Five iOS Apps Worth Checking Out - October 2018

On our MacRumors YouTube channel, we have an ongoing video series that's designed to highlight new, interesting, and useful iOS apps that we think are worth downloading and checking out.

There are so many apps in the iOS App Store that it can be hard to find new apps and it's also easy to overlook great apps that are a bit older. Our app lists include both new and old apps that we recommend and have personally tested out.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.

  • Grimvalor ($5.99) - We like to include at least one game in our iOS app roundups, and this month's recommendation is Grimvalor, from the team that developed popular game Swordigo. GrimValor is a traditional hack n' slash platformer with solid virtual controls, great graphics, and plenty of content to get through. As with most games of this type, the idea is to fight monsters, explore dungeons, and gather loot to progress through the story. Grimvalor costs $5.99, and there are no additional in-app purchases.

  • Habitica (Free) - Habitica is an app that uses gamification to motivate you to adhere to desired habits and reach goals by letting you level up a character by accomplishing a series of user-defined tasks. It's basically a to-do list that comes with a custom avatar that levels up as you finish what you're working on. You can fight monsters, unlock armor, pets, and skills, and complete quests by meeting your goals. Habitica is free to download, but there are optional in-app subscriptions for unlocking features.

  • Sorted (Free) - Sorted is a task management app that's designed to let you schedule events, tasks, and notes into a timeline, with a built-in feature that creates a full daily schedule for you. Sorted has flexible controls for scheduling, with options for folders, lists, and tags for organization. Sorted is free to download, but unlocking all of its features costs $14.99.

  • Sip (Free) - Sip News, an app from Product Hunt, is designed to deliver news in an easily digestible format. You see one news headline at a time in the app, and you can tap on either side of the screen to scroll through the relevant details of the story. Sip sends you a notification whenever it has something that might be of interest, and there's also a repository of older news stories for you to look through.

  • Entale (Free) - Entale is a unique podcasts app that's designed to pull you further into audio stories by adding pictures, links, quotes, and more to a medium that's traditionally limited to the spoken word. It's a neat way to get additional reference information on the content discussed in your favorite podcasts.
Have a favorite iOS app? Let us know down in the comments. We're always looking for new iOS app ideas for this video series, and we'll check out all of your recommendations. You can also check out our recommendations from previous months here, and don't miss our similar Mac app series featuring some great Mac apps.

Caviar Launches $6,000+ Custom iPhone XS With Built-In Mechanical Skeleton Watch

Caviar, a site known for creating extravagant, expensive replacement casings for Apple's iPhone models, today announced the launch of its latest custom creation, an iPhone XS with a built-in skeleton watch.


The Grand Complications Skeleton collection, inspired by luxury watches, features iPhone XS and XS Max models in titanium, pink gold, and black and gold, all of which have mechanical watch components included right in the casing.


The front of the iPhone has been left untouched, but the back features a mechanical watch with an accurate Swiss watch mechanism complemented by intricate guilloche work and matching engravings.


According to Caviar, the watch built into the customized iPhones is wound manually through a crown that's included on the right side of the casing.

"We've been keeping this development as a secret for a long time, that's why now we're especially happy to present it to your attention. We ourselves are fascinated by the idea of meeting of the heritage of the past and the achievements of the future in the body of one device. We got used to thinking that a smartphone is all we need today and this is our whole life. But in fact, our life is not limited by the technologies only. The passage of time, majestic and implacable is still worth watching by real hands. The watch is, if we may say so, the beginning of the progress, the mechanism, from which everything has begun. This is why a mechanical watch today is a real luxury."
Caviar is limiting the Grand Complications Skeleton iPhones to 99 pieces in each colorway, with each iPhone numbered via an engraving on the side of the device.


More details on the new Grand Complications Skeleton collection can be found on Caviar's website. The new iPhones are priced starting at $6,320 for a 64GB titanium iPhone XS model and go up to $8,080 for a black and gold iPhone XS Max with 512GB storage.


Caviar also sells a range of other customized luxury iPhones made from unique materials and with intricate designs.

Microsoft Testing Revamped Version of Cortana App for iOS

Microsoft is testing a version of its Cortana app for iOS and Android devices that features a major interface overhaul and new features, according to Windows Central.

The updated app, which is being tested by beta testers, features a user interface that's focused on conversational experiences with Cortana, along with support for music and podcast suggestions, and a focus on setting reminders, timers, and meetings.


For those unfamiliar with Cortana, it is Microsoft's personal assistant, available on Microsoft devices and other devices through iOS and Android apps. It is equivalent to Apple's Siri, Samsung's Bixby, and Google's Google Assistant.

Full release notes for the new features in the current beta are below:
- An update to the UI enabling conversational experiences with Cortana and a new place to manage and set up your Cortana devices

- Listen to music and podcasts on the go. Just ask Cortana to play your favorite tunes and podcasts with Spotify, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn on your phone or through a paired Bluetooth device

- Stay organized and on task. Set reminders, timers and create meetings with your voice

- Join your next Skype or Teams meeting by simply asking Cortana. You can also manage your calendar or send a quick email by voice
Following the beta testing period for the app, the new features with the redesigned interface will roll out to the official Cortana for iOS app. Cortana for iOS can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

This is Apple's 'Zombie Check' Tool Used to Reduce iPhone Repair Fraud

Last week, The Information's Wayne Ma reported about a sophisticated fraud scheme in which organized thieves would buy or steal iPhones, remove valuable components like the processor or logic board, swap in fake components, and return the purposefully-broken iPhones to receive replacements they could resell.

iPhone Serial Number Reader

Apple became aware of the increasing fraud in 2013 and, in the years since, it has managed to "dramatically reduce" the rate of iPhone-related repair fraud in its retail stores, particularly in China, according to the report.

One of Apple's countermeasures was to develop diagnostic software that its retail employees could use to quickly detect fake parts in iPhones, the report said. To evade this tactic, however, many fraudsters started to intentionally disable the iPhones so they couldn't be turned on and subjected to diagnostics.

Fraudsters even went as far as obtaining Apple customer records, including serial numbers, for iPhones that had already been sold in China. In some cases, the incorrect serial numbers would be etched on the back of the iPhones.

To combat the use of stolen serial numbers, The Information reported that Apple came up with a screening method known as "Zombie Check" internally that tested whether serial numbers for the broken iPhones held for inspection were also associated with iPhones still using Apple's online services like iCloud.

According to an internal Apple document obtained by MacRumors, the tool was initially limited to China, but Apple began rolling it out to Apple Authorized Service Providers around the world in February 2018.

The aptly-named Serial Number Reader is a simple tool with a Lightning connector on one end and USB-A on the other. It is used to validate the serial number of an iPhone 6 or newer that will not power on by retrieving it directly from the logic board, although a source said it doesn't always work.

To use the tool, a technician connects the end with the Lightning cable to the iPhone and the end with the USB cable to a Mac running macOS 10.8.5 or later. Then, the technician launches the companion Serial Number Reader app on the Mac and the iPhone's serial number should appear in most cases.


The tool can retrieve serial numbers from iPhones that have been damaged in a variety of ways, including units with a non-functional display. Liquid damage is also no obstacle, so long as the liquid is no longer leaking out of the device.

Apple's internal document states that "serial number validation ensures warranty and service eligibility associated with a serialized device is appropriately applied." The document adds that "validation ensures Apple only offers warranty service on genuine Apple products," thwarting fraudsters.

Apple's efforts appear to be working. Apple's annual Form 10-K indicates that, in 2017, Apple's warranty expenses decreased to $4.32 billion from $4.66 billion a year earlier. The serial number tool, it would appear, is quite effective.

SoundCloud Go+ Subscription Plan Now Supports High Quality Audio Streaming at No Extra Cost

SoundCloud today announced that users on the SoundCloud Go+ subscription plan will now gain access to lossless audio streaming at no additional cost.


SoundCloud Go is the company's enhanced streaming service, with three tiers that start at free with 120 million tracks to stream; $4.99/month with 120 million tracks, offline saving, and ad-free streaming; and SoundCloud Go+ with everything in the previous tiers plus 30 million "premium" tracks and high quality audio.
When you discover a track on SoundCloud, it’s all about connecting as closely as possible to the creator’s sound and vision. With high quality audio streaming now part of your SoundCloud Go+ subscription, you can experience what’s new, now and next in music on a higher level.
High quality audio means that content uploaded to SoundCloud in a lossless format doesn't lose the integrity of its engineered recording and will be available to stream in high quality at 256kbps AAC. Go+ subscribers can opt into this feature in SoundCloud settings > "Streaming quality."

SoundCloud has been expanding its streaming service over the years, launching "The Upload" playlist in May 2017 to personally curate a list of songs for each user. In December 2017, the company debuted a new home screen in the iOS app to further lean into user personalization. The revamped launch screen offers curated recommendations, personalized playlists, and "exclusive culture-focused audio content."

High quality streaming is a feature that has been missing from Apple Music since its launch in 2015, and one that a few of its rivals already have. Tidal launched with "HiFi" streaming as one of its premiere features, offering lossless audio using FLAC at a resolution of 44.1 kHz/16 bit, and further expanding with "Tidal Masters" that has "the highest-possible resolution" of around 96 kHz/24 bit. Tidal's plans with HiFi cost $19.99/month.

You can download the SoundCloud app from the iOS App Store for free [Direct Link].

Skydio's R1 Drone Expands to Apple Stores, Can Now Be Controlled via Apple Watch

Earlier this year, drone company Skydio introduced its first product, the self-flying R1 drone camera with advanced automation and tracking capabilities.

The R1 was designed to be the first fully autonomous drone, able to work without the need for a person controlling its every movement. Prior to today, using the R1 was as easy as tapping a few buttons in the Skydio iPhone app, and now it's getting even easier.

As of today, the R1 can be directed through a newly introduced Apple Watch app that provides one-tap controls and directives right on your wrist.


The Skydio Apple Watch interface provides quick access buttons to set the R1 to follow you or a friend as well as options for doing tricks and stopping flight. While there are no manual controls available via the wrist, the R1 operates largely on its own. If you do want to control it manually, you'll need to do so through the iPhone app.

MacRumors was able to give the R1 and the new Apple Watch app a try ahead of its launch, and it's as simple as Skydio describes. The R1 detects people in front of it, and with just a tap, it can be set to follow you, where it records everything you're doing as a sort of flying personal camera or photographer.


The R1 is a hands-off action cam replacement that's fantastic for hiking, biking, skiing, and similar activities where you might want to capture action-oriented video without the hassle of controlling a drone.

What's great about the R1 is that it has complex built-in obstacle avoidance capabilities. We wove it through trees and watched as it artfully dodged trunk after trunk with skill that even some advanced drone pilots would be unable to match.

The R1 is able to avoid obstacles because it's outfitted with 13 cameras that can see in every direction and identify objects like trees, people, cars, and more, using that information to decide what to do and what to avoid.


Once you set the R1 to auto follow mode, it basically flies itself, and there are some neat tricks that Skydio has programmed into it, such as the Boomerang that sends it flying forwards and backwards to capture a unique video shot.

The Apple Watch app offers up little thumbnails of the people around so you can set it to follow someone (or yourself), and it uses the Digital Crown in a unique way -- a twist of the knob rotates the direction of the drone.

Because it flies on its own, the R1 can do a series of neat little tricks, most of which are executable from the wrist. There are options for Dronie, Rocket, and Orbit, for example.

A Dronie starts close and then zooms out and up for a birds-eye view of a scene, while a Rocket shot starts close and then zooms straight up. An Orbit shot, as the name suggests, spins around you slowly. The Apple Watch app also includes a feature to return the drone to back to its starting place at the iPhone and shut it down, so you can get a full flight from the wrist.


Skydio's R1 basically flies itself and it needs so little interaction that it's simple to use right out of the box, even for those who have no drone piloting experience. All it takes is an iPhone for setup and it can be controlled with nothing other than the Apple Watch.

The R1 is excellent at obstacle avoidance, but it's still a drone and an expensive one at $1,999, so there are rules to follow. It can't be flown in windy conditions, and its cameras aren't able to detect thin branches as we learned during a crash, so caution needs to be exercised.

Skydio is continually improving the R1 drone with new features and further autonomous research. It's out of the price range of most people who would use it casually at this point in time, and it's not the most portable at the size of a pizza box, but the technology is worth paying attention to because this kind of autonomy could be the future of mass-market drone usage in a few years time.

Along with introducing a new Apple Watch app for controlling the R1, Skydio has additional news. Starting today, the R1 is available on the Apple online store and at select Apple retail locations. It can also be purchased from the Skydio website.

Ember Temperature Control Mug Adds Support for Apple Health, Exclusive Colors Now Sold in Apple Stores

Ember today announced that its temperature control mugs will now sync with Apple's Health iOS app, allowing users to track their caffeine consumption throughout the day alongside other Health app statistics. The updated Ember app introduces this Health integration, with features like setting a maximum caffeine intake measurement for the day that will warn users when they near the limit.


The company explains that users will also be able to use the Health app's information to understand how their caffeine consumption affects other data tracked in Health, like heart rate and sleep patterns. Version 3.0 of the Ember iOS app [Direct Link] is available to download now on the iOS App Store.
"As a design-led brand, we are committed to delivering world class innovation that is as human and intuitive as possible. The updated Ember app with the Apple Health feature will give consumers a simple, easy way to track their caffeine consumption during the day, in order to make more informed decisions about what they are drinking. It's one more step Ember is taking to provide the best experience for coffee and tea lovers."
Ember's mugs allow the user to set a precise drinking temperature to ensure that their coffee or tea remains at the perfect level of heat. Both the Travel Mug and Ceramic Mug support caffeine tracking, favorite drink presets, and integration with the Health app. The Ceramic Mug maintains the ideal drinking temperature for one hour (or all day if set on the charging coaster), while the Travel Mug maintains temperature for two hours (and similarly for all day on a charging coaster).

The Ember iOS app syncs to the mugs, allowing users to set their desired temperature, receive notifications when the temperature is reached, create and customize temperature presets, set timers when making tea, and more. Up to three mugs can be paired with the app at once.


Additionally, Ember announced that its mugs will be available in select Apple stores starting today, in countries including the United States, Canada, Europe, Hong Kong, Macao, and Singapore. Apple will also gain the new Ember Travel Mug ($149.95) in white as an exclusive on Apple.com and in Apple Stores in the U.S. and Canada. The Ember Ceramic Mug ($79.95) in black will be sold as an exclusive in select Apple stores across Europe, the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, Macao, and Singapore and on Apple.com.

Tag: Ember

Google Maps Can Now Help Users Find Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Google has announced it is introducing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to its Maps coverage, allowing EV drivers to see on the map where they can stop to recharge during their journeys.


Searching in Google Maps for keywords like "ev charging" or "EV charging stations" will display the nearest supported stations, including information on the types of ports available, charging speeds, and how many ports there are. However, there's currently nothing to tell you how many ports are currently occupied at a given station.

Typical location information is also provided for EV stations, so you can check out user-posted photos, ratings, reviews, and questions. Businesses that have charging stations will also feature links to information about the chargers.

The types of charging stations Google Maps supports around the world:
  • Global: Tesla, Chargepoint
  • US: SemaConnect, EVgo, Blink
  • UK: Chargemaster, Pod Point
  • AU & NZ: Chargefox
Google says the ability to search for electric vehicle charging stations is rolling out now on Android and iOS devices after users have updated the Maps app, with desktop support launching in the coming weeks.

Google Maps can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Review: The Philips Hue Outdoor Lightstrip With HomeKit Integration Lights Up Your Backyard

Earlier this year, Signify (formerly Philips) debuted a new range of outdoor Hue lighting products that are designed to bring the iPhone-controlled multi-colored lights that you're used to using inside to the outside.

There are outdoor spotlights, wall lanterns, pathway lights, outdoor bulbs, and for accent lighting, the Hue White and Color Ambiance Outdoor Lightstrip.


Measuring in at 80 inches, the $89 Outdoor Lightstrip is perfect for balconies, patios, backyards, and anywhere else you'd like to add gorgeous and functional accent lighting that's also weatherproof.

Design


I've been using Hue products for years and I have a standard indoor Hue Lightstrip, and when I got the outdoor version, I assumed it'd be similar. It is, in the sense that it's a long string of LEDs, but the similarities end there.

While the indoor Hue Lightstrip features LEDs that are uncovered, for weatherproofing reasons, the outdoor Hue Lightstrip's LEDs are protected by an opaque silicone cover that diffuses the light and looks fantastic.


I'm a fan of my indoor Hue Lightstrips, but the way the outdoor version diffuses the light is superior, and I wish the indoor models looked like this. Because of the silicone-covered design, the Outdoor Lightstrip doesn't need to be used as background accent lighting, it can be front and center on a pathway, along a railing, on a fence, or in other similar spots.


The Outdoor Lightstrips are available in 80 or 197 inch configurations. Unlike the indoor version, there is no adhesive involved here. Instead, the Outdoor Lightstrip is made from a flexible material that can be manipulated and shaped into the design that you need. It's not going to fully bend, but it can be routed along a soft curve.


Hue's Outdoor Lightstrip is fully weatherproof, so it's going to hold up in rain, snow, and other harsh weather conditions. There are some limitations to be aware of if you live in an area with extreme temperatures, though, because it has an operational range of -4 degrees Fahrenheit to 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is a heavy duty setup with a large weatherproof power supply and an extra long two-piece cord, all of which is resistant to rain, dust, and other outdoor elements. I was tempted to use the Outdoor Lightstrip indoors because I loved the look of the diffuse light, but there is a lot of cord to deal with and no option to make it shorter.


The Outdoor Lightstrip measures in at .78 inches tall and .43 inches wide, so it's slim enough to go just about anywhere. There is no adhesive involved because it likely wouldn't stick outdoors. Instead, Signify supplies mounting brackets and screws that can be used to attach the Lightstrip to a fence, an overhang, or anywhere else.


I live in an apartment so my ability to permanently attach the Lightstrip to an outdoor area is limited, but I did install it on a set of shelves that I have to hold my plants, where it worked brilliantly. With the individual LEDs covered, the Outdoor Lightstrip looks like one continual light strand.

➜ Click here to read more...

Lyft's All-Access Subscription Plan Rolling Out Nationwide, $300/Month for 30 Rides

In March, Lyft began testing a monthly subscription plan for select high-frequency users, and today the company announced that a version of this plan will now be available to everyone in the United States by the end of the week. Called the "All-Access Plan," passengers will be able to pay upfront every 30 days, locking in a set price for their rides and not having to pay out for each individual Lyft trip.


Subscribers of the All-Access Plan will get 30 rides (for up to $15 each) for a monthly fee of $299, and can cancel their plan anytime. If a ride goes over $15, subscribers will have to pay the difference. If the 30 ride limit is exceeded, Lyft will offer five percent off additional rides. Additionally, unused rides will not roll over to the following monthly pay period.

During its test, Lyft tried out plans that cost $200/month, $300/month, and $400/month for different amount of rides and incentives, but it appears that the company landed on $299/month as the sweet spot. At the time, Lyft CEO Logan Green discussed the subscription plan tests, saying, "We are going to move the entire industry from one based on ownership to one based on subscription."

In today's press release, Lyft says the nationwide rollout of the All-Access Plan is the first step toward "delivering on our goal of making car ownership optional."
When you spend less time driving (and parking), you have more freedom — and more savings. Americans who use the All-Access Plan for all of their personal car needs can save up to 59%* per month compared to owning a car.

This is the first step toward delivering on our goal of making car ownership optional, and we’re constantly looking for more ways to provide passengers with the easiest, most convenient options possible.
Lyft launches its subscription plan after rival Uber trialed its own similar monthly subscription payments in 2016, without following up with a full launch. Lyft has also partnered with Google's Waymo "to bring autonomous vehicle technology into the mainstream."

Tag: Lyft

Libratone ZIPP and ZIPP MINI Gain AirPlay 2 Support via Firmware Update

Libratone today announced that AirPlay 2 is available for its ZIPP and ZIPP MINI speakers through a firmware update that can be downloaded from the Libratone app.

Libratone first announced support for AirPlay 2 back in May when Apple released AirPlay 2 support in the iOS 11.4 update, but it took several months for AirPlay 2 to be implemented.


The ZIPP and the ZIPP MINI join several other speakers that have been updated with AirPlay 2 support, including several Sonos models. Sonos was one of the first companies to implement AirPlay 2 functionality.

With AirPlay 2 support, Libratone speakers will be able to be used alongside other AirPlay 2 speakers for a multi-room home audio experience.

Libratone's ZIPP speaker can be purchased from Amazon for $300, while the ZIPP MINI can be purchased from Amazon for $250.

Apple Seeds Fourth Beta of watchOS 5.1 to Developers

Apple today seeded the fourth beta of an upcoming watchOS 5.1 update to developers, one week after seeding the third watchOS 5.1 beta and a month after releasing the new watchOS 5 operating system.

Once the proper configuration profile has been installed from the Apple Developer Center, the new watchOS beta can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General --> Software update.


To install the update, the Apple Watch needs to have at least 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the charger, and it has to be in range of the iPhone.

watchOS 5.1 includes support for the Group FaceTime that's also available in iOS 12.1 and macOS 10.14.1, with Group FaceTime calls able to be answered in an audio-only capacity on the Apple Watch. Group FaceTime allows you to chat with up to 32 people at one time.

The watchOS 5.1 update brings a full-screen new "Color" watch face option for the Apple Watch Series 4, with users able to choose between multiple shades. There's also a filled-in circular color option for older Apple Watch models that joins the standard Color clock face.


Alongside macOS 10.14.1 and iOS 12.1, watchOS 5.1 introduces support for more than 70 new emoji characters like face with hearts, red hair, gray hair, curly hair, super heroes, kangaroo, peacock, parrot, lobster, cupcake, mango, and more.

No other new features were discovered in the first three betas of watchOS 5.1, but should we find something new in the fourth beta, we'll update this post.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 5
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)