Apple over the weekend launched a significant revamp of its retail stores, replacing its paper-based information graphics with iPads. As noted by ifoAppleStore, there is now one iPad next to each major product in the stores, including Macs, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV, and the iPod touch, while smaller iPod models are mounted in groups with a single iPad. The iPads, which are mounted semi-permanently in clear acrylic, are running interactive software that can take customers through each product’s main features, and features a Specialist button that allows customers to request assistance, with an indication of where the customer is the queue of other people waiting.
In addition to the changes made at the retail stores, Apple also released version 1.3 of its Apple Store app for iOS. The update offers the ability to custom-configure a new Mac, and new in-store features that allow customers to request assistance from a Specialist, check on Genius Bar wait times and make appointments, and see when the next workshop is scheduled. The Apple Store app for iOS is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Yuri Vishnevsky, creator of experimental generative artwork site weavesilk.com has released an iPad app that allows users to create flowing interactive artwork using the iPad screen. Supported by an original soundscape created by Osmos music composer Mat Jarvis, Silk absorbs users into an ethereal experience where strands of colour spring from their fingertips. The app provides simple gesture-based controls for choosing colours, adjusting direction and clearing the canvas, and users can screenshot the results into the iPad photo library for creating wallpapers or sharing via e-mail or other online services. Silk requires an iPad running iOS 4.0 or later and is available from the App Store for $2.
An explosion has been reported at Foxconn’s Chengdu manufacturing plant, causing a number of casualties. Citing a variety of Chinese news sources, M.I.C. Gadget reports that the explosion occured around 7:00 p.m. local time in building A5 of the complex, and had that a doctor on the scene said he had already seen six or seven people injured, with more reports injury expected. According to the report, there were hundreds or more workers inside the building at the time of the explosion, which cause many materials to be thrown out of the building. The building is known to house iPad 2 production lines on its second, third, and fourth floors; it is unknown what affect the explosion may have had on the iPad 2-related equipment.
Update: The Wall Street Journal reports that two people were killed in the blast and sixteen injured, three seriously.
Square Enix has released Chaos Rings Omega, a prequel to last year’s Chaos Rings RPG. The new instalment reveals the backstory of the Arc Arena life-or-death tournament from 10,000 years earlier, laying the foundation for the events and setting of the original game. Chaos Rings Omega provides classic RPG game play on a rich 3D graphic interface ideal for the iPhone and iPod touch Retina Display. Players engage in turn-based battles in the Arc Arena to defeat enemy monsters, obtaining their magic and special attacks. The new game features a refined battle system from the prior version and will include free monthly content updates beyond this first version to add new features such as voice acting from top-quality Japanese talent, and the raising of level caps and addition of new secret bosses. The game is available in separate device-specific versions: Chaos Rings Omega ($12) for the iPhone and iPod touch and Chaos Rings Omega for iPad ($15).
A newly published Apple patent application suggests that the company may be planning to use small, locally-stored clips of media items stored in the cloud as an on-device buffer. Such a setup would allow for reduced media footprints on devices such as the iPod and iPhone, as only a short portion of each song or video—think an iTunes preview clip—would be stored locally, in order to give the device an opportunity to grab the rest of the item while reducing the possibility of playback pauses as media is retrieved from a server.
Entitled “Local Storage of a Portion of Streamed Media Items,” the patent describes “locally storing one or more clips corresponding to a media item such that the clips can be immediately played back in response to a user request to play back the media item. While the clips are played back, the electronic device can retrieve the remaining segments of the media item from the user’s media library as a media stream over a communications network. Once the playback of the clip is complete, the electronic device can seamlessly switch playback to the media stream received from the user’s library.” Notably, one of the images included with the patent shows an iTunes synchronization settings screen, in which an iPhone is set to “Sync partial music,” with a “Minimum Connection Speed” of 3G. As with all Apple patents, this application does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via AppleInsider]
Red Chair has released another major update for its highly acclaimed Infinity Blade for iOS devices, adding a third new content pack and a new multiplayer arena. With Infinity Blade: Arena players can now challenge their friends to multiplayer matches via Apple’s Game Center or play in Survivor mode and face off against a legion of Titans. The update also adds a set of new Holiday Helms for every season, two dozen new magic rings, swords, shields and helmets to collect and master. New achievements and more leaderboards are also now available as well as some additional surprises in the game. Infinity Blade 1.3 is a universal app and is currently available from the App Store for $3 for a limited time. The game requires an iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, third- or fourth-generation iPod touch or iPad running iOS 3.2 or later; it is recommended that users update to the latest version of iOS before playing the game, however.
Yahoo has released an update to Yahoo Messenger for iOS adding a native iPad UI and support for voice and video calling on the iPad 2. Yahoo Messenger allows users to connect with their friends on the Yahoo and Windows Live instant messaging networks, place international VoIP phone calls to landlines or mobile phones and sending free SMS messages to mobile phones in select countries. Yahoo Messenger 2.1 is now a universal app with a layout specific for iPad users and takes advantage of the integrated camera on the iPad 2 to allow users to conduct video calls to their Yahoo Messenger contacts. The new version also improves spam management for more easily blocking add requests and includes a number of bug fixes. Yahoo Messenger 2.1 is available from the App Store as a free download and requires iOS 4.0 or later.
The Omni Group has released an update to OmniFocus for iPad adding the ability to easily view the iOS Calendar in Forecast mode and several other workflow improvements. In version 1.3, users can now view a timeline of their calendar events for each day at the bottom of the Forecast view allowing easy access to hard landscape events when planning and forecasting tasks. The specific calendars and range of hours displayed in the Forecast view can be customized and an additional section has now been added to show items that are scheduled to start on each day of the upcoming week.
Additional enhancements in the update include a full-screen view for note editing, highlighting of items when searching in Project and Context views and improvements to filtering of badge counts, dropped contexts and folders and sync status. Version 1.3 also now takes advantage of hardware screen mirroring on the iPad 2 and displays gestures on the secondary display so that viewers can follow along. A number of other smaller fixes and improvements are also detailed in the release notes. OmniFocus for iPad 1.3 is available from the App Store for $40 and can be used as a standalone app or synchronized with OmniFocus for the Mac or iPhone, available separately.
Apple has proposed a new SIM card standard smaller than the micro SIMs found in the iPhone 4 and iPad, according to Reuters. “We were quite happy to see last week that Apple has submitted a new requirement to (European telecoms standards body) ETSI for a smaller SIM form factor—smaller than the one that goes in iPhone 4 and iPad,” Anne Bouverot, Orange’s head of mobile services, told the news agency. “They have done that through the standardisation route, through ETSI, with the sponsorship of some major mobile operators, Orange being one of them.” Bouverot added that the standardization process would take time and that the first devices to use the new standard could emerge next year.
Slacker Radio has released an update to its iOS application adding a native iPad user interface and support for on-demand listening via a new Slacker Premium Radio subscription. The Slacker Radio iOS app allows users to listen to streamed music on their device from a wide selection of pre-defined stations that can be browsed by genre; users can also create their own custom stations to mix their favorite artists and genres and paid subscribers can cache stations for offline listening when no 3G or Wi-Fi data connection is available.
In addition to the Basic and Plus subscriptions, Slacker Radio has added a new Premium subscription level that allows users to search for and play songs, albums and artists on demand. Premium users can also build custom playlists from songs found on Slacker stations. Slacker Radio is now a universal app and is available from the App Store as a free download. Use of the app requires a minimum free Slacker Radio Basic subscription which provides ad-supported listening to streamed stations; paid Plus ($4/month) or Premium ($10/month) subscriptions can be purchased in-app to remove adds and provide additional features such as unlimited song skips, station caching, news radio, song lyrics and on-demand listening.
Parrot has announced a new upcoming racing game in the lineup of iOS apps for its iOS-controlled AR.Drone Quadricopter. AR.Race will allow one to four pilots with iOS devices and AR.Drones to challenge themselves and each other on up to five different customizable racing circuits. Optional props will be available to set up challenging circuits for the different race styles including inflatable items, pylons, a finishing line and a donut. A basic race option will be available that can be used without props; a simple tap on the hull of the AR.Drone is used to indicate the end of a tour. More sophisticated circuits use the AR.Drone camera to identify props and will challenge players to avoid obstacles, round pylons and fly through the donut before crossing the finishing line, with times automatically recorded by the app. Users can position the pylons in relation to other natural obstacles such as trees to create multiple circuits, slaloms and more complicated courses. Players can also optionally toggle the piloting assistance option to enable the AR.Drone to make high-speed turns during a race. AR.Race is scheduled to be released on June 7th as a free download from the App Store; optional accessories will include a pack of two pylons and one finishing line for $60 and a single donut for $50 and will be available from the Parrot Online Store.
Samsung has announced that it will be demonstrating a 10.1-inch, 2560x1600 display at the SID Display Week 2011 International Symposium, which runs from May 17-19. According to the release, the display uses PenTile RGBW technology, which allows for the 300 dpi resolution. “Samsung’s PenTile display technology is the only display technology that operates at 40 percent less power yet provides twice that of Full HD-viewing performance for consumers compared to legacy RGB stripe LCDs. There is no other commercial display technology on the market today that offers this high of a resolution and pixel density in a 10.1-inch size display,” said Dr. Sungtae Shin, Senior VP of Samsung Electronics. As noted by TUAW, while the screen size and pixel density do appear to confirm that an iPad-sized Retina Display is possible, it is extremely unlikely that Apple would use this particular part in a future iPad, due to its larger size and resolution beyond that of a pixel-doubled iPad display.
Backflip Studios has released a new casual defense game for iOS based on the cult classic movie Army of Darkness. In Army of Darkness Defense, players take on the role of Ash, the time-travelling sales clerk who must defend Lord Arthur’s castle from hordes of evil undead and protect the Necronomicon in order to return home. The game uses a tug-of-war play style with fully animated graphics, an original music score and dozens of quotes from the movie voiced by Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams. The player can summon a wide variety of allies and special abilities to assist in the castle’s defense and must fight their way through fifty initial waves with an optional unlockable endless wave at the end. Awards and leaderboards are available through Game Center integration. Separate versions are available and both are on sale for a limited time; Army of Darkness for the iPhone and iPod touch is currently priced at $1 and Army of Darkness HD for iPad users currently sells for $3.
The Omni Group has released the much-anticipated iPad version of OmniOutliner, its popular outlining and note-taking app for the Mac. OmniOutliner for iPad provides users with the ability to collect and organize structured information ranging from to-do lists and agendas to laying out basic project plans and writing outlines. The application provides rich-text support with a simplified styling system, easy rearranging and grouping of rows and multiple column formats supporting numbers, text, pop-ups lists and more. Images can be pasted directly into OmniOutliner documents for inline display and the app supports inline notes and active linking of URLs to web content and other supported iOS data types.
OmniOutliner documents are completely interchangeable with OmniOutliner 3 on the Mac and can be transferred over USB via iTunes File Sharing, e-mailed or uploaded to MobileMe or other WebDAV servers. Documents can also be exported to and sent out in dynamic HTML, plain text or Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML) for sharing with other users. The iPad version also provides for direct import of OPML files. OmniOutliner for iPad requires iOS 4.2 or later and is available from the App Store for $20. The app can be used as a standalone application or along with OmniOutliner for Mac, sold separately.
Nearly half of all iPad users who purchase a magazine subscription through the App Store are allowing Apple to share personal information with the publisher. Forbes reports that the figure, which came from Mark Edmiston, founder of the tablet magazine studio Nomad Editions, has been confirmed by Apple’s vice president of Internet services Eddy Cue. “So, all the sudden, what was an insurmountable obstacle no longer is,” said Edmiston. The surprising statistic may present a large part of the answer as to why more publishers are choosing to offer subscriptions for iPad versions of their magazines via the App Store; the presumed lack of access to this information was cited as a point of contention in Apple’s negotiations with publishers. [via Mac Rumors]
A number of iPad 2 users are reporting color gamma issues during video playback. Based on the user observations in an Apple Support Communities discussion as well as on the iLounge Forums, the problem is apparent across apps and different video formats, manifests itself as an extreme loss in contrast, and is even more noticeable when the device is connected to a larger display via Apple’s Digital AV Adapter, an issue that was noted in our review. The users do report that changing the orientation of the device appears to fix the issue for a brief moment, but no permanent solution has yet been found; it is likely that the issue can be fixed via an iOS software update.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has added AirPlay video support to its official iPad app making it among the first major network television providers to allow wireless video streaming from the iPad to an HDTV. CBC TV provides iPad users with on-demand access to such popular CBC programs as Dragons’ Den, Republic of Doyle, Being Erica and the Rick Mercer Report. With the latest version, iOS 4.3 users can now stream video content from the app directly to an Apple TV using AirPlay. Additional new features include improvements to location detection and network, stability and graphic performance. CBC TV 1.1 is available from the Canadian App Store as a free download. AirPlay video support requires iOS 4.3 or later and an Apple TV running Software version 4.2 or later.
Following last week’s release of Photoshop CS5.5, Adobe’s Photoshop Touch apps for the iPad have now appeared on the App Store. Originally announced last month, the new Photoshop Touch SDK allows third-party developers to create mobile and tablet apps that integrate with Photoshop running on a Mac or Windows PC. To demonstrate this new functionality, Adobe has developed three of its own companion apps for the iPad.
Adobe Color Lava for Photoshop ($3) allows users to create custom colours and colour themes by mixing colours on the iPad touchscreen to create custom swatches and five-swatch themes. Custom colours and themes can be saved on the iPad and accessed within Photoshop CS5 using a Wi-Fi connection between the iPad and the desktop computer. Adobe Eazel for Photoshop ($5) acts as a drawing pad to allow iPad users to create paintings on the touchscreen that can be sent from the iPad into Photoshop CS5 for further processing. The app incorporates a new painting technology with a unique interaction between “wet” and “dry” paint that allows for more advanced painting techniques.
The third app, Adobe Nav for Photoshop ($2) turns the iPad into a control pad for Photoshop CS5 running on a desktop computer. Nav connects to Photoshop over Wi-Fi and allows users to access various Photoshop tools and select open documents using the iPad touchscreen as a control surface. Users can customize the Photoshop CS5 toolbar on the iPad to access their most-used functions and browse, reorder, view and zoom in on up to 200 open Photoshop documents. All three apps are now available from the App Store and require an iPad running iOS 4.3 or later and Adobe Photoshop CS5 version 12.0.4 or later on the desktop.
Apple is reportedly in talks with Nuance Communications over the use of its voice recognition services in iOS 5. Citing multiple anonymous sources, TechCrunch reports that Apple has been in talks with Nuance for months, possibly over an acquisition, but more likely over a far-reaching licensing agreement and or partnership. As noted in the report, Siri, the voice-based personal assistance and search service acquired by Apple in April 2010, relies on Nuance technology for its services; Siri technology is said to play a large role in iOS 5, and the report claims that Apple has yet to successfully renegotiate the original deal between Siri and Nuance. The report cites Nuance’s $6 billion market cap as a major obstacle in any acquisition talks, as much of this value comes from the company’s various licensing deals, many of which could potentially dry up should Apple take control of the company. Nuance also develops a number of iOS apps, which it sells under its Dragon brand.
Update: According to a second report from TechCrunch, Apple has reached a deal with Nuance that will allow it to run and build upon Nuance’s software at its new data center in North Carolina. The deal will enable Apple to process voice information for iOS users more quickly, and prevent such data from going through third-party servers.
Amazon has quietly updated the Cloud Player music component of its Cloud Drive online storage service, allowing for playback over iOS devices using the Safari browser. Launched in late March, Cloud Player gives users to access both MP3 and AAC files stored using the Cloud Drive service, allowing for browser-based playback. As noted by Engadget and confirmed in iLounge’s brief testing, the feature appears to work well, with a small but notable delay between song selection and the beginning of playback. Playlist management features also work, and, surprisingly, the Cloud Player also works well with iOS’ multitasking audio controls. To utilize the new offering, iOS users simply need to navigate to their Cloud Player from within Safari.