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AT&T providing free Wi-Fi to iPhone users

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AT&T has begun offering free Wi-Fi to iPhone-using customers at some of its Wi-Fi hotspot locations, according to several reports. When a participating AT&T Wi-Fi network is accessed by an iPhone user, a specially-formatted page appears offering “Free AT&T Wi-Fi for iPhone.” iPhone users must enter their mobile phone number to gain access, likely indicating that users must also be AT&T customers in order to log on. In its recent announcement of the Wi-Fi partnership with Starbucks, AT&T said it would “soon extend the benefits of Wi-Fi at Starbucks to its wireless customers,” but has yet to make any further announcement concerning Wi-Fi access for iPhone users. It is currently unclear whether this service is being offered at all AT&T hotspots, or just specific locations. A full list of AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots can be found on the company’s site.

Warner Bros. rentals coming to Apple TV same day as DVD

Speaking during an investor conference call, Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner’s CEO, said the company’s Warner Bros. studio will now release movies to the Apple TV and other video-on-demand systems on the same day they are released on DVD. The New York Times reports Warner Bros. has been testing the new approach in recent months, and found that DVD rentals only fell by 3-5 percent. Meanwhile sales of DVDs actually increased, possibly due to the increased promotion. Bewkes went on to say that the shift to digital distribution on “day and date” of DVD release will eliminate some manufacturing and distributing costs, and be beneficial to the company. “Taking a customer and moving that person over from rental-physical [to] VOD day-and-date is like a 60 to 70 percent margin instead of a 20 to 30,” Bewkes said. “So it’s about a three-to-one trade.”

Speaking separately in an interview, Warner Bros. home video president Kevin Tsujihara commented on the current restrictions of the DRM found on digital video rentals, such as the 24-hour viewing window. Tsujihara said the rules were built into complex contracts, but admitted that if Time Warner wants the higher margins from video-on-demand, it will need to ensure the rules for a digital rental are at least as lenient as a physical rental.

Mix: ChangeWave, Latin America, Apple TV Linux, Check Point VPN

  • April 30, 2008

ChangeWave has released the results of its latest smart phone survey, which focused on the likes and dislikes of iPhone and BlackBerry owners. Unsurprisingly, email access was the feature BlackBerry users liked best by an overwhelming margin, while the iPhone’s integration of phone, iPod, and web browser was listed as the best feature by its users, with the touch screen interface and ease of use running second and third, respectively. iPhone users went on to say that 3G capability was the feature they would most like to see added to the device, followed by third-party software and GPS.

Citing people familiar with the situation, a report from Spanish financial daily Cinco Dias claims that Apple plans to launch the iPhone in Latin America without carrier exclusivity, instead opting to offer the device through various companies in the same country. Thus far, Apple has chosen to sign exclusivity deals with carriers in each of the countries where the iPhone is currently offered, but has hinted it’s open to other business models that might suit its needs.

A new bootloader allowing Apple TV owners to install Linux on the machine has been released. The atv-bootloader can also boot Linux from any mass storage device, including external drives connected via USB, and the developers’ site suggests that Linux-specific drivers may permit true 1080i MPEG-2 video output, which isn’t accomplished with Apple’s own operating system. [via TUAW]

Check Point Software has announced iPhone support for its popular Check Point VPN-1 integrated firewall solution. The software enables an encrypted connection between the iPhone and VPN-1 gateway, protecting in-transit data. “With the success of the iPhone, IT departments received multiple requests to connect the new devices to the corporate network,” said Bob Egner, vice president of product management at Check Point. “The diversity of personal equipment in the work place makes the enforcement of security policies difficult. For the iPhone, Check Point created a simple configuration that provides instant, secure connectivity through VPN-1 gateways.” Check Point VPN-1 support for the iPhone is available immediately.

Russian interest in iPhone growing

A group of Russian leaders were recently seen passing around an iPhone at a business conference, the latest indicator of Russian interest in the phone, according to a new report. Citing a journalist attending the conference, the Washington Post reports that Dmitry Kozak, the Russian minister of regional development, was seen showing the device to Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president-elect, and Alexander Tkachev, the local governor. According to Eldar Murtazin, head of analysis for Mobile Research Group in Moscow, there are approximately 500,000 iPhone users in Russia—a number that seems overly optimistic, as it would dwarf Apple’s sanctioned sales in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, and German. Murtazin claims that iPhone sales in the country are third-highest in the world, after the U.S. and China, adding, “Russian people love anything that is forbidden.” The report goes on to state the iPhone has become commonplace at the Kremlin and in Russia’s parliament, and is now widely available at electronics stores and through Internet sales across the former Soviet Union.

Photo of the Week: iPhone in Tulum, Mexico

Beginning today, each Wednesday on iLounge we’ll be spotlighting another reader-submitted picture from our galleries as the Photo of the Week. This week’s photo is from our iPhones Around the World gallery, and shows an iPhone on location at the Mayan Ruins in Tulum, Mexico. To share your photos and to be considered for our Photo of the Week, you simply need to submit your own photo to one of our galleries. So get out there, take some pictures with your iPod or iPhone, and maybe your submission will be our next Photo of the Week!

AT&T to subsidize 3G iPhone?

AT&T plans to subsidize as much as $200 of the price of the 3G iPhone, according to a Fortune report. Citing a person “familiar with the strategy,” the report states that the subsidy would bring the price of the base-model 3G iPhone to $199 for customers who sign two-year contracts, a price that would help AT&T lure more customers away from rival carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Subsidized iPhones will reportedly be available only through AT&T and not at Apple Stores, and may feature more robust locking techniques in hopes of preventing customers from using the cheaper phones with other services or carriers. The report goes on to say that Apple will cease shipments of the current-generation iPhone roughly two weeks before the 3G iPhone’s likely June 27 debut, and that the new model will be 2.5mm thinner than the original, and will sport true GPS capabilities, as well.

AT&T intros iPhone Text Accessibility Plan

AT&T has announced its new Text Accessibility Plan (TAP) for iPhone, designed to give customers with disabilities access to all the iPhone’s non-voice communication abilities without having to pay for voice service. The plan will include unlimited text messaging, web browsing and e-mail for $40 a month, and is available to new and current iPhone users with qualifying disabilities through AT&T’s National Center for Customers with Disabilities. “Our Text Accessibility Plan allows customers who are deaf or have hearing or speech disabilities to literally tap out their communications on the go,” said Carlton Hill, vice president of Product Management, Voice Products and Affiliate Marketing for AT&T’s wireless unit. “Now with TAP for iPhone, users can tap, flick and pinch the innovative Multi-Touch touch screen for a completely new world of functionality.” For more information about AT&T’s NCCD or other offerings for customers with disabilities, visit the company’s disability resources web page; Apple also offers a page explaining the accessibility features of the iPhone.

Report: New iPhone to be lighter, smaller?

Following yesterday’s report that Hon Hai has been instructed by Apple to begin preparing material supplies for the 3G iPhone, the Taiwan Economic News has printed a story containing supposed specifications of the new handset. According to the report, the new iPhone will weigh between 3.9 and 4.2 oz., compared with the current model’s weight of 5.6 oz. A new plastic casing is said to help with the weight reduction, along with a new, smaller LCD screen measuring 2.8 inches, down from the current iPhone’s 3.5-inch screen. As a screen size reduction of this sort would likely impact use of the touchscreen for keyboard-style input, it is possible that these reports refer to a separate, smaller “iPhone mini” or “iPhone nano” model, rather than a complete successor to the original iPhone. [via AppleInsider]

BBC America programming now available on iTunes

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The BBC has announced that programming from BBC America is now available on the iTunes Store. Beginning today, customers can purchase single episodes and complete seasons of the BBC AMERICA series “Torchwood,” “Little Britain,” and “Robin Hood.” During the run of its new season, which began Saturday, each “Robin Hood” episode will be available on iTunes 24 hours after its premiere. “BBC is delighted to provide U.S. audiences with the unique ability to purchase and download select award-winning BBC America programming on the iTunes Store,” said Beth Clearfield, Vice President of Digital Media and Business Development, BBC Worldwide America. “As the first U.K. broadcaster available in the U.S., BBC is leveraging its trusted international brand in entertainment to provide our audiences with a first-rate digital experience.” The BBC was the first UK broadcaster to offer television programs on iTunes in the UK, and also offers its iPlayer service for users of the iPhone and iPod touch.

Rogers to offer iPhone in Canada [updated]

After more than a year of rumors, Rogers Wireless has confirmed that it will offer the iPhone in Canada, and will launch the handset later this year. Ted Rogers, President and CEO of Rogers Communications, said in an official statement: “We’re thrilled to announce that we have a deal with Apple to bring the iPhone to Canada later this year. We can’t tell you any more about it right now, but stay tuned.” Rogers Wireless is the largest Canadian wireless communications service provider.

Update: Toronto’s CityNews has posted a video of Rogers’ announcement, as well as some interviews and commentary .

Belkin launches new pink ribbon cases for iPod nano

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Continuing its its fundraising efforts for breast cancer research, Belkin has introduced four new pink ribbon cases for the iPod nano (with video). For each case sold, Belkin will donate $2.50 to help fund breast cancer research through Komen for the Cure (with a minimum guaranteed donation of $225,000). The new pink ribbon cases include the Sport Armband, a neoprene sport case with an integrated screen and Click Wheel protector, the Leather Sleeve, which features suede lining and a Click Wheel and Screen protector, the Slim Fit, a lightweight neoprene case with built-in clip, and the Remix Metal, an acrylic and brushed metal case with a soft touch Click Wheel protector. All four cases are available now, and sell for $25 each.

Vestalife Ladybug Giveaway extended until May 1

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Good news for those readers that haven’t yet entered our Vestalife Ladybug Giveaway: the contest is being extended until May 1. In the contest, iLounge and Vestalife are giving away four Vestalife Ladybug Speaker Systems to lucky readers. To enter, visit the official giveaway page, and fill out and submit the simple form provided. The contest now runs until May 1, 2008 at 11:59 PM Pacific Time and only one entry is allowed per person; official rules can be found on the giveaway page. Good luck!

Mix: Grey market, Colorware, Foxconn, Muxo subtitles

  • April 28, 2008

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Apple has issued cease-and-desist letters to 11 UK online retailers selling iPods imported from outside the country. According to a Channel Register report, the retailers were buying iPods in the US for less than they would pay in the UK, and then reselling them back in their own country. Apple has requested that the retailers stop selling the grey market iPods and provide details of the state-side suppliers that sold them.

Colorware has launched its new “Stealth” matte black iPhone coloring option. The Stealth color option (pictured) is available only on new units ordered through Colorware, and includes the new matte black finish on the back, logo, frame, home button, dock, and earbuds. The Colorware Stealth iPhone is available now and sells for $675 (8GB) and $775 (16GB).

According to a Commercial Times report, Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (also known as Foxconn) has been instructed by Apple to begin preparing material supplies for the 3G iPhone by the end of May. Citing sources at foreign institutional investors, the paper says that shipments of the 3G iPhone are expected to top 3 million units in June alone, and will likely reach a total of 24-25 million units by the end of the product’s life cycle. A previous report indicated Hon Hai had been awarded an exclusive contract to build a more advanced iPhone; the company is currently the sole manufacturer of the first-generation iPhone.

A member of the Handbrake forums has released Muxo, a utility for Mac OS X that allows users to add soft subtitles to mp4 files. Soft subtitles, which are supported on both the iPhone and iPod touch, can be turned on and off, instead of being hard-encoded into the video. The tool is currently in the early stages of development (the latest version is 0.3.3), and it requires a valid SRT file. More information can be found in this forum thread; Muxo is available as a free download from this link. [via TUAW]

Apple celebrates fifth anniversary of iTunes Store [updated]

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Apple has launched a special promo section on the iTunes Store celebrating the fifth anniversary of the store’s launch. “iTunes Turns Five” features a look back at bestselling and staff-recommended media from each of the store’s five years of operation. Launched on April 28, 2003, the iTunes Music Store initially offered “more than 200,000 songs and a handful of exclusive tracks.” Over the years it has grown to offer more than 10 million songs, as well as movies, TV shows, iPod games, podcasts, audiobooks, and music videos, a diversification reflected when the store dropped the word “Music” from its name. As such, each year spotlighted in the promotion represents the content available that year; for instance, 2003’s promo page features only music, while 2005’s page spotlights music as well as TV programming (launched on October 12 of that year), podcasts, and audiobooks. The iTunes Store is now the largest music retailer in the U.S., and has sold more than 4 billion songs.

Update: Following the publication of this story, Apple made alterations to the iTunes Turns Five promo pages to change the number of songs available on the iTunes Store from 10 million to 6 million; no explanation has been given for the change.

Apple building iTunes controller for iPhone, iPod touch?

Following an inspection of code found in the latest build of the iPhone 2.0 beta firmware, Apple appears to be working on a new mobile iTunes management application, possibly called “Remote,” for the iPhone and iPod touch. Based on the code and information allegedly provided by a developer to TUAW, the application would allow the devices to connect wirelessly to, and play videos, podcasts, and music from local iTunes libraries. Screenshots taken of the program and its internal code (Translated Link) show that the program may have been developed under the name “MobileRemote,” matching the internal names of other iPhone and iPod touch applications, such as “MobileMail,” “MobileSafari,” and “MobileAddressBook.”

Apple airs new silhouette iPod+iTunes TV ad

  • April 28, 2008

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Apple has begun airing a new silhouette iPod television ad which has been posted on its website. The spot is the first since May 2007 to feature the company’s silhouetted dancers theme, and features bright colors and geometric shapes in the background, all moving to the song “Shut Up and Let Me Go” by The Ting Tings. The ad is now available for viewing at itunes.com.

iPodweek newsletter coming later today

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The latest edition of iPodweek, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, is coming later today. iPodweek is a weekly summary of the best iPod news, reviews, and feature articles we’ve published, and it also features giveaways and iPod accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.

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Nike patent explores possible Nike + iPod system additions

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A recently published Nike patent application has revealed several possible new functions and potential hardware expansions of the current Nike + iPod Sport Kit system. The application, number 20080096726, is titled “Athletic Performance Sensing and/or Tracking Systems and Methods,” and describes an athletic performance control system with an interface that allows selection of desired workout intensity, as well as a way to offer a revised or modified workout routine based on the user’s selections. An iPod or iPhone could potentially serve as the control system, as the iPod is specifically mentioned in several points in the application as a possible control device. Nike has also previously stated that it plans to expand Nike+ to include the iPhone and iPod touch.

Components in the new system could include sensors to monitor a markedly increased number of physical or physiological characteristics during the workout, including speed, distance, and time information, which could be then compared against the media content playing during the workout or routine. For instance, the system would be able to know if a user sped up or slowed down in response to a certain song being played, and could offer the user a choice of adding or removing the song from the workout routine playlist. The patent goes on to describe many sensors differing from the current Nike + iPod Sport Kit, with the potential for the collection of data for pulse rate, body temperature, blood pressure, hydration levels, ambient temperature, heart rate, EKG data, humidity, barometric pressure, sole compression, air intake and volume, air expel rate and volume, EEG data, blood gas content, and more.

While the current Nike + iPod system is only meant for monitoring performance metrics while running or jogging, the system described in the patent could potentially be used for other athletic activities, such as using training machines such as stair climbers and elliptical machines, team-based and individual sports, yoga, martial arts, and more. The patent also describes a rewards system for the achievement of fitness or athletic goals, one of the many ways it parallels previous Apple patent filings, which described a digital fitness program for iTunes and touchscreen digital media devices. As with all patent filings, however, this one does not necessarily represent any future product release, and may describe features broader than actual products solely to protect them against competitors. [via MacNN]

UK’s O2, Carphone Warehouse sold out of 8GB iPhones, not restocking [updated]

UK cellular retailer Carphone Warehouse has sent out an email indicating that it is out of 8GB iPhones, and does not expect to be restocked. The email, sent to publishers running a promotion for the recent price cut on the 8GB model, says: “Thanks to the most phenomenal response to the promotion, The Carphone Warehouse is now out of stock on the Apple iPhone. Please can you remove all reference to the iPhone promotion in your copy. We apologize for the short notice but would like to thank everyone who participated in the campaign. Carphone do not expect to receive any additional stock at this time.” An earlier report indicated that the price cut had boosted sales, with O2 locations in Newcastle, Birmingham, and London reporting sell-outs of the 8GB model, and one Carphone Warehouse employee indicating that sales had “doubled” since the promotion began. [via Fortune]

Update: According to an internal O2 memo received by Engadget, the 8GB iPhone has been moved to end-of-life status by the UK iPhone carrier. “Due to the highly successful sales of the Apple 8GB I-Phone [sic], supply chain have today run out of stock & will not be replenishing stock of this product as it has now gone to end of life,” the memo states.

iPod shuffle poll ends, Videos on your iPod poll opens

Interrupted during our transition to the updated iLounge web site, the last iLounge Poll, “How will Apple’s new $49/$69 iPod shuffles affect you?” has just ended. Though a 47% response rate to the option “I don’t care; I wouldn’t buy one” would suggest a general lack of interest in this iPod model, that number left 53% of responding readers as either shuffle owners or interested in some way in the shuffle lineup. Fifteen percent said that they were more likely to buy a shuffle as a gift, 12% were more likely to buy one for themselves, and 9% more likely to do both. The remaining 16% already had shuffles, and indicated that they didn’t care about the lower prices for any reason. Thanks for your responses!

With discussions about video iPods reaching historic heights in recent weeks, we’ve just opened our new poll, “What type of videos are you watching on your iPod or iPhone?” We’re not looking for genre responses—we want to know how you’re getting videos onto your iPod. Are you a buyer, free downloader, DVD ripper, or combination? Cast your vote from the main iLounge.com homepage by looking for the iLounge Poll header in the left hand column, and click on the arrows to open the poll. We look forward to your responses!

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