It's about 3pm on Thursday, July 31st in the amazing space year 2014 here at Cult of Mac and there have been 20 posts so far today. All times are in PDT (GMT-8).

Shoot Like a Pro with your iPhone + Giveaway!

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The iPhone is quickly taking the place of the everyday point and shoot camera with their digital zooms and overall lack of features. There’s less and less reason to pick one up when you’ve already got the almighty iPhone – which camera improves with each updated model.

We wanted to see whether it’s possible to replace your DSLR with your iPhone, and with some tips, tricks and useful add-ons, the results are pretty surprising.

I went out on to the city streets armed with my iPhone 5s, battling against a professional photographer Sam Mills and his pricey DSLR, to see how close the iPhone could get to the quality of his professional images. Checkout the video below to learn the basic tips needed to get pro photos. Plus! We’ve got a great giveaway for you and more just below the jump!

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A tour of Bolt, Instagram’s new one-tap messaging app

Instagram soft-launched Bolt this week, its new app to take on Snapchat. The app is only available in Singapore, New Zealand, and South Africa right now while Instagram squashes bugs and gets it ready for everyone else in the world.

That doesn’t mean you can’t see what Bolt is like now. Cult of Mac reader @ravirajim sent us a bunch of screenshots of Bolt in action, which you can view above. We’ll let you know when Bolt ships to the App Store in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Japan’s tax hikes likely slowed Apple’s growth last quarter

Apple Store Japan

Apple Store in Japan. Photo by Flickr user “HEI”

Apple’s sales in Japan have been skyrocketing quarter after quarter, but then the company reported “dampened” growth during its most recent earnings call.

Japan has been one of Apple’s fastest-growing countries, so what happened? A big increase in Japan’s federal taxes is not only effecting Apple, but competitors like Amazon.

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5 tips to make your Mac the best college wingman ever

Transitioning to the college lifestyle can be awkward at first. Being away from home, having a heavy workload and still wanting to hangout with friends can be a lot to manage all at once.

Luckily, your Mac can help relieve a little of that stress throughout the school year. In today’s video, take a look at these five hot Mac tips that can make your new year of college easier: be prepared for thieves, find the best way to take notes and more.

Subscribe to Cult of Mac TV on YouTube to catch all our latest videos.

Apple flips the switch on massive content delivery network

iTunes Store on iPhone

Apple has put a massive amount of money and talent into the construction of its own content delivery network (CDN) for the last few years and its finally starting to pay off.

The new CDN has already gone live in the U.S. and parts of Europe, according to a report from Dan Rayburn, that has used trace-routes to discover Apple is now delivering some of its own content like OS X downloads, directly to consumers, but the company is barely starting to tap into its CDN’s true potential.

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Shiny, happy shooter game will ruin your cool by level 3

So lovely. So brutal.

So lovely. So brutal.

Lovely Planet is a twee little game for your Mac (or Linux/Windows box) that distills the essentials of the first-person shooter genre down to the basics: shoot, jump, run.

You’ll do this, over and over, across five distinct worlds and hundreds of levels armed with nothing more than your adorable little bow and arrow and a sense of adventure.

Be warned, though — you’re going to die repeatedly, especially at first, because while the visuals and soundtrack are kawaii as heck, the levels are designed as diabolical tests of your gaming sanity. But please, don’t throw your Macbook across the room when you have to re-start a level for the hundredth time. Maybe take a break.

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USB security is fundamentally broken, claim security experts

USB Mavericks

According to findings by researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell, USB security may be profoundly broken, with no way around it.

Nohl and Lell have highlighted a flaw in USB devices which potentially offer hackers the ability to sidestep all currently known security measures used by a computer. Called the BadUSB exploit, the vulnerability allows hackers to meddle with the firmware which controls the functions of various USB plug-ins, such as mice, keyboards and thumb drives.

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Yo wants copycat app booted out of App Store

yo

Where there’s a popular idea, you can be sure the clones will follow. Earlier this year the popular app in question was Flappy Bird, and here in July it’s simplified message app Yo, which has to date received $1.5m in funding.

A few weeks back we wrote about Yo spoof Hodor, but it seems that there’s another more pressing clone out there, called Yolo, which Yo founder Or Arbel describes as “a complete fake copy of our Yo app.”

In response to Yolo, Arbel has filed a complaint with Apple, asking it to remove Yolo from the App Store since it allegedly infringes on Arbel’s copyright and trademark.

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Last chance to keep your Mac running smoothly with Techtool Pro 7 and Checkmate [Deals]

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You already know that your Mac computer is one of the best designed machines on the market. Even the best machines, though, can fall victim to a variety of problems, either on the software or hardware side of things.

Keep your Mac in peak condition with Techtool Pro 7 and Checkmate. Both would normally cost you around $125 but, for only a little while longer, you can get them together in one sweet package for $49.99 at Cult of Mac Deals.

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Eighth Ohio Apple Store to open later this year in Toledo

Picture: Toledo Blade

Picture: Toledo Blade

Apple is set to open a new Apple Store in Toledo, OH’s Franklin Park Mall sometime during the fourth quarter of 2014. This will be Ohio’s eighth Apple Store, with its seventh opening last month in Dayton.

The company has already posted 15 job openings via its website, while it recently advertised a full-time retail general manager post via the website CareerBuilder.com.

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The NomadPlus turns your iPhone charger into a battery pack

nomadplus

When you hit the road, you take your iPhone charger. If you’re hitting the road for a long time, you might also take a portable battery along with it.

So redundant. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way for you to roll up your charger and your portable battery pack into a single device? Now, thanks to Nomad, there is, and it’s so ingenious, I can’t believe that Apple hasn’t done this themselves.

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Shazam unleashes new always-on music recognition app for Mac

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Song recognition service Shazam has launched a cool new Mac app. Called, originally, Shazam for Mac, the always-on app lives in your Mac’s menu bar, and offers some neat features.

Constantly listening for songs to identify, Shazam for Mac springs to life whenever it finds a song you want to know about, creating a playlist as it goes along, and alerting users via a standard Notification Center popup. Once a song has been ID’d, the app gives you the option of one-click access to lyrics, music videos, or the option to buy the track on iTunes.

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What blew our minds (and what didn’t) at Comic-Con 2014

Thanks to iOS 8, 1Password will become just as good as the Mac app

1Password-4

On the Mac, 1Password is a perfect Swiss Army Knife of tools for the forgetful and lazy, guaranteeing that they never have type in a password, address field, or credit card number into an online form ever again.

But on iOS, 1Password has been a more convoluted thing. Lacking deep integration with other apps, 1Password for iOS has never been as good as it’s Mac counterpart. But with iOS 8, that’s about to change, thanks to a 1Password app extension that any third-party app can use.

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Chinese smartphone maker trying to beat iPhone 6 to market with sapphire display

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As has been seen time and time again, all Apple needs to do is hint at an area it’s interested in exploring (see: smart watches) and much of the tech world will trip over itself trying to beat it to market (see: Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smart watch.)

The latest company to jump on this bandwagon is, apparently, VIVO, the Chinese manufacturer which previously released the world’s first QHD/2K smartphone. According to sources cited by the Chinese media, VIVO is taking a big swing at Apple (and, yes, the iPhone 6 was specifically mentioned) by rushing to release its new 5-inch flagship handset, with an all-metal frame and sapphire glass display.

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Why Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel’s iWatch

With Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios is spinning its movie empire forward into the future. Image courtesy Marvel Studios

With Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios is spinning its movie empire forward into the future. Images courtesy Marvel Studios

A comic book movie about misfit space superheroes might not seem to have much in common with Apple’s long-rumored entry into wearable computing. However, for a handful of reasons, Guardians of the Galaxy is to Marvel Studios what the iWatch is to Apple –- a high-profile release that’s critical to the company’s future success.

Here’s why.

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Does Apple’s deal with IBM signal ‘the end of desktop?’

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Does the iOS-centric IBM-Apple deal equal the end of the road for desktops? Absolutely it does, if you believe Bob Tinker, CEO of the newly-public company MobileIron.

Discussing the recent alliance between the two tech giants during his company’s first earnings call, Tinker pointed to the IBM-Apple deal as something of a signal moment for mobile. “I think of it as a positive that IBM’s committed to building mobile apps for enterprises, switching away from Windows to mobile platforms,” he noted.

“This signals the end of the desktop era. IBM once made a deal with Microsoft in the late 1980s that ushered in the era of the desktop, and now they’re ending it with Apple.”

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Ultra-compact studio monitors deliver huge sound

Big sound, small package. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Big sound, small package. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

If you make music of any kind, or are just looking to upgrade your sound system from the decent-yet-not-audiophile Bluetooth speakers you currently use, you know you want a set of speakers that can handle the highest of highs, the deepest of lows and everything in between without sounding muddy or overly tinny, middy or bassy. You want a speaker set that can handle the deep boom of drum ‘n’ bass and the sweet, high melodies of a Mozart concerto along with any type of loop you can throw at it from your own collection.

Studio monitors are a big deal when making music, as they offer up sound that is as true to the source as possible. You want to hear everything going on in your mix so you can make sure to create the sound that best captures your musical vision, whether during the recording, mixing or mastering phase.

The Reveal 402 studio monitors from Tannoy promise to deliver unparalleled sound and fury without a huge footprint, letting you create music properly on today’s ultra-portable MacBooks. They also let you just plug in any sound source, from XLR to mini-audio jack, with ease, making these ideal for both music creation and plain old rocking out while you’re working.

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How startup Cubr might kill the business card and foster dangerous liaisons

Rolling with Cubr. Photo courtesy Sébastien Leidgens.

Rolling with Cubr. Photo courtesy Sébastien Leidgens.

SAN FRANCISCO — Sébastien Leidgens wants to put a new angle on the business card.

His invention, Cubr, is a six-sided die that connects people through private mobile web chat. When a red, blue or green Cubr is tossed your way, you hit the website or download the app, then enter the code to start your instant message convo or share photos with the person who gave you the die. The enterprising Belgian, a former project manager at a digital marketing agency, is taking a gamble on the idea that people are tired of handing out one-dimensional cards.

“It’s a business card for non-business people,” Leidgens says in an English heavily influenced by his native French. “Young people don’t have business cards. This you can use for private situations in everyday life. It’s a lot more fun and outside of the usual public circles.”

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How Apple’s smart music tech could push you harder in workouts

There have been many wearables and quantified-health applications over the past few years, but most have steered clear of proclaiming themselves medical devices. Some of the rumors about the iWatch (such as the fact that it will be able to listen to the sound blood makes as it flows through arteries, and use this to predict heart attacks) may sound a bit too good to be true. But the number of biosensor and biomedical engineers Apple has snapped up recently makes us think the iWatch could be a device that crosses over firmly into the "medical monitoring" category. According to one recent report, a reason for the long delay before launch is that Apple is awaiting certification from the Food and Drug Administration to get the iWatch approved as medical equipment. Given Apple's recent announcement of the Health app for iOS 8 to collect and show data on calorie consumption, sleep activity, blood oxygen levels and more, plus the conspicuous absence of a health-tracking fitness band in Apple's last iPhone 5s ad, the idea that the iWatch will be geared toward health seems as close to a foregone conclusion as you get for a device that hasn't even been officially announced yet.

Apple’s new smart music patent application would fit perfectly within a fitness-tracking device like the iWatch.

If you’re a runner or a gym user, chances are that at some point you’ve put together a workout playlist of some sort, full of the kind of Rocky-esque power ballads you want entering your ears and coursing through your veins as you strive toward physical perfection.

According to a patent application published Thursday, Apple could be looking to take a lot of the pain out of that kind of gain. The application in question deals with a handheld or wearable device capable of controlling the tempo of music so as to affect the mood and behavior of users during exercise.

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