U.S. Cellular announced that it will “begin offering Apple products later this year” during a release of its quarterly revenue results. Though no specific products were mentioned in the announcement, the iPhone will likely be offered, as U.S. Cellular notes, “By further strengthening our device portfolio, we’ll give consumers another great reason to switch to U.S. Cellular, and enable our existing customers to choose from an even wider variety of iconic smartphones, and enjoy the outstanding U.S. Cellular customer experiences they deserve.” U.S. Cellular currently boasts 5.8 million customers — the carrier claims its 4G LTE network currently covers 61 percent of its customers, and the network will be expanded to cover 87 percent of its customers by year’s end. [via 9to5Mac]
As it has for a number of iTunes milestones, Apple has launched a new contest, this time for the 50 billionth iOS app downloaded. The person who downloads that app will win a $10,000 App Store Gift Card, and the next 50 people will win $500 App Store Gift Cards.
Along with the prizes, Apple has listed the top 25 all-time paid and free apps, for both iPhone and iPad, with Angry Birds, Facebook, Pages, and Skype for iPad at the top of the lists, respectively. As of the time this story was posted, the counter appeared to be at just over 49,207,000,000 downloads; a rough calculation suggests that the 50 billion mark will be hit in roughly 11 days.
With users of Google Now for iOS — found within the Google Search app — complaining about excessive battery drain, a recently published post on Lifehacker suggested turning off location reporting in settings for a fix. However, Google responded to the Lifehacker report, claiming that reports about excessive loss of battery life are “incorrect.” The company claims Google Now uses cell towers and wifi hot spots “for much lower battery impact.” Google claims Google Now for iOS was tested extensively for months without any significant battery impact.
Apple has released iOS 6.1.4, an iPhone 5-only update. The software update lists an updated speakerphone audio profile as its only revision.
Originally a Facebook-only game, Rovio’s Angry Birds Friends is now available on iOS for free. The game still revolves around Facebook though — you have to sign into Facebook to compete in the tournaments and challenge friends for trophies. New levels are added to tournaments every week, and the iOS game syncs automatically with the Facebook game. However, keep in mind the only single-player experience focuses on practicing with power-ups. It’s free, but Angry Birds Friends is still only worth downloading if you’ve got friends willing to play along. Otherwise, you’d be better off sticking with one of Rovio’s many other flying fowl titles.
Haunted Hollow (free) from 2K Games was developed by Firaxis, the same studio that made Sid Meier’s Civilization and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The new strategy game for iOS lets players build and rule over a mansion while creating an army of monster minions. Players can send monsters such as vampires, zombies, mummies, witches, and reapers into town to capture townhouses and do battle. Multiplayer mode lets Haunted Hollow players face off against friends.
Gear4, the U.K.-based brand behind Apple accessories such as AlarmDock Halo 2 and Renew SleepClock, has gone bankrupt and cut most of its U.K. workforce, but has effectively been re-formed as a new entity in Hong Kong. Disruptive Hong Kong bought the rights of all designs, brands, and intellectual property from Disruptive Ltd — the company behind the Gear4 branding — and the company is relocating its headquarters. Disruptive founder and CEO Tom Dudderidge said the economic climate forced the company to review its operations, including “product development, business model and location.” According to the company, all U.K. customer warranties will be honored, and the company will retain a small number of sales and marketing workers in the U.K. [via The Channel]
- May 1, 2013
Apple CEO Tim Cook will be interviewed on opening night to kick off All Things D’s D11 Conference, which runs from May 28-30. All Things D notes there’s “lots to talk about,” including mobile market growth, competition from Samsung and Android, changes at Apple, and new products in the pipeline. Cook also spoke at last year’s conference, discussing post-Steve Jobs Apple, Chinese manufacturing partners, and patent disputes, among other topics.
A “sweeping software overhaul” of iOS leaves Apple at risk of delaying the operating system’s release, according to a new report. While Apple expects to release iOS 7 “on time as soon as September,” “engineers are racing to finish” the software in time for a preview at next month’s WWDC, and internal development milestones are being shortened due to the rush. As noted in a previous report, Apple’s Jony Ive is apparently making massive changes to iOS, moving toward a flat interface and away from skeuomorphism. “More dramatic changes” are also expected for email and calendar features in the new iOS. Ive is reportedly taking great care to review new designs, as Apple looks to avoid a repeat of iOS 6’s Maps fiasco, which cost former iOS software chief Scott Forstall his job. [via Bloomberg]
Zynga has released the sequel to its once insanely popular game Draw Something in two incarnations: Draw Something 2 ($3) and Draw Something 2 Free. Both games feature dozens of new tools, patterns, stamps, and colors for drawing. Also featured are new words, new play modes, and a feed that shares drawings with all of your friends. The premium version also includes a free Sparkle Pen, no ads between turns, a free star and coin bonus, and thousands of extra new words.
Already beloved for its interactive iOS storybooks, Nosy Crow has hit another home run with the release of Little Red Riding Hood by Nosy Crow ($5), a lightly modernized take on the classic fable. As would be expected from this story, Little Red Riding Hood embarks on a walk through the forest to carry a basket of food to her ailing grandmother, but Nosy Crow adds several branching paths to the forest, enabling kids to choose additional items that will help Red defeat the big, bad wolf at her grandmother’s home—plus multiple endings. Beyond the fun of collecting these items in various mini games, the developer has populated the app with zoomable high-definition artwork, plenty of voice narration, and intuitively interactive elements that really bring the story’s scenes to life. This is certainly Nosy Crow’s best storybook yet, which says a lot given that it has previously released some of the very best iOS kids apps we’ve tested. Fans of the story should grab this one without thinking twice; it’s that impressive.
Apple’s original iPhone, released in 2007, will soon enter “obsolete” status in Apple Retail Stores, according to an internal document. The switch will occur on June 11. Obsolete status means the original iPhone will no longer be supported at bricks and mortar Apple locations, though AppleCare and Authorized Service Providers will treat the device as “vintage” and continue to provide service for it. [via 9to5Mac]
Following a recent report about iOS 7’s interface, 9to5Mac has more information on Apple’s plans for the new operating system, reporting that “Apple plans to move aggressively into the in-car integration space later this year.” Multiple sources noted Apple is “working with car makers to deeply embed iOS’s Maps and Siri services into cars.” The company is reportedly working with car makers on center consoles that could attach iOS devices — at that point, an optimized version of Apple’s Maps could then appear on the car’s display, with Siri used to control Maps and other features. It’s noted that the new functionality could still be a long way from public release, and the feature may require newer iOS devices.
Apple has quietly crept further into the automotive world recently. Volkswagen introduced the iBeetle, a special edition Beetle with iPhone integration — though the integration is not nearly as deep as the proposals reported with iOS 7. Touted as an iOS 6 feature, Apple’s Siri Eyes Free feature was first integrated by GM, followed by Honda and Acura, with BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, and Chrysler also announced as partners. Apple and Ferrari have apparently discussed a deeper partnership, and Ferrari’s FF model integrates Siri voice commands, using iPad minis for rear seat entertainment. Also, Apple recently filed two patents related to communication between iOS devices and vehicles.
An recently published Apple patent demonstrates that Apple has continued to contemplate the use of a physical controller accessory with iOS devices. However, the patent filing appears to be mainly concerned about how users with disabilities can interact with touchscreen devices.
A controller could offer advantages to users who aren’t “physically present” at the touchscreen, users who “are unable to provide touch input,” and those with disabilities who could nonetheless use a physical accessory to control the touchscreen. Apple’s image of a controller accessory resembles a joystick, though gaming doesn’t appear to be the focus of the patent; the basic patent concepts could be applied for other purposes. [via Apple Insider]
Sources claim the look of Apple’s upcoming iOS 7 will be simpler than past incarnations, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. “Multiple people who have either seen or have been briefed on the upcoming iOS 7” claim the new operating system will be attractive to new users, but “potentially unsettling” for long-time iOS users. The interface is “very, very flat,” one source says, while another says it loses “all signs of gloss, shine, and skeumorphism” (sp). Immediately after the departure of former Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall, speculation has been that Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive’s work on the new OS would move away from skeuomorphism, which Forstall and former Apple CEO Steve Jobs both favored.
One source compared iOS 7 to the Windows Phone UI. Reportedly, there is no new learning curve for the new operating system, as the “core apps and system fundamentals” operate similarly to the current iOS. Interface changes allegedly include a new icon set for native apps, newly designed tool bars, and tab bars. Apple has also apparently been researching ways to add more quick glance panels, such as Notification Center, into the new software. One idea included swipes from the left and right of the display. Sources note iOS 7 is codenamed “Innsbruck,” likely after the Austrian city.
A new update to the Google Search app for iOS features Google Now, Google’s personal assistant. Google Now offers weather and traffic conditions at the start of the day, as well as updates on favorite sports teams and breaking news. Google Now uses more than 25 different “cards,” including cards for boarding passes, restaurant reservations, flight information, and more.
Google’s Eric Schmidt alluded to Google Now awaiting Apple approval in March. Apple responded, saying Google Now wasn’t submitted to its App Store; as it turns out, it was instead debuted within an existing app. [via 9to5Mac]
- April 29, 2013
Apple has announced that it will be “hitting the road this fall” with Tech Talks for developers. Though Apple says the talks will be coming to “a city near you,” no cities have been announced so far. The company notably held an iPhone Tech Talk World Tour in late 2008, and has used multi-city events to reach out to developers who couldn’t attend its California developers’ conferences. Apple also noted WWDC 2013 sold out of tickets in record time, and reminded developers that videos of the sessions would be posted during the conference.
A peculiar iMessage bug is making certain words disappear from the end of messages. The phrases “I could be the next Obama” and “The best prize is a surprise,” when followed by a trailing space, are sent with the last word deleted; both sender and receiver see a blank space instead. It appears the bug is only affecting iPhones, according to an Apple forum discussion; other phrases also seem to trigger the bug. Apple has not commented on the bug yet. [via The Verge]
- April 26, 2013
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Apple has added a new section to the App Store to help consumers “Learn More About In-App Purchases.” The informational section describes what in-app purchases are, the different types of in-app purchases, how in-app purchases work, and how to restrict a child’s ability to make in-app purchases using parental controls. In the wake of legal issues and other complaints regarding these follow-on purchases, Apple is making more of an effort to inform consumers about in-app purchases — the company recently added an “Offers In-App Purchases” line to all relevant apps.
Apple has backtracked on a prior decision to change the way VPN On Demand connects in iOS. An updated support article notes that “Apple no longer plans to change the behavior of the VPN On Demand feature of iOS 6.1 for devices that have already been shipped. The ‘Always’ option will continue to work as it currently does on these devices.” Previously, Apple announced VPN On Demand configured to “always” would behave as “establish if needed.”
The initial change was made due to a patent suit loss to VirnetX; there’s speculation that because of Apple’s reversal on the VPN issue, the two companies have reached some kind of agreement. Notably, because Apple only mentions devices that have “already been shipped,” the changes still might be made to as-yet-unshipped items. [via MacRumors]
Though a minor update for some users, Apple’s Apple Store app (free) has been updated to version 2.6 — the app now lets users receive notifications noting when they’re eligible for upgrade pricing on a new iPhone.
Sega’s unpredictable history of iOS releases continued this week with the release of House of the Dead: Overkill - The Lost Reels ($5), a visually unimpressive yet semi-engaging zombie shooting game with grindhouse-inspired interface and audio elements. Like virtually all of the prior House of the Dead games, you’re in an on-rails first-person perspective shooting at zombie attackers — here called “mutants,” and with a drag-based on screen reticule rather than just pointing and tapping, increasing the challenge level. Two of the game’s three worlds are unlocked for the $5 asking price, while a third world requires a $2 purchase, and as is sadly now the norm, additional weapons are sold as in-app purchases if you don’t want to spend the time earning them. Overkill’s language is unusually raw, so kids shouldn’t download it; more importantly, due to Sega’s use of relatively low polygon counts for device compatibility, the in-game graphics are merely competent rather than scary. Fans of the series will find this title to be far less stylish and energetic than the best House of the Dead titles, but it’s something to play at a relatively affordable price.