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Twitter adds group messaging, 30-second video uploads to mobile apps

01/27, 12:08pm

Video on Twitter allows for clips to be shared without using Vine

Twitter has started to add some features it hinted at last November to its mobile apps. Rolling out slowly, users will be able to send Direct Messages to groups of people for the first time, while those who typically post videos to the micro-blogging service will benefit from being able to upload video clips directly to Twitter from within the app, without using a secondary service.

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Briefly: Pandora 5.7, new Wrise Mac word processor

01/27, 12:00pm

Pandora's iOS app receives redesign, new mini-player

Music discovery app Pandora has announced an update to its iOS app, featuring a new design and additional components. Pandora allows users to create personalized music stations that play their preferred music. The latest version (v5.7.0) offers a refreshed design that improves the ease of shaping a station, including a new Personalization icon for quick access to one's history, and being able to "un-thumb" a song previously marked "up" or "down" by re-tapping the Thumb icon. The app's new mini-player offers music controls while browsing track history, and its redesigned notification and activity feed will alert users of recent happenings, like new music that has been added to their stations. Free to download, Pandora for iOS requires iOS 6.0 or later. Users can access the service for free, however a subscription to Pandora One - starting at $4 monthly - provides higher quality audio, desktop application usage, custom skins and fewer interruptions to music play.

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Hands On: Alfred Remote (iOS)

01/27, 9:07am

Unexpectedly handy iOS addition to the Alfred 2 application launcher

When we recently reviewed Alfred 2 for Mac -- it was a rave. We noted how it was the perfect app to feature in a Hands On piece because that's the point: just about anything you can do on your Mac, Alfred 2 lets you do from the keyboard. It's not the only application that does this, but it does it very well, and is a true boon for getting things done. So much so that the application has been around and continuously developed for many years, just always with this hands-on idea. Until now.

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Briefly: 1Password, Twitterrific 5 updates for iOS

01/26, 3:03pm

1Password secure wallet and password manager app receives update for iOS

Security app 1Password has announced an update for its password manager and secure wallet app for iOS (and OS X). Allowing users to create strong, unique passwords for every site, 1Password stores them all and logs in with one tap, including credit cards and identities, without re-typing. 1Password v5.2 features a new login creator, and a new layout that features a renewed aesthetic for the password editor, icons, and more.

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Hands On: Brushstroke (iOS)

01/26, 8:51am

Turn your favorite photos into digital oil paintings

There's a good chance that everyone reading this, at one point or another, has seen those "turn a picture into a painting or sketch" apps that were making the rounds a few years ago. More often than not, these ended up looking like nothing more than poorly-Photoshopped images -- which was essentially what they were. We checked out Brushstroke by Code Organa to see if it managed to improve on the technology.

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Hands On: Jumping Finn Turbo (iOS)

01/24, 12:40pm

Header: Adventure Time Fans Rejoice: An iOS game for you.

Adventure Time has been receiving critical acclaim and praise from the masses for years, and with good reason. The cartoon is smart, silly, and surprisingly deep. Fans of Adventure Time can rejoice, as Heavy Boat has brought gaming based off the Cartoon Network show to mobile platforms with Jumping Finn Turbo.

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Briefly: OS X Sim City Complete Edition, OOTP 16 MLB license

01/23, 9:16am

Aspyr ships OS X Mac App Store version of Sim City: Complete Edition

Aspire has revealed that the latest installment of Sim City is available to purchase on the Mac App Store. Sim City: Complete Edition contains the expanded core game, Sim City: Cities of Tomorrow, Heroes and Villains, plus the Amusement Park, Airship, Heroes and Villains, French, British and German City sets. Sim City: Complete Edition is an exclusive bundle to the Mac App Store, and is available now for $40. MacNN is working on a review.

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Hands On: Bit Dungeon II (iOS)

01/22, 10:10am

Hack and slash through this retro-inspired adventure game

Retro-inspired games are hot on the App Store right now, with retro-chic games like Woah Dave and the BitTrip series making a name for themselves. Because these games feature simple mechanics and nostalgic graphics, they are a perfect addition to a gamer's pocket library of games. We checked out Tom Heinecke's Bit Dungeon II, a terrifying twist on the classics.

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Briefly: Evernote drops Hello, Peek; Google Docs, Sheets iOS updates

01/21, 5:59pm

Evernote ends support for contacts management app Hello, flashcards app Peek

Productivity platform Evernote has announced that it will end support for both its Hello and Peek apps, as of February 7. Evernote will no longer be updating the apps, and has suggested for current Hello users interested in managing their contacts sign up for its main platform. Flashcards app Peek will also no longer be supported, with a proposed alternative being its partner app Study Blue.

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Hands On: MeteoEarth (iOS)

01/21, 4:24pm

Monitor the weather in detail from your pocket

Meteorology is a fascinating topic, and one that is freely available for most people to study, provided they know where to look. Monitoring the national weather websites is a great place to start, but if you're looking for something more portable, MeteoEarth by MeteoGroup Deutschland is like having a weather station in your pocket.

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Hands On: Toca Kitchen 2 (iOS)

01/21, 10:54am

Let your child explore their inner chef with Toca Kitchen 2

Not every game needs to have a set objective. The reason games like Minecraft have done so well is because they encourage players to do whatever feels fun for them. Toca Boca is known for creating games for iOS that capitalize on this feature. Like most Toca Boca AB games, Toca Kitchen 2 is objectiveless, and focuses more on role play and silliness than anything else.

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Hands On: iDatabase (OS X, iOS)

01/21, 4:37am

Quick and fairly easy-to-use database, but with serious flaws

The best database you can buy for the Mac or iOS is Filemaker Pro -- if by "best," you mean the most powerful. It's also comparatively easy to use, at least when what you're comparing it with is Microsoft Access for Windows. But even so, there is a market for a database that is so simple even non-technical users can get a benefit from it. For some years, that database was Bento, from the makers of Filemaker Pro, but it was discontinued in 2013. One alternative has been iDatabase, and on the surface it has a lot going for it.

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Pointers: Location-aware Reminders

01/20, 8:30pm

Built-in OS X, iOS utility has extra dimension for added usefulness

Even if you're particularly good at making a note about tasks you need to accomplish, you often get tasked with something only when people think to tell you -- and if the job is some time away, you may completely forget that you were asked to do it at all, apart from that nagging feeling that you've forgotten something important. Apple's built-in Reminders app (along with Siri) can make it easy to create a to-do or reminder item, but a lesser-known feature leveraging Location Services can make it nearly impossible to forget.

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Chrome for iOS gets visual overhaul, Handoff support

01/20, 2:55pm

Browser layout updated for Material Design, new iPhones

Google has updated the iOS version of Chrome with several major improvements. The most important may be overdue support for the higher resolutions of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. In parallel, though, the look of the browser has been revised to match Google's Material Design philosophy, which includes touches like "flatter" surfaces and more animation.

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Briefly: Catalyst's waterproof iPhone case, iBank for iOS's Cloud Sync

01/20, 10:51am

Catalyst announces new waterproof case for iPhone 6

Waterproof accessories brand, Catalyst, has announced the release of its new iPhone 6 case. Measuring at 11.4mm thick, each case is waterproof up to a depth of five meters (16.4 feet), and is designed to meet or exceed Military Standard 810G for drops and shocks up to 6.6 feet. Both the touchscreen and Touch ID of the iPhone can be utilized while using the new Catalyst case, and its hard-coated optical lens allows for underwater camera usage.

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Hands On: Where To? (iOS)

01/20, 8:47am

Find out what's around you and the quickest way to get there with this handy app

Think of Where To as a kind of Yelp for absolutely everything: instead of just looking for restaurants, this app will find you libraries, gas stations, lawyers, theaters, shops, and more. It's called Where To, but you will never call it that in real life, for its icon is of a freeway exit sign, and the word Exit is so prominent that you'll think that's its name. This is only a problem when you're trying to recommend it to someone -- but that means it is going to be a regular problem.

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Briefly: Google Calendar for iOS, Meier's Starships, SmartGlass update

01/20, 3:11am

Google Calendar coming to iOS with Material Design language

Google appears to be preparing to bring its Google Calendar app for iOS as a standalone app in the near future, featuring the Material Design language makeover the Android version got in November. Leaked screenshots (below) show that the app will emphasize shortcuts to Gmail, Maps and Photos, and offer side-by-side monthly and day overviews. In addition to integrated notification settings, the app also offers integrations with other Google services.

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Apple reminds developers of iOS 64-bit requirement

01/20, 12:49am

All new iOS 8 software must be 64-bit compatible by February 1

A new reminder email has gone out from Apple to all registered iOS developers reminding them that, beginning February 1, all app new submissions to the App Store must support 64-bit architecture. For existing programs, updates must support 64-bit no later than June 1. The move will not prohibit apps from running in 32-bit mode, but must contain support for 64-bit operation, which may "prune" some apps that are no longer being developed.

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Developers in Crimea tossed from Apple program over annexation

01/19, 7:59pm

Part of sanctions imposed by US, Europe against Russian aggression

The tiny region of Crimea, recently annexed by Russia, has fallen victim to sanctions imposed against Russia by the US and European Union -- one aspect of which has been Apple's new notification to developers in the region that they are now suspended from the developer program and no longer allowed to sell programs in the App Store. The developer agreement have been terminated, effective immediately, in compliance with a US executive order, though there is a potential workaround.

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Hands On: MyBrushes Pro (iPhone, iPad)

01/19, 4:14pm

Intuitive painting app turns your iPad into an art studio

The iPad is a slick device for browsing the web, accessing social media sites, and conducting all manner of business right from the comfort of your hand. Of course, the iPad is also a great tool for both artists and doodlers alike, provided you have the right app. We checked out MyBrushes Pro by developer effectmatrix, to see how it stacked up in the realm of art apps.

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Hands On: Unread RSS reader (iOS)

01/19, 7:51am

Quick RSS news app a pleasure to read, now freemium

Go on, tell the truth. Were you tempted to stop reading after the word RSS or did you last all the way to 'news'? It's not that RSS divides people, it's more that people either love it or they have simply never heard of the thing. Similarly, there are those of us who are news junkies and want to know what's happening in the world, and there are others who just watch Fox News instead. Unread for iOS is not going to be the app that makes you an evangelist for RSS, but if you're already a newsreader fan, you may love the app. Plus, its new freemium model could help when you go around telling everybody how great it is.

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Hands On: TextExpander 4 for OS X, TextExpander 3 for iOS

01/18, 12:45pm

Get this essential Mac tool for speeding up your typing

Here's the thing: yes, TextExpander speeds up your typing, but some of us like typing -- and some of us are 120 words per minute. If you're one of the latter, that doesn't automatically rule out that you wouldn't be interested in the venerable TextExpander's speed, but we figured it wouldn't be that much use to us; or so we thought. Doubtlessly, if you are a slower typist, then the speed is the key reason to buy TextExpander -- but it does so much else, it is so useful in other ways, that we are now dependent on it, and wish we'd bought it ten years ago.

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Be My Eyes for iOS connects blind with sighted assistance

01/18, 11:50am

Mobile app assists with mundane through complicated tasks

Denmark-based developer Be My Eyes has created an application to connect the blind with sighted users, to help with everyday tasks. The app, eponymously called Be My Eyes so far has helped nearly 3,400 blind users with a routine task through an iOS device camera, with tasks as mundane as reading an expiration date, or as complicated as a street crossing, or navigating an unfamiliar area.

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Hands On: WritePad Pro (iOS)

01/18, 11:44am

Solid handwriting word processor for Apple's mobile ecosystem

In the App Store, the program is listed with a full stop at the end of the name: "WritePad Pro." It's a little pretentious. The app is from the makers of Penquills, which is an iOS 8 keyboard that lets you handwrite in any app on your iPhone or iPad. When we reviewed Penquills, we liked its accuracy -- and that came in part from how it guided you to write certain things in certain places: do letters in this box, numbers in that one, symbols in a third. It was clear what you were meant to do where and once you got used to it, you particularly got used to how accurate it was. Let's not claim miracles here: handwriting recognition is nearer a dark art than it is a fully-practical engineering solution, but WritePad Pro also works well.

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Friday Deals: Dell XPS, Nikon D5200, Samsung SSDs [Update]

01/17, 7:43pm

MacNN and Electronista Deals for January 16, 2015

[Updated with more great deals!] The second full week of 2015 is almost over, and so it's time for the Friday Deals post, where we find great offers on hardware, gadgets, and software for you, the ever-discerning MacNN and Electronista reader. As usual, the prices are correct at the time of writing, but the offer may change at a later time, so check before purchasing. Also, remember to come back over the weekend, as we will be adding more deals for you to enjoy.

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Facebook rolling out auto-transcripts for voice messages

01/17, 6:11pm

'Tiny' segment of users will see reviews of voice messages on screen

Facebook VP of Messaging Products David Marcus posted to his wall on Friday, announcing a test program for voice message transcripts automatically generated with voice recognition software. The feature began rolling out today on a "tiny scale." No timeline was mention on when the feature will be made more widely available.

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Hands On: Duckie Deck Bird Houses (iOS)

01/17, 10:15am

Preschoolers build birdhouses in this fun interactive game

Games for the under-five crew tend to be a mixed bag. Sometimes the games are too hard, requiring difficult-to-grasp concepts like timed tapping or difficult puzzle-solving. Other times the games are often too simple, and are more like movies. One game that has managed to strike a good balance between engaging and simple is Duckie Deck Bird Houses, by Duckie Deck Development.

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Hands On: Poppets (iOS)

01/16, 2:45pm

Take to the skies in this cute arcade game

In the world of casual gaming, things tend to be pretty easy-going. If a player is looking for a challenging game, they're usually tasked with completing lateral thinking puzzles or quick-draw mechanics. Not every challenging game needs to be about speed or puzzle play, though, as demonstrated by Poppets by CakeBytes Creative. If you have a young child in your life, they might like this one very much.

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Hands On: Simple Rockets (iOS)

01/16, 7:39am

Take off into space with this fun rocket builder

The fun of space travel has long been reserved for astronauts and rocket scientists, which seems a little unfair sometimes. In 1970s television, we were promised routine space travel by the 21st century, which we clearly haven't gotten yet. How many of us have thought about how fun it would be to take off and soar through space, or wanted to design a rocket that could explore the furthest reaches of space? Not everyone is a rocket scientist, but with Simple Rockets by developer Jundroo, everyone gets the chance to design their own rocket.

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Apple adding 1M new iBookstore users per week since September

01/16, 1:35am

Pre-installing app in iOS and Yosemite triggered wave of growth, says company

At the Digital Book World conference in New York City on Thursday, Apple's iBooks chief Keith Moerer revealed that since the release of iOS 8 and Yosemite -- both of which came with the iBooks app pre-installed -- the user base is growing by about one million customers to the iBookstore per week. Moerer added that the introduction of larger-screen iPhones may also have played a role in the growth, and he spoke about the way Apple runs its iBooks business.

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SAASpass unveils instant two-factor authentication security feature

01/15, 8:34pm

Smartphone or nearby mobile device replaces extra passwords and dongles

According to digital security provider SAASpass, a requirement to possess a separate physical device as part of accessing digital data -- for example a fingerprint reader or separate dongle -- helps prevent nearly all hacking attacks on computers. To that end, SAASpass has recently unveiled its "Computer Connector" apps to provide on-the-fly two-factor authentication, rather than passwords, using smartphones or mobile devices.

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Swift jumps 46 places in programming language ranking

01/15, 6:42pm

'Remarkable' rise nearly 10 times normal, approaches top 20

Apple's Swift language, introduced just last June at its Worldwide Developer's Conference, as risen from 68th place to 22nd in the last six months on a ranking of the most widely-used programming languages. Enterprise developer liason firm RedMonk said it had never seen a growth rate so "meteoric" in the history of its rankings, which first appeared in 2010. When "ties" are discounted, the streamlined language has entered the top 20 just seven months after its debut.

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Briefly: new Google Classroom app, Drive desktop app updated

01/15, 5:44pm

Google Classroom launches apps for iOS and Android

Google has released iOS and Android apps to accompany its Google Classroom web platform. Initially launched last summer, Google Classroom allows teachers to create and collect assignments paperlessly, available to anyone with Google Apps for Education. The new native Classroom app for iOS and Android broadens the capacity for teachers and students to connect with each other, and features photo sharing, sharing content from other apps and offline caching.

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Briefly: Parallels Access 2.5 adds iPhone 6, Typinator 6.4

01/15, 10:07am

Parallels Access upgrade brings fixes, S Pen, audio output choices

Parallels today introduced an updated version of its Parallels Access application, bringing the suite to version 2.5. In addition to general improvements, the new revision brings full implementation on new mobile devices, including the Kindle Fire, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 plus, Galaxy Tab S, and Galaxy Note 4. The Samsung S Pen is now supported, and users have a choice of sound from the computer, or the mobile device doing the computer mirroring.

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Facebook re-skins social service for 'Facebook at Work'

01/14, 7:52pm

Walls off Candy Crush, friend feeds to create social network for job collaboration

Social media giant Facebook has launched on a new service for the web, iOS and Android called "Facebook at Work" that is intended to give office communications a familiar interface. Offering a (literally) gray take on the usual Facebook interface, the service creates a variation of the popular social service that is limited to co-workers only, and intended for office communications, messaging, file sharing, and other forms of collaboration. The service is currently still testing with partners, but is available as an app on the iOS App Store.

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Briefly: Skype for iPhone 5.9, PDFpenpro 7 updated

01/14, 5:28pm

Skype updates its iPhone app, features improved dialer, new chat picker

Communication platform Skype has released an update for its iPhone app today, bringing the latest version to 5.9. Featuring user interface improvements, the app's revised dial pad now suggests contacts with matching numbers as a number is entered. The newly-added "chat picker" aims to make starting conversations easier; once a contact is chosen, users can tap the phone or video icon at the top to start a call.

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Hands On: Cobook (OS X, iOS)

01/14, 4:22pm

The best contacts manager for OS X right now

You may never even think to replace or supplement the Contacts app that comes on your Mac or iOS device, but also you may never have realized that you can. Next time someone gives you a phone number, and you write it down on paper rather than keep them waiting while you fire up Contacts, think about getting Cobook for Mac and/or for iOS .

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Hands On: PDF Scanner (iOS)

01/14, 10:09am

Scan and convert books to PDF right from your iPhone or iPad

Having the ability to snap a picture and convert it to a PDF on the fly is surprisingly useful. If you have messy handwriting, you can simply snap a picture of a form, convert it to PDF, and fill it out from the comfort of your computer - not to mention that the camera can work as a scanner in a pinch. PDF Scanner, by Darsoft, is a choice in a crowded field, but is it a good one?

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Hands On: Owen's Odyssey (iOS)

01/14, 9:27am

Challenge yourself with this difficult platformer

Video games can be frustrating in a lot of different ways. Sometimes, it's due to poor translation, bad programming, or lack of direction. Sometimes, however, video games are frustrating by design. Platformers often employ deviously difficult and finicky mechanics, with the intention of making the game more difficult to appeal to certain gamers. One such title is Owen's Odyssey, by Brad Erkkila.

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Google rolls out real-time conversational update to Translate app

01/14, 9:18am

Google Translate update to improve conversations joined by video option

An update that adds new features to Google Translate for Android and iOS has started to roll out. The previously-outlined update introduces two main features to the service, namely real-time translations of verbal conversations and the ability to see translations of signs and other text overlaid on top of a live video feed from the smartphone's rear camera.

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Hands On: Spoiler Alert (iOS)

01/13, 7:51pm

Unsave the day in this quirky platformer

Platformer games on mobile platforms, namely those on tablets and smartphones, tend to feel a little bit stunted in comparison to their console-and-PC brethren. The lack of tactile buttons tends to make the genre feel bland in comparison. Many iOS platformers have decided that instead of trying to emulate a classic platformer style, they can instead innovate and do less with more. One delightfully quirky title that capitalizes on this concept is is Spoiler Alert, by tinyBuild.

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Apple details anti-abuse protection in EU app return policy

01/13, 6:41pm

Users can lose ability to ask for refunds if requested too often

A new policy implemented at the very end of 2014 that allows European Union app buyers a 14-day window to request a refund has been clarified by Apple with some anti-abuse measures. While users do not have to give a reason when requesting a refund on an app they purchased, those who too frequently request refunds will received warnings that by buying, they are now waiving their return rights.

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Leak details 'Companion' iPhone app for Apple Watch

01/13, 5:21pm

Lets users change settings, organize homescreen

A new report claims to have exposed the contents of the official iPhone app for the Apple Watch. Said to be dubbed "Companion" within Apple, the app manages Watch apps and device settings, in addition to handling the Bluetooth pairing process. Users can, for instance, organize the layout of apps on their Watch's homescreen via a simulated version of that interface.

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AllCast media streamer makes leap to iOS

01/13, 1:34pm

Pushes video to numerous media streaming platforms

A new port of AllCast, a popular Android app, has just been released for iOS. The title lets users stream personal photo, video, and music libraries to a variety of platforms, not just the Apple TV -- the only format natively supported by Apple. Some compatible targets include Chrome, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku, WDTV, Xbox One/Xbox 360, and various platforms compatible with DLNA.

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Hands On: Toca Hair Salon 2 (iOS)

01/13, 12:16pm

Release your inner cosmetologist with this fun hair salon app

Makeover apps tend to be somewhat serious, and are generally geared toward adults. Instead of being a fun game, they tend to be more akin to photo-editing software, which is generally pretty complex and low on the amusement scale. Toca Boca, however, has stepped forth with Toca Hair Salon 2, a makeover game that offers a lot to younger gamers or future beauticians.

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Facebook will display Amber Alerts in News Feeds

01/13, 12:07pm

Amber Alerts will be sent to users in missing child search locations

Facebook will start to post into its users News Feed alerts about missing children in the future, in an effort to locate them. A partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will involve the social network showing Amber Alerts to Facebook users located in specific search areas, both on mobile devices and desktops.

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Briefly: Chrome Remote Desktop for iOS, CBS News iOS app update

01/13, 11:15am

Chrome Remote Access Desktop app now available for iOS

Google has expanded its Chrome Remote Desktop app to include iOS compatibility. Now available for download on iTunes, iOS users can now orchestrate accessing their desktop computer for free by downloading the accompanying Chrome browser app. Chrome Remote Access has been available for Android users since last year.

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Hands On: Learn Spanish - Brainscape (iOS)

01/13, 7:33am

Bolster your Spanish vocabulary with targeted flashcard app

It's a fact that Spanish is the world's fourth most-spoken language, with over 350 million native speakers across 21 countries. It's also a fact that people who are bilingual tend to do better in both academic pursuits as well as their career. If you've ever been curious about learning another language, Learn Spanish by Brainscape offers a solution for those who are trying to learn Spanish on the go.

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Viawear announces Tyia 'smart bracelet' designed for women

01/13, 2:03am

Ladies' wearable electronic fashion accessory light on functionality

This week, Viawear has launched pre-orders for a gold or rhodium-plated edition of the new Tyia "smart bracelet." The bracelet serves as a fitness tracker, with an RGB LED notification light embedded behind quartz and mother-of-pearl accent. As with fitness bands, the Tyia is marketing as letting users put away smartphones without missing an important call, text, or social-media notification -- and offers some basic fitness tracking compatible with Apple's HealthKit.

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Fourth iOS 8.2 beta seeds to developers

01/12, 2:20pm

Public release may run parallel with Apple Watch availability

Apple is now seeding a fourth beta of iOS 8.2 via the company's developer portal, and as an over-the-air update for existing beta users. The build is listed as 12D5461b, and follows a little less than a month after beta 3, which was issued December 18. That build was 12D5452a. Accompanying the beta is a new version of WatchKit, the SDK and framework needed to build Apple Watch support into iOS apps.

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