MobileAge has released a preview of the iPad version of its popular Shanghai Mahjong for the iPhone and iPod touch. Shanghai Mahjong for iPad will provide new iPad-optimized artwork and 200 new layouts for expanded game play. Users will also be able to download additional custom-designed tileset art and background images from within the app or choose a background from the iPad photo album. The company plans to release the iPad version as a universal app that will run on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. The iPad version will be available as a free update for existing Shanghai Mahjong users. More information and screenshots can be found at the developer’s web site.
Filemaker has announced that it will be launching a version of its popular consumer database application, Bento, for the iPad. Similar in concept to the Bento for iPhone app released last spring, the iPad version of Bento can be used as a standalone app or sync via Wi-Fi with the Mac version of Bento. The new version has been redesigned to take advantage of the larger screen size and UI features offered by the iPad to provide smoother database navigation and a visually appealing presentation of data. The app will ship with a number of database templates to allow users to quickly get started and is expected to be sold as a separate app for the same $5 price tag as the iPhone version. [via Mac Rumors]
Cultured Code has released an update to its popular iPhone task management app, Things. The update adds full support for working in landscape mode and now allows users to search their task list from within the app. Things 1.4 also adds built-in crash reporting functionality and improved stability and addresses multiple bugs from the previous version. Things can be used as a standalone iPhone application or users can sync via Wi-Fi with the Mac version of Things. Things for the iPhone and iPod touch is available from the App Store for $10. Things for Mac is available separately from the Cultured Code web site.
Silvio Rizzi has released a major update to his popular Reeder client for Google Reader. Reeder 2.0 provides significant performance improvements over the previous version as well as support for caching images in feeds for offline viewing and state saving so that users can return to the app and pick up where they left off. The new version also improves syncing speeds and provides the ability to sync shared items, read items, and items from friends for offline viewing. Built-in support for Google Mobilizer and Instapaper Mobilizer is now included as well as the option to open links with Safari or copy them to the clipboard. Reeder 2.0 is available from the App Store for $3 and is a free update for existing users.
A team at Toronto’s University Health Network Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, in partnership with The Hospital for Sick Children and Saint Elizabeth Health Care, has released a new iPhone application designed to simplify diabetes management. Designed initially as a self-management system for adolescents with Type I Diabetes, Bant allows iPhone and iPod touch users to track their blood glucose levels and self-manage their condition. Users can store their recorded data to their Google Health account and share their experience with the diabetes community via Twitter. In an interview with The Care to Know Centre, Dr. Joseph Cafazzo, one of the researchers on the project explained that it began as a study in the “challenges in managing kids with Type 1 Diabetes” and the issue that many teens to do not take their measurements regularly or properly self-manage their condition. Cafazzo indicated that the team wanted to find a way to encourage teens to develop proper self-management skills. They looked at an iPhone app as a solution since “the ubiquitous mobile phone is so central to this demographic’s life ... even as inpatients, teens are never far from their phone.” Cafazzo explains that social networking features were also built in to further engage adolescents and allow them to share their experiences with others like themselves. Cafazzo also notes that the team is working with Apple Canada to arrange for iTunes redemption codes to reward teens who use the app to take their measurements regularly and participate in the community. Bant is available from the App Store as a free download.
iPhone developer KainosAgora has shown a preview of TweetAgora, a unique new Twitter client for the iPhone aimed at improving the signal-to-noise ratio in users’ Twitter streams. TweetAgora provides users with the ability to filter or “mute” tweets in their timeline based on hashtags, sender or conversation, allowing them to hide tweets they may not be interested in without having to unfollow people. Users can also filter their timeline to show only tweets containing photos, links or retweets and create superset lists, or “Agoras,” that contain an aggregated timeline of tweets from other Twitter Lists, people and/or hashtags. The app also provides the ability to display full conversation threads from a selected tweet, including all of the reply branches of a conversation. TweetAgora is currently in closed beta; users can apply to join the beta at [email protected] TweetAgora is scheduled for release to the App Store in mid-April. Pricing has not yet been announced.
Following a report from yesterday indicating that the iBookstore would offer most titles on The New York Times best sellers list for $9.99, App Advice is now reporting that the iBookstore will also feature a vast number of free titles from Project Gutenberg. Project Gutenberg is a volunteer organization that digitizes and catalogs books which have seen their U.S. copyright expire; the Gutenberg website claims to offer over 30,000 ebook titles for free. The report is accompanied by a supposed screenshot of the iBookstore interface, showing several free titles, including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, both of which are available through Project Gutenberg; the report also notes that while the number of free titles wasn’t counted, it appears the entirety of Gutenberg’s catalog is available. It was previously revealed that the iPad’s iBooks applicaiton would support non-DRM ePub books not downloaded from the iBookstore, however, this is the first evidence of Apple actually offering these books for direct download.
According to the latest data from mobile advertising firm AdMob, the iPod touch is playing a large part in the growth of traffic from mobile Internet devices (MID). The company’s newly-published February Mobile Metrics Report (PDF Link) states that traffic growth from MIDs is outpacing that of smartphones and feature phones, increasing 403% over the last year to account for 17% of AdMob’s traffic in February. The iPod touch is by far the leader in the category, accounting for 93% of this traffic. Likewise, strong growth in iPhone and Android traffic, fueled by heavy application usage, helped boost overall smartphone traffic by 193% year-over-year. Smartphones now account for 48% of AdMob’s worldwide traffic, with the iPhone accounting for 49.5% of that traffic, a figure that’s down 0.9% from January. AdMob’s numbers are based on ad requests for more than 15,000 mobile Web sites and applications worldwide.
37signals, developer of the popular Basecamp and Highrise web-based productivity applications, has released its first iPhone app. Highrise for the iPhone and iPod touch is designed to allow users to access their contacts, notes, e-mails and tasks from Highrise while on the go; deals and cases are not yet supported in the current version. The application downloads and syncs Highrise information directly to the device so that users can access their contacts and notes more quickly and without requiring an active data connection. Highrise uses its own local contact database rather than the iPhone’s contacts, allowing users to keep their Highrise CRM data separate from their personal address book. Users can also record and attach voice notes to contacts, which are automatically synchronized back to the Highrise server, and view any other attachments that are natively supported by the iPhone OS. Noting that the initial download of Highrise information to the iPhone may take some time, 37signals also provides a simple tic-tac-toe game for users to play while waiting for the download to complete. Highrise is available from the App Store as a free download and requires a Highrise account. More details on the app can be found at the 37signals blog.
Apple may be planning to match Amazon’s $9.99 pricing on books featured in the New York Time’s Best Sellers lists, according to a new report. Citing a first-hand preview of the iBookstore, App Advice reports that 27 of the 32 books featured in the NYT Best Seller section were priced at $9.99, matching the pricing of Amazon.com’s Kindle bookstore. Notably, the number four best seller was missing from the list entirely, perhaps because Apple has not yet secured a deal with the book’s publisher; among the titles not priced at $9.99, the most expensive was $12.99. In addition, one book—The Help by Kathryn Stockett—was also featured on the screen during Apple’s iPad special event, and at that time was listed at $7.99, while most of the other titles were priced at $10.99 or higher. Curiously, the report closely follows a separate article citing pricing concerns as the reason why Random House, the world’s largest book publisher by sales, has yet to sign a deal with Apple to offer its titles on the iBookstore.
Random House, the world’s largest book publisher by sales, has yet to sign a deal with Apple to sell its books in the upcoming iBookstore over fears of the effect Apple’s pricing strategy could have on the pricing of electronic books. The Financial Times reports that Random House CEO Markus Dohle is not ruling out the possibility of reaching a deal with Apple before the iPad goes on sale April 3, but is moving carefully because of pricing concerns. Dohle said the new model poses “changes, in particular for our stakeholders,” that require the publisher to consult with its authors and agents before moving ahead with the deal. Hartmut Ostrowski, CEO of Random House’s parent company Bertelsmann, acknowledged the importance of the iPad and other electronic book readers in a recent press conference, stating that they are influencing the media sector “like nothing else.”
Marco Arment has released details on the upcoming iPad version of his popular Instapaper offline reading app. In a blog post on his site, Arment confirms that Instapaper is coming to the iPad “possibly even on day one.” The new design is described as very similar to Instapaper Pro with “slight interface tweaks and redesigns where appropriate.” The most significant visual changes have been made to the landscape view with the folders now appearing in a sidebar to the left of the main content listing. Arment mentions that he had originally planned to wait to release a native version of Instapaper until he actually had an iPad available to work with, however after seeing the pixel-doubled iPhone version in the iPad simulator he found it “completely unusable.” As a result he decided that a native iPad version was necessary sooner rather than later. Arment also plans to make Instapaper Pro a universal iPhone and iPad application as he doesn’t “want anyone subjecting themselves to the iPhone edition in pixel-doubled mode.” The universal version will be a free upgrade for existing Instapaper Pro users and will allow new users to use a single app on either the iPhone or iPad without having to purchase separate versions. Arment indicates that he plans to “experiment with more radical interface changes in the future” once he’s actually used an iPad, but he felt that having an iPad-native Instapaper app available at launch was more important than waiting to perfect the app. Additional details and screenshots can be found at the Instapaper Blog.
CNET reports that Opera has now submitted its Opera Mini web browser for the iPhone to Apple for App Store approval. First previewed at the Mobile World Congress, Opera Mini is designed to be used as an alternative to the iPhone’s built in Safari browser and promises faster page loading due to server-side optimization and a tabbed browser interface. CNET indicates that Opera Mini 5 running on the iPhone looks and behaves “almost identically” to the version of Opera Mini 5 on other mobile devices but also includes the ability to reload the previous session to maintain a persistent state when relaunched. Unlike other alternative browsers currently available on the App Store, Opera Mini is not based on WebKit, and there has been much speculation as to whether Apple will approve it. Third-party browsers have previously fallen afoul of Apple’s restriction on third-party applications executing code, however in discussing the matter with CNET, Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner indicated that he doesn’t feel that Opera Mini directly violates anything in Apple’s SDK license as it merely displays web pages rendered on Opera’s own proxy servers.
The iPhone OS has overtaken Sony’s Playstation Portable in terms of U.S. portable game software revenue, according to a new report from Flurry Analytics. Using publicly available market data from NPD, estimated Nintendo DS and Sony PSP game software sales, and iPhone games sales estimated using a combination of data from both Apple and the company’s own app-tracking analytics service, the iPhone OS as a platform increased its share of U.S. portable game software revenue from 5% in 2008 to 19% in 2009. In the same time period, the Nintendo DS’ revenue share fell from 75% to 70%, and the PSP’s share fell from 20% to 11%, leaving it behind the iPhone OS. Apple’s overall share of U.S video game software revenue, which includes revenue from console software sales, increased from 1% in 2008 to 5% in 2009; Flurry speculates that the launch of the iPad could lead to more increases for the iPhone OS platform. “With the iPad featuring a larger screen and more processing power, games on the tablet take a step closer to PC and console gaming,” the report states. “Unless the other major video game platform providers (i.e., Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft) respond accordingly, Apple could continue to roll up video game market share.”
Following its launch of the “Gift This App” feature on the App Store, Apple has updated its iTunes Store Terms & Conditions to add a section to the document covering gifts. Specifically, the new section explains “the conditions under which Apps can be gifted, including an explanation that Gifts may not be used for in-app purchases, in-app subscriptions, upgrades, or the iPod touch OS,” and “that some gifts require compatible hardware and parental control settings so they can be redeemed.” Notably, the Gift this App feature is also available on the Canadian App Store, despite the continuing restrictions on purchasing applications with gift cards, which leave users lacking personal credit cards, or family members willing to offer theirs, without any reasonable way of purchasing apps from the App Store.
Perseus Books Group, the largest distributor of independent publishers, has signed a deal with Apple to offer its books on Apple’s upcoming iBookstore. The New York Times reports that Perseus is a large independent publisher itself, but also distributes works from 330 smaller companies including Grove Atlantic, Harvard Business School Press, Zagat and City Lights Books. “We’re working with Apple to make books from The Perseus Books Group and the independent publishers we represent available on the iBookstore starting on April 3,” David Steinberger, CEO of Perseus, told the NYT. “As the leading provider of distribution services for independent publishers, including digital distribution through our Constellation digital service, Perseus is thrilled to be making our books available on the iPad.”
Update: Apple has also signed a deal with independent publisher Workman Publishing Company, responsible for the “What to Expect” series, novels like “Water for Elephants” and the Silver Palate cookbooks, to offer its books on the iBookstore.
Apple has launched a new App Store feature called “Gift This App.” Appearing in the “Buy App” drop-down menu on individual apps pages, the new service allows users to buy applications for download by friends or family. Once the feature is selected, a separate page appears letting the user choose between sending the gift via email or printing it themselves, along with boxes for entering the recipient’s name, email address, and a personal message. Users are also be able to gift an app to multiple recipients at once by adding multiple recipient email addresses. The page also instructs users to check the app’s requirements carefully, as “your recipient(s) may not be able to redeem or use your gift if their hardware or iPhone OS is incompatible.” [via TUAW]
This weekend, ngmoco globally released its anticipated empire-building game, We Rule. Initially issued as a limited release for testing on the Canadian App Store, We Rule starts the player with a small estate, letting him or her develop the infrastructure to transform a humble castle into a sprawling kingdom. Users can invite their friends through the Plus+ network to build realms together and visit each other’s kingdoms.
Unfortunately, We Rule turned out to be unplayable for some users this weekend because of a Ngmoco requirement that users must connect to the Plus+ network to track in-game progress and interact with other players. Within hours of its general availability, Ngmoco began reporting connection problems with its Plus+ servers, and was forced to bring new servers online; despite this, several other outages occurred resulting in limited availability of the game until early Monday morning. The outage left many users frustrated at having downloaded an iPhone game that couldn’t be enjoyed.
Ngmoco has another upcoming game, Godfinger, which uses the same network-required play model, but is still in testing on the Canadian App Store. No release date for Godfinger has yet been announced and it is unclear whether the recent Plus+ network problems will have any impact on its global availability.
Marketcircle has released an update to Billings Touch, its iPhone time tracking and billing application. Version 1.1 adds support for multiple currencies and integration with Inner Fence Credit Card Terminal for accepting invoice payments directly on the iPhone or iPod touch. Other enhancements include improved performance when using large logos for invoices and fixes for slip date formats and invoices sent via Yahoo accounts. Billings Touch is available from the App Store as a free download for time and expense tracking and reporting; sending invoices from within the app and syncing with Billings for Mac requires an upgrade to the full version via a $15 in-app purchase.
Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are working on iPad-formatted versions of their iPhone book-reading applications, according to a New York Times report. “We have actually developed a tablet-based interface that redesigns the core screen and the reading experience,” said Ian Freed, vice president for Kindle at Amazon. “Our team had some fun with it.” Amazon’s Kindle app for iPhone will give users a new interface for browsing their book collection, and allow them to “slowly turn pages with their fingers,” while Barnes & Noble’s app will offers customizable font colors and sizes and quick finger-swipe page turning; the company has also been in talks with publishers about adding multimedia content to their digital books. Amazon has launched a new website highlighting its new Kindle apps for tablet computers, including the iPad.
The report also reiterates some of Apple’s secrecy guidelines for early iPad testers, which include Major League Baseball, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, while noting that some developers who haven’t yet had a chance to use an iPad are holding off until they can test their programs on the device itself. “As much as we’d love to be there on Day 1, a misstep could kill the train before it even gets out of the station,“ said Wade Slitkin, CEO of Panelfly, which makes a digital comic-book reader. Neither Amazon or Barnes & Noble plan on having their iPad apps ready for launch day, as neither was given a pre-release iPad for early testing, and both want to test their apps on an actual iPad before submitting their applications to Apple.