This morning’s iPod updates will “widen the gap between Apple and potential competition,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said today. “We believe some will view the changes in the iPod product line as negative. Specifically, we expect to hear arguments that Apple is taking a hit to margins in reaction to competitive threats,” Munster wrote in a research note to clients obtained by iLounge. “We believe that Apple’s changes to the product line are more offensive than defensive. Apple clearly holds the leadership position on this market and we believe these changes will widen the gap between Apple and potential competitors that are trying to chip away at iPod market share.”
Apple has posted iPod Updater 2005-02-22, which includes updated versions of the software for use with various iPod models. According to the release notes, the update includes new software for the iPod mini (v1.3), iPod with Dock Connector (v2.3), iPod shuffle (v1.1), and iPod with Touch Wheel or Scroll Wheel (v1.5).
The iPod mini software update adds support for the newly introduced models and adds support for charging and syncing over USB with Mac OS X v10.2.8 or 10.3.4 or later.
The iPod shuffle software update adds support for the iPod shuffle Battery Pack and offers “increased software stability.”
The iPod software update for those devices with Dock Connectors, Touch Wheels or Scroll Wheels brings the Shuffle Songs and Music items into the Main Menu, and adds support for iTunes 4.7 or later.
Editors’ Note: Trivia buffs may be interested to know that Apple’s new 4GB and 6GB iPod minis come with an earlier “new” version of the iPod Updater, dated 2005-02-07, which differs from the company’s January 11, 2005 Updater only in that it contains version 1.3 of the iPod mini software. Was the 6GB iPod mini originally planned for release less than one month after the iPod shuffle?
In addition to updated iPod minis, Apple today announced a revamped iPod photo family, including a new “slim” 30GB model for $349 and a 60GB model for $449 - a $150 price drop from its previous level. Apple’s 30GB model loses 10 Gigabytes, $150, 0.5 ounces of weight and 0.12” thickness from the earlier 40GB iPod photo, while the 60GB model remains the same size. Both the 30GB and 60GB iPod photos are available immediately. Apple is also promising updated iPod photo software for a March release to include “new slideshow transitions” that can be picked “on the go.”
Both of the new models feature the ability to import photos directly from your digital camera via an optional new iPod Camera Connector for instant viewing and slide show playback on iPod photo. The Connector is expected to be available in late March for $29.
The new iPod photo models no longer include iPod photo Docks, iPod photo AV cables, or cases, and more surprisingly, Apple has also apparently dropped both FireWire cables and FireWire Power Adapters from the iPod photo boxes. Each iPod photo now includes only a single USB 2.0 cable and a USB Power Adapter, recently reviewed on iLounge, for wall power charging. Each of the other items is available separately.
On a related note, Apple has discontinued the 40GB fourth-generation iPod (previously $399) and the 40GB iPod photo ($499). The fourth-generation 20GB iPod remains at a $299 price point.
Apple today introduced the second-generation iPod mini lineup, reducing the price of its first-generation 4GB model to $199, while introducing a new 6GB model priced at $249. Both iPod mini models feature increased battery life of up to 18 hours, and retain the same black-and-white screen found in the initial model.
The 4GB and 6GB models of iPod mini for Mac or Windows are available worldwide immediately in a choice of silver, pink, blue or green. Each of the three latter colors is an updated, stronger shade of the previous iPod mini color, while gold - a color long tipped to be relatively unpopular - has quietly been discontinued.
Apple has also apparently dropped both FireWire cables ($19) and FireWire Power Adapters ($29) from the iPod mini boxes, and now includes only a single USB 2.0 cable - presumably for computer-aided recharging. The company now separately sells a USB Power Adapter ($29), recently reviewed on iLounge, for wall power charging.
Simultaneous with the release of the new iPod mini, Apple has also announced five new colors of its neoprene exercise Armband - orange, yellow, blue, pink, and grey - in addition to its previous black version. Each is priced at $29, and is an “Apple Store Exclusive.” A single iPod mini lanyard ($19) has also been introduced, and attaches to the mini’s Dock Connector. It is expected to ship in 5-7 weeks, according to Apple.
PocketSensei has announced the first VideoHound MoviPod module for the iPod—MoviPod Academy Award Winners. The software puts an extensive movie guide on your iPod. “MoviPod offers reviews of Academy Award winners from 1927 to the present day with witty reviews, comprehensive filmographical facts, and entertaining trivia questions. Additional features include: extensive hyperlinks, easy one-click navigation and even insider notes revealing behind-the-scenes fun facts. Additional modules based upon VideoHound categories bring VideoHound’s unique and entertaining collections to the iPod. Each MoviPod will contain hundreds of the top movies of each genre—or perhaps the worst stinkers.” Each MoviPod module costs $1.95. Academy Award Winners is the only title available now.
As more and more digital music players get color screens, companies will be adding more integrated photo capabilities, including the ability to connect directly with cameras and printers, according to Gary Johnson, CEO of PortalPlayer, which makes the chip that powers the hard drive-based iPods.
“There are already plenty of MP3 players on the market, including Apple’s iPod photo, that can show digital photos while playing music,” reports CNET News.com. “But soon, we are likely to see music devices that can download and display pictures directly, without using a computer as a go-between… Johnson was careful not to say whether it will be Apple’s player that does this, though. An Apple representative declined to comment.”
Kenwood has announced a number of new car audio products that will be released throughout the first half of 2005, in conjunction with the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the company’s auto division. Among the new gear is a Kenwood iPod adapter.
Kenwood said the KCA-iP500 iPod adapter will be available in April for $179. It will support all 2003-2005 Kenwood and Kenwood Excelon in-dash receivers, including mobile video receivers with External Media Control. The company noted that the adapter also charges the iPod when connected, and supports ID3 tags for single and dual line display models.
Piper Jaffray said iTunes Music Store downloads for 2005 could reach 513 million versus the current estimate of 387 million, and 2006 iTunes downloads could reach 1.0 billion versus the current estimate of 542 million.
“It’s really quite ridiculous how simple and effective the new iPod Shuffle is,” writes Scott Goldman of the Indianapolis Star. “This variation of the wildly popular digital music player again has launched Apple to the forefront of digital music technology.”
At the Costume Designers Guild Awards on Saturday, Jennifer Rade, who designed the costumes for Apple’s iPod silhouette commercials, was honored with an award. “Only fellow costume designers could appreciate how difficult a job that was,” Rade said.
Lift, a bar in Des Moines, Iowa, is now holding “PodJay Mondays,” a weekly night devoted to iPod owners. “People program a playlist with 15 minutes or so of songs from their music catalog, then hand their players over to bartender Clint Curtis who treats the entire room to their musical tastes.”
A recent job posting from Apple on Gamasutra, a recruiting site for the game industry, suggests that the company may be ready to expand the iPod’s bundled games. The posting seeks a programmer with “experience working with embedded systems” who would in part be “responsible for rapidly developing memory and performance optimized software solutions to complex problems.” The optional qualifications for the position include “ARM7 RISC processor experience,” “Flash [game] experience” and “2D or 3D graphics programming” knowledge.
Apple plans to introduce an iPod or accessory with Bluetooth wireless technology, according to Bogdan Nedelcu, automotive product manager at Motorola. In an interview on radio station France Info, Nedelcou reportedly said that Motorola is close to releasing a system that allows users to listen to music from their iPod through their car stereo speakers. He also said that users will be able to have hands-free conversations with their mobile phone through their car speakers.
At the DEMO@15! conference in Scottsdale, Arizona earlier this month, Motorola showed off a forthcoming product called “iRadio.” According to the company, iRadio will “mobilize hundreds of commercial-free Internet radio channels and your personal music collection, letting you enjoy your favorite genres, artists, and tunes whether at home, in the car, or on the go.” Motorola went on to state that the service “uses a high-speed Internet connection, Bluetooth technology, and a mobile phone to offer listeners a continuous entertainment experience—you can start a song on your car radio at exactly the point where you stopped it on your living room stereo.”
iRadio is planned for launch “later this year.”
Marware has provided iLounge with an exclusive first look at the company’s forthcoming new iPod shuffle case. The silicone case, tentatively named “Sport Grip for iPod shuffle,” turns Apple’s new compact music player into a keychain. Marware’s Ed Martin told iLounge that the company is hoping to also include a carabiner and a lanyard with the case. The Sport Grip will be available in a rainbow of colors in either a 3-pack or 5-pack, according to Martin. Pricing was not disclosed.
Click “Read more” for photos of the Sport Grip prototype. And visit iLounge Backstage for a look at a Sport Grip/SportRope combo.
Toshiba corporate vice president Masashi Muromachi said Monday that his company is having trouble producing enough flash memory chips for Apple’s iPod. “When it comes to the supply-demand balance we are currently unable to satisfy all customer demands,” Muromachi said, noting in particular the launch of the iPod shuffle. “Demand created by this new device is so vast that our current capacity can in no way meet [Apple’s] needs,” he said.
Muromachi said Toshiba plans to boost spending on semiconductors by 13 percent this year in an effort to expand output of flash chips. He also said the company would move forward the production schedule at a new flash memory plant owned jointly with SanDisk.
DecalGirl.com is offering a slew of removable vinyl decals for Apple’s iPod shuffle. The 6-piece kits (front, rear, lanyard) are priced at $2.99 and come in a variety of designs—from “Firestarter to “Shufflemint.”
“Give your new iPod shuffle a new look in seconds and protect it from abuse at the same time. Check out this ready-to-apply iPod shuffle full-color skin with an ultra-high resolution full-color design printed on premium grade adhesive-backed vinyl. The skin is then covered with a clear protectant layer for the ultimate in durability. Remember—all of our full-color skins use a patented repositionable/removable/reusable adhesive backing for fast, easy and accurate installation and goo-free removal.”
iPodSync 2.24 is the latest version of the Windows tool to keep Microsoft Outlook calendar, contact, tasks and notes synchronized between a PC and iPod. This update adds category filtering to notes, web movie syncing, advanced configuration options to allow PIM file names to be modified, and a PowerPoint exporter utility for iPod photo.
LairWare Software has released MPFreaker 1.0, the final version of its easy-to-use Mac OS X music library improvement software. MPFreaker automatically finds and inserts album artwork, album name, genre, year, and track number. The $20 software allows you to process any number of songs automatically and supports MP3 and AAC audio files.
Raven Solutions today announced the release of “Beyond The Music: Doing More With Your Apple iPod,” a 67-page eBook with tips and information on how to use an iPod for more than just listening to music. “Talking to iPod owners, it was apparent that they were not aware of how versatile the iPod really is”, said author Steve Sande. “An iPod can be used as a personal digital assistant, a portable hard disk drive, a news reader, an email inbox and more.” The ebook is published in Adobe Reader and eReader formats, and sells for $5.
Apple’s 512MB and 1GB iPod shuffles are now in stock at Circuit City’s online store. Availability in brick-and-mortar stores will vary.
A class action lawsuit was filed against Apple Thursday on behalf of consumers and resellers of the company’s products. The suit, filed in California Superior Court in San Francisco, seeks to include in the consumer class any person in the U.S. who purchased Apple products or repair services since Jan. 1, 1995.
The original iPod placed 12th on Mobile PC’s “Top 100 Gadgets of All Time” list. Diamond Multimedia’s Rio 300, the first known MP3 player, placed 8th.
EarphoneSolutions has issued a new coupon code (ilounge10percentoff) that will give you 10 percent off any item, including earphones and iPod accessories. This is an exclusive offer for iLounge readers. The store said that this discount cannot be combined with free shipping, any other coupon code, or any special prices such as those quoted/matched via e-mail or phone.
In order to keep our readers aware of a number of recently “fixed” or removed-from-market iPod products, iLounge has compiled this list of accessories that have recently been fixed or removed from the market entirely. We commend the companies listed below for responding to the issues that have been identified with their accessories.
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO) recently informed iLounge that the battery leak issue identified in its iBoom boombox has now been fixed in shipping models. iBoom boxes marked as iPod photo compatible include the battery fix.
Incase has released a new version of its Incase Charger that addresses audio problems that uncovered in our review of the product. As noted in our updated review, we found the audio output of the new version to be “dramatically improved from its predecessor, and overall more than satisfactory.”
Gadget Accessories has confirmed to iLounge that its 3-in-1 Charger exhibits iPod-damaging potential and has been withdrawn from the market temporarily. “We are working with Apple directly at this time for our connectors to be Apple authorized connectors,” the company said. “In the meantime in light of the comments posted on your site we have removed the 3-in-1 Charger for now from our site until we get the OK from Apple.”
Macally has responded to iLounge reader concerns about issues with the first run of the company’s PodWave accessory. Macally said it has fixed the problems and created a more powerful, cleaner version, which is discussed as Version 2 in iLounge’s updated review.
JBL has confirmed that “a very few customers (currently fewer than 1%)” have experienced a volume control problem with the JBL On Stage. The company states on its website: “We are offering to replace your JBL On Stage at no cost to you except for the shipping cost to our warehouse (we will pay return shipping), should you have a JBL On Stage with a defective chip.”
XtremeMac said it has remedied sound quality issues found in certain of the initial production run of its AirPlay FM transmitter. The company acknowledged that a small number of the accessories had defects. In the comments of our review, XtremeMac CEO Gary Bart explained the problem in detail and said his company “will gladly replace any unit that is found to be defective, at our expense.”
The official website of well-known chef Emeril LaGasse now has a “Pod Stuff” section highlighting three new iPod software titles that will soon be available as free downloads.
mFinder 1.0 - “Now can you have Emeril’s restaurant information in the palm of your hand. You’ll find addresses, phone numbers, hours, management, attire and parking for all of the restaurants in five different cities!”
podMeals 1.0 - “Now can you have EMERILS.COM weekly menus in the palm of your hand. Jamming to tunes in the grocery and can’t think of what to make for dinner - check your Apple iPod for podMeals!”
ReciPods 1.0 - “10,000 songs in your pocket? Big deal! How about 1,000 Emeril recipes in your pocket? Go home, put on some tunes and create a little love and magic in the kitchen!”
There’s no word on when they will be released.