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H2O Audio readying first waterproof iPod camera case

H2O Audio has teased the release of its new CAPTURE Waterproof Case for the fifth-generation iPod nano next week, allowing users to record video with the iPod nano underwater—a first for an iPod case—while still maintaining access to all of the iPod nano’s controls. The case is made from polycarbonate plastic and will be submersible to a depth of 12 feet underwater. It will include a 3.5mm pass-through headphone connector compatible with H2O Audio’s waterproof headphones, and is expected to sell for $80.

Mix: iTunes Web Store, iPhone school trial, Apple patents

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Apple may be looking to leverage its purchase of the music streaming service Lala to create a web-accessible version of the iTunes Store, according to sources familiar with the strategy. Lala currently allows users to purchase and listen to music through a web browser, and the suggestion is that Apple would leverage this design to make iTunes Store content accessible without the need for the iTunes application to be installed. Notably, it appears Apple may already be taking steps to a more web-friendly iTunes Store with its recent introduction of a new in-browser iTunes Preview feature for iTunes Store links.

A London Catholic school is now providing iPhones to its students. Gumley House Convent School in West London has begun a classroom trial program to examine the use of the device and mobile technologies as a learning aid, while encouraging their positive use within the classroom environment. The initial trial consists of 30 students who will be given iPhone 3GSes on loan for the remainder of the school year to use as part of their lessons in school, and to aid their learning in general. Students will be responsible for the cost of any calls made on their iPhones, but the remainder of the costs will be covered by the Brentford City Learning Centre. The group of students involved in the study will be expected to meet regularly to discuss share ideas and discuss how they are using the iPhone to further their learning experiences. (via Fonehome)

Three new patent applications from Apple have been revealed this week. The first details new tamper-resistant labels for detecting when users open hardware devices so that Apple can detect when a warranty has been voided, adding to its prior insertion of moisture sensors to detect liquid intrusion for warranty-voiding reasons. The second patent describes a method for controlling iPod media playback entirely by motion via the iPhone and iPod accelerometer, allowing users to scroll through songs, flip through Cover Flow mode and select content for playback entirely by motion. A third patent reveals a new Universal Dock design consisting of an elastic sponge-like material that could conform to the shape of any mobile device. This design could replace the current Apple Universal Dock which relies on specific adapters for each different iPod or iPhone model. (via AppleInsider and MacDailyNews)

App Mix: IMDb, Google Mobile, Gorillacam, NASA

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has released an iPhone application to enhance access to its service from the iPhone. IMDb lets iPhone users search through its entire database of movies, TV shows and celebrities, as well as access trailers, photos, U.S.-based TV and movie listings, box office results and top-ranked movies and celebrities. The IMDb app is available as a free download from the U.S. App Store; it is not yet available in other countries.

Google has released an update to its Google Mobile App, providing the ability to open search results within an in-app browser rather than switching to Safari, and expanding International support with additional languages, the ability to choose the spoken language used when searching by voice, and support for users within China. The Google Mobile App is available as a free download from the App Store.

Joby, maker of the Gorillamobile camera mount for the iPhone, has released a new iPhone photography application designed as a companion to its iPhone mounts. The Gorillacam application provides enhanced iPhone camera features such as a self-timer for taking delayed pictures, a time-lapse feature for taking automatic photos at regular intervals and a continuous rapid-fire feature that allows a series of photos to be taken at 1.6fps. The application also features a grid overlay and bubble level to properly adjust your iPhone for taking pictures and the ability to upload or share photos directly from within the app itself. Gorillacam is available as a free download from the App Store.

NASA has released an update to its iPhone application providing new features such as information on visible sighting opportunities for the International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle based on the user’s current location, more detailed information on missions and additional content, an option to display high-resolution images and status updates on upcoming launches. The NASA App is available as a free download from the App Store.

China Unicom reports sales of 100,000 phones

China Unicom reports that it has now sold 100,000 iPhones since the device’s official launch in China in October. The carrier had indicated in early November that it had signed up only 5,000 subscribers in the first weekend of the iPhone launch, and later reports from a major online electronics retailer revealed that only five iPhones had been sold through that particular outlet. However, China Unicom chairman Chang Xiaobing now reports that the carrier has actually sold 100,000 iPhones in the past 40 days, indicating in an interview on Thursday that most reports have been focusing on the contract-free price of the iPhone in China (US$1,033 for the 32GB iPhone 3GS) rather than the subsidized pricing models that are available under various monthly plans, four of which actually offer the iPhone hardware for free under contract. Further, Chang described earlier reports that China Unicom had contracted with Apple to purchase 5 million iPhones over a five-year period as “not entirely accurate” but added that the company is rethinking its marketing strategy and believes it could possibly sell more than that number. The official iPhone sold in China does not include Wi-Fi capabilities due to government regulations, while fully-capable iPhone models have been available for import into China from other countries such as Hong Kong since long before the official iPhone Chinese release. It is commonly believed that these factors have contributed to comparatively slow sales of the official iPhone in China, where mobile phone subscribers are estimated to number more than 720 million.

Tesco to offer iPhone in UK on December 14th

According to a report from BBC News, British department store Tesco will begin to sell the iPhone in the UK starting on December 14th on a twelve-month contract. The lowest rate plan is expected to be £20 per month (US$32.50), while an 8GB iPhone 3G will sell for £222 (US$360) on a twelve-month contract, the shortest currently available in the UK. Customers willing to sign a 24-month £60 (US$98) per month contract can get the 8GB iPhone 3G or 16GB iPhone 3GS for free. By comparison, O2 sells the base iPhone 3G model for approximately £97 (US$160) for the handset and a lowest rate plan of £30 (US$50) on an 18-month contract, while Orange provides rate plans as low as £30 (US$50) on an 18-month contract with a free iPhone. Vodafone is also expected to begin carrying the iPhone next year but has not announced any pricing details as of yet.

Mix: iTunes Gift Cards on Facebook, Time Magazine, Qik, ezGear

Apple has introduced the ability to purchase customized digital iTunes Gift Cards through its iTunes Facebook page. The feature is currently limited to U.S. iTunes Store customers only, and allows users to choose one of six digital gift card designs with values ranging from $5 up to $50 and enter a gift message. Users can also specify to send the gift card immediately or schedule it for automatic delivery at a future date. The service is integrated into the Facebook “Gifts” feature, enabling the iTunes Gift Cards to be sent through Facebook itself.

Time magazine has chosen the iPhone 3GS as the fourth best gadget of 2009, interestingly placing behind the Motorola Droid, Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader and the Dyson Air Multiplier. Time named the Droid as its number one choice since it was deemed the first handset to truly challenge the iPhone, and the best hardware companion to Google’s Android mobile operating system. The iPhone 3GS also earned praise, but the article noted that the changes in the 3GS were not revolutionary enough to distinguish it from last year’s iPhone 3G.

Qik reports that it has submitted an updated version of its Qik app to the App Store that will support live streaming from the iPhone. Qik has provided an unofficial live streaming iPhone app for jailbroken iPhones since even before the iPhone 3GS was released, however its first official Qik app on the App Store provided only the ability to record videos for later uploading to the Qik service.

ezGear is offering iLounge readers a 20% discount on all online orders at its web site. iLounge customers can use the Discount code ILOUNGE during checkout to redeem the offer. The ILOUNGE discount code can be used multiple times for iPod and iPhone accessories, as well as other ezGear products.

Ustream releases Live Broadcasting app

Ustream today released its free live broadcasting application for the iPhone 3G and 3GS, allowing iPhone users to stream and broadcast live video from the iPhone over either Wi-Fi or the 3G network. Ustream Live Broadcaster provides the ability to broadcast a live stream via the Ustream servers or record video locally on the device, even on the iPhone 3G. Videos are streamed or recorded at a maximum resolution of 320x240 and recorded videos can be viewed within the Broadcaster application on the iPhone itself or uploaded to Ustream, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter for sharing. Live Broadcaster also provides the ability to send out a notification via Twitter when you start a broadcast as well as interact with your audience during a broadcast through chat or a Twitter feed via Ustream’s Social Stream service. Ustream Live Broadcaster requires an iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS running OS 3.1 or later and is available as a free download from the App Store.

AT&T to tighten data usage controls

AT&T indicated today that they plan to place tighter leashes on iPhone users who use excessive amounts of data for services such as streaming video. AT&T has had problems keeping up with increased wireless data usage since the release of the iPhone, leading to dropped calls and slower data connections. President and CEO of Mobility and Consumer Markets Ralph de la Vega indicated to investors that although AT&T is upgrading its network to cope with the increased data usage, the carrier also plans to give high-bandwidth users incentives to “reduce or modify their usage.” De la Vega did not provide any specific information on how or when the carrier would change its policies, but he did indicate that some form of usage-based pricing for data is inevitable.

Mr. de la Vega defended AT&T’s network performance, indicating that its 3G network is faster than its competitors overall, but that its major problems are concentrated in areas with higher densities of smartphone users such as New York and San Francisco, however he conceded that the current usage caps and lack of accessible usage information gives users little reason to limit their data usage and that AT&T needs to educate its customers to better understand data consumption and improve its systems to provide real-time access to data usage information. He also indicated that at this point it is approximately 3 percent of smartphone users who are consuming 40 percent of AT&T’s network capacity, with the most high-bandwidth activity being video and audio streaming to devices such as the iPhone.

Apple launches iPhone Developer RSS Feed

Last night Apple announced the launch of an RSS feed for iPhone Developer news and announcements. The new RSS feed provides information on a range of topics of interest to iPhone developers including tips on submitting apps to the App Store, current turnaround times for app review, developer program updates and development and testing techniques. While targeted at iPhone Developers, the feed is publicly available for anybody who may be interested in following iPhone-related development news from Apple.

Mix: Where To?, Bento, Dragon Dictate, PhatNotes

FutureTap has announced that its popular WhereTo? GPS points of interest app now integrates with NAVIGON’s MobileNavigator application on the iPhone. The MobileNavigator app can now be started directly from WhereTo? to provide users with turn-by-turn navigation directions to any chosen point of interest. WhereTo? is the first application to provide integration with MobileNavigator and provides an example of the ability of different applications on the iPhone to seamlessly interact with each other. In addition to MobileNavigator support, WhereTo? 2.5 also provides new features such as free search, more customization options and full VoiceOver support. WhereTo? is available on the App Store for $3.

FileMaker announced today that it has sold over 100,000 copies of its Bento for iPhone and iPod touch app, placing it amongst the most popular productivity apps on the App Store. Bento for iPhone is a database application which leverages features of the iPhone to provide fast and effective access to both lookup and update database information on the go and provides wireless synchronization with the Mac version of Bento on the desktop. Bento for iPhone can also be used as a standalone application for users without Bento on the Mac. Bento sells for $5 and is available on the App Store.

Nuance Communications has announced that its speech-to-text Dragon Dictaton application is now available for the iPhone. Dragon Dictation allows users to speak e-mails and text messages instead of typing them, and also works with the iPhone clipboard to allow users to speak text that can then be pasted into any other iPhone application such as Facebook or Twitter. Dragon Dictation performs its text-to-speech conversion using the well-known Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition technology rather than relying on human transcription, and is capable of handling longer sequences of spoken text, allowing users to compose even multi-paragraph e-mails by speech recognition. Dragon Dictation is available for free on the U.S. App Store for a limited time. Nuance is currently developing their regional roll out plans and hopes to have the app available in other countries soon.

PhatWare Corporation announced today the release of the iPhone version of its popular PhatNotes note organizer application, bringing many of the capabilities of its popular Windows Mobile version to the iPhone platform. PhatNotes for iPhone is the first notes editor for the iPhone to offer both handwriting recognition and keyboard entry modes as well as advanced note editing features such as shorthand, customizable auto-correction, user dictionary spell checking support. PhatNotes for the iPhone also features advanced text searching and note filtering capabilities, reminders and hyperlinks between notes and synchronization with the separate PhatNotes Desktop software application for Windows. PhatNotes for iPhone sells for $10 and is available from the App Store. The companion PhatNotes desktop application is sold separately and available from the developer’s web site; a trial version of the desktop application is also available.

Uniea announces new U-Diamond case for iPhone 3GS

Uniea has announced its new U-Diamond case for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. The U-Diamond case is made of a double-silicone construction with a diamond matrix design style and texture and provides cutouts for the iPhone camera, Dock Connector, speakerphone and ringer switch as well as pass-through buttons for the iPhone volume control, and includes a U-Shield screen protector. The case is expected to be available in five different colors and is scheduled for release sometime in the first quarter of 2010. No price has yet been announced.

Apple showcases Best iTunes Content of 2009

Apple has set up a new Rewind 2009 section on the iTunes Store showcasing best-selling and critically acclaimed music, movies, TV shows, applications, audiobooks and podcasts of 2009. Content is divided into sections by type of media, with music, movies, TV shows and audiobooks showing iTunes Store selected “Best of 2009” content alongside the top sellers for the year in each category, while the podcasts section shows only “Best of 2009” content separated into audio and video categories. The App Store Rewind 2009 section is separated into Games and Apps and presented with iTunes’ chosen “Best of 2009” applications alongside top sellers in each category. It is unclear whether the top selling apps have been selected by unit sales or total gross sales, but it is noteworthy that the top-ranking apps do include some of the more expensive offerings on the App Store such as the Navigon MobileNavigator and TomTom navigation apps. Top ranking games include The Sims 3, Need for Speed Undercover, Tiger Woods PGA Tours, Assassin’s Creed, Civilization Revolution, Rock Band, and Flight Control.

Apple pulls dev and 1000+ App Store apps for astroturfing

Apple has banned a prolific iPhone developer from the App Store and removed all of the company’s more than 1000 apps as a result of what is believed to be review fraud, or astroturfing, on the part of the company. The issue with this specific developer was first discovered and reported by iPhoneography, a blog devoted to iPhone photography and videography, when a reader unearthed an unusually high number of five-star reviews for Molinker’s various applications. All reviews shared the same poor writing style and the overly positive reviewers had written reviews excluslvely for Molinker’s products.

iPhoneography submitted this information to Apple’s Phil Schiller and later received word confirming that Molinker’s apps had been removed from the App Store, which for some reason had featured at least one of the apps as a staff pick despite highly negative user reviews. In a response to the Appfreak blog, Molinker acknowledged that it had also received an e-mail on Sunday from Apple, placing its contract in pending status. (via AppleInsider)

Three months later, Apple sells iPod touch refurbs with OS 2.2

Three months following the release of iPhone OS 3.1 and the third-generation iPod touch, Apple is still selling refurbished iPod touch models with the older 2.2.1 iPhone OS installed, forcing users to pay for upgrades to get software that debuted in September. Unusually, the Apple Store page for the refurbished iPod touch does not explicitly state the version of the OS that is included with these models—an issue dating back months—while a small link is provided on the page to “Visit iTunes to buy the iPhone 3.1 Software Update for iPod touch.” Apple representatives have confirmed to iLounge as recently as today that refurbished models still ship with the older version of the iPhone OS, and that the $5 3.1 update must be purchased separately. Notably, new 8GB iPod touch units sold by Apple since September of this year use the same second-generation hardware, and do include the latest iPhone OS.

iPhone tethering comes to Telstra Australia, sales strong in S. Korea

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian iPhone carrier Telstra quietly enabled iPhone tethering this weekend, allowing iPhone users to now access the Internet from their computers via either USB or Bluetooth. Telstra has offered this feature on its other mobile phones for some time, but insisted that Apple would not permit it to enable tethering on the iPhone. Apple indicated, however, that tethering decisions rest with the carriers themselves, and Australia’s other three cellular phone carriers have been providing tethering access for the iPhone since shortly after the iPhone 3.0 update was released in June. A list of the iPhone carriers around the world which provide tethering capabilities can be found on Apple’s Locating iPhone Wireless Carriers page.

Additionally, reports indicate that the iPhone has had a successful launch in South Korea. Sales of 60,000 units were noted for its first day of availability, representing 15% of the total number of smartphones that were sold in South Korea during the entire third quarter. Even though South Korea provides one of the most advanced sets of mobile products and services in the world, smartphones still only represent 1% of the total mobile market in that country. KT Corporation, the iPhone’s South Korean carrier, hopes that the introduction of the iPhone will improve the popularity of smartphones in that country.

App Mix: AT&T Problem & Rogers Apps, Modern Combat, AppButler + Beaterator

AT&T has released a new iPhone application that provides customers with the ability to report service problems, complete with information on the location where they experienced the problem. Customers can report problems such as dropped or failed calls, coverage problems, data failure or poor voice quality, and can specify a location or use the current location from the iPhone GPS. Reports can be submitted immediately or after the fact and customers can specify how frequently they’ve encountered problems of this nature. Submitted reports are acknowledged with a return SMS to indicate that the information was received properly. AT&T Mark the Spot is available as a free download from the U.S. App Store.

Rogers Wireless in Canada has released its Rogers My Account app, providing real-time access to up-to-date voice, data and messaging usage, account balance information, and online payments. The My Account app authenticates the user automatically based on the specific iPhone it is being run on and requires an active cellular data connection rather than a Wi-Fi connection to operate. Users are not charged for data used by the application itself, and the app does not work with Corporate or Prepaid accounts. Rogers My Account is available as a free download from the Canadian App Store.

Gameloft has released an update to its popular Modern Combat: Sandstorm game, providing both local and online multiplayer support. Modern Combat; Sandstorm is a first-person shooter for the iPhone and iPod touch, and recipient of 2009 Game of the Year award—a highly recommended download even prior to this update.

A new application for the iPhone and iPod touch, AppButler, provides a new way of searching and discovering information on applications in the App Store by aggregating the rating and top listings information from the largest iTunes App Store countries—the U.S., Canada, UK, France, Italy, Japan and Australia. AppButler uses its own algorithm to calculate a score for every app based on its ranking over a 24-hour period in the top 100 listings for these countries, creating an International ranking for the top applications. Users can choose specific categories and their own score threshold to filter only those apps they are interested in. AppButler also takes advantage of push notifications to allow users to set up customized alerts for their favorite categories. AppButler is available as a free download from the iTunes Store.

Rockstar Games has released a new app, Beaterator which provides users with access to a large library of sounds with which to create their own music. Many of the sounds have been constructed by super producer Timbaland, and Beaterator has been specifically designed and optimized for user on the iPhone and iPod touch, with a pick-up-and-play interface that gets users started quickly creating their own music on the go. Beaterator sells for $5 on the App Store.

Winners of iD The iPods + iPhones Contest Announced

iLounge is pleased to announce the winners of our iD The iPods + iPhones Contest, in which we challenged readers to identify specific device models from among a collage of 70 different iPods and iPhones. The winners are:

Grand Prize: Adam Amadio of Toronto, Canada
Prize: i-DS3 Plus Wireless Speaker System & 8GB iPod touch
First Runner-Up: Ryan Harer of Athens, Ohio
Prize: Duo-i Plus AM/FM Stereo Radio with iPhone/iPod Dock
Second Runner-Up: Chris Colvin of Chicago, Illinois
Prize: i-DS2 iPod Speaker System

Congratulations to each of the winners and thanks to all of the readers who entered the contest! Clues used in the contest can be found in our 2010 Buyers’ Guide.

iPhone to launch in Israel this week

Israel’s three main cellular carriers will begin selling the iPhone this week. Cellcom, Israel’s largest mobile carrier is scheduled to begin selling the iPhone on Wednesday at midnight, while Partner Communications and Pelephone will begin sales on Thursday. Estimates suggest that 80,000 Israelis already have iPhones purchased outside of the country, and unlocked for use on the Israeli cell phone networks. The three Israeli mobile carriers have committed to purchasing 80,000 units each, however analysts expect the actual numbers to be much higher, believing the iPhone could boost average revenue by up to 30 percent. (via Reuters).

Apple sued over iPhone camera patent infringement

Another patent infringment lawsuit has been filed against Apple, this time over the camera technology in the iPhone. St. Clair Intellectual Property Consultants has filed suit in the United States District Court in Delaware, alleging that the iPhone camera infringes on four separate patents that it holds, seeking damages and a jury trial. In 2001, St. Clair filed suit against Sony for infringement of the same patents and received $25 million in damages, and then sued Canon in 2003, receiving $34 million in damages. St. Clair has since filed suit against every other major camera maker, as well as technology companies such as RIM and Palm. Many of these companies have since entered into licensing agreements with St. Clair. (via The Loop).

iPhone coming to Guam, expands in Singapore

This week will see the iPhone released in Guam, and expand to two additional carriers in Singapore. GTA TeleGuam has announced that it will launch the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G in Guam on Friday, December 11th, as it will offer the iPhone with any existing MPULSE wireless subscription plan and a two-year contract. Customers will be able to pre-order the iPhone beginning today either online through the company’s web site or at any of its retail stores.

A separate report in The Wall Street Journal indicates that both MobileOne Ltd. and StarHub Ltd. in Singapore will begin to offer the iPhone 3GS in Singapore starting on Wednesday, December 9th. The larger Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. has been been selling the iPhone in Singapore for some time now.

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