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Apple purchases music site Lala.com

Apple confirmed yesterday that it has purchased online music retailer Lala.com, a smaller technology company that has developed an as-yet-unreleased application for streaming songs to the iPhone. Though Apple has not provided any further information, such as how much the deal was worth or what it plans to do with this acquisition, Lala’s streaming application promised to give users the right to stream songs to their iPhones an unlimited number of times for $0.10 per song, significantly less than the price of songs on the iTunes Store; the tracks could be purchased thereafter. Apple was said to be interested in Lala’s technical expertise, including its payment and streaming technologies, rather than its specific application. The company was launched in 2006 as an online CD-trading site but relaunched in October 2008 as a music retailer. (via MSNBC)

UPDATE: According to a source familiar with the matter, Apple may be looking to expand iTunes by offering streaming services in addition to their traditional download model. The source, who asked not to be named, stated that
“Apple recognizes that the model is going to evolve into a streaming one and this could probably propel iTunes to the next level.” (via Reuters)

UPDATE 2: Media Memo reports that according to multiple sources, Apple paid around $80 million for the company. This price represents less than half of what investors had valued Lala at in 2008, but is more than twice the money that has been raised by the company throughout its lifetime.

DLO launches WallDock charger for iPod or iPhone

DLO has released a new wall charger that lets you charge your iPod or iPhone without the need for cables. The WallDock is a wall-mounted charger with a built-in dock for iPod or iPhone. The WallDock ($25) features a pivoting, 30-pin dock allowing any iPod or iPhone to rest against the wall for support and claims to charge in less amount of time than other standard, less powered chargers.

Incase debuts Perforated Snap Case for iPhone

Incase has released yet another new case design for the iPhone 3G/3GS. The Perforated Snap Case is made of a plastic, snap-on hardshell and features perforations throughout, making the case lightweight. The Snap Case comes in black, white and pink and a S-Stand is also included for $30.

App Mix: Aqua Forest 2, Le Bar Guide, Christmas Cards, Mean Girls

Hudson Entertainment has announced the release of Aqua Forest 2, the sequel to its popular Aqua Forest game. Aqua Forest 2 builds on the unique and innovative puzzle game experience from the original version, focusing on realistic physics and fluid dynamics of water across fifty new game environments to challenge players. It is available from the App Store for $5.

Stella Artois has released a new augmented reality app, Le Bar Guide, which uses augmented reality combined with an extensive guide of the best bars around the world to help guide users to the best beer experience. The app includes bar reviews and ratings as well as an integrated taxi number service that uses the iPhone’s GPS to locate the nearest cab company and automatically give it a call for a ride home afterwards. Le Bar Guide is available as a free download from the App Store and requires iPhone OS 3.1 or later, and is compatible with the iPhone and iPod touch, although AR features are only available on the iPhone 3GS.

Equinux has released a new Christmas Greeting Cards application that allows users to send out holiday wishes directly from the iPhone. The app includes eight greeting card designs that can be further customized with specific greetings and photos from the iPhone camera or photo library. Once complete, the electronic greeting card is sent out directly from the device via e-mail. Christmas Greeting Cards is available on the App Store for $1.

Paramount Digital Entertainment has released a new app based on a popular film. Mean Girls allows the player to take on the role of a new student who must fight opposing high school cliques in a series of Match 3 battles. The game provides a full story mode with customizable character profiles, a plot line based on your in-game accomplishments and social interactions, or simply a quick play mode where players can jump in and play a single Match 3 battle. Mean Girls is available now on the App Store for an introductory price of $1.

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Mix: Motorola ad, iTunes Holiday, iPhone Orchestra, Bing

Motorola has released a new ad for the Motorola Droid that likens the iPhone to a “tiara-wearing digitally clueless beauty pageant queen.” Although the commercial does not specifically mention the iPhone by name, it shows images of an iPhone-like device being admired by superficial stereotypes such as a blond woman holding a phone in front of her as she crosses the street and applies lip gloss. The ad contrasts this with the Droid by suggesting that the phone is a robot rather than a princess and trades “hair-do for can-do.” This advertising blitz appears targeted primarily toward a male audience, with recent studies showing increased interest in Motorola among men of ages 18 and up. (via AppleInsider).

Apple has once again launched a “12 Days of Christmas” promotion on the UK and across the European iTunes Stores. The 12 Days of Christmas offers a selection of free downloads each day from December 26th, 2009 through to January 6th, 2010. Last year the offer included rare singles, live tracks and free music videos from such artists as Katy Perry and Lily Allen. This year, iPhone apps, TV shows, and movies are also expected to be included in the free offerings. users can also sign up at http://www.itunes12daysofchristmas.co.uk to receive daily e-mail alerts for each offer. (via Macworld UK).

Students in a computer-science course at the University of MIchigan are preparing to put on a live concert with an ensemble consisting entirely of iPhones. The course, “Building a Mobile Phone Ensemble” instructed the students in the basics of iPhone programming for multimedia and culminated in having the students code their own musical instruments for the iPhone using the standard Apple SDK. The course was taught by George Essl, an assistant professor of computer science and music who notes that rather than treating this merely an “an engineering exercise” he wanted students to go through “the whole process where we start from nothing and then we go to performance next week in a live concert where people can come and listen to the outcome of what students have learned in the course.” Essl notes that iPhone is a unique device to work with as it starts out as a sophisticated blank slate with multiple sensors that can be used to create music in different ways. The Michigan Mobile Phone Ensemble will perform Dec 9th at 8pm in the university’s Britton Recital Hall. (via Wired).

Microsoft Bing program manager David Raissipour confirmed yesterday that they are working on a mobile version of their Bing search engine for the iPhone platform that will not only facilitate searches through Bing but also combine a number of additional features, although Raissipour would not indicate exactly what those features are or when the application would actually be ready. Microsoft already has a native mobile Bing application for several other mobile phone platforms, including Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices, as well as some specific feature phones. (via CNet).

Rogue apps could affect non-jailbroken iPhones

A Swiss iPhone developer has published research that indicates that security vulnerabilities affecting the iPhone are not limited to jailbroken iPhones. Developer Nicholas Seriot has created a proof of concept app called SpyPhone as a demonstration of how Apple’s own APIs could be misused to read or edit a user’s address book or gain access to a user’s web surfing history or recent location information. For such attacks to succeed, a malicious application would still need to get past Apple’s App Store approval process to be available for non-jailbroken iPhones, however this is not outside of the realm of possibility as such an app would not require the use of any exploits or third-party APIs, and the spyware portion could be hidden by delayed activation or an encrypted payload.

The security researcher detailed these potential iPhone privacy risks in a talk he delivered in Geneva on Wednesday, during which he also outlined possible defense strategies, suggesting that Apple should design the iPhone OS to require users to authorize read or read-write access by iPhone applications to potentially sensitive on-device information such as the Address Book, add firewall functionality to the device and ensure the keyboard cache is not as readily available to third-party applications. (via The Register).

EA adds novel episodic content to Surviving High School game

Electronic Arts has introduced a novel way of distributing in-app content with its new game, Surviving High School (iTunes link), which casts the player in the role of a new high school student who needs to make smart choices to succeed socially and academically. For the initial $3 asking price, EA includes a single story called “Football Season” that gets players started; the novelty is in shorter individual new episodes that appear on a weekly basis with an evolving story line.

Episodes are distributed using a TV-like model with a “Now Airing” new episode that’s available each week for free and previous episodes available “on demand” for $1 each as in-app purchases. This system allows players who keep up with the title from the beginning to continue to play for free after the initial purchase, while allowing stragglers to catch up with the earlier story for a price. As with iTunes Store downloads of TV shows, EA’s episode bundles can also be purchased as seasons. Each episode provides multiple possible story lines based on your choices, which makes even single episodes re-playable. A free version is also available from the App Store, providing only a shortened introductory version of the “Football Season” story and no support for additional episodes.

Official iPhone sales in China below expectations

Following last month’s official launch of the iPhone on China Unicom, China’s most popular online retailer is reporting much lower than expected sales of official iPhone units in China. Taobao.com, the largest Chinese e-commerce web site reports that it has sold only two 8GB iPhones and three 16GB iPhones since it began selling them on Nov 22nd. Although China Unicom is also selling the iPhone directly, Taobao is considered to be China’s top online retail site for buyers of electronic devices. To comply with local regulations, iPhones sold by China Unicom do not include Wi-Fi capabilities and sell for a higher price than fully-capable iPhone models that have long been available through unofficial sources: A 32GB iPhone 3GS from China Unicom costs 6,999 yuan (US$1,024) without a contract compared to about US$800 in Hong Kong, making it difficult for official China Unicom iPhone models to compete. (via PC World).

Apple TV poll ends, Apple Tablet name poll begins

With over 2,700 votes from iLounge readers, our latest poll—“Would a $30 monthly iTunes TV subscription service be enough to make you buy an Apple TV?”—has ended. Readers had positive options for indicating that they would consider purchasing an Apple TV if iTunes introduced a TV subscription service that included all or most of the shows that viewers enjoy watching, or if Apple changed the Apple TV hardware or pricing. Alternatively, readers could indicate that they would not be interested in purchasing an Apple TV even with these improvements, or that they already owned Apple TV hardware.

Interestingly, a 48% plurality of respondents indicated that a $30 iTunes TV subscription service would not be enough to convince them to purchase an Apple TV, while 22% of respondents indicated that they would purchase an Apple TV if the subscription service included all of the shows they enjoyed watching and only 8% would purchase it if they could only get most of their favorite shows. By comparison, 7% indicated that they would only consider purchasing an Apple TV if Apple increased the storage capacity or lowered the price, and 14% of respondents indicated that they already own an Apple TV unit. Thanks for all your votes!

In our new poll, we ask what you think Apple should name its upcoming tablet device, assuming that it’s going to be iPhone OS-based. Several names have been tossed around over the past few months, and we’re wondering which one you think is the best or most likely name for the upcoming device? iTablet, iBook, iPad, iPod touch XL, iSlate or something else entirely? Our new poll, “What should Apple name its upcoming tablet device?” lets you answer that question. If you have a preference that’s not amongst the listed choices, vote as such, and post it in the comments of this article. As always, you can find the iLounge Poll in the left-hand column of the main iLounge.com homepage. Cast your vote today!

App Mix: Timelapse Pro, DJ apps, Ramp Champ, CoPilot

Dw-c has released Timelapse Pro, its latest application for the iPhone. Timelapse Pro lets users create, edit, and share timelapse movies directly on their devices, and features a built-in camera timer, the ability to view and change the order of pictures in the project, the option to export projects as MOV Quicktime movies, an integrated webserver for transferring movie to a computer, and more. Timelapse Pro is available now and sells for $1.

Following an iLounge report on the delayed approval of DJ applications for the iPhone and iPod touch, Apple has approved a number of applications within the genre. The apps mentioned in the original article, including Touch DJ ($20) from Amidio, Sonorasaurus ($10) from Pajamahouse Studios, and DJ Player Pro ($4) from Musicsoft Arts have all been approved, as has DJ Player Blue Edition ($25) from iMect, which was mentioned in the comments of the original article.

The Iconfactory is currently offering its Ramp Champ game for the iPhone and iPod touch as a free download. Strongly recommended by iLounge at its normal $2 price point, Ramp Champ is a visually compelling skee-ball style game in which players attempt to knock down targets, both moving and motionless, by rolling balls up a ramp in order to win tickets which can be redeemed for in-game prizes. Notably, the game is also one of the best examples of proper use of in-app purchases, offering two-packs of additional ramps for $1 each.

ALK Technologies has released the latest version of its CoPilot Live North America turn-by-turn navigation application for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. New in version 8.0.0.512 is the ability to purchase premium live services—including live traffic updates, gas prices, and local search—from within the application. The Live services are priced at $20; the CoPilot application itself is on sale through the end of December for $25, a savings of $10 off its regular $35 price.

Song Summoner coming to iPhone, Apple nixes Click Wheel games

Square Enix has revealed that it will be releasing its strategy role playing game Sole Summoner: The Unsung Heroes - Encore for the iPhone and iPod touch on the App Store tomorrow. Based on the Click Wheel iPod game Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes, the game has users play as a “conductor” who creates warriors out of music, and features the ability to transform songs stored on the device into “Tune Troopers” to combat the enemy; a Lite version is also planned and is pending approval. Notably, the iPhone version of the game will also include Song Summoner 2, a title which was never released. Joystiq reports that the sequel never made it to market “due to Apple ending support for Click Wheel games.” While Apple still offers a selection of Click Wheel iPod games on the iTunes Store, no new titles have been released in the format since Cake Mania 3 in February of this year.

Mix: AT&T v. Verizon, Phone-O-Scope, Mirror’s Edge, IKEA

AT&T and Verizon Wireless have dropped their advertising-related lawsuits against one another. AT&T filed suit against Verizon in early November, claiming that their “map for that” ads were “misleading;” later in the month the company received a setback in the case when the judge denied an initial request from AT&T to force Verizon to pull the commercials from the airwaves. Apple later got involved in the dispute between the two rival carriers in a non-legal manner with a new series of iPhone 3GS commercials highlighting the fact that AT&T’s 3G network allows for data access while on a call, something that Verizon can’t offer due to its different network technology.

ILM research engineer Bhautik Joshi has created the “Phone-O-Scope,” a way of attaching an SLR lens to an iPhone. Joshi’s modification uses a number of components, including magnification lenses from the laser pickup of a CD player, a hard iPhone case, PVC pipe connectors, an old end lens cap, and duct tape. The end result is capable of accepting multiple different lenses, just like an SLR camera, and produces interesting “fuzzy, Holga-like images.” A complete how-to for building the mod is available on Joshi’s site.

EA has announced that it will be bringing its action adventure game Mirror’s Edge to the iPhone. Highlighted in an iLounge Backstage article in May 2008 and subsequently released on PC and home consoles, the game mixes free-running and Parkour-like acrobatics with more common action sequences. While few details are available on the iPhone version, it is known that it will offer a third-person view, 3D graphics, “dynamic camera angles,” and 14 levels. Mirror’s Edge is slated for release in January 2010.

Swedish home retailer IKEA is set to launch an iPhone-formatted version of its 2010 catalog in the U.K. tomorrow, and will actively be seeking feedback on the app. According to text found on the app’s sneak peek YouTube video, the company “plans to quickly improve and develop the app but only in conjunction with customers who choose to download it. Customers are invited to add their thoughts and opinions on how it can be improved, in order to produce an app that works the most intuitively.” Feedback channels are listed on the YouTube video page; the app will be a free download.

Apple to sell iPod touch POS systems?

Apple is considering taking its new internally-developed iPod touch point-of-sale (POS) system to market, according to a new report. Citing unnamed sources, ifoAppleStore reports that Apple has seen a high volume of inquiries about the system since rolling it out in its own retail stores, but has until this point said the system was proprietary and not for sale. The system is comprised of a standard iPod touch that is housed in a custom shell with an integrated barcode scanner and credit card reader, which is linked to software that streamlines the checkout process. The report states that Apple retail executives have asked the retail store business specialists to collect contact information from anyone who inquires about the new POS system, possibly to create a database of potential customers should Apple decide to sell the system commercially.

Incase rolls out Gaming Covers for iPod touch

Incase has introduced its new Topo Gaming Cover and Orb Gaming Cover for the second- and third-generation iPod touch. Made from injection-molded rubber, both cases feature a custom shape designed to make the device more comfortable to hold in the landscape position, as well as integrated covers for the volume and sleep/wake buttons, either topographic or circular indented designs on the rear, and open access to the Dock Connector and headphone port. Available in a variety of colors, Incase’s Topo Gaming Cover and Orb Gaming Cover for iPod touch are available now and sell for $35.

WindSolutions unveils CopyTrans 4, adds Smart Backup

WindSolutions has unveiled CopyTrans 4, the latest version of its iPod to PC transfer tool. New in version 4 is dramatically increased iTunes import speeds, a new “Smart Backup” feature that transfers only the needed information and is claimed to be “100% duplicate proof,” out-of-the-box support for all iPhone and iPod models, including Mac-formatted devices, the ability to import Smart Playlists and all track meta tags include “Date Added,” support for Voice Memos, videos shot on the device, and MMS videos, iTunes 9 compatibility, and more. CopyTrans 4 is designed for Windows 7, XP, and Vista, and is a free upgrade for all users who purchased a CopyTrans license within the last year; pricing is $20 for new users.

Steve Jobs intervenes in App Store rejection, approves iPhone 3G video streaming app

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has personally intervened to reverse the rejection of an iPhone and iPod touch application for what is believed to be the first time. Ars Technica reports that Brian Meehan of Pointy Heads emailed Jobs directly following the rejection of the company’s live video streaming app Knocking Live Video. Knocking uses a private API, an act which is strictly prohibited in Apple’s iPhone developer agreement, to stream live video from an iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS to any iPhone or iPod touch. Notably, the iPhone 3G does not support video capture via the built-in Camera app, making the application the first in Apple’s official App Store to offer video from the device—similar techniques have been used in jailbreak applications to gather video using an iPhone 3G or even an original iPhone. According to the report, Meehan’s email focused more on Apple as an organization than on any specific API or application. “I reached out to Apple to reconsider our application due to its potential to culturally change how people share live moments phone-to-phone,” Meehan said. He added that he made his case “in a way that was not about me or our app, rather about being a life-long user of all Apple products, about how I believed in Apple and that I believed Jobs would respond.”

Within days of sending the email, Meehan received a phone call from an Apple executive—who wishes to remain anonymous, according to the report—and was told that the app would be approved for sale, and that the rejection reversal order came “directly from the top.” Although Google’s Google Mobile App was previously approved despite using unpublished APIs, it is unclear whether Apple knew about the infraction, making this the first time Apple has knowingly approved an application which uses an undocumented or private API. In fact, it is believed that the company is now using automated software to check incoming App Store submissions for private API. Knocking Live Video is available now as a free download from the App Store.

Brookstone debuts iDesign systems for iPod, iPhone

Brookstone has debuted two new music systems for the iPod and iPhone. The iDesign 2-in-1 Music System is an iPod-compatible system featuring a front-mounted iPod dock, an integrated, top-loading CD player, blue back-lit touch panel controls, an AM/FM radio, stereo speakers, and an included remote control. It is available now and sells for $150. The iDesign Flip Speaker Dock is a Works with iPhone- and Made for iPod-certified system offering an extending design that allows its center-mounted dock to rotate from horizontal to vertical position, and also features the ability to run off 4 AAA batteries, stereo speakers, and front-mounted power and volume controls. It is also available now and is priced at $80.

Phiaton intros PS 210 ‘half in-ear’ earphones

Phiaton has introduced its new PS 210 ‘half in-ear’ earphones. Designed to sit just outside the ear canal, the PS 210 claims to offer the added bass of in-ear style buds with the treble advantages of open-ear style monitors. Other features include a lightweight aluminum body, an Applied Dynamic Speaker Driver with Acoustic transducer technology, and an included fit kit with four different sized silicone ear tips and a slim carrying case. Phiaton’s PS 210 earphones are available now and sell for $100.

App Mix: Fring video, Monkey Ball 2, eBay Deals, Hand Waver

Fring has released version 3.0.0.4 of its official application for the iPhone and iPod touch. New in version 3.0.0.4 is the ability for users to engage in one-way video calls with other Fring or Skype users—two-way video calling is unfortunately disabled on the iPhone due to the placement of the camera. Fring lets users place free voice calls from the iPhone and iPod Touch to other Fring users, Skype or GTalk buddies, or friends on regular phone lines via Skype-Out or other SIP services. Fring is available now as a free download from the App Store.

Sega has unveiled Super Monkey Ball 2, the sequel to its popular App Store launch-day title for the iPhone and iPod touch. As in the first Super Monkey Ball, players take control of a monkey character in side a clear ball and attempt to steer it through maze-like tracks to reach a goal and clear the level. Super Monkey Ball 2 offers four different characters, over 115 tracks, improved accelerometer based controls, local Wi-Fi multiplayer, and a Monkey Bowling mini-game, with Monkey Golf and Monkey Target games promised in a free update early next year. Super Monkey Ball 2 is available now and sells for $10.

eBay has introduced its new eBay Deals application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The application lets users browse through a variety of deals, including Daily Deals, deals ending soon and personalized searches for the best possible price on an item. It also offers built-in integration with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter for sharing shopping activity, and PayPal integration for easy checkout. eBay Deals is available now as a free download.

Bluestone Software has debuted Hand Waver, its first application for the iPhone and iPod touch. Hand Waver is a banner display application that uses a common visual illusion to create a message that appears to float in the air. Users simply enter a new message or pick from the list of the last 20 played, select a color, and wave their hand back and forth in the air to display the message. Hand Waver is priced at $1.

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