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Apple reaching out to iPhone/iPod touch hackers? [updated]

An update posted to Tiny Code, a web site that has previously aided developers and users of unauthorized Jailbroken applications for the iPod touch and iPhone, suggests that Apple is reaching out to unofficial third-party developers in preparation for the upcoming official iPhone/iPod touch SDK. The posting reads: “We can’t say much, but we are working with Apple and with their SDK for the next firmware release and SDK applications and we shouldn’t be missed for long. We will no longer update our Installer.app repo for legality reasons and you should see us soon on iTunes.” A separate update on the site’s sidebar says that the group is “now targeting fw [firmware] 1.1.4 Alpha 2,” implying that a firmware upgrade may accompany the SDK release. [via Mac Rumors]

Updated: Tiny Code Developer Kelly has come forward to say that the previous post was a lie, and that Tiny Code was never in contact with Apple. In a forum posting, Kelly said, “It’s finally time I just come out and say it; I lied. Tiny-Code never had any relations with Apple, Inc. or any other division of Apple. Never had the new firmware or any pre-SDK pack. Certainly never signed any NDA.”

John Lennon iPod touch box covers five touch versions

  • February 15, 2008
  • iPod

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For the third time since the introduction of the iPod touch in September, 2007, Apple has updated the device’s packaging, this time in an especially noteworthy way. Following the release of early iPod touch boxes bearing the image of Corinne Bailey Rae, and subsequent models with Macy Gray, current iPod touch boxes feature the image of former Beatles member John Lennon as part of artwork from Lennon Legend, a collection of his past work. The song “Imagine” is playing on the iPod touch featured on the package.

As shown in the photos here, Lennon’s image now graces a surprising number of iPod touch packages, including the “old” $279 8GB model without the January Update Mail, Maps, Stocks, Notes, and Weather applications, and the “current” $299 8GB model with these applications. Similarly, the “old” 16GB model is available for $380 without the applications, while the current 16GB iPod touch sells for $399 with the applications included. Apple also packages the newly released $499 32GB iPod touch in the Lennon box. The company has previously suggested that it would temporarily discount and phase out iPod touches without the updated applications; it was not known whether these models would receive box updates to distinguish them from later models.

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[Editor’s Note: This story was updated based on reader comments - thanks Jeff + rTwelve!]

GizMac Aluminate iPod nano case now available

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GizMac Accessories has announced that it is now shipping its Aluminate case for the iPod nano (with video). Announced in January, the Aluminate is a hybrid case for iPod nano made from a combination of aluminum and polycarbonate. The front of the case is thin, colored aluminum, while the back is clear polycarbonate. Features include built-in screen and Click Wheel protection, and an included lanyard and carabiner clip. “The Aluminate is a good looking and protective iPod case to begin with,” explained Ken Vitto, Marketing Director for GizMac Accessories, “Then we added extra functionality and value as GizMac always does with products we sell.” The GizMac Aluminate case for iPod nano (with video) comes in a pack with two different colors of cases, and is available now for $30.

EU pushing for longer royalty windows

European Union Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has said that singers and musicians should earn royalty fees for a longer period of time. McCreevy suggested that the artists should receive royalties for 95 years, nearly double the current 50-year limit, and on par with the royalty period for U.S. artists. “If nothing is done, thousands of European performers who recorded in the late 1950s and 1960s will lose all of their airplay royalties over the next ten years,” said McCreevy, the union’s internal market chief. “These royalties are often their sole pension.” McCreevy also said that the group wants to again look at reforming copyright levies charged on blank discs, data storage, and portable media players. 19 of the EU’s 25 nations charge copyright levies, including Finland, France, and Germany.

Agent 18 ships FlowerVest for iPod touch, nano 3G

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Agent 18 has announced the immediate availability of its FlowerVest silicone cases for iPod touch and iPod nano (with video). Both slip-on cases are made from soft silicone, feature floral designs across the back and front, and allow access to the iPod’s screen, headphone jack and Dock Connector; the iPod nano version also has built-in Click Wheel protection. The Agent 18 FlowerVest for iPod touch is available in Brown/Blue or Pink/Pink and sells for $25; the iPod nano version comes in pink, brown, green and gray, and sells for $20. For more information on the Agent 18 FlowerVest for iPod nano, read our review.

iTunes to sponsor music festival in London

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Apple has announced iTunes Live: London Sessions, an 11-day musical event that will run from February 21 through March 2 and will feature more than 25 live performances from artists such as José González, KT Tunstall, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and Ron Sexsmith. Tickets to the performances are available separately by date, and will be dispersed solely through an online competition, which requires applicants to be iTunes Store account holders. Performances will be held at London’s AIR Studios, and will be recorded and sold exclusively through iTunes. Apple held a similar event, the iTunes Festival London, last July.

Apple television ads driving online searches

  • February 14, 2008
  • Apple

A new report suggests that Apple’s catchy TV advertisements for the iPod nano, iPod touch, and iPhone are having a ripple effect on online searches. According to the latest numbers from Compete, U.S. consumers made nearly 1 million queries for iPod related commercials or the underlying music from August 2007 to January 2008. 15 of the top 20 searches contained the word “song” or “music,” suggesting that many consumers are searching for the song in the commercial, as very little information is given about the songs and artists featured in Apple’s spots. In particular, research shows that over 425,000 people were actively searching in September for the song used in Apple’s popular spot for the iPod nano, Feist’s “1-2-3-4.” Traffic for the song’s music video on YouTube grew 1200% from the month prior to the commercial’s launch, and over 45 times when views of the actual commercial were included. Similar growth was seen for CSS’ “Music is my hot hot sex,” featured in a user-inspired iPod touch ad, and for Yael Naim’s “New Soul,” which is featured in Apple’s recent commercial for the MacBook Air.

In a separate interview with the BBC, Canadian singer Leslie Feist admitted to being pleasantly surprised with the impact the iPod nano advertisement has had on career. “I felt a definite shift, it seemed to pique a lot of curiosity which luckily led back to an album and video that I believe in. It just shows you the power of that kind of thing, as opposed to some preconceived marketing ploy,” she said. “I was a little naive as to the impact it would have because I really didn’t have any idea it would be like that. But it did me nothing but favours because I’ve continued doing what I do, but with so many new open ears from so many more people than there were before.”

Mix: Google, Philips, 100 Ways, VisualHub, Buddy Beacon

  • February 13, 2008

Google has said that it has seen 50 times more searches from the iPhone than from any other mobile handset. “We thought it was a mistake and made our engineers check the logs again,” said Vic Gundotra, head of Google’s mobile operations. Gundotra also said that if more manufacturers make mobile web access easy, the number of mobile searches will overtake fixed searches “within the next several years.”

Philips has announced that amBX FXGen+ lighting effects can now be experienced with iTunes through Windows XP or Vista. The amBX platform “allows content developers to use light, color, sound, rumble and even air flow through enabled devices, including the Philips amBX PC Gaming Peripherals range of LED color-controlled lighting, rumble peripherals and variable speed desktop fans.”

The Online Education Database has posted a new list of 100 Ways to Use Your iPod to Learn and Study Better. The list includes links to study guides, podcasts, tutorials, applications, classroom help, and more.

Techspansion has released VisualHub 1.31, the latest version of its video conversion software for Mac. New in VisualHub 1.31 is support for 5.1 surround sound output on the Apple TV. According to the company, “video sources with 5.1 AC3 audio will have their audio track passed directly through to the finished file, and the video will be converted for optimal playback on the Apple TV.” VisualHub 1.31 requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later and is a free update for registered users; a new license costs $23.32.

Buddy Beacon, the “mobile buddy finding application” which up until recently was available exclusively on Helio devices with GPS, has announced a new web application for iPhone. The new Buddy Beacon webapp allows iPhone users to register with the service and use a self-reported location to let other users know their location and current activity. The new Buddy Beacon web app can be accessed at where.com/bb.

Case-mate debuts Privacy Screen Pro

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Case-mate has introduced its Universal Privacy Screen Pro, a new film designed to shield the screen of mobile devices from surrounding eyes. The Privacy Screen Pro measures 2” by 3”, is able to fit both the iPhone and iPod touch, and offers a 45-degree viewing angle. The film attaches to the device using static, which allows for reside-free removal, and comes with a screen cleaning cloth, a graph sheet for sizing, and a soft applicator card. The Case-mate Privacy Screen Pro is available now and sells for $20.

Apple launches Corporate Gifting and Rewards Program

  • February 13, 2008
  • Apple

Apple has launched its Corporate Gifting and Rewards Program, which enables large businesses and corporations to easily make bulk orders of iPods, iTunes Gift Cards, iPod accessories, and certain models of Mac computers. The new program page states that the company is offering “special pricing on volume orders.” The minimum for iPod orders is 50 units, with a minimum of 250 units for iPods pre-loaded with content, which may include “training talks, product overviews, CEO speeches, promotional videos, or other custom content.” The program will also include points programs for customers to earn points towards iPods and gift cards. To participate in the offer, interested parties need to either contact Apple by phone, or submit their contact information via online form. [via Ars Technica]

iPhone grey market flourishing

The grey market for unlocked iPhones is flourishing, according to a BusinessWeek report. The report, which suggests that between 800,000 and million iPhones are unlocked, says that the bulk of the unlocking seems to be occurring in countries where the phone has yet to be introduced. This in some ways lessens the financial impact felt by the Apple and its carrier partners — partners which stand to lose hundreds of dollars in monthly fees per device due to unlocking, but have up to this point done little to interfere with the market for unlocked iPhones. Some foreign carriers have even contacted unlocking sources such as PDA Cable, owned by Nathan Walberg, in order to offer the iPhone while bypassing Apple’s revenue sharing model. “I don’t know if [these carriers] can legally encourage unlocking, but they’re not going to discourage it,” says Walberg. “This market will go on forever, because I don’t think there’s a way for Apple to stop us.”

Tinbot intros new line of iPod cases

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Tinbot has introduced its new line of cases for iPod classic and fifth-generation iPod. Tinbot cases are made from tin outer shells, with impact-resistant neoprene lining for added protection. The tin shells feature original designs from well-known contemporary artists; the case is also available in matte white for personal customization. Tinbot cases also feature a swing-open design for access to the iPod’s screen and controls, as well as openings in the case for access to the headphone jack and Dock Connector. Tinbot tin cases for iPod classic and fifth-generation iPod are available now and sell for $30; the matte white model sells for $20.

Apple TV 2.0 update now available [updated x3]

Apple has released the much-anticipated 2.0 update of the Apple TV software. The update brings a redesigned interface to the set-top box, as well as support for SD and HD movie rentals, iTunes Store browsing and purchasing directly from the device, AirTunes capabilities, flickr photo browsing, and more. For a more complete look at the changes, read our feature article. The Apple TV 2.0 update is available now through the “Update Software” menu selection in the Apple TV’s Setting menu.

Updated: The Apple TV 2.0 update currently offers 75 high-definition movie rentals, a new introductory movie,

and unlike the version demonstrated at Macworld Expo in January does not appear to include a 1080p resolution setting

. Apple’s updating process requires at least six restarts of the Apple TV, three of which include progress bars showing that the update is currently underway, and concludes with the playback of a new movie that replaces the “wall of videos” Apple TV 1.0/1.1 introduction with a slightly different version.

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Update 2: iLounge editors have been playing with the Apple TV 2.0 update and found that the 1080p resolution option is there, but may not appear on your first attempt to find it. When you look under Settings > Video > TV Resolution using a 1080p-ready television set, you may be presented with 6 or 7 options—720p HD, 1080i HD, 480p, 720p HD - 50 Hz, 1080i HD - 50 Hz, and 576p - 50Hz should be there, with 1080p HD appearing under 720p HD. One of our editors had the 1080p option appear immediately; the other had to turn his TV on and off to make the HDMI connection re-handshake before it appeared. Both editors noticed that the user interface was not crisper with 1080p turned on; rather, it looked fuzzier, as if it was being upscaled from lower-resolution artwork, rather than Apple TV downscaling its fonts and images from 1080p-ready source materials.

Update 3: We’ve added a few 720p/1080p pictures to this article; click on the headline, or below, to see them.

Vodafone CEO calls for fewer mobile OS platforms

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin has called for consolidation of mobile operating systems, and a renewed focus on user experience. “The first imperative for us is world-class user experience,” Sarin said. “The easier the interface, the more you use it and the more you get onto the Internet.” Sarin explained that mobile operating systems are crucial components of that experience, but that there are currently too many on the market — as many as 30 or 40, he estimated. “We have to reduce that number. There’s no way that developers of cool applications can develop for that many operating systems. If we had three, four, five, that would be better,” he said. Sarin went on to praise the iPhone for its user experience, saying, “Apple has raised the bar with the iPhone, and we all now know how important user interfaces are. We as an industry will have to raise our game to provide the kind of user interface that our customers are now becoming accustomed to.” Vodafone was at one time rumored to be the front-runner among possible carriers for the iPhone in the UK; it was later announced that the iPhone would be offered by rival carrier O2.

iPod classic Firmware 1.1.1 fixes hissing problem

  • February 12, 2008
  • iPod

Apple recently released iPod classic Firmware 1.1.1, which appears to fix a problem where an audible hiss was apparent when the unit was turned off. Some users have speculated that the hiss was a byproduct of a feature that allowed the classic to wake from sleep upon insertion of headphones; that feature no longer works in 1.1.1. Other users have complained of audio still being audible even when the volume is set to zero (an issue that pre-dates this update); Apple has a support document on the issue, which says “If you want the iPod audio to be silent, press the Play/Pause button to pause playback.” iPod classic Firmware 1.1.1 is available now through the update feature in iTunes.

T-Mobile to offer iPhone in Austria

Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile unit will begin selling the iPhone in Austria in the first half of 2008, according to T-Mobile chief executive Hamid Akhavan. T-Mobile already offers the iPhone in Germany. Last November, Austrian T-Mobile chief Robert Chvatal said that the company would offer the iPhone sometime this year. Akhavan also said that T-Mobile would launch the first Google Android phone in the fourth quarter.

Yahtzee released, Cubis 2 re-released as iPod Games

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In addition to the re-release of Fresh Games’ Cubis 2, a fifth-generation iPod Game originally sold in 2006, the iTunes Store today added Electronic Arts’ Yahtzee to the roster of downloadable games available for the third-generation iPod nano, iPod classic, and fifth-generation iPod. Cubis 2 is a block-matching game with colorful backgrounds and user-selectable artwork, while Yahtzee is billed as “America’s all-time number one dice game,” where five dice are rolled at once to make matches. Both titles sell for $4.99.

Note: Both titles have temporarily disappeared from the iPod classic and iPod nano section of the iPod Games listing. We have posted a First Look at Yahtzee here.

Mix: O2, Boingo, Samsung, DAB

  • February 11, 2008

The iPhone is driving “unheard of” levels of data usage, according to a statement made by a company executive. Vivek Dev, chief operating officer of Telefónica O2 Europe, said, “Our Apple iPhone is already driving unheard-of levels of mobile internet usage, and the introduction of flat rate data tariffs is expected to increase this further.” O2 recently announced improved tariffs for iPhone users.

Boingo Wireless has announced that it will make an iPhone-compatible client for its Wi-Fi service available soon after the device’s SDK is released. Boingo’s system uses a proprietary software client to allow subscribers to connect to more than 100,000 paid Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide. “We will be out as quickly as we can after the SDK is available,” said Christian Gunning, Boingo’s director of marketing, who also said that the company has begun work on the client. Boingo charges $7.95 per month for unlimited Wi-Fi access for handheld devices.

Samsung has announced a new mobile application processor that might appear in future Apple handheld devices. The S3C6410 combines a power ARM1176 processor core, clocked at up to 667MHz, and advanced hardware blocks for multimedia processing such as an embedded, hardwired Multi Format Codec, which can perform video capturing in MPEG4/H.263/H.264 formats and replay functions in similar formats using much less power. The chip is expected to go into mass production in Q3 2008; teardowns of the iPhone and iPod touch have revealed that Apple used a similar Samsung-based ARM processor in both devices.

In a Guardian report discussing the future of DAB Radio, GCap Media chief executive Fru Hazlitt revealed a partnership with Apple that will enable users to listen to digital radio on the iPhone. Further details of the partnership have yet to surface, but a slide from GCap’s presentation (PDF Link) mentions “Brand new applications for the iPod touch,” which suggests that the partnership may simply be a new native application that would allow access to audio streams over the internet.

Starbucks and AT&T announce Wi-Fi partnership

Starbucks and AT&T have announced plans to offer AT&T Wi-Fi service at more than 7,000 company-operated Starbucks locations in the U.S. The partnership will result in a mix of free and paid Wi-Fi services at Starbucks stores, including two free hours of Wi-Fi access per day for Starbucks Card holders. Starbucks Cards are the company’s refillable gift cards, which are available in various denominations, and cost nothing except for the amount of currency added to the card. AT&T broadband and U-verse internet customers will have unlimited free Wi-Fi access, and AT&T’s remote access services business customers will be able to access the service as well. According to the announcement, AT&T will “soon extend the benefits of Wi-Fi at Starbucks to its wireless customers.”

“People want to stay connected to their world 24/7, and Wi-Fi hot spots, broadband and wireless make that mobility possible,” said Rick Welday, AT&T chief marketing officer, Consumer. “Laptops and smartphones give us the online mobility we crave, and now millions of AT&T and Starbucks customers will get Internet access free from the comfort of their neighborhood Starbucks.”

“Our new relationship with AT&T gives us the opportunity to expand and enhance the range of digital entertainment experiences for our customers as well as our partners, including the continued rollout of the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store at Starbucks,” said Ken Lombard, president, Starbucks Entertainment.

In addition to the free access for qualifying AT&T customers and Starbucks Card holders, tiered access to the AT&T Wi-Fi network will also be offered. Two hours of Wi-Fi access will cost $3.99, while a monthly membership will be available for $19.99, and will include access to any of AT&T’s 70,000 hot spots in 89 countries around the world. AT&T Wi-Fi access at Starbucks will be rolled out on a market-by-market basis, with implementation beginning this spring and finishing by the end of 2008.

Apple applies for gaming device trademark

  • February 11, 2008
  • Apple

Apple has filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seeking trademark protection in relation to a variety of gaming products. On the application, Apple requests protection of its “Apple” trademark for products that include “Toys, games and playthings, namely, hand-held units for playing electronic games; hand-held units for playing video games; stand alone video game machines; electronic games other than those adapted for use with television receivers only; LCD game machines; electronic educational game machines; toys, namely battery-powered computer games.” Apple currently sells iPod games through the iTunes Store, several of which were developed internally by the company.

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