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Apple job posting hints at Siri’s future evolution

An Apple job posting for a Siri Writer/Editor position sheds some light on how Apple may be planning to evolve Siri in the future. Apple seeks a writer with “demonstrated experience in writing character-driven dialog,” and the job description expects a successful candidate to “refresh and refine existing Siri dialog,” “Ensure the consistency and quality of Siri dialog from all sources,” and to “Help the Siri team evolve Siri as a distinct, recognizable character.” Siri, which was taken over by Eddy Cue after Scott Forstall was let go, seems to be moving forward with a strong emphasis on originality, as well as functionality. [via 9to5Mac]

Withings releases Smart Kid Scale

Withings has announced the US release of its Smart Kid Scale ($180). A Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-connected device, the Smart Kid Scale is designed to track the weight and growth of newborns and toddlers. The scale can be used from infancy to eight years old. It features a large graphical screen and an interlocking baby basket to weigh infants — the basket can be removed to become a toddler scale.

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By using the free Withings Baby Companion app in conjunction with the Smart Kid Scale, parents can easily access a history of weight and height readings. The app also logs height, feedings, and how a child’s data compares with children of the same gender and age. Withings’ Smart Kid Scale is available now.

Thought Out unveils PED4 Planet stand for iPhone 5

Thought Out has released the PED4 Planet BH50 stand ($50) for the iPhone 5. A steel ball pivoting stand, the PED4 Planet is adjustable, portable, and removable — the stand can be separated from the base and mounted to any tripod for photography. The stand is compatible with either an iPhone 5 or iPod touch without a case.

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Also released was Thought Out’s Devil Head ($12) headphone wrap and wrench. Devil Head acts as both a headphone storage device and a wrench for assembly and disassembly of the PED4 Planet stand. Both products are available now; purchased together, the price is $58.

Amazon MP3 store optimized for iPhone, iPod touch

Amazon has announced its MP3 store has been optimized for iPhone and iPod touch. Users can now buy digital music from Amazon’s catalog of more than 22 million songs, directly from Amazon’s store through mobile Safari — the Amazon MP3 mobile website is built on HTML5. Purchases are saved to customers’ Amazon Cloud Player libraries for instant access and playback using the Cloud Player mobile apps. Amazon first launched an iPhone-optimized Kindle Store in 2009; the company has traditionally avoided integrating its store features directly into its iOS apps due to the large amount of content available and to avoid paying a 30 percent cut of sales to Apple.

Sprint’s Total Equipment Protection coming to iPhone

Sprint will begin allowing iPhone users to sign up for its Total Equipment Protection plan on Jan. 25, according to a new report. Initially not offered for the iPhone, Sprint will now give customers the option of adding TEP up to 30 days from the date of purchase, for a monthly charge of $11. An alternative for Sprint iPhone owners to the hardware protection offered by AppleCare+, the Total Equipment Protection plan allows up to three claims within any consecutive twelve-month period and covers accidental damage as well as loss or theft of the covered device. Deductibles under the TEP plan are based on the price of the device, effectively $150 for the iPhone 4/4S and $200 for the iPhone 5. By comparison, Apple sells its own AppleCare+ coverage for a one-time $99 up front price and allows two claims of accidental damage with a deductible of $50 per claim, with no coverage for loss or theft. The normal out-of-warranty replacement cost for an iPhone 5 is $229. [via Engadget]

Facebook Messenger launches free calling for US iPhone users

Facebook Messenger now offers free calling, as the feature has made its way to US iPhone users. The standalone Facebook app allows users to open a conversation with another Messenger user by opening a conversation, tapping the “i” button, and then tapping the new Free Call button. The calls are free using Wi-Fi or the iPhone’s data connection. The VoIP calling service was announced as a new feature about two weeks ago. An App Store update is not needed to start making calls. [via The Verge]

Dutch court: Samsung tablets don’t infringe Apple design

A Dutch court has ruled that three Samsung Galaxy tablets do not infringe an Apple design, citing previous British court decisions. The ruling involves rounded corners on the tablets. Apple lost a tablet design infringement case in the UK and was required by law to post ads stating that Samsung did not infringe on its designs. [via Reuters]

Apple in 2013 polls ends, accessory trends poll begins

With over 1,500 votes from iLounge readers, our most recent poll—“What are you most hoping to see from Apple in 2013?”—has ended. Readers were asked to identify which rumoured or likely new product from Apple they are most looking forward to in the new year.

The top respondents were split pretty evenly between an iPad mini with Retina Display (19%), iOS 7 (17%), an Apple Television Set (16%), and a completely new product such as an Apple Watch coming in at 15%. 10% of readers indicated they they’re most looking forward to a next-generation iPhone, while 9% are hoping for an updated Apple TV set-top box, rather than a full-fledged television set. Of the remaining respondents, 7% indicated that they would most like to see a slimmer, next-generation iPad, 5% were hoping for a major new iPod release, and only 3% indicated that they would be most interested in a subscription music service from Apple.

AT&T allows FaceTime over Cellular on tiered data plans

AT&T has announced it has enabled FaceTime over Cellular at no extra charge for customers using any tiered data plan and a compatible iOS device. Customers with an iPhone 4S and a tiered data plan will now be able to make FaceTime calls on the AT&T network. After initially limiting FaceTime over Cellular to specific shared data plans, AT&T later announced it would allow customers with a tiered data plan and LTE device to use the service. This new announcement removes the LTE device requirement. Now, only users with grandfathered unlimited data plans will be left out. The update should be rolled out “in the next couple of weeks.”

Apple Retail VP Jerry McDougal resigns

Jerry McDougal, Apple’s Vice President of Retail, has left the company. Reports say McDougal left to spend more time with his family. McDougal is the latest in a growing line of executives that have left the company in recent months — that list includes Senior Vice President of Retail John Browett, who was let go in late October. Many believed McDougal had a chance at replacing Browett, which obviously won’t be happening now. Jim Bean, former Apple VP of Finance, will replace McDougal. The company continues to search for a replacement for Browett.
[via ifoAppleStore.com, AllThingsD]

Apple, Amazon set for settlement talks in ‘Appstore’ case

Apple and Amazon have been ordered to hold settlement talks to resolve the ongoing case in which Apple is claiming trademark infringement for Amazon’s use of the term “Appstore.” The companies will meet on March 21 in an attempt to settle, before reaching a trial in August. A few weeks ago, Apple’s false advertising claim against Amazon for use of the term was dismissed. [via Bloomberg]

Apple shareholders meeting scheduled for Feb. 27

Apple will hold its annual shareholder meeting at 9 a.m. Pacific, Feb. 27, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The meeting will be held at the company’s Cupertino headquarters. Proposals up for a vote include the election of Apple’s board of directors, an advisory vote on executive compensation, ratification of Ernst & Young as the company’s independent accounting firm, and two shareholder proposals — one requiring executives to hold onto a percentage of shares until normal retirement age, the other regarding the establishment of a Board Committee on Human Rights. Apple’s board opposes both proposals. Also, a proposed amendment would establish a “par value” of $0.0001 per share for Apple common stock, among other measures. [via Apple Insider]

Next iPhone rumors: 5S and low-cost phones

A couple of new iPhone rumors suggest Apple could be looking to release both high-end and low-end models this year, while the iPhone 5 remains in the middle. Analyst Peter Misek has suggested that the iPhone 5S will go through preliminary builds in March, with a launch in June or July, less than a year after the iPhone 5 debuted. Originating from Asian part suppliers, a second report claims that a recently rumored lower-cost iPhone could include a plastic chassis, or a plastic-and-metal chassis designed such that parts might be seen from the outside — a rumored launch date for this model is sometime in the second half of this year. While the rumors should be taken with requisite grains of salt, particularly when they come from analysts, the rumors follow Friday’s withdrawn report regarding Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller’s comments on a cheaper iPhone—a withdrawal that has been taken to suggest that the company is indeed pursuing a new affordable model. iLounge’s own sources suggest that Apple hopes to release a less expensive version of the iPhone 5, featuring such components as a Lightning connector and 4” screen.
[via Street Insider, Digitimes]

Belgian consumer group files AppleCare complaint

Belgian consumer watchdog agency Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats has filed a complaint against Apple for the company’s warranty practices. The complaint is over Apple’s marketing of its AppleCare, which the watchdog group believes is being marketed to consumers without Apple properly explaining consumer rights. EU customers are already entitled to a free two-year warranty of any consumer electronics purchase. Apple has been fined twice in Italy over similar complaints, most recently in December for $264,000, and in December 2011 for about $1.2 million. The Belgian complaint mentions the first Italian fine as a precedent. [via TechCrunch]

Apple to release iPad mini, fourth-gen iPad in China on Friday

Apple has announced that the Wi-Fi + Cellular versions of the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad will be available in China on Friday. Both iPads will be available through Apple retail stores, the Apple online store, and select Apple Authorized Resellers. The Wi-Fi versions of the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad went on sale in China on Dec. 7, with plans to release the cellular models within a month; Apple CEO Tim Cook personally traveled to China to speak with leading cellular providers before the announcement was made.

iOS 6.1 release imminent?

The release of iOS 6.1 could be coming soon, suggests a recent report. Apple’s fifth beta version of 6.1 — which is undergoing “extensive internal testing,” and deals mostly with bug fixes and optimizations — may wind up being the gold master build. If everything remains on track, this version will be released to developers shortly, followed by a public release. [via iFun (translated link)]

Apple cuts iPhone 5 part orders due to “weak demand”

Apple has reportedly decreased orders for LCD screens and other iPhone 5 parts due to “weak demand.” The company has asked Japan Display Inc., Sharp, and LG Display Co. to cut their LCD panel shipments by about 50 percent, according to sources — down from 65 million screens in the first quarter, leading observers to believe sales aren’t as high as Apple expected. Other component orders were also decreased. Apple has not yet commented on the reports, which have apparently contributed to declines in its stock this morning. [via San Jose Mercury News]

iLounge Weekly arriving Monday, giveaway reminder

The latest edition of iLounge Weekly, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, will be arriving in subscribers’ inboxes early next week. iLounge Weekly is a summary of the week’s best news, reviews, and feature articles we’ve published, and it also features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.

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Also, don’t forget to enter our January giveaways: In our iBattz Mojo Refuel Giveaway, iLounge and iBattz are giving away ten Mojo Refuel Removable Battery Cases for the iPhone 5, and in the Unu DX Battery Case Giveaway, iLounge and Unu are giving away ten Unu DX Protective Battery Cases in black and white. To enter, simply fill out and submit the form on the giveaway pages—both giveaways will end on January 31, 2013 at 11:59PM Pacific Time. Good luck!

Apple TV gets Watchever video service in Germany

Apple TV has added an app for Watchever video service in Germany, according to reports. Watchever is a Netflix-style streaming video service that offers movies and TV series for a monthly fee. This is the first time Apple has added a service to Apple TV that is only available internationally, with the service limited to one country — in this case, Germany. It raises the possibility that Apple could add more smaller, more regional services to Apple TV going forward. [via The Next Web]

Next iPad, iPad mini claimed for March?

Recent reports claim that both the fifth-generation iPad and second-generation iPad mini will launch in March, as noted by an analyst.

iLounge has heard numerous indications, including several from reliable sources, that Apple will be capable of launching the next full-sized iPad in March, right around the one-year anniversary of the third-generation model. Based on what we’ve seen at this point, the device will have a dramatically thinner bezel—think only a little larger than the 9.7” screen on the left and right sides, a thinner body, and a chamfered body design that’s effectively an elongated version of the iPad mini and iPod touch. Our sources are not so confident about the supposed March launch of the next iPad mini; however, all indications are that its body will be nearly identical to the current model, with a Retina display inside.

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