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IK Multimedia announces iRig Mic Studio

IK Multimedia has announced iRig Mic Studio ($180), the latest product in its lineup of iOS-compatible audio accessories. An ultra-portable large-diaphgram digital condenser microphone, iRig Mic Studio contains a 1” diameter back electret condenser capsule in an extremely compact enclosure, making it easy to take with you for making professional recordings anywhere. The mic provides a 24-bit A/D converter with a 44.1/48 kHz sample rate, a built-in low-noise preamp, and a 133dB SPL rating, promising to provide high-quality recording in a wide range of environments and applications. iRig Mic Studio will include a Lightning cable for connecting to an iPhone, iPad, and iPod, with a 30-pin Dock Connector cable option available for users of older iOS devices, and additional USB and micro-USB cables bundled for connecting to Macs and other devices. The microphone will also include a portable tabletop tripod stand. The mic is designed to work with any iOS app supporting Core Audio, and will specifically work with IK’s VocaLive and EZ Voice vocal recording and effects apps. iRig Mic Studio will be available this quarter.

NimbleBit announces Apple Watch support for Letterpad

Game developer NimbleBit has announced that its upcoming iOS game Letterpad will feature Apple Watch support, TouchArcade reports. The developer previously announced that it was looking for testers for the upcoming game, which challenges users to come up with words relating to specific topics from a provided grid of nine letters. With the game nearing completion, NimbleBit has announced that the game will also be playable on the forthcoming Apple Watch. While no release date has been set, Letterpad is expected to come with 200 different puzzles and also include the ability for users to create their own puzzles and share them. It’s also unclear at this point whether the game will run standalone on the Apple Watch or require the user to have their paired iPhone in proximity.

Apple acquires music analytics firm Semetric

Apple has acquired Semetric, a London-based music analytics company, the Wall Street Journal reports. The analytics service produced by the company tracks music sales, illegal downloads, and social networking interactions, according to a person familiar with the acquisition. An Apple attorney also reportedly joined Semitic’s board in October. An Apple spokesman provided the generic response that “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plan,” however it seems likely that the acquisition is directly related to the rumored impending launch of a new music streaming service by Apple. Notably, Semitic’s Musicmetric service has been used with competing streaming services such as Spotify to help artists track the music listening habits of their fans, and the report notes that this acquisition may be an effort by Apple to position its streaming service as artist-friendly.

Apple terminates Crimean developer agreements due to U.S. sanctions

Apple has begun sending out notices of termination to Mac and iOS developers registered in Crimea, TechCrunch reports. The notices cite sanctions that the U.S. has ordered as a result of Russia’s annexation of the region last year – specifically Executive Order 13685 from December 18, 2014 – and developers in the region are now barred from creating and publishing apps in Apple’s App Store. The termination, effective immediately, requires that developers cease all use of Apple software and destroy all related materials. Crimean developers will also no longer have access to the developer portal, and apps published by those developers will presumably be pulled from the App Store.

Apple commemorates Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Apple has updated its home page at apple.com for this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in honor of the “life and vision” of the revered civil rights activist. Tim Cook also announced the commemoration with a simple tweet.

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Monument Valley infographic reveals revenue, other stats from hit game

In a new blog post on their site, iOS game developer ustwo provides some interesting insight into the economics of its hit game, Monument Valley. Titled Monument Valley in Numbers, the infographic reveals that more than 80 percent of the game’s $5.85 million revenue came from the iOS side, with over 1.7 million official sales on iOS devices. Factoring in multiple devices from single sales, the report indicates that the game was actually installed on over 10 million unique devices – a ratio of approximately four devices for every one sale. The post also shows revenue over time, with clear spikes in sales following the game’s initial release, receipt of various awards, and the Christmas season. Revenue is also broken down by country, and additional information is provided on development costs and other more esoteric statistics such as in-game camera usage, most played chapters, and number of totems drowned.

Tony Fadell to oversee restructured Google Glass project

Google is restructuring its Google Glass project and appointing former Apple Executive Tony Fadell to head it up, according to the Wall Street Journal. Fadell, one of the inventors of the original iPod, left Apple to form Nest in 2010, which was later acquired by Google last year. Under the new plan, Glass will be moving from the Google X research lab to be a stand-alone unit directly led by Ivy Ross. Ms. Ross will report to Fadell, who will continue to run Nest while providing strategic guidance to the Glass team. The report notes that Google also plans to stop selling the initial version of Glass to consumers, planning a new version of Glass to be released sometime later this year. The new strategy is expected to follow the more Apple- and Nest-like approach of unveiling fully-finished products rather than deploying large, public tests of hardware prototypes as Google previously did under the Glass Explorer program.

Apple launches suit against Ericsson over LTE patents (Updated)

Apple has launched a lawsuit against Ericsson, alleging that the Swedish company is demanding excessive royalties for its LTE patents, Reuters reports. In the suit, Apple claims that Ericsson’s patents are “not essential to industry cellular standards” and that it does not owe Ericsson royalties for the patents as it has not infringed upon them. Apple’s suit further states that, should the patents be deemed essential by the courts, the royalties that Ericsson requires should be based on the value of the processor chip that includes LTE technology, rather than as a percentage of the price of an entire smartphone or tablet that incorporates the technology. The two companies have had a license agreement for the use of Ericsson’s patents since 2008, shortly after Apple launched the original iPhone. However, an Apple spokesperson noted that the company has “not been able to agree with Ericsson on a fair rate” for the patents in question, and is therefore asking the courts to intervene.

Update: In a follow-up report, Reuters notes that Ericsson has filed its own complaint against Apple, stating that Apple’s license to use its LTE technology had previously expired, and that it has been unable to come to a new deal after two years of negotiations. The company has asked the court to determine whether its license offer to Apple is fair. The company’s Chief Intellectual Property officer made a similar statement to the one in Apple’s filing, noting that it needs “the help of a third party” to help negotiate a new agreement.

Apple, Google, Adobe, Intel attempt to end poaching lawsuit

Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel have agreed to a settlement in the anti-poaching lawsuit, Reuters reports. The suit accused several large Silicon Valley companies of collaborating to avoid poaching each others employees while also fixing salaries, and was originally brought against Apple and several other companies in 2011 as a class action by about 100,000 tech employees. In late 2013, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ordered that the suit would proceed against Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel; the other defendants originally named – Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar – had previously settled out of court.

The suit originally requested damages of $9 billion, or about $90,000 in lost wages per employee. While the four companies offered a settlement of $324.5 million in April 2014, the proposal was rejected by Judge Koh as falling “below the range of reasonableness” after one of the plaintiffs objected. Judge Koh referred to a 2013 settlement involving Disney and Intuit, noting that Apple and Google workers received proportionally less than Disney workers, despite the “much more leverage” that the plaintiffs had against Apple and Google; Koh wrote that the deal with Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel “would need to total at least $380 million.” The new agreement is reportedly closer to a joint payment of $415 million, and a detailed explanation of the deal is expected to be filed “imminently” at which point Judge Koh will then need to either accept or reject the new filing.

Details on Apple Watch ‘Companion’ app revealed

A new report from 9to5Mac reveals details on the “Companion” app for the Apple Watch expected to appear in iOS 8.2. iOS Developer Steve Troughton-Smith discovered a method for loading the app on an iPhone, allowing screenshots to be captured, providing some insight into how the Apple Watch will interact with the iPhone.

Some of the features noted by the report include the ability for users to customize the Apple Watch home screen from the iPhone app, respond to messages via canned responses, voice dictation, or audio messages, and customize messaging features and notifications in a manner similar to the Messages settings on the iPhone itself. A new clock face feature, Monogram, has also been discovered, which will allow users to include a virtual embedded character ‘stamp’ on a clock face. Further investigation of the app also reveals more details about accessibility and how the passcode system on the Apple Watch will be implemented.

Apple responds to EU iTunes refund abuse

Following the introduction of its 14-day iTunes refund policy in Europe, Apple has apparently begun clamping down on refund abuse, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. Citing a tweet from developer Rosyna Keller, users who are detected by Apple as abusing the new refund policy will now be presented with a dialog box requiring them to acknowledge that they will no longer be eligible to receive a refund once they have downloaded the item in question.

Since iTunes and App Store purchases normally begin downloading automatically once the user clicks the “Buy” button, this effectively removes the user’s right to receive a refund as soon as they click the “Buy” button. The relevant EU consumer protection laws specify that refunds are generally only available if the user has not begun “downloading or streaming the content,” provided the user is notified and acknowledges that this is the case prior to completing the purchase. Apple’s own Right of Withdrawal policy explicitly notes this as well:

You cannot cancel your order for the supply of digital content if the delivery has started upon your request and acknowledgement that you thereby lose your cancellation right.

In this case, it would appear that Apple has, by default, chosen the more user-friendly approach of providing a seamless one-click download experience rather than interrupting the user with additional confirmation popups. However, for those abusing the refund system – using it as a “try-before-you-buy” option, or taking advantage of a loophole previously reported by 9to5Mac – Apple is basically enforcing the letter of the law by notifying users that they will lose their right to a refund once they begin downloading the app, effectively requiring them to acknowledge that this is the case.

 

Apple releases additional specs on third-party Lightning port support

Following Apple’s announcement that third-party manufacturers will be able to license the female Lightning port, the company has now released more detailed specifications for how the port can be implemented various accessories, 9to5Mac reports. Apple is apparently hoping that a large range of different accessories will move from micro-USB to the Lightning port standard, and will allow manufacturers to have the port draw power from any MFi-certified power adapter, as well as providing passthrough charging and syncing for iOS devices connected to the other side of the accessory, such as iPhones used in battery cases. The passthrough feature could also allow a dock to simultaneously charge an iPhone while also providing audio output to Lightning headphones.

The specs note, however, that only one Lightning port will be allowed per accessory, ruling out the development of Lightning splitters or hubs. Faster charging will be possible via Lightning, however, with MFi-certified USB power adapters providing power ranging from a minimum of 1.0A to the Apple-recommended 2.4A level suitable for charging an iPad at full speed. Unfortunately, at this point the Lightning port is only available in sample quantities for development purposes, and all specs remain in “Developer Preview” mode, with some sections still listed as “to be determined.” It’s therefore unclear when the first accessories with female Lightning ports will actually appear.

Apple releases iOS 8.2 beta 4 to developers, adds Apple Watch support

Apple has released the fourth beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers. The latest release appears to add direct support for pairing an Apple Watch via Bluetooth, with a note in the standard Bluetooth settings directing users to use the “Apple Watch app” to do so. The note appears to link to the App Store, suggesting that an Apple Watch app could be available as a separate download that users will need to install, rather than being bundled with the future iOS 8.2 update.

Apple Pay coming to Canada in March?

Apple may be planning a Canadian rollout of Apple Pay as early as this March, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. Citing “sources close to the situation,” the report notes that Canadian launch partners are currently in negotiations with Apple. Those partners are also in the process of planning advertising and promotional material scheduled for a possible release in March. While the report notes that negotiations are still ongoing, it claims that several sources have indicated that Apple is also targeting that timeframe. It remains unclear at this time whether Apple Pay would be launched across all of the six major Canadian banks right away, or limited to only specific partners for the initial rollout.

CES 2015: Day Two

It’s the second day of the 2015 International CES, so be sure to keep our CES Special Edition site up for live coverage throughout the day. We’ve already seen new products from more than 60 companies, including Adonit, IK Multimedia, iHome, Incipio, JBL, LifeProof, Logitech, Mophie, Scosche, Speck, Tylt, ZeroChroma, and many, many more.

We’ve got plenty more to sort through today, and we’ll reveal our Best of Show winners on Thursday. Our full CES coverage thus far can be seen on our Special Edition site.

CES 2015: Day One

Before CES even kicks off officially today, iLounge has already seen tons of new products from some of the biggest companies in the industry: Belkin, Griffin, iHome, JBL, Just Mobile, Olloclip, Otterbox, and many, many more. Of course, we’ve also got the details on unique products from smaller companies, too. You can find it all on our CES Special Edition site. Keep hitting the site up throughout the day — and all week long — for our continuing live coverage of the 2015 International CES.

iDevices announces Switch, the first Apple-certified HomeKit accessory

Today at CES 2015, iDevices announced Switch ($50), the first Apple-certified HomeKit product. Designed as an iOS controlled wall power accessory, Switch allows users to plug into any standard AC outlet for controlling standard household devices such as lamps and other appliances. Switch features both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE support to provide for flexible connectivity options, and will also provide the ability to act as a BTLE-to-Wi-Fi hub, a capability that will in the future allow other BTLE-only devices such as door locks to be controlled centrally from anywhere that Internet access is available. We got an early look at Switch before its official announcement and took a few pictures.

iLounge launches CES 2015 Special Edition site

iLounge has launched our Special Edition site covering the 2015 International CES. We’ve already got the scoop on a number of new products before the show even officially begins — be sure to keep checking the site throughout the week for continuing coverage on what’s going down in the iOS accessory world at CES!

Happy New Year 2015 from iLounge!

Happy New Year from iLounge! We’ll be on a limited publication schedule today and Thursday as we begin 2015 with our families and friends. We’ll return to our normal posting schedule on Friday, Jan. 2.

It’s definitely been an interesting 2014 for Apple, as the company unsurprisingly delayed its biggest releases to a series of fall events. However, we eventually saw the growth of the iPhone into two new, larger-screened models, the introduction of the thinner iPad Air 2, and the announcement of the long-rumored Apple Watch, setting the stage for an interesting 2015. While the iOS accessories and app markets are clearly maturing, there are still cool new products to surprise and delight us, and we’ve highlighted the year’s best Apple and third-party hardware and software releases in a special awards article.

We’ll again be heading out to Las Vegas later this week to prepare for the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show. As always, companies will unveil their latest and greatest iOS products at the show — debuting in our iProducts Marketplace and elsewhere during the week. The 2015 International CES officially kicks off next Tuesday. Feel free to browse through our archives until we return, and please join us for our upcoming CES live coverage. Once again, Happy New Year!

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