Apple receives patents for push-to-talk, double-sided touch panel features

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Date: Thursday, May 23rd, 2013, 11:30
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Patents

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If you’re hankering for new hardware features on a next-gen iPhone, the patent office is on your side.

Per AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently published 26 newly granted patents for Apple, and among them were the Cupertino company’s take on a push-to-talk feature and a double-sided touch-sensitive panel, both of which could possibly appear in future iPhones.

No current models of Apple’s bestselling iPhone support the Push-to-Talk (PTT) feature that many carriers have made available for years now. Users do have access to a number of apps in the iTunes App Store that can reproduce PTT, but U.S. Patent No. 8,447,341 indicates that Apple has at least considered integrating it into a model of its phone.

The patent notes that telecommunications networks exist that enable devices to directly access each other through a digital two-way radio feature.

Apple’s invention, though, describes “a method and system to provide push-to-talk from one user to another in a wireless packet data telecommunications network.” It includes a packet data network with at least one mobile station, a radio access network, a location server, registrar, database server, and PTT server that connects PTT users across the network.

Given the company’s secrecy about forthcoming products, it’s difficult to gauge how likely PTT is to show up in a future iPhone model. In 2010, the company was revealed to be exploring PTT capabilities, but such features haven’t emerged in any models to date.

The filing lists the patent as a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/028,086, filed on December 21, 2001. That patent application, entitled “Push-to-Talk Telecommunications System Utilizing a Voice-Over-IP Network,” was originally filed by Nortel Networks. The patent granted on Tuesday was likely a part of the portfolio Apple and other companies bought in 2011 for US$4.5 billion.

Included among the 26 patents granted on Tuesday is one for a “double-sided touch sensitive panel and flex circuit bonding.” The patent — U.S. Patent No. 8,446,386 — relates to the creation of a multi-touch sensor using a substrate with column and row traces on either side. The process bonds printed flex circuits to directly opposing attachment areas of a substrate.

The patent cites the desirability of keeping “the overall size of the sensor panel as small as possible” as a reason to “have two flex circuits connect to directly opposing sides of the sensor panel.” It’s therefore likely that this technology would go toward Apple’s continual push to make each of its devices thinner than the previous generation.

Other patents granted on Tuesday include ones for “gesture control of multimedia editing applications,” “methods and apparatus for decreasing power consumption and bus activity,” “techniques for versioning file systems,” “technique for visually compositing a group of graphical objects,” a “system for optimizing graphics operations,” and a “touch pad for handheld device.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to build Vimeo, Flickr integration into iOS 7

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Date: Thursday, May 23rd, 2013, 06:11
Category: iOS, Rumor, Software

This could become useful.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple has been making efforts to offer deep social network integration in its mobile operating system, first offering Twitter integration in iOS 5 and then Facebook integration in iOS 6. Apparently, Apple will expand its social network integration even further with iOS 7, including support for both photo sharing site Flickr and video sharing site Vimeo.

As with Facebook and Twitter integration, Vimeo and Flickr integration will allow users to be able to sign in to the social networks in the Settings menu. Those one-time sign-in credentials will be usable across iOS, providing comprehensive sharing options and easy integration with other downloaded apps.

With Flickr integration, iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch customers will have the ability to share photos stored and/or taken on their devices to Flickr with a single tap from the system-wide share menu. Flickr has been integrated into the paid iPhoto iOS App Store app and OS X Mountain Lion since 2012, but iOS 7 will represent the first time in which the photo sharing service has been integrated deeply into the entire iOS operating system.

While Apple continues to allow direct video uploads to YouTube from its camera app, Vimeo integration will give iOS 7 users an additional option for video uploads. As with Yahoo, Apple has an existing relationship with Vimeo, having offered integration with the service in OS X Mountain Lion.

As noted by an unnamed source, though Flickr and Vimeo integration is currently in the works, as with all beta software, there is a risk that it could be removed before the public release of iOS 7.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Repair costs for iPhone repairs on the rise, component prices cited

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Date: Thursday, May 23rd, 2013, 06:01
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

Ok, now this is interesting.

An article over on MarketWatch points out that Apple’s repair costs to fix an iPhone 5 with a broken screen have jumped to US$229 – more than the US$200 price of the device with a two-year contract, and more than a third of the US$650 cost of the phone without a contract. Select Apple stores offer the option of a US$149 repair. And for those who paid US$99 for AppleCare insurance, the replacement is just US$49.

The piece then cites that the replacement components for the iPhone 5 are much more expensive than similar parts for prior models — so expensive in fact that many independent repair services cannot compete. “Due to the high cost of replacement parts, we are not yet offering iPhone 5 repairs,” according to a statement on ComputerOverhauls.com, an online repair shop. “Currently, the Apple Store is the least expensive option for repairing damaged iPhone 5s.” Other services charge as much as US$250 for the repair.

Given current numbers, nearly one-third of iPhone users damaged their devices during 2012, according to a recent study by gadget insurer SquareTrade. Repairs have cost consumers nearly US$6 billion since the iPhone was launched in 2007 and apparently iPhones get abused more than iPads, only 10% of which were damaged, per the survey.

Despite this, iCracked — an independent firm that has technicians across the U.S. — charges half as much to fix an iPhone 4S screen (US$79 to US$99) as to fix an iPhone 5 (US$169 to US$199) thanks to tight control on iPhone 5 components in the market, Forsythe says. “Market forces determine the price,” he says. “Apple sells about 300,000 iPhones a day and, as the repair market grows, prices will get lower.”

“Apple controls everything from the manufacturing to the gear for the iPhone 5,” says Jeff Haynes, editor at deal site TechBargains.com. As the iPhone 5 is larger than the 4, the cost for replacement parts rises, he says. “Apple is trying to get people to sign up for Apple Care for US$99 and to rely on their services at the Apple store,” he says, “If you don’t, that cracked screen could cost you at least US$230.”

Thanks to do-it-yourself kits, it’s possible to replace the screen on an iPhone 4 for less than a quarter of that price. Adam Carey, a New York-based mobile development consultant, bought a DIY kit on Amazon.com for US$25 and followed instructions on iFixit.com, an online repair manual. The procedure took him two hours. “It’s not like snapping on a cover,” he says. “It’s like performing surgery. You need pretty steady hands.”

If you’ve been repairing iPhones and noticed a jump in component prices, please let us know about your experience in the comments section.

Google to incorporate voice search feature into iOS Chrome app

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Date: Thursday, May 23rd, 2013, 06:34
Category: iOS, News, Software

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This could turn into something pretty nifty.

Per 9to5Mac, Google announced on Wednesday via its Chrome blog that a new update will soon be rolling out to its Chrome app for iPhone and iPad that will allow users to access voice search features previously limited to the Google Search app. Using the same omnibox currently included in the app, Google will soon allow users to tap a microphone icon to search using only their voice with a UI similar to the recently redesigned voice search on Mac.

Google said the updated Chrome app should be landing on the App Store in the coming days.

Google also noted that the updated iOS app would provide faster reloading of web pages and an option for third-party apps “to open links in Chrome and then return to the app with just one tap.”

Earlier today Google began rolling out revamped voice search functionality in the Chrome app for Mac users.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.