A newly-published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on a location-based social networking service referred to as “iGroups.” The application describes a system through which multiple iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch users at an event, meeting, or other gathering could exchange information automatically by having their devices exchange encrypted, location-tagged “tokens,” which would then be sent to a trusted service—such as Apple’s MobileMe—and used to determine that all the users were at the same place or event. Once this has taken place, the users could then send location information and messages amongst the group as they move about and experience the event, potentially facilitating discussions on where to meet after the event is over, and also making it possible to precisely locate non-GPS devices by determining their proximity to a GPS-enabled device using a short-range communications protocol such as Bluetooth. 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 Patently Apple]
According to comments made by René Obermann, CEO of T-Mobile USA parent company Deutsche Telekom, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier may start offering the iPhone as soon as later this year. The Financial Times reports that Obermann told the publication T-Mobile USA hopes to start selling the iPhone later this year or next year, but in the meantime will focus on Android-powered smartphones. T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to offer an Android-powered phone, the HTC G1, and has since expanded its Android lineup with several other models, including the Google-branded, HTC-built Nexus One. [via MDN]
China Mobile hopes to reach a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone, and possibly the iPad, in the near future, according to recent comments made by China Mobile chairman Wang Jianzhou. “We’re hoping we’ll come to an agreement (with Apple) on the iPhone as soon as possible,” he told AFP reporters at a news conference in Hong Kong. “We will continue to express our interest in the iPhone. But not just the iPhone, also the iPad.” China Mobile has reportedly been in talks with Apple about the iPhone since November 2007, but the negotiations have stalled multiple times over issues such as revenue sharing and App Store control. During this period, Apple reached an agreement with rival carrier China Unicom to carry the iPhone; Unicom launched the handset in China in October 2009.
- March 18, 2010
Apple announced today that Jerome B. York, a member of Apple’s Board of Directors since 1997, has passed away, after being hospitalized late last evening with what his wife described as a massive cerebral hemorrhage. York was the chairman, president and CEO of Harwinton Capital, and was the former CFO of IBM and Chrysler, contributing to both companies’ turnarounds. “Jerry joined Apple’s Board in 1997 when most doubted the company’s future. He has been a pillar of financial and business expertise and insight on our Board for over a dozen years,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “It’s been a privilege to know and work with Jerry, and I’m going to miss him a lot.”
In a statement released to the press today, HTC Corporation officially responded to Apple’s lawsuit against the company, which was filed on March 2. “HTC disagrees with Apple’s actions and will fully defend itself,” said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC. “HTC strongly advocates intellectual property protection and will continue to respect other innovators and their technologies as we have always done, but we will continue to embrace competition through our own innovation as a healthy way for consumers to get the best mobile experience possible.” The press release also contains a photo of the HTC-built T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition, which the company points out was the first 3.5-inch color touchscreen smartphone in the U.S., pre-dating the original iPhone by five years. Apple’s lawsuit and accompanying ITC complaint accuse HTC of “infringing on 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.”
Apple has released the fifth beta version of its iPhone SDK 3.2 for iPad. First released in January following the introduction of the iPad, the SDK is tailored specifically to the device, including support for its 1024x768 resolution, other iPad-specific interface functions, and includes an iPad simulator application so developers can pre-test their apps in an environment similar to that of the final device. It is unknown what, if any, changes were made in this latest version. The iPhone OS 3.2 SDK beta 5 for iPad is available now to registered iPhone developers through the iPhone Dev Center.
Apple has updated its iTunes Connect online iPhone application submission service to allow developers to schedule pricing changes to their apps, according to one iPhone developer. In an update to his Twitter account, Amro Mousa, a developer for return7, states that “iPhone devs can now schedule sales in iTunes Connect,” with an accompanying screenshot showing the new options within the iTunes Connect interface. Developers can access the new features by logging into iTunes Connect. [via Ars Technica]
Apple has launched a number of new enhancements to its iWork.com beta Web-based document sharing service, including improved access on iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad devices. Mac Rumors reports that an email sent out to iWork.com users touts a redesigned user interface, which includes “a redesigned Sign In and Shared Documents page for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch [that] makes it easy to access your documents while on the go. The new interface and improved scrolling help you find your shared documents faster.” To access the new features, users can visit iwork.com from their iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.
Apple has banned protective screen film from its retail and online stores, iLounge has confirmed with several separate companies, a policy that will affect both cases and individual film packages beginning in May. In communications with vendors that have been ongoing for “some time now,” according to one company, Apple has said that it will remove both film-only solutions from its stores, as well as any case or other accessory that includes film protection as part of its package, such as cases that include film screen protectors. According to sources, the ban will impact all forms of screen film, including completely clear film, anti-glare film, and mirrored film, regardless of whether the purpose of the film is protective, decorative, or both. It will also prevent sales of film for iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers. One vendor speculated that the ban is an Apple marketing attempt to suggest screen durability, despite scratches that have damaged both plastic and glass displays of its products for years.
It is believed that Apple’s move will have ramifications for the accessory industry outside of its own stores, as the Apple Store constitutes a significant fraction of total sales for many developers, even though accessory manufacturers also sell their products through other channels. Despite consumer demand for film solutions, which are currently ranked the #1 most popular “cases” for both iPods and iPhones in the Apple Store, and the #6 and #7 most popular overall iPhone and iPod accessories, respectively, developers might not create separate versions of each case product, one without film for sale by Apple, and one with film for sale elsewhere. iLounge requested details on the change from leading film developer Power Support, which had no comment, as well as several case makers, who were aware of the new policy but had nothing to add. However, Mirage Mirror Screen Protector vendor XGear suggested that despite the Apple Store ban, its “marketing positioning will not change. This will open many new doors for us as we move forward in my opinion.”
iLounge has requested comment from Apple on this story and will update this article with additional details as they become known.
Update: We’ve posted responses to common reader comments on this story in a separate article.
A disgruntled iPod shuffle owner has filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple over failing iPod shuffle controls. The Wrap reports that Stephen Vale, of Manhattan Beach, CA, claims that when working out, perspiration would travel down his earphone cord and into the control module, causing the iPod to “fail.” Vale at first took his shuffle to a nearby Apple retail store, and was given a replacement cord, which subsequently failed in the same manner as before. According to the lawsuit, “Plaintiff was told it was alright (sic) to exercise with the music player, but not to sweat.” Vale is claiming five counts of breach-of-warranty, one count of false advertising, and one count of unfair competition, and is seeking unspecified damages for himself and any other affected California residents. Although it is not specified in the report, it appears Vale was using a third-generation iPod shuffle; similar complaints from other third-generation shuffle users began pouring in not long after the device’s release, leading one company to offer waterproofed versions of Apple’s pack-in headphones as a solution to the problem.
Daniel Tello, a Venezuelan blogger and analyst, estimates that Apple saw as many as 120,000 iPad pre-orders on Friday. Tello, who goes by the screen name Deagol, bases his number on tracking of order numbers submitted by members of an Apple-focused board on the site InvestorVillage, compared against his estimates of Apple’s average online daily order volume. Fortune reports that Tello is expecting iPad sales to continue over the next few weeks at a rate of 30,000 per weekday and 15,000 on weekends. “With three weeks and two weekends left before they ship, I wouldn’t expect much more than half a million in pre-orders and reservations,” Tello said. Notably, Tello’s figures don’t take into account orders with more than one iPad, nor do they account for iPads that have been reserved for pick up and purchase on launch day. While these figures are by no means definitive, they do provide a general glimpse at iPad sales leading up to the device’s launch on April 3.
- March 15, 2010
According to a change in his Linkedin status, Richard DeVaul, founder and president of AWare Technologies, has taken a job as a Senior Prototype Engineer at Apple. Computerworld reports that DeVaul has a Ph.D. in Media Arts & Sciences from MIT, where he focused on “new human-computer interaction techniques for wearable, mobile, and portable applications.” DeVaul’s dissertation was on a head-up display called “The Memory Glasses,” which used subliminal visual cues to boost test subjects’ performance on memory recall tasks by as much as 63% without the tester being aware of any stimulation at all. Computerworld claims that DeVaul will be working under Jonathan Ive in special lab focused on wearable computing technology.
- March 15, 2010
Dan Dobberpuhl, founder and CEO of P.A. Semi, has left Apple to join several other former P.A. Semi employees at a new start-up. Citing multiple anonymous sources, Cnet reports that Dobberpuhl’s departure from Apple was not recent, and may have happened as early as fall 2009. “He was the CEO at PA Semi and leader of the team, and one of the guys that was driving the whole thing,” said Linley Gwennap, a chip analyst at the Linley Group. But “those guys are start-up kind of people, and within the structure of Apple, they may [have been] chafing.” According to the report, Dobberpuhl has joined other P.A. Semi engineers who have also left Apple at San Jose-based Agnilux, a start-up co-founded by former P.A. system architect Mark Hayter. Apple purchased P.A. Semi in April 2008, with plans of using the company’s expertise to build system-on-chips for iPhones and iPods.
An Apple support document has revealed that should an iPad need service due to a failing battery, Apple will simply replace the iPad for a $99 service fee. The document states, “If your iPad requires service due to the battery’s diminished ability to hold an electrical charge, Apple will replace your iPad for a service fee,” noting that damaged iPads and/or iPads suffering from component failures will not be eligible for Battery Replacement Service. Notably, it also states that data from the iPad being “serviced” will not be preserved, saying, “you will receive a replacement iPad that will not contain any of your personal data. Before you submit your iPad for service, it is important to sync your iPad with iTunes to back up your contacts, calendars, email account settings, bookmarks, apps, etc.” Apple states that customers should receive their replacement iPads in approximately one week from the time they send out their faulty units. [via Engadget]
Apple has begun to hand out promotional iPad cards at its retail stores that suggests the company is preparing for a sell-out of launch day iPad reservations. The card offers instructions on how to reserve an iPad for pickup, telling customers to visit apple.com/ipad/reserve, select the store they wish to pick it up from, and choose their iPad model—16, 32, or 64GB. It then states that Apple will send the customer “an email with the date [their] iPad will be ready for pickup,” instead of saying the device would be ready on April 3. The card also references free shipping for iPad pre-orders, which can be made online at apple.com/ipad/pre-order.
In the process of updating its website to include further details of the iPad, Apple has quietly provided some new information on the differences between iPhone OS 3.1.x, which currently runs on iPhone and iPod touch units, and iPhone OS 3.2, which will run on the iPad. Notably, the Maps application on the iPad will support Google Maps’ “Terrain” view, which is currently unavailable on the iPhone and iPod touch. The iPod application‘s “Now Playing” screen has also received a makeover, with a large volume slider in the top bar, alongside track information and back/forward/play/pause controls; back, Genius, and album listing/artwork buttons appear in a bar at the bottom, and a white/gray song progress bar appears directly beneath the top bar, offering repeat and shuffle buttons at either end. Thankfully, support for MobileMe’s Find My iPhone feature has been carried over to the iPad, so that users will be able to locate their misplaced/stolen units via Apple’s online me.com portal. The YouTube application will support sharing of videos via Facebook, and, according to the Tech Specs page, the Videos app will support AVI videos in MJPEG format, most likely to offer playback of videos from digital cameras. Finally, the switch on the right side of the iPad above the volume buttons, previously believed to be a ring/silent switch like that found on the iPhone, has been changed to a screen rotation lock switch, allowing users to disable the automatic screen rotation feature for using the device in troublesome positions.
According to a new page on Apple’s website devoted to the new iBooks application for the iPad, iBooks will support non-DRM ePub books not downloaded from the iBookstore. According to the text, “you can add free ePub titles to iTunes and sync them to the iBooks app on your iPad.” In addition, iBooks also supports Apple’s VoiceOver technology. “iBooks works with VoiceOver, the screen reader in iPad, so it can read you the contents of any page,” the site says. Finally, the app will offer the ability to tap and hold on any word to look it up in the iPad’s built-in dictionary, in Wikipedia, or search for it within the book or on the web. iBooks will be a free download for iPad users from the App Store.
Apple has added a new webpage to its iPad section explaining the details of the iPad Wi-Fi + 3G’s U.S. service setup and activation process. According to the page, “if you choose the 250MB plan, you’ll receive onscreen messages as you get close to your monthly data limit so you can decide whether to turn off 3G or upgrade to the unlimited plan,” later revealed to be three alerts, arriving when the user reaches 20 percent, 10 percent, and zero percent of their allotted data. The page also reiterates that users who need 3G service temporarily, such as on a business trip or vacation, can sign up for a month of service, and cancel when they return home. All account management, including activation, upgrading of plans, and cancellation can be handled directly on the iPad; Apple plans to ship the iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G in “late April.”
Alongside pre-orders of the iPad, Apple has begun accepting pre-orders for its initial range of iPad accessories. Apple’s iPad Case, priced at $39, the iPad Dock, which is priced at $29, and the iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter, also priced at $29, are expected to ship April 3, the same day as the first Wi-Fi-only iPads. The iPad Keyboard Dock, which sells for $69, is expected to ship in mid-April, while the iPad 10W USB Power Adapter, priced at $29, is scheduled to ship in late April. In addition, the AppleCare Protection Plan for iPad was also available, extending the warranty and complimentary telephone support coverage to two years for $99. Curiously, no pre-orders are yet being taken for the iPad Camera Connection Kit, as it was not listed anywhere in the store, and while the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard is listed alongside these other accessories, no pre-order is necessary, as it is already widely available.
Apple has begun to accept iPad pre-orders, and details on the process are now available. For customers ordering through the online store for home delivery, the limit on Wi-Fi-only iPad pre-orders is two per person, while those wishing to reserve a Wi-Fi-only iPad for pick up at an Apple retail store—no reservations are being taken for Wi-Fi + 3G models—are limited to one per customer. The ordering page notes that customers pre-ordering a Wi-Fi-only model for delivery on launch day must live in an area where Saturday Delivery is available; those outside such areas will receive their iPad units on Monday, April 5.