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Apple patent document shows unibody, sheet metal iPod

  • April 9, 2009
  • iPod,

Apple has been exploring the prospect of an iPod model with a unified enclosure similar to the “unibody” MacBook and MacBook Pro computers, an patent filing discovered by MacNN disclosed today. In the course of discussing the design, which would use inexpensive, cost-saving sheet metal “formed in such a way that the final part looks like it was machined down from a large thick slab of material,” Apple offers a roughly sketched example of an iPod classic that features the same sharp, seamless body lines as the third-generation iPod shuffle and metal MacBooks, while preserving the screen, Click Wheel, headphone port, and Hold switch placement found in fifth- and sixth-generation hard disk-based iPods. Notably, even the substantially aluminum current-generation iPod nanos still rely on plastic top and bottom pieces, and no full-sized iPod has previously done away with the polished steel housing originally developed by Apple for the 2001 first-generation model. 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.

App Mix: Yelp Update, 2-Page Browsers, Postcard Mailers

Yelp has announced an upcoming update to its same-named iPhone application, reviewed yesterday, which currently offers restaurant reviews and a restaurant finder feature. According to a company spokesman, the new Yelp version will let iPhone users “write Twitter-length ‘quick tips’ about a business, draft full reviews, browse a Facebook-style feed of reviews, tips, photos and events” either nearby or authored by friends, as well as adding U.K. support, a large photo browser, and account creation directly from the iPhone. A video of the new Yelp version, which is expected to become available in the App Store in the next day or so, can be viewed here.

Two separate developers have released what one bills as the “first dual web browser for iPhone,” both under similar names, enabling a user to look at two web pages at once. Michal Wagner/7sql’s iBrowseTwo 1.0 divides the vertical-orientation iPhone screen into upper and lower portions, with a bar dividing the two web pages and capable of being moved to let you see more of one or the other. BIG Development’s iBrowse2 1.0 divides the widescreen-orientation screen into two halves, left and right, placing pages on both sides and letting you switch into single-page vertical mode at will. Each app sells for $1.

Direct-from-iPhone postcard-creating applications have appeared in the App Store, including the $2 CardPuppy from Wildcat Mobile and the free app Postcards from Stolen Bases. Both applications let you use iPhone photo gallery images to instantly upload and create actual mailable postcards, complete with text and addresses you enter, which are sent via the developers to recipients of your choice. While CardPuppy comes with a credit good for one postcard, selling additional credits via PayPal for $2.50 and up, Postcards gives you two cards for free and then charges $1.30 and up for additional cards, depending on quantity. Both are available now.

Yahoo! launches Messenger app for iPhone, iPod touch

Yahoo! has released its new Yahoo! Messenger application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The application allows users to login to Yahoo’s messaging service, set their status with custom status messages, view recent conversations, and share photos. In addition, it offers an automatic idle mode that changes users’ statuses to idle upon leaving the application, giving them ten minutes to return to the app without missing any messages. Yahoo! Messenger is available now as a free download from the App Store.

Canada’s Fido now selling ‘refreshed’ iPhone 3G

Fido, the Canadian cellular provider owned by Rogers Wireless, has begun selling “refreshed” iPhone 3G units to eligible customers. According to MoblieSyrup, the “refreshed” phones differ from normal refurbished units in that they are not rebuilt or reconditioned by Apple, instead being brought back to Fido during the 15-day return/exchange window, and carry only a six month warranty. The refreshed units can only be purchased by existing Fido customers, who must currently be on a price plan dated before November 4th, 2008 or on a retention/loyalty plan. 8GB refreshed units sell for $149 on a three-year plan, while 16GB models sell for $249.

Survey: iTunes, iPod strengthen lead with teens

Apple’s iPod and iTunes Store remain the dominant MP3 player and online music store, respectively, in the teen market, according to the results of Piper Jaffray’s latest bi-annual Teen Survey. Of the 92% of students that said they currently own a digital media player, 86% said they have an iPod, up from 84% in the prior survey. While the percentage of students saying they are planning on buying an MP3 player in the next 12 months dropped dramatically from the prior survey, from 28% to 19%, a full 100% of those who plan to purchase intend to buy an iPod. “Apple is dominant in the market, and the lead appears to be growing as the market nears saturation,” said Piper analyst Gene Munster. “Apple’s dominance in the PMP market remains largely unchecked, and it is clear to us that Apple has captured the ‘cool factor’ among high school students across America.”

iTunes also made significant gains in the Spring ‘09 survey. While the percentage of students saying they download music online rose modestly, from 80% to 82%, and the ratio of students saying they use P2P file sharing over purchasing tracks remained the same at 6 to 4, 97% of students who said they purchase music online said they use iTunes, up from 93% in the prior survey. Finally, the percentage of students who said they owned an iPhone remained flat from the prior survey at 8%, but the percentage of those planning to buy one in the next twelve months fell slightly, from 22% in Fall 2008 to 16% in Spring 2009. “We believe AT&T rate plans are adversely causing the discrepancy in teen’s interest in the phone, and actual market share gains; as much as teens want the phone, parents may be reluctant to add expensive monthly data plans to their teen’s phone bill,” Munster said. “We expect Apple to address this issue in the coming months, with a family of iPhone models including a high end model with current plan pricing and possibly a low-end model with fewer features and lower-cost monthly data plans.” Piper Jaffray’s Spring 2009 Teen Survey was based on the responses of 600 students with an average age of 16.3 years, 54 percent of which were male and 46 percent female.

Amazon, Wal-Mart follow iTunes’ lead, raise prices

Both Amazon MP3 and Wal-Mart have raised prices on select digital songs following the iTunes Store’s move to variable pricing yesterday. Select tracks on Amazon’s MP3 store are now $1.29, matching iTunes’ top-tier pricing, while Wal-Mart has raised certain songs from $.94 to $1.24. Amazon’s decision to raise prices may seem unusual given that the service actually cut the price of many top-selling songs in its UK store ahead of the iTunes Store’s price hikes, cutting the minimum price on songs from 0.59 pounds to 0.29, or from roughly $.87 to $.43. CNet writer Matt Rosoff, however, suggests it wasn’t Amazon’s choice. “I can’t imagine Amazon’s excited about raising prices in a recession—they’re probably responding to price increases by the record labels, which were made possible by Apple’s capitulation,” Rosoff writes.

Apple sued over multi-touch technology

Taiwanese firm Elan Microelectronics has filed suit against Apple claiming infringement on two of Elan’s touch-screen patents. The New York Times reports that the suit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, and alleges that Apple products including the MacBook, iPhone, and iPod touch feature technology that infringes on two of Elan’s multi-touch patents. “We couldn’t find a common viewpoint with Apple, so we decided we had to take action,” said Elan spokesman Dennis Liu, adding that the two companies had been in licensing talks for roughly two years. Elan previously sued U.S.-based Synaptics in 2006 over one of the patents mentioned in the Apple suit; Synaptics counter-sued, and both actions were later dismissed after the two companies reached a cross-licensing agreement. It is unclear what damages or action Elan is seeking in its suit against Apple.

Namco releases Galaga Remix for iPhone, iPod touch

Namco has released Galaga Remix, its latest game for the iPhone and iPod touch. The game includes both the arcade classic Galaga and an enhanced Remix version, featuring six unique boss battles, nine different power-ups, new background images, an updated dual-fighter mode, and a new free play mode that lets players choose from previously-cleared stages. Galaga Remix also offers three control modes, including on-screen arrow keys, a slider bar, and accelerometer control. Galaga Remix is available now from the App Store and sells for $6; a free lite version is available as well. Continue reading for more screenshots.

Photo of the Week: iPhone in Nevada

This week’s featured photo is from our iPhones Around the World gallery, and shows an iPhone in the desert outside Las Vegas, Nevada. 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, China Unicom iPhone talks stalled?

Talks between Apple and China Unicom to bring the iPhone to China have come to a halt over demands by Apple, according to a new report. SinoCast reports that Apple was said to have asked Unicom to help pay for the costs of building special Apple storefronts across the country, after China Unicom agreed to a profit-sharing plan proposed by the iPhone maker. Executives at China Unicom would say that negotiations were ongoing, but refused to give any specific details. China Unicom is expected to launch its 3G network on May 17, and is said to want the deal with Apple finalized by April 15.

Google updates Gmail, Calendar for iPhone

Google has launched significant upgrades to its Gmail and Calendar web applications for the iPhone, iPod touch, and Android-powered devices. According to the company’s Mobile blog, the team behind the apps has completely re-architected the code to offer more consistent performance, and refreshed the user interface to make it easier to perform batch actions, along with laying the groundwork for future improvements. Other improvements include easier to read labels that are more in-line with their desktop counterparts, a relocated search menu, and the ability to open recently read messages and to compose new emails over a “flaky, or non-existent, network connection.” The improved interface requires iPhone OS 2.2.1 or later, and can be accessed now by visiting gmail.com from an iPhone or iPod touch.

NPD: iTunes still #1 in music downloads, Amazon grows

Apple’s iTunes Store remains the dominant online music store, according to the latest data from the NPD Group. In 2008, NPD claims, 87% of digital music buyers in the United States used iTunes to download music. Amazon MP3 claimed 16% of that market during the same period, although those surveyed could select more than one store. “It used to be iTunes was first and second was practically nobody,” said NPD analyst Russ Crupnick. “I suspect a lot of consumers, some of them a little older, are still buying CDs,” he continued. “That’s going to help Amazon because they aren’t battling over every crumb with iTunes. They’ll share some customers and have some of their own and that will help the company with growth.”

Bono: Apple limits led U2 to BlackBerry deal

Irish rock band U2’s falling out with Apple and subsequent partnership with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion was spurred by the former company’s unwillingness to work with the band on a more intimate level, according to a new report. Citing Toronto-based radio DJ Alan Cross, the Globe and Mail reports that when asked about the new partnership with RIM, U2 lead singer Bono said, “I’m very excited about this[.] Research In Motion is going to give us what Apple wouldn’t — access to their labs and their people so we can do something really spectacular.” After Cross asked Bono whether this might entail a special U2 BlackBerry application that would help the band interact with fans on their upcoming tour, the singer responded simply, “You’re not far off.” Apple originally introduced the special edition U2 iPod in October of 2004, upgrading it to add a color screen, and introducing a new version based on the fifth-generation iPod in 2006. The U2 iPods were cross-promoted with U2’s album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and a downloadable video called Love U2. Apple has since released the iPod classic without a version specific to U2 or any other band, while U2 has released an album with comparatively mild promotion from Apple.

ComScore estimates top 25 iPhone apps

ComScore has released a new list of the top 25 iPhone and iPod touch applications, based on estimates of the installed base of applications downloaded via iTunes by February 2009. The company, which says that it monitors roughly one million computer users in the United States, looks at its monitored iTunes users to determine which applications they had installed, and removes duplicates to avoid double- or triple-counting updated apps. According to the report, Tapulous’ Tap Tap Revenge is the top app, with 32% of monitored App Store users having downloaded the rhythm game. It is followed by Backgrounds, with 27%, Touch Hockey: FS5 with 26%, Facebook, also with 26%, and Pac-Man with 24%. Other notable entries in the top 25 include MySpace Mobile with 23%, Google Earth with 22%, Pandora with 21%, AIM with 19%, and Shazam with 17%. While the numbers strike us as unusually high for given apps, they provide a general sense of genre and app popularity. Overall, 12 of the top 25 apps are gaming titles, with entertainment apps accounting for four of the top 25, and three social networking apps making the list.

Orange France launches iPhone TV application

France’s iPhone carrier Orange has released a new application (Translated Link) that allows French users to watch TV on their devices. The Orange TV application is available for free from the App Store, but downloaders must pay separately to use the app, via either a €6-€9 monthly charge, or €.90 per 20-minute session. Between 20 and 64 channels are available, depending on the user’s plan; curiously, the app works over EDGE or 3G connections, but not over Wi-Fi due to TV channel concerns. According to MacGeneration, the app will be followed tomorrow by a version from competing carrier SFR, and Bouygues Telecom may also offer a similar application when it begins sales of the iPhone. YouTube videos of Orange TV in action are available in the MacGeneration article.

OtterBox intros Armor case for iPod nano 4G

OtterBox has introduced its new Armor Series case for the fourth-generation iPod nano. The new Armor case offers drop and shock protection, waterproofing up to three feet, and complete dust intrusion protection, as well as rubber padding that wraps around all sides of the nano, a thin, waterproof membrane covering the Click Wheel, a standard pass-through headphone port, and an included belt clip and lanyard. Available now in clear with white accents, the OtterBox Armor Series Case for iPod nano 4G sells for $40.

iPhone OS 3.0 beta: record video, AF camera, compass, voice control [updated]

A new screenshot discovered in the latest beta release of iPhone OS 3.0 shows a video recording interface for the Camera application, Mac Rumors reports. Accessed by changing configuration files to tell the OS that a video camera was present, the screenshot shows an interface similar to that of the current Camera app, but with a slider in the lower right hand corner for selecting between video and still capture modes, and a red recording dot in the center of the shutter button. In addition, other references to currently unavailable features were found in the configuration files, including text referring to an “auto-focus camera,” “magnetometer,” also known as a digital compass, and “Voice Control.”

Update: Boy Genius Report has published yet another set of screenshots from iPhone OS 3.0 showing evidence of a video recording feature, along with a new status bar battery percentage indicator. The first screenshot shows a revised version of the Photos app with tabs at the top for “All,” “Photos,” and “Videos;” the screen also shows the videos section displaying a “No Videos” marker with the text “You can take videos using the camera.” Also visible in the screenshot is a battery percentage indicator, which can be toggled on/off in the General>Usage Settings app menu, and a Voice Control menu option, the specifics of which are not yet known.

Coldplay Teams with Tapulous for Tap Tap Coldplay

Tapulous has released Tap Tap Coldplay (aka Tap Tap Revenge: Coldplay Edition), the latest in its series of Tap Tap rhythm games for the iPhone and iPod touch. Tap Tap Revenge: Coldplay Edition includes ten songs from the Grammy-winning English band, including “Yellow,” “Clocks,” and “Lost,” plus remixed versions of Lovers in Japan and Viva la Vida. The game also features new themes, graphics, and effects inspired by the band’s music videos, four difficulty levels, each with unlockable boss tracks, a multi-player mode, and Facebook Connect high score tracking. Tap Tap Revenge: Coldplay Edition is available now from the App Store and sells for $5.

For more information on Tap Tap Coldplay, see our review.

iTunes Store shifts song prices, many $1.29, few $0.69 tracks [updated]

As expected, Apple today changed the pricing scheme for individual songs sold through the iTunes Store, with some tracks increasing in price to $1.29, and others dropping in price to $0.69. This change comes in conjunction with the store making a move to an almost completely DRM-free catalog of iTunes Plus offerings; some DRM-locked music files—including some music videos—still remain in the Store, while others have disappeared entirely.

Though both Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Vice-President Phil Schiller claimed in January that “more songs are going to be offered at $0.69 than at $1.29,” there is very little evidence of $0.69 pricing in the iTunes Store, with a considerable number of $1.29 tracks now on offer. As of press time, the pricing changes have resulted in half of the top ten and 29 of the top 100 overall song downloads increasing in price to $1.29. Additionally, individual genres’ top 100 lists ranged from 46 $1.29 songs in the Hip-Hop/Rap top 100 list, 31 of the top R&B/Soul 100, 30 of the top 100 Pop songs, 28 of 100 Rock, and 26 of 100 Country, to none at all in Children’s Music, Christian & Gospel, Electronic, Singer/Songwriter, or World Music. Notably, prices have been raised on a number of older tracks, such as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters, and “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” by Eiffel 65, while the entirety of the New Kids on the Block, Tiffany, and Vanilla Ice catalogs remain available for $0.99 rather than offering discounts.

 

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Update: Continued fluctuations in song pricing are leading to unusual changes in both the top 100’s price lists and the pricing for individual songs. In re-checking the Store’s lists over the course of an hour, we noticed that the number of $1.29 songs in the top 100 had increased from 29 to 46, and then on a refresh, dropped back to 29, then gone up to 33. While some of the changes are attributable to different songs appearing and disappearing on the list, we discovered tracks such as Bad Girlfriend from Theory of a Deadman that are shifting back and forth from $0.99 to $1.29, sometimes appearing in iTunes as one price or the other. Clicking on the track reveals a notice that the top 100’s $0.99 pricing is inaccurate, and has been replaced by a higher $1.29 price. It remains to be seen how many tracks will see quiet price changes on a day-to-day or more frequent basis under the new song pricing structure.

Apple rebrands iPhone Stereo Headset, drops ‘iPhone’

Apple has quietly rebranded the iPhone Stereo Headset, dropping the device-specific iPhone name to transform it into the Apple Stereo Headset. This brings the branding of the Headset, which debuted with the original iPhone in 2007 but is now also compatible with the 120GB iPod classic, fourth-generation iPod nano, and second-generation iPod touch, in line with Apple’s more recent In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic and Earphones with Remote and Mic, both of which offer compatibility with these newer iPods as well as MacBook computers. Notably, the Apple Stereo Headset is not compatible with the third-generation iPod shuffle, while its newer counterparts are.

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