Rumor: AT&T blocks vacation days in mid-October, hinting towards iPhone 5 release

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Date: Tuesday, September 27th, 2011, 12:07
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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It’s when companies stop employee vacation time that things get interesting.

Per the cool cats at Boy Genius Report, AT&T has reportedly blocked its employees from taking vacation days in mid-October as the carrier gears up for the launch of Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone.

Employees at AT&T retail locations have allegedly been blocked from taking vacations during the first two weeks of October, BGR reported on Tuesday. Employees have reportedly been told they cannot request time off between Monday, Oct. 3 and Friday, Oct. 14.

In addition, it was said that AT&T’s internal inventory system lists a total of six new product placeholders. The entries are said to be “most likely holding space” for the iPhone models Apple is expected to announce at its event next Wednesday, Oct. 4.

Reports emerged last week that Apple has begun blacking out vacation days for retail employees at some of its stores during the second week of October. Specifically, Apple employees in some locations are said to have been barred from taking time off work Oct. 9 through 12, and Oct. 14 and 15.

Earlier this month, it was said that Sprint also began blacking out staff vacations for the first half of October. The iPhone is currently exclusive to AT&T and Verizon, but Sprint is widely expected to offer Apple’s next iPhone at launch.

As of yet there has not been any word of Verizon employees being barred from vacation time in October. Rumors have pointed toward a sale date of Friday, Oct. 14 for Apple’s next-generation iPhone.

Apple’s fifth-generation handset is expected to become the first iPhone to launch on multiple carriers simultaneously in the U.S. Last June, when the iPhone 4 launched on AT&T alone in America, the carrier was forced to suspend preorders after experiencing demand ten times greater than for its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS.

Verizon eventually gained access to the iPhone 4 more than six months later, in February of this year. Analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray said on Tuesday he expects that demand for the so-called “iPhone 5″ will be large at Verizon, as a recent poll conducted by his investment firm found that 74 percent of Verizon iPhone buyers said they are waiting for Apple’s next model rather than buying the iPhone 4.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Facebook to launch iPad-native app at Apple’s October 4th media event

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Date: Tuesday, September 27th, 2011, 05:48
Category: Rumor, Software

Don’t worry, Mark Zuckerberg’s empire will soon be in native form for your iPad.

Per Mashable, word on the ground is that Facebook will launch its iPad application and an updated iPhone app at Apple’s Oct. 4 media event. Recent reports suggested that Apple will announce the fifth-generation iPhone next Wednesday and that the event will be hosted on Apple’s campus, although the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has not yet issued press invites for the keynote.

On Monday, Facebook’s former lead developer for the iPad app, Jeff Verkoeyen, revealed that he had left the social networking company in part because of personal frustrations at the slow progress made by the company after the project reached the feature-complete stage in May. The feature-complete phase is usually the final step before beta tests can take place.

In June, it was reported that the Facebook for iPad application would launch in weeks. iOS users even found access to the app hidden inside the current version of the iPhone app in July, but the social networking giant quickly blocked access to it.

The app’s repeated delays were explained by Mashable’s sources as stemming from a “combination of timing and strained relationship with Apple.” Recent disagreements over Facebook integration in iOS and Facebook Connect support in Apple’s Ping social music service are believed to have contributed to the growing tension between the two companies.

Given that the original iPad was announced more than a year and a half ago, the fact that Facebook has yet to release an iPad app has been viewed by some as a slight to Apple. Several reports have suggested that the company held the native iPad app as leverage in negotiations with Apple.

The forthcoming update to the Facebook for iPhone app is expected to offer “design and speed improvements that mimic the iPad app,” the publication noted.

Facebook is also rumored to unveil its own HTML5-based mobile app store, currently known by the codename “Project Spartan,” at the Apple event. Project Spartan is said to be a mobile platform that will offer developers the means of porting Facebook apps to mobile devices via HTML5-based web apps.

First rumored in June, the project has reportedly gained Apple’s support. According to Monday’s report, the company apparently decided not to announce it at last week’s F8 developer conference so as not to distract from new Facebook features such as the Timeline and the Facebook Open Graph.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Comcast developing AnyPlay app, looking to stream Xfinity content to iOS devices

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Date: Monday, September 26th, 2011, 08:08
Category: iPad, iPod, iPod Touch, Rumor, Software

Get it to the iPad and they will love it.

Per a leaked screenshot and article over on MacRumors, Comcast, the largest cable provider in the U.S., is said to be working on a new live television streaming service called AnyPlay, which will let iPad users stream live TV to its existing Xfinity TV iOS application.

The upcoming AnyPlay feature could allow Comcast subscribers to watch most channels included in their Xfinity TV service on the iPad, except for On Demand and Pay-Per-View programs.

AnyPlay will be limited to in-home use, as the service requires iPad owners to be in the proximity of a Motorola-made cable box. That hardware will allegedly send the live cable stream to the Xfinity TV iPad.

In addition to the AnyPlay box, users will also require an active Xfinity TV subscription and a high-speed wireless Internet connection to be able to watch live TV on the tablet.

The service will not work over other any other Wi-Fi or 3G network and will be limited to up to 10 registered tablets per home. Only one device can be used at a time to stream live TV programs.

The Xfinity TV iOS application, available in the App Store as a free download (iTunes link) for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, currently lets users access On Demand programs, browse through TV listings and control TVs and DVRs.

AnyPlay streaming would be accessed from inside the app in the future, although Comcast has not specified any details about the launch and availability of the new streaming service.

Competing companies like Cablevision and Time Warner have similar TV streaming applications — Optimum for iPad and TWCable TV, respectively — which are already available in the App Store. Earlier this year, Time Warner pulled major networks including MTV and FX from its application to placate broadcasters.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple begins canceling vacation days for second week of October, iOS 5/iPhone 5 rumors fly

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Date: Monday, September 26th, 2011, 08:56
Category: iPhone, Rumor, Software

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It’s when Apple starts reworking vacation days that things get interesting.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is quietly denying requests for employee vacations during the second week of October, hinting that the company currently anticipates an influx of customers to its stores around that time related to availability of its new iOS 5 and fifth-generation iPhone products.

More specifically, the company has blacked out vacation time for employees in certain locations from October 9th through 12th and October 14th through 15th, according to sources close to the story.

The first block of dates — the 9th through the 12 — could pertain to the release of iOS 5 for existing iOS device owners on Monday the 10th. As discovered and reported last week, certain segments of the company’s AppleCare divisions have been told to prepare for an influx of iOS-related inquiries on that same day.

Twitter has also scheduled a developer event and a pair of “Developer Teatimes” for Oct. 10 and Oct. 12 with a “heavy focus” on the social service’s tight integration with iOS 5, further suggesting that Apple’s non-disclosure terms covering the new mobile OS will have been lifted by then via a public release of the software.

Issuing a major iOS release a few days prior to launching new iPhone that will also leverage the software is not unexpected. For instance, last year Apple released iOS 4.0 on June 21st and then rolled out the iPhone 4 on June 24th. And a year earlier it launched iOS 3.0 (then dubbed iPhone Software 3.0) on June 17th and then followed up with the iPhone 3GS on the 21st.

Assuming hints of an iOS 5.0 release around Monday, October 10th prove accurate, the second block of retail blackout dates — October 14th and 15th — could signal availability of the fifth-generation iPhone hardware by that Friday.

With Apple rumored to hold a media event to first unveil its fifth-generation iPhone plans on October 4th, that would give the Cupertino-based company roughly 10 days to field pre-orders ahead of an official launch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to add KDDI as Japanese iPhone carrier, end Softbank monopoly

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Date: Thursday, September 22nd, 2011, 04:44
Category: iPhone, Rumor

A monopoly can’t last forever.

Per The Nikkei, Japanese carrier KDDI will break up rival Softbank’s exclusive hold on Apple’s iPhone in the country early next year, when it will reportedly begin selling the iPhone 5.

The business newspaper said on Thursday it had learned that the company will offer Apple’s next-generation iPhone through its “au” service in the first quarter of 2012.

The report noted that Apple plans to released the device worldwide in “mid-October,” adding that KDDI will begin selling the device next year because “it will take time for preparations. The carrier’s flat rate for iPhone data services is said to cost 4000 yen (US$52), roughly comparable to Softbank’s pricing.

Softbank, the third-largest cellular provider in Japan, has enjoyed boosted profitability because of its exclusive deal with Apple. But, being limited to just one carrier has curbed Apple’s ability to compete with rival Android devices, which are available on first-place NTT DoCoMo and KDDI.

Shares of Softbank tumbled 10 percent on the rumor. One analyst said the increased competition could result in a wave of price cuts. “I’m bracing myself for a huge shake-up in the sector for the next six to 12 months,” remarked Michito Kimura, a senior market analyst at IDC Japan.

The iPhone 5 is expected to include the A5 processor and an 8-megapixel camera, while additional rumors have buzzed that Apple will release a retooled iPhone 4 to target the midrange market.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to hold iPhone 5 media event on October 4th, Tim Cook to be main speaker

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Date: Wednesday, September 21st, 2011, 04:01
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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It’s not confirmed yet, but there’s a date for it.

Per All Things Digital, Apple will hold its next big media event will be held on October 4th, where freshly minted CEO Tim Cook is expected to unveil the iPhone 5. Sources close to the situation say Cook will be the main presenter at the event, with execs Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall and Eddy Cue playing supporting roles.

This would mark the first time that Cook has actually led an Apple event, adding an extra wrinkle of significance to an already highly anticipated occasion. The site’s sources went on to say that the next-gen iPhone will be available for purchase “within a few weeks” of the announcement.

The article acknowledges that the exact date of its unveiling is still subject to change.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Intel working on Ivy Bridge chipset for next-gen MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Friday, September 16th, 2011, 06:52
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

The next generation of something: it’ll always be a bit niftier than the thing you have now.

Per CNET, Apple next-gen MacBook Air may see an additional performance boost next year with Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, which, according to a new report, will add support for the OpenCL technology.

Apple is currently billing its Open Computing Language standard as a technology that “dramatically accelerates” applications by unlocking the “amazing parallel computing power of the GPU.” OpenCL especially offers improvements to financial applications, games and media applications by offloading non-graphics related tasks to the GPU.

Intel is expected to add support for the technology in its line of Ivy Bridge processors due out next year. Intel boasts as much as a 60 percent performance boost over current Sandy Bridge chips, with special attention being paid to graphics performance enhancements.

The MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro would stand the most to gain from Intel support for OpenCL. GPUs from AMD and Nvidia already support the technology, but Apple’s ultra-thin notebook and entry-level MacBook Pro currently sport a graphics processor from Intel.

Apple’s MacBook Air update in July made the notebook up to twice as fast as the previous generation, which made use of Intel’s aging Core 2 Duo chips. The company has had some trouble keeping the the diminutive notebooks in stock due to the resulting popularity of the models.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Amazon listing points to next-gen AirPort Express router in the works

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Date: Tuesday, September 13th, 2011, 17:47
Category: News, Rumor, wireless

Sometimes Amazon reveals a bit more than Apple would like it to.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will soon begin shipping a new version of its AirPort Express portable 802.11n base station, capping a recent series of refreshes to the company’s line of WiFi routers ahead of this fall’s iCloud launch.

Although Apple’s online store still reflects availability of “AirPort Express Base Station with 802.11n and AirTunes,” authorized resellers like DataVision report that the same model (MB321LL/A) is discontinued, while Amazon estimates it will have new stock sometime in the next “2 to 5 weeks.”

Additionally, a person familiar with the matter says Apple is wrapping up the release of AirPort Utility 5.6, makes reference to a second-generation 802.11n AirPort Express in its developer notes:
“Adds support for the AirPort Express 802.11n (2nd Generation) base station”

The current version of Airport Utility, 5.5.3, was released in June, resolving an issue that caused the tool to unexpectedly quit during setup.

The update would round out tune-ups across Apple’s AirPort device family. In June, the company quietly updated both its Time Capsule and Airport Extreme base stations. Though no specific changes were detailed in product specifications, FCC filings revealed that the new devices had received a power boost of as much as 2.8 times the original signal.

Subsequent tests revealed dramatic performance and reliability improvements to the base stations, especially when accessed from more remote locations. A teardown of the AirPort Extreme also showed that Apple has switched from Marvell WLAN cards to the Broadcom BCM4331.

But, given that FCC filings for a new Airport Express have yet to turn up, it remains unknown whether the diminutive base station will also see a signal boost when it is updated.

Apple released the first generation of 802.11n-capable AirPort Express routers in March 2008, billing the device as the world’s smallest 802.11n-based mobile base station.

As Apple has been hard at work prepping its iCloud service, rumors have swirled that the company may transition its AirPort base stations to use iOS, with some reports speculating that software updates could be delivered wirelessly via an AirPort router.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may unveil updated MacBook Pro notebooks before end of 2011

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Date: Tuesday, September 13th, 2011, 17:15
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Just when you’d recently bought a 2011, Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro and were feeling somewhat cool.

Per AppleInsider, Apple may be preparing a refresh of its professional notebook line ahead of the holiday shopping season to better bridge the gap.

According to sources close to the story, the late-2011 MacBook Pro refresh will deliver marginal speed bumps to the notebooks’ Core i-Series of Sandy Bridge processors but will otherwise introduce no material changes over the existing models.

While precise timing for the update may change, those same people say the Mac maker currently anticipates an introduction of the refreshed line before the end of the month, possible following the close of the company’s Back-to-School promotion, which ends on September 20th.

Word of the new models comes just one week after Intel quietly refreshed its Sandy Bridge lineup of processors, adding four new Core i7 chips suited for adoption by the MacBook Pro in addition to slashing prices on some other chips, while phasing out a handful of others.

In particular, Intel introduced new 2.4GHz, 2.5GHz and 2.7GHz quad-core Core i7 processors that could replace the 2.0GHz, 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz versions offered in the current 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pros, in addition to a 2.8GHz dual-core Core i7 that could serve as an upgrade path for the current 2.7GHz 13-inch MacBook Pro.

As for the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, Intel continues to list a couple of Core i5 chips at speeds of 2.5GHz to 2.6GHz that Apple could elect to use to bump 2.3GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro for little to no cost increase.

In addition to these chips, Apple may have discounted access to a handful of older Core i5 and Core i7 chips that were introduced early this year, such as the 2.1GHz and 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7 models.

Although the new models may come as somewhat of a surprise for industry watchers given that there has been no indication that Apple is drawing down inventories of existing models, the refresh is likely geared towards assuring the Mac maker’s top-selling notebook family remains competitive in the market until Intel releases its next-generation Ivy Bridge platform at some point in 2012.

The Ivy Bridge architecture was originally slated to debut in late 2011, but leaked documents from Intel surfaced in May and revealed that the next-generation processors are slated to arrive at some point in the first half of 2012. The Ivy Bridge chips are now scheduled to become available at some point in March or April of next year.

The MacBook Pro remains the bread and butter of Apple’s mostly mobile Mac business, even as the newer, thin-and-light MacBook Air gains in sales. Apple’s MacBook Pros are the only notebooks offered by the company that still offer discrete graphics, making them the only option for video professionals and power users on the go.

In addition, the MacBook Pro remains the only Apple notebook with screen sizes larger than 13-inches. While the MacBook Air (and now defunct white MacBook) max out at 13-inches, the MacBook Pro still comes in 15- and 17-inch screen sizes, with faster CPUs and graphics to accompany the greater screen real estate.

Apple last updated its MacBook Pro lineup in February, giving its entry-level 13-inch models dual-core Sandy Bridge Core i5 and i7 chips at speeds of 2.3GHz and 2.7Ghz. The higher-end 15- and 17-inch models gained quad-core Sandy Bridge Core i7 chips at speeds of up to 2.3Ghz.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Alleged Sprint leak points to blackout dates, possible iPhone 5 launch

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Date: Monday, September 12th, 2011, 05:58
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The good news: Further evidence has accumulated that Spring will be joining the iPhone cell carrier network.

The bad news: The company has always been about as exciting as watching a sack of hammers lay in the corner of the room.

Per SprintFeed, an allegedly leaked internal memo has surfaced announcing a temporary vacation ban due to the “possibility of a major phone launch.”

The leaked document mentions that the blackout extends from Sept. 30 to Oct. 15, though it neglects to mention the “major phone” by name. The timeframe surrounds an Oct. 7 “Strategy Update” presentation from the company that was announced late last month.

Recent reports have indicated that Sprint will launch Apple’s next iPhone in mid-October. Responding directly to claim, the carrier issued an internal memo advising its employees not to discuss the possibility of a fifth-generation iPhone launch with inquiring customers.

The carrier then announced plans to raise its contract early termination fee for “advanced devices,” including smartphones, to US$350 starting Sept. 9. The new ETF, which would match AT&T’s and Verizon’s own cancellation fees for similar devices, is meant to prevent customers from ditching the carrier after acquiring new devices for subsidized prices. The move has been perceived by some as an indication that a Sprint iPhone launch is near.

A subsequent report claimed Sprint cellular repeaters are being installed in and around Apple stores, further suggesting Sprint iPhone testing and pointing to the possibility of an imminent iPhone launch.

On Monday, the company sued AT&T and its partners to block the proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. The wording of certain complaints made in the court filings has prompted further speculation that Sprint will soon begin selling the iPhone.

Finally, on Friday, Sprint was rumored to continue offering unlimited data plans to its subscribers even after the expected iPhone 5 launch. Comparatively, the other two mobile operators that will carry the device, AT&T and Verizon, will offer tiered, capped data plans to their subscribers.

Weighing in on reports suggesting Apple would partner with the nation’s third-largest carrier to sell the iPhone, analysts estimated the carrier would sell 1.2 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of the year with Sprint iPhone sales growing up to 6 million in 2012.

Apple is expected to announce the fifth-generation iPhone at an as-yet unconfirmed media event this fall with iPhone 5 sales believed, according to some reports, to begin in early- to mid-October. The device is believed to sport the A5 processor found in the iPad 2 and an 8-megapixel camera, up from the current 5-megapixel shooter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.