Ben Brooks Tests iOS Content Blockers

Ben Brooks over at Brooks Review has been testing all available content blockers for speed and data usage.

The fastest options (aside from the virtually-unusable Script Scrap) seem to be 1Blocker and Adamant. 1Blocker has continually been the fastest since iOS 9 launched, but Adamant is a new addition to the list. Purify also makes a strong showing.

It’s only been a few short weeks since content blockers hit the scenes, but we’ve already seen a great deal of shifting in the popularity and quality of the available options. Number 1 ad blocker Peace, the Ghostery-backed blocker from Tumblr / Instapaper / Overcast developer Marco Arment, was pulled when Marco decided he didn’t want to be in the ad blocker business. Crystal, the runner-up choice, plummetted in popularity when its developer announced that he was going to start accepting money to allow advertisers to keep tracking users as long as their ads weren’t too garish.

I’ve been using 1Blocker on iOS 9. The only issue I’ve experienced so far is the need to reload TouchArcade forum pages, and the developer is looking into fixing that. On my Mac, I’m running Adamant, since it’s one of the few El Capitan optimized ad blockers out there.

Tweetbot 4 is Here, and it is Glorious

If you have a Twitter account and use it regularly, stop reading this article. Go to the App Store, spend the $4.99, and download Tweetbot 4. Don't ask questions, don't comparison shop, don't grumble that it's a paid update. Today's Tweetbot 4 release is possibly the single greatest thing to ever happen to Twitter.

I'm serious. Tweetbot has long been one of my favorite apps, and its lack of an iPad version was simply criminal - I've been using the iPhone version of Tweetbot 3 in 2X mode for the past 2 years. If this new release was just an iPad optimized layout, it would be a bargain at twice the price.

iPad view. Beautiful, beautiful iPad view

Thankfully, it's so, so much more. Just like Twitter's official app, Tweetbot now has a consolidated view of all recent activity. You can see who favorited you, who retweeted you, replies, quotes, all that fun stuff. In the iPad layout, all of this information is docked to the right side of the screen, so you can keep track of what's going on while you're browsing your stream.

Speaking of things docked to the right of the screen, Tweetbot 4 fully supports the new iPad multitasking. Swipe in from the right, and add the equivalent of the iPhone version of Tweetbot to your Safari window!

This is how I Safari from now on

The new Stats View pulls in an overview of recent favorites, followers and more. It works just like Twitter has been rolling out in their official app, but with a much nicer interface and live updating.

The $4.99 price tag is high for an iPhone app, but objectively low in the grand scheme of things. Your money gets you a premium app, brilliantly designed, and free of all ads and promoted tweets that Twitter insists on inserting into their stream.

Honestly, I could go on and on listing new features and gushing about implementations of old ones. But please, please take my word on this one. If you're a regular Twitter user, this is an essential app. Tapbots outdid themselves on this one. If Twitter blocked off access to clients like Tweetbot 4, I would probably quit Twitter.

Preview: Hands-On with the TteSPORTS Contour Controller

In a few short weeks, the TteSPORTS Contour MFi controller should be on sale and available for everyone.

I received a review copy a few days ago, and I've been steadily putting it through its paces with a variety of different game types. Full impressions will have to wait for my upcoming review, but I wanted to post a few photographs of the controller, as well as some initial thoughts.

The Contour is a somewhat large, matte textured controller with an integrated iPhone grip that, when not in use, hinges down into the body of the controller. It connects directly to the iPhone or iPad using Bluetooth. It's integrated battery lasts a long time, and is charged via Micro USB.

The analog sticks on the Contour are large, slightly concave, and feature a raised rim to prevent your thumbs from slipping off. I was afraid the lack of texturing would lead to a slippery grip, but in practice, it's not bad. Far better than the d-pad.

The ABXY buttons are large, glossy, and well spaced. They're a bit shallow for my taste, but they're well built, and provide a nice amount of spring. A small Pause button is located to the bottom left of the face buttons.

The Contour is pleasantly weighted, enough that docking an iPhone 6S doesn't cause it to fall over. Most other Bluetooth controllers with grips fail this test.

Sadly, the weight of an iPhone 6S Plus is far too much for the Contour. The grip itself, however, is very strong - your iPhone isn't going anywhere.

The Contour is easily among the top two choices for iPhone gamers wishing to grip their iPhones into a Bluetooth controller. How does it rank against the others? Stay tuned for the full review.

As for what is lurking beneath the blue cloth... well, there's another controller with a grip coming soon. Can't talk about that one yet, though!

Each of these controllers grips the iPhone at a similar angle. Personally, I think they're all far too steep for my taste, but thats a rant for another day.

There are several great MFi controllers out there, but none - with the exception of the terrible MOGA Rebel - feature an integrated fold-up iPhone grip. For that reason alone, I predict this will be many people's preferred option.

The Contour is available for preorder right now on Amazon.

For a heck of a lot more information on this controller, stay tuned for my in-depth review, which will be posted when the Contour officially goes on sale.

800 Games Now Support MFi Controllers

We passed quite a milestone tonight: there are officially 800 games in the MFi game database with MFi controller support!

This seems like a fitting time to celebrate such a milestone. We've come so, so far from where we were when the MFi controller program first launched.

Apple's new iPhone 6S lineup, on sale tomorrow, represents a massive improvement over the best we had when the MFi controller program started. The iPhone 5 was cutting edge at the time, but the new devices have over 4X faster CPU performance and over 10X better GPU performance. The types of games today's iPhones can play would have been impossible when the MFi program launched.

MFi controllers themselves have come a long way. The first controllers were basically garbage, marked up to almost $100, and compatible only with iPhones. Today, we have a wealth of excellent controllers to choose from: the killer general-purpose Mad Catz pads, the retro-friendly Horipad with it's top-class d-pad, and the Gamevice, which turns the iPad into a stellar game console.

Even more important, we're on the cusp of the next major part of Apple's gaming journey. The new Apple TV, launching in a few short months, is poised to drastically expand the hardcore iOS gaming landscape. It's new companion "Nimbus" controller looks like one of the best MFi controllers yet. Hundreds of developers have their hands on preview units, and are busy porting their iOS games to work with the new hardware, adding MFi controller support in the process. The number of confirmed Apple TV games keeps growing every day.

We have Minecraft, one of the biggest games of all time, running on a Gamevice. We have the Grand Theft Auto series - one of the most important game series of all time, and one that drastically expanded what I game could do, in both storytelling and gameplay. We have Disney Infinity 3.0 launching on iOS within days of its console launch, and fully supporting all the latest iOS bells and whistles like Metal and iCloud. We have Final Fantasy III through Final Fantasy VII, hundreds of hours of some of the finest RPG storytelling ever, the best they've ever been, here on iOS.

The list of games is staggering. Bastion, Game of Thrones, KOTOR, Monster Hunter, Skylanders, Worms, the Sonic series, Call of Duty... whatever game you're in to, you'll find something to play with an MFi controller.

So yeah. 800 controller compatible games is a great milestone. It's one worth celebrating. It's more games than the Xbox One and PS4 have managed to achieve in their lifespans, combined. But make no mistake, this journey is far from over. The state of hardcore gaming on iOS is certainly not perfect, but it has a bright future.

Big Sales on the Entire Grand Theft Auto Series

The entire iOS Grand Theft Auto series (including the mobile-focused Chinatown Wars) is on sale right now. Each game is $2 off, for a grand total of $8 of savings on the whole series. Buy these immediately.

I'm assuming most MFi controller owners already own these games - they're some of the best examples on the App Store of how games can be enhanced with full console controls. But if you're missing a game or two, now is a great opportunity to round out your collection.

And if you somehow missed out on ever playing one of these games... well, I envy you. You have at least 3 classic pieces of videogame history that you get to experience for the first time. Vice City is probably the best place to start, but you can't go wrong with any of the trilogy.

iOS 9 – The MacStories Review

Amazingly in-depth review of iOS 9 from Federico Viticci and the folks at MacStories.

I’ve read several reviews of iOS 9, and this one is the best I’ve seen. No matter how well you think you know iOS 9, you’ll find new things here.

I’ve been using my iPad as the primary computer behind AfterPad for several months now, and iOS 9 has been nothing short of a game changer. I prefer my iPad to my Mac for all but the most demanding coding. I expect this to only be more true after I get my hands on the iPad Pro.

DisplayMate Tests the iPad Mini 4

DisplayMate tested the new iPad Mini 4’s display to see how much of an improvement Apple made.

First of all, the colors and color accuracy of the iPad mini 4 now match all of the recent full size iPads and also the recent iPhones (5 and 6 including S and Plus). So across the entire mobile iOS product line you’ll now see color matched photos and screen images. The mini 4 is an excellent super size upgrade to the iPhone 6(S) and Plus and now truly qualifies as a small version of the iPad Air 2.

But in terms of real-world viewing conditions, the record low 2.0% screen Reflectance actually makes a bigger visual difference for the image colors and image contrast that you actually see because ambient light washes out and degrades the displayed images and reduces screen readability – so its record low Reflectance actually makes a bigger difference!

This is excellent news for fans of the Mini form factor. All previous iPad Minis, including the Retina models, were hobbled by displays with far more muted colors than the iPad Air line. Apple has finally corrected this. I visited the Apple Store and tested out the new Mini myself, and the difference in display quality was immediately noticeable.

For gamers, the new iPad Mini still doesn’t quite have the muscles of the iPad Air 2. The Mini’s A8 feature a four-core GPU with noticeably less horsepower than the A8X’s eight-core model.

Personally, I never had performance issues with the previous iPad Mini. The main reason I switched to the Air was for the increased color gamut and doubled ram. If Apple had released this Mini last year, I might not have switched.

Apple Is Right to Block MFi-Controller-Only Games on Apple TV

There has been much gnashing of teeth in the iOS gaming community about Apple's decision to require all Apple TV games support the built-in trackpad remote. Many gamers and developers feel that game makers should be allowed to make their games require a third-party MFi controller in order to be played. These people (correctly) feel that a large number of console-style games will play so terribly with Apple's remote control that not being able to play at all is superior to a poor control experience.

These folks aren't wrong in this point, but they are wrong in the belief that allowing developers to require MFi controllers at this time is the solution to the problem.

Apple's decision to launch the new Apple TV is 2 different bundles, neither of which include an MFi controller in the box, immediately relegates MFi controllers on the Apple TV to an extreme niche. Smaller even than the iPhone / iPad demographic.

Many of us were hoping that an app playing Apple TV update would be Apple's change to make a big move into the gaming market. Apple did not do this. The new Apple TV is not a gaming box. The new Apple TV is a refinement of the old Apple TV, but now it also happens to play games. Apple is not marketing it to gamers, it's marketing it to average people.

The fact of the matter is, to average people, most games will play perfectly fine with the Apple TV Remote, making this issue almost non-existant. Most of the games on this list do NOT make full use of a console-style controller. Most use one analog stick for movement and a couple of buttons for controls - an input scheme that will work perfectly well on the Apple TV Remote.

But what about the handfull of more complicated games? The Modern Warfares, the Grand Theft Autos, the MOBAs - how can games with complex inputs possibly be made to work on the Apple TV Remote? Can they be made to work as well as a console? The answer is no, but they don't have to.

Bad Controls Don't Matter

If the iPhone has taught us anything, it's that average people don't actually care how badly a game controls. The proliferance of shooters and complex console ports to iOS - many of which "real gamers" would deem unplayable on a touchscreen - should tell you as much. The are made playable (sometimes just barely) because crafty developers are able to overcome the obvious control limitations.

Lets take shooting games. On a real MFi game controller, you use a minimum of three inputs at the same time: left analog to move, right analog to look around, right trigger to shoot. You'll periodically use a fourth input to stab, throw a grenade, zoom in, crouch, activate a switch, etc.

On a touchscreen, this control sceme is untenable. People only have 2 thumbs, and they can't move, look, and shoot at the same time with virtual sticks and virtual buttons, let alone use other commands. So developers implemented other options:

  • Some allow you to use the gyroscope and accelerometer to look, freeing up left thumb to move and right to shoot
  • Some combined looking and shooting, having the gun automatically fire when you look directly at an enemy
  • Specialized attacks can be mapped to a shake - it's satisfying stabbing an enemy by shaking your phone at him
  • Action buttons can be made context-sensitive. No need to map "use" to the Y button when it can just replace the "shoot" button when you aim at a switch
  • Superflous functionality can be removed entirely. Do most gamers really need to crouch?

Call of Duty veterns might look at this and wince. But again, Apple isn't targeting them. Average gamers just want to run around a battlefield shooting stuff, and these controls allow that. If you're a pro gamer who wants more, Apple has a solution: buy an MFi controller.

Now lets see how a shooter could work with the Apple TV Remote:

  • Movement can be handled with the touchpad. It'll feel very similar to moving on a touchscreen.
  • Looking can be handled with the gyroscope in the remote. Judicious use of auto-locking will allow casual gamers to play
  • Shooting can be mapped to one of the two face buttons
  • Actions can be mapped to voice input. Yell "Grenade!" to throw a grenade. Say "time to sneak" and your character crouches and moves slowly. Say "reloading" to force-reload your weapon.

Again, pro gamers will bristle at this list. But again, Apple has a solution: buy an MFi controller.

How would GTA work on the Apple TV Remote? Well...

  • Move with the touchpad, and the camera turns when your character does
  • Shoot with a button. Auto-lock on the nearest enemy
  • Carjacking replaces shooting when directly next to a car and looking at the door
  • Use voice to switch weapon on ground, switch radio station in a car
  • Remove jumping and crouching entirely
  • Tilt controls for flying vehicles, wheelies, and other side commands

You get the idea. No, the experience isn't perfect. But it also isn't so bad that you'd need to completely block off the remote from working in the first place.

The Reality of The New Apple TV

Let's call the new Apple TV what it actually is for most people: a $150 media consumption box. This is not the new iPhone - it isn't going to sell hundreds of millions of units in a year. It'll probably sell closer to 5 million.

Many - possibly most - of those 5 million customers will not be gamers. They'll be buying a video box they can control Siri with. When these customers open up the App Store, Apple wants to sell them apps. If these people see a bunch of games that require a third-party controller they don't own, these people will simply not download those apps. Doesn't matter how cool the game is, doesn't matter how cheep the controller is.

Their kids might download those apps, though. It's a lot easier to talk mom and dad into spending $5 on copy of Minecraft than it is to talk them into spending $55 on Minecraft and a controller. However, if the kid's playing Minecraft all the time and the remote is constantly going missing and running out of power, suddenly that controller the kid's been begging for seems like a lot easier sale.

But what about the games that will never be ported?

The last arguement for allowing developers to require MFi controllers goes like this: big-time console developers might port their games to the Apple TV if it was as simple as porting the code over, then copying over the same control scheme they used on the Xbox / PlayStation and requiring customers own a controller. However, these developers won't port it if they have to also figure out how to make it work on the Apple TV Remote.

Sounds good in theory, but the fact is, these games were never getting ported over any time soon. Wasn't going to happen, even with a "controller required" option.

If developers are going to spend the time and energy to port a game to the iOS codebase, they're going to aim for the target with 1 billion users: iPhones and iPads. The Apple TV, with it's paltry userbase, will be a distant second.

Coding is the hard part, slapping a (possibly terrible) input method together is easy. If a big-name console game is coming to iOS, it's developers are going to spend the time to make it work on a touchscreen and accelerometer. If they do that, it's easy to make it work on the Apple TV remote.

There will be no situation, ever, when a developer spends the time porting a game to iOS, then decides to ignore the billion-strong iPhone market and instead target only the percentage of Apple TV customers who own MFi controllers. Never. If a developer did that, they would be insane.

The Future

Apple is right to avoid fragmenting the Apple TV user base right now. The number of early adopters isn't going to be huge, and the last thing Apple needs is early customers telling their friends to avoid buying an Apple TV because "the good games need an extra controller".

This would be a bad situation. But more than that, it would be a distinctly "un-Apple" situation. Apple wants apps to "just work". Apps that are segregated behind a $50 paywall don't "just work".

In the future, who knows? In a few years, the Apple TV will be cheaper, the hardware will more powerful, the userbase will be bigger, and Apple could potentially starts selling an Apple TV with an MFi controller in the box. In this world, with 100 million Apple TVs in homes around the world, it might make sense for Activision to bring Call of Duty to the Apple TV and require a real game controller. But on launch day? Forget it.

I'm the biggest MFi controller proponent out there, but it just doesn't make sense for any games to require them right now.

Gamevice for iPad Mini Now On Sale On Amazon

Great news for those who’ve been waiting on grabbing the Gamevice online: Amazon has them in stock!

There are 6 left. Considering there were 11 this morning, I expect these remaining units to go quickly.

I LOVED the Gamevice in my review, and I strongly recommend one to anyone who primarily games on an iPad Mini. Versions for the iPad Air and iPhone are coming soon.

Confessions of a Free-To-Play Producer

This narrative on TouchArcade from a major free-to-play developer is about as horrifying as you’d fear.

Read it. Then delete your Facebook account and uninstall anything that ever asked you to “like” it. Shit like this is why I advocate ad blocking. Which you should totally do now that iOS 9 is out.

I disagree with one thing, and only one thing: asking gamers to support premium apps isn’t enough. Gamers are up against an army of truly terrible people who are spending millions of dollars learning how to exploit their weakness. APPLE is the one who should be protecting users. Apple should ban apps that do this garbage from the store. Apple should publicly shame developers. Apple should threaten to ban the Facebook app unless it makes policy changes in how it farms data.

We need an advocate at the top.