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Archive for November 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. iPhone v.2.2 update.

Apple released iPhone 2.2 Software Update last week, which delivers several anticipated features, most notably, Google Street View, public-transportation information and walking directions. There’s also a slew of application enhancements and welcomed bug fixes to improve reliability. While progress is good, we’ve found the new update to be both positive and problematic, especially for the development community.One of the key features that we're particularly pleased with is the enhancement of Google Maps with the addition of Google Street views, public transit and walking directions, dropped pin address display and the ability to share location via email. A more robust integrated mapping system means additional value for developers who include links to it. Applications such as our upcoming GPS, GasBuddy and Overnight are centered around the mapping functionality and thus serendipitously benefit from these improvements.Apple has made a number of changes to the App Store.  Some of the applauded features include the ability to review directly from the phone and to see multiple screen captures. New listing displays each application from top paid rather than most recent, boosting apps that continue to perform.  This however, can be misleading because, although the default is still top paid when viewing a category detail, it is based on download quantity rather than gross revenue - in essence rewarding low cost .99 cent apps over more feature-rich solutions (similar to iTunes).  Apple also rewards free applications by showing top downloads per category. Note that almost all top downloads per category are free. While we welcome many of the improvements to the App Store, the top icon per category is unfortunately skewed towards the development of freeware.Application developers were also disconcerted to realize that the integrated email location and remote podcast updating takes up functionality that other developers were previously selling or attempting to sell. This leaves concern for other features Apple may want to ‘assume.’ Are they producing an integrated recorder, or GPS tracker? How does one know what solution to solve that will not be relevant enough for Apple to stay away.But for developers one of the biggest issues is how updates can "break" an application with no warning. It's a huge challenge to get a high-feature app to be stable on the iPhone. In fact, we don't just have to make our app stable, we have to guard against instabilities in other apps and the iPhone itself (a little known secret is that many apps crash not because they are unstable, but because an app running before them had a memory leak).This is not an easy job. But it's one we signed up for. In the 2.2 update, changes in Core Audio rendered one of our applications, Voxie, useless. We weren't the only victim. We don't have a total count, but several hundred other apps "broke" on this last iPhone update for various reasons. We can't comment on how other developers handled this, but we had to work day and night for 2 days to fix everything, then our update sat in the review queue for 5 days before our customers got it.We couldn’t help receiving negative reviews and poor public perception. And the review stick with you and are painful to an app. Furthermore, we have no way to contact those reviewers to tell them the problem has long since been fixed. But that's a subject for a different blog post.In the end we do think these things can be avoided if future updates had a companion process that developers could rely on to test their apps before Apple pulls the trigger. This would help developers as much as it would the users of our apps.

While we'll take the bad with the good as part and parcel of the business, it's extremely disconcerting when it affects our customers so acutely, such as the case with Voxie. We can only strive to react quickly and soundly to issues arising from any future updates.

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AT&T offers free WiFi hotspot access to iPhone customers!

Kudos to AT&T for making it even easier to stay connected. AT&T recently announced that they are providing free WiFi access to iPhone* users at thousands of US hot spots. This welcomed news comes after several frustrating early leaks in May and July:

AT&T knows Wi-Fi is hot, and FREE Wi-Fi is even hotter. Which is why FREE AT&T Wi-Fi access is now available for Apple iPhone at thousands of hotspots nationwide, including Starbucks*. Users can relax and access music, email and web browsing services with their favorite blend in hand from the comfort of their nearest location. For information visit www.att.com/attwifi.
By using the AT&T or Starbucks locator tool, you can locate AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot locations at:
  • Airports
  • Hotels
  • Universities
  • Convention Centers
  • Sports Centers
  • Starbucks locations
  • Restaurants
  • Bookstores
  • Supermarkets
How to set up AT&T WiFi on your phone:
  • Activate Wi-Fi from the settings icon on your iPhone
  • Select "attwifi" from the list of available networks
  • Enter your 10-digit mobile number and check the box to agree to the Acceptable Use Policy. Tap 'continue'
  • You will receive a text message from AT&T with a secure link to the AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot. You will not be charged for the text message.
  • The SMS link will only be valid for 24 hours at the location it was requested. Another request must be submitted when using another hotspot location.
  • Open the text message and tap on the link for 24-hour access to the AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot
* BlackBerry users who have either a BlackBerry Bold, the BlackBerry Pearl 8120 or the BlackBerry 8820 also qualify for the free WiFi offer

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You’ve Spoken and We’re listening. Wings v2.0 coming soon!

Since the release of Wings, many of you have written to us words of encouragement, advice and critiques. Wings placed us in new territory as our first app so we can’t tell you how much we appreciate the ongoing interaction with our users and the productive feedback you’ve provided. One of the most frequent comment we’ve received is that Wings doesn’t feel game-like enough – you really don’t have much flight control or suffer any consequences in game play. While we initially intended Wings to be more of a relaxation inducer and less of a high energy flight simulator, we also want to address the suggestions of our users. Wings v2.0 will do just that. You’ll find greater control options, improved game play interaction and more appealing visuals. We believe then that you’ll be as excited as we are about some of the key features that are coming to v2.0.

  • Menu UI Improvements: You’ll first notice some visual changes – a cooler, sleeker look and improvements to the user interface overall.
  • New Terrains: We’ve updated all stages with four amazing new terrains to explore.
  • Flight Control: Tap the screen while flying to access the new flight controls. You can then pause, return to main menu or control flight speed by moving the throttle.
  • Interactive Gameplay Feedback: Apparently flying without consequence is more distressing than the fear of crashing. Many of you asked for the ability to crash or sustain damage, so when crashing on the ground, the screen will now shake the back and forth (like a jostle effect) and show the screen to be “cracked” accompanied by breaking glass noise. Damage glass will fade once flight commences as not to add too much 'distressing'.
There will be some other “surprises” to discover as we continue working to keep Wings fresh and compelling - so keep those comments coming. If you'd like to see something, let us know through our poll or comment below. We always love hearing from you!

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