Popular open-source DVD to MPEG-4 converter Handbrake has been updated to version 0.9.5, its first update in over a year. The new version offers a long list of improvements, including new presets for the iPad, iPhone 4, and second-generation Apple TV, support for SSA subtitles, automatic discovery of VLC in the Applications folder (necessary for ripping encrypted DVDs), AC3 encoding support, universal audio downmix support, a peak framerate option, and more. Notably, 0.9.5 drops support for legacy PowerPC-based Macs; a complete list of changes is available here. Handbrake 0.9.5 is available now as a free download for Mac OS X 10.5 or later, Windows 2000 or later, and Linux.
In an interview with Forbes, Epic Games’ vice president and co-founder Mark Rein said that the company’s new iOS game Infinity Blade was already profitable despite having been on the market for only a week, leading to its title as fastest-grossing app. Rein didn’t disclose how much money the game has made, but the report notes that the game has more than 300,000 users playing on Apple’s Game Center social gaming network; at $6 a copy, that translates to roughly $1.8 million in sales, $1.26 million of which would go to Epic. Interestingly, Rein described the Game Center numbers as “quite a bit lower” than actual sales, because not all users who purchased the game are playing it with Game Center enabled. Rein also said that more console-quality games will be coming to iOS soon, as he believes there is a business model for such titles, adding that Infinity Blade was made quickly for a “very reasonable price by a very reasonably sized team.” The report notes that Cut the Rope was considered the previous record holder, generating $1 million in sales in just 10 days.
Gowalla has released a major update to its location-based social networking application for the iPhone and iPod touch adding integration with competing location-based networks and a number of other significant new features and enhancements. Gowalla 3.0 expands its services to include Facebook Places and Foursquare, allowing users to connect to their other accounts to check-in and view friends’ check-ins across all three networks in one place. Check-ins can also be posted to Twitter and Tumblr for sharing. Users can now leave personal notes at a location for their Gowalla friends who will receive the note when they next check-in at that location and bookmark specific spots for later. Other improvements include faster check-ins based on user history, the ability to add and browse highlights for a city and the ability to flag spots to report problems or closed locations right from within the app. Gowalla 3.0 also sports a completely re-imagined user interface design to improve the user experience and makes uploading photos, creating spots and browsing friends much easier than in the previous version. Gowalla is available from the App Store as a free download. An iPad version is also available however it has not yet been updated to include these latest features.
IMDb has released an update to its universal iOS application adding support for multi-tasking and Retina Display capabilities and expanding its theatre showtimes feature to 13 additional countries. IMDb Movies & TV 2.0 also now allows users to rate movies and TV shows by signing in with either their IMDb or Facebook accounts and provides links to the latest entertainment news from hundreds of media outlets, organized by category and linked to titles and names in the database. Movie theatre showtimes have now been expanded to include Canada, U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand. IMDb Pro subscribers can also now find representation listings and contact details from directly within the application. The new version also provides a redesigned home screen highlighting the latest trailers and entertainment news and supports Chinese localization. IMDb Movies & TV 2.0 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Skyfire Labs reports that it has been forced to suspend sales of its new Skyfire app after only a few hours of sales due to extremely high demand. Released yesterday afternoon, Skyfire allows users to view online Flash video from the web by using intermediate proxy servers to transcode Flash video to an iOS-friendly format. Skyfire Labs reports that the application was received with “unbelievable enthusiasm” and became the top grossing app on the App Store within five hours, however the popularity of the app quickly overwhelmed the company’s proxy servers and bandwidth causing the video experience to degrade. As a result, the developer has suspended sales of the application, declaring the app effectively ‘sold out.’ Skyfire reports that it is “working really hard to increase capacity” and hopes to be able to resume sales of the application soon.
CNNMoney reports that Skyfire, a web browser app that can be used to view Flash video, had been approved by Apple and is expected to be available for download on Thursday. Skyfire will allow users to view Flash videos from the web by using intermediate proxy servers to transcode them to an iOS-friendly HTML5 and MPEG-4/H.264 standard before streaming them to the user’s device. When using Skyfire to browse to a web site containing Flash video, a thumbnail will be displayed that the user can tap on to stream the video content to their device from Skyfire’s servers. The report notes that Skyfire will be designed to translate only video content and can’t be used to translate games or other non-video Flash content. Adobe estimates that nearly 75% of online video is encoded in Flash, however other studies have noted that many of these sites encode videos in other formats in addition to Flash to provide compatibility with a broader range of devices. However, Skyfire’s CEO estimates that Skyfire will provide access to millions of web sites that were previously unavailable to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users. CNNMoney also notes however that one major Flash-based service, Hulu, will not be available as the company has blocked the Skyfire service from being able to download its videos. It is unclear whether other similar streaming services may also follow suit.
Update (11/03/2010): Skyfire is now available from the App Store—a day earlier than expected.
Update (11/04/2010): Skyfire has been temporarily removed from the App Store by the developer due to excessive demand and server performance problems.
Rémi Denis-Courmont, one of the primary developers of the VLC Media Player has sent a formal notification of copyright infringement to Apple regarding distribution of the VLC media player for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Denis-Courmont indicates that VLC media player is free software licensed solely under the GNU General Public License (GPL) and Apple is violating the terms of the GPL through its App Store usage rules which restrict free and open distribution of applications by applying Digital Rights Management (DRM) that prevents users from freely sharing the application.
Denis-Courmont goes on to state that although VLC is still available on the App Store, “it is to be expected that Apple will cease distribution soon” pointing to the example of GNU Go which was removed by Apple earlier this year under similar circumstances. Denis-Courmont notes that the developers who published VLC for the iPad should have been fully aware of the incompatibility of the GPL with the App Store distribution model and “they bear full responsibility for any consequences” however he also notes that “users of iOS-based devices [will] be deprived of VLC media player, as a consequence of the intransigently tight control Apple maintains over its mobile applications platform.” The GNU General Public License requires that works licensed under it must be free to be used for any purpose, freely shared with others, and open to modification by individual users to suit their needs and share those changes with others. The iOS and App Store distribution model precludes most of these uses through Digital Rights Management of the application as well as the inability for end users to create their own modifications to the source code without being a member of Apple’s iOS Developer Program.
Following a report earlier this month that membership club Costco would be ceasing sales of iPods after being denied the opportunity to sell the iPad, iLounge has now been informed that the warehouse retailer will also be ending sales of all discounted iTunes cards this coming Saturday, October 30th. It is unclear at this time whether this applies to all Costco locations worldwide, but the source suggests that it is expected to affect all North American locations. The report also confirms that current stock of iPods will continue to be sold until inventories are exhausted, however barring a future change in policy iPods will no longer be available from Costco after the current stock has been sold.
As Halloween approaches, several game developers have released Halloween-themed editions of popular iPhone and iPad game titles. Rovio Mobile has released special editions of its popular Angry Birds game, Angry Birds Halloween ($1) for the iPhone and iPod touch and Angry Birds Halloween HD ($2) for the iPad. Both versions add new levels with Halloween-themed objects such as spooky backgrounds and pumpkins to smash, and are purchased separately special editions of Angry Birds.
Lima Sky has updated the existing version of Doodle Jump ($1), adding a haunted Halloween theme as a free update for current users. Players can turn Doodle into a scary Doodlestein monster that must dodge zombies, vampires, witches and other creepy creatures. This latest version of Doodle Jump is a free update for current users.
Eyedip has released revamped Halloween versions of several of its popular applications, transforming them entirely rather than merely adding an additional theme. Flight Doodle ($1) and Flight Doodle HD ($3) sport an entirely new Halloween look with darker menus and orange and black falling tacks, ghouls, ghosts and zombies as enemies. Cargo planes have been replaced with a friendly witch to deliver tricks and treats as power-ups and numerous other Halloween themed objects and backgrounds have been added. Eyedip has also released the latest chapter in Pocket Devil ($1) and Pocket Devil HD ($3), dressing up the characters and sending them out for All Hallow’s Eve with a new mini-game, a pumpkin head editor, Halloween brain feast and new spooky scenery. All four games are available as free updates for current users.
Following yesterday’s acquisition of iOS game publisher Chillingo by Electronic Arts, Angry Birds developer Rovio revealed to TechCrunch that its relationship with Chillingo was limited to the original release of the iPhone and iPad games in December 2009 and April 2010 and did not evolve beyond that point. Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio told TechCrunch, “We only did the first iPad/iPhone integration with Chillingo and aside from that we’ve published everything ourselves. We will not use Chillingo again.” Rovio Mobile has published all of its other games directly since the initial deal with Chillingo, including its flagship Angry Birds game for other mobile platforms and its latest Angry Birds Halloween title for the iPhone and iPad. According to Vesterbacka, Rovio Mobile retained all intellectual property rights to Angry Birds in its contract with Chillingo, and Rovio plans to continue publishing the game independently.
The LA Times reports that Electronic Arts has purchased U.K. based iOS gaming publisher Chillingo. EA spokesperson Holly Rockwood confirmed the purchase this morning but did not provide any comment on the acquisition amount, although “sources close to the deal” cited by the LA Times indicated that the amount was less than $20 million in cash. Chillingo is a game publisher rather than a developer and the company represents a number of independent iOS developers. Popular titles released by Chillingo include Angry Birds by Rovio and Cut the Rope by ZeptoLab, both of which are currently hold top positions on the iTunes App Store charts. Neither Rovio or ZeptoLab are part of the EA acquisition. In a statement released this morning, EA noted that the acquisition will “combine Chillingo’s expertise in cultivating the ideas of independent developers with EA’s global mobile publishing reach.”
Gameloft has released a teaser trailer for its upcoming game, N.O.V.A. 2 Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance. The trailer provides a first glimpse of the company’s new first-person shooter for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, designed as a sequel to the original critically-acclaimed N.O.V.A. - Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance which broke new ground in handheld FPS games. Little is known about the sequel beyond what is shown in the trailer which provides only a brief glimpse of the new game and that the main character, Kal Wardin will be making a return to active duty to fight for mankind’s survival once more. No release date has yet been provided; fans can follow @Nova_FPS on Twitter or check the game’s web site at http://www.near-orbit-vanguard-alliance.com for more details as they become available.
Screenlife has released a special 30 Rock edition of its popular Scene It trivia game for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Scene It 30 Rock includes content based on the popular hit TV comedy series including themed puzzles such as What the What? Mind Grapes, That’s a Dealbreaker and Muffin Top and includes funny video and audio clips along with challenging trivia questions from the show. Players can play against their friends using a local Bluetooth or Wi-Fi multiplayer mode or play one of 30 distinct games in single-player mode. The application includes over 50 audio and video clips and still images pulled directly from the 30 Rock TV series, Facebook Connect for posting scores and challenging friends and a “Beeper King” Group Play mode where a room of players can challenge each other to 30 Rock trivia. To celebrate the launch of the app, Screenlife is also hosting a “Stump Scene It?” 30 Rock trivia face off via Twitter (@SceneIt) on Friday September 24th from 12:00-1:30 PM Pacific time where users can submit their own 30 Rock Trivia questions to attempt to stump the developers of the app. Scene It 30 Rock is available from the App Store in separate editions for the iPhone/iPod touch and iPad: Scene It 30 Rock for the iPhone and iPod touch sells for $3 and Scene It? 30 Rock HD for the iPad sells for $5.
Kishonti Informatics has released GLBenchmark, a universal app for measuring 3D graphics performance on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices. GLBenchmark provides 36 different tests to measure graphic and computational performance of the various iOS devices, focusing on the underlying OpenGL ES 1.x graphics implementation. The app includes a variety of GPU/CPU skinning and 3D rendering tests as well as graphic measurements for fill rate, lighting, texture filters/size and triangles. Users can choose which specific tests to run and tap on any specific test to read more information about that test. Users can view results directly within the app and optionally upload and share their results on the developer’s web site where results are compared to a variety of other mobile devices. GLBenchmark 1.1 is available from the App Store for $5.
iOS developer Kevin Ng has released results from an experiment he conducted with his app Kick Flick 2010. Early last month, Ng released a free update to the iPhone and iPod touch version of his app adding support for both the iPad and the iPhone 4 Retina Display, bundling this into a single $1 application rather than following the approach of other game developers in releasing a separate premium “HD” version of the game. In reviewing the past month of sales results, Ng believes that the figures make a “compelling argument” for iPhone developers to include iPad support for free in existing apps rather than charging customers twice for the same product.
Ng constructed a graph of sales starting with its initial release in July, noting that additional purchases following the update almost matched the launch spike. Two weeks after its initial launch, Apple chose to feature the game in the iPad section of the App Store, leading to an even larger surge. Ng believes that providing support for both iPhone and iPad in the same, inexpensive app resulted in the application getting better exposure by being noticed and featured by Apple and by hitting top application charts in both the iPhone and iPad sections of the App Store. Ng notes that since the iPad and iPhone versions are the same product in the App Store, sales on either platform contribute toward the sales rankings in both sections. From this experience, Ng concludes that it makes sense for developers to add iPad support to their existing apps rather than charging extra and feels that this situation is “Win-win for the developer and the customer.”
Aurora Feint has announced plans to expand its OpenFeint social gaming network to connect users on both iOS and Android devices. Named OpenFeint PlayTime, the service will allow multiplayer gameplay, matchmaking, and even real-time voice chat between users playing games on iOS and Android devices. The service is currently available in a private beta; iOS and Android developers can apply to the program at the OpenFeint Developer page. No further details have been announced on when the service will actually be released and begin appearing in games. [via Engadget]
ALK Technologies has released an update to CoPilot Live, its turn-by-turn GPS navigation app for the iPhone and iPod touch adding support for new services and updated maps. CoPilot Live North America and CoPilot Live USA now provides ActiveTraffic, an upgraded version of its optional Live Traffic service which improves on the prior service by extending live traffic coverage beyond highways and interstates to also include arterial roads, city streets and secondary roads across the U.S., using data from traffic information provider INRIX. The ActiveTraffic feature is a free upgrade for current CoPilot Live users who have already subscribed to Premium Live Services, and a 14-day free trial of ActiveTraffic is available for other CoPilot Live users. The update also provides in-app MapSure reporting for submitting map updates and corrections and a full map update to the latest Q2 2010 map data which adds thousands of new miles of roads in the U.S. and Canada including map improvements submitted by customers. The latest version also reducing the amount of time that the app remains running in the background while idle on multitasking-capable iOS 4 devices and improves memory usage for iPhone 3G and 3GS users. CoPilot Live North America is available from the App Store for $20; CoPilot Live USA is available for $5. Both versions are free updates for current users.
Location-based social networking services Foursquare and Gowalla have released updates to their iOS applications addressing recently revealed security concerns. A report by software developer Martin Kou last week revealed that both the Foursquare and Gowalla iOS applications were sending all information to their respective services using clear, unencrypted connections, making it possible for usernames, passwords and other information to be intercepted, particularly when used over an open Wi-Fi network. Both companies responded quickly to the report indicating that they were preparing updates to their iOS apps to address these issues. Gowalla has released updates to Gowalla and Gowalla for iPad enabling more secure OAuth authentication while Foursquare has released an update to its Foursquare app adding SSL support to provide encrypted submission of user information. All three apps are available from the App Store as free downloads and should appear as automatic updates for current users.
The Federal Trade Commission has announced that it has reached a settlement with Reverb Communications, Inc. and its sole owner, Tracie Snitker, over what it claimed were deceptive advertising practices. According to the FTC’s announcement, the Commission believes that Reverb “engaged in deceptive advertising by having employees pose as ordinary consumers posting game reviews at the online iTunes store, and not disclosing that the reviews came from paid employees working on behalf of the developers.” The allegedly phony reviews were posted by Reverb and Snitker between November 2008 and May 2009 on the pages of the company’s client’s games. “Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising,” said Mary Engle, Director of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices. “Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers.”
Snitker denies the charges, telling Kotaku that the issue was “specific to a handful of small, independently developed iPhone apps that several team members downloaded onto their personal iPhones in their own time using their own money and accounts, a right and privilege afforded to every iPhone and iTouch user. This was neither mandated by Reverb nor connected to our policies.” As part of the proposed settlement, Reverb and Snitker must remove any “previously posted endorsements that misrepresent the authors as independent users or ordinary consumers, and that fail to disclose a connection between Reverb and Snitker and the seller of a product or service.”
Facebook has issued a clarification of text posted on its official Facebook for iOS app page that indicated the app had more than 100 million active users. “There are currently 44 million monthly active users of the Facebook for iPhone app,” a Facebook spokesman told Engadget. “We recently changed the definition of mobile active users to exclude those who have only liked or commented on stream stories. Instead we are counting ‘active’ users as people who have taken explicit actions within an application. This practice is more aligned with how we count overall active users for the site.” This brings the overall percentage of iOS users who also actively use the Facebook app down to roughly 40%, far from the huge percentage represented by the prior 100 million figure.