Social Games International has released Speed Racer: The Beginning, a new racing game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Based on the cult classic anime series, the game preserves the classic look and feel of the original series, putting players in the role of Speed in the driver’s seat of the Mach 5 as he competes to become the greatest race car driver ever. In this side-scrolling platformer, players must avoid deadly obstacles such as oil slicks, rough terrain, falling rocks and weather while jumping treacherous gaps and outrunning enemy racers. Players can also customize their racing team and Mach 5 with various power-ups and modifications to improve performance. Open Feint integration provides leaderboards along with a range of achievements to work toward across twenty unique levels ranging from city streets to lava chasms. Speed Racer: The Beginning is available from the App Store for the iPhone and iPod touch for $1; an iPad version is expected to be released next month.
Google has updated Google Currents with several new features, also expanding its availability internationally with the latest release. Originally released in the U.S. only in December, Google Currents is a news content aggregation and reading app for iOS devices designed to provide magazine-style access to content from a wide range of publishers in format optimized for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. In addition to choose preselected content from major publications such as CNet, AllThingsD, Forbes, PBS and the Huffington Post, users can also add their own RSS, video and photo feeds.
Google Currents 1.1 is now available internationally in all countries where the App Store is available, translated into 44 different languages, with localized international content available for France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and Australia. The update also adds a new Instant Sync feature to provide push-based content updates while on-line without having to manually press a sync button and expands options for reading offline with local image caching. Integration with Google Translate allows complete editions to be translated into the user’s preferred languages and users can now share content with select Google+ circles and customize their other preferred sharing services for quick access. Google Currents is available from the App Store as a free download.
Epic Games and Chair Entertainment have released Infinity Blade II: ClashMob the first major content update to the acclaimed iOS game. Available as a free update for Infinity Blade II, ClashMob introduces the ability to compete in cooperative challenge events online with friends; players can create a new mob and recruit friends via Facebook and Game Center or join an existing one to work with hundreds of other players to cooperatively take down enemies with vast amounts of health, gaining special perks, achievements and rewards exclusive to ClashMob. Multiplayer game play in ClashMob is uniquely asynchronous, meaning that players can fire up the game on their own schedule to participate in their own segment of the quest at any time.
Version 1.1 also adds a new Gem Forge allowing players to combine gems to create their own more powerful versions along with a dozen new weapons and other items to collect and master; a number of balance tweaks, optimizations and bug fixes have also been taken care of in this update. Infinity Blade II requires an iPhone 3GS/4/4S, third- or fourth-generation iPod touch or iPad and is available from the App Store for $5. A Facebook account is required for the new ClashMob online play features.
Following the discovery that the third-generation Apple TV actually uses a new, 32nm dual-core revision of the A5 processor—with one of its cores disabled or otherwise non-functional—it has been revealed that new iPad 2 units are being built using the same processor. AnandTech reports that multiple references to the S5L8942 system-on-a-chip—the technical name for the revised A5—can be found in the iOS 5.1 restore image for “iPad2,4”, which refers to the new, $399 iPad 2. According to the report, performance is identical between the new A5 and the prior version found in older iPad 2 units; it remains unclear whether the new units are seeing any battery life benefit from the smaller chips.
Apple is reportedly starting to require additional security information when using an Apple ID for purchases. The Next Web reports that Apple is prompting some users to confirm their password, add a backup email address, and create a number of new security questions that will be used to verify user identity in the future. According to the report, Apple is sending out an email to the new backup address once the process has been completed, thanking the user for adding the information, and asking them to click on a link to verify their address by clicking a link in the email. The prompt is apparently appearing when attempting to buy media directly on a device or via iTunes; notably, no iLounge editor has yet encountered the prompt, suggesting that Apple is rolling out the new security features slowly.
American Public Media’s Marketplace has been allowed to shoot a short news clip showing the process of iPads being assembled at Foxconn’s Longhua facility in Shenzhen, China. Seen in the 2:35 clip are workers arriving at work, receiving their daily assignments, attaching motherboards and other components, and using a machine to press in the battery. According to the video, workers usually rotate their positions every few days, and see their $14/day starting salary doubled after a couple years. The video also highlights Foxconn’s facilities—relatively nice, compared to other factories—and also demonstrates how small a role automated machines play in the assembly of the iPad. The video is available for viewing in embedded form below.
The National Hockey League has updated the NHL GameCenter app for iOS adding new features to provide users with expanded coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The latest update features complete round-by-round coverage of the playoffs via enhanced series views as well as with expanded highlights of Stanley Cup Playoff games. Users can view free NHL Playoff videos with commentary, highlights and top moments as well as view free Cisco NHL Live video content and listen to free live game radio during the Playoffs. New Playoff game alerts are also now available for each series matchup and the update also adds general performance enhancements. NHL GameCenter 2011-2012 is available from the App Store as a free download; an NHL GameCenter subscription is required to access premium content beyond the free Playoff features.
iPont has updated FlickrStackr for the third-generation iPad with the ability to view full-resolution, original photos from Flickr to take full advantage of the new Retina Display. The new optional feature downloads the original photo, when available, and resizes it to 2048px for on-screen display. The new version also provides improvements to the photo editor including iOS 4 support and the ability to process higher-resolution images, the ability to specify a default privacy setting when uploading new photos to Flickr and improvements for viewing photos on an external display or via AirPlay. Several bug fixes and stability improvements have also been made in this latest update. FlickrStackr is a universal app and is available from the App Store for $2.
Quinn Genzel has updated his popular travel list app Packing Pro adding the ability to synchronize information between multiple devices via iCloud. Designed to assist users with preparing for travel, Packing Pro provides an advanced digital packing list with an extensive customizable catalog, multiple sample lists that can be used as templates, and the ability to create and save standard lists for later reuse. The app features multi-item selection for fast building of lists, running item tallies on a per-category basis, numerous sorting and display options, weight and value totals and the ability to share lists via e-mail and import and export between Packing apps on other devices. In version 8.0, instead of relying on manual data transfer, users can now enable iCloud to automatically sync lists, catalog content and settings between all iOS devices sharing the same iCloud account. iCloud sync can be used not only to share data between a single user’s devices, but can also be useful in a family setting for sharing and checking off lists in preparation for a trip. Packing Pro is a universal app and is available from the App Store for $3; the app supports devices running iOS 3.0 or later, however iOS 5.0 is required for iCloud support.
Readdle has released a major update to Scanner Pro adding native iPad support with a new user interface specifically designed for the new iPad. Originally released in 2009 for the iPhone, Scanner Pro allows users to “scan” documents using their device’s camera, allowing quick and easy capturing of business forms, receipts, paper notes and even handwritten sketches. Advanced image processing allows documents to be captured more effectively than simply taking a photo with a camera app, enhancing image quality for readability and providing such features as automatic edge detection, pre-defined page sizes, and previewing and saving results as PDF files with optional password protection that can then be uploading to services such as Dropbox, Evernote and Google Docs or sent out directly via e-mail.
Scanner Pro 4 is now a universal application with a new iPad user interface and significantly improved image processing performance. The higher-resolution camera on the third-generation iPad provides the ability to take reliable, high-quality scans within the app and the larger screen provides easier access for reading and managing scanned documents with the ability to view and manipulate the full document without the need for zooming and panning. The update also delivers near-instantaneous image processing, with speed enhancements of up to ten times faster than the prior version, allowing users to capture a picture and see a resulting PDF scan on their device in less than a second. Scanner Pro 4 requires iOS 4.3 or later and is available from the App Store for $7.
The A5 processor found inside the third-generation Apple TV is actually a dual-core processor, instead of a single-core chip as previously claimed. Chipworks has completed its examination of the A5 processor found in the new Apple TV, and was surprised to find that—contrary to Apple’s claims—the chip is actually a dual-core processor. The research firm suggests that Apple is either utilizing only one core, or is “parts binning”, a process by which chips that are not up to full specification are used for other purposes. In this case, A5 chips with a faulty core could have the “bad” core disabled and then used in the Apple TV.
In addition, the firm also found that the A5 variant in the third-generation Apple TV is build on a smaller process—32nm—than the prior A5, which was built on a 45nm process. While the report suggests that the new A5 variant could be used in a next-generation iPhone, or potentially as a cost-cutting measure—shrinking the process also cuts the cost per processor—for future iPhone 4S units, it also seems likely that the smaller chip could be included in a future iPod touch model. [via MacRumors]
Spring Partners has released a major update to its Springpad online notebook service and companion iOS app introducing a complete redesign with new sharing, collaboration and discovery features. Springpad allows users to create online smart notebooks that are automatically synchronized between the web and their iOS devices; items entered into a Springpad notebook are automatically enhanced with relevant information such as price comparisons and availability alerts for products, links to reservations for restaurants, reviews for movies and more.
The new Springpad also introduces the ability for users to share individual notebooks between friends, family and colleagues for team collaboration on a project, activity or to simply put together a group-sourced collection of information. Additionally, users can now explore Springpad to discover and follow public notebooks created by other Springpad community members on a variety of topics. Notebooks have been redesigned and simplified with enhanced customizability and the ability to personalize designs with a collection of themes and accents. Users can also now sort, filter and organize notebooks with category and tag information and getting information into Springpad is also now much faster with a new Smart Bar for quickly adding new information and new bookmarklet and browser extensions on the desktop side. Springpad 3.0 is a universal app and is available from the App Store as a free download.
Verizon Wireless has announced that it plans to implement a $30 device upgrade fee starting April 22. According to the company, the fee will apply to existing customers purchasing new devices at a discounted price with a two year contract. “This fee will help us continue to provide customers with the level of service and support they have come to expect which includes Wireless Workshops, online educational tools, and consultations with experts who provide advice and guidance on devices that are more sophisticated than ever,” said the company. Notably, both AT&T and Sprint charge similar fees for device upgrades.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a price-fixing antitrust lawsuit against Apple and Hachette in New York district court. Bloomberg reports that the suit revolves around alleged collusion to raise the prices of eBooks, and that Harper Collins, Macmillan, and Penguin were also sued. The DOJ warned Apple and the publishers in early March of plans to file the suit; several of the parties reportedly held negotiations in hopes of settling the case; Apple may face similar charges in Europe, thanks to a European Union investigation into the same matter.
Update: the Department of Justice has since announced that Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster have agreed to settle charges in the antitrust lawsuit, pending approval by a New York federal court, according to a Cnet report.
Apple earlier this morning quietly replaced the online Apple Store’s downtime sign, according to AppleInsider. Long known for its “We’ll be back soon” yellow sticky note, which was joined by the text “We are busy updating the store for you and will be back shortly”, the old sign has been replaced by a more modern looking rounded square note with a textured white background and a gray Apple logo, with the text “We’ll be back. We’re busy updating the Apple Store for you and will be back soon.” The placeholder frequently appears in early morning hours when Apple is doing routine maintenance to the site, as well as during Apple media events where new products are announced.
Apple has started to internally seed versions of iTunes 11, according to a new report. Citing anonymous sources, 9to5Mac reports that current development is focused on under-the-hood changes, but that new interface elements and features are likely being developed, possibly by a separate group. Among the new features mentioned for the software are support for iOS 6 devices and a dedicated iCloud settings panel with controls for iTunes Match, iTunes in the Cloud, iCloud iOS device backups, and more, all consolidated in a single spot. In addition, the report claims that a full iTunes/App Store revamp is underway with a launch expected sometime in the summer or fall, and that another 10.x point update is possible for initial iOS 6 compatibility, with one source calling that “more likely” than a simultaneous rollout of iTunes 11.
BRID has released an update to Awesome Note, adding support for calendar events and integration with the built-in Calendar app for iOS 5 users. Awesome Note is an advanced journalling app for the iPhone and iPod touch that allows users to quickly and easily jot down notes, keep track of schedules and tasks and record thoughts and ideas in a rich-media journal. The application provides support for photos, maps and drawings, sophisticated note editing features and a variety of themes and styles. Support for Google Docs and Evernote provides online access and storage of notes from the iOS device and full text search capabilities are available within the app. With version 6.0, users can now adds events in the calendar view either directly within the app or synchronized with the iOS Calendar. The update also adds new filtering capabilities in list view and several UI enhancements. Awesome Note is available from the App Store for $4; an iPad version is also available separately but has not yet been updated with the corresponding 6.0 features.
TomTom has updated its lineup of iOS navigation apps providing expanded Facebook integration and the latest maps. With the new TomTom update, users can not only share their trip information via Facebook, but can also now pull location information and plan routes directly from Facebook Places and events. Users can access a list of events they have been invited to or search through the thousands of Facebook Places to quickly navigate to the selected destination. The update also provides the ability to share destination information via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter adds fixed speed cameras for U.S. users and includes a redesigned app icon. TomTom is available from the App Store in a wide variety of regional versions, all as universal apps for both the iPhone and iPad; prices range from $50 to $120 depending on the region.
Quickoffice has updated its business document editing app for the iPad adding support for newer versions of PowerPoint and adding native iOS e-mail support. With Quickoffice 4.5 users can now create and edit Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 PowerPoint files, expanding compatibility to provide full editing capabilities across the entire Microsoft Office suite. The new version also adds support for the built-in iOS Mail app to provide simplified sharing of documents via e-mail. Additional new features include an enhanced visual interface, support for numbered lists in PowerPoint files and a new collection of over 100 shapes for use in presentations. The update also brings support for five additional localizations: Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and Dutch. Quickoffice Pro HD is available from the App Store for $20.
Tapbots has released an update to Tweetbot adding support for synchronizing information between devices via iCloud. With Tweetbot 2.2, iCloud users can now synchronize timeline positions, DM read status and mute filters between multiple instances of Tweetbot, allowing iPhone and iPad users to keep their information in sync on both devices. The latest version still provides support for Tweet Marker as well for synchronizing timeline positions with other Twitter clients, however users are required to choose between iCloud or Tweet Marker as their sync service. The update also provides several other smaller enhancements including better handling of iTunes and YouTube links which now include thumbnail previews in the timeline and a new pinch-to-close gesture for viewing images on the iPad. Tweetbot 2.2 is available from the App Store in two device-specific versions for $3 each; Tweetbot for iPhone and Tweetbot for iPad.