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iTunes 8.1 released, list of changes published

On the heels of its announcement of the third-generation iPod shuffle, Apple this evening released iTunes 8.1, a 65.4MB download for Mac users, and a 69.9MB download for Windows PC users. Unusually, a list of the many changes to this new version has been included in the Software Update feature of Mac OS X, noting the following:

“Faster and more responsive, with noticeable improvements when working with large libraries, browsing the iTunes Store, preparing to sync with iPod or iPhone, and optimizing photos for syncing.
Supports syncing with iPod shuffle (3rd generation)
Allows friends to request songs for iTunes DJ
Adds Genius sidebar for your Movies and TV Shows
Improves performance when downloading iTunes Plus songs
Provides AutoFill for manually managed iPods
Allows CDs to be imported at the same sound quality as iTunes Plus
Includes many accessibility improvements
Allows iTunes U and the iTunes Store to be disabled separately using Parental Controls.”

Additional improvements and bug fixes are also included in the release, notably security updates relating to iTunes networked media sharing in the prior PC version of iTunes, and “malicious podcasts” in the prior Mac version of iTunes. Apple’s iTunes download page is available here.

Apple chart reveals iPod shuffle 3G track, scrubbing controls

Apple has posted a new knowledge base document outlining the control methods for the third-generation iPod shuffle, including two features that appeared to be missing: fast forward and rewind. According to the document, users will need to double-click and then hold the center earphone remote button to fast-forward, an action that will be accompanied by a single green blink from the unit’s status light. Rewind will require a triple-click and hold, again accompanied by a single green blink, while next track/previous track operations are carried out with double- and triple-clicks, respectively, the same behavior exhibited on the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPod nano 4G, iPod touch 2G, and 120GB iPod classic. Finally, users must click and hold the center button to hear the song title and track names, hold until the unit issues a tone and then release to switch playlists, clicking briefly again once the desired playlist name has been spoken, and click and hold to exit the playlist menu.

Apple KB document notes iPod shuffle 3G linear play option

In a new support document entitled “iPod shuffle (3rd generation): About headphone compatibility,” Apple has disclosed that the new iPod shuffle can be set to play audio, without additional user input, even without the earphone-based controls. “When a standard headphone or audio accessory is connected you can initiate audio playback by simply switching iPod shuffle to the play in order or shuffle position from the off position… iPod shuffle will resume playback of the content that was previously being played at a fixed volume level that cannot be adjusted from the iPod itself. If iPod shuffle is connected to external speakers or a car stereo, volume adjustment may be possible from those devices.” While track control will still be impossible, this method should provide a temporary solution for owners who want to use the device with their car stereo or external speakers, until a proper adapter is available.

iPod fans rage against new shuffle’s earphones, adapter

Initial response to the third-generation iPod shuffle’s requirement of special new earphone-mounted controls has been overwhelmingly negative, based on comments posted on iLounge and across the Internet. While electronically compatible with past earphones, the new shuffle cannot be controlled by them, and will require as yet unannounced and undeveloped third-party remote adapters to remedy that issue. Repeatedly using descriptors such as “fail,” “mistake,” and “disappointing,” readers have cited these and other concerns as reasons to shun the device. “What about Podcasts?” writes iLounge reader Matt. “The biggest problem with this new design is there is no way to fast forward through a track. My older shuffle is the best way to listen to podcasts, as I can fast forward through parts I don’t want to listen to without having to look at a screen. This new model is virtually unusable for podcasts or audiobooks (unless you always listen start to finish).”

“I’m very disappointed,” says reader Tim Warneck. “I was hoping the new shuffle to have a small screen or something where you can see what music you’re playing. Have voiceover and the controls in the headphones just shows they’re only focused on one thing - size… The shuffle now has no character, it’s some tiny piece of metal. No one’s going to know it’s an iPod anymore!”

“Apple headphones cause me physical pain. Seriously,” reader Ort states. “This seems like a clunker. Simplicity and affordability were the two big things the old shuffle had going for it, and Apple pretty much crapped on both of those.”

Reaction was not much better on other sites, with Engadget saying “Apple’s cheapest iPod is now the most needlessly complex,” All Things D calling the new earphone requirement “off-putting,” and Boing Boing Gadgets comparing Apple to one of its proprietary format-obsessed rivals, stating, “the part of Sony will be played by Apple.”

iPhone 3G coming to Indonesia March 23

Indonesian carrier Telkomsel will launch the iPhone 3G on March 23, according to a new report. Citing Indonesian cite Ndorokakung, 3G Week reports that there will be up to four national distributors for the handset when it launches, and that there will be a pre-launch event on March 21. Pricing has yet to be determined, but is suggested to be around IDR 10 million, or roughly $840. Telkomsel is Indonesia’s largest GSM provider, and is partially owned by SingTel. [via MDN]

Google kills free SMS messaging in third-party apps

Google will today shut down a feature of its Gmail service that allowed third-party applications to send SMS messages using Google’s servers. According to Inner Fence, developers of the iPhone SMS app Infinite SMS, Google contacted them Monday regarding their decision to shut down the feature, causing Inner Fence to pull their product from the App Store, despite the fact that it was among the Top 10 Paid Apps on the store. Google has notified Inner Fence that the service will be officially blocked starting today. Below is Google’s official statement on the matter.

“Infinite SMS is a third party app that has been using Google technology to provide free SMS for users, while we were paying for the cost of the text messages. While Google is supportive of third party apps, we’ve decided we can’t support this particular usage of our system at this time…. We’re blocking all external XMPP clients from sending SMS; we’re not singling out Inner Fence.” Inner Fence notes that Apple doesn’t offer them a way to issue refunds, saying, “[h]opefully, at 99¢ people will feel like our app paid for itself after only a few messages.”

Apple announces new features in iTunes 8.1

Noted in conjunction with the announcement of the third-generation iPod shuffle, Apple has updated its iTunes “What’s New” page with information about the impending release of iTunes 8.1. According to the page, the new version will offer performance boosts when loading large libraries, browsing the iTunes Store, and syncing devices. It will also offer expanded Genius functionality, showing the Genius recommendations sidebar for both movies and TV shows. Finally, the page explains that the software will now automatically import CDs as 256-Kbps iTunes Plus files, although it is unclear how this differs from the current version of iTunes’ 256 AAC encoding option; it may become the default setting so as to create files that are playable on the iPod and iPhone, but not certain other devices.

iPod storage poll ends, iPod shuffle 3G poll begins

With over 3,500 votes from iLounge readers, our latest poll — “How much storage space would your ideal 2009 iPod or iPhone have?” has ended. Readers were given choices including 2GB or less, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and 128GB, or 256GB or more.

We were interested to see a marked increase in the amount of storage responding readers said they were looking for in their ideal iPod. The 64GB and 256GB options were equally popular, grabbing 27% of the vote each, and 128GB was the third most popular option, with 19% of the vote, showing that 73% of all respondents wanted 64GB or more of storage capacity. That was followed by 32GB with 18%, 16GB with 6%, 8GB with two percent, and 2GB or less with one percent of the vote. In light of the announcement of the iPod shuffle 3G, it’s interesting that the 4GB option received only 11 votes—the least popular option for an “ideal 2009 iPod” with zero percent. Thanks for all your votes!

Our new poll focuses on the just-announced third-generation iPod shuffle. We want to know what you think of the new buttonless design. Has the lack of buttons dissuaded you from making a planned purchase or from considering the shuffle, or do you like the new design and plan to pick one up? Or were you not planning to purchase a shuffle, and remain unaffected by the new design? Our new poll, “Did the new iPod shuffle’s lack of built-in buttons stop you from wanting one?” lets you answer that question. You can find the iLounge Poll in the left-hand column of the main iLounge.com homepage. Cast your vote today!

MacService offers 320GB Apple TV upgrades

Apple repair and upgrade shop MacService has announced its new 320GB Apple TV Upgrade service. According to the company, the larger capacity drive can hold up to 400 hrs of video, 72,000 songs or 200,000 pictures. To have their Apple TV upgraded, users must send their device out in a MacService-provided custom shipping container using a pre-paid UPS shipping label. Once received, MacService installs the new 320GB hard drive and transfers the data from the old drive, which is then returned to the customer along with the newly upgraded Apple TV. The 320GB drives are brand new and come with a 3 year warranty, and MacService promises to complete all work within 24 hours of the Apple TV’s arrival. MacService’s 320GB Apple TV Upgrade service is available now and costs $295.

iPhone 3G coming to Malaysia on March 20

Malaysian carrier Maxis has begun accepting pre-orders for the iPhone 3G, which will launch in the country on March 20. Maxis will offer the handset on a tiered pricing scale, dependent on which plan the customer chooses and the duration of the contract. For users choosing a 12-month contract, the 8GB iPhone will range in price from RM 1900 (roughly $514) to RM 1080 (~$292), while the 16GB model will range from RM 2290 (~$619) to RM 1470 (~$397), based on which plan the user selects. The base i-Value 1 plan, which runs RM 100 (~$27) monthly, offers 333 minutes and 500MB of data, while the top i-Value 4 plan runs RM 375 (~$101) monthly and includes 2500 minutes and 3GB of data. With a 24-month contract, the price range on the 8GB model drops to free—with the i-Value 4 plan—to RM 1510 (~$408) with the i-Value 1 plan. 16GB pricing on a 24-month contract ranges from RM 1890 (~$511) to RM 260 (~$70). Finally, users selecting a Value Plus plan and a six-month contract will pay RM 2540 (~$687) for the 8GB iPhone 3G and RM 2960 (~$801) for the 16GB model, with plans ranging from RM 80 (~$22) to RM 500 (~$135) a month, none of which include free minutes. Maxis will be accepting pre-orders through March 17, and will be holding official launch events on March 20, 21, and 22 at the KL Convention Centre.

Apple releases new iPod shuffle with VoiceOver

Apple has released an all-new iPod shuffle with an audio-based navigation system called VoiceOver. Devoid of buttons save for the three-position power, shuffle, and ordered play switch and billed as “the world’s smallest music player,” the third-generation iPod shuffle uses VoiceOver to let users navigate through songs and playlists using the in-line remote control found on the included headphones. VoiceOver can tell users the name of the song and artist currently playing, playlist information, and status information such as battery life. Users will hear a slightly different voice depending on what operating system their computer uses — users who sync their shuffles with Mac OS X Leopard will hear this voice, while PC users and Mac users running OS X Tiger will hear this voice. More audio samples of the VoiceOver feature are available on Apple’s website. The new shuffle also features a stainless steel clip on the back for attaching to clothing, offers 10 hours of battery life, and is “significantly smaller than a AA battery,” according to Apple. The new iPod shuffle comes in 4GB capacities only, and is available now in silver or black for $79.

“Imagine your music player talking to you, telling you your song titles, artists and playlist names,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPod and iPhone Product Marketing. “The amazingly small new iPod shuffle takes a revolutionary approach to how you listen to your music by talking to you, also making it the first iPod shuffle with playlists.”

Alongside the third-generation iPod shuffle, Apple has also released the new Apple iPod shuffle USB Cable for charging and syncing the device. It is compatible with the Apple USB Power Adapter and sells for $19.

Editorial comments on the announcement can be found in these Backstage articles: So Last Year’s iPod shuffle Rumor Was True (Partially): iPod shuffle 3G and One More Thing: Apple’s New Approach to iPod “Generations”.

Also see: Ten Surprises - Good + Bad - in Apple’s Third-Gen iPod shuffle.

Photo of the Week: iPhone in Trinidad & Tobago

This week’s featured photo is from our iPhones Around the World gallery, and shows an iPhone in the crowd at Carnival 2009 Trinidad & Tobago. 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!

Apple kills eBay iPhone prototype, beta OS YouTube video

Following the publication of our story concerning two iPhone prototypes that were being sold on eBay, both the auction and a YouTube video of the working prototype in action have been pulled at Apple’s request. Responding to a comment request from iLounge, the seller told us that “as many people predicted would happen, Apple has contacted eBay to close the listing.” He also pointed out that a YouTube video he posted of the iPhone’s limited testing operating system had been pulled; when trying to navigate to the video, users are presented with the message “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Apple, Inc.” This marks the second time in the last month that Apple has asked eBay to pull an auction; former Apple employee Mike Evangelist had his auction for a pre-release iPod pulled in late February.

Update to popular Twitter client Tweetie rejected by Apple

Version 1.3 of Tweetie, a popular Twitter client for the iPhone and iPod touch, has been rejected by Apple due to the appearance of an offensive word in the site’s “Trends” data. “Trends” is a list of the most frequently referenced topics or words on Twitter at that moment. A picture of the offensive language in question is available online (NSFW), while a list of the improvements expected in version 1.3 is available here. Tweetie 1.2.1 is available now in the App Store and sells for $3.

Update: Tweetie 1.3 has been resubmitted and approved, and is now available from the App Store.

Chinese hackers crack iTunes Store gift codes, sell certificates

A group of Chinese hackers has succeeded in cracking Apple’s algorithm for encoding iTunes Store Gift Certificates, and are creating discounted certificates using a key generator. Outdustry reports that a number of the codes are available on the site Taobao, with $200 cards selling for as little as $2.60. The owner of the Taobao shop offering the cards admitted that the codes are created using key generators, and that he paid to use the hackers’ service. He also said that while the price of the codes has dropped steadily, store owners make more money as the number of customers grows.

Palm formally withdraws key investor’s iPhone-bashing statements

Following an interview last week with Bloomberg in which a key Palm investment partner and board member made disparaging remarks about the iPhone, Palm has filed a form with the SEC formally withdrawing the statements. Roger McNamee, Managing Director & Co-Founder of Elevation Partners, which owns 39% of Palm, and board member of Palm, Inc., said of the iPhone, “our product’s just going to run rings around them on the web. If you want to go to the web, it’s just going to be a million times—well, not a million times—several times faster.” Palm noted in its statement that the Pre is “still under development and it is premature to state the speed at which the device accesses the web or the relative speed of the Palm Pre compared to the smartphone products of competitors.”

Perhaps more noteworthy was McNamee’s claim that “not one” original iPhone purchaser will remain an iPhone user once their contract expires. “You know the beautiful thing: June 29, 2009, is the two- year anniversary of the first shipment of the iPhone,” McNamee said. “Not one of those people will still be using an iPhone a month later. Think about it—If you bought the first iPhone, you bought it because you wanted the coolest product on the market. Your two-year contract has just expired. Look around. Tell me what they’re going to buy.” In its filing, Palm said this statement was “an exaggerated prediction of consumer behavior pattern and is withdrawn.”

Official American Idol app hits App Store

FremantleMedia Enterprises has released the first official American Idol application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Developed by Zumobi, American Idol Season 8 Exclusive allows users to follow the top 13 contestants from Season 8, providing contestant bios, pictures, news, and exclusive behind-the-scenes videos. FremantleMedia promises 78 original videos to be released weekly between now and the Finale episode. American Idol Season 8 Exclusive is available now from the App Store and sells for $2.

Gameloft planning ‘Terminator Salvation’ iPhone game

Gameloft has revealed that it is working on an iPhone and iPod touch game based around the upcoming film Terminator Salvation. In an interview with MTV Multiplayer, Gameloft CEO Michel Guillemot revealed little about the gameplay, but said that assets from the film are being incorporated indirectly into the game. “We worked closely with Halcyon,” Guillemot said. “There isn’t direct footage of the movie, but we do incorporate cut scenes that give a realistic rendering of the movie atmosphere.” Guillemot noted that the iPhone development team consists of Terminator fans, and that their game is not the same as the console version that’s also under development. Terminator Salvation for iPhone and iPod touch is expected to launch alongside the film on May 22.

Macally rolls out new accessories for iPod, iPhone

Macally has announced three new products for the iPod, iPhone, and iPhone 3G. The HifiTune is a stereo headset for the iPhone and iPhone 3G which features a metal alloy body, an integrated, in-line microphone with a button for call and playback control, six pairs of included silicone fittings in three sizes, and an included carrying case. Available now, the HifiTune sells for $50. Macally’s IP-PH808 Four Way Privacy Screen Protective Overlay for iPhone 3G is a screen protector which works as a privacy screen to keep onlookers from seeing what’s on the screen, whether the device is being used in vertical or horizontal orientation. It is made from an anti-smudge and glare resistant material, attaches with non-damaging, residue-free adhesive, and is available now for $20. Finally, the mCup is an adjustable automobile cup holder mount for the iPod and iPhone. It features an adjustable base for a secure fit in most car cup holders, a flexible neck and swiveling holder for adjusting the viewing angle, and three selectable holder positions to fit the iPod, iPhone, and other devices. It will be available soon and will sell for $20.

Early iPhone prototype listed on eBay [update]

An early iPhone prototype has made its way onto eBay, complete with a rough beta version of iPhone OS and a second, non-functional unit. The working prototype is said to be in good cosmetic condition, and interestingly features a matte plastic screen as opposed to the glass screen found in production units. Its serial number is YM649xxxxxx, which the seller claims corresponds to a factory in China, manufactured week 49 of the year 2006, and it runs iPhone OS 03.06.01_G — the iPhone launched running OS 1.0, version 03.11.02_G. The seller claims the phone can make calls, browse the mobile versions of websites, and can receive SMS, but lacks any way to manually type an SMS on the phone. The non-working prototype has a glass screen, a slightly higher serial number, and is described as being in “fair” cosmetic condition, with various scratches. The two units are currently up to $300; it is unknown how long the auction will remain up, following Apple’s recent action to get an early prototype iPod removed from the auction house. [via iFun.de]

Update: The listing is no longer available. It is unclear whether the auction was pulled by eBay or by the seller.

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