Google Maps: Awesome App for Bus Transit Routes

I’ve always used Google Maps for navigation in the car, but now that I’ve moved to Los Angeles, I am using it for a different purpose: bus maps.

Because I wasn’t much of a bus rider before, I never paid much attention to the Bus mode on Google Maps.

Now that I’m car-less in L.A., the Bus feature on Google Maps for iPhone is a crucial tool that I rely heavily on to get around.

By simply touching the Bus icon at the top of the map when you look up directions, you bring up the suggested transit route, with information on the bus number and scheduled arrival time.

What’s more, touching the clock in the upper right hand corner will bring up a list of the upcoming bus arrivals, so that you may choose to plan a later trip.

Once you arrive, Maps will give you walking directions (if applicable) to arrive at your destination.

Highly recommended for transit-riding iPhone owners.

Would be nice to have maps for the metro rail line, though…

App Store Updates That Remove Functionality: Unfair Business Practice?

Shazam No Longer Free

First, it was the Pandora Radio app, which added annoying audio advertisements in an App Store update. Then, after updating the Shazam app this past summer, I recently learned that the app now becomes obsolete after five uses (per month) and forces you to pay $5 and upgrade in order to restore its functionality. That’s what you get for being an early adopter, I guess.

Typically, when you think of an update, you expect features to be added to your apps. Occasionally, though, companies are updating apps to remove — rather than add — functionality from apps.

I expect some people will say the company has the right to do whatever they want, especially because it’s a free app. I agree. However, is this sound business practice? It’s certainly a great way to piss off — or at least annoy — your most loyal users.

It is the classic bait and switch — they advertise the product as free and unlimited, then swipe your privileges away and force you to pay in order to maintain the features you once enjoyed for free. As one user in a forum thread discussing the issue asked, “How do I know that I won’t be required to pay more to keep using their product in the future?”

In a TechCrunch post yesterday, digital business strategist David Dalka criticized this same kind of behavior among social networks:

It is time for the web community to stand up and shout that they are sick and tired of constant terms of service changes, privacy changes, steps backward in usability that degrade our mutual experience, comfort level with the sites we use and our enjoyment of the web.

Just as social networks are increasingly taking advantage of users with constant terms of service changes, App Store app makers are doing the same. Sure, no one is going to take away these businesses’ operating licenses, but it’s a good way to hurt the brand image.

What do you think? Is this unethical behavior? Should app makers show more respect to their early adopters or are they perfectly entitled to pull the proverbial rug out from under their users’ feet with App Store updates that remove functionality?

Will Steve Jobs Lift App Store Restrictions with iPhone 4.0?

App Store vs. App Market

Because of Apple’s draconian app regulations, the long app approval process, and the presence of an open-source competitor, the iPhone App Store is becoming increasingly unappealing for developers and users alike.

As a developer, you take a big risk developing for the App Store when Apple could reject your app for nearly any reason. Furthermore, Apple has a leash around its developers’ necks when it comes to the tools you can use to build an app. Sure, you can make an iPhone app, but you have to do it using Apple’s tools and you are forbidden by the Terms of Service from using private APIs or other programming languages, says one developer who claims, “Steve Jobs Has Just Gone Mad.”

Once you have developed the app, you have to put it on the slow-moving conveyor belt (i.e. the App Store approval process) and wait for it to get past all the inspectors inside. The rigid and unnecessary bureaucracy in the App Store becomes a barrier to production, and developers become frustrated. Guess where they go.


iPhone App Store Gold Rush

The App Store Gold Rush is over. Just submitting an app to the App Store doesn’t guarantee a good return on investment. The costs of finding a developer are high because the permitted programming languages are limited and the payoff for producing an app is not guaranteed.

These obstacles translate over to iPhone users, who have to wait longer to get app updates and new apps.

Android, on the other hand, is very inviting. There are many ways to develop an application for Android. The number of phones running Android is increasing. And Google does not put its foot down like Apple and police content in the Android App Market.

Slowly but surely, the Android App Market is taking over. Unless…

Apple, Don’t Let it Happen


I love my iPhone. I think it is a marvel of engineering, and I think Apple is home to amazing designers. But while the iPhone is cool, Apple is becoming increasingly uncool.

Like a good mother does for her grown-up children, Apple needs to learn to let go of its customers and developers and let us be who we are. If developers want to develop something, let them develop it. The community will decide what’s good and what’s trash. And concerned parents will set parental controls on their children’s iPhones. And the world will be merry.

On June 7, when Apple announces the 4th gen iPhone, I will be crossing my fingers to hear Steve Jobs say he is doing away with the App Store approval process altogether while improving parental controls to let people monitor content for themselves or their children, rather than Apple doing the censoring.

The Future of iPhone

The future of iPhone depends on more openness. “Open” is the buzzword these days, and people like it that way. Given a choice, I believe people will choose the most open, unrestricted and free. And in the battle between Apple and Google, Apple is not the brand most people equate with “open.”

This is not merely a competition between two companies. It is a war of ideologies, and in the end, I believe openness will prevail.

Give me Liberty, or give me Death! – Patrick Henry

Do You Agree?

Is an open iPhone a better iPhone? Will Steve Jobs do away with the App Store approval process and give users the freedom to do what they want with their devices?

7 Simple, Yet Sweet Games in the App Store

I don’t care much for complicated role playing games that require you to complete missions and figure stuff out. Some of the best iPhone games are those single-purpose, mindless games that are challenging yet don’t require much thought.

I have too many things to deal with in my real life that I don’t want to have to worry about the tasks and stresses of some RPG character, too! Give me a simple game that I can play to take my mind off things every now and then, and I am a happy camper.

Here are seven simple and sweet iPhone apps that satisfy my small, but gnawing appetite for games.

  1. Sheep Launcher!

    How to Play: Keep the baby propelling upwards through the air by tapping it when it starts coming down. If you miss, game over. High altitude = high score.

    Sheep Launcher iPhone game

  2. FallDown!

    How to Play: Tilt your iPhone left and right to keep the red ball falling towards the ground. You must hurry or you’ll be crushed between the floor and the ceiling! You can pick up tokens along the way to accumulate points, stop the movement, or speed up the ball.

    FallDown! iPhone game

  3. Falling Balls

    How to Play: Tilt your iPhone left and right to force the stick figure man to run away from balls that are falling from the ceiling. If you’re feeling daring, play in the more challenging Ninja mode.

    Falling Balls iPhone game

  4. Paper Toss

    How to Play: Flick the wad of paper into the trash can as many consecutive times as possible, keeping in mind the office fan that’s blowing wind across your path. Read more in my original Paper Toss review.

    Paper Toss iPhone game

  5. PAC-MAN

    How to Play: Do I really need to explain? Your goal in this classic arcade game is to guide the yellow Pac-Man through the maze, collecting little dot thingies while you avoid the evil ghouls. Get it?

    Pac-Man iPhone game

  6. Skee-Ball

    How to Play: Roll the balls into the holes. Seven balls, seven holes. The farther away a hole is, the more points it’s worth. Extra points for getting the ball in a hole that’s flashing yellow.

    Skee-Ball iPhone game

  7. Touch Hockey

    How to Play: Just like a classic, real-life air hockey table, your goal in this iPhone game is to get the puck into your opponent’s goal. You can play against a computer or against a friend.

    Touch Hockey iPhone game

Do you play games on your iPhone or iPod Touch? What are your favorite games in the App Store? Let me know your opinion in the comments.

Sign the Petition for an Open App Store on iPhone [Video]

Apple has removed countless apps from the App Store. Satire, sensuality and simplicity have all been purged from the listings at one time or another. The App Store is a walled garden that is becoming increasingly difficult to penetrate. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Join the Movement

Would you like to help improve the iPhone? Sign the petition below to let Apple know you want an App Store free of arbitrary rules and regulations.

(If you don’t see the petition below, go here to sign it directly.)

Do you agree with Apple’s heavy-handed approach to App Store regulation? Or do you want a more open App Store? Feel free to add your two cents to the comments.

What the iPhone Will Look Like When the Puritans Win [SATIRE]

As you may have heard, Apple has imposed yet more restrictions on the App Store, this time vowing to ban apps that feature swimsuits, skin and even mere sexual innuendo.

They even removed a game because the main character (read: cartoon) wore a skimpy outfit.

The App Store changes are due to customer complaints from a vocal minority of people embarked on a crusade to rid the world of the slightest titillation because, well, “think of the children!” Here’s a letter to Apple from one of these censorship-minded Puritans. Let’s hope these folks don’t have their way or the iPhone is going to become rather… unstimulating:

Dear Apple & Mr. Jobs,

I commend your recent decision to remove sexually-suggestive apps from the iPhone App Store. When I discovered that 8 of my 12 children had downloaded Daisy Mae’s Alien Buffet on their iPhones and iPod Touches, I was deeply agitated by the outfit on that Ms. Daisy. Really, a thong on a cartoon character? Where do these app developers get off exposing my innocent young boys and girls to such provocative imagery? And those bikini photo apps, DEAR LORD are those out of line. Thank you for laying down the law and forbidding these graphic applications.

It was a step in the right direction, however I still have some suggestions for improving the iPhone and making it more family-friendly. Please remove the following apps from the iPhone or I am afraid I can no longer remain an Apple customer:

  1. Messages: After I heard about this “sexting” craze among teenagers, I can’t help but think your Messages app will encourage my children to engage in this lewd and lascivious act. Please remove it.
  2. Camera: Do you realize that innocent children can use the iPhone camera to photograph women in bikinis (at the public pool, on TV, or at the beach), just like those tramps in the apps that you have rightfully banned?
  3. Photos: I would prefer my sons not be able to use their iPhones to store photos of women they find attractive. Heaven forbid he refer to these photos for the sinful purposes of arousal! Worse, photos from the Internet can be stored in this application, opening the door to all kinds of inappropriate content. I demand that Apple remove the Photos app or else lose my patronage.
  4. YouTube: I am sure you are aware of the smut on this vile video site. Once while browsing for instructional videos on knitting and scripture, I inadvertently stumbled upon videos of women in bikinis. What is this world coming to? I would prefer that YouTube be removed from the iPhone as well.
  5. Maps: What were you thinking including this Maps application on the iPhone? I would really rather my children not know that there is an entire world outside of their safe and cozy home.
  6. Notes: The Notes application permits my children to freely express and document their thoughts. I can’t support that kind of behavior.
  7. iTunes Store and iPod: I know that iPhone permits me to ban Explicit Content from the iTunes Store and the iPod, but I would really rather my children not listen to music at all. Popular music promotes free thought and dissent, and I prefer my children do as I say. Beyonce is not the mother of my kids, I am.
  8. Settings: Settings gives my child too much control over her iPhone. I am the one who paid $300 for their iPhones, I deserve the right to control every aspect.
  9. App Store: Now that I think about it, you should just remove the App Store altogether. As I was writing this letter, I discovered my child playing this violent Quake game on his iPhone. Now, I am all for the Second Amendment but my Joey is too young to be shooting a gun. I have also discovered that despite your recent ban on stimulating apps, the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition app is still on the iPhone! Please remove the App Store altogether.
  10. Phone: When I discovered 1-800-LETS-DO-IT on my phone bill last month, I realized this iPhone is giving my children all kinds of freedom. I would like the Phone app banned, or at least give me the option to set my phone number as the only contact.
  11. Email: The Email app lets my children receive all kinds of inappropriate emails, whether from their prepubescent friends (whose heads are always in the gutter, I tell you!) or from spam lists that deliver pornography or promises to enlarge a certain private part. I don’t allow my children to setup email accounts, so I would rather they not have access to the Email application.
  12. Safari: This is my last request, but my most important. I nearly fainted when I learned that Safari could access ALL OF THE INTERNET, including pornographic content way more explicit than any of those apps you banned from the App Store. I won’t begin to detail the things I have seen in my boys’ Safari history. This app is the devil, it must be removed!

If I am going to criticize you for what you have done wrong, I should also praise you for what you have done right. I love the Clocks app, it is very useful for waking my children up in the early morning to milk the cows! The Calendar is wonderful for keeping my kids on track with schoolwork and extra-curricular activities. The Calculator is of great assistance for their math homework. And the Weather and Stocks apps are fine, too. Nevertheless, the majority of iPhone apps I consider inappropriate, for the reasons outlined above.

I understand that iPhone has certain Parental Controls, and that you could simply implement Parental Controls in the App Store to keep the adult apps out of sight from my naive children, but really I would just rather you remove all of the applications that can potentially be used to access graphic content. It would give me peace of mind and it would establish Apple as a family company in my mind.

Thank you for your understanding.


Prudence Virtue

P.S. Oh, and those sexy rounded edges on the iPhone body… please fix that too.

My opinion (video)

What do you think?

What do you think of Prudence’s letter above? Should Apple take more care to protect children from the leagues of inappropriate material they can access on the iPhone? I welcome your opinion in the comments.

Update: Commenter reinharden thinks Prudence does not go far enough in her call for app bans:

As lust for money is the root of all evil, the stock app should be removed as well.

If the map app is removed so as to not pollute the minds of the young with notions of faraway places, similarly the clock app should be modified so as to only show the time at the current location. And the weather app should only show the local weather.

And frankly I’m not sure how I feel about all this touching, especially when combined with all that pinching and zooming. It’s all too sensual and likely overly stimulating for young minds (and hands!).