Tag Archives | iPhone

How Apple Screwed Up With the iPhone 4G

No doubt, Gizmodo has turned the tech news cycle on its head this week with its exclusive on the iPhone 4G. Everybody from MSNBC to Good Morning America, and even the ladies on The View are talking about what is arguably the biggest leak in consumer technology history.

What has ensued beyond just the basic story of 27-year-old Apple developer Gray Powell’s now infamous drunken night now has turned to Gizmodo’s culpability in the morass. Some bloggers have gone as far as to publicly call for Apple to sue the publication, but doesn’t Cupertino share some of the blame for this mess?

In the simplest terms, yes. As a journalist who has covered Apple for much of the last half-decade, I have to say I am absolutely shocked that this would have even happened. For a company that prides itself on its secrecy — writing on Apple can be much like walking blindfolded into a maze — this is a stunning lapse in judgement.

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iPhone Game Center: OS 4’s Most Revolutionary Feature?

Reading the coverage and comments on iPhone OS 4, I’ve seen some sentiment that Apple isn’t really doing anything fresh, and is merely catching up on features already offered on other mobile phones. That’s true for some things, but not with iPhone Game Center.

The service will be a social networking layer for iPhone games. Players can invite their friends to multiplayer games, and in lieu of friends, they can use a matchmaking service to find other players. There appear to be achievements for in-game tasks, which accumulate in a sort of meta-game, and there are online leaderboards as well.

As a list of bullet points, Game Center is nothing new. It’s more or less a clone of Xbox Live, which offers all the same features. Even on the iPhone, the existing Plus+ and OpenFeint networks offer friends lists, achievements and leaderboards.

So, why is this revolutionary? Because there isn’t a single mobile gaming platform that’s already doing it. Sony dropped the ball when it said last year that the PSP won’t support achievement-like trophies, and there’s no platform-wide invite feature that encourages players to jump between games. Nintendo’s just oblivious when it comes to online gaming, and Microsoft, which arguably could do great things with Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7, will still be months from launch when iPhone Game Center arrives.

Predictions are always risky, but I’d be surprised of other phone platforms and portable consoles don’t scramble to follow Apple’s lead. You can’t say that about multitasking, folders and customizable wallpapers.


Jobs Calls Out Android Over Porn

Easily the line of the day from today’s presentation. Following a question from gdgt’s Ryan Block on why the iPhone will not allow the running of unsigned apps like both Palm and Android already offer, Steve Jobs comes back calling out Android’s “porn store: “There’s a porn store for Android … your kids can download them … that’s a place where we just don’t want to go, so we’re not going to go there.” That is NOT going to make Google very happy…


Looks Like End-of-Line for Original iPhone, iPod Touch

At the end of today’s presentation, Jobs said that the full benefits of iPhone OS 4.0 would be available only to customers owning the iPhone 3GS and 3rd generation iPod Touch. For customers with an iPhone 3G or 2nd generation iPod Touch, the update would still be available, however functionality (including multitasking) would not work.

Left out was any mention of the original iPhone and iPod Touch, now both coming up on their 3rd anniversary. Looks like this means its the end of the line for these two devices…


Android Proving a Worthy Contender to iPhone, RIM

comScore’s latest numbers show that Google’s Android platform is really beginning to gain some traction in the smartphone market. From the November 2009 to February period, Android took 9 percent of the market, up sharply from 3.8 percent in the previous three month period.

Notable among comScore’s findings is the fact that Android seems to be attracting a different user base than either market-leading RIM or Apple. RIM managed to increase its share to 42.1 percent, while Apple maintained its 25.4 percent share. Instead, Android’s victims are Microsoft (who fell four percent to 15.1%) and Palm (7.2 to 5.4 percent).

Overall, smartphones have shown 21 percent year-over-year growth, verifying that there is still plenty of room for growth in this still somewhat nascent market.

I’ve long said since Verizon’s “iDont” commercials that the Android platform would for the most part not take market share from Apple, and this has proved that theory somewhat. Those on the platform are probably more likely new to smartphones overall, and the open nature of the OS means that the availability of Android phones is much broader (there is now at least one Android-powered phone on every major US cellular provider).

One thing can be said now, I think: Android is indeed a success.


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…


Sky Siege: iPhone Augmented Reality Gaming, Still Rough

Thanks to Gizmodo, I got wind of Sky Siege, an augmented and virtual reality game for the iPhone, and I plunked down $3 at the App Store so you don’t have to.

Using the iPhone 3GS to look around, you must track down little helicopters, blimps and fighter jets, taking them out with a machine gun or missile launcher before they get you. You can either play the game with its own grassy field background graphics, or switch on the camera to use your real life surroundings as the battlefield. The game plays the same either way. Here’s a video showing the action:

After playing Sky Siege for about 20 minutes, I’m a little bit dizzy from all the spinning and twisting, and believe me, 20 minutes is all you really need. The virtual reality target practice is amusing at first, but it’s a one-trick pony. It wasn’t long before I had enough of the augmented reality gimmick, cool as it was.

Seeing as Sky Siege is the only augmented reality video game I could find in the App Store, it comes off more as a tech demo than a fully-realized game. Other than using your room as a backdrop, there’s no actual interaction with the real world, which might’ve added some nuance to the experience.  There’s also no dodging or other movement required besides spinning and twisting to aim. As a game, Sky Siege doesn’t stand on its own; if it used virtual thumbsticks instead of an orientation-tracking algorithm, I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.

But there is potential here. I want to see more games that take the real-world theme deeper, like the upcoming Ghostwire for the Nintendo DSi. Sky Siege proves augmented reality gaming is possible on the iPhone — and if you’ve got $3 to burn it might be worth getting just to impress your friends — but it’s not the definitive example of what augmented reality can do.


Google’s Tiff With Apple Opens iPhone to Microsoft

It’s no secret that Apple and Microsoft have one of the stranger relationships in tech. While Microsoft has produced software such as Office for the Macintosh platform, and Apple has opened its doors to Windows with its switch to Intel, they still are highly competitive with each other. But Cupertino’s relationship with Google is souring far faster, which is the perfect opening for Microsoft when it comes to the iPhone.

Apple is apparently in discussions with Microsoft to give the Bing search engine the top spot for search on iPhone, which currently belongs to Google. These talks have been underway for several weeks, BusinessWeek reports, but nothing as of yet has been finalized.

Getting on the iPhone as the default search engine would be a huge win for Bing. I regularly search for things on my iPhone, so just the boost there in search queries would help Microsoft overall in gaining some search share, something it sorely needs. It’s not clear whether any search deal would also extend to the Safari browser, available on both the Macintosh and Windows platforms.

Either way, its pretty likely that Google wouldn’t be completely erased from the iPhone. YouTube is a popular application. Apple would probably also let users switch back to Google in settings just like it already does now if users wish to search using Yahoo. Bing Maps could replace Google Maps, however.

What are your thoughts on the increasingly hostile relationship between Apple and Google? Who stands to benefit most here? We’d like to hear what you think.


Why Adobe’s Bum Rush of the iPhone Doesn’t Matter

Apple has done all it can to keep Flash off the iPhone. It has used about every excuse in the book — too memory intensive, a drain on battery power, what have you — even though Adobe has pretty much addressed most of these issues. Flash is ready for the iPhone but Apple is not ready for Flash.

Either way Adobe is not going to wait much longer. It’s Creative Suite 5 product, now going through private beta, is going to include functionality that will automatically convert Flash applications to ones that are compatible with the iPhone.

This has the potential to be quite the step forward in iPhone development. TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld seems to even go as far as suggesting this as some kind of game changer. CS5 has the potential to expand the developer far beyond the 125,000 iPhone developers out there today, considering there’s about two million Flash developers worldwide.

I hate to rain on anyones parade, but not so fast.

For all that we know of this functionality, it appears to just be a port. Essentially the Flash code is translated into what the software believes is the closest match in iPhone code and goes with it. Like we’ve found out in the past with “WYSIWYG” HTML editors such as Microsoft’s popular FrontPage product, this isn’t always a good thing.

What’s the result? Bulky, slow running applications. In the dog-eat-dog world that has become the App Store, that’s just not going to fly.

I highly doubt that Flash developers that have gone to great lengths to create great Flash apps would allow these same apps to become subpar just to get on the iPhone. While no doubt there will be a subset of Flash developers that will use this feature, it’s not going to be as many as people think.

Bottom line? If these developers want to develop for the iPhone, then they should do it the right way.


AT&T Pulls iPhone Online Sales in NYC Metro Area

If you’re looking to buy an iPhone in New York City, better be ready to visit your local Apple or AT&T store. The carrier has pulled the phone from its online lineup, and is giving little if any reason as to why it has done so. It appears to also be unavailable in Westchester County in New York and also in NYC’s New Jersey suburbs.

The Big Apple is one of AT&T’s problem spots when it comes to its network, and many have blamed high concentrations of the iPhone in the city for the problems. I guess the easiest way to fix this would be to attempt to slow down sales of the device there and hope that it keeps the problem from getting any worse.

“We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels,” was all AT&T gave Consumerist’s Laura Northrup when she asked for official comment. A online sales reprsentative went further, saying the company  doesn’t “have enough towers to handle the phone.” There’s your answer, folks.

One has to think that Apple must be pretty upset right now. It now appears to be AT&T’s strategy to shut down sales of the iPhone in an area if its network can’t handle it. So who’s next? San Francisco? Philadelphia? Los Angeles? If this move isn’t an argument to trash the AT&T exclusive agreement ASAP, I don’t know what is.

Only a matter of time before Verizon makes fun of this one…