Google has released version 2.0 of its popular free Google Maps app for iOS today. The update most notably includes an all-new interface for iPad users, which has been absent from the app since its release late last year. Navigation has been enhanced to include live traffic updates and incident reports. Indoor maps are also included — walking directions are now available for malls, airports, and other selected spots.
The app also introduces the Explore feature, which lets users browse restaurants, stores, hotels, and more by category, spotlighting ones in your immediate area first. Zagat content and user place ratings and reviews have been added, and Google Offers now brings deals to users in this major update. As the app is now truly universal, each of the new features is available across all compatible iOS devices.
Apple’s iPhone 5S will ramp up production later this month, according to a report from AllThingsD. “Sources familiar with the company’s plans” have confirmed reports about increased iPhone 5S production, including a mention from analyst Peter Misek. Notably, Misek previously claimed the 5S would enter preliminary production in March for a June or July launch. Misek has now said the latest increase in production will follow current production of Apple’s unnamed budget iPhone, which AllThingsD suggests will be “mid-end,” and likely to sell for $300 to $400 unsubsidized. The AllThingsD confirmation of iPhone 5S production can be taken as highly likely to be accurate, and its discussion of the budget iPhone appears to add further weight to prior pricing rumors on that topic.
Diverging from Mundomono/Kid Bunch’s past fairy tale titles, Bean Bag Kids Apollo 11 ($3) tells the story of the three American astronauts who traveled to the moon, culminating in the first ever moon landing. Using button-memorizing and tapping sequences, kids aged six and up can control takeoff of the spaceship, separation into parts, landing on the moon, and a return to space. The graphics engine has radically improved over the developer’s past titles, now featuring impressive 3-D models and special effects that look like they could have come out of Super Mario Galaxy. The audio and storytelling is reasonable as well, albeit with some small details that could stand to be fixed. There’s a bit less actual Bean Bag character content than before, but the cool spaceship sequences and now interstellar scale of the artwork make up for that. Really young kids will find the button memorization sequences too challenging. Note that this app is currently available elsewhere and should be coming to the US App Store soon.
Care Bears: Create & Share! (Free*) from Budge Studios lets kids create postcards with Care Bear art, greetings, and stamps, then e-mail or save them. The art portion of the app lets you pick from a wide variety of actual Care Bear colors and belly badges, as well as letting you create your own badges. Adult Care Bears and the new child character Wonderheart Bear are included. Greetings can either be typed or drawn, and kids can choose from different backgrounds, frames, and stamp designs before sending off their creations. You can even substitute a photograph of your face for the Care Bear’s face, if you’d like. While the app is free, most of the Care Bears’ bodies are locked behind a $4 in-app purchase that unlocks everything and removes ads — individual Bears can be purchased separately at a higher total cost. Unfortunately, the Good Luck Bear art remains locked even after the purchase, requiring you to promote the app on a social media service to unlock that feature, which may disappoint young kids.
The four major U.S. cellular carriers have announced new plans that will allow customers to upgrade their iPhones or iPads more frequently, or receive unlimited data. Three of the new plans appear to be similar, with one carrier’s new plan going in a different direction:
- AT&T introduced its AT&T Next program today. The plan allows users to get a new AT&T iPhone or iPad each year with no down payment, activation fee, upgrade fee, or financing fees. Customers must pay a monthly device installment fee for 12 months, with fees varying based on the device. After making 12 monthly payments, customers can trade in the used device for a new device. If keeping the device, the installment payments end after 20 months. The AT&T Next program starts on July 26.
- T-Mobile’s recently announced JUMP! program is somewhat similar to AT&T’s program, though only for phones. iPhone users can upgrade their phone twice each year after a six-month waiting period, for an extra $10 monthly fee. This program is already in effect.
- Verizon (updated July 18, 2013) officially introduced its own device upgrade plan, Verizon Edge. Verizon Edge offers a flexible monthly payment plan that lets users spread the retail price of a phone over 24 months. The program will then let users trade in the phone and upgrade to a new phone after six months, if 50 percent of the retail cost of the user’s current phone has been paid. It will be available to Share Everything plan customers on Aug. 25.
- Sprint recently introduced its Sprint Unlimited Guarantee. Unlike the other three carriers, Sprint’s new plan is unrelated to upgrading devices. The Sprint Unlimited Guarantee lets customers lock in unlimited talk, text, and data on the Sprint network for life when signing up for the new Unlimited, My Way or My All-in plans. These plans are currently available, and start at $80 per month.
Griffin today announced the release of its PowerDock 5 ($100), a device charger that can hold up to five iOS devices at once. First seen at CES 2013, PowerDock 5 takes up about as much desk space as an iPad, featuring five USB charging ports and a clear backrest to prop up each iOS device. Each port features 10-watt, 2.1 amp charging—enough for full-speed recharging of non-Retina iPads, as well as all current iPhones and iPods.
Because of its design, PowerDock 5 allows devices to be charged while still in their cases. However, USB cables are not included. PowerDock 5 is available now.
Apple is negotiating to acquire PrimeSense, the company that created the technology behind Microsoft’s Kinect, according to a report from Israeli publication Calcalist. Though the negotiations are in the early stages, a deal could reportedly cost Apple around $280 million. PrimeSense holds important patents related to motion sensors reading body movements, which Apple may want to use as it develops its next-generation Apple TV and/or television set. Microsoft used the company’s technology for Kinect, and is now using it in the enhanced Kinect hardware developed for Xbox One. [via 9to5Mac]
A recent Apple hiring spree focused on the company’s rumored smart watch suggests that the device won’t be ready for launch until late 2014, according to the Financial Times. Apple is reportedly “aggressively” hiring for the project at this time. Though Apple has recently filed for the “iWatch” trademark in multiple countries, the release date for such a product still remains a mystery. Reports earlier this year suggested that the company was facing significant battery life issues as a result of a decision to use the iOS operating system for the watch, rather than sticking with the lower-power operating system built for the sixth-generation iPod nano.
Meanwhile, another report has surfaced suggesting that the Retina iPad mini will be delayed until 2014. This new report from Digitimes claims Apple is attempting to design a Retina display iPad mini with “an almost bezel-free look,” likely to be released next year. A “slightly updated” version of the current iPad mini may ship in the second half of this year.
Update: DigiTimes is now contradicting its own recent report, saying there will be no delay for the Retina iPad mini, which should launch in October. Once seemingly on the upswing, the publication’s track record of accuracy has returned to “highly questionable,” casting doubt on the veracity of anything it publishes regarding future Apple products.
Rovio today announced that Angry Birds Star Wars II will be released on Sept. 19, notably paired with a line of “Telepods” toys that will interact with the game. According to Rovio, “Placing these figures onto your phone or tablet camera will scan your character of choice directly into the game, allowing you to select new characters on the fly.” The figures will be sold in stores for the September launch. More than 30 playable characters will be available in the game, which will focus on the Star Wars prequels.
It’ll also be possible to “Join the Pork Side” in the game this time around, rather than playing with the heroic rebels. Rovio made a point of noting the company “will not comment on rumors or speculation that Jar Jar Binks will be in the game.” [via Rovio]
Apple will use Samsung to manufacture A9 chips for a future iPhone, according to a new report. Samsung reportedly signed an agreement to supply the processors to Apple in 2015. The report notes Samsung lost the contract for A8 chips to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, but regained the order by developing “state-of-the-art 14 nano models.” This appears to contradict a prior report claiming TSMC would start to produce A9 and A9X chips for Apple in the third-quarter of 2014, in addition to the A8 chips, which should go into production this month. Ambiguities in Apple’s supply chain have grown as the company has expanded its manufacturing and component supply partners, including efforts to reduce its dependence on Samsung. [via The Korea Economic Daily]
Apple is looking into the death of a Chinese woman who was apparently killed when answering a call on her charging iPhone 5. According to China’s Xinhua news agency, 23-year-old Ma Ailun was electrocuted when she took a call on the charging phone. Apple declined to comment on details, but released an email saying, “We are deeply saddened to learn of this tragic incident and offer our condolences to the Ma family. We will fully investigate and cooperate with authorities in this matter.” [via Reuters]
Time Inc., publisher of Time Magazine and 20 other magazines, will offer free iOS Newsstand previews for all of its publications by year’s end. The magazines will let users read a few articles from a magazine, while teasing the rest of the content — the Entertainment Weekly iPad app is currently offering the feature in its latest issue. Time Inc. hopes to increase its number of digital-only subscribers with the move. Notably, the publisher didn’t reach an agreement with Apple on magazine sales until June of last year. [via AllThingsD]
The latest edition of iLounge Weekly, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, will be arriving in subscribers’ inboxes early next week. iLounge Weekly is a summary of the week’s best news, reviews, and feature articles we’ve published, and it also features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.
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Also be sure to enter our new uNu DX-5 Battery Case Giveaway for the month of July, in which iLounge and uNu are giving away ten DX-5 Battery Cases for the iPhone 5. Simply fill out and submit the form on the giveaway page to enter; both giveaways will end on July 31, 2013 at 11:59PM Pacific Time. Good luck!
Apple’s new Retina-equipped iPad mini may not ship until next year, according to a Taiwanese report. A shortage of Retina displays may cause Apple to push back the device’s shipping date. The report also seems to indicate there may be a non-Retina version of the next-generation iPad mini, though any differences in release dates or features between the rumored devices are unknown. A June report also claimed the release of the second-generation iPad mini would be pushed back a few months, but indicated it would likely be available by the holiday season. [via Economic Daily News (translated link)]
Apple has launched a “fact-finding visit” to Bangka Island, Indonesia, to see if it is using illegally mined tin in its products, according to an update on the company’s Supplier Responsibility webpage. The move may have been prompted by a Friends of the Earth campaign that calls for Apple to “publicly come clean” about the sourcing of tin in its iPhones. Samsung has already admitted to using tin from Bangka Island. Tin mining on Bangka Island is reportedly responsible for destroying forests and farmland, harming coral reefs, and negatively impacting local communities. [via The Verge]
Apple and Google have seen their relationship improve during the past year, according to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt. Schmidt said the companies have conducted “lots and lots” of meetings, without providing further details about those meetings. Google and Apple are in “constant business discussions on a long list of issues,” he said. Apple has distanced itself from Google recently by choosing to use services on its devices from other companies, such as Yahoo!, and through providing its own Apple Maps service for iOS. [via Reuters]
Verizon may end up owing Apple billions of dollars in 2013 due to a purchase commitment for iPhones, according to a report. Telecommunications analyst Craig Moffett estimates the carrier could have a shortfall of $12 billion to $14 billion, with Verizon obligated to buy $23.5 billion in iPhones this year; a second analyst concurs with the lower number. Such a shortfall could spark some negotiation between Verizon and Apple on how to fill the gap. Neither Apple nor Verizon commented on the report. Notably, the report suggests that Sprint will likely be able to meet its own commitment to buy $15.5 billion in iPhones during over four years. Sprint started selling the iPhone in 2011. [via Bloomberg]
As the fourth game in Eidos’s well-respected Deus Ex series, Square Enix’s new universal release Deus Ex: The Fall ($7) is a remarkably rich first-person shooter—an original title that looks and plays far better than one would expect from a purely mobile release. Continuing the franchise’s dystopian cyberpunk storyline, The Fall includes all of the dual virtual stick exploration and upgradeable weaponry you’d expect from a typical FPS, plus hacking, strategic elements, and dialogue-based “choices” that affect the progress of the story. Players will be impressed by the sheer quantity of spoken dialog and explanatory cutscenes in the 800+MB title, as well as the large, respectably detailed environments and fluidly animated characters—all best viewed on Retina devices. iOS gamers looking for a simpler interface will appreciate touchscreen-ready tweaks, such as the option to tap-acquire targets and/or double-tap the ground to move without the virtual stick. Though the dark, heavily orange-tinted art doesn’t have the jaw-dropping beauty of Gameloft’s best FPS releases, Deus Ex makes up for optical omissions with greater originality and depth.
Enjoyed by many web users, IFTTT (free) has come to iOS in app form. By using the statement “if this then that,” IFTTT allows users to automate a number of services and wireless devices when triggered by other actions. For instance, a user might instruct IFTTT that when a photo is taken, IFTTT should automatically save the photo to Dropbox. There are many possibilities using a number of services, including Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter, as well as devices such as Philips’ Hue, Belkin’s WeMo, and Jawbone’s UP.
Maclocks has introduced the Apple TV Security Mount ($45). Made from aluminum and colored black to match the Apple TV, the security mount includes a bracket and lock to keep an Apple TV secure. The design allows for proper ventilation to prevent overheating, and protecting against Wi-Fi signal loss.
The Apple TV Security Mount can be secured to any flat surface using mounting holes in the bracket, and a security cable lock can be added for $20. Maclocks’ Apple TV Security Mount is available now.
Apple is asking the International Trade Commission for a stay on an upcoming August 5 ban of older iPhone and iPad models. The ITC ruled in June that Apple violated a Samsung patent, and issued an import ban on GSM versions of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, and cellular first- and second-generation iPads. Apple is arguing that the ban will harm both the company and its carrier partners, even though the company previously stated the decision had “no impact on the availability of Apple products in the United States.” Though carrier names were redacted from Apple’s filing, AT&T and T-Mobile are likely the affected companies. Apple is waiting for the Federal Circuit to decide on an appeal. [via GigaOM]
U.S. District Judge Denise Cote ruled today that Apple conspired to raise e-book prices, and a trial for damages will be forthcoming. The U.S. Department of Justice first filed the price-fixing antitrust lawsuit in April 2012 against Apple and five book publishers, all of whom settled out of court before trial. Cote said in May that the government had enough evidence to prove Apple conspired with publishers to raise e-book prices, and the decision today confirmed her prior statement. “The plaintiffs have shown that the publisher defendants conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, and that Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy,” Cote said. The U.S. government and a number of states will likely receive damages from Apple. [via Reuters]