A pair of new Apple patent filings suggest the company is working on both a method for sharing media files like video, photos, and music while on a call, and a multi-touch control scheme for Click Wheel iPods. Titled “Methods and systems for mixing media with communications,” the first patent describes a scenario in which the user is discussing a piece of media during a phone call, and then hits an “Add Media” button within the Phone application to attach and send the item to the iPhone user on the other end of the call. The filing also makes several references to interactive video conferences, suggesting the feature may be planned for a future iPhone model, as video conferencing is not possible with currently-available versions of the iPhone.
The second filing, titled “Multi-dimensional Scroll Wheel,” describes a Click Wheel-like control apparatus that includes circuitry allowing it to “detect input gestures that traverse the center of the scroll wheel and to detect multi-touch input.” It goes on to suggest possible gestures to be used with the improved controls, such as side-to-side swipes for moving images or album covers across the screen, or a rotating two-finger gesture for zooming in and out of images, depending on the direction of the rotation, as well as the more familiar iPhone pinch-and-zoom gesture. As with all Apple patents, these filings do not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offer evidence of the company’s research in this area. [via AppleInsider]
Listings for both black and white versions of 16GB and 32GB “V3,” or third-generation, iPhones have appeared in the inventory system of UK-based iPhone retailer Carphone Warehouse. AppleInsider reports that the new listings appeared just hours ago, mixed in with listings for both iPhone 3G and original iPhone models. Many expected Apple to double the maximum capacity of the iPhone 3G to 32GB earlier this year, as it had done with the prior version when it announced the 16GB model in February of 2008; the iPod touch is currently the only iPhone OS device available in 32GB capacities. Apple is widely expected to introduce new iPhone models this coming Monday during its WWDC 2009 Keynote Address, which we will provide live coverage of beginning at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.
Several text strings found in iTunes 8.2 suggest that the iPhone may be receiving the third-generation iPod shuffle’s and fourth-generation iPod nano’s spoken word navigation features as an optional control method, as well as Nike + support. AppleInsider reports that the strings, found inside the iTunes application bundle, include a variety of alerts for Nike + iPhone integration—such as “Do you want to automatically send your workout info to nikeplus.com when you sync your iPhone?”—as well as a single string stating “VoiceOver changes the gestures used to control iPhone. Are you sure you want to continue?,” an addition to VoiceOver strings that the report says have been in the iTunes codebase since version 8.1. A handful of other strings seem to suggest the addition of radio tagging capabilities, although it is unclear whether these would be related to built-in radio functionality, a radio-tagging application, or some other external accessory. The strings appear to be similar to ones used by current docking iPod models for iTunes Tagging of HD Radio broadcasts picked up by external accessories.
Apple’s upcoming iPhone OS 3.0 update contains software features that, if enabled, would allow users to recommend apps to other users, according to a new report. Citing a person familiar with the technology, BusinessWeek reports that the software may allow users to “share,” or recommend, software with other users, and may be expanded to allow users to invite others to games even when the recipient does not own the game in question. “Now you can sell copies of your app to two players instead of one,” said former Apple engineer Dave Howell, who now runs file-sharing app developer Avatron Software. Richard Doherty, director at consulting firm Envisioneering Group, suggests that the feature may eventually offer users a commission when others purchase software based on their recommendations. Apple spokeswoman Jennifer Bowcock declined the opportunity to discuss possible features with BW, saying, “[w]e’ve made no announcements at this time.”
The ability of users to re-download previously purchased apps over-the-air may be restricted in iPhone OS 3.0, according to a new report. Currently, users may purchase and then re-download applications an infinite number of times across multiple devices. Mac Rumors has posted a screenshot showing a new iPhone OS dialog box which informs the user that they’ve already purchased the item, and that they can download the app for free on their computer via iTunes, or can tap Buy to purchase the item again. The article points out that the restriction may be aimed at preventing the illegal sharing of applications across devices; it may, however, be designed to decrease the amount of cellular network data demand attributable to unlimited multiple re-downloads.
Best Buy has issued a corporate memo to mobile sales employees, warning them that inventory of the iPhone 3G will be constrained over the coming weeks, and that some locations may run out of stock completely. AppleInsider notes that the internal advisory is similar to one recently sent out by Australian iPhone distributor Brightpoint; the memo also follows a report from last week stating that AT&T is running short on new iPhone 3G units, and has begun to offer refurbished units instead. Supplies of iPhone units have traditionally dwindled during the time leading up to the introduction of a new iPhone model.
Chinese blog UMPCFever (translated link) has photographically confirmed two previously rumored features of the iPhone OS 3.0—an autofocus feature for the still picture camera, and a digital compass—along with new details on their user interfaces. Believed to rely upon new camera hardware found in the upcoming 2009 iPhone, the autofocus feature places a blue box on the existing camera screen to show the current area of crisp focus, enabling users to move the focus area with finger gestures. Sample images show the new camera producing notably sharper, if less colorful images than a prior-generation iPhone camera used for comparison.
Separately, UMPCFever shows an image of a new magnetic compass application, which provides a digital readout and a full rotating analog compass on screen. The application appears to be similar in graphic design to Apple’s voice recording software, previously revealed in beta versions of the iPhone OS 3.0, and is expected to be available only for the 2009 iPhone due to hardware changes. Additional photographs add further credence to previously discussed new features, such as a movie recording mode, and suggest additional debugging tools will be available to help optimize CPU performance.
The second 360|iDev iPhone Developer Conference has been announced and will be held in Denver, CO from September 27-30, 2009. Held in San Jose in March, the first Conference offered hands-on training and conferences hosted by experienced iPhone developers on a variety of iPhone development topics, as well as opportunities for iPhone developers to meet up and network. Registration is open now, with the first 100 registered attendees receiving a discounted price of $360, as compared to the normal registration price of $480. Attendees at WWDC can qualify for a special registration price of $200 by meeting with the 360|iDev organizers. A call for papers is also open, and will run through Apple’s WWDC for those developers who may be working on applications for the new iPhone 3.0 OS. More information can be found on the 360|iDev web site.
Images from Hong Kong depict several significant changes from the bezels of prior iPhones to the next-generation model, if their source is to be believed. Listings pages from Hong Kong-based part vendor China Ontrade depict what the company claims to be the first next-generation iPhone parts to be supplied directly from the factory, including liquid crystal displays and front bezels. Notably, the bezels appear to show a repositioned and redesigned ear speaker, now significantly higher above the display than the present speaker, and ringed with metal, a change that may make room for additional front-mounted sensor or camera hardware. Alternately, the metal ring may be there to protect a front-facing camera from smudging.
Also changed is the bezel’s color, which has shifted from the prior silver in all iPhone and iPhone 3G models to a nearly black metallic color reminiscent of the backs of later fifth-generation iPod U2 Special Edition models. In the photos, the bezel now stops short of ringing the entire iPhone face, ending at roughly the edge of the LCD screen. The site does not specify what differences there are between the new iPhone’s screen and its predecessor, but the company lists the new screen at $73 versus $35 for the prior version. It is unclear whether the bezel and screen are legitimate components, as China Ontrade sells both identical and modified aftermarket parts for prior-model iPhones. [via iFun.de]
AT&T announced today that it will be upgrading its existing 3G network to provide significantly faster mobile Internet speeds. The upgrade to High-Speed Packet Access technology will provide 7.2 Mbps speeds, doubling the current 3G network speed and serving as a step toward the deployment of an even higher-speed LTE (4G) network in the future. In addition, AT&T has announced plans to enhance its mobile broadband coverage by nearly doubling its wireless 3G spectrum in most metropolitan areas to provide better in-building coverage and network capacity. These improvements will be rolled out later this year, and the company expects to have them fully deployed by the end of 2011.
A report released today by AdMob Metrics indicates that the iPhone and iPod touch accounted for 43% of worldwide smartphone Internet traffic in April and 59% of the smartphone traffic in the U.S. Nokia was in second-place worldwide at 35% and Research in Motion second-place in the U.S. at 17%. Worldwide HTML mobile browsing usage from the iPhone was 65% overall. This comes despite the iPhone presently having an 8% worldwide smartphone market share.
The report also indicates that the iPhone and iPod touch together accounted for 26.2% of requests worldwide, suggesting that many iPhone and iPod touch users are transferring larger amounts of data per request than users of other smartphone models. [via CNN Money]
Orange, Apple’s wireless partner in France, announced today that it has sold its millionth iPhone in that country. Originally selected to be Apple’s exclusive carrier in France, Orange began selling the iPhone there in November 2007, as one of only a handful of companies participating in the launch of the first-generation device. Orange enjoyed an exclusive arrangement with Apple until December 2008, when France’s competition council ordered Apple to permit the iPhone to be sold by other carriers as well. The sale of 1 million iPhones represents an important milestone for the growing success of the iPhone outside of the North American market.
To celebrate its success, Orange France is offering iPhone plan customers unlimited viewing of the French Open tennis tournament via the Roland-Garros iPhone application. [via CNet].
Suggesting that he has direct knowledge of the features of Apple’s next-generation iPhone, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber claims that recent rumors “are indeed accurate” that the new iPhone will include a magnetometer and improved camera with autofocus capabilities, a higher-resolution image sensor and video recording features. While the device’s video feature will not be spectacular, he suggests, it will be convenient, easy to use, and “one of the major features Apple plans to tout regarding the new model.” He also says that he “believe[s]” reports that the device will sport a 600MHz processor, 1.5 times faster than the prior iPhone models, and expects a doubling of both the device’s storage capacity and RAM for the same $199 and $299 prices as prior models, collectively making the new iPhones faster at loading and switching between apps. Additionally, Gruber notes that the new iPhone’s shell will be so similar to its predecessor’s that earlier cases will remain compatible, with only “subtle” changes.
Apple is expected to announce a new iPhone model at this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) on June 8, 2009.
Following a report from earlier this week claiming that AT&T was considering a limited data access plan for iPhone users which would drop the monthly cost of an iPhone by $10, AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega has confirmed that the company is contemplating cheaper data offerings. The executive explained that it would be costly for them to cut the price on unlimited Internet access, but that the company could offer more limited package for a lower fee. “Right now we continue to study what is the best thing that is available, not just from an iPhone point of view, but what you can do to stimulate additional demand,” said de la Vega, adding, “[w]e view Apple as a strategic partner for us, a very good partner to have now and into the future.”
Recent developments suggest Apple is in negotiations with Telecom New Zealand to offer the iPhone 3G, and possibly the next-generation iPhone. First, a representative from Telecom NZ posted a message from the company’s retail head Alan Gourdie on Twitter, saying the company is “in negotiations with Apple,” adding that it is “very focused on the 3rd gen iPhone.” Several hours later, a National Business Review article also claimed the company was in negotiations with Apple, with a quote Gourdie saying that Telecom was in “discussions - deep discussions - with Apple.” The iPhone 3G is currently available in New Zealand from Vodafone.
According to the latest figures by market research firm Gartner, the iPhone saw its share of the smartphone market more than double year-over-year for the first quarter of 2009, as worldwide smartphone sales increased despite an overall decrease in worldwide mobile phone sales. Apple’s share jumped to 10.8% in the quarter, compared with its 5.3% share in the first quarter of 2008. Unit sales grew similarly, from 1.7 million units in Q1 2008 to 3.9 million in Q1 2009. Overall smartphone sales were roughly 36.4 million units, an increase of 12.7% from the 32.3 million units sold in Q1 2008. Apple rival Research In Motion also saw gains, as the Blackberry’s smartphone market share rose from 13.3% in Q1 2008 to 19.9% in Q1 2009.
Aoyama Gakuin University, located in Tokyo, Japan, is providing all staff and students with free iPhone 3G units as part of an attendance tracking system. According to the Mainichi Daily News, the school will leverage the iPhone 3G’s GPS to determine if students are at school or not, with the system scheduled to go live in the fall. In addition, the school plans to expand the use of the iPhone to include simple testing, questionnaires, homework submission, and educational video review. Aoyama Gakuin plans to pay all basic charges for the phones itself, and recently entered into a partnership with Japanese iPhone carrier SoftBank on “Mobile & Net Society Education and Training.” [via MDN]
Apple has sent an email to registered iPhone developers, asking them to download a pre-release application in order to run a high-volume test of the company’s Push Notification servers. The email provides developers with a redemption code good for the download of the Associated Press app for iPhone OS 3.0, with instructions to notify the company if the app does not begin receiving notifications within 48 hours. The email also notes that the application can only be installed on devices running iPhone OS 3.0 beta 5, and that the functionality of the application will expire in seven days.
Security software companies McAfee and Symantec are both developing products for the iPhone, according to a new report. Speaking with Reuters, McAfee CEO Dave DeWalt said the company was working on security software for both the iPhone and Mac, which he described as “a much more comprehensive suite for the Apple family.” DeWalt did not say when the software might be ready for release, or how such software, which normally requires more access to system files than iPhone applications are currently allowed, would be distributed.
Also well known for its security software, McAffe rival Symantec is instead working on a MobileMe-like backup service for the iPhone. Symantec Senior Vice President Rowan Trollope said the service would protect data on the iPhone and allow users to use the device to access information stored on their home computers or on the web, adding that although the company closely monitors iPhone security issues, it has no plans to introduce any security products at this time.
AT&T is considering a limited data access plan for iPhone users which would reduce the minimum monthly cost of an iPhone by $10, according to a new report. Citing people with knowledge of the company’s plans, BusinessWeek reports that the reduced plan could be introduced by the end of the month, and that the increased flexibility in pricing may be part of Apple’s demands for an exclusivity extension. Other options for increasing iPhone sales include reducing the up-front price of the iPhone to $99 or introducing a cheaper and/or pre-paid iPhone model.