Apple makes its product packaging with stealthy love. An advanced copy of Adam Lashinsky’s book, Inside Apple, reveals product packaging is another thing Apple keeps under lock and key. The tech giant has a secret room — accessible only by security badges — dedicated to hundreds of variant prototype product packaging options for products like the iPad.

“To fully grasp how seriously Apple executives sweat the small stuff, consider this: For months, a packaging designer was holed up in this room performing the most mundane of tasks – opening boxes,” NetworkWorld’s iOnApple blog quoted from Lashinsky’s book.

Packaging designers must open box after box to test the positioning of the invisible stickers stuck to the top of iPod boxes. The invisible tape must be placed exactly, Lashinsky explained.

Packaging is taken more seriously at Apple than other technology companies because Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple who died in late 2011, cared about every last detail. He wanted customers to feel a certain emotion when opening Apple products.

MacRumors quotes Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design, from Walter Isaacson’s bio on Steve Jobs: “You design a ritual of unpacking to make the product feel special. Packaging can be theater, it can create a story.”

Apple’s package designs have sophisticated utilization of white space, which differs much from Microsoft’s fit-a-lot-of-information-on-the-box approach. A YouTube video reveals how Microsoft might package an Apple product.

So the next time you open an Apple product, remember a packaging designer spent hours selecting the perfect box and precise placement of stickers. Watch the video to find out more about Apple’s packaging details.

More About: adam lashinsky, apple, ipod, mashable video, packaging, steve jobs, Walter Isaacson

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Infinity Blade 2

Infinity Blade is my favorite mobile game. I paid about six times more for it than I have any other iPhone or iPad app, and instantly knew it was worth it.

It’s not like Angry Birds, another favorite of mine, which requires a bit of analytical thought to figure out the fewest birds necessary for maximum destruction. Infinity Blade, made by Chair Entertainment, is about action, survival—and a quest.

It’s the game I play the most on any iOS device, so I was thrilled when I got the chance to preview the sequel: Infinity Blade 2. If you read my hands-on report, you know it’s fun and visually stunning. Since I already have so much time invested in the game, I wanted to spend some time with the brains behind the blade.

Donald Mustard and his brother Geremy founded Chair Entertainment in 2005. They were busy building console games such as Shadow Complex when Epic, maker of blockbuster games Gears of War and Unreal Tournament snapped them up in 2008.

By 2010, Chair had launched Infinity Blade, its first iOS game. Built atop Epic’s Unreal Engine 3, it set a new benchmark for mobile gaming visuals, and has subsequently made more than $20 million in sales.

Clearly, the Mustard boys are onto something, as more than a few people share my addiction to the sword-wielding, armor-wearing, spell-casting heroes. (Epic’s Infinity Blade forum has thousands of posts. I chatted with the Mustard brothers about the game, their relationship with Apple, and what’s next.

Developing for the iPhone 4S and iOS 5

Apple invited the Mustard brothers to its Cupertino campus just two weeks before the iPhone 4S launch in October, though this didn’t seem to bother them. “We try and make good guesses as to where hardware is going. We had our fingers crossed that there would be something like the iPhone 4S where we can push things further. Luckily Apple delivered,” said Donald.

Jeremy said the company understands Apple product timelines pretty well, so they were already developing an app that would work with what they expected to be an iPhone 4 upgrade. Chair’s bet paid off.

Geremy and Donald Mustard of Chair EntertainmentThe pair are excited about the potential of iOS 5, especially incremental updates. “[It’s] huge,” said Donald, “because we love being able to update our games.”

Chair is constantly refining their games — but with previous iOS versions, Infinity Blade players had to download a huge update for each tweak. With incremental updates, they can download a 50 MB (or smaller) file, as opposed to one hundreds of megabytes in size.

iPhone 5?

So the Mustards were prepared for iPhone 4S, but what about iPhone 5? Did they see it? Did they ask? Said Geremy: “We certainly asked. We get coy smiles and tight lips…they don’t tell us anything. I’m sure there will be an iPhone 5 at some point, but we don’t know anything about it.” He paused and laughed: “I bet it’s at least as fast as the iPhone 4s.”

What’s Inside

Infinity Blade 2 is a powerful game, but it’s also a scalable one. The Chair teams designed it to scale down so it could run on the iPhone 3GS and iPad 1. On those devices, players simply see less detail. But on the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, Infinity Blade 2 will “use up all the power that is available on these higher-end systems.”

To build Infinity Blade 2, the Mustards eschewed more complex game geometry and focused on character shadows and light rays — effects typically found on console games. Epic added these capabilities to the engine and debuted them in Gears of War 3 on the Xbox 360. That was only a few months ago. “Now it’s on the iPhone 4S,” said Geremy. “We made the game, and I still can’t believe it’s running on a phone that I carry in my pocket.”

Where are the Android Apps?

As I was testing Infinity Blade 2, I kept wondering how it would run on an Android “super phone” such as the Motorola Photon 4G, which packs a graphics-friendly NVidia Tegra 2 chip. Unfortunately, Infinity Blade isn’t in the Android Market — and it doesn’t sound like it’s coming any time soon.

There is nothing technically preventing the brothers from bringing Infinity Blade to Android right now. Instead, they’re hesitating because of piracy concerns. According to a number of online reports, there’s enough of a piracy issue in Android marketplace that many developers find it necessary to build in antipiracy measures, which in turn dampens sales.

“We’re confident that will be worked out and it will become a viable place for game developers, but that hasn’t happened yet,” said Donald. “So it’s not the tech, it’s the business platform.”

What Steve Said

Donald Mustard met the late Steve Jobs when the Apple founder unveiled Chair and Epic’s game, then called “Project Blade,” at a September 2010 Apple event. Jobs was impressed with the game: “I can’t believe that’s running on an iPhone,” he reportedly said. Jobs also once joked about Donald’s last name, saying “Your name is really ‘Mustard’? I won’t forget that name.”

What’s Next

What comes after Infinity Blade 2? The brothers aren’t quite ready to go there yet. “We’ve been working 24 hours a day,” said Donald. “Working like crazy to get this game finished.” They are, however, excited about some of the features that should arrive after the December 1 launch, including “Clash Mob” — which Donald says should change the way we look at “asynchronous social collaboration.”

Building A Successful App

There are a lot of successful apps in the App Store. But with 800,000 of them available, there are also thousands of flops. What does it take to make a game app that can drive $20 million in sales?

Donald offered this advice to would be app developers: “Create a game that is unique to iOS — something that utilizes the touch screen in a cool and innovative new way. Our iOS mantra at Chair is that ‘if the game would be fun with a controller, you are not making the right game.’ Gamers want a fun, original experience on their iOS devices — not a port of their favorite console game.”

Infinity Blade 2

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More About: apple, apps, games, iOS 5, ipad, iPhone 4S, ipod, steve jobs

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Although it maintains a strict wall of secrecy about forthcoming announcements, Apple hypes up its special media events with cleverly designed and worded invitations that get pored over and analyzed for clues.

Ahead of the “Let’s Talk iPhone” special event on Oct. 4, 2011, we’ve rounded up 10 such invites. In addition to looking at invite design, we recall the development or device Apple actually showcased at each media presentation.

SEE ALSO: Steve Jobs Remixed: 5 Creative Takes on the Iconic Apple Keynote [VIDEOS]

Take a look through the image gallery below. Let us know in the comments your hype memories and speculation from Apple events past — and what you think is due to be revealed on Oct. 4.

2005: “1000 Songs In Your Pocket Changed Everything. Here We Go Again”

Back in 2005, Apple teased the press with a cryptic message superimposed over an image of a denim pocket.

The “1000 songs” reference can be traced back to the first iPod press release in 2001.

This line represented the tagline for this event’s launch — the first-gen iPod nano.

Beyond the nano, Apple also introduced the Motorola ROKR, which supported iTunes. While not a success, the ROKR was the creative seed for the iPhone.

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More About: apple, features, gallery, history, ipad, ipod

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Everything is more fun when there’s a monkey involved. That’s just basically a fact. That’s why Paul Frank’s Julius Dance Machine is a must for your next wild party.

Paul Frank — oh! maker of colorful, neon things — partnered with audio manufacturer SpeakerCraft to create this little Zenned-out creature, which works with all iPod devices.

We had a chance to play around with the Dance Machine here at Mashable, and, honestly, the sound quality isn’t all that different than that of your average iPod dock (so if you’re an audiophile, this isn’t really for you).

No, aesthetics seem to be the bigger aim with this dock; designed so that Julius cradles the iPod in his lap and his ears function as the volume controls, this item is all about whimsy.

Julius features a rechargeable NiMH battery, which means you don’t have to tie the monkey down in order to listen to your jams, and it can play for up to six hours without needing another charge.

If you do decide to pick up this $99.95 creature, I suggest powering him up and unplugging him so he can join the dance party, which, naturally, should kick off with “Mickey’s Monkey” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.

Photos by Jehangir Irani




More About: gadgets, ipod, music, paul frank, pop culture, tech

Social Media News

Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening in the digital world. We’re keeping our eyes on five particular stories of interest today.

Apple Sells 7 Million iPads in Record-Breaking Quarter

One day after announcing that Steve Jobs was taking a leave of absence from the company, Apple reported record-breaking earnings, with revenue of more than $26 billion for its fiscal first quarter. During the quarter, Apple sold 7.3 million iPads, 16.2 million iPhones, 4.1 million Macs and 19 million iPods.

Comcast-NBC Merger Approved

The Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department have voted to approve Comcast‘s merger with NBC Universal, giving the cable and ISP giant majority ownership of NBC and its media properties, including a piece of Hulu.

Sony To Announce New PSP Next Week

Sony will unveil a new version of its handheld game console PlayStation Portable on January 27, as well as a gaming-oriented smartphone in February, Bloomberg reports, citing two people with knowledge of the company’s plans.

Twitter Launches in Korean

Twitter has launched the Korean version of its popular service, bringing the total of supported languages to seven.

Starbucks Starts Accepting Mobile Payments Nationwide

Nearly 6,800 company-operated Starbucks stores in the U.S. will begin accepting mobile payments today. Customers using the Starbucks Card Mobile app on their iPhone, iPod touch or BlackBerry will now be able to use those devices as tender.

Further News

In recent quarters, Apple has seen sales of iPod fall flat, a signal to some that iPhone is starting to cannibalize sales of standalone mp3 players.

However, on its earnings call this afternoon, Apple noted that sales of iPod touch are continuing to grow. In fact, the company says that iPod touch now makes up more than half of total iPod sales, up 27% year-over-year.

That means that the company sold roughly 10 million of the device in the quarter (versus 16.2 million iPhones and 7.3 million iPads). Beyond helping Apple’s bottom line, that’s important because of the impact it has on the total size of the iOS ecosystem, which now totals 160 million devices.

The latest iteration of the device, which was revealed back in September, does just about everything that one can do with an iPhone 4, including run apps, use Facetime and record HD video (or what Steve Jobs joked is an “iPhone without a contract”). Given the sales numbers, that appears to be a compelling proposition to customers, even as mp3 players on the whole appear to be a declining category.

With Android smartphones (in aggregate) now outselling iPhone and Android-powered devices like the Samsung Galaxy Player set to hit the market, iPod touch is clearly a big part of keeping iOS’s numbers in the same ballpark as its main competition, which, unlike Apple, now has devices being built by dozens of manufacturers.

More About: apple, iOS, ipod, iPod Touch

One day after announcing that Steve Jobs was taking a leave of absence from the company, Apple has reported record-breaking earnings, with revenue of more than $26 billion for its fiscal first quarter, which includes holiday sales.

During the quarter, Apple sold 7.3 million iPads, 16.2 million iPhones, 4.1 million Macs and 19 million iPods. That brings the total number of iPads sold to nearly 15 million since the device was released last April.

The success of iPad doesn’t appear to be coming at the expense of Mac sales though, as some analysts had projected. Mac sales were up 23% year-over-year, setting a new record for the company.

iPhone sales were up 86% from the same quarter last year, with Apple remaining bullish on its prospects thanks to its impending launch on Verizon. “We’ve got some exciting things in the pipeline for this year including iPhone 4 on Verizon which customers can’t wait to get their hands on,” Jobs said in a statement.

Shares of Apple — which opened down about 5% this morning in the wake of the Jobs news — continued to rebound after hours following the initial release of the earnings report.

Apple is holding a conference call at 5 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. PT to discuss the results in-depth and undoubtedly face questions from analysts about Jobs’s health and the company’s plans for a successor. Stay tuned to Mashable throughout the afternoon for additional coverage.

More About: apple, ipad, iphone, ipod, trending

Free-speech campaigners are complaining that Apple is censoring content. The company’s stance has led to the banning of satirical works and a comic book version of James Joyce’s Ulysses which featured hand-drawn nudity. (Incidentally, the original book was banned as obscene in the US and UK until courts eventually accepted the work in the 1930s.)

There’s no doubt that Apple are creating glorious products. They are a successful business and are protecting their commercial interests. If you want an application or music on your iPhone, you must purchase it from Apple. It’s a fantastic model which few have replicated in the business world. If you don’t like it, you don’t need to buy an iPhone.

Unfortunately, this hard-nosed business concept conflicts with Apple’s tree-hugging hippy-friendly image. Steve Jobs can’t say he’s “protecting business interests” because he doesn’t want Apple to be seen as another boring IT supplier in the mold of IBM or Microsoft. Instead, Apple have embarked on a moral crusade. They’re “protecting customers” from the evils of bad applications, Flash, offensive content and pornography.

(Of course, if they really want to protect users, Apple should remove Safari or have all internet access routed through a filtering proxy server which blocks offensive content. Perhaps they will?)

Apple has appointed itself as your moral guardian so it must censor content. That’s a risk:

  1. How can any commercial company make an unbiased decision about what is or isn’t in your interest?
  2. The dividing line between art, pornography, benign content and offensive text is blurred and highly subjective. Yet Apple must make consistent black and white decisions every day.
  3. Banned apps and content receive far more publicity than those which are accepted. It can reflect badly on Apple and developers could even start using it to their advantage. For example, why not knock-up an iPhone version of your existing web/desktop application which you know will be banned? The story will raise the profile of your company at Apple’s expense.
  4. However, it’s the applications and content Apple accept which could cause the biggest problems. An approved product is rubber-stamped as being of high-quality and containing no dubious content. It’s a huge undertaking and what if I stumble across something which offends me? Does that mean Apple has failed? Can I claim a refund? Can I sue the company?

It’s easy for Apple to manage a few hundred thousand applications while the mobile market is relatively small. But it’s growing fast — how will Apple cope when it’s doubled or tripled?

However, it’s the commercial cost that will ultimately end Apple’s “honorable” intentions. The vast majority of applications in the App Store never make a profit, yet Apple must pay someone to thoroughly check every submission. That cost will grow indefinitely if an application’s acceptance or rejection incurs legal complications.

Censorship is a massive cost for any company and Microsoft should take note (they’re planning similar moralistic rules for Windows 7 Phone apps). It might take a few court cases, but I doubt it has a viable long-term commercial future at Apple.