Apple’s new Activation Lock feature for iOS 7 will be tested by prosecutors today to see if would-be thieves can still use a stolen iPhone 5. The tests are being headed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who previously challenged Apple and other companies to actively combat theft of mobile devices. “While we are appreciative of the efforts made by Apple and Samsung to improve security of the devices they sell, we are not going to take them at their word,” Schneiderman and Gascón said in a joint statement. Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is also being tested. “Today we will assess the solutions they are proposing and see if they stand up to the tactics commonly employed by thieves.” [via CNET]
Sega’s After Burner Climax ($3) has updated to version 1.1. The update adds a new plane to the game, the X-47B, an ummanned stealth plane from Northrop Grumman. After Burner Climax has also added in-game cinematics to enhance the gameplay experience, restoring arcade sequences that were missing from the original iOS release.
Google updated its free Chrome web browser to version 28.0.1500.12. Chrome now features interoperability with other Google iOS apps, with an option to open links for YouTube, Maps, G+ and Drive within each separate app. Enhancements to voice search, and text-to-speech for “all variations” of English, Spanish, German, Italian, French, Japanese, and Korean are also included. The app now goes to fullscreen on iPad, as well. Data usage savings have been improved, as have page load times.
As Apple has recently released Apple TV app-like sections for HBO and ESPN while readying a Time Warner Cable app, the company has also “talked in-depth with other big distributors about similar apps,” according to The New York Times. So far, Apple’s move into TV has been focused on cooperating with distributors and programmers, though its “grand vision” — long-rumored to involve a TV set — is still a mystery. Apple apparently intends to collect fees from distributors to provide enhanced service while continuing to keep current subscribers paying for cable. An example of this enhanced service should be seen in the upcoming Time Warner app, which some say will offer a programming guide that’s “far superior” to Time Warner’s. It’s also noted that Apple has proposed an ad-skipping technology that would charge users for skipping ads, as reported earlier this week by Jessica Lessin. The technology would aim to compensate networks for ad revenue lost, preserving a monetization option for digitally distributed TV programming.
Apple, along with other tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, will reportedly publish a letter asking for increased transparency in U.S. government surveillance. The letter will ask government leaders to let service providers report on national security-related information requests with more detail. Faced with accusations of surreptitious data harvesting from their users, these companies wish to regularly report the number of: requests for user information, individuals or accounts for which information was requested, and requests seeking communications and other information. A government-issued transparency report is also sought by the coalition. “This information about how and how often the government is using these legal authorities is important to the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of those authorities and their use,” a copy of the letter reads. [via AllThingsD]
Apple’s rumored smart watch will focus on fitness, according to a new 9to5Mac report. Likely to be a wearable computer on the wrist, the “iWatch” is being developed by a team reportedly led by Senior Vice President Bob Mansfield, Vice President Kevin Lynch, and senior hardware director James Foster. Lynch, who was hired from Adobe in March, is reportedly focusing on the device’s “overall software vision.” His team consists of former iPod hardware and software designers, while Foster’s team contains sensor, chip, and battery experts. Fitness and fashion experts have reportedly been brought in to assist with developing and marketing the device, as well.
Former iPhone engineers are also reportedly working on the device, and some people from Apple’s acquisition of biometric security company Authentec are working on sensors for the smart watch. Interestingly, it’s noted that Apple has hired people who have worked on devices that analyze sleep patterns — Apple could be giving the users a reason to keep the watch on through the night, which might lead to recharging challenges. Other designers and developers on the team specialize in distance measurement and “integrating mobile devices with fitness equipment.” The report speculates Apple may also want to measure medical information in “a non-invasive way;” for instance, glucose levels could be monitored while wearing the watch. A release date for the watch is still unknown — it was originally believed the iWatch could launch this year, but a recent report claims late 2014 is more likely.
New Trent has released Airbender Mini ($40), a new protective keyboard case for iPad mini. Attractively priced relative to rivals, Airbender Mini features a rugged hardshell body and a Bluetooth 2.0 wireless keyboard. An adjustable arm lets users move the iPad mini into a horizontal or vertical viewing position.
A micro-USB cable is included for charging the keyboard. Airbender Mini comes in matte black and is available now.
A patent granted to Crucible Intellectual Property, the technology partnership formed by Apple and Liquidmetal Technologies, could enable mass production of amorphous metal alloys — otherwise known as metallic glass — in the fabrication of devices. The patent involves the creation of molten metal sheets that could be formed into an electronic device like the iPhone, or as part of a display, such as with a TV monitor. It notably suggests that Apple and Liquidmetal have developed a system to fabricate large pieces of the malleable material, which was previously considered difficult to commercialize due to mass manufacturing challenges.
Cypress Semiconductor has announced a new development kit that allows companies to quickly create audio accessories for iOS Lightning devices. The CY8CKIT-033A PSoC 3 MFi Digital Audio Development Kit for Lightning is being offered to developers for $199, and as the name suggests, it streamlines the process of designing a custom system-on-chip (SoC) solution to process “bit-perfect” USB digital audio data from Lightning devices.
Cypress notes that Apple’s Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad (MFi) connectivity specification has become very complex, now running more than 250 pages long with numerous changes and revisions. The CY8CKIT-033A incorporates the latest MFi specifications and is MFi-licensed, letting developers use a software solution to prototype hardware for Lightning audio accessories such as speakers and musical instruments. Over 100 components are found in the PSoC Creator software, which uses a drag and drop interface to lay out the processor’s feature; support for Lightning, older Dock Connectors, MIDI and USB interfaces are all included. Developers interested in the Kit will need to obtain an Apple MFi license before buying the kit directly from Apple’s MFi web site.
Google has released version 2.0 of its popular free Google Maps app for iOS today. The update most notably includes an all-new interface for iPad users, which has been absent from the app since its release late last year. Navigation has been enhanced to include live traffic updates and incident reports. Indoor maps are also included — walking directions are now available for malls, airports, and other selected spots.
The app also introduces the Explore feature, which lets users browse restaurants, stores, hotels, and more by category, spotlighting ones in your immediate area first. Zagat content and user place ratings and reviews have been added, and Google Offers now brings deals to users in this major update. As the app is now truly universal, each of the new features is available across all compatible iOS devices.
Apple’s iPhone 5S will ramp up production later this month, according to a report from AllThingsD. “Sources familiar with the company’s plans” have confirmed reports about increased iPhone 5S production, including a mention from analyst Peter Misek. Notably, Misek previously claimed the 5S would enter preliminary production in March for a June or July launch. Misek has now said the latest increase in production will follow current production of Apple’s unnamed budget iPhone, which AllThingsD suggests will be “mid-end,” and likely to sell for $300 to $400 unsubsidized. The AllThingsD confirmation of iPhone 5S production can be taken as highly likely to be accurate, and its discussion of the budget iPhone appears to add further weight to prior pricing rumors on that topic.
Diverging from Mundomono/Kid Bunch’s past fairy tale titles, Bean Bag Kids Apollo 11 ($3) tells the story of the three American astronauts who traveled to the moon, culminating in the first ever moon landing. Using button-memorizing and tapping sequences, kids aged six and up can control takeoff of the spaceship, separation into parts, landing on the moon, and a return to space. The graphics engine has radically improved over the developer’s past titles, now featuring impressive 3-D models and special effects that look like they could have come out of Super Mario Galaxy. The audio and storytelling is reasonable as well, albeit with some small details that could stand to be fixed. There’s a bit less actual Bean Bag character content than before, but the cool spaceship sequences and now interstellar scale of the artwork make up for that. Really young kids will find the button memorization sequences too challenging. Note that this app is currently available elsewhere and should be coming to the US App Store soon.
Care Bears: Create & Share! (Free*) from Budge Studios lets kids create postcards with Care Bear art, greetings, and stamps, then e-mail or save them. The art portion of the app lets you pick from a wide variety of actual Care Bear colors and belly badges, as well as letting you create your own badges. Adult Care Bears and the new child character Wonderheart Bear are included. Greetings can either be typed or drawn, and kids can choose from different backgrounds, frames, and stamp designs before sending off their creations. You can even substitute a photograph of your face for the Care Bear’s face, if you’d like. While the app is free, most of the Care Bears’ bodies are locked behind a $4 in-app purchase that unlocks everything and removes ads — individual Bears can be purchased separately at a higher total cost. Unfortunately, the Good Luck Bear art remains locked even after the purchase, requiring you to promote the app on a social media service to unlock that feature, which may disappoint young kids.
The four major U.S. cellular carriers have announced new plans that will allow customers to upgrade their iPhones or iPads more frequently, or receive unlimited data. Three of the new plans appear to be similar, with one carrier’s new plan going in a different direction:
- AT&T introduced its AT&T Next program today. The plan allows users to get a new AT&T iPhone or iPad each year with no down payment, activation fee, upgrade fee, or financing fees. Customers must pay a monthly device installment fee for 12 months, with fees varying based on the device. After making 12 monthly payments, customers can trade in the used device for a new device. If keeping the device, the installment payments end after 20 months. The AT&T Next program starts on July 26.
- T-Mobile’s recently announced JUMP! program is somewhat similar to AT&T’s program, though only for phones. iPhone users can upgrade their phone twice each year after a six-month waiting period, for an extra $10 monthly fee. This program is already in effect.
- Verizon (updated July 18, 2013) officially introduced its own device upgrade plan, Verizon Edge. Verizon Edge offers a flexible monthly payment plan that lets users spread the retail price of a phone over 24 months. The program will then let users trade in the phone and upgrade to a new phone after six months, if 50 percent of the retail cost of the user’s current phone has been paid. It will be available to Share Everything plan customers on Aug. 25.
- Sprint recently introduced its Sprint Unlimited Guarantee. Unlike the other three carriers, Sprint’s new plan is unrelated to upgrading devices. The Sprint Unlimited Guarantee lets customers lock in unlimited talk, text, and data on the Sprint network for life when signing up for the new Unlimited, My Way or My All-in plans. These plans are currently available, and start at $80 per month.
Griffin today announced the release of its PowerDock 5 ($100), a device charger that can hold up to five iOS devices at once. First seen at CES 2013, PowerDock 5 takes up about as much desk space as an iPad, featuring five USB charging ports and a clear backrest to prop up each iOS device. Each port features 10-watt, 2.1 amp charging—enough for full-speed recharging of non-Retina iPads, as well as all current iPhones and iPods.
Because of its design, PowerDock 5 allows devices to be charged while still in their cases. However, USB cables are not included. PowerDock 5 is available now.
Apple is negotiating to acquire PrimeSense, the company that created the technology behind Microsoft’s Kinect, according to a report from Israeli publication Calcalist. Though the negotiations are in the early stages, a deal could reportedly cost Apple around $280 million. PrimeSense holds important patents related to motion sensors reading body movements, which Apple may want to use as it develops its next-generation Apple TV and/or television set. Microsoft used the company’s technology for Kinect, and is now using it in the enhanced Kinect hardware developed for Xbox One. [via 9to5Mac]
A recent Apple hiring spree focused on the company’s rumored smart watch suggests that the device won’t be ready for launch until late 2014, according to the Financial Times. Apple is reportedly “aggressively” hiring for the project at this time. Though Apple has recently filed for the “iWatch” trademark in multiple countries, the release date for such a product still remains a mystery. Reports earlier this year suggested that the company was facing significant battery life issues as a result of a decision to use the iOS operating system for the watch, rather than sticking with the lower-power operating system built for the sixth-generation iPod nano.
Meanwhile, another report has surfaced suggesting that the Retina iPad mini will be delayed until 2014. This new report from Digitimes claims Apple is attempting to design a Retina display iPad mini with “an almost bezel-free look,” likely to be released next year. A “slightly updated” version of the current iPad mini may ship in the second half of this year.
Update: DigiTimes is now contradicting its own recent report, saying there will be no delay for the Retina iPad mini, which should launch in October. Once seemingly on the upswing, the publication’s track record of accuracy has returned to “highly questionable,” casting doubt on the veracity of anything it publishes regarding future Apple products.
Rovio today announced that Angry Birds Star Wars II will be released on Sept. 19, notably paired with a line of “Telepods” toys that will interact with the game. According to Rovio, “Placing these figures onto your phone or tablet camera will scan your character of choice directly into the game, allowing you to select new characters on the fly.” The figures will be sold in stores for the September launch. More than 30 playable characters will be available in the game, which will focus on the Star Wars prequels.
It’ll also be possible to “Join the Pork Side” in the game this time around, rather than playing with the heroic rebels. Rovio made a point of noting the company “will not comment on rumors or speculation that Jar Jar Binks will be in the game.” [via Rovio]
Apple will use Samsung to manufacture A9 chips for a future iPhone, according to a new report. Samsung reportedly signed an agreement to supply the processors to Apple in 2015. The report notes Samsung lost the contract for A8 chips to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, but regained the order by developing “state-of-the-art 14 nano models.” This appears to contradict a prior report claiming TSMC would start to produce A9 and A9X chips for Apple in the third-quarter of 2014, in addition to the A8 chips, which should go into production this month. Ambiguities in Apple’s supply chain have grown as the company has expanded its manufacturing and component supply partners, including efforts to reduce its dependence on Samsung. [via The Korea Economic Daily]
Apple is looking into the death of a Chinese woman who was apparently killed when answering a call on her charging iPhone 5. According to China’s Xinhua news agency, 23-year-old Ma Ailun was electrocuted when she took a call on the charging phone. Apple declined to comment on details, but released an email saying, “We are deeply saddened to learn of this tragic incident and offer our condolences to the Ma family. We will fully investigate and cooperate with authorities in this matter.” [via Reuters]
Time Inc., publisher of Time Magazine and 20 other magazines, will offer free iOS Newsstand previews for all of its publications by year’s end. The magazines will let users read a few articles from a magazine, while teasing the rest of the content — the Entertainment Weekly iPad app is currently offering the feature in its latest issue. Time Inc. hopes to increase its number of digital-only subscribers with the move. Notably, the publisher didn’t reach an agreement with Apple on magazine sales until June of last year. [via AllThingsD]
Apple’s new Retina-equipped iPad mini may not ship until next year, according to a Taiwanese report. A shortage of Retina displays may cause Apple to push back the device’s shipping date. The report also seems to indicate there may be a non-Retina version of the next-generation iPad mini, though any differences in release dates or features between the rumored devices are unknown. A June report also claimed the release of the second-generation iPad mini would be pushed back a few months, but indicated it would likely be available by the holiday season. [via Economic Daily News (translated link)]