Fring, developer of the popular Voice-over-IP communications app, has reported that mobile video calling now makes up more than 40% of its worldwide calling traffic among supported devices. Fring first introduced video capabilities last November, allowing users to conduct video calls with other fring users and Skype contacts from supported mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPod touch. The company reports even higher usage rates of 60% of call traffic throughout Western European countries—more than double the usage of leading PC-based video calling services. Fring is available as a free download on the App Store for the iPhone and iPod touch, however only incoming video is supported on these devices due to the lack of a front-facing camera.
Popular open-source DVD to MPEG-4 converter Handbrake has been updated to version 0.9.4. The new version offers a host of improvements, including speed, size, and quality improvements taken from the x264 project, support for 64-bit and parallel builds for added speed improvements on 64-bit capable machines, support for soft subtitles, a live preview feature, better input support, constant quality encoding which varies size to meet a given quality level, a new custom anamorphic mode, and more. Handbrake 0.9.4 is available now as a free download for Mac OS X 10.5 or later, Windows XP or later, and Linux.
Palm today introduced its latest handset, named the Pre. Featuring a 3.1-inch, 480x320 touchscreen, a dedicated gesture area below the display, a vertical slide-out QWERTY keyboard, and more, the device is aimed at the same market as the iPhone. Other technical features include high-speed wireless (EV-DO Rev. A or HSDPA, depending on the model and carrier), GPS, Wi-Fi, a 3-megapixel camera with LED flash, 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB connector, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP, 8GB of internal storage, an accelerometer, ambient light and proximity sensors, a removable rechargeable battery, and an optional wireless charger. Pre is exclusive at launch to Sprint.
The device runs Palm’s new WebKit-based operating system, webOS. Designed for next-generation, touch-friendly devices, it offers many iPhone OS-like features, such as a full web browser, Exchange email support in addition to POP and IMAP, IM, MMS, and SMS messaging, and Palm Synergy, a new feature that aims to consolidate information like calendars, chats, and contacts from various sources in one place. Slated for release in the first half of 2009, no price has yet been set for the Pre. Initial impressions suggest that the phone is a large step forward for the company, which hired former Apple senior vice president Jon Rubenstein to develop its next-generation software and hardware in October 2007. Former Apple employees have reportedly joined Palm in significant numbers to aid Rubinstein in Pre’s development.
Inspired by the iPhone and a previous reader-made iPod coffee table, iLounge readers Tuan Nguyen, Ken Thomas and their associates have created an iPhone coffee table. According to Nguyen, the table is “completely made of corrugate and glued together with white glue,” and features removable, usable coasters built-in. Congrats to Tuan and his friends on their creation — more pictures of the table and coasters are below.
Samsung, one of Apple’s main iPod component suppliers, has announced that it will unveil two new parts designed for “mobile consumer devices” in January, coinciding with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. First is the world’s first 1.3-inch hard drive, a size that is smaller than the 1.8” drives found in current iPod classic models; second is its 32 Gbit (4GB) NAND memory chip, which will not only increase the capacity of portable devices, but feature improvements to make it twice as fast as previous models. It is unknown if the new 1.3-inch drive will appear in a future iPod model, however, as Samsung is one of Apple’s main NAND memory vendors, it is highly likely that the new 32 Gbit NAND modules will appear in higher-capacity, flash-based iPods, iPhones, and/or Macintosh computers sometime next year.
As part of a strategic relationship between the private equity firm Elevation Partners and Palm, former senior vice president of Apple’s iPod Division Jon Rubinstein, and Fred Anderson, former Apple CFO, will be joining Palm’s board of directors. Rubinstein will join as executive chairman of the board, while Anderson, along with Elevation partner Roger McNamee, will replace Eric Benhamou and D. Scott Mercer on the board. Palm CEO Ed Colligan said, “Jon Rubinstein is one of the top engineering executives in Silicon Valley, and he will lead our product-development efforts.”
Rubinstein added, “I have tremendous respect for Ed Colligan, Jeff Hawkins and their team, and I am thrilled by the prospect of helping Palm deliver innovative products capable of transforming the mobile-device market. Approximately 1 billion cell phones are sold each year, and mobile computing is a category with enormous potential. This is a company with an impressive history of introducing game-changing products – it pioneered the smartphone – and I intend to help extend that legacy.”
After offering confirmation of recent reports that Microsoft will release an iPod-competitive media player called Zune, representatives of iPod accessory manufacturers have disclosed to iLounge that the Redmond, Washington-based company has contacted them regarding potential accessory licensing and compatibility plans for the device, similar to Apple’s Made For iPod program. Like all current iPods except for the iPod shuffle, Zune will feature a proprietary expansion port that Microsoft will allow companies to accessorize at a lower rate than the Made For iPod program, and one which a source suggests will likely lead to widespread iPod industry third-party support for the new device.
Additionally, iLounge has heard that Zune will most likely follow Apple’s recent decision - as seen in the upcoming Nike+iPod Sport Kit - to use some form of proprietary wireless communication technology, eschewing the open Bluetooth standard in favor of one developed at least in part by Microsoft. As previously reported, the Nike+iPod Sport Kit uses an Apple-developed version of 802.11, which may offer bandwidth and other benefits over the various flavors of Bluetooth, but could lock third-party developers out from creating compatible accessories. It is unclear whether Microsoft’s technology, which reportedly enables music “sharing” between multiple Zune users, will resemble Apple’s in all regards, but it will likely be available to third-party developers for accessorization. A recent competing music player, MusicGremlin’s Gremlin MG-1000, already uses the open 802.11b standard for its wireless functionality, a decision which enables the device to connect to existing Wi-Fi home and hotspot network locations. Future digital music players may support one or more 802.11 standards to guarantee both Wi-Fi network and proprietary accessory compatibility.
iPodPortugal.com, a Portuguese-language member of the iLounge Around the World network of web sites, and “the first and most complete Portuguese website related to the iPod culture,” announced that it would cease publication today due to alleged massive-scale theft of its content by a competing publication. According to Nuno Henriques of iPodPortugal, the decision to stop providing iPod news to the Portuguese community was made after a rip-off artist cloned his site’s original content, then refused to delete it. “It’s a shame we had to do this,” said Henriques, “but we had no choice… You can’t imagine how frustrating it is to keep a site up to date, wasting precious time of yours and then some jerk just copies everything.” iPodPortugal said that it will keep its Portuguese-language discussion forum open for the benefit of its community; iLounge extends its respect and support to iPodPortugal’s editors and readers.
During a keynote address yesterday at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California, Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata divulged further plans for Virtual Console, an online download service he described as “the video game version of Apple’s iTunes music store.” Like GameTap, a subscription-based game service launched last year by Time Warner, Virtual Console will serve as a legal online download service for classic video games. However, only Nintendo’s service will feature titles from its own past consoles, as well as games from past competing platforms such as Sega’s Genesis and NEC’s TurboGrafx-16. “Between them, [Sega’s and NEC’s] systems built a library of more than a thousand different games,” said Iwata. “Of course, not all of them will be available, but the best of them will.”
If you have photos and/or footage of you and your iPod in action, and want to get them on TV, here’s your chance. The first episode of a new Discovery Channel series (The Evolution of Portable Music Players) will be tracing the evolution of the iPod from phonographs to radios, boom boxes, Discmen, and modern digital music players. The producers of this show are looking for your high-resolution photos or video footage (beta, Quicktime, or mini dv) for possible inclusion in this episode.
If you have something handy, drop an email to [email protected] - who knows, maybe your favorite shot of you and your iPod will show up on cable TV worldwide.
In announcing its “Best of CES 2006” award winners, CNET has named Creative’s Zen Vision: M “Best in Show,” its top pick of all of the products shown at the annual consumer electronics convention. Citing the device’s “brighter screen, better battery life, and more features” than the iPod, CNET’s editors suggested that the device was an “iPod killer,” praising its support for multiple video formats and “winning design.”
In a video interview with CNN’s Renay San Miguel, CNET editor Brian Cooley was challenged on the choice of a device so similar to the fifth-generation iPod for an award based in part on innovation. Cooley defended the tech site’s choice of the “little more hefty” Vision: M, saying that “sometimes slimmer and more svelte is not always good for your hand,” and said that CNET’s editors preferred the Vision to the iPod on feel. CNET readers picked Pioneer’s Inno, a truly portable XM Satellite radio receiver and recorder, as the show’s best new product.
SkipJam has announced support for iPod docking directly into its SkipJam iMedia Center. Using FireWire or USB 2.0 users can plug their iPods into an iMedia Center or an iMedia enabled PC and access music, photos, and videos from throughout their home. The SkipJam iMedia support for the iPod also allows SkipJam users to record audio or video content directly onto the iPod, creating a plug’n'go recording solution. The SkipJam iMedia Center to iPod interface software is scheduled for release in January, and will be available to existing SkipJam iMedia Center users as an upgrade free of charge.
Nickels For Katrina is a new service that is selling blocks of pixels on its homepage to help raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Each pixel is $0.05, and each block of pixels you purchase is a link back to a site of your choosing. The goal of one million pixels sold would provide $50,000 for the relief efforts, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross. We here at iLounge urge you to go and help support those in need.
Podtee is now offering a selection of iPod-inspired t-shirts, including two limited edition prints. Made of 100% cotton, each design is offered on men’s standard, ringer, and women’s styles of shirts. Designed for the upcoming holiday, the “Boo” and “Bats!” prints are being offered in limited edition runs. Pricing for podtees starts at $18.99.
A writer from Giant magazine wants to hear from iLoungers who purchased a first-generation iPod the day it was released (November 10, 2001).
“I would love to see a dated receipt to reproduce in the mag, also interested in original packaging, or even a shot of your well-loved original iPod if still in use,” he says. “But mainly I want to hear about why you bought it in the first place, what it’s meant to you, and, of course, what you’re listening to these days.”
Email Giant with contact info at [email protected]
As relief efforts begin in the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina, we urge you to please make a donation to the American Red Cross. By providing financial support, you’ll be helping the hundreds of thousands of victims of the tragic disaster. In addition to the Red Cross website, you can donate through Amazon.com and the iTunes Music Store. Our hearts go out to all of those affected.
Every three seconds, a child dies in Africa from starvation or disease: 30,000 die every day. The continued presence of AIDS and armed conflicts, combined with a tremendous debt burden and widespread illiteracy, have kept the people of the African continent from achieving their deserved equality on the world stage.
Twenty years have passed since the worldwide charitable music event known as Live Aid took place. Today, the world’s wealth is more concentrated than ever before, and those without resources still need help - this time, your signature, not your money.
This weekend, millions of people have gathered at music events around the world to convince world G8 leaders that the era of misery in Africa should end. Cancelling the debts of impoverished African nations - wiping the slate clean - will enable these countries to use their money to help their own people, rather than paying interest on debts they will never clear. Your signature on the petition below could help convince the G8 to erase African debts, and aid these countries on the road to self-dependence.
Philadelphia, Paris, Johannesburg, Rome, Berlin, Tokyo, Moscow, London, Cornwall, and Barrie, Canada are all taking part in today’s events. Top artists including Coldplay, Razorlight, The Killers, The Dave Matthews Band and many, many more are participating to raise awareness for this effort.
Update: The song, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, which opened the Live 8 event in London performed by Sir Paul McCartney and accompanied by U2 is now available to download from the iTunes Music Store. Also available is the live rendition of the Beatles track “The Long and Winding Road” also performed by McCartney. Both tracks cost $.99 and all proceeds go to Live 8.
Contradicting dismissive statements towards the iPod recently made by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in a separate interview, the company’s Xbox division corporate vice-president J. Allard told 1up.com that the company actually hopes to model its new game console Xbox 360 on Apple’s iPod success, and follows the thinking of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. As explained in the section of 1up’s story titled “Is the Xbox 360 Powerful Enough?”:
“Our initial thinking was there can only be one [Xbox 360 SKU], but you know, that just limits options,” says Allard. “I don’t wanna think that way. If Steve Jobs thought that way, iPod sales would have [plateaued] because there’s a finite market for people that want 20GB white things that play music at a price point that’s above $200. And that’s all he could do with iPod.” Elsewhere in the article, Allard explains that after “lots of color studies,” the company chose a white and metal design based partially on “consumer preference and value. They associate a lot of value with the lighter colors. Most people actually came back and said, ‘This reminds me of iPod.’”
The article further notes that Microsoft designed the Xbox 360 with a 20GB removable hard drive that will permit users to carry their game data (and ripped game soundtracks, amongst other things) wherever they go, with changes to the hard drive a distinct possibility. “Who knows?” the article quotes Allard as saying. “We talk to retailers, we start taking orders, Japan says, ‘What we really wanna do is have a 60-gig hard drive and a wired controller,’ something like that. The system’s so flexible that until we start stuffing them in boxes, nothing’s for sure.”
iLounge readers with blogs still have the opportunity to enter the iLounge Buyers’ Guide 2005 Bloggers’ Contest, with three great prizes. One grand prize winner will score a pair of Shure E5c earphones ($499 value), while two second place winners will get their own pairs of Etymotic ER-6i earphones ($149 value, each). Don’t miss your chance - check out the official rules from this link right now!
iLounger Ashley Burrows let us know that he recently finished his iPod inspired “iTable.” He said it was a project for his A-level Design Technology course and that it took months to complete. Burrows was kind enough to share the process of building it along with a handful of photos, including his initial illustrated design.
“Basically, I started with a square frame built out of pine (this made the sides) and then glued a piece of MDF on the top,” Burrows said. “This gave me a five-sided cube kinda thing. To curve the edges I used a hand plane (yeah, it did take about 30 hours to do the curves) and a shaped block covered in sandpaper.”