Facebook iOS app reaches 4.1, adds Timeline feature, bug fixes

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Date: Monday, December 19th, 2011, 05:02
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

Facebook is proudly introducing its new Timeline feature across both its web site and assorted apps and the iOS variant has just arrived. Per Engadget, version 4.1 of the Facebook app has just been released and is available for both the iPhone and iPad.

You will need to have already activated the timeline function on the web-based original, but downloading the latest version will also grant access to your friend lists and subscriptions. The update also boasts assorted performance boosts and more easily-viewed photos.

Facebook 4.1 requires iOS 4.0 or later to install and run. If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback, please let us know in the comments.

Microsoft developing Office update for Lion, Office apps for iOS

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Date: Wednesday, November 30th, 2011, 05:19
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

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Give Microsoft time and it’ll eventually get its products to new platforms.

Per The Daily, Microsoft is preparing a new edition of its Office suite for Apple’s iPad, as well as an updated Office for Mac OS X Lion users.

According to the report, Microsoft is “actively working on adapting its popular software suite for Apple’s tablet,” in recognition of the fact that iPad now accounts for the vast majority of tablets sold, and now represents a market nearly as large as Mac OS X itself.

The report also notes Microsoft is working to complete Office 2012 for Windows, already in beta, for release next year. An updated edition for Lion would presumably be made available through the Mac App Store. The existing Office 2011 only supports Snow Leopard officially.

By adding support for Lion document features such as Auto Save and Versions, Microsoft could bring its Mac Office into parity with Apple’s iWork suite, which has been updated for Lion but hasn’t been significantly revised since the release of “iWork 09″ nearly three years ago.

On iOS, Apple has enjoyed an uncontested run at providing its iWork productivity software for the iPad, as well as the smaller screen of the iPhone and iPod touch. Apple’s Pages, Keynote and Numbers apps for iOS have remained at the top of the App Store’s highest grossing iPad apps.

While failing to predict the popularity of Apple’s iOS as a mobile platform, Microsoft has made some efforts to bring its apps and services to the App Store.

The company has delivered an iPad version of its Bing search app as well as MSN Onit and OnPoint apps, and has released a Tag barcode scanner, OneNote and Windows Live Messenger clients for iPhone.

Microsoft also just announced a deal to license its enterprise protocols involved with Remote Desktop Services, Windows Azure, Active Directory and SharePoint, to third party developer Agreeya Mobility, which plans to build apps for Apple’s iOS as well as Android and other mobile operating systems.

While Microsoft has largely ignored Apple’s iOS as it worked to improve Windows Mobile 6, then build Windows Phone 7 as a viable competitor, its own mobile platforms have failed to gain traction.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple specifies discounts for 2011 Black Friday sales

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Date: Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011, 03:01
Category: iPad, iPod, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, retail

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As mentioned yesterday, Apple will be planning assorted discounts for this year’s Black Friday shopping holiday.

Per 9to5Mac, the discounts are in-line with last year’s prices with only modest discounts on their products. Price drops for their core products are as follows:

iPad 2: US$41 to US$61 Off

iPod nano: US$11 off

iPod Touch: US$21 to US$41 off

MacBook Air: US$101 off

MacBook Pro: US$101 off

iMac: US$101 off

Meanwhile, 3rd party accessories are also seeing some small discounts ranging from US$11-US$101.95 in savings for accessories such as iPad Smart Covers, iPhone battery packs and external hard drives.

These prices should be available for both online and local retail Apple store locations. For those who were planning to purchase from Apple retail anyway, it makes sense to wait until Friday. For those looking for more savings, other online retailers frequently their own Black Friday sales on Apple products as well. Depending on your location, those other online retailers may provide the added advantage of not charge sales tax on online orders. Apple’s online store does charge local sales tax on all orders due to its local presence in every state.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 5.0.1 update, offer battery, security, document, speech recognition fixes

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Date: Thursday, November 10th, 2011, 12:23
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

You’ve been hankering for it and it’s here.

On Thursday afternoon, Apple released iOS 5.0.1, the latest version of its iOS operating system for its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices. The update, a several hundred megabyte download, can be snagged by plugging in your respective iOS device and checking for updates in iTunes and will take several minutes to create a backup file in iTunes, install, update firmware and perform additional tasks.

The update offers the following fixes and changes:
- Fixes bugs affecting battery life.

- Adds Multitasking Gestures for original iPad.

- Resolves bugs with Documents in the Cloud.

- Improves voice recognition for Australian users using dictation.

iOS 5.0.1 requires an iPhone 3GS, 4 or 4S, an iPad, iPad 2 or third or fourth generation iPod touch to install and run.

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

Apple patent points towards clip-on iPod nano, iPod shuffle devices with integrated speakers

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Date: Thursday, November 10th, 2011, 08:30
Category: iPod, News, Patents

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It’s the patents that make tech interesting.

Per freepatentsonline, Apple has shown interest in building a clip-on iPod with the same wearable form factor as the current iPod nano or iPod shuffle, but with a new integrated speaker built directly into the rear clip.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled, “Speaker Clip.”

The text of the proposed invention makes no specific mention of the iPod nano, or even the similarly shaped iPod shuffle. In fact, it doesn’t even include Apple’s iPod brand name. But the accompanying images show a device that looks like the current clip-on iPod nano and iPod shuffle, only with the new inclusion of an integrated speaker.

The new iPod would feature the same clip on the back that is found on the current wearable models, but that new clip would have a cavity in the middle. Filling that hole would be an “acoustical device,” or speaker.

That speaker could simply be used for user-interface feedback, providing simple sounds such as clicks to create a more intuitive experience for users when utilizing the multi-touch screen on the front of an iPod nano. Or it could also be used as a more full-featured — albeit tiny — speaker to listen to music tracks, or perhaps even do something new, like play games.

The speaker located on the attachment clip would be wired back to the main housing of the device through a “conduit” in the spring-loaded hinge that attaches the clip to the device. The speaker could also be protected by a cover that could shield the speaker from the elements, but also allow sound to pass through.

The filing notes that any kind of acoustic speaker could be used in this device, but one example given is a piezoelectric speaker. The conduit that connects the speaker to the main housing and processor could be a coaxial cable, flex microstrip, or fine gauge wire.

The protective cover layer could be a solid surface with numerous perforations, allowing sound to pass through. A mesh layer atop the speaker, woven from either plastic, metal or natural fibers, could be attached with an adhesive to the protective cover layer.

The iPod nano gained its touchscreen-driven design in September 2010 with its sixth-generation hardware revision. The small, wearable device is 46 percent smaller and 42 percent lighter than its predecessor, yet it still manages to include up to 16GB of storage, a 30-pin dock connector, hardware volume buttons and a lock button, an FM radio, and even Nike+ integration with a pedometer.

There has been some previous evidence that Apple plans to expand the functionality of its diminutive iPod nano even further while retaining its current form factor. One alleged prototype reveled in a picture this May claimed to show a rear-facing camera placed on the device. But this week’s filing is the first suggestion of an integrated speaker.

The proposed invention, made public this week, was first filed with the USPTO in May of 2010. It is credited to John Benjamin Filson, Eugene Whang, and Matthew Rohrbach.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Amazon counters against Siri, purchases Yap voice recognition startup

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Date: Thursday, November 10th, 2011, 06:08
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

When in doubt about the competition, roll your own version and see what happens.

As competition between Amazon and Apple in the mobile devices market continues to grow, the online retailer has purchased a voice-to-text company called Yap.

Per The Atlantic, a new filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reveals that Amazon’s acquisition of Yap was completed in September. The filing does not specifically name Amazon, but lists “Dion Acquisition Sub,” headquartered out of an Amazon-owned building in Seattle, Wash.

Yap offered a consumer-level voicemail-to-text service in private beta, but it was the company’s proprietary intellectual property that helped it raise US$6.5 million in venture capital in 2008. Yap is based out of Charlotte, N.C., and the service was discontinued in October following the apparent acquisition by Amazon.

Apple acquired Siri, which previously made an iPhone application, in April of 2010 for a rumored US$200 million. Now found on the iPhone 4S, Siri allows users to speak to it in natural language to gather information or accomplish complex tasks, like composing an e-mail or creating a calendar event.

While the Siri feature is driven by technology acquired by Apple, the iPhone 4S-exclusive voice recognition software is also believed to incorporate intellectual property from Nuance Communications, makers of Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Neither Apple nor Nuance have confirmed that Nuance technology is utilized in Siri.

Amazon’s interest in voice recognition technology comes as the company is prepared to launch its own color touchscreen tablet, the Kindle Fire, which will go on sale next week at a price of US$199, or less than half of Apple’s entry-level US$499 iPad.

While Apple sells devices like the iPhone and iPad with high margins and supports them with an ecosystem of content through iTunes and the App Store, Amazon’s entrance into the portable hardware business with devices like the Kindle Fire employs a very different approach. Instead of making money on hardware sales, Amazon aims to tie customers into its own ecosystem of buying products through its online storefront.

Amazon admitted to investors late last month that the impending launch of the Kindle Fire could pose a threat to its future profits. One estimate issued in September suggested that Amazon is poised to lose US$50 for each Kindle Fire it sells.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Adobe to announce cancelation of Flash Player for mobile platforms

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Date: Wednesday, November 9th, 2011, 04:20
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

It’s had a good run, but maybe it’s time to move on to something else.

Per ZDNet, Adobe has briefed its employees on the company’s plans to abandon development of Flash player for mobile browsers in a blow to Google Android and Research in Motion PlayBook tablets, according to a new report.

Citing “sources close to Adobe” late Tuesday, ZDNet went on to claim that the company will soon make the following announcement, possibly as early as Wednesday:
“Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores. We will no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations. Some of our source code licensees may opt to continue working on and releasing their own implementations. We will continue to support the current Android and PlayBook configurations with critical bug fixes and security updates.”

Adobe’s partners will reportedly receive an email briefing them on the fact that it is “stopping development on Flash Player for browsers on mobile,” the report continued. The company will instead focus its efforts on mobile applications, desktop content “in and out of browser,” and investments in HTML5.

The rumored announcement can largely be seen as a win for Apple and a loss for Android tablets and the Playbook. Competitors to the iPad and iPhone had originally touted Adobe Flash as a major selling point for their devices over Apple’s mobile offerings, which have eschewed Flash. RIM had highlighted in videos the fact that its BlackBerry PlayBook tablet was Flash-capable.

Making the resource-intensive Flash work for low-power mobile situations has long been a thorn in Adobe’s side. The company has encountered delays as it struggled to streamline Flash to run on mobile processors. Earlier this year, Motorola bragged that its Xoom tablet would come “fully Flash-enabled,” but then went ahead and launched the device without initial Flash support, promising to add it later.

The end of mobile Flash could also be seen as a vindication of Apple’s decision to steer clear of it. The late Steve Jobs famously called out Adobe for its struggles with Flash.

“Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it,” Jobs said in an open letter last April.

“Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.”

In recent months, Adobe has moved towards HTML5. For instance, in September, the company announced that its Flash Media Server product would support the delivery of HTML5 video to Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices. Adobe also unveiled this summer work on an Edge web development tool that will enable creation of Flash-style animations through HTML5.

Adobe’s decision to drop development of mobile Flash comes as the company has initiated a round of layoffs due to restructuring. According to a press release on Tuesday, the software maker is aiming to focus more on “Digital Media and Digital Marketing” and will cut 750 full-time positions in North America and Europe as a result.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent points towards improved OLED displays in future iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, November 3rd, 2011, 08:08
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

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Uncertain about what’s coming down the pipe? Just check the recent patent applications.

Per freepatentsonline, Apple has shown interest in improving the technology behind organic light emitting diodes, or OLED displays, to provide even better battery life for devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Apple’s pursuit of better OLED technology was revealed this week in a new patent application that went public. Entitled “Power Efficient Organic Light Emitting Diode Display,” it describes ways in which an OLED screen could offer improved battery life, particularly when displaying the color white.

The filing notes that OLED screens can operate at lower voltages than traditional displays, like the LCD screens currently found on the iPhone and iPad. This is possible because OLED technology is light emissive rather than light transmissive.

But while OLED can offer some advantages over LCD — including darker blacks, higher contrast ratios, and improved power efficiency — those perks are diminished when an OLED display is used to generate large amounts of white display area.

In order to display a screen that is largely the color white, an OLED panel has to utilize a range of color channels for every pixel on the display. Doing this can be power intensive and make the device inefficient.

“The relative power inefficiency in display white spaces using an OLED display may be particularly problematic in certain contexts,” the filing notes. “For example, certain applications, such as word processing, spreadsheet design and use, database design and use, e-mail, and other business or productivity applications, typically utilize dark or black alphanumeric characters on a white background, such as to simulate writing or printing on a sheet of paper.

“As a result, these applications may cause the display of large expanses of white background with relatively little area devoted to the non-white alphanumeric characters. Such applications, therefore, may make the use of OLED displays unsuitable or undesirably power intensive for battery powered and/or portable electronic devices, such as handheld devices.”

Apple’s proposed solution to this problem would include a transparent OLED display panel positioned in front of a solid white background layer, like a white transflective sheet. The display would also feature an opacity switchable layer located between the OLED panel and the background layer.

“The switchable layer may be switched, in whole or in part, from an opaque or semi-opaque state to a transparent or semi-transparent state,” the application reads. “For example, in one embodiment, the switchable layer may be opaque, e.g. black, in the absence of a current. However, upon application of a current all or part of the switchable layer may be come transparent so that the underlying background layer is visible.”

The combination of a solid white background and an opaque layer that could be made transparent would allow a transparent OLED panel to avoid displaying the color white. By instead utilizing the white background, this could produce the color when appropriate, such as when reading black text on a white background, without consuming battery life to turn the individual OLED pixels white.

The white background could even be used for smaller elements on a screen, and applied even in situations where the entire background isn’t white. In one illustration, Apple shows a list of calendar events on an iPhone, with one tiny element — the selected “List” view — displayed against a white background.

Apple’s proposed invention, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in April of 2010. It is credited to Daniel William Jarvis, Albert John Golko, and Felix Jose Alvarez Rivera.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

PlugBug accessory simultaneously charges current Apple notebooks, iOS devices

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Date: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011, 04:30
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod

This could be nifty.

Per Electronica, accessory developer Twelve South on Tuesday Tuesday unveiled a unique add-on to help Apple fans that travel with more than one device. PlugBug takes advantage of the changeable connector on a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro AC adapter to add a 10W USB charger. The add-on can charge anything up to the power levels of an iPad and is seen as a way to charge any iOS device or other USB hardware without having to remember all the cables or charge through the MacBook.

The adapter doesn’t have to slot into the AC brick to work and has a cap to cover the exposed area. Twelve South imagines it as a substitute for those outside of North America who want a converter.

The PlugBug is already on sale and ships for US$35 through the company’s own online store.

If you’ve snagged one or have a favorite charger of choice, please let us know and thanks.

Rumor: Google to releases native Gmail app for iOS

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Date: Tuesday, November 1st, 2011, 05:00
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

More than three years since Apple launched the App Store, Google is rumored to be on the verge of releasing a native iOS app for its Gmail service, according to a new report.

According to M.G. Siegler of parislemon, “multiple sources” have stated that the launch of the application is imminent.

“I believe it has already been submitted to Apple for review. If it gets approved, it should be out soon,” he wrote, adding that he believes it will get approved.

Siegler went on to note that tipsters have said the app looks “pretty fantastic…perhaps even surprisingly so.” A key feature of the app is expected to be the addition of push notifications for the popular email service. Other likely feature additions include Priority Inbox and one-click starring of messages, according to him.

The author also speculated that upcoming Gmail features such as “contact icons, better threading, deep searching functionality,” and even Google+ integration could make their way into the iOS application.

Despite the arrival of Apple’s App Store in 2008, Google has preferred to use a Web interface for Gmail on iOS. Apple’s native Mail app on iOS has included support for Gmail accounts for years, though it lacks a number of the features that Google offers via the Web app.

Numerous reasons have been put forth for the delay in a Gmail app. Originally, some suggested that Apple was blocking third-party mail apps to avoid confusion with its own Mail program as well as Google’s tendency to favor Web apps for its services. More recently, friction between Apple and Google over the Android operating system has been cited as another cause of the delay.

According to a recently released biography, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs vowed to “destroy Android” after handset maker HTC released an Android smartphone that he felt stole his company’s innovations.

“I don’t want your money. If you offer me US$5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want,” Jobs reportedly told Schmidt during a meeting in 2010.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.