Welcome to week two of our recaps of recent software news, opinions, how-tos, new releases, and coming attractions. For the latest reviews from our editors and new products, subscribe to our newsletters.
Cupertino fans are playing Fantasy Apple in advance of June's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Rumors are circulating that Apple will announce the iPhone 6, though it may not be available 'til August or September. The long-rumored iWatch and Apple TV appear to be no-go for this conference, according to Re/code's sources.
Which means -- apart from that possible iPhone 6 -- that the big news for WWDC will likely be software. Apple trackers see signs of the following:
- OS X 10.10, aka Syrah, is the successor to Mavericks, and 9to5Mac says it sounds like a major redesign, but there are no specifics about features.
- iOS 8, aka Okemo. Rumors abound: HD audio support, Mac apps like Preview and TextEdit, a split-screen view for iPad (though Ars Technica points out that this handy feature comes with difficulties). That's a lot of updates, so there is also speculation that some features may get pushed to iOS 8.1. Whatever Apple announces next month, you can take a trip down memory lane with CNET's evolution of iOS.
- Healthbook is an iOS 8 app that will allegedly monitor certain vital signs and help you track your health and fitness. 9to5Mac has some screenshots.
In other Apple news: the case of the missing texts. Adam Pash reports that after he switched from iPhone to Android, he quit receiving text messages from friends on iPhone, because his phone number remained linked to iMessage. He has not yet found a solution. On Thursday another unhappy user filed a lawsuit over the iMessage black hole and is seeking class-action status.
Speaking of iMessage, Apple is considering putting your contacts' photos in the background of text chats, according to a patent filing. This could potentially help prevent misdirected texts.
New releases, new features
Google Maps now features "Quick facts" information boxes from Google's Knowledge Graph. Currently the feature appears only on the desktop version of Google Maps.
Outlook.com Web email users can now reply in-line and have more options for creating rules.
iPhone game sensation Flappy Bird will return, possibly in August, with multiplayer functionality.
Microsoft has dropped the Kinect as an Xbox requirement, which drops the price of the standalone console to $399 -- that's available June 9. Also, you no longer have to buy a Live Gold subscription to get access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and other entertainment apps on Xbox.
Google appears to be beta-testing a new Web interface for Gmail, which may or may not become a public release. The UI looks a bit more like the mobile app's redesign, and Gchat is beginning to resemble Hangouts. For more Google speculation, head over to the just-released I/O schedule and Ars Technica's tea leaf reading.
Will we someday be able to run iOS apps on Android and vice versa? Six Columbia PhD students have developed Cider, which does just that. It's a prototype and not available to the rest of us, so for now just watch the demo along with Papa Smurf.
Moneyhorse Games says it will release a North Korea-themed game, Glorious Leader, on PC and Android by end of year. The retro video game stars Kim Jong-un on a unicorn, as well as Dennis Rodman. Don't you have to be a virgin to ride a unicorn?
Facebook has killed Poke and Camera as standalone apps; they're no longer in the iTunes store.
On Thursday Google ended third-party app access to Google Voice. Voice is still available, though it's on deck to become integrated with Hangouts, but if you want an alternative, we rounded up four Android apps for voice over IP.
And today Google announced it has acquired Quest Visual, makers of the Word Lens translation apps. Team Word Lens says the app (iOS, Android) and its language packs are free while they transition into Google Translate.
Google has seven layers of security for Android apps uploaded to Google Play, but malware still creeps in.
On "Mission Impossible," agents got instructions that ended with, "This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds." Privacy concerns once again make exploding messages sound appealing. Quartz reports that Dstrux lets you send files that can be viewed for a period of time (like 5 seconds) that you set, but the files can't be copied, saved, or screen-grabbed. Dstrux is available now for the Web, with an app coming in May.
Meanwhile, this week Yahoo bought Blink, another app for sending self-deleting messages, and then deleted Blink from the app stores.
Last week Gmail became the first standalone app in Google Play to reach 1 billion downloads. In other Gmail news:
- Google is bringing a feature of two-factor authentication to corporate Google Apps accounts: If a log-in looks suspicious, the service will text the user a verification code.
- Pro email: Mashable reports that Google has launched Google Apps Message Encryption to encrypt messages sent to other systems. It costs $35 per year per user.
- Personal email: Benjamin Mako Hill found that even if you don't use Gmail, Google may have some of your email, because you send messages to people who are on Gmail.
Usually "https" in a browser's URL field tells you that the site is encrypted and secure. However, as Ars Technica reports, malware slingers have been forging the site certificates of antivirus vendors to lure people into entering credentials.
Adobe released a bunch of patches to Acrobat, Reader, Flash, and Illustrator. Go update if you haven't already reckoned with the annoying pop-up reminders.
Last month Microsoft ended support for Windows XP, Office 2003, and SharePoint Server 2003, so they were not covered by Tuesday's security patches.
Be a beta-tester
Google's Creative Lab has released a spelling game, Spell Up from Chrome, to help ESL students and anyone else who wants to brush up their ABCs. You need Chrome to play it, and it runs on desktop, Android, and iOS, but on iOS the voice feature doesn't work.
MIT Media Lab Playful Systems and the Dalai Lama Center for Ethical and Transformative Values have teamed to produce 20 Day Stranger, an iPhone app that anonymously pairs you with someone else in the world to give you a sense of their life. Apply for an electronic penpal at the 20 Day Stranger site.
The Shout app lets you resell anything -- your spot in the cronut line, concert tickets, a dinner reservation. The creators want it to be a Craigslist-type marketplace, but Betabeat notes the app's potential to become a scalper's paradise. Shout is testing in New York now and is slated for Los Angeles and San Francisco this summer. Get Shout at the App Store, but you'll need an access code from Shout to participate.