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Apple releases iPhone OS 3.0 Beta 2 with push notifications

Apple this evening released the second beta version of iPhone OS 3.0 to registered developers, adding bug fixes and several new feature updates and implementations. iPhone OS 3.0 beta 2 contains support for Apple’s push notification service, so that developers can begin testing their apps with push notification activated, a new “Store” menu item in the Settings app, and the ability to have up to 11 pages of applications, raising the app limit from 148 to 180. Screenshots of the new functionality have been added to our Complete Guide to iPhone OS 3.0 for iPhone and iPod touch.

Developers can download iPhone OS 3.0 Beta 2, and the accompanying updated SDK, from Apple’s iPhone Dev Center.

Phony App Store reviews expand to app-covering web sites

Despite attempts to reduce fraudulent App Store reviews, developers are continuing to use deceptive practices to boost the sales of their applications, and have expanded beyond the App Store by posting comments on online reviews. In an investigation of suspicious comments that began in early March of this year, iLounge has discovered foreign postings from India and Indonesia that illustrate how developers have been generating artificially positive feedback for their products. Additionally, reports indicate that “app review blogs” have been set up to offer developer-purchased positive reviews of iPhone and iPod touch software under the guise of independently generated content.

In one example, the Indonesian web site jauharimedia.com includes a number of “freelance” job requests for people to post positive reviews of iPhone apps on the App Store. A separate posting from username “timiphone”, found on iPhoneDevForums.com promises “4-5 star reviews” at a cost of $2 each, with a minimum order of 100 reviews. The same screen name “timiphone” was attached to a positive review on the App Store for the app FreeContact from DarkApples. Additionally, iPhone developer Brandon, author of the app gCalWall, claims that a site he contacted in hopes of getting his application reviewed responded with a $50 offer (warning: strong language) for an “expedited review,” with a promise that the review would only be published if the site’s reviewers “approve” the app, accompanied by a solicitation for advertising, which includes one “expedited review” for free. The site, identified elsewhere as “AppCraver,” claimed to be read by venture capitalists and journalists, and noted that “our readers are not interested in negative reviews.”

iLounge has continued to block astroturfing reviews and related comments from application developers, including Robosoft, an Indian company that has developed a number of iPhone apps, including 99Games Online’s WordsWorth, which posted multiple fake “fan” comments attacking a competing product called Bookworm. Other developers, such as the ones behind Voicebox and Westward, have also been blocked for posting policy-violating comments.

Tunewear unveils Swarovski Tunesonic Crystal earphones

Tunewear has unveiled its new Tunesonic Crystal in-ear headphones. The company’s first earphone release, the Tunesonic features 9mm neodymium drivers, aluminum bodies, four included sizes of silicone tips, a “Made with Crystallized” Swarovski crystal on the rear, and an iPhone-friendly headphone plug. Currently available in Japan (Translated Link) for 5,890 yen (~$60), North American pricing for the Tunewear Crystal has yet to be announced.

iPhone developer: App piracy more widespread than most realize

Speaking in an interview with Wired over the current state of App Store piracy, Kai Yu, president of BeeJive, said the situation was worse than most realize. “We think that current piracy of content from the App Store is much more widespread than most people realize,” Yu said. Yu added that after installing analytics software in the company’s BeeJive IM application, the company discovered 60 percent of activity coming from pirated copies; it has since taken measures to disable cracked copies. However, Yu remains optimistic that Apple will address the situation, saying, “This will hopefully be a temporary state, mostly due to the ‘newness’ of the App Store. It is like the Wild West.”

iPhone analytics company Medialets estimates at least 5,000 apps have been cracked thus far, according to the Wired report. There are multiple websites hosting pirated copies of apps, including one that currently offers roughly 3,200 cracked apps, and apps can also be found in Torrent files, including a 5.4 gigabyte file called the X-Mas iBrain Pack, which contains 808 cracked iPhone applications.

Despite the seemingly widespread problem of app piracy, some developers feel it has not made a significant impact on sales. Brian Greenstone, owner of Pangea Software, said the company actively tracked piracy of its game Enigmo, only to see a 5 percent piracy rate in the app’s first week on the store, a figure which fell to nearly zero percent afterwards. “Like any piracy scheme, it’s just a matter of time until hackers find their way around,” Greenstone said. “There are things we can do as developers, but since the piracy rate is so low, my thought is ‘Who cares? It’s not even worth the trouble.’”

Sony announces slate of 2009 iPhone games

Sony Pictures Television has announced three new iPhone and iPod touch games slated for release in 2009. Based on the upcoming console game, Ghostbusters will let users catch ghosts and save NYC citizens from being slimed when it is released in June. Q*Bert is an update of the classic arcade game, featuring new graphics and maps, animations, 50 new levels, and the retro arcade game. It will launch in July. Finally, players will create their own spy in Top Agent, a multi-player game that pits users against henchmen, famous villains from the James Bond films, and other players’ agents. It is expected to be released in August.

DirecTV intros official iPhone, iPod touch app

DirecTV has introduced its new application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The app lets users search for any television show up to 14 days in advance, browse programs by channel or date + time, access detailed program information, set their DirecTV boxes to record shows by single episode or series, program Pay Per View movies to be recorded, and record to any DirecTV DVR in their home. Available now as a free download, DirecTV’s browsing functionality is available for all users, while its DVR features are available to DirecTV customers only.

TNA Wrestling comes to iPhone, iPod touch

Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling has released its TNA Wrestling game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Developed by Longtail Studios, the game revolves around a story mode, in which players create their own wrestler, with the goal of making it from unsigned rookie to TNA World Champion. Along the way, players will wrestle against 15 different TNA stars, unlocking new moves, creating rivalries, making decisions outside of the ring that will effect future matches, and participating in various match types including tag team, gauntlet, iron man, and lumberjack events. TNA Wrestling is available now from the App Store and sells for $5; continue reading for more screenshots.

MLB releases sequel to At Bat iPhone app

Major League Baseball has released MLB.com At Bat 2009 for iPhone and iPod touch, a new version of its app of the same name that was released last year. At Bat 2009 offers users the ability to view real-time box scores, play-by-play and video highlights, and pitch type, location, and speed data from MLB.com Gameday. New for 2009, the app also gives users access to MLB.com Gameday Audio, letting users listen to every regular season and postseason game live, with a choice between the home or visiting team’s announcers. MLB.com At Bat 2009 is available now from the App Store and sells for $10.

Skype for iPhone launching tomorrow

VoIP provider Skype has announced plans to launch an official application for iPhone and iPod touch. The app will allow users to make free calls to other Skype users over Wi-Fi; calls to normal landline phones will be charged to the users’ Skype accounts. The app will also feature integration with the iPhone’s built-in Address Book, support for Skype chat over Wi-Fi or cellular networks, a call history screen, and support for the iPod touch 2G. Skype for iPhone and iPod touch will be available tomorrow as a free download from the App Store.

Last week to enter JBL On Stage Speaker Giveaway

Our JBL On Stage Speaker Giveaway ends on Tuesday, so if you haven’t yet entered, now’s the time. In our Giveaway of the Month for March, JBL and iLounge are giving away ten JBL On Stage 200ID Loudspeaker Docks for iPod and iPhone to ten lucky readers. To enter, simply fill out and submit the form on the giveaway page—the giveaway will end on March 31, 2009 at 11:59PM Pacific Time. Good luck!

AT&T stores offer early upgrades to iPhone 3G

AT&T stores have begun to offer fully subsidized pricing on the iPhone 3G to select early upgrade customers. According to Apple Insider, the company is waiving the upgrade clause for customers who are approximately 14 months into their 24-month contract and want to purchase an iPhone 3G. Previously, users who were not yet eligible for upgrade pricing were forced to pay $399 for the 8GB model and $499 for the 16GB. The move comes closely after the launch of contract-free iPhone 3G sales by both AT&T and Apple, suggesting the companies may be trying to clear inventory ahead of a new model.

Latest edition of iPodweek newsletter coming soon

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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ComScore releases data on UK iPhone users

Internet metrics firm comScore has released its first data on iPhone use in the U.K. Based on a three-month average ending in January, iPhone users lead traditional smartphone users in all measured online activity, with 93 percent of iPhone users accessing mobile media in January. Nearly 80% of iPhone users accessed news or information via the Safari browser, compared to 48% of smartphone users, and 75.4% accessed e-mail, compared to just 35.4% of smartphone users. 65.6% listened to mobile music, while 55.6% accessed news or info via a downloaded application, compared to percentages of 40.5 and 22.1, respectively, for traditional smartphone users. 54.8 percent accessed a social networking site, 55.5% accessed weather information, and 55.1% used web search, with 29.6%, 26.1%, and 31.9% of smartphone users accessing the same services, respectively.

“The iPhone is indeed an early adopter phenomenon in the United Kingdom,” said comScore analyst Alistair Hill. “While the device’s ease of use is certainly contributing to the lift we see in mobile media consumption, the fact that the device requires a subscription package that includes an unlimited data plan is also a contributing factor. However, it is also important to note that while nearly all iPhone owners are consuming mobile media, the device is in the hands of only two percent of mobile phone users in the UK.”

Power Support debuts Metal Gear Solid Touch cases

Power Support has partnered with Konami to create a new Metal Gear Solid Touch special edition series of Air Jacket cases for the iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2G, featuring art and graphics related to the recently-released game. Available in 13 different styles, the cases come in black, white, or clear, depending on the graphic. Each includes one anti-glare and one crystal face protector, and arrive in special Old Snake-themed packaging denoting the case as a Metal Gear Solid Touch edition. Power Support’s Metal Gear Solid Air Jackets for the iPhone and iPod touch are available now and sell for $50 each.

For more information, see our First Look article.

Apple begins sales of no-contract iPhone 3G

Apple has begun to offer the iPhone 3G without a contract in its own retail stores, according to a new report. The move comes just one week after AT&T confirmed that it would offer the handset without a contract. Apple Insider reports that the two companies differ on the terms of sale, with AT&T restricting units to one per customer, who must have an existing AT&T contract, while Apple is not requiring either pre-requisite. The no-contract iPhone 3Gs are priced at $599 for the 8GB model and $699 for 16GB units.

Capcom releases Mega Man II for iPhone, iPod touch

Capcom has released a port of its Mega Man II game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Originally appearing on the NES, the game features fourteen levels, nine different bosses—each with a unique weapon—on-screen, arcade-style controls, and “rebalanced gameplay” optimized for the iPhone. In early testing, the game appears to be a nearly direct port of the original, except with poor controls. Mega Man II is available now for the iPhone and iPod touch and sells for $5.

iPhone OS 3.0 to offer improved Javascript performance

The early beta release of iPhone OS 3.0 offers Javascript performance improvements ranging from three to ten times faster than that of iPhone OS 2.2, according to numbers provided by AdMob employee Wayne Pan. Using iPhone developer Craig Hockenberry’s iPhone benchmarks page,  Pan tested the new beta OS and saw large gains when running Javascript, suggesting the new build of MobileSafari is based on an advanced WebKit Javascript engine introduced last year. Originally dubbed SquirrelFish, it has since been renamed Nitro. The improved engine should provide faster performance when using Javascript-based web applications. [via DF]

Apple sets WWDC 2009 for June 8-12

Apple has announced the dates for its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. The 2009 event will be held June 8-12, in its traditional venue of Moscone West in San Francisco, CA. As with last year’s event, Apple will be providing sessions focusing on both Mac OS X and iPhone OS X, as well as web app development. For the past two years, the company has also used the event’s keynote address as a venue for iPhone-related announcements, revealing the launch date for the original iPhone in 2007, and introducing the iPhone 3G at the 2008 event. It is unclear if Apple CEO Steve Jobs will deliver the keynote at this year’s event, as his six-month leave of absence is not expected to be over until the end of June.

Amidio intros Star Guitar for iPhone, iPod touch

Amidio, maker of the Noise.io Pro synthesizer application, has released Star Guitar, its new guitar and voice recording application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Unlike other virtual guitar applications which rely on a simulation-style interface, with small strings to tap and strum, Star Guitar presents users with a pad of chord buttons, allowing them to play the instrument with their thumbs. Three guitars are offered, with more coming in updates, and users can play chords via the manual SmartStrumming mode or by relying on one the more than 13 rhythm patterns, each with A and B variations for chorus/verse. In addition, the app can be set to record the guitar alongside the user’s vocals, saving the files in the .WAV format, which can then be accessed via a built-in web server over Wi-Fi. A YouTube demo video is available for viewing. Star Guitar is available now from the App Store and sells for $4.

Apple patent app offers smart multi-user car navigation

A recently published Apple patent application provides details of a “safe” in-vehicle navigation system that the company proposes as an improvement on current and somewhat frustrating alternatives. More specifically, the patent discusses a touch screen-based navigation system that could use touch input in conjunction with a GPS, accelerometer, or other sensors, to sense both whether the vehicle is moving, and whether the car’s driver or passenger is attempting to operate the nav system. If the vehicle is moving and the driver is attempting to operate the system, the user interface is locked down and a warning is provided; by comparison, a passenger can be detected by a seat-based weight sensor and the angle of his or her touch input relative to the screen. Additional settings would be offered to enable the system’s various features to be locked down or unlocked based on specific driving conditions, the experience of the driver, and user preferences. The application notes that the navigation system could be implemented in a variety of ways, including in both hardwired and removable manners, suggesting the patent could be applied to the iPhone and iPod touch as well as factory-installed systems. 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. [via Apple Insider]

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