Apple may be considering offering a discount on an iPad 2 as an option in its yearly Back-to-School promotion, according to a new report. Citing an anonymous Apple source, Boy Genius Report claims that Apple’s now traditional promotion will be announced at WWDC next month. The promotion is said to include a free iPod touch or $229 towards the purchase of any other iPod with the purchase of a new Mac, but may also give customers the option of taking a $200 discount on a new iPad 2 unit instead. The report itself seems less than fully confident about the idea, however, and such a move would be highly unusual, as the promo is normally meant to help Apple clear out inventory of iPod units prior to their traditional September refresh, instead of serving as a way to boost sales of recently updated products such as the iPad 2.
Apple, along with AT&T and US Cellular, has been hit with a patent infringement lawsuit by Visual Interactive Phone Concepts (VIPC). In its case against Apple, VIPC is asserting two patents, both of which are entitled “videophone interactive mailbox facility system and method of processing information,” according to a FOSS Patents report. The complaint states that Apple infringes on the patents due to its sales of “mobile communication devices that are videophones,” and also names the App Store—“an application service for users to view, download and use applications on their videophones”—the iTunes Store, and the iBookstore as infringing entities, because they include “a central data center that facilitates the order and delivery of [apps, entertainment content, books, PDF documents, etc.].” Apple is accused of “intentional and willful infringement,” which, as the report notes, would result in treble damages should the court agree.
Apple will launch the iPad 2 in Russia, Brazil, and the Ukraine this Friday, May 27, according to various reports. RT reports that the iPad 2 will be available from Re:Store, MediaMarkt, Beliy Veter Cifrovoi, ION, Technosila, and Eldorado in Russia, with prices ranging from 18,990 rubles (roughly $668) for the 16GB Wi-Fi only model to 30,990 rubles (~$1,090) for the 64GB 3G model. Twitter user iJulianoR reports that the iPad 2 will launch in Brazil, but does not mention any further details, while UkrainianiPhone.com states (Translated Link) that iStore, MOYO, Comfy, and Foxtrot stores will carry the device in the Ukraine, with prices similar to those in Russia. [via 9 to 5 Mac]
Opera Software has released a major update to its Opera Mini Web Browser adding native iPad support alongside a significantly updated UI. Opera Mini is a replacement web browser for mobile devices that promises improved browsing performance and data cost savings by proxying requests through Opera’s servers and compressing and optimizing web content before delivering it to the mobile browser. Opera Mini 6 adds higher-resolution graphics and native support for the iPhone 4 Retina Display as well as the iPad and iPad 2 as well as UI performance improvements for zooming and panning on web pages. The new version also includes direct sharing on Facebook, Twitter and MyOpera, the ability to open new pages in a background tab and improved international font support for non-latin languages. Opera Mini 6 is available from the App Store as a free download.
The iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad collectively account for 80 percent of all wireless video viewing, according to the latest data from Internet video ad firm FreeWheel (PDF Link). During Q1 2011, the iPhone accounted for 30 percent of all wireless video views, as did the iPod touch. The iPad—despite its much smaller user base—accounted for 20 percent of wireless video views, tied with Google’s Android platform as a whole. FreeWheel attributes iOS’ overwhelming majority to its larger user base and the fact that “so many content producers prioritized their video development for this platform ahead of others.” Overall, wireless video viewing remains small—less than one percent—compared to online video viewing in general. FreeWheel’s data is comprised of 10 billion video views and 5.5 billion video ad views in Q1 2011 and is primarily U.S.-based. [via NYT]
Mobile payments startup Square has released a version 2.0 of its iOS application, which brings with it an expanded iPad-specific feature set the company is referring to as the Square Register. These new features allow sellers to customize their systems with product photos, prices, sortable categories, and create variations of specific items, accept cash payments, let regular customers set up tabs, publish their menus, and share daily specials. Tab functionality is enabled by the new Card Case feature, which allows buyers to setup tabs, find local stores and shops, browse daily specials and menus, and store all of their digital receipts in one place, and is accessible only after visiting a participating business. Square’s iOS app is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Apple over the weekend launched a significant revamp of its retail stores, replacing its paper-based information graphics with iPads. As noted by ifoAppleStore, there is now one iPad next to each major product in the stores, including Macs, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV, and the iPod touch, while smaller iPod models are mounted in groups with a single iPad. The iPads, which are mounted semi-permanently in clear acrylic, are running interactive software that can take customers through each product’s main features, and features a Specialist button that allows customers to request assistance, with an indication of where the customer is the queue of other people waiting.
In addition to the changes made at the retail stores, Apple also released version 1.3 of its Apple Store app for iOS. The update offers the ability to custom-configure a new Mac, and new in-store features that allow customers to request assistance from a Specialist, check on Genius Bar wait times and make appointments, and see when the next workshop is scheduled. The Apple Store app for iOS is available now as a free download from the App Store.
Yuri Vishnevsky, creator of experimental generative artwork site weavesilk.com has released an iPad app that allows users to create flowing interactive artwork using the iPad screen. Supported by an original soundscape created by Osmos music composer Mat Jarvis, Silk absorbs users into an ethereal experience where strands of colour spring from their fingertips. The app provides simple gesture-based controls for choosing colours, adjusting direction and clearing the canvas, and users can screenshot the results into the iPad photo library for creating wallpapers or sharing via e-mail or other online services. Silk requires an iPad running iOS 4.0 or later and is available from the App Store for $2.
An explosion has been reported at Foxconn’s Chengdu manufacturing plant, causing a number of casualties. Citing a variety of Chinese news sources, M.I.C. Gadget reports that the explosion occured around 7:00 p.m. local time in building A5 of the complex, and had that a doctor on the scene said he had already seen six or seven people injured, with more reports injury expected. According to the report, there were hundreds or more workers inside the building at the time of the explosion, which cause many materials to be thrown out of the building. The building is known to house iPad 2 production lines on its second, third, and fourth floors; it is unknown what affect the explosion may have had on the iPad 2-related equipment.
Update: The Wall Street Journal reports that two people were killed in the blast and sixteen injured, three seriously.
Square Enix has released Chaos Rings Omega, a prequel to last year’s Chaos Rings RPG. The new instalment reveals the backstory of the Arc Arena life-or-death tournament from 10,000 years earlier, laying the foundation for the events and setting of the original game. Chaos Rings Omega provides classic RPG game play on a rich 3D graphic interface ideal for the iPhone and iPod touch Retina Display. Players engage in turn-based battles in the Arc Arena to defeat enemy monsters, obtaining their magic and special attacks. The new game features a refined battle system from the prior version and will include free monthly content updates beyond this first version to add new features such as voice acting from top-quality Japanese talent, and the raising of level caps and addition of new secret bosses. The game is available in separate device-specific versions: Chaos Rings Omega ($12) for the iPhone and iPod touch and Chaos Rings Omega for iPad ($15).
A newly published Apple patent application suggests that the company may be planning to use small, locally-stored clips of media items stored in the cloud as an on-device buffer. Such a setup would allow for reduced media footprints on devices such as the iPod and iPhone, as only a short portion of each song or video—think an iTunes preview clip—would be stored locally, in order to give the device an opportunity to grab the rest of the item while reducing the possibility of playback pauses as media is retrieved from a server.
Entitled “Local Storage of a Portion of Streamed Media Items,” the patent describes “locally storing one or more clips corresponding to a media item such that the clips can be immediately played back in response to a user request to play back the media item. While the clips are played back, the electronic device can retrieve the remaining segments of the media item from the user’s media library as a media stream over a communications network. Once the playback of the clip is complete, the electronic device can seamlessly switch playback to the media stream received from the user’s library.” Notably, one of the images included with the patent shows an iTunes synchronization settings screen, in which an iPhone is set to “Sync partial music,” with a “Minimum Connection Speed” of 3G. As with all Apple patents, this application does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via AppleInsider]
Red Chair has released another major update for its highly acclaimed Infinity Blade for iOS devices, adding a third new content pack and a new multiplayer arena. With Infinity Blade: Arena players can now challenge their friends to multiplayer matches via Apple’s Game Center or play in Survivor mode and face off against a legion of Titans. The update also adds a set of new Holiday Helms for every season, two dozen new magic rings, swords, shields and helmets to collect and master. New achievements and more leaderboards are also now available as well as some additional surprises in the game. Infinity Blade 1.3 is a universal app and is currently available from the App Store for $3 for a limited time. The game requires an iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, third- or fourth-generation iPod touch or iPad running iOS 3.2 or later; it is recommended that users update to the latest version of iOS before playing the game, however.
Yahoo has released an update to Yahoo Messenger for iOS adding a native iPad UI and support for voice and video calling on the iPad 2. Yahoo Messenger allows users to connect with their friends on the Yahoo and Windows Live instant messaging networks, place international VoIP phone calls to landlines or mobile phones and sending free SMS messages to mobile phones in select countries. Yahoo Messenger 2.1 is now a universal app with a layout specific for iPad users and takes advantage of the integrated camera on the iPad 2 to allow users to conduct video calls to their Yahoo Messenger contacts. The new version also improves spam management for more easily blocking add requests and includes a number of bug fixes. Yahoo Messenger 2.1 is available from the App Store as a free download and requires iOS 4.0 or later.
The Omni Group has released an update to OmniFocus for iPad adding the ability to easily view the iOS Calendar in Forecast mode and several other workflow improvements. In version 1.3, users can now view a timeline of their calendar events for each day at the bottom of the Forecast view allowing easy access to hard landscape events when planning and forecasting tasks. The specific calendars and range of hours displayed in the Forecast view can be customized and an additional section has now been added to show items that are scheduled to start on each day of the upcoming week.
Additional enhancements in the update include a full-screen view for note editing, highlighting of items when searching in Project and Context views and improvements to filtering of badge counts, dropped contexts and folders and sync status. Version 1.3 also now takes advantage of hardware screen mirroring on the iPad 2 and displays gestures on the secondary display so that viewers can follow along. A number of other smaller fixes and improvements are also detailed in the release notes. OmniFocus for iPad 1.3 is available from the App Store for $40 and can be used as a standalone app or synchronized with OmniFocus for the Mac or iPhone, available separately.
Apple has proposed a new SIM card standard smaller than the micro SIMs found in the iPhone 4 and iPad, according to Reuters. “We were quite happy to see last week that Apple has submitted a new requirement to (European telecoms standards body) ETSI for a smaller SIM form factor—smaller than the one that goes in iPhone 4 and iPad,” Anne Bouverot, Orange’s head of mobile services, told the news agency. “They have done that through the standardisation route, through ETSI, with the sponsorship of some major mobile operators, Orange being one of them.” Bouverot added that the standardization process would take time and that the first devices to use the new standard could emerge next year.
Slacker Radio has released an update to its iOS application adding a native iPad user interface and support for on-demand listening via a new Slacker Premium Radio subscription. The Slacker Radio iOS app allows users to listen to streamed music on their device from a wide selection of pre-defined stations that can be browsed by genre; users can also create their own custom stations to mix their favorite artists and genres and paid subscribers can cache stations for offline listening when no 3G or Wi-Fi data connection is available.
In addition to the Basic and Plus subscriptions, Slacker Radio has added a new Premium subscription level that allows users to search for and play songs, albums and artists on demand. Premium users can also build custom playlists from songs found on Slacker stations. Slacker Radio is now a universal app and is available from the App Store as a free download. Use of the app requires a minimum free Slacker Radio Basic subscription which provides ad-supported listening to streamed stations; paid Plus ($4/month) or Premium ($10/month) subscriptions can be purchased in-app to remove adds and provide additional features such as unlimited song skips, station caching, news radio, song lyrics and on-demand listening.
Parrot has announced a new upcoming racing game in the lineup of iOS apps for its iOS-controlled AR.Drone Quadricopter. AR.Race will allow one to four pilots with iOS devices and AR.Drones to challenge themselves and each other on up to five different customizable racing circuits. Optional props will be available to set up challenging circuits for the different race styles including inflatable items, pylons, a finishing line and a donut. A basic race option will be available that can be used without props; a simple tap on the hull of the AR.Drone is used to indicate the end of a tour. More sophisticated circuits use the AR.Drone camera to identify props and will challenge players to avoid obstacles, round pylons and fly through the donut before crossing the finishing line, with times automatically recorded by the app. Users can position the pylons in relation to other natural obstacles such as trees to create multiple circuits, slaloms and more complicated courses. Players can also optionally toggle the piloting assistance option to enable the AR.Drone to make high-speed turns during a race. AR.Race is scheduled to be released on June 7th as a free download from the App Store; optional accessories will include a pack of two pylons and one finishing line for $60 and a single donut for $50 and will be available from the Parrot Online Store.
Samsung has announced that it will be demonstrating a 10.1-inch, 2560x1600 display at the SID Display Week 2011 International Symposium, which runs from May 17-19. According to the release, the display uses PenTile RGBW technology, which allows for the 300 dpi resolution. “Samsung’s PenTile display technology is the only display technology that operates at 40 percent less power yet provides twice that of Full HD-viewing performance for consumers compared to legacy RGB stripe LCDs. There is no other commercial display technology on the market today that offers this high of a resolution and pixel density in a 10.1-inch size display,” said Dr. Sungtae Shin, Senior VP of Samsung Electronics. As noted by TUAW, while the screen size and pixel density do appear to confirm that an iPad-sized Retina Display is possible, it is extremely unlikely that Apple would use this particular part in a future iPad, due to its larger size and resolution beyond that of a pixel-doubled iPad display.
Backflip Studios has released a new casual defense game for iOS based on the cult classic movie Army of Darkness. In Army of Darkness Defense, players take on the role of Ash, the time-travelling sales clerk who must defend Lord Arthur’s castle from hordes of evil undead and protect the Necronomicon in order to return home. The game uses a tug-of-war play style with fully animated graphics, an original music score and dozens of quotes from the movie voiced by Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams. The player can summon a wide variety of allies and special abilities to assist in the castle’s defense and must fight their way through fifty initial waves with an optional unlockable endless wave at the end. Awards and leaderboards are available through Game Center integration. Separate versions are available and both are on sale for a limited time; Army of Darkness for the iPhone and iPod touch is currently priced at $1 and Army of Darkness HD for iPad users currently sells for $3.
The Omni Group has released the much-anticipated iPad version of OmniOutliner, its popular outlining and note-taking app for the Mac. OmniOutliner for iPad provides users with the ability to collect and organize structured information ranging from to-do lists and agendas to laying out basic project plans and writing outlines. The application provides rich-text support with a simplified styling system, easy rearranging and grouping of rows and multiple column formats supporting numbers, text, pop-ups lists and more. Images can be pasted directly into OmniOutliner documents for inline display and the app supports inline notes and active linking of URLs to web content and other supported iOS data types.
OmniOutliner documents are completely interchangeable with OmniOutliner 3 on the Mac and can be transferred over USB via iTunes File Sharing, e-mailed or uploaded to MobileMe or other WebDAV servers. Documents can also be exported to and sent out in dynamic HTML, plain text or Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML) for sharing with other users. The iPad version also provides for direct import of OPML files. OmniOutliner for iPad requires iOS 4.2 or later and is available from the App Store for $20. The app can be used as a standalone application or along with OmniOutliner for Mac, sold separately.