Analyst comments on supply chain, indicates that updated MacBook Air notebooks possible for September

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Date: Monday, August 9th, 2010, 03:28
Category: MacBook Air, News

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A pair of updated MacBook Air notebooks could be en route along with updated iPods this September as analyst Keith Bachman with BMO Capital Markets this week issued a note to investors in which he said Apple will finally update its MacBook Air line next month. Per AppleInsider, Bachman offered the following quote:

“We are not yet clear on all the specs, but supply chain checks suggest that unit shipments o the new Air products could far exceed the current Air, which we believe could suggest lower starting prices,” Bachman wrote. “We project 2.9 million total notebooks in the September quarter, which we believe is reasonable.”

Updates have been repeatedly rumored over the last year but never panned out. The hardware was last updated in June 2009, giving it a Core 2 Duo processor and Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics at a lower starting price of US$1,499.

Bachman also spoke of Apple’s anticipated update to its iPod line, though he did not specifically cite any industry insiders in his prediction for a redesigned, “much smaller” iPod nano.

“We believe that the Nano will be much smaller than past versions, and will not have a physical track wheel,” he said, adding that it’s possible that the iPod shuffle could be eliminated if the iPod nano is reduced in size.

Bachman also noted strong iPad and iPhone sales, and said checks in the supply chain indicate that the iPod touch has not been cannibalized by the iPad. BMO Capital Markets has maintained its “outperform” rating for AAPL stock, and has a price target of US$315.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked photo illustrations suggest camera, flash on next-gen iPod touch

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Date: Thursday, August 5th, 2010, 05:14
Category: iPod Touch, Pictures, Rumor

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A series of leaked photo illustrations supposedly obtained from iPod case manufacturers show a new version of the iPod touch with a camera and flash.

Per a leaked image on HardMac, the English language version of France’s Macbidouille, the next generation iPod touch in shown in a clear case. The website claims the source of the image is “very reliable.” The image appears to show a rounded back with a rear-facing camera and flash.

A rounded back would be a clear departure from the design of the iPhone 4, which has a flat glass back.



According to the web site, the source has been reliable in the past, correctly confirming the inclusion of a camera on last year’s iPod nano. Technical issues have been cited as the reason for the lack of a camera on last year’s iPod touch model.

Although rumors of a camera-enabled iPod touch have persisted for several years, the June unveiling of Apple’s FaceTime video call feature for the iPhone 4 served to strengthen the rumors. At that time, CEO Steve Jobs expressed plans to make the feature an “open industry standard” that works between different devices. When speculating which devices are likely to adopt the FaceTime standard, many analysts have kept the iPod touch at the top of their lists.

Reports from “supplier” sources corroborate the iPod touch camera rumor, although the details don’t always match. In July, U.K. retailer John Lewis claimed the next iPod touch will have a 5 megapixel camera, while the Taiwanese publication Digitimes cited sources predicting a 3 megapixel camera.

Either way, this will probably be resolved upon the new iPod touch’s release, which is expected to occur sometime in September.

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 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.

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.

We Have a Winner: Outlet Charging Proves Faster for iPhone 4

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Date: Monday, July 12th, 2010, 04:02
Category: iPhone, iPod, News

Among the great debates of computer technology (along with whether or not to shut your computer down for the night or put it to sleep and how this affects the hardware) is the question as to whether or not to charge an iPhone or similar device via an outlet or USB port. Even in the case of charging an iPad, where the user receives a “not charging” message near the battery indicator, the device is charging, but slowly.

The guys over at When Will Apple? took the time to do a pretty decent job of comparing charging times on the iPhone 4, comparing USB to AC outlet. The conclusion: USB charging takes 23% longer to charge an iPhone 4 than charging via an AC outlet. If you’re in a rush to charge your phone, that’s a pretty significant difference.

The little flaw in this test is not knowing the amount of charge coming from the USB port used, as not all USB ports are created equal.

If you’ve found a different result on your end, please let us know.

Rumor: Apple to add 5 megapixel camera, FaceTime and gyroscope to fourth-gen iPod touch

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Date: Friday, July 9th, 2010, 03:02
Category: iPod Touch, Rumor

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A new report from the mighty Electric Pig has alleged that Apple’s fourth-generation iPod touch, expected to arrive this September, will feature a 5 megapixel camera, capture HD video, feature FaceTime connectivity, and include a gyroscope, like the iPhone 4.

U.K. retailer John Lewis said the information is based on “noises we’re hearing from suppliers”. Though no mention was specifically made of a forward-facing camera at the company’s presentation in London, it did say that FaceTime calling over Wi-Fi would be possible “so you can communicate with friends at zero cost.”

The purported details of Apple’s new iPod touch were revealed at the John Lewis “Xmas in July” event. The retailer also claimed that the new iPod touch will include a camera flash for improved pictures in the dark, like the iPhone 4. It also said that users would be able to upload their HD videos directly to YouTube from the device, over Wi-Fi.

Finally, representatives from John Lewis also said the new iPod touch is expected to include both an accelerometer and a gyroscope. The hardware addition already found in the iPhone 4 allows a new, more precise control method for game titles on the App Store.

The company made no mention whether the iPod touch would receive some of the other additions of the iPhone 4, namely the 640-by-960 pixel Retina Display, or Apple’s custom-built A4 processor.

Apple was originally rumored to add a camera to its iPod touch at last year’s annual September iPod event, but the feature was allegedly pulled due to bad parts with the camera modules. The company later added a popular video camera component to its iPod nano media device.

How-To: deactivate Network Services to improve iOS device battery life

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Date: Thursday, July 8th, 2010, 04:31
Category: How-To, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News

Although the iOS 4 software update has been lauded as improving battery life for most users, some are finding the improvements lacking. Per the Apple Toolbox Blog, one source of this may be overuse of the Location Services feature which can accompany checking Push notifications, and having many open Safari windows open.

It now appears that overactive location services usage can result in poor battery life. Specifically, apps that use location services in the background can quickly drain the battery.

The post offers the following steps for resolving this and hopefully upping your iOS device’s battery life:

“To check location services usage on an app-by-app basis, navigate to Settings > General > Location Services.

Turn location services off for all applications, then turn them back on for desired apps one by one or in groups. Via this procedure, you can identify which app’s use of location services is draining battery.

Alternatively, you can temporarily turn off location services altogether and check for increased battery life.”

Rumor: Apple to launch iTunes wireless streaming/sync features in September

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Date: Friday, July 2nd, 2010, 05:52
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, iTunes, Rumor

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Despite everything Apple seems to be fighting with regarding the iPhone 4′s firmware, there may be something cool around the corner.

Per a “reliable” unnamed Apple source, the Boy Genius Report web blog is reporting that Apple will launch new wireless streaming and synchronization features for iTunes at its traditional September iPod event, or possibly sooner, according to a new report.

The report claims that the new features will allow users to stream purchased music and movies from Apple’s servers directly to their devices, eliminating the need for large amounts of local storage, and also stream music and movies from their home computers to their other computers and remote devices over their own Internet connections.

Finally, the report claims that any apps purchased on an iOS device would immediately and wirelessly sync back to the user’s home computers, along with any changes to Calendar, Notes, or Contacts; it is unclear whether this latter feature would supplant or be available in addition to Apple’s paid MobileMe service.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what’s on your mind about this.

Apple releases iOS 4 update for iPhone 3G, 3GS and third-generation iPod touch units

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Date: Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010, 05:33
Category: iPhone, iPod Touch, News

After months of waiting, Apple finally released its iOS 4 operating system for the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 3GS, the third-generation iPod touch and the iPhone 4. The new version of the operating system, which weighs in at a hefty 579 megabyte download, is available through iTunes boasts the following changes and fixes:

Multitasking: Now you can run your favorite third-party apps —- and switch between them instantly —- without slowing down the performance of the foreground app or draining the battery unnecessarily.

Folders: Organize apps into folders with drag-and-drop simplicity. Get faster access to your favorites and browse and manage up to 2160 apps.

Even better Mail: See messages from all your accounts in a unified inbox, organize messages by threads, open attachments in third-party apps, and more.

iBooks: More than a great ebook reader, iBooks is also an amazing place to browse and shop for books, day or night.

Create playlists: Create custom playlists right on your iPhone.

5x digital zoom: Get closer to your subjects by zooming in up to 5x.

Tap to focus video: While shooting video, tap the display to choose where to focus.

Faces and Places in Photos: View photos based on who’s in them and where they were taken.

Home screen wallpaper: Change the background wallpaper on your Home screen.

Gift apps: Send apps as gifts to your friends or family.

Spell checking: A built-in spell checker works in Mail, Notes, and other apps.

Wireless keyboard support: Pair a keyboard based on Bluetooth wireless technology with your iPhone.

Like similar iPhone OS (now iOS) updates, simply connect your iPhone or iPod touch to your Mac or PC, select the device and tell it to check for an update. This will find the new version of the iOS and should begin the several-minute update process.

If you’ve tried the new iOS and have any feedback, positive or negative, to offer, please let us know what you think.