A new Apple patent application suggests the company is working on ways to make the iPhone OS interface more usable during activities. Titled “Variable Device Graphical User Interface,” the patent describes a method of sensing when the device is in motion, such as during a workout or other physical activity, and adjusting the graphical interface accordingly. Interface adjustments could potentially include enlarging user interface elements, such as items in a contact list, or icons on the home screen. Interestingly, illustrations included with the patent also depict what appears to be a forward-facing camera module at the top near the ear speaker—labeled 180—with the iPhone’s ambient light sensor moved to the bottom of its face to make room for the camera. Nothing in the patent text directly references a forward-facing camera, only one that could be “located on the back surface of the mobile device.” A forward-facing camera would potentially allow future iPhone models to offer video chat functionality, possibly through an iPhone-specific version of Apple’s iChat AV software. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via Mac Rumors]
U.S. carrier AT&T is seeking to extend its iPhone exclusivity deal with Apple through 2011, according to a new report. Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T’s current iPhone deal expires next year, and that current AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is now in discussions with Apple to extend it another year. The article goes on to reveal that Stephenson had his technology staff create a custom iPhone application so he can read his internal AT&T financial reports; a stark contrast to his predecessor Ed Whitacre who didn’t even keep a computer on his desk. Stephenson told the WSJ that with or without the iPhone, the company is planning to invest heavily in new infrastructure to handle new, more bandwidth-hungry services and devices. “This business cycle is going to cycle,” Mr. Stephenson said. “You got to make sure that you’re positioned when it cycles back out to be the leader in the industry, and to do that you have to be the leader in mobility, first and foremost.”
Apple has released the third beta version of iPhone OS 3.0 to developers, along with an updated version of the iPhone SDK. According to Apple’s release notes, a number of changes have been made to Xcode, Interface Builder, and Dashcode in the SDK; the notes also say that applications targeted for prior versions of the iPhone OS cannot be tested in this new version. The updated SDK weighs in at 2.13GB, and is listed as build 9M2728.
Developers can download iPhone OS 3.0 Beta 3, and the accompanying updated SDK, from Apple’s iPhone Dev Center.
Online retailer Buy.com has begun sales of “never-locked” iPhone 3G units, although it is unclear exactly where the units are from or whether they are protected by Apple’s standard one-year warranty. The units, which are listed as 16GB models but without any color specification, are priced at $800 each; a video accompanying the listing says the iPhones come from “overseas,” and may include instructions and other materials printed in Italian or some other non-English language. Confusingly, though both the video and the top portion of the listing indicate that the phones include the “Apple guarantee,” a separate block of text farther down the page indicates the phone “can only be returned to the distributor under” a “30 Day Limited Warranty.” Finally, although the page states that the phone can be used with T-Mobile in the U.S., T-Mobile’s 3G network operates on a different frequency than those supported by the iPhone 3G, meaning the device would be limited to standard EDGE connectivity when using T-Mobile’s network.
Apple has placed orders for four million units of new iPhone models, with delivery expected by the end of this quarter, according to a China Times report (Translated Link). The report goes on to state that Apple may introduce three distinct iPhone models, including a new 2.75G (EDGE) model, a new 3G model, and a third model created especially for the Chinese market. All three models are said to be similar in design to the current iPhone, and the report states that the introduction of a third, smaller model—often referred to as the iPhone nano—is unlikely. Prior reports have indicated that a future iPhone model would include an improved, 3.2 megapixel camera, 802.11n wireless network support, and video recording features; Apple is expected to reveal at least one new iPhone model at this year’s WWDC event, scheduled for June 8-12 in San Francisco. [via Mac Rumors]
A number of iPhone users are reporting intermittent problems with Wi-Fi after installing iPhone OS 2.2.1, which have since been linked to a battery issue by one intrepid user. According to an Apple Discussions thread, affected units randomly drop Wi-Fi signals, refusing to reconnect to any network for a period of time. Originally, many of the users believed the problem to be heat-related, as some users reported success after putting their phone in the refrigerator or freezer—a process we would warn against, as it could result in water damage or a water damage indicator being triggered from condensation, thus voiding any remaining warranty.
Scottish user ScottieWil physically opened his iPhone, discovering that Wi-Fi immediately returned when the relevant chip was touched with a Nitrogen stick to quickly cool it down. Upon further inspection, however, he found that the issue appears to be directly linked to the percentage of battery charge—his Wi-Fi seemed to work consistently no matter what the temperature as long as the battery charge was less than 50%—and suggested that the battery is “very sensitive to temperature,” which would explain why the freezer trick worked for a short period. Despite ScottieWil’s efforts, there appears to be no immediate fix for the issue. One user wrote that an Apple representative made an appointment for him to get a replacement phone without 2.2.1 installed, suggesting Apple is aware of the problem, if currently unable to provide a solution. [via The Register]
Apple has launched a new Billion App Countdown promotion to celebrate the one-billionth app downloaded from the App Store, with a single combined prize of a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card, a 32GB iPod touch, a Time Capsule, and a 17-inch MacBook Pro. The prize will be awarded for the entry (either through an app download or through a non-purchase online entry) sent immediately following the download of the 999,999,999th app. The winners will be listed online within 10 days following the one-billionth download. Regardless of which method of entry is used to enter the Promotion, only 25 entries per person and/or iTunes account and/or email address, per day will be granted; an entrant must be 13 years of age or older at the time of entry, and must also be a legal resident of the United States, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada (excluding the Province of Quebec), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom. Apple held a similar promotion during the time leading up to the one billionth song sold via the iTunes Store in 2006.
Editors’ Note: At the current estimated rate of App Store downloads, roughly 5 million per day, the countdown would last for roughly 15 days before someone wins. However, the pace of downloads will likely continue to accelerate as it has throughout the Store’s growth, meaning that a winner should be picked in less than two weeks’ time.
Fido, the Canadian cellular provider owned by Rogers Wireless, has begun selling “refreshed” iPhone 3G units to eligible customers. According to MoblieSyrup, the “refreshed” phones differ from normal refurbished units in that they are not rebuilt or reconditioned by Apple, instead being brought back to Fido during the 15-day return/exchange window, and carry only a six month warranty. The refreshed units can only be purchased by existing Fido customers, who must currently be on a price plan dated before November 4th, 2008 or on a retention/loyalty plan. 8GB refreshed units sell for $149 on a three-year plan, while 16GB models sell for $249.
Talks between Apple and China Unicom to bring the iPhone to China have come to a halt over demands by Apple, according to a new report. SinoCast reports that Apple was said to have asked Unicom to help pay for the costs of building special Apple storefronts across the country, after China Unicom agreed to a profit-sharing plan proposed by the iPhone maker. Executives at China Unicom would say that negotiations were ongoing, but refused to give any specific details. China Unicom is expected to launch its 3G network on May 17, and is said to want the deal with Apple finalized by April 15.
Google has launched significant upgrades to its Gmail and Calendar web applications for the iPhone, iPod touch, and Android-powered devices. According to the company’s Mobile blog, the team behind the apps has completely re-architected the code to offer more consistent performance, and refreshed the user interface to make it easier to perform batch actions, along with laying the groundwork for future improvements. Other improvements include easier to read labels that are more in-line with their desktop counterparts, a relocated search menu, and the ability to open recently read messages and to compose new emails over a “flaky, or non-existent, network connection.” The improved interface requires iPhone OS 2.2.1 or later, and can be accessed now by visiting gmail.com from an iPhone or iPod touch.
ComScore has released a new list of the top 25 iPhone and iPod touch applications, based on estimates of the installed base of applications downloaded via iTunes by February 2009. The company, which says that it monitors roughly one million computer users in the United States, looks at its monitored iTunes users to determine which applications they had installed, and removes duplicates to avoid double- or triple-counting updated apps. According to the report, Tapulous’ Tap Tap Revenge is the top app, with 32% of monitored App Store users having downloaded the rhythm game. It is followed by Backgrounds, with 27%, Touch Hockey: FS5 with 26%, Facebook, also with 26%, and Pac-Man with 24%. Other notable entries in the top 25 include MySpace Mobile with 23%, Google Earth with 22%, Pandora with 21%, AIM with 19%, and Shazam with 17%. While the numbers strike us as unusually high for given apps, they provide a general sense of genre and app popularity. Overall, 12 of the top 25 apps are gaming titles, with entertainment apps accounting for four of the top 25, and three social networking apps making the list.
A new screenshot discovered in the latest beta release of iPhone OS 3.0 shows a video recording interface for the Camera application, Mac Rumors reports. Accessed by changing configuration files to tell the OS that a video camera was present, the screenshot shows an interface similar to that of the current Camera app, but with a slider in the lower right hand corner for selecting between video and still capture modes, and a red recording dot in the center of the shutter button. In addition, other references to currently unavailable features were found in the configuration files, including text referring to an “auto-focus camera,” “magnetometer,” also known as a digital compass, and “Voice Control.”
Update: Boy Genius Report has published yet another set of screenshots from iPhone OS 3.0 showing evidence of a video recording feature, along with a new status bar battery percentage indicator. The first screenshot shows a revised version of the Photos app with tabs at the top for “All,” “Photos,” and “Videos;” the screen also shows the videos section displaying a “No Videos” marker with the text “You can take videos using the camera.” Also visible in the screenshot is a battery percentage indicator, which can be toggled on/off in the General>Usage Settings app menu, and a Voice Control menu option, the specifics of which are not yet known.
Apple has posted three new iPhone 3G television advertisements to its website. Continuing the “there’s an app for that” theme, the three spots highlight three individual applications each. “Itchy” highlights the GPS compass app Compass Go, the interactive field guide app iBird Explorer Plus, and the video application Howcast, while “Office” features the transaction processing app Credit Card Terminal, the wireless printing app Print & Share, and the package tracking app FedEx Mobile. Finally, “Student” highlights the apartment finder Apartments, the product lookup app SnapTell, and the photo editing app Photogene. All three commercials are available for viewing on Apple’s website.
Based on a number of new reports, iPhone OS 3.0 may offer video editing and recording capabilities, while a next-generation iPhone may debut with 802.11n support, and potentially FM transmission capabilities, as well. Found in the latest beta version of iPhone OS 3.0 (Translated Link), new resource images appear to show graphics needed for video editing purposes: listed under the name “UIMovieScrubber,” the images include what appear to be controls for editing video, including in and out markers. The discovery follows an earlier report that the next-generation iPhone OS appeared set to support both video recording and sharing via MobileMe, the former most likely only on next-generation hardware. DigiTimes recently reported that Apple had placed orders for 3.2-megapixel CMOS image sensors to be used in the next iPhone, which may or may not be tied to the expected new video features.
A separate component specification file found in the new beta release of iPhone OS 3.0 suggests that the next-generation of iPhone and iPod touch hardware will offer not only low-power 802.11n support, but also possibly FM reception and transmission capabilities. Broadcom’s BCM4329 chip is listed in the beta OS along with specifications, which include 802.11 a/b/g/n support, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, and a FM radio receiver and transmitter. Notably, the presence of these features in a new chip does not guarantee that Apple will actually support them with iPhone OS software. The second-generation iPod touch used Broadcom’s earlier BCM4325 chip, which also offered FM reception hardware capabilities, a feature that was never disclosed or enabled by Apple’s software. Whether Apple takes advantage of the BCM4329’s expanded functionality is therefore a question mark, but if so, next-generation iPhones could include 802.11n/a wireless support, the ability to receive FM radio stations, and the ability to broadcast iPod mode audio to in-car stereos—all without additional accessories. [via TUAW]
O’Reilly has announced it will be holding four iPhone development workshops in locations across the U.S. this spring/summer. The O’Reilly Workshop: Build, Compile, and Run Your iPhone App in 2 Days will be helmed by iPhone app programmer Joe Heck, and is aimed at helping both experienced and novice programmers get up to speed on the basics of iPhone development, including the Cocoa programming environment, the Xcode suite of tools, the Objective-C language, and Instruments. Attendees will create two real iPhone applications by the end of the two-day session. The workshops will be held May 16-17 in San Francisco, June 27-28 in Chicago, August 8-9 in LA, and September 19-20 in Seattle; standard pricing is set at $1200, but those who book early may be eligible for a $200 “early bird” discount.
Speaking at the Web 2.0 Expo, Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft’s Business Division, hinted that the company may be planning to bring a version of its Office productivity suite to the iPhone. When asked whether Microsoft was committed to getting its major productivity applications onto the Web and on mobile devices, Elop said the company recognizes the growing demand from smartphone users, pointing out how many people now access their Facebook accounts with their iPhones because the device, and others like it, had made it practical to access on the go. After interviewer Tim O’Reilly asked Elop directly whether this meant the iPhone would get access to a mobile edition of Office, he said, “not yet, keep watching.” Elop also announced that Microsoft plans to launch an ad-supported online version of Office sometime after 2009; it is unclear whether an iPhone version of the software would be created as a web application or as a standalone app.
The latest version of the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, which developers must agree to before downloading and/or using the iPhone SDK or beta versions of the iPhone OS, has added a clause forbidding developers from working on or assisting with jailbreak projects or jailbroken applications. According to Ars Technica, the clause also forbids developers from jailbreaking their own devices. The move follows comments filed by Apple with the U.S. Copyright Office arguing that that jailbreaking constitutes copyright infringement and a DMCA violation, and is therefore illegal.
The relevant clause states, “(e)You will not, through use of the Apple Software, services or otherwise, create any Application or other program that would disable, hack or otherwise interfere with the Security Solution, or any security, digital signing, digital rights management, verification or authentication mechanisms implemented in or by the iPhone operating system software, iPod touch operating system software, this Apple Software, any services or other Apple software or technology, or enable others to do so; and (f) Applications developed using the Apple Software may only be distributed if selected by Apple (in its sole discretion) for distribution via the App Store or for limited distribution on Registered Devices (ad hoc distribution) as contemplated in this Agreement.”
Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear franchise, discussed Konami’s recent Metal Gear Solid Touch release and future iPhone development plans in a recent interview with Spike TV’s Geoff Keighley, held at the San Francisco Apple Store. Kojima revealed that his team originally had the online group helm the development of MGST with Kojima studios overseeing production, but the resulting game was “crap.” After absorbing the existing assets, Kojima and his team realized developing the controls for a stealth game would prove difficult. “At first we thought this should be a stealth game… There were two parts a stealth and a shooting part ... We mocked up a sample but we thought it wouldn’t work,” Kojima said, adding that the short playing time of iPhone games would make it too difficult to manipulate the character through levels without being discovered by in-game foes. “So we changed the play style to touch shooting.” Kojima said that the final eight stages of the game, to be released later this year, will feature “touch fighting” gameplay as well as more “touch shooting.”
Kojima also revealed that he is a large Apple fan, and uses a Mac computer—one of the few employees at his studio to do so—as well as an iPod. Kojima went on to state that he would like to continue working on the iPhone, and hopes to do “something crazy” on the platform. Finally, he offered a glimmer of hope for those wishing for a true stealth-based iPhone game, saying he thought such a title might be possible as the platform develops and improves.
Apple this evening released the second beta version of iPhone OS 3.0 to registered developers, adding bug fixes and several new feature updates and implementations. iPhone OS 3.0 beta 2 contains support for Apple’s push notification service, so that developers can begin testing their apps with push notification activated, a new “Store” menu item in the Settings app, and the ability to have up to 11 pages of applications, raising the app limit from 148 to 180. Screenshots of the new functionality have been added to our Complete Guide to iPhone OS 3.0 for iPhone and iPod touch.
Developers can download iPhone OS 3.0 Beta 2, and the accompanying updated SDK, from Apple’s iPhone Dev Center.
Despite attempts to reduce fraudulent App Store reviews, developers are continuing to use deceptive practices to boost the sales of their applications, and have expanded beyond the App Store by posting comments on online reviews. In an investigation of suspicious comments that began in early March of this year, iLounge has discovered foreign postings from India and Indonesia that illustrate how developers have been generating artificially positive feedback for their products. Additionally, reports indicate that “app review blogs” have been set up to offer developer-purchased positive reviews of iPhone and iPod touch software under the guise of independently generated content.
In one example, the Indonesian web site jauharimedia.com includes a number of “freelance” job requests for people to post positive reviews of iPhone apps on the App Store. A separate posting from username “timiphone”, found on iPhoneDevForums.com promises “4-5 star reviews” at a cost of $2 each, with a minimum order of 100 reviews. The same screen name “timiphone” was attached to a positive review on the App Store for the app FreeContact from DarkApples. Additionally, iPhone developer Brandon, author of the app gCalWall, claims that a site he contacted in hopes of getting his application reviewed responded with a $50 offer (warning: strong language) for an “expedited review,” with a promise that the review would only be published if the site’s reviewers “approve” the app, accompanied by a solicitation for advertising, which includes one “expedited review” for free. The site, identified elsewhere as “AppCraver,” claimed to be read by venture capitalists and journalists, and noted that “our readers are not interested in negative reviews.”
iLounge has continued to block astroturfing reviews and related comments from application developers, including Robosoft, an Indian company that has developed a number of iPhone apps, including 99Games Online’s WordsWorth, which posted multiple fake “fan” comments attacking a competing product called Bookworm. Other developers, such as the ones behind Voicebox and Westward, have also been blocked for posting policy-violating comments.