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Apple now fourth-largest mobile phone vendor worldwide

According to a recent report by IDC, Apple has joined the ranks of the world’s five largest mobile phone vendors, surpassing Research in Motion (RIM) by 1.7 million units and bumping Sony Ericsson off the list for the first time since IDC began tracking mobile phone market share in 2004. The report indicates that the worldwide mobile phone market grew 14.6% in the third-quarter of 2010, representing the fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth with vendors shipping 340.5 million phones in total last quarter compared to 297.1 million units in the third quarter of 2009. The IDC report goes on to note that the smartphone category is growing rapidly and is at least partly responsible for driving the rapid expansion of mobile phone adoption worldwide.

Apple is the second smartphone-only vendor to place in the top five ranking. RIM has already spent three quarters on the IDC leaderboard and both companies posted the highest growth rates among the top five vendors this past quarter. The report attributes Apple’s record performance to the introduction of the iPhone 4 in 17 new countries last quarter, and notes that this performance came despite the July “Antennagate” controversy around reception problems.

Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC’s WorldWide Mobile Phone Tracker notes that “The entrance of Apple to the top 5 vendor ranking underscores the increased importance of smartphones to the overall market. Vendors that aren’t developing a strong portfolio of smartphones will be challenged to maintain and grow market share in the future.” IDC expects the worldwide mobile phone market to be driven primarily by smartphone growth over the next few years, expecting that market to grow 55% year over year. The full report is available from IDC’s web site.

Apple developing integrated SIM card?

Apple may be working on a new integrated micro-SIM card solution for a future iPhone model, according to a report from GigaOM. Citing sources inside European carriers, the report states that Apple has been working with SIM-card manufacturer Gemalto to create a SIM card that will be integrated directly into the iPhone and can be activated on any carrier. Customers could then simply buy the iPhone and use an App Store application to sign up for service with their carrier of choice instead of having to purchase a carrier-specific micro-SIM card separately. SIM cards have traditionally been tied to individual carriers, whereas an embedded SIM would accept activation from any carrier rather than containing hard-coded carrier information. Apple is already unique among phone manufacturers in requiring iPhone activation via iTunes and this could be leveraged to provide the same security and carrier activation features without requiring the need for a removable SIM, effectively allowing the integrated SIM chip to be programmed with carrier information during the activation process. Other advantages of removable SIM cards such as international roaming and transferring between devices could likely also be addressed through an on-device app or as part of the iTunes activation process. Neither Apple nor Gemalto have yet responded to any requests for comment.

Apple removes white iPhone 4 from Online Store

Apple has removed the white iPhone 4 from the iPhone ordering page on its Online Store. This move follows a report late Tuesday that Apple would be delaying the iPhone 4 until Spring 2011, sparking additional rumours alleging that Apple may in fact have cancelled the white model of the iPhone 4 entirely. The reported Spring 2011 delay would have pushed the white iPhone 4 release very close to Apple’s typical early summer release dates for new iPhone models. Apple has provided no comment on this change and notably the white iPhone 4 still continues to appear in product descriptions and promotional images, as well as Apple’s iPhone 4 Specifications and iPhone 4 Gallery. [via Mac Rumors]

Apple begins unlocked iPhone sales in Germany

With the end of Deutsche Telekom’s iPhone exclusivity in Germany, Apple has begun selling the iPhone directly from its Online Store in that country both contract-free and unlocked. This mirrors how Apple has been selling the iPhone in other countries such as Canada where multiple carrier options are available. German customers can now purchase the 8GB iPhone 3GS for €519, and the 16GB and 32GB iPhone 4 for €629 and 739€, respectively. Unlike some of the other countries, however, Apple will not be supplying micro-SIM cards for iPhones ordered directly from the Apple Online Store in Germany, instead directing customers to obtain a micro-SIM directly from their cellular provider of choice. Further, Vodafone and O2 have also now begun selling the iPhone directly in Germany alongside Deutsche Telekom, and Apple’s German web site now directs customers to all three of these carriers for contract iPhone purchases or micro-SIM cards.

TweetAgora adds Agora sharing

KainosAgora has released an update to TweetAgora adding more UI improvements and the ability to share Agoras with other Twitter users. TweetAgora is a Twitter client designed to allow Twitter users to get the most out of their Twitter streams by providing advanced filtering and aggregation features and the ability to create “Agoras”—custom feeds based on lists, keywords and people. TweetAgora 2.1 now allows users to share their Agoras with other users by posting them right in the Twitter stream with a #SharedAgora hashtag. Other TweetAgora users can import these Agoras directly into TweetAgora simply by tapping on the appropriate link. Users can also now customize which actions are performed when swiping a tweet in the timeline. The new version also provides a more dark-leather style UI, gap detection in Agoras and improved integration with Instapaper and Read It Later as well as performance improvements and bug fixes. TweetAgora is available from the App Store as a free download. The free version allows users to filter up to three keywords and three people, create up to three Agoras and load up to 150 tweets in a timeline. Users can upgrade to the paid version for $5 via in-app purchase to remove these limitations and add support for multiple accounts.

Apple delays white iPhone 4 until Spring 2011

Apple has announced yet another delay for the white iPhone 4, reports Reuters, noting that the company provided no details as to why the product remains unavailable. The white iPhone, which has variously reported to have suffered production delays related to light leakage and miscoloration of glass or button components, is now scheduled to be released in Spring 2011—curiously just before what has annually been a Summer refresh of iPhone hardware. It was previously delayed from June until July, then from July until late 2010, before receiving the latest setback. “We’re sorry to disappoint customers waiting for the white iPhone again,” Apple’s Trudy Muller told Reuters, without making further comment.

iOS 4 security flaw allows iPhone users to bypass lock screen

A MacRumors reader has identified a security flaw in iOS 4.1 that would allow users to bypass the iPhone lock screen. Attempting to place an emergency call to a non-emergency number and immediately pressing the sleep/wake button on the iPhone will open the Phone app, allowing the user to access contacts, call history, voicemail and call any number. The user will not be able to leave the Phone application and access other data on the device, and must either reboot the device or place and end another call to return to the normal lock screen. iLounge has confirmed that this issue exists in iOS 4.1 on all models of iPhone and have also received reports that the problem exists in at least some versions of iOS 4.0. Notably, John Gruber reports that the problem does not exist in iOS 4.2 beta 3, suggesting that Apple may have already identified and fixed the security flaw. Note that this issue does not affect the iPod touch as it has no Emergency Call feature.

Virtual City adds Free Play mode, Game Center support

Following the recent release of Virtual City HD for the iPad, G5 Entertainment has released an update to Virtual City for the iPhone (iLounge rating: B+) adding the promised Free Play mode. Virtual City 1.1 adds the Sand Box mode introduced in the iPad version allowing users to choose from one of five large maps to design their own city from scratch. Each Sand Box map represents one of the five U.S. states in Virtual City and players unlock each one by playing through the appropriate scenarios. The latest version also adds Game Center support for sharing achievements, improves Retina Display support and adds a number of performance optimizations and bug fixes. Virtual City for the iPhone and iPod touch is available from the App Store for $5.

VLC update adds iPhone support

Applidium has released an update to its iOS version of the popular VLC media player application adding support for iPhone and iPod touch devices. Released last month, VLC Media Player is an open-source media player for iOS devices that supports playback of a very wide variety of video formats. VLC Media Player 1.1 is now a universal app that can be used on the iPad and newer iPhone and iPod touch models. The update also adds the ability to delete files directly from within the application without having to go through iTunes, recognizes many more file extensions and includes optimizations that provide faster video decoding. VLC Media Player requires an iPad, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS or recent iPod touch model using iOS 3.2 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.

Tilt to Live update adds Retina Display, Game Center support

One Man Left has released an update to Tilt to Live adding Retina Display graphics and Game Center support. Tilt to Live is an action/arcade game for the iPhone and iPod touch where players use the accelerometer to navigate a small ship around a playing field avoiding touching red dots while trying to collect orbs that can be used to destroy them. The game provides four game types, six unlockable super-weapons and 43 award challenges. Users can post high scores to Twitter and Facebook or to global AGON online leaderboards. Version 1.5 adds high-resolution graphics for the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch Retina Display and now integrates with Apple’s Game Center for leaderboards and awards/achievements. The update also fixes crashes in Code Red mode, improves memory usage and includes other minor bug fixes. Tilt to Live is available from the App Store for $3; an iPad version is also available.

MySpace launches SuperPost for iPhone

Social network site MySpace has launched a new iPhone application, SuperPost, allowing users to simultaneously post to multiple social networks. SuperPost allows users to update their status and share photos, videos and links not only on MySpace but on rival sites Facebook and Twitter. Users can preview photos and videos before sending them, upload HD videos while using a Wi-Fi connection and pick and choose the specific services that they want to post to. The application maintains a history of all updates and posts sent from the app and supports background task completion on multitasking-capable iOS 4 devices allowing photos and videos to continue uploading even after leaving the application. The application allows only for posting of information and does not provide any facility for viewing updates from MySpace or other social networks. SuperPost is available from the App Store as a free download.

Electronic Arts releases Reckless Racing

Electronic Arts has released Reckless Racing, its much-anticipated dirt-road racing game for iOS devices. In Reckless Racing players choose from five detailed tracks and a variety of vehicles and race against other vehicles driven by in-game characters or other players online in a no-rules race. Players can choose from a variety of driving controls as they progress through the races and move up through three difficulty levels. Three different game modes are available allowing players to race against other drivers or simply race to beat the clock and the game also includes integrated leaderboards and online multiplayer chat. Reckless Racing is available from the App Store in two separate versions: Reckless Racing ($3) for the iPhone and iPod touch and Reckless Racing HD ($5) for the iPad.

AT&T announces 5.2 million iPhone activations

AT&T released its third-quarter financial results today reporting that the company has activated 5.2 million iPhones—the most ever in a single quarter. The report goes on to note that this is 62 percent more than the previous quarterly record of 3.2 million which was set in the second quarter of 2010, and that 24 percent of those activations were for customers new to AT&T. This news follows Apple’s Q4 2010 results from earlier this week where the company reported sales of 14.1 million iPhones. It is worth noting however that AT&T’s activation numbers include both new device sales and reactivation of second-hand devices by new customers, and there is therefore no direct relationship between the number of iPhones sold by Apple and the number of devices activated by AT&T. [via Mac Rumors]

Apple releases FaceTime for Mac, 19 million mobile users

During its Back to the Mac special event today, Apple announced the release of FaceTime for the Mac. Currently in Beta, the new standalone application allows Mac users running OS X 10.6.4 or later to FaceTime video chat with iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch users. The software integrates with the Mac’s built-in Address Book, and automatically rotates the image on the Mac end when an iPhone or iPod touch user rotates their device on the other end of a call. Notably, the screen aspect ratios of the iPhone and iPod touch are different than those of some Macs, leading to black bars on certain Mac models when performing full screen FaceTime chats.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said during the event that there are now over 19 million mobile FaceTime users, meaning that the company has sold at least 19 million iPhone 4 and iPod touch 4G units. In addition to the new software, Apple also announced downloads of over 7 billion apps from the App Store, before announcing a new App Store for Mac which the company plans to launch within 90 days. FaceTime for the Mac Beta is available now as a free download from Apple’s website.

RIM co-CEO Balsillie responds to Jobs’ comments

Following yesterday’s statements by Apple CEO Steve Jobs discussing BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, the fact that Apple’s 14.1 million iPhones sold in the September quarter beat RIM’s 12 million handsets sold during the August quarter, and the shortcomings of seven-inch tablets — including RIM’s upcoming BlackBerry Playbook — RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie has released a statement responding to Jobs, which is reprinted below.

“For those of us who live outside of Apple’s distortion field, we know that 7″ tablets will actually be a big portion of the market and we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real web experience. We also know that while Apple’s attempt to control the ecosystem and maintain a closed platform may be good for Apple, developers want more options and customers want to fully access the overwhelming majority of web sites that use Flash. We think many customers are getting tired of being told what to think by Apple. And by the way, RIM has achieved record shipments for five consecutive quarters and recently shared guidance of 13.8 – 14.4 million BlackBerry smartphones for the current quarter. Apple’s preference to compare its September-ending quarter with RIM’s August-ending quarter doesn’t tell the whole story because it doesn’t take into account that industry demand in September is typically stronger than summer months, nor does it explain why Apple only shipped 8.4 million devices in its prior quarter and whether Apple’s Q4 results were padded by unfulfilled Q3 customer demand and channel orders. As usual, whether the subject is antennas, Flash or shipments, there is more to the story and sooner or later, even people inside the distortion field will begin to resent being told half a story.”

[via BGR]

Loopt adds Facebook Places integration

Loopt has released an update to its social location application adding integration with Facebook’s new Places feature. Loopt allows iPhone users in the U.S. to automatically update and share their location with friends, see alerts when friends are nearby and view photos and places that friends have recently visited. Version 3.2 adds support for Facebook Places allowing Loopt users to view both their Loopt and Facebook friends on a single integrated map and automatically check-in with Facebook Places when sharing Loopt updates to Facebook. In addition comments on Loopt updates for friends who are using both Loopt and Facebook Places will be simultaneously posted to both services. Any of the user’s Facebook friends who have used Facebook Places are now shown in the Loopt friends list and the user can pull up an integrated check-in history for both Loopt and Facebook Places to see where a friend has been. The latest update also provides the ability to customize the distance at which friend alerts are displayed from between one and ten miles of the user’s current location and delivers an upgraded and simplified registration system allowing users to join using either their e-mail address or phone number. Loopt is available from the U.S. App Store as a free download.

Flashlight+ adds Multi-Control, Dim+Lock features

More Blu Sky has released an update to its popular Flashlight+ LED flashlight application for the iPhone 4. Flashlight+ allows iPhone 4 users to use the built-in LED flash as a flashlight, strobe light or SOS beacon. Version 2.2 adds a new Multi-Control feature which provides the ability to send text and e-mail messages, select music playlists and update Facebook status directly from within the app. Since Apple does not permit applications to leave the LED light enabled when running in the background, the new Multi-Control feature takes advantage of iOS in-app integration and Facebook Connect to allow users to perform a few basic tasks without having to leave the Flashlight application. The new version also adds a new feature that allows users to dim and lock the iPhone screen within the app by double-tapping on it with two fingers while using the LED light. Flashlight+ requires an iPhone 4 and is available from the App Store for $1.

CDMA iPhone in field testing stage?

Apple is currently field testing what is believed to be a new CDMA-compatible iPhone model, according to a new report. Citing an unnamed Apple source, Boy Genius Report states that iPhone model 3,2 recently hit the “AP” testing stage, which is said to be the final stage before retail release, with final hardware and nearly final software. Oddly, however, the same source said the model also contains a SIM card slot. The report suggests that iPhone 3,2 could be a CDMA + GSM/HSPA device, allowing it to work on both Verizon, AT&T, and most other carriers worldwide, or that it could be a CDMA-capable iPhone that houses a SIM card for global roaming. Otherwise, it could simply be a slight redesign of the existing iPhone 4, although this is seen as the least likely option. In addition, the report states that the next-generation iPhone 5 is in the “EVT,” or engineering verification test, phase, which comes prior to the “DVT,” or device verification test, phase, the same phase of testing that last year’s leaked iPhone 4 prototype was undergoing when it was lost.

Notes from Apple’s Q4 2010 Conference Call

During Apple’s Third Quarter 2010 Financial Results Conference Call, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer, Apple COO Tim Cook, and, surprisingly, Apple CEO Steve Jobs made several noteworthy comments concerning the company’s digital media products, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. During his opening remarks, Oppenheimer noted that Apple passed 125 million iOS devices—including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch—last month, with over 200,000 registered iOS developers, 65,000 game and entertainment apps, and over 30,000 apps made specifically for iPad. Oppenheimer also noted that iAd launched in July, and that the company is very happy with its results so far.

In regards to the iPod, Oppenheimer said it remains the worldwide MP3 player leader with over 70% market share, and is gaining share in most of tracked countries, while iTunes revenue for the quarter was over $1 billion. Turning to the iPhone, he pointed out that Apple sold over 40 million iPhones in fiscal year 2010, and that the iPhone accounted for more than $8.82 billion in revenue in the fourth-quarter, with an Average Selling Price (ASP) of around $610. iPhone sales grew in Asia, Europe, and Japan during the quarter, with sales more than doubling year-over-year in Japan. He added that the percentage of Fortune 500 companies piloting or deploying the iPhone jumped from 60% to 80% following the launch of the iPhone 4, and said Apple believes it could have sold even more iPhones if it could have kept up with demand.

Apple Q4 2010: 14.1m iPhones, 9m iPods, 4.19m iPads sold

Reporting its fourth-quarter financial results today, Apple said it sold 14.1 million iPhones during the period, representing 91% growth from the year-ago quarter, and up from 8.4 million in the third-quarter. The company also sold 9.05 million iPods during the quarter, an 11% decline year-over-year, and also down slightly from the 9.41 million iPods sold during the third quarter. Apple also sold 4.19 million iPads during the quarter, up from 3.27 million units in the third quarter. The units sales of iPhones, iPods, and iPads bring the cumulative unit sales for the three device categories to 73.7 million, 278.5 million, and 7.46 million, respectively. Overall, the company posted revenue of $20.34 billion and net quarterly profit of $4.31 billion, or $4.64 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter, compared to revenue of $12.21 billion and net quarterly profit of $2.53 billion, or $2.77 per diluted share, in Q4 2009.

“We are blown away to report over $20 billion in revenue and over $4 billion in after-tax earnings—both all-time records for Apple,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iPhone sales of 14.1 million were up 91 percent year-over-year, handily beating the 12.1 million phones RIM sold in their most recent quarter. We still have a few surprises left for the remainder of this calendar year.”

“We’re thrilled with the performance and strength of our business, generating almost $5.7 billion in cash flow from operations during the quarter,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2011, we expect revenue of about $23 billion and we expect diluted earnings per share of about $4.80.”

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