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iPhone facing challenges abroad

While the iPhone has officially launched in France, England, and Germany, Apple faces several challenges as it rolls out the device in other areas, reports Forbes. One of the main challenges, according to the report, is working out the network agreements in various regions. “If Apple is running into any impediments, it’s probably on the business side, making deals with operators,” says Charles Golvin, a principal analyst with Forrester Research. “As it looks abroad, Apple needs to do much more lengthy negotiations than its peers do.” The article suggests that while Apple has committed to an Asian release in 2008, it is also likely to target areas where its brand is popular. “One might imagine they would go after countries where they have found success with the iPod or the Mac,” says Golvin. Other analysts suggest the company may analyze iTunes usage when deciding where to head next.

Apart from network agreements, the device also faces compatibility problems in regions such as Japan and South Korea, and its lack of 3G capability may prove to be a problem in countries like Italy, Portugal, and Sweden. “We’ll look at the iPhone when it becomes 3G,” says Boris Nemsic, chief executive of Telekom Austria Group. Previously, AT&T chief Randall Stephenson said that a 3G iPhone will be available next year.

Final day for iPhone early adopter credit

For those readers who purchased an iPhone before August 22 and have yet to submit your claim for the $100 Apple Store Credit offered to early iPhone owners, today (November 30) is the last day you can do so. To receive your credit, simply follow the steps listed on Apple’s website. The credit may be used at Apple Retail Stores, the Apple Online Store, or Apple telesales, but may not be used at the iTunes Store, or for the purchase of iTunes Gift Cards.

iPhone negotiations with China Mobile fail [updated]

Negotiations between Apple and China Mobile to offer the iPhone in China have failed, according to a new report. The Southern Daily newspaper, citing unnamed sources, reports that the two parties failed to reach an agreement due to differences over revenue sharing. China Mobile CEO Wang Jianzhou had previously said that the company was in talks to offer the iPhone in China, while warning that he disliked the revenue-sharing model Apple had used elsewhere. The report states that Apple now plans to open stores in Beijing next summer to sell iPhones directly, and is talks with other Chinese mobile phone distributors. Among those possible partners, China Unicom has expressed interest in carrying the device.

Update: Bloomberg reports that China Mobile has said it is still in discussions to offer the iPhone, denying that talks between the two companies have ended.

Audio Pro intros Porto portable iPod speaker

Audio Pro has introduced Porto, its new portable iPod music system. Porto features a leather-wrapped, tower-like design with a leather handle, integrated Universal iPod Dock, FM tuner, two auxiliary inputs, S-video out, subwoofer out, patented technology from EmbracingSound that provides stereo sound from a single unit using an acoustical divider, a “racetrack” shaped, forward-firing woofer, a rechargeable battery pack that provides 4-6 hours of use, a weight of roughly 4.6 pounds, and a remote control. Pricing and availability information has not yet been released.

iPod Use Poll ends, 2008 Apple Poll begins

We’ve just closed out last month’s poll, “What do you use your iPod(s) for?,” and replaced it with a brand new poll, “Which likely 2008 Apple product are you most excited about?”

The results of the past poll were interesting. Of the nearly 3,000 survey responses we received, audio was obviously the number one use of the iPod—everyone uses their iPods for audio, and 25% used their iPods only for audio—but other uses were common, as well. Video was the second most popular use, with 61% of responding readers; photos were used by 56%, data storage by 46%, and games by 25%. Roughly a quarter, or 26% of responding readers used the iPod for audio, video, games, and photos, with 14% of all respondents using it for all four of those purposes and storing data, as well.

Cast your vote today in the 2008 Apple product survey! You can find it on the main page’s left hand column under iLounge Poll.

Mix: EMI, Greenpeace, Google Maps, iPhone

According to a Reuters report, EMI may be planning to significantly reduce its payments to industry trade groups such as the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and others that represent the music companies and help fight piracy. EMI was recently acquired by private equity group Terra Firma, and is currently undergoing a strategic review. EMI was also the first of the four major labels to make its music available without DRM.

Greenpeace International has released its latest “Guide to Greener Electronics,” which ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TV’s and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals and recycling. The group gave Apple 6 out of 10, good enough for 11th place on the list. Greenpeace said the company “slightly improved with new iMacs and some iPods reducing the use of toxic chemicals,” while stating that Apple’s takeback program “still needs some work.”

Google has announced the launch of the My Location feature for Google Maps for Mobile. My Location uses cell phone triangulation techniques, similar to those used by Navizon, to provide GPS-like functionality. It is uncertain whether the feature will be added to the iPhone’s Google Maps application.

James R. Miller, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Kansas, believes that the iPhone offers unique opportunities for online learning thanks to its mix of mobile phone, audio, and internet functionality. “It’s pretty much a complete computer system in your hand — and oh, by the way, there’s a phone there, too,” Miller said. “People are beginning to expect on-demand delivery for education. They may be out in a field someplace or completely away from standard Internet connectivity. Well, if they can pick up their iPhone and turn it on, that technology is making it possible for them to get this on-demand education that they need.”

Digifocus to launch Mini Sound System for iPod, iPhone

Digifocus has announced the impending release of its Mini Sound System for iPod and iPhone. The smallish system is a licensed “Made for iPod” accessory, and features two built-in speakers, an integrated iPod Dock, 3.5 mm auxiliary input, the ability to charge the iPod when connected to a USB port or charger, and the ability to run up to nine hours off of one AA battery. The Digifocus Mini Sound System for iPod and iPhone comes in black, sliver, or red, and will be available on December 5 for $60.

GizMac announces Titan Clear iPhone Case with Holster

GizMac has introduced its Titan Clear iPhone Case with Holster. The Titan Clear is a clear polycarbonate case that features built-in vertical and horizontal kickstands for viewing videos, messages, and more. It includes a thin film screen protector, as well as a rotating belt clip holster designed to hold the iPhone while in the case, and it provides access to the iPhone’s controls, camera, and ports. “We wanted the Titan Clear for iPhone to have the best form, function and value” explained Mark Kirtner, Creative Director for GizMac Accessories, “so we delayed our release until the Titan Clear had the best over all look, usability and price for our customers.” The GizMac Titan Clear iPhone Case will be available in early December and will sell for $35.

AT&T’s Stephenson: 3G iPhone coming ‘next year’

Speaking at a meeting of the Churchill Club in Santa Clara, California, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that Apple will bring out a version of the iPhone that runs on faster 3G data networks in 2008. “You’ll have it next year,” Stephenson said in response to a question on when the highly-anticipated device would debut. Previously, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has said that current 3G chips are too power-hungry to use in the device, calling them “real power hogs” in a news conference in London. “We’ve got to see the battery lives for 3G get back up into the five-plus hour range,” Jobs said. “Hopefully we’ll see that next year.” When asked, Stephenson said that he didn’t know how much the faster 3G iPhone will cost, saying that Jobs “will dictate what the price of the phone is.”

Vaja debuts new cases for iPhone, iPod touch, classic, nano 3G

Vaja, maker of luxury leather goods, has introduced a myriad of new cases for the iPhone, iPod touch, iPod classic, and iPod nano (with video). For the iPod classic, Vaja is offering the same line of cases it offers for the fifth-generation iPod, save for the Crystal, which has been supplanted in the classic lineup by the Crystal 2. In addition to the company’s previously announced iPhone cases, the company is now offering a Crystal 2 case for iPhone with an open front for direct access to the device’s touchscreen. It sells for $220 and up. It has also released the i-Volution Silver for iPhone, which adds silver appliques to the traditional i-Volution design and sells for $280 and upward, and the i-Volution Top Visor, which combines the company’s previous Holster, Top Holster, and i-Volution designs in a case that might best be described as a hybrid holster/traditional case. It includes three screen protectors, and sells for $90 and up. Finally for the iPhone, Vaja has released its i-Volution Grip, a holster-style case with a clip at the top for added stability and a two-tone rear design. It starts at $60.

imageFor the iPod touch, Vaja has introduced its i-Voution Top SP Holster, a holster-style case with a flip-up cover for the device’s screen that also features a contrast stripe down the front. The i-Volution Top Holster is a similar case, but lacks the SP’s contrast stripe. Pricing for the Top Holster starts at $70, while the SP version runs $10 more. Also available for the iPod touch is the i-Volution, a traditional case with openings for access to the device’s screen, power button, and bottom ports, as well as an optional clip system. It starts at $80. The i-Volution Holster is a holster-style case offering protection for the touch’s sides and back, and allowing access to all ports and controls. It runs from $55 and up. The Classic for iPod touch is also a traditional case, offering cut-outs for access to the device’s screen and headphone jack, a push-through home button, and a slimmer design than that of the similar i-Volution. It sells from $60 and up. Finally for the iPod touch, the Classic Top Retro adds a single-striped flip-back cover for the device’s front to the traditional Classic case, as well as an optional clip system and magnetic closure. It starts at $70.

imageFor the iPod nano, Vaja is offering the i-Volution Grip with Hook, which is a holster-style case with a built-in metal hook. It offers access to all controls and ports, and starts at $55. The Classic with Hook for iPod nano is a more traditional case, with a built-in clear plastic screen protector and metal hook. It too offers access to all ports and controls; pricing starts at $60. The Classic Top Retro with hook is a folio-style case with a snap closure, built-in screen protector, and a built-in metal hook. Again, it offers full access to the nano’s ports and controls when opened, access to the headphone jack when closed, and is priced from $65. All Vaja’s cases are made from high-quality leather, and are available for order now in a variety of colors and styles.

Carphone Warehouse misleading iPhone customers?

According to a BBC One report, salespeople at some Carphone Warehouse stores are misleading customers about insurance on the iPhone, and what might happen if they were to lose the device. Some customers reported that they were told if they lost their iPhone, they would have to buy an entirely new 18 month contract - at a minimum cost of £630. This is untrue — the customer would need to purchase a new iPhone, but the contract would carry over. In three out five Carphone stores visited by the BBC, their researchers were told the same thing. At another store, researchers were told that insurance offered by O2 shops was not as complete as the insurance offered by Carphone Warehouse, which is also untrue.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Carphone Warehouse offers its employees commission on every handset and insurance plan they sell. The retailer says that while there may be “some element of confusion among an isolated number of sales consultants,” it does not believe that the “small number of complaints” were “a fair reflection of the experience of thousands of iPhone customers who have received insurance advice in our stores”. Last year, Carphone Warehouse was fined £245,000 by the Financial Services Authority for breaking rules related to the sale of insurance.

Apple releases software version 1.0.3 for iPod classic, nano 3G

Alongside the release of iPod software version 1.2.3 for the fifth-generation iPod, Apple today rolled out iPod software version 1.0.3 for the iPod classic and iPod nano (with video). Again, the release notes state that the update simply contains “bug fixes.” More specifically, it appears the update fixes an issue with the iPod nano’s clock, and addresses a problem where play counts of songs were affected by games. On the iPod classic, the update appears to fix some issues with Cover Flow, and provides a solution for the “spinning disk” problem. iPod software version 1.0.3 for the iPod classic and iPod nano (with video) is available now via the Update feature in iTunes.

XtremeMac unveils Verona leather cases for iPod touch, classic, nano 3G

XtremeMac has announced its new Verona line of leather cases for the iPod touch, iPod classic, and iPod nano (with video). All of the cases in the Verona line are hand-crafted with genuine leather and include a soft interior lining. The Verona Flip cases for iPod touch ($30) and iPod classic ($30) are folio-style cases that offer an integrated leather-wrapped belt clip and a front flap that folds and snaps into a rear panel, creating a viewing stand for watching videos. The Verona Flip for iPod nano ($25) is a wallet-style case, featuring padded leather panels, a removable carabiner, and a snap closure.

imageThe Verona Sleeve cases for iPod classic ($25) and iPod nano ($25) are designed to offer protection while allowing access to all controls and ports, and while minimizing bulk. Both versions come with removable TuffShield protectors for the screen and Click Wheel, and the nano version comes with a removable carabiner. The Verona Sleeve for iPod touch ($25) offers reinforced construction, and comes with a TuffShield screen protector. Finally, the Verona Holster cases for iPod touch ($30) and iPod classic ($30) are sleeve-style cases with integrated belt clips that offer access to the devices’ headphone jacks while in the case. XtremeMac’s new Verona line of leather cases for the iPod touch, iPod classic, and iPod nano are now available for pre-order in a variety of colors and designs, and are expected to be available at retailers in the coming weeks.

iPhone to launch in France Wednesday night

France Telecom has announced that the French launch of the iPhone will be held at 12 of its Orange stores Wednesday night. Stores in Bordeaux, Lille, Lyons, Marseilles, Montpellier, Nancy, Nice, Nantes, Rennes, Strasbourg and Toulouse will be welcoming iPhone fans “from 6:30 p.m. onwards.” In Paris, the iPhone launch will be held at a new Orange store opening on Avenue des Champs-Elysées. The iPhone will sell for 399 euros when paired with one of four “Orange for iPhone” plans, which run from 49 to 119 euros a month. The phone will also be available for 549 euros for those who don’t want to switch to an “Orange for iPhone” plan, and will be priced at 649 euros plan-free. Orange also announced that it will unlock the handset for an additional 100 euros during the six months following the purchase of the phone. France Telecom chief Didier Lombard has previously said he expects to sell nearly 100,000 iPhones by the end of 2007, and in a separate statement said that his company expects to sell between 400,000 and 500,000 of the devices by the end of 2008. “That is the middle of the range of our forecasts,” Lombard said.

Apple releases software version 1.2.3 for fifth-generation iPod

Apple has released its iPod software version 1.2.3 for fifth-generation iPods. According to the release notes, the update simply contains “bug fixes,” which a new Apple support document says incudes an issue where “iPod does not display any songs or content on the device after updating to iPod software 1.2.2.” iPod software version 1.2.3 is available now via the Update feature in iTunes.

Universal Music’s Morris, Dupri speak out on iTunes

Recently, two executives from Universal Music Group — CEO Doug Morris, and Island Urban Records (which is owned by UMG) president Jermaine Dupri — have spoken out against Apple, Steve Jobs, and the iTunes ecosystem. Morris, in an interview with Wired, and Dupri, in a blog posting on The Huffington Post.

Morris, who once called MP3 players “repositories for stolen music,” responded to the suggestion that the labels allowed Apple CEO Steve Jobs to create “in effect an Apple Walkman that played only Apple cassettes,” by saying, “We were just grateful that someone was selling online. The problem is, he became a gatekeeper. We make a lot of money from him, and suddenly you’re wearing golden handcuffs. We would hate to give up that income.” This past summer, UMG decided not to renew its long-term iTunes contract, instead offering its catalog on a month-to-month basis, and then announced that it would sell DRM-free tracks through online stores other than iTunes, part of an effort by Morris to lessen Apple’s dominance in the market. Morris is currently working on his “Total Music” initiative, which seeks to join the major labels and other hardware companies to create a new line of devices that offer unlimited music for the life of the device, by adding the cost of the service to the price of the player. Unfortunately, the service will almost certainly require DRM, which may lead to even more illegal music downloads. “Locking things up is actually good for piracy,” says David Pakman, CEO of eMusic.

Dupri, meanwhile, argues that Apple should allow artists to decide whether to sell their album as a whole, or to allow individual songs to be purchased as singles. Dupri suggests that Apple needs the record labels more than they need Apple, stating, “If anything, WE made iTunes… So if we as artists, producers and label executives stand up, those guys at Apple can either cooperate, or have nothing for people to buy and download on their iPods.” He goes on, saying, “...Universal sells one out of every three records. All it’ll take is for Warner Music to say, ‘You know what, I’m with you,’ for us to shut ‘em down. No more iPods! They won’t have nothin’ to play on their players! We can take back the power if we’re willing to sacrifice some sales to make our point.”

Tunewear rolls out Icewear for iPod touch, classic, nano 3G

Tunewear has introduced its Icewear clear silicone cases for the iPod touch, iPod classic, and iPod nano (with video). All three Icewear cases are made from high-density silicone, feature patented rib technology for added grip, allow access to the iPod’s screen, ports, and controls, are washable with soap and water, and include a Tunefilm clear film protector. Tunewear Icewear cases for iPod touch, iPod classic, and iPod nano (with video) sell for $30, $25, and $20, respectively. Icewear cases for the iPod touch and iPod nano are available now; Icewear for iPod classic is expected to ship in early December.

Shimura Japan intros Metal Jacket for iPod nano

Shimura is now offering its Metal Jacket case for the iPod nano (with video). The hinged metal case features a protective front flap that folds back to double as a stand, and offers full-time access to the nano’s Dock Connector, hold switch, and headphone jack, along with flip-up access to the device’s screen and Click Wheel. The case’s design also allows the nano to be docked when the front cover is folded back. The Shimura Metal Jacket for iPod nano (with video) is available now in silver, black, and red, and sells for 8900 yen, or around $82. [via Engadget]

SuperSync 2.0 offers speed, setup, transfer improvements

SuperSync has announced the release of its SuperSync 2.0 personal music library synchronization software. SuperSync lets users synchronize their music libraries between multiple computers over the internet. The latest version of the software allows up to five simultaneous track uploads and downloads, making synchronization faster, and features a completely redesigned file transfer interface, support for automatic Universal Plug and Play router setup, improved iTunes integration, and more. SuperSync 2.0 is available now for Mac OS X and Windows, and is priced at $29 for a 2-machine license. A demo version is also available.

Orange sees 100K iPhones sold by year’s end

France Telecom’s Orange unit has said that it expects to sell nearly 100,000 iPhones by the end of 2007. In an interview with Europe 1 radio, France Telecom chief Didier Lombard predicted sales of 100,000 units by year’s end, while promising that Orange’s unlocked iPhone offering will be priced “significantly lower” than the 999€ T-Mobile in Germany is charging for the unlocked hardware. Lombard also revealed some tariff pricing details, saying that a 24-month contract would start at 49 euros a month including “two hours” of voice time and 50 text messages, and that the price would be 4.50 euros more per month for a 12-month contract, the minimum term available from Orange. Analysts, meanwhile, remain skeptic about the iPhone in Europe. Gontran Filet, a telecom industry consultant with Idate, said, “There’s an irrational side to a decision to buy an Apple trademarked iPhone which makes it difficult to predict sales.” The iPhone will launch in France on Thursday, November 29, and will sell for 399€.

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