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Thought Out set to debut KingNAJA holder for iPhone, iPod touch

Thought Out has announced that it will be releasing its new KingNAJA holder for the iPhone and iPod touch in the next few weeks. The KingNAJA is a portable media device holder, which like the company’s previously released PED3 stand allows users to rotate the device between horizontal and vertical orientation as needed. The holder itself attaches to a 3-foot soft, flexible cable developed for secure positioning, which coils around the device holder for greater portability. The Thought Out KingNAJA portable holder for iPhone and iPod touch will be available in the next few weeks, and will sell for $40.

BBC: iPlayer coming to iPhone, iPod touch

The BBC has announced that its iPlayer service will soon be available on the iPhone and iPod touch. The Guardian reports that the BBC said that iPhone and iPod touch owners would be able to access iPlayer content “within the next few weeks,” which will the first time the service has been available beyond PC and Mac computers. It is unknown whether access will handled via a web application, or if viewing will be made possible through an installable application, which would be available following the release of the iPhone/iPod touch SDK.

Mark/Space releases Missing Sync for iPhone 1.0.1

Mark/Space has released The Missing Sync for iPhone 1.0.1, the latest verison of its iPhone synchronization software. The Missing Sync offers users data migration of contacts, tasks, events, and photos from Palm OS, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry smartphones, as well as the ability to archive, browse, and search iPhone call logs, SMS text messages, and notes. The latest version adds German and French localization, allows users to delete individual or selected calls from the call archive, and the SMS Log application now supports deleting all incoming and outgoing messages for a single contact. The Missing Sync for iPhone requires Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later and sells for $40; a crossgrade from qualifying Mark/Space products costs $25.

iPhoneDrive renamed MegaPhone, adds notes support

Ecamm Network has announced the release of MegaPhone 1.5. Formerly called iPhoneDrive, the Mac application allows iPhone and iPod touch users access to iTunes media, photos, notes, and other data stored on the device, as well as the ability to copy files and folders to the device for data storage and file transfer. Version 1.5 adds the ability to add and edit notes, including the ability to add text, PDF, and other files to the Notes application for reading and editing on the go. “We can now finally use the iPhone notepad to store important information,” explains Ken Aspeslagh, Ecamm Network’s iPhone specialist. “With MegaPhone, moving notes back and forth between the Mac and the iPhone is as simple as dragging in and out of the MegaPhone window.” MegaPhone 1.5 requires Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later, and sells for $20.

Mad Catz AirDrives for iPhone now shipping

Mad Catz has announced that its AirDrives earphones for iPhone are now shipping. Announced in November, AirDrives feature an outer-ear design powered by InAir Technology, a new personal audio technology that lets users hear their surroundings as well as their music. In addition to this unique technology, AirDrives for iPhone will also include a microphone and one-touch music-to-phone capability. Darren Richardson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mad Catz, said, “In the six months since its release, Apple’s iPhone is indisputably one of the most sought after consumer products worldwide and Mad Catz believes its innovative AirDrives headphones enhance the utility of this leading-edge platform. Combining voice capability with AirDrives’ existing technology allows users the seamless integration of music selections, conversations and their surroundings. We look forward to bringing this virtual communication experience to consumers throughout 2008.” Mad Catz AirDrives for iPhone are available now and sell for $100.

Handbrake 0.9.2 adds video, audio improvements

Popular open-source DVD to MPEG-4 converter Handbrake has been updated to version 0.9.2, adding support for Dolby Digital 5.1 (AC3) surround sound in MP4 files and iPhone-compatible anamorphic video. In addition, it includes multi-track audio support, more flexible anamorphic video, dynamic range compression for encoding from AC3 audio, numerous bug fixes, and more. Handbrake 0.9.2 is available as a free download for Mac OS X (10.5 Leopard required), Windows, and Linux.

AT&T announces $99.99 unlimited calling plan

In response to recent announcements of similar plans by rival carriers such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint, AT&T has announced that it will offer unlimited mobile calls for a flat rate of $99.99 per month. According to a Reuters report, AT&T said that the plan would be available starting February 22, and that existing customers could switch to the new plan without having to extend their service contract. iPhone users interested in the unlimited plan will still be required to carry an appropriate data package.

Mix: Gameloft, Safari HD, iPhone, Poolga

During a recent speech, Gameloft founder Michel Guillemot featured an image of an iPhone running a Gameloft game in one of his slides. Pocket Gamer suggests that although the image may have been a mock-up, given Gameloft’s past relationship with Apple on iPod games, it would not be surprising to see the company develop games for the iPhone.

Safari HD, an unofficial hack for the Apple TV that allows users to browse the internet using the set-top box, has been released and updated for compatibility with Apple TV software 2.0. Safari HD uses the WebKit rendering engine, and supports web plugins such as Flash and any others supported by Safari.

A panel at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain last week praised the iPhone for its ease of use and interface. The panel, titled “It’s the User Experience, Stupid,” agreed that the iPhone represents a new model for mobile operators to follow, and that the current mobile user experience, when compared to the iPhone, is not very good.

Poolga is a site offering a collection of iPhone and iPod touch wallpapers from a selection of designers and illustrators from around the world. According to the site, new wallpapers are added every couple of days, and all the wallpapers are free to download and use on your own device [possibly NSFW].

LiveSpeakR portable speaker concept for iPhone unveiled

D&G Solutions has announced the LiveSpeakR, a new portable speaker system concept for the iPhone. The LiveSpeakR features two sets of shielded drivers that fold-up and store behind the iPhone during travel, and can also expand, contract, and rotate in order to accommodate both portrait and landscape modes. A built-in stand holds the speakers at different viewing angles, and the LiveSpeakR can run off 2 AAA batteries or an AC adapter. 23-year-old Erik Groset, inventor of the LiveSpeakR, said, “I’m very proud of the LiveSpeakR I believe it could be a perfect accessory for everyone’s iPhone. I invented it from the perspective of the end-user and everything they would want in a speaker-system.” D&G Solutions is currently seeking a partner to license the product for production; Groset said the LiveSpeakR could be available as soon as summer 2008.

iPod shuffle 1GB price drops to $49, new 2GB at $69 [updated]

Apple’s 1GB iPod shuffle, long maintained by the company to be a popular and important member of the iPod family because of its low price point, today is dropping to $49 from its previous price of $79. Considered long overdue by those who have compared the shuffle to newer, similar, and less expensive alternatives such as the Zen Stone from companies such as Creative, the price drop simultaneously establishes the lowest-ever entry price point for the iPod family, and re-affirms Apple’s interest—at least temporarily—in keeping the shuffle around rather than discontinuing it in favor of a cheaper iPod nano. The 1GB iPod shuffle continues to be available in five colors, each primarily aluminum with plastic accents, and feature a rear integrated shirt clip. Competitors such as the Zen Stone use all-plastic bodies, but also start at prices as low as $35.

Updated: Apple has also announced the release of a 2GB iPod shuffle for $69. “The new 2GB model lets music lovers bring even more songs everywhere they go in the impossibly small iPod shuffle,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPod Product Marketing. Apple’s online store has not yet added the 2GB model, which will be available by month’s end, or indicated the color(s) it will be available in; the company’s press release implies that the 2GB model’s colors will be the same.

BBC TV shows added to UK iTunes Store

Content from BBC Worldwide has now appeared on the UK iTunes Store following earlier reports suggesting its imminent arrival. Shows currently available from the store include “Torchwood,” “Life On Mars,” “Little Britain,” “The Catherine Tate Show,” “Spooks,” “Two Pints of Lager & A Packet of Crisps,” and “The Mighty Boosh.” Apple UK’s Hot News section also mentions “Robin Hood” and “Ashes to Ashes” as store offerings, and specifies that “Ashes,” “Torchwood,” and “Two Pints” will be available for purchase eight days after they are screened on TV. As with other TV shows on the UK iTunes Store, the episodes sell for £1.89 each; it is unclear whether the BBC plans to offer the programs internationally.

Pirates of the Caribbean debuts as iPod Game

Just released as a downloadable game for the iPod classic, third-generation iPod nano, and fifth-generation iPod, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Aegir’s Fire ($5) places you in control of a pirate ship on a series of quests to find treasures, sink enemy ships with cannonballs, and track down the five daughters of Aegir. Wind, the types of power-ups you find for your cannons, and both the speed and strength of your ship will influence your success; you can buy your way into better ships, including the Black Pearl, as you earn money. A map screen lets you travel from Europe to Africa, Hawaii, the Maldives and Caribbean on quests, and of course, familiar faces from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies make appearances as well.

Orange offering free iPod touch to UK business customers

Orange has launched a promotion in which it is offering a free 8GB iPod touch to UK customers who sign up for an 18-month business plan. Customers must visit a participating store and sign up for an Orange Solo, Orange Venture or Orange Momentum 18 month business plan at £35/month and above to be eligible for the promotion, which is available while supplies last. “The work/life blur often means doing work in your free time. We want to redress the balance and encourage our customers to take time out of their working day for themselves and the iPod touch is a great me-time device with which to do that,” said Martin Lyne, director of small business, Orange UK. While Orange is the official iPhone carrier in France, the device is offered by competing carrier O2 in the UK.

iTunes Store, Apple TV SD rentals both below DVD quality

How much of a difference is there between a video purchased or rented using iTunes, and the standard-definition version rentable on your Apple TV? After a week of comparison downloads, cross-checks, and cracking open an Apple TV, the answer is: “none.”

Discussed in detail in our just-published Complete Guide to iTunes Movie Rentals, Part 2, users will see no benefit from using the Apple TV to rent standard-definition movies already available in iTunes, as both files offer the same bit rates, file sizes, and sub-DVD-quality resolutions. In fact, using an Apple TV to rent a standard-definition movie places you at a disadvantage: you can’t transfer an Apple TV-rented movie to your iPod, iPhone, or iTunes library, even though the same movie rented through iTunes can be transferred to any of the other devices.

Notably, however, Apple has started to make interesting changes to standard-definition videos rented and sold through the iTunes Store. New releases, and some previously-released titles, are now anamorphically encoded to take better advantage of the 480 pixels of resolution supported by all of Apple’s portable video devices. As a result, though new videos are still not true DVD-quality, many offer superior vertical resolution to the 272- and 352-pixel movies sold by Apple last year. This change, discovered through comparisons between files downloaded last year and this past week, explains ambiguities that have existed since January 2008 as to whether iTunes Store movie rentals would be true DVD-quality, or still fall short.

Many additional details on Apple’s video formats and devices can be found in our Complete Guide to iTunes Movie Rentals, Part 1 and Complete Guide to iTunes Movie Rentals, Part 2. Enjoy!

Sega: Sonic on iPod ‘fantastic opportunity’

Sega of America boss Simon Jeffrey recently praised Apple for its iPod gaming efforts, as well as for its iTunes payment system. Speaking in an interview with MCV, Jeffrey said, “The iPod is arguably the most pervasive cross-demographic piece of consumer electronics today. There are no age or fashion barriers to iPod adoption, and making Sonic available to tens of millions of iPod owners really is a fantastic opportunity for us.” While keeping quiet on possible future releases, saying, “We don’t have anything to talk about at this time in terms of future projects, but naturally we are thrilled and honoured that Apple chose to partner with Sega,” Jeffrey went on to praise Apple for its iTunes billing and payment system. “iTunes and Apple’s whole banking/payment system is flawless,” he said. “They have to be one of the smartest companies in the world. Being able to buy a game and have it on your iPod with a couple of clicks is just brilliant.”

BBC headed to iTunes, Apple TV?

New reports suggest that the BBC may soon offer its content through iTunes, and may also be working on a version of its iPlayer for the Apple TV. Citing a TV industry source, The Register is reporting that BBC Worldwide will soon announce plans to offer its programming on the iTunes Store. The source claims that BBC Worldwide digital media director Simon Danker has contacted third party production partners to let them know about the new distribution channel. It is unclear whether the BBC content would be available internationally, or exclusively through the UK store.

A separate posting by Ashley Highfield, Director of BBC Future Media and Technology, suggests that the BBC may be planning to offer a version of its iPlayer IP-based on-demand television service through the Apple TV. Speaking about Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ announcement of new Apple TV software, Highfield writes, “this, coupled with Apple’s (long anticipated) move to a rental model, means that we can look to getting BBC iPlayer onto this platform too, as we should be able to use the rental functionality to allow our programmes to be downloaded, free, but retained for a time window, and then erased, as our rightsholders currently insist.”

‘American Idol’ performances coming exclusively to iTunes

Fox, 19 Entertainment, FremantleMedia, and Apple have announced a partnership that will offer “American Idol” fans all of the contestant performances from the show’s seventh season on the iTunes Store. The performance offerings will begin with the top 24 semifinalists this week; customers will be able to purchase music performances for 99 cents per song, and full video of the top 12 finalist performances will be available starting March 11 for $1.99 each. In addition, beginning today, users can pre-order performances of their favorite contestants from the iTunes Store, which will be automatically downloaded the day after the show airs.

“We have some truly outstanding talent this year, and by working with Apple and iTunes, we’re giving viewers another great way to enjoy America’s brightest new stars from ‘Idol,’” said Simon Fuller, creator of “American Idol” and Founder of 19 Entertainment. “I’m sure there will be many memorable performances that viewers will want to relive from this 2008 season.”

“We’ve created a special section on the iTunes Store for ‘Idol’ fans with an incredible array of music and video performances from television’s most popular show,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes. “We think ‘American Idol’ viewers are going to love the ability to purchase and download ‘Idol’ performances from iTunes.”

Still time to register for PDO 50 Cases Giveaway

There’s still time to enter the PDO 50 Cases Giveaway, in which fifty of PDO’s TopSkin silicone cases will be awarded to lucky iLounge readers. Each winner will receive one case in the color of their choice. Eligible prizes include TopSkin cases for iPhone, iPod touch, iPod classic, fifth-generation iPod, first-, second-, and third-generation iPod nano, and second-generation iPod shuffle. In addition, each case (except for the shuffle model) will include a screen protector, wrist strap, and removable swivel belt clip. To enter the contest, or to view the official rules, please visit the official giveaway page. The PDO 50 Cases Giveaway will run until February 29. Good luck!

China Mobile: 400K iPhones in use by end of 2007

According to China Mobile, the largest wireless carrier in China, roughly 400,000 unlocked iPhones were operating on its cellular network by the end of 2007. Previously, it had been rumored that China Mobile would be the iPhone’s carrier in the country, but a January report suggested that Apple and the carrier had broken off negotiations; Apple dismissed the “negotiations” as a single, limited meeting. Compared against Apple’s sales figures, In-Stat reports, the 400,000 iPhones represent one out of every 10 iPhones shipped globally by the company. The report goes on to state that an estimated 20% of handsets sold in China during 2007 cost more than 4,000 RMB (around $533), indicating that there are as many as 28 million potential iPhone customers in the country.

Our weekly iPodweek summary is coming

iPodweek, iLounge’s weekly newsletter recapping the last seven days in iPod, iPhone, iTunes and Apple TV news, articles, reviews, and more, will be sent out later today. In addition to rounding up the week’s top stories, iPodweek also features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. If you haven’t yet signed up to receive iPodweek, there’s still time to register and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address.

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