Two new patents show how Apple would use iPhone, Bluetooth to interact with cars

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Date: Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 07:29
Category: iOS, News, Patents

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One day, your iPhone WILL talk to and control your car.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office (1, 2) and AppleInsider, a pair of patent filings discovered on Thursday reveal Apple is actively investigating the possibilities afforded by the iOS mobile platform’s various wireless connectivity options, including the ability to interact with, and at times control, a Bluetooth-enabled automobile.

The two patents, describe Apple inventions for using an iOS device to find a parked car in a parking structure, getting guidance to said car, gathering parking fee information and, once near the automobile, activating vehicle functions like door locks, power windows and the engine starter.

First, Apple’s “Method for Locating a Vehicle” outlines a method in which a mobile device can pair with a vehicle via Bluetooth to determine whether it is in a parked state. If the condition is met, the handset then communicates with a wireless system within the parking structure to determine a parking location before moving away from the vehicle.

When returning to the parking structure, the mobile device can access the parking structure’s location system to request current positioning data. The received information is then compared to the vehicle location already stored on the device to determine a route back to the car.

In another embodiment, the automobile itself communicates with the parking structure’s location system, which logs the car’s position and stores the data for later access by a mobile device. This method also allows the parking system to handle guidance and routing directions, which are subsequently sent to a handset upon request.

Apple’s invention calls for the parking structure to hold an array of wireless sensors that are deployed in such a way as to determine the location of a car and a mobile device. An example would be one sensor per stall, or one per row. The system can use Bluetooth technology to transmit positioning data, as well as guidance data if necessary, to the mobile device.

Further, the parking system can also incorporate cameras, microphones and other sensors to determine whether a car is in a parked state. Such information would include an opened car door, active running lights or engine noise. In some embodiments, a user can manually inform the system that a car is parked by interacting with a digital interface either in the vehicle or on a mobile device.

Regarding guidance, a handset can receive a map over cellular or Wi-Fi, which can have an overlay of current positioning data much like a GPS navigation system. Indeed, in some examples, GPS can also be used in concert with the parking structure’s location data to determine a route back to the vehicle.

As a side note, Apple recently acquired “indoor GPS” firm WiFiSLAM, which developed technology to serve up location data within structures where GPS signals are usually absent. Such systems could be implemented effectively in the utility filing described above.

In Apple’s second car-related patent application, titled “Accessing a vehicle using portable devices,” a mobile handset pairs securely with a car over Bluetooth or other suitable method to control various onboard functions.

The invention is basically a more intelligent replacement for existing automobile personalization systems offered by some manufacturers. These methods usually rely on key fobs, which interact with the car via NFC or radio to open doors, roll down windows, start the engine, and so forth. Instead, Apple proposes a mobile device take the place of a fob to offer enhanced control of the vehicle through wireless protocols like Bluetooth.

As noted in the filing, the system can support a primary and a secondary mobile device. Both would use proven authentication methods to access the vehicle, thereby allowing said devices to act as a security point in lieu of a key fob. A user can set preferences to cause the system to act automatically, or have greater control by requiring a PIN or passwords before a device unlocks and interacts with the car.

Some embodiments allow restrictions to be placed on the second mobile device, such as authorization to start the engine only within a given time period, for example between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Further limitations can include speed, entertainment options, number of “uses” allotted and GPS-based fencing, among others.

Besides describing the variety of functions available for operation, much of the patent application focuses on authentication techniques and device-to-car security.

Apple is apparently looking to take advantage of popular “infotainment” systems a number of auto makers include in their vehicles, which usually carry some sort of wireless communications protocol such as Bluetooth. While it is unknown if and when the pair of patent applications will be used in a consumer product, a number of car manufacturers have already signed on to support Apple’s “eyes-free” initiative.

Both of the applications were filed in 2011 and credit Brian J. Tucker, Emily C. Schubert, Jess L. Dorogusker, Joakim Linde; Joakim and Stephen Chick as their inventors.

Rumor: Leaked Microsoft roadmap points towards Office for iOS/Android in 2014

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Date: Thursday, April 11th, 2013, 07:22
Category: iOS, Rumor, Software

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A rumor’s a rumor, but there’s got to be something valid in there.

Per ZDNet, the outfit claims to have gotten its mitts on a Microsoft roadmap for next year and says on it is “iOS/Android support for Office”.

Also on the roadmap for fall 2014 is what’s listed as iOS/Android support for Office. While this could point to the rumored iOS release of Office, the most recent rumors/expectations have been that Microsoft may be making these mobile iOS/Android versions of Office available as part of an Office 365 subscription of some kind. The alleged roadmap makes no mention of an Office 365/subscription tie-in. It only mentions “iOS/Android” as a Gemini Fall 2014 deliverable.

Microsoft itself has dropped a couple hints at mobile support for Office including assorted job listings and references to Excel and Powerpoint on iPhone from last year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Adobe releases Flash Player 11.7.700.169

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Date: Wednesday, April 10th, 2013, 08:15
Category: iOS, iPad, News, security, Software

A hefty update is never unappreciated.

On Wednesday, Adobe released Flash Player 11.7.700.169 for Mac OS X, a 16.9 megabyte download via MacUpdate. The new version adds the following fixes and changes:

Fixed Issues:
- On Retina-enabled OS X devices, Flash applications are scaled incorrectly upon opening (3496539).

-In AIR on iOS, loading a SWF with and embedded video can cause a crash in some circumstances (3514499).

- In AIR on iOS, loading an image from a remote server can cause a crash (3476445).

- On OS X, setting stage.fullScreenSourceRect when renderMode is set to “GPU”, leads to inaccurate mouse position reporting (3512232).

- In the Chrome browser, the copy shortcut (Ctrl/Cmd+C) fails (3496300).

- Attempting to embed a Flash project into Microsoft word can result in a crash (3498002).

- In AIR for iOS, some apps get rejected for missing push notification entitlement (3501744).

- In AIR for iOS, Flex applications running on iPad2 over 3G connections can experience a crash (3435401).

- In AIR for iOS, reloading of pure asset SWFs isn’t allowed (3516971).

- On OS X, some fonts do not rending properly when viewing Flash content in the Google Chrome browser (3506958).

New Features:
- Sandboxing enhancements.

- Prevent Cloud backup for Shared Objects (iOS).

- Use CPU render mode for selected devices (iOS).

- Externally host secondary SWF files (iOS).

Adobe Flash Player 11.7.700.169 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new Flash Player and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple receives patent for offline purchasing system

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, 07:46
Category: iOS, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Patents, Software

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Ok, this is interesting.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office and AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday was awarded a patent for an offline purchasing system that would allow iTunes users to buy music, movies and other media when not connected to the internet.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple U.S. Patent No. 8,417,575 for “On-device offline purchases using credits,” which describes a system involving the purchase of offline credits stored on a given device that can be put toward media in the iTunes store even when not connected to the online marketplace.

Currently, iTunes users must be logged in or have an internet connection to successfully purchase and download content from the online storefront, but Tuesday’s patent lays the groundwork for a type of “pre-loaded” payment system. Beyond the obvious applications for on-the-go iPod touch users and perhaps frequent travelers, the patent could be a harbinger of new never before seen iTunes functionality.

According to Apple, the proposed service involves media stored on an electronic device, like an iPhone or iPod touch, that is not part of the user’s owned library. If a user wants to buy a track, but cannot connect to the Internet to provide a means of payment, they can use pre-paid credits previously purchased through the store and subsequently loaded onto the device. Once a data network is accessed, the appropriate deductions are made to a user’s on-board credit allotment.

Users can add credits to their device accounts either through the device itself or what appears to be a specialized portal on the desktop version of iTunes, along with other options. Multiple forms of payment are accepted, including credit cards, bank accounts and other digitally connected assets a user links to their online profile.

As noted by the patent, in order to play back a purchased song or movie, a device must first have a copy of said media item, as well as authorization to play back the content. The device can retrieve copies of “unauthorized” media in any number of ways, including recommendations downloaded from the media store. Carrying on with the recommendation example, the device can restrict access to the content in any number of ways until authorization, or a purchase, has been detected. In some instances, the media might be played back at a lower quality, or there could be a limit to how many times a track is played.

The locally-stored media can be displayed in a variety of arrangements, including a layout similar to the existing iTunes iOS app, making browsing and buying new content easy. Once a user makes a selection, they can purchase the locally stored media with the credits they bought in advance, which will remove the restrictions previously imposed on the content. In other words, the authorization and playback transaction would be fully completed offline.

The property could be a boon for iTunes users who don’t have ready access to the Internet and, if made real, would likely drive sales for the digital music giant. Specific implementations were not thoroughly discussed, though Apple already has iTunes Match, which allows users iCloud access to their entire music collection, even tracks imported from CDs, for a yearly fee. While mere speculation, further cloud computing integration could bring even more tie-ins with the offline purchasing service, such as music sharing or gifting.

It remains unknown if and when Apple plans to roll out the offline crediting functionality, but the device-specific solution could theoretically be implemented with a firmware update as no hardware limitations were described in the patent.

Apple’s offline purchasing patent was first filed for in 2010 and credits Taido Nakajima, Tyler Mincey, Gloria Lin and Joey Darragh as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iOS 7 user interface rumors fly, concept animation surfaces

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Date: Monday, April 8th, 2013, 06:38
Category: iOS, Rumor

And now comes the rumor mill and concept art.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple’s Jony Ive seems to be focusing iOS 7′s user interface on widgets and lock screen enhancements.

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, designer F. Bianco certainly gives us a taste of the possibilities constructed the following movie which shows concepts such as widgets, app switching, media controls and more.

Take a gander:

As always, let us know what you think or what you’re hoping to see in iOS 7 in the comments.

Rumor: Unlocked GSM iPhones could go from 2G EDGE to LTE on T-Mobile network, firmware update possible

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Date: Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013, 13:31
Category: iOS, iPhone, Rumor

Bring your iPhone over to the right carrier and nifty things can happen.

Per TmoNews, T-Mobile customers that brought their iPhones over to the carrier will see feature enhancements and perhaps even a data speed boost when the carrier rolls out an update on Friday.

The web site carried an image of a leaked screenshot showing a carrier update set for April 5. The update will bring features like Visual Voicemail, and MMS Settings, as well as “Network/Device optimizations that customers do not have access to today.”

While unconfirmed, it is possible that these “optimizations” will give current iPhone owners on T-Mobile access to the network’s LTE network. Currently, data speeds for iPhones on T-Mobile’s network top out at 2G EDGE levels. The iPhone 5, when it reaches T-Mobile, will be able to take advantage of the carrier’s new high-speed network.

Apple’s iPhone 5 will make its official debut on T-Mobile on April 12, for US$99 on the carrier’s new UNCarrier payment plans. The OTA update for current T-Mobile iPhone users will go out to devices running iOS 6.1.x or higher beginning April 5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple now hiring Maps Ground Truth managers in seven countries to help clean up iOS 6 Maps application

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Date: Thursday, March 28th, 2013, 05:04
Category: iOS, News, Software

When in doubt, add additional staff to a project.

Per iMore, Apple is increasing its efforts to improve Maps around the world, having recently posted open positions for Maps Ground Truth managers in seven countries. Previously, Apple had only been hiring for these positions in Australia. Among other dutites, managers are expected to be able to do things like provide feedback for their area to enhance maps, according to the company’s job postings web site.
- Testing new releases of map code and data around the U.S.

- Collecting ground truth data to allow for analysis of the impact of potential map code or data changes relative to known truth.

- Utilizing local expertise to provide feedback about U.S.-specific mapping details.

- Evaluating competing products in-region relative to our maps.

Ground truth refers to collecting mapping data locally rather than by satellite imagery or other remote means. We heard about Apple retail employees being asked to help improve Maps back in October. This, however, points to teams of people dedicated to mapping improvements.

Apple has been steadily improving Maps since the launch of iOS 6 in September of last year. Enhancements to Flyover, 3D buildings, and turn-by-turn navigation have been made to locations around the world. There is still a long way to go, but there is no doubt that Apple’s making the effort to fix its mistakes.

Facebook Messenger to receive VOIP upgrade for European versions of the software

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Date: Monday, March 25th, 2013, 08:14
Category: iOS, News, Software

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If you’re across the pond, this’ll come in handy.

Per AppleInsider, Facebook Messenger users on iOS in the U.K. and other parts of Europe will get a software update on Monday enabling Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) calling within the app.

The update comes after Facebook already rolled out the feature in the United States and Canada in January. Facebook Messenger users will now be able to call each other directly through the service instead of passing voice messages to each other.

The Messenger VOIP feature in the United States was soon followed up with Facebook bringing the feature to its flagship Facebook app, and this may soon be the case in the UK and Europe.

Facebook Messenger for iPhone is available as a free download on Apple’s iTunes App Store.

If you’re in the United Kingdom and have had a chance to test Facebook Messenger’s new VOIP feature, please let us know how it goes in the comments section.

New iOS passcode bypass bug discovered one day after iOS 6.1.3 release

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Date: Thursday, March 21st, 2013, 07:32
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, security

Well, this is sort of awkward…

Remember how you JUST installed iOS 6.1.3 to get rid of a passcode bypass bug that would allow an unauthorized person to access the Phone app on a locked iPhone? Per iMore and The Next Web, a new bypass bug has been discovered.

The passcode bypass in the previous versions of iOS 6 required a series of well-timed taps and button presses. The result was full access to the Phone app on a locked device without entering the passcode. This new bug (not quite new, it seems to have existed prior to iOS 6.1.3) requires a sequence that’s a little easier to execute as can be seen in this video. For some reason, this bypass seems to to be more difficult to accomplish on newer, Siri-capable devices.



The bypass can be achieved using the iPhone’s Voice Dial feature. By holding the Home button on a device for a few seconds, the Voice Dial feature will come up. Issue a dial command such as “Dial 303-555-1212”, then as the call is being initiated, eject the SIM card. The iPhone detects the SIM has been removed, cancels the call, and displays an alert saying there is no SIM. Behind the alert you will see the Phone app and after dismissing the alert, you will have full access to the Phone app. As before this means you can access contact information as well as all photos on the device.

Initially thought to only be possible on non-Siri phones, reports are now coming in of this bypass being performed on the iPhone 4S and 5 as well, though it doesn’t seem to be as easily reproducible on these devices. Performing the bypass on these devices devices would also require Siri to be disabled and Voice Dial to be enabled.

Unlike the previous bug, this bypass can also easily be prevented by disabling Voice Dial. This can be done in the iPhone’s Settings app, under General > Passcode Lock, by turning the Voice Dial switch to off. With the way Apple has been handling these so far, it would not be surprising to see this fixed in a 6.1.4 update.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6.1.3 update

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Date: Tuesday, March 19th, 2013, 12:59
Category: iOS, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, security, Software

I’ll say this for Apple: it’s getting speedier on its iOS updates.

On Tuesday, Apple released iOS 6.1.3, a 107 megabyte download offering the following fixes for its supported iOS devices:

- Fixes a bug that could allow someone to bypass the passcode and access the Phone app.

- Improvements to Maps in Japan.

iOS 6.1.3 is available via iTunes or Over-The-Air updating and requires an iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, 5, iPad 2, third or fourth-gen iPad, iPod Touch 4th Gen or iPad Mini to install and run.