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Skype 4.0 improves stability, accessibility

Skype has released version 4.0 of its iOS apps, focused on accessibility and stability improvements. The new version of Skype allows users to move their own video preview window during a video call and the iPhone/iPod touch version includes an updated design for the contacts and messages view and a new sign-in screen. Skype will also now automatically restart if it unexpectedly shuts down for whatever reason, and the update includes a number of other stability improvements and bug fixes. iPhone and iPad versions are available separately from the App Store as free downloads: Skype for the iPhone and iPod touch requires an iPhone 3GS/4/4S or fourth-generation iPod touch; Skype for iPad is compatible with any iPad model. A device with a front-facing camera is required for video calling, and both versions require iOS 4.3 or later.

Avid Studio adds UI improvements, new transitions

Professional grade iPad video editing app Avid Studio has been updated with improvements for voiceover recording, user interface enhancements and fourteen new transition effects. Avid Studio 1.1 now allows users to record voiceovers directly to the timeline, create titles that span across multiple lines, and more easily separate audio tracks from video clips. New finger swipe gestures have also been added for frame-by-frame and 10-by-10 frame navigation along with simplified entering of mark-in and mark-out points, and the precision trimmer has been redesigned with enhanced functionality. The update also address several stability issues on all iPad models. Avid Studio 1.1 requires iOS 5.1 or later and is available from the App Store for $5.

PlaceTagger adds iCloud sync, iPad support

Return7 has released a major update to PlaceTagger adding support for the iPad and for synchronization of location data via iCloud. PlaceTagger allows iOS devices to be used for recording location data while taking photos with a digital camera; recorded data can then be added to the photos as geo-tags during import using a companion desktop application.

With PlaceTagger 2.0, users can now synchronize location data between devices using iCloud rather than requiring a direct USB connection; a $5 Mac app, sold separately on the Mac App Store, provides geotagging of photos during import. Alternatively, users can geotagging photos imported directly to the iPad using the Apple Camera Connection Kit. GPX track export is also available for geotagging with any third-party application supporting the GPX format. The new version also sports an entirely new user interface with an integrated map view for displaying location data and improvements to the GPS recording precision. PlaceTagger 2.0 is a universal app requiring iOS 5.0 or later and is available from the App Store for $5, or as a free update for users of an earlier version. The companion Mac app is available separately from the Mac App Store for $5.

iTunes Match rolls out to several new countries


Apple is in the process of rolling out its iTunes Match service in a number of new countries. 9to5Mac reports that users in Italy, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, and Austria can now sign up for the service, although they have yet to be added to Apple’s official list of countries in which the service is available. Launched in the U.S. in November, iTunes Match is a $25/year service that matches tracks in a user’s iTunes library with tracks stored on the company’s iTunes Store servers, uploading any tracks it can’t match, and offering users full access to all their music — up to 25,000 tracks — from any of their devices.

Apple hires Yahoo! exec for iAd team

Apple has hired Jessica Jensen, a former executive at Yahoo!, to its iAd team, according to a new report. Citing anonymous sources, AllThingsD reports that Jensen will work for recently-hired iAd head Todd Teresi. At Yahoo!, Jensen was in charge of the women’s site Shine, as well as its lifestyles and health content businesses.

Apple considered iPhone with hardware keyboard

In an interview with The Verge, former Apple executive and current Nest CEO Tony Fadell made several comments regarding the development of the iPhone. According to Fadell, Apple seriously considered building an iPhone with a hardware keyboard. Fadell claimed that Apple actually built three types of iPhones during its development—an iPod + phone, an iPhone, and what he referred to as the “next-generation” iPhone, which ended up being the original shipping version of the device. He also said that he was skeptical of the virtual keyboard at first, but that he felt a full screen was ideal, noting that the small screen of the iPod + phone prototype was an issue. The Verge has posted a brief summary of Fadell’s comments, which can be seen by following the link above.

Apple, Samsung to meet in late may

Apple and Samsung are set to meet for court-overseen talks in late May. AllThingsD reports that the companies will meet in San Francisco on May 21-22, with Apple CEO Tim Cook and general counsel Bruce Sewell expected to attend. The talks will be overseen by U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero, and will be focused on resolving the numerous patent disputes between the two companies. As noted in our prior report, the court can obligate the two companies to meet and talk, but cannot force a settlement.

Tweetbot adds UI enhancements, Droplr and Storify support

Tapbots has updated its Tweetbot apps for iOS with a new and improved tweet detail view and integration with Droplr and Storify. Tweetbot 2.3 now sports a redesigned tweet detail view that displays inline conversations and replies; the tweet detail view is accessed by swiping right to left on a tweet and users can return to the timeline by swiping left to right. The conversation view has also been updated to display both the conversation and replies in a single list. The update also adds the ability to e-mail or link to Twitter conversation threads via the Storify online social story service directly from the conversation view.

Additional enhancements in the latest update include integration with Droplr for media and link sharing, the option to turn off the display of the timeline sync bookmark icon, and general user interface and e-mail format improvements. A play icon is now displayed on video thumbnails to help distinguish them from images, and Vimeo links now also display a video thumbnail. In addition, higher resolution images can be uploaded when using a Wi-Fi connection. Tweetbot 2.3 is available from the App Store in two separate versions for $3 each: Tweetbot for the iPhone and iPod touch and Tweetbot for iPad.

Polymer challenges users to strategically create unique shapes

Indie game musician Whitaker Trebella has released his first iOS app,  Polymer, a new strategic shape-creating puzzle game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Described as a mixture of the logic of a Rubik’s Cube, the sliding mechanism of Trism and the creativity of Lego, Polymer challenges players to combine creativity and strategy by sliding rows and columns to create unique shapes—known as Polymers—on a constantly changing game board. The game is procedurally generated for unique replay value and multiple shape combinations are possible on every level; players obtain higher scores by forming the most visually appealing Polymers.

Polymers provides three play modes: Two Minutes, which simply challenges the player to obtain the higher score possible within the allotted time, One Polymer mode where players are given unlimited time to make the best polymer possible and an action-based Bombs Mode where players must destroy an increasing set of ticking time bombs before the timer runs out. Players can also unlock new colour schemes for added visual appeal and Polymers provides Game Center integration for leaderboards and achievements and integrates with Twitter allowing players to tweet not only their scores but also the images of their best Polymers.

MumboJumbo releases 7 Wonders 2 HD for iPad

MumboJumbo has released a new iPad edition of its popular 7 Wonders match-3 puzzle game. Rather than simply bringing the iPhone and iPod touch version to the larger screen, 7 Wonders 2 HD provides a new, re-imagined experience of the game for iPad users with seven all new locations, new power-ups and additional free play modes. The game takes players back in time to distant historical locations where they must build the Seven Wonders of the World by completing a series of match-3 puzzles, taking advantage of power-ups and bonuses to help piece together a hidden map that leads to the most wondrous sight of all. Game Center integration is also included for tracking high scores on leaderboards. 7 Wonders 2 HD is available from the App Store for $5.

National Geographic app adds Retina Display support, Bookmarking

National Geographic has updated its magazine app for the iPad with support for the Retina Display and adding some additional enhancements. National Geographic Magazine is an iPad Newsstand app that allows users to purchase individual issues or subscribe to the digital edition of the popular publication; both current and back-issues can be purchased for $5 per issue via in-app purchase or users can subscribe for $2/month or $20/year via an in-app subscription. In addition to Retina Display support, version 1.6 adds the ability to bookmark pages within a magazine and auto-archive issues after reading; it is a required update for all new issues being released after May 2012. National Geographic Magazine requires iOS 4.0 or later, with iOS 5.0 required for Newsstand support, and is available from the App Store as a free download.

Incase unveils new cases for iPad, iPhone

Incase has unveiled several redesigned cases for the third-generation iPad, as well as a new case for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Included among the iPad cases that have been redesigned for compatibility with both the third-generation iPad and iPad 2 are the folio-style Book Jacket Select, the Magazine Jacket, which combines a hard case with a functional front cover, and the Snap Case and Magnetic Snap Case, both of which offer compatibility with Apple’s Smart Cover, with the latter adding lightweight metal bars to hold the Smart Cover out of the way when the iPad is in use. Pricing for the iPad cases ranges from $30-$60. For the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, Incase is now offering the Box Case for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Available in black, white, pink, and clear, the aptly-named Box features a rectangular design, rubberized construction, coverage for the volume and sleep/wake buttons, and open access to all other ports, controls, and cameras. It sell for $30; all of Incase’s new offerings are available now.

Avengers Origins: Assemble adds new mini-game

Two weeks after its initial release, Disney has released a major update to Avengers Origins: Assemble adding a new mini-game to the storybook app. Designed to provide readers with an introduction to the Marvel Super Heroes, Avengers Origins: Assemble tells the story of Captain America’s rescue from a frozen wasteland by the other Avengers and the assembling of the Avengers to defend the Earth from evil. Version 2.0 introduces a new 3D third-person-view mini-game that allows the player to choose their favourite Mighty Avenger and battle to save the Earth from the attacks of Namor and the Atlanteans. Players can test their skills across three exciting stages with three individual levels of difficulty and awards and eight achievement badges. Players can play as Captain America, Iron Man, Thor or Black Widow; The Hulk is also available for users who have installed the latest version of Avengers Origins: Hulk on their device. Avengers Origins: Assemble is a universal app and is available from the App Store for $6.

Apple plans new off-site employee cafeteria

Apple has received approval from the Cupertino Planning Commission to build a new 21,468 square foot cafeteria exclusively for company employees several blocks away from the its Infinite Loop headquarters. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the cafeteria is being built, in part, to give employees working at Apple’s various office buildings in the area a place to freely talk business without the threat of eavesdropping from competitors. “We like to provide a level of security so that people and employees can feel comfortable talking about their business, their research and whatever project they’re engineering without fear of competition sort of overhearing their conversations,” Dan Whisenhunt, Apple’s director of real estate facilities, said at a meeting of the Commission. “That is a real issue today in Cupertino because we’ve got other companies here in our same business.” According to the report, the two-story cafeteria will have a cafe, meeting rooms, lounge areas, and courtyard space, as well as an underground garage.

Apple launches third-gen iPad in 9 new markets

Apple is today launching the third-generation iPad in nine additional markets. According to the company, the device is launching in Colombia, Estonia, India, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, South Africa and Thailand today. Apple earlier this week announced sales of 11.8 million iPads during the March quarter, and called the manufacturing ramp-up for the device extremely successful.

Spy Mouse adds new levels, Game Center support

Electronic Arts has released an update to Spy Mouse with a new level pack containing 11 additional levels with new enemies, obstacles and power-ups to challenge players. The new pack, Volcano Island, takes Agent Squeak through a new perilous world with new challenges such as jungle cats wielding poison darts, collapsible terrain, fireballs and lava pits. A new set of power-ups has been added as well including Banana Peels and Invinci-balls along with new goals and achievements that can now be tracked through Game Center. Spy Mouse is available from the App Store in two versions, Spy Mouse ($1) for the iPhone and iPod touch and Spy Mouse HD ($3) for the iPad.

Apple Stores replacing kids iMacs with iPads

Apple has started replacing with iPads the iMacs that have traditionally served as kids’ areas in its retail stores. iMore reports that the kids’ tables, which previously held four iMac computers in an outward-facing display, now sport four iPads instead. As with the iMacs, the iPads have a variety of kid-friendly apps installed; it is unclear when the switch was made, or if Apple has yet made the switch at all of its retail stores. [via MacRumors]

Twitter app expands Discover feature, push notifications

Twitter has updated its official iOS client with enhancements to its Discover feature and the addition of support for more push notifications. Twitter 4.2 now sports an updated design for the Discover tab with spelling suggestions and related searches as well as additional information on who a user’s connections are following, updates to their lists and which Tweets have been retweeted or marked as favourites. Push Notifications can also now be enabled for retweets and favourites of the user’s Tweets by other users. Additional enhancements include username autocompletion and go-to-user when searching in the Connect tab and additional language support for Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish and Polish. Twitter 4.2 is available from the App Store as a free download.

Griffin rolls out SmartTalk Solar speakerphone

Griffin has rolled out its new SmartTalk Solar handsfree speakerphone. The SmartTalk Solar is designed to stick to an automobile’s windshield or dash and connect to smartphones or other devices via Bluetooth. Features include a built-in solar charger for longer talk times before a recharge is needed, a motion-sensing Auto Connect feature that links with paired smartphones automatically, multipoint pairing for connecting two devices simultaneously, and compatibility with most phone’s voice command features. Griffin’s SmartTalk Solar handsfree speakerphone is available now and sells for $70.

Study: A quarter of iPad buyers new to Apple

According to new data from The NPD Group, one-in-four iPad purchases are made by first-time Apple owners. The Apple Ecosystem Study found that 33 percent of US homes own Apple products, and while a majority—69 percent—of those own iPods, iPad ownership is growing. While 70 percent of long-standing Apple owners report that an iPod was their first Apple product, that number declines to just 57 percent among those buying their first Apple product in the last two years. Accordingly, the iPhone and iPad account for one-third of first-time Apple purchases since 2012. On average, Apple households own 2.4 Apple devices.

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