Thursday, December 31, 2009

StationAlarm SG updated

StationAlarm SG has been updated to allow users to route their journey via the Circle Line.

StationAlarm is a neat app that allows you to sleep on the MRT without missing your stop. Input your starting point and destination and it will wake you a minute before your destination. If your journey requires a change of trains, the app will wake you before the interchange stations as well.

In future, StationAlarm promises push notification so that you don't have to leave the app open during your journey. Read more about StationAlarm here.

Some readers would be interested to note that Apple only took two days to approve StationAlarm 1.5. Great news for developers if they keep this up.

StationAlarm SG costs US$1.99 and can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Singapore App Store Now Allows Redeeming Promo Codes

If you're a developer, it looks like you can now give out promo codes to people who only have a Singapore App Store account.

There is now a link to "Redeem" at the top right hand corner of iTunes, in the Quick Links category.

Previously, promo codes could not be activated in Singapore and developers with promo codes could only give them to people with accounts in the US App Store.

With the ability to redeem promo codes locally, this should enable developers to widen the pool of people who can try out these codes.

Applestore Singapore currently does not sell iTunes Gift Cards so it appears that you won't be able to redeem those in the Singapore App Store yet.
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Monday, December 28, 2009

New URL For Class 95 FM

I mentioned this in a previous post but some people seemed to have missed the news so here it is again -- Class 95FM has changed the URL for its broadcast. If you find that Class 95 is no longer playing on your webradio, please update the URL.

The new URL is:
http://www.mediacorpradio.sg/mediaplayer/asx/class95/fm950.asx

I have updated the iMerlion app with the new URL.

For instructions on configuring your webradio app, please download iMerlion and check out the Radio and TV category.



Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve and I'm tapping this out on the MRT heading home.

I just want to thank everyone who reads this blog. I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

And thanks for your early Christmas present -- the iMerlion app is currently number 2 in the Singapore App Store! (It's actually ahead of Facebook!)

Here's wishing all readers Happy Holidays, a Merry Christmas and a Blessed Nativity!
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More Local Radio Stations Available For The iPhone

If you're a fan of 938Live or Capital 958, you're in luck. A new free app, Mediacorp Radio Stations, is now available that delivers both these stations as delayed simulcasts. (Tip of the hat to iMerlion reader Nicholas Tee.)

If you would rather use your own web app, you can also manually add 938Live to it. The URL is http://www.mediacorpradio.sg/mediaplayer/asx/938live/fm938TO.asx


The URL for Capital 958's online broadcasting service is currently not available. Once I find it, I'll let you know.

By the way, Class 95Fm has changed the URL for its broadcast. If you've previously programmed your app to the old address, it will not work (thanks to Joseph Low for telling me about it). The new address is: http://www.mediacorpradio.sg/mediaplayer/asx/class95/fm950.asx


For full instructions on accessing local stations on your iPhone using a webradio app, check out iMerlion's App Directory under the TV and Radio section.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

BuUuk Gets Ink, Real As Well As Virtual

BuUuk, the excellent restaurant guide cum restaurant finder, has been making the news recently. It was featured today in a full-page story on Augmented Reality in My Paper (page 4 to be precise). And if you were one of the lucky ones to get a copy, you'll see a tall, dark, handsome stranger posing with his iPhone for the story (I won't spoil the surprise by telling you who it is.) You can read the story on the website. (Note: You'll have to click on the Chinese-language edition on the right and 'flip' to page 4.)

In addition, BuUuk also recently made it to CNNGo's list of 11 crucial iPhone apps, sharing the limelight with the likes of Amazon's Kindle and Zagat-to-go.

Update To iTODAY Released As A Separate App

Today, the free commuter paper published by MediaCorp, has just released a new version of its iPhone app. Known in the App Store as iTODAY V.2, the app promises a better layout and enhanced performance.

Somewhat confusingly, the older version, iTODAY which is at version 1.4.2, is still available on the App Store as well.

On an unrelated note, the iMerlion app has broken through the ranks of top 50 free apps in the Singapore App Store! It now occupies the dizzying position of number 46. Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

InSing and local classifieds website create iPhone versions. Why?

SingTel's InSing portal is now available as an iPhone app as is local classifieds website i-pHing.

Both apps are disappointing because they are really just reformatting a website into an iPhone app. What about iMerlion you ask? Well, it's true that iMerlion does reformat the news into an iPhone app, but it also offers things that are unique to the iPhone app, namely the database of local apps. I believe an iPhone app ought to be an improvement over the website. Otherwise, what's the point of creating an iPhone app? Everyone already has Safari.

One argument for creating an iPhone app version of a website is that it reads better on the iPhone. Except that in the case of InSing, the mobile version of the app is almost identical to the iPhone version.

Anyway, if you really want them, they're now in the App Store and they're both free.

Monday, December 21, 2009

SG Buses and i-Shop get Augmented Reality while Foyage is updated


The view through SG Buses from the bus stop opposite Takashimaya Department Store on Orchard Road.

In case you missed it, the latest version of SG Buses, the one with Augmented Reality, is now in the App Store. You can now look through the iPhone's LCD screen to see which buses stop at the bus stops around you. By the way, thanks to new iPhone users suddenly hitting the App Store, the SG Buses is now number 6 in the Singapore App Store. (In an unrelated note of interest to developers, SG Buses used a private API which Apple spotted but waved through, another sign that App Store approval policies are a-changing, or perhaps they are full of the Christmas spirit.)

SG Buses, however, isn't the only app to get an Augmented Reality update. Xsago's i-Shop also has this feature, which will make it easier to find shops where you can get GST refunds. In addition, the new version of i-Shop now supports Japanese, Chinese and Bahasa Indonesia, not just English.

The latest version of Xsago's location-based app, Foyage, currently does not have Augmented Reality, but it does have new features that rely on crowd sourcing, namely traffic and store promotions. Foyage now also has mall listings.

All three apps are free.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Update: SingTel Says There Was Short Downtime, Affecting Only 'Some' Users

SingTel has gotten back to me with a short statement regarding today's dowtime. The statement reads as follows:

"We experienced a short intermittent downtime which affected some of our broadband on mobile customers who tried to access local websites."

I don't know how many people were affected. I'm sure it wasn't very many otherwise Twitter would be aflame. However, I would like to point out that:

a) The downtime also affected iFlexi users (my wife being amongst them), not just broadband on mobile users;
b) It affected more than just access to local websites. It also affected Mail clients, Twitter clients, and access to the App Store;
c) For some people, it affected their voice networks as well (namely, me)

Is SingTel downplaying the problem? If so, why do it in a way that is so easy to disprove? (thanks to @mugunthkumar for the link)
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SingTel Says No Problem With Network Today

Some of you on Singtel would have had the experience I had today. The web was accessible in the morning but mail and twitter was not accessible. This afternoon, it became worse for me. I was in Toa Payoh and I had no signal at all, not for data or voice. A quick check online on Twitter will reveal other people complaining about it as well.

Yet, strangely enough, SingTel says that there was no problem. I just got off the line with a SingTel spokesperson who said that she had checked with her network people and they said there was no problem with the network.

Am I crazy? Let me know what your experience was. If we have enough evidence, we can go back to SingTel to say it wasn't an isolated incident and that a number of people had problems.

(Note: At least some people on Hardwarezone were complaining...)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Help Decide What Picture Of Singapore To Use

The developers behind Spot the Difference, an app where you try to spot minor differences between two seemingly identical pictures, have contacted me to get help from iMerlion readers. The game is doing pretty well in the Singapore App Store and they are now planning a Singapore level for the game. As such, they are looking for ideas from people who live in Singapore. What image would you use to represent Singapore in this game? Changi Airport's control tower? The Singapore Flyer? Maybe even, gasp, the Merlion?

List down your suggestions in the comments box and let your voice be heard. And if you fancy yourself a photographer, post a link to one of your efforts if you believe the photo says 'Singapore'. If they decide to use your photo, you'll be credited in the game.

I'm glad the developers have decided to contact us instead of just getting the same old pictures from the Tourism Board.

I'm no photographer, so here's my list of most iconic images of Singapore:

1. An HDB housing estate like Queenstown or Toa Payoh
2. Peranakan shophouses in Joo Chiat
3. Boat Quay at night
4. Waterloo Street, especially with the Hindu Temple and the Chinese temple standing side by side
5. A wet market in an old neighbourhood.

(Pity Ah Meng is dead. She would have been a great icon. I would have used the old National Library building too but while I think it's iconic, it would be odd to represent Singapore with a building that no longer exists.)

What do you think? What's your list?


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2359 Media Rolling Out Mobile Content Publishing Platform

Some of you may have noticed that local iPhone developer 2359 Media has been busy these days. While most local developers either develop their own apps or create apps on behalf of other companies, 2359 has taken a slightly different route; it has developed a mobile content publishing platform that it is offering to publishers.

The first local publisher to benefit from this content platform was iMerlion. Since then, at least two other sites are using 2359 Media's publishing platform -- GameAxis and Fr3b.

We speak to 2359's co-founder Zhou Wenhan about the company's plans.

Tell us about your content publishing platform.
Walking around Singapore, it is not hard to notice people consuming content on their mobile phone, most commonly while commuting or waiting in line (which seems to happen a lot in Singapore especially). However, for content publishers, creating a mobile app in-house takes time and increases costs.

Given these, MobDis (which stands Mobilise This/Mobile Distribution) was created to help top- and mid-tier publishers extend their existing content to mobile phones in the form of a branded application downloadable by their readers into the mobile phone. These mobile applications allow for a significantly better reading experience in terms of speed and ease of use as compared to mobile websites.

With integration to most well known content management systems like Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal etc., MobDis provides an easy way for publishers to quickly publish such applications into the various smart phone platforms, which also provides the content publishers with marketing visibility, better retention rates from readers and also a new revenue stream via subscriptions or in-app advertisements. Just let us know that you're interested in publishing an app, and the app that supports text, slideshows, videos and podcasts will be ready as quickly as within three days!

In addition to re-syndicating content, MobDis in itself is a content managment system to create new content that is useful on the mobile, allowing content created to be adjusted and displayed on different mobile phones. iMerlion's App Directory is an example of what the CMS can help create, and other ideas for what can be done include event calendars, store directories and song discography. (Note: the iMerlion App Directory is a directory of local iPhone apps and web apps that is found in the iMerlion iPhone app -- Ed)

What platforms do you support?
Right now, our iPhone's first phase has been completed. Android and BlackBerry versions are due to be ready by the end of the year.

What is the business model? Is it an ad revenue split?
We're currently in closed beta, and for selected publishers, MobDis is provided as a free service with a revenue split on the advertising displayed in the application. For publishers who wish to use the ad-free version of MobDis, we have adopted the SaaS model where the price that publishers pay depending on the success of their mobile application (as defined by usage).

What other blogs/websites are you guys working on?
We have some publishers from all around the world. Keep an eye on our account in the iTunes store or at our website.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Developing For Android vs The iPhone: One Developer's Experience



Thye Chean's Space War for the iPhone was originally developed for the Android platform.

In the great iPhone versus Android debate, a common argument is that the open nature of the Android platform will eventually steamroll over the walled garden that is the iPhone. As more and more manufacturers come up with their own devices, they will eventually eat up Apple’s marketshare, or so the argument goes.

However, what Android defenders omit or play down is the fragmentation of the platform that results from having multiple devices, with multiple screen sizes and screen resolutions, and varying capacities, all running customised versions of Android. The greatness, or otherwise, of the Google Phone, does not remove this problem. In fact, it contributes to it, being yet another device on an already fragmented platform.

How bad is the problem of fragmentation? The example of developer Lim Thye Chean gives us an insight into the problems faced by an indie developer on the Android platform.

Thye Chean is the Singapore-based CTO of a Malaysian-based tech company. He is also the father of 10-year-old iPhone developer Lim Ding Wen of Doodle Kids fame. Thye Chean developed a Space Invaders clone on the Android platform called Space War to encourage his son to develop his own arcade game for the iPhone.

Space War now occupies a top 10 slot in Android’s arcade games category. However, the problems with ensuring that this game is compatible with different Android phones has given Thye Chean so many headaches that he is taking a break from the Android platform.

When he first released Space War on the HTC Dream and HTC Magic, things went well. However, when the HTC Hero came along, the problems began. He began getting bug reports that the game crashed, and this was a problem he could not duplicate until he got a Hero himself.

“I found that in the Hero, immediately after installation, the sound file will return a NULL value on start-up. However, once it goes through the first crash, it will subsequently work. I ‘solved’ this problem by not playing any sound (since it is NULL) rather than letting it crash.” He still does not know why the problem occured.

When the HTC Tattoo came along, he played around with it but because it had a very small resistive screen, it was hard to use so he decided to not support the Tattoo. “It is the start of the multiple resolutions nightmare. If I wanted to support multiple resolutions, then I either make my game Android 1.6 and above ONLY (and break all compatibility with all the devices mentioned above), or I switch between both for development and testing. I would have to develop using 1.6 code and compile it to run on 1.5 devices.”

Now the Motorola Droid has come along, and it has a WVGA screen. People who download Space War on the Droid are complaining that the game runs way too slow. The poor performance is because the game is running in compatibility mode as Android will scale the HVGA screen to WVGA screen automatically. “Where do I get a Droid to test? Now players start giving me 1 star reviews because it does not support Droid.”

To add insult to injury, Android apps can only be sold in just nine countries around the world. “So even though I have spent so much time maintaining it, I still have no hope of selling it. And if this is not bad enough, some countries cannot even get the game, and this includes Malaysia (where he is a citizen of).”

It’s not that Thye Chean believes that iPhone development is a walk in the park. He faces a problem with fragmentation there as well. His Space War port, recently released for the iPhone, will run on the latest hardware, but will not on the older iPhone 3G, it will run very slowly. However, the issue of fragmentation is much less than with Android.

And there are other problems as well, chiefly the fact that the App Store is so crowded that it is hard to stand out. However, Thye Chean is willing to give it a shot, at least for now.

It's hard to take the experience of one developer and extrapolate on it to say this is a problem all developers face. But Thye Chean's experience at least tells us that even if the total number of Android phones surpasses that of the iPhone, it's not the end of the iPhone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Next Version Of SG Buses Will Have Augmented Reality Feature

Fans of SG Buses will be interested to learn that the next version of the app will have augmented reality features. When activated, the app will allow you see which buses will stop at the bus stops around you, similar to the way buUuk shows you locations of nearby eateries by imposing a layer of information over the camera view.

The similarity is no coincidence as Muh Hon Cheng developed both buUuk and SG Buses.

Hon Cheng had previously submitted the update to Apple but it was rejected because of the use of an undocumented API. He will be submitting a new version soon.

SG Buses is a bus guide that also tells you bus arrival times.

Space War Now Available For The iPhone




Lim Thye Chean's Space War, which is a hit on the Android platform, is now available in Apple's App Store.

Space War has been downloaded over 300,000 times on the Android Market and is currently number 8 in the Arcades category.

Space War was originally written in Java before being ported to the iPhone. He lists his 10-year-old son, Ding Wen, in the credits of this retro arcade game.

Space War is free. (Note: It plays best on the iPhone 3GS and the iPod touch 2G. If you don't have either of these devices, don't download as gameplay will be very sluggish.)
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App helps you snag free samples

Here's an app that's bound to be a hit with at least 50 percent of Singaporeans -- Fr3b tells you how you can get free stuff, free perfume and cosmetics samples to be precise.

Fr3b is the iPhone version of the website of the same name. I can't say I'm quite the target market for this app, but the idea behind this is quite clever. Who can resist free stuff?

Appropriately, Fr3b is free. This app was developed by 2359 Media, who also developed the iMerlion app and the GameAxis app.
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

SingTel Lowers iPhone Handset Prices

SingTel, which previously had the most expensive handsets, has lowered its prices to match M1's offerings, which until recently held the crown for the cheapest handsets. Prices have dropped by between $10 and $40 depending on type of iPhone and plan (tip of the hat to iMerlion reader Justin).

Update 1: Sharp-eyed iMerlion reader Kaps has found out that you can save money by buying your 8GB 3G iPhone from the SingTel shop online. Sign up for the iFlexi Lite or iFlexi Value and pay $338 or $48 respectively, saving you $50 compared to buying it at the shop (plus you get to avoid the queue.)

Update 2: M1 has brought down its data usage cap to $30 a month to match its competitors.

Correction: Chart updated to reflect that StarHub's $98 a month plan actually has 700 minutes of voice credits, not 500 minutes. Also, the data cap in M1's $98/mth plan is not relevant. Thanks to reader MoleWall for noticing.

The latest chart is below:



M1
StarHub
SingTel
Monthly sub
$36
$38
$39
Data credit/m
12GB (previously 10GB)
12GB (previously 1GB)
12GB (previously 500MB)
Outgoing Voice credit
100 min
100 min
100 min
SMS/MMS credit
500
500
500
8GB 3G
$398
$388
$388 (previously $398)
16GB 3GS
$518
$538
$518 (previously $548)
32GB 3GS
$658
$668
$658 (previously $678)
Data cap
$30 (previously $36.38)
$30
(previously $48)
$30 (previously none)




M1
StarHub
SingTel
Monthly sub
$56
$58
$56
Data credit/m
12GB (previously 10GB)
12GB (previously 1GB)
12GB (previously 1GB)
Outgoing Voice credit
300 min
300 min
200 min
SMS/MMS credit
500
500
500
8GB 3G
$98
$118
$98 (Previously $138)
16GB 3GS
$248
$268
$248 (previously $288)
32GB 3GS
$398
$418
$398 (previously $438)
Data cap
$30 (previously $36.38)
$30
(previously $48)
$30 (previously none)



M1
StarHub
SingTel
Monthly sub
$98
$98
$95
Data credit/m
Unlimited
12GB (previously 1GB)
12GB (previously 2GB)
Outgoing Voice credit
700 min
700 min
500 min
SMS/MMS credit
500
500
500
8GB 3G
$0
$0
$0
16GB 3GS
$0
$0
$0
32GB 3GS
$98
$108
$98 (previously $138)
Data cap
Not relevant.
$30
(previously $48)
$30 (previously none)




M1
StarHub
SingTel
Monthly sub
$198
$205
$205
Data credit/m
Unlimited
Unlimited
30GB (previously 3GB)
Outgoing Voice credit
Unlimited
2,000 min
2,000 min (previously 1,500 min)
SMS/MMS credit
Unlimited
2,000
2,000 (previously 1,500)
8GB 3G
$0
$0
$0
16GB 3GS
$0
$0
$0
32GB 3GS
$0
$0
$0
Data cap
Not relevant
Not relevant
$30 (previously none)