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Speck receives CandyShell case patent

Speck has been granted a patent for the company’s groundbreaking CandyShell case, which was originally released in 2009, and followed up with numerous sequels since then. The patent is for a device case with a flexible inner layer, hard exterior layer, and adjoining side surfaces, joined together to form a one-piece housing. This design was at one point considered impossible to manufacture, but has since been widely copied by other case makers, who may be forced to start making modifications in light of Speck’s patent.

JayBird announces Freedom Sprint wireless earbuds

JayBird has announced the Freedom Sprint ($129), a new pair of wireless Bluetooth earbuds. Also known as JF4, Freedom Sprint is 40 percent smaller than Jaybird’s prior-generation JF3 Freedom earbuds, reviewed here, and offer a slightly diminished 4.5 hours of playtime for wireless music and calls, sport-ready ear grips, and micro-USB charging. Unlike competitors, JayBird also offers a lifetime warranty against sweat, as well as a free three-month premium membership to MapMyFitness. Freedom Sprint is available now.

Apple offering up to $345 for iPhone 4S trade-in

Customers planning on swapping out last year’s iPhone 4S for the next iPhone can now do so on Apple’s website, using the company’s Reuse and Recycle Program. Using a third-party solution provided by PowerON, Apple’s site offers a quote based on the model and condition of the iPhone, then determines the actual value of the phone after receiving it. Customers receive an Apple gift card with the trade-in balance. Currently, the iPhone 4S in excellent condition has an estimated value of $345 for a 64GB model, while a 32GB 4S is valued at $330, and a 16GB 4S gets a maximum price of $285. Notably, third-party vendor Gazelle is also offering iPhone trade-ins with a guaranteed offer to lock in a price until Oct. 1. The company is currently offering $333 for a AT&T 64GB iPhone 4S in “flawless” condition, paying cash rather than store credit; the same iPhone 4S model on Sprint or Verizon will fetch $330.

T-Mobile to sell “against” new iPhone, offer 4/4S SIMs

T-Mobile’s employees have been instructed to sell “against” the iPhone starting on September 21, according to images of T-Mobile internal communications. While the company is known to have pursued agreements with Apple to sell the iPhone, it has repeatedly been left behind as rivals—recently including even regional carriers—have come on board. A screenshot suggests that T-Mobile will not be carrying the next-generation iPhone, and thus is preparing to sell competing devices directly against it.

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A second screenshot notes that T-Mobile stores will now display new Monthly4G SIM kits, specifically designed to appeal to customers who bring their own iPhone 4/4S devices to the network. It reads, “This new format includes a Micro SIM kit, which is compatible with the iPhone 4 and 4S, allowing customers to bring their unlocked iPhones to the T-Mobile Network.” [via TmoNews]

XtremeMac announces Soma Frame, Tango Air speakers

XtremeMac has introduced two new speakers, the Soma Frame and Tango Air. Soma Frame ($300) wraps around the iPad, resembling Apple’s classic iMac G4 computer, only in black. It includes a 2.1 audio system based upon two pieces: a portable speaker frame with its own rechargeable battery, plus a dock that acts as a subwoofer. Impressively, the frame can automatically switch left and right speaker channels depending on the iPad’s orientation, and recharges via a Mini-USB connection. Soma Frame fits all iPad models, and features up to six hours of playback time.

The Tango Air speaker ($300) is a handsome black and silver tower featuring AirPlay technology, capable of being positioned horizontally or vertically.  It includes two tweeters, two full range drivers, one subwoofer and one passive radiator. The speaker also features a rear USB slot for device charging, and an auxiliary line-in. Neither product has a release date yet.

Report: Updated AirPlay to connect without Wi-Fi network

According to The Telegraph, Apple plans on improving its AirPlay technology so that an iPhone, iPod or iPad can connect directly to speakers without use of a Wi-Fi network. AirPlay currently enables iOS devices to wirelessly perform audio, photos, video, and sometimes screen sharing through AirPlay-equipped accessories on the same Wi-Fi network. The report suggests the enhanced feature may solely be for music streaming, rather than for all forms of media, and has been developed under the working title “AirPlay Direct.” It also notes that the new feature could be announced alongside the next iPhone, though no specific products have apparently been signed off on yet. Further, it’s unclear as to whether AirPlay Direct will be compatible with older AirPlay accessories and Apple devices, or possibly require new hardware features such as dual-band Wi-Fi or Bluetooth 4/Smart.

Logitech UE debuts quad-driver UE 900, on-ears, speakers

Logitech UE has announced seven new products for the iPhone, iPad and iPod, including its first pair of universal fit quadruple-driver in-ear headphones. The Logitech UE 900 noise-isolating earphones ($400) come equipped with four armature speakers per ear, as well as two detachable cables — one with an Apple mic and three-button remote control — that can be swapped out for a standard cable. Logitech UE notes that the four drivers are used for accurate high-end, low-end, and midrange reproduction, with extra bass power. Five sets of silicone ear tips and three Comply foam tips are included with the new earphones, which will be available in September.

The company also unveiled three large headphones: the base model Logitech UE 4000 ($100) is the first ever on-ear Ultimate Ears model, while the larger Logitech UE 6000 ($200) is its first over-ear model; both are wired, with integrated Apple three-button remotes and microphones. A deluxe $400 model called Logitech UE 9000is similar in design to the 6000, but includes Bluetooth wireless support, on-ear controls, and a detachable cable. All three models use 40mm drivers, and are shipping now.

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Three new Logitech UE speakers debuted as well, though two are somewhat familiar. Most unique is the Logitech UE Boombox ($250), a die-cast aluminum and stainless steel speaker with ruggedized rubber padding. Similar to the company’s award-winning Logitech Wireless Boombox, eight drivers are inside this model, including two 0.5” tweeters, two 3” woofers, and four 2 5/8” passive bass radiators. Bluetooth promises wireless broadcasting from up to 50 feet away. Up to eight Bluetooth-enabled devices can connect to the speaker, and three devices can connect at the same time. Logitech UE Boombox features a six- to ten-hour rechargeable battery, depending on volume.

First images of new Dock Connector accessories leaked

Weeks ahead of the debut of the next-generation iPhone, an anonymous tipster has provided iLounge with the first photographs of electronic accessories designed for Apple’s new Dock Connector. Each of the images appears to show upcoming products from leading third-party accessory maker Scosche, beginning with “syncABLE Pro,” a dual-device wall charger and “reNUE Pro,” a dual-device car charger. Both charging products are bundled with a cable that converts its Micro USB plug into a “new Apple connector,” and come in multiple versions with varying levels of power output.

[Update: The images have been removed at the request of Scosche.]

A third image shows the bottom of an upcoming next-generation iPhone case with an iPhone 4S inside, demonstrating how new bottom audio and docking holes will continue to allow segmented protection of the new iPhone’s bottom. None of the new products has pricing or release information. Thanks, anonymous tipster!

Six new apps released for Sphero

Orbotix has announced the release of six new apps for the previously-reviewed Sphero, the motorized ball remote-controlled by an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. Four of the apps are new games, including the shooter Exile, quick-reflex game ColorGrab, snake game Doodle Grub, and multiplayer collision title Tag. Updated apps include a redesigned version of the original Sphero app, incorporating multiple prior Sphero apps into one download, and an updated golf game, featuring new course creation and practice features. Four of the new apps are currently available for iOS, while Doodle Grub and Sphero v2 will be released on Sept. 14.

FAA seeks public comments on in-flight use of electronics

Users frustrated with the Federal Aviation Administration’s long-standing restrictions on in-flight access to iPods, iPhones, and iPads can now easily petition the government and airlines to change the regulations, thanks to a call for comments. The FAA has requested comments on policies regarding the use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) during flight. As the FAA notes about recent PEDs, “Some devices do not transmit or receive any signals but generate low-power, radio frequency emissions,” which might interfere with aircraft navigation and communication systems. However, the FAA plans to assess whether widespread use of PEDs will actually cause any safety issues.

Under current regulations, all PEDs are actually prohibited from use during flight, except for voice recorders, hearing aids, pacemakers and electric shavers. However, operators are permitted to allow the use of PEDs that do not cause interference with navigation or communication systems on the aircraft.

The FAA seeks comments from passengers, in addition to aircraft operators, pilots, PED manufacturers, and PED designers. To register your views or provide information, email your comments to [email protected] or send them online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal.

Kicker releases Amphitheatre for iPad and iPhone

Kicker has announced its new Amphitheatre High-Performance Audio System for the iPhone and iPad. Featuring a square reflex subwoofer and DSP amp along with 5” mid-bass speakers and 3/4” silk-dome tweeters, the Amphitheatre allows users to dock an iPhone, iPod or iPad and control their music playback using an included ergonomic remote control. The Amphitheatre also includes a USB port for charging external devices along with an auxiliary input for connecting other media players. In addition, users can download a free KickStart iOS app from the App Store that provides an 8-band EQ, spatialization option, sound presets, integrated alarm and night mode, and social media integration for sharing music with Facebook friends. The Amphitheatre is expected to be available beginning in September in a Dock Connector version for $300, with a Bluetooth model following later this year.

Report: Apple cuts retail store budgets, refocuses on profits

Retail policy changes and cutbacks at Apple Stores are quietly continuing, according to a new report from ifoAppleStore, placing more emphasis on revenues and profit over customer satisfaction. The report claims that Apple has cut back in several budgetary categories, while decreasing hours for many employees, and instituted sales-focused performance metrics that threaten to further undermine morale within the retail division.

Last month, Apple Senior VP of Retail John Browett reportedly instituted a number of new staffing policies, including reducing hours, laying off new, probationary employees, and limiting overtime, leading to outcry from retail employees. According to a subsequent follow-up in The Wall Street Journal, Browett later reversed these changes and denied that any employees had been laid off, however, ifoAppleStore’s sources disagreed with at least some of these claims, indicating that layoffs had in fact occurred, and that affected employees were later rehired.

This more recent spate of changes within Apple Retail involve a reduction in workshops at many stores, continuing limits on available overtime hours, and assigning of only minimal hours to part-time employees. Further, new employee performance measurements emphasize contract sales of iPhones, as well as the number of accessories such as cases that are sold alongside major products. Additionally, the report indicates that employees are being told to promote use of the EasyPay app, despite the fact that EasyPay sales are not credited to any specific employee, thereby having no positive impact on individual performance reports. Sources also indicate that no explanation or apology has ever been received from Browett or store management about the original staffing cuts, despite public claims to the contrary. Instead, employees have been told not to discuss the situation with anybody, leading to an overall decrease in employee morale.

iTunes Festival now available on Apple TV

Apple has quietly added a new content section to the Apple TV for the upcoming 2012 iTunes Festival in London. The Festival will feature 30 nights of free, live music from more than 60 artists performing at the Roundhouse in London. Apple has already released a universal iOS app for the iTunes Festival providing users with both live streaming of shows and later on-demand viewing, and users will also be able to stream content to iTunes or to the Apple TV via AirPlay from an iOS device or directly within the new iTunes Festival section. Previous shows are expected to be available for only a limited time, and it is unclear for how long the iTunes Festival content will remain available on the Apple TV following the conclusion of the event on September 30th.

Photos of alleged iPod touch 5G case surface

Photos of a supposed fifth-generation iPod touch case have been published online. Giz-China has posted two pictures of the case, revealing what appears to be an elongated hole by the rear-facing camera, as well as a second hole in the rear bottom left corner. The elongated camera hole could leave room for an LED flash, not previously included on the iPod touch, while the second hole appears to be large enough for a second camera or unknown, similarly-sized circular element.

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Changed curves suggest that the overall design may be flatter than the previous iPod touch, as well, harkening back to the shape of the first-generation iPod touch released in 2007.

Apple engineeering SVP Mansfield unretires, Riccio promoted

Following up on a late June announcement that Apple senior vice president of hardware engineering Bob Mansfield would retire, transitioning his responsibilities to vice president Dan Riccio, Apple unexpectedly announced today that Mansfield will remain at Apple, though Riccio will assume most of his leadership responsibilities for Apple’s hardware engineering teams. As a new senior vice president of Hardware Engineering, Riccio will lead the Mac, iPhone, iPad and iPod engineering teams, reporting directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook and serving as a member of Apple’s executive management team. According to Apple, Mansfield will be working “on future products,” also reporting to Cook, though his biography on Apple’s web site indicates that he is keeping his prior title, and is listed as overseeing the Mac hardware team. Apple also announced that Craig Federighi, vice president of Mac Software Engineering, is being promoted to a senior VP role with the company.

Update August 31, 2012: Apple has updated its web site to reflect that Mansfield remains a Senior Vice President, working on future products, and no longer leads Apple’s hardware engineering teams.

Apple requests sales ban of eight Samsung phones

In the wake of Friday’s decision in Apple’s favor in the Apple vs. Samsung patent trial, CNET reports that Apple has now specified eight Samsung devices that it wants banned from sale “to address a portion of the immediate, ongoing irreparable harm that Apple is suffering” and including details on which design, utility and trade dress patents each device has been found to infringe. The list of devices includes the Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy S2 AT&T, Galaxy S2 Skyrocket, Galaxy S2 T-Mobile, Galaxy S2 Epic 4G, Galaxy S Showcase, Droid Charge and Galaxy Prevail; of these, the Galaxy S 4G is the most infringing, found to have infringed on a total of seven Apple patents.

NFC chip found in next-gen iPhone? (Update: No)

More alleged next-generation iPhone photos appearing on Apple.pro over the weekend have revealed the presence of a previously unseen square chip near the top of the new iPhone design, believed to be the first confirmation of previously rumored near-field communication (NFC) hardware in Apple’s next-generation iPhone. While the actual functions of the chip are not clear from the photos, software support for NFC was discovered in June by 9to5Mac in code dumps taken from iPhone prototype hardware, and the location of the new chip corresponds to diagrams in Apple’s iWallet patent from May of 2010. NFC capabilities would enable the new iPhone to serve as a virtual wallet, communicating with wireless payment terminals at stores to transfer stored value, rather than requiring users to carry separate credit cards. The feature would likely tie into Passbook, a new addition to iOS 6 that holds tickets and other virtual proof of payment documents for iPhone users.
[via 9to5Mac]

Updated August 28, 2012: Following an Anandtech analysis concluding that NFC would not be in the new iPhone, Apple-sourced blogger Jim Dalrymple appeared to confirm the analysis as correct. [via MacRumors]

Apple vs. Samsung: jury finds Samsung violated Apple patents, trade dress, owes over $1 Billion

Following several days of deliberations in the Apple vs. Samsung trial, the jury reached verdicts on a number of design and utility patent infringement allegations brought against Samsung by Apple, finding numerous violations by Samsung. The jury also found that Apple possessed certain trade dress rights in the iPhone—namely, that certain elements of iPhone designs were famous and protectable—and were diluted by some of Samsung’s products. Other asserted iPhone and iPad trade dress rights were not found to be famous or protectable.

The jury was specifically asked to determine whether Samsung had infringed a number of different Apple patents across a wide collection of different Samsung devices, and given a questionnaire to answer “yes” or “no” for each Apple patent on each Samsung device. While not every Samsung device was found to have infringed all of Apple’s patents, multiple Samsung devices were found to be infringing on one or more patents. Moreover, a number of Samsung’s infringements were determined to be willful—not accidental—subjecting the company to higher penalties. The jury also said that Samsung had failed to demonstrate that Apple’s patents were invalid, a possible defense, and found that Apple had not violated a number of Samsung patents, contrary to claims by Samsung.

Reports varied on whether Apple had also prevailed on an antitrust claim against Samsung. According to an initial report by CNET, the jury found that Samsung had unlawfully monopolized markets related to the UMTS standard, while finding that Apple had not violated antitrust laws on UMTS.

Although an early report suggested that Samsung would be liable for roughly $2.5-billion in damages for infringements in various products, the judge clarified that total damages assessed against Samsung were in the $1.05-billion range, and due to the large number of infringing Samsung products, the numbers apparently had to be re-checked after the verdict was read. As Apple was not found responsible for any violations of Samsung patents, no damages were assessed against the Cupertino company. [via CNET]

In addition to seeking damages for these violations, Apple has attempted to block sales of allegedly infringing Samsung devices, a decision that is being left to the judge in this case. Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously noted that the company had sought patent protection for all of the inventions embodied in the iPhone, and patents have subsequently been granted on numerous aspects of the iPhone, as well as later devices such as the iPod touch and iPad. Current Apple CEO Tim Cook has signaled that the company will in some cases license patents, while in other cases reserving the inventions to Apple for its own products, and suing companies that infringe.

Following the verdict, Apple’s and Samsung’s public relations teams each issued statements, with Apple praising the jury for listening to a story it was “thrilled” to “finally” tell regarding Samsung’s copying of Apple’s products, and Samsung suggesting that the “verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer,” as Apple had patented obvious concepts that “will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices.”

iLounge Weekly arriving Monday, last weekend for giveaways

The latest edition of iLounge Weekly, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, will be arriving in subscribers’ inboxes Monday morning. iLounge Weekly is a summary of the week’s best news, reviews, and feature articles we’ve published, and it also features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.

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Also, if you haven’t yet entered our iBattz Mojo Vogue Battery Case Giveaway, this is your last weekend to do so. In our Giveaway of the Month for August, iLounge and iBattz are giving away 5 Mojo Vogue Battery Cases for iPhone 4/4S, bundled with Dedicated Battery Chargers. To enter, simply fill out and submit the form on the giveaway page—the giveaway will end on August 31, 2012 at 11:59PM Pacific Time. Good luck!

Apple SVP Cue: no HDTV coming anytime soon

During a meeting with analysts, Apple senior vice president of Internet services and software Eddy Cue indicated that the company won’t be entering the TV market in the near future. “Relative to the television market, Eddy Cue, Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services, reiterated the company’s mantra that it will enter markets where it feels it can create great customer experiences and address key problems. The key problems in the television market are the poor quality of the user interface and the forced bundling of pay TV content, in our view,” writes Pacfic Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves, as recounted by Fortune. “While Apple could almost certainly create a better user interface, Mr. Cue’s commentary suggested that this would be an incomplete solution from Apple’s perspective unless it could deliver content in a way that is different from the current multichannel pay TV model[...] Unfortunately for Apple and for consumers, acquiring rights for traditional broadcast and cable network content outside of the current bundled model is virtually impossible because the content is owned by a relatively small group of companies that have little interest in alternative models for their most valuable content.”

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