According to a brief post by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber, Apple will release the final version of iOS 7.1 “any day now,” ahead of next week’s iTunes Festival at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. Alluding to an unnamed source at Apple, Gruber notes that “a little birdie” told him that the iTunes Festival live streaming application requires iOS 7.1, so the long-awaited bug-fixing iOS update would logically need to become available before the Festival begins. An Apple TV channel will also be added to stream iTunes Festival content.
Update: Apple has released version 5.0 of the free iTunes Festival app, before the company’s release of iOS 7.1.
PopCap’s Bejeweled (free) has gone through more iterations and updates over the years than any other iOS game we can recall, and some have made fairly substantial improvements to the core match-three game. The latest update 1.7.1 adds Poker Mode, a surprisingly addictive game mode that challenges you to make five-card poker hands by sequencing same-colored match-threes. For instance, three separate matches of three yellow gems will give you three yellow gem cards, which when paired with two matches of three orange gems will create a full house. To keep playing, you need to both vary your hands — repeatedly getting just one pair of matching cards isn’t enough — and avoid the skull head on a flipped coin, which appears more often if you repeat hands and can instantly end your game. It’s a great update to the classic title, but arrives with a major bummer: an unexpected timer that limits your daily games unless you pay a $3 fee to unlock the full title.
Just released as a video download last week, Disney’s hit movie Frozen briefly arrived with a free iBooks download of the Frozen Read-Along Storybook — a page-flipping story accompanied by full narration and the voices of Frozen’s key actors. But there is another Frozen storybook option for kids: despite the similar name and theme, the Frozen: Storybook Deluxe ($7) app doesn’t overlap anywhere near as much as we’d expected with the iBook story. While some of the art is similar, the story is told differently, with rich interactive animations and video clips from the movie. Storybook Deluxe also uniquely lets a child rotate the iPhone or iPad 180 degrees to hear the Frozen story from the separate perspectives of sisters Anna and Elsa. A reverse puzzle mode challenges kids to remove correctly-shaped ice puzzle fragments from a photo, while Snow Globe and Ice Crafting modes let kids draw pictures with snow and ice tools. Young Frozen fans should consider it a must-see.
Microsoft is working on extending Xbox Live functionality to iOS games, The Verge reports. A recent job posting for a “New Devices and Gaming” software development engineer states that the company will “create a modern framework that is open source, light-weight, extensible and scalable across various platforms including Windows Store, Windows Phone, iOS and Android.” According to the report, Microsoft wants to bring Xbox Live to every platform, allowing developers to incorporate Xbox Live into all games.
Apple is hiring “hundreds of new engineers and supply-chain managers in China and Taiwan” as the company pushes for “faster and more frequent product launches,” the Wall Street Journal reports. The company is hiring engineers from Taiwanese tech firms, including rival HTC. Apple reportedly needs more engineers to develop components for upcoming iPhones and iPads; the company has already added “several hundred new engineers and operations staff in China” during the past two years. According to one recruiting email obtained by the WSJ, “Apple is building an engineering team in Taipei to drive new iPhone product development.” It’s previously been reported that Apple will launch two iPhones with larger screens later this year.
God of Light ($2) is a new game from Playmous that features music from British electronica group UNKLE. A physics puzzle game, God of Light challenges players to guide a beam of light from a starting point to an end point using mirrors, while picking up crystals along the way. A few in-app purchases are offered, but they’re not pushed aggressively.
The game’s mascot, Shiny, is a cute little ball that unleashes the ray of light players need to get through the levels. Using a finger to guide the beam, players must then direct the beam to its goal using mirrors. Some mirrors can rotate, others can be moved. There are also doors to unlock in some levels, and more elements such as prisms and bending light, are introduced as the game progresses. Playmous did a great job with the learning curve, as the puzzles gradually get more challenging and multi-faceted while never feeling unfair. The controls are sensitive, but intuitive.
Chillingo’s Another Case Solved is a new game similar to the company’s popular Puzzle Craft. There is a detective story built into Another Case Solved, but it doesn’t have any effect on the actual gameplay, which involves matching icons by swiping to create lines in any direction. Progressing through the game allows players to upgrade their skills, and other simple puzzles are revealed. Players also have the option of changing their detective’s look and upgrading their office. Though Another Case Solved is free, options to make in-app purchases abound.
Instapaper ($4) has upgraded to version 5.1.5. The update offers integration with Instapaper Daily, a news site that features the most popular Instapaper story of the day. AirPlay integration has also been improved. Subscribers receive Send to Kindle functionality — subscriptions are also now auto-renewable.
Brian Cox’s Wonders of Life ($6) from HarperCollins lets users explore nature through 3D creatures and habits, video, and high-res images. More than two hours of video let users view creatures in HD, and more than 1,000 high-res images include commentary. It’s an extremely impressive app — a collection of fascinating nature documentaries can be at one’s fingertips within minutes. The app’s guide is noted English physicist and professor Brian Cox.
Disney’s new Disney Movies Everywhere (free) app lets users stream their Disney, Pixar, and Marvel movie collection from anywhere. The app connects to the iTunes account to build a collection, and new movies can be purchased through the app. Digital copies of films can also be redeemed within the app. Disney Movies Everywhere also offers a number of other features, including free exclusive content and Disney Movie Rewards points. Currently, Disney is offering a free copy of The Incredibles for connecting the app to an iTunes account.
The long-awaited Tengami ($5) has finally reached the App Store. Created by Nyamyam, an independent developer founded by former Rare employees, Tengami is described as “an atmospheric adventure game set inside a Japanese pop-up book.” Rated 4+, the game has no in-app purchases and no advertisements.
As expected, Tengami is a beautiful game, as it looks like a real hand-crafted pop-up book in motion. Though beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the aesthetics of Tengami are pretty undeniable for an iOS game. Players can fold and slide pages of the intricate book while guiding the character past waterfalls and wolves. The soundtrack from David Wise and sparse sound effects only add to the enjoyable, soothing experience.
Apple has released iOS 7.0.6 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. The 35.4 MB security update provides a fix for SSL connection verification.
iOS 7.0.6 is available now over-the-air.
Update: Apple has also released Apple TV Software Update 6.0.2. According to the company’s support page, this update addresses SSL issues as well. Apple TV Software Update 6.0.02 is available now for second- and third- generation Apple TVs via the Software Update feature of the Apple TV’s Settings menu.
Google’s Google Translate (free) has updated to version 2.1.0 with native iOS 7 support, bringing a new keyboard and status bar. The app also adds handwriting input for more languages — Arabic, Esperanto, Gujarati, Hebrew, Javanese, Maltese, Maori, Marathi, Persian, Punjabi, Telugu, and Zulu. Google Translate currently supports translation of 80 languages.
Second Chance Heroes (free) from Rocket City Studios is a frantic action game in which you fend off zombies, werewolves, and other enemies while controlling a chainsaw-wielding Abraham Lincoln, Cleopatra, Nikola Tesla, and other historical figures. This kind of trope has been overdone in recent years, but Second Chance Heroes stands on its own, especially with the twist of tag team gameplay for swapping characters mid-game. The game supports both single player and multiplayer, and though there are in-app purchases, they never feel invasive.
GBA4iOS has released version 2.0 of its Game Boy simulator on its website. The free download lets users play a number of Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy games on their iPhone or iPad, with a built-in browser giving users the option to download more ROMs. GBA4iOS 2.0 can run on any iOS device running iOS 7 or higher, and no jailbreak is required.
The non-App Store download appears to rely on a certificate issued through Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program and could therefore still potentially be disabled by Apple. Installation is quick and simple, but be sure to read the site’s FAQ, and be aware of any privacy and security risks involved with installing such software. [via MacRumors]
Dinosaur Train A to Z ($2) from PBS Kids uses characters from the show Dinosaur Train to teach kids about 26 different dinosaurs — one for each letter of the alphabet. Children can feed the dinosaurs, explore x-rays, and learn more than 50 facts. Additional dinosaur packs can also be purchased. The app is narrated by Mr. Conductor, who fans of the show know is a Troodon. That’s right, T is for Troodon in this app, not Tyrannosaurus Rex. Dinosaur Train isn’t afraid of getting a bit obscure.
Montessorium’s Intro to Letters ($10) has been completely redesigned for iOS 7 in version 2.0. The Montessori-based letter-learning app has also added a new feature, Recording Studio. In Recording Studio, adults can record, save and use their own voiceovers to teach their children the letters. As the app’s description claims, “You learn best from the ones that you love.” The app is currently $5 for a limited time.
Patrick Kane’s Winter Games ($3), a new Olympic hockey game from Distinctive Games, hit the App Store in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The game is named for USA Hockey and Chicago Blackhawks player Patrick Kane. With his name headlining a video game, Kane joins a very select group of hockey players, which includes the likes of Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky.
iOS sports games are often at a disadvantage from the start. Sure, they’re inexpensive, but the experience can’t compete with console sports simulation games, which benefit from precise controls, deeper strategies, and official league licensing, among a host of other features. Patrick Kane’s Winter Games tries to bridge the gap between arcade and simulation sports gaming, with mixed results.
PolyFauna is a new app from Radiohead — yes, the band Radiohead. The free app has an expectedly vague description. Basically, you hear clips from “Bloom” off the group’s 2011 album The King of Limbs while guiding yourself through a strange, open landscape. Touching the screen creates different textures as you swoop around. Following the red dot will take you to new areas. It’s a very Radiohead kind of app.
DotEmu has brought R-Type II ($2) to the App Store. The classic side-scrolling shooter from 1989 has proven hard to come by over the years, with various versions not quite the same as the original arcade game. R-Type II comes with the original features — six levels with bosses, and the same weapons and upgrades. But players can upgrade to improved graphics, choose between three difficulty levels, change the screen ratio, and more. The game supports iOS 7 controllers, as well.
Apple is expected to discontinue its iPad 2 “in the near future,” according to AppleInsider. Sources said the decision was made to decrease production as customers are “resoundingly” buying more of the iPad Air and iPad mini. The second-generation iPad is currently the only $399 full-sized iPad option on the market, with only the 16GB model offered at this point — the 16GB Wi-Fi + Cellular version is also sold for $529. Released in March 2011, iPad 2 is also the only remaining Dock Connector iPad still sold by Apple. It’s believed the iPad 2 has remained in Apple’s product lineup due to its popularity in the education market.
The questionable and increasingly strange saga of the mediocre game Flappy Bird has gotten plenty of attention lately, but the App Store has long had a one-touch flapping game that’s actually great — Frogmind’s Badland ($4). Badland now has iOS 7 game controller support in version 1.90. The update also adds a co-op multiplayer level to the game. Badland is $2 for a limited time.
Documentarian Ken Burns has released his own iPad-only app, Ken Burns. The app takes clips from Burns’ filmography and places them in a slick interactive timeline that offers a view of American history. It’s free to download the app, which comes with access to the innovation-themed playlist. The other playlists — featuring more than three hours of video and other exclusive content — can be unlocked in the full version for $10. Other themes include art, hard times, politics, race, and war. iOS 7 is required for the Ken Burns app.
Rita Lane, Apple vice president of iPad, Mac desktops, and Mac accessories has retired from the company, as noted by her LinkedIn profile. According to the profile, Lane has held her VP position since 2008; she was directly involved in the success of the iPad since its launch. Lane was noted as one of the highest ranking women at Apple in a 2012 Business Insider article. Her successor is unknown. [via 9to5Mac]
A few weeks ago, we reviewed Chillingo’s In Fear I Trust, noting it was a step in a more mature direction for the company. Chillingo continues down that road with this week’s 17+ rated Bloodstroke ($3), a John Woo game. Yes, that’s Hong Kong film director John Woo, who last entered the world of gaming in 2007 with the third-person shooter Strangehold. Prepare for doves.
Bloodstroke puts players into the shoes of Mai Lee — codename Lotus. A private security agent, Lotus must protect her client, Dr. Koorse, from assassination. Lotus looks pretty tough from the outset, but as you jump into the game, you soon realize — she’s actually invincible. Scores of enemies attack, but Ms. Lee runs around like it’s nothing, completely unaffected by an onslaught of bullets. Dr. Koorse, however, is not quite so indestructible. And therein lies the challenge.
Apple is planning to release iOS 7.1 in March, 9to5Mac reports. It’s noted that no “secret features” will come in iOS 7.1; rather, users should expect what’s been seen in the five 7.1 betas, including UI tweaks, a revamped Calendar app, and speed improvements. iOS 7.1 beta 5 was just released Tuesday. The report speculates Apple could announce iOS 7.1 at a March event that could possibly introduce a new Apple TV.
Apple has reduced its MFi licensing fees, according to a Japanese report. The licensing rate was lowered in January, along with the purchase rate for Lightning connectors. It’s possible the rate reductions will be reflected in cheaper prices for future third-party Lightning accessories. This may also result in seeing Lightning products from additional companies, although it’s worth noting that Apple’s strict development restrictions have not changed and may still hamper that possibility. [via Macotakara]