Saturday, January 31, 2009

Get movies times on your iPhone

i-Movies has a nice interface

Want to watch a movie this weekend? If so, i-Movies is your best friend. i-Movies is a new web app that gives you the screening times of all movies showing in Singapore.

It's nicer than iGV because it covers all the cinema chains here. In addition, it allows you to search for movies by cinema, which the older web app, Cinepura, does not allow. 

i-Movies is very well-implemented. It looks and behaves like a native iPhone app. It is also well thought-through. It has a plot synopsis, ratings, and links to trailers. Tap on a cinema, say Orchard Cineleisure, and it gives you parking rates there. You are also just a single tap away from booking tickets over the phone. Very nice.

Overall, two thumbs up for this app.

i-Movies is available here.

(Update: To add i-Movies to your iPhone, go to in Mobile Safari, tap on the "+" button and pick the "add to home screen" option.)

Upgrading jailbroken iPhones to 2.2.1

Via the iPhone Dev-Team: If you have a factory unlocked 3g iPhone (say from SingTel), or if you have a locked iPhone and you are not interested in unlocking, simply "upgrade to 2.2.1 using iTunes and then use QuickPwn to Pwn and Jailbreak. This will add Cydia and Installer too."

For other scenarios, consult the Dev-Team's blog.

Friday, January 30, 2009

After 2-month wait, slideshow of Singapore girls approved

Developer Ong Jun Da will probably become a rich man very soon. His latest app, SG Girls, has just been approved. SG Girls consists of a slideshow of attractive women from Singapore. You can pause the slideshow, pinch to zoom in, save pictures and give a picture a thumbs up or thumbs down.

It took about two months for Apple to approve this app, so you can tell that Apple was being very careful with this app.

SG Girls (iTunes link) can be yours for US$3.99. According to Jun Da, more apps along this line are in the works.

(Apart from SG Girls, Jun Da is also behind SG 4D, SG Toto, SG Pools and SG Blood. To find out what makes Jun Da tick, click here.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Get your TV schedules on your iPhone

Never miss another episode of Desperate Housewives again. TV@SG Lite has the TV listings for over 150 channels. It has channels from MediaCorp, StarHub and SingTel Mio. The current version only has what's showing today. The full version will have a full week's schedule.

TV@SG Lite is another app by Joseph Wee, who gave us Trafficam SG, Locacity and Carpark@SG. TV@SG Lite (iTunes link) is free.

(Click here to find out what makes Joseph Wee tick.)

Firmware update suggests next-gen iPhone

Apple's latest firmware update for the iPhone (bringing it to 2.2.1) seems largely to be a bug fix but after digging around, MacRumors has discovered evidence within the firmware of a next generation iPhone, with the designation iPhone2,1. The iPhone 3G is designated iPhone1,2. See MacRumors for the full story.

(BTW, if you have a jailbroken iPhone, hold off before updating your firmware, according to the Dev-Team.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

9-year-old writes iPhone app

Meet the world’s youngest iPhone developer. Lim Ding Wen of Singapore, who recently turned 9 (not a typo), has written an iPhone app called Doodle Kids that allows you to paint on the iPhone using shapes like triangles, circles, squares made up of random colours and sizes.

Ding Wen originally wrote Doodle Kids in Pascal on his Apple IIGS (again not a typo) when he was 8 (need I mention that this is not a typo either?).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Local developer creates anti-theft app

It's easy to have your iPhone stolen. You leave it on the table while you're having lunch and someone walks by and quietly slips it into their pocket. You look up from your plate of chicken rice and you realise you've been robbed. 

Thanks to the good people of BAK2u, you can now protect your iPhone. PhoneSCREAM is a neat little app that will let off an alarm if the accelerometer detects that it has been moved.

How PhoneSCREAM works

1) Open app
2) Tap on 'lock' icon
3) Leave phone on table

If anyone picks up the phone, within a preset time (default is 2 seconds), a siren will go off. (You can also change the sound it makes or record your own sound). To disable the sound, hit the home key.

Pretty neat app. It would be better if Apple would allow background apps so you can just start this up and never have to remember to turn it on. 

My only gripe is that if your iPhone is set to silent mode, the phone vibrates instead.

According to BAK2u CEO Paddy Tan, after their original anti-theft app was rejected by Apple, they went back to the drawing board and broke up their original app into smaller component parts. (See here and here).

PhoneSCREAM (iTunes link) is available on the App Store for just US$0.99

SG Buses gets journey planner, buUuk new features

The latest version of iPhone bus guide SG Buses (iTunes link) now helps you to get from A to B. You can type in your starting point and your destination and SG Buses will tell you how to get there. It will even handle changing buses (one changeover only). Pretty neat. According to developer Muh Hon Cheng, this is based on the same engine he used for Transit app which he developed back in the day when jailbroken apps ruled.

Hon Cheng has also been busy working on buUuk. Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, they come up with more features. The latest version undergoing beta testing has:

- Pricing (indication of price range in restaurant listings, and allow users to indicate pricing in the restaurant buurp page. Average will be taken from all users' submission)
- A halal category (indication in restaurant listings, and allow tagging)
- Itches and Scratches - This allows users to ask questions that are not specified to any restaurants, such as asking for a suggestion for a place to eat etc)

Friday, January 23, 2009

A great way to fly

Sadly, this means the end of Mr Bean re-runs.

Here's a reason to fly SIA, if you can afford it. Singapore Airlines has announced that even economy class passengers on its new A330-300 will have iPhone and iPod connectivity so that you won't have to watch Beverly Hills Chihuahua for the fifth time. Each seat will also have a USB port and in-seat power supply.

The A330-300 will be deployed on flights between Singapore and KL and Singapore and Jakarta initially. It will then be rolled out progressively to flights between Singapore and Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. It will also be rolled out to fights to Nagoya and Osaka.

No nano, will defend IP

Tim Cook on 

iPhone nano rumours
"We're not going to play in the low-end voice phone business. That's not who we are, that's not why we're here. Goal is not to lead unit sales, but to build the world's best phone."

intellectual property behind the iPhone
"I don’t want to talk about any specific company. We are ready to suit up and go against anyone. However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Best quarterly earnings and revenue in Apple history

A blow-out quarter for Apple. Its best ever.

Q4 numbers
- Revenue of US$10.17 billion
- EPS of US$1.78
- Net profit of US$1.61 billion
- 4.36 million iPhones sold (up 88 percent over year before)

In 2008, Apple sold 13.7 million iPhones altogether.

See Silicon Alley Insider for analysis and transcript of Apple's conference call.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

iPhone app handles piano chords with ease

In theory, the idea of having a virtual piano on your iPhone is an alluring one. Any time the mood strikes you, you can pull out your iPhone and tickle the (virtual) ivories. In practice, of course, it’s a very different story. As large as the iPhone’s screen is, it is still not big enough to fit in all 88 keys of a full piano).

The founder of a local music school in Singapore thinks he has a solution to the problem. Instead of trying to replace a full piano, Joash Chee has developed a new virtual keyboard that focuses on just accompanying the melody of the song. Chordica is a virtual keyboard for the iPhone that is designed to handle the harmony, bass or rhythm part of a song, allowing it to accompany, say, the human voice.

Instead of looking like a typical keyboard, Chordica looks like a keypad. It may look odd but Chordica is no toy, insists Joash. “Version 1.0 was spec'd with the following criteria: If I don't have my piano/keyboard, I must be able to use the Chordica as a viable substitute,” he says. As the video below shows, Chordica certainly has a lot of potential (yes, it’s his voice on the video too).

According to Joash, his bandmates at church were impressed when he demo-ed it for them last Sunday. “I'm happy to report that those who don't own iPhones or iPod touches now want to get a device just to load Chordica.”

Chordica is also designed such that even someone who can’t read music can join in. Instead of using a normal musical score, Chordica uses simple numbers that correspond to the numbers of Chordica’s keypad. Playing music just requires the ability to tap the right number as indicated by the score.

It might sound unlikely that a founder of a music school (and long time church worker) should be writing iPhone apps but Joash is a seasoned developer, having cut his teeth back in the computer club of St Joseph’s Institution. He then went to Singapore Polytechnic where he became a Turbo Pascal fan. During the Facebook app boom, he developed an app called Banner Links which is now sadly defunct.

After Apple released its Software Development Kit, Joash decided to see if there was anything he could do with it. “Chordica started out as a means for me to show them (the students in his music school) how numbers can be made to sound really good if you were hitting all the right keys. It evolved into the instrument you see on the video.” Chordica has been a weekend project for Joash who has been working on it every Saturday since late December November.

Now that version 1 is done, Joash is thinking of how it can be improved. Possible new features include adding a built-in metronome, putting in the ability to record song sequences, having a tutorial mode, being able to change skins, and being able to upload and download songs, skins and themes.

Apple has already approved Chordica and it should appear on the App Store any time now. Chordica will be sold at the introductory price of US$2.99. Update: Chordica (iTunes link) is now available on the App Store at the introductory price of US$2.99. Click here to go to Chordica's website.

Beta testers wanted for new iPhone app

Xsago, the company working on the location-based services app Foyage, is looking for a few good men and women to be beta testers. 

If you are interested, email me directly at jimmy at ricejar dot com and I will pass your email on to Willson, the founder of Xsago.

They are only looking for 10 beta testers so hurry before those slots get snapped up!

Click here to learn more about Foyage.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Local developer ties up with Singapore Pools

Local developer Ong Jun Da has scored an advertising deal with Singapore Pools. If you use SG Pools, SG 4D or SG Toto (all developed by Jun Da), you will now be presented with a pop-up ad for a 'Lucky Pack' from Singapore Pools worth $228.

The 'lucky pack' contains: 
- 10 QuickPick System 7 tickets (From top 10 winning outlets in 2008)
- 2 QuickPick Ordinary tickets 
- 4 Singapore Sweep tickets for the March draw

The ad allows the you to buy the 'lucky pack' immediately. Tap on the 'yes' button, and the iPhone will dial the hotline number so that you can buy the pack over the phone.

According to Jun Da, Singapore Pools has opened a special hotline just to take calls from iPhone owners. Normally, all purchases are done at the betting outlet, or by fax or online. 

Kudos to Jun Da and Singapore Pools for this innovative solution, though it does seem to mark the entrance of the much maligned pop-up ad on the iPhone.

iPhone app helps with blood donation drive

We all know it's important to donate blood but do we do it? No. I'll confess that I'm as bad as anyone else. It always seems like too much work to trot down to the bloodbank (at SGH and NUH) to donate blood. Plus there are all the needles. And did I mention that there would be blood everywhere? 

Unfortunately, a new iPhone app appropriately named SG Blood has just removed one of my excuses for not donating regularly.

SG Blood is the latest app by Ong Jun Da, the developer behind SG 4D, SG Toto and SG Pools. It has the calendar for the mobile blood bank so that you can track down where the various bloodmobiles, as they are called, will be during the year. The app will also help you keep track of your donations.

Jun Da says he decided to develop this app as a way of doing something for society. That's a great attitude and I hope more developers will take a leaf from his book. (Hopefully, they won't all be blood related...)

SG Blood is free. (Click here for an interview with Jun Da.)

Keep track of your favourite YouTube videos with TubeJunkies

If you're a YouTube fan (and these days, who isn't?) TubeJunkies is a godsend. It's an RSS reader that will allow you to keep track of the latest YouTube videos uploaded on the site. You can subscribe to channels based on keywords, youtube user or video tag. Never miss a Battlestar Galactica trailer again.

You can watch subscribed videos within TubeJunkies and  you can manage all the different channels as if they were regular RSS feeds.

TubeJunkies is the brainchild of the indefatigable Muh Hon Cheng, the Singapore developer behind such well-known apps as SG Buses, SG Trains and SG ERP. (See an earlier interview with Hon Cheng here).

TubeJunkies is available on the App Store for US$5.99.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

iGV a hit? Probably

The writing is a little confused but if I read it correctly, the iGV app has been downloaded more than 25,000 times since it was made available on the App Store about a month ago, according to Marketing Interactive, the online version of Marketing Magazine. 

Actually, the story says "The Golden Village site has received more than 25,000 downloads since the launch of iGV." I presume the writer meant that the app had been downloaded more than 25,000 times.

(The story also says that "Golden Village has received more than 100,000 hits on its website since the launch of its iPhone application iGV one month ago." Exactly what this means, I'm not sure. Hits is now a somewhat meaningless unit of measurement. Unique visitors or page views are far more useful. In addition, what the website of Golden Village has to do with its iPhone app is not entirely clear either.)

The free app iGV allows you to check out what movies are showing at Golden Village cineplexes in Singapore. It also has trailers but sadly, you can't buy tickets through the app.

500 million apps downloaded

In an ad in the New York Time, Apple announced that 500 million apps have been downloaded from the App Store. Notes Silicon Alley Insider:
It took 61 days for Apple to reach 100 million apps downloaded (1.6 million per day), 43 days to reach 200 million (2.3 million per day), and another 43 days to reach 300 million (2.3 million per day).
And only 400 million of those 500 million downloads are fart-related apps.

Frakking awesome

Battlestar Galactica returns. (Sorry, not iPhone related but I couldn't resist).

Friday, January 16, 2009

First photo of plane in New York river

Shot on an iPhone. The best camera is the one you have with you. (check out picture and story on Silicon Alley Insider). Thankfully, all the 155 passengers and crew were safely evacuated.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Not cancer recurrence, says NYT

From the New York Times:
Two people who are familiar with Mr. Jobs’s current medical treatment said he was not suffering from a recurrence of cancer, but a condition that was preventing his body from absorbing food. Doctors have also advised him to cut down on stress, which may be making the problem worse, these people said.

About Tim Cook

Tim Cook is Apple's COO. Last November, Fortune ran an in-depth profile on Tim that's worth reading. 

Update: Bloomberg has a piece on Tim Cook that works in a Singapore reference.

Jobs on 6 months medical leave, Tim Cook in charge

The email from Steve to Apple employees:

I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community. Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple's day to day operations, and I know he and the rest of the executive management team will do a great job. As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan.

I look forward to seeing all of you this summer.

Get well soon, Steve.

Apple Allows 3rd Party Web Browsers into App Store

Apple seems to be liberalising its App Store policies. MacRumors reports that a bunch of web browsers have now been released on the App Store, including Incognito (leaves no history) and WebMate: Tabbed Browser (tabs! yay!). Some of the browsers have been waiting months for approval. See story for details.

Ocarina contest uncovers great talent

Sadly, I've given up my dream of playing Smule's Ocarina for a living at the Orchard Road underpass. I've discovered that you need musical talent to play the ocarina (who knew?). However, Smule's "This Contest Blows" has uncovered numerous musical prodigies, including one person who plays an Andrew Lloyd Webber number through her nose. She was one of 10 people who bagged US$1,000 from Smule, the makers of the Ocarina iPhone app. For the rest of you, it's not too late to get your share of the moolah. Smule has extended the contest to allow another five winners! 

Check out the winning videos here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Latest edition of buUuk to have bookmarks

Foodies rejoice. The publishers of the excellent Singapore restaurant guide buUuk are putting out new edition. BuUuk 2.1 has a raft of new features, including buUukmarks (self-explanatory), a section where you can see responses to your buUrps (reviews), and a more refined 'top-rated' section that now has three options (all time, past month and last seven days).

It's really great to see an app like buUuk being continually improved like this. Thanks guys!

BuUuk 2.1 will be available at good App Stores everywhere (as soon as Apple gives the thumbs up that is).

What the Palm Pre Stole from the iPhone… and What the iPhone Should Steal From the Pre

The iPhone blog has a very nice piece on cool Palm Pre features that the iPhone ought to steal.

More fuel for iPhone nano rumours

According to Digitimes, the Economic Daily News reported Tuesday that "Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) will likely land chip orders for Apple's low-cost entry-level iPhone nano."

Note that it says, "will likely land chip orders". Nothing's been confirmed yet. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Get news from the Straits Times on your iPhone

Singapore's newspaper of record (and my former employer), The Straits Times, has just released its iPhone app on the App Store. It's a little late to the game considering that competitor Today has been on the store since the beginning with iToday, but better late than never.

The app looks like it has all the free stories that the ST website carries, though the stories are not identical to the website. The interface is very similar to that of the New York Times app on the iPhone.

The stories load quickly and some of these stories carry pictures as well (unlike iToday which is bereft of photos). Also, no annoying sign-up procedure, unlike iToday.

It's still a new app so I haven't used it very much, but I can say it's pretty stable. It hasn't crashed on me yet. 

The Straits Times app is a good way to get news from the Straits Times on your iPhone without having to go through the website. I wish they hadn't killed off their free RSS feed though because that was pretty useful.

Pre-liminary notes on Palm Pre

Palm unveiled its Pre at CES and early responses have been very positive. It's a touch-screen based phone that looks like a shorter, wider version of the iPhone. It's got a better camera (3MP vs 2MP on the iPhone), a better processor, and it allows multiple applications to run at the same time (which Apple could allow as well, as the jailbroken iPhones show). The UI is very similar to the iPhone as well. For some people, the big win will be the hardware keyboard, a full Qwerty keyboard that is available in portrait mode. 

Will it blow the iPhone out of the water? I don't think so. Apart from the keyboard, I don't think it's a significantly better product than Apple's current iPhone (and who knows what Apple will roll out by the time the Pre is launched.) And while Palm hasn't confirmed pricing, it looks like they are *not* going to price themselves significantly lower than the iPhone. 

However, I do believe the Pre will put on pressure on Apple to innovate and to allow innovation on the iPhone platform, and that's a good thing.

Check out the Pre CES video here to see the UI at work. 

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Multi-Core iPhone with Firmware 3.0?

Interesting rumour reported by ZDNet. A four-core iPhone would mean more power and better battery life. See discussion on Macrumors.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sniff out the cheapest parking rates with Carpark@SG

You can tell that local iPhone developer Joseph Wee drives a lot. The man who gave us the popular Trafficam SG has followed up with another free app that will appeal to car owners -- Carpark@SG. Leveraging on the carpark fees database at, Joseph's app tells you the rates of the carparks close to you. If you don't know where a particular carpark is, you can just click on the map to find out. Carpark@SG is very useful and will no doubt be another winner for Joseph. (Read an interview with Joseph here).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

No Nano

The rumours were wrong; Apple did not announce an iPhone Nano. In fact, overall, iPhone news was thin on the ground. However Apple did announce a new Keynote remote app for the iPhone. And if you are in a country which has an iTunes store, you can now buy your music from your iPhone, even if you're on a 3G network. Watch the keynote or (my favourite), read the Macworld 'live' commentary.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Steve Jobs - not dead yet

An open letter from Steve Jobs about the hormone imbalance that's causing him to lose weight.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Unlock for iPhone 3G now available

In the event that you have an iPhone 3G that is locked to a single provider, you can now unlock it. Full details available on the iPhone Dev-Team blog.

Thursday, January 1, 2009