Apple has announced that it will be updating its iTunes U app on July 8, 2014, adding new features that allow teachers to “create, edit and manage entire courses directly on iPad for the first time,” while giving students the ability to begin discussions and pose questions from the iPad. Teachers will be able to use content from iWork, iBooks Author, and the App Store in creating their courses, as well as photos and videos taken with the iPad’s built-in cameras. Students, on the other hand, will be able maintain conversations on various topics, optionally receiving push notifications when there are replies.
Cartoon Network’s newest game is Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake ($5), a puzzle game with lots of RPG elements. The game has a cutesy art style, but don’t let that turn you away — this title has plenty of depth and charm.
While the title reminds us of the 16-bit classic Zombies Ate My Neighbors, the gameplay of Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake is like any other number of puzzle games that require players use the abilities of multiple characters to get through a level. The main protagonist is Niko, who leaves his village to find his dog and get back his birthday cake. But it soon becomes clear there’s more to the story.
Apple has told The Loop that it will be ceasing development of both Aperture and iPhoto for Mac in favor of its new iCloud-based Photos app that will be coming in iOS 8 and Yosemite. “With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture,” Apple told The Loop. “When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS.” It seems likely that Apple’s iPhoto for iOS will suffer a similar fate; iPhoto will not launch in current iOS 8 betas, and developers have been told to “edit and organize [their] photos in the Photos app” instead.
This change clearly marks a major shift in Apple’s photo management strategy for iOS devices, and it is unclear at this point what this will mean for other features such as the original iCloud Photo Stream and iTunes-based synchronization of photos onto iOS devices. Apple first introduced photo synchronization in iTunes 4.7 with the release of the iPod photo in 2004, and the feature has remained largely unchanged since, with iPhoto and Aperture commonly used as photo management apps for organizing photos to be transferred onto iPods and iOS devices. The deprecation of these two apps suggests that Apple is moving more strongly toward a cloud-based photo management solution, while also ceding the “pro” photo management space to applications such as Lightroom, which recently introduced its own cloud-based sync along with feature-rich mobile editing apps for the iPhone and iPad.
Apple has added a new section to its App Store for Best New Game Updates. The section reveals a list of newly updated titles, which often were previously featured in the Best New Games section — that section should now only feature brand new titles. Titles in the new updates section include Plants vs. Zombies 2, Zen Pinball, and Injustice: Gods Among Us, among others. Apple has slowly been introducing features that make it easier to find desired apps; the “related” App Store search feature first popped up months ago.
Opera Software’s free Opera Mini Web browser has been updated to version 8.0. The UI for the speedy browser has been given an overhaul with new themes and a new compression mode. A QR reader has also been added. Opera boasts that Opera Mini allows web pages to load faster, which is especially beneficial when not connected to a Wi-Fi network. The speed and its new features make it worth a look, at least as a possible backup browser.
The Rhythm of Fighters ($1) is a curious new release from SNK Playmore. Featuring a number of characters and music tracks from various SNK games, TRoF is a tapping rhythm game. It features a terribly slow in-game download before you can even play, which took longer than 20 minutes for us. Though the game claims to have simplistic controls, the tutorial isn’t very clear, and the experience doesn’t improve much even when the controls become a bit more understandable. All but the biggest SNK fans should probably skip this one.
Apple is reportedly “rolling back” a new policy in which the company rejected apps for including rewards for watching video ads or sharing socially, TechCrunch reports. Rejections are now “being undone,” with some offending apps allowed back into the App Store. This follows a report from two weeks ago noting that developers were receiving rejection notices for such apps. The Cupertino company is apparently still cracking down on apps that incentivize giving that app a review or rating; Apple is also reportedly removing fake reviews from the App Store.
Avatron Software’s Air Stylus ($20) enables the use of an iPad as a pressure-sensitive, wireless drawing surface for your Mac. Users can draw or paint directly onto the iPad screen using one of many popular graphics programs, and the screen becomes an extension of the computer desktop through the free Air Display host software. Air Stylus has garnered mixed reviews from users thus far, but digital artists may want to take a closer look.
Amazon Mobile’s free Amazon Instant Video has updated to version 2.7. The app also now gives users the ability to stream the first episode of some TV shows for free, and Prime customers also have access to a number of full seasons of certain popular HBO shows, including The Sopranos and The Wire. Video playback controls have also been tweaked, allowing for one-touch play/pause and 10-second skip forward/backward, as well as an episode-skipping feature for TV shows.
Harry Potter. Star Wars. Lord of the Rings. LEGO has firmly established a successful pattern of obtaining the rights to popular properties, building toys out of them, and then turning them into truly fun games. Its latest title, produced by Warner Bros., is no different. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril ($5) is exactly what we’d expect from the collaboration, and that’s a good thing.
The game starts with — and is full of — fully-animated, voice-acted, cut scenes featuring characters from across the Marvel universe. Starting with Iron Man and the Hulk, you’re thrown into a beautifully rendered 3D world viewed from a three-quarter angle. As in the other LEGO games, you’re presented with a choice of controls. You can either tap around the screen to move and attack, or use a virtual joystick and action buttons; MFi controller support isn’t listed for this one. And then, in the famous words of one of your playable characters, Hulk smash!
Gameloft’s newest update to Asphalt 8: Airborne (free) adds a number of new cars to the racing game, among a few other new features. Version 1.4 offers players the chance to drive the Chrysler ME 412, Ferrari FF, Ford 2006 GT, Hennessey Venom GT, Mercedes Benz CLK GTR AMG, Mercedes SLS AMG, and the 2015 Ford Mustang. A new booster has also been added to the game for novice players who are battling veterans, and completing a car collection now gives players a reward, as well.
Delectable has updated its free Delectable — Wine Scanner & Journal app to version 4.0. The app’s label recognition feature is now faster and better than ever— take a picture of a wine label from within the app, and the app will offer up a variety of facts and reviews on the bottle of your choice within seconds. Also included in the update are a brand new wine ratings system, and a new interface.
Adobe officially introduced its Ink and Slide accessories for iPad today — the accessories were previously announced as the Project Mighty cloud pen and Napoleon ruler. Ink is a three-sided aluminum stylus that uses Adonit’s Pixelpoint technology, which was also seen in today’s earlier announcement of the considerably less expensive Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint. Adobe Slide is a digital ruler for precision sketching on iPad. The Ink and Slide accessories come together in a $200 package, and the set should be available today.
In addition to Ink and Slide, Adobe also introduced two new apps today — Adobe Lightroom for iPhone and Adobe Photoshop Mix for iPad. The former is an iPhone version of Adobe’s photo editing and organization program, and requires both Lightroom 5 and a Creative Cloud plan. Photoshop Mix is a new mobile editing program based on Adobe’s popular Photoshop. Both apps are free to download.
Automatic Labs, makers of the Automatic Link, has released version 2.0 of the Automatic app. The free app, which can only be used in conjunction with the accessory, has been redesigned and can now give users fuel level updates and low-fuel warnings. Also, the speed warning alerts can now be customized to whatever speed the user wants.
Facebook has updated its Paper (free) app to version 1.2. The app has added a number of new features, many of which have long been accessible through the original Facebook app. A user can now edit his or her profile picture and cover photo, view photo tags, tag friends, add hashtags, copy text, and more. It may not sound like much to normal users of the Facebook app, but considering Paper’s added visual appeal, some people may prefer Paper as the features come closer to achieving parity.
A proposed transportation bill from the Obama administration would give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration authority to regulate navigation aids in cars, including smartphone apps, reports The New York Times. The bill, known as the Grow America Act, contains a measure that would give the NHTSA the ability to place restrictions on apps, and order changes if certain features are found to be dangerous. Automakers and a number of safety advocates support the measure, in the hopes that it will reduce distracted driving. However, tech companies and other critics don’t believe it’s possible to properly regulate such apps. Apple and Google both declined comment on the article.
iOS Bitcoin wallet app Coin Pocket has recently been published in the App Store, as it appears Apple is again allowing such apps in its ecosystem. A recent report noted that Apple updated its App Store Review Guidelines to allow for certain virtual currency apps. Coin Pocket is an app that allows users to send and receive Bitcoin from an iOS device. It won’t be a surprise to see more Bitcoin wallet apps pop up in the App Store now — popular Bitcoin wallet Blockchain was pulled in February, but Blockchain CEO Nic Cary has already said he will be resubmitting the app for Apple’s approval. As noted by CoinDesk, a few other non-wallet apps are also now allowing Bitcoin transactions, as well.
Apple has reportedly been removing fake App Store reviews that have improved the chart ranking of certain apps, according to TechCrunch. These rating removals have been going on for an indeterminate amount of time. A recent tweet noted one app saw 20,000 ratings removed “overnight,” and the report claims it was due to Apple’s intervention.
20k ratings gone overnight? Without update ? Mmm pic.twitter.com/fK3R7CS9Gw— Ouriel Ohayon (@OurielOhayon) June 10, 2014
Another recent report noted that Apple has started rejecting apps that offer rewards for video ads and social sharing. It appears as if Apple is once again taking a larger role to step in and adjust what it sees as problems within the App Store.
Lex ($1) is a new word game from Simple Machine. Players are tasked with building words as fast as they can. Though there’s no board, the game should feel familiar to Scrabble players.
Players in Lex make words from a “rack” of nine letters. When letters are used in a word, they disappear, and new letters arrive. However, to up the drama, the letter tiles start to turn red as they hang around — the tiles “fill up” from the bottom. Once a letter tile turns completely red, the game ends. Letters with the lowest point values fill up quickest, and it appears that Lex dutifully follows the traditional Scrabble point values. For instance, vowels are worth one point, Q and Z are worth 10, and so forth.
Broken Age ($10) from Double Fine Productions is the first graphic adventure game in 16 years from developer Tim Schafer. Famously funded through Kickstarter, Broken Age is an iPad-only game which was first released on other platforms in January. Players control two teenagers who find themselves in similar situations, but in completely different magical worlds. A star-studded affair, it features the voice talents of Elijah Wood, Jack Black, Jennifer Hale, Wil Wheaton, and Pendleton Ward. The game has been well reviewed, and if you’re a fan of point-and-click adventures, it would make a lot of sense to get the iPad version. Act 1 is now available, and Act 2 of the game will be added as an in-app purchase in the future.
(R)evolve (free) is a new release from Team17 Software, best known for developing the Worms series. The game tasks players with taking care of life on an alien planet as meteors crash down upon it in different waves and patterns. Controls are simple — press the left side of the screen to spin the planet to the left, and likewise for the right. You’re aimed with making sure the meteorites hit the bare spots on the planet. Winner of The Great British Game Jam 2014, (R)evolve is a neat little game that’s worth a try for free; a $1 in-app purchase removes ads.
Developer Steven Troughton-Smith, who noted days ago that iOS 8 contained code for two apps to run side-by-side, has posted a YouTube video of the feature in action. Apparently manipulated using a two-finger gesture, an app is resized to create room for another app on the right side of the screen. It’s unclear if that same gesture will be used if or when the feature is eventually introduced.
The previous report noted that side-by-side apps could be run at 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4 size. It’s believed the feature will only work on iPad, possibly even just the iPad Air.
Amazon has introduced Prime Music, a new unlimited, ad-free streaming music service featuring more than a million songs and “hundreds of playlists.” It comes free with an Amazon Prime subscription ($99), but is otherwise inaccessible. Users can download songs and playlists for offline playback, as well. Amazon’s Cloud Player iOS app has now become the Amazon Music app in version 3.0.0, and adds Prime Music functionality.
At this point, we ran into a few issues with the app, as some Prime users were having trouble getting access. Also, it appears that only primary users of a Prime account can access the service using their own password — any shared, secondary users on someone else’s Prime account will have to use those primary credentials to access the service, as is the case with Amazon Instant Video. We’ve reached out to Amazon for comment, and will update if they respond.
Update: Amazon confirmed that only the primary account associated with a Prime membership can access Prime Music.
Parrot has announced availability and pricing for its two new MiniDrone products that originally debuted at CES 2014. Rolling Spider ($100) is an ultra-compact flying drone that can be used indoors or outside. It includes removable wheels that allow it to roll from floor to ceiling.
Jumping Sumo ($160) is the company’s first ground-based toy—a two-wheeled rover that can drive along, zig-zag and make zero radius turns and even jump up to 80cm in height. An integrated camera allows the user to see the world from Jumping Sumo’s perspective as it roams around. Both new devices will be available in August 2014, along with an updated version of the company’s FreeFlight app.
Update: We had a chance to meet with Parrot and get some more information and demos of both new MiniDrones at their media event in Toronto last night. The Rolling Spider will be available in three colours—blue, red, and white—and will include a set of twelve stickers for customization. The camera on the bottom of Rolling Spider can take snapshots that are stored in the drone’s 1GB on-board flash memory and can be transferred off via a micro-USB connection. Jumping Sumo will be available in black/red, white/black and khaki/yellow colour combinations and includes a set of three stickers to personalize its style or mood. Both devices work with the same rechargeable Lithium Polymer 550 mAH battery packs, so packs can be interchanged; Rolling Spider will get 6-8 minutes of use from a single charge while Jumping Sumo can roll about for up to 20 minutes on a full battery.
FIFA has updated its free FIFA Official App before the start of the World Cup this week. As one might expect, the updated app has more information about the World Cup, including the latest news, rosters, schedule, and information on the Brazilian stadiums and cities hosting the tournament. Another upcoming update that FIFA claims will come before the tournament kicks off — in the next few days — will give users a way to follow live game action and participate in “the biggest football conversation in history” with other users.
Amazon’s free Kindle app has updated to version 4.3, introducing the integration of Audible audiobooks. Customers who own the Kindle and Audible versions of a book can now listen to the audiobook from within the Kindle app. Users can switch back and forth between reading a Kindle book and listening to the book, or read and listen at the same time as the pages turn automatically. More than 45,000 Kindle/Audible book pairs are available. Additionally, the app now lets users download an entire collection of books at once.