Google Maps (free) has been updated to version 2.6.0. Though there’s only one notable change in the app, it’s a big one — the app now notifies users when a faster route is available while in navigation mode. If you’re stuck in traffic, or if traffic awaits ahead, the app should offer you another route if there’s a faster alternative.
OpenTable has updated its free app to version 6.2.0. The new update helps users searching for a table at a specific restaurant. “Find future tables” lets users scan up to two months of table reservations for that restaurant—a big improvement that should help users get into popular places.
Apple has released iOS 7.1 beta 5 to developers, notably including improved Siri voices for certain international countries. The fourth beta was released about two weeks ago. Apple TV Software beta 5 was also released, as well as Xcode 5.1 Developer Preview 5.
Rocket Robo ($1) is a new 2.5D side-scrolling puzzler from Aaron McElligott. In the game, you guide a little jetpack-equipped robot through a number of bright, twisting levels, picking up stars before you reach the finish line. It’s rated 4+.
From the get-go, Rocket Robo is a joy to look at, with bright, colorful levels and a cute little character who bears a passing resemblance to the robots from the 1987 film Batteries Not Included. The handwoven textures in the first world, Material World, bring to mind LittleBigPlanet’s Sackboy and Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii. The next world features more traditional space station levels.
Zynga announced that the company has acquired NaturalMotion, developer of the Clumsy Ninja app, for $527 million in cash and equity. Zynga also announced it would lay off 314 employees, or 15 percent of its workforce. Though Clumsy Ninja was first introduced during the Sept. 2012 media event for the iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch, its release was delayed until Nov. 2013. The game has proven to be very popular despite the delay — Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said during Apple’s recent earnings call that Clumsy Ninja was downloaded 10 million times during its first week of release.
Thousands of iBeacons will be placed in Major League Baseball ballparks next week, with MLB hoping to have 20 parks outfitted by Opening Day in late March. Boston, Milwaukee, San Diego, San Francisco, and the L.A. Dodgers will be among the teams with iBeacons installed in their stadiums, MacRumors reports. Each park should have about 100 iBeacons installed. It was reported last year that many MLB teams expressed interest in iBeacon, with the New York Mets already testing the technology. iBeacon will work with MLB’s At The Ballpark app. Though functionality will differ in each ballpark, it’s likely the app will use iBeacon to offer ballpark information, concessions coupons, and loyalty programs, among other features.
Facebook has updated its free app to version 6.9.1. The update lets users choose whose posts to see in News Feed, and also puts all uploaded videos into one album. More notable, however, was Facebook’s introduction of Paper. The new iOS app lets users view their Facebook News Feed in addition to other sections featuring outside content, such as sports and food. At first glance, Paper looks like an intriguing, well-designed app. It will be released Feb. 3, and we’ll have more on it next week.
Jack and the Beanstalk ($5) is more than just another new interactive storybook app from Nosy Crow. The developer has really upped the ante — a more cinematic presentation highlights the upgraded high-resolution graphics, and the camera work within the app is very well done. More gaming elements have been added, and Nosy Crow hopes that will get more reluctant readers into the story. For instance, Jack gets to climb the beanstalk while being assisted by the child reader. All of this is bolstered by the same high-quality voice acting and music expected from Nosy Crow.
A Gmail bug has accidentally deleted the emails of some users, and reported others as spam. Gmail’s iOS app, mobile browsers using Gmail, and the offline version of Gmail recently fell prey to a software bug which did not affect all users, Google said. According to a notice from Google, the issue occurred between Jan. 15 and 22 and is now fixed. Users should check Trash and Spam folders before Feb. 14 to see if any items were deleted or marked as spam due to the bug. [via The Verge]
Jackadam’s Dark Sky ($4) weather forecast app is known for telling users exactly when precipitation will start to fall, an hour in advance. In version 4.0.0, the app has been completely redone for iOS 7, with extended 24-hour and 7-day forecasts. All new global maps have also been added to the visually appealing app. If you experience issues opening the app after updating to 4.0.0, delete it and re-install it; we found that this was necessary to enable the updated app to run.
Jet Car Stunts 2 (free) is the new sequel to True Axis’ Jet Car Stunts. The game features what the developer describes as “crazy stunt driving on outlandish courses,” and it’s hard to argue with that. Gamers use onscreen buttons to control speed while tilting the device to steer and adjust its angle for jumps The free version’s depth is questionable, but the first 10 levels are free. After that, in-app purchases are required to continue. Silky-smooth polygonal graphics will remind classic gamers of early 3-D driving games from Atari and Sega.
Apple reported its first quarter 2014 financial results today, selling 51 million iPhones and 26 million iPads, both all-time quarterly records. The company reported a record $57.6 billion quarterly revenue, as well as quarterly net profit of $13.1 billion, or $14.50 per diluted share. Apple sold 6 million iPods, a 52 percent decrease in units from Q1 2013. iPhone unit sales were up 7 percent, and iPad unit sales were up 14 percent from Q1 2013.
Gross margin was 37.9 percent, compared to 38.6 percent in Q1 2013. Apple noted that international sales accounted for 63 percent of revenue in Q1 2014. For Q2 2014, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $42 billion and $44 billion, and gross margin between 37 percent and 38 percent. Apple’s earnings call will begin at 5 p.m. EST, and can be heard live on the company’s investor website.
“We are really happy with our record iPhone and iPad sales, the strong performance of our Mac products and the continued growth of iTunes, Software and Services,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said. “We love having the most satisfied, loyal and engaged customers, and are continuing to invest heavily in our future to make their experiences with our products and services even better.”
“We generated $22.7 billion in cash flow from operations and returned an additional $7.7 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the December quarter, bringing cumulative payments under our capital return program to over $43 billion,” Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said.
The National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters have been working together to collect user information through “leaky” mobile apps, according to secret documents released by Edward Snowden. Google Maps, Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, and Twitter are all used as examples of apps said to scoop up personal information in a recent New York Times report. Information obtained from these apps may include address books, buddy lists, phone logs, and geographic data. The report notes that the “scale and specifics of the data haul are not clear.”
Though Angry Birds is used as example of a newer app the agencies could use to acquire information, it is not made “explicit whether the spies have put that into practice.” The NSA and the British Agency are reportedly mining information that has been acquired by ad firms, with data depending on which ad service compiles the user data profiles. In addition to the Times report, The Guardian and ProPublica have their own reports on the documents.
Apple now claims on its developer website that 80 percent of devices are using iOS 7, a statistic measured through the “App Store during a 7-day period ending January 26, 2014.” In early December, Apple released numbers in the same quiet manner, noting that 74 percent of devices were using iOS 7 in a seven-day period ending Dec. 1. Apple now claims 17 percent of devices are using iOS 6, with 3 percent using an older version of iOS. Intended for developers, the metric obviously doesn’t capture devices that aren’t actively using the App Store, so it’s unclear how generalizable the numbers are to the entire iOS-using population.
Apple has issued updates for the iOS editions of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. All three — updated to version 2.1 — gain the ability to share password-protected documents via iCloud link, in line with the recent iWork for iCloud update. The suite sees improved compatibility with Microsoft Office 2013 documents, and bug fixes and stability improvements. Additionally, each app has its own individual upgrades.
For example, Pages now allows character counts with or without spaces, and improved support for bidirectional text, while Numbers users can view and edit spreadsheets in landscape orientation. Keynote has absorbed the features of Keynote Remote, which has been removed from the App Store, and can now control presentations on other devices. There are also new transitions among the other changes.
Beamdog’s Baldur’s Gate II ($15) Enhanced Edition has arrived on iPad. This edition of the classic fantasy RPG includes the original Shadows of Amn campaign, in addition to a number of expansions, including the Throne of Bhaal expansion. The game is only available for iPad and requires 2.5 GB of free space.
In Fear I Trust ($3) is a new 17+ rated nightmarish puzzle game from Chillingo. It’s available for iPhone and iPad, but not compatible with iPod touch. Look for more information tomorrow in our new Game of the Week feature.
Apple said a future iOS 7 update will resolve the bug that causes devices to crash and reboot. “We have a fix in an upcoming software update for a bug that can occasionally cause a home screen crash,” Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller said to Mashable. It’s expected the fix will arrive with the official release of iOS 7.1, which is currently in its fourth beta. A separate update for this specific issue could even come before iOS 7.1 is released.
Beats Music has released its anticipated streaming music service in the App Store. Though the app download itself is free, Beats Music is a subscription service that costs $10 a month after a one-week free trial. There is no ad-supported free version of the service. Beats Music offers more than 20 million songs that lets users stream or save to a device to listen while offline. It’s very similar to other streaming services; other than a few minor features, the Beats name and mood-based station creation are the biggest distinguishing factors.
Box (free) has updated its app to version 3.0.0. The redesigned cloud content management app now offers 50GB of free lifetime storage to iOS users. This update includes a new preview experience, faster document rendering and photo loading, and a real-time search for files. Box is also in the process of becoming integrated into other apps, including a revised version of iTeleport Connect that was just released.
Apple has released iOS 7.1 beta 4 to developers. The new beta includes bug fixes and improvements, less than two weeks after the third beta was released. We’ll update this article with any notable changes as they’re discovered.
Google Play Movies & TV (free) is now available for the first time on iOS. Google’s app lets users watch movies and TV shows that were purchased or rented from Google Play. At the moment, streaming video only works over a Wi-Fi connection. TV shows are currently available in the U.S., U.K., and Japan.
Shadow Blade ($2) from Crescent Moon Games is a Strider/Shinobi-style ninja action game — in fact, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the upcoming official Strider title from Capcom. Featuring touch controls and a wide variety of weapons, Shadow Blade emphasizes the ninja aspect of the game, rewarding players for “playing sneakily.” Main character Kuro has to avoid traps and sneak around enemies in addition to fighting them head-on. Shadow Blade features 40 levels.
VirnetX, the patent holding company which successfully sued Apple for infringing its VPN patents in FaceTime in 2012, has added more Apple devices to its pending patent infringement lawsuit. As announced by VirnetX, the holding company is now adding the iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina display, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, and “latest Mac computers” to the litigation against Apple. The company is also including the “iPod Touch with Retina Display,” which could refer to the fourth- and fifth-generation iPod touch; however, the current lawsuit has already included the fifth-generation iPod touch. VirnetX maintains that Apple infringes upon its VPN patents, including workarounds Apple redesigned for iOS 7.
Apple initially changed the way its VPN On Demand connected in iOS after the loss of the first lawsuit. However, the company decided to reverse course weeks later, and change its VPN On Demand connection back to how it always worked. The reversal caused speculation that Apple and VirnetX appeared to reach an agreement of some kind — that obviously now appears to be false. Apple was ordered to pay $368.2 million for the loss of the first lawsuit, and lost an appeal.
A patent granted to Apple today describes a user interface in which onscreen graphics are automatically adjusted when the device is in motion. The patent background suggests that it’s harder to interact with a graphical user interface while the user is in motion; the patent would enable the device to adjust the GUI based on measurements of that motion. For instance, touchscreen buttons in the UI could be made larger while the device is moving, making the buttons easier to use.
As another example, graphic features could be moved around for ease of use. The patent also describes implementations in which the device “learns” how a user’s device moves and can make adjustments accordingly. Apple originally filed for the patent in Nov. 2007. [via Apple Insider]
Apple has started hiring for its new Mesa, Arizona manufacturing facility and one of the job listings is for an iPod/iPhone Manufacturing Design Engineer. Under key qualifications, Apple notes that it is seeking “world class engineers that will provide end to end manufacturing and process solutions for key design features.” A previous report noted Apple would be producing sapphire glass in the new plant, though other details were limited; it now appears the facility could involve more than just sapphire manufacturing. [via 9to5Mac]