Japanese carrier SoftBank is buying a 70% interest in U.S. carrier Sprint for $20.1 billion, as announced at a Tokyo press event. The deal is expected to close in mid-2013, during which time SoftBank will purchase $8 billion in new shares and $12.1 billion in existing shares from Sprint.
The two companies will have the third-highest mobile service revenue of any company, and the combined subscriber base will be one of the world’s largest. Sprint’s Dan Hesse will remain CEO of the new Sprint, and notes that the deal will allow Sprint to build out its LTE network, which has struggled by comparison with Verizon’s and AT&T’s growing LTE footprints. [via The Verge]
Preparing for a new holiday season of competition with the iPad and iPod touch, Amazon today announced new 7- and 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD tablets, and a new $159 version of the Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire HD starts at 16GB and comes equipped with either a 1280x800/7” or 1920x1200/8.9” screen, promising 25 percent less glare than the prior Kindle Fire, plus improved viewing angles and stereo speakers. Kindle Fire HD will feature dual-band Wi-Fi with MIMO, as well as a front-facing camera, helping it to compete more effectively against the third-generation iPad. The 7” 16GB version will sell for $199 starting on September 14, with the 8.9” 16GB version at $299 on November 20. Each will also come in a 32GB model.
As a more direct competitor to the third-generation iPad, Amazon also announced a $499, 32GB version of the 8.9” Kindle Fire HD with 4G LTE support as its signature feature. This model is paired with a “breakthrough” $50 per year LTE plan, offering 250MB of data per month for an entire year, for a price of $549 versus $959 for a 32GB iPad with LTE and one year of data service. AT&T is believed to be the LTE data provider, and additional details were not immediately available. Notably, Amazon has not disclosed battery life for the 8.9” Kindle Fire HDs, but claims 11 hours of run time for the 7” model.
As a successor to last year’s Kindle Fire, which Amazon claims holds 22% of the U.S. tablet market, the $159 Fire looks similar to its predecessor, but is being billed as 40 percent faster, with double the RAM and longer battery life. It also ships Sept. 14.
Amazon has released its new Amazon Instant Video app for the iPad. The app, which requires iOS 4.3 or later, allows users to watch movies and TV shows from Amazon’s streaming library. Amazon Prime members can watch titles from Prime Instant Video for no additional cost, while all users can watch over 120,000 videos available from the Amazon Instant Video store. Purchased and Rented videos can be downloaded to the device for offline video, and users can also add videos to their Watchlists and resume watching videos they have already started thanks to Amazon Whispersync. Amazon’s Instant Video app for the iPad is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Sparrow, developer of the popular Mac and iOS e-mail client of the same name, has announced that it has been acquired by Google. In a post on the company’s web site and an e-mail sent out to customers, Sparrow CEO Dom Leca indicates that the company will be joining the Gmail team “to accomplish a bigger vision” that it feels it can better achieve working with Google. Leca goes on to note that they will continue to make the Sparrow e-mail client available and provide support for its users, including any critical updates that may be required, however they do expect to be working on new projects at Google and do not plan to release any new features for the Sparrow apps.
A judge has ruled against Bose in a patent infringement lawsuit filed by the company against a number of well-known makers of speaker docks for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. CE Pro reports that the judge ruled that SDI Technologies Inc.—the parent company of iHome—Imation Corp., Memorex Products Inc., 3XM Consulting LLC, and D.P.I. Inc did not violate a Bose patent for “Interactive Sound Reproducing” that covers an audio system that receives signals from a computer and converts the digital signal to an audio signal. The suit covered 144 products in total, including at least one AirPlay-capable unit.
“In our minds, the decision is a boon to Apple users and the entire audio technology industry that’s built up around Apple products,” said a spokesperson for Thompson Coburn, the firm that represented Imation and DPI. “Bose targeted three relatively low-cost producers of speaker docks with the belief they wouldn’t fight the lawsuit and pony up a license fee to Bose. Had these smaller manufacturers folded, Bose likely would have lodged similar infringement claims against higher-cost producers, continuing until it had licensed the entire market. This decision promotes the healthy competition that keeps prices down for Apple consumers.”
A hacker has discovered a method for obtaining in-app purchases without having to pay for them. Citing Russian blog i-ekb.ru, 9to5Mac reports that the method was published by a Russian developer, and works on all devices running iOS 3.0 or later, no jailbreak required. According to the report, the hack involves the installation of two certificates and the changing of a DNS record in Wi-Fi settings. The report claims that the hack does not work on 100 percent of apps, failing with certain purchases in certain regions; the developer of the hack also receives unnecessary data when using it—including the user’s location—and for obvious reasons we recommend against trying this on your own device.
Following its somewhat mysterious disappearance last month, Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil Speakers Touch has reappeared on the App Store, with an updated version that removes the “Enhanced Receiving” in-app purchase option that allowed users to receive audio streamed natively over AirPlay from iTunes or another iOS device. With version 3.1 users can also now set the app to stay awake in order to remain available for streaming at all times; the keep awake setting is also enabled automatically when charging.
Rogue Amoeba first reported the removal of Airfoil Speakers Touch on May 24, indicating at the time that the company did not have a clear answer as to why Apple had chosen to remove the already-approved application, and that it believed Airfoil Speakers Touch to be “in full compliance with Apple’s posted rules and developer agreements.” Rogue Amoeba CEO Paul Kafasis later posted a follow-up on the company’s blog, indicating that Apple had told the company that the app was in violation of Apple’s rule stating that “applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs” but had been unable to tell them which specific APIs were being misused. Kafasis goes on to address the speculation that the issue may have been the feature added in version 3.0 to receive audio natively from other AirPlay sources, but argues that the API rules should not apply as AirPlay is a network protocol and not an API. However, AirPlay is an encrypted network protocol requiring an AirPlay receiver to have an appropriate private key to decrypt the audio stream; although other developers have successfully reverse-engineered the Airport Express key to develop software-only AirPlay receivers, it is unclear what method Rogue Amoeba was using in their particular application. It is also worth noting, however, that manufactures of hardware devices such as AirPlay speakers are required to pay a licensing fee to Apple to use the technology; no such licensing program currently exists for software-only AirPlay implementations.
Google has acquired Quickoffice, developer of the popular Microsoft Office compatible document editing suite for iOS devices and other mobile platforms. The Quickoffice series of apps allows iOS device users to view, edit and share Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents while on the go with seamless access to online file services such as Dropbox and Google Docs. While it is unclear exactly what this acquisition means for Quickoffice’s mobile application business, Google Engineering Director Alan Warren notes that Google plans to integrate Quickoffice’s “seamless interoperability with popular file formats” into its Apps product suite, and will continue to support existing Quickoffice users while it works on a more integrated experience.
The Verge reports that the European Telecommunications Standards Institute has adopted a proposal for a new nano-SIM format. The new design will be approximately 40 percent smaller than the existing micro-SIM format and will be packaged in a way designed to be backward-compatible with existing SIM card designs in much the same way that micro-SIM cards are currently distributed.
Today’s announcement follows several weeks of discussion and conflict between two major proposals for the new standard put forward by competing mobile groups; Motorola, Nokia and RIM had proposed their own design in opposition to a proposal made by Apple. Both designs were revised throughout the selection process with the resulting final designs now very similar to each other with exactly the same exterior dimensions. ETSI has not yet published the specifications for the new standard and has declined to comment on which group’s design was selected. [via Mac Rumors]
iLounge has learned that Apple will soon offer the Nest Learning Thermostat for sale through the Apple Store, an interesting development given both Nest’s history and the types of products commonly sold by Apple. Nest founder and CEO Tony Fadell is the former senior vice president of Apple’s iPod division, and is regarded by many as the “father of the iPod.” After leaving Apple for “personal reasons,” Fadell was replaced by Mark Papermaster, whose brief tenure at the company was marked by controversies; Fadell soon created Nest as a place to build intuitive and elegant in-home electronics informed by his experiences at Apple, and only recently expanded distribution to the large third-party retailer Lowe’s. The Nest Learning Thermostat will be sold at Apple Stores for $249, the same price as via Nest’s own online store.
Update: 9to5Mac reports that Apple retail stores have started to receive stock of the units, which carry the part number H9279LL/A in Apple’s systems. It remains unclear when the Learning Thermostats will go on sale; the report suggests that the product may not launch at all Apple retail stores simultaneously.
Update x2: Apple is now offering the Nest Learning Thermostat on its online store for $249.99.
Verizon Wireless today announced the latest expansion of its 4G LTE network, which will see coverage for more than two-thirds of the U.S. population when it goes live April 19. The expansion will include 27 new markets and the expansion of coverage in 44 other markets, for a total of 230 markets covered; Verizon plans to offer LTE service in more than 400 markets, covering 260 million people, by the end of the year. Apple included support for LTE data service in the third-generation iPad and is expected to include it in the next-generation iPhone.
“Verizon Wireless 4G LTE is the premier wireless data service in the nation, with more than six times the geographic coverage of our nearest competitor’s 4G LTE network and now available to more than two-thirds of the nation’s population,” said David Small, chief technical officer of Verizon Wireless. “We will continue to introduce new markets and expand covered markets to ensure even more wireless users across the United States can take advantage of the benefits that 4G LTE brings to consumers, small businesses and enterprises.”
Australian newspaper Herald Sun reports that the Australian Government has given approval for devices running iOS 5 to be used for storing and communicating classified information. The organization responsible for information security within the Australian Department of Defence, the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), has developed a set of policies and hardening procedures that will permit iOS 5.1 devices to be used to handle classified information at the PROTECTED level—the lowest general security classification used within the Australian Government. Mike Burgess, acting director of the DSD, stated that iOS 5 has successfully passed a stringent and intensive security assessment to ensure that it meets Australian Government information security requirements. The security evaluation, which is believed to be the first of its kind for iOS, covers only those devices owned and managed by Australian government agencies that have had specific DSD hardening procedures implemented and are used in accordance with DSD security advice. Examples of such standards include use of the devices in Apple’s Supervised mode, use of iOS Data Protection and storing information only within Data Protection enabled applications, disallowing the use of third-party applications and using non-secure apps and services, including Siri dictation, only for unclassified information. [via AppleInsider]
Angry Birds developer Rovio Entertainment has announced the acquisition of Futuremark Games Studio. The gaming arm of Futuremark, developer of benchmarking software such as 3DMark and PCMark, Futuremark Games Studio produces games for the iOS, Mac and PC platforms including such titles as Unstoppable Gorg and Hungribles for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Futuremark Games marks Rovio’s second acquisition over the past year, following the acquisition of Kombo Animation Studio last summer.
Popular video conversion utility HandBrake has been updated to version 0.9.6. The update brings with it a number of bug fixes and improvements, including audio gain control, improved support for OS X Lion, improved handling of DVD subtitles without Stop Display commands, HE-AAC encoding support, and improved average frame rate detection. HandBrake 0.9.6 is available now as a free download for Mac, Windows, and Linux.
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Atari and the venerable Pong, Atari has announced that it will be holding a contest calling on independent developers to re-imagine the classic game for the iOS platform. The Pong Indie Developer Challenge will provide entrants with the opportunity to win up to $100,000, and finalists will have their creations launched on the App Store under the Atari brand. Winning entries will also receive a long-term publishing arrangement with Atari including development, creative resources and full marketing support.
The Pong Indie Developer Challenge builds on the success of Atari’s other recent indie-developed mobile games such as Asteroids Gunner, Atari’s Greatest Hits and Breakout Boost, providing opportunities for promising new iOS game developers. The judging panel will include original Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Pocket God creator Dave Castelnuovo, and members of Atari’s executive team. Atari fans will also have the opportunity to submit their own votes as part of the selection of an Atari Community Winner. Full details on the contest and rules along with submission and prize information can be found at http://www.atari.com/pongdeveloperchallenge.
The third edition of iPod and iTunes Portable Genius, penned by iLounge Applications Editor Jesse Hollington, is now available. Weighing in at 384 pages, the book includes a number of useful how-tos, tips, full-color screenshots, and other information for iPod and iTunes users. The third edition contains a variety of updated information, including details relating to iTunes 10.5, iOS 5, iTunes Match, and iCloud. iPod and iTunes Portable Genius is available now from Amazon and from the iBookstore; pricing varies by format.
Former Palm CEO and Apple senior vice president Jon Rubenstein has left HP effective today. AllThingsD reports that Rubenstein is said to have no immediate plans after fulfilling a 12-24 month commitment to stay at the company following its acquisition of Palm. “Jon has fulfilled his commitment and we wish him well,” said HP spokeswoman Mylene Mangalindan. Rubenstein, commenting to AllThingsD, said, “I am going to take a well deserved break after four and a half years of developing webOS.” Best known for his work on the iPod—he was senior vice president of Apple’s iPod division when he left the company—Rubenstein joined the private equity firm Elevation Partners shortly after it invested in Palm, and became Palm CEO in 2009 before taking an executive position at HP after the acquisition.
According to Epic Games’ forums as well as the experience of at least one of our editors, players are experiencing significant bugs when it comes to their saved games in Infinity Blade II; it’s an issues that only becomes apparent after further testing. The bug seems to be related to iCloud saving and syncing, as many people are losing saved games when they download the game to a second device. We highly recommend that players interested in Infinity Blade II wait until these issues are resolved, as they could potentially come at a the cost of a significant time investment as well as money in the form of lost In-App Purchases.
In addition to some great Black Friday deals on games this week, several other application developers are also offering discounts over the holiday season.
Garmin will be selling its StreetPilot Onboard navigation apps at 50% off on Black Friday only, allowing you to pick up Garmin U.S.A. for $25 or Garmin N. America for $30. In addition, the Navigon line of navigation applications is on sale until November 30th at $30 for Navigon USA and Navigon Canada or $40 for Navigon North America. The Navigon Regional apps for U.S. West, U.S. Central and U.S. East are also on sale for $20 each.
ALK Technologies has also marked down its CoPilot Live lineup of GPS navigation apps by 50% until Monday, including CoPilot Live Premium USA ($10), CoPilot Premium HD USA ($13), CoPilot Live Premium North America ($13), CoPilot Premium HD North America ($15), CoPilot Live Standard USA ($3) and CoPilot Live Standard North America ($4).
Readdle is selling its entire catalogue of iPhone and iPad apps at up to 40% off for 48 hours only over Friday and Saturday. Apps on sale include
PDF Expert for iPad ($7), Scanner Pro ($5), Calendars ($5), PDF Converter ($5), ReaddleDocs for iPad ($3), Printer Pro for iPad ($5), Printer Pro for iPhone ($3), Card Scanner Pro ($5), Flash Drive ($2), PDF Expert for iPhone ($7), PDF HD ($2), ReaddleDocs for iPhone ($3) and Shakespeare Pro ($7).
A number of iOS game developers have announced significant Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on a wide range of game titles.
Chair Entertainment has dropped the price of Infinity Blade to $3.
Gameloft has 20 of its titles on sale for $1 each, including Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles, Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles for iPad, BackStab, Eternal Legacy, Eternal Legacy HD, Fast Five the Movie: Official Game, Fast Five the Movie: Official Game HD, Gameloft Action Pack, Gameloft Sports Pack, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 2 for iPad, James Cameron’s Avatar, James Cameron’s Avatar for iPad, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within HD, Rayman 2: The Great Escape, Real Golf 2011, Real Golf 2011 HD, Sacred Odyssey: Rise of Ayden, The Settlers, The Settlers HD, Shadow Guardian, Shadow Guardian HD, Shrek Kart, Shrek Kart HD, Silent Ops, Spider-Man: Total Mayhem, Spider-Man: Total Mayhem HD, Splinter Cell Conviction, Splinter Cell Conviction HD, Starfront: Collision, Starfront: Collision HD, Zombie Infection, and Zombie Infection HD
Electronic Arts has dropped prices on a significant portion of its catalog as well, with the following titles on sale for $1: American Idol: The Game, Anytime Pool, Dragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp, Dead Space, FIFA 10 by EA Sports, FIFA 11 by EA Sports, Fight Night Champion by EA Sports, Monopoly, Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition, Need for Speed Undercover, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, Risk, Scrabble, Shift 2 Unleashed, The Sims 3, The Sims 3 Ambitions, The Sims 3 World Adventures, The Sims Medieval, Draw Jump HD, Battleship for iPad, Command & Conquer Red Alert for iPad, Coconut Dodge for iPad, Max and the Magic Marker for iPad and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 for iPad.
Other Electronic Arts titles on sale include Battlefield: Bad Company 2 for iPad ($3), Dead Space for iPad ($5), FIFA 11 by EA Sports for iPad ($5), FIFA Soccer 12 by EA Sports ($3), FIFA Soccer 12 by EA Sports for iPad ($7), Madden NFL 12 by EA Sports ($3), Madden NFL 12 by EA Sports for iPad ($5), Mirror’s Edge for iPad ($2), Monopoly for iPad ($3), Monopoly Here & Now: The World Edition for iPad ($3),NBA Jam by EA Sports ($2), Need for Speed Hot Pursuit for iPad ($5), Pictureka for iPad ($2), Risk: The Official Game for iPad ($3), Scrabble for iPad ($3), SimCity Deluxe for iPad ($2) and Shift 2 Unleashed for iPad, Tetris for iPad ($3), The Game of Life for iPad, Trivial Pursuit Master Edition for iPad ($3) and Yahtzee HD for iPad ($3).