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2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

News

Apple drops iPhone return policy to 14 days

Apple will change its iPhone return policy from 30 days to 14 days by Thursday, according to 9to5Mac. The change is already reflected on Apple’s website. The 14-day period will match the return policies of other Apple products. An internal Apple document claims the change is being made to make the return policy universal for all products, and to match 14-day return policies offered by iPhone carriers.

Apps: Duolingo 3.3, Marvel Unlimited 2.0, Smash Hit + Wave Wave

Duolingo (free) has updated its app to version 3.3. The update offers more language classes for native speakers of a variety of languages — Romanian and Polish speakers now have access to an English course, while Portuguese speakers can now take a Spanish class, and vice-versa. Duolingo also lists bug fixes and performance improvements, in addition to a “few surprises” within the update.

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Marvel Entertainment’s Marvel Unlimited comics app has upgraded to version 2.0. The update offers native reading of digital comics in both iOS 7 and iOS 6. The new Smart Panel experience lets users read comics panel by panel, which may be ideal for smaller mobile devices, such as the iPhone or iPod touch. Marvel claims it will announce new features soon. The free app requires a paid subscription to access Marvel’s complete digital comics subscription program, but some free comics are available.

Apple running large iPhone 5c ad on NY Times site

Apple is still committed to pushing iPhone 5c sales, as evidenced by a new large interactive ad now running on the front page of the New York Times website — an uncommon move from Apple. Colored dots run across the page before settling in the ad, which occupies a large section on top of the page. The ad features eight separate animated videos with sound effects or music, including Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers,” Nena’s 1983 hit “99 Luftballons,” and the Pac-Man theme.

Notably, Sprint’s name is included in the ad alongside the Apple iPhone 5c name — however, the ad link takes users to Apple’s iPhone 5c page. In 2011, Sprint agreed to purchase 30.5 million iPhones within four years, no matter if they sold the units or not. According to a report at the time, Sprint’s deal wasn’t expected to be profitable for years, and sales reports to date suggest that it has sold half or fewer of the committed iPhone units.

Report: iOS 8 Maps to gain public transit directions

Apple’s Maps application will boast improved data and public transit directions in its iOS 8 incarnation, 9to5Mac reports. It is expected that public transportation options will be “deeply integrated” into iOS 8 Maps, with train, subway, and bus data, and will first be introduced for major cities, with other locations added over time. Enhanced data will also introduce new points of interest and new map labels, while improving reliability. Apple’s 2013 acquisitions of HopStop, Embark, and BroadMap have likely aided the addition of the new data.

The report also claims that Apple is working on augmented reality for future versions of iOS, to appear in “the coming years.” This feature would use the iPhone’s compass to see nearby points of interest onscreen.

Apple updates Remote app with improved Apple TV integration

Apple has updated its free Remote app today to version 4.2. The app now boasts greater integration with Apple TV — users can now control iTunes Radio through the set-top box using the app, and you are now shown your iTunes Match music and iTunes in the Cloud music/TV show/movie content within the app, merely tapping on the screen to play it through the currently selected Apple TV.

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In addition to these changes, the update features bug fixes and stability improvements.

iOS 7.1 reveals two new iPad models?

  • March 10, 2014
  • iPad

Apple’s new release of iOS 7.1 arrived with support for two new iPad models: iPad 4,3 and iPad 4,6, as noted by 9to5Mac. It’s unclear what these models represent at this point. The report speculates that the iPad models may be “minor hardware revisions,” or possibly optimized models for overseas networks; they appear to be continuations of the iPad Air and Retina iPad mini families.

Apple TV 6.1 update released, allows users to hide channels

Along with today’s release of iOS 7.1, Apple has released a software update for Apple TV. In addition to other changes, version 6.1 of the Apple TV software now allows users to hide channels from the main menu. The changes can be made in Settings > Main Menu, or straight from the main menu by holding down the center button and pressing play.

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The tweak should make it easier for users to navigate the main menu by hiding the channels to which they have no access or interest. We’ll update with any other significant findings.

Apple releases iOS 7.1

Apple has released iOS 7.1 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The long-awaited bug-fixing update brings improved Touch ID recognition for iPhone 5s, and many new features to the company’s mobile operating system, along with smaller UI tweaks. Some of the new features include the option to display events in month view in Calendar, new “natural-sounding” male and female Siri voices for Australian English, U.K. English, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese, and support for CarPlay, Apple’s in-car solution formally announced last week. iTunes Radio tweaks have also been added. Apple has added a iOS 7.1 web page to highlight the key features.

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Visual changes include new button shapes in the Phone app, more evident shift and caps lock images, and a redesigned power down slider. Other tweaks include a new camera setting to automatically enable HDR for iPhone 5s, and automatic clearing of FaceTime notifications when a call is answered on another device. iOS 7.1 can be installed over the air or by connecting to iTunes on a Mac or PC.

Apple iPhone trade-in program arrives in Canada

Apple’s in-store iPhone Reuse and Recycle program has arrived in Canada. Users can trade in older iPhones for gift cards that can be applied to a new iPhone purchase. As noted on Canadian Apple retail pages, users can earn up to $275 for a trade-in. The Reuse and Recycle program is also available in the U.S., U.K., and France, and a limited version of the program exists in India. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple TV adds iTunes Festival channel

Apple added an iTunes Festival channel to Apple TV this weekend, ahead of its upcoming SXSW concert series. While SXSW kicked off March 6, the iTunes Festival will begin Tuesday with Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, and London Grammar. Other acts to perform at Apple’s first U.S.-based iTunes Festival include Kendrick Lamar, Willie Nelson, and Soundgarden.

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The channel will stream the concerts live when the festival begins. But for now, the channel only has basic information about the performers and the festival, with links to the musicians’ albums in iTunes.

iLounge Game Spotlight: Doggins

Doggins ($4) from Brain & Brain is billed as a quiet adventure. Starring a dreaming dog, the iPad-only adventure game has been nominated for a SXSW Gamer’s Voice Award for best indie game, along with a number of other titles, including recently reviewed Tengami — a game which shares some similarities with Doggins.

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Doggins centers around a dreaming terrier of the same name who finds himself facing off with a villainous squirrel on the moon. The devious squirrel sports a monocle, and his name is Fitzwilliam. It’s tough for some games to stand out, especially during a crowded week of new releases, but Doggins certainly does its best to stand out from the crowd. Essentially a point-and-click adventure, it’s nice that Doggins features a quiet dog and squirrel, as you lose the often tiresome exposition of similar games.

Apps: Findery, Gmail 3.0, Real Racing 3 2.1 + Star Wars: KOTOR 1.2

2bkco’s Findery (free) was in beta for a long time, but it’s finally hit the App Store today as a full, finished app ready for launch. Findery lets users leave notes in locations all around the world — anything from personal anecdotes, to historical facts, and more. The notes — made of text and images — can be made private or public, and notifications can tell users when someone has commented on or favorited one of their notes. It’s clear that some time in beta has allowed Findery to build up a decent inventory of notes before its launch. Users can search for notes in a map view, through recent activity, or by created “notemaps.”

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Gmail (free) from Google has updated to version 3.0. The new update brings background app refresh, so the app can receive mail even when it’s not open. Background app refresh requires iOS 7 and one type of notification to be turned on. Gmail is also now offering a simplified sign-in — all Google apps are linked, so signing in to any Google apps will sign users into all other Google apps.

Apple ‘scrambling’ to meet FTC deadline on in-app purchases

Apple is reportedly “scrambling” to make changes to the App Store in order to meet a March 31 deadline set by the Federal Trade Commission for changing how the company charges for in-app purchases, according to ZDNet. Apple settled with the FTC in January — the company must now obtain “express, informed consent” before billing for in-app charges, and must give consumers the option to withdraw consent at any time. It’s reportedly taking “longer than expected” for Apple to make the changes. Apple would like to include the changes in iOS 7.1; it’s unclear if the changes are delaying the upcoming release of iOS 7.1, but Apple could always address the changes in another update.

Report: Mercedes working on aftermarket CarPlay installations

Mercedes-Benz is working on aftermarket installations of Apple’s CarPlay for older vehicles, 9to5Mac reports. The carmaker — one of three that recently introduced the new iPhone in-vehicle feature — wasn’t able to confirm when any aftermarket option would be available. It’s speculated in the report that such installations would come as dealer-installed accessories. Other manufacturers that will utilize CarPlay in their future vehicles may introduce aftermarket installation options as well; so far, there’s been no word on any official aftermarket CarPlay solution from Apple itself.

Suit alleges Apple stores discriminate against visually impaired

A class action lawsuit recently filed in Florida alleges that Apple is violating Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act by not offering point of sale devices that can be operated independently by the visually impaired. The suit argues the visually impaired cannot enter a PIN without help while using a debit card, denying the individuals full equal use of the store. It’s noted that other retailers offer point of sale devices with “tactiley discernible keypad surfaces.” The plaintiff is seeking an injunction that would force Apple to update or replace its point of sale devices. [via TUAW]

Popular app developer ComiXology reports security breach

ComiXology, developer of the popular iOS Comics app, has reported a security breach and is asking all account holders to reset their password. The company sent out an email detailing the breach, noting that payment information is safe. However, an “unauthorized individual” did access a database with ComiXology user names, emails, and passwords. The ComiXology website is currently down as of this writing — possibly due to a surge in traffic — but will hopefully be back up soon for users to reset their passwords. [via TechCrunch]

Report: Apple moved $8.9B in profits to tax haven

Apple has moved roughly $8.9 billion in untaxed profits from its Australian operations to a tax haven structure in Ireland over the last decade, The Australian Financial Review reports. The article claims that while Apple reported pretax earnings of $88.5 million in Australia last year, the company “sent $2 billion of income from its Australian sales to Ireland via Singapore, where Apple negotiated a secret tax deal.” Using 10 years of financial accounts obtained from Apple’s Irish company, Apple Sales International, the Financial Review says that although Apple Sales International has reported more than $100 billion in profits during the last five years, it has paid less than 50 cents in tax on every $1000 of income.

As was noted last year when Apple came under fire for tax practices, Apple avoids paying taxes in Ireland because the company is managed in the U.S., but avoids U.S. taxes by having Apple Sales International registered in Ireland. Though Ireland has said it would close the loophole, Apple can still choose where to base its tax residence. In 2010, Apple started rerouting sales through a new subsidiary based in Singapore, Apple South Asia Pte Ltd. The publication notes “there is no suggestion ... that this arrangement is anything but proper within Australian tax laws.”

Azoi introduces Wello health monitoring iPhone case

New accessory maker Azoi has announced Wello, a shell-style case for iPhone 5/5s with health monitoring capabilities. With its combination of sensors and electronics, the case can track blood pressure, electrocardiography (ECG), heart rate, blood oxygen, temperature, lung functions, and other vital statistics.

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According to the company, simply holding the case for a few moments is all that’s needed for it to register the information, which is then transferred to a companion app. Wello is currently available for pre-order, and will sell for $199. It’s slated to be released in fall 2014, pending FDA approval.

Report: Apple bringing full-screen video ads to iOS

Apple will bring full-screen video iAds to iPhone and iPad apps this year, Advertising Age reports. The new video iAds will play automatically. According to the report, these ads could occur during moments of transition, “like after completing a game’s level or finishing an article.” Pricing for the ads is unknown, and Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Report: Apple working to expand Siri functionality for iWatch

Apple is working to expand Siri’s capabilities, including greater third-party integration, according to The Information. The report claims the Siri upgrades are being done with the iWatch in mind. These changes would allow Siri to offer more functionality by connecting to services and apps from third parties. It’s also noted that Siri’s search is being improved, and Apple is working on a way to dynamically decide which information should be displayed on a device with a smaller screen, such as the iWatch. In one given example, a running app could move to the foreground of the device’s screen when the user starts to jog. [via TechCrunch]

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