The warring atmosphere between Apple (backer of HTML5) and Adobe (Flash) over the Internet video standard is about to heat up once again. Developer Skyfire submitted to the App Store the first mobile browser capable of running Flash content on Apple mobile devices. The Skyfire browser for Apple devices embeds the Safari browser, meaning that the browser will look and run similarly to the built-in mobile Sarari browser and it will incorporate new features from Skyfire. One major new feature is the ability to run Flash-based content within in the brower. Skyfire has done their homework:
Skyfire for iPhone was built in tight accordance to Apple guidelines, including the use of a WebKit browser core shared with Safari, and h.264 adaptive streaming. Skyfire’s famed cloud-computing technology translates Flash video on the fly from millions of web sites into HTML5 formats, and supports iOS devices via Apple’s HTTP live streaming standard. Skyfire also avoids the concerns raised in Steve Jobs’ recent essay regarding Flash on mobile devices. By optimizing Flash for iPhones and network conditions in the Cloud, Skyfire improves performance and maximizes battery life while playing video. The browser also avoids alternate runtime environments and other security vulnerabilities.
In other words, the Skyfire browser technically does not run Flash content; it “translates” the content in the cloud (it talks to Skyfire’s servers) from Flash to HTML5. And thanks to H.264 adaptive streaming, the browser will compress video data by an average of 75% so as not to create network congestion. Adaptive streaming also promises a reduction in buffer time and enhanced battery life. So cross your fingers and let’s hope Apple doesn’t destroy our dreams of watching more delicious content on our iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches. Check out the video sitting after the break to see an iPhone play an episode of The Daily Show (Flash video) without hiccup. Official PR is there, too.
VEVO, the vast and growing music video portal on YouTube, is now available in app form. Besides containing over 20,000 music videos from more than 7,000 artists the VEVO app also brings with it:
The VEVO app is only available in the U.S. and Canada. iPad and Android versions are coming soon. Download it for free here.
Similar to Foursquare, Facebook Places gives you the ability to share your location in the world with friends and view your friends’ location. “Checking in” and sharing your location is simple:
Go to Places on the iPhone application or touch.facebook.com site and then tap the “Check In” button. You’ll see a list of places near you. Choose the place that matches where you are. If it’s not on the list, search for it or add it. After checking in, your check-in will create a story in your friends’ News Feeds and show up in the Recent Activity section on the page for that place.
You can even “tag” friends that are with you, just as you can tag a friend in a status update or photo. You can also post an update along with your check-in to tell people more about what you are doing. The “People Here Now” section reveals a list of nearby Facebook users, whether they are “friends” or not. People will only show up in this list if they are checked into the same location as you.
Privacy concerns are an ongoing issue at Facebook HQ, so they made sure to highlight ways to tweak Places options. The default setting shares your location and previously tagged locations with friends only; you have to option to change the master privacy control to “Everyone” if you like. You also have the option whether or not to allow your friends to check you in to places. If you let them do so, you will receive notification every time you are checked into a place. You can always remove yourself from the places you’ve been checked or tagged into, just as you can remove your name from a tagged photo. Want to learn more about controlling your privacy with Places? Watch this helpful and informative video from Lifehacker that goes through the motions step-by-step.
Facebook Places is only available on the iPhone in the US. In order to access the new feature you must download the free update for the Facebook app. Along with Places, version 3.2 brings background photo and video uploads (for iOS4 users), some visual and loading enhancements, and various bug fixes. Got an Android and Blackberry device? Point your browser to touch.facebook.com to access an HTML 5 version of Places to join the fun. Facebook is working on bring Places to other mobile devices and more countries. They have opened up a Places API for third party developers like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Yelp to use in their respective services.
Fring update allows 2-way video calling over 3G with iPhone 4 (and more) [Update: Skype support is gone]
I’m just as surpised as you are when I found out that the boys of Cupertino allowed Fring, a voice/video/IM client app, to update its services to give its users the ability to make video calls over AT&T’s 3G network. Up until now, iPhone 4 users could make video calls using Apple’s FaceTime feature, and this is restricted to WiFi only and other iPhone 4 users. With the latest version of Fring, iPhone 4 users have multiple options when it comes to video calling. They can video chat over WiFi & 3G and with non-iPhone 4 users (it’ll work with any mobile device that carries Fring in its App Store). And since Fring allows you to connect your Skype account to it, now you can video chat with friends and family from iPhone 4 to a PC/Mac running Skype. Among other new features, Fring now supports iOS4 multitasking and offers a new “social stream” and a “smarter address book”. Give it a try now–the updated Fring app is sitting in the App Store for $0.
Some clarification: If you have an iPhone 4, you can use Fring to make video calls with other iPhone 4 users as well as users of other devices. If the user you are calling is using an HTC EVO 4G, two-way video calling should work just fine since both the iPhone 4 and EVO 4G have front-facing cameras. If the user you are calling has a phone that does not have a front-facing camera (say, the Droid Incredible), video calling will only work one-way (from iPhone 4 to the Incredible). Having a front-facing camera is a requirement to send out video; your backside camera will not suffice. Get it?–got it?–good.
Update: Since the update was pushed out last Thursday, tons of iPhone owners have been testing it and this resulted in “network stress” for Fring’s servers. For the time being, Fring is “temporarily reducing support to 3rd –party Skype.” This means that many of your cell phone to PC/Mac audio/video calls mediated by Skype may not go through at this time. Fring says they’re working on the issue, and they hope the temporary shut down will open up the ether for Fring-to-Fring video calling.
Slingers, rejoice! Sling Media has come out and stated they are “actively moving towards H.264″ and Microsoft Silverlight video support to bring the Slingplayer application to the iPad and Windows Phone 7 Series devices sometime in the near future. The move to these video formats will increase the current resolution of the player from 320×240 to something larger and more expansive. Slingplayer HD, perhaps? Sling had this to say on the matter: “When it makes a noticeable difference in quality, we will definitely provide higher resolution streaming. The iPad is a good example of a device where we are hard at work on this, but unfortunately it won’t be there at the April launch.” Patience is a virtue. That’s what they say, right?
This itty bit of news has just made my week. Remember that game SkiFree that came preloaded on Windows 3.1? It was a very simple game; you used the arrow keys to direct the skier speck to the bottom of a hill, trying your best to not run into obstacles like trees and rocks. Today gameplay utilizes iPhone goodies like the built-in accelerometer for steering and the touchscreen for jumping. The developer promises a future update will add a new slalom mode, easter eggs from the original SkiFree, and the absent and totally necessary Snow Monster. That little basterd would always get me once I reached near the bottom of the hill! Download SkiFree here; it’s free!
We all knew this was coming. The latest Internet meme is now featured in an app for the iPhone/iPod Touch. Edward Anatolevich Hill is ’The Creepy La-La-La Guy’ you’ve seen belt out those lalala’s and get impersonated by the great Christoph Waltz. You can now bring the nightmare-inducing man to your iPhone with the Trololo app. In it Hill sings his tune over and over again as you try to unlock the following powers: Applause, Funny Hat, Tone Invasion, Lava, Earthquake, and Chicken Of Death. Normally priced at $1.99, the app is free today! So go on and download it. Or don’t.
A “tag” is a multicolored barcode that can be placed on (or in) a number of products and services, such as product packages or magazines. The Microsoft Tag application (which will be available for download on a number of handsets, including Windows Phones, the iPhone, and others) takes a picture of the unique barcode stamped on a product and relays all kinds of information about the particular item at hand back to you. Tags can push all types of information to you including websites, pictures, and video. “It’s the hyperlink in the physical world,” says a Microsoft rep. He also says MS will not charge for the app or for companies to place barcodes on their products. This is fun and all, but Microsoft is late to the game. I understand that the technologies are different (Tags can lead you to specific videos and other info), but heck–Google Goggles can search for a product’s information without barcodes!
Logitech has gone ahead and turned all iPhones into portable keyboards and mice for computers. Sure, it’s not the first company to do it, but it’s here and the execution is top notch. And there’s this: it’s absolutely free. It uses WiFi to wireless connect to your PC or Mac, and the text you type is displayed on the screen, removing the annoyance of looking up at the computer every second. Additional features include:
Multi-touch trackpad with the option for two or three mouse buttons Two-finger scrolling Keyboard with Control, Alt, Command/Windows keys On-screen text display while typing Show or hide the keyboard at any time Trackpad and keyboard are available in landscape and portrait modes
It’s available for the iPhone and iPod touch at the App Store. And did I mention it’s free?
Do you think your spouse is cheating on you? Do you have trust issues? Is your name Elin Woods? In any case, the iTrust app is for you! It works like this: You take a snapshot of your iPhone’s homescreen (holding down the home button + the power button), open the iTrust app, select the homescreen image you just took, and tap start. That’s it. Now when someone tries to go snooping on your phone he/she will get passed the lock screen to find a frozen image of your homescreen. The culprit will think the still image is actually the homescreen and will go about pressing various apps trying to pry into private text messages or emails. All the while the app is recording his/her every move. When you get back to your phone you can open iTrust and playback a log to see what exactly the culprit was trying to find. Neat, huh? Obviously there are many ways to bypass the iTrust mirage but the concept is interestingly sneaky, isn’t it? iTrust is available in the App Store for a buck. Full demo in the video above.
From WaveMachineLabs comes a new innovative app for the iPhone called Voice Band. Simply put, the app turns your voice into an instrument in real time. Instruments include 2 guitars, a bass, sax, 2 synths, drums, and a mic. Basically you make sounds with your voice and the app converts and records these sounds into instrument sounds, allowing you to layer them on top of each other to create a final product that may actually sound like an intricate, well thought out song. In mic mode you can even top it all off with your own vocals; don’t worry, a built-in auto pitch helps you stay on key. You also have the option to play your iPod library in the background and “play along with your favorite music.” Songs can be saved and emailed to friends within the app. Voice Band is available in the App Store today for $2.99. It works with all iPhones and the 2nd gen iPod touch; you must have OS 3.0 or later installed. One more stipulation–a pair of headphones (with a built-in mic) is required for iPod touch and original iPhone users. See it in action in the video above. Definitely one of the coolest apps I’ve come by in a while.
Welcome the latest addition to the App Store, Type n Walk! This apps allows you to text on the go by “display[ing] a transparent viewport of what’s directly in front of you.” In other words, using the iPhone’s camera, the app displays a transparent text messaging screen, allowing you to ‘type n walk’ without worrying about tripping on a rock or walking into a tree. Seems a bit unnecessary; but then again, there’s an app for everything these days.
Today Google announced a major upgrade to its mobile Google Maps software with the introduction of Maps Navigation. Everything you’re used to with Google Maps is still there–search (by name of business), directions, traffic data, the three views (map, satellite, hybrid), etc. Maps Navigation brings full-blown turn-by-turn directions, including our friend the female robotic voice. New features included: address input by text or voice; text-to-speech (reads street names aloud); Street View (when you are making a turn or getting off a highway, an intelligent satillite view of the street will appear with directional arrows embedded on top); search along a route (it can point out and direct you to gas stations or resturants that fall on your route path); hold a finger down on any point of the virtual map and it will guide you there; layers (features like traffic and points of interest are “layers;” Gizmodo acknowledges that this may hint towards Google offering developers to create their own layers on top of the map (Wiki notes, etc.)); landscape and portrait modes. A docking station for car use was demoed. When a compatable phone is placed in the dock, an “arm’s length away” user interface takes effect (larger icons, etc.).
One of the most distinguising features of Maps Navigation as a navigation system is that it relies on the Internet to gets its information (maps, traffic, etc.) instead of actual satillites like most other navs. There are major advantages and some disadvantages to this. Gizmodo appropriately labels the single most important advantage “maps that never age.” In essense, you will never have to worry about updating your maps because the software is constantly updating itself via the carrier’s cell service. The disadvantage? If you happen to enter a dead zone and lose all cell service you might find yourself stuck in lost, unfamilar territory. However, it is worthy to note that the software sort of works offline in that it will cache (or save) your route once it is entered in a cell signal area. So if you happen to stumble upon a dead zone you may not SOL after all.
For now, Maps Navigation will only be available on Android 2.0 cell phones. The first cell phone to feature it will be Verizon’s Doid by Motorola. Eventually this upgraded version of Google Maps will make its way to other carriers and devices. In fact, Gizmodo reports that Google is in close talks with Apple about porting it to the iPhone.
One final, very significant point: Maps Navigation is f-r-e-e, that spells free. This is going to make a heavy impact not only on other cell phone nav applications that are not free, but it is definitely going to negatively affect major companies like TomTom and Garmin (it already has) who rely on people purchasing their standalone GPS units. If people have the choice of using a free (ad-free too, mind you) nav application on their cell phones or choosing to buy a separate typically expensive device, what do you they are going to choose? What would you choose? Share your opinion in the poll below.