Things for iOS Now Free as Apple's Featured 'Free App of the Week'

Cultured Code's popular task management app, Things, is now free for a limited time. The productivity app is being discounted as part of Apple's week-long "Free App of the Week" promotion and is the first time the app has ever been offered for free.

things-cultured-code
The sale extends to both the iPhone and iPad version of the app, offering a combined savings of $30 on the two iOS apps. Things for iOS normally is priced at $9.99 for the iPhone version and $19.99 for the iPad version. To celebrate this promotion, Cultured Code also is lowering its price on Things for the Mac ($34.99), taking 30 percent off the full $49.99 price of the app.

Things for the iPhone [Direct Link] and iPad [Direct Link] are available now for free in the iOS App Store and will remain on sale through November 28. The sale on the Mac version [Direct Link] is also live with the discount available for the upcoming week.

Apple Continues to Boost Maps Efforts with New Business Data Providers

maps_icon_ios_7Apple has continued its efforts to improve its Maps app with the addition of ten new data providers, according to a new report from Apple Maps Marketing (via 9to5Mac). The new providers specialize in providing Apple with business listings.

Apple Maps Marketing came upon the information when inquiring about Apple Maps Connect and its Business Portal, which allows businesses with over 1,000 locations to add their listings to Apple Maps. Apple responded to the inquiry by pointing the site to a group of data providers that supplied Apple with information on businesses with less than 1,000 locations.
DAC Group
Factual
Location3 Media
Marquette Group
Neustar/Localeze
Placeable
PositionTech
SIM Partners
SinglePlatform
UBL
Yelp
Yext
Yodle
Three of the providers on the list -- Yelp, Factual and Neustar/Localeze -- were already known to be providing Apple with data for its Maps app, which indicates that the remaining 10 are providers Apple has inked deals with more recently. While the list doesn't include other known Apple Maps partners like Acxiom, it does suggest Apple is continuing to add more partners to improve its data.

'Sync Solver' Allows Fitbit Users to View Fitness Related Data in Apple's Health App

Launched on the App Store this week, Sync Solver allows Fitbit wearers to track all of the important information the wearable device calculates on a daily basis directly inside Apple's own Health app without needing to use the dedicated Fitbit app.

The $0.99 app provides a daily sync of eleven different pieces of data from the Fitbit into the Health app. The points of data accrued include: active calories, resting calories, dietary calories, body fat percentage, body mass index, flights of stairs climbed, sleep analysis, walking and running distances, weight, and steps taken.

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To get the app working the first sync needs to be done manually inside of the app, but after that it will automatically sync data from the Fitbit device into the Health app every twenty-four hours. The app's release notes also mention that because there is no way to disable step counting by the iPhone itself, the "steps taken" figure is likely to be doubled as both the iPhone and Fitbit track the statistic.

The release of Sync Solver comes after rumors that Apple would cease offering Fitbit in its retail stores, and the company subsequently doing just that. Apple has not shared the reason for its discontinuation of Fitbit's products, but a combination of Apple's impending launch of Apple Watch and Fitbit's announcement that it has no plans to support HealthKit likely contributed to the move.

Sync Solver can be downloaded from the App Store for $0.99. [Direct Link]

Related roundup: iPhone 6

Mophie Launches 'Powerstation Plus' External Batteries With Integrated Cables, 2.4A Charging

Mophie today expanded its line of universal chargers with new Powerstation Plus models that provide four different battery capacity options to meet consumers' mobile charging needs. The new models feature an anodized, soft-touch, aluminum casing and a hinged top plate that opens to expose a hidden compartment housing integrated cables.

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The new Powerstation Plus builds upon the success of previous Powerstation models, adding new integrated charge and sync cables along with 2.4A charging capability. The built-in micro USB and Lightning cables are conveniently housed inside the charger's hinged housing and allow for simultaneous charging of the Powerstation Plus battery and the attached device.


The new Powerstation Plus chargers are available now at Mophie.com with prices starting at $79 for the 3,000 mAh capacity 2X model. Other versions include the 5,000 mAh Powerstation Plus 3X for $99, the 7,000 mAh Powerstation Plus 4X for $119 and the 12,000 mAh Powerstation Plus 8X for $149. Apple's online store also is carrying select models with the 2X and 3X versions both available now for purchase.

SteelSeries Stratus XL iOS Gaming Controller Launches on Apple Store

The previously announced SteelSeries Stratus XL has officially launched today on the Apple Store. Following in the footsteps of the original Stratus controller, the beefed-up Stratus XL provides a larger frame that gives it some parity to console controllers in terms of relative size and button layout.

The Stratus XL connects to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch using a wireless Bluetooth connection, and the large design fits all of the expected control inputs: two joysticks, a pressure-sensitive directional pad, four action buttons, and four shoulder buttons that include two analog trigger buttons.

stratus-xl-main
Our sister site TouchArcade got a hands-on with the controller at E3 this past summer, and found the new device favorable over the diminutive size of the original Stratus. They noted, "Instead of curling your hands around the tiny SteelSeries Stratus, holding the SteelSeries Stratus XL is more similar to having an Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller in your hands."

The Stratus XL uses AA batteries instead of a rechargeable battery pack. SteelSeries says the batteries should last for 40+ hours of playtime, and a switch on the back of the device should help users prevent heavy drainage of the batteries when not in use.


The SteelSeries Stratus XL can be purchased now from the Apple Store for $69.95, which is about $10 over the price tag of the PS4 DualShock 4 and the Xbox One Wireless Controller. The Stratus XL will be available for direct purchase from the SteelSeries official website, and for hands-on demos at select Apple Stores, on December 6.

Related roundups: iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3

Parrot Bebop Drone Landing at Apple Stores in December for $499

Drone maker Parrot today finalized the pricing for its upcoming Bebop drone, confirming a $499 price tag for the standard package and $899 for the more expensive SkyController version with an extended range wireless controller.

parrot-drone-main
The Bebop drone is Parrot's third-generation quadricopter and the successor to the popular AR Drone. The Bebop offers noticeable improvements in camera recording, including a 14-megapixel camera with 1080P full-HD video support and the ability to stream a captured feed to a compatible smartphone or tablet device.

Other notable features include an f/2.2 fish-eye lens with an 180-degree angle of view and three-axis image stabilization. The stabilization allows users to digitally pan and zoom in a semi-circle without the need for a bulky gimbal underneath the body of the drone. The Drone also connects to an iPhone via the updated FreeFLight 3.0 software, which allows the user to control the drone, view flight details, and execute complex maneuvers via on-screen touch controls.


For those looking for enhanced piloting controls, Parrot has also developed a new SkyController that extends the range of the drone from 200 meters to 2 kilometers. It also connects to first-person view glasses like the Oculus Rift, providing pilots with an immersive flight experience.

The Parrot Bebop drone will go on sale in December and will be available in both Best Buy and Apple retail and online stores. Pricing starts at $499 for the standard edition and climbs to $899 for the SkyController edition. Parrot's competitive pricing undercuts its closest competitor, the DJI Phantom 2, which retails for $679.

Logitech Announces New AnyAngle Case for iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini

Logitech today announced a new AnyAngle protective case designed for Apple's iPad Air 2 and iPad mini, which includes an "any-angle" foldable cover that can be adjusted to multiple viewing positions for reading, watching movies, and more.

Designed to "complement the thin and light aesthetics" of the iPad Air 2, the AnyAngle case includes a rubberized frame that wraps around the edges of the iPad to protect it from drops and bumps, and the adjustable front cover protects the display from scratches and cracks. The back of the case is entirely clear to show off the iPad's design while still protecting it from damage.

logitechanyangle
The AnyAngle case has a hidden hinge built into it that enables the front cover to be adjusted to any angle within a 50-degree range. A set of magnets secures the cover to preserve the chosen angle even when the iPad is being moved, and the hidden hinge ensures that the cover remains in place as a stand with no tipping or sliding. The convertible cover stand has been designed to fold up behind the iPad for a minimalist look in both stand mode and when laying flat for reading.

Logitech AnyAngle_Angles and Colors
Logitech's AnyAngle case for the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini comes in multiple color combinations to fit a wide range of personalities, including classic black, gray, yellow, violet, and teal. It will be available in the U.S. beginning later this month for $59.99.

LittleBits Introduces Do-It-Yourself Smart Home Kit for $249

LittleBits today introduced a new Smart Home Kit, which is designed to turn any household item into an Internet-connected smart device. Rather than buying various smart products, the Smart Home Kit encourages users to "reinvent" the things that they already own.

Using the tools in the kit, users might build curtains that open at sunrise, a remote controlled pet feeder, a doorbell that sends a notification when it's pressed, or a toilet paper roll that alerts users when it's empty. The LittleBits website has several different video examples of how the kit can be used, along with tutorials.

"Our mission is to put the power of electronics in the hands of everyone, and to break down complex technologies so that anyone can build, prototype, and invent. Democratizing the smart home industry is one more step in delivering on that promise," said Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO of littleBits. "The Smart Home Kit is giving people the power and opportunity to take the Internet of Things movement into their own hands, and bring their home to the 21st century, on their own terms  recreate a popular smart device, retrofit an old appliance, or invent something entirely new that may be the next big thing."
The Smart Home Kit comes with 14 "Bits," including the cloudBit for connecting things to the Internet, an MP3 player, a temperature sensor, a light sensor, a speaker, an IR transmitter, and more. It also comes equipped with project ideas and 11 accessories, like an AC switch, which can interface with wall outlets for connected fans, lights, and more.

The Smart Home Kit can be pre-ordered from the LittleBits site for $249. Kits will begin shipping in early December, and LittleBits also plans to sell its Smart Home Kit in RadioShack stores next month.

PayPal Launches Mobile Payments App for Pebble Smartwatch

PayPal today announced that its popular iOS and Android mobile payments app will be available for the Pebble Smartwatch (via VentureBeat).

The PayPal app has let users pay for purchases in certain locations for a while now, and integration with Android Wear has allowed users of Android-powered smart watches such as Samsung’s Gear 2, Gear S, and Gear Fit to make payments via their watches since earlier this year. With the new Pebble app, iOS users can now get a taste of the functionality, which allows them to check into stores and pay for their purchases at locations where PayPal is readily accepted, all without need of using a phone.

Customers can pay for purchases one of two ways: with an auto-generated payment code used when checking out or, with certain PayPal accepted retailers, by checking into a store inside of the PayPal app. If using the latter payment method, the app will automatically communicate with the merchant's point of sale during the check-out process.

paypal_pebble
PayPal's integration with these smart devices in some ways mirrors Apple's own burgeoning payment system Apple Pay, which is slowly rolling out just now, although the two systems have some significant differences. Despite early rumors of a possible partnership between the online payment giant and Apple earlier this year, the talks reportedly came to a halt when PayPal inked a deal with Samsung to allow users to make PayPal payments with the Galaxy S5's fingerprint sensor.

PayPal was subsequently excluded from any integration into Apple Pay. PayPal, in response, launched an ad targeting the public release of certain private celebrity iCloud photos and simultaneously promoting its own intense security.

The PayPal app for the Pebble Smartwatch can be downloaded now for free. Its features can also be taken advantage of in the PayPaliOS app [Direct Link].

Related roundup: Apple Pay

Facebook Introduces New Standalone 'Groups' App

Facebook today announced a new Facebook Groups app, which is designed to let Facebook users access and interact with the Facebook groups that they have joined.

Facebook has long had a groups function, where families, clubs, workplaces, and more can band together for a custom sharing experience. The groups feature lets people post and share content that is exclusive to the group, which can be open, closed, or private.

According to Facebook, its new dedicated Groups app is designed to help people "share faster and more easily" with all of their groups, as group interactions are typically buried under other functionality in the standard Facebook app.

facebookgroups
This app gives you a dedicated space for you and your groups.

See all of your Facebook Groups in one place. Discuss, plan and collaborate easily and without distractions. Follow your groups here or on Facebook, whichever is easier for you.

- Create a group for just about anything.
- Share information, post photos and links, and stay in touch.
- Discover and join new groups for whatever you're into.
The main view of the Groups app displays all of a user's groups, with the most recently visited group listed at the top. New groups can be created from within the app with the "Create" button, and the app also delivers notifications on group activity. There's also a discover feature to suggest new groups to people based on pages that they've liked.

While Facebook removed messaging functionality from its main app to redirect its users to the Facebook Messenger app, the company says that groups will continue to be accessible from the main Facebook app as well as the new Groups app.

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

New 'Loose Leaf' App for the iPad Aims to Replace Scratch Paper

Designed as a scratch paper app for the iPad, Loose Leaf is a new quick note taking app that uses a simple, no frills design and incorporates both clever sketching tools and intuitive touch gestures for a unique idea planning experience.

Like many simple note taking/sketching apps, Loose Leaf includes a pen for basic writing and sketching, along with a tool for erasing. There are five different pen colors available, plus an undo/redo button for fixing mistakes, and an image insertion tool for adding photos or images from the camera roll.

In addition to these basic tools, there's a useful cutting tool that allows users to cut out a section of the page (or an image) by drawing an outline with a finger. The cutout can be dragged to a new location with a two finger drag, or resized with pinch gestures. Pulling on a cutout with two fingers on each side will duplicate it, while two fingers will rotate it and pinching will resize it.


Two finger swipes on the left and the right of the screen will switch between pages that have been created, and dragging a cutout to the right side of the screen will save it in a "scrap drawer" so that it can be added to any other page.

A two finger pinch on the main sketch will open an overview menu of all sketches, where they can be reorganized, and pulling a sketch all the way to the left at this screen will delete it.

Loose Leaf also includes a ruler tool that can be shaped to create perfect lines or circles, which is useful for mapping out designs. The ruler tool is used like a real ruler, with one hand holding the shape on the screen and a second hand tracing it onto the page.


Sketches can be sent instantly to contacts, emailed, messaged, saved to the camera roll, printed, sent to someone via AirDrop, or shared on Twitter and Facebook. There's even a tool to upload sketches directly to image sharing site Imgur, and sketches can be opened in a variety of different apps like Dropbox, Pixelmator, Evernote, and more.

Loose Leaf's drawing tools are very basic, but combined with the ruler tool and intuitive gestures that make duplication super quick, the app can be useful for sketching out ideas, mocking up projects, and more.

Loose Leaf can be downloaded from the App Store for $4.99. [Direct Link]

'Minecraft Pocket Edition' Update Brings 'Prettier, Faster, Less Buggier' Experience

Mojang today announced a significant new update for Minecraft Pocket Edition. The update promises numerous graphical enhancements and bug fixes and is the first major update to the game since the Stockholm-based developer was acquired by Microsoft for $2.5 billion back in September.

Today's update to the game focuses mainly on bug fixes, but there are a few notable additions to the popular block-building game as well. The 0.10 update adds gold mines into Mesa biomes, a day and night option for playing in Creative Mode, and more options for fences and gates.

minecraftpocket
Prettier water, fog, and lighting effects round out the graphical overhaul features of the 0.10 update. Mojang also promises improved performance on many devices the game is available for, a fix for the bug where baby animals could not swim, and the tease of "lots more cool stuff that you can discover for yourself."
0.10 - Prettier, faster, less buggier

We’ve improved the graphics, increased performance, and killed off heaps of bugs in one massive update. We’ve also stopped baby animals from sinking when they try to swim because that’s just mean. Update and have fun!

- Loads of bug fixes!
- More watery-looking water
- Foggier-looking fog
- Even more particles than before
- Tinted lighting on terrain and mobs
- Improved performance on many devices
- More fences! More fence gates! Everyone loves fences
- Gold mines in Mesa biomes. Get rich quick
- Baby animals can now swim without sinking
- Play Creative Mode during both the day and night
- Lots more cool stuff that you can discover for yourself
Though the initial launch of the iOS version of Minecraft was met with skepticism due to its large lack of parity with desktop versions, numerous updates such as today's have gotten Pocket Edition closer and closer to its PC and console counterparts.

Minecraft Pocket Edition can be downloaded from the App Store for $6.99. [Direct Link]