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

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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

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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.

Rumor: Apple looking to expand Siri, Maps integration with upcoming car models

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Date: Tuesday, April 30th, 2013, 06:30
Category: iOS, iPhone, Rumor

Make no mistake about it: Apple wants Siri and its mapping program in your car.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple plans to move aggressively into the in-car integration space later this year, according to multiple people familiar with the initiative. The company is working with car makers to deeply embed iOS’s Maps and Siri services into cars, according to these people. While companies sell accessories to place iPhone and other iOS devices on car dashboards for easy access to Apple Maps’ turn-by-turn navigation, Apple wants to break into the space with its own solutions…

According to sources, Apple is working with car makers on updated versions of car center consoles that could attach to iOS devices like the iPhone. Specifically, an iPhone could be plugged into a car and an optimized, redesigned version of Apple Maps will appear on the car’s built-in display instead of a proprietary GPS system found in many cars.

Sources have described this as a feature akin to a video-out or mirrored display representation of the iPhone’s Maps app onto the bigger screens included with most modern vehicles. This is unlike the new Volkswagen iBeetle car that simply holds an iPhone running a third-party app.

With the iPhone connected, Siri would be used to control the Maps functions and other iOS features.

Last year, Apple announced a new “Eyes-Free” Siri service that allows users to connect their iPhone to their car and use Siri with the iPhone’s display turned off. Apple announced at WWDC that it is working with car makers on Eyes-Free, including BMW, Toyota, Audi, Honda, and Land Rover. It is likely that Apple is bolstering its existing partnerships with these same car makers to take advantage of the new Maps and Siri car-integrated offerings.

While the new car functionality is based on technologies in iOS 7, sources warned that a public release could be potentially be far off. Roadblocks that Apple will need to overcome before the feature launches to the public include more extensive car-based testing, improvements to Apple Maps and Siri infrastructures, and deals with car makers. It is uncertain if Apple plans to debut this new in-car integration at WWDC or at its iPhone hardware event later this year. Because of the processing power that such integration could require, it is likely that the feature will be exclusive to recent iOS hardware.

Apple’s interest in cars goes beyond future iOS integration. Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue, who happens to now be in charge of Siri and Maps, has long had an interest in cars. At Apple’s 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference, the executive demonstrated the iCloud Photo Stream feature by taking a picture of a toy car featured in a Pixar movie. Additionally, Mr. Cue sits on Ferrari’s Board of Directors. Earlier this year, Ferrari began equipping one of its car models with iPad minis.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs shared privately that he considered taking on Detroit with a car design of his own. Patents in recent days reveal that Apple is interested in creating software to make unlocking vehicles and findings cars in parking lots easier.

Earlier this year, Apple posted a series of job listings on its website related to iOS device integration with car stereo systems. Apple is seeking Software Quality Assurance testers for stereo compatibility with iOS products. These job listings, which also cover creating software for car integration, require expertise in Bluetooth product testing. This may mean that the aforementioned upcoming features could rely on Bluetooth rather than wired connections.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: OS X 10.9 to arrive with additional power-user features, iOS elements

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Date: Monday, April 29th, 2013, 07:49
Category: Rumor, Software

The feature rumors about OS X 10.9 have begun.

Per 9to5Mac, the upcoming operating system, which is internally codenamed “Cabernet,” will focus on various “power-user” enhancements and take core features from iOS, according to sources. Unlike operating system updates such as OS X Leopard and OS X Lion, OS X 10.9 will likely not be an overhauled approach to how the operating system feels and functions.


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The new operating system is purported to include major enhancements to the Finder application such as tags and tabbed browsing modes. Those additions are notable as many pro-users have relied on third-party solutions and hacks to enable these features. Additionally, the new operating system will include a new Safari web browser with a redesigned backend for improved page loading, speed, and efficiency…

Third-party TotalFinder tool:
The ability to keep a different “Space” or full-screen app open on a different monitor (in multiple monitor setups) is another important power-user feature coming in 10.9. This feature was forecasted by Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi last year.

In October, Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi became involved in an e-mail exchange in which a user complained about the lack of proper multi-monitor support in OS X Mountain Lion. The Apple executive said that Apple is “absolutely aware of [its] customers’ passion on this topic,” according to the e-mail exchange.

OS X 10.9 will also apparently see some user-interface changes, but the changes will not be drastic ones.

The upcoming operating system is said to incorporate some level of Siri functionality, but it is unclear if full Siri-support is still in the cards for OS X 10.9 or if the functionality will be glued to future hardware updates (for instance, iPhone 4 versus iPhone 4S). The shake-up at the top of Apple’s overall software group shifted around multiple iOS and OS X projects, so anything on the roadmap prior to this shakeup could have been altered, according to a person familiar with the situation.

OS X Mountain Lion added many app-based features from iOS, such as Messages, Notes/Reminders, Game Center, and AirPlay, but the additions in OS X 10.9 from iOS will focus more on system fundamentals. According to one source, Apple has been testing a new multi-tasking system for OS X that is similar to the quick-app-switcher function on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. The multitasking feature will be functional for applications in the background, according to this person. Additionally, Apple could use app-pausing technologies from iOS to pause background application processes in OS X. This is significant as full performance could be given to foreground apps, which could help optimize battery life on Apple’s notebook computers. It is unclear if this feature will make the cut for 10.9′s public release.

Apple will also likely announce Xcode 5.0 later this year. Apple’s new version of its developer app suite is said to be redesigned and include improved application testing tools. Perhaps hinting at this is Apple’s own WWDC press release:

“Our developers have had the most prolific and profitable year ever, and we’re excited to show them the latest advances in software technologies and developer tools to help them create innovative new apps. We can’t wait to get new versions of iOS and OS X into their hands at WWDC.”

Apple’s last two operating systems shipped in the summer, which suggests it is likely that 10.9 will also see a summer release. OS X 10.9 was originally scheduled to be previewed earlier this year, but Apple decided to introduce the operating system alongside iOS 7 at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference. Recent rumors have indicated that Apple moved resources away from OS X 10.9 development in order to focus on iOS 7. This likely contributed to Apple moving back the next OS X’s debut.

As previously noted, the operating system seems to have already been fairly widely distributed inside Apple, based on views to the 9to5Mac web site with computers running OS X 10.9.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to debut updated MacBook models at this year’s WWDC

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Date: Monday, April 29th, 2013, 06:03
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

If there’s one new-ish rule of the universe, it’s that Apple chooses when it gets to hold its dog and pony shows.

And the next one might be during the Worldwide Developers Conference this June.

Per AppleInsider, noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities believes Apple will showcase updated MacBook Pro models at its upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference in June, with the most notable upgrade being the move to Intel’s next-generation Haswell family of processors.

Kuo, who has a reliable track record in predicting Apple’s product plans, said in a research note that while the Cupertino company is likely to bump its current MacBook lineup to Intel’s latest platform, speculated upgrades like a MacBook Air with Retina display are unlikely.

While no major design changes are thought to be in store for WWDC, Kuo now thinks Apple will keep the optical drive-toting MacBook Pro alive alongside the company’s most advanced MacBook Pro with Retina display and MacBook Air models. The analyst previously forecast Apple would retire the line as it moved to all-Retina product offerings.

“There is still demand in emerging markets, where Internet penetration isn’t advanced, for optical disk drives,” he said of the 13- and 15-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro. Apple’s top-tier MacBook lineup eschewed the previous built-in SuperDrive in a bid to slim down the chassis and cut weight.

For the consumer market, Kuo said the biggest change to the MacBook lineup in 2013 will be the introduction of Intel’s Haswell processor, which replaces the Ivy Bridge architecture currently used in the company’s computers. Intel recently announced that Haswell will be unveiled on June 3, one day prior to the Computex Taipei trade show.

Kuo believes the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro will begin shipping by the end of the second quarter, close to the forecasted WWDC launch, while the MacBook Pro with Retina display will see release later in the year due to low yield of the notebook’s high-resolution panels.

Apple has traditionally used WWDC as an opportunity to launch innovative new products, with last year’s event seeing the debut of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.

WWDC 2013 is scheduled to run from June 10 through 14 at Moscone West in San Francisco. Tickets to the conference sold out in less than two minutes, breaking the previous record of about two hours.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Purported images of next-gen iPhone camera leaked

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Date: Friday, April 19th, 2013, 07:50
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

You’ve gotta admit, Apple doesn’t let people down when it comes to its built-in cameras.

Per French Web site NoWhereElse.fr, a leaked image purporting to show off a camera component and another piece of a supposed “iPhone 5S” have hit the Internet, fanning the rumors that Apple’s follow-up to the iPhone 5 is on deck.

One of the components featured in the supposed leak is what appears to be a front-facing camera, similar in appearance to the one built in to the iPhone 5. The serial number shown on the “leaked” part is similar to the one seen on the iPhone 5 part, notes NoWhereElse.fr. The flexible portion where the component connects to a motherboard, though, is apparently quite different from the one seen on the iPhone 5 component.


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Friday’s report also brought images of another supposed component, though its function is unclear.

The same site previously leaked components that went into Apple’s new Lightning connector, and the site has shown off other parts said to be from an “iPhone 5S” or an “iPhone 6,” as well as a supposed cover glass surface from a fifth-generation iPad.

The new images appear to add to the rumors that Apple will bring a rapid follow-up to its iPhone 5, iPad, and iPad mini, and possibly introduce a lower-cost iPhone model in the near future. Currently, rumors have the Cupertino company releasing new devices some time over the summer.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Microsoft’s Xbox, Kinect employees helping to develop smartwatch

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Date: Friday, April 19th, 2013, 06:40
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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Microsoft is prototyping its own wrist-worn device. According to The Verge, a reliable source familiar with Microsoft’s Xbox plans has revealed that the company has been developing a wrist-worn device for just over a year. Microsoft was initially rumored to release a “Joule” heart rate monitor accessory for the Xbox, but the company has since decided to focus on a smartwatch instead. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Microsoft’s plans earlier this week, citing unnamed supply chain sources who claim Microsoft has requested 1.5-inch displays from component manufacturers.

Microsoft’s smartwatch is said to be in the prototype phase, with teams who have worked on Xbox accessories and the Kinect sensor focused on the device. The device apparently features removable bands attached to a 1.5-inch touch display. One prototype includes the same magnetic power connector that Microsoft uses on its Surface tablets. The MagSafe-like connector is made up of five pins and can transmit both power and data, but we’re told this is only a prototype and a final design may omit the connector.

Microsoft previously fielded a range of smartwatches back in 2004 under the SPOT brand. The devices used FM radio signals to obtain news, weather forecasts, and stock information. Microsoft discontinued the devices in 2008, shuttering the service fully last year. Microsoft’s Bill Buxton recently outlined the 37-year history of smartwatches at a talk during the company’s TechFest research event. At the time, we speculated Microsoft may re-enter a market it tried to kickstart years ago, and it looks like that may soon be a reality.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPad to be 15% thinner, 25% lighter, use smaller, more efficient battery

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Date: Thursday, April 18th, 2013, 07:14
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

This could be nifty.

Per MacRumors, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has on a number of occasions offered accurate information on Apple’s product plans, recently published a new research note outlining his expectations for Apple’s fifth-generation iPad. Kuo expects mass production and shipments of the new iPad to ramp up in the August-September timeframe, with the device registering roughly 15% thinner and 25% lighter than the current full-size iPad.

The new version’s expected dimensions, which are purported to be 7.5-8.0mm thick, will be 15% thinner than iPad 4. The new device will likely be about 500 grams, or some 25% lighter than iPad 4, run on an A7X processor, and sport cameras with similar specs to the iPad 4’s (front HD, rear 5MP). The casing shape and color (silver and black) and narrow bezel design will be similar to the iPad mini’s.

The prediction of a 7.5-8.0 mm thickness is in line with previous claims that the next iPad will see a roughly 2 mm reduction from the current 9.5 mm thickness.

Kuo predicts that Apple will adopt the same GF2 touch technology used in the iPad mini, enabling Apple to design a thinner display for the new full-size iPad. In addition, more efficient display and chip technologies are expected to bring down the device’s overall power consumption, allowing for a smaller and thinner battery.

The battery is expected to be 25-30% smaller, at 8,500-9,000mAh, than the iPad 4’s, and the battery’s thickness will be 15-20% smaller, at 7.5-8.0mm, and the number of cells will be reduced to two from three.

As for the chip powering the iPad 5, Kuo believes that Apple will be sticking with Samsung for a new A7X chip that will take advantage of Samsung’s 28-nanometer process node. There have been reports that Apple will be shifting its A-series chip production to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), but it appears that Kuo believes that transition has a bit further time horizon, in line with rumors that a partnership between Apple and TSMC for 20-nanometer A7 chips will not begin production until early 2014.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Microsoft planning boot-to-desktop mode for Windows 8.1 update

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Date: Wednesday, April 17th, 2013, 07:33
Category: Rumor, Software

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If you’re using a Windows 8 partition, then there’s a fairly decent chance you want to strangle whoever created the Metro interface, as great as Microsoft seems to think it is.

Per The Verge, in an apparent attempt to have its latest operating system better appeal to business customers, Microsoft reportedly plans to add a “boot to desktop” mode to its Windows 8.1 update, allowing users to bypass the Metro Start Screen.

In current test builds of Windows 8.1, codenamed “Windows Blue”, the operating system includes an option to boot directly to the traditional Windows desktop, sources familiar with the company’s plans indicated to reporters. That’s a major change from the current version of Windows 8, which automatically boots to the new Start Screen which features the tiled “Metro” user interface.

Windows 8 currently boots to the new Start Screen, requiring an extra step to reach the desktop.

The new Start Screen has been criticized by PC users who feel the interface is not ideal with a traditional keyboard and mouse setup. Some believe the Metro user interface is better suited for touchscreen devices, like tablets and phones.

While Microsoft reportedly plans to make the desktop view a default option when booting a system, the company is said to be keeping the invisible “hot corners” it introduced with Windows 8. That function allows users to bring up the operating system’s “Charms” or the Metro Start Screen by touching or dragging their PC mouse to the corner of the screen.

Windows 8 launched last fall with a great deal of hype from the Redmond, Wash., company, which claimed the new operating system was a revolutionary upgrade from its predecessor, Windows 7. But Windows 8 got off to a soft start, and failed to turn around sales in the sagging PC hardware market.

Continuing woes in the PC market have been generally blamed on the popularity of Apple’s iPad, which reached a new, lower entry price of US$329 last fall with the debut of the iPad mini. In comparison, many new touchscreen Ultrabooks running Windows 8 cost over a thousand dollars.

The struggles seen by PC makers have led market watchers to predict that the industry could see a major shakeup in the coming years. Some believe that remaining companies could merge, leading to fewer options, while others see gross margins shrinking in an effort to cut prices and boost sales.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Microsoft working on “iWatch” device of its own

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Date: Monday, April 15th, 2013, 06:17
Category: Hardware, Rumor

microsoftlogo.jpg

You know that rumor about Apple working on an iWatch of sorts?

Microsoft may be working on its own.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft is apparently working on designs for a touch-enabled watch device, executives at suppliers said, potentially joining rivals like Apple Inc. in working on a new class of computing products.

Earlier this year, Microsoft asked suppliers in Asia to ship components for a potential watch-style device, the executives said. One executive said he met with Microsoft’s research and development team at the software company’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters. But it’s unclear whether Microsoft will opt to move ahead with the watch, they said.

Microsoft declined to comment.

Some investors and big technology companies are betting on a boom in wearable, computerized devices built around the growing power and slimming size of sensors that can detect body temperature, geographic location and voice commands of people on the go.

Some of the new wearable gadgets, like Nike Inc.’s FuelBand, measure physical activity, while others are intended to supplement functions of a smartphone, such as receiving text messages, taking photos or checking the weather. Apple has also experimented with designs for a wristwatch-style device.

Startup Pebble Technology Corp. is selling a watch that syncs wirelessly with smartphones and vibrates to alert wearers to incoming phone calls, Twitter posts and emails. Google Inc. is testing with consumers a device it calls Google Glass, an eyeglass-style gadget that displays certain computerized information in a user’s field of vision.

“We see growing demand for wearable gadgets as the size of the smartphone has become too big to carry around,” said RBS analyst Wanli Wang. “A smart watch that is compatible with a smartphone and other electronics devices would be attractive to consumers.”

Research firm Gartner expects the market for wearable smart electronics to be a $10 billion industry by 2016.

This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has shown an interest in wearable gadgets. Microsoft a decade ago unveiled a “Smart Watch” powered by the company’s software. For a subscription fee, Smart Watch wearers could have news headlines, sports scores and instant messages beamed over FM radio to their wrists. But sales stopped in 2008.

For its potential new watch prototype, Microsoft has requested 1.5-inch displays from component makers, said an executive at a component supplier.

The tests of a computerized watch also underscore Microsoft’s ambitions in expanding its hardware offerings. Last October, Microsoft launched the Surface tablet-style computer, and the company is prepping more homegrown computing devices including a smaller, 7-inch version of a tablet to compete with popular gadgets like Apple’s iPad Mini, people familiar with the matter have said.

Microsoft also is continuing to test its own smartphone, although it isn’t clear whether it will bring such a device to market, component suppliers said.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.