From all of us here at iLounge, happy new year! We will be on a limited publication schedule through the weekend as we celebrate with our families and friends.
2010 was quite a year for us and for the Apple ecosystem—the opening of the first-ever iLounge Pavilion, the launch of the iPad, a new iPhone, new iPods, a new Apple TV, a new version of iTunes (complete with a new logo), and more—and 2011 is shaping up to be quite exciting as well, starting with the second year of the iLounge Pavilion, which is now the biggest TechZone at CES.
Feel free to browse through our archives throughout the weekend, and be sure to join us next week as we travel to Las Vegas to bring you live coverage from the show. Have a great 2011!
Skype Software has released an update to its popular voice-over-IP telephony app for the iPhone and iPod touch adding much-anticipated support for Skype-to-Skype video calls. Skype 3.0 now allows Skype users to make two-way video calls between other video-capable Skype apps over either Wi-Fi or 3G. iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and fourth-generation iPod touch users can place bi-directional video calls to other compatible iOS devices or Skype desktop users on Mac OS X or Windows. Users of the iPad and older iPod touch devices are able to receive one-way video calls from video-capable Skype clients but cannot send video due to the lack of a camera on these devices. Video calls are supported in both portrait and landscape orientations and requires a device using iOS 4.0 or later. Skype video is not supported on the iPhone 3G. Skype 3.0 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Chinese company Shenzhen SUFF Industry has introduced the SoPhone 4, a new GSM-based handset that aims to be nearly identical to the iPhone 4 in every possible way, blatantly copying the external design of Apple’s fourth-generation handset and iOS 4 UI. Sporting an external body identical in dimensions and button locations to the iPhone 4—even capable of fitting perfectly in existing iPhone 4 cases—the SoPhone features a 480x320 capacitive touch screen, Wi-Fi, 4GB of memory, dual cameras, Bluetooth, FM radio, and a user-replaceable battery, as well as “infrared remote sensor support,” an “electric torch,” and a “gravity inducer.” Notably, though the phone’s UI is sluggish, it’s incredibly similar to iOS 4, with folders, multi-tasking, and volume/silent overlays; the individual apps use similar and in some cases identical icons, but noticeably lack the polish of Apple’s applications, and in some case appear downright crude. The shameless copying extends to the phone’s branding, as it carries the same rear markings as a real iPhone 4 unit, and even displays an Apple logo upon startup. A pair of YouTube videos showing off the phone’s UI and external case demonstrate the cloning; we advise caution as some material shown during the UI demonstration is NSFW.
Two European standards bodies have released the final specs for a new universal cell phone charging standard based on Micro-USB. In a European Commission press release, the CEN-CENELEC and ETSI announced that the “harmonised standards needed for the manufacture of data-enabled mobile phones compatible with a new common charger” are now available. “I am very happy that the European Standardisation Bodies have met our request to develop within a short space of time the technical standards necessary for a common mobile phone charger based on the work done by industry,” said European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. “Now it is time for industry to show its commitment to sell mobile phones for the new charger. The common charger will make life easier for consumers, reduce waste and benefit businesses. It is a true win-win situation.”
In June, Apple, along with Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, LG, NEC, Qualcomm, RIM, Samsung, and Texas Instruments, signed an agreement aimed at standardizing all data-enabled cell phone chargers beginning in 2011; although Micro-USB has been chosen as the standard connector, the agreement allows Apple to bundle some form of Dock Connector to Micro-USB charging adapter with the iPhone in the EU, instead of adding a separate Micro-USB port to the device or abandoning the Dock Connector in favor of the new standard. Given the continued popularity of full-sized USB ports and Apple’s use of the same cables for non-mobile phone products including the iPod and iPad, this adapter most likely will take the form of a USB to Micro-USB adapter for current cables, rather than a redesigned Dock Connector to Micro-USB cable. [via Mac Rumors]
Apple plans to announce a Verizon-compatible iPhone sometime before Valentine’s Day 2011, according to a new report. Citing “a person familiar with Apple’s plans who is not authorized to discuss them publicly,” Businessweek reports that neither Apple nor Verizon will be announcing the phone at next week’s 2011 CES in Las Vegas; it says the former is “likely” host a special press event to announce the device. The report notes that analysts estimate between one and six million AT&T customers will switch to Verizon once the latter is able to offer the iPhone, a move that on the large end could cost AT&T as much as $6 billion in lost annual revenue. Notably, the report also claims that by easing the cost of upgrading to the iPhone 4, AT&T got 15 of its 23 million iPhone subscribers to sign new two-year contracts, while hiking its early contract termination fees from $175 to $325.
Following Apple’s release of the beta version of FaceTime video calling software for the Mac, a number of iLounge readers reported problems using their Macs to call certain iPhone 4 users, even when those iPhones were on Wi-Fi networks and capable of making outgoing FaceTime calls. After testing with iPhone 4, iPod touch, and Mac hardware, it turns out that a simple but pesky bug is to blame for the problem: the Mac FaceTime application’s handling of telephone numbers with periods, as in 212.555.1212 versus the more traditional use of dashes in 212-555-1212.
Unlike the iPod touch 4G and iPhone 4, which automatically translate your Contacts’ phone numbers in the 212.555.1212 format into 2125551212 for calling purposes, the beta Mac FaceTime software appears to improperly treat the periods as additional characters when trying to initiate calls, resulting in an instant statement by the FaceTime software that the person you’re trying to reach is not available. Yet the same person will remain reachable at the same number using a different FaceTime device such as an iPhone 4 or an iPod touch 4G, and will also be capable of calling you.
Until Apple updates the Mac FaceTime software to properly handle telephone numbers entered with periods as separators, use the Mac’s Address Book application to swap the periods in phone numbers for more conventional dashes, which FaceTime for the Mac handles without complaint. Calls that previously seemed impossible due to instant rejection will suddenly go through without complaint.
Sales of iPad-formatted versions of print magazines dropped towards the end of 2010, according to a new report. Citing figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, WWDMedia reports that Vanity Fair sold only 8,700 digital editions in November, down from an average of 10,500 for August, September, and October; Glamour, which sold 4,301 digital issues in September, saw sales drop 20 percent in October and another 20 percent to just 2,775 in November. GQ‘s November sales were the worst since April, when the iPad was released, and Wired saw sales of 22,000 and 23,000 in October and November, respectively, after averaging 31,000 digital sales between July in September, down from sales of over 100,000 in June. While the report notes that publishers are hopeful the sales of new iPads over the holidays will increase sales, it should be mentioned that most digital editions are priced at or above the newsstand price for print editions, with no subscription model currently available. A report from earlier this month indicated that talks between Apple and magazine publishers over the terms of a potential iTunes subscription model were at a standstill, with the two sides unable to agree on revenue and subscriber information sharing issues.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s company Interval Research Corp. has filed an expanded version of its lawsuit against Apple, Google, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo, and Google’s YouTube subsidiary, providing more details in its attempt to prove patent infringement. Originally filed in August, the suit was dismissed by a federal judge in Seattle earlier this month for being too vague. The patents in question cover automatic suggestions for shopping sites, automatic location of related stories on a news site, and the presentation of information such as ads, stock quotes, news updates, or videos on a computer screen, in the periphery of the user’s main activity. The amended complaint includes more details of how the companies supposedly infringed, along with 40 exhibits, which according to the Seattle Times are largely screenshots of websites and services with specific areas highlighted. The exhibit submitted to illustrate Apple’s violations includes the top portion of an iTunes Store album listing, including the track listing and preview buttons, the buy button, a top songs and albums section for the artist, and recommendations based on what listeners of that album have purchased.
Speaking in an interview with Tech N’ Marketing, Peter Vesterbacka, CEO of Angry Birds-maker Rovio, had several complimentary things to say about Apple and its mobile gaming ecosystem. “Apple will be the number one platform for a long time from a developer perspective, they have gotten so many things right,” Vesterbacka said. “And they know what they are doing and they call the shots. Android is growing, but it’s also growing complexity at the same time. Device fragmentation not the issue, but rather the fragmentation of the ecosystem. So many different shops, so many different models. The carriers messing with the experience again. Open but not really open, a very Google centric ecosystem. And paid content just doesn’t work on Android.” He went on to say that Apple CEO Steve Jobs was “absolutely right” when he said there were more challenges for developers working with Android, adding that “[n]obody else will be able to build what Apple has built, there just isn’t that kind of market power out there.” [via MacDailyNews]
Starting today, Radio Shack is once again offering a $50 discount on new 16GB iPhone 4 and 8GB iPhone 3GS units, bringing their prices down to $149 and $49, respectively. According to a BGR report, the deal is good for “new and eligible upgrade customers while supplies last.” The retailer is also offering boosted trade-in credit for iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS units. “Qualifying iPhone 3G and 3G S handsets will have a guaranteed trade-in credit of $75 and $125, respectively,” reads an email received by BGR. To qualify, the iPhone must “power on, cannot be PIN locked and must be in fully functional, working condition without any broken components.” Again, this offer does not have a set end date; readers are encouraged to call their local store to check on availability.
This week’s featured photo is from our iPhones Around the World gallery, and shows an iPhone 4 in front of the Apple Authorized Reseller Molla in Tirana, Albania. To share your photos and to be considered for our Photo of the Week, you simply need to submit your own photo to one of our galleries. So get out there, take some pictures featuring your favorite iPod, iPad, or iPhone and maybe your submission will be our next Photo of the Week!
With over 1,450 votes from iLounge readers, our latest poll—“Did you buy a new Apple TV?”—has ended. Readers were given simple “yes” and “no” choices to avoid confusion. More than a third of readers—37 percent—said yes, they had bought a second-generation Apple TV, while 63 percent said no, they had yet to purchase the million unit-selling device. Thanks for all your responses!
Our new poll focuses on holiday gifts. We’d like to know which, if any, Apple device you received for the holidays. Did you get an iPad, or an iPhone 4, or a 3GS? Or perhaps you received a fourth-generation iPod touch, a sixth-generation iPod nano, an iPod classic, or a fourth-generation iPod shuffle? Or did you get a new Apple TV, or accessories, or no Apple-focused gear at all? Our new poll, “Which new Apple device did you get for the holidays?” lets you answer that question. You can find the iLounge Poll in the left hand column of the main iLounge.com homepage. Cast your vote today!
Samsung has announced its upcoming Galaxy Player (Translated Link), an Android-based device that will serve as a competitor to the iPod touch. According to the press release, the Galaxy Player will feature both front- and rear-facing cameras—VGA and 3.2 megapixel, respectively—between 8GB and 32GB of internal storage with a MicroSD slot for expansion, a 4-inch “Super Clear” 800 x 480 LCD display, a 1GHz CPU, GPS with a free 3D navigation app, Bluetooth 3.0, a removable 1200mAh battery, HD video playback, Wi-Fi, and SoundAlive audio enhancing technology. The report claims that the device will run Android 2.2 Froyo—not the newer 2.3 Gingerbread version that runs on Google/Samsung’s new Nexus S smartphone—and will have Android Market and Samsung Apps access. Notably, while the screen’s size is larger than that of the iPod touch, its resolution falls short of the fourth-generation model’s Retina Display, as does its top internal storage spec. North American availability and pricing have yet to be announced, but will likely be revealed next week at the 2011 CES, where the device is expected to be showcased.
A developer has figured out a way to hack the sixth-generation iPod nano. Developer and hacker James Whelton has figured out a way to boot the nano with a modified files by bypassing the device’s cache comparison routines, which has allowed him to remove one of the device’s “apps” and create a blank space, something that’s possible on jailbroken iOS devices. According to his nanohack.me blog, Whelton is hoping that the discovery will allow the hacking community to figure out a way to “jailbreak” the nano, but Whelton himself said he is currently focused on exposing some of the currently hidden features of the device, and stressed that he doesn’t want his progress so far to be “blown out of proportion.” Notably, the sixth-generation doesn’t actually run iOS, but instead uses a modified version of the prior iPod nano OS which has been updated to offer a user interface experience similar to that of an iOS device. [via Macstories]
Apple and a handful of app developers have been sued—not once, but twice—over the collection and sharing of user data with outside companies. Both suits—Lalo v. Apple and Freeman v. Apple—were filed in the Northern District of California; the former was first reported by Bloomberg while the latter was spotted by Wired. Both suits appear to be heavily based on research compiled and published by the Wall Street Journal, which showed that some apps send age, gender, location, and phone identifier information to ad networks without notifying the user.
“Some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users’ location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views,” reads the Lalo suit. The Freeman suit claims that “[d]efendant Apple, by exercising significant control over App developers and sharing profits with them, has created a ‘community of interest’ with the other Defendants to render them joint venturers, who are responsible for each other’s torts. Defendant Apple has also aided and abetted the remaining Defendants in the commission of their legal wrongs against Plaintiffs and the proposed class.” In addition to Apple, Pandora, Paper Toss, the Weather Channel, Dictionary.com, Toss It, Text4Plus, Talking Tom Cat, and Pimple Popper Lite were all named in either one or both the suits; both are seeking class action status.
China Unicom has lowered its price on the iPhone 3GS amid shortages of the iPhone 4 in China. People’s Daily reports that Unicom is now selling 8GB 3GS units for 3,999 yuan, or roughly $600, a 1,000 yuan (~$150) discount over the previous price. Notably, these prices are for no-contract units—customers who sign a two-year contract will receive a refund of as much as 3,792 yuan. The iPhone 4 is not available from Unicom without a contract. [via M.I.C. Gadget]
Japanese iPhone carrier Softbank has announced plans to launch Near Field Communications (NFC) add-ons for the iPhone 4. According to the press release (Translated Link), the polyurethane, Bumper case-compatible “seals” will stick to the back of the iPhone, allow for full access to the device’s rear-facing camera and flash, and use Sony-developed FaliCa NFC technology to enable wireless payments. The seals will be available in WAON-, nanaco-, and Edy-compatible varieties, and will be sold in Softbank stores as well as online; the seals are expected to launch in February 2011 and will sell for 2,980 yen, or roughly $36. [via Engadget]
Apple has updated its Investor Relations page to indicate that it will announce its financial results for the first fiscal quarter of 2011 on Tuesday, January 18, and will conduct a conference call to discuss the results at 2:00 p.m. PT that day. As always, iLounge will be covering the conference call, and will post any relevant notes from the discussion. Apple’s quarterly results are highly anticipated as an indicator of the relative strength of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad product lines. Though the company saw a noteworthy decrease in iPod unit sales from Q1 2009 to Q1 2010, iPhone unit sales doubled, foreshadowing a year of rapidly increasing demand for the company’s touchscreen products. The results will also include sales numbers from the iPad’s first holiday quarter, expected to be spectacular, and will complete the company’s first calendar year sales numbers for the device, which stood at 7.46 million as of September 25.
Virtual band Gorillaz has released its new album, The Fall, which was written and performed primarily on the iPad. Over the course of composing and recording the fifteen track album, the band used a variety of applications, including Speak It!, SoundyThingie, Mugician, Solo Synth, Synth, Funk Box, Gliss, AmpliTube, Xenon, iElectribe, BS-16i, M3000 HD, Cleartune, iOrgel HD, Olsynth, StudioMiniXI, BassLine, Harmonizer, Dub Siren Pro, and Moog Filatron. Described by CNN as having a “more basic vibe” than the band’s studio-based efforts, the album was recorded over 32 days on the band’s 2010 North American tour, and was mastered at Abbey Road Studios. Those interested in hearing the album can listen to it for free online by signing up for the band’s mailing list; it is currently available as a free download for members of the band’s fan club, and is expected to see a wider release next year.
AT&T has lowered its pricing on refurbished iPhone 4 units. Previously priced at $149 for 16GB units and $249 for 32GB models, the U.S. iPhone carrier is now offering both at $50 discounts, or $99 and $199, respectively. In addition, AT&T is offering “cosmetic blemish” units, with 16GB models going for $79 and 32GB models selling for $179. Similar discounts are being offered on 8GB iPhone 3GS units, with standard refurbished models selling for $29 and cosmetic blemish units selling for $19. All prices require minimum data service starting at $15 a month, as well as a new two-year contract and activation. [via BGR]