A U.S. trade panel today ruled that Apple did not violate any of five Nokia patents. Reuters reports that the patents were for electronic devices, including mobile phones, portable music players, and computers. Judge James Gildea of the International Trade Commission said in his initial determination that Apple did not violate the Nokia patents; the next will be for the commission as a whole to either uphold or throw out Gildea’s decision. The target date for that decision is August 1.
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 a U.S. International Trade Commission (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 launched an investigation into Nokia’s claims against Apple in late January of 2010; it announced a similar investigation into Apple’s claims against Nokia in February of that year. In March, a federal judge in Delaware signed an order halting litigation between Nokia and Apple pending resolution of the companies’ respective claims with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC); Nokia then sued Apple again in May, alleging that the iPhone and iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G infringe on five of its patents. The ITC case between the two companies is ongoing, but ITC staff issued a pre-trial memo stating that Nokia shouldn’t be found liable of infringing upon Apple’s patents. A report from November 2010 indicated that Apple has been bolstering its legal team ahead of key battles with Nokia, as well as HTC and Motorola; since then, Nokia has filed new patent complaints against Apple in Europe, while Apple has filed a lawsuit against Nokia in the U.K., claiming that one of Nokia’s European patents for scrolling technology on a touchscreen device is invalid.
Apple has released iOS 4.3.1 for the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad, iPad 2, third-, and fourth-generation iPod touch. According to Apple’s release notes, the update fixes an occasional graphics glitch on the fourth-generation iPod touch, resolves bugs related to activating and connecting to some cellular networks, fixes an image flicker issue when using the Apple Digital AV Adapter with some TVs, and resolves an issue authenticating with some enterprise web services, among other big fixes and improvements. iOS 4.3.1 is available now via the Update feature in iTunes.
Apple has released its fourth TV advertisement in its “If you don’t have an iPhone” series. Entitled “Game Center,” the 30-second spot touts “the largest selection of games on any phone,” with notable appearances by Scrabble and Infinity Blade. The spot also prominently features Apple’s Game Center social gaming network, showing the user finding friends, inviting them to a game, and playing online. As with the other ads in the series, it concludes with the announcer saying, “If you don’t have an iPhone, well, you don’t have an iPhone.” The new advertisement is available for viewing now on Apple’s website.
Apple is considering licensing its AirPlay video streaming technology to consumer electronics companies, letting them build devices that could accept streaming movies, TV shows, and other video content from iPods, iPhones, and iPads, according to a new report. Citing two people familiar with the project, Bloomberg reports that the new venture would allow AirPlay support to be built directly into TV sets, removing the need for an external Apple TV set-top box. One of the sources cited said devices compatible with AirPlay video streaming could be available later this year. Apple currently only licenses its AirPlay audio streaming technology, and then to only a handful of companies, which pay Apple $4 for each device sold that offers the functionality, according to the report. The report adds, interestingly, that Apple’s licensing agreements prevent video from being streamed, even though the technology is there to do it.
In the midst of researching new iPhone 4 cases that have recently arrived with noticeably different and larger rear camera holes than we’d seen in prior products, iLounge has received confirmation that Apple has recently published “Case Design Guidelines for Apple Devices,” a digital booklet laying out specifications for iPod, iPhone, and iPad cases, as well as an updated document suggesting a “keepout area” around the iPhone 4’s rear camera.
Notably, the documents now include specific recommendations for materials to be kept out of cases—such as various metals, plastics with carbon content or metallic painting—as well as guidelines for what should be specifically done for both the iPad 2 and iPhone 4, including a recommendation that iPhone 4 cases use an oversized hole to avoid flash and other interference with the distortion-sensitive rear camera. The documents also offer specific testing recommendations, such as device insertion and removal tests, colorfastness tests, call quality tests—conducted in handset, speakerphone, and headset mode—and control/port access tests to confirm that the cases will work with both headphones and dock connector cables with large plugs.
Also surprising: despite Apple’s own use of magnets in the iPad 2 and iPad Smart Covers, the Guidelines state that “case designs for Apple devices should avoid the use of magnets (for example, as closure devices) and magnetic materials.” Indeed, the company’s dimensional drawings for the iPad 2 make no mention of the magnets built into the device, leaving it up to case developers to discover the proper placement on their own. Though Apple has published dimensional drawings for its devices for years, these appear to be the first such documents released to developers since Apple created a new case-oriented lab and testing program last year.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been ordered by a federal magistrate judge to answer questions in an antitrust dispute dating back to 2005. Bloomberg reports that the case revolves around RealNetworks’ Harmony technology, which promised to allow copy-protected music sold on its online store to be played on iPods. The technology was introduced in July 2004, and Apple took just five days to announce software updates to render the technology inoperable, saying its was “stunned” that Real had “adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod.” According to U.S. Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd in San Jose, California, Jobs has been ordered to speak because “The court finds that Jobs has unique, non-repetitive, firsthand knowledge about the issues at the center of the dispute over RealNetworks software.”
Apple has sued Amazon over its use of the “App Store” trademark, according to a Bloomberg report. In the complaint, filed March 18 in federal court in northern California, Apple accuses Amazon of trademark infringement and unfair competition, and asks for a court order to stop Amazon from using the App Store name, as well as for unspecified damages. Amazon officially opened its Amazon Appstore for Android today, offering many of the same apps as Apple’s App Store, such as the new Angry Brids Rio, but actually began using the term earlier this year. “Amazon has unlawfully used the App Store mark to solicit software developers throughout the United States,” Apple states in its suit. Notably, Apple is currently involved in a dispute with Microsoft over the “App Store” trademark, over which Microsoft has filed an objection with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
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.