Apple has hired a top traditional radio executive to help make advertising deals for iTunes Radio, Ad Age reports. Michael Pallad, formerly of Cumulus Media, is now leading international ad sales for iTunes Radio. The report notes that Apple is getting ready to “offer the service widely to advertisers in 2014,” following expiration of initial ad contracts made for iTunes Radio’s mid-2013 launch. Apple is seeking year-long commitments from advertisers that are worth at least $1 million. Apple SVP Eddy Cue has said plans are to bring iTunes Radio to more than 100 countries, with the service expected to launch in a number of countries early next year.
Apple has released its free 12 Days of Gifts app today — although it’s an annual release from apple, this will be the first year U.S. customers have access to the app. The app will allow users to download a free gift each day from Dec. 26 - Jan. 6. Those gifts could include “songs, apps, books, movies, and more.” Each gift will only be available for 24 hours.
The Animal Alphabet Singers ($4) from Think Smart teaches children the alphabet through hand-drawn animated animals. Four separate learning modes teach kids the alphabet in different ways. Developers of the app include people who have worked on Sesame Street, Avenue Q, Between the Lions, and other popular productions. The app seems very basic at first glance, with relatively flat hand-drawn artwork, but the audio portion is stronger and actually pretty charming. Young children will like the funny ways the animals talk and sing letters.
China Labor Watch is reporting that several workers at Apple supplier Pegatron have died suddenly, including Shi Zhaokun, a 15-year-old worker. These workers “passed away in a very short period of time,” and Pegatron failed to carry out “in-depth investigations into the causes of death,” according to China Labor Watch. CLW is demanding that Apple and the factory perform autopsies to verify the reasons for the workers’ deaths. Zhaokun reportedly died of severe pneumonia on Oct. 9, though the respiratory infection was apparently determined to be from non-contagious causes. He worked at Pegatron making Apple products, where “the factory demanded workers to work for 12 hours each day.” Pegatron assembles the iPhone 5c, among other products. CLW is seeking donations for an independent autopsy into the boy’s death.
As the 2014 International CES is less than one month away, we are accepting submissions of new iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV and Mac products for our annual 2014 Best of Show Awards. Focused on the very best Apple-related products debuted at CES each year, the awards are solely open to new iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and/or Mac products that are being publicly shown for the first time by official CES exhibitors.
We welcome advance submissions from companies, and have a team of editors canvassing the show floor for potential award recipients. In addition to awards for individual products, our editors select the Best Booth of Show, Best Overall Product of Show, and a special award for accessory innovation. A special display of winners will be shown at the entrances to the iLounge Pavilion in the North Hall.
Companies interested in submitting products for Best of Show consideration should contact Nick Guy immediately for additional information. All submissions must be received by the final deadline of December 20, 2013 to be eligible for advance consideration, and must also be on display in a booth on the show floor at the 2014 International CES.
Former Apple Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall has kept busy since his departure from Apple, according to The Information. The new pay site, which lists Forstall as one of technology’s big “free agents,” reports Forstall has traveled to Italy and South Africa in the past year. He’s also advised startups and has become more involved in philanthropy. Apple employees reportedly believe Forstall will start his own company at some point. [via Business Insider]
Former Apple accessories head Jesse Dorogusker left the company and joined Square to design the new Square Reader, Wired reports. According to the report, Dorogusker previously led development on Apple’s Lightning connector, and spent eight years heading up the accessories division for Apple before leaving. Wired notes with Square’s new Reader, Dorogusker “had the chance to take a crack at a flagship product.”
Much of the article focuses on the technical details of developing the new Square Reader, which is 45 percent thinner than Square’s old credit card reader, and no longer requires an internal battery for power. The Reader also improves the tactile feel of card swiping despite its smaller size.
China Mobile will take preorders for the iPhone starting Thursday Dec. 12, as noted by an ad on its website. The site says “4G is here!” and invites customers to preorder the iPhone 5s, among other phones. China Mobile will provide 4G services after Dec. 18. A pricing plan for new iPhones is reportedly being prepared — a recent report noted there was still some negotiating going on between China Mobile and Apple. [via Wall Street Journal]
Eight major technology companies are making an appeal to reform government surveillance, the Wall Street Journal reports. Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn and AOL have drafted an open letter to President Obama and members of Congress — a short version of the letter appears as a full-page ad in several print publications today. The companies have also created a set of reform principles. A joint website, www.reformgovernmentsurveillance.com, has been launched. The site includes the open letter, reform principles, and other details. This effort comes on the heels of new reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) has used a previously-unknown ability to activate computer web cameras without triggering their “on” lights, covertly spying on some users; it’s unclear whether Apple’s FaceTime cameras have been compromised with this technique.
Several recent applications have been released to remedy issues users have discovered with iOS 7’s moving wallpapers — namely, unintuitive changes in the ways iOS 7 resizes and positions photographs when used as wallpapers. Michael Belanger’s Fix My Wallpaper ($1) lets users zoom in and out on wallpaper photos, customize colors, and more. Wallpaper Fix ($1) from Bernhard Obereder promises quick resizing and positioning; this app locked up repeatedly during brief testing on an iPad Air. Another wallpaper resizing app is Brijit Sheelia’s Wallax ($1). All of the apps enable you to get a better sense of how an image will appear on the iOS device’s Lock and/or Home Screens, but one may have specific features that appeal to you.
Apple has released iOS 7 adoption statistic on its developer website, unusually nestling the information within an App Store Distribution section of the site. The company claims that “74% of devices are using iOS 7,” though it’s interesting how Apple reached that number. It says that the 74% was “as measured by the App Store during a 7‑day period ending December 1, 2013,” which would rule out iOS users who didn’t visit the App Store in that given week, a different and less absolute metric than has been offered by the company in the past. By contrast, Apple suggests that 22 percent of devices are using iOS 6, with 4 percent of devices still using an older edition of iOS.
A release date and price for Razer’s controller are unknown at this time. See our review of the first iOS controller to be released, MOGA’s Ace Power controller.
All 254 U.S. Apple Stores have now implemented Apple’s iBeacon technology, the Associated Press reports. Starting today, customers using the Apple Store app can benefit from in-store notifications as they move around the store, providing information such as orders ready for pick-up, iPhone upgrade eligibility, store events, and more. Notifications can differ based on where a customer is inside the store. The app will switch to “in-store” mode once a customer enters the Apple Store, provided that it has been set to allow location tracking and in-store notifications and Bluetooth are enabled on the iPhone.
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Pirates ($5) is an Assassin’s Creed game in name only, with only the most modest link to the console games. Instead of tracking down human targets from a first-person perspective, Pirates puts players behind the wheel of a pirate ship. It’s a turn-based naval battle game with very modest need for quick interactions, and players can upgrade their weapons, crew, and ships as the game progresses. You might enjoy it as long as you can distance your expectations from the Assassin’s Creed name; the graphics are extremely impressive, apart from the odd juxtaposition of cutout-like 2-D art atop fully 3-D worlds and ships.
Doctor Who: Legacy from Tiny Rebel Games (free) has arrived, likely much to the delight of the multitudes of Whovians. A turn-based puzzle/strategy game, Doctor Who: Legacy lets players revisit old episodes from the TV series. Episodes from seasons six and seven are available at launch, with more episodes and characters to be added daily.
A just-published Apple patent has revealed plans for a “smart dock” that would allow users to interact with a docked iOS device through voice recognition. The dock would actively listen for audio cues in order to communicate with the docked device — the device’s voice recognition mode would then be activated.
Therefore, Siri could be used without physically interacting with the docked iPhone, iPad, or iPod. Some embodiments of the dock include a device with storage media, a GPS receiver, and/or environmental sensors. An in-car implementation would make a lot of sense, as well. [via Apple Insider]
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has announced the newest version of the Bluetooth specification, Bluetooth 4.1. Bluetooth 4.1 promises new features that will allow the spec to “work seamlessly” with LTE. Better connections will allow manufacturers to control the reconnection time interval — devices can reconnect automatically when in proximity to each other, and disconnect when apart, allowing for improved battery life and a better user experience. Bulk data transfer will allow for a more efficient transfer of data gathered away from one’s home computer — the example given by the Bluetooth SIG notes an efficient transfer of exercise data. A Bluetooth device can also now act as both a peripheral and a hub at the same time, allowing for greater interaction between devices. Most interestingly, Bluetooth 4.1 is an over-the-air update that won’t require the purchase of new devices — the Bluetooth SIG recommends that manufacturers “immediately” implement Bluetooth 4.1 in their devices.
China Mobile has finally signed a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone on its network, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s expected that the iPhone will launch sometime around a Dec. 18 China Mobile conference, where the carrier plans to unveil a brand for its 4G network. A China Mobile subsidiary was briefly taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5c and 5s earlier this week, and the Chinese government previously suggested that Apple and China Mobile had reached a deal.
However, a more recent report claims that no deal has been made as of yet. “We are still negotiating with Apple, but for now we have nothing new to announce,” China Mobile spokeswoman Rainie Lei told Reuters. It’s entirely possible that a broad agreement was reached some time ago, but certain specifics have yet to be hammered out.
Exact Editions, a British digital publishing startup, is using Apple’s iBeacon technology to allow readers to access its titles for free in certain locations. A report suggests the tech could be used within a coffee shop or waiting room, as the publisher could sell multi-magazine subscriptions to businesses and locations. Macy’s also disclosed that it will be using iBeacon to trigger offers in different parts of its stores as part of a pilot program, and a number of Major League Baseball teams have expressed interest in using the technology within their stadiums. [via TechCrunch]
Honda has announced its Display Audio interface and Next Generation HondaLink, two new technologies that will debut in the 2014 Civic and will also be included in the 2015 Fit. Display Audio is a touchscreen interface that connects directly to an iPhone. Its features include audio, phonebook, and media access, in addition to navigation. The interface also integrates with the Civic’s built-in Siri Eyes Free mode, so iPhone users will be able to operate Siri through the steering wheel.
Next Generation HondaLink is an app-based platform that lets users access content in and outside of the car. It will be compatible with the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s at launch. It’s notable that these technologies are not a true implementation of Apple’s iOS in the Car, though the features are similar; it’s unclear whether cellular-capable iPads and other iOS devices will be compatible.
Apple is testing five 12.9-inch iPad prototypes designed by Foxconn, and the company could end up releasing two versions of the device, according to a report from China. The report suggests “2K” and “4K” screens are being tested, and it’s possible that the former could be released in April as the “iPad Pro”, with an advanced 4K “iPad Pro” coming in October.
While it’s possible that Apple could release both non-Retina and Retina iPad Pro models at different price levels and times, the likelihood of such a move is questionable at best. Current-generation iPad Air screens offer 3-Megapixel but “2K” resolutions, while MacBook Pro Retina screens offer 4-Megapixel resolutions—half the resolution of 4K (8-Megapixel) displays. Apple could easily release an upgraded 4-Megapixel iPad Pro with additional pixels, offering Retina-quality resolution while still falling short of the “4K” television standard. [via PadNews]
Jetpack Joyride (free), the popular endless runner from Halfbrick Studios has updated to version 1.6 with a number of new features. Strong Arm Machine or S.A.M. mode turns the protagonist, Barry Steakfries, into a giant robot. Using S.A.M. five days in a row will unlock exclusive outfits — 16 new costumes in all. For a limited time, players can buy The Sleigh of Awesome, which is powered by rocket-powered robotic reindeer, as a $5 in-app purchase.
James Kelleher’s Lonely Beast is back in The Lonely Beast 123 ($2), a counting app for kids. The big beast spends his days counting everything in his house, from 1 to 12. Mildly interactive scenes await children, who can listen to a voiceover by The Lonely Beast author Chris Judge. The app promises no in-app purchases, no third-party advertising, and no social media, making it a safe experience for youngsters; light tapping on screens activates voices and small animations.