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Posts tagged with "iOS"

Game On: Speed Running Game Emulation on iOS



Game emulators are nothing new to mobile phones. That is unless you have an iPhone. There’s a long history of emulation on Android and an even longer history on Macs, PCs, and other platforms. However, with ‘retro game console emulators’ (Apple’s App Review Guidelines term) now allowed worldwide on iOS, we’re seeing the iOS world speed-running game emulation. It will be a while before iOS emulators catch up to Android and other OSes, but in just over a week, there’s already been a lot of news.

It started with a Commodore 64 emulator.

It started with a Commodore 64 emulator.

The short-lived Bimmy.

The short-lived Bimmy.

  • About the same time that iGBA was being pulled from the App Store by Apple, Bimmy, an NES emulator, appeared on the Store for $0.99. It, too, was pulled from the Store within a day or two, but this time, it was the developer who pulled it, not Apple. Tom Salvo, Bimmy’s developer, told Zac Hall of 9to5Mac that he pulled the app “out of fear” and not as the result of pressure from anyone.
Delta works with a variety of classic systems.

Delta works with a variety of classic systems.

  • Then, last Wednesday, Delta, Riley Testut’s game emulator that supports a long list of older Nintendo systems and the Sega Genesis console, was released on the App Store everywhere except the EU, where it is available on AltStore. Within hours, Delta shot to the top of the App Store’s Free Apps Top Chart, where it remains today.
  • In the wake of Delta’s success, other developers have announced that they plan to bring their game emulators to iOS, including the maker of the Sony PSP emulator PPSSPP and the developer of Provenance, which works with multiple systems.
  • The rush to the App Store by emulator developers isn’t universal, however. The creators of Dolphin, which works with Nintendo GameCube and Wii games, announced that it will not be coming to iOS because Apple doesn’t allow the necessary Just-In-Time recompilers to be integrated with game emulators.

Meanwhile, all eyes are on Nintendo. The company is notoriously protective of its intellectual property. And, although Nintendo has not sought to restrict the availability of emulators for its oldest systems, it aggressively pursued the makers of Yuzu, a Switch emulator, which resulted in the emulator being forced from the Internet with other emulators following suit. So, while emulators for early Nintendo systems have been available elsewhere for years, the sudden mainstream popularity of Delta on the App Store could draw an unwanted reexamination of emulators by the company. My hope is that instead of litigation, the new crop of iOS emulators spurs Nintendo to offer older games on the App Store and via other channels, but history isn’t on the side of my hopes and dreams.

How to Load Your Game Boy Games Onto the iPhone to Play in the Delta Emulator

So, you’ve probably seen the (totally justified) hype surrounding the Delta emulator’s launch on the App Store and downloaded it because, why not, it’s free. You may have also recalled that, like a lot of people, you have a box of old Game Boy cartridges stored somewhere that are gathering dust. Or, like me, maybe you spent way too much money on second-hand videogame sites during the COVID lockdown. Regardless of your Game Boy cartridge origin story, today I’m going to show you a simple way to breathe new life into those games by bringing them, along with your save files, to your iPhone.

The GB Operator. Source: Epilogue.

The GB Operator. Source: Epilogue.

The easiest way I’ve found to pull the game files from a Game Boy, Game Boy Color, or Game Boy Advance cartridge is with a little USB-C accessory called the GB Operator by Epilogue, or as I like to call it the Game Boy Toaster. That’s because the device looks like a top-loading transparent toaster that takes game cartridges instead of bread. If you have a big collection of game cartridges, the GB Operator is a great investment at $50 because it allows you to both play and back up your games using a Mac.

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Soulver 3 for iOS: Acqualia Software’s Unique Approach to Calculations Lands on the iPhone

Five years ago, Soulver 3, the sheet-based app that serves as a notepad for calculations, launched on the Mac with a long list of new features. In the years since, Acqualia Software launched an iPadOS version of the app and, today, an iOS version.

As I said in my review of the Mac app:

The strength of Soulver lies in its flexibility. Full-fledged spreadsheet apps like Numbers and Excel have their place. However, day-to-day life requires calculations that don’t demand that level of horsepower and benefit from contextualizing numbers with text. It’s the kind of math that happens in notebooks and on the back of envelopes. By combining elements of a text editor, spreadsheet, and plain English syntax, Soulver commits those easily-lost notebook scribblings to a format that allows for greater experimentation and easier sharing.

That’s as true of the iPhone version of Soulver as it was of the app’s other versions, perhaps more so. That’s because many people are more likely to have their iPhone with them than a Mac. With Soulver on iOS for the first time in a long time, it’s easier than ever to explore numerical ‘what-ifs.’ For example, what would my payment be if I refinanced my mortgage? How close am I to spending my budget for that party I’m planning? The possibilities go on and on.

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Ten Years Later, ‘Monument Valley’ Is a Monument to Mobile Gaming’s Bygone Era

Lewis Gordan, writing for The Ringer, looks back at the 10 years since Monument Valley was released and wonders what has become of premium mobile games:

With such gigantic success, Monument Valley should have become a blueprint for indies on mobile (and it did, for the small cohort of artful titles such as Alto’s Adventure and Old Man’s Journey that followed soon after it). But as the years wore on, it became clear that the game was really more of an aberration. Premium mobile games, that is, those that you pay for, eventually turned into an endangered species, crowded out by free-to-play “forever game” behemoths such as Clash Royale and, most recently, Monopoly Go! (the latter of which is partly bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and spent an eye-watering sum of nearly $500 million on marketing and user acquisition alone). A binary, then (and thus a battle), presents itself, pitting the art game that values people’s time against the commercial product that seeks to exploit it with ever-increasing, capitalistic intensity. “In 2014, it was just the beginning of that battle,” says Orland. “We didn’t have a clear winner.”

Gordon argues that Monument Valley’s release marked a high water mark and the beginning of the end of artful mobile games. As he recounts, the game was profitable within a week, but just six months later, users were leaving one-star reviews for a $1.99 expansion pack to a game that was only $3.99 to begin with. Gamers had been trained by the Candy Crush Sagas of the world to expect endless free updates.

Adriaan de Jongh, who Federico and I interviewed on AppStories years ago, points to the 2017 redesign of the App Store as another factor in the decline of premium titles:

Before, says de Jongh, Apple “featured” a couple of titles per week, promoting them to anyone across the entire globe who opened the App Store. It was the “single biggest marketing beat” for Hidden Folks, helping the game earn just more than $50,000 on its very first day. Then, with the redesign, the opportunity practically vanished. iPhone users had to navigate to a different tab to see new games. In de Jongh’s view, this was a fundamental and ultimately fatal layer of friction.

Gordon’s story is worth reading in its entirety because it’s one of the best tours of the business of selling iPhone games that I’ve read. At the same time, though, I think Gordon paints a bleaker picture than is justified. There’s no denying that the iPhone gaming universe has changed a lot from the days when games like Monument Valley, Alto’s Adventure, and Hidden Folks were first released. However, it’s also too soon to declare the end of premium iPhone gaming. Few of those titles may break into the top paid games category these days, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t innovative, artistic games being released on the App Store. You need to work a little harder, cutting through the jungle of free-to-play games to find them, but they’re there.


Obsidian Shortcut Launcher 1.1 Brings Support for File Properties and Backlinks

The updated Obsidian Shortcut Launcher with support for passing document backlinks to Shortcuts.

The updated Obsidian Shortcut Launcher with support for passing document backlinks to Shortcuts.

Two years ago, we released Obsidian Shortcut Launcher, a free plugin to trigger shortcuts from Obsidian with the ability to pass input text to Apple’s automation app. In case you missed it in January 2022, here’s how I described the plugin:

With Obsidian Shortcut Launcher (or ‘OSL’), you’ll be able to trigger any shortcut you want from Obsidian, passing along values such as the text of the document you’re working on, its name, text selection, and more. Obsidian Shortcut Launcher is free to use and works on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Obsidian Shortcut Launcher is the result of weeks of planning and work from me and Finn Voorhees, and it has created an entirely new dimension in how I use Obsidian and Shortcuts on a daily basis.

I’ve been using Obsidian Shortcut Launcher every day for the past two years, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to integrate my favorite text editor and note-taking app with Shortcuts. I’ve built launchers to publish articles to WordPress, upload images, perform backups of my iOS reviews, and a lot more. You can read more about my examples and find a usage guide for the plugin in the original story.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that we’re releasing version 1.1 of Obsidian Shortcut Launcher with two new integrations: properties and backlinks.

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Transit Is Still the Best-Designed Transit App on the iPhone in 2024

I like trains. I like them so much that, despite being 27 years old now, I still don’t have a driving license. I travel by train and use public transit exclusively to get around in my daily life. The island where I grew up had none of that, and it has made the car a fundamental necessity for most inhabitants there. But I’m fortunate enough to live in continental France now, in a city where I can get anywhere pretty quickly by hopping on a bus, tram, train, or even a high-speed train.

The result is that I spend a lot of time on my phone on a daily basis looking up transit itineraries and glancing at waiting times. Like in most places in the world where public transit is a thing, you can use the transit authority’s first-party application or website to do this. There is a universal truth about those apps and sites, though: they are almost always really bad. They’re slow, confusing, and often bloated with useless information. This is why, for so many years now – since I first arrived in France in 2014 – I’ve been a huge fan of Transit.

Transit is an amazing app that lets you look up transit itineraries and will even guide you along as you travel to your destination. The app has been around for a long time, but my mission today is simple: I want to tell you why I believe Transit is still the best-designed transit app available on the iPhone right now.

Let’s get into it.

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Lickability on the Design of Apple’s Sports App

A few weeks ago on AppStories, Federico and I surveyed recent Apple system app updates to get a sense of where the design of iOS is heading. Part of the inspiration for that episode was a thread that Lickability posted on Mastodon, breaking down Apple’s recently-released Sports app.

Yesterday, Lickability’s Sam Gold expanded on that thread with a post on the company’s blog that’s a must-read for anyone interested in iOS design trends because, as Sam says:

We once heard someone say, “design your app for the current iOS version + 1.” So with that lens, we’ve been looking at what the design of Apple Sports can tell us about iOS 18.

That’s good advice, and there’s a lot to learn from Sports, such as how it continues a recent trend of using gradients in the nav bar:

Gradients are used a LOT in this app. This nav bar gradient effect is becoming pretty common throughout first-party apps as well — first with the iOS 17 Health app, then Journal, and now Sports. watchOS 10 is also full of gradients.

There are many other things going on in Sports besides gradients, including Metal shaders applied to textures and interesting uses of animation and typography.

I fully expect that when I sit down to watch the announcements at WWDC, much of what Lickability has highlighted in Sports will be apparent across many more of Apple’s apps.


The European Commission Announces an Investigation into Apple and Other Gatekeepers’ Compliance with the DMA

The European Commission (EC) has opened non-compliance investigations against Apple, Google, Meta, and Amazon in connection with the Digital Markets Act (DMA). With respect to Apple, the EC is investigating the company’s approach to uninstalling system apps, changing default settings, and prompting users to pick alternate services, including browsers and search engines.

According to the EC’s press release:

The Commission is concerned that Apple’s measures, including the design of the web browser choice screen, may be preventing users from truly exercising their choice of services within the Apple ecosystem, in contravention of Article 6(3) of the DMA.

The EC is also investigating the fee structure that Apple has implemented in connection with alternative app stores:

Apple’s new fee structure and other terms and conditions for alternative app stores and distribution of apps from the web (sideloading) may be defeating the purpose of its obligations under Article 6(4) of the DMA.

The EC’s press release helpfully reminds Apple and the other DMA gatekeepers that:

In case of an infringement, the Commission can impose fines up to 10% of the company’s total worldwide turnover. Such fines can go up to 20% in case of repeated infringement.

‘Turnover’ is an accounting term typically used in Europe that, for these purposes, is the functional equivalent of total revenue. The EC says that it intends to conclude the investigation announced today within 12 months.


Understanding the DOJ’s Antitrust Complaint Against Apple

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice, 15 states, and the District of Columbia sued Apple for alleged federal and state antitrust violations. Apple issued an immediate response, and before anyone had time to read the DOJ’s 88-page complaint, the Internet was overrun with hot takes.

However, the thing about lawsuits – and especially big, sprawling, high-stakes ones like the DOJ’s – is that they’re the proverbial tortoise to the Internet’s hare. Barring a settlement among the parties, the case against Apple isn’t likely to go to trial anytime soon. Add to that appeals, and this process is going to take years, not months.

So, since we have plenty of time, I thought I’d kick off our coverage at MacStories with a look at the DOJ’s complaint and its legal underpinnings, along with some observations on what’s going on and what you can expect to happen next.

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