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Apple Seeds New Lion Beta: Few Minor UI Tweaks, Not Much Else (So Far)

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Apple has released an update to its Mac OS X 10.7 Lion beta. The 1.24 GB update is third build of the new operating system, which is expected to be shown off at WWDC in June and released to the public in the summer or fall.

The update is available to registered Mac developers running Lion Developer Preview 2. It can be downloaded through Software Update. The release contains no release notes and appears to contain only minor UI tweaks, according to tweets crossing the wire. It’s unlikely to be a big update. That will come with Developer Preview 3.

Did Apple Spend $4.5 Million on iCloud.com for New Cloud Service?

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Apple has reportedly purchased the iCloud.com domain for the new cloud-based storage service it is currently working on, paying $4.5 million to the previous owners who have now rebranded their service. Visitors to iCloud.com are currently redirected to the new service – now called CloudMe – but it is believed Apple will take over the domain when it’s ready.

The report comes from GigaOm, who cites a source familiar with the company:

My source, who is familiar with the company, says that Xcerion has sold the domain to Apple for about $4.5 million. Xcerion hasn’t responded to my queries as yet. At the time of writing, the Whois database showed Xcerion as the owner of iCloud.

MacRumors also received some information on the iCloud rebranding last week, but were unable to obtain enough information at the time to link the change to an Apple takeover.

Apple’s upcoming cloud-based storage service – also dubbed a ‘music locker’ – will purportedly be a solution for storing music and other content online which can then be streamed to internet connected devices, such as the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

The most recent speculation has suggested that Apple is currently in the process of signing deals with all of the major music labels and getting the service ready for launch. An announcement is expected at WWDC in June.

Apple Now Testing iOS 5 with Third-Party Apps

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A crash report received by iOS developer FutureTap reveals that Apple is currently field testing the next major release of its iOS firmware using third-party applications from the App Store. In a message posted to Twitter, FutureTap discloses a crash log from a device running iOS 5.0:

Just received the first iOS 5.0 crash report. MKUserLocationBreadCrumb sounds interesting.

FutureTap followed up the message with a screenshot (above) of the crash log, highlighting the “MKUserLocationBreadCrumb” API. MKUserLocation is part of the iOS MapKit Framework, which is used to find your device’s current location; while the “BreadCrumb” element is said to indicate a new tracking feature.

It’s possible the new feature has something to do with the new mapping technology that Apple revealed it was working on in a press release yesterday, however, this isn’t expected to appear as a finished product for another couple of years.

While there’s nothing major here, this crash report reveals – unsurprisingly – that Apple is readying its iOS 5 firmware for its announcement at WWDC in June. We will probably see its release alongside the fifth-generation iPhone – expected this fall.

[via AppleInsider]

Apple Ends MobileMe & iWork Rebate Programs

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In an internal memo to its employees, Apple has announced the end of its iWork and MobileMe rebate programs with effect from close of business on April 18th. The rebate programs allowed customers to save $30 on MobileMe when purchasing a new Mac or iPad, and $30 on iWork when purchasing a new Mac.

The termination of these programs follows reports that Apple is set to revamp its MobileMe service over the coming months. A new MobileMe service, said to feature a digital “music locker” for streaming content from the cloud to Apple devices – as well as the “Media Stream” and “Find my Friends” features – is rumored to launch either later this month or at WWDC in June.

Though it’s not clear why iWork was also cut from the rebate program, it’s believed this is simply due to the release of iWork 2011 later this year. I think the the Mac App Store could also play a part in this: if Apple has decided to offer future iWork releases exclusively through the App Store as separate purchases, there may be a new way for customers to claim rebates – such as promo codes – or no rebates at all.

[via 9to5 Mac]

White iPhone 4 to Launch by End of April

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Following a long 10-month delay, the wait for Apple’s white iPhone 4 could soon be over, according to three people with knowledge of the company’s plans. The device will be available through both AT&T and Verizon Wireless and will launch by the end of April.

A Bloomberg report on Wednesday cites three people who are familiar with Apple’s plans, while another report published on Thursday by Reuters cites two more who also claim the white iPhone 4 is currently in production.

A bout of manufacturing challenges have delayed the device – which is rumored to have included paint that becomes discolored and peels under heat, light leakage into the camera, and light leakage out of the case – the device that many thought would never see the light of day could finally be released from the Foxconn factory.

Despite a message on Twitter last month from Apple’s vice president Phil Schiller, confirming the white device would be available this spring, the recent removal of any image depicting the device from Apple’s website fuelled rumors that the handset would not be launching.

[via AppleInsider]

Job Listing Reveals Apple is Looking for New Team to Build Cloud Services

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An Apple cloud service has been one of the main focal points for a lot of recent speculation, and a new job listing on the Apple website confirms that the company is currently putting together a crack team of people to build “the future of cloud services at Apple.”

The listing is for a “Cloud Systems Software Engineer” – a full-time role in a “small team” based at the company’s main Cupertino campus. In true Apple style the listing doesn’t reveal a lot of information about this cloud service, however, it does state that the team will be responsible for writing software “which forms the foundation” for some of Apple’s “most exciting new products and services.”

Apple’s only attempt at cloud services so far has been MobileMe, which has left a great deal to be desired for many of its users. Recent rumors claimed that a revamped MobileMe service would soon go live, featuring a digital storage function similar to iDisk which would enable users to store content that could be streamed to iOS devices.

Since Apple has only just started advertising for people to build their new team, it doesn’t look like the cloud service will be launching anytime in the immediate future. It is believed cloud services will be a big part of iOS 5, so the first we hear about it could be at WWDC in June.

Interestingly, since this job listing became famous, it seems to have been removed by Apple.

[via AppleInsider]

Toshiba Unveils New Flash Memory that Could Give iPhone 5 64GB Storage

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Toshiba unveiled its new SmartNAND flash memory on Tuesday with support for flash chips up to 64GB. With a next-generation 24-nanometer process, the new design has a better memory controller that speeds up the read and write process, and is more space efficient – perfect for devices like the iPhone.

It’s possible the new SmartNAND could replace the Samsung flash memory in the current iPhone 4 and allow for a 64GB iPhone 5. Apple has already moved away from the Samsung flash since the launch of the iPhone 4, choosing Toshiba’s NAND flash for both the forth-generation iPod touch and the iPad 2.

The 32GB and 64GB SmartNAND options won’t start being mass produced until at least June, which could be one of the reasons why the launch of the iPhone 5 may be delayed until September – as recent rumors claim.

A 64GB iPhone 4 prototype was recently discovered on the Chinese grey market, and reports at the time ruled out a 64GB forth-generation device, suggesting instead that Apple was testing the larger flash memory for a forthcoming iPhone.

[via Electronista]

iPhone 5 Could Launch at End of June

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One of the big questions everyone’s asking about the iPhone at the moment is whether or not a fifth generation device will launch this summer. According to a new report from Korean site ETNews.co.kr, Apple is planning to release the iPhone 5 during the 4th week of June, with Korean carriers SK Telecom and KT among the first providers to offer the device:

iPhone 5, the next model of iPhone 4, will be released on the coming 4th week of June. In the midst of the iPhone 5 postponement rumors, Apple has confirmed that iPhone 5 will be released as planned and it will be released simultaneously in Korea through SK Telecom and KT.

Wall Street Trims Apple Estimates on iPhone 5 ‘Delays’

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Word that Apple may not release the iPhone 5 as early as expected prompted some observers to talk of a “delay.” Naturally, Wall Street’s sensitive rumor tripwire went into action, the result the start of analysts downgrading estimates for the iPhone.

Piper Jeffries’ Peter Misek Wednesday morning shaved four percent from his fiscal year 2011 revenue projection, telling investors he expects the Cupertino, Calif. company to rake in $103 billion, rather than his previously estimated $106.9 billion. The fiscal year ends September. More dramatic is the analyst’s double-digit refiguring of iPhone shipments.

Apple Could Ship 4G iPhones By The End Of The Year

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Yesterday, Apple opened up registrations for 2011’s WWDC, and within ten hours had already sold out of tickets. The more interesting rumor from yesterday, though, was that Apple would refrain from unveiling the iPhone 5 at this year’s WWDC, instead focusing entirely on software. That would mean that instead of the iPhone 5 shipping in June, as it has historically done, the iPhone 5’s launch would be pushed back until later in the year.

After the initial shock, the rumor sounds extremely likely. The report came from Jim Dalrymple over at The Loop, whose sources are solid. Moreover, the early year launch of the Verizon iPhone and Apple’s continued delay in shipping the white iPhone 4 (while repeatedly promising it’s still coming) all imply that Apple’s not planning the iPhone 5 in June, but will push it until later in the year, to debut before the holiday shopping season.

Over at Slashgear, Chris Davies brings up one interesting point: a late 2011 debut might give Apple more flexibility in making the iPhone 5 4G compatible. Qualcomm’s next LTE chipsets are due out at that point, and will allegedly boast improved power efficiency… the very issue that led Apple to leave LTE support out of the Verizon iPhone earlier this year.

If Apple does delay the iPhone 5 until later in the year, it’s all the more likely we’ll see a sizable update boasting 4G capability. For Verizon users, that means LTE; unfortunately, on AT&T, their HSPA+ “4G” smartphones are actually throttled to be slower than their regular 3G phones. If the iPhone does go 4G later this year, the Verizon iPhone 5 is going to be the clear winner: AT&T’s 4G network is a disgrace, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get substantially better anytime soon.