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.
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.
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]
Files United (free) from Zuhanden GmbH is a file manager app that gives users access to documents, images, music, and videos. The app can access Dropbox, Drive, Box, and SkyDrive. Version 1.1 of the app lets users quickly transfer files from Macs to iOS devices in conjunction with the free Mac app. The updated app also supports FTP and SMB access and transfer.
Square Enix’s classic RPG Final Fantasy VI ($16) has arrived in the App Store. Debuting in 1994 for Super Nintendo, many Final Fantasy fans believe FFVI to be the best game in the series. The iOS version uses iCloud to save and access game data across devices. Square Enix says the graphics have been recreated, and the magicites and events from the 2006 remake of the game are included. Additionally, some parts of the game have been overhauled to allow the use of touch controls.
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.