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2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

News

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.

AT&T CEO: Bye, device subsidies, hello financing

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on Tuesday that wireless carriers will move away from subsidizing smartphones. “When you’re growing the business initially, you have to do aggressive device subsidies to get people on the network,” Stephenson said at an investor conference. “But as you approach 90 percent penetration, you move into maintenance mode. That means more device upgrades. And the model has to change. You can’t afford to subsidize devices like that.” Stephenson believes a shift to financing new devices — instead of subsidizing them — will be “transformative.” AT&T’s Next program offers no money down and 0 percent financing for new phones, and other carriers offer similar programs; Stephenson said this model is more sustainable. [via CNET]

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.

China Mobile opens iPhone preorders on Dec. 12

China Mobile will take preorders for the iPhone starting Thursday Dec. 12, as noted by an ad on its website. The site says “4G is here!” and invites customers to preorder the iPhone 5s, among other phones. China Mobile will provide 4G services after Dec. 18. A pricing plan for new iPhones is reportedly being prepared — a recent report noted there was still some negotiating going on between China Mobile and Apple. [via Wall Street Journal]

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.

Apple quietly releases 74% iOS 7 adoption estimate

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.

Apps: Assassin’s Creed Pirates, Doctor Who: Legacy, Double Dragon Trilogy + Foursquare 7.0

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.

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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.

Bluetooth 4.1 announced as free update for 4.0 devices

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.

Apple and China Mobile make iPhone deal?

China Mobile has finally signed a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone on its network, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s expected that the iPhone will launch sometime around a Dec. 18 China Mobile conference, where the carrier plans to unveil a brand for its 4G network. A China Mobile subsidiary was briefly taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5c and 5s earlier this week, and the Chinese government previously suggested that Apple and China Mobile had reached a deal.

However, a more recent report claims that no deal has been made as of yet. “We are still negotiating with Apple, but for now we have nothing new to announce,” China Mobile spokeswoman Rainie Lei told Reuters. It’s entirely possible that a broad agreement was reached some time ago, but certain specifics have yet to be hammered out.

Startup uses iBeacon to allow Newsstand publication access

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]

Honda announces iPhone-powered car touchscreen

Honda has announced its Display Audio interface and Next Generation HondaLink, two new technologies that will debut in the 2014 Civic and will also be included in the 2015 Fit. Display Audio is a touchscreen interface that connects directly to an iPhone. Its features include audio, phonebook, and media access, in addition to navigation. The interface also integrates with the Civic’s built-in Siri Eyes Free mode, so iPhone users will be able to operate Siri through the steering wheel.

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Next Generation HondaLink is an app-based platform that lets users access content in and outside of the car. It will be compatible with the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s at launch. It’s notable that these technologies are not a true implementation of Apple’s iOS in the Car, though the features are similar; it’s unclear whether cellular-capable iPads and other iOS devices will be compatible.

Apps: Jetpack Joyride 1.6, The Lonely Beast 123, LoryStripes + Shazam 7.2

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.

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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.

China Mobile subsidiary briefly takes iPhone preorders

A subsidiary of China Mobile in Suzhou, China started taking preorders for the iPhone 5s and 5c late Monday local time, Fortune reports. The reservation page was later replaced with a note that indicated reservations would reopen later. It’s possible the Suzhou preorders were a soft launch for the iPhone on China Mobile. The carrier has already announced that it plans to introduce a new brand on Dec. 18, and a leaked promotional poster indicated the iPhone 5c and 5s are on the way.

Apple posts shipping deadlines for Dec. 24 delivery

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.

Apps: Castle of Illusion, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Procreate, Target

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.

Foxconn production boost reduces iPhone 5s wait

Foxconn has added workers to production lines and is “running its factories around the clock” to reduce waiting times for the iPhone 5s, the Wall Street Journal reports. The 5s is now shipping within three to five business days in the U.S. online store, down from a wait of two to three weeks. As reported last month, the production boost has come at the expense of the iPhone 5c. “We have been churning out about 500,000 iPhone 5s’s everyday, the highest daily output ever,” a Foxconn executive said. The executive also noted the 5s takes longer to assemble than a 5c or iPhone 5.

Apps: City Letters, The Elements in Action, Endless Reader + Flighttrack 5

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.

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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.

GTA: San Andreas coming to iOS in December

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.

Just Mobile debuts AluBolt dock for iPhone + iPad mini

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.

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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.

Apple now selling unlocked, SIM-free iPhone 5s

Apple is now selling the iPhone 5s unlocked and SIM-free in its U.S. online store. Users will need to supply their own GSM SIM card, after which the model will work on numerous networks throughout the world. The SIM-free phone is available in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB capacities for $649, $749, and $849.

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All three color options are available. Currently, the unlocked SIM-free iPhone 5s is listed as available to ship in 1-2 weeks. [via 9to5Mac]

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