An explosion at a Shanghai factory owned by a subsidiary of Apple manufacturing partner Pegatron has left 61 workers injured and may threaten to constrain iPad 2 supplies for next quarter. Reuters reports that the blast, which occurred at a factory belonging to Riteng Computer Accessory Co., did not cause a fire, but did injure many, with 23 of the injured requiring hospitalization. According to the report, the plant had not started operations yet, but was expected to produce back panel parts for the iPad 2, and if the safety concerns can’t be overcome quickly, Apple’s supply chain for next quarter could be affected. “Our hearts go out to the people who were hurt in Songjiang,” said Apple spokeswoman Carolyn Wu. “We are working closely with Pegatron to understand the cause of this accident”.
Samsung is now manufacturing A5 processors—which are included in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2—in a Texas facility. Citing people familiar with the operation, Reuters reports that the facility, located in Austin, is roughly 1.6 million square feet in size, and began supplying A5 chips to Apple earlier this year, hitting full production in December. According to the report, the A5 is built in a newly constructed $3.6 billion non-memory chip production line; Samsung also produces NAND flash chips in the facility.
In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Grand Theft Auto III, Rockstar Games has released an iOS version of the highly acclaimed console and PC title. Grand Theft Auto 3 for iOS takes players back into the dark and seedy underworld of Liberty City, with a massive and diverse open world that players can explore at will and a wide variety of characters to interact with in an immersive storyline. The game includes redesigned HD graphics designed to take full advantage of the latest iOS device capabilities alongside high-quality voice acting and touch-screen optimized controls. Grand Theft Auto 3 requires an iPhone 4/4S, iPad 2 or fourth-generation iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later and is available from the App Store for $5.
Google has released an update to its native Gmail app for iOS adding several new features including support for nested labels, mobile signatures and vacation messages, and a new “scribbles” feature. With Gmail 1.1 nested labels now appear laid out properly in the left-hand labels view and users can configure Mobile Signature and Vacation Responder settings directly from their device by clicking on a small gear settings icon at the top of the menu view. The update also adds a new notification sound for iOS 5 devices to help users distinguish Gmail notifications from other iOS notifications. The update also adds a new feature dubbed “scribbles” that allows users to open up a canvas to draw a message using the touchscreen that will be attached to an e-mail. Scribbles provides multiple colours, brush sizes, lines, erasers and spray paint and can also be accessed from the HTML5 Gmail web app. Gmail 1.1 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Netflix has released a major update to the iOS app for its video streaming service bringing its redesigned tablet user interface to the iPad. Originally announced last month and initially released for Android tablets, the new interface is designed to improve access to the Netflix catalog by displaying more titles on a given screen with a more attractive presentation. Multitouch gestures are also now supported allowing users to swipe through rows of titles with larger artwork, providing an experience similar to the iTunes Store. The update also brings Netflix availability to Latin America for both the iPhone and iPad versions and addresses several stability issues. Netflix 2.0 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Apple has released the second version of iOS 5.1 to registered iOS developers. According to Apple’s release notes, this new beta adds the ability to delete photos from a Photo Stream, along with other improvements; it also notes that the accompanying preview release of Xcode 4.3 is distributed as a single application bundle, allowing it to be installed directly from the App Store without the need for a secondary installation process. iOS 5.1 beta 2 is available now to registered iOS developers as a direct download from the iOS Dev Center.
Apple’s next-generation iPad will launch in the next three to four months, according to a new report. Citing sources in the supply chain, DigiTimes reports that various parts and component makers have started to deliver pieces to OEM contractors while ramping down production of iPad 2 components. The report claims that OEM production of the iPad 2 will remain at 14-15 million units during the fourth-quarter of 2011 but decline to between four and five million units in the first quarter of 2012. Foxconn is expected to begin building next-generation iPads in January and ramp up the production volume in February, according to the report, with production expected to reach 9.5-9.8 million units in the first quarter of next year.
Apple has dropped its prices on refurbished iPad 2 units. For Wi-Fi-only models, 16GB units are now $419, down from $449, while both the 32GB and 64GB models saw $50 drops, to $499 and $599, respectively. Refurbished Wi-Fi + 3G units saw similar drops, brining their prices down to $549 for 16GB models—a $30 drop—and $629 and $729 for 32GB and 64GB units, respectively, each representing a $50 cut. All of Apple’s refurbished iPads include a full one-year warranty, as well as a new battery and outer shell. [via Mac Rumors]
Motorola Mobility has won a German patent suit against Apple, leading to a preliminary injunction that bars sales of all iPhone models and 3G iPad models in the country. FOSS Patents reports that all products which implement the patent in question—EP 1010336 (B1), covering a “method for performing a countdown function during a mobile-originated transfer for a packet radio system”—are barred from sale; this includes the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad 3G, iPad 2 3G, and likely the iPhone 4S, although it is not specifically named. Apple will likely appeal this ruling and request a stay on the injunction for the duration of the appeal proceedings, and may also make efforts to acquire a license for the patent.
Google has released Google Currents, a new content aggregation and reading app for iOS devices. Google Currents provides access to top content from a wide range of publishers such as CNet, AllThingsD, Forbes, Saveur, PBS, Huffington Post, Fast Company and more delivered in a format optimized for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Users can also add their own RSS, video and photo feeds and integrate their Google+ streams and Google Reader subscriptions to provide a customized content experience. Google Currents also provides a Trending Editions section that leverages Google search technology to build a customized collection of the five top trending stories in categories such as world, entertainment, sports and science, updated hourly and presented as a compiled edition of articles, videos and pictures. The application also provides offline reading support so that users can browse and read their customized magazines even without an active data connection. Integration with Google+ allows users to easily share articles or videos with their circles; Facebook, Instapaper, Pinboard and Tumblr are also supported as additional services. Google Currents is currently only available from the U.S. App Store and is a free download.
Microsoft has released My Xbox Live, a universal iOS application that allows Xbox users to access their Xbox Live accounts while on the go. The application allows gamers to connect with their Xbox Live friends, track and compare achievements and even change their 3D avatar dirtily from their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Users can review recent games that their friends have played or jump into the games hub to learn more about the latest Live games and apps. The app also provides access to Xbox Spotlight feeds, breaking news from Xbox Live, game tips and tricks and more. My Xbox Live requires iOS 4.3 or later and is available from the U.S. App Store as a free download.
A U.S. District Court in San Jose has rejected an Apple request for a preliminary injunction barring the sale of several Samsung Galaxy tablets and smartphones. The San Jose Business Journal reports that Judge Lucy Koh denied the request, saying that “It is not clear that an injunction on Samsung’s accused devices would prevent Apple from being irreparably harmed.” Samsung issued a statement on the ruling, saying, “We are confident that we can demonstrate the distinctiveness of Samsung’s mobile devices when the case goes to trial next year.” Despite the ruling against Apple, Koh also said that Apple has proven that it’s likely to succeed in proving that Samsung’s products infringe its patents.
An Australian court earlier today extended a ban on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the country by at least a week, according to a Reuters report. Earlier this week, Samsung won an appeal in its case versus Apple, which would have seen the sales ban lifted today. Apple will now have a week to make its appeal to the High Court, which will decide whether Samsung will be allowed to resume sales ahead of a final hearing expected to take place next year, by which time the current Tab 10.1 model may be obsolete.
BBC Worldwide has released its BBC iPlayer Global Edition for Canadian users, continuing the worldwide rollout of its video-on-demand service which began last summer with fourteen European countries and then to Australia in September. The free BBC iPlayer app provides an on-demand selection of classic and contemporary British television shows including such popular titles as Doctor Who, Top Gear and The Naked Chef. Users can enjoy selected clips and taster episodes for free or subscribe to a full unlimited package for $9/month or $85/year. In addition to providing streaming video-on-demand over Wi-Fi or 3G, the BBC iPlayer app also allows users to download shows for offline viewing within the application; downloads do not have a specific expiry—they are retained on the device for as long as the user’s subscription is valid and the episode is otherwise available online. The BBC iPlayer app also includes a parental controls feature to lock out content that may not be suitable for younger viewers in their household. BBC iPlayer Global is currently available from the App Store in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Australia and Canada. A U.S. release is said to be coming later this year. [via The Globe and Mail]
Chair Entertainment has released Infinity Blade II, the much anticipated sequel to last year’s highly acclaimed sword-fighting action game, Infinity Blade (iLounge Rating: A). Infinity Blade II continues the epic story from the prior game with the God King defeated and the player now on a quest to discover the secrets of the Infinity Blade, descending deeper into the world of the Deathless tyrants and their Titan armies. Originally unveiled at Apple’s iPhone 4S Event in early October, Infinity Blade II was shown as a demonstration of the higher performance hardware in the new iPhone 4S; the game has been optimized for the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 to provide extremely detailed and high-resolution graphics and lighting effects to create an immersive and dynamically changing environment with graphics and animation described as beyond what is being done on high-end gaming consoles.
Infinity Blade II expands on the gameplay of its predecessor adding three new styles of combat with multiple classes of weapons, armours and spells that include specialized capabilities such as Dual Wielding and Two-Handed in addition to the standard Weapon and Shield classes. The character customization has also been further expanded from the original, allowing players to use mystical objects that they discover in their travels to create and forge more powerful weapons and providing a richer storyline as the player explores and discovers the story of the Infinity Blade. iCloud support has also been included to allow players to synchronize game status between multiple devices. Infinity Blade II is available from the App Store for $7 and is a universal app supporting the iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, the iPad and iPad 2 and the third- and fourth-generation iPod touch. iOS 3.2 or later is required, iOS 5 is recommended.
Samsung has won its appeal in a case versus Apple lifting a ban on the sale of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia. Bloomberg reports that an Australian federal appeals judge ruled that sales of the iPad competitor can begin on December 2nd, after a three-member panel said unanimously that a lower-court judge made a mistake in grant Apple’s request for a ban. Apple will need to file an emergency appeal against the verdict in High Court to extend the sales ban; the High Court would need to decide before the end of business on Dec. 2nd whether to grant Apple’s request for an extension, after which Apple will have 28 days—starting today—to file a request to appeal the ruling.
Code referencing next-generation versions of the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV has been found in the iOS 5.1 beta released to developers last night. According to a report from 9to5Mac, iOS 5.1 contains references to an iPhone5,1—the iPhone 4S is listed as iPhone4,1—as well as an iPad 3,3, a full number higher than the iPad 2’s 2,x designation. A separate report indicates that iOS 5.1 also reveals the codename for the next-generation Apple TV, which is said to be J33. While such references do indicate that Apple is working on such hardware, they are not indicative of an impending—or even planned—release.
Apple has seeded its first beta version of iOS 5.1 to developers. According to the company, the update—listed as build 985117b—provides improved dictation support for text input views on “supported devices”. In addition, Apple warns that devices should be backed up either using iTunes or iCloud prior to installation, and that devices updated to iOS 5.1 beta will not be downgradable back to prior versions of the operating system. iOS 5.1 is available now to registered developers from the iOS Dev Center.
Apple is adding Sharp as a supplier of LCD panels for the next-generation iPad, according to a new report. Citing people familiar with the situation, the Wall Street Journal reports that Sharp’s Kameyama No. 2 plant will manufacture panels for the device, which is expected to launch next year. In addition, Apple is said to be investing in facilities at Sharp’s panel making factories, although the size of the investment is unknown. Sharp already supplies panels for the iPhone, and will be supplying panels for the next-generation iPhone, which is also expected to launch next year, according to the report.
Apple is expanding its in-app subscription model to include game titles, according to a report from Bloomberg. Seattle-based game publisher Big Fish Games has received approval from Apple to offer users access to multiple game titles for a single recurring monthly fee. Dubbed Play Instantly, the subscription service will be offered through a single iOS app that will deliver unlimited access to a number of the company’s popular game titles streamed to the user’s device via Wi-Fi, allowing the player to easily switch between different games without having to download each title individually. Big Fish Games has also announced plans to offer a free, ad-supported version of the game service that will limit play to 30 minutes per day. Paid subscriptions are expected to initially cost $5 per month with an increase to $7 per month as more titles are added. The application and subscription service are initially available in the U.S. only. Big Fish Play Instantly is available from the U.S. App Store as a free download. [via Mac Rumors]
Update (5:00 EST): The application is no longer available on the App Store. No explanation has been given as to the reason for its disappearance. We have reached out to the developer for comment and will update the story as more information becomes available.
Update (6:30 EST): According to another report from Bloomberg, Play Instantly was removed by Apple earlier today, after having been available on the App Store since November 18th. Paul Thelen, founder of Big Fish Games indicates that the company was “notified [by Apple] that the app was removed,” and is “trying to follow up with Apple to try to figure out what happened.” Thelen indicated to Bloomberg that “Apple had even signed off on a press release issued earlier today.” The Bloomberg report also notes that Tom Neumayr, an Apple spokesman, declined to comment.