Thursday, June 28, 2012

The movie selection in the iTunes Singapore store is laughable

There's really only one way to describe the movie selection on the iTunes Singapore store -- abysmal.

I was looking for a movie to rent so that I could check out the whole iTunes experience. I combed through the iTunes store looking for something that wasn't lame and couldn't. So I decided to dig deeper and compare the selection with that of the US iTunes store.

I discovered that the Singapore store is significantly smaller than the US store. Some obvious names are missing (no James Cameron or Woody Allen), some obvious movies are also missing (Up, Wall-E) and many well-known actors are deeply under-represented (There are 38 movies with Robert Downey Jr in the US store. In Singapore, a grand total of one.)

You know what it reminded me of? The movie selection on the nicer buses up to KL that give you a choice of movies to watch on the back of the screen in front of you.

Here's what I've found:

These directors are not in the Singapore iTunes store (number in brackets is the figure for the US iTunes store)

- James Cameron (vs 16)
- Woody Allen (vs 14)
- David Lynch (vs 5)
- Alfred Hitchcock (vs 28)
- Akira Kurosawa (vs 5)
- Orson Welles (vs 5)
- Wes Anderson (vs 3)

These movies are not in the iTunes store

- Up
- Wall-E
- Toy Story (all 3)
- The Incredibles
- Cars, though Cars 2 is available
- Ratatouille

These folks are barely in the iTunes store

- 3 Michael Bays (vs 14)
- 2 Steven Spielbergs (his immortal Memoirs of a Geisha and Hook) (vs 20)
- 2 Nora Ephon movies (Julie & Julia and Bewitched) (vs 9)
- 1 Ridley Scott movie (Black Hawk Down) (vs 28)
- 2 movies with Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia and Kramer vs Kramer) (vs 35)
- 3 movies with Johnny Depp (two of them being Pirates of the Caribbean and a sequel) (vs 42)
- 2 movies with Matt Damon (including Happy Feet 2) (vs 32)
- 3 movies with Tom Cruise (vs 24)
- 0 movies with Channing Tatum (vs 14)
- 2 movies with Halle Berry (vs 23)
- 1 movie with Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes) (vs 38)
- 1 movie with Scarlett Johansson (the award winning We Bought a Zoo) (vs 26)
- 1 movie with Charlize Theron (vs 18)
- 1 movie with Richard Gere (vs 37)
- 7 movies with Julia Roberts (vs 40)
- 6 movies with Kirsten Dunst, three of them Spiderman related (vs 23)
- 5 movies with Tom Hanks (vs 33)
- 1 movie with George Clooney (vs 27)

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!

Apple pulls R21 titles from Singapore iTunes Store

Well, that sucks. Apple has pulled R21 movies titles from the Singapore iTunes store. Apparently, pay TV operators and video resellers are not allowed to sell or screen R21 titles in Singapore.

Those titles were on sale briefly when the store first opened but by 3 pm, all R21 titles were pulled, according to the Straits Times.

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!

Apple TV now available in Singapore

Sweet. Apple is now selling its Apple TVs on the online Singapore Apple Store for S$148. You can now stream movies from your iPad or play your iPhone games on your HDTV.

This will come in especially handy now that you can buy or rent movies from the iTunes store.

Apple is also selling the device online in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Vietnam. In Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Macao and Sri Lanka, Apple is selling via resellers. Oddly, according to Mac Rumors, it is not for sale in Taiwan, Thailand or the Philippines even though Apple just rolled out the iTunes store there too.

Thanks to Thye Chean for alerting me to the Cult of Mac post.

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

iTunes Store Launched in Singapore, Hong Kong and 10 other countries in Asia

Apple announced early today that people in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam can now buy music and buy and rent movies from the iTunes store. No word about TV shows though. Full press release below.

Press release

Apple Launches iTunes Store in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan & Nine Additional Countries in Asia Today

HONG KONG - June 27, 2012 - Apple® today announced the launch of the iTunes Store® in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and nine additional countries in Asia featuring an incredible selection of local and international music from all the major labels and thousands of independent labels. The iTunes Store features local artists including Jay Chou, Girls Generation and Andy Lau, international artists including ADELE, The Beatles and Jason Mraz, and world-renowned classical musicians including Lang Lang, Yo Yo Ma and Yuja Wang. Customers can choose from over 20 million songs available to purchase and download on the iTunes Store.

Apple is bringing the iTunes Store to music fans in Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Customers can also rent or purchase movies from the iTunes Store, with many available in stunning HD, from all major studios including 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures, The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. Pictures. The iTunes Store joins the revolutionary App Store™ which offers more than 650,000 apps to consumers in 155 countries.

The iTunes Store is the best way for iPhone®, iPad®, iPod®, Mac® and PC users to legally discover, purchase and download music online. All music on the iTunes Store comes in iTunes Plus®, Apple’s DRM-free format with high-quality 256 kbps AAC encoding for audio virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings.

iTunes® in the Cloud lets you download your previously purchased iTunes music to all your iOS devices at no additional cost, and new music purchases can be downloaded automatically to all your devices. In addition, music not purchased from the iTunes Store can gain the same benefits by using iTunes Match℠, a new service that stores your entire music library in iCloud® for access at any time, from any iOS device. iTunes Match is available for purchase in the new countries added today.

Pricing & Availability
iTunes 10.6.3 for Mac and Windows includes the iTunes Store and is available as a free download from iTunes Store purchases require a valid credit card with a billing address in country.

Friday, June 22, 2012

App Store now uses Singapore dollars

Now you can finally tell how much money you're spending on the App Store without doing mental gymnastics. The Singapore App Store is now listing apps in Singapore dollars with the cheapest paid apps now going for S$1.28 instead of US$0.99.

Via @gamerz

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Siri handles expressions of love in Mandarin too

(Updated with translation)

This is what happens when you say to Siri "I love you" in Mandarin (thanks to Thye Chean, whose young daughter declared her love for Siri repeatedly... ).

Here's the translation, thanks to iMerlion reader xiaocai:

" I love you"

This is impossible.

"I love you"

How much? We should get back to business.

"I love you"

I guess you love my appearance.

"I love you"

But you haven't really gotten to know me yet.

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!

Behold (briefly) the toaster-refrigerator!

Back in April, Tim Cook described the laptop-tablet converged device as a bad idea. In his words, “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those aren’t going to be pleasing to the user.”

Yesterday, we saw caught a glimpse of the first of these converged devices. The tech press certainly loves the two Surface tablets that Microsoft unveiled yesterday. Scratch that. They loved the concept of Surface that Microsoft demo-ed. No one actually had more than a few minutes with the device and no one outside Microsoft has used their innovative keyboard with the tablet.

There is much to love about the concept of Surface, especially if you're a writer. Like most of the tech press.

We all love our iPads but it's not a great device if you have to do a lot of writing. Even with an attached keyboard, having to lift your hands off the keyboard to move the I-bar in a word processor is annoying, though perhaps good if you suffer from RSI. Hence we got comments like this one from Gizmodo:

At the Surface launch yesterday, the auditorium was packed with the tech press, and lots of MacBook Airs, but there was nary an iPad to be seen. And that's because you can't really type on an iPad. 

And The Verge:

There is a gray area that exists for me with the iPad. I love using it to read, to browse the web, to share content, to occasionally create content. But there is a moment when I have to put the iPad down and grab my laptop. I travel with both. I keep both nearby when I'm at home. And I think this is true for a lot of people (it's certainly true for a lot of people I know in the tech press). After Microsoft's announcement yesterday, I can actually envision a situation where I'm not traveling with two devices, or sitting on my couch with two devices, or running to grab my laptop from my office upstairs. The Surface makes sense, and it drives home Microsoft's previously vague intentions with Windows 8.
And Andy Ihnakto:

This reaction comes mostly from the fact that Microsoft seems to have built a tablet that works the way that I use my iPad. I most certainly do not use it as a content consumption device: I use it as an ultraportable PC. I walk around with a big external keyboard and I keep looking for apps that deliver the power of a desktop app. And I continue to be frustrated by my need to sometimes travel with a full-sized notebook as well as my iPad.
So there's no question the concept is enticing. As Andy says, "It looks amazing. If Apple made a device with these specs and features, I’d be vibrating with excitement."

But we don't know the price (beyond 'competitive'), we don't actually know the specs and we don't know how well it will actually perform. All design involves compromise. Apple believes that it doesn't make sense to combine a Macbook Air with an iPad, because there would be too many trade-offs. We'll have to wait and see if the Surface ends up a toaster-refrigerator, or if its actually closer to the camera-phone. But one thing we can say with certainty, now is much too early to say that the iPad and MacBook Air look obsolete.

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!

Monday, June 18, 2012

One reason to welcome Maps in iOS 6

With iOS 6, Apple is going to ditch Google Maps for Apple's own solution.

By junking Google for Maps, we will lose Street View and, in Singapore, we will lose bus stops (thanks to Jon Petersen aka @singeo for spotting that!). And since we don't get Flyover in return, it looks like a pretty bad trade.

But there is one thing in Google Maps I won't miss -- sponsored links in Maps, especially when they screw up the search experience.

Last week, I had to look up the Holiday Inn hotel in Melaka in Maps because I had to go up to Melaka. But when I typed in "Holiday inn Melaka", what I got was a map showing the Holiday Inn in Singapore, because that was a sponsored link. I tried looking up Mahkota Parade Melaka and got an unrelated Singapore address. It took me a few tries before Google would deign to show me the Holiday Inn in Melaka. Fortunately, I have a screenshot as proof.

I suspect this happened because I did the search while on the MRT and I happened to be in the Orchard Road area at the time I did the search. Google probably took my location and decided that a Singapore result was more relevant to me than a Melaka result, which is stupid given that I had typed in Melaka specifically. But that's just a guess.

It's still early days yet for Apple's Maps app and I'm sure we'll find plenty to complain about. But hopefully, sponsored links replacing actual search results won't be one of them.

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!

Friday, June 15, 2012

More about Maps in SG in iOS 6

Bukit Batok on a relatively cloudless day in Maps on iOS 6

Thanks to Thye Chean of Virtual GS, we now have a much better idea of how 3D is handled for Maps in iOS 6 where no actual 3D data exists.

The Maps app actually shows the satellite photo. Unlike the current implementation of Maps, it can also show the photo at an angle, rather than merely directly overhead.

Of course, the problem with relying on satellite imagery is that clouds sometimes get in the way, like this photo we showed you yesterday.

The Esplanade area. Looking at clouds from both sides now is not so useful in Maps.

We'll continue digging into iOS 6 and let you know what else we find.

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

No 3D maps for Singapore in iOS 6

When Scott Forstall unveiled the flyover feature in Maps, developers in the audience cheered, and no wonder. Fly over a city and you see all the buildings rendered in stunning 3D. You can change the angle or move around and your iOS device immediately renders a new view on the fly.

Not, however, if you are in Singapore. Unfortunately, the current implementation of Maps in OS 6 doesn't have the 3D view of Singapore. This, instead, is what you see (thanks to Vishnu Prem aka @burnflare).

Siri speaks Mandarin, now knows what's around you in SG

I use Siri to check my appointments and for cooking all the time (I use it for the timer).

However, my use of Siri has been limited because outside the US, it does not know what business are around you. Thankfully, iOS 6 will change all that. Siri now has a directory of businesses outside the US and you can ask it for the nearest school, hospital or restaurant.

Developers like Lim Thye Chean who have played with Siri say it definitely works for Singapore.

In addition, Siri now handles Mandarin so you ask questions in Mandarin. You can also do dictation in Mandarin too and Siri will transcribe your speech. Thye Chean says the Chinese accuracy for him is in the range of 90 percent. Pretty cool.

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!

Singapore prices for MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros


As droolworthy as the new Retina MacBook Pros are, not everyone is going to be able to afford them. Fortunately, Apple has you covered with updates to the MacBook Air and the other MacBook Pros.

The updated 11-inch MBA starts at S$1,388 (with just 64 GB of flash storage. You need to pay S$1,488 for a more realistic 128 GB). The 13-inch MBA (with 128 GB of storage) starts at S$1,688.

The 13-inch MacBook Pros start at S$1,688 while the 15-inch is going for S$2,488 upwards.

See the press release below for details.

Retina MacBook Pros start at S$3,000.

The very sexy Retina MacBook Pros are now available in Singapore. The basic model with the 2.3 GHz processor and 256GB of flash storage will set you back S$2,988. The 2.6 GHz version with 512GB of storage starts at S$3,788. All prices include GST.

Must. Resist. Temptation. Must. Resist. Temptation.

Apple's press release is below:

We apologize for the break in programming

Maggie leopard-crawling her way to freedom.
Some of you may have noticed that I haven't been updating the site for a while. A new baby born prematurely (30 weeks instead of the usual 40), her subsequent 50-day hospital stay and heart operation, followed a month later by another two-week stay in hospital for pneumonia ended up taking a lot of my energy and focus.

She's much better now, as you can see in the picture above. She is now seven months old and 7.6 kg, small for her calendar age but pretty good for her corrected age of five months (actually, if we go by her corrected age, she's in the 90th percentile in terms of weight, obviously taking after her father). In contrast, when she first left the hospital, she was 1.9 kg (she was born at 1.5 kg).

Things have settled down (fingers crossed), so I've decided to start updating the blog regularly again.

The blog will be a little different as I try to figure out where to take it. It will still cover iOS developments as it pertains to Singapore it might also cover new things as well. The tone is going to be different as well. I hope you'll like it.

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Remember GE 2011 and support independent journalism in Singapore!

The General Elections and the Presidential Elections last year were landmark events in Singapore's political scene. It was the time when Singaporean voters, filled with what Catherine Lim has termed "PAP Fatigue", decided to issue a wake-up call to the ruling party.

Remember those heady days with Vote 2011: Singapore Decides, History in Pictures (US$1.99), an iPad app made up of amazing photos from the two elections.

This app is an extended version of the print magazine, GE 2011: We were there, updated with photos from the Presidential Elections. The magazine itself, if you can find it, sells for S$11 so this app at just US$1.99 is a steal.

About half of the photos in the app were taken by people connected with the Wee Kim Wee School of Journalism at the Nanyang Technological University so proceeds from the sale of this app will go to the Wee Kim Wee Legacy Fund at NTU to support documentary photo projects.

Buy this app and support independent journalism in Singapore!

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!

Best local movies app now even better

Popcorn, the best app for locating movies to watch in Singapore, has just gotten even better.

Popcorn Plus (US$2.99) now lets you see at a glance whether seats are selling out at Cathay, GV and Shaw. You can also be notified when seats are selling out for a particular showtime, and also when a specific movie has opened in cinemas.

If you're a movie buff, this will be the best US$2.99 you'll ever spend. Click here to buy it.

And if you're an iMerlion reader, here's your chance to get it for free. We are giving out five promo codes to iMerlion readers. Just email editor at imerlion dot com in the next 24 hours and we will hand out the promo codes to five random lucky readers!

Follow @imerlion on Twitter or like us on Facebook!