Apple has pulled the popular Bitcoin wallet Blockchain from its App Store, leaving iOS users with no remaining Bitcoin wallet apps. Blockchain was removed on Wednesday, and Apple didn’t provide a specific reason to Blockchain CEO Nicolas Cary, only explaining the app was removed “due to an unresolved issue.” “It’s well known that Apple is developing its own payment system,” Cary told The New York Times. “They are building a walled garden to interfere with innovation.” According to Wired, Blockchain is the world’s most popular Bitcoin wallet. The app is used by about 120,000 people, with more than 1 million Blockchain users in total.
Google Maps (free) has been updated to version 2.6.0. Though there’s only one notable change in the app, it’s a big one — the app now notifies users when a faster route is available while in navigation mode. If you’re stuck in traffic, or if traffic awaits ahead, the app should offer you another route if there’s a faster alternative.
OpenTable has updated its free app to version 6.2.0. The new update helps users searching for a table at a specific restaurant. “Find future tables” lets users scan up to two months of table reservations for that restaurant—a big improvement that should help users get into popular places.
Apple is testing new charging options for its iWatch, The New York Times reports. The company has reportedly tested a method to charge the wristwatch’s battery using magnetic induction. Apple is also “experimenting” with types of new power-charging methods. Among these experiments is a solar-charging layer over a curved glass screen that could power the device during daylight, and a battery that’s charged by kinetic movement, such as arm swinging during walking. The Times notes some of the methods being tested “are years from becoming a reality,” which means that a first-generation iWatch release this year might not include any of the technologies. “Hoping and betting on new battery technology to me is a fool’s errand,” former Apple SVP and “father of the iPod” Tony Fadell told the Times. “Don’t wait for the battery technology to get there, because it’s incredibly slow to move.”
Apple is also likely developing its upcoming iOS 8 update with iWatch in mind, according to 9to5Mac. iOS 8 will reportedly include a new app with the codename “Healthbook.” The app will be able to monitor a user’s vital signs, in addition to health tracking features, using Passbook-style data cards to organize different results captured by the device and accessories. It’s suggested that “Healthbook” could relay information from the iWatch, as the iWatch has reportedly been “designed to be heavily reliant on the iPhone.”
Rocket Robo ($1) is a new 2.5D side-scrolling puzzler from Aaron McElligott. In the game, you guide a little jetpack-equipped robot through a number of bright, twisting levels, picking up stars before you reach the finish line. It’s rated 4+.
From the get-go, Rocket Robo is a joy to look at, with bright, colorful levels and a cute little character who bears a passing resemblance to the robots from the 1987 film Batteries Not Included. The handwoven textures in the first world, Material World, bring to mind LittleBigPlanet’s Sackboy and Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii. The next world features more traditional space station levels.
Zynga announced that the company has acquired NaturalMotion, developer of the Clumsy Ninja app, for $527 million in cash and equity. Zynga also announced it would lay off 314 employees, or 15 percent of its workforce. Though Clumsy Ninja was first introduced during the Sept. 2012 media event for the iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch, its release was delayed until Nov. 2013. The game has proven to be very popular despite the delay — Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said during Apple’s recent earnings call that Clumsy Ninja was downloaded 10 million times during its first week of release.
Thousands of iBeacons will be placed in Major League Baseball ballparks next week, with MLB hoping to have 20 parks outfitted by Opening Day in late March. Boston, Milwaukee, San Diego, San Francisco, and the L.A. Dodgers will be among the teams with iBeacons installed in their stadiums, MacRumors reports. Each park should have about 100 iBeacons installed. It was reported last year that many MLB teams expressed interest in iBeacon, with the New York Mets already testing the technology. iBeacon will work with MLB’s At The Ballpark app. Though functionality will differ in each ballpark, it’s likely the app will use iBeacon to offer ballpark information, concessions coupons, and loyalty programs, among other features.
Facebook has updated its free app to version 6.9.1. The update lets users choose whose posts to see in News Feed, and also puts all uploaded videos into one album. More notable, however, was Facebook’s introduction of Paper. The new iOS app lets users view their Facebook News Feed in addition to other sections featuring outside content, such as sports and food. At first glance, Paper looks like an intriguing, well-designed app. It will be released Feb. 3, and we’ll have more on it next week.
Jack and the Beanstalk ($5) is more than just another new interactive storybook app from Nosy Crow. The developer has really upped the ante — a more cinematic presentation highlights the upgraded high-resolution graphics, and the camera work within the app is very well done. More gaming elements have been added, and Nosy Crow hopes that will get more reluctant readers into the story. For instance, Jack gets to climb the beanstalk while being assisted by the child reader. All of this is bolstered by the same high-quality voice acting and music expected from Nosy Crow.
A Gmail bug has accidentally deleted the emails of some users, and reported others as spam. Gmail’s iOS app, mobile browsers using Gmail, and the offline version of Gmail recently fell prey to a software bug which did not affect all users, Google said. According to a notice from Google, the issue occurred between Jan. 15 and 22 and is now fixed. Users should check Trash and Spam folders before Feb. 14 to see if any items were deleted or marked as spam due to the bug. [via The Verge]
Jackadam’s Dark Sky ($4) weather forecast app is known for telling users exactly when precipitation will start to fall, an hour in advance. In version 4.0.0, the app has been completely redone for iOS 7, with extended 24-hour and 7-day forecasts. All new global maps have also been added to the visually appealing app. If you experience issues opening the app after updating to 4.0.0, delete it and re-install it; we found that this was necessary to enable the updated app to run.
Jet Car Stunts 2 (free) is the new sequel to True Axis’ Jet Car Stunts. The game features what the developer describes as “crazy stunt driving on outlandish courses,” and it’s hard to argue with that. Gamers use onscreen buttons to control speed while tilting the device to steer and adjust its angle for jumps The free version’s depth is questionable, but the first 10 levels are free. After that, in-app purchases are required to continue. Silky-smooth polygonal graphics will remind classic gamers of early 3-D driving games from Atari and Sega.
Nintendo plans on releasing free mini games on smartphones by year’s end, according to a new report from Japanese newspaper Nikkei. It’s unclear whether the games will be stand-alone titles, or merely demos for existing or upcoming Nintendo games available on the company’s own hardware; the company is apparently hoping to leverage smartphones and tablets to entice people to buy its handheld and home consoles. Other information about Nintendo games may be made available through smartphones, as well. Further details on the plan will reportedly be announced this week. [via Kotaku]
Update: Nintendo has told Engadget the company has no plans to release mini-games on smartphones.
Developer Steven Troughton-Smith, who last week showed pictures of a pre-release version of Apple’s upcoming iOS in the Car, has uploaded a video to YouTube of the system in action. The video shows an iOS in the Car in-dash display running next to an iPhone using iOS 7.0.3. Troughton-Smith notes on YouTube that this is “all available in the public, shipping version of iOS 7.”
He also notes iOS in the Car supports multiple resolutions, touchscreens, hardware buttons, wheels, and touchpads. It does not support multitasking, as the car display shows the same app as the iPhone. Voice recognition is used as input, as there is no keyboard UI. Most notably, Troughton-Smith points out the UI is “clearly subject to change;” screenshots released recently showed a markedly different interface with a vertical, driver-side control panel. [via 9to5Mac]
The National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters have been working together to collect user information through “leaky” mobile apps, according to secret documents released by Edward Snowden. Google Maps, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, and Twitter are all used as examples of apps said to scoop up personal information in a recent New York Times report. Information obtained from these apps may include address books, buddy lists, phone logs, and geographic data. The report notes that the “scale and specifics of the data haul are not clear.”
Though Angry Birds is used as example of a newer app the agencies could use to acquire information, it is not made “explicit whether the spies have put that into practice.” The NSA and the British Agency are reportedly mining information that has been acquired by ad firms, with data depending on which ad service compiles the user data profiles. In addition to the Times report, The Guardian and ProPublica have their own reports on the documents.
We’re debuting the iLounge Game Spotlight to give you an extended look at one particularly interesting game per week, helping you to decide whether or not a title is worth your time and money. Enjoy!
In Fear I Trust ($3) is not a game you might expect from Chillingo, the publisher of Catapult King and the original Cut the Rope. It’s a first-person puzzle game described as a psychological thriller, and it comes with a 17+ rating. Like some other similar games, In Fear I Trust recommends gamers play with headphones for the best, most immersive experience. The game is compatible with iPad and iPhone, but not iPod touch.
There will be no story spoilers here, which fits right in with the game, as you wake up in a facility with no knowledge of what happened before. As the app description explains — and as you’ll probably sense — you became a test subject in this strange gruesome place, but how? And why? You pick up clues to piece together the story.
Apple has issued updates for the iOS editions of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. All three — updated to version 2.1 — gain the ability to share password-protected documents via iCloud link, in line with the recent iWork for iCloud update. The suite sees improved compatibility with Microsoft Office 2013 documents, and bug fixes and stability improvements. Additionally, each app has its own individual upgrades.
For example, Pages now allows character counts with or without spaces, and improved support for bidirectional text, while Numbers users can view and edit spreadsheets in landscape orientation. Keynote has absorbed the features of Keynote Remote, which has been removed from the App Store, and can now control presentations on other devices. There are also new transitions among the other changes.
Beamdog’s Baldur’s Gate II ($15) Enhanced Edition has arrived on iPad. This edition of the classic fantasy RPG includes the original Shadows of Amn campaign, in addition to a number of expansions, including the Throne of Bhaal expansion. The game is only available for iPad and requires 2.5 GB of free space.
In Fear I Trust ($3) is a new 17+ rated nightmarish puzzle game from Chillingo. It’s available for iPhone and iPad, but not compatible with iPod touch. Look for more information tomorrow in our new Game of the Week feature.
Apple has updated iWork for iCloud, adding redesigned elements to the web apps while introducing new features to Pages, Numbers and Keynote. The template selector and document library now resemble iOS 7. Upon opening the apps, Apple reveals the new changes.
Users can now add passwords and share password-protected documents, and view documents that have been shared by others, among other features added to each app. VoiceOver support has also been improved in all three apps. [via 9to5Mac]
iLounge has heard from reliable industry sources that Apple TV will soon be getting proper game support in an update, likely to come in March or earlier. We’ve heard that developers are currently working on Bluetooth controller options, and it’s expected that games could be downloaded directly to the Apple TV rather than relying on another iOS device as an intermediary. One developer has suggested that game support could be backward-compatible with the current-generation Apple TV. However, it’s unknown what current Apple TVs would use for storage — it’s possible iCloud could be part of a solution. This update would effectively put Apple TV on par with the latest Roku devices, which have already had their own app stores for some time. An Apple TV App Store has been awaited for years.
Beats Music has released its anticipated streaming music service in the App Store. Though the app download itself is free, Beats Music is a subscription service that costs $10 a month after a one-week free trial. There is no ad-supported free version of the service. Beats Music offers more than 20 million songs that lets users stream or save to a device to listen while offline. It’s very similar to other streaming services; other than a few minor features, the Beats name and mood-based station creation are the biggest distinguishing factors.
Box (free) has updated its app to version 3.0.0. The redesigned cloud content management app now offers 50GB of free lifetime storage to iOS users. This update includes a new preview experience, faster document rendering and photo loading, and a real-time search for files. Box is also in the process of becoming integrated into other apps, including a revised version of iTeleport Connect that was just released.
Developer Steven Troughton-Smith appears to have activated Apple’s iOS in the Car ahead of its launch, showing pictures of the interface on his Twitter feed. According to a report, iOS in the Car functionality has been nestled within iOS 7 all along, but this is the first reported activation of the system. Notably, there are major differences between Troughton-Smith’s pictures and those seen on Apple’s website, suggesting either that the UI has been redrawn since it was first shown by Apple, or that the version Troughton-Smith found is outdated.
A safety warning, app screen, and custom version of Maps can be seen among the pictures, which suggest that most user-accessible touch elements have been moved to the left side of the screen, closer to the driver’s side of a car. An on-screen Home Button now appears in the bottom left corner of the screen, with another button—possibly a voice prompt/Siri speaking trigger—at the top left of the screen. It’s still too early to know what iOS in the Car will look like upon release, but the screenshots suggest some of the possibilities that Apple is considering. [via 9to5Mac]
Adobe will apparently be bringing its Lightroom photo editing and management suite to iPad, 9to5Mac reports. Lightroom for Mobile was briefly featured on Adobe’s website before getting pulled, and an Adobe chat representative confirmed the program is built for iPad. It appears that apart from the Lightroom iPad app, a $99 annual subscription will let users sync Lightroom photos in the cloud. An exact release date for Lightroom on iPad is unknown at this point.