Game Center: It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE! Finally.

I recently kicked up a fuss about Game Center:

If you follow the Apple or mobile gaming press, you might have heard Game Center is working again, as of the current iOS 9 beta.

I don’t usually install beta software on iOS devices, because you can’t dual-boot, and betas often have bugs and conflicts that render much of my work (testing apps and games) problematic. However, I made an exception in this case and installed iOS 9.3.2 beta 1 on my iPad Air 2.

Post-install, I immediately fired up Game Center, and although it was slow (and initially seemingly trolled me with a white screen for about five seconds), it fired into life for the first time in weeks. For the first time since last autumn, I can switch tabs within the Game Center app and access Game Center in Settings. You can see it working in a new video I uploaded to YouTube.

Now looking at the Games tab in Game Center is interesting. The system itself was clearly working in some capacity, since it lists all Game Center compatible games I’ve downloaded. However, I estimate that only one in ten has been populated with any data, and even then that only happened only sporadically. Most flatly state I have zero points and no high scores. Perhaps Game Center morphed into an ancient dial-up emulator without telling anyone.

Judging by the now 75-page Touch Arcade thread, other people seem to be finding this beta sorts the problem, across multiple devices. Only one person has so far reported an issue, and that vanished upon a restart.

So it looks like Game Center’s finally fixed. And, yes, this one does deserve a ‘finally’, given how long it’s been broken. I just hope the many devs caught in the fallout have not been hit too hard in the pocket, and also that Apple either starts being honest with itself. The company should either admit it wants nothing to do with gaming, and drop Game Center entirely (which, given Android’s rapidly improving equivalent, wouldn’t look good), or ensure from this point on the team keeps Game Center working.

April 13, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Gaming, Opinions

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The top three Apple products ever, as decided by a toddler

It turns out that tiny humans are fond of Apple products, too. Our own particular tiny human (21 months at the time of writing), has expressed preferences for specific hardware in certain ways, most notably by gleefully smacking it with baby paws, or wailing in an eardrum-splitting fashion when it’s suggested that said Apple hardware is, in fact, someone else’s.

Here, then, are the top three Apple products, should the company want to directly target the next generation today.

1. Apple keyboard. 

For some reason, keyboards are like catnip to tiny humans. SMASH SMASH SMASH. This is especially so when a keyboard happens to be connected to a Mac on which daddy is doing work while on deadline.

2. Apple TV remote (pre-Siri).

Our living-room Apple TV is a third-gen, and mini-G decided no-one else is to be trusted with the remote (to the point when daddy accidentally stopped Peppa Pig, said remote was snatched away and hidden beyond reach). The only tiny snag is mini-G’s current usage, which is CLICK BIG BUTTON UNTIL SOMETHING HAPPENS. (Often: playing an entirely unsuitable trailer.)

3. Daddy’s iPhone. 

We had a knackered old iPod touch knocking about, and that became mini-G’s, loaded up with kiddie apps that run in iOS 6, and music for sleeps. But it turns out that daddy’s iPhone is SO MUCH MORE FUN. Cue: evenings where daddy watches Peppa Pig while mini-G quickly switches between Novation Launchpad, Endless ABC, and My Very Hungry Caterpillar, in a manner that makes daddy’s head spin.

March 31, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Humour, Television

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I made a video about iOS 9’s broken Game Center and you’ll never guess what happened next

I wrote that Game Center is broken, and that Apple told me it will “hopefully” be “resolved” “soon”, but the issues are tough to visualise for anyone who’s not experiencing them. At least, people on Twitter tell me so, and Twitter NEVER LIES.

So I dusted off my long-dormant and barely used YouTube account and made an amazing video, featuring:

  • My finger
  • An iPad Air 2
  • Game Center white-screening
  • Settings freezing on trying to access the Game Center section
  • (The excellent) Dashy Crashy not being able to connect, and not showing friends in the racing
  • Game Center white-screening a second time, in case you didn’t see it before

As for what I did next, you probably did guess: I wrote this blog post. So sorry about that misleading heading, but you know how it is online these days — people with SEO hats punch your face in unless you use TECHNIQUES to get people to visit your site. Just think yourself lucky they didn’t make me split this short post up into eleven separate pages. As a gallery.

March 23, 2016. Read more in: Apple, iOS gaming, Technology

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16 GB iPhones, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro camera, and the wrong compromises

For all its bluster about making perfect and ‘magical’ products, Apple has a streak of realism about it. Company execs often talk about compromise. The point is that you have to compromise on components, in order to meet certain specifications and criteria, be they to do with pricing or usability. The question is whether the right compromises are being made.

Generally, Apple seems to get things right, but there are two areas where I find Apple’s decisions regarding compromise troubling.

The first is storage. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, which shoot high-res photos and 4K video, and that are powerful enough to run high-end multi-GB games, start out at 16 GB. For ‘only’ an extra 80 quid or $100, you can get four times as much storage, in what seems like a blatant upsell. The iPad Air 2 also starts at 16 GB, and Apple has removed the 128 GB option, presumably to push people towards the new 128 GB 9.7-inch iPad Pro (which mercifully doesn’t have a 16 GB option, but omits a 64 GB one, leaving a void between 32 and 128).

The second area I have an issue with is the camera on the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro. In terms of specifications, it seems to match the camera in the iPhone 6s, but that also means — just like on the iPhone — it is not flush with the case. When used flat on a table, this means the new iPad will wobble — not great if you’re drawing with Apple Pencil or even playing games. And how strong is that lip around the camera? What potential is there for damage? Will users essentially be forced into buying a case, thereby adding heft to the iPad and making its ‘thinness’ largely irrelevant?

However, as a writer interested in investigation and thought rather than screaming linkbait into the void, I have to concede that I simply don’t know what the right compromises are, except for me. Personally, I’d sooner see more storage at the low-end of every Apple line, and I’d prefer the new iPad to have a worse camera that’s flush with the unit. On Twitter, some people have told me they’re flabbergasted by Apple’s decision regarding the new iPad Pro’s camera, but then Perch lead developer Drew McLellan said “When I’ve personally seen an iPad used for work, it’s mainly been for that camera. And always with a case.”

Without the numbers, it’s impossible to know why Apple’s making the decisions that it is; and even with the numbers, you still wouldn’t be sure. Sometimes, these decisions are made on instinct or on the basis of trying to push devices into new areas of use. Even so, the notion of a wobbly iPad is enough for me to stop short of an immediate purchase, instead waiting until I can check one out in an Apple Store. Presumably, Apple thinks or knows my reluctance will be balanced by one or more people deciding Apple has made the right compromise — or them not caring about such compromises at all.

March 22, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Opinions, Technology

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Apple wobbles

Apple just revealed a new iPad Pro. It looks fantastic. The device has all of the smarts of its bigger brother, but in the more svelte form factor of the iPad Air 2. You get Pencil support, the Smart Connector, built-in stereo speakers, the powerful A9X chip, and a 12-megapixel iSight camera that’s capable of shooting 4K video. In fact, that’s better than the one inside the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Or is it? Technically, the smaller iPad Pro’s camera blows the one in the 12.9-inch device away, but then you finally catch a glimpse of the new iPad from the back (which requires you to scroll a long way down the page linked to above) and notice that the camera protrudes from the rear of the device, just like on the iPhone 6s.

I really don’t like the protruding camera from an aesthetic standpoint, but it really hasn’t made that much difference when I use my iPhone. My iPad Air 2, on the other hand, is often used flat on a desk, most often when playing games, but sometimes also when using apps. I have an Apple keyboard for a Mac that has a slight wobble and it drives me nuts. I can’t really imagine splashing out over £600 on a new iPad with what for me will be such a fundamental usability flaw. And yet everything else about this device screams that it is perfect for what I want.

In short: ARGH.

March 21, 2016. Read more in: Apple, Opinions, Technology

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