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Mix: Firmware, VoIP, Box, Rentals

Gear Live has reportedly received a pre-release build of iPhone firmware version 1.1.3. The new firmware features the ability to reorganize home screen icons, the ability to add web links to the home screen, home screen pagination, the ability to send SMS messages to multiple recipients, the new “Locate Me” Google Maps feature which uses cellular triangulation to provide a rough estimate of the user’s current location, and Hybrid view in Google Maps. It is unknown when/if Apple plans to release this version of the iPhone’s firmware; a video walkthrough and image gallery are also available.

The developers of the SIP VoIP application for the iPod touch have released a video of the first VoIP call made from the touch, as well as a second video with instructions on how to use the software. The SIP VoIP application for iPod touch will be released tomorrow, January 1.

A young girl received a new iPod as a holiday gift, only to find a strange note and a few books inside the box. The note read: “Reclaim your mind the from the media shackles. Read a book and resurrect yourself. To claim your capitalistic garbage go to your nearest Apple Store.” The girl’s father, who purchased the iPod, returned it to Wal-Mart, which blamed the problem on Apple, while acknowledging that something similar happened to another customer.

A new Variety report claims that Disney and Fox will be announced as partners when Apple unveils its iTunes movie rental service. In addition, the report says that the rentals are “expected to cost between $2 and $5 for a 24-hour period, with the price point ideally motivating consumers in the manner of 99¢ music downloads.”

2008 Apple product poll ends, accessory poll begins

Our last poll, “Which likely 2008 Apple product are you most excited about?,” has closed. The results were interesting: with 3,957 votes taken, readers appeared to be more excited about more powerful touchscreen devices than anything else. A plurality (41%) voted for “a more powerful touchscreen iPod,” with 21% interested in a “3G iPhone” and 20% interested in a Mac tablet or sub-notebook. Only 11% registered interest in a less expensive, stripped-down iPhone, and a meager 6% were excited about a revamped Apple TV. Thanks for your votes!

Our new poll, “Which add-on do you most want right now?,” has just opened. Cast your vote now by clicking on the iLounge Poll link found on the site’s main page, left column. We’re anxious to see what interests you!


Happy New Year from iLounge!

On behalf of all of the Editors and staff of iLounge, Happy New Year!

iLounge will be on a limited publishing schedule over the next two days as we celebrate the holiday. We recommend that you visit several great parts of the site during the break:

Our 2008 iPod + iPhone Buyers’ Guide: All of our best iPod, iPhone, and accessory buying advice is summarized here in a completely free PDF file. Read it on your computer, iPhone, or iPod touch!

The Library: Ten free, downloadable guides covering iPods from 2004 to the present day.

Our Discussion Forums: The world’s largest iPod forums contain over 1.17 million posts from 128,000 registered members.

The iLounge Photo Galleries: Thousands of pictures from countries and famous sights, including our famous iPods Around the World and iPhones Around the World galleries. Send your photos—we’d love to see them.

Backstage: Our Editors’ blog, with some interesting iPod- and non-iPod-related commentary.

See you in 2008!

Mix: Wal-Mart, India, Amazon, PlayStation

Wal-Mart has officially closed its online movie download service, less than a year after it launched. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the company closed the store only after Hewlett-Packard, which provided the back end software for the site, “made a business decision to discontinue its video download-only merchant store service.” Wal-Mart did not say whether it had any plans to launch another service using different software.

Apple may face serious challenges in bringing the iPhone to India, according to a new report. One of the main problems, finding a carrier to partner with, is exacerbated by the fact that three out of four Indian mobile users are pre-paid customers, and the average revenue per user is less than $6.50 a month. “Not many operators would want to go with such a pro-Apple model despite its huge anticipation in the Indian markets,” said a top telecom official. has released its “Best of 2007” lists, with the 4GB iPod nano (with video) making an appearance as the Most-Wished-For product in electronics. It was also the Most Popular Gift in the electronics section. Other Apple products making the lists were the MacBook Pro and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.

A new PlayStation emulator, psx4iphone, has been released publicly for the iPhone and iPod touch. Requiring a jailbroken iPhone or iPod touch, the software has “a good compatibility rate and features save states and a dynarec for added performance.” A YouTube video showing the emulator in action is also available.

iTunes web traffic up 339 percent Christmas Day

According to new figures from Hitwise, the market share of visits to Apple’s iTunes website jumped 339 percent on Christmas Day from the previous day, as new iPod and iPhone owners went online to download the jukebox software. Overall, iTunes’ market share of visits reached 0.68 percent on Christmas. In addition, the Apple Store was the ninth most visited website in the Hitwise Retail Index on Christmas, and the market share of visits to the Apple Store showed an increase of 169 percent when compared to the previous day. Microsoft’s iPod + iTunes rival Zune also saw traffic to its site jump 299 percent on the 25th, but its total market share reached only 0.09 percent.

iPodweek coming later today, still time to sign up

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Multiple studios on board for Apple rental service launch

20th Century Fox will not be the only studio on board when Apple announces its upcoming movie rental service, according to a New York Times report. Citing people familiar with the negotiations, who also confirmed the Apple/Fox relationship, the report states that the service will be announced during the Macworld Expo event in January, possibly during Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote address on the morning on Jan. 15. Apple has attempted “to interest a number of Hollywood studios in an iTunes rental service,” the report states, while suggesting that Walt Disney, which already sells movies through iTunes, would be likely to join the new rental service.

Apple readying HD Radio push for Macworld

iLounge has learned that Apple plans a push for iTunes Tagging-ready, HD Radio-equipped boomboxes with iPod docks during the mid-January Macworld Expo event in San Francisco, California. Announced in September, iTunes Tagging is a new HD Radio feature designed to further boost iTunes sales by allowing listeners to “Tag” the currently playing song, automatically adding its information to a “Tagged” playlist on the connected iPod. When synced with a computer, the playlist appears in iTunes, making it easy to purchase tagged tracks from the iTunes Store. 

iBiquity Digital, the developer of HD Radio technology, currently offers a special end-to-end Reference Kit for the production of HD Radio receivers with iPod Docks and iTunes Tagging. The kit is available to all licensees of both Apple’s Made For iPod program and iBiquity; iPod accessory manufacturers such as Sony, Griffin Technology, and Cambridge Soundworks have all announced HD Radio products, though none has specifically announced iTunes Tagging support.

Since the announcement of iTunes Tagging, CBS Radio, Clear Channel, Cumulus, Cox, Entercom and Greater Media have all announced that they are in the process of installing iTunes Tagging technology. “We are very pleased with the strong support iTunes Tagging has received from the broadcast radio industry,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s Vice President of iPod Product Marketing. “iTunes Tagging is a great way for local broadcasters to jump into the digital music space and for consumers to easily discover new music on their HD Radio and enjoy it with iTunes and their iPod.” According to a document on iBiquity’s website, “Apple plans to offer participating stations a revenue share for songs referred to and purchased on iTunes,” adding extra incentive for HD Radio broadcasters to adopt iTunes Tagging.

Apple planning iPhone-based transaction system?

A new Apple patent application suggests that the company is working on a wireless transaction system for devices such as the iPhone and iPod touch that would allow customers to order quick service items like coffee and fast food directly from their device, and to receive notification when their order was ready. According to the patent, the goal is to avoid an “annoying wait in a long queue if the purchaser arrives before completion of the order.” The application also describes a way to keep tabs on customers’ shopping preferences and favorite orders. Forbes says that the patent puts the Apple/Starbucks partnership “in a new light,” stating that the technology could move Apple “from the business of simply selling gadgets and music and movies that can be played on those devices into an intermediary in all kinds of exchanges.”

Amazon MP3 adds Warner Music Group Catalog

Amazon MP3 has announced the addition of Warner Music Group’s digital audio catalog to its DRM-free MP3 offerings. Amazon and Warner will also offer products such as album bundles containing exclusive tracks, in addition to a la carte downloads. “Our customers are delighted with our DRM-free MP3 service. We have received thousands of emails from our customers since our September launch thanking us for offering the biggest selection of high-quality MP3 audio downloads which play on virtually any music device they own today or will own in the future,” said Bill Carr, Vice President of Digital Music. “With the addition of great Warner Music Group content, our customers will discover even more of the music they love on Amazon MP3.” Michael Nash, Senior Vice President, Digital Strategy and Business Development for Warner Music Group, said, “Consumers want flexibility with respect to what they can do with music once they purchase it, and we want them to have that flexibility, which is why we’re pleased to offer our artists’ music on Amazon MP3.” Amazon MP3 now offers more than 2.9 million songs from over 33,000 record labels, including DRM-free music from Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and EMI.

Apple signs movie rental, DVD deal with Fox

Apple has signed a deal with 20th Century Fox to offer digital rentals of the studio’s films, and to include a FairPlay DRM’d, iPod-compatible digital file on the studio’s new DVD releases, according to a Financial Times report. Citing a person familiar with the situation, the report says only that the rented movies would be active “for a limited time,” and that they would be made available through iTunes. The launch of iPod-ready films on DVD would signal the first appearance of Apple’s FairPlay DRM outside of its own products, and could “help Apple sell a load more video iPods,” according to one studio exec. “Fox and potentially other studios are coming around to the idea that there is nobody out there to challenge iTunes,” said Jonathan Weitz, a principal with IBB Consulting. “This deal is a sign that media mobility is coming to the mainstream.” In addition, the report also states that Apple has been in talks with Sony Pictures, Paramount, and Warner Bros. about making their new releases available on iTunes to buy and rent, and about adding FairPlay-laden copies of their films to new DVD releases.

Findley Designs updates iPod Access Photo v1.3, adds iPhone support

Findley Designs has released iPod Access Photo v1.3, the latest version of its photo utility for iPod. iPod Access Photo allows users to select individual photos and albums on their iPods and move them back onto their computer or external hard drive. New in version 1.3 is support for the iPhone and iPod touch, improved support for the iPod classic and iPod nano (with video), and support for Mac OS X 10.5. Other features include the ability to view photos by album, automatic use of the highest resolution image available, and the ability to copy all photos with one click. iPod Access Photo v1.3 is available now for Windows and Mac OS X.

O2 chief sees steady iPhone sales, data usage

In a recent meeting with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, O2 CEO Matthew Key has said that 200,000 iPhones should have been sold in the UK by early January, in-line with expectations. Speaking ahead of his meeting with Jobs, Key told the Financial Times, “The big question for us is ‘What does the future look like in terms of product roll-out?’.” Key has said that he is confident that O2 will carry the 3G iPhone when it is released next year, and also revealed that iPhone customers are using large amounts of data. About 60 percent of iPhone users are sending or receiving more than 25 megabytes of data per month, while only 1.8 percent of O2 ‘s other mobile customers on monthly contracts are consuming data at that rate. According to Key, the iPhone is also helping the carrier steal customers from its rivals; about 60 percent of iPhone users are new to O2. [via MDN]

New iPod accessories spotted from Sony, iHome

Over the holidays, iLounge editors spotted new, previously-unannounced iPod accessories from both Sony and iHome. The Sony TMR-BT8iP is a Dock-connecting Bluetooth 2.0+EDR adapter for iPod, which sells for $70. It is interesting that the BT8iP doesn’t come in a bundle, but is instead sold by itself as a solution for those wishing to send iPod audio to a Bluetooth-capable device. We also spotted a new line of iPod-docking table lamps from iHome which combine a JBL On Stage-like base with adjustable single-bulb lamps of various types. Official introductions of the products will likely take place in the next few weeks; continue reading for more pictures of the new products.

Apple patent points to automatic volume control for iPod

A new Apple patent application suggests that the company may be working on an iPod with automatic volume control. The patent describes a system that automatically calculates how long a person has been listening, and at what volume, determining when to begin reducing the sound level. It would also calculate how much “quiet time” the person received in between the iPod being turned off and restarted, which determines how much to increase the volume level following down time. The patent says, “Since the damaging effect on users’ hearing is both gradual and cumulative, even those users who are concerned about hearing loss may not behave in a manner that would limit or minimize such damaging effects.” The potential for iPod-induced hearing loss has been an ongoing problem for Apple. In 2006, the company was sued by an iPod user over hearing loss, which led to the release of an iPod update with a maximum volume limit, and the debut of a special Sound and Hearing page at Apple’s website.

iLounge asks: How were your holidays?

With the gift-giving holidays over and the New Year fast approaching, iLounge’s editors want to know: how did December treat you? Did you just join the ranks of the iPod or iPhone nation? Get some great new goodies? Tell us your story in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!

iSkin rolls out eVo3 case for iPod classic

iSkin has introduced its eVo3 classic case for the iPod classic. The eVo3 classic is a silicone case with a ViSOR scratch-resistant, snap-on hard screen protector, and features the revoClip3 rotary belt clip, integrated earphone and Dock Connector port covers, built-in Click Wheel protection, and an eVoGrip textured surface for added grip. The iSkin eVo3 classic is available now in Eclipse (solid black) and Arctic (clear frosted), and sells for $35.

Mustek reveals iPod-docking digital photo frame

Mustek has announced its PF-i700, a new seven-inch digital picture frame with an integrated iPod dock for playback of music, video, and picture files stored on the device. The PF-i700 features a seven-inch LCD panel with 480x234 resolution, support for MPEG, Xvid and motion-JPEG formats, a high-gloss black bezel, stereo speakers, a headphone jack, and a removable stand that allows the frame to stand in portrait or landscape position. Other features include a card reader with support for SD, xD, MMc, MemoryStick and MemoryStick Pro memory cards, as well as a USB 2.0 port for connecting to a thumb drive or PC. “For years consumers have stored their music libraries on iPods and now they’re saving their favorite photos, TV shows, video clips and movies there, too,” explained David Ficken, National Sales & Marketing Manager for Mustek. “The new PF-i700 has the expanded multimedia capabilities to play all these digital entertainment options on one screen without the cable clutter, redefining today’s iPod experience.” The Mustek PF-i700 is expected to be available in March 2008 and will sell for $130. [via Engadget]

Ultimate Ears ships 4 vi earphones for iPhone

Ultimate Ears has begun shipping its new 4 vi earphones, which offer an iPhone-friendly design with an in-line microphone and control button that allows users to answer/end phone calls and control media playback functions. The 4 vi’s feature a single custom armature speaker, tuned for “detailed bass while delivering crisp and clean mids and highs,” which works in concert with a proprietary tuned filter to “shape” the sound for greater detail. Other features include a machined, “gunmetal silver” aluminum housing, and an included carrying case, sound level attenuator which lowers overall volume levels for noisy sound sources, and universal fit eartip kit with five sets of silicone eartips. The Ultimate Ears 4 vi earphones are available now and sell for $150.

Boomwave launches Klique cases for iPod touch, classic

Boomwave has announced its new Klique leather cases for iPod touch and iPod classic. Both styles of the leather cases are available in embossed and laser-engraved designs, in one of eight colors. The cases also feature a flip-up front cover with snap closure, a back loop for connecting to the included wallet chain, and an included screen protector. Boomwave Klique Leather cases for the iPod touch and iPod classic are available now and sell for $28; Boomwave says an iPhone-compatible version is “coming soon.”

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