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Mix: Apple patents iTunes Tagging, Backup Disabler, App Store stats

  • July 31, 2008

A recently published Apple patent applications suggests the company intends to patent the process for iTunes Tagging, currently a feature on select HD Radio-equipped, iPod-docking accessories. The patent goes beyond the current implementation, however, describing the tagging of TV broadcasts, points of interest (using GPS-provided latitude and longitude coordinates), stores selling an item mentioned in an advertisement, and more. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area.

TwelvePin has released Backup Disabler, a new iTunes utility for Mac OS X. Backup Disabler allows users to turn off iTunes 7.7’s backup feature for the iPhone and iPod touch. The application also allows this functionality to be restored, both with a single click. Backup Disabler 1.1 is available now as a free download from MacUpdate.

Apple is now providing App Store developers with daily download stats, according to a Mac Rumors report. Previously, developers had to wait until the first of the Store’s monthly reports to arrive, making it difficult for developers to gauge demand and adjust pricing accordingly. Originally, download numbers for each App Store application were provided on the app’s page, but Apple quickly removed these listings. Mac Rumors notes that some developers have already started making pricing adjustments to their apps, with Pangea Software dropping the price on its Cro-Mag Rally racing game from $9.99 to $5.99.

Works With iPhone doesn’t Work With iPhone 3G?

A recent statement from a third-party iPod and iPhone accessory manufacturer has raised questions regarding the scope and nature of Apple’s Works With iPhone certification, which was until now understood to guarantee that an accessory would be compatible with current and upcoming iPhone hardware. In a press release issued today, however, Altec Lansing announced that its T612 Digital Speaker System for iPhone and iPod has “passed ‘Works with iPhone’ iPhone 3G test requirements for use with Apple’s latest generation iPhone,” noting that the system received certification for the original iPhone in January 2008.

According to Apple, Works With iPhone certification is supposed to be issued only after special radio interference and electrical testing have been conducted by an independent lab, and the company requires developers to purchase and integrate a special Apple authentication chip into their devices. However, readers and iLounge editors have confirmed that the iPhone 3G triggers Apple’s “This accessory is not made to work with iPhone” nag screen when used with at least two previously WWi-certified products, a screen that should not appear when connecting to any WWi accessory. One of these products, the iHome iP99 Alarm Clock Radio, displays the nag screen but otherwise continues to operate as noted in our earlier review, the other, XtremeMac’s InCharge Auto, also displays the screen yet continues to charge the iPhone 3G. Additional WWi accessories we have tested from JBL, Altec Lansing, and Belkin continue to work as they did with the original iPhone.

There have also been a number of products released with the Works With iPhone badge despite deviations from the radio or electrical standards originally understood to be required for certification. It remains unclear what, if any, changes Apple has made to the certification program for the iPhone 3G, or how many previously released WWi products may be incompatible with the iPhone 3G.

Belkin patent dispute stalls PDO iPod car add-on shipments

Shipments of PDO’s recently announced CarFM transmitter and charger for iPod and iPhone have been halted due to a patent dispute with Belkin. iLounge reader Dale Reeck reports that following his pre-order of the CarFM, he noticed the item had disappeared from PDO’s website. When he inquired about the situation, PDO responded: “We actually have the CarFM in the warehouse, but Belkin has claimed that the CarFM infringes on one of their patents, so we can not ship them out and had to remove it from our website temporarily while we negotiate a settlement. We’ll make an announcement to all who have pre-ordered within the next few days as we get some clarity on this issue.  We hope to get this matter resolved quickly.” [Thanks, Dale]

Apple releases iTunes 7.7.1

Apple has released iTunes 7.7.1, the latest update to its digital media management program. According to release notes provided by Apple, iTunes 7.7.1 “includes fixes to improve stability and performance.” iTunes 7.7.1 is available now through Apple’s Software Update utility or as a direct download from itunes.com.

Apple warns of near-term iPod shortages

  • July 30, 2008
  • iPod

Apple has issued an advisement bulletin to select resellers suggesting that the company is beginning to ramp down production of current-generation iPod models, according to AppleInsider. In the advisement, Apple “strongly suggested” that resellers either bring in or place immediate orders for approximately four weeks worth of their top selling iPod models, noting that supplies of the devices would start to become extremely limited within the next week. Apple traditionally holds an iPod-focused special event in the September-October timeframe to announce new iPod models; this report is consistent with the belief that the company is planning to hold a similar event again this year.

Ridax offering iPhone 3G Charge Converter

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Ridax, a company that sells various iPod Dock Connector accessories, has begun taking pre-orders for its iPhone 3G Charge Converter. The small accessory, the design of which is still being finished, will allow iPhone 3G owners to use older iPod and iPhone charging accessories that are currently incompatible with the 3G to charge the device by converting the power stream to suit the iPhone 3G. It will feature both male and female connectors, as well as a mini USB connector on the side to provide a way to charge the device when connected to a non-charging, Dock Connector-equipped accessory, and will also function as a short Dock extender. Ridax’s iPhone 3G Charge Converter will be available in September for $40; those who want the device sooner can pre-order a $45 “bare” version which will ship in August, followed by the plastic cover which will arrive in September. There is no guarantee that the converter will be safe to use with all accessories, so use caution in ordering.

Noreve rolls out three cases for iPhone 3G

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Noreve has introduced three new cases for the iPhone 3G. The Tradition is a leather case featuring open access to all ports and controls, a flip-down front cover with magnetic closure and a credit card slot, and a removable swiveling metal belt clip. It is available in a variety of colors and sells for $50. Noreve’s Tradition B is an open-faced, padded form-fitting leather case that offers open access to all ports and controls, and a magnetic top flap for a secure fit. It is also available in a variety of colors and sells for $43. Finally, the Tradition C for iPhone 3G is a pouch-style leather case that features velvet interior lining, open access to the iPhone’s top-mounted headphone jack and sleep/wake button, and an embossed logo on the rear of the pouch. Available in a variety of colors, it sells for $40.

iPhone 3G owners report cracks in plastic casing

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A number of iPhone 3G owners are reporting the appearance of hairline cracks in the plastic finish of the phone. According to threads on Mac Rumors forums and Apple’s Discussion Boards, the cracks appear to be manifesting mostly in the white 16GB version of the phone; however, Engadget notes this may be due to the fact that the cracks are easier to see in the white model than the black. Importantly, iPhone owners experiencing the issue report that the cracks appear without the device being dropped, sat on, or misused in any way. It is unclear what might be causing the problem, or how widespread the issue is. Is your iPhone 3G developing small cracks in the plastic? Let us know in the comments below.

Mix: Rogers, Cambridge Price Drops, iPhone TAP

  • July 30, 2008

Reporting its second quarter financial results, Rogers revealed (PDF Link) that its contract with Apple to sell the iPhone requires the carrier to purchase a minimum of $150 million worth of the handsets. While Rogers notes that its cost of acquisition per subscriber will likely increase due to sales of the heavily-subsidized iPhone 3G, it expects that average monthly revenue per user will increase over the course of the contracts thanks to iPhone subscribers signing up for both voice and data plans.

Cambridge SoundWorks has announced its Direct to You program, in which the company will once again offer factory direct sales to its customers. The change has resulted in substantial price drops on several of its iPod-compatible sound systems, including the SoundWorks i765 iPod/Video Entertainment System, which was priced at $500 but now sells for $300, the SoundWorks Radio CD 745i with bundled iPod Dock, which dropped $100 from $350 to $250, and the SoundWorks Radio 735i, which now sells for $200 after a $50 price drop.

AT&T has posted details of its Text Accessibility Plan (TAP) for iPhone and iPhone 3G. Designed for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, have a speech disability and/or hearing loss, the TAP plan for original iPhone is $40 a month and includes unlimited SMS messaging, unlimited data, Visual Voicemail, and a $0.40 per minute voice rate. The TAP plan for iPhone 3G runs $50 a month, and includes the same features as the plan for original iPhones. Finally, AT&T will also offer a business version of the TAP plan for $65 per month that includes all the features of the standard TAP plans plus unlimited enterprise email.

Photo of the Week: iPhone in Kenya

This week’s featured photo is from our iPhones Around the World gallery, and shows an original iPhone near the waters of Funzi Keys in Kenya. 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!

iPhone App Contest standouts highlighted

Last week, we announced the three winners of our Quest for the Best iPhone App Contest , which spotlighted cool new games and other software for the iPhone and iPod touch. While Shanghai Mahjong, Save Benjis, and Moto Racer came out on the top of the entries, we also wanted to highlight a number of other submissions that came close, and were worthy of honorable mentions. Other great apps included Where To?, a $3 point-of-interest application that simplifies finding local businesses and restaurants, FileMagnet, a $5 utility that allows users to copy files from their Mac to their iPhone or iPod touch for later viewing, Audio Recorder, a $3 utility that allows for recording, storing, and emailing of audio recordings made via the iPhone’s built-in mic, Blackjack 21, a $5 blackjack game with free, downloadable card and table themes, and Epocrates Rx, a free portable drug reference for healthcare professionals. Many other great applications can be seen in the iPhone Application Gallery. Again, thank you to all those who entered, and congratulations to the winners!

iLuv intros iPhone 3G cases

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iLuv has introduced four new cases for the iPhone 3G. The company is offering two styles of Silicone Case for the iPhone 3G, including a solid color version (Silicone Case) and a two-tone model (Two-Tone Silicone Case). Both feature a form-fitting design and full access to all ports and controls, and come with a glare-free protective film screen protector. iLuv’s Silicone Case and Two-Tone Silicone Case for iPhone 3G sell for $13 and $25, respectively. Like the Silicone Case, iLuv is also offering its Hard Case for iPhone in two styles: a traditional, solid color model (Hard Case), and a translucent version (Clear Hard Case). Both cases are made from hard plastic, feature a form-fitting design, offer complete access to all ports and controls, and include a glare-free protective film screen protector. Both the Hard Case and Clear Hard Case for iPhone 3G sell for $25; all four cases are available now.

Music Rescue 4.0 offers QuickRecover, iPhone, iPod touch support

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KennettNet Software has released Music Rescue 4.0, the latest update to its iPod media recovery tool. Announced in May, Music Rescue 4.0 adds new features such as QuickRecover, a way to easily rebuild an iTunes library, support for the iPhone and iPod touch, a revamped user interface, Smart Playlist support, an improved media player, and faster, smoother copying. To thank iLounge readers for their help in beta testing, KennettNet Software is offering all iLounge readers a half-price discount voucher for purchases of Music Rescue 4.0, valid until August 8th, 2008. To claim the discount, use the coupon code ILOUNGE during checkout on the company’s online store. Music Rescue 4.0 is available now and sells for £10 (roughly $20).

Mix: Verizon, Remote interface, Roaming in Bermuda

  • July 29, 2008

Discussing Verizon’s second quarter financial results, COO Denny Strigl said it was seeing minimal impact from the launch of the iPhone 3G. The AP reports that Strigl said Verizon was seeing what it believes to be a “minimal short-term impact” in customer flow due to the iPhone 3G, adding that the effect looks small compared to the overall size of Verizon Wireless, and suggesting that most new iPhone customers switching to AT&T are coming from other carriers, such as Sprint.

The iPhone/iPod touch Remote application has a better interface than the iPhone’s own built-in iPod app, according to a recent blog post. In the post, the author argues that the addition of item counts and icons to the Playlist view, artist names and scrolling dots when viewing a selected playlist, and the search function are all improvements over the iPhone and iPod touch’s more minimalist iPod interface. [via DF]

An iLounge forum thread dating back to February is highly suggested for readers planning to travel to the Bahamas with their iPhones. Reader iScottL reported having nearly $3,000 in roaming charges, despite having data roaming turned off. According to reader Doug Toombs, there is a carrier in Bermuda that uses the 310 Mobile Country Code, which is actually the code for the U.S. This causes the iPhone to read “AT&T” and to override any data roaming settings, since the phone believes it is on a U.S. network. Toombs’ report confirms that this issue has continued to exist in Bermuda through this month. Until the situation is resolved, iLounge recommends that all U.S. readers who have an iPhone through AT&T put the device into Airplane Mode if they are in Bermuda.

Gameloft releases Uno as Click Wheel iPod Game

  • July 29, 2008
  • iPod

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Continuing the release of games specifically designed for the iPod classic, third-generation iPod nano, and fifth-generation iPod, Gameloft today released Uno ($5), a translation of the classic card game. Designed to be played either alone against the CPU or in a multi-player mode with up to four people, Uno also has a rewards system that tracks your performance and adds special icons to your saved game profile.

Agent 18 unveils cases for iPhone 3G

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Agent 18 has introduced three new cases for the iPhone 3G. The ClearShield for iPhone 3G is a hard, clear plastic case that offers open access to all ports and controls, interior padding for extra protection, and Universal Dock compatibility. It sells for $30. Made from thin, lightweight hard plastic derived from recycled plastic bottles, the EcoShield for iPhone 3G features a high gloss finish, interior cushioning, Universal Dock compatibility, and open access to all ports and controls. It is available in black, white, pink, blue, and green, and sells for $30. Finally, the FlowerVest for iPhone 3G is a form-fitting silicone case offering open access to all ports and controls, and featuring a floral design pattern on the rear of the case. Available in brown/blue or pink/pink, it also sells for $30. All three cases are available now.

Mix: Carmack, Cardboard iPhone 3G, Rainn Wilson

  • July 28, 2008

In a recent interview with Forbes, id Software co-founder and Doom creator John Carmack spoke about his company’s plans for iPhone development. “We wanted to do something for the iPhone, but we just didn’t have the scheduling or the resources available,” Carmack said. “I really regret not having something at launch.” He added that id has a title it wants to develop specifically for the iPhone, saying, “I’m not announcing anything specifically, but it would be a graphical tour de force.” Anna Kang, president of id Mobile, said the new title “would not be a new IP,” meaning the game would be based on the company’s existing catalog, which includes the Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein franchises. Finally, Carmack admitted that the opportunities presented by the iPhone also present a challenge in trying to reign in development time and costs. “The iPhone, as a device, is in the same generation power-wise as the PS2 or Xbox,” he said. “The graphics are a little lower but the RAM is a lot higher. … You could easily spend $10 million on an iPhone game, but the market just can’t support that yet.”

T-Mobile Germany is sending customers awaiting the arrival of their pre-ordered iPhone 3Gs flyers with a cardboard cut-out iPhone 3G “as a small pastime.” iFun.de reports that along with the cardboard teaser, the carrier has previously informed iPhone 3G pre-order customers that they will receive a free silicone protective cover for their patience in receiving the device.

OfficeTally, a fan website dedicated to NBC’s popular sitcom The Office, has posted a video interview with cast member Rainn Wilson (“Dwight”) in which both Wilson and a OfficeTally editor play with the iPhone application PhoneSaber. PhoneSaber simulates a Star Wars lightsaber on the screen using the phone’s built-in accelerometer, and is a free download from the App Store.

Vaja debuts iVolution for iPhone 3G

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Vaja has introduced its new iVolution case for the iPhone 3G. Made from high quality Argentine leather, the iVolution for iPhone 3G is an open-faced case with a slide-in design, offering open access to all the phone’s ports and controls, coverage for the Home button and front bezel, and a metal Vaja logo in the upper right front corner. Available in a wide range of colors, the Vaja iVolution for iPhone 3G is available now and starts at $85; the company’s site says the handicraft process for the case takes around 45 days.

Apple changes iPhone 3G line policies, opens stores at 8 am

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In an effort to manage extended wait times and customer uncertainties as to their eligibility to purchase iPhone 3G hardware, Apple has made significant changes to its retail store line policies, and has started to open its retail stores at 8:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday. An iLounge editor visiting a Florida-based Apple Retail Store this morning found that employees are now pre-screening iPhone 3G customers to help smooth the purchasing process, and giving pre-screened customers cards which entitle them to a particular model of iPhone 3G, for pickup immediately or as late as 6:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. on Sunday) that day.

Apple’s website states that the company is “adding staff to help you get up and running as quickly as possible;” it is unclear how long Apple plans on opening the stores early.

iSkin rolls out revo2 for iPhone 3G

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iSkin has announced its new revo2 case for the iPhone 3G. The revo2 is made from soft Microban antimicrobial silicone, and features a detachable ViSOR transparent face shield, a honeycomb micro-texture for added grip, raised volume and power buttons, open access to the iPhone 3G’s camera, ring/silent switch, microphone, and speaker, integrated headphone and Dock Connector port covers, and a special translucent silicone zone that protects the device’s proximity and ambient light sensors without obstruction. In addition, it offers compatibility with the company’s revoClip belt holster, and comes with anti-glare and anti-fingerprint screen film. Available in Onyx (Black/Black), Diablo (Red/Black), Sonic (Blue/Black) and Ozone (Clear/Black), the iSkin revo2 for iPhone 3G is available now and sells for $40.

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