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.

Rumor: Apple to update iOS retail store app, allow for self-checkout feature

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Date: Monday, October 31st, 2011, 08:19
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail, Software

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As nice as the Apple retail store employees can be, sometimes you just want to grab your merchandise and go.

Per MacRumors, Apple is working on plans to give retail customers the ability to finalize their own in-store purchases via its iOS application for the iPhone, according to a new report.

Perhaps arriving even sooner than expected, the new functionality is expected to arrive as soon as this week.

An update to the official “Apple Store” application for iOS is said to allow users to charge purchases to their iTunes Store account, linked to an Apple ID and credit card just as App Store purchases are authorized. The anticipated option will only apply to accessories and items found on the shelf.

The new ability will not apply to more expensive items like the iPhone, iPad, iPods or Macs. Those devices will remain kept in the stockroom at Apple’s retail stores, and will require assistance from a salesperson in order to purchase.

But for accessories sold in stores, including cases for products like the iPhone and iPad, users will be able to complete the transaction on their own with an iOS device. An automated e-mailed receipt will serve as confirmation of the transaction, allowing customers to show employees that an item has been paid for.

The new self-checkout option is rumored to arrive soon after Apple launched an in-store pickup program via its online store. Customers in San Francisco can now order a product online and pick it up at a local Apple retail store, and that ability is expected to expand to other U.S. stores in the near future.

Another change is also said to be coming to Apple’s online store, allowing customers to place a single order with multiple items, and have those items shipped to different addresses. The enhanced functionality is expected to debut in time for the holiday shopping season.

Stay tune for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple in talks with studios to begin streaming movies to iCloud

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Date: Thursday, October 13th, 2011, 06:23
Category: Apple TV, iCloud, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Rumor

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Additional movies: They’re never a bad thing.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple is said to be involved in negotiations with Hollywood movie studios in an effort to give customers the ability to stream movies they own to devices like an iPhone, iPad or Apple TV.

Citing sources close to the story, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Apple wants to give its customers the ability to stream movies they have purchased through iTunes without the need to manually transfer the files. The talks come as Apple has launched its iCloud product, and movie studios have rolled out their own cloud-based movie streaming service, dubbed UltraViolet.

UltraViolet movies can be streamed to an iPhone or iPad using the Flixster application available on the iOS App Store, however an UltraViolet account does not include any movies that may have been purchased through iTunes. The new UltraViolet format lets people stream a film they have purchased on DVD or Blu-ray, and is seen as a way to help boost slumping sales of movies.

Rumors that Apple wants to give users the ability to stream and re-download movies they have purchased are not new. Apple has already secured deals for iTunes customers, allowing them to re-download songs and TV shows they own, but Hollywood movies cannot be re-downloaded.

Previous reports have claimed that the so-called “HBO window” has been a sticking point in negotiations. The window is a deal in which three of the top six film studios have distribution deals with premium network HBO, and under the terms of that deal, outlets must halt sales or distribution of a film when it premieres on HBO.

As recently as August, Apple was still said to be pursuing a cloud-based streaming and re-downloading service, though such a deal with Hollywood studios was said to not be imminent.

The studios’ UltraViolet service launched this week, giving customers access to “digital lockers” that let customers stream or download a digital copy of physical purchases on a wide variety of devices. The service requires customers to create an account that serves as a hub for all of their purchased media, and passcodes that ship with physical discs allow users to access those movies online from remote servers.

All of the major movie studios except for Walt Disney Co. are backing UltraViolet, while it is planning its own proprietary service called KeyChest. Neither Disney nor Apple were part of the consortium that formed UltraViolet.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 5.0 update

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Date: Wednesday, October 12th, 2011, 12:25
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, Software

After months of anticipation, speculation and generally looking forward to it, Apple has released iOS 5.0 for its current iPhone, iPod touch and iPad models.

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:

Notifications:
- Swipe from the top of any screen to view notifications in one place with Notification Center

- New notifications appear briefly at the top of the screen

- View notifications from lock screen

- Slide the notification app icon to the right on the lock screen to go directly to the app

iMessage:
- Send and receive unlimited text, photo, and video messages with other iOS 5 users

- Track messages with delivery and read receipts

- Group messaging and secure encryption

- Works over cellular network and Wi-Fi*

Newsstand:
- Automatically organizes magazine and newspaper subscriptions on Home Screen

- Displays the cover of the latest issue

- Background downloads of new issues

- Reminders for managing to do lists

- Syncs with iCloud, iCal and Outlook

- Location-based reminders when you leave or arrive at a location for iPhone 4S and iPhone 4

Built-in support for Twitter:
- Sign-in once in Settings and tweet directly from Camera, Photos, Maps, Safari and YouTube

- Add location to any tweet

- View twitter profile pictures and usernames in Contacts

Camera improvements for devices with cameras:
- Double click the home button when device is asleep to bring up a camera shortcut on iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch (4th generation)

- Volume Up button to take a picture

- Optional grid lines to line up shots

- Pinch to zoom in the preview screen

- Swipe to camera roll from preview screen

- Tap and hold to lock focus and exposure, iPad 2 and iPod touch (4th generation) only support exposure lock

- Photo improvements for devices with cameras

- Crop and rotate

- Red eye removal

- One tap enhance

- Organize photos into albums

Mail improvements:
- Format text using bold, italic, or underlined fonts

- Indentation control

- Drag to rearrange names in address fields

- Flag messages

- Mass mark messages as flagged, read or unread

- Customize mail alert sounds

- S/MIME

Calendar improvements:
- Year view on iPad and new Week view for iPhone and iPod touch

- Tap to create an event

- View and add event attachments

Game Center improvements:
- Use personal photos for your Game Center account

- Compare your overall achievement scores with your friends

- Find new Game Center friends with friend recommendations and friends of friends

- Discover new games with custom game recommendations

- AirPlay Mirroring for iPad 2 and iPhone 4S

Multitasking Gestures for iPad:
- Use four or five fingers to pinch to the Home Screen

- Swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar

- Swipe left or right to switch between apps

- On-device setup, activation and configuration with Setup Assistant

- Software updates available over the air without tethering

iCloud support:
- iTunes in the Cloud

- Photo Stream

- Documents in the Cloud

- Apps and Books automatic download and purchase history

- Backup

- Contacts, Calendar, and Mail

- Find My iPhone

- Redesigned Music app for iPad

- Hourly weather forecast

- Real-time stock quotes

- Wireless sync to iTunes

Keyboard improvements:
- Split keyboard for iPad

- Improved autocorrection accuracy

- Improved Chinese and Japanese input

- New Emoji keyboard

- Personal dictionary for autocorrection

- Optionally create keyboard short cuts for frequently used words

Accessibility improvements:
- Option to light LED flash on incoming calls and alerts for iPhone 4S and iPhone 4

- Custom vibration patterns for incoming calls on iPhone

- New interface for using iOS with mobility-impairment input devices

- Option to speak a selection of text

- Custom element labeling for VoiceOver

- Exchange ActiveSync improvements

- Wirelessly sync tasks

- Mark messages as flagged, read or unread

- Improved offline support

- Save a new contact from a GAL service

- More than 1,500 new developer APIs

- Bug fixes

iOS 5.0 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.