- December 12, 2013
U.S. wireless carriers will soon make it easier for customers to unlock mobile phones for use on various networks, as the carriers have reached an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. According to sources, the agreement would guarantee that carriers notify customers about their unlocking eligibility. It’s also believed the deal will require carriers to process or deny unlocking requests within two business days. Earlier this year, the Obama administration expressed its support for unlocking phones after a 114,000-signature petition was submitted to the White House. More details will be presented at an FCC meeting later today. [via Reuters]
Update: Additional details have been released in a document from wireless industry trade group CTIA.
- December 12, 2013
- Site News
With over 1,100 votes from readers, our latest poll—Now that the dust has settled, which of the new iPad models do you prefer?—has now ended. With both the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display available, we wanted to know which device our readers thought was the better of the two.
The overall majority of respondents clearly preferred the iPad Air, garnering fifty-four percent of the vote. Twenty-seven percent chose the iPad mini with Retina Display as their favourite, while fifteen percent of readers found both devices equally appealing. The remaining four percent of the responses came from those who didn’t really like either of the new iPad models.
- December 12, 2013
Apple has responded to a China Labor Watch report, suggesting that working conditions at an Apple contract manufacturer did not cause the death of a 15-year-old worker. Reuters reports the company sent independent medical experts to Pegatron to investigate, and found that the pneumonia death of Shi Zhaokun was unrelated to working conditions. “Last month, we sent independent medical experts from the U.S. and China to conduct an investigation of the (Pegatron) factory,” Apple said in a statement. “While they have found no evidence of any link to working conditions there, we realize that is of little comfort to the families who have lost their loved ones.” Zhaokun reportedly used his 21-year-old cousin’s ID to apply for the job. A Pegatron spokesman also said three other employee deaths this year were unrelated to working conditions at the factory.
In a separate report, the Fair Labor Association noted three Foxconn factories in China now limit working hours to 60 hours per week. The FLA expects Apple and main supplier Foxconn to “make progress toward the Chinese legal limit of 49 hours per week,” according to FLA President and Chief Executive Auret van Heerden. Reuters notes that many Foxconn workers don’t want a reduction in overtime for financial reasons.
Angry Birds Go! (free) takes Rovio’s furious fowl to a new realm — the racetrack. The fully 3-D cart racing game marks the first time the birds have moved beyond the traditional 2-D side-scrolling play environment, raising the prospect that we’ll see the now famous characters in all sorts of games as time goes on, a la Mario. Unfortunately, Angry Birds Go! is a pretty standard racing game with little to set it apart from the masses besides the graphics, which are really quite impressive; the gameplay is surprisingly limited and overly structured to gradually introduce new characters and upgrades at a plodding pace. Additionally, the freemium title is shameless in waving pay-to-play opportunities in your face, filling the tracks with coins rather than power ups and creating unnatural cart upgrade incentives to compel players to spend money.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas ($7) from Rockstar Games is the long-awaited iOS port of the popular PlayStation 2-vintage sandbox game, featuring all of the adult-themed content and impressive audio of the original title. The iOS version of GTA: San Andreas features dynamic lighting enhancements, improved character models, and enriched colors, in addition to the enhanced vehicle models originally introduced in the console game. Support for iOS game controllers is built-in, but the button labeling is a bit awkward during use. There are three different standard control schemes, and dual analog stick controls allow for full camera and movement control. Rockstar Social Club Members get cloud save support, as well. Unfortunately, the game appears unstable at this point, as we’ve experienced a lot of crashes; reset your device if you want to improve your chances of stability.
Samsung lost a bid to ban older iPhones and iPads in a South Korean court on Thursday, Reuters reports. A court dismissed a lawsuit claiming Apple infringed on three Samsung mobile patents. The iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, and second-generation iPad were among the devices ruled not to violate mobile messaging patents. Samsung was also seeking 100 million won ($95,100) in damages, which it will not receive. “We are glad the Korean court joined others around the world in standing up for real innovation and rejecting Samsung’s ridiculous claims,” Apple Korea spokesman Steve Park said. Samsung has yet to decide if it will appeal the ruling.
Apple has pushed out another quiet but major content update for the Apple TV, adding four additional channels. While availability of the new content channels varies between countries, U.S. Apple TV users now have access to the ABC television network, Bloomberg, Crackle, and 16 different Korean television channels in KORTV.
The new Bloomberg channel provides streaming access to a variety of programming on business, lifestyle, and politics and allows users to browse by show for on-demand viewing, watch live streams of specific events or breaking news, or search for specific content. The ABC channel provides clips, full episodes and live streaming—though most of the content is locked unless you subscribe to one of a number of participating cable providers. Crackle, previously available as an iOS app, brings Sony’s free online movie and TV show streaming service to the Apple TV. KORTV is a Korean TV network providing access to ten free channels and six premium channels along with video-on-demand content. These new channels appear on the Apple TV without the need for a specific software update, and are available now.
- December 11, 2013
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on Tuesday that wireless carriers will move away from subsidizing smartphones. “When you’re growing the business initially, you have to do aggressive device subsidies to get people on the network,” Stephenson said at an investor conference. “But as you approach 90 percent penetration, you move into maintenance mode. That means more device upgrades. And the model has to change. You can’t afford to subsidize devices like that.” Stephenson believes a shift to financing new devices — instead of subsidizing them — will be “transformative.” AT&T’s Next program offers no money down and 0 percent financing for new phones, and other carriers offer similar programs; Stephenson said this model is more sustainable. [via CNET]
Apple has hired a top traditional radio executive to help make advertising deals for iTunes Radio, Ad Age reports. Michael Pallad, formerly of Cumulus Media, is now leading international ad sales for iTunes Radio. The report notes that Apple is getting ready to “offer the service widely to advertisers in 2014,” following expiration of initial ad contracts made for iTunes Radio’s mid-2013 launch. Apple is seeking year-long commitments from advertisers that are worth at least $1 million. Apple SVP Eddy Cue has said plans are to bring iTunes Radio to more than 100 countries, with the service expected to launch in a number of countries early next year.
Apple has released its free 12 Days of Gifts app today — although it’s an annual release from apple, this will be the first year U.S. customers have access to the app. The app will allow users to download a free gift each day from Dec. 26 - Jan. 6. Those gifts could include “songs, apps, books, movies, and more.” Each gift will only be available for 24 hours.
The Animal Alphabet Singers ($4) from Think Smart teaches children the alphabet through hand-drawn animated animals. Four separate learning modes teach kids the alphabet in different ways. Developers of the app include people who have worked on Sesame Street, Avenue Q, Between the Lions, and other popular productions. The app seems very basic at first glance, with relatively flat hand-drawn artwork, but the audio portion is stronger and actually pretty charming. Young children will like the funny ways the animals talk and sing letters.
- December 10, 2013
China Labor Watch is reporting that several workers at Apple supplier Pegatron have died suddenly, including Shi Zhaokun, a 15-year-old worker. These workers “passed away in a very short period of time,” and Pegatron failed to carry out “in-depth investigations into the causes of death,” according to China Labor Watch. CLW is demanding that Apple and the factory perform autopsies to verify the reasons for the workers’ deaths. Zhaokun reportedly died of severe pneumonia on Oct. 9, though the respiratory infection was apparently determined to be from non-contagious causes. He worked at Pegatron making Apple products, where “the factory demanded workers to work for 12 hours each day.” Pegatron assembles the iPhone 5c, among other products. CLW is seeking donations for an independent autopsy into the boy’s death.
As the 2014 International CES is less than one month away, we are accepting submissions of new iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV and Mac products for our annual 2014 Best of Show Awards. Focused on the very best Apple-related products debuted at CES each year, the awards are solely open to new iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and/or Mac products that are being publicly shown for the first time by official CES exhibitors.
We welcome advance submissions from companies, and have a team of editors canvassing the show floor for potential award recipients. In addition to awards for individual products, our editors select the Best Booth of Show, Best Overall Product of Show, and a special award for accessory innovation. A special display of winners will be shown at the entrances to the iLounge Pavilion in the North Hall.
Companies interested in submitting products for Best of Show consideration should contact Nick Guy immediately for additional information. All submissions must be received by the final deadline of December 20, 2013 to be eligible for advance consideration, and must also be on display in a booth on the show floor at the 2014 International CES.
- December 9, 2013
Former Apple Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall has kept busy since his departure from Apple, according to The Information. The new pay site, which lists Forstall as one of technology’s big “free agents,” reports Forstall has traveled to Italy and South Africa in the past year. He’s also advised startups and has become more involved in philanthropy. Apple employees reportedly believe Forstall will start his own company at some point. [via Business Insider]
Former Apple accessories head Jesse Dorogusker left the company and joined Square to design the new Square Reader, Wired reports. According to the report, Dorogusker previously led development on Apple’s Lightning connector, and spent eight years heading up the accessories division for Apple before leaving. Wired notes with Square’s new Reader, Dorogusker “had the chance to take a crack at a flagship product.”
Much of the article focuses on the technical details of developing the new Square Reader, which is 45 percent thinner than Square’s old credit card reader, and no longer requires an internal battery for power. The Reader also improves the tactile feel of card swiping despite its smaller size.
- December 9, 2013
China Mobile will take preorders for the iPhone starting Thursday Dec. 12, as noted by an ad on its website. The site says “4G is here!” and invites customers to preorder the iPhone 5s, among other phones. China Mobile will provide 4G services after Dec. 18. A pricing plan for new iPhones is reportedly being prepared — a recent report noted there was still some negotiating going on between China Mobile and Apple. [via Wall Street Journal]
- December 9, 2013
Eight major technology companies are making an appeal to reform government surveillance, the Wall Street Journal reports. Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn and AOL have drafted an open letter to President Obama and members of Congress — a short version of the letter appears as a full-page ad in several print publications today. The companies have also created a set of reform principles. A joint website, www.reformgovernmentsurveillance.com, has been launched. The site includes the open letter, reform principles, and other details. This effort comes on the heels of new reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) has used a previously-unknown ability to activate computer web cameras without triggering their “on” lights, covertly spying on some users; it’s unclear whether Apple’s FaceTime cameras have been compromised with this technique.
Several recent applications have been released to remedy issues users have discovered with iOS 7’s moving wallpapers — namely, unintuitive changes in the ways iOS 7 resizes and positions photographs when used as wallpapers. Michael Belanger’s Fix My Wallpaper ($1) lets users zoom in and out on wallpaper photos, customize colors, and more. Wallpaper Fix ($1) from Bernhard Obereder promises quick resizing and positioning; this app locked up repeatedly during brief testing on an iPad Air. Another wallpaper resizing app is Brijit Sheelia’s Wallax ($1). All of the apps enable you to get a better sense of how an image will appear on the iOS device’s Lock and/or Home Screens, but one may have specific features that appeal to you.
- December 6, 2013
- Site News
The latest edition of iLounge Weekly, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, will be arriving in subscribers’ inboxes early next week. iLounge Weekly is a summary of the week’s best news, reviews, and feature articles we’ve published, and it also features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.
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We also have a new giveaway for the month of December! In our Unu Aero Wireless Giveaway, iLounge and uNu are giving away ten uNu Aero Wireless Charging Battery case and mat packages for the iPhone 5 and 5s. To enter, simply fill out and submit the form on the giveaway page; the giveaway ends December 31, 2013 at 11:59PM Pacific Time. Good luck!
Apple has released iOS 7 adoption statistic on its developer website, unusually nestling the information within an App Store Distribution section of the site. The company claims that “74% of devices are using iOS 7,” though it’s interesting how Apple reached that number. It says that the 74% was “as measured by the App Store during a 7‑day period ending December 1, 2013,” which would rule out iOS users who didn’t visit the App Store in that given week, a different and less absolute metric than has been offered by the company in the past. By contrast, Apple suggests that 22 percent of devices are using iOS 6, with 4 percent of devices still using an older edition of iOS.
- December 6, 2013
- iPhone Accessories
A release date and price for Razer’s controller are unknown at this time. See our review of the first iOS controller to be released, MOGA’s Ace Power controller.
- December 6, 2013
All 254 U.S. Apple Stores have now implemented Apple’s iBeacon technology, the Associated Press reports. Starting today, customers using the Apple Store app can benefit from in-store notifications as they move around the store, providing information such as orders ready for pick-up, iPhone upgrade eligibility, store events, and more. Notifications can differ based on where a customer is inside the store. The app will switch to “in-store” mode once a customer enters the Apple Store, provided that it has been set to allow location tracking and in-store notifications and Bluetooth are enabled on the iPhone.