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iLounge App Spotlight: Disney Karaoke: Frozen

Ever since Frozen hit theaters in November 2013 - at the beginning of what turned out to be a historically long winter - the buzz over Disney’s remake of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen hasn’t stopped. Families flocked to theaters to make it the highest-grossing animated film in history, with well over $1 Billion in box office revenue, and fans of all ages have been singing along with its soundtrack at home, on YouTube, and elsewhere. Today’s release of Disney Karaoke: Frozen ($8) is the company’s attempt to capture some of that interest and monetize it.

For the asking price, iPad users — not iPhone or iPod users — get an app with nine Frozen songs: Frozen Heart, Do You Want To Build A Snowman?, two versions of For the First Time In Forever, Love Is An Open Door, Let It Go, Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People, In Summer, and Fixer Upper. Each song is effectively a music video taken directly from movie footage, albeit with the music segmented into an ever-playing instrumental portion and an optional vocal track.

WSJ: Apple paying $2.5B for Beats Electronics, $500M for Beats Music

Apple’s recently announced $3 billion acquisition of Beats breaks down to about $2.5 billion for Beats Electronics hardware and a little less than $500 million for the Beats Music streaming service, the Wall Street Journal reports. The report notes the breakdown “was largely an accounting issue, because the two Beats units are backed by different investors.” However, it does give some insight into the total valuation of Beats. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said in multiple interviews the deal was also about the talent involved, including Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre.

iPhone 6 rear shell leaked?

An photo of the alleged 4.7” iPhone 6 rear shell has been posted on Australian site MacFixIt. The design seems to match rumors and what we’ve seen before, including the lack of a dual camera flash. We believe this is likely to be a legitimate part, for a number of reasons, including the proper camera and flash holes.

Also, the piece appears to have color consistent integration of the D-shaped end pieces, with a difference in texture — it’s possible that antenna compartments are built right into a unibody case. Those end parts may be made of LiquidMetal, though we can’t say for sure. We believe this is a gold iPhone under the green plastic wrapper.

Apple removes link to iPod classic in refurbished stores

Apple has completely removed the link to buy a refurbished iPod classic from its US and Canadian stores, as noted by MacRumors. The page for refurbished iPod classic units still exists, however, it only contains the text, “Sorry there are no products available, please check back later.” At the very least, Apple is currently not offering refurbished iPod classic units, though customers can still buy new versions of the device. That being the case, it’s hard to imagine fresh iPod classic stock popping up in the refurbished store again, and this may be a hint that Apple will finally be looking to retire the device soon. First introduced in 2007, the iPod classic received a capacity bump in 2009 but has not been updated since, making it the oldest device still being sold by Apple.

Apps: Bank of America, Dragon Quest VIII, Pocket 5.5 + TED 2.3

Bank of America has updated its free apps for both iPhone and iPad to versions 5.0.1629 and 5.0.2, respectively. The iPhone app has been redesigned with a number of new features, including requesting replacement debit or credit cards, viewing available credit on credit cards, adding transfer recipients from personal contacts, modifying scheduled bill payments, ordering copies of posted checks, and more. On iPad, there are also new features, though the list is shorter and matches features seen within the iPhone app.

Square Enix’s Dragon Quest VIII, originally released for Playstation 2 in 2004, has come to iOS for the first time. It doesn’t come cheap — Dragon Quest VIII is the rare $20 iOS game —but to some fans it won’t matter, as the classic RPG is available in full with no in-app purchases. As one might expect, the port has a new control system designed to work with touchscreens. Gamers can switch between one-handed and two-handed play, and the combat system now allows for one-tap battles if desired. Although iPhone 4s, iPad 2 and the first iPad mini are included on the compatible device list, Square Enix says some instability may occur on these devices, allowing for freezing or crashing. We’d recommend using one of Apple’s current devices to play the game.

Samsonite acquires Speck Products for $85 million

Luggage company Samsonite International S.A. has announced its acquisition of leading case manufacturer Speck Products for $85 million. Speck is the maker of a number of well-reviewed iOS cases, most notably its often-imitated CandyShell. The acquisition is Samsonite’s “first foray outside of what is considered the ‘traditional’ luggage space, into a different, yet complementary, product segment,” Samsonite CEO Tim Parker said in a statement. By all indications, it appears the Speck brand will remain intact.

Beats introduces new Solo2 headphones

Following Apple’s official acquisition announcement Wednesday, Beats has introduced its new Solo2 ($200) headphones. The headphones are a redesign of the previous Solo model. Beats claims Solo2 “offers a wider range of sound and enhanced clarity.”

The headphones come in pink, black, blue, white, gray, and as an official (RED) product. Available for preorder now, Solo2 will be widely available June 1.

Notes from Apple’s Eddy Cue and Jimmy Iovine at Code Conference

Apple’s Eddy Cue and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine took the stage at last night’s Re/Code Code Conference after Apple officially announced the Beats acquisition, the largest in its company history. Among highlights from the Re/Code interview: when asked if Apple was buying cool, Cue said “I don’t think you buy cool. But Beats is really cool. We make great products, and we’re going to make great products together. I don’t know what being cool means.” Iovine also said that Beats Music has 250,000 subscribers.

Iovine said there was a “culture clash” in the now extinct Beats-HTC partnership, and the company’s ongoing branding deal with HP will be ending soon. He said Apple has “good sound,” but also said, “Our dream is that everyone who buys a phone around the world, upgrades to good headphones. They have earbuds.” Of Apple’s EarPods, Iovine said they’re made “to see if the sound works.”

Regarding TV, Cue said that while Apple TV is improving and will continue to evolve and add content, overall, “the TV experience sucks.” He noted that solving the issues with TV is complicated, due to the many players involved. Near the end of the interview, Cue typically hyped Apple’s upcoming products without revealing anything: “Later this year, we’ve got the best product pipeline that I’ve seen in my 25 years at Apple,” he said.

Cook issues statement to employees, grants multiple interviews regarding Beats deal

Apple CEO Tim Cook has issued a memo to the company’s employees regarding the just announced acquisition of Beats Music and Beats Electronics, 9to5Mac reports. In the memo, he speaks to the importance of music in Apple’s history, and reiterates that Beats’ Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre will be joining Apple. In addition to speaking to the music streaming service, Cook mentions the audio hardware component of the purchase. “Beats Electronics has become the brand of choice for headphones and speakers in both the music and sports world, just five years after its launch. They are among the most popular and highest-rated third-party products sold today in Apple’s retail and online stores. We see an incredible opportunity to bring Apple’s legendary design and engineering capabilities to these popular products under Phil’s leadership,” referring to Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing.

Additionally, the CEO has granted interviews to several publications, including The Financial Times, New York Times, and Re/code, where he reiterates these points. “Could Eddy’s team have built a subscription service? Of course,” he told the New York Times. “We could’ve built those 27 other things ourselves, too. You don’t build everything yourself. It’s not one thing that excites us here. It’s the people. It’s the service.”

Apple confirms Beats Electronics acquisition for $3 billion

Apple today confirmed that it has purchased Beats Electronics, maker of the Beats by Dr. Dre line of headphones and speakers, as well as the Beats Music subscription music streaming application. Combined, the purchase will cost Apple $3 billion, which according to the company’s statement consists “of a purchase price of approximately $2.6 billion and approximately $400 million that will vest over time.” Notably, this is less than the $3.2 billion price originally reported in early May, but the price matches a recent New York Post report. Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre will join Apple as part of the acquisition. The transaction is expected to close in the fiscal fourth quarter, subject to regulatory approvals.

“Music is such an important part of all of our lives and holds a special place within our hearts at Apple,” Apple CEO Tim Cook announced in the statement. “That’s why we have kept investing in music and are bringing together these extraordinary teams so we can continue to create the most innovative music products and services in the world.”

“I’ve always known in my heart that Beats belonged with Apple,” Iovine said in the statement. “The idea when we started the company was inspired by Apple’s unmatched ability to marry culture and technology. Apple’s deep commitment to music fans, artists, songwriters and the music industry is something special.”

Initially reported by The Financial Times as a deal in progress, the acquisition was seemingly a certainty after Dr. Dre appeared alongside actor Tyrese Gibson in a Facebook video, describing himself as the “first billionaire in hip hop.” Some analysts and commentators have questioned the wisdom of the deal for Apple, while others have cited Beats’ strong following in the African-American community as a potential customer base for Apple, and suggested that Beats Music will increase Apple’s footprint in the subscription streaming music category.

Update: “We could build about anything that you could dream of. But that’s not the question,” Cook told Re/code. “The thing that Beats provides us is a head start, and it provides us with incredible people, kindred spirits.” It’s also noted that Apple will keep both the Beats hardware and Beats Music streaming service brands intact.

In a separate story from the AP, Cook said of Iovine and Dre: “We’ve dated, we’ve gone steady and now we are getting married. This relationship started a decade ago, so we know there is an incredible cultural fit. These two guys have a very rare set of skills. It’s like finding a particular grain of sand on the beach. It’s that rare.”

iTunes 11.2.2 update issued

Apple has released the second update to its iTunes 11.2 software. Version number 11.2.2 “fixes a problem where certain podcast episodes may download unexpectedly.” Podcast enhancements were among the biggest components when iTunes 11.2 was released 13 days ago.

NY Post: Apple to acquire Beats this week for reduced $3B price

Apple will announce its anticipated acquisition of Beats Electronics this week in a $3 billion deal, the New York Post reports. The initial report on the acquisition pegged the sale at $3.2 billion, but it’s speculated that a recent report which claimed that Beats Music only had 111,000 subscribers in March “may have led Apple’s lawyers to value the firm on a slightly lower basis.” According to one source, “Apple hadn’t even begun its due diligence process when news of the number came out.” Apple declined comment.

iPad to launch on Japan’s NTT DoCoMo network June 10

Apple and NTT DoCoMo announced today that the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display will be available on DoCoMo’s network starting on Tuesday, June 10. Customers can pre-register the devices at DoCoMo dealers and on DoCoMo’s website starting Monday, June 1. Wi-Fi + Cellular iPads will be able to use DoCoMo’s Xi LTE network. DoCoMo, Japan’s largest wireless carrier, just started carrying the iPhone last September.

Alleged iPhone 6 case arrives

iLounge has received a new case from Minisuit, designed to fit the still-unannounced iPhone 6. Frost is a TPU case with transparent edges and a cloudy back.

While it’s significantly taller and wider than the iPhone 5/5s, it notably matches the thickness of the fifth-generation iPod touch. While it’s unclear whether the next-generation iPhone will indeed fit properly inside, it matches the most prevalent rumors, including enough room for a device with a 4.7” display, plus a Sleep/Wake button that’s been moved to the handset’s right side. More photos can be seen by clicking the headline above.

Apps: Reeder 2 2.2, Table Tennis Touch, UltraVisual + Watch_Dogs Companion

Silvio Rizzi’s Reeder 2 ($5), an RSS, Feedbin, and Feedly client, has undergone a number of changes in version 2.2, including the ability to handle feed links from external apps. The app now features optional background refresh capabilities, and a loading progress indicator within the in-app browser. Smart streams can now also be grouped by feed or date, and a few navigation tweaks have also been made. There are also many bug fixes.

There’s no shortage of ping pong games already in the App Store, but Yakuto’s Table Tennis Touch ($4) stands out thanks to its combination of realistic, Retina-quality artwork and intuitive gameplay. Beyond offering the standard “quick play” and “career mode” table tennis experiences one might expect — use a paddle to bat a light plastic ball back and forth with a series of AI-controlled opponents — Table Tennis Touch includes an unlockable arcade mode with six additional fun activities, each with two difficulty levels. Once you’ve mastered playing on a regulation-sized table in one of multiple photorealistic rooms, the arcade levels let you hit bowling pins, skee-ball-styled numbered point targets, or significantly smaller table surfaces as challenges. The swipe- and tap-based controls are fairly precise and very easy to learn, and while the breezy music and cheesy fonts could use some enhancements, the graphics and gameplay are hard to fault. Ideally, we’d love to see the opponents look like people rather than just floating paddles, and the difficulty level could start out a little easier for new players. Still, we look forward to seeing what Yakuto does next, as this is an impressive rendition of a fun table game.

Apple to livestream 2014 WWDC keynote

Uncharacteristically early, Apple has announced on its website that it will stream the keynote event of its 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference live to iOS devices, Apple TV, and computers.

The event starts at 10:00 AM PST on Monday, June 2 and is expected to include the announcement of iOS 8, Healthbook, a home automation initiative, and more.

Apple not purchasing display chipmaker Renesas SP Driver

Apple will not be purchasing Renesas SP Driver, reports Reuters. Renesas SP produces the iPhone’s liquid crystal display chips, and a previous report noted that Apple was in discussions to acquire the division of Renesas Electronics. However, those talks apparently failed to progress quickly enough for Renesas, which decided to sell its majority stake in the division to Synaptics Inc. It’s unclear how this will change Apple’s relationship with Renesas SP as a supplier — there may be no effect at all.

German carrier claims September 19 iPhone 6 launch

German carrier Deutsche Telekom has informed its call center representatives to let customers know the iPhone 6 will launch September 19, according to apfelpage.de. iPhone launches traditionally occur on Fridays — September 19 does fall on a Friday this year, and September 20 was when Apple introduced the iPhone last year. Deutsche Telekom is apparently giving people a concrete date in order to keep people from leaving the carrier. The carrier may simply be estimating the date based on past launches, as it seems unlikely that Apple would have already given Deutsche Telekom a firm release date. [via Apple Insider]

Hacked Apple devices in Australia being held for ransom (Updated)

A number of Australian Apple device owners have discovered that their devices have been hacked, and are being held hostage for ransom, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. iPad, iPhone, and Mac owners have reported seeing messages stating their device was hacked, and would be unlocked if they sent money to a PayPal account. In some known cases, the message “Device hacked by Oleg Pliss” has prompted users to send $50 or $100 to a PayPal account. Dozens of users have reported seeing similar messages.

According to the report, users with a passcode were able to unlock their devices after receiving the message, but those without a passcode on their devices were unable to do so. A PayPal spokesman said no PayPal account was linked to the email address given, also noting that any money sent by hacked users would be refunded. Users have received little help from carriers, and have been told to contact Apple, which has yet to comment. The hacker appears to be exploiting an insecurity within Find My iPhone.

Update - May 28: Apple released a statement on the issue: “Apple takes security very seriously and iCloud was not compromised during this incident. Impacted users should change their Apple ID password as soon as possible and avoid using the same user name and password for multiple services. Any users who need additional help can contact AppleCare or visit their local Apple Retail Store.” [via ZDNet]

Report: Apple to unveil smart home automation platform at WWDC

  • May 26, 2014

A new report from The Financial Times indicates that Apple may be working on a new iOS based home automation platform to “turn the iPhone into a remote control for lights, security systems, and other household appliances.” A number of third-party products such as the Belkin WeMo, Philips Hue, and Nest thermostat already exist to provide this capability to iOS users, and the report suggests that this move may actually be a platform similar to Apple’s MFi program, providing support and requiring licensing for companies building smart home products for the iOS platform.

Apple made an unsuccessful bid about a year and a half ago to acquire home automation startup R2 Studios, suggesting that the company was taking an interest in this area as far back as late 2012, and an Apple patent filing published in November last year outlined a system whereby a home’s lights could be automatically activated when an iPhone user enters the house. This latest report notes that Apple could be planning to unveil this new platform as soon as WWDC on June 2nd.

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