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]
Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Pirates ($5) has added Nassau as a new location in version 1.1.0. Nassau features 10 new secondary missions, 12 new treasures, 3 new ships to unlock, and a new pirate, Charles Vane. Vane is notably featured in a new campaign mission. New defense gameplay has been added, as well.
GoodReader for iPad ($5), the PDF reader from Good.iWare, has upgraded to version 3.20.0. A new user interface and full iOS 7 compatibility await users. The app now features faster PDF rendering, a new audio player, and a number of other new options that make for a better, easier user experience.
Apple has released its third beta for iOS 7.1, including bug fixes and improvements. The beta also notably features redesigned swipe to power off graphics, tweaks to the look of the Phone application for iPhones, and a variety of other cosmetic changes. iOS 7.1 beta 2 was released in mid-December.
The Consumer Electronics Association’s free 2014 International CES app is devoted to next week’s Consumer Electronics Show. A list of exhibitors is featured, as are floor maps of the gigantic show. Events and keynotes are also listed, in addition to speakers and conference sessions. If you’re going, make sure to stop by the iLounge Pavilion. We’ll see you there!
Sega has released Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed ($5), a new racing game featuring Sonic, Tails, and the rest of the gang. Cars, boats, and planes can all be raced through changing courses full of alternate routes and power-ups. Four-player multiplayer is supported online and locally. The game also supports iOS controllers.
Nokia has pulled its HERE Maps app from Apple’s iOS App Store, citing changes in iOS 7 as the reason. A Nokia spokesperson said in a statement to The Indian Express, “We have made the decision to remove our HERE Maps app from the Apple App Store because recent changes to iOS 7 harm the user experience. iPhone users can continue to use the mobile web version of HERE Maps under m.here.com, offering them core location needs, such as search, routing, orientation, transit information and more, all completely free of charge.” The app was removed from the App Store earlier this month. HERE Maps launched for iOS in November 2012 and received a fair bit of publicity at the time as it was released for iOS prior to Google Maps, amidst ongoing uproar over Apple’s botched release of its new iOS 6 Maps service.
Duolingo — recently selected by Apple as its iPhone App of the Year — has updated to version 3.1.1. The intuitive free language learning app now lets users practice all skills and strengthen skills at any time. A new Language Coach feature keeps users dedicated and on track. Also, Duolingo has added Lingots, a new virtual currency that can be traded in for extras. Like everything else in the app, Lingots are free.
Google has updated its Google Search (free) app to version 3.2. The app has been updated for iOS 7 with true full screen browsing. Faster image search has been added for iPad. The app also features better integration of the Google Maps app.
Duck Duck Moose’s new Build-A-Truck ($2) allows kids to — you guessed it — build a truck. Children can create a truck, then add paint, decals, wheels, and all sorts of other crazy contraptions to their vehicle. Kids can then race their truck, which is legitimately fun, and the design chosen for the vehicle affects how the truck drives. Collecting stars during the racing game lets kids unlock additional objects to customize the truck.
Cut the Rope 2 ($1) is ZeptoLab’s sequel to the popular Cut the Rope. The new game offers 120 levels, and five new characters, “the Nommies,” each affecting gameplay in their own ways. Other new gameplay tweaks have been added — Om Nom can sometimes even be moved now. He can also be customized with new hats, if you’re into that sort of thing. Fundamentally, the gameplay and graphics are extremely similar to the original titles, but the new levels are neat.
Rovio’s Angry Birds Rio HD is now free in version 1.8.0. The game also has added 26 new levels — 20 standard levels and 6 bonus levels to unlock. Two new characters have also been introduced into the game: Stella, with her bubble blower, and Rocket Bird, who appears in the new bonus levels.
Camera+ ($2) from tap tap tap has updated to version 5, which introduces “The Lab” — a collection of cool new photo editing options. The new features include an adjustable clarity filter, auto-straighten, tint adjustments, soft focus and film grain effects, blurring, sharpening, and more, all designed to make real-world practical photo editing as easy as possible. An iOS 7 wallpaper creation feature is also present. Dozens of icons within the app have been redesigned to match iOS 7, as has the app icon itself.
Disney’s Mickey Mouse: Mash-Up ($4) lets children participate in the “making” of a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Kids can draw a handful of objects that can appear in the short cartoon, which is titled “No Service!” You can then watch your creations appear and interact with them, including scenes in which Mickey and Donald Duck swap clothes, and Mickey has to hide behind objects you’ve created. Timeless and deliberately silly, the Mash-Up app is good as-is, but could really benefit from additional shorts for kids to play with.
The classic 3-D adventure and shooting game Tomb Raider ($1) from Eidos/Square Enix is now available in the App Store. Interestingly, it’s being billed as Tomb Raider I, which suggests that the sequel will be available at some point. The full game from 1996 is included, in addition to two extra “Unfinished Business” chapters included in the 1998 Tomb Raider Gold re-release. Tomb Raider supports iOS game controllers, as well as on-screen input, though the controls remain as dicey as they were decades ago.
Apple has released its “Best of 2013” list on iTunes. The annual best of list highlights Apple’s favorites and best-sellers in apps, music, movies, books, TV shows, and podcasts. In apps, Apple selected Duolingo, the free language learning app, as its iPhone App of the Year.
Apple’s iPad App of the Year was Disney Animated ($10). The iPhone Game of the Year and iPad Game of the Year are Vlambeer’s Ridiculous Fishing — A Tale of Redemption ($3) and Frogmind’s Badland ($4), respectively.