Xploding Boxes now with 200 levels

Xploding Boxes has been updated in BlackBerry AppWorld to version 1.6 and now includes 200 levels, as well as support for all of the upcoming BlackBerry 7 devices.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes (also known as Exploding Boxes) is a strategy game for BlackBerry where the goal of the game is to start a chain reaction that will explode all of the boxes on the screen. Each level gives you a different number of touches, and requires a different strategy to solve. The first 25 levels are free, while the full 200 levels can be accessed by making an in-application payment and requiring no further downloads.

New in Version 1.6

Version 1.6 brings the total number of levels in Xploding Boxes up to 200, which is twice as many as the original version 1.0 of the application had. This update also allows the game to support all of the new BlackBerry 7 devices that will be released over the next few months including the 9900, 9930, 9810, 9850, 9860, 9350, and 9360.

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BBM SDK is bigger news then OS 7

For BlackBerry developers (and therefore users) the release of the BBM SDK is a much bigger deal then OS7. While the new operating system cleans up the homescreen, and includes new features based on additional hardware (such as NFC and AR) there is not much added in the new operating system for developers to add to existing apps (with the exception of location based apps).

So for developers looking to expand upon their existing app catalog, adding BBM integration is a far more attractive option. Additionally, using the BBM SDK doesn’t require users to all buy new BlackBerrys, and instead can be integrated with apps on existing devices all the way back to OS5, which covers the vast majority of in market devices.

RIM is really pushing the BBM SDK with a series of webcasts, and a Hackathon, but even before these announcements were getting many developers to spend time adding these features to their apps. None of the new options that RIM has introduced in the past few years has resulted in as much developer excitement as this SDK already has.

Twinkle was one of the first apps to add Universal Search, and Hockey Scores was one of the first to add in-app payments, however there hasn’t been as much interest in these options from other developers as there already is for the BBM SDK.

Multi-lingual BlackBerry users

The chart to the right shows the percentage of Pixelated users with each language set as the default. It is safe to assume that the fact that this data comes from an English-only application will result in some bias in these values. The chart below shows the percent of downloads for every language besides English.

Swipe down menus should also swipe back up

On the BlackBerry PlayBook, the top bezel is reserved for developers in order to create an app specific “swipe-down menu”. While not enough apps make use of this, for those that do there does not yet appear to be any standard behavior on how to close these menus. I propose a simple solution, that the menu should swipe back up off the screen.

Most developers do tween the menu back off the top of the screen after a selection, or a touch outside of the menu area, but like you can swipe down to display the menu, you should also be able to swipe back up in order to hide it again. This is the approach that has been added to version 2.7 of Pixelated and version 1.1 of Black Out.

In order to implement this, when the menu is opened gesture swipe are listened for using the code: stage.addEventListener( TransformGestureEvent.GESTURE_SWIPE, onSwipe) and then if the TransformGestureEvent’s offsetY == -1 (in the up direction), and the localY is less then the menu’s height, a command is then sent to remove the menu from the screen. (Otherwise the swipe is ignored).

This gives a more consistent user interface, as swiping from the top bezel to the screen opens the menu, and swiping from the on screen menu to the top bezel hides it. The more developers that use this, the more customers will know to expect it, and the better their PlayBook experience will be.

Call-A-Human app updated to version 1.3

The Call-A-Human application has been updated to version 1.3 with updated listings, support for the new OS 7 devices, and integration with the native options panel. This app allows you to easily call straight to a customer service person at hundreds of companies without having to go through the hassle of going through a phone tree. The application includes a built in search field, and on BlackBerry devices running OS 6.0+ it also integrates with universal search so you can just start typing the company name without even having to open the application.

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Monthly BlackBerry OS usage

Version 6.0 of the BlackBerry operating system saw a 3.36% increase in overall market share from May to June. Use of OS 5.0+ is now up to 86.8% of active BlackBerry users.

Adoption of OS 6.0 continues to be slower then adoption of OS 5.0 was due to the lack of an upgrade path for many popular phones such as the 85xx and 95xx series. As such adoption of OS 7.0 is more likely to follow the adoption curve of OS 6.0 because it is more likely to reflect adoption through new device sales rather then through upgrades to exciting devices.

As usual this data is taken from downloads of the popular BlackBerry strategy game Pixelated. Data starts from the release of version 2.0 in April of 2010, and goes through the end of last month.

Twinkle celebrates its first birthday

If you had placed the launch of Twinkle into your Twinkle app, it would show that it has now been 365 days since that event occurred.

Twinkle has come a long way in the past year, being named a Regional Selections Winner in the 2010 BlackBerry Super Apps Challenge, and upgrading to version 2.2 by adding integration with new OS 6.0 features like Universal Search. Additionally Twinkle has earned a four out of five stars average rating in BlackBerry AppWorld on the back of 122 reviews.

History of Twinkle

    • July 12th 2010 – Version 1.0 released The first version of Twinkle was released in BlackBerry AppWorld.
      September 27th 2010 – BlackBerry Partners fund named Twinkle a Regional Selections Winner in the 2010 BlackBerry Super Apps Challenge.
      October 26th 2010 – Version 1.1 released Twinkle gets its first upgrade, adding font options.
      November 28th 2010 – Featured in AppWorld Twinkle gets featured for one week in BlackBerry AppWorld.
      December 12th 2010 – Version 2.0 released Major update adds Universal Search and keyboard short cuts, while also offering tighter integration with the native calendar.
      December 18th 2010 – Version 2.1 released Adding support for reoccurring events.
      May 9th 2011 – Version 2.2 released Adding in-app payments to remove advertising and even more options for integrating with the native calendar.
  • About Twinkle

    Twinkle is a simple app that allows you to set and keep track of upcoming and past events. Twinkle will tell you how far away an event is, and allows you to send events to and from your BlackBerry’s native calendar. Twinkle gives you the ability to add and edit events, lets you keep track of how soon something is, or how long it has been since an event. Integration with Universal Search and keyboard shortcuts make it one of the easiest applications to navigate.

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    Update to PlayBook game ‘Black Out’

    The game Black Out has been updated in BlackBerry AppWorld to version 1.2 this past weekend. This new version improves the navigation of the game’s interface.

    How to Play

    The goal to Black Out is to tap the tiles, so that they all get ‘blacked out’. This is complicated because whenever you tap to flip a tile, it also flips all of the tiles surrounding it. As such it requires a well laid out strategy.

    In order to accommodate different difficulties, the game supports board sizes from 3×3 all the way up to a 10×10 grid. Furthermore, there is also a hint button in case you find yourself in need of help.

    Links & Information

    Trick to providing better email support

    By default when user needs support for their application their only way of contact is to use the “Contact Support” button in BlackBerry AppWorld. While this does work it has many short comings. There is only one email address listed for all of a vendor’s apps, and unless the customer writes it out in detail there is no way of knowing even which app the user needs help with. Simple questions like “Does my device support this app?” can’t be answered, because there is no way of knowing the user’s device, or the app that they are interested in.

    In order to get around this limitation, and provide better customer support Ebscer application user a built in email contact button that pre-populates the email’s subject line with the name of the application, the version of the application, the device model, and the version of the operating system on the device. The button for this is placed onto the about page in all apps, and sometimes also as a menu option.

    The code for handling the button press in the Twinkle app is as follows:

    String s = "Support for Twinkle V2.2 on BB"+DeviceInfo.getDeviceName()+" running OS"+CodeModuleManager.getModuleVersion(CodeModuleManager.getModuleHandleForObject(""));
    Invoke.invokeApplication(Invoke.APP_TYPE_MESSAGES,new MessageArguments(MessageArguments.ARG_NEW,"twinkle@ebscer.com",s,""));

    If your customers contact you with this method instead (and in my experience most will), then you can skip the preliminaries and get straight to answering their questions. This make life easier for everyone, as you don’t need to send extra emails back and forth just to get the basics.

    The Problem with RIM’s Open Letter Response

    Late last week an open letter was posted by a senior RIM employee criticizing the company for not prioritizing the user experience, and including too much corporate red tape to get anything done. A day later RIM posted a short response that only seemed to confirm the criticism that was in the original letter.

    The first letter is a complaint on how RIM is too slow to get their products out the door, and spends too much time waiting for things to be approved by upper level management, and the legal department. RIM’s response had nothing to do with their products, and was a meandering discussion of their stock price that was clearly put together by upper level suits, and the company’s legal team. When your response to a far to slow roll out of new devices is that you have $X “billion in cash and no debt” and are “pursuing newer strategic opportunities” there is only more reason to believe that management is in fact getting in the way of the engineers who are trying their best to get great new devices out. Given that you have so “much excitement and optimism” regarding your future products, maybe you should get around to releasing that Bold 9900 you announced a full two months ago. The phone looked ready when you demoed it then, so there is no reason that it shouldn’t be on store shelves by now.

    To make things worse, the next day a second anonymous letter came out criticizing amount of influence that AT&T has over the company. RIM’s response to that was to announce that AT&T customers would be charged $20 per month if they used BlackBerry Bridge with their PlayBooks. It is almost as if RIM is trying to come off as clueless.

    The good news is that these should not be hard problems to fix. Just get out of your own way and release a new device every now and then. There truly is plenty of reason to be optimistic about RIM’s future product offerings. The question is why are they being forever being kept in a state of “coming soon”?