Apple may have plans to include the online storage and streaming of both films and TV shows in its iCloud offering, according to a new report. Citing two sources close to the negotiations, Cnet reports that Apple has increased its efforts to convince major Hollywood film studios to issue licenses that would enable such a service; the report notes that Apple began discussing such a service with the studios over a year ago. The report also claims that part of the challenge in signing all six major studios is the so-called HBO blackout, part of the contract between the cable network and three of the six studios—Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, and NBC Universal—that prohibits other electronic distribution outlets from selling the title while it’s airing on HBO. Whether or not a deal concerning the HBO contract is ready in time, the report states that Apple could still launch such a service with the support of the other three major studios—Disney, Paramount, and Sony—when it officially unveils its iCloud service June 6.
Gumdrop Cases is now shipping its Drop Series case for the iPad 2. Made using dual material construction techniques, the Drop Series features a rigid plastic inner layer and a shock-absorbing rubber exterior, along with integrated port covers, push-through button covers, an included, replaceable integrated touch sensitive plastic screen cover, and open access to both the front- and rear-facing cameras. Gumdrop Cases’ Drop Series case for the iPad 2 sells for $60 and is available now in black, white, or pink; for more information, see our First Look article.
Apple has updated iWork for iOS adding support for the iPhone and iPod touch to the existing suite of iPad apps and adding the ability to organize documents into folders. Pages, Numbers and Keynote are now universal apps that can be used on the iPad as well as the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and third- and fourth-generation iPod touch. The iPhone and iPod touch versions provide the same features found on the iPad scaled and optimized for the smaller screen. Users can import and export documents from iWork for Mac and Microsoft Office and print documents via AirPrint. A new Smart Zoom feature has been added to Pages and Numbers to assist with working on the smaller iPhone and iPod touch screens by automatically zooming in to follow the cursor when editing text or cells and zooming back to a larger page or table view when done.
The latest versions also introduce an improved document management interface that allows users to organize files, and group them in folders using a gesture-based interface. Keynote 1.4 further adds support for the separate Keynote Remote iOS app, allowing users to remotely control a Keynote for iOS presentation from an iPhone or iPod touch. Pages 1.4 also adds the ability to change font style and size directly from the ruler when editing text. Pages, Numbers and Keynote 1.4 each require iOS 4.2.8 or later and are available from the App Store separately for $10 each; all three apps are free updates for users of the corresponding previous version. Keynote Remote for the iPhone and iPod touch is available separately for $1 and requires iOS 4.2.1 or later.
Google’s Android OS continues to the lead the U.S. smartphone market, according to the latest data from Nielsen. In February-April 2011, Android held a 36 percent share of the U.S. smartphone market, compared to a 26 percent for Apple iOS and 23 percent for RIM’s Blackberry. Interestingly, while a higher proportion of iPhone owners said they engaged in “heavy data use” activities—including downloading apps of full music tracks, streaming music, watching video, and playing online games—than owners of other devices, Android users still consumed the most data per month, averaging 582 MB monthly compared to 492 MB monthly for iPhone users. BlackBerry owners used the smallest amount of data, averaging just 127 MB monthly.
Apple has announced that its will unveil iCloud, its “upcoming cloud services offering,” during its traditional keynote address to open its Worldwide Developers Conference. According to the release, Apple CEO Steve Jobs and a team of Apple executives will make appearances during the keynote, which will feature the unveiling of iCloud, as well as Mac OS X Lion—the eighth major release of Mac OS X—and iOS 5, the latest version of the software that powers the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference will begin with the keynote address, to be held on Monday, June 6, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.
Pixable has released a new app designed to help users easily discover and sift through friends’ photos on a variety of social media services. Photofeed aggregates users photos from services such as Facebook, Instagram and Flickr within a single app allowing users to easily explore daily photo posts, recent profile pictures and more. Photos are automatically organized into streams based on categories such as popular photos of the day, recently uploaded photos, popular photos by specific service and more. Users can also choose to follow specific friends to receive e-mail or push notifications when they upload, comment or are tagged in photos and easily share interesting photos via e-mail and Facebook or save a copy to the device’s camera roll. Photofeed by Pixable is available from the App Store as a free download for the iPhone and iPod touch. A free iPad app, Photofeed for Facebook provides similar features focused specifically on Facebook.
App Candy Productions has released Text Candy, a new app that allows users to send fun and creative text images to friends via e-mail, SMS and Facebook. Text images, or “textpics” are images that appear hand-drawn and are made up of printable text characters allowing them to be easily transmitted through text-based communications channels such as SMS. Text Candy allows users to create their own textpics or choose a library image from any of 10 different categories such as movie characters, animals, cartoons and holidays. Text Candy is available from the App Store in two versions: the full Text Candy Pro ($2) and a free version, Text Candy Lite.
Merriam-Webster has released an iPad version of its dictionary app for iOS. Previously available only in an iPhone and iPod touch app, Merriam-Webster Dictionary HD provides an iPad-enhanced version of the entire Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary with features such as voice search, synonyms, acronyms, example sentences and audio pronunciations. By using the integrated voice search, users can look up words without needing to know their spelling or use a scrolling index to browse through the entire dictionary. A history view also allows users to quickly reference words they’ve previously looked up. Merriam-Webster Dictionary HD is available from the App Store as a free ad-supported download.
Cloud service company Soonr has released a new iOS application for accessing and editing Microsoft Office documents on the company’s secure cloud storage service. Soonr Workplace for iOS allows iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users to remotely access and sync files to their devices for viewing on any iOS device. iPad users can also edit Microsoft Office documents either directly online or using a synced offline version of the document. Soonr also provides easy sharing and collaboration for working in teams, the ability to easily organize files and document collections by project and integrated search and version control. A desktop application for Mac and Windows provides synchronization of local project files to and from the cloud storage service. Soonr Workplace for iOS is a universal app and is available from the App Store as a free download; a subscription to the Soonr cloud service is required to use the app with plans starting at $8/month for 10GB of online storage and three team members. A 30-day trial is also available.
Echofon developer Naan Studio has released a new free Twitter app focusing on allowing users to browse only the photos in their Twitter timeline. Photofon delivers a basic no-frills Twitter client that provides a photo-centric view of the user’s timeline, displaying only tweets that contain links to photos. Common Twitter photo services such as TwitPic an yFrog are supported and users can double-tap on any image to view it in full-screen mode. Tweets can be marked as favourites or retweeted using buttons that appear beside each user name, although Photofon is otherwise a read-only Twitter client designed to view photos rather than posting new tweets. Photofon is available from the App Store as a free download.
Apple may be considering offering a discount on an iPad 2 as an option in its yearly Back-to-School promotion, according to a new report. Citing an anonymous Apple source, Boy Genius Report claims that Apple’s now traditional promotion will be announced at WWDC next month. The promotion is said to include a free iPod touch or $229 towards the purchase of any other iPod with the purchase of a new Mac, but may also give customers the option of taking a $200 discount on a new iPad 2 unit instead. The report itself seems less than fully confident about the idea, however, and such a move would be highly unusual, as the promo is normally meant to help Apple clear out inventory of iPod units prior to their traditional September refresh, instead of serving as a way to boost sales of recently updated products such as the iPad 2.
Qmadix is now shipping its Portfolio with Removable Bluetooth Keyboard case for the iPad 2. This leather-style folio case offers full access to all ports, controls, and cameras, an integrated stand, and an integrated, removable Bluetooth 2.0 keyboard featuring polycarbonate keys for an improved typing experience and and integrated lithium-ion polymer battery with micro USB charging port. The Qmadix Portfolio with Removable Bluetooth Keyboard case for iPad 2 is available now and sells for $150.
MountMe has debuted its new Freedom II mounting solution for the iPad 2. Based on the company’s prior Freedom mount for the original iPad, the Freedom II is a combination case and mounting solution offering full access to all ports, controls, cameras, and speakers, a special grippy surface on all four sides, a quick release rear bracket that doubles as a kickstand for video viewing and typing while offering 360 degree rotation and 90 degree tilt capabilities, and the option to mount the bracket using screws, suction cups, or a mounting strap. MountMe’s Freedom II mounting solution for the iPad 2 is available for pre-order now and is expected to ship in June 2011 for $50.
A new report has emerged offering details on Apple’s cloud music offering. Citing people briefed on the talks between Apple and the major music labels, Bloomberg reports that Apple will be able to scan customers’ digital music libraries in iTunes and quickly mirror their collections on its own servers, replacing low-quality songs with higher quality versions, after which users will be able to stream their songs and albums directly to their devices. According to the report, users will be able to store their entire music collections in the cloud—including songs that may have been obtained illegally, giving the music labels a way to earn money on pirated music through whatever fee Apple plans to charge. The report claims that the labels are negotiating aggressively to ensure they make a profit from the shift to the cloud, as it may be the last opportunity to stem piracy and dropping sales. Apple has already signed deals with three of the four major labels for the service, and is said to be close to reaching a deal with the final holdout, Universal Music. Apple could announce its cloud music service as early as its Worldwide Developers Conference, which begins with a keynote address on June 6.
Honest Dock and Twisted Twee have introduced wood-based docks for iOS devices. Made from wood collected “from various neighborhoods affected by the 2010 flood of Nashville,” Honest Dock’s lineup includes various, unique docks, each of which is carved out by hand, allowing for attachment of a standard 30-pin charging cable while maintaining the natural shape of the wood. Honest Dock’s completed docks for the iPad range in price from $90 to $160, with docks for smaller iOS devices “coming soon.” By comparison, Twisted Twee’s iLog appears to have been made from portions of tree trunks, with the bark left on, but similarly allows for passthrough of a 30-pin charging cable, and supports the iPad in both vertical and horizontal orientation. It is currently sold out, and sells for £35 (roughly $57).
Apple, along with AT&T and US Cellular, has been hit with a patent infringement lawsuit by Visual Interactive Phone Concepts (VIPC). In its case against Apple, VIPC is asserting two patents, both of which are entitled “videophone interactive mailbox facility system and method of processing information,” according to a FOSS Patents report. The complaint states that Apple infringes on the patents due to its sales of “mobile communication devices that are videophones,” and also names the App Store—“an application service for users to view, download and use applications on their videophones”—the iTunes Store, and the iBookstore as infringing entities, because they include “a central data center that facilitates the order and delivery of [apps, entertainment content, books, PDF documents, etc.].” Apple is accused of “intentional and willful infringement,” which, as the report notes, would result in treble damages should the court agree.
Pioneer has introduced its new AppRadio touchscreen automotive receiver. Designed to work in conjunction with an iPhone 4 or fourth-generation iPod touch running iOS 4.2 or later, the AppRadio works with the Pioneer AppRadio app to enable access to Google Maps, as well as various third-party apps, including INRIX, MotionX-GPS Drive, Rdio, and Pandora Radio, and also uses Apple’s iPod Out feature to display the familiar iPod navigation menu, displaying album art, song title and artist, and offering direct access to custom playlists and Genius Mixes. Other features include a WVGA (800 x 480), 6.1-inch capacitive touchscreen, three physical buttons—volume up, volume down, and home—built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling, an AM/FM radio with RDS text information display, an input for an optional vehicle mounted rear facing back-up camera, a 30-pin connector, an external GPS antenna, an external microphone for hands-free calling, a wired remote steering wheel control adapter, and an external amplifier via one set of preamp outputs. Pioneer’s AppRadio automotive receiver will be available in late June and is expected to sell for less than $500.
TweetDeck has officially announced its acquisition by Twitter following rumours over the past several weeks that a deal has been in the works. In a post on the TweetDeck blog, founder Iain Dodsworth confirmed that the company completed the deal on Tuesday and is presently in the process of “joining the flock.” Dodsworth goes on to indicate that Twitter has acquired TweetDeck for its focus on the “Twitter-centric power-user,” suggesting that Twitter is looking to leverage TweetDeck as a tool for more advanced users who are not adequately served by twitter.com or the current official mobile clients. Dodsworth also notes that although some changes should be expected, the TweetDeck team will remain in place and based out of London “with the same focus and products” as before. This latest move by Twitter follows last year’s acquisition of Tweetie which became the official Twitter mobile client for iOS devices.
Senator Al Franken has released a letter written to Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Google CEO Larry Page, in which he asks the companies to create privacy policies for all apps available on their respective mobile platforms. Franken, who recently headed a meeting of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law which representatives from both Apple and Google attended, asked the two companies “to require clear and understandable privacy policies for all of their apps.” As published by AppleInsider, the letter also states that “Apple and Google have each said time and again that they are committed to protecting users’ privacy. This is an easy opportunity for your companies to put that commitment into action.”
Franken continued, “Although I believe there is a greater need for transparency and disclosure for the collection and sharing of all personal information, at a minimum, I ask that you require all location-aware applications in your app stores to provide privacy policies that clearly specify what kind of information is being gathered from users, how that information is used, and how it is shared with third parties. These apps constitute only a subset of all of the apps available on your stores.” Privacy on mobile devices, and on Apple’s in particular, became a hot topic in recent weeks following a report claiming that iOS 4 devices were regularly recording their positions to hidden files, leading to charges of secret location tracking against Apple, and prompting the company to post a Q&A document discussing the collection of location data on iOS devices.
Apple will launch the iPad 2 in Russia, Brazil, and the Ukraine this Friday, May 27, according to various reports. RT reports that the iPad 2 will be available from Re:Store, MediaMarkt, Beliy Veter Cifrovoi, ION, Technosila, and Eldorado in Russia, with prices ranging from 18,990 rubles (roughly $668) for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model to 30,990 rubles (~$1,090) for the 64GB 3G model. Twitter user iJulianoR reports that the iPad 2 will launch in Brazil, but does not mention any further details, while UkrainianiPhone.com states (Translated Link) that iStore, MOYO, Comfy, and Foxtrot stores will carry the device in the Ukraine, with prices similar to those in Russia. [via 9 to 5 Mac]