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Mix: 3G iPhone concern, Apple patent, iPod slowdown, Bandwidth hog

  • April 24, 2008

The Chicago Tribune’s RedEye is expressing concern over buying iPhone accessories before the launch of the 3G model, expected later this year. “I can’t buy those headphones because I have no way of being 100 percent sure that the plug will fit into the next iPhone,” RedEye’s Scott Kleinberg writes. “And this problem isn’t just with these headphones, of course. I can’t see myself purchasing an iPod speaker or any special kind of dock. The pin connector at the bottom could change drastically between now and the 3G iPhone launch.”

An illustration found in a newly-published Apple patent filing covering the handling of “Structured Electronic Documents” on a portable device - websites, in other words - shows a “Share” feature of the Safari browser yet to appear in any iPhone software release. The feature, which is shown as accessed via a button labeled “Share” appearing in the upper-left corner of the screen when entering a URL, would allow users to send a link to the URL via email or SMS, or email the content of the page. It is unknown whether this feature will appear in a future release of the iPhone software, however, the features appear to have been dropped for practicality reasons, and Share transformed into “+” for the current-generation iPhone software. [via MacNN]

Given the iPod’s decelerating sales growth, New York Times editor Saul Hansell has written an article explaining how Apple is preparing for an iPod slump. Hansell first points to the continuing stream of revenue generated by current iPod owners in the form of music and accessories — a category which brought in $881 million for the company last quarter. This, Hansell believes, combined with the transition of the iPod from a media player into a pocketable computer like the iPod touch, along with strong iPhone and Mac sales, will help Apple overcome any decline in iPod sales it would otherwise face.

Shaw Wu, analyst with American Technology Research, recently told Fortune that the average iPhone user consumes a considerably greater amount of data bandwidth than the typical cellular device user, to the extent that it could affect Apple’s dealings with carriers. “Our sources indicate that the success of iPhone with its Safari web browser is putting strain on AT&T’s EDGE network in areas with higher user density. We have been told that iPhone users are consuming ‘well over’ 100 MB per month (compared to Blackberry around 10 MB,” Wu said. The analyst suggests that carriers will offer fewer incentives to potential iPhone customers because of the additional data burdens they place on the networks.

Apple releases fourth iPhone SDK beta, adds OpenGL ES support

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Apple has released its fourth update to the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) beta, which adds OpenGL ES support to the iPhone Simulator application, amongst other improvements. The new release, which is available as a free download for registered iPhone developers from the iPhone Dev Center, is a 1.15GB download, and is listed as build 9M2165, beta 4. Apple has posted complete release notes here. We will update this story with any new information we discover.

Update: Following installation of the updated SDK, we have found it includes an updated build (55) of the iPhone Simulator application, which is running an updated version of the iPhone OS, version 2.0 (5A258f). In addition, the Contacts application in the iPhone Simulator now features a search bar at the top, which was previously revealed in the iPhone 2.0 Enterprise beta.

Notes from Q2 2008 Apple Conference Call

In its second-quarter 2008 Quarterly Results Conference Call, Apple Inc. executives CFO Peter Oppenheimer and COO Tim Cook made several comments concerning its music-related products, which accounted for 36% of the company’s total revenue in the second fiscal quarter. During his opening remarks, Oppenheimer revealed that Apple’s share of the U.S. MP3 market was 73% for the quarter, according to data from the NPD Group. He also discussed the enthusiastic developer response to the iPhone SDK, which has now seen more than 200,000 downloads. Over one-third of the Fortune 500 has applied to Apple’s iPhone 2.0 beta Enterprise program, along with over 400 higher-education institutions. Due to the pre-announcement of the iPhone 2.0 software on March 6th, Apple also plans to defer revenue of new iPhone sales until after the release of the 2.0 software, which both executives repeatedly said will come in “late June.”

Speaking about iPhone inventory and recent supply problems, Tim Cook said, “In terms of the shortages, we expected iPhone to decline more on a sequential basis than it did… as we got towards the end of the quarter we began to experience stock-outs. Our US stores have experienced more stockouts, relatively more… we believe that more iPhones are bought there with the intention of unlocking.” Cook went on to explain that iPhone revenue would be deferred “because the customers who purchased after March 6th were presumably aware of the free software upgrade when they purchased the phone,” and also said that iPhone carrier partners “are free to price the iPhone as low as they wish.”

Cook declined to comment on whether Apple sold more iPhones in Europe specifically than expected — there was a suggestion that it did not — but he did say, “In total, we sold more than we expected. We expected a sharper seasonal decline than what we experienced.” He also noted that once units have been shipped to one of Apple’s carrier partners, they can’t be easily pulled out and re-shipped to another partner. “Once the unit’s already shipped and designated to a carrier, the ability to move them around is very low,” Cook said.

Apple Q2 2008: 10.644m iPods, 1.7m iPhones sold

Reporting its second quarter financial results today, Apple said it sold 10.6 million iPods during the quarter—on par with most analyst predictions, and pushing the total number of iPods sold to just over 152 million. Despite Apple’s dramatic iPod shuffle price drop during the quarter, which saw the iPod family for the first time become accessible at the $49 price point, iPod sales were almost flat compared to the year-ago quarter, with only 1% growth in unit sales, and 8% growth in revenues. It also sold 1.7 million iPhones in the quarter, bringing the total number of units sold up to 5.4 million as of March 31, a number that is likely over 6 million by now.

The company posted revenue of $7.51 billion and net quarterly profit of $1.05 billion, or $1.16 per diluted share, compared with revenue of $5.26 billion and net quarterly profit of $770 million, or $.87 per diluted share in Q2 2007. Sales of Other Music Related Products + Services were up 35% over the year-ago quarter and 9% over the first quarter of 2008, to $881 million total. That category includes iTunes Store sales, iPod services, and revenues from Apple and third-party iPod accessories. Total iPhone revenue, including carrier agreements and all iPhone accessories from Apple and third parties, was $412m, up 57% over the preceding quarter despite a 26% drop in unit sales.

“We’re delighted to report 43 percent revenue growth and the strongest March quarter revenue and earnings in Apple’s history,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “With over $17 billion in revenue for the first half of our fiscal year, we have strong momentum to launch some terrific new products in the coming quarters.”

“We’re thrilled to have generated $4 billion in cash flow from operations in the first half of fiscal 2008, yielding an ending cash balance of $19.4 billion,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the third quarter of fiscal 2008, we expect revenue of about $7.2 billion and earnings per diluted share of about $1.00.”

Mix: Apple Q2, iTunes video problems, Sony buys Gracenote, Apple buys P.A. Semi

  • April 23, 2008

Apple will report its results for the second fiscal quarter 2008 later this afternoon, and will also offer a webcast of the conference call discussing the results that will begin at 5pm EDT.

A number of fifth-generation iPod users are reporting playback problems with some recently-released TV episodes from the iTunes Store. According to several users in a lengthy Apple Support discussion thread, the offending episodes transfer to other iPods correctly, and can be played in iTunes and on other video-capable Apple products, but not on fifth-generation iPod models. [via AppleInsider]

Sony Corporation of America has announced its acquisition of Gracenote, Inc. for approximately $260 million. Gracenote, formerly known as CDDB, powers iTunes’ “Get CD Track Names” feature, and also provides services to Yahoo! Music jukebox, Winamp, and products from Alpine, Panasonic, Sony, and others.

Apple has confirmed an agreement to purchase microprocessor design firm P.A. Semi. The 150-person company is known for its design of sophisticated, low-power chips, and is said to have been purchased for around $278 million in cash. Though there has been speculation that the acquisition is intended to provide a new iPhone processor, and the company’s patent and design portfolios may eventually aid in pocket-sized products, P.A. Semi’s past work has focused on chips best suited to laptops. Apple spokesman Steve Dowling told Forbes, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not comment on our purposes and plans.”

Macally TurboTune compact speakers coming soon

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As a sequel to its AP-A111 pocket speaker, formerly known as PodWave, Macally has announced TurboTune. Like AP-A111, TurboTune is a compact speaker system with an integrated 3.5mm headphone jack for connecting directly to an iPod or other headphone-ready audio source. Macally includes a 760mAh rechargeable Lithium-ion battery good for up to eight hours of continuous play, stereo speakers with 500mW of power output per channel, a LED charging indicator, and a mini-USB port for recharging the battery. The Macally TurboTune will be available soon for $30; owners of fifth-generation iPods and iPod classics can look instead to PowerTune, a 4-in-1 speaker, battery charger, case, and stand that offers expanded functionality and is currently available for $35.

Mix: iPhone patent, Apple in China, ITV, iPhone clones, iTunes boots homophobes

  • April 22, 2008

Apple has received a patent covering messaging on portable touchscreen devices (such as the iPhone), which goes beyond SMS to cover web-based instant messaging as well. Published in March, the patent is titled “portable device for instant messaging” and includes images depicting a user interface much like that of the iPhone’s SMS application, with patent claims covering the device’s unique ability to use a contacts database to group together all messages from one person, regardless of the phone number or electronic addresses he issending the messages from.

A new Apple store-within-a-store has been unveiled at a Shanghai area Best Buy. The store-in-store, Apple’s first in mainland China, was awarded to the Xuhui Best Buy due to that location being the leading retailer of Apple products in China in 2007. According to reports, the store-within-a-store occupies a total area of about 50 sq. meters, and displays more than 60 different Apple computers, devices, and accessories.

Programming from ITV has been added to the iTunes Store in the UK. Currently available programs include “Lewis,” “Brideshead Revisited,” “Captain Scarlet,” “Goodnight Mr. Tom,” “Cold Feet,” and “The Saint.” The Store’s ITV page also suggests that more shows will be added “soon.” [via Macworld UK]

Apple has begun aggressively pursuing iPhone clone dealers, according to a TG Daily report. Simon Rimmer, managing director of UK reseller Digital Playground, said that Apple’s legal team sent it a letter threatening legal action. Apple said Digital Playground had infringed on its designs by importing, marketing, and offering cloned iPhones which gave “the same overall impression as Apple’s registered design.” Rimmer settled with Apple out of court; as a result of the agreement he must stop selling iPhone clones, send Apple his remaining stock, reveal how many he imported, offered, and sold, as well as revealing his supplier.

Faced with pressure from several Canadian gay/lesbian rights organizations including Stop Murder Music, iTunes has pulled select songs, and in some cases entire albums, from certain artists whose lyrics were said to be homophobic. “Boom Bye Bye” by Buju Banton, as well as other selections from artists T.O.K. and Elephant Man have been removed from the iTunes Store. Akim Larcher, founder of Canada-based Stop Murder Music, said “this is an historic victory for the LGBT community here in Canada and in the Caribbean. iTunes is exercising its corporate responsibility by pulling this murder music and raising the bar for other retailers and distributors to do the same.” [via Broward-Palm Beach New Times]

DLO releases 2008 TransDock, Classic, and Micro FM transmitter-chargers [updated]

In an unexpected family-wide refresh of its lineup of combination car chargers and FM transmitters, Digital Lifestyle Outfitters has released new 2008 model TransDock, TransDock Classic, and TransDock Micro FM transmitter/chargers, each featuring an Intellitune button that automatically scans for unused FM stations.

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The TransDock Classic borrows the form factor of the 2005-model TransDock, but guarantees compatibility with the latest iPods, adds Intellitune, and omits a video-out feature found in the 2007 update of TransDock. TransDock Classic is priced at $80, and uses pipe-style charging and extension arms to mount in your car’s cigarette lighter power port. The 2008 TransDock sports a completely new design—a refined look with a thinner iPod cradle, a white-on-black display, compatibility with the latest iPod models, and the ability to charge the iPod while docked. It also features an 8” flexible arm and power adapter, an AV-Out port, and an auxiliary input, with the whole package selling for $100. The new DLO TransDock Micro is based upon the 2006 accessory of the same name, but features an updated look, with a round-ended black and metal charging stem replacing the former model’s squarish design. The integrated display is now white-on-black, instead of black-on-blue, and the new model drops the former’s USB connector and included USB-to-Dock Connector cable in lieu of a permanently attached alternative. Unlike the other TransDocks, TransDock Micro does not serve as an iPod mount, and sells for $60.

Mahjong re-released for iPod classic, iPod nano 3G

  • April 22, 2008
  • iPod

Electronic Arts’ Mahjong, one of seven games previously dropped from the iTunes Store due to their lack of compatibility with the current-generation iPod classic and iPod nano, has been re-released in an updated, fully-compatible form. The title was one of nine original iPod games to debut alongside the upgraded fifth-generation iPod in Sept. 2006, and is based on the traditional Chinese board game. It offers three game modes, 72 different tile layouts, and sells for $5.

Power Support Japan rolls out new iPod touch accessories

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Power Support Japan has introduced several new accessories for the iPod touch. The iPod touch Air Jacket Set (Translated link) is a super-thin rear hard shell offered with black rubber coating, two screen protectors (one anti-glare, one crystal), a Dock Connector port cover and a Dock Connector plug cap. The set aims offers coverage for basically everything except the iPod touch’s bezel, especially the chrome rear shell, while preserving the slimness of the touch — the thickness of the shell is 0.7mm. The set is also available in a clear black version, which sells for the equivalent of $19, while the black rubber version runs the equivalent of $22.

imageAlong with the Air Jacket Set, Power Support has debuted two mounting solutions compatible with the Set. The iPod touch Cup Stand Air is an aluminum cupholder car mount with a pivoting joint to display an iPod touch in the user’s preferred orientation. It utilizes two pivoting ball joints, works with the iPod touch Air Jacket series, and sells for the equivalent of $58. Finally, the Fix Stand Air is a dashboard mount version of the Cup Stand, with pivoting features, metal construction, and compatibility with the Air Jacket. It sells for the equivalent of $29, and comes with double-sided tape for mounting.

Proporta debuts Echo Mirror Case for iPod nano

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Proporta has introduced its Echo Mirror Case for the iPod nano (with video). The Echo is a two-piece hard case that snaps together with a secure closure. It features a mirrored, built-in screen protector that allows use of the nano when the screen is lit, doubling as a mirror when it’s dark. The Echo also offers open access to the nano’s Click Wheel and headphone jack. The Proporta Echo Mirror Case for the iPod nano (with video) is available now and sells for $20.

iLounge reader comments, now spotlighted

Quietly added yesterday afternoon to the news column on our main page, our new Spotlighted Reader box highlights a particularly noteworthy or insightful comment recently posted by an iLounge reader. Found midway between news articles in a gray box, today’s comment is from reader Anti-Luddite, discussing a way to improve Apple TV. The first comment spotlighted was an amusing post from reader Dyvim, discussing the story Retailer offers kalbi beef-styled iPod case. We look forward to spotlighting your comment soon!

O2 price cut boosts iPhone sales

UK iPhone carrier O2’s move to temporarily lower the 8GB iPhone’s price by £100 has boosted sales, according to a Mobile Today report. O2 stores in Newcastle, Birmingham, and London said they sold out of the 8GB model on the day the price cuts; the stores are expecting more iPhones to be delivered this weekend. An employee at Carphone Warehouse’s flagship Oxford Street store said sales had doubled, from 30 to 60 iPhones per day, while another Warehouse employee added: “We usually sell one or two a day, but yesterday we sold about 20 – it was like launch day again.” The price reduction, which was announced last week, applies to all 8GB iPhones purchased with an O2 iPhone tariff, and will run through June 1.

Report: TIM to launch 3G iPhone in June

Italian carrier Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) is set to launch the 3G iPhone in June, according to a new report. La Repubblica, a well-respected Italian daily, claims (Translated Link) the Italian selling price of the 3G iPhone may be substantially higher due to the lack of a revenue sharing agreement, and that TIM would begin carrying the phone several months before competitors in lieu of long-term exclusivity. It is unclear whether a change of this sort in carrier strategy by Apple would be a result of apparently slower than expected iPhone sales in Europe that have led to recent price-cuts on the phone in the UK and Germany. Evidence of a potential iPhone deal with TIM has notably been found in the device’s firmware, dating back to version 1.1.2, however, the iPhone still has not officially launched in Italy. [via Engadget]

Retailer offers kalbi beef-styled iPod case

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A retailer based in Japan is now offering Kalbi Pod Rare (Translated link), a bizarre third-generation iPod nano case designed to look to look like a piece of Korean kalbi beef. Regularly sold for the equivalent of $90, the plastic case has been textured and colored to resemble meat from Wagyu cattle, which is used for production of Japan’s high-grade Kobe beef. Kalbi Pod Rare offers open access to all ports and controls, and comes in a meat container-styled package, complete with an outer plastic wrapper, inner absorbent foam, and barcode label that looks like it was on a supermarket shelf. The retailer, Rakuten, also sells less expensive business card holders made from the same material. Kalbi Pod Rare is currently sold out, but available for a May delivery in Japan at a discounted price of $70. [via dVICE]

iStyles intros Crystal Case for iPod nano

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iStyles has introduced its Crystal Case for iPod nano (with video). The Crystal is a two-piece hard case made from translucent impact-resistant polycarbonate, and features built-in screen protection, open access to the nano’s Click Wheel and headphone jack, and a flip-down Dock Connector door for added protection. The iStyles Crystal Case for iPod nano (with video) is available now in five translucent colors and sells for $10.

iPodweek newsletter coming later today, sign up now

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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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European carriers facing losses on first-gen iPhone

European iPhone carriers are facing “significant losses” on unsold first-generation iPhone stocks as they attempt to clear shelves for the arrival of the 3G model, according to The Times Online, which reports that both O2 in the UK and T-Mobile in Germany overestimated the number of iPhone units that would sell in Europe. Kathryn Huberty, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, said losses on the early model would be “significant” due to recent price cuts announced by both companies, despite the promise of monthly revenue from new iPhone customers. The article suggests the cuts are part of a move to empty inventories ahead of the 3G iPhone launch, which expected later this year. An O2 spokeswoman, however, said the price cut was “not a reactive move but part of a well thought out strategy of maximizing the success of the iPhone in the UK.” As we reported earlier, Orange, the iPhone’s carrier in France, is said to be in talks with Apple over similar price cuts for the iPhone; neither O2 Ireland or T-Mobile Austria yet appear to be involved in the proposed cuts.

Apple, Orange negotiating iPhone price cut

Apple and Orange are in talks to lower the price of the iPhone in France, according to a report from French business daily Les Echos. Citing a source close to Orange, the article says that Apple is encouraging Orange to adopt the subsidized pricing model, currently being used by O2 in the UK and T-Mobile Germany to sell iPhones with mobile contracts, in order to boost sales. Orange is said to be seeking a revision in its revenue-sharing agreement with Apple in return for subsidizing the phone; however, the company told Les Echos there was “no question of changing the business model of the iPhone,” adding that “everything is going well.” According to the report, sales of the iPhone in France have reached 100,000 units since its launch on November 29, 2007.

Mix: iPhone in India, Ireland, and Switzerland

  • April 17, 2008

Apple may launch the iPhone in India this year, according to a new report. The Business Standard, citing “Apple sources,” says the 8GB model will appear on the market first, with Vodafone as the carrier. “The carrier deal for India is being worked out with Vodafone,” said the source, adding: “Vodafone could also become the carrier for the Australian market once iPhone is launched there, though more than one carrier is likely for Australia.” The report states that the 16GB model’s launch may be staggered to the middle of 2009, “based on buyer response.”

Despite the recent, limited-time price reduction on the 8GB iPhone by O2 in the UK, the company claims it has no plans of extending the discount to customers in Ireland. “At present, we have no plans to introduce a similar promotional offer,” said the company. “However, as with all our products and services, we will continue to review our pricing strategy for the iPhone on an ongoing basis.”

There are 34,200 active iPhones operating in Switzerland (subscription req.), according to a report from Swiss newspaper Heute. Citing spokespersons from Swiss carriers Orange Switzerland, Sunrise, and Swisscom, the paper reports that the number of active iPhones on Swisscom grew from 13,000 in March to 20,000 in April, with Orange reporting 9,500 active phones, and Sunrise claiming 4,700 active devices. Apple has yet to announce a carrier and release date for the iPhone in Switzerland.

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