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iPhone SDK: Apple to approve, distribute apps, limit accs

According to several sources familiar with Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch software development kit (SDK) plans, the company will use a March 6 event in Cupertino, California to formally announce a number of potentially controversial limitations on application development and publishing. Our sources spoke on the condition that their comments were not for attribution, independently confirming the following details, and offering differing opinions of their importance. We include both the details and opinions below for your reference.

iTunes Store as hub. Least controversially, Apple plans to require that all mobile applications be distributed through its iTunes Store, making the Store a necessary hub for those interested in browsing or purchasing iPhone and iPod touch software. While one source suggested that a company’s well-trafficked website or product packaging would be considerably more practical places to distribute certain types of software, another source lauded the Store as a logical place for Apple users to locate and purchase applications.

Apple as application picker. The most controversial aspect of Apple’s SDK plan is its intention to formally approve or deny all SDK-based software releases for its devices. Our sources confirm that Apple will act as a gatekeeper for applications, deciding which are and are not worthy of release, and publishing only approved applications to the iTunes Store; a process that will less resemble the iTunes Store’s massive directory of podcasts than its sale of a limited variety of iPod Games. While one source saw this as a positive for major developers, suggesting that Apple will be choked by application submissions and forced to give priority to releases from larger companies, another source disagreed, stating that Apple’s current approval processes for third-party products have resulted in lengthy, needless delays. It is unclear whether Apple will need to approve subsequent bug fixes and feature additions to accepted applications, another issue that could clog the approval system and postpone important improvements.

No accessory connectivity. Under current plans, SDK developers will be prevented from interfacing directly with Dock Connector-based accessories connected to the iPhone or iPod touch—a decision that we are told could cripple development of new accessories such as physical keyboards, traditional add-ons, and more ambitious, creative accessories such as Delphi’s iPhone car control prototype. One source described this limit as a guarantee that SDK-developed applications would be nearly as limited as current web-based ones, while consuming more of the device’s storage capacity. Yet integrated iPhone or iPod touch features such as the phone, Wi-Fi, and camera will be developer-accessible, certainly permitting development of programs that weren’t possible before. It is presently unclear whether Bluetooth 2.0, which is included in the iPhone but crippled to permit only monaural phone call streaming, will be opened to permit stereo audio streaming and data functionality as well.

Sources told iLounge that the collective impact of Apple’s decisions will be to control and stifle third-party development at a critical juncture in iPhone and iPod history, limiting what could be an open, thriving Mac-like collection of applications and accessories to a smaller, more stagnant iPod-like controlled environment. Consequently, a source suggests, developers who “jailbrake” iPhones and iPods to develop applications will be at an advantage relative to those who use Apple’s official tools. Even after extensive discussions on the subject, however, iLounge remains open-minded to the idea that Apple’s plans will result in net positives for the iPod and iPhone community, and optimistic that the company will loosen its planned restrictions to accommodate the Apple community’s demonstrated, impressive creativity.

According to our sources, Apple will use the March 6 event to tout the benefits of the SDK to selected media, analysts, and developers, releasing an incomplete, “beta” version of the kit that was originally promised for February. The actual kit will now ship in June, coinciding with Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference event in San Francisco. Additional announcements regarding iPhone compatibility with popular enterprise software, including Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, will also take place, in an effort to convince corporate users to adopt the iPhone despite reservations over its on-screen keyboard and e-mail functionality.

Ambrosia updates iToner, adds iPhone 1.1.3, format support

Ambrosia Software has released iToner 1.0.6, the latest version of its custom iPhone ringtone utility for Mac OS X. New in iToner 1.0.6 is support for iPhone software 1.1.3, as well as support for .mp3 .mp4, .wav, and .aif files, French, German, and Italian localizations, intelligent audio processing for added ringtones, and various other fixes and enhancements. iToner requires Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later and sells for $15; a free trial download is also available.

iPhoneDrive 1.4 offers SMS, photo access

Ecamm Network has released iPhoneDrive 1.4, the latest version of its file management and backup utility for Mac. iPhoneDrive enables iPhone and iPod touch owners to use the devices’ unused storage as they would a disk drive, and also allows access to certain files for backup purposes. New features in version 1.4 include the ability to access and backup call history, SMS messages, and camera photos, as well as the ability to play music stored on the iPhone or iPod touch. IPhoneDrive 1.4 requires Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later and iTunes 7.3 or later, and sells for $20.

Makayama premieres VoiceDial for iPhone

Makayama has released VoiceDial, a new third-party iPhone application that lets users control their devices with their voice. The application, which requires a jailbroken iPhone, lets users dial contacts with their voice, and also supports voice-activated application and bookmark opening. The software uses a modern speech recognition algorithm that compares what the user says against voice samples that the user records and assigns to various contacts, applications, and bookmarks. Makayama VoiceDial is available now and sells for $28.

Ambrosia plans iToner updates, expansion

Ambrosia Software’s iToner, one of several programs that enable iPhone owners to create and manage their own ringtones from their choice of music and other audio files, will soon see major upgrades, according to the company’s president Andrew Welch. Due shortly, a new version of the Mac OS X program will hurdle the latest limitations Apple has placed on iPhone ringtones, enabling MP3 and other audio files to be automatically converted into the special MP4 format now required for iPhone ringtone playback. A subsequent release will offer simplified editing tools for ringtones, similar to features now included in GarageBand, the Apple-developed application found in the $79 iLife ‘08 suite.

But what about the huge number of PC owners who don’t have an easy way to create iPhone ringtones? Welch promised a near-term solution for Windows users, though perhaps not in the most immediate iToner release. The Mac version of iToner sells for $15 and is currently available for users of the iPhone’s older 1.1.2 system software.

Wizzard Media offers podcatching app for iPhone, iPod touch

Wizzard Media has launched a new podcatching web application for the iPhone and iPod touch. The new app acts as a podcatcher for any show with a RSS feed, and offers an email-like inbox for keeping track of subscribed shows. In addition, the app can import your subscription lists from iTunes, can export an OPML feed of your subscription list, and will soon offer the ability to subscribe to dynamic OPML feeds. The new Wizzard podcatching application can be accessed by visiting iphone.wizzard.tv from an iPhone or iPod touch.

Mark/Space intros The Missing Sync for iPhone

Mark/Space, maker of synchronization solutions for Mac OS X, has announced The Missing Sync for iPhone. This new application will provide data migration of contacts, tasks, events, and photos from Palm OS, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry smartphones, as well as the ability to archive, browse, and search iPhone call logs, SMS text messages, and notes. “Apple has made a powerful entry into the market with the iPhone,” said Brian Hall, Mark/Space president and CEO. “Prospective iPhone customers want to know that they can take their existing smartphone data with them, and Missing Sync for iPhone is designed to meet that need. Existing and prospective iPhone customers alike will benefit from enhanced access to their Call Log, SMS text messages and Notes.” The Missing Sync for iPhone is expected to ship in the fourth quarter of 2007. Electronic downloads will be priced at $40 from the Mark/Space Online Store, and CDs will be available several weeks later for $50.

Yellowpages.com launches new web app for iPhone, iPod touch

Yellowpages.com has announced the launch of its new web application for iPhone and iPod touch. The application allows iPhone and iPod touch users to find local businesses and services by inputting a search term or category and location, and provides additional details such as user ratings, mapping, and driving directions. The new iPhone-optimized Web application provides a design developed specifically for the touch-screen and keyboard interface, and automatically resizes for both the vertical and horizontal layout of the screen. The new web app can be used by visiting yellowpages.com on an iPhone or iPod touch, and can also be accessed through Apple’s web apps directory.

WeatherBug announces web app for iPhone and iPod touch

WeatherBug has announced a new web application optimized for the iPhone and iPod touch and allows users to access streaming neighborhood-level weather conditions and video weathercasts. The application also provides international weather information, detailed views of the 7 day forecast, radar, and camera images from WeatherBug’s proprietary network of tracking stations. Additionally, the WeatherBug Web app allows users to set a variety of locations for multiple cities and scroll through current conditions, forecasts, radar and live camera images for each one. “The launch of our Web app means we have given iPhone and iPod touch users a great new way to access WeatherBug information while on the go,” said Chris Brozenick, vice president of WeatherBug mobile. “With the ability to access live, local streaming weather and videos the WeatherBug Web app is a first-of- its-kind and a breakthrough service for consumer and professional users.” The application can be accessed by visiting iphone.weatherbug.com on an iPhone or iPod touch.

iToner 1.0.3 offers compatibility with 1.1.1 iPhones

Ambrosia Software has released iToner 1.0.3, the latest update of its custom iPhone ringtone manager. iToner allows iPhone owners to use any MP3 or AAC audio files they like as ringtones, bypassing Apple’s restrictions. iToner 1.0.3 adds compatibility with iPhones running software version 1.1.1. iToner is available as a 30-day free trial download; a full license costs $15. iToner requires Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later.

Apple launches official iPhone, iPod touch Web apps directory

Apple has launched an official directory of third-party web applications designed for use on the iPhone and iPod touch. This list of applications is broken down into categories such as “Entertainment”, “News”, “Productivity”, “Social Networking”, and more. Featured applications include Facebook, Digg’s iPhone Application, ESPN PodCenter, and others. In addition to the directory, which can be found at apple.com/webapps/, Apple is also offering an RSS feed of the most recent additions to the directory. Other links on the page lead to a feedback page, an explanation of web applications and how to use them, and information on how to create and submit your own web application. Somewhat strangely, the directory does not appear to have been optimized for viewing on an iPhone or iPod touch.

Truphone demos VoIP on the iPhone

Truphone, makers of VoIP solutions for Nokia handsets, today demonstrated the ability to make a call from the iPhone using only the built-in WiFi connection, and without performing a SIM unlock. By executing commands through the terminal — which requires a “jailbreak” of the phone — the company was able to initiate the call from the iPhone, through a WiFi connection, over the internet to Truphone’s servers, then back through the same WiFi system to the receiving handset. “...Our aim is to see Truphone available on all cellular phones with the inherent functionality needed to make VoIP calls. The Apple iPhone is such a phone and we’re pleased to be able to show it working for real,” said James Tagg, Truphone’s CEO. The software is still in beta according to the company, but it hopes to soon have a simplified version that allows for seamless switching between WiFi and SIM use.

Apple announces more iPhone Tech Talks

Apple has announced more iPhone Tech Talks for Apple Developer Connection members. The talks offer “in-depth technical information on how to optimize your Web 2.0 application and content to take advantage of the features and capabilities of iPhone.” The free one-day seminars are scheduled to take place in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Atlanta in October and November. For more information on the talks or to sign up, visit the iPhone Tech Talks page.

Ambrosia Software releases iToner 1.0.2

Ambrosia Software has released iToner 1.0.2, the latest update to its custom iPhone ringtone application. iToner allows iPhone owners to use any MP3 or AAC audio files they like as ringtones, bypassing Apple’s recent attempts, in the form of iTunes 7.4.1 and 7.4.2, to prevent exactly that, and force owners into using iTunes Store-purchased ringtones. iToner 1.0.2 adds “continued iTunes 7.4.x compatibility, playlist improvements, along with other fixes and enhancements.” A free download 30-day trial of iToner is available; a full license costs $15. iToner requires Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later.

Free iPhone software SIM unlock released [Updated]

Following Monday’s announcement of commercial sales of iPhone unlocking solutions, intrepid hackers have released a free method for unlocking the iPhone via software. The manual steps were originally released by the iPhone Dev Team, and have been verified to work by iLounge editor Jesse David Hollington. Following this release, a GUI application is in development that will greatly reduce the technical skill required to perform an unlock. After performing the unlock, the iPhone can be used with any SIM from any service provider.

Update: The GUI application originally linked in this story is actually the work of TUAW’s Erica Sadun. We have removed the link to the unfinished GUI application, as Erica, the true developer of the application, plans to release her work through the installer.app package manager for the iPhone once it is ready.

Rogue Amoeba offers free MakeiPhoneRingtone

Responding to Apple’s decision to add a 99-cent ringtone creation tool to iTunes 7.4, third-party developer Rogue Amoeba has released MakeiPhoneRingtone, a Mac OS tool that automates the process of adding your own ringtones to the iPhone for free. “Simply drag and drop AAC ringtones,” explains the company, “and they’ll show up in the iPhone Ringtones tab. Sync your iPhone and they’ll ready for use.”

Rogue Amoeba recommends use of its $32 Fission software for editing down your songs into ringtones, and promises to “do our best to keep MakeiPhoneRingtone working with iTunes updates” if Apple attempts to block homemade ringtone creation. Other audio editing tools, including Audacity, can also be used to edit songs into shorter files for free.

Six Apart announces TypePad for iPhone, iPod touch

Six Apart has announced the release of a mobile version of its TypePad blogging application customized for the iPhone. The application was designed from the ground up to be optimized for the iPhone’s touchscreen interface, letting users create and edit posts, manage comments left on their blogs, and configure settings for sending photos directly from their iPhone. In addition, the TypePad iPhone application is also compatible with the iPod touch. Michael Sippey, Six Apart’s vice president of product, Professional Division, said “Providing a custom-built interface for the iPhone is part of our investment in further enabling on-the-go blogging.” TypePad users can access the application by navigating to http://i.typepad.com on their iPhone.  New users can sign up for a TypePad account at http://typepad.com. Six Apart also announced a plugin to provide a similar iPhone-optimized interface for its Movable Type content management system. Read on for screenshots of TypePad for iPhone.

iToner offers hack-free custom iPhone ringtones

Ambrosia Software has introduced its iToner application, a ringtone manager for the iPhone that allows users to add custom ringtones to the handset without the need for any hacks or modifications. The application features a drag-and-drop interface for the creation of ringtones from MP3 or AAC files. iToner requires Mac OS X 10.4.10 or later and is available as a free demo; a full license costs $15.

DLO launches OpenFM frequency tool for iPhone

DLO has launched its new OpenFM application, a free iPhone-friendly online tool for searching for open FM frequencies. The application, which can be found at dlo.com/openfm, enables users to search for the clearest FM station in their area by city and state or zip code. To provide users with more up-to-date information, OpenFM searches an active FCC-provided database of licensed FM broadcasters. Andrew Green, vice president of marketing for DLO, said, “OpenFM is the perfect companion for any FM transmitter owner, because it gives you real-time access to the best available frequencies in any area, in any state.” In addition to the iPhone version of OpenFM, DLO is also offering a standard web-based version of the application, and plans on releasing an OpenFM widget for both PC and Mac in the coming weeks.

iPhoneBrowser offers GUI-based access to iPhone files

A GUI-based iPhone file browser utility for Windows has been released by an independent developer. iPhoneBrowser features drag and drop support, automatic preview of text, .png, and .jpg files, and the ability to make backups of existing iPhone files, both automatically and manually. The program requires a “jailbreak” of the iPhone before use, as well as the .NET libraries and Manzana.dll. iPhoneBrowser is currently still in beta phase, and is a free download.

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