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STM shows off cases for the next iPad

STM has provided iLounge with a look at its cases for the next-generation iPad. Much like the cases from Ozaki seen earlier today, STM’s cases look quite similar to those made for the iPad 2, with similar openings for ports, controls, and cameras. The Skinny 3 is a hard shell case featuring soft lining, a built-in soft front cover that serves as both a viewing and typing stand and also features integrated magnets to activate the expected auto sleep/wake feature, and a loop closure. It is expected to sell for $40. The Grip is a folio-style case that also features an integrated, magnet-laden front cover and a hard shell back; the Grip incorporates a kickstand for viewing and typing. It is expected to sell for $45.

Apple Store app adds iPhone plans, brings EasyPay to the Netherlands

Apple has updated the Apple Store iPhone app adding new account management editing and billing options and the ability for U.S. customers to purchase an iPhone with a plan from any of the three U.S. carriers. The latest version is now also available in the Netherlands along with Apple’s in-store EasyPay feature—the first release of this feature to Apple Stores outside of the U.S.

Originally launched in 2010, the Apple Store app allows iPhone users to research and purchase products from the online Apple Store or reserve products at any U.S. Apple Store for local pickup. The app also provides features for requesting help and making Genius Bar and One to One reservations at an Apple Store. Users in the U.S.—and now the Netherlands—can also take advantage of EasyPay, a feature introduced last fall that allows purchases to be made in an Apple Retail Store with an iPhone 4/4S by scanning the barcode with the camera and completing the transaction directly within the app. Apple Store 2.1 requires iOS 4.3.3 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.

Ozaki previews cases for iPad 3

Ozaki has provided iLounge with an early look at two of its upcoming cases for the next-generation iPad. As expected, the cases look very similar to those for the iPad 2, with nearly identical holes for the speaker, rear camera, volume and sleep/wake buttons, side switch, microphone, and headphone jack. The first case, iCoat Slim Y, features a built-in patterned leather cover for the front of the device that folds to double as a multi-angle landscape viewing stand, while the second case, the iCoat Wardrobe+, sports a cutout for the iPad Smart Cover, offering further evidence that the iPad 3 will be compatible with the accessory, although it’s unclear whether current Smart Covers will fit the device, or whether customers will need to purchase a revised version. The cases will retail for $90 and $35, respectively.

Withings ships Smart Baby Monitor for iOS

Over a year after its debut at the 2011 International CES, Withings has announced that it is now shipping its Smart Baby Monitor for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch in the U.S. The Smart Baby Monitor is outfitted with a three megapixel camera featuring an extra wide view lens, night vision with infrared LEDs, and a 4x zoom, a two-way microphone, a motion detector, a thermometer, and a humidistat. Using either a Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Ethernet connection, the monitor allows parents to monitor and talk to the child, control playback of lullabies, and be alerted via alarms triggered by activity, audio levels, and temperature/humidity, either locally or over the Internet. Withings’ Smart Baby Monitor for iOS is available now and sells for $300.

Apple halts Apple TV shipments ahead of refresh

Apple has repeatedly pushed back shipments of second-generation Apple TV, suggesting that the company soon plans to refresh the set-top box. Citing people familiar with the matter, AppleInsider reports that for three consecutive weeks, Apple has failed to restock indirect channel partners with fresh inventory of the device. The company has instead pushed back the deliveries each week by one additional week, a practice that is said to portend a formal discontinuation ahead of a new model. Earlier this month, a report noted that a number of major retailers were either out of stock of the device or had ceased sales altogether; Apple last updated the Apple TV in late 2010.

MLB At Bat goes universal, free with IAP subscription

MLB.com has relaunched its MLB.com at Bat iOS app for the 2012 season as a single free universal app for both the iPhone/iPod touch and iPad, implementing in-app subscriptions for paid features. In prior seasons, MLB provided separate apps for the iPhone/iPod touch and the iPad, sold individually for $15 each, requiring fans to either choose to use the app on a single platform or purchase both individually. The 2012 version of the app is now packaged into a single universal app available as a free download; rather than requiring payment up front for the app users can instead sign up for an At Bat 12 subscription via in-app purchase or simply log in to their MLB.com account to use their existing MLB.TV Premium subscription.

The At Bat 12 subscription is priced at $15 for the entire season or $3 per month and provides live game day audio with no blackouts for any home or away broadcast, pitch tracking, league stats and in-game highlights. Subscribers can also watch a live stream of the selected Game of the Day and access Live Lookins on other games in progress. MLB.TV Premium subscribers can also view live and on-demand video of any out-of-market game simply by logging into their MLB.com account, although the usual blackout restrictions apply; MLB.TV Basic subscribers must still purchase an At Bat 12 subscription separately, however. The MLB.com At Bat app can also be used without a subscription to track up to the minute scores, and access news, game schedules, team rosters, venue information and tickets and promotions. MLB.com At Bat requires an iPhone 3GS/4/4S, third- or fourth-generation iPod touch or iPad running iOS 4.2 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.

SmugMug releases Camera Awesome

Popular online photo service SmugMug has released Camera Awesome a free advanced camera app for the iPhone. Designed to provide fast shooting and sharper, better-exposed pictures, the app provides unique features such as composition presets, the ability to select independent auto-focus and auto-exposure areas and a level for the horizon. A single-tap “Awesomize” feature provides quick and easy photo enhancement and users can choose from a set of professionally designed special effects, textures, filters and frames from renowned photographer Kevin Kubota. A prerecording feature for video also automatically captures and saves the five seconds prior to beginning recording. Photos and videos can be shared to Facebook, YouTube, SmugMug and Flickr either manually with a single tap or automatically as they’re taken and saved. Camera Awesome requires iOS 4.3 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.

Photo of the Week: iPad 2 in Canada

This week’s featured photo is from our iPads Around the World gallery, and shows a black iPad 2 in front of the Vegreville Pysanka—the world’s largest Ukranian Easter egg—in Vegreville, Alberta, Canada. 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!

Disney releases new Lion King and Tangled storybook apps

Disney Publishing has released two new storybook iOS apps featuring stories and original scenes based on Walt Disney Animation Studios’ feature films The Lion King and Tangled. The two new full-length interactive storybook apps, The Lion King: Timon’s Tale and Tangled: Storybook Deluxe integrate specially rendered film animation allowing children and Disney fans alike to re-live the classic tales on their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

Based on the 1994 film, The Lion King: Timon’s Tale ($5) tells the story of Simba’s adventures on his way to becoming king from the perspective of his meerkat sidekick Timon. The app includes customized interactivity, rich character development and the Academy Award winning score from the movie. Tangled: Storybook Deluxe ($7) draws from the more recent 2010 film recounting the magical adventures of Rapunzel as she journeys across the kingdom with thief Flynn Rider. The storybook app includes vibrant illustrations, word-for-word narration original character voices and interactive games, puzzles and other activities. Both apps are universal and require iOS 4.0 or later.

HandBrake conversion utility updated to 0.9.6

Popular video conversion utility HandBrake has been updated to version 0.9.6. The update brings with it a number of bug fixes and improvements, including audio gain control, improved support for OS X Lion, improved handling of DVD subtitles without Stop Display commands, HE-AAC encoding support, and improved average frame rate detection. HandBrake 0.9.6 is available now as a free download for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Apple, Google sued over iOS Maps’ Street View

Apple and Google have been sued by Florida-based PanoMap over the iOS’ implementation of Google Maps’ Street View feature. PaidContent reports that the complaint, filed in federal court in Orlando, claims that implementation violates a PanoMap patent related to an “Interactive system for displaying detailed view and direction in panoramic images”. The suit seeks damages with interest from both parties, as well as attorney fees and costs.

From the patent abstract: “A method and system for indicating the camera position, direction, and field of view in a map or panoramic image comprises a map image window which displays a map or panoramic image of the site to be studied (house, apartment, city, etc.). A detailed view window displays a portion of the map image, taken from a point in the site. A highlighted sector in the map image represents the viewing position, direction, and field of view that the detailed view window displays. When the user changes the field of view in the detailed view window, the highlighted sector in the map image changes in synchronism. The resulting interactive windows allow a person to easily and quickly view and understand the field of view, position, and direction of the image being displayed in the detail view window.” [via TUAW]

Atari announces Pong Indie Developer Challenge

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Atari and the venerable Pong, Atari has announced that it will be holding a contest calling on independent developers to re-imagine the classic game for the iOS platform. The Pong Indie Developer Challenge will provide entrants with the opportunity to win up to $100,000, and finalists will have their creations launched on the App Store under the Atari brand. Winning entries will also receive a long-term publishing arrangement with Atari including development, creative resources and full marketing support.

The Pong Indie Developer Challenge builds on the success of Atari’s other recent indie-developed mobile games such as Asteroids Gunner, Atari’s Greatest Hits and Breakout Boost, providing opportunities for promising new iOS game developers. The judging panel will include original Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Pocket God creator Dave Castelnuovo, and members of Atari’s executive team. Atari fans will also have the opportunity to submit their own votes as part of the selection of an Atari Community Winner. Full details on the contest and rules along with submission and prize information can be found at http://www.atari.com/pongdeveloperchallenge.

Apple confirms iPad 3 event for March 7

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As expected, Apple has sent out invitations to select members of the media inviting them to a special event on March 7. The image accompanying the invitation features a finger reaching out to touch the Calendar icon on a noticeably high-resolution iPad screen, and the tagline “We have something you really have to see. And touch”. Notably, no Home button is seen on the device, although it may simply be rotated to the side. Apple is expected to unveil the third-geneartion iPad at the event; the device is expected to feature a Retina Display with four times the pixels, as well as 4G LTE connectivity and a new chipset, all in an almost unnoticeably thicker shell that we first saw at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. 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.

Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 ships in May, pre-orders start Mar. 1

Parrot has announced that its AR.Drone 2.0 Wi-Fi-enabled quadricopter will start shipping in the U.S. in May, with pre-orders opening soon. Debuted at the 2012 International CES, the AR.Drone 2.0 features a new 720p HD camera, a new piloting application that features the ability to record and share flight videos and a new piloting mode, a “Flip” feature, LEDs on the landing gear, two included hulls—one each for outdoor and indoor flight—and a number of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), including a 3-axis accelerometer, a 3-axis gyroscope, a 3-axis magnetometer, two ultrasound sensors, and a pressure sensor. The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 is priced at $299 and will be available for pre-order exclusively through Brookstone beginning March 1 with shipments beginning in May.

Apple working on A6, A5X chips simultaneously?

Citing code found in a beta version of iOS 5.1, a new report claims that Apple is simultaneously developing its next-generation A6 processor, as well as an “A5X” variant of the A5 processor that currently powers the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. 9to5Mac reports that the code makes reference to both an “S5L8950X” chip—said to be the A6—and an “S5L8945X” chip, which is said to be the A5X. For reference, the original A4 was referred to as “S5L8930X”, and the A5 “S5L8940X”. A later report from the same outlet suggests that the A5X will find its way into the next-generation Apple TV, while the A6 will power the next-generation iPad.

Apple developing adaptive streaming audio format

Apple is working on a new audio file format that would allow it to deliver high- or low-quality files to iCloud users based on bandwidth. Citing a source with inside knowledge of the process, the Guardian reports that the new system would adjust itself to the bandwidth and storage available on the receiving device, and would be used to enhance the company’s iTunes Match service. According to the report, Apple has already asked a London studio to prepare audio files for the new streaming format. “All of a sudden, all your audio from iTunes is in HD rather than AAC. Users wouldn’t have to touch a thing – their library will improve in an instant,” said the source. Apple has recently been encouraging submission of audio files in the 24-bit/96KHz standard, and has also released a set of guidelines for mastering to iTunes which hint at a such a possible future service: “As technology advances and bandwidth, storage, battery life, and processor power increase, keeping the highest quality masters available in our systems allows for full advantage of future improvements to your music. These masters matter – especially given the move into the cloud on post-PC devices.”

Google Street View coming to Navigon for iPhone

Garmin has announced that it will be adding Google Street View to its Navigon series of mobile navigation apps for the iPhone. Expected to be available as a free update later this spring, the new Google Street View integration will provide iPhone users with a feature previously found only in Google’s own Navigation app for the Android platform, allowing users to see a street-level image of their destination when starting a route to assist them with identifying the location upon arrival. Acquired by Garmin last year, Navigon was an early developer of GPS navigation apps for the iOS platform under its MobileNavigator brand. The company now operates as a Garmin subsidiary continuing to develop the Navigon series of GPS navigation apps for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad separately from the Garmin branded StreetPilot iOS navigation apps. The Navigon apps are unique in providing universal iPhone and iPad support in a single application and delivering advanced map management features allowing users to save storage by selecting and downloading only the maps they need on their device.

Pyle rolls out iOS Sound Bar Docking System

Pyle has rolled out its new iOS Sound Bar Docking System for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. Carrying the model number PSBM60I, the system offers 300 Watts of total output, dual 3-inch full range speakers, two 1-inch tweeters, and a 5.25-inch woofer, a top-mounted dock with a special iPad stand to securely hold the larger device, the ability to charge any of the devices while playing, front panel controls for volume, input, mute, and standby, an included remote control, a blue LED backlit display, a 3.5mm and multiple RCA audio inputs, a composite video output, and a FM stereo radio. Pyle’s new iOS Sound Bar Docking System is available now and sells for $156.

Best Buy drops iPad 2 price by $50 as replacement looms

Best Buy is now offering a substantial discount on the iPad 2 ahead of the expected announcement of the next-generation model. A brief check of the retailer’s website shows that all models of iPad 2—including white and black models of all capacities, and Wi-Fi as well as Wi-Fi + 3G—are $50 off their standard retail price, with prices now starting at $450 and ranging up to $780. Apple is widely expected to announce its next-generation iPad next week at a special media event in San Francisco.

Fanny Wang experiencing major issues with custom headphone orders

Fanny Wang Headphone Co. is wrestling with major fulfillment issues with its custom headphones, iLounge has learned. After ordering a pair of custom Fanny Wang 3001 headphones late last year with a quoted shipment time of 2-3 weeks, we received e-mails indicating first a brief delay, then an additional month of delay. Fanny Wang blamed its manufacturing partner in an e-mail, citing “numerous unforeseen problems and delays with our factory.”

Unfortunately, those problems do not seem to have been resolved. The custom headphones arrived this past week, beset by several obvious quality control issues: first, Fanny Wang shipped the wrong headphones, specifically the company’s cheaper 2001 model. Additionally, the headphones arrived in a case with AOL branding on one side, and with an authenticity card that lacked a proper serial number for our headphones. We’ve reached out to Fanny Wang for comment and will update this story if/when we hear back.

Update: iLounge has received a response from Tim Hickman, Fanny Wang’s CEO. Hickman suggested that while the issue with the headphone case was a mix-up involving a large order for AOL, the delays were due to demand that Hickman claims “has exceeded our expectations and has overwhelmed our factory”. He assured us that this is the first case of someone getting the wrong model number, and said that the company was planning to expand its efforts to offer further customization options in the future.

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