T-Mobile Germany, the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in Germany, has said it will block customers from using the new Skype application for iPhone, both on a network and contractual basis. “It is clearly stated in our customer contracts that such services may not be used,” T-Mobile spokesperson Alexander von Schmettow told German publication The Local. “There are two reasons for this – because the high level of traffic would hinder our network performance, and because if the Skype programme didn’t work properly, customers would make us responsible for it.” Skype for iPhone works only over Wi-Fi connections, meaning it would have no effect on T-Mobile cellular network performance, only at company-owned Wi-Fi hotspots. Skype General Counsel Robert Miller points out in a blog post that the application is the number one download on the App Store in Germany, but that customers in the country have no choice but to abide by the company’s rules, at least while on T-Mobile controlled networks, because all German mobile operators forbid the use of VoIP applications.
“[T]here is no technical justification for this arbitrary blocking of Skype, and it represents a barrier to online business put in place by a private company just because they can, because they control access to the Internet,” Miller writes. “Yet, no one can do anything about it: German or EU regulation does not forbid such blatantly unfair practices, and the new EU legislation for telecoms which the European Parliament and European governments are supposed to adopt later this month will not help either, it seems from the latest texts being considered in Brussels: it may even make things worse, by legitimizing restrictions put in place by operators to users’ Internet access, as long as they inform consumers.” Meanwhile, Schmettow said the company will not hesitate to enforce the policy, stating, “[T]hose who violate their contracts can expect to have them cancelled. It’s the same with any contract. If you rent a no-pets apartment and expect no one to notice your little dog, you can’t be surprised when your landlord comes knocking.”
Sony Pictures Television has announced three new iPhone and iPod touch games slated for release in 2009. Based on the upcoming console game, Ghostbusters will let users catch ghosts and save NYC citizens from being slimed when it is released in June. Q*Bert is an update of the classic arcade game, featuring new graphics and maps, animations, 50 new levels, and the retro arcade game. It will launch in July. Finally, players will create their own spy in Top Agent, a multi-player game that pits users against henchmen, famous villains from the James Bond films, and other players’ agents. It is expected to be released in August.
DirecTV has introduced its new application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The app lets users search for any television show up to 14 days in advance, browse programs by channel or date + time, access detailed program information, set their DirecTV boxes to record shows by single episode or series, program Pay Per View movies to be recorded, and record to any DirecTV DVR in their home. Available now as a free download, DirecTV’s browsing functionality is available for all users, while its DVR features are available to DirecTV customers only.
Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling has released its TNA Wrestling game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Developed by Longtail Studios, the game revolves around a story mode, in which players create their own wrestler, with the goal of making it from unsigned rookie to TNA World Champion. Along the way, players will wrestle against 15 different TNA stars, unlocking new moves, creating rivalries, making decisions outside of the ring that will effect future matches, and participating in various match types including tag team, gauntlet, iron man, and lumberjack events. TNA Wrestling is available now from the App Store and sells for $5; continue reading for more screenshots.
Major League Baseball has released MLB.com At Bat 2009 for iPhone and iPod touch, a new version of its app of the same name that was released last year. At Bat 2009 offers users the ability to view real-time box scores, play-by-play and video highlights, and pitch type, location, and speed data from MLB.com Gameday. New for 2009, the app also gives users access to MLB.com Gameday Audio, letting users listen to every regular season and postseason game live, with a choice between the home or visiting team’s announcers. MLB.com At Bat 2009 is available now from the App Store and sells for $10.
VoIP provider Skype has announced plans to launch an official application for iPhone and iPod touch. The app will allow users to make free calls to other Skype users over Wi-Fi; calls to normal landline phones will be charged to the users’ Skype accounts. The app will also feature integration with the iPhone’s built-in Address Book, support for Skype chat over Wi-Fi or cellular networks, a call history screen, and support for the iPod touch 2G. Skype for iPhone and iPod touch will be available tomorrow as a free download from the App Store.
Capcom has released a port of its Mega Man II game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Originally appearing on the NES, the game features fourteen levels, nine different bosses—each with a unique weapon—on-screen, arcade-style controls, and “rebalanced gameplay” optimized for the iPhone. In early testing, the game appears to be a nearly direct port of the original, except with poor controls. Mega Man II is available now for the iPhone and iPod touch and sells for $5.
Amidio, maker of the Noise.io Pro synthesizer application, has released Star Guitar, its new guitar and voice recording application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Unlike other virtual guitar applications which rely on a simulation-style interface, with small strings to tap and strum, Star Guitar presents users with a pad of chord buttons, allowing them to play the instrument with their thumbs. Three guitars are offered, with more coming in updates, and users can play chords via the manual SmartStrumming mode or by relying on one the more than 13 rhythm patterns, each with A and B variations for chorus/verse. In addition, the app can be set to record the guitar alongside the user’s vocals, saving the files in the .WAV format, which can then be accessed via a built-in web server over Wi-Fi. A YouTube demo video is available for viewing. Star Guitar is available now from the App Store and sells for $4.
EA Mobile has announced additions to its lineup of upcoming titles for the iPhone and iPod touch. Joining the already promised Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf, Need for Speed Underground, The Sims 3, and Wolfenstein RPG as 2009 releases are FIFA Soccer, Madden NFL Football, NBA Live Basketball, Spore Creatures, Mystery Mania, SSX Snowboarding, Connect Four, Battleship, RISK, Monopoly Classic, Clue, American Idol, and Command & Conquer. In addition, the company disclosed that it has released an update to its Scrabble game for iPhone, enabling users to play against friends using the Facebook Connect feature.
iPhone developers are dealing with a new threat: duplicates of their applications being approved by Apple, and then released in the App Store as competitors. Citing an Apple Developer Forums thread in which app developers are complaining of their apps being downloaded, copied by other developers, and then re-posted to the store with either the same or very similar names, iLounge reader Zen Ho says that the cloning phenomenon is “being handled unsatisfactorily by Apple.” Ho cites TouchScan, an application cloned by a different developer’s “Touch Scan Pro,” reusing images, sound, and text from the original app; additionally, the developer of iCopter recently watched as both “iCopter Free”—now titled “Copter Free”—and “iCopter Classic” were released, further confusing consumers by using an only slightly modified version of the original iCopter’s logo. Thus far, Apple has been unwilling to help affected developers by removing the impostor applications, says Ho, and instead has told them “to sue the offenders themselves.” Ho sees it as “Apple’s duty to ensure that such plagiarism is rejected in the first place, and to at least take them down upon complaints,” noting that “it is scary to think that anyone developing for the platform can have their business stolen [at] anytime.”
Updated: In an e-mail response to iLounge, the developer of Touch Scan Pro has presented several counter-arguments to the ones made by Ho above. “I wrote Touch Scan Pro in 38 minutes,” explains Gary Fung, suggesting that due to the trivial time it took to copy Touch Scan, and the lack of originality in the original application’s graphics, name, and concept, all of which he claims were legally unprotectable, “[t]he author of Touch Scan simply cannot expect this amount of effort to earn him a living for the rest of his life.” Fung also claims that he developed the Pro application to make a statement about the lack of value that the original Touch Scan application offered. “I felt that consumers are not getting their $0.99 worth of utility from this app so I wrote one and gave it away for free,” said Fung. “For the first week Touch Scan Pro was free not as a trial or limited time offer. It was simply free. It was only until Markus started to harass me then I decided to change my mind.” Now Fung is charging the same $1 that he said the original program was not worth.
Update 2: Markus Stöbe, developer of the original Touch Scan, has weighed in with his own e-mail response: “What kind of difference does it make how long it took me to code TouchScan?... And it doesn’t make any difference if he thinks this is not original… it’s my work and hence it is protected by copyright. [M]y interpretation of the theme, regardless how long it took me, regardless if he doesn’t like it and regardless of the prize I ask for it: it is my work and it is protected… [he] did not start charging because I mailed him but because he wanted to make some quick bucks with someone elses work.”
The 2009 Independent Games Festival Mobile award winners have been announced, with iPhone applications winning six out of the seven available awards. Zen Bound from Secret Exit was given the Mobile Audio Achievement Award and won the Best iPhone Game category as well, while Fieldrunners from Subatomic Studios was also honored twice, winning in the Art category and being named the IGF Mobile Best Game. Real Racing from Firemint won in the Technical Achievement category, and Galcon from Hassey Enterprises won in the Design category. Reflection for the Nintendo DS was the lone non-iPhone winner, taking the Next Great Mobile Game category.
During a keynote address at the GDC conference, Ngmoco CEO Neil Young revealed the company’s plans for more Rolando level packs, two sequels, and a collaboration with Secret Exit. Young said the company plans on releasing three more level packs for Rolando between now and the end of May, bringing the total number of add-on levels to 20, with Rolando 2 following with a June release. It will feature four worlds with 36 levels, and will see a similar level pack expansion with 20 extra levels by October. Young also announced Rolando 3 for a November release; it should see similar level packs released thereafter. Finally, Young said that Ngmoco and Zen Bound-creators Secret Exit are collaborating on a new game, utilizing the companies’ “super powers” in order to build on each other’s strengths.
iPhactory has released iPhorest, a new application for iPhone and iPod touch. iPhorest allows users to plant and grow virtual trees, and view a world map of all iPhorest users worldwide. For each virtual tree planted in the app, the company, in conjunction with The Conservation Fund, says that it will plant a native tree in real life, beginning with the restoration of the vulnerable wildlife habitat along the Gulf Coast. As the virtual iPhorest grows, the Fund will work with public natural resource agencies to ensure the real trees are protected. iPhorest is available now from the App Store and sells for $5.
PopCap Games has announced the launch of its word game Bookworm for the iPhone and iPod touch. Touted by the company as “the most popular digital word game of all time,” Bookworm lets players build words from contiguous letter tiles on a grid, with longer and more difficult words scoring more points and spawning “gem tiles” which offer additional bonuses when used. The game features a vocabulary of over 170,000 words, all-time high score tracking, a shake to scramble feature, and more. Bookworm is available now for the iPhone and iPod touch and sells for $5.
Popcap Games has revealed to iLounge that it is planning to release a new, as-yet-unannounced iPhone title next week, and that the long-awaited iPhone and iPod touch version of Peggle should be arriving in 3-5 weeks. Peggle was previously released for Click Wheel iPods, earning our acclaim as the 2008 iPod Click Wheel Game of the Year, and has more recently been followed up by Peggle Nights, a Mac- and PC-based continuation of the franchise. Popcap has noted that the mystery game is not Bejeweled Twist, a sequel to its popular block-matching franchise; other possible titles includes Zuma, previously released for Click Wheel iPods, and Chuzzle, a matching game with colored Koosh-like balls.
Konami has released its long-awaited Metal Gear Solid Touch game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Despite the company’s prior indication that it would offer a special “advance release” edition of the game that would offer only the first half of the game, the App Store description of the game makes only a passing reference to its advance release nature. The final release version will include both halves of the game, and purchasers of the advance release edition will receive a free update to the final release, with the ability to carry over game save information. MGST is based on the Playstation 3 title Metal Gear Solid 4, and gameplay is handled via a multi-touch interface, with the ability to slide a finger for aiming, pinch gestures for zooming in and out, and taps for firing a weapon. Metal Gear Solid Touch is available now from the App Store and sells for $8.
The following is a list of third-party developers and applications that were selected by Apple for live demonstration during the iPhone OS 3.0 event today.
Meebo: Having created a popular web app for iPhone and iPod touch instant messaging before the release of the App Store, this developer demonstrated a multi-service instant messaging client that was capable of handling background notifications, a feature that enables users to receive messages even when the program is not open and active on the screen.
Electronic Arts The Sims 3: Another version of the company’s “monitor and guide peoples’ lives” game, demonstrating how characters can use real-world cash through iTunes to buy items in the game, somewhat disgustingly including a $1 stereo that lets you hear your own iPod’s music during the game. Let’s hope that one doesn’t make it into the actual title.
Oracle: Known for its database and enterprise software, Oracle demonstrated how information passed from Oracle’s servers to an iPhone client app can be used to provide background indicators and alerts even when the app is not running.
ESPN: Showed new application functionality enabling users to receive sports scores as background notifications, as well as seeing streaming sports videos that have been optimized to the bandwidth you actually have. The iPhone OS has gained support for HD-quality video and audio streaming, explained Apple, though no indication was given as to why users might need that on a 480x320 screen.
LifeScan Diabetes Monitor: A demonstration of how medical monitoring applications could interact with Dock Connector or wireless accessories such as a diabetes glucose meter, which could communicate to the iPhone a user’s current sugar level, track them over time, and make recommendations on proper meal planning.
Ngmoco TouchPets: Inspired by Nintendo’s Nintendogs, this app showed how users could invite one another to interact with their in-game pet dogs, and make purchases of in-game dog clothing as transactions through the App Store.
Ngmoco LiveFire: A newly announced first-person shooter, LiveFire somewhat resembles Nintendo’s and Rare’s classic Perfect Dark, and enables users to play against each other in an online multiplayer mode, complete with in-game voice chat. Again, microtransactions were shown off, with Ngmoco suggesting that it would sell individual weapons for $1 each.
Smule Leaf Trombone: World Stage: A demonstration of a sequel to the popular Ocarina application that enabled players to perform music and share it with others around the world. Leaf Trombone lets two people play together in a room using Bluetooth wireless, or multiple people play together over a global multiplayer system.
Apple has announced that iPhone OS 3.0 will offer developers the option of selling subscriptions, extra levels, e-books, or other content from within their applications using a new service called In-App Purchase. The service will utilize the iTunes Store for transactions, including payment and authentication, and Apple will take 30% of the proceeds as an operations fee, as it does for normal paid applications sold through the App Store. Free applications will not be allowed to use the In-App Purchase feature.
Notably, several third-party game demonstrations depicted the In-App Purchase feature being used for increasingly questionable purposes: one added new levels for an additional fee, while others allowed you to buy new dog clothing and in-game weapons, and the worst, in EA’s The Sims 3, sold you $1 access to your own device’s built-in music library—a way for developers to charge you for new OS 3.0 features.
Online movie ticketing service Fandango has launched its new application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The new app allows users to read synopses and watch trailers for both currently showing and upcoming releases, find nearby theaters using the Location feature, add theaters to a Favorites list, and order up to 10 tickets at a time from 16,000 different theaters, securely storing credit card information for faster purchasing. Fandango is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Namco has released Inspector Gadget, its latest game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Based on the 1980’s animated TV series of the same name, the platform-style game allows users to play as Inspector Gadget, Penny, and Brain as they travel across multiple locations, utilizing vehicles including the Gadgetmobile and Gadget ‘Copter to recover the royal jewels and defeat Dr. Claw. Inspector Gadget is available now from the App Store and sells for $5.