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2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

News

Apple agrees to anti-theft smartphone measures

Apple and a number of other smartphone makers have agreed to a voluntary commitment to include anti-theft technology on phones starting next year, Re/Code reports. Other smartphone makers, including Google, HTC, Motorola, Microsoft, Nokia, and Samsung have all agreed to make such a commitment, and the five largest U.S. cellular carriers are also on board. All those involved have agreed devices sold after July 2015 must have the ability to have data wiped remotely and be rendered inoperable at a user’s request. Recovered devices could then later be restored. Apple is ahead of the game, as Activation Lock in iOS 7 already lets users prevent reactivation of a stolen or lost device.

8GB iPhone 5c launches in more European countries

Apple has made the 8GB iPhone 5c available in a number of European countries today. The low-capacity iPhone is now on sale in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden. In each country, the 8GB 5c is roughly $50 cheaper than the 16GB 5c. The 8GB 5c is still unavailable in the U.S. [via 9to5Mac]

Update: The 8GB iPhone 5c is also now available in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. [via MacRumors]

iPhone 6 metal mockups spotted at electronics show

A few metal mockups of the alleged iPhone 6 — said to be used to make cases for the upcoming device — were spotted at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair, Macotakara reports. The pictured mockups do seem to somewhat resemble what’s been indicated for the expected upcoming 4.7” iPhone 6.

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However, it’s notable that the FaceTime camera position on the mockup appears to be lower and closer to the screen than on the alleged front panel leak from earlier today, casting doubts upon recent pictures. The report notes there wasn’t “much confidence” about the mockup unit.

Alpine Electronics announces aftermarket CarPlay products

Alpine Electronics officially announced today it will offer aftermarket products compatible with Apple CarPlay. A Monday report noted Alpine would sell such a system, and today Alpine confirmed the existence of upcoming products. The Alpine system will be an in-dash touch screen that incorporates CarPlay using a Lightning connector.

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Alpine said the CarPlay-compatible products will be available in the U.S. and Europe “later in 2014.” Models and pricing won’t be announced until the time of launch. The news comes on the same day Pioneer announced it will be incorporating CarPlay into some of its own existing in-dash systems.

Apps: A&E/History 2.0, Ally 3.0, Amazon Cloud Drive Photos 3.0 + Pandora 5.3

A&E Television Networks Mobile has updated two of its free apps — A&E and History — to version 2.0, bringing live streaming TV to both apps. Of course, as you may have suspected, both apps require signing in with a TV provider. A quick glance at the list shows that many major TV providers are supported.

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Ally Financial has released a major update to its Ally Mobile Banking (free) app. The app looks much cleaner and is easier to navigate after being redesigned for iOS 7 in version 3.0.0. A new graph shows a user’s total balance in all Ally accounts, and another new features shows all consolidated activity. Ally is also now offering more details on check holds within the app. Mobile check deposit also has a cleaner look when using the iOS device camera. A number of other UI tweaks make for a much better banking experience.

Pioneer officially announces aftermarket CarPlay access

Pioneer officially announced today it will be releasing an aftermarket system for Apple CarPlay, as was previously reported. The company will make CarPlay accessible through a firmware update to its existing NEX in-dash multimedia receivers, which range in price from $700 to $1,400.

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Pioneer says CarPlay compatibility will be available “in early summer 2014.” To access CarPlay, users must plug a Lightning-to-USB cable into the multimedia receiver, connecting their iPhone 5 or later running iOS 7.1.

iWatch: LG to supply flexible displays, September release?

LG Display will be the sole supplier of flexible displays for Apple’s upcoming iWatch, according to South Korea’s Digital Times. It’s reported that Apple plans on bringing the device to the market in September. As previously reported, the Digital Times article claims Apple will release the iWatch in two different sizes — separate models with a 1.3” and 1.5” display, respectively. A previous Korean report claimed LG Chem would supply stepped lithium-ion batteries to Apple for the iWatch.

Alleged iPhone 6 front panel, batteries leaked

A picture of the alleged iPhone 6 front panel was posted on Weibo. The alleged white front panel is shown next to an iPhone 5s. Indeed, it looks like a larger iPhone screen, and would belong to the rumored 4.7” model iPhone.

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Additionally, a shot of alleged iPhone 6 batteries has also been leaked. The picture shows five batteries in a tray, but doesn’t offer further context. [via iPhon.fr, nowhereelse.fr]

Windows Phone 8.1 supports Passbook passes

According to a post on WPCentral.com, Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 8.1 software allows Apple Passbook passes to be used natively. When a user chooses to download a Passbook pass, it will be downloaded to the Microsoft Wallet application, and can be used as if it were on an iPhone or iPod touch. It’s unclear what specific Passbook features are supported, or if Apple will put a stop to the process.

Alpine to release aftermarket CarPlay system

Alpine Electronics will sell a standalone console featuring Apple’s CarPlay system this fall, Nikkei Asian Review reports. It will be the first aftermarket CarPlay product. The system will be available first in the U.S. and Europe and will “likely cost around $500 to $700.” It’s noted that the screen will “likely” be seven inches, and connect to an iPhone 5 or later with a wire. Previously, it’s been reported that other manufacturers — Pioneer and Mercedes — have been working on their own aftermarket CarPlay solutions, but Alpine’s system is the first with a reported release date and price.

iLounge Game Spotlight: R.B.I. Baseball 14

The words “R.B.I. Baseball” instantly conjure up memories for gamers of a certain age and ilk. First released in Japan in 1986, R.B.I. Baseball has continued to attract a cult following over time, much like the Tecmo Bowl series. Now, the franchise has been updated and relaunched with R.B.I. Baseball 14 ($5) by MLB.com.

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Staying true to its roots, R.B.I. Baseball 14 is focused on quick, arcade-style baseball gameplay. Gamers searching for advanced management strategies and deep gameplay should look elsewhere. R.B.I. Baseball is a throwback to old baseball games — controls are very simple. While pitching, users can control the speed and direction of their pitches, and that’s it. You won’t find four separate buttons for separate pitches here. You want to throw a changeup? Hold up on the onscreen joystick. Fastball? Hold down. It’s old school. The graphics aren’t flashy, but they do the trick, and the animations are smooth enough. A nine-inning game of R.B.I. takes about a half hour to play, and games can also be set for three or six innings.

Report: Apple bans UK music service from iAd

Bloom.fm, a U.K.-based streaming music service, has reportedly been blocked from using iAd by Apple. A spokesman for Bloom told CNET Apple must view the much smaller service as a threat. “We were surprised at Apple’s decision to ban us from their iAd network as their iTunes Radio service isn’t even available in the U.K.,” the spokesman said. “Bloom.fm gives you 22 million tracks for £1 a month — the price of a single download on iTunes — so I can see why they’d want to protect their business.” Although Bloom spent £2,000 per month on iAd, the company was informed it could no longer advertise on the platform. Apple said Bloom.fm is “a competitive service to iTunes Radio and it is against Apple policy,” according to a Bloom tweet. iTunes Radio still has yet to launch in the U.K., though a report said the service would launch in early 2014.

Apple says services not affected by Heartbleed

The Heartbleed security flaw, which has affected hundreds of thousands of websites using OpenSSL, has not done the same to Apple’s services. Apple confirmed to Re/Code that its mobile, desktop, and web services were not affected. “Apple takes security very seriously. iOS and OS X never incorporated the vulnerable software and key Web-based services were not affected,” an Apple spokesperson said. It’s recommended that Internet users look into which sites were vulnerable to Heartbleed, then update their passwords after those sites update their security software.

Apps: Carousel, Delivery Status touch 5.1, Family Guy + RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile

Carousel by Dropbox is the new free app from Dropbox built solely to manage and provide quick access to photos and videos. All photos and videos are backed up to Dropbox. Photos and videos can also be shared instantly within private conversations. It’s notable that Carousel won’t connect with Dropbox for Business accounts — only personal accounts.

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Junecloud’s package tracking app, Delivery Status touch ($5), has updated to version 5.1. The new update introduces a wide array of new features, including improved background notifications — unnecessary notifications are gone, and updates only become more frequent when necessary. Keyboard shortcuts have been added for Bluetooth keyboards. Among other improvements are tweaks to the map, the clear passwords function, and the return of manual sorting. A bunch of bug fixes are also included in this major update.

New iPads to have Touch ID, A8?

A new research note claims the new iPad Air and Retina iPad mini to be released this year will both come with Touch ID, and an A8 processor. The note comes from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a mixed track record on new Apple products. Though the idea that Apple would include Touch ID in new iPad models is far from surprising. Kuo also believes the new iPad Air will contain an 8MP camera. Few details about new iPads have emerged this year, suggesting any updates will likely be minor. Kuo also released a product roadmap suggesting mostly second half releases of new Apple products, along with the unlikely idea that the most expensive iWatch model will cost thousands of dollars. [via MacRumors]

Facebook to pull messaging from main app

Facebook will soon be taking the messaging function out of its main mobile app, The Verge reports. The separate Facebook Messenger app will be required to chat; users who click the messages button in Facebook will be transferred to the Messenger app. Facebook is already notifying users in some European countries that the changes will be made in a few weeks. The company confirmed the functionality will be removed in every country.

There are a few exceptions to the change: users of Facebook Paper will still be able to message from within the app, and those accessing Facebook through its mobile site will still have messaging functionality.

Apple considering ‘dramatic overhaul’ of iTunes Music Store

Apple is now considering “the most dramatic overhaul of its iTunes music store in more than a decade,” Billboard reports. The internal debate has been prompted by iTunes Radio’s inability to cease the decline of music downloads. Apparently, only 1-2 percent of iTunes Radio listeners are clicking the buy button. But just how Apple plans on revamping the iTunes store is up in the air.

It’s previously been reported that Apple is considering creating an on-demand music streaming service like Spotify, and the company has looked into creating an iTunes app for Android. Apple is also reportedly pressuring labels for exclusive album releases to boost sales, though it’s likely the company is placing more focus on streaming music at this time.

Apple Human Interface VP Greg Christie leaving company

Apple Human Interface Vice President Greg Christie’s clashes with Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive have led to Christie’s imminent departure from the company, 9to5Mac reports. Ive will take control of the company’s software design group. Christie is an original iPhone designer who has led software design at the company, and he recently testified for Apple in the current patent trial against Samsung. Ive and Christie reportedly butted heads over the design of iOS 7. With the departures of Christie and former SVP of iOS Software Scott Forstall, Ive is now in position to be in control of Apple design on both the hardware and software fronts.

Update: Apple confirmed Christie’s exit to the Wall Street Journal. A company spokesman said, “Greg has been planning to retire later this year after nearly 20 years at Apple.”

Report: Apple mulled Square acquisition

Apple considered making an acquisition offer for Square in the past year, Re/Code reports. Google also thought about making an offer for the payment company, but Square CEO Jack Dorsey reportedly favors Apple. Dorsey believes Apple’s aesthetics and values align more closely with Square, and he was also reportedly “put off” by Google when the company engaged in acquisition talks with his prior company, Twitter. “Jack does not want to sell to Google,” a source said.

An offer around $8 billion would “get Dorsey and the board’s attention,” the report notes, though sources doubt Square could receive such an lucrative offer at the moment. Apple and Square both declined comment.

Apps: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, NBC 2.5.1, Sago Mini Monsters + Square Cash 1.3

Games based upon movies have a reputation for mediocrity, but Gameloft’s past track record with superhero movie games was solid enough that we didn’t expect Captain America: The Winter Soldier - The Official Game ($3) to stink. The movie-inspired title suffers from a variety of bad decisions, ranging from a boring overhead camera angle to confusing controls, repetitive action and an in-app purchase-heavy upgrade push, all taking away from what should have been a slam dunk companion to the well-regarded film. Captain America and a small team of AI-controlled S.H.I.E.L.D. agents walk — generally upwards from the bottom of the screen — through environments populated with groups of enemies, and you’re supposed to use an overly complex combination of virtual buttons, taps, and swipes to dispatch them. Swiping on things throws a shield at them, while tapping on them or on-screen buttons will throw punches and special attacks, including grenades, sniper rounds, and other support from the agents you choose. Too much of an emphasis is placed on managing and upgrading the team, and too little on making the levels fun rather than just a series of nearly mindless brawls with too little visual pizzazz. We’d advise skipping this one.

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NBC Universal has added a few things to its free NBC app in version 2.5.1. Most notably, the app now features Airplay Mirroring, letting users watch NBC shows on a television using Apple TV. Considering that Apple TV doesn’t have an NBC channel, most users would previously have had to sign up for Hulu Plus to watch NBC shows. The update also offers “trending clips,” which includes clips from NBC late night shows including The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Saturday Night Live.

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