December 12, 2011

The Wall Street Journal reported this evening that Apple isn’t seeing the success they’d like with their iAd platform. The company has deployed iAd as an advertising platform throughout their iOS devices in the summer of 2010 and is now making changes in the hope of attracting both more developers and ad spending. First off, Apple is reportedly lowering the entry-level cost for marketers to $400,000 – down from $500,000 and even lower from the original $1 million when the platform was launched. Apple is also reportedly putting new caps on what it charges for clicks on ads, letting advertisers pay $10 each time an advert is viewed every 1,000 times (CPM) and $2 every time it’s specifically tapped on.

So why is Apple making these changes? Apple had tied for the lead in ad market share last year, but has reportedly fallen back to the third place in 2011 advertising market share, behind Millennial Media (#2) Google (#1), per IDC. Hoping to re-gain lost share, Apple is also launching a training program to bring in more advertisers onto the network, partnering with its media buying agency OMD, part of Omnicom Group Inc. to educate new advertisers on iAd, a standard practice providers of digital advertising platforms such as Google and Yahoo! have been exercising from the onset. In the recent weeks, executives from Pepsi, Clorox and JC Penny have reportedly visited Apple’s campus to talk about iAd. OMD also hopes to lure more advertisers in February 2012.

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We heard at the beginning of the month that BBC’s iPlayer iPad app would be getting an iPhone and iPod touch version in the coming weeks and today the app has officially landed for UK users. To accompany the release, the app will also be able to stream content over all 3G networks and now officially supports AirPlay on iOS 5.

The company’s blog post notes a ‘Live Channels’ feature will allow you to quickly switch between BBC channels just like on radio and TV, and all BBC national radio stations support background audio for multitasking. They have also made improvements to streaming by introducing HTTP Live Streaming using adaptive bitrate technologies, allowing the app to adjust your streaming quality based on your connection speed. The web version of the app accessible at bbc.co.uk/iplayer will also soon get 3G streaming capabilities.   expand full story

December 8, 2011

Digitimes’ latest report puts some numbers on the low end iPhones coming out of China.  The 2.5 year old iPhone 3GS has continued to sell briskly with the volume likely to reach two million units in the fourth quarter of 2011 and 1.4-1.6 million units in the first quarter of 2012, according to “industry sources”.

Think about that for a second.  In a world where a new, free Android flagship phone comes out every week or so and dying out a few months later, Apple is selling 2 million/quarter of a device that was introduced two and a half years ago.  This is the phone the original Droid went up against — in fact.

Verizon and conceivably other CDMA carriers in the world have also continued to sell the iPhone 4 CDMA version at an impressive clip.

Meanwhile, the production of the CDMA version of iPhone 4 is expected to top 800,000 to one million units in the fourth quarter of 2011 and 500,000-600,000 units in the following quarter, estimated the sources.

9to5toys 

Last year StyleTap launched their Palm OS emulator platform for iPhone, but for obvious reasons it wasn’t made available through the App Store and instead limited to jailbroken devices. To circumvent Apple’s App Store guidelines, over the past year StyleTap has developed and now launched the ‘StyleTap iOS Wrapper SDK‘, allowing Palm OS devs to wrap their apps in an iPhone app that’s ready to submit to Apple. Here’s how it works:

StyleTap Platform for iPhone® cannot currently be purchased through the Apple App Store because it provides capabilities (e.g.the ability to download other Palm applications) that are restricted by Apple. The StyleTap iOS Wrapper SDK allows you as a Palm application developer to create an iPhone (iOS) application that “wraps” a Palm application inside StyleTap Platform for iPhone in a way that removes all of the restricted capabilities. You can then submit the resulting iPhone application to be included in the Apple App Store.

StyleTap will provide devs with the StyleTap Platform designed for non-jailbroken iPhones through a template Xcode project that also includes instructions on configuring apps for submission to Apple. After devs throw their .prc and .pdb Palm application and license info into the StyleTap Platform setup, they will then have to build an iOS app. Of course devs will still have to be part of Apple’s Developer Program and StyleTap isn’t guaranteeing Apple will accept submitted apps. Also noteworthy is the fact that this enables organizations to deploy Palm apps to non-jailbroken iOS devices, and those apps don’t require submission to Apple. expand full story

December 7, 2011

Conventional wisdom once was that as Apple expanded its retail footprint, Apple resellers would fall by the wayside.  And that has happened to a certain extent, plus stores like CompUSA and Circuit City have folded.

Fortunately, other retailers have been able to succeed alongside Apple by offering differentiated services.

One of our favorite Apple resellers, MacMall, is expanding their retail stores to Huntington Beach, California this Saturday and Chicago, Illinois in the coming months. Currently, the retailer has a booming online store coupled with two retail stores in Santa Monica and Torrance that are also seeing success, the company said in a press release sent out today. The Huntington Beach store opens this Saturday, December 10th with some pretty killer deals (seen after the break). MacMall’s Chicago store, located 321 West Grand Avenue, will be seeing a later January/February opening.

We hear that MacMall is even shopping for some space in Manhattan, alongside one of our other favorite resellers, Tekserve.

MacMall, naturally can offer more to customers than Apple Stores with their unscheduled technical support, broader range of accessories (even a few PCs and Android tablets), and most importantly “online prices in a retail store”. We often tip you guys on MacMall’s awesome deals, so we’re certainly familiar with some of the deals they carry.  As you can see below, they offer so many more accessories than an Apple Store (iPhone Alarm Clocks, standalone GPS, Photoframes, Cameras, etc, etc).

MacMall says Apple has encouraged them to keep expanding to more stores and with over $100 million in Apple product sales this year, that isn’t hard to believe.

At the Huntington Beach store’s grand-opening on Saturday, the first 300 people to visit the store will be entered to win free Apple TVs, MacBook Airs, iPod touchs, and iPod Nanos. Early shoppers will have a 1 in 22 chance of taking home some free holiday gifts.

Press release and circular follow:

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OnLive has just announced (via TechCrunch) a new iPad app capable of accessing their cloud game streaming service previously only available to PC, Mac, and OnLive console owners. Launching in the US and UK first, 25 console titles have been ported to the smaller screen with touchscreen controls, and almost all 200 of the service’s library of console quality titles will be playable via the $50 OnLive wireless controller.

The OnLive service allows streaming of console quality games like Assassins Creed, L.A. Noire, and other titles typically reserved for consoles like the PS3, directly from the company’s servers. The service has received mixed reviews, mostly due to inconsistencies in performance. The same appears to be true for the mobile version, with an early hands-on by TechCrunch highlighting the same performance issues common on PCs. These are “console-class” games, but not always a console quality experience. It’s playable, but really laggy.

The free app should be launching in the App Store any second now, and will still of course require that you purchase or rent the games. Fortunately, any purchased or rented content is instantly playable through any compatible device. You can check out a full list of titles that have been ported with touch controls here. IGN already got their hands on the app for iPad (video below), and they seem to have better first impressions than TechCrunch: expand full story

9to5google 

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With Apple deciding not to include support for T-Mobile’s bands in the US, T-Mobile has turned into an Android wasteland with over 90% of the smartphones sold on the network running on Google’s OS. Looking for some diversification (besides the over million legacy iPhones), T-Mobile looks to be one of the first in the US to roll out one of the new Nokia Windows Phone 7 devices which they plan to announce on Dec 14th, a little late for the holidays.

December 6, 2011

Consumer Reports, a U.S. monthly influencing purchasing decisions with its reviews and comparisons of consumer products, announced today that it rated AT&T the worst among wireless operators in the United States. In a repeat of last year’s ratings, rival Verizon Wireless ranked highest. The nation’s remaining major wireless carriers – including Sprint (the only carrier offering unlimited data to iPhone customers in the U.S.) and T-Mobile USA – fared “significantly better” than beleaguered Ma Bell.

Of the four major U.S. national cell-phone standard service providers, Verizon again scored the highest in this year’s Ratings, followed closely by Sprint. Survey respondents gave very good scores to Verizon for texting and data service satisfaction, as well for staff knowledge.

It feels like 2010, all over again.

The findings are based on the newest satisfaction survey of some 60,000 Consumer Reports online subscribers with both standard and no-contract providers. Readers were polled about their service and customer support experience. Note that 18 percent of their readers, nearly one-fifth, said they don’t yet own a smart phone (but want one).

AT&T users are dissatisfied with their service, customer support and value for money.

So, who’s the happiest with their cell phone service? Surprisingly, it’s subscribers to prepaid services and customers of smaller standard-service providers rather than people with brand spanking new high-end smartphones on pricey plans. The magazine’s electronics editor Paul Reynolds explains: expand full story

Amazon, the online shopping juggernaut, just announced that it will ‘incentivize’ shoppers in physical retail stores to buy products on the Amazon.com instead by shaving an additional five percent off of qualifying products. The company urged customers to download their updated Price Check app so they could price check items as they stroll down the store aisles this coming Saturday, December 10:

Customers that use Price Check by Amazon (available on iPhone or Android) on December 10th to price check while shopping in physical retail stores will get an additional discount of 5% (up to $5) off Amazon’s price on up to three qualifying products in the eligible categories, including electronics, toys, music, sporting goods and DVDs.

This is the first time ever that Amazon will be giving shoppers an added incentive while in a physical retail store. It’s also the first time that Amazon has directly gone after brick and mortar retailers who have much higher overhead costs and must additionally charge sales tax in more places. So if you thought about buying the Steve Jobs hard cover at your local book shop, you may wanna order it on the Amazon.com shopping site instead. Speaking of which, Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography is now a best-selling book on Amazon.

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electrek 

December 5, 2011

Steve Wozniak illustration by Charis Tsevis

Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple and the original architect of the Apple I and Apple II computers in the mid-1970s, is a self-proclaimed Android fan (and of course he loves his iPhone, too). He has been quoted as predicting that Android will win smartphone wars (although he hopes Google’s platform will never beat iPad) and was one of the first customers in the United States to get their hands on the Galaxy Nexus handset.

Wozniak visited Bangalore yesterday, a city in south central India and capital of the country’s state of Karnataka, to speak to young entrepreneurs. AS always, everyone’s favorite geek had interesting thoughts to share, particularly on the state of mobile industry today. NDTV.com reported that the Woz likened today’s smartphones to the Apple III, an ill-fated computer of the 1908s that was largely considered a failure in the market:

If the guys at Apple had built the machine that they would love, it would have been successful. It came instead from formulas from Apple executives. Marketing people were in charge and some very bad decisions got made, in my opinion. There were hardware failures. You put out a product that has failures right away, and even if you fix it a year later, it just doesn’t sell. It’s the same thing with any smartphone today. It comes out and it has something horribly wrong about it. You can fix everything wrong about it, and it still won’t sell. It has missed its window of opportunity.

He hasn’t had time to read his copy of the authorized Steve Jobs biography he keeps on his Kindle, iPhone, iPad and computer (plus, he owns a hard cover) and said the death of Steve Jobs was shocking, but not hard emotionally “because we had expected his death for so long”, although Steve being such an important part of his life means he sometimes “tear up”.

He also said this on Apple’s first computer products:

The Apple III was a failure, the LISA was a failure, and the Macintosh was a failure. It was only by modifying the Macintosh hugely and over time that we made it a good computer.

And this on the failure of the Apple III:

If the guys at Apple had built the machine that they would love, it would have been successful. It came instead from formulas from Apple executives. Marketing people were in charge and some very bad decisions got made, in my opinion. There were hardware failures. You put out a product that has failures right away, and even if you fix it a year later, it just doesn’t sell. It’s the same thing with any smartphone today. It comes out and it has something horribly wrong about it. You can fix everything wrong about it, and it still won’t sell. It has missed its window of opportunity. 

According to Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs bio, Wozniak drew upon himself the wrath of Steve Jobs for inventing the universal remote outside the Apple umbrella. Wozniak commented on the remote incident:

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December 2, 2011

Bloomberg reported this morning that a German data regulator is seeking to question Apple over its use of the Carrier IQ mobile tracking software in iPhones:

The Bavarian State Authority for Data Protection sent a letter to Apple today to request information about the software, Thomas Kranig, head of the office, said in an interview. Apple said yesterday that it will stop supporting Carrier IQ software.

Back in the United States, Senator Al Franken is urging Carrier IQ and Sprint to detail how specifically the software works and what data it transmits, demanding that Carrier IQ explain themselves by December 14. Phone vendors and platform providers such as Google are attempting to distance themselves from Carrier IQ, arguing carriers deploy the software on handsets and mine data.

Carrier IQ late Thursday disputed spying accusations, maintaining its software “does not record, store or transmit the contents of SMS messages, email, photographs, audio or video”. Apple too issued a statement acknowledging existence of Carrier IQ in iOS 5 and confirming plans to “remove it completely in a future software update”. Commenting on the move, Kranig said  “If Apple decided to cease the use, all the better”.

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December 1, 2011

9to5toys 

It’s a stats day today as research firms push out various surveys at the beginning of each month. Having chewed on Apple increasing its lead over Android in mobile OS usage and Chrome surpassing Firefox globally, it’s time for some iPhone numbers. According to a ChangeWave Research survey of 215 iPhone 4S owners conducted November 2-9, folks are loving their new handset better than the previous model.

Apple hit new highs in customer satisfaction as a whopping 96 percent of respondents are Very Satisfied (77 percent) or Satisfied (19 percent) with their new iPhone 4S, while only two percent consider themselves Unsatisfied. So much about the iPhone 4S battery issues tarnishing the Apple brand. That’s not to say the problem is non-existent as 38 percent of respondents dislike the too short battery life. However:

Two-in-five owners said they had experienced reduced battery life with their iPhone 4S (40%). But when asked how much of a problem this issue was for them, only 8% of all owners said it was a Very Big Problem while 20% said it was Somewhat of a Problem.

Dropped calls? iPhone 4S owners reported half (2.5 percent) the rate of dropped calls their iPhone 4 counterparts (5.2 percent) reported in the June 2010 survey. Dropped calls on iPhone 4S are primarily attributable to “owners now using multiple wireless service providers – as opposed to only using AT&T back in July 2010”. Lack of 4G? A downer for nearly one in three (30 percent). Interestingly, just one in ten, or eleven percent, don’t like the new iPhone’s relatively small 3.5-inch display compared to the monstrous 4-inch and bigger Android devices. All other iPhone 4S dislikes are in a single-digit range.

As for the likes, 49 percent are sold on Siri, 39 percent are all for ease of use and 33 percent like the new camera system. Faster web browsing and high screen resolution also rated high. Interestingly, the heavily advertised iCloud service ranked sixth. More likes and dislikes in a pair of pretty charts after the break.

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The bad news is that yes, Carrier IQ is running on iPhones right now, as we speak.  Carrier IQ, you’ll recall is the rootkit that Carriers put on many of their phones to monitor customer usage.  As a security researcher found out, Carrier IQ monitors keystrokes and sends that back to its own servers.  On Apple’s devices, it appears to have been cut off from such activities.  Developer chpwn breaks it down:

Carrier IQ, the now infamous “rootkit” or “keylogger”, is not just for Android, Symbian,BlackBerry, and even webOS. In fact, up through and including iOS 5, Apple has included a copy of Carrier IQ on the iPhone. However, it does appears to be disabled along with diagnostics enabled on iOS 5; older versions may send back information in more cases. Because of that, if you want to disable Carrier IQ on your iOS 5 device, turning off “Diagnostics and Usage” in Settings appears to be enough.

So it appears that on iOS it stores less information, and it doesn’t seem to be sending anything as long as ‘Diagnostics and Usage’ (iOS 5) is turned off – which is the default (you are asked to enable it during the iOS5 setup). On older versions of iOS, especially v3, it appears to be sending data without a toggle.

Verizon representatives have said that they do not run Carrier IQ on their devices which include iPhones, iPads, and Android, Blackberry and other devices.  Other carriers have yet to make a statement on the matter but Carrier IQ brags on its homepage that it tracks information on 141 million devices (and counting) which is about half of the US population.

On iPhones where Carrier IQ is activated, it appears to send the following information back to the servers: expand full story

November 30, 2011

A petition has been floating around this afternoon railing Apple for being ‘anti-choice’ extremist, because Siri won’t serve up Siri results for Abortion providers, instead leading users to “anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers”(CPCs). Groups like NARAL want Apple to take action:

News reports have documented that, in some instances, Siri responded to a question concerning where to find abortion providers by directing an individual to anti-choice organizations known as “crisis pregnancy centers”(CPCs). Anti-choice groups created CPCs to look like comprehensive health clinics, but many do not provide women with accurate pregnancy-related information. This issue is especially important to us at NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, as our state affiliates in California, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia have produced reports that document these deceptive practices. Many of these centers are not up front about their anti-abortion, anti-contraception agenda when advertising online or in other channels. For instance, many CPCs do not disclose their bias to women who walk through their doors or call their toll-free lines seeking information. Ultimately, many of these centers can be harmful and do nothing to help women locate the services they requested from Siri.

The petition is issued straight to CEO Tim Cook with almost 20,000 backers. But is Apple really at fault here?  Just like when Google’s search algorithm pulls up manipulated results (like Santorum), Apple and its location partners like Yelp are pulling up manipulated results.  Still, Apple plans on fixing this issue.

The NY Times asked Apple about the matter and got a response from PR Rep Natalie Kerris.   She basically said that this isn’t intentional and that Siri is a beta product that will see changes in the coming weeks.

“Our customers want to use Siri to find out all types of information, and while it can find a lot, it doesn’t always find what you want,” said Natalie Kerris, a spokeswoman for Apple, in a phone interview late Wednesday. “These are not intentional omissions meant to offend anyone. It simply means that as we bring Siri from beta to a final product, we find places where we can do better, and we will in the coming weeks.” expand full story

9to5google 

Infinity Blade is to the iPad what the Halo series is to the Xbox 360 (or the Gran Turismo franchise to the PlayStation 3). That is, a killer game – a title so compelling that not only does it showcases what’s possible on a platform, but is also so impressive that folks go out and buy the hardware just to be able to play that particular game. A killer title for iPad gamers has to be Chair Entertainment’s Infinity Blade.

Classed as the first iOS game to run on the Unreal Engine, Infinity Blade went on to become the fastest-grossing app in the history of iOS, selling $1.6 million in four days. Three major updates later, Chair Entertainment launches Infinity Blade 2, a sequel to the elegiac action masterpiece. Here’s the blurb:

Journey into the world of the Deathless tyrants and their legion of Titans. Build skills and upgrade characters… all while delving deeper into this mysterious, timeless adventure.

Expect forty new locations (up from ten in the original title), many new hit points, weapons and spells, plus a bunch of other nuances and nice-to-haves. Chair is already thinking post-launch, teasing an update with the Clash Mobs feature where a bunch of other players attack a monster with millions of hit points. In case you were wondering, IGN gave Infinity Blade 2 a 10. A cornerstone of the sequel is, of course, graphics.

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The game features console-quality lighting effects.

The game runs fine on the original iPad, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and third- and fourth-generation iPod touch. However, you’ll want to enjoy it on your iPad 2 or iPhone 4S due to optimizations that really push the envelope of what’s possible on Apple’s A5 chip, especially in the lighting and shading department. Make no mistake, this is one game that you’ll want to show off to your Android-toting friends.

More information is available at the official site. The game hit the New Zealand App Store this morning. You should expect it in the U.S. store around 11pm Eastern time tonight at this URL, priced at $9.99 (a 941MB universal binary download). To celebrate the launch of Infinity Blade 2, Chair slashed the original Infinity Blade to just six bucks for a limited time. Release notes and more clips after the break, including Donald Mustard (creative director), Adam Ford (artistic director) and Geremy Mustard (technical director) talking the visuals.

More videos below:

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November 29, 2011

The CTIA has introduced a new five-point mobile app rating system and voluntary program operated by the ESRB who have been slapping similar “everyone” and “adults only” ratings on video games since the early 90s. Not so surprisingly, the biggest and second biggest players in the mobile app space, Apple and Google, aren’t supporting the program. Bloomberg reports:

The app program is aimed at helping parents monitor children’s increasing use of wireless technology, an issue drawing lawmakers’ attention this year… Apple, maker of the iPhone and iPad, and Google, whose Android software is the most widely used mobile operating software in the U.S., aren’t taking part in the program and have their own ratings systems.

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A Windows 8 tablet mockup

If you believe today’s Forrester Research report, a Window of opportunity is closing fast as customers are losing interest in the forthcoming Windows 8-powered tablets. Microsoft on its part previewed Windows 8 two months ago and won praise for its touch interface. To be perfectly honest, the UI does look nice and interesting and support for ARM/x86 architectures and app market makes it better suited to compete in the post-PC era. But timing is everything and “Windows 8 is going to be very late to the party”, Forrester argued. Here’s the gist of their report:

For tablets, though, Windows really isn’t a fast follower. Rather it’s (at best) a fifth-mover after iPad, Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, HP’s now-defunct webOS tablet, and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. While Windows’ product strategists can learn from these products, other players have come a long way in executing and refining their products — Apple, Samsung, and others have already launched second-generation products and will likely be into their third generation by the time Windows 8 launches. Meanwhile, newer competitors like Amazon (Kindle Fire) and Barnes & Noble (Nook Tablet) are reshaping consumer expectations in the market, driving down price points (and concomitant price expectations), and redefining what a tablet is.

Interestingly, Microsoft has a web tool that, when accessed on one’s iOS or Android device, lets one run an emulation of Windows Phone 7. In what some might dub a sign of desperation, Microsoft is reportedly readying a version of the Office suite for iPad – an ironic move, really, as they didn’t even announce Office apps tailored for Windows 8 tablets.

Announcing Windows 8 well ahead of the promised late-2012 release may have backfired as the excitement surrounding Windows 8 tablets wore off and competitors like Apple and Google can close any perceived advantages. In the first quarter, 46 percent of U.S. consumers yearned for a Windows tablet, Forrester noted (your chart goes right after the break). Last quarter, consumer interest plummeted to just 25 percent. Apple went from 16 percent to 28 percent and Google from 9 percent to 18 percent. But even though more people yearned for a Windows tablet than an Android one, Forrester notes:

Microsoft has missed the peak of consumer desire for a product they haven’t yet released.

Of course, gauging demand for an unreleased product can be misleading and even Forrester analysts were forced to change their ideas of how the market works when early iPad sales caught everyone flabbergasted. On the other hand, we do know Windows 8 tablets won’t ship in volume before this time next year. And herein lies the problem…

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electrek 

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Curious to see how Windows Phone feels, but don’t have a device around to do so? Us neither. But Microsoft has just released a new HTML 5 website that allows iPhone and Android users to get a taste of the Windows Phone 7 (Mango 7.5) operating system. The trial requires no downloads or registration, and you can try it out by just going to the webpage http://aka.ms/wpdemo on your mobile device.

While it doesn’t use any of the data on your phone like your contacts, the demo does give you a pretty comprehensive look at all of Windows Phone’s features. Microsoft uses a blue dot to guide you around the operating system, and obviously some features like voice recognition just don’t work in the browser. Drat, that’s something we really wanted to try.

Will this draw users over to the Windows Phone platform? Probably not, but it’s always cool to see what the competition is up to.

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