Verizon reverses decision regarding controversial $2 convenience fee

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Date: Friday, December 30th, 2011, 13:42
Category: iPhone, News

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Kvetch and sometimes things will change.

Verizon has issued a press release stating that the carrier has officially backed off of the “single payment fee” that drew almost universal ire amongst subscribers and nabbed the attention of the FCC.

Says Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead, “we believe the best path forward is to encourage customers to take advantage of the best and most efficient options, eliminating the need to institute the fee at this time.”

The company offered the following press release:

Verizon Wireless Will Not Institute Single Payment Fee

Verizon Wireless has decided it will not institute the fee for online or telephone single payments that was announced earlier this week.

The company made the decision in response to customer feedback about the plan, which was designed to improve the efficiency of those transactions. The company continues to encourage customers to take advantage of the numerous simple and convenient payment methods it provides.

“At Verizon, we take great care to listen to our customers. Based on their input, we believe the best path forward is to encourage customers to take advantage of the best and most efficient options, eliminating the need to institute the fee at this time,” said Dan Mead, president and chief executive officer of Verizon Wireless.

No word yet on whether the FCC plans to investigate Sprint’s similar long-standing fee.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rare photo of Steve Jobs surfaces, expresses his opinion regarding IBM at the time

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Date: Friday, December 30th, 2011, 11:56
Category: photos

We miss you, Steve.

Per Andy Hertzfield, a new image from 1983 has been released of Steve Jobs, clad in blue jeans and a leather jacket, expressing his affection for then rival IBM while walking the streets of New York City in the lead up to the launch of the first Mac.

Andy Hertzfield, one of the original members of the Macintosh team that helped pioneer the personal computer revolution alongside Jobs and Steve Wozniak, published the photo to his Google+ page on Thursday in memoriam of the late Apple co-founder and his rebellious spirit.

The 28-year-old Jobs had flown to New York City with Hertzfield for a quick meeting with Newsweek in December of 1983, as the publication was putting together a cover story for the launch of the Macintosh the following month.

“The photo was taken spontaneously as we walked around Manhattan by Jean Pigozzi, a wild French jet setter who was hanging out with us at the time,” Hertzfield said. “Somehow I ended up with a copy of it.”

Although his editor begged him to include the photo in his 2004 book Revolution in The Valley, Hertzfield admitted that he was “too timid” to ask Jobs for permission, especially given that IBM was still supplying processors to Apple for its Mac product line at the time.

Leak points out possible AMD graphics cards for upcoming Mac Pro models

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Date: Friday, December 30th, 2011, 08:20
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News

It’s not truly mobile news, but you’ve gotta love it when the graphics card on a Mac Pro could get an ample boost.

Per Fudzilla, a detailed leak may have given out details of AMD’s mid-range Radeon HD 7000-series desktop graphics. The 7750 and 7750 would sit on the new mainstream Cape Verde Pro and XT cores and each scale back considerably from the higher-end but more expensive Radeon HD 7970. Both would drop from 384-bit to 128-bit memory interfaces and 900MHz core clock speeds.



The differences would come out of shader (visual effect) core counts, texture units, and memory. The 7750 would carry 832 shader cores and 52 texture units fed by 1.25GHz GDDR5 memory (5GHz effective), while the 7770 would up these to 896 cores, 56 texture units, and 1.38GHz GDDR5 memory (5.5GHz effective).

Little was mentioned about the 7850 and 7870 that would sit at the higher end. The two would have wider 256-bit memory buses, additional cores, and higher clock speeds. Either would share the new Pitcairn architecture sitting in between Cape Verde and the Tahiti design in the 7970.

Pricing would be close on the range, most of all in the lower end cards. The 7750 and 7750 would barely be separated at US$139 and US$149, suggesting that one is intended to only show in some retailers or in pre-assembled computers. AMD would reportedly price the 7850 and 7870 at US$249 and US$299 each to appeal to the lucrative upper mid-range gamer segment.

The chipsets wouldn’t arrive until February. If so, they would help determine when many mid-range desktop lines are updated. Apple may use one or more in the Mac Pro, since it’s already supporting the 7900 series in Mac OS X code and would likely want a lower-end graphics card for its base configurations.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent for iOS device facial recognition goes live

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Date: Friday, December 30th, 2011, 05:59
Category: iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

At least your iPad will remember who you are.

Per Free Patents Online, a recently published patent application shows how future iOS devices could use a forward-facing camera to recognize an individual user, whereupon the device could automatically customize applications, settings and features to a user’s personal preferences once they pick up the unit.

Entitled “Low Threshold Face Recognition,” the patent describes a low-computation solution for quickly and accurately recognizing a user.

The filing provides a simple way for multiple users to share a single device, like an iPad. Each user could customize their personal profile with unique wallpaper, applications and settings, and that profile would be immediately accessed once the iPad recognizes a user’s face.

Apple’s application notes that robust facial recognition systems that work in various lighting conditions and orientations can be taxing on an electronic device, requiring resources and draining battery life.

Its solution would reduce the impact of lighting conditions and biometric distortions on an image. The filing describes a “low-computation solution for reasonably effective (low threshold) face recognition that can be implemented on camera-equipped consumer portable appliances.”

Rather than aggressively analyzing a user’s entire face and using up time and resources, Apple’s concept would rely on a “high information portion” of a human face. Potential high information portions could include eyes, a mouth, or the tip of a user’s nose.

By recognizing the individual features on a user’s face, the system could scale the distance between someone’s eyes and their mouth. That distance could then be measured against the reference image originally captured by the user in order to confirm it is in fact the same person.

Apple’s application notes that its facial recognition capabilities could be constantly active due to lower power consumption. This means a user could simply point an iPhone or iPad at their face, without pressing a button, and have the screen automatically turn on and unlock the device.

This could be accomplished through an “orange-distance filter,” which would capture the “likely presence” of a human face in front of a camera. This filter would also be used to detect a person’s skin tone, and measure the distance of their face from the camera.

Once a user has been recognized, the facial recognition technology could not only grant them access to the device, but also customize its settings based on a unique user profile. Each user would be presented with a personalized configuration, as an iPhone or iPad would be able to “modify screen saver slide shows or other appliance non-security preferences,” the application reads.

The proposed invention, made public this week, was first filed by Apple in June of 2009. It is credited to Robert Mikio Free.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: iPad 3 to retain Apple dock connector

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Date: Thursday, December 29th, 2011, 11:10
Category: iPad, Rumor

If there’s one universal constant, it’s the Apple dock connector.

Per Macotakara, new components claimed to be from Apple’s third-generation iPad show continued use of the 30-pin dock connector, potentially dispelling rumors that it would be replaced with a smaller form factor.

The web site ordered a handful of components claimed to be from prototype builds of Apple’s anticipated third-generation iPad. The so-called “replacement parts” purport to be a microphone flex cable ribbon, power on/off flex cable, and dock connector charging port.

The dock connector is the most significant of the trio of components, because the 30-pin port still fits with Apple’s existing iPod cable used on current iPhone, iPad and iPod models. The hands-on look at the part found that the cable sticks slightly shallower into the port, and the connector is shorter than before.

An earlier rumor about the next iPad’s dock connector surfaced in October from the same website, suggesting Apple’s third-generation iPad would feature a new, smaller dock connector. It was then claimed that the port would include the same 30-pin input and electricity specification internally, but it would be redesigned and smaller on the outside.

The current 30-pin dock connector was first introduced in Apple’s iPod lineup back in April of 2003. It has been largely unchanged ever since, and Apple has even managed to squeeze the port onto its diminutive touchscreen iPod nano.

As for the other alleged third-generation iPad components, the power on/off flex cable includes a power button, rotation lock button, and volume button, suggesting all of those hardware features will be retained in the next iPad. The microphone flex cable is also said to be redesigned from the iPad 2.

The parts were obtained from reseller TVC-Mall.com, which gained attention earlier this month when it was found to be selling the microphone flex cable ribbon replacement. Because the part shows a different arrangement in internal circuitry than with the iPad 2, it led to speculation that the internal components of a so-called “iPad 3″ may feature a significant redesign.

The first purported iPad 3 part surfaced in July, and it too hinted at material design changes with the next-generation tablet, at least internally, due to different part numbers on a hardware component.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Verizon to tack on $2/month fee for users not using autopay system

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Date: Thursday, December 29th, 2011, 07:22
Category: iPhone, News

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You may not like this.

Per Droid Life, a leaked memo shows that Verizon Wireless will soon be charging customers US$2 for every month they aren’t using the company’s autopay/autodraft system. The leaked memo details what has to be done with the policy change since the carrier boosted its early termination fee for “advanced devices.”

Effective January 15th, any customer that opts to pay their wireless bill online or over the phone will be charged an extra US$2 each month, and the only way to sidestep it is to sign up for AutoPay or to pay by electronic check, where there’s no credit card fee passed on to the carrier.

For those unaware, AutoPay automatically drafts the most recent amount from either a linked checking / savings account or a credit card on file.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you make of this in the comments.

Argentina enacts ban on iPhone, BlackBerry imports as part of effort to boost local production

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Date: Thursday, December 29th, 2011, 07:10
Category: iPhone, News

If you were planning on hitting up Argentina any time soon, snagging an iPhone there just got that much harder.

In an attempt to rectify issues with Argentina’s economy, the South American country placed a temporary ban on imports of foreign-made electronics. Two of the most well-known of those electronics are the iPhone and BlackBerry devices. Apple and RIM collectively account for 60 percent of Argentina’s smartphone market, so the ban is going to have a substantial impact on its mobile industry.

According to Electronista, Neither of the operating systems nor the hardware manufacturers were affected because they — Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Microsoft, etc. — have manufacturing facilities within Argentina. Android and Windows Phone will very quickly see a boost in sales, while iPhone and BlackBerry sales will drop to zero, unless of course Apple and RIM open up local plants or partner with other manufacturers.

In all actuality, the iPhone and BlackBerry markets have been struggling in Argentina for a while. A law was already in place that added a 20.48 percent tax on electronic imports on top of the standard 21 percent sales tax.

The government of Argentina says they will lift the ban on iPhones and BlackBerrys when the economy shows significant signs of stabilization, but there’s no telling just when that will happen.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Intel Ivy Bridge-equipped Mac notebooks to launch April 8th, 2012, sport ample new features

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Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 13:52
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Processors, Rumor

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It’s kind of neat when the rumors point towards a specific date.

Per DigiTimes, Intel is rumored to release a total of 25 new 22-nanometer Ivy Bridge processors on April 8, 2012, signaling a potential launch window for Apple’s next generation of Macs.

Intel will release 17 desktop CPUs and 8 notebook Ivy Bridge processors in early April according to the article. The initial chips are said to include models 3820QM and 3720QM, priced at US$568 and US$378, respectively, which could be candidates for Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup.

The notebook Ivy Bridge processors will feature the new Intel HD Graphics 4000 architecture. Intel’s M-Series lineup is expected to have nominal thermal design power of between 35 watts and 55 watts.

Set for a “later” launch, according to sources, are the Core i7-3667U and Core i5-3427U processors, intended for Intel’s Ultrabook lineup. Those processors would also be possible candidates for Apple’s own thin-and-light notebook, the MacBook Air.

Earlier reports have said the i7-3667U processor will be clocked at 2GHz, and can overclock to 3.2GHz in single-core mode, while the i5-3427U will run at 1.8GHz and overclock to 2.8GHz in single-core mode. Both models are said to feature a graphics processor clocked at 350MHz that can run as high as 1150MHz.

The rumored April 8 launch date for the first Ivy Bridge processors is slightly earlier than what a leaked roadmap from Intel showed earlier this month. Those documents showed a tentative launch date of May 2012 for the new chip platform.

Recent reports have pegged a MacBook Pro update from Apple to arrive in the second quarter of calendar 2012, a timeframe that would fit with the April debut of Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors. The new MacBook Pros are rumored to feature a redesigned look with new high-resolution 2,880-by-1,800 Retina Display screens.

Retina Display MacBook Pros would be possible with Ivy Bridge because the next-generation architecture will bring support for 4K resolution. That gives Apple and other PC makers the option to build a display that is 4,096 pixels across.

For high-end MacBook Pro models with dedicated graphics cards, one report from November claimed Apple will switch to Nvidia for its 2012 notebooks. The last MacBook Pro models to feature Nvidia graphics arrived in 2010.

As for the MacBook Air, Apple is expected to expand the lineup and add a 15-inch model. Currently, its ultraportable notebook is available with screen sizes of 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches.

Cool stuff if it’s true. Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Rumor: Apple developing specialized CPUs for HDTV units

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Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 09:17
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

When in doubt, roll your own.

Per DigiTimes, rather than utilize off-the-shelf chips from a company such as Intel, Apple is expected to use its own custom-built chips like in the iPhone and iPad for its anticipated television set.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering and Siliconware Precision Industries are three companies expected to bid on orders with Apple. The companies could build custom ARM-based chips to power an Apple television, much like the A4 CPU, first released in the iPad in 2010, is found in the current Apple TV set-top box.

Apple is said to have already signed a foundry agreement with TSMC earlier this year, utilizing its 28nm and 20nm process technologies. That deal was said to be for next-generation “A6″ and “A7″ processors for the iPhone and iPad, but it’s possible an Apple television could also utilize the advanced chips.

In addition to featuring custom chips, the Apple television is also expected to be assembled by Foxconn Electronics, industry sources reportedly said. Foxconn already builds most of Apple’s devices, including the iPhone and iPad.

The report said Apple is expected to finalize the hardware standards for its television set at the end of the second quarter of 2012. After that, it will place orders for customized chips and other components directly with its contract manufacturers. That’s the same approach Apple uses to build its iPad and iPhone lineups.

The Taiwan electronics industry publication once again pegged the Apple television for launch by the end of 2012. On Tuesday, DigiTimes also said that suppliers are expected to begin preparing components for the anticipated HDTV in the first quarter of 2012, and that it will have screen sizes of 32 and 37 inches.

Earlier reports also claimed that Apple will buy chips from Samsung for its television set, while Sharp is expected to manufacture displays. As for content, analyst Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee said earlier Wednesday that Apple is hoping to offer Internet-based content subscriptions that will allow customers to choose their own custom channel lineups, offering an experience very different from current cable and satellite plans.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple awarded key multitouch technology patent, able to cite wider legal defense regarding oscillating signal technologies

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Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 05:06
Category: News, Patents

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Patent: It’s good to have ‘em.

According to Patently Apple, Apple won a core multitouch patent regarding oscillating signals that was alluded to when Steve Jobs first announced the original iPhone in 2007, and adds to the company’s already formidable legal arsenal.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office published on Tuesday that the Cupertino, Calif. company now owns a crucial patent that describes how touch events are recognized by a touchscreen device, and was one of the “200+ Patents for new inventions” Jobs lauded when the iPhone first debuted.

The newly granted patent focuses on the oscillator signal and circuit of a touchscreen-equipped device, an integral invention directly related to how users interact with their multitouch products.

Apple states in the filing:
“In general, multi-touch panels may be able to detect multiple touches (touch events or contact points) that occur at or about the same time, and identify and track their locations.”

Previous to the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, most touch-capable devices relied on single-touch input like resistive touchscreens. The legacy technology “senses” a touch when two electrically resistive sheets separated by a small gap are connected by the push of a finger or stylus, which in turn creates a voltage division that is detected by a device controller that records the change along the x and y axes.

Resistive displays are limited in that they can only recognize single inputs no matter how many objects are touching the screen.

One way to record multiple touches at a time is to generate an oscillating signal circuit that can power and clock inputs over a substrate as in a capacitive touchscreen display, however it is difficult to create a precise circuit-based oscillator.

Apple’s patent provides a solution to capacitive touchscreen problem by using calibration logic circuitry which compares the signal oscillation against a reference signal and tunes the clock frequency accordingly. The invention provides for an accurate capacitive display that can not only sense multiple touches, but also detect hover or near touches which are also recognized as “touch events.”

The patent wording states that the invention could apply to computing devices such as desktops, laptops, tablets or handhelds, including digital music and video players and mobile telephones. Also mentioned are public computing systems like kiosks and ATMs.

The news follows a Dec. 19 U.S. International Trade Commission decision which resulted in an import ban on HTC Android handsets that infringe on Apple’s Data Detectors patent. The injunction will take take effect on April 19, 2012, however HTC CEO Peter Chou said the Taiwanese company is already testing workarounds to bypass the ITC ruling.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.