Facebook has released version 13.0 of its iOS app to the App Store, with update notes promising that the social network will now bring regular updates to the App Store “every 4 weeks,” while explaining how to enable iOS 7 automatic updates to stay current. Facebook notes that “every update of the Facebook app includes improvements for speed and reliability” and that any other new features will be highlighted within the Facebook app itself, suggesting that users will no longer need to check out the app’s App Store page for the latest release information. The Facebook app has received very frequent updates since version 6.0 debuted in April 2013, and moved to a new version numbering and monthly update pattern this past February. Version 13.0 marks the first time the company has made any official commitment to a regular iOS update cycle.
80 Days ($5) is an interactive fiction adventure from inkle based on Jules Verne’s classic novel Around the World in Eighty Days. This game brings steampunk into the story as well, as players try find the quickest way around the globe through exploration and conversation.
In 80 Days, you inhabit the role of Passepartout, valet to Monsieur Fogg. It is your duty to help Fogg circumnavigate the globe — this is done largely by talking to locals and exploring new cities. This is game is heavily centered around reading. Though the in-game art is very nice and adds to the proceedings quite well, graphics are not the star of the show. It’s all about the story, which resembles a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Unlike those old children’s books, however, the timeline in 80 Days is fluid and constantly changing. Though you will make many, many choices that affect the game, you are often a spectator as well.
Beehive (free) — Beehive - The Social Network Filter from Kendall Innovations is that rare thing: a new social networking app that should be useful to certain people. The app takes your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, and lets you narrow them down to the friends you care about most. All of those updates can then be viewed from the single Beehive app. Most appealing to those who would be interested in this sort of thing is the app’s anonymity. You never have to worry about deleting or unfollowing friends — just pick who you want to follow within Beehive, and they’ll be none the wiser. Additionally, Beehive doesn’t require an email address, or even the creation of an account. It’s also ad-free. Not all users will find such an app necessary, of course, but for those looking to cut down on their social networking time without missing anything important — or without offending people — Beehive might be the perfect answer. Right now the app is built for iPhone, but an iPad version will be coming soon.
NPR One (free) — NPR’s new NPR One app curates a stream of public radio news and stories for the listener. The app’s bizarre, meandering description describes NPR One as “a handcrafted experience” while noting the app also delivers the big stories of the day. Basically, it’s a different way of accessing public radio through a somewhat personalized set of recommended stories — users must sign in using their Facebook, Google, or NPR accounts.
Apple has reinstated popular Bitcoin wallet app Blockchain to the App Store. It’s not an entirely unexpected move, considering Apple recently started allowing Bitcoin apps back in the App Store, after making a change to its App Store Review Guidelines. Blockchain was originally pulled from the App Store in February. Nicolas Cary, Blockchain’s CEO, told Bloomberg that Blockchain’s Bitcoin wallet has 1.9 million users.
Modern Combat 5: Blackout ($7) is one of the most high-profile iOS games to be released this year. Blackout is the latest first-person shooter in Gameloft’s Call of Duty-esque series, and this time around, there are no in-app purchases to be found. However, an internet connection is required to play at all times.
As Modern Combat players will expect, Blackout has a great presentation. From the seriously impressive, detailed graphics, to the immersive sound and all of the requisite bells and whistles one would expect, there’s no doubt that Gameloft’s newest is a truly premium title. It’s important to note the frame rate during the game was solid for us on an iPad mini with Retina display, whether in single-player or multiplayer mode.
Matter ($2) — Photo app maker Pixite is back with Matter, a new app that allows users to add 3D effects to photos. Those effects come in the form of various 3D objects — users have the ability to change the traits of the objects, as well. A video feature allows users to create short animated loops of the object within the photo. To us, the objects look a bit “prog-rock album cover,” but to some that’s likely part of the appeal.
ShipAntics: The Legend of The Kiki Beast ($2) — The prolific StoryToys continues to move in a new direction with ShipAntics: The Legend of the Kiki Beast. Unlike many of the developer’s storybook apps, this is a full-fledged adventure title for young gamers. Though the gameplay is mostly in simple point-and-click style, there are plenty of puzzles and cartoon cutscenes. This app is chapter one of a three-part series, with chapter two coming as a “low cost” in-app purchase in the future.
Apple’s new Tips app has debuted within the fourth beta of iOS 8. The app shows people how to use the device with a list of tips, each consisting of around a paragraph of text plus an animated image. A list of six tips is shown initially, with the first being “Quickly respond to a notification.” Users can like/unlike tips and share tips, as well. All of the tips at this point are iOS 8-specific.
Bio Inc. ($2) is a new game from DryGin Studios that’s being billed as a “biomedical strategy simulator.” The game challenges players to create the ultimate illness. It is decidedly not for everyone.
Some have compared Bio Inc. to Plague Inc., for obvious reasons. But where Plague Inc. tasks you with developing a plague to bring about the end of humanity, Bio Inc. is focused on one patient at a time. You name a person, see his health weaknesses, and set about trying to kill him by assailing him with a wide range of ailments. It’s a morbid premise that becomes more macabre as the game progresses.
The European Commission said that Apple has “provided no concrete and immediate solutions” to in-app purchase problems, Reuters reports. Payment approvals within the App Store are still a sticking point for the EU. Google, on the other hand, was praised by the commission for taking measures to improve their in-app payment issues. “Over the last year we made sure any app which enables customers to make in-app purchases is clearly marked,” an Apple spokesman said. “We will continue to work with the EC member states to respond to their concerns.” Apple drew heat from Italian authorities in May for advertising free apps that required in-app purchases for continued use. The company could face legal action if the company is seen as breaking EU consumer protection law.
Update: Apple issued a response to Engadget, in which the company points out the strides it has made regarding clarifying in-app purchases. The statement concludes: “Our goal is to continue to provide the best experience for our customers and we will continue to work with the EC member states to respond to their concerns.”
Google Analytics (free) — Google has released a new Google Analytics app that allows users to access their web and app data from an iOS device. For those not in the know, Google Analytics is a popular service that offers website owners detailed site traffic statistics. The app offers Real Time reports, which lets users monitor recent changes.
Overcast: Podcast Player (free) — There is no shortage of thoughtfully designed podcast apps made to replace Apple’s own app, which has been through many ups and downs since it was released. The latest, and perhaps most hotly anticipated, is Marco Arment’s Overcast. The app is currently iPhone-only, available as a free download. It’s fully usable as-is, although a $5 in-app purchase unlocks a number of features that enhance the experience, such as cellular downloads, a sleep timer, and unlimited playlists. The key features that help differentiate this one from the others on the market, apart from aesthetic design, are both audio engineering tricks that get unlocked when you spend the money. Smart Speed is a really cool tool; rather than increasing the speed of the podcast and making the speakers sound like chipmunks, it’s able to detect gaps and edit out the silence, saving you time in listening. Voice Boost does just what its name says, making it easier to listen to podcasts in cars or other environments where there’s background noise, without having to pump up the volume. Both Smart Speed and Voice Boost can be used for five minutes at a time before you decide to buy.
daWindci Deluxe ($3) — Mimimi Productions has released a new version of its popular, Apple Design Award winning daWindci game with daWindci Deluxe. The upgraded game — in which players paint wind, hurricanes, and lightning on screen to guide a hot air balloon through levels — now features full Retina support and new wind drawing mechanics. All new particle effects, crisper textures, and post effect shaders have also been added to the game. Considering the original daWindci is still $4, this is the one you want.
Five classic Paul McCartney albums have been re-released as standalone iPad apps by Concord Music Group. All five albums include remastered audio and extra content, including interviews, photos, and video clips. The albums are: McCartney’s first solo album, McCartney, and the follow-up Ram, which also credits Linda McCartney; two McCartney/Wings albums — Band on the Run and the live Wings over America; and McCartney’s second official solo album, 1980’s McCartney II. All of the apps are $8 — a less expensive price than all of the respective albums within the iTunes Store. [via The Guardian]
PayPal’s most recent update of its free iOS app has notably added the ability to digitize and store loyalty cards. Version 5.5 lets users carry virtual versions of an impressive variety of loyalty cards within the app. After selecting the specific retailer from a long but easily searchable list of participating vendors, including regional supermarkets, restaurants, and shops, you simply scan your loyalty card’s barcode or punch in the ID number to add a card to the app. The app’s login process has also been sped up, as well. This new update goes head-to-head with Apple’s Passbook, and considering the collection of supported vendors, compares favorably to say the least.
Apple has launched a new Passbook feature in Japan called iTunes Pass, allowing iTunes Store customers to add purchasing credit at Apple’s retail Stores. Once the pass has been added to the user’s iPhone or iPod touch, a Specialist at the Store can scan a code on the screen, accept payment, then credit the payment toward the iTunes Store account—a process that seems rather challenging compared with just buying Store credit directly from the device. “Balance is updated on the fly, available immediately,” notes Apple. It’s rather unusual for Apple to launch a feature like this in only one country, so it’s not clear if it’ll be rolling out to other countries, or if its perhaps a test of a future mobile payment system. [via 9to5Mac]
Responding to the fallout from last week’s problematic Reuters article, Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, commented on Apple within a blog post. Riccobono called the original Reuters story “provocative and poorly reported,” and Reuters issued a partial correction for the story. He writes that “Apple has done more for accessibility than any other company to date,” suggesting that the company’s operating systems are indeed addressing the needs of sight-impaired users. But he also points out the federation is asking Apple “to do more,” as the federation recently issued a resolution in which the organization called upon Apple to work with them in order to “ensure the accessibility of all apps,” which may develop incompatibility issues, reducing their functionality and creating issues for some users.
Qwiboo’s Beyond Gravity ($2) comes to iOS after debuting earlier on a number of other platforms. A simple platformer, Beyond Gravity is “procedurally generated,” so that each run through the game is a completely different experience. The title is currently on sale for $1, as a special launch price.
Beyond Gravity puts you in the jumpy shoes of a space explorer who’s trying to pick up the missing parts of his spaceship. To do so, he must jump between constantly rotating planets, nabbing floating pieces along the way. It’s a clean looking game with neat art. No in-app purchases are included, which is always nice.
Capo touch ($10) — Capo touch is a new iOS app based on Capo, the app featured today in our Mac section. The app, from SuperMegaUltraGroovy, teaches users how to play the songs in an iTunes library through automatic chord detection. Capo touch is currently on sale for $5, half off the regular price.
Care Bears Love to Learn (free) — Care Bears Love to Learn is a new learning app from American Greetings. Made for ages 5 and under, the app includes a number of activities featuring popular Care Bears. Kids can count with Share Bear, build shapes with Grumpy Bear, make music with Harmony Bear, and so forth.
As Apple previously announced, the company has updated its iTunes U app today. iTunes U 2.0 allows teachers to create courses within the free app on iPad. The iPad’s camera can be used to take photos or videos to be uploaded for course materials. It’s also possible for teachers to create materials in Pages, Numbers, Keynote or other apps and add them to a course by using the “Open in iTunes U” option, and teachers from qualified institutions can make their courses available on the iTunes U catalog. Additionally, the update makes it easier for students in private courses to pose questions and participate in discussion.
Apple has updated its Health app in iOS 8 beta 3. The app now uses the M7 chip — currently only found in the iPhone 5s — to track steps, as pointed out by 9to5Mac. A full week of data is added to the app instantly from the M7, similarly to the step tracking app Breeze; users of non-M7 devices can manually input step data. Health can also now track caffeine intake, as caffeine has been added to the app’s nutritional categories, currently requiring manual entry of caffeine in milligrams. A number of already available App Store apps can track caffeine intake.
Apple and Google were both ordered to change “unfair provisions” in their app stores by the Korea Fair Trade Commission, the Korea Herald reports. Among those provisions to be revised is Apple’s App Store refund policy — currently, each refund request is reviewed before approval from Apple. ‘‘We expect the measure, aimed at protecting consumers, will have a ripple effect on similar cases throughout the world,” the KFTC said in a press release. The App Store must send a notice to consumers when changing its contract terms in the future. Apple “said it would consider applying the revised contract terms globally,” according to the KFTCs Hwang Won-chul.
The new 120 Sports app from the company of the same name is a new player in the world of sports coverage. A free app that requires no cable subscription, 120 Sports offers highlights and discussion of major sports leagues. 120 Sports claims to show “8+ hours of live programming every night — real-time, unfiltered, trending, unbiased coverage of the entire world of sports at the action happens.” The app also includes more than 100 on-demand videos. It’s an interesting idea, and though there are undoubtedly a few kinks to work out coverage-wise at the start of 120 Sports’ run, we’ll see if an iOS-based sports coverage network can make an impact. If you’re a sports fan, it’s definitely worth the free download.
Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution 2 ($15) from 2K is the first game in the acclaimed Civilization series to be developed exclusively for mobile devices. The game is similar to the first Civ Revolution, but features new 3D graphics. Also included are new military units, technology, buildings and wonders, and a scenario mode for reenacting historical events and battles. Keep in mind the original Civilization Revolution is only $3 — paying $15 for the new version will depend on how much you care about the redesigned graphics and other updates.