As those who have successfully upgraded their iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, or iPhone 4 units to iOS 4.0.1 may have noticed, Apple made a visual change to its signal strength indicator bars in its latest update, increasing the size of bars one, two, and three, while keeping the tallest two bars the same. A more dramatic change was made behind the scenes, however, as Apple changed its formula for signal strength to signal bar mapping resulting in what is hopefully a more accurate representation of the phone’s current connection. Anandtech reports that Apple made the dynamic range broader, while also adjusting the range values for each bar to make them wider. As a result, in some areas where signal strength would have been great enough for the iPhone to report five bars under iOS 4.0 and earlier, it may now show only three. As the report notes, this means that the worst case drop of 24 dBm — seen when applying the left-hand “death grip” on the iPhone 4 — longer makes all the signal bars disappear, but just two. The new formula is also used in the iOS 4.1 beta released earlier this week to paid iPhone developers; illustrations of the difference in bar to signal strength mapping are available below.
Apple may be able to fix the iPhone 4’s left-hand reception issues with a software update, according to a new report. Citing a person with direct knowledge of Apple’s plans, the New York Times reports that the unique antenna design of the iPhone 4 has exposed a weakness in the communications software of iOS, specifically in the interaction between specialized communications software and the antenna. According to the source, the software problem has been present in the iOS for a long time, but was only discovered after the iPhone 4 shipped. The report also claims that the problem could presumably be fixed with a software update, one separate from iOS 4.0.1 that was released yesterday.
Notably, both this report and a separate Wall Street Journal piece claim that Apple will not be launching a recall of iPhone 4 units. Regarding yesterday’s report of Apple engineer Ruben Caballero voicing concerns about the phone’s antenna design early in its development, an Apple spokesperson told the WSJ, “We challenge Bloomberg BusinessWeek to produce anything beyond rumors to back this up. It’s simply not true.” The latter article also claims that Apple gives its carrier partners much less time to test a new iPhone before release. Both articles follow Apple’s announcement of a press conference to be held at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time today, and an open letter from U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) directing Apple to fix the problem.
iHandySoft has released an update to its popular Alarm Clock Pro app adding the ability for users of multitasking-capable iOS 4 devices to receive alarms from the app in the background. Alarm Clock Pro 1.1 provides support for local notifications allowing users to receive sound notifications even when the app is not actively running. The update also fixes a bug where the date picker may not display correct AM/PM status when editing alarms on iOS 4 devices. Alarm Clock Pro continues to support all of the features from prior versions, including an on-screen digital clock, flashlight feature, sleep timer, snooze mode, vibrate mode and multiple clock themes. Users can choose from one of seven built-in alarm sounds or choose a song or playlist to use as an alarm. Alarm Clock Pro is available from the App Store for $1 and is a free update for current users. A free version is also available that provides only built-in alarm sounds, limited themes and does not include flashlight mode or background alarm support.
Good.iWare has released an update to its popular GoodReader document reader for iPhone and iPod touch devices adding iOS 4 compatibility. GoodReader 2.8.2 adds support for new features found in iOS 4 including USB file transfer, video output and Fast App Switching. The update additionally provides the ability to open documents in GoodReader from other supported apps such as Mail and Safari as well as sending documents from GoodReader into other applications that support Document Interchange. Other new features include the ability to crop margins for PDF files to save screen space, horizontal or vertical swiping of PDF pages and pre-caching of PDF pages for improved page turning performance. Users can now also import recorded videos from the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 photo library. GoodReader for iPhone is available from the App Store for $1 and is a free update for current users. A free GoodReader Lite version is also available providing all of the features of the full version with a five-document storage limit.
Mozilla has released its Firefox Home app providing iOS device users with the ability to sync information from Firefox on their desktop computer. Announced earlier this month, Firefox Home provides users of Firefox with the ability to sync and access their desktop history, bookmarks and currently open tabs on their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, enabling easy access to this information while on the go. The app uses the Firefox Sync browser plug-in to securely synchronize data from Firefox on a desktop computer to Firefox Home on the iOS device. From the app, users can browse and search through their history, bookmarks and tabs and open them in Mobile Safari or share them via e-mail. Firefox Home is available from the App Store as a free download.
Yahoo! has released an update to its official Flickr app adding support for iOS 4 multitasking and several other new features. Flickr 1.2 now supports background task completion allowing in-progress photo uploads to complete after closing the app. The update now also provides support for posting uploaded photos to Twitter using a flic.kr short URL and uploading HD video. Other new features include iOS 4 Fast App Switching, enhanced full-screen browsing and the ability to clear recent searches. Flickr is available from the App Store as a free download.
Apple has posted its iOS Software Development Kit (SDK) 4.0.1, bringing with it compatibility with the latest iOS software releases. Notably, Apple is warning developers that if they have updated their iPhones to iOS 4.0.1 or their iPads to iOS 3.2.1 they will need to download and install the new SDK to continue development. Unlike the iOS 4.1 beta and accompanying SDK released yesterday, iOS SDK 4.0.1 is available to all registered developers, and not just those who have paid Apple’s $99 annual fee to enroll in the iPhone Developer Program. Apple’s iOS SDK 4.0.1 is available now as a free download from the iPhone Dev Center.
Alongside iOS 4.0.1 for the iPhone, Apple today also released the iOS 3.2.1 Software Update for the iPad. According to Apple’s release notes, the update brings improved Wi-Fi connectivity, fixes for issues that could prevent copy and paste of single-page PDF documents in Mail and cause video playback to freeze, improved reliability of video-out when using the iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter, and adds Bing as an option for Safari’s search field. The iOS 3.2.1 Software Update for the iPad is available now for both iPad with Wi-Fi and iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G models via the Update feature in iTunes.
Apple has released iOS 4.0.1 Software Update for iPhone, the first update to the iOS since the release of 4.0 on June 21. According to Apple’s release notes, the 4.0.1 Software Update “improves the formula to determine how many bars of signal strength to display.” Apple promised this fix in a press release earlier this month; it remains to be seen whether it also addresses the ongoing proximity sensor issue, as well. The iOS 4.0.1 Software Update for iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4 is available now via the Update feature in iTunes.
Griffin Technology has debuted its new Loop stand, PowerBlock Plus wall charger, and Elan Passport Nylon case for the Apple iPad. The Loop is a cushioned cradle for the iPad that supports two viewing angles in either orientation, and features an open loop design for cable access as well as non-slip rubber feet to protect furniture. It is available now and sells for $30. The PowerBlock Plus is an AC wall charger for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod, featuring an additional, pass-through outlet on the back, and fast 2.1 amp charging for the iPad. It is priced at $35 and will be available in August. The Elan Passport Nylon is a folio-style case featuring a black nylon exterior, microsuede lining, interior card and paper slots, and a tab closure. It sells for $50 and is available now. Finally, Griffin also announced a new 3 Meter USB to Dock Cable with 2.1 amp support for the iPad; it is available now and sells for $30.
A newly published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on a new format Dock Connector that would allow device docking in multiple orientations. Entitled “Methods and Apparatuses For Docking a Portable Electronic Device That Has a Planar Like Configuration and That Operates in Multiple Orientations,” the patent describes a docking system that, like current Apple Docks, offers both power and data to the connected device, either via flush contacts that physically touch similar contacts on the dock itself, or via inductive coils that could be concealed within the device’s body. As AppleInsider notes, the patent also covers less progressive docking ideas including traditional electrical contact docks that can be rotated or adjusted; it notably also shows an iPad-like device being docked to an articulated arm not unlike the one found on earlier iMac models. 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.
Apple’s limited developer release of the beta version of iOS 4.1 yesterday makes a handful of small new changes to iOS 4.0, which debuted in June 2010 for iPhone 3G, 3GS, iPod touch 2G, iPod touch 3G, and iPhone 4 devices. For readers who may be interested in what’s changed, we’ve compiled a brief list, along with several screenshots provided by a reader.
One subtle change was first spotted in iOS 4.1 but will likely appear in an iOS 4.0.1 update, as well: Apple’s signal bar strength meter has been updated to more accurately depict cellular signal strength, such that they will show fewer bars than before under some conditions, and the first three bars have been made larger.
Game Center, a matchmaking and leaderboard application for iOS 4-compatible games, has been added again to the list of icons. Apple included Game Center with developer versions of iOS 4.0 until the date of final release, but pulled the app from the publicly available iOS 4 release to give developers additional time to integrate their apps with the feature. The new version of Game Center includes an updated interface with stylized graphics.
Apple has added a new Settings > General > Restrictions option to turn off multi-player game matchmaking within Game Center, which disables the request tab and friend adding for that application. It has also added a new Settings > General > Keyboard option to disable the spell checking feature. User-created dictionary entries also appear to be in the offing for iOS 4.1, enabling the auto-correction feature to learn additional words that shouldn’t be replaced.
Additional features include support for adding iPhone 4 FaceTime contacts to your Favorites list, a tweak that moves the Flash and Camera switch buttons to different locations when the device is tilted into landscape orientation, and a change to AVRCP Bluetooth handing that allows for track skipping. A version of iOS 4.1 for iPad notably has not been released by Apple.
Apple knew the antenna design of the iPhone 4 could pose an issue, according to a new report. Citing a person familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reports that Ruben Caballero, a Senior Director of iPod/iPhone engineering described in the report as an antenna expert, warned company management about the potential perils of the design. According to the report, Caballero voiced his concerns in early planning meetings once the bezel antenna design had been chosen, saying that it might lead to dropped calls and would be an engineering challenge. Beyond Caballero, a separate Bloomberg source claimed that one of Apple’s carrier partners also expressed concern about the antenna, although the report does not specify the carrier’s name. Apple is expected to address the iPhone 4’s antenna issues in a press conference scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time tomorrow.
Elgato has released Turbo.264 HD Software Edition for Mac. Described by the company as a software version of its Turbo.264 HD encoder hardware, the Software Edition allows users to instantly edit HD camcorder clips without the need to prior conversion, offers support for a wide range of video formats, and fast file conversion, following Apple’s specifications for H.264 videos and using custom video de-interlacing, with presets for the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. Elgato’s new Turbo.264 HD Software Edition requires a Mac with an Intel Core processor, at least 512MB of RAM, Quicktime 7.6 or later, and Mac OS X 10.5.6 or later, and sells for $50.
Apple has invited a small number of journalists to a special press conference, expected to be held at its headquarters in Cupertino, CA, to discuss the iPhone 4. Apple has not indicated who will be speaking at the event, which will begin at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on Friday, nor has it given specifics about what exactly will be discussed, beyond saying that the event will focus on the iPhone 4. Most likely, the company will address concerns over the device’s ongoing antenna issues, and possibly other, less publicized issues like malfunctioning proximity sensors.
Apple has released its first beta version of iOS 4.1, along with an accompanying software development kit (SDK), to registered iPhone developers. Notably, there is no version of the beta operating system available for the iPad, suggesting that contrary to prior reports, iOS 4.1 will not be a platform-unifying release, but will instead cater to Apple’s pocketable devices exclusively. It is currently unknown what, if any, new features or APIs may be included in the update; it is also unknown whether it is meant to help alleviate initial problems with the iPhone 4, or whether those fixes will come in an incremental 4.0.1 update. Both the new iOS 4.1 SDK and pre-release builds are available now for download by registered iPhone developers from the iPhone Dev Center.
Speaking at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., Microsoft COO Kevin Turner made several disparaging remarks about the iPhone 4, according to a Computerworld report. “It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I’m okay with that,” Turner said, referencing Microsoft’s replacement for Windows XP that was heavily criticized. He later poked fun at the phone’s reception issues, saying, “one of the things I want to make sure you know today is that you’re going to be able to use a Windows Phone 7 and not have to worry about how you’re holding it to make a phone call.”
A new NPD survey of over 3,800 iTunes users age 13 and up has revealed strong demand for Apple streaming options. Paid Content reports that based on the results, between seven and eight million iTunes users in the U.S. would have “strong interest” in a $10/month streaming service, with even higher demand—in the 13-15 million range—when free streaming access to users’ own iTunes libraries is included.
Apple is preparing to roll out a number of changes to its Genius Bar service areas at its retail stores. Mac Rumors reports that the changes will include active queue management, which will see other qualified employees more over to the Genius Bar as need to help handle walk-ins, the ability for technicians to handle more than one customer at a time when the first customer’s appointment is running long due to lengthy diagnostics or other time-consuming activities, a push for completing overnight repairs while removing some of the focus on “while you wait” repairs, and MobileGenius software deployed on iPod touch units around the store to allow other employees to provide rudimentary support while reducing clutter at the Genius Bar.
The iPhone was the subject of the “Top Ten” list on last night’s episode of the Late Show with David Letterman. Entitled “Top Ten Signs You’ve Purchased a Bad iPhone,” the list included reasons ranging from slightly humorous to slightly gross, but serves as yet another example of negative press for Apple due to the iPhone 4’s ongoing issues.
ColorWare has started offering a send-in iPhone 4 custom coloring service. The service allows customers to choose from a variety of solid, metallic, or pearlescent colors, some of which are available with a soft touch finish, for application on the phone’s back, frame, Home button, micro SIM slot and earbuds. Each component can be painted a separate color, although each component beyond the frame costs extra. ColorWare’s custom coloring service for the iPhone 4 is available now with an estimated three week turn around time, and starts at $260.
Tapbots, developer of the popular Convertbot and Pastebot apps, has released a new universal calculator app for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Calcbot is a simple and intelligent calculator that includes advanced functions and calculation history features. The application sports the same general design aesthetic as Tapbots’ other apps with an elegant yet simple user interface that includes animation and sound. Calcbot provides a live as-you-type expression history presented as a calculator tape view that shows all figures and expressions; users can also e-mail their calculation history as text or select values and expressions to send back to the calculator. The iPhone 4 Retina Display and iOS 4 Fast App Switching are also supported. Calcbot is currently available from the App Store for $1.
The lack of response by Apple to a known iPhone 4 proximity sensor issue, in which calls can be accidentally interrupted by button presses and hang-ups, has led to a grass roots campaign to force Apple to acknowledge and resolve the problem. Reader Trent Phillips, who previously emailed with the results of controlled proximity sensor testing, has launched a letter writing campaign to both technical and mainstream media outlets covering Apple products. Phillips’ message claims that Apple “is ignoring earnest requests from customers for support and resolution of this issue,” and asks recipients to cover the proximity sensor problems with the same vigor given to the iPhone 4’s reception issues.
In addition, Phillips also pointed to an Apple discussions support thread on the subject that, at 1,689 replies, had been deemed “too long” by Apple. Apple locked that thread after 113 pages of discussion, which it said was causing browser timeouts when loading, and started a continuation thread earlier today with additional replies. Prominent in the new thread is discussion of returning the device before the 30 day limit is up, as are complaints over Apple’s silence on the issue up until this point. It is still unknown whether the issue can be fixed via a software update, or whether hardware replacements will be necessary to fix the problem for affected users.