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iTunes song price hikes, drops coming April 7

Apple will begin to offer variable pricing on songs sold through the iTunes Store beginning April 7, according to a new report. Citing music industry executives, the LA Times reports that while the date has yet to be officially announced by Apple, the company has been informing record labels that the change will go into effect on that date. Apple announced in January that it would be moving to a pricing model where tracks sold for either $0.69, $0.99, or $1.29, based on the wholesale cost set by the labels; in return, Apple was able to secure DRM-free music from all three remaining holdout labels.

Despite the DRM-free nature of the more expensive downloads, some music industry insiders are criticizing the move, particularly in the current economic climate. “This will be a PR nightmare,” said former EMI Music executive Ted Cohen, who is now managing partner of digital media consulting firm TAG Strategic. “It is for the music industry what the AIG bonuses are for the insurance industry.” Jim Guerinot, who manages several groups including Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt and Offspring, said that raising pricing was the wrong move if the industry hoped to compete with still rampant music piracy. “Wouldn’t it make sense to try to price it cheaper instead of squeezing the handful of people who are still willing to pay for music?” Guernot said.

Speck outs Fitted cases for iPod touch 2G, nano 4G

Speck Products has revealed further details of its new Fitted hard shell cases for the second-generation iPod touch and fourth-generation iPod nano. Similar in design to the company’s Fitted cases for iPhone 3G and originally announced in January, the two-piece, snap-together cases feature either a fabric- or vinyl-wrapped outer finish and cutouts for full access to all ports and controls. The iPod nano 4G models also feature a clear hard shell front with a Click Wheel opening.

Both models will be available in two separate lines—the vinyl-wrapped Fitted Totally collection and the Fitted Haberdashery collection. The Fitted Totally collection will be available at Toys “R” Us stores and will come in aqua and purple for the iPod nano 4G and white/pink, black/grey and purple for the iPod touch 2G, while the fabric-based Haberdashery collection will be available in black pinstripe, tan houndstooth, and black and white plaid, at both Target stores and Speck’s website. All Fitted cases for the iPod touch 2G and iPod nano 4G will be available in April and will sell for $30.

China Unicom to launch iPhone 3G on May 17?

China Unicom has reached a deal with Apple to offer the iPhone in China and may be planning to launch the handset on May 17, According to a new report. Citing Chinese-language Sita, JLM Pacific Epoch reports that the Shanghai subsidiary of China Unicom — the same subsidiary that yesterday posted a page for the iPhone 3G online — has confirmed an agreement between the two companies. A “related employee” said that the Shanghai office heard the news today, and has begun prepping for the launch, which could come on May 17.

Citing a second report from Communications Weekly based on an unnamed insider, Unicom plans to announce the agreement on May 17, and that the company has begun testing in Hebei province’s Lanfang, Baoding, Tangshan and Qinhuangdao cities. The insider indicated that the agreement involves Unicom subsidizing the iPhone hardware, purchasing a designated number of units, and sharing revenue from value-added wireless services with Apple. Apple will be responsible for localizing the software, testing iPhone compatibility with Unicom’s WCDMA network, and has agreed to lock the phones to Unicom’s network.

EA reveals slew of upcoming iPhone titles

EA Mobile has announced additions to its lineup of upcoming titles for the iPhone and iPod touch. Joining the already promised Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf, Need for Speed Underground, The Sims 3, and Wolfenstein RPG as 2009 releases are FIFA Soccer, Madden NFL Football, NBA Live Basketball, Spore Creatures, Mystery Mania, SSX Snowboarding, Connect Four, Battleship, RISK, Monopoly Classic, Clue, American Idol, and Command & Conquer. In addition, the company disclosed that it has released an update to its Scrabble game for iPhone, enabling users to play against friends using the Facebook Connect feature.

Blockbuster hopes to bring on-demand service to Apple lineup

In an interview with Reuters concerning its announcement that it will be bringing its On Demand Internet-based video rental service to TiVo users, a Blockbuster executive said the company plans to do the same for other media devices. “You will see us in a large number of other devices going forward,” said Kevin Lewis, senior vice president of digital entertainment at Blockbuster, adding that the company intends to make its system available to Apple’s products, saying, “We need to be in the normal places that consumers want to watch movies.” Despite the statement, the proliferation of Blockbuster’s service across Apple’s device lineup seems unlikely given the company’s current iTunes Movie Sales and Rentals, which were recently expanded to include more HD offerings. [via MDN]

iPhone developers: apps cloned, Apple no help (updated x2)

iPhone developers are dealing with a new threat: duplicates of their applications being approved by Apple, and then released in the App Store as competitors. Citing an Apple Developer Forums thread in which app developers are complaining of their apps being downloaded, copied by other developers, and then re-posted to the store with either the same or very similar names, iLounge reader Zen Ho says that the cloning phenomenon is “being handled unsatisfactorily by Apple.” Ho cites TouchScan, an application cloned by a different developer’s “Touch Scan Pro,” reusing images, sound, and text from the original app; additionally, the developer of iCopter recently watched as both “iCopter Free”—now titled “Copter Free”—and “iCopter Classic” were released, further confusing consumers by using an only slightly modified version of the original iCopter’s logo. Thus far, Apple has been unwilling to help affected developers by removing the impostor applications, says Ho, and instead has told them “to sue the offenders themselves.” Ho sees it as “Apple’s duty to ensure that such plagiarism is rejected in the first place, and to at least take them down upon complaints,” noting that “it is scary to think that anyone developing for the platform can have their business stolen [at] anytime.”

Updated: In an e-mail response to iLounge, the developer of Touch Scan Pro has presented several counter-arguments to the ones made by Ho above. “I wrote Touch Scan Pro in 38 minutes,” explains Gary Fung, suggesting that due to the trivial time it took to copy Touch Scan, and the lack of originality in the original application’s graphics, name, and concept, all of which he claims were legally unprotectable, “[t]he author of Touch Scan simply cannot expect this amount of effort to earn him a living for the rest of his life.” Fung also claims that he developed the Pro application to make a statement about the lack of value that the original Touch Scan application offered. “I felt that consumers are not getting their $0.99 worth of utility from this app so I wrote one and gave it away for free,” said Fung. “For the first week Touch Scan Pro was free not as a trial or limited time offer. It was simply free. It was only until Markus started to harass me then I decided to change my mind.” Now Fung is charging the same $1 that he said the original program was not worth.

Update 2: Markus Stöbe, developer of the original Touch Scan, has weighed in with his own e-mail response: “What kind of difference does it make how long it took me to code TouchScan?... And it doesn’t make any difference if he thinks this is not original… it’s my work and hence it is protected by copyright. [M]y interpretation of the theme, regardless how long it took me, regardless if he doesn’t like it and regardless of the prize I ask for it: it is my work and it is protected… [he] did not start charging because I mailed him but because he wanted to make some quick bucks with someone elses work.”

iPhone generates one-third of worldwide, half of US handset traffic

According to mobile advertisement firm AdMob’s Mobile Metrics report for February, the iPhone now accounts for one-third of all worldwide smartphone web traffic, and half—49.5%—of US traffic. Interestingly, the iPod touch ranked second in worldwide handset traffic, with 6.7%, following only the iPhone with 11.2%. Apple ranked second in worldwide handset share, with 17.9% of requests compared to Nokia’s 30.2%. In the US, Apple ranked first with 27.1% of requests, and both the iPhone and iPod touch hold a greater percentage of requests, the iPhone leading with 16.4%, followed by the iPod touch with 10.6%. Overall, worldwide requests were down 3% month over month to 6.6 billion.

Photo of the week: iPhone in Tokyo

  • March 25, 2009

This week’s featured photo is from our iPhones Around the World gallery, and shows an iPhone across the street from the Ginza Apple Store during the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo, Japan. 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 sued over iPhone eBook promotion

A new lawsuit has been filed against Apple for promoting the iPhone as a touchscreen book reader. MONEC Holding Ltd of Switzerland has filed a seven-page complaint in a Virginia district court, accusing Apple of patent infringement, unfair trade practices, monopolization, and tortious interference, relating to MONEC’s 2002 patent titled “Electronic device, preferably an electronic book.” The patent describes an electronic device with a touchscreen LCD display, having the “dimensions such that [...] approximately one page of a book can be illustrated at normal size, this display being integrated in a flat, frame-like housing.” MONEC argues that Apple is “well aware” of its patent and that the iPhone maker’s infringement has caused injury to its property and business, which it hopes to reclaim as damages; the company is also seeking attorney’s fees and an injunction preventing Apple from further infringement.

Apple launches Cross Border international ordering

Apple has quietly launched its new Cross Border ordering option, allowing customers with family or friends in different countries to order products for delivery directly to them. Prior to the launch of this feature, it was impossible to order products from Apple for delivery in a different country. Currently, US-based customers can order items for delivery in Mexico, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Belgium, Finland, and France. To take advantage of the new program, users can visit the Apple Online Store for the destination country.

iPhone apps take all but one IGF Mobile award

The 2009 Independent Games Festival Mobile award winners have been announced, with iPhone applications winning six out of the seven available awards. Zen Bound from Secret Exit was given the Mobile Audio Achievement Award and won the Best iPhone Game category as well, while Fieldrunners from Subatomic Studios was also honored twice, winning in the Art category and being named the IGF Mobile Best Game. Real Racing from Firemint won in the Technical Achievement category, and Galcon from Hassey Enterprises won in the Design category. Reflection for the Nintendo DS was the lone non-iPhone winner, taking the Next Great Mobile Game category.

China Unicom lists iPhone 3G on regional website

A listing for the iPhone 3G has appeared on China Unicom’s regional Shanghai website (Translated Link), suggesting the carrier may be close to a deal with Apple to launch the iPhone in China. The page in question appears in a section of Unicom’s site dedicated to its upcoming WCDMA 3G rollout, alongside dedicated pages for the HTC G1, Sony Ericsson X1, and Nokia’s N97 and E71 smartphones; notably, the iPhone 3G page also includes images of the iPhone 2G, and makes reference to certain features—such as animated screensavers—that the iPhones don’t actually include. According to Macworld UK, a China Unicom delegation made a breakthrough last week in its talks with Apple to bring the handset to China; the company had previously confirmed that it was in talks with Apple over the iPhone. The China Unicom page does not specify whether the company will sell the iPhone.

id Software leaks Wolfenstein 3D for devs, notes iPhone plans, delays

John Carmack of id Software has released an open-source port of his classic FPS game Wolfenstein 3D for the iPhone and iPod touch. Available under a GPL license as a direct download from id, the code is not compiled, requiring access to Apple’s iPhone SDK to be rendered playable, and offers developers the opportunity to create their own takes on the somewhat enhanced version of the original game.

In a statement included with the game code, Carmack explained how Wolfenstein RPG, originally slated to be the company’s first iPhone title, stumbled in development after a disagreement with publisher Electronic Arts over the graphics renderer, which delivered sub-par visual performance that resembled a mid-range JAVA phone. Carmack noted that switching the rendering from a software engine to the iPhone’s 3D hardware accelerator was claimed to require two months and an excessively high budget, but took him four days and improved the frame rate by eight times its prior performance; still, it is unclear whether the improved title will be appearing on the iPhone. He went on to say that the company does have a “cool” but unnamed iPhone project in development, and that he expects Classic Doom to be available for the iPhone “fairly soon.”

Update: id has released Wolfenstein 3D Classic via the App Store. The game includes all six original episodes with 60 levels, an all-new control system developed for the iPhone by John Carmack, and sells for $5.

iPod shuffle 3G poll ends, iPhone OS 3.0 poll begins

With over 3,000 votes from iLounge readers, our latest poll—“Did the new iPod shuffle’s lack of built-in buttons stop you from wanting one?” has ended. Readers could say they were definitely planning or considering purchasing a new shuffle but didn’t like this design, that they like the new design and plan to buy one, or were not planning to buy one and had not changed their minds based on the new design.

Half (50%) of responding readers said that they weren’t interested in buying the shuffle before the third-generation version was announced, and hadn’t changed their minds after seeing the new design. Of those who were open to purchasing an iPod shuffle, roughly two-thirds (66%) said that they were either certain about or mulling a shuffle purchase, but decided not to because of the design, while the remaining third said that they liked the third-generation design and planned to buy one. Thanks for all your votes!

Our new poll focuses on iPhone OS 3.0. We’d like to know what feature you’re most excited for in the new software. Is it cut and paste? Stereo Bluetooth, Spotlight search, or MMS support? Perhaps the expanded widescreen keyboard support, or push notifications, or some other upcoming feature? Our new poll, “What’s the feature you’re most excited about in iPhone OS 3.0?” lets you answer that question. You can find the iLounge poll in the left hand column of the main iLounge.com home page. Vote today!

Apple activates Genius sidebar for movies, TV shows

Apple has activated the Genius sidebar functionality for movies and TV shows in iTunes, a feature that was originally mentioned on Apple’s preview page for iTunes 8.1, then removed shortly after the release of the software. In initial testing, it appears that the feature only works with iTunes-purchased or iTunes Digital Copy files, failing to recognize movies and shows that were obtained or imported through other stores or software. In addition, iFun.de points out (Translated Link) that while the feature is activated in Germany, it is dependent on the iTunes Store country currently selected — for example, since movies aren’t available from the iTunes Store in Germany, the sidebar feature only shows TV shows. iTunes 8.1 is available through Apple’s Software Update utility or as a direct download from apple.com/itunes.

Ngmoco chief outs Rolando sequels, Secret Exit collaboration

During a keynote address at the GDC conference, Ngmoco CEO Neil Young revealed the company’s plans for more Rolando level packs, two sequels, and a collaboration with Secret Exit. Young said the company plans on releasing three more level packs for Rolando between now and the end of May, bringing the total number of add-on levels to 20, with Rolando 2 following with a June release. It will feature four worlds with 36 levels, and will see a similar level pack expansion with 20 extra levels by October. Young also announced Rolando 3 for a November release; it should see similar level packs released thereafter. Finally, Young said that Ngmoco and Zen Bound-creators Secret Exit are collaborating on a new game, utilizing the companies’ “super powers” in order to build on each other’s strengths.

iPhorest app to help grow, sustain real trees

iPhactory has released iPhorest, a new application for iPhone and iPod touch. iPhorest allows users to plant and grow virtual trees, and view a world map of all iPhorest users worldwide. For each virtual tree planted in the app, the company, in conjunction with The Conservation Fund, says that it will plant a native tree in real life, beginning with the restoration of the vulnerable wildlife habitat along the Gulf Coast. As the virtual iPhorest grows, the Fund will work with public natural resource agencies to ensure the real trees are protected. iPhorest is available now from the App Store and sells for $5.

Apple axes iPhone Bluetooth Headset

According to Apple’s online store, the company has discontinued its iPhone Bluetooth Headset. Announced alongside the original iPhone and released shortly after the first-generation handset, the iPhone Bluetooth Headset originally came in a large box, along with a charging cable and Dual Dock for $129; later versions of the headset came in smaller, more iPod-like clear packaging without the Dock for the reduced price of $99. It is unclear why Apple chose to discontinue the product or if it has a replacement model in development. [via Apple Insider]

Update: SetteB.IT is reporting (Translated Link) that the headset is still listed as available in both Italy and France.

PopCap launches Bookworm for iPhone and iPod touch

PopCap Games has announced the launch of its word game Bookworm for the iPhone and iPod touch. Touted by the company as “the most popular digital word game of all time,” Bookworm lets players build words from contiguous letter tiles on a grid, with longer and more difficult words scoring more points and spawning “gem tiles” which offer additional bonuses when used. The game features a vocabulary of over 170,000 words, all-time high score tracking, a shake to scramble feature, and more. Bookworm is available now for the iPhone and iPod touch and sells for $5.

Wind Solutions releases CopyTrans 3

Wind Solutions’ iPod to PC transfer tool CopyTrans has been updated to version 3. CopyTrans allows users to transfer media from their iPod or iPhone to their Windows PC, and can also create backups of iPods and iPhones for archival storage. New in version 3 is the ability to transfer ratings, play counts, skip counts, date last played, album artwork, and all other iTunes fields, and a fully-customizable list view that enables users to choose the columns they wish and place them where they want. CopyTrans 3 offers support for the iPhone and iPhone 3G, iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, fifth-generation iPod, fourth-generation iPod, iPod mini, and iPod shuffle, and is available now for $20.

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