Honda, Acura, other car makers to offer Siri-based Eyes Free support on some 2013 models

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Date: Thursday, January 31st, 2013, 08:44
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Soon you will talk to your car.

And it might actually do some of the things you ask of it.

Per AppleInsider, the American division of carmaker Honda announced on Wednesday it will integrate support for Apple’s voice-driven Siri personal assistant into its 2013 Honda Accord and Acura RDX and ILX models.

The 2013 Honda Accord will offer Siri Eyes Free integration as a dealer upgrade option.

The feature will be a dealer-installed option for customers who buy the latest model of the vehicles. Using a compatible iPhone running iOS 6, users will be able to direct Siri to perform specific tasks while keeping their eyes on the road.

Honda was already announced last June as one of nine auto makers that planned to support Siri’s Eyes Free mode. However, prior to Wednesday’s announcement, it was not known which vehicles Honda planned to offer with Siri integration, or when those vehicles would become available.

Earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show, Hyundai also announced it would include Eyes Free support for Siri in its next-generation infotainment systems. Hyundai did not give any specific vehicle models.

General Motors did, however, announce support for its Chevy Spark and Sonic vehicles last November.

Hands Free allows the iPhone screen to stay off and help prevent the driver from being distracted by their device. The Siri personal assistant software talks to a user out loud, allowing them to pay attention to the road.

The other companies that have announced plans to support Siri Eyes Free are BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, and Chrysler.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6.1 update

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Date: Tuesday, January 29th, 2013, 07:20
Category: iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

You’ve been hankering after it for a while and it’s finally here.

On Thursday, Apple released its iOS 6.1 update. The new operating system, a several hundred megabyte update available through iTunes, adds the following fixes and changes:
– LTE support for more carriers (complete list of supported carriers).

– Purchase movie tickets through Fandango with Siri (USA only).

– iTunes Match subscribers can now download individual songs from iCloud.

– New button to reset the Advertising Identifier.

iOS 6.1 requires an iPhone 3GS or newer, or a third-generation iPod touch or second, third or fourth-gen iPad or iPad mini to install and run.

As always, please let us know how iOS 6.1 works for you in the comments, no matter what the feedback may be.

Wireless handset unlocking becomes illegal in U.S. without carrier permission

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Date: Monday, January 28th, 2013, 08:45
Category: iPhone, Legal, wireless

Well, here’s the thing that’ll drive you nuts today.

Per Electronista and TechCrunch, phone unlocking without carrier permission is now illegal in the United States. A 90-day transition period, permitting the practice after an exemption added to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was reversed in October, has now run out. The expiration of the exemption now forces customers to either ask and potentially pay carriers for unlocking services, or to buy phones that have been unlocked beforehand.

The exemption was put in place after a campaign by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2010. Three exemptions were applied for, including making jailbreaking legal and the renewal of an existing exemption that permitted phone unlocking. In October, the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress reviewed and then overturned the unlocking exemption, citing the relative ease for consumers to either get an unlocked handset or to unlock a phone through a carrier. A 90-day transition period was then put in place, which has since ran out.

Penalties for unlocking, as outlined by CTIA, range from the carrier’s “actual damages and any additional profits of the violator”, to a court-awarded statutory damages of between US$200 and US$2500 per individual unlock, on the Civil Penalties side. Criminal penalties would see violators fined at most US$500,000 or imprisoned for up to five years, or both, for a first offense, with the values doubled for subsequent offenses.

In light of the unlocking exemption’s closure, a “We The People” petition asking for the Librarian of Congress to rescind the decision or to make unlocking permanently legal, has gathered over 25,000 signatures.

Jailbreaking and rooting of smartphones continues to be legal.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may incorporate fingerprint sensor into iPhone “Home” button for next-gen models

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Date: Friday, January 25th, 2013, 08:34
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, Rumor

This could be interesting.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is expected to launch a new iPhone this year with a fingerprint sensor hidden beneath the home button — an intuitive design that could be difficult for competing Android and Windows Phone devices to copy.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities expects Apple’s acquisition of AuthenTec to pay off this year with the so-called “iPhone 5S,” the company’s anticipated next-generation handset. He believes Apple will find a way to integrate the fingerprint sensor into the home button, allowing Apple to retain its “minimalist design.”

In contrast, many Android and Windows Phone devices have more than one button below the display, and those buttons frequently lack the mechanical push of Apple’s home button. As a result, attempts to integrate fingerprint scanning on competing devices would be less intuitive, and could frustrate users, Kuo said.

He believes that with the addition of a fingerprint sensor below the iPhone’s home button, Apple will be able to replace the use of usernames and passwords, allowing users to authenticate in a more efficient manner. He also expects that the fingerprint scanner will integrate with applications such as Passbook to enhance their functionality.

Kuo has a particularly strong track record in predicting Apple’s future product pipeline. Last year, the analyst accurately forecast the company’s entire fall lineup, including the taller design of the iPhone 5 and iPod touch, thinner iMacs, the iPad mini, and the fourth-generation iPad with Lightning connector.

Beyond the “iPhone 5S,” Kuo expects a new handset based on the iPhone 5 design will also launch this year. Kuo’s comments are in line with recent rumors, that have pegged Apple as planning to release a more affordable iPhone model this year targeted at emerging markets.

Kuo believes the less expensive iPhone 5 will feature a new design, including a plastic casing, to cut costs and expand Apple’s iPhone lineup.

The analyst has also predicted that the iPad mini will gain a Retina display in 2013, while the full-size iPad will sport a lighter and thinner design with a smaller bezel. He also expects new Retina MacBook Pros with cheaper prices, the discontinuation of the legacy MacBook Pros, and a refresh to the Apple TV set-top box — but no full-fledged television set this year.

Apple announces 36 international wireless carriers moving to 4G LTE networks in 2013

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Date: Thursday, January 24th, 2013, 08:31
Category: iPad, iPhone, News

If you’re traveling internationally with your iPhone 5, this will come in handy.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will more than double the number of carriers that support fast 4G LTE data service for its flagship iPhone 5 next week, with 36 new LTE carriers joining its existing pool of 24.

When asked about “the pace of LTE build outs across the globe, in Europe or parts of Asia” and how that could have an impact on Apple’s iPhone business as LTE capacity becomes more available, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook outlined big expansion plans beginning next week.

“Today we have 24 carriers around the world that provide LTE support for iPhone 5. Those are in countries like the US, Korea, the UK, Germany, Canada, Japan, Australia and a few others,” Cook said.

“Next week,” he added, “we’re adding 36 more carriers for LTE support. These carriers will be in countries that we are not currently supporting LTE.”

Cook specifically noted new carriers “in Italy, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Philippines, and also several middle eastern countries,” pointing out that “if you look at the total of all of these, the incremental subscribers in those countries it’s over 300 million.”

That subscriber total of the 36 country expansion is just over 10 percent larger than Verizon Wireless, which is currently the world’s largest LTE carrier, with about 257 million subscribers. Verizon just announced having sold 9.8 million smartphones in the winter quarter, 6.2 million of which were iPhones.

In addition to carriers supporting LTE, Cook also drew attention to iPhone 5’s ability to work with other advanced data networks, noting, “as you know iPhone 5 also supports other ultra fast networks like HSPA+, with downloads up to 42Mbps, which is 3 times the speed as iPhone 4S.”

Cook concluded his comments on global carrier expansion by saying, “we feel really good about the situation we are in, particularly with these adds next week.”

Apple first launched LTE support one year ago for its third generation iPad introducing a Retina Display. Last September, Apple launched iPhone 5 as its first LTE phone, expanding LTE and HSPA+ support to new carriers globally.

Apple currently sells three versions of iPhone 5 (and new iPad 4 and iPad mini models equipped with LTE mobile data): a model that works exclusively with American AT&T and Canadian carriers using LTE bands 4 and 17; a model supporting CDMA carriers Verizon and Sprint in the US and KDDI in Japan, using LTE bands 1,3,5,13 and 25; and a third model supporting LTE bands 1, 3 and 5, sold to subscribers in Germany, the UK, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Softbank in Japan.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts $54.5 billion in revenue, $13.1 billion profit for Q1 2013 financial returns

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Date: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013, 21:21
Category: Apple TV, Finance, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail

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It was a profitable quarter, but there were setbacks compared to last year.

Per Macworld, for the company’s first fiscal quarter of 2013, Apple posted revenue of US$54.5 billion and a net profit of US$13.1 billion. Revenue rose 17.7 percent from the 2012 first quarter, while profit was flat year-over-year. Apple earned US$13.81 per share, down half-a-percentage point from the US$13.87 it earned in the year-ago quarter.

Apple’s quarterly performance was in line with Wall Street expectations. Analysts were looking for sales of around US$54.7 billion for the quarter and earnings per share of US$13.42.

iPhone sales hit a record for the quarter ended Dec. 29, 2012, up 29 percent year over year to 47.8 million phones. That was within the 46 to 47 million range analysts were looking for. Apple says it sold 3.7 million phones a week during the quarter, compared to weekly sales of 2.6 million during the 2012 quarter.

iPhone sales growth was strong in all sales regions, Oppenheimer said, but particularly in Greater China, which includes China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Sales doubled year over year in that region.

Oppenheimer credited the “tremendous popularity” of iPhone 5 for driving Apple’s phone business—a not so subtle slap at rumors of sluggish iPhone 5 sales. Breaking with Apple’s typical practice of not addressing rumors, Cook did dismiss reports of iPhone order cuts.

iPad sales also set a new high-water mark, with 22.9 million tablets sold, compared to 15.4 million last year. That translates to more than 1.7 million iPads sold per week, a 60 percent increase from the year-ago quarter, according to Oppenheimer.

As is its custom, Apple didn’t break out sales figures between iPad models—it currently offers the iPad 2, a fourth-generation model of its full-sized iPad, and the iPad mini. Oppenheimer called the smaller version of Apple’s tablet a “tremendous hit.”

For the quarter, Apple sold more than 75 million iOS devices.

The company sold 12.7 million iPods, down about 21 percent compared to the year before. The iPod touch was (as always) popular during the holidays, and still accounts for more than half of all iPods sold. The company claims that the iPod owns more then 70 percent of the market for MP3 players.

iTunes generated US$2.1 billion in revenue, and the company established new all-time quarterly sales records for music, movies, and apps. The company added music stores in 56 countries, for a total of 119 around the world. The App Store sold 2 billion downloads in December; cumulative downloads have surpassed 40 billion, generating US$7 billion in payments to developers.

Apple made brief mention of its Apple TV offering, noting that it sold more than 2 million settop boxes during the holiday season quarter. That’s a 60 percent increase from the prior year.

Revenue from Apple’s retail effort was US$6.4 billion—an all-time high and a 5 percent increase over the 2012 first quarter. The company says that revenue is largely due to iPad and iPhone sales.

Apple opened 11 new stores, including four in its Greater China region. It expects to invest a bit less than US$1 billion in its retail stores this fiscal year.

Apple once again noted that the cumulative downloads have now surpassed 40 billion for the App Store, generating US$7 billion for developers. There were 2 billion downloads in the month of December alone.

Unusually, Apple did not break out the percentage of customers who purchased Macs at Apple Stores who were new to the platform. (In the past, that company has hovered consistently around 50 percent.) That omission could be a byproduct of the dip in Mac sales during the quarter.

For the second quarter ending in March, Apple expects sales to come in between US$41 and US$43 billion. That number would be slightly ahead of the US$39.2 billion in revenue the company logged in the 2012 second quarter. Apple is no longer giving analysts a forecast on earnings per share for the quarter, instead providing its expectations for gross margin and operating expenses in addition to revenue. (Apple expects gross margin to be between 37.5 and 38.5 percent for the upcoming quarter while operating expenses will come in at US$3.8 and US$3.9 billion.)

DigiTimes falls back on larger-screen iPhone story, agrees with Wall Street Journal’s assessment of next-gen iPhone hardware

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Date: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013, 07:55
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

Sometimes you’re dead-on, other times it’s time to head back to the drawing board.

Per AppleInsider, Taiwanese publication Digitimes on Tuesday backpedaled on its previous claims that Apple would be launching a cheaper, yet larger-screened, iPhone variant in 2013 to combat a growing low-end “phablet” market.

While DigiTimes reversed its original take on big-screen iPhone debut, the publication is hedging its bets and contends that Apple will eventually release such a handset, just not in 2013.

The report went on to agree with the The Wall Street Journal’s story, which previously claimed that Apple is planning on releasing two separate iPhone models this year. In its piece, the WSJ cited sources as saying both a successor to the current iPhone 5 and a budget smartphone, possibly made of polycarbonate, would launch sometime in 2013.

Adding to Tuesday’s rumor, DigiTimes noted that both the next-generation iPhone and rumored handset will feature in-cell touchscreen panels. The current iPhone 5 already boasts the advanced screen tech that allows for a thinner device by integrating touch sensing components within the LCD array. Yield rates of the complex displays caused supply constraints when the latest iPhone launched last year, but those production issues are said to have been corrected.

The latest rumor may be unfounded, however, as Apple is thought to have chosen older touchscreen tech, in addition to non-Retina resolution panels, with the iPad mini in attempts to capitalize on already slim margins. In-cell screens are not yet an industry standard and therefore substantially raise a device’s bill of materials.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Opera demos “Ice” web browser for iOS, Android devices

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Date: Monday, January 21st, 2013, 08:59
Category: iPad, iPhone, News, Software

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It never hurts to have a wider array of web browser choices for your iOS device.

Per Pocket Lint and AppleInsider, Opera Software on Friday unveiled its latest project, a WebKit-based mobile browser called “Opera Ice” that is specifically designed for screen formats seen on popular smartphones and tablets, including the iPhone and iPad.

In an internal video released on Friday, Opera gave a brief look at a beta of the new app, which features an icon-based interface much like the optional homescreens seen on desktop versions of Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome browsers.



According to the developers, the app was designed to hide the usual clutter seen with modern web browsers, including the ubiquitous URL bar, that takes up limited screen real estate on mobile devices. The so-called “full touch browser” does away with buttons and menus to create a spartan user interface driven by screen taps and gestures.

Instead of the Presto rendering engine that Opera has used for years, Ice is based on WebKit, the same engine used by both Apple and Google. The move is meant to keep Opera in the fast-changing mobile market.

“We need to focus on getting strong products out on iOS and Android,” said Opera CEO Lars Boilesen.

As for the company’s current mobile solution, Opera mini, Boilesen said that it won’t be replaced by Ice. Instead, the platform will be leveraged to generate users that will eventually be migrated over to new mobile apps. Opera Ice is expected to debut sometime in February, while a new unannounced desktop browser is slated for a March release.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Sprint to add 28 cities to 4G LTE network in coming months

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Date: Friday, January 18th, 2013, 08:10
Category: iPhone, News

A growing network…that’s never a bad thing.

Per AppleInsider, U.S. carrier Sprint announced Thursday that its 4G LTE network, which offers faster connections to the iPhone 5 and Apple’s latest iPads, will expand to 28 new cities in the coming months.

The continuing deployment is part of Sprint’s Network Vision strategy, in which the company will consolidate multiple network technologies into one new, seamless network.

The goal, Sprint said, is to increase efficiency and enhance network coverage, call quality and data speeds for customers across the U.S.

The full list of markets that will gain access to Sprint 4G LTE follows:
Albany, Ga.
Anderson, S.C.
Bay City, Mich
Branson, Mo.
Bremerton/Silverdale, Wash.
Columbus, Ga.
Columbus, Miss.
Decatur, Ala.
Florence/Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Gadsden, Ala.
Gaffney, S.C.
Gettysburg, Pa.
Glasgow, Ky.
Homosassa Springs, Fla.
Hot Springs, Ark.
Lake City, Fla.
Lake Havasu City/Kingman, Ariz.
Midland, Mich.
Nacogdoches, Tex.
Opelousas/Eunice, La.
Oxford, Miss.
Paris, Tex.
Pittsfield, Mass.
Saginaw, Mich.
Spartanburg, S.C.
The Villages, Fla.
Waycross, Ga.
Winona, Minn.

During the pre-launch phase, customers of Sprint with compatible 4G LTE devices, like Apple’s iPhone 5, may begin to see coverage. Customers are welcome to use the network before it officially launches.

Sprint promises that customers on its LTE network will see enhanced call quality and better performance. 4G LTE allows for significantly improved data speeds, which will enhance browsing the Web, streaming music or video, and downloading applications from the App Store.

Sprint has already announced nearly 200 markets where Sprint 4G LTE is on its way, including Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans; New York; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C. The carrier announced plans to expand its LTE network in 100 new cities in September.

If you’ve had a chance to try the new Sprint network locations, let us know what you make of them in the comments.

Apple allies with Merchants Bank Co. to offer installment-based payment plans to Chinese customers

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Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2013, 09:06
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail

If you’re buying Apple equipment in China, there’s a payment plan for you.

Per Bloomberg, Apple on Thursday introduced a new option for Chinese buyers of iPhones and MacBooks, allowing them to spread the cost of purchases ranging from from 300 yuan (US$48) to 30,000 yuan (US$4,800) over as long as two years.

The new installment payment plans require a China Merchants Bank Co. credit card, with fees ranging from zero percent for a three-month installment plan to 8.5 percent for a 24-month plan. The payment structure likely represents Apple’s attempt at making its products, typically priced at a premium, more affordable for urban Chinese workers.

The article noted that Apple fell from fourth to sixth place in China’s smartphone market in the third quarter and now trails firms such as ZTE, Samsung, and Lenovo, whose smartphone offerings are more affordable than Apple’s iPhone.

Industry observers have long held that a cheaper iPhone would give Apple control over the growing Chinese market, and the financing move may allow Apple to retain its typical profit margins and brand image while widening its base of potential buyers in what will soon become the world’s largest market.

The iPhone 5, which hit the Chinese market last month, costs 5,288 yuan on Apple’s site, or about six weeks’ pay for the average urban worker. By comparison, handsets from competitors often cost less than 1,000 yuan.

Sales of other Apple products have demonstrated demand for the Cupertino company’s devices, as the iPad mini debuted to “insatiable demand” in China last December. Apple has increased its focus on the country accordingly, with chief executive Tim Cook visiting China twice in the past 10 months, most recently meeting with China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.