Apple is among a group of companies sued by Imperium Holdings, which claims the companies infringe on five distinct patents dealing with image sensors. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Texas, claims that Apple, Kyocera, LG, Motorola Mobility, Nokia, RIM, and Sony Ericsson violate patents covering “Image Flicker Reduction with Fluorescent Lighting,” a “High Sensitivity Snap Shot CMOS Image Sensor,” a “CMOS Image Sensor Arrangement with Reduced Pixel Light Shadowing,” “Bad Pixel Correction While Preserving Features,” and a “Semiconductor Device for Isolating a Photodiode to Reduce Junction Leakage.” According to the complaint, Apple infringes on the patents with the iPhone and other devices with image sensors, possibly including the iPod touch, iPad, and Mac computers. [via Patently Apple]
Apple is set to announce a new, free version of MobileMe next month, according to a trusted iLounge source. The source, who works for a major educational institution, claims the school’s supplier has said the current version of MobileMe is no longer available, and that Apple is suggesting new students sign up for the 60-day trial to cover the gap between the final MobileMe shipment and the launch of the new version. In addition, the source was told that Apple will be supporting the existing version of MobileMe for the next year, suggesting that the new version will be quite different from the existing service; the extra year of support would likely cover those who recently paid for a full year of MobileMe, prior to Apple removing any method through which a user could pay for the service. Recent reports have suggested that the revamped service will position it as a free online, cloud-based “locker” for content such as photos, videos, and music.
Apple has ranked highest among manufacturers of smartphones in customer satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Wireless Smartphone Customer Satisfaction Study—Volume 1. According to a press release from J.D. Power, Apple received a satisfaction score of 795 and performed particularly well in the areas of ease of operation, operating system, features and physical design. Apple was followed in the rankings by Motorola, with a score of 763, and HTC, with a score of 762. Notably, this is the fifth consecutive time Apple has topped J.D. Power’s smartphone satisfaction ratings.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has sent a message to Apple’s staff in Japan regarding the recent earthquake and tsunami. The message, which has been posted to Mac Rumors, was reportedly sent to all Apple employees. It reads:
“To Our Team in Japan,
We have all been following the unfolding disaster in Japan. Our hearts go out to you and your families, as well as all of your countrymen who have been touched by this tragedy.
If you need time or resources to visit or care for your families, please see HR and we will help you. If you are aware of any supplies that are needed, please also tell HR and we will do what we can to arrange delivery.
Again, our hearts go out to you during this unimaginable crisis.
Please stay safe.
Steve and the entire Executive Team”
Apple has already responded to the disaster by setting up a page for accepting Red Cross donations through iTunes and by delaying the launch of the iPad 2 in Japan; anecdotal tales from one of Digg founder Kevin Rose’s friends in Japan—who works for Apple—indicate that the company is doing all it can to help its employees and neighbors in this trying time.
Apple has started to air a new TV advertising campaign for the iPhone, with the theme “If you don’t have an iPhone.” Like Apple’ most recent ads, these spots—entitled “Apps,” “iBooks,” and “iPod plus iTunes”—focus on features that users can only find on the iPhone, before concluding, “if you don’t have an iPhone, well, you don’t have an iPhone.” Notably, the ads are devoid of any carrier mentions, showing only “3G” and signal strength in the status bar and only the Apple logo and iPhone 4 logotype at the end. All three ads are available for viewing on Apple’s website.
Apple has released Remote 2.1.1, the latest version of its Wi-Fi-based remote control application for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. According to Apple’s release notes, Remote 2.1.1 offers improvements when connecting to iTunes or an Apple TV, a new “skip back” button when playing video, and other unspecified stability and performance improvements. Remote 2.1.1 is available now as a free download from the App Store and requires iOS 3.1.2 or later.
Update: The update also adds the ability to turn the iTunes visualizer on and off, directly from the Now Playing screen. The feature appears to be Mac-only, and requires users to activate the visualizer on their computer first before the new button—which sits between the Genius and shuffle controls—appears.
Speaking with The Loop, Apple spokesperson Trudy Miller categorized customer demand for the iPad 2 as “amazing” while declining to reveal exact sales figures. “Demand for the next generation iPad 2 has been amazing,” said Miller. “We are working hard to get iPad 2 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible.” The report also cites Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who claims that there were no iPad 2 units available in the U.S. by the end of the device’s launch weekend. Apple took a slightly different approach with the first iPad, touting first day sales of 300,000 units.
As promised, Apple began accepting online orders for the iPad 2 earlier this morning. At this point, all but one model—the 16GB Verizon 3G—is showing a shipment time of 2-3 weeks, meaning anyone who wants the device sooner will need to get in line at one of Apple’s stores or at one of its retail partner stores in order to secure a unit. Also available online are Apple’s iPad 2 accessories, including the $39 Apple Digital AV Adapter, which allows for HDMI output and ships in 1-2 business days, the $29 Apple iPad 2 Dock, which ships in 1-3 weeks, and both $39 Polyurethane and $69 Leather versions of the iPad Smart Cover, all of which ship in 1-2 business days, save for the (Product) RED leather cover, which is listed with a shipment estimate of 2-3 weeks.
Apple has changed its policy on In-App Purchases in iOS 4.3, requiring users to re-enter their iTunes Store password in order to complete an In-App Purchase, according to The Washington Post. Previously, there was a 15 minute window after entering an iTunes Store password when users would not be asked to re-enter it should they make another purchase. Problems with children running up massive bills via In-App Purchases were widely recognized late last year when the Associated Press ran a story highlighting the problem. The article singled out “The Smurfs’ Village” game by Capcom as one of the most egregious offenders, as it was openly aimed at children yet contained In-App Purchases priced for as much as $60. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said last month that it would review the marketing and delivery of certain applications built around In-App Purchases; it is unclear whether such a review will still be necessary given Apple’s new policy change. [via Mac Rumors]
Apple has released its new GarageBand app for the iPad, as well as an update to iMovie adding compatibility with the iPad 2. Demonstrated during last week’s iPad 2 media event, GarageBand is based on Apple’s desktop music creation software, but has been optimized for the iPad’s Multi-touch interface and offers new features exclusive to the iPad. Features include Touch Instruments, which fill the screen and resemble actual, real-life instruments, “Smart Instruments” that make it easier for novices to play and compose music, the ability to arrange, mix, and record up to eight tracks per song, over 250 professionally prerecorded loops to use as back, and the ability to email songs in AAC directly from the iPad, export the song for addition to an iTunes library, or send a project to a Mac for further refinement in the desktop version of the application. GarageBand is available now and sells for $5.
Apple has also released a free update to its existing iMovie application for the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch, offering compatibility with the iPad 2. Beyond simply adding compatibility, the new update offers iPad 2 users all-new features such as a multi-touch precision editor, audio waveforms, and a larger editing interface; other new features include multitrack audio editing, audio recording directly into the timeline, three new themes, HD sharing directly to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and CNN iReport, AirPlay support, the ability to add titles on photos, new fade-in and fade-out options, and other enhancements. iMovie 1.2 is a Universal application that sells for $5 and is a free upgrade for existing iMovie users.
Apple has posted a new page dedicated to guided video tours of the iPad 2’s features. Separate videos have been posted highlighting the built-in apps and features FaceTime, Mail, Safari, iBooks, Videos, Photos, Find My iPad, iPod, iTunes, App Store, Maps, and AirPlay, as well as the new $5 apps GarageBand and iMovie. All 14 videos are available for viewing now on Apple’s website.
Apple has released iOS 4.3 for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, third- and fourth-generation iPod touch, and iPad ahead of its scheduled date of March 11. The update includes a number of new features, such as improved Safari performance, improved support for AirPlay video and audio from third-party apps and Safari, the ability to customize the iPad switch for mute or orientation lock, Personal Hotspot cellular data sharing for the GSM iPhone 4, and iTunes Home Sharing, which allows users to wirelessly stream content from iTunes to an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch over their home network. iOS 4.3 is available now via the Update feature in iTunes.
Apple has sent out an email to customers urging them to line up to buy the iPad 2 on Friday. “Be the first to get the next iPad,” reads the email. “The Apple Store is the best place to experience iPad. Our Specialists will show you around the features, help you choose the perfect model, and set everything up just the way you like. So you’ll be up and running before you leave the store.” Below the text is a link to Apple’s Retail page, with a store locator feature. Unlike prior launches, Apple does not appear to be offering any pre-orders or reservations for the iPad 2, instead forcing users to either wait in line at an Apple Store—or one of its retail partners, which include Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and Sam’s Club—or order online for later delivery. While the draw of an Apple launch may be exciting to some, iLounge suggests based on past line-up experiences that readers skip the potentially lengthy lines at Apple’s retail stores, and instead secure units via online ordering. Having to line up in the middle of a work week, particularly for an incrementally improved device, will be unnecessarily inconvenient for all but the hardest-core Apple fans.
Tips from a reader indicate that the iPad 2’s new screen mirroring feature may not be as broadly supported as users might hope, due to certain third-party developers’ copyright concerns. Introduced by Apple at this week’s media event in San Francisco, iPad 2 screen mirroring enables an iPad 2 to display all of its screen contents on an HDMI port-equipped HDTV, duplicating whatever is being shown on the device’s 9.7” touchscreen. This feature was initially said to depend upon Apple’s new Digital AV Adapter accessory, which will sell for $39. In introducing the Adapter, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that “it works with all apps, so anything you can see on the iPad screen, you see on HDMI.” Apple’s web site notes that the Adapter can also display movies “at up to 720p” and other content “in up to 1080p HD.”
According to our reader, Apple has turned screen mirroring on by default on the iPad 2, unlike AirPlay wireless video streaming, which is disabled by default and therefore only implemented by developers who want to support the feature. Though Apple has included a screen mirroring toggle to let third-party applications send different content through the Adapter, some developers plan to use it to “opt out” of screen mirroring altogether, citing potential copyright issues with displaying some or all of their video content through a connected TV. If implemented in this fashion, iPad 2 video mirroring using the Digital AV Adapter could have significant limitations, similar to Apple’s iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter, which was released without a conspicuous disclosure that some iTunes-purchased videos would refuse to play through the Adapter for unspecified contractual reasons, leading to widespread user complaints.
On the rare occasions that it has discussed the issue, Apple has maintained that Hollywood studios are to blame for the iPad’s video output limitations, and Jobs has publicly thrown up his hands in apparent frustration with contracts that have limited the device’s output capabilities. While it is unclear whether the Digital AV Adapter will handle iTunes-protected content better than the VGA Adapter did, particularly in light of a new claim on Apple’s web site that the VGA Adapter will also support iPad 2 video mirroring and 1080p video out, it is likely that the Digital AV Adapter includes support for high-bandwidth digital content protection (HDCP), an anti-piracy technology that would satisfy studios’ contractual requirements.
Apple is negotiating with record labels over a new arrangement that would allow iTunes users easier access to purchased music across multiple devices, according to Bloomberg. Calling the move “a step closer to universal access to content centrally stored on the Internet” and citing three people with knowledge of the plans, the report states that under the new agreement, iTunes customers would have a permanent backup of their purchased music should the originals become damaged or lost, and would be able to download multiple times across every device that was linked to their iTunes accounts. Involved in the talks are all of the “big four” labels—Universal, Sony, Warner Bros., and EMI—and the report notes that an agreement could be announced by midyear. [via Engadget]
Following its official announcement at the iPad 2 media event yesterday, Apple has released a pre-release version of the Gold Master of iOS 4.3 for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad to members of the iOS developer program. This likely represents the last developer-only release prior to the final public release of iOS 4.3 which has been scheduled for March 11th. It is currently unknown what specific changes have been made in this latest version, although Apple highlighted some of the new features in iOS 4.3 during yesterday’s media event and some previews have been seen from prior beta releases. Apple’s iOS 4.3 GM seeds for the iPad, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and third- and fourth-generation iPod touch are available now to paid iOS developers from the iOS Dev Center. Notably, although developers were previously provided with a beta version of iOS 4.3 for the Apple TV, a GM seed of the Apple TV iOS has not yet been made available.
Obscured by the many iPad 2-related announcements yesterday, Apple failed to make any mention of MobileMe-based video or photo uploading during its media event. A quick scan of Apple’s iPad 2 mini-site shows that no references are made to sharing photos or videos via MobileMe, although the service is still mentioned by name in references to synchronization and location-based services. Recent reports have suggested that Apple is working on a revamp of its paid MobileMe service which would position it as a free online, cloud-based “locker” for content such as photos, videos, and music. In addition, the company recently discontinued its boxed MobileMe retail packages before pulling it from its computer configuration options and ultimately removing any method through which a user could pay for the service. References to a “Media Stream” service have been found inside recent beta versions of iOS 4.3, which might point to a replacement service for traditional MobileMe sharing options.
Following yesterday’s announcement of the iPad 2, Apple is now selling the original first-generation iPad as refurbished for prices starting at $349 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model up to $659 for the 64GB Wi-Fi + 3G model, with new units selling at $100 reductions from their original $499 to $829 asking prices. Similar price reductions have been made in other countries as well, where the first-generation iPad is still being sold on the main Apple Store pages at reduced prices, pending the March 25th release of the iPad 2 in those countries.
Further, Electric Pig is reporting that Apple is offering refunds for customers who have purchased first-generation iPads within the past 14 days. Upon request to the company, Apple will refund the $100 price difference for customers who would prefer to keep their original iPad rather than returning it.
We’ve just posted an iPad 2 hands-on interface video (new: HD version) on Vimeo so that you can check out the new camera features, settings, and other neat features of the second-generation iPad, as well as a hands-on iPad Smart Cover installation video showing how the magnetic clasp system and auto-lock/unlock features work. For more hands-on details, check out our First Looks at the iPad 2 and the iPad Smart Cover.
Following today’s iPad 2 media event, Apple has released iTunes 10.2, the latest version of its digital media management software. According to Apple’s release notes, iTunes 10.2 allows users to sync with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices using iOS 4.3 and adds Home Sharing support that will allow iOS 4.3 device users to browse and play music streamed from their iTunes libraries. This update likely also adds compatibility with the forthcoming iPad 2. iTunes 10.2 is available now as a free download from iTunes.com or via Apple’s Software Update utility.