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iPhone again tops rivals in touchscreen test

After its initial, human-based touchscreen stress testing saw the iPhone besting three rival Android handsets—the HTC Droid Eris, the Motorola Droid, and the HTC-built Google Nexus One—the MOTO Development Group has performed another set of tests using a laboratory robot to remove any inconsistencies caused by human error. The new tests again found that the iPhone bests its rivals in both “medium” and “very light” touch tests, using 7mm and 4mm test fingers, respectively. Notably, this new round of testing included the Palm Pre and BlackBerry Storm 2 in addition to the four phones that were included in the original test; the Pre was “second to iPhone in linearity in [the] ‘medium’ test,” while both the Droid Eris and Nexus One offered “solid performance” with “some waviness.” Additionally, the Droid, Pre, and Storm 2 all showed significant signal loss during the “very light” test; the Droid exhibited signal loss in the “medium” test as well. MOTO notes that “what matters most isn’t the performance of the touchscreen itself, but how well a touchscreen performs in combination with its operating system and user-interface,” but says it’s useful to look at touchscreen performance in isolation, because “it is a central ingredient in the mix and a good indicator of how satisfying a touchscreen experience is likely to be.”

Bharti Airtel to launch iPhone 3GS on Friday

Just one week after announcing that it had reached a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone 3GS in India, Bharti Airtel will officially launch the handset on its network. According to Reuters, the 16GB model will sell for 35,500 rupees (roughly $780) while the 32GB model will be priced at 41,500 rupees (~$913). In addition, all iPhone 3GS customers will receive 500 MB of free data every month for a year from the date of activation. Bharti Airtel first launched the iPhone 3G in India in August 2008.

Rogers/Fido announces official tethering policy

Rogers Wireless and Fido in Canada have announced their official smartphone tethering policy, which extends to the iPhone. According to a post on Rogers’ RedBoard blog, “[e]ffective immediately, tethering will continue to be included at no additional charge for Rogers and Fido customers who subscribe to data plans of 1 GB and above.” This announcement essentially makes the company’s prior tethering promotion its ongoing policy. The post also notes that tethering “cannot be used with the new 1 GB+ One Rate Roaming plans (except Rocket stick plans), Family Shared Data & Voice Plans and Smartphone & Rocket stick shared data plans.” Tethering capability was added to the iPhone in iPhone OS 3.0, but only select carriers have thus far enabled users to take advantage of the feature.

Apple CEO Jobs confirms universal iPhone mailbox?

In a brief reply to a customer email, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has reportedly confirmed that the iPhone will soon offer a universal email inbox. A TUAW reader asked Jobs “will iPhone ever have a universal mailbox just like Mail has on my Mac? It would be so much easier and efficient,” to which the notoriously terse CEO replied “Yep.” Notably, the email was apparently sent from an iPad, as was a reply to a separate inquiry asking whether there was a way to transfer Google Docs to an iPad using or iDisk—Jobs responded positively to this question as well. Jobs has been known to respond to customers’ emails on occasion, normally with short, one sentence answers.

Apple, AT&T, others sued over mobile processors

Apple and AT&T, along with 20 other companies including Acer, Google, HTC, LG, Nokia, and Palm, have been sued by California-based MicroUnity Systems Engineering, which is claiming infringement of 14 separate patents. AppleInsider reports that the suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, specifically names the iPhone 3GS and third-generation models of the iPod touch, as well as competing devices including the Motorola Droid, Google Nexus One, Palm Pre, and Nokia N900. The patents specified in the suit appear to cover a wide range of mobile processor activities, relating to parallel operation, cache operation, and other general processing concepts. According to the suit, AT&T was targeted because it sells the iPhone 3GS and “services utilizing and software utilized by such products.”

Opera Mini for iPhone submitted to Apple

CNET reports that Opera has now submitted its Opera Mini web browser for the iPhone to Apple for App Store approval. First previewed at the Mobile World Congress, Opera Mini is designed to be used as an alternative to the iPhone’s built in Safari browser and promises faster page loading due to server-side optimization and a tabbed browser interface. CNET indicates that Opera Mini 5 running on the iPhone looks and behaves “almost identically” to the version of Opera Mini 5 on other mobile devices but also includes the ability to reload the previous session to maintain a persistent state when relaunched. Unlike other alternative browsers currently available on the App Store, Opera Mini is not based on WebKit, and there has been much speculation as to whether Apple will approve it. Third-party browsers have previously fallen afoul of Apple’s restriction on third-party applications executing code, however in discussing the matter with CNET, Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner indicated that he doesn’t feel that Opera Mini directly violates anything in Apple’s SDK license as it merely displays web pages rendered on Opera’s own proxy servers.

Flurry: iPhone overtakes PSP in game software revenue

The iPhone OS has overtaken Sony’s Playstation Portable in terms of U.S. portable game software revenue, according to a new report from Flurry Analytics. Using publicly available market data from NPD, estimated Nintendo DS and Sony PSP game software sales, and iPhone games sales estimated using a combination of data from both Apple and the company’s own app-tracking analytics service, the iPhone OS as a platform increased its share of U.S. portable game software revenue from 5% in 2008 to 19% in 2009. In the same time period, the Nintendo DS’ revenue share fell from 75% to 70%, and the PSP’s share fell from 20% to 11%, leaving it behind the iPhone OS. Apple’s overall share of U.S video game software revenue, which includes revenue from console software sales, increased from 1% in 2008 to 5% in 2009; Flurry speculates that the launch of the iPad could lead to more increases for the iPhone OS platform. “With the iPad featuring a larger screen and more processing power, games on the tablet take a step closer to PC and console gaming,” the report states. “Unless the other major video game platform providers (i.e., Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft) respond accordingly, Apple could continue to roll up video game market share.”

Apple begins contract-free iPhone 3GS sales in U.S.

Apple has begun to offer iPhone 3GS units without a contract in its own retail stores, according to a new report. Citing an internal Apple document, Gizmodo reports that customers may purchase one iPhone per day without verifying that they have an AT&T account or providing a form of ID. According to the report, the phones remain carrier-locked to AT&T, and are priced from $499 for the 8GB iPhone 3G to $699 for the 32GB iPhone 3GS. Curiously, the move comes nearly one year to the day after Apple started similar contract-free sales of the iPhone 3G, suggesting that the company is preparing to move existing stock ahead of a new iPhone model this summer.

iPhone app sites charging for reviews

A number of iPhone app review sites are unscrupulously charging developers to have their applications reviewed, according to a Wired report. The practice of soliciting money in exchange for a review is not illegal, but is frowned upon by the Federal Trade Commission, which revised its guidelines covering blogger endorsements in October 2009 to require a disclosure whenever a review is written in exchange for money or gifts. “They prey on people who need exposure,” said Oliver Cameron, developer of the iPhone app Postman, who has actively avoided sites charging for reviews. “It strikes me as a paid ad, really. They never seem to actually ‘review’ it.” The report states that the two sites mentioned most by developers as engaging in the practice were and

In addition to charging for reviews, some sites, including The iPhone App Review, openly charge developers for what they call “expedited” reviews, in which the paying developer’s app is given priority over other, standard reviews. The site’s editor-in-chief Shaun Campbell defended the practice, citing the large number of apps available on the store and saying it would be an “impossible task to review all the apps we receive, paid or unpaid.” “The iPhone App Review is not a PR charity,” he continued. “We’re a business, and like in any business, there are costs that need to be recovered.”

iLounge does not charge for reviews, and actively rejects attempts from developers to pay for coverage. Our long-standing product coverage policies include additional details for those who may be interested.

Bharti Airtel to offer iPhone 3GS in India

Bharti Airtel has announced that it has reached a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone 3GS in India in the coming months. The company launched the iPhone 3G in August 2008, the same day that rival carrier Vodafone India launched the handset. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bharti Airtel has submitted its bid to participate in a bandwidth auction for 3G services; successful bidders will be allowed to offer commercial 3G service beginning September 1. No exact release date or pricing information has yet been announced.

Apple patent details ‘iGroups’ location-based service

A newly-published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on a location-based social networking service referred to as “iGroups.” The application describes a system through which multiple iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch users at an event, meeting, or other gathering could exchange information automatically by having their devices exchange encrypted, location-tagged “tokens,” which would then be sent to a trusted service—such as Apple’s MobileMe—and used to determine that all the users were at the same place or event. Once this has taken place, the users could then send location information and messages amongst the group as they move about and experience the event, potentially facilitating discussions on where to meet after the event is over, and also making it possible to precisely locate non-GPS devices by determining their proximity to a GPS-enabled device using a short-range communications protocol such as Bluetooth. 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. [via Patently Apple]

T-Mobile USA to launch iPhone in late 2010, early 2011?

According to comments made by René Obermann, CEO of T-Mobile USA parent company Deutsche Telekom, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier may start offering the iPhone as soon as later this year. The Financial Times reports that Obermann told the publication T-Mobile USA hopes to start selling the iPhone later this year or next year, but in the meantime will focus on Android-powered smartphones. T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to offer an Android-powered phone, the HTC G1, and has since expanded its Android lineup with several other models, including the Google-branded, HTC-built Nexus One. [via MDN]

China Mobile hopes to carry iPhone, iPad

China Mobile hopes to reach a deal with Apple to sell the iPhone, and possibly the iPad, in the near future, according to recent comments made by China Mobile chairman Wang Jianzhou. “We’re hoping we’ll come to an agreement (with Apple) on the iPhone as soon as possible,” he told AFP reporters at a news conference in Hong Kong. “We will continue to express our interest in the iPhone. But not just the iPhone, also the iPad.” China Mobile has reportedly been in talks with Apple about the iPhone since November 2007, but the negotiations have stalled multiple times over issues such as revenue sharing and App Store control. During this period, Apple reached an agreement with rival carrier China Unicom to carry the iPhone; Unicom launched the handset in China in October 2009.

HTC ‘disagrees’ with Apple suit, will ‘fully defend itself’

In a statement released to the press today, HTC Corporation officially responded to Apple’s lawsuit against the company, which was filed on March 2. “HTC disagrees with Apple’s actions and will fully defend itself,” said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC. “HTC strongly advocates intellectual property protection and will continue to respect other innovators and their technologies as we have always done, but we will continue to embrace competition through our own innovation as a healthy way for consumers to get the best mobile experience possible.” The press release also contains a photo of the HTC-built T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition, which the company points out was the first 3.5-inch color touchscreen smartphone in the U.S., pre-dating the original iPhone by five years. Apple’s lawsuit and accompanying ITC complaint accuse HTC of “infringing on 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.”

Apple updates with new iPhone, iPad interface

Apple has launched a number of new enhancements to its beta Web-based document sharing service, including improved access on iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad devices. Mac Rumors reports that an email sent out to users touts a redesigned user interface, which includes “a redesigned Sign In and Shared Documents page for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch [that] makes it easy to access your documents while on the go. The new interface and improved scrolling help you find your shared documents faster.” To access the new features, users can visit from their iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

Survey: Nearly 40% of BlackBerry users would switch to iPhone

According to a recent smartphone brand loyalty survey conducted by Crowd Science, 39% of BlackBerry users would buy an iPhone if purchasing a smartphone “tomorrow.” 34% of BlackBerry users would purchase an Android device, while 92% of iPhone owners and 87% of Android owners would definitely/probably repurchase another iPhone or Android device, respectively. iPhone and Android owners showed similar brand loyalty in the recommendation section of the survey, with 97% of iPhone users and 100% of Android users saying they would recommend their current phone to friends and family. Curiously, 52% of BlackBerry users would recommend the iPhone, compared to 28% who would recommend Android. The study consisted of 1,140 respondents who were randomly recruited via the Crowd Science Sample Beta program from websites serving more than 20 million unique visitors.

10% of Microsoft employees are iPhone users

Nearly 10,000 Microsoft employees, or roughly 10% of the company’s global work force, are iPhone users, according to a new report. Citing two people who heard estimates from senior Microsoft executives, the Wall Street Journal reports that nearly 10,000 iPhone users were accessing the Microsoft employee email system in 2009, despite a change to the company’s corporate cellphone policy that only reimburses service fees for employees using Windows-powered phones. In one particular meeting among Microsoft executives, Andy Lees, a Microsoft senior vice president who oversees development of the mobile-phone software business, and his boss, Robbie Bach, explained that employees often use rival products like the iPhone to better understand the competition, but were rebuffed by COO Kevin Turner, who said, “[w]hat’s good for the field is good for Redmond.” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took a similar stance, saying that his family always drove Fords, as his father worked for Ford Motor Company. Still, some Microsoft employees choose to use iPhones, even if they need to disguise their handsets, or keep them hidden around senior executives. “Maybe once a year I’m in a meeting with Steve Ballmer,” said one employee. “It doesn’t matter who’s calling, I’m not answering my phone.”

iPhone OS 4.0 to offer multitasking support?

iPhone OS 4.0, the next major revision to the software that powers the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, will offer support for multitasking, according to a new report. Citing anonymous sources “with a proven track record” in predicting Apple’s technical advancements, AppleInsider reports that iPhone OS 4.0, expected this summer, will include a “full-on solution” for multitasking, allowing third-party applications downloaded from the App Store to run in the background. According to the same sources, the software will include a multitasking manager built on interface technology already bundled with Apple’s Mac OS X operating system. Finally, the report states that the software is under development and has quite a “way to go” before its ready for release; no further specifics were given.

iPhone sees small U.S. market share gain from Oct. to Jan.

According to the latest data from comScore, the iPhone saw a very small gain in U.S. smartphone market share from the three months ending in October 2009 to the three months ending in January 2010. The report shows that Apple’s average U.S. smartphone platform market share rose from 24.8% in the quarter ending in Oct. to 25.1% in the three months ending in January, a gain of only 0.3%, leaving Apple in second place. Over the same period, BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion saw market share gains of 1.7%, giving it 43% of the market, while Google’s Android platform market share more than doubled, rising 4.3% to grab 7.1% of the market. Both third-place Microsoft and fifth-place Palm saw losses during the same period, of 4% and 2.1%, respectively. The report ranked smartphone operating system platforms in the U.S. according to their share of current mobile subscribers age 13 and older.

New gestures found in latest iPhone 3.2 Beta SDK

A pair of files offering support for new gestures have been found in the latest beta version of the iPhone SDK 3.2 for iPad. 9to5Mac reports that the latest SDK’s “gestures” folder contains two previously unseen files, named “3Tap.plist” and “LongPress.plist,” presumably offering support for triple-tap and tap-and-hold gestures, which Apple currently uses in its implementations of VoiceOver and the iPhone OS’ cut-and-paste feature. In addition, 9to5Mac discovered that the files related to video chat features found in the previous beta SDK have been removed in the latest version.

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