- March 18, 2014
- Apps + Games
In Angry Birds Epic (Free), just soft launched in the Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand App Stores, Rovio has brought its most famous characters into an unusual new genre: a tactical RPG where the birds navigate through a fantasy world, battling bad piggies along the way. Combat is handled in typical turn-based RPG style, and players can obtain various items to equip their bird warriors and rescue new characters to add to their party along the way—Epic’s goal is to incentivize upgrades, using in-app purchased Lucky Coins to speed along the process. Unfortunately, while the game tries to provide in-game clues to guide the player through various new UI elements, the gameplay is somewhat confusing—even fans of the tactical RPG genre may feel a little bit lost, say nothing of Rovio’s core group of casual gamers. That said, the game still provides some basic playing enjoyment even if you’re just forging ahead blindly and not really paying attention to specs and equipment.
Also soft-launched only in Australia and Canada, Bears vs. Art (Free) by long-time App Store favorite Halfbrick Studios is a casual puzzle game with a simple and somewhat charming premise. You take on the role of a bear whose peaceful wilderness habitat has been invaded by a series of art museums. The goal is to go on a rampage and take out as much of the art as you can, moving through a series of individual levels representing different small museums. In each case, you guide the bear to smash a specified number of pieces of art with limited turns or time to do so. The trick: your controls can move the bear in any direction, but the bear will always move all the way to the nearest wall, with force. Make contact with a piece of art, and you’re given the opportunity to slash it with a bear claw before moving on to the next piece. Bears vs. Art is a fun and addictive little casual game that will likely provide hours of enjoyment; you needn’t cough up real-world currency to enjoy playing it.
Confirming reports yesterday, Apple officially expanded the iPhone lineup this morning by adding an 8GB version of the plastic-bodied iPhone 5c, and changed the iPad family by discontinuing the aging iPad 2 in favor of the fourth-generation iPad, also known as the “iPad with Retina display.” It appears that neither the iPhone 5c nor the fourth-generation iPad has changed considerably from previously-available versions: apart from its lower storage capacity, the iPhone 5c is available with the same colors and features as prior models, and the iPad has the same colors, model numbers and features as the version discontinued last year.
As of press time, the 8GB iPhone 5c has only been added to European Apple Stores, where it sells for £429 or €549, with some variation between countries; it has not replaced the still lower-priced iPhone 4S. The iPad with Retina display is available in the United States, selling solely in a 16GB capacity for $399 (Wi-Fi) or $529 (LTE), the same prices as the iPad 2 was previously selling for.
Update: According to Philip Elmer-Dewitt, Apple has confirmed that the iPhone 5c 8GB model is only being sold in the U.K., France, Germany, Australia and China. This is the first time since the little-known 4GB fourth-generation iPod nano that Apple has sold a lower-capacity version of a device solely outside the United States.
Update 2: A representative of Apple told Re/code that the “mid-tier iPhone segment is growing year-over-year and the 8GB model provides a more affordable option for markets where LTE is becoming more established.” This characterization of the iPhone 5c contrasts with the German carrier O2’s internal e-mail released yesterday, which described the new 8GB model as Apple’s “entry-level smartphone.”
Apple will bring back the fourth-generation iPad on Tuesday, 9to5Mac reports. According to a source, Apple stores have been receiving shipments of the previously discontinued iPad. Both Wi-Fi and LTE black and white 16GB models have arrived in stores. It’s likely that Apple will make the 16GB fourth-gen iPad the low-end $399 iPad model, and discontinue the second-generation iPad, so all current iPads would be Lightning devices.
It was reported earlier today that Apple will introduce an 8GB version of the iPhone 5c, likely at the same time as the reintroduction of the fourth-generation iPad tomorrow. Apple could discontinue the iPhone 4s and introduce the new 5c as the low-end iPhone model — all current iPhones would then be Lightning devices, as well.
Microsoft will unveil Office for iPad at a March 27 event, The Verge reports. The iPhone and iPod versions of Office were released last June. Apparently, the iPad version will be similar, requiring an Office 365 subscription for editing. Document creation and editing will reportedly be supported in full for Word, Excel, and Powerpoint apps.
- March 17, 2014
- Apple TV
Apple has added an ACC Sports channel to Apple TV. The channel offers game highlights, interviews, insider reports, player profiles and more on Atlantic Coast Conference athletics.
NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament previews are also included in a Campus Insiders section. Like other recent channel additions, the ACC Sports channel appears automatically on the main page without a software update.
- March 17, 2014
Apple today has started charging out-of-warranty customers for for online chat support — it now costs users $20 per incident for support. The company’s new web payment system, first reported weeks ago, is having difficulties thus far, 9to5Mac reports. It’s likely Apple will offer exceptions for payments until the system is working properly. The company will also grant exceptions for iCloud issues and accidental damage incidents to set up a repair or replacement.
Apple may introduce an 8GB version of the iPhone 5c this week, according to an alleged internal email from German wireless carrier O2, obtained by German blog stadt-bremerhaven.de. The lower-capacity version of the phone is supposedly shipping to stores today for a Tuesday morning launch.
The email describes the new 5c as Apple’s “entry-level smartphone,” and suggests that other 5c models may see reduced pricing, as well. While all five iPhone 5c colors will allegedly be offered in 8GB capacities, only white and blue versions will allegedly be available immediately in O2 stores, with other colors available to be ordered online. It’s unclear whether this will be the case in other territories or with other retailers, as well; Apple Stores tend to have full color and capacity inventories faster than carrier partners.
Update: Engadget posted a reader photo of the 8GB 5c’s packaging, confirming the device’s existence.
Apple’s upcoming Healthbook app may track users’ heart rate, hydration, blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep, and more, according to a new in-depth look from 9to5Mac. The article offers “complete recreations of screenshots” which appear to answer numerous questions as to what Apple is testing in health and fitness tracking. Bloodwork, oxygen saturation, and blood sugar sections of the app will monitor a user’s blood. Apple could also track hydration and respiratory rate using Healthbook, as well as sleep cycles.
As one might expect, Healthbook will also be used in fitness tracking, to examine weight, activity, and nutrition. An Emergency Card section would store vital health information that can be used be a doctor or emergency technician in times of health crisis. It’s unknown how Healthbook will acquire the data, though the iPhone, iWatch, and third-party apps or devices could all contribute information. Healthbook could be released with iOS 8, but the report notes—likely for cautionary purposes only—that the app “could be pushed back to a future operating system version or cancelled entirely.”
- March 14, 2014
- Apps + Games
Glorkian Warrior: Trials Of Glork ($3) is a collaboration between developer Pixeljam and prolific comic book artist James Kochalka. A Glorkian Warrior graphic novel, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, will be released in a few weeks. The game is a colorful Galaga-esque shooter with a light dose of platforming, and a heavy dose of humor.
The game’s graphics are the first thing gamers will notice. While fans of James Kochalka’s work will recognize Glorkian Warrior’s art instantly, the game’s look should be a breath of fresh air to everyone else when compared to most games in the App Store. It’s bright and colorful, and every character design is a fun treat, even when you’re shooting at them.
Apple is thinking about removing the Game Center app from iOS 8, while leaving the Game Center functionality intact within games, 9to5Mac reports. Recent alleged leaked screenshots from iOS 8 do feature the Game Center icon. Apple may also simplify alerts within Notification Center and add the ability to automatically delete Messages threads. Inter-app communication may be improved in iOS 8, and Apple also plans on tweaking controls in its Voice Memos app. Some versions of iOS 8 in testing include WiFi-enabled CarPlay, though it’s unclear if this functionality will be delayed until a future release.
Some users are reporting battery issues following installation of iOS 7.1. Multiple threads have popped up on Apple’s support communities regarding decreased battery life while using the newly released operating system. An iLounge editor noted a 35 percent battery decrease with light usage of a device within an hour’s time. It’s notable that not all users are reporting issues, including iLounge editors. Some users have noted a clean installation — erasing and restoring the device to factory settings — is solving the issues. A battery test from Ars Technica found “small gains and small losses” within the margin of error when moving from iOS 7.0 to iOS 7.1 for most devices. Past battery issues with new iOS releases typically involve background tasks, and the cause is often initially unknown.
- March 13, 2014
- Apps + Games
Fantastical 2 ($5), the calendar and reminders app from Flexibits Inc., has updated to version 2.0.5. The update adds support for opening links in 1Password and Mercury web browsers, and creating events with floating time zones. An update to the week view makes events and invitations easier to read. A host of other fixes and changes have been made, including improvements to accessibility and search speed. Fantastical 2 is currently on sale for a limited time.
FiftyThree’s Paper (free) has updated to version 1.6.1. The drawing and creation app has been updated for iOS 7 — menu components have been refreshed and controls are billed as simpler and cleaner. Eraser, Color, and Blend tools now make smaller strokes, and ink speed dynamics have been tweaked to better fit their zoom level. Another new feature — holding down Draw and Eraser makes dots.
A few alleged iOS 8 screenshots including icons for Healthbook, Preview, and TextEdit have been posted on a Weibo account. The shots are legitimate, according to 9to5Mac. Healthbook’s icon is very similar to the Passbook icon, and Preview and TextEdit’s icons match the Mac versions.
Earlier today, it was reported that Apple was working on iOS versions of Preview and TextEdit. Also, a lightbulb icon for an apparent app named Tips is included in the screenshots — it’s unknown at this point what Tips is, or what it does, but it may be some kind of iOS 8 user guide. A settings screenshot was also spotted on Weibo, noting version 8.0.
Apple is working to develop versions of its TextEdit and Preview Mac applications for iOS, 9to5Mac reports. The iOS versions of the apps would reportedly only be used to view TextEdit and Preview files stored in iCloud; users would have to edit documents using Pages. It’s “currently uncertain, but still possible” that the new versions of the apps will end up in iOS 8. The new applications come from the restructuring of Apple’s iOS and OS X development teams, sources said, as engineers now work together on both operating systems. Apple is also researching new iCloud storage tools to simplify the development of server-integrated App Store applications for iOS as the company pushes to make iCloud a larger part of the iOS file system in the future.
- March 12, 2014
Pioneer Electronics is looking into implementing CarPlay compatibility into its “existing and future products,” according to a report. The news was reportedly verified by a Pioneer customer service representative. Pioneer makes many in-car electronic systems, opening up the possibility that vehicle makers who haven’t been announced as Apple partners could still feature CarPlay compatibility at some point, especially if CarPlay could be accessible through connecting with other aftermarket Pioneer accessories. It’s also been previously reported that Mercedes-Benz is working on CarPlay for its older vehicles. [via MacRumors]
Apple is currently testing iTunes Radio as a standalone app within iOS 8, 9to5Mac reports. At this point, the streaming service is accessible through the iOS Music app. iTunes Radio app functionality would resemble the Music app, allowing users to browse history, purchase streamed tracks, and create stations. Though the report notes the change might not happen this year, moving iTunes Radio into its own app makes sense for a number of reasons — it would be more accessible, and could increase its user base simply by having its own pre-installed icon.
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.
- March 11, 2014
- Apps + Games
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.
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 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.
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.