In an unusual public dispute over the current Japanese popularity of the iPhone 3G, Tokyo-based freelance writer and self-described “most famous advocate of iPhone in Japan” Nobuyuki Hayashi has taken Wired to task for republishing his eight-month old quote on the topic—originally rendered before the launch of the device—as evidence of Japan’s supposed “hate” for the iPhone. Hayashi, who has written about Apple products for a number of Japanese and international publications, used the situation as a springboard to disagree with Wired’s article, and share a wide variety of interesting observations about the iPhone 3G’s successes and problems in Japan, including:
• Initial skepticism from certain newspapers, including the Sankei Shimbun, has evolved into more positive coverage with the growth of the App Store.
• While projected Japanese sales of the iPhone 3G are in the 300,000 - 400,000 range, lower than apparently inaccurate sales targets that were circulated last year, poor overall Japanese cell phone sales in 2008 would place the iPhone’s Japanese sales at or above Apple’s targeted global 1% level for the year.
• Apple responses to Japanese complaints about the device have been addressed by the company, including the addition of Emoji icons and the sale of a battery-aided TV tuner, with pricing issues addressed this week in a campaign that has seen lines forming to purchase iPhones.
• One remaining issue, the iPhone 3G’s inability to serve as a digital credit card for making purchases, has not been addressed by Apple, though some iPhone users have developed workarounds known throughout the Japanese community.
• Softbank, Apple’s sole service partner for the iPhone in Japan, has recently won awards for its TV advertisements, but has done comparatively little to promote the iPhone due to Apple approvals required for marketing purposes. Consequently, the majority of Japanese consumers remain unfamiliar with the device, though they warm quickly to it when they’re given the opportunity to actually use one.
• Softbank lags modestly behind competitors NTT DoCoMo and KDDI in network coverage and frequency options, and has struggled with domestic media perceptions about its viability, reasons that Apple might need to expand its partnerships in the country.
Cyanics has introduced its IPS-26 Portable Swing Speaker for the fourth-generation iPod nano. The IPS-26 features a clear, slide-together case with an integrated headphone jack and speaker system. The speakers, which are attached to the back, rotate out for vertical listening or can be left in-line for horizontal positioning, and also feature a built-in rechargeable battery that offers up to 8 hours of playback, along with a mini-USB port for charging and a pass-through headphone port. Cyanics’ IPS-26 Portable Swing Speaker for iPod nano 4G is available now on Amazon and sells for $27.
If you haven’t yet entered our Vestalife 5&5 Speaker Giveaway, now’s your final chance—the contest will end tomorrow night. In our Giveaway of the Month for February, ten lucky readers will win a Vestalife speaker system, with five winners receiving Ladybugs and five receiving Butterfly systems. To enter, simply fill out and submit the form on the giveaway page—the giveaway will end on February 28, 2009 at 11:59PM Pacific Time. Good luck!
Rather than constraining his artwork to the 3.5” size of his iPhone’s screen, photographer and artist Russ Croop has created extremely large sketches using the iPhone and iPod touch application NetSketch. His first large-scale work, a drawing of his living room, is the equivalent of 85.6 inches x 70.1 inches at 72 ppi, and proved so large that Croop had to enlist the help of NetSketch creator Ben Gotow to get it out of the application, following repeated crashes when trying to save it from within the app. “I felt like the guy who built a boat in his basement and couldn’t get it out because it was so big,” Croop said. Cult of Mac reports that Croop went on to create other large-scale drawings, and is even interested in getting his work into galleries. When asked what the installation would be like, Croop said, “I envision big flat screen TVs replaying the paintings (videos of them as they’re made) and iPhones attached to walls or kiosks where people could try out drawing on them.” All of Croop’s iPhone art is available for viewing on his website.
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Apple has made some minor changes to the iTunes Store, expanding its Indie Spotlight banners into a full section, and adding a My iTunes link to its music pages. Formerly used in banners for spotlighting indie bands and albums on the iTunes Store’s front page, the Indie Spotlight moniker is now being used as the name for a new section of the iTunes Store. The section features links to an Indie Spotlight podcast, other indie podcasts, videos, label samplers, and a variety of albums and artists. It’s worth noting that the traditional Top Songs and Top Albums listings are absent from the page, which features three main sections—“New and Noteworthy,” “On the Road,” and “Heavy Rotation.” In addition, Apple has added a new My iTunes link to music-focused pages in the iTunes Store. Used since 2007 as a name for small, self-updating widgets that users could add to their blog or social network page, it is unclear what the new My iTunes link will be used for, as it currently brings up an error whenever clicked.
CBS has launched its new TV.com application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The new application gives users mobile access to TV.com content, including full episodes of CBS TV shows such as CSI and Star Trek, and also features programming from other CBS-owned networks such as Showtime and the CW, as well as videos from Internet properties CNet and GameSpot. The app also lets users add keywords to create their own feed—a custom list of video based on favorite programs, channels, or topics—and will operate on both Wi-Fi and cellular networks. CBS’ TV.com application is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Apple has quietly removed older App Store reviews from users who had not purchased the applications they were reviewing. Prior to last September, when Apple changed the App Store rules to require users to purchase or download an app prior to review, any user could leave a negative review on any application he/she wished, leading to developer complaints and reports of astroturfing. While the rule was changed, the older, possibly fraudulent reviews remained on the pages of the App Store until this week. Mac Rumors reports that several long-released apps have seen noticeable drops in the number of reviews; for example, Super Monkey Ball has dropped from 4197 reviews to 3714, while Pac-Man has gone from 395 to 122. Interestingly, the reviews for iPod Click Wheel Games continue to include numerous reviews from people who acknowledge that they have never played the games.
Telefónica Europe, parent company of UK iPhone carrier O2, has announced that more than one million iPhones have been sold in the country since the device’s launch on November 9, 2007. Revealing its 2008 year-end results, Telefónica also described the handset as a “best selling device,” while adding that its UK business added 499,000 fixed and mobile customers in Q4. As the announcement is focused on 2008 data, it is unclear when the one million unit mark was actually crossed. Apple sold 13.7 million iPhones in 2008.
Contour Design has introduced its new iSee inked cases for the fourth-generation iPod nano. Made from clear polycarbonate with a snap-together design, the cases feature different patterns etched directly into the case. Other features include full access to all ports and controls, a scratch-resistant coating, and an included, removable screen protector. Contour Design’s iSee inked cases for iPod nano 4G are available now in Swirls, Reverb, Argyle, Flourish, Squares, Circles, and Zebra designs, and sell for $25.
Continuing to erode the line between “potentially offensive” and acceptable content, Apple has approved Peep Show, a virtual peep show app for the iPhone and iPod touch. As explained by developer Blazing Lizard, Peep Show puts you in front of a partially obscured window, with “shake controls” that are “easy and intuitive when looking at attractive women.” Users shake the device at a certain time to drop a coin into the slot, further revealing a photo of a woman. Missing the slot causes the blinds to cover up more of the image as a penalty. A total of six pictures of women are displayed over and over again by the app, none the same as the ones shown in the app’s current App Store preview page, and each only vaguely risque. Following last week’s revelation that Apple rejected a South Park application for “potentially offensive content,” however, this application only furthers the notion that Apple’s approval process is inconsistent at best. Rated as appropriate for users 9 years of age or older, Peep Show sells for $1.
AOL is splitting its AIM app for the iPhone and iPod touch into two versions, and both add location services and SMS integration. The free version of AIM, now known as AIM Free, is currently available in the App Store and is now supported by ads, while the paid version will remove the advertisements; both will include the same features. The new features include the ability to access Contacts directly from the app to send an IM to a saved screen name or SMS to a phone number, the ability to stay logged in for up to 24 hours after the app has been closed and optionally receive notifications via SMS when a new IM arrives, support for multiple accounts, and the ability to share location information with buddies and access a new Buddies Near Me smart group. According to the free version’s description, AIM Paid is currently going through the App Store approval cycle and will be available soon; pricing has not yet been revealed. [via Ars Technica]
Update: The paid version of AIM is now available on the App Store and sells for $3.
Gameloft has revealed new details regarding its upcoming game The Oregon Trail for iPhone and iPod touch. Based on the Apple II classic, this updated take on the game features the same trail, from Independence, MO to Willamette Valley, OR, and the same random events, such as disease, bandits, bear attacks, and more. The side-scroller also offers updated graphics, side missions, and eight mini-games, including hunting, fishing, wagon repairing, river crossing, rafting, telegraphing, gold panning, and berry picking. The Oregon Trail is expected to arrive in the App Store in the next week, and will sell for $6. Continue reading for more screenshots from the game.
SoftBank Mobile has announced (Translated Link) its new “iPhone for everybody” campaign, in which it is offering new customers a free 8GB iPhone 3G with a two year contract. The free handset is available with three different plans, including standard, premium, and student, which range in price from 490 Yen (roughly $5) to 1,960 Yen (~$20) a month. The carrier is also dropping the price on its standard monthly data plan from 5985 Yen (~$61) to 4410 Yen (~$45). In addition, it is offering customers who choose the 16GB model a payment plan of 480 Yen (~$4.93) a month over the course of the 24 month contract, for a total of 11,520 Yen (~$118). The promotion is scheduled to run from Friday, February 27 through May 31. [via AppleInsider]
Apple has released Apple TV Software 2.3.1, the latest update to its HDTV-tethered media player. As a follow-up to version 2.3, the minor update breaks any unauthorized third-party software, such as the media center app Boxee, but no other changes are readily apparent. Reader reports indicate a couple of small bug fixes, however, Apple has yet to update its Apple TV software release notes page to explain what, if anything, has changed. Apple TV Software 2.3.1 is available now via the Update Software selection in the General Settings menu.
Update: Apple has since updated the release notes entry to include Software Update 2.3.1. The Network Test, which sends information about your Internet connection to Apple in order to help improve download performance, is the only new feature listed.
This week’s featured photo is from our iPhones Around the World gallery, and shows an iPhone resting on the rocks of Camelback Mountain high above Phoenix, Arizona. 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!
Gameloft has released details on its upcoming Let’s Golf game for the iPhone and iPod touch, which appears set to become the most thoroughly developed golf title yet for the platform. Let’s Golf features cartoonish 3D graphics, four customizable 3D characters, and arcade-style game play with 63 different holes set across four different landscapes, including Fiji Beach, American Mountains, English Countryside, and Scotland Lochs. In addition, the game will offer two control schemes—one for more casual players that uses a simple gauge, and a more advanced mode that provides better accuracy. Notably, Let’s Golf will also include a multiplayer mode that allows two users to play over a local Wi-Fi or online connection. The title is expected to hit the App Store next week and will sell for $6.
An auction by former Apple employee Mike Evangelist for a pre-release first-generation iPod was posted on eBay Sunday, then removed today at Apple’s request. According to Evangelist, the iPod was acquired while he was at Apple as part of an internal testing program, and never exchanged for a final released version. Otherwise fully functional, the pre-production unit can be synced with the current version of iTunes, but requires a special utility for restoring the software, as hardware changes made before the official release preclude this unit from being updated/restored using the standard mechanism. In addition, the unit included slightly larger earphones than Apple actually shipped with retail units—they were reduced in diameter from 18mm to 16mm following tester complaints. After posting the auction, Evangelist received an e-mail from eBay noting that “[t]he rights owner, Apple, Inc., notified eBay that this listing violates intellectual property rights. When eBay receives a report of this type of violation, we remove the listing to comply with the law.”
Konami has launched a new website for its upcoming iPhone and iPod touch game Metal Gear Solid Touch. According to the site, the company has decided to offer a special “advance release” edition of the game that will offer the first half of the story—which is based on the Playstation 3 title Metal Gear Solid 4. The final release version will include both halves of the game, and purchasers of the advance release edition will receive a free update to the final release, with the ability to carry over game save information. Gameplay will be handled via a multi-touch interface, with the ability to slide a finger for aiming, pinch gestures for zooming in and out, and taps for firing a weapon. Metal Gear Solid Touch is listed as coming soon; continue reading for more screenshots and a preview trailer.
Update: in a new press release, Konami has said that the Advance Release edition of Metal Gear Solid Touch will launch in March.
Apple has launched a new iTunes feature called iTunes Pass. According to the iTunes Store description page, an iTunes Pass is like an RSS feed, letting users purchase a “pass” from their favorite artists, with new media being downloaded automatically as it becomes available on the store. iTunes Pass media can include songs, albums, music videos, and more, all delivered in DRM-free iTunes Plus format, some of which may be exclusive to the Pass. In addition, customers will be emailed when new Pass content is available, and will also receive a final email once all content associated with a Pass has been delivered. The feature appears to have debuted with the Sounds of the Universe Pass from Depeche Mode, which currently includes two songs off the album, with more to be added between now and the pass’ end date of June 16.
“iTunes Pass is a great way for artists to give exclusive music and video, on their own schedule, directly to their fans.” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Internet Services. “iTunes customers are going to love getting additional content directly from their favorite artists right when they make it available.”