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Apple

In which I explore the kinds of features that might be coming to Final Cut Pro X that competitors will find very hard to compete with.

Although some people think that Final Cut Pro X was released before it was ready, the features that have been introduced in updates have made it more appealing to experienced editors.

As editors look forward to updates, the features that appear can be divided into two categories: those that help Final Cut Pro X catch up with competitors and those that clearly supersede the rest of the market. At the moment the main competitor seems to be Final Cut Pro 7, or perhaps the imaginary ‘improved and more stable plus a few more features’ update to 7.

Apple have dealt with strong competitors during technology transitions before: in the case of MacOS X, Mac users wanted to stay with OS 9. In the case of iOS, Apple were competing initially with cheap non-smartphones and Blackberries.

The fact that the iPhone and its OS (which was eventually branded iOS) wasn’t quite ready at launch followed on from MacOS X. MacOS X 10.0 and the iPhone 1 were for pure Apple fans and developers. As the years went by, features were added to both platforms that caught up with and superseded competitors.

This post compares the major releases of iOS and Final Cut Pro X, and shows that the first few versions were more about the promise of a new platform and later versions started to deliver on that promise.

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Over the last few days there have been a couple of pieces of evidence that point to Apple launching a new version of the MacPro very soon – in time for their Worldwide Developer’s Conference next week.

What does this mean for Final Cut Pro X users, and users of other post-production software?

Many in the industry have accused Apple of giving up on professionals in order to go after the consumer dollar. The basis of this accusation is fact that the MacPro hasn’t been updated in almost two years and that Final Cut Pro X was launched without many features found in Final Cut Pro 7 and that it seemed to be designed for novice consumers.

My guesses as to why Final Cut Pro X was launched the way it was are for another time. My question is: What will it mean if Apple announces a new MacPro next week?

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I’ll keep this post updated with the latest official information.

Supplementary information

June 21, 2011

Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4: User manuals
Use the help menu.
Also, a list of the locations of online manuals:
Final Cut Pro X User Manual
Motion 5 User User Manual
Compressor 4 User Manual

Final Cut Pro X: Support resources
Apple’s main support page – including a links to support communities.

Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4: Run Software Update after installation to install Pro Apps QuickTime codecs
The Pro Apps QuickTime codecs installer is also available.

Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4: Installation best practices
Whether you install on a new Mac, a separate partition or on the same drive as FCS3.

Final Cut Pro X: Options for importing media from photo-based devices
From a media card using File > Import Files, or by dragging from iPhoto or Aperture to the Event library.

Final Cut Pro X: Options for importing photos from a media card used for both videos and photos

Final Cut Pro X: Importing Sony XDCAM media
‘You’ll need to download and install the Sony XDCAM Transfer software and XDCAM Drive software.’

Final Cut Pro X: Timecode of selected media in the Inspector may not display as expected
‘Timecode of selected media is displayed in the frame rate of the media and not the frame rate of a project.’

Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4: Graphics card compatibility
A list of which Macs shipped with which graphics cards.

June 22, 2011

Final Cut Pro X: Movie files from iTunes, iPhoto, and Aperture do not appear in the media browser
A feature, not a bug. Drag movies from iTunes, iPhoto, and Aperture windows to the Event Library.

Final Cut Pro X: Use “Import from Camera” when importing media from an SD card that was copied to the local drive

June 23, 2011

How to purchase Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4
Go to Mac App Store

June 24, 2011

Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4: Using OpenCL-enabled graphics cards

June 27, 2011

Final Cut Pro X – Technical Specifications

Motion 5 – Technical Specifications

Compressor 4 – Technical Specifications

Final Cut Pro X Supported Cameras

June 29, 2011

Final Cut Pro X: Hiding Events in the Event Library
Move their folders from the Movies/Final Cut Events folder. This applies to Projects too.

Troubleshooting

June 21, 2011

Final Cut Pro X: High data rate media may cause unexpected behavior
‘Ensure the storage device has adequate throughput to accommodate the data rate of the media.’

Final Cut Pro X: Sorting content in the iLife Media Browser may cause unexpected behavior
‘Allow the process to complete; the symptom should not occur again.’

Motion 5, Motion 4: Motion projects cannot be previewed in finder or QuickTime Player
If Motion 5 was installed on a Mac with Motion 4.

Motion 5: Alpha type analysis of media with an alpha channel may not be determined correctly
‘In the Media pane of the Inspector, choose the appropriate option’

Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4: “Please see if your boot volume has sufficient space” alert when sharing to an LG Blu-ray drive
Update the firmware for the LG Blu-ray drive.

Final Cut Pro X: “Please Locate” dialog box appears when selecting Spaces presets
Spaces is an audio filter. ‘Download the additional Final Cut Pro X content.’

Compressor 4.0: Batch files created with Compressor 3.5.3 open with Compressor 4.0
Open them from within Compressor 3.5.3 using File > Open

Compressor 4: Issues applying a setting to effects-intensive Final Cut Pro X projects sent to Compressor
‘Open Compressor and close the Preview window. Do this before sending an effects-intensive Final Cut Pro X project to Compressor for transcoding to prevent unexpected behavior.’

Motion 5: Imported Photoshop files in CMYK color may not behave as expected
Re-save your .psds as RGB before importing.

Compressor 3.5.3 & 4.0, Apple Qmaster: Network interface changes are not detected until Compressor is restarted

Final Cut Pro X: Unusable fonts may cause unexpected behavior with Inspector
Use the Font Book application to determine unusable fonts. Remove them and restart Final Cut Pro X.

Final Cut Pro X: Distortion when creating Motion templates with non-square pixel aspect ratios
When creating Motion templates, use the Snapshots to create versions for different aspect ratios.

Final Cut Pro X: Keyboard commands may conflict with Spaces keyboard commands
If you want to keep using Mac OS X Spaces, change the keyboard shortcuts using System Preferences > Exposé & Spaces > Spaces

Final Cut Pro X: Systems with two graphics cards may export QuickTime movies with green artifacts
Current workaround: ‘Only use Final Cut Pro X with single graphics card on your system.’

Final Cut Pro X: “Final Cut Pro generated an error or unexpectedly quit” alert when leaving Share Monitor open
If you have the Share Monitor open, close it before restarting Final Cut Pro X.

Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4: About the “Failed: Quicktime could not access a file. Offset too big” alert
‘This alert message indicates that the drive you are exporting to is getting full.’

Final Cut Pro X: Connect your camera or device directly to the built-in FireWire port on your computer
Don’t use hubs.

Final Cut Pro X: Importing a range selection of iPod or MP4 video media plays clip as a still frame
Import the full media file.

June 22, 2011

Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4: “Send To” menu command from Final Cut Studio (2009) opens incorrect version of target app

June 24, 2011

Final Cut Pro X: Mac OS X 10.6.7: Media Browser option unavailable in Share menu
Update to Mac OS X 10.6.8

June 27, 2011

Compressor 3.5.3 & 4.0: QuickClusters on the same system may not work as expected
Disable the Compressor 3.5.3 QuickCluster.

June 29, 2011

Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4: May be unable to open Final Cut Pro 7
Open and quit Motion 4.

A few days ago, I blogged about Apple making a surprise appearance at a London video event where they were going to present their ‘latest range of video products’.

If you go to MacVideo.tv, the home page has been updated to say although the MacVideo Expo is going ahead on Thursday 9th June, Apple will not be attending:

Change of plan – Apple has a busy month with WWDC June 7- 11 and as such doesn’t plan to be at MacVideo Expo, June 9, 2011. With the upcoming release of Final Cut Pro X, June is shaping up to be a phenomenally busy month so expect the unexpected. Anything can happen in the next few weeks. The show goes on.

I’m sure the Expo had a large number of interesting stands and packed schedule before Apple got involved, so the event should still be well worth attending.

Although Apple never said they were going to be talking about Final Cut Pro X (or new Mac Pros or Lion), I wonder if there’s more to this change of plan than them being busy that month. I’m sure they thought they could present something at the event as of the beginning of last week. Now they cannot attend.

What could it mean?

Given that Apple say that Final Cut Pro has been rewritten from the ground up, it is very likely that it stores its information in a database that will be available to other applications and users. It is likely that multiple users will have access to the database at the same time.

That means new collaboration opportunities.

Sound

Given that the new interface is much clearer at helping users establishing and changing sync between clips or all kinds, it makes it easier for sound editors to work on the same timelines as picture editors. They’ll be able to do a great deal of work on audio sweetening (including fixing sync on clips) while the picture editors continue to work. For audio specifically this would work better if the position of one audio clip – a voiceover for instance – could define where other clips dipped their levels.

Editing

Collaboration works best when each user can easily understand which parts of a project they can have a look at and modify.
A suggested user interface showing that a compound clip is unavailable for editing.

Perhaps collaboration between editors will be afforded by ‘checking out’ compound clips on a master timeline. ‘Checking out’ is a database term that means an individual record will be locked while a specific person makes changes, but it still can be looked at, and other parts of the database can still be changed. In the case of Final Cut Pro X, the primary editor would be able to see a compound clip is being worked on by an assistant while temporarily unable to edit it.

As well as being a repository of a signed off B-Roll sequence, compound clips could also contain the verse in a music video, a scene in a movie or an episode in a web series. While I work on the verse/scene/episode, another editor could be repositioning the compound clip in the movie or even splitting it into two.

The Audition feature allows a given compound clip to display different choices chosen using a coverflow-type display. Perhaps instead of choosing between individual shots, in future editors might choose between different edits in a compound clip. Senior editors could use this feature quickly compare old and new edits by an assistant.

External suppliers

Maybe we’ll be able to give external suppliers access to chosen parts of our FCP X projects:

    Transcribers and translators (Given access to specifically-tagged ranges within clips, to which they’ll be able to directly add subtitling/close-captioning/alternate soundtracks)
    Picture graders
    Visual effects houses

We might even be able to choose which elements of our project are backed up on iCloud.

Other applications

Fun fact: If the Mac or iOS device is the dongle for Final Cut, then Apple loses nothing by allowing developers to create applications that have peer access to FCP X project databases – Core Data databases can only be served by OS X and iOS devices. That means if there is a market for applications that can edit FCP X data using a 20th century old-style (Avid/Premiere/FCP 7) UI, then Apple will allow third parties to develop them. The more applications that can manipulate FCP X project databases, the more high-margin iMacs Apple will sell.

Legacy tape & digital formats

There is a commonly believed rumour that Final Cut Pro X won’t have any DV and HDV tape capture features.

If Apple want metadata-based workflows to become more popular (preparing the way for more solutions to replace Unity setups at TV stations), it is likely that they’ll want metadata to work well with all media.

That means that if you import an FCP 6-7 project into X and spend the time adding metadata tags to people, places, shots, takes and regions, it is unlikely that Apple would throw that work away if someone decided to do a batch recapture in an older version of FCP and reimport the QuickTime files.

If an FCP X project is a database it is likely that if tape capture isn’t built into X, there’ll be another tool that will be able to add or change the database for those with tape-based content.

Batch recapturing doesn’t apply to tapes alone…

Given the multi-format editing nature of FCP X, the digitising tool might also be able to ‘re-link’ tapeless source data to projects that were converted from FCP 6 and 7. It makes sense that if you’ve used a H.264 or Red to ProRes 422 LT workflow in FCP 7, you could open the project in X to continue work after linking the timeline to source Red or H.264 data.

Please note that this post shouldn’t be counted as a rumour, just speculation: now that Final Cut Pro has been rewritten, there could be new opportunities to improve its collaboration features.

iAds is the system where iOS developers fund their work by letting Apple insert adverts into their applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

Google make their money by displaying adverts that are possibly relevant based on what you’ve searched for and the history of how you’ve used Google’s services (search, mail, maps…)

So how will Apple choose what ads to insert into iOS applications? Here’s a quote from their iAds sales site:

And using our unique audience interest and preference data, your ad is delivered to the consumers most likely to respond and buy.

Standard targeting options on the iAd Network include:

Demographics
Application preferences
Music passions
Movie genre interests
Television genre interests
Location

Looks like Apple is using information gleaned from how you use iTunes on your Mac or PC. It might be that those who downloaded iFart and Jiggle(?) might get served different iAds than those that use ‘Shakespeare’ regularly.

Apple could go further. They could also analyse how you use your iOS device. They could profile you based on which books you buy using iBooks and which videos you watch on YouTube and Vimeo. Could they tell your level of education by analysing your spelling and grammar? They could also judge you by your friends (using the social networking features of iTunes, or even from your Contacts list)…

In the long run, Apple might even be able to detect your state on using your iPhone: “Judging by app use, they seem to be working at the moment. Best not to serve frivolous content” or “The Twitter list they are using is a list of tweets by entertainers, no need to show work-related iAds.”

This sort of analysis will be much more accurate than what Facebook offers its advertisers. However much time people spend in Facebook, Apple is able to gather more information about its users by controlling the devices used to access the internet and all forms of media.

In an ideal world I’d see no commercials, but if I want others to fund TV, radio, podcasts and iOS apps, I’ll put up with some ads. If so, they might as well be relevant to me. If I’ve just bought a car, it’ll be a waste of my time and their money for the media to serve me any car ads for a while. However, in return for this kind of convenience, I need to give up some privacy.

I wonder if the default user option for this kind of profiling be an opt-in or opt-out…

PS: iAds might not just be only for iOS apps

An imaginary ‘media payment preferences’ control
An imaginary ‘media payment preferences’ control.

Fun fact: Apple got a patent for inserting adverts into media at playback back in June 2008. I wrote about the implications back then.

The latest Mac rumour is that Apple will announce a multitouch trackpad for desktop Macs.

For this new device to be useful, Apple needs to define how multitouch works when you don’t look at what you’re touching, but need to be accurate. At the moment, you can use MacBook touch pad gestures for a variety of commands (previous page, next page, scaling), but these instructions don’t require accuracy of fingertip positioning.

In order for us not to look at the ‘magical’ touchpad we’re using with our Macs, we need to know where our touches would land in the user interface of the current application if we touched the pad in a specific position. That means we can look at the monitors we already have, but still get the benefits of multitouch manipulation.

In August of 2007, Apple patented a multitouch interface for a portable computer that uses a camera to detect where a person’s hands are before they touch the trackpad or keyboard.

Illustration from Apple's 2007 Multitouch patent featuring a camera detecting where a user's hands are when not touching the trackpad.

Now that we have a device for detecting where our fingertips are, Apple need to update the UI guidelines to allow for multiple cursors (one for each fingertip) and let fingers not touching the trackpad still send a ‘hover’ message to user interface items.

For example, they could use filled and unfilled circles to show where fingertips are. Unfilled to show where fingertips are hovering over the trackpad, filled to show contact:

A screenshot from Final Cut showing a fingertip touching one edit and another hovering over a different edit.

In this Final Cut example, one fingertip is touching an edit, another is hovering over a different edit. To select more than one edit, editors hold down the option key and click additional edits. In a multitouch UI, the editor could hold down a fingertip on the first edit and tap the other edits to extend the selection:
Final Cut screenshot showing four edits selected

The hovering fingertip circles could also show the context of what would happen if the user touched. Here’s an example from Avid:
Mockup of multitouch UI extensions to an Avid screenshot.

Here the editor has their left hand over the multitouch trackpad. The index finger is touching, so its red circle is filled. As we are in trim mode the current cursor for the index finger is the B-side roller because it is touching a roller. The other fingers are almost touching. They are shown with unfilled circles with faint cursors that are correct based on where they are on the screen: the middle and ring fingers have arrow cursors, if the little (pinky) finger touches, then it would be trimming the A-side roller.

Once you can directly manipulate the UI using multiple touch points, you’ll be able to get rid of even short-lived modes. I wrote about gestural edits back in 2007.

Ironically, once Apple does provide multitouch UI extensions to OS X, then the concepts of hovering, ‘mouseenter’ and ‘mouseleave’ can be added to Flash-based UIs for those using multitouch devices. Oh well!

Those of you starting to use Snow Leopard will notice the new QuickTime player.

qtX

Apple markets this as part of QuickTime X. However, it turns out that the new player is a small part of this new version of QuickTime.

As detailed as part of a 23 page technical review of Snow Leopard over at Ars Technica, as with the rest of the OS, most of the changes to QuickTime are hidden from end-users. The first release of QuickTime X is for developers to create new media manipulation applications.

The way Apple does this is through ‘abstraction’ – hiding which software is carrying out requests for applications. For the last few years developers have been asked to use a part of the OS known as QtKit instead of QuickTime 7. In earlier versions of OS X QtKit called QuickTime 7 to perform operations. In OS 10.6 Snow Leopard some operations are carried out by QuickTime X while most are still performed by QuickTime 7. As future versions of OS X are released, more of the application requests will be carried out by QuickTime X.

qt7X

A wider advantage of Snow Leopard is that more of the OS is 64-bit compatible. The advantages won’t be immediately apparent for most users. This release (and the fact that it doesn’t cost very much to upgrade) is to encourage developers to create 64-bit applications and drivers. The eventual benefits will be access to virtually unlimited amounts of memory and much better processor performance.

For more on the 18 year history of QuickTime, the advantages provided by QuickTime X and how the 32-bit Final Cut Studio suite fits into the picture, read the QuickTime page of the Snow Leopard review over at Ars Technica.

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For more on the QuickTime X player, QuickTime 7 player in Snow Leopard and the question of Pro feature unlocking, there’s another page of the Ars Technica review on these subjects.

In which I consider whether platform defining software is more powerful than the inertia of a complex ecology of developers, software, hardware, support and marketplace.

The iPod system is an ecology that all competitors have found impossible to replicate and compete with. Better hardware features on mp3 players haven’t been enough, nor have different models for buying music, or involving social networks. These factors and more apply to iPhone. As well as the iPod factors, there is also the ease of application development, and a market for distributing applications.

The fact that the iPhone can be used to make and receive phone calls is just a way for Apple to make sure you always have their hand-held computer with you.

The inertia that competitors will have to fight against will be the comfort that people have with the user interface, the integration with their PCs and Macs, and the specific functionality of the apps that they’ve downloaded.

Over on geek.com Christain Zibreg says

“Imagine Apple losing the multi-touch patent infringement – the whole iPhone empire would be in serious jeopardized.”

It would mean problems PR-wise, and give competitors courage, but I don’t think the whole empire would be in jeopardy. I think that others will still find it difficult to create alternative ‘ecologies’ that match iPhone.

Apple only have to worry when middle-class conversations go something like this: “I hear that someone created an Android app in their spare time that made a million dollars in a few months!” “Wow, I like the idea of that! I need to come up with an app too. I could find someone to help me, upload it, and wait for the money to come rolling in!”

The only thing that Apple need to worry about is a new platform-saving app appearing on other phones as well as the iPhone. The Apple ][ had VisiCalc, MS-DOS had 1-2-3, Macintosh had PageMaker, Windows has Office and Exchange. This was the original definition of ‘Killer App’ – what will the next killer app be for hand-held computing.

What is inherent about BlackBerry, Android, WebOS or Windows Mobile that will make the killer app start on one of these platforms first? If their owners change these systems to attract that killer app first, Apple might get the competition we are all hoping for.

In which I provide some differing iTunes AppStore charts from around the world, which might signal opportunities for iPhone/iPod Touch developers.

Apple is celebrating the impending billionth iPhone/iTouch application download from the Apple Store with a competition. It is a lottery based on all downloads from today until the billionth download. Each time you download an app (free or paid-for), you get an entry in the competition.

billion_apps

Once the billionth download happens, a person will be chosen at random to win an iPod Touch, a Time Capsule, a MacBook Pro and a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card.

On the competition page they list the all-time top 20 free and paid-for apps. If your country is open to the competition, your local iTunes Store lists the top apps for each store.

Developers might find some ideas in apps that are popular in other countries, by finding some apps in the top 20s downloaded elsewhere. I’ve shown apps that aren’t in the US/Canada top 20s in bold.

While researching this I found that Australia, New Zealand, Spain and France have exactly the same top 20s. Either those countries have exactly the same tastes, or they share statistics, or not all countries have their own charts and this is the chart for ‘elsewhere in the world’.

To see what’s sold in other countries, go to the iTunes Store home, and choose another country from the pop-up menu at the foot of the window. Somewhere on the home page, you’ll see a button showing the current application download count, click it for the top 20s.

store_us

US & Canada Top 20 All-Time Paid Apps
1. Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D
2. Koi Pond
3. Enigmo
4. Bejeweled 2
5. iBeer
6. Moto Chaser
7. Pocket Guitar
8. Flick Fishing
9. Tetris
10. Texas Hold’em
11. Super Monkey Ball
12. Pocket God
13. Cro-Mag Rally
14. Ocarina
15. Fieldrunners
16. iFart Mobile
17. Touchgrind
18. iHunt
19. iShoot
20. Monopoly

US & Canada Top 20 All-Time Free Apps
1. Facebook
2. Google Earth
3. Pandora Radio
4. Tap Tap Revenge
5. Shazam
6. PAC-MAN Lite
7. Backgrounds
8. Touch Hockey
9. Labyrinth Lite Edition
10. Flashlight
11. Urbanspoon
12. Movies
13. iBowl
14. Lightsaber Unleashed
15. SOl Free Solitaire
16. MySpace Mobile
17. Virtual Zippo Lighter
18. The Weather Channel
19. BubbleWrap
20. Remote

store_uk

UK Top 20 Paid Apps
UK (US & Canada)
1. Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D (1)
2. Moto Chaser (6)
3. Virtual Pool (-)
4. Cro-Mag Rally (13)
5. Flick Fishing (8)
6. Koi Pond (2)
7. Monopoly (20)
8. Super Monkey Ball (11)
9. PocketGuitar (7)
10. iCopter (-)
11. Pocket God (12)
12. London Tube (-)
13. Bejeweled 2 (4)
14. Texas Hold’em (10)
15. Real Football 2009 (-)
16. Blocked (-)

17. Fieldrunners (15)
18. Tetris (9)
19. iShoot (19)
20. iFart Mobile (16)

UK Top 20 All-Time Free Apps
UK (US & Canada)
1. Facebook (1)
2. iPint (-)
3. Google Earth (2)
4. PAC-MAN Lite (5)
5. Touch Hockey: FS5 (8)
6. Labyrinth Lite Edition (9)
7. Lightsaber Unleashed (14)
8. Tap Tap Revenge (4)
9. Flashlight (10)
10. Shazam (5)
11. Backgrounds (7)
12. iBowl (13)
13. Crazy Penguin Catapult (-)
14. Remote (20)
15. BubbleWrap (19)
16. Audi A4 Driving Challenge (-)
17. Darts (-)
18. eBay Mobile (-)
19. Last.fm (-)

20. Movies (12)

store_aus

Australia/New Zealand/Spain/France Top 20 Paid Apps
Australia (US & Canada)
1. Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D (1)
2. allRadio (-)
3. Texas Hold’em (10)
4. Ocarina (14)
5. iBeer (5)
6. Enigmo (3)
7. Koi Pond (2)
8. Pocket Guitar (7)
9. Super Monkey Ball (11)
10. Flick Fishing (8)
11. WifiTrak (-)
12. Brain Challenge (-)
13. Asphalt 4: Elite Racing (-)

14. Monopoly (20)
15. Cro-Mag Rally (13)
16. Real Football 2009 (-)
17. Moto Chaser (6)
18. Fieldrunners (15)
19. Face Melter (-)
20. Tiki Towers (-)

Australia/New Zealand/Spain/France Top 20 Free Apps
Australia (US & Canada)
1. Facebook (1)
2. Labyrinth Lite Edition (9)
3. Touch Hockey: FS5 (8)
4. Google Earth (2)
5. Shazam (5)
6. Flashlight (10)
7. PAC-MAN Lite (5)
8. Remote (20)
9. iBowl (13)
10. Tap Tap Revenge (4)
11. Free Translator (-)
12. Crazy Penguin Catapult (-)

13. Lightsaber Unleashed (14)
4. Backgrounds (7)
15. Audi A4 Driving Challenge (-)
16. Fastlane Street Racing (-)
17. iHandy Level Free (-)
18. AroundMe (-)
19. fring (-)
20. Sudoku (-)

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