A newly published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on a new format Dock Connector that would allow device docking in multiple orientations. Entitled “Methods and Apparatuses For Docking a Portable Electronic Device That Has a Planar Like Configuration and That Operates in Multiple Orientations,” the patent describes a docking system that, like current Apple Docks, offers both power and data to the connected device, either via flush contacts that physically touch similar contacts on the dock itself, or via inductive coils that could be concealed within the device’s body. As AppleInsider notes, the patent also covers less progressive docking ideas including traditional electrical contact docks that can be rotated or adjusted; it notably also shows an iPad-like device being docked to an articulated arm not unlike the one found on earlier iMac models. 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.
Apple’s limited developer release of the beta version of iOS 4.1 yesterday makes a handful of small new changes to iOS 4.0, which debuted in June 2010 for iPhone 3G, 3GS, iPod touch 2G, iPod touch 3G, and iPhone 4 devices. For readers who may be interested in what’s changed, we’ve compiled a brief list, along with several screenshots provided by a reader.
One subtle change was first spotted in iOS 4.1 but will likely appear in an iOS 4.0.1 update, as well: Apple’s signal bar strength meter has been updated to more accurately depict cellular signal strength, such that they will show fewer bars than before under some conditions, and the first three bars have been made larger.
Game Center, a matchmaking and leaderboard application for iOS 4-compatible games, has been added again to the list of icons. Apple included Game Center with developer versions of iOS 4.0 until the date of final release, but pulled the app from the publicly available iOS 4 release to give developers additional time to integrate their apps with the feature. The new version of Game Center includes an updated interface with stylized graphics.
Apple has added a new Settings > General > Restrictions option to turn off multi-player game matchmaking within Game Center, which disables the request tab and friend adding for that application. It has also added a new Settings > General > Keyboard option to disable the spell checking feature. User-created dictionary entries also appear to be in the offing for iOS 4.1, enabling the auto-correction feature to learn additional words that shouldn’t be replaced.
Additional features include support for adding iPhone 4 FaceTime contacts to your Favorites list, a tweak that moves the Flash and Camera switch buttons to different locations when the device is tilted into landscape orientation, and a change to AVRCP Bluetooth handing that allows for track skipping. A version of iOS 4.1 for iPad notably has not been released by Apple.
Apple has invited a small number of journalists to a special press conference, expected to be held at its headquarters in Cupertino, CA, to discuss the iPhone 4. Apple has not indicated who will be speaking at the event, which will begin at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on Friday, nor has it given specifics about what exactly will be discussed, beyond saying that the event will focus on the iPhone 4. Most likely, the company will address concerns over the device’s ongoing antenna issues, and possibly other, less publicized issues like malfunctioning proximity sensors.
Apple has released its first beta version of iOS 4.1, along with an accompanying software development kit (SDK), to registered iPhone developers. Notably, there is no version of the beta operating system available for the iPad, suggesting that contrary to prior reports, iOS 4.1 will not be a platform-unifying release, but will instead cater to Apple’s pocketable devices exclusively. It is currently unknown what, if any, new features or APIs may be included in the update; it is also unknown whether it is meant to help alleviate initial problems with the iPhone 4, or whether those fixes will come in an incremental 4.0.1 update. Both the new iOS 4.1 SDK and pre-release builds are available now for download by registered iPhone developers from the iPhone Dev Center.
Apple has acquired Québec-based online mapping firm Poly9, according to a new report. French-language le Soliel reports (Translated Link) that the transaction, specifics of which are not known, occurred recently, and that the vast majority of Poly9’s staff have been relocated to Apple’s Cupertino offices. While the company’s website has been pulled down, an older version cached by archive.org shows that Poly9 specializes in developing and designing online mapping applications, online and offline 3D mapping applications, and mapping APIs. The purchase marks Apple’s second mapping-related acquisition in as many years, as it purchased mapping service Placebase and its accompanying Pushpin API in July 2009. [via MDN]
Scott Forstall, Apple’s Senior Vice President of iOS Software, has joined Twitter. While Forstall has yet to post a single tweet, he already has 16,987 followers, but is following only one person himself: Conan O’Brien. Coincidentally, O’Brien’s latest tweet as of this writing involves the iPhone 4. It says, “I found a huge design flaw in my new iPhone. People get angry when I talk on it during a funeral.” It’s unclear whether Forstall’s account was created solely for his personal use, or if it represents the beginning of a larger push by Apple into social media, perhaps in an effort to battle negative press regarding the iPhone 4’s reception issues.
Speaking at the MobileBeat 2010 conference, AdMob CEO Omar Hamoui has revealed that Apple has yet to enforce its new ad restrictions that would effectively ban the Google-owned mobile advertising service from the iOS platform. “They haven’t been enforcing (the new regulations) yet. We’re very appreciative of that,” said Hamoui, according to a Cnet report. He went on to explain that were the restrictions enforced, “it would mean we could not run ads on the iPhone at all,” adding that without the analytical data, AdMob couldn’t even track who had clicked on their customer’s ads, making it virtually impossible to sell any ads at all. In addition, Hamoui had praise for Apple’s new iAds, saying, “the really rich pretty ads they’re doing are making advertisers and agencies think about what mobile means. Anybody getting advertisers interested in mobile is a good thing. It’s not at all a zero-sum game.”
A long-standing lawsuit against Apple and AT&T over the two companies’ iPhone exclusivity agreement has been granted expanded class action status. According to the court document posted online by Wired, the suit now covers “[a]ll persons who purchased or acquired an iPhone in the United States and entered into a two-year agreement with Defendant AT&T Mobility, LLC for iPhone voice and data service any time from June 29, 2007, to the present.” In an interview with Wired, Mark Rifkin, lead counsel representing the plaintiffs of the suit, explained that AT&T’s two-year contract provides an option for customers to terminate the agreement—for a fee—and switch to another carrier. Due to the nature of the U.S. cellular industry, and because the iPhone is only offered by AT&T, customers are essentially locked into using AT&T despite having the termination option.
Apple has argued that its original five-year iPhone exclusivity agreement with AT&T was widely reported, and that even if it wasn’t disclosed, it fails to produce the kind of monopoly power claimed by the plaintiffs. Notably, the exclusivity situation described above is the same for many current smartphones from other cellular providers, such as the Evo 4G from Sprint, the Droid from Verizon, and the original model of the Nexus One from T-Mobile. In addition, it remains to be seen whether the five-year exclusivity deal between Apple and AT&T is still in place, as it has been speculated that the terms of the two companies’ iPhone deal may have been part of the negotiations over iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G data plans.
Apple has posted four new iPhone 4 television commercials. Similar to the company’s first iPhone 4 ad, the new 30-second spots highlight the phone’s FaceTime video chat feature. “Meet Her” shows a new grandfather meeting his granddaughter for the first time, “Haircut” revolves around a boyfriend seeing his girlfriend’s new haircut, “Smile” shows a father attempting to get his daughter to smile so he can see her new braces, and “Big News” shows a wife sharing the news with her husband that they are going to have a child. All four new TV ads are available for viewing on Apple’s website.
Apple, along with Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, and Motorola, has been sued over technology relating to wireless email. The Wall Street Journal reports that NTP sued the companies in U.S. District Court in Virginia over eight patents covering the wireless delivery of email to cellphones. “Use of NTP’s intellectual property without a license is just plain unfair to NTP and its licensees,” company co-founder Donald E. Stout said in a statement. “We took the necessary action to protect our intellectual property.” NTP previously received a $612.5 million settlement from BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, to prevent a potential injunction, giving it some precedence heading into its proceedings with Apple.
According to the latest data from comScore, Apple accounted for 24.4% of the U.S. smartphone market for the three months ending in May. RIM was once again the market leader with a 41.7% share of the market; Apple was second, followed by Microsoft with 13.2%, Google’s Android with 13%, and Palm with 4.8%. Apple’s percentage, which is based on smartphone subscribers and is taken as an average from the three month period, is down slightly from the 25.4% share the company held in the three months ending in February 2010, but does not account for any sales of the iPhone 4, while likely including some sales that were delayed or lost as details of the new handset leaked prior to its official unveiling. [via MDN]
Apple has told a prominent blogger that about 400 iTunes accounts were compromised during the recent rash of hacks that were used to boost sales of one developer’s apps. Clayton Morris, blogger and co-host of The Grizzly Bear Egg Café podcast, says that Apple responded to an earlier inquiry of his, claiming that only 400 of the 150 million iTunes users—less than 0.0003%—were impacted by the scam. Apple also said that the iTunes servers were not compromised in any way, and that Apple is going to have users enter their credit cards’ security codes more often going forward as an added security measure. The Vietnamese developer responsible for the most high-profile hacks, Thuat Nguyen, has been banned from the App Store.
Apple has released a maintenance update to iMovie for the iPhone 4 addressing several issues with the 1.0 version. iMovie 1.0.1 improves reliability when exporting movies containing photos, resolves issues with music playback within a project and promises additional performance and reliability improvements. iMovie is available from the App Store in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Japan for $5 and is a free update for current users.
Apple has released an update to its MobileMe iDisk application, adding iPad support and iOS 4 multitasking capabilities. MobileMe iDisk 1.2 is now a universal app providing native support for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. The update also adds iOS 4 multitasking support for iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch devices with not only Fast App Switching support but also background audio allowing users to stream audio files from their iDisk while using another app. Users can also now open documents from their iDisk directly in compatible third-party applications, send out shared file links using any configured e-mail account or simply copy a shared file URL to the clipboard to paste into another application. The new version also now displays the last file or directory when opening the app and includes various stability improvements over the previous version. Mobile iDisk 1.2 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Apple has issued a response to reports of iTunes users seeing their accounts hacked and used to purchase certain apps in order to build App Store rankings. “The developer Thuat Nguyen and his apps were removed from the App Store for violating the developer Program License Agreement, including fraudulent purchase patterns,” Apple told Engadget. “Developers do not receive any iTunes confidential customer data when an app is downloaded. If your credit card or iTunes password is stolen and used on iTunes we recommend that you contact your financial institution and inquire about canceling the card and issuing a chargeback for any unauthorized transactions. We also recommend that you change your iTunes account password immediately. For more information on best practices for password security visit http://www.apple.com/support/itunes.” It remains unclear how many accounts were compromised, or how, although it has been suggested that it was a very small percentage of the 100 million active iTunes accounts.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs is now expected to skip the annual Allen & Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, according to new report. The Financial Times claims that Jobs has told some he plans to skip the event, while telling others that he was “leaning against” attending, but remained undecided. This contradicts a BusinessWeek report from late last month that claimed Jobs was expected to appear, and speculated that he would use the gathering of notable CEOs and leaders from both the technology and media industries as a opportunity to convince some executives to offer more content for Apple’s devices. Jobs has attended the conference twice in the past, in 1999 and 2005.
In a post on Apple’s iPhone Developer News site the company has provided some additional details concerning the roll out of its new iAd advertising platform. As expected, the rollout began July 1st, however this initial rollout is limited to North America only, with the service scheduled to be deployed outside of North America in “a few months.” Apple also notes that only a few ads will initially be appearing but the number of ads served will be increased over the next few weeks and months. A separate post provides additional information for developers on displaying iAds within their applications and cautions developers to take steps to avoid blank banners appearing when ads are not available, noting that apps that display blank iAd banners will not be accepted by the App Store Review Team.
Following yesterday’s reports of wireless streaming and synchronization features coming to iTunes this fall, CNet has indicated that the service may not be coming as soon as predicted. The article points out that although Apple has apparently been engaged in discussions with the music industry regarding a streaming service, the company has yet to actually acquire the necessary licenses from the top four music labels. Some people within the recording industry have indicated that Apple could likely allow users to stream content from their own home computers without requiring a new license, however streaming music from Apple’s own servers would require them to negotiate a new arrangement with the recording industry. The article goes on to note that there is a small possibility that Apple may not feel that the labels’ permission is required to stream music as such a service would likely only provide users with access to music that they had already purchased. Apple’s acquisition of music service Lala back in December would seem to indicate that the company is planning a streaming service of some form, although as usual Apple itself has been completely silent on the matter.
Apple has issued a press release this morning responding to the numerous complaints that have been circulating regarding reception issues with the new iPhone 4. In a Letter from Apple Regarding iPhone 4, Apple reiterates previous comments that holding any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by one or more bars, and acknowledges that this is as true of the iPhone 4 as it was of previous iPhone models and other manufacturers’ phones. The letter goes on to note, however, that “some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band.” Apple admits that this is a “far bigger drop than normal” and concedes that it has led some to believe it to be the result of a faulty antenna design.
Apple reports that on further investigation it was “stunned to find that the formula [used] to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong.” In essence, the company explains that the iPhone 4 sometimes displays four bars even in weak coverage areas where it should only be displaying as few as two bars. Apple notes that users who are seeing a loss of several bars when gripping their iPhone in a certain way are likely in areas with weak signal strength, but don’t realize it due to the calculation error. The letter notes that a user’s “big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.”
In the letter, Apple indicates that it will be releasing a free software update “within a few weeks” that will use AT&T’s more recent formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The result of the update will not change the actual signal strength but will report it more accurately. Apple notes that this error has been present since the original iPhone and will also be corrected in the software update for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS models.
Apple has started rolling its new iAd mobile advertising platform in iOS 4 applications coded to display the ads. Although reports indicate that some users are already able to see and interact with the new ads, two iLounge editors have yet to have one appear—possibly due to their geographic locations—leaving nothing but a blank banner, as pictured above. Previewed by Apple at both its iPhone OS 4 event in April and then again during the company’s WWDC keynote address, iAd is a new, Apple-controlled mobile advertising platform that is built directly into iOS, allowing for more advanced interaction between the viewer and the content, with the bonus of not having to leave the app in which the ad was displayed. A recent report indicated that the first companies with iAds paid $1 million for the privilege, with some paying up to $10 million for some measure of exclusivity in their respective categories.