Posts with «mobile apps» label

An 'Unpacking' clone topped the App Store charts before it was pulled

Unpacking is a lovely, relaxing puzzle game made by a small team. It's beautifully designed and manages to tell a compelling story with very little text. Unfortunately, its core mechanic — unpacking boxes and placing items in a new home — isn't exactly difficult to copy. One clone quickly found an audience on iOS and Android before it was removed.

If you've happened to catch an ad for a suspiciously similar-looking game to Unpacking📦 on mobile recently, please know that this is not our game.

They sure seem to want to give the impression that it is, though! 🧵 pic.twitter.com/d3ULxxbmSA

— Unpacking 📦 Out NOW! (@UnpackingALife) January 25, 2022

Unpacking Master, which was published by a company called SayGames, was said to be a near-identical copy of Witch Beam Games' title. It adopted a freemium model (users could pay a one-time fee to remove ads) and it briefly topped App Store charts less than a week after it was released. As Game Developer notes, Unpacking Master is no longer available on Apple's App Store or the Google Play Store.

Earlier this month, a spate of Wordle clones barged onto the App Store with copycat developers looking to cash in on the success of the viral hit word game. Those apps were removed as well. These incidents highlight a long-running problem that studios behind popular games (particularly indies) have grappled with.

Knockoff games have plagued mobile app stores for years. For instance, the developers of 2048 made some minor changes to the formula of puzzle game Threes and became a hit. In 2018, publisher Voodoo adopted the central idea of the quirky Donut County (players move around a hole in the ground and swallow up objects) with Hole.io, which soared to the top of App Store and Google Play charts.

In the case of Unpacking, Witch Beam suggested SayGames' clone used almost identical items and very similar level layouts. It said that while other clones failed to find much success, Unpacking Master took off in the wake of an ad campaign on TikTok and Instagram.

"It's demoralizing for a small team like ours to see content we spent literally years planning, refining and handcrafting be hastily reproduced in an opportunistic ad-riddled app a mere 3 months after our launch," the team wrote on Twitter. "We're a tiny indie team and even with the success we have achieved, we still don't have the resources to pursue companies trying to use our game's distinct look and feel to make a quick buck. We have to rely on storefronts like the App Store to better curate their content."

At least for now, the original Unpacking isn't available via mobile app stores, though you can pick it up on PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch and Xbox. It's on Game Pass as well, so you can play over the cloud if you're eager to check it out on a phone or tablet.

A health-monitoring app for Olympic attendees reportedly has glaring security issues

Just over two weeks before the 2022 Winter Olympics are set to get underway in Beijing, researchers have issued a report claiming that an app many attendees are using has major security issues. The Citizen Lab, a research facility based at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, said a "simple but devastating flaw" made it easy to bypass encryption systems that are supposed to protect voice audio and file transfers.

"The worst case scenario is that someone is intercepting all the traffic and recording all the passport details, all the medical details," research associate Jeffrey Knockel told CTV.

The app is used for health monitoring as part of COVID-19 countermeasures. Other features include messaging, news about the Games and information about logistics. The International Olympic Committee says the local Beijing 2022 workforce is using the app for things like time-keeping and task management too.

"The IOC has conducted independent third-party assessments on the application from two cyber-security testing organizations," the IOC told Engadget in a statement. "These reports confirmed that there are no critical vulnerabilities." The IOC noted that instead of using the mobile app, attendees can access a web-based health monitoring system. It said it has requested the researchers' report "to understand their concerns better."

The Citizen Lab notes that health customs forms containing passport information and travel and medical history are also at risk. In addition, the researchers said it was possible to spoof server responses, which could let hackers provide fake instructions to users.

Along with determining that the app doesn't encrypt some data transmissions, the team found that the app fails to validate some SSL certificates. In such cases, the app can't "validate to whom it is sending sensitive, encrypted data." Although they were only able to create an account on the iOS app, the researchers believe the vulnerabilities exist on the Android version of MY2022 as well.

The Citizen Lab said it informed the organizing committee for the Games about the issues on December 3rd, and said it had 15 days to respond and 45 days to fix the issues before it published its findings. As of Tuesday, the researchers hadn't received a reply.

An updated iOS version of the app that was released on Sunday didn't solve the problems. According to the researchers, the developers added a feature called “Green Health Code” that asks for more travel and medical history details, which are also vulnerable to the SSL certification issue.

According to the researchers, the flaws could mean that the app contravenes Apple's App Store rules and Google’s Unwanted Software Policy. In addition, MY2022 may be violating China's privacy standards and laws.

In addition, The Citizen Lab noted that the app includes an option to report “politically sensitive” content. It has a list of 2,442 censorship keywords too, which is said to be inactive at the minute, but includes terms related to topics like Xinjiang, Tibet, Chinese government agencies and other socially sensitive matters.

'PUBG Mobile' maker sues copycat game and app stores that hosted it

When you're the progenitor of an entire gaming genre and holding the reigns of a billion dollar intellectual property, imitation, it turns out, is not the sincerest form of flattery. It's the sort of thing that gets you dragged into US federal court. And that's exactly what Krafton, maker of PUBG Mobile, is doing to Garena Online over accusations that the Singapore-based game developer has once again infringed its battle royale IP. What's more, Krafton has named Google and Apple in its complaint.

This isn't the first time that Krafton has sued Garena Online. In 2017, Krafton filed suit in Singapore over the sale of Free Fire: Battlegrounds, Garena's suspiciously PUBG-like mobile shooter, but ended up settling that case. Now, Krafton is suing Garena again, over Free Fire again, but this time in US federal court.

Krafton alleges that after settling in 2017, Garena immediately resumed selling Free Fire on both Google Play and the Apple App Store without entering into any sort of licencing agreement to use the litigated game content. Additionally, Garena started selling of another battle royale game of questionable copyright pedigree, Free Fire Max, this past September. As such, Krafton is suing Garena for copyright infringement claiming that “Garena has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from its global sales of the infringing apps," and holding both the Google and Apple marketplaces liable for damages for hosting the content. Krafton, which is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, has not specified damages outside of a statutory $150,000 per infringement. 

Copyright infringement claims like this are wildly common throughout the tech industry with legal departments constantly on the prowl for potential IP violations, be they intentional or not. For example, earlier this week, the App Store were inundated with knock-off and clones of the newly-minted hit mobile app, Wordle, prompting Apple to intercede and remove the offending iterations.     

'Fortnite' is returning to iPhone and iPad via NVIDIA GeForce Now

Fortnite hasn't been available on Apple's App Store or the Google Play Store for 17 months. While the game isn't expected to return to either store anytime soon, it seems players will soon be able to drop on the island once again on their phones and tablets (unless they already use a sideloaded version on Android or play console versions remotely).

NVIDIA and Epic Games have teamed up on a mobile version of the battle royale that's playable through GeForce Now. A desktop version is already available on the service. 

A limited-time closed beta will get underway next week to test server capacity, graphics delivery and touch controls. NVIDIA has opened registrations and it will grant users access to the beta in batches over the next several weeks. You don't need a paid GeForce Now membership to take part. If you're able to secure a spot, you'll be able to play Fortnite through Safari on iOS and the GeForce Now app on Android. NVIDIA and Epic haven't set an end date for the beta as yet. 

When NVIDIA enabled GeForce Now on iOS via the web in November 2020, it said it would eventually give iPhone and iPad users access to Fortnite again, though it and Epic were building a touch-friendly version first. Android and iOS players can use a Bluetooth controller if they'd rather not use touch controls while swinging around the map as Spider-Man

Apple and Google yanked Fortnite from their respective stores in August 2020 amid a battle with Epic Games over in-app payments. The publisher suedboth companies, alleging they were engaging in anti-competitive behavior. The Apple case went to trial last year. A judge ruled Epic didn't prove that Apple was violating antitrust laws. 

Both sides appealed against aspects of the outcome. Apple won a last-minute stay from having to implement App Store changes that would force it to let developers direct users to alternative payment methods and bypass the 30 percent cut it takes from in-app payments. In any case, until all court appeals are exhausted, a process that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said could last several more years, Apple won't let Fortnite back onto the App Store.

Wordle' clones are taking over the App Store

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter in the last week, chances are you’ve seen the grids of emoji boxes taking over your feed. That’s thanks to Wordle, a new puzzle game that’s become somewhat of an obsession for many since The New York Timeswrote about it just over a week ago.

Like other viral games, Wordle is deceptively simple: you have six chances to guess a new five-letter word. And that’s… pretty much it. There’s just one puzzle a day, and it’s free to play with no ads . Its creator, a software developer named Josh Wardle, is apparently “overwhelmed” by his game’s popularity. But the fact that the game doesn’t have an app has allowed developers to create their own knockoff version of the game.

One particularly egregious example comes from developer Zach Shakked who created an app called “Wordle - The App.At first glance, the app, which is subtitled “Word Game Everyone's Playing!” could easily be mistaken for the original. The word grid looks almost the same, and it even uses the same color scheme. But Shakked’s version also asks players to sign up for a “pro” subscription that costs $29.99 after a three-day “free trial.”

But between naming the app “Wordle” and running search ads against the term in the App Store, Shakked seems to have succeeded in profiting off the popularity of the game originally created by Wardle. “This is absurd. 450 trials at 1am last night, now at 950 and getting a new ones every minute,” he wrote in a tweet that has since been made private. “12K downloads, rank #28 word game, and #4 result for "Wordle" in the App Store. We're going to the fucking moon.”

Screenshot via Twittet

Shakked and Wardle didn’t respond to questions from Engadget. But Shakked isn’t the only developer trying to cash in on the popularity of Wordle. His app is one of at least six Wordle clones launched in the App Store in the eight days since the original New York Times article about Wordle. Another, called “What Word - Wordle” which charges a $0.99 in-app purchase to remove ads, claims to be the “No. 1 Word game” in its App Store screenshots. (It is actually ranked No. 7 in word games, according to its App Store listing.)

Scammy knockoff apps capitalizing on the popularity of a viral game is nothing new, of course. Game developers have been complaining about the practice for years. Apple didn’t immediately respond to questions about Wordle clones in its store. But, thanks to emails released during the Epic v. Apple trial, we do know that copycat apps have long been a source of frustration for Apple executives as well. “Is no one reviewing these apps? Is no one minding the store?" Phil Schiller wrote in a 2012 email. Three years later, he complained that “I can’t believe we still don’t” have automated tools to find scam apps.

Tumblr adds a sensitive content filter to its iOS app

As part of its ongoing efforts to stay on the right side of App Store rules, Tumblr is adding a Sensitive Content toggle to its iOS app. The setting is enabled by default, and it keeps posts with sensitive tags out of recommendations, blocks search results with sensitive tags and hides blogs "that are explicit in nature."

Disabling the toggle will allow users to search for tags that might include posts of a sensitive nature and see recommendations that might include suggestive or sensitive content. Switching off the setting will also allow you to tap through an overlay on blogs that have been marked as explicit. However, you still won't be able to view posts that have been flagged as explicit.

It's not entirely clear how Tumblr defines "explicit" in this context (Engadget has asked for clarification). Tumblr banned porn and realistic depictions of human genitals in December 2018 after Apple temporarily removed the app from the App Store.

Tumblr says the sensitive content setting only applies to those using the latest version of the iOS app. For now, users will need visit their settings on the Tumblr website to disable the toggle. They'll then be able to access sensitive content in the iOS app after they quit and relaunch it.

Last month, Tumblr blocked search terms and recommendations featuring potentially sensitive content on the iOS app to comply with App Store rules. The sensitive content toggle should make the platform a bit more open for iOS users, though still less so than on Android or the web.

“These latest updates provide more control to our community on the iOS app to build the experience that fits them best, and to explore the content that they find interesting," Tumblr wrote in a blog post. "While the experience for our community is a top priority, we must also comply with Apple’s App Store guidelines and our own guidelines.”

Uber no longer supports ride hailing via the Apple Watch

Did you know that you could hail an Uber using your Apple Watch? No? Well it doesn't really matter anyway, because the Uber Watch app has effectively been discontinued, according to Apple Insider. If you try to use it, a message pops up asking you to switch the mobile app instead. It further states "we no longer [sic] supporting the Apple Watch app. Sorry for the inconvenience," with a crying emoji to drive the point home. 

The app has yet to be pulled from the Watch App Store, but all you'll get is the error message if you try to use it. When it did work, it let you hail a ride, see the status of your request, and show the location of the vehicle. More advanced functions like fare-splitting were reserved for the smartphone app. 

The grammatically challenged message suggests that the app may have been pulled with some haste, though neither Uber or Apple have commented. The App Store listing (above) touts the app as a way you can leave home without your smartphone and still hail a ride, provided you had a cellular-enabled Watch. To be fair, Uber also pulled its WearOS app back in 2019, likely due to a lack of usage. 

The best apps to download on your new smartphone

You just got your hands on a new phone. Naturally, your first inclination is to head to the App Store or the Google Play Store to download your favorite apps to your shiny new device. While the Engadget team tries to keep our phones relatively unencumbered, there are some apps we can't live without because they make our work and daily lives easier. Below you'll find a dozen of the best we think you should try.

1Password

1Password

If you only take one piece of advice away from this article, it's that you should download a password manager. It doesn't have to be the one we recommend here. However, we like 1Password for a handful of reasons. Not only will it let you generate strong passwords for all your online accounts, but it also has built-in support for two-factor authentication. That means you don't need to download a separate app like Authy to make your logins as secure as possible. If you have access to a Fastmail account, you can also use 1Password to generate random emails for your logins, giving you another way to protect your privacy. It's also just a well-designed app that's a pleasure to use.

FireFox

Firefox

If it's been a few years since you last used Firefox, now is a great time to revisit it. Partway through last year, Mozilla overhauled the Android version of its browser to bring over many of its best desktop features to mobile. That release saw Mozilla add more robust support for third-party add-ons. It also brought over its Enhanced Tracking Protection feature, which stops trackers from misusing your browsing data. Separately, with Apple allowing you to change your default browser since the release of iOS 14, there's never been a better time for iPhone users to liberate themselves from Safari.

Headspace

Headspace

I subscribed to Headspace at the start of the pandemic. Since then, it's become one of the few apps I use every day. Yes, Headspace is a meditation and mindfulness app, but it's also so much more than that. You'll find it also has a mix of music designed to help you focus and workouts for unwinding at the end of a long day. Across the board, everything it offers is excellent, and you'll find yourself turning to it for more than just peace of mind.

Hopper

Hopper

If you plan to fly somewhere soon, install Hopper on your phone. While it has grown over the years to include a variety of features, at its core, Hopper is one of the best ways to save money on plane tickets. Once you tell the app where and when you want to fly, it’ll tell you whether you should book your flight now or wait. In the latter case, it’ll notify you when it estimates you'll get the best deal. The beauty of Hopper is it will save you from constantly checking websites like Google Flights and Kayak.

Libby

Libby

If you want to do more reading in 2022, forget about buying books through Amazon and download Libby instead. If you're not familiar with the app, it allows you to borrow ebooks, digital magazines and graphic novels from your local library. All you need is a library card, which most systems across the US offer for free. Sometimes you have to wait to borrow the books you want to read most, but you'll find Libby will dramatically expand your reading list.

Open Table

Open Table

With restaurants reopening in cities throughout the US and the rest of the world, there's a good chance you plan to eat out sometime soon — and so does nearly everyone else. That means you'll likely need a reservation to dine at some of the most popular spots in your city. In North America, the closest you'll find to a single platform that nearly every restaurant uses is Open Table. For that reason alone, it's a must-download if you eat out a lot. It's also a handy tool for discovering new spots to visit since you can filter by cuisine and area.

Transit

Transit

There's nothing worse than waiting for a bus on a cold winter’s day or watching three go by one after another. Avoid both situations with one of the best public transit planning apps on Android and iOS. Transit excels where other apps in the category fail thanks to its clean, easy-to-use interface that highlights all the options near you. It also has one of the better algorithms for predicting departure times, so you'll know exactly when you need to run out of your house or apartment to catch the next bus, train or streetcar.

Paprika

Paprika

Paprika is the best $5 you can spend to make feeding yourself even easier. At its core, it allows you to download recipes from your favorite websites and make them accessible on all your devices. You can also use it to scale the size of the meal you're about to cook and convert between metric and imperial measurements. Add to that a meal planner, shopping lists and a tool for tracking the ingredients in your pantry, and you have an indispensable app for home cooks.

Pocket Casts

Pocket Casts

With podcasts becoming ever more popular with each passing year, there's a good chance you already have a handful of favorite shows you listen to every week. As much as Spotify would like to convince you it has the best podcast app, that distinction goes to Pocket Casts. We like it because it offers a consistently great experience across every system it supports. And if you use a mix of platforms from Apple, Google and Microsoft, you don't have to worry about syncing, either. It’s also nice to use software that doesn’t feel caught between two worlds in the way that Spotify does. Pocket Casts isn’t trying to be anything more than an app for listening to podcasts. That’s not something you can say of Spotify, and it’s often a source of frustration for those who turn to it for music.

Pocket

Pocket

Another way to read more in 2022 is to download Pocket. It's among the most popular read-it-later apps out there, allowing you to save articles you find online. Much like Pocket Casts, what makes this app compelling is that it offers a consistently excellent device-agnostic experience, making it a great option for those who haven't gone all-in on one ecosystem. Whether you use Chrome, Safari or Edge, you can install a browser extension to save articles you stumble upon. You can then read them later without distractions on your phone or tablet. Just don't forget to make a dent in your Pocket reading list occasionally.

Telegram / Signal

Telegram

We understand, asking your friends and family to install another messaging app on their phone can sometimes feel like a Sisyphean task, but the effort has also never been more worth it. In Telegram and Signal, you'll find two of the most secure chat apps on the market. We especially like Telegram here at Engadget because of how complete it feels from a feature standpoint. For example, it includes an edit feature that comes in handy when you make a typo, and a Secret Chat tool for when you want messages to disappear. If you do make the switch to Telegram or Signal, you'll also free yourself of the Meta ecosystem. That might not seem like much, but when Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp went down earlier this year, it left many people without a way to communicate with their friends and loved ones.

Tunnelbear

Tunnelbear

After a Password manager, one of the best tools you can use to safeguard your online privacy is a VPN. Again, there are many options out there, but we like TunnelBear for its simplicity and whimsical ursine theme. A VPN isn't as essential as a password manager, but you'll want to get one if you frequently find yourself traveling or using the public WiFi at places like cafes and libraries. Using a VPN in those contexts will ensure your connection is protected with encryption so that any information you send over remains safe and private.

Snapseed

Snapseed

Most recent phones come with great cameras. Still, even with the latest iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel, almost every photo can benefit from an edit before you share it. The options you have for photo editing apps are nearly endless, but if you want something that works well, look no further than Snapseed. It's an old favorite that offers a comprehensive suite of editing options but never gets bogged down in too many sliders and dials. Best of all, it makes it easy to save edits to your camera roll and upload them to apps like Instagram.

DuckDuckGo offers a first look at its desktop web browser

DuckDuckGo has offered an early peek at its upcoming desktop app. In a blog post that recaps the company's year, CEO Gabriel Weinberg looked toward the future as well. He said DuckDuckGo will bring the privacy protections the company is known for to the app. You can expect the speed and simplicity of its mobile app too.

"Robust privacy protection" will be enabled by default for search, browsing, email and more. Weinberg said the app isn't a "privacy browser" per se, but rather "an everyday browsing app that respects your privacy."

As it did on mobile, DuckDuckGo is building the app using OS-provided rendering engines instead of basing it on projects like Chromium. According to Weinberg, that helped the development team to "strip away a lot of the unnecessary cruft and clutter that’s accumulated over the years in major browsers."

Along with a streamlined interface and the Fire Button (which closes all tabs and wipes browsing data in a single tap), the DuckDuckGo desktop is cleaner and much more private than Chrome, Weinberg said. He also claimed it's "significantly faster" than Google's browser, based on early tests — here's hoping it's less of a memory hog than Chrome too. DuckDuckGo didn't reveal when it plans to release the desktop app.

Weinberg notes that, over the last 12 months, DuckDuckGo has bolstered its search and tracker blocking features. He said DuckDuckGo's mobile app is now the most downloaded Android browser in key markets. In July, the company announced a free email forwarding service that removes tracking pixels from messages.

Apple's public macOS 12.2 beta includes a speedier Music app

Apple has rolled out the macOS 12.2 beta update to public testers in its beta program, just a day after it became available to developers. As 9to5Mac notes, the OS comes with a new Music app that Apple had rebuilt as a full native application. Apple introduced macOS' dedicated Music app back in 2019, but it kept some iTunes elements for some parts of it, which means it still displays web content within the app.

Based on what 9to5Mac has seen, macOS 12.2 beta uses AppKit, the framework needed to give applications a native interface. There won't be a big difference in looks, but the new app will apparently work faster. Searching for songs within Music, for instance, will appear more quickly because the results will be displayed on a native interface, while scrolling will feel smoother and trackpad gestures will feel more responsive. 

In addition to a brand new Music app, macOS 12.2 will also make scrolling in Safari smoother for the 14-and-16-inch MacBook Pro models that support refresh rates of up to 120Hz. To test out macOS 12.2, you'll have to download and install the macOS Developer Beta Access Utility. You'll then be able to access the latest beta update in the Software Update section of System Preferences.