News | iLounge

2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

News

Apps: Table Top Racing, Penultimate 4, Super Bowl XLVII Apps

As huge fans of Sony’s futuristic Wipeout racing games, we nearly burst with excitement before playing former Wipeout co-creator Nick Burcombe’s just-released universal iOS game Table Top Racing ($3). Good news: the graphics are Retina sharp and fluid, the controls and audio are respectable, and there’s a four-player multiplayer mode. Bad news: it’s a toy car take on Mario Kart, with weak weapons and low intensity, set in levels that look like overpopulated tables and desks. Consider grabbing it to support indie developer Playrise Edge/Playrise Digital on the road to the next Wipeout—just realize that Table Top Racing isn’t that game, or at this point, even close.

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Originally sold for $3, the note-taking and sketching program Penultimate has been on each of iLounge’s editors’ iPads for years, having justified its asking price long ago with an intuitively simple drawing interface. Following its acquisition by Evernote, Penultimate has just been updated to version 4 while becoming free: now, the UI looks Retina-sharp and polished, pages sync across multiple devices, and can be text-searched with handwriting recognition—assuming you sign up for an Evernote account. If for whatever reason you held off on grabbing this app before, the new features and zero-dollar pricetag make it a must-grab for iPad users, right now.

Apple to patent proximity sensing for TV audio, video chat

A newly revealed Apple patent application reveals a system that can adjust and enhance audio based on a user’s proximity to the device. While the application notes that the device could be a computer, tablet, or audio player, Apple also notes that it could be used for a television—and includes illustrations showing what appears to be a TV.

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Operating as novel proximity sensors, a multiple microphone array and face detection processing could enable a video conferencing camera and mic to focus on one of multiple users. The system could also conceivably adjust audio based on the environment. “For example, echo cancellation may be desired and/or affected by the size and acoustics of the room,” the description reads, meaning that a small, carpeted room could receive different audio output than a large room with hardwood floors. [via Patently Apple]

Report: Apple accused of bribing Russian officials

Apple is suspected of bribing Russian officials with a paid trip to London, according to a report from Russia. The company is alleged to have set up a week-long seminar for Russian regional ministers of education and other officials to learn more about Apple products, at a time when the government is about to award up to $66.5 million per region for equipment modernization. A representative from the National Anti-Corruption Committee said the matter should be investigated as if Apple completely financed the trip. Apple denies paying for the officials’ travel. [via Brightwire from Regnum]

Apple aims to patent laser-aided virtual keyboard

An Apple patent application published today reveals a laser-based depth perception system that could be used to create a virtual keyboard. The system described in the patent would use an image capturing device and a laser source that would “emit a fan shaped laser beam” to capture depth.

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A “projected control panel” is described as a possibility, as the system could create a virtual keyboard that would determine the depth of “a user’s finger, a stylus, or other input mechanism.” An autofocus camera feature would also be a possibility using this system. It’s noted that the technology could be implemented in a computer, tablet, or mobile device, and the iPhone is referred to specifically by name. [via Apple Insider]

Apps: Endless Alphabet, Facebook 5.4, Snow Queen, Temple Run 2 + Vine

Currently being given away as a limited time promotion, Callaway Digital Arts’ Endless Alphabet (Free) is one of the best letter and spelling apps we’ve seen for iPads, iPhones, and iPods. Kids are presented with an alphabetized list of vocabulary words—ones that are arguably a little more advanced than might be expected for the mass of children that will instantly understand the interface—and then rearrange charmingly animated “monster” letters to form the words. Additional words and monsters will be added each week, says Callaway. From the music and fun animations to the theme and interface, Endless Alphabet is most definitely worth grabbing for any young child.

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Despite its ubiquity and ever-growing collection of features, Facebook’s universal iOS app Facebook (Free) continues to rack up middling App Store rankings—this time due as much to crashes as still-missing desktop site functionality. The just-released version 5.4 claims to build upon the recent addition of voice messaging and VoIP calling with new video recording and sharing features, but apart from iPhone/iPod UI tweaks borrowed from Facebook Messenger, the differences don’t appear to be major. Improvements to the Nearby/Places Nearby feature, now including an interactive map with icons leading directly to business pages, are for now more intriguing.

Report: New Apple TV upgrades internals, same size

An Apple spokesman has taken the unusual step of speaking about an apparently unreleased new product, dampening expectations that the company will modify both the inside and outside of the upcoming Apple TV refresh. According to The Next Web, Apple says that the new Apple TV is only an internal upgrade with a new model number, refuting an earlier report of a slightly smaller chassis based on published FCC documents. “We sometimes make component changes which require an updated model number for regulatory approval,” said the Apple spokesperson. “The component changes we made don’t affect product features and Apple TV customers will continue to have the same great user experience.”

Apple TV 3,2 is a “mid-season refresh,” and believed to feature the A5X processor and the Broadcom BCM4334 wireless chip. The report speculates that the apparent several-millimeter size difference was based on measurement of the new unit without its external shell.

Siri Eyes Free coming to Honda Accord, Acura models

Apple’s Siri Eyes Free feature will be coming to the 2013 Honda Accord, Acura RDX, and Acura ILX as a dealer-installed option. The feature, which allows drivers to complete a number of hands-free tasks by relying on Siri voice commands, works on iPhone 5 or 4S models running iOS 6. Honda was initially announced as a manufacturer that would use Siri Eyes Free. In late November, GM announced integration with Siri Eyes Free in its Spark and Sonic cars. [via Engadget]

Satechi debuts Smart LED Desk Lamp

Satechi has announced the Smart LED Desk Lamp ($100), a lamp with an iPod/iPhone-charging USB port on the back. Interestingly, the lamp has four different lighting modes with different color temperatures: Reading mode uses mid-range temperatures to reduce eye strain, study mode uses high-range temperatures, relaxation mode uses low-range temperatures, and bedtime mode uses low-range temperatures to produce a soft light. The Smart LED Desk Lamp has a lifespan of 40,000+ hours and consumes 1/8 the power of an incandescent lamp.

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It features a timer function to turn off the lamp automatically after an hour of inactivity, and its three joints allow the LED panel and frame to adjust to multiple angles. While it’s a more expensive alternative to a typical wall charger, it helps to eliminate wall outlet and desk clutter, with the nice design and novel temperature adjustments as nice assets. Satechi’s Smart LED Desk Lamp comes in black and white, and is available now.

Samsung infringement of Apple patents ruled not willful

Samsung did not willfully infringe Apple’s design and utility patents, Judge Lucy Koh ruled Tuesday night. In August, a jury ruled that the patents in question were infringed upon by Samsung, leading to a $1.05 billion fine for the company. Samsung argued that it believed Apple’s patents to be invalid, and as such, it couldn’t have infringed them willfully. The new ruling means that Apple won’t receive additional damages — the original fine could be reduced, but not necessarily. A bid for a new trial by Samsung was also rejected in the ruling. [via The Verge]

New Apple TV slightly smaller; new CPU and antenna?

A fourth-generation Apple TV with slightly smaller dimensions has been revealed in a recent Federal Communications Commission filing. The device, which appears to be the Apple TV3,2 discovered in iOS 6.1, features a length and width of 93.78 mm, compared to the current model’s 98 mm. A new model number, A1469, is also spotted on the illustration of the device. Another report notes the new device uses one antenna instead of two, and also is likely to contain a different A5X processor. Bluetooth 4 continues to be inside, as does 802.11a/b/g/n support, without support for the latest 802.11ac standard. [via Engadget, Anandtech]

Report: Apple losing power over carriers, subsidies changing?

Apple’s share of the smartphone market is expected to peak at 22 percent this year, according to a Reuters report, and cellular carriers may be in a position to negotiate more competitive prices. The report details how the strength of other smartphone operating systems may loosen Apple’s grip on the overall market. “The more operating systems we have to compete in this area the better the competition,” said Fran Shammo, chief financial officer of Verizon Communications, noting that Apple’s iOS now confronts Android, Windows, and Blackberry as strong platforms. Reuters also notes that T-Mobile USA plans to stop subsidizing smartphones when it begins to sell the iPhone, and other carriers are considering follow suit. “That’s something we’ve looked at on several occasions. I kind of like that idea,” said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. “It’s something we’re going to be watching.”

The report claims that a “less powerful Apple could be welcomed by telecommunications carriers and component suppliers that have grown accustomed to the tough terms Apple was able to exact thanks to its massive scale and leadership in the market.” Apple may already be anticipating the loss of subsidies and a future with lower-cost devices as it prepares a low-cost iPhone for release.

Philips exits consumer electronics, sells business to Funai

After over 80 years in the consumer electronics business, Philips announced Tuesday that it has sold the remainder of its consumer-focused electronics business to Japan’s Funai. Although Philips steadily reduced its involvement in consumer electronics, leaving its television and mobile phone divisions behind in recent years, the company suffered a fourth-quarter net loss of €358 Million (about $481 million).

Philips has had an interesting history with Apple. It originally sold products that challenged the iPod, including its GoGear series of media players. It then started to make iPod-friendly speaker systems, and later bought iPod/iPhone accessory maker DLO to become a major player in Apple accessories. The company developed quite a few distinctive speakers, eventually including some AirPlay models at widely varying price points, and continued to sell earphones and headphones. Funai will apparently continue to sell these products under its own brand.

Philips will now turn most of its attention to medical equipment, as healthcare sales made up 40 percent of the group’s revenue in the fourth quarter. Consumer lifestyle products accounted for 26 percent of the company’s fourth quarter revenue. [via Wall Street Journal]

Apple announces 128GB fourth-gen iPad

Confirming reports, Apple has officially announced that a 128GB version of the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display will go on sale Tuesday, Feb. 5, in black or white. The Wi-Fi model will cost $799, and the Wi-Fi + Cellular model will cost $929. Apple is pitching the higher-capacity iPad primarily to “enterprises, educators and artists,” suggesting that its capacity will be useful for “over 300,000 native iPad apps.” This appears to be an acknowledgement that the iPad is becoming a viable alternative to laptops, and will be offered in capacities rivaling them.

Leaked photos show iPad 5 back piece

Photos of a prototype back piece for the fifth-generation iPad have been leaked by a “purported China-based iPad accessories maker,” according to a new report. The photos show a smaller, thinner casing with chamfered edges and virtually no left or right bezel, confirming our exclusive report from last week.

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The top of the backplate indicates that this is an LTE model. Our sources have said the fifth-generation iPad will launch in or near October. [via 9to5Mac]

iPad 4th-gen, mini add LTE carriers, 3rd-gen ignored

Buried with asterisked footnotes in the press release announcing iOS 6.1, Apple today dramatically expanded international LTE support for the fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini debuted in November, while apparently leaving LTE support untouched in earlier third-generation iPads. An updated version of Apple’s iPad LTE support chart illustrates the now considerable network differences between 2012’s iPad versions, as well as another interesting change: the dual-mode CDMA/GSM iPads designed for Verizon and Sprint now offer considerably broader LTE support than the GSM-only iPad that is offered to AT&T and Canadian customers.

The GSM-only fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini gained only three carriers in today’s update: Canadian carriers MTS and Sasktel, plus Mexican carrier Telcel. By comparison, the dual-mode CDMA/GSM models sold for Verizon and Sprint today added support for Belgium’s Proximus, Denmark’s 3, Telenor, and Telia, Finland’s DNA, Elisa, and Sonera, Greece’s Cosmote, Hungary’s T-Mobile, Italy’s 3, TIM, and Vodafone, Luxembourg’s Orange and Tango, the Philippines’ Globe, Portugal’s Optimus, TMN, and Vodafone, Romania’s Orange, and Switzerland’s Swisscom. Notably, the CDMA/GSM iPads support five LTE bands—1, 3, 5, 13, and 25—while the GSM-only versions support two bands, 4 and 17. With today’s update, it’s increasingly clear that the GSM-only iPad models will be significantly less useful than the CDMA/GSM models for LTE outside of North America, though they can still operate on slower pre-LTE networks.

According to Apple’s iPad LTE support chart, the company did not add the same new LTE carrier support to the third-generation iPad, which was released in March of last year. The third-generation AT&T iPad featured the same LTE band 4 and 17 support as the fourth-generation model, but the CDMA version was apparently built specifically for Verizon’s network, with support only for band 13.

Apple TV Software Update 5.2 adds Bluetooth input, more

Apple today released Apple TV software version 5.2 for the second- and third- generation streaming media players. Arriving alongside iOS 6.1, the update brings enhanced support for iTunes in the Cloud, the addition of the Up Next feature introduced in iTunes 11, and long-awaited Bluetooth keyboard support. Apple notes that the Apple TV can now be controlled by Bluetooth wireless keyboards—the first official feature to unlock Bluetooth hardware that sat unused in the devices up until now.

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As with all Apple TV software, version 5.2 can be downloaded directly from the Apple TV’s Settings > General menu.

Additionally, a third version of the update was released, for the yet-unannounced AppleTV3,2. The second- and third-generations are denoted as AppleTV2,1 and AppleTV3,1, respectively. It’s not clear what this new hardware entails, or when it may be coming. Notably, MacRumors suggests it may be an international model. 

iOS 6.1 out, adds LTE carriers, Siri-Fandango, more

Apple today released iOS 6.1, the newest version of the mobile operating system for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Weighing in at 107 MB, the update can be installed over the air or by connecting to iTunes.

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According to the release notes, the update adds LTE support for an additional 36 iPhone and 23 iPad LTE carriers, the ability to purchase movie tickets through Fandango with Siri, individual song downloads from iCloud for iTunes Match subscribers, and a new button to reset the Advertising Identifier. Interestingly, using Fandango to purchase tickets requires you to have separately downloaded Fandango’s app. An Apple TV update based upon iOS 6.1 was released simultaneously.

Staples to sell Apple products?

A mock-up page found on office supply company Staples’ website briefly advertised the Apple TV for half off, according to a new report, leading to speculation that the retail chain will start selling Apple products—most likely without such aggressive discounting. Other temporary product pages included references to adapters, Lightning adapters, EarPods, and iPad Smart Cases and Smart Covers.

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Since the initial report, the test pages have apparently been removed by Staples, but screenshots show the mock-ups. Staples has not carried Apple’s product line, reportedly due to issues in acquiring products from Apple itself. [via 9to5Mac]

Leaked photos show alleged new iPhone speakers

Speaker components from two upcoming iPhones have leaked, according to a new report.

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While the report suggests that the parts are for the “iPhone 5S” and the “iPhone 6,” as shown in the included photo, there’s good reason to believe that the parts are for the iPhone 5S and lower-cost iPhone currently believed to be coming later this year. They show only modest changes from the current-generation iPhone 5 speaker, with the “iPhone 6” part noticeably thicker than the iPhone 5S component, consistent with reports that the less expensive iPhone will be thicker than the nearly identical-looking iPhone 5 and 5S. [via Nowhereelse.fr]

Report: Apple to release 128GB fourth-gen iPad

Apple is expected to release a 128GB version of the current fourth-generation iPad, according to a new report. Like the device released late last year, the iPad will come in both black and white options, and in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular versions. The report is based in part on new SKUs at a “high-profile U.S. retailer,” referring to an “ultimate” edition of the P101 and P103 iPads — internal Apple names for the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular editions of the fourth-generation iPad. Apple SKU descriptions of current products only refer to “good,” “better,” and “best,” which are the 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64GB models. No pricing information is known as of yet.

Further evidence pointing to a new 128 GB iPad is found within the code for iOS 6.1 beta 5, which was recently released to developers. The code contains a reference to a device with 128 GB capacity. iTunes 11 notably included a badge for a 128GB device, though none has yet been released. [via 9to5Mac]

Update: The 9to5Mac report has been updated with pricing information. The Wi-Fi model will cost $799, and the Wi-Fi + Cellular model will cost $929.

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