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2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

News

iKit debuts duo of cases for iPad

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iKit has introduced two new cases for the Apple iPad. The iPad Drop Case is a form-fitting TPU case offering full access to all ports and controls, as well as an included screen protector and cleaning kit. It is now available for pre-order in a variety of colors and sells for $25. The iPad Leather Folio Case is made from genuine leather and features a padded, flip-style design with a horizontally-opening flap that doubles as a stand, an embossed brushed metal plate on the tip of the main flap, open access to all ports and controls, and an included screen protector and cleaning kit. It is also available for pre-order in black or gray and sells for $40.

Ozaki previews pair of cases for iPad

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Ozaki has provided iLounge with a pre-release look at its upcoming iPad accessories. The new lineup includes the iCoat iFit Pad, a plush sleeve-style case featuring a horizontal design and zippered closure, and the iCarry Pad, a unique case featuring a rotating, metallic-finish rear handle that doubles as both a horizontal and vertical stand. Finally, Ozaki will be offering an iCoat Invisible Pad screen protector for the iPad. Both the iCoat iFit sleeve and iCoat Invisible screen protector are expected to launch in mid-May, while the iCarry case is expected to ship at the end of May; pricing for all three products has yet to the announced.

We Rule released worldwide, but unplayable for some users

This weekend, ngmoco globally released its anticipated empire-building game, We Rule. Initially issued as a limited release for testing on the Canadian App Store, We Rule starts the player with a small estate, letting him or her develop the infrastructure to transform a humble castle into a sprawling kingdom. Users can invite their friends through the Plus+ network to build realms together and visit each other’s kingdoms.

Unfortunately, We Rule turned out to be unplayable for some users this weekend because of a Ngmoco requirement that users must connect to the Plus+ network to track in-game progress and interact with other players. Within hours of its general availability, Ngmoco began reporting connection problems with its Plus+ servers, and was forced to bring new servers online; despite this, several other outages occurred resulting in limited availability of the game until early Monday morning. The outage left many users frustrated at having downloaded an iPhone game that couldn’t be enjoyed.

Ngmoco has another upcoming game, Godfinger, which uses the same network-required play model, but is still in testing on the Canadian App Store. No release date for Godfinger has yet been announced and it is unclear whether the recent Plus+ network problems will have any impact on its global availability.

Billings Touch adds multi-currency, credit card support

Marketcircle has released an update to Billings Touch, its iPhone time tracking and billing application. Version 1.1 adds support for multiple currencies and integration with Inner Fence Credit Card Terminal for accepting invoice payments directly on the iPhone or iPod touch. Other enhancements include improved performance when using large logos for invoices and fixes for slip date formats and invoices sent via Yahoo accounts. Billings Touch is available from the App Store as a free download for time and expense tracking and reporting; sending invoices from within the app and syncing with Billings for Mac requires an upgrade to the full version via a $15 in-app purchase.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble building iPad apps

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Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are working on iPad-formatted versions of their iPhone book-reading applications, according to a New York Times report. “We have actually developed a tablet-based interface that redesigns the core screen and the reading experience,” said Ian Freed, vice president for Kindle at Amazon. “Our team had some fun with it.” Amazon’s Kindle app for iPhone will give users a new interface for browsing their book collection, and allow them to “slowly turn pages with their fingers,” while Barnes & Noble’s app will offers customizable font colors and sizes and quick finger-swipe page turning; the company has also been in talks with publishers about adding multimedia content to their digital books. Amazon has launched a new website highlighting its new Kindle apps for tablet computers, including the iPad.

The report also reiterates some of Apple’s secrecy guidelines for early iPad testers, which include Major League Baseball, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, while noting that some developers who haven’t yet had a chance to use an iPad are holding off until they can test their programs on the device itself. “As much as we’d love to be there on Day 1, a misstep could kill the train before it even gets out of the station,“ said Wade Slitkin, CEO of Panelfly, which makes a digital comic-book reader. Neither Amazon or Barnes & Noble plan on having their iPad apps ready for launch day, as neither was given a pre-release iPad for early testing, and both want to test their apps on an actual iPad before submitting their applications to Apple.

Apple offering schools discounted 10-pack iPad bundles

Apple is now offering discounted 10-pack iPad bundles to educational institutions. Mac Rumors reports that the new bundles are designed to offer minor discounts while also reducing packaging, as all ten iPads are shipped in a single box. Pricing on the bundles, which are currently available for Wi-Fi iPads only, starts at $4,790 for ten 16GB units with no AppleCare, and increases accordingly with AppleCare and higher capacities. Overall, the bundle pricing offers a $20 discount off of individual iPad units, and $40 off per iPad when purchased with AppleCare.

Meebo update adds photo support

Meebo has just released an update to its native iPhone instant messaging application adding support for sending and receive photos via any IM network. Meebo 1.2 allows users to send photos from the device’s photo library or take new pictures with the iPhone camera directly within the app. Received photos can be saved to the iPhone Camera Roll or iPod touch Saved Photos album. The new version also allows users to IM people outside of their buddy lists, adds support for non-US keyboards and a new preference setting to hide online buddies. Numerous bug fixes are also addressed in this update. Meebo 1.2 is available from the App Store as a free download.

Apple now accepting iPad app submissions

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Apple has sent out an email to registered iPhone developers, informing them that the company is now accepting iPad application submissions. According to the email provided to iLounge, iPad apps submitted between now and March 27 will receive an “initial review” by the App Review Team, and developers will receive feedback on the app’s readiness for what the Apple is referring to as the “grand opening.” All submitted apps must be built and tested using iPhone SDK 3.2 beta 5, the latest version of the beta SDK; following submission, developers will receive an email with details about the readiness of their apps. Finally, developers will receive additional information about submitting their app for final review before the iPad ships, and only applications submitted for the initial review process will be considered for the grand opening of the “iPad App Store.” Apple will launch the iPad on April 3.

STM intros Glove extra small sleeve for iPad

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STM has introduced its new Glove extra small laptop sleeve for the Apple iPad and other netbook-sized devices. Made from neoprene, the Glove offers 3mm of cushioning, a vertical, top-opening design, YKK zippers, and internal zipper guards to prevent scratching. STM’s Glove extra small laptop sleeve is available now in five different colors and sells for $30.

Apple demands secrecy from early iPad testers

Apple is offering select developers an early hands-on testing period with the iPad, but only under highly-specific secrecy terms, according to a BusinessWeek report. Citing people familiar with the 10-page agreement that must be signed by each developer wanting early access to an iPad unit, Apple is forcing developers to take extreme measures to ensure the secrecy of their pre-launch testing. According to the report, the iPad must be kept isolated in a room with blacked-out windows, and must also remain tethered to a fixed object to eliminate the possibility of it being taken out of the isolated environment. Furthermore, all developers wanting a pre-release iPad for testing must also provide photographic evidence of compliance with the above terms before Apple will send a unit out, and the developers are barred from revealing that they have been given a pre-release unit for testing. Apple will launch the iPad on April 3.

X-Plane update adds replay mode, hi-res maps

Laminar Research has released an update to its series of X-Plane flight simulator apps for the iPhone and iPod touch. The update adds a replay mode that is activated when the app is paused to allow users to view the last few minutes of their flight and provides higher-resolution maps, complete with buildings and airport runways. Other new features include new paint and increased detail for many of the aircraft, a more detailed lighting and fog model and an improvement frame rate, all contributing to a more realistic flight experience. X-Plane 9 is available from the App Store for $10 and is a free update for existing users. The other apps in the X-Plane series have also been updated with the same new features.



iLounge Weekly newsletter coming later today

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The latest edition of iLounge Weekly, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, is coming later today. iLounge Weekly is a summary of the week’s best news, reviews, and feature articles we’ve published, and it also features giveaways and iPod 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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iPhone app sites charging for reviews

A number of iPhone app review sites are unscrupulously charging developers to have their applications reviewed, according to a Wired report. The practice of soliciting money in exchange for a review is not illegal, but is frowned upon by the Federal Trade Commission, which revised its guidelines covering blogger endorsements in October 2009 to require a disclosure whenever a review is written in exchange for money or gifts. “They prey on people who need exposure,” said Oliver Cameron, developer of the iPhone app Postman, who has actively avoided sites charging for reviews. “It strikes me as a paid ad, really. They never seem to actually ‘review’ it.” The report states that the two sites mentioned most by developers as engaging in the practice were theiphoneappreview.com and appcraver.com.

In addition to charging for reviews, some sites, including The iPhone App Review, openly charge developers for what they call “expedited” reviews, in which the paying developer’s app is given priority over other, standard reviews. The site’s editor-in-chief Shaun Campbell defended the practice, citing the large number of apps available on the store and saying it would be an “impossible task to review all the apps we receive, paid or unpaid.” “The iPhone App Review is not a PR charity,” he continued. “We’re a business, and like in any business, there are costs that need to be recovered.”

iLounge does not charge for reviews, and actively rejects attempts from developers to pay for coverage. Our long-standing product coverage policies include additional details for those who may be interested.

ZeroChroma unveils Projeto case for iPhone 3G, 3GS

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ZeroChroma has unveiled its new Projeto case for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. The Projeto is a hard plastic case offering a unique multi-angle kickstand on the back that allows users to choose between one of 18 positions to ensure a proper horizontal viewing angle, and a retractable sound-scoop passive amplifier for improved sound that also helps block the microphone from background noise and wind, and helps direct the user’s voice back at the microphone. Other features include ridges on the sides for improved grip, corner protection, and open access to all ports, controls, and the camera. ZeroChroma’s Projeto case for the iPhone 3G and 3GS is available now in black, white, pink, or gray, and sells for $35.

Bharti Airtel to offer iPhone 3GS in India

Bharti Airtel has announced that it has reached a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone 3GS in India in the coming months. The company launched the iPhone 3G in August 2008, the same day that rival carrier Vodafone India launched the handset. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bharti Airtel has submitted its bid to participate in a bandwidth auction for 3G services; successful bidders will be allowed to offer commercial 3G service beginning September 1. No exact release date or pricing information has yet been announced.

Fisher-Price releases iPhone apps

Fisher-Price has released three new iPhone applications based on its classic toys. Targeted at children ages 2-5, Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone, See ‘n Say and Little People Farm provide interactive digital versions of the iconic toys of the same name. Chatter Telephone ($1) includes three screens: Numbers, Music and People in Your Neighborhood where children can touch or swipe to hear sounds and narrations. See ‘n Say ($2) presents the child with a spinner that they can touch or move to point at various pictures of animals and hear the name of the animal and the sound that it makes. Little People Farm ($2) displays a farm yard where the child can tap on various objects to discover animals and their sounds and play other interactive games and activities. The three applications were developed for Fisher-Price by IDEO LLC and are available on the App Store.



Apple scrambling to secure content deals for iPad

With just over two weeks remaining before the first iPads hit store shelves, Apple is still working to secure content deals for the iPad, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report states that Apple has had to pare back its initial ambitions for the iPad as securing content for the device has proven difficult. Reportedly, Apple has put on hold its effort to work with newspaper, magazine, and textbook publishers to bring new digital content to the iPad, in favor of focusing on other content deals, such as a price cut on TV shows from the iTunes Store. The report goes on to claim that Apple has faced difficulties signing deals with some content providers as the providers debate the advantages of working with Apple versus the possible threat it poses to current revenue streams. Apple will launch the iPad on April 3, with initial availability limited to Wi-Fi-only models; Wi-Fi + 3G versions will arrive later in the month.

iPad pre-order poll ends, accessory poll begins

With nearly 2,300 votes from iLounge readers, our latest poll—Did you pre-order the iPad, and if so, which one?—has ended. Readers could choose between all six iPad models, both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 3G, or say they hadn’t pre-ordered the device.

Somewhat surprisingly, 42% of readers said they had pre-ordered the iPad, with 58% saying they passed on pre-ordering. Among those that did pre-order, readers leaned towards higher capacity versions of both models, with slightly higher numbers for the Wi-Fi only models than the Wi-Fi + 3G ones. Roughly 25% of pre-ordering readers purchased a 64GB Wi-Fi iPad, followed closely by those who pre-ordered a 32GB Wi-Fi model (23%), and those who ordered the top-of-the-line 64GB Wi-Fi + 3G iPad (22%). Another 20% of pre-ordering readers bought the 16GB Wi-Fi model, 7% ordered the 32GB Wi-Fi + 3G version, while only 3% pre-ordered the 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G model. Thanks for all your votes!

Our new poll focuses on accessory purchases. We’d like to know where you buy most of your iPod and iPhone accessories. Do you shop predominantly at the Apple Store online, an Apple retail store, or online at Amazon? Or perhaps you prefer to purchase your accessories from Target or Best Buy, either in-store or online, or maybe you order direct from the manufacturer, from eBay, or from other online or local retailer? Or maybe you don’t purchase accessories for your iPod or iPhone? Our new poll—“Where do you buy most of your iPod and/or iPhone accessories?”—lets you answer that question. As always, you can find the iLounge Poll in the left column of the main iLounge.com homepage. Vote today!

Twitter Mobile Site adds Geolocation support

Twitter has enabled geolocation support on its mobile site for at least some users, iLounge editors have discovered. First released for the main Twitter.com site last week, the new geolocation feature allows users to add their current location to tweets posted from the website, but the initial rollout conspicuously left out support for GPS-enabled mobile devices. Twitter has supported geolocation capability for some time through the Twitter APIs used by third-party Twitter clients, however location information could not previously be viewed or updated directly from the actual Twitter.com site. No official announcement has yet been made by Twitter regarding the mobile site geolocation feature and it is unclear whether it is being rolled out to all users simultaneously or being phased in as Twitter has done with new features in the past. Users who have the feature available should see a standard iPhone location warning when first logging in to m.twitter.com followed by a drop-down menu beneath the posting box to specify a location.

Apple patent details ‘iGroups’ location-based service

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A newly-published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on a location-based social networking service referred to as “iGroups.” The application describes a system through which multiple iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch users at an event, meeting, or other gathering could exchange information automatically by having their devices exchange encrypted, location-tagged “tokens,” which would then be sent to a trusted service—such as Apple’s MobileMe—and used to determine that all the users were at the same place or event. Once this has taken place, the users could then send location information and messages amongst the group as they move about and experience the event, potentially facilitating discussions on where to meet after the event is over, and also making it possible to precisely locate non-GPS devices by determining their proximity to a GPS-enabled device using a short-range communications protocol such as Bluetooth. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via Patently Apple]

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