Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Locally developed twitter client is sweet!

SimplyTweet developer Yar Hwee Boon on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

SimplyTweet is one feature-packed Twitter client and the cool thing is that it was developed by local developer Yar Hwee Boon. SimplyTweet allows you to follow conversations, search for photos and incorporates push notification too. All that for US$4.99 (the free lite version doesn't have push notification.) The former Microsoftie talks about developing SimplyTweet and his plans for the future.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Win an award, get some ink, buy a Mercedes

You're a talented developer but no one knows what you're capable of? Here's your chance to get some free publicity.

Sign up and nominate yourself (or your colleague) for the Singapore 50 Successful Developers Award. Organised by Digital Life, this award aims to turn the spotlight on the humble developer.

If you're one of the 50 selected, you will be profiled in the August 26 issue of Digital Life. You won't win any money, but you do get some ink and maybe you'll get noticed by wealthy VCs who want to help you buy a new Mercedes.

The nomination process is free so why not?

To take part, go to Nominations close August 17.

(Note: This award is not iPhone specific, it is aimed at all developers on all platforms. There are four categories, based entirely on age rather than platform - 16 years and below, 17 - 30, 31 to 45, and above 45.)

Good luck, and if you get a new Mercedes out of this, remember the rest of us who still take the bus!

Monday, July 27, 2009

SingTel offers marketing support to iPhone developers

It's hard to get noticed on Apple's App Store now that there are 55,000 apps jostling for attention. SingTel believes it has the solution, at least for local iPhone developers.

In return for tying up with SingTel's App Zone, which is the telco's soon-to-be-launched, platform-agnostic App Store, SingTel will provide marketing support. The cost? 30 percent of your App Store revenue.

The cost seems high as after both SingTel and Apple take their share, the developer is left with just 40 percent of total sales. Chordica developer Joash Chee believes the deal makes sense though, and has become one of the first iPhone developers to join the programme.

"The essence of being a partner is not limited to just publishing apps," says Joash. "It's really about collaborating with a considerably large and able tech and telco company. Developers with an eye only on the revenue stream can consider it like budgeting a fixed percentage of earnings to marketing. The best part is that you get the marketing without paying anything upfront. And since the amount scales in proportion to your total earnings, you can say that the marketing dollar carries its own equivalent weight.

According to Joash, under the agreement with SingTel, the developer gets 40 percent of sales unless revenue breaks $10,000. After that, the percentage becomes smaller.

IPhone developers interested in joining the programme should contact SingTel via email at

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Apple says 3GS demand exceeds supply globally

Here's why you're still waiting for your 3GS from SingTel. According to Apple, the supply of the iPhone 3GS is constrained in every country it ships. Speaking to analysts and reporters at a conference call following the announcement of its Q3 results, chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said: ““We are currently unable to make enough iPhone 3GSes to meet robust demand, and we’re working to address this.” Via Macworld.

Arcade game written by 9-year-old now close to completion

Lim Ding Wen, the 9-year-old behind hit iPhone app Doodle Kids, is now close to completing his arcade game, Invader War, also for the iPhone. According to Lim Thye Chean, Ding Wen’s father, they are only waiting to get their hands on an iPhone 3GS to test the game before releasing it on the App Store.

Check out a video of the game (complete with music) here.

Education Minister hearts iPhone

Dr Ng Eng Hen, Singapore’s Education Minister and Second Minister for Defence on how Apple’s iPhone is taking smartphone marketshare from Nokia: “The winning proposition for Apple lies not only in a superior software, but also in its ability to innovate, identify market gaps and opportunities, and create a compelling product well-known for its sleek design and user-friendly applications.” Via ST.

PieceHunter developer gives advice on iPhone development

In an interview with Singapore Entrepreneurs, Gibson Tang, the founder of AzukiSoft, talks about developing PieceHunter and hands out advice on developing for the iPhone.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Singapore Bus Guide II developer rolls out iFlip game

The developer behind Singapore Subway/MRT Guide and Singapore Bus Guide II has just rolled out his first game. iFlip is a coloured-tile matching game that pits you against the computer or a human opponent. The aim is to capture at least 50 percent of the board. iFlip is available for US$0.99.

Local developer's twitter app now has push notification

Local developer Yar Hwee Boon’s Twitter client, SimplyTweet 2.0, is now available. The latest version of SimplyTweet features, among other things, push notification for new mentions and direct messages, as well as whole new interface.

SimplyTweet is unique among Twitter clients for providing a view of tweets as a conversation, the way Apple presents SMS messages on the iPhone.

SimplyTweet is selling on the App Store for US$4.99. A free lite version without push notification is also available.

Monday, July 20, 2009

$300 to upgrade if you're half-way through 2-year contract

If you have an iPhone 3G and you want to upgrade to a 3GS, you will only need to pay $300 to recontract if you have served at least 12 months out of the 24-month contract.

If you have served at least six months, but not quite 12 months, the recontracting penalty is $600, said SingTel spokesman Chia Boon Chong in response to queries from iMerlion.

For people who bought their iPhone 3G when it launched last August, SingTel is treating the contract as being 12 months old, even though it is actually one month shy of a full year.

SingTel had previously told some iPhone 3G owners that they were eligible to pay $300 to recontract (instead of the normal $600) but that this offer would only be valid during the weekend launch of the 3GS. This was subsequently extended to the end of the month.

Local app update - SG Mahjong with Bluetooth

The latest version of SG Mahjong is now available on the App Store for US$0.99. What's unique about this version is that it now has a multi-player function over Bluetooth, which means that you can play against your friends!

Other new features:

- Game is saved when a call comes in
- Sound & iPod integration
- Bigger tiles
- Correct calculation of points
- Better GUI

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Even Hitler failed to get an iPhone 3GS

Adolf didn't manage to get his iPhone 3GS from SingTel last weekend and he is a little peeved. Even Stalin has one. (Nice work Jasper!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

iPhone 3GS sold out in Singapore

If you don't have an iPhone 3GS, but you absolutely need to buy one today, this is what you're going to have to do -- you're going to have to steal one. A check at three SingTel hello! shops on Wednesday and Thursday confirmed that the telco is out of stock of the 3GS, after the massive launch last weekend.

SingTel is currently taking advance orders but the customer service officers at the stores in Bugis Junction, Ngee Ann City and Comcentre have no idea when stock will become available. One person optimistically told me it might be available at the end of the month while at a different store, I was told that new stock might come in three to four weeks. At the store in Ngee Ann City, the officer behind the counter did not even attempt to hazard a guess. "We have no idea when it will arrive" she said.

One piece of good news is that the special deal to recontract for $300 instead of $600 will probably be extended beyond this month. Some 3G owners were sent an SMS telling them that the offer, originally valid only during the weekend launch, would be extended until 31 July. However, given that the stock might only arrive after that date, it seems to make sense that the offer will be extended, according to the SingTel customer service officers I spoke to.

Those who are interested in buying the new 3GS can leave their names down at a SingTel hello! shop, together with a $50 deposit. They will be informed when the shipment arrives.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Useful local apps

I wrote a short piece in today's Digital Life on apps that people in Singapore might find useful. The apps featured were:

Unfortunately, it is not available online. It might appear later though. My review of the iPhone OS 3.0 appeared in print in last Tuesday's Digital Life, but only migrated online to AsiaOne Digital on Friday.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Local app update - SG Food Reviews and SG Sales

Singaporeans love to eat and shop so this latest crop of local apps will no doubt hit the right spot. SG Food Reviews is a free app that has reviews of local eating places like coffeeshops and hawker stalls. You can search by region (North, South etc), category (chicken rice, chilli crab), name or by location relative to your current position.

SG Sales, on the other hand, tracks sales at the major shops in Singapore. SG Sales is also free.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

SingTel extends early upgrade offer

Good news for existing iPhone users who want to upgrade to the new 3GS but were put off by the horrendous queue. SingTel has extended its early upgrade offer until the end of July. With this offer, you only need to pay $300 to top up your existing contract to buy the iPhone 3GS, if you qualify for this offer that is.

SingTel had previously sent out mailers to selected customers telling them that the offer was valid between 10 and 12 July. However, it is now sending SMSes out to customers to tell them that the offer has been extended to July 31.

This will undoubtedly reduce the queues at Comcentre. The launch of the iPhone yesterday saw long waits of up to seven hours as people lined up to buy the 3GS. Whereas some people simply wanted to be among the first to get the new iPhones, others were there because they wanted to take advantage of the early upgrade offer during the weekend window. (Click here to see a Youtube video of the scene yesterday evening, taken by someone after he'd gotten his new iPhone 3GS).

The scene of long lines at Comcentre yesterday are being been repeated today (see pictures here and here for instance). Earlier this afternoon, SingTel announced that it was no longer taking in walk-in customers for the 3GS and that the current waiting time for those in line is six hours.

Long queues at Singtel's iPhone 3GS launch

The Singapore launch of the 3GS on Friday night was marked by long queues, even for those who pre-ordered. The first person to pick up his iPhone from Singtel began queueing at 9am on Friday, 11 hours before the 8pm launch.

According to news reports, Jackson Low, a medical tests subject recruiter (?!), is no stranger to queuing for the iPhone. Last year, at the launch of the iPhone 3G, he was the second person in line where he began queuing five hours before the midnight launch. To ensure he would be first this year, he went down extra early. For his pains, he received his iPhone from Singtel group chief executive Chua Sock Koong and Singapore chief executive Allen Lew.

Singtel yesterday estimated that about 1,500 to 2,000 people were expected. At 11pm, Singtel announced that the queue had closed, but those in line could expect to wait about six hours.

Despite the long queue, it was relatively orderly. However, people were naturally unhappy about having to queue, especially those who pre-ordered. Singtel had two queues, for pre-orders and walk-ins. However, those who pre-ordered ended up waiting for many hours as well. Complaints about the long wait were rife on Twitter and local forum Hardwarezone. People have posted tweets about waiting as long as seven hours to get the new iPhone. Posted @M0T0chan: "Just showered after an almost-7-hour wait at the SingTel Comcentre for my iPhone 3GS 32gb Black. Dead beat...this was longer than last year". Another person, @audreyhuang, was less polite. "stupid singtel!!!!!!!!!! waiting in line for more than 6hours! im so fucking tireddddddddddddddddddddd."

The iPhone 3GS is being launched only at the Singtel shop at Comcentre. Special offers were made to attract people to upgrade this weekend for the launch.

The launch event continues today and Sunday as well. At the time of this writing (10.45am), long queues have already been reported at Comcentre.

To alleviate the queue, Singtel is offering to ship the iPhone 3GS to the homes of people who order online.

Friday, July 10, 2009

1.5 hours to go before launch

And with 1.5 hours to go before the Singapore launch of the iPhone 3GS at 8pm today, the lines have started! See pix here by @tyoshida or this by @vsithasa, or this by @bitsmedia.

Track the situation live via Twitter (search for Singtel or comcentre).

Let's hope for their sake that it doesn't rain. now iPhone-friendly is one of my favourite local sites because their site makes it very easy to get around Singapore. Now I have a new reason for hearting them -- has a mobile site that is iPhone-friendly.

Visit on your iPhone now and you will be greeted with an appropriately formatted page, and the ability to detect your location using Safari's new location-aware capabilities. (This has been up since June 19, but I only just found out. Oops!)

According to Toh Kian Khai, the director of business development at Gothere, the company has avid iPhone users and they are planning a native iPhone app. They're not making promises, but September is a date that is being bandied about. Looking forward to it guys!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Singtel closes pre-orders for iPhone 3GS

If you haven't made reservations to buy your iPhone 3GS this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you're too late now. All reservation slots have been snapped up, according to Singtel. At the launch, priority will be given to those who have pre-ordered, according to the telco, which suggests that you can turn up and queue but you'll have to take your chances.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Saturday slots snapped up

Singtel says that all the slots for Friday and Saturday have been booked. If you want to pick up your iPhone this weekend, you will have to do it on Sunday.

Buying the new 3GS? Choose your plan carefully

If you're buying the iPhone 3GS from Singtel and you want to save money, look beyond Singtel's iFlexi plans. If you opt for Singtel's normal calling plans, and you add Singtel's Broadband on Mobile plan for data, you can get a better deal than if you go with Singtel's iPhone-specific iFlexi plans.

Why? Because Singtel's iPhone-specific plans don't allow you to download very much. The iFlexi plans give you a maximum of 3GB of free data a month. Singtel's Broadband on Mobile data plans, on the other hand, offer up to 50GB of free data a month. Add on an appropriate calling plan, and you're ahead of the game.

Let's say you take Singtel's most expensive calling plan (the iThree plus), and you take the most expensive BBOM plan (the 7200). In total, you will pay $265.36 ($192.60 + $72.76) a month. For that, you get 2,000 outgoing minutes, 2,000 SMSes and 50GB of downloadable data a month with a promised download speed of 7.2Mbps.

If you take iFlexi premium (the most expensive iPhone plan), you pay $205 a month. For that, you get 1,500 outgoing minutes, 1,500 SMSs, and 3GB of downloadable data a month at a promised download speed of 7.2Mbps.

In both cases, you get a free iPhone 3GS. However, for an extra $60.36 a month, you get 500 more outgoing minutes, 500 more SMSes, and, most importantly, you will get 47GB more downloadable data a month. (How much is 47GB of data worth? At $2,831 per GB, you will end up paying over $130,000 if you download an extra 47GB over your ceiling).

Will you need 50GB a month? If you watch lots of Youtube videos over 3G or if you use your iPhone for tethering, you'll be grateful for the fact that you never need to worry about going over the limit.

If you want to save even more money, consider going with a BBOM plan with a slower download speed. If you get the BBOM 2000, it comes with 50GB of data a month at 2Mbps speeds. You'll only pay $37 a month for this plan.

Is BBOM 2000 slower than the iFlexi plans? In theory, yes. In practice, it's hard to say. I'm on the BBOM 2000 plan at 2Mbps. My wife is on an iFlexi plan at 7.2Mbps. I did a series of tests last August/September, comparing the download speeds of our two phones. I never saw a three-fold difference in download speeds. In fact, most of the time, the download speeds were very close.

So the moral of the story is, if you research your options before signing on the dotted line, you should be able to save yourself a fair bit of money.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No more Friday slots available, says Singtel

If you were hoping to pick up the iPhone 3GS this Friday but you haven't made a booking, you're out of luck. Singtel says all the Friday slots have been fully taken up. Fortunately, slots are still available for Saturday and Sunday.

This is quite remarkable given that the site has been extremely flaky since Monday. It won't recognise me as an existing user and it is unable to register new users.

I was at Comcentre today and I asked a customer service person about the problem. The guy said that a lot of people were having problems registering on the site.

Singtel obviously has another winner on its hands with the 3GS.

Scoreless Music gets backing for Chordica

Armed with a $200,000 development budget, local iPhone app developer Scoreless Music is preparing to bring its innovative musical app, Chordica, to the next level. According to company founder and developer Joash Chee, the money is the result of investor interest, as well as support from government bodies and private companies.

Joash promises that the new and improved app, to be renamed Chordica Pro, will be a huge leap forward over the current version. Chordica Pro is slated to be released at the end of the year. For intellectual property reasons, Joash is coy about revealing too much about the new features at this time though. "Let's just say that it is, at minimum, a threefold increase in function and user experience," he says. His lawyers believe that they might be able to get up to three patents out of the new app.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Singtel iPhone 3GS pricing released

Come Friday, you will be able to pick up the new 32GB iPhone 3GS from SingTel at prices ranging from free to $678, depending on the plan you subscribe to. Upgrades for existing iPhone owners available. Full details here.

Update: Existing iPhone 3G users who have been on Singtel for at least six months can upgrade to the 3GS by resubscribing for another 24-month contract. You'll have to pay $600 for the privilege though. You can, however, trade in a 16GB 3G (for $300) or 32 GB 3G (for $400) to offset that $600.

Via Channelnews Asia because the Singtelshop website won't allow me to register as a new user and won't recognise me as an existing user.

Local app update: iHealth Sg

If you need to get to the nearest hospital or clinic or if you want to find an emergency room with the shortest queue, there's an app for that.

The Ministry of Health has just made iHealth Sg available for free on Apple's App Store. Developed by 2359 Media, the app, probably the first government iPhone app, is a comprehensive guide to GP clinics, polyclinics, hospitals, laboratories and nursing homes in Singapore.

You can search for a clinic or hospital nearby using the iPhone's GPS ability.

Pick a facility and it will give you its address and phone number. You can also locate it on the map. By far the coolest feature though is the ability to check out the queue at polyclinics or hospital by viewing the waiting room webcams.

Clinics which have been registered as Pandemic Preparedness Clinics have also been marked out. These are special clinics that people with flu-like symptoms should go to for assessment when the H1N1 situation reaches the mitigation phase following the sustained community transmission.

Friday, July 3, 2009

SingTel to sell iPhone 3GS on Jul 10

SingTel has just announced that the Singapore launch for the iPhone 3GS is Friday, July 10. Details on pricing will be released next week, according to the press release.

You can register to get an update on pricing and launch details from SingTel here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

About iMerlion

About us
iMerlion - The Singapore iPhone Guide obsessively covers the latest developments in the iPhone scene in Singapore.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Wasn't this site previously just known as The Singapore iPhone Guide?
2. Why was iMerlion added to the name?
Because we needed a catchy name that had a local flavour and that also suggested Apple's iPhone. We feel that iMerlion is that name.
3. What exactly is a Merlion anyway?
The merlion is a half-lion, half-fish figure that was the symbol of the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board between 1964 and 1997. It was designed by Van Kleef Aquarium curator Fraser Brunner.
The best known version of the merlion is the 8.6m high sculpture that now stands in Merlion Park, fronting Marina Bay. It was conceptualised by Kwan Sai Kheong, an artist who was also the vice chancellor of the University of Singapore.
The cement fondue sculpture, which is referred to as ‘the Merlion’, was made by craftsman Lim Nang Seng, who used porcelain plates to make the skin of the beast, and small red tea cups to make its eyes. The sculpture was installed at the mouth of the Singapore River and officially unveiled by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on Sept 15, 1972, the day before his 49th birthday. It was moved to its current location, 120m away, in 2002, following changes to the area that made it less prominent.
The Merlion’s imposing size, prominent location and unusual features (apart from its combination of lion and fish, it also spouts water) quickly made it, not just a symbol of the tourism board, but of Singapore itself.

A merlion cub playfully chasing a butterfly (note the hibiscus - the national flower of Malaysia - coyly tucked into the mane).

Merlion – Poetry in non-motion
The Merlion lies at the very heart of Singaporean culture. Poets, especially, have been particularly moved by the majestic Merlion, and a number of well-known local bards have penned lyrical odes to the semi-leonine effigy.
Singapore’s unofficial poet laureate, Edwin Thumboo, was the first to fall under the Merlion’s irresistable spell. In 1979, Thumboo published the seminal Ulysses by the Merlion, a poem that enshrined the Merlion in the cultural consciousness of Singaporeans. Some time later, Lee Tzu Pheng responded to Thumboo's work with The Merlion to Ulysses (1997). This was swiftly followed by Alfian Saat's The Merlion (1998) and Alvin Pang’s Merlign (1998), among others.
While the Merlion has been warmly embraced by the country's poets, it has been inexplicably ignored by local painters. Even though the Singapore River is a popular subject for the country’s watercolourists, the Merlion is conspicuously absent from most canvasses. The Merlion’s absence, in fact, was the theme of conceptual artist Lim Tzay Chuen’s work Mike. Failing to get permission from the Singapore Tourism Board to move the Merlion to Venice for the Venice Biennale in 2005, his installation at the Biennale consisted of an empty courtyard where the Merlion would have stood had he been allowed to move the icon.
The Merlion: A source of inspiration to sculptors and craftsmen
This exquisite piece is affixed to a ferrous metal-attracting material to enhance its utility.
Fortunately, although Singapore’s watercolourists have let the country down, sculptors and master craftsmen have leaped into the breach. These highly skilled artisans toil tirelessly in their workshops to produce highly sought-after miniature Merlions for the cognoscenti. (Interestingly, many of these artisans are based in what is the ancestral home of many Singaporeans, thus neatly tying together ancient migratory routes with modern day manufacturing practices). These valuable collectibles, painstakingly handmade, or lovingly manufactured in limited quantities, can be purchased from the city’s more exclusive boutiques. These stunning pieces come in various forms, and, typically, are as useful as they are beauteous. One popular form is the elegant clay relief that is typically affixed to a ferrous metal-attracting material. Usually painted in resplendent colours, with the Merlion attractively arrayed with other local icons, it plays a vital role in holding up pithy reminders on the refrigerator. For the fairer sex, there are delicate Merlion-adorned devices designed for achieving perfect manicures and pedicures. Domestic goddesses, on the other hand, often fall in love with the picturesque Merlion-themed kitchen implements, in equal parts beautiful and practical, that are used for carefully prising open the metal seals of beverage-holding glass vessels.
This elegant implement is popular with both the domestic goddess as well as the debonair man about town.
The metaphorical Merlion
The Merlion has become such a fixture in Singapore life that it has entered the vocabulary. In the local parlance, to 'Merlion' means 'to throw up', a piquant reference to the fact that the Merlion sculpture spouts water from its mouth. The word is used as a verb; for example, "If you suspect that someone has taken an overdose of prescription pills, you should endeavour to make them Merlion the pills out,” or “He caught gastric flu and Merlioned several times during the day.”
Merlion is also the name of a Russian IT equipment distributor. It is not clear what links with Singapore, if any, this company has. However, the company says the Merlion was selected because it is a symbol of power, reliability and sustainability. The company notes: “People of Singapore still worship Merlion. To commemorate their savior, they have built the 37 meters high stone sculpture of the lion-fish.” This is a reference to another Merlion statue that was installed on the holiday island of Sentosa in 1996. This other merlion was designed by Australian artist James Martin. Apart from its massive height, it is also famous for the lasers that shoot out of its eyes at night. Just as the Colossus protected Rhodes, this colossal merlion symbolically stands guard over the port of Singapore, fiercely protecting the city from its enemies.
While Singaporeans see the Merlion as being a quintessentially Singaporean icon, lions with fishtails have been found in ancient Indian murals and Etruscan coins. It is not unknown in heraldry and has been used on the coat of arms of the East India Company as well as the City of Manila.
External links:
Ulysses by the Merlion (Edwin Thumboo)
The Merlion (Alfian Saat)
Merlign (Alvin Pang)
Various other poetic efforts.
Merlion entry in Singapore: The Encyclopedia.
Merlion entry in Wikipedia.
Merlion entry in Singapore Infopedia.
More about the Russian Merlion.
A light-hearted ANA TV commercial featuring the Merlion.