CourseSmart has launched its new eTextbooks application for the iPhone and iPod touch. eTextbooks serves as a reader application for CourseSmart’s eTextbook service, which offers online access to more than 7,000 textbook titles from twelve different publishers. The Textbooks are offered via a subscription at an average of 50% off traditional print versions, although the electronic versions typically expire after 180 days and require an Internet connection for access. Features of the application include access to subscribed textbooks, the ability to scan for visual aids, skim thumbnails, access full pages, and keyword search. CourseSmart’s eTextbooks for the iPhone is available now as a free download from the App Store.
USAA, a privately held bank and insurance company, plans to allow customers to deposit checks remotely using its iPhone application, the New York Times reports. The updated application, which is expected to be released this week, will use the iPhone’s camera to photograph both sides of a check, with an on-screen guide to make sure the check’s image is placed correctly in the frame. “We’re essentially taking an image of the check, and once you hit the send button, that image is going into our deposit-taking system as any other check would,” Wayne Peacock, a USAA executive vice president, told the NYT. Customers will not be required to mail the check in, and are told to void the check and either file it or discard it after it has been deposited. To reduce fraud, only customers who are eligible for credit and have some form of insurance through USAA will be permitted to use the feature, a group which includes about 60 percent of the bank’s customers.
Apple has pulled the paid version of ThinAir Wireless’ Offender Locator application from the App Store, but left the free version—Offender Locator Lite—in place. Offender Locator used publicly-available databases to help users locate sex offenders in their areas. Trip Wakefield, a ThinAir employee, told Cnet that the app was pulled for unspecified legal reasons, although readers on both Cnet and TechCrunch have suggested that the state of California prohibits the sale of criminal information for profit, which would have made the paid version of the application illegal. Wakefield also noted that a competing paid application, Sex Offenders Search, remains on sale.
Vimov has introduced iSimulate, a new iPhone app and Xcode library bundle that lets iPhone developers wirelessly control their applications and games from an actual iPhone or iPod touch unit. In addition to sending multi-touch events, accelerometer data, and GPS location to the iPhone Simulator, iSimulate also allows developers to test across different versions of the iPhone OS without needing several devices, each provisioned with a different OS build, and test applications with different device IDs to test for different models. The ability to fully control the iPhone Simulator on a real device allows developers to take full-quality preview videos of games and other mixed-media applications. iSimulate is available now from the App Store and is currently $8; its price will be raised to $32 on August 16.
RJ Softwares has released Lexulous, its first game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Lexulous is a crossword-style game that challenges players to make words on a 15x15 board using eight letter tiles, and is designed for play by 2-4 players at a time. The game features real-time chat between players, Facebook integration, as well as the ability to continue games started on the device on Facebook, a dictionary for word look-up, a two-letter word list, and the ability to listen to iPod music while playing. Lexulous is available now from the App Store and sells for $4.
Social mapping service Waze has released its new client application on the App Store. Compatible with both the iPhone and iPod touch, Waze uses driver-generated data to build road maps and provide real-time traffic information to users. As the app runs, it automatically and anonymously relays location points back to the company’s servers, data which is used to build and constantly updated the road grid, traffic information, driving directions, road changes, and more. Waze is available now as a free download.
ALK Technologies has released its CoPilot Live United Kingdom turn-by-turn navigation application for the iPhone 3G and 3GS. Featuring detailed street maps of the U.K. and Ireland, it offers 3D and 2D driving views with speed-variable zoom and street names, automatic portrait to landscape switching, intelligent navigation for guidance in tunnels and overpasses, automatic day/night mode switching, lane indicator, signpost display, and ClearTurn features, weather forecasts, and more. It also stores maps on the phone for use when out of service areas, and does not require monthly fees. CoPilot Live United Kingdom is priced at £26, or $43.
Amidio, in collaboration with Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess, has released JR Hexatone Pro, its new music creation application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Hexatone Pro is a six-directional drum machine and rhythm sequencer that uses artificial intelligence and advanced randomization algorithms to produce constantly changing sonic structures. The app can create a variety of drum loops, melodic sequences or rhythm patterns by loading custom user samples and modifying them in real-time; users can also add stutter or chorus effects and control them via the iPhone’s or iPod touch’s accelerometers. Hexatone Pro features 400 original factory samples, 40 loop presets, and .WAV exporting, and is available now for $10.
Apple has started rejecting all e-book and e-book reader applications for the iPhone and iPod touch on the basis of possible copyright infringement, according to a new report. Citing developers speaking on the grounds of anonymity, TUAW reports that Apple has begun sending all e-book submitters rejection letters which state, “this category of applications is often used for the purpose of infringing upon third party rights. We have chosen to not publish this type of application to the App Store.” The report claims that Apple has rejected at least one application from a national content syndicate who owns the rights to the materials and can prove those rights, and has also rejected a new e-book reader application on the same grounds. As the developer of the reader application said in an email to TUAW, “[l]eaving aside the presumption of innocence, [what] about iTunes and iPod; shouldn’t they be banned too? After all many users indeed are using them to listen to the music that is not always legally obtained.” It is unclear whether the company also plans to remove and/or reject future updates to other e-book applications currently available on the App Store, and whether this move may be paving the way for Apple to offer its own e-book store, as was rumored last week.
An U.K.-based online retailer has posted pricing for TomTom’s upcoming GPS car mount and application bundle for the iPhone. According to the item’s Handtec listing page, the TomTom for iPhone Mount will sell for £99 plus VAT, or roughly $168 plus tax. Unveiled during Apple’s 2009 WWDC Keynote, the Mount will offer a more accurate, consistent GPS signal than that made possible by the iPhone 3G or 3GS alone, a louder speaker, a microphone to facilitate hands-free calling, the ability to power the iPhone while docked, and the ability to stick to either the windshield or dashboard. An exact release date has yet to be revealed. [via Daniweb | MDN]
Namco has released Pac-Man Remix, its latest game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Announced in July and 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 available now from the App Store and sells for $6.
Sony Pictures Television has released Q*Bert Deluxe, its newest release for the iPhone and iPod touch. An updated version of the 1982 arcade game, Q*Bert Deluxe features three game modes—arcade, modern, and jungle—a choice between accelerometer- or touch-based controls, five different enemy types, and four friendly objects. The developer also promises “regular updates” with “new themes and gameplay.” Q*Bert Deluxe is available now and is priced at $2.
Intuit has released its new GoPayment application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Intuit GoPayment allows business owners to process credit card payments directly from their devices, view past charges and send customers electronic receipts via e-mail or text message. In addition, users can also review transactions online and synchronize them with Intuit’s QuickBooks software. In addition to the app, users will need an Intuit GoPayment merchant account, which costs $19.95 a month and requires a one-time setup fee of $59.95; Intuit will, for a limited time only, waive both the setup fee as well as the first 60 days of monthly fees and minimums. Intuit’s GoPayment application is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Apple rejected the dictionary app Ninjawords three times before accepting it into the App Store, in the process forcing the developers to remove every word it deemed “objectionable,” including commonly-used words that have non-objectionable uses. Unlike many competing low-cost dictionary apps using WordNet, Ninjawords uses Wiktionary as its source. John Gruber of Daring Fireball notes that Mac OS X’s built-in Dictionary app lists all of the words deemed objectionable by App Store reviewers. After having been rejected in May for a bug that crashed the software on the latest beta of iPhone OS 3.0, the app was rejected again for listing curse words.
Phil Crosby, a developer for Ninjawords maker Matchstick Software, told Gruber in an email interview that the rejection came despite the fact that Ninjawords filtered out all curse words in its suggestion listings, something competing apps, including Dictionary.com’s application, don’t do. It was rejected a third time following Matchstick’s efforts to remove the curse words, with an Apple representative calling Matchstick to inform them that “no matter what we did to our dictionary, it will have to be 17+ to make it to the App Store.” In the end, Matchstick ended up having to remove common words such as snatch, c*ck, and screw, and managed to have the app approved in mid-July. Ninjawords is available now from the App Store and sells for $2.
Update: Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller has responded to Gruber’s report via an email, stating that Ninjawords was rejected not because of common swear words, but because of “other more vulgar terms,” “urban slang” that might be more offensive than those found in traditional and common dictionaries, and suggested that had the developer waited for the release of Parental Controls in iPhone OS 3.0, the app would not have needed censoring.
“You are correct that the Ninjawords application should not have needed to be censored while also receiving a 17+ rating, but that was a result of the developers’ actions, not Apple’s. I believe that the Apple app review team’s original recommendation to the developer to submit the Ninjawords application, without censoring it, to the App Store once parental controls was implemented would have been the best course of action for all; Wiktionary.org is an open, ever-changing resource and filtering the content does not seem reasonable or necessary,” Schiller said in his email.
Gameloft has unveiled two upcoming games for the iPhone and iPod touch: NFL 2010, and the first-person shooter Modern Combat: Sandstorm. NFL 2010 will offer a “full football simulation,” on-screen controls, and full NFL team rosters. Pricing has yet to be set, but the company hopes to release the game on the App Store by the end of the month. Even less is known about Modern Combat: Sandstorm, which debuted on YouTube with a video description claiming that the game places players in the “heart of a modern war.” Pricing is similarly unannounced, and the game is said to be coming soon. Continue reading for more screenshots of both games.
Microsoft has posted a case study on its Windows Mobile Development Center offering an example of how to port an iPhone application to Windows Mobile 6.5. The application in question, Amplitude by Luke Thompson of Gripwire.com, allows users to enhance distant and/or quiet sounds to make them more audible to those nearby. According to a post on the Windows Mobile Blog, the app is “well suited for a porting project because it combines a rich user interface with features such as alpha blending and transparency with specific audio and sound requirements, which makes it challenging to port the app but, at the same time, provides a number of helpful learning experiences.” Some of those challenges included adding support for running in the background, accommodating keyboards, and porting the UI, since the .NET Compact Framework Thompson was using didn’t offer support for transparencies and alpha blending like the iPhone OS. Microsoft plans to open its App Store competitor Windows Marketplace for Mobile sometime this fall.
Apple has banned an iPhone developer responsible for over 900 apps for repeated complaints of copyright infringement. Khalid Shaikh has seen his iPhone Developer Program License Agreement and Registered iPhone Developer Agreement terminated by Apple, who told Shaikh in its rejection email that it has “informed you of numerous third party intellectual property complaints concerning over 100 of your Applications and reminded you of your obligations to obtain the necessary rights prior to submission of your Applications. Nevertheless, we continue to receive the same or similar types of complaints regarding your Applications despite our repeated notices to you. The persistent nature of such complaints has led us to conclude that you are entering into the representations and warranties in the iDP Agreement in bad faith by misrepresenting that you have all the necessary rights for your submissions.”
MobileCrunch reports that Shaikh’s 9-month-old company, Perfect Acumen, had a team of 26 developers and had managed to publish 943 applications, or an average of 5 apps a day, every day, for 250 days. Many of the company’s apps were serialized in nature and sold for $5 each, such as “Top Sexy Ladies,” “Top Sexy Men,” and a vast number of news update applications. The report also notes that competing developer Brighthouse Labs has released over 2,000 applications, each costing $0.99, many of which seem to have similar copyright issues as Shaikh’s apps.
Kensington has introduced its new Charging Dock with Mini Battery Pack for iPhone and iPod. The white and gray Charging Dock simultaneously charges the attached iPhone or iPod and the Mini Battery Pack, which extends music play time up to 30 hours, video playback by 6 hours, and talk time by 3 hours, depending on the model. Other features include a detachable USB cable for charging and syncing and the ability to charge encased iPhones and iPods. Kensington’s Charging Dock with Mini Battery Pack for iPhone and iPod is available for pre-order for $70 and is expected to ship October 23.
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.