App Store Hits 1.5 Billion Downloads

Apple's runaway app store.It’s really becoming a year among years for Apple. The super-trendy company was once a sleeping puppy in a den of wolves, quietly wooing customers to the questionable promise of a more stable lifestyle. Since then they’ve released the Kleenex of the MP3 player market and turned tens of millions to the iPhone. Just three months ago their app store hit 1 billion downloads and just this month the store had its first birthday.

Today marks another milestone for your favorite fruity company. According to an Apple press release, the app store has reached 1.5 billion downloads to date. We already know Apple’s iPhone as host to the fastest growing development community in the world, sending coders on a rite of passage with dreams of hitting it rich. Those quasicultish seekers have made more than 65,000 apps available in 77 countries around the world.

Our congrats to Apple. May your useful apps continue to improve and your frivolous apps continue to make us scratch our heads as we look at the download counts.

You can read the full press release here.

iPhone to Get SMS Vulnerability Fix

iPhone SMS.As smartphones become more popular we’re going to see more and more hacks designed to exploit any vulnerability within the phone. As long as the iPhone’s been around, and as widespread as it is, it’s surprising we’ve not seen more news like this.

Though the first of its kind in a while, this iPhone vulnerability is pretty serious. OS X security expert Charlie Miller says through an SMS exploit, attackers could run code using the messaging service. Such an exploit could allow an attacker to track the phone via GPS, enable the microphone for eavesdropping, or even use the phone for a botnet or distributed DOS attack.

At just 140 bytes of data per message, SMS is one of very few ways a hacker can access an iPhone wirelessly. Attackers can send multiple messages to the phone to recompiled once on the device for the exploits mentioned. The real danger is that SMS can be used to send binary to an iPhone, removing user interaction from the equation.

That’s a whole lot more than most iPhone users probably think their phones capable, which is what makes fixing the vulnerability so important. According to Miller, Apple should have the hole patched later this month, before he gives a presentation on the hack at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas.

Update: Child Pornography Hits the iPhone [NSFW]

iPhone has some porn problems [censored].A photo purportedly showing a naked 15-year-old has made its way onto the iPhone App Store through an app called BeautyMeter this week, despite Apple’s strong stance against objectionable content in the store.

Last week the application “Hottest Apps” was quickly pulled from the App Store due to “objectionable content,” namely, female nudity. It was adult female nudity, though, unlike today’s whopping PR nightmare for the iPhone.

BeautyMeter allows users to upload photos of themselves and subsequently rate one another on body, face, and clothing appeal. If you’ve been to Hot or Not, you get the idea. Today, an iPhone app review site called KRAPPS found a picture of what appears to be a 15-year-old girl topless and partially nude below the waist in BeautyMeter. Nearly 5,000 users have voted on the picture.

As of this posting, the application is still available in the app store, though the picture may have been removed. I would expect the app to at least get pulled for review before day’s end.

According to the developer’s website, funnymals.com, they do not review submissions on a photo by photo basis. Rather, they go in and clean up “from time to time.” This certainly gives plenty of room for photos like the illegal nude in question to slip through. Users have even commented in the app store that, “There shouldnt be 14 year olds nude on there [sic].”

The developer does supposedly capture your iPhone’s unique device ID when you upload a photo, making it possible to track down anyone who has posted illegal content. Neither Apple nor Funnymal will likely have legal liability in this case, though it does raise questions as to how Apple will handle user-generated content in future applications.

Update:BeautyMeter has officially been pulled.

Image from Wired

Smartphone War: Are Apps the Deciding Battleground?

The touchscreen smartphones.Smartphones used to be the domain of supergeeks and tech professionals – people who needed or desperately wanted the functionality of a full computer in a tidy mobile platform. As the devices became more popular and the desire for on-the-go web capabilities grew you could almost smell the storm coming.

Then the iPhone came out and sold millions, spurring competitors to make their own touchscreen wonderphone. We’ve now got the Blackberry Storm, the HTC G1, the Palm Pre, the Nokia N97, and the Samsung Jet, all running on a different operating system. While the manufacturers tout the hardware features that make their phone the best (physical keyboards, a screen that clicks, a camera with a flash), consumers are starting to look to the software that runs the phone, and the applications they’re finally able to install, to make a decision.

Apple has been most successful with third party application sales and support due to their App Store, which opened in mid-July, 2008. Since release, the App Store has seen more than a billion application downloads and now showcases more than 50,000 third party applications. From games to translators, finance tools to ereaders, the Apple App Store has an app for almost anything, leaving its competitors lagging far behind.

It’s taken nearly a year for competitors to get their mobile application stores up and running, time during which Apple has continued to lure consumers with the promise of a robust app catalog. As Business Insider points out, consumers aren’t just investing in a phone, they’re investing in a platform, with application quality and quantity as a major component of that investment. In a similar article, BI adds that time users spend with applications is replacing time spent on the web. Apps like Yelp allow users quick access to restaurant reviews, where before they would have been using Google.

This isn’t just good news for Apple, it’s an important statistic for developers. Read the rest of this entry »

Woot-Off!

wootJust a quick note telling everyone today is a Woot-Off! If you recall our Sweet Site of the Week – woot.com, then you remember that they sell tons of gadgets, electronics, and knick-knacks for seriously reduced prices along with $5 shipping. But the catch is that they sell only one item every 24 hours. Well, on the grand occasion of a Woot-Off, they put a new item up for sale as soon as the last one sells out. For Wooters(the name affectionately given to those of us who woot), this is the best day of the month, quarter, or year for they can constantly press the F5 button all day and find new items. Maybe not the items they need or want, but they have to find out anyway.

And then there’s the highly, highly coveted Bag of Crap. Wooters will spend all day, all night, and sometimes the next day waiting for the infamous Bag of Crap to appear. You see, when the BOC goes on sale Wooters will rush to put in their order for between 1 to 3 of them and then wait a few days to a week to see what random three, or more, items show up on their doorstep. While the actual BOC will cost between $1 to $3, plus $5 shipping, according to bagsofcrap.com the value of the items in the BOC can range from around $30 to over $1400. Oh, and for full disclosure, expect the woot website to crash while several thousand Wooters all fight to orders the bags of crap.

Doesn’t this sound like something you want to be a part of? I do. Head on over to Woot and keep that F5 button close by. You never know when you might find something worthwhile to purchase. And hey, you may even get your hands on that elusive Bag of Crap.

Palm Hopes to Win Customers With More Apps

Palm Pre App Catalog.It’s no secret that much of the iPhone’s success comes from its development community. There are other great touchscreen smartphones out there, but none with application support behind the iPhone.

That’s no secret to Palm, either, and they’re hoping to offer similar support (albeit on a much smaller scale) to win some customers to the Pre. At launch the Pre sold some 50,000 phones and saw 150,000+ apps downloaded in that first weekend. That’s a solid start, but it won’t be long before Pre owners will want more.

Developers released some new Pre apps yesterday, in the midst of the Apple mayhem. The new titles included LikeMe, a restaurant/entertainment recommendation and rating service, and a sports news app for baseball fans. The Pre catalog is still smaller than tiny (like fewer than 50), but the catalog is still in beta, and only a few developers have the kit. As soon as it goes public, I’m sure you’ll see a more rapid influx of applications. Palm should make that happen soon – there’s sure to be a big rush of developers hoping to lure iPhone 3GS customers in the coming weeks.

Why hasn’t Skype really taken off in the US?

SkypeLet me get a few things straight first. I do not work for and am in no way affiliated with Skype. But, Skype is great. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it’s clear as a bell when talking on it. Conference calls are easy to setup and run. Video calls are clear, not perfect, but clear and sound and look good. Also, it’s becoming more and more available. There is a Skype app for the iPhone as well as other mobile phones and it’s even on the PSP. In addition, they have very inexpensive rates for having your own phone number and making calls to regular phones. Like I said, Skype is great.

So what is the deal? Why isn’t 100% of the US on Skype? What are we waiting for? I’ve read that about 70% of the US is already on broadband. And that number is on the rise. Last time I checked, we are in a recession and money is tight. Skype is free for Skype-to-Skype calls. And Skype is cheap, cheap, cheap for Skype calls to regular phones and cell phones. So what is holding us back?

One thing could be availability. Skype is mostly limited to the home PC. Yes, there is an iPhone app in addition to applications for other mobile phones. The problem with the iPhone app is that it cannot run in the background. You have to open it to use it. You almost have to purposely coordinate with someone to make a free Skype call. Kinda defeats the purpose, right?

Also related to availability is the fact that most people’s home PC is not in a place where they hang out the most. Say you’re chillin with your significant other or your family. You’d have to excuse yourself from the room to go have a Skype call. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass.

Another thing holding people back is that unless you have a microphone on your laptop, you have to purchase another piece of equipment. Purchasing a headset or webcam with a microphone is not expensive, but it is a purchase that most people will probably put very low on their budget totem poll.

But I really don’t think availability or equipment is the real issue. In fact, I’m not sure what the real issue is. I love Skype but I don’t use it as much as I should. I’ve got it on my home PC, my personal laptop, and on my iPhone. Yet, I almost never use it. I keep telling myself that the reason I never use it is because none of my friends are on it. How weak is that excuse? Perhaps if I was on it and always encouraged everyone I know to get on it, they would.

The number of Skype users has grown every year. The number of Skype calls have grown every year. Skype is being used all over the place… and yes, including on Oprah. Europe has taken to Skype and been using it extensively for years. Now it’s our time. If you start using Skype, I will too. Let’s get this thing going and start saving our cellular minutes. Let’s cancel our home phones and just use Skype. It’s just takes a few people to encourage a few more people then next thing you know, we’re all talking for free. I want to talk for free… don’t you?

Sweet Site of the Week – picnik

Sometimes it’s hard to sift through the millions of websites out there to find the fun, unusual, creative, and especially, the useful ones. And word of mouth can only take you so far. Well, leave it to Gadget Teaser to give you a hand in your search. Once a week, we’ll highlight one of our favorite sites that not everyone knows about. I like to think that we here at Gadget Teaser are performing a public service for you… the avid gadget blog reader the general public.

PicnikDo you know about picnik? If not, you need to. Picnik is an awesome site that simplifies the art of photo editing. And it’s free. Yes, they do have a premium service that costs $24.95 a year but most people don’t need it.

Here’s a brief rundown of their services listed on the picnik homepage:

• Fix your photos in just one click
• Use advanced controls to fine-tune your results
• Crop, resize, and rotate in real-time
• Tons of special effects, from artsy to fun
• Astoundingly fast, right in your browser
• Awesome fonts and top-quality type tool
• Basketfuls of shapes from hand-picked designers
• Works on Mac, Windows, and Linux
• No download required, nothing to install

“Fix your photos” is quite vague considering all you can do with your photos. Red eye reduction, teeth whitening, and blemish removing are just the beginning. You can add stickers, frame photos, and add text and effects. They even have a sandbox area where you can play to your hearts content. Best of all, it’s simple to use. And did I mention free?!

Not all of us can be Photoshop geniuses and for those of us who aren’t, be happy we have picnik.

Sweet Site of the Week – iLounge

Sometimes it’s hard to sift through the millions of websites out there to find the fun, unusual, creative, and especially, the useful ones. And word of mouth can only take you so far. Well, leave it to Gadget Teaser to give you a hand in your search. Once a week, we’ll highlight one of our favorite sites that not everyone knows about. I like to think that we here at Gadget Teaser are performing a public service for you… the avid gadget blog reader the general public.

iLounge

This week’s Sweet Site of the Week is: iLounge

For anything iPhone, iPod, iTouch, or i-Anything related, use iLounge. iLounge is a collection of previews, reviews, articles, and forums on everything iPod. Need a new case for your shiny new iPhone 3G? Check iLounge. Wondering which armband is perfect for your iPod nano? iLounge has the answers. Not sure which software is best for converting your DVDs to iPod? Yep, you guessed it. iLounge will send you in the right direction.

iLounge is well organized and full of useful information. First, they review anything and everything. They have reviews for things like adapters, armbands, and batteries to software, speakers, and even stickers. Of course, they review apps as well.

In addition, they have breaking news and useful articles. The Ask iLounge section has very useful tips and tricks when working with your gear. For example, the Ask iLounge article from 5-8-09 covers the following:

Organizing audiobooks, Problems transferring purchased items back to iTunes, Keeping played podcast episodes on iPod, Transferring iTunes library to a new computer, iPod shows no content, Using a new iPod with an existing iTunes library

And that’s just one article of the dozens on the site.

Another great feature is their link into PriceGrabber from the site. Once you find the item you want, they will link you straight into PriceGrabber so you can find it online at a reasonable price.

So if you’re a i-Anything owner, you should be using iLounge.

Sweet Site of the Week – LogMeIn

Sometimes it’s hard to sift through the millions of websites out there to find the fun, unusual, creative, and especially, the useful ones. And word of mouth can only take you so far. Well, leave it to Gadget Teaser to give you a hand in your search. Once a week, we’ll highlight one of our favorite sites that not everyone knows about. I like to think that we here at Gadget Teaser are performing a public service for you… the avid gadget blog reader the general public.

LogMeIn

This week’s Sweet Site of the Week is: LogMeIn

LogMeIn is basically a tool that is used to remotely access a computer from anywhere. On the road and need to access your home or work PC, use LogMeIn. Got a client in another city, or even country, that requires local support, use LogMeIn. Got a conference call and would like to present a PowerPoint for everyone to see, use LogMeIn. I think you get my drift but in case you don’t, here’s what LogMeIn describes itself as:

Businesses and IT service providers use LogMeIn’s solutions to deliver remote end-user support and to access and manage computers and other Internet-enabled devices more effectively and efficiently. Consumers and mobile workers use our solutions to access computer resources remotely, thereby facilitating their mobility and increasing their productivity.

I use LogMeIn Free to remotely access my home PC while I’m at work or on the road. So all I had to do was install a small app on my home PC and then no matter where I am I can log into the LogMeIn website and access my home PC. That’s it. I use it to access my personal email, my personal bookmarks, and my personal files. Maximize the screen and you can’t tell the difference between your home monitor and the one you’re using remotely. And it’s so convenient. In case you were wondering, there is a version for the Mac and there is even a iPhone app you can use to remotely control your home PC as well.

So if you ever need to access anything from your home PC while at work or on the road, I suggest you use our Sweet Site of the Week, LogMeIn.