AT&T announces Jump device upgrade/payment plan for smartphone/tablet early adopters

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Date: Tuesday, July 16th, 2013, 07:44
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, retail

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If you’re in the habit of snagging the new stuff as it comes out, this might come in handy.

Per Mac|Life, wireless carrier AT&T announced Tuesday a new initiative called AT&T Next, which allows consumers to buy a new smartphone or tablet each and every year with no downpayment, no activation fee, no upgrade fee and no financing fees.

The move is seen as a response to T-Mobile’s recent attacks against the traditional subsidy business model, AT&T Next allows customers to buy a new device and agree to pay monthly installments. After 12 payments, the device can be traded in for a new one, or the customer can own it outright after making 20 payments.

While rival T-Mobile US offers a plan that allows up to two upgrades per year, their Jump! offer requires a US$10 per month payment just for the privilege of doing so. By comparison, AT&T Next requires no additional payments, and drops the usual US$36 activation and upgrade fees, which may be incentive enough for customers to stick with the carrier.

Beginning nationwide on July 26, AT&T Next will be available for both new AT&T customers as well as existing customers currently eligible for an upgrade.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple considering purchase of Israeli-based PrimeSense, creators of the Xbox Kinect

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Date: Tuesday, July 16th, 2013, 07:19
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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It’s speculation, but it could lead to something interesting.

A series of reports from Israeli publication Calcalist.co.il and 9to5Mac claims PrimeSense, the company behind the original Microsoft Kinect’s technology, is in acquisition talks with Apple, somewhere near a valuation in the US$280-US$300M range. According to the report, a delegation of PrimeSense senior executives visited Apple’s engineering offices in recent days. The purchase would bolster Apple’s living room TV interface offerings and allow Apple to add controls with body movements and hand gestures to its products.

Apple purchased Israeli Flash chip optimization company Anobit in late 2011 for US$400M+, also originally reported by Calcalist. The company now functions as one of Apple’s R&D centers in that country.

It’s been rumored that Apple is working on such 3D gesture interface and may have already been licensing IP from the Israeli firm and/or its competitors. At US$280M, Apple may believe it’s better to own this IP and technology rather than let others have access to it in the future.

Microsoft used the sensor technology that PrimeSense developed for its original Kinect, previously known as Project Natal, but has since replaced the technology with its own in-house technology for 3D body mapping and movement.

PrimeSense was founded in 2005 and is a founding member of OpenNI, an industry-led non-profit organization formed to certify and promote the compatibility and interoperability of Natural Interaction (NI) devices, applications and middleware.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple vows to aid investigation surrounding electrocution of 23-year-old woman using charging iPhone 5

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Date: Tuesday, July 16th, 2013, 07:55
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Legal, News

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It’s hard to say where this will go.

Per Reuters, Apple has said it will aid in the investigation of the death of a Chinese woman who was allegedly electrocuted when she answered a charging iPhone 5.

Apple announced the company is “deeply saddened” by the “tragic incident” that killed 23-year-old Xinjiang woman Ma Ailun. Apple vowed to “fully investigate and cooperate with authorities in this matter.”

Police say Ma was killed when she answered a call on her charging iPhone 5. The story gained traction when her sister wrote on the microblog Sina Weibo to warn other users to be careful.

Prior to the incident in China, there have been no widespread claims about faulty charging with the iPhone 5. Apple did recall iPhone 3G power adapters back in 2008 over a shocking risk that affected just a “very small” number of adapters.

Negative publicity in China regarding warranty policies prompted Apple to issue a formal apology in April. Since then, the company has been more aggressive in publicly responding to negative reports from the Chinese media.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Mid-2013 Haswell-based MacBook Air owners cite volume fluctuation issue

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Date: Monday, July 15th, 2013, 08:51
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Software

This is why they invented firmware updates…

Per Macworld UK, a number of MacBook Air owners have taken to Apple’s Support Community forums to express concern over unexpected, and unwanted, changes in volume when viewing video content.

According to numerous posts, the issue presents itself in both first-party and third-party applications, such as QuickTime and Google’s Chrome. It is unclear whether the issue extends into other areas of OS X, though many of the replies to the thread started on June 21 pertain to watching videos.

A trigger or cause has yet to be discovered, though some users have found third-party volume control and enhancement apps like Boom can serve as a temporary fix while Apple works to resolve the problem.

Apple recently refreshed its MacBook Air lineup in June, concentrating on a significant boost to battery life instead of focusing on performance. With the new Airs, Apple also introduced the first Macs to boast 802.11ac “Gigabit Wi-Fi,” a next-generation wireless protocol that promises speeds up to 1300Mbps with the also new AirPort Express.

Previous to Friday’s news, both MacBook Air models were found to be running 802.11ac at speeds far less than advertised. It is thought that OS X is to blame for the artificial speed cap, but Apple has yet to acknowledge the issue and it remains unresolved.

If you’ve seen this issue with your own mid-2013 MacBook Air, please let us know in the comments.

Apple apparently ramping up hiring for iWatch design, device could see late 2014 launch

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Date: Monday, July 15th, 2013, 07:03
Category: Hardware, News

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Apple looks to be staffing up to build the iWatch.

Per The Mac Observer and the Financial Times, Apple is apparently hiring more employees for its wearable technology efforts to address issues that will likely push the rumored iWatch launch out to the end of 2014. Sources said Apple has been aggressively hiring new employees for its smartwatch project over the past few weeks, adding to its already growing pool of wearable tech engineers.

Sources close to the story said Apple went on the hunt for new talent to help overcome “hard engineering problems that they’ve not been able to solve.”

The idea that the iWatch won’t ship until later in 2014 has already cropped up thanks to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. He noted in May that the company needed to update iOS as well as the iPhone and iPad to take advantage of the iWatch’s features, and that required more people.

Kuo recently offered the following comment:

“Apple may not have adequate resources to develop an iWatch version of iOS because it may require big changes to iPhone and iPad iOS this year. For these reasons, we think mass production of the iWatch is more likely to begin in 2014, not 2013 as the market speculates.”

Adding to the notion that a smartwatch is coming, Apple recently filed for a trademark on the iWatch name in Japan and other countries. Company CEO Tim Cook has also said that Apple has some “amazing new hardware” to introduce throughout the rest of 2013 and 2014, leading to further speculation that the iWatch is on the way.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple, Samsung sign deal for Samsung to build A9 chips for 2015 iOS devices

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Date: Monday, July 15th, 2013, 07:21
Category: Hardware, iOS, Processors, Rumor

From friends to litigants to partners again…

Per MacRumors and the Korea Economic Daily, Apple and Samsung on Sunday officially signed an agreement that will see the two companies working together on future A-series chips for Apple’s iOS devices, with the deal specifically covering A9 chips based on a 14-nanometer process node starting in 2015. The claim comes just weeks after Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) confirmed a deal with Apple to begin producing A-series chips in 2014.

Samsung Electronics had supplied the AP [application processor] to Apple since 2007 but lost the contract to supply 20 nano AP A8 chips to Apple to Taiwan’s TSMC last year when it was engaged in patent disputes with Apple. Samsung Electronics developed state-of-the-art nanometer models ahead of its rival TSMC, regaining the order from Apple.

A previous report about Apple’s agreement with TSMC had indicated that it was a three-year deal covering not only Apple’s future A8 chip but also A9/A9X chips. Reports had indicated that Samsung would remain Apple’s primary supplier through next year as TSMC began ramping up its production.

As a result, it is unclear whether today’s deal will see both TSMC and Samsung producing A9 chips for Apple or if Apple has already shifted gears to return to Samsung as its primary supplier as part of its long-term roadmap.

Apple has reportedly been seeking to reduce its reliance on Samsung as a component supplier as the two companies have become fierce rivals in both the mobile marketplace and in the courtroom. The two companies have, however, continued working together in several areas, particularly where Samsung’s competitors in the component market are unable to match its technology, production capacity, or pricing.

The shift to TSMC for production of the high-profile main chips for Apple’s iOS devices had been viewed as breaking one of the most significant remaining ties between Apple and Samsung, but it appears that Samsung has been able to bring Apple back into the fold by leading the charge to 14-nm chips. With partnerships with both Samsung and TSMC, it appears that Apple should be well-positioned to take advantage of whichever company takes the lead in developing the latest technologies.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to ship Retina display-equipped iPad mini in early 2014

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Date: Friday, July 12th, 2013, 14:05
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, Rumor

There’s gotta be a nugget of truth in here somewhere.

Per the Economic Daily News and AppleInsider, Apple’s iPad mini may not gain a high-resolution Retina display until early next year, if the latest rumor about the second-generation 7.9-inch tablet proves accurate.

The claim was published on Friday which said that though Apple originally planned to launch a Retina iPad mini this fall, it may be delayed until the first quarter of 2014. As such, the rumor suggests that a second-generation iPad mini will not launch this year.

It’s expected that a Retina display on the iPad mini would follow the same double-resolution approach used by Apple in existing devices like the iPhone and full-size iPad. That would mean the iPad mini’s 7.9-inch display would need to pack in the same 3.1 million pixels into a panel nearly two inches smaller in diameter.

The latest report comes on the heels of a separate rumor out of the Far East from earlier this week which claimed Apple plans to launch a new fifth-generation, full-size iPad in September. That report claimed that the features of a second-generation iPad mini, such as a Retina display, remain in flux at Apple.

Reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities said in April that Apple was experiencing yield issues in manufacturing high-resolution screens for its next iPad mini. He suggested that production issues would push back the launch of the second-generation tablet, but at the time he believed it would still launch this October.

The first-generation iPad mini debuted last October with a screen resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels. That matches the resolution of the first-generation iPad and iPad 2, but packs the pixels into a smaller space, giving the display a higher pixel density.

Still, the iPad mini display squeezes in only 163 pixels per inch — an improvement on the 132 pixels per inch found on the first two iPad releases, but still well below the 264-pixel-per-inch density of the third- and fourth-generation iPads.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple considering switch to IGZO displays to boost next-gen MacBook Pro battery life

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Date: Wednesday, July 10th, 2013, 15:54
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

The next-gen MacBook notebooks could possess even longer lasting batteries.

Per Korea IT News, Apple is once again rumored to be considering indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) LCDs, this time for inclusion in not only upcoming versions of its iPad, but also in its forthcoming MacBook Pros. A recent report has the Cupertino company talking with Sharp and LG Display in preparation for wider manufacture.

The new MacBooks would reportedly be scheduled for release some time early in 2014, though the report gives no word on when IGZO-packing iPads would be set for release. The latest speculation surrounding the iPad does make mention of reduced backlighting and improved battery life, both of which could be outgrowths of IGZO technology.

An oxide semiconductor, IGZO is about 10 times faster in electron mobility than an amorphous silicon semiconductor. This allows the technology to consume far less power in operation. IGZO also requires smaller wiring, which also contributes to its lower power consumption.

The panels are significantly more expensive than traditional LCDs, though, so that could represent an obstacle for Apple in bringing them to market in the MacBook Pro line. Some estimates have Apple paying 1.5 to two times as much for the same panel sizes seen in current models.

A switch to IGZO could be in keeping with Apple’s already established goals for this generation of MacBooks. When introducing the 2013 MacBook Air, Apple made sure to note that the inclusion of Intel’s new Haswell processors had boosted overall battery life to 12 hours for the 13-inch model. The inclusion of less power-intensive displays could push the next generation of MacBook Pros to even greater heights.

Apple has long been rumored to have been looking at IGZO technology for future devices. Previous rumors have focused on the iPhone or iPad.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Fifth-gen iPad could arrive in September, second-gen iPad mini not long after

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Date: Monday, July 8th, 2013, 06:22
Category: Hardware, iPad mini, Rumor

The next-gen iPad you’re hoping for could hit in September, the mini version not long after.

Per DigiTimes, a new 9.7-inch iPad is planned to debut in September with a slimmer bezel, as has been rumored.

In addition, the report said the number of LED tubes to backlight the Retina display has been reduced from two to one, and battery life of the device has also been improved.

Pilot production of the device is allegedly already able to satisfy demand for the initial launch. As such, suppliers reportedly indicated they expect Apple to give shipment estimates as soon as the end of this month.

While the full-size iPad is rumored to see a refresh in September, the iPad mini may have to wait a little longer for its second-generation model to launch. Sources have stated that Apple is “still considering whether to adopt a Retina display for the device.”

If Apple does opt for a high-resolution display in its 7.9-inch tablet, the release of the product could be delayed until the fourth quarter of calendar 2013, the report said. It also added that Apple is pushing component suppliers to further shrink the iPad mini bezel, and that the company is pushing for a largely bezel-less design.

Apple launched both the first iPad mini and the fourth-generation iPad at the same event last October. The updated full-size iPad was a moderate surprise, as the third-generation model with Retina display had debuted only six months prior.

The fifth-generation iPad is expected to adopt a design similar to that of the iPad mini, including more rounded edges and a thinner bezel. Leaked schematics have suggested the new iPad will also be thinner than its predecessor, while well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has said the device will be 25 percent lighter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-Gen iPhone to incorporate LTE-Advanced support, could operate at 150 Mbps data rate

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Date: Monday, July 1st, 2013, 08:46
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

It’s just a rumor, but it could indicate that something really cool is en route for the next-gen iPhone.

Per The Korea Times, Apple is allegedly in talks with SK Telecom about launching an LTE-Advanced phone later this year. “LTE-A” is an upgraded version of the long-term evolution wireless standard currently found in the iPhone 5.

Citing an unnamed executive with SK Telecom, the report said that Apple is in the midst of negotiations with the carrier. Currently, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the only device to take advantage of the LTE-A standard with SK Telecom.

LTE-A is capable of theoretical download speeds reaching 150Mbps, which is double that of basic LTE. The executive cited in the story reportedly said there is “no reason” for Apple not to adopt LTE-A with its next iPhone.

The possibility of LTE-A functionality on the next iPhone is believed to be possible because of new chipsets from Qualcomm. A potential “global LTE” chip candidate for Apple was released in February, boasting truly global connectivity support.

The Qualcomm RF360 Front End Solution would enable an iPhone that supports all 2G, 3G, 4G LTE and LTE Advanced networks. Currently, the iPhone 5 is sold in three variants — two GSM and one CDMA — to offer compatibility with various networks across the world.

But Qualcomm’s RF360 would mitigate this problem, and even add support for the obscure TD-SCDMA network used by the world’s largest carrier, China Mobile. Apple does not currently have a deal in place to offer the iPhone through China Mobile, though rumors of a deal have persisted for years.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.