Skype Software has launched a major update to its popular Skype application for the iPhone and iPod touch, introducing the ability for users to place VoIP calls over the cellular 3G network. Although Skype-to-Skype calls over Wi-Fi will remain free, Skype has indicated plans to charge a “small monthly fee” for placing Skype-to-Skype calls over the 3G network, suggesting that 3G calling will be based on a subscription service, rather than the per-minute system currently in place for Skype-to-phone calls. These fees would be in addition to data charges already levied by the user’s carrier. Skype plans to introduce this new fee structure in 2011, and will be providing free 3G Skype-to-Skype calling until that time. The new version also implements a new codec providing “near CD-quality sound” for Skype-to-Skype calls on iPhone 3GS, iPad and second- and third-generation iPod touch devices. Other improvements include an enhanced call quality indicator, improved start-up time, and faster access to the dial pad from the iPhone home screen. Skype is available from the App Store as a free download.
Twitter has released the official Twitter client for the iPhone and iPod touch. Early last month Twitter announced that it had acquired the popular Tweetie app in order to develop it into an official Twitter client for the iPhone platform, with developer Lorne Brichter joining Twitter to continue developing the application under the official company banner. Twitter for the iPhone is essentially a direct update of Tweetie and retains most of the same interface design and functionality while adding a few new features to bring the user experience more in line with Twitter.com features. New features include a reorganized search that combines tweets and users, display of Top Tweets and Suggested users, the ability to sign up for Twitter from within the application and add additional accounts and more actions such as Retweet on the main actions bar. Twitter is available from the App Store for new users as a free download; existing Tweetie users will receive the new app as an update to Tweetie. An iPad version is also under development.
PayPal has announced that it has released its Mobile Payments Library for the iPhone and iPad into open beta. Originally released as a closed beta to select developers at Macworld 2010, the PayPal Mobile Payments Library allows developers to quickly and easily add checkout functionality to their iPhone apps to allow users to purchase physical goods and services directly from within the app. Several apps are already available on the App Store that use the new Mobile Payment Library, such as Baublet, an app that allows users to purchase customized charms using their PayPal accounts. The new Mobile Payments Library can be downloaded from the PayPal X Developer Network.
Digital music service Rhapsody has announced the release of a major update to its streaming music player app for the iPhone platform. Rhapsody 2.0 now allows subscribers to download their favorite Rhapsody playlists for offline listening. Rhapsody playlists can be streamed or downloaded over either a 3G or Wi-Fi connection, and once downloaded can be played through the app even when outside of network coverage. Downloaded songs use the same 64kbps AAC format as tracks streamed from the Rhapsody servers. The Rhapsody app is designed for the iPhone and iPod touch but works on the iPad in the same manner as other iPhone apps. A native iPad version is planned for later this year once multitasking capabilities are available and will allow users to listen to music in the background. The updated app has been released as a new application rather than an update, so existing users will need to specifically download the new version. Rhapsody 2.0 is available from the U.S. App Store as a free download; a $10 per month Rhapsody Premier subscription is required to use it on a single device beyond the free seven-day trial period, and the subscription must be maintained to continue accessing downloaded tracks.
The National Hockey League has released an official iPhone app for hockey fans. NHL Ice Time 2010 allows iPhone and iPod touch users to track live game scores, player profiles, player and team statistics and schedules for upcoming games directly on their devices. Users can view live scores and in-game stats for ongoing games, access a full season schedule, view standing by division and even view game photos. The application also provides a unique Ice Tracker feature that allows fans to view locations of goals, hits and saves for live games on a virtual hockey rink. NHL Ice Time 2010 Free is available from the U.S. App Store as a free download. It is not presently available outside of the U.S.
Twitter CEO Evan Williams announced earlier tonight that Twitter has “entered into an agreement with Atebits (aka Loren Brichter) to acquire Tweetie.” Williams noted that the decision was made to enable people to easily access Twitter from their iPhone and that “careful analysis of the Twitter user experience in the iTunes App Store revealed massive room for improvement.” Twitter plans to rename the app “Twitter for iPhone” and offer it for free as the official Twitter application for the iPhone platform. Loren Brichter, developer of Tweetie, will join Twitter’s mobile team to support the continuing development of Twitter for iPhone and a future Twitter for iPad application. In his own blog, Brichter describes his work on Tweetie as having been “an amazing ride” and mentions that he is really looking forward to working with Twitter to simplify the Twitter experience and create the next generation of mobile clients. [via TUAW]
TechCrunch reports that Boxcar, developer of the popular Push Notification app of the same name has implemented a new Provider API to allow third-party services to leverage its Push Notification service. Previously Boxcar provided Push Notifications for specific services such as Twitter, Facebook and e-mail as well as a user API for individual users to customize their own Push Notifications from desktop apps such as Growl. The new Provider API allows web sites and other online services to build their own customized Push Notification feeds that can be subscribed to by any Boxcar user. Boxcar plans to allow third-party providers the option of charging for their Push Notifications via a one-time in-app purchase with revenue shared 50/50 between Boxcar and the Provider. Boxcar is available from the App Store as a free download and includes Push Notifications for one service; additional services can be added via in-app purchase for $1 each.
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.
Twitter has enabled geolocation support on its mobile site for at least some users, iLounge editors have discovered. First released for the main Twitter.com site last week, the new geolocation feature allows users to add their current location to tweets posted from the website, but the initial rollout conspicuously left out support for GPS-enabled mobile devices. Twitter has supported geolocation capability for some time through the Twitter APIs used by third-party Twitter clients, however location information could not previously be viewed or updated directly from the actual Twitter.com site. No official announcement has yet been made by Twitter regarding the mobile site geolocation feature and it is unclear whether it is being rolled out to all users simultaneously or being phased in as Twitter has done with new features in the past. Users who have the feature available should see a standard iPhone location warning when first logging in to m.twitter.com followed by a drop-down menu beneath the posting box to specify a location.
Electronic Arts has released new screenshots and details on two upcoming iPhone releases in its popular Sims and SimCity franchises. The Sims 3 World Adventures is a sequel to The Sims 3 where players take their Sims on journeys to explore exotic destinations around the world. Destinations include “Al Simhara” Egypt, “Champs Les Sims” France or “Shang SimLa” China, with each location offering opportunities for danger, adventure and romance. The Sims 3 World Adventures will include additional custom content suited to foreign locations as well as 52 new goals and 4 new mini-games. Players can also transfer their existing Sims between the original iPhone version of The Sims 3 and The Sims 3 World Adventures. A specific release date for The Sims 3 World Adventures has not yet been announced.
Simplify Media, developer of the Simplify Music and Simplify Photo iPhone applications announced Friday that it will no longer be offering its current software to new users and that it has removed the Simplify iPhone apps from the App Store. Simplify Media was best known for its applications that allowed iPhone and iPod touch users to stream music and view photos from their computer over a Wi-Fi or 3G connection, even while away from home. In a post in its blog, the company indicates that it is heading in a “new direction” and has taken these steps to focus on that transition. The post goes on to state that Simply Media will continue operating and supporting the service for at least the next 3 months for existing users, and that the company hopes by that time to be able to announce more information on “future incarnations” of the service. [via TUAW]
The City of Edmonton, Alberta has announced plans to sponsor an application development contest. Scheduled to be formally announced later this month, the Apps4Edmonton contest will aim to encourage local iPhone developers to create apps that improve municipal information sharing and communications. The contest will offer $50,000 in prizes and the winning application will be showcased at the 2010 Canadian Government Technology Conference (GTEC) in Ottawa in October. Edmonton is also planning the launch of its own iPhone application, CityWatch to allow residents to report problems to 311 call centres. [via iPhoneinCanada.ca]
Thing Labs, developer of the Brizzly.com online Twitter and Facebook reader announced today that it has acquired the Birdfeed Twitter client from iPhone developer Buzz Andersen as the foundation for its new Brizzly for Twitter iPhone application. The original Birdfeed application has been removed from the App Store and the former home page for the app now simply displays an announcement from Brizzly informing users of the news and where to download the new Brizzly for Twitter application. The announcement notes that Birdfeed will continue to work for existing users but will no longer be supported or updated. The new Brizzly application provides support for multiple Twitter accounts, Twitter Lists, sharing of photos via Brizzly Pics or Flickr, saved searches, and integration with the Brizzly.com online reader. Brizzly for Twitter is available from the App Store as a free download.
Capcom has released the highly anticipated Street Fighter IV for the iPhone and iPod touch. First announced last month, Street Fighter IV brings the popular console game to the iPhone and iPod touch with a user interface specifically redesigned for the touchscreen and the same visual style and artwork found in the current generation console game. Eight classic characters are available in the game, including Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, Able, Blanka, M. Bison, Dhalsim, Guile and Ken and the game provides seven different playing environments. Familiar moves such as Unique Attacks, Special Moves, Focus Attacks, Super Combos and Ultra Combos are all present, and the game provides a “Dojo” mode to introduce new players to the game’s moves and features. In addition to the standard single-player mode, players can choose to compete against other iPhone and iPod touch users over Bluetooth in a two-player head-to-head mode. Street Fighter IV is available on the App Store for $10.
Following last month’s acquisition of reMail by Google, developer Gabor Cselle announced today that he has released the reMail code under an open source license as he will be focusing on other projects at Google. After purchasing reMail, Google decided to discontinue the application and remove it from the App Store, although existing users who had already purchased the app were able to continue using it. Cselle writes in his blog that he has open sourced the code because he is passionate about mobile e-mail, and hopes “that developers interested in making email-related apps can use reMail code as a starting point.” The source code for reMail is now available on Google Code as remail-iphone under the Apache 2.0 License.
Vlingo has released a major update to its voice recognition application for the iPhone. Initially released in late 2008, Vlingo was one of the first voice-powered iPhone apps to allow users to initiate calls, search the web and Google Maps and compose Facebook and Twitter status updates using voice commands. Vlingo 2.0 adds support for dictating and sending e-mail and SMS messages by voice and a completely redesigned user interface to improve ease of use. Searching, updating Facebook and Twitter status and placing calls from the iPhone contact list remain free, however the new features for sending e-mail and SMS messages require an in-app purchase of $7 for one service, or $10 for both. Vlingo 2.0 requires an iPhone running OS 3.1.2 or later and is available on the App Store as a free download.
According to a recent report from Hacking Netflix, several Netflix users have received a survey suggesting that an iPhone streaming application may be in development. The survey describes a hypothetical iPhone app that would allow Netflix members to stream movies and TV show episodes over Wi-Fi at no additional fee and with no advertisements or trailers. The proposed application would also include the ability to fast-forward, rewind, pause and watch content again. Last fall Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told Reuters that an iPhone application is “likely to come over time” but that the company was not yet focusing on mobile solutions. Netflix has previously used surveys like this prior to releasing support for other platforms such as the PS3 and Wii. [via TechCrunch]
At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week mobile app analytics startup Distimo presented a report with some comparisons on the relative size of the iPhone App Store and the popularity of different categories of applications. Distimo reports that games presently make up 58 percent of the applications on the App Store and breaks this down further by price, category and top sellers. According to the report, the Puzzles category is the largest, consisting of 15 percent of the games on the App Store, with the Action and Arcade categories in second place at 11 percent each. The categories with the fewest titles are Casino, Dice, Music, Racing and Role Playing, with each of these categories making up less than 2 percent of the total number of games.
The Distimo report indicates that the average price of a paid game in the App Store is $2.24, with the most expensive games being found in the Role Playing category at an average price of $7.96. The least expensive games are in the Action and Arcade categories with average prices of $1.68 and $1.39 respectively. By comparison, Distimo reports that 22 percent of the top grossing games are found in the Action category, with 12 percent in the Arcade category and 9 percent in the Adventure category. The report also notes that even though it has the most expensive games on average, the Role Playing category represents only 5 percent of the top grossing games, and the largest single category of games on the App Store, Puzzles, only accounts for 6 percent of the top-grossing applications. The full report can be downloaded from Distimo (free registration required). [via TechCrunch]
Adobe has released a new iPhone application for its Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro enterprise web conferencing solution. Connect Pro Mobile allows iPhone users to watch and listen to live presentations including real-time meeting webcam video and screen sharing demonstrations. Mobile users can see a list of other meeting participants and collaborate directly with others using live text chat. Connect Pro Mobile was built using Flash Professional CS5 beta and published as a native iPhone application using Adobe’s Packager for iPhone demonstrated last October. This marks the first Adobe-authored application to use this technology. Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro Mobile is available on the App Store as a free download.