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Apple, others sued over cellphone email

Apple, along with Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, and Motorola, has been sued over technology relating to wireless email. The Wall Street Journal reports that NTP sued the companies in U.S. District Court in Virginia over eight patents covering the wireless delivery of email to cellphones. “Use of NTP’s intellectual property without a license is just plain unfair to NTP and its licensees,” company co-founder Donald E. Stout said in a statement. “We took the necessary action to protect our intellectual property.” NTP previously received a $612.5 million settlement from BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, to prevent a potential injunction, giving it some precedence heading into its proceedings with Apple.

99 cent TV rentals coming to iTunes?

Apple is pushing TV programmers to allow it to rent individual television episodes for 99 cents each, according to a new report. Citing unnamed sources, NewTeeVee reports that the rentals would work in much the same way as current movie rentals, giving the customer 30 days to begin watching the program and 24 hours to finish watching once viewing has commenced. The report also suggests that the rentals will be streamed to users, instead of requiring a download, which would work well with the rumored, possibly iOS-based next-generation Apple TV. Apple will have an advantage compared to rival services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, the report states, because it will likely be able to offer some shows that aren’t available on the other services.

1.7-inch Apple-branded touchscreen surfaces

A roughly 1.7-inch diagonal touchscreen carrying an Apple marking has been found, photographs of which have been posted online (Translated Link). The 3cm by 3cm square screen features a thin black bezel, similar to that found on the iPad, around all four sides, with connection cables emerging from what appear to be the bottom and right side. The cable to the right carries a variety of labels, including “Apple © 2009.” The width of the screen is roughly the same as screens that have been used in the first-, second-, fourth, and fifth-generation iPod nano, with a height that is slightly greater than the screen used in the first- and second-generation iPod nano. If the touchscreen were to be used in a future iPod nano, it would remove roughly half of the screen real estate found in current models; it could also be meant for a future iPod shuffle, one with the ability to display album artwork and a simplified touch-based interface.

iPhone 4 proximity sensor problems blamed on software

Noting that Apple has not responded to numerous complaints in its own support forums regarding iPhone 4 proximity sensor problems, iLounge reader Trent Phillips has conducted tests to determine differences between the sensor behaviors of multiple iPhone models, and concluded that an iOS software update is capable of resolving the problems. In an e-mail to iLounge, Phillips says that the iPhones are all capable of deactivating their screens when objects are detected at a two-inch distance from the sensor, but the iPhone 4 behaves differently from its predecessors, making decisions that lead to accidental screen reactivations under certain conditions.

Earlier iPhones, Phillips notes, switch off their screens at the two-inch distance regardless of the color and past motion of the approaching object. By comparison, the iPhone 4 appears to be less sensitive to dark objects than light ones, and also changes its deactivation distance dynamically after the initial contact. Consequently, the iPhone 4’s screen deactivates only from a shorter distance—say, one inch rather than two inches—if the object it initially reacted to was at the shorter distance. Testing with black and white pieces of paper suggested that the “black piece of paper greatly reduced the detection range of the proximity sensor,” which “could also explain why some people see different effects,” says Phillips, based on skin tone, makeup, light levels, and other factors. His belief is that the iPhone 4’s sensor retains the two-inch range of prior iPhones, but has been miscalibrated on the software side, perhaps in an effort to improve battery life. While it’s still unclear as to whether changes in the iPhone 4’s glass material and/or proximity sensor hardware could also be responsible for the issues, Phillips believes from his testing that a software update could fix the problem, and “all may be well again.”

Video shows Apple Bumper no help on drops

A brief drop test video posted online shows that Apple’s Bumper cases for the iPhone 4 offer little more protection than carrying the device bare. The video shows a man dropping the iPhone, encased in a Bumper, from roughly ear height multiple times until damage is visible. Mac Rumors notes that with the iPhone 4 inside the Bumper, it took three drops before the front glass cracked, the same number it took to break a bare iPhone 4. While Apple’s Bumper case has proven to be beneficial in dealing with the phone’s reception issues, it appears to offer little in the way of drop protection for users worried about potential damage.

Fring adds two-way video calling for iPhone 4

Fring has released an update to its iOS voice and video communications app adding support for two-way video calling and multitasking on capable iOS 4 devices. Although Fring added one-way video calling to its iPhone application last December, the lack of a front-facing camera on the earlier iPhone models precluded its use for two-way video conferencing. With the addition of the new front-facing camera on the iPhone 4, Fring users can now engage in bi-directional video calls over either Wi-Fi or 3G from the iPhone 4. As a cross-platform client, users of Fring on the iPhone can also conduct video calls with users on Android and Symbian S60 devices. Users of older iPhone models can also now participate in two-way video calls using the built-in camera, however the absence of the front-facing camera on these devices makes face-to-face video calling less practical. The latest version also adds iOS 4 multitasking support, a new social stream for integrating Twitter, Facebook, chats and call updates in a single view, and a smarter address book for managing the buddy list and contacts. Fring is available from the App Store as a free download.

Update: Our preliminary testing indicates that the two-way video calling works fine on older iPhone models as well, although as noted the feature may be less useful here due to the lack of a front-facing camera. Video and audio quality are noticeably lower than FaceTime, even over a Wi-Fi connection. Further, on the iPhone 4 only the front-facing camera appears to be used with no way of switching to the rear-facing camera as in FaceTime. The main advantages over FaceTime are 3G support and compatibility with older iPhone models and Android and Symbian S60 devices.

G-Whizz Social provides a social networking browser

iOS developer Ricky Bloomfield, known for his G-Whizz unified Google Apps browser, has released a new mobile app browser for social networking applications. G-Whizz Social provides a single app with tabbed browsers for Google Talk, Google Buzz, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace within a single app. Users can remain logged in to any of these services and effortlessly switch back and forth between them using a menu bar at the bottom of the screen. External links are opened using a built-in quick-view browser and integration with Instapaper and Read It Later allows users to save links from any of their social network services for later reference or repost links via e-mail or Twitter. G-Whizz Social is a universal app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and provides full iOS 4 support with Fast App Switching for multitasking-capable devices. G-Whizz Social is available from the App Store for $1.

Droptext allows editing Dropbox text files

Developer Kevin Smith has released an iOS text editor for Dropbox users. Droptext is a universal app for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad that allows users to open, edit and save text files directly within their Dropbox account. In addition to standard text files, the application allows users open any file with a text-based mime type, such as HTML files, PHP scripts, and C programming code. Viewing of other non-text-based file types is not supported. Droptext is available from the App Store for $1.

Apple held 24.4% of U.S. smartphone market March - May

According to the latest data from comScore, Apple accounted for 24.4% of the U.S. smartphone market for the three months ending in May. RIM was once again the market leader with a 41.7% share of the market; Apple was second, followed by Microsoft with 13.2%, Google’s Android with 13%, and Palm with 4.8%. Apple’s percentage, which is based on smartphone subscribers and is taken as an average from the three month period, is down slightly from the 25.4% share the company held in the three months ending in February 2010, but does not account for any sales of the iPhone 4, while likely including some sales that were delayed or lost as details of the new handset leaked prior to its official unveiling. [via MDN]

BMW Group announces iPod Out support for iOS 4

The BMW Group, makers of both BMW and Mini automobiles, has announced its support for the new iPod Out feature of iOS 4 for the iPhone and iPod touch. Using iPod Out, BMW’s new interface technology enables the company’s in-car infotainment systems to display and control music playback via the vehicle’s main display—using a Click Wheel iPod-like menu—and interface controls, while leaving room for other crucial information like GPS routing. Other features, such as custom playlists and Genius, will also be available. BMW claims that future vehicles equipped with the technology “will be able to adapt more quickly to the software lifecycles of iPod touch and iPhone,” but failed to specify when the new interface technology might be available, or if it can be rolled out to current models via a software update.

U.K. retailer claims iPod touch 4G will have FaceTime, more

U.K.-based retailer John Lewis has leaked supposed details of the fourth-generation iPod touch at a recent event in London. Electricpig reports that a slide from the retailer’s Xmas in July event claimed that the fourth-generation iPod touch will arrive in September, and will sport a five megapixel camera with flash, similar to the one found in the iPhone 4 and including HD video recording capabilities, an accelerometer and gyroscope, and FaceTime capabilities, suggesting that the device will also have a front-facing camera. Apple traditionally announces its new iPod models in September, and Apple CEO Steve Jobs said at the unveiling of the iPhone 4 that the company would sell “tens of millions” of FaceTime devices this year, hinting that the feature would appear in other devices as well.

Boomwave unveils new cases for iPad

Boomwave has unveiled its new Strapz and Kix cases for the Apple iPad. Strapz is a sleeve-style case featuring an inner neoprene pouch and an outer layer of slatted cowhide leather, with an elastic band for secure closure. It is available in three colors and sells for $43. Kix is a full coverage case with a dual zippered closure, perforated faux leather exterior, inner and outer pockets, and the ability to serve as a stand. It comes in two colors and sells for $38; both of Boomwave’s new cases for the iPad are available now.

Airfoil Speakers Touch now supports background audio

Rogue Amoeba has released an update to Airfoil Speakers Touch adding support for background audio on multitasking capable iOS 4 devices. Airfoil Speakers Touch allows users to stream audio to their iOS device from a Mac or PC on the same Wi-Fi network, effectively allowing the iPhone or iPod touch to act as a set of remote headphones. With the latest update users of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch can now keep Airfoil Speakers Touch playing audio in the background while using other applications. The update also includes updated graphics for the iPhone 4 Retina Display and several other minor improvements. Airfoil Speakers Touch 1.1 is available from the App Store as a free download. Streaming audio from a PC or Mac requires Airfoil for Mac or Airfoil for Windows to be installed on the host computer.

Mix: White iPhone 4, SparkPlug, Flashlight, Corporate iPad

A white iPhone 4 has been obtained and unboxed, with the photographs posted online. M.I.C. Gadget has posted photos of the delayed handset’s box, as well as the device itself, including the proximity and ambient light sensor holes above the earpiece speaker.

SparkPlug Industries has introduced the SparkPlug Flash for the iPhone 3G and 3GS. The dock-connecting accessory features a cluster of four LEDs on the rear to illuminate photos, and a touch sensor for controlling the light. The SparkPlus Flash for the iPhone 3G and 3GS is available now and sells for $20.

Apple has started accepting iPhone 4 LED flashlight applications submitted to the App Store. Mac Rumors reports that developer Michael D’Ulisse submitted his Flashlight - For iPhone 4 app on June 25, but was told by Apple that such apps would be rejected as “inappropriate use of hardware.” D’Ulisse appealed to Apple executive Phil Schiller, who reportedly met with the App review department and got the guidelines changed to allow in D’Ulisse’s app and others like it. Notably, the same effect can be achieved by simply turning the flash to “On” when the Camera application is open and in video mode.

The iPad is gaining traction in a number of large corporations, according to a Bloomberg BusinessWeek profile. According to the article, Wells Fargo SAP, Tellabs, and Mercedes-Benz are all working to integrate the tablet into the company’s workflows, with Megan Minich, a Wells Fargo senior vice-president, saying that the company has “got a bunch ordered that we can’t get yet.”

Demiforce updates Trism for iPad

Demiforce has released an update to its acclaimed Trism puzzle game for the iPhone and iPod touch, adding native iPad support and fixing some iOS 4 related problems. First released in July 2008, Trism was the first Match-3 puzzle game to make use of the iPhone’s accelerometer feature and was a runaway success in its category. Trism 1.5 maintains the same game play and features as the original with five game modes, online scoring and 22 in-game achievements that can be collected. The update fixes stability problems that some users have experienced with iOS 4.0, adds native iPad support and provides code optimizations that should result in improved battery life. Trism 1.5 is available from the App Store for $3 and is a free update for current users.

iOS 4 satisfaction poll ends, iOS 4.1 feature poll begins

With over 3,200 votes from iLounge readers, our latest poll—“Are you satisfied with the performance of iOS 4 on your device?”—has ended. Readers using any compatible model of iPhone or iPod touch were given a choice between “satisfied” and “not satisfied,” with a separate option for those who don’t own an iOS 4-compatible device.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, users of older models—namely the iPhone 3G and second-generation iPod touch—were much more likely to be dissatisfied with iOS 4’s performance on their devices than owners of newer hardware. Among iPhone 3G users, 70% said they were not satisfied with the performance of iOS 4 on their devices, compared to just 30% that were satisfied; these numbers were closer—56% and 44%, respectively—among second-generation iPod touch users. By comparison, 85% of iPhone 3GS users said they were satisfied with iOS 4’s performance, compared to just 15% who were not satisfied, while 79% of third-generation iPod touch users said they were satisfied, with 21% saying they were not satisfied. An overwhelming majority—91%—of iPhone 4 users said they were satisfied with the performance of iOS 4 on their new devices, compared to just 9% who were not satisfied; finally, 8% of overall respondents said they didn’t own an iOS 4-compatible device. Thanks for all your votes!

Our new poll focuses on iOS 4.1. What new feature would you most like to see in the upcoming software update? Would you like to see iPad support, expanded multitasking capabilities, wireless syncing, iTunes Library streaming, iPhone and iPod touch support for the iPad Camera Kit, iPad-to-iPhone tethering, fixes for the iPhone 4’s reception and proximity sensor issues, or some other new feature or improvement? Our new poll, “What feature do you most want to see in iOS 4.1?” lets you answer that question. As always, you can find the iLounge Poll in the left hand column of the main homepage. Cast your vote today!

SwitchEasy, MiLi roll out cases for iPhone 4

SwitchEasy and MiLi have rolled out their new accessories for the iPhone 4. SwitchEasy’s Nude case is made from GE Lexan polycarbonate, and features open access to all ports and controls, a wide-angle, flash-friendly camera hole, and a number of included add-ons, including two anti-static screen guards, a microfiber cleaning cloth, two headphone port protectors, and two 30-pin connector protectors. Nude for iPhone 4 is available in eight colors—two translucent, six opaque—and sells for $20; for more information, see our First Look article.

MiLi‘s Power Spring for iPhone 4 (pictured) is an updated version of its prior Power Spring for iPhone 3G and 3GS battery case, featuring a folding-top design, an integrated 1200mAh rechargeable battery, good for up to 7.5 hours of extra talk time or Internet use over 3G, and a variety of available color combinations. MiLi’s Power Spring has yet to find a distributor in the U.S.; exact price and release information has yet to be announced.

AT&T: Upload speed loss due to software defect

AT&T has released an official statement on recent reports of slow upload speeds observed by some iPhone 4 users. “AT&T and Alcatel-Lucent jointly identified a software defect—triggered under certain conditions - that impacted uplink performance for Laptop Connect and smartphone customers using 3G HSUPA-capable wireless devices in markets with Alcatel-Lucent equipment. This impacts less than two percent of our wireless customer base,” AT&T said in the statement. “While Alcatel-Lucent develops the appropriate software fix, we are providing normal 3G uplink speeds and consistent performance for affected customers with HSUPA-capable devices.”

SoftBank adds nearly 230,000 on strength of iPhone

SoftBank has announced that it registered 229,500 net new subscribers in June, outpacing rival carriers NTT DoCoMo and KDDI. The Wall Street Journal reports that while the company doesn’t break out specific iPhone sales numbers, Apple’s handsets—particularly the iPhone 4, which launched in Japan on June 24—is likely to have made a substantial contribution to that figure. Overall, SoftBank has added roughly three-quarter of a million new subscribers in the last three months. SoftBank is the exclusive service provider for both the iPhone and iPad in Japan.

IvySkin, Noreve intro new cases for iPhone 4

IvySkin and Noreve St. Tropez have both introduced new cases for the iPhone 4. IvySkin’s iPhone 4 Reception Case (pictured) is a clear polycarbonate case measuring 0.8mm thick on the sides and 0.6mm on the back, with openings for access to all ports, controls, and the camera, and included front and back anti-scratch film protectors. It is available for pre-order now for $15; additionally, all iPhone 4 Reception Case customers will be eligible for a $15 credit towards the purchase of the upcoming SmartCase for iPhone 4 when it arrives in August. Noreve’s iPhone 4 Tradition C Leather Case is a pouch-style case featuring side openings for access to the power and volume buttons, ring/silent switch, and for ease of removal, a high-quality leather exterior, embossed interior lining, and a removable plastic belt clip. It is available in a wide variety of leathers starting at $45; both cases are expected to ship later this month.

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