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U.S./German 16GB iPhone shortages, May replentishment?

Apple appears to be experiencing a widespread shortage of 16GB iPhones, based on checks at multiple Apple retail stores, as well as a report from German iPod publication Ten U.S.-based Apple retail locations contacted by iLounge yielded only one store with the higher-capacity model in stock, while Apple’s online store currently lists a 5-7 business day shipping time on the 16GB model. According to iFun (Translated link), T-Mobile Germany is not currently offering the 16GB version, and the company’s representatives have suggested that the shortage might last until May. Separate checks on the availability of 32GB iPod touch models, which were widely available, suggest that the shortage of 16GB iPhones is not related to Apple’s decreased orders of flash memory, but may instead be attributable to low production of 16GB iPhones, high demand, or merely a reallocation of supplies for international consumption.

Proporta intros Echo Screen Protector for iPhone, iPod touch, nano 3G

Proporta has introduced its Echo Mirrored Screen Protector for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPod nano (with video). The Echo serves a double purpose, functioning as a screen protector for the device when it is in use, and as a silver reflective fashion accessory when the unit is turned off. An application card and screen cleaning cloth are included in the package, and the Echo can also be washed and reapplied. The Proporta Echo Mirrored Screen Protectors for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPod nano (with video) are available now; all three models sell for $10 each.

Apple releases software 1.3 for fifth-generation iPods

Apple has released software 1.3 for fifth generation iPods. According to Apple, the software contains bug fixes, and supersedes all previous versions. iPod Software Version 1.3 for fifth-generation iPods is available now through the Update feature in iTunes.

iPhone launches in Austria, Ireland

Confirming earlier reports of relatively quiet launches, Apple today officially released the iPhone in two additional countries with existing partners: Ireland with O2, and Austria with T-Mobile. Today’s Irish launch of iPhone was announced in late February, mimicking the British launch in several respects but diverging in others. iPhone is available in Ireland through O2 and Carphone Warehouse stores for €399 (8GB) or €499 (16GB), VAT-inclusive, with service plans starting at €45. Irish customers have a 1GB data cap, will not have access to Visual Voicemail, instead paying 15 cents per minute for access to traditional voicemail, and will be required to enter into a new 18 month minimum contract for a purchase. No rollover of minutes or text messages is permitted from month to month.

The Austrian launch of iPhone retains the same iPhone hardware prices (€399/8GB, €499/16GB), but differs in service plan pricing and features. Austria’s Classic plan is offered at €39, with a Supreme plan at €55, both inclusive of 3GB of data, Visual Voicemail, and free T-Mobile Wi-Fi access. The Classic plan includes 1,000 minutes of cell network talk time, but no SMS messages, while the Supreme plan includes 4,000 minutes of total cell and land line talk time, spread 1,000 minutes a piece across four types of networks, plus 1,000 SMS messages per month. Additional charges apply for special calling plans to other countries, and voice/data services when outside of Austrian borders. T-Mobile is selling the iPhone through its Austrian and online stores.

Apple announces dates for 2008 Developer Conference

Apple has announced the dates for its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). This year’s event will be held June 9-13 in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, and for the first time ever, will feature sessions for developers building native applications for the iPhone using the SDK. iPhone sessions scheduled for the event include “Get Started,” “Build Powerful Applications,” “Integrate the Technologies of iPhone,” “Create Engaging Media Experiences,” “Target the Web,” and more. As Apple has stated that iPhone software 2.0 will be released in June, it is possible that should Apple CEO Steve Jobs give a keynote address, the new software would be featured prominently.

iPhone hack stories to continue post-SDK, writers say

For years, iPod hackers were all but ignored as they succeeded in making early iPods run Linux, games, and alternate menu systems. But in 2007, iPhone and Apple TV hackers started to enjoy considerable and favorable publicity, as they released hacks and applications that let the devices perform beyond Apple-imposed limitations. In response, Apple last week opened the door to officially sanctioned third-party software for the iPhone and iPod touch, announcing an inexpensive software development kit, a business model, and a distribution network, while simultaneously implying certain restrictions on developers’ freedom. 

Now that hacks will no longer be needed to create applications for the iPhone and iPod touch, iLounge’s editors wondered whether publications will continue to salute Apple hackers as heroes, or whether they will discontinue coverage of hacks now that Apple has provided an official alternative. We contacted a number of publications to get their views on this subject, and received different responses, generally suggesting that coverage of hacks is here to stay. Here’s what we heard; we will add additional responses as we receive them.

(1) Is iPhone and iPod hacking a good thing now that Apple’s SDK provides a legitimate alternative?

Tom Krazit, CNET News: “So long as Apple maintains a one-carrier, one-country policy, I think there’s going to be iPhone hacking indefinitely. I also think there’s going to be a lot of small independent developers that don’t want to join Apple’s official program, because their applications won’t be approved or they don’t want to pony up the $99, or whatever. ... Is iPhone hacking a good thing? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.”

Jesus Diaz, Gizmodo: “I’m happy with the SDK, and most people will pass now on Installer because Apple’s method is open enough and very easy to use. However, hacking is always a good thing, it pushes the envelope forward. It makes Apple work harder to make the iPhone more secure, and it gives the user more options. Example: today we announced how the Pwnage project gives the user total independence for both carriers and applications. While this may not be useful for most, a big amount of iPhone users will find it extremely useful.”

Webmaster, MacDailyNews: “Hacking will continue in order to attempt to deliver things which Apple has said they will bar. Hacking is both good and bad depending on what it’s used for.”

Kasper Jade, AppleInsider: “...I don’t see hackers backing off anytime soon. It’s an inevitable cat and mouse game; given restrictions, there will always be interest amongst some to breach them. It’s only human nature. And once in a while, a great idea will come out of it.”

John Gruber, Daring Fireball: “I don’t think it was ever ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ It is what it is. It was and remains interesting, from a technical perspective.”

Philip Elmer-DeWitt, Fortune: “Seems to me there were two types of iPhone hacks: 1) efforts to write native apps despite the absence of an SDK and 2) attempts to unlock the phone for use in countries where there was no approved carrier. Now that there’s an SDK, we’ll likely see less of type 1. Type 2 will be with us for some time.”

(2) Do you plan to continue to publish hack-related news now that Apple has released the SDK?

Jesus Diaz, Gizmodo: “Yes.”

Tom Krazit, CNET News: “We’ll continue to cover iPhone hacking. This device and platform is still in its infancy (literally) at under a year old. Those developments will continue to have an impact on how the iPhone is used around the world, and how developers react to Apple’s official program. Also, we don’t know yet exactly how Apple intends to enforce its control over what types of applications get to run on the iPhone, and if Apple is heavy-handed with its approach, iPhone hacking won’t go anywhere.”

Webmaster, MacDailyNews: “Yes. Because it is news.”

Kasper Jade, AppleInsider: “Apple has made its stance on hacked or jail-broken iPhones crystal clear. As such, we’ve ceased coverage of those topics because we feel it’s in the best interest of our readers that we not advocate methods that put their cell phones—arguably the most personal piece of electronics one owns—at unnecessary risk.”

John Gruber, Daring Fireball: “My criteria remain the same: if the news is interesting or important, I publish it. I expect that jailbreak iPhone development will quickly become both less interesting and less important, but if I’m wrong, I won’t hesitate to write about it.”

Philip Elmer-DeWitt, Fortune: “If I think it’s of general interest, I’ll write about it. I suspect there are 3rd party developers who will chafe at the restrictions in the SDK. But there’s no question some of the steam has gone out of the story now that Apple has stepped up to the plate.”

(3) Since these sorts of hacks may violate Apple’s product license terms and invalidate their warranties, what’s your take on what readers should do when a hack interests them, or isn’t that your concern?

Jesus Diaz, Gizmodo: “No need to be concerned. People can always restore the iPhone to an Apple-official firmware and no warranty will be ‘voided.’ AppleCare will never notice that you have installed another firmware. Only paid unlocks, like the one sold by iPhone Sim Free, will remain through restores. Those could probably be detected. But as for and the rest of unlocks out there, once you restore, your iPhone will be in the same state as it came from the factory.

In any case, it’s up to the user to decide what to do. We always tell readers about the possible consequences of hacks. Whoever decides to play with their iPhones in this way, it’s their own business, not Apple’s, not ours.”

Tom Krazit, CNET News: “I think my only obligation to the reader when it comes to iPhone hacking is to remind them that they are breaking the terms of their EULA when they jailbreak or unlock, and that might make it difficult to get service from Apple if something goes wrong. On a related note, I think we need to explain why Apple is taking this approach, that officially created apps are more likely to be secure and reliable than unofficial ones. Other than that, I’m not going to moralize about the ethics of iPhone hacking.”

Webmaster, MacDailyNews: “If users wish to void their warranties, it’s up to them. Some will hack, but most won’t; especially after the 2.0 update is released.”

John Gruber, Daring Fireball: “If users want to use these hacks, they should feel free to, but they must understand that they’re voiding their warranty by doing so and will receive no support from Apple for any adverse effects. This, too, is unchanged from the situation prior to the official SDK release.”

Philip Elmer-DeWitt, Fortune: “My advice? Don’t cross the line if you can’t do the time.”

Thanks to the writers and editors of these publications for sharing your views. As always, we are interested in hearing what our readers think, as well.

Apple patents point to Apple TV DVR capabilities

Several new Apple patent applications recently published online suggest that the company may be working on adding DVR features to the Apple TV in a current or future model. The filings and associated images, originally submitted in October 2006, describe a system of menus, some contextual to video being shown on-screen, for the navigation and selection of TV shows for both live viewing and future recording. One section in particular describes a method for loading programming data — up to one month’s worth — onto a portable device, such as an iPod, for mobile selection of future recordings. These selections would then be synched back to the recorder when the device is returned to the vicinity of the recorder, or placed in an attached docking station. Several of the illustrations show a Mac OS Dock-like menu system for navigation while a program is on the screen, while others show an expanded vertical menu on one side, while the program (or preview) is displayed in an angled video area, not unlike some current Apple TV menus, and also similar to the multiple video chat implementation from the company’s iChat application. While these patents are in no means an indication that Apple intends to release a device with DVR capabilities in the near future, they do show that the company has done extensive research and design in the area. Continue reading for more images of the interface. [via AppleInsider]

Crazy Kart 2 being ported to iPhone

French game developer Int13 has revealed that it has successfully begun porting its Crazy Kart 2 racing game over to the iPhone and iPod touch platform. The game, which appears to be a clone of Nintendo’s Mario Kart series, features a 320x320 playing area, a virtual steering wheel touch control, 3 vehicle classes, 6 different characters, downloadable content, and Wi-Fi online multiplayer. The company said of the release, “Thanks to it’s simplified controls and flexible camera system it was not too hard to adapt it’s interface for the iPhone touch screen, but we’re still evaluating alternatives (like tilt control and landscape display).” On the iPhone’s graphics prowess, they added, “The game is perfectly smooth on the iPhone : constant 60 FPS with a pure software engine, we already plan to work on a sequel with a full 3D accelerated engine to exploit the full potential of the device.” No exact release date has yet been set, but the company is aiming for a July debut. Continue reading to see a YouTube video of the game in action.

Apple sued over iTunes, iPod technology

ZapMedia Services has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple over iTunes and its related media players such as the iPod. According to ZapMedia, the suit comes after multiple attempts to resolve its concerns with Apple, including offering Zap’s patents for license. In question are U.S. Patent Numbers 7,020,704 and 7,343,414, each of which is entitled “System and method for distributing media assets to user devices via a portal synchronized by said user devices.” The suit was filed in the Marshall Division of the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. “The Complaint alleges that ZapMedia Services’ property is being exploited in a manner which is unlawful, and by law ZapMedia Services is therefore entitled to a reasonable royalty on Apple’s revenues related to the infringement,” said Steven G. Hill, of Hill, Kertscher & Wharton, LLP, lead litigation counsel to ZapMedia Services. Robert J. Frohwein, general counsel of ZapMedia Services, said, “When someone takes our vision and our intellectual property without a license after several attempts, we have no option but to protect it through every means available to us.”

Mix: Disney, Intel, iCopy, Gear4, Boston Acoustics

Disney CEO Bob Iger, speaking at the Digital Hollywood Media Summit, has revealed that the company has sold 4 million movies and “40 to 50” million videos through iTunes. According to estimates from Pali Research’s Rich Greenfield, that equates to around $120 million in revenue. [via Mac Rumors]

A slide from an Intel presentation at the recent CeBIT event suggests that the iPhone may be powered by an Intel x86 chip in the future. A picture of the slide shows an image of the iPhone, labeled “Smartphones,” underneath a general heading for devices the company is targeting with its next-generation mobile platform, code named Moorestown. The iPhone currently uses an ARM processor.

A new service called iCopy offers iPhone and iPod touch users a way to copy and paste text within the devices’ Safari and Mail applications, using a bookmark link and browser cookies. The service is free; more information and demonstration videos can be found on the iCopy website.

imageGear4 has introduced the BassStation, a new 2.1 speaker system for iPod that looks strikingly like Apple’s discontinued iPod Hi-Fi. The BassStation features an integrated iPod Dock, a 5-inch subwoofer, 35 Watts of power, a line input, video and audio output, a remote control, and the ability to charge the iPod while docked. It sells for £99.99, or around $200. [via Macworld UK]

imageBoston Acoustics has unveiled its Duo-i AM/FM Stereo with iPod Dock. Features include two full-range 3.5-inch drivers, two auxiliary inputs, audio and video output, dual independent alarms with sleep timer, a remote control, and a high contrast display. It is available now and sells for $200.  [via Engadget]

Japan launches iPod battery probe

Japan has launched an investigation into a possible battery defect in first-generation iPod nano models following a report of one of the devices shooting out sparks while recharging. Citing an official at the trade and economy ministry, the Associated Press reports that a defect is suspected in the first-generation iPod nano, model number MA099J/A, which was sold from September 2005 to Sept. 2006. The report states that the problem surfaced in January, and Apple notified the ministry of the problem in March. No one was injured in the incident. According to an Apple spokesperson in Tokyo, it is still unclear where else besides Japan the model in question was sold. This follows a forum posting from last week, in which an iPod user claimed that his nano “blew up,” starting a small fire that set off his fire alarm. Last October, a first-gen nano user claimed his unit burst into flames while in his pocket. The ministry has instructed Apple Japan to find out the cause of what it is categorizing as a fire and report back to the government.

iPhone Dev Team claims iPhone 2.0 jailbreak, unlock [updated]

Demonstrating their ability to breach Apple’s iPhone software security measures, members of the iPhone Dev Team have announced that they have completed a hack that both jailbreaks and unlocks iPhone firmware 2.0, which is set to be released in June. This firmware, which is apparently distinguished from the demonstration iPhone software included with Apple’s software development kit, includes new parental controls and other never-before-seen iPhone features, in addition to ones demonstrated by Apple during its iPhone Software Roadmap event last week. According to reports, the new procedure directly patches the firmware as opposed to hacking into it via an exploit, which makes it more challenging for Apple to fix. It remains unclear whether the 2.0 software will become available to users prior to its official release, as it has been distributed only to select iPhone developers and enterprise partners.

Update: Video of an iPhone running the hacked 2.0 firmware has been posted online.

Monster ships iSoniCast for iPod

Monster has begun shipping its Monster iSoniCast Wireless Audio Bridge for iPod. The iSoniCast is a two-piece wireless audio bridge that allows users to enjoy music from their iPod over a home stereo system. It uses 2.4GHz wireless transmissions for extended control range and better sound quality, uses intelligent frequency hopping to minimize interference, and offers 4Mbps streaming to eliminate compression artifacts often seen in competing wireless technologies. “Monster’s highly successful family of iPod accessories has a new addition,” explained Noel Lee, The Head Monster. “The Monster iSoniCast Wireless Audio Bridge not only connects the iPod to your home stereo system, but you can use the iPod itself to control music playback on your home stereo wirelessly, with full access to all the familiar iPod controls.” The Monster iSoniCast for iPod is available now and sells for $100.

iPhone SDK hits 100K downloads in four days

Apple has announced that more than 100,000 developers have downloaded the iPhone Software Development Kit in the first four days since its launch on March 6. The iPhone SDK provides developers with the software tools necessary to create native applications for the iPhone and iPod touch. “Developer reaction to the iPhone SDK has been incredible with more than 100,000 downloads in the first four days,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Also, over one million people have watched the launch video on, further demonstrating the incredible interest developers have in creating applications for the iPhone.” During the software roadmap event, Apple also previewed the App Store, which will allow developers to wirelessly deliver their applications to every iPhone and iPod touch user. Several leading developers have demonstrated apps made using the SDK, and overall developer response continues to be positive.

Mix: Search, Stereophile, Ever Green, Samsung

A screenshot taken from Apple’s iPhone Software Roadmap event shows a search icon in the iPhone’s Contacts screen. The icon, which appears at the top of the alphabet, is similar to that of Apple’s Spotlight search icon. Interestingly, the icon appeared on a screenshot shown during the presentation, but was absent from the menu during a demo.

Stereophile has posted a guide to the effects of CD to 128Kbps Fraunhöfer MP3 and AAC format conversion, showing audible and inaudible areas of the audio spectrum that are impacted by CD ripping. After showing how certain audio data is artificially accentuated or lost during encoding, the guide recommends lossless encoding for critical listeners, as it is the only format that preserves an original CD’s sound image bit for bit. [Thanks, Jon]

Ever Green Electronics has launched what it bills as a “100% environmentally sustainable” iPod and iPhone repair and recycling service. “Not only do we offer the best prices in iPod repair, fast service, and an unparalleled recycling program we have taken the steps necessary to be a certified green company,” said Richard Hauf, CEO of EverGreen Electronics. “We see the importance of having incredible customer service while championing the care of the environment. With nearly 200 million iPods and iPhones in circulation, keeping toxins out of our water and landfills is an important part of business today and we are committed to creating sustainable business practices.”

Scott Huang, vice president of mobile communications with Samsung Taiwan, has reportedly resigned his post, and will soon begin working for Apple Taiwan. It is currently unclear what position Huang might fill at Apple.

Apple releases iPod shuffle software 1.0.4

Apple has released software version 1.0.4 for the second-generation iPod shuffle. According to Apple, the update offers enhanced support for 2GB models, contains bug fixes, and supersedes all previous versions. iPod shuffle software version 1.0.4 is available now through the update feature in iTunes.

Apple yet to order NAND flash in 2008?

Apple has yet to begin making large procurements of NAND flash memory in 2008, according to a DigiTimes report. Citing sources at Taiwan memory makers, the article states that Apple bought $1.2-1.3 billion worth of NAND flash over a short time period in 2007, resulting in a rapid price fluctuation in the components. Due to the lack of major orders from Apple, the article suggests, current pricing on multi-level cell NAND flash is below cost, with little seen on the horizon to push prices upward. Apple currently uses MLC NAND memory in all flash-based iPods and iPhones. [via Electronista]

AT&T to raise SMS charges, adds unlimited iPhone plan

AT&T is preparing to raise its rates on SMS messages to $.20 per message beginning March 30, according to a new report. The per-message raise would affect iPhone users who have gone over the 200 monthly messages afforded them in a standard iPhone voice plan. MMS multimedia messages will also see an increase to $.30 per message; the iPhone currently does not offer MMS support. In addition to the SMS rate change, the carrier has also added a new unlimited rate plan for iPhone. The plan, which runs $119.99 a month, includes unlimited voice and data, but still offers only 200 SMS messages a month. It is available now through AT&T.

Lionsgate to offer iTunes Digital Copy on select films

Apple and Lionsgate have announced plans to offer iTunes Digital Copy versions of films on select upcoming DVD and Blu-ray releases. iTunes Digital Copy, which first debuted via a partnership between Apple and Twentieth Century Fox, provides customers who purchase a DVD or Blu-ray disc with an additional, iTunes-compatible digital copy of the movie. The first Lionsgate DVDs to offer the iTunes Digital Copy will be the special edition DVD and Blu-ray releases of “Rambo” and “The Eye,” which will be released May 27 and later this summer, respectively. Lionsgate and Apple plan to ship numerous additional Lionsgate films on DVD with iTunes Digital Copy later this year. “Digital Copy for iTunes is a perfect example of how packaged media and new digital technology can work hand in hand for the benefit of our consumers,” said Steve Beeks, President and co-Chief Operating Officer of Lionsgate. “Building on our longstanding partnership with Apple, Digital Copy for iTunes is yet another innovation designed to provide the consumer with added value while continuing to expand our range of home entertainment choices.” “We’re excited that Lionsgate is delivering so many of their great films on DVD and Blu-ray with an iTunes Digital Copy,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes. “Now movie fans can easily transfer a copy of many Lionsgate films onto iTunes and bring it with them on their iPod or iPhone.”

Sun to develop Java for the iPhone

Sun Microsystems has said that it plans to build a Java Virtual Machine for the iPhone using the recently released iPhone SDK. The program, which will be based on the Java Micro Edition version of Java, will allow applications “as much access to the native functionality of the iPhone as possible,” said Eric Klein, vice president of Java marketing at Sun. “Once our JVM is on the phone, we anticipate that a large number of Java applications would run on the phone,” he added. Future iPhone development plans could include bringing more sophisticated Java Standard Edition and JavaFX technologies to the phone. “It’s a new platform for us. We might be able to bring additional technologies onto the iPhone and the iTouch,” Klein said.

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