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iLounge Game Spotlight: Rules!

Rules! ($2) is a new puzzle game from TheCodingMonkeys. A polished puzzler, Rules! looks to establish ground in the competitive and crowded territory of casual puzzle games on iOS.

Grabbing early attention hasn’t seemed to be a problem for Rules!, as it’s catapulted to the top of the puzzle game charts and has hit the top ten for all games. It’s a quick-play puzzler which, at first glance, will remind some gamers of the equally exclamatory Threes!— but it has unique gameplay of its own. Developers TheCodingMonkeys may be best-known for converting board games Carcassonne and Lost Cities into iOS games.

China refutes Apple product ban report

Apple products including iPads and MacBooks have not actually been banned from any Chinese government procurement lists, the country’s chief procurement center has said. This new report, from Reuters, refutes a recent Bloomberg report that claimed 10 Apple products could not be purchased with public money for security reasons. Apparently, the confusion may have stemmed from a list involving energy-saving products, on which Apple could not be found — the report notes that Apple has never been on that list.

Apple releases iTunes 11.3.1

Apple has released iTunes 11.3.1, a minor update that fixes a few podcast bugs — one problem caused podcast subscriptions to stop updating with new episodes, and another issue caused iTunes to become unresponsive while browsing podcast episodes. Users can get the update through Software Update in the Mac App Store or at Apple’s iTunes download page.

Apps of the Week: Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings, Godus, Oceanhorn 2.0 + More

New Apps

Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings ($3) — PBS Kids has just released Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings. The app, based on the show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, has a variety of activities for youngsters. Kids can draw, play mini-games, step into the feelings photo booth, or sing along to their favorite songs from the show — all concentrating on different feelings. This is a well done app with lots of content and great voicework; the activities are intuitive, even for younger children. If you’ve got a Daniel Tiger fan in the house, they’ll enjoy Grr-ific Feelings.

NFL Now (free) — The NFL has released its anticipated NFL Now app, also expected soon as an Apple TV channel. Until then, the iOS app allows for AirPlay to an Apple TV. NFL Now claims to offer “hundreds” of new videos daily in a personalized stream. Currently, fantasy football and training camp videos are the focus. Users view the app’s content in portrait mode, and the app automatically switches to landscape mode for video. Only some content is available for free — full highlights and unlimited access to the NFL Films library cost $2 a month for USA, Mexico, and UK users, and $5 a month for the rest of the world.

Apple adds ‘Beats by Dr. Dre’ section to online store

Apple has added a new Beats by Dr. Dre section to its online store. The new section, which links to Beats headphones, speakers, and accessories, can be found in the accessories section of Apple’s online store. It’s interesting that Apple has gone with the “Beats by Dr. Dre” name, as opposed to “Beats by Dre” or just “Beats.”

The online store includes some lesser-known products, including the all-white Beats by Dr. Dre Studio x Snarkitecture Headphones ($600), which were used in Apple promo images after the acquisition was announced. These special edition Studio headphones come with a “signature pillow” that is “cast from cultured marble.” [via 9to5Mac]

Magellan intros Echo Fit sports smart watch

Magellan has introduced Echo Fit, an iOS-compatible sports smart watch. It comes in two models — the base Echo Fit ($150) and Echo Fit with Heart Rate Monitor ($200), which includes a Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitor. The ruggedized, water-resistant watch is an upgraded version of its Echo smart watch, adding activity and sleep tracking. Echo Fit tracks steps, distance, calories, and hours slept, wirelessly uploading data to the Magellan Active app. A number of popular sports apps are also compatible with Echo Fit.

Echo Fit also uses Bluetooth Smart to stream app data from an iPhone to the watch; the watch can also act as a remote control for app functions and music controls. Tapping the screen “turns the page” to reveal more data screens. Magellan’s Echo Fit uses a 1” high-resolution display with a backlight. It has a coin-cell battery that is said to last 4-8 months “with typical usage.” Echo Fit comes in four colors — black, pink, gray, and blue — and is expected to launch in September.

ABC News live video viewers on Apple TV trump desktop, mobile

ABC News claims that its viewers are watching 50 percent more live video on Apple TV than on desktop and mobile combined. The organization has released a new infographic highlighting the first 30 days of ABC News on Apple TV. It’s also noted that viewers spend 65 percent more time per visit on Apple TV compared to when viewing on desktop. ABC also announced it’s adding three new local stations to its current nine local stations on Apple TV — affiliates in Albuquerque, Boston, and Honolulu are set to be added to the channel.

Redesigned Foursquare 8.0 removes check-ins

Foursquare Labs has updated its free Foursquare iOS app to version 8.0. As expected, the redesign has eliminated location check-ins — the feature which first brought Foursquare to prominence. Users looking to check in can now only do so through Foursquare’s separate Swarm app. The new Foursquare is focused on tips and location discovery, as the app aims to find places and things based on a user’s specific tastes. Changes can be seen immediately upon updating, as the app now features a new icon, and a bright pink-and-blue color scheme.

China excludes Apple products from government purchase list

China’s government has excluded iPads and MacBooks from a list of products that can be purchased with public money, Bloomberg reports. Citing security concerns as the reason for the omissions, government officials have left ten Apple products off the official procurement list, including both the iPad and iPad mini — the list does not include smartphones. Apple declined comment.

This is yet another challenge for Apple in developing its growing relationship with China. Last month, state-run Chinese media criticized the iPhone’s location tracking, calling it a “national security concern.” Apple responded with a gracious note that explained how the company uses location data.

Apple, Samsung agree to end non-US patent suits

Apple and Samsung have agreed to drop all patent suits against each other outside of the U.S., Bloomberg reports. A joint statement issued by the two companies confirms that ongoing claims in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, and the U.K. are all being abandoned. Although it appears the two companies may finally be scaling down their patent battle, with no cross-licensing agreement reached, it may only be a matter of time before it picks up again. Both companies will continue to pursue the existing cases in the U.S., and it’s unlikely those conflicts will end any time soon.

Sprint to cease pursuit of T-Mobile

Sprint has decided to stop pursuing T-Mobile as a merger partner, The Wall Street Journal reports. The company also decided at a Tuesday board meeting to replace CEO Dan Hesse with Brightstar founder Marcelo Claure. It was first reported in December that Sprint was working toward a bid for T-Mobile. But facing opposition from regulators, Sprint has decided to refocus its efforts on its own rejuvenation. It’s expected that Sprint will make an official announcement today.

App Store saw record numbers in July

Apple has told CNBC that its App Store set record revenue numbers this July. The App Store also reportedly had a record amount of customers making transactions in the same month. It’s an interesting release of information — the company doesn’t usually make a point of publicizing specific monthly sales — with curious timing, considering the almost-simultaneous report of a new iPhone event having been scheduled for September 9. In another unusual twist, Apple CEO Tim Cook then tweeted about the news, linking to the CNBC story.

Apple’s 2014 iPhone event scheduled for September 9

Apple will hold an event to introduce its new iPhones on September 9, Re/Code reports. It’s believed that both the upcoming 4.7” and 5.5” iPhones will be unveiled at the event, though what it means for the respective release dates of the phones is still unclear; the company traditionally releases new iPhones roughly 10 days after they are announced. Apple declined further comment.

Apple using new AAE sidecar format for iOS 8 photos?

The latest iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite betas have revealed what appears to be a new file format for transferring non-destructive photo adjustments between different apps and Apple devices. When using Yosemite’s built-in photo transfer app Image Capture, iOS 8 JPEG photos transferred to the Mac now include an additional “AAE” file in an XML format, containing keys with names such as “adjustmentData,” “adjustmentBaseVersion,” and “adjustmentFormatIdentifier.” The AAE files are typically less than 1KB each for lightly edited files.

Although it is unclear why Apple would introduce a new way to store photo adjustments, the additional file could enable third-party apps to see the same version of a photo edited with Apple’s upcoming Photos app, or potentially export edits made with prior Apple photo apps such as Aperture and iPhoto. With the recent announcement that Apple will be ceasing development of Aperture and iPhoto—a change that has necessitated export workarounds for replacement pro photo apps such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom—it’s possible that the AAE files could provide a smoother migration path for users.

iTunes Extras Preview added to Apple TV

Apple has recently added iTunes Extras Preview to Apple TV.  Following the addition of new iTunes Extras to iTunes Store HD movie downloads last month, the new Preview feature allows users to see the iTunes Extras menus for a movie without having to buy it. A badge in the upper right corner of the screen lets users know that they can gain the “full experience” of iTunes Extras by making an HD purchase. Notably, the feature is listed as “Preview iTunes Extras” on current-generation Apple TVs, and “iTunes Extras Preview” on units running the latest beta release of Apple TV software. The feature does not yet appear to be available in the Mac or PC version of the iTunes Store.

U.S. DOT mulling new ban on in-flight cell calls

The U.S. Department of Transportation may seek a formal ban on in-flight cellphone calls, reports The Wall Street Journal. Following a Federal Communications Commission proposal to allow in-flight cellular calling, airlines have suggested that they can self-determine whether cellphone service should be allowed, and have accused the DOT of overstepping its authority on this matter; some carriers hope to offer “passenger-friendly” ways to allow calls. According to the report, the DOT is reportedly planning to propose an in-flight calling rule nonetheless, though the department has said that “there is no final determination” on what that rule will be. Notably, a June report said that the DOT also seeks to give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the ability to regulate navigation in cars, as part of the Grow America Act.

New Apple TV beta changes icons, fonts to iOS 7 style

Unexpectedly, the just-released beta software version for Apple TV marks the debut of new icons and font changes within the UI. As one might expect, the changes closely resemble the iOS 7 style. A few of the icon colors for Apple channels have changed, as well. We’ll update this story if we find any other notable details.

Apple hires former Nike, Burberry social media chief

Apple has hired Musa Tariq, former social media chief of Nike and Burberry, 9to5Mac reports. Tariq’s new title is “Digital Marketing Director, Apple.” It’s noted that Tariq worked with Apple SVP of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts while at Burberry; it’s speculated that he will again work closely with Ahrendts as Apple looks to make changes in the retail realm. Tariq earned acclaim for his “Tweetwalk” campaign with Burberry, which shared new outfits just before models hit the runway, and his move from Burberry to Nike was widely reported by marketing industry publications. It’s unclear exactly what Tariq will do going forward, but increasing Apple’s visibility within various social media platforms is a good bet.

Apple releases iOS beta 5

Apple has released iOS 8 beta 5 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch to registered developers. As expected, the release comes two weeks after the previous beta. We’ll update later on if there are any notable changes.

Update: Among other changes, users can now opt to store full-resolution photos in iCloud while keeping device-optimized versions of those photos on an iPhone. iOS users will also now be prompted to allow other devices to use phone numbers for SMS relay. Spirometry data types have also been added to HealthKit.

iOS global usage drops below Android for first time

iOS global usage now trails Android for the first time, according to Net Applications. Android had 44.62 percent of the market share in July, with iOS grabbing 44.19 percent. Though the percentage difference between platforms is at this point very small, iOS controlled more than 55 percent of market share as recently as November of 2013, with a sharp drop-off since March of 2014.

Net Applications tracks operating system share figures on its own network, with the site’s methodology claiming the data is “compiled from approximately 160 million visitors per month.” Though there can be some doubt about the accuracy of the reports, the sheer size of the data set holds up to statistical analysis. If nothing else, it shows a distinct trend, and a continued shift in usage toward Android. iOS 8 and/or the introduction of new iOS devices later this year may reverse the trend. [via 9to5Mac]

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