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Apps: Google Play Movies & TV, Shadow Blade, Waterlogue + Yahoo News Digest

Google Play Movies & TV (free) is now available for the first time on iOS. Google’s app lets users watch movies and TV shows that were purchased or rented from Google Play. At the moment, streaming video only works over a Wi-Fi connection. TV shows are currently available in the U.S., U.K., and Japan.

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Shadow Blade ($2) from Crescent Moon Games is a Strider/Shinobi-style ninja action game — in fact, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the upcoming official Strider title from Capcom. Featuring touch controls and a wide variety of weapons, Shadow Blade emphasizes the ninja aspect of the game, rewarding players for “playing sneakily.” Main character Kuro has to avoid traps and sneak around enemies in addition to fighting them head-on. Shadow Blade features 40 levels.

VirnetX adds products to FaceTime infringement suit

VirnetX, the patent holding company which successfully sued Apple for infringing its VPN patents in FaceTime in 2012, has added more Apple devices to its pending patent infringement lawsuit. As announced by VirnetX, the holding company is now adding the iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina display, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, and “latest Mac computers” to the litigation against Apple. The company is also including the “iPod Touch with Retina Display,” which could refer to the fourth- and fifth-generation iPod touch; however, the current lawsuit has already included the fifth-generation iPod touch. VirnetX maintains that Apple infringes upon its VPN patents, including workarounds Apple redesigned for iOS 7.

Apple initially changed the way its VPN On Demand connected in iOS after the loss of the first lawsuit. However, the company decided to reverse course weeks later, and change its VPN On Demand connection back to how it always worked. The reversal caused speculation that Apple and VirnetX appeared to reach an agreement of some kind — that obviously now appears to be false. Apple was ordered to pay $368.2 million for the loss of the first lawsuit, and lost an appeal.

Apple patents automatic motion-adjusting UI

A patent granted to Apple today describes a user interface in which onscreen graphics are automatically adjusted when the device is in motion. The patent background suggests that it’s harder to interact with a graphical user interface while the user is in motion; the patent would enable the device to adjust the GUI based on measurements of that motion. For instance, touchscreen buttons in the UI could be made larger while the device is moving, making the buttons easier to use.

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As another example, graphic features could be moved around for ease of use. The patent also describes implementations in which the device “learns” how a user’s device moves and can make adjustments accordingly. Apple originally filed for the patent in Nov. 2007. [via Apple Insider]

Apps: Assassin’s Creed Pirates 1.1, GoodReader 3.20, INKredible + Kindle 4.1

Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Pirates ($5) has added Nassau as a new location in version 1.1.0. Nassau features 10 new secondary missions, 12 new treasures, 3 new ships to unlock, and a new pirate, Charles Vane. Vane is notably featured in a new campaign mission. New defense gameplay has been added, as well.

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GoodReader for iPad ($5), the PDF reader from Good.iWare, has upgraded to version 3.20.0. A new user interface and full iOS 7 compatibility await users. The app now features faster PDF rendering, a new audio player, and a number of other new options that make for a better, easier user experience.

Apple device theft driving NYC larcenies

New York City has seen decreases in many major crimes during the last 12 years, with the exception of grand larcenies — a category which is increasingly being driven by the theft of Apple products, the Wall Street Journal reports. The New York Police Department attributes a rise in grand larcenies from last year to the trend of stealing electronic devices, and Apple products made up more than 18 percent of all grand larcenies last year. The NYPD tracks Apple device thefts specifically due to their frequency. An Apple spokeswoman said that Apple has “led the industry in helping customers protect their lost or stolen devices” with the 2009 release of the Find My iPhone app, which the NYPD recommends Apple users activate. The police department also has its own program that allows people to register their e-devices.

iOS 7.1 beta 3 released

Apple has released its third beta for iOS 7.1, including bug fixes and improvements. The beta also notably features redesigned swipe to power off graphics, tweaks to the look of the Phone application for iPhones, and a variety of other cosmetic changes. iOS 7.1 beta 2 was released in mid-December.

Apps: 2014 CES, Sonic & All-Stars Racing, Southwest 2.1 + Tweetbot 3 3.2.1

The Consumer Electronics Association’s free 2014 International CES app is devoted to next week’s Consumer Electronics Show. A list of exhibitors is featured, as are floor maps of the gigantic show. Events and keynotes are also listed, in addition to speakers and conference sessions. If you’re going, make sure to stop by the iLounge Pavilion. We’ll see you there!

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Sega has released Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed ($5), a new racing game featuring Sonic, Tails, and the rest of the gang. Cars, boats, and planes can all be raced through changing courses full of alternate routes and power-ups. Four-player multiplayer is supported online and locally. The game also supports iOS controllers.

Nokia pulls HERE Maps app, blames iOS 7

Nokia has pulled its HERE Maps app from Apple’s iOS App Store, citing changes in iOS 7 as the reason. A Nokia spokesperson said in a statement to The Indian Express, “We have made the decision to remove our HERE Maps app from the Apple App Store because recent changes to iOS 7 harm the user experience. iPhone users can continue to use the mobile web version of HERE Maps under m.here.com, offering them core location needs, such as search, routing, orientation, transit information and more, all completely free of charge.” The app was removed from the App Store earlier this month. HERE Maps launched for iOS in November 2012 and received a fair bit of publicity at the time as it was released for iOS prior to Google Maps, amidst ongoing uproar over Apple’s botched release of its new iOS 6 Maps service.

Apps: Duolingo 3.1.1, Google Search 3.2, QR Reader 4.0 + Zagat 2.0

Duolingo — recently selected by Apple as its iPhone App of the Year — has updated to version 3.1.1. The intuitive free language learning app now lets users practice all skills and strengthen skills at any time. A new Language Coach feature keeps users dedicated and on track. Also, Duolingo has added Lingots, a new virtual currency that can be traded in for extras. Like everything else in the app, Lingots are free.

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Google has updated its Google Search (free) app to version 3.2. The app has been updated for iOS 7 with true full screen browsing. Faster image search has been added for iPad. The app also features better integration of the Google Maps app.

Report: Cook to visit Turkey over potential iPad deal

Apple CEO Tim Cook will reportedly visit Turkey in 2014, according to Turkish site emlakkulisi.com. Cook will meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gül regarding the country’s Fatih Project, which plans on acquiring 10.6 million tablet computers for the country’s education program. Cook will be looking to secure the deal, which could be worth $4 billion. It’s also noted that Cook will visit Turkey’s first Apple Store in Istanbul during his visit. It’s notable that Turkey has seen three cabinet ministers resign in recent days, with one of the ministers calling for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to resign, as Reuters reports, political upheaval that could threaten the tablet deal. [via Apple Insider]

Apps: Build-A-Truck, Cut the Rope 2, Infinity Blade III 1.2 + Ridge Racer Slipstream

Duck Duck Moose’s new Build-A-Truck ($2) allows kids to — you guessed it — build a truck. Children can create a truck, then add paint, decals, wheels, and all sorts of other crazy contraptions to their vehicle. Kids can then race their truck, which is legitimately fun, and the design chosen for the vehicle affects how the truck drives. Collecting stars during the racing game lets kids unlock additional objects to customize the truck.

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Cut the Rope 2 ($1) is ZeptoLab’s sequel to the popular Cut the Rope. The new game offers 120 levels, and five new characters, “the Nommies,” each affecting gameplay in their own ways. Other new gameplay tweaks have been added — Om Nom can sometimes even be moved now. He can also be customized with new hats, if you’re into that sort of thing. Fundamentally, the gameplay and graphics are extremely similar to the original titles, but the new levels are neat.

Apps: Angry Birds Rio HD 1.8, Camera+ 5, Disney Animated 1.0.4 + République

Rovio’s Angry Birds Rio HD is now free in version 1.8.0. The game also has added 26 new levels — 20 standard levels and 6 bonus levels to unlock. Two new characters have also been introduced into the game: Stella, with her bubble blower, and Rocket Bird, who appears in the new bonus levels.

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Camera+ ($2) from tap tap tap has updated to version 5, which introduces “The Lab” — a collection of cool new photo editing options. The new features include an adjustable clarity filter, auto-straighten, tint adjustments, soft focus and film grain effects, blurring, sharpening, and more, all designed to make real-world practical photo editing as easy as possible. An iOS 7 wallpaper creation feature is also present. Dozens of icons within the app have been redesigned to match iOS 7, as has the app icon itself.

Apps: Mickey Mouse: Mash-Up, Tomb Raider, UltraTuner + Yahoo Weather 1.5

Disney’s Mickey Mouse: Mash-Up ($4) lets children participate in the “making” of a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Kids can draw a handful of objects that can appear in the short cartoon, which is titled “No Service!” You can then watch your creations appear and interact with them, including scenes in which Mickey and Donald Duck swap clothes, and Mickey has to hide behind objects you’ve created. Timeless and deliberately silly, the Mash-Up app is good as-is, but could really benefit from additional shorts for kids to play with.

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The classic 3-D adventure and shooting game Tomb Raider ($1) from Eidos/Square Enix is now available in the App Store. Interestingly, it’s being billed as Tomb Raider I, which suggests that the sequel will be available at some point. The full game from 1996 is included, in addition to two extra “Unfinished Business” chapters included in the 1998 Tomb Raider Gold re-release. Tomb Raider supports iOS game controllers, as well as on-screen input, though the controls remain as dicey as they were decades ago.

Apple releases ‘Best of 2013’ on iTunes

Apple has released its “Best of 2013” list on iTunes. The annual best of list highlights Apple’s favorites and best-sellers in apps, music, movies, books, TV shows, and podcasts. In apps, Apple selected Duolingo, the free language learning app, as its iPhone App of the Year.

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Apple’s iPad App of the Year was Disney Animated ($10). The iPhone Game of the Year and iPad Game of the Year are Vlambeer’s Ridiculous Fishing — A Tale of Redemption ($3) and Frogmind’s Badland ($4), respectively.

Sprint intros 4G LTE in 70 new markets

Sprint announced today that it has introduced 70 new 4G LTE markets. The new markets include Birmingham, Green Bay, Orlando, San Diego, St. Louis, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, among others. Sprint now offers 4G LTE in 300 U.S. markets. Verizon currently claims its 4G LTE network is available in more than 500 markets, while AT&T’s 4G LTE network includes 476 markets.

Apple releases iOS 7.1 beta 2 to developers

Apple has released iOS 7.1 beta 2 to developers. The update is available through Apple’s developer portal, as well as an over-the-air update for iOS 7.1 beta 1 devices. Initial discoveries within the beta include changes to the iPhone/iPod touch version of Calendar, plus some very small tweaks to settings, including the creation of a top-level settings menu for passcode management, the addition of a third color-modified version of a prior piece of background art, and an accessibility option to create underlines or shadowy boxes for text-format buttons.

Apple has also released an update to its Apple TV beta software, and a new Xcode beta as well.

Apps: Angry Birds Go, GTA: San Andreas, The Room 2 + Sonic 2 3.0

Angry Birds Go! (free) takes Rovio’s furious fowl to a new realm — the racetrack. The fully 3-D cart racing game marks the first time the birds have moved beyond the traditional 2-D side-scrolling play environment, raising the prospect that we’ll see the now famous characters in all sorts of games as time goes on, a la Mario. Unfortunately, Angry Birds Go! is a pretty standard racing game with little to set it apart from the masses besides the graphics, which are really quite impressive; the gameplay is surprisingly limited and overly structured to gradually introduce new characters and upgrades at a plodding pace. Additionally, the freemium title is shameless in waving pay-to-play opportunities in your face, filling the tracks with coins rather than power ups and creating unnatural cart upgrade incentives to compel players to spend money.

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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas ($7) from Rockstar Games is the long-awaited iOS port of the popular PlayStation 2-vintage sandbox game, featuring all of the adult-themed content and impressive audio of the original title. The iOS version of GTA: San Andreas features dynamic lighting enhancements, improved character models, and enriched colors, in addition to the enhanced vehicle models originally introduced in the console game. Support for iOS game controllers is built-in, but the button labeling is a bit awkward during use. There are three different standard control schemes, and dual analog stick controls allow for full camera and movement control. Rockstar Social Club Members get cloud save support, as well. Unfortunately, the game appears unstable at this point, as we’ve experienced a lot of crashes; reset your device if you want to improve your chances of stability.

Samsung denied Apple ban in S. Korea

Samsung lost a bid to ban older iPhones and iPads in a South Korean court on Thursday, Reuters reports. A court dismissed a lawsuit claiming Apple infringed on three Samsung mobile patents. The iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, and second-generation iPad were among the devices ruled not to violate mobile messaging patents. Samsung was also seeking 100 million won ($95,100) in damages, which it will not receive. “We are glad the Korean court joined others around the world in standing up for real innovation and rejecting Samsung’s ridiculous claims,” Apple Korea spokesman Steve Park said. Samsung has yet to decide if it will appeal the ruling.

Apps: 12 Days of Gifts, The Animal Alphabet Singers, Drawing Together + FIFA

Apple has released its free 12 Days of Gifts app today — although it’s an annual release from apple, this will be the first year U.S. customers have access to the app. The app will allow users to download a free gift each day from Dec. 26 - Jan. 6. Those gifts could include “songs, apps, books, movies, and more.” Each gift will only be available for 24 hours.

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The Animal Alphabet Singers ($4) from Think Smart teaches children the alphabet through hand-drawn animated animals. Four separate learning modes teach kids the alphabet in different ways. Developers of the app include people who have worked on Sesame Street, Avenue Q, Between the Lions, and other popular productions. The app seems very basic at first glance, with relatively flat hand-drawn artwork, but the audio portion is stronger and actually pretty charming. Young children will like the funny ways the animals talk and sing letters.

New apps aim to fix iOS 7 wallpaper issues

Several recent applications have been released to remedy issues users have discovered with iOS 7’s moving wallpapers — namely, unintuitive changes in the ways iOS 7 resizes and positions photographs when used as wallpapers. Michael Belanger’s Fix My Wallpaper ($1) lets users zoom in and out on wallpaper photos, customize colors, and more. Wallpaper Fix ($1) from Bernhard Obereder promises quick resizing and positioning; this app locked up repeatedly during brief testing on an iPad Air. Another wallpaper resizing app is Brijit Sheelia’s Wallax ($1). All of the apps enable you to get a better sense of how an image will appear on the iOS device’s Lock and/or Home Screens, but one may have specific features that appeal to you.

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