AT&T advances upgrade dates for some iPhone customers in anticipation of fourth-gen handset

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Date: Wednesday, May 12th, 2010, 10:58
Category: iPhone, News

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AT&T wants to sell some iPhones.

And they’re taking steps to do so.

Per MobileCrunch, AT&T has begun modifying some customers’ upgrade dates, shortening them in some cases by months to allow customers to buy a new, subsidized, fourth-generation handset in June.

This week, a reader contacted MobileCrunch to say that his upgrade date was moved from Nov. 21st, 2010, to June 21st, 2010. The reader said they bought an iPhone 3GS in 2009 on the device’s launch day.

“As a valued AT&T customer, we can offer you a discounted iPhone upgrade at a higher price, along with a 2-year commitment and an US$18 upgrade fee,” the customer’s account profile reads. “Please proceed with the online upgrade process for pricing details. You may qualify for a full discount on a standard iPhone upgrade on 6/21/2010.”

The same changes have appeared for some other customers as well. AT&T has revealed in the past that generally speaking, the more a customer spends with AT&T, the quicker they become eligible for a price break on a new device. For example, iPhone customers who spend more than US$99-a-month per line are generally eligible for an upgrade between 12 and 18 months into their contract.

The revised dates will likely pave the way for AT&T to offer some customers reduced prices on Apple’s fourth-gen iPhone, expected to be announced in June. AT&T also took the same approach last year when the wireless carrier offered early iPhone 3G adopters the opportunity to purchase an iPhone 3GS as the same US$199 and US$299 price points as new customers.

In years past, Apple has introduced its annual iPhone upgrade at the Worldwide Developers Conference. This year, WWDC 2010 will be held June 7th through June 11th at San Francisco’s Moscone West. Tickets for the event sold out just eight days after Apple announced the dates.

Another rumor has suggested Apple could sell the next-generation iPhone as soon as it is announced on June 7th. That approach would be a change from years prior, when a new handset was announced a few weeks before its sale date. AT&T has also blacked out the month of June for its employees, preventing them from taking vacation days.

New fourth-gen iPhone prototype photos emerge, A4 processor seems likely

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Date: Wednesday, May 12th, 2010, 04:48
Category: iPhone, News, Pictures

Right, this may be about the time Steve Jobs totally loses it and unleashes his new eye lasers.

Per Vietnamese web forum Taoviet, a series of photos, including a teardown of the hardware, has been published showing a newer and more refined fourth-generation iPhone prototype than the one obtained by Gizmodo last month. The pictures revealing the marking APL0398, which is also on the A4 processor found inside the iPad. The rest of the markings — 339S0084, K4X2G643GE, and YN6024Z3, are different, but the system-on-a-chip does include an Apple logo.

The new model also lacks the obvious screws visible in the Gizmodo photographs on either side of the Dock Connector, and is designated as being 16 GB rather than simply “XXGB.” The back panel is also shown to be highly reflective, with a large back facing camera and LED flash.

The new model also uses the same micro-SIM as iPad, and the card now inserts into the side of the phone rather than the top end.

A video demonstrates that the device was also turned on, but was not running the iPhone OS. Instead, the screen displayed a graphic of an explosion that read “Inferno.” At the bottom, text can be read that says “Start time: Run Bonfire!,” “Duration: 0,” and “Battery: 3 percent.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recent support document points to forthcoming iPad Wi-Fi fix

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Date: Tuesday, May 11th, 2010, 08:24
Category: iPad, News, Software

iPad users who’ve been tormented by Wi-Fi connectivity issues could see a forthcoming fix from Apple in the near future.

Per AppleInsider, a newly updated support document from Apple explicitly states that the iPad maker will issue a software update to address the issues. The document does not, however, provide a timeline for the planned fix.

“A very small number of iPad users have experienced issues with Wi-Fi connectivity,” the document reads. “This article outlines workarounds for these issues. Apple will also address remaining Wi-Fi connectivity issues with a future iPad software update.”

In the interim, Apple offers a number of potential fixes for the issue:

-Verify your Wi-Fi router firmware is up to date

– If your router’s security encryption is WEP, try WPA or WPA2, as WEP can cause intermittent disconnects with the iPad which requires retyping a password.

– Make sure the iPad screen brightness is not at the lowest level.

– Obtain a new IP address by going into Settings, Wi-Fi, accessing the settings of the current network, and choosing “Renew Lease.”

– Finally, if these steps do not work, users are recommended to try turning Wi-Fi off and back on.

If none of the above methods address connectivity issues, users are asked to contact Apple support.

Just days after the iPad launched, AppleInsider noted the Wi-Fi issues reported by numerous users. Problems have occurred with a variety of routers, including Apple’s own AirPort Extreme, and range from a weak signal to an inability to connect to a network.

Apple quickly set up a support document for users who have problems getting their iPad to rejoin known Wi-Fi networks after a restart or waking from sleep. The company said issues were known to occur with some third-party Wi-Fi routers that are dual-band capable. Apple recommended creating separate Wi-Fi network names to identify each band, such as adding ‘G’ to the 802.11g network name, and ‘N’ to the 802.11n network. It also recommended using the same security type, such as WPA, for both bands.

The iPad’s Wi-Fi issues were pegged as a software problem by Princeton University last month. The school’s Office of Information Technology reported that a software glitch in the device causes it to use a network-assigned IP address after its lease has expired.

Princeton suggested that the problem comes from within iPhone OS 3.2, as the iPad will incorrectly continue using an IP address without renewing its lease, usually for hours. The issue is resolved when the iPad asks for a new DHCP lease, or the device disconnects from the network. The university found that more than half of all iPads on the campus demonstrated the malfunction.

The university offered the following temporary workaround until Apple issues a software update: reconfigure the iPad’s settings so that the screen never locks. This can be done by going to Settings, General, Auto-Lock and choosing “Never.” Users must also turn off Wi-Fi before they manually lock the screen. Other options were to turn the iPad completely off, rather than just locking it, or to simply leave the iPad on without locking the screen.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

gfxCardStatus utility allows dynamic switching between MacBook Pro graphics cards

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Date: Tuesday, May 11th, 2010, 06:33
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Although Apple’s current MacBook Pro notebooks allow you to switch between graphics processing units in order to optimize performance and battery life, Apple doesn’t really provide an easy way to manage the different GPUs on the system, and if you like to tinker you may find the utility gfxCardStatus useful, both for newer and older machines.

Per CNET, Cody Krieger’s gfxCardStatus is a small shareware application that displays which graphics card is the active one. When the system’s computing demands change and the GPU is switched, the utility shows the switches in real-time, either by displaying an “n” (GeForce 330M) or a “i” (Intel HD) in the menu. If you have the Growl notification system installed, gfxCardStatus will inform you in real-time whenever the graphics processor is changed.

In addition to notifications and alerts, gfxCardStatus will list any processes that are using the current graphics processor, and allow you to manually switch the active GPUs on the system.

Despite this, the program does offer a unique advantage to users of the older MacBook Pro models, in that the GPU switching feature does allow for you to switch GPUs without logging out and closing down your applications. The screen will go blue and then black, but will then reappear and the secondary GPU will be used. This may be convenient for some users; however, it is still an experimental feature so try or use it with caution.

gfxCardStatus 1.6.1 is available for free and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

Court documents confirm Apple/AT&T exclusive five year deal, questions surface over contract renegotiations

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Date: Tuesday, May 11th, 2010, 05:51
Category: iPhone, News

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With additional chatter surrounding the idea of Apple extending the iPhone to Verizon this year, the exact specifics of Apple’s five-year exclusive contract with AT&T have never really been published. Fortunately, the cool cats at Engadget managed to uncover the following:

An ongoing California class-action lawsuit filed in 2007 claims that Apple and AT&T illegally exerted a monopoly over iPhone service by telling customers the iPhone’s required service contract was two years long when the Apple / AT&T exclusivity deal was actually for five years. Per the case, this required buyers to re-up with AT&T for three years if they wanted to keep using the iPhone. Within Apple’s response to these allegations, and in addition to arguing that no one was ever promised an unlocked iPhone after two years, the company’s lawyers repeatedly confirm the existence of the five-year agreement while noting it was publicly reported in USA Today.

Select quotes include the following:
“The duration of the exclusive Apple-[AT&T] agreement was not ‘secret’ either. The [plaintiff] quotes a May 21, 2007 USA Today article – published over a month before the iPhone’s release – stating, “AT&T has exclusive U.S. distribution rights for five years-an eternity in the go-go cellphone world.”

“[T]here was widespread disclosure of [AT&T's] five-year exclusivity and no suggestion by Apple or anyone else that iPhones would become unlocked after two years… Moreover, it is sheer speculation – and illogical – that failing to disclose the five-year exclusivity term would produce monopoly power…”

Since this case occurred in October of 2008 and has gone relatively off the record, the real question is whether or not the exclusivity deal is still on the books. Even given that the case is ongoing and many of its relevant bits have been under seal since 2009, contracts can be canceled, amended, and breached in many ways, especially given AT&T’s track record and the explosion of the iPhone market. In addition, the two companies obviously hit the negotiating table again to hammer out the iPad’s pricing plans, and there’s no way of knowing whether that deal involves the iPhone as well.

Apple developing its own alternative to Flash via Gianduia

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Date: Monday, May 10th, 2010, 07:57
Category: News, Software

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When in doubt, roll your own.

As the multimedia wars continue between Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, Apple is using Gianduia, a client-side, standards based framework for Rich Internet Apps that it introduced World of WebObjects Developers Conference last summer, to create its own production quality apps.

Gianduia, named after an Italian hazelnut chocolate, is “essentially is browser-side Cocoa (including CoreData) + WebObjects, written in JavaScript by non-js-haters,” according to a tweet by developer Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch. “Jaw dropped.”

After watching the NDA demo Apple gave for the new framework at WOWODC last year, Rentzch also tweeted, “Blown away by Gianduia. Cappuccino, SproutCore and JavascriptMVC have serious competition. Serious.”

Per AppleInsider, SproutCore is the JavaScript framework Apple uses to build the web interface for its desktop-like MobileMe web apps. Cappuccino is another third party JavaScript framework that works as a Cocoa-like API for web apps; it was used to deliver 280Slides, a web app designed to provide most of the functionality of Apple’s Keynote desktop application. JavascriptMVC is also an independent open source project used to develop rich apps within JavaScript for web deployment.

Like Cappuccino, Gianduia takes a Cocoa-inspired name (Cocoa is itself a Java-inspired name) to describe its role as a way for Cocoa developers to bring their skills to rich online applications built using web standards, with no need for a proprietary web plugin like Flash or Silverlight.

While the emerging new support for Rich Internet App features in HTML5 is often pitted competitively against Flash, Gianduia, SproutCore and related frameworks demonstrate that sophisticated web apps are already possible using existing web standards and without web plugins.

Apple retails locations have been noticed using Gianduia to create web app clients (which plug into the company’s WebObjects-based services), for a variety of popular programs over the last several months, including its One-to-One program, iPhone reservation system, and its Concierge service for Genius Bar reservations and Personal Shopping (shown below) programs.

While it’s unknown as to what this will turn into, Apple may be able to work around Flash support for its iPhone OS devices in its own way.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

USB 3.0 underperforms in notebook tests, bottlenecks cited

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Date: Monday, May 10th, 2010, 05:49
Category: News

USB 3.0 may be the future, but it may still have room for improvement. Per Techworld, the upcoming port technology may be hard pressed to surpass current technologies like eSATA.

The test comprised plugging Freecom’s USB 3.0 external drive, the XS Hard Drive 3.0, into a mainstream dual-core notebook using the company’s new USB 3.0 Express Card notebook add-on.

Throughput was derived using a simple calculation based on how long the drive took to copy and paste a large number of video and image files to and from the laptop, replicating how the drive will actually be used in the real world for functions such as directory backup.

The Freecom XS operating in USB 2.0 mode managed an average throughput of 18.7MB/s for reads and only 11.1MB/s for writes, well below the theoretical maximum of USB 2.0 but in line with real-world transfer speeds on a mid-range laptop.

The same drive in USB 3.0 mode raised this to 36.6MB/s for reads and about the same or slightly slower for writes, although this fluctuated considerably for reasons that might relate to the supplied NEC driver. Still, there seems to be a relative difference which will depend on a range of factors including overall system performance.

The tests concluded that USB 3.0 offers even notebook users a handy though not spectacular speed boost compared to USB 2.0 of around two-three times. However, when pitted against an eSATA drive from LG, the interface port for which is found on many high end notebooks, the results were less clear cut.

Copying the test files to an external LG eSATA drive achieved throughputs of 32.5MB/s for reads, and 29.7MB/s for writes, not much slower than USB 3.0 on this hardware. In some cases, it even matched the USB 3.0 drive.

Freecom engineers agreed that USB 3.0 would be held back by a number of bottlenecks on today’s systems, especially laptops which typically use slower internal hard drives. Desktop systems which can use the company’s faster PCI Express Card interface would fare better, they said.

USB 3.0 will start to shine when paired with forthcoming SATA 3.0 or even SSD drives, faster CPUs able to keep up with the dramatically higher data throughtputs, integrated USB 3.0 ports that don’t need slow interfaces such as Express card, and possibly also better drivers and chipsets.

Rumor: Apple to release updated MacBook Air on Tuesday

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Date: Monday, May 10th, 2010, 04:17
Category: MacBook Air, News

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Following the recent refresh to its MacBook Pro line of notebooks last month, the same source who correctly predicted the new MacBook Pro notebook arrival date has stated that an updated MacBook Air could arrive as early as Tuesday.

Per AppleInsider, the same source has stated to Macworld UK that a new product will arrive Tuesday with the model MC516LL/A K87 BETTER BTR-USA. The “better” distinction reportedly means it is likely to be a Mac product, leading the tipster to suggest the refresh is a MacBook Air.

The report noted that there is “some potential” the listing could instead refer to a new 27″ Cinema Display. But the source said there are several thousand of the product headed to Australia, “which suggests a major new product.”

Further evidence for the MacBook Air refresh has been noted with current inventory levels of the ultra-light notebook apparently running low. The MacBook Air, starting at US$1,499, still ships within 24 hours from Apple’s online store.

In January, it was suggested that the MacBook Air refresh might have seen a delay due to limited availability of Intel’s Core i5 ultramobile processors. Those reports suggested Apple could adopt the ultra-thin 18W TDP processor. The Core i5-520UM has a maximum processor speed of 1.86GHz, and an integrated GPU with 500MHz of processing power. The 32nm dual-core chip also includes 3MB of L3 cache.

Apple last updated the MacBook Air in June of 2009, dropping its entry price to US$1,499 for a 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo-based system. Apple’s full line of MacBook Pros are also based on the Core 2 Duo processor.

In April, Apple updated its MacBook Pro line of notebook computers, with the high-end systems receiving Intel’s latest Core i7 and Core i5 mobile processors and new automated graphics switching technology.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked iPhone document show contactless payment technology in the works

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Date: Friday, May 7th, 2010, 05:05
Category: iPhone, News

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You’ve got to love the occasional press leak, as they yield some interesting things on the horizon.

NFC World recently spotted a release from Visa and DeviceFidelity on the MarketWatch website, which revealed that the companies have developed a protective iPhone case that will allow users to pay for goods and services “by simply waving their iPhone in front of a contactless payment terminal”.

The release has since been removed from MarketWatch, but not before NFC World pasted the full text on its site.

The technology, developed by DeviceFidelity and certified by Apple, includes an iPhone case that holds a secure MicroSD card hosting Visa’s contactless payment application, Visa payWave. The release said that market trials of the “payment-enabled” iPhone are scheduled to start this summer.

The release said that the technology will also work with smart phones that have a suitable memory card slot.

Visa and DeviceFidelity announced plans to trial the technology in smart phones with memory card slots back in February. However, at the time, the iPhone was excluded from the trial because it did not have the required card slot.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Mac OS X 10.6.4 update to address OpenGL, iPhoto, DVD Player and VNC-related issues

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Date: Friday, May 7th, 2010, 05:46
Category: News, Software

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The Mac OS X 10.6.4 update will pick up where Mac OS X 10.6.3 left off by tackling compatibility issues with OpenGL-based applications and bandaging glitches with first- and third-party applications.

Per AppleInsider, a list of code corrections that Apple provided to some developers on Thursday alongside the second external beta of Mac OS X 10.6.4, carrying build number 10F46 is pointing development along those lines. The build arrived roughly one week after Apple issued the first external pre-release copies of the Snow Leopard update, which focused on graphics drivers, Windows file sharing, USB devices and Voice Over.

While the focus areas remain relatively the same in Thursday’s build, Apple added a fix for dropped connections with Cisco VPN and thus asked developers to evaluate the overall reliability of VPN connections under the beta.

According to sources testing Mac OS X 10.6.4, other fixes are also in the cards for pairing Apple remotes with Macs, graphics anomalies that surface when editing images in iPhoto’s full-screen mode, and video playback in DVD Player.

Additional code corrections reportedly target glitches with Parental Controls, erratic USB keyboard behaviors, 3D animations, and problems launching Adobe CS3 applications like Photoshop and Illustrator.

If you’ve gotten your hands on the new Mac OS X 10.6.4 build and have any feedback, let the rest of the class know what you make of it…