iFixit publishes teardown report of EarPods, finds more durable design

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, September 19th, 2012, 06:37
Category: Hardware, News

applelogo_silver

It’s the teardowns that tell you what Apple’s really been up to.

Per the full report by iFixit, Apple’s newly redesigned Earpod headphones have been taken apart to reveal a more durable design that is more resistant to water and sweat damage.



The teardown of Apple’s new EarPods was published on Tuesday and stated that the EarPods, which arrive free with iOS devices, are “still of the throw-away kind.”

The EarPods can also be purchased separately for US$29, which is how iFixit got their hands on the new accessory before the new iPhone 5 launches on Friday. The solutions provider used a guitar pick to separate the integrated volume controls and microphone on the headphone cord, while the earbuds were taken apart with an X-Acto blade.

“Like most speakers, the EarPod speakers consist of a diaphragm/cone, a voice coil, a permanent magnet, and a cabinet,” they explained. “The voice coil is supported by a composite diaphragm made of a paper cone and a polymer surround. This is the first iteration of Apple headphones to use paper cones rather than all plastic.”

The switch to paper cones is said to make the speakers more resistant to tearing. That’s an improvement from the plastic that Apple previously used.

In their teardown, the repair website found that Apple “had durability in mind” when the company designed the new EarPods. In particular, the redesigned controls include larger cable wrapping on both ends to reduce strain on the wires.

The EarPods are also said to be more resistant to water and sweat damage. This was accomplished by removing the external microphone grate Apple employed on its previous earbuds.

“Unfortunately, these products are still of the throw-away kind,” iFixit concluded. “Sourcing parts is next to impossible, and it would be a tough sell to convince someone to take apart their earbuds instead of buying a new pair. They will never be the same once taken apart.”

Apple unveiled its redesigned EarPods at the iPhone 5 media event in San Francisco, Calif., last week. Apple design chief Jony Ive said his company scanned hundreds of ears searching for commonality between them, and the new headphones are designed to fit the geometry of a user’s ear without creating a seal.

EarPods feature a directed speaker that points forward into a user’s ear canal. A second port on the back aids with mid-level tones, and also maximizes air flow for improved sound quality.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

2012 model iPod touch, iPod nano, third-party Lightning adapters begin to appear on Amazon

Posted by:
Date: Monday, September 17th, 2012, 10:56
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod Nano, iPod shuffle, News

Even if Apple’s Lightning connector adapter pre-orders sold out in only a few hours, there’s always third party models to choose from.

Per AppleInsider, third-party adapters for Apple’s new Lightning connector have begun to appear online. In addition, the new iPod touch and nano can also be preordered from Amazon.

As of Monday, resellers on Amazon were offering a pair of new Lightning to 30-pin adapters made by third parties. The US$17.95 Nanotch adapter features a male Lightning port on one end, with a female legacy 30-pin device port on the other. The two are connected by a 20-centimeter cord.

Also available is the US$9.99 iTronz USB Sync Data/Charging adapter. It features a male Lightning plug on one side, with a female 30-pin port on the other, and the two are connected by a single solid plastic piece rather than a wire.

Apple sells its own first-party Lightning to 30-pin adapter and cable, but those accessories quickly sold out once they went on sale late last week.

In addition, as of Monday, Amazon began taking direct preorders for Apple’s updated iPod lineup. Available for purchase are the new fifth-generation iPod touch, the seventh-generation iPod nano with multi-touch display, and the fifth-generation iPod shuffle.

The new iPod lineup is advertised to ship anywhere between two and five weeks from now. Apple has said its new iPods will ship in October. The latest iPod touch and iPod nano, along with the iPhone 5, use the new Lightning port, which is 80 percent smaller than the legacy 30-pin dock connector.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Samsung begins fabricating 128GB storage modules for mobile devices

Posted by:
Date: Monday, September 17th, 2012, 06:30
Category: Hardware, News

Samsung may have a stinging legal bill after the Apple fiasco, but this isn’t to say they don’t have some damn cool stuff coming down the line.

Per Electronista, the company’s semiconductor wing has started fabricating 128GB flash storage chips and 2GB LPDDR3 DRAM modules for mobile devices. Currently, most high-end smartphones are shipping with a maximum of 64GB of internal storage, leaving users with media-heavy libraries unable to take their music collections with them. The introduction of the new modules should go a long way to alleviating this problem, although pricing will remain a key factor in adoption.

Its new 2GB LPDDR3 DRAM modules are built on Samsung’s new 30nm process, enabling 2GB modules to be made on the one package for the first time. The new chips run at 1600 Mbps, which is a 50 percent speed boost over LPDDR2 DRAM packages. Samsung claims that it will enable real-time decoding of 1080p content on smartphones and tablets.

With manufacturing ramping of both memory modules ramping up now, it could align perfectly for the rumored appearance of a Galaxy S III successor, which it is suggested may show as soon as February 2013 at the Mobile World Congress.

In short…imagine a 128GB iOS device somewhere down the line.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple cites iCloud e-mail problems as fixed, despite user complaints

Posted by:
Date: Friday, September 14th, 2012, 09:01
Category: iCloud, News

They hammered away at iCloud for a bit and with any luck, the e-mail outage has been resolved.

Per CNET, Apple’s iCloud services are now being reported as fully operational again according to the iCloud status page, but some problems may linger for users.

For the past few days, a large number of iCloud users had been hit with an outage that prevented them from using their e-mail accounts. In some cases the problem resulted in delayed e-mail messages that would arrive hours after being sent, but in other cases no mail would get through at all.
When the problem happened Apple did not offer much information on what was causing the outage, and only mentioned in a terse status update on its Web site that about 1-2 percent of users were affected and that the company would be fixing the problem ASAP.

Efforts to fix the problem from the user end generated stories such as this:
“The Apple tech I spoke with had me delete my account on my iPad and then reinstall it which did nothing more than make me lose all my previous emails that I had already received. I have a case number and a direct contact to that technician but he is allowing all his calls go to voicemail and not returning any calls. I am so deeply disappointed in the service they are providing. Their lack of communication is seriously hurting my business.”

Even for those who did not touch their computer’s settings, Apple has claimed e-mails that did not arrive over the past few days should begin to do so once the problems were addressed. However, even though messages are beginning to arrive, some users are noticing other problems such as garbled messages in their e-mail inboxes that have dates of 12/31/1969 and illegible subject lines or no apparent content to them at all.

These issues have a number of the approximate 2-3 million affected users concerned that they may not be properly receiving messages sent to them during the outage.

Restoring the Mail folder in the user library to that before you made any changes to your account should restore your account as it was, allowing it to receive messages sent over the past few days during the iCloud outage.

If when you first noticed this problem you attempted to correct it by deleting your previous e-mail settings and have lost messages from doing so, you might be able to retrieve them from a Time Machine backup. To do this, quit Mail if it is running and then in the Finder choose “Go to Folder” from the Go menu. Enter ~/Library in the path field that appears, and when the library folder opens, invoke the Time Machine interface. Locate the backup from before you made your modifications, and then restore the Mail folder from this backup instance. After doing this, exit Time Machine and re-launch Mail, and both your previous messages should be in your inbox along with new ones received now that the outage has been addressed.

If you are concerned about not having received e-mails sent to you during the outage, then you might consider sending an e-mail to your contacts informing them of the outage and requesting they re-send any messages from the past few days. The service being online and operational means once users tackle any residual problems on their end they should be able to continue using the e-mail service without problems.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and please let us know if the iCloud e-mail fix did or didn’t work for you.

iPhone 5 pre-orders sell out in less than two hours, ship times slip into October

Posted by:
Date: Friday, September 14th, 2012, 08:44
Category: iPhone, News

It didn’t sell out in 30 minutes like its Lightning adapter counterpart, but the pre-orders went quickly…

Per AppleInsider, it only took a little under two hours after pre-orders for Apple’s iPhone 5 started at midnight on Friday, the device is already showing shipping estimates slip to two weeks for all models.

With the initial batch exhausted, the company is now quoting a two-week wait time for the new handset.

While a sellout was expected from analysts and pundits alike, many didn’t foresee it happening so soon. It is unclear whether Apple actually sold more units than the previous iPhone 4S launch, which took nearly 24 hours to run through stock, or if the company had less stock on hand.

For those who have not yet purchased the iPhone 5 and want to grab one on launch day, the only option is to visit a brick-and-mortar Apple Store or another reseller like Walmart. The new handset will be in stores on Sept. 21.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

And, well, see you in line on the 21st…

Lightning port adapters sell out in 30 minutes, shipments slip to 2-3 weeks

Posted by:
Date: Friday, September 14th, 2012, 08:49
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

It wasn’t the sale of the century, but it WAS a part people needed and it went fast.

Per AppleInsider, just half an hour after the iPhone 5 went up for pre-order, USB adaptors for Apple’s new Lightning port sold out, forcing users with compatible accessories to wait until new shipments arrive in October.

Both versions of Apple’s new Lightning to 30-pin adaptor are already quoted to ship in October, but the Lightning to USB adaptor saw shipments slip to two to three weeks within 30 minutes of Apple initiating iPhone 5 pre-orders on Friday.

Currently, there are three adaptor models available in the U.S., a US$39 version with a 0.2-meter cable and a US$29 unit that resembles an oversized 30-pin plug and the regular Lightning to USB adaptor that runs for US$19.

Apple unveiled the smaller 9-pin Lightning connector alongside the iPhone 5 at a special event on Wednesday, with the new plug said to be a necessity in building thinner iDevices. The proprietary part is 80 percent smaller than the legacy 30-pin connector it replaces, is all-digital and can be plugged into compatible devices in any orientation.

Besides the iPhone 5, the new iPod touch and iPod nano also use the newly introduced standard.

The Lightning to USB adaptor may be available in brick-and-mortar Apple Stores, though the stock allotted to each location is not known.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple discontinues iPhone 3GS handset

Posted by:
Date: Friday, September 14th, 2012, 07:12
Category: iPhone, News

3gs.jpg

It had a good run.

On Thursday, Apple officially confirmed the discontinuation of the iPhone 3GS handset, according to All Things D.

The iPhone 3GS been since replaced by the iPhone 4 as its free on-contract handset.

Last year, with the launch of the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 3GS became Apple’s first free smartphone with a new two-year service contract in major markets like the U.S. At that price, it helped Apple reach a lower end of the market that the company had previously not competed in.

But with Wednesday’s unveiling of the iPhone 5, the iPhone 4S moved down to the $99 price point, and the iPhone 4, first released in 2010, became Apple’s new free phone.

Rumors first cropped up last week that the iPhone 3GS, which was first released in 2009, would be discontinued by Apple with the launch of the iPhone 5.

While the iPhone 3GS has been discontinued, recent buyers won’t be left behind with next week’s launch of iOS 6. The new mobile software update, which will be released next Wednesday, has support for the iPhone 3GS, though not all features are available.

Skype 5.11.0.33 public beta released

Posted by:
Date: Friday, September 14th, 2012, 07:41
Category: News, Software

skypelogo.jpg

Late Thursday, Skype released a public beta (version 5.11.0.33) of its VoIP application. The new version, a 31.7 megabyte download via MacUpdate, offers the following fixes and changes:

– Sharing Instant Messages with friends on Messenger. You can now sign in with your Microsoft account (formerly Windows Live ID), and see presence as well as send and receive IM messages from your friends who are using Messenger, Xbox, Hotmail or Outlook.com.

– Improved Facebook integration. You can now sign in directly with your Facebook account, without needing to first create a Skype account.

– Different conversations can now be opened in separate windows by selecting this option in Preferences (General -> Open conversation in new window when I double-click in the sidebar).

– Link Microsoft and Facebook accounts to a Skype account. If you sign in with a Microsoft or Facebook account you will be offered the option to link your Skype account. If you choose the link option then Skype will display a combined list of friends. This is an area we are still working through so please let us know about your experience.

Skype 5.11.0.33 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback, please let us know in the comments.

Apple to cover international LTE standards via three hardware variants

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 08:31
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

The iPhone 5 is en route.

And it looks like a nifty feat of engineering.

With the variety of different LTE frequency bands used by various carriers available globally, Apple will be making three versions of iPhone 5, with the potential for additional new models as Apple signs on other carriers according to AppleInsider.



Apple built a single, global model of the iPhone up until the beginning of 2011, when it introduced a CDMA-only iPhone 4 version compatible with Verizon. When it introduced iPhone 4S a year ago, Apple incorporated support for both GSM and CDMA networks, resulting in a “world phone,” albeit still locked by specific carriers.

The new iPhone 5 now comes in three LTE versions, all of which continue to support the global GSM/UMTS services of iPhone 4S (Quad Band 2G GSM/EDGE on 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, and Quad Band 3G UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA on 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) with new support for “4G” DC-HSDPA (which at up to 42Mbps is as fast as most carriers’ 4G LTE service). Only one of the three versions continues to support CDMA.

To cover its launch carriers’ LTE services, Apple has announced these three different models:

A North American GSM A1428 model for use on AT&T and Apple’s Canadian partners Bell/Virgin, Rogers/Fido and Telus/Kodo provides LTE support for bands 4 (AWS) and 17 (700b MHz) but not CDMA.

AWS-flavored LTE is exclusive to North America, where it was originally assigned for use as wireless cable. In both the US and Canada, it has been reassigned for mobile voice and data networks. While Canadian carriers used it for LTE deployments, T-Mobile acquired large portions of the U.S. rights to AWS and used it to build out its non-standard 3G UMTS service.

This is one significantly reason why AT&T wanted to acquire T-Mobile two years ago. After the U.S. government intervened, T-Mobile was left with its AWS 3G service incompatible with previous iPhones. It now plans to build out LTE service, although that won’t happen until next year, leaving it with the interim option of shifting its 2G GSM service to 3G/4G HSDPA in order to woo unlocked iPhone 4/4S/5 users (which it currently has in place in only a few markets).

A second, CDMA model A1429 will support Sprint and Verizon’s CDMA network in the U.S. and KDDI in Japan. In addition to the standard “EVDO rev A” 800 and 1900MHz support on previous CDMA iPhones, iPhone 5 now also supports the slightly faster and more efficient rev B on 2100MHz. Sprint and Verizon once considered upgrading to EVDO rev B before throwing their support behind 4G networks, but Japan’s KDDI does use rev B networks. CDMA carriers in India and Russia also support rev B.

More importantly, the CDMA iPhone 5 supports LTE Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz), 13 (700cMHz, used by Verizon) and 25 (1900MHz, used by Sprint). The first three bands overlap those used by Apple’s other carrier partners in Europe and Asia (but not AT&T/Canada), although the company also notes that “band support does not guarantee support on all LTE networks running on the same bands.”

Finally, a third model for the rest of the world supports GSM carriers that have added support for LTE on Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz).

This includes Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Everything Everywhere in the UK, Optus/Virgin and Telstra in Australia, Softbank in Japan, SK Telecom and KT in Korea, SmarTone in Hong Kong, and M1 and SingTel in Singapore.

There are several other global LTE carriers Apple could support, either with its existing models or new models, that the company hasn’t announced any deals with yet.

In Japan NTT DOCOMO uses Band 1, and a long list of other European carriers are deploying Band 3 LTE. T-Mobile, Cricket and Metro PCS use Band 4 (AWS) in the U.S., so these carriers could all apparently be supported by Apple’s existing models, given a carrier agreement.

Other carriers have deployed LTE Bands that none of Apple’s existing iPhone 5 versions support. A variety of carriers in Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland are all deploying Band 7 (2600 MHz), while others in Germany and Sweden are using Band 20 (800MHz), and a variety of Middle Eastern carriers have started building out Band 38 (2600MHz).

iPhone 5 is believed to use Qualcomm’s fifth generation MDM9615 baseband chip, which supports both FDD and TDD signaling technologies for LTE.

FDD or Frequency-Division Duplex signaling technology is used by CDMA and WCDMA/UMTS for most modern cellular systems, and is the technology most LTE providers will use, including the networks being built out by AT&T and Verizon in the U.S. Qualcomm owns most of the patents supporting CDMA and WCDMA technologies.

TDD or Time-Division Duplex is an alternative flavor of the LTE standard developed by China, and is being deployed in that country under the name TD-LTE. China developed its own TD-SCDMA and now TD-LTE to avoid paying Qualcomm’s patent royalties. By supporting both FDD and TDD technologies, Qualcomm’s chipset can enable a single device to work on a wide variety of 3G or 4G networks.

It’s not clear if Apple is supporting TDD-LTE (or China’s 3G TD-SCDMA) in its existing iPhone 5 versions. This would dictate whether a separate model would be needed to support LTE service in China and India. Apple’s partner Softbank initially built out TDD-LTE in Japan, but has since augmented its coverage with standard FDD-LTE.

However the MDM9615 does appear to be giving Apple support for new DC-HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev-B, making it likely that Apple’s existing iPhone 5 models will eventually make it to a wider selection of carriers. And even in areas with incompatible LTE networks, iPhone 5 will support very fast HSPA+ networks at similar speeds to today’s LTE deployments.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6 golden master to developer community

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 07:36
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

It’s six days from completion and the final, gold master version just went out the door.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has just seeded the mobile operating system’s golden master to developers, showing slight tweaks and performance enhancements to its first-party Maps app.

According to sources familiar with the progression of Maps in iOS 6, the recently-seeded GM has brought a number of changes to Apple’s first in-house mapping app including Flyover support for new cities like New York and Rome. The most recent version of Maps introduced Flyover data for a number of major international metropolitan cities, however New York was omitted for unknown reasons.

A major feature that sets Maps apart from rival products is its use of custom algorithms to fill in Flyover details like shrubbery and trees. The iOS 6 GM brings further improvements in this area, as zoomed images reveal smoother borders around foliage and advanced rendering that gives the appearance of “leaf-level” detail.

Unlike Google Maps’ StreetView, which blurs out license plates and faces, Apple looks to be employing an automated masking system that will leave only a “ghost image” of vehicles behind.

Finally, a small tweak to the UI comes in the “cityscape” icon, which takes the place of the “3D” asset when viewing areas that have Flyover data. The app also said to feel more sprightly than previous builds and more detail is apparent on certain rendered structures.

Apple’s Maps app will roll out as part of iOS 6 on Sept. 19.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve had a chance to play with the iOS 6 golden master, please let us know in the comments.