A proposed transportation bill from the Obama administration would give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration authority to regulate navigation aids in cars, including smartphone apps, reports The New York Times. The bill, known as the Grow America Act, contains a measure that would give the NHTSA the ability to place restrictions on apps, and order changes if certain features are found to be dangerous. Automakers and a number of safety advocates support the measure, in the hopes that it will reduce distracted driving. However, tech companies and other critics don’t believe it’s possible to properly regulate such apps. Apple and Google both declined comment on the article.
iOS Bitcoin wallet app Coin Pocket has recently been published in the App Store, as it appears Apple is again allowing such apps in its ecosystem. A recent report noted that Apple updated its App Store Review Guidelines to allow for certain virtual currency apps. Coin Pocket is an app that allows users to send and receive Bitcoin from an iOS device. It won’t be a surprise to see more Bitcoin wallet apps pop up in the App Store now — popular Bitcoin wallet Blockchain was pulled in February, but Blockchain CEO Nic Cary has already said he will be resubmitting the app for Apple’s approval. As noted by CoinDesk, a few other non-wallet apps are also now allowing Bitcoin transactions, as well.
Apple has reportedly been removing fake App Store reviews that have improved the chart ranking of certain apps, according to TechCrunch. These rating removals have been going on for an indeterminate amount of time. A recent tweet noted one app saw 20,000 ratings removed “overnight,” and the report claims it was due to Apple’s intervention.
20k ratings gone overnight? Without update ? Mmm pic.twitter.com/fK3R7CS9Gw— Ouriel Ohayon (@OurielOhayon) June 10, 2014
Another recent report noted that Apple has started rejecting apps that offer rewards for video ads and social sharing. It appears as if Apple is once again taking a larger role to step in and adjust what it sees as problems within the App Store.
Lex ($1) is a new word game from Simple Machine. Players are tasked with building words as fast as they can. Though there’s no board, the game should feel familiar to Scrabble players.
Players in Lex make words from a “rack” of nine letters. When letters are used in a word, they disappear, and new letters arrive. However, to up the drama, the letter tiles start to turn red as they hang around — the tiles “fill up” from the bottom. Once a letter tile turns completely red, the game ends. Letters with the lowest point values fill up quickest, and it appears that Lex dutifully follows the traditional Scrabble point values. For instance, vowels are worth one point, Q and Z are worth 10, and so forth.
Broken Age ($10) from Double Fine Productions is the first graphic adventure game in 16 years from developer Tim Schafer. Famously funded through Kickstarter, Broken Age is an iPad-only game which was first released on other platforms in January. Players control two teenagers who find themselves in similar situations, but in completely different magical worlds. A star-studded affair, it features the voice talents of Elijah Wood, Jack Black, Jennifer Hale, Wil Wheaton, and Pendleton Ward. The game has been well reviewed, and if you’re a fan of point-and-click adventures, it would make a lot of sense to get the iPad version. Act 1 is now available, and Act 2 of the game will be added as an in-app purchase in the future.
(R)evolve (free) is a new release from Team17 Software, best known for developing the Worms series. The game tasks players with taking care of life on an alien planet as meteors crash down upon it in different waves and patterns. Controls are simple — press the left side of the screen to spin the planet to the left, and likewise for the right. You’re aimed with making sure the meteorites hit the bare spots on the planet. Winner of The Great British Game Jam 2014, (R)evolve is a neat little game that’s worth a try for free; a $1 in-app purchase removes ads.
Developer Steven Troughton-Smith, who noted days ago that iOS 8 contained code for two apps to run side-by-side, has posted a YouTube video of the feature in action. Apparently manipulated using a two-finger gesture, an app is resized to create room for another app on the right side of the screen. It’s unclear if that same gesture will be used if or when the feature is eventually introduced.
The previous report noted that side-by-side apps could be run at 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4 size. It’s believed the feature will only work on iPad, possibly even just the iPad Air.
Amazon has introduced Prime Music, a new unlimited, ad-free streaming music service featuring more than a million songs and “hundreds of playlists.” It comes free with an Amazon Prime subscription ($99), but is otherwise inaccessible. Users can download songs and playlists for offline playback, as well. Amazon’s Cloud Player iOS app has now become the Amazon Music app in version 3.0.0, and adds Prime Music functionality.
At this point, we ran into a few issues with the app, as some Prime users were having trouble getting access. Also, it appears that only primary users of a Prime account can access the service using their own password — any shared, secondary users on someone else’s Prime account will have to use those primary credentials to access the service, as is the case with Amazon Instant Video. We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment, and will update if they respond.
Update: Amazon confirmed that only the primary account associated with a Prime membership can access Prime Music.
Parrot has announced availability and pricing for its two new MiniDrone products that originally debuted at CES 2014. Rolling Spider ($100) is an ultra-compact flying drone that can be used indoors or outside. It includes removable wheels that allow it to roll from floor to ceiling.
Jumping Sumo ($160) is the company’s first ground-based toy—a two-wheeled rover that can drive along, zig-zag and make zero radius turns and even jump up to 80cm in height. An integrated camera allows the user to see the world from Jumping Sumo’s perspective as it roams around. Both new devices will be available in August 2014, along with an updated version of the company’s FreeFlight app.
Update: We had a chance to meet with Parrot and get some more information and demos of both new MiniDrones at their media event in Toronto last night. The Rolling Spider will be available in three colours—blue, red, and white—and will include a set of twelve stickers for customization. The camera on the bottom of Rolling Spider can take snapshots that are stored in the drone’s 1GB on-board flash memory and can be transferred off via a micro-USB connection. Jumping Sumo will be available in black/red, white/black and khaki/yellow colour combinations and includes a set of three stickers to personalize its style or mood. Both devices work with the same rechargeable Lithium Polymer 550 mAH battery packs, so packs can be interchanged; Rolling Spider will get 6-8 minutes of use from a single charge while Jumping Sumo can roll about for up to 20 minutes on a full battery.
FIFA has updated its free FIFA Official App before the start of the World Cup this week. As one might expect, the updated app has more information about the World Cup, including the latest news, rosters, schedule, and information on the Brazilian stadiums and cities hosting the tournament. Another upcoming update that FIFA claims will come before the tournament kicks off — in the next few days — will give users a way to follow live game action and participate in “the biggest football conversation in history” with other users.
Amazon’s free Kindle app has updated to version 4.3, introducing the integration of Audible audiobooks. Customers who own the Kindle and Audible versions of a book can now listen to the audiobook from within the Kindle app. Users can switch back and forth between reading a Kindle book and listening to the book, or read and listen at the same time as the pages turn automatically. More than 45,000 Kindle/Audible book pairs are available. Additionally, the app now lets users download an entire collection of books at once.
iOS 8’s SpringBoard includes code to run two apps side-by-side, according to a tweet from developer Steven Troughton-Smith. He notes that the code anticipates that side-by-side apps will be run at 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4 size. While a previous report noted that Apple would add split-screen multitasking to iOS 8, Apple did not discuss the feature during its WWDC keynote.
So… just in case there was any doubt left… iOS 8’s SpringBoard has code to run two apps side-by-side. 1/4 size, 1/2 size, or 3/4 size— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) June 9, 2014
Troughton-Smith noted in another tweet that side-by-side apps show up as one “screen” while switching through apps. It’s unclear if the feature will be activated upon iOS 8’s launch, or saved for a future release, such as iOS 8.1. Also uncertain is whether the feature will work on all iOS devices, just on iPads, or only on larger iPads.
Apple is now cracking down on apps that reward users for watching videos or sharing socially, according to TechCrunch. App developers are now reportedly receiving rejection notices as Apple cites sections 2.25 and 3.10 in its App Store Review Guidelines. Section 2.25 reads: “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected, unless designed for a specific approved need (e.g. health management, aviation, accessibility, etc.) or which provide significant added value for a specific group of customers,” and section 3.1 reads: “Developers who attempt to manipulate or cheat the user reviews or chart ranking in the App Store with fake or paid reviews, or any other inappropriate methods will be removed from the iOS Developer Program.” The latter section suggests that Apple has become concerned about apps containing content that may influence the App Store’s charts.
One developer said his app was rejected even though it had already been released four times before, and the report claims the new rejections may also be applied retroactively. It will be interesting to see how many apps Apple will reject or pull based on these guidelines, especially considering that many popular apps have benefitted from such techniques for quite some time.
This week, we’ll be taking a look at three recent soccer games that have hit the App Store in time for the World Cup, which starts next week. First up are Final Kick (free) and the laboriously titled Penalty Cup Soccer 2014 — World Edition: Football Champion of Brazil (free), both games that focus on penalty shootouts. The other is Pixel Cup Soccer ($2), a full arcade-style soccer game.
Final Kick from Ivanovich Games claims to be “the best penalty shootout.” Players switch back and forth between the shooter and goalie. Shots are taken — and saves are made — by swiping across the screen. The graphics are very impressive for a free game. In-app purchases are available, but they’re not needed to enjoy the game. There are, however, annoying features such as the game making you watch a video ad to continue playing its offline tournaments. It’s not entirely unexpected from a free game.
PayPal is “moving quickly” to integrate the iPhone 5s’ Touch ID into its mobile payment apps, Business Insider reports. PayPal developers recently attended a session on Touch ID at WWDC. “It seems to be a fairly easy API to use, but we’re still kicking the tires,” a source from PayPal said. Currently, Touch ID can only be used to unlock the phone or authorize iTunes Store purchases, but Apple announced at WWDC the feature would be opened up to developers.
Philips, maker of the Hue smart bulb, has tweeted a concept prototype showing Hue being used within an iOS 8 widget. The concept shows the widget within Notification Center — a user could simply swipe down to change the lighting in a room set up with Hue bulbs.
This is a concept prototype to show the use of extensions to provide access to hue from the notification centre! pic.twitter.com/xC92LAgVfq— Philips Hue Dev (@philipshuedev) June 5, 2014
Hue would work with Apple’s HomeKit, the company’s common network protocol for home automation which was introduced at WWDC. Philips’ bulb was briefly featured during the HomeKit portion of the WWDC keynote.
Rovio is claiming its newest update for Angry Birds Space ($1) is its biggest update ever, and has given it a fitting name: Beak Impact. The new episode in version 2.0.0 introduces 40 new levels, in addition to 10 bonus levels. Players can unlock bonus levels by, strangely enough, finding NASA research spacecraft within the levels. Lest you think that was the end of astronautical tie-ins in this update, you are mistaken, as there is now a Buzz Aldrin bird. No, that sentence was not a joke. The Aldrin-inspired “Mighty Buzzard” is now in full effect, and it can completely obliterate an entire level.
USM has updated both Catan and the iPad-only Catan HD (both $5) to version 4.0.5. It’s a major update as the game — a port of the already-classic board game The Settlers of Catan — now offers online multiplayer. Players must register on the Catan servers to access online multiplayer. Both the basic game and the Seafarers expansion are supported, with the Cities & Knights multiplayer to be added in the next update. A number of other optimizations and improvements were also included within the update.
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.
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]
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 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 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.