Apple releases iOS 4.1 beta 2, focuses on proximity sensor fixes

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Date: Thursday, July 29th, 2010, 05:46
Category: News, Software

Late Tuesday, Apple released the second beta version of the pending iOS 4.1 firmware, although the company has not said when the firmware will be generally available for its iPhone and iPod touch products.

Per Cult of Mac, this beta release of the iOS 4.1 software development kit, available at Apple’s iPhone Dev Center, comes about two weeks after the first one and arrives with speculation that the 4.1 software will fix some glitches for the iPhone 4 proximity sensors and introduce Apple’s promised Game Center social service.

The initial report states that the proximity sensor issue seems to have been fixed. “Previously, the iPhone was plagued with proximity sensor issues,” writes Jose Gutierrez. “It would constantly hang up calls when I held the phone next to my cheek. But after installing the iOS 4.1 beta 2 update this afternoon, I couldn’t force the iPhone to hang up calls when lifting it up to my face, no matter how hard I tried.”

He also says the new beta release includes a baseband update, “which seems to fix HSUPA upload speed issues, which slowed video and photo uploads to a crawl.”

According to several online accounts, the newest beta still does not support the iPad touch tablet. The iPad is running an earlier version of iOS.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Game Review: Pro Zombie Soccer

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Date: Tuesday, July 27th, 2010, 09:03
Category: App Store, Game, iPad, iPhone, News, Software

Pro Zombie Soccer is a game for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (still a Pixel-doubled version, not native) distributed by Chillingo and developed by Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team. I’ve never been caught up in the Zombie craze, although I did enjoy Zombieland and Shawn of the Dead, so I was not really excited about this game at first, but a friend assured me that it was a lot of fun and he was right.

Some of the things that made this such a fun game was the artwork and the storyline. While not complicated, the story added enough depth to propel you from scene to scene. The artwork has a punk attitude, similar to what is associated with Gorillaz, and is pretty lively and colorful.

In the game, you are playing the role of Jax, a young, talented soccer player who freezes up while trying out for the big team. While moping about town, the zombie outbreak occurs and Jax is bitten by a zombie who happens to be the star player of the soccer team. Jax soon finds out that his zombie infection has given him super-soccer powers which he decides to use to take down the zombie apocalypse….while he still can.

The controls are simple. You thumb aims the direction that Jax kicks the soccer ball and lifting your thumb fires it off. You have a regular kick, and a super-charged kick at your disposal, but eventually you acquire other “zombie powers” which you can choose from during certain parts of the game. Doing a “head-shot” to a zombie (beheading them) is worth extra points as is several head-shots in a row. Some zombies can only be killed with the super-charged kick, which takes more time to “charge up”. Eventually you run into zombies that can only be killed in a certain way, like ricocheting off a wall, as well as avoiding obstacles like fleeing scientists which, when hit, will end the game. If you finish the game too quickly in Normal mode, you can play through again in Hardcore mode which won’t be so easy. The game’s music is pretty good and in the Extras you’ll find the Music Player which allows you to play back the game’s soundtrack, a total of 16 tracks.

The sound effects and gameplay are great, and everything looks awesome on the iPhone 4′s screen. As of this writing, the game was iOS 4 compatible, but did not take advantage of background app switching. Leaving the game means starting again from the main menu, although it should remember your progress. I didn’t try it on the iPad, but it is compatible with iOS 3.0 and up. I look forward to an HD version, but I hope it’s an Universal app.

The game uses the Crystal gaming network, which I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of, but not because it is a bad system.

I highly recommend this game. It’s fun and relatively easy to play, and the stages make it easy to play a few minutes at a time, or kill 20 minutes or so. Pro Zombie Soccer is a pretty good deal at $2.99.

Apple accepts Library of Congress decision on jailbreaking, still warns of possible warranty violations

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Date: Tuesday, July 27th, 2010, 05:17
Category: iPhone, Legal, News, Software

After years of debate and posturing from both sides, the verdict is in. Per Electronista, the library of Congress has legally sanctioned jailbreaking iOS-based applications under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, thereby allowing non-Apple-approved applications to be run on devices such as the iPhone. While Apple didn’t contest the legality itself, the company stated that jailbreaking would still break the warranty by going beyond what Apple can support. It also stressed that it saw the experience as hurting the experience for some by taking away the speed and reliability they may have expected.

“Apple’s goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone,” commented an Apple spokeswoman. “And we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience.”

The representative wouldn’t directly confront the question of whether Apple would try to sue anyone who would sell jailbreaking tools, but she emphasized Apple’s history and that it hadn’t done so before.

Monday’s Library ruling doesn’t require that Apple or other companies must allow third-party apps in their code but also prevents these firms from legally challenging any jailbreak developed for the purposes of running an app or for unlocking access to other customers. It’s unclear whether the new exemptions would allow commercial development of jailbreaking apps; such software would be designed for a profit, but it it would still be used for individual purposes in most cases.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Some iOS 4 users complain of Bluetooth bug with iPhone 3GS, 4 handsets

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Date: Friday, July 23rd, 2010, 03:06
Category: iPhone, News

Ok, this has to be the part where someone at Apple finally slams their head against the desk and wishes to just go home and snuggle up with a blanket and a cup of cocoa for the rest of the day.

Per AppleInsider, some users of iOS 4 on both the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS say their handset has constantly dropped wireless Bluetooth connections with both headsets and in-car systems.

Numerous users contacted the publication to report a number of problems specific to iOS 4 with Bluetooth connectivity. A number of people who upgraded their iPhone 3GS found that their phone’s Bluetooth became problematic, even though it worked fine before the iOS 4 update. And others who bought a new iPhone 4 have encountered some of the same issues.

“Nearly every time I’m in my car the iPhone disconnects from the built-in Bluetooth system,” one reader with an iPhone 4 wrote. “This never, ever happened with my 3G phone. I have a case number with AppleCare and they refuse to acknowledge the problem or replace the phone, even after having the problem persist after downloading a fresh copy of IOS 4, reinstalling the software and setting the phone up bare with no other apps. Could this be another antenna problem?”

In numerous threads on the official Apple Discussions forums, users have shared similar problems (1, 2, 3, 4).

Users have said that their Bluetooth connections will sporadically drop after the two devices are successfully paired. Others can connect, but are met with a message that says “no media found” when trying to play music. And some said they have experienced muffled voices when placing a call over Bluetooth.

A number of users on the forums noted that the recent iOS 4.0.1 update did not fix the Bluetooth issues. The minor update featured a cosmetic fix that changed how the iPhone reports bars of signal strength.

The Bluetooth pairing issues are said to exist across a range of devices, including vehicles from Mercedes-Benz and BMW, car stereos from Pioneer and Alpine, and headsets from Motorola and Jawbone.

Some said they have fixed the problem by resetting the phone’s settings. This can be done by launching the Settings application, choosing General, Reset, and Reset All Settings. Interestingly, the same fix was said to work for some who experienced issues with the proximity sensor on the iPhone 4. Apple has said it is working on a software fix for the proximity sensor problems with the iPhone 4, but has made no mention of the reported Bluetooth problems.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this issue from your end, let us know.

Apple begins Bumper case refunds to customers

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Date: Friday, July 23rd, 2010, 03:33
Category: iPhone, News

Customers who had already bought iPhone Bumpers before Apple offered free cases to all iPhone 4 users have started to receive refunds from the company according to Macworld.

At last week�s iPhone 4 press conference, Apple said it would provide free cases to anyone who buys the iPhone 4 before September 30th. That free case offer includes a choice of either Apple�s Bumper or a third-party case. As part of that offer, Apple said it would offer refunds to iPhone 4 users who had already bought Bumper cases from Apple.

On Thursday, some customers who bought their Bumpers from Apple�s online store reported receiving refund notices from Apple. The message from Apple begins by informing the customer of the situation, and that �as of today, we have automatically processed your refund.� Apple is also refunding shipping and VAT charges as well.

There is no word on how many customers have gotten refunds so far or how long this automatic refund process for online Bumper orders will take.

Apple made the free case offer for iPhone 4 users after complaints emerged regarding the handset�s antenna surfaced. The most common complaint involves the reception bars disappearing from the iPhone�s status bar when users hold the device a certain way, with their fingers covering the phone�s antennas.

At last week�s press conference, Apple said iPhone 4 owners would be able to apply for a new case at its Website starting at some point this week. As of late Thursday, Apple�s site had not yet been update with new information on how to order a case.

In a personal visit to an Apple Store location this week, an Apple Store representative claimed Apple would be formally announcing the next step in its free Bumper case/case refund late this week.

We hope to have more to report today and will let you know the moment additional details are confirmed.

Skype for iPhone 2.1 released, background multitasking feature added

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Date: Thursday, July 22nd, 2010, 05:13
Category: iPhone, News, Software

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Skype for iPhone 2.1 went live yesterday and albeit the update was relatively minor, users running iOIS 4 can now run Skype in the background on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS running iOS4. As a result, Skype users can now receive Skype calls and instant messages while other apps are running or the iPhone is locked. As with the iPhone’s Phone app, you can continue your call while you switch to another application.

Both Skype for iPhone and the update are free.

Skype for iPhone requires iOS 3.0 or later to install and run.

Apple cites $15.7 billion in sales, $3.25 billion profit for 2010 Q3 financial report

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Date: Wednesday, July 21st, 2010, 04:37
Category: Finance, News

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Apple generated its best quarter to date, reporting US$15.7 billion in sales and a profit of US$3.25 billion yesterday with shares accelerating US$3.51 per share, up 75% in the year over year from the same period in 2009. The company’s results beat analyst expectations of $3.10 a share and $14.74 billion in revenue according to Macworld.

The company sold a record 3.47 million Macs during the three-month period ended June 26, 2010, another quarterly record for the company that topped the previous high sales mark by 100,000 units. Mac sales increased 33% over the 2.6 million units Apple sold in the third quarter of 2009. Oppenheimer noted that Apple’s 33% sales growth topped the 22% growth rate market research firm IDC projects for the overall computer market.

As expected, portables drove Mac sales for the three months ending in June. Of the 3.47 million Macs sold, 71% were laptops.

The third quarter also marked the first full quarter of sales for the iPad, Apple’s new tablet. Apple said it sold 3.27 million iPads during the quarter with the company seeing US$2.17 billion in recognized revenue from iPad sales during the quarter. The tablet is currently shipping in 10 countries, and Apple plans to introduce the iPad to 9 more countries on July 23rd. The company also stated that it’s selling iPads just as fast as it’s making them, while attempting to increase manufacturing capacity.

Apple sold 8.4 million iPhones in the third quarter, a 61% jump over last year’s figures. The iPhone 4, which debuted in the waning days of the third quarter, made up about 20% of those sales—or more than 1.7 million units. Apple called the iPhone 4 launch the most successful product launch in its history.

Consumer demand for the new phone has been so great, in fact, that Apple has had trouble filling orders. Last month, the company announced that it would delay the release of the white iPhone 4—it’s expected to ship by the end of July. iPhone 4 orders placed through Apple’s online store list a three-week shipping wait as of this writing. (In contrast, the 8GB iPhone 3GS ships within 24 hours.)

Apple saw recognized revenue from its handsets of US$5.33 billion during the quarter, up 74% from last year’s figures. Apple says the iPhone has a sales value of US$5 billion, for an average selling price of US$595.

Combining the sales of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, Apple sales there are now 100 million devices running its iOS mobile operating system.

iPod sales fell during the third quarter of 2010. Though the company sold 9.41 million iPods, the figure represented an 8% drop from the 10.2 million music players Apple sold in the year-ago quarter. The iPod segment has seen declining growth for some time now, particularly outside of the holiday shopping season. During the fiscal second quarter, iPod sales dipped by 1% while the 2009 third quarter saw a 7% decline in sales.

Despite the decline, the music device remains the top-selling MP3 player internationally and continues to command a 70% market share in the U.S. More significantly to Apple, the iPod touch continues to grow with Apple stating that sales of that product were up 48% from the year-ago quarter, leading to a 12% increase year-over-year in average selling price for the music player. Apple’s iPod segment saw quarterly revenue of US$1.5 million, a 4% increase from last year.

With regard to the iTunes Store, Apple cited more than $1 billion in revenue, a growth rate of 25% year over year. The mobile app segment of the store has grown to 225,000 apps, with 11,000 specifically built for the iPad. Users have download more than 5 billion apps from the App Store, Apple says.

Apple ended the third quarter with 293 Apple Store locations, the company opening seven more during the three-month period. Four of those new stores were opened in the U.S., while two opened in Australia; the remaining new store was in Canada.

Retail stores generated US$2.58 billion in revenue during the quarter, jumping 73% from the year-ago numbers. Apple sold 677,000 Macs via its retail stores, compared to 492,000 last year; half of the Macs sold at Apple Store were to customers new to the platform, Apple says.

Apple plans to open 24 stores during the fourth quarter. In addition to an outlet in Shanghai, China, that opened earlier this month, noteworthy store openings include ones in Paris, London, and Apple’s first two stores in Spain.

Apple ended its fiscal third quarter with US$45.8 billion in cash and short-term investments, up from US$41.7 billion at the end of last quarter.

For the fiscal fourth quarter ending in September, Apple expects revenue of US$18 billion and earnings per share to come in around US$3.44. Analysts were predicting sales of US$17.03 billion and earnings of US$3.82 per share in advance of Apple’s announcement on Tuesday.

Apple said it would defer revenue during the quarter as a result of its decision to offer free cases to iPhone 4 customers. Last week, the company made its free case offer after reports of reception problems related to the placement of antennas in the iPhone 4. Oppenheimer put the cost of the case giveaway at US$175 million; Apple will recognize the cost of those cases as they’re delivered to customers.

Apple shifts remaining online, retail Bumper stock over for giveaway

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Date: Tuesday, July 20th, 2010, 05:55
Category: iPhone, News

When in doubt, throw some free bread to the rioting masses…

Per iLounge, Apple has pulled its remaining stock of iPhone 4 Bumper cases from its retail and online Stores ahead of its free giveaway. A check with an Ohio-based retail store, as well as with Apple�s online store, shows no availability of the Apple-branded cases, and a retail store representative confirmed with iLounge that the cases had been pulled due to the giveaway.

Apple announced on Friday that it would be offering a free Bumper or other, yet-to-be-determined case to all current iPhone 4 users and those who purchase the handset by September 30th due to complaints over the iPhone 4�s antenna issues.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Game Review: Predators™

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Date: Monday, July 19th, 2010, 11:41
Category: Fun, Game, News, Review, Software

The Predators game for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is a direct tie-in with the recently released Predators movie by Robert Rodriquez (directed by Nimrod Antal) distributed by Chillingo for Fox Mobile. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’ve been told it’s good fun and the game seems to do it’s job of getting me a little more jazzed to see it. Unlike a lot of game-movie tie-ins, this game actually has some solid play value.

One of the things appreciated about this game is that is it a Universal app, meaning the same app plays on all three “i” devices. An issue that bugs me a little is games that require you to buy a completely new app in order to play it in full resolution on the iPad. I understand that developers have to make money, and that they do have to do some extra work, but it just feels wrong to have to pay a second, higher price for a game I already paid for. I wish they would just work out a system to upgrade to a Universal app for the difference of the two. On a side note, I had a problem with the game on my iPad crashing on launch, but rebooting the iPad seems to have fixed it so far.

Off my soap box, and onto the action.

In this game, you are playing the role of the Predator which is a nice switch up. This is probably because he has all the cool gadgets. The first several “missions” teach you the essentials of mauling and beheading humans for trophies. There are also in-play tutorials for learning to use the gadgets like the wrist knives, shoulder cannon, and the cloaking device. Later, you also get other abilities like thermal vision. I really liked how the tutorials played out so you can get used to using just one weapon or combo attack, rather than just being thrown into a melee and having to figure it out.

The game isn’t strictly a shoot ‘em up either. In some scenarios, you get more points for stalking your prey in cloaked mode, and killing humans undetected. There are also human “boss” characters which represent the main characters from the film such as Royce who is played by Adrian Brody in the film. These guys are harder to beat. I haven’t gotten too far in the game, but so far the terrain has just been your basic jungle with some different environmental factors like darkness or rain (with makes you more visible in cloaked mode). I’ve been through about seven levels and it hasn’t gotten boring yet, so I hope it just keep getting better.

The game stays very true to the Predator feel and mythos. Even the crosshair for the shoulder cannon works like it did in the movie and you can shoot people behind you. The graphics can be a bit gruesome if you are worried about younger audiences. There is lots of blood and your Predator very clearly rips people in half and pulls their head off with a nice, wet, ripping sound. Obviously the graphics are very good and optimized for the iPhone 4 and iPad, and the sounds are quite good as well; probably taken directly from the movies. You will also be happy to know that the game is compatible with iOS 4′s backgrounding, so you can leave in the middle of a mission and come back in the same spot and continue. There is also a pause menu too, until the iPad gets iOS 4.

I liked the iPad version the best, but mainly because the controls cover less screen than the iPhone version. Menus are slightly different for the iPad, but the gameplay is identical to the iPhone/iPod Touch version. I liked that none of the combos were too complicated. I find that annoying about some console games because you end up concentrating too much on how many buttons to push instead of the game. The controls are pretty good and straightforward. There is a “joystick” on the left and action buttons on the right. There are also toggles for things like night vision, weapons, and cloaking. It isn’t a problem for me, but I’d like to see more games give people the option of flipping the controls. The only problems I had were the ones inherent in a touch-based system; when the action gets fast, you tend to slide your fingers off the controls and can’t center again without looking away form the action. Perhaps I have more trouble with this than most people, but I can’t really fault the game for this.

Lastly, the game uses the Crystal gaming network. The frustration I have with all the game networking systems could be a whole post in itself. I’m waiting to see how Apple’s Game Center changes things. Developers naturally have investments in tying themselves to particular systems, but I wish you could choose which system to use for each game instead of being forced to use the one the developer picks.

I highly recommend this game. If you like action games, shooters, and anything to do with Predators, this game is a steal at $2.99.

iOS 4 upgrade offers some battery life improvements over iOS 3 for iPhone 3G, 3GS handsets

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Date: Monday, July 19th, 2010, 04:30
Category: iPhone, News

With the recent release of iOS 4.0 and iOS 4.0.1, one question has needed to be answered: does the update boost your iPhone’s battery life. Per Macworld, it does, the lab downgrading an iPhone 3G that was running iOS 4 to iOS 3.1.3 and running a series of tasks. The staff then upgraded the iPhone 3G to iOS4 and ran the same set of tasks.

The iPhone 3G with iOS 4 lasted 5% longer (10 minutes) than the iOS 3-configured iPhone 3G.

In additional tests, there proved to be an even greater increase in battery life with iOS 4 on an iPhone 4GS, with the updated iPhone 3GS lasting 14% longer (35 minutes) than with iOS 3.

Take a gander at the article for specific details behind each test. And in spite of AntennaGate, the iPhone 4 and the usual complaints that come with any upgrade (“iOS 2.0 used to paint my house for me and that’s why I’ll never upgrade!!!”), it’s nice to see the battery life improve a bit.