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Apple discontinues iPad Smart Cover, Case

Apple’s online store now lists the iPad Smart Case and iPad Smart Cover as discontinued for the iPad 2 and iPad (3rd/4th-Gen). The site now only shows a dark gray Smart Case and Cover, but both are unavailable for purchase online. Limited inventory may be available in some retail stores.

This is a somewhat curious move, considering Apple has kept the iPad 2 in its lineup. However, Apple is still selling a number of third-party cases that are compatible with the iPad 2, as well as new iPad Air and iPad mini Smart Cases and Smart Covers.

Update: Apple is now selling dark gray versions of the iPad Smart Case and Smart Cover in its online store again.

Apps: Infinity Blade III 1.1, My Little Pony, Paint and Play + Pet Bingo

Infinity Blade III ($7) from Chair Entertainment Group has upgraded to version 1.1, bringing gamers Infinity Blade III: Soul Hunter. A new quest, location, and enemy await players on their journey to find the missing Infinity Weapons. More than a dozen new items have been added, and a new explore feature lets players return to unlocked areas to grab loot and boost XP. Those playing through Infinity Blade III a second time after beating the game will now be able to skip cinema scenes, credits, and the tutorial. Support and optimization have been added for the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display.

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PlayDate Digital’s My Little Pony: Party of One ($3) is an interactive iPad storybook app that uses the ponies to teach reading and vocabulary. Social skills are also a big part of the app as Pinkie Pie looks for friends to attend her party. All the popular characters are included, and the app’s content is aimed at children — primarily little girls.

Claim forms sent for iPad 3G lawsuit

Customers who ordered an iPad 3G before June 7, 2010 have begun receiving claim forms for the class action settlement over misleading AT&T iPad data plans. Apple previously agreed to pay $40 to customers as the result of a suit based on AT&T advertising of an iPad unlimited data plan that was later eliminated. Some customers may also be eligible to receive a $20/month discount from AT&T on the carrier’s 5GB monthly plan. A website for the settlement offers more information. [via Apple Insider]

FAA allows expanded in-flight use of e-devices

The Federal Aviation Administration has reached a decision to allow airlines to expand in-flight use of electronic devices. Use of portable electronic devices will be permitted “during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions,” according to the announcement, which also notes that electronic items should be held or placed in the seat’s back pocket during the “actual takeoff and landing roll.” Separate FCC regulations, however, will still require that cell phones be placed into airplane mode, as they cannot be used for airborne calls. The FAA also notes that in “some instances of low visibility — about one percent of flights — some landing systems may not be proved PED tolerant,” and users may still be asked to turn off their devices in such situations. Implementation will still be the responsibility of each individual airline, however the FAA expects many airlines to enact the allowance of electronic devices from “gate-to-gate” by year’s end.

Bad Elf debuts GPS for Lightning Connector

Bad Elf has introduced its GPS for Lightning Connector ($130), a portable GPS device that connects to a Lightning connector to add instant GPS and GLONASS location support. Latitude, longitude, altitude, speed and tracking are provided, and the company claims accuracy to within 9 feet and support for altitudes up to 60,000 feet and speeds up to 1,000 mph.

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Bad Elf’s GPS requires no Internet connection or monthly subscription, and enables Wi-Fi only devices to use full GPS-based location services, even in areas without Wi-Fi. The GPS is powered from the attached iOS device, and a micro-USB cable is included for passthrough charging. The GPS for Lightning Connector is expected to ship sometime in November.

2013 Readers’ Choice Awards - last chance to vote!

Tomorrow is the last day to vote in our 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards. Thousands of votes have been cast, but a last-minute push could make all the difference. Belkin, Logitech, and uNu are leading the way for Accessory Maker of the Year, and Google, Facebook, and Nosy Crow are battling it out for App Developer of the Year. Rovio, EA, and Epic are ahead of the pack in Game Developer of the Year, but it’s not impossible for another company to make a final victorious surge in any of the categories.

Also vote in our separate Readers’ Choice Awards poll for Best Apple Product of 2013. The iPad Air and iPhone 5s are currently battling for first, with the iPad mini with Retina Display close behind. Voting in both polls ends at 11:59 Pacific Time, Oct. 31. The winners will be announced in our 2014 iPad/iPhone/iPod Buyers’ Guide, coming in early November.

Apple annual report: R&D up $1.1 billion

Apple has filed its annual 10-K report with the SEC, revealing another jump in research and development expenses, among other details. The company spent $4.48 billion on R&D in 2013, a 32 percent increase from last year’s $3.38 billion expenditure. Apple also now has 80,300 full-time employees — last year, the number was 72,800. The report also notes that the company plans on opening “about 30 new retail stores” in 2014, with two-thirds of those stores to be located outside the U.S. The entire report can be viewed on Apple’s investor website.

Geneva debuts Model M, L, XL wireless sound systems

Geneva Lab has introduced three new wireless sound systems: the Geneva Sound System Model M Wireless ($599), the Geneva Sound System Model L Wireless ($1,199), and the Geneva Sound System Model XL Wireless ($2,299). The Model M uses Bluetooth A2DP for wireless audio streaming and includes an FM radio, digital clock with alarm, LED display, and touch-sensitive controls. Four amplifiers in the wooden cabinet produce a combined 60 watts of output power.

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The Model L Wireless is larger than the Model M and uses Bluetooth aptX streaming and adds a slot-loading CD player. The system’s four amplifiers produce 180 watts of output. The Model XL is the largest model; also boasting Bluetooth aptX and a CD player, XL uses six amplifiers for 346 watts of power. The new models are all dockless versions of the company’s prior iPod/iPhone sounds systems—a response to Apple’s Lightning and AirPlay restrictions. All three sound systems will be available in November in black, white, red, or walnut finishes.

Apple confirms battery drain in some iPhone 5s units

Apple has confirmed a problem with a “small number” of iPhone 5s units causing the battery to drain quickly, The New York Times reports. “We recently discovered a manufacturing issue affecting a very limited number of iPhone 5s devices that could cause the battery to take longer to charge or result in reduced battery life,” Apple spokeswoman Teresa Brewer said. “We are reaching out to customers with affected phones and will provide them with a replacement phone.” Apple did not say just how many phones were affected, although the report notes it could be “a few thousand phones.”

iHealth announces Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System

iHealth has announced its Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System ($80). A portable, Bluetooth-enabled blood glucose monitor, the Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System automatically displays blood glucose measurements on an iOS device with the free iHealth Gluco-Smart App. Users can set up reminders to take medications, track trends, and track test strip expiration dates.

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The monitor also lets users remotely view and track measurements online. iHealth’s Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System is available now.

Steve Jobs’ childhood home granted historic designation

Steve Jobs’ childhood home — where Jobs co-founded Apple — was recently deemed worthy of historic designation, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The house, located at 2066 Crist Drive, Los Altos, Calif., was unanimously voted a “historic resource” by the Los Altos Historical Commission on Monday night. Any possible renovations to the house in the future would need to pass a review. Jobs built the first 100 Apple 1 computers at the home, which will eventually be listed on the Registry of Historic Places.

Sol Republic + Motorola debut Tracks AIR headphones

Sol Republic and Motorola have announced the new Tracks AIR Wireless Headphones ($200). The Bluetooth headphones claim to deliver solid bass, clean mids and vocals, and extended highs from their A2 sound engines. Tracks AIR boasts a 150-foot wireless range, and battery life exceeding 15 hours; the headphones can also be used with cables for wired use.

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Tracks AIR Wireless Headphones feature multi-device Bluetooth connectivity, a dual-microphone for phone calls, and interchangeability with PowerTracks headbands for a customized look. The headphones will be released in “early November.”

Apps: ABC Actions, Delivery Status touch 5.0, Seene + Tweetbot 3

Peapod Labs is back with another alphabet app — this time, it’s ABC Actions ($3). Unlike prior noun-focused editions, the latest ABC app concentrates on teaching children verbs and action words. More than 150 photos, 100 videos, 50 interactive games, and 50 action words are featured within the interactive app.

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Delivery Status touch ($5), a package tracking app from Junecloud, recently updated to version 5.0. The app has been redesigned for iOS 7, and with the redesign comes a host of new features, including background notifications, calendar support, search, archive, AirDrop sharing, text and iMessage sharing, iCloud sync, and much more. Barcode scanning has improved, and 1Password can be integrated for easy password access. Delivery Status touch supports dozens of delivery services, including UPS, FedEx, USPS, and more.

Notes from Apple’s Q4 2013 conference call

Apple’s Q4 2013 earnings conference call kicked off with Apple CEO Tim Cook saying “Apple’s business is stronger than ever” while briefly discussing the company’s new and upcoming products. Cook said the company sold 150 million iPhones and 71 million iPads during the 2013 fiscal year. Apple also made more than $16 billion in revenue from iTunes software and services. Cook also said the company earned a record revenue of $171 billion in the 2013 fiscal year. Apple completed 15 strategic acquisitions during the year.

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer started his portion of the call by discussing the just announced quarterly results. Oppenheimer said both iPhone and iPad sales exceeded expectations in the quarter. He also spent a few moments detailing the upcoming iPads before discussing Mac sales.

Oppenheimer said iTunes earned 4.4 billion in the September quarter. App developers have earned $13 billion through the App Store — half of that amount was earned in the last year. Oppenheimer announced Apple has $146.8 billion in cash, with $5.2 billion offshore.

During the Q&A, Cook called new technologies in the iPhone 5s — such as the 64-bit processor and Touch ID — “the front end of a long road map.” Cook expressed a desire to see the iPhone business grow within each category, from the entry model 4s to the 5s. “We do need growth,” Cook said. “And we’re happy that we’ve seen that.”

Asked about new product categories in the second half of 2013 and first half of 2014, Cook said, “I didn’t say in April that you would see them in this year and the first half of next year.” He only said there would be “new products” this year and “across 2014.”

Cook was complimented on Apple’s growth in China. “We had a pretty good quarter in China,” Cook said. “We obviously we want to do better.” He pointed out the company was able to launch the new iPhones in the “first round” in China.

Asked about the difference in how often people are upgrading iPhones as compared to iPads, Cook said, “We do believe the announcement last week was our largest iPad announcement ever.” He also said, “iPad Air is an absolutely incredible product, the best iPad we’ve ever done. I think it’s going to be an iPad Christmas.”

When asked about the competition from low-priced Google devices, Cook concentrated on Apple’s improvements in the education sector. “We do see Chromebooks in some places ... but the vast majority of people are buying PC/Mac or an iPad,” he said. Apple’s share of tablets in education is 94 percent.

Cook said there’s still a “backlog” for the iPhone 5s, but supply is building as the company rolls out the device to new countries. In regards to possible supply issues with the upcoming iPad mini with Retina display, Cook said it’s “unclear” if Apple can meet demand for the quarter. Cook noted Apple knows how many new iPad mini units it has, but isn’t quite sure of how high demand will be. As for the iPad Air, he said, “I think we’ll have a very good weekend,” but “it’s not clear” that everyone who wants an iPad Air will be able to get one.

Apple Q4 2013: 33.8m iPhones, 14.1m iPads, 3.5m iPods

Apple reported its fourth quarter 2013 financial results today, selling 33.8 million iPhones, a new record for the September quarter. It sold 26.9 million iPhones in Q4 2012. The company sold 14.1 million iPads in the fourth quarter, compared to 14 million in Q4 2012. Apple reported $37.5 billion quarterly revenue and a quarterly net profit of $7.5 billion — $8.26 per diluted share. In Q4 2012, Apple reported $36 billion quarterly revenue and a net profit of $8.2 billion, or $8.67 per diluted share.

Apple’s Board of Directors also declared a cash dividend of $3.05 per share of the company’s common stock, payable on Nov. 14 to shareholders of record, as of the close of business on Nov. 11. For the fiscal first quarter of 2014, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $55 billion and $58 billion, and gross margin between 36.5 percent and 37.5 percent.

“We’re pleased to report a strong finish to an amazing year with record fourth quarter revenue, including sales of almost 34 million iPhones,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a press release. “We’re excited to go into the holidays with our new iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, iOS 7, the new iPad mini with Retina Display and the incredibly thin and light iPad Air, new MacBook Pros, the radical new Mac Pro, OS X Mavericks and the next generation iWork and iLife apps for OS X and iOS.”

“We generated $9.9 billion in cash flow from operations and returned an additional $7.8 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the September quarter, bringing cumulative payments under our capital return program to $36 billion,” Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said in the release.

Update: A more detailed release reveals Apple’s dropping iPad sales numbers — the company sold 3.5 million iPods in Q4 2013, compared to 4.6 million iPods last quarter, and 5.3 million iPods in last year’s fourth quarter. In total, Apple has sold 382.78 Million iPods, 421.278 Million iPhones, and 169.18 Million iPads.

Apple to offer personal pickup for iPad Air

Apple will offer the personal pickup option for the upcoming iPad Air, according to recent reports. Customers will be able to reserve an iPad Air at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time on Nov. 1 and pick it up at an Apple store that day without a wait. The option to use personal pickup seems to indicate there won’t be any shortage of iPad Air supply on launch day. [via MacRumors]

Apple ordered to pay 12M euros for unpaid iPad fees

Apple has been ordered to pay 12 million euros to Copie France for iPads sold from March to December 2012, according to a report. While Apple collected fees from iPad consumers to be paid as renumeration for private copying, the money was apparently never actually paid to Copie France as required. French law requires payment for a number of devices and materials that can keep private copies of licensed material. Apple was ordered to pay 5 million euros in May for the same reason, and its total renumeration due has been estimated at 30 million euros. [via PC INpact]

Apple, others face anti-poaching class-action lawsuit

Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe must face an anti-poaching class-action lawsuit representing more than 64,000 employees, Bloomberg reports. The employees claim their incomes were restricted by the companies agreeing not to recruit each other’s workers. According to the ruling of U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, the suit represents technical employees, including software and hardware engineers, programmers, and web developers, among others. The original lawsuit from 2011 also included Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar; those companies settled out of court.

Voting in 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards ends this week - vote now!

Time is almost up to cast your vote in our 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards, which comes to a close this Thursday. With thousands of votes already cast, it’s a tight race between some of the top contenders: Belkin, Logitech and Unu continue on top for Accessory Maker of the Year, while Amazon, Evernote, Facebook, Google, and Nosy Crow are all vying for App Developer of the Year; it’s also still a very close battle between EA, Epic, Rovio, and Sega for Game Developer of the Year.

Be sure you also vote in our separate Readers’ Choice Awards poll for Best Apple Product of 2013, where we have the iPad Air and iPhone 5s neck-in-neck for first place, with the iPad mini with Retina Display coming in close on their heels.

Voting in both polls ends at 11:59 Pacific Time, Oct. 31. The winners will be announced in our 2014 iPad/iPhone/iPod Buyers’ Guide, coming in early November.

Livescribe introduces Livescribe 3 Smartpen

Livescribe has introduced the Livescribe 3 Smartpen ($150-200) for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The pen uses Bluetooth and an Infrared camera to transfer handwritten notes from a piece of paper onto an iPad screen in real-time using the Livescribe+ app. It comes packed with flash memory and an ARM processor. Unusually, Livescribe 3 uses proprietary Livescribe Dot Paper for note taking, and requires you to buy additional paper after you’ve used up the included 50 pieces.

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Livescribe claims its new smart pen offers more than 14 hours of continuous writing on one lithium ion battery charge. The Livescribe 3 costs $150, or $200 for a Pro Edition, which adds a Livescribe Journal, Leather Smartpen Portfolio, and a one year subscription to Evernote Premium. Livescribe 3 is available now.

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