I was browsing Apple’s App Store yesterday, looking for some interesting new games to play during a very long flight I have coming up later this week. One of the apps that stood out as I was browsing the role-playing games section was GAMEVIL’s Destinia (iTunes link). It’s the #1 role-playing game in the U.S. store, has almost 5,000 reviews and a 5-star rating. There are not too many 5-star games out there for $0.99, so I took the plunge. Sadly, the game is a major disappointment. The graphics aren’t optimized for the iPhone 4’s display, the controls are bad, the music repetitive and it’s just plain boring as a game. So how did it get a 5-star rating?
As of now, Google isn't making it easy for developers to create apps that can write status updates to the service, but that didn't stop Nadan Gerdeo to build iSatus+, a little iPhone app ($0.99) that lets you post to Google+, Facebook and Twitter at the same time. I'm a big fan of simple apps that only do a few things, but do those right. iStatus+ is exactly that kind of app. You enter your account information for any of the networks you want to use - and if you are in the market for this kind of app, you'll probably put in all three anyway - and start posting. It really couldn't be any easier.
Posterous, the minimalist blogging/sharing platform that had some issues growing its business in the face of massive competition from Tumblr and similar services, announced a massive revamp of its service today. With Posterous Spaces, the company is now focussing more on sharing content privately - something both Google+ and Facebook are also trying to do. You can, of course, continue to post everything publicly as well, but Posterous clearly believes that the future of content sharing is likely to be private and not always out in the open.
When it comes to location-based services, check-in apps like FourSquare and Gowalla are probably the ones that have gotten the most attention. For the most part, though, the usefulness of these apps is still not quite clear. After all, there has to be more to location than discounts, virtual badges and mayorships. One service that has been trying to bring some much-needed attention to actually helping users solve a real-world problem through your phone’s built-in location features is EchoEcho. The service, available for iOS, Android, Symbian, Blackberry and (soon) Windows Phone, wants to make it easier for you to find and meet up with your friends. EchoEcho does so without forcing you to sign up for yet another social network (it just uses your existing address book) and its inherent usefulness means it doesn’t have to resort to “gamification” to get you to use it.
If you're a frequent traveller, you know how much of a hassle paid WiFi networks can be. For a while now, recent Microsoft acquisition Skype has been trying to make things a bit easier by giving its users the ability to pay for WiFi access with the money that already have on their Skype accounts. Even better, Skype WiFi access is metered by the minute, so you don't have to pay for an expensive hourly or daily pass just because you need to send an email from your laptop. Until now, Skype Wifi was only available for Windows machines and Macs, but starting today, you will also be able to use Skype's new Wifi app for iOS to get online.
Our friends over at Technologizer posted this interested video of a usability study featuring the iPhone 4, a Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7, a BlackBerry Storm and an HTC Thunderbolt running Android. This study, which as organized by University of Pittsburgh professor Dennis Galletta while teaching a summer course at Harvard, examined how novice users would perform a number of basic phone features like calling, adding contacts and sending a text message.
Google+ offers a pretty nice mobile web experience, but it’s relatively slow and limited when compared to the full web client on the desktop. While Android users have had access to a native Google+ app since launch – including access to Google’s Huddle group messaging feature – iPhone users had to wait for Apple to approve the app. That approval has finally come and the native iPhone app is now available in the App Store.
The first beta version of iOS 5 has only been out for about a week, but it's already clear that no other pre-release version of iOS has ever seen a wider release than this one. It's hard to pinpoint why this is the case, but there are clearly enough users who either paid $99 per year to become part of Apple's developer program or who paid a rogue activation service a few dollars to get access to the beta that way. As iOS developer Malcom Barclay notes, this wide release has some interesting consequences for developers: some users are now leaving negative iTunes reviews for apps that don't work on iOS 5 yet.
In what, as far as I know, is an unprecedented move for Apple, the company this morning announced what it plans to announce during its keynote at the company’s Wordwide Developer Conference (WWDC) next week. Typically, these events are shrouded in mystery and the days ahead of the conference are ripe with rumors and speculations as to what will be announced and who will announce it. Not so this year. Apple didn’t just announce the obvious – that we will see a preview of iOS5 and OS X Lion, but also that it will indeed launch a new suite of cloud-based services under the rumored iCloud name. While the Apple Kremlinologists will continue to speculate whether the fact that Apple announced that its “CEO Steve Jobs and a team of Apple executives will kick off” the event means that Steve Jobs is coming back from his medical leave or not, the fact that Apple pre-announced Jobs’ presence at the event is also unprecedented.
Opera today released the latest version of it’s Opera Mini mobile browser for iOS. This is Opera’s debut on the iPad. On the iPhone, this new version marks a huge step up from Opera 5, which was virtually unusable due to they way it displayed the rendered text. This new version has none of these issues and feels incredibly fast and smooth. On the iPad, however, it’s generally unusable, though this is not necessarily Opera’s fault: most websites automatically switch to a stripped-down mobile view when they see a request from Opera Mini, no matter the size of the screen the site is rendered on. This means lots of screen estate simply goes wasted.
The Yandex team launched an alpha version of its new browser today and there are plenty of interesting design ideas here. Overall, it feels like a bit of a hybrid between Safari and Opera Coast. I rather like the tabs at the bottom of the screen, but I'm not sure I could use a browser without a bookmark bar as...