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Rumor: OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion resource files hint at possible next-gen iMac, Mac Pro models without optical drives

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Date: Friday, August 10th, 2012, 07:28
Category: Hardware, iMac, Mac Pro, Rumor

It’s the internal files that hint at the upcoming cool stuff.

Per AppleInsider, internal configuration files in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion make apparent references to yet-unreleased new generations of Apple’s iMac (iMac13,0) and Mac Pro (MacPro6,0), both in the context of USB booting options that indicate the new Mac desktops could, for the first time in nearly 20 years, lack built-in optical drives.

The discovery, made by a source close to the story, appears in a configuration plist file used by Boot Camp Assistant to designate the Mac model versions capable of supporting either a optical boot disc, or alternatively, a USB flash drive volume capable of installing Windows to a Boot Camp partition.

While all modern Macs can boot OS X from a USB drive, Apple’s Boot Camp Assistant references the plist to display a listing of newer Mac models with EFI-level support for booting a legacy operating system from a USB flash drive. The primary advantage to using a USB flash drive to create a bootable Windows 7 volume from an ISO (disc image file) is if you lack an optical drive burner.

The file lists a series of Mac models that support USB flash drive booting, referring to each model by its initials and its internal architectural version number. While it includes MacBook and MacBook Pro models with optical drives, most of the Macs in the supported list are optical free.

The list of models (below) include the “MM50” (the Mac mini 5,x series, also known as the “Mid 2011 Mac mini”, which is the first non-Server version of the Mac mini to lack an optical drive), along with other optical-free models including the MacBook Air.

Two of the models in the USB-boot support listing refer to Macs that haven’t been released yet: the MP60 (the six generation Mac Pro, or MacPro6,x) and IM130 (pointing to the 13th generation iMac, or iMac13,x).

The current Mac Pro, updated only slightly in June during Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, hasn’t changed enough over the previous model for Apple to assign it a new architecture designation; it is still internally referred to as the “Mac Pro 5,1” just like the Mac Pros that originally shipped back in August 2010.

Apple’s conspicuous lack of timely updates for the Mac Pro (and its relatively small and shrinking proportion of Apple’s Mac sales mix) has created the expectation that the company might eventually discontinue its full sized desktop the same way it terminated its rack mounted Xserve, an idea Apple reportedly evaluated as an option.

However, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook confirmed in June that Apple would not be killing the Mac Pro, stating instead in an email to a concerned customer, “Our Pro customers like you are really important to us. Although we didn’t have a chance to talk about a new Mac Pro at today’s [WWDC] event, don’t worry as we’re working on something really great for later next year. We also updated the current model today.”

Cook’s choice of the words “working on something really great,” indicates Apple plans to significantly update its Mac Pro model, which has carried forward the same basic aluminum box design introduced for the 2005 PowerMac G5.

While removing its optical drive would do much less to save space and thickness compared to Apple’s notebook designs, it’s likely that an all new Apple desktop aimed at professionals would rethink its use of slow, bulky and essentially obsolete optical drive devices and perhaps instead incorporate high performance SSD RAID options for a reduced profile.

Apple’s current iMac (referred to internally as the iMac 12) was last refreshed in May 2011, indicating that it’s overdue for a refresh. A new 13th generation iMac generation identified as “iMac 13,2” has already appeared in Geekbench benchmarks.

Similarly, patent filings reveal Apple has also been working to once again slim down the peripherals that ship with its industry-leading all-in-one desktop, with the designs referenced in those filings having the potential to accompany the next iMac update.

The appearance of new Mac Pro and iMac models in the USB booting support list doesn’t definitively mean the models won’t have optical drives, as it also lists MacBook and MacBook Pro models that do incorporate an optical drive.

At the same time, Apple has clearly indicated in the newest Mac mini and Retina Display MacBook Pro that it plans to get rid of optical disc drives as soon as possible across the board, providing an external USB drive as an option for users who need one.

Users increasingly have fewer opportunities to use optical drives, as the bulk of third party software is now available as a digital download either directly from the vendor or through Apple’s App Store. Apple also sees digital distribution as the future of music and movies, as exemplified in Apple TV, which has never included an optical drive.

The company has never supported any new HD optical disc formats on its products, including Microsoft’s ill fated HD-DVD or Sony’s Blu-ray format, despite initially being involved in the Blu-ray standardization process. Instead, Apple has put its resources behind developing increasingly higher definition audio and video formats that it can distribute electronically through its own iTunes Store.

Apple even developed an alternative iTunes Extras web based multimedia format to deliver the same kind of interactive menus supported on DVDs, with a parallel solution for albums it called iTunes LP.

In addition, Apple introduced technologies intended to wean its Mac platform from optical disc dependance with the MacBook Air, which was designed to remotely share disc drives available on the local network (even remotely install OS X) via Remote Disc and handle Migration Assistant tasks over a wireless network connection.

Modern Mac models can now apply system updates, such as OS X Mountain Lion, entirely via digital downloads, while Apple’s newest Mac models can boot legacy operating systems from USB flash drives.

By ditching the need for a built in optical drive, Apple can not only make new Macs smaller, thinner and more energy efficient, but will also increase their overall reliability, as optical drives become one of the last complex physical mechanisms inside computers.

Apple has similarly helped to pioneer the mainstream adoption of Solid State Drives as an alternative to the more fragile mechanical design inherent in conventional Hard Disk Drives. Its most popular general computing device, the iPad, makes no use of either optical drives or HDD mechanisms.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple working on modified cases for next-gen iPhone model

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Date: Monday, July 30th, 2012, 10:27
Category: News, Rumor

It’s the cases that give it away sometimes.

Per iLounge, third party accessory companies are apparently creating a larger “Bumper” case to accommodate a taller iPhone screen, the second case will feature a new, different design. Citing a “highly reliable source,” the site reported on Monday that though the new case will affect third-party case makers, the design will be “not hugely surprising,” which led author Jeremy Horowitz to speculate the case could include a stand.

Apple stepped into the iPhone case accessory business with the launch of the iPhone 4 in 2010. Its first-party “Bumpers” wrap around the outside edges of both the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, which feature the same external design.

Monday’s report follows up on an earlier rumor that claimed Apple will launch its next-generation iPhone at a media event on September 12. Corroborating some of those details, Horowitz said the new iPhone will be ready to ship in mid-September.

Also rumored to arrive in September is a new iPod touch, which will presumably also feature a larger 4-inch display to bring it in line with the new iPhone. iLounge, however, disagreed with an earlier rumor that suggested a new iPod nano will also be unveiled at an alleged September event.

Rumors of Apple’s next-generation products have picked up steam, as both photos and a video of parts claimed to be from Apple’s sixth-generation iPhone have also appeared online.

Earlier this month, pictures of alleged “iPad mini” engineering samples also surfaced, showing a smaller iPad with a 7.85-inch display and a shrunken dock connector also expected to appear in the next iPhone. Numerous reports from mainstream media outlets have indicated that Apple plans to expand the iPad lineup with a new, smaller, less expensive model this fall.

As for Apple’s full-size iPad, iLounge was told that Apple currently plans for its fourth-generation model to have a “relatively modest body tweak.” The device is expected to keep largely the same shape while adopting a smaller 19-pin dock connector, a new rear-facing microphone, and design tweaks to reduce heat.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Photos of purported next-gen iPhone surface, show fully assembled state

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Date: Monday, July 30th, 2012, 06:40
Category: iPhone, Pictures, Rumor

It had to happen sometime.

Per the web blog of Japanese repair company iLab Factory, pictures of an alleged fully-assembled next-generation iPhone hit the web on Sunday, offering what could be the most detailed look at Apple’s upcoming device yet.

The photos depict what is supposedly a complete next-generation iPhone built from leaked parts sourced from China.

The purported unit pieces together previously-seen components including the smaller 19-pin dock connector first rumored in June and 4-inch display and a relocated headphone jack. The site notes that the home button’s finish has been modified and feels to be improved. A report in April found a supposedly leaked home button had been slightly redesigned internally to accomodate changes made to the screen and case.



While all of the external parts are in place, most of the handset’s innards are missing with only power and sensor flex cables and accompanying home button circuitry installed. This lack of integral electronics, such as cameras, logic board and battery, hint the supposedly-leaked parts may have come from an upstream supplier rather than an assembly plant.

Pictures of the unit’s casing show the two-tone aluminum design first seen in early June, though noticeably absent is the nano-SIM card tray purportedly leaked in May.

The unit’s front seems to sit tightly with the uni-body casing which, unlike the current generation iPhone 4S, features a slightly beveled edge. Side shots show the expected volume rocker button assembly and hold switch as well as a sleeker profile compared to existing iPhones.

Making a reappearance is the small hole located beween the camera assembly and the unit’s LED flash, a feature which was rumored to be removed in final production models.

As mentioned above, much of the internals are absent, however what is in place yields some insight into how Apple plans to utilize the cramped space. The site notes three screw anchors on the back plate will likely hold the display in place while four screw anchors located on the unit’s right wall and six on the left will most likely secure integral components as the device can no longer be opened by removing case-back. Also new are four screw holes at the top of the case near the power button though their use remains a mystery.

Overall, the site points out the alleged device boasts a high-quality milled aluminum feel consistent with all Apple products and makes special note of the unit’s thinness.

Apple is rumored to announce a follow-up to the iPhone 4S sometime this fall with one analyst estimating an early-September launch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone to incorporate thinner screen, in-cell technology

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Date: Tuesday, July 17th, 2012, 08:33
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

That screen on your current iPhone 4S? It might just get a bit thinner.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple’s next iPhone “currently being manufactured by Asian component makers” will arrive this fall with a thinner screen than ever before, thanks to the combined might of Sharp, LG Display and Japan Display Inc.

“The technology integrates touch sensors into the LCD, making it unnecessary to have a separate touch-screen layer,” explains DisplaySearch analyst Hiroshi Hayase on the new in-cell technology. “The absence of the layer, usually about half a millimeter thick, not only makes the whole screen thinner, but the quality of displayed images would improve.”

In-cell technology comes at a convenient time for Apple as rival Samsung is pushing “organic light-emitting displays” as a key feature of its latest Galaxy S III Android handset, which features a 4.8-inch OLED screen, yet is even thinner than the current iPhone 4S.

“A thinner screen in the next iPhone could make the whole device slimmer, or make extra room available for other components such as batteries,” the report reveals, which could be crucial if rumors that the handset will use 4G LTE data prove true.

“But in-cell touch screens are harder to manufacture than conventional LCD screens,” the report continues. “The people familiar with the situation said that LCD makers are finding the manufacturing process challenging and time-consuming as they scramble to achieve high yield rates.”

The next iPhone is widely expected to include a 4.0-inch display, which is made possible by elongating the vertical height of the handset.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release 7.85-inch iPad this fall at sub-$499 price point

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Date: Monday, July 16th, 2012, 06:02
Category: iPad, Rumor

A rumor’s got to be true on some levels…

Per the New York Times, previous rumors have been confirmed saying consumers can expect the as-yet-unannounced iPad to boast a 7.85-inch form factor and cost “significantly less than the latest US$499 iPad” when it debuts later this year.

Previous reports from The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg both claimed Apple was working on the so-called “iPad mini” and said the new device is expected to launch before year’s end.

Most recently, images of purported iPad mini “engineering samples” were leaked and included side-by-side comparisons with the current third-generation iPad. The samples showed a rearranged speaker assembly flanking a diminutive 19-pin dock connector seen before on alleged next-generation iPhone parts.

According to analysts and executives in the technology industry, the smaller iPad is part of an Apple strategy to garner and retain a larger marketshare by introducing a variety of tablet sizes. The publication notes the Cupertino-based company used a similar model with the iPod line which now ranges from the iPod shuffle to the iPod classic.

If and when the iPad mini is announced, it will be facing stiff competition from Google’s recently-announced US$199 Nexus 7 Android tablet as well as expected offerings from Amazon. The online sales giant is rumored to be readying three distinct 7-inch Kindle Fire models for fall as well as an 8.9-inch version that may be released in late 2012 or early 2013. Sunday’s Times report cites sources who claim the larger-screened Fire is being developed as a competitor to Apple’s 9.7-inch iPad.

Yet another new entrant into the tablet arena is Microsoft’s Surface, a Windows 8-powered device set to be the centerpiece to the company’s “PC+” environment despite CEO Steve Ballmer’s claim that the unit is merely a “design point.” Rather than creating hardware and software separately for different tasks, as does Apple with the iPad and iOS, Microsoft believes that a one-OS-fits-all solution is the future of computing. The ARM architecture-based Surface for Windows RT is expected to debut alongside Windows 8 in October.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: T-Mobile could receive iPhone in 2013

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Date: Wednesday, July 11th, 2012, 06:58
Category: iPhone, Rumor

It had to happen sometime.

Per BusinessWeek, fourth-largest U.S. wireless carrier T-Mobile could use a sales agreement from its parent company Deutsche Telekom AG to carry Apple’s iPhone on its network sometime in 2013 which may help the network turn around slumping profits.

In a note to investors on Tuesday, Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett said Apple and Deutsche Telekom are “increasingly likely” to strike a deal for T-Mobile to offer the iPhone in the U.S. next year.

The iPhone may help T-Mobile retain lucrative post-paid or contract customers after the telecom lost 510,000 monthly subscribers in the first quarter. Contrasting the massive loss was a combined 688,000 gained customers seen by iPhone-carrying networks AT&T and Verizon over the same period. In February T-Mobile blamed a fourth quarter 2011 loss of 706,000 contract customers on not having access to Apple’s smartphone.

“IPhone (sic) availability at T-Mobile USA would likely reduce contract losses at that company, and push Deutsche Telekom U.S. to a net revenue growth position much sooner than the market expects,” Moffett wrote.

T-Mobile was originally looking to bring Apple’s handset over to its network as part of a merger with the nation’s second-largest carrier AT&T, though the agreement fell through in December. As a result of the breakup AT&T was forced to give Deutsche Telekom US$3 billion in cash along with a transfer of US$1 billion worth of spectrum to the German company’s U.S. arm.

With the additional bandwidth T-Mobile plans to upgrade its network to iPhone-compatible 4G HSPA+ by expanding operations in the 1900MHz spectrum. Tuesday’s report is consistent with the carrier’s expansion plans and solves the frequency issues that CEO Philipp Humm referred to as the “key reason” why the company doesn’t currently offer the iPhone.

A deal to sell the iPhone through an agreement with T-Mobile’s parent company would be a change to Apple’s normal operating procedures as the Cupertino tech giant usually makes first-party agreements with carriers. For example, the recent addition of the iPhone on Sprint’s network was a US$15.5 billion commitment for the telecom. It was reported in June that, while AT&T and Verizon retained the most iPhone customers, Sprint gained the most switchers using Apple’s handset.

Representatives from both Apple and T-Mobile declined to comment and no official statement regarding the situation has been issued.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to produce 7-inch iPad in Brazil, currently aiming for fall release

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Date: Monday, July 9th, 2012, 06:38
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

Something nifty could be happening south of the border.

Per Macotakara, Apple is working on a smaller format iPad that will be assembled in Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn’s Brazil factory starting in September for a holiday release.

According to the story, a “reliable Chinese source” said that while CNC machine testing for Apple’s much-rumored 7-inch tablet has completed in China, the actual production of the unit will take place at Foxconn’s plant in Brazil which is currently tasked with building iPhones and certain iPad models.

The source goes on to further detail the manufacturing plans and, contrary to recent whispers, quotes September as the expected production start date which will ramp up in time for the lucrative holiday shopping season.

While consensus remains on the tablet’s 7.85-inch screen size the form factor is somewhat up in the air as the source said the new device will be more akin to a third-generation iPod nano than a shrunken iPad. The prototype device is reportedly the same height as Google’s recently-announced Nexus 7 but is slightly wider and manages an iPod touch-like thickness that is said to be slimmer than Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

Also on tap for the “iPad mini” is 3G wireless connectivity, though the source claims to have seen a handling list of carriers slated to receive the device and it seems not every provider that currently sells the iPad will have access to the device at launch.

The Japanese publication’s source also agreed with a previously reported rumor that claimed a next-generation iPhone would debut in September.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may revise backlight for third-gen iPad before holidays

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Date: Friday, July 6th, 2012, 12:43
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

The nice thing about rumors: sometimes they’re true.

Per DigiTimes, Apple may be readying a minor update of the iPad ahead of the holiday season, an unverified report from the same publication claims that Apple is interested in returning to a one-LED backlight module solution instead of the two-LED design used in the current iPad.

DigiTimes claimed on Friday that Apple was making the revisions to reduce the heat output of the iPad.

“The extra LED is reportedly adding to overheating and that using one LED will help solve overheating issues since more backlights along with more power to heat those backlights is causing overheating,” the report read.

The publication’s sources said that switching back to the one LED module would not affect “luminosity and clarity” of the iPad display.

Separate reports also out of the Far East have claimed that Apple will include IGZO technology from Sharp in the next iPad. The iPad maker was rumored to go with an IGZO display for its third-generation tablet, but Sharp was reportedly unable to produce sufficient volumes in time. IGZO displays are expected to allow for a thinner design with better battery life.

DigiTimes claimed on Thursday that Apple would release an iPad with “small revisions” before the end of the year. The earlier report suggested that Apple would change the battery to avoid overheating problems and also enlarge the lens hole on the device.

Shortly after Apple’s latest iPad was released, some reviews claimed the device ran noticeably hotter than its predecessor. Apple, however, insisted that the tablet was operating “well within” its thermal specifications.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone to feature quad-core processor

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Date: Friday, July 6th, 2012, 07:14
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

You have to admit: a quad-core ARM processor in your new iPhone would qualify as nifty.

Per a Thursday report from DigiTimes, Apple’s next-gen could feature a quad-core processor according to industry sources. Other details on the rumored processor, including clock speed or graphics processing capabilities, were not presented.

Last year’s iPhone 4S features a custom dual-core processor clocked at 800 megahertz, dubbed by Apple the “A5.” That chip was first introduced months earlier in the iPad 2, where it ran slightly faster at 1 gigahertz thanks to a larger form factor with a bigger battery.

With the third-generation iPad launched this year, Apple didn’t unveil a true next-generation chip, choosing instead to name the processor the “A5X,” suggesting an evolutionary upgrade over its predecessor. That CPU is based around Samsung’s 45-nanometer low-power architecture, also found in the A5 CPU in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2.

The main change with the A5X was an updated integrated graphics processor. While the CPU remained dual core, the GPU was upgraded to quad core in order to push the 3.1 million pixels found on the tablet’s high-resolution Retina display.

If Apple does build a quad-core ARM CPU for its next iPhone, the upgrade could presumably be significant enough to earn the chip the “A6” distinction. DigiTimes said Apple’s expected introduction of a quad-core iPhone will help “heat up” competition with other quad-core smartphones.

Samsung, HTC, LG and Meizu all launched quad-core smartphones in the second quarter of 2012, most notably Samsung’s Galaxy S III, the latest flagship handset for Google’s Android mobile operating system. However, the quad-core Galaxy S III has thus far only been available in international markets, while the 4G LTE-capable model released in the U.S. features a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor. Next week, Samsung will launch a quad-core LTE Galaxy S III, but only in Korea.

More quad-core smartphones are expected to be introduced in the second half of 2012, thanks to volume production of chips from Qualcomm.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple readying changes for next-gen iPad’s battery, camera lens

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Date: Thursday, July 5th, 2012, 06:10
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

Sometimes a few changes are needed.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is planning to make “small revisions” to its third-generation iPad, such as an enlarged lens hole and changes to the battery to keep the device from overheating, later this year.

Supply chain sources have indicated that Apple will likely release the updated iPad “around the holiday season.”

“The sources said the new iPad’s battery is being revised, which will help prevent overheating issues and could possibly make the device slightly lighter and thinner than previously designed,” the report noted.

No reason was given as to what Apple hoped to accomplish by enlarging the iPad’s lens hole. The third-generation tablet, which was released in March, features a 5-megapixel rear camera and a front camera capable of VGA-quality photos.

DigiTimes has a mixed track record and has been criticized for its willingness to report even the most speculative rumors from its sources. The publication did, however, correctly predict the Retina Display on both the new iPad and the new MacBook Pro.

Apple’s new iPad took some heat from product reviewer Consumer Reports shortly after release because it felt “very warm” while running a game. Separate tests also showed the device ran hotter than the second-generation iPad, though one report noted that the tablet was not much hotter than Android tablets or notebook computers.

For its part, Apple dismissed the concerns by stating that the new iPad operates “well within our thermal specifications.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.