or not the “found it in a bar” story from Gizmodo (and its mystery iPhone seller) is likely to hold up now that two iPhone 4G models have surfaced.

Either people are being extremely careless with these valuable prototypes and two have been “lost” by Apple employees in the US or a more serious crime has been committed. This might also explain the shock and awe of the raid on Jason Chen’s house should the police have reason to believe that the Gizmodo iPhone was part of a wider theft.

Either way, our advice to the Vietnamese man in the video above – don’t include your face in footage of you holding a potentially stolen product, it never ends well.

[ via Mac Rumors ]

The team at ALK Technologies has launched its GPS navigation app, CoPilot Live HD, for the iPad on the App Store. The app has been designed specifically for the iPad 3G’s GPS receiver and large screen to provide turn-by-turn, voice-guided navigation.

With recent news of iPad’s being fitted into car dashboards, this is particularly exciting news for those shopping for a new SatNav device for their vehicle.

Street maps are stored on the device and the app can display both 2D and 3D map views with turn instructions for the driver. The app automatically switches between portrait and landscape view and provides iPod controls from within the application, another bonus for those planning to dashboard-mount their new Apple tablet or connect it to their in-car sound system.

CoPilot Live HD offers a feature for users to plan trips offline and preview routes to find the most efficient journey before setting out.

“CoPilot Live HD provides an absolutely sensational GPS navigation and planning experience on iPad 3G,” said Michael Kornhauser, Managing Director at ALK Technologies. “Developing for iPad was a natural step following the tremendous popularity of our CoPilot Live iPhone app. It’s a really fantastic platform for navigation that allows us to fully exploit the many years of expertise we have gained from supporting tablet computers with our CoPilot Live Laptop products.”

CoPilot Live HD is priced at $29.99 for unlimited use with free quarterly map updates through 2010.

Find out more here

$29.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2010-04-30 :: Category: Navigation

We’ve been closely following the buzz surrounding Square, the latest tech startup from Jack Dorsey, Co-Founder and Chairman of Twitter and now it’s live worldwide with its app available on the App Store.

Square is an ingenious app and payment service that allows anyone from a single user to businesses to accept credit card payments anywhere using just an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Those who sign up to the free Square service available at Squareup.com will receive a free card reader that plugs into the audio jack of your device and allows for cards to be swiped. Card details can be entered into the app manually if no reader is present. Receipts and photo verification are included with the service so users are sure of secure transactions with signatures signed on the iPhone screen.

In an open letter on the Square website, Jack Dorsey said:
“Square intends to bring immediacy, transparency, and approachability to the financial world. We want to enable all people to accept payments instantly, with access to all the information they need, in a way that feels amazing and engaging.”

This service will come as a great benefit to smaller businesses or mobile vendors who no longer need to put complex payment systems into place to complete transactions on the road or in person. Square is also keen to point out that, while attractive to the business market, the service is ideal for personal use too and uses the example of a man selling a sofa to his friend using his iPhone and Square.

The environmental benefits of the service are also clear with no paper bills or receipts created from any transaction. Square also points out that it can inform businesses of its repeat customers meaning loyalty cards may be a thing of the past.

So what’s the catch for this free service? It seems there really isn’t one. By comparison to other payment services, Square is a very reasonable option with no contracts or monthly minimums. Square takes a small percentage of each transaction, currently 2.75% +15 ¢ with the card present and 3.5% +15¢ when the card number is keyed in. That’s it!

Of course, a service like Square may take a little time to grow but, if it’s as easy to use as is promised and continues to offer the environmental and financial benefits it does currently, we could likely see Square becoming the default payment service in stores around the world.

After all, it’s not like Mr Dorsey’s other company is doing badly right now.

UPDATE: Pre-orders are now available for international iPad models and accessories via Apple’s online stores.

After a long wait, Apple has announced details of the launch and pricing for iPads outside of the US. On Friday, May 28, iPads will go on sale in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Pre-orders will open on Monday, May 10.

Although the press release is ambiguous, it appears that both the Wi-Fi and 3G models will be available on this date and not staggered as with the US launch.

Only the UK prices have been unveiled so far and, as expected, they are not mere conversions of the US dollar price. Prices start at £429 (inc. VAT) for the 16GB Wi-Fi iPad, £499 for the 32GB model and £599 for the 64GB iPad. Wi-Fi and 3G iPads will be priced at £529, £599 and £699 respectively for the 16, 32 and 64GB models. Prices for iPad accessories are expected to be announced at launch. iPad accessories are also available for pre-order via Apple’s online stores.

At £429 for the cheapest iPad compared to $499 in the US, there is a significant markup for the European market which could have expected a price of around £338 for a straight USD to GBP conversion. Apple claims that the higher cost abroad is due to higher taxes and shipping costs with all UK prices including VAT.

Apple has also announced that it plans to sell the iPad in Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore in July with prices to follow.

The original international iPad launch was pushed back last month after Apple experienced a “surprisingly strong US demand” that saw the company sell over one million units in just 28 days. This lead many in the UK and other countries to purchase the device via eBay and other services providing a way to ship iPads from the US. While a dedicated iPad App Store doesn’t yet exist in the UK, a number of iPad apps are available if searched for.

Should both Wi-Fi and 3G models go on sale at the same time in the UK and other countries it will be interesting to see the demand for each type device with as many as three networks providing data plans for the 3G model in the UK.

The next time you hear of a cool app and jump straight on to the App Store to get it, make sure you know exactly what you’re looking for and check where it’s coming from.

That’s the advice of Marco Arment, developer of Instapaper for iPhone and iPad.

Writing on his personal blog, Marco notes the staggering number of applications playing on the name of successful apps or using similar keywords in order to con unwitting App Store customers into buying them.

Popular bird-launching game, Angry Birds, is one such successful application plagued by a host of pretenders that are found when searching the App Store for its title. Of the top ten search results, only four apps appear legitimate with the actual Angry Birds game and its Lite version making up two of these. Six of the top ten search results are made up of cheat apps and walkthroughs.

ESCAPP’s Angry Birds Cheats, for example, appears in the top five searches and uses a lookalike icon. At $0.99 (the same price as the full Angry Birds app) the application’s description reads “Wonderful and addictive cheats. Accept No Imitations”.

That should be no imitations other than the imitation of affiliation with an actual application and/or developer.

We’ve not downloaded Angry Birds Cheats, but with 432 one star reviews out of 487 and reviews entitled “Absolute Rubbish!!” and “Waste of time money and effort” we’re willing to gamble our reputation on this being a pretty poor app. Add to this that the developer, ESCAPP, doesn’t have a working website but a GoDaddy holding page instead, and the fraud is complete.

InTekOne, LLC is another app publisher working in a similar way but this time using a modified version of the Angry Birds icon for its Angry Birds Walkthrough app. Once again, its site does not appear when clicked in iTunes and it’s left up to the poor developer, who was presumably commissioned to create the app, to shoulder the blame.

Chillingo, the publisher of Angry Birds, is equally unhappy with these apps: “We are going to send a formal copyright infringement request to Apple about these apps soon,” said Joe Wee, Director of Chillingo.

Chillingo prefers to reward loyal gamers with hints and tips at no cost by providing walkthrough trailers on its Developers’ YouTube channels. That way, they get free, valid information directly from the source. Angry Birds’ developer Rovio provides official suggestions for Angry Birds here

So what can you do to avoid inadvertently downloading fake apps or “squatters” who use successful apps as a marketing tool? Unfortunately, not a lot. Of course, you’re free to contact Apple and let them know your thoughts and Marco Arment also lists ways developers can protect their intellectual property from such apps on his site here.

For the average consumer, however, it appears that vigilance is your only weapon. Find out the name of the developer, check their website and, most importantly, read the app’s reviews for consumer feedback before buying.

Neither ESCAPP nor InTekOne, LLC have responded to our contact regarding their applications at time of writing.

[ via Marco.org ]

Appular and Brainium Studios, developers of Hand Of Greed, have announced a competition to promote their new blade-dodging game.

A huge collection of prizes are available from free copies of the game through to an iPad as the grand prize. Using Twitter, Facebook and Email entry methods, prizes are being given away regularly until the closing date of 5/12.

For more information on how to enter, head to the Appular Facebook page here

Note: This competition is open to US iTunes Store account holders only

It seems that AT&T may have made one last Hail Mary play in order to remain the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the US. According to Wall Street analyst Brian Marshall, quoted by Computerworld, AT&T may have been allowed to hang on to the deal until the end of 2010 by offering significantly discounted data plans for Apple’s iPad 3G.

In the run up to the iPad launch, many touted Verizon as a shoe-in to become the next iPhone carrier alongside AT&T as well as to provide data services for the iPad. This never happened.

Although his claims appear unsubstantiated, Marshall, who currently works for BroadPoint AMTech, believes that AT&T, in a desperate bid to hold on to the lucrative iPhone carrier rights, made some serious sacrifices in providing a hugely discounted data contract for iPad owners.

Consumers questioned the need for another 3G contract alongside their iPhone when the iPad was announced with many pundits claiming that the price of the service would be key to Apple’s strategy. By granting an additional six months to AT&T’s exclusivity, it appears Apple was able to meet this target.

AT&T currently offers two data plans for the iPad 3G, one for $14.99 per month for up to 250MB and another at $29.99 for unlimited data. Neither package requires the user to sign a contract and both include free access to AT& Wi-Fi hotspots. By comparison to the competition, this is a very reasonable deal for iPad users and one that will surely have come at a cost to AT&T, which has struggled with wireless data loads since the iPhone was launched.

By contrast to the US, Europe has multiple carriers for the iPhone that are currently fighting to offer data plans for the iPad when it is released this summer.

AT&T’s network has long been criticized for a number of failings including dropped calls and poor coverage, notably so during a very public spat between the company and Verizon. Verizon launched a stinging ad campaign comparing its 3G coverage to AT&T’s while also aping Apple’s iPhone ads with the slogan “There’s a map for that” resulting in a legal back and forth between both companies. In response to AT&T’s suit that claimed the ads mislead the public, Verizon simply commented “the truth hurts”.

Verizon has reportedly conveyed to Apple its desire to carry the iPhone but, at present, it seems they can’t offer the right goods to seal the deal. Not even, it appears, the offer of a better network.

via Computerworld

If you haven’t gone ahead and jailbroken your iPhone already, you’re no doubt as excited as us at the prospect of iPhone OS 4.0. So many of the features we’ve long been craving to have on our phones will be at our fingertips, hopefully some time this June.

Whether you’re looking to prevent the RSI-inducing homescreen swiping that occurs when you install more than 50 or so apps or you simply want to change your background image, iPhone OS 4.0 will have the answer.

Music fans will love the ability to run apps like Pandora in the background while browsing the web or checking emails, and non-iPad owners will relish getting hold of their first iBooks for iPhone.

But we know all of the cool new features in the next OS already, don’t we? Apparently not. Sources who have their hands on the latest developer builds of the next iPhone operating system are providing snippets of information on some more great tweaks that weren’t even mentioned during Apple’s “Sneak Peak” back in early April.

New Settings/Controls
In iPhone OS 4.0 a swipe to the left of the first homescreen (which takes you to Spotlight in OS 3.0) brings up a new interface with some new buttons. iPod controls, much like those you see when double clicking the home button in OS 3.0, sit in the center with a quick iPod app launcher button to their right. On the left is the best new feature yet and previously only a plaything of the iPad owner – orientation lock. At last, browsing the web in bed is no longer something you have to do sitting up or lying at an angle only familiar to contortionists. 9to5Mac, who posted images of these new features, suggest that this could be part of a wider plan to introduce “mini-widgets” in the final build of iPhone OS 4.0

File Sharing and more
Meanwhile, over at The Boy Genius Report, even more cool tidbits are surfacing. First is the ability to drag manually add files to your iPhone via iTunes. Simply plug in your phone and access the File Sharing section under the Apps tab in iTunes to drag files to and from your computer and on to your device. Closing running applications (as part of the multitasking feature) has become easier too. In much the same way you currently delete apps from your iPhone, simply holding on an open app’s icon will produce small close buttons for you to click on and shut down the app.

This is about as much that’s out there at the moment but remember, Steve Jobs promised over 100 new user features when showing off OS 4.0, so expect many more neat tricks and enhancements in the coming weeks.

[ via 9to5Mac ]
[ via Boy Genius Report ]

After Apple acquired music streaming service Lala Media at the end of 2009, many believed it would be bringing this cloud-based technology to its iTunes service very soon. While Lala will shut down on May 31st it appears that it may still be a while before a streaming version of the iTunes Store for both desktop computers as well as iPhones and iPads will be launched.

Lala offers a catalog of over 7 million songs that stream directly to users over the internet. In order for listeners to listen to a specific song at any time and as many times as they wish they are required to pay a $.10 fee. Songs are also available to download at prices similar to the iTunes Music Store. Apple acquired the company in December 2009 for an undisclosed fee thought to be around $17 million.

However, after initial excitement at the Lala Media shutdown announcement, it appears not to denote an imminent launch of Apple’s own streaming product.

Apple is said to be talking to record labels regarding a streaming service but these discussions have been pegged as “preliminary at best” according Peter Kafka writing for MediaMemo at All Things D.

The success of streaming music and video applications like Spotify and Pandora for the iPhone and the new ABC Player for iPad have added weight to the rumours that Apple will begin to deliver music and movies in the same way via iTunes but it appears this move could still be a way off.

Apple is well aware of the demand for streaming music services after showing Pandora’s application streaming music while making use of the new multitasking feature found in the upcoming iPhone OS 4.0.

One of the key factors in such a service is the method in which payment would be made by consumers. While Apple has strong ties with the major record labels it took a long time to thrash out a mutually beneficial deal. Changing the landscape for music delivery may introduce further issues. Streaming music a user already owns on iTunes is one possible outcome however a subscription model may also be made available which would tie in to an iPhone and iPad application.

With Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference only a month away, those hoping for an announcement on the topic will likely be disappointed, with many sources claiming the launch of a streaming iTunes service won’t happen before the third quarter of this year.

[via MediaMemo ]

If you’ve ever wondered why you see a little blue Lego brick rather than a video when using Safari on an iPod, iPhone or iPad, it’s really down to the personal preferences of two very rich and powerful men.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, is never one to mince his words or compromise when it comes to his company or its products and has exhibited these qualities once again with an “open letter” explaining his thought’s on Adobe’s Flash products amid the ongoing hostilities between the two companies.

When the iPhone was first launched, many criticized its inability to play the Flash video used on many websites including YouTube. Websites created using Flash technology were also incompatible with the iPhone.

With the launch of the App Store most of these complaints were calmed and Apple’s own YouTube app solved part of the web video problem, however a number of major sites such as The New York Times still use Flash and therefor cannot be viewed properly in the iPhone’s Safari browser.

Adobe is “lazy”…
At a recent meeting of Apple employees, Jobs was said to refer to Adobe as “lazy” and referred to its buggy versions of Flash for the Mac as reasons not to support it on Apple’s mobile devices. These comments were supposed to be behind closed doors, but Jobs’ “Thoughts on Flash” posted last week on Apple’s website is for the world to see. Apple has also banned the submission of any apps to the App Store that were built using Adobe’s new Flash CS5 tools.

In his notes Jobs explains: “I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads.”

Running through six topics covering everything from Flash’s inability to work with touch devices through security issues and battery life, all the while promoting the new HTML5 standard, Jobs concludes with this stinging sign off “Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind”.

Apple’s “smokescreen”…
Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen has, in some part, responded to Jobs’ harsh words in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in which he refutes a number of Jobs’ statements referring to them as a “smokescreen” as well as finding Jobs’ reference to Flash being a closed standard as “amusing”. The fight back from Adobe appears to be focussing on its belief that all devices are equal and its software allows developers to create apps for a number of devices while Apple wants to control and manipulate its own hardware and software platform.

In some ways, Narayen is right. Everybody wants their sites and apps to be available on these highly popular Apple devices. Security and performance issues aside, by allowing Flash apps and sites into the mix, Apple would be relinquishing some control and would provide Adobe with more power. Without Flash, app developers must stick to using Apple’s own tools to create software for the App Store and web developers must take advantage of the open HTML5 standard to keep their sites compatible. Adobe is left out in the cold until it decides to toe the line.

So what’s the result of all this squabbling?
Adobe will push on and allow developers to create content for all of the other devices out there while being forced to ignore Apple, the market leader. On the flip-side, Apple will feel little effect while continuing to develop its ecosystem and maintain control of its developers and platform.

For these reasons, along with Jobs’ pigheadedness when it comes to quality and control, the blue bricks will remain until the rest of the world catches up to Apple’s view of the future – and that doesn’t include Flash.

image credit: Flickr user Ping ping

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