Last year we brought you news that Best Buy had a great, but short sale on iTunes gift cards. These sale cards are a great way to get all of your app purchase on the app store at a discount. As a matter of fact, it’s the only way to get a discount on the App Store. These iTunes gift card sales come few and far between. But for those of you in the US, there’s a new sale you can take advantage of.
Now through April 2nd, Costco has $60 iTunes Gift Card packages on sale for $48.99, a nearly 20% savings. There is not tax on the cards at Costco — at least not here in California, your local laws may vary. Also, Apple may or may not charge tax on the purchase, again depending on where you live.
There was an sign on the display at Costco that said limit 2 per member, but I bought 6 and got the full discount on each. Again, your local rules may vary.
With the iPad quickly approaching, this is a great way to add virtual money to your iTunes account to be ready to get all those new iPad apps. This also works for those of you without a credit card — just use cash at Costco to get the cards.
If you head to Costco to get this deal, what was it like at your local Costco? Were they out of stock? Did they limit you to 2? Let us know in the comments.
There has been very little information available about what we can expect to see for iPad app prices and their method of publishing. With the increased size of the screen, many are calling for greatly increased prices noting that the iPad is more like a laptop computer than it is a mobile device. Others believe that since the operating system and development environment are pretty much duplicates of the iPhone that app prices will fall in a similar range. We did a quick survey of some developers to see what their plans are for how they are going to release their iPad apps and what we can expect in iPad app prices.
In addition to the price question, how will applications be released? Apple has made available to developers two different ways to create applications for the iPad. In addition there are various forms of those two methods developers are looking to use as well.
Univeral or HD/XL?
The first method of iPad app creation is to create a unique application, an app with a new name and a unique bundle id. These iPad only apps, while they may share the same functions of their iPhone versions, will be unique and require customers to purchase the iPad version even if they have already purchased the iPhone version. We will also likely see some applications as iPad only that are unique to the iPad in that they just wouldn’t work on the iPhone with a small screen.
The second method to create an iPad application is to release what is designated by Apple as a Universal build app. These are apps that work both on the iPhone and the iPad. The apps have functionality built in that will recognize if they are running on an iPad and show the proper iPad controls and display full screen on the device. For the customer, this is the obvious preference. If you have already bought the iPhone version, the iPad version is just an update away, at no additional cost.
In our survey of developers, a slight majority (52%) indicated that they will be developing Universal builds for their iPad applications over iPad specific (48%) versions.
Since Apple has indicated that Universal builds that are updates to existing apps should not yet be submitted to the App Store, this leaves the developer of universal builds at a little bit of a disadvantage as it’s likely they will not be available for the device launch on 4/3.
As you probably already know, GDC or the Game Developers Conference in San Fransisco is an annual conference at which game developer get together to share development, tools, tips and technologies. This year, independent development companies Semi Secret and Backflip Studios were quick to share just how successful their dive into the App Store has been. Between the two of them, they have 8 paid applications on the store.
Yesterday, co-founder of Semi Secret, Eric Johnson revealed to Pocket Biz that the company had sold 115,000 copies of their popular side-scroller adventure Canabalt. Whats interesting though is these download statistics he said were based upon Canabalt selling at the $2.99 price point over 5 months. He was also quick to estimate the ball-park piracy rate of Canabalt, which he put at 20 percent over those 5 months.
Similarly, Backflip Studio revealed it had generated $2.5 Million in around nine and a half months of being on the store. The company stated these figure were based on enjoying a staggering 22 Million downloads overall, revealing 17 Million of those came from just one of their App Store titles – Paper Toss. On a side note Backflip also announced mobile advertising is making them a substantial $1 Million in just six months and $379,000 in December last year, alone.
Like most App Store addicts, I browse the Top 100 lists from time to time. The top 10 spots are usually filled with games like Doodle Jump, Pocket God, Bejeweled, and whatever other big-name apps have hit recently. That makes sense. I can even understand things like The Moron Test and SpinArt being popular. The whims of the masses are ever-changing, after all.
But what the heck is up with “60 Mario and friends”?
60 Mario and friends (the poor capitalization is not mine, thank you) from Isayonline is nothing more than a soundboard app—it plays sounds from old Nintendo games. Super Mario Bros, Mario 64, Street Fighter, Zelda, and Donkey Kong game sounds are all present. Now, I consider myself a Nintendo fan, and I love these games. But there’s something wrong with a simple soundboard app claiming the #2 spot on the top paid charts. First of all, this is a blatant case of copyright infringement. We’ve seen excellent, original games like EDGE and Stoneloops of Jurassica pulled from the App Store for supposed infringement, so how did 60 Mario and friends get through? It uses images of Nintendo’s characters and sounds from Nintendo games; it doesn’t get more obvious than this.
Secondly, the app has a two-star rating, and not because people are unsatisfied with the sounds—but because they thought they could have classic Nintendo games on their iPods and iPhones for a buck. Wait. What? The app is called “60 Mario and friends,” and it’s in the Games category, but it’s obvious if you read the description that it’s just a soundboard app. I suppose that literacy is too much to expect these days. If you can’t read a few sentences, I don’t think you should have the right to complain about losing a buck. Besides, Nintendo won’t be releasing their games on the App Store anytime soon, not when the iPhone/iPod family is starting to compete with the DS/DSi.
As I said, I’m a Nintendo fan through and through, and I’m hardly alone. 60 Mario and friends simply milks our nostalgia for some great games. But Isayonline is profiting from something that they didn’t create. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to grab some classic sound clips, but let’s not reward Isayonline for packaging stolen content—or Apple for letting it through.
You may remember towards the end of the year, Apple introduced a new online system which allowed you to preview information for both singles and albums in its current iTunes back catalogue, using its official iTunes URLs, without the need to physically launch iTunes. Then, as we noted, later in the year they also added the ability to actually listen to 30 second audio snippets of these products, effectively moving the iTunes catalogue online. This system became more commonly known as iTunes Preview.
Following on from the music-centric previews added to iTunes Preview, Apple has today quietly activated the same system for all of its App Store URLs associated with its application catalogue. So, what does this mean? Well, this means you can now fully preview applications, including the application’s icon artwork, its accompanying screenshots, pricing information, App Store ratings, customer reviews, release date, seller and more, directly within your browser without ever needing to open iTunes. This, of course, comes alongside a “View in iTunes” button which then takes you directly to the product stated on iTunes. The new page replaces the old page which featured a simple dialogue box which asked if you wished to launch iTunes.
.. And the new year App Store sales just keep coming! Yesterday we got a tip from one of the more prominent iPhone development studios on the store, Glu Mobile, who told us that starting today, Friday, January 8th, they’ll be staging a new year app blowout sale. Running this coming weekend only, the sale will see the studios well-loved hit titles such as Family Guy: Uncensored, Glyder and Bonsai Blast (among others), drop in price to just $0.99 each!
The sale will end the evening of Monday January 11th. Check out the full list of the apps on sale below, along with a short, quick-fire description of each to help you on your way with the decision to buy ..
Lets face it, everyone likes a sale – and I imagine even more so when this said sale involves grabbing a bunch of pretty great iPhone apps for almost next to nothing! For the second year running, Minnesota based indie developers Howling Moon Software have rounded up some well loved developers to bring a snatching of seriously cool App Store titles at awesome discounts!
Starting December 31st 2009 and ending January 1st 2010, each of the included titles will be discounted from their normal price, allowing you to snap up the dev(s) hard work at a pittance, and with titles such as Retro Dreamer’s ghoulish Eyegore’s Blast, Chaotic Box’s bubble popping frenzy Pinch n’ Pop, Howling Moon’s physics-filled Crayon Ball and Exosyphen Studios’ roller coaster offering Rail Adventures, there’s something for everyone!
Here’s a full list of the applications set to go on sale:
Showcasing 25 iPhone applications of all description and size, this yearly “App Blowout” sale is described as being a unique way for independent developers targeting the App Store and Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch to promote their software to the masses, and of course offer a little something special moving into the new year.
So, Where is all this going down? I hear you ask. Well, simply slide on over to: newyearappblowout.com. There, starting December 31st all the prices changes listed above will come into effect, and we’re told by Andy of Howling Moon Software that the applications will be discounted for 48 hours – and so advice is to get in quick!
I know for sure that I’ll be keeping an eye on how this one plays out, and as I’m sure you’ll agree, there are some great title reductions up there this year!
They did it last year, and now it’s back. The Great App Bake Off 2009. Developers, put down your keyboards, xcode testing tools and virtual paintbrushes, and instead pick up those baking trays and oven mittens, because today my friends, you’re about to cook for your pride, your glory and .. cool stuff! Yes, the Great App Bake Off is back. A time of the year for App Store developers to stop, think and ask themselves that all important question: “Can I actually bake a cake?”
But it’s not just for developers! Oh no, you can enter too, and there are prizes involved – lots of them. Hosted by Gavin Bowman of Retro Dreamer, also the developer behind the App Store hit Sneezies, The Great App Bake Off is a (so far) annual event which sees anyone from anywhere baking for the fun of it! Here’s how it works. You pick an App Store application of your choice, and then you bake a cake which resembles that application. Whether it be in the shape of the app’s main character, or a mouth-watering version of the app’s current App Store icon – You simply have to bake it and take a few shots of it.
It’s simple: pick an App, bake it, send us the pictures, win prizes.
Checkout these awesome first entries into the contest below. The first depicts the cool App Store icon of the app Story Tracker, and the other sees one of the main character’s of Elf Command, come to sponge! .. I mean life!
Once you’ve done that, there are two ways you can send Gavin and the team your cake entries. You can either e-mail them to appcakes at retrodreamer.com, or you can tweet them as an @reply. You’ll find App Cakes on Twitter @AppCakes.
But your awesome bakery efforts will not go unnoticed. Far from it! Apart from the delicious reward of eating your (hopefully) scrumptious creation afterward, you’ll be entering to win yourself a tonne of cool App Store goodies, including all of this:
- A £50 iTunes Gift certificate provided by Chillingo
- A $50 iTunes Gift certificate, provided by Antair
- A $15 iTunes Gift certificate and promo codes for Sneezies and Eyegore’s Eye Blast provided by Retro Dreamer
- 2 promo codes for Story Tracker provided by Andrew Nicolle
- Promo codes for Rocket Santa and Star Fusion provided by Bytesize Adventures
- 5 promo codes for Serving Sizer, provided by Creative Algorithms
.. With more on the way!
I’m told by Gavin that he expects this prize pool to grow over the next few weeks, as more and more developers take to their kitchens and get involved, and the contest gets more coverage. Of course, all prizes will be distributed over the best entries when judged in January. The closing date for new entries into The Great App Bake Off 2009 is January 4th .. so get baking!
Are you sitting down? .. Okay here it goes. RockStar Games, publishers of probably the most loved multi-platform action title to have ever hit the market, Grand Theft Auto, have today finally made their debut on the App Store. But hold your excitement, for just a second ..
For anyone who isn’t aware (where have you been? .. Mars?), the Grand Theft Auto series is a heart-racing, exhilarating and action-packed gaming experience. Originally created by Scottish game programmer Dave Jones, throughout, the game sees you play the role of various figures of the criminal underworld, all the while having the title take you on a hardcore roller-coaster of action, adventure, driving, occasional role-playing, stealth and racing.
But don’t get too excited. Toni Cipriani, Donald Love and Vincenzo Cilli are nowhere to be seen on Apple’s store of dreams, just yet. In fact, RockStar have debuted without their flagship GTA franchise. Instead, the studio’s debut application is that of the musical variety. Partnering exclusively with multi-platinum producer Timbaland, Beaterator is a beat machine for both iPhone (and iPod touch), with the ability to record and play voice loops. More importantly it sees signature beats from world renowned DJ and producer, Timbaland, land on the platform.
Now, this is exciting and all, but being a graphic designer myself, I can’t help but think RockStar has short changed us iPhone and iPod users a little, with this. For example, if you take a look at the user interface on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) version which was released earlier this year, and then compare it to the App Store version (above), you’ll see that our version is as far from “graphic intensive” as you can probably get. That’s a shame really, considering it’s RockStar, and they’re launching the Beaterator title on a device as big as the iPhone for the first time, you’d kinda think they’d have made some substantial effort, right? To make that all important first impression?
But anyway, really I’m swaying from my original point of this article. Before today, an iPhone touch-based version of Grand Theft Auto seemed unlikely. Not because the type of game was deemed impossible on a device such as the iPhone, heck – we’ve already seen the likes of Payback and Gangstar: West Coast Hustle, both of which replicate GTA.
No, it was the sole fact RockStar wasn’t even on the App Store yet, to facilitate the franchise coming to the platform, which brought the critics to say it would probably never happen.
The BIG news today though is that RockStar Games, the well-known worldwide, adorned publisher of the million-dollar Grand Theft Auto franchise, has finally made it’s way onto the App Store .. and I’ll bet my money that a multi-touch version of Grand Theft Auto won’t be far behind.
Poor Mobigame. They’ve not had a day of rest, and have had a heck of a dog fight trying to keep their retro-based, multi-award winning 3D puzzler Edge, on the App Store. Read that Tim? Multi-award winning. Edge is loved by many, becoming a App Store hit overnight – so, as you can imagine, it was a shock to both Mobigame and the App Store crowd when Apple decided to pull it. But Why? I hear you ask. Well, a few months back Apple pulled Edge, and Mobigame became locked into a legal on-going battle against this man – Tim Langdell.
Claiming to own the trademark and worldwide copyright over the word ‘Edge,’ ever since he registered his computer publishing house ‘Edge Games’ back in the 80′s, called upon Apple to put a stop to what Langdell described as “copyright infringement”. See, the thing is, it’s not the first time he’s done this. In fact, after this case came to light, various well known news sources started scouring Langdell’s numerous websites, and found he actually makes a killing off threatening companies with lawsuits over this same trademark.
As described by David Papazian of Mobigame, back in May of this year ..
“We have legal issues with a man named Tim Langdell, and if you already asked yourself why Soul Edge (the Namco game) was called Soul Blade and later Soulcalibur in the US, you have your answer.” (via Fingergaming)
The situation got so bad that the International Game Developers Association got involved, asking for Langdell’s removal. It’s not just Mobigame that have had trouble though. Cult of Mac in November reported that ‘Killer Edge,’ a racing title from independent Nalin Sharma, was to also fall victim to Langdell’s copyrighting exploits. In fact, despite Killer Edge being released in 2005, Langdell reportely tried to register both Killer Edge Racing and Killer Edge Racers. Is this a sign of a man playing fairly? No.
If the fact that Langdell seems to think he owns the rights to one commonly-used word across an entire consumer focused industry isn’t enough to get the hairs standing up on the back of your neck, he also seems to have acquired each web address relating to the word Edge.
Edge (the game) actually returned to the store about a week back, as would you believe it – Edge (you can’t blame them for trying), and I think I’m right in saying it was up on the store for a matter of days, and then surprise surprise Apple pulled it. Again. Today though, it’s returned. Back in May Langdell told Mobigame that he’d drop the claims if they were prepared to change the game’s name to Edgy. The same week, Langdell filed a trademark on the very same name, and of course the claim was to cover ‘Computer gaming software’ – figures.
It’s unclear if Langdell did actually win the legal battle, or if this will be the end of the shenanigans for Mobigame. One thing is for sure, and it’s that Edge is back on the App Store – as EDGY.
When taking photos on the move, sometimes it pays to have photo editing apps. After all, you’re not going to tweet that picture without a bit of increased contrast, or brightness – right? It’s a well-known fact nowadays that the majority of photos we see on the web have being edited in some way in a graphics package such as Adobe Photoshop. But what if you can’t get to your computer and need reliable and feature filled editing applications on the move?
Being a keen photographer and designer, I thought it’d be fun to give you my low-down on the photo editing apps I personally think you should have on your phone. I’ll explain why I think you should have them, and what features and benefits I like most about each application. Here we go!
Definitely one of the more fully-featured photo editing App Store offerings, PhotoForge (in my opinion) should have you pretty much covered for your mobile editing needs. Just like all the editors I’m about to feature, the app will allow you to open, edit and save a photo to your iPhone’s camera roll. What makes PhotoForge a great pick for this over it’s competition is it’s feature set. As well as allowing you to rotate and crop your photo, the app also offers a wide range of both adjustment and visual effects which are comparable to Adobe Photoshop on a mobile level. Continue reading Four Of The Best Photo Editing Apps For Your iPhone! »
In these tough economic times, finding the spare change in your couch to buy the latest $0.99 game gets tougher and tougher. So I’m going to try to make it a little easier for you. That is if you have $40 in spare change.
iTunes gift cards allow you to add a balance to your iTunes account without using a credit card. You can buy these gift cards at just about any retailer these days. And you can occasionally buy iTunes gift cards for a discount at retail stores.
In the US, Costco has iTunes gift cards for about 5% off their face value. There’s no tax on gift cards (at least here in California), so to me that equals a 5% discount on apps. Of course you have to pay a membership for Costco if you don’t already have one. If only there were another way…
Oh wait, there is! Occasionally iTunes gift cards go on sale at big box retailers. Right now, Best Buy has $50 iTunes gift cards on sale for $40. That’s a 20% discount on apps. Buy 2 and you can get TomTom and $20 worth of games for $80 total!
You can’t buy these discounted cards online though. You have to go to a BestBuy to get them. Most still have them in stock check here. Hurry, the BestBuy sale runs out on Saturday.
So now, you can get that $0.99 for $0.80. And if we all buy enough $0.99 games, our economic problems will be over. Right?
I just received these on Twitter a few minutes ago, from Jonah Grant. He assures me he has had confirmation from Loren himself that screenshots of the new upcoming app are okay to be leaked, due to the cat already being out of the bag. So, here goes nothing! ..
All in all there are 11 shots in this batch, a few of which depict more of what we can expect from the update. Most noticeably I think, is the fact that Tweetie’s ‘Nearby’ feature is now in fact an interactive map of nearby users. From the shot we can tell that the UI is not too dissimilar to Loopt, and you can switch from ‘Map’ to ‘List’ view.
You’ll also see they depict a new way to refresh your timeline. From the shots it suggests that you pull a ‘panel’ down from the top of Tweetie 2, and release to refresh – Pretty neat implementation I have to say. Now whether or not Tweetie will have a ‘Automatic’ refresh option is yet to be seen, but I know you guys sure want it, looking at my replies tab on Twitter.
Update: Tweet update… “Automatic” refresh will be included.
Update 2: This morning I asked Loren of behalf of all of you, that burning question; Would Tweetie 2 bring with it Push Notifications? Below is his response via a few DMs:
“Not in 2.0. It’s impossible to pull off reliably on the scale of users Tweetie has. I recommend Boxcar for now. (but there is some exciting stuff coming down the pipe ”
I’ll admit it, I’m a HUGE Tweetie fan. The brains behind it? Loren Brichter.
What was arguably the most hyped twitter client, and what now is deemed to be the twitter client choice for iPhone, of many, Tweetie has been sitting pretty for a while now. After winning an Apple Design Award in 2009 for ‘Outstanding Innovation and Design’, Tweetie has gone from strength to strength. But it hasn’t all been buttercups and roses. Lately, the word surrounding Tweetie was that it had fallen behind. It had become invisible, due to competition. It lacked the awesome’ness of this, and the necessity of that.
Today, this all changes. After teasing us for almost all of the day on Twitter, Loren finally came clean; announcing via his stream that Tweetie 2 for iPhone had been in development for some time, and that it would bring Tweetie back into the foreground again – for all of the reasons you fell in love with Tweetie 1.0.
Britcher explained that Tweetie 2 had been in beta for a few months now, and after 8 beta versions, the product originally codenamed ‘Bigbird’ throughout the beta phases was finally ready to be submitted to Apple. In fact, it has been submitted… late last night. Britcher says the final version is ready, and he’ll all being well submit the app later this week. We just have to hope Apple and it’s seemingly temperamental approval process makes Tweetie 2′s debut a quick a painless one.
So, what can you expect from this major update? Well, quite a lot actually. For starters you’ll now find threaded conversations. Just like Tweetie for Mac, you’ll be able to see just who thought your tweet was cool, what they said, and what other people said afterwards. Next? Tab bar notifications. Since the introduction of Tweetie for Mac, users of Tweetie really wanted to see this functionality comes to the iPhone. Now, it has. Saved searches. Not content with how they function now, in Tweetie 2 Britcher says saved searches will ‘sync’ back up to the upcoming Tweetie for Mac 2 desktop version.
Now come’on. Be honest. Were you a fan of the compose screen? Well, you might like it a little more now. In Tweetie 2 the compose screen has been completely overhauled. Adding options for an @people picker, recent hashtags, multiple attachments manager and a “peek” gesture for when replying to a tweet.
You’ll also probably be glad to hear this version will support full landscape mode, and a load more features including: the ability to edit your own Twitter profile, vastly improved gesture shortcuts, in-app rich-text email, new-style retweet support (supposedly to support the upcoming Twitter update), the option to refresh-all on launch, TextExpander support, “read it later” integration, auto-complete recent searches, auto-complete go-to-user, improved avatar caching, inline Twitlonger, reply chain list view, preview short urls, tweet translation and the ability to block and follow from multiple accounts, at once.
There is one tiny niggle, and that is Tweetie 2 will be an entirely new app to what will now be referred to as Tweetie 1. Although, you won’t have to pay through your nose to get it. In fact, quite the opposite!
In his own words:
“Making a “2.0” could have been easy. I could have changed the version number, added video tweeting and called it a day. Other apps call that “2.0” – I think it’s lame. Tweetie 1 set a new standard for Twitter clients and iPhone apps in general. It proved that you didn’t have to sacrifice intuitiveness for functionality. Today we have iPhone OS 3.0, 3GS, and new Twitter APIs. Tweetie 2 is built from the ground up to take advantage of these fantastic new technologies.
Tweetie 2 for Mac will be a completely free upgrade. (So if you haven’t already grabbed a license, feel free to do so). On the other hand, Tweetie 2 for iPhone will be a whole new app. And while it’s arguably worth a lot more, I’m keeping the price exactly the same: $2.99.”
Hopefully if Britcher is lucky, we could see Tweetie 2 hit the App Store inside 2 weeks, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on that. All we can rest on is that it will soon be in submission, and it’s fate will rest solely in the hands of Apple. I for one, can’t wait to get my hands on this.
Among the goings-on at the 9.9.09 Apple event was the release of iTunes 9.0 which included a redesigned App Store. To sum up the changes in one word – “clutter.” It seems as if Apple has challenged themselves to fit as many app icons on one page as possible. There are some nice changes, but they are masked by the overall clutter. Top 100′s are now top 200′s, though looking over the lists now causes eye damage. There is now a top grossing app list, though it is hidden at the bottom of the page and used in conjunction with the top volume list making it confusing for all. Tabs at the top of iTunes are nice though the drop down App Store categories are initially hard to find. One of the new iTunes is the ability to organize iPhone app icons from iTunes. Though it’s not perfect, this new feature is infinitely preferable to organizing on the iPhone itself.
Gameloft is really wearing thin on me with their clones. GTA is more of a genre now, so I was ok with Gangstar, but with their COD4 clone (Modern Combat) and Soul Caliber clone (Blades of Fury), I’ve had enough. These games certainly show off the iPhone as a gaming platform, but there comes a point when I just can’t get excited about exact clones of existing games. These aren’t rough clones either, they’re almost indistinguishable. Gameloft is a talented developer, but in order to start making memorable games, they’re going to have to show the creativity involved in creating games like Sway and Gomi, two indie darlings. For now though, all the upcoming Gameloft games are clones, including a Diablo clone, a Mario Kart clone, and a Halo clone.
Exciting upcoming games
In contrast to Gameloft, here are some trailers for some games I’m really excited about. Enjoy!
In addition to clever physics-based gameplay, iBlast Moki boasts 70 levels and a fully featured in-game level editor. Gozilab, the developer, has been notified that the game could not be posted because the price was included in the App description, but this was fixed so hopefully iBlast Moki will be making an appearance on the App Store soon.
Hybrid: Eternal Whisper:
Gamevil, the developer of the famed Zenonia, has submitted their stylish action RPG to the App Store so hopefully we’ll be seeing Hybrid soon.
Ravensword: the Fallen King
Crescent Moon games has estimated a submission date of September 30 for their 3D open-world adventure RPG. Contest Winner
Well, you were all horribly wrong, but sf49lu wins the $15 gift card for being the most detailed in his wrong predictions. Congratulations, Chris will email you your winnings as soon as he stops watching football.
Apps of the Week
Sadly, there were no apps good enough to be deemed worthy of this award. Blades of Fury was lacking, Madden was disappointing, and I haven’t gotten a chance to play Dexter yet. See you all next week!
Urban Ducklings may sound like the subtitle of a really bad Howard the Duck sequel, but it’s actual a pretty nifty new casual arcade game. Thanks to the Iphone’s unique controls, Urban Ducklings gives the classic “cross the road” genre a new twist (pun intended).
TechCrunch has gotten ahold of the responses from Apple, AT&T, and Google to the FCC request for information on why the Google Voice application was rejected. The summary from Apple is that the app hasn’t been rejected and they are still studying it.
Quote from Apple response:
Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it. The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail. Apple spent a lot of time and effort developing this distinct and innovative way to seamlessly deliver core functionality of the iPhone. For example, on an iPhone, the “Phone” icon that is always shown at the bottom of the Home Screen launches Apple’s mobile telephone application, providing access to Favorites, Recents, Contacts, a Keypad, and Visual Voicemail. The Google Voice application replaces Apple’s Visual Voicemail by routing calls through a separate Google Voice telephone number that stores any voicemail, preventing voicemail from being stored on the iPhone, i.e., disabling Apple’s Visual Voicemail. Similarly, SMS text messages are managed through the Google hub—replacing the iPhone’s text messaging feature. In addition, the iPhone user’s entire Contacts database is transferred to Google’s servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways. These factors present several new issues and questions to us that we are still pondering at this time.
Regarding Apple’s agreement with AT&T and what role AT&T has in the approval of applications, Apple says that they alone make the final decision to approve or reject an application. But Apple goes on to say that their agreement with AT&T keeps them from approving VoIP apps and apps that violate the AT&T terms of service.
There is a provision in Apple’s agreement with AT&T that obligates Apple not to include functionality in any Apple phone that enables a customer to use AT&T’s cellular network service to originate or terminate a VoIP session without obtaining AT&T’s permission. Apple honors this obligation, in addition to respecting AT&T’s customer Terms of Service, which, for example, prohibit an AT&T customer from using AT&T’s cellular service to redirect a TV signal to an iPhone. From time to time, AT&T has expressed concerns regarding network efficiency and potential network congestion associated with certain applications, and Apple takes such concerns into consideration.
Some other gems from Apple’s response:
Apple employs over 40 full-time app reviewers
At least 2 reviewers study each app before it’s approved
There’s a senior review board that meets weekly to review applications that raise new questions. Most likely this is where apps go when the developer gets the “unexpected extra time to review” notice.
95% of applications are approved within 14 days of being submitted.
Apple receives 8,500 new and updated app submissions every week, roughly 20% are not approved
Those last 2 points don’t really add up. If 20% of submissions are rejected every week, now do 95% get approved within 2 weeks. Perhaps Apple is saying that of the 80% that get approved, 95% of those get approved within 14 days?
AT&T’s response on the other hand pretty much completely sidesteps the question of rejection of VoIP and video applications (like SlingPlayer). They don’t explain why those applications are available on most of the other platforms in use on the AT&T network.
FCC Question: Do any devices that operate on AT&T’s network allow use of other
applications that have been rejected for the iPhone?
As discussed above, AT&T does not participate in Apple’s day-to-day consideration of
whether particular iPhone applications should or should not be rejected for use on the
iPhone, and Apple does not typically notify AT&T when particular iPhone applications
are accepted or rejected. Consequently, AT&T cannot identify all applications that have been rejected for the iPhone. As discussed above and on the AT&T Choice website,
however, AT&T customers are able to use a broad range of applications on their AT&T
customers can use Google Voice on any AT&T phone, including the iPhone, by
accessing it through their web browser. Customers can also download compatible
applications for music, social networking, photography, weather, navigation, travel,
In Google’s response to the FCC, the really interesting part, the conversation between Apple and Google about the Google Voice application is, unfortunately redacted. I’m hoping that the Freedom of Information Act will allow the release of that text at some point in the future.
An interesting article over at PocketGamer this week reveals some measures Sony has been taking to combat Apple’s wildly successful (but far from perfect) App Store and to make their virtual download service, the PSN, more appealing for both consumers and developers. Sony might be doing fine with consumers, as the reported top limit of 5 euros is less than the App Store imaginary limit of $9.99, so if consumers managed to stomach the outrageous price of $250 for the PSPgo, they should be pleasantly surprised with the game pricing. The question is, however, will there be any games worth buying. The upper limit of 5 euros is simply awful for developers. For any quality games that are worth buying to a consumer, the volume of sales just needed to break even is immense. This is one of the biggest problems of the App Store, but it has managed to get away with it – for now – because of the huge reach of the store – there are simply a massive amount of consumers who are willing to buy a lot of games. I can’t imagine the PSPgo will sell as many units as the iPhone and iPod Touch combined, so I can’t imagine how hard it will be for developers to turn a worthwhile profit. Just ask the Google Android – the entire Android store probably has seen less downloads than any of about 500 iPhone apps. To make matters worse though, Sony is taking huge control over the games, requiring a two week QA test and regulating release dates, further discouraging indie development. Sure, most people don’t see the iPhone in the same light for gaming as the PSP (though I could recommend you a couple of titles that might change your mind), but with the new insanely powerful iPhone 3GS and help like this from Sony, Apple might just eat away at Sony’s share of the portable gaming world.
Snood arrives in the App Store
Last night, Snood, a classic PC/Mac Bust-a-Move clone, was released by EA into the App Store. Despite some strange Facebook requirements, a quirky landscape interface (the game is played entirely in portrait view), and the fact that it’s an EA port, Snood has made it to the iPhone in all its highly addictive goodness… with online multiplayer nonetheless! Best of all, there’s not even a stupid cross-over promotional Pocket God pygmy in sight! A friendly warning: I lost many hours of productivity on this game back in the day. I’ve not spent enough time with the game (ok, basically none) to give it a recommendation, but we’ll try to have an official 148apps patent-pending review up soon (or not…I didn’t get that checked out with our editor, Chris. He might have some sort of strange anti-Snood bias).
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-08-17 :: Category: Games
App Store Fire Sale
It seems that in the App Store lately, everything must go! Developers have been slashing their prices to new lows, some even making their games free for a limited time. Rather than typing more, I thought I’d let our fancy boxes do the talking, so here are some notable price drops:
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-05-08 :: Category: Games
This week’s sign of the apocalypse
Hmm, why does this look so familiar?
The game Ricky is currently sitting at the number 33 spot in the App Store. The description tells me that if I like Super Mario Bros, then “surely I will like Ricky.” Well Ricky, the only thing I’m surly about is your game. Ricky is a blatant Mario rip-off (ported horribly I might add). The hills have eyes, the main character is an italian plumber, and oh yeah, the icon is the 1up mushroom. Really Apple, you saw no possible copyright infringement going on. It just makes you wonder how apps like this get through while quality games like iMech and A.D.D. are held up in the approval purgatory for months.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-07-12 :: Category: Games
Apps of the Week
This week was a great game week, and while I was hoping Duke Nukem 3D would hold a spot on this list, unfortunately the controls are among the worst I’ve seen for a big title on the iPhone. Nevertheless, a duo of great games, one new, one old, made my list for the apps of the week.
Spider: the Secret of Bryce Manor
Spider, a beautiful, elegant game
Spider is simply a work of art. The main gameplay, spinning webs to catch and eat bugs, is very compelling, especially with fantastic touch controls, but what makes Spider truly great is the multi-faceted story. The story is a human one that rivals many novels, but it is told through subtle clues found throughout levels. Items of seemingly little consequence can fill in a crucial missing piece. To top things off, Spider comes with many secret area to levels plus a secret room that it will take a true adventurer to unlock.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2009-08-10 :: Category: Games
Earlier in this article, I mentioned the addictive nature of Snood, but that is nowhere as addictive as the classic turn-based empire building game Civilization. Once I start a game of Civilization, I literally am not capable of doing anything else until I’ve finished the game. The iPhone version is slightly watered down, making it more accessible to newcomers, and it does have some interface/control issues (no performance issues over here on my iPhone 3G), but it’s still Civilization, and it’s still awesome.
In all of these months since the app store launched, I’ve been hesitant to be negative of Apple and the app store approval process. Developers have responded passionately and repeatedly with stories of rejected apps and even apps removed from the app store for various reasons. Sometimes they were right, the rejection didn’t make sense. But many times, they were wrong, the app should have been rejected due to obvious reasons.
But today, it seems as though Apple has gone from being just mysterious in it’s approval process to outright complacent. With the removal of apps that use the Google Voice APIs to allow you to access their services, Apple has crossed a line into scary overlord territory. It almost seems as though roles in the 1984 commercial have been reversed.
So yes, these apps may duplicate some of the functions of the iPhone. But as many argue, they don’t, as the features they supply aren’t available on the iPhone. They no more duplicate functions than any of hundreds of apps that provide weather information, calendar interfaces, embedded browsers, contact management, sms services, heck, even the dozens of voice recorders already released now duplicate a default application in OS 3.0.
My big question is, what made this happen now? Is AT&T behind this rejection? If so, this adds to a list of innovative apps they have neutered. For example, SlingPlayer, an application that AT&T even publicizes for Blackberry was restricted to only working over Wifi for the iPhone. Ridiculous… that basically strips 90% of it’s functionality. And if they are behind the rejection of Google Voice related apps, an application that’s already available on Blackberries as well, on their network even, I have to wonder what’s going on? What are they thinking? What are they afraid of?
I can’t believe it’s really their network. They have been adding new customers regularly. Not just this quarter, but for the past 2 years. They’ve had time to upgrade their network as needed for all these new iPhone customers.
Further, why would Apple be in such a stranglehold from AT&T? Why would Apple allow AT&T to stifle innovation in this platform and restrict such applications? It’s boggling why AT&T treats iPhones and their users with such a lack of respect even though we pay more for the same service than other customers.
So, to get to my point, what all this adds up to is that the iPhone is still the best mobile platform to develop for, by far. We all know that. But the platform that freed developers in so many ways is being increasingly perceived as a hostile environment. There are too many unknowns for some developers to put the time and expense into developing the next big, innovative app for the platform when they have no way of even verifying that they can ever release their app.
People are starting companies, risking their livelihoods and their futures on the iPhone and the iTunes App Store. It’s just bad developer (not to mention public) relations to operate such a veiled process like this knowing that so many people depend on it for their livelihood. Not to mention that it will eventually end up in court and could cost Apple a bundle.
So, Mr. Jobs, I ask this of you. You have the power to fix all of these problems. Please do so and we can all be a big happy family again.
First, take the developer agreement and re-write it. At its core, the problem is that Apple has only published rules to developers that basically say, we’ll approve what we want to, here are a few very non-specific guidelines to follow.
Get your product managers in there and tell them to re-write it so that it is written for the benefit of the developers not Apple’s legal department. No blanket statements, be specific with details about what is and is not allowed. Leave nothing out. Then, open it up for discussion with your devoted developers to get their feedback. And then, stick to it. No exceptions like you made for AT&T (going around the in-app purchasing with their GPS app), or Google (use of undocumented APIs for the proximity sensor). We’ll all be happier if we are all on a well explained and level playing field.
Second, slap AT&T, tell them that they have no control over the app store. Apple, you have created a revolution with this platform and it’s bigger than AT&T. But, if they are restricting innovation it can never come close to it’s full potential.
And Steve, can I call you Steve? That brings up a bigger topic related to AT&T. Can you please do something about the AT&T exclusivity in the USA? They treat the iPhone like it’s a cheap Nokia feature phone, not like the best phone ever seen by man. They treat it like a nuisance and it’s users like second-class citizens. We aren’t treated as we should be treated, as their only hope for a future and the only reason they are still in business. AT&T are acting like narrow-minded, slow to upgrade, innovation stifling knuckleheads. So, please, use your powers, the ones that you so deftly used a few years to get your way with AT&T, to either get them to clean up their act, or move on to Verizon like everyone thinks is going to happen.
Publisher / Founder
Today, TechCrunch revealed that the 2 existing Google Voice apps, VoiceCentral and GV Mobile had been removed from the app store. They also heard from Google that the official Google Voice application for the iPhone had been rejected by Apple.
The apps were officially rejected due to the clause in the iPhone developer agreement that states that apps can’t duplicate the functions built into the OS. Really, a lame clause and likely just covering up something else. After all, how many hundreds of apps in the app store duplicate functionality of the built-in apps?
The rejections have been unofficially blamed on a clueless AT&T attempting to protect their fleeting business. If true, it shows a real desperate company that just doesn’t understand the need to innovate and lead rather than just fail by sticking to your quickly aging business.
But why has AT&T intervened yet again when this same app is available on Blackberry phones using the AT&T network? When will AT&T stop treating iPhone customers like second class customers?
I’m no fan of AT&T, I think very few customers are, but this just adds another log to the fire.
Apple today announced that the iTunes App Store has served over 1.5 billion app downloads worldwide. This comes less than 3 months since the Apple announced the 1 billionth download in April. The App Store continues to show amazing growth and has seen over 100,000 developers sign up for the iPhone developer program.
While there are manydiscussedproblems with the app store from a developer prospective, it has really taken off with consumers. The word revolutionary seems to be thrown around a lot in relation to the iTunes App Store. But the app store really has done things for consumer app shopping that we’ve never seen before. Even others that have tried to reproduce the functionality of the app store since it was launched just over a year ago, such as Google and Blackberry, have failed to even come close. Steve Jobs commented on this fact in the announcement:
“The App Store is like nothing the industry has ever seen before in both scale and quality. With 1.5 billion apps downloaded, it is going to be very hard for others to catch up.”
With 58,088 active apps in the US app store today, and 300 new ones added every day, will the growth ever slow?
We recently asked our readers to weigh in on how many apps and how much they have spent in a survey. The average number of applications and games downloaded thus far by the 160 respondents was 230. This is a larger number than I would have expected for a fairly new platform. Respondents also noted that they have spent, on average, $136 thus far on applications and games with the average monthly spend being in the $11-$20 range. That puts the average price paid per application at just $0.59 indicating that more than half of the applications downloaded by the people responding to the survey were free.
It took 9 months for the first billion apps to be downloaded and just 3 for an additional half billion to be added to that. So as we continue to up this steep growth hill, there’s still not peak in sight. I’m sure developers hope that Apple will get some of the issues they face with developing and selling apps fixed, but for consumers, it’s been a pretty smooth ride.
When the release date of Rolando 2 was announced, ngmoco:) also indicated that Rolando, the original, was going to be pulled from the app store when the sequel goes live. It’s an odd move, very smart, and yet wrong at the same time.
I recently asked Neil Young, CEO of ngmoco:), why the original Topple was no longer in the App Store, his comment was “We pulled it, trying something.” Short response and at the time I didn’t think much of it. I assumed they were planning on trying some new marketing technique with it. Turns out they were testing a fundamental business idea in preparation for the Rolando 2 release. Something new, something that really may change the way we think of games in the app store. Apps aren’t forever anymore.
According to our App Store database, Rolando was released originally on December 8, 2008. That effectively puts the lifespan of the original Rolando at 7 months. Is that really all the life Rolando has left in it? I doubt it. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be pulled from the app store when Rolando 2 is released.
While Rolando is their product and they have the absolute right to do with it what they choose, pulling it just doesn’t feel right. Something about the spirit seems wrong. They aren’t doing anything odd with the price to rise up the charts and increase the price to ride the higher exposure as many high profile developers have been doing lately. But they are sacrificing a product and it’s customers for increased expose for the next episode. Maybe I’m just being too sentimental, but I want to see the game stick around.
Back to the original test that ngmoco:) did, removing Topple from the app store. I’m not sure that it relates directly, removing Topple, a free app, to see what it does to sales of Topple 2 at $0.99. But there is something obvious to it. By removing Topple, they see if that increases sales of Topple 2, the more recent game.
By removing Rolando when the sequel comes out, they don’t lose any sales to the original, cheaper version. When users search for Rolando, they will get just 1 result, and 1 price. That makes sense as a certain percentage people would probably choose the cheaper one, and it removes any confusion of their marketing message for the new game.
What doesn’t make sense is why remove one of the best games on the App Store? Rolando may not have been a runaway commercial success, but it is a great game, very well reviewed, and still has some life in it. You know, what about the long tail? What about all those articles that point to Rolando on the app store. They won’t point to Rolando 2 automatically — you’ll just get the error on the app store that the app is not available.
This decision is also bad for people who have purchased the original Rolando. The app store is a digital delivery system. The only way to get Rolando is to download it from iTunes either on the desktop or on the device. If you don’t have a backup, and you lose it, you’ll never get it back if it’s no longer in the store. In addition, there have been weekly updates for a while from Rolando, building up to the release of Rolando 2. If you haven’t updated in a while, and you wait until July 1, you’ll never see those updates.
And what about the people that try Rolando 2 and want more? They know it’s a sequel, why can’t they get the original. Perhaps the original Rolando levels will be available as in-app purchases in Rolando 2.
It seems as though ngmoco:) is willing to live with a little bit of bad customer experience to try to increase the sales of a new game. Not a great thing, but considering the constraints of the App Store and the very limited ways that developers can operate, it might be the best decision. If nothing else, you have to hand it to them for trying something different and thinking about how to best build a business in the maddening chaos known as the iTunes App Store. It will be interesting to see if other publishers follow suit and do the same. Let’s hope not.
I hope we’ll see Rolando and Topple back in the store, re-released as classic versions maybe, at some point in the future. For now, I think I’ll make sure I have the latest version, do a back-up, and play a little Classic Rolando while I wait for Rolando 2.
Over the weekend, Trent Reznor, front-man for Nine Inch Nails, received quite a bit of bad news from the App Store. It seems that the update to their app, nin: access, was denied.
The app is currently in the App Store, available for free, having already passed through the approval process once. The changes in this update? Well, they’d fix some of the bugs that have left many users giving the app a poor rating due to unexpected issues.
So what exactly was Apple’s reason for denying the update?
“Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.”
Firemint Games, the developers of the 148Apps five star rated game Flight Control, have just released their sales figures for the app while it held the #1 spot in the iTunes App Store. The period covered stretches from March 24th to April 25th 2009, which is a sizable amount of time for an app to hold that position.
In under 9 months the app store has grown from 0 to over 30,000 apps. To break that down a little, here are some stats from our old 10,000 Apps page — the image isn’t up to date, but the stats are updated every few minutes:
Number of apps (some currently inactive): 30,005
Number of games / entertainment apps: 10,126 (33.7% of total)
Number of apps submitted in September, 2008: 2,944 (98/day)
Number of apps submitted in February, 2009: 5,872 (209/day)
Number of free apps / games in the store: 7,086
Total cost to buy every app ever submitted to the app store: $81,444.81 ($2.71 average/app)
The app store will be 1 year old on 7/11/2009 — if things continue on this growth curve, we should hit 50,000 apps by then. That feat, for a new platform and distribution model, would be amazing.
Note: Philip Elmer-DeWitt Apple 2.0 blog on Fortune.com has some more info and some interesting analysis. He believes the tide of new apps has slowed. February, 2009 was the largest month ever, and it’s still early in March — we’ll have to see how the month finishes out before we’d agree with that theory.
David from AppCubby sent us a note about his latest blog post today. This entry gives the results of his pricing experiment that we wrote about last month where he set all of his apps to be $0.99 and provided the ability for people to donate if they thought they were worth more. This update doesn’t look to good for that pricing model. Unfortunately he doesn’t give any real sales numbers, just aggregated results, but there are still some nuggets of good info in here:
- During the 7 days of the experiment they only got $75 in donations
- Initially, volume made up for the lost revenue from the reduced prices (probably due to the increased press, he notes)
- After that started to wain, volume still stayed way up over the previous week, but revenue started to fall below the previous weeks numbers.
- There was an increase the last day or so, as is typical, people rush to buy before the end of a sale.
It’s hard to call this experiment a failure when it was so short. I’m not sure enough time was given for the donation aspect to gain a foothold. But, the result for AppCubby is that they have redoubled their efforts make the best software available and sell it at a price that is fair. All of the AppCubby apps have raised back up to $9.99 and will stay there. And we wish them all the luck in the world!
“To have people say that my products are an absolute steal at $0.99 and that I SHOULD be charging more was a wake up call. As the saying goes, if no one is complaining about your price you’re charging too little.”
If you’re interested in the circle of hell that is app store pricing, check out the blog post, it’s a good read for any developer or potential developer.
David Frampton, the developer behind Chopper (iTunes Link) which had reached as high as #2 on the top paid games list and #3 paid app overall as recently as Christmas, and Duck Duck Duck (iTunes Link) has posted a great article on his blog about what sales numbers he has seen as he has changed the price of his apps. He’s got some great insight in this post.
Some of the findings he shares include info on what pricing your app at 99 cents does to the sales, and the reviews. What giving away your app for short periods can do. Here’s an excerpt about pricing your app at 99 cents:
Many apps have dropped to $0.99 permanently, and my own DuckDuckDuck also dropped to $0.99.
I regret it.
One of the problems with hitting this price point is in the long term income. A month after the price drop, 6 months, 2 years… People who like an app, and then recommend it, are the best form of advertising. These wonderful, loyal customers perhaps unknowingly convince their friends to pay well for the recommendation. But not just yet. The tail of 1000 sales today lasts a hell of a long time. When their friends do happen to buy an iPhone, and then try out the App Store, and then buy an app or two, your app might be it. Hopefully it’s not $0.99.
Head on over and read the post, it’s worth the time if you are interested in what developers experiences are with the pricing of their app.
App Cubby developer David Barnard contacted us today to let us know he’s a little frustrated with the pricing in the app store. As prices trend toward $0.99, many developers are feeling the crunch. And while he thinks the app store itself is pretty sound, he wants to try a different pricing option.
On the subject app store pricing, and $0.99 apps in particular, David had this to say:
We’re not complaining at the existence of $0.99 apps. We’re frustrated that artificial market forces are driving down the price of apps, which in turn drives down the perceived value of the products we have invested significant time and money to create. Marketing can help, but it’s throwing good money after bad if the market discourages charging a fair price for an app.
The new method he’s going to try is to price all of his apps at $0.99 — and if you think they are worth more, head on over to his donation page and tip him what you think they are worth.
It’s in interesting direction to take. All of the App Cubby apps are fantastic and worth well more than $0.99. But will people pay more? I hope so. Will Apple kick him out of the iTunes App Store for doing this? Doubtful — really not that much different than e-book sellers or other apps with extra costs or subscriptions after the app sale.
If you are interested in iTunes App Store pricing, the blog over at App Cubby has some great thoughts on the matter. Highly recommended reading. [ AppCubby Blog ]
We wish David luck with this experiment. I hope it goes well. Take a look at the AppCubby apps, they are all very easy to recommend at $0.99. And maybe, if you like them, head on over and donate something extra.
A group of independent iPhone app developers have gotten together to try another method for increasing their app sales. They are, as a group, putting their apps on sale and promoting them together. It’s the latest in a series of inventive ways that small application developers have tried in the increasingly packed iTunes App Store to get some attention for their apps.
Starting 12/31, some apps and games from some great indie developers will all go on sale for 48 hours. The promotion, titled New Year’s App Blowout will see apps discounted from 50% – 80%.
Some of the apps that will be on sale include:
* Pinch n’ Pop ($0.99 price drop from $3.99 – iTunes Link)
* BurnBall ($0.99 price drop from $1.99 – iTunes Link)
* ScribBall ($0.99 price drop from $3.99 – iTunes Link)
* Mouse House ($0.99 price drop from $4.99 – iTunes Link)
* DuckDuckDuck (FREE price drop from $0.99 – iTunes Link)
* Blackbeard’s Assault ($0.99 price drop from $1.99 – iTunes Link)
Currently there are 16 apps listed on the page, but more are expected to be added before the new year. I suggest you bookmark the site and return on 12/31 to see the updated list.
It’s great to see independent developers teaming up to try to solve one of the greatest downsides to the app store — getting some attention in a sea of 13,000 apps.
CultofMac reports that, for the next 48 hours, Calendars+ by Readdle can be downloaded for free. The app works with Google Calendar and the built-in iOS Calendar and lets you manage your work, either online or offline, with an easy to use interface to navigate through. It’s originally priced at $6.99 and will return to [...]