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.
Tag Games has provided iLounge with a preview of it’s upcoming Car Jack Streets game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Based on Tag’s prior mobile title, Car Jack Streets is a top-down Grand Theft Auto-style game in which players must complete a number of missions, jobs, and assignments in order to pay down a massive gambling debt. The game will feature a large urban environment to explore, a wide variety of vehicles to operate, including both cars and helicopters, and will run in real time, utilizing the iPhone’s clock and date to keep track of in-game events. Car Jack Streets is set for an early 2009 release; pricing has yet to be announced.
Amazon.com has released its new Amazon Mobile application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The new application allows users to search and browse products offered by both Amazon and various third-party partners, access Customer Reviews, and make purchases using 1-Click Shopping. In addition, the app offers an experimental feature called “Amazon Remembers.” Users may snap a picture of an item using the iPhone’s camera, and then upload it to Amazon, which then tries to find products similar to the ones in the photos. When the user receives the results, they may purchase the item immediately, or “remember” it for later reference in his/her Amazon account. Amazon Mobile is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Vlingo Corporation has announced the release of its new vlingo application for the iPhone. The new voice-powered app enables users to initiate calls, search via Yahoo! or Google, look up locations and search Google Maps, and send Facebook and Twitter status updates, all without typing. Unlike Google’s slightly-controversial implementation of voice search, which used unpublished APIs to automatically prompt for voice search, vlingo uses an on-screen button, which is held down while speaking. A demo video of the application is available online. Vlingo for the iPhone is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Apple has begun allowing iPhone developers whose iPhone applications have been released on the App Store to hand out up to 50 promotional codes good for a free download of the applicaiton. The codes are currently only redeemable through the iTunes Store in the U.S., by using the “Redeem” link in the App Store. As an example, Sykhronics Entertainment provided iLounge with a promotional copy of its new game Smiles. Prior to the start of this program, it was difficult for developers to offer promotional or review copies of their applications, as they had to rely on ad-hoc distribution methods.
Now operating under the corporate name Aurora Feint Inc., developers Danielle Cassley and Jason Citron have unveiled Aurora Feint II: The Arena for the iPhone and iPod touch. Based on the original RPG-slash-block-matching game Aurora Feint: The Beginning, the new game is described as an asynchronous massively multi-player RPG, which promises to let 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. According to the company, playing against a ghost is “exactly” like playing in real-time against a real player, with real-time interaction between challenger and ghost. Other new features in the game include a world newsfeed, which is a continuous stream of real-time events happening in the game that appears as a ticker on the bottom of the screen. Tapping on an event in the ticker takes the player to an area called the Tavern, where players can conduct “asynchronous” chat with other players in the world, propose duels, share strategies and compete for leader board rankings. Each player will also get a wall where other players can leave comments and challenges and suggestions, which in turn become events in the Tavern.
In addition, the game offers all the functionality of the company’s first title, Aurora Feint: The Beginning, including characters, role playing, and skill-based progression in a single player environment. The Arena will be the second in a series of three products the company intends to build around the theme of Aurora Feint, a girl whose coma takes her through a dream world and series of casual puzzle based challenges aided by player characters. Aurora Feint II: The Arena will initially be priced at $8, going up to $10 after the holidays, and is expected to be available on the App Store on Friday, pending Apple’s update schedule.
Google is planning to release an iPhone application that allows users to search by voice instead of using the keyboard. According to the New York Times, the application may be available as soon as today, although it’s currently unclear whether the voice searching feature will be added to the company’s existing Google Mobile App or whether it will arrive in the form of a standalone application. Results, which may be displayed as quickly as seconds after the query, will at times also include local information, leveraging the iPhone’s location services. The service will be free to customers when it is released.
Demiforce has provided iLounge with a preview of its upcoming iPhone and iPod touch game Trismology, a spin-off of its popular, top 100 iPod touch/iPhone game Trism. Trismology will feature 30 brand new puzzle levels, similar to those found in Trism’s “Syllogism” mode, requiring players to tilt the device to match and thereby eliminate triangular blocks. It will also include a level creator that is tied to an online mode, allowing users to share their levels with other players and in turn play levels created by other users. According to Demiforce, the game will appear on the App Store “soon,” pricing has yet to be announced.
AT&T, in cooperation with Firethorn Holdings, has released its new Mobile Banking on AT&T application for the iPhone. The app allows users to check account balances, view account history, make transfers, and pay bills, and supports the access of accounts from multiple financial institutions. Participating banks include Wachovia, SunTrust, USAA, Carolina First, America First, Arvest, Bancorp South, Synovus, Mercantile Bank, and more. Mobile Banking on AT&T is available now as a free download for iPhone users from the App Store.
Sonos, maker of wireless multi-room music systems, has announced the release of its new Sonos Controller application for the iPhone. This free application allows iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPod touch users to control the Sonos Multi-Room Music System directly from their device over Wi-Fi. Controller lets users control the entire Sonos system, allowing them to quickly link and unlink rooms, select, play, pause, and skip music in any room, search for artists and songs, browse their music collection, and change the volume in a single room, or in all rooms at once. Sonos Controller is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Google has released a new version of its Google Earth application for the iPhone and iPod touch. According to the app’s release notes, it offers the same global satellite and aerial imagery available in the desktop versions of Google Earth. The app employs a multi-touch interface to navigate the virtual globe, with the ability to tilt the device to adjust the view, view geo-located Wikipedia articles, use the location feature to move to the user’s current location, and search for different destinations worldwide. Google Earth for iPhone and iPod touch is a free download from the App Store, and is available now.
Griffin Technology has released iTalk Recorder, a free iPhone and iPod touch 2G software version of its earlier iTalk hardware voice recorders for iPods and iPod nanos. Designed with three recording quality settings—good, better, and best—iTalk Recorder creates AIFF-format recordings that can be sent wirelessly to your computer using a separate free application, iTalk Sync. Both applications are available now, though Griffin’s web site currently only offers iTalk Sync in a Macintosh version; a Windows version is “coming soon.”
Fringland Ltd. has launched its new iPhone and iPod touch application fring, the first app with support for free Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony to become available on the App Store. The application offers support for both voice and text communications and a number of different services, including fring, Skype, MSN, Google Talk, AIM, Yahoo!, Twitter, and ICQ. Due to restrictions placed on VoIP apps by Apple, voice calls are available only when connected via Wi-Fi, while text-based messaging is available over both Wi-Fi and cellular data connections. Fring is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Apple has quietly changed the App Store’s review policy, now requiring users to have actually downloaded or purchased an application before they are allowed to review it. This improvement has been long-requested by developers, who at times saw the ratings on their apps drop due to negative reviews from users who had never even used the application. Now, if a user attempts to review an application that they haven’t used, they are greeted by an alert explaining, “In order to write a Customer Review for this item you must have purchased or downloaded it.” [via TUAW]
Continuing a battle over overly strict confidentiality provisions that started immediately after the release of the first iPhone OS applications, Apple attempted this week to silence developers whose applications were rejected, and consequently incurred the wrath of leading members of the iPhone development community. Almerica, the developer of the recently rejected Podcaster iPhone app, yesterday posted and later removed a blog entry entitled “Apple shuts down Podcaster, Again!” In the entry, Almerica said that Apple had removed its ability to distribute the application using Ad Hoc methods, its only option once Apple had rejected the app for distribution through the App Store. Later in the day, a report noted that Apple has added a non-disclosure statement to all App Store rejection letters, preventing developers from talking about their rejections, an apparent attempt to stop developers from generating post-rejection buzz that could lead to successful widespread Ad Hoc distribution.
Following these disclosures, other developers have angrily called out Apple for what they describe as increasingly contemptuous behavior. Brent Simmons, developer of the RSS reader NetNewsWire for Mac OS X and iPhone, wrote on his blog, “When I read that Apple’s solution to the problem of the negative press around apps being rejected from the App Store was to add an NDA warning, I thought it was satire. It couldn’t be true. But it appears to be true. If so, then someone is making a mistake. This behavior is definitely beneath the company that makes the software and hardware I adore and love developing for.”
Developer Wil Shipley, who writes the software for Delicious Monster, said on his blog, “I have to be clear: it simply will not stand for Apple to prevent applications on the iPhone from competing with Apple’s own applications. Besides chasing away all decent developers, besides hurting their customers by stifling competition and innovation, besides it simply being evil, it will, shortly, be illegal. This kind of behavior is illegal when you hit a certain point in market saturation for your product; Microsoft was slapped for it constantly in the late ‘80s. If the iPhone is the success Apple thinks it will be, they will find themselves the target of a huge class-action lawsuit.”
While it remains unclear as to whether the outcry from developers and users will have any effect on Apple, it’s obvious that developers are becoming increasingly wary of the company’s legal and business practices. Expect further updates as this story continues to develop.