Dinosaur Train A to Z ($2) from PBS Kids uses characters from the show Dinosaur Train to teach kids about 26 different dinosaurs — one for each letter of the alphabet. Children can feed the dinosaurs, explore x-rays, and learn more than 50 facts. Additional dinosaur packs can also be purchased. The app is narrated by Mr. Conductor, who fans of the show know is a Troodon. That’s right, T is for Troodon in this app, not Tyrannosaurus Rex. Dinosaur Train isn’t afraid of getting a bit obscure.
Montessorium’s Intro to Letters ($10) has been completely redesigned for iOS 7 in version 2.0. The Montessori-based letter-learning app has also added a new feature, Recording Studio. In Recording Studio, adults can record, save and use their own voiceovers to teach their children the letters. As the app’s description claims, “You learn best from the ones that you love.” The app is currently $5 for a limited time.
Continuing its longtime anti-DRM campaign, doubleTwist has released AirPlay Recorder ($10), a Mac app that enables real-time iTunes recording for offline use. iTunes Radio tracks can effectively be ripped by using the app, which appears as an AirPlay device in iTunes.
AirPlay Recorder for Mac is only available on doubleTwist’s website. The free version of the app allows for 10-second sample recordings, while the full version costs $10.
Patrick Kane’s Winter Games ($3), a new Olympic hockey game from Distinctive Games, hit the App Store in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The game is named for USA Hockey and Chicago Blackhawks player Patrick Kane. With his name headlining a video game, Kane joins a very select group of hockey players, which includes the likes of Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky.
iOS sports games are often at a disadvantage from the start. Sure, they’re inexpensive, but the experience can’t compete with console sports simulation games, which benefit from precise controls, deeper strategies, and official league licensing, among a host of other features. Patrick Kane’s Winter Games tries to bridge the gap between arcade and simulation sports gaming, with mixed results.
PolyFauna is a new app from Radiohead — yes, the band Radiohead. The free app has an expectedly vague description. Basically, you hear clips from “Bloom” off the group’s 2011 album The King of Limbs while guiding yourself through a strange, open landscape. Touching the screen creates different textures as you swoop around. Following the red dot will take you to new areas. It’s a very Radiohead kind of app.
DotEmu has brought R-Type II ($2) to the App Store. The classic side-scrolling shooter from 1989 has proven hard to come by over the years, with various versions not quite the same as the original arcade game. R-Type II comes with the original features — six levels with bosses, and the same weapons and upgrades. But players can upgrade to improved graphics, choose between three difficulty levels, change the screen ratio, and more. The game supports iOS 7 controllers, as well.
The questionable and increasingly strange saga of the mediocre game Flappy Bird has gotten plenty of attention lately, but the App Store has long had a one-touch flapping game that’s actually great — Frogmind’s Badland ($4). Badland now has iOS 7 game controller support in version 1.90. The update also adds a co-op multiplayer level to the game. Badland is $2 for a limited time.
Documentarian Ken Burns has released his own iPad-only app, Ken Burns. The app takes clips from Burns’ filmography and places them in a slick interactive timeline that offers a view of American history. It’s free to download the app, which comes with access to the innovation-themed playlist. The other playlists — featuring more than three hours of video and other exclusive content — can be unlocked in the full version for $10. Other themes include art, hard times, politics, race, and war. iOS 7 is required for the Ken Burns app.
According to a new report from MobiHealthNews, Apple currently has more than 200 people working on the iWatch, but the smartwatch will be a peripheral device that relies on an iPhone connection for full functionality, rather than intended as a purely standalone product. Qualifying rather than contradicting an earlier 9to5Mac story detailing potential iWatch features, the report notes that sensors in the iWatch may not be as advanced or numerous as some expect, with simpler measurements concentrated on displaying accurate, “real metrics like calories,” rather than abstract Nike Fuel numbers, and a lower likelihood of features such as integrated hydration measurement.
Exercise, diet, sleep, stress, and medication adherence are all believed to be targeted by the device, which will aim to bring meaningful health tracking to the masses. It’s believed Apple that is planning on keeping the iWatch and rumored “Healthbook” app — which may have a different name — unregulated by the FDA, which was the crux of the company’s recent meeting with the agency. In order to avoid FDA regulation, Apple would have to report measured health statistics without analysis.
A few weeks ago, we reviewed Chillingo’s In Fear I Trust, noting it was a step in a more mature direction for the company. Chillingo continues down that road with this week’s 17+ rated Bloodstroke ($3), a John Woo game. Yes, that’s Hong Kong film director John Woo, who last entered the world of gaming in 2007 with the third-person shooter Strangehold. Prepare for doves.
Bloodstroke puts players into the shoes of Mai Lee — codename Lotus. A private security agent, Lotus must protect her client, Dr. Koorse, from assassination. Lotus looks pretty tough from the outset, but as you jump into the game, you soon realize — she’s actually invincible. Scores of enemies attack, but Ms. Lee runs around like it’s nothing, completely unaffected by an onslaught of bullets. Dr. Koorse, however, is not quite so indestructible. And therein lies the challenge.
Files United (free) from Zuhanden GmbH is a file manager app that gives users access to documents, images, music, and videos. The app can access Dropbox, Drive, Box, and SkyDrive. Version 1.1 of the app lets users quickly transfer files from Macs to iOS devices in conjunction with the free Mac app. The updated app also supports FTP and SMB access and transfer.
Square Enix’s classic RPG Final Fantasy VI ($16) has arrived in the App Store. Debuting in 1994 for Super Nintendo, many Final Fantasy fans believe FFVI to be the best game in the series. The iOS version uses iCloud to save and access game data across devices. Square Enix says the graphics have been recreated, and the magicites and events from the 2006 remake of the game are included. Additionally, some parts of the game have been overhauled to allow the use of touch controls.
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.