Posts Tagged ‘App Store’

iPhone & iPad Apps – A Wish List

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

I have had an iPhone since the day it was released. I upgraded to the 2nd generation, and eventually the 3GS, the day they were released. Why? Because they have changed the way I interact with the data and technology I access regularly. Once the App Store opened, that interaction exploded. Research shows that iPhone users use 5X more monthly data than BlackBerry users. Yes, 5X! Users now have access to a large selection of handset operating systems, but not all with the wide selection of apps available for the iPhone. Android is coming on fast and strong, and Windows Phone 7 Series based handsets will be here before you know it, but the iPhone & App Store are here now. Add the soon to be released iPad to the mix and this will be an interesting year for the mobile user.

A few months ago I started thinking about apps I wished were available for the iPhone, and then it happened. Apple announced the iPad. I am not here to debate if the iPad will succeed, while I think that it will. I know that, for my needs, it could have a place in my workflow. If I do buy an iPad, it will be because of the apps.

Below is a list of some apps I would like to see on the iPhone, iPad, or both. Some of these already exist from third parties, but I would like to see what an Apple implementation would be like.


Apple and “Adult” Apps

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Well, there appears to be a another shift in Apple’s App Store policy. First, they wouldn’t let anything in the store that was provocative. Then they opened the floodgates and thousands of explicit apps started showing up. Then, just a couple of days ago, they banned explicit apps. Today, we hear from that there is a new “explicit” category for App Developers when submitting their apps. Does that mean that adult apps are on their way back again?

In a previous rant, I lamented the poorly implemented Parental Controls and App Rating system on the iPhone. To recap, setting Parental Controls Age Restrictions on the iPhone would hide screenshots of apps that have a more “mature” rating, but continued to show the apps with their provocative names and icons (NOT kid-friendly). It also removed unrated apps from the iPhone, including some very kid friendly apps (such as Horse Lover).

My goal was to have Apple completely hide apps with an age rating higher than the setting in Parental Controls. Hopefully, the events of the last couple of days are an attempt by Apple to do just that.

Read more about this ongoing story: Apple Adds ‘Explicit’ Category for New App Store Submissions Is Apple Preparing To Add An ‘Explicit’ Section To The App Store?

iPhone Streaming Showdown: Qik vs UStream – UPDATED

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

In my “AT&T, The Bars Are a Lie” post I mentioned that I had been testing two iPhone Streaming applications. I have been looking for a way to live broadcast my son’s high school band performances for those parents unable to attend.  When UStream and Qik finally arrived on the iPhone, I was looking for an excuse to play. In the end, I was actually surprised at the differences between the two apps. I should say upfront that my expectations started low. I just don’t think live video streaming, over a cell network, is ready for prime-time. But who am I to pass up the perfect excuse to play with new toys.

First of all, this is not a studio test. I went to a random shopping center, where I was sure I would not be hassled by security, and tried streaming about 45 seconds of live video. I tried to capture the green trees, the blue sky, fast panning, quick light changes and various ambient sounds, cars etc., while I talked.

The goal was to find a clear winner based on:

  • Sound Quality – Clarity and Accuracy
  • Video Quality – Color & Compression Quality
  • Smooth Playback – No Starting & Stopping

Obviously, like with any media, choices will be made depending on the content being broadcast. If one application has better audio, but a lousy picture, you still may choose it if you are broadcasting a concert. If you are broadcasting something visual you may be willing to sacrifice the audio side of things. Let’s take a look, starting with UStream…


iPhone age restrictions do not hide 17+ apps, just their screenshots

Monday, January 18th, 2010

“Tasty Pasties 18+ Amateurs” and “Boob Party” are currently on the Top 25 Free Apps in the Apple App Store. I know this because my 8 year old showed me. But let me back up a little.

I have purchased each generation of iPhone as they came out. When I bought my 3GS, I had two leftover iPhones and two clever young ladies who are equally enamored with technology. I set each of my daughters up with the deactivated iPhones working essentially as big iPod Touches. And they were happy. Ecstatic. I am the coolest Dad ever.

I took the expected precautionary approaches. In Settings: General: Restrictions: I turned off the following:

  • Safari
  • Mail
  • YouTube
  • Location
  • In-App Purchases
  • and at first, Installing Apps (App Store)

Since I would be the one managing any media on the device, I didn’t set any age restrictions on music, movies or apps. Eventually, I turned on the App Store so they could browse and choose an app as a reward for a good grade, helping around the house, etc. Standard parental incentive program.

This wasn’t really a risk at the time, Apple was not allowing apps that weren’t family appropriate. Since then, Apple has opened the flood gates of soft porn (but not Google Voice). Again, I know this because my 8 year old showed me. The app screenshots were the iPhone equivalent of a “Girls Gone Wild” TV commercial. All the naughty bits were covered with black dots, very small black dots. This set me into panic mode. I quickly exited the App Store and began trying to keep this kind of material out of reach.

I’m not a Puritan. I understand the market for these products. I also understand that I am responsible for what my girls have access to. As a responsible parent, I went back into Restrictions and limited apps to 12+. Sweet! That was easy. Thanks Apple!

Relieved at such a simple fix, I went back into the App Store and guiltily typed in “boobs” to see if I had successfully addressed the issue. Nope. There were plenty of apps willing to fill my request. A little disappointed, and still feeling uncomfortable about doing this on my daughter’s iPhone, I went searching for the screenshots. They were gone. I can find the apps, see their icons and read their full description, but the tiny black dots and the ladies underneath were gone. Not what I wanted or expected. I wanted the apps to be completely invisible. No app, no name, no busty icons.

This restriction also caused two more problems. First, it turns out that enabling Restrictions will include the catchall “Unrated”.  Any app that is unrated gets the same treatment as a 17+ app. Second, some apps are given 17+ ratings, not because of age-inappropriate material, but because of the ability of the app developer to push unfiltered content to the app (see example below).

An example: Horse Lover. A natural for my girls. They love horses. Eat, breath, play horses. This app is currently “Unrated”, probably because it fetches a daily photo from somewhere “out there”. That means that you can’t use it if you have ANY age restrictions on the iPhone.

My girls came to me immediately after enabling Restrictions for apps asking why I deleted some of their programs. They wanted all of their apps back. If I turned off restrictions, they would be exposed to the new wave of grownup apps in the store. So, there was only one choice left… the App Store is now turned off. I am no longer the coolest Dad ever. I guess the title wasn’t going to last forever, but it was fun while it lasted.

N.O.V.A. – Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance Mini-Review

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I am constantly on the lookout for new apps for my iPhone. Usually, I look through the Featured category in the iTunes store for what’s new or hot, but I also watch the iPhone Game Reviews and New iPhone Apps sections on MacRumors. Those links take you to the MacRumors related TouchArcade and AppShopper. I am not looking for a word processor mind you. I am looking for something to pass the time when I am at the car wash, or for some interesting tech utility.

NOVA Capture 1A few weeks ago I ran across N.O.V.A., which stands for Near Orbit Vanguard Allience, from Gameloft. I always browse for some online reviews before I buy anything, and in looking at the reviews on N.O.V.A., I kept seeing the phrase ‘HALO-like’. That was enough for me, I had to try it. The day I went to buy it, the iTunes App Store showed over 500 reviews, and this thing was still five stars! As of this writing, there are 2976 reviews and it still has a 4.5! Considering there are always unhappy, borderline nutty, reviews I thought it looked good.

This game is very fun, and there is a lot of game play for $6.99. There are 13 single-player levels, as well as online or local multiplayer support. The multiplayer games support up to four players in online or local WiFi play, and up to two players via a Bluetooth connection.

During my review search, I noticed some comments on the voice-overs. Having done voice-overs for over 25 years, I agree that these are cheesy. I don’t mean funny cheesy by the way. It feels like Gameloft didn’t take their own game seriously. I think some changes to the voice work could greatly effect the immersion of the player into the game. I am not faulting the V.O. talent, they accomplished what was obviously the idea of the director. I just think it sold the game short.

On the controls, I am not the best reviewer. I am an old Quake player, and never really got comfortable with the dual thumb-stick style controls present in most console systems. That said, I feel like I am now. The game play just made sense to me. Although there are multiple control setups to choose from, I have it set so that the left joystick moves the player forward/backward/left/right, while the general screen area controls looking up/down/left/right. The controls do have some issues. There have been times when, simply walking along a path, the controls have gone crazy. Suddenly I am looking at the floor, then the sky, then into a wall. This never fails that it happens while I am being shot at. Very frustrating. The worst glitch has been when, in the middle of a fight, the left stick seems to want to control the look instead of the movement. This could be more of an issue with the nature of touch screen controls than the game, but it hurts to get shot because you could not move.

NOVA Capture 2Both the single-player, and multi-player maps, are nicely done. There are a selection of weapons, health and power-ups throughout the levels. The levels are multi-story, and use transporters or escalators to get you moving up. The graphics look very good, but are often glitchy. I walked near the edge of the jungle and ended up in the trees, well, actually on top of the trees. That would be cool in a Deathmatch, but I was unable to move anywhere and had to exit the game, causing me to return to the last progress/checkpoint. This happened maybe 10 times throughout the 13 level game, way too much.

The game play progresses nicely, and there are checkpoints often. It does have a bit of repetitiveness to it, but I didn’t seem to mind. Ammo is well placed in the maps. On multiple occasions, just as I felt I would run out of ammo, like a gift there was some waiting for me. Well done. There are also mini-game puzzles used to unlock storage containers. I found these weak. It felt like an interruption of the game play, and a waste of time, to make me try to unlock something that is so easy. If I can always solve the combination in 10 seconds then just remove these. I would like to see either some real puzzles, or none at all. I’m not talking MYST hard, but something game worthy.

The multiplayer system works. I have not tried the online system yet, but I tried local games over both WiFi and Bluetooth. Oddly enough, the Bluetooth was more stable. On WiFi, my son had a very hard time staying connected. He would join and drop almost instantly. On Bluetooth we were able to complete a few 5 minute/5 frag games (I’m not saying who won). I experienced no lag at all, but he did. It could be that I am on a 3GS, while he is on an older 3G iPhone. He did not like the game enough to complete the single-player mode due to the lag. I never had that problem on the newer hardware. The one complaint my son brought up was the display of user names in multi-player games. I could see where my kid was, from across the map, as soon as he spawned, because his name was over his head. I wish that could be turned off. It made a fast test game easy, but in serious play could make it too easy.

All-in-all I love it and suggest, if you like first-person-shooters, that you spend the $6.99. It’s a very addicting game, unfortunately for my family. Now onto the Hard setting.