The Federal Communications Commission has opened an inquiry into why Apple rejected an official Google Voice application for the iPhone and subsequently removed related applications from the App Store. Letters sent to both companies, as well as AT&T, ask why Apple rejected the application and removed voice applications already available, and how and if AT&T was consulted when making the decision. The FCC asks pointedly what AT&T’s role is in approving or denying applications allowed in the App Store, as well as asking the companies to explain their reasoning for application rejections.
Its letter to Google asks for a description of the Google Voice application, and whether Apple has approved any other Google applications for its store. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the FCC “has a mission to foster a competitive wireless marketplace, protect and empower consumers, and promote innovation and investment.” The inquiry letters “reflect the Commission’s proactive approach to getting the facts and data necessary to make the best policy decisions,” and hint at concern over topics such as lack of consumer disclosure, and lack of developer disclosure, regarding the type of applications that are permitted and rejected. The Wall Street Journal reports that while the investigation isn’t formal, it is notable because the FCC hadn’t received a complaint about the rejection and removals.
Following the rejection of Google’s official Google Voice app and the subsequent removal of all third-party Google Voice apps from the App Store, a number of developers have voiced their concerns over the long-term viability of the platform, with at least one vowing to move on to other platforms. Second Gear developer Justin Williams, maker of the iPhone app FitnessTrack, has written a lengthy piece describing some of the core problems currently facing iPhone developers, most notably lack of feedback for developers and an unsustainable pricing structure. Williams finishes the post by stating that he is “seriously considering” selling off his two iPhone properties and leaving iPhone development behind because he believes the App Store “as it presently stands is not capable of providing a reliable and consistent means of income.” A brief summarization of the piece is available in the form of a Twitter update, which reads, “Baseless app rejections, an unsustainable pricing structure, piss-poor developer relations and a blackbox review system. Where do I sign up?”
In response, Craig Hockenberry, who, along with his Iconfactory colleagues, received an Apple Design Award for the iPhone version of Twitterrific, said he is “seriously doubting the long-term viability of this business,” while Frasier Spiers, developer of the Flickr app Darkslide who announced last year that he would not write another new application for the iPhone as long as the App Store stayed as it was (and is), has used Twitter to describe the App Store as “high risk, low probability of reward, [with] many insurmountable factors totally [outside] your control.” Finally, Layton Duncan of iPhone development house Polar Bear Farm has written an equally-lengthy piece further discussing App Store issues, and announcing that “[a]s with many other serious iPhone developers recently, we’ve made the hard decision to kill all but one project in progress, and stop investing any resources in creating new applications. We’ll continue to sell and fully support our existing iPhone offerings, however we’re already moving to platforms which show signs of real viability.”
The overarching problems—developer feedback, consistent approval policies, and the current pricing and promotion structure—are cited as problems that developers can do nothing to fix without Apple’s help, leaving them with only the option to stick it out or leave. In addition to stopping the release of entirely new applications, the loss of more iPhone developers could impact updates to current releases, rendering yesterday’s apps incompatible with new versions of the iPhone OS.
Quietly added to Apple’s website during WWDC, the MobileMe iDisk application for iPhone and iPod touch has finally been released. The iDisk app allows MobileMe users to view files from their iDisks on their mobile devices. It offers viewing support for Office, iWork ‘09, PDF, video, and other files, lets users share files with others via email, and access the Public folders of other MobileMe members. Apple’s MobileMe iDisk application is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Apple has begun asking developers to list keywords for their applications when submitting, in order to help with search. AppleInsider reports that developers are now asked to enter up to 255 characters worth of keywords, and that the new data will be used to help improve the search function of the App Store on the iPhone and iPod touch. “It is important to enter keywords for all applications as soon as possible so your application can continue to be successfully located on the App Store,” the update from Apple reads. “Keywords can be updated with the submission of a new binary.”
Taito has released Space Invaders Infinity Gene, its latest game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Infinity Gene begins mimicking the classic arcade shooter, with the game “evolving” as play continues, adding colored backgrounds, varied Invaders, and evolved power-ups. In addition, the game features a unique “Music” option that creates new levels on the fly based on the data from the song selected from the iPod/iPhone library. Space Invaders Infinity Gene is available now from the App Store and sells for $5.
Apple plans to allow iPhone developers to release augmented reality apps in the App Store following the roll out of iPhone OS 3.1. The LA Times reports that Apple told Acrossair, developer of the Nearest Tube train finder, that the app will be approved for distribution after Apple releases the latest version of the iPhone and iPod touch software, which the company believes to be on track to land in early September. Currently, developers of augmented reality apps—which utilize the iPhone’s Internet connection, GPS, Compass, and camera to overlay information atop a stream of video showing the user’s surroundings—are using the iPhone OS’ camera viewer in an unauthorized manner to deliver the video needed for the apps to run, but that 3.1 will change that. “We have the app working on 3.0 already,” Acrossair Director Chetan Damani told the LA Times. “On 3.1, we have a few extra bits that allow us to show full-screen video.”
Apple has fixed what it once described as a “minor glitch” that kept iPhone developers from issuing promo codes for apps carrying a 17+ rating. iLounge reported in December that developers were unable to issue codes for adult-rated apps, which limited the promotional avenues available to such applications. At the time, we questioned whether the problem was due to an Apple attempt to limit promotion of 17+ titles, or a temporary bug that would be resolved in time. In any case, the company took over six months to fix the “glitch.”
Google has announced the launch of its new Latitude web application for iPhone and iPod touch, after seemingly having its native application rejected by Apple. On the Official Google Mobile Blog, Mat Balez, Product Manager for the Google Mobile Team, writes, “We worked closely with Apple to bring Latitude to the iPhone in a way Apple thought would be best for iPhone users. After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles.” The reality of the rejection flies in the face of past Apple-Google dealings on the iPhone; Google was widely-known to have been granted access to unpublished APIs when building its Google Mobile App, so it remains unclear why Apple would choose to reject this particular effort, especially after Google had spent the time and effort to build it. Latitude allows users to share their location with friends and see their friends’ locations on a map, use basic search and directions functionality, and, like in the native Maps application, tap a blue dot to be taken to their approximate current location. To access Google Latitude for iPhone and iPod touch, simply visit google.com/latitude from the mobile Safari browser.
An update to Efiko Software’s iPhone Twitter client qTweeter for jailbroken iPhones has added a new video sharing feature that puts it functionally beyond many of the currently-available, officially-sanctioned Twitter clients in the App Store. qTweeter runs in the background of jailbroken iPhones, letting users slide their finger down from the status area to tweet or update their Facebook status. New in version 2.0, however, is the ability to share video recorded using the iPhone, iPhone 3G, or iPhone 3GS, a feat the developer claims App Store apps “will never be able to accomplish.” qTweeter is available now as a free download from the Cydia download repository.
Sports Illustrated has released SI Swimsuit 2009, its new application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Developed in partnership with Azuki Systems, Si Swimsuit features videos and photos of all 20 models from the 2009 SI Swimsuit franchise, and allows users to create a personalized daily sports calendar to keep track of schedules and scores for up to six professional and/or college sports teams. Rated 17+, SI Swimsuit 2009 is available now from the App Store and sells for $3.
THQ Wireless has released Treasure Grab, its latest game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Treasure Grab puts players in control of master thief Alya Loot, who must steal, sneak, and pick locks to grab the most precious heirlooms of four decadent nobles. Features include open gameplay, an original storyline and characters, and seven “Trickster” powers that can be used to fool guards and maximize treasure. Treasure Grab is sells for $3.
Mobiata, maker of FlightTrack and FlightTrack Pro, has introduced HotelPal (pictured), its latest application for the iPhone and iPod touch. HotelPal offers users access to over 100,000 hotels, including full-screen photos, interactive maps, and live availability info. Once a room is found, travelers can book right in the app, using a custom booking interface powered by Travelocity. HotelPal will be available as a free download from the App Store as soon as it receives approval from Apple.
Ben Gotow, developer of NetSketch, has unveiled Layers, his latest art creation tool for the iPhone and iPod touch. Layers is a natural media painting application, allowing users to add up to five layers to each drawing or photo, with the ability to email the file as a .psd file with the layers intact. Tools include a full-featured eraser for revealing hidden layers, two-finger pan and zoom, eight brushes, an eyedropper tool, precisely adjustable brush sizes, a large color picker with transparency control, undo history that is saved on exit, and the ability to email the an image in either .jpg or .psd formats. Layers is available now and sells for $5.
Navigon has released its MobileNavigator North America turn-by-turn GPS application for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. Taking up a massive 1.29GB of space, MobileNavigator stores all its map data directly on the device for operation in areas where cellular service is unavailable, and features Reality View Pro 3D navigation views with actual road signs and lane guidance, Lane Assistant Pro, which helps drivers prepare for an upcoming exit or tun with on-screen arrows, a Speed Assistant, day and night mode for map display, single-click “Take me home” functionality, branded POIs, both 2D and 3D map views, automatic switching between portrait and landscape formats, and more. Navigon’s MobileNavigator North America is available now from the App Store and will sell for $70 through August 15, when the price will increase to $100; no subscription is required.
Syncode, developers of the Push-enabled Twitter client iTweetReply, has revealed that the app’s first update—version 1.1—has been rejected by Apple due to its visual similarity to the iPhone’s built-in messaging app. According to a post on Syncode’s blog, Apple’s rejection email stated, “Thank you for submitting your application to the App Store. Unfortunately, your application, iTweetReply – Push Twitter Replies and Direct Messages, cannot be added to the App Store because its usage of the standard SMS UI elements may be confusing or misleading to iPhone users. Please redesign your application to look significantly different from the standard iPhone SMS built-in app.” The developer points out that this portion of the UI remains unchanged from the already available 1.0 release, and that a similar look is used by a number of other Twitter applications; iLounge has also seen several instant messaging applications with similar layouts. Syncode says it will soon be submitting an improved 1.1 release of iTweetReply, containing several features originally planned for later updates; it is unclear how the company plans to deal with Apple’s UI complaints.
Namco has announced its latest Pac-Man title for the iPhone and iPod touch, Pac-Man Remix. Featuring an angled overhead 3-D view, the game is similar to the Pac-Man Arrangement game found on Namco Museum Battle Collection for the PSP, and adds maze traps, the ability to jump, and a number of power-ups to the classic Pac-Man gameplay. Additional features include a choice between on-screen, flick-, and accelerometer-based controls, six unique boss characters, and stage-specific gadgets. Pac-Man Remix is expected to be available in the coming weeks and will sell for $6; continue reading for more screenshots.
Apple has begun allowing racy new content into appropriately-labeled applications, a new update suggests. Based on the tales of woe web site, F-MyLife by enormego has been updated to version 1.5.4, which, according to the release notes posted to the App Store listing, “[e]nables the ‘Sex’ category for iPhone 3.0 users.” This category had previously been missing from the app, despite its appearance on the actual web site’s pages; the App Store now requires the user to acknowledge the potential of objectionable content within the app before the download. It is unclear whether this will lead to the approval of more controversial applications. F-MyLife and F-MyLife Pro are available now for free and for $2, respectively, and are labeled 17+.
Fenrir has debuted Inkiness, its new drawing application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Inkiness emulates drawing with ink, on a grid patterned pad. Features include a virtual, on-screen nib for increased accuracy, the ability to save and edit up to 80 drawing pages, and the ability to save drawings to the photo library or share them via email. Inkiness sells for $3.
FreshGames has released Ranch Rush, its new game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Previously released on the Mac and PC, Ranch Rush puts players in the shoes of Sara, who must build a thriving ranch before the owner is forced to sell. Over the course of several weeks, players will need to harvest fresh produce, gather eggs from ostriches, collect honey from bees, make ketchup from tomatoes, and more. The game features more than 40 levels, four upgrades, four different animals to tend, and 20 trophies to win. Ranch Rush is available now from the App Store and sells for $2.
Chilli X has introduced Playlist Alarm Clock, its latest clock application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Playlist Alarm Clock allows users to build or choose two playlists of songs to wake up and fall asleep to. Users can choose separate durations of time for music to play when falling asleep and waking up, and can also use the app as a standard alarm or bedside clock; other features include a snooze function and auto-lock prevention. Playlist Alarm Clock is available now and is priced at $2.
SimpleTouch Software has released Meditate, its latest application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Meditate serves as a simple meditation timer, offering a single-pane interface, customizable interval chimes, the ability to set preparation and cool down times, automatic meditation tracking, including total and daily average meditation times, statistics, and smart interruption handling and restart. Meditate is available now and sells for $2.
Justin Stahl has released The Typography Manual, a new application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The Manual features a 60+ page book covering the history of type, typography basics, how to properly set text and characters, information on web typography, and more. It also offers resources such as a visual type anatomy glossary, a style guide, a keyboard character and HTML character code listing, an Em calculator, and a font size ruler. The Typography Manual is available now from the App Store and sells for $5. [via Kottke]
National chain Pizza Hut has launched a new app for the iPhone and iPod touch. The application allows users to order pizzas, wings, and pastas using interactive tools, see the latest deals, and play a racing mini-game while they are waiting for their order to arrive. The Pizza Hut app is available now as a free download.
Deep Prose Software has debuted Cyclops, its new application for the iPhone 3GS. Cyclops utilizes the iPhone 3GS’ macro capabilities to scan barcodes of items found in normal stores or at home, automatically searching Amazon to provide up to date product information and pricing. Cyclops is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Blizzard Entertainment has released World of Warcraft Mobile Armory, its second application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Built for players of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Armory lets users search for and view any character, item, guild, or Arena team in World of Warcraft, access their in-game calendars, view achievement-point leaderboards, plan out talent specs, and more. World of Warcraft Mobile Armory is a free download.
Griffin Technology has released iFM Radio Browser, its latest application for the iPhone and iPod touch. iFM Radio Browser serves as an interactive radio companion, providing users with real-time data—provided by Mediaguide—on local FM stations in their area, the currently playing song, with album art, artist info, and concert date information. Users may also browse by station, artist or genre, and can instantly purchase music with the iTunes app or save songs to a wish list for later purchasing. Finally, iFM Radio Browser works with Griffin’s recently released Navigate in-line controller and FM radio for iPod and iPhone, working as a touchscreen control interface. Griffin’s iFM Radio Browser is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Airsource has launched Cellar, its new wine collection management app for the iPhone and iPod touch. Cellar lets users track their current wine inventory and finished bottles—stored in the “Garage”—through a graphic interface that mimics the look of real cellar, with user-specified options to match the actual bottle as closely as possible, including the ability to add a custom photo of the label. The app also stores information about each bottle, including brand, region, vintage, grape, price, rating, and personal notes. Cellar is available now from the App Store and sells for $1.
Handheld Games has released SurrounDEAD, its new game for the iPhone and iPod touch. In SurrounDEAD, players attempt to survive a zombie attack by shooting down as many as possible before their life runs out. The game features 360-degree play, with the players using either tilt controls, or—for the first time—the iPhone 3GS’ compass—to turn around and catch oncoming baddies. SurrounDEAD is available now and is priced at $1.
Justin Smith has introduced Enviro-Bear 2010, a whimsical new driving game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Players of Enviro-Bear take control of a roughly-drawn bear, who must use touch controls to interact with items, including food like fish and berries. Once sufficiently full, the player must drive into a cave to hibernate, while continuing to interact with the surroundings and avoiding other bear drivers. Enviro-Bear 2010 sells for $1 and is available now.
About Objects has announced a partnership with NTI Leeds to offer iPhone OS 3.0 developer training in the U.K. The first iPhone Development course is scheduled for July 20-22, and will be held at NTI Leeds headquarters in the Old Broadcasting House in the Civic Quarter in Leeds. A 3-day event, the course takes attendees from the fundamentals of Objective-C 2.0 through all the basics of developing apps using the iPhone SDK’s APIs, Xcode development environment, Interface Builder, and other tools. Registration is now open; the class fee is £995, or roughly $1620.
Apple has announced that its customers downloaded more than 1.5 billion applications from the App Store during its first year of operation, making it “the largest applications store in the world.” The company added that the App Store continues to grow at a fast pace, with more than 65,000 apps now available and more than 100,000 developers in the iPhone Developer Program. “The App Store is like nothing the industry has ever seen before in both scale and quality,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “With 1.5 billion apps downloaded, it is going to be very hard for others to catch up.” The App Store is now available in 77 countries; the store passed the billion download milestone in late April, meaning the pace of downloads is likely quickening as well.
Apple has rejected updates to two more applications—FastFinder from Bananas Design and Chirp! Bird Songs from Spiny Software—due to what the company considers to be an inappropriate rating based on the apps’ ability to connect to the Internet. FastFinder allows users to quickly query a variety of search engines and other services such as IMDB, Amazon.com, Facebook, and more, while Chirp! Bird Songs helps users to listen to, identify, and learn about different bird songs. In the former case, Apple argued that FastFinder “allows unfiltered access to the Internet, where content with mature or suggestive themes can be accessed;” it used the same argument to reject the Chirp! update due to its ability to connect to Wikipedia, according to an email from the developer. In both cases Apple said “[a]pplications must be rated accordingly for the highest level of content that the user is able to access,” suggesting the company may continue to reject applications offering Internet access until they raise their ratings. Both FastFinder and Chirp! Bird Songs had previously been accepted into the App Store with a 4+ rating, and are available in their current versions for $2 and $3, respectively.