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Foxconn making preparations for Apple HDTV

Foxconn is making preparations for production of Apple’s long-rumored HDTV set, according to a new report. Speaking at a news conference in Shanghai, Foxconn chief Terry Gou said that the company is making preparations for iTV, the rumored name for Apple’s upcoming high-definition TV set. China Daily claims that the set reportedly features aluminum construction, Siri, and FaceTime video calling. Gou added that Foxconn’s recent 50-50 joint venture factory with Sharp is one of the preparations made for the device, although he said that neither development or manufacturing has yet to begin.

Apple to drop Google Maps in iOS 6

Apple will drop Google Maps as the backend to its built-in Maps application for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, according to a new report. Citing trusted sources, 9to5Mac reports that Apple will make the move in iOS 6, and will replace Google’s mapping solution with an in-house mapping service built upon technology from acquisitions Placebase, C3 Technologies, and Poly9. The report claims that the application design is “fairly similar” to the current Maps app, but is described as a much cleaner, faster, and more reliable experience. The new app will also feature a new 3D mode built upon technology from C3 Technolgies, and, according to the report, and the change will be signified with a redrawn icon. The report claims that iOS 6 is likely to appear at Apple’s WWDC conference in June.

Apple releases Apple TV Software Update 5.0.1

Apple has released Apple TV Software Update 5.0.1, the latest update for its set-top box. Available for both the second- and third-generation Apple TV, 5.0.1 includes support for HD previews for movies and TV shows on the iTunes Store, a fix for an issue that caused some iOS apps to have trouble connecting via AirPlay, Home Sharing reliability improvements, fixes for an issue that affected Netflix login and navigation, and overall stability and performance issues. Apple TV Software Update 5.0.1 is available now via the Software Update feature of the Apple TV’s Settings menu.

AirCassette delivers a retro music experience

Majasalmi has released an update to AirCassette, a retro music player app for the iPhone and iPod touch. AirCassette allows the user to listen to music from their iOS library presented in a nostalgic “cassette player” view, complete with rotating spindles, track information scrawled on the label and realistic rewind and fast-forward animations. Users can browse their music library to queue up additional tracks for playback while listening, check the number of tracks in the queue and their total paying time or remove individual tracks from the queue without interrupting playback. Users can also choose from a variety of authentic retro cassette label designs to customize their now playing screen. Version 1.3 adds the ability to share favourite cassette tape labels, complete with the currently playing track via Twitter, Facebook and e-mail along with an iTunes song preview and link to the iTunes Store where available; users can share individual tracks or their entire song queue. The update also adds shuffled playback, new cassette designs, and scribbling. AirCassette requires iOS 5.0 or later and is available from the App Store for $1.

Clarion debuts Next Gate in-vehicle controller for iPhone

Clarion has debuted its new Next Gate in-vehicle controller for iPhone. Designed to make controlling the iPhone in a vehicle both safer and more convenient, the Next Gate sits on a vehicle’s dash, and allows the user to control certain iPhone functions via the built-in 7-inch WVGA touchscreen. It can control certain apps—including Pandora and Odyssey—that have been optimized for in-vehicle use, control audio playback, handle calls over Bluetooth with a built-in microphone and speaker for hands-free calling, offers voice control and text readout for select functions, can charge a connected iPhone via an included cable, adheres to the dash via a 360-degree adjustable suction mount, and features a microSD slot, an auxiliary audio output, and blue LED buttons. Clarion’s Next Gate in-vehicle controller for iPhone will be available June 1 and will sell for $270.

Google+ gets major facelift, iPad support still MIA

Google has released a major update to its Google+ app for the iPhone and iPod touch with an almost completely redesigned user interface that provides a greater emphasis on photos and videos within posts while also providing a more attractive and immersive stream view. The stream is now presented in a new dark gradient style with crisper fonts, larger profile pictures and more fluid visual transitions when scrolling; the stream now appears front and centre when opening the app with the previous personal profile options now accessible from a button in the top-left corner. Photos and video thumbnails appear more naturally in the stream with a full-bleed effect with captions and other descriptive text overlaid on top of the photo. Notably, despite this major redesign for the iPhone and iPod touch, a native version for iPad users remains conspicuously absent. Google+ 2.0 is available from the App Store as a free download.

Apple, others sued over 3G networking

Apple and a number of other major manufacturers have been sued in US District Court in California by a company called Golden Bridge Technology. GigaOM reports that Golden Bridge claims that devices such as the iPhone infringe on a patent from 2000 regarding chips that share data sequence signals across channels. Further, Golden Bridge claims that this patent is essential to 3G communication standards. Along with Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, HTC, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Pantech, Research In Motion, Samsung, Sierra Wireless, Sony, and ZTE are also named in the suit, which is seeking damages from each company.

Apple to share cost of improving Foxconn factories

Apple and Foxconn will share the initial costs of improving labor conditions at the latter’s factories. Reuters reports that Foxconn chairman Terry Gou did not give a figure for the costs, but did way that he regards recent criticism of the working conditions at his company’s factories as unfair. “We’ve discovered that this (improving factory conditions) is not a cost. It is a competitive strength,” Gou told reporters on Thursday after the ground-breaking ceremony for a new China headquarters in Shanghai. “I believe Apple sees this as a competitive strength along with us, and so we will split the initial costs.” Foxconn, which assembles a number of Apple products including the iPhone and iPad, raised wages for its workers by 16 to 25 in February, and reached an agreement with Apple in March to hire tens of thousands of new workers in an effort to reduce overtime work.

Instapaper adds Fast Pagination, UI improvements

Marco Arment has released an update to Instapaper, his popular offline reading app for iOS. Instapaper 4.2 adds several new user interface improvements including a new redesigned Fast Pagination mode that improves accuracy and performance when turning pages and adds new page turning animations and gestures similar to iBooks. A new draggable dot bar can also now be used in place of the scroll bar in pagination mode. A new two-finger swipe gesture has been added for closing an article view, an option is also now available to automatically switch to full screen reading view after a few seconds. The new version also allows users to manually select the Twilight Sepia colour theme; previously it only appeared during twilight hours when automatic day/night mode was enabled. Instapaper 4.2 now requires iOS 5.0 or later and is available from the App Store for $5.

Gameloft releases N.O.V.A. 3

Gameloft has released the third instalment in its popular sci-fi FPS series, Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance. N.O.V.A. 3 puts players back in the role of Kal Wardin, four months after the climactic events of the prior game; Wardin, who has been keeping a low profile in the aftermath of the assassination of President Folsom, suddenly receives a desperate message from Yelena to travel to Earth where he must again rise to save mankind.

This latest title expands upon the epic storyline of the series with the return of humanity to Earth after years of exile, taking the player across the galaxy through ten immersive levels. Players are given multiple weapons and power ups to master including driving vehicles and piloting mechs and can also engage in multiplayer games with up to 11 other players. Six different game modes and six maps are available for multiplayer games, and multiple allies can now share a vehicle on the battlefield. N.O.V.A. 3 also takes advantage of the latest iPhone and iPad hardware to deliver high-resolution, console-quality graphics with features such as real-time dynamic lighting and shadows, ragdoll physics and more. N.O.V.A. 3 is a universal app requiring an iPhone 3GS/4/4S, third- or fourth-generation iPod touch or iPad with iOS 4.0 or later and is available from the App Store for $7.

Notebooks app adds rich-text editing and more

Alfons Schmid has released a major update to his Notebooks app for the iPhone and iPod touch adding a multitude of new features and enhancements. Notebooks 5.0 now sports a completely new interface designed to be more modern and intuitive. New features include support for formatting documents in iOS 5 with WYSIWYG editing, document styles, paragraph formats, embedded images and lists, text styles, font colours, highlighting and more. Users can also now convert documents to PDF from directly within the app, setting page orientation and optionally including password protection on the resulting PDF. Voice Memos can also now be recorded while typing and copied and pasted between notes. Additional improvements have been made to areas such as tasks, searching, and Dropbox/WebDAV sync, and new advanced touchscreen gestures have been added to offer more intuitive editing controls. Notebooks 5.0 requires iOS 4.0 or later, with iOS 5.0 required for some features, and is available from the App Store for $6.

Echofon enhances Push Notifications

Naan Studio has updated its Echofon Twitter clients for iOS adding support for more configurable push notifications and fixing several other small issues. In Echofon 5.2 users can now choose to receive push notifications only for mentions from users that they follow; users will also now receive silent notifications even during “Quiet” periods. The update also fixes issues with notifications continuing to be received for deleted accounts, muting apps and hashtags on List timelines, and several crash issues. Echofon is available from the App Store in two versions, both universal: Echofon for Twitter, a free ad-supported version, and Echofon Pro for Twitter, a $5 ad-free version; users can also upgrade to Echofon Pro via an in-app purchase from the free version.

Moredays HD provides a highly visual day planner

Moredays has released Moredays HD, a unique new graphical time management tool for iPad users that focuses on images rather than text. Combining the features of a digital planner and a scrapbook, Moredays uses pictures, doodles and sketches to help users organize information in the style of a traditional paper planner. Users can record events, tasks, notes and contacts within the app or simply save an item to the inbox and decide on its type later; a quick entry mode also allows new items to be easily added from any screen. Pictures can be inserted from the iPad photo library or the user can choose from over 60 included sketches to enhance and distinguish items; in addition to a photo or sketch, stamps can also be applied to help categorize items visually. Users can also add notes and location to any item and Moredays automatically synchronizes with its own web application for access from a computer. Moredays HD requires iOS 5.0 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download; an iPhone/iPod version is also currently under development.

Case-Mate intros rPET cases for iPhone 4/4S

Case-Mate has introduced its new rPET cases for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Made from 100% recycled post-consumer PET bottles, the cases feature a glossy, translucent finish, open access to all ports, controls, and cameras, and are made using roughly one recycled plastic bottle per case. Case-Mate’s rPET cases for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S are available now and sell for $30 each.

SuperTooth ships Crystal Bluetooth speakerphone

SuperTooth has announced that its Crystal Bluetooth speakerphone is now available. First debuted at the 2012 CES, the Crystal is a pill-shaped speakerphone designed to clip to a car’s sun visor. Features include a black brushed metal body, a magnetic clip, automatic pairing and multi-point technology for connecting to two phones at once, over 20 hours of talk time and 40 days of stand=by per charge, the ability to receive streaming music and turn-by-turn navigation directions over Bluetooth, and support for voice dialing. SuperTooth’s Crystal Bluetooth speakerphone sells for $69; for more information see our First Look article.

Amtrak using iPhones as service tools

Amtrak, the government-owned passenger train corporation, has started to replace its traditional hole-punch ticketing workflow with iPhones. The New York Times reports that the company has been training conductors since November to use the iPhone as an electronic ticket scanner on several routes. By late summer, 1,700 conductors will be using the devices on Amtrak routes across the country, according to the company. Once the new system is implemented, passengers will be able to print tickets or load a bar code on their smartphone screens for conductors to scan; as a bonus, the conductors will be able to better keep track of passengers on board.

“You don’t even need to print the document and bring it with you,” said Matt Hardison, chief of sales distribution at Amtrak, who helped plan the iPhone program. “We’ve made a number of important improvements for both our customers and Amtrak, all in one fell swoop.” According to the company, the system cost $7.5 million, including $5.5 million for the software development and $2 million for hardware.

U.S. iPad trademark suit thrown out of court

A complaint filed by China-based Proview against Apple over the iPad trademark has been thrown out of court. The Wall Street Journal reports that Judge Mark Pierce of the Superior Court of California in Santa Clara County dismissed Proview’s suit on May 4, a decision which Proview attorney Christopher Evans said “was not based on the merits of the case.” A separate trademark dispute is ongoing in China, although according to a statement from Proview’s lawyers, Apple has proposed a settlement in that case, which was said to leave a “big gap” between the companies on the amount. [via AppleInsider]

Fondu improves new user intro and sharing features

GetSpotOn has released an update to its Fondu social networking app for foodies introducing a new user intro, guest access features and an improved sharing and friend-finding process. Fondu is designed to allow users to share short, “bite-sized” reviews about restaurants, bars, cafes and other eating establishments in a small, focused social network where users can easily filter reviews to only friends and other trusted people in order to attempt to provide more relevant ratings and information.

The latest update allows users to more easily recommend or share any review with friends via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or text message; users can also find and invite friends from directly within the app with the ability to see which friends are already using Fondu and easily send out an invite to those who aren’t. Guest access now also allows users of the app to browse Fondu and search through reviews without having to log in or sign up for an account and a new “on-boarding experience” has been added to help get new users started. Fondu requires iOS 4.2 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.

Evernote brings note editing improvements to the iPhone

Evernote has released an update to its iOS application with major enhancements to the note editing features. Evernote 4.2 now provides iPhone users with some of the editing improvements recently added for the iPad in the last update, including an upgrade and redesign of the note editor and improvements to checkbox functionality. Users can now more easily access attachment features, text styling and formatting options when editing notes; a redesigned note information screen and more advanced note editing capabilities have also been added. Checkboxes can now be indented in the editor and continued simply by adding new lines after the first box.

The new version also adds support for importing images from the iOS Photo Stream and a redesigned audio recorder. New options are also available to disable automatic saving of new photos to the Camera Roll and the automatic note titling feature that was introduced in the prior update. Evernote 4.2 is a universal app requiring iOS 3.0 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download; some of the newer features and editing enhancements require iOS 5.0 or later.

Third-gen iPad to launch in 30 new countries May 11-12

Apple plans to roll out its third-generation iPad in 30 new countries over the coming weekend. Citing Apple’s iPad selection page for Latin America, MacRumors reports that the device will launch in Argentina, Aruba, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuaçao, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Malta, Martinique, Mauritius, Morocco, Peru, Taiwan, Tunisia, and Vietnam on Friday, May 11. The following day, the new iPad will roll out in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. As noted in the report, Apple appears to be awaiting certification in China, Honduras, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and the Philippines before it can sell the new tablet in those locations; following this weekend’s launches, the third-generation iPad will be available in nearly 90 countries around the world.

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