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Report: Apple manipulating NAND flash pricing

Apple is manipulating NAND flash memory pricing though “questionable” purchasing strategies, according to a new report. Citing multiple unnamed industry officials, The Korea Times reports that Apple is using the leveraging power provided by the popularity of the iPhone and flash-based iPods to order more chips from semiconductor makers than it actually needs. “Apple should certainly be blamed for deteriorating the supply and demand cycle in the global NAND flash market,” said an unnamed senior industry official. “Apple has asked Korean semiconductor makers to produce a certain amount of chips for its digital products, only to actually purchase a smaller volume eventually. The company doesn’t make immediate purchases, but waits until chip prices to fall to the level the company has internally targeted.” A separate unnamed official called Apple’s purchasing strategies “absurd,” adding, “Samsung and Hynix both provide chips to Apple and have less of an edge in deciding prices and volume. Apple’s strategy could hurt the industry’s health.” An earlier report from September indicated that Apple’s consumption of NAND flash chips, which are used in the iPhone and iPod nano, touch, and shuffle, was causing a severe shortage of the popular components.

Apple job posting points to improved Maps app

A new job posting on Apple’s website suggests the company is working to substantially improve and/or rework its Maps application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The listing for a full time iPhone Software Engineer says, “[t]he iPhone has revolutionized the mobile industry and has changed people’s lives and we want to continue to do so. We want to take Maps to the next level, rethink how users use Maps and change the way people find things. We want to do this in a seamless, highly interactive and enjoyable way. We’ve only just started.” Responsibilities of the job include implementation of low-level client/server code, high-level user interfaces, and “new and innovative features,” as well as enhancing the performance of Maps. The listing also refers to working closely with “partners in other companies,” but it is unclear whether this is meant to include Google, or simply other location services partners such as Skyhook Wireless. Apple purchased mapping company PlaceBase earlier this year, and it is possible the new hire could be involved in implementing the technologies acquired in the purchase into a new version of Maps that is less dependent on outside sources. [via Mac Rumors]

Apple posts developer info for iTunes LP, Extras

Apple has posted a new page with links to information on how to build iTunes LP and iTunes Extra files for submission to iTunes. Linked on the new page are templates for creating the files, along with a how-to, best practices documents, a development guide, and information on asset delivery, testing, and TuneKit, Apple’s API for iTunes LP and Extras files. Interestingly, the first line of the TuneKit Programming Guide (PDF Link) references “Cocktail booklets,” which was the rumored codename for Apple’s new bundle format. The page notes that “[a]utomatic, electronic submission” of iTunes LP and Extras files is not scheduled to begin until the first quarter of 2010, and the process is currently manual and limited.

KT sees strong demand for iPhone at launch

The iPhone finally launched in South Korea over the weekend, with strong demand seen by carrier KT. Apple had seen difficulties in getting the iPhone past the country’s telecommunications regulatory body, receiving preliminary approval in September, followed by final approval earlier this month. According to KT, roughly 65,000 people placed orders for the iPhone since it became available for pre-sale on November 22. We’re hoping that this iPhone will be a trigger point for the smartphone market in Korea,” said Yang Hyun-mi, chief strategy officer at KT. Explaining that smartphones currently make up just one percent of all cell phone sales in South Korea, she added, “we just think it will be really huge.”

Next generation iPhone begins testing phase

Apple has begun field testing a next-generation iPhone model, according to device usage records from an iPhone/iPod touch application. Mac Rumors reports that developer Pandav, who uses PinchMedia to provide analytics for its app iBART, found a device identifying itself as “iPhone3,1” in its usage logs for November. Apple has in the past used the first number to identify a major architecture change between models, with the original iPhone being labeled “iPhone 1,1,” the iPhone 3G appearing as “iPhone 1,2,” and the iPhone 3GS labeled “iPhone 2,1.” Evidence of the new model was found in iPhone OS 3.0 as early as this March; Mac Rumors also notes that Apple began field testing the iPhone 3GS last October, roughly eight months ahead of its launch.

Apple begins Black Friday sale

Apple has officially begun its Black Friday 2009 sale, offering discounts on a number of Apple and third-party items. All fifth-generation iPod nano models are available for $11 off their standard prices, while iPod touch discounts range from $21 on the 8GB model to $41 on the 64GB version. The Apple TV is also available at a $21 discount, and the company’s iMac and MacBook Pro computer lines are also on sale, along with a wide range of first- and third-party accessories, including the Airport Express, Airport Extreme, and Time Capsule wireless solutions, the Nike + iPod Sport Kit, the Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic, and more. The sale will run through midnight tonight.

AT&T offering refurb iPhone 3GS units online

AT&T is now offering refurbished iPhone 3GS units through its online store. Refurbished 16GB models are priced at $149, while 32GB units are selling for $249; both prices are with a two-year contract, and both white and black units are available. In the past, AT&T’s refurbished units have been listed with a notice that they include a warranty of 90 or more and may have “minor scratches.”

Black Friday iPod/iPhone deals round-up (Updated)

Friday marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season in the U.S., a day commonly referred to as “Black Friday.” As a service to our readers, we’ve rounded up some iPod-related deals being offered at major retailers across the country, as well as a few accessory and app specials.

  • Toys ‘R Us: $50 Gift Card with any iPod touch purchase
  • Wal-Mart: 8GB iPod touch with $50 iTunes Gift Card for $195
  • Best Buy: 8GB iPod touch w/$30 Gift Card for $199.99, 8GB iPod nano 5G with Wall Charger + Case for $159.97, Bose SoundDock Series II for $269.99
  • RadioShack: 8GB iPod touch w/$20 Gift Card for $199.99, 8GB iPod nano w/$15 Gift Card for $149.99
  • Target: 32GB iPod Touch With Free $30 Gift Card for $295.00, 8GB iPod Nano With Free $15 Gift Card for $145.00
  • Altec Lansing T612 iPod/iPhone Speaker for $90 (List $200)

Gameloft is offering Terminator Salvation, Shrek Kart, Brothers in Arms Hour of Heroes, Blades of Fury, Real Tennis 2009, Castle of Magic, and Hero of Sparta for $0.99, while EA is offering discounts between $3 and $1 on a number of its iPhone and iPod touch titles, including Monopoly, FIFA 10, Madden 10, SimCity, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Both offers run through Sunday.

Chillingo is offering two games for Black Friday. Super Shock Football is free on Friday and Jules Verne Secrets of the Mysterious Island is $0.99 for 24 hours starting Friday.
Finally, Power Support is offering 15% off all iPod and iPhone films, and its Air Jacket, Crystal Jacket, and Silicone Jacket cases. If you find or know of any other iPod or iPhone deals going on this weekend, feel free to share them in the comments.

Cignias ships NAO Symphony systems for iPod

Cignias has introduced its new NAO Symphony and NAO Symphony Noir speaker systems for the iPod. Both systems feature 40 Watts of total power, four-inch speakers, an integrated, top-mounted iPod dock, upgradable firmware, and auxiliary inputs. Interestingly, both also offer the ability to control the docked iPod wirelessly from an iPhone or iPod touch, complete with access to playlists, albums, artists, and more, via the free MusicNAO app, as well as Bluetooth audio playback capabilities. Cignias’ NAO Symphony and NAO Symphony Noir speaker systems are available now and sell for $299.

Apple updates Remote for iPhone, iPod touch to 1.3.3

Apple has released Remote 1.3.3, the latest update to its remote control application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Remote allows iPhone and iPod touch users to access and control their iTunes installations or Apple TVs directly from their devices, doubling as a keyboard and touchpad navigator for the latter. According to Apple’s release notes, Remote 1.3.3 provides bug fixes, as well as the previously added compatibility with iTunes 9 and Apple TV 3. Remote is available now as a free download from the App Store.

Handbrake version 0.9.4 adds 64-bit support

Popular open-source DVD to MPEG-4 converter Handbrake has been updated to version 0.9.4. The new version offers a host of improvements, including speed, size, and quality improvements taken from the x264 project, support for 64-bit and parallel builds for added speed improvements on 64-bit capable machines, support for soft subtitles, a live preview feature, better input support, constant quality encoding which varies size to meet a given quality level, a new custom anamorphic mode, and more. Handbrake 0.9.4 is available now as a free download for Mac OS X 10.5 or later, Windows XP or later, and Linux.

NewerTech rolls out Charge and Sync+ battery

Newer Technology has introduced its new Charge & Sync+ portable battery for the iPod, iPhone, and other USB devices. The Charge & Sync+ packs a 1400mAh battery inside its white chassis, and can also function as an AC charger for connected devices. Features include battery and power status lights, three included interchangeable cables, one for Dock Connector devices, one for mini-USB, and one for micro-USB, and the ability to allow a connected iPod or iPhone to charge and sync with a computer via USB. Newer Technology’s Charge & Sync+ portable battery pack is available now and sells for $40.

Tesco to sell iPhone in U.K.

Supermarket chain Tesco has announced that it will soon offer the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in its stores through its Tesco Mobile brand, making it the fourth U.K. carrier to sell the device. BBC News reports that a Tesco spokesperson said the company hopes to offer the phone “in time for Christmas,” which would put its roll out ahead of Vodafone’s, which isn’t expected until early next year. Tesco Mobile is a joint venture between the supermarket firm and O2, and offers phones both on contact and on a pay as you go basis from its stores around the U.K.

Photo of the Week: iPhone 3GS in Ukraine

This week’s featured photo is from our iPhones Around the World gallery, and shows an iPhone 3GS in front of Yekaterininskaya Church in Chernigov, Ukraine. 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!

Ivyskin unveils Zappak portable battery pack

Ivyskin has introduced its new Zappak portable battery pack for the iPod, iPhone, and other USB devices. The 3,000 mAh, lithium-polymer Zappak features SmartBattery technology and a proprietary circuit to deliver the most power possible, as well as a lifespan of up to 1,000 full charges, a charging time of 2.5 hours, an integrated USB plug for recharging, LED charge status lights, and dual USB ports for charging two devices at once. Available now in three colors, Ivyskin’s Zappak sells for $50.

iPhone users complain of ‘searching for service’ bug

A number of iPhone users are voicing their displeasure over a bug in iPhone software 3.1.2 that sees the phone randomly start searching for service. According to a thread on the Apple Support Discussions site, the problem appears to be software related, as users on AT&T, Rogers Wireless, and Telus have been affected; the only current fix once the phone begins searching is to reboot the device. It is unclear as to whether the problem is limited to iPhone 3G units, but no verified users of other models have complained on the thread thus far, suggesting that the bug may be specific to that iPhone model.

Update: A number of users, including one iLounge editor, have confirmed in the comments that the bug is indeed affecting all models of iPhone.

iTunes, Live Nation launch concert offerings

iTunes, in partnership with live music company Live Nation, has launched a new series of recorded and filmed concerts from its network of “wired” venues on the iTunes Store. The new exclusive offerings include video and/or audio recordings from artists such as the Plain White T’s, OK Go, Jesse McCartney, and The Bird and the Bee, with more releases promised in the future. The live albums are priced between $4 and $10, with video recordings priced between $8 and $13.

iSkysoft intros iMedia Converter 2.0 for Mac

iSkysoft has released version 2.0 of its iMedia Converter application for Mac OS X. The all-in-one DVD and video converter can rip DVDs to a variety of formats, including iTunes-, iPod-, iPhone-, and Apple TV-compatible MP4 files, and also offers video conversion for a host of formats, audio extraction from DVD and video files, including to M4R iPhone ringtones, video editing features, batch conversion, 5.1 audio output support, and more. iSkysoft’s iMedia Converter 2.0 for Mac requires an Intel Mac running OS X 10.5 or later, and sells for $49.

ZAGG debuts ZAGGskins for iPod, iPhone

ZAGG has introduced its new line of ZAGGskins for the iPod, iPhone, and other portable devices. Based on the company’s invisibleSHIELD protective film, ZAGGskins feature the same custom fit and protection, but with the addition of a customizable image. Users can upload their own high-resolution photos or images to be used on the ZAGGskin, or can choose an image from the company’s existing library of designs. ZAGGskins are available now and sell for $20 each; ZAGG is offering a 50% off discount from today through November 30.

AdMob: iPhone accounts for 50% of smartphone ad requests

According to the latest data from mobile advertising firm AdMob, the iPhone accounts for 50% of all worldwide smartphone ad requests. The company’s newly-published October Mobile Metrics Report (PDF Link) also shows the iPhone accounting for more than 22% of requests from all handsets worldwide, making it the top handset model, followed by the iPod touch with 9.8%. In the U.S. market, the iPhone fares even better, taking a 55% share of all smartphone ad requests. Among the top handset models in the U.S., the iPhone is number one with 24.1% of requests—an improvement over its worldwide numbers—while the iPod touch again comes in second with 11.4% of requests, also an improvement over its international numbers. AdMob’s percentages are based on ad requests, impressions, and clicks, tracked over the more than 15,000 mobile web sites and applications to which the company serves ads.

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