Apple has launched a new App Store feature called “Gift This App.” Appearing in the “Buy App” drop-down menu on individual apps pages, the new service allows users to buy applications for download by friends or family. Once the feature is selected, a separate page appears letting the user choose between sending the gift via email or printing it themselves, along with boxes for entering the recipient’s name, email address, and a personal message. Users are also be able to gift an app to multiple recipients at once by adding multiple recipient email addresses. The page also instructs users to check the app’s requirements carefully, as “your recipient(s) may not be able to redeem or use your gift if their hardware or iPhone OS is incompatible.” [via TUAW]
This weekend, ngmoco globally released its anticipated empire-building game, We Rule. Initially issued as a limited release for testing on the Canadian App Store, We Rule starts the player with a small estate, letting him or her develop the infrastructure to transform a humble castle into a sprawling kingdom. Users can invite their friends through the Plus+ network to build realms together and visit each other’s kingdoms.
Unfortunately, We Rule turned out to be unplayable for some users this weekend because of a Ngmoco requirement that users must connect to the Plus+ network to track in-game progress and interact with other players. Within hours of its general availability, Ngmoco began reporting connection problems with its Plus+ servers, and was forced to bring new servers online; despite this, several other outages occurred resulting in limited availability of the game until early Monday morning. The outage left many users frustrated at having downloaded an iPhone game that couldn’t be enjoyed.
Ngmoco has another upcoming game, Godfinger, which uses the same network-required play model, but is still in testing on the Canadian App Store. No release date for Godfinger has yet been announced and it is unclear whether the recent Plus+ network problems will have any impact on its global availability.
Marketcircle has released an update to Billings Touch, its iPhone time tracking and billing application. Version 1.1 adds support for multiple currencies and integration with Inner Fence Credit Card Terminal for accepting invoice payments directly on the iPhone or iPod touch. Other enhancements include improved performance when using large logos for invoices and fixes for slip date formats and invoices sent via Yahoo accounts. Billings Touch is available from the App Store as a free download for time and expense tracking and reporting; sending invoices from within the app and syncing with Billings for Mac requires an upgrade to the full version via a $15 in-app purchase.
Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are working on iPad-formatted versions of their iPhone book-reading applications, according to a New York Times report. “We have actually developed a tablet-based interface that redesigns the core screen and the reading experience,” said Ian Freed, vice president for Kindle at Amazon. “Our team had some fun with it.” Amazon’s Kindle app for iPhone will give users a new interface for browsing their book collection, and allow them to “slowly turn pages with their fingers,” while Barnes & Noble’s app will offers customizable font colors and sizes and quick finger-swipe page turning; the company has also been in talks with publishers about adding multimedia content to their digital books. Amazon has launched a new website highlighting its new Kindle apps for tablet computers, including the iPad.
The report also reiterates some of Apple’s secrecy guidelines for early iPad testers, which include Major League Baseball, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, while noting that some developers who haven’t yet had a chance to use an iPad are holding off until they can test their programs on the device itself. “As much as we’d love to be there on Day 1, a misstep could kill the train before it even gets out of the station,“ said Wade Slitkin, CEO of Panelfly, which makes a digital comic-book reader. Neither Amazon or Barnes & Noble plan on having their iPad apps ready for launch day, as neither was given a pre-release iPad for early testing, and both want to test their apps on an actual iPad before submitting their applications to Apple.
Meebo has just released an update to its native iPhone instant messaging application adding support for sending and receive photos via any IM network. Meebo 1.2 allows users to send photos from the device’s photo library or take new pictures with the iPhone camera directly within the app. Received photos can be saved to the iPhone Camera Roll or iPod touch Saved Photos album. The new version also allows users to IM people outside of their buddy lists, adds support for non-US keyboards and a new preference setting to hide online buddies. Numerous bug fixes are also addressed in this update. Meebo 1.2 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Apple has sent out an email to registered iPhone developers, informing them that the company is now accepting iPad application submissions. According to the email provided to iLounge, iPad apps submitted between now and March 27 will receive an “initial review” by the App Review Team, and developers will receive feedback on the app’s readiness for what the Apple is referring to as the “grand opening.” All submitted apps must be built and tested using iPhone SDK 3.2 beta 5, the latest version of the beta SDK; following submission, developers will receive an email with details about the readiness of their apps. Finally, developers will receive additional information about submitting their app for final review before the iPad ships, and only applications submitted for the initial review process will be considered for the grand opening of the “iPad App Store.” Apple will launch the iPad on April 3.
Laminar Research has released an update to its series of X-Plane flight simulator apps for the iPhone and iPod touch. The update adds a replay mode that is activated when the app is paused to allow users to view the last few minutes of their flight and provides higher-resolution maps, complete with buildings and airport runways. Other new features include new paint and increased detail for many of the aircraft, a more detailed lighting and fog model and an improvement frame rate, all contributing to a more realistic flight experience. X-Plane 9 is available from the App Store for $10 and is a free update for existing users. The other apps in the X-Plane series have also been updated with the same new features.
A number of iPhone app review sites are unscrupulously charging developers to have their applications reviewed, according to a Wired report. The practice of soliciting money in exchange for a review is not illegal, but is frowned upon by the Federal Trade Commission, which revised its guidelines covering blogger endorsements in October 2009 to require a disclosure whenever a review is written in exchange for money or gifts. “They prey on people who need exposure,” said Oliver Cameron, developer of the iPhone app Postman, who has actively avoided sites charging for reviews. “It strikes me as a paid ad, really. They never seem to actually ‘review’ it.” The report states that the two sites mentioned most by developers as engaging in the practice were theiphoneappreview.com and appcraver.com.
In addition to charging for reviews, some sites, including The iPhone App Review, openly charge developers for what they call “expedited” reviews, in which the paying developer’s app is given priority over other, standard reviews. The site’s editor-in-chief Shaun Campbell defended the practice, citing the large number of apps available on the store and saying it would be an “impossible task to review all the apps we receive, paid or unpaid.” “The iPhone App Review is not a PR charity,” he continued. “We’re a business, and like in any business, there are costs that need to be recovered.”
iLounge does not charge for reviews, and actively rejects attempts from developers to pay for coverage. Our long-standing product coverage policies include additional details for those who may be interested.
Fisher-Price has released three new iPhone applications based on its classic toys. Targeted at children ages 2-5, Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone, See ‘n Say and Little People Farm provide interactive digital versions of the iconic toys of the same name. Chatter Telephone ($1) includes three screens: Numbers, Music and People in Your Neighborhood where children can touch or swipe to hear sounds and narrations. See ‘n Say ($2) presents the child with a spinner that they can touch or move to point at various pictures of animals and hear the name of the animal and the sound that it makes. Little People Farm ($2) displays a farm yard where the child can tap on various objects to discover animals and their sounds and play other interactive games and activities. The three applications were developed for Fisher-Price by IDEO LLC and are available on the App Store.
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.
Gameloft has released a new application combining three of their popular sports games. Gameloft Sports Pack bundles Gameloft’s highly acclaimed Let’s Golf, Real Tennis and Pro Baseball into a single $5 app. Let’s Golf is a top-rated golf game that allows users to play through 63 holes in four distinct 3D-rendered locations and provides easily adaptable controls and local Wi-Fi multiplayer support. Real Tennis takes the player on a world championship tour across 7 stadiums and 3 different surfaces with touchscreen and accelerometer based controls, a wide array of strokes and local Wi-Fi multiplayer support. Pro Baseball provides a 3D-rendered baseball simulation with audio commentary, sound effects and spectator reactions and game modes ranging from a full 162-game season to a quick play home-run mode. Gameloft Sports Pack is available from the App Store for $5.
Apple has released the fifth beta version of its iPhone SDK 3.2 for iPad. First released in January following the introduction of the iPad, the SDK is tailored specifically to the device, including support for its 1024x768 resolution, other iPad-specific interface functions, and includes an iPad simulator application so developers can pre-test their apps in an environment similar to that of the final device. It is unknown what, if any, changes were made in this latest version. The iPhone OS 3.2 SDK beta 5 for iPad is available now to registered iPhone developers through the iPhone Dev Center.
Electric Pocket has released the iPhone version of its popular BugMe digital ink note and reminder app. BugMe allows users to jot free-form notes using their finger or a stylus, share their notes and set scheduled reminders for them. Users can choose from one of four background colors or specify their own photo for each note. Notes can be shared via Twitter or e-mail, saved directly to the device’s photo album or even saved as tiny sticky-note icons on the main Home Screen. Users can set an alarm on each note and be alerted via Push Notifications when the note comes due. BugMe! is available from the App Store for $1.
Apple has updated its iTunes Connect online iPhone application submission service to allow developers to schedule pricing changes to their apps, according to one iPhone developer. In an update to his Twitter account, Amro Mousa, a developer for return7, states that “iPhone devs can now schedule sales in iTunes Connect,” with an accompanying screenshot showing the new options within the iTunes Connect interface. Developers can access the new features by logging into iTunes Connect. [via Ars Technica]
Navigon has released three new regional versions of its popular MobileNavigator app. Dubbed NAVIGON MyRegion, the new apps provide the same features as the full version but limit map information to regional areas of the United States. Three versions are presently available: U.S. Central, U.S. East and U.S. West; each currently sells for $25 and includes the ability to add the other regions via in-app purchase for $13 each. The MyRegion apps also include support for the Traffic Live feature, available as an in-app purchase for $20. Current prices are promotional prices, valid until April 12th. [via TUAW]
Konami Digital Entertainment has released Frogger Inferno for the iPhone and iPod touch. In Frogger Inferno, players employ the familiar dodge-and-run tactics from the original game to guide Frogger across a busy highway to his home marsh. As an additional twist, however, Frogger Inferno now leaves a trail of fire behind him, requiring players to get Frogger home without the ability to double-back along their path. Additional features include Facebook Connect integration to allow users to post their game scores, play against others and follower the Frogger Leader Board. Frogger Inferno is available from the App Store for $1.
NASA has released an update to its official NASA App introducing support for sharing information on Facebook and Twitter. Version 1.2 supports Facebook Connect to allow users to share images, videos, tweets and mission information on their Facebook profile and also integrates its own full Twitter client for not only posting but also retweeting, replying and direct messaging from within the app. Other new features include the addition of the NASAImages.org collection containing over 125,000 new images, an advanced search option, and an offline caching system. The NASA App is available from the App Store as a free download.
Sophiestication Software has released Articles, a new application for browsing and searching Wikipedia on the iPhone and iPod touch. Articles presents Wikipedia content in an iPhone optimized format and includes several advanced UI features such as the ability to quickly scroll through articles by chapter, adjust text size via pinch-and-zoom gestures and lock screen orientation using a pull-down gesture. Articles allows users to search by title or content and select alternate Wikipedia languages, with automatic spelling suggestions provided for search text. An integrated maps feature provides users with a geographic display or Wikipedia entries for nearby points of interest or any selected location around the globe, or users can simply shake their device to bring up a random Wikipedia article of interest. Articles also provides full-screen previews of images, a multi-page tabbed interface similar to the Safari browser, bookmarks with folder organization, and offline access to recently-viewed articles. Wikipedia entries can be shared via e-mail and photos can be saved to the device’s photo library or copied to the clipboard. Articles - The Wikipedia App is available from the App Store for $3.
ALK Technologies has released the latest update to its CoPilot Live North America application, providing updated street maps of the U.S. and Canada, integrated local search and Facebook integration. The included local search, previously only available as a $20 in-app purchase, allows users to quickly locate products, services and stores directly from within the application. The update promises improved guidance and a more realistic display at complex intersections with its new Lane Assist and ClearTurn features. The new Facebook integration allows users to update their Facebook status from within the app with their current location, their destination, or the currently playing iPod track. The new version also now provides user-controllable volume settings, allowing users to mute or lower music volume during voice directions. CoPilot Live North America is available from the App Store for $30; live traffic updates continue to be available as an in-app purchase for an additional $20. A free version, CoPilot Live Directions is also available which provides thirty days of free access to the Premium features, after which users can choose to pay for a subscription via in-app purchase or continue using the free app with standard turn-by-turn directions without voice guidance.