Tag Archives | iPhone App Store

PlayOn Goes Native With iPhone App

With Apple’s approval, PlayOn finally has a native iOS app for skipping Hulu Plus and streaming heaps of web TV shows to the iPhone.

PlayOn uses PC software to pull in web video from Hulu, Comedy Central, ESPN3 and elsewhere, and then makes the content available to other networked devices, like game consoles, certain set-top boxes and now the iPhone. The iPhone app is free, but you’ll also need the PlayOn PC software, which costs $40 per year or $80 for life. You can try it free for 14 days.

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Groveshark's Brief App Store Stint is Over

The iPhone App Store now plays host to many kinds of subscription music apps, but Grooveshark is no longer one of them.

Apple brought the axe down on Grooveshark after five days in the App Store, and all it took was one complaint from Universal Music Group’s U.K. office, according to Grooveshark’s official blog. “This comes as an absolute surprise to us, and we are not sleeping until we figure out exactly how to fix this—and get Grooveshark for iPhone back in the App Store,” says the Grooveshark crew.

Grooveshark for iPhone was like a lighter, less-committed version of MOG or Rdio. For $3 per month, users could search for and play any song on-demand, and create playlists of their favorites, but the app didn’t allow users to create full music libraries, like you can with the aforementioned $10 per month apps. Grooveshark’s website does include these capabilities, and the ad-supported version is free.

Grooveshark’s rates are low because it doesn’t license music from any major labels except EMI, which negotiated a deal after suing the service. Instead, music is uploaded by users at their own risk and shared with the masses. I don’t know why Grooveshark has escaped the wrath of other labels, but I do know labels are particularly demanding with mobile phones. This is why Rdio costs $10 per month for smartphone access instead of $5 for PC-only, and why Napster acknowledged nearly a year ago that high licensing fees for mobile streaming would make its $5 per month plan impossible.

Curiously, Grooveshark remains available for Android, Blackberry, WebOS and Symbian phones. Maybe Apple was the only company Universal complained to, but unless the label thinks it can cripple Grooveshark without any further action, I doubt it will be the last.

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OpenAppMkt: The iPhone Gets a Web App Store

Plenty of websites and services use slick web apps in lieu of, or in addition to, native software for the iPhone App Store, but they had no storefront of their own until now.

OpenAppMkt is an HTML app store that launched today, with everything I’d expect to see in a mobile app market. It has a clean interface for searching or browsing by category, along with a website that’s equally polished. iPhone users can “install” OpenAppMkt by adding the website to their home screen, and individual apps are installed in the same way, creating icons on the home page as if they were native apps.

The app selection is small for now, with only a handful of apps in each category, but nicely curated. When installed, all of them run full screen, without Safari’s navigation bars. You’ll find a bunch of Google’s offerings, such as Google Voice and the excellent YouTube web app, plus some gems such as Glyphboard, which presents a chart of symbols and emoticons for copying and pasting.

Apple does have its own list of Web apps, which is much lengthier than OpenAppMkt, but it lacks user reviews and screenshot galleries, and there’s no iPhone-optimized storefront. It’s safe to assume that Apple is concentrating on the App Store and isn’t going to push web apps anytime soon.

The problem with OpenAppMkt has everything to do with the curent state of web apps. Most of them don’t compare with native apps, and a few selections in OpenAppMkt cheerfully remind you that a better experience awaits in the App Store. It’s true; native apps can handle high-end graphics, multitask, make better use of the accelerometer and allow easy billing through iTunes.

We may see HTML-based apps catch up some day, but right now the best ones are glorified web pages with killer interfaces. At least now there’s a reliable place to find them.


App Store Dev Disses Apple, Messes With Prices, Pays

An iPhone game developer has learned the hard way that one of the following we’ll get your app banned: Publicly slamming the iPhone App Store, or gradually increasing prices until someone pays hundreds of dollars for a simple time waster.

I’m inclined to think it’s the latter, but let’s backtrack.

According to Kotaku, Tommy Refenes’ game, Zits & Giggles (a simple pimple-popping game), disappeared from the App Store this week with no explanation from Apple. Refenes isn’t an unknown developer; he’s part of the team working on Super Meat Boy, a highly anticipated indie game for the Wii, Xbox 360 and PC.

As such, Refenes was one of the speakers during the “Indie Gamemakers Rant” at last week’s Game Developers Conference. These events encourage the speakers to vent on whatever they like, and Refenes chose the iPhone App Store as one of his targets. Not everything he said is suitable for our family-friendly blog, but he did liken the iPhone to those Tiger Electronics LCD games of the early 1990s, which often carried big brand names but weren’t particularly fun to play.

Now for the other facet of the story: Refenes had been playing around with the game’s pricing, noting that people continued to buy the game even as its cost reached $15, $50 and $299. On Monday, someone paid $400 for the game, the same day Apple pulled the plug.

It’s amusing to think that Apple squashed Zits & Giggles because of Refenes’ insolence during GDC, but I have a tough time believing the game’s price wasn’t to blame. It’s not like Apple hasn’t removed apps because of ridiculous prices before. Of course, all this speculation could have been avoided if Apple had explained to Refenes why the app was pulled, or given him a chance to settle on a price, but alas, communication isn’t Apple’s strong suit.

I’m tempted to dig into Refenes’ comments on the quality of iPhone gaming, but that’s an issue best saved for another day and a fresh blog post. On a related note, I do kind of miss those Tiger LCD games…


Trent Reznor Dissed, Parental App Guard Needed

quakenailgunammoFor as little as we know about Apple’s approval process for iPhone apps, I kind of expected the nin:access program — which allows fans of the band Nine Inch Nails to enjoy streaming music and other perks  — to pass with flying colors. Apparently I was wrong, as the latest update to the application was denied.

In a scathing, profane forum post, frontman Trent Reznor said the objectionable content resided in music from NIN’s “The Downward Spiral” album. If you’ve ever heard the tune “Closer,” you can probably imagine what lit up the censor button.

These songs could just as easily corrupt virgin ears through iTunes, except that the iTunes Store has parental controls. It’s high time the App store added similar functionality, if only so adults capable of withstanding the occasional f-bomb won’t be subject to draconian censorship.

Such a feature is on the way with the iPhone’s 3.0 operating system, and rumor has it that apps with explicit content may have a better shot at approval. iLounge reports that one developer, Makayama, heard as much when its Newspaper(s) application was blocked for including The Sun, a British paper notorious for including a naked centerfold in each edition. In a rejection notice, Apple reportedly said it “would be appropriate to resubmit your application for review once this feature is available.” (Makayama instead removed The Sun and successfully resubmitted the program.)

We’re still waiting on an official release date for the 3.0 OS, but it’s losely scheduled for this summer. In the meantime, Reznor has no plans to ditch the iPhone (though he may take nin:access to jailbreakers) because “nobody has an Android phone,” Blackberry has “inconsistent” hardware and “WinMo straight-up” um, does not meet his quality standards. (We have self-imposed parental controls here, Trent.)

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Apple Lets Alternative Browsers Onto the iPhone. Sort of!

iphone4The single worst thing about Apple’s capricious iPhone App Store policies has probably been the fact that it’s rejected some applications on the grounds that they compete with Apple’s own offerings–including third-party browsers. Now the company is approving some alternative browsers, including Edge Browser (a browser without space-hogging navigation bars), Incognito (private browsing), Shaking Web (which compensates for shaky hands by adjusting the display), and WebMate:Tabbed Browser (which queues up links in new tabs). The one thing all these apps have in common is that they’re really reskinned versions of Safari, Apple’s own browser. I suspect that it’ll be a long time until Apple allows Firefox or Opera or any other true Safari rival onto the iPhone; I’d love to be proven wrong, though…