HBO has announced that the cable network’s apps are now able stream from an iPhone or iPad to Apple TV via Airplay, thanks to updates to the HBO Go app and Cinemax MAX Go app. Kessler confirmed that HBO Go will become directly available through Apple TV in the future, as was reported earlier this month; no date was specified. [via AllThingsD]
Fans of famed glass artist Dale Chihuly now have a free iOS app to enjoy in The Chihuly App, which lets you create your own art with the looks and shapes of his celebrated glass sculptures. After picking one of Chihuly’s styles, you blow into the microphone to create a virtual sculpture that can be moved, molded, and color-changed by touching the screen. When the work is complete, you can view your creation in 3-D, and share it on Facebook. It’s also possible to browse artwork other users have made, and read a timeline of Dale Chihuly’s life and accomplishments. It’s pretty neat stuff for a free download.
A puzzle/sandbox game for iPads, Little Inferno ($5) is an “interactive fireplace” that lets you burn things, advancing through stages by discovering combos when certain items burn together. All you’re really doing from an actual gameplay standpoint is buying items, throwing them in the fireplace, and lighting them ablaze—complete with brief but frustrating delays between the purchase of an item and being able to toss it in the fire. You also get snippets of correspondence from other characters via letters, which create a story with an ending that’s claimed to pack a wallop. You’ll need to decide whether you have enough video pyromania to continue experimenting with the items for hours; in any case, you’ll find Little Inferno to be a unique gaming concept.
When Sega ported the latest version of its classic arcade jet shooter After Burner to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 for $10, we downloaded it immediately. Now After Burner Climax has arrived as a universal iOS app for only $3, and though it doesn’t quite live up to the arcade or console versions, it’s not bad. You still get most of the surprisingly detailed forced 3-D stages, complete with Retina resolution, music and sound effects from both Climax and After Burner II, and the unlockable bonus content found in the console version. On the other hand, the action intensity level has dropped markedly, the controls don’t feel quite right, and a variety of other little issues really need to be addressed in a post-release patch. Given the quality of the visuals alone, After Burner fans should consider a day one download, but everyone else should wait to see if Sega fixes the title. As quickly beaten as the game is, the price is right, and with a little work, this will be a thrilling game for short-burst playing.
With a half-dozen classic Grimm fairy tale apps already under its belt, StoryToys is expanding its lineup with a Hans Christian Andersen story that Disney previously all but claimed as its own: The Little Mermaid - 3D Interactive Pop-Up Book ($5). Parents familiar with this developer’s earlier book apps will find the interface extremely familiar: text pages are presented flat for easy reading, interrupted when the book shifts to a dynamic 3-D angle for charmingly illustrated interactive mini-games that move the story along. But StoryToys has done a better job here of balancing out text, still images, and interactive scenes, notably making the story portions easier for young children to enjoy, while preserving the colorful and light activity sections we liked in its prior books. The audio’s very good, too: gentle voice narration is accompanied by cheerful music and sound effects. Don’t expect references to Ariel, but the Little Mermaid story’s otherwise as expected, and a fun book for kids.
A new report from the Wall Street Journal highlights how Apple has been adjusting its PR efforts recently, citing the company’s press release announcing the relatively minor iOS 6.1 update last week, as well as an uptick in favorable third-party reports being sent out to members of the press—a practice common within the technology industry, and apparently increasing at Apple. According to the WSJ, a person familiar with the matter notes that these latest PR moves “represent a recognition that competition is heating up.” The report goes on to note that despite strong international growth in countries such as China, Apple stock growth has slowed and competitors such as Samsung have begun spending more on advertising and marketing to compete.
A new report details a number of software-related issues that are impacting Apple users and developers, as Adam C. Engst of TidBITS provides anonymized summaries of “some concerning problems that haven’t gotten as much press” as recent hardware manufacturing delays. Engst notes that iOS 6 has seen “more (and more-troubling) bugs in iOS 6 than any previous version of iOS in particular,” noting that users were hit with problems such as excessive cellular data usage and battery drain, issues that Apple took four months to address with iOS 6.1. Second-hand reports shared by Engst suggest that Apple engineers have left “because they felt their software was being shipped before it was ready,” and that he has also “heard story after story of Apple’s App Store policies and behaviors causing significant headaches.” While developers wouldn’t go on the record with their individual issues, they described iTunes Connect problems regarding app approval, company changes, and customer management that were creating unnecessary problems for users, such as confusing update and upgrade paths for important new releases. Engst suggests that Apple’s success has “effectively blinded” it to the software and developer problems, which he deems “the emperor’s wardrobe malfunction,” issues that “aren’t likely to affect the stock price in the short term, but could have long term consequences.”
Third-party developers can now use Apple-provided Appstore.com links to make shortened URL links to their apps, as was demonstrated this weekend. An Appstore.com short link appeared briefly at the end of the commercial for the upcoming film “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which read, “For details and ticket information go to AppStore.com/StarTrekApp.” The Appstore.com domain name, which was given to Steve Jobs as a personal gift by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, has been used as the official website for the App Store Twitter account since its launch in January 2011.
As huge fans of Sony’s futuristic Wipeout racing games, we nearly burst with excitement before playing former Wipeout co-creator Nick Burcombe’s just-released universal iOS game Table Top Racing ($3). Good news: the graphics are Retina sharp and fluid, the controls and audio are respectable, and there’s a four-player multiplayer mode. Bad news: it’s a toy car take on Mario Kart, with weak weapons and low intensity, set in levels that look like overpopulated tables and desks. Consider grabbing it to support indie developer Playrise Edge/Playrise Digital on the road to the next Wipeout—just realize that Table Top Racing isn’t that game, or at this point, even close.
Originally sold for $3, the note-taking and sketching program Penultimate has been on each of iLounge’s editors’ iPads for years, having justified its asking price long ago with an intuitively simple drawing interface. Following its acquisition by Evernote, Penultimate has just been updated to version 4 while becoming free: now, the UI looks Retina-sharp and polished, pages sync across multiple devices, and can be text-searched with handwriting recognition—assuming you sign up for an Evernote account. If for whatever reason you held off on grabbing this app before, the new features and zero-dollar pricetag make it a must-grab for iPad users, right now.
Currently being given away as a limited time promotion, Callaway Digital Arts’ Endless Alphabet (Free) is one of the best letter and spelling apps we’ve seen for iPads, iPhones, and iPods. Kids are presented with an alphabetized list of vocabulary words—ones that are arguably a little more advanced than might be expected for the mass of children that will instantly understand the interface—and then rearrange charmingly animated “monster” letters to form the words. Additional words and monsters will be added each week, says Callaway. From the music and fun animations to the theme and interface, Endless Alphabet is most definitely worth grabbing for any young child.
Despite its ubiquity and ever-growing collection of features, Facebook’s universal iOS app Facebook (Free) continues to rack up middling App Store rankings—this time due as much to crashes as still-missing desktop site functionality. The just-released version 5.4 claims to build upon the recent addition of voice messaging and VoIP calling with new video recording and sharing features, but apart from iPhone/iPod UI tweaks borrowed from Facebook Messenger, the differences don’t appear to be major. Improvements to the Nearby/Places Nearby feature, now including an interactive map with icons leading directly to business pages, are for now more intriguing.
Hearst Magazines has announced that new issues of its various publications will be made available to subscribers in Apple’s Newsstand before appearing in print or any other digital edition. The 20 magazines include Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Car and Driver, Good Housekeeping, and Woman’s Day, among others. A report notes that each publication differs in how far it will be released ahead of other editions, but each will appear at least a “few days in advance” of its print counterpart. [via TechCrunch]
Amazon has announced its MP3 store has been optimized for iPhone and iPod touch. Users can now buy digital music from Amazon’s catalog of more than 22 million songs, directly from Amazon’s store through mobile Safari — the Amazon MP3 mobile website is built on HTML5. Purchases are saved to customers’ Amazon Cloud Player libraries for instant access and playback using the Cloud Player mobile apps. Amazon first launched an iPhone-optimized Kindle Store in 2009; the company has traditionally avoided integrating its store features directly into its iOS apps due to the large amount of content available and to avoid paying a 30 percent cut of sales to Apple.
Facebook Messenger now offers free calling, as the feature has made its way to US iPhone users. The standalone Facebook app allows users to open a conversation with another Messenger user by opening a conversation, tapping the “i” button, and then tapping the new Free Call button. The calls are free using Wi-Fi or the iPhone’s data connection. The VoIP calling service was announced as a new feature about two weeks ago. An App Store update is not needed to start making calls. [via The Verge]
New App Store statistics released by Apple today include several milestones: 40 billion unique downloads of over 775,000 apps by over 500 million active accounts. The 40 billion downloads notably do not include re-downloads or updates, but do include nearly 20 billion downloads in 2012 alone—a huge uptick in growth reflecting iOS’s increased user base, availability of apps, and comfort with apps. Apple notably hit the 25 billion mark in March 2012.
While the pace of downloads continues to quicken, the number of apps doesn’t appear to have grown as dramatically: Apple’s 775,000 app number is up from 550,000 in early 2012, a significant increase that the company is attempting to bolster further. In its press release announcing the latest statistics, Apple also appealed to developers by noting various individual developer successes: tens of millions of downloads for inexpensive games and apps, over $100 million of revenue for freemium titles, and growth of tiny developers into medium-sized businesses.
Version 2.1 of Facebook’s standalone text and photo messaging app Facebook Messenger has been released, adding support for new features: “quick voice messages” and free phone calling, the latter apparently a VoIP calling service that will use “your existing data plan,” and “rolling out over the next few weeks.”
The quick voice message feature enables voice recordings to be sent as instant messages, presenting users with a “touch and hold to talk” button that auto-sends messages once released. This feature is akin to standalone apps such as HeyTell, and already enabled. Facebook Messenger version 2.1 is free, with an interface optimized for the iPhone and iPod touch, and available now from the App Store.
The Wall Street Journal has finally joined Apple’s iOS Newsstand service. One of the last high-profile publishers to holdout from offering subscriptions via iTunes, the Journal will now sell digital subscriptions from directly within the app — and will pay the standard 30 percent of subscription revenue from in-app subscriptions to Apple. Although The Wall Street Journal has long had its own reader app for iOS, it initially chose to remove in-app subscription purchasing following the launch of Apple’s in-app subscription service early last year, rather than sharing revenue and customer data with Apple. Former Dow Jones president Todd Larsen had opposed Newsstand subscriptions, but he left the company last summer. [via All Things D]
Following a review initiated in 2010, the Federal Trade Commission has amended its rules regarding the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), strengthening privacy protections for children under 13. COPPA was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1998, requiring online services for children under 13 to obtain parental consent before collecting personal information.
Starting July 1, 2013, parents will need to consent to the gathering of their kids’ photos, videos, and/or location information, and the consent process has been streamlined, among other changes. Notably, COPPA now explicitly covers services such as apps, plug-ins, and advertising networks, however, Apple’s App Store and competitors will not have to police apps for violations. The FTC’s action comes on the heels of a recent report criticizing the privacy practices of kids’ apps found in the App Store and Google’s Android Market. [via The Wall Street Journal]
Apple is discussing integrating local data from Foursquare into its Maps application, The Wall Street Journal reports. According to the report, Apple has talked to “a number of companies that collect local data” as the company works to improve Maps; iOS 6 Maps already includes local data from Yelp, but has been criticized for both errors and omissions in the point of interest data. Apple Senior VP Eddy Cue is said to be involved in the discussions.
Google has announced that Google Maps for iOS was downloaded more than 10 million times less than 48 hours after its release last Thursday. As became obvious from the App Store’s top downloads list, Google Maps became the top free app on iPhone only hours after its release, and continues to occupy the top spot as of this writing. Apple executives are said to be “seething,” as noted last week by Daring Fireball, due to both the immediate success of the well-reviewed mapping application and the troubled launch of iOS 6’s new Apple-developed Maps application, which reportedly led to the dismissals of two of the company’s software chiefs.
A&E Networks has released separate free iPad apps for three of its networks — A&E, History, and Lifetime. All of the apps feature free access to episodes from the current seasons of selected shows, and the Lifetime app features selected movies, as well.
Comcast Xfinity TV customers will have access to additional content, including full previous TV seasons. The apps will support additional distributors early next year, and iPhone and iPod touch versions of the apps will launch in January. AirPlay support for the apps is coming soon.
Apple has released its “Best of 2012” list for iTunes. The lists highlight Apple’s 2012 favorites in music, movies, TV, apps, books, and podcasts. In the App Store, Action Movie FX was selected as iPhone App of the Year, with Rayman Jungle Run as iPhone Game of the Year; Paper was named Apple’s iPad App of the Year, while iPad Game of the Year was The Room. Numerous runners up and “editors’ choices” were listed alongside the winners.
Amazon has updated its Amazon Instant Video app, adding support for the iPhone and iPod touch. Previously available only for iPad users, the Amazon Instant Video app is now a single, universal app providing access to more than 140,000 videos from the Amazon Instant Video store, and more than 30,000 Prime Instant Video titles are free for Amazon Prime members. The app features “Your Watchlist,” a viewable queue for future viewing, and “Your Video Library,” from which users can download videos for offline viewing. Whispersync lets viewers continue watching videos where they stopped, on any supported devices. A Wi-Fi connection is required for streaming videos, as 3G or 4G streaming is currently not supported.