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iOS 8 features may be pushed to iOS 8.1; Apple TV update still in the works

Apple may push a number of notable features originally planned for iOS 8 back to iOS 8.1, 9to5Mac reports. Some of these features could possibly include Healthbook, an updated Maps app, a standalone iTunes Radio app, VoLTE calling support, and TextEdit and Preview apps, among other additions. Resources are being allocated to the upcoming OS X operating system 10.10 and other projects, which may be the cause of the delayed push to iOS 8.1 for some features, sources said.

It’s also noted that Apple may give “a larger presence” to OS X operating system 10.10 at its Worldwide Developers Conference over iOS 8. iOS 8 could take advantage of a new processor from Apple, referred to as A8 — the successor to its current 64-bit A7 chip.

The report also notes that though Apple planned to introduce a new Apple TV in the first half of this year, it appears obvious that date has been pushed back. It’s possible that Apple’s discussions with Comcast could have contributed to the delay. Apple is reportedly working on both new hardware and revamped software for the Apple TV, but the two things are “not specifically tied together,” and could arrive at different times.

Google brings Google Docs, Sheets to App Store

Google has announced that its Google Docs and Google Sheets apps are now available in the App Store. Both apps are free, and work offline.

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Google Docs is Google’s document app for creating, editing and collaborating, and Google Sheets is a similar app for spreadsheets. The company also announced that its presentation program, Google Slides, would soon be arriving as a mobile app, as well.

Hulu to allow free mobile viewing, launch new app

Hulu announced today that it would let viewers watch a selection of ad-supported TV shows for free on mobile devices starting this summer. Currently, Hulu only allows desktop users to stream full episodes for free, while mobile device users must have a paid Hulu Plus subscription to be able to watch anything at all. Additionally, Hulu will launch a redesigned Hulu Plus iPhone app this summer. According to The Verge, free episodes will reach Android users first before arriving on iOS.

Office for iPad adds AirPrint support

Microsoft has announced that Office for iPad now allows printing via AirPrint. All three Office for iPad apps — Word, Excel, and Powerpoint — have been updated to version 1.0.1, enabling users to print Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations with any AirPrint printer. The Powerpoint update also includes SmartGuides, which helps users easily align pictures, shapes, and text boxes. Excel has also added AutoFit to adjust multiple rows or columns at the same time.

Apps: Clear 1.4, Doozer Creek, Facebook Messenger 5.0 + What Do I Wear?

Clear ($5), the popular productivity app from Realmac Software, has updated to version 1.4. The update has introduced reminders for Clear — users can now set a date and time for each task within a list. Clear can sync the alerts across all devices. It’s also now possible to customize Clear’s sounds through in-app purchases. For $2, sci-fi or 8-bit sound effects can be added to the app. Clear+ users can get the sound packs for free.

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Doozer Creek is a new free app from The Jim Henson Company. If you’re unfamiliar with the characters, Doozers are the small green creatures from Fraggle Rock who love to work. And work they do in Doozer Creek, as kids build worlds on a blank play mat within the app. The interactive building app offers seven free play pieces with additional playsets available for in-app purchase.

iLounge Game Spotlight: Third Eye Crime: Act 1

The stealth puzzlers just keep on coming, apparently. Following last week’s release of Square Enix’s stunning Hitman GO, Gameblyr has introduced Third Eye Crime: Act 1 ($3). Like Hitman GO, Third Eye Crime has a distinct design, with this game going for a noir look.

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Third Eye Crime lays the noir theme on thick from the get-go through an interactive comic strip scene before gameplay. Players control Rothko, a criminal who finds himself walking through various areas while picking up diamonds or other items and avoiding guards along the way. Rothko has limited telepathic abilities — hence the “third eye” in the title. Gamers can anticipate where the guards will go next. This allows Rothko, who isn’t exactly a speedster, to make his escape. If you run into a guard, you’ll have to restart the level.

Apps: Bonsai Slice, Bounsy, IMDb 4.2 + The Weather Channel 6.0

Playground Theory’s new Bonsai Slice ($3) has already gotten some press for its unique play mechanics. The game makes players move and swing their iPads around in their hands as if holding a sword. Onscreen, a swinging sword slashes through items to earn points and coins — sort of like Fruit Ninja, but with actual iPad motion, opposed to touchscreen swipes. Some parts of the game even require spinning around with your iPad in hands to slash at the correct items. You can also upgrade your sword by accumulating coins. It’s more fun to watch someone play the game than to play it yourself. First of all, there are way too many bombs to avoid. They do turn into coins, but instead of getting to swing freely, you’re trying to miss the bombs, necessitating more subtle movements, which isn’t as fun. But even those movements can be annoying — you’re forced to watch the items pop up, then physically move your iPad, all while trying to keep your eyes on the screen. It’s a prime recipe for motion sickness.

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Bounsy is a new game from karzy. An iOS exclusive, Bounsy is a physics-based game that has players using their fingers to guide a stream of balls to a set target. There are plenty of great physics-based games in the App Store by now, so it’s become tougher to stand out. Bounsy’s issue — which plagues plenty of touchscreen games — is that your fingers and hands cover up too much of the screen. This causes the gameplay to feel a bit more frustrating than it should be, but it might bother some more than others. If you’re looking for another physics game, Bounsy is free to play, and the full version costs $1.

Changes introduced to Apple’s app content rating system

Apple has sent an email to developers about recent changes that may affect the content rating of certain apps. A new rating system has been instituted in Brazil to meet local regulations — the rating is determined by an app’s existing content description. Territory-specific restrictions in the Brazil, Korea, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia app stores have also changed. Additionally, developers can now use new descriptions for apps: medical/treatment information, gambling and contests, and unrestricted web access.

Apps: 1Password 4.5, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Health Mate 2.0 + WeMo 1.5.1

AgileBits is calling its newest version of 1Password ($9) its biggest update ever — an apt time for it, considering the catastrophic Heartbleed bug. The password manager and secure wallet app has been rebuilt for speed and productivity in version 4.5. 1Password now supports multiple vaults and sharing from the Mac or Windows versions of 1Password. Multiple Dropbox accounts are also now supported. The app’s browser has been improved, with easier login and checkout, and one button for autofill.

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New from Gameloft is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ($5), a new fighting adventure based on the upcoming film. Players can guide an impressively-animated Spider-Man through an open world, web-slinging and wall climbing while fighting many recognizable characters from the Spider-Man universe. While the game has been designed to encourage exploration, enabling Spider-Man to move throughout a giant and impressively populated city, the swinging, climbing, and jumping controls haven’t quite been perfected, nor have the camera controls, collectively making navigation and movement somewhat confusing. The non-linear design also leaves Spider-Man to fight minor crooks and take on side missions that feel both repetitive and not particularly meaningful, rather than tackling big villains. It’s not a bad game, but with a bit of extra polish, it could have been a great one.

Apple, Google seek exclusive game debuts

Both Apple and Google are approaching game developers to get top titles to debut first on their respective operating systems, the Wall Street Journal reports. The companies are both offering premium placement within their app stores in exchange for exclusivity.  It’s reported that Apple doesn’t offer money for exclusive game debuts, only “marketing or promotional assistance.”

Apple and EA reached a deal for the launch of Plants Vs. Zombies 2 last August — Apple got about two months of exclusivity for the game, and it was released on Android in October. ZeptoLab’s Cut the Rope 2 was also featured exclusively on Apple’s App Store for about three months. Gameloft has considered Apple exclusivity, but thus far has decided against it, opting for simultaneous iOS and Android launches.

iLounge Game Spotlight: Hitman GO

The Hitman game series has proven popular enough to spawn a number of sequels, as well as a feature film. And with the release of Hitman GO ($5), it’s clear Square Enix thinks the franchise still has legs, as Agent 47 makes a big move from stealth action/adventure to stealth strategy.

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It’s important for gamers to think of Hitman GO as a spinoff, rather than a proper continuation of the franchise. Perhaps Agent 47 will become the next Mario, popping into go-karts, onto tennis courts, and so forth. Or not. Hitman GO is a puzzler made to look like a board game, as Agent 47 is merely a piece to be moved strategically from space to space. The game’s most “violent” moments involve knocking over other pieces. This is way more fun than it initially sounds.

Apps: Baby Bundle, Breeze, Helpouts + iOOTP Baseball 2014

The recently released free Baby Bundle app from Nicab Inc claims to be “the first all-in-one parenting app developed by a pediatric expert.” The app offers a free daily activity monitor for sleeping, feeding, diaper changing, and pumping, a parenting guide, and an interactive forum for parents to offer questions and comments. In-app purchases include a photo journal, vaccination and check-up organizer, health reference feature, growth tracker, and a simple iOS-to-iOS device baby monitor. Data can be synchronized on up to four iOS devices.

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Breeze (free) is a fitness tracking app from FitnessKeeper, best known for the RunKeeper app. The new app only works on the iPhone 5s, using the phone’s M7 motion coprocessor to automatically track steps throughout the day. As soon as Breeze is downloaded, it asks the user if it can access motion data — it then gives users the last seven days of data, the very first time the app is used. A few quick jaunts around the house with the 5s in pocket showed us Breeze was capable of tracking steps with solid accuracy as it ran in the background. Users can choose to get status updates on their progress throughout the day, and Breeze claims to not be a battery hog. For many users who want to get an idea of their daily activity levels without committing to a fitness tracking accessory, Breeze is a great option.

Apps: A&E/History 2.0, Ally 3.0, Amazon Cloud Drive Photos 3.0 + Pandora 5.3

A&E Television Networks Mobile has updated two of its free apps — A&E and History — to version 2.0, bringing live streaming TV to both apps. Of course, as you may have suspected, both apps require signing in with a TV provider. A quick glance at the list shows that many major TV providers are supported.

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Ally Financial has released a major update to its Ally Mobile Banking (free) app. The app looks much cleaner and is easier to navigate after being redesigned for iOS 7 in version 3.0.0. A new graph shows a user’s total balance in all Ally accounts, and another new features shows all consolidated activity. Ally is also now offering more details on check holds within the app. Mobile check deposit also has a cleaner look when using the iOS device camera. A number of other UI tweaks make for a much better banking experience.

iLounge Game Spotlight: R.B.I. Baseball 14

The words “R.B.I. Baseball” instantly conjure up memories for gamers of a certain age and ilk. First released in Japan in 1986, R.B.I. Baseball has continued to attract a cult following over time, much like the Tecmo Bowl series. Now, the franchise has been updated and relaunched with R.B.I. Baseball 14 ($5) by MLB.com.

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Staying true to its roots, R.B.I. Baseball 14 is focused on quick, arcade-style baseball gameplay. Gamers searching for advanced management strategies and deep gameplay should look elsewhere. R.B.I. Baseball is a throwback to old baseball games — controls are very simple. While pitching, users can control the speed and direction of their pitches, and that’s it. You won’t find four separate buttons for separate pitches here. You want to throw a changeup? Hold up on the onscreen joystick. Fastball? Hold down. It’s old school. The graphics aren’t flashy, but they do the trick, and the animations are smooth enough. A nine-inning game of R.B.I. takes about a half hour to play, and games can also be set for three or six innings.

Apps: Carousel, Delivery Status touch 5.1, Family Guy + RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile

Carousel by Dropbox is the new free app from Dropbox built solely to manage and provide quick access to photos and videos. All photos and videos are backed up to Dropbox. Photos and videos can also be shared instantly within private conversations. It’s notable that Carousel won’t connect with Dropbox for Business accounts — only personal accounts.

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Junecloud’s package tracking app, Delivery Status touch ($5), has updated to version 5.1. The new update introduces a wide array of new features, including improved background notifications — unnecessary notifications are gone, and updates only become more frequent when necessary. Keyboard shortcuts have been added for Bluetooth keyboards. Among other improvements are tweaks to the map, the clear passwords function, and the return of manual sorting. A bunch of bug fixes are also included in this major update.

Facebook to pull messaging from main app

Facebook will soon be taking the messaging function out of its main mobile app, The Verge reports. The separate Facebook Messenger app will be required to chat; users who click the messages button in Facebook will be transferred to the Messenger app. Facebook is already notifying users in some European countries that the changes will be made in a few weeks. The company confirmed the functionality will be removed in every country.

There are a few exceptions to the change: users of Facebook Paper will still be able to message from within the app, and those accessing Facebook through its mobile site will still have messaging functionality.

Apps: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, NBC 2.5.1, Sago Mini Monsters + Square Cash 1.3

Games based upon movies have a reputation for mediocrity, but Gameloft’s past track record with superhero movie games was solid enough that we didn’t expect Captain America: The Winter Soldier - The Official Game ($3) to stink. The movie-inspired title suffers from a variety of bad decisions, ranging from a boring overhead camera angle to confusing controls, repetitive action and an in-app purchase-heavy upgrade push, all taking away from what should have been a slam dunk companion to the well-regarded film. Captain America and a small team of AI-controlled S.H.I.E.L.D. agents walk — generally upwards from the bottom of the screen — through environments populated with groups of enemies, and you’re supposed to use an overly complex combination of virtual buttons, taps, and swipes to dispatch them. Swiping on things throws a shield at them, while tapping on them or on-screen buttons will throw punches and special attacks, including grenades, sniper rounds, and other support from the agents you choose. Too much of an emphasis is placed on managing and upgrading the team, and too little on making the levels fun rather than just a series of nearly mindless brawls with too little visual pizzazz. We’d advise skipping this one.

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NBC Universal has added a few things to its free NBC app in version 2.5.1. Most notably, the app now features Airplay Mirroring, letting users watch NBC shows on a television using Apple TV. Considering that Apple TV doesn’t have an NBC channel, most users would previously have had to sign up for Hulu Plus to watch NBC shows. The update also offers “trending clips,” which includes clips from NBC late night shows including The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Saturday Night Live.

Adobe debuts Lightroom mobile for iPad

Adobe has officially introduced Lightroom mobile for iPad, a subscription-required tablet version of its photo editing and management software. Lightroom mobile lets users enhance smartphone photos and RAW images from DSLR cameras, as the new app can handle “virtually any image format.” The new app will also be coming to iPhone “within the next year.”

Lightroom mobile syncs seamlessly with Adobe’s Lightroom 5 on the desktop — in fact, Lightroom 5 is required to use Lightroom mobile. A Creative Cloud service membership is also required to use the app, with the least expensive option at $10 per month.

iLounge Game Spotlight: FTL: Faster Than Light

Although it’s not a brand-new game, FTL: Faster Than Light ($10) has just been released for iPad by Subset Games. The winner of several awards and accolades, FTL is a space-based RPG that encourages quick thinking, and punishes failure. It’s the kind of game that allows players to get further and further as they put more time into it.

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Once installed, FTL encourages going through a five-minute tutorial, which is a smart idea. With controls and information spread all along the top and bottom borders of the screen, this walkthrough does a good job of explaining what’s where, and how to play the game. Your task is to control a spaceship, viewed from a top-down perspective set against the expanse of space; this is the main action screen. You must hop from location to location, avoiding the rebels that are tailing you.

 

Apps: AmpliTube Orange, Fantastical 2, IFTTT 2.0 + Monument Valley

IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube Orange ($15) is a new version of the studio recording app, featuring the look and sound of the legendary Orange amplifiers. Like the standard AmpliTube app, AmpliTube Orange is a guitar/bass multi-FX processor and recording studio that connects a guitar to an iOS device using various IK Multimedia products. But IK says the new app was “developed with careful guidance from the tone gurus at Orange to ensure the authenticity of the sound.” The app lets users pick from six amp models and three stompbox models. Users of the original AmpliTube app can get Orange gear models through in-app purchase.

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Flexibits’ popular Fantastical 2 calendar app has launched for iPad with Fantastical 2 for iPad ($15). Fantastical 2 features a dashboard with multiple views, background app updates, and TextExpander support, in addition to plenty of other features. Users can set dates, times and geofences on reminders. Notably, Fantastical 2 supports other calendar services, including Apple’s built-in Calendar app. The app even offers dictation for making events; dictation isn’t supported on iPad 2, however. Fantastical 2 for iPad is currently on sale for $10.

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