The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has announced the newest version of the Bluetooth specification, Bluetooth 4.1. Bluetooth 4.1 promises new features that will allow the spec to “work seamlessly” with LTE. Better connections will allow manufacturers to control the reconnection time interval — devices can reconnect automatically when in proximity to each other, and disconnect when apart, allowing for improved battery life and a better user experience. Bulk data transfer will allow for a more efficient transfer of data gathered away from one’s home computer — the example given by the Bluetooth SIG notes an efficient transfer of exercise data. A Bluetooth device can also now act as both a peripheral and a hub at the same time, allowing for greater interaction between devices. Most interestingly, Bluetooth 4.1 is an over-the-air update that won’t require the purchase of new devices — the Bluetooth SIG recommends that manufacturers “immediately” implement Bluetooth 4.1 in their devices.
Pebble has announced today that its smart watch “is now fully integrated with iOS 7 and works seamlessly with Notification Center.” All enabled notifications will now be pushed to the Pebble — meaning app notifications beyond calls, emails, and texts. A new iOS app will enable the functionality. Pebble claims the app is currently “under review” by Apple, and will be available in the iTunes Store “soon.”
A recent update to the Google Authenticator app may be causing user’s one-time password credentials to be erased, potentially preventing them from accessing online services using two-step verification, according to several user reports in the Google Authenticator project group. Google Authenticator is an iOS app that allows users to store credentials for Google’s 2-Step Verification feature, and is also used for two-step verification with other third-party services such as Dropbox and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Although several iOS 7 beta users had reported problems with losing credentials in the app, it wasn’t until a recent update, presumably intended to address the iOS 7 issue, that the app began exhibiting the same behaviour for iOS users upgrading to the new version, resulting in users possibly losing access to some of their online services, particularly in cases such as AWS, where alternative “backup codes” are not made available. Users relying on the Google Authenticator app should avoid installing this update. Note that Google Authenticator uses an open-source one-time password generation method, so alternative apps are available, many of which were discussed in the same thread as a result of problems using the app with the iOS 7 betas.
Update: Google Authenticator appears to have been removed from the App Store, suggesting that Google may have pulled it while it works to address the issue.
Electronic Arts, one of the world’s largest game companies, disclosed that it made more money through Apple’s App Store than any through other retail outlet in the most recent quarter. Freemium games such as The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Real Racing 3, and The Sims FreePlay pushed mobile revenues for EA, surpassing the money made through both retail distributors and its own Origin download service. EA COO Peter Moore said Apple becoming EA’s biggest retail partner is “a first.” The company was also reportedly the most downloaded publisher on the App Store in the quarter. [via VentureBeat]
Apple’s rumored smart watch will focus on fitness, according to a new 9to5Mac report. Likely to be a wearable computer on the wrist, the “iWatch” is being developed by a team reportedly led by Senior Vice President Bob Mansfield, Vice President Kevin Lynch, and senior hardware director James Foster. Lynch, who was hired from Adobe in March, is reportedly focusing on the device’s “overall software vision.” His team consists of former iPod hardware and software designers, while Foster’s team contains sensor, chip, and battery experts. Fitness and fashion experts have reportedly been brought in to assist with developing and marketing the device, as well.
Former iPhone engineers are also reportedly working on the device, and some people from Apple’s acquisition of biometric security company Authentec are working on sensors for the smart watch. Interestingly, it’s noted that Apple has hired people who have worked on devices that analyze sleep patterns — Apple could be giving the users a reason to keep the watch on through the night, which might lead to recharging challenges. Other designers and developers on the team specialize in distance measurement and “integrating mobile devices with fitness equipment.” The report speculates Apple may also want to measure medical information in “a non-invasive way;” for instance, glucose levels could be monitored while wearing the watch. A release date for the watch is still unknown — it was originally believed the iWatch could launch this year, but a recent report claims late 2014 is more likely.
Cypress Semiconductor has announced a new development kit that allows companies to quickly create audio accessories for iOS Lightning devices. The CY8CKIT-033A PSoC 3 MFi Digital Audio Development Kit for Lightning is being offered to developers for $199, and as the name suggests, it streamlines the process of designing a custom system-on-chip (SoC) solution to process “bit-perfect” USB digital audio data from Lightning devices.
Cypress notes that Apple’s Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad (MFi) connectivity specification has become very complex, now running more than 250 pages long with numerous changes and revisions. The CY8CKIT-033A incorporates the latest MFi specifications and is MFi-licensed, letting developers use a software solution to prototype hardware for Lightning audio accessories such as speakers and musical instruments. Over 100 components are found in the PSoC Creator software, which uses a drag and drop interface to lay out the processor’s feature; support for Lightning, older Dock Connectors, MIDI and USB interfaces are all included. Developers interested in the Kit will need to obtain an Apple MFi license before buying the kit directly from Apple’s MFi web site.
A recent Apple hiring spree focused on the company’s rumored smart watch suggests that the device won’t be ready for launch until late 2014, according to the Financial Times. Apple is reportedly “aggressively” hiring for the project at this time. Though Apple has recently filed for the “iWatch” trademark in multiple countries, the release date for such a product still remains a mystery. Reports earlier this year suggested that the company was facing significant battery life issues as a result of a decision to use the iOS operating system for the watch, rather than sticking with the lower-power operating system built for the sixth-generation iPod nano.
Meanwhile, another report has surfaced suggesting that the Retina iPad mini will be delayed until 2014. This new report from Digitimes claims Apple is attempting to design a Retina display iPad mini with “an almost bezel-free look,” likely to be released next year. A “slightly updated” version of the current iPad mini may ship in the second half of this year.
Update: DigiTimes is now contradicting its own recent report, saying there will be no delay for the Retina iPad mini, which should launch in October. Once seemingly on the upswing, the publication’s track record of accuracy has returned to “highly questionable,” casting doubt on the veracity of anything it publishes regarding future Apple products.
Maclocks has introduced the Apple TV Security Mount ($45). Made from aluminum and colored black to match the Apple TV, the security mount includes a bracket and lock to keep an Apple TV secure. The design allows for proper ventilation to prevent overheating, and protecting against Wi-Fi signal loss.
The Apple TV Security Mount can be secured to any flat surface using mounting holes in the bracket, and a security cable lock can be added for $20. Maclocks’ Apple TV Security Mount is available now.
It has been discovered that Apple has filed for an “iWatch” trademark in Mexico, Taiwan, Turkey, and Colombia, just one day after learning the company filed for the same trademark in Japan. Apple has also apparently filed for the trademark in Russia. The easily found, widely reported trademark filings are unlike Apple; though a smart watch release from the company seems inevitable, it’s still unclear if this means we’ll be seeing the device earlier than expected. [via 9to5Mac, MacRumors]
Apple is looking to trademark “iWatch” in Japan, according to Bloomberg. The company filed for the trademark with the Japan Patent Office on June 3. A prior report noted Apple filed for “iWatch” in Russia, though that report could not be independently confirmed. The name of Apple’s rumored smart watch is still unknown, but “iWatch” is certainly a distinct possibility based on these reported filings.
Foxconn has demonstrated an iPhone-compatible smart watch, which it plans to release on its own as an iOS accessory. The watch can measure vital signs, as well as check phone calls and Facebook posts. Though other iOS-compatible Bluetooth smart watches have already been released — such as Martian’s Passport Watch, ConnecteDevice’s Cookoo and Pebble — Foxconn’s watch is notable because the company has been Apple’s key manufacturing partner for years, and most likely would not want to damage its relationship with the Cupertino company by directly challenging it. [via WantChinaTimes]
A new Wall Street Journal report notes Google is also developing an Android-powered watch. Samsung is also developing a watch, ensuring Apple will have plenty of competitors for its own rumored watch-like device.
Following an earlier public disclosure that it was looking to sell its Harmony remote control business, Logitech has announced that it will retain the well-known product line. In a release, Logitech said, “The company has determined that retaining ownership is in the best interest of its shareholders. The Harmony product line has gained momentum following the April introduction of the Hamony Ultimate product, which is available in major retail locations including select Apple stores in the U.S., and has exceeded the company’s expectations for customer connections.”
Logitech also announced that the Logitech Harmony Hub – a bundled component with Harmony Ultimate and Harmony Smart Control that turns iOS devices into universal remotes – will be available for purchase as a standalone $100 product this August. Harmony Hub is a universal remote control accessory for iOS devices, consisting of a wall-powered 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi receiver, Infrared blaster, and Bluetooth 3.0 chip. The glossy black accessory transforms Wi-Fi commands sent by an iOS device into Infrared or Bluetooth control signals for TVs, A/V components, and game consoles. It’s an upgraded version of the company’s prior Harmony Link, notably adding better software and Bluetooth support.
Volkswagen is set to unveil iBeetle — a special edition Beetle with iPhone integration — at next week’s 2013 Shanghai Auto Show. The car itself will feature color schemes and options similar to the iPhone interface. Inside, a dashboard-mounted dock holds the iPhone, and a new app will connect the car to the phone wirelessly or through the dock. Volkswagen’s press release doesn’t specify which iPhone models will be compatible with the dock.
The app will include features such as Spotify streaming, a social network reader, and in-car camera, and it will act as an additional on-board instrument, as well. The iBeetle will be available early next year. [via Autoblog]
Logitech has announced two new home control remotes — the Harmony Ultimate ($350) and Harmony Smart Control ($130) — that can both use an iOS app for control. Harmony Ultimate is a full remote with 2.4” color touchscreen that can control up to 15 devices through swipes and taps. It can also control the Philips Hue lighting system.
Harmony Smart Control works mainly through the Harmony smartphone app, though it also comes with a simple remote. It can consolidate up to eight remote controls into one app. Both remotes are compatible with 225,000 home theater devices, and both include the Harmony Hub, which turns RF signals from the remote into IR and Bluetooth commands for home theater device compatibility. The Harmony Hub also allows users to control devices through cabinets and walls. Harmony Ultimate is expected to launch this month, while Harmony Smart Control should be available in May.
Facebook has sent out invites for a media event to “Come See Our New Home on Android” next Thursday, which appears to be the announcement of a Facebook-based Android phone co-developed with HTC. Though it’s unclear if the event will focus on the phone, reports suggest that Facebook has created a version of the Android operating system with deeper Facebook integration than before. Past reports have noted that Facebook has hired former a number of iOS designers and engineers, and Facebook notably also purchased Push Pop Press, a company started by former Apple employees. For possibly competitive reasons that were only speculated on before, Apple was slow at incorporating Facebook features into iOS and OS X — now, presumably, Facebook will be directly competing against the iPhone, while maintaining a number of popular apps on the platform. [via 9to5 Google]
The Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher — “Jobs,” formerly titled “jOBS,”— has been delayed, with no new release date determined as of yet. “Jobs” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in late January, and was originally slated to hit theaters April 19.
Meanwhile, comedy website Funny or Die announced its own Steve Jobs movie, “iSteve,” will be released online April 15, before “Jobs.” A report describes “iSteve” as “a biopic poking fun at biopics. Starring Justin Long as Steve Jobs, the “very silly” movie is 60 to 75 minutes long. That leaves Aaron Sorkin’s Jobs movie, based on Walter Isaacson’s officially authorized biography and said to consist of three scenes, likely to arrive third. [via The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times]
Complete with quotes and previously confidential images provided by Monster, a new article at Gizmodo paints a surprisingly negative picture of Monster’s relationship with Beats Electronics, discussing how Monster lost virtually everything it had built when Beats left for HTC. Interviews with Monster CEO Noel Lee and his son Kevin Lee detail how Monster and Beats formed a shaky business arrangement, wherein the Beats side retained ownership of everything Monster developed. According to the report, Monster also footed the bills for manufacturing and distributing the products. While Beats contradicted Monster’s claims of handling industrial and audio designs for the headphones, Monster offered audio engineering and industrial mockups, and Noel Lee claimed Beats had nothing to do with engineering: “Absolutely not, they don’t have any engineers.”
The article also acknowledges that Beats’ success came from astute marketing — not from the sound — and that the products were both overpriced and hugely profitable. Kevin Lee suggested that Beats were marketed as “the hottest product to have, and sound will be a Trojan horse. And that’s what we did. Beats was in every single music video.” Notably, iLounge’s reviews never gave Beats products higher than a flat B rating, with most falling below that, often citing unimpressive performance to price ratios as a key issue.
When Beats Electronics left Monster for a partnership with HTC, Monster was paid only a small amount—“more severance payment than cash-out”—while Beats retained the audio, patents, designs, and the name. The article notes that Beats made $519 million in sales during its first year with HTC — up from $219 million in the previous year — taking control of 64 percent of the $100 and higher “premium” headphone market.
When Sega ported the latest version of its classic arcade jet shooter After Burner to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 for $10, we downloaded it immediately. Now After Burner Climax has arrived as a universal iOS app for only $3, and though it doesn’t quite live up to the arcade or console versions, it’s not bad. You still get most of the surprisingly detailed forced 3-D stages, complete with Retina resolution, music and sound effects from both Climax and After Burner II, and the unlockable bonus content found in the console version. On the other hand, the action intensity level has dropped markedly, the controls don’t feel quite right, and a variety of other little issues really need to be addressed in a post-release patch. Given the quality of the visuals alone, After Burner fans should consider a day one download, but everyone else should wait to see if Sega fixes the title. As quickly beaten as the game is, the price is right, and with a little work, this will be a thrilling game for short-burst playing.
With a half-dozen classic Grimm fairy tale apps already under its belt, StoryToys is expanding its lineup with a Hans Christian Andersen story that Disney previously all but claimed as its own: The Little Mermaid - 3D Interactive Pop-Up Book ($5). Parents familiar with this developer’s earlier book apps will find the interface extremely familiar: text pages are presented flat for easy reading, interrupted when the book shifts to a dynamic 3-D angle for charmingly illustrated interactive mini-games that move the story along. But StoryToys has done a better job here of balancing out text, still images, and interactive scenes, notably making the story portions easier for young children to enjoy, while preserving the colorful and light activity sections we liked in its prior books. The audio’s very good, too: gentle voice narration is accompanied by cheerful music and sound effects. Don’t expect references to Ariel, but the Little Mermaid story’s otherwise as expected, and a fun book for kids.
As huge fans of Sony’s futuristic Wipeout racing games, we nearly burst with excitement before playing former Wipeout co-creator Nick Burcombe’s just-released universal iOS game Table Top Racing ($3). Good news: the graphics are Retina sharp and fluid, the controls and audio are respectable, and there’s a four-player multiplayer mode. Bad news: it’s a toy car take on Mario Kart, with weak weapons and low intensity, set in levels that look like overpopulated tables and desks. Consider grabbing it to support indie developer Playrise Edge/Playrise Digital on the road to the next Wipeout—just realize that Table Top Racing isn’t that game, or at this point, even close.
Originally sold for $3, the note-taking and sketching program Penultimate has been on each of iLounge’s editors’ iPads for years, having justified its asking price long ago with an intuitively simple drawing interface. Following its acquisition by Evernote, Penultimate has just been updated to version 4 while becoming free: now, the UI looks Retina-sharp and polished, pages sync across multiple devices, and can be text-searched with handwriting recognition—assuming you sign up for an Evernote account. If for whatever reason you held off on grabbing this app before, the new features and zero-dollar pricetag make it a must-grab for iPad users, right now.
Currently being given away as a limited time promotion, Callaway Digital Arts’ Endless Alphabet (Free) is one of the best letter and spelling apps we’ve seen for iPads, iPhones, and iPods. Kids are presented with an alphabetized list of vocabulary words—ones that are arguably a little more advanced than might be expected for the mass of children that will instantly understand the interface—and then rearrange charmingly animated “monster” letters to form the words. Additional words and monsters will be added each week, says Callaway. From the music and fun animations to the theme and interface, Endless Alphabet is most definitely worth grabbing for any young child.
Despite its ubiquity and ever-growing collection of features, Facebook’s universal iOS app Facebook (Free) continues to rack up middling App Store rankings—this time due as much to crashes as still-missing desktop site functionality. The just-released version 5.4 claims to build upon the recent addition of voice messaging and VoIP calling with new video recording and sharing features, but apart from iPhone/iPod UI tweaks borrowed from Facebook Messenger, the differences don’t appear to be major. Improvements to the Nearby/Places Nearby feature, now including an interactive map with icons leading directly to business pages, are for now more intriguing.