January 27, 2012

Hands On With the Uber-Useful Launch Center, An Automator For iOS [Macworld 2012]

Here’s a quick look at AppCubby’s $ 0.99 Launch Center app, a very cool and useful app launcher that’s like Automator for iOS.

The app allows you to set up all kinds of actions and schedule them. Version 1.1 adds actions to iOS’s Notification Center. Take checking your Facebook messages, for example. This normally takes several steps: searching for the Facebook app, launching it and finding the messages tab. In Launch Center, you can set it up to check your messages every morning from just one finger-tap on the Notifications screen.

The app can be configured to work with a ton of apps and perform pretty complex actions, like calling your mom every week or adjusting the screen brightness down every night. Today’s update has prope and is already in the App Store’s Top 100. Here’s the app’s creator, David Barnard, showing how it works.

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Cult of Mac

Whale Trail Developer Reveals What It Takes To Hit The Jackpot On iOS And Android [Interview]

Whale Trail Developer Reveals What It Takes To Hit The Jackpot On iOS And Android [Interview]

Whale Trail is a popular sidescroller that originated from the Apple App Store. The game can best be described as Tiny Wings meets Angry Birds on acid. Whale Trail is a colorful, charming, quirky and addictive game — not to mention one of my personal favorites.

As we’ve already told you, Whale Trail recently launched on the Android Marketplace. I got to sit down with the head of the company behind Whale Trail to talk about the pros and cons between developing for Android and iOS. 

Mills (better known as the “CHIEF WONKA” of ustwo™) was kind enough to chat with me about Whale Trail’s success. He also gave his take on the pros and cons of Android and iOS development. Coming from the perspective of a dev that has made it big on both platforms, we figured that he would have some interesting things to share.

Before you jump into the interview, make sure to check out this whacky video from last October to get a taste of what ustwo™ is like:

CoA: Why go Android? Have you guys been planning on releasing in the Market since Whale Trail launched in the App Store?

CHIEF WONKA:

Mobile game development is unquestionably the most exciting arena to be in right now, and the lure of the golden treacle that awaits you IF you smash it, is enough to make a man go clinically mad.

Apart from an elite few, the chance of your title on a single platform hitting the jackpot is unlikely. On top of that, good games cost money to make. We originally invested £150,000 ($ 196,635) worth of ustwo™ manpower to bring it to market. Once launched on iOS and having proved it had legs, we had the confidence to make the move to Android.

Android has always been part of our studio vision; with a 50/50 split of Android and iOS developers in house, we don’t really see them as two separate platforms… instead we focus on making games and entertainment. If the platform has power potential, we will dive right in.

We had originally planned to release Whale Trail on both platforms at the same time, but in the end, due to major overruns in the iOS development process, it wasn’t possible. It was a real blow at the time as we were confident that the game was good enough to peak the interest of the big websites, with any noise generated benefiting downloads on both platforms.

Focusing on iOS for launch, we decided to sell at a premium of 69p ($ 0.99). We thought we had a good chance of being promoted from the get go by Apple as they regularly promote quality original titles, and that’s exactly what happened. Whale Trail was “Game of the Week” in 78 countries around the world, meaning that combined with the huge PR push, we had over 32,000 downloads over the launch weekend. Apple promotion was a game changer for us, giving us a huge head start. It was also unbelievable to know that Apple had so much faith in us.

After the initial iOS launch, we focused on re-working the game by adding a new challenge mode (having listened to user feedback) and the move to Android. In the future we will make sure we launch on both platforms at the same time. Double trouble is the ultimate and the only way to achieve pure power.

CoA: How has Whale Trail fared on the Android Market? Are you impressed by the numbers? How do the initial results compare to the game’s success in the App Store?

CHIEF WONKA:

It’s going to be very difficult to compare fairly as we launched on iOS with huge word of mouth buzz, global Apple support, and almost every gaming website press coverage. If we’re lucky enough to get quality Google promotion, then a more realistic comparison could be made. So far we’ve been massively impressed with the release on the Android Market and within 48 hours we’ve received over 2,500 downloads at 69p ($ 0.99) and an average 4.5 rating.

The pickup has been amazing and this is a green light for us. This tells us that quality games have a massive chance of doing well. Within that same 48 hours we were the 8th best-selling new release. If we can get into a prime visible slot, we have a very good chance of taking steps towards recouping our investment.

CoA: What’s been your favorite platform to develop for so far? Are there aspects of Android development that make it a better experience in certain ways, or does iOS take the cake?

CHIEF WONKA:

What has fascinated me is the strict divide that occurs between iOS and Android users in the tech community. Most people are either in one camp or the other, almost like rival gangs who won’t stray from their turf. But, this is slowly changing as people begin to push their own boundaries driven by the thought of what else is out there.

As a developer I can say for us, up until recently, that Apple’s App Store was a more appealing place to sell premium apps. I suppose in a way the process seemed simpler and more straightforward at the time. However, with more and more Android handsets being sold, increasing the size and demand of the market, as well as an improved storefront that rivals the App Store in many ways, Android is now a publishing force to be reckoned with… so much so in fact… I’d like to think all future ustwo™ app launches will launch on both platforms simultaneously.

In terms of client work, we’re totally platform agnostic, offering solutions to clients based on their business needs. But for our own IP app releases that come out of ustwo’s CWA department – Content With Attitude, our focus has been on iOS because of the small size and specialism of the team. In the last couple of years the app market has very much been shaped by huge levels of press interest and it’s been undeniable that iOS has been the poster boy platform, meaning more developer interest in it. A downside of this ‘attention’ is that now it’s harder than ever to get your product out there and in front of users due to intense competition.

For us, the press interest has been great for the studio. Many of our products have been labelled as succailures (successful failures), simply because they haven’t sold in their millions but have generated a lot of mainstream media interest which in turn has helped raise the profile of the studio.

On a different note, I’ve been massively impressed with the Top New Chart on the Android market. The seven-day rolling chart made up of the last month’s releases is great for developers as it helps with discoverability, as newly launched app don’t need to compete with established winners to get standout. It’s this that has helped take Whale Trail to no.5 in new releases within the first 5 days, and an overall position of no.62 with only word of mouth and PR driving downloads.

CoA: Anything else you’d like to say about the future of Whale Trail? We’re all ears.

CHIEF WONKA:

In a matter of weeks we’re excited to announce that we’ll be bringing Whale Trail to the NOOK Color and NOOK tablet. We see a huge opportunity to sell massive volumes there, as the curation of apps is absolute quality and the competition is far less in terms of volume.

Overall we’re now selling around 1,350 Whale Trails a day, which we’re happy with. We’re seeing over 1,000 hits to our Gruff Rhys music video and 2,000 hits a day for our Whale Trail trailers. We’re currently finalizing our latest update for both platforms, which will include an updated ‘endless mode’ with more power ups and another 32 levels. And this time we’re taking users to the dark side.

Whale Trail can be downloaded for $ 0.99 in the Android Market and $ 0.99 in the Apple App Store.

(Via Cult of Android.)

Cult of Mac

Check Out The Original iPhone Film Festival Winners [Macworld 2012]

Check Out The Original iPhone Film Festival Winners [Macworld 2012]

OIFF Founders at MacWorld. @Cultofmac.

SAN FRANCISCO, MACWORLD / iWORLD 2012 — The inaugural edition of the Original iPhone Film Festival (OIFF) gave out awards to small-screen Steven Spielbergs.

OIFF founders Corey Rogers & Matt Dessner were on hand to talk about common iPhone filmmaking problems, like getting release forms and copyright snafus. (If you want to take your iPhone videos from crappy to snappy, check out our exclusive interview with some great tips from Dessner.)

Nancy Lee – Music Video from The Original iPhone Film Fest on Vimeo.

Looking to laud the people who harness the power of the iPhone to become walking Fellinis, the contest received hundreds of entries, about 75 percent from amateurs, from countries including Iraq, Peru and the Philippines.

• The Grand prize winner, featured above,  is “Nancy Lee” Directed by Alen Petkovic.  It’s an old-school music video featuring band Vintage Trouble, shot with four iPhone 4s at once.

• Fiction: “The Latter” Directed by Micah Moss

• Non-fiction: “Kalapukan (Mudplace)” Directed by Michael Guhil.

• Brand film: “Veuve Cliquot – Wish You Were Here” Directed by Melissa Martens.

You can check out all the finalists here.

The second edition of the OIFF is already in the works, the organizers hope to grow the community of iPhone filmmakers around a new blog called iphonefilmaker.com.

nicole_martinelli

Nicole Martinelli is a San Francisco native who has lived in Milan and Florence, Italy. She’s written for Wired.com, The New York Times and Newsweek. You can find her on Twitter , Facebook and Google+.

If you’re doing something new/cool that’s Apple related, email her about it.

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Cult of Mac

New Yorker Writer Susan Orlean Threatened Divorce To Convert Her Husband To Mac [Macworld / iWorld 2012]

New Yorker Writer Susan Orlean Threatened Divorce To Convert Her Husband To Mac [Macworld / iWorld 2012]

SAN FRANCISCO, MACWORLD / iWORLD 2012 — Talking on stage about her love of technology and gadgets, New Yorker writer Susan Orlean rhapsodized her iPad, and told how she converted her husband to Apple technology.

A self-confessed geek, Orlean told how the iPad solved all the problems she had with working and traveling with technology. She had a Danger Sidekick, but would go nuts taking notes on it. She finds her MacBook too heavy to carry all day.

She also not afraid of losing or damaging her iPad. “I can it take with me to take notes but it won’t have my life on it if it gets lost or stolen,” she said. “It solved all of my problems.”

And her favorite app?

“I’m a complete app obsessive,” she said. “I’ve done some app reviewing because I love it.”

Orlean said she has a “million” apps, all stuffed in folders, but her favorite app, the one she absolutely couldn’t live without, is Evernote, a popular database app for saving notes, photos, webpages and other ephemera. She uses it for reporting and in her personal life.

However, because the official Evernote app is clunky on the iPhone, she uses FastEver and FastSnap for capturing notes and photos instead.

The only game she plays is Bejeweled. “It’s like being a chain smoker,” she said. “It’s an addiction.”

Orlean is an author and staff writer for The New Yorker. Her bestseller, The Orchid Thief, was made into a movie staring Meryl Streep. Her latest book is Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend about Hollywood’s most famous canine movie star.

Orlean said there are four iPads in her household: one each for her and her husband; one for her son and one for their nanny.

“We got one for our nanny as a Christmas present,” she said. “I’ve never seen such joy on someone’s face.”

She also told how she converted her husband — described as a “Windows guy” — to Apple technology.

“Do you want to stay married?” she joked, which got a good response from the Macworld crowd.

She converted him because on trips he would always forget his PC power adapter and chargers for cell phone and other gadgets. Orlean would nevr forget hers, so it made sense for him to get the same devices.

“I persuaded him,” she laughed. “I got him in line. Now he has an iPhone, an iPad, a MacBook. He’s a changed man.”

Cult of Mac

Hands On: Keep Your Business Relationships Close at Hand With VIPOrbit [Macworld / iWorld 2012]

Hands On: Keep Your Business Relationships Close at Hand With VIPOrbit [Macworld / iWorld 2012]
SAN FRANCISCO, MACWORLD / iWorld 2012 — At the media preview last night at Macworld/iWorld, VIPOrbit Software had a ton of news to offer.

First, they unveiled a new version of VIPOrbit for the iPhone. The latest version has new features requested by its users, an improved user interface and an enhanced Dashboard.

Then they debuted VIPOrbit for iPad, bringing signature features from the initial iPhone app to iPad users.

VIPOrbit integrates your contacts with the calendar, providing quick access to all details of your business relationships. You can schedule appointments quickly, communicate easily and even bring social media into the mix if you’d like. The interface for both the iPhone and iPad are clean and easy to use, allowing quick access to the details you need and the Dashboard summarizes your activity for the day so that you’re never out of the loop.

There are customization and organizational tools built into VIPOrbit, and you can create reports and connect using a variety of methods such as email, Twitter, LinkedIN and text. VIPOrbit lets you build relationships and have them with you wherever you are, especially handy if you’re spending a lot of time travelling in your line of work.

For people who are looking for a heavy-duty contact manager that doesn’t look or feel too complicated to wrap your head around, VIPOrbit is worth a look. Regularly priced at $ !9.99 for the iPad (once the app is through the approval process) and $ 9.99 for the iPhone in The App Store, each product will be available for 50% off until March 1.

Cult of Mac

Valve’s Official Steam App Now Available For Android And iOS

Valve’s Official Steam App Now Available For Android And iOS
It looks like Valve threw a few extra coals into their engine after hearing about the 3rd party Steam app that was released earlier this month. They were not going to let any other app take their steam and so they have now released the official Steam app onto both Android and iOS. I’d like to say users are ecstatic, but there seems to be a catch.

After further investigation, we have found that the official Steam app is available to download in both the Android Market and App Store, but unless you are registered to be part of the Steam Mobile beta group, you won’t be able to use it. I’m not sure how you join the mobile beta group but perhaps Steam’s Mobile website has a bit more info on the subject.

It’s also worth noting that this isn’t a full-fledged Steam client, but you will be able to access the store to purchase games, as well as stay in touch with your Steam friends through community chat. You’ll also be able to browse user profiles and read up on the latest gaming news and Steam sales.

It would be a great start, if only everyone could us it. Perhaps this beta access will go public very soon, as the Steam website seems to make no mention of this beta program required to access the app.

I guess we should be happy that Valve has finally released an official Steam app, now we just have to get them to allow everyone to use it.

Get Steam in the Android Market | Steam

Get Steam in the App Store | Steam

Source: Steam Mobile

(Via Cult of Android.)

Cult of Mac

Today’s Stupidest “Exclusive Report” Says Apple’s Siri-Controlled iTV Will Arrive By April

Today’s Stupidest “Exclusive Report” Says Apple’s Siri-Controlled iTV Will Arrive By April

The hope of a new Apple product on the horizon tends to make tech blogs a little fanciful, sometimes even delusional, so it’s hard to fault Techno Buffalo too much for their “exclusive” report that an Apple-made OLED HDTV with Siri functionalities — the much talked about iTV — is coming out “this April, or possibly May at the latest.” Hey, we all get carried away from time to time.

That said, TechnoBuffalo’s report isn’t too be trusted. In fact, it’s total bullshit. Here’s why.

According to TechnoBuffalo, their “high-ranking source within a major electronics retailer” claims they have seen “gorgeous, very thin” pre-production versions of the much fabled Apple iTV. It’ll support Siri, as well as “facial recognition software” that will allow the device to automatically detect and turn itself off when someone leaves the room.

They say it will be an OLED display with panel sizes up to 42-inches, and launch in April, or maybe May, they aren’t entirely sure. Whatever.

In addition:

Our source said Apple is exploring the notion of using the set to control other connected devices in the home; think along the lines of ovens that pre-heat while you’re watching TV before dinner, and garage doors that can be closed by voice command while you sit on the couch.

So this is all well and good, and sounds like quite a device. But unfortunately, TechnoBuffalo’s report is laughable nonsense.

Why? First of all, an Apple iTV shipping in April or May is impossible for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s too close to the iPad 3”s late March / early April release date: Apple’s not going to subvert the launch of one new product by launching a more expensive one at the exact same time. That’s why Apple ships the iPad six months away from the iPhone now.

How do we know the iPad 3 will ship in late March? Easy. We have reputable reports that it has entered production as of early January. It takes time to build enough units to launch in March… which raises another reason why TechnoBuffalo’s report is suspect, to say the least. If the Apple iTV was shipping in April, it’d be entering production right now, but there are no reports suggesting that’s the case.

Finally, TechnoBuffalo’s source is supposedly “highly-placed” in a major electronics retailer. That’s all you need to read to know that their source is talking out of his ass. Apple isn’t going to be carting around their iTV prototype to Best Buy to work out a distribution deal. They are going to keep it secret until the last minute and then sell it directly through their network of Apple retail outlets first, then gradually expand to other big boxes over time. But major electronics retailers are absolutely not going to get a heads-up about the iTV before Tim Cook himself announces it.

So nice try, TechnoBuffalo, but I think we can safely say you got burned on a bum report. And hey, if I’m wrong, and the iTV does ship before mid-May, well, I’m sure me and Techno Buffalo can come to an arrangement about something disgustingly symbolic that I can eat to show that I was wrong.

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is news editor here at Cult of Mac, and has also written about a lot of things for a lot of different places, including Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Lifehacker, AMC, Geek and the Consumerist. He lives in Cambridge with his charming inamorata and a tiny budgerigar punningly christened after Nabokov’s most famous pervert. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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Cult of Mac

How To Make iPhone Videos That Don’t Suck [Macworld / iWorld 2012]

How To Make iPhone Videos That Don’t Suck [Macworld / iWorld 2012]

SAN FRANCISCO, MACWORLD/IWORLD 2012 — If your iPhone videos are so lame that even your loved ones won’t watch them anymore, we’ve got some advice for you.

Cult of Mac talked to Matt Dessner, co-founder of the Original iPhone Film Festival (OIFF),  about choosing a subject, keeping it steady, getting enough b-roll and what he calls the Golden Tip of Editing.

The OIFF is about to announce 2012 winners here; with a little practice you might win next year’s competition and a MacBook Air.

Cult of Mac: What’s the best way to shoot steady with an iPhone?

Matt Dessner: Ahh, the puzzling question: “To mount or to grip?” Like many challenges, there are often several good solutions.

When shooting with an iPhone, it always helps to have something to steady the ship. One way to go is to use a mount like ALM’s mCam. I really like this mount because it has 1/4” holes to put it on a tripod or mic stand and additionally offers so many additional spots to add a light, mic or anything else you can screw into a 1/4” hole. Without going into a full-on review, I assure you it should be one of the first mounts to consider.

The other option is a lightweight run-and-gun grip, like one from Zacuto called the iPhone zGrip. It’s simple to use and you can literally point your iPhone and shoot with one hand — and get the steady shots you could never do unassisted and one-handed…If you intend to attach other iPhonefilmmaking accessories and build a rig, go mCAM. If you’re on the run and want something simple you can keep in your bag for those eyewitness moments – grab a zGrip.

CoM: What makes a good subject for an iPhone film – since you’ve got some limitations with the field, etc.?

MD: A good subject is always something the iPhonefilmmaker feels passionately about. Yes, it sounds a bit Tony Robbins or Hallmark-like, but  if you are not 100% committed your audience will pick up on it immediately. So when picking a subject to shoot, if your passion is in place then there are really no limitations. The emerging ecosystem of iPhoneFilmmaking accessories and apps are amazing and can provide a solution for most challenges.

The iPhone in many ways is like a blank canvas; as a filmmaking device it can be dressed up in many ways to achieve amazing cinematic imagery.

CoM: Where do you stand on the “zoom” issue – is using it good idea for an iPhone video or better to  take separate shots?

MD: This really relates to shooting style and what is the best way to capture a shot that forwards the story being told.
I’m a fan of separate shots. It’s just the way my mind works and the way I see a story being built. I actually visualize a storyboard in my mind and see the shots broken down in sequence.  Every shot is a unique step in the staircase of the narrative that fits in a certain spot.

Zooming has its place but it often is overused and reminiscent of home movies shot on camcorders. Now if zooming is something that is integral to your style of shooting, then I’d look into a lens adapter like one that encinema makes. You can that pop on a DSLR lens and really control your zoom without having to artificially blow up the frame with a digital effect.

CoM: Do you have any editing shortcuts/tips?

MD: I come from a post-production background having designed, edited and animated TV commercials in New York City. So post is one of my favorite parts of making a story come to life. Whatever the flavor of the month is in the production world, one rule holds true: “garbage in, garbage out.” That simply means that you can’t rely on the old adage “We will fix it in post.” You need to get good shots in the can.

So now here is the golden tip..wait for it,wait…OK here it is: When it comes to iPhonefilmmaking, make sure that when you offload your footage onto your drive (assuming you are cutting on a computer not the phone) you want to grab the UNCOMPRESSED footage off the iPhone.

This will ensure you are starting with the most pristine version of the digital file. A great app to do that with is the Photo Transfer App. You can pull the uncompressed raw files over to your mac and it works wirelessly. Just brilliant.

CoM: The best advice I ever got from a producer was “b-roll, b-roll, b-roll!” (meaning you can never have enough supplemental/extra footage), does this hold true for iPhone films? What makes good iPhone b-roll?

MD: B-roll is always great because it visually fills in holes that can act as a bridge between cuts/shots. Good b-roll starts with having it in the first place. Remember to remain a “first-time viewer” when making your story. People are not as familiar with your subject as you are. Bring out the details of the story by showing the viewer some of the things they would observe as if they were actually experiencing the shot in person.

Naturally, we don’t lock our eyes on one point of view when we witness and experience something. We look around, we notice…we take stock. We see that the blue collar worker we are talking to has rough skin on his hands from working all day outside. Or that the child eating a lollypop telling a story had thrown the wrapper halfway into his jeans pocket and it’s sticking out. Get a shot of the hands to cut away to during your edit! Get a close up shot of the wrapper poking our of the jeans pocket and use it – these details are the moments between the shots that engage us.

So b-roll can really elevate the production value and provide a deeper emotional connection for the viewer.

Cult of Mac

How To Take Screenshots On An iOS Device [iOS Tip]

How To Take Screenshots On An iOS Device [iOS Tip]How To Take Screenshots On An iOS Device [iOS Tip]

Ever wondered how you take a screenshot on your iOS device? It’s actually a lot simpler than you may think, with no need for third-party software or unauthorized tweaks.

In fact, this is one of the simplest tips we have. But seeing as though yesterday’s simple tip went down so well, we thought another one wouldn’t hurt. Here’s how to take screenshots on an iOS device.

Taking screenshots is a system-wide feature that allows you to snap an image of whatever’s displayed on your device at any time — regardless of which app you’re running. In fact, the only time this doesn’t work is during the startup or shutdown procedures.

When you want to capture your image, simply push the sleep/wake button (on the top of your device) and the home button (below the display) simultaneously.

How To Take Screenshots On An iOS Device [iOS Tip]

And it’s as simple as that. Your screenshot will now appear in your device’s Camera Roll within the Photos app.

Killian BellKillian Bell is a freelance writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also writes for TechnoBuffalo. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell, or through his website.

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Cult of Mac

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Commercial You Didn’t See [Humor]

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Commercial You Didn’t See [Humor]
We all love our tech, and manufacturers spend millions of dollars making sure we get excited about it through commercial spots. Unfortunately, they don’t always hire the best voice-overs to dub these commercials, and we’re about to see what happens when Samsung goes out on a limb to hire a sailor for their latest Samsung’s “It’s Time To Tab” commerical. Be warned, this is not safe for work, or anywhere else that crude sailor mouthed language is prohibited.

Are you thinking they should have stuck with this original concept? Fuck yeah!

(Via Cult of Android.)

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Cult of Mac