iOS was created by Apple, and is used exclusively on Apple products, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
Apple recently updated its Remote application, which lets iOS devices interact with and control the Apple TV. The new version of the app adds the ability to access iTunes Radio on the Apple TV, as well as browse through purchased movies and TV shows directly on the device before playing them back on the Apple TV. Apple Remote 4.2 is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Instagram pushed out a minor update to its app for iPhones recently. The only change to the app is improved lux control, which now has a slider rather than a toggle. The slider lets users fine-tune the brightness of their photos. Instagram is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Apple today made iOS 7.1 available to iPhones, iPads, and iPods Touch. The operating system update resolves a significant bug that soft reset iOS devices when being used. iOS 7.1 also adds support for CarPlay, Apple's recently-announced in-car software. The update tweaks the behavior of a wide range of functions, such as the ability to control Siri manually by pressing and holding the home button. Siri gains more natural-sounding voices for Chinese, UK English, Australian English, and Japanese. iTunes Radio was improved with new placement of the search bar, and the ability to buy albums directly from the Now Playing screen. The Calendar app gains the ability to display events in the month view, as well as view country-specific holidays. Accessibility has been improved with a bold font option, and the Reduce Motion function now applies to more apps, including weather and messages. iOS 7.1 also adds new HDR camera tools, improves iCloud Keychain support, automatically clears FaceTime calls, improves Touch ID on the iPhone 5s, improves performance of the iPhone 4, and provides other UI teaks. iOS 7.1 is free to download from Apple.
Google today announced an update to its Gmail app for the iPhone and iPad. The most significant feature of the update is support for background email fetching. This means the emails will be downloaded in the background as they arrive and available for immediate viewing upon opening the app. Previously, new emails were not fetched from the servers until users opened Gmail. Gmail for iOS now also supports single sign-in with other Google apps, such as Maps, Chrome, and YouTube. Gmail for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store, but it requires iOS 7.
Pebble recently released a new beta of its Android application. The beta is a pre-release version of Pebble 2.0, which adds the app store and other advanced features to Pebble smartwatches. Beta 11 fixes a large number of bugs, such as sideloading apps, and improves stability. Pebble 2.0 is already available for iOS devices, and Pebble says the final version will be ready for Android users soon.
Microsoft today made its OneDrive cloud storage service available to BlackBerry 10 devices. The app, which is free to download from the BlackBerry World store, provides users with 7GB of free online storage. Customers can choose to pay for more storage if they wish. The service, which was recently rebranded from SkyDrive, is already available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices.
Facebook today pushed out a minor update to its Paper application for iOS devices. The update adds several new features, including the ability to share Facebook articles via email or text message. The app now also lets users turn off sound effects, adds support for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, and fixes several bugs. Paper 1.0.2 for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Paper presents the Facebook newsfeed in a more appealing way (similar to Flipboard) than the stock app.
BlackBerry today said that several new features are in store for a future version of its BlackBerry Messenger - or BBM - product. According to BlackBerry, it cultivated this list of features based on user feedback. For example, the next release of BBM will allow users to share photos to multiple people within chats. BBM will increase the size of files it allows to be sent between users from 6MB to 16MB. The next version of BBM will also increase the size of the emoticons so they are easier to see within conversation threads. BlackBerry didn't say if these changes will reach all platforms (BlackBerry, Android, iOS) at the same time, or if they will be staggered.
Google has released Google Hangouts 2.0 for the Apple iPhone and iPad. The app has been optimized for iOS 7 and given a visual refresh. Google added several new features, including the ability to record and send 10-second video messages, send animated stickers to contacts, send a map of current location to contacts, and see picture-in-picture video chats. The app also integrates better with iOS's contacts application, and makes it easier to start video chats from within an existing conversation. Google Hangouts for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Galveston, Texas has become the first major U.S. city to use phone-based payments completely in place of parking meters. Many cities offer mobile as one option to pay for parking, but still have meters or kiosks as backup. Such cities include Boston, Chicago. Miami, Seattle, and San Francisco. But in Galveston's new deployment, there are no meters nor kiosks. Visitors are encouraged to use the PayByPhone app or mobile web site, or they can call a toll-free number to pay. Those that don't have a cell phone or credit card can pay with cash at a number of the local merchants along the seawall. The app - available for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry - registers payment using license plate numbers, eliminating the need for a receipt left in the window. The service can text users when their parking time is about to expire, and let them easily extend it, avoiding a ticket. The city pockets significantly more from parking fees by avoiding the ongoing costs of meters or kiosks. The service supports new EMV requirements of credit card companies by using CreditCall to process payments.
Julie Larson-Green, who has led Microsoft's Devices and Studios unit since last year, is moving to a new position as Chief Experience Officer of Microsoft's Applications and Services group. There she will manage the look and feel of key Microsoft apps and services as exsperienced on Microsoft devices. The move is being made, in part, because Microsoft is set to close its acquisition of Nokia's handset business. Once the deal closes, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will be put in charge of Microsoft's Devices and Studios unit, which includes Windows Phone hardware, in addition to XBox, Microsoft Surface, and game development. Elop was a Microsoft executive before being hired by Nokia to turn the company's mobile phone business around. Elop was responsible for ditching Nokia's Symbian platform in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform.
Huawei today announced the TalkBand B1, a smartphone accessory that doubles as a fitness tracker and a Bluetooth headset. The device has a 1.4-inch flexible OLED screen and relies on NFC and Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to connect to smart devices. It is compatible with Android 2.3 and up, and iOS 5.0 and up. It includes a removable earpiece that's good for up to seven hours of talk time. The TalkBand wirelessly tracks the wearer's activity time, such as steps taken, miles covered, and calories burned. It also records sleep duration and quality, and it has its own alarm. The TablkBand B1 has a 90mAh battery that lasts about six days for tracking activity and sleep. Huawei didn't say when the TablkBand B1 will be available, nor how much it will cost.
Facebook has agreed to purchase WhatsApp, a maker of over-the-top messaging applications for smartphones. The deal is valued at about $16 billion, including $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock. The WhatsApp messaging service is available to the Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms and lets users avoid texting fees by sending messages through data networks instead. Facebook said the acquisition will help it "accelerate growth and user engagement across both companies." WhatsApp counts about 450 million users, 70% of which are active each day. Facebook said that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will be operated separately.
Canonical today announced that two smartphone makers have agreed to manufacture and sell devices running the Ubuntu mobile operating system. The two hardware developers include bq, based in Spain, and Meizu, based in China. Both companies committed to bringing devices to the market this year. Further, Canonical said it has support from several large network operators to sell the Ubuntu smartphones in various markets. No U.S. carriers have yet said they'll sell Ubuntu devices. Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth said in December that it had forged partnerships with hardware makers, but did not name them at the time. Ubuntu is a Linux-based operating system that Canonical has been working on for years as an alternative to Android and iOS. The most recent release, version 13.10, was distributed last October. Canonical said more details about the first two smartphones will be revealed during the Mobile World Congress trade show, which starts February 24.
Nokia today announced Treasure Tag, an NFC and Bluetooth powered fob that will alert users when their phone is too far away from their keys and vice versa. The device, which Nokia says is about the size of a matchbook, can be attached to a keychain (or other item the owner wants to keep close by) and then paired with a Lumia smartphone through a dedicated app. First-time users will automatically be prompted to download the app when they first pair their phone to the Treasure Tag with NFC. When the user moves one device too far away from the other, they'll both emit an alarm. Devices or tags that are lost can be located via HERE Maps. Lumia phones can support up to four tags, each of which can be identified with its own on-screen icon. Nokia said separate apps will soon be available for Android and iOS devices, as well. Nokia Treasure Tag costs $30 and will be available globally in April.
Microsoft today launched OneDrive, a renamed and improved version of its SkyDrive cloud storage service. OneDrive is available to most devices, including Windows Phone handsets, Windows machines, and Android and iOS phones and tablets. OneDrive offers 7GB of storage for free, and allows users to score more storage by recommending friends to the service. Microsoft is releasing new versions of the OneDrive app today, and the Android variant gains automatic photo backups. Microsoft said people who use the automatic camera backup feature will earn an additional 3GB of storage. Microsoft also offers higher storage increments to those who need more than 7GB for small monthly payments. OneDrive is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, Google Play Store, and iTunes App Store.
Marriott today updated its mobile application for Android and iOS devices and added one significant new feature: the ability to check out of hotel rooms directly from the phone. As long as users agree to receive push notifications, they'll be alerted the day of check out that they can do so via the app. Marriott guests need to fill in their email address to receive the bill, leave the keys in the room, and can then bypass the lobby check out entirely. The app already lets users check in up to two hours ahead of their arrival. According to Marriott, mobile check out is available at 326 locations in North America starting today, with 22 international hotels to follow next week. Marriott said all 500 of its global properties will offer mobile check out by the end of the year. The Marriott application is available to Android devices via the Google Play Store and iOS devices via the iTunes App Store.
Skype today revealed improvements to its mobile applications that answer common customer complaints. Moving forward, Skype will more reliably sync chat threads across multiple devices, be they smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The service now offers synced read receipts, as well, so users know their messages were delivered and read. The app has also been improved so that it opens faster, resumes quicker, and conserves power better. Individual apps for Windows Phone, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry should become available in their respective app stores over the next few days.
BlackBerry today made an updated version of its BBM messaging product available to Android and iOS devices. The update is significant, and adds hallmark features such as BBM Voice and BBM Channels. BBM Voice lets users make free calls to other BBM users via Wi-Fi or cellular data networks. BBM Channels is a social network of sorts, and lets users subscribe to the channels of those who they find interesting. The update also makes it easier to share photos, videos, and documents; adds support for Dropbox for file sharing; and adds a wide array of new emoticons. BBM 2.0 for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively. BlackBerry is also making a small update available to the BlackBerry version of BBM, which adds Dropbox integration. It is free to download from blackBerry World.
Google today further armed its business customers with more tools to help secure their employees' smartphones. Google made a version of its Google Admin app available to iOS devices. Business IT administrators can now add, edit, suspend, restore, and delete users and/or groups, as well as reset passwords, email members, and view group members. The app doesn't have the selective device wipe feature available for Android devices, but the basic set of tools give companies a greater degree of control over the devices being used by their employees. Google Admin for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
BlackBerry today announced that updates will be available for both the Android and iOS versions of BlackBerry Messenger this week. The revised application adds several new features, chief among them the ability to find friends. The app can scan the device owner's contact list and determine if any of the contacts are already registered BBM users. Further, BBM users can send invites to those not using BBM through the finder feature via SMS or email. BBM for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Sony today announced that its Xperia Transfer application is now available worldwide in the Google Play Store. Xperia Transfer Mobile is a smartphone version of Sony's desktop app that makes it easier to port contacts and other data from one device to another. According to Sony, the new Android app negates the need to use a desktop machine at all, as it allows users to transfer personal data directly from an old phone to a new phone using a peer-to-peer connection or cable. Xperia Transfer can sync contacts, calendar, SMS, MMS, bookmarks, notes, photos, music, videos, and apps. The app can transfer data from another Android device or from an iPhone. Sony said if iOS apps aren't available in Android form, it will suggest comparable apps/services to replace them on the Xperia smartphone. Xperia Transfer is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today provided an update to the iOS version of its Google Wallet and Google Maps applications. The changes to the Wallet app mirror those provided to the Android version last week. Google Wallet for iOS enables notifications from nearby merchants. The push notifications pop up to let users know when loyalty-based sales are available. Wallet makes adding loyalty programs easier via scanning the associated loyalty card. The app also makes several general performance improvements. Google also pushed out a minor update to Maps for iOS that enables real-time alerts when a faster route becomes available during navigation. Both Google Wallet and Google Maps are free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google today made a software developers kit available to application writers that will allow them to add Chromecasting ability to their apps. Chromecast is already available from a number of Android and iOS apps, and lets device owners push content from their phone or tablet to a Chromecast unit attached to their TV set. Google hopes that offering the SDK will expand the number of mobile apps taking advantage of Chromecast.
Pebble indicated via Twitter that the app store for its smartwatch will officially launch on Monday, February 3. It will go live at 1PM Eastern time. Pebble will make the iOS version available first, with the Android version to follow shortly thereafter. Rather than use the Pebble watch to browse for apps, owners will be able to access the app store from their smartphone to browse for and purchase apps, and then push them to the Pebble smartwatch over Bluetooth. Pebble recently made the Pebble Steel available for $249, a metallic version of its smartwatch. It can be ordered online.
Foursquare recently announced a new partnership with GrubHub Seamless that makes it possible to order food from 20,000 different restaurants around the country from within the Foursquare app. Users simply need to click the GrubHub Seamless button in the app to see nearby participating restaurants. The app also makes it easy to search for restaurants that will deliver. GrubHub has been added to the Android and iOS versions of Foursquare, but there's no word if the feature will be made available to the Windows Phone version. Foursquare is free to download and use.
Google today revealed a new toolchain that developers can use to port their Chrome desktop apps to both the Android and iOS platforms. According to Google, the tool uses Apache Cordova (open-source web technologies) to create a software wrapper that packages Chrome apps in a format that can be used on mobile devices. The tool includes a number of the standard Chrome APIs, which means developers can offer fully-functional versions of their Chrome apps through the Google Play Store or iTunes App Store. Google is offering the tool as a preview to developers and provides instructions via the Chromium developer site.
Google has made a new version of its Chrome browser available to iOS devices. The updated app includes several new features, chief among them the ability to compress data in order to reduce usage. The browser also adds the ability to translate web sites, and revises the behavior of tabs to make them easier to use. Chrome for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Sprint today announced the availability of a new cloud-based storage service. Owners of Android and iOS devices can download the new app from the Google Play Store or iTunes App Store, respectively, beginning today. Spring is offering all customers 5GB of storage for free, but customers can upgrade to unlimited storage for $4.99 per month. Sprint says the service will be ideal for those seeking a place to backup photos, videos, and other files. The service is being backed by a company called Pogoplug.
Apple today indicated that it is working to resolve a bug that plagues the iPhone home screen. "We have a fix in an upcoming software update for a bug that can occasionally cause a home screen crash," said Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller. The bug doesn't cause full system-level crashes, but does reboot the home screen. Apple recently released a new beta version of iOS 7.1, signifying that the public release is near. Muller didn't specifically state that iOS 7.1 would resolve the issue, though the likelihood is high. Muller indicated that the update will be available soon.
Beats Audio today launched Beats Music, an online and mobile streaming music service that's available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices for $9.99 per month. The service runs on the platform built by MOG, which was bought by Beats Audio in 2012. Single lines can test the service for free for one month, after which the monthly subscription kicks in. With the launch of Beats Music, Beats Audio today indicated that MOG itself will shut down April 15. All existing MOG subscribers will be offered a one-month free trial of Beats Music, which will be made available starting March 15. Beats will cease billing MOG customers on April 15, and will offer prorated refunds to any customers who paid for a year of service. Beats hopes that MOG customers will transition to Beats Music.
NTT DoCoMo has shelved plans to launch Tizen-based smartphones. It was expected to debut the first such handsets as soon as March, but now the plans have been put on hold indefinitely. According to NTT DoCoMo, the Japanese market is not big enough to support three smartphone operating systems. Android and iOS dominate the Japanese handset landscape. NTT's change of heart regarding Tizen is a setback for Samsung, which is the major handset company behind the fledgling operating system. Neither Samsung nor the Tizen Association responded publicly to NTT DoCoMo's sudden change in plans.
Skype recently updated its iOS application and added a handful of new features. The app now supports two-way HD video calls on the iPhone 5s; allows iOS devices to receive chat messages even when the app is closed; and syncs chat messages across multiple devices much faster. Skype for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Pandora recently announced the availability of a personalized station recommendation feature in the Pandora mobile app for both the Android and iOS platforms. The new feature will suggest new stations based on the user's on-going listening habits. The more the app is used, the better Pandora will be at providing personalized recommendations. It starts with up to six recommended artists and will then adjust those recommendations over time based on feedback from the user. The feature is available in the latest version of Pandora for Android and iOS, which is available from the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Spotify has axed the time restrictions it used to place on music played from a computer. The change, which was revealed by the company in a blog post, is effective immediately and applies to everyone. Previously, Spotify limited computer-based listening to just 10 hours per month. Spotify has already made it possible to stream music to mobile devices for free. The free listening experience includes advertisements. Spotify users seeking an ad-free experience will need to spend $10 per month. Spotify makes mobile apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
Google today made a version of its Play Movies & TV application available to iOS devices. The app will allow owners of the Apple iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch to access, download, stream, and play their Google Play Movies & TV purchases. Video content can only be streamed over Wi-Fi, says Google, and not 3G/4G. The app also interacts with Google's Chromecast device, which lets users push the content to their TV set. The app itself is free to download from the iTunes App Store, but the price of content varies.
Google has updated its Chrome browser for both the Android and iOS platforms. Chief among the new features of the browser is a better compression algorithm that should, claims Google, reduce the amount of data consumed by the browser up to 50% when surfing the web. Both platforms also gain better protection against malicious web sites. The Android version of Chrome now allows users to create web shortcuts on the home screen, and the iOS version lets users see and access the automatic translation bar. Chrome is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Microsoft has updated both the Android and iOS versions of its XBox Music application. The updates provide both apps with the ability to cache music locally for offline playback. The Android version also makes it easier to playback your entire music collection and to playback entire genres. The XBox Music app itself is free to download, but the service can incur a monthly fee.
Twitter today said that it has updated the browser version of Twitter.com in order to make it more closely resemble its Android and iOS applications. The changes apply to the full desktop version and the mobile version, and should be available to most users shortly.
Vine recently delivered an update to its iOS application. The app adds the ability to lock both focus and exposure, which should help users when creating their apps. The update also fixes bugs. It is free to download and use. Vine also recently expanded its presence to the web, allowing users to view their Vines on a desktop browser.