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2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

News

Hex intros Icon Watch Band case for iPod nano 6G

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Hex has introduced its new Icon Watch Band case for the sixth-generation iPod nano. Made from durable polycarbonate, the Icon offers push-through protection for the power and volume buttons, open access to the dock connector and headphone ports, a pop-in, pop-out design, a matte finish, and an adjustable polycarbonate link bracelet with push button stainless steel clasp. The Hex Icon Watch Band for the sixth-generation iPod nano is available now in black, white, blue, green, or purple, and sells for $40.

RadioShack accepting preorders for iPhone 4S on AT&T, Verizon

RadioShack has announced that beginning today, it will accept pre-orders on the iPhone 4S. According to the company, pre-orders will be limited to black and white 16GB and 32GB units, meaning that customers looking to pre-order a Sprint model or a 64GB unit will need to look elsewhere. The company is also offering customers the ability to trade in any smartphone for up to $200 in savings off an iPhone 4S from October 14 to October 31. As RadioShack is an authorized dealer for AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, it is unclear why iPhones bound for the latter’s network are left out of the promotion; although it was not specifically stated, the pre-orders are likely to be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

AT&T forcing iPhone 4S upgraders into new messaging plans

While AT&T—thankfully—isn’t forcing prior iPhone users upgrading to the iPhone 4S to give up their unlimited data plans, it is forcing them to choose between one of two message options, neither of which are universally appealing. During the process of ordering multiple iPhone 4S units earlier this morning, iLounge found that if you have a grandfathered unlimited data plan, it will appear to be removed from your account during the ordering process, only to be replaced soon thereafter by an identical option specific to the iPhone 4S. For those on messaging plans other than the pay-as-you-go or unlimited options, however, the carrier is not as accommodating—during the ordering process, those users will need to choose between either a pay-as-you-go or unlimited plan, setting users up for charges of either $0.20 per SMS and $0.30 per MMS message, or $20 per month for unlimited texts, respectively. For a user on a $5/mo. messaging plan, these changes could mean an increasing in charges of $15/mo., which over the course of a two-year contract becomes $360.

AT&T announced the changes to its plans in August, and stated at the time that current customers would be allowed to keep their current plans even when changing handsets. It has not been confirmed, but seems likely, that the move was in part a response to Apple’s new iMessage service, which allows for direct iOS device-to-iOS device messaging, circumventing any carrier’s existing SMS/MMS servers, and thus incurring no additional charge to the user, save for the minuscule amount of data used when away from Wi-Fi.

Magellan RoadMate adds Safety Alerts, more voices

Magellan has updated its RoadMate apps adding a new Safety Alerts feature and three more optional voices. With RoadMate 2.2 users in the U.S. can now receive real-time red light and fixed speed camera alerts at no additional cost or choose to purchase a Premium Safety Alerts subscription that provides alerts for speed traps, speed cameras, live camera feeds, dangerous curves and school zones. Three additional voices for turn-by-turn guidance are also now available via in-app purchase for $1 each. The new version also includes the latest map data along with a new Junction View feature that provides photorealistic renderings of freeway interchanges and highway signs to help guide users through complicated interchanges. Magellan RoadMate requires iOS 4.2.8 or later and is available in three versions: RoadMate North America ($50), RoadMate USA ($40) and RoadMate Canada & Alaska ($35). Premium Safety Alerts are available via in-app purchase either as an annual subscription for $10/year or for a one-time payment of $25.

Unlocked iPhone 4S hits U.S. in November from $649

Apple has confirmed that the iPhone 4S will be available unlocked and contract-free starting in November, 2011. According to the online Apple Store, 16GB models will be priced at $649, with 32GB at $749 and 64GB at $849. However, in a somewhat confusing note on the page, Apple’s text says that “the unlocked iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S will not work with CDMA-based carriers such as Verizon Wireless or Sprint.” It’s unclear at this point whether the text was merely preserved from the iPhone 4 and carried forwards to the iPhone 4S, which operates as a dual-mode worldphone with the ability to switch between CDMA and GSM networks, or whether this is related to an actual software or hardware restriction with the new device.

Apple Store misses iPhone 4S pre-order time; Verizon accepts orders

Customers attempting to order Apple’s new iPhone 4S were unexpectedly met with delays as the company’s Apple Store web site failed to relaunch at the promised 12:01AM Pacific Time for pre-orders on Friday, October 7. Readers reported that Verizon’s web site was accepting preorders properly, though AT&T’s was not. While users have continued to expect new iPhone launches to be better than the last, iPhone pre-orders have repeatedly experienced issues over the last several years, ranging from server slowdowns to crashes of Apple’s and AT&T’s processing systems.

Updated: As of 12:30AM PT, iLounge has since confirmed that Verizon’s web site works all the way through the iPhone 4S ordering process from initial device ordering through final confirmation. Some reports suggested that Sprint’s web site is also accepting orders, however, our tests brought up a “We’re sorry” message when attempting to place an order. AT&T’s web site is not as yet showing iPhone 4S availability, and the Apple Store remains down, with numerous reports of inability to place pre-orders.

Update 2: As of 12:40AM PT, Apple’s web site began to take orders, albeit with a number of errors during different parts of the ordering process. Additionally, customers attempting to use the Apple Store site to become new Sprint customers were told that they would only be able to do so by visiting an retail store on launch day.

Update 3: As of 1:00AM PT, Apple’s web site continued to experience processing and account verification orders with existing AT&T accounts, but AT&T’s web site was capable of accepting at least orders for new customers. Notably, existing AT&T customers were not being offered the option to preserve their prior text messaging plans through Apple’s web site, and were being forced to choose between $20 unlimited plans or 20-30-cent-per-message charges.

Update 4: As of approximately 1:45AM PT, Apple’s web site began to display a notice that “we are temporarily unable to take iPhone orders.”

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Update 5: As of 1:55AM PT, Apple has switched its system over to temporarily accept reservations for iPhone 4S, with order confirmations to take place at a later time. “We will e-mail you… when it’s time to complete your order. At that time, you can link back to the Apple Store to confirm eligibility… You can then place your order, and your new iPhone will be shipped to your door.” The image notably depicts an iPhone 4 rather than an iPhone 4S.

Siri app disappears from App Store, service ends Oct 15th

Following this week’s announcement that the iPhone 4S will be including the Siri Assistant feature, Apple appears to have removed the standalone Siri app from the App Store. Existing Siri app users are also now seeing a note in the Siri app indicating that an “even smarter and better-looking” version is on the iPhone 4S, and suggesting that standalone app will stop working on October 15th—the day after the release of the iPhone 4S. The new built-in Siri Assistant demonstrated by Apple this week will be exclusive to iPhone 4S users, however as the prior app works fine even on the older iPhone 3GS, it remains unclear what changes have been made to the new implementation of Siri that require the new iPhone 4S hardware.

Sprint opens iPhone 4 pre-orders, confirms unlimited data

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Sprint has confirmed that it will offer unlimited data plans for the iPhone, and has opened pre-orders for the iPhone 4 while announcing pre-orders for the iPhone 4S. “While supplies last, pre-order the iPhone 4 online today, reads a message on the carrier’s website. “The iPhone 4S will be available for pre-order on Friday, Oct. 7.” Available plans with unlimited data include the Everything Data 450 plan, which offers 450 anytime minutes, unlimited texts, and unlimited data for $79.99 per month, the Everything Data 900 which also offers unlimited texts and data along with 900 anytime minutes for $99.99 per month, and the Simply Everything plans, which includes unlimited talk, text, and data for $109.99 per month. Sprint’s iPhone 4S pre-orders will open at 12:01 am Pacific Time tomorrow.

Pangea updates several games adding AirPlay support

Pangea Software has released updates to several of its games adding support for the new AirPlay mirroring features set to debut in iOS 5 next week. Enigmo 2 and Nanosaur 2 now support full 1080p video output via AirPlay to an Apple TV or an HDMI adapter and include several other “internal code improvements.” In addition to 1080p HD video output, Cro-Mag Rally also adds new interface screens with higher-resolution graphics, tweaked driving controls and vehicle capabilities and now includes all multiplayer modes at no additional charge; previously Tag and Capture the Flag required an additional in-app purchase. Nanosaur 2 and Cro-Mag Rally also both add support for Game Center player photos on iOS 5.

Reaction to Steve Jobs’ passing

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As word of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ death spread last evening and early this morning, a number of his former colleagues, contemporaries, and competitors weighed in with kind words for the man who did so much to shape the fields of technology, entertainment, and the world itself. A collection of these reflections appears below.

Tweet Speaker lets users listen to their Twitter streams

App Cubby has released Tweet Speaker, a new Twitter client that allows users to listen to their streams spoken aloud. The app features an attractive user interface displaying a single tweet per screen with standard buttons for replying, marking favourites, retweeting and viewing conversation threads, with a radio dial styled time indicator displayed at the bottom. Tweet Marker support allows synchronization of timeline positions with other Twitter clients such as Twitterrific and Tweetbot.

Tapping the playback button begins reading back tweets from the current timeline position using a synthesized voice system specifically optimized for Twitter; replies, mentions, hashtags and even external links are interpreted and read appropriately—for example Tweet Speaker will attempt to follow short links and read the actual web page title rather than simply speaking an unintelligible URL. Users can also adjust the reading speed and the application includes AirPlay support. Tweet Speaker requires iOS 4.2 or later and is available from the App Store for $3.

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs dies, aged 56

Former Apple CEO and Chairman Steve Jobs has died at age 56. Apple’s main web page has become an understated memorial to its visionary leader, who has widely been credited with having created the personal computer industry during his first years at Apple, then reshaping the music, telephone, and computer industries in his second stretch.

Our deepest condolences go out to Mr. Jobs’ family, and all the employees of Apple who—like us—are already feeling the pain of his loss. The impact of his life cannot be overstated.

“Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple,” reads a passage posted to the company’s website. In a separate statement published by the Wall Street Journal, Jobs’ family said he “died peacefully today surrounded by his family…We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.”

Samsung moves to block iPhone 4S in France + Italy

Samsung has announced plans to file patent-infringement suits against Apple in France and Italy in hopes of blocking sales of the iPhone 4S. In its brief announcement, the company states that each preliminary injunction request will cite two patent infringements related to wireless communications technology, in particular Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) standards for 3G mobile handsets. Samsung states that Apple’s infringement is “too severe” and the iPhone 4S should be barred from sales. “Apple has continued to flagrantly violate our intellectual property rights and free ride on our technology,” Samsung said on its official global blog. “We believe it is now necessary to take legal action to protect our innovation.”

Notably, Samsung also asserts that the infringed technology is essential to the reliable functioning of telecom networks and devices—and may therefore be covered under FRAND licensing obligations, which would require Samsung to license the patents to Apple on “fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory terms.” The company says that it plans to file preliminary injunctions in other countries “after further review.” [via Engadget]

iPhone 4S pre-orders to start at 12:01 am PT Friday

Apple plans to open pre-orders for the iPhone 4S at 12:01 am Pacific Time/3:01 am Eastern Time this Friday, October 7, according to a new report. Citing information given to customers by Apple support representatives, Mac Rumors reports that Apple Retail Stores will be opening at 8:00 am local time for sales of the iPhone 4S, which goes on sale October 14. The iPhone 4S will also launch in Canada, Australia, the U.K., France, Germany, and Japan on October 14, with distribution expanding to 22 additional countries October 28.

Vote now in iLounge’s 2011 Readers’ Choice awards!

In preparation for the November 1st release of iLounge’s 2012 iPhone + iPod Buyers’ Guide, we are opening voting today for our annual Readers’ Choice awards. In the short, four-question survey, you’ll have the opportunity to vote for Apple’s top product of the year, iPod/iPhone/iPad accessory developer of the year, iOS application developer of the year, and iOS game developer of the year. You can vote now using this link; voting will end at midnight Eastern Time on October 28. The survey takes less than a minute to complete, so cast your vote today!

Quora releases iPhone app

Quora has launched a native iPhone and iPod touch application for accessing its online question and answer service. The Quora app allows users to ask and answer questions on the go and search for questions from over 60,000 topics. Location service integration also provides access to topics relevant to the users’ current location such as local dining and entertainment tips. Users can sign up for a Quora account and create a public profile from directly within the app and receive push notifications for activity on topics that they are following. Quora is available from the App Store as a free download.

Comics+ adds multiple device sync, purchase history

iVerse Media has released an update to Comics+ adding a new user account system that allows users to keep track of their collection and keep items in sync across multiple iOS devices. Users can quickly sign up for an account within the app to keep track of their purchase history, including free book downloads and gain the ability to re-download their collection to any device configured wit hthe same account. A complete purchase history is also provided to find and re-download past books and issues. The update also adds support for online redemption of Diamond Digital Codes from local comics shop retailers. Comics+ is a universal app and is available from the App Store as a free download.

Infinity Blade update adds more content, new iBook

Epic Games and Chair Entertainment have released another free content update to Infinity Blade. Version 1.4 adds new magic rings, swords, shields and helmets for players to collect and master along with a new enemy, the fierce and deadly RookBane. The latest version also includes a sneak peek at Infinity Blade 2 demoed yesterday at Apple’s iPhone Event and Infinity Blade: Awakening, a new iBook by New York Times best-selling author Brandon Sanderson. Infinity Blade is a universal app and is $6.

Firemint announces Real Racing 2 Party Play

Firemint has announced plans to release a major update to Real Racing 2 and Real Racing 2 HD in conjunction with the launch of iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S. The new version will deliver full 720p AirPlay support for playing on the Apple TV from an iPad 2 or iPhone 4S and promises to improve the graphics and performance by utilizing the power of the new A5 processor in the iPhone 4S. Visual upgrades will include real-time dynamic shadows and specular lighting on car interiors, a 4x increase in polygon count on car visuals with more details modelled in, improved reflections, enhanced road lighting and HDR-like exposure effects.

The new version will also introduce a “Party Play” mode that will allow 2 to 4 players to engage in split screen local multiplayer games via AirPlay. One iPhone 4S or iPad 2 will be required to act as the “host” device and handle the AirPlay output. Additional players can join in using any iPhone, iPad or iPod touch models can then join in. Although no specific dates have been provided, Firemint has indicated that the updates should be coming “just in time for the launch of iOS 5.” Real Racing 2 ($5) and Real Racing 2 HD ($7) are available from the App Store.

Photo of the Week: iPad 2 in Mexico

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This week’s featured photo is from our iPads Around the World gallery, and shows a white iPad 2 overlooking the sun rising above the Caribbean Sea in Cancún, Mexico. 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!

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