Parents of young children have a love-hate affair with the Canadian kids’ cartoon Caillou, featuring a relatable four-year-old boy and his two-year-old sister Rosie. While Caillou cartoons nicely touch upon common childhood themes, including role-playing, exploration, and parent-child interactions, the title character whines and pouts frequently enough to teach impressionable kids bad behaviors. Fingerprint’s new Step-by-Story - Caillou’s Window ($1) thankfully does away with the whining, but isn’t going to win the series any new fans, either. It lets kids choose very short pre-built or built-it-yourself stories featuring Caillou characters, stringing together five or so concepts to form a complete (if not particularly compelling) “story” like this one: (1) Outside, it was fall, (2) when Daddy saw (3) Caillou skiing and (4) Sarah (5) on a shooting star. Each of these clauses adds a simple, lightly animated foreground object to a flat background image while Caillou’s theme song plays and a narrator slowly enunciates the clauses. That’s it — though the art is high-resolution, it’s flat, and there’s no additional interactivity. Kids who try the app may be interested at first, only to discover that little they do while watching the “story” has any impact on the screen. We’d suggest passing on this one.
Google has introduced a number of new features to its Google Plus (free) social networking app. A new profile design is the first notable change users may see, along with a new notifications tray. Version 4.3.0 also includes new photo editing tools, such as filters, rotating and cropping. Users can also control the volume of posts from individual circles or communities and filter search results. There are also more community options — you can tell your friends about a community and reshare posts, along with displaying counts for unread messages and new moderation features in communities.
Apple has updated its Podcasts app to version 1.2, adding custom stations which update automatically with new episodes from your favorite podcasts, and playlists synced from iTunes, among other features. Stations are also stored in iCloud and kept updated on all devices.
The interface has seen a few changes, as well — notably, the “reels” optionally shown while playing an audio podcast are now gone, with some previously obscured functionality merged into the main audio playback screen. Buttons have been moved around within the My Podcasts library screen, and “Top Stations” are now referred to as “Top Charts,” amongst other tweaks. Our editors have noted new crash bugs, however, so you might want to hold off on downloading the update for now.
In an unusual move of supporting third-party APIs, Apple has released an update to GarageBand for iOS adding the ability to receive audio from other iOS apps via Audiobus. Designed to facilitate mixing audio across multiple apps on a single iOS device, Audiobus is a third-party app that other iOS music apps can interface with to send and receive audio with other compatible apps. The addition of Audiobus support in GarageBand now allows users to record and sequence sounds from a wide variety of other Audiobus supported apps, such as Amplitube, Music Studio, AmpKit, BeatMaker, and dozens more.
The latest GarageBand update also adds the ability to disable grid snapping for finder editing control and resolves an issue with connecting third-party audio accessories to the 3.5mm headphone/mic jack. GarageBand 1.4 is available from the App Store for $5.
Just released, Speedbump’s Kingpin Lanes ($2) is an iOS universal bowling game completely rendered in 3-D, and impressively built by one man using the Unreal Engine. In addition to the expected ball-tossing, pin-knocking action, the game offers a fully explorable bowling alley, including a functioning pro shop, and an arcade with four playable mini games. Five fully voiced and animated characters can compete on a variety of lanes. The game also lets users create their own soundtrack using a device’s on-board music.
Now featuring full French and German translations in version 1.2, The Orchestra ($14) from Touch Press is an iPad app that features eight symphonic works performed by London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. As the orchestra plays extended extracts of the works — from the likes of Beethoven, Haydn, Debussy, Stravinsky, and others — the app lets users select from multiple video and audio tracks in real-time. A synchronized score and note-by-note visualization of each piece are also included. Audio and subtitled commentaries are also available on every piece, from the conductor and the players. Each instrument is also profiled, and the musicians explain their roles in the orchestra.
As the latest Peapod Labs ABC-themed title, ABC Farm ($3) teaches children vocabulary in English or Spanish through sight, sound, and touch. More than 50 farm-related words are taught through photos, interactive scenes, videos, pictures, and sounds. ABC Farm’s major new feature is the addition of a bilingual mode that enables the app to pivot with a single button push from English to Spanish — this feature can be used to teach a single Spanish word after seeing the English version, or the entire Spanish word set, alphabetized, as an alternative to the English word set. Every word and letter is spoken aloud in the currently selected language. While it looks familiar on the surface, ABC Farm boasts impressive new depth, and kids will enjoy it.
Evernote’s Evernote Food (free) has been updated to version 2.1. The update adds OpenTable integration, so users can make restaurant reservations and view restaurant ratings from within the app. It’s also easier to share recipes, both from Evernote to Evernote Food’s My Cookbook section, and via Facebook, Twitter, and email. It’s also possible to browse and search for recipes in Japanese and Chinese. Other improvements involve bug fixes, better image uploading, and improved search results.
Apple’s free Apple Store app has been updated to version 2.5. The app, which lets users research, personalize, and purchase products, as well as make service appointments, now features new shipping options for different items in an order. It’s also easier to see if a product is available for pickup at any selected U.S. location of the Apple Store.
CBS Interactive has released a brand new CBS app (free) which offers full streaming HD episodes of popular CBS shows, including NCIS, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, How I Met Your Mother, Survivor, Elementary, The Young and the Restless, and The Late Show with David Letterman. It’s noted that some shows are available 24 hours after airing, while others are available 8 days after the initial broadcast. The CBS app also includes a personalized show list, live social feeds, photo galleries and cast pages, and the CBS primetime schedule.
Rovio has issued a major update to one of its popular Angry Birds games, Angry Birds Rio. Most notably, version 1.6 of the game features 36 new levels and an all-new episode, the marmoset-filled Market Mayhem. Additionally, players can collect all the hidden fruit to unlock a new bonus level. Angry Birds Rio is currently available for free in the App Store.
Google’s Field Trip (free), available for Android since last year, has arrived for iOS. Field Trip is an interactive location guide that runs in the background, using location services and push notifications to tell users what’s around them. Categories such as architecture, historic places and events, lifestyle, offers and deals, food drinks and fun, movie locations, outdoor art, and obscure places of interest are all featured. Field Trip uses data from the likes of Thrillist, Food Network, Zagat, Run Riot, Sunset, Cool Hunting, WeHeart, Inhabitat, Remodelista, Atlas Obscura, Daily Secret, Songkick, and Flavorpill. If you’re using a headset, or Bluetooth audio, Field Trip will read the information aloud. The app is optimized for iPhone, but not iPad.
You’ve heard the classic story of the teenaged Japanese president, right? The girl who put on a mechanized battle suit and liberated Japan from robotic invaders? If not, Level-5’s new Liberation Maiden ($5) will let you experience her exciting adventure first hand. Mixing After Burner-style lock-on weapons with the 3-D urban mecha flavor of Konami’s Zone of Enders, Liberation Maiden isn’t going to win any raves for the depth or variety of its gameplay; you just fly from map point to map point with a virtual joystick, using taps and swipes to destroy towers called “spikes” and various war machines. But the brief and decidedly Japanese-feeling title comes to iOS via Nintendo’s 3DS, and has received resolution and texture upgrades that look respectable on Retina displays. If you’re hungering for a little robotic shooting action, this is a decent title.
SNK Playmore’s Metal Slug X ($4) is an updated remake of Metal Slug 2, with new elements, and bosses and other enemies placed at different points within the game. New weapons, such as remote-controlled missiles, bouncing land mines, and homing missiles are also included. Multiplayer gameplay is also possible through Bluetooth, as a friend can fight beside you. Packed with cool 2-D animations and art, Metal Slug X is funnier and more diverse than the original Metal Slug, including not only the outdoor Middle Eastern scenes you’d expect—now complete with camel rides—but also mummy attacks inside pyramids, turning you into an undead soldier if you’re touched by a mummy or poisoned animal. It’s a great side-scrolling shooter, and certainly worth the low asking price.
Marvel Comics has released its new Marvel Unlimited iOS app, enabling iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users to access Marvel’s digital comics subscription program. Though the app is free, subscriptions to the Marvel Unlimited service are $10 a month, or $60 for a year.
About 13,000 back issues of Marvel comics are included with the service. Comics can be added to a user’s library, and six issues can be stored for offline reading; downloaded comics can be synced across all of a user’s devices. Peter Phillips, SVP of Marvel Digital, said most major Marvel titles “should be in there at six months,” according to a report; all of the comics available through Marvel Unlimited are at least six months old. [via Gizmodo]
The newest update for Google’s Chrome (free), the memorably-named version 25.0.1364.86, features improved search and sharing. In a feature rolling out in the coming weeks, a search term can be seen in the omnibox, instead of the long search URL. Holding the back button can now quickly access any page in your tab history, and any web page can now be shared via Messages. Bug fixes and stability and security improvements are included in the update, as well.
Also from Google, a version 1.1 update for the iPhone and iPod touch app Google Maps (free) brings a search for Google Contacts; signing in lets users access saved address for friends and family by name. Version 1.1 also introduces a quicker local search by category, and the ability to choose between miles and kilometers for distance units. Some features may not be available in all countries, and there is still no iPad-specific version of the app.
Amazon has debuted version 2.0 of Amazon Cloud Player (free), featuring an updated design with iPad and iPad mini support. The new interface includes a setting that allows users to manage the size of their offline cache of stored music, a buffer that lets Cloud Player function as an alternative to Apple’s Music app, getting around in-app purchasing by offering Safari-based track buying options.
Robocat’s Haze ($1) is a new weather app with a clean, simple interface and nice animations. Features include motion tilt/slide navigation and a gyroscope-driven wind compass. In addition to providing the standard high and low temperatures in celsius or fahrenheit, windchill, windspeed, wind direction, sunshine hours, UV info, cloud coverage, sunrise and sunset times are included, among other data. Multiple themes allow users to personalize the app.
Amazon is warning users not to update the iOS Kindle app, as the most recent release of the software appears to be deleting entire book libraries and saved settings from iOS devices, according to customer reviews. Amazon notes that version 3.6.1 of the app has a known issue: “If you are an existing Kindle for iOS user, we recommend you do not install this update at this time.”
Update: Amazon has released a new version of the iOS Kindle app, 3.6.2, which features a “fix for registration issue” and “various bug fixes and security fixes.”
Major League Baseball announced at a fan event that 13 teams will accept Passbook tickets at their ballparks this season, up from four stadiums last year. It’s confirmed that the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, Oakland A’s, and Pittsburgh Pirates will start accepting Passbook tickets for the first time in the 2013 MLB season. Additionally, the Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, and San Francisco Giants will accept Passbook again this season, as they did last September. Three more teams will also allow Passbook ticketing, but have yet to make an official announcement. One of those teams may be the Boston Red Sox, a team that allowed Passbook ticketing last year, but was not mentioned in the new report. [via GigaOM]
Adobe has released “Photoshop Touch for phone” ($5) as a standalone app for the iPhone and iPod touch. Overlapping with its previous Photoshop Touch app for iPads, it includes core Photoshop features such as combining images, applying professional effects, and sharing results on Facebook and Twitter, here capped at 12-Megapixel image sizes. The user interface has been modified to make better use of Apple’s smaller screens.
Prior Photoshop Touch features are also included, such as Scribble Selection, which offers high-precision selections using your finger, and Camera Fill, which lets users fill a layer using the iPhone or iPod touch’s camera. Since the app is not universal, users will have to buy both Photoshop Touch apps separately to take advantage of a feature that lets users start a project on the iPhone or iPod touch and finish on the iPad.
Elokence’s popular Akinator the Genie app ($2) has just been optimized for the iPhone 5. For those unfamiliar with the title, Akinator is a genie who guesses what real or fictional character you’re thinking of through yes-or-no questions and a surprisingly robust database. Results can be shared on Facebook, and the 12+ rated app also has a child filter so kids can play safely. People you know can also be added to the game through customization, and the database continues to grow through user-submitted results. If you want to sample the content for free, the Akinator website will give you a good idea of what to expect.
Though it has supported the iPad for quite some time, The Atlantic Magazine: Digital Edition (free) is now also formatted for the iPhone after a recent update, which includes adjustable font size and navigation elements that can be hidden on article pages. Also included in the app’s update is the magazine’s Sexes section, which “explores how the changing balance of power between men and women is transforming society.” Subscribers get free digital magazine access, of course, but the price for a single issue has gone up for non-subscribers: it’s now $7 for a single digital issue, instead of $5.
Acquired some time ago by Amazon, long-time audiobook vendor Audible has released version 2.0 of free its iOS app, now optimized for iPad. The clean, redesigned interface features improved navigation and the ability to sign in with an Amazon account. Finished audiobooks can now be hidden from view, and up to three hours of audio can be downloaded over 3G and 4G networks while on the go.
Cordy 2 (free to try, $5 full game) is the side-scrolling followup to SilverTree Media’s acclaimed iOS action game Cordy. Owing some debt to Sonic the Hedgehog, the fast-moving Cordy makes his way through levels while picking up new abilities along the way, such as a double jump and Bionic Commando-style skyhook. Four levels can be played for free, and all 48 levels become available via a $5 in-app purchase. Multiple “packs” are also available for varying prices, which allow players to customize Cordy with different costumes and colors. If you’re into iOS side-scrollers, Cordy 2 is a fun time with the same style of 2.5-D graphics found in the original title.
Apple has released iOS 6.1.3 beta 2 to developers for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This is notably the second version of the one-time “6.1.1” beta, containing the same Japanese-focused enhancements to the Maps application; Apple changed the name after releasing 6.1.1 and 6.1.2 patches to fix bugs with iOS 6.1. The beta is available through Apple’s developer portal. [via 9to5Mac]
During its partial introduction of the PlayStation 4 video game console on Wednesday, Sony announced a new app that will let an iOS device become a “second screen” for PlayStation 4 games. The upcoming PlayStation App will allow iPhone and iPad users to download PS4 games to play at home, remotely watch other gamers play, and see additional information on the screen when playing a PS4 game. As an example, Sony said an adventure game could use the app to let players see maps on their iOS devices. According to Sony, the PlayStation 4 will be available “this holiday season,” though pricing, region-specific release dates, and the final form factor of the console have not yet been made public.
Apple has released iOS 6.1.2, an update that fixes “an Exchange calendar bug that could result in increased network activity and reduced battery life.” Though not specifically mentioned, it’s likely the update will also resolve the lock screen security flaw found in iOS 6.1. iOS 6.1.2 can be downloaded from iTunes or via the Settings > Software Update menu on an iOS device.
Kickstarter has unveiled an official free app for the iPhone and iPod touch, which functions much like a mobile version of the crowd funding site. Most users will use the app to discover new projects, watch videos, and get updates on projects they’ve funded straight from the app. Allowing location services also lets users find new nearby projects automatically. On the flip side, project creators can track their project’s progress, connect with backers, and post updates from anywhere. While we’re generally very hesitant to treat Apple-focused Kickstarter campaigns as real news, based on the frequency of delays, over-promising in campaigns, and other issues, users who are interested in trying their luck with the service may like the app.
Amazon’s free Kindle app has been updated to version 3.6 with several new features. Multicolored highlights allow users to select from four different colors to highlight important passages. After finishing a book, readers can now easily share that fact with friends on Facebook and Twitter, as well as rating the book and writing a review. Other books of interest can then be added to a wish list. Also, the brightness control within the app will now be saved, so when a user’s device goes to sleep, the settings will no longer be changed and needed to be reset.