Wednesday, September 30, 2009

SingTel's Response To Blocked Apps Issue

This is SingTel's response to my question about why it took the actions it did on Sunday night and Monday morning, breaking apps like iBBOM and Singtel Data Usage. The unedited statement below is attributed to Mr Lee Kwang Yong, SingTel's Director of Consumer Marketing.

"We are currently not blocking third-party applications that claim to have the capability of checking customers’ data usage from SingTel's servers. However, we would advise our SingTel BroadBand on Mobile customers to use the official data checking program at This will give them an accurate calculation of their data usage.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Opinion: SingTel Needs to Help Developers, Not Hinder Them

SingTel managed to shoot itself in the foot over the weekend when it broke apps that allow users to check their data usage on their iPhone. By doing this, SingTel managed to stop a service that its subscribers found useful, and it managed to alienate local developers at the same time.

Why did it do this? To maximise revenue by encouraging users to bust their data quota? Selfishness? Thoughtlessness? Until SingTel replies, we'll never know.

Find A Fair or Flea Market

If you love rummaging through flea markets or browsing through handicraft fairs looking for unique items, Flea & Fairs Singapore would probably be of interest to you.

This free app is a directory of flea markets in Singapore. It will help you find the closest flea market to you and has attractive photographs accompanying the text.

This app was produced by Omnitoons for publisher Spudniks. Omnitoons also publishes, among other things, an app of Confucian sayings called Inspirations from Confucius, as well as SPAMiCan, a collection of spam recipes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

SingTel undoes changes, iBBOM republished again

This is a fast moving story. The app iBBOM is now working again though I am still having problems getting SG BBOM to work.

Since the developer of iBBOM has not updated his app, this must mean that the two changes that SingTel made last night and this morning have been reversed.

The question is - why? We emailed SingTel earlier asking them why they broke iBBOM, Singtel Data Usage and SG BBOM. We have yet to receive a reply. If we get one, we'll keep you updated.

Update 1

Kumar of SG BBOM says that the version I have is old and won't work. An updated version exists but was pulled from the App Store. The headline of this story was changed to reflect this.

Update 2

Meiwin has revived iBBOM and it will available again on the App Store.

See related stories

* SingTel Breaks Apps That Check Data Usage
* How SingTel Broke the Apps. The Gory Details
* SG BBOM Pulled From App Store

SingTel Breaks Apps That Check Data Usage

Two apps that help iPhone users track their data usage -- SG BBOM and iBBOM -- no longer work thanks to SingTel. Last evening, SingTel made two changes in the way its servers handle the request for data to ensure that the requests come via a web browser, rather than an app. The app iBBOM quits abruptly when it is used, while SG BBOM simply tells the user to check input.

A third app, SingTel Data Usage, stopped working briefly until the developer was able to find out why it broke. He managed to change the way his app works, and it is currently the only app of this nature that works.

How SingTel Broke The Apps: The Gory Details

SingTel's engineers broke the three apps that check data usage--SG BBOM, iBBOM and Singtel Data Usage--by making two different changes to the way the server accepts requests for data. Interestingly, it looks a little like a cat-and-mouse game as the engineers made the second change after one developer was able to get around the first change.

At about 8.50pm on Sunday, iBBOM developer Meiwin found out that both his app and Singtel Data Usage had suddenly stopped working. Both apps would close abruptly, almost immediately after launch. SG BBOM, on the other hand, handled the problem more gracefully, by asking users to check their input. It is not known when the change was made but it was estimated that the change took place some time after 6pm on Sunday evening.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Facebook for iPhone trips up Cocoaheads meeting

It's a little ironic that Thursday's Cocoaheads meeting encountered hiccups because of a fail on the part of the iPhone's Facebook client.

For some reason, the iPhone client is not using the timezone setting that you set through the web.

Currently, the Events segment on the iPhone client says that the Cocoaheads meeting is scheduled for Friday, September 25 from 10am to 12pm.

This bug was probably the reason that developer Joe Goh was not at the meet-up to talk about the excitement that is Clang. Fortunately, Jeremy Foo stepped up to the plate and did a fabulous job.

I guess the moral of the story is twofold--don't trust the calendar on Facebook's iPhone client and always send a reminder email (good call Hong Ting!)

(Hat tip to Hon Cheng for pointing this out on Thursday, though I was too thick to realise at the time what he talking about.)


Friday, September 25, 2009

BuUuk held up because of icons *not* used in app

Approval for the augmented reality version of buUuk has been delayed after Apple sent the app back. The crime? BuUuk had a link to the developer's webpage, and that web page (note: not the app) had a map and a camera icon that resembled icons that Apple has reserved for its own use.

Needless to say, the icons were swiftly replaced and buUuk is back in the queue waiting for approval.

"It's probably our fault for using icons similar to their icons" said developer Muh Hon Cheng. "But they should've just asked us to remove it from the website instead of asking us to resubmit the app."

Hon Cheng revealed this nugget of information while doing a demo of the augmented reality feature of the app at the monthly Cocoaheads meeting yesterday evening.

 The best looking iPhone developers in town.

Apart from Hon Cheng's demo, those gathered also heard from Zhou Wenhan, Jeremy Foo and Samuel Kim. Wenhan, who developed SG Malls, talked about the delights of working with the accelerometer while Jeremy shared his excitement over using Clang. Sam, on the other hand, demoed his two apps YATDL (Yet Another To Do List) and TaskMetrics and revealed that the latter app changed his life because it showed him that he wasn't getting enough sleep.

The event saw a respectable turnout with some 13 people showing up, a good mix of iPhone developers as well as some people interested in meeting iPhone developers.

Apart from sharing knowledge, the meeting was also a nice way to catch up with people. In fact, yesterday was the first time I met Hon Cheng, despite being in touch with him via email for almost a year!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

App helps tourists get GST refunds

Here's an app that is likely to be popular with shoppers. Xsago, the makers of Foyage, have submitted an app to Apple that will allow shoppers to find Tax Free merchants in Singapore.

The Tax Free scheme allows tourists to get refunds on the GST paid on their purchases if those purchases are made at merchants on the scheme.

The free app, i-Shop, will have phone numbers, a photo gallery, and a map to help tourists find these shops.

Unfortunately, this app is not so useful if you live in Singapore because you won't be allowed to get a GST refund for your purchases, though it will come in handy if you have to play tour guide to visiting friends and relatives.

However, local shopaholics can take heart because Xsago is planning to extend this app to other countries that have a similar system. According to Xsago founder Willson Cuaca, the company will roll out the app to 33 countries after it is launched in Singapore.

Apart from i-Shop, Xsago has also been busy on an update to its located-based app Foyage that will allow people to share photos of traffic conditions with other Foyage users, a sort of visual crowdsourcing. This feature is already available on the Blackberry version of Foyage.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Update to SG Buses coming

Prolific local developer Muh Hon Cheng has just submitted a new version of SG Buses to the App Store. This is a major update which features better search, in-app maps and a faster journey planner. In addition, bus times now works again and you can bookmark your favourite bus service.

You can check out a preview of SG Buses on Youtube.

Watch out for SG Buses on the App Store.

Ding Wen's Invader War submitted to App Store

Lim Ding Wen, the 9-year-old developer who wrote Doodle Kids, has just celebrated his 10th birthday by submitting his arcade game Invader War to Apple.

According to Lim Thye Chean, his father, boss levels will come in the next version of the app.

Ding Wen's Doodle Kids has also been updated to version 1.3 which is now on the App Store. The latest version adds a dialog box to verify if the screen should be cleared if the app is shaken.

Local developer creates photo manipulation app

Here's more evidence that the iPhone is unlocking the creative talents of local developers. Developer Don Chan has just released an app called Cam App that allows you to apply effects to your photos on your iPhone

You can choose the effect you want (Lomo, Helga, Black and White or Instant) or combine several effects into one. What's nice is to be able to see, side by side, these different effects applied on the same picture.

You can also crop and rotate pictures within the app.

Cam App is available on the App Store for $0.99.

Monday, September 21, 2009

iBBOM and SingTel Data Usage now available

Two apps have been released over the weekend to help iPhone users on SingTel's network find out how much data they have used and how much data they have left in their quota for the month.

Both look pretty neat. iBBOM visually displays the data usage left for the month while SingTel Data Usage tells you how much data you can use per day until the next billing cycle.

Both are free, though iBBOM has ads.

The developer of SingTel Data Usage originally planned to add push notification to the next version of his app, but he is holding off because he is concerned that SingTel may force him to pull his app. "I don't want to put in effort that will go to waste until I know what Singtel will do," Chu Yeow said in a forum posting on Hardwarezone.

He was referring to the incident a few days ago when the developer of SG BBOM decided to pull his app after he declined to rework his app and make it part of SingTel's App Zone. If he had not done so, SingTel said it would request that Apple pull the app.

Now Playing app covers local cinemas

This isn't news but I'm sharing it because it just came to my attention. A nifty app called Now Playing tells you what movies are showing at cinemas in Singapore and in more than 20 countries around the world.

You can search by cinema name, movie and by distance from your location. It also links to reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic or Google.

Now Playing is free and available on the App Store.

Tip of the hat to @Casperz who first posted this on Hardwarezone's iPhone forum.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Taxi Lah! update available

The bug in Taxi Lah! that prevented the app from working properly over 3G has been fixed in the latest update which is now available.

Taxi Lah! is an app that stores the numbers of local taxi companies and allows you to call for a cab from the app. It also provides a way to estimate the cost of a journey.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Chordica gets CNN mention

Thanks once again to British singer-songwriter Gary Go, Joash Chee's Chordica gets a mention on CNN.

Chordica is one of two apps that Go uses regularly for his music making, the other being Beatmaker.

Looks like Chordica is definitely getting its 15 minutes of fame. (Hat tip to Cult of Mac.)

Apple reviewing 2 apps similar to pulled app SG BBOM

In an ironic turn of events, news about the pulling of SG BBOM comes just as at least two similar apps are currently under review by Apple. Both iBBOM and SingTel Data Usage appear to pull data from SingTel to tell users how much data they have used so far, and to calculate how much data is left in their quota.

When contacted, the developer of iBBOM said he was surprised by SingTel's actions. "Such an app actually provides convenience and does no harm to SingTel," he said, though he admitted that he felt SingTel was within its rights to do it.

He said he had not been contacted by SingTel about iBBOM yet. "If they come to me and ask the same, I guess I'll just pull the app too. It's no benefit for me to go against them. The app is free, the ads don't really make money, and I developed it just for fun in maybe 10 hours. Most of the time was spent writing the UI."

SG BBOM was pulled by its developer--Mugunth Kumar--yesterday after SingTel requested that he pull the app if he did not rework his app as a SingTel App Zone app. SingTel objects to having a third party app give users access to information about how much data they use. Interestingly, the fact that there could have been at least three third party apps to provide this functionality suggests that there is a demand for this information, which SingTel itself does not provide via an iPhone app.

While SingTel does not have such an app, its Australian subsidiary Optus recently unveiled an app called My Account that allows users to check their billings, and their call and data usage, among other things.


CocoaHeads SG meeting on Thursday

The upcoming CocoaHeads meeting will be held next Thursday (September 24) at the NUS Extension @ Park Mall from 7pm.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

SG BBOM app pulled from App Store

The developer of an app that calculates the iPhone's data use on SingTel's broadband network has pulled his app from the App Store at SingTel's request.

According to Mugunth Kumar, the developer of SG BBOM, SingTel met with him today and told him that they did not want a third party app to provide information about an iPhone user's data consumption. SingTel proposed that he make his app part of SingTel's App Zone instead. SingTel App Zone is SingTel's attempt to run a local app store to host apps for smartphones. Kumar declined because he disagreed with the App Zone's policies.  

At the meeting, Kumar was told that if he did not pull SG BBOM from the App Store, SingTel would ask Apple to do so. “If Apple removes the app, subsequent approvals of my future apps would be delayed, so I thought I would remove it instead," says Kumar.  

Although he describes the incident as “quite unpleasant”, he is not overly upset. “BBOM is something which I did in 5 hours so I'm not very bothered about it." The incident did have an impact on him though. "The way SingTel spoke to me made me change the way I look at the local market," he says.  

This incident also explains why the app has not been working recently. SingTel had been unhappy with SG BBOM so it prevented the app from accessing the data needed.  

SG BBOM works by providing an iPhone interface to a service that SingTel offers via its website. The app also estimates how much data a user has left for the remaining billing cycle, something that SingTel's website does not do.

Apart from SG BBOM, Kumar also developed StationAlarm SG, an app that helps sleeping MRT passengers wake up before reaching their station.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SG Trains updated

Muh Hon Cheng's SG Trains has been updated. It now reflects the Circle Line and the new stations on the Boon Lay Extension. Also included in this update is an in-app map that shows you where you are and how far you are away from your destination.  

SG Trains helps you make the most of Singapore's MRT system by estimating journey times between stations. If there is more than one route, the app will calculate the time it would take on all the possible routes. 

SG Trains (version 2.0) is available in the App Store for US$1.99.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reality bites: Using AR in buUuk

For the past few days, I've been playing around with a beta version of restaurant guide and finder buUuk (the version which has the Augmented Reality feature) and I can report firsthand that it is incredibly cool.  

When you activate this feature, buUuk uses the GPS and compass function in your iPhone to determine your location and the direction you're facing. It then starts up the camera and adds a layer of information over the view, telling you what restaurants are in front of you. It's like a science fiction movie come to life. 

buUuk locates Pasta Inc across the road.

To access this function, tap on the Nearest button in buUuk and turn your iPhone 3GS sideways in a counterclockwise direction so that the home button ends up on your right. Now hold up your iPhone so that it is perpendicular to the ground, as if you are taking photos in landscape mode. This action will activate the camera and the AR feature in buUuk.

No doubt to avoid overloading the device, the app only loads data for restaurants in front of you (this being Singapore, there are eating places almost everywhere). If you turn to face a new direction, you can get the app to reload data for the new view by touching the reload button in the top right hand corner.

The many exciting food options along Jalan Besar.

Apart from fulfilling juvenile superhero fantasies, I foresee this app being essential for the directionally challenged. If you have difficulty reading a map, as I apparently do, this app will tell you which direction to head towards if you are looking for a particular restaurant.  

The guys at buUuk have already submitted this update to the App Store so watch out for it. I'm off to play with this some more, so hasta la vista, baby.  

Depressing proof that NTU is in the middle of nowhere. If you head north from this bus stop outside the School of Communications, you'll have to travel more than 16km to get food. But bring your passport because the restaurants are all in Johor Baru.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Younger sister of Doodle Kids developer wants in

Younger sisters are annoying that way. Your world is all happy and self-contained and then your little sister comes along and you have to share. Nine-year-old Lim Ding Wen, who shot to fame after becoming the world's youngest iPhone developer, may have to get used to sharing the limelight with his younger sister, Xin Quan, who is 5. Xin Quan is the talented artist responsible for the graphics behind Doodle War, an iPhone game developed by their father Lim Thye Chean, which has just been submitted to the App Store for approval.

Xin Quan is not just a great artist either; she also has excellent hand-eye coordination, as this video of her playing the Android version of Doodle War amply demonstrates. Pretty amazing for a 5-year-old. I'm sure she would wipe out my current high score on Flight Control (which I'm too embarrassed to reveal).

Must be nice to have a dad who will immortalise your art in an iPhone app!

iPhone game Sassy vs Bobby is new twist on the fight between cats and dogs

Local iPhone developer Farawayboy Inc has developed a cute game for the iPhone involving a cat and a dog waging war by throwing fish and meat bones respectively over a volleyball net. Sassy vs Bobby is cuter than it sounds. Check out the video here. Sassy vs Bobby is available on the App Store for US$0.99.

The developer has also released iFlip Pro, a more advanced version of his original iFlip, which is now known as iFlip Lite and is available for free. iFlip Pro is available on the App Store for $$0.99. Click here to see how to play iFlip.

Shen Weijia, the developer, is the person behind Singapore Bus Guide II, and Singapore Subway/MRT Guide. He's obviously come some way since those relatively simple apps. It's great to see developers here make increasingly complex apps as they gain experience and expertise.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Oops. 3GS sold out in Singapore. Again.

That didn't take long. SingTel announced Friday that, thanks to "overwhelming demand", it has run out of the iPhone 3GS, just two days after saying that it had them in stores. New stocks are expected in October (i.e. between three to seven weeks from now). The lesson here is, when you hear that SingTel has the 3GS in stock, run.

(Tip of the hat to Hon Cheng for this).

Full announcement below:

Thank you for your patience and interest in the iPhone 3GS.

Due to the overwhelming demand for the iPhone 3GS, all available stocks are sold out.

We expect new stocks in October 2009. Please check this website for updates.

We appreciate your understanding and support.


The SingTel Team 


Friday, September 11, 2009

Limited stocks of iPhone 3GS now available in SingTel stores

According to an announcement dated September 9 on SingTel's iPhone page, the 3GS is now available at selected SingTel outlets and Apple premium resellers. Note, however, that stocks are limited. The full announcement is below:

We are pleased to make the Apple iPhone 3GS available at selected SingTel retail outlets, Apple premium resellers

You may visit any of these retail points or our online shop at your earliest convenience and the phones are available while stocks last.

Please note that not all iPhone 3GS models are available at all outlets and stock is limited.

If your desired model is not available, you are welcome to leave your contact details in store and the outlet will call you as soon as your iPhone 3GS is ready for purchase. 


Calculate your income tax? There's an app for that

If you like knowing how much you owe the tax man (and who doesn't?), you're in luck. Singapore Income Tax Calculator is a US$1.99 app that will help you calculate how much you need to fork out to the IRAS.

I'm guessing that this app will come in especially handy if you run a *cough* cash-based *cough* business.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Taxi Lah! getting fixed, hopefully soon

The developer of Taxi Lah! have submitted an update to Apple to fix a major problem with their app.

Currently, if you are online via 3G, the app does not recognise that you have Internet access. This disables that part of the app that estimates the cost of a taxi ride from your starting point to your destination. As a result, this feature can only be used over WiFi, which diminishes the utility of this app significantly.

It's a shame this bug slipped out into the shipping version, but we're glad to hear a fix is on the way.

Quicktime stream of event now available

Get it here.

iPhone OS 3.1 released and other goodies

Here's a quick roundup of iPhone-related news from the Apple event on Wednesday at the Yerba Buena theatre in San Francisco.

- Steve is "vertical, back at Apple and loving every day of it". (He received a standing ovation when he took the stage).
- iPhone OS 3.1 (now available) has a bunch of new features. The iPhone Blog has a good walkthrough.
- MobileMe gets minor update. You can now set the passcode remotely.
- iTunes 9 allows you to manage apps on the desktop. You now get Genius recommendations for apps based on the apps you already have.
- App Store gets new 'Top Grossing" section to highlight the more expensive apps
- iPod touch gets refresh. More capacity, faster, cheaper, but no camera.
     - 8GB iPod touch drops to US$199. 16 32GB is US$299 and 32 64GB is US$399.
     - Both the 16GB and the 32GB touch will support Open GL | ES 2.0 and are supposed to be "up to 50 percent faster".

Steve also gave an update on how the iPhone OS ecosystem is doing:
- Apple has sold 50 million iPhone OS devices - 30 million iPhones and 20 million iPod touches.
- There are 21,178 games and entertainment titles in the App Store. In comparison, the Nintendo DS has 3,680 while the PSP has 607.
- The App Store has 75,000 apps on its virtual shelves and has recorded 1.8 billion downloads (excluding updates).

Macworld had a great live blog covering the event. If you want to read the whole account, play-by-play, and with pictures, it's here.

Click here for a David Pogue interview with Steve Jobs who explains why the iPod nano gets a video camera, but the iPod touch does not. Steve also talks about e-readers and his health.

Christmas did not come early this year, but still, a nice bunch of updates. And now that iPhone OS 3.1 has been released, we should soon see a flood of apps that do augmented reality.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Xsago ports Foyage to the Blackberry

Not strictly iPhone related but you might be interested to know that Xsago, makers of location based app Foyage, has ported the app to the Blackberry platform. Apart from the iPhone and the Blackberry, Foyage is also available on the Android Market. (Foyage was originally developed for the iPhone).

In case you're interested, the Blackberry version can be found here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Locally developed twitter client SimplyTweet supports video uploads

Locally developed twitter client SimplyTweet now allows you to upload video within the app. In addition, SimplyTweet 2.2 (US$4.99) has a new 'conversation between us' functionality.

SimplyTweet was developed by Yar Hwee Boon of MotionObj. He has also developed a number of games for the iPhone including Big Deuce and Quick Finger.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Child's play: CEO of hi-tech firm writes iPhone app for toddlers

Danny and his boys

I've never been a CEO of a hi-tech company (or any company for that matter) but I imagine that most CEOs like that spend their free time working on their golf game, racing expensive yachts or swilling Dom Perignons. Not Danny Wilson. The CEO of Pixelmetrix, a company that makes preventive monitoring solutions for digital television networks, writes iPhone apps for kids instead. Danny, who is based in Singapore, has just published an app called Beep Beep! aimed at babies and toddlers. When they touch the screen, the iPhone produces interesting shapes and sounds. There is no other point to this app. There are no goals and there are no scores. Babies, apparently, love it.

"The game is a remake of a Mac Classic game called ‘KeyWhack’,” says Danny. “My two boys gave me the idea to put it on the iPhone. When they were very young, they really really liked (the very aptly named) KeyWhack. The iPhone version seems equally addictive :-)"

It took him about two or three months to put this together, working in his free time. "If I was working full time on it, I suppose I could have finished it in 1 or 2 weeks," says Danny, who started his career as an engineer designing hardware, firmware and software. "It actually took a lot more work than expected to register as a developer and publish on iTunes!"

Having been bitten by the iPhone development bug, Danny and his boys are now plotting to develop other apps.

Beep Beep! is available on the App Store for US$0.99.


Taxi Lah! helps you call cabs, estimate bill

If you take taxis a lot, Taxi Lah! will probably come in handy. Taxi Lah! will help you to call a cab, estimate the distance and cost and give you the shortest route. I haven't tried it out yet but it looks pretty useful. Taxi Lah! is available on the App Store for US$2.99.

Update 1: Sadly, I can't seem to get the app to work properly. When I try to get it to estimate the cost of a journey, I get an alert telling me I need Internet access, which, of course, I have.

Update 2 (9 Sep 09, 9.30am): Just found out that the app will work over WiFi but not over 3G. If your iPhone is on 3G, the app does not detect an Internet connection.


Gary Go uses Chordica

British singer-songwriter Gary Go, whose single Wonderful recently made it to number 25 on the UK charts and number 1 on the US iTunes chart, is well known for using the iPhone for composing and performing music. In an interview with Gary in today's Sydney Morning Herald, he reveals that among his musical tools is Joash Chee's Chordica. Looks like Chordica is picking up steam!

Lim Thye Chean's Android game featured in Samsung Galaxy launch

Lim Thye Chean, the father of 9-year-old Doodle Kids developer Lim Ding Wen, is also getting his 15 minutes of fame. His Android game -- Space War -- was featured in the Taiwan launch of the Samsung Galaxy recently. See here and here for videos of the launch.

Local app update: Singtel BBOM warns if you are close to your quota

SingTel BBOM, the free app that tells you how much data you have used for the month, has been updated to warn you if you are close to busting your data quota for the month.

The app estimates your daily usage and extrapolates how much data you will use till the end of the billing cycle. if you are likely to be under, the estimate flashes green. If you are likely to exceed your quota, you get an alarming flashing orange alert. Nice idea! Thanks Mugunth!