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Apple reveals more Family Sharing details

Apple has set up a FAQ within iTunes Connect for Family Sharing in iOS 8, and it reveals more details about the upcoming feature. The feature lets up to six family members share iTunes, Books, and App Store content through the credit card of one adult with an Apple ID, referred to as “the family organizer” in the FAQ. The FAQ notes that if a family member leaves the group, “their purchases — including any purchases made while part of the Family — will no longer be available to the remaining family members, and vice versa.”

It’s also notable that in-app purchases cannot be shared with family members — apps that only allow access of most content through an in-app purchase will be far less useful for those accessing the app through Family Sharing. Further details can be seen in the included screenshot.

iOS 8 adds new MIDI and other audio enhancements

Additional information from WWDC this week reveals that Apple plans to introduce new audio enhancements in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, including new CoreAudio and CoreMIDI APIs that will include support for MIDI over Bluetooth LE and enhancements to Apple’s iOS inter-app audio feature.

While third-party accessories such as the iRig Blueboard (iLounge rating: A-) have implemented wireless MIDI support over Bluetooth in the past, Apple’s updated frameworks will provide standard APIs that third-party applications and presumably accessories will be able to take advantage of. The new CoreMIDI Bluetooth support will also allow iOS and Mac devices to communicate with each other more effectively, providing the ability for multiple devices to work together in music creation and studio applications—essentially an enhancement that lines up with Apple’s new Continuity approach in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. [via 9to5Mac]

Apps: Google+ 4.7, Instagram 6.0, Toca Town, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Google has updated its Google+ (free) iOS app to version 4.7.0. The updated app introduces Google+ Stories, which combine photos, videos, and places into trip summaries. A new photo editor featuring filters and other creative tools has also been added. Users can now check out total content views within profiles, and support is now offered for reporting abusive communities.

Instagram (free) has upgraded its app to version 6.0.0. The app now has 10 new photo-editing tools, including tools to enrich colors, adjust lighting, sharpen, and perfect a composition. It’s also now possible to adjust the filter strength just by double tapping. Uploading and sharing videos has also become an easier process with the update.

Apple updates app guidelines to allow ‘approved’ virtual currencies

Apple has updated its App Store Review Guidelines to allow transmission of certain approved virtual currencies, Reuters reports. Section 11.17 in the guidelines states: “Apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions.” It’s unclear which virtual currencies would be allowed under the updated guidelines; Apple provided no further details and didn’t issue a response to the report.

Apple previously pulled Blockchain, a popular Bitcoin wallet, from the App Store in February. Blockchain CEO Nic Cary told Bitcoin news service newsBTC that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the recent change, and plans on resubmitting the Blockchain iOS app for approval.

Apple debuts HealthKit, iOS app named Health

Apple has introduced HealthKit during the company’s introduction of iOS 8. HealthKit is a one-stop feature in iOS 8 for health apps to integrate in one place; Apple also introduced a new Health app. The previously rumored feature has been referred to as Healthbook in the past.

iLounge App Spotlight: Disney Karaoke: Frozen

Ever since Frozen hit theaters in November 2013 - at the beginning of what turned out to be a historically long winter - the buzz over Disney’s remake of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen hasn’t stopped. Families flocked to theaters to make it the highest-grossing animated film in history, with well over $1 Billion in box office revenue, and fans of all ages have been singing along with its soundtrack at home, on YouTube, and elsewhere. Today’s release of Disney Karaoke: Frozen ($8) is the company’s attempt to capture some of that interest and monetize it.

For the asking price, iPad users — not iPhone or iPod users — get an app with nine Frozen songs: Frozen Heart, Do You Want To Build A Snowman?, two versions of For the First Time In Forever, Love Is An Open Door, Let It Go, Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People, In Summer, and Fixer Upper. Each song is effectively a music video taken directly from movie footage, albeit with the music segmented into an ever-playing instrumental portion and an optional vocal track.

Apps: Bank of America, Dragon Quest VIII, Pocket 5.5 + TED 2.3

Bank of America has updated its free apps for both iPhone and iPad to versions 5.0.1629 and 5.0.2, respectively. The iPhone app has been redesigned with a number of new features, including requesting replacement debit or credit cards, viewing available credit on credit cards, adding transfer recipients from personal contacts, modifying scheduled bill payments, ordering copies of posted checks, and more. On iPad, there are also new features, though the list is shorter and matches features seen within the iPhone app.

Square Enix’s Dragon Quest VIII, originally released for Playstation 2 in 2004, has come to iOS for the first time. It doesn’t come cheap — Dragon Quest VIII is the rare $20 iOS game —but to some fans it won’t matter, as the classic RPG is available in full with no in-app purchases. As one might expect, the port has a new control system designed to work with touchscreens. Gamers can switch between one-handed and two-handed play, and the combat system now allows for one-tap battles if desired. Although iPhone 4s, iPad 2 and the first iPad mini are included on the compatible device list, Square Enix says some instability may occur on these devices, allowing for freezing or crashing. We’d recommend using one of Apple’s current devices to play the game.

Apps: Reeder 2 2.2, Table Tennis Touch, UltraVisual + Watch_Dogs Companion

Silvio Rizzi’s Reeder 2 ($5), an RSS, Feedbin, and Feedly client, has undergone a number of changes in version 2.2, including the ability to handle feed links from external apps. The app now features optional background refresh capabilities, and a loading progress indicator within the in-app browser. Smart streams can now also be grouped by feed or date, and a few navigation tweaks have also been made. There are also many bug fixes.

There’s no shortage of ping pong games already in the App Store, but Yakuto’s Table Tennis Touch ($4) stands out thanks to its combination of realistic, Retina-quality artwork and intuitive gameplay. Beyond offering the standard “quick play” and “career mode” table tennis experiences one might expect — use a paddle to bat a light plastic ball back and forth with a series of AI-controlled opponents — Table Tennis Touch includes an unlockable arcade mode with six additional fun activities, each with two difficulty levels. Once you’ve mastered playing on a regulation-sized table in one of multiple photorealistic rooms, the arcade levels let you hit bowling pins, skee-ball-styled numbered point targets, or significantly smaller table surfaces as challenges. The swipe- and tap-based controls are fairly precise and very easy to learn, and while the breezy music and cheesy fonts could use some enhancements, the graphics and gameplay are hard to fault. Ideally, we’d love to see the opponents look like people rather than just floating paddles, and the difficulty level could start out a little easier for new players. Still, we look forward to seeing what Yakuto does next, as this is an impressive rendition of a fun table game.

iLounge Game Spotlight: SXPD

SXPD ($2) from Little Chicken Game Company is being billed as “the world’s first true game-comic book hybrid.” Featuring a full 42 page comic book with six chapters, the game was created by noted developer David Perry, who’s known for his design of games like Earthworm Jim and Wild 9. The game features art from DC Comics artist Duke Mighten. As a part of OneBigGame’s initiative, net proceeds of the game will go to charity. SXPD is an iPad-only game.

One would think the story in SXPD should be more important than most iOS games — it is a game-comic book hybrid, after all. The game is set in the 52nd state of America — New Royale, which is privately owned by a billionaire. We’re not told what became the 51st state. You’re a member of an all-female police force, trying to prevent apocalyptic events from happening within the state. It may not be the greatest story ever told, but it’s certainly enough to suck you in. We wished the comic sections were a bit longer, actually.

Apps: djay 2 2.5, Infinity Blade III 1.3, Notifyr + Southwest 2.4

Algoriddim’s popular DJ app djay 2 ($5) has added more than 20 million new songs in version 2.5 as the developer has partnered with Spotify, giving users a nearly endless amount of songs to mix. That would be enough to qualify for a major update, but the app also adds matching programs, which finds similar songs on Spotify. An all new Audio FX section has been added to the app as well, offering more than 30 new audio effects. New samples and overall improvements have also popped up in the update.

Chair Entertainment has released its Blade Masters update for Infinity Blade III with version 1.3. On sale for $3, the game has introduced the Collector, a master out to “acquire the finest weapons ever crafted.” A trainer feature and goal chase feature have been added, and players can now customize their characters. New treasure maps, enemies, items, goals, and achievements have all been added. The new update includes all the content from the previous updates, Ausar Rising and Soul Hunter.

Apple WWDC app update reveals keynote set for June 2

Apple has released version 2.0 of its free WWDC app ahead of its upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference. The app reveals a good portion of the conference’s schedule, including the keynote, which is set for 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. PST, Monday June 2. A number of the events on the conference schedule have still yet to be announced. Maps of the Moscone West venue in San Francisco and videos from past WWDCs are also included within the app. [via 9to5Mac]

Italian authorities seeking response from Apple on in-app purchases

Italy’s Antitrust and Competition Authority is investigating Apple for misleading consumers by advertising free apps that actually required in-app purchases to keep playing. Google, Amazon, and Gameloft are also being targeted by authorities for the same reason. The companies now have 20 days to comply with information requests and to offer a defense, ZDNet reports. According to the report, the companies could face a fine of up to €5 million — about $6.85 million. Authorities took action after examining a Gameloft app called Littlest Pet Shop, a free kids app that offers in-game currencies.

Apple has been scrutinized a number of times for its in-app purchase model during the past few years — the company settled a class action lawsuit over freemium apps aimed at children in February 2013, and settled with the Federal Trade Commission over IAPs in January 2014. The FTC forced Apple to modify its billing practices in the App Store.

iWork for iCloud adds up to 1GB file support, interactive charts, more

Apple has updated iWork for iCloud with new features, including the ability to create and format 2-D and interactive charts. Documents up to 1 GB can now be edited, and images up to 10 MB can be inserted into documents. Additionally, up to 100 people can now collaborate on a single document. All of these changes have been instituted in Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, with each program receiving additional minor changes as well. The changes can be seen when opening the programs at

Apps: 100 Balls 1.3, The Awesome Collection, The Elements Flashcards + Sago Mini Space Explorer

Giedrius Talzunas’ 100 Balls (free) is currently topping the Free Apps chart in the App Store. First released in April, the app has updated to version 1.3 with new bonus balls, cups with effects, and new soundtracks. A simplistic game, 100 Balls has players dump balls into cups moving on a track. As the game advances, the cups move faster and change colors — the different colored buckets give players the opportunity to get higher scores. The game ends when all the balls are lost or all the buckets are gone, as each empty bucket that passes by without receiving any balls drops off the screen. It’s better than many of the recent top free gaming apps, but not by much. 100 Balls will likely only prove addictive for the easily amused.

In what we hope will be a continuing series, StoryToys has released The Awesome Collection - Interactive Books, Jigsaws and Stickers ($10/$5), a collection of three of its prior storybooks in one app. A single download gets you Grimm’s Puss in Boots, The Jungle Book, and Haunted House, each containing a voice-narrated story and a lightly animated, multi-page 3-D storybook to entertain kids. If purchased separately, the books would otherwise cost $11 plus $9 of in-app purchase content. Although that additional content isn’t worth buying separately — it’s sets of very simple jigsaw puzzles and sticker books based upon artwork created for the stories — and Haunted House isn’t as strong in the story department as the other two titles, the overall value delivered by the combined package is high, particularly at its $5 introductory price. If you don’t already have one of the three included books, definitely consider grabbing it before the price doubles.

iLounge Game Spotlight: JoyJoy

JoyJoy ($2) is a frantic, flashy shooter from Radiangames. Originally released on Xbox Live Indie Games four years ago, JoyJoy just hit the App Store this week with touchscreen controls. The developer has noted the scoring system has been revised for the new mobile version, as has the game’s UI.

From the start, JoyJoy’s look reminded us of an old-school handheld water tank game, where you’d have to push a button to get a ring or a ball to float to a certain place. It’s simple, but inviting, with fluid animation. Screenshots don’t really do the game justice. Your small ship is trapped inside a similar, blue area and you must zoom around, fending off enemies with a variety of weapons as you dip and dive past them. Each new level — referred to as a wave — brings new enemies, patterns, and challenges.

Apple allowing promo codes for in-app purchases?

Apple is now apparently allowing developers to provide promo codes for in-app purchases, if a recent EA promotion is any indication. As pointed out by, EA is offering a promo code for “10 free gold” within Real Racing 3, normally a $2 purchase. Users must visit this link to take advantage of the free gold offer. It’s unclear if this is a one-time-only thing, or indicative of a new stance by Apple. A policy shift would make it easier for reviewers and others to access more in-app content.

Apple updates Podcasts, iTunes Connect apps

Alongside updates to its iTunes software, Apple today released new versions of two of its iOS apps: Podcasts and iTunes Connect. Podcasts 2.1 sees a number of improvements to episode browsing, Siri integration, and more. A new Unplayed tab lists podcasts that haven’t yet been listened to, while the Feed tab shows episodes available to download or stream. Podcast episodes can now be set to be automatically deleted after being played.

Among other new features, Siri can now play specific podcasts and stations, CarPlay support has been added, and links can be shared using AirDrop.

iTunes Connect, a developer tool, has been completely redesigned for iOS. Additionally, it can now be used to access music, movies, and TV shows developers have made available in the iTunes Store, in addition to apps.

Apps: 9/11 Museum Audio Guide, Google Search 4.0.0, Haunted House + Swarm by Foursquare

The National September 11 Memorial Museum is set to open next week in New York City, and the museum has released the free 9/11 Museum Audio Guide app ahead of the opening. The guide offers themed audio tours, with stories from 9/11 and the recovery at Ground Zero. The Witnessing History Tour is narrated by Robert De Niro, with other stories offered by those who experienced the tragic events of that day. There are also audio tours for younger children and those interested in the architectural aspects of the World Trade Center and the museum. It’s a well-designed app, but some may find the memories too raw and unsettling.

Google’s free Google Search app has been updated to version 4.0.0. Users can now use the voice search feature for associated questions—for example, “What’s the weather like?” followed by “How about this weekend?”. Google Now has added cards and loads faster, and it will also now tell users when there are new articles on their favorite topics, trips, authors, and blogs.

Columbia students develop software to run iOS apps on Android

A group of six PhD students at Columbia University have developed Cider, an OS compatibility architecture that permits native iOS apps to run on Android, The Next Web reports. Cider accomplishes this using binary compatibility techniques rather than a virtual machine layer, allowing Android apps to continue functioning on a device while the OS abstraction layer is in place. The report notes the performance of iOS apps on the device is “less than stellar” and not all app features can be supported — for instance, apps that require a device’s camera, Bluetooth, or GPS won’t work. Cider is still a prototype at this time, however, and the students have indicated they are continuing to develop the software.

Apps: Castlestorm, Castro 1.1, Square Order + Twitter 6.5

Castlestorm - Free to Siege is a new realtime strategy tower defense game from Zen Studios. As you might imagine — because the word is right there in the title — it’s free to download. As these games go, the gameplay isn’t bad—varied enough to keep a gamer’s interest for more than a few minutes. But as usual in these cases, your overall enjoyment of the game will be tested by your ability to tolerate in-app purchase requests. Castlestorm offers plenty of IAPs, and the game prompts players to make purchases quite frequently. A paid option without all the ads and IAPs would have been nice. A better name might have been Castlestorm - $1.99 to Siege.

Supertop’s Castro — High Fidelity Podcasts ($4) app has updated to version 1.1 with a completely new design.. The updated app features continuous play, so Castro can automatically play the next episode in your timeline — those episodes can be sorted, and users can control whether or not they’ll stream using cellular data. A new pitch shift algorithm claims to provide improved audio. The app has also added localizations and a sleep timer, among other changes. For heavy podcast listeners, Castro is worth a look, especially compared to Apple’s Podcasts app.

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