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Angry Birds goes tropical

Rovio has released an update to Angry Birds adding 15 new tropical levels with a new beach theme. In addition to the new collection of levels for users to puzzle their way through, the update also adds several UI and gameplay improvements and a new animated tutorial to help new users get started. The game is available in two separate versions: Angry Birds ($1) for the iPhone and iPod touch and Angry Birds HD ($3) for the iPad.

Google Earth adds Earth Gallery, KML support

Google has released an update to the Google Earth app for iOS devices adding support for accessing the Earth Gallery of maps and opening KML/KMZ files from other apps such as Safari. Google Earth 6.2 now allows users to access to the Google Earth Gallery from directly within the app, featuring a curated collection of interesting maps to explore including real-time earthquakes, hiking trails and city tours. With the latest version users can now also open Keyhole Markup Language (KML/KMZ) file links from Safari directly in the Google Earth application, providing quick access to Google Earth maps directly from web pages. Additional new features include the ability to load tours, several UI improvements related to zooming and panoramic photos and a number of stability and performance improvements. Google Earth 6.2 is a universal app and is available from the App Store as a free download.

Apple issues statement on third-gen iPad heat

Apple has issued a statement on the heat generated by the third-generation iPad during extended/demanding use. “The new iPad delivers a stunning Retina display, A5X chip, support for 4G LTE plus 10 hours of battery life, all while operating well within our thermal specifications,” Apple representative Trudy Muller said in a statement to The Loop. “If customers have any concerns they should contact AppleCare.” As noted in our prior report on thermal images comparing the new device to the iPad 2, the measurements taken during the imaging process showed that while the device was indeed warmer than its predecessor, it was within Apple’s normal operating temperatures as listed on its iPad Tech Specs page.

Thermal images show third-gen iPad heat

New thermal images of the third-generation iPad show that the device does indeed heat up in the bottom corner. Dutch site reports (Translated Link) that it sat a third-generation iPad next to an iPad 2 and ran GLBenchmark on each device. After five minutes, the temperature at the hottest point on both devices was measured, with the iPad 2 heating to 28.3º C (roughly 83º F) and the third-gen unit reaching 33.6º C, or roughly 93º F. Apple quotes the third-generation iPad’s operating temperature as 32º to 95º F, so while the unit is indeed getting warm, it is still within normal ranges. [via Engadget]

Update: As noted in the comments, the operating temperature as listed on Apple’s site pertains to the environment around the iPad, not the unit itself.

Third-gen iPad shipping times improve

Apple has lowered the estimated shipping wait for new orders of the third-generation iPad placed on its online store. While the wait for new iPad orders had ballooned to 2-3 weeks just days after Apple began to accept pre-orders, that wait is now quoted at 1-2 weeks, a quick turnaround when compared to the iPhone 4S launch last fall. While Apple announced record-setting launch weekend sales of over three million units yesterday, the company appears to have been better prepared for the rush, as anecdotal reports have indicated that many retailers had stock throughout the weekend, and the company remains on schedule to launch the device in an additional 24 countries this Friday. [via Cult of Mac | SlashGear]

Third-gen Apple TV teardown finds Bluetooth 4.0 chip

iFixit has completed its teardown of the second-generation Apple TV, and while most of the findings were identical to those seen in an earlier report, one specific detail has stood out. According to iFixit, the third-generation Apple TV sports a Broadcom 4330 chip that supports dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n connectivity. Coincidentally, this is the same chip found in the third-generation iPad, and is also responsible for its Bluetooth 4.0+HS support. While it is unclear whether Apple will ever take advantage of this functionality, it is noteworthy that the third-generation Apple TV sports an extra antenna, the purpose of which is currently unknown.

Apple sells 3 million third-gen iPads in four days

Apple today announced that it has sold three million units of the third-generation iPad since the device’s launch on Friday. “The new iPad is a blockbuster with three million sold―the strongest iPad launch yet,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Customers are loving the incredible new features of iPad, including the stunning Retina display, and we can’t wait to get it into the hands of even more customers around the world this Friday.” Schiller is referring to the second wave of launches scheduled for later this week, which will see the third-generation iPad go on sale at 8:00 a.m. local time in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

iLounge’s third-gen iPad tests reveal new pros and cons

iLounge has completed its extensive testing of the third-generation iPad, and while you can read the full details in our comprehensive review, we wanted to highlight some of the more noteworthy positives and issues. On the plus side, the LTE-enabled iPads are beyond impressive when running on true fourth-generation networks, with speeds on Verizon’s network in the US reaching speeds up to 30Mbps down, and speeds on Bell’s network in Canada reaching an eye-popping 47Mbps down and 28Mbps up. Unfortunately, Verizon units are also hampered by the carrier’s slower 3G network when away from LTE coverage, languishing on 1Mbps connections, while AT&T units enjoy speeds of up to 8Mbps on the company’s HSPA+ network, despite AT&T’s serious lack of LTE coverage throughout the United States.

We also found the new iPad’s screen to be incredibly detailed, with not only improved color saturation, but also improved color reproduction, particularly noticeable at higher—85 percent and up—brightness levels. As with some past Apple products, however, we found that the color temperature can vary from screen to screen, likely due to variations in screen manufacturers. Headphone port audio sounds a little better on the new model, with a reduction in clicking noises that were evident in the iPad 2, alongside small improvements to treble and mid-treble definition, while speaker performance remains unchanged from the prior model. Finally, we found that as a result of its new, higher-capacity battery, the third-generation iPad takes a significantly longer period of time to charge than its predecessor—in some cases, over six hours, compared to 3.5 hours for the iPad 2—and also noticed that all of our units became physically warm in the bottom left corner during normal use, seemingly due to the new A5X processor.

Many more details and over 100 photographs are in our full review.

Third-gen iPad display tested versus iPad 2, iPhone 4

DisplayMate has posted an exhaustive display technology shoot-out pitting the Retina Display of the new iPad against the screens found in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4. Giving the display an overall grade of “A”, the report calls the new 2048x1536 panel “excellent”, with a lower average screen reflection than the iPad 2, and higher maximum brightness. Black levels were found to be slightly better on the iPad 2, although still “very good”, as was the contrast ratio. Notably, the report claims that the new iPad sports a color gamut of 99 percent—a figure that seems too good to be true—and similarly grades the color temperature as slightly too blue, a finding that seems to ignore the differences in color temperature found in iLounge’s own test units. Ultimately, DisplayMate gave the new iPad the Best Mobile Display Award, as well as the Best Mobile Picture Quality Award title, which was previously held by the original Motorola Droid.

Third-gen Apple TV teardown finds 8GB storage, 512MB RAM

A member of the XBMC forums tore apart his third-generation Apple TV over the weekend, revealing specifications of the device in the process. The teardown found that the third-generation Apple TV sports the same 8GB of flash storage—produced by Toshiba, in this case—as the second-generation model, but has seen its RAM boosted from 256 MB to 512MB, and, as announced by Apple, is powered by a single-core variant of the A5 processor. Also suggested by the teardown is a new dual antenna system for the set-top box; the poster did not seem to know what the second antenna was for, but did say that it was not found in the second-generation unit. [via MacRumors]

Apple CEO Cook reports ‘record’ iPad sales (Updated x2)

During the company’s conference call to discuss its dividend and stock buyback plan, Apple CEO Tim Cook indicated that the company was very happy with opening-weekend sales of the third-generation iPad. “We had a record weekend, and we’re thrilled with it,” Cook said; the company similarly declined to share exact launch weekend sales numbers for the iPad 2 after its launch last year. During the same conference call, Cook explained that the company felt extremely confident in its future product pipeline and potential growth opportunities, and also joked that the company loves to announce new products, just not during conference calls, after being asked about the product pipeline.

Update: AT&T has announced that it saw record iPad sales and activations on launch day, Friday, March 16.

Update x2: Verizon has also commented on its early sales. “We are quite pleased with sales, which have been brisk through the weekend, and we are excited to offer customers an alternative that lets them enjoy their new iPad on the nation’s largest 4G LTE network,” a company representative told AllThingsD.

Apple to initiate dividend and share repurchase program

Apple announced this morning that it plans to initiate a dividend and share repurchase program later this year. According to the announcement, the company plans to offer a quarterly dividend of $2.65 per share sometime in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2012, which begins on July 1. In addition, Apple’s Board of Directors has authorized a $10 billion share repurchase program to begin during its fiscal 2013, which begins on September 30, 2012. The repurchase program will be executed over three years, with the primary goal being to neutralize the impact of dilution from future employee equity grants and employee stock purchase programs.

“We have used some of our cash to make great investments in our business through increased research and development, acquisitions, new retail store openings, strategic prepayments and capital expenditures in our supply chain, and building out our infrastructure. You’ll see more of all of these in the future,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Even with these investments, we can maintain a war chest for strategic opportunities and have plenty of cash to run our business. So we are going to initiate a dividend and share repurchase program.”

“Combining dividends, share repurchases, and cash used to net-share-settle vesting RSUs, we anticipate utilizing approximately $45 billion of domestic cash in the first three years of our programs,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “We are extremely confident in our future and see tremendous opportunities ahead.”

Apple will hold a conference call at 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time/9:00 a.m. Eastern Time to discuss its plans.

Third-gen iPad rear camera same as iPhone 4

According to a new teardown of the third-generation iPad, the new tablet sports the same camera sensor module found in the iPhone 4. Chipworks writes that the sensor found in the third-gen iPad is the Omnivision OV5650, which features five-megapixel resolution, supports 1080p video recording—likely omitted from the iPhone 4 due to the limitations of the A4 processor—and a backside-illuminated sensor, though it should be noted that the lens system in front of the sensor is larger, and taken from the newer iPhone 4S. The front-facing camera was also found to be an Omnivision unit, specifically the same 640x480 (0.3-megapixel) OV297AA camera sensor found in the iPad 2 and the fifth-generation iPod nano. [via Mac Rumors]

Third-gen iPad discoveries: Verizon on AT&T, data plans

As third-generation iPad units have started to land in the hands of customers in the US, a few new details about the 4G models’ behavior have been discovered. As noted by Mac Rumors forum member jsnuff1, it is possible, thanks to the GSM roaming capabilities of the Verizon 4G model, to install an AT&T micro-SIM and access that carrier’s EDGE, 3G, and HSPA+ 4G networks. Doing so requires applying the AT&T APN carrier settings first, but is encouraging for those wishing to take advantage of the faster non-LTE networks offered by AT&T. In addition, iLounge’s own Jerrod H. has discovered that iPad users who are upgrading from prior 3G-enabled models and currently have grandfathered-in unlimited data plans need not swap SIM cards with their prior units, but instead simply need to sign in with the same account information, and the unlimited plan will appear as an option. In any case, swapping SIMs is not recommended, as older SIMs are unlikely to support LTE service.

Sparrow releases mail client for iOS

Sparrow, developer of the popular Mac e-mail client of the same name, has released an advanced e-mail app for the iPhone and iPod touch. Sparrow provides a number of features beyond the built-in iOS Mail app including specific options for Gmail users such as Priority Inbox, labels and archiving as well as a unified inbox and photo attachment support. Intuitive swipe gestures can be used to navigate between accounts and mailboxes, folders and labels from a sliding panel view or quickly switch between inboxes or unread and favourite items from the top bar.

Sparrow also allows users to connect with Facebook to display contact profile pictures directly in the message list; options for quickly replying, starring, labelling, archiving and deleting individual messages can be quickly accessed simply by swiping in the message list or users can select multiple messages to apply common actions. Additional features include a smart contacts view that places the most frequently-used contacts at the top of the contact list, support for multiple e-mail accounts and aliases on a single account and advanced search features. The initial version is not without its limitations however; features such as push notifications and landscape support are currently planned for a future release. Sparrow requires iOS 5.0 or later and is available from the App Store for $3.

Third-generation iPad unboxing, comparison photos posted

iLounge has received its first of several test units of the third-generation iPad, and has posted unboxing and comparison photos of the unit to our Flickr account. As had been revealed earlier in the week, the differences in packaging between the new iPad and the iPad 2 are small, with a different background image for the device, an iCloud badge on the bottom of the box, and the expected changes in the labels on the rear. Inside, the changes are similarly minor, with different, slightly more flimsy SIM card removal tool—included only with Wi-Fi + 4G models—being the most noteworthy difference. Expect much more on Apple’s latest-generation tablet soon.

Third-gen iPad launches in 10 countries to lengthy lines

Apple has officially launched its third-generation iPad in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland and the UK, as well as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. According to a Reuters report, hundreds were lined up outside stores in Asia and Europe for the launch, many of them from outside the respective countries in which they were purchasing their iPads. AllThingsD reports that a healthy, if not “peak level” line was formed around Apple’s flagship 5th Avenue store this morning, while Cult of Mac cites anecdotal reports suggesting that lines at some large Apple Stores—including those on Regent Street in London and on Boylston Street in Boston—saw their lines quickly dissipate, with plenty of stock remaining for walk-in customers.

China Unicom lifts 3G app download cap, users cry foul

China Unicom has completely lifted the 50MB—formerly 20MB—limit on app downloads over its 3G network, leading some users to question its intentions. Citing Chinese-language Sina Tech, M.I.C. Gadget reports that China Unicom issued a statement on the matter, saying, “After getting feedback from Apple, this [50MB limit for 3G] issue is resolved, and our Chinese account holders can now download apps [over 3G] with no file size limit. If you still have a problem, please restart your iPhone and try it again.” The Sina Tech reporter tested the new policy and was able to download a 103MB game over a 3G connection without receiving any type of warning. The customers concerned over the change claim that they may now easily exceed their data plan limits without meaning to, making the new policy more of a trap than a benefit.

Walmart to start third-gen iPad sales at 12:01 am

Walmart has announced that it will start to sell the third-generation iPad at 12:01 a.m. local time tomorrow morning. According to the retailer, there will be a “limited supply of the new iPad available” at 24-hour Walmart locations starting at one minute after midnight, giving customers a nearly eight hour jump on those choosing to purchase their iPads at other brick-and-mortar retailers. Apple will officially launch the third-generation iPad tomorrow, Friday, March 16.

Third-gen iPad lengthens charging times

According to an anecdotal report in one of the early crop of third-generation iPad reviews, the new device takes substantially longer to charge than prior versions. “While the new battery clearly isn’t much bigger than the old one, it can hold much more juice (42 watt-hours versus 25-watt-hours)”, MG Siegler writes for TechCrunch. “The downside of this is that I’ve found it takes quite a bit longer to charge the new iPad. As in several hours — you’ll probably want to do it overnight.” Siegler also notes that the new iPad gets noticeably warm—“never hot, just warm”, he assures—in the lower lefthand corner after prolonged use; The Verge noted similar warmth when using LTE for extended periods of time, suggesting that it, and not the battery, is to blame. Expect full test results from iLounge’s independent review.

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