Articles about Mobile Apps

The most popular stories on BetaNews this past week: April 13 -- April 19

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It's nearly a week since Microsoft ended support for Windows XP, but there are still around a quarter of Avast customers who plan on sticking with the old dog a little longer. What is perhaps more shocking is the revelation that over one fifth of those surveyed had no idea that support was coming to an end! For those living more on the cutting edge, good news came for Chrome users who found that their browser of choice gained support for Office Online. Microsoft may be leaving users of Windows XP out in the cold, but this is to be expected after so long. Users of Windows 8.1 who have opted to forego the pleasures of installing the recently released Update will find that their operating system is also not supported, as no further security updates will be made available until the confusingly named Update is used to update Windows 8.1 to Windows 8.1 Update. Got it? Good! Some business users who had trouble grabbing the download have been granted slightly longer.

Post Build, following Microsoft's announcements about universal apps for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone, app prices are changing -- but consistency seems to be an issue. The hotly anticipated Windows Phone 8.1 was released to developers, but Mihaita was on hand with a guide that allows anyone to grab themselves a copy of the latest update. If you're on the lookout for a new Android handset, Joe puts forward a compelling argument in favor of the HTC One M8.

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Trend Micro releases free Heartbleed scanners for Android, Chrome

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Trend Micro has announced the availability of two free scanners for the Heartbleed bug, meant for Google Chrome and Android. The first, a browser add-on, allows users to enter and check any specific URL.

The second, an Android app, is a little more advanced. It checks whether your device or apps are directly affected by the bug, or whether any installed apps access a cloud service which is still vulnerable.

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Best iOS apps this week

Heroes of warcraft

Fifteenth in a series. Featured apps this week include the latest installment in the excellent post-apocalyptic fitness app Zombies, Run!, a Heroes of Warcraft card game, a full iPhone video editor from Pinnacle, a piano tutor, a new MediaFire app for iPad, and a DJ mixing tool for iTunes and Spotify.

As always, if I miss an app that you think should definitely have been included, let me know in the comments below, or drop me an email.

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Pinnacle Studio 5 launches on iPhone, updated for iPad

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Corel subsidiary Pinnacle System has launched Pinnacle Studio for iPhone 5.0 alongside an updated Pinnacle Studio for iPad 5.0, which has been rebuilt with an iOS 7-themed interface and 64-bit support.

Pinnacle Studio for iPhone contains an identical feature-set to its bigger iPad brethren, explaining why its first release is version 5. Features include support for mixing video, audio and photos with Storyboard and Timeline editing features plus a wide range of tracks, effects and titles, plus 1080p HD video quality.

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Rain Alarm: a handy weather alert app that works almost anywhere

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As you might guess from its name, Rain Alarm is a smart app which can warn you about imminent snow or rain. That doesn’t sound too special -- there are a host of tools promising to do the same thing -- but this one has what it takes to stand out from the crowd.

It’s about as cross-platform as you can get, for example: there are apps for Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Windows 8; add-ons for Firefox and Chrome, or you can just visit the Rain Alarm website from almost anything with a browser.

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Amazon and Samsung launch custom Kindle for Samsung service

Library

Not content with already having a Kindle app for Android devices, Amazon has joined forces with Samsung to launch Kindle for Samsung. The slightly unnecessary venture brings a new custom ebook service to owners of devices from the South Korean firm and launches on the Galaxy S5 immediately. Other Samsung Galaxy handsets and tablets will gain access to the app shortly afterwards, providing they are running Android 4.0 or newer. Of the millions of books and magazines that will be available through the service, more than 500,000 of the titles will be exclusives.

At the same time as the Kindle for Samsung launch, the two companies are also launching Samsung Book Deals. This enables Galaxy owners to obtain up to 12 free ebooks per year, making a selection from a choice of four each month. With the promise that "each book is chosen specifically for Galaxy smartphone and tablet users from a wide selection of prominent titles", there should be something for everyone.

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Chrome Remote Desktop comes to Android, iOS 'later this year'

remote access laptop hacker security

In late-2012, Google released Chrome Remote Desktop, allowing users of the popular browser to provide and receive remote assistance. The feature has been especially useful to those who rely on Chromebooks, which have a much more limited app selection compared to traditional PCs where many tools, like TeamViewer, are available for such tasks.

Now, Google brings Chrome Remote Desktop to Android. Unlike on PCs where the feature can be added to the browser, this tool is a standalone app, designed for both phones and tablets.

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Google Camera goads iPhone

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Android phones running stock or manufacturer-installed KitKat 4.4+ get a big photo-shooting upgrade today. Google Camera is now available from the Play store. The app replaces the standard shooter on Nexus devices and places a separate camera app on others. The headline feature: Lens Blur, which does exactly what the name indicates. You shoot the image, and then use the app to either blur the foreground or background. Photographers call the capability "bokeh", and it usually requires a specialized lens on dedicated hardware to produce well. The blurred effect is highly desirable for portraits. Can you say selfie?

Google does what Apple should -- use software development wits to add hardware smarts. This is exactly the kind of thing I would expect from the fruit-logo company first. But that's a number recently missing from the iOS crop. Google is by no means first to offer software blur, but in my testing delivers arguably the best effort. Hell, the new camera app even shames newfangled hardware mechanisms. HTC One M8 uses two lenses and feature UFocus to produce bokeh. In my testing, on The One and Nexus 7, blur is surprisingly comparable.

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Windows Store apps may see price changes

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At the Build conference earlier this month, Microsoft announced developers will finally be able to release "universal" Windows and Windows Phone apps. Alongside this welcome addition, the software giant also introduced a unified pricing scheme.

It removes any differences in price points between Windows Store and Windows Phone Store apps, the former of which can now cost as little as $0.99 or $1.29. Microsoft says "apps priced in this range represent 55 percent of Windows Phone paid transactions today", so it makes sense to make Windows Store offerings more attractive by lowering the cost barrier. The change went into effect this weekend, and, as the software giant says, "your app prices may have changed as a result".

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Dropbox befriends businesses, announces Carousel

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Cloud storage service Dropbox has officially announced the public availability of Dropbox for Business, a new product designed to boost the company's penetration in the enterprise cloud storage market. There, it will go against existing offerings from competing services like Box.

Dropbox for Business is designed to appeal to both enterprises and their employees, so it will give enrolled users the option to switch between work and personal content. Administrators will be able to have better control over company data, according to Dropbox, with the help of features like remote wipe, account transfer and audit log sharing, which allow them to keep track of data stored in Dropbox's cloud.

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Dropbox launches Mailbox for Android with 'Auto-swipe'

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Dropbox has launched an Android version of Mailbox, its popular iOS email client.

The headline addition is a new "Auto-swipe" feature which learns from your actions, such as which emails you want to "snooze" (hide until later) and which you want to archive, then automatically handles similar messages in the future.

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will.i.am has a self-designed smart watch ready to launch soon

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Rapper, producer, Black Eye Pea and all round tech-loving futurist tech-head will.i.am has designed his own smart watch which will be ready for launch in the coming months. The music titan has, apparently, self-designed and self-funded a project which should lead to a release in July. Very little is known about the device at the moment, but it has made a few appearances on TV screens that give an intriguing glimpse of what's to come. Unlike other wearables, this one looks like it will not require tethering to a smartphone -- it will stand on its own two feet.

It's worth pointing out for non-UK residents that product placement (endorsements, 'support from', 'promotional consideration' or however you want to view it) does not really exist in the UK in the same way as in the US and some other countries. But that said, will.i.am has been spotted on more than one occasion, "subtly" interacting with a device strapped to his wrist. Viewers of The Voice in the UK (yeah, sorry, I've been known to dip into it from time to time) will probably have noticed him fiddling with his wrist, and reference has been made to his actions on a couple of occasions.

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Spotify for iOS shows off darker theme, improved playlist features

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Popular music-streaming service Spotify has updated its iPad and iPhone app with the release of Spotify 1.0. The app gains a refreshed user interface to match the new darker theme being rolled out across all platforms.

It also debuts several new features. Chief among these is Your Music, a means of saving, organizing and browsing the user’s favorite music in one spot.

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Bill Gates loves his new iPhone 5s, can now beat Bono at Candy Crush

Bill Gates

Bill Gates just took a bite out of a forbidden fruit. Microsoft's founder has been seen using an iPhone 5s while departing for a philanthropic endeavour, despite his role at the software giant and having a no-Apple-device-allowed policy in his family.

Gates's kids were taken by surprise, after asking to use iPhones since 2007 and being told "No", but said they understand and support his choice as Apple's smartphone "is pretty cool". Gates' decision to buy an iPhone 5s, in white with, naturally, a (Product) Red case, was fueled by Bono's taunts, as U2's lead singer repeatedly teased Gates for not being able to beat him at Candy Crush.

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Beware of third-party Google-branded Windows Phone apps

Beware

The official launch of major Google apps on Windows Phone would qualify as the biggest news of the week, next to the release of Office for iPads. Such an event seems highly unlikely, as the search giant is focusing its mobile development efforts on the more popular platforms, namely Android and iOS.

Imagine my surprise when, only moments earlier, in group chat my colleague Alan Buckingham mentions these five Google apps, that seem legit at first glance: Hangouts, Voice, Maps, Search and Google+. They are now available in the US Windows Phone Store. Did the search giant just have a change of heart? The answer appears to be negative, as, first-off, Google does not sell such apps for $1.99 a pop, it makes them available for free. But, what is so special about them anyway? It is not like these are the only third-party Google apps in Store.

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