Intel announces Thunderbolt 2 protocol, looks toward 2013 launch

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, June 5th, 2013, 06:33
Category: Hardware, News

thunderboltlogo

This could be really, really sexy.

Per AppleInsider, Intel on Tuesday finally put a name to its next-generation Thunderbolt protocol as “Thunderbolt 2,” with the newly dubbed standard doubling the throughput of its predecessor while remaining backward compatible.

Previously referred to by its codename “Falcon Ridge,” Thunderbolt 2 will boast a bandwidth of 20Gbps, which Intel said is good enough for the simultaneous transfer and display of 4K “Ultra HD” video.

To double the speed, Intel is using a new controller chip that combines the first generation Thunderbolt’s 10Gpbs uni-directional channels into a single 20Gbps bi-directional channel. In addition, Thunderbolt 2 will carry support for DisplayPort 1.2, enabling video streaming to one 4K monitor, or dual QHD displays.

Because the next-generation protocol is, in essence, a modified controller chip, Thunderbolt 2 requires no new cables or accessory hardware, meaning it will be completely backward compatible with existing Thunderbolt products.

While Thunderbolt has yet to see wide adoption outside of Apple’s Mac lineup, Intel claims 30 PCs and motherboards now use the I/O tech. That’s in addition to the 80 peripherals and accessories that made their way to market since Thunderbolt first debuted with Apple’s late-2011 Mac lineup.

Despite being marketed as a cutting-edge interconnect technology targeting professionals in the video field, Apple still does not offer Thunderbolt in its Mac Pro tower.

In a report last week, Intel stated that it plans to extend the standard’s reach beyond the few product that currently use the tech, and has up to now focused on quality over quantity.

The chip maker has yet to nail down a specific date on Thunderbolt 2′s release, but said it should be in production by the end of 2013, with a ramp into 2014.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple revises store policies, now offers iPhone 5 display repairs for $149

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, June 4th, 2013, 06:29
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, retail

You’ll soon be able to have your iPhone 5 screen replaced at assorted Apple Store locations for US$149, with or without AppleCare+.

Per MacRumors, changes to Apple’s repair policies first surfaced last month, where a town hall session revealed that Apple would begin in-house repairs of displays in June in an effort to save approximately US$1 billion per year.

The site heard from a tipster this morning that the new repair policy had been implemented and the changes have since been confirmed in a forum post from iPhone repair site Quick iFix. The repairs are available for cracked displays as well as screens that experience multitouch issues.

Quick iFix notes that Apple’s US$149 repair cost is competitive, causing the site to change its own repair costs. Quick iFix charged US$174.99 for a display replacement in early May, but began offering repairs for US$139.99 a few days later.

Apple’s new display repairs are in line with AppleCare+ pricing, which costs US$99 up front and then US$49 for each replacement. The repair service is a more affordable alternative for iPhone users who opted not to purchase AppleCare+, as iPhone replacement previously retailed for US$229.

Apple is expected to roll out additional in-house repair options in July, offering repairs of the iPhone’s camera, sleep/wake buttons, and logic boards. Additional changes to AppleCare are also reportedly in the works, with Apple rumored to be switching to a subscription based plan tied to customers rather than individual devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Updated Retina Display MacBook Pro with 1080p camera, MacBook Air with improved microphone expected at WWDC

Posted by:
Date: Monday, June 3rd, 2013, 06:12
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

It’s the rumors that make life interesting.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI securities listed his forecast for MacBook Pro and Air updates expected at WWDC. Apple’s annual developer-centric conference begins on June 10th with a keynote. The biggest change is Apple will move to Intel’s Haswell processors. These chips dramatically reduce power consumption, which in turn could allow Apple to need fewer batteries in the Retina MacBook Pros:

“We expect the new MacBook, featuring an upgrade to Intel’s (US) Haswell processor, will be in the spotlight for Apple at the upcoming WWDC from June 10. Along with the new processor, we expect the following modifications to each product line:

Retina MacBook Pro to be slimmer slightly, along with a camera upgrade. We expect the 13” Retina MacBook Pro will have a slightly slimmer form factor for increasing its portability. Also, we think the camera spec will be upgraded from HD to full HD. This will improve Facetime and video conference quality in the high resolution Retina display.”

The 1080P camera would match the capabilities of the rear-cameras in recent iOS hardware, but this would represent the first time in which Apple shipped a 1080p-capable front-facing sensor.

If Apple does choose to keep the same batteries and size of the Retina MacBook Pro, the new Haswell chips could push battery life up over 10 hours.

As for the MacBook Air, at least one improvement is expected by Kuo:

“MacBook Air to share dual built-in microphone design of Retina MacBook Pro. We forecast that this year’s new MacBook Air model will also have dual built-in microphones as a result of positive feedback on this feature in Retina MacBook Pro, which delivers clear voice quality on Facetime and VoIP service.”

Apple previously noted that the dual-microphone setup is ideal for voice apps like the included Dictation function.

Kuo expects the older, non-Retina MacBook Pros to freeze and be taken out of the spotlight, much like the iPod Classic. The computer would continue to be sold but with the current Ivy Bridge processors, optical drive slots, and high-capacity hard drives.

The report also notes that MacBooks in general are not immune from the overall global slowdown in PC purchasing caused by the iPad and other tablet cannibalization. The expectation is that 2013 will see 12M units sold, off 1.6M from 2012′s 13.6M total.

Finally, Kuo notes that Apple’s move away from optical and hard drive based storage continues to shift orders to SSD producers:

SSD to be mainstream storage solution for MacBook. We estimate the market share of MacBook with SSD to rise from 45% in 2012 to 64% in 2013, far ahead of the industry’s 15-20%. We also expect SSD penetration to continue to trend up, with SSD eventually replacing conventional hard disk drive and optical disc drive.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked iPad 5 component image points toward thinner, lighter design

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 31st, 2013, 08:45
Category: Hardware, iPad, Pictures

It’s a leaked component shot, but it might say something about the design of the next-gen iPad.

Per AppleInsider and Apple.pro, a new image has emerged that shows what looks to be a full-size fifth-generation iPad’s front panel, again showing design cues taken from the iPad mini.


ipadfront-130531

The image shows the rear side of what appears to be the front casing for an as-yet-unreleased iPad 5. The panel bears all of the holes and markings that typify Apple’s tablets — including a hole for the Home button and FaceTime camera — and the connector for the touchscreen component.

The panel bears the same thin bezel seen with Apple’s iPad mini, which observers expect will serve as the design guidepost for the next full-size iPad. Images and video of potential iPad 5 cases have borne the same design cues, with a thinner overall body.

The next full-size iPad is expected to retain the screen size of its predecessors, if only to application development for the device easy. Recent rumors suggest that Apple may add a centered rear microphone to the device to help in audio recording.

The rumored new iPad’s thinner bezels are said to make the device 25 percent lighter and 15 percent thinner. The new iPad, new iPad mini, and the next generation of iPhones and iPods are all expected to arrive some time in the fall.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple gearing up supply chain for September launch of next-gen iPhone

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 30th, 2013, 08:51
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

applelogo_silver

When there are rumblings in the supply chain, it sometimes leads to cool new stuff.

Per AppleInsider, a key Apple supplier has revealed that its largest North American customer is gearing up for the launch of a next-generation smartphone, suggesting Apple could be in the midst of preparing for a September launch of its next iPhone.

The comments come from Avago Technologies, the maker of custom wireless chips featured in Apple’s iPhone lineup. Analyst Maynard Um of Wells Fargo Securities interpreted them on Thursday as “signs of life” in Apple’s supply chain, and an indication of a likely September launch for a so-called “iPhone 5S.”

“Avago noted it is already seeing an initial ramp of a new product transition (we believe iPhone 5S) and expects a greater ramp in the following quarter (October quarter),” Um wrote in a note to investors. “We anticipate more positive supply chain news from Apple suppliers through the summer and as we get closer to product launch.”

The details put Apple’s next iPhone on track to launch a year after the iPhone 5, as that device was officially unveiled on Sept. 12 of last year. While some optimistic market watchers had hoped that Apple would launch its “iPhone 5S” at a sooner date, company CEO Tim Cook softened those expectations with comments made last month, when he signaled that major new products would arrive this fall.

Wells Fargo has maintained its “outperform” rating for AAPL stock, with a share valuation range of US$485 to US$525.

As for Apple’s next-generation iPhone hardware, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has claimed that Apple plans to embed a fingerprint sensor beneath the home button on its next handset. This addition would allow users to bypass manual password entry, and could even open up the possibility of new functionality such as secure e-wallet transactions.

Apple first signaled its interest in fingerprint scanning technology when it acquired Florida-based AuthenTec last year. That company’s flagship product was a “Smart Sensor” component that reads fingerprints and can be embedded into devices such as smartphones.

Beyond that, numerous reports have claimed that Apple’s 2013 iPhone will come with more color options beyond the current black and white offerings, while still other reports have claimed the device will include an improved camera that could capture pictures up to 12 megapixels in size.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple building GPU team from former AMD engineers according to LinkedIn profile spot checks

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 30th, 2013, 07:24
Category: Hardware, News

applelogo_silver

This could lead to something interesting.

Per MacRumors, Apple has hired at least a dozen former AMD graphics engineers for its Orlando offices in recent months, according to a spot check of employees’ LinkedIn profiles.

The majority of hires, which include a graphics architect, hardware engineer and others, occurred in January of this year.

AMD laid off a number of employees last year in a corporate reorganization, and fired more in January. It seems likely that Apple hired a number of the laid off Orlando AMD engineers for a new team it’s building in the region.

The company has also posted new job listings for Site Managers to head GPU teams in both Orlando and Cupertino.

These hires and new listings are in addition to job listings posted last month for chip engineers for its Orlando Design Center.

Apple’s interest in GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit) and CPUs coincides with an effort to develop more of its technology in-house. Apple is a licensee for ARM and Imagination Technology, which power the company’s iPhones and iPads.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple quietly drops fourth-gen iPod touch, offers $229, 16GB units with 4-inch screen, no rear iSight camera in its place

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 30th, 2013, 07:45
Category: Hardware, iPod Touch, News, retail

fourthgenipodtouch

It happened pretty quickly.

Late Wednesday night, Apple quietly removed the fourth-generation iPod touch from their online store, replacing it instead with a modified version of the current generation. The new model features only a few differences from the fifth-gen, but the omissions are significant.

Per 9to5Mac, the updated music player features a 4-inch Retina display like that found on the current model as well as a dual-core A5 processor, but lacks the rear-facing iSight and loop attachment. Aside from those changes, the new model is identical to the fifth-generation. Unlike the larger models, the 16 GB iPod touch is only available in one color option: black and silver, as seen above.

The 32 GB and 64 GB models remain untouched, suggesting a possibility that Apple is phasing out the older hardware in preparation for iOS 7, which is expected to be announced at WWDC in June. The new model retails for US$229, which is US$30 more than the previous generation.

If you pick up one of the new units and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone screen to feature “doubled” pixel count

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, May 29th, 2013, 07:01
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

You know that pixel count you love on your iPhone 5?

It could double with the next generation of the iPhone.

Per Weiphone and Unwired View, Apple is planning to increase the resolution of a future iPhone model to 1.5 million pixels — double that of the pixel count on the current iPhone 5.

The details come from a report by Chinese-language Weiphone, which claims that the next-generation Retina display will be featured on Apple’s next-generation handset, whether it be known as the “iPhone 5S” or “iPhone 6.” The report claimed that the next iPhone will continue to have the same 4-inch display as the iPhone 5.

In addition, the report claimed that the iPhone 5 will have an even thinner bezel than its current design, suggesting Apple will borrow design elements from its popular iPad mini. Finally, it was claimed that Apple’s next iPhone will begin shipping in September.

The current iPhone 5 has a pixel count of nearly 730,000 thanks to its screen resolution of 1,136 by 640 pixels. That works out to 326 pixels per inch on the 4-inch display.

Apple introduced the “Retina display” branding for its screens with the launch of the iPhone 4 in 2010. That handset featured a 3.5-inch display with a resolution of 960 by 640 pixels, double that of its predecessors.

At the time, Apple’s Retina display was a market-leading feature for the iPhone. But since then, devices like the HTC One, with a 468-pixel-per-inch display, have provided intense competition.

The HTC One crams a 1080p-resolution screen, the equivalent of a full-fledged high-resolution television, into a 4.7-inch space. That’s more than 2 million pixels, putting it at a density substantially higher than Apple’s iPhone 5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple CEO Tim Cook drops hints, thinks wrist-based computing is “interesting” for users

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, May 29th, 2013, 06:33
Category: Hardware, News

applelogo_silver

If you were looking for hints as to upcoming Apple products, this might be one of them.

Per 9to5Mac, during his recent interview at the AllThingsD D11 Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook has for the first time talked at length about his view on wearable technologies as competitors like Google and others push ahead with Glass and other wearable projects. While noting that broad range appeal with a product like Google Glass is “tough to see,” Cook said he thinks “the wrist is interesting” while calling the form factor “somewhat natural” compared to head mounted products.

“Nike Fuel Band well made for the fitness category. Works well with iOS. The ones that do more than one thing aren’t great. They won’t convince a kid who has never worn glasses, a band, or a watch to wear one. There are lots of things to solve in this area, ripe for excitement. I think there will be tons of companies playing in this (won’t respond to Walt asking if Apple will). I see this as a very key branch of the tree… referring to the post-PC era,” said Cook during the interview.

Cook did note that “people want wearables to be light, unobtrusive, reflect their fashion/style” and that it would take some convincing to show people ‘why it’s worth wearing them’:

“I’m interested in a great product. I only wear glasses because I can’t see without them. People want wearables to be light, unobtrusive, reflect their fashion/style and so forth. From a mainstream point of view, glasses are difficult. I think the wrist is interesting. It is somewhat natural. I think for something to work [on the wrist], you have to convince people why it is worth wearing them.”

This isn’t the same as Tim Cook openly admitting that an iWatch is in the works, but a decent hint never goes unappreciated.

If you want to hurl your two cents in on this, please let us know what you think over in the comments section.

Intel cites possible 50% battery life improvement in upcoming MacBooks under Haswell architecture

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 28th, 2013, 06:45
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

intellogo.jpg

What a difference a next-gen architecture can make.

According to PCWorld, Intel’s next-generation processor in Apple’s MacBook line could see 50 percent greater battery life thanks to the processors expected to go into them, according to Intel.

In a media briefing ahead of the launch of its Haswell processor platform, Intel chief Rani Borkar said that the chipmaker had designed the line with notebooks and tablets in mind. That focus on mobile devices led to dramatic increases in battery life, with 50 percent longer operation in normal use and extending idle and standby battery life by up to 20 times.

That could mean that battery life for future MacBooks — already near the top of the industry — will see considerable improvements. A 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro’s battery life could jump from about six hours and 15 minutes to Apple’s seven-hour estimate under normal use.

The Haswell line is the latest in the chip giant’s instruction set architecture. The rise of smartphones and tablets has hobbled the PC industry, the main source of Intel’s sales. Increasingly, consumers are opting for mobile devices rather than traditional computing form factors, and Intel has struggled to gain a foothold in the mobile device segment.

The Haswell line, then, is intended to address both traditional computers and tablets as well. Some components of the line have had their power consumption reduced to as low as 7W. Intel’s tablet-tailored offerings are said to offer better performance than non-Intel chipsets, but with comparable battery life.

Intel has been talking up the possibilities of the Haswell line for months ahead of its launch. Most recently, the chipmaker released a document showing that Haswell will double or triple graphics performance compared to previous models.

Apple’s expected refresh of its MacBook line of devices is widely expected to feature Intel’s latest and greatest processor set.

Currently, retailers are running low on supplies of some MacBooks, and many Apple observers expect the company to announce the next generation during the keynote of its Worldwide Developer Conference in June.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.