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Apple releases iAd Producer to developers

Apple has released its new iAd Producer tool to members of the iOS developer program. According to Apple, iAd Producer “automatically manages the HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript behind your iAd to make creating beautiful, motion-rich iAd content as easy as point and click,” and offers project templates for both the iPhone and iPad. Other features include a visual designer, page templates, pre-built animations and effects, advanced JavaScript editing, and more. iAd Producer is available now as a free download from iOS developer program members. [via Mac Rumors]

Sam’s Club stores offering iPhone 4 for $147 this week? (Updated)

Sam’s Club stores in the U.S. will be offering the 16GB iPhone 4 for just $147 with a two-year contract through Christmas Day, according to a new report. Citing information and a matching screenshot from an anonymous source, Engadget reports that the 8GB iPhone 3GS will see a similar discount, and will sell for $47 on contract until the holiday. Notably, the iPhone 4 price would represent the cheapest of the season, beating out Radio Shack’s prior discount by two dollars; the report does not indicate whether Sam’s will be offering a similar discount on 32GB iPhone 4 units.

Update: Walmart, which owns Sam’s Club, is offering a $50 Gift Card with the purchase of a new 8GB iPhone 3GS or 16GB iPhone 4.

Sharp to build new LCD production lines for iPhone

Sharp plans to spend 100 billion yen (roughly $1.2 billion) to build production lines for small and midsized LCDs, the bulk of which Apple is expected to purchase for use in the iPhone, according to a new report. Citing the Nikkei business daily, Reuters reports that Sharp will begin installing the lines at a Mie Prefecture plant next year, with mass production expected to begin in the second half of 2012. Apple is expected to shoulder a large portion of the investment and buy most of the LCD panels produced; Toshiba is also said to be building a new LCD plant primarily to supply small panels to Apple, which hopes to expand procurement in order to help it gain market share in the smartphone market.

iPad, iPhone play part in insider trading sting

An executive at Flextronics, a parts supplier to Apple, passed on secret information about the iPad and iPhone 4 before their announcements, according to a new report. Citing a 39-page legal complaint lobbied against Walter Shimoon, a senior director of business development at Flextronics, and three other men, the Wall Street Journal reports that Shimoon shared information about Apple’s iPad, iPhone, and iPod with an unnamed government informant. “They [Apple] have a code name for something new…It’s, it’s totally…it’s a new category altogether. And, uh, I speculate, it doesn’t have a camera in it, what I figured out. So I speculated that it’s probably a reader…Something like that…I believe it’s called…K48,” Shimoon told the informant in October 2009, nearly four months before the iPad’s introduction. During the same call, Shimoon said that Apple was working on a new version of the iPhone that would include two cameras; the iPhone 4 was launched eight months later. Shimoon is also said to have provided information about Apple sales figures for the iPhone for the third quarter of 2009, and sales forecasts for the iPhone and iPod for the fourth quarter of 2009.

Star Walk Christmas Edition tracks Santa, adds AirPrint support

Vito Technology has released an updated Christmas Edition of its interactive astronomy guide apps for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. In keeping with the holiday season, the update adds the ability to track Santa Claus’ journey on Christmas Eve, including the ability to fast-forward to December 24th using the application’s Time Machine feature to find out where Santa will be in advance of the big day. The new version also adds AirPrint support for printing sky maps with stars and constellations, new star catalogues including more information on spectral class and distance from the Earth and expanded details on interesting satellites including launch dates and stories. Star Walk is available in two versions: Star Walk for the iPhone and iPod touch sells for $3 while Star Walk for iPad is sold separately for $5.

Rogers/Fido now unlocking iPhones for $50 fee

Rogers/Fido have instituted a new handset unlocking policy which allows eligible owners of the iPhone to have their handsets unlocked for a $50 fee. According to an iPhone in Canada report, customers wanting to take advantage of the unlocking service must have an account in good standing, and have paid the unsubsidized cost for the device at least 30 days prior or have finished their contract. In addition, the device to be unlocked must be listed in their equipment history. The report indicates that the unlocking service is handled by Rogers Customer Care, and that once set up, the user simply needs to restore the device and it will be unlocked via iTunes.

Nokia files 13 new patent complaints against Apple

Nokia has filed a total of 13 new patent complaints against Apple in Europe, representing the latest chapter in a legal battle that started over one year ago. According to a Reuters report, the new complaints were filed in Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, and accuse Apple of infringing on Nokia patents related to several technologies, including touch user interfaces, on-device app stores, signal noise compression, and modular structure. “The Nokia inventions protected by these patents include…a wiping gesture on a touch screen to navigate content, or enabling access to constantly changing services with an on-device app store, both filed more than ten years before the launch of the iPhone,” Paul Melin, vice president of Intellectual Property at Nokia, said in a statement. “These actions add 13 further Nokia patents to the 24 already asserted against Apple in the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Delaware and Wisconsin Federal courts.”

Nokia first filed suit against Apple in October 2009, claiming that the iPhone infringes on several Nokia patents; Apple filed a countersuit claiming patent infringement in December. The lawsuits were followed by a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) complaint from Nokia near the end of the year, alleging that Apple infringes on the Finnish company’s patents “in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers.”

The ITC launched an investigation into Nokia’s claims against Apple in late January; it announced a similar investigation into Apple’s claims against Nokia in February. In March, a federal judge in Delaware signed an order halting litigation between Nokia and Apple pending resolution of the companies’ respective claims with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC); Nokia then sued Apple again in May, alleging that the iPhone and iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G infringe on five of its patents. The ITC case between the two companies is ongoing, but ITC staff issued a pre-trial memo stating that Nokia shouldn’t be found liable of infringing upon Apple’s patents. A recent report indicated that Apple has been bolstering its legal team ahead of key battles with Nokia, as well as HTC and Motorola.

Apple grabs top 5 spot in Japanese cellphone market

Apple has risen to fifth place in the Japanese cellphone market, according to new data from IDC Japan. Citing the data, The Mainichi Daily News reports that Apple grabbed a 12.2 percent share of the Japanese cellphone market over the July-September period, good for fifth place behind local companies Sharp, Panasonic, Fujitsu, and Kyocera, the former of which led the market with an 18.8 percent share. Notable beyond the challenges faced by foreign companies in Japan is the fact that the numbers include all cellphones, not just smartphones, and that the iPhone is offered by only one Japanese carrier—SoftBank—which is the third-largest in the country, behind market leader NTT DoCoMo and KDDI. [via MDN]

Apple removes iOS jailbreak detection API

Apple has quietly removed or disabled an API meant to allow security software to detect jailbroken devices from afar, only months after adding it to iOS. NetworkWorld reports that the API, introduced in iOS 4.0, was part of a bundle of mobile device management APIs, but is not functional under iOS 4.2. In simple terms, the API allowed security software to remotely query the OS to see if it had been compromised, but according to one security engineer, the API was simple one piece of a larger set of checks used to determine jailbreak status. “We used it when it was available, but as an adjunct,” said Joe Owen, vice president of engineering at Sybase, which offers Afaria device management software. “I’m not sure what motivated their removing that….I’ve not had anyone [at enterprise customer sites] talk to me about this API being present or being removed.”

Owen added that the API itself might not have been 100 percent reliable, as certain jailbreak routines could have compromised its functionality. “It’s an interesting concept - asking the OS to tell you if it has been compromised,” he added. “Because a smart attacker might first change that very part of the OS. Jailbreaks often get better and better at disguising the fact that anything has been compromised.” Enterprises used the API, and still employ other jailbreak detection techniques, to block jailbroken devices from accessing potentially sensitive corporate data. Apple has yet to acknowledge the change in API status or give any reason for its apparent removal.

LTE-capable iPhone to launch on Verizon soon?

Apple plans to announce an LTE-capable iPhone on Verizon Wireless “right after Christmas,” according to a new report. Citing an anonymous source believed to be familiar with the matter, MacDailyNews reports that Verizon held management training for iPhone sales last week, and had functioning, LTE-capable units in management hands during the sessions. The report also states that the device has been finished for “quite a while” and is already to shipping in bulk to Verizon warehouses; the device is reportedly not shipping to any third-party retailers in an effort to contain leaks. Due to the limited LTE coverage currently offered by Verizon, the phone will have multi-band chip backward compatibility with regular CDMA networks, but will be promoted as the only “LTE iPhone,” and will be a Verizon exclusive. Furthermore, the report claims that the iPhone 5 was planned to debut in summer 2011 as an LTE-only handset for all contracted carriers, but LTE coverage is not expected to be widespread enough for an LTE-only launch; Apple CEO Steve Jobs is said to be upset that carriers cannot seem to get LTE rolled out more quickly, and the company is reportedly “helping” U.S. carriers to speed up their build outs of LTE technology.

Notably, MacDailyNews states that the information has yet to be independently confirmed. Apple has traditionally taken a conservative approach when it comes to including cutting-edge connectivity options in its products—for example, the original iPhone launched without support for available 3G networks, and Apple has not supported next-generation wired or wireless standards such as USB 3 or WiMAX despite roll-outs of compatible hardware by other companies. The Verizon LTE launch was more widespread than initially expected, however, and the launch of Verizon’s iPad + MiFi bundle, as well recent comments made by AT&T executives, suggest that a collaboration of some sort between Apple and Verizon is ongoing, lending credence to the possibility of such an aggressive iPhone launch plan.

Google releases official Latitude app

Google has released an official iOS application for its Latitude location sharing service. Google Latitude for the iPhone allows users to share their own location and view friends’ locations on the Latitude service. Friends’ locations can be viewed either as a list or using an integrated map within the application and users can initiate phone calls or send text and e-mail messages directly from the friends list. The application also supports iOS Background Location services on the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 to allow the user’s location to be updated even while the application is not open and privacy controls allow users to choose to share only their city-level location or hide their location entirely on a per-contact basis. Google Latitude is available from the App Store as a free download.

Apple bidding on Nortel wireless patents

Apple is among several companies expected to bid on patents owned by telecom company Nortel Networks. Reuters reports that the patents, which pertain to third- and fourth-generation wireless technology such as Long Term Evolution (LTE), are expected to draw bids Apple, Google, Motorola, and Research In Motion as the companies fight legal battles over patents related to mobile handsets. The patents are part of an auction of bankrupt Nortel Networks’ portfolio of intellectual property, which also includes patents relating to optical and data networking, Internet, Internet advertising, voice and personal computers. The auction is said to have been underway for about seven months. [via Mac Rumors]

Firemint announces Real Racing 2

Firemint has announced details on its upcoming sequel to Real Racing for the iPhone and iPod touch. Real Racing 2 introduces a number of new features along with 30 officially licensed cars, 15 locations, five different game modes and support for online multiplayer races of up to 16 players. Among the new officially licensed cars are the 2010 BMW M6 Competition Edition, the 2010 Jaguar XKR, 2010 Lotus Exige and 1995 McLaren F1 GTR, with additional cars from Chevolet, Ford/Shelby, Nissan/Super GT, Volkswagen and Volvo. Real Racing 2 provides a 16 car grid for authentic pack racing action against either computer-controlled AI opponents or up to 15 other players that can be auto-matched or invited through Apple’s Game Center. Players can choose to engage in either quick races or a full career mode where they must compete in races and earn in-game currency to buy and sell cars and upgrades, with game progress saved online. Other game modes include time trial, eight-player local multiplayer and 16-player online multiplayer and additional features such as the ability for vehicles to take damage in the game and five camera angles plus TV-style replays. The game will provide a wide variety of control options allowing users to use a combination of accelerometer/gyroscopic and touchscreen controls to steer, accelerate and brake, including optional haptic feedback during play. Real Racing 2 will be available from the App Store on December 16, 2010 for $10.

Best Buy to offer free iPhone 3GS December 10th

Best Buy is planning to run a special one-day promotion in which it will offer the 8GB iPhone 3GS for free on contract, according to a new report. Citing a Best Buy “ninja,” Boy Genius Report claims that the promotion will run tomorrow, Friday December 10th, and will be valid for new lines, additional lines, and qualified upgrades. According to the report, all stores have adequate inventory levels to support the promotion, and that the discount will be applied as an instant rebate. This would mark the second time this month that one of Apple’s retail partners has offered a discount on iPhones, as Radio Shack is currently running a $50 off promotion on all iPhone models.

Epic Games releases Infinity Blade

Epic Games has released its anticipated game Infinity Blade. Developed exclusively for the iOS platform, Infinity Blade is a 3D first-person RPG shooter powered by Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 technology. Players take on the role of a knight on a quest to free the realm from an evil immortal God King and save civilization by journeying to the Dark Citadel and battling the God King’s Titans. The game provides a dynamic single-player campaign with extensive character customization of weapons, armor and magic items and advanced character progression through levelling up and increasing attack, health, shield and magic skills over the course of the game. Players navigate using intuitive tap-to-move controls to search and explore the castle realm and engage in combat moves using simple swipe gestures. The initial release of Infinity Blade provides Game Center achievements and leaderboards with a single-player campaign only; multiplayer features are planned for a future update. Infinity Blade is a universal app and is compatible with the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, third- and fourth-generation iPod touch and the iPad and requires iOS 3.2 or later. It is available from the App Store for $6.

Peel announces Universal Control for iPhone

Peel has announced a new hardware accessory that allows iPhone users to control their home entertainment system from the company’s Peel TV discovery app. Released in October, the free Peel app provides a simple TV guide based on personalized content using user preferences and tailored recommendations to allow users to view programming and discover shows that they are interested in. The application provides detailed show information such as time, channel, lead actors and a synopsis and also includes integration with Facebook and Twitter for sharing favorite shows. The Peel Universal Control accessory allows the Peel app to be used to control a home entertainment system in a program-oriented fashion instead of simply channel-surfing. Rather than connecting directly to the iPhone, the Peel Universal Control is a separate device that is placed within line-of-sight of the user’s home entertainment devices and communicates with the iPhone application over Wi-Fi to transmit IR commands to the system. Users can simply fire up the Peel app and use a simple gesture-based interface to select programming and control volume, menu systems and more right from the iPhone. The app can recommend top viewing choices from a user’s available sources based on their individual viewing patterns and preferences and once a show is selected the app is designed to be used intuitively for adjusting volume and navigating PVR functions without having to look at the iPhone.

Peel has not yet announced pricing for the Peel Universal Control and is currently running a social media campaign to help determine hardware pricing based on user feedback. A limited quantity of units will be directly available from Peel for auction and once that quantity has been sold Peel Universal Control will be available in major online and retail stores. Peel Universal Control works with iPhone OS 3 and above and supports controlling a wide variety of home media devices ranging from traditional TVs and set-top boxes to the Apple TV, Tivo and Roku. The Peel discovery app is available from the App Store as a free download.

European telcos claim Apple, Google should pay for network improvements

A group of European carriers is arguing that companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook should help pay for the multi-billion dollar network investments needed to support their bandwidth-intensive services, according to a Bloomberg report. “Service providers are flooding networks with no incentive” to cut costs, said France Telecom Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard last month. “It’s necessary to put in place a system of payments by service providers as a function of their use.” Richard addressed the issue at the “Le Web” conference in Paris this week, and has joined with Telecom Italia CEO Franco Bernabe and Telefonica SA CEO Cesar Alierta in arguing for a new business model. Bernabe said that the disparity between investments and revenue “is set to compromise the economic sustainability of the current business model for telecom companies,” adding that Apple, Google, Facebook, and Skype “increasingly look like integrated operators in the telecom network sector.”

The article sites IDC as estimating that the number of mobile data connections in western Europe will rise by an average of 15 percent a year to 270 million in 2014, while overall end-user revenue will fall about 1 percent a year. Canalys adds that carriers’ average spending on network infrastructure over the same period will jump 28 percent to roughly $3.8 billion. Companies like Google and Yahoo! “use Telefonica’s networks for free, which is good news for them and a tragedy for us,” Alierta said in February. “That can’t continue.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the service providers themselves don’t agree with the carriers’ position. “Currently about 40 percent of our expenses go to networks anyway—servers, peering, our content delivery network, and other resources,” said Giuseppe de Martino, legal and regulatory director for Paris-based online-video service Dailymotion SA. “If telecom operators want us to share in their expenses, perhaps we should talk about sharing subscription revenues as well.”

ComScore: iPhones account for 23% of business smartphones

According to the latest data from ComScore, the iPhone now accounts for nearly 23 percent of the business smartphone market, placing it in second behind market leader BlackBerry. The Los Angeles Times, citing ComScore, reports that the conclusion is based on two months of data, and represents the company’s first snapshot of the market, thus no trends are yet discernible. The data includes employees whose companies fully or partially pay for their monthly bills. RIM’s BlackBerry held a 51.2 percent share of the market, followed by the iPhone with 22.7 percent, Google Android phones with 12.1 percent, and Microsoft OS-based phones with 8.8 percent.

Consumer Reports: AT&T ranked last among U.S. carriers

Consumer Reports has released the results of its latest cell phone service survey, with iPhone carrier AT&T ranking dead last nationally. According to the results, which have been posted online by the Houston Chronicle, AT&T scored a “worse” rating in every single category save for texting, in which it received a next-to-bottom rating. Overall, AT&T received a score of 60, below that of T-Mobile (69), Sprint (73), Verizon Wireless (74), and national leader U.S. Cellular (82); it also received the lowest score in every city in which Consumer Reports surveyed readers. Notably, the same issue also ranks smartphones and traditional cell phones by carrier, and lists the iPhone 4 as tied with the Samsung Captivate for the title of best smartphone available on AT&T.

Radio Shack to offer $50 iPhone discount Dec 4-11?

Radio Shack has announced that it will be offering a $50 discount on all iPhone models beginning tomorrow, December 4, according to a new report. Boy Genius Report claims that the promotion applies to brand new devices, not refurbished units, and that interested parties need only be eligible for a new two-year agreement. Notably, the discount brings the price of the 8GB iPhone 3GS down to $50, while 16GB and 32GB iPhone 4s will cost $150 and $250, respectively. The promotion is said to run through December 11.

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