Posts Tagged ‘Apps’

Skype for iPhone Enables 3G Calls (& a fee)

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

The free Skype for iPhone (app store) was updated this week to version 2.0.0. Listed as new features are improved start-up time, faster access to the dial pad, enhanced call quality indicator and near CD quality for Skype-to-Skype calls. Oh yeah, and Skype over 3G. This feature has been on everyone’s wish-list since AT&T announced last October that it had “taken the steps necessary so that Apple can enable VoIP applications on iPhone to run on AT&T’s wireless network”. I thought it would be great, but it seems there is a new catch…. starting later this year, it will cost you a “small monthly fee”.

Skype is the popular VoIP software that has always allowed free video, IM, and Skype-to-Skype calls. Calling a standard landline, or mobile numbers, required you to purchase Skype Credits. It appears that is changing. Posts at 9to5 MacMacRumors and Mashable related to this update state that Skype-to-Skype calls over 3G are free through August 2010, but the Skype page in iTunes says “Skype-to-Skype calls on 3G are free until the end of 2010, after which there will be a small monthly fee (operator charges for data will still apply)”. I am not sure which is accurate, but a fee is coming.

I am not going to try and suggest that they can’t, or shouldn’t, charge for using their service, since of course they can. In fact, it would be easy to justify charging for Skype. It is very popular in the tech industry, and podcast world, and it is a great product. My question is, why only for 3G calls?. Is it simply a business decision on their end, or are the wireless providers involved?

Why should it matter to Skype where my bandwidth is coming from? It should not. If I am on DSL or Cable I can make Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls for free, but on the unlimited 3G data plan – I am forced into buying – I have to pay more? If Skype charged a monthly fee for their service, regardless of the connection method, that would actually make more sense. Charging only for 3G access seems like an AT&T charge. I might as well just use my cell minutes. OK, long distance may still come out cheaper on Skype, but the bigger issue is that this will change the image of Skype. Gone is the simple statement “Skype-to-Skype calls are free”. Adding the small italic text “*except over 3G where a small monthly fee is required” kind of kills the flow.

Before someone mentions that Skype is a business, and is free to charge for new features, I know that. Businesses are supposed to try and make profit, and I don’t mean to suggest otherwise. I don’t see opening a bandwidth option as a new feature. I see it as lifting a carrier mandated restriction, or removing a crippling feature. The other argument I have seen in various forums is that Skype needs to charge to finance their app development. A monthly charge was simply a bad business decision. There were options available to Skype to monetize app development that are more customer friendly than a recurring charge. What they have really done is create incentive to wait and use Skype on a different connection. That is not smart.

How could Skype better monetize the iPhone market? Simple. They could have implemented in-app purchases of Skype Credit. They could have even charged a small fee for the app itself. For me, I will simply wait until I am in front of my computer before I use Skype. The app is off my iPhone.

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?

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.

My Top 20 iPhone Apps for 2009

Monday, January 4th, 2010

I live on my iPhone. In fact, it has changed my relationship to the data I consume more than any technology I have ever used. Part of the reason for that is the App Store, and in 2009 the choice of apps exploded. Below is a list of 20 apps, in no particular order, that I either use regularly, like a lot, or think show promise for the future. While I use and love many of the default iPhone apps, such as Google Maps, I tried to keep this list based on app store downloads. This was much tougher than I thought it would be. It started as a top 10 list, but there are some apps I could just not remove from the list. Some I have barely used, but I feel they could be game changers after a few updates. Oh yeah, many of these are free. Enjoy!

Tweetie 2 – The ultimate Twitter client. With multiple account support and many advanced features. My primary twitter interface.

N.O.V.A. Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance – My Favorite first person shooter to date.

IMDb – The Internet Movie Database. Lookup a movie, tv show, or celebrity, and get all the related details.

Shazam – Identify the songs you hear playing in movies or the radio.

RedLaser – Check online prices by simply scanning a products bar code.

Flickr – A great way to view your flickr images, or those of your flickr contacts.

U-verse TV – Only useful if you have U-Verse TV, but this has come in very handy for programming my DVR when I’m not at home.

AP Mobile – The latest news, via Push Notification.

Domain Scout – Find that new domain name, fast and easy.

Lookup – A great DNS lookup tool. Lookup A, CName, NS, MX, SOA, PTR and more.

UStream Broadcaster – Stream live video from anywhere you have a WiFI or 3G internet connection.

Reel Director – Video editing for the iPhone. Amazing app with transitions, titles, trimming and more.

Slowmo – Create fast or slow motion videos right on the phone. Combined with Reel Director (above) you have a video studio on the phone.

Pano – A simple way to take panoramic photos with your iPhone.

TrueHDR – Merge two photos with different exposures to get photos with better dynamic range.

TiltShiftGen – Simulate the effect of a Tilt-Shift Lens to create miniature looking photos.

PS Mobile – Photoshop Mobile, enough said.

Wolfenstein 3D Classic Platinum – Great memories of an old game.

Now Playing – Find the movie times, and reviews, you need, based on your location.

iSSH – An SSH, telnet, raw, X11 and VNC client. Yes, all of them.

There are more where these came from but it’s a start. If you have others then mention them below or contact me and maybe I’ll do a more comprehensive, category based list for new iPhone owners.