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iPhone 4S ads starring Sam Jackson, Zooey Deschanel air

Two new iPhone 4S television commercials have started to air. The commercials, which star Samuel L. Jackson and Zooey Deschanel, feature the stars using Siri to clear calendars, find out about the weather, play music, perform unit conversions, find nearby shops, and find nearby restaurants. While the commercials are shot in a style similar—albeit somewhat slower— to that of prior Siri-focused iPhone 4S commercials, they are notable for being the first Apple commercials in some time to conspicuously feature celebrities. Interestingly, it is the second time Deschanel has been featured in an iPhone commercial, as her band She & Him was featured prominently in an ad for the iPhone 3GS. Both commercials are available for viewing on YouTube or in embedded form below.

Google Play Books adds annotation improvements

Google has released an update to Google Play Books adding several improvements for bookmarking, highlighting and annotating. Google Play Books 1.3 adds the ability to bookmark pages by tapping the top right corner, highlight text with colour and add private notes to selected text; highlights and notes also sync with Google Play web reader and Google Play Books on other iOS devices. Users can now also translate selected text into 50+ languages, look up definitions of selected words and search for text in books or on Wikipedia or Google. A choice of either grid or list view is also now available on the iPhone and iPod touch and a +1 button allows users to share book titles via Google Plus. Google Play Books is a universal app and is available from the App Store as a free download.

MagicPlan adds iPad support, Room Capture improvements

Sensopia has released a major update to MagicPlan adding native iPad support with a new user interface and improvements to simplify the room capture process. MagicPlan is an augmented reality iOS app designed to simplify the creation of floor plans by using the camera and gyroscope to map out and measure rooms; the user simply stands in a convenient location in the room and uses the camera to capture corners and doorway edges which are then used to calculate the dimensions of the room and generate a floor plan. The process can be repeated in several rooms to create individual plans for each room that can be connected to each other to form a complete floor plan of the property. Resulting floor plans can be exported to PDF or JPEG or published on the web as interactive floor plans.

MagicPlan 2.0 is now a universal app providing an HD user interface specifically adapted to the iPad along with simplified navigation for the iPhone and iPod touch with new menus, auto-save features and a new graphical user interface. The new version also improves the room capture process adding a real-time view of captured corners and doors, a grid view for capturing hidden corners and additional visual identifiers and cues to help with the capture process. Room capturing is also now done in landscape mode and the floor plan is visually drawn while capturing. The update also includes numerous other bug fixes and improvements related to account management, annotating floor plans and more. MagicPlan requires an iPhone 4/4S, fourth-generation iPod touch, iPad 2 or third-generation iPad running iOS 5.0 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download. Non-commercial use is free and includes watermarks on published and exported floor plans; payment is required for commercial use at $2 per floor plan and removes all watermarks.

iBooks update fixes random iTunes sign-in prompts

Apple has released an update to its iBooks application intended to address an issue that was causing the iTunes Store sign-on prompt to appear at unexpected times for some iOS users; the somewhat random prompts were often, but not exclusively, connected to automatic downloads of new content purchased on other devices. iBooks 2.1.1 addresses this issue, noting that users will need to open iBooks at least once after downloading the update. The new version also contains some minor stability and performance improvements. iBooks 2.1.1 is available from the App Store as a free download.

Apple updates Cards for Mother’s Day

Apple has updated its Cards iOS app with several new card designs. Cards allows iPhone and iPod touch users to create professionally printed physical letterpress cards from their device with custom photos and text that can then be mailed out for delivery to the recipient via the U.S. Postal Service. Cards 1.1 adds new categories for Mother’s Day and Get Well card designs along with additional card templates in existing categories such as birthday and thank you cards. The update also improves the accuracy of envelope address verification and simplifies the checkout process. Cards 1.1 requires iOS 5.0 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download. Individual cards are paid for via in-app purchase at $3 for mailing within the U.S. or $5 for international recipients.

New Apple displays appear at Walmart

A potential pilot of a new Apple store-within-a-store concept has been spotted at an Arkansas Walmart. IfoAppleStore reports that the new displays are inside a Walmart located just 20 minutes from the retailing giant’s headquarters, and could be a prototype for the rumored expansion of in-store Apple displays to Walmart’s warehouse chain Sam’s Club. The displays themselves feature tall, double-sided back-lit graphics promoting the iPad and the iPhone, as well as black frames and shelves, light wood tables, live display products, and under-table storage with security glass. The product displays themselves bear a great resemblance to those seen in Apple’s retail stores, albeit with more strict security measures. It is unclear when—or if—the concept will see a wider rollout across Walmart or Sam’s Club stores.

Genius Bar replacing some iPhone 4 units with iPhone 4S

Due to a lack of white 16GB iPhone 4 replacement inventory, users of that particular handset who seek a replacement at an Apple Store Genius Bar may wind up with a free upgrade. Citing multiple sources, 9to5Mac reports that Apple has told its Genius Bars that inventory of white 16GB iPhone 4 replacements is highly constrained, and that until further notice, stores lacking proper replacement units should upgrade customers seeking a replacement to a white 16GB iPhone 4S. According to the report, the issue pertains to Apple Stores in the US and Canada; other countries or regions were not specifically mentioned.

Apple to launch iPad mini in third-quarter of 2012?

Apple plans to launch a smaller version of the iPad in the third-quarter of this year, according to a new report. Citing Chinese-language NetEase, Kotaku reports that the device will cost anywhere from $249-$299 and that there will be six million units ready for the launch. Based on prior reports, this smaller iPad would feature a screen roughly seven inches in size—7.85 inches has been specifically mentioned—and would target the smaller tablet market, which includes devices like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire. According to the report, both Foxconn and Pegatron will be involved in making the device.

Apple to launch third-gen iPad in 12 more countries April 20

Apple this morning announced that it will launch the third-generation iPad in 12 more countries this coming Friday, April 20. The device will launch in Brunei, Croatia, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Malaysia, Panama, South Korea, St Maarten, Uruguay and Venezuela this Friday. The following Friday, April 27, the device will launch in Colombia, Estonia, India, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, South Africa and Thailand.

Disney debuts Marvel Origins storybook apps

In anticipation of the upcoming release of Marvel’s The Avengers movie, Disney Publishing Worldwide has released two new storybook apps based on the Marvel Origins series with narration by the legendary Stan Lee. In Avengers Origins: Hulk ($2), readers discover the story of Dr. Bruce Banner’s initial transformation into the Incredible Hulk accompanied by detailed artwork and animations. Interactive touch-screen activities add to the storyline with users able to perform Hulk actions such as testing their strength, breaking through walls and stopping tanks.

Avengers Origins: Assemble ($2) provides readers with an introduction to the pantheon of Marvel Super Heroes such as Iron Man, Captain America and Thor. The app tells the story of war-hero Captain America who is trapped in the frozen North after a particularly dangerous and must be rescued seven decades later to join with the other Avengers to fight for the future of Earth and defend the planet from evil. In addition to action-packed artwork, sound effects and music, the app includes a collection of interactive challenges for readers including matching heroic accessories with the appropriate Super Heroes, using Thor’s powers and the Hulk’s strength to stop the Atlanteans and Namor and melt in the ice to free Captain America from his frozen prison.

The two storybook apps are designed for readers of all ages and include Read to Me, Read by Myself, Auto-Turn and Younger Reader Modes for enjoyment by children as young as 4-10 years of age. Both apps are universal for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and require iOS 4.0 or later.

Griffin releases Crayola Silly Face Swaps HD

Griffin Technology and Crayola have released Silly Face Swaps HD, a new app that allows children to build personalized colouring pages with their own photos. The app provides a variety of animated colouring pages featuring characters such as astronauts, rock stars and wizards designed to include a photo of a face inserted into the drawing. Children can then use a variety of digital Crayola colouring tools such as crayons, coloured pencils and markers to further customize their drawing which can then be shared via e-mail, uploaded to Facebook or printed via AirPrint. The app includes 11 animated colouring pages and a digital set of 64 crayons, 24 coloured pencils, 10 Crayola markers and a paint bucket fill tool and eraser. Crayola Silly Face Swaps HD is a universal app and is available from the App Store for $2. Ongoing future updates are planned to deliver new characters and themes.

Paint FX adds Retina Display support, new effects & sharing options

Sprite Labs has updated Paint FX with resolution improvements for Apple’s newer devices along with a collection of new effects and sharing options. Paint FX provides the ability to apply filters and effects to an entire photo or only specific areas of a photo as well as layering multiple effects on top of each other. A large number of pre-defined filters and effects are available that can be further customized for brightness, contrast and saturation. Paint FX 3.0 now includes full resolution support on the new third-generation iPad, iPad 2 and iPhone 4S with specific enhancements for the iPad Retina Display. Five new effects have also been added including Brick, Old Paper, Grunge and Vintage effects and users can now create digital postcards of their creations and share their work on Flickr, Twitter and Instagram in addition to Facebook. Paint FX 3.0 is a universal app and is available from the App Store for $3.

Mass Effect Infiltrator adds bonus mission, manual aiming

Electronic Arts has released major update to Mass Effect Infiltrator adding a new bonus mission and several new gameplay features. Designed as a scaled down, mobile version of the popular console game, this third-person action shooter puts players in the role of Randall Enzo, a Cerberus agent gone rogue who must fight his way out of a hostile secret base using high-tech armour and weapons against an army of enemy soldiers. The latest update adds a new bonus mission that allows players to take on the role of a captured Turian experiment victim who awakens in the medical bay in the middle of a battle and must fight his way out.

The new version also adds several other major gameplay improvements such support for manual aiming; players can now disable the controversial “tap-to-aim” function in the options section to take control of the in-game aiming themselves, although the responsiveness of the automatic aiming has also been improved. The Paragon & Renegade feature has also been introduced to the mobile version, modifying the character’s facial scars and biotic colours based on the choices they make. Additional improvements include new mission rewards, optimizations and higher-resolution graphics for the new iPad Retina Display. Mass Effect Infiltrator is a universal app and is available from the App Store for $5.

Starck claims work on ‘revolutionary’ Apple product (Updated)

Renowned industrial designer Philippe Starck has suggested that he has worked with Apple on a major upcoming product, according to a Le Figaro report (Translated Link). Speaking on the radio program France Info, Starck said that he has been working with Apple on a “revolutionary” product that will be launched in the next eight months, without going into details. Though Starck is perhaps best known within the Apple world for his collaborations on third-party accessories, including iPod-docking speakers from Parrot, a unique iOS device-docking lamp from F’los, and a line of external Mac-compatible hard drives from LaCie, he has become internationally famous for fashion-forward products and architectural endeavors, including the designs of hotels, restaurants, and public spaces.

Starck said in the interview that he met regularly with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to talk, noting in a roughly translated quote that “[f]or seven years I came to see him once a month in Palo Alto and elsewhere Monday I go there, because even though he is dead, now I will see his wife. We liked to talk all things interesting.”  [via MacRumors | Mac4Ever]

Update: In a statement to AllThingsD, Apple has denied that it is working on a project with Starck; the report suggests that the designer is instead involved with the design of the Jobs’ yacht.

German court upholds iCloud push email ban

A German regional court has upheld a ban on push emails delivered by Apple’s iCloud and MobileMe services, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The Mannheim regional court backed an earlier decision that barred Apple from offering the service in Germany on devices that were part of a patent dispute brought by Motorola Mobility. The court also held Apple liable for damages which must be paid to Motorola, although no amount was specified. A decision on a separate dispute between the two companies related to mobile communications standards was adjourned, with no date given for an expected ruling.

Soundfreaq Sound Kick available for pre-order

Soundfreaq’s Sound Kick portable Bluetooth speaker is now available for pre-order. Recipient of our Overall Best of Show award at the most recent CES, the Sound Kick is a compact speaker featuring a unique, sound-enhancing pull-out rear chamber, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a built-in rechargeable battery good for up to eight hours of audio playback, UQ3 spatial sound enhancement for improved audio, a USB port for charging compatible devices over wall power or from the internal battery, and a standard 3.5mm line-in jack for other audio sources. Soundfreaq’s Sound Kick sells for $100 and is expected to begin shipping next week; for more information, see our full review.

Apple responds to DOJ eBook antitrust suit

Apple has issued a statement on the matter of the antitrust lawsuit filed against itself and several major book publishers earlier this week. “The DOJ’s accusation of collusion against Apple is simply not true”, Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told AllThingsD. “The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry. Since then customers have benefited from eBooks that are more interactive and engaging. Just as we’ve allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore.”

SGI launches Speed Racer for iOS

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 Currents adds Instant Sync, international support

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.

Infinity Blade II: ClashMob update released

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.

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