Apple has likely sold its 500 millionth iPhone during the past few weeks, Forbes estimates. There has yet to be an official announcement from Apple regarding the milestone; the company sometimes heralds large-scale sales in press releases, and at other times waits to mention them during media events.
Forbes notes that the most recent 100 million iPhones sold took “between two to six weeks less” than the previous 100 million. Apple sold 51 million iPhones alone in the first fiscal quarter of 2014, and added 1 million new users on China Mobile’s network in February following the Chinese carrier’s launch of the device.
- March 25, 2014
- Apps + Games
FireChat is a new free app from Open Garden that lets users send messages to other nearby users without an Internet connection or mobile coverage, using iOS 7’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework to link users together. Users can see what FireChat users everywhere are talking about, or they have the option of creating conversations for just nearby users. The nearby chat function works best within 30 feet and may be ideal for events or private conversations between friends in a larger group. FireChat has limitations — it’s not possible to create private conversations, for one thing — but it’s an interesting idea with lots of potential.
Google’s new Photowall for Chromecast is a free photo app described as a “Chrome Experiment.” Photowall lets users send photos from phones or tablets to a TV using Chromecast. The app takes users to a browser, where they can add pics one at a time. Anyone can participate using the provided link and code to make a live scrapbook of sorts. After the Photowall is finished, the app auto-generates a YouTube video of the experience. Google has some kinks to work out with the concept, but it’s a cool addition for Chromecast users.
- March 25, 2014
Apple didn’t infringe on certain Samsung patents and won’t have to pay damages in a Japanese court ruling, Bloomberg reports. A Tokyo District Court ruled the iPhone 4, 4s, and iPad 2 don’t infringe on Samsung data communication patents. Samsung expressed their disappointment with the decision and noted that the company may appeal the ruling. Apple’s U.S. multi-patent battle with Samsung is scheduled to resume next week.
Apple is apparently testing a new feature in the App Store that offers users related term suggestions when doing a search. A number of reports have noted the new feature, though it appears it was first spotted by developer Olga Osadcha. Osadcha found the feature while using iOS 7.1.
It’s noted that not everyone is seeing the new feature as of yet — iLounge’s editors have yet to see the function pop up when using our devices. It’s possible that Apple is rolling out the feature gradually.
- March 24, 2014
iTunes Radio will add National Public Radio as its first news channel, Re/code reports. NPR’s channel is expected to go live today, and it will offer a free 24-hour stream of live news and pre-recorded shows. Additionaly, some local NPR stations will offer their own iTunes Radio channels “within weeks.” The report notes it’s also possible that on-demand NPR programming based on listening preferences and location may come to iTunes Radio in the future.
Update: The station, NPR News and Culture, is now live on iTunes Radio.
Digital downloads including App Store and iTunes purchases are due to see a tax increase in the U.K. under new laws next year, The Guardian reports. A new budget would force Apple and others to charge a 20 percent tax rate on such downloads. The budget closes a tax loophole that currently allows digital downloads to be taxed through other countries, with the tax rate sometimes dropping as low as three percent. Barring any changes, the new law is set to go into effect January 1, 2015.
Apple is talking with Comcast about working together on a streaming television service that would use an Apple set-top box like Apple TV, the Wall Street Journal reports. The deal would use Comcast’s cables to bypass web congestion, sources said. Using Comcast as a partner would, ideally, prevent buffering and other service issues that often plague streaming web video. Apple seeks to let users stream live and on-demand TV shows stored in the cloud, thus replacing a traditional cable box.
The report claims that at the moment, Apple and Comcast “aren’t close” to an agreement. Comcast would have to make “significant investments” in network equipment and other technology, while the two companies seem to disagree on which would control customer data — Apple wants people to sign on to the device using its Apple IDs, and the company is asking for a cut of the monthly subscription fees paid by customers. It’s noted that Apple was working on a deal with Time Warner Cable since mid-2012; Comcast’s deal to acquire Time Warner is currently being reviewed by regulators.
Apple has “opened exploratory talks” with record executives about creating an on-demand music streaming service, à la Spotify, and the company is also considering making an iTunes app for Android, Billboard reports. The discussions are reportedly part of a strategy to help Apple cope with declining downloads in the iTunes Music Store. “They are feeling out some people at labels on thoughts about transitioning its customers from iTunes proper to a streaming service,” a major label source said. “So when you buy a song for $1.29, and you put it in your library, iTunes might send an e-mail pointing out that for a total of, say, $8 a month you can access that song plus all the music in the iTunes store. It’s all in the ‘what if’ stage.” Such a streaming service could be a standalone app. An iTunes spokesman declined comment.
The report also notes Apple is trying to stimulate more download sales by pushing catalog titles. iTunes executives have asked labels to clean up catalogs of their top 100 selling artists to prevent multiple copies of albums and redundant compilations from showing up in the store, with the hopes of reducing the available number of compilations for each artist to a more manageable number.
- March 21, 2014
- Apps + Games
Star Horizon ($4) is a new space shooter from Tabasco Interactive. A graphically impressive game, Star Horizon puts players into the ship of space fighter pilot. The on-rails shooter supports iOS controllers.
Star Horizon certainly looks like a premium title. With nice, clear graphics and an impressive frame rate, it looks like everything you’d want out of a space shooter. Your ship dips and turns on a predetermined track as you pass by larger ships and fire upon enemies — sometimes you’ll take one out and zoom by the wreckage.
The Golden State Warriors are the first NBA team to roll out iBeacons in their home arena, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. Oracle Arena in Oakland uses iBeacons to push seat upgrades, as fans with the team’s smartphone app — and cheaper seats — are prompted to upgrade when in the arena. The article notes issues with the plan, including a lack of extra tickets, and an estimate that the majority of users don’t leave Bluetooth LE on regularly, preventing them from receiving the notifications. A January report noted that 20 MLB teams plan on having iBeacons installed in their parks by Opening Day later this month.
- March 20, 2014
- Apps + Games
FOX Broadcasting Company’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (free) is a companion app to the new 13-part FOX series, Cosmos. The app offers a full view of an interactive cosmic calendar which visualizes the history of the universe throughout the year. Episode sneak peeks and synopses are included along with additional videos, as well as a production diary and bios of those involved with the production. The visually impressive app stands on its own, but it’ll be of more use to fans of the show.
NCAA March Madness Live from NCAA Digital (free) has upgraded to version 4.0 for the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The app has been redesigned for iOS 7. March Madness Live lets users log in with their television provider to watch live streaming tournament games on TBS, TNT, and TruTV. CBS games don’t need a paid TV subscription. Live radio broadcasts, game alerts, live scores, and an interactive tournament bracket are featured in the app. Video highlights are also included, as users can track “unbelievable moments” in real-time from each game.
- March 20, 2014
China Mobile sold about one million new iPhones in February according to Chief Executive Li Yue. “We added 1.34 million new 4G users in February and most of them are iPhone users. We are happy with the progress as we are still building our 4G network and the coverage is only available in some major cities,” China Mobile Chairman Xi Gouhua told The Wall Street Journal. There were no details on specific sales for the iPhone 5s and 5c. China Mobile launched the iPhone on January 17.
An EA Games server is hosting a phishing site that’s asking for Apple IDs, passwords, and credit card information, according to anti-fraud Internet services company Netcraft. Two websites in the ea.com domain use the compromised server, which redirects users to the actual Apple ID website after entering their confidential information. It’s possible that hackers accessed the site using vulnerabilities in an outdated version of WebCalendar 1.2.0 software. Netcraft notes that it informed EA of the hack, but the server and content is still online. [via CNET UK]
- March 18, 2014
Apple CEO Tim Cook has issued a strongly-worded statement slamming “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs,” a new book by former Wall Street Journal technology reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane. Cook said in a statement to CNBC, “This nonsense belongs with some of the other books I’ve read about Apple. It fails to capture Apple, Steve, or anyone else in the company. Apple has over 85,000 employees that come to work each day to do their best work, to create the world’s best products, to put their mark in the universe and leave it better than they found it. This has been the heart of Apple from day one and will remain at the heart for decades to come. I am very confident about our future.”
Critically panned by most early reviewers, Kane’s book is based on 200 interviews with current and former executives, business partners, and others on the post-Steve Jobs era at Apple. The book’s description notes that Haunted Empire “reveals the perils and opportunities an iconic company faces when it loses its visionary leader.”
Apple has released iTunes 11.1.6 beta to its employees, 9to5Mac reports. The beta restores the ability to sync contacts and calendar information to an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch from a Mac running OS X 10.9.3, which is also in beta. Apple had previously removed the ability to sync that information from a Mac to an iOS device. It’s unknown what else might be included in the beta.
- March 18, 2014
- Apps + Games
In Angry Birds Epic (Free), just soft launched in the Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand App Stores, Rovio has brought its most famous characters into an unusual new genre: a tactical RPG where the birds navigate through a fantasy world, battling bad piggies along the way. Combat is handled in typical turn-based RPG style, and players can obtain various items to equip their bird warriors and rescue new characters to add to their party along the way—Epic’s goal is to incentivize upgrades, using in-app purchased Lucky Coins to speed along the process. Unfortunately, while the game tries to provide in-game clues to guide the player through various new UI elements, the gameplay is somewhat confusing—even fans of the tactical RPG genre may feel a little bit lost, say nothing of Rovio’s core group of casual gamers. That said, the game still provides some basic playing enjoyment even if you’re just forging ahead blindly and not really paying attention to specs and equipment.
Also soft-launched only in Australia and Canada, Bears vs. Art (Free) by long-time App Store favorite Halfbrick Studios is a casual puzzle game with a simple and somewhat charming premise. You take on the role of a bear whose peaceful wilderness habitat has been invaded by a series of art museums. The goal is to go on a rampage and take out as much of the art as you can, moving through a series of individual levels representing different small museums. In each case, you guide the bear to smash a specified number of pieces of art with limited turns or time to do so. The trick: your controls can move the bear in any direction, but the bear will always move all the way to the nearest wall, with force. Make contact with a piece of art, and you’re given the opportunity to slash it with a bear claw before moving on to the next piece. Bears vs. Art is a fun and addictive little casual game that will likely provide hours of enjoyment; you needn’t cough up real-world currency to enjoy playing it.
Confirming reports yesterday, Apple officially expanded the iPhone lineup this morning by adding an 8GB version of the plastic-bodied iPhone 5c, and changed the iPad family by discontinuing the aging iPad 2 in favor of the fourth-generation iPad, also known as the “iPad with Retina display.” It appears that neither the iPhone 5c nor the fourth-generation iPad has changed considerably from previously-available versions: apart from its lower storage capacity, the iPhone 5c is available with the same colors and features as prior models, and the iPad has the same colors, model numbers and features as the version discontinued last year.
As of press time, the 8GB iPhone 5c has only been added to European Apple Stores, where it sells for £429 or €549, with some variation between countries; it has not replaced the still lower-priced iPhone 4S. The iPad with Retina display is available in the United States, selling solely in a 16GB capacity for $399 (Wi-Fi) or $529 (LTE), the same prices as the iPad 2 was previously selling for.
Update: According to Philip Elmer-Dewitt, Apple has confirmed that the iPhone 5c 8GB model is only being sold in the U.K., France, Germany, Australia and China. This is the first time since the little-known 4GB fourth-generation iPod nano that Apple has sold a lower-capacity version of a device solely outside the United States.
Update 2: A representative of Apple told Re/code that the “mid-tier iPhone segment is growing year-over-year and the 8GB model provides a more affordable option for markets where LTE is becoming more established.” This characterization of the iPhone 5c contrasts with the German carrier O2’s internal e-mail released yesterday, which described the new 8GB model as Apple’s “entry-level smartphone.”
Apple will bring back the fourth-generation iPad on Tuesday, 9to5Mac reports. According to a source, Apple stores have been receiving shipments of the previously discontinued iPad. Both Wi-Fi and LTE black and white 16GB models have arrived in stores. It’s likely that Apple will make the 16GB fourth-gen iPad the low-end $399 iPad model, and discontinue the second-generation iPad, so all current iPads would be Lightning devices.
It was reported earlier today that Apple will introduce an 8GB version of the iPhone 5c, likely at the same time as the reintroduction of the fourth-generation iPad tomorrow. Apple could discontinue the iPhone 4s and introduce the new 5c as the low-end iPhone model — all current iPhones would then be Lightning devices, as well.
Microsoft will unveil Office for iPad at a March 27 event, The Verge reports. The iPhone and iPod versions of Office were released last June. Apparently, the iPad version will be similar, requiring an Office 365 subscription for editing. Document creation and editing will reportedly be supported in full for Word, Excel, and Powerpoint apps.
- March 17, 2014
- Apple TV
Apple has added an ACC Sports channel to Apple TV. The channel offers game highlights, interviews, insider reports, player profiles and more on Atlantic Coast Conference athletics.
NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament previews are also included in a Campus Insiders section. Like other recent channel additions, the ACC Sports channel appears automatically on the main page without a software update.