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Skype 3.0 adds video calling

Skype Software has released an update to its popular voice-over-IP telephony app for the iPhone and iPod touch adding much-anticipated support for Skype-to-Skype video calls. Skype 3.0 now allows Skype users to make two-way video calls between other video-capable Skype apps over either Wi-Fi or 3G. iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and fourth-generation iPod touch users can place bi-directional video calls to other compatible iOS devices or Skype desktop users on Mac OS X or Windows. Users of the iPad and older iPod touch devices are able to receive one-way video calls from video-capable Skype clients but cannot send video due to the lack of a camera on these devices. Video calls are supported in both portrait and landscape orientations and requires a device using iOS 4.0 or later. Skype video is not supported on the iPhone 3G. Skype 3.0 is available from the App Store as a free download.

SoPhone 4 clone steals iPhone 4’s body, entire UI

Chinese company Shenzhen SUFF Industry has introduced the SoPhone 4, a new GSM-based handset that aims to be nearly identical to the iPhone 4 in every possible way, blatantly copying the external design of Apple’s fourth-generation handset and iOS 4 UI. Sporting an external body identical in dimensions and button locations to the iPhone 4—even capable of fitting perfectly in existing iPhone 4 cases—the SoPhone features a 480x320 capacitive touch screen, Wi-Fi, 4GB of memory, dual cameras, Bluetooth, FM radio, and a user-replaceable battery, as well as “infrared remote sensor support,” an “electric torch,” and a “gravity inducer.” Notably, though the phone’s UI is sluggish, it’s incredibly similar to iOS 4, with folders, multi-tasking, and volume/silent overlays; the individual apps use similar and in some cases identical icons, but noticeably lack the polish of Apple’s applications, and in some case appear downright crude. The shameless copying extends to the phone’s branding, as it carries the same rear markings as a real iPhone 4 unit, and even displays an Apple logo upon startup. A pair of YouTube videos showing off the phone’s UI and external case demonstrate the cloning; we advise caution as some material shown during the UI demonstration is NSFW.

EU Micro-USB charging standard allows iPhone adapter

Two European standards bodies have released the final specs for a new universal cell phone charging standard based on Micro-USB. In a European Commission press release, the CEN-CENELEC and ETSI announced that the “harmonised standards needed for the manufacture of data-enabled mobile phones compatible with a new common charger” are now available. “I am very happy that the European Standardisation Bodies have met our request to develop within a short space of time the technical standards necessary for a common mobile phone charger based on the work done by industry,” said European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. “Now it is time for industry to show its commitment to sell mobile phones for the new charger. The common charger will make life easier for consumers, reduce waste and benefit businesses. It is a true win-win situation.”

In June, Apple, along with Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, LG, NEC, Qualcomm, RIM, Samsung, and Texas Instruments, signed an agreement aimed at standardizing all data-enabled cell phone chargers beginning in 2011; although Micro-USB has been chosen as the standard connector, the agreement allows Apple to bundle some form of Dock Connector to Micro-USB charging adapter with the iPhone in the EU, instead of adding a separate Micro-USB port to the device or abandoning the Dock Connector in favor of the new standard. Given the continued popularity of full-sized USB ports and Apple’s use of the same cables for non-mobile phone products including the iPod and iPad, this adapter most likely will take the form of a USB to Micro-USB adapter for current cables, rather than a redesigned Dock Connector to Micro-USB cable. [via Mac Rumors]

Verizon iPhone to debut post-CES, pre-Valentines Day

Apple plans to announce a Verizon-compatible iPhone sometime before Valentine’s Day 2011, according to a new report. Citing “a person familiar with Apple’s plans who is not authorized to discuss them publicly,” Businessweek reports that neither Apple nor Verizon will be announcing the phone at next week’s 2011 CES in Las Vegas; it says the former is “likely” host a special press event to announce the device. The report notes that analysts estimate between one and six million AT&T customers will switch to Verizon once the latter is able to offer the iPhone, a move that on the large end could cost AT&T as much as $6 billion in lost annual revenue. Notably, the report also claims that by easing the cost of upgrading to the iPhone 4, AT&T got 15 of its 23 million iPhone subscribers to sign new two-year contracts, while hiking its early contract termination fees from $175 to $325.

Radio Shack again offering $50 discount on iPhone 4, 3GS

Starting today, Radio Shack is once again offering a $50 discount on new 16GB iPhone 4 and 8GB iPhone 3GS units, bringing their prices down to $149 and $49, respectively. According to a BGR report, the deal is good for “new and eligible upgrade customers while supplies last.” The retailer is also offering boosted trade-in credit for iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS units. “Qualifying iPhone 3G and 3G S handsets will have a guaranteed trade-in credit of $75 and $125, respectively,” reads an email received by BGR. To qualify, the iPhone must “power on, cannot be PIN locked and must be in fully functional, working condition without any broken components.” Again, this offer does not have a set end date; readers are encouraged to call their local store to check on availability.

China Unicom lowers price on iPhone 3GS

China Unicom has lowered its price on the iPhone 3GS amid shortages of the iPhone 4 in China. People’s Daily reports that Unicom is now selling 8GB 3GS units for 3,999 yuan, or roughly $600, a 1,000 yuan (~$150) discount over the previous price. Notably, these prices are for no-contract units—customers who sign a two-year contract will receive a refund of as much as 3,792 yuan. The iPhone 4 is not available from Unicom without a contract. [via M.I.C. Gadget]

AT&T drops prices on iPhone 4 refurbs

AT&T has lowered its pricing on refurbished iPhone 4 units. Previously priced at $149 for 16GB units and $249 for 32GB models, the U.S. iPhone carrier is now offering both at $50 discounts, or $99 and $199, respectively. In addition, AT&T is offering “cosmetic blemish” units, with 16GB models going for $79 and 32GB models selling for $179. Similar discounts are being offered on 8GB iPhone 3GS units, with standard refurbished models selling for $29 and cosmetic blemish units selling for $19. All prices require minimum data service starting at $15 a month, as well as a new two-year contract and activation. [via BGR]

Alcatel-Lucent company sues Apple, others over video patents

Multimedia Patent Trust (MPT), a subsidiary of telecom firm Alcatel-Lucent, has filed suit against Apple, Canon, LG, and TiVo, claiming patent infringement. Paid Content reports that MPT is claiming the companies violate four of its patents relating to digital video compression technologies, including MPEG-2 and two different varieties of MPEG-4. The company is seeking royalty payments on all “video-capable” Apple products, including iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Macs. As the report notes, the MPEG-LA was set up to collect royalties on all relevant digital video patents, but that doesn’t stop companies such as Alcatel-Lucent from suing for royalties years after negotiations are completed.

Camera+ returns to App Store with version 2.0

Popular iPhone camera app Camera+ has returned to the App Store with the release of version 2.0. Camera+ was previously removed from the App Store without any explanation following the discovery hidden hardware shutter control feature that violated Apple’s SDK guidelines for iOS developers. While it was expected at the time that the app would return shortly thereafter with the hidden feature removed, the app remained conspicuously absent from the App Store for several months with no further explanation from the developer or Apple.

Camera+ has now returned in version 2.0, introducing a number of significant new features including sliders for adjusting effect amounts, support for exporting geolocation information and other metadata when saving photos to the Camera Roll and viewing extended photo info including maps with location information. Version 2.0 also provides a more intuitive, redesigned user interface and removes the “SLR” screen for simplicity. Photos can now be rotated and flipped within the app and most of the existing effects have been improved in addition to dozens of new effects and borders which have been added. Additional analog-themed effects can also be purchased for $1 from within the application. A complete list of new features and examples of the new effects can be found on Taptaptap’s Blog. Camera+ 2.0 is a free update for users of the previous version and is currently available from the App Store for a limited-time sale price of $1 for new users.

MobileNavigator adds iPad support, Zagat Guide

Navigon has released an update to its turn-by-turn GPS navigation apps adding native iPad support, optional Zagat guide integration and a new Active Lane Assistant feature. MobileNavigator 1.7 is now a universal app supporting the iPhone and iPad 3G natively, the first major GPS navigation app to provide universal support in a single app. iPod touch and iPad Wi-Fi users can also use MobileNavigator with an external GPS accessory. Users can also now take advantage of additional travel and restaurant guides through Zagat via an in-app purchase, providing ratings, reviews and directions to restaurants, hotels and other attractions from the Zagat Guide, integrated directly into the POI database.

The update also introduces a new optional Active Lane Assistant feature that provides a live lane animation in the lower-right corner of the map view, displaying the current lane configuration and indicating which lane the driver should follow. Additional new features include e-mail sharing of favourites between multiple iOS devices and a new MyReport feature that allows users to report road changes such as names, new speed limits and one-way streets directly from within the app such as names. Navigon MobileNavigator is available from the App Store in several versions for different geographic areas: MobileNavigator North America is currently available for $45, with U.S. and Canada versions available separately for $35 each. Region-specific U.S. versions are $25 and MobileNavigator Europe is $75. Prices for other areas around the world range from $40 to $65. Zagat content is available via in-app purchase for $6; Active Lane Assistant and Zagat content are not available in all areas.

Apple releases iPhone Configuration Utility 3.2

Apple has released version 3.2 of its iPhone Configuration Utility for Mac and Windows, the latest version of its iPhone configuration management utility for enterprise users. The utility allows enterprise users to create configuration profiles which can then be used to setup multiple iPhones. It is currently unknown what, if any, changes are included in the update. iPhone Configuration Utility 3.2 for Mac OS X requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later; the Windows version requires Windows 7, Vista SP1, or XP SP3, along with .NET 3.5 SP1. Both are available now as free downloads. [via AppleInsider]

Apple airs holiday iPhone 4 commercial

Apple has begun airing a holiday-themed iPhone 4 commercial. Entitled “Under The Covers” and set to “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole, the ad—shot in the style of Apple’s original FaceTime iPhone 4 spots—shows a mother and son on a FaceTime call with Santa. As the mother leaves the room, the young boy covers up with his bedsheet and continues talking to “Santa,” who is revealed to actually be the son’s father, calling from the family’s garage. Apple’s new iPhone 4 commercial is available for viewing now on the company’s website.

Apple releases iAd Producer to developers

Apple has released its new iAd Producer tool to members of the iOS developer program. According to Apple, iAd Producer “automatically manages the HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript behind your iAd to make creating beautiful, motion-rich iAd content as easy as point and click,” and offers project templates for both the iPhone and iPad. Other features include a visual designer, page templates, pre-built animations and effects, advanced JavaScript editing, and more. iAd Producer is available now as a free download from iOS developer program members. [via Mac Rumors]

Sam’s Club stores offering iPhone 4 for $147 this week? (Updated)

Sam’s Club stores in the U.S. will be offering the 16GB iPhone 4 for just $147 with a two-year contract through Christmas Day, according to a new report. Citing information and a matching screenshot from an anonymous source, Engadget reports that the 8GB iPhone 3GS will see a similar discount, and will sell for $47 on contract until the holiday. Notably, the iPhone 4 price would represent the cheapest of the season, beating out Radio Shack’s prior discount by two dollars; the report does not indicate whether Sam’s will be offering a similar discount on 32GB iPhone 4 units.

Update: Walmart, which owns Sam’s Club, is offering a $50 Gift Card with the purchase of a new 8GB iPhone 3GS or 16GB iPhone 4.

Sharp to build new LCD production lines for iPhone

Sharp plans to spend 100 billion yen (roughly $1.2 billion) to build production lines for small and midsized LCDs, the bulk of which Apple is expected to purchase for use in the iPhone, according to a new report. Citing the Nikkei business daily, Reuters reports that Sharp will begin installing the lines at a Mie Prefecture plant next year, with mass production expected to begin in the second half of 2012. Apple is expected to shoulder a large portion of the investment and buy most of the LCD panels produced; Toshiba is also said to be building a new LCD plant primarily to supply small panels to Apple, which hopes to expand procurement in order to help it gain market share in the smartphone market.

iPad, iPhone play part in insider trading sting

An executive at Flextronics, a parts supplier to Apple, passed on secret information about the iPad and iPhone 4 before their announcements, according to a new report. Citing a 39-page legal complaint lobbied against Walter Shimoon, a senior director of business development at Flextronics, and three other men, the Wall Street Journal reports that Shimoon shared information about Apple’s iPad, iPhone, and iPod with an unnamed government informant. “They [Apple] have a code name for something new…It’s, it’s totally…it’s a new category altogether. And, uh, I speculate, it doesn’t have a camera in it, what I figured out. So I speculated that it’s probably a reader…Something like that…I believe it’s called…K48,” Shimoon told the informant in October 2009, nearly four months before the iPad’s introduction. During the same call, Shimoon said that Apple was working on a new version of the iPhone that would include two cameras; the iPhone 4 was launched eight months later. Shimoon is also said to have provided information about Apple sales figures for the iPhone for the third quarter of 2009, and sales forecasts for the iPhone and iPod for the fourth quarter of 2009.

Star Walk Christmas Edition tracks Santa, adds AirPrint support

Vito Technology has released an updated Christmas Edition of its interactive astronomy guide apps for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. In keeping with the holiday season, the update adds the ability to track Santa Claus’ journey on Christmas Eve, including the ability to fast-forward to December 24th using the application’s Time Machine feature to find out where Santa will be in advance of the big day. The new version also adds AirPrint support for printing sky maps with stars and constellations, new star catalogues including more information on spectral class and distance from the Earth and expanded details on interesting satellites including launch dates and stories. Star Walk is available in two versions: Star Walk for the iPhone and iPod touch sells for $3 while Star Walk for iPad is sold separately for $5.

Rogers/Fido now unlocking iPhones for $50 fee

Rogers/Fido have instituted a new handset unlocking policy which allows eligible owners of the iPhone to have their handsets unlocked for a $50 fee. According to an iPhone in Canada report, customers wanting to take advantage of the unlocking service must have an account in good standing, and have paid the unsubsidized cost for the device at least 30 days prior or have finished their contract. In addition, the device to be unlocked must be listed in their equipment history. The report indicates that the unlocking service is handled by Rogers Customer Care, and that once set up, the user simply needs to restore the device and it will be unlocked via iTunes.

Nokia files 13 new patent complaints against Apple

Nokia has filed a total of 13 new patent complaints against Apple in Europe, representing the latest chapter in a legal battle that started over one year ago. According to a Reuters report, the new complaints were filed in Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, and accuse Apple of infringing on Nokia patents related to several technologies, including touch user interfaces, on-device app stores, signal noise compression, and modular structure. “The Nokia inventions protected by these patents include…a wiping gesture on a touch screen to navigate content, or enabling access to constantly changing services with an on-device app store, both filed more than ten years before the launch of the iPhone,” Paul Melin, vice president of Intellectual Property at Nokia, said in a statement. “These actions add 13 further Nokia patents to the 24 already asserted against Apple in the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Delaware and Wisconsin Federal courts.”

Nokia first filed suit against Apple in October 2009, claiming that the iPhone infringes on several Nokia patents; Apple filed a countersuit claiming patent infringement in December. The lawsuits were followed by a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) complaint from Nokia near the end of the year, alleging that Apple infringes on the Finnish company’s patents “in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers.”

The ITC launched an investigation into Nokia’s claims against Apple in late January; it announced a similar investigation into Apple’s claims against Nokia in February. In March, a federal judge in Delaware signed an order halting litigation between Nokia and Apple pending resolution of the companies’ respective claims with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC); Nokia then sued Apple again in May, alleging that the iPhone and iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G infringe on five of its patents. The ITC case between the two companies is ongoing, but ITC staff issued a pre-trial memo stating that Nokia shouldn’t be found liable of infringing upon Apple’s patents. A recent report indicated that Apple has been bolstering its legal team ahead of key battles with Nokia, as well as HTC and Motorola.

Apple grabs top 5 spot in Japanese cellphone market

Apple has risen to fifth place in the Japanese cellphone market, according to new data from IDC Japan. Citing the data, The Mainichi Daily News reports that Apple grabbed a 12.2 percent share of the Japanese cellphone market over the July-September period, good for fifth place behind local companies Sharp, Panasonic, Fujitsu, and Kyocera, the former of which led the market with an 18.8 percent share. Notable beyond the challenges faced by foreign companies in Japan is the fact that the numbers include all cellphones, not just smartphones, and that the iPhone is offered by only one Japanese carrier—SoftBank—which is the third-largest in the country, behind market leader NTT DoCoMo and KDDI. [via MDN]

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