Mar 30

Skype Comes to the iPhone Well, that certainly didn’t take long.  Skype for iPhone / iPod touch is now available in the iTunes App Store as a free download.

In our quick test, everything seemed to work pretty well. Call quality to standard phone lines seems good.  The app does feel a bit sluggish, though.  Of course, that’s bound to improve over time.

Click here to view it in iTunes or the iPhone App Store.

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Mar 30

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It’s been no secret that Skype has been working on an iPhone application for some time.  We first told you about their plans in January following an announcement made by Skype’s COO at CES. We were skeptical at the time, but now it looks like all is well and that free and/or very cheap calling for iPhone and iPod touch users is but hours away.

According to new stories at the CNet and PC World web sites, Skype for the iPhone will launch on Tuesday, March 31, in the iTunes App Store as a free download.  The app will allow users to call other Skype users for free and to call out to traditional landline and cell phones with SkypeOut (though this feature requires a small monthly or yearly fee).  Skype for the iPhone will also allow chatting.  Another huge plus, Skype will use your existing contacts for making calls, along with the assigned contact photo, if available.

Unfortunately – and unsurprisingly – you won’t be able to place regular Skype or SkypeOut calls using 3G; voice calling over Skype will require a Wi-Fi connection.  Users will be able to chat over a non-Wi-Fi data connection, however.

We’re fairly sure the regular Skype calls will sound pretty good on the iPhone, particularly since Wi-Fi is required.  But how the app will perform for SkypeOut calls remains to be seen, but we’ll be back with our review after the app debuts tomorrow.  We also assume that when iPhone 3.0 hits later this year, you’ll be able to receive notifications of incoming Skype calls even when the app isn’t running. This feature alone will add great value to the Skype service on the iPhone.

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Mar 17

iphone30 Apple took the wraps off the upcoming iPhone 3.0 OS this afternoon – along with a new SDK – giving us a look at what we can expect from the software update when it’s available later this year.

iPhone 3.0, according to Apple, boasts over 100 new and updated features.  Some of the more basic new features are (finally) Cut, Copy and Paste (text and photos, within and between apps), landscape and landscape keyboard support for all primary iPhone apps (including Mail and Notes), MMS support (including photos, contacts, audio and location), Auto-fill in Safari which will remember login information for web sites, Parental Controls, CalDAV shared calendar support, YouTube account support, updated news feature in the Stocks app, and Notes sync.

Push Notification will also be added to iPhone 3.0.  Because the iPhone does not (and will not) allow processes to run in the background (other than the native iPhone applications), Push Notification allows software developers to push alerts to your iPhone to prompting you to launch their app and view new data.  This will be particularly useful with third-party messaging applications.

There are two new apps being added to the iPhone with v3.0 of the OS: Spotlight and Voice Memo.  Spotlight is an app that will run on a new Home Screen window that’s to the left of the first Home Screen you see when you double press the Home button.  This window is Spotlight, a new all-in-one search center for the iPhone which you can use to search through email, notes, calendar entries, apps, music and more.  Voice Memo is a new app which allows users to record and edit voice memos, save them, email them or send them via MMS.

Apple is also allowing the iPhone with 3.0 to better communicate with accessories.  Hardware accessory makers can now write apps which can interface with and setup and/or control their accessories.  This will be particularly useful in that accessories makers will be able to allow the end user to adjust settings on the hardware without having to add a screen, buttons or other controls to the hardware itself.

iPhone 3.0 also adds A2DP Stereo Bluetooth support, meaning that you can finally use Bluetooth wireless headphones and earbuds with the iPhone and iPod touch without having to use a Bluetooth dongle.  We don’t know why this has taken so long, but it’s finally coming.  We hope that it will work with any Bluetooth audio device and not just the ones Apple will begin selling. 

Apple is also un-crippling onboard Bluetooth to allow Peer-to-Peer data transfers.  This will allow not only the transfer of contacts and other information to other Bluetooth-enabled devices, but also wireless gaming on the iPhone and iPod touch.

There were also details about changes to the iTunes App Store.  With 3.0, the App Store will support subscriptions (for digital magazines, etc.) and other purchases from within apps, a feature creatively titled In App Purchase.  With this feature, users can purchase additional elements of an app (levels, content, features, etc.) without having to leave the application.

We’re really excited about the new version of the iPhone OS, but we are a bit disappointed, too.  There will be no video recording from the onboard camera added.  There will be no turn-by-turn navigation, although Apple will make it easier for third-parties to create and sell navigation apps.  There was also no mention of voice dialing capabilities.  Better luck next time…

The iPhone 3.0 OS will be available in June or July of this year for the current iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPod touch devices.  The update will be free to iPhone users, and $10 for iPod touch users.  We also assume there will be a new model of iPhone released on or around the iPhone 3.0 release date.

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Mar 16

iPhone OS 3.0

Users won’t be able to get their hands on v3.0 of the iPhone OS until the summer, but Apple will unveil the newest version of its mobile OS during a media event scheduled for 12:00PM CDT tomorrow.

Apple is calling this an advance preview (redundant?), but hasn’t said much about what’s coming; that hasn’t stopped the speculation, of course, and predictions are flying about what users can expect.

Topping the list of possible features is Push Notification Server support, a capability long-promised by Apple but as yet unavailable. Because the iPhone doesn’t run third-party programs in the background, this would allow apps to be sent notifications when new data is available. For example, a third-party messaging app could alert you of a new incoming IM even if that messaging application isn’t running at the time.

Other predictions include Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), copy-and-paste, stereo Bluetooth headphone support, tethering (this is the ability to use the iPhone as a wireless modem over USB or Bluetooth; if true this feature will almost certainly require a monthly fee from AT&T), and even voice recognition.

We’ll post full details tomorrow during the announcement.

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Mar 11

3rd Generation iPod shuffle (Black)

Today Apple announced its 3rd Generation iPod shuffle. The new shuffle has been redesigned and now lacks hardware playback control on the main device body, although there is a single switch for shuffle, repeat and off.  The clip is still there, too, so you can easily wear your iPod shuffle while you’re on the go.

Control of the 3G iPod shuffle is relegated to the earbud cord, which has a new control node for play, pause, skip, playlist selection and volume.  The new VoiceOver feature, which speaks track, artist and playlist information, is also activated by using this control.  The node’s single button performs multiple actions depending on the number and duration of presses.  Fortunately, there are dedicated up and down volume control buttons.

We’re happy to see that the new shuffle includes playlist support, but the single-button with the voice prompt control system seems like a lot of hoops to jump through to take the place of a simple display.  But, if you’re the type of person who just wants music and doesn’t much care about listening to a particular track at a particular time, the new shuffle should fit you just fine.

The 3G iPod shuffle is available today at the Apple Store in either silver or black and comes in one capacity, 4GB, which holds about 1000 songs.  The MSRP is $79.

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