Rumor: iPhone 5 “silver ring” around Home button could be part of fingerprint reader system

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Date: Monday, September 9th, 2013, 09:20
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

You know that rumored cool “silver ring” that’s been rumored for the upcoming iPhone 5S handset?

It might be part of a fingerprint sensor.

Per AppleInsider and Fox News’ This Week in Tech, reporter Clayton Morris proposed the ring is merely aesthetic, possibly added so users can easily distinguish an iPhone that has a built-in fingerprint sensor from those that do not.

However, given recent patent filings, the metallic ring may be a functional component necessary to the sensor’s operation.

There stands a variety of ways to accomplish biometric fingerprint readings, including the stereotypical “swiping” motion made famous in movies, as well as methods using optical, thermal, pressure and capacitive measurements, among others. AuthenTec, which Apple purchased in 2012 for US$356 million, uses a few different capture methods in its products, though the tech most likely to be used in the iPhone doesn’t involve swiping.

Typical methods of swipe authentication, usually direct capacitance, involve a thin “strip” sensor that captures and stitches together multiple images of a fingerprint as a user sweeps their finger across the sensing plate. With direct capacitance, an electrical field is applied to the sensor, which detects ridges and valleys — the skin structures that form fingerprint whorls — by measuring variations in capacitance at the sensor plate. Lower capacitance denotes skin that is farther from the sensor, or valleys, while higher capacitance is associated with ridges.

A more accurate and robust method of capture is called radio frequency field sensing, or AC capacitance. Like direct capacitive sensing, this technique also measures capacitance of a sort, but the similarities end there. Instead of measuring the effect on an electrical field, a low frequency RF signal is inserted into the finger and received by the sensor. In this case, RF signal strength captured by the pixel traces are measured and the corresponding data is translated to form an image of the print.

Benefits of RF field/AC capacitance sensing include static non-swipe readings, resistance to dust and capability for the sensor to operate even when covered by layers of protective material. These types of sensors are usually larger in size to allow for a wider capture area.

One patent, filed by AuthenTec cofounder Dale R. Setlak and subsequently assigned to Apple, goes into detail about a technology based on mechanics which are very similar to RF field sensing. The property also relates to the company’s “Smart Sensor” — also based on RF field sensing tech — which has been used successfully in at least one phone, the Japan-only Toshiba REGZA T-01D.

As noted in Setlak’s patent, along with other similar inventions credited to his name, electrodes need to be in contact with the finger to pump the drive signal that will ultimately be measured by pixel traces on the pixel plate.

In nearly all RF field sensors, a ring disposed around the sensor array acts as the electrode that drives the low frequency RF signal into the finger, which is attenuated by ridges and valleys in the print and finally captured by AC sensors as a high quality image.

As a type of bonus side effect, the tech can also be used as a form of input. By analyzing slight movements or changes in attenuation over time, the system can interpolate gesture behaviors like scrolling, cursor control and, when combined with a physical or virtual button, drag-and-drop operations.

Embedding this type of package in an iPhone’s home button is likely quite challenging as the part moves up and down constantly, which would put undue wear on the sensing module’s interconnects. It is possible that Apple has found a way to separate the finger ring from the sensor array in order to isolate the integral components from wear and tear. Such a system would also be less apt to fouling or misreadings due to debris.

As for utility, the sensor design wouldn’t force users to swipe the home button to authenticate, but would have the module read the print while a user presses the button to wake the phone from sleep. In other words, the security factor would take place seamlessly. No new gestures to learn, just enhanced functionality, transparent to the user.

It remains wholly unknown if Apple has incorporated this particular fingerprint technology into the next-gen iPhone, though circumstantial evidence seems to point in that very specific direction.

Further, a non-functional aesthetic bezel rimming the home button, which has seen nary a design tweak since the first iPhone launched in 2007, simply to demarcate new biometric capabilities seems to go against Apple’s design sensibilities. When the company introduced a front-facing camera with the iPhone 4, it buried the feature just above the earpiece. No special decorations or embellishments to note that the handset sported FaceTime capabilities.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and be sure to check in tomorrow for coverage of Apple’s September 10th iPhone press event.

Rumor: OS X 10.9 Mavericks to arrive in late October

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Date: Friday, September 6th, 2013, 07:11
Category: Rumor, Software

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You might have to wait until the end of next month to get your mitts on Mavericks.

Per 9to5Mac, despite being announced in early June at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, the next major Mac update, OS X 10.9 Mavericks, may not arrive until late October.

Citing sources with knowledge of Apple’s alleged launch plans, the web site reported on Friday that the debut for Mavericks is nearly two months away. In addition, the site also cited apparent “chatter” that iOS 7 for iPad won’t be available until October as well.

Last year, Apple surprised when it unveiled OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion in February with little fanfare, outside of a typical keynote address. The software then became available in the Mac App Store in late July, or about five months later.

That means this year’s time between announcement and launch of OS X 10.9 Mavericks would actually be shorter than the same window for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion was in 2012. Still, some had expected that next Mac operating system might launch in the near future, perhaps as soon as Apple’s iPhone media event next week.

Just this week, developers were supplied with the seventh preview build of Mavericks. The latest developer preview includes performance enhancements but still isn’t ready for the public, with features like iCloud Keychain remaining a work in progress.

Apple hasn’t given a specific launch window for Mavericks beyond this fall. When it does launch, it will pack in new features such as iBooks for Mac, Finder Tabs, Apple Maps, App Nap, Compressed Memory, and more.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Inventory shortfalls hint at updated iMacs, 802.11ac Airport Express units

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Date: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013, 07:01
Category: iMac, retail, Rumor, wireless

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When the inventory runs low, there’s cool new stuff around the corner.

Or it just means you need to order more inventory.

Per MacRumors and 9to5Mac, low retail stocks of Airport Express base stations are suggesting that a faster 802.11ac model is expected soon to match the capabilities of the latest Macs. This would offer Wi-Fi speeds almost three times faster than current 802.11n models, a capability that has already been incorporated into the current Airport Extreme and Time Capsule models.

That said, an 802.11ac Airport Express and a Haswell-powered iMac is a no-brainer, the question being “when” rather than “if”. The new iMac is unlikely to see much of a design change, so neither would be big announcements, suggesting they could be passing mentions in the iPhone-focused event on 10th September. If not, the new units could be announced alongside the iPad 5, rumored to be around October, perhaps with the long-awaited Thunderbolt Display update.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: AT&T to black out employee holidays around September 20th for next-gen iPhone launch

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Date: Friday, August 30th, 2013, 07:19
Category: iPhone, retail, Rumor

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When companies begin penning in blackout dates for their employees, a product launch tends to be imminent.

Per Boy Genius Report, citing sources close to the story, the web site claims that AT&T has blacked out vacation dates for the second half of September, a move supposedly meant to handle an expected deluge of customers looking to get their hands on Apple’s next-gen iPhone. The telecom did the same last year ahead of the iPhone 5 launch.

The publication also notes that the nation’s second largest mobile carrier will not be releasing any other major handsets during the period, suggesting the no-vacation days are being set for the

While somewhat vague, the report comes just one day after T-Mobile purportedly issued its own employee blackout dates set to start on Sept. 20.

Apple is expected to announce the next-generation “iPhone 5S” at a special event on Sept. 10, possibly alongside a lower-cost plastic composite handset many have taken to calling the “iPhone 5C.”

The iPhone 5 successor is rumored to sport a fingerprint sensor embedded in its home button, a 31 percent faster A7 processor, motion tracking and upgraded camera components. Numerous parts “leaks” have also pointed to a new “champagne” color option for the handset.

The iPhone 5C is rumored to carry a plastic composite shell to be offered in a variety of colors, though not much is known regarding its internals. Some claim the unit will use the same 4-inch form factor of the iPhone 5, but with older components to keep costs down.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone to see 31% speed improvement via A7 chip, will feature motion detection

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Date: Monday, August 26th, 2013, 06:27
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Processors, Rumor

If this report’s anything close to accurate, you’re going to like the speed of the next-gen iPhone.

Per a tweet sent by Fox News and citing inside sources, Clayton Morris claims the so-called “iPhone 5S” will be powered by an Apple-designed “A7″ system on a chip that is some 31 percent faster than the current A6 silicon used in the iPhone 5. In addition, mention of a totally new chip dedicated to “motion tracking” will be used to bring another layer of user interactivity to Apple’s flagship handset.

A 31 percent bump should be noticeable to future iPhone 5S owners in day-to-day use. It is unknown what metrics were being used as a basis, an important question given an applications processor’s architecture includes both the number-crunching CPUs and graphics driving GPUs.

It is largely unknown how Apple is managing to squeeze out the extra horsepower, though analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities noted in a recent report that a move to the ARMv8 architecture could yield a 20 percent increase in efficiency. In that same note to investors, Kuo speculates that Apple could offer 64-bit support in the A7, which would theoretically allow for greater speeds.

As for the motion tracking feature, Morris said in a follow-up tweet, “I’ve also heard there’s a separate chip devoted to motion tracking. Should be an interesting camera upgrade.” It would appear from the tweet’s wording that the unknown chip would be part of the iPhone’s camera package, perhaps as a special post processor.

Apple owns a number of patents regarding post processing techniques, including a few that interpolate camera sensor data for tasks other than outputting an image such as “gaze detection.” Some of these patents include a separate chip, usually disposed on the sensor module’s circuit board, to handle processing duties.

Apple is expected to announce the iPhone 5S at a special event on Sept. 10, possibly alongside a lower cost plastic handset dubbed the “iPhone 5C.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to unveil Haswell-based MacBook Pro at September 10th event

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Date: Friday, August 23rd, 2013, 07:02
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The Haswell-based MacBook Pro you’re hankering for could be unveiled early next month.

Per AppleInsider and EMSone, the highly-anticipated MacBook Pro refresh is said to already be in production, setting the stage for a possible unveiling alongside new iPhones at Apple’s rumored Sept. 10 event.

Taiwanese manufacturers have begun to ship components for new MacBook Pros based on Intel’s fourth-generation Haswell processors to assembly plants, according to a Thursday report by Hong Kong-based supply chain monitor EMSOne.

The Haswell architecture, which made its Apple debut at WWDC 2013 in the MacBook Air, is designed to take advantage of improvements in transistor manufacturing processes to increase power efficiency and computational performance. Like its predecessor Ivy Bridge, Haswell chips are manufactured using a 22-nanometer process.

Apple’s 2013 MacBook Air demonstrated the substantial power savings that can be realized with the new architecture. Despite maintaining the same battery capacity as their 2012 counterparts, the 2013 Airs run significantly longer on a charge – the 13-inch model gained five hours of battery life after the Haswell update, while the 11-inch model gained four hours.

Haswell-based MacBook Pros are expected to see similarly impressive gains in graphics performance. Benchmarks have revealed that we can expect to see Intel’s Iris Pro 5200 GPU — the chipmaker’s top-of-the-line integrated graphics option that is intended to compete with discrete GPUs from nVidia and AMD — in the new models.

The future of non-Retina and hard disk-based MacBook Pros remains unclear. While Apple is not expected to discontinue either model, the report does not specify which variants will benefit from the September refresh.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release next-gen iPhone in Japanese marketplace on September 20th

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Date: Wednesday, August 21st, 2013, 07:16
Category: iPhone, retail, Rumor

Today’s rumor mill is focused on the land of the rising sun and when it’ll receive the next-gen iPhone handsets.

Per CNET, Apple is set to release both a next-generation “iPhone 5S,” as well as a less-expensive “iPhone 5C,” in the country on Sept. 20 through cellular carriers SoftBank and KDDI.

The rumor has it that Apple will release the two handsets simultaneously on Sept. 20, a date that jibes with a rumor that claimed the company is planning to announce the devices at a special Sept. 10 iPhone event.

In addition to the supposed release date, the publication said Apple will debut a new gold color option for the iPhone 5S, a rumor that has quickly gained traction over the past week.

Apple’s current partner carriers SoftBank and KDDI are expected to have both the iPhone 5S and 5C available on launch, while NTT DoCoMo will once again go without.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone to include gold color, 128GB capacity

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Date: Friday, August 16th, 2013, 07:06
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

The next-gen iPhone could hold twice as much data as the current model.

And be a classy gold color.

Per AppleInsider, KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo offers his predictions on Apple’s anticipated next-generation iPhone, including a new 128GB storage option and a gold colorway.

Kuo points out in his note investors that the so-called “iPhone 5S,” will carry over many of the features already established with the current iPhone 5, including the 4-inch screen form factor.

The analyst predicts Apple will make the usual processor buff, this time to a new A7 system-on-chip design with 1GB of LPDDR3 RAM. The latest chip is expected to be of Apple’s own design based on the ARMv8 architecture, suggesting efficiency may be increased by up to 20 percent. Because Apple controls both the operating system and hardware for the iPhone 5S, it can optimize the faster LPDDR3 RAM spec for the A7 SoC, keeping the amount of addressable memory to 1GB.

The phone’s rear-facing camera will also be tweaked. While the sensor unit will remain untouched, the iPhone 5S shooter will use a larger f2.0 aperture lens assembly with dual LED flashes.

As for the widely rumored fingerprint sensor, Kuo reiterated the view he expressed in a separate note last week, saying the package will likely be embedded in a sapphire glass home button.

For storage, Kuo expects Apple to add on a new option for a capacious 128GB of on-board flash memory, the same change the company made to the fourth generation iPad in February.

Finally, a new option for a gold casing is expected to be offered alongside the traditional black and, with the iPhone 5, silver colors. Gold parts purportedly bound for the 5S were leaked in June, though an accompanying chassis sporting the new color has yet to surface.

Contrary to some predictions, Kuo doesn’t see Apple implementing near-field communication (NFC) in the iPhone 5S.

Apple is rumored to be prepping for a Sept. 10 iPhone announcement, at which the company is expected to launch the iPhone 5S and possibly a less expensive handset dubbed the “iPhone 5C.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release iOS 7 Golden Master to partners, employees on September 5th

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Date: Thursday, August 15th, 2013, 07:47
Category: iOS, Rumor, Software

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Apple’s long-awaited iOS 7 release is getting that much closer to a ship date.

Or at least there’s now a Golden Master date.

According to Boy Genius Report, Apple is preparing to release the final beta release of iOS 7, beta 6, sometime next week followed by a final Gold Master release ahead of Apple’s expected September 10th iPhone event. This time frame would mark two weeks from the release of beta 5, and Apple was on a two week schedule prior to the Developer Center outages. BGR is also claiming that Apple plans to seed a final GM version of the software on September 5th to employees and partners and release it to developers after the event early next month:

“After iOS 7 beta 6, Apple will be seeding a GM (gold master) version for its employees and partners to test starting around September 5th. This will mostly likely be the software that is released to the public later on in the month of September, barring any major bugs or problems that might be discovered… After Apple and its partners are comfortable with the gold master build, the company will release it to developers on September 10th, the day of the company’s iPhone event.”

It’s not hard to predict that a GM is just around the corner, as Apple would clearly want to have it ready for its reported September 10th iPhone event. No specific source has been identified as having provided a specific source of the information, but a release of the final iOS 7 version on September 10th to developers is a given if Apple continues in the tradition of years past.

Rumor: Next-gen low cost iPhone may not include Siri, could replace iPhone 4 as base model

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Date: Tuesday, August 13th, 2013, 07:37
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The plastic low-cost iPhone may become Apple’s new overall base model.

Per AppleInsider, in a research note issued to investors on Monday, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicts Apple may scale back iOS 7 on a rumored low-cost iPhone, possibly hobbling the handset by deactivating features like Siri.

Recognizing recent rumors of a Sept. 10 iPhone announcement, Munster took the chance to update investors on his Apple product pipeline predictions for the rest of the year and into 2014.

The analyst’s expectations for the next-generation iPhone, dubbed by many as the “iPhone 5S,” are very much in line with rumors and reports coming from a multitude of sources. Aside from incorporating a fingerprint sensor into the home button, which Munster believes will be limited to user authentication, the 5S will feature the usual “S-series” component upgrades. These include increased processor performance, extended battery life, more memory, and other spec bumps.

While his iPhone 5S outlook is in line with mainstream rumblings, Munster’s thoughts on the rumored less-expensive “iPhone 5C” are a bit unconventional. Like others, he predicts the 5C will have a plastic casing, 4-inch display and slightly lower end internal components than the iPhone 5S. However, the analyst believes Apple will exclude software features when the handset launches, specifically the Siri voice recognizing virtual assistant.

Curiously, Munster cites the lack of Siri on the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 in his iPhone 5C prediction, but fails to mention the service was never part of iOS until Apple incorporated the feature in the iPhone 4S. Apple purchased Siri, which was formerly an iOS app, in April 2010, ultimately baking the technology into iOS 5 over a year later.

Siri was never officially activated on the iPhone 4 or earlier models, though a jailbreak proved the service could run on older hardware. It is thought that special noise cancellation tech implemented in certain A5 processors, used in the iPhone 4S, iPad mini and fifth-generation iPod touch, is needed for Siri to work optimally. Even with the latest iOS 6, Siri is still absent in the iPhone 4 and below.

As for Apple’s low-end handset offerings, Munster believes “it may make sense” for the company to discontinue the iPhone 4S product line instead of carrying the model over as a free-on-contract device. This would bring parity to the lineup, the analyst says, with the iPhone 5S, current iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C all sporting similar designs and screen sizes.

In this configuration, Munster sees the iPhone 5C as selling for an estimated US$300.

Finally, Munster agrees with the September iPhone event rumor, and sees October as a likely launch timeframe for both a new iPad and iPad mini. Further out, he predicts Apple to debut a new TV product before the end of 2013, while a larger-screened iPhone and so-called “iWatch” should hit store shelves by mid-2014.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.