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The iPod Clone Wars: mini, shuffle knock-offs at Computex

imageIf you’ve been reading iLounge recently, you’re probably familiar with Luxpro’s line of iPod shuffle knock-offs. What you may not know is that there are numerous companies copying every model of the iPod and even iPod accessories. At this week’s Computex trade show in Taipei, an iLounge reader snapped several photos and collected specs on a number of these clones.

The most brazen iPod copy seen at the show was an iPod mini look-alike from a Taiwan consumer electronics OEM supplier. Said to cost only US$50, the “i-Pocket” is roughly the same size as Apple’s iPod mini, but includes no internal storage—instead it has a memory card slot. It supports SD/MMC/MS cards for music storage, and acts as a card reader for SD/MMC/MS/MS Duo/MS Pro formats. The player also offers voice recording, an FM radio and recorder, a color OLED display (128 x 64), USB 2.0, and supports MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, WMV, ASF file formats. It is available in gold, red, blue and black.

Continue reading for a full report (with photos) on iPod shuffle and iPod accessory clones, as well as new products.

Apple to offer $50 credit in iPod battery settlement

iPod owners who complained of battery problems will get $50 vouchers and extended service warranties, according to the terms of a tentative class-action lawsuit settlement. Lawyers representing consumers said that the settlement could affect as many as two million people who purchased first, second and third-generation iPods through May 2004. Eight consumers filed the suit against Apple in 2003 claiming the iPod failed to live up to claims that its battery would last the product’s lifetime and play music for up to 10 hours.

“People who fill out a claim form are entitled to receive $50 redeemable toward the purchase of any Apple products or services except iTunes downloads or iTunes gift certificates,” reports AP. “They can redeem the voucher within 18 months of final settlement approval at any bricks-and-mortar Apple Store or online. Consumers who had battery troubles can also get their battery or iPod replaced through the lawsuit. Apple currently replaces or repairs defective products that are returned within one year but the class-action settlement extends the warranty to two years, plaintiffs’ lawyers said.”

‘X Marks the Spot’ iPod photography contest underway

As announced late last week, we’ve teamed up with Mediafour, publisher of XPlay, on a new photo contest for iPod owners. The “X Marks the Spot” contest will run for four weeks and will feature four different challenges with a total of four prizes.

To enter, submit a creative photograph of yourself and your iPod at each week’s themed location. Photos will be judged on the creative depiction of iPods in the context of each week’s theme. The deadline for this week’s entry—“Public iPod

Mix more than music with iBar and iPod

iBar is new software that turns your iPod into “the ultimate bartending tool.” It includes 450 drink recipes organized by category, beverage and bar tips and tricks, drink histories and toasts. “Bring your iPod anywhere you will be mixing a drink and impress with your bartending savvy! From mastering essential mixing techniques, to stocking your own bar, to learning the history of alcohols, to mixing over a thousand classic and contemporary drinks. iBar will surely make you the talk of the party or give you the knowledge to mix drinks professionally.” iBar sells for $29.95.

Add a shopping list to your iPod with iShop

Silvanti Development has released iShop, a collection of audio files that when added to your iPod help create an editable shopping list. iShop is basically a series of more than 300 blank mp3s—each with a different name (for example “Snacks: Ice Cream”)—that you add to your iPod as a playlist. After syncing the playlist, you then create an on-the-go “shopping playlist” that you can add these product named files to just like you would when adding tracks to an on-the-go music playlist. iShop is free, but donations are accepted.

Apple expected to ship 5.5 million iPods this quarter

Piper Jaffray said today that it expects Apple to ship slightly more iPods in its fiscal third quarter than it did last quarter. The research firm said it believes Apple will have iPod unit shipments of 5.5 million for the June quarter, up from 5.3 million in its second quarter.

“The bottom line from our checks is that while we are not expecting significant upside to June [third] quarter numbers, Apple’s business appears to be solid in what is typically a seasonally slower period,” Piper Jaffray said. “We believe iPod sales are increasingly becoming less of a focus for Apple specialists, due to improved iPod supply and availability at mass retailers.”

iPod, Ive receive D&AD design awards

Apple received four design awards at the 43rd D&AD (Design and Art Direction) awards last night in London. The iPod and iPod mini, along with Apple’s Cinema Display won silver awards for product design. Jonathan Ive, Apple’s head of industrial design, was honored with a special president’s award in recognition of outstanding contribution to the industry. The iPod won a gold award in 2002.

UK magazine seeks iPod stories

A journalist from UK-based magazine Time Out London is looking for iPod fans to tell their “iPod stories.” He writes: “Especially interested in individuals who feel the iPod has altered their lifestyle, if they use it to avoid awkward and stressful situations or interaction. Or maybe they’re found a whole bunch of new friends via iPod. Attached [download here] are the questions that iPod users can answer if they find themselves stuck for ideas but they’re free to ignore this in favor of their own stories. Replies should be sent to: cptc_78@hotmail.com

RipDigital offers iPods loaded with purchasers’ music

CD-to-MP3 conversion service RipDigital today announced that it is now selling iPods pre-loaded with customers’ CD collections.

“By combining the leading digital music player and leading CD conversion service, RipDigital has created the easiest and fastest way to make the jump to digital music,” the company says. “Since RipDigital originated the CD conversion service in 2002, the company has saved thousands of people countless hours converting CD collections. Now, RipDigital is offering an irresistible customer experience for anyone that wants join the world of digital music but would rather have someone else handle the legwork. New iPods are delivered to RipDigital customers loaded with all their music and ready for listening.”

RipDigital’s conversion service costs approximately $1 per CD. iPods will be “priced in line with Tekserve’s in-store pricing” (a 20GB iPod with 200 CDs preloaded sells for $499).

Jobs biography details birth of iPod, iTunes

The Sydney Morning Herald has published an interesting excerpt from “iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business” that details the birth of the iPod, iTunes and the iTunes Music Store. The excerpt touches on the choice of a music device over a PDA, battery issues with the iPod, and more. Apple recently pulled all tech books from the publisher of “iCon,” John Wiley & Sons, because Jobs was reportedly unhappy with the biography. It will go on sale June 1, 2005.

“Jobs stayed close to the project all the way, his brilliance as a marketer and his flawless taste in design shining through in his rigorous-as-ever demands for the highest standards. PortalPlayer’s Ben Knauss recalls, ‘Steve would be horribly offended if he couldn’t get to the song he wanted in less than three pushes of a button.’ Because of the impossibly short schedule, there wasn’t any time for custom-designed computer chips.”

“Unlike in the past Apple’s design chain now relied on off-the-shelf components elegantly integrated. Critical pieces such as the digital-to-analog converters were selected from a manufacturer’s catalogue. Even the hard drive was standard Toshiba hardware. How many companies could tackle a project in a new category, create a ground-breaking widget that looked great and worked better than anyone else’s and do it all in under a year? It only happened because of Steve Jobs cracking the whip.”

U2’s Bono: Apple ‘more creative than a lot of rock bands’

The Chicago Tribune has an interesting interview with U2 frontman Bono about the band’s ties with Apple.

When asked if associating a song with a product such as the iPod is a good idea, Bono said: “Our being on TV, I don’t have a problem with that—we should be on TV. But OK, associating our music with a product. You’ve got to deal with the devil. Let’s have a look. The devil here is a bunch of creative minds, more creative than a lot of people in rock bands. The lead singer is Steve Jobs. These men have helped design the most beautiful object art in music culture since the electric guitar. That’s the iPod. The job of art is to chase ugliness away. Everywhere we look we see ugly cars, ugly buildings… ugly objects in the work place. Everywhere. And these people are making beautiful objects.”

Bono said being in the Apple commercial helped get their new single heard by new music fans. “We looked at the iPod commercial as a rock video. We chose the director. We thought, how are we going to get our single off in the days when rock music is niche? When it’s unlikely to get a three-minute punk-rock song on top of the radio? So we piggybacked this phenomenon to get ourselves to a new, younger audience, and we succeeded. And it’s exciting. I’m proud of the commercial, I’m proud of the association… But we have to start thinking about new ways of getting our songs across, of communicating in this new world, with so many channels, with rock music becoming a niche.” [via Cult of Mac]

Jobs discusses phones and Yahoo, ribs Gates

In addition to showing off podcasting support in a beta version of iTunes 4.9 at the D: All Things Digital conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs discussed the cell phone industry’s move towards digital music, Yahoo’s new subscription service, and even ribbed Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. The Wall Street Journal has the complete story (paid subscription required).

Jobs said downloading music from mobile phone carriers would be “a lousy buying experience” and likely to be two or three times as expensive as iTunes, adding that “it’s hard to see their customers as that stupid.”

The Apple chief also said that Yahoo’s $60-per-year music subscription plan was “substantially” below the company’s costs and would soon be raised. Jobs said Apple employees have a betting pool on when Yahoo will raise the $5-a-month rate. He said he put his money on five months from now.

And finally, Jobs took advantage of Gates being in the crowd (he spoke today). During his talk at the conference, Jobs asked everyone in attendance how many had iPods. After a number of hands went into the air, Jobs asked “Bill, do you have your hand up?”

Apple debuts ‘Pop-Lock’ commercial

imageJust one week after its last new iPod and iTunes commercial, Apple has aired yet another featuring silhouetted dancers. The new ad features the song “Technologic” by Daft Punk and is entitled “Pop-Lock” because of the style of dance moves used in it. Like last week’s “Rollerskating” ad, the commercial was shown during Saturday Night Live on NBC. Also of note, actor and Apple fan Will Ferrell wore an iPod shuffle in one skit.

Australian teenager experiences ‘exploding’ iPod

A Melbourne, Australia teenager caused a “small explosion” when trying to fix his iPod with a screwdriver this week after his mother accidently ran the device through the washing machine.

“The boy was treated by paramedics at his Bayswater home for breathing difficulties after ingesting fumes emitted by the device as he pulled it apart in his suburban bedroom about 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday,” The Age reports.

Country Fire Authority spokesman Peter Philp said the iPod had been taken away for testing by CFA investigators, but noted that it was “more of a pop” than an explosion and that it was “more smoke than fire but it did leave a burn mark on the [bed] cover.”

iTunes and iPods have ‘protective effect’ for Apple

Echoing comments from Piper Jaffray, Banc of America Securities said today that Yahoo’s new music service will “have very modest near-term impact” on Apple. “The stickiness associated with iTunes and Apple’s hardware has had a protective effect (as they are only compatible with one another), and Apple has held share in music downloads and gained shared in MP3 in the last few quarters,” the research firm said. “If the subscription model does prove to be popular, we would expect Apple to counter and match with a subscription model of its own, which would increase margins.”

Bill Gates: iPod success won’t last

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates sees consumers moving to mobile phones for listening to music on the go, and expects the iPod’s popularity to wane.

“As good as Apple may be, I don’t believe the success of the iPod is sustainable in the long run,” he said in an interview published Thursday in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “You can make parallels with computers: Apple was very strong in this field before, with its Macintosh and its graphics user interface—like the iPod today—and then lost its position.”

“If you were to ask me which mobile device will take top place for listening to music, I’d bet on the mobile phone for sure,” Gates said.

Analyst: Yahoo music service will not impact iPod sales

Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster said today that he does not think sales of the iPod will be affected by Yahoo’s new subscription-based music service offerings. “We do not anticipate the market share of the iPod will be meaningfully impacted by the emergence of Yahoo! and other music subscription services,” Munster said in a research note obtained by iLounge. “In addition, if subscription services become more successful, we believe that by year end Apple will introduce its own version of a subscription based music service.”

“We have seen over the last two years that the success of online music services is driven by compatible devices,” Munster said. “As a datapoint, despite new music services in the past year, Apple has maintained its ~80% market share in the portable audio device market. In other words, the risk to Apple is a killer new MP3 player, not a new online music service.” Munster also reiterated his that by the end of 2005 more than 35 million iPods will have shipped.

iPods dominate Amazon Top Sellers List

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster notes that various iPod models account for 8 of the top 10 MP3 players in Amazon.com’s Top Sellers list for the devices. “We believe this exhibits Apple’s dominance in the portable MP3 market and shows that the initial exploratory phase of other MP3 players has lightened,” Munster said in a research note to clients provided to iLounge.

Munster also commented on Apple product availability. “We believe that Apple is improving production efficiency as evidenced by the majority of its products being shipped on the same business day,” Munster said. “This is critical to the Apple story as Apple products continue to experience strong demand as supported by the solid overall performance of Apple products on Amazon.com’s Top Seller Lists.”

Cringely: Apple to license iPod clones, move to iTMS

In an interesting article for PBS, tech pundit Robert X. Cringely says the iTunes Music Store is Apple’s future — not the iPod. He says Apple will license out the iPod technology at the right time to become a software-only company when it comes to digital music.

“Ultimately, what Apple wants to do is make its money through iTunes, where the profit margins are better in the long term and the system is easily scalable,” Cringely says. “It was necessary to create the iPod platform to make this happen. But downward price pressures will eventually hurt iPod profit margins and affect Apple’s stock price, so the trick is to know when to switch the business from being a mix of hardware and software to one that is software-only. That switch, which I believe to be inevitable, will happen shortly after Apple begins to license iPod clones.”

“As Apple’s profit drops on each iPod it makes, eventually the per-CPU figure will approach what Apple might receive from licensees,” he says. “At that moment it makes more sense for Apple to license clones than it does to make more iPods. Licensing clones at the right time would lead to huge clone sales, effectively killing any significant iTunes competitor. And in the long run, iTunes is where the money is.”

Cringely also notes that (previously mentioned) unused icons in the version of iTunes included with Mac OS X v10.4 hint that new audio format support and a video iPod are just around the corner. “And 10.4 gives us a peek at another evolution of iTunes, which is the inevitable expansion of the system to carry additional audio file formats,” he says. “Looking at the unused iTunes icons that shipped with your new version of 10.4, you’ll notice icons for currently-not-supported ogg vorbis and Windows Media Audio (wma), as well as several others including a variety of video formats, too.”

New ‘skater’ iPod commercial airs

imageApple debuted a new iPod and iTunes television commercial during tonight’s Saturday Night Live on NBC. It featured the new single “Feel Good Inc” by the Gorillaz. Like the previous ads, the spot features silhouetted iPod-toting dancers in front of colorful backgrounds — only this time they’re all on roller skates. This is the first new iPod commercial since January’s iPod shuffle ad, and the first for full-size iPods since October’s ad featuring U2. Apple has yet to post the new commercial. Update: The ad is now available on Apple’s website.

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