Apple Launches 'Get Productive' Promotion for iOS and Mac With Discounted Productivity Apps

Apple's iOS and Mac App Stores were today updated with new "Get Productive" sections, offering discounted prices on many popular productivity apps for iOS devices and Macs.

In the iOS App Store, the 19 discounted apps include Fantastical 2 for iPhone and iPad, Workflow, Clear, Duet Display, Calendars 5, and more. Apps are available for up to 60 percent off their regular prices.

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In the Mac App Store, there are 20 apps available at discounted prices up to 75 percent off, including popular offerings like Day One, Byword, iA Writer Pro, iTranslate, mSecure, iStudiez Pro, Notability, and more.

Apple has also named ProCam 2 as its App of the Week, and as a result, the camera and photo editing app is available at no cost, instead of at its regular $1.99 price. [Direct Link]

The iPad version of the app, ProCam XL 2 is also free. [Direct Link]

Elgato Recalls Some Smart Power Battery Packs Due to Overheating

Elgato recently announced that it is recalling some of its Smart Power 6000 mAh battery packs, as they can overheat while recharging. The company sent out notices to app users today, letting them know about the recall.

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For those unfamiliar, the $99 Elgato Smart Power battery pack is a compact 6000 mAh external battery that integrated with an iOS app, a neat feature that allowed users to wireless monitor the charge level of the device and receive notifications when the battery was low or needed recharging. MacRumors went hands-on with the Smart Power back in December and found it's app integration to be highly useful.

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According to the company, affected Smart Power battery packs were sold between September 2014 and January 2015 and "fall within a limited serial number range." Affected customers can check if their product is affected by entering their serial number on Elgato's website.

Elgato has ceased selling the Smart Power until it can release an updated version, and all current owners of affected products will receive a full refund. The company recommends that users cease using their battery packs until they're able to check whether they have a product with overheating issues, and Elgato also encourages all customers to return affected products "as soon as possible."

Facebook for iOS Gains Foursquare-Style 'Place Tips' Recommendations

Facebook for iOS is gaining a major new feature today, which is designed to provide Foursquare-style recommendations on the places that users visit. Called Place Tips, the tool will offer up posts and photos that a user's friends have shared at the same location that's being visited.

For example, when visiting a restaurant, if a Facebook friend has previously been to the same spot, Place Tips will display any photos and posts that were made at that location, letting users know what might be good to order or what to avoid.

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From friends' recommendations to information about the places and things that interest you, Facebook helps you connect with the world around you. To better show you this content at just the right place and time, today we're launching a new feature called place tips. Place tips will show you fun, useful and relevant info about the place you're at. Tapping on place tips won't post on Facebook or show anyone where you are.
As of today, iPhone users may begin seeing Place Tips at the top of their news feeds within the iOS app. Tapping on a tip will display cards with information about the location as well as posts and photos from friends. Place Tips are sent out to users who have given Facebook permission to access their location, and it can be disabled in the Settings menu. The feature uses a combination of cellular networks, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Facebook Bluetooth beacons to determine user location and deliver information.


For the time being, Place Tips will be limited to specific areas where Facebook is testing the feature in New York. Users visiting areas like Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, and more will be seeing the notifications.

Facebook for iOS can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Increased Switcher Rate From Android to iPhone Appears Focused Outside the U.S.

Following Apple's earnings call on Tuesday in which Tim Cook stated the company "saw more new customers to iPhone than we've ever seen before," research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) today released (via Fortune) a report delving into the specifics of the Android-to-Apple switching statistics revealed by Apple.

Expectedly, the report - which surveyed 500 Apple device customers inside the U.S. only - notes most Apple iPhone users returned to the company with the newest iteration of the iPhone last year. But the rate of Android switchers migrating platforms to the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus wasn't much changed.

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CIRP notes that the rate of Android switchers has "varied seasonally, yet remained relatively consistent," and this quarter's U.S. numbers have the firm speculating the biggest rate of Android-to-Apple switching occurred outside of the U.S.
“Apple CEO Tim Cook indicated the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus 'experienced the highest Android switcher rate in any of the last three launches.' The US switch rate for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launch did increase relative to the iPhone 5S/5C launch a year ago, and was about the same as the iPhone 5 launch in 2012. This week, Apple emphasized the international strength of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launch, so it appears that Apple enjoyed a much higher rate of Android switching outside the US than in the more mature US market," said Mike Levin, Partner and Co-Founder of CIRP.”
Given Apple's strong position in the smartphone market in the U.S., where there is a strong base of iPhone-to-iPhone upgrades and fewer from Android-to-iPhone, CIRP's report probably isn't too far off from fact. Apple's smaller presence in emerging markets like China, where it has been seeing very strong growth thanks to a few notable partnerships and store openings in the country has likely fueled some overseas brand switching among previously loyal Android users.

Microsoft Launches Outlook for iOS with iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo Mail Support

Microsoft today launched its official Outlook app for iOS, which allows users to easily view and organize their email inbox, calendars, attachments, and more under one unified view. The app works with Microsoft's own Outlook.com and Office 365 services, while iCloud, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail are also compatible. Outlook for iOS also features quick gestures, as users can simply swipe to delete, archive or schedule messages.

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Now, with Outlook, you really can manage your work and personal email on your phone and tablet – as efficiently as you do on your computer. And, because we know that everyone has their own, unique way to manage email, Outlook offers customizable swipes and actions, so you can tailor the experience just the way you like it. Beyond email, the new Outlook app offers integrated calendaring that makes scheduling a meeting or sharing your schedule a single tap away.
Outlook for iOS is the first app developed by Microsoft after its acquisition of email startup Accompli, which also previously developed an email client app for iOS and Android. Microsoft has stepped up its efforts in the realm of mobile productivity in the past year, bringing Office to iOS last March and launching updates that added printing capabilities and third-party fonts.

Microsoft Outlook is a free app for iOS devices and can be downloaded through App Store. [Direct Link]

New 'SlatePro TechDesk SE' Comes Equipped with Built-In iPhone Dock, Mac Air Vents and Whiteboard

Back in March of 2014, iSkelter launched the SlatePro TechDesk on Kickstarter, which was designed with built-in docks and cutouts to accommodate Apple devices like iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks.

The desk was highly successful, leading the company to create a range of furniture products aimed at MacBook and iPhone users, including the new SlatePro TechDesk Special Edition. The SlatePro TechDesk Special Edition is a new version of the original SlatePro desk, introducing an entirely revamped design and several additional features like felt pockets and a dry erase board.

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Like the original SlatePro TechDesk, the new edition's main attraction is its built-in air vents for keeping laptops or desktop computers cool and its cutouts that are able to house an iPhone and an iPad. Design wise, the Special Edition SlatePro takes on a more popular U-shape with steel legs and a hazelnut bamboo surface.

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The filing rack has been replaced with a set of recessed felt trays able to hold accessories, pens, and more, and there's now a stainless steel cupholder instead of the original wood. With the hazelnut bamboo and a new beveled edge, the updated version has a much sleeker look. Finally, there's a large dry erase board built directly into the desk for taking notes.

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When ordering a SlatePro, it can be customized with a variety of options. Users can choose a left or right setup, and opt to remove any of the available features like the ventilation holes, dry erase board, display docks, mousepad, or drink holder.

The SlatePro TechDesk Special Edition is currently on sale and can be purchased from the iSkelter website for $598. The original SlatePro TechDesk is available for purchase at prices starting at $498. iSkelter also produces a range of lap desks and device docks, with prices that start at $30.

Hands-On First Impressions of Pushbullet for iOS, Mac, and Safari

Following the release of Pushbullet for iOS, Mac, and Safari, we have been testing out the new software to see how well it keeps notifications, links, photos and other files in sync between devices. Pushbullet is the marriage of AirDrop, Notifyr and other OS X Yosemite features in one package, but is it a worthwhile alternative? Find out our first impressions in our hands-on video ahead.

Pushbullet
The process of setting up Pushbullet takes just a few minutes. Depending on which platforms or web browsers you want to send and receive links and files between, download the Pushbullet apps or extensions that you need and make sure that iOS to Mac notifications and universal copy and paste are enabled in each app's preferences. iOS and Mac apps are available alongside Safari, Chrome, Firefox and Opera extensions.

You can optimize your experience further by going into the Mac app's preferences and checking off specific apps that you would like to receive iOS notifications from. For instance, if you already receive mail notifications on your desktop, then you probably don't need Pushbullet pushing the same mail notifications from your iPhone. Notification settings can be configured for both stock and third-party apps.



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Facebook's 'Paper' App for iOS Updated With Photo Sharing Improvements

facebookpaperFacebook today updated its Paper app to version 1.2.5, adding several improvements to the app's photo management capabilities. It's now possible for users to access their "Favorited" photos album on iOS for faster sharing of preferred photos, and the Camera Roll in the app organizes photos by date.

The "Favorites" album was introduced with the iOS 8 Photos app revamp and houses all of the images that a user favorites via tapping the heart icon on individual pictures within the app.

Today's Paper update also includes performance enhancements that are designed to make various features within the app run faster, including photo uploads.
We've been working to perfect your experience with Paper. In this release, we've focused on making it even faster and easier for you to share photos, in addition to fixing a few issues you've let us know about. Thanks for your feedback!

Here's what's new and improved:

- Camera Roll organized by date. When selecting media to share in the composer, photos and videos are now organized by the date they were taken.
- Share your Favorited photos. Quickly share photos from the new Favorites album introduced with iOS 8.
- Faster performance. We've improved the responsiveness of several parts of Paper including posting a photo.
First introduced in January of 2014, Facebook's Paper app is a news creation and curation tool that pulls in content from a user's Facebook news feed and other well-known publications, organizing it into a magazine-style layout for easy reading. Many people have come to prefer Paper over the standard Facebook app to read through their news feeds.

Facebook's Paper app can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

YouTube Begins Using HTML5 Instead of Flash for Default Video Playback

youtube.pngYouTube yesterday announced it has begun using HTML5 video by default for all playback on its website, marking a substantial step in its gradual move away from Flash. The company states the new default will work in most popular web browsers including Safari.

Richard Leider, Engineering Manager for YouTube, reiterated on the adaptability of HTML5 over Flash and the use of the former's capabilities beyond a simple web browser. With YouTube's extension to devices like gaming consoles, and even the Apple TV, the benefits of dropping Flash became far more apparent over the years.
Over the last four years, we’ve worked with browser vendors and the broader community to close those gaps, and now, YouTube uses HTML5 by default in Chrome, IE 11, Safari 8 and in beta versions of Firefox.

The benefits of HTML5 extend beyond web browsers, and it's now also used in smart TVs and other streaming devices.
The new shift to HTML5 will allow better video streaming in adjustment to shifting network conditions, quicker video playback, easier access to 60 FPS HD and 4K content, with updates to encrypted media extensions that will allow the service to overall be "faster and smoother."

Despite having long dominated web video and other interactive content, Flash has been under fire for years over performance and security issues. Back in 2010, Steve Jobs famously wrote an open letter, his "Thoughts on Flash," to address the ongoing controversy over Apple's refusal to support Flash on its iOS devices. After summing up a series of shortcoming of Flash, Jobs end his letter by suggesting "Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind."

FCC Warns Hotels About Intentionally Blocking Wi-Fi Hotspots

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday issued a public enforcement advisory that warns hotel chains and other commercial establishments about intentionally blocking or interfering with Wi-Fi hotspots. The FCC's Enforcement Bureau claims that interfering with Wi-Fi hotspots is illegal and that it will take appropriate action against violators by imposing substantial fines.

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The warning follows an FCC investigation in which the government agency discovered a so-called "disturbing trend" where hotels and other commercial establishments were purposefully blocking wireless customers from connecting to their Wi-Fi hotspots. Marriott Hotels was found to have "deployed a Wi-Fi deauthentication protocol" to block customers from accessing Wi-Fi and agreed to pay a $600,000 fine.

iPhone users have long resorted to Personal Hotspot to turn their cellular data connection into a Wi-Fi network for the purpose of tethering a Mac or other connected device. Apple made Personal Hotspot more convenient in iOS 8 with Instant Hotspot, a new feature that automatically detects when an iPhone is within close range of an iPad or Mac and displays the device in the list of available Wi-Fi networks.

iPod Shuffle Shipping Times Improve to 5-7 Days in Europe Following Reports of Supplier Change

Earlier this month, the iPod shuffle's shipping estimates slipped to 7-10 days in the United States, Europe and other regions, leading to speculation as to whether the portable media player would soon be discontinued or was going through reported supplier changes. Today, we are beginning to see a clearer picture.

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For now, it appears that the iPod shuffle will continue to live on. iGen.fr was first to notice today that shipping times for the iPod shuffle have improved to 5-7 days on the Apple Online Store in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and some other European countries. The improved shipping times are not reflected in the United States or Canada storefronts yet, which still display shipping estimates of 7-10 days.

While demand for the iPod shuffle has been overshadowed by devices such as the iPhone and iPod touch, the portable media player remains a convenient and affordable option for incorporating into a daily workout routine or similar. The current fourth-generation iPod shuffle with front-facing media controls was introduced in 2010 and has not been updated since outside of a few color changes.

Related roundup: iPod shuffle

iOS 8.1.3 Fixes Exploits Used by TaiG Jailbreak

It appears that today's iOS 8.1.3 update fixes many of the exploits that were used for the iOS 8 TaiG jailbreak, which worked up until iOS 8.1.2. The earlier Pangu jailbreak was disabled with the iOS 8.1.1 update that was released on November 17.

TaiG has not yet confirmed whether iOS 8.1.3 breaks its jailbreak tool, but reports on the MacRumors forums and on Twitter suggest that is indeed the case. Apple's support document detailing the security fixes in iOS 8.1.3 credits the TaiG jailbreak team for finding four now-patched vulnerabilities in the operating system.

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At the current time, Apple is still signing iOS 8.1.2 so it's possible to downgrade from iOS 8.1.3 back to iOS 8.1.2 or upgrade to iOS 8.1.2 from an earlier version of iOS, but that could end at any time.

Released this morning, iOS 8.1.3 includes a range of bug fixes including a repair for a lingering Wi-Fi issue, and it also reduces the amount of storage space required to perform an iOS update.