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Apple confirms iPad 2 event for March 2

As expected, Apple has sent out invitations to select members of the media inviting them to a special event on March 2. The image accompanying the invitation features a mockup of iOS’s Calendar app set for the date of March 2, with a corner peeled back to reveal an image of the original iPad underneath, and the tagline “Come see what 2011 will be the year of.” Apple is expected to unveil the second-generation iPad at the event; the device itself is expected to feature a front-facing camera for FaceTime video calling, a larger speaker, and a thinner design, among other improvements. The event will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco and will start at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

Apple cuts minimum iAd buy in half

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Apple has cut the minimum buy for its iAd mobile advertising platform in half, according to a new report. AllThingsD reports that Apple has reduced the entry cost from $1 million to $500,000, in order to appeal to smaller-scale advertisers that couldn’t afford to initial entry cost. “This new minimum buy is a great step forward and a necessary one, I think,” said Mark Read, CEO of WPP Digital, the digital arm of global ad firm WPP. “Lowering the minimum buy to $500,000 from $1 million will certainly make the platform more appealing.” Despite claims of more than 60 successful brand campaigns by Apple, the report notes that some developers saw their fill rates—the percentage of ad inventory actually filled with an ad—decline in the early part of 2011; the lower minimum ad buy is likely meant to reverse than trend and bring more brands into the fold. “Apple isn’t necessarily targeting television ad budgets with iAds, but brand budgets,” said Read. “It’s after whatever portion of the Net advertising budget that it can get by offering access to this developing mobile demographic, which is a pretty valuable one.”

Apple to intro Thunderbolt, FaceTime HD on new laptops

  • February 23, 2011
  • Apple,

Apple plans to debut its version of Intel’s Light Peak technology, dubbed Thunderbolt, as well as a newly renamed “FaceTime HD” camera on its new MacBook Pros, which it is expected to announce tomorrow. Mac Rumors reports that the details have come from both leaked images of the new laptops and their packaging. Light Peak is a proprietary high-speed I/O interface developed by Intel that is meant to serve as a single universal replacement for current input/output buses such as FireWire, USB, SATA, and PCI Express. Intel is holding a media event tomorrow at which it is expected to discuss the technology, however, past releases have pegged its initial bandwidth limit at 10 Gbit/s. If or when Apple plans to add Light Peak-compatible ports to its portable media devices is currently unknown.

In addition to the Thunderbolt technology, the new laptops’ labels also boast of a “Built-in FaceTime HD camera.” While the fine print related to the claim notes that FaceTime video calling requires a FaceTime-enabled device and a Wi-Fi connection for both caller and recipient, the “HD” moniker is curious in that it suggests Apple may be planning to offer higher-resolution, possibly as high as 720p, video chats between Macs and any other products it makes that are capable of processing the video, displaying the video, and capturing the video at a high enough resolution. While the front-facing cameras of the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch are too low a resolution to be considered “HD,” both of the devices’ rear-facing cameras can capture 720p video.

Update: Apple has released version 1.0 of FaceTime for Mac on the Mac App Store for $1, bringing with it support for 720p “FaceTime HD” video calling. Notably, the HD feature is currently restricted to the company’s new line of MacBook Pro computers which were officially released this morning; past hardware, including Mac, iPhone 4, and fourth-generation iPod touch units, is currently not supported despite its capability to capture HD video content.

Apple releases Software update version 1.1 for iPod nano 6G

Apple has released Software update version 1.1 for the sixth-generation iPod nano. According to Apple’s release notes, the new software gives users the ability to turn the device completely off when detached from a power source, instead of simply putting it to sleep, and also gives them the option of controlling music or radio playback using the Sleep/Wake button, eliminating the need for them to look at the device. More details on the changes in behavior between putting the device to sleep and turning it completely off can be found in the Apple Support document linked above. Software update version 1.1 for the sixth-generation iPod nano is available now via the Update feature in iTunes.

V-Moda launches Crossfade LP Customs

  • February 22, 2011

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V-Moda has launched its new Crossfade LP Customs personalization program for its over-ear headphone. Through the new custom program, customers will be able to choose from six plate color options—gold, black, gunmetal, pink, purple, or red—four engraved designs with custom text, and four base frames. As with all Crossfade LP models, these custom editions features 50mm dual-diaphragm drivers, memory foam ear-cushions, a metal memory headband, an included exoskeleton hard carrying case, a cleaning cloth, 24K gold plugs, and two Kevlar cables—one audio only, one with an inline three-button remote. For a limited time, the custom option will be offered with every new Crossfade LP when purchased from V-moda’s website; the Crossfade LP over-ear headphones are priced at $200.

Wintek workers write to Apple over health concerns

  • February 22, 2011
  • Apple,

A group of workers from Wintek, an Apple manufacturing partner, suffering from symptoms related to n-hexane exposure has written a letter to Apple asking it to address their concerns. Reuters reports that the letter, signed by five employees claiming to represent their workmates, said the workers are suffering from numbness in their hands and feet, weakness in their limbs, and difficulty resting at night. In its 2011 Apple Supplier Responsibility report (PDF Link), Apple admitted that 137 workers at the Suzhou facility of Wintek suffered adverse health effects following n-hexane exposure, something they considered a “core violation for worker endangerment.” Apple claims to have required Wintek to stop use of the chemical, provide evidence of compliance, and to have required them to fix their ventilation system; the company also states that “all affected workers have been treated successfully.”

Despite receiving treatment, the workers claim that Wintek has not provided ample compensation to affected employees, has pressured those who took compensation to abandon their jobs, and has not provided affected workers any assurances that future medical costs related to the exposure will be covered. Lam Ching-wan, a chemical pathologist at the University of Hong Kong, said that daily exposure to n-hexane can cause long-term and possibly irreversible nerve damage. “We are unable to cope with the medical costs of treatment in the future,” said Guo Ruiqiang, a worker at the Wintek plant, who said he was suffering fresh symptoms he believes are residual effects of the poisoning. “We can only stay in the factory and see what happens. We just feel very helpless now.”

Apple to hold iPad 2 event on March 2

Apple is scheduled to hold a special media event on March 2 in San Francisco, at which it will unveil the second-generation iPad. Citing several sources close to the situation, AllThingsD reports that the date is firm, and that the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is the likely venue; notably, it served as the venue for Apple’s original iPad media event, as well. Apple has yet to send out invitations to media members officially confirming the event and the time/place, but given the close proximity of March 2, it will likely do so later this week.

Last.fm adds music recommendations, concert info

Social music network Last.fm has released an update to its iPhone and iPod touch application adding several new features for searching and exploring music and artist information. With Last.fm 3.0 users can now view their Last.fm profile from within the app to see top charts, recent tracks and friend information and receive Last.fm music recommendations for artists and new album releases. The update also includes information on upcoming concerts in the user’s local area with information on which events friends are attending. Users can now search the Last.fm music catalog and edit Last.fm radio stations on the go to fine-tune listening preferences. Version 3.0 also adds a new user interface with Retina Display support for the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch. Last.fm is available from the App Store as a free download.

Wall Street Journal app adds Market Data, Facebook Sharing

The Wall Street Journal has released an update to its iPad application adding market data and new social network sharing options. The Wall Street Journal 3.0 now includes a new Market Data Centre that provides live updating data, real-time stock quotes and charts and a customizable watchlist. Further, the new version now allows users to share articles on Facebook and Twitter from directly within the app simply by tapping with two fingers on an article’s summary or image. Additional enhancements include new toolbar buttons for simplified text resizing in articles and improvements to the display of video, images and interactive graphics. The Wall Street Journal for the iPad is available from the App Store as a free download. Free registration is required to access current content, with a subscription option available for accessing archived content and other enhanced features.

Griffin, others chase increasingly popular OtterBox cases

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Thanks to continued concerns over the durability of Apple’s glass-based devices, the last several months have seen an unexpected but noteworthy increase in the number of ruggedized iPhone and iPod cases, as well as growing visibility of such cases at mainstream retailers. The rugged case market, which has long been dominated by a single company—OtterBox—has recently seen an influx of new players, including Ballistic and Griffin Technology, which are now targeting OtterBox’s popular multi-layer Defender and Commuter series cases with new designs. Ballistic specifically went after OtterBox’s products with an aggressive marketing campaign, at one time claiming in its press materials that it was selling a model “better” than OtterBox’s flagship case Defender. By contrast, Griffin has taken an almost coy position for its family of new “Armored” series of cases for the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch. Asked about the similarities between the company’s just-released Survivor and OtterBox’s Defender, Griffin called the correlation between its new offerings and OtterBox’s lineup “not direct,” and has sought to present the positives of its product rather than making competitive comparisons.

Survivor touts military-grade testing in labeling that claims the hard plastic and rubber case “meets or exceeds US/UK military standards,” including shock/drop, wind/rain, sand/dust, and vibration tests that portray Survivor as everything but completely waterproof. Griffin’s packaging for Survivor reveals that the case is actually the first in a series of three—Explorer and Tracker are the others, as yet formally unannounced—which will see Griffin offering “more protection than any case we’ve ever made,” a considerably different angle relative to the ever-thinner plastic shells that have been flooding the market in recent years. Ballistic and other companies, such as Incipio, have similarly announced multiple models with varying levels of anti-shock and elemental protection, making it clear that more and bigger companies are attempting to compete in this segment of the market, which will clearly benefit consumers by increasing the variety of durable cases on the market.

Apple in talks to improve sound quality of music downloads

Apple is among a group of digital music retailers in discussions with record labels to improve the sound quality of their digital offerings, according to a new report. Citing executives involved in the talks, CNN reports that the change would involve the labels supplying retailers with 24-bit audio files, as opposed to the 16-bit files that are currently distributed. “We’ve gone back now at Universal, and we’re changing our pipes to 24 bit. And Apple has been great,” said Interscope co-founder and chairman Jimmy Iovine. “We’re working with them and other digital services—download services—to change to 24 bit. And some of their electronic devices are going to be changed as well. So we have a long road ahead of us.” According to the report, the higher-quality files might be sold at a premium price, and could require upgrades to future iPods and iPhones to ensure compatibility. “Paul McCartney can master The Beatles albums all he wants,” said Iovine, who also works with Dr. Dre on Beats Audio products, “(but) when you play them through a Dell computer, it sounds like you’re playing them through a portable television.”

NomadBrush debuts conductive paint brush for iPad

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NomadBrush has debuted its new Nomad Brush paint brush for use with the iPad and other capacitive touch screen devices. Handcrafted using conductive materials, the Nomad features real bristles, a 7.5” by 0.25” black body and a weight of 0.2 ounces; other sizes and colors will be available “soon.” Notably, the Nomad Brush is not for use with standard paints or inks, and some bristles will come out during normal use without affecting the performance of the brush. The Nomad Brush for iPad and other capacitive touch screen devices is available now and sells for $24.

Still time to enter the LuxMobile M.C. Escher Giveaway

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If you haven’t yet entered our LuxMobile M.C. Escher Giveaway, there’s still time to do so. In our Giveaway of the Month for February, iLounge and LuxMobile are giving away 200 M.C. Escher Cases for iPhone 4. Winners will get to choose from two different designs. To enter, simply fill out and submit the form on the giveaway page—the giveaway will end on February 28, 2011 at 11:59PM Pacific Time. Good luck!

Protection poll ends, 2011 product poll begins

With nearly 3,000 votes from iLounge readers, our latest poll—“Do you use a case or body film with your iPod or iPhone?”—has ended. Readers had their choice of three “yes” responses with different motivations—because they want to change its looks, because they want to protect it, and for both prior reasons—as well as three negative response options, again with different reasoning—because they don’t want to obscure its looks, don’t think it needs protection, or for both reasons equally.

Unsurprisingly, a vast majority of readers—85 percent—said they use a case or body film on their iPod or iPhone. Of those, 79 percent said they used a case or body film because they want to protect the device, followed by 19 percent who said they did so for protective and visual reasons equally, and four percent said they did so mostly to change the device’s looks. Among the 15 percent of readers who said they don’t use a case or body film, 46 percent said they choose not to because the device doesn’t need protection and should be left to shine on its own, followed by 39 percent who said they don’t want to obscure the device’s looks, and 15 percent who said they don’t use a case or film because they don’t feel their device needs protection. Thanks for all your votes!

Our new poll focuses on Apple’s 2011 product lineup. We’d like to know which potential 2011 Apple product you’re most excited about. Is it the second-generation iPad? The fifth-generation iPhone? iOS 5? Or perhaps the fifth-generation iPod touch, seventh-generation iPod nano, fifth-generation iPod shuffle, or third-generation Apple TV? Or is it some other, unknown product? Our new poll, “Which potential 2011 Apple product are you most excited about?” lets you answer that question. As always, you can find the iLounge poll in the left hand column of the main iLounge.com home page. Cast your vote today!

iOS leads European mobile phone OS market

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iOS commands an impressive share of the mobile phone operating system market in Europe, according to a new report. Citing data from StatCounter.com, Pocket-link reports that iOS enjoys a 44.95 percent market share in Europe, more than double that of Android, which accounts for 16.37 percent. iOS has actually seen its share decline year-over-year, however, as it held a 50.44 percent share of the market in January 2010. Interestingly, the UK has a dramatically higher proportion of BlackBerry users than other European countries, with BlackBerry OS holding a 36.22 percent of the market, compared to 16.78 for Europe as a whole; iOS still holds the market lead in the country with a 42.02 percent share. Pocket-link claims the stats are current, and representative of ownership up to the end of January 2011. [via MDN]

Profile and Q+A with iLounge’s EIC posted online

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iLounge’s Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Horwitz was recently interviewed by FYI magazine, an Apple-centric publication based in the U.K. In the ten-question interview, Jeremy discusses his first computer, his top gadget picks for 2010, his most-used apps, and his impressions on Apple and how it should move forward. Interested readers can see the interview by downloading the free FYI Magazine app from the App Store, or by using the magazine’s online browser (Adobe Flash required); the interview begins on page 54.

Apps being updated for Verizon iPhone compatibility

Several iOS developers have begun to release application updates specifically to address compatibility with the new Verizon iPhone. Smule has released updates to several of its apps including Ocarina, I Am T-Pain and Glee Karaoke, listing simply “Optimized for new Verizon iPhone users” in the release notes. Similarly, TomTom has updated several of its GPS navigation apps such as TomTom U.S. & Canada with a specific Verizon iPhone 4 release designed to address what it describes as “inaccurate pop-up error messages” within the app. It is unclear whether these problems are simply due to incompatibilities with the slightly newer iOS 4.2.6 running on the Verizon iPhone or are related to hardware or network differences.

My Kingdom changes name to ‘Merchant Kingdom’, adds new features

Chillingo has released an update to its location-based multiplayer game My Kingdom, renaming the game to Merchant Kingdom and adding several additional new features. Launched last fall, Merchant Kingdom is a multiplayer online role-player game that uses the iPhone GPS to tie the game world to locations in the real world. To play the game, users must physically travel with their iPhone to explore new territory, build settlements, meet other players, and engage in trade and conquest. The latest game update adds tweaks to how cultural influence works between players’ settlements, makes it easier for players to liberate their own settlements and castles and increases the number of settlements and levels of manufacturing buildings that users can construct. Merchant Kingdom is available from the App Store as a free download. The game is ad-supported and does not require any purchase to play however several in-app purchase options are available to remove the ads and purchase units or power-ups within the game.

Readdle Docs for iPhone adds two-way synchronization

Readdle has updated its ReaddleDocs document reader for the iPhone and iPod touch adding support for two-way synchronization with popular cloud storage services and a new PDF engine. ReaddleDocs 2.3 now allows users to synchronize their files automatically between services such as Readdle Storage, Dropbox, MobileMe, SugarSync or any other WebDAV server. The new version also adds support for accessing files on FTP and SFTP servers and a new PDF engine with smoother scrolling and the ability to view PDF annotations. Other improvements include the addition of AirPrint support and the ability to save webpages to PDF files on iOS 4.2 or later. MP3 audio files can now continue playing using background audio and a night mode has been added to the document viewers. ReaddleDocs is available from the App Store for $5. An iPad version is sold separately.

Box.net app adds VGA out, AirPrint support

Box.net has released an update to its universal iOS client application adding support for displaying documents on an external display, printing via AirPrint as well as several other new features. Box.net is a client app for the popular online file storage service allowing users to access, view and share files from their devices while on the go. With version 2.4 users can now project any supported document from the iPad using Apple’s Dock Connector to VGA Adapter or print documents wirelessly using the AirPrint feature in iOS 4.2 or later. Additional improvements include a new security and auto-logout feature to protect access to documents stored on the device, support for single sign-on for users via Google or PingFederate accounts and bug fixes related to adding contacts while sharing content. Box.net is available from the App Store as a free download. A Box.net subscription is required in order to use the app; a free personal subscription is available with 5GB of storage and a 25MB file size limit with the ability to increase storage to up to 50GB for $10-20 per user per month. Business and Enterprise subscription plans are also available for larger organizations.

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