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Accessory makers take advantage of free Bumper offer

A number of accessory makers have launched new offers aimed at taking advantage of Apple’s recent announcement of a free iPhone 4 case offer. Both Incipio and Proporta are offering Bumper trade-in programs, with Incipio promising $5 off any Incipio product for each Bumper sent to the company—a limit of two per household applies—and Proporta offering 20% off any Proporta case or screen protector for the iPhone 4 with each Bumper returned using the promo code “CASEFREE,” with no apparent limit in place. Fusion of Ideas is instead offering iPhone 4 users free side pieces of its StealthArmor protective film, with a shipping charge of $1.50, and the option to upgrade to a full-body kit at a $10 discount off regular price.

Apple posts video of iPhone 4 event, antenna info pages

Apple has posted a QuickTime video stream of its iPhone 4 press conference on its website. During the roughly hour-long event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave a presentation explaining Apple’s view of the antenna issues, and promised free cases to all current iPhone 4 users and all those who will purchase the device by September 30. Notably missing from the video stream is the question and answer session held directly following the presentation, a brief overview of which can be found here. In addition, the company has posted a pair of new webpages examining smartphone antenna performance and comparing that of the iPhone 4 to the BlackBerry Bold, HTC Droid Eris, Samsung Omnia II, and iPhone 3GS, and highlighting the company’s antenna design and testing labs.

iPhone 4 proximity sensor fix coming in next update

Among other revelations from its iPhone 4 press conference, Apple claimed that a fix for the iPhone 4’s proximity sensor issue would be included in the next update. The issue, in which calls can be accidentally interrupted by button presses and hang-ups, has been reported since the launch of the device, and eventually lead to a grass roots campaign to gain press coverage, as the majority of negative iPhone 4 reports had focused on the antenna issue. Apple did not specify when the update would arrive, or whether it would be a small, incremental update—like iOS 4.0.1—or included in the larger iOS 4.1 update, a beta of which was released to paid developers earlier this week.

iPhone 4 to launch in 17 countries July 30, white model soon

Apple today revealed that it will launch the iPhone 4 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland on July 30. Notably, the list of countries does not include South Korea, which was previously scheduled to receive the phone at the same time; no reason was given for the delay. In addition, Apple said that white models of the iPhone 4 will be available in late July, but did not offer an exact date for availability, or reveal whether online pre-orders would be available.

Apple to offer free cases to iPhone 4 users

During today’s iPhone 4 press conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed that due to complaints over the iPhone 4’s antenna issue, Apple will be offering a free case to all customers who purchase an iPhone 4 by September 30. According to Jobs, users will be able to apply for the free case on Apple’s website late next week, and the case will be shipped to them free of charge. Due to the low number of Bumper cases available, Apple also said it will be offering users a choice of cases beyond the Bumpers, but did not specify which cases would be eligible. For iPhone 4 users who have already purchased a Bumper case, Apple will be offering refunds, but will not be refunding those who purchased third-party cases.

Apple’s iPhone 4 press conference starts at 10 a.m.

Apple’s short-notice press conference regarding the iPhone 4 will begin at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. Although no one is certain what the company may say, earlier reports have indicated that the company is unlikely to issue a recall of current iPhone 4 units, and may well claim that the handset’s reception problems can be fixed via a software update. Also unknown is whether or not the company will make any mention of the ongoing proximity sensor issue reported by some users. We will be updating this story throughout the event as information becomes available.

iOS 4.0.1 signal strength indicator changes explained

As those who have successfully upgraded their iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, or iPhone 4 units to iOS 4.0.1 may have noticed, Apple made a visual change to its signal strength indicator bars in its latest update, increasing the size of bars one, two, and three, while keeping the tallest two bars the same. A more dramatic change was made behind the scenes, however, as Apple changed its formula for signal strength to signal bar mapping resulting in what is hopefully a more accurate representation of the phone’s current connection. Anandtech reports that Apple made the dynamic range broader, while also adjusting the range values for each bar to make them wider. As a result, in some areas where signal strength would have been great enough for the iPhone to report five bars under iOS 4.0 and earlier, it may now show only three. As the report notes, this means that the worst case drop of 24 dBm — seen when applying the left-hand “death grip” on the iPhone 4 — longer makes all the signal bars disappear, but just two. The new formula is also used in the iOS 4.1 beta released earlier this week to paid iPhone developers; illustrations of the difference in bar to signal strength mapping are available below.

Software capable of fixing iPhone 4 reception, recall unnecessary?

Apple may be able to fix the iPhone 4’s left-hand reception issues with a software update, according to a new report. Citing a person with direct knowledge of Apple’s plans, the New York Times reports that the unique antenna design of the iPhone 4 has exposed a weakness in the communications software of iOS, specifically in the interaction between specialized communications software and the antenna. According to the source, the software problem has been present in the iOS for a long time, but was only discovered after the iPhone 4 shipped. The report also claims that the problem could presumably be fixed with a software update, one separate from iOS 4.0.1 that was released yesterday.

Notably, both this report and a separate Wall Street Journal piece claim that Apple will not be launching a recall of iPhone 4 units. Regarding yesterday’s report of Apple engineer Ruben Caballero voicing concerns about the phone’s antenna design early in its development, an Apple spokesperson told the WSJ, “We challenge Bloomberg BusinessWeek to produce anything beyond rumors to back this up. It’s simply not true.” The latter article also claims that Apple gives its carrier partners much less time to test a new iPhone before release. Both articles follow Apple’s announcement of a press conference to be held at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time today, and an open letter from U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) directing Apple to fix the problem.

Apple posts iOS SDK 4.0.1

Apple has posted its iOS Software Development Kit (SDK) 4.0.1, bringing with it compatibility with the latest iOS software releases. Notably, Apple is warning developers that if they have updated their iPhones to iOS 4.0.1 or their iPads to iOS 3.2.1 they will need to download and install the new SDK to continue development. Unlike the iOS 4.1 beta and accompanying SDK released yesterday, iOS SDK 4.0.1 is available to all registered developers, and not just those who have paid Apple’s $99 annual fee to enroll in the iPhone Developer Program. Apple’s iOS SDK 4.0.1 is available now as a free download from the iPhone Dev Center.

Apple releases iOS 4.0.1 Software Update for iPhone

Apple has released iOS 4.0.1 Software Update for iPhone, the first update to the iOS since the release of 4.0 on June 21. According to Apple’s release notes, the 4.0.1 Software Update “improves the formula to determine how many bars of signal strength to display.” Apple promised this fix in a press release earlier this month; it remains to be seen whether it also addresses the ongoing proximity sensor issue, as well. The iOS 4.0.1 Software Update for iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4 is available now via the Update feature in iTunes.

Apple patent points to new Dock connector

A newly published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on a new format Dock Connector that would allow device docking in multiple orientations. Entitled “Methods and Apparatuses For Docking a Portable Electronic Device That Has a Planar Like Configuration and That Operates in Multiple Orientations,” the patent describes a docking system that, like current Apple Docks, offers both power and data to the connected device, either via flush contacts that physically touch similar contacts on the dock itself, or via inductive coils that could be concealed within the device’s body. As AppleInsider notes, the patent also covers less progressive docking ideas including traditional electrical contact docks that can be rotated or adjusted; it notably also shows an iPad-like device being docked to an articulated arm not unlike the one found on earlier iMac models. As with all Apple patents, this filing does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research in this area.

iOS 4.1 tweaks bars + FaceTime, adds Game Center + settings

Apple’s limited developer release of the beta version of iOS 4.1 yesterday makes a handful of small new changes to iOS 4.0, which debuted in June 2010 for iPhone 3G, 3GS, iPod touch 2G, iPod touch 3G, and iPhone 4 devices. For readers who may be interested in what’s changed, we’ve compiled a brief list, along with several screenshots provided by a reader.

One subtle change was first spotted in iOS 4.1 but will likely appear in an iOS 4.0.1 update, as well: Apple’s signal bar strength meter has been updated to more accurately depict cellular signal strength, such that they will show fewer bars than before under some conditions, and the first three bars have been made larger.

Game Center, a matchmaking and leaderboard application for iOS 4-compatible games, has been added again to the list of icons. Apple included Game Center with developer versions of iOS 4.0 until the date of final release, but pulled the app from the publicly available iOS 4 release to give developers additional time to integrate their apps with the feature. The new version of Game Center includes an updated interface with stylized graphics.

Apple has added a new Settings > General > Restrictions option to turn off multi-player game matchmaking within Game Center, which disables the request tab and friend adding for that application. It has also added a new Settings > General > Keyboard option to disable the spell checking feature. User-created dictionary entries also appear to be in the offing for iOS 4.1, enabling the auto-correction feature to learn additional words that shouldn’t be replaced.

Additional features include support for adding iPhone 4 FaceTime contacts to your Favorites list, a tweak that moves the Flash and Camera switch buttons to different locations when the device is tilted into landscape orientation, and a change to AVRCP Bluetooth handing that allows for track skipping. A version of iOS 4.1 for iPad notably has not been released by Apple.

Apple knew of potential iPhone 4 antenna issue?

Apple knew the antenna design of the iPhone 4 could pose an issue, according to a new report. Citing a person familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reports that Ruben Caballero, a Senior Director of iPod/iPhone engineering described in the report as an antenna expert, warned company management about the potential perils of the design. According to the report, Caballero voiced his concerns in early planning meetings once the bezel antenna design had been chosen, saying that it might lead to dropped calls and would be an engineering challenge. Beyond Caballero, a separate Bloomberg source claimed that one of Apple’s carrier partners also expressed concern about the antenna, although the report does not specify the carrier’s name. Apple is expected to address the iPhone 4’s antenna issues in a press conference scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time tomorrow.

Apple to discuss iPhone 4 on Friday

Apple has invited a small number of journalists to a special press conference, expected to be held at its headquarters in Cupertino, CA, to discuss the iPhone 4. Apple has not indicated who will be speaking at the event, which will begin at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on Friday, nor has it given specifics about what exactly will be discussed, beyond saying that the event will focus on the iPhone 4. Most likely, the company will address concerns over the device’s ongoing antenna issues, and possibly other, less publicized issues like malfunctioning proximity sensors.

Apple releases iOS 4.1, 4.1 SDK beta

Apple has released its first beta version of iOS 4.1, along with an accompanying software development kit (SDK), to registered iPhone developers. Notably, there is no version of the beta operating system available for the iPad, suggesting that contrary to prior reports, iOS 4.1 will not be a platform-unifying release, but will instead cater to Apple’s pocketable devices exclusively. It is currently unknown what, if any, new features or APIs may be included in the update; it is also unknown whether it is meant to help alleviate initial problems with the iPhone 4, or whether those fixes will come in an incremental 4.0.1 update. Both the new iOS 4.1 SDK and pre-release builds are available now for download by registered iPhone developers from the iPhone Dev Center.

ColorWare offers mail-in iPhone 4 custom coloring

ColorWare has started offering a send-in iPhone 4 custom coloring service. The service allows customers to choose from a variety of solid, metallic, or pearlescent colors, some of which are available with a soft touch finish, for application on the phone’s back, frame, Home button, micro SIM slot and earbuds. Each component can be painted a separate color, although each component beyond the frame costs extra. ColorWare’s custom coloring service for the iPhone 4 is available now with an estimated three week turn around time, and starts at $260.

iPhone 4 users wage proximity sensor issue campaign

The lack of response by Apple to a known iPhone 4 proximity sensor issue, in which calls can be accidentally interrupted by button presses and hang-ups, has led to a grass roots campaign to force Apple to acknowledge and resolve the problem. Reader Trent Phillips, who previously emailed with the results of controlled proximity sensor testing, has launched a letter writing campaign to both technical and mainstream media outlets covering Apple products. Phillips’ message claims that Apple “is ignoring earnest requests from customers for support and resolution of this issue,” and asks recipients to cover the proximity sensor problems with the same vigor given to the iPhone 4’s reception issues.

In addition, Phillips also pointed to an Apple discussions support thread on the subject that, at 1,689 replies, had been deemed “too long” by Apple. Apple locked that thread after 113 pages of discussion, which it said was causing browser timeouts when loading, and started a continuation thread earlier today with additional replies. Prominent in the new thread is discussion of returning the device before the 30 day limit is up, as are complaints over Apple’s silence on the issue up until this point. It is still unknown whether the issue can be fixed via a software update, or whether hardware replacements will be necessary to fix the problem for affected users.

Survey: Planned iPhone purchases up significantly

According to data from the latest ChangeWave smartphone survey, more than half of all respondents planning to buy a smartphone in the next 90 days are planning to purchase an iPhone. 52% of respondents said they planned to purchase an iPhone, a dramatic 21% increase from the March survey. Following Apple was HTC, with 19% of respondents planning to purchase one of its phones, Motorola, with 9%, and RIM with 6%. Notably, both Motorola and RIM saw significant decreases from March, with Motorola down 7% and RIM falling 8%. In addition, Apple continued to lead in cell phone customer satisfaction, with 73% of iPhone customers saying that they are “very satisfied” with their device. ChangeWave’s numbers are based on a survey of 4,028 consumers, completed June 24.

Apple removing iPhone 4 discussions mentioning Consumer Reports

Apple has been removing any threads on its support forums mentioning Consumer Reports’ post from yesterday, claiming that it couldn’t recommend the iPhone 4 due to reception concerns. TUAW reports that Apple has removed at least six such discussions, one of which is still available in cached form from Bing. As the report notes, this is hardly the first time Apple has been caught removing unfavorable threads from its support forums, but it does reflect poorly on the company as it attempts to deal with the iPhone 4 antenna debacle.

Consumer Reports ‘can’t recommend’ iPhone 4 over signal issues

After stating in an earlier post that there was “no reason, at least yet, to forgo buying an iPhone 4 over its reception concerns,” Consumer Reports has published a new blog post claiming that it “can’t recommend” the iPhone 4 due to its ongoing cellular reception issues. During testing of three separate iPhone 4 units within the publication’s radio frequency isolation chamber, Consumer Reports was able to replicate the “left hand” issue in which the device experiences significant signal degradation when skin touches the black band on the lower left hand side of the handset. The signal issue is cited as the sole reason the iPhone 4 was not considered a “recommended” model in new smartphone ratings released by the publication today, despite the fact that it “sports the sharpest display and best video camera we’ve seen on any phone, and even outshines its high-scoring predecessors with improved battery life and such new features as a front-facing camera for video chats and a built-in gyroscope that turns the phone into a super-responsive game controller.”

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