App Store bug fixed

As of thirty minutes ago, Apple has fixed a serious bug in the App Store. If apps were instantly crashing on launch, try them again.

If they still aren’t working, check for updates and that will sort it out.

It’s not clear how many apps were affected: it wasn’t limited to any one manufacturer.

Late last night I installed OmniFocus on Angela’s iPad – because we have family sharing on she can use my copy – and it wouldn’t launch. Whereas I installed my OmniOutliner for her two and that’s fine.

This is one of those cases where the next time you get chance to look at the problem, it’s already been solved.

So that’s good. But I don’t know, bendgate followed by iOS 8.0.1 and .2, it’s not great.

New on the App Store: Bundles of Apps

We’ve had box sets of films and TV series since there were any boxes to put them in yet it’s taken billions of downloads of a million apps before we’ve had the advantage of bundles of them.

The idea – new to the revamped App Store in iOS 8 – is that you can get four or so apps from the same developer and save a little bit of money over buying them separately. Only a little bit, but.

Go to the App Store today and you’ll see a banner ad for app bundles. Take a look.

But easily the one that leaps out at me is the Omni Group bundle. The Omni Productivity Pack contains:

• OmniFocus 2 for iPad
• OmniOutliner for iPad
• OmniPlan 2 for iPad
• OmniGraffle 2 for iPad

Currently that bundle costs £94.99 as opposed to a total of £111.93 if you bought them separately. So that’s a saving of £16.94 which is not to be ignored. But in each case this gets you the standard edition of the apps and it costs more for the Pro versions.

But look at me: I already own OmniFocus and OmniOutliner. For people like me, Apple’s borrowed its pricing model from TV series: I can “complete my bundle” for £53.01. To buy the apps I haven’t got, OmniPlan and OmniGraffle would otherwise cost me £69.98. So that’s a saving to me of £16.97.

I don’t need either OmniPlan yet or OmniGraffle maybe ever, but these are the kinds of savings the new idea brings and that’s got to be good.

How to find something on the App Store

The iPhone and iPad App Store is the best of these app stores in every way bar one. Usually the argument that it’s the best of them is said to be because of the sheer number of apps you can get. It’s certainly true that there are a lot: something like 1.2 million.

I’d say the reason it’s the best is that the apps on it are the best. The most mature, the most feature-rich, the simply best-designed. Hopefully it won’t always be thus but Apple has the benefit that coding for iOS and then releasing your apps is easier on its platform than on Android. And Android has the problem that its users don’t pay money. It’s a fascinating example of how a culture can arise around a technology; iPhone users will pay for an app they want, Android users think if it isn’t free, there’s something wrong with it.

Mind you, even on iOS you get people saying £3.99 is expensive or overpriced and that’s a laugh.

Just on this issue of culture and technology, I do also enjoy how there’s a funny snobbishness with some developers who make announcements apologising for releasing on the iOS App Store first. They say a lot about how great their Android version will be but the thing is that it’s plainly easier for them to code for iOS.

Nonetheless, there can be few App Stores where it is harder to find the thing you want. Macworld has done a feature about finding apps that I want you to see but as full as it is of advice for how to search this bleedin’ thing, I don’t think it’s critical enough. When Microsoft Office finally came out for iPad, I went on the store and I searched for the words “Microsoft Office” and I still couldn’t find it.

I don’t think there can be a worse example of how hard it is to find apps. IF they weren’t so useful, wouldn’t sane people give up? The doubtlessly sane folk at Macworld have persisted far better and far further than I have and they’ve got five solutions for you.

I want to suggest a sixth. One of theirs is that it’s worth searching on the developer’s name. It’s not guaranteed to help, they say, but it can and if you like one developer’s app you may well like other ones they do. I agree with that very much and would add that when you find one, there is a tab called Related that shows you the firm’s other software right there.

This is how I found OmniOutliner after being such a fan of OmniFocus and now I am such a fan of OmniOutliner. I hope this happens to you too and if it does, this Macworld article will have helped.

How to get a refund on the iOS App Store

If you blow a whole 69p on an app that end up not using much, live with it. If it’s a few pounds or dollars, come on: the coffee you drank at lunchtime cost more than that and you ain’t getting the money back from that.


It is possible to buy apps by mistake. It is also possible to be misdirected into buying an app that isn’t what you thought.

So when you do feel the need for a refund, this is how you do it.

1) Go to iTunes on your Mac or PC
2) Go to the Store
3) Sign in and click on Accounts
4) Click on Purchase history
5) All your purchased apps are listed in lines grouping them together by date
6) Click on the arrow next to the one that includes the app you want a refund for
7) You get a detail page for the apps on those dates plus a Report a Problem button. Click.

This is easy to miss. The page with the Report a Problem button changes to a new page that is almost exactly the same: close enough that you can believe it hasn’t changed. But now next to each app on the list, there are the words “Report a Problem”. Click on that.

8) You get to choose one of the common reasons for a refund and there is space for you to write your reason.

Hit Submit and away off it goes to Apple.

Best news all day – an end to ads bumping you to the App Store

Previously… we’ve had a recent spate of websites whose ads run some code that registers you’re on a mobile device like, specifically, an iPhone or iPad, and then jumps you to the App Store.

If you haven’t seen this, you’re not following me. You’re on your iOS device, you got a website in Safari and before you’ve begun to read whatever it is you wanted to read, wallop, you’re out of Safari and into the App Store. You are at the same point you would be if you’d found an app and opened its page to have a look. So you’re looking at an app that longs for you to buy it and it is usually a game and it invariably has no chance whatsoever of getting my cash, so help me god.

Back in April, I reported on what was then the only way to stop these. It was what you might call a brute-force solution. There isn’t a switch, isn’t an option, isn’t a UNIX Terminal command you can set, but you can always bitch about it all to whoever runs the website that has these ads.

I bitched.

One website owner explained to me that they loathe these too, that they were being slipped in without the site owner’s knowledge. That’s not just possible, it’s not even just probable, it has an extremely good chance of being true because of the way that ads are served to sites. Some of them are sold as network ads to companies which specialise in filling them. The site owner just knows this block will be filled by a client of that network ad company, they don’t know which until it’s live.

But then when it is live, you can see it and the site owner is bumped to these stupid games in the App Store just like the rest of us. So another site owner came to me to say they’d had it too and they had stopped it by banning those ads.

Sorry that this is a long Previously: you can tell it narked me.

Which is why I am delighted today. Because today we learn that Apple’s iOS 8 has a feature built-in to help us. I don’t know the fancy Cocoa or Objective-C feature name, but it’s effectively BollocksToThoseAdvertisers.exe because iOS 8 itself just stops them.

You can’t do much better than having the very operating system of the phone stick its fingers up at you.

Apple is expected to release iOS 8 this autumn and it will for certain be free, it will for certain run on any iPhone of the last many years and it will surely be taken up by the extremely vast majority of iPhone users immediately. (Because iOS 7, and 6, and 5… all were.) That means the number of people left who can be bumped out from a website to the App Store in this aggravating way won’t be zero, but it’ll be small enough that advertisers will give up on it.

I have nothing against advertising or advertisers, but I call this one a win.

Updated iPhone Skype app rolling out

It’s not supposed to be out until next week but an improved Skype for iPhone has launched early. I can’t see it yet in either my US or UK App Stores but some users in America are finding it waiting for them.

Whenever it lands, it will still be free and comes with definite speed improvements plus a debatable improvement to its visual design. It’s going to look more like Windows Phone.

Take a look for it now as this is the right link, it’s just not clear yet when it will have updated to the new version.

The iPad version of Skype is to get a similar redesign but there’s no word when yet.

Why it’s worth grabbing free apps

The rule is that Android users get free apps, iPhone users pay for them. I am an iPhone user and I am more than fine with paying for apps. The amount of use I get from them, the pitifully cheap prices, it’s not a debate. But I do get free iPhone apps and specifically I do often grab paid ones that are briefly on offer as freebies. I’ll do that in part because all those 69p purchases add up and I’ll do it mostly because I’m often poking around an area, looking for a type of app rather than a specific one. And then I also do it because there is a specific advantage:

Free is cheaper than paid.

Okay, there are two specific advantages:

Once you have an app, you have it forever

Actually, three:

Once you have an app, you typically get free upgrades

So if an app that I definitely want then I’ll just buy it. But if there’s one I fancy trying or that I think I will need at some point, I’ll grab it when it goes free – and I may even delete it immediately. Without opening it even once. Because I’ll open it when I need it and all I have to do now is download the thing. Actually, you don’t even have to do that: starting to download it is enough, as I found when I went through the Channel Tunnel part way.

Once you have officially bought the app, you can delete it and know that you are able to get it again whenever you want. For free. Even after the price goes back up, most of the time also after the app has been upgraded later. Some apps make their new versions completely new apps that you have to pay for again and there are apps that do vanish forever. You’re out of luck with those but otherwise, this all works. So, for instance, Lonely Planet made a lot of its travel guide apps free last year and I grabbed the lot, deleted the lot – and then brought back ones when I was actually going travelling.

Quick story? I once advised on an app that was so bad I gave the maker a list of 19 reasons it could not be released. They ignored me, submitted it to Apple, and Apple rejected it with 20 reasons. I still kick myself over the one I missed. But the maker sort-of addressed those 20, enough to get it on sale anyway, and I was required to have it on my iPhone. But it was so bad, I mean it was still so embarrassingly bad that I deleted it. Whenever I’d be in a meeting when I was asked a question about it, I’d just re-download it from the App Store, slog through trying to work out the answer, then delete it again. One day I was asked a question by one editor in the company and couldn’t get it back: another editor had approved it being removed from the App Store forever. I don’t know who that was, but he or she made me look bad in that meeting. And I applaud him or her for doing it. That’s how bad the app was.

But you want to know how to find when apps go free. Try an app way: download the Apps Gone Free

Marco Polo found – on iPhone

Maybe you have to be a Doctor Who fan to be alert to any news with the words “Marco Polo” and “found” but that's how I just discovered a new app that I can't make my mind up about.

Get this new app, run it on your iPhone and the next time you lose your phone around the house, just shout the word “Marco”. Your iPhone will reply at top volume: “Polo!”

I have no idea why the maker chose those words. You can change the “Marco” bit but you won't because there's no changing the Polo response.

Take a look at it on the App Store and be ready to spend your 69p UK, 99c US.