China Mobile is still negotiating an iPhone deal with Apple, as there will be no announcement of an agreement today, Reuters reports. China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua told reporters there was no announcement to make; some expected a deal to be announced today. Although a number of recent details — an ad on China Mobile’s website which was later removed, a subsidiary briefly taking preorders, a leaked poster — made a deal appear to be inevitable, it does not appear to have been finalized as of yet.
Disney’s Mickey Mouse: Mash-Up ($4) lets children participate in the “making” of a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Kids can draw a handful of objects that can appear in the short cartoon, which is titled “No Service!” You can then watch your creations appear and interact with them, including scenes in which Mickey and Donald Duck swap clothes, and Mickey has to hide behind objects you’ve created. Timeless and deliberately silly, the Mash-Up app is good as-is, but could really benefit from additional shorts for kids to play with.
The classic 3-D adventure and shooting game Tomb Raider ($1) from Eidos/Square Enix is now available in the App Store. Interestingly, it’s being billed as Tomb Raider I, which suggests that the sequel will be available at some point. The full game from 1996 is included, in addition to two extra “Unfinished Business” chapters included in the 1998 Tomb Raider Gold re-release. Tomb Raider supports iOS game controllers, as well as on-screen input, though the controls remain as dicey as they were decades ago.
Apple has released its “Best of 2013” list on iTunes. The annual best of list highlights Apple’s favorites and best-sellers in apps, music, movies, books, TV shows, and podcasts. In apps, Apple selected Duolingo, the free language learning app, as its iPhone App of the Year.
Apple’s iPad App of the Year was Disney Animated ($10). The iPhone Game of the Year and iPad Game of the Year are Vlambeer’s Ridiculous Fishing — A Tale of Redemption ($3) and Frogmind’s Badland ($4), respectively.
Sprint announced today that it has introduced 70 new 4G LTE markets. The new markets include Birmingham, Green Bay, Orlando, San Diego, St. Louis, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, among others. Sprint now offers 4G LTE in 300 U.S. markets. Verizon currently claims its 4G LTE network is available in more than 500 markets, while AT&T’s 4G LTE network includes 476 markets.
- December 16, 2013
Sprint is “working toward a possible bid” for T-Mobile, the Wall Street Journal reports. It’s noted the deal could be worth more than $20 billion. An approved deal would preserve Sprint’s status as the third largest carrier behind Verizon and AT&T, but up its subscriber count to 53 million postpaid customers. However, former antitrust officials said the government would be “very wary” of such an acquisition. AT&T’s attempt to acquire T-Mobile in 2011 was abandoned after the Department of Justice moved to block the merger; a merger with Sprint would not as radically change the competitive landscape.
Apple has released iOS 7.1 beta 2 to developers. The update is available through Apple’s developer portal, as well as an over-the-air update for iOS 7.1 beta 1 devices. Initial discoveries within the beta include changes to the iPhone/iPod touch version of Calendar, plus some very small tweaks to settings, including the creation of a top-level settings menu for passcode management, the addition of a third color-modified version of a prior piece of background art, and an accessibility option to create underlines or shadowy boxes for text-format buttons.
Apple has also released an update to its Apple TV beta software, and a new Xcode beta as well.
- December 12, 2013
U.S. wireless carriers will soon make it easier for customers to unlock mobile phones for use on various networks, as the carriers have reached an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. According to sources, the agreement would guarantee that carriers notify customers about their unlocking eligibility. It’s also believed the deal will require carriers to process or deny unlocking requests within two business days. Earlier this year, the Obama administration expressed its support for unlocking phones after a 114,000-signature petition was submitted to the White House. More details will be presented at an FCC meeting later today. [via Reuters]
Update: Additional details have been released in a document from wireless industry trade group CTIA.
Angry Birds Go! (free) takes Rovio’s furious fowl to a new realm — the racetrack. The fully 3-D cart racing game marks the first time the birds have moved beyond the traditional 2-D side-scrolling play environment, raising the prospect that we’ll see the now famous characters in all sorts of games as time goes on, a la Mario. Unfortunately, Angry Birds Go! is a pretty standard racing game with little to set it apart from the masses besides the graphics, which are really quite impressive; the gameplay is surprisingly limited and overly structured to gradually introduce new characters and upgrades at a plodding pace. Additionally, the freemium title is shameless in waving pay-to-play opportunities in your face, filling the tracks with coins rather than power ups and creating unnatural cart upgrade incentives to compel players to spend money.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas ($7) from Rockstar Games is the long-awaited iOS port of the popular PlayStation 2-vintage sandbox game, featuring all of the adult-themed content and impressive audio of the original title. The iOS version of GTA: San Andreas features dynamic lighting enhancements, improved character models, and enriched colors, in addition to the enhanced vehicle models originally introduced in the console game. Support for iOS game controllers is built-in, but the button labeling is a bit awkward during use. There are three different standard control schemes, and dual analog stick controls allow for full camera and movement control. Rockstar Social Club Members get cloud save support, as well. Unfortunately, the game appears unstable at this point, as we’ve experienced a lot of crashes; reset your device if you want to improve your chances of stability.
Samsung lost a bid to ban older iPhones and iPads in a South Korean court on Thursday, Reuters reports. A court dismissed a lawsuit claiming Apple infringed on three Samsung mobile patents. The iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, and second-generation iPad were among the devices ruled not to violate mobile messaging patents. Samsung was also seeking 100 million won ($95,100) in damages, which it will not receive. “We are glad the Korean court joined others around the world in standing up for real innovation and rejecting Samsung’s ridiculous claims,” Apple Korea spokesman Steve Park said. Samsung has yet to decide if it will appeal the ruling.
- December 11, 2013
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on Tuesday that wireless carriers will move away from subsidizing smartphones. “When you’re growing the business initially, you have to do aggressive device subsidies to get people on the network,” Stephenson said at an investor conference. “But as you approach 90 percent penetration, you move into maintenance mode. That means more device upgrades. And the model has to change. You can’t afford to subsidize devices like that.” Stephenson believes a shift to financing new devices — instead of subsidizing them — will be “transformative.” AT&T’s Next program offers no money down and 0 percent financing for new phones, and other carriers offer similar programs; Stephenson said this model is more sustainable. [via CNET]
Apple has released its free 12 Days of Gifts app today — although it’s an annual release from apple, this will be the first year U.S. customers have access to the app. The app will allow users to download a free gift each day from Dec. 26 - Jan. 6. Those gifts could include “songs, apps, books, movies, and more.” Each gift will only be available for 24 hours.
The Animal Alphabet Singers ($4) from Think Smart teaches children the alphabet through hand-drawn animated animals. Four separate learning modes teach kids the alphabet in different ways. Developers of the app include people who have worked on Sesame Street, Avenue Q, Between the Lions, and other popular productions. The app seems very basic at first glance, with relatively flat hand-drawn artwork, but the audio portion is stronger and actually pretty charming. Young children will like the funny ways the animals talk and sing letters.
- December 9, 2013
China Mobile will take preorders for the iPhone starting Thursday Dec. 12, as noted by an ad on its website. The site says “4G is here!” and invites customers to preorder the iPhone 5s, among other phones. China Mobile will provide 4G services after Dec. 18. A pricing plan for new iPhones is reportedly being prepared — a recent report noted there was still some negotiating going on between China Mobile and Apple. [via Wall Street Journal]
Several recent applications have been released to remedy issues users have discovered with iOS 7’s moving wallpapers — namely, unintuitive changes in the ways iOS 7 resizes and positions photographs when used as wallpapers. Michael Belanger’s Fix My Wallpaper ($1) lets users zoom in and out on wallpaper photos, customize colors, and more. Wallpaper Fix ($1) from Bernhard Obereder promises quick resizing and positioning; this app locked up repeatedly during brief testing on an iPad Air. Another wallpaper resizing app is Brijit Sheelia’s Wallax ($1). All of the apps enable you to get a better sense of how an image will appear on the iOS device’s Lock and/or Home Screens, but one may have specific features that appeal to you.
Apple has released iOS 7 adoption statistic on its developer website, unusually nestling the information within an App Store Distribution section of the site. The company claims that “74% of devices are using iOS 7,” though it’s interesting how Apple reached that number. It says that the 74% was “as measured by the App Store during a 7‑day period ending December 1, 2013,” which would rule out iOS users who didn’t visit the App Store in that given week, a different and less absolute metric than has been offered by the company in the past. By contrast, Apple suggests that 22 percent of devices are using iOS 6, with 4 percent of devices still using an older edition of iOS.
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Pirates ($5) is an Assassin’s Creed game in name only, with only the most modest link to the console games. Instead of tracking down human targets from a first-person perspective, Pirates puts players behind the wheel of a pirate ship. It’s a turn-based naval battle game with very modest need for quick interactions, and players can upgrade their weapons, crew, and ships as the game progresses. You might enjoy it as long as you can distance your expectations from the Assassin’s Creed name; the graphics are extremely impressive, apart from the odd juxtaposition of cutout-like 2-D art atop fully 3-D worlds and ships.
Doctor Who: Legacy from Tiny Rebel Games (free) has arrived, likely much to the delight of the multitudes of Whovians. A turn-based puzzle/strategy game, Doctor Who: Legacy lets players revisit old episodes from the TV series. Episodes from seasons six and seven are available at launch, with more episodes and characters to be added daily.
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.
- December 5, 2013
China Mobile has finally signed a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone on its network, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s expected that the iPhone will launch sometime around a Dec. 18 China Mobile conference, where the carrier plans to unveil a brand for its 4G network. A China Mobile subsidiary was briefly taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5c and 5s earlier this week, and the Chinese government previously suggested that Apple and China Mobile had reached a deal.
However, a more recent report claims that no deal has been made as of yet. “We are still negotiating with Apple, but for now we have nothing new to announce,” China Mobile spokeswoman Rainie Lei told Reuters. It’s entirely possible that a broad agreement was reached some time ago, but certain specifics have yet to be hammered out.
Exact Editions, a British digital publishing startup, is using Apple’s iBeacon technology to allow readers to access its titles for free in certain locations. A report suggests the tech could be used within a coffee shop or waiting room, as the publisher could sell multi-magazine subscriptions to businesses and locations. Macy’s also disclosed that it will be using iBeacon to trigger offers in different parts of its stores as part of a pilot program, and a number of Major League Baseball teams have expressed interest in using the technology within their stadiums. [via TechCrunch]
- December 4, 2013
Honda has announced its Display Audio interface and Next Generation HondaLink, two new technologies that will debut in the 2014 Civic and will also be included in the 2015 Fit. Display Audio is a touchscreen interface that connects directly to an iPhone. Its features include audio, phonebook, and media access, in addition to navigation. The interface also integrates with the Civic’s built-in Siri Eyes Free mode, so iPhone users will be able to operate Siri through the steering wheel.
Next Generation HondaLink is an app-based platform that lets users access content in and outside of the car. It will be compatible with the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s at launch. It’s notable that these technologies are not a true implementation of Apple’s iOS in the Car, though the features are similar; it’s unclear whether cellular-capable iPads and other iOS devices will be compatible.
Jetpack Joyride (free), the popular endless runner from Halfbrick Studios has updated to version 1.6 with a number of new features. Strong Arm Machine or S.A.M. mode turns the protagonist, Barry Steakfries, into a giant robot. Using S.A.M. five days in a row will unlock exclusive outfits — 16 new costumes in all. For a limited time, players can buy The Sleigh of Awesome, which is powered by rocket-powered robotic reindeer, as a $5 in-app purchase.
James Kelleher’s Lonely Beast is back in The Lonely Beast 123 ($2), a counting app for kids. The big beast spends his days counting everything in his house, from 1 to 12. Mildly interactive scenes await children, who can listen to a voiceover by The Lonely Beast author Chris Judge. The app promises no in-app purchases, no third-party advertising, and no social media, making it a safe experience for youngsters; light tapping on screens activates voices and small animations.