The iPhone and App Store vs. Nintendo and PlayStation


Welcome to the second day of our App Store week at Tech Digest marking the first anniversary of the software gateway that’s helped put the iPhone on the map. That said, I largely decided yesterday that the App Store is a pile of novelty nonsense but one area I only really glanced at was its impact as a serious supplier of quality games.

Nintety-five per cent of the games are complete rubbish but there’s a few big gaming titles on there like Quake, Doom and Metal Gear Solid carrying the flame. More to the point, though, there’s potential, potential within the handset to deliver much more than the likes of Finger Sprinter and Where’s my Watermelon. The question is, is there enough in the iPhone/App Store combo to really pose a threat to the Nintendo DS and the PSP? Are they really in the same space and the even the same league. Come with me and we’ll take a look.

The first place to start is the hardware itself. Each handheld has a maximum storage of 32GB, depending upon how you expand it, which means the iPhone’s ok there. It’s not too shabby on processor power either which is going to be key to getting decent games to run.

The iPhone has only one 32-bit ARM CPU rather than the DSi’s dual chips and the PSP Go’s 64-bit MIPS unit but it is, at least, clocked nice and high in comparison at 600MHz rather than 133MHz on the DSi and the PSP Go at 333MHz. It’s not as good as 64-bit gaming but then, technically, nor is the DSi and it’s still in the realms of what the PlayStation 1 could do. Not bad for a handheld.

The second hurdle for App Store games is that even if the iPhone has nearly got what it takes on the inside, it might have some other physical restraints that the others don’t suffer from. It’s rather like dolphins and whales. They’re creatures of perhaps comparable intelligence to man but the trouble is where we had arms, legs, a good voice box and opposable thumbs to help us rule the world, they got rather trapped behind flat flippers and a problem with dry land. It must be rather like being Shaun Ryder – definitely something important going inside but no ability to express themselves. Anyway, I digress.

The point is that the PSP Go and DSi are built to play games. They have D-pads and fire buttons. The iPhone has a touchscreen. Gorgeous as that interface is, it’s not particularly well suited to all sorts of complicated, in-depth games. In fact, it rather lends itself to the usual brand of nonsense we see peddled at the App Store.

In its favour though, it does have an accelerometer – an interesting bonus over the other two. The 3GS also has a built-in compass and HSDPA connection and those could all add a certain interesting dimension to original gameplay. Sadly, though, those are really the trimmings and the iPhone’s going to need to get the basics right before it becomes a serious gaming handheld. Thankfully, at least the screen is comparable. It loses 0.3″ to the PSP Go and an entire other LCD to the DSi but it’s 3:2, 3.5″ touchscreen is certainly enough.

Battery-wise, the iPhone isn’t ideal but it should last you most of your day. I’m not sure how far it’ll get you playing solid games but far enough is the answer I’d suggest. Not great but it’s not going to be the area that holds it up.

So, the hardware isn’t ideal but it’s probably enough to compete with the other too particularly given that it makes phone calls as well as all the other internet browsing and multimedia functions that it does much better than both the PSP Go and the DSi. So, provided that the games at the App Store are as good, there’s a very good chance that a user might not bother buying a dedicated gaming device if they already have an iPhone.

The trouble is that it’s not a straight choice. The iPhone is prohibitively expensive for most users. The mobile gaming market is relatively young in its target group and the young are simply not as able to afford shelling out £200 plus £40 each month over the next 18; not when compared with a one off payment just over £100.

The games on the App Store are cheaper – certainly more so than those for Nintendo – but then, that’s partly because most of those games aren’t as good. What about if developers really go to town and make something decent? How much is that going to cost at the App Store.

And that leads me on to another good question. Will the developers see the App Store as a serious platform for serious games? What it does supply is a far easier way of getting your software out there. No need to worry about distribution when you can just stick it on iTunes; very quick, very convenient, very efficient and nobody to get in your way except the the big red button.

What’s more, there’s the cash. The 70/30 split on the App Store must be pretty tempting. All you’ve had to pay is your $99 for the SDK and then you can start packing a proper majority per centage for your game. It all sounds rather attractive for the burgeoning developer with bags of enthusiasm but not so many contacts and as much industry recognition.

But with the current set up, successful developers are going to want to move on. As we’ve already seen, the iPhone hardware is more limited than the other systems and the audience is limited too. There’s an impressive 22 million iPhones in the world but that’s only half as many PSPs as there are and a quarter of the 100 million DSs sold worldwide.

There’s also little in the way of marketing in the App Store – not compared to the tens of thousands of pounds that the games distributers and their PRs will throw at your product to make it an all time great. There is fortune, if not fame, to be made in the App Store but it tends to be for the nonsense. What serious games developer wants to bother with the iFart and perhaps there lies the real rub of the piece? The App Store is carving out a niche for itself as a mobile gaming haven but not one of quality and not for the serious gamer.

While that’s the case and while the hardware isn’t quite there, I find it very hard to see how the iPhone and App Store are in the same space as the DS and the PSP. There’s definitely a place in the future to go that direction if Apple decides to add a few more buttons and some more processor power, and certainly if Nintendo and Sony decide to add telephony to their handhelds but, for the time being, I’d say convergence hasn’t quite converged that far. Give it the App Store’s fourth birthday, though, and we might have a very different story.

Apple responds to iPhone 3GS overheating risk


Apple has put an official warning on its website in response to the mass panic on the internet regarding the apparent overheating of many users’ iPhone 3GSs.

Apple warns that the device should only be used where the temperature is between 0º and 35º C, so presumably people living in Dubai, or somewhere equally as hot, can’t use their iPhones outdoors? Additionally iPhones should be stored where the temperature is between -20º and 45º and not left inside cars in hot weather.

The warning states that if the interior temperature of the device exceeds normal operating temperatures, the device may stop charging, display dimmer, have a weak signal or a temperature warning screen may even appear.

Some users have complained, via internet forums, that their devices have become warped or even turned a pinkish colour after overheating. Not good.

It’s not really Apple’s fault that we’re currently in the midst of a heat-wave but surely the iPhone shouldn’t be overheating when it’s being used within the temperature guidelines. Some users are complaining that this is exactly what’s happening – particularly whilst charging.

Have you been affected by iPhone overheating? Let us know using the comments function.

(via The Guardian)

Is O2 the only place for smartphone users?


O2 has little need to worry about quality of service when they snap up the two hottest smartphones on the market. I’ve been using an iPhone 3GS for a few weeks – it’s review model I’m praying Apple will forget about – and, aside all the minor issues one might have with it, the one real problem is that it’s stuck on O2, unless you’re happy to spend £900.

I found myself asking the question of whether it was worth it; whether I could stomach this very expensive, exquisite handset when the network drops more of my calls than any other I’ve ever used, and that’s the middle of London?

So, I’ll try the Palm Pre before I make up my mind, I think, but yesterday I, and many others, have been stumped with the unofficial news that O2 has won/paid over the odds for exclusive rights to that smartphone too. And the Pre isn’t just any smartphone. For many, it’s the only serious competitor there’s been in the last two years to the iPhone.

It kills me because I’ve still never actually had my hands on one but I’m lead to believe that the screen is just as much a joy as the Jesus Phone and that all its wonderfully usable Palm OS and open sourcery goodness are enough to make any tech nerd weak at the knees.

It’s hard to tell whether the Pre is going to have the same mass market appeal as the iPhone – I suspect it won’t – but the point is that that’s not something O2 is going to have to worry about when throwing money at the problem, money that might better be spent invest in the quality of their network such that people in rural Scotland and Wales can actually get a signal.

Worse still for the consumer is that we’re all now going to get ripped off on the Pre. O2 can’t possibly sell it for any less than the iPhone without causing major waves from Apple HQ and I’m quite surprised that Palm is going to let that stand given that it’s the kind of move that could bury the Pre in the UK. But that’s their choice. Where does it leave us, the UK consumer? Are we still going to have to pick up sticks and trudge on over to O2 to get a serious smartphone?

Well, my first instinct is – no, of course not, but thinking about it, I’m not so sure. The serious smartphones out there, the super smartphones, the top notch devices are the iPhone, the Pre, the HTC Magic, HTC Hero and the Nokia N97. I haven’t included the TG01 or the G1 because the latter has a battery life too poor to be a real option and the former is, as yet, to be announced, let alone have anyone actually touch it.

I’ve had my fingers on four out of that five and, if I’m hearing that the Pre is like the iPhone for UI, then I’m calling it five. The Magic, the Hero and the N97 just don’t compare for touchscreen interfaces. Take my word for it if you haven’t tried them. They just don’t and, for me, that’s the key to enjoying a smartphone. I don’t care how many profound functions it has or just how well it synchronises your Twitter, Facebook and phone book contacts. If it’s a pain in the arse to use, it’s impossible to learn to love it.

That said, the the Magic, Hero and N97 are a lot more responsive than any other touchscreen phone aside O2’s exclusives. They certainly outrank anything I’ve seen from the pseudo-smarts like the LG Viewty and Arena. The trouble is that if you’re really serious about your smartphones, if having a pocket computer is of paramount importance to you, if you want the best, then sadly, it seems like O2 is the only place to be.

I absolutely loathe the business model they’re employing to become the biggest provider in the UK. I have no particular love for their main rivals, Vodafone, but at least you can get a decent signal with them. At least they don’t drop calls by the dozen, at least they don’t charge a premium for their very best handsets and at least they haven’t ripped anyone off on issues like tethering.

There’s an excellent chance I’ll be defecting to O2 in the next few months. I don’t want a good smartphone. I want a great one and I’m prepared to put up with a lousy network for it. All I can hope is that the Digital Britain powers that be start putting some serious pressure on O2 to invest in their infrastructure or that their business model falls in on itself and the other networks get to pick up the pieces as well as the nest of the handsets. Neither are particularly likely but one can dream. Instead, I’ll take solus from jailbreaking whichever handset I opt for, tethering it at my convenience and bleeding O2 of as much free high speed data as I can.

Related: Which is the best mobile network in the UK?

O2 wins the battle for the Palm Pre


As predicted by yours truly a few hours ago, O2 will be the exclusive network of the Palm Pre.

O2 reportedly beat off competition from Orange – just as it did when it scored the exclusive rights to the iPhone back in 2007. O2 is already the market leader in the UK with a share of 27%. By stocking the Pre alongside the iPhone 3GS their lead will surely increase further.

Nothing has been confirmed by O2 officially and there are no price details as of yet either. You can’t imagine Apple would be too thrilled if the Palm Pre was a more affordable option than the iPhone 3GS though. I fully expect the pricing to be an exact match of the 3GS in terms of plans, although the handset itself might be a smidgen cheaper as it is in the US.

(via The Guardian)

iPhone 3.0 unlocked already?


It’s not even officially available until Friday but super hackers the Dev Team have posted a video on YouTube claiming to have come up with a crack that will unlock any version of the iPhone with the 3.0 firmware – that would include the new iPhone 3GS.

The crack is being touted as ultrasn0w – an upgrade to the Dev Team’s previous hack yellowsn0w which unlocked the original iPhone firmware.

The Dev Team are keeping pretty schtum on the details for fear of Apple releasing a patch to counteract it.

I’m predicting that the iPhone will be jailbroken within hours of its release on Friday.

(via Mobile Crunch

iPhone 3GS: prices and plans on O2


O2 has pretty much matched what AT&T is charging for the new iPhone packages by replacing the dollar sign with a pound. I didn’t know the exchange rate was that bad? Oh no, wait a minute, it isn’t!

While prices in the States have gone down, in the UK, they’ve actually gone up. O2, who’s got some serious explaining to do today, has jacked the 16GB iPhone 3G up from £149 to £184.98 if you wish to add the letter S and a slightly better camera. The 8GB iPhone 3G which costs an equivalent £61 in America is £96.89 over here.

The 32GB iPhone 3GS comes in at £274.23 and all three of theses prices stay until you get to the £44.05 per month tariff with 1200 minutes and 500 texts. With the lower packages, you’ll either pay £34.26 per month for 600 mins and 500 texts or £29.38 for 75 mins and 125 texts. Watch those texts, though. One MMS will take away four in one go!

For straight PAYG

  • iPhone 3G 8GB – £342.50
  • iPhone 3G S 16GB – £440.40
  • iPhone 3G S 32GB – £538.30

So, how do you feel about this? Will you be buying? Will you be upgrading and will you be forking out for the tethering bolt-on on top of this?

iPhone on O2