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Apple appoints Beats Music chief to head up iTunes Radio

Apple has picked Beats Music subscription service CEO Ian Rogers to additionally head up iTunes Radio, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report notes that Rogers will still continue to run the Beats Music subscription service while working to “create cohesion” between the two offerings. Before Beats Music, which was famously acquired by Apple despite a relatively small subscriber base, Rogers previously ran Yahoo Music, which launched and then folded an early subscription-based music service.

Facebook promises monthly iOS app updates

Facebook has released version 13.0 of its iOS app to the App Store, with update notes promising that the social network will now bring regular updates to the App Store “every 4 weeks,” while explaining how to enable iOS 7 automatic updates to stay current. Facebook notes that “every update of the Facebook app includes improvements for speed and reliability” and that any other new features will be highlighted within the Facebook app itself, suggesting that users will no longer need to check out the app’s App Store page for the latest release information. The Facebook app has received very frequent updates since version 6.0 debuted in April 2013, and moved to a new version numbering and monthly update pattern this past February. Version 13.0 marks the first time the company has made any official commitment to a regular iOS update cycle.

iLounge Game Spotlight: 80 Days

80 Days ($5) is an interactive fiction adventure from inkle based on Jules Verne’s classic novel Around the World in Eighty Days. This game brings steampunk into the story as well, as players try find the quickest way around the globe through exploration and conversation.

In 80 Days, you inhabit the role of Passepartout, valet to Monsieur Fogg. It is your duty to help Fogg circumnavigate the globe — this is done largely by talking to locals and exploring new cities. This is game is heavily centered around reading. Though the in-game art is very nice and adds to the proceedings quite well, graphics are not the star of the show. It’s all about the story, which resembles a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Unlike those old children’s books, however, the timeline in 80 Days is fluid and constantly changing. Though you will make many, many choices that affect the game, you are often a spectator as well.

Typo iPhone keyboard returns, updated, as Typo 2

Following an injunction by Blackberry earlier this year against its original Typo Keyboard Case (iLounge Rating: B-), Typo Products has released Typo 2, an updated version of its eponymous hardware keyboard for the iPhone 5 and 5s. Famously funded by Ryan Seacrest, the first version of Typo debuted at CES amidst a patent infringement suit brought by Blackberry. Typo 2 has been redesigned, and now includes additional features such as a battery indicator, backlit keyboard, and lock key, although the new design remains very similar to the original device. It remains to be seen whether the redesign will be enough to avoid another lawsuit. Typo 2 is available for pre-order now for $99 and is expected to ship in mid-September.

Apple posts official Beats welcome announcement

Apple has officially welcomed Beats to the Apple family, commemorating the finalization of its $3 billion acquisition initiated earlier this year. Noting that “[m]usic has always held a special place in our hearts,” the announcement includes a link back to beatsbydre.com, where a similar announcement can be found from Beats perspective, describing Beats as a new “instrument” joining Apple’s legacy of music-enabling products. Notes on Beats’ customer service page indicate that all inquiries related to sales and order info should now be directed to Apple, and that all online purchasing for Beats products will now go through the Apple Store.

Report: Vivendi SA sold its Beats stake for $404 million

A new report from Bloomberg indicates that as part of Apple’s Beats acquisition, Paris-based Vivendi SA sold its approximately 13 percent stake in Beats Electronics to Apple for $404 million. Held by the company’s Universal Music Group, the stake’s value reportedly almost doubled in value from a September 2013 estimate of $214 million, according to an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux in Paris.

Apple content delivery network for faster downloads now live in US, Europe

Apple’s new content delivery network has gone live in the U.S. and Europe, according to Frost & Sullivan analyst Dan Rayburn. The network is able to deliver multiple terabits of data per second, which should allow Apple to offer faster iOS downloads. Rayburn claims Apple is still using other services for iTunes, radio, and app downloads, “but over time, much of that traffic will be brought over to Apple’s CDN.” It’s unknown when that traffic may shift to the new network. The new network delivers traffic directly to Comcast and other ISPs through interconnect deals. Apple has reportedly invested “well more than” $100 million in this new network. [via Ars Technica]

Apps of the Week: NPR One, Crazy Taxi: City Rush, Interactive Alphabet 4.0 + more

New Apps

Beehive (free) — Beehive - The Social Network Filter from Kendall Innovations is that rare thing: a new social networking app that should be useful to certain people. The app takes your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, and lets you narrow them down to the friends you care about most. All of those updates can then be viewed from the single Beehive app. Most appealing to those who would be interested in this sort of thing is the app’s anonymity. You never have to worry about deleting or unfollowing friends — just pick who you want to follow within Beehive, and they’ll be none the wiser. Additionally, Beehive doesn’t require an email address, or even the creation of an account. It’s also ad-free. Not all users will find such an app necessary, of course, but for those looking to cut down on their social networking time without missing anything important — or without offending people — Beehive might be the perfect answer. Right now the app is built for iPhone, but an iPad version will be coming soon.

NPR One (free) — NPR’s new NPR One app curates a stream of public radio news and stories for the listener. The app’s bizarre, meandering description describes NPR One as “a handcrafted experience” while noting the app also delivers the big stories of the day. Basically, it’s a different way of accessing public radio through a somewhat personalized set of recommended stories — users must sign in using their Facebook, Google, or NPR accounts.

Report: Apple TV relaunch not coming this year

Apple engineers working on the new version of Apple TV have been on timelines that assume a 2015 launch, The Information reports. Those engineers “have been told by their bosses not to expect a launch this year.” It’s been expected for some time that Apple would release a newer version of its Apple TV with an updated TV service, with many reports stating it would happen this year. The initial timeline may have targeted 2014, but employees claim that cable companies are “dragging their heels,” and the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger has also slowed down the process. However, cable executives and TV programmers place the blame at Apple’s feet, saying the company “needs permission from multiple types of rights holders” to create the service it has in mind.

Report: Apple eliminating positions of some Beats employees

Apple has started transitioning employees and technology from Beats, but not all Beats employees will be making the move, 9to5Mac reports. While many Beats employees in development and creative roles have been offered jobs at Apple, Beats’ support, finance, and HR departments “have already been largely dismantled,” according to the report — some employees have been laid off, others have been offered Apple positions, and some have only been offered a temporary position during the transition period. On the technology side of the transition, it’s been noted that Beats Music “is not easily compatible” with Apple servers, and that parts of the service “will need to be re-architectured.”

Update: The New York Post is reporting that Apple will cut about 200 jobs at Beats — about 40 percent of the company’s workforce.

Russian government seeks Apple source code

The Russian government is asking for access to Apple’s source code, in order to ensure the company’s products aren’t used for spying purposes, Reuters reports. Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said in a statement, “Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 and U.S. intelligence services’ public statements about the strengthening of surveillance of Russia in 2014 have raised a serious question of trust in foreign software and hardware.” European software company SAP has also been asked to share its source code. The Russian Communications Ministry noted that Microsoft has shared its source code for Windows and other products with Atlas —a subordinate company that reports to the ministry — since 2003. Apple has declined comment.

Square announces new Reader for chip cards

Square has announced Square Reader for chip cards, a new credit card reader built to handle EMV chip cards—credit cards equipped with microchips, as already found in many countries around the world. The major U.S. credit card companies have planned to implement a fraud liability shift in October 2015, which will transfer liability for some fraudulent transactions away from merchants using EMV reader technology, and Square is looking to stay ahead of the curve. It appears as if the new Square reader will increase in size from the current model. The new reader will work with both chip and magnetic stripe cards, and use a Micro-USB port for charging. No release date or price information has been announced as of yet.

Apple TV adds FOX Now, CNBC channels

Apple TV has added two new channels, FOX Now and CNBC. Both channels require a cable subscription to access full content, although a number of FOX episodes and CNBC clips are available for viewing without authentication. The FOX Now channel includes a number of popular FOX shows, while the CNBC channel offers shows, clips, and a live stream.

Popular Bitcoin wallet app Blockchain returns to App Store

Apple has reinstated popular Bitcoin wallet app Blockchain to the App Store. It’s not an entirely unexpected move, considering Apple recently started allowing Bitcoin apps back in the App Store, after making a change to its App Store Review Guidelines. Blockchain was originally pulled from the App Store in February. Nicolas Cary, Blockchain’s CEO, told Bloomberg that Blockchain’s Bitcoin wallet has 1.9 million users.

Report: Apple Stores to support carrier early iPhone upgrade programs

Apple Stores will soon allow customers to purchase new iPhones using early upgrade programs from carriers, including AT&T Next, T-Mobile JUMP, and Verizon Edge, according to 9to5Mac. It’s unclear whether or when Apple will support Sprint’s One Up program. The report claims that “many” stores will offer the purchase option in late August, ahead of the expected iPhone 6 September launch. At the moment, any iPhone purchased in an Apple Store must be bought with a two-year contract or at full price with no contract.

Report: Apple buying talk radio app Swell

Re/code is reporting that Apple is about to acquire Swell, an app described as “Pandora-for-talk-radio,” for $30 million. Although it hasn’t yet been confirmed by either company, the report cites multiple sources, and Re/code has a strong track record when it comes to Apple news. According to the report, the app will shut down this week, as Apple attempts to improve its podcast-listening experience. It was also revealed late Friday by TechCrunch that Apple recently acquired BookLamp, described as a “Pandora for books.”

Congress passes bill to legalize phone unlocking

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill today that will legalize cell phone unlocking, following the Senate’s approval of the bill last week. All the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” needs now is for President Obama to sign the bill into law — a virtual guarantee considering the White House has already expressed its support for legally unlocking phones. The bill covers any device that operates on a wireless network. Currently, consumers need carrier permission to get a phone unlocked. However, the Library of Congress will revisit the rule again in 2015, so there’s a possibility phone unlocking could become illegal again in the future after this bill is passed into law.

Bose sues Beats over noise-canceling patents

Bose is suing Beats over noise-canceling technology patents used in headphones, according to CNBC. Patent search site PriorSmart.com appears to have a list of the five Bose patents cited in the case. The patents cover signal processing and high frequency compensation, among other aspects of noise-canceling technology. Beats Electronics and Beats Electronics International are both listed as defendants in the suit. [via 9to5Mac]

iLounge Game Spotlight: Modern Combat 5: Blackout

Modern Combat 5: Blackout ($7) is one of the most high-profile iOS games to be released this year. Blackout is the latest first-person shooter in Gameloft’s Call of Duty-esque series, and this time around, there are no in-app purchases to be found. However, an internet connection is required to play at all times.

As Modern Combat players will expect, Blackout has a great presentation. From the seriously impressive, detailed graphics, to the immersive sound and all of the requisite bells and whistles one would expect, there’s no doubt that Gameloft’s newest is a truly premium title. It’s important to note the frame rate during the game was solid for us on an iPad mini with Retina display, whether in single-player or multiplayer mode.

Apps of the Week: ShipAntics, Modern Combat 5, This American Life 3.0 + more

New Apps

Matter ($2) — Photo app maker Pixite is back with Matter, a new app that allows users to add 3D effects to photos. Those effects come in the form of various 3D objects — users have the ability to change the traits of the objects, as well. A video feature allows users to create short animated loops of the object within the photo. To us, the objects look a bit “prog-rock album cover,” but to some that’s likely part of the appeal.

ShipAntics: The Legend of The Kiki Beast ($2) — The prolific StoryToys continues to move in a new direction with ShipAntics: The Legend of the Kiki Beast. Unlike many of the developer’s storybook apps, this is a full-fledged adventure title for young gamers. Though the gameplay is mostly in simple point-and-click style, there are plenty of puzzles and cartoon cutscenes. This app is chapter one of a three-part series, with chapter two coming as a “low cost” in-app purchase in the future.

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