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iLounge Store updates and giveaway

We’ve updated the iLounge Store with a couple of new designs since the launch of our store last week. The new Fast Forward design (pictured) in blue and orange is available on t-shirts, hoodies, travel mugs, Sigg water bottles, buttons, clocks and more.

We are also giving away an iLounge Store gift card. The Rules: Follow @iLounge and tweet the following message in bold and enter for a chance to win a $25 gift card to the iLounge Store. The winner will be randomly chosen next week on Wednesday, March 3. We’ll have more giveaways, so follow @iLounge for updates.

Follow @iLounge & retweet. Chance to win a $25 gift card to our new iLounge company store. Ends 3/3/10

Last weekend for Uncommon Custom Case Giveaway

If you haven’t yet entered our Uncommon Custom Case Giveaway, now is your final chance, as it ends Sunday night at 11:59 Pacific Time. In this unique giveaway, iLounge and Uncommon are giving away 200 custom cases for the iPhone 3G, 3GS, or iPod touch. With such a large number of prizes available, we are splitting the cases up over four weeks, with the final 50 to be awarded Monday, March 1. To enter, simply fill out and submit the form on the giveaway page—Good luck!

Rehearsal app helps actors learn their lines

Riptide Games has released Rehearsal, a new application designed to help actors with their scripts. Developed in collaboration with actor David H. Lawrence XVII of Heroes and LOST fame, Rehearsal allows actors to view and practice scripts on an iPhone or iPod touch. Actors can take electronic scripts in PDF or Word document forms and e-mail them to their devices for review and practice, highlighting lines and adding text, audio, photo or video comments. Users can “blackout” their lines to practice remembering them and record multiple versions of their readings for later review and playback. Individual recordings can be sent out via e-mail in MP3 format, suitable for auditioning or voice over work. Rehearsal is available on the App Store as a free download and allows the user to work with up to three of their own scripts; additional scripts are sold as in-app purchases for $2 each, with monthly and annual subscriptions also available. An iPad version is also planned.

iPod ‘explodes’ in school, commenter claims student at fault

An iPod recently “exploded” on a student’s desk at Pentucket Regional High School in West Newbury, MA, according to a Daily News of Newburyport posting. The report states that police and fire officials were called to a science classroom at the school after the player “spontaneously exploded,” although West Newbury fire Chief Scott Berkenbush called the situation minor, and said no one was hurt. “Some chemicals had come out, so we checked and made sure it was OK and cleared the scene,” Berkenbush said. “No one was transported. The teenager was checked out by (American Medical Response technicians) and not transported.” Curiously, a commenter on the story going by the username of “jos” claimed that the unit was broken, “so a kid took the entire thing apart and was rubbing wires against the battery, which became very hot, then exploded.” “This is not a faulty product that caused a danger to people,” the commenter said. “This was bored kids, in a classroom with a substitute all week, who found a dangerous way to entertain themselves.” The report does not mention what model of iPod was involved in the incident.

Still time to sign up for iPodweek, our weekly newsletter

The latest edition of iPodweek, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, is coming later today. iPodweek is a weekly summary of the best news, reviews, and feature articles we’ve published, and it also features giveaways and iPod accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.

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Three-button Apple remote cables flimsier than prior headphones? (Updated)

Apple’s addition of three-button remote controls to recent iPod and iPhone headphones has led some vendors to compromise the life of their cables, according to a prominent third-party developer. Discussing extensive new testing and manufacturing procedures that his company has developed to prevent cable damage, V-Moda CEO Val Kolton told iLounge that three-button Apple remote cables now carry six thin separate copper strands inside, compared to three thicker wires in remote-less headphone cables. Though Kolton says that Apple’s cables have been tested to ensure comparable resilience to pre-remote models, few third-party headphones are as durable as their prior, audio-only models.

“Open up the cable,” Kolton says, and “there are either 3 inner cables for audio only, 4/6 for microphone and 6 for remote control models wound up inside the outer cable shell. It only takes one of these inner cables to break in order for the headphone to break.” According to Kolton, stress tests indicate that most of the current three-button remote offerings break after 10,000 bends. “Our test standards and results for bending the cable, and bending the plug where the cable meets are now between 3x-15x many of our top competitors latest models.” Kolton claims that V-Moda’s latest three-button remote cabling survives over 60,000 bends in bare bend testing, or hundreds of thousands of repetitions during cable and plug bend tests, which represent the most common point of cable breakage.

Notably, some companies consider 10,000 bends to be an acceptable level of cable durability, and as such test their three-button remote cabling to this standard. “[We] have a stringent testing process to ensure that our earphones are built to last,” says Doug Broadhurst, Marketing Administrator with Scosche. “Each cable is tested with a 300 gram weight bent to a 120 degrees 2 times per second and must past 10,000 bends before we approve the products.” Chris Lyons of Shure said that the company “know[s] that cables are often subjected to more severe wear and tear than other parts of a product, so we devote considerable time to making sure that they’ll withstand heavy use. Cables that have integral control functions meet the same quality standards as standard cables, even with the additional conductors required.” Additionally, a representative with Monster said the company has “done all standard durability and quality tests with this cable and have ensured it performs at the same level as one without ControlTalk [Monster’s three-button solution].” Neither Shure nor Monster specified the number of bends their cables were designed to withstand, and notably, Klipsch—maker of a $350 pair of headphones with a 3-button remote, as well as less expensive models—did not respond to a request for comment on the durability of its cables. Klipsch has since responded; its comments are included below.

Crediting certain competitors, Kolton said that V-Moda, Apple, and “several” other third-party manufacturers including Shure are the only companies he knows to be doing strenuous three-button cabling stress testing beyond that of standard audio cables. Still, he says, additional engineering work was needed to make the cables durable. “In order to prevent one of these cables from breaking, we have had to assemble our own custom cable development team,” Kolton explains. “We have developed a Kevlar core cable that the other cables twist around that allows pressure from pulls and bends to pull on the strong… Kevlar instead of a critical functional cable. We’ve increased the diameter of our cables to the maximum that would not weigh down the headphone.”

Update: Don Inmon, Director of Product Development, Personal Audio with Klipsch has responded to iLounge, saying, “Potential reliability concerns are always factored into the development of our products. The 3-button controlled headsets are no exception. They have gone through a unique manufacturing process and 5-point pull test, ensuring superior reliability for normal and athletic levels of use.”

Report: Games are 58% of App Store, puzzles top genre

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week mobile app analytics startup Distimo presented a report with some comparisons on the relative size of the iPhone App Store and the popularity of different categories of applications. Distimo reports that games presently make up 58 percent of the applications on the App Store and breaks this down further by price, category and top sellers. According to the report, the Puzzles category is the largest, consisting of 15 percent of the games on the App Store, with the Action and Arcade categories in second place at 11 percent each. The categories with the fewest titles are Casino, Dice, Music, Racing and Role Playing, with each of these categories making up less than 2 percent of the total number of games.

The Distimo report indicates that the average price of a paid game in the App Store is $2.24, with the most expensive games being found in the Role Playing category at an average price of $7.96. The least expensive games are in the Action and Arcade categories with average prices of $1.68 and $1.39 respectively. By comparison, Distimo reports that 22 percent of the top grossing games are found in the Action category, with 12 percent in the Arcade category and 9 percent in the Adventure category. The report also notes that even though it has the most expensive games on average, the Role Playing category represents only 5 percent of the top grossing games, and the largest single category of games on the App Store, Puzzles, only accounts for 6 percent of the top-grossing applications. The full report can be downloaded from Distimo (free registration required). [via TechCrunch]


Mix: Apple patent, book list, Busch Gardens, Sulcer

A newly-published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on ways to allow iPhone users to control certain functions of the device, including voicemail playback and document navigation, using the built-in camera (pictured). As an example, the patent mentions allowing the user to forward or rewind voicemail playback by swiping his/her finger in a certain direction over the camera lens, eliminating the need to bring the phone away from the user’s face. Alternately, the user might be able to tap the back of the device a certain number of times to pause or resume playback. In another example, users might swipe their fingers vertically over the camera lens in order to scroll through a web page or document, leaving the full screen visible. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area.

A supposedly Apple-sourced list of books may shed light on launch-day titles for Apple’s upcoming iBookstore. TUAW has published a list of books that it claims was sourced from Apple, containing fiction, non-fiction, and autobiography titles from several notable authors including Stephen King, Timothy Ferris, Ted Kennedy, and Andre Agassi. In addition, pricing is said to range form $14.99 to Free, and the list has been checked against the titles shown during the iPad launch demonstration; while some books on the list were visible during the presentation, some weren’t, and some books shown during the event are missing from this list. Notably, the list appears to include New York Times bestsellers as a separate category, and McGraw-Hill is absent from the publisher list.

The Find My iPhone feature of Apple’s MobileMe service was recently used to help track down a thief who stole two iPhones along with a purse at the Busch Gardens Africa theme park in Tampa, FL. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the items were stolen from a personal goods holding area near the boarding station of the park’s SheiKra roller coaster. After discovering the goods missing and notifying police, a 13-year-old iPhone user remembered the Find My iPhone service, and used an officer’s laptop to lead police to the criminal, who was apprehended shortly thereafter; the stolen iPhones were recovered.

Following his purchase of the 10 billionth song from the iTunes Store on Wednesday, 71-year-old Louie Sulcer of Woodstock, GA received a congratulatory call from Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “Hello, Lou. This is Steve Jobs,” Sulcer heard, replying, “Sure it is. Aw, who is this really? C’mon.” In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sulcer said Jobs congratulated him, thanked him for using Apple products, and talked for a few minutes. “He was real nice,” Sulcer said. “I told him I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed iTunes and the iPod. I really enjoy country music. He asked me if I played the guitar, and I said, ‘Oh my goodness. That is my life-long frustration.’” Sulcer, who has been trying to learn the picking style of Luther Perkins, Johnny Cash’s guitarist, said Jobs replied that “he had been messing around a little with [the guitar] too.” According to the report, Sulcer has already received calls from several publications requesting interviews, including Rolling Stone. Sulcer explained, “I said, ‘Rolling Stone is going to be so disappointed with this old man.’”

Apple shareholder meeting uneventful; China stores planned

Apple held its annual shareholders meeting today at the company’s campus in Cupertino, CA. Apart from re-electing the company’s board of directors, the meeting was largely uneventful, as a number of shareholders debated each other on environmental issues before voting down a sustainability proposal. According to live updates from the meeting provided to Fortune, Apple Senior Vice President of Retail Ron Johnson revealed that the company plans to open 25 stores in China, a number that would be very high relative to Apple’s previously-announced goal of opening 25-50 stores in 2010. Finally, when asked about Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s departure from the company’s board last year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said, “Eric Schmidt conducted himself appropriately and recused himself on matters that might involve conflict.” When asked what he fears, and what keeps him awake at night, Jobs replied “shareholders meetings.”

Audio posted of Apple COO Cook at Goldman Sachs Conference

Apple has posted an audio webcast of COO Tim Cook’s recent comments made at the Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference 2010. During his talk, Cook made a number of interesting comments regarding the Apple TV, iPad, and iPhone. According to Cook, the reason Apple calls Apple TV a hobby is because it’s in a market that’s “very small today.” However, unit sales of the Apple TV grew 35% year-over-year in the December quarter, and the company is “continuing to invest in it” because it believes “there’s something there.” However, Cook contrasted the Apple TV’s hobby status with the iMac, which he believed was a strong product with a bright future ahead; by contrast, the current model for the Apple TV was difficult, because it would seem to lead to an Apple-branded TV, adding that the company has “no interest in being in the TV market.”

Regarding the potential market for the iPad, Cook said he “wasn’t losing any sleep” over possible cannibalization of existing Apple products, and amplified prior hints regarding its value relative to netbooks, saying that he doesn’t think people will want to continue to use inexpensive but disappointing netbooks over time. Having used the iPad for six months, as he explained, the experience was significantly better. As for distribution, Cook said the company will initially sell the iPad in its direct channels, including in Apple Stores, online, and through its education sales force, and in indirect channels where the company has “assisted sales,” including Apple’s “stores in stores” at Best Buy locations and Apple Premium Resellers, all places where the company “has sales people that can answer questions.” He suggested that the iPad could later come to locations without sales assistance, implying that customers will need to be helped through initial experiences with the unfamiliar device. He also described AT&T’s iPad data pricing as “revolutionary,” noting that he wouldn’t want to suggest what competing carriers might have to do to sell the iPad along with AT&T, and later said that he thinks there is a place for both iPhone OS and Mac OS operating systems.

Adobe releases Connect Pro Mobile, built with Flash CS5

Adobe has released a new iPhone application for its Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro enterprise web conferencing solution. Connect Pro Mobile allows iPhone users to watch and listen to live presentations including real-time meeting webcam video and screen sharing demonstrations. Mobile users can see a list of other meeting participants and collaborate directly with others using live text chat. Connect Pro Mobile was built using Flash Professional CS5 beta and published as a native iPhone application using Adobe’s Packager for iPhone demonstrated last October. This marks the first Adobe-authored application to use this technology. Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro Mobile is available on the App Store as a free download.

Survey: iPod touch users spend more time using apps

According to a survey published in mobile advertising firm AdMob’s January Mobile Metrics Report (PDF Link), iPod touch users download more apps and spend more time using apps than iPhone or Android users. The report states that iPod touch users download an average of 12 apps per month, 37% more than iPhone and Android users, and spend an average of 100 minutes a day using apps, 25% more time than iPhone and Android users. iPod touch users are also younger on average than users of other platforms and devices, with 78% of iPod touch users surveyed below the age of 25, compared to 25% of iPhone users and 24% of Android and webOS users. According to the survey, 16% of iPhone users said they intend to purchase an iPad, compared to 11% of webOS users and only 6% of Android users; a similar percentage of Android users were instead interested in the Amazon Kindle. Finally, 91% of iPhone users and 88% of iPod touch users would recommend their device, compared to 84% of Android users and 69% of webOS users. AdMob’s January survey included 963 respondents across all of the platforms.


Cash tune becomes 10 billionth song sold on iTunes

Apple today announced the winner of its Countdown to 10 Billion Songs promotion, which ended yesterday with the sale of the 10 billionth song. “Guess Things Happen That Way” by Johnny Cash, was purchased by Louie Sulcer of Woodstock, Georgia, and became the 10 billionth song downloaded from the iTunes Store. As the winner of the promotion, Sulcer will receive a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card. “We’re grateful to all of our customers for helping us reach this amazing milestone,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Internet Services. “We’re proud that iTunes has become the number one music retailer in the world, and selling 10 billion songs is truly staggering.”

Incase unveils Courier Collection iPhone Pouch

Incase has introduced its new Courier Collection iPhone Pouch for the iPhone 3G, IPhone 3GS, and iPod touch. Made from custom weather resistant 1680D nylon, the Pouch also offers interior topo print lining, integrated cord management, a top-opening flap with Velcro closure, and a Velcro attachment strap that allows it to be worn on a belt, backpack, or bag. Incase’s new Courier Collection iPhone Pouch is available in black or gray/orange, and sells for $30.

Square Enix releases Final Fantasy + Final Fantasy II

Square Enix has released iPhone and iPod touch versions of the first two games in its highly acclaimed Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II are role-playing adventure games where players guide a party of four characters around a magical world, battling creatures, meeting other characters and performing quests. The iPhone and iPod touch versions use a graphical style similar to the later PSP versions and both games include the bonus dungeons first found in the 2004 Dawn of Souls release. Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II are available separately from the App Store; each game sells for $9.

iTunes reaches 10 billion download milestone

Less than seven years after its debut on April 28, 2003, iTunes has reached the download milestone of 10 billion songs. Graphics placed on’s homepage, the iTunes “Countdown to 10 Billion Songs” contest page, and on the iTunes Store itself proclaim the achievement, which also marks the end of the related contest. In its “Countdown to 10 Billion Songs” promotion, Apple was offering a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card to the person who downloaded the 10-billionth song; the winner has yet to be announced. Coincidentally, the milestone was achieved today, February 24, 2010, which also marks Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ 55th birthday.

NASA programmers release 3D Sun

A team of programmers at NASA have developed an application for studying the sun in a three-dimensional view. Led by Dr. Tony Phillips, editor of Science@NASA, the 3D Sun application allows users to see a live view of the sun using images downloaded from NASA’s Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) satellites. Users can rotate the view of the star and zoom in on active regions using the touch screen. News items provide information on significant solar events with associated 3D views, images or movies accompanying each news bulletin. Users can also be notified of major events such as solar flares via push notifications. In addition to the 3D views of the sun the application also provides regularly updated movies and image galleries. 3D Sun is available on the App Store as a free download.

iFrogz debuts EarPollution CS40 headphones

iFrogz has announced its new EarPollution CS40 headphones. Part of the company’s new “comfort series” line, the CS40s offer ultra-cushioned ear cups for added comfort during long listening sessions, an adjustable headband, and a folding design for easy portability. iFrogz’ new EarPollution CS40 headphones are available now in black, white, pink, red, or blue, and sell for $40.

Expedia releases TripAssist 2.0

Expedia has released a major update to its TripAssist application designed to help travellers with booking, researching and tracking travel information. In addition to syncing itineraries from, TripAssist 2.0 allows users to enter and track non-Expedia travel itineraries as well. Other new features in the update include free real-time SMS and e-mail alerts for any flight, a new landscape-mode “billboard” view and a “date view” that consolidates all of the user’s itineraries into day-by-day listings. Users can also quickly look up alternate flight information, view a SeatGuru seat map for any flight and add their own notes to any itinerary. TripAssist requires iPhone OS 3.1 or later and is available from the U.S. App Store as a free download.

Apple adds ‘Explicit’ category to iTunes Connect (Updated)

Apple has added a new primary category named “Explicit” to its iTunes Connect backend service for submitting and monitoring App Store applications, suggesting the company may be readying a new adults-only category on the App Store. According to Mac Rumors, the new category appears in a drop-down menu found in the new submission section, alongside other already-existing categories such as “Books,” “Games,” and “Entertainment.” Although the exact reason for the new category’s appearance is unknown, it is possible that Apple plans to allow recently-banned “overtly sexual” content back into the App Store under this new category, which would allow the company to more easily hide it from underage users via Parental Controls.

Update: Wired reports that the new “Explicit” option has since been removed from iTunes Connect.

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