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Apple releases iOS 4.2.6 update for Verizon iPhone 4

Apple has released its iOS 4.2.6 update for the Verizon iPhone 4. Posted online early last week ahead of the device’s launch, iOS 4.2.6 “fixes a bug to ensure Personal Hotspot data usage is accurately reported (for Verizon iPhones),” according to a listing on MacUpdate. Notably, iLounge’s test Verizon iPhone 4 arrived with iOS 4.2.6 pre-installed, so it is unclear how many units will actually require the update. iOS 4.2.6 for the Verizon iPhone 4 is available now through the Update feature in iTunes. [via Wired]

Apple TV 4.3 beta points to possible sports offerings

New code found in the beta version of Apple TV Software 4.3 suggests Apple is considering incorporating sporting events and/or sports-related updates into the Apple TV’s existing content offerings. The code in question was published online by Engadget, which took the repeated use of the word “controller” in strings related to “ATVGames” to mean that Apple is considering an online gaming service. In the parlance of Apple’s development tools, however, the word controller refers to behind-the-scenes software rather than physical game controller hardware, and other references within the beta code appear to confirm this.

Notably, strings related to these controller listings include “calendar,” “games-by-date,” and “standings,” all of which would be relevant to sporting events. Other strings involving “ATVThunder” controllers include “thunder-standings,” “com.apple.appletv.play.live.thunder,” and “.play.archive.thunder.” Based on these strings, it seems more likely that Apple is planning to launch some sort of sporting event service—either live streaming of events, streaming of past events, or both—or a sporting event scoring update/ticker feature. As with all pre-release Apple code, it is possible that these references will be removed in the public release, or may pertain to testing for a planned future service that never materializes.

Web Albums adds VGA output, batch operations

Scott Sykora has released an update to his Web Albums photo manager for Picasa, adding support for VGA output, captions and batch operations. Web Albums 2.1 now supports the Apple Dock Connector to VGA adapter allowing users to display photos and videos from Picasa on an external display. Users can also view, add and edit captions on photos and videos and perform batch move, e-mail and save operations to organize their pictures. The update also adds passcode protection, shuffle and repeat options for slideshows, integrated map support and the ability to comment on friends’ photos. Web Albums is available from the App Store for $2. An iPad native version is also available separately but has not yet been updated.

Real Racing 2 adds new events, multiplayer improvements

Firemint has released an update to Real Racing 2 expanding the game’s single-player career mode and making several multiplayer improvements. Real Racing 2 allows users to race any of 30 officially licensed cars in either an extensive single-player career mode or race online with up to 15 other players. The new version adds six new Cup, Time Trial, Head-to-head and Elimination events to the career mode and improves specific control method layouts. Rankings are now used to determine grid positions in multiplayer games and game rooms display each player’s rank and point rewards. Firemint has also updated its multiplayer servers to improve performance and prevent malicious driving. Real Racing 2 is currently on sale in the App Store for $5.

Verizon iPhone 4 launch sees smaller crowds

The Verizon iPhone 4 officially went on sale this morning at Apple, Verizon Wireless, Best Buy, and select Walmart retail stores across the U.S. Based on early reports, it seems that Apple’s and Verizon’s strategy of tiered pre-orders—existing customers on February 3, all others on February 9—seems to have kept launch day lines at retail outlets manageable. The International Business Times reports that only eight people were in line outside a Bryant Park, New York store an hour prior to opening, while the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tells of roughly two dozen customers who lined up in the cold outside a Verizon store in northwest Atlanta to be part of the launch. The Orlando Sentinel reports that roughly 30 people were lined up outside a Verizon store in Orlando prior to opening, despite that fact that a nearby store in Winter Garden store had one woman arrive for the iPhone at 4:00 p.m. yesterday. Additional reasons behind the modest lines may be the fact that Apple is expected to launch its fifth-generation iPhone in just a few months, the fact that the launch is taking place early in the morning on a weekday, when many potential customers likely have to work, and the fact that it is February, which means many areas of the United States are still prohibitively cold. For more information on the Verizon iPhone 4, see our full review.

[Photo courtesy of Jason Hiner]

HP unveils iPad rival TouchPad tablet

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HP today unveiled its upcoming TouchPad tablet device, a likely rival to the iPad. Looking remarkably similar to a first-generation iPad, the TouchPad features a 9.7-inch, 1024x768 multi-touch screen—the same size and resolution as the iPad—a weight of 1.6 pounds—the same weight as an iPad 3G—and measures 7.48 inches x 9.53 inches x .54 inches, or just slightly wider, shorter, and thicker than the first-generation iPad, which measures 7.47 inches x 9.56 inches x 0.5 inches. Beyond those physical similarities, the device also shares several technical features with the iPad, including 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR wireless capabilities, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, A-GPS in the 3G model, a digital compass, stereo speakers, and an accelerometer. It will be powered by a dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon processor, and will also feature a gyroscope and a front-facing 1.3 megapixel webcam.

The device will run webOS 3.0, the next-generation of the operating system debuted by Palm in its Pre handset, offering “true” multitasking, a “Touch-to-Share” feature that allows for the transfer of data from one device to another by tapping the two devices together, wireless printing, a full web browser with Adobe Flash support, and more. Several aspects of webOS 3.0 demoed during HP’s unveiling event looked very similar to those found in iOS 4.x on the iPad, most notably the mail application and the on-screen keyboard. WebOS 3.0 will also support wireless communication between webOS-based smartphones and the TouchPad via a new Touchstone dock. HP said that Wi-Fi-only, 3G, and 4G versions of the device will be available this summer, with pricing to be determined at a later date. [via Engadget]

AT&T to launch unlimited calling to any mobile number

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AT&T has announced that starting tomorrow, select customers will get unlimited mobile calling to any mobile number in the U.S., regardless of carrier. According to the announcement, the new feature will be free for any AT&T customer who is on a qualifying Nation or FamilyTalk plan and who is also signed up for an unlimited messaging plan. Existing customers will need to visit a special website—www.att.com/anymobile—tomorrow to activate the feature. Notably, AT&T has yet to specify which Nation and FamilyTalk plans will qualify for the feature; we will update this story as soon as that information is available.

Update: AT&T has posted a brief comment to its Facebook post saying that customers “need to be on a qualifying voice plan, either AT&T Nation 450 & 900 Or AT&T FamilyTalkNation 700 and higher.” [Thanks, Michael S]

Update x2: AT&T has announced further details of the feature. To sign up, eligible customers need to sign in to their online account, remove their existing unlimited messaging plan, and add the new unlimited messaging plan that includes “Mobile to Any Mobile” calling. More information is available from the company’s Frequently Asked Questions page.

Skype app adds Skype for TV support

Skype has released a small update to its iPhone and iPod touch application adding support for making video calls to a wider range of Skype clients and devices, specifically Skype for TV. The update also reportedly fixes crashing problems on the upcoming iOS 4.3. Skype first added video support to its iOS application late last year, allowing users to place and receive video calls over both Wi-Fi and 3G data connections using the Skype network from desktop PCs and other mobile devices. Skype 3.0.1 is available from the App Store as a free download.

Penultimate adds multi-page actions, AirPrint support

Cocoa Box Design has released an update to Penultimate, its iPad digital-ink notebook app, adding support for printing and multiple-page actions. Penultimate 2.3 now allows users on iOS 4.2 or later to print individual pages or entire notebooks directly from the iPad via AirPrint. With new multi-page actions users can also now e-mail, print or delete sets of two or more pages within a notebook, options previously only available for an entire notebook or a single page at a time. The update also notes several other smaller improvements. Penultimate 2.3 is available from the App Store for $1.

Ambiance adds recording and sharing features

Urban Apps has released an update to Ambiance, its highly-acclaimed “environment enhancer” application adding recording capabilities. Ambiance allows the user to play back a variety of ambient sounds available from a catalog of over 1,000 sounds ranging from nature sounds to urban sounds and many more. Ambiance 3.2 allows users to record their own sounds directly from within the app and then listen to them like any other sound. Users can also upload their own recorded sounds to the Ambiance catalog to share them with the rest of the world. The new version also includes several other improvements including a new download progress bar, sound alerts for the “shake to change” feature and simplified sharing to additional social media services. Ambiance is available from the App Store for $3.

Walmart to offer Verizon iPhone 4 starting tomorrow

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Walmart has announced that it will offer the Verizon iPhone 4 in select stores beginning tomorrow, February 10. According to the company’s release, the Verizon iPhone 4 will be available at nearly 600 of the retailers in-store wireless service areas and will start at $199 for the 16GB model. “We’re excited to bring iPhone 4 on the Verizon Wireless network, one the most anticipated mobile phone launches in recent history, to Walmart customers,” said Gary Severson, senior vice president, Home Entertainment, Walmart U.S. “As customers continue to embrace smart phone technology, we’ve added nearly 20 smart phone models to our assortment, including the new Verizon Wireless iPhone 4.” Walmart will also be offering a variety of iPhone 4 accessories, including cases and car chargers, and joins Best Buy as a launch day retail parter for Apple and Verizon Wireless. Customers considering purchasing a Verizon iPhone 4 from Walmart should contact their local store to confirm availability. [via Mac Rumors]

WSJ: iPad 2 in production, to be thinner, lighter, faster

  • February 9, 2011
  • iPad

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Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple’s next-generation iPad is now in production. The report echoes what many prior reports have indicated: that the device will be thinner and lighter, with at least one camera—a front-facing sensor for FaceTime—more memory, and a faster processor. In addition, it claims that the device’s resolution will be “similar” to that of the first-generation iPad; Apple has had trouble improving the display technology, in part because of the screen’s larger size, according to the report. Foxconn is said to be assembling the new model, which will initially be available through Apple as well as Verizon Wireless and AT&T, and is expected to launch in the “next couple of months.”

Apple, Verizon open iPhone 4 orders, cite Feb. 18 ship date

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Apple and Verizon Wireless are now accepting pre-orders for the CDMA iPhone 4 online. While Verizon is offering to ship the orders to customers, users ordering through Apple’s Online Store have the choice between shipment or reservation for in-store pickup. Notably, Apple is already citing a shipment date of “by February 18,” indicating that it may have already sold through its entire early allotment of units set aside for online sales. Both companies will be opening their retail stores at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning for sales to customers on a first-come, first served basis; in the past, Apple has reserved a large number of units for brick-and-mortar launch-day sales.

Google Translate comes to the iPhone as a native app

Google has released a native iOS application for its Google Translate service. The Google Translate service has been available as a web application since 2008, but previously only offered an iPhone-optimized version of the normal online service, allowing users to enter or paste in text that could then be translated into alternate languages. In addition to the features of the web app, the new native iOS application allows users to speak into the iPhone to perform translations and listen to the translated text read back to them. The application will accept voice input for up to 15 languages and the results can be spoken in one of 23 other languages or transcribed in text into more than 50 languages. The iOS application also provides a full-screen mode to allow users to enlarge translated text for easier readability. Users can also view dictionary results for single words, accessed starred translations and translation history even when offline. Google Translate requires an iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 3 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.

Verizon iPhone 4 antenna problems persist (video)

In the course of conducting our standard suite of iPhone 4 performance tests, iLounge has discovered that the Verizon CDMA iPhone 4 suffers from signal attenuation problems similar to ones discovered in the original GSM version of the iPhone 4. As seen in this Verizon iPhone 4 antenna attenuation video, the CDMA iPhone 4 can still lose substantial cellular signal strength when held in the prior “death grip” position, as well as Wi-Fi signal when held in a different position, in each case noticeably slowing or completely stalling the reception of data.

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The problem with Wi-Fi reception appears when the device is held snugly in landscape orientation with two hands, a position common when playing games or using the widescreen keyboard. Prior to the Verizon iPhone 4’s launch, sources told iLounge to be on the lookout for the issue, which was being referred to as the “death hug.” It should be noted that although early Apple-sanctioned reviews of the Verizon iPhone 4 claimed that the antenna problems had been fixed in the CDMA model, the same reviewers failed to notice the antenna problems in their original coverage of the GSM model. iLounge’s testing so far has found that the Verizon iPhone 4’s issues appear in the same geographic location as the AT&T iPhone 4’s, indoors with an average of three bars of signal strength. Once again, use of a protective case appears to fix the antenna issue, and antenuation may not be noticeable in areas with stronger signal strength.

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Updated: We’ve added pictures above showing how a normal grip on the bare phone can reduce Verizon’s four-bar signal down to one bar, along with the Speedtest results—a 1.1Mbps download speed gets cut down to 0.1Mbps, and uploads are cut from 0.5Mbps down to 0, or no uploading capability.

Read our detailed review of the new Verizon iPhone 4.

Dwindling iPod classic supplies spark refresh rumors

  • February 8, 2011
  • iPod

A number of major retailers are reporting short supplies of the iPod classic, leading some to speculate that the aging iPod model may finally see a refresh—or else be discontinued. iPodnn reports that estimated shipping times for the silver iPod classic have slipped from 24 hours to 1-3 business days on the Apple Online Store, while Best Buy’s website claims the player is backordered for 1-2 weeks, and Target has it listed as backordered for 2-4 weeks. Although the original report states that the supply issues are limited to the silver model of the iPod classic, Apple reseller J&R lists both the silver and black models as out of stock, and Amazon.com’s shipping times for the silver model are 1-3 weeks, compared to 2-4 weeks for the black model. The iPod classic was last updated in September 2009 with a modest capacity bump from 120GB to 160GB and was not mentioned at Apple’s annual iPod event for 2010, however, Toshiba recently announced a new line of hard drives in capacities up to 220GB that could be used in a next-generation model. Whether this shortage is temporary, a sign of an impending update, or a sign that Apple is discontinuing the model entirely is currently unknown.

Verizon iPhone 4 reveals small differences in CDMA model

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iLounge has received its Verizon iPhone 4 for review purposes and is busy putting the revised handset through its paces, but there are several small differences between it and the GSM model that we’d like to share. Apple has notably removed all the markings below the text on the rear of the CDMA model, including the CE and FCC logos; the text itself has changed to reflect its new FCC ID of BCG-E2422A—GSM models carry an ID of BCG-E2380A or B. The ringer switch of the CDMA model has been shifted notably downwards to accomodate the fourth antenna divider, something that may cause incompatibilities with some cases, as may a tiny shift downwards in the placement of the volume buttons. Also, the front and back of the box have changed to reflect the revised antenna design and different networks, respectively; Apple has added a reference to the CDMA model’s hearing aid compatibility rating to the sticker on the rear, but includes no such reference on GSM models. We’re continuing to test the new handset, but for now, feel free to see our Verizon iPhone 4 Unboxing photoset on Flickr.

iControlPad available for pre-order, ships next week

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Under development since 2008, the iControlPad, a Bluetooth gaming controller accessory for the iPhone, iPod touch, and other pocketable devices, is now available for pre-order. In addition to offering standard controls—including a digital d-pad, two analog nubs, six face buttons (ABXY and select + start), and two rear buttons—the iControlPad features a side clamp system that allows it to cradle and hold a variety of devices, and also offers support for a variety of Bluetooth protocols for maximum compatibility. Other features include a 1500 mAh battery that can charge a device via USB while playing, upgradeable firmware, and support for both jailbroken iOS devices and stock iOS devices via keyboard mode—although it remains to be seen how many games will support either configuration. The iControlPad is compatibile with all Bluetooth-capable iPhone and iPod touch models, and is available now for $75; shipments are expected to begin on February 16.

iTunes retains lead in U.S. online video market

According to new data from IHS Screen Digest, Apple remained in the top spot in the U.S. market for movie electronic sell through (EST) and Internet video on demand (iVOD) in 2010, despite rising market share for competitors. iSuppli reports that the iTunes Store accounted for nearly two-thirds—64.5 percent—of the EST/iVOD market in 2010, down from 74.4 percent in 2009; in the EST market alone, Apple accounted for three quarters of U.S. business. Apple was followed in the EST/iVOD rankings by Microsoft, which saw its market share jump from 11.6 percent in 2009 to 17.9 percent in 2010, and Sony, which went from 5.7 percent share in 2009 to 7.2 percent share in 2010. Overall, the EST/iVOD market underwent significant expansion in 2010, with revenue rising by more than 60 percent.

“The iTunes online store showed remarkable competitive resilience last year in the U.S. EST/iVOD movie business, staving off a growing field of tough challengers while keeping pace with an dramatic expansion for the overall market,” said Arash Amel, research director, digital media, for IHS. “Apple faced serious competition from Microsoft’s Zune Video and Sony Corp.‘s PlayStation Store, as well as from Amazon and—most significantly—Wal-Mart. However, iTunes managed to grow because of the introductions of the iPad and the second-generation Apple TV, which have spurred the company’s movie rental offerings and have invigorated the iTunes multi-screen ecosystem. We expect that in the United States, Apple’s strong performance in iVOD will allow it to continue to bypass the video on demand services offered by many major cable operators.”

Path adds real-time chat, e-mail sharing

Path has released an update to its personal social network application adding real-time chat and e-mail sharing. With Path 1.4 users can now have a real-time text conversation with other users of the Path app that happen to be online. The update also adds the ability to share photos and videos via e-mail for those family and friends who are not yet using Path; friends can be added via their e-mail address and will receive an e-mail each time a new moment is captured. The update also includes performance improvements to make Path faster and more reliable. Path 1.4 is available from the App Store as a free download.

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