Foursquare Labs has introduced a number of new search features to its Foursquare (free) app in version 6.2, letting users filter searches by price, places that users have saved, places users haven’t been yet, places open at that time, and more new options. These advanced filters were added to the desktop version of the site a few weeks ago; now they’ve made their way to Foursquare’s mobile app.
“Fearless” isn’t the first word we’d generally use to describe brick-breaking games—the Breakout-inspired genre is so old and established that new versions can’t help but feel iterative. Yet Barry Kostjens’ new Hyper Breaker Turbo ($2) manages to feel genuinely fresh and even pretty ingenious, thanks to the developer’s decision to throw away some of Breakout’s most classic rules. Instead of requiring you to break every brick on the screen before moving to the next level, Hyper Breaker Turbo’s 75 stages continue scrolling upwards to follow the motion of your ball, which can be gently reflected off your curved paddle, or smashed with upward momentum. The paddle can pass through bricks, but the ball must break or dodge them, adding another interesting twist to keep things moving smoothly. You beat each stage by making the ball touch a goal that’s generally several screen lengths up, buried behind layers of destructible bricks and walls formed by unbreakable blocks. While the game’s graphics and music aren’t going to wow anyone, they’re competent enough to look and sound good on even the latest Retina iPads and iPhones, while the touchscreen is used ideally for paddle and ball physics. Breakout fans should consider this one a must-see for the price.
ABC Aquarium ($3) by Peapod Labs is yet another release in the company’s ABC family of universal iOS education apps. Each app has brought a new theme, complete with an alphabet’s worth of new photographs, videos, and simple rub-on-the-picture activities, plus small user interface improvements. Aquarium leverages all of the prior titles’ UI tricks to provide a relatively seamless look at dozens of different fish and animals you’d find at aquariums, ranging from sea lions to koi, lobsters to zebrafish. The photos in this edition are particularly compelling, thanks to high-res details and great colors, though as with prior editions, some issues slip through — two images of Emperor Angelfish are nearly identical, for instance, and some of the swiping activities feel a bit underdeveloped and stale. Once again, each letter of the alphabet includes multiple photos for one or more creatures, plus in-frame YouTube videos that teach kids more than just the letters and words for each animal. Parents looking for bilingual instruction can also switch on an optional translation feature that flips each word between English and Spanish.
Disney’s Disney Junior Appisodes app (free) is a new hub to hold interactive versions of full-length TV episodes. Recommended for ages 4 and up, Disney Junior Appisodes let children touch, tap, swipe, tilt, shake, and talk through Disney Junior episodes while completing activities. The app comes with the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Road Rally Appisode—a standalone download we previously found incredibly impressive—and additional Appisodes are available for purchase within the app.
Apple is reportedly planning an “increased presence of third-party social networks” in iOS 7, and more specifically, a deeper integration of photo and video sharing services Flickr and Vimeo. According to a 9to5Mac report, users will be able to sign into Flickr or Vimeo using iOS 7’s Settings application. Users could log into and use Flickr and Vimeo as simply as they currently use Facebook or Twitter for iOS. However, the report notes a “very real possibility that any feature in testing could be removed” before iOS 7 is announced.
While a recent report detailed Apple and Yahoo’s discussion of a deeper partnership, it’s unknown if the Yahoo-owned Flickr was part of those talks. The proposed addition of Vimeo to iOS could conceivably further distance Apple from Google’s YouTube app; sources didn’t comment on Vimeo completely replacing YouTube.
Google’s new music subscription service Google Play Music All Access doesn’t yet have its own iOS app, but an existing app may add support for the service in the near future. An update for gMusic, a $2 Google music player app, has been submitted to the App Store to support Google Play Music All Access. If accepted, the update will let users access Google’s new service through the gMusic iOS app. [via Wired]
BlackBerry’s recently announced iOS app for its BBM messaging service is expected to launch this summer, but it apparently won’t be coming to iPad right away. According to a report, Vivek Bhardwaj, head of software portfolio at BlackBerry, said BBM will be coming to “iOS phones running iOS 6 and higher.” Bhardwaj said smartphone is the company’s “real focus” for BBM. “When you start looking at tablets, computers and other screens, the usage model changes and behaviour changes. For us right now the absolute focus is getting BBM onto smartphones,” he said. [via Trusted Reviews]
Each time there’s a new version of Can Knockdown, we stand up and take notice. On the surface, the universal iOS release Can Knockdown 3 ($2) is the type of super-simple game that once dominated the App Store—flick to toss balls at cans, knocking them over. Yet developer Infinite Dreams keeps raising the bar with each iteration, this time improving the realtime 3-D graphics to virtually photorealistic levels on Retina iPads, and adding puzzles to the 100 included levels. While the music is only alright, the sound effects, controls, and graphics otherwise work really nicely together, and the levels continue to evolve in challenge as you continue playing. Currently on sale for only $1, this should be a no-brainer download if you’re looking for something fun to occupy your spare time.
eBay has updated its free iOS apps for both the iPhone and iPad, bumping them to versions 3.0.0 and 2.3.0, respectively. The iPhone app has been redesigned, including larger photos for users of iOS 6 and beyond. Most notably, the app allows users of some US states to scan in their drivers licenses for fast and easy eBay registration. Last minute bidding has also been improved, and the new eBay Shopping Cart lets users check out multiple items at once. The updated iPad app makes a number of changes as well, including improved photos and easier browsing.
Apple’s App Store today reached 50 billion downloads, as noted by the end of the official countdown. As the site says, “The grand prize winner will be announced soon. Stay tuned.”
The person who downloaded the 50 billionth app will win a $10,000 App Store Gift Card. The next 50 people who downloaded an app after that will win a $500 App Store Gift Card.
Update: Apple announced the winner as Brandon Ashmore from Mentor, Ohio. The 50 billionth app downloaded was Say the Same Thing by Space Inch, LLC. Ashmore gets a $10,000 App Store Gift Card for his download.
Google made a number of iOS-related announcements today at its I/O Developers Conference, including several that have potentially far-reaching consequences for its iPhone and iPad applications. First, the company released its Hangouts app for iOS, a free messaging app that lets users share photos and make video calls across computers, phones, and tablets. Additionally, Google also demonstrated a redesigned version of Google Maps, which will feature enhanced navigation, a five-star rating system, a 3D view, cards, and more prominent Zagat reviews, among many updates. The latest update will come to iOS devices in the summer, and will also bring to the web version a considerably cleaner interface.
Additionally, Google announced a revamped version of Google+, which will look more like the Google+ iPad app and add considerable new features such as automatic photo synchronization and sorting; an enhanced Google Now voice search for desktop computers that hints more Siri-like functionality will come to its iOS Google app; and Google Play Music All Access, an unlimited streaming music service. All Access will compete with Pandora, Spotify and other subscription services, as it beats Apple’s rumored iRadio service to market, offering users access to millions of tracks from various recording labels. Users who sign up for a 30-day trial by June 30 will pay $8 a month. After that, users can sign up for $10 a month.
ABC has relaunched its ABC Player app as Watch ABC, which now streams live programming in limited markets. Currently, live streaming of ABC programming is only available in the New York City and Philadelphia areas.
The app is currently available in an “open access” preview, but starting July 1, the app will request verification of an eligible TV provider to access live streaming video. Watch ABC will expand to other markets in the coming months, including Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham, Fresno, Boston, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Milwaukee.
1Password ($18), AgileBits’ password manager and secure wallet app, has been updated to version 4.2. The update includes a number of improvements to 1Browser, the app’s built-in web browser, including use of a strong password generator. It’s now possible to share items through Messages or email. Search has also been improved, with the ability to expand results across all fields. Results also show the primary URL of the term, as well.
Amazon Mobile has released Amazon Cloud Drive Photos (free), an app for storing photos in Amazon’s cloud. The app automatically saves photos taken while the app is running. Amazon offers 5GB of free storage to save about 2,000 photos. Users can buy up to 1TB of additional storage.
Blackberry has announced that its BBM messaging service will be released as a free iOS app this summer, complete with support for iOS 6 and above. BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said the release of BBM on other platforms is a “statement of confidence,” and noted that the free app is expected to include messaging and groups at launch, with voice, screen share, and channels to be added later. As noted in a press release, BBM for iOS depends on Apple approval. [via The Verge]
Apple’s countdown to 50 billion App Store downloads is nearing its end. At the current download rate depicted by Apple’s web site counter, the 50 billionth app should be downloaded at some point in the next two days; however, it’s unclear how accurate the counter is, and whether the speed will accelerate as the milestone draws nearer.
The person who downloads the 50 billionth app will win a $10,000 App Store Gift Card, and the next 50 people to download an app will win a $500 App Store Gift Card.
Peapod Labs’ just-released Bugsy’s Math Quest ($3) stars the company’s long-time mascot, Bugsy the hamster, who walks through 2-D side-scrolling levels, facing animals and monsters every few seconds. To get past most opponents, you need to tap once or twice on the bottom-of-screen keypad to enter digits that solve a multiplication or division problem. Each level ends with a boss encounter akin to a quiz, where you need to rapidly solve a handful of problems in a row to defeat the boss and move on. The game’s flat graphics and audio are pretty good, improving on what we’ve previously seen from Peapod’s Bugsy titles, but even the easy difficulty level will prove challenging for the young (4-5-year-old) children the app claims to be appropriate for. This is due in equal parts to the fast pacing, the lack of instructional content, and choice of multiplication and division rather than addition and subtraction; Math Quest is really appropriate for older kids who already know basic multiplication and division tables from school. They’ll find this to be a great reinforcer — better than flash cards — but a mode that teaches rather than just drilling on correct answers would be a nice addition.
Netflix’s newly-updated version 4.1 Netflix (free) app now makes it easier for binge watchers with the new post-play feature. When watching a TV show, the Netflix app will now automatically queue up the next episode and play it without the user having to do anything. For movies, post-play lists the three best related movie recommendations while the credits of the current movie start to roll.
New for iPad from Warner Music Group is The Doors, ($5) a new app that “brings The Doors’ story to life.” An interactive career retrospective of the Jim Morrison-fronted rock band, The Doors app features insider stories about the group, a timeline of The Doors’ history, song samples, lyrics, and more. A graphic novel about the band’s famous “Miami Incident” is included, as are 44 video commentaries and 6 full-length music videos.
PDFpen for iPad ($10) by SmileOnMyMac lets users make edits and corrections to a PDF file on the screen. It can use iCloud, Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Docs as storage. The iPad app notably added support for Adonit’s new Jot Touch 4 pressure-sensitive stylus in version 1.5.2, making it one of the first apps to support the Bluetooth 4 peripheral. Since that recent update, version 1.5.3 has resolved issues with Dropbox and other various crash issues.
As it has for a number of iTunes milestones, Apple has launched a new contest, this time for the 50 billionth iOS app downloaded. The person who downloads that app will win a $10,000 App Store Gift Card, and the next 50 people will win $500 App Store Gift Cards.
Along with the prizes, Apple has listed the top 25 all-time paid and free apps, for both iPhone and iPad, with Angry Birds, Facebook, Pages, and Skype for iPad at the top of the lists, respectively. As of the time this story was posted, the counter appeared to be at just over 49,207,000,000 downloads; a rough calculation suggests that the 50 billion mark will be hit in roughly 11 days.
With users of Google Now for iOS — found within the Google Search app — complaining about excessive battery drain, a recently published post on Lifehacker suggested turning off location reporting in settings for a fix. However, Google responded to the Lifehacker report, claiming that reports about excessive loss of battery life are “incorrect.” The company claims Google Now uses cell towers and wifi hot spots “for much lower battery impact.” Google claims Google Now for iOS was tested extensively for months without any significant battery impact.
Originally a Facebook-only game, Rovio’s Angry Birds Friends is now available on iOS for free. The game still revolves around Facebook though — you have to sign into Facebook to compete in the tournaments and challenge friends for trophies. New levels are added to tournaments every week, and the iOS game syncs automatically with the Facebook game. However, keep in mind the only single-player experience focuses on practicing with power-ups. It’s free, but Angry Birds Friends is still only worth downloading if you’ve got friends willing to play along. Otherwise, you’d be better off sticking with one of Rovio’s many other flying fowl titles.
Haunted Hollow (free) from 2K Games was developed by Firaxis, the same studio that made Sid Meier’s Civilization and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. The new strategy game for iOS lets players build and rule over a mansion while creating an army of monster minions. Players can send monsters such as vampires, zombies, mummies, witches, and reapers into town to capture townhouses and do battle. Multiplayer mode lets Haunted Hollow players face off against friends.
Zynga has released the sequel to its once insanely popular game Draw Something in two incarnations: Draw Something 2 ($3) and Draw Something 2 Free. Both games feature dozens of new tools, patterns, stamps, and colors for drawing. Also featured are new words, new play modes, and a feed that shares drawings with all of your friends. The premium version also includes a free Sparkle Pen, no ads between turns, a free star and coin bonus, and thousands of extra new words.
Already beloved for its interactive iOS storybooks, Nosy Crow has hit another home run with the release of Little Red Riding Hood by Nosy Crow ($5), a lightly modernized take on the classic fable. As would be expected from this story, Little Red Riding Hood embarks on a walk through the forest to carry a basket of food to her ailing grandmother, but Nosy Crow adds several branching paths to the forest, enabling kids to choose additional items that will help Red defeat the big, bad wolf at her grandmother’s home—plus multiple endings. Beyond the fun of collecting these items in various mini games, the developer has populated the app with zoomable high-definition artwork, plenty of voice narration, and intuitively interactive elements that really bring the story’s scenes to life. This is certainly Nosy Crow’s best storybook yet, which says a lot given that it has previously released some of the very best iOS kids apps we’ve tested. Fans of the story should grab this one without thinking twice; it’s that impressive.
A new update to the Google Search app for iOS features Google Now, Google’s personal assistant. Google Now offers weather and traffic conditions at the start of the day, as well as updates on favorite sports teams and breaking news. Google Now uses more than 25 different “cards,” including cards for boarding passes, restaurant reservations, flight information, and more.
Google’s Eric Schmidt alluded to Google Now awaiting Apple approval in March. Apple responded, saying Google Now wasn’t submitted to its App Store; as it turns out, it was instead debuted within an existing app. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has added a new section to the App Store to help consumers “Learn More About In-App Purchases.” The informational section describes what in-app purchases are, the different types of in-app purchases, how in-app purchases work, and how to restrict a child’s ability to make in-app purchases using parental controls. In the wake of legal issues and other complaints regarding these follow-on purchases, Apple is making more of an effort to inform consumers about in-app purchases — the company recently added an “Offers In-App Purchases” line to all relevant apps.