Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Developer talks about Malls.SG

If you’re in a mall and you need to find a shop quickly, Malls.SG is your friend. The other day, I was in Plaza Singapura searching for school shoes (for my son), and dog food (not for my son). I whipped out my iPhone, called up Malls.sg and within seconds, I was able to find out where the relevant stores were. That inspired me to get in touch with developer Zhou Wenhan to thank him and to find out more about the app, which he had originally called Mallment.SG. 

Tell us about yourself. What do you do and how long have you been developing for the iPhone?
I am a final NUS student majoring in computer engineering and I am going to graduate this May. I am going on 26 years old. After I graduate, I will be working full time on my startup, 2359 Media.

Malls.SG is my first application. I started learning iPhone development in December of last year. The main resource used was the iPhone Developer Cookbook (by Erica Sadun) and the Stanford CS193P course materials. Malls.sg took about one month to develop and about one month to gather all the data from the various shopping mall’s website.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Local apps will take advantage of 3.0

Local apps will get new features as developers add in the new functionality offered in the latest iteration of the iPhone OS. In-app purchases, push notification and better maps are some of the new features you can expect from local apps that are tweaked for OS 3.0.

In-app purchasing looks like it will turn up in a big way. Almost all the developers surveyed cited in-app purchases as something they were thinking of. This is a feature that would allow users to purchase additional functionality within an app, rather than having to buy a new app.

Push notification is the other popular feature. Both Michael Tan (Upcoming Events) and Ong Jun Da (Hoiio, SG 4D, SG Toto and SG Pools) are excited about using push notifications in their apps.

Michael and Muh Hon Cheng (buUuk, SG Buses) are also planning to buff up their respective apps with better maps by using MapKit. MapKit will allow applications to use the built-in Maps app.

Hon Cheng is also interested in the in-app mailing sheet that will allow apps like buUuk and SG Buses to send out emails without leaving the application.

Joash Chee, on the other hand, is interested in peer-to-peer networking for Chordica, his app which turns the iPhone into a musical instrument.

Though not announced by Apple, the new iPhone OS has a faster Javascript engine (between three to 10 times faster according to some estimates). This is something that Lim Thye Chean (father of 9-year-old Lim Ding Wen) is excited about. His son has written an iPhone game in Javascript called Invader War that will perform better because of the faster Javascript engine.

The new OS and SDK is not just about improving old apps though. With 3.0, developers are now looking at new ideas. Says Joash: “A number of new features, especially push notification, have compelled me to return to the drawing board to fine-tune several app ideas I've been brewing and tossing around with my closest friends.”

Joseph Wee (Trafficam SG) feels the same way. “iPhone 3.0 opens up a lot more possibilities. Ideas that were not possible earlier are possible now.”

Gaming, apparently, has now become more interesting. “The new features in GameKit is promising,” notes Michael Tan. Hon Cheng, on the other hand, is excited by the potential of better connectivity. “I really want to play with the Bluetooth communication between devices,” he says.

While local developers largely like the new OS, a common complaint is that 3.0 will still not allow multiple apps to run simultaneously. Apple has said that this will slow down the phone and draw down the battery faster. Apple has offered push notification as an alternative but this does not work for all users, according to Michael. He notes: “PNS works well for always-connected devices (iPhone with Data). We get prompt notifications (provided Apple's servers delivers them as promised in a timely fashion).

“However, devices with sporadic networking abilities (iPod touch with WIFI access) will not get the notifications until they are connected to the cloud.

“For those devices with sporadic networking abilities, applications that require a means to produce an alert in a timely fashion will not have a means of notifying the users of an event, eg. location-aware advertisement applications, medical applications with a reminder to the user for the next dose of medication, etc.”

One alternative is to take a page out of Android's book, says Hon Cheng. “I hope they have something similar to Alarm in Android, that allows tasks to be run at pre-determined time. The Android's proximity alert that alert users when they are near a pre-determined location is useful. I hope iPhone will have that too.”

iPhone 3.0 reactions: Lim Thye Chean

Lim Thye Chean developed Kids Paint and is the father of 9-year-old Lim Ding Wen (Doodle Kids).

"I am most interested in the in-app purchase model for my own company's product. This should bring out some interesting models. And with HTTP streaming, this should actually remove the use of the Xserve in my company! :)

"For our own apps, I am interested in whatever Mobile Safari bring to us - which is not much. They finally support video and audio tags (in HTML 5). The video tag makes sense, but the audio tag does not as it will play audio full screen. Geolocation support in JavaScript is also cool - not sure what I will make in it."

iPhone 3.0 reactions: Joseph Wee

Joseph Wee is the developer behind Trafficam SG and TVGuide@SG.

"Well the first reaction is eureka right...but the reality is that for existing iPod Touch users - it's a 10 bucks upgrade - which means I can't be pushing out 3.0 apps anytime soon, unless I want to alienate them....

"I'm excited about the CoreData and MapAPI , the ability to access user's songlist and playlist opens up possibilities and peer-to-peer is sure to unleash some interesting innovations...

"As a user though, I'm disappointed about not having background apps ability...I've installed the beta in my Touch and it's pretty cool from a user point of view."

iPhone 3.0 reactions: Ong Jun Da

Ong Jun Da is the developer behind Hoiio, SG 4D, SG Toto and SG Pools.

What most impressed you about 3.0?
None of the features in iPhone 3.0 are new. They are features that we have been using in all other smartphone platforms for many years. But there is one feature that could be singled out as different - In-App Purchase.

This is what we have not and will not see in other platforms, since all other platforms do not store credit card credentials. I was always in the past wondered if Apple could let developers make use of their payment architecture other than for music download, and here it is!

What disappointed you about 3.0?
Nothing. I didn't expect anything :)

How will this affect your existing applications? What part of the new SDK will you be using?
I cannot promise what new features there could be in my existing apps right now. But I am interested to use In-app purchases and push notifications.

There is one feature that directly affects one of my app - Autologin for Safari. My most popular app, SG Wireless, would go out of business! But hey, SG Wireless is not a business to start with since I did not charge for it!

How will 3.0 affect your plans for future applications?
This greatly affects all my plans. iPhone 3.0 opens up a lot more possibilities. Ideas that were not possible earlier is possible now.

iPhone 3.0 reactions: Joash Chee

Joash Chee is the developer behind Chordica.

What most impressed you about 3.0?
What most impressed me about 3.0 is the very clear sense that Apple has been paying attention all this while to the cries of the developers and end-users regarding SDK implementations and feature requests. I believe that with iPhone OS 3.0 preview, Apple has delivered a very clear response to all competing phone system makers that it clearly intends to furnish developers with a growing wealth of resources that will transform all iPhone OS devices into handheld objects of envy (for anyone that does not own one).

What has most disappointed you about 3.0?
At this moment, I do not have any feelings of disappointment. The fact that I do not know what all the new features and APIs are allow me to reserve my judgement until I've had time to play with the 3.0 beta.

How will 3.0 affect your existing applications? 
I hope that 3.0 does not break any of my existing code. Chordica 1.2 (to be announced soon) has undergone a significant change, in that the sound engine has been rewritten to allow for better handling of multiple instrument voices. I look forward to exploring any new support for audio, especially in the area of low latency responses. As for any part of the SDK that is specifically new, I am thinking of using the peer-to-peer networking and the in-app purchasing features. Just imagine being able to buy new racks for your Chordica Control Centre right in the app itself. :)

How will 3.0 affect your plans for future applications?
A number of new features, especially push notification, have compelled me to return to the drawing board to fine-tune several app ideas I've been brewing and tossing around with my closest friends. The most direct answer to the question is, "Lots. This affects my plans a lot."

iPhone 3.0 reactions: Muh Hon Cheng

Muh Hon Cheng is the developer behind buUuk, SG Buses and SG ERP (among others)

What most impressed you about 3.0?
Mainly the in-app mailing sheet and the more complete MapKit. I've been waiting for this. PUSH notification is late. I did not expect bluetooth communication between devices. I hope this opens up opportunites for communication between devices. Before this, it was Bonjour, and that's limited to a local network.

What disappointed you about 3.0?
You still cannot run applications in the background. I hope they have something similar to Alarm in Android, that allows tasks to be run at pre-determined time. Android's proximity alert that alerts users when they are near a pre-determined location is useful. Hope iPhone will have that too. I'm more excited with the release of Facebook Connect for iPhone than the new 3.0 OS actually.

How will the new OS affect your existing applications? 
Some applications will have minor changes (but these changes are not required for the app to work). For example, some features that were implemented manually because they were lacking in the old SDK will be changed to use new built-in features. MapKit and the in-app mailing sheet will allow applications to function fully without exiting the application e.g. buUuk, SG Buses etc.

How will the new OS affect your plans for future applications?
I really want to play with the bluetooth communication between devices. Maybe I'll try games. In-app payments may open up some opportunities in some of my current applications (may have to look into this more)

iPhone 3.0 reactions: Michael Tan

Michael Tan is the developer behind Upcoming Events.

What most impressed you about the new OS?
The whole host of new possibilities existing and new applications you can exploit. But if I have to name one, I'd say the External Accessory framework. This opens up a whole new world for innovation.

What were you disappointed with?
Not having background processing. Here's the reason:

- PNS works well for always-connected devices (iPhone with Data). We get prompt notifications (provided Apple's servers delivers them as promised in a timely fashion).

- Devices with sporadic networking abilities (iPod touch with WIFI access) will not get the notifications until they are connected to the cloud.

- For those devices with sporadic networking abilities, applications that requires a means to produce an alert in a timely fashion will not have a means of notifying the users of an event. Eg. location-aware advertisement applications, medical applications with a reminder to the user for the next dose of medication, etc.

What features from 3.0 can we expect to see in your apps?

Upcoming Events will take advantage of possibly two of the new known features -- the PNS and Map Kit framework.

How will the new OS affect your plans for new applications?
As mentioned earlier, it has opened up new opportunities and possibilities. One of these, off the top of my head, is that I would look forward to working with hardware manufacturers in enabling functionalities for the iPhone OS. Subscription based applications are also something that should be looked at. Lastly, the new features in Game Kit is promising.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Local app update - 1-Click Wireless@SG, Xi Yan Mobile

Two new local apps were recently added to the App Store. 1-Click Wireless@SG is another free app that promises to simplify the process of logging on to Wireless@SG. (The other app is SG Wireless, also free).

The other app is Xi Yan Mobile. This is an app that features the excellent food at Xi Yan restaurant, a private dining establishment that serves modern Chinese cuisine. It has the menu schedule (important because it changes weekly) and mouth-watering pictures. Xi Yan is in Craig Road and you must make a reservation to eat there. You should make your reservations early because Xi Yan fills out very quickly.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

iPhone development - Singapore VS Malaysia

While developers in Singapore have been busy developing local apps, it seems that Malaysian iPhone developers have been targetting the much bigger world market.

At the launch of the iPhone in Malaysia last Friday, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi gave out the iPhone Application Developers Award to the following developers:

Infindo Technology, which does live football scores for different leagues like the English Premier League and the Italian Serie A. They also have a Formula 1 app and a game where you spot the difference between two pictures.

Manga Blackbox, a publisher of manga comics by Malaysian artists. They have Cake House vol 1-3 (artist: Kaoru), From a Twisted Mind vol 1-3 (artist: Puyuh), Jungle Dad (artist: Peng Yung Chen), Kuso High School (artist: Keith) and Silent Revolution (artist: Puppeteer). 

Pxing Game Studio, which has two apps -- Instant Guitar (teaches you to play the guitar) and Cupid Capture (game).

Small list but still pretty impressive. At the same time, there aren't a lot of Malaysian specific apps in the App Store. I found three -- mCallerID Malaysia, a Penang Bridge traffic cam and buUuk, which features restaurants in KL, Penang and JB.

The contrast with Singapore is interesting. The majority of apps by Singapore developers are aimed at iPhone users in Singapore specifically and there are currently about 40 such apps in the App Store. Only a handful of apps by local developers are aimed at the global market.

Over the next year or so, I expect both markets to resemble each other more closely. Singapore-based developers, having gotten their feet wet with apps that are Singapore-specific, will be developing for the larger (and more lucrative) world market, while Malaysian-based developers will begin to develop apps of local relevance once the local market becomes bigger.

unConference coming up in May

e27 is inviting iPhone developers to the unConference which will be held on May 16. If you have a startup and you're looking to get the word out, this is one channel. Find out more from their website. There is apparently no charge for exhibiting at the unConference.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Invader War coming to the iPhone

Invader War, a new iPhone game by the 9-year-old developer behind Doodle Kids, is now in its final testing stages.

Lim Ding Wen wrote Invader War in JavaScript. According to his dad, Lim Thye Chean, they are now testing the game on the iPhone OS 3.0 (iPod touch 2G) and iPhone OS 2.2.1 (iPhone 3G).

Says Thye Chean: "In iPhone OS 3.0 - the game is pretty playable, and quite fast, but I am not sure whether it is due to iPod touch 2G raw speed (it has a faster processor) or iPhone OS 3.0 faster JavaScript performance. 

"Unfortunately iPhone OS 3.0 has a big problem - the Cut/Paste bubble keep popping up if Safari detected double click... and can't be prevented. For iPhone OS 2.2.1, it is running at half the speed, which is quite unplayable so we are doing optimization right now."

Invader War is Ding Wen's creation. Father and son have another game, Space War, that they collaborated on that is available on the Android Store.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Copy and paste, MMS, push notification

It's a big one. Apple on Tuesday unveiled a slew of features for the iPhone OS 3.0. They include:
  • Cut, copy and paste (across applications)
  • SMS forwarding
  • MMS
  • Push notification 
  • Landscape mode in major apps like Mail and Notes
  • Search in Mail
  • Spotlight
  • Support for CalDAV and .ics
  • Support for stereo Bluetooth (A2DP)
  • Notes sync
  • Bonjour over Bluetooth (so you can play games, exchange data)
  • Custom apps that can talk to hardware accessories
  • Embedded Maps
  • Turn-by-turn GPS
  • In-app email
  • In-game voice
  • Tethering

What it will not have:
  • Flash ('No announcements today')
  • Background processing (kills battery life)
  • Ability to record video
The beta version of 3.0 is available to developers now. It will be released to consumers in the summer (probably June). The update will be free for iPhone users but iPod Touch users will have to pay US$9.95.

For detailed coverage, check out Ars Technica, Macworld, Engadget and MacRumors. Watch Apple's QuickTime stream here. ILounge has excellent screenshots of 3.0 in action.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Make magic with your iPhone

There is nothing up Justin's sleeves.

The iPhone can tell you when your bus is coming, what the traffic looks like on the CTE, the nearest place to get pizza and what the weather is like in Auckland now. And now, thanks to illuCoin, your iPhone can help you do magic tricks
illusions (Arrested Developent fans will understand).

IlluCoin (US$1.99 in the iTunes store) is a neat app. Take a 20 cent (or 50 cent or S$1 coin), and send it magically into the iPhone where it will roll about in your home screen. You can tell it’s there because of the sound it makes as it rolls around. You can even initial your coin with a sharpie beforehand so that you can prove that the coin you initialed is the one rolling about inside your iPhone. With a smooth gesture, you can then get the coin out of your iPhone and back into your hand. (Click here to see the illusion in action.)

You’ll need a bit of practice to do this well, as with all magic
 illusions, but done well, this looks really impressive.

The man behind this is Justin Yong, a developer and amateur magician now doing his National Service. We speak to Justin to find out about illuCoin and his plans for even more magic related apps.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Indonesia to get iPhones from Mar 20

Indonesian mobile operator Telkomsel will be selling iPhones from March 20 at Pacific Place in South Jakarta. It will available at other distributors in Jakarta from March 23. Telkomsel will also be expanding the distribution to the rest of Indonesia from March 28.

Based on the post-paid plan you subscribe to, an 8GB iPhone will cost between Rp2,622,000 (US$218.50) and Rp4,455,000 (US$371.25). A 16 GB iPhone will cost between Rp5,912,000 (US$492.66) and Rp4,079,000 (US$339.91).

The press release notes that there are currently already a few Indonesian/Jakarta specific apps on the App Store, namely:
  • TransJakarta (Jakarta bus guide)
  • Aphrodite (world sport schedule)
  • Jakarta Globe (daily English news)
  • BuUuk (Jakara restaurant guide)
  • Foyage (Jakarta services guide)
  • Detikcom (news)
  • Angklung (music)
  • SCTV (national TV)
  • Kapanlagi.com (lifestyle and entertaiment site)
  • Macetlagi.com (traffic monitoring portal and content streaming) and 
  • Kompas (daily Indonesian news).
Click here for the full press release in Bahasa Indonesia and English.

9-year-old coauthors Android game with dad

Lim Ding Wen, the 9-year-old prodigy who became famous for developing an iPhone app, is now developing for the Android platform. Doodle Kids has been ported over and is now available on the Android store while both father and son have decided to coauthor a game called Space War, also available on the Android store. Neat stuff. Check out the blog post by dad Lim Thye Chean. Via Code Android Singapore.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Apple to preview iPhone OS 3.0

Apple has invited the media to a preview of the iPhone OS 3.0 and the new SDK at an event on March 17. No other details available. Via MacDailyNews.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Malaysia to get iPhones on Mar 20

The iPhone 3G will be sold in Malaysia from March 20. Malaysian carrier Maxis will offer the 8GB and 16GB iPhone 3G models with four new and specially designed postpaid plans called iValue, all of which are voice-data bundled price plans, starting from RM100 per month. For customers who sign up for a monthly commitment of RM375 over a 24-month period on the iValue 4 plan, the iPhone 3G 8GB will be free of charge. The 16GB version will cost RM260. This plan will come with 2,500 minutes of voice and 3GB of data.

The Maxis iPhone 3G launch will be held at 7pm on March 20 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, where customers who have pre-booked iPhone 3G will be invited to the event to collect their phones. Walk-in customers who have not registered may also book iPhone 3G at the launch and collect their phones at a later date.

Click here for the special Maxis page. To get the full rates, click here instead. The press release is available from the Maxis Media Centre. Maxis customers can also call 1800 821 123 for more information.

In Indonesia, one report is citing March 23 as the date Telkomsel will launch the iPhone there. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

i-Roadmate developer dabbles in 'black' arts

Developer Kelvin Wu is rediscovering the lost art of web apps on the iPhone. His two efforts, i-Movies and i-Roadmate, are some of the best local web apps to date. The apps are useful and rich in information and their interface makes them closely resemble native iPhone apps. Kelvin is obviously a talented developer so why is he mucking around with web apps rather than real ones? Well, mainly because, horror of horrors, he's a Blackberry user. 

"Honestly speaking, I rarely use iPhone, I am a hardcore Blackberry fan-:)", he says.

It is because of his wife Elaine that Kelvin started developing for the iPhone. She has an iPhone and it was she who asked him to develop i-Movies for her. The other app, i-Roadmate, came out from a suggestion from a Hardwarezone forum.

Now that he has become better acquainted with the iPhone, he's come to appreciate it a little. "I have to say Apple's Mobile Safari is very cool,' he admits. 

Singaporeans will find both these apps very useful. i-Roadmate is a great companion for drivers. It gives you traffic news and ERP and car park rates. To find i-Roadmate, launch Safari on your iPhone, and go to http://i.sh2sg.com/roadmate.html. i-Movies, as the name implies, gives you the screening times of all movies showing in Singapore. To find i-Movies, go to http://i.sh2sg.com/movie.html.

Note: These are web apps, which means that you use Safari to access the data. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cute leather iPhone cases, handmade in Singapore

Gil the Giraffe is a cute leather iPhone case that is handmade in Singapore. It is being sold on Etsy for US$37.50. Gil was designed and made by Candy, who, together with her husband Beon, can sometimes be found at the monthly MADD weekend market at the Red Dot Museum. If you like their work, check out their other stuff on their website. If you want to buy Gil, you'll have to hurry because Etsy only lists one item in stock. However, they do have other designs for iPhone cases, like this one below, featuring Taka the ninja.

Friday, March 6, 2009

iPhone developer going places with SG Transport

Hartanto Andreas, the developer behind SG Transport and iLogin, talks about his journey as an iPhone developer.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm Indonesian, studying at NUS. My major is Computer Science and I'm currently in my final year, final semester in fact. I'm 23 this year.

Why did you decide to write SG Transport?
I've always been impressed with how the Mac applications are written. They are simple, elegant and get the jobs done without all the bloat that typical Windows applications have. The iPhone platform is definitely a good way to start and explore how Mac applications are written. Since theories on their own are pretty much useless, I wrote SG Transport to apply the concepts and to get the feel of writing a real application for the platforms. Hehe however, do pardon me, that since it is my first application on the platform, there are quirks here and there that I hope to solve when I have some free time.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chordica updated to v1.1

The latest version of music app Chordica has a major bug fix and a new interface.

Chordica v1.1 has a new FastLoader that "works with even less memory and has been optimized for stability. The crashing and freezing that 1.0 users experience is a thing of the past now," promises developer Joash Chee. You now also have the ability to exit from the Play mode back to the new Control Centre.

To access the various options offered by Chordica, the app has a new interface that Joash calls the Chordica Professional Rack Control Centre. He says its been "completely redesigned from ground-up to be functional and slick at the same time."

One of those new options accessible from the rack is MET1K (pronounced Meh-Tick as in auto'matic'). This is a built-in metronome function to the Play mode and it can even be set to a mono channel (left or right) so that the Chordica instrument can be recorded cleanly from the other channel even while MET1K is active.

For more details on the new rack, check out the manual.  

To see the highlights of Chordica 1.1, including the live metronome, watch the video. Joash also has another video that showcases Chordica's ability to write background music for role playing  games like Final Fantasy. 

Says Joash: "Most people don't know that you can play 7920 possible chords on the Chordica with just two fingers. This video will properly educate a person on what a chord should be defined as, according to Scoreless Music (the developer)."

Coming up in version 1.2 is the ability to add new instruments for the Bass and Harmony, he adds.

If you want to catch Chordica in action, you might want to watch out for announcements from the iShop at Cineleisure. According to Joash, he's now working together with Jan of iShop (Cineleisure) to "do some collaborative training sessions that partner the Chordica with DJing as taught in Jan's workshops! Seems like Chordica has found at least one more applicable use. :D"

Chordica (iTunes link) is available on the App Store for US$2.99.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Foyage on a voyage

Free app Foyage, which helps you find shops and services around you, has been updated to version 1.1. The new version has a user interface update and bug fixes. Data on Jakarta is now available too. 

The developer of Foyage (iTunes link), Xsago, has also released the app on the Android platform.

Update: You can only see the Jakarta data if you are in the city itself, according to the developer.

Keep track of traffic news

The excellent web app, i-Roadmate, has gotten better. On top of parking rates and ERP rates, i-Roadmate now gives you traffic news from onemotoring.com.sg.

It evens give you the location of petrol stations and petrol prices. Very cool app.

The developer, Kelvin Wu, has also tweaked the user interface of i-Roadmate so that it look even more like a native iPhone app. 

i-Roadmate is a web app, which means you can't get it at the App Store. Instead, launch Mobile Safari on your iPhone, and go to http://i.sh2sg.com/roadmate.html

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Watch Channel News Asia on your iPhone

Channel News Asia has just released an iPhone app on the App Store. Apart from just reading the latest news stories, you can also watch videos.

The app, Ch News Asia (iTunes link), is free.