Apple receives patent for solar multitouch panels, could harvest additional energy for iOS devices from sunlight

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Date: Tuesday, February 5th, 2013, 08:08
Category: Hardware, News, Patents

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This could turn into something very, very spiffy.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, on Tuesday Apple a patent for an invention that integrates a touch sensor array with a solar panel, allowing for portable device to be both power-efficient and compact.

Apple’s newly-granted U.S. Patent No. 8,368,654 for an “Integrated touch sensor and solar assembly” points directly to the system’s use in portable electronic devices like a media player or phone. The technology is arguably most useful in these types of products as consumer demand for larger, power-hungry screens is pushing the limit of battery design.

Instead of merely layering solar cells within the touchscreen’s array, the ’654 patent calls for true integration, meaning the solar panel can operate as both an energy harvesting component as well as an optical sensor. To accomplish this feat, the touch panel’s electrodes are used for both capacitive sensing and collecting solar energy. Further, because the proposed component includes electrodes that offer the same “coverage” as a typical solar panel, it provides “far more quadrants or pixels” to be used as touch sensors.

Unlike capacitive touch panels, such as those used in Apple’s iPhone, the hybrid system’s solar panels can be used to simultaneously provide optical-based sensing while capturing and converting energy.

The patent offers a number of examples to illustrate the benefits of having a dual-mode touch panel. In one case, when an approaching object such a finger is detected, the panel may switch to a “capacitive sensing mode” for precise input, increasing the number of capacitive cycles within a given time period. In other situations, the panel may cycle between “solar power/optical sensing mode” and “capacitive sensing mode” depending on whether an object is near the screen. If no object is detected, the number of capacitive cycles is reduced, giving the electrodes more time to facilitate energy production from the solar cells.

Behind the scenes, a so-called “traffic control” unit, which can be either a hardware or software solution, decides whether generated energy should be allocated to running the device or sent to the battery for storage.

Physically, the capacitive touch sensors and solar cells are separated using isolation trenches, though both are routed through multiplexer circuitry. The MUX is fed either touch signals or power from the solar cells and delivers them to the CPU or power management unit, respectively.

While the technology may not be incorporated into the next iPhone Apple releases, the patent could help in cutting valuable space from the handset. With the most recent iPhone 5, Apple used in-cell touch panel technology to bring the phone’s depth down to 7.6 millimeters.

Apple first filed for the ’654 patent in September 2008 and credits Michael Nathaniel Rosenblatt, Benjamin Lyon, John Benjamin Filson, Steve Porter Hotelling, Gordon Cameron and Cameron Frazier as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

128 gigabyte fourth-gen iPad now available for purchase

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Date: Tuesday, February 5th, 2013, 07:01
Category: Hardware, iPad, News

You know that enormous fourth-gen iPad you’ve been hankering for?

It’s here.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday updated its online store to reflect availability of the new high-capacity 128-gigabyte iPad with Retina display.

The new high-end iPad model retails for US$799 for the Wi-Fi-only model, or US$929 with cellular connectivity. It’s available in both black and white, just like every other capacity, and is advertised to ship in one to three business days.

Apple first announced the product, which doubles the previous maximum capacity of 64 gigabytes, a week ago. Prior to the announcement, evidence of a larger capacity iOS device had just been discovered in the newly released iOS 6.1 software update.

In announcing the 128-gigabyte iPad, Apple suggested the expanded storage would be particularly appealing to enterprise users, educators, and artists. The company also noted that virtually all Fortune 500 and more than 85 percent of the Global 500 are currently deploying or testing the iPad.

Aside from the increased storage capacity, the 128-gigabyte iPad with Retina display is unchanged from the previous fourth-generation models. It includes the Apple-designed A6X processor, a 9.7-inch Retina display, and a forward facing FaceTime HD camera.

If you’ve snagged the 128-gigabyte fourth-gen iPad and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Evasi0n hack arrives, allows jailbreaking of iOS 6.1 devices

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Date: Tuesday, February 5th, 2013, 07:09
Category: Hack, iOS, News, Software

The perpetual arms race between Apple and the hacker community continues.

Per AppleInsider, hackers on Monday released a long-awaited untethered software “jailbreak” of Apple’s iOS 6.

For the first time ever, iPhone 5 and iPad mini owners can jailbreak their device with the release of Evasi0n, the new jailbreak for Apple’s iOS 6 mobile operating system. The software hack is available to implement via OS X, Windows, and Linux.

The new jailbreak is untethered, which means users will not have to reconnect their device to a computer to restart it. The hack is compatible with all iPhone, iPad and iPod touch models running iOS 6.0 through iOS 6.1.

Users are advised to backup their device through iTunes or iCloud before beginning the jailbreak process. It’s also recommended to disable any passcode locks on an iOS device, as they can cause issues.

Jailbreaking is a legal but a warranty-voiding process that utilizes exploits in the iOS software to allow users to run unauthorized code. By jailbreaking an iPhone or iPad, users can add features and software not allowed by Apple, such as custom themes or user interface tweaks.

Apple advises against jailbreaking iOS devices, as the unauthorized modification could lead to system instability, compromised security, shortened battery life, and other potential issues.

If you’ve tried the Evasi0n hack and have any feedback to offer about it, please let us know in the comments.