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Games for the weekend: Storm in a Teacup

Games for the Weekend is a weekly feature aimed at helping you avoid doing something constructive with your downtime. Each Friday we’ll be recommending a game for Mac, iPhone or iPad that we think is awesome enough to keep you busy until Monday, at least.

Storm in a TeacupA platforming game presents the player with a series of actual platforms the central character must jump to and from to complete a level. With Chillingo’s iOS title Storm in a Teacup, we get classic side scrolling platform mechanics, with graphics and charm that are anything but traditional.  For just $1.99 on the Mac App Store, and$2.99 on both the iPhone and iPad, this game offers a lot for very little.

Storm in a Teacup 1

What sets this game apart from other platform games is the meticulous detail on the graphical design of the levels.  The style could best be described as a well-crafted scrapbooking project come to life.  The main character, Storm, navigates a flying teacup through various obstacles, ultimately collecting hidden stickers that are revealed once all of the sugar cubes have been collected.  As you collect these stickers, you can customize the design of Storm’s world by unlocking new outfits, hairstyles and even changes to the teacup itself.

Storm in a Teacup 2

The game is simple, yet slightly challenging to master.  You move either forward or back and can give the teacup either a gentle or hard nudge into the air.  The physics behind the gliding aspect of the teacup are reliable and consistent.  You are however limited in how much ‘umph’ you have available at any give time to propel the teacup backwards or forwards.

You’ll find you’re about halfway through the forty levels by the time you’ve mastered flying in a teacup, at which point the difficulty gets a little more challenging where obstacles are concerned.  The real challenge isn’t simply completing every level, but completing every level perfectly and collecting all the hidden stickers. Unique achievements like completing a level without jumping, which are awarded through Crystal and Game Center integration, add replay value to this cute, fun game.

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Apple loses appeal in Australian Galaxy Tab case

Friday was not a good day for Apple’s ongoing global legal efforts. In addition to the German ruling against it in a case with Motorola Mobility, the Australian High Court has also agreed with the Federal Court decision and overturned the ban of the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Apple had applied with the High Court for special permission to appeal the Federal Court’s ruling from November that reversed the injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia. At the time, legal experts in Australia suggested it was a move that wasn’t very likely to succeed, and the High Court’s ruling on Friday affirms that view. Last week, the High Court extended the injunction temporarily in order to provide it time to consider Apple’s request.

Samsung’s victory means it can now officially start selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia in time for the holidays, which should salvage the device’s chances of being a viable product in that market. Lawyers for Samsung had previously expressed concern that the continued injunction would prevent Samsung from ever being able to launch the product down under. Now, the Sydney Morning Herald reports the Tab 10.1 could hit stores as early as next week.

The ruling still applies only to the preliminary injunction, and the full case regarding Apple’s claim that the Samsung tablet infringes its tablet technology won’t be heard until sometime in mid-2012.

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Motorola Mobility wins injunction against Apple in Germany

On Friday morning, FOSS Patents reported that the Mannheim Regional Court in Germany ruled in favor of Motorola Mobility in one of the patent infringement cases brought by the company against Apple. It’s a significant ruling that represents a major victory for the company Google is in the process of buying.

The ruling includes an injunction that is “preliminarily enforceable” against Apple Sales International, Apple’s Ireland-based EU wholesale subsidiary. The injunction covers a wide range of products, including all iPhones as well as 3G-enabled iPads, since it deals with European patent 1010336 (B1), which describes a “method for performing countdown function during a mobile-originated transfer for a packet radio system.”

It’s a significant ruling, because although Motorola previously secured a similar injunction against Apple in Germany, that one was based on a default judgment, meaning that Apple never presented a defense in the case. For Friday’s ruling, the court ruled after both sides had the opportunity to present their full arguments.

Apple will no doubt appeal this ruling to the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court, seeking a stay of the injunction. If it fails in that effort, the Mannheim Regional Court has attached a €100 million ($134 million) bond (much lower than the $2.7 billion Apple was seeking) to the decision, which Motorola would be liable to pay in the event the injunction against Apple is enforced and a later appeal overturns the injunction awarded on Friday.

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Instagram, Snapseed picture-perfect in Apple’s best of 2011

Apple revealed iTunes Rewind 2011 on Thursday, its latest installment of the annual feature where it lauds the best content available on its network of iTunes media stores. The list highlights the best in music, apps, TV shows, movies, e-books and podcasts for 2011, covering various genres and devices.

The App Store list is the most interesting to me, as you can definitely see a trend in what the Apple team values in apps. The iPhone App of the Year (iTunes link) went to Instagram, which is an iPhone-exclusive (for now) photo-sharing network, and the iPad App of the Year (iTunes link) was Snapseed, which is basically a simple photo editor for iPad that lets you apply Instagram-like filter effects to your photos, but with more granular control.

In both the iPhone and iPad categories, runners-up for App of the Year included music-related titles. VidRhythm on the iPhone is an app for creating mashup music videos with friends; Band of the Day highlights one artist each day, as its name implies, and provides track selections, biographical information and more for each band it profiles; and djay on the iPad, which is a digital turntable, also got a nod.

Games on the iPhone and iPad singled out for praise include Dead Space on the iPad as Game of the Year, and Tiny Tower named the same for the iPhone. It was a “Tiny” sweep on the iPhone as Tiny Wings came in as a runner-up, with indie darling Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP grabbing that honor for the iPad, alongside another unique title, puzzler Contre Jour HD.

On the Mac App Store, Apple also picked favorites, including Pixelmator and Civilization V. Djay got another nod on the Mac as a runner-up, alongside game Anomaly Warzone. Check out the rest of the list in the MAS section (App Store link) created specifically for this year’s list.

Check out all the top picks for apps, and all other media, including artist, album and song of the year at Apple’s iTunes Rewind 2011 (iTunes link) dedicated page.

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This could be the iPhone’s best quarter ever

Apple Event 10/4 Tim Cook iPhonesRemember in October how Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer went off message and actually predicted this current quarter would see Apple’s selling more iPhones than ever before? It was certainly unusual for Apple executives to raise expectations in such a specific way, but it looks like it wasn’t such a risky call: A new report from UBS says Apple is on track to sell 30 million iPhones this quarter, which would blow away the previous record of 20.34 million set in the company’s fiscal third quarter.

Maynard Um of UBS sent a note to clients late Wednesday night saying that based on AT&T’s exuberant report that the carrier is on its way to selling more iPhones than it ever has, he is upping his estimate of iPhones sold during this quarter from 28 million to 30 million. AT&T says it has sold 6 million iPhones this quarter already, so even with more than three weeks left in the quarter, its executives felt comfortable predicting it would easily surpass its current record of 6.1 million iPhones sold.

But even then, Um said his estimate is still conservative and that the actual number of iPhones sold could go even higher this quarter. He writes:

We believe that there is a general strength across the board for iPhone demand and are raising our CY4Q [estimates] to 30mn from 28mn units. We continue to believe that our [estimates] are conservative as these revised [estimates] are still below where expected build plans are. We conservatively leave our out [sic] qtr ests though we believe China launches could drive upside.

Apple, on the other hand, was the opposite of conservative when it forecast this quarter. Back in October, just after the iPhone 4S went on sale, Cook stated, “I’m confident that we will set an all-time record for iPhone this quarter,” and Oppenheimer put a bold forecast out there to match: $37 billion in revenue for this quarter — up 38 percent from the $26.74 billion of the same quarter last year — and earnings per share of $9.30, up from $6.43.

We will find out mid-January just how bold — or conservative — that call was.

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FLUD Version 2.0 Hits the App Store – Here’s Why You Might Like It More Than FlipBoard

Reading the news on the iPad is one of the absolute best experiences you can have on Apple’s magical tablet device. So when news hit yesterday that our two favorite iOS news reader apps came out with updates, we were pretty stoked. While you probably heard a great deal about the other reader app, we wanted to tell you about the awesome news reader you might be missing out on. It’s called Flud, and it was just completely redesigned yesterday.

Besides sporting a major facelift, what’s spectacular about Flud is its new ability to make reading the news a social experience. Rather than relying solely on an app to recommend websites and content to you, Flud users have the ability to see what their friends are reading in the app and share content back with them rather than spamming their Facebook or Twitter feed with the 15 news stories they’ve read throughout the day. Giving each user the ability to create a “news personality,” Flud aims to change the way we consume news much in the same way that Spotify and Rdio have changed the way we listen to music, by allowing users to inspire and be inspired by others based on what they consume.

The New Design

iPad owners that are familiar with Flud will be surprised by the changes the company has made to the user interface. Throwing away the mosaic interface that condensed multiple news feeds into a heavy stream of updating tiles, Flud’s new UI feels more like sheets of a magazine that you can glance at and flip through with ease. Explaining the reasons for the changes, Flud’s CEO, Bobby Ghoshal, told Cult of Mac -

We wanted users to focus on one news stream at a time so that they could get the most out of each source. We noticed a lot of users found the mosaic interface to be too inundating. There was too much to to look at. This new approach gives the content a lot more room to breathe.

Focusing on feed sources individually provides the reader with a feeling of comfort and security that the old design was missing. Rather than being bombarded by 50 tiles representing a different story from separate feeds screaming for attention, users can now swipe through individual feed pages, preview content and then swipe to the next feed page. It’s a lot like browsing the web, only a lot more efficient, and user friendly. Users can get a synopsis of 10 websites via Flud in the same amount of time it would take to do so on an internet browser.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Making News Social

The new focused view on feeds allows readers to take more time with each feed to really absorb the content. Keeping readers in the app longer also fosters the growth of a social community that Flud will need for the app to gain ground on its competitors. Sharing stories is easy. Simply hit the heart icon in the righthand corner of every story you want to “flud” to your followers and the app takes care of the rest. You can share stories straight to Facebook and Twitter but that’s not the emphasis of Flud because the team behind the app hope that sharing news streams will become a two way stream, rather than a one way broadcasting lane.

We see the media space as having four facets; music, video, photos and news. Then I think of all the networks I use for each of those, where each product says something about my taste. I’ve got Spotify and iTunes for my music playlists, Youtube and Netflix for video, Facebook and Instagram for my photos, and yet the industry falls short on giving me something great for news. Flud is in a position to fill that void with a much more meaningful social integration. After you and your friends use Flud for a few days, you get to learn some amazing things about each other. For example, I’ve worked with my cofounder for two years but had no idea he was into gaming; now because of Flud, I can see all the gaming stuff that he Fluds everyday and I think that’s pretty great.

The idea behind Flud’s social layer makes a lot of sense for internet users who read multiple websites a day. On Facebook we share a few choice links with friends, but what if you want to see more of what your friend reads? The current cultures on Facebook and Twitter don’t take too kindly toward regular users that post 5-10 links a day. With Flud’s social features, sharing will shape reading experiences even more deeply than the attempts of previous social networks.

 

 


Competing Against FlipBoard

There’s no denying that FlipBoard is currently the premiere reader app on iOS. They’ve got a great team that have built an amazing product. But what might surprise you is how much Flud has produced over the last year, despite having a smaller team and fewer resources. In five months Flud built two products (iPhone and iPad app), wrote 4 million lines of code that resulted in 4 mobile app versions being tossed out, and transformed from an app developer to a social company. It took FlipBoard one year just to release their iPhone app (granted they were also perfecting their iPad app at the same time).

Flud has some of the best design in the mobile app space, and Flipboard does too. Flipboard focuses their time on the “lean-back” experience. We use all our time worrying about how to make information access faster and how to make social more meaningful for our users. In that sense, Flud was built for speed and relevance.”

In a way Flud doesn’t necessarily compete head on with Flipboard in terms of interface design and philosophy. They’re both great reader apps. You should put both of them on your iPhone and your iPad, but which one you choose to use really just depends on what you want to get out of the experience at that time. There’s no cut and dry way to determine which is better; Flud or FlipBoard. They both execute their philosophies really well, and provide a ton of value to their users.

I turn to FlipBoard when I’m feeling lazy. I let their curators tell me what’s great, and for the most part, they provide some really great content. But when I’m feeling adventurous and want to be in control, I turn to Flud to discover new websites that I haven’t heard about. If I want to get my news as fast as possible with a UI that’s a hell of a lot more entertaining than Twitter’s boring text heavy interface, then Flud is where the party is at. If I want to filter out all the crappy stories and just read the juicy bits in a beautiful digital magazine format, then I trust FlipBoard to provide me with that experience.

 

Whichever news reader platform you choose you’ll likely be delighted with new discoveries everyday.

Let us hear it in the comments – Which of the two reader apps do you prefer? Why?

 

Flud for iPhone and iPad is available for free in the App Store. Make sure to add Cult of Mac to your list of feeds.
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French court says no to iPhone 4S ban

Apple will be able to continue selling the iPhone 4S in France unimpeded, according to a court decision on Thursday. The Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris has denied a request by Samsung to secure a preliminary injunction against the sale of the 4S.

The ruling was reported by Le Figaro‘s Benjamin Ferran (hat tip to FOSS Patents), who tweeted the results while in attendance at the hearing. Ferran said that the court had rejected Samsung’s request because it seemed a “disproportionate” measure, given the facts of the case. In addition to rejecting the ban, the court also ordered Samsung to pay Apple’s legal fees, in the amount of 100,000€ (around $134,090).

This is definitely a setback for Samsung, which has recently racked up a number of small victories in its ongoing legal battles with Apple, including the rejection of an Apple motion for a U.S. ban on some of its products last week and the reversal of an injunction against the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia. Next up in Europe, Samsung and Apple will participate in a second hearing on Dec. 16 to determine the validity of an iPhone 4S injunction request in Italy.

Samsung and Apple are also both being looked into by the European Commission to determine whether or not they are using their held patents in a way that might constitute anticompetitive behavior. No doubt both the case in France and the one in Italy will be looked at closely as part of that investigation.

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