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2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

News

iLounge Game Spotlight: Rocket Robo

Rocket Robo ($1) is a new 2.5D side-scrolling puzzler from Aaron McElligott. In the game, you guide a little jetpack-equipped robot through a number of bright, twisting levels, picking up stars before you reach the finish line. It’s rated 4+.

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From the get-go, Rocket Robo is a joy to look at, with bright, colorful levels and a cute little character who bears a passing resemblance to the robots from the 1987 film Batteries Not Included. The handwoven textures in the first world, Material World, bring to mind LittleBigPlanet’s Sackboy and Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii. The next world features more traditional space station levels.

Apple CEO Cook talks taxes during Ireland visit

Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny today during a visit to Ireland, and Kenny confirmed the meeting included a discussion of corporate tax rate. Kenny, the Irish head of government, said Ireland is “participating fully” in EU discussions about corporate tax rate, and denied that the Irish government makes special deals with Apple or any other companies. Apple drew criticism last year for allegedly avoiding taxes in both Ireland and the U.S due to a loophole stemming from the incorporation of the company’s international operations in Ireland. Cook said in a statement at the time, “We pay all the taxes we owe — every single dollar.” During his visit, Cook also addressed Apple staff in the company’s Cork office. [via thejournal.ie]

Zynga acquires Clumsy Ninja maker NaturalMotion

Zynga announced that the company has acquired NaturalMotion, developer of the Clumsy Ninja app, for $527 million in cash and equity. Zynga also announced it would lay off 314 employees, or 15 percent of its workforce. Though Clumsy Ninja was first introduced during the Sept. 2012 media event for the iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch, its release was delayed until Nov. 2013. The game has proven to be very popular despite the delay — Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said during Apple’s recent earnings call that Clumsy Ninja was downloaded 10 million times during its first week of release.

MLB stadium iBeacons to be ready by Opening Day

Thousands of iBeacons will be placed in Major League Baseball ballparks next week, with MLB hoping to have 20 parks outfitted by Opening Day in late March. Boston, Milwaukee, San Diego, San Francisco, and the L.A. Dodgers will be among the teams with iBeacons installed in their stadiums, MacRumors reports. Each park should have about 100 iBeacons installed. It was reported last year that many MLB teams expressed interest in iBeacon, with the New York Mets already testing the technology. iBeacon will work with MLB’s At The Ballpark app. Though functionality will differ in each ballpark, it’s likely the app will use iBeacon to offer ballpark information, concessions coupons, and loyalty programs, among other features.

Apps: Facebook/Paper, Jack and the Beanstalk, The Room 2 1.0.3, SwiftKey Note

Facebook has updated its free app to version 6.9.1. The update lets users choose whose posts to see in News Feed, and also puts all uploaded videos into one album. More notable, however, was Facebook’s introduction of Paper. The new iOS app lets users view their Facebook News Feed in addition to other sections featuring outside content, such as sports and food. At first glance, Paper looks like an intriguing, well-designed app. It will be released Feb. 3, and we’ll have more on it next week.

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Jack and the Beanstalk ($5) is more than just another new interactive storybook app from Nosy Crow. The developer has really upped the ante — a more cinematic presentation highlights the upgraded high-resolution graphics, and the camera work within the app is very well done. More gaming elements have been added, and Nosy Crow hopes that will get more reluctant readers into the story. For instance, Jack gets to climb the beanstalk while being assisted by the child reader. All of this is bolstered by the same high-quality voice acting and music expected from Nosy Crow.

Report: PayPal wants to aid Apple with mobile payments

PayPal has been pitching Apple on helping out with the Cupertino company’s rumored mobile payments system, Re/code reports. Industry executives say PayPal is offering to “white-label parts of its own payment service,” from infrastructure to payment processing. While PayPal may be keen to partnering with Apple, the interest may not be reciprocated — two executives said it’s “unlikely” Apple would need to team with PayPal. It’s tough to see why Apple would seek such a partnership, considering the company has the infrastructure and technology to go it alone. According to a recent report, Apple SVP Eddy Cue has met with industry executives about making payments through iTunes accounts. Additionally, Apple CEO Tim Cook said during Monday’s earnings call that making mobile payments “was one of the thoughts with Touch ID.”

Report: Nest team to work on Google hardware

Google will keep its newly acquired Nest group intact to work on hardware for the company, TechCrunch reports. Nest, founded by “father of the iPod” Tony Fadell, will “not necessarily” work on thermostats or smoke detectors, as Google reportedly “would like Fadell to work on gadgets that make more sense for the company.” It’s possible that phones or tablets could be part of that plan. Google’s recent acquisition of Nest cost $3.2 billion.

Apple pushes to open sapphire plant for ‘critical new sub-component’

Documents between Apple and U.S. Foreign Trade Zone officials show the company is planning an “aggressive” push to open its new Arizona sapphire manufacturing plant in February, possibly in time to include sapphire in products to launch later this year. In one of the documents obtained by 9to5Mac, Apple explains that the manufacturing process in the plant “will create a critical new sub-component of Apple products.” Though the ambiguous description could conceivably refer to the use of Touch ID in new devices, it’s also possible that sapphire could play a larger role in existing Apple products; an Apple patent application published today shows a “sapphire window,” with an illustration of an iPhone with a sapphire display. Another possibility is that sapphire could be used in Apple’s rumored iWatch. [via Apple Insider]

iCloud.com glitch hints at web iCloud Bookmarks?

A glitch on iCloud.com may reveal that iCloud Bookmarks will soon be coming to the iCloud.com portal. The glitch was reportedly found during an attempt to install the iCloud Control Panel for Windows extension for Chrome. A page that reads, “iCloud Bookmarks are coming soon. Please check back later,” pops up briefly at the bookmarks extension URL. The page shows a smiling cloud holding the iOS 7 Safari bookmarks button. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple releases iOS 7.0.5

Apple has released iOS 7.0.5. The update “corrects network provisioning” for some iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c models sold in China. iOS 7.0.5 is only available for some iPhone 5c/5s models.

iOS Gmail bug deleted some user emails

A Gmail bug has accidentally deleted the emails of some users, and reported others as spam. Gmail’s iOS app, mobile browsers using Gmail, and the offline version of Gmail recently fell prey to a software bug which did not affect all users, Google said. According to a notice from Google, the issue occurred between Jan. 15 and 22 and is now fixed. Users should check Trash and Spam folders before Feb. 14 to see if any items were deleted or marked as spam due to the bug. [via The Verge]

Apps: Dark Sky 4.0, Jet Car Stunts 2, Touch Force + tvtag

Jackadam’s Dark Sky ($4) weather forecast app is known for telling users exactly when precipitation will start to fall, an hour in advance. In version 4.0.0, the app has been completely redone for iOS 7, with extended 24-hour and 7-day forecasts. All new global maps have also been added to the visually appealing app. If you experience issues opening the app after updating to 4.0.0, delete it and re-install it; we found that this was necessary to enable the updated app to run.

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Jet Car Stunts 2 (free) is the new sequel to True Axis’ Jet Car Stunts. The game features what the developer describes as “crazy stunt driving on outlandish courses,” and it’s hard to argue with that. Gamers use onscreen buttons to control speed while tilting the device to steer and adjust its angle for jumps The free version’s depth is questionable, but the first 10 levels are free. After that, in-app purchases are required to continue. Silky-smooth polygonal graphics will remind classic gamers of early 3-D driving games from Atari and Sega.

Report: Apple testing Apple TV with built-in router, TV tuner

Apple is testing upcoming Apple TV versions with an AirPort-style router and built-in TV tuner, 9to5Mac reports. The Apple TV with a router appears to combine the Apple TV and AirPort Express for upgraded bandwidth and video quality for the device, enabling the router to prioritize video stability while doling out data to other devices as needed. Separately, the TV tuner component would allow users to access their television content through an Apple interface, finally bringing to market a feature rumored to be in development at the time of Steve Jobs’ death in 2011. Neither of these features is guaranteed to appear in new Apple TV hardware — but the possibility is there, as prototype versions reportedly exist. The article also backs our earlier report that game support would be a key part of an upcoming Apple TV update; existing iOS devices would be used as controllers, according to the new report.

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The report also notes that Apple has added an Apple TV section to its online store, rather than treating Apple TV as an accessory, hinting at major upcoming changes. Accessories, a Q&A section, AppleCare, and a page for refurbished Apple TVs are all included in the new section.

Scosche releases MagicMount system for iOS devices

Scosche has announced the release of its MagicMount system for iPhone, iPod, and iPad. First introduced at CES 2014, the system includes four separate mounts — MagicMount ($20) is for desks and tabletops, MagicMount Window ($25) is a windshield or dash mount, and MagicMount Surface ($15) is for wall mounting. MagicMount Power ($30), a mount with a built-in USB charging port, will be released at a later date.

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The mounts come with a Magic Plate which magnetically affixes the device to its mount; the Magic Plate can be applied directly to a device or rugged case, or between a device and its case or battery cover. Scosche’s MagicMount system was winner of an iLounge Best of Show Finalist award at CES. MagicMount, MagicMount Window, and MagicMount Surface are available now.

Apple TV gets Red Bull TV channel

Apple has added a Red Bull TV channel to Apple TV today. The channel offers a variety of extreme and adventure sports programs.

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The channel also has a section for upcoming events.  Red Bull TV’s website gives would-be users a good idea of what to expect from the Apple TV channel.

Report: Nintendo to release free smartphone mini games (Update: No)

Nintendo plans on releasing free mini games on smartphones by year’s end, according to a new report from Japanese newspaper Nikkei. It’s unclear whether the games will be stand-alone titles, or merely demos for existing or upcoming Nintendo games available on the company’s own hardware; the company is apparently hoping to leverage smartphones and tablets to entice people to buy its handheld and home consoles. Other information about Nintendo games may be made available through smartphones, as well. Further details on the plan will reportedly be announced this week. [via Kotaku]

Update: Nintendo has told Engadget the company has no plans to release mini-games on smartphones.

Apple posts security update, DOJ allows more disclosures

Apple recently posted an update to its website on National Security and Law Enforcement Orders received by the company. The update includes the amount of National Security orders Apple received worldwide from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2013. In the National Security column, Apple reports that a range of 0 to 249 orders were received, and a range of 0 to 249 accounts were affected. More specific numbers were included for account information requests from law enforcement, as there were 927 account requests received during the same time period, among other numbers disclosed by Apple.

Apple also notes, “...we are pleased the government has developed new rules that allow us to more accurately report law enforcement orders and national security orders in the U.S.” Those new rules were confirmed in a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. The joint statement from Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said, “Through these new reporting methods, communications providers will be permitted to disclose more information than ever before to their customers.” It’s noted that additional steps are required before the reforms are fully implemented.

Video shows pre-release iOS in the Car in action

Developer Steven Troughton-Smith, who last week showed pictures of a pre-release version of Apple’s upcoming iOS in the Car, has uploaded a video to YouTube of the system in action. The video shows an iOS in the Car in-dash display running next to an iPhone using iOS 7.0.3. Troughton-Smith notes on YouTube that this is “all available in the public, shipping version of iOS 7.”

He also notes iOS in the Car supports multiple resolutions, touchscreens, hardware buttons, wheels, and touchpads. It does not support multitasking, as the car display shows the same app as the iPhone. Voice recognition is used as input, as there is no keyboard UI. Most notably, Troughton-Smith points out the UI is “clearly subject to change;” screenshots released recently showed a markedly different interface with a vertical, driver-side control panel. [via 9to5Mac]

Notes from Apple’s Q1 2014 conference call

Apple’s Q1 2014 earnings conference call after the company’s reported record quarter started with Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer discussing the company’s all-time quarterly records for iPhone and iPad sales. Oppenheimer cited iPhone market share numbers in various markets — he said iPhone has 69 percent of the smartphone market in Japan — in addition to mentioning web traffic numbers from iPhone and iPad.

As of this month, 80 percent of iOS devices are running iOS 7, Oppenheimer confirmed, following Apple’s quiet release of those numbers earlier today.

Oppenheimer said iTunes services made $4.4 billion in the quarter, with $2.4 billion in sales from iTunes alone. Apple has paid a total of $15B to App Store developers. Mentioning some specific apps, Oppenheimer said Clumsy Ninja was downloaded 10 million times in the first week of release, and Plants vs. Zombies 2 was downloaded 16 million times in the first five days of release. He also briefly mentioned iBeacon, which is now showing up in Apple stores.

During the Q&A, Apple CEO Tim Cook said last week was the best ever in China for iPhone activations. “We really turned in a stellar quarter in greater China overall and we’re really proud of it,” he said.

Asked about mobile payments, Cook said, “The mobile payments ... in general is one that we’ve been intrigued with ... and that was one of the thoughts with Touch ID.”

On iPhone market share, Cook mentioned the growth in emerging markets, but also said, “Our North American business contracted somewhat year over year.” He said iPhone 5s supply wasn’t strong enough. Carriers changing their upgrade policies is also having a major effect on North American sales, Cook said.

When asked if Apple is still a growth company, Cook referred back to Oppenheimer’s comments while reiterating the iPod is bringing down the overall numbers.

On iPhone user growth, Cook also said Apple saw significant new-to-iPhone numbers on the 5c. “It’s typically not just upgraders,” he said.

On expanding the iPhone product family, Cook said, “We’re willing to make any product that’s a great product. Our line in the sand is making something that’s not fantastic.”

When asked about 5c sales, Cook played up the 5s. He said, “People are really intrigued with Touch ID. It’s a major feature that has excited people.”

To end the call, Cook made a vague comment on future products, saying “Innovation is deeply embedded in everybody here ... we have zero issue coming up with things we want to do that we think we can disrupt in a major way.”

Apple Q1 2014: 51M iPhones, 26M iPads, record $57.6B revenue

Apple reported its first quarter 2014 financial results today, selling 51 million iPhones and 26 million iPads, both all-time quarterly records. The company reported a record $57.6 billion quarterly revenue, as well as quarterly net profit of $13.1 billion, or $14.50 per diluted share. Apple sold 6 million iPods, a 52 percent decrease in units from Q1 2013. iPhone unit sales were up 7 percent, and iPad unit sales were up 14 percent from Q1 2013.

Gross margin was 37.9 percent, compared to 38.6 percent in Q1 2013. Apple noted that international sales accounted for 63 percent of revenue in Q1 2014. For Q2 2014, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $42 billion and $44 billion, and gross margin between 37 percent and 38 percent. Apple’s earnings call will begin at 5 p.m. EST, and can be heard live on the company’s investor website.

“We are really happy with our record iPhone and iPad sales, the strong performance of our Mac products and the continued growth of iTunes, Software and Services,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said. “We love having the most satisfied, loyal and engaged customers, and are continuing to invest heavily in our future to make their experiences with our products and services even better.”

“We generated $22.7 billion in cash flow from operations and returned an additional $7.7 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the December quarter, bringing cumulative payments under our capital return program to over $43 billion,” Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said.

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