The latest edition of iLounge Weekly, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, will be arriving in subscribers’ inboxes early next week. iLounge Weekly is a summary of the week’s best news, reviews, and feature articles we’ve published, and it also features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.
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New Apps + Games
Layout from Instagram (free) — Instagram’s latest addition to the App Store allows users to quickly and easily create photo collages and share them. While Layout is far from the first iOS app to do this sort of thing, it’s definitely one of the best designed that we’ve seen, providing the ability to quickly select a group of photos, choose your favorite layout, and then even make drag-and-drop adjustments to move your photos around, adjust them within each section, mirror or flip them, and even adjust the borders between the different sections. Photos can be selected from the camera roll or you can take quick shots with the iPhone camera using the built-in Photo Booth feature. A “Faces” tab lets you filter your camera roll to only include photos with people in them, and you can save your results to your device’s camera roll or share them on Instagram, Facebook, or other services.
Periscope (free) — Broadcast live video to the world. That’s basically the tagline for Twitter’s latest app that pretty much lets you show off your exhibitionist side to the world. The idea behind this app, as with the also recently-released Meerkat, is literally to create a live stream that you can share with pretty much anybody who feels like tuning in. While the concept seems sort of cool for people who might actually be doing useful and interesting things, our quick trip through the app mostly showed people broadcasting video of their pets, or driving around in cars commenting on the weather and nearby pedestrians. But there’s plenty of potential. Like most social apps, Periscope lets you build a network of followers, who can receive push notifications when you’re broadcasting, and can then comment on your videos and send you “hearts” in real time to show their appreciation for whatever it is you might be doing. The app ties in to Twitter for authentication and building follower lists, of course, and you can choose to share your Periscope broadcasts directly on Twitter for anybody to see on the web, and the option to broadcast privately is also provided, as well as the ability to make broadcasts available for replay later. Although the app is rated 4+ on the App Store, there are no clear policies on what type of content can be broadcast live, so we sort of wonder if this one is going to follow the same path as Twitter’s earlier Vine app in terms of the nature of content that starts appearing, particularly with the private broadcasting option. Despite the rating, we’d recommend that parents exercise more than a little bit of caution before letting their kids anywhere near this one.
The Trace: Murder Mystery Game ($5) — This new murder mystery adventure game gives players a chance to play police detective, searching for clues and trying to catch the culprit. The game is well designed and immersive, basically combining the elements of a hidden object game with a whodunit that requires players to piece evidence together and analyze crime scenes to answer questions and hopefully solve the case. Graphics here are quite well done, with live flow between scenes and a lot of interaction as the player moves about, a refreshing change from many hidden object games where the player more or less just statically moves from room to room.
Booq’s Cobra squeeze ($195) is a new backpack with 13 separate compartments for your gear, including a MacBook up to the size of a 15” MacBook Pro. The bag’s gray exterior is made of Bionic Yarn, a fabric that combines recycled plastics with cotton — it gives the weatherproof Cobra squeeze a smooth texture that can stand up to the elements. Most pockets inside are lined with polyester, though an extra cushion is also provided to protect a MacBook.
G-Technology has introduced a number of new, rugged hard drives, and we’ve recently received the company’s 1TB G-Drive ev ATC with Thunderbolt ($230). The product features a removable G-Drive ev RAW USB hard drive within a rugged enclosure. The hard plastic case with hard rubber accents features a watertight latch for water protection — the enclosure floats and can protect the drive in a pool of water “up to 1 foot for 30 seconds” — and it’s also pressure-resistant and dust-resistant. Additionally, G-Technology claims the enclosure can protect the drive from drops of up to 2 meters (about 6.6 feet) onto a “carpeted concrete floor.” Inside the enclosure is a 7200 RPM hard drive offering transfer rates up to 136MB/s, formatted for Mac, with the ability to be reformatted for Windows. A Thunderbolt cable is built into the enclosure itself for use when the hard drive is docked inside.
Today in iLounge Deals we’re offering TuneUp for Mac for $14.99 – that’s 69% off the normal price. Designed to help you perfect your music library, TuneUp connects directly to iTunes and helps you organize and categorize your music from top to bottom, correcting mislabelled songs, identifying and removing duplicates, and adding missing cover art. Song info gets accurately fixed through waveform analysis of the tracks themselves, correcting metadata and adding the proper album artwork. In addition, the bundled Tuniverse tool helps you quickly find related music videos, artist bios, concerts, and more.
If you’ve ever had to contact Apple for iPhone service, or had to call your cellular carrier to make changes to your account, you’ve probably been asked to provide a cryptic number to uniquely identify your iPhone. In Apple’s case, your serial number is used to track warranty service, and with your cellular carrier, your IMEI, or International Mobile Station Equipment Identity, is a number that uniquely identifies your mobile phone number on the cellular network. You can easily find these by going into your iPhone Settings app and choosing General, About, and then copying them to your iOS clipboard by tapping and holding on them, but this doesn’t really help if you need to access these numbers from a desktop computer, such as when you need to paste into an online form in a web browser.
The good news is that if you need to get at these numbers from your Mac or PC, there’s an easier way than emailing the number to yourself — as long as you’ve associated your iPhone to iTunes on your computer, you can find these numbers hidden away on your device’s “Summary” screen. The Serial Number is readily shown right beneath your iPhone’s phone number, but if you click on the phone number field, it will toggle between your phone number and your IMEI as well as your Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID), and SIM card’s Integrated Circuit Card Identifier (ICCID) with each click. Similarly, the Serial Number field can also show your Unique Device Identifier (UDID), Exclusive Chip Identification (ECID), and Product Type. You can right-click on any of these numbers to copy them to your clipboard, making it easy to grab them and paste them into any form where they may be needed, or easily read them off and recite them back to your carrier’s customer service provider without having to take your iPhone away from ear.…
iOS-based home automation accessories are becoming more and more popular as open standards like Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi gradually supplant the more closed X.10 and Z-Wave systems of yesteryear. OORT is the latest startup to toss its hat into the ring with SmartFinder ($30), SmartLED ($40), and SmartSocket ($50). All of OORT's devices work over Bluetooth LE, so you can communicate directly with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch without needing to worry about intermediate hardware, and the company also provides a $180 SmartHub which we did not receive to review.
PowerSkin’s PowerStand Boost ($25) is a tiny 2600 mAh battery pack. PowerStand Boost has a small built-in rubber mat, which can be unrolled and used as a viewing stand for an iPhone. While we found it had no problems holding up an iPhone 6, an iPhone 6 Plus proved too big for the stand. PowerStand Boost’s battery capacity should also deliver a full charge to an iPhone 6. PowerSkin’s small cylindrical charger includes both a 1A USB output and 1A micro-USB input, and a very short micro-USB cable is included for charging.
Perhaps not surprisingly, most Apple Stores are expected to have limited stock of the Apple Watch for the initial launch, 9to5Mac reports. Sources at Apple Stores have noted that priority will be given to reservations as well, limiting stock even further for walk-in purchases, and employees have been told to treat launch day as if there is no walk-in stock available at all. This problem will be exacerbated by the wide variety of models available, making it even harder for a walk-in customer to get the specific Apple Watch that they may be looking for.
Apple’s recent acquisition of database developer FoundationDB actually follows another quiet acquisition of a related company in 2013, Bloomberg reports. Acunu Ltd., a U.K. based data analytics company, appears to have been acquired by Apple in late 2013, according to a LinkedIn entry that reveals that Acunu’s Chief Technology Officer began working as a manager for Apple’s iCloud division, followed by several other Acunu employees beginning to work at Apple shortly thereafter. Not much is known about what Apple’s plans for the new technologies would be, but the Bloomberg report suggests that Apple is “placing more emphasis on the development of solid data infrastructure to help provide services to its legions of global consumers beyond iPhones and iPads” and it seems reasonable that such technologies would be used to expand and improve iCloud and other cloud-based services.