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Let’s Talk iPhone Event: The Big Picture

Apple’s “Let’s talk iPhone” media event is being held today at the company’s campus Town Hall auditorium. As there are plenty of announcements expected to come from the event, we’re providing this story as a starting point—we’ll be linking to all the major news from the event right here, so check back periodically throughout the afternoon for more updates.

So far:

iPhone 4S to launch October 14, iPod nano to see update

Apple introduces Cards, a new free app that lets you create and send cards directly from your iPhone. It will mail printed cards through the mail after you design them, then provide tracking notifications to your iPhone. Cards will be $3 each when mailed within the U.S. Available October 12.

iOS 5 is coming October 12. As is iCloud.

Apple announces Find My Friends application for iCloud, enabling you to locate your friends and family if they’re using Apple’s devices.

“New” iPod nano announced - new user interface, 16 new clock faces, Nike+ without the need for shoe-based sensors. $129/$149, available today. Seven colors like the previous ones. Updated! Originally claimed to be a “new” iPod nano, this appears to be little more than a price change with a minor software update. Following the event, it was discovered that the software will be released for the 2010 iPod nano as well.

Updated iPod touch: black and white, $199 8GB, $299 32GB, $399 64GB. Available October 12. Nothing mentioned about under-the-hood changes of any sort. Updated! Apart from the color addition, there does not appear to be any change to the iPod touch hardware at all this year.

iPhone 4S officially announced with A5 processor, dual-core graphics chip that’s up to 7x faster than prior iPhone (down from 9x in prior iPad). Yet now gets eight hours of talk time, six hours of 3G browsing, 9 of Wi-Fi browsing. Now can switch between two antennas for improved call quality. Data speeds now doubled for downloading—now up to nearly 14.4Mbps downloading speed. Apple is not calling this 4G, but saying that the performance is 4G-caliber. It’s a dual-band world phone with both GSM + CDMA. Improved camera sports an 8-Megapixel sensor with backside illumination, gathering 73% more light than before, with a hybrid IR filter and 1/3 faster performance. The lens now has 5 elements and is f/2.4—really wide angle with 30% greater sharpness, macro photo feature, plus 1080p video recording.

iPhone 4S also gets AirPlay mirroring. And expanded voice controls thanks to an integrated Siri assistant. “What’s the weather like today?” can be answered by the iPhone 4S with a forecast. “Find me a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto,” and it returns a bunch of results sorted by rating. The interface is a mix of prior Siri and the linen backdrop of OS X and iOS, tying into iOS applications to look up calendar information, messages, and other things stored on the device. It can read to you, and understand what you’re saying. It will initially be available in English, German, and French support, with other languages to follow. 16GB, 32GB, 64GB $199/$299/$399. 3GS and 4 will still be sold, 3GS free on contract, iPhone 4 is $99 for 8GB. Preorder on 7th, available October 14, Verizon AT+T and Sprint. First countries: U.S., Canada, Australia, U.K., France, Germany, and Japan, with more to follow on the 28th, then more through end of the year.

A summary of the presentation thus far is available after the break.

Apple releases iTunes 10.5 beta 9 to developers

Apple has released another update to its beta version of iTunes 10.5 for registered iOS developers. The update appears to be primarily targeted at developers testing the iTunes Match service, with iTunes 10.5 beta 7 also remaining available as a separate download for registered iOS developers. This latest release follows reports of iTunes Match data being reset earlier this week for developers testing the service. iTunes 10.5 beta 9 is available for download now for registered developers from the iOS Dev Center.

Apple launches iTunes Store in 12 remaining EU countries

Following a report yesterday that Apple was making plans to expand the iTunes Store in additional European Union countries, the company has now launched in all 12 of the remaining EU countries where the iTunes Store was previously not available. As of today, users can now download and purchase music via iTunes in Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. [via AppleInsider]

Apple expanding iTunes content availability in Europe

Apple appears to be expanding the iTunes Store in Europe, with reports indicating plans to bring the Store to 10 new European Union countries and movie and iBookstore content becoming available for purchase and rent in the existing European iTunes Stores. A report from Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita indicates that Apple is preparing to launch the iTunes Music Store in ten new EU countries, possibly as soon as next month. The report specifies Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, but does not name the other countries although at this time there are only twelve EU member states where the iTunes Store is not available.

In a separate report, MacRumors notes that Apple now appears to be rolling out iTunes movie sales and rentals in existing European iTunes Stores, with readers reporting movies now available in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands and Sweden and paid iBookstore content in Switzerland. Dedicated content sections have reportedly not yet appeared in these countries, however the content is available via the iTunes Store search function.

Starbucks, Apple expand weekly promotion to books

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Apple and Starbucks have once again expanded their long-running “Pick of the Week” promotion to include books from the iBookstore. Mac Rumors reports that this week’s pick is an iBookstore redemption code for The Night Circus, a novel by Erin Morgenstern that normally sells for $12.99. Earlier this year, Starbucks began to offer apps as part of the “Pick of the Week” promotion, later stating that it would offer redemption codes for “apps, extended samples of books on the iBookstore, TV shows, and more from iTunes.”

Apple once again accepting iTunes Match beta signups

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Apple over the weekend reopened its iTunes Match beta to registered iOS developers. Mac Rumors reports that the company sent out emails to developers, letting them know that the beta has been expanded to additional developers in the U.S. The email also notes that iTunes 10.5 beta 8 is required to use the service. iTunes Match is an upcoming $25/year cloud-based service from Apple that matches the songs in users’ iTunes libraries with songs available on the iTunes Store, uploading songs that can’t be matched, and subsequently offering the users access to their entire libraries across all their computers and iOS devices anywhere they have an Internet connection. The iTunes Match beta was launched late last month, but was closed for new signups shortly afterwards.

Apple releases iTunes 10.5 beta 8 to developers

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Apple has uncharacteristically released a small update to its beta version of iTunes 10.5 for registered iOS developers. According to release notes provided to iLounge by an anonymous source, the update focuses mainly on Apple’s iTunes Match service, which remains closed for new developer sign-ups. iTunes 10.5 beta 8, as well as iWork for iOS beta 3, are available for download now from the iOS Dev Center.

Apple promotes Eddy Cue to SVP of Internet Software and Services

Apple has promoted its vice president of Internet services Eddy Cue to the position of Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services. According to his Apple Press bio, Cue will be reporting directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook, and his duties will include overseeing the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore, as well as iAd and iCloud services. In an email to Apple employees announcing the move, Cook credited Cue with playing a major role in the launch of the Apple online store in 1998, the iTunes Music Store in 2003, and the App Store in 2008; the complete email is available at 9to5Mac.

Apple releases iOS 5 beta 7 to developers

Apple has seeded its seventh beta version of iOS 5 for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch to registered developers. Listed as build 9a5313e, the release is also available as an over-the-air update for devices running the prior beta, and is once again accompanied by matching beta versions of the iOS 5 SDK, iTunes 10.5, and Apple TV Software. iOS 5 beta 7 is now available to paid iOS developers from the iOS Dev Center.

Apple launches iTunes Match beta for developers

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Apple has made a beta version of its new iTunes Match cloud music service available to developers. The service, announced in June, allows users to pay $25 a year for the ability to match songs on their personal library with songs in the iTunes Store library—and upload any songs that can’t be matched—for cloud access from any Mac or iOS device. The service limits the total number of songs at 25,000, and iTunes Store purchases do not count against that total. In the email announcing the beta release, Apple states that beta subscribers will receive an additional three months free with their paid 12 month subscription, and advises users to maintain a local backup of their iTunes library, as well as any music they upload to iCloud. “Apple will periodically reset your iCloud library during the beta and it is critical that you backup your music regularly,” the email states. “Some features and optimizations of iTunes Match will not be available during the beta.” In support of the service, Apple has released iTunes 10.5 beta 6.1, which is now available to registered developers from the iOS Dev Center.

Insanely Great Mac has posted a video walkthrough of the new service showing that it is capable of not only allowing for downloads to iOS devices—which is how the company’s current “iTunes in the Cloud” service works—but also streaming, integrating the customer’s iTunes Match library into the Music application, and letting the user choose between downloading or streaming each song. Apple is expected to officially launch iTunes Match later this fall. [via Mac Rumors]

Update: Apple has posted a notice on the iTunes Match signup page noting that “beta testing has begun with an initial set of developers. Over the next days, we will continue to expand our testing.”

Update x2: Apple has informed AllThingsD that the new iTunes Match service isn’t technically streaming songs, but is instead offering a simultaneous listen and download feature that, on the surface, appears quite similar to streaming.

Apple pulls 99-cent TV show rentals from iTunes

Apple has pulled, at least temporarily, all of its 99-cent TV show rentals from the iTunes Store. The option to rent individual TV episodes from participating networks has disappeared from both the second-generation Apple TV and the iTunes Store on the Mac and PC, and, as noted by AppleInsider, Apple has also removed a support document entitled “iTunes Store: How to rent TV shows” from the web, as well as all mention of 99-cent TV show rentals from the Apple TV product page. Apple earlier this month enabled streaming of previously-purchased TV shows directly from the Apple TV, paving the way for such a move; it is also possible that lack of network support for the rental initiative led to its demise.

Apple releases iTunes 10.4.1

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Apple has released iTunes 10.4.1, the latest update to its digital media management software. According to Apple’s release notes, the new version fixes a problem where the media keys on some third-party keyboards would work inconsistently, addresses issues with adding artwork to songs and videos, resolves an issue which may cause iTunes to become unresponsive when purchasing an HD movie, fixes a problem where iTunes may take longer than expected to open after waking your Mac from sleep, and addresses issues with VoiceOver support. iTunes 10.4.1 is available now via Apple’s Software Update utility or as a free download from apple.com/itunes.

iOS 5 to end Nike+ sync through iTunes

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With the release of iOS 5, Apple appears ready to end iTunes’ use as a middleman between iOS devices and nikeplus.com. According to an anonymous source, iOS 5 beta 6 devices with Nike+ data now prompt an iTunes dialog box stating that workout data can now be sent using the “Send Workouts to Nike+” feature in the iOS device’s Nike + iPod settings, and iTunes 10.5 no longer displays a Nike + iPod synchronization tab for iOS 5 devices. Notably, iOS 4.x devices and iPod nanos still bring up the option to sync Nike+ data when connected to the new iTunes beta release. Readers may recall that the ability to sync Nike+ data wirelessly to nikeplus.com from an iOS device was added as an option in iOS 4.1, although users still had iTunes wired syncing as an alternative—the latter, traditional option is what has disappeared today.

Apple releases iOS 5 beta 6 to developers

Apple has released the sixth beta version of its upcoming iOS 5 operating system for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Listed as build 9A5302b and available exclusively to paid iOS developers, the release does not appear to include any major changes from prior versions, and is once again accompanied by matching beta versions of the iOS 5 SDK, iTunes 10.5, and Apple TV Software. iOS 5 beta 6 is now available to paid iOS developers from the iOS Dev Center.

iTunes 10.4 removes Back Up to Disc feature

Apple has quietly removed the “Back Up to Disc” feature in iTunes 10.4, as indicated in a recently updated Apple Support article. First introduced in iTunes 7, the Back Up to Disc feature allowed users to backup all or a portion of their iTunes library to optical media such as CD or DVD, preserving library metadata such as playlists, play counts, and ratings in the process. This feature is no longer available in iTunes 10.4, with Apple now suggesting that users instead backup their iTunes Library manually to an external hard drive or that Mac OS X users can rely on Time Machine to provide this capability. It appears that iTunes 10.4 will continue to read backup media created with this feature in prior versions of iTunes, but is unclear whether this support will continue in future versions.

Apple, Starbucks team for free app promotion

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Apple and Starbucks have expanded their long-running “Pick of the Week” promotion to include apps. The promotion, which debuted in April 2008, has offered a complimentary song or music video every week as a free download for Starbucks customers, via a card with a redeemable promo code on the back. Cnet reports that the apps are being distributed in the same manner, with the first app to be offered being Shazam Encore, the music-identifying app that normally sells for $5.99. The report states that Starbucks declined to comment on whether the apps take the place of that week’s music track or video.

Apple using email alerts to combat App Store fraud

Apple has started sending app purchase notification emails to iTunes Store users in an effort to curb app purchase fraud. According to Mac Rumors, an email is sent when a user’s Apple ID is used to make a purchase on the App Store from a new device. One such email—reprinted in the report—states, “Your Apple ID [redacted] was just used to purchase [a specific app] from the App Store on a computer or device that had not previously been associated with that Apple ID. If you made this purchase, you can disregard this email. This email was sent as a safeguard designed to protect you against unauthorized purchases. If you did not make this purchase, we recommend that you go to iforgot.apple.com to change your password.” The report notes that Apple already requires credit card users to reenter the three or four digit CID number from their credit cards to authenticate new devices, but no similar authentication system is in place for users with gift card balances.

Walmart bows to iTunes, shutters MP3 store

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Walmart has announced that after eight years in business, it is closing its music download store. Citing a certified letter sent by Walmart to its distribution and licensing partners, Digital Music News reports that the store, located at mp3.walmart.com, will close on August 28. The retail giant will continue to sell physical CDs in its brick-and-mortar stores, and will continue to provide support for older, DRM-laden WMA files that were purchased from the store prior to its move to DRM-free MP3 files; it will also continue to operate its Soundcheck live streaming site. [via The Atlantic]

Apple notes iTunes compatibility issues with some media files

A new Apple Support article has been posted noting that iTunes 10.4 users on OS X Lion may encounter problems opening older media files with an error message that “This movie requires QuickTime, which is not supported by this version of iTunes.” The article explains that some older media files may still require QuickTime in order to play and that QuickTime only runs in 32-bit mode. In order to play media files that are affected by this issue the article provides instructions on how to explicitly open iTunes in 32-bit mode. Notably, this issue only affects OS X Lion users as iTunes 10.4 continues to run in 32-bit mode on older versions of OS X.

Orange UK offering customers free iTunes movie rentals

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Orange UK has announced that all Orange customers—including home broadband, pay as you go, monthly pay, mobile broadband, and business customers—will now get a free film rental from iTunes every Thursday at no cost. The feature, which is launching this week, requires users to text “FILMTOGO” to 85060, or visit Orange’s Film To Go Facebook page, or use the Film To Go app to receive a response code which can be entered on the company’s dedicated Film To Go website to start the download.The restrictions on the downloads are the same as standard iTunes movie rentals in the UK, with users having 30 days to watch the download and 48 hours to finish watching once playback has begun. [via TUAW]

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