Apple is thinking about removing the Game Center app from iOS 8, while leaving the Game Center functionality intact within games, 9to5Mac reports. Recent alleged leaked screenshots from iOS 8 do feature the Game Center icon. Apple may also simplify alerts within Notification Center and add the ability to automatically delete Messages threads. Inter-app communication may be improved in iOS 8, and Apple also plans on tweaking controls in its Voice Memos app. Some versions of iOS 8 in testing include WiFi-enabled CarPlay, though it’s unclear if this functionality will be delayed until a future release.
- March 13, 2014
- Apps + Games,
Fantastical 2 ($5), the calendar and reminders app from Flexibits Inc., has updated to version 2.0.5. The update adds support for opening links in 1Password and Mercury web browsers, and creating events with floating time zones. An update to the week view makes events and invitations easier to read. A host of other fixes and changes have been made, including improvements to accessibility and search speed. Fantastical 2 is currently on sale for a limited time.
FiftyThree’s Paper (free) has updated to version 1.6.1. The drawing and creation app has been updated for iOS 7 — menu components have been refreshed and controls are billed as simpler and cleaner. Eraser, Color, and Blend tools now make smaller strokes, and ink speed dynamics have been tweaked to better fit their zoom level. Another new feature — holding down Draw and Eraser makes dots.
A few alleged iOS 8 screenshots including icons for Healthbook, Preview, and TextEdit have been posted on a Weibo account. The shots are legitimate, according to 9to5Mac. Healthbook’s icon is very similar to the Passbook icon, and Preview and TextEdit’s icons match the Mac versions.
Earlier today, it was reported that Apple was working on iOS versions of Preview and TextEdit. Also, a lightbulb icon for an apparent app named Tips is included in the screenshots — it’s unknown at this point what Tips is, or what it does, but it may be some kind of iOS 8 user guide. A settings screenshot was also spotted on Weibo, noting version 8.0.
Apple is working to develop versions of its TextEdit and Preview Mac applications for iOS, 9to5Mac reports. The iOS versions of the apps would reportedly only be used to view TextEdit and Preview files stored in iCloud; users would have to edit documents using Pages. It’s “currently uncertain, but still possible” that the new versions of the apps will end up in iOS 8. The new applications come from the restructuring of Apple’s iOS and OS X development teams, sources said, as engineers now work together on both operating systems. Apple is also researching new iCloud storage tools to simplify the development of server-integrated App Store applications for iOS as the company pushes to make iCloud a larger part of the iOS file system in the future.
Apple is currently testing iTunes Radio as a standalone app within iOS 8, 9to5Mac reports. At this point, the streaming service is accessible through the iOS Music app. iTunes Radio app functionality would resemble the Music app, allowing users to browse history, purchase streamed tracks, and create stations. Though the report notes the change might not happen this year, moving iTunes Radio into its own app makes sense for a number of reasons — it would be more accessible, and could increase its user base simply by having its own pre-installed icon.
- March 11, 2014
- Apps + Games,
Duolingo (free) has updated its app to version 3.3. The update offers more language classes for native speakers of a variety of languages — Romanian and Polish speakers now have access to an English course, while Portuguese speakers can now take a Spanish class, and vice-versa. Duolingo also lists bug fixes and performance improvements, in addition to a “few surprises” within the update.
Marvel Entertainment’s Marvel Unlimited comics app has upgraded to version 2.0. The update offers native reading of digital comics in both iOS 7 and iOS 6. The new Smart Panel experience lets users read comics panel by panel, which may be ideal for smaller mobile devices, such as the iPhone or iPod touch. Marvel claims it will announce new features soon. The free app requires a paid subscription to access Marvel’s complete digital comics subscription program, but some free comics are available.
Apple’s Maps application will boast improved data and public transit directions in its iOS 8 incarnation, 9to5Mac reports. It is expected that public transportation options will be “deeply integrated” into iOS 8 Maps, with train, subway, and bus data, and will first be introduced for major cities, with other locations added over time. Enhanced data will also introduce new points of interest and new map labels, while improving reliability. Apple’s 2013 acquisitions of HopStop, Embark, and BroadMap have likely aided the addition of the new data.
The report also claims that Apple is working on augmented reality for future versions of iOS, to appear in “the coming years.” This feature would use the iPhone’s compass to see nearby points of interest onscreen.
- March 10, 2014
- Apps + Games,
Apple has updated its free Remote app today to version 4.2. The app now boasts greater integration with Apple TV — users can now control iTunes Radio through the set-top box using the app, and you are now shown your iTunes Match music and iTunes in the Cloud music/TV show/movie content within the app, merely tapping on the screen to play it through the currently selected Apple TV.
In addition to these changes, the update features bug fixes and stability improvements.
Doggins ($4) from Brain & Brain is billed as a quiet adventure. Starring a dreaming dog, the iPad-only adventure game has been nominated for a SXSW Gamer’s Voice Award for best indie game, along with a number of other titles, including recently reviewed Tengami — a game which shares some similarities with Doggins.
Doggins centers around a dreaming terrier of the same name who finds himself facing off with a villainous squirrel on the moon. The devious squirrel sports a monocle, and his name is Fitzwilliam. It’s tough for some games to stand out, especially during a crowded week of new releases, but Doggins certainly does its best to stand out from the crowd. Essentially a point-and-click adventure, it’s nice that Doggins features a quiet dog and squirrel, as you lose the often tiresome exposition of similar games.
- March 6, 2014
- Apps + Games,
2bkco’s Findery (free) was in beta for a long time, but it’s finally hit the App Store today as a full, finished app ready for launch. Findery lets users leave notes in locations all around the world — anything from personal anecdotes, to historical facts, and more. The notes — made of text and images — can be made private or public, and notifications can tell users when someone has commented on or favorited one of their notes. It’s clear that some time in beta has allowed Findery to build up a decent inventory of notes before its launch. Users can search for notes in a map view, through recent activity, or by created “notemaps.”
Gmail (free) from Google has updated to version 3.0. The new update brings background app refresh, so the app can receive mail even when it’s not open. Background app refresh requires iOS 7 and one type of notification to be turned on. Gmail is also now offering a simplified sign-in — all Google apps are linked, so signing in to any Google apps will sign users into all other Google apps.
Apple is reportedly “scrambling” to make changes to the App Store in order to meet a March 31 deadline set by the Federal Trade Commission for changing how the company charges for in-app purchases, according to ZDNet. Apple settled with the FTC in January — the company must now obtain “express, informed consent” before billing for in-app charges, and must give consumers the option to withdraw consent at any time. It’s reportedly taking “longer than expected” for Apple to make the changes. Apple would like to include the changes in iOS 7.1; it’s unclear if the changes are delaying the upcoming release of iOS 7.1, but Apple could always address the changes in another update.
- March 6, 2014
- Apps + Games,
ComiXology, developer of the popular iOS Comics app, has reported a security breach and is asking all account holders to reset their password. The company sent out an email detailing the breach, noting that payment information is safe. However, an “unauthorized individual” did access a database with ComiXology user names, emails, and passwords. The ComiXology website is currently down as of this writing — possibly due to a surge in traffic — but will hopefully be back up soon for users to reset their passwords. [via TechCrunch]
Apple will bring full-screen video iAds to iPhone and iPad apps this year, Advertising Age reports. The new video iAds will play automatically. According to the report, these ads could occur during moments of transition, “like after completing a game’s level or finishing an article.” Pricing for the ads is unknown, and Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
Apple is working to expand Siri’s capabilities, including greater third-party integration, according to The Information. The report claims the Siri upgrades are being done with the iWatch in mind. These changes would allow Siri to offer more functionality by connecting to services and apps from third parties. It’s also noted that Siri’s search is being improved, and Apple is working on a way to dynamically decide which information should be displayed on a device with a smaller screen, such as the iWatch. In one given example, a running app could move to the foreground of the device’s screen when the user starts to jog. [via TechCrunch]
PopCap’s Bejeweled (free) has gone through more iterations and updates over the years than any other iOS game we can recall, and some have made fairly substantial improvements to the core match-three game. The latest update 1.7.1 adds Poker Mode, a surprisingly addictive game mode that challenges you to make five-card poker hands by sequencing same-colored match-threes. For instance, three separate matches of three yellow gems will give you three yellow gem cards, which when paired with two matches of three orange gems will create a full house. To keep playing, you need to both vary your hands — repeatedly getting just one pair of matching cards isn’t enough — and avoid the skull head on a flipped coin, which appears more often if you repeat hands and can instantly end your game. It’s a great update to the classic title, but arrives with a major bummer: an unexpected timer that limits your daily games unless you pay a $3 fee to unlock the full title.
Just released as a video download last week, Disney’s hit movie Frozen briefly arrived with a free iBooks download of the Frozen Read-Along Storybook — a page-flipping story accompanied by full narration and the voices of Frozen’s key actors. But there is another Frozen storybook option for kids: despite the similar name and theme, the Frozen: Storybook Deluxe ($7) app doesn’t overlap anywhere near as much as we’d expected with the iBook story. While some of the art is similar, the story is told differently, with rich interactive animations and video clips from the movie. Storybook Deluxe also uniquely lets a child rotate the iPhone or iPad 180 degrees to hear the Frozen story from the separate perspectives of sisters Anna and Elsa. A reverse puzzle mode challenges kids to remove correctly-shaped ice puzzle fragments from a photo, while Snow Globe and Ice Crafting modes let kids draw pictures with snow and ice tools. Young Frozen fans should consider it a must-see.
Microsoft is working on extending Xbox Live functionality to iOS games, The Verge reports. A recent job posting for a “New Devices and Gaming” software development engineer states that the company will “create a modern framework that is open source, light-weight, extensible and scalable across various platforms including Windows Store, Windows Phone, iOS and Android.” According to the report, Microsoft wants to bring Xbox Live to every platform, allowing developers to incorporate Xbox Live into all games.
A Volvo press release reveals additional details about CarPlay, which was just officially announced by Apple. It’s noted that a Wi-Fi connection will allow for the iPhone to connect to the car in the “near future”; CarPlay was initially announced as being accessible to only three iPhone models using a Lightning cable. A video of CarPlay in use can also be seen in the press release.
Volvo’s portrait screen will let users access Volvo and Apple content simultaneously, without switching between the car screen and iOS. CarPlay will debut in Volvo’s new XC90 “later in 2014.”
Apple has announced CarPlay, the rebranded name for its iOS in the Car. CarPlay will premiere at the Geneva International Motor Show, which runs from March 6-16. Vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo will premiere CarPlay this week. According to Apple, BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki, and Toyota will also add CarPlay to vehicles in the future. The company calls CarPlay “the smarter, safer and more fun way to use iPhone in the car.”
CarPlay lets iPhone users make calls, use maps, listen to music, and access messages from the car’s native interface or a voice control steering wheel button that will activate Siri. Available as an update to iOS 7, CarPlay will initially work only with Lightning-enabled iPhones — the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s—though the CarPlay name appears to hint at an eventual wireless interface akin to AirPlay. The feature will be “available in select cars shipping in 2014,” with no specific models mentioned in the press release.
God of Light ($2) is a new game from Playmous that features music from British electronica group UNKLE. A physics puzzle game, God of Light challenges players to guide a beam of light from a starting point to an end point using mirrors, while picking up crystals along the way. A few in-app purchases are offered, but they’re not pushed aggressively.
The game’s mascot, Shiny, is a cute little ball that unleashes the ray of light players need to get through the levels. Using a finger to guide the beam, players must then direct the beam to its goal using mirrors. Some mirrors can rotate, others can be moved. There are also doors to unlock in some levels, and more elements such as prisms and bending light, are introduced as the game progresses. Playmous did a great job with the learning curve, as the puzzles gradually get more challenging and multi-faceted while never feeling unfair. The controls are sensitive, but intuitive.
Chillingo’s Another Case Solved is a new game similar to the company’s popular Puzzle Craft. There is a detective story built into Another Case Solved, but it doesn’t have any effect on the actual gameplay, which involves matching icons by swiping to create lines in any direction. Progressing through the game allows players to upgrade their skills, and other simple puzzles are revealed. Players also have the option of changing their detective’s look and upgrading their office. Though Another Case Solved is free, options to make in-app purchases abound.
Instapaper ($4) has upgraded to version 5.1.5. The update offers integration with Instapaper Daily, a news site that features the most popular Instapaper story of the day. AirPlay integration has also been improved. Subscribers receive Send to Kindle functionality — subscriptions are also now auto-renewable.