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Happy New Year from iLounge!

From all of us here at iLounge, Happy New Year! We will be taking a brief pause from publication tomorrow in celebration of the holiday, but worry not—we’re working hard behind the scenes to test items submitted for our 2009 Best of Show Awards, which we’ll be handing out next week in San Francisco.

Thank you all for another great year—we hope you and yours have a terrific 2009!

Mix: Silent Hill, Safari+, Zune lockup, Sena Cases

  • December 31, 2008

Konami has released its previously announced Silent Hill: The Escape game for the iPhone and iPod touch. In the first person shooter survival horror game, users are asked to use touch controls to navigate through a zombie-infested labyrinth in order to escape. Silent Hill: The Escape is available now from the App Store and sells for $8.

iPuhelin.com is now offering Safari+, a collection of bookmarklets for the iPhone and iPod touch’s version of Safari which enhance the browsing experience by adding functionality found on desktop browsers. The bookmarklets include features such as find in page, find similar sites, list all links, scroll to end, translation, open links in new window, and more. To add the Safari+ bookmarklets to an iPhone or iPod touch, simply visit the Safari+ website directly from the device.

A number of 30GB Microsoft Zune owners are reporting that their devices are spontaneously locking up, leaving the players unusable. The problem apparently started sometime late last night or early this morning, and appears to only affect 30GB units. Microsoft has yet to comment on the matter.

Sena Cases has announced it will be offering live demonstrations of its customized case making process at its booth at Macworld Expo next week. According to the company, customers will be able to select an individualized design, leather type, leather color/pattern, and add/remove additional features such as clips and closure systems to each case. In addition, each case may be further personalized with laser engraving text, a company logo or graphic. Sena Cases’ customization options will be available in early 2009.

Photo of the week: iPhone in Mexico

This week’s featured photo is from our iPhones Around the World gallery, and shows the shoreline of Cancun, Mexico reflected in the glass face of an iPhone. 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!

Ultimate Buds debuts UB7EB earphones with remote

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Ultimate Buds has introduced its UB7EB Apple/Future Sonics FS1 Earphones with Remote + Mic. Like the company’s previous Ultimate Buds Apple-Etymotic ER-6i iPhone Earphones, the UB7EB pairs an Apple-produced headphone jack, cord, and remote with a separately produced earphone — in this case, the newer volume/playback control remote and mic found on Apple’s latest headphones and the Future Sonics FS1. These white in-ear headphones are paired to the cabling by experienced technicians, are fully tested before shipment, and come with a six-month warranty. Ultimate Buds UB7EB Apple/Future Sonics FS1 Earphones with Remote + Mic are available now and sell for $150.

Helium Digital intros Gel-Shellz for iPhone 3G

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Helium Digital has introduced its Gel-Shellz cases for the iPhone 3G. The Gel-Shellz are made from premium silicone, and feature a grooved design for added grip, integrated covers for the Dock Connector and headphone jack, open access to all other ports and controls, and translucent covers for the front sensors and Apple logo. Helium Digital’s Gel-Shellz for iPhone 3G will be available in January in a variety of two-tone color schemes and will sell for $25CAD, or roughly $20.

Mophie unveils cases for iPhone 3G, iPod touch 2G

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Mophie/mStation has introduced two new cases for the iPhone 3G and second-generation iPod touch, along with a new case for the fourth-generation iPod nano. The Hardcase and Hardcase Plus for iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2G are both made from high-quality clear polycarbonate and feature a two-piece snap together design as well as open access to all ports and controls. While the Hardcase offers open access to either devices’ screen, the Hardcase Plus features a built-in, touch-through hard plastic screen guard. The Mophie’s Hardcases for iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2G sell for $25 each, while the Hardcase Plus models sell for $30 each. The company’s Hardcase for iPod nano 4G is also made from high quality clear polycarbonate, and offers a built-in screen protector, a snap together design, and open access to all ports and controls. It sells for $20. Finally, Mophie is now offering Screen Shields for both the iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2G. These washable, removable, and reusable guards offer both anti-glare and UV protection, include a cleaning cloth, and sell for $12 each.

Mix: iPhone lenses, Motocross, Squish Squash, ZAGG

  • December 30, 2008

Despite Apple warnings that magnets should not be used or attached to the iPhone 3G, USBfever is now offering both Wide Angle and Fisheye lens attachments for the iPhone. The lenses use a self-adhesive ring which surrounds the device’s camera to magnetically attach the lens body itself, making both easily detachable. The Magnetic/Detachable Wide Angle and Fisheye Lenses for iPhone are available now and sell for $17 and $20, respectively.

Synium Software has released its Motocross game for the iPhone and iPod touch. In Motocross, the player controls a motorbike using the devices’ accelerometers, shifting their weight on the bike from side to side through desert, jungle, and suburb settings. It offers 16 levels currently, and the developer promises to add four new levels each month. Motocross is available now from the App Store and sells for $4.

The Dreamhive has released its new Squish Squash game for the iPhone and iPod touch. In the game, players must defend their crumbs from wave after wave of enemy bugs by squashing them before the crumb disappears. The game offers 100 levels and 20 bonus rounds, two game modes, awards, high score boards, five different types of enemy bugs and power-ups, three customizable user profiles to track progress, and four difficulty levels. Squish Squash is available now for $4 from the App Store.

ZAGG is holding a site-wide sale through December 31, offering a 30% on all products. To receive the discount, use the code “SITEWIDE30” during checkout.

Final day for Best of Show submissions

The end of business today marks the deadline for iLounge’s Best of Show 2009 Award submissions, so if you’re an accessory or software developer who wants a chance at an award, you must get your submission in today. Any new product shown for the first time at CES or Macworld Expo in January is encouraged to contact us with details so they may be considered. Please contact iLounge publisher Dennis Lloyd ([email protected]) for information on our submission process. We look forward to your submissions!

Non-Orange contract-free iPhones appear in France

Following a ruling by the French Competition Council suspending the exclusivity agreement between Apple and France Telecom tying the iPhone to Orange in France, contract-free iPhone 3G units are now available from at least one other source. FNAC is now selling the black 8GB iPhone 3G for €799 (roughly $1,133) and the white 16GB model for €899 (~$1,275). It is unclear whether the handsets are unlocked, or simply sold without a contract but still tied to French carriers, and whether other French carriers plan to offer the handset as well.

Half of readers report getting iPhone OS device, Macworld poll now open

With over 3,800 votes from iLounge readers, our latest poll, “Which new iPod or iPhone did you get for the holidays?” has closed. Readers were given a choice between the iPhone 3G, iPod touch, iPod nano, iPod classic, iPod shuffle, accessories, or none at all. Amazingly, half of all respondents said they received an iPhone OS device over the holidays, with a third of readers (33%) receiving an iPod touch and the other 17% receiving an iPhone 3G. Another 17% of readers received an iPod nano, while 8% received an iPod classic, 6% received accessories but no new iPod or iPhone, and only 2% received an iPod shuffle. It appears to have been a big year for upgrades, as only 18% of readers said they didn’t receive an iPod, iPhone, or accessory. Thanks for all your responses!

Our new poll focuses on Apple’s product announcements in a post-Macworld Expo era. We’d like to know what you think Apple should do now that it has abandoned its last major trade show. Should it continue holding small press events complimented by the developer-focused WWDC, or change its formula? Our latest poll, “How should Apple announce big products now that it’s ditching Macworld Expo?” lets you answer this question. You can find the iLounge Poll in the left hand column of the main iLounge.com home page. Cast your vote today!

iPod touch drives holiday app sales, traffic

  • December 29, 2008
  • iPod

Strong holiday sales of the iPod touch drove growth in App sales and web traffic on Christmas day, according to a new report. Mac Rumors, citing information from several developers, reports that sales of both Top 100 and other titles were boosted by 3x-4x on Christmas day, attributing the growth to the iPod touch based on Amazon.com’s sales reports and rankings, which show the iPod touch atop the MP3 Player category and the 8GB model among the site’s strongest-selling holiday electronics items. In addition, Net Applications’ browser marketshare graphs also show a strong spike around the holiday, with the iPod touch’s marketshare jumping from 0.07% on 12/23 to 0.10% on the 24th and 0.21% on the 25th, or roughly triple the share seen two days earlier.

AT&T drops iPhone 3G refurbs by $50

AT&T has lowered its prices on refurbished iPhone 3G units for a limited time, bringing the initial price of the iPhone below $100 for the first time. The company is selling 8GB models for $99, while 16GB models see a similar discount to $199. AT&T’s site states that the lower prices will be available through December 31, after which they will return to $150 and $250, respectively. According to AT&T, all refurbished iPhone 3Gs carry a warranty of 90 days or more, and may have “minor scratches.”

Wal-Mart now selling iPhone 3G

As expected, Wal-Mart began selling iPhone 3Gs yesterday. The retailer is now offering the handset in roughly 2,500 stores, at prices of $197 for the 8GB model and $297 for 16GB versions. Wal-Mart is the second independent retailer and fourth overall to sell the iPhone 3G, following Best Buy, AT&T, and Apple.

Happy Holidays from iLounge!

On behalf of all of iLounge’s Editors, forum administrators, moderators and helpers, happy holidays to you and yours. We will be on a limited publication schedule through the holiday weekend as we celebrate with our families and friends.

Hopefully, you’ll find a new iPod, iPhone, or long-awaited accessory wrapped in a shiny box over the next few days! Tell us below (and in the iLounge Poll, on the left side of our main page) what sort of Apple goodies you received or gave as gifts for the holidays.

If you didn’t get or give anything Apple-related, or if you’re looking for a way to spend either a gift card or last-minute shopping dollars, here are a few useful parts of the site to check out.

Our 2009 Buyers’ Guide with helpful shopping, Apple hardware, accessory, and software picks.
iLounge’s collection of over 2,500 reviews, covering all iPod and iPhone models.
iPod and iPhone Gems/Tutorials, for the latest in App Store purchasing recommendations, and helpful guides to all things iPod, iPhone, and iTunes.
Our Discussion Forums, with over 1.3 million posts across our new and old forums.

We’re also still looking for your comments on the future of iLounge’s coverage. Please use this link to submit requests.

Thank you, and enjoy what we hope will be a relaxing holiday weekend!

Apple TV poll ends, Holiday poll begins

With over 2,200 votes from iLounge readers, our latest poll, “What should Apple do with the Apple TV?” has ended. Readers were given several choices, including release new hardware with free TV-to-iTunes recording functionality, officially allow apps to add more software features, release a game controller and support games, kill it in favor of a better iPod dock, or nothing - it’s great as-is.

The largest number of readers—39%—said Apple should officially allow apps on the device to add software features such as Hulu and Netflix streaming, followed by the release of new hardware with free TV-to-iTunes recording functionality with 31% of the vote. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the product’s lackluster history, 19% of voters said Apple should kill the Apple TV and replace it with a better iPod dock, while only 6% of readers said Apple should release a gaming controller and support games. An even smaller number of voters—5%—said the product was great as-is. Thanks to everyone who voted!

With Hanukkah already here and Christmas just around the corner, our new poll focuses on holiday gifts. We’d like to know which new iPod or iPhone you received over the holidays. Were you given an iPhone 3G, or an iPod touch, or perhaps a traditional iPod such as the iPod nano or iPod classic? Or maybe you received the diminutive iPod shuffle, or just accessories for your current player, or none at all? The latest iLounge poll, “Which new iPod or iPhone did you get for the holidays?” lets you answer that question. You can find the iLounge Poll in the left hand column of the main iLounge.com home page. Cast your vote today!

2009 Buyers’ Guide helps with last-minute gifts

Have some last-minute shopping to do for the iPod or iPhone user in your life? Whether you’re looking for Apple hardware, third-party accessories, or software, our 2009 iPod + iPhone Buyers’ Guide is here to help. Packed with information on Apple’s latest devices, store recommendations, the best accessories, games, and apps of the year, and ratings for more than 2,000 iPod and iPhone products, the Guide is available as a free, hassle-free download from iLounge.com.

Mix: HP + iPhone, Simpsons, Mint.com, Earphone discount

  • December 23, 2008

Hewlett Packard has launched its new HP iPrint Photo application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The new application allows users to print 4x6 photos directly from the device to most HP inkjet printers connected to the same local Wi-Fi network. Using Bonjour technology, the app automatically finds available printers, and uses a multi-touch interface to provide an easy, fast printing experience. The HP iPrint Photo application is available now as a free download from the App Store.

Long-running animation comedy The Simpsons has finally arrived on the iTunes Store in the U.S. Currently only episodes from the 20th season of the show are available, including the recent episode “Mypods & Boomsticks” which provides a somewhat scathing parody of Apple, the iPod, iPhone, and CEO Steve Jobs. The first eight episodes are available individually for $2 each, while the season pass is $38. It is unclear whether Fox plans to release prior seasons of the show via iTunes.

Online personal finance service Mint.com has released its new Mint.com application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Requiring users to signup and setup free accounts on Mint.com, the application offers access to up-to-the-minute account balances for all their bank, credit card and investment accounts, all recent transactions across all of those accounts, automatically categorized, status on spending versus personalized budgets and cash flow, investment performance, and alerts on bills due, unusually large expenses and deposits. The Mint.com application is available now as a free download from the App Store.

SoundEarphones.com is offering a special discount to iLounge users. The online retailer of premium earphones is offering 20% off all orders over $150. To claim the discount, simply enter the code “lounge” during the checkout process.

Trivial Pursuit, Chinese Checkers, Crystal Defenders come to Click Wheel iPods

  • December 23, 2008
  • iPod

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As has been the case the past two weeks, three new games have simultaneously been released for the fifth-generation iPod, iPod classic, and third- and fourth-generation iPod nanos. Electronic Arts has released Trivial Pursuit, based on the popular trivia board game. Pursuit offers up to 1,000 questions on entertainment, geography, history, and more, two main game modes, Classic and the fast-paced Pursuit, both of which can be played with up to three friends in a pass ‘n’ play manner, and the ability to track games, scores, and stats. Trivial Pursuit is available now from the iTunes Store and sells for $5.

imageWith its second game in as many weeks, Apple has released Chinese Checkers. Based on the original board game, Chinese Checkers offers three difficulty levels, pass-and-play multiplayer with up to five friends, hints and undo, a variety of boards and marbles, realistic sound effects, and more. Like Reversi before it, Chinese Checkers sells for $1 and is available now from the iTunes Store.

imageFinally, Square Enix has released Crystal Defenders, a new tower defense-style game featuring characters from Final Fantasy Tactics A2. In the game, players must deploy units on a map in order to protect crystal reserves from approaching monsters. It offers a variety of units, including melee specialists and magic experts, and two game versions to provide challenges across more than 200 stages. Crystal Defenders is available now from the iTunes Store and sells for $5 for the iPod; an iPhone version has also been released for $8, and criticized for wasting half the screen on a virtual joystick. A free trial version of the iPhone version is also available.

ChangeWave: iPhone owns 23% of smartphone market

According to the results of the latest ChangeWave smartphone survey, the iPhone’s market share jumped 6 points between September and December to 23%. RIM’s Blackberry phones continue to lead the market, although their market share dropped one point to 41%. For the first time since January’s survey, a higher percentage of respondents planning to purchase a smartphone in the next 90 days said they would buy a Blackberry instead of an iPhone, with 39% stating they planned to buy a RIM device compared to 30% who plan to purchase Apple’s smartphone. Interestingly, the survey also found initial consumer satisfaction ratings for Blackberry’s touchscreen-based iPhone rival Storm to be well below those of the original iPhone, or even the average for all Blackberry users. 33% of respondents said they were “very satisfied” with the Storm, compared to 77% for owners of the original iPhone, and 52% for all Blackberry users. ChangeWave’s survey was conducted on December 9-15 and included roughly 3,800 cell phone owners.

Aurora Feint debuts 2 new Aurora Feint II series games

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Aurora Feint has revealed to iLounge that it is releasing two new games for the iPhone and iPod touch based on its most recent title, Aurora Feint II: The Arena. Aurora Feint II: The Beginning is a budget-priced upgrade to the original, free Aurora Feint title, Aurora Feint: The Beginning, including new and improved mining game play with new visuals and sound, asynchronous real time chat in the Tavern area for sharing tips, strategies, and experiences with other players, and Facebook-style player profiles and “walls” where other players can leave comments and challenges, which in turn become events in the Tavern. These social networking features were previously seen in the company’s Aurora Feint II: The Arena, which offers a similar style of game play but does so by letting users play against “ghosts” of other players that persist in the game even when the ghost’s player is not actually using his/her device.

Also available will be Aurora Feint II: The Tower Puzzles. This separate title will offer more than 30 “match three” strategy puzzles arranged in increasing levels of difficulties to take the player to the top of the tower. Some puzzles will present a certain number of moves with which the player must clear the screen of all blocks, and “Instapop” strategy elements without which the final levels cannot be cleared. In addition, the game will offer emaIl-based friend challenges. Aurora Feint II: The Tower Puzzles is available now for $1, while Aurora Feint II: The Beginning is expected to be available on December 25 for $1. Those prices are good through New Year’s Day, at which point they will increase to $2 and $3, respectively.

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