White House gets an iPhone app

White House app.With all the hype surrounding Apple’s latest announcement, you may have forgotten that the State of the Union address is next Wednesday night. What better way to celebrate both events than by watching the President on your iPhone!

This White House app streams live video content to your iPhone, beginning with the State of the Union next week. Other than that, it’s pretty much a dressed up version of whitehouse.gov, replete with pictures and news feeds about everything related to the executive branch. Topic of the moment? Haiti, of course.

Which are you more excited about? Hearing more about unemployment or dreaming of owning that Apple tablet?

  

Apple Announces Current App Store Stats

iPhone App Store.Today, Apple saw fit to hit us with the cold hard numbers about the App Store, and they are big. Big like 2 billion downloads. Big like 85,000 apps. Big like a half billion downloads in the last quarter alone. That’s insane growth, and the App Store is now available to some 50 million customers across 77 countries, meaning that growth isn’t likely to slow down.

AppleInsider did a breakdown on the numbers, which includes some staggering statistics on daily download rates. The App Store has averaged 4.1 million downloads every day in its first year. Since April, that number is up to 6.3 million daily downloads. The staggering growth is something Apple obviously hopes to continue, and likely will as more and more carriers adopt the iPhone and more apps become available to iPod Touch users.

  

Yelp’s Crusade To Liberate iPhone Developers

Apple's App Store.Hidden within Yelp’s new app this week was an augmented reality feature called “Monocle.” Users gain access to the feature by shaking the phone three times on opening the app. It’s not the first easter egg we’ve seen used to access otherwise prohibited features, but it’s certainly the most prominent, and it seems not everyone is as excited about the feature as I am.

Enter Matt Galligan. He’s the CEO of CrashCorp, a development group looking to put together an augmented reality SDK to help developers create quality AR apps. He was a guest author at TechCrunch this week, where he criticized Yelp for deceiving the Apple review team. It’s not that Galligan always agrees with what Apple mandates, but that he would rather play ball and stay in the game than take his chances with unapproved features. Yelp, Galligan says, has changed the development game for everyone, ensuring even longer approval times as the review teams scour lines of code for tricks and treats.

I can understand Galligan’s concern. The App Store is a symbiotic relationship. Apple gives developers access to a truly ravenous audience, and the best apps draw more customers to Apple’s phone. Everyone makes money, everyone goes home happy. But Apple has been tightening its grip lately, reigning in even the tamest of applications, like Facebook 3.0, and making them beg for release. Rumored rejections of key apps, like Google Voice, have even led TechCrunch’s founder, Michael Arrington, to leave his iPhone behind for greener pastures.

Granted, approval problems aren’t going to make the majority of iPhone users look for change (if AT&T doesn’t scare you off, what will?), but the developers have more to worry about than Apple’s good graces. It’s consumers making developers money, we’re just letting Apple handle the transaction, and consumers love it when their phones can do something cool. Monocle is decidedly cool and, though Yelp may have snuck one over on Apple to release it, Yelp created a bond with the consumer that Apple better not break.

Imagine the outrage if Apple pulled Yelp. Granted, it’s no Google Voice, but it’s prominent enough that more than just the Arringtons of the world would notice. And oh would they be pissed. With as much bad press as Apple’s recently had, it can’t afford to give consumers another reason to cry foul. If anything, now is the perfect time for developers to take action. I hate to turn this into some hyperbolic plea for an uprising but, developers, you have nothing to lose but your chains!

That’s the real beauty of this situation – Yelp is catering to its real audience: the consumers. While Galligan is worried about Apple, and whether developers will get to implement his SDK in a timely fashion, Yelp is using consumers to force Apple’s hand, reminding Apple none too gently that it better behave.

  

Yelp Augments Your Reality

Yelp logo.Yelp updated its iPhone app this week and included one very cool easter egg. If you haven’t already, download the update, open your Yelp app, and shake your phone three times. You should get a message telling you that “Monocle” has been activated and can be accessed in the top-right corner of your screen.

So what is Monocle? It’s augmented reality for Yelp. Hitting the monocle button takes you to what looks like the camera application with a Yelp overlay. A compass in the top right corner displays local establishments with a Yelp presence. Rotate your phone to the right spot and you’ll see a little Yelp shortcut card with the name of the establishment. The card scales based on how far away you are, so the biggest cards are closest and the smallest the furthest away. It’s a neat feature, particularly if you’ve just moved somewhere new.

There is one problem, though – augmented reality apps weren’t meant to be released until iPhone OS 3.1. That’s what Apple asked of its developers, anyway. Personally, I appreciate Yelp’s noncompliance, but there are others who think it’s going to hurt the development community. What say you? Sound off in the comments.

  

Facebook 3.0 Is Live

Facebook 3.0 for the iPhone.Facebook developer Joe Hewitt can finally rest easy knowing that his app is approved and in public hands. It certainly took long enough. Hewitt posted his submission on his Twitter page a couple weeks back. He made a blog post earlier this week decrying the App Store for its lengthy and often arbitrary approval process. Well the app is finally out, and it’s pretty great.

The update brings a whole list of new features along and gives the software a makeover. The new interface is much more direct, which is something I really appreciate. I probably say it too much, but I don’t really like Facebook, so making my user experience quick and to the point is fantastic.

I also like that I can manage events from the new app. I mentioned yesterday that I prefer an uncluttered digital experience and this is just one more thing I can manage on the go. As always, the app is free for download.