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Apps: Opera Mini 8.0, The Rhythm of Fighters, Supernauts + The Weather Channel for iPad 4.0

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’s new 16GB iPod touch update: unboxing and impressions

iLounge has obtained a new 16GB fifth-generation iPod touch, introduced this morning. The differences between this model and the existing 32/64GB models are extremely minor, but there are a few. Inside the box, along with the iPod, are a set of EarPods and a Lightning cable. Although the iPod touch has the same loop attachment as the higher capacity versions, no loop is included; they can be purchased separately for $9. We’ve noticed a very, very slight color difference in the PRODUCT (RED) edition, as compared to the 32GB model, pictured after the break. It is just a bit more muted, but still quite vibrant. Click through for more photos!

Report: Apple working on smart home hardware

Apple is reportedly working on its own smart home hardware products that integrate with the company’s current devices, according to 9to5Mac. Development of these home devices has advanced “beyond the exploratory phase,” and sources said Apple thinks the devices could have “mainstream” usage — sources noted Apple is looking to make products that would have wider usage than the thermostat and smoke detector made by Google’s Nest. However, it’s unknown as to exactly what kinds of home devices Apple is developing, though sources noted it could be “advanced speaker systems or control panels for homes.” Apple’s home products would be built on its recently introduced HomeKit software. No timeline for the devices is known at this time.

Apple intros new 16GB iPod touch, cuts prices on 32/64GB models

Apple has quietly switched up its iPod touch 5G lineup, replacing the rear camera-less 16GB model introduced last year with a model that now has feature parity with the higher capacity units. Further, this new 16GB iPod touch now sells for $199—$30 less than last year’s feature-limited model—and comes with all of the same assets and accessories, save for the iPod touch loop lanyard, which can be purchased separately. It’s also now available in the full array of colors originally introduced for the fifth-generation iPod touch. In addition, the 32GB model has also seen a price drop of $50, down to $249, and the 64GB model has been slashed from $399 to $299.

Updated: Apple has issued a press release announcing the updates.

Report: Apple relaxes app rejections for ad viewing, social sharing

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.

Apps: Air Stylus, Amazon Instant Video 2.7, Assassin’s Creed Pirates 1.4 + Transformers: AoE

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.

New Apple TV channels: ABC News, AOL On, PBS Kids, Willow

Apple has added four new channels to Apple TV: ABC News, AOL On, PBS Kids, and Willow. The ABC News channel features live streams and a variety of shows. AOL On is AOL’s video library service, which also features original programming. PBS Kids features popular children’s television programming — shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Arthur, and Dinosaur Train. Notably, PBS Kids requires activation and for users to sign in with Facebook, Google+, or a PBS account, though no cable subscription is necessary. Willow is a cricket channel, requiring a $15/month subscription.

Withings unveils Activité fitness tracking watch

Withings has debuted Activité ($390), a new iOS-compatible fitness tracking watch. Activité has the look of a real watch, and connects to the Withings Health Mate fitness tracking app using Bluetooth LE. It uses the smartphone connection to display “the exact time, always,” automatically adjusting to time zone changes. Additionally, a second dial also tracks fitness progress on the watch itself. Activité uses an accelerometer to track steps and distance. The water-resistant watch also allows for swim tracking and sleep monitoring, and can automatically detect whether it should be in sports or sleep mode.

Activité uses responsive glass that reacts to tapping — a user can tap the glass twice to check the alarm clock time. The watch has no need to recharge, as it comes with a button cell battery that will last for a full year. Included swappable straps — one leather, one plastic — allow users to change the look and feel of the watch for workouts or everyday life. Withings Activité comes in black or silver and will be available in the fall.

Bloomberg: New iPhones could launch at same time

Apple’s upcoming 4.7” and 5.5” iPhones will enter mass production next month and might become available at the same time, Bloomberg reports. The report claims the phones may ship to retailers “around September,” which corroborates some past reports claiming a September release. Bloomberg also notes the 5.5” iPhone is “more complicated” than the 4.7” version, leading to lower production efficiency “that must be overcome before manufacturing volume can be increased.” A number of reports have indicated the 5.5” iPhone would be released after the 4.7” model — but Apple could be pushing for a simultaneous launch, with the larger device debuting with a more limited supply.

Bono questions Apple’s treatment of (RED) branding

Speaking at a Cannes Lions presentation about his global AIDS nonprofit agency (RED), U2 frontman Bono took Apple to task for the way the company has branded its (RED) products, Adweek reports. Bono criticized the company with his friend and Apple design chief Jony Ive seated on stage, saying Apple is “so f———annoyingly quiet about the fact they’ve raised $75 million. Nobody knows!” According to Bono, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs refused to put the signature (RED) parentheses in any Apple stores, and understates them on Apple products. “Where’s the (RED) branding?” Bono asked Ive, pointing to their hidden location inside an iPad Smart Cover. “Nobody can see that. This is modesty run amok. This is the Apple way. They’re like a religious cult.”

Ive sidestepped the criticism: “We started in 2006 with one (RED) product, a Nano, and now we’ve got well over half a dozen,” he said. “It’s been really, really special for us.” Apple has been one of (RED)‘s biggest supporters from its early days, as all of its red-colored iPods, iPhone accessories, and iPad accessories have been (PRODUCT) RED exclusives. The company’s (PRODUCT) RED website notes Apple alone has raised more than $70 million; in total, (PRODUCT) RED’s numerous partners has raised more than $250 million for the Global Fund to help African AIDS programs.

Foxconn, Pegatron hiring for iPhone 6 production

Foxconn and Pegatron, two of Apple’s largest manufacturing partners, have begun hiring workers to produce the iPhone 6. The former is recruiting more than 100,000 people, a Chinese continental record, according to reports from Taiwan’s Economic Daily News and Reuters. The bulk of the orders will go to Foxconn, which is said to be responsible for 70 percent of production; Pegatron will handle the rest. High demand is expected, with Pegatron adding 30 percent to its workforce in one mainland factory.

Report: Apple using pro athletes to test iWatch fitness features

Apple is reportedly using professional athletes to put its iWatch fitness features to the test in “intense training environments,” according to 9to5Mac. Athletes involved are said to include Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings, and an unnamed Boston Red Sox player, among others. Bryant was notably spotted on Apple’s campus last month with his wife. It’s unknown whether the athletes were brought in only for testing the device, or if they’ll also be involved in iWatch marketing purposes. The most recent report on the iWatch claims the device will have more than 10 sensors, including health and fitness sensors.

iLounge Weekly arrives Monday, giveaway reminder

The latest edition of iLounge Weekly, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, will be arriving in subscribers’ inboxes early next week. iLounge Weekly is a summary of the week’s best news, reviews, and feature articles we’ve published, and it also features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.

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Also be sure to check out and enter our uNu DX-5 Battery Case Giveaway, in which we’re working with uNu to give away fifteen uNu DX-5 Battery Cases for the iPhone 5 and 5s in three different colour options. To enter, simply fill out and submit the form on the giveaway page; the giveaway ends June 30, 2014 at 11:59PM Pacific Time. Good luck!

iLounge Game Spotlight: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril

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!

WSJ: iWatch to come in multiple designs, have 10+ sensors

A new report from the Wall Street Journal claims Apple’s iWatch will likely be available in multiple screen sizes. Also according to sources, “The new wrist device from Apple will include more than 10 sensors including ones to track health and fitness.” Additional reporting from Chinese website Laoyaoba states that some of these sensors will monitor heart rate, blood glucose, and blood pressure, and that Apple is awaiting FDA approval on the device. By the end of the year, shipments of the unannounced product are expected to total between 10 million and 15 million.  A Thursday report only claimed the iWatch would feature a 2.5” slightly rectangular display, wireless charging, and a pulse sensor.

Report: Apple exploring changes to AppleCare+, customer support

Apple is considering a number of customer support tweaks including changes to AppleCare+, 9to5Mac reports. The company is considering making AppleCare+ available for 60 days after purchasing a supported device, rather than the current 30 days. AppleCare+ may also be pushed as a subscription service, which has been reported in the past. The report also claims that this fall, Apple will let technicians share iOS screens with users in order to diagnose or fix problems with a device, similar to the support currently offered to Mac users. Apple may also introduce diagnostic tools to help users solve minor issues with Apple IDs, iTunes, and iCloud on their own.

Report: iWatch to feature 2.5” screen, wireless charging, pulse sensor

Taiwan’s Quanta Computer will start mass producing Apple’s iWatch next month, and the device will reportedly feature a 2.5” “slightly rectangular” display, touch interface, wireless charging capabilities, and a sensor that monitors a user’s pulse, according to Reuters. The report claims that “the watch face will protrude slightly from the band, creating an arched shape.” A previous report noted the device would have a curved OLED touchscreen. Reuters notes that LG Display, which is already capable of producing curved OLED screens, will be the exclusive initial supplier for the watch’s screen. Corroborating past reports, Reuters claims the iWatch launch could occur “as early as October.” Apple declined comment.

Apps: Asphalt 8 1.4, Delectable 4.0, Godfire + Star Wars Scene Maker

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.

Apple’s Activation Lock said to cause drop in iPhone theft

Police officers in New York, London, and San Francisco claim they’re seeing a drop in smartphone theft, and Apple’s Activation Lock may be the reason, The New York Times reports. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón both believe the Apple “kill switch” is leading to the drop, as police officers in San Francisco and London said iPhone robberies have decreased in their cities by 38 percent and 24 percent, respectively, since Apple released the feature. New York police have also noted a drop in Apple product theft when comparing the first five months of 2014 to the same period in 2013.

Apple’s Activation Lock requires an Apple ID and password before anyone can turn off Find My iPhone, sign out of iCloud, or erase and reactivate a device. Bloomberg reports that Google and Microsoft will soon follow Apple by incorporating a “kill switch” feature into their new operating systems.

T-Mobile intros Test Drive program with iPhone 5s

T-Mobile has introduced Test Drive, a new program that lets prospective users try out the T-Mobile network for free while using an iPhone 5s. Upon signing up for the program, T-Mobile will send you an iPhone 5s, which can be used for free for seven days to make unlimited calls, texts, downloads, and so forth. After that time, the phone must be returned in good condition to a T-Mobile retail store. The iPhone 5s must be ordered online — it will be delivered by mail and must be signed for by someone 18 or older.

T-Mobile has also announced its Music Freedom plan, which now lets users stream music from any selected streaming service, including iTunes Radio, without counting toward a 4G LTE data allotment. It’s included for free with any Simple Choice rate plan. Additionally, T-Mobile will launch its own streaming service on June 22 — Rhapsody unRadio, an app which offers unlimited streaming with no skip limits and no ads. It’s included with the carrier’s newest Unlimited 4G LTE plans and costs $4 a month for users with other plans.

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