Apple has seeded its first beta version of iOS 5.1 to developers. According to the company, the update—listed as build 985117b—provides improved dictation support for text input views on “supported devices”. In addition, Apple warns that devices should be backed up either using iTunes or iCloud prior to installation, and that devices updated to iOS 5.1 beta will not be downgradable back to prior versions of the operating system. iOS 5.1 is available now to registered developers from the iOS Dev Center.
Apple is adding Sharp as a supplier of LCD panels for the next-generation iPad, according to a new report. Citing people familiar with the situation, the Wall Street Journal reports that Sharp’s Kameyama No. 2 plant will manufacture panels for the device, which is expected to launch next year. In addition, Apple is said to be investing in facilities at Sharp’s panel making factories, although the size of the investment is unknown. Sharp already supplies panels for the iPhone, and will be supplying panels for the next-generation iPhone, which is also expected to launch next year, according to the report.
Apple is expanding its in-app subscription model to include game titles, according to a report from Bloomberg. Seattle-based game publisher Big Fish Games has received approval from Apple to offer users access to multiple game titles for a single recurring monthly fee. Dubbed Play Instantly, the subscription service will be offered through a single iOS app that will deliver unlimited access to a number of the company’s popular game titles streamed to the user’s device via Wi-Fi, allowing the player to easily switch between different games without having to download each title individually. Big Fish Games has also announced plans to offer a free, ad-supported version of the game service that will limit play to 30 minutes per day. Paid subscriptions are expected to initially cost $5 per month with an increase to $7 per month as more titles are added. The application and subscription service are initially available in the U.S. only. Big Fish Play Instantly is available from the U.S. App Store as a free download. [via Mac Rumors]
Update (5:00 EST): The application is no longer available on the App Store. No explanation has been given as to the reason for its disappearance. We have reached out to the developer for comment and will update the story as more information becomes available.
Update (6:30 EST): According to another report from Bloomberg, Play Instantly was removed by Apple earlier today, after having been available on the App Store since November 18th. Paul Thelen, founder of Big Fish Games indicates that the company was “notified [by Apple] that the app was removed,” and is “trying to follow up with Apple to try to figure out what happened.” Thelen indicated to Bloomberg that “Apple had even signed off on a press release issued earlier today.” The Bloomberg report also notes that Tom Neumayr, an Apple spokesman, declined to comment.
The National Film Board of Canada has released NFB PixStop, a new app designed for shooting and scoring stop-motion animation films on the iPad 2. NFB PixStop allows users to capture up to 10,000 images to create stop-motion films up to 13 minutes in length and add background music titles and descriptions. Finished videos can be exported to the iOS camera roll for sharing via e-mail or uploading to YouTube. Inspired by the stop-motion animation workshops offered at the Toronto Mediatheque and Montreal CineRobotheque, NFB PixStop is designed to be educational as well as creative, offering three short tutorials by NFB experts covering principles of animation, creating a flipbook and storyboarding; integrated help also explains all of the application’s functions and a sample movie is included to get users started. NFB PixStop is available from the Canadian App Store as a free download, or from the U.S. and other International App Stores for around $3.
Apple has posted a teaser image on its online store, informing customers of an upcoming sale this Friday. The teaser page indicates that the one-day shopping event will be held this Friday, November 25, at which customers can “discover amazing iPad, iPod, and Mac gifts” for everyone on their shopping list. At past Black Friday events, Apple has offered modest discounts on its iPod and iPad models, as well as more substantial savings on Macs and select accessories.
Apple has started to air a new television ad for the iPad 2. Entitled “Love”, the 30-second spot continues Apple’s recent trend of showing the device being used in different ways, while a narration track plays in the background. “For some, it’s a lifelong passion. For others, it’s something discovered yesterday,” the narrator—Peter Coyote—says. “We all have things that speak to us. They drive us to get up early, and stay up late. Getting lost in the things we love has never felt quite like this.” The new ad is available for viewing now on Apple’s website.
Google has released an update to its Google Search app for iOS providing a significantly redesigned user interface for the iPad. The latest update adds support for Google Instant, delivering search results as text is entered and now loads pages on a slide-in panel layered over the search results. The new split panel allows users to see both the selected page and alternative results side-by-side and even continue scrolling through the results while the selected web page loads. A new image browser presents a carousel view of image results that allows users to swipe through images and view them full-screen and users can also bring up a visual presentation of search history presenting snapshots of pages previously visited, stacked and organized by search terms. Instant Previews have also been added for iPad users to quickly preview web pages for each search result without having to actually visit the page and wait for it to load. Additional enhancements include the ability to highlight found text within web pages and an integrated +1 button for recommending pages. Google Search is available from the App Store as a free download.
Loud Crow Interactive has released A Charlie Brown Christmas for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Based on the 1965 animated classic, the app presents the tale in an interactive storybook form narrated by Peter Robbins, the original voice of Charlie Brown along with the original dialog and digitally remastered illustrations, animation and music. The app provides interactive features on every page as the story unfolds allowing users to perform such tasks as playing Schroeder’s piano, finger painting and going carolling; users can also participate in the Super-Colossal Neighborhood Christmas Lights and Display content to unlock rewards and decorations for their very own Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Word and note highlighting helps children improve reading and musical skills and individual words are repeated with the tap of a finger. A Charlie Brown Christmas is a universal app and is available from the App Store for $7.
New code found within iOS 5 suggests that Apple is considering releasing a unified iChat client for its mobile platform. RazorianFly points to a series of tweets from developer John Heaton, who found references to a variety of services, all consolidated under an IMService banner. Specifically, the code references iMessage, FaceTime, Jabber, and AIM; consolidating all those various messaging protocols under one application would substantially simplify messaging on the devices. Such a move could also lead to similar changes to iChat for Mac, which currently handles only the latter two protocols, while FaceTime is a separate app, and iMessage is currently unsupported on the Mac. [via Mac Rumors]
Samsung is looking to avoid a ban on sales of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany by introducing a redesigned version of the device. Bloomberg reports that the company has changed the frame and the location of the speakers in the new model, dubbed the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, which will go on sale as early as this week, according to Samsung spokesman Jason Kim. A German judge ruled in September that the prior Tab 10.1 was too similar to the iPad, upholding a previous injunction against the device and banning its sale in the country; Apple and Samsung, despite ties in component deals, have been engaged in a variety of patent disputes in several countries worldwide.
Navigon has released a major update to its line of navigation apps for iOS devices adding a redesigned user interface and new map management capabilities. The Navigon 2.0 apps, available in several region-specific versions now provide a refined and more intuitive user interface, reducing complexity and making the application easier to use, especially while on the go. Users can now easily switch between different pages with animated menus and multi-touch gestures, rotate and zoom maps in any direction when in 3D mode and tap points of interest on the map to instantly add them to a route.
Navigon 2.0 also adds a new MyMaps function allowing users to manage which maps are loaded onto their device for more efficient use of on-device storage. For example, users who own the North America version can select specific U.S. states and Canadian provinces they want stored on their device with the ability to download additional regions at a later time as needed. This also reduces the size of the Navigon download and app installation package as maps for selected regions are downloaded over the air after installation using a Wi-Fi connection. In conjunction with MyMaps, users can also subscribe to a new FreshMaps feature for a one-time fee that delivers quarterly map updates with the latest verified navigation data and points of interest. Navigon 2.0 is a universal app requiring iOS 4.3 or later and available from the App Store in several versions for specific regions: Navigon North America ($40), Navigon USA ($30) and Navigon Europe ($75) as well as numerous other regional editions.
Google has re-released its official Gmail app for iOS devices as an updated version properly enabling push notifications. First released two weeks ago, the application presented a push notification error when starting up, causing Google to subsequently pull the application from the App Store and promise to release an updated version. Gmail 1.0.1 is otherwise identical to the prior version, except that users will now be prompted to enable Push Notifications when first opening the app and will be able to see badge counts and receive sound and vibration alerts when new mail is received. Gmail is available from the App Store as a free download.
Flixster has released an update to its Movies app for iOS devices adding support for downloading UltraViolet movies for offline watching. Flixster users can add UltraViolet Digital Copies to their collections using redemption codes included in Blu-Ray or DVDs that they have purchased and will then be able to stream or download those movies to their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad via the new Flixster app. The latest version also adds iOS 5 support and restores Netflix DVD Queue management which had previously been removed due to a Netflix policy change. Movies by Flixster is available from the App Store as a free download. Streaming requires an iPhone 3GS/4/4S, third- or fourth-generation iPod touch or iPad, a Flixster account and at least one UltraViolet movie in the user’s Flixster movie collection.
Apple has released iOS 5.0.1 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. According to Apple’s release notes, the update contains bug fixes and improvements, including fixes for bugs affecting battery life, the addition of Multitasking Gestures to the original iPad, fixes for bugs with Documents in the Cloud, and improvements to voice recognition for Australian users using dictation. iOS 5.0.1 is compatible with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad, iPad 2, third-generation iPod touch, and fourth-generation iPod touch, and is available now via the update feature in iTunes or as an over-the-air update. To update your iOS device over-the-air, open Settings, tap on General, and tap on Software Update.
Atari has released Asteroids Gunner, a new universal iOS game inspired by the classic 1980’s arcade game. Asteroids Gunner is a dual-stick action shooter that challenges players to blast their way through deadly asteroid fields and alien ships earning fortune and fame, collecting treasures and upgrading their ship and skills. The game provides three different galaxies to explore and conquer with 150 waves of asteroids and alien ships to obliterate. Players can choose from one of three unique ships: the Miner, the Bomber or the Dart that can be further customized and upgraded over the course of the game by earning Crystals and purchasing Space Bucks to unlock new galaxies and powerful upgrades. An extensive achievement system allows players to earn rank promotions and gain upgrades along with Game Center and OpenFeint integration for tracking high scores and achievements. Asteroids Gunner is a universal app and is available from the App Store as a free download.
Apple has started to seed non-developer end-users with a pre-release version of iOS 5.0.1 for testing. According to 9to5Mac, the new software is being offered to a small number of customers who have complained about battery life issues in iOS 5. The invitation email apparently warns that their devices cannot be downgraded to iOS 5.0, but that they will be allowed to upgrade to the final version of iOS 5.0.1 once it’s released. The report goes on to state that Apple Stores have been given a memo regarding battery life issues, which instructs them not to replace any phones that don’t exhibit hardware issues during regular testing, and to inform customers that Apple is aware of battery life issues in iOS 5 and will release a software update to address those in “a few weeks.”
Programmer Conrad Kramer has discovered a hidden Panorama mode inside the Camera app of iOS 5. According to Kramer’s Twitter account, activating the feature is as easy as changing the key for “EnableFirebreak” from “NO” to “YES” inside the com.apple.mobileslideshow.plist file. Speaking with Gizmodo, Kramer said that the feature only works on the iPhone 4 and later devices, as it is dependent on an internal gyroscope. This file is only available for editing to those who have chosen to jailbreak their devices; however, it does serve as proof that the feature exists, and suggests that Apple may plan on activating it in a future update to iOS 5.
National Geographic has released 7 Billion, a new interactive application that allows users to explore the challenges of human population growth in a world of limited resources. The application includes educational and informative content such as video presentations on the demographic trends that have resulted in the current population size, interactive maps exploring population and resource issues in various places around the world and in-depth articles and photography on a variety of global population and economy issues from places such as Brazil, Bangladesh and the Albertine Rift. The application also includes educational presentations and essays exploring strategies for dealing with population growth and resource management and National Geographic plans to continue adding new content to the app, with a new section coming in December discussing how cities are a solution for lifting people from poverty and preserving the environment. 7 Billion is available from the App Store as a free download for a limited time.
Apple will likely need a new backlight solution should it adopt a high-resolution 2048 x 1536 display in a next-generation iPad, according to a new report. Citing sources at Taiwan-based back-light unit makers, DigiTimes reports that the single LED light bar found in the iPad 2 will need to be modified to maintain or strengthen the brightness of the existing display in a higher-resolution panel. The report claims that two alternative solutions have been developed—a single light bar with two LED chips inside or a design that utilizes dual bars—with the latter described as being the one Apple is more likely to adopt, as the back-light unit makers have reportedly solved issues related to heat dissipation and battery consumption for the dual bar design.
Apple has seeded iOS 5.0.1 beta 2 to its registered iOS developers, the second beta release of the point update this week. According to the release notes for the first beta version, iOS 5.0.1 “fixes bugs affecting battery life, adds multitasking gestures for original iPad, resolves bugs with Documents in the Cloud, improves voice recognition for Australian users using dictation,” and “contains security improvements,” and also “introduces a new way for developers to specify files that should remain on device, even in low storage situations.” iOS 5.0.1 beta 2 is listed as build 9A404, and is available now as a download from the iOS Dev Center.