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iTunes 10 Billion Songs contest near goal, $10k prize offered

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After just twelve days, Apple’s “Countdown to 10 Billion Songs” promotion is nearing its end. The counter graphics on Apple’s contest page and the iTunes Store indicate that the total number of songs downloaded is roughly 9.99 billion, leaving only 10 million left before the winning purchase. By comparing the counter number from February 12 to today, we estimate that the store has been seeing roughly 10 million downloads per day, which means the 10 billionth download should happen sometime within the next 24 hours, and possibly sooner, if the pace of downloads accelerates as the goal nears. The winner of the promotion will receive a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card; for more information, see Apple’s Official Rules page.

Gartner: Apple gained smartphone market share in 2009

According to the latest data released by research company Gartner, Apple gained more worldwide smartphone market share in 2009 than any other company. When breaking smartphone sales down by operating system, Apple placed third with 14.4% of the market, behind only Symbian with 46.9%—down from 52.4% in 2008—and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, with 19.9% of the market. By comparison, Apple held only 8.2% of the smartphone OS market in 2008, making its 6.2% gain the largest in the category, followed by Android, which went from a 0.5% share in 2008 to 3.9% in 2009, and RIM, which saw a 3.3% gain for its BlackBerry OS. Joining Symbian with market share losses were Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, which went from 11.8% of the market in 2008 to 8.7% in 2009, and non-Android Linux-based OSes, which saw their share decline from 7.6% in 2008 to 4.7% in 2009. Overall, smartphone sales reached 172.4 million units in 2009, a 23.8% increase from 2008.

Apple exec Schiller speaks out on “sexy” app ban

Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, has made several comments regarding the company’s recent move to ban “overtly sexual” content from the App Store. In an interview with the New York Times, Schiller said the company was simply responding to complaints from App Store users. According to Schiller, the company had received “an increasing number of apps containing very objectionable content” from a small number of developers. “It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see,” Schiller said. He added, “[w]e obviously care about developers, but in the end have to put the needs of the kids and parents first.”

Some developers, such as Fred Clarke of the company On the Go Girls, had their entire catalogs removed from the store. “I’m shocked,” said Clarke, who said the company had not had a problem with its applications since the first one went on sale last June. “We’re showing stuff that’s racier than the Disney Channel, but not by much.” Clark also said the company had been making thousands of dollars per day from App Store sales. “It’s very hard to go from making a good living to zero,” he added. “This goes farther than sexy content. For developers, how do you know you aren’t going to invest thousands into a business only to find out one day you’ve been cut off?” When asked about apps such as the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue app, which remains in the store despite offering content similar to that found in many of the banned apps, Schiller said Apple takes the source and intent of the apps into consideration. He said, “[t]he difference is this is a well-known company with previously published material available broadly in a well-accepted format.”

Apple job listing points to new iPhone OS devices

A new job posting on Apple’s website suggests the company is looking to expand the range of devices running iPhone OS beyond the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The listing for a “Platform Bring-Up” Engineering Manager says the company’s Core Platform team is “looking for a talented and inspired manager to lead a team focused on bring-up of iPhone OS on new platforms.” According to the listing, the team is “responsible for low level platform architecture, firmware, core drivers and bring-up of new hardware platforms,” and consists of “engineers with experience in hardware, firmware, IOKit drivers, security and platform architecture.” Job responsibilities of the position include “[w]orking closely with the hardware and custom silicon teams to bring-up new platforms and prototype systems” and “[d]efining the software roadmap to support a range of hardware platforms, including iPhone & iPod.”

Apple responds to App Store sex app removals

Following a report from last week suggesting that Apple was banning “overtly sexual” content from the App Store, Apple offered a brief statement on the matter in response to an inquiry from iLounge. “Whenever we receive customer complaints about objectionable content we review them,” said Apple representative Trudy Miller. “If we find these apps contain inappropriate material we remove them and request the developer make any necessary changes in order to be distributed by Apple.” The statement references an application removal notice from Apple previously posted online, stating that the company had received “numerous complaints” about sexual content on the App Store, and that it had changed its guidelines appropriately. After publication of the notice, application tracking site AppShopper.com released a graph showing over 5,000 application removals from February 17-20.

Report: Apple ranks third in customer service

  • February 22, 2010
  • Apple

Apple has ranked third in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s fourth annual customer service awards. The Cupertino-based company placed behind only catalog/online outfitter L.L. Bean, and insurance/banking company USAA, which coincidentally launched an update to its iPhone app in August 2009 that lets customers deposit checks remotely by using the iPhone’s camera to photograph and then electronically submit images of both sides of the check. Apple received “A+” ratings for its quality of staff and efficiency of service, with 66% of respondents saying they would recommend the brand and 58% saying they would definitely repurchase from Apple. The results come from a combination of data from J.D. Power & Associates and survey results from BusinessWeek readers. [via Mac Rumors]

Networks wary of lowering iTunes TV show prices

Despite last week’s statement from CBS CEO Leslie Moonves that “certain shows” would be sold on the iTunes Store for $1, many networks remain wary of cutting prices in order to boost sales. The New York Times reports that Apple has been pushing for lower TV show pricing—sometimes desperately so, according to private remarks from some TV executives—in an attempt to line up content for the iPad. The networks, meanwhile, are said to be interested in making their offerings more attractive to Apple’s 125 million iTunes account holders. “We’re willing to try anything, but the key word is ‘try,’” said a TV network executive who requested anonymity. The report also states that Apple’s $30 a month subscription proposal has not been ruled out entirely, according to executives at two of the networks, although Apple has encountered significant reluctance to the plan due to its position as a direct competitor to traditional cable and satellite services.

Apple allows sweepstakes, contests in apps

Apple has modified its iPhone SDK agreement to allow for both sweepstakes and contests within applications. The new rule, found in section 3.3.17, states, “Your Application may include promotional sweepstake or contest functionality provided that You are the sole sponsor of the promotion and that You and Your Application comply with any applicable laws,” adding that developers must “clearly state in binding official rules for each promotion that Apple is not a sponsor of, or responsible for conducting, the promotion.” The first application to take advantage of the new rules is available in the App Store for $1, and is tied to a sweepstakes running through March 16 in which one winner a day will receive “up to $1,000.” Notably, the app’s description says that the actual amount is dependent on sponsor discretion, and as the app otherwise offers little to no utility, we would advise readers to exercise extreme caution before purchasing or participating in promotions of this kind. [via TUAW]

Find My iPhone now accessible from iPhone, iPod touch

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Apple has launched a redesigned version of its Me.com splash page for the iPhone and iPod touch, adding new download links for its MobileMe iDisk and Gallery applications, as well as access to the Find My iPhone feature. Previously, the page contained only one link, providing setup instructions for setting up Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Find my iPhone on an iPhone/iPod touch; the new page retains this link, but adds the others mentioned above. Following the Find My iPhone link prompts the user to enter his or her MobileMe username and password, and then takes them to a frame-less version of the Find My iPhone page, complete with location map and links to send a text and/or audio alert, or remotely lock/wipe the device. An Apple support document suggests accessing the service “from a friend’s iPhone/iPod touch if you need to locate your lost iPhone/iPod on a map, display a message, play a sound, or remotely lock or wipe it.”

Apple banning ‘overtly sexual’ content from App Store?

An application removal notice sent by Apple to a developer suggests the company is cracking down on sexual content in the App Store. In the e-mail, published online by TechCrunch, Apple explains that the app “contains content that we had originally believed to be suitable for distribution. However, we have recently received numerous complaints from our customers about this type of content, and have changed our guidelines appropriately.” Apple goes on to say that it has “decided to remove any overtly sexual content from the App Store.” The report notes that attempts to purchase other sexually charged applications, such as “Exotic Positions” and “Sexy Women,” were met with errors indicating the apps were no longer available, while other applications, such as “Beautiful Boobs” and “Sex Strip” were still available for download, suggesting that Apple’s removal process of such applications may still be ongoing.

Apple adds new countries to the App Store

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In an update to its iPhone Developer Program news and announcements page, Apple has revealed that it has added several new countries to the App Store. New countries receiving App Store support include Armenia, Botswana, Bulgaria, Jordan, Kenya, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, and Uganda. The update states that developers can “log in to iTunes Connect to view and update the countries where your applications are available,” however, Mac Rumors notes that paid applications require the developer to sign contracts for new countries before the applications can appear.

ITC to investigate Apple’s claim against Nokia

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has said that it will consider Apple’s patent infringement complaint against Nokia, Bloomberg reports. Apple filed a complaint against Nokia with the ITC last month, seeking to block imports of the Finnish-based company’s phones. The ITC’s announcement is the latest development in the ongoing dispute between the two companies. Nokia first filed suit against Apple in October 2009, claiming that the iPhone infringes on several Nokia patents; Apple filed a countersuit claiming patent infringement in December. The lawsuits were followed by an ITC complaint from Nokia near the end of the year, alleging that Apple infringes on the Finnish company’s patents “in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers;” the ITC announced an investigation into Nokia’s claims against Apple in late January.

Apple CEO Jobs pushes WSJ to dump Flash

During a recent meeting with executives from the Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Steve Jobs aggressively dismissed Adobe’s Flash technology, urging the publication to develop non-Flash alternatives for its video and other interactive content. Citing people familiar with the meeting, Silicon Alley Insider reports that Jobs called Flash a “CPU hog,” claiming that the iPad’s battery performance would drop from 10 hours to 1.5 hours if forced to spend CPU cycles on Flash processing. The CEO also said Flash was a source of “security holes,” and compared it with other older technologies that have either been jettisoned or are in decline, including the floppy drive, old data ports, non LED-backlit LCD screens, and the CD, which faces competition from higher-capacity physical media and downloads. In addition, Jobs suggested that the Journal should switch to H.264 for its video content, and said that it would be “trivial” to make the switch not only to H.264, but to Javascript-based slideshows and other interactive features.

Apple patent details camera bias compensation

  • February 18, 2010
  • Apple

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A newly-published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on new manufacturing processes that would provide consumers with a more consistent experience when using cameras built-in to the company’s products. Entitled “Apparatus and Method for Compensating for Variations in Digital Cameras,” the patent explains that imaging sensors and lenses can vary slightly from unit to unit, resulting in inconsistent operation. The patent proposes to overcome this limitation by having each module capture images of colored light, which are then measured for color intensity bias. The resulting bias is stored in the camera, and is used to ensure that images and video captured by the camera contain appropriate color information. Curiously, images included in the application also depict an iPod-like device with a front-facing camera. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via AppleInsider]

Apple blocks import records ahead of iPad launch

Apple has taken steps to block its ocean freight import records from public view ahead of the launch of its new iPad tablet computer, according to trade data protection company Trade Privacy. According to a press release issued by Trade Privacy, industry competitors and media will be unable to acquire any early intelligence on Apple products arriving on U.S. shores from foreign manufacturers, preventing outlets like ImportGenius—which predicted the arrival of the iPhone 3G in 2008 by monitoring the company’s import shipments—from predicting the arrival of the iPad and other future products. Notably, Trade Privacy says that other large technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Samsung and Sony continue to expose their import records to customers, media, and competitors. “It is alarming, critical trade secrets such as manufacturer sources, quantity of goods, product descriptions, destinations, and product arrival dates are now accessible to anyone in just a few clicks on-line,” explains Andrew Park, CEO of Trade Privacy. Without protection of their import data, companies make sensitive information accessible, which Park states, “can be detrimental to their competitive stance.” Apple is expected to launch its first Wi-Fi-only iPad models in late March. [via Fortune]

Adobe CEO blasts Apple’s ‘proprietary’ business model

Speaking in an interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen criticized Apple for its decision not to support Flash on its iPhone OS devices, according to a Computerworld report. Reiterating stats claiming that 85 percent of the top 100 Web sites in the world use Flash and that it delivers 75 percent of Internet videos, while hailing its “powerful ecosystem” of partners, Narayen said Apple isn’t serving its customers by blocking access to Flash content. “Considering the amount of content on the Web that uses Flash — not allowing your consumers to access that content isn’t showing off the Web in all its glory,” Narayen said. “Apple’s business model is more trying to maintain a proprietary lock.”

The CEO also mentioned Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ statement from March 2008 that the full-blown Flash Player “performs too slow to be useful” on the iPhone, calling for a third version of the software that fell in between the desktop and “Lite” versions of the software. Narayen described Jobs’ statement as “a little bit of a red herring,” before pointing out that the new 10.1 version of the software—which is expected to make its way onto some Android and other smartphones later this year—fills that gap. Earlier this year Jobs made further comments about Flash at a closed company event, calling Adobe lazy, and its Flash player buggy, while predicting that web developers would move away from the software as they focus more on HTML5 development.

Apple iBookstore prices to be lower than expected?

While publishers have cheered Apple’s decision to allow e-book pricing as high as $14.99, that number may act as more of a price ceiling than a general guideline, according to a new report. Citing at least three people with knowledge of the discussions between Apple and major book publishers, the New York Times reports that Apple inserted provisions in the agreements requiring publishers to discount prices on best sellers, possibly to as low as the $9.99 pricing seen on Amazon’s Kindle store. The report also claims that Apple wanted e-book prices to reflect the hardcover price in cases where the hardcover edition was sold for less than the standard $26. During its iBooks and iBookstore announcement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed the company had signed agreements with five of the six largest book publishers—Penguin, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Hachette book group. According to the report, Apple will take 30 percent of each sale, with the remaining 70 percent going to the the publisher and author; notably, some books shown during the iBookstore demo were available for as little as $4.99. Apple is expected to launch its iBooks app and iBookstore alongside the iPad in late march.

Apple bumps iPhone cellular download cap to 20MB

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Apple has quietly increased the limit for over-the-air downloads from the App Store and iTunes Store on the iPhone. Until recently only content under 10MB in size could be downloaded over an EDGE or 3G connection—downloading of larger apps and media content had to be done over Wi-Fi. This limit now appears to have been increased to 20MB in both the App Store and iTunes Store on the device, allowing users to download larger applications and video content. The exact reason for this change is not clear, although it could be related to the impending release of the iPad, improvements in carrier bandwidth, or simply a desire to allow users to have anywhere access to larger applications on the App Store.

ITC to review Apple, RIM in Kodak imaging dispute

The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) has said it will consider a complaint filed by Kodak last month against Apple and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion claiming that the two handset makers are infringing on Kodak patents related to digital cameras. Specifically, Kodak claims the iPhone and some BlackBerry models infringe on a patent covering technology for previewing photos. The ITC will also decide whether to ban the imports from Apple and RIM after Kodak claimed that the companies refused to pay patent royalties on the technology. Kodak has also filed a civil lawsuit against the two companies in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, seeking unspecified damages.

Apple CEO Jobs wins award at Mobile World Congress

  • February 17, 2010
  • Apple

Despite Apple’s notable absence at Mobile World Congress, CEO Steve Jobs has been named “Mobile personality of the year” by the GSM Association as voted by the media. Jobs’ award was the only award won by Apple at the event, however, as Best Mobile Handset or Device went to the HTC Hero. British actor, comedian, and writer Stephen Fry, who hosted the awards, accepted the award in Jobs’ stead, adding that he couldn’t make it to the event because “he’s busy working on Apple’s next big thing the iDiaper.” Jobs bested fellow CEOs Eric Schmidt of Google, Mike Lazaridis of RIM, and Pete Chou of HTC for the award.

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