A news item this week over at AppleInsider uncovered a troubling practice by a developer at the iTunes App Store. Apparently, users who downloaded a free massive multiplayer online game from a Chinese developer complained of unauthorized in-app purchases, running up the bills on their iTunes accounts. One user reported the situation to Apple resulting in him getting a refund for the fraudulent purchases and Apple promising to investigate the claims.
Even with a closed system like iTunes, apparently it is still possible for dishonest people to find a way to steal our money. Let's hope that Apple gets to the bottom of this case and finds a way to prevent these unauthorized purchases in the future. Until there's more news about this problem, be sure to regularly check your iTunes receipts (sent to the e-mail address attached to your iTunes account) for strange charges and report the issue to Apple if you have any problems.
This week's apps include a unique location-based social network app and an arcade golf game where you flick to win.
GeoGroups (Free) is a location-based social network service (like popular app Foursquare) but adds a few new wrinkles to make it both unique and useful. Like other apps in this genre, GeoGroups uses your iPhone's GPS capabilities to locate both commercial- and user-entered stores, cafes, pubs, and landmarks relative to your current location. You also can create your own group based around anything--not just stores and coffee shops, but the popular bench by the lake in your favorite park, for example. In other words, you can create a location anywhere for other users to discover so they can join the group and add their own content.
GeoGroups has all the features of similar location-based social network apps such as map views, directions to locations, and the ability to "check in" once you arrive. You also can snap pictures of locations to add to a post, send the post to Facebook, or send location info to another GeoGroups user or friend via e-mail. Particularly handy is the ability to create a private group (with friends or family members, for example) that tracks your locations in real time. You can even set up the real-time tracking to turn off after a specified amount of time so it's OK if you forget to turn it off.
GeoGroups offers 500 public groups (and counting) so you can get started right away and check out popular fishing spots, Wi-Fi hot spots, lighthouses, and waterfalls, as examples. With the ability to create your own locations, the possibilities are truly endless. Overall, if you've been thinking about diving into the world of location-based social network services, GeoGroups offers tons of content and lots of flexibility that will make it useful to just about anyone.
Flick Golf ($2.99) is a unique arcadelike take on golf, focusing on single shots and ball control to score points at one-stroke holes. Those looking for a complete golf game should look elsewhere, but Flick Golf has plenty to offer as a quick pick-up-and-play arcade game. Beautiful graphics make the courses of one-shot holes a joy to behold, and you'll be playing in landscapes from sunny California to wind-swept Scotland. Choose between two game types including World Tour, where you play nine-shot tournaments to try to advance to the next course; or Quickshot, where you'll try to score as many points as you can in 90 seconds.
True to its name, Flick Golf requires that you flick or swipe the screen upward through the ball to send your ball to the green. While in the air, you can swipe to add spin and actually change the direction of the ball before it hits the ground. Scoring is measured by where you land the ball in the target (a scoring area with concentric circles around the hole). You also get bonus points for how much spin you used to get the ball to your target and whether you hit the pin with your shot.
As you progress through the game, you'll be challenged by difficult courses with gail-force winds you'll need to account for every time you take a shot. Fortunately, the ability to spin the ball while it's in the air will save your less than perfect shots, but a good shot makes it easier to get high-scoring hole-in-one shots. So far I have only hit one perfect shot (a "swish" shot directly into the hole) so even with all the ball control, there is plenty of challenge in this game.
Overall, Flick Golf is a great pick-up-and-play arcade golf game with beautiful graphics, precise controls, and plenty of challenge when you just want to waste a little time. You can also buy Flick Golf for iPad ($4.99).
What's your favorite iPhone app? Do you like the added flexibility for locations in GeoGroups? Have you hit a perfect shot in Flick Golf? Let me know in the comments!