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Gameloft updates Modern Combat: Sandstorm for iPhone 4

Gameloft has released an iPhone 4 update to its acclaimed Modern Combat: Sandstorm for the iPhone and iPod touch. Modern Combat: Sandstorm (iLounge Rating: A) is a first-person action-thriller where players must locate and annihilate a terrorist cell in a remote desert hotspot. Users play through 10 missions featuring detailed Middle Eastern environments and are provided with a wide range of authentic advanced weapons ranging from assault rifles to rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The game provides local and online multiplayer support, a choice of multiple control systems and polished 3D graphics with cinematic interludes and voice-overs. The latest update brings support for gyroscopic control mode on the iPhone 4 with full 3D range of motion, high-resolution graphics for the iPhone 4 Retina Display and support for Fast App Switching on multitasking-capable iOS 4 devices. Modern Combat: Sandstorm is available from the App Store for $5 and is a free update for current users.

Apple, AT&T end no-contract iPhone sales in U.S. (Updated)

Apple and AT&T have removed no-contract iPhone purchasing options from their websites, signaling a further tightening of restrictions on U.S. iPhone users compared to those abroad. Previously available at prices significantly higher than those of even early upgraders—$599 for a 16GB iPhone 4 and $699 for a 32GB unit—the options allowed customers to purchase the phones without extending their existing AT&T contracts. Apple has also changed its FAQ found at the bottom of its online store’s iPhone page, noting that the iPhone is not available without a commitment and “requires a two year AT&T wireless service contract.” Curiously, Apple did not begin contract-free sales of the iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS until the devices had been on the market for roughly nine months; it is unclear what prompted the change in policy with the iPhone 4. [via MacNN]

Updated: An AT&T spokesman has issued a statement indicating that the language on Apple’s site has not been changed, and that customer should still be able to purchase a contract-free iPhone 4 by visiting an AT&T store.

Paramount releases Top Gun 2 for iPhone

Paramount Digital Entertainment, in cooperation with Freeverse, has released Top Gun 2, the sequel to its earlier first-person combat jet shooter for the iOS platform. In Top Gun 2 players engage in air-to-air and air-to-ground arcade style combat with new high-speed defensive maneuvers and offensive attacks. Players fly using the accelerometer to engage in combat with multiple enemies through seven unique environments, including outer space, in a variety of different mission types. Top Gun 2 features dynamic level design with surprise attacks and unique gameplay and an enhanced AI. Players can choose to pilot an F/A-18 Hornet, F-16 Fighting Falcon or F-14 Tomcat, each with upgradeable cannon and missile systems and unique offensive and defensive capabilities. Top Gun 2 features full-screen anti-aliasing and enhanced visual effects and a soundtrack by Brooklyn-based Daredevil Squadron as well as the classic track “Danger Zone” from the Top Gun movie. Top Gun 2 requires an iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4 or later and is available from the App Store at a discounted price of $3 until August 23.

Apple supplier chairman steps down over kickback scandal

Chua Kim Guan, chairman of Singapore-based JLJ Holdings Ltd., has stepped down amid a scandal that allegedly saw kickbacks given to an Apple employee for confidential information. JLJ Holdings has been named in a lawsuit by Apple against former Apple global supply manager Paul Shin Devine, which claims Devine shared confidential information from Apple with suppliers of iPod and iPhone accessories, who used the information to negotiate favorable contracts with Apple. “In order to facilitate the impartial review of all activities relating to the Apple claim that may involve the company and its subsidiaries, the company’s executive chairman has voluntarily relinquished all executive duties…for the time being,” JLJ said in a statement. The Wall Street Journal reports that JLJ revealed Chua is the brother of Andrew Ang, a former assistant general manager of its Jin Li Mould Manufacturing unit who is also named in Apple’s suit. Both Devine and Ang were recently indicted for wire fraud, money laundering, and kickbacks. [via MDN]

iPad wait times drop, iPhone 4 to follow?

The wait times for all models of the iPad have dropped from seven to ten days down to three to five days on Apple’s online store, indicating that Apple may finally be getting ahead of the overwhelming demand for the tablet computer. The wait for an iPad has stayed a week or longer since the device’s debut in April 3. In addition, GigaOm reports that Ashok Kumar, an analyst Rodman & Renshaw, said in a recent research note that Apple may be able to reduce the wait time for a new iPhone 4 significantly by the end of September; new iPhone 4 orders from Apple’s online store are currently quoted as shipping in three weeks. During the company’s Q3 2010 Conference Call, COO Tim Cook repeatedly explained that Apple was making both iPads and iPhone 4 units as fast as it can sell them, and indicated that it was working to ramp up production to meet demand as quickly as possible. [via TUAW]

Facebook app adds Places, background uploads

Facebook has released an update to its iPhone and iPod touch application adding support for its new Places feature and improving iOS4 multitasking support. Introduced by Facebook earlier this week, Places is a new location-based social networking that allows users to register their presence at physical locations in a manner similar to services such as Foursquare and Gowalla. Facebook 3.2 provides a new section on the home screen for accessing the new Places location feature and integrates GPS location services support to allow users to view nearby places from within the app, check-in at various locations and view friends’ locations. The new version can also now continue photo and video uploads in the background on iOS 4 multitasking-capable devices and adds the ability to set the privacy of individual status updates and see all recipients of inbox messages. Facebook 3.2 is available from the App Store as a free download. The Facebook Places feature is presently only available in the U.S.

KT sees strong iPhone 4 pre-orders

KT, the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in South Korea, saw more than 120,000 pre-orders for the iPhone 4 on the first day of sales. According to a Korea Times report, KT’s ordering system was jammed early in the day, leaving customers unable to order for roughly two hours. “I really appreciate this enormous support from our customers, and I also apologize for the discomfort caused by the ordering system. We will do our best for flawless delivery of the product,” Pyo Hyun-myong, chief of KT’s mobile business, said on his Twitter account. The 120,000 pre-orders handily broke the record for highest first-day mobile pre-orders in South Korea; the iPhone 3G also broke this record during its pre-order period, with 55,000 orders made over five days.

Cresyn: Former Apple manager Devine paid for consulting

South Korea-based Cresyn Co., a supplier of earphones for the iPod, has said that former Apple global supply manager Paul Shin Devine was paid for what was thought to be consulting work. “It was our understanding the contract was with Apple since we knew he was an Apple employee,” Kim Chang Jun, a spokesman for the Seoul-based company, told Bloomberg. “Apple was specified in the contract, and we believed it, so we sent the money.” Devine, along with associate Andrew Ang of Singapore, was recently indicted for wire fraud, money laundering, and kickbacks. Devine allegedly shared confidential information from Apple with suppliers of iPod and iPhone accessories, which then used the information to negotiate favorable contracts with Apple.

Reuters reports that in addition to Cresyn, Apple claims that Devine was also in contact with Singapore’s Glocom/Lateral Solutions, JLJ Holdings, and Fastening Technologies, as well as Taiwan’s Nishoku Technology and Pegatron. Said Jonathan Chang, a deputy spokesman for Pegatron, “We are investigating the case now and feel sorry about this.” Pegatron owns Kaeder Electronics, a maker of third-party plastic cases for the iPhone, iPod, and other devices, which was named in the kickback charges but is not a direct Apple supplier.

Barnes & Noble releases Nook for iPhone, updates iPad version

Barnes & Noble has released an iPhone version of its Nook e-reader software introduced for the iPad earlier this year. The Nook e-reader apps feature access to over a million titles from Barnes & Noble’s eBookstore, multiple font types and sizes, customizable background and text colors and brightness controls. Nook also provides an integrated Merriam-Webster Pocket Dictionary, synchronization of notes, highlights and current reading position and provides a unique LendMe digital lending feature that allows users to share their purchased eBooks with friends using the Nook platform. Nook for iPhone provides the same features offered in the iPad application optimized for the iPhone’s smaller screen and iPhone 4 Retina Display and includes integrated B&N eBookstore shopping, personal B&N digital library access, digital lending features and the ability to sync notes, highlights and current reading position with other Nook apps. Barnes & Noble has also released an update to its iPad application, renaming it from BN eReader to Nook for iPad and adding the ability for users to rate their books and sort by favorites as well as a user guide and first run tutorial for new users. Nook for iPhone and Nook for iPad are available separately as free downloads from the U.S. App Store.

China Unicom to offer iPad, iPhone 4

China Unicom has reached an agreement with Apple to sell the iPad and iPhone 4 in China, according to a new report. Citing a source within China Unicom, Caixin reports that the company has finalized a deal with Apple that will make it the sole distributor of the iPad in China, although no timetable is offered for the device’s Chinese release. In addition, the company is said to have secured rights to offer the iPhone 4 as soon as early September; the report explicitly states that the launch day will not be September 13 as had previously been rumored. Finally, the report notes that the new Wi-Fi-enabled iPhone 3GS sold out at Apple’s Beijing retail store the first day it went on sale.

Sony takes shots at iOS with new PSP ad

Sony has released a new TV advertisement for its PlayStation Portable handheld gaming console that mocks players of iOS games. Holding a device that clearly is meant to resemble an iPhone, a young man—identified as “Josh Rose,” who is said to be “kidding himself”—holds up the device, talking about the “sweet game” he’s playing. Sony’s new PSP TV advertisement spokesperson “Marcus” exclaims that the device “isn’t built for big boy games,” and proceeds to show a variety of games available for the PSP for only $9.99. The new advertisement appears in embedded form below. [via Kotaku]

Mind Crew releases Mayan Puzzle

Mind Crew has released Mayan Puzzle, a new puzzle game for the iPhone and iPod touch. A unique variant of a match-three style game, Mayan Puzzle includes four modes: classic, time trial, challenge and marathon to provide different styles of play ranging from an action puzzler to a more classic strategy game. The game is set in a beautiful Mayan surrounding with 32 animated backgrounds and includes impressive special effects and an original Mayan soundtrack. The game provides 32 levels in classic strategic mode, four target times in time trial mode, four difficulty settings in challenge mode or infinite gameplay in marathon mode. Online leaderboards and 35 achievements are provided through OpenFeint integration. Mayan Puzzle is available from the App Store for $1.

iOS 4 code points to next-gen iPhone, iPad testing

A chunk of code found within Apple’s iOS 4 suggests the company is preparing to field test next-generation iPhone and iPad units. Boy Genius Report claims that the code, found by one of its Apple sources, queries the device, and automatically activates it should it be an unreleased device, bypassing the need for connection to iTunes. The report claims that the unreleased models are CDMA flavors of the iPhone and iPad, but also notes that similar code has been found every year before a major iOS device release, and has been removed before the devices’ respective launches. Finally, the report claims that the platform code of the CDMA iPhone is N92AP—John Gruber had earlier pegged it as N92—while the next-generation iPod touch’s platform code is said to be N81AP.

Survey: 31% of U.S. iPhone 4 owners may switch to Verizon

An addition to ChangeWave’s July survey suggests that nearly one-third of U.S. iPhone 4 users would be likely to switch to Verizon as their service provider should the carrier begin offering the iPhone. 18% of iPhone 4 users said they would be “somewhat likely” to switch, while 13% said they would be “very likely” to switch. Notably, the survey results shared earlier this month indicated that the requirement of using AT&T was iPhone 4 owners’ biggest dislike, with 27% of the vote, followed closely by dislike of the coverage/speed/quality of AT&T’s 3G network at 24%. ChangeWave’s survey was based on the reactions and opinions of 213 Apple iPhone 4 owners. In addition, Fortune points to a similar July survey of 1,000 consumers from Morpace that found 47% of current iPhone customers who would consider a Verizon iPhone, with 34% of current AT&T iPhone users who are waiting for the iPhone to become available on another carrier before upgrading.

South Korea to open iPhone 4 pre-orders

South Korean iPhone carrier KT has said it plans to begin to take pre-orders for the iPhone 4 later this week. AFP reports that KT will be accepting pre-orders both online and in its stores beginning Wednesday. “We hope the iPhone 4 will draw a hot response from clients as the iPhone 3 did,” KT said in a statement, adding that it would hit the market some time in September. Apple has sold more than 850,000 iPhones in South Korea since the handset launched in the country nine months ago.

Apple’s iAd platform off to challenging start

Apple is facing some early challenges in getting its iAd mobile advertising network up and running, according to a new report. Citing unnamed ad executives, the Wall Street Journal reports that some ad campaigns are experiencing delays due to Apple’s tight control over the creative process and the agencies’ learning curves. The report claims that the creation of iAds is taking from eight to ten weeks, or longer than normal for typical mobile ads, and the building of the actual ads, which is currently being handled by Apple, is sometimes taking two weeks longer than expected. Of the 17 iAd launch partners named by Apple, only ads from Unilever and Nissan were running for much of July; Citigroup, Disney, and J.C. Penney have since launched iAd campaigns with more companies to follow. Notably, one named launch partner—Chanel SA—is now saying it has no iAd campaigns planned at this time. A recent report claimed that early advertisers and developers are nonetheless pleased with iAd’s early performance; Apple recently added new functionality to iAd allowing developers to sell apps directly from within iAds, helping the company to fill iAd slots.

Apple supply manager arrested over kickbacks

An Apple manager has been arrested and accused of accepting kickback payments from iPod and iPhone accessory suppliers. The San Jose Mercury News reports that Paul Shin Devine, a global supply manager with Apple, along with Andrew Ang of Singapore, were named in a grand jury indictment for wire fraud, money laundering, and kickbacks. According to the report, the scheme saw Devine share confidential information from Apple with the suppliers, which used the information to negotiate favorable contracts with Apple. In return, the suppliers gave Devine monetary kickbacks, which were routed through U.S. and foreign bank accounts, plus a front company. Devine is currently being held by the U.S. Marshals Service; Apple has filed a separate civil suit against Devine, claiming he received more than $1 million in “payments, kickbacks and bribes” over several years. “Apple is committed to the highest ethical standards in the way we do business,” said Apple spokesman Steve Dowling. “We have zero tolerance for dishonest behavior inside or outside the company.”

Update: According to Macworld UK, China’s Kaeder Electronics, South Korea’s Cresyn, and Singapore’s Jin Li Mould Manufacturing were all involved in the kickback scheme, along with three other suppliers; none of the three named suppliers has yet commented on the case.

iAd pleasing early advertisers, developers

Apple’s new iAd mobile advertising platform is pleasing early partners on both sides, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Application developers, including Dictionary.com and CBS Mobile, told the paper that iAd is allowing them to charge more for ad space in their applications — a 177% increase in Dictionary.com’s case. Meanwhile, advertisers like Nissan and Unilever report that their initial ads are attracting more users and holding their attention for a longer period of time. “We feel pretty strongly that this is the way to capitalize on where the mobile Web is heading,” said Chad Jacoby, a senior manager of Nissan’s media operations. “What iAd promises is the most progressive thing I’ve seen to date” in digital advertising. Rob Master, the North American media director for Unilever — which ran an iAd for its men’s line of Dove hygiene products — said the company’s iAd resulted in a double-digit percentage of users seeking more information about the product. “The ad served to help rally the organization at large” to the possibility of iAd advertising, he said. “And now that we’ve been through one, the amount of time and team dedicated [to producing an ad] drops dramatically.” Apple began rolling out its iAd platform on July 1.

iPhone fourth in Q2 worldwide smartphone sales

Apple’s iPhone was the fourth most popular smartphone platform by worldwide sales in the second quarter, according to the latest data from Gartner. Apple sold 8.7 million units in Q2, good for 14.2% of the smartphone market, compared to 5.3 million units, or 13% of the market, in Q2 2009. The iPhone’s growth was overshadowed by that of Android-based smartphones, however, as sales of Android devices went from roughly 756,000 in Q2 2009 to 10.6 million in Q2 2010, accounting for 17.2% of the global market and good for third place in sales, behind only BlackBerry-maker RIM with 11.2 million units, or 18.2% of the market, and Symbian, with 25.4 million units and 41.2% of the market. Overall, Apple held a 2.7% share of the worldwide mobile communication device market, which includes both smartphones and traditional cell phones.

CDMA-capable iPhone in late testing phase?

Apple is in the late testing phases of a CDMA-capable iPhone that could potentially be released by Verizon, according to a new report. John Gruber of Daring Fireball reports that the phone, codenamed N92, is in the “engineering verification test” phase, two steps away from production and one step below “device verification test” status, which was the current phase of the iPhone 4 unit that was lost by an Apple employee. Gruber notes that the phone doesn’t necessarily have to be Verizon-bound, and could potentially launch on Sprint or China Telecom, amongst other carriers throughout Asia and South America.

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