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Apple receives patents for push-to-talk, double-sided touch panel features

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 23rd, 2013, 11:30
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Patents


If you’re hankering for new hardware features on a next-gen iPhone, the patent office is on your side.

Per AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently published 26 newly granted patents for Apple, and among them were the Cupertino company’s take on a push-to-talk feature and a double-sided touch-sensitive panel, both of which could possibly appear in future iPhones.

No current models of Apple’s bestselling iPhone support the Push-to-Talk (PTT) feature that many carriers have made available for years now. Users do have access to a number of apps in the iTunes App Store that can reproduce PTT, but U.S. Patent No. 8,447,341 indicates that Apple has at least considered integrating it into a model of its phone.

The patent notes that telecommunications networks exist that enable devices to directly access each other through a digital two-way radio feature.

Apple’s invention, though, describes “a method and system to provide push-to-talk from one user to another in a wireless packet data telecommunications network.” It includes a packet data network with at least one mobile station, a radio access network, a location server, registrar, database server, and PTT server that connects PTT users across the network.

Given the company’s secrecy about forthcoming products, it’s difficult to gauge how likely PTT is to show up in a future iPhone model. In 2010, the company was revealed to be exploring PTT capabilities, but such features haven’t emerged in any models to date.

The filing lists the patent as a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/028,086, filed on December 21, 2001. That patent application, entitled “Push-to-Talk Telecommunications System Utilizing a Voice-Over-IP Network,” was originally filed by Nortel Networks. The patent granted on Tuesday was likely a part of the portfolio Apple and other companies bought in 2011 for US$4.5 billion.

Included among the 26 patents granted on Tuesday is one for a “double-sided touch sensitive panel and flex circuit bonding.” The patent — U.S. Patent No. 8,446,386 — relates to the creation of a multi-touch sensor using a substrate with column and row traces on either side. The process bonds printed flex circuits to directly opposing attachment areas of a substrate.

The patent cites the desirability of keeping “the overall size of the sensor panel as small as possible” as a reason to “have two flex circuits connect to directly opposing sides of the sensor panel.” It’s therefore likely that this technology would go toward Apple’s continual push to make each of its devices thinner than the previous generation.

Other patents granted on Tuesday include ones for “gesture control of multimedia editing applications,” “methods and apparatus for decreasing power consumption and bus activity,” “techniques for versioning file systems,” “technique for visually compositing a group of graphical objects,” a “system for optimizing graphics operations,” and a “touch pad for handheld device.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Repair costs for iPhone repairs on the rise, component prices cited

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 23rd, 2013, 06:01
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

Ok, now this is interesting.

An article over on MarketWatch points out that Apple’s repair costs to fix an iPhone 5 with a broken screen have jumped to US$229 – more than the US$200 price of the device with a two-year contract, and more than a third of the US$650 cost of the phone without a contract. Select Apple stores offer the option of a US$149 repair. And for those who paid US$99 for AppleCare insurance, the replacement is just US$49.

The piece then cites that the replacement components for the iPhone 5 are much more expensive than similar parts for prior models — so expensive in fact that many independent repair services cannot compete. “Due to the high cost of replacement parts, we are not yet offering iPhone 5 repairs,” according to a statement on ComputerOverhauls.com, an online repair shop. “Currently, the Apple Store is the least expensive option for repairing damaged iPhone 5s.” Other services charge as much as US$250 for the repair.

Given current numbers, nearly one-third of iPhone users damaged their devices during 2012, according to a recent study by gadget insurer SquareTrade. Repairs have cost consumers nearly US$6 billion since the iPhone was launched in 2007 and apparently iPhones get abused more than iPads, only 10% of which were damaged, per the survey.

Despite this, iCracked — an independent firm that has technicians across the U.S. — charges half as much to fix an iPhone 4S screen (US$79 to US$99) as to fix an iPhone 5 (US$169 to US$199) thanks to tight control on iPhone 5 components in the market, Forsythe says. “Market forces determine the price,” he says. “Apple sells about 300,000 iPhones a day and, as the repair market grows, prices will get lower.”

“Apple controls everything from the manufacturing to the gear for the iPhone 5,” says Jeff Haynes, editor at deal site TechBargains.com. As the iPhone 5 is larger than the 4, the cost for replacement parts rises, he says. “Apple is trying to get people to sign up for Apple Care for US$99 and to rely on their services at the Apple store,” he says, “If you don’t, that cracked screen could cost you at least US$230.”

Thanks to do-it-yourself kits, it’s possible to replace the screen on an iPhone 4 for less than a quarter of that price. Adam Carey, a New York-based mobile development consultant, bought a DIY kit on Amazon.com for US$25 and followed instructions on iFixit.com, an online repair manual. The procedure took him two hours. “It’s not like snapping on a cover,” he says. “It’s like performing surgery. You need pretty steady hands.”

If you’ve been repairing iPhones and noticed a jump in component prices, please let us know about your experience in the comments section.

Xbox One to feature improved iOS device, SmartGlass integration

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013, 06:25
Category: Hardware, News, Software

Microsoft announced its upcoming Xbox One console yesterday.

And threw in some interesting iOS cooperation with it.

Per Mac|Life and Wired, Microsoft’s new gaming console will be “fully integrated” with Xbox’s SmartGlass application, thus allowing users of iPhones and iPads to connect seamlessly with the next generation of Microsoft’s popular console series.


Introduced last year and allegedly downloaded by over 10 million people, SmartGlass currently allows users to interact with their Xbox 360 consoles in a number of limited ways, such as using the iPhone’s keyboard to type onscreen (a significant improvement over the hunt-and-peck nature of gamepad-based input), watching videos, and navigating menus.

Currently, it’s not too clear what Microsoft’s “fully integrated” service entails. Future versions of SmartGlass will apparently let users turn their iPhones or iPads into a “skeuomorphic remote control, able to emulate any other control device.” The Xbox One will also supposedly allow more devices to connect at once for multiplayer and shared experiences”.

Further details are expected to be revealed at this year’s E3 conference in Los Angeles from June 11-13.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Possible Broadcom 802.11ac Wi-Fi card spotted, currently supported in OS X 10.8.4 betas

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 21st, 2013, 07:37
Category: Hardware, Rumor


Your Wi-Fi is about to get faster.

Which is never a bad thing.

Per 9to5Mac, additional evidence has surfaced indicating that Apple’s incoming next round of MacBook Air/Pros would contain 802.11AC Gigabit wifi chips, not the least of which was code we found referencing ’802.11AC‘ in 10.8.4 Betas.

Reader TonyMacx86, found some interesting parts on Chinese VR-Zone that could be the next 802.11AC boards in Macs, widely expected to be announced at WWDC next month. The Broadcom BCM94360CD PCI-E mini custom combo WLAN+Bluetooth card supports IEEE 802.11ac, the next standard in wireless computer networking. Interestingly, it also looks like it may fit in current MacBooks which could mean aftermarket updates could be possible.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple, suppliers testing 1.5-inch displays for upcoming “iWatch”

Posted by:
Date: Monday, May 20th, 2013, 06:25
Category: Hardware, Rumor


It’s in the rumor mill, so part of it must be true.

Per ” target=”_blank”>Macotakara and AppleInsider, development of Apple’s rumored smart watch is allegedly gaining momentum, as a pair of new reports claim the company is testing 1.5-inch OLED screens for a wrist-worn device, and that Foxconn has been contracted to build a trial batch.

The latest rumors on Apple’s so-called “iWatch” were highlighted on Monday by Macotakara. The publication spotted pair of reports from Taiwan’s Economic Daily News which, like other publications that print unattributed rumors stemming from Apple’s supply chain, has a hit-or-miss track record.

In the first report, the publication claims that Apple is testing organic light emitting diode displays for its anticipated smart watch. The company allegedly tested 1.8-inch panels, but felt they were too big, prompting development to go smaller with 1.5-inch displays.

According to the report, Apple is exploring 1.5-inch OLED touchscreens manufactured by RiTdisplay of Taiwan that use one-glass-solution touch sensors. This would allow the display component to be as thin as possible for the wearable accessory.

It should be noted that rumors for years have claimed that Apple is interested in OLED displays, but to date the company has never used the display technology in any of its devices. OLED screens could, however, be an optimal choice for wearable technology because of their low power consumption levels.

In a second report, Foxconn, Apple’s longtime manufacturing partner, has already received orders for an “iWatch.” However, the initial production run is said to be for no more than a thousand units, as Foxconn is allegedly running a “small-scale trial production.”

With “iWatch” rumors heating up, one survey from last month found that 19 percent of consumers are interested in buying such a device from Apple. That exceeds pre-announcement interest in both the iPad and Intel-based Mac hardware.

Rumors of an Apple smart watch began growing earlier this year, when a number of reports claimed that the company is developing a wearable wrist accessory. One such report claimed that the company has a 100-person team working on the project.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPhone 5S component photos leaked, could indicate more colors to choose from

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 17th, 2013, 06:18
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Pictures, Rumor

A couple pictures may indicate a lot about the next-gen iPhone.

Over on Boy Genius Report, a number of leaked high-resolution photos of assorted components may indicate that Apple is looking to expand the color scheme the next-gen iPhone handset will be available in.

Earlier rumors have suggested that the iPhone 5S will include several internal changes such as a faster processor, a better camera and possibly even a fingerprint scanner that makes use of Apple’s AuthenTec acquisition. Nothing has been confirmed at this point, but leaked photos of redesigned internal components suggest that Apple is indeed planning an internal overhaul to improve various iPhone features and likely to make room for new components as well.


BGR has obtained high-quality images of several internal iPhone 5S components from a source that asked not to be identified. The parts include the loud-speaker bracket, ear speaker bracket, vibrating motor assembly, Wi-Fi flex cable ribbon and SIM card tray from Apple’s upcoming seventh-generation iPhone.

The next-generation iPhone is also rumored to include a redesigned ear speaker bracket and a new loud-speaker bracket, which can be seen in BGR’s gallery.

Apple’s next-generation iPhone 5S is expected to launch this fall alongside iOS 7, which will reportedly feature a substantial user interface overhaul that does away with most textures in favor of flatter design elements.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: AU Optronics may not be part of next-gen iPad mini screen supply chain

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 17th, 2013, 06:30
Category: Hardware, iPad mini, Rumor

With any luck, the next-gen iPad mini’s screen will be awesome.

But AU Optronics may not be part of it.

Per DigiTimes, AU Optronics, which has reportedly “faced issues” in producing iPad mini display panels, are cited as “not expected” to remain a major iPad mini panel supplier. However, the company is said to have submitted panels for use in the next iPad mini for certification by Apple.

The company must await Apple’s approval, the report indicated, but LG Display and Sharp have already been selected as panel suppliers. The report did not give any indication as to whether the next iPad mini will have a high-resolution Retina display.

In preparation for the second-generation iPad mini, Apple is expected to draw down production of the current model. Accordingly, the report claimed that AUO panel shipments are to be drawn down over the coming quarters, and will decrease sequentially.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone could incorporate sapphire crystal Home button, built-in fingerprint sensor

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 14th, 2013, 06:01
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

It’s a rumor, so it kinda sorta has to be true…

Per Cult of Mac, the next-gen iPhone 5S handset could come with a sapphire crystal capacitive touch home button that incorporates a new fingerprint sensor, according to supply chain sources in Taiwan and TechNews.tw.

Apple is expected to do away with the traditional physical home button, which has long been one of the most unreliable components on iOS devices. It’s thought that using sapphire crystal, which has a hardness second only to diamond, will prevent the button from getting scratched and ruining the fingerprint sensor.

This wouldn’t be the first time Apple has used sapphire crystal in an iPhone. The iPhone 5 has a sapphire crystal camera lens on its back, which Apple chose to try to prevent scratches from ruining your photos.

According to sources close to the story, the Cupertino company will choose the same material for the iPhone 5S’s home button.

But it won’t be a physical button like existing iOS devices. They insist Apple will employ a capacitive touch home button for the first time with the iPhone 5S, eliminating one of the most unreliable components in an iOS device (the physical home button has a tendency to fail after long periods of use).

Not only will it be a capacitive touch button, but it’ll also incorporate a fingerprint sensor, the sources claim. We’ve been hearing for many months that Apple will add fingerprint sensing technology to the iPhone 5S, following its acquisition of AuthenTec last year.

As for the handset’s release date, the current rumors have its arrival pinned around August or September, alongside a plastic low-cost iPhone.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Retina Display production for iPad mini to begin in June/July, LG to be primary supplier for screens

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, May 8th, 2013, 06:47
Category: Hardware, iPad mini, Rumor

The facts are trickling in slowly but steadily, even though we’re still in rumor territory…

Per CNET and The Mac Observer, Apple will start up production on the Retina Display version of the iPad mini in June or July, according to NPD DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim. He also said the displays for the new iPad mini will come from LG and not Samsung.

“Samsung is currently not in the iPad Mini and they won’t be in the next generation. LGD is becoming a much bigger supplier than before,” Mr. Shim told CNET.

He said the new model will sport a 2048 x 1536 resolution 7.9-inch display, which is on par with the iPhone 5’s resolution. That also puts the display at the high end of what our eye can discern for resolution improvements.

“We’re going to start to see a bunch of tablets with a pixel density over 300,” he said. “At a certain point it will be hard to discern that improved image quality.”

If so, a June production window would accommodate a September Retina Display iPad mini product launch, which probably aligns with Apple CEO Tim Cook’s comment that there won’t be any big product announcements until fall.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Retina Display for second-gen iPad mini looking more likely, NPD DisplaySearch cited

Posted by:
Date: Monday, May 6th, 2013, 06:09
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, News

It looks like the rumor is coming closer to fruition.

Per CNET, Apple’s iPad Mini will get a refresh in the third quarter with a Retina display, NPD DisplaySearch predicted late Sunday.

This is an update to information that DisplaySearch provided earlier Sunday.
“We see two refreshes coming. One in the second half of this year, then one in Q1 [first quarter] of 2014,” analyst Richard Shim stated late Sunday night.

“The Q1 [2014] device will have a Retina display plus an updated processor,” Shim added.

Earlier Sunday night, NPD stated that the first iPad Mini with a Retina display would appear in the first quarter of 2014. That will actually be the second refresh, according to NPD’s updated prediction.

It’s not clear yet which display technology will be used. One of the candidates is LTPS, or low-temperature polysilicon — the same technology used in the iPhone 5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.