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How To: Restrict In-App Purchases on iOS Devices

Posted by Carter Dotson on August 19th, 2013

In-app purchases, especially in regard to kids making them (often accidentally), remains a hot topic. Apple is poised to launch new restrictions on some apps that offer them, but for parents, it is important to know how to keep accounts secure by restricting in-app purchases.


Apple’s built-in parental controls, available in the Settings app under General then Restrictions, contain options for restricting in-app purchases.

The first of the two settings that you will want to consider is the In-App Purchases toggle, which will allow you to disable them entirely. Apps will either report that IAP is disabled or that the app is not connected to the internet.

As well, you can require Require Password immediately, which will make any new purchase from the App Store, in-app or otherwise, require the user’s password to be immediately re-entered. This way, you can make a one-time purchase without future ones being automatically approved.

Now, there’s not necessarily an easy way to disable these restrictions temporarily without going back in to the Restrictions menu and temporarily re-enabling them. As well, disabling Restrictions entirely will reset all settings. So, for someone loaning their device to their kids, it’s not the best solution.

Separate iTunes account with gift cards only

One other solution is to create a separate iTunes account that’s funded only by gift cards. Normally iTunes accounts must be tied to a credit card, but there is a way to create one that isn’t tied to a form of payment.

The trick is similar to creating an account in a different country. Go to the iTunes Store on your computer and log out of your current account. Go to download a free app. Choose to register an account and complete the process. When you put in your billing information, None should be the selected option, only available by trying to download a free app.  You now have an account that doesn’t have a credit card tied to it. You can redeem gift cards on to this account to provide credit for IAP and buying apps without needing to be connected to an alternate form of payment. This is perfect for kids’ accounts.

To switch between accounts on the device itself, just scroll to the bottom of the App Store, tap on your account, and choose to Sign Out. Then the next user can sign in either through that same prompt or when going to download an app and/or make a payment. I recommend disabling automatic downloads – sometimes Apple will force an Apple ID to remain logged in to a device with them enabled.

Hopefully these tips make controlling in-app purchases much easier. Apple could still do a lot to make them less of a hassle for users who share devices, but in the absence of such mechanisms (or apps that target kids with expensive purchases), it’s up to parents to be educated about the features of the advanced technology they want their kids to enjoy and benefit from.

How To: Manage iCloud Settings

Posted by Carter Dotson on August 12th, 2013

iCloud, much like life, is a scary and often unknowable thing that doesn’t always work the way it should. But much like life, if you know the little things and tweaks, you can make it work much better for you. I think that’s how life works, anyway. At least that’s how iCloud’s settings works. Here’s a guide to the iCloud settings menu.

The iCloud settings are available in the Settings app, under the iCloud section when you scroll down. Here, you’ll see a bunch of different toggles and sections to browse.

Account allows you to control which account is currently logged in to iCloud across the device. As well, you can change the description of the account, modify your storage plan and payment information, and set up advanced email options.

The various switches for Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Safari, Notes, and Passbook will toggle those features on or off for the iCloud account that’s currently logged in, for those who don’t want that info to sync. For certain features, a prompt will appear to have the current local data deleted or not.

The Photo Stream option will allow for uploading to Photo Streams and for Shared Photo Streams to be toggled as well.

Documents & Data will allow you to disable apps uploading data to iCloud, such as games that save to iCloud. You can also toggle Use Cellular Data to help save data fees when on the go. Find My iPhone’s toggle allows you to enable or disable finding your iOS device with the Find My iPhone service. Storage & Backup allows you to view how much storage you have left in your account. Change Storage Plan lets you pay for more storage. The iCloud Backup toggle allows you to enable or disable backing up to iCloud when plugged in. You can also force the backup by tapping Back Up Now.

The Manage Storage section lets you see which devices are being backed up to iCloud, and control what specifically gets backed up to iCloud and to delete the backup entirely. If you select the backup on the device you’re currently on, then toggles for each app’s backup will be shown, allowing you to disable backing up that app to iCloud. You can disabled syncing of Camera Roll photos and videos to iCloud to save storage space, for example. Or if an app uses a lot of local storage that you don’t necessarily need synced up, you can disable it. Scrolling to the bottom and tapping Delete Backup will allow you to delete that backup form iCloud, but you can’t restore from it in the future.

The Documents & Data section lets you see which apps are storing how much data in iCloud. Apps that just use key value data won’t be shown, but games that use save files to sync up between devices will be shown here, too. You can also delete any files as necessary.

Now you know how to properly use the iCloud settings menu, and knowing is half the battle.

War of the Zombie Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on July 1st, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: BROKEN BUTTONS
This zombie apocalypse sim would be fantastic if it weren't for all the rough edges.
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Dreamjob Kid's Doctor - My Little Hospital Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on February 26th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: RxEPETITIOUS
Being a children's doctor isn't easy, or even all that fun.
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Micro Miners Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on November 15th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: THE LEMMINGS ARE DIGGING!
Keeping two separate groups of accident prone miners tunneling their way through a series of mineral deposits can be a tough job, but it's also an insanely fun job!
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Tavern Quest Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on August 20th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: TIRED OF WAITING
This is one splendid looking, clever mash-up of RPG adventuring and restaurant management with a fairly major problem.
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Cafeteria Nipponica Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Rich on August 16th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: GOURMET DINING
Kairosoft takes a stab at the restaurant business and, surprise surprise, knocks another one out of the park.
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Pixely People Making Movies Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Rob Rich on June 18th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: SILVER SCREEN SHENANIGANS
Pixely People Making Movies is one goofy time-management production.
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Men in Black 3 Review

Posted by Rob Rich on May 25th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Developer: Gameloft
Price: FREE
Version: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Playtime Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar


It’s hard not to expect the worst from a freemium movie tie-in game. There’s just so much potential for things to go wrong. Fortunately things went right for Men in Black 3. Very, very right.

As soon as the initial loading is done players are thrust into the boots of a MIB rookie. Agent J (or at least a somewhat reasonable facsimile) is present to direct them through most of the tutorial stuff like fighting aliens, neuralizing citizens, and managing headquarters. Much like other genre offerings structures must be built and managed to earn cash, heal between missions, research new tech, etc. But playing Where Will This Room Fit is only a part of Men in Black 3. The other parts are comprised of investigating various happenings around New York (both in 2012 and 1969), combating hostile aliens in turn-based combat, and recruiting/utilizing MIB agents for special missions.

Seeing as Men in Black 3 is a Gameloft game I feel compelled to mention that I was thrilled to see it takes up less than two-thirds of my iPhone’s storage space. In fact, it takes up next to no room at all (just under 90 MB). It might sound callous but most of their games are so big I can’t actually keep them for long, so something like this is a rare treat for me. For everyone else who doesn’t care about rationing memory, it’s still a very well put-together game. Everything features the slick style we’ve all come to expect from MIB facilities and gear, exploration and combat do a good job of keeping the management aspects from becoming tedious, and hiring new agents recalls a few of those old X-COM feelings.

As impressed as I am, I wouldn’t mind having the ability to adjust the camera distance. The view feels just a tad too far away from everything for my liking, making characters and aliens seem almost insignificantly small. Floating icons ensure that tapping the correct person, place, or thing isn’t an issue, but it would be nice to get in closer to see a little more detail. Conversely I wouldn’t mid seeing a little less of the “OMG THEY WERE IN THE MOVIE!!!” characters. Not that I don’t think Agents J and K and friends aren’t awesome, I just got sick of them getting in my face so often. Granted this doesn’t happen as often once the tutorial is completed but they can still be somewhat overbearing.

It might be heavy on the exposition and light on the camera control, but this is one solid free-to-play that usually always has something for players to do. Being the boss of a secret organization created to deal with extra-terrestrial activities sounds like a fantastic job, and thanks to Men in Black 3 I’m even more inclined to believe it.

Put an End to Obnoxious Junk Mail the Eco-Friendly Way with PaperKarma

Posted by Rob Rich on February 20th, 2012
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: GO GREEN :: Read Review »

Junk mail. Yuck. Not only is it annoying, it's also a terrible waste. All those circulars about sales no one cares about involving products nobody wants... At least those unsolicited emails from Nigerian princes don't waste any paper. Well now there's this neat little app that will theoretically put a stop to most of these unwanted advertisements.

PaperKarma is so simple in its execution it almost sounds like magic. All a user has to do is snap a photo with their iOS device's camera and the app will (read: should) find the company responsible and take care of the rest. The rest referring to getting users off of the mailing list. It's a mind-bogglingly simple concept, really.

Anyone with an iOS device and a thinning patience for junk mail should definitely check out PaperKarma. It's on the App Store right now, and it's on sale for free for a "limited time." What's the harm in giving it a try, right?

Monitor Gas Usage, Expenses and More with Gas Logs

Posted by Rob Rich on February 17th, 2012

Now I'll admit that I don't do much driving nowadays because I use mass transit (i.e. the subway), but I did drive a lot once upon a time. And it was quite the pain to deal with all of the extraneous annoyances like traffic, insurance, and gas. Guess which of those problems Gas Logs addresses?

The latest app from JAS Appications allows users to track their mileage, their spending, etc... All manner of values can be adjusted to fit a user's region, including gallons/liters, and a number of different currencies. Of course, it just wouldn't be a JAS Applications app if it didn't also include a super-useful GPS feature. Which it does. Yup, as expected Gas Logs can do all this in addition to finding nearby gas stations by using the iOS device's built-in GPS.

Again, someone like myself who doesn't even own a car won't have much use for it but there are billions of people out there who drive, and at least millions who own an iPhone. Chances are good that there's a decent market for something like this.

Caylus Review

By Rob Rich on February 10th, 2012
Caylus has all the trappings of a deep iOS board game, assuming complexity isn't a problem.
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Wicket - The Beginning Review

By Rob Rich on January 10th, 2012
Our rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar :: WHAT?
Wicket - The Beginning has all the trappings of a clever rpg-lite inspired task management game. Save the lack of any real point, that is.
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Band Boss Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Jason Wadsworth on January 4th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: IN TUNE
Manage real musical artists through fictional tours, promotions, and hopefully stardom.
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There's no Safari like a Fantasy Safari

Posted by Rob Rich on November 10th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Create and customize a wildlife reserve. Manage various park minutiae. Upgrade facilities and inhabitants in order to bring in the big bucks. It sounds fairly typical of a good number of freemium park sims, but Fantasy Safari twists it up a bit. By adding fantasy creatures, naturally.

Dragons, frozen wolves, phoenixes and more. It's a bit of a departure from the usual fare, to say the least. Now, thanks to EA Mobile, we can all try our hand at running our own zoo full of non-existent animals. 40 different non-existent animals, at that. 40 non-existent animals that can learn new abilities (i.e. fire breathing) as savvy players futz with their enclosures.

Anyone looking to try their hand at managing a theme park/zoo with a bit more... "flavor" can do so right now. Fantasy Safari is already on the App Store and, like most (read: all) free-to-play titles it doesn't require any money to get started.