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Readers’ Choice Award standings, Tablet Contest update

Early voting in our 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards has been proceeding at a fast clip, with thousands of votes already counted. Announced last week, the Readers’ Choice Awards let you pick the year’s best from four categories—Apple’s best new digital media product, iPod + iPhone Accessory Developer, iPhone + iPod Application Developer, and iPhone + iPod Game Developer. Currently leading the Application Developer of the Year category are Pocket God creator Bolt Creative and Facebook, with hundreds of votes for other developers as well. Belkin, Griffin, iHome, and Logitech are currently slugging it out in the Accessory Developer of the Year category, with Capcom, Digital Chocolate, EA, Gameloft, Ngmoco, and Tapulous most heavily supported for Game Developer of the Year. There’s still time for you to cast your vote—voting ends on October 28, 2009—and all it takes is filling out a simple four-question survey, so cast your vote today!

Also, don’t forget to get your entry in for our Design the Apple Tablet Contest. In this contest, the winners of which will be featured in the 2010 iPod + iPhone Buyers’ Guide, we’re asking you to come up with your own idea of what you think Apple’s upcoming tablet device should look like. Great entries are coming in now, so get to work on yours and submit it for your shot at a pair of Ultimate Ears Custom UE 4 Pros and an 8GB iPod touch!

Speck debuts SeeThru case for iPhone 3G, 3GS

Speck has introduced its new SeeThru hard shell case for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. Unlike the two-piece SeeThru for iPhone 3G, the new SeeThru is a single-piece design, made from translucent polycarbonate. Features include an integrated rubberized grip ring around the front bezel, full access to all ports, controls, and the camera, and an included screen protector. Available in a variety of colors, Speck’s new SeeThru case for iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS sells for $30. For more information, see our First Look article.

New iPhone 3GS boot ROM thwarts jailbreakers [updated]

Apple has begun to ship new iPhone 3GS units with an updated boot ROM, breaking the exploit commonly used to jailbreak the device. iClarified reports that the new ROM—iBoot-359.3.2—is not vulnerable to the “24kpwn” exploit, and began shipping last week. According to a Twitter post from “MuscleNerd,” this is the first time in the history of the iPhone and iPod touch that hackers have seen Apple update the boot ROM in the middle of a product cycle. Apple has in the past attempted to block jailbreaking through software updates, but this strategy has been less and less effective as the platform has matured, with most recent software updates being jailbroken either hours after, or in some cases, prior to, their official release.

Update: A member of the iPhone Dev-Team, a group that publishes tools to jailbreak the iPhone and iPod touch, has clarified that the new boot ROM does not in fact prevent jailbreaking, but instead makes it more difficult to reboot a jailbroken iPhone 3GS once it’s been turned on. According to Wired, without the 24kpwn exploit, jailbreaking will still be possible, but all jailbroken units with the new boot ROM will need to be tethered to a computer in order to turn on if turned off or if they run out of battery life.

App Mix: Jeter, Brunswick, Snapfinger, Volumatic

Gameloft has released Derek Jeter Real Baseball, its latest game for the iPhone and iPod touch. The game offers full 3D player and stadium models, the ability to listen to music from the iPod in-game, and the ability to post replays to YouTube, a variety of different game modes including a 162-game season plus playoffs mode and a home-un challenge, and audio commentary. Derek Jeter Real Baseball is available now and sells for $5.

Crave Entertainment has introduced Brunswick Pro Bowling, its first game for the iPhone and iPod touch. Based on the Wii game of the same name, Brunswick Pro features real pin and ball physics, including changing oil patterns and lane conditions, five unique locations, vertical and horizontal play modes, a Wall of Fame high score board, a choice between touch- and accelerometer-based controls, unlockable balls and bowling centers, realistic sound effects, a variety of game modes, and more. Brunswick Pro Bowling is priced at $3.

Snapfinger.com has launched its new Snapfinger - Restaurant Ordering application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The app lets users order meals from more than 28,000 restaurants across 1,600 U.S. cities, including popular chains such as Subway, Outback, California Pizza Kitchen, and more. Features include a location-based restaurant finder, the ability to save favorite orders, complete menu and item selections, a selectable pick-up time and date, a map of and directions to the selected restaurant, pre-payment via credit card, and order confirmation via text and e-mail. Snapfinger - Restaurant Ordering is available now as a free download from the App Store.

Independent developer Robert Scarano has released Volumatic, his second application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Volumatic is an iPod player application that offers automatic volume adjustment based on the ambient noise level, monitored through either the iPhone’s built-in microphone or the earphone microphone on the iPod touch. Features include fully customizable settings for fine-tuning the sensitivity and an “office mode” that automatically pauses playback when a loud noise is heard. Volumatic is available now as a free download from the App Store.

Photo of the Week: iPhone in Romania

This week’s featured photo is from our iPhones Around the World gallery, and shows an iPhone overlooking the city of Brasov in Romania. 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!

Mix: iTunesLP.net, FM app, SmartStart, KoalaKase

  • October 13, 2009

A new website has sprung up called iTunesLP.net, offering tutorials on how to create iTunes LP files for albums that Apple doesn’t offer in the new format, as well as an area offering downloadable iTunes LP files—at the moment, only the Leopold Stokowski with the Philadelphia Orchestra soundtrack to Fantasia is available. On the About page, the team behind the site explains, “At this moment these iTunes LPs are available for a select list of new releases on the iTunes store. However we think it would be nice to have many older, out-of-print, obscure albums or albums on indie-labels to get the same experience; and with that in mind we started working on finding out exactly how this new format works, in order to share our results with the community.” [via TheDigitalLifestyle.tv]

Apple may be working on a radio application for the iPhone and iPod touch, according to a new 9to5Mac report. Citing an anonymous source, the piece states that the app would be similar in functionality to the FM radio on the fifth-generation iPod nano, offering iTunes Tagging with a direct link to the on-device iTunes Store and a live pause feature. Although it has never been directly mentioned by Apple, the Broadcom chips in the second-generation iPod touch, iPhone 3GS, and third-generation iPod touch all offer the ability to receive FM signals; the latter also features FM transmission capabilities.

Directed Electronics has introduced Viper SmartStart, a new combination remote starting system and application for the iPhone and iPod touch that allows users to remotely start their vehicles directly from the device. Requiring a $499 Viper SmartStarm System or a $299 Viper SmartStart Module add-on for an existing, compatible Viper system, the application will also allow users to lock and unlock the doors, pop the trunk, find their cars in parking lots, and arm their security system, depending on the installation. Viper’s SmartStart systems are available in Best Buy stores now; the application is also available now as a free download from the App Store.

KoalaKase has introduced its new KoalaKase for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. Made from soft leather, the KoalaKase offers a rear external pouch for carrying business/credit cards and/or cash, velvet/nylon lining to reduce scratches, and open access to all ports, controls, and the camera. In addition, $1 of every Kase purchase goes to charity. Available in pink, brown, white, or black, the KoalaKase for iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS sells for $30.

Apple denies $10K iTunes LP production fee

Following a report from last week indicating that Apple was barring independent labels from releasing iTunes LP-formatted albums and charging a $10,000 production fee to create the associated files, the company has responded saying the prior accusations were false. Brian McKinney of Chocolate Lab Records was the originator of the prior information, and later contacted MusicWeek to add, “I should note that it is currently possible to design an iTunes LP independently. I’ve tested a couple designs on iTunes and they work great. The problem is that Apple won’t let you sell them through their store. So, the $10,000 production fee isn’t the barrier, it’s the exclusion of indie labels and artists by Apple. We love iTunes, hate exclusion. Hopefully that will change. Hopefully we will speed up the process.” An Apple iTunes spokesman dispelled the notion of any production fee in a later email, stating, “There is no production fee charged by Apple[.] We’re releasing the open specs for iTunes LP soon, allowing both major and indie labels to create their own.” Apple launched the iTunes LP format alongside iTunes 9 at its Rock and Roll media event on September 9.

GelaSkins launches personalized skins for iPod, iPhone

GelaSkins has launched its new Do-It-Yourself customizable service that allows customers to upload personal photos, artwork, or other images to create personalized skins for the iPod, iPhone, and other mobile devices. To create a skin, users choose their device, upload their image or design, layout the image on the skin, and preview. Customized cases can also be shared via Facebook and Twitter. All GelaSkins feature a patented 3M adhesive for easy removal, an anti-scratch, anti-UV coating, and allow for full access to the device’s ports and controls. GelaSkins DIY customizable skins are available now and are priced between $15 and $30 depending on device.

Sonos rolls out ZonePlayer S5 wireless music system

Sonos has rolled out the Sonos ZonePlayer S5, its new all-in-one wireless music system. The ZonePlayer S5 features five internal speakers—two tweeters, two 3-inch mid-range drivers, and one 3.5-inch dedicated subwoofer—as well as the ability to stream an iTunes library from any computer connected to the network or from a Network Attached Storage device, and integration with Internet music services like Napster, Rhapsody, Pandora, and Last.fm. Other features include an auxiliary input, complete compatibility with the company’s free Sonos Controller app for the iPhone and iPod touch, five Class-D digital amplifiers, and more. Sonos’ ZonePlayer S5 will sell for $399 and will be available later this month.

Roxio intros Popcorn 4 for Mac OS X

Roxio has introduced Popcorn 4, the latest version of its desktop DVD and video conversion application for Mac OS X. New in Popcorn 4 is support for AVCHD and AVCHD-Lite and Flash video, the ability to extract a video segment or audio track from a DVD-Video or high-definition video file, support for the Turbo.264 HD hardware accelerator, a preview mode allowing users to see how a converted file will look on their device before performing a full conversion, and more. Popcorn 4 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later and is available now for $50.

App Mix: Tweetie 2, Skullcandy, Pro Camera, BombLink

Atebits has released Tweetie 2, the sequel to its original Tweetie application for the iPhone and iPod touch. New in Tweetie 2 is support for video tweets, live filtering of users’ Twitter streams, full persistence, a fully-capable offline mode including offline reading and drafts, threaded conversations, a revamped “Nearby” mode, support for geotagging metadata, and more. Tweetie 2 is available now from the App Store and sells for $3.

Skullcandy has launched its new official application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The new app offers up-to-the-minute weather conditions for a host of surfing and skiing locations worldwide, GPS-based search for nearby surfing locations, ski slopes, and skate parks, videos of all three sports fed by SkullcandyTV.com, streaming music from over 50 artists, a variety of built-in and user-submitted wallpapers, and more. The official Skullcandy application for iPhone and iPod touch is available now as a free download from the App Store.

Jens Dämgen has introduced Pro Camera 2.0, the latest version of the camera application for the iPhone. Pro Camera 2.0 features a 4x digital zoom, a hardware-based image stabilization system that monitors accelerometer data to snap a shot when the device is still, a tiltmeter to indicate the relationship of the iPhone to the horizon, a self timer option, and more. Pro Camera is available now and sells for $3.

Capcom has released BombLink, its latest game for the iPhone and iPod touch. In BombLink, players must attempt to use falling flames to light bombs’ fuses in order to clear them from the screen. Features include a variety of explosive items such as obstruction and bonus bombs, three game play modes, three levels of difficulty, in-game iPod playback support, and more. BombLink sells for $2; a free Lite version is also available.

T-Mobile halts Sidekick sales after massive data loss

T-Mobile in the U.S. has halted sales of its Sidekick mobile phones after a series of gaffes left users unable to access their data, and in some cases led to the data being deleted permanently. According to Microsoft/Danger—Microsoft purchased Danger, the company behind the Sidekick, in February 2008—the service interruption began on October 2, and continued for the next few days for most users. Some users never had their data restored, however, and T-Mobile has announced to those Sidekick users that “based on Microsoft/Danger’s latest recovery assessment of their systems, we must now inform you that personal information stored on your device - such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos - that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger… [O]ur teams continue to work around-the-clock in hopes of discovering some way to recover this information. However, the likelihood of a successful outcome is extremely low.”

T-Mobile at first offered a free month of data service to those affected, but is now said to be letting upset users out of their contracts at no fee due to the problem. The timing of the incident and subsequent announcement couldn’t be worse for the Microsoft/Danger team, which has been the subject of a couple of recent articles describing how Microsoft’s attempt to refocus the Sidekick team on a secret feature phone project, codenamed “Pink,” has been a failure. Both articles contain information supposedly provided by inside sources, who told of disgruntled employees, incompetent management, and a policy of secrecy that kept the team isolated from the company’s other mobile platform teams.

Before the release of the iPhone, several iLounge editors used older versions of Sidekicks, which managed to gain a large share of the teen market and offered real-time AIM, email, and web access, with well-received hardware keyboard. Following the iPhone’s release, however, Danger struggled to move the platform forward with subsequent revisions of the device, despite maintaining a loyal userbase even in the face of strong competition from the iPhone and other more recent smartphones.

Former Genentech CEO Levinson resigns from Google’ Board

  • October 12, 2009
  • Apple,

Former Genentech CEO and current Apple board member Dr. Arthur Levinson has resigned as a member of Google’s Board of Directors, effective immediately. In a statement, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, “Art has been a key part of Google’s success these past five years, offering unvarnished advice and vital counsel on every big issue and opportunity Google has faced. Though he leaves as a member of our Board, Art will always have a special place at Google.” Levinson’s position on the Board of Directors at both Apple and Google was a point of concern in the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation into the close ties between Apple’s and Google’s board; Levinson’s departure follows that of Schimdt from Apple’s board, severing one more tie between the two companies.

App Store falling victim to name squatters

Some iPhone developers are having trouble finding good names for their applications as it seems that some unscrupulous developers are “name squatting” on the App Store. The problem developers, which iPhone developer Atomic Antelope calls “worse than domain name squatters,” are taking advantage of a loophole in Apple’s application submission system that lets developers partially register an app name without needing to actually submit the application. Recombu reports that not only are the names then considered taken, even though no application is submitted, but Apple also fails to disclose details of developers who have submitted a given application name, leaving developers planning on a given name for their app with no way to contact the squatter or other developer who has previously submitted the name.

Adobe unveils Photoshop.com Mobile for iPhone, iPod touch

Adobe has released its new Photoshop.com Mobile application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The new application allows users to edit and share photos directly from their device, integrating with Adobe’s Photoshop.com online service to store the original photo online, as well as edited versions; users may also save edited photos back to their devices’ photo libraries. Editing features include crop, rotate, flip, exposure, saturation, tint, and black and white settings, and the app also offers two filters—sketch and soft focus—as well as several effects including vignette blur, white glos, and soft black and white. Undo and redo features allow for non-destructive experimentation, and the app offers a built-in slideshow feature, as well. Photoshop.com Mobile for iPhone is available now as a free download from the App Store.

Mix: Greenpeace + Energy, Google, Chilli X, Rock Band

  • October 9, 2009

Both Greenpeace and the U.S. Energy Secretary have come out in support of moves made by Apple and other companies against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s stance on climate change. In a post to its News section entitled “Bravo Apple,” Greenpeace applauds Apple’s decision to resign from the Chamber, stating, “Apple has done the right thing,” adding, “IBM and Microsoft should think different too.” U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu also hailed the efforts of companies that have taken a stand against the Chamber, saying, I think it’s wonderful.” Chu also said the companies that left the Chamber object “to foot dragging, to denials” and realize that efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses are “part of our economic future in the United States.”

Earlier this week, Apple resigned from the Chamber of Commerce in a terse statement that read, “We strongly object to the Chamber’s recent comments opposing the EPA’s effort to limit greenhouse gases…Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the Chamber at odds with us in this effort. [...]because the Chamber’s position differs so sharply with Apple’s, we have decided to resign our membership effective immediately.”

Google has launched a new collection of tools called Search Options for its mobile search platform. The new feature, accessible from the Options link on Google’s mobile search results page, allows users to filter content by type, between web, forums, and reviews, by time, list results by relevance or by date, and more.

In celebration of its first birthday, iPhone developer Chilli X is offering all of its applications for iPhone and iPod touch for free. Starting tomorrow and continuing through Sunday, all 16 of Chilli X’s apps—including the well-reviewed PhotoFrame and PlaySafe—will be available as free downloads from the App Store. The promotion ends Monday.

EA Mobile has released more details, including screenshots, on its upcoming Rock Band game for the iPhone and iPod touch. the title will ship with 20 songs, including tracks from the Beastie Boys, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Pixies, and others, and will offer Facebook integration, Quickplay and Tour Mode, three difficulty levels, rewards and achievements, and an in-game music store for purchasing additional tracks. Rock Band is expected to hit the App Store later this month; pricing has yet to be announced.

Our weekly newsletter, iPodweek, coming later today

iPodweek, iLounge’s weekly newsletter recapping the last seven days in news, articles, reviews, and more, will be sent out to our email subscribers later today. In addition to rounding up the week’s top stories, iPodweek also features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. If you haven’t yet signed up to receive iPodweek, there’s still time to register and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address.

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J.D. Power: iPhone tops in smartphone satisfaction

Global marketing information firm J.D. Power and Associates has released the results of its 2009 Wireless Consumer Smartphone Customer Satisfaction Study—Volume 2, with Apple and the iPhone getting top marks in smartphone customer satisfaction. Among manufacturers of smartphones used primarily for personal reasons, Apple ranked the highest with a score of 811, performing particularly well on ease of operation, operating system, features, and physical design. It was followed in the category by LG with 776 points and BlackBerry maker RIM with 759 points. Perhaps more surprising is Apple’s top ranking among customers who use their smartphones primarily for business, besting RIM by a score of 803 to 724. The consumer study was based on 3,221 smartphone owners who have used their current mobile phone for less than two years, while the business study collected the experiences of 1,148 smartphone owners who use their smartphone for primarily business purposes; both studies were held between January and June 2009.

Apple charging $10,000, barring indies from iTunes LP

Apple is not offering its new iTunes LP format to independent record labels, and is charging a handsome production fee for the creation of each release, according to a new report. An independent record label owner asked Apple what would be involved in making some of his label’s albums available in iTunes LP format, and an Apple sales representative replied that not only is the company not offering iTunes LP as an option for independent labels, but it is also charging a $10,000 production fee to create the files, putting the format out of reach for many smaller artists. iTunes LP was introduced by Apple alongside iTunes 9 at the company’s It’s Only Rock and Roll event on September 9; since its launch that day, the selection of iTunes LP offerings has expanded only slightly, going from 6 albums at launch to 13 today. [via Gizmodo]

Power Technology debuts iDFX iTunes add-on

Power Technology has introduced its new iDFX Audio Enhancer software add-on for iTunes. According to the company, iDFX re-encodes users’ current MP3 and AAC files via a “patent-pending method that repairs the damage and lost harmonics that occurred during the original encoding process.” In addition, the company also claims that the software sets all songs to a standard volume level, similar to Apple’s SoundCheck feature, and increases the audio clarity and undistorted maximum output level when used with iPod docks and in-car connections. iDFX requires Windows XP, Vista or higher and iTunes 8 or higher, and is available now for $40. A free trial version is also available.

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