Apple may be planning to open a $20-and-up premium games section on the App Store, according to a new report. Citing anonymous sources, PocketGamer is reporting that the section will be open to only a restricted number of large developers and publishers, rather than the broad acceptance afforded by other areas of the store. Apple and potentially included publishers EA Mobile and Gameloft refused to comment on the matter; the report speculates that the move could be announce at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference, or at a special iPhone or gaming event. Developers have previously expressed concern over the abundance of $1 apps on the store’s Top 100 lists, leading at least one to try a hybrid paid/donation revenue model to boost sales.
Mark/Space has released its new Fliq Tasks application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Fliq Tasks allows users to create, edit, categorize, prioritize, sort, search and share their tasks and to do lists directly from their device. Tasks can be shared over a Wi-Fi network with other Fliq users on the iPhone, iPod touch, Mac, or Windows. Fliq Tasks is a free download from the App Store; Fliq for the Mac or Windows sells for $20. The original Fliq contacts and photo application for iPhone and iPod touch is also available as a free download.
iPhone developer App Cubby has begun what it calls a pricing “experiment” in which it will sell all its iPhone and iPod touch applications for a flat price of $1 each, letting users who find their utility to be worthy of more money make a donation towards future app development. The company’s products, Gas Cubby, Health Cubby, and Trip Cubby previously sold for $5, $5, and $10, respectively. App Cubby founder David Barnard told iLounge, “the challenges of selling in the App Store have continued to frustrate me and foil my best efforts. So I’ve decided to try a little experiment.”
Barnard has previously discussed the issue of pricing on the company’s blog, stating that developers are “frustrated that artificial market forces are driving down the price of apps, which in turn drives down the perceived value of the products we have invested significant time and money to create. Marketing can help, but it’s throwing good money after bad if the market discourages charging a fair price for an app.” The new revenue model appears to circumvent Apple’s pricing policies, which only allow for pricing on a dollar-by-dollar basis, and require developers interested in offering demo versions of their applications to create separate listings in the App Store, which they can distribute as free downloads. However, the subject of whether developers can solicit donations outside of the purchase price for a given piece of software appears to be a gray area.
A new website has appeared which offers browser-based access to the App Store, allowing users to browse applications without the need to launch iTunes. Powered by Google App Engine and hosted at app-store.appspot.com, the App Store website lets users access Top 100 lists, every category of application, and even the majority of the iTunes Store for music, TV shows, and movies, although that isn’t its primary focus. While other sites exist that list every app available on the App Store, complete with descriptions taken from the store, this is the first time a site has mirrored both the design and content of the iTunes Store, raising doubts as to whether Apple will allow the site to stay operational. [via Lifehacker]
Runaway Technology has released BulletFlight, a new application for the iPhone and iPod touch that helps gun users take more accurate shots. Users can input current weather conditions and distance, while the accelerometer measures angles to the target, providing detailed solutions up to 2000 meters. The app uses environmental calculations based on the Sierra Bullets model, features built-in profiles for the M110 semi-automatic rifle, the 14.5-inch SR16 rifle, and KAC PDW rifles, and allows the user to modify those profiles, as well as add new ones. In addition, it provides the number of clicks one needs to change the scope by for the current range and wind speed, instead of outputting information in a table format like other ballistic computer apps. BulletFlight is available now for the iPhone and iPod touch and sells for $12. [via Telegraph]
Apple has announced via an image on the homepage of apple.com that the App Store has now seen more than 500 million downloads since its launch on July 11, 2008. In addition, the image reveals that there are now more than 15,000 applications available from the online store. Although the image states that “iPhone users have downloaded an incredible 500 million” apps, it is assumed that this number encompasses both iPhone and iPod touch users, and that downloads also includes post-purchase updates. On December 5, Apple announced the store had passed the 300 million download milestone, meaning that users have downloaded at least 200 million apps in the five weeks since, compared to the six weeks it took the store to go from 200 million to 300 million downloads.
iPhone developer Lucas Manfield has released Duck Hunt, a $1 port of the classic Nintendo Entertainment System game. Unlike the original, which used the NES Zapper gun controller, this iPhone and iPod touch port uses an on-screen joystick and single “A” button for control, both taken from Nintendo controller designs. The developer notes that upcoming versions will also include sound, the dog from the original, and the clay shooting mode, also found in the 1984 release. Although the game has been approved by Apple, it likely infringes on Nintendo copyrights, making it highly possible that the game will be pulled from the App Store. We are awaiting comment from Nintendo regarding the title.
EA Mobile has revealed that its Need for Speed Underground racing game for iPhone and iPod touch, originally slated for release in 2008 and more recently pushed back until early this year, is now set for a March release. Adam Sussman, EA Mobile’s vice president of publishing in the Americas and Asia, told IGN, “EA Mobile is excited about the Need for Speed Undercover iPhone and iPod touch game we have in development. Currently, we are fine tuning and polishing the game so that when it launches it is the best, most engaging racing game iPhone users have yet to experience. We appreciate the anticipation around the arrival of this game. As we approach a confirmed ship date, we will alert the community so stay tuned for more information in the coming months.”
Konami has released its DanceDanceRevolution S Lite rhythm game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Based on the popular arcade dancing series and meant as a preview for the upcoming full version of DanceDanceRevolution S, the Lite version lets users tap on the screen to the rhythm of the song, with upcoming arrows rising from the bottom of the screen. DanceDanceRevolution S Lite is available now as a free download from the App Store.
In a shift away from its prior policy of barring third-party web browsing applications on the basis that they duplicated existing functionality, Apple has allowed a small group of third-party browsing apps to appear in the App Store. Amongst the new apps are Edge Browser (Free), which clears up screen real estate by removing the address and navigation bars, Incognito ($2), which lets users browse without leaving a history of any kind, WebMate:Tabbed Browser ($1), which stores all clicked links in a queue, letting the user read them one-by-one as they’re ready, and Shaking Web ($2), a browser with a vibration-reduction like algorithm designed for use while moving.
With at least one submission date going back to October, it appears that Apple had a special list of such applications for possible future release; these standalone applications all appear to be based upon Apple’s own Safari browser, which has also been incorporated in various ways into other, more complex applications to eliminate the need to switch between an app an a separate browser for certain features. It is unclear what these standalone browser releases mean for full-scale browsers such as Firefox and Opera, which were previously thought to be blocked by the iPhone SDK agreement. [via Mac Rumors]
U.S.-based interactive Internet radio service Slacker has released its new Slacker Radio application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Similar to services provided by Pandora Radio and Last.fm, Slacker gives users access to over 100 stations pre-programmed by radio professionals, along with the ability to pick stations based on genre, artist, or to create new stations based on a specific band or artist, which also contain music from similar artists as recommendations. In addition, the app allows users to view artist bios as well as album art and reviews. Slacker Radio is available as a free download from the App Store.
iPhone and iPod touch game piracy has started to rear its ugly head, as an increasing number of videos on YouTube now offer “cracked” iPhone and iPod touch applications—paid software that has been modified for free, generally illegal distribution—promoting sites that allow users to download and install thousands of hacked apps for free. The applications can be used on devices running software version 2.0, 2.1, or 2.2 and do not require users to jailbreak their devices; iTunes 7.7.0 is required to actually synchronize the cracked apps.
Sling Media is demonstrating a version of its SlingPlayer Mobile application for the iPhone at Macworld Expo, and has said the application will be submitted for App Store approval in the first quarter. The application allows users to stream video from any Slingbox directly to the device, and can also control their home digital video recorder to watch recorded shows, pause, rewind, and fast forward live TV, or queue new recordings while away from home. “SlingPlayer Mobile is ideally suited for the iPhone’s large touch screen display and I know iPhone users are eagerly anticipating the application’s availability,” said Blake Krikorian, co-founder and CEO of Sling Media. Pricing for SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone has yet to be determined.
Aurora Feint has revealed to iLounge that it is releasing two new games for the iPhone and iPod touch based on its most recent title, Aurora Feint II: The Arena. Aurora Feint II: The Beginning is a budget-priced upgrade to the original, free Aurora Feint title, Aurora Feint: The Beginning, including new and improved mining game play with new visuals and sound, asynchronous real time chat in the Tavern area for sharing tips, strategies, and experiences with other players, and Facebook-style player profiles and “walls” where other players can leave comments and challenges, which in turn become events in the Tavern. These social networking features were previously seen in the company’s Aurora Feint II: The Arena, which offers a similar style of game play but does so by letting users play against “ghosts” of other players that persist in the game even when the ghost’s player is not actually using his/her device.
Also available will be Aurora Feint II: The Tower Puzzles. This separate title will offer more than 30 “match three” strategy puzzles arranged in increasing levels of difficulties to take the player to the top of the tower. Some puzzles will present a certain number of moves with which the player must clear the screen of all blocks, and “Instapop” strategy elements without which the final levels cannot be cleared. In addition, the game will offer emaIl-based friend challenges. Aurora Feint II: The Tower Puzzles is available now for $1, while Aurora Feint II: The Beginning is expected to be available on December 25 for $1. Those prices are good through New Year’s Day, at which point they will increase to $2 and $3, respectively.
Facing “months” of unexplained delays and telephone support from “the people [who] can barely speak English,” iPhone application developer Perry Hart has blasted Apple for running “inadequate and down right amateur” systems “for reviewing iPhone applications and supporting developers.” In an e-mail to iLounge, Hart says that he and other developers hoping for timely publication of their apps have been placed in a holding pattern, with no ability to know when apps will or won’t be published by Apple. “One developer has been on the queue for three months,” said Hart, “and received absolutely no information about what was wrong. ... Developers can send all the emails they like to [Apple’s app developer] address, they just get ignored.”
Hart is the developer of AutoMangle, previously released on the App Store, as well as the upcoming first person shooter game ZombieMangle, which has been held up for unknown reasons. “I submitted ZombieMangle over a week ago now,” Hart explained, “which was what I thought would be a perfect time to release just before Christmas. However, a few days after submission Apple sends me an email stating that they require ‘Unexpected Additional Time For Review’ with no reason whatsoever for the delay. So I do a search for any other developers who have received this email, and it appears there’s ALOT of them.”
Concerned about reaching customers in time for the holidays, but unsure as to what was wrong with his application, Hart decided to be “proactive and change the game to remove the blood as it may be too extreme, change the effects to green instead of red, change the zombies into aliens, change all the interface graphics containing red blood to green etc. I even changed the sheep to robot sheep in case they had some issue with aliens attacking sheep.” According to Hart, these content changes resulted in another canned response. “Calling out for help on the official forums has yielded nothing more than moderators canned replies stating email addresses and phone numbers. I think it’s time that all developers and potential developers know that they are working with amateurs.”
Apple recently rejected an iPhone-based version of a book because it contained foul language. Citing a clause in the iPhone SDK that states “applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgement (sic) may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users,” Apple rejected Knife Music by David Carnoy, going so far as to provide a sample of one particularly graphic section. Alex Brie, developer of the application, believes Apple is checking for such content using word-matching software because it would be difficult to believe that Apple has staff with the time to manually read each book submitted. “Apple’s staff shouldn’t be allowed to refuse to publish works of literature based only on word matching. Even more, what would happen if I (a Romanian) would publish an ebook filled with Romanian obscenities? - would Apple’s staff need to learn Romanian…and read the entire ebook…to make sure this doesn’t happen?” Brie said. Apple offers both movies and music on the iTunes Store containing similar language to that found in Carnoy’s book, although in those cases it is able to either mark the content explicit or rely on the MPAA’s movie ratings; there is no equivalent ratings system for books.
Equinux has announced its free iPhone application Live TV. Designed to let users watch TV on their iPhones, Live TV works with the company’s The Tube software to stream live television over the user’s Wi-Fi network to the iPhone. The app’s interface will also allow users to change channels directly from the iPhone. Live TV will be a free download from the App Store and will be available “soon.” In addition Equinux has lowered the price on its TubeStick hybrid video recording hardware and software package to $99.
Konami has announced that it will be releasing three games for the iPhone and iPod touch based on well-known franchises. Set for release are Metal Gear Solid Touch, an original game based on the Playstation 3 release Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, which coincidentally featured an in-game, licensed iPod, DanceDanceRevolution S Lite, based on the popular dancing game, and Silent Hill: The Escape, a first-person 3D shooter based on the survival horror series. DanceDanceRevolution S Lite and Silent Hill: The Escape are set for release in late December 2008, while Metal Gear Solid Touch is expected to be released in Spring 2009.
Due to what is being described by Apple as a “minor glitch,” developers who have released applications rated 17+ are currently unable to issue promotional codes for software reviews and other purposes. Last week, Apple began letting iPhone and iPod touch developers issue promotional codes which could be redeemed on the App Store for free copies of the apps. It is unclear whether the problem is an attempt by Apple to oversee or limit the promotion of applications rated 17+ , which is roughly equivalent to a Mature rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board, or if it is a temporary situation that will be fixed in time.
Apple has quietly revealed that the App Store users have now downloaded more than 300 million applications, having passed the 200 million download mark only six weeks earlier. The announcement came in the form of an advertisement run in today’s New York Times, in which Apple touted the more than 10,000 applications now available in the App Store, from games to business programs. The App Store officially launched on July 11 alongside the iPhone 3G and iPhone OS 2.0.