All posts in Apps

A Third of Top-Grossing Apps Are Actually Free

We all love free stuff right?  Well, would you have ever guessed that free apps are also some of the largest grossing in the App Store?  That’s right.  Due to what’s being called the “freemium” business model, such apps have been flourishing thanks to in-app purchases.

According to Gigaom, about a third of the top-grossing iPhone apps are using that exact “freemium” model.  What that means is that today 34 of the top 100 apps are free, but they actually make their money through in-app purchases via virtual currencies and other features.  Remco van den Elzen of the analytics firm Distimo feels that in-app purchases are starting to make up a good chunk of App Store profits.  “We’re seeing more developers implement more in-app purchases especially with games,” he notes.  “Freemium Apps are also picking up significantly.  A lot of developers realize it’s a successful model.”

Just the same, freemium apps still make up a small percentage of the App Store world.  Distimo thought that the percentage of free apps with in-app purchases had jumped from 1.10 percent in the second quarter to 1.34 percent in the following quarter.

As Gigaom later noted, free apps don’t always exactly work in every category.  While consumers certainly enjoy a free experience, they don’t exactly want to feel left out in the cold if they don’t want to spend any money.

With that readers, do you find yourself utilizing in-app purchases more and more?  Do you think it’s a good business model versus making consumers pay for an app outright?  Feel free to leave your thoughts below

iPhone Apps Have Become More Popular Than TV Shows


(Image courtesy of

Given the sheer volume of downloading of apps, it was bound to happen sooner or later.  The daily audience of apps running on the iOS system has now expanded beyond 19 million users.  These users spend about 22 minutes a day on these apps, meaning the audience for iOS devices has now passed…you guessed it, Sunday Night Football on NBC.  It’s also just shy of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars.

According to MobileBeat, just 4 million daily viewers are all that separate the iOS audience from the No. 1 TV show, Fox’s American Idol.  The measures come from the analytics firm Flurry.

Flurry made mention that that’s only part of the picture, as its analytics code is only integrated into 50,000 of the 250,000 apps that are on the iOS.  Given that, Flurry feels that iOS is even larger than all the TV shows if one takes into account the whole iOS viewership.

“The most obvious [effect] is the impact on the advertisement industry, which has relied on the reach generated by its prime time television slot for years,” said Peter Farago, the vice president of marketing at Flurry.

With that readers, since the explosion of the App Store, have you found yourself enjoying your apps and utilizing them more than you used to watch television?  Movies?  Or on the flip side of that, are you finding yourself using apps like Hulu, Netflix, etc., to watch the above?  Feel free to leave comments below!

Follow this article’s author, Matthew Tilmann on Twitter



Podcast #161: Apps on Apple TV and Microsoft Slated to Open Store Across From Apple Store

Looks like the iOS implementation on the Apple TV can be jailbroken to install apps. Too bad you can’t actually launch the apps with a Launcher. Fingers crossed for a Launched on the Apple TV soon.

Microsoft decides to throw the retail gauntlet down and plans on opening a store across from the Apple Store in the Mall of America. Will there be a dance off? A stare down? Can we get our listeners to walk into the Microsoft Store and ask for an iPhone? Only time will tell.

And finally, the iPad has a faster adoption rate than DVD. That’s insane!

Plus, we answer your hard-hitting Facebook and Twitter questions.

This week’s Battlestar Applactica picks:

Captio – $.99

Nike+ GPS – .99


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iOS Apps That Transmit Data Could Put User Privacy At Risk

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You might not think much about the small applications you might download for your iOS devices that ask to “phone home” (i.e. send information from your device to some known or unknown source). But, new research done at Bucknell University by Eric Smith shows that sometimes applications would transmit data over the network in plain text, allowing network eavesdroppers to potentially steal critical information.

Studying over 57 different applications from the App Store, Smith discovered that besides the UDID (the unique identifier assigned to every iOS device), some applications would also send transmit personally identifiable information over the network, and in some of the instances, the information was transmitted without any encryption at all.

“For example, Amazon’s application communicates the logged-in user’s real name in plain text, along with the UDID, permitting both and network eavesdroppers to easily match a phone’s UDID with the name of the phone’s owner. The CBS News application transmits both the UDID and the iPhone device’s user-assigned name, which frequently contains the owner’s real name,” says Eric Smith in his report.

With some technical, but widely available software like Wireshark, a network eavesdropper could easily access the data being transmitted from your device to the application’s home server. This is where the potential security risk exists. Because only a few applications use SSL encryption for the transmission, the personal data is sent over the network in plain, readable text.

Hopefully Apple will be able to address this issue in the future by potentially requiring app developers to give full disclosure about the type of data they are collecting and transmitting, or by creating a way for developers to collect this data and transmit it in a more secure manner.

You can read the full report by Eric Smith by clicking here [PDF link].

via Ars Technica


Follow this article’s author, Cory Bohon on Twitter.




Android Apps Sending Covert Info to Advertisers

Everything has a price–at least for Android users. According to a joint study conducted by Duke University, Penn State University and Intel Labs, a number of purportedly free application designed for the OS are in reality forcing users to unknowingly pay through the nose. The Android users weren’t sending the developers any money, but rather, an alarming amount of personal information such as precise GPS locations and phone numbers.

The researchers came by their information after developing a piece of software called TaintDroid (awesome name, no?) When deployed on an Android handset, TaintDroid sniffs out seemingly harmless applications that in actuality pack a whole lot of nefarious intent; locating those that are leeching personal information such as SIM numbers, user contact lists, SMS messages and other private bits and pieces to remote servers.

Given the open-source nature of Android, Google was careful to implement a number of security safeguards against exactly this sort of behavior. The company also encourages software developers to make their privacy policies readily available to users so that they know what they’re in for. With this being the case, how is it that the applications are able to send out your deepest, darkest phone secrets to parts unknown?

Well, You most likely gave the applications permission to do so.

For example, a lot of applications will politely ask whether or not they can use your GPS location for the sake of a better user experience. By clicking yes, you’re not only giving the application permission to do so, but also, theoretically, you’ve granted a go ahead to allow that app to fire off morsels about where you are anytime it pleases, even if that information isn’t being used to enhance the application’s feature set. Now that’s underhanded.

If you’re interested in learning more about the TaintDroid research team’s findings, they’ll be revealing all of what they were able to dig up at next week’s USENIX OSDI Conference in Vancouver, Canada.



Follow this article’s author, Seamus Bellamy on Twitter.



Four Augmented Reality Apps You Actually Want on Your iPhone

augmented reality

Augmented reality. It’s that future tech we’ve all been waiting for–point your phone at something in the real world, and gain all the cyber knowledge the interwebs can provide. Wondering what species of tree you’re looking at? Just direct your iPhone camera to it, and Wikipedia fills you in with a textual overlay.

Unfortunately, the technology still has plenty of kinks to work out. Most AR apps are gimmicks, offer super niche utility, or just don’t work very wel. But we have to admit, it is getting better with every update. The App Store has some pretty neat augmented reality offerings that take great advantage of the iPhone’s geolocation abilities.

Of course with the neat comes the not so neat too, so we at Mac|Life have done you the service of sifting out the junk. We’ve gone through just about every augmented reality app we could find, and here are our four favorites. They may not be the first apps you think of when you think about augmented reality, but they’re actually useful. In fact, we’d say they’re the best. And, iPhone 4 users, they’re all updated for viewing on that gorgeous Retina Display.

1. Acrossair

All these places are across the street, but on the same block.

Acrossair has been doing augmented reality on the iPhone for a while now, including apps for places, Wikipedia entries, and public transit. Until now, all these apps were .99 each. But, lucky for us, the company has wised up a bit and released their newest AR app, simply titled Acrossair, for free.

Acrossair combines just about every database you might use for augmented reality purposes, dwarfing previous contenders in the augmented reality game, like Stella Artois’ bar guide (included in Acrossair), Panoramio, and even Layar (more “layers” and a better interface than this competitor). You can also check out Tweets, Flickr uploads, YouTube videos, and a whole lot more of what’s been posted or exists around you.

Acrossair’s display isn’t perfect, but it does overlay information accurately within about 200 feet. Well, sort of. It pretty much gets you within the block. But, if you’re looking for a full augmented reality browser that’s easy and intuitive to use, Acrossair is a great start. Did we mention that it’s free?

2. Yelp

yelp monocle
Yelp’s labeling is spot-on, without any waving your arms around nonsense.

We know what you’re thinking: isn’t Yelp about reviews, not augmented reality? It is about reviews, but its augmented reality add-on, the Yelp monocle, is pretty handy. Acrossair might overlay Yelp information, but we think the Yelp app does it even better. Results overlay more accurately, and with less twitch. And, with Yelp’s gigantic database, you’ll get results for just about any business you’re looking at, not just restaurants.

It’s extra helpful that links take you right to Yelp reviews within the app. Use Yelp, but haven’t found the monocle? Go to the “nearby” tab and it’s in the upper right hand corner. It’s definitely augmented reality on the iPhone at its best, especially because it’s free, you probably already use the app anyway, and it has some serious functionality! Get it here.

3. Spyglass

Imagine this overlay somewhere else–like Yosemite National park or Burning Man.

If you can learn how to use it, Spyglass is perhaps the best example of actual augmented reality in the app store. The app is essentially an augmented reality tracker, with loads of other information. For all you outdoorsy types, this navigation tool has a compass, constant bearings, sun, moon, and star locations, rangefinder, angular calculator, inclinometer, maps, and more. And, it lets you track and find GPS locations of your choosing. Lost your campsite? No problem. Though remember to use Spyglass to record your location first.

Not the outdoorsy type? Spyglass’ compass still holds something for you. Have a hard time remembering where you parked? Use Spyglass to keep track of it. Visiting a new place and want an easy tool to help you navigate? Plot restaurants and shops, and you won’t get lost. It’s handy that you can target multiple locations, and that they’re marked by different icons. And, if you want to feel like a super sleuth, use one of the in built HUD color filters (green or red are both good choices).

Spyglass packs in a ton of features, is cleanly designed, and its applications are only limited by the creativity of the user. With that said, it’s also a bit of a challenge to figure out–all those numbers can be a little overwhelming. But if you can get over the slight learning curve, this is an app well worth your .99!

4. Star Walk

star walk
There aren’t a lot of stars up there, but the arrow accurately points to the direction of the moon above.

Star Walk is last, but not least, on our list, and that’s only because some people will say that it isn’t quite augmented reality. But, it’s a great app that serves the exact same function as AR, so we’re keeping it on the list.  The app, for those who aren’t familiar with it, charts the night sky, showing users names of stars, planets, and constellations.

So where does the augmented reality come in? Activate Star Walk’s “star spotter” by pointing your phone’s camera to the sky. Star Walk will display exactly what you’re looking at, complete with labels. Looking for something specific? Select a constellation and Star Walk will point you in the right direction.

If you’re a hardcore augmented reality fan, it might be disappointing that Star Walk doesn’t overlay the information on camera input that reflects what you’re actually seeing. But for those of us in a city, or a foggy place like San Francisco, Star Walk’s representation of what’s actually in the sky is infinitely more useful. Not to mention, Star Walk doesn’t suffer from the tweaking out that many other AR apps do, and it runs super smoothly. If you’ve got any astronomical curiosity, be sure to check it out–it’s just .99.

So there you have it, the four best implementations of augmented reality in the app store. Disagree with us and think something else should be on the list? Let us know in the comments!

Follow this article’s author, Ambika Subramony, on Twitter.


Dropbox Updates Apps and Adds Blackberry

Of the various cloud storage services out there, we’re most partial to Dropbox. The interface is simple, the uploads fairly quick, and the app works beautifully. Plus, with their open API, Dropbox can sync with tons of our other apps and software making it our number one floating hard drive. Today, it seems, is update day.

Dropbox had a slew of announcements to release today. The biggest news is that Dropbox is now going to be on the Blackberry platform. While we often worry about RIM’s future, expanding availability to a service we’ve come to love is always good news. It’s actually rather surprising that Dropbox wasn’t on Blackberry’s OS some time ago, as popular as the handset has been and remains in enterprise environments. Access to great apps like Dropbox might just help Blackberry stay relevant in the mobile world.

Dropbox also announced updates to their Android app including “support for photo galleries and multi-photo upload, ability to automatically send files to Dropbox from other apps… and other new features and fixes.” So Dropbox integration, something Apple fans have seen for a while on their iPhones, is now making its way to the Android market.

Dearest to iOS Device users, Dropbox also announced updates to the iPad and iPhone versions of the popular app. Most interesting among these are “automatic offline caching for recently accessed files,” which sounds to us suspiciously like cloud flexibility. This is great news for iPad users who sometimes may need to work on a Dropbox file where there’s no WiFi. Changes most likely will stay in the app until connectivity is returned, then resync the updated version. Dropbox also announced the iOS apps wil now support “HD video and high-resolution photo capture…full screen landscape document viewing on iPad and the support for multitasking to allow files to upload or download in the background.”

The list of software and services making use of Dropbox’s API has grown since they opened it up in May of this year. The numbers are over 100, and Dropbox has compiled them in a nice list here. Check ’em out. You may just discover a service you didn’t even know you needed.

(As of this writing, the updates weren’t yet live in the App Store, so keep checking back.)


Google Announces Google Apps Premier, Mobile Editing, Retina Display Support for Google Earth

This morning, Google announced several updates to its widely used mobile services, including Google Apps, Google Docs, and Google Earth for iOS devices.

Google’s newest update in security may help convince skeptics to store their data in the cloud, after all. The search giant announced Google Apps Premier, Education and Government Edition for users that need that extra bit of heightened security. The Premier package will enable folks to sign in using their password and a one-time verification code that is sent to their mobile phone. The two-step verification process will enable stronger protections to help fend off phishing scams and password reuses. Google is making this feature accessible to organizations both large and small without making it too complicated to set up.

Google has also introduced mobile editing capabilities for Google Docs on the iPad and Android platform. Now, you can edit that expense report or finish writing that paper on the bus ride to work or school. Of course, we don’t suggest doing so if from a tiny-screened Android device, as the experience seems better suited for the iPad.

Lastly, the Google Earth app [iTunes link] has been updated for Retina Display support. The update also includes the new ocean content layer, as well as underwater bathymetry and ocean surface support. The app is free and works on all iOS devices, as well as Android, so download it if you haven’t already.

Follow this article’s author, Florence Ion, on Twitter.


Microsoft Working on iPad Apps


It was the tweet heard round the world. Microsoft was said to be working on iPad apps, and this from none other than Microsoft’s blogger Paul Thurrott. Obviously, he was oblique to pique our interest. Consider it piqued.

Sure, Apple makes its own iPad based office software for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, but the industry standard still remains Microsoft’s Office. This particular suite has been missing from the iOS device platform for some time and the iPad in particular. Sure, office document creation is a bit difficult on the iPhone/iPod touch line of devices with their itty bitty screens. But the gorgeous lush fields of the iPad? Well, it was a gimme.



But time went on and…nothing. Where was Microsoft? Even e-reader competitors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble recognized that getting your brand out there, keeping it fresh, working that ancillary sale market was more important than enforcing a hardware loyalty. (Not sure Apple’s quite that concerned about this, but that’s a whole ‘nother matter.)

Yet, Microsoft had an Mac version of Office, so where was the iPad version of this typically essential suite? Nowhere. And then later? Still nowhere.

Now comes Thurrott’s tweet. Are we to take it to mean that Redmond is busily beavering away for an iPad version of Bing? If so — yawnsville. Maybe their Top 100 songs app? Again, whatever. But Word on the iPad? PowerPoint? Excel? Now we could be getting somewhere.

Let’s hope it’s more than just noise and marketing gimmickry.



Apple Releases Updates for Safari and iDisk, Find My iPhone Apps

We’ve caught wind of a myriad of tres cool software updates pushed live today. For starters, your Safari just got a little more safer, which is great when you’re navigating an internet filled with hungry lions and angry giraffes. The new update fixes an issue that could prevent users from submitting web forms, as well as another issue that could cause web content to display incorrectly when viewing a Google Image result with Flash 10.1. Oh, that pesky Adobe Flash.

Additionally, the new Safari update establishes an encrypted, authenticated connection to the Safari Extensions Gallery. Quick, go get the one that prevents you from ever having to see Comic Sans ever again!

For those of you using Apple apps on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, the official iDisk app also got an update. Version 1.2.1 fixes an issue that prevented package files (like Keynote ones) from opening in their corresponding iPad apps. Rotated images are now shown in the correct orientation when opened.

Also, for those of you paying the annual subscription free for MobileMe, the service has a new update pushed live today that addresses issues when publishing your website from iWeb to MobileMe.

Lastly, Find My iPhone also has an update that adds support for the new iPod touch, translation fixes for French, German and Japanese languages, and various other bug fixes.

Follow this article’s author, Florence Ion, on Twitter.