Orbotix has announced that Sphero, its smartphone-controlled robotic ball, will be available later this year. Recipient of an iLounge 2011 CES Best of Show Finalist Award, the Sphero is roughly baseball-sized, and can be controlled by an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Android device over Bluetooth, via a standard control app or through specialized apps. Features include integrated, color-changing LED lights, and an included induction charging base. Orbotix’ Sphero is expected to ship later this year for $130; the company is taking free reservations now.
Epson has debuted its new MegaPlex projectors for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. Both the MegaPlex MG-850HD and MegaPlex MG-50 feature built-in docks compatible with all three devices, the ability to charge the docked device, integrated stereo speakers, USB plug n’ play instant setup from a PC or Mac, HDMI, VGA, and microphone inputs, built-in handles, and high-brightness 3LCD projectors. The MG-850HD offers a resolution of 720p and a maximum output brightness of 2,800 lumens, while the MG-50 features 540p resolution and 2,200 lumens of max output. Epson’s MegaPlex MG-850HD and MG-50 projectors will be available later this month and will sell for $800 and $700, respectively.
China Telecom has started preparations for the launch of the iPhone 5, according to a new report. Citing a company insider, CapitalVue reports that the company has told provisional branches to begin staff training, amongst other preparations, and will “at the earliest” begin to accept orders at the end of September. The report goes on to say that Telecom is planning to spend 1.5 billion yuan (roughly $234.5 million) on a marketing blitz that’s being referred to as the “Dragon Plan.” Apple is expected to launch the iPhone 5 in mid-October, and currently offers the iPhone 5 in China through its carrier partner China Unicom. [via Mac Rumors]
Both Samsung and Apple have filed new patent infringement suits against each other in France and the UK, respectively. Samsung’s suit, filed in a Paris district court, accuses Apple of infringing three Samsung patents related to UMTS technology, and specifically targets the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and 3G-enabled iPad and iPad 2 models. Apple’s suit against Samsung was filed in the UK; details on it are scarce, as the patents in question have not yet been identified. Finally, Samsung has also filed an appeal against a German ruling from last week that saw sales of its Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet barred in the country. Samsung and Apple are involved in a large number of patent disputes worldwide.
This week’s featured photo is from our iPods Around the World gallery, and shows a pair of iPod touches overlooking rooftops and the Irazu Volcano in San Francisco de Dos Rios District, Costa Rica. 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 with your iPod or iPhone, and maybe your submission will be our next Photo of the Week!
Apple and Starbucks have once again expanded their long-running “Pick of the Week” promotion to include books from the iBookstore. Mac Rumors reports that this week’s pick is an iBookstore redemption code for The Night Circus, a novel by Erin Morgenstern that normally sells for $12.99. Earlier this year, Starbucks began to offer apps as part of the “Pick of the Week” promotion, later stating that it would offer redemption codes for “apps, extended samples of books on the iBookstore, TV shows, and more from iTunes.”
Molleindustria has released Phone Story, an unusual iPhone and iPod touch game intended to educate players on the “dark side” of smart phones—implicitly including iPhones themselves. Describing “hidden social costs,” the game takes the player through four mini-games illustrating a disturbing process of smartphone manufacturing: soldiers exploiting child Coltan miners in the Congo, suicidal workers jumping from the roof of a factory in China, crazed consumers rushing a store with a pear logo, and lastly obsolete junk parts being disposed of in waste dumps in Pakistan. Phone Story initially narrates each mini-game in a story mode; upon completion, gamers can continue to play in an endless “obsolencence mode” for a high score in an “endless spiral of technological obsolescence.”
On its web site, Molleindustria describes the goal of the game as being “to provoke a critical reflection on its own technological platform” and “make the player symbolically complicit” in the “troubling supply chain.” The company indicates that it pledges to donate all revenues from the sale of the game to organizations that are fighting corporate abuses with the first donations going to SACOM - Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, a group that has been working on the recent Foxconn case. Phone Story is available from the App Store for $1. [via Hacker News]
Update: Perhaps not surprisingly, the developer reports that Phone Story has been pulled from the App Store mere hours after launch, indicating that Apple claims the app violates several App Store guidelines, notably “apps that depict violence or abuse of children” (15.2), “apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content” (16.1), a requirement that “apps that include the ability to make donations to recognized charitable organizations must be free” (21.1) and that “the collection of donations must be done via a web site in Safari or an SMS” (21.2).
Dexim has unveiled its new AppSpeed Race Car for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. As the second model in its AppSpeed lineup of radio-controlled (RC) vehicles, the Race Car includes a small 30-pin RF dongle to allow for control of the toy via a specialized app, and gives users the ability to control the car using touchscreen controls or via the device’s accelerometer, while featuring three pre-set modes to have the car automatically zigzag, spin, or dance to music, an included quick-charging battery pack with USB charging cable, and the ability to control the car from nearly 50 feet away. Pricing and release information for Dexim’s AppSpeed Race Car for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch has yet to be announced.
Social music service turntable.fm has released an iOS app allowing users to become a virtual DJ and play music with other online users. Tied into the online web service of the same name that was launched earlier this year, the iPhone app provides access to a variety of virtual rooms where users can chat with and listen to music from other turntable.fm members and vote songs up or down. Users can sit back and listen to songs selected by other members or take turns playing their own selections which can be commented and voted on by others. The app includes Facebook integration and as with the web service, new users need to be connected to Facebook friends who are already using the service in order to sign up. The Turntable.fm service and app are available only within the U.S. at this time, the app is a free download from the U.S. App Store.
Sprint is preparing to launch the iPhone 4 on its network next month, but may have to wait until 2012 to launch the iPhone 5, according to a new report. Citing an unnamed Sprint Nextel sales associate, TUAW reports that the carrier has started briefing its employees on the impending iPhone 4 launch, and that the handset will be offered with Sprint’s standard data plans. The report goes on to states that the associate also suggested that Sprint will carry a 4G iPad, although details were unknown, and that Sprint will not get the iPhone 5 until 2012, with an early spring launch described as “most likely.” The associate’s claims partially contradict recent reports from Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, both of which asserted that Sprint would launch the iPhone 5 alongside AT&T and Verizon in mid-October.
Apple intends on releasing its eighth beta version of iOS to registered developers this Friday, according to a new report. Citing a trusted source, Boy Genius Report claims that following the release of iOS 5 beta 8, Apple plans to release the Gold Master (GM) build of the software on or around September 23, and that that build will be loaded onto already-assembled iPhone 5 hardware that is waiting for final software. Finally, the report claims that Apple will then request carrier partners to give technical acceptance to the GM by October 5, although it remains unclear what Apple plans to do should the GM fail to receive acceptance.
Incase has announced that its new Audio Collection series of headphones is now available. Previewed by the company in June, the new lineup includes four models—the Sonic Over Ear headphones, sporting 40mm titanium drivers and a $200 price tag, the Capsule In Ear model which offers custom 8.5mm drivers and sells for $50, and the Reflex and Pivot On Ear headphones, both of which feature 40mm drivers. The Reflex is aimed at those who want a minimal design; it sells for $80, while the Pivot is designed for active use and sells for $60. All of Incase’s new Audio Collection headphones feature an inline three-button remote and mic and are available now.
Cocoa Box Design has released an update to Penultimate, its digital ink notebook app for the iPad, adding support for importing images and improving the wrist protection features. Penultimate 3.1 now allows users to insert photos and images directly onto notebook pages from either the iOS photo library or the iPad 2 camera. Images can be moved, resized and rotated using standard touch gestures and users can also make handwritten notes on top of an image which will move with the picture as it is repositioned on the page. A new paper collection, “Photo Pages” has also been added as an optional in-app purchase to provide several simple, useful templates for photo albums that provide automatic layout features when working with images.
The update also improves the application’s Wrist Protection feature making it more natural for a wider variety of stylus users, particularly left-handed users and those with unusual writing grips. Users can now simply select their preferred writing position from an illustrated settings panel to avoid inadvertent wrist interaction while working with a stylus. Penultimate 3.1 is available from the App Store for $1.
Apple is preparing a revised version of its AirPort Express 802.11n base station, according to a new report. Citing a person familiar with the matter, AppleInsider reports that the current model is out-of-stock or otherwise listed as discontinued at some third-party retailers, and that AirPort Utility—currently in development—specifically lists “Adds support for the AirPort Express 802.11n (2nd Generation) base station” in its release notes. Apple updated the rest of its AirPort family in June, boosting the devices’ signals and improving performance, especially at long distances. Apart from serving as a portable 802.11n base station, the AirPort Express also serves as an AirPlay audio client thanks to its integrated audio output port.
Bloom Studio has released a major update to Planetary, its visual music explorer for the iPad. Part visualizer, part music player, Planetary allows users to explore their music collection as a 3D trip through the galaxy, zooming in on artists displayed as solar systems, albums as planets, and tracks as moons. Version 2.0 adds several significant graphical enhancements with new galaxy detail, solar flares, eclipses, atmospheric glow, accretion disks and more detailed textures for planets and moons. Additional graphic detail has also been added for the more powerful iPad 2 capabilities.
The new version also the ability to select playlists and toggle shuffle and repeat modes directly within the app along with automatic camera motion during playback, gyroscope support for the iPad 2 and scale and speed sliders to adjust the view. Several bug fixes and performance issues have also been addressed in the update. Planetary is available from the App Store as a free download.
Blogging service Posterous has launched a new redesigned version of its web service dubbed Posterous Spaces alongside a major update to its iPhone and iPod touch application. Focused on providing a personal sharing service for photo and video content, Posterous Spaces allows users to create groups, or “Spaces” for various purposes and easily configure sharing and privacy settings for each. To this end, the Posterous iPhone app has been redesigned to focus on posting and sharing content within individual Spaces, discover new public Spaces worth following and keep up to date on activity from friends, family and colleagues. In addition to posting new content, users can create new Spaces from within the app, follow friends and favourites, comment and like posts and automatically link public posts to Facebook, Twitter, FLickr and YouTube. The app also allows users to easily control sharing settings for each post, configure auto-posting to other services and easily create multi-contributor Spaces. Posterous 3.0 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Google has released an update to Google Books for iOS devices adding support for managing the user’s Google Books library and improving book formatting and accessibility features. Google Books for iOS provides iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users with access to the Google eBooks library on the go allowing them to read any free or previously purchased content in their Google Books account in a native iOS application. The latest version adds a new “Manage” mode that allows users to archive free and paid books after reading and remove sample books from the library entirely. The update also improves the display of ebooks with flowing text and adds support for the iOS VoiceOver feature. Google Books is available from the U.S. App Store as a free download.
JBL has rolled out its new OnBeat Xtreme and OnBeat Air speaker systems for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. As explained on the company’s website, the OnBeat Xtreme features a rotating dock with support for the iPad, JBL Ridge tweeters and Atlas woofers, computer optimized DSP equalization, Bluetooth for wireless audio playback, and the ability to charge the docked device. It is available for pre-order and sells for $499. The OnBeat Air was shown at the recent IFA electronics show in Germany, and, according to What Hi-Fi, will also feature a rotating, iPad-friendly dock, built-in Wi-Fi for AirPlay support, and either a white or black finish. It is expected to ship next month and sell for £200, or roughly $315. [via iPod Republic]
A product listing on Vodafone’s U.K. website has suggested that the iPhone 5 will arrive in both 16GB and 32GB capacities. AppleInsider reports that the product page for the Vodafone Sure Signal femtocell listed both white and black variants of 16GB and 32GB capacity iPhone 5 units alongside similar listings for all variants of the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 3G as compatible with the device. The listings have since been removed. Apple is widely expected to announce the iPhone 5 in the coming weeks.
Apple over the weekend reopened its iTunes Match beta to registered iOS developers. Mac Rumors reports that the company sent out emails to developers, letting them know that the beta has been expanded to additional developers in the U.S. The email also notes that iTunes 10.5 beta 8 is required to use the service. iTunes Match is an upcoming $25/year cloud-based service from Apple that matches the songs in users’ iTunes libraries with songs available on the iTunes Store, uploading songs that can’t be matched, and subsequently offering the users access to their entire libraries across all their computers and iOS devices anywhere they have an Internet connection. The iTunes Match beta was launched late last month, but was closed for new signups shortly afterwards.