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Apple releases Podcasts app

Apple has released a new universal app dedicated to subscribing to, viewing and managing Podcasts on iOS devices. Dubbed simply Podcasts, the new app allows users to browse through hundreds of thousands of audio and video podcasts available in the iTunes Podcasts catalog, stream or download individual episodes for offline listening or subscribe to an entire podcast series. A Top Stations feature also provides a unique user interface with a quick view of the most popular podcasts, organized by topics such as arts, business, comedy, news and sports. A radio-like “Now Playing” screen with simple playback controls allow the user to easily skip forward and back and the app integrates with iTunes to access podcasts synced from an iTunes library in the traditional manner. The application also supports syncing episode bookmarks via iCloud for seamless playback between devices along with a built-in sleep timer and the ability to share favourite podcasts episodes via Twitter, Messages and Mail. Podcasts is a universal app requiring iOS 5.1 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download. Syncing episodes requires iTunes 10.6.3 or later and streaming is supported over both Wi-Fi and cellular data connections.

Kensington unveils SecureBack Case + Lock for iPad

Kensington has unveiled its new Folio SecureBack Protective Folio Case & Lock for the third-generation iPad. This folio-style case offers protection for the back and sides of the iPad, a built-in sound deflector to increase speaker volume, and the ability to act as a two-way stand with both typing and viewing modes. It also includes a ClickSafe lock that anchors to the case on the same side as the 30-pin connector, and secures in a single click. Kensington’s new SecureBack Protective Folio Case & Lock for the third-generation iPad is available for pre-order now and sells for $90.

Soundfreaq announces Sound Rise clock radio

Soundfreaq has announced its new Sound Rise clock radio for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. The Sound Rise features a vertical, black design, a front-mounted dock, a USB port for charging other devices, a 2.1 speaker configuration that projects sound up and out into the room, a front-mounted touch panel display, the ability to charge two devices at once, a digital FM radio, dual alarms, and Bluetooth for wireless audio streaming. Soundfreaq’s Sound Rise clock radio will be available exclusively at Target stores this fall and will sell for $99.

Sprint iPhone sales higher at big-box than Apple

Sales of the Sprint iPhone are stronger at big-box retailers than at the Apple Store, according to new research. Citing a study by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), AllThingsD reports that Sprint iPhones made up just nine percent of iPhone sales through Apple, while it accounted for 19 percent of sales at Best Buy and 18 percent of sales at warehouse clubs and other mass market retailers. The difference was accounted for by stronger sales of AT&T and Verizon models at Apple, and comparatively weaker sales for those two carriers at Best Buy and other retailers. Overall, Sprint accounted for 12 percent of iPhone sales, compared to 62 percent for AT&T and 26 percent for Verizon. CIRP’s numbers are based on surveys of iPhone buyers over two three-month periods, ending in March and May 2012.

Facebook Messenger improves photo sharing

Facebook has updated its Facebook Messenger standalone app improving support for managing conversations and handling multiple conversations. Facebook Messenger allows users to carry on group instant messaging style conversations using the Facebook messaging platform; users can add multiple friends to a conversation via either Facebook or SMS, get read/unread status and share locations and photos. Version 1.8 provides in-app notifications to allow users to quickly switch between multiple conversations, swipe to delete individual messages in conversations and see who is available when starting a conversation. Users can also now include friends of friends in conversations and share larger photos that can be viewed full screen and zoomed. The update also improves performance when loading, navigating and sending and provides more reliable push notifications. Facebook Messenger is available from the App Store as a free download.

Instagram adds Explore feature

Instagram has released a small update to its iPhone app adding a new “Explore” section along with several UI enhancements and optimizations. Instagram 2.5 sports a revamped profile tab and visual and speed improvements throughout, and replaces “Popular” with a new “Explore” section where users can now search for other Instagram users and tags; user search will also autocomplete based on people the user is already following. The commenting system has also been improved and users can optionally share “Likes” on Facebook automatically. Instagram 2.5 is available from the App Store as a free download.

Gmail app adds Notification Center support

Google has released an update to its official Gmail app for iOS adding Notification Center support. Although the Gmail app previously provided support for Push Notifications in the form of badge counts, it was missing more detailed per-message notifications found in the iOS 5 built-in Mail app. With the latest update, users can now receive individual new message alerts as banners, Notification Center entries and lock screen notifications. The update also improves support for the alternate sender feature that was added to the back-end web interface in March and adds persistent logins so that users are no longer required to re-authenticate every few days. Gmail 1.2.7812 is a universal app and is available from the App Store as a free download.

Apple seeds iOS 6 beta 2 update to developers

Apple has seeded developers with the first update to its iOS 6 beta. The update has yet to appear on Apple’s Developer web site, but is apparently available as an over-the-air update for those running the iOS 6 beta on their devices. Notably, the update weighs in at 322 MB for the iPhone 4S, 497 MB for the third-generation iPad, and the gears of the Settings icon seen on the update screen animate as the update is downloaded and installed. According to Apple, the update contains “bug fixes and improvements”, it is unclear what other changes might be included in the update. [via 9to5Mac]

 

iOS 6 Maps to boast Yelp check-in integration

Apple’s Maps application in iOS 6 will offer users the ability to check-in to Yelp directly from the app, according to a new report. Citing materials Apple distributed to software developers, Bloomberg reports that the integration—which will let users communicate with Yelp without exiting the map—may help Yelp challenge competing check-in services from Foursquare and Facebook. Apple already has a relationship with Yelp through Siri, and has also integrated the service’s reviews and photos into the iOS 6 Maps application.

Electric Friends intros animal-themed speakers for iPhone, iPod

Electric Friends has introduced a new line of animal-themed speakers for the iPhone and iPod. Aimed at the children’s market, the lineup includes Sing Sing the Panda, Chew Chew the Dog, Kwack Kwack the Duck and Ki Ki the Cat, and each system offers a top-mounted dock, two 40mm neodymium drivers, touch controls on the ears, a 3.5mm auxiliary input, and the ability to run off the included AC adapter or four AA batteries. Electric Friends’ new animal-themed speakers for the iPhone and iPod are available now and sell for $70 each.

Next-gen iPhone to sport built-in NFC?

The next-generation iPhone will likely sport built-in support for Near Field Communication (NFC), according to a new report. Citing code acquired from a Pre-EVT next-generation iPhone prototype, 9to5Mac reports that the iPhones have NFC controllers connected directly to their power management units. As noted in the report, NFC capabilities would tie-in well with Apple’s recently revealed PassBook application for iOS 6, allowing users to conduct transactions without needing to even scan the screen. NFC would also allow users to quickly and easily share contact information and files from one phone to another, among other potential uses. Apple is expected to announce its next-generation iPhone this fall.

Judge throws out Apple, Motorola patent suits

A judge has thrown out opposing lawsuits filed by Apple and Motorola accusing one other of patent infringement. Bloomberg reports that U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner denied the requests for relief in a 38-page court order, in which he wrote that “Neither party is entitled to an injunction,” adding, “neither has shown that damages would not be an adequate remedy.” Posner rejected both companies’ money-damages theories and canceled a related jury trial earlier this month, claiming that there was a “simple failure of proof”. The trial would have been the first between Apple and Google, which completed its acquisition of Motorola Mobility last month.

iLounge Weekly coming Monday, giveaway update

The latest edition of iLounge Weekly, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, will be arriving in subscribers’ inboxes Monday morning. 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 uNu Ex-Era Battery Case Giveaway. In our Giveaway of the Month for June, iLounge and uNu are giving away 10 uNu Ex-Era Battery Cases for iPhone 4/4S. To enter, simply fill out and submit the form on the giveaway page—the giveaway will end on June 30, 2012 at 11:59PM Pacific Time. Good luck!

Minimal seeking funds for Taktik iPhone case

Minimal, makers of the LunaTik and TikTok watch cases for the sixth-generation iPod nano, is now seeking funding on Kickstarter for a new iPhone case. Dubbed the TakTik, the case—which will be made for both the iPhone 4/4S and the next-generation iPhone—is a ruggedized case offering protection from water, dust, and shocks. It features a unique suspension system that includes a 9mm impact truss silicone perimeter that sits between two ballistic polymer or anodized aluminum bezels. The front bezel includes an adhered compression seal liner to keep out water, while the rear bezel features an open, unobstructed camera pass-through hole. Other features include Gore acoustic ports for the speakers and microphone, gasket plugs for the headphone port and 30-pin connector that are furthermore covered with aluminum, a unique ring/silent switch solution that mimics the safety on a gun, and an optional Gorilla Glass protective cover for the front panel. Pledges start at $75 for a ballistic polymer model, $100 for a polymer model with Gorilla Glass, and $150 for an anodized aluminum model with Gorilla Glass.

CineXPlayer adds IMDb integration, remote playback

NXP Software has released an update to CineXPlayer, its multi-format video playback iPad app adding new features for automatically looking up movie information on IMDb, downloading DVD covers and more. In CineXPlayer 2.8 the player screen now includes an IMDb button that can be used to display information about the movie currently being played and users can now surf the web while watching a movie by rotating the iPad into portrait orientation. Users can also now load their movies from CineXPlayer into any browser over a Wi-Fi connection and also remotely control the app from a web browser. Video management has also been improved in the latest version with the ability to transfer videos over Wi-Fi between two devices running CineXPlayer and search for, tag and move multiple files between folders in a single operation. The update also adds a shuffle mode for random playback of video files, a screenshot function for saving still frames to the iPad camera roll and support for playing MP4, MOV and M4V formats directly from Dropbox and downloading videos directly from the web. CineXPlayer 2.8 requires an iPad running iOS 4.0 or later and is available from the App Store for $3.

Flipboard adds Google+, YouTube support

Flipboard has released an update to its universal iOS app adding integration with Google+ and YouTube along with expanded international support. Flipboard 1.9.3 now allows users to connect to their Google+ accounts to view their stream and circle activity presented in Flipboard’s popular magazine format as well as logging into YouTube to flip through videos being uploaded and shared by followed channels. The new version also adds full localization for Germany, Italy, Korea, the Netherlands and Spain along with hundreds of regional recommendations in the Content Guide. Flipboard 1.9.3 is a universal app requiring iOS 4.2 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.

Samsung releases app to ease iOS to Galaxy transition

Samsung has released a new app designed to make it easier for iOS users to transition to the company’s own Galaxy devices. Called Easy Phone Sync, the solution consists of the Easy Phone Sync app that runs on a PC or Mac and a companion app for Android. According to the company, the solution will allow current iOS users to transfer their non-DRM iTunes music, podcasts, and videos, contacts, messages, and photos from iTunes to a new Samsung Galaxy device, and allows those users to continue to use iTunes for media management with their Galaxy device. Notably, the application is only available to Samsung Galaxy device users in the UK.

Belkin WeMo home automation modules now available

Belkin has announced that its WeMo home automation modules for iOS are now available. Originally debuted at the 2012 CES, the WeMo modules are WiFi-based products that sit between a wall outlet and another product—such as a lamp—allowing users to control the flow of power from their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. The WeMo Switch allows for both this functionality and the ability to put devices on a timed schedule, while the WeMo Switch + Motion adds a motion sensor to the package so that the attached device can be turned on or off based on motion, letting users create rules or schedules based on custom motion intervals.

The WeMo platform also features integration with IFTTT (If This Then That), an online service that lets users create tasks combining different Internet-based services. This integration would, for example, allow a WeMo Switch + Motion user to use IFTTT to send themselves a text message anytime motion is sensed by the unit. Belkin’s WeMo Switch and WeMo Switch + Motion are available for pre-order now and sell for $50 and $100, respectively.

Apple launches App Store in 32 new countries

As promised during its WWDC event earlier this month, Apple has launched the App Store in 32 new countries. The new territories include: Albania, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Chad, Congo, Fiji, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Liberia, Malwai, Mauritania, Micronesia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Palau, Papau New Guinea, Sao Time e Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe. With the launch of these new countries, the App Store is now available in over 155 markets.

Satechi ships Portable Energy Station for iPhone, iPad, iPod

Satechi has announced that it is now shipping its Portable Energy Station for the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and other USB-charging devices. The Portable Energy Station is a compact black-and-silver 10,000 mAh battery pack offering both a 1 Amp and 2 Amp USB port, allowing for fast charging of both the iPhone and iPad, as well as the ability to charge two devices simultaneously. Other features include LED charge status indicator lights, an automatic off feature, the ability to be charged over USB or with the included AC adapter, and an included 6-in-1 charging cable. Satechi’s Portable Energy Station for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod is available now and sells for $50.

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