It's like Sega and Sony all over again. We don't mean the hardware arms race (although that's certainly happening), but how the smartphone world's two top players are now fighting over the most popular games... and their sequels. Gaming is one of the top money-spinning app categories on smartphones and tablets and according to a WSJ report, both Apple and Google are trying to get popular games and their developers on their side. The companies promise headline placement in their respective online stores and prominent ads around the app portal, in exchange for exclusivity, or at least a lead. This was apparently the case for Plants Vs. Zombies 2 last year, where Apple got a two-month lead over the Android version -- and it's not the only one.
It's easy to track down iPhone apps that name catchy tunes, but it now looks like Apple wants to spare you from having to search in the first place. Bloomberg sources claim that a future version of iOS will incorporate Shazam's song recognition in the same way that the existing mobile platform integrates Facebook and Twitter. While built-in music detection wouldn't be a new idea (just ask Windows Phone users), you could ask Siri to tell you what's playing rather than hit a button. There aren't any clues as to when the feature would reach iOS. However, Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference begins in early June -- if the rumor is accurate, there's a good chance we'll get the full scoop in a matter of weeks.
We already know Apple is working on improving Siri, but gosh dangit, the folks in Cupertino just aren't moving as fast as some would like. That's why a quartet of freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania decided to try making Siri do more on their own... at a hackathon, no less. They wound up taking third prize for the hack -- called GoogolPlex -- and after some fine-tuning, Alex Sands, Ajay Patel, Ben Hsu and Gagan Gupta are ready to help you make your virtual assistant do more. The setup process is trivial: you just have to change your Wi-Fi connection's proxy settings (seriously, it'll take five seconds). Once that's done though, you can invoke Siri and ask GoogolPlex to play tunes in Spotify, crank up the heat on your Nest thermostat or even start your Tesla.
Greg Christie may have played a key role in developing the first iPhone, but he won't be hanging around Apple for much longer. The company has partly confirmed a 9to5 Mac report that the high-profile interface designer is leaving the company later this year after nearly two decades of working at 1 Infinite Loop. Just why he's hanging up his badge isn't certain. The 9to5 story contends that Christie and senior design VP Jony Ive had a "falling out" over iOS 7's design direction, prompting Christie to head for the exit. An Apple spokesperson, however, says that the executive has been "planning to retire" and notes that he "worked closely with Jony for many years." If there are any sour grapes involved, it's not apparent from Cupertino's official position.
The ongoing Apple-Samsung trial is unearthing some interesting behind-closed-door secrets on both sides. Something we hadn't seen in the preceding legal tussles however, and presented by Recode, was a handful of slides from an Apple internal meeting in April 2013 regarding its plans for 2014. Alongside the slowing growth of iPhone sales, the research noted that overall smartphone growth was from cheap and large (well, larger than the current iPhone) devices -- both of which Apple had nothing to compete with. As the slide put it: "Consumers want what we don't have."
The slide also includes some other reasons for concern, including the carriers' "strong interest in capping iPhone" sales because of its already-high market share, a tough subsidy premium and some (not mentioned) "unfriendly" policies -- consider that lack of carrier-sanctioned bloatware on your iPhone. Apple also admitted that the mobile competition had also "drastically improved their hardware and in some cases their ecosystems," while at the same time, some Android phone-makers were spending "obscene" sums on advertising or carriers to gain traction. Now, which company could Apple possibly mean?
Source: Internal slides (Scribd)
04/04/2014 - Apple buys tech that could take Siri offline
Apple has sort-of-confirmed that it recently snapped up another small company, called Novauris. The firm specializes in speech recognition and has historical ties to the core technology and patents underpinning Siri. TechCrunch reports that Novauris's experts are already working inside Apple to improve its voice assistant, but no one really knows exactly what they're up to. One of Novauris's big strengths has been locally-processed recognition, which doesn't rely on distant servers, so it's possible that Apple wants Siri to accomplish more without a data connection. (Apple's current Siri partner, Nuance, can also do offline processing, but Apple hasn't been able to bring that technology in-house.) We're just speculating, of course, but this is a function that no voice assistant has really mastered so far (although others are definitely working on it), and it's even more important now that iOS is getting into the car.
The modern workforce is a global one, but you still need to get in some face time with co-workers and associates far and wide. ClickMeeting want's to help one lucky Engadget reader keep that personal connection and spread their message by offering an iPad mini and six months of its ClickWebinar service. This will help you make presentations to your team or dole out advice to interested clientele, and with mobile apps for iOS, Android and BlackBerry, the software lets you do it from any location. So whether it's slurping down civet lattes at the corner cafe or direct from your kitchen table, you can get your message to the masses -- and they don't have to know you're still wearing pajama bottoms. Simply head down to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning this iPad mini and ClickWebinar combo.
No matter how much we hope and pray, the legal wrangling between Apple and Samsung never seems to end. The latest court battle has Apple seeking up to $2 billion in damages from the Korean manufacturer for infringing on five patents, including tap to search and slide to unlock. This time around though, Samsung is looking to drag Google engineers into the courtroom to testify about the creation of Android -- including, potentially, Andy Rubin. The hope is that their testimony and the evidence they provide would prove once and for all that the mobile operating system was developed independently of iOS and put to bed the back and forth over patent battles.
While Mountain View has successfully stayed above the fray for the most part, it makes sense for Seoul to drag the company into this particular battle. Apple is seeking up to $40 per device sold in royalties -- far more than it ever has before. As part of its counter offensive Samsung is countersuing, claiming that Cupertino stole two of its technologies for use in the iPhone and iPad. Like other cases in the war, this will probably take some time to settle. And jury selection starts this week.
Battery-saving software on a phone tends to have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer -- it either waits until you're low on power to do anything, or limits functionality at all times. Apple may eventually take a smarter approach, if a newly published patent application is any indication. The technique would optimize your mobile device's power consumption based on both your daily activities and charging patterns. If your iPhone doesn't get much use during working hours, for instance, it could automatically throttle down for that period. The technology also adjusts power for specific events; check into a long flight and your phone will conserve battery while you're in the air. We don't know if Apple will ever use this energy-saving technology, but the patent is grounded more firmly in reality than others we've seen.
Even the prettiest mobile games tend to look a bit ugly, with simple lighting effects that remind you that you're not using a more powerful console or PC. If Imagination Technologies has its way, though, those pocket-sized games will be truer to life. Its newly unveiled Wizard architecture brings ray tracing, a technique that calculates the path of every light beam in a 3D scene, to the company's PowerVR mobile graphics cores. You can see the resulting visual boost in the picture above: every light casts a shadow, glass is more realistic and reflections accurately portray the surrounding world. The first core to use Wizard is the high-end GR6500, which companies can license for their mobile processors. Imagination hasn't named customers, but we'd note that Apple and Intel are among two of its clients -- don't be surprised if your next iPhone or Windows tablet is a graphics powerhouse.
Source: Imagination Technologies
For many Engadget readers, part of the work day consists of telling co-workers to "move" so they can get in there and fix the computer -- after advising a restart, of course. So we're offering an IT-centric giveaway this week courtesy of CrushFTP, makers of robust and secure file transfer server software and long-time gadget hackers. They've given us an Apple Mac mini and a full enterprise version of CrushFTP for one lucky Engadget reader. This prize pairing provides all the tools necessary for setting up a fully functional file server with a browser-based UI for monitoring and controlling all the exchanges. CrushFTP includes modern HTML5 support, ad-hoc sharing, customizable web forms and a litany of other high-level features to help keep server workflows running smoothly. All it takes is a few clicks and you could be on your way to winning this Apple Mac mini and software package; just head on down to the Rafflecopter widget to enter. You'll barely even have to move yourself.
18/03/2014 - Apple's new 8GB iPhone 5c goes on sale across Europe
The rumors are true, Apple is launching an 8GB version of the iPhone 5c. After internal documents from German carrier O2 showed clued us into a new variant of Apple's middle tier phone, carriers across Europe have begun taking orders for the handset. In a bid to boost sales, UK operator O2 and French provider SFR are offering the phone for free and one euro respectively on multi-year contracts, offering discounts of more than £50 to tempt new customers. Off contract prices reflect a price drop of 60 euros, matching what we saw previously. At the time of writing, the device has yet to appear on Apple's website, although the company appears to have reserved a placeholder for the new model on its official store. While Apple has stayed quiet regarding sales of its multi-colored iPhone, today's price drop could indicate sales of the device may have not met expectations.
Apple doesn't talk about how many iPhone 5c devices it sells, but the rumors are that it's not doing as well as its two siblings. According to leaked documents from O2 Germany, Cupertino is looking to boost its middle child by launching an 8GB version that'll retail for 60 euros less than the current 16GB model. What does this spell for the "bottom tier" iPhone 4S, which is currently offered to customers for free on two-year deals? We couldn't possibly speculate, but if this trimmed-down hardware is appearing in Germany, it's probably going to launch everywhere else in the world, too.
Source: Caschy's Blog (Translated)
In a rare interview, Apple's VP of Design offers at least a little insight into both his thinking and how Apple makes its products. Apparently, it all starts with Jonathan Ive imagining what a new kind of product should be and what it should do. After that, the process moves on to what it should look like. Inspiration here apparently comes from, well, everywhere, from candy manufacturers to metalworkers in Northern Japan. It's no surprise to hear that Ive labors over the details: "months and months and months" were spent on perfecting the iMac stand. "When you realize how well you can make something, falling short, whether seen or not, feels like failure."
"We don't take so long, and make the way we make for fiscal reasons."
More than any Apple product in particular, however, it's the idea that customers might not be completely driven by prices -- that's what he's most pleased with. "We're surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects. It's tempting to think it's because the people who use them don't care - just like the people who make them." Ive references that life-changing products, unimaginable before, are expensive - and that's part of the Apple premium."We don't take so long, and make the way we make for fiscal reasons."
Source: The Sunday Times
Just a few weeks after WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum hinted that his Facebook-owned service will integrate voice communication features (VoIP, specifically) into its apps by this summer, we're finally seeing alleged screenshots that show off what it'll look like on iOS. The shots, which were leaked by iPhoneItalia, show an interface that looks awfully similar to the iOS 7.1 phone UI -- complete with circular buttons, blurred background and even a similar keyboard (is the shift key on or off?), albeit with a camera button on top. We're hearing that you'll be able to make calls for free over WiFi or cellular, which will help WhatsApp compete against the litany of other VoIP apps and services available on the market.
A new App Store section. Not the app store section we needed, but the app store section we deserved.
Sure, Apple's legal scuffle over in-app purchases made by misbehaving youngsters has ended, but the firm's added a precautionary measure to avoid additional costly mishaps. Among other changes included in iOS 7.1, Cook and Co. snuck in an alert after micro-transactions that tells users similar payments can be made for the next 15 minutes without entering their password. Of course, the notice also directs the wielder of the iOS device to adjust the restriction if it's not to their liking. The 15-minute policy is far from new, but the message is likely a welcome -- albeit tiny -- addition for parents with shopping spree-prone offspring.
At some point several years ago Apple decided to offer a much more generous return policy for the iPhone than it did for other products, bumping it from 14 days to 30 days. Over the last couple of years, however, the carriers have begun shifting to a 14 day return period. Obviously this caused some confusion among consumers who faced different terms depending on where they purchased their handset. Now Apple is (re)joining them by returning to the more restrictive two week policy. The move brings the all the parties in line with each other, which should reduce confusion and avoid surprise charges -- it was possible before to be hit with an early cancellation fee from your carrier if you returned your iPhone to an Apple store. Though, clearly we wish everyone had settled on 30 days.
You haven't had many choices for non-Android phones if you've wanted to switch to Ting, where you only pay for the cellular service you use -- aside from the since-vanished HTC 8XT, you've had to bring over an aging iPhone 4 or 4S from Sprint. Your options just got a little better, though, as Ting now lets you activate a Sprint-compatible iPhone 5. That still leaves the modern iPhone 5s sadly out of reach, but Ting says that Sprint's device restrictions are keeping Apple's latest handset off-limits until September at the earliest. Even so, the newly expanded support is big news for eligible iPhone fans eager to trim their cellphone bills.
Admit it, you played Flappy Bird. And for a brief period of time, you may have even liked the incredibly addictive game. After millions of people downloaded the viral hit, however, creator Dong Nguyen decided enough was enough -- it was time to pull the plug, making it unavailable in the iOS and Android app markets. But never say never again: Nguyen revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone that there is still at least a sliver of a chance that the extremely simple game will return in a blaze of avian glory. "I'm considering it," said Nguyen when asked if it would ever be offered again, so take that with a grain of salt; we'll believe it when we see it. In the meantime, we bet Android users can still download an APK somewhere, and iPhone fans can always check eBay to see if somebody's selling their phone with the game on it. As for why Nguyen pulled the app, he mentioned that the game's massive success was crushing and weighing him down, and it threatened his simple life: "I'm a master of my own fate," he said, "[an] independent thinker."
Source: Rolling Stone
It's that time of year again, when you have to try and wrestle back as many of those hard-earned dollars as you can from the insatiable gaping maw of the tax beast. In an effort to assuage that annual suffering, the folks at TurboTax created the free SnapTax app for 1040EZ/A returns and this year they've upped the ante for one lucky Engadget reader by offering an unlocked gold iPhone 5s so they can file on the go. Available for iOS and Android, the SnapTax app lets users file by simply snapping a photo of their W-2, answering a few questions and clicking "file my return." This is one little slab of gold that you won't want to stash in a safety deposit box, so head on down to the Rafflecopter widget for up to three chances at winning. And don't forget: It's time to do those taxes!
10/03/2014 - Apple releases iOS 7.1 with CarPlay support
After pushing out several betas, Apple's finally ready to roll out its latest firmware update to the masses. iOS 7.1 is now available as a free download, and as expected, it adds a few new features to the mix. The new update should be heading your direction if you own an iPhone 4 or newer, iPad 2 or newer, either iPad mini or a fifth-generation iPod touch. Among the usual smattering of tweaks to the iOS UI and bug fixes, the most notable feature improvement is the inclusion of CarPlay support and fixes for the random reboot problem many iOS 7 users have been experiencing.
Today, Google updated its Gmail app on Apple's mobile platform, bringing with it some features bound to be very useful for users. The iOS application is finally capable of fetching mail in the background, so new stuff can hit your inbox at any given time -- not just when you open the app. For the background app refresh to work as intended, however, the company points out that notifications will need to be turned on. Google's also made its sign-in process more streamlined, meaning that once you log into the Gmail app, you'll automatically be signed in to other iOS apps from the search giant. Because, c'mon, Google wants you to be doing Google things all the time.
Source: App Store
Apple's in-car infotainment system has been a long time coming. After it was announced at the company's annual WWDC conference in June last year, "iOS in the Car" flew under the radar, only to undergo a rebrand and launch publicly yesterday under a new moniker: CarPlay. Sharing part of its name with the company's AirPlay media streaming protocol, CarPlay combines all of the iPhone's most important features and mirrors them inside the car, allowing car owners to call, text, navigate and listen to music (and more) using touch or Siri-based voice inputs. The new in-car interface is compatible with new Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo models unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show, and it's there we got the chance to test Apple's automotive assistant inside a suitably-equipped Ferrari FF coupe.%Gallery-slideshow182910%
03/03/2014 - Apple announces CarPlay: in-vehicle voice and touch access to notifications, maps and music
Apple has officially announced CarPlay, its new in-car interface that'll be compatible with new Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo cars unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show this week. Designed "from the ground up" to bridge the gap between your iPhone and your auto, it will offer touch and Siri-based voice navigation of your smartphone services, including contacts, voicemail, notifications, map directions and music cueing -- it will even support third-party apps like Spotify and iHeartRadio from launch. The service will launch as an iOS update for Lightning-enabled iPhones (that's iPhone 5s and up), with CarPlay-compatible vehicles launching later this year. And if any of the above aren't your preferred automaker, Apple says that you can expect compatible cars from BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and several more in the near future.