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Apple patent for iOS device facial recognition goes live

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Date: Friday, December 30th, 2011, 05:59
Category: iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

At least your iPad will remember who you are.

Per Free Patents Online, a recently published patent application shows how future iOS devices could use a forward-facing camera to recognize an individual user, whereupon the device could automatically customize applications, settings and features to a user’s personal preferences once they pick up the unit.

Entitled “Low Threshold Face Recognition,” the patent describes a low-computation solution for quickly and accurately recognizing a user.

The filing provides a simple way for multiple users to share a single device, like an iPad. Each user could customize their personal profile with unique wallpaper, applications and settings, and that profile would be immediately accessed once the iPad recognizes a user’s face.

Apple’s application notes that robust facial recognition systems that work in various lighting conditions and orientations can be taxing on an electronic device, requiring resources and draining battery life.

Its solution would reduce the impact of lighting conditions and biometric distortions on an image. The filing describes a “low-computation solution for reasonably effective (low threshold) face recognition that can be implemented on camera-equipped consumer portable appliances.”

Rather than aggressively analyzing a user’s entire face and using up time and resources, Apple’s concept would rely on a “high information portion” of a human face. Potential high information portions could include eyes, a mouth, or the tip of a user’s nose.

By recognizing the individual features on a user’s face, the system could scale the distance between someone’s eyes and their mouth. That distance could then be measured against the reference image originally captured by the user in order to confirm it is in fact the same person.

Apple’s application notes that its facial recognition capabilities could be constantly active due to lower power consumption. This means a user could simply point an iPhone or iPad at their face, without pressing a button, and have the screen automatically turn on and unlock the device.

This could be accomplished through an “orange-distance filter,” which would capture the “likely presence” of a human face in front of a camera. This filter would also be used to detect a person’s skin tone, and measure the distance of their face from the camera.

Once a user has been recognized, the facial recognition technology could not only grant them access to the device, but also customize its settings based on a unique user profile. Each user would be presented with a personalized configuration, as an iPhone or iPad would be able to “modify screen saver slide shows or other appliance non-security preferences,” the application reads.

The proposed invention, made public this week, was first filed by Apple in June of 2009. It is credited to Robert Mikio Free.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Verizon to tack on $2/month fee for users not using autopay system

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 29th, 2011, 07:22
Category: iPhone, News

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You may not like this.

Per Droid Life, a leaked memo shows that Verizon Wireless will soon be charging customers US$2 for every month they aren’t using the company’s autopay/autodraft system. The leaked memo details what has to be done with the policy change since the carrier boosted its early termination fee for “advanced devices.”

Effective January 15th, any customer that opts to pay their wireless bill online or over the phone will be charged an extra US$2 each month, and the only way to sidestep it is to sign up for AutoPay or to pay by electronic check, where there’s no credit card fee passed on to the carrier.

For those unaware, AutoPay automatically drafts the most recent amount from either a linked checking / savings account or a credit card on file.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you make of this in the comments.

Argentina enacts ban on iPhone, BlackBerry imports as part of effort to boost local production

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Date: Thursday, December 29th, 2011, 07:10
Category: iPhone, News

If you were planning on hitting up Argentina any time soon, snagging an iPhone there just got that much harder.

In an attempt to rectify issues with Argentina’s economy, the South American country placed a temporary ban on imports of foreign-made electronics. Two of the most well-known of those electronics are the iPhone and BlackBerry devices. Apple and RIM collectively account for 60 percent of Argentina’s smartphone market, so the ban is going to have a substantial impact on its mobile industry.

According to Electronista, Neither of the operating systems nor the hardware manufacturers were affected because they — Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Microsoft, etc. — have manufacturing facilities within Argentina. Android and Windows Phone will very quickly see a boost in sales, while iPhone and BlackBerry sales will drop to zero, unless of course Apple and RIM open up local plants or partner with other manufacturers.

In all actuality, the iPhone and BlackBerry markets have been struggling in Argentina for a while. A law was already in place that added a 20.48 percent tax on electronic imports on top of the standard 21 percent sales tax.

The government of Argentina says they will lift the ban on iPhones and BlackBerrys when the economy shows significant signs of stabilization, but there’s no telling just when that will happen.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple developing specialized CPUs for HDTV units

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 09:17
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

When in doubt, roll your own.

Per DigiTimes, rather than utilize off-the-shelf chips from a company such as Intel, Apple is expected to use its own custom-built chips like in the iPhone and iPad for its anticipated television set.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering and Siliconware Precision Industries are three companies expected to bid on orders with Apple. The companies could build custom ARM-based chips to power an Apple television, much like the A4 CPU, first released in the iPad in 2010, is found in the current Apple TV set-top box.

Apple is said to have already signed a foundry agreement with TSMC earlier this year, utilizing its 28nm and 20nm process technologies. That deal was said to be for next-generation “A6” and “A7” processors for the iPhone and iPad, but it’s possible an Apple television could also utilize the advanced chips.

In addition to featuring custom chips, the Apple television is also expected to be assembled by Foxconn Electronics, industry sources reportedly said. Foxconn already builds most of Apple’s devices, including the iPhone and iPad.

The report said Apple is expected to finalize the hardware standards for its television set at the end of the second quarter of 2012. After that, it will place orders for customized chips and other components directly with its contract manufacturers. That’s the same approach Apple uses to build its iPad and iPhone lineups.

The Taiwan electronics industry publication once again pegged the Apple television for launch by the end of 2012. On Tuesday, DigiTimes also said that suppliers are expected to begin preparing components for the anticipated HDTV in the first quarter of 2012, and that it will have screen sizes of 32 and 37 inches.

Earlier reports also claimed that Apple will buy chips from Samsung for its television set, while Sharp is expected to manufacture displays. As for content, analyst Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee said earlier Wednesday that Apple is hoping to offer Internet-based content subscriptions that will allow customers to choose their own custom channel lineups, offering an experience very different from current cable and satellite plans.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple awarded key multitouch technology patent, able to cite wider legal defense regarding oscillating signal technologies

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Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 05:06
Category: News, Patents

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Patent: It’s good to have ’em.

According to Patently Apple, Apple won a core multitouch patent regarding oscillating signals that was alluded to when Steve Jobs first announced the original iPhone in 2007, and adds to the company’s already formidable legal arsenal.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office published on Tuesday that the Cupertino, Calif. company now owns a crucial patent that describes how touch events are recognized by a touchscreen device, and was one of the “200+ Patents for new inventions” Jobs lauded when the iPhone first debuted.

The newly granted patent focuses on the oscillator signal and circuit of a touchscreen-equipped device, an integral invention directly related to how users interact with their multitouch products.

Apple states in the filing:
“In general, multi-touch panels may be able to detect multiple touches (touch events or contact points) that occur at or about the same time, and identify and track their locations.”

Previous to the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, most touch-capable devices relied on single-touch input like resistive touchscreens. The legacy technology “senses” a touch when two electrically resistive sheets separated by a small gap are connected by the push of a finger or stylus, which in turn creates a voltage division that is detected by a device controller that records the change along the x and y axes.

Resistive displays are limited in that they can only recognize single inputs no matter how many objects are touching the screen.

One way to record multiple touches at a time is to generate an oscillating signal circuit that can power and clock inputs over a substrate as in a capacitive touchscreen display, however it is difficult to create a precise circuit-based oscillator.

Apple’s patent provides a solution to capacitive touchscreen problem by using calibration logic circuitry which compares the signal oscillation against a reference signal and tunes the clock frequency accordingly. The invention provides for an accurate capacitive display that can not only sense multiple touches, but also detect hover or near touches which are also recognized as “touch events.”

The patent wording states that the invention could apply to computing devices such as desktops, laptops, tablets or handhelds, including digital music and video players and mobile telephones. Also mentioned are public computing systems like kiosks and ATMs.

The news follows a Dec. 19 U.S. International Trade Commission decision which resulted in an import ban on HTC Android handsets that infringe on Apple’s Data Detectors patent. The injunction will take take effect on April 19, 2012, however HTC CEO Peter Chou said the Taiwanese company is already testing workarounds to bypass the ITC ruling.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intego warns of new, detailed phishing scam aimed at Apple’s user base

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 05:02
Category: News, security

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There’s a few things you can count on: death, taxes and various groups of wanders trying to get personal information from you via scams and phishing efforts.

Per AppleInsider, security firms have issued warnings regarding a new “well-crafted” phishing scam that attempts to fool customers into providing their AppleID billing information.

Intego posted an alert on the scam earlier this week, noting that the first emails appeared to have gone out on or around Christmas day. The phishing email purports to come from “appleid@id.apple.com” and informs recipients that their billing information records are “out of date.”

Customers are directed to click on a link to http://store.apple.com, but they are instead redirected to a “realistic-looking sign-in page,” according to the security firm’s report.

Though phishing scams targeting Apple customers are by no means new, this particular scam has attracted attention because it is unusually detailed in its efforts to deceive. The email makes use of the Apple logo and shading and employs better formatting than similar frauds in the past.

As a precautionary measure, users should remember not to click directly on links from email messages and instead navigate to the website in question on their own.

In August, scammers set out to trick Apple’s MobileMe subscribers into upgrading to the then-forthcoming iCloud service. Around the Thanksgiving holiday, another scam cropped up falsely advertising an iTunes gift certificate that was actually malware meant to pilfer passwords and other personal information.

Mac users were also the target of an elaborate hoax involving fake anti-virus software, usually dubbed MacDefender, earlier this year. The application would automatically download itself onto users’ computers in an attempt to obtain their credit card information. Russian police later found evidence tying the scam to online payment service Chronopay.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPhone 4S to arrive in mainland China come January

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Date: Tuesday, December 27th, 2011, 10:52
Category: iPhone, News

The iPhone 4S is en route to the easy…just wait about a month.

Per Chinese web site People’s Daily, Apple has met all of the requirements for the iPhone 4S to launch in mainland China, and the handset will reportedly debut before the Chinese New Year in late January.

The web site reported this week that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology granted China Compulsory Certification for the iPhone 4S on Dec. 22. That means Apple has met all of the requirements necessary to launch its latest smartphone in mainland China.

The report said the handset will debut “at the beginning of January 2012,” and will hit the market before the Chinese New Year. That takes place on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012.

Filings with the Chinese government show a WCDMA phone manufactured by Apple was granted approval. Though it does not specifically reveal that the device is the iPhone 4S, it is listed as model number A1431, which is the same number Apple used to obtain a network entry permit for the iPhone 4S.

The approval process and anticipated release of the iPhone 4S has dragged out in China as Apple has quickly launched its latest smartphone in other major markets around the world. It’s been the fastest rollout ever for a new iPhone model.

The iPhone 4S did debut in Hong Kong in the first week of November, and sold out within minutes. Some regional branches of China Unicom in mainland China have been taking advance bookings for the iPhone 4S for weeks in anticipation of the device’s launch as it goes through China’s approval process.

One of the major selling points of the iPhone 4S is Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled personal assistant application. Rumors have suggested that Siri will gain support for Mandarin, the most popular form of the Chinese language, by March of 2012.

If you have two cents to hurl in on this, let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Rumor: Intel to bring Thunderbolt port to “first-tier” Windows PCs in April, 2012

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Date: Tuesday, December 27th, 2011, 10:50
Category: Hardware, News

You were wondering when that rather-nifty Thunderbolt port would make its way to Windows PCs and thus spread the use of the technology?

Well, now there’s something of an answer.

Per DigiTimes, Intel has begun notifying PC makers that it will “fully release” the high-speed I/O in April 2012, according to a new report.

Sources from within PC players have stated that “several first-tier” PC vendors are readying Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards, notebooks and desktop computers for release. Sony and Asus are expected to adopt the new technology, while Gigabyte technology will reportedly launch a Thunderbolt-capable motherboard in April of next year.

According to the report, Intel cooperated with Apple exclusively this year in order to “speed up the standardization of Thunderbolt.” As interest in the technology has continued to grow, Intel has readied the technology for “public use.”

Thunderbolt should see even further adoption in the second half of next year as related costs drop. Sources told the publication that the technology will be “standardized gradually in the future” as chip prices fall.

In June, Sony was originally thought to have developed the first non-Mac Thunderbolt PC with its VAIO Z laptop and Power Media dock. However, it was later revealed that the company had used an early version of Intel’s technology that did not match the Thunderbolt standard.

Apple partnered up with Intel to unveil the Thunderbolt I/O in its MacBook Pro lineup this February. The Mac maker quickly added the technology to its products, including the iMac, MacBook Air, Mac Mini and LED Display.

Thunderbolt combines Intel’s “Light Peak” specification with Apple’s Mini DisplayPort to support transfer speeds of up to 10Gbps. The technology uses the PCI Express standard, allowing for a range of peripherals and functions.

The first Thunderbolt peripherals, such as RAID systems and external drives arrived on the market throughout 2011, but high costs have reportedly been a barrier to companies looking to make Thunderbolt accessories.

For its part, Intel claimed earlier this year that Thunderbolt has attracted “tremendous response from the industry,” touting more than twenty companies, including Belkin, Canon, Seagate, Western Digital and Adobe, interested in adding Thunderbolt support to their products.

Also affecting Thunderbolt adoption is the growing presence of USB 3.0. HP, the world’s largest PC maker, has decided to go with USB 3.0 after not finding a “value proposition” with Thunderbolt. Intel has said it will support USB 3.0 alongside Thunderbolt, which is meant to be “complementary,” but some PC industry insiders have claimed that Thunderbolt could “greatly affect” adoption of the competing standard.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Boxee updated to 1.5, sings swan song for Mac OS X, Windows versions

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Date: Monday, December 26th, 2011, 09:05
Category: News, Software

The good news: There’s a nifty new version of Boxee available for the Mac.

The bad news: This will be its final version for the Mac.

Per Electronista, Boxee marked a swansong for its desktop app with the launch of version 1.5. The new version, an 82 megabyte download, has a newly refreshed interface with quicker access to the browser and the menu appearing as an overlay with quicker search. Movie and TV sections have been given their own updates, such as easier navigation by genres and sources, more details, and a better way to check for unwatched video episodes.

The app requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later to install and run. Its release is the last official desktop version and will be pulled after late January, when the interface comes to Boxee’s own hardware with the Live TV Tuner add-on.

Andrew Kippen from the company explained the decision to axe the desktop app as a virtue of a widening gap between the software version and what the team was allowed to do with the Boxee Box. Limitations on certification and copy protection imposed by Netflix, Pandora, Vudu, and others prevented Boxee from offering much of what it wanted.

TV was also more likely to be driven by dedicated hardware, Kippen argued. Along with the Boxee Box, it saw Internet-aware Blu-ray players and TVs leading the charge as well as sharing-capable smartphones and tablets. Makeshift setups with computers hooked up to TVs were less likely to stay.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple kicks off 12 Days of iTunes giveaway in Canada, UK with the horror that is Coldplay

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Date: Monday, December 26th, 2011, 08:45
Category: iTunes, News

The 12 Days of Appmas has begun.

Per Pocketlint, Apple’s annual download giveaway began today and runs through January 6th. The free gifts kick off with some Coldplay tracks and videos from the band’s latest Apple-sponsored festival appearance and will feature additional music, apps, etc. with each one being available for just 24 hours.

Take a gander at the iTunes link and let us know what’s on your mind over in the comments section.