Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced plans to begin offering iPhone and iPod touch-enabled features on upcoming Blu-ray releases. This new functionality, launching on July 28 with the 2-Disc Blu-ray release of Fast & Furious, will be enabled via companion applications available from the App Store. The initial app will tie in with the “Virtual Car Garage” bonus feature, allowing users to control 360-degree views of cars featured in the film, along with exclusive technical specs, directly from their device. Other planned features include virtual remote functionality, the ability to access and download bonus content for on-the-go viewing, and the ability to access addition film details while watching the movie. The Fast & Furious Blu-ray companion app will be available as a free download.
Google has announced that iPhone and iPod touch users running iPhone OS 3.0 can now perform local searches via the company’s My Location feature. When users visit google.com from Safari, a link on the page will allow them to turn on My Location, after which searches can be made on a local basis; the Official Google Mobile Blog uses a search for “Jazz clubs” in New York City as an example. Once the feature is turned on, users can update their location via a link on the main google.com home page. It is unclear whether Apple plans to build the feature into future versions of Safari for iPhone, which would allow for location-based searches via the browser’s integrated search area.
An anonymous source has provided iLounge with a listing of small but notable changes found in the second beta version of iPhone OS 3.1. A new option in the Accessibility menu allows users to triple-click the Home button in order to toggle VoiceOver or the White on Black features on and off; VoiceOver has also received a practice mode for learning its unique gestures. When editing video, the “Save” and “Save as Copy” options from beta 1 have been changed to “Trim Original” and “Save as New Clip” for clarity, and another change—possibly included in the first 3.1 beta as well—keeps the user’s “Now Playing” queue intact across syncs, meaning the user must manually change the playlist or finish listening to the one started prior to the sync. The other big change on the developer side is that developers can now monitor/debug their apps over Wi-Fi rather than having to use a USB connection. iPhone OS 3.1 beta 2 is available now to registered iPhone developers; Apple has yet to set a release date for a broader launch of the update.
Apple has released the second beta versions of both the iPhone SDK 3.1 and iPhone OS 3.1 to registered iPhone developers. Notes for the new beta of iPhone OS 3.1 do not show any apparent changes from the first beta release, which included non-destructive video editing, support for Voice Control over Bluetooth, and new modem firmware and AT&T profiles. The first 3.1 beta release of the iPhone SDK offered updated OpenGL and Quartz APIs; no major changes are indicated in the release notes for the updated SDK. iPhone OS 3.1 and iPhone SDK 3.1 beta 2 are now available for download from the iPhone Dev Center.
A number of iPhone users are reporting problems with the playback and syncing of Voice Memo files, as well as the access and syncing of photos taken with the iPhone’s camera. In an Apple support discussions thread, several users claim to have made recordings which are visible on the device, but are unable to be played back—while the play icon changes to a pause button, indicating the file is being played back, the slider never moves, nor does any sound come out. In some cases users were able to sync their phones and retrieve the message(s), but in others the sync removed the files from the phone entirely. Interestingly, an iLounge editor came across a similar problem with the iPhone’s Photos application, in that the phone suddenly acted as if no photos were stored on the device, and would take pictures but claim it was empty. After importing the photos into iPhoto, the app began to have trouble finding specific images, and the import did not help fix the problem on the iPhone. Another bug makes the Camera shutter button unresponsive and unable to take pictures. It is possible that these issues are unrelated, however, it is also possible that a bug in the way iPhone OS 3.0 handles saving files to its media databases may be to blame. [via MacNN]
Liverpool, U.K.-based Stuart Hughes has introduced its new 18ct Solid Rose Gold iPhone 3GS Diamond. Sporting a replacement rear plate and bezel made of solid gold, the new model contains approximately 150 grams of 18ct rose gold, as well as 53 pink diamonds set in the rose gold Apple logo. The 18ct Solid Rose Gold iPhone 3GS Diamond will be available later this week and will sell for £21,995, or roughly $35,575.
Apple may be intentionally blocking users with hacked or unlocked iPhones from receiving Push Notification messages, according to a developer report. Czech developers PoweryBase, makers of the Push Notification-powered reminder app NotifyMe, report that the 5% of its customers using unofficially modified or activated phones were creating more than 80% of customer support requests, complaining that the application didn’t work as advertised. Upon closer inspection, PoweryBase discovered that these phones were not receiving a response back from Apple’s Push Notification Server (APNS), while normal devices had no such issue. “When the Push based application such as NotifyMe requests an ID from APNS, the server responds within a second and identifies the device with the unique token. From that point, the connection between APNS and user’s device is successfully established,” said Pavel Serbajlo, PoweryBase’s lead developer. “However, on a unofficially activated device, APNS keeps the application wait forever and does not provide any respond at all, keeping user wait infinitely or time out the connection, if the target application is capable of timing out.” The company is now implementing an in-application check to see whether or not data is being received back from the server and directing users to the app’s FAQ page if a problem is detected; the company is also discouraging users of hacked iPhones from purchasing NotifyMe. NotifyMe is available now from the App Store and sells for $4; a free version is also available.
Drawing on his own experiences developing for the Iconfactory and from discussions with “hundreds” of other iPhone developers, Craig Hockenberry has posted a comprehensive list of the challenges and problems facing the App Store as it heads into its second year—including 3-week wait times for app update approvals—as well as an equally comprehensive list of possible solutions. Among his suggestions are the verification of developers instead of individual applications, the ability to offer paid upgrades and time-limited trials of applications, more clear, concise rules for application behavior and content, and a second, more expensive tier for larger developers with premium service. Hockenberry goes on to acknowledge that it has been a great last year for both Apple and third-party iPhone developers, but expresses fear that developers may begin to feel disenchanted with the iPhone maker should it continue refusing to engage developers and ignore their needs, and notes Apple’s refusal to answer App Store questions at WWDC enhanced that fear.
Apple has posted a new support document outlining the steps users can take to try and fix specific Wi-Fi or Bluetooth issues on the iPhone or iPod touch. According to the article “Unable to use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with iPhone or iPod touch because there’s no address listed for the device,” symptoms of the issue may include a greyed out Wi-Fi or Bluetooth icon, a lack of an address for either or both of the protocols, the appearance of a Wi-Fi signal but no ability to connect to online services, and the inability to pair with a Bluetooth device. Apple lists three steps for fixing these problems, telling users to try resetting network settings, erasing all content and settings, and restoring the software. If none of those three methods work, Apple says the device may need repairs. A number of users have reported problems with Wi-Fi and or Bluetooth following the installation of iPhone OS 3.0, however, it is unclear how many users are dealing with the specific issues outlined in this document.
A new group of Apple patent filings published this week suggest the iPhone-maker is working on adding object identification capabilities to the device, among other features. As described by the patent filing, this “ID App” would allow users to identify objects, structures and other features of their surroundings by using information received by the camera, an RFID reader, or an Infrared camera. This information could be combined with current location data in order to more accurately pinpoint the appropriate database for the identification search. Another filing describes a method for recording and saving outgoing voicemails and tying them to the recipient’s contact information for later playback and reference, while yet another describes a system by which a consumer could pre-select the media to be loaded onto his or her device before purchasing, so that it could be downloaded immediately to the device and be available within minutes after opening.
Two more filings focus on improvements to messaging, the first of which describes a system of parental controls which would filter out objectionable text content in messages based on the user’s age or grade level, and could also alert the parents or other administrators to the presence of such text. The second outlines a messaging application that could determine whether a message was successfully sent from the device to one or more recipients, and allow the user to re-send the message without the need to retype it should the initial delivery attempt fail. Finally, a new filing suggests the company is working on a method for displaying song lyrics or other text-based content on a partially transparent, scrollable “sheet,” which is overlaid on the standard touchscreen iPod controls. As with all Apple patent filings, these do not necessarily represent any future product releases from Apple, but offer evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via AppleInsider]
A new feature found in iPhone OS 3.0 has also created a new security liability, according to a security group member. The exploit is caused by the OS’ automatic opening of Safari when attempting to connect to a network. Remote-exploit.org co-founder Max Moser explains that when the iPhone joins a network, it tries to run a DNS query for apple.com, and open a simple HTML document stored on Apple’s website. If these two things happen without incident, it functions as normal, but in circumstances in which the DNS query is successful but it can’t retrieve the HTML file, it assumes there is a “captive portal”—a hotspot with a login/pay-to-use screen—and automatically opens Safari. When combined with the penetration testing software karmetasploit, this vulnerability could potentially be used to capture iPhone cookies, account information, and possibly more, depending on what other vulnerabilities are found. While this would require a malicious Wi-Fi network to be setup, which might also pose a threat to other devices, the iPhone’s new automatic connect sequence leaves it more vulnerable than most. [via InformationWeek]
In a recent interview, Skyhook Wireless CEO Ted Morgan made several interesting statements about the company’s Wi-Fi-based location services in relation to the iPhone and GPS. Despite the apparent overlaps between the two technologies, which some might presume would make Skyhook’s Wi-Fi-based device triangulation less useful in GPS-equipped devices, Morgan said the situation is actually the opposite, as the two features complement each other. He told Cnet that due to the longer time GPS takes to acquire an accurate location, pure GPS isn’t fast enough for instant-on apps used on smartphones, and that both interference from the devices’ screens and their smaller GPS antennas add to the issues. In addition, he claimed that two-thirds to three-quarters of the time, the iPhone locates itself using the Skyhook Wi-Fi service as opposed to GPS.
Raising questions regarding the durability of the oleophobic coating on the glass screen of the iPhone 3GS, a user from Germany has posted pictures of the coating coming off less than three weeks after the product’s release. In separate postings to the apfeltalk.de forums, 3GS user “Samsas Traum” has shared pictures of his problematic screen, which appears to have ghost-like circles around the area where the coating has come off. Traum claims that the localized nature of the damage is likely due to repeat playings of Flick Fishing. While we have yet to see a second report of such extreme wear in such a short time, iLounge editors have found previous products with oleophobic coating—such as sunglasses—to be problematic, with the coating coming off with as little as contact with certain types of water. [via iFun.de]
A number of both iPhone 3G and 3GS users are complaining of poor battery life when running iPhone OS 3.0. Some iPhone 3GS users, who had 3.0 pre-installed on their phones, have found some improvement after cycling the battery from full charge to dead a few times, while others, including iPhone 3G users, are reporting improved battery life after disabling Push Notifications, suggesting Apple may still have some kinks to work out in the new service. iLounge’s reviews of both the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS noted “unacceptably low” battery life under certain conditions, including 3G calling, data, and video recording; it is unclear whether the problems are in hardware, software, or interrelated in nature, and whether or not Apple’s upcoming iPhone 3.1 software update will improve battery life. [via Macworld UK]
L.A.-based rock band The 88 have released their new single “Love Is the Thing,” which the band recorded using an iPhone and the application FourTrack ($10) from Sonoma Wire Works. According to a post on the band’s website, a member was browsing through the App Store when he came upon FourTrack, and the group thought it would be “a great way to record song ideas while we are away from home.” They proceeded to record guitar, drum, keyboard, and vocal tracks—14 in total—using the app; the group ended up re-recording the vocals using the application and an Alesis ProTrack to fine-tune the input levels. More details, including a “making of” video, can be found on the band’s website; “Love Is the Thing” is available now for $1 from iTunes.
A slew of new Apple patent applications have been published, revealing the company’s research into a number of iPod and iPhone enhancements. Of the iPhone- and iPod touch-specific patents, two deal with the usability of touchscreen-based devices. One patent outlines haptic display technology that would let users “feel” on-screen graphics as they move their fingers across the screen, while another would identify fingerprints, allowing the system to execute different commands based on the individual finger that is touching the screen and the duration of the contact.
A separate group of patents covers automated, intelligent settings and tasks. One covers “event-based modes,” in which the iPhone automatically changes certain settings based on its location, calendar events, news updates, usage, and environment. A second deals with automated communications, which would allow the iPhone to perform certain actions—such as sending a happy birthday SMS or making a phone call—based on calendar events, location, caller ID, and more. The third patent in this grouping covers intelligent handling of communications, by which the iPhone would be able to “select appropriate communication modes for incoming communications requests based on a user’s preferences and availability, determine the communication modes of a user based on the current activity and allow the user to provide customized information to his contacts.”
Yet another Apple patent filing suggests the company is working on a way to integrate RFID technology into the iPhone and iPod touch. The application describes a method for embedding an RFID antenna into the touchscreen itself, allowing the device to be used as a reader. The company is also looking into a karaoke addition to the iPhone and iPod touch’s iPod application, which would not only provide on-screen video and lyrics, but also offer real-time feedback to the user in an attempt to improve his/her singing.
Finally, a new patent filling describes a system for “active packaging,” which would allow the company to ship iPods and iPhones in packaging that allowed them to run a demo video or show other content on the screen, and wirelessly update themselves with the latest firmware prior to sale. As with all Apple patent filings, these do not necessarily represent any future product releases from Apple, but offer evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via Mac Rumors, UnwiredView, AppleInsider]
An internal AT&T memo published by MacDailyNews claims that the June 19th launch of the iPhone 3GS was record-breaking for the company in a number of ways. The memo states the launch was its “best-ever sales day” and second-largest traffic day in its retail stores, accounted for the most transactions ever processed and most upgrade eligibility checks in a single day, and was the largest order day and feature sales day in att.com history. The memo goes on to state that sales on 3GS launch day exceeded those of the iPhone 3G’s launch day by noon Central Time, and the company sustained its previous peak hour record, also set in 2008, for 11 straight hours. Apple announced last week that it sold over a million iPhone 3GS units over the launch weekend, although it is unknown how many of those were sold in the U.S. or by AT&T.
Apple has released another new iPhone 3GS television advertisement, the third in its new series of ads focusing on individual features of the new phone. The latest, “Skateboard,” highlights the 3GS’ video features by showing a person shooting video of a skateboarder, who then uses the on-board editing features to trim out the skater’s fall, and shares the video via email. As with the other two feature-specific iPhone 3GS advertisements, this one is also shot on a white background, and features a sample of the Matt Costa song “Mr. Pitiful” in the background. “Skateboard” is available for viewing on Apple’s iPhone TV Ads gallery page.
Nike has updated its Nike+ fitness site with a number of new features, and added a streamlined version for access via the iPhone or iPod touch. The redesigned main site still relies upon Flash, but features a more prominent Goals section, with a simplified interface and better context. Also new is the Levels feature, which awards users a color-coded level based on the number of miles they’ve run, the ability to rate individual runs, and the ability to integrate Nike+ data with a Twitter or Facebook account. On the iPhone and iPod touch, users are limited to viewing recent runs; both sites are still considered to be in “beta” status. [via TUAW]
Apple has rolled out a new service update to its MobileMe paid service, adding support for several new iPhone and iPod touch features. Of particular interest to iPhone 3GS users, videos uploaded from the device can now be published to a Gallery album—if no albums exist, one is automatically created when uploading a photo or video. In addition, iPhone and iPod touch users now have the option to merge existing contacts and calendars upon initial sync with MobileMe, and to keep a copy of contact and calendar information on the device when deleting a MobileMe account or turning off syncing. Finally, iPhone contacts that sync with MobileMe now maintain ring tone associations across devices.