News/Rumors

Apple to work with Shazam for song recognition in iOS 8

According to the Wednesday report, Apple is planning to incorporate a song identification feature as a new addition to iOS 8, and is working with Shazam to roll out the capability.

Song identification capabilities are believed to gather sound from an iPhone or iPad’s microphone, and after transfering it to the cloud for processing, return results to device owners.

Along with Shazam, the company will be able to offer users a way to discover a song that is playing on the radio or from another source, such as a TV, using a small music clip.

Shazam, itself, has previously marketed its own song identification app and technology in the App Store. The service’s system acts in the very similar way as solution described by sources, suggesting Apple may simply pull data into a first-party app as it does with Weather and Stocks.

Unlike some of the company’s other music-releated features, including Podcasts and iTunes U, it will be built into the OS directly rather than require a separate download.

shazam

According to Bloomberg:

“The song-identification feature will be integrated into the mobile software in the same way that Twitter’s service is currently incorporated, meaning consumers don’t need to separately download it. Among the ways it can be used will be through Apple’s voice-activated search feature, Siri. An iPhone user will be able to say something like “what song is playing,” to find out the tune’s details, one person said.”

Shazam, a popular service with running on 20 percent of iPhones in March 2013, now boasts some 90 million users.

Apple traditionally previews its operating system updates at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference slated to begin on June 2.

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Windows Phone 8.1 adds Apple’s Passbook support

Microsoft has added support for Apple’s Passbook passes in Windows Phone 8.1. The company announced this latest version of Windows Phone earlier this month and equipped the mobile OS with digital assistant and Siri competitor, called Cortana.

The upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 update brings support for Apple’s Passbook iOS app, giving users the ability to load coupons, tickets, boarding passes, etc, designed for Passbook into the Microsoft Wallet app.

According to the report from  Tom Warren of The Verge, Microsoft has created a method that takes the data from a Passbook file and converts it into a card that is imported into Microsoft Wallet.

Passbook debuted in 2012 as an Apple-only platform for iPhone, allowing users to have access to digital wallet items in a convenient fashion. Until now, Passbook has not been officially available on other platforms.

But with the Microsoft’s support, any user running the latest version of the company’s mobile operating system gets the access to Passbook passes on their device without the need for additional software or hacks.

passbook

Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 8.1 earlier this month, bringing a Siri-like voice-driven personal assistant dubbed “Cortana.” However, the company didn’t mention its built-in support for Passbook files.

Meanwhile, Apple has continued to update the service, allowing third-party apps to create Passbook passes and adding support for gift cards.

iPhone, News/Rumors

Rumor: Alleged images of iPhone 6 manufacturing molds and schematics

A pack of photos posted on the Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo on Sunday allegedly reveals detailed schematics, CAD renderings and physical manufacturing molds for Apple’s next-generation iPhone.

The images are reported to come from a factory belonging to Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn, as the first batch of photos shows very detailed drawings of the chassis for a smartphone-type device, while the second set images is stated to be of the Apple’s next-generation iPhone.

While the molds, as seen on the photos, seem to be designed for a new device, there is no confirmation that these will be used for the next-generation smartphone. The company is rumored to be working on two various models of the iPhone 6 with different screen sizes.

If the modes are truly designed for the next iPhone, they could be for the 4.7″ or 5.5″ versions.

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According to the recent reports, the smaller 4.7 inch version is set to ship in the third quarter of 2014, while the larger one may appear later this year or early next year due to production issues.

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Another photo of purported iPhone 6, reveals technical schematics of the device, showing its thin chassis design with a tapered design.

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The overall look of the smartphone appears to be consistent with the iPhone range, with a display cutout surrounded by thin bezels and larger top and bottom areas for functional components like a Touch ID-equipped home button and FaceTime camera.

Apple is expected to ship the iPhone 6 later this year, whith both models equipped with a thinner design, new A8 processor, Touch ID fingerprint sensor, 1GB of RAM, and an improved camera with optical image stabilization.

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Age of Empires: World Domination сoming to iOS this summer

Microsoft and KLab have announced Age of Empires: World Domination for mobile coming this summer. The mobile version will be available for users of iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

The first news about Microsoft’s plan to bring the Age of Empires Franchise to iOS was first revealed in July 2013, but some believed it would be a port of the free to play Age of Empires Online. Instead, the company has created an absolutely new game in the series.

Developer KLabGames proffers:

“Age of Empires: World Domination expands the award-winning Age of Empires series by building an intuitive, yet deep, mobile strategy game.”

Dubbed Age of Empires: World Domination, it is expected to be a true RTS game with lots of action and some solid animation for the units. Users will be allowed to pick from several various historical civilizations, including the Celts, Huns, Franks and more. It’s unknown if it will be a paid game or a free title with in-game purchases.

Age of Empires is a collection of real-time strategy games published by Microsoft Studios. The first game, Age of Empires, debuted in 1997 and received a lot of positive reviews.

Microsoft released a revamped version of Age of Empires II for the PC in 2013, along with an all-new expansion pack for that game. A graphically updated version of the spin-off game Age of Mythology is also scheduled at May.

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Apple to add high resolution audio downloads to iTunes

Following a report, that Apple is planning a “dramatic overhaul” of its iTunes Music store, allowing to combat declining music downloads, which could include an on-demand streaming music service and an Android version of iTunes, the company seems to be considering an entry into the high-definition music industry with 24-bit tracks.
According to music blogger Robert Hutton, who cites an unspecified source, Apple is going to roll out hi-res iTunes music downloads in early June, possibly at WWDC.

“For several years, Apple have been insisting that labels provide files for iTunes in 24 bit format – preferably 96k or 192k sampling rate. So they have undeniably the biggest catalog of hi-res audio in the world.

And the Led Zeppelin remasters in high resolution will be the kick off event – to coincide with Led Zep in hi-res, Apple will flip the switch and launch their hi-res store via iTunes – and apparently, it will be priced a buck above the typical current file prices.

That’s right – Apple will launch hi-res iTunes in two months.”

itunes-music

However, the source wasn’t named by Hutton, Apple was much rumored to be interested in adding higher quality music to iTunes. Steve Jobs was reportedly working on hardware to store and play back “high-quality audio” before he left.

Apple has been working on bringing music in a 24-bit format for a few years, with a 2011 report suggesting the tech giant was in talks with record labels to improve the quality of iTunes Music. Now, the company offers audio files on iTunes in 16-bit lossy AAC format encoded at 256 kbps to minimize file size.

Assuming all of these facts, Apple’s obviously interested in market for 24-bit music but are they interested enough to make a move?

Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, Mac, News/Rumors

Apple to roll out multiple products in 2014, including iWatch, ‘iPhone 6,’ 12″ MacBook and low-cost iMac

Apple is preparing to release multiple new products in Q3 2014,  including the much rumored iWatch, redesigned “iPhone 6,” a 12-inch MacBook Air and a low-cost iMac.

According to the KGI securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo, who often provides reliable information, the only thing we can expect to see in the first half of the year is a small iMac update. Starting at the end of the third quarter and continuing into the beginning of the fourth, the company will start introducing a number of upgraded and new devices.

“We believe the rumored iWatch will be Apple’s most important product this year, carrying much more weight than iPhone 6,” Kuo writes, adding, “as market feedback for the product should reveal whether Apple still has the ability to continue making game-changing products with Tim Cook at the helm.”

Such products, like an upgraded Apple TV set-top box is set to appear somewhat later, including the rumored 12-inch ultra slim MacBook and upgraded Retina MacBook Pros. The fourth quarter will bring the 5.5-inch iPhone, which is also rumored to be delayed due to issues with in-cell display technology.

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Here is an overview of all of Kuo’s predictions for this year:

iWatch

The iWatch is believed to be available in two sizes: 1.3-inch and 1.5-inch and equipped with flexible, sapphire-covered AMOLED displays. Additionally, the product will feature biometric recognition, an NFC chip, wireless charging, a 200-250 mAh battery, and get a slim and light design. The iWatch may also be offered at multiple price points, with the most expensive version costing upwards of $1,000.

iPhone 6

The device will come in two sizes: 4.7 and 5.5-inches, with resolutions of 1334×750 (326ppi) and 1920 x 1080 (401 ppi), respectively. Both models will be provided an A8 processor, 1GB of RAM, LTPS display panels, optical image stabilization, and Touch ID. Both smartphones will have up to 20% narrower bezels than and measure between 6.5-7mm thick.

iPads

Both the second generation iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display may come with an A8 chip and Touch ID. The analyst also says that the new Air could also receive a bump in iSight camera quality thanks to a new 8MP sensor, and launch earlier than October.

Macs

An updated iMac, equipped with a new processor is believed to be the first product launch of the year. The company could also reveal a new lower-priced model, which would help boost slipping iMac shipments. In addition, a new MacBook model could be expected in the near future: a 12-inch MacBook Air with a higher resolution display.

KGI is usually pretty reliable on the product details in reports like this, though the timing is sometimes less accurate.

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Apple reportedly testing a new notification feature for Maps

Apple is reportedly testing a new notification feature for Maps, according to a report from MacRumors. After choosing to ‘Report a Problem’ within the Maps app, one of the users was provided with an option to receive a notification when the problem was resolved, with the company sending a push notification indicating the issue had been fixed.

The feature seems to be in testing and the company didn’t provide any details concerning the date it might be made available to all users. Those who have first seen the notification option say it only appears intermittently. As a confirmation, some screenshots showing a new option were posted on the site.

Users received the ability to  report errors since Maps first appeared in September of 2012. The company has not previously sent notifications that allow users to know when an issue has been fixed. The similar feature was recently included into Google’s mapping service and sends users notifications through email about the status of their issue.

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Apple has recently faced significant complaints over data inaccuracies when the app first launched alongside iOS 6. The company’s CEO Tim Cook publicly apologized for the problems with its Maps, adding that Apple was “extremely sorry” for the frustration it had caused and promised to work “non stop” until Maps was improved.

Today’s news comes as Apple continues to work to fix the problems, issuing a number of updates to the Maps app over the years with a lot of enhancements.

The company also promises the Maps app will receive a significant update in iOS 8 later this year.

Apple has already hired several “ground truth” experts around the world to improve the quality of its mapping service.

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Adobe announces ‘Lightroom Mobile’ for iPad with on-the-go photo editing

Adobe finally revealed its new Lightroom mobile app for the iPad, giving photographers who use the desktop version of Lightroom the ability to edit and organize images from anywhere. Lightroom mobile is not a standalone app and requires both a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud and Lightroom 5 to function.  You log in to the app with your Adobe ID and sync your photos between your tablet and desktop using Adobe’s servers. The app allows users to download Smart Previews of files from the desktop app, offering very fast content transfers between the desktop and the mobile app. Smart Previews require an ongoing Internet connection to sync back and forth between Adobe’s servers to prevent iPad users from having to download too big files, but files can also be downloaded in full for offline editing if preferred. You get the ability to edit and make adjustments to these mobile-friendly photos and sync them back to your desktop while retaining the same, RAW quality without missing a beat.

With Lightroom Mobile, you can collect  pictures from multiple places, meaning all the changes made on the iPad’s app will be reflected back to the desktop in the original, high quality version.

Similar to the desktop version of Lightroom, the mobile app provides much of the same functionality, giving access to metadata and a basic editing toolbar that includes desktop presets and adjustment tools for altering shadows, clarity, contrast, and more. The app also offers crop and rotate tools and a simple three finger tap on the screen displays before and after when editing.

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To add photos to Lightroom Mobile for editing, you can also use the iPad’s built-in Camera Roll. The images can be brought via Apple’s Camera Connection Kit or the iPad itself to capture photos intended for Lightroom Mobile. Lightroom Mobile allows also to make a copy of any images imported from iOS’s Camera Roll.

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Adobe’s Lightroom mobile has intuitive gestures, allowing to easily control a number of various functions.  Tapping an image results in full screen view and a simple swipe up or down allows it to be flagged for editing or rejected. Additionally, you can sort photos by different aspects like capture time, file name, modification time, and more.

Lightroom Mobile is available exclusively on the iPad and is expected to hit iPhone later this year.

News/Rumors

Google readying Android TV set-top box with easy-to-use card interface, voice controls and more

Google is preparing to announce a new Android TV set-top media box with a simple card interface voice controls, push notifications and more.

According to new documents obtained by The Verge, while the box is powered by Android, the interface comes in with a number of “cards” representing various channel options, such as movies, shows, apps, and games. Users will get the ability to scroll through the interface with a four-way directional pad that includes Enter, Home, and Back buttons, with the set-top box reportedly featuring optional game controllers.

According to the earlier reports, Google was planning to rebrand Google TV under the Android moniker. But the new platform is said to differ from the company’s Google TV flop and will be more in line with offerings from Roku, the Apple TV and the new Amazon Fire TV.

In addition to these features, the company is reportedly asking select developers to create games and apps for its new set-top box with optimized interfaces for the TV, as apps for Vevo, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora are planned to ship with the product. Google will also work on its own apps including Play Movies, YouTube, and Hangouts.

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“Android TV is Android, optimized for the living room consumption experience on a TV screen,” writes the company, but the focus is on simplicity for now. Google is stripping away unneeded features like telephony, cameras, touchscreen support and near-field communication to keep developers focused, and handing them ready-made interfaces where they can hopefully just plug in shows, games, photos, music, and films.”

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The release date is still unknown, but it is clear that Google’s Android TV will appear on a growing market of set-top boxes pretty soon and bring strong competition with other devices like the Apple TV and Roku.

Finally , Google is said to keep the Chromecast platform as a separate product offering,  with The Verge noting that developers will be required to build two different interfaces for the two different devices.

iPhone, News/Rumors

Fingerprint scanners: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 5S Touch ID

Following the debut of the iPhone 5s and its Touch ID fingerprint scanner in October last year,  Samsung followed with its own version of a fingerprint scanner in the Galaxy S5, which is scheduled to be released on April 11.

A new YouTube clip from Tanner Marsh offers a comparison of Touch ID on iPhone 5s with the fingerprint scanner of the upcoming Galaxy S5, showing the process of setting up fingerprint recognition on both products and comparing and contrasting some of the available functionality.

Both systems are embedded in the home button and both serve as an easier way to secure a device, but that’s the only similarity.

While Apple’s Touch ID utilizes a round home button that captures a motionless fingerprint, Samsung’s sensor requires a swiping motion to scan the finger from base to tip using a rectangular home button.  As mentioned in the video, the method used by Samsung may inhibits one-handed operation and owners with smaller fingers can be limited to the digits they can register due to the sensor’s size.

Both devices have not only pros, but cons as well. While Samsung’s fingerprint sensor faces a number of issues, Apple’s Touch ID suffers from its own problems, such as “fade,” or the increasingly erratic performance of the fingerprint sensor over time. The updated version of its iOS helped to solve the issue, bringing several improvements to Touch ID’s fingerprint recognition capabilities.

As for speed, both devices work pretty fast.

Notably, that in addition to unlocking the device, the S5′s scanner can also authorize PayPal payments and be accessed by 3rd party developers. Apple also has plans to include payments with its Touch ID fingerprint scanner, but has yet to do so.