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2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

News

Apps: Amazon Instant Video 2.1, Infinity Blade III, OpenTable 6.0 + Pandora 5.0

Amazon’s Amazon Instant Video app updated to version 2.1. Most notably, the free app now supports AirPlay to let users watch Amazon’s titles on the Apple TV. IMDB cast and director information, ratings, trivia, quotes, and goofs have also been added to the app.

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Infinity Blade III ($7) from Epic Games’ Chair Entertainment Group debuted on iOS today. The game features two playable characters, Siris and Isa. As expected, the game’s graphics — powered by the Unreal Engine — are top-notch, running smoothly on all supported devices while adding additional special effects to take advantage of Apple’s latest hardware. On the other hand, the gameplay is largely more of the same, and beginning to feel stale despite the addition of potions to mix and enemies that switch weapons mid-fight. Fans of the series may enjoy the additional emphasis on the sci-fi/fantasy storyline this time around. Apart from some crash bugs we experienced on the iPad mini, Infinity Blade III is certainly worth grabbing for longtime fans of the series, and anyone looking to see what a given iOS device is really capable of.

Apple updates first-party apps for iOS 7

Apple is currently in the process of releasing iOS 7-focused updates to its own apps, and we’re expecting a bunch to hit the App Store today. Here’s what’s now available.

The Apple Store app has been updated to version 2.8 — it’s been optimized for iOS 7 with a new UI.

Apple updated its AirPort Utility app to version 1.3.2. The app added support for iOS 7.

This story will continue to be updated as more Apple apps get iOS 7 updates over the course of the day.

iOS App Store now allows legacy app downloads

Apple’s iOS App Store is now letting users of older versions of iOS download specific legacy versions of apps. The App Store now prompts users to ask if they want to download “the last compatible version” of a selected app. First noted on Reddit, the move is beneficial to those with older hardware, or those using older versions of iOS for other reasons. App developers will also benefit from the change, as they’ll be able to offer staggered stable versions of software to users at various stages of iOS adoption. Apple has yet to officially comment on the new feature. [via TheNextWeb]

Apps: Go Dance, Joust Legend, Photogene 4 4.0 + Plasma Globe

Sega’s Go Dance ($2) is an iOS dancing game, actively tracking your body movements using a FaceTime camera. Your hand, arm, and torso motions automatically are registered by the camera, which moves the on-screen character to follow your motions, hitting or missing beat-based triggers. Songs such as LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” and Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” come pre-loaded, while other songs are available as in-app purchases. Go Dance also supports AirPlay, letting players with an iPhone 5 or fourth-gen iPad view the game on an HDTV. Although the app is universal, we found that it’s much better when played with an iPad — standing at a distance from the iPhone’s small screen while trying to follow required dance movements presents obvious problems.

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Joust Legend ($2) is a jousting game, though fans of classic arcade games may regret that no platforms or ostriches are involved. Rebellion Games has brought an authentic jousting game to iOS, with warriors charging at each other on horses, using lances to knock their opponents off their trusty steeds. The graphics are striking in Joust Legend, highly detailed with excellent polygon counts that really show off Retina displays. Gameplay itself is largely timing-based, with swipe and hold gestures determining the speed of your horse and direction of your lance, though the game gives players the option of upgrading armor, skills, and tricks before the joust.

Apps: Angry Birds Star Wars, Infinity Blade 3, Reeder 2, ShutterSnitch 2.11 + Strata

Rovio’s Angry Birds Star Wars ($1) has updated to version 1.4. The game now features 30 new Endor levels. New gameplay elements including bouncing items off drums and waking up jumping Ewoks have also been introduced with the update. A big battle has also been added, in which players must destroy a bunker to disable the Death Star’s deflector shield. Angry Birds HD ($3) for iPad has also been updated.

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Epic Games debuted Infinity Blade III ($7) during Apple’s iPhone event on Tuesday. The newest adventure in Epic’s acclaimed series is scheduled to hit the App Store next Tuesday, Sept. 18.

Silvio Rizzi has introduced Reeder 2 ($5). The new RSS reader is a sequel of sorts to Rizzi’s Reeder, and it brings the reader back to the iPad — Reeder 2 is universal. Reeder 2 is a client for Feedbin, Feedly, Feed Wrangler, Fever, and Readability. It has a number of new sharing services, and its new interface has been redesigned to match iOS 7. Gesture-based navigation has also made its way into the new app.

Apple kills Cards app

Apple quietly announced that as of yesterday, its Cards service for iOS is no longer available, putting an end to an unusual standalone app that debuted in October 2011. A support page notes that “Cards ordered before 1 PM Pacific time on September 10, 2013, will be delivered, and push notifications will continue to work.” Previous purchases can still be viewed in the app’s Saved Cards feature. On the same support page, Apple recommends using iPhoto on the Mac for ordering letterpress cards with customized photos and text.

Apple announces iWork, iPhoto, iMovie iOS apps go free*

Apple today announced that its iWork productivity apps for iOS—Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—along with iPhoto and iMovie, will now be available for free to purchasers of new iOS devices. Previously, each app individually cost between $5 and $10. No mention was made of GarageBand, the third iLife app. Updated: This story was updated after initial publication for clarity; it remains uncertain at this point whether the apps will continue to have their old price tags for prior iOS device users.

Apps: Chug Patrol, Kindle 3.9.2, Tweetbot 2.8.4 + Xbox Music

Chug Patrol: Ready to Rescue ($5) is a new Chuggington interactive pop-up book from StoryToys Entertainment. Based on the licensed Chuggington characters, this flip-style book is lightly animated on its regular pages, but features lots of voice narration and audio samples to keep kids excited. Interactive roadside rescue/task games break up the flat pages, and kids will find it easy to play the activities due to simple tap action commands. Young fans of Chuggington will find this book charming, and the artwork is all in extremely high resolution.

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Amazon’s Kindle (free) app has updated to 3.9.2. According to Amazon, it is a required update before upgrading to iOS 7. The update fixes an issue with iOS 7 that could cause customers to have to re-register and re-download books which were already purchased from Amazon.

Apple issued injunction in e-book case

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote has issued an injunction against Apple for its involvement in fixing e-book prices, Reuters reports. Cote barred Apple from entering any agreements with the five major publishers — Macmillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Hachette — that would impede its ability to reduce e-book prices or offer discounts. Judge Cote also said an external monitor would be appointed for two years to prevent antitrust behavior from Apple. The terms will expire after five years, but the judgment could be extended in one-year increments. As expected, no App Store changes were included in the injunction.

Additionally, GigaOM notes Apple may not enforce most-favored-nation clauses in any e-book publishing contracts for five years. The company must also stagger new contract negotiations with the five major publishers in an order set by the judge. Apple plans to appeal the injunction. “Apple did not conspire to fix e-book pricing,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said. “The iBookstore gave customers more choice and injected much-needed innovation and competition into the market.”

Apps: Call of Duty: Strike Team, Hello Vino 3.0, Real Racing 3 1.3.5 + 2K Drive

Coming out of nowhere today is Call of Duty: Strike Team ($7), a premium-priced shooter from Activision. The newest title in a long line of Call of Duty games, Strike Team offers both first-person and third-person views of combat, as players can switch views during the game for traditional FPS shooting and melee combat, then tactical strategy viewed from the position of a drone. CoD: Strike Team features a single-player campaign mode, plus a survival mode which lets players fight off waves of enemies while competing against others. It’s a neat game — unfortunately, like 2K Drive below, we experienced a few technical problems with the game, as it crashed multiple times during the first level. Hopefully future updates will fix the issues.

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Hello Vino, the free wine app from Drive Thru Interactive, has gotten a sizable update in version 3.0. The updated app has been redesigned and is now universal for iPhone and iPad. Hello Vino now offers insider wine deals, expert reviews from Elizabeth Schneider, audio pronunciations of wines, improvements to the “My Wines” feature and enhancements to the wine label scanner. Tens of thousands of new wines have also been added to the app’s database.

Google Authenticator update erasing user passwords

A recent update to the Google Authenticator app may be causing user’s one-time password credentials to be erased, potentially preventing them from accessing online services using two-step verification, according to several user reports in the Google Authenticator project group. Google Authenticator is an iOS app that allows users to store credentials for Google’s 2-Step Verification feature, and is also used for two-step verification with other third-party services such as Dropbox and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Although several iOS 7 beta users had reported problems with losing credentials in the app, it wasn’t until a recent update, presumably intended to address the iOS 7 issue, that the app began exhibiting the same behaviour for iOS users upgrading to the new version, resulting in users possibly losing access to some of their online services, particularly in cases such as AWS, where alternative “backup codes” are not made available. Users relying on the Google Authenticator app should avoid installing this update. Note that Google Authenticator uses an open-source one-time password generation method, so alternative apps are available, many of which were discussed in the same thread as a result of problems using the app with the iOS 7 betas.

Update: Google Authenticator appears to have been removed from the App Store, suggesting that Google may have pulled it while it works to address the issue.

Apple updates iLife apps modestly before iOS 7 launch

Apple has released minor updates to its iLife apps for iOS — iPhoto, iMovie, and Garageband. The heavily skeuomorphic apps are all described by Apple as receiving compatibility and stability fixes, without additional details, and continue to run without obvious changes on iOS 6 and iOS 7. While these behind-the-scenes fixes are not a surprise considering the upcoming launch of iOS 7, this may also signal that Apple is not planning to make major visual changes to those apps to coincide with iOS 7’s release. [via 9to5Mac]

Apps: ArtRage 1.6, Combo Crew 1.2, Daniel Tiger + Speakeasy Cocktails 3.4

ArtRage for iPad ($5) from Ambient Design Ltd. has updated to version 1.6. The updated art studio app has enhanced stylus support, as the app now supports the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus and TenOne Pogo Connect Stylus, in addition to the original Adonit Jot Touch. Tap and hold color sampling is now optional, and a number of UI issues have been addressed to make the app easier to use.

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Combo Crew ($4), a touchscreen-optimized brawler by The Game Bakers, has added two new special characters in version 1.2.0. Viewtiful Joe of the Capcom series and Lester Knight from the classic action puzzle game Out of this World (aka Another World) join the fray. A $2 in-app purchase is required to unlock Joe, but Lester Knight — an inspired addition — comes unlocked with the update. The game has also added new challenges and missions to King of the Tower mode.

Publisher e-book settlement to pay from $162.25M fund

Macmillan and Penguin — two publishers that agreed to settle in the Apple e-book price-fixing case — now have a website detailing the distribution of a $162.25 million settlement fund. Customers eligible to receive a settlement payment are already being contacted. U.S. customers who purchased one or more e-books from Macmillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, or Hachette between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 — including their divisions — are included in the settlement. Those who bought e-books through Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo will not be required to fill out a claim — Amazon customers will receive an automatic credit, while those who used the other e-bookstores will be notified to activate a credit. Though the exact payment amounts are unknown, the website estimates customers could receive $3.06 for each New York Times bestseller e-book, and $ .73 for non-NY Times bestsellers. This settlement will not affect any customer rights that may come from the conclusion of the ongoing Apple e-book lawsuit.

Apps: djay 2 2.0.2, Flickr 2.20, The Room Epilogue + Twitter 5.10

Algoriddim’s djay 2 has been updated for both iPhone ($2) and iPad ($10) to version 2.0.2. Both versions have added support for the Pioneer DDJ-WeGO2 DJ controller, improved syncing with tapped BPM, an improved “analyze library,” and improved sampler button mapping for supported DJ controllers. The iPhone version has also added Slip Mode in waveform view.

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Flickr (free) from Yahoo! has updated to version 2.20.1134. With the update comes filters, which have become popular in other photo apps. Flickr features stock and customizable filters, as well as live filters, which show what the filtered picture will look like before taking the shot. New camera tools have been added, including grids, pinch-to-zoom, and locking focus and exposure points. Additionally, pro editing tools such as enhance, crop, sharpen, and more are free to use within the app. New animated transitions between the camera and editing tools have also been added.

E-book case judge seeks competition, not Apple punishment

The judge who found Apple guilty of fixing e-book prices doesn’t want the government’s proposed remedies to drastically affect Apple’s business, reports the Associated Press. “I want this injunction to rest as lightly as possible on how Apple runs its business,” U.S. District Judge Denise Cote said. Cote believes any provisions that would affect the App Store — such as allowing third party apps to link to their own e-bookstores — are unnecessary. “The App store (sic) was only an incidental part of this trial,” she said. Cote also said she would likely limit the authority of a monitor that would be assigned to prevent antitrust behavior at Apple. A trial to determine damages is still set for May 2014.

Apps: Madden NFL 25, Notability 5.01, Pinball Arcade 2.7 + Solar Flux HD

EA’s Madden NFL 25 (Free*) has taken the “freemium” game model to ridiculous extremes. Feeling more like a shakedown than a football game, Madden is free to play, but rubs artificial-feeling limitations in your face well before your team can take the field. Before you get to play the game, you’re told that you’re being given some basic player cards and enough credit to play a game for free, after which the title tries to sell you Madden Cash using in-app purchases. Paying lets you keep playing a seriously stripped-down version of Madden football using very simple tap and touch controls, but in some cases, you’ll have to unlock individual plays, as well as players. If paying outright for player cards didn’t seem silly enough, Madden includes an in-app auction where players can compete against each other to buy cards for certain players. We can’t imagine anyone paying anything—let alone $100, as offered in one in-app purchase—to keep playing a game that has nowhere near the depth or content of a console football title. The in-game graphics aren’t much better than football titles from two years ago, Retina support not withstanding, and the audio’s nothing special, either. Our advice: skip this one.

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Notability ($5) from Ginger Labs has updated to version 5.01, and is now universal on all iOS devices. The note-taking app has also added iCloud support to keep notes updated on any iOS device running iOS 6 or later. A new scissor tool lets users scale and rotate handwriting. Themes have gotten a new look and feel, and one new theme has been added, as well.

Apple revising App Store rankings system?

Apple may be working toward incorporating user ratings into its App Store Top Charts rankings, according to some new analysis by Fiksu, an app marketing startup. The report notes that based on some in-depth and ongoing analysis, it would appear that Apple has been at least testing changes to the iTunes ranking algorithms to factor in user ratings and reviews in addition to the traditional number and frequency of downloads—apps with four stars or more seem to be receiving a consistent ranking boost.

The report also notes that the position of apps in the App Store appear to be updating with less frequency—every three hours as opposed to every 15 minutes previously. Fiksu speculates that this change may be to add a ‘buffer’ period to prevent developers and marketers from trying to game the system through short download bursts. It is unclear at this point whether these changes are part of a new strategy on Apple’s part or simply the result of the company experimenting with the App Store rankings. [via 9to5Mac]

Apps: Asphalt 8, Real Racing 3 1.3, Yahoo Weather 1.2, YouTube 2.0

Gameloft has released Asphalt 8: Airborne (iLounge Rating: A), an extremely impressive new instalment in the company’s long-running Asphalt racing game series. Asphalt 8 sets a new high standard for iOS gaming, taking the player through eight “seasons” with 180 diverse, fun, and interesting racing events. As its name hints, Asphalt 8: Airborne also introduces vehicular acrobatics to the mix, with ramps scattered throughout courses allowing players to flip their car through barrel rolls, 360-degree spins, and more. Visually and sonically fantastic, a tremendous amount of fun to play, challenging, and diverse in unexpected ways, it’s the best driving game we’ve yet seen in the App Store.

Real Racing 3 has been updated to version 1.3, introducing a whole new iconic collection of big Dodge and Shelby V8 muscle cars hailing from Detroit, along with a new racing series to feature the collection. The update also makes improvements to difficulty tuning, visual physics, and cameras, and adds additional social networking options for Time Shifted Multiplayer and Cloud Save.

iTunes Festival returns to Apple TV, iOS

With the return of Apple’s annual iTunes Festival for 2013, the company has once again added a dedicated Apple TV section allowing users to access and stream content directly onto the Apple TV. An update to the free iTunes Festival universal iOS app has also just been released, refreshing the design and allowing users to stream live and on-demand content directly to their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Content can also be streamed directly to a Mac or Windows PC via the iTunes Festival Page in the iTunes Store.

The Festival will feature 30 nights of free, live music from more than 50 artists performing at the Roundhouse in London from September 1 to September 30, 2013. Previous shows are expected to be available for a limited time via iTunes, the Apple TV, and the iOS app, and it is unclear for how long the iTunes Festival section will remain available on the Apple TV following the conclusion of the event on September 30th.

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