Rumor: Apple could launch 11 and 13-inch MacBook Air in third quarter

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Date: Tuesday, February 19th, 2013, 08:20
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

The Retina display…it will expand to new models.

And that’s not a bad thing.

Per Macotakara, Apple is apparently in the process of preparing suppliers for the launch of a Retina MacBook Air in Q3 of 2013. The report appears to claim that both 11 and 13-inch of the MacBook Air will launch with Retina displays in addition to an upgrade from Intel’s new Haswell platform. Apple supplier Quanta is expected to begin receiving shipments of the new components in the second quarter.

The report goes again recent reports from analysts predicting a next-gen MacBook Air would land in Q2 or Q3 without a Retina display. We heard last year that Apple was working on MacBook Airs with Retina displays but sources indicated the power drawn from the Retina Displays combined with the thin and light form-factor of the MacBook Air may pose challenges for Apple and its product manufacturers.

It’s unclear what this would mean for Apple’s current lineup of MacBook Air notebooks. If today’s report is true, it’s always possible Apple could keep a non-Retina model of the Air around like it did following the launch of the Retina MacBook Pro.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Previous Apple patent applications reveal plans for line of wearable computing devices

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Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 08:51
Category: Hardware, News, Patents

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You know that whole iWatch thing? It could be just the tip of the iceberg where Apple and wearable technologies are concerned.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the company is secretly developing an entire wearable/attachable computing platform and ecosystem comprised of wireless sensing systems for monitoring not only sports activity, athletic training, medicine, fitness, and wellness in humans, but also for tracking packages and industrial production.

The site initially discovered an 83-page patent filing granted to the company that covered a series of wireless sensing systems aimed at quantifying actions or events that can currently be measured only qualitatively, such as the effectiveness of a karate kick or what exactly happened to a package from FedEx that arrived with its contents broken. Industry watchers could think of the technology as a series of Nike FuelBands for nearly all aspects of motion.

Since then, Apple has continued to refine the provisional filing, and on Tuesday was awarded the rights to a continuation of the now divisional patent application under the title “Personal items network, and associated methods.” It makes references to dozens of earlier filings, including several from the company itself dating back to 2001.

A couple of wireless monitoring devices are critical to Apple’s concept, the first of which is called a movement monitor device, or “MMD.” The company says these tiny transmitters can take the form of an adhesive strip similar to a bandage and include a processor, a detector, communications port, and battery. Alternatively, they could assume the form of a credit card and/or include a magnetic element for adhering to metal objects. In any of the cases, they’d ideally also include a real time clock so that the transmitter can tag “events” with time and date information.

In one aspect, the MMD continuously relays a movement metric by continuous transmission of data from the detector to a RR. In this way, a MMD attached to a person may beneficially track movement, in real time, of that person by recombination of the movement metrics at a remote computer. In one aspect, multiple MMDs attached to a person quantify movement of a plurality of body parts or movements, for example to assist in athletic training (e.g., for boxing or karate).

“In another aspect, multiple MMDs attached to an object quantify movement of a plurality of object parts or movements, for example to monitor or assess different components or sensitive parts of an object. For example, multiple MMDs can be attached to an expensive medical device to monitor various critical components during shipment; when the device arrives at the customer, these MMDs are interrogated to determine whether any of the critical components experienced undesirable conditions–e.g., a high impact or temperature or humidity.”

MMDs could also be capable of measuring temperature, humidity, moisture, altitude and pressure. These environmental metrics would be combined into an MMD with a detector that facilitates the monitoring of movement metrics. And they “can practically attach to almost anything to obtain movement information,” the filing claims.

By way of example, an MMD can be mounted to the helmet or body armor of each football player or motocross competitor to monitor movement and jerk of the athlete. In such applications, data from the MMD preferably transmits event data in real time to a RR in the form of a network, so that MMD data associated with each competitor is available for broadcast to a scoreboard, TV or the Internet. Other advantages should be apparent in the description within.”

Event Monitoring Devices:
The second kind wireless monitoring device Apple describes in its filing is called an Event Monitoring Device, or “EMD,” which can be used to monitor and report humidity, chemicals, heart rate, pulse, pressure, stress, weight, environmental factors and hazardous conditions. Nearly identical in structure, composition, and operation to MMDs, EMDs monitor one or more metrics for “events,” where data is acquired that exceeds some predetermined threshold or value.

In [one] example, the detector and processor collectively monitor stress events, where for example it is determined that the EMD attached to a human senses increased heart rate of over 180 beats per minute (an exemplary “event” threshold). In still another aspect, the detector is a chemical (or pH) detector and the processor and detector collectively determine a change of chemical composition of an object connected with the EMD over some preselected time period.

Apple goes on in the filing to describe how MMDs and EMDs can monitor and enhance activities and live broadcasts of Nascar races, marathons, rodeos, bike races, and extreme sports. They could also be applied to body armor and used for weight monitoring.

Apple receives patent for “microslot antennas”, could see improvements in wireless functionality in coming years

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Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 08:01
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, wireless

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Your notebook and iOS device’s wireless system could be getting that much niftier.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday won the patent rights to “microslot antenna” technology that allows micron-wide antenna assets to be integrated into the housing of a portable device, such as an iPhone, making them nearly invisible to the human eye.

As portable electronics become thinner and more compact with each successive generation, internal space is quickly becoming a limiting factor to device designers. Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,373,610 for “Microslot antennas for electronic devices,” granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, could drastically cut down on the size of at least one component needed to create products like the iPhone.

While the patent refers to implementations in a laptop computer, the antenna tech can be used in other portable electronics like smartphones and tablets.

With Apple’s current technology as seen in the iPhone 5, two internal radio antennas dynamically switch between multiple frequency bands, including those carrying fast LTE data. In order to fit the units within the handset’s slim body, Apple had to design a window for radio waves, while keeping the unit small enough to leave room for other important structures like the logic board and battery.

Tuesday’s patent focuses on so-called “microslot antenna” technology, or “dielectric-filled microslots that are formed in a ground plane element.” According to the invention, the ground plane can be a device’s housing as long as it is conductive, meaning the slots would be integrated on the outer hull of a product. The system can also support multiple communications bands, meaning functionality would not be compromised for size enhancements.

As for the size of the microslots, the patent language states that the widths of the slots are usually significantly less than their lengths. For example, widths can range from microns to hundreds of microns, while a microslot’s length can be on the order of millimeters or centimeters.

Filling the slots is a dielectric such as epoxy, plastic, air or other suitable substance that prevents foreign matter from entering. Antenna feeds can be located at or between the functional microslots, and operate on common communication bands that support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G cellular, among others.

The ’601 property was first filed for in December 2007, less than six months after the original iPhone debuted, and credits Bing Chiang, Gregory Allen Springer, Douglas B. Kough, Enrique Ayala and Matthew Ian McDonald as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may be developing Bluetooth-based “iWatch” wrist watch device

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Date: Monday, February 11th, 2013, 08:15
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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Because you ALWAYS hope Apple would make a snazzy wristwatch product.

Per the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, Apple is apparently working on developing a smartwatch device. In exploring devices beyond its currently hot-selling iPhone and iPad, Apple is said to have discussed a smartwatch with Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as by its U.S. trade name Foxconn.

Foxconn is said to be working on multiple technologies that could appear in wearable technologies. The Taipei-based company is looking to lower power-usage and to strip down the chip technologies that would go into such devices. In particular, the report claims that Foxconn is working on the underpinnings of wearable technology for more customers than just Apple. The Journal does not detail for which other companies Foxconn might be developing the components.

Google is known to be working on its own wearable technology, a glasses-mounted heads-up display known as Google Glass. That device is currently in testing with developers, and Google has targeted early 2014 as a consumer release window. Shortly after Google Glass was unveiled, an Apple patent emerged, showing off similar technology aimed at solving issues arising from such displays.

Many industry observers believe that “wearable” computing is a near-inevitable next step for mobile technology. In January, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicted such technology would ultimately replace the iPhone, much like the iPhone has replaced the iPod.

Apple is likely to leverage its existing patents on creating curved glass to bring to market a product its competitors could not quickly and easily imitate. Such a device might also intermittently satisfy Wall Street investors, who have pummeled Apple’s stock in recent weeks due to concerns over competition, and possibly plateauing profit growth and innovation.

The Journal was the second major news publication on Sunday to leak details on a possible Apple smartwatch, lending credence to the notion that such a device is in development or at least under consideration. The past months have seen increasing speculation on the existence and capabilities of an “iWatch.”

In December, rumors emerged that Apple was working with Intel on a smartwatch accessory that would feature a 1.5-inch OLED display and low-power Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. That device was said to work alongside a user’s iPhone, with the ability to access simplified iOS functions.

And just last week, prior to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reports, Bruce Tognazzini opined in long-form on his blog about the possibilities of an iWatch. Tognazzini — creator of Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines — based his predictions on his knowledge of the way Apple operates, saying an iWatch would “fill a gaping hole in the Apple ecosystem” and would complement all of Apple’s other devices.

Apple is notoriously secretive about products in development. Chief Executive Tim Cook, during Apple’s most recently quarterly conference call, would say only that Apple’s product pipeline is “chock full” of “incredible stuff,” but that Apple would only reveal its plans when the company feels the time is right.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release “iPhone 5S”, 5-inch “iPhone 6″ this year

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Date: Friday, February 8th, 2013, 09:33
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

There’s got to be a nugget of truth in here somewhere…

Per BrightWire, a new report out of Asia claims Apple will release both an upgraded “iPhone 5S” as well as a new “iPhone 6″ with a larger 5-inch screen this year.

The report comes out of Chinese mobile phone information site Laoyaoba.com. That source reportedly spotted two new iPhone models at Apple’s suppliers.

The report said that Apple “may” release both models in 2013. The iPhone 5S reportedly has a design similar to the current iPhone 5, while the 5-inch iPhone is said to be lighter and thinner.

As larger iPhones like Samsung’s Galaxy Note series have gained traction in the marketplace, there has been increasing speculation that Apple could go even bigger with a future iPhone model. The company increased the screen size of its flagship handset from 3.5 inches to 4 inches with the launch of the iPhone 5 last September.

Some have speculated that Apple could launch an iPhone with a bigger 5-inch display by keeping the same 640-by-1,136-pixel resolution as the current iPhone 5 screen. Stretching those pixels out to a 5-inch display would give a lower pixel density of 264-per-inch, but it would allow developers to continue to create applications for one screen resolution.

Analysts have also called on Apple to launch a big-screen iPhone, sometimes referred to as an “iPhone Plus.” They believe Apple is “leaving money on the tablet” by not competing with larger devices like the Galaxy Note.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple receives patent for solar multitouch panels, could harvest additional energy for iOS devices from sunlight

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Date: Tuesday, February 5th, 2013, 08:08
Category: Hardware, News, Patents

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This could turn into something very, very spiffy.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, on Tuesday Apple a patent for an invention that integrates a touch sensor array with a solar panel, allowing for portable device to be both power-efficient and compact.

Apple’s newly-granted U.S. Patent No. 8,368,654 for an “Integrated touch sensor and solar assembly” points directly to the system’s use in portable electronic devices like a media player or phone. The technology is arguably most useful in these types of products as consumer demand for larger, power-hungry screens is pushing the limit of battery design.

Instead of merely layering solar cells within the touchscreen’s array, the ’654 patent calls for true integration, meaning the solar panel can operate as both an energy harvesting component as well as an optical sensor. To accomplish this feat, the touch panel’s electrodes are used for both capacitive sensing and collecting solar energy. Further, because the proposed component includes electrodes that offer the same “coverage” as a typical solar panel, it provides “far more quadrants or pixels” to be used as touch sensors.

Unlike capacitive touch panels, such as those used in Apple’s iPhone, the hybrid system’s solar panels can be used to simultaneously provide optical-based sensing while capturing and converting energy.

The patent offers a number of examples to illustrate the benefits of having a dual-mode touch panel. In one case, when an approaching object such a finger is detected, the panel may switch to a “capacitive sensing mode” for precise input, increasing the number of capacitive cycles within a given time period. In other situations, the panel may cycle between “solar power/optical sensing mode” and “capacitive sensing mode” depending on whether an object is near the screen. If no object is detected, the number of capacitive cycles is reduced, giving the electrodes more time to facilitate energy production from the solar cells.

Behind the scenes, a so-called “traffic control” unit, which can be either a hardware or software solution, decides whether generated energy should be allocated to running the device or sent to the battery for storage.

Physically, the capacitive touch sensors and solar cells are separated using isolation trenches, though both are routed through multiplexer circuitry. The MUX is fed either touch signals or power from the solar cells and delivers them to the CPU or power management unit, respectively.

While the technology may not be incorporated into the next iPhone Apple releases, the patent could help in cutting valuable space from the handset. With the most recent iPhone 5, Apple used in-cell touch panel technology to bring the phone’s depth down to 7.6 millimeters.

Apple first filed for the ’654 patent in September 2008 and credits Michael Nathaniel Rosenblatt, Benjamin Lyon, John Benjamin Filson, Steve Porter Hotelling, Gordon Cameron and Cameron Frazier as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

128 gigabyte fourth-gen iPad now available for purchase

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Date: Tuesday, February 5th, 2013, 07:01
Category: Hardware, iPad, News

You know that enormous fourth-gen iPad you’ve been hankering for?

It’s here.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday updated its online store to reflect availability of the new high-capacity 128-gigabyte iPad with Retina display.

The new high-end iPad model retails for US$799 for the Wi-Fi-only model, or US$929 with cellular connectivity. It’s available in both black and white, just like every other capacity, and is advertised to ship in one to three business days.

Apple first announced the product, which doubles the previous maximum capacity of 64 gigabytes, a week ago. Prior to the announcement, evidence of a larger capacity iOS device had just been discovered in the newly released iOS 6.1 software update.

In announcing the 128-gigabyte iPad, Apple suggested the expanded storage would be particularly appealing to enterprise users, educators, and artists. The company also noted that virtually all Fortune 500 and more than 85 percent of the Global 500 are currently deploying or testing the iPad.

Aside from the increased storage capacity, the 128-gigabyte iPad with Retina display is unchanged from the previous fourth-generation models. It includes the Apple-designed A6X processor, a 9.7-inch Retina display, and a forward facing FaceTime HD camera.

If you’ve snagged the 128-gigabyte fourth-gen iPad and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple to stop selling Mac Pro desktop in Europe following March 1st due to regulatory requirements

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Date: Friday, February 1st, 2013, 08:42
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News, retail

Well, this is a bit awkward.

Per MacRumors, sales of Apple’s Mac Pro desktop will stop in Europe on March 1 because of new regulatory requirements in the region.

Apple announced that sales will halt in a month in a letter the company sent to resellers on Thursday. The company cited Amendment 1 of Regulation IEC 60950-1, but did not explain what in particular about the Mac Pro desktop is in violation.

Halting sales of the Mac Pro won’t have much of an effect on Apple’s bottom line, as the high-end professional desktop is largely a niche product for the company.

In fact, it’s possible that the situation may have no effect at all on customers in Europe, as Apple has already revealed it’s planning to update the Mac Pro this year. It’s possible that Apple could update its aging desktop — and subsequently comply with European regulations — before sales are halted.

However, no timetable has been given for the Mac Pro update, with Apple only indicating that it will arrive sometime this year. Even analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who detailed Apple’s planned product roadmap earlier this month, offered no indication as to when the new Mac Pro may arrive.

Apple’s full letter provided to resellers on Thursday is included below:

As of March 1, 2013, Apple will no longer sell Mac Pro in EU, EU candidate and EFTA countries because these systems are not compliant with Amendment 1 of regulation IEC 60950-1, Second Edition which becomes effective on this date. Apple resellers can continue to sell any remaining inventory of Mac Pro after March 1.

Apple will take final orders for Mac Pro from resellers up until February 18th for shipment before March 1, 2013.

Countries outside of the EU are not impacted and Mac Pro will continue to be available in those areas.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple comments on upcoming Apple TV unit, says smaller form factor won’t affect performance

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Date: Thursday, January 31st, 2013, 07:33
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, News

Sometimes Apple drops some interesting hints about its unreleased stuff.

According to The Verge, despite details from a new FCC filing suggesting an updated Apple TV would feature a smaller form factor, Apple has indicated that the slightly tweaked hardware will look and function just like the current model.

Apple provided a statement on Wednesday in which the company downplayed speculation that a new Apple TV with a new look and experience may be forthcoming. Instead, Apple said the newly approved model is just a minor upgrade to the existing hardware.

“We sometimes make component changes which require an updated model number for regulatory approval,” the company said. “The component changes we made don’t affect product features and Apple TV customers will continue to have the same great user experience.”

The statement comes less than a day after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission revealed an unannounced Apple TV model identified as “A1469.” The filing suggested the unit’s design would be slightly smaller, shrinking from 98 millimeters to 93.78 millimeters square.

The filing also revealed that the new hardware would feature a low-power 40-nanometer Broadcom wireless chip identified as BCM4334. That’s the same chip already found in Apple’s iPhone 5, offering both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

But the comments from Apple reveal any changes to the hardware will not be noticeable to end users. Evidence has suggested the new Apple TV will feature a faster A5X chip, similar to the one the company used in its third-generation iPad.

It’s possible that Apple could be making the silent switch to an A5X chip in an effort to gradually ramp up production of the processor for another, more popular device. A strong candidate would be the iPad mini, which rumors have suggested will receive a high-resolution Retina display with a second-generation update later this year.

Apple used a similar approach last year when it launched the current Apple TV, a product update that added 1080p video support thanks to a shrunken A5 chip that uses the 32-nanometer manufacturing process. That same 32-nanometer chip was also placed inside the US$399 iPad 2 — a device that was previously powered by a 45-nanometer A5 chip. The new hardware, identified as “iPad2,4″, saw battery life improved by as much as 16 percent thanks to the design change.

This week Apple also issued a software update for an unannounced Apple TV model. The name “AppleTV3,2″ implied that the updated hardware would be a minor revision from the current 1080p-capable set-top box, which is identified in software as “AppleTV3,1″.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may incorporate fingerprint sensor into iPhone “Home” button for next-gen models

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Date: Friday, January 25th, 2013, 08:34
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, Rumor

This could be interesting.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is expected to launch a new iPhone this year with a fingerprint sensor hidden beneath the home button — an intuitive design that could be difficult for competing Android and Windows Phone devices to copy.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities expects Apple’s acquisition of AuthenTec to pay off this year with the so-called “iPhone 5S,” the company’s anticipated next-generation handset. He believes Apple will find a way to integrate the fingerprint sensor into the home button, allowing Apple to retain its “minimalist design.”

In contrast, many Android and Windows Phone devices have more than one button below the display, and those buttons frequently lack the mechanical push of Apple’s home button. As a result, attempts to integrate fingerprint scanning on competing devices would be less intuitive, and could frustrate users, Kuo said.

He believes that with the addition of a fingerprint sensor below the iPhone’s home button, Apple will be able to replace the use of usernames and passwords, allowing users to authenticate in a more efficient manner. He also expects that the fingerprint scanner will integrate with applications such as Passbook to enhance their functionality.

Kuo has a particularly strong track record in predicting Apple’s future product pipeline. Last year, the analyst accurately forecast the company’s entire fall lineup, including the taller design of the iPhone 5 and iPod touch, thinner iMacs, the iPad mini, and the fourth-generation iPad with Lightning connector.

Beyond the “iPhone 5S,” Kuo expects a new handset based on the iPhone 5 design will also launch this year. Kuo’s comments are in line with recent rumors, that have pegged Apple as planning to release a more affordable iPhone model this year targeted at emerging markets.

Kuo believes the less expensive iPhone 5 will feature a new design, including a plastic casing, to cut costs and expand Apple’s iPhone lineup.

The analyst has also predicted that the iPad mini will gain a Retina display in 2013, while the full-size iPad will sport a lighter and thinner design with a smaller bezel. He also expects new Retina MacBook Pros with cheaper prices, the discontinuation of the legacy MacBook Pros, and a refresh to the Apple TV set-top box — but no full-fledged television set this year.