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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Apple has released iOS 7 adoption statistic on its developer website, unusually nestling the information within an App Store Distribution section of the site. The company claims that “74% of devices are using iOS 7,” though it’s interesting how Apple reached that number. It says that the 74% was “as measured by the App Store during a 7‑day period ending December 1, 2013,” which would rule out iOS users who didn’t visit the App Store in that given week, a different and less absolute metric than has been offered by the company in the past. By contrast, Apple suggests that 22 percent of devices are using iOS 6, with 4 percent of devices still using an older edition of iOS.
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Pirates ($5) is an Assassin’s Creed game in name only, with only the most modest link to the console games. Instead of tracking down human targets from a first-person perspective, Pirates puts players behind the wheel of a pirate ship. It’s a turn-based naval battle game with very modest need for quick interactions, and players can upgrade their weapons, crew, and ships as the game progresses. You might enjoy it as long as you can distance your expectations from the Assassin’s Creed name; the graphics are extremely impressive, apart from the odd juxtaposition of cutout-like 2-D art atop fully 3-D worlds and ships.
Doctor Who: Legacy from Tiny Rebel Games (free) has arrived, likely much to the delight of the multitudes of Whovians. A turn-based puzzle/strategy game, Doctor Who: Legacy lets players revisit old episodes from the TV series. Episodes from seasons six and seven are available at launch, with more episodes and characters to be added daily.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has announced the newest version of the Bluetooth specification, Bluetooth 4.1. Bluetooth 4.1 promises new features that will allow the spec to “work seamlessly” with LTE. Better connections will allow manufacturers to control the reconnection time interval — devices can reconnect automatically when in proximity to each other, and disconnect when apart, allowing for improved battery life and a better user experience. Bulk data transfer will allow for a more efficient transfer of data gathered away from one’s home computer — the example given by the Bluetooth SIG notes an efficient transfer of exercise data. A Bluetooth device can also now act as both a peripheral and a hub at the same time, allowing for greater interaction between devices. Most interestingly, Bluetooth 4.1 is an over-the-air update that won’t require the purchase of new devices — the Bluetooth SIG recommends that manufacturers “immediately” implement Bluetooth 4.1 in their devices.
Exact Editions, a British digital publishing startup, is using Apple’s iBeacon technology to allow readers to access its titles for free in certain locations. A report suggests the tech could be used within a coffee shop or waiting room, as the publisher could sell multi-magazine subscriptions to businesses and locations. Macy’s also disclosed that it will be using iBeacon to trigger offers in different parts of its stores as part of a pilot program, and a number of Major League Baseball teams have expressed interest in using the technology within their stadiums. [via TechCrunch]
- December 4, 2013
Apple is testing five 12.9-inch iPad prototypes designed by Foxconn, and the company could end up releasing two versions of the device, according to a report from China. The report suggests “2K” and “4K” screens are being tested, and it’s possible that the former could be released in April as the “iPad Pro”, with an advanced 4K “iPad Pro” coming in October.
While it’s possible that Apple could release both non-Retina and Retina iPad Pro models at different price levels and times, the likelihood of such a move is questionable at best. Current-generation iPad Air screens offer 3-Megapixel but “2K” resolutions, while MacBook Pro Retina screens offer 4-Megapixel resolutions—half the resolution of 4K (8-Megapixel) displays. Apple could easily release an upgraded 4-Megapixel iPad Pro with additional pixels, offering Retina-quality resolution while still falling short of the “4K” television standard. [via PadNews]
Jetpack Joyride (free), the popular endless runner from Halfbrick Studios has updated to version 1.6 with a number of new features. Strong Arm Machine or S.A.M. mode turns the protagonist, Barry Steakfries, into a giant robot. Using S.A.M. five days in a row will unlock exclusive outfits — 16 new costumes in all. For a limited time, players can buy The Sleigh of Awesome, which is powered by rocket-powered robotic reindeer, as a $5 in-app purchase.
James Kelleher’s Lonely Beast is back in The Lonely Beast 123 ($2), a counting app for kids. The big beast spends his days counting everything in his house, from 1 to 12. Mildly interactive scenes await children, who can listen to a voiceover by The Lonely Beast author Chris Judge. The app promises no in-app purchases, no third-party advertising, and no social media, making it a safe experience for youngsters; light tapping on screens activates voices and small animations.
Apple has posted holiday shipping deadlines on its online store to inform customers of when orders must be placed to receive products by Dec. 24. The site shows when iPads, iPhones, iPods, Apple TVs, Macs, and other select accessories must be ordered to ensure delivery by Christmas Eve, for both standard and next day shipping. Notably, customers only have a few days left to receive an iPad mini with Retina display by Christmas Eve, with Dec. 5 being the deadline. The iPad Air can be ordered up until Dec. 9, and the iPhone 5s must be ordered by Dec. 12 for pre-Christmas delivery. Apple’s online store is offering free shipping on all products through Dec. 22.
Mickey Mouse fans have two new downloads to consider this holiday season. Based on the recent PC/PlayStation/Xbox re-release, Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse ($10) is Disney’s completely redrawn version of Sega’s 2-D game released for the Genesis/Mega Drive during its heyday in 1990—a point at which the game was considered to be gorgeous but relatively simplistic. Not only is the game now fully rendered in realtime 3-D graphics, but the gameplay has been substantially overhauled to include simple 3-D movement and action sequences between the mostly side-scrolling 2.5-D sections.
Full voice narration has been added, as have some level themes that go way beyond the Sega original. That said, the gameplay is still deliberately quite simple—walk, jump on things, and toss objects—with exploration of hidden sections in levels as the major incentive for continuing to play. It’s a very good game for kids, though expensive, and many adults will enjoy it as well.
- November 27, 2013
A number of retailers will be featuring deals on Apple’s iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display on Black Friday, and MacRumors has rounded up a number of the best discounts. Target seems to be the best bet for both the Air and the Retina mini, notably offering a $100 Target gift card with the purchase of an already discounted $479 16GB iPad Air. Target is actually offering a $100 gift card with the purchase of any full-sized iPad, and a $75 gift card with the purchase of any iPad mini. Though the retailer has been very light on iPad supplies since its trade-in deal several weeks ago, it will reportedly have “small quantities” of the Retina iPad mini in stock. Best Buy ($450) and Staples ($449) are each offering $50 off the 16GB iPad Air, and it’s noted that Best Buy’s sale starts at 6 p.m. Thursday.
In a second report, 9to5Mac reports that Apple will most likely be offering gift cards rather than Black Friday discounts on its products—a switch from prior Black Friday promotions it has done in the past. Apple commonly has offered small discounts on a variety of readily-available first- and third-party products for one day after Thanksgiving, but this year appears to be prepared to offer cards of around $100 with the purchase of some Macs, and $50 for some iPads, with $25 to $50 cards for certain accessories. The cards will apparently need to be used separately from the Black Friday device purchases.
City Letters is a free app from Frugoton designed to teach the alphabet to young children. Kids learn how to identify letter shapes and sounds through tracing, as the app introduces reading and writing concepts through words connected to city life. A $2 in-app purchase gets users the whole game after testing the demo.
Touch Press has released The Elements in Action ($4), a new app expanding the award-winning The Elements: A Visual Exploration. The Elements in Action features 79 video explorations of properties of the elements, offering a demonstration for almost every element. Though the new Elements works as a standalone app, it can also be used as a companion to the original — when both apps are installed, the two link together.
Rockstar Games announced Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas will be coming to iOS in December. Brand new touch controls and three different driving control schemes have been added to the mobile version of the classic game. GTA: San Andreas will also feature full iOS 7 controller support for Made for iOS controllers. No price information has been released at this time.
- November 26, 2013
iLounge has updated our iPad mini with Retina display review to include the Wi-Fi + Cellular model of Apple’s device. The Retina mini achieved roughly an hour better cellular battery life than the original model, running for 9 hours and 46 minutes. Cellular speeds were identical to the Air and iPhone 5-series phones.
We awarded the Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad mini an A-, the highest rating yet for a Cellular mini, and a tie with the differently-capable iPad Air. The single biggest surprise with the Cellular model was actually seeing the difference in screens, which had previously been reported by DisplayMate; our first three units had seemingly identical displays without image retention, but the fourth unit did show image retention issues. A photo of the issue is included in the updated review, though under most conditions, users will not notice the issue at all.
Just Mobile has introduced AluBolt ($50), a Lightning dock for iPhone and iPad mini. The aluminum dock comes with a built-in Lightning-to-USB cable.
Just Mobile claims AluBolt will work with devices in cases, however, it’s unclear how many and what kind of cases will be supported. The dock will be available in early December.