News/Rumors

Microsoft aims to expand Xbox Live on iOS

Microsoft last November introduced its free SmartGlass app on the App Store, bringing Xbox One users the ability to connect to their console to browse the web, navigate the dashboard control content and more, all from their iPhone and iPad devices.

According to a new report from The Verge, the giant is aiming to entrench its popular Xbox Live service into both the iOS and Android ecosystems for a few years, allowing developers to integrate the service in iOS and Android games.

“While Microsoft has experimented with achievements on iOS and Android recently, the company is planning to push Xbox Live cross-platform in a big way soon. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that Microsoft is building a platform to extend Xbox Live functionality to iOS and Android games.”

The company has been offering tools letting third-party iOS and Android developers integrate Xbox Live functionality into their apps and games.

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As reported, the idea is that this expansion would make Xbox Live act as a cross-platform alternative to Apple’s Game Center and similar services, providing users with the ability to earn achievements, manage friends and more through a single service across Xbox and mobile platforms. Both services now allow users to track their achievements in titles and add friends to have a look at what others are playing.

Apple released its Game Center as a social gaming solution for iOS developers in 2010 and made it available for Mac in 2012, making it a true cross-platform service for Apple’s hardware ecosystem.

Perhaps, Microsoft hopes to attract developers who have been previously put off by the company’s strict certification requirements for titles. The company is planning to reduce those restrictions in order to court smaller and independent developers, which have chosen platforms like iOS and Android.

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Oceanhouse Media celebrates Dr. Seuss’ Birthday with a huge sale

In honor of both Dr. Seuss’s birthday and Read Across America Day, the team of Oceanhouse Media in partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., kicked off its annual app sale. That means, that more than 60 of the company’s Dr. Seuss digital book apps can be picked up with up to 80% off starting February 28th through March 6th. The biggest sale is for the popular story that Dr. Seuss is most known for, The Cat in the Hat at just $0.99.

Here’s some of the more popular titles.

  • The Cat in the Hat, $0.99
  • Green Eggs and Ham, $1.99
  • One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, $1.99
  • The Lorax, $2.99
  • Horton Hears a Who!, $2.99
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas, $2.99
  • McElligot’s Pool, $2.99
  • Dr. Seuss’s ABC, $1.99

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It is a fantastic present for parents, whose children enjoy reading virtual Dr. Seuss books on an iOS device. Five of The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library book apps help young children understand basic science concepts and explore plenty of subjects from animals and nature to outer space. Recent releases include “If I Ran the Rain Forest” and “Miles and Miles of Reptiles.”

“This is the first Read Across America Day that each of the 44 classic Dr. Seuss books are available on the App Store as a digital book app,” said Michel Kripalani, founder and president of Oceanhouse Media. “We’re offering the 5 bestsellers for 99 cents each to encourage new fans to give them a try.”

As mentioned, a range of titles are available from as little as $0.99, and the sale is scheduled to run until March 6.

News/Rumors

Apple launches ‘CarPlay’ iOS vehicle integration feature

As expected, Apple has announced its CarPlay iOS vehicle integration feature at the Geneva Motor Show. It is advertised as a smarter, safer and more fun way to contact with your iPhone while driving.

CarPlay reportedly allows your device to take over the in-dash display of a car, providing Siri voice controlled access to the following opportunities: navigation, phone functions, messages, and music.

Once an iPhone is connected to a CarPlay-supported vehicle, its user will be able to easily access various iOS apps, including Maps, Phone, Messages, Podcasts, and Music, Beats Radio, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and Stitcher. More apps are also promised to appear in the future. Additionally, drivers will be provided with the access to contacts, calls and voicemails. The new feature also allows to have messages read aloud, and a user can dictate a response to them as well.

CarPlay will debut this week in vehicles from manufacturers such as Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, while other manufacturers such as BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota will have access to the update later.

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“CarPlay has been designed from the ground up to provide drivers with an incredible experience using their iPhone in the car,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone and iOS Product Marketing. “iPhone users always want their content at their fingertips and CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction. We have an amazing lineup of auto partners rolling out CarPlay, and we’re thrilled it will make its debut this week in Geneva.”

The feature originally called ‘iOS in the Car’ was unveiled by Apple during its developers conference last summer. While the iPhone maker said that the functionality was ”very important to the company,” a report in January claimed the project was plagued by ‘organizational issues.’

CarPlay will be available as an update to iOS 7 and works with Lighting-enabled iPhones including the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5.

Accessories, News/Rumors

Moov-personal trainer from former Apple engineer

There is no need to describe the hype around “smart” watch-form gadgets. The range of such devices can be divided into smart watches and fitness trackers. The abilities of most of them are not too different from each other, although there are sometimes pretty interesting ideas. Moov, created by a former Apple engineer is one of them.

Unlike many other devices that read parameters such as heart rate, steps, calories and so on, Moov is described as a personal trainer. The accessory not only tracks your activities, it also gives you personalized tips to improve your workout performance. The Moov is provided with nine-axis sensors like accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer. These sensors collect necessary data, analyzes the quality of the exercises and in real time gives tips to improve your training. For example, while running, the device can provide real-time audio advice in a form of recommendations. It can ask you to change step length or reduce the speed.

The device uses 3d motion reconstruction technology to analyze and distinguish between a bunch of activities, including running, biking, swimming, weight lifting and more. All the tips and programs are created by certified coaches and based on biomechanics and sport science research.

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Designed in a form of a waterproof disk, Moov can track the position and movement of the human body during exercises. All you have to do is put it on the wrist, shoulder, ankle. The device will support five activities – running, weight lifting, boxing, swimming and biking – with more to come in the future.

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The data collected by the tracker, are then sent to your iPhone or iPad and processed by a special app, which corrects certain aspects of your training. Moov connects your device via Bluetooth 4.0. The rechargeable battery provides up to 7 days of work.

Everyone can pre-order Moov for $59.95. Moov is currently available in black or white.

Apps Lists, iOS

Google Hangouts updated with iOS 7 and iPad optimization

Google on Thursday updated its all-in-one Hangouts messaging app  to version 2.0, bringing optimizations for Apple’s latest iOS 7 and adding a number of new features for iPad and overall usability enhancements. It is the first update for the app since all the way back in November.

In October of 2013, the app also received voice calling and Google Voice integration.

There are aren’t a ton of changes in a new update, but everything definitely has the iOS 7 look and feel to it. The new version now has totally flat menus and buttons.

Several new features have also been added, including the ability to share animated stickers and record and send video messages up to 10 seconds long. In addition, you can send a map of your current location to other Hangouts users.

The iPad app has also gotten some major tweaks, including picture-in-picture video calling.Hangouts

The full list of features is below:

    • Fully-optimized for the iPad, including picture-in-picture video calling
    •  Animated stickers that help you share exactly how you’re feeling
    • Record and send video messages up to 10 seconds long
    •  Send a map of your current location
    •  Optimized for iOS 7

Google Hangouts is a popular cross-platform messaging service that allows you to send and receive text, photo and video messages. Users have also the ability to create group video conferences, known as ‘hangouts.’

Google’s Hangouts app can be downloaded from the App Store for free.

Accessories, News/Rumors

Fin thumb ring converts your palm into a numeric keypad

Smartphones, smartwatches and even smart glasses continue to enrich the line of smart accessories. Smart rings are certainly less common but still pretty intriguing ideas. One of them is Fin, a thumb ring designed to turn your whole palm into a gesture interface. Fin wraps around your thumb and converts your palm into a numeric keypad.

The main goal of the device is to enable hand gesture control of smart devices, aims to not only provide better connectivity, but to alter the way you interact with your favorite gadgets.

How doest Fin work?  Fin is a Bluetooth enabled product that you can connect to three different digital devices, including Smartphones, Smart TVs, Automobiles, and Home automation devices providing multiple device compatibility. Fin has built-in sensors that allow it to track its movement in relation to your palm.  Gestures are then imported into commands for different devices that are transmitted via Bluetooth 4.0.20140110101734-Fin-Indiegogo-spec

Additionally, the ring is equipped with an LED indicator, and runs on a lithium-ion battery that requires a single charge for a whole month. It can then be recharged via a Micro-USB port. Among other advantages of the accessory is its waterproof feature with a rating of IP67. The developer also claims the ring is dust proof.

The device is compatible with iOS, Android and Windows phones.

Key features:

  • Fin should come with Water-proof: IP67.
  • Size/Fit: Flexible.
  • Battery: Li Po custom battery with micro-USB charging dock.
  • Sensors: Fin can track accurate movement of your thumb on the palm also detect each part of your finger where you are touching.
  • Communication: Bluetooth 2.1+ EDR and 4.0
  • Compatibility: Windows, MAC, iOS, Android, Windows Phones.

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With just a swipe motion, the ring allows you to control your smart TV, change the channels, control sounds, navigate your maps, receive calls and read messages, change music, and other car utilities. You can easily share your data with a tap of your finger.

The ring will come in white, orange, black, blue and green, with shipping estimated for September.

Fin is still in prototype phase, and a crowd-funding campaign has been launched via Indiegogo. To gain a ring for yourself you’ll have to pledge $130.

News/Rumors

Apple updates IT tools for large-scale iOS device deployments

Apple has updated the software used by big companies and educational institutions to deploy thousands of iPads and iPhones to employees and students.

The updates affect Apple’s Device Enrollment Program, Volume Purchase Program and Apple ID Student services. The new changes don’t require IT administrators plug each device into a computer and apply a profile that configured the settings and restrictions.

In addition, profiles can now be locked to specific devices, preventing employees or students from removing any restrictions by revoking the IT department’s profile. Previously, it was a big problem. This has been a key problem for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s  distributing iPads to thousands of students.

Deployed devices are also available to manage remotely with help of a new zero-touch configuration setup, which provides IT admins the ability to reconfigure or wipe corporate iPhones and iPads without ever having to bring it into an office.Deployment

“This ‘zero touch’ setup has been a long-requested feature for many pros, as it eliminates the need to cable up every deployed device and install a profile via Apple’s Configurator utility.”

Enrollment for the program is also made easier with a new dedicated webpage called “Deployment Programs.” More services are also attached to the website to make new enrollments and management easier for the end user.

The company has expanded the Volume Purchase Program to more countries, allowing to make VPP purchases via purchase order. Additionally, the iPhone maker has also set up a new type of COPPA-compliant Apple ID for students under the age of 13.

Much more information about deploying iOS devices is available on Apple’s website.

Accessories, Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Apple releases ‘Made for iPhone’ specifications for iBeacons

In a push for wider iBeacon adoption, Apple has on Tuesday released the iBeacon specifications for members of the ”Made for iPhone” program, Apple’s program for hardware partners.

iBeacons are known as Bluetooth low-energy transmitters that use Apple’s iBeacon API to send micro-location information to nearby apps and devices. This accessory is compatible with Apple’s iPhones and iPads, as well as other devices that use Bluetooth LE.  iBeacon is particularly interesting for retailers.

Apple is now implementing tighter control over who can use the ‘iBeacon’ branding. That means, that the company is now requiring manufacturers meet certain specifications before using ‘iBeacon’ on their products. According to Apple’s “Made for iPhone” program, manufacturers will have to ask for permission to use the iBeacon name on products. Fortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any requirements that would limit the functionality of beacon products already on the market. The requirements are comparable to those for Bluetooth accessory makers under the MFi program. Using the term iBeacon requires manufacturers to meet specific criteria, which are only available after a non-disclosure agreement has been signed. ibeacon-131206

This new specification provides Apple more control over the iBeacon trademark, meaning no longer usage of the iBeacon brand without consent from Apple.

With introduction of iBeacon micro-location technology, users received a new great way to interact with their environment.

After a number of tests, Apple released the technology in December at its U.S. retail stores. Most recently, Major League Baseball announced successful iBeacon installations at stadiums that will send notifications that include info related to the game and stadium through the MLB At the Ballpark app. MLB also announced its plans to apply iBeacon tech in over 20 parks before the 2014 season’s stateside opener in March.

Accessories, Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Resound Linx-the world’s first made for iPhone hearing aid

GN ReSound, a Danish hearing aid manufacturer, launched a new hearing aid, which connects directly to iPhones and other iOS devices. The accessory is designed to allow hearing impaired to talk on the phone or listen to music, without the need for an additional remote control.

There are more than 500 million people worldwide, who suffer from some degree of hearing loss and they are not only those at advanced age, but much younger as well. A hearing aid can help them regain their hearing so they can live the life they’re used to.

The LiNX can be used to talk on the phone and listen to music, with a custom app. Once launched, the app allows to adjust volume levels, change device settings and switch between preset environments for the hearing aid, allowing the accessory to optimize to the user’s environment. Hearing aids feature a number of modes, allowing to automatically change sound profiles based on the location of the user, changing for work, home, or a favorite restaurant. Additionally, the app includes a “Find My Hearing Aid” function to help wearers find their device if it’s lost.

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The developers use a unique 2.4GHz protocol used by the LiNX and designed specifically for communication between iPhones and hearing aids.

The hearing aid itself can also function as a high-quality headset, providing users with the ability to answer calls, listen to turn-by-turn directions, and much more on their iOS device.ReSound-LiNX-image-001

“We saw an opportunity to create the world’s best hearing aid by combining the capability of GN ReSound’s life-changing technologies with the compatibility and global prevalence of iPhone, iPad and iPod touch,” said GN ReSound CEO Lars Viksmoen. “We are committed to improving people’s lives through use of innovative technology and look forward to more people correcting their hearing with this new technology – a triumph in accessibility for the hearing impaired.”

Previously, hearing aid wearers had to carry a wireless device to make changes to settings on a tiny hearing aid. But the new accessory allows to make those changes directly on the iPhone.

The price of the device is unclear.

News/Rumors

Samsung announces Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor

Samsung yesterday introduced its next-generation Galaxy S5 flagship phone at its Unpacked 5 event at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. As reported, the new device includes a fingerprint sensor built into the device’s home button, allowing users to unlock their handset and access private data stored on the phone. Additionally, the South Korean company also confirmed that it will be allowing mobile payments with the fingerprint scanner as well as using it as a security feature to make content in certain apps only accessible when activated by the user’s fingerprint.

Samsung’s sensor is activated using a swiping motion that scans the finger.

Samsung Galaxy S5 itself looks similar to its predecessors, though it is provided a special soft-touch textured backing and a water resistant casing. The front of the device features a 5.1-inch display at a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, powered by a 2.5-gigahertz quad-core processor and two gigabytes of RAM. The smartphone runs Android “KitKat” version 4.4.2.

It has a 20 percent improved battery life and offers a built-in power saving mode that will activate a black and white display with limited app access when the battery is low. samsung-140224-1

There’s also a new S Health app that takes advantage of the phone’s new heart rate sensor. Users are just required to place their finger on the sensor to have it measure their pulse.

The new device also focuses on health and fitness, and provides a personal fitness tracker, which allows to monitor and manage their behavior. There are also a number of apps included, that are tasked to record diet and exercise records.

The next-generation Galaxy S5 flagship phone features a 16-megapixel shooter that comes with an improved menu and user interface. According to the company, the new device offers the world’s fastest autofocus speed, getting a shot in focus in up to 0.3 seconds.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is scheduled to go on sale in April.