A new group of Apple patent filings published this week suggest the iPhone-maker is working on adding object identification capabilities to the device, among other features. As described by the patent filing, this “ID App” would allow users to identify objects, structures and other features of their surroundings by using information received by the camera, an RFID reader, or an Infrared camera. This information could be combined with current location data in order to more accurately pinpoint the appropriate database for the identification search. Another filing describes a method for recording and saving outgoing voicemails and tying them to the recipient’s contact information for later playback and reference, while yet another describes a system by which a consumer could pre-select the media to be loaded onto his or her device before purchasing, so that it could be downloaded immediately to the device and be available within minutes after opening.
Two more filings focus on improvements to messaging, the first of which describes a system of parental controls which would filter out objectionable text content in messages based on the user’s age or grade level, and could also alert the parents or other administrators to the presence of such text. The second outlines a messaging application that could determine whether a message was successfully sent from the device to one or more recipients, and allow the user to re-send the message without the need to retype it should the initial delivery attempt fail. Finally, a new filing suggests the company is working on a method for displaying song lyrics or other text-based content on a partially transparent, scrollable “sheet,” which is overlaid on the standard touchscreen iPod controls. As with all Apple patent filings, these do not necessarily represent any future product releases from Apple, but offer evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via AppleInsider]
A new feature found in iPhone OS 3.0 has also created a new security liability, according to a security group member. The exploit is caused by the OS’ automatic opening of Safari when attempting to connect to a network. Remote-exploit.org co-founder Max Moser explains that when the iPhone joins a network, it tries to run a DNS query for apple.com, and open a simple HTML document stored on Apple’s website. If these two things happen without incident, it functions as normal, but in circumstances in which the DNS query is successful but it can’t retrieve the HTML file, it assumes there is a “captive portal”—a hotspot with a login/pay-to-use screen—and automatically opens Safari. When combined with the penetration testing software karmetasploit, this vulnerability could potentially be used to capture iPhone cookies, account information, and possibly more, depending on what other vulnerabilities are found. While this would require a malicious Wi-Fi network to be setup, which might also pose a threat to other devices, the iPhone’s new automatic connect sequence leaves it more vulnerable than most. [via InformationWeek]
In a recent interview, Skyhook Wireless CEO Ted Morgan made several interesting statements about the company’s Wi-Fi-based location services in relation to the iPhone and GPS. Despite the apparent overlaps between the two technologies, which some might presume would make Skyhook’s Wi-Fi-based device triangulation less useful in GPS-equipped devices, Morgan said the situation is actually the opposite, as the two features complement each other. He told Cnet that due to the longer time GPS takes to acquire an accurate location, pure GPS isn’t fast enough for instant-on apps used on smartphones, and that both interference from the devices’ screens and their smaller GPS antennas add to the issues. In addition, he claimed that two-thirds to three-quarters of the time, the iPhone locates itself using the Skyhook Wi-Fi service as opposed to GPS.
Raising questions regarding the durability of the oleophobic coating on the glass screen of the iPhone 3GS, a user from Germany has posted pictures of the coating coming off less than three weeks after the product’s release. In separate postings to the apfeltalk.de forums, 3GS user “Samsas Traum” has shared pictures of his problematic screen, which appears to have ghost-like circles around the area where the coating has come off. Traum claims that the localized nature of the damage is likely due to repeat playings of Flick Fishing. While we have yet to see a second report of such extreme wear in such a short time, iLounge editors have found previous products with oleophobic coating—such as sunglasses—to be problematic, with the coating coming off with as little as contact with certain types of water. [via iFun.de]
A number of both iPhone 3G and 3GS users are complaining of poor battery life when running iPhone OS 3.0. Some iPhone 3GS users, who had 3.0 pre-installed on their phones, have found some improvement after cycling the battery from full charge to dead a few times, while others, including iPhone 3G users, are reporting improved battery life after disabling Push Notifications, suggesting Apple may still have some kinks to work out in the new service. iLounge’s reviews of both the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS noted “unacceptably low” battery life under certain conditions, including 3G calling, data, and video recording; it is unclear whether the problems are in hardware, software, or interrelated in nature, and whether or not Apple’s upcoming iPhone 3.1 software update will improve battery life. [via Macworld UK]
L.A.-based rock band The 88 have released their new single “Love Is the Thing,” which the band recorded using an iPhone and the application FourTrack ($10) from Sonoma Wire Works. According to a post on the band’s website, a member was browsing through the App Store when he came upon FourTrack, and the group thought it would be “a great way to record song ideas while we are away from home.” They proceeded to record guitar, drum, keyboard, and vocal tracks—14 in total—using the app; the group ended up re-recording the vocals using the application and an Alesis ProTrack to fine-tune the input levels. More details, including a “making of” video, can be found on the band’s website; “Love Is the Thing” is available now for $1 from iTunes.
A slew of new Apple patent applications have been published, revealing the company’s research into a number of iPod and iPhone enhancements. Of the iPhone- and iPod touch-specific patents, two deal with the usability of touchscreen-based devices. One patent outlines haptic display technology that would let users “feel” on-screen graphics as they move their fingers across the screen, while another would identify fingerprints, allowing the system to execute different commands based on the individual finger that is touching the screen and the duration of the contact.
A separate group of patents covers automated, intelligent settings and tasks. One covers “event-based modes,” in which the iPhone automatically changes certain settings based on its location, calendar events, news updates, usage, and environment. A second deals with automated communications, which would allow the iPhone to perform certain actions—such as sending a happy birthday SMS or making a phone call—based on calendar events, location, caller ID, and more. The third patent in this grouping covers intelligent handling of communications, by which the iPhone would be able to “select appropriate communication modes for incoming communications requests based on a user’s preferences and availability, determine the communication modes of a user based on the current activity and allow the user to provide customized information to his contacts.”
Yet another Apple patent filing suggests the company is working on a way to integrate RFID technology into the iPhone and iPod touch. The application describes a method for embedding an RFID antenna into the touchscreen itself, allowing the device to be used as a reader. The company is also looking into a karaoke addition to the iPhone and iPod touch’s iPod application, which would not only provide on-screen video and lyrics, but also offer real-time feedback to the user in an attempt to improve his/her singing.
Finally, a new patent filling describes a system for “active packaging,” which would allow the company to ship iPods and iPhones in packaging that allowed them to run a demo video or show other content on the screen, and wirelessly update themselves with the latest firmware prior to sale. As with all Apple patent filings, these do not necessarily represent any future product releases from Apple, but offer evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via Mac Rumors, UnwiredView, AppleInsider]
An internal AT&T memo published by MacDailyNews claims that the June 19th launch of the iPhone 3GS was record-breaking for the company in a number of ways. The memo states the launch was its “best-ever sales day” and second-largest traffic day in its retail stores, accounted for the most transactions ever processed and most upgrade eligibility checks in a single day, and was the largest order day and feature sales day in att.com history. The memo goes on to state that sales on 3GS launch day exceeded those of the iPhone 3G’s launch day by noon Central Time, and the company sustained its previous peak hour record, also set in 2008, for 11 straight hours. Apple announced last week that it sold over a million iPhone 3GS units over the launch weekend, although it is unknown how many of those were sold in the U.S. or by AT&T.
Apple has released another new iPhone 3GS television advertisement, the third in its new series of ads focusing on individual features of the new phone. The latest, “Skateboard,” highlights the 3GS’ video features by showing a person shooting video of a skateboarder, who then uses the on-board editing features to trim out the skater’s fall, and shares the video via email. As with the other two feature-specific iPhone 3GS advertisements, this one is also shot on a white background, and features a sample of the Matt Costa song “Mr. Pitiful” in the background. “Skateboard” is available for viewing on Apple’s iPhone TV Ads gallery page.
Nike has updated its Nike+ fitness site with a number of new features, and added a streamlined version for access via the iPhone or iPod touch. The redesigned main site still relies upon Flash, but features a more prominent Goals section, with a simplified interface and better context. Also new is the Levels feature, which awards users a color-coded level based on the number of miles they’ve run, the ability to rate individual runs, and the ability to integrate Nike+ data with a Twitter or Facebook account. On the iPhone and iPod touch, users are limited to viewing recent runs; both sites are still considered to be in “beta” status. [via TUAW]
Apple has rolled out a new service update to its MobileMe paid service, adding support for several new iPhone and iPod touch features. Of particular interest to iPhone 3GS users, videos uploaded from the device can now be published to a Gallery album—if no albums exist, one is automatically created when uploading a photo or video. In addition, iPhone and iPod touch users now have the option to merge existing contacts and calendars upon initial sync with MobileMe, and to keep a copy of contact and calendar information on the device when deleting a MobileMe account or turning off syncing. Finally, iPhone contacts that sync with MobileMe now maintain ring tone associations across devices.
Though Apple Stores continue to maintain stocks of the iPhone 3GS in most locations, carrier partners O2 in the U.K. and both Rogers and Fido in Canada have sold out of iPhone 3GS units, according to the companies’ websites. A message on O2’s website states, “Due to the phenomenal demand for the new iPhone 3GS, we’ve temporarily run out of stock online, over the phone and in our retail stores.” The company expects additional stock to be available “at the end of this week.” A similar message on Fido’s site calls the 3GS launch a “tremendous success,” and explains that while the handset is sold out in the “vast majority” of cities throughout Canada, more stock is expected in the coming weeks. Rogers’ website simply lists the phone as “currently out-of-stock,” a message that is reiterated when calling the company’s main customer service line. [via Macworld UK]
Apple has released its first beta version of iPhone OS 3.1 to registered iPhone developers, along with an updated SDK. Listed as build 7C97d, the new beta OS appears to include non-destructive video editing, support for Voice Control over Bluetooth, and new modem firmware and AT&T profiles. The updated SDK includes updated OpenGL and Quartz APIs, as well as third-party developer access to video recording and editing controls. iPhone OS 3.1 beta and iPhone SDK 3.1 beta are both available for download now from the iPhone Dev Center.
Apple has begun airing two new TV advertisements for the iPhone 3GS. Shot with a black phone on a white background, both ads are similar in execution to the recent “there’s an app for that” series of advertisements. One focuses on the new copy & paste feature—although the ad never specifies that the feature is available on older iPhone 3.0-ready devices as well—and shows examples of copying a phone number for SMS, a portion of a website to email, and a map. The other ad focuses on the 3GS’s Voice Control feature, showing how it can be used to dial calls using names from the device’s contacts list, and how it can be used to control the iPod app—the ad uses “If I Had Eyes” by Jack Johnson in the example. Neither ad has yet been posted to Apple’s iPhone TV Ads gallery, but both are embedded below, and are available directly on YouTube from the links above.
Apple is among a large group of cell phone manufacturers that have signed a new European Commission agreement aimed at standardizing all smartphone chargers starting next year. “People will not have to throw away their charger whenever they buy a new phone,” said EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, suggesting that unwanted phone accessories account for thousands of tons of waste in Europe each year. The new chargers will use the Micro-USB standard to ensure compatibility, and will be usable only on data-enabled phones. Along with Apple, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, LG, NEC, Qualcomm, RIM, Samsung, and Texas Instruments have all signed the agreement. All iPods and iPhones since the third-generation iPod have used Apple’s 30-pin Dock Connector for charging; it is unclear whether future Europe-bound iPhones will adopt the new connector or simply offer a pack-in converter for use with standardized Micro-USB chargers.
A number of iPhone 3GS owners have complained that the handset becomes overly hot, with at least one user reporting a discoloration of the white plastic back. Photos posted to the French site Nowhere Else (Translated Link) show a 16GB white iPhone 3GS unit with reddish/pink discolorations running vertically down the back on either side of the Apple logo; the user claims these appeared after the phone got “very hot” while testing out a variety of location-aware apps over 3G. At least one iLounge editor has seen similar behavior from his unit after connecting it to a specific battery pack for charging, and a thread on Apple’s support discussions site suggests others are also noticing their iPhones getting abnormally warm. It is unclear whether the issue is software- or hardware-based and if the warmth and discoloration problems are widespread. [via Engadget]
Apple has launched a new online tool to allow potential iPhone 3GS customers to check on the stock levels at any of the company’s U.S.-based retail stores. Currently, iPhone 3GS availability varies wildly from store-to-store, with some stores sold completely out and some down to just one model available; most of the company’s biggest stores, such as The Grove in LA, the downtown San Francisco store, and the company’s glass cube 5th avenue store in New York City, have all models available. The availability checker page notes that the 8GB iPhone 3G is in-stock at all Apple Retail locations.
Bob Borchers, Apple’s senior director of worldwide product marketing for the iPhone and the host of the company’s guided tour videos for the iPhone and iPhone 3G has left the company for venture capital firm Opus Capital, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the WSJ, Borchers had been with the company since 2004 working on products such as the iPod and iPhone, and said his time with the company was “amazing.” Borchers will be a general partner with Opus, focusing on mobile technologies.
In addition to the hundreds of photographs and screenshots posted to accompany the release of the iPhone 3GS last week, iLounge posted new video clips comparing the performance of the iPhone 3GS video camera to two other types of video recording devices. One, a Canon PowerShot SD700IS camera, is designed to let viewers see how the new iPhone 3GS’s 640x480 camera compares to the 640x480 recordings of a three-year old pocket point-and-shoot camera. The second, a Flip UltraHD camera, lets viewers see the differences between the iPhone 3GS and a dedicated consumer video recording device in resolution, focus, and color rendition.
Unfortunately, video sharing services Flickr and Vimeo have been experiencing issues importing clips created by the iPhone 3GS. Vimeo users have reported that iPhone 3GS videos are missing audio, are presented upside-down, and/or are not converting at all, while users of Flickr have found videos easy to convert but sometimes presented upside-down. This appears to be due to an iPhone 3GS orientation setting that is saved by the iPhone but not properly processed by video sharing services. One of our videos can be seen in this orientation. Because of the importation issues, our iPhone 3GS videos are on both Flickr and Vimeo, with non-3GS videos on Vimeo. Use of iMovie to import and then export the videos is a potential workaround while the services work to accommodate the video changes.
Separately, iLounge sample videos uploaded to YouTube offer a look at the iPhone 3GS’s automatic transcoding for faster transfer and easier viewing, without orientation glitches, but with lower resolution and more visual artifacts.
In its press release announcing sales of one million iPhone 3GS units in the device’s first weekend on sale, Apple quietly changed its naming scheme for the new device. Previously referred to in all official Apple communication as the “iPhone 3G S,” yesterday’s PR referred to it as the “iPhone 3GS.” Indeed, a quick check of Apple’s press info site shows that they retroactively changed the name in the release announcing the device, although it appears the company is taking its time implementing the name change on its website and online store. While the company has not given any reason for the change, iLounge’s editors had noted the longer name’s awkwardness. This is the second time in recent memory that Apple has changed an element of a product name after release; the iPod photo was originally called the “iPod Photo” by the company, and changed shortly thereafter.