Does the Distinction Between Online and Offline Still Matter?

I’m old enough to remember when being at home meant that you were off work. There was no logging in from home to check your mail. (If you wanted your mail, you had to drive into the office to pick it up.) Computers were big boxes that sat under your desk, not something you carried back and forth between home and the office with ease. Occasionally, you might bring home paperwork or something that you needed to read, but the constant connection to work was rare. Being online was something that I associated more with work than recreation, and it required conscious thought and effort.

Now, my phone has more processing power than my first work computer, and I am always connected. This connection isn’t just for work, or even for productivity. I rely on being connected for many routine personal tasks: dictionary, looking up random facts, amusement, recipes, etc. I jump back and forth seamlessly and no longer really think of it as being online or offline. I take it for granted that I can always be connected on a moment’s notice. Read More about Does the Distinction Between Online and Offline Still Matter?

Weekly App Store Picks: October 31, 2009

As another week passes, the seams of Apple’s App Store have been stretched even further with a deluge of new releases. Digging through the latest apps, I’ve selected four fresh picks for you to check out.

It’s Halloween and so my top pick for this week is Alive 4-ever, a top-down zombie shooter with plenty of guts and gore to go around. I’ve also been checking out TowerMadness Zero, NASA and WordPress 2.

Alive 4-ever ($1.79)

appicon_alive_4everAs it’s Halloween, I thought that at least one of my top picks this week should be themed for the occasion. Despite the clumsy sounding name, Alive 4-Ever is a surprisingly polished top-down shooter. The plot is simple and disgustingly cliché: for whatever reason, a zombie apocalypse happens, you take to the streets to rescue other survivors.

The game takes its inspiration from some of the best zombie titles out there, including Resident Evil and Left 4 Dead. There’s a battalion’s worth of weaponry on offer, including zombie-slaying classics like the AK-47. Plus, if you’re after more firepower you’re able to purchase bigger, stronger, faster guns in the shop after each level.

There’s also a Bluetooth multiplayer mode, allowing you to jump into the action with three other friends. Alongside guns, zombies and survivors, the game throws in experience points too. Completing a stage earns experience points, these precious points go towards upgrading your character. In effect, you’re able to become the ultimate undead-destroying warrior.
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Weekly App Store Picks: September 5, 2009


The first week of September has seen a deluge of new arrivals at the App Store. It’s time for me to search through the latest releases for iPhone and hand-pick my recommendations for the past seven days.

This week I’ve been looking at Button, Facebook, BlogPress and Quicksilver.
appicon_buttonButton (Free)
One of my favorite sci-fi novels, “Better Than Life,” oscillates between a deep space distopia and an almost perfect Earth as it follows the surviving crew members of the Red Dwarf mining ship. It’s soon revealed that the crew’s collective vision of Earth is actually a highly addictive massively multiplayer online game beamed directly into their brains, leaving their real bodies in a seemingly catatonic state. Rather than take a giant leap towards this sinister style of multiplayer gaming, Button instead takes baby steps. There’s a big button, everyone around the world sees the button, when the button lights up you must push the button, sometimes you win a prize, usually you don’t. Button is effectively a nonsensical distraction that seems to tickle just the right bit of your brain. Plus, you can ramp up the futility by playing as a team. I’ve created a special team called tab just for readers of TheAppleBlog, come join my group and let’s push buttons together. Read More about Weekly App Store Picks: September 5, 2009

App Developer Diary 5: Building on a Budget

iphone-budgetGoing behind-the-scenes of a real iPhone app’s development, in this installment I investigate several methods for cutting development costs and adding value to the game.

I have to admit that I’m still working on the Game Design Document. Something which I thought would take only a few days has grown to incorporate minute details alongside gargantuan fundamental gameplay concepts. This document is essentially Tetris in written form: piling on concept after concept, attempting to make it fit together before the whole thing becomes too unwieldy to manage.
While work on the GDD should finish this week – Matias has stated that this Friday is the absolute deadline – I’m finding the time to explore other related areas of app development. In my last entry I spoke to Mills, one of the founders of ustwo, a growing independent mobile content studio.
Mills provided me with some revealing data in terms of development costs and sales. Looking at ustwo’s costs for app development relative to the revenue that they generated led me to think about how I could lower our own development costs while increasing the app’s desirability.
I’ve managed to find three different solutions that add value to our app and cost either very little or absolutely nothing.
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Weekly App Store Picks: July 18, 2009


Once again, it’s that special time of the week when we all join hands, take a deep breath and exhale as we take a spiritual journey through the latest app picks for iPhone.

Before we reach app Zen, however, it’s time for a refreshing run through of the week’s iPhone news and Apple happenings.

Credit cards at the ready, the week opened with the resurgence of the Apple (s aapl) tablet rumor. Fueled by word from component suppliers in China, the rumor is that we could see an Apple tablet retailing by October this year.

One year on from the App Store’s launch and Apple is feeling particularly pleased with its paradigm shifting achievement. So pleased, in fact, that it dropped a big number in celebration: 1.5 billion App Store downloads in the first year. Impressive indeed. I wonder if Nokia, Palm (s palm) or RIM (s rimm) will ever catch up?

Our own Clayton Lai returned this week with “Jailbreak,” an ongoing series that’s all about getting the most out of your jailbroken iPhone. His latest offering explains how to spruce up your iPhone’s lock screen with calendars, Twitter feeds and more.

Still on the subject of jailbreaking, over on the iPhone 3GS there’s a new unlock in town: purplesn0w. It improves on the Dev Team’s ultrasn0w, providing a much more stable unlock, while improving battery life and Wi-Fi connectivity.

It seems that most users won’t notice any difference with the latest iTunes update, however Palm Pre owners are in for a surprise sandwich filled with the meat of disappointment: Apple has blocked Palm Pre syncing in iTunes. Pre owners, I adore your device, but it was bound to happen, it has happened, get over it.

And finally, Google (s goog) has brought local web search to the iPhone. The service makes use of the iPhone’s 3.0 software update, which now includes HTML 5 Geolocation API support in Safari. This basically means that web sites can determine your location and provide you with relevant and useful data. By which I mean adverts, lots of adverts.

Moving on to the picks, this week I’ve been looking at Worms, Spell Number, Zombies & Me and Tap Star. Read More about Weekly App Store Picks: July 18, 2009

Weekly App Store Picks: July 4, 2009


It’s that time of the week — when we welcome you to the weekend with a selection of the freshest picks for the iPhone from the App Store.

Hold your horses, though, because before we dive headfirst into a glorious ocean of iPhone apps, I’ve got a roundup of notable Apple news from the past seven days.

We’re starting the weekend by giving you the chance to win a free game for your iPhone, courtesy of Poppy, an excellent one-man game studio in Japan. The game in question, Brave Man, is reminiscent of Bishop’s knife trick from Aliens, except instead of an interstellar synthetic, you play a lumberjack trying not to cut his hand with a knife. Want to win a promo code for Brave Man? To be in with a chance, leave a comment at the end of this post telling me about the bravest thing you’ve ever done.

Some unexpected bad news for early adopters of the iPhone 3GS this week when their new devices became literally too hot to handle. It turns out that the 3GS suffers from an overheating problem that is so bad that apparently white iPhones have been turning pink. Is that going to stop me from purchasing a 3GS? Absolutely not, I’ll take mine in limited edition blazing hot pink, please.

The latest update to the iPhone software, OS 3.1, has been rolled out to developers. This also means that it’s probably not too long before it’s pushed to regular iPhone users, too. Expect a raft of fixes and updates to the OS, including improved boot time, fraud protection in Safari, and the potential for video editing in third-party apps.

There’s been a slow drip-feed of app’s hitting the store that support OS 3.0’s new features. Notably, Remember The Milk is the first to-do app supporting push notifications. This means that, even when the app isn’t running, it’ll ping you with a reminder for forthcoming tasks that need completing. It’s a premium service, available only to subscribers, but one that may prove essential for iPhone-toting productivity connoisseurs.

Over in the EU, several phone manufacturers, including Apple, have agreed on a standard charging interface for all cell phones. The news of Apple signing up for this standard comes as a surprise. At first glance, it implies that it would be dropping its traditional proprietary dock port from the iPhone. An Apple representative cleared up the confusion, stating that the iPhone will, at some unspecified point, start shipping with a micro USB adaptor.

And finally, potential purchasers of the iPhone 3GS should head on over to Apple’s brand-new 3GS availability page. After serving an astounding 1 million devices in the opening weekend, sales are clearly going strong enough to warrant launching this handy inventory tool.

Moving on to the picks, this week I’ve been looking at Jamble, Birdfeed, Rolando 2 and RunPee. Read More about Weekly App Store Picks: July 4, 2009

App Developer Diary Part 1: Game On


This is the first installment of one journalist’s diary designing a game. It is a genuine, behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to develop an app, from conception to release, for Apple’s (s aapl) iPhone.

This isn’t your regular developer diary. There’ll be no talk of code and classes, no discussion of the intricacy of integers or vileness of variables. In fact, before we begin my journey into game design, I’ll take a moment to set the scene.

Late last year, I hit the 3-year mark working at a big name mobile game publisher. My grand scheme, after graduating from college — studying for a degree in “Computer & Video Games” — was to take a job at an established game studio, learn my trade, garner some valuable industry experience and then go solo. Deep down, I wanted to make the kind of games that weren’t being made enough: Katamari Damacy, Rez, Jet Set Radio Future and Vib Ribbon.

I wasn’t exactly sure what going solo entailed, but I knew it involved me ploughing my own creative furrow. More importantly, after doing the full-time thing, I also knew that my solo endeavors wouldn’t involve a regular 9-to-5: I work best during night hours, while the city sleeps, like Batman, but with less scowling and cape swishing.

Fresh from college, when many of my peers were jobless, or asking their ‘clients’ if they wanted to supersize, or, worse still, working in QA for a game developer, I landed myself a producer role at a big-name mobile publisher. In just my first year as producer, I found myself working on projects for hit Hollywood movies and my favorite comic book characters. Read More about App Developer Diary Part 1: Game On

Weekly App Store Picks: June 6, 2009


The week may be drawing to a close, but here at TheAppleBlog we’ve got an array of apps to get your through the weekend.

As ever, I’ve got four notable new iPhone releases from the App Store to tell you about. Before we jump into the apps, though, let’s take a look at the week that was with a quick news roundup.

The week kicked off with a bit of a downer as news broke that Apple will be charging for re-downloading premium apps that you’ve already purchased for iPhone. It’s not a big deal — it seems downloading via iTunes will still be free — but it’ll be an inconvenience to users who are prone to deleting and re-downloading apps while on the go.

Next up, Microsoft is well and truly on the warpath with its forthcoming Zune HD, and what’s more, it’s gunning for the iPod touch. The new device will have a touchscreen, web browser, Wi-Fi, HD radio and, I think, looks rather scrummy. Delicious-looking it may be, but I still don’t know if that makes it a true contender.

Our own Henry Balanon stepped up to the plate with a seriously impressive iPhone development resources article. He managed to squeeze in 43 different links to various resources around the ‘net. Coders should head on over to the article and bookmark it immediately; it’ll prove useful as a reference tool.

Another new feature coming to the iPhone has been doing the rumor-rounds: Apple is integrating geo-location within Mobile Safari. Are location-aware web sites the next big thing? Setting aside Google Latitude, I’m not entirely convinced. Hit up the article for Darrel Etherington’s take on the matter.

Pipping Apple’s new devices to the post, Palm’s Pre should be hitting the shelves today. Owners of the Pre will be pleased to hear that Palm’s new devices will sync seamlessly with iTunes.

To celebrate the recent release of Dave Matthews Band Revenge for iPhone and iPod touch, I’ve got three promo codes to give away. To be in with a chance of winning, leave me a comment explaining why you’d like to play this new game.

Moving on to the picks, this week I’ve been looking at Put Things Off, Jaman Free Movie Fridays, Pocket Alan, and Terminator Salvation Lite. Read More about Weekly App Store Picks: June 6, 2009

App Review: Stuck Genie — There’s a Genie in Your iPhone

title=Stuck Genie

A genie, a load of balls, and an ancient labyrinth come together to create a frustrating, but fun, puzzler.

One of the big boys in the movie biz, Warner Bros., has been solidly churning out iPhone apps for the past few months. Most of these apps have been global franchises, though, including Terminator Salvation, Watchmen and — the double whammy of brand-names — LEGO Batman.

Without a movie, cartoon series, or line of toys, Stuck Genie is an entirely original game. Containing 73 puzzles, the game challenges you to complete each one and earn the highest score. Read More about App Review: Stuck Genie — There’s a Genie in Your iPhone

Weekly App Store Picks: May 16, 2009


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, even better, it’s a super selection of fresh picks, plucked from the App Store, especially for you.

But that’s not all I’ve got in store for you this weekend: After perusing the week’s happenings right here at TheAppleBlog, I’ve prepared a swift run-down of Apple (s aapl) news from the past seven days.

The folks over at Amazon (s amzn) kicked off the week by dropping an update to the Kindle for iPhone app. A few weeks back, Amazon acquired the company behind Stanza, the free e-Book reader. It seems as if Amazon is still pushing forward with the Kindle for iPhone app, rather than, as I would have expected, focusing its efforts, and considerable resources, on rolling Stanza and Kindle into one.

TheAppleBlog’s Henry Balanon helped melt away those Monday blues with a new iPhone Dev Sessions tutorial. For coders and tech-minded musicians alike, this should be a particularly interesting one, as Henry’s latest article is all about creating a drum machine app for iPhone.

On Tuesday, Microsoft (s msft) launched a shot across the bow of Apple’s iPod, with its latest Zune advertisement. The ad features Apprentice-losing certified financial adviser Wes Moss, explaining why a Zune is much more of an economically savvy purchase than the iPod.

Perhaps signaling the end of the line for the iPhone 3G, Apple has now made it possible to purchase the device online. It’s the latest in a long line of what seems to be inventory-clearing tactics from Apple, making way for the rumored iPhone refresh this summer. Potential buyers should consider holding out for a possible iPhone announcement in the coming weeks.

Also this week, David Klein posted an excellent tutorial on setting up Google (s goog) Sync for Mac and iPhone. This is essential reading, both for Gmail users looking to integrate their iPhone more closely with their Google account and for MobileMe users looking for a free alternative to Apple’s service.

Moving on to the picks, this week I’ve been looking at When Sysadmins Ruled The Earth, Guru Meditation, Resident Evil: Degeneration and Peggle. Read More about Weekly App Store Picks: May 16, 2009