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2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

News

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]

FCC to propose cellphone use above 10,000 feet

The Federal Communications Commission will propose that airplane passengers be allowed to make phone calls and use cellular data on e-devices at 10,000 feet and above, the Wall Street Journal reports. Any use of cellphones on planes would require airline approval, as airplanes would need equipment installed to communicate with cellphone towers. Less than a month ago, the Federal Aviation Administration allowed airlines to expand in-flight use of e-devices, although FCC regulations still require phones to be used in airplane mode. The FCC originally pushed for the FAA to allow for expanded in-flight e-device use last December.

Apps: Animal Band, ESPN SportsCenter, Logitech Harmony Control + TouchGrind Skate 2

Animal Band — Nursery Rhymes ($1) is a new music app for young children from Storytoys. Kids can interact with eight animal characters to get them to join into a song, with each animal acting as a separate instrument. The four initial songs are classic nursery rhymes, including Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and The Itsy Bitsy Spider. It’s a simple concept, and a section with a third background for extra songs is shown as “coming soon,” but younger kids might find it entertaining.

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ESPN’s ScoreCenter has just become ESPN SportsCenter (free) in an update to version 4.0.0. The popular sports scores app has a whole new clean look. It’s also easier to navigate through the app and access the scores of your favorite teams. A news section is still intact, as well as a new “now” section, which is really just a curated ESPN-centric Twitter feed. Though there are other sports scores apps out there, this is probably still your best bet, especially if you’re into more obscure sports and leagues.

Clumsy Ninja released in App Store

Clumsy Ninja, which was featured in last year’s Apple media event for the fifth-generation iPod touch and iPhone 5, has finally made its way to the App Store as a free download. One of two high-profile game demos from Apple last year — the other being Infinity Blade Dungeons, which was shown at the third-generation iPad event in March 2012 and later canceled — Clumsy Ninja’s release was delayed for more than a year without explanation.

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The freemium game lets users interact with a kid ninja, letting you teach him a variety of tasks. He improves, learning new tricks and moves through his training. Impressive kinematic animation and cartoony graphics add to the fun factor of the universal release.

China Mobile expected to intro iPhone Dec. 18

China Mobile announced that it plans to introduce a new brand on Dec. 18, with many expecting the world’s largest carrier to debut the iPhone on that date. It’s been rumored for years that China Mobile would carry the iPhone, but only now does the launch appear inevitable. A recent leak showed a promotional poster claiming China Mobile would carry both the iPhone 5c and 5s. One analyst estimates at least 70 million of China Mobile’s 700 million subscribers could be potential iPhone customers. [via Wall Street Journal]

Apps: Epoch 2, Find My Friends 3.0, GT Racing 2, Southwest Airlines + Word Girl

An anticipated sequel, Epoch 2 ($3) from Uppercut Games offers more Terminator apocalypse-inspired robot battles. The third-person shooter will likely appeal mostly to fans of the first Epoch, but it may not expand the audience much more than that. New weapons and features have been added, most notably including moving backgrounds and varied types of simultaneous attackers to fight against, all within an Unreal Engine 3-generated environment. But the gameplay remains relatively shallow and repetitive.

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Apple has finally updated its free Find My Friends app for iOS 7 with version 3.0. The new design is more iOS 7-esque, of course, losing the skeuomorphic leather stitching, and switching to a lighter, orange-accented design. Friends are now seen on the map in tiny picture circles, as opposed to just dots, and the prior version’s font excesses are gone.

iOS users note missing, disappearing Camera photos

A number of iOS users have noted that some of the photos they’ve taken with iOS 7’s Camera application have disappeared without a trace, an issue that we’ve confirmed firsthand. Posts in Apple’s number of Apple discussion forums show how some users are experiencing the issue, while struggling to explain why it’s happening. Based on what we’ve seen, the problem appears to be sporadic, affecting only a small number of photos shot over a period of time; the photos are taken as indicated by a snap of the device’s shutter, but then do not appear in the Photos application’s Camera Roll. An Apple community specialist suggested closing all apps and restarting the device to fix the problem, a solution that has not worked for us, with backing up and restoring the device as a next possible option.

Apple releases iOS 7.1 beta to developers

Apple has released iOS 7.1 beta to developers. The download is available within Apple’s developer portal. Initial indications are that the software addresses bugs in the original iOS 7 release, however, additional features may have been quietly added.

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All prior iOS 7 device models can run 7.1, however, the release is not yet intended for general consumption.

Apps: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, KOF ‘97, Nest 4.0 + Oceanhorn

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving ($6) from Loud Crow Interactive features everyone’s favorite sad sack, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the Peanuts crew for this interactive book. Dialogue, music, and sound effects all come straight from the 1973 animated special, and the iOS interface has been substantially improved from prior Charlie Brown holiday apps. Three reading modes are available, and word highlighting and touch-to-speak technology are also included in the app.

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SNK Playmore has brought its classic fighting game The King of Fighters ‘97 ($4) to iOS. The fourth game in the classic KOF series, the ‘97 edition features 35 characters and new teams — hidden characters Orochi Iori and Orochi Leona are included from the get-go. Both the extra and advanced fighting modes are available, as in the original game. Both a four-button and six-button control scheme are available, and it’s possible to move the controls around the screen, and change the joystick/button sizes as well. Due to a bug in the control-moving system, it’s harder to set the buttons up properly on an iPad, but hopefully SNK Playmore will fix the issue.

Google Play Music released for iOS

Google has released its Google Play Music app for iOS. The free app provides access to a standard music streaming service and All Access service, which costs $10/month. Google’s standard service lets users add up to 20,000 of their own songs, and listen to the music from all iOS devices and Google’s web player.

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All Access lets users listen to unlimited songs, and includes an ad-free radio service. Radio stations are customizable, and there are no skip limits on listening. The app was originally expected to launch much earlier this year.

Apps: Modernist Cuisine at Home, PlayStation App, Strangebeard + Tilt to Live 2

Modernist Cuisine at Home is indeed an $80 app, but if you’re a cook, you’ll understand why it’s actually a bargain. An interactive digital version of the $140, James Beard Award-nominated cookbook Modernist Cuisine at Home, the app from Inkling includes 260 more recipes and 359 more photos than the print cookbook; it’s also been reformatted to read more easily on screens much smaller than the gigantic original volume. The app also features 37 cooking technique videos, including how to execute the water displacement method or how to use a blowtorch on steaks, as well as interactive versions of Modernist Cuisine’s famous photographs, and calculators to let you scale recipes up or down for your needs. A free demo chapter is available through Inkling’s own app; the book can be downloaded in full through Inkling and added to the app’s library, or kept as a standalone version.

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Sony’s free PlayStation App has made its way to the App Store just before tomorrow’s release of the PlayStation 4. The PlayStation App lets users interact with friends, receive notifications, game alerts, and invitations. An iOS device can also be used as an onscreen keyboard. Among other features, the app also lets users buy games from the PlayStation Store to push to the PS4.

Apple releases iOS 7.0.4

Apple has released iOS 7.0.4. The update is listed as including unspecified bug fixes and improvements.

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Notably, an issue that caused FaceTime calls to fail has been fixed within the update. The update is available now over the air.

Update: iOS 6.1.5 was also released for the fourth-generation iPod touch. The update fixes the FaceTime bug on the device.

Resellers face issues with unlocking AT&T iPhones

iPhone resellers that had previously unlocked AT&T iPhones in bulk have ran into issues with unlocking the phones recently, putting their businesses in jeopardy. The Wall Street Journal tells the story of Louis Ashner, who ran a business buying used American iPhones and reselling them in China. Sometime in October, Ashner was suddenly unable to unlock iPhones in bulk, and his business collapsed. Other business owners in the U.S. are reportedly experiencing the same issues. It appears that AT&T has done something to make the devices harder to unlock — the carrier didn’t comment on the issue, but AT&T did say it hasn’t changed its policies for unlocking phones for individual customers. AT&T stopped accepting unlocking requests over the phone in mid-October, and now requires online requests.

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