Apple releases updated iOS 6.1 beta, Apple TV beta and Xcode 4.6 preview to developer community

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Date: Tuesday, November 13th, 2012, 07:08
Category: Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, Software

The iOS updates, they’re en route…

Per AppleInsider, a new build of iOS 6.1 was provided to developers on Monday, less than two weeks after the first beta was issued, along with a new preview of Xcode 4.6, and new beta software for the Apple TV.

Sources familiar with the second beta of iOS 6.1 indicated it is known as build 10B510c. It’s compatible with the fourth-, third- and second-generation iPad, iPad mini, iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 3GS, and fifth- and fourth-generation iPod touch.

The second beta of iOS 6.1 arrived Monday alongside a new Xcode 4.6 Developer Preview 2, said to be known as build 4H95e, as well as a new beta software release for the Apple TV set-top box.

As with the previous beta of iOS 6.1, the latest build enhances the Map Kit framework in iOS, allowing developers to search for map-based addresses and points of interest.

In one example provided to developers, users could search the string “coffee,” and it would return the location of local coffee bars along with information about each one.

Relevance behavior rules have also changed with Passbook iOS 6.1 for boarding passes with both a date and location. Developers are encouraged to provide both piece of information, when appropriate, to make boarding passes relevant for a longer window of time.

Because it is beta software, a number of known issues remain with iOS 6.1. For example, Apple has notified developers that when browsing for TV shows in iTunes Store, options to view content by networks, genres and Genius recommendations are not available.

Sources who tested the first beta of iOS 6.1 indicated that the software was relatively stable, aside from some crashing issues that were present when using the camera’s panorama mode.

The last update to iOS arrived in the form of software version 6.0.1 earlier this month. It addressed a number of minor bugs with the software, including screen distortion, issues with the camera flash, and problems with Exchange.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on the new betas and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

iPhone 5 shipping times improve, device ETA now stands at 2-3 weeks

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Date: Tuesday, November 13th, 2012, 07:59
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

Maybe things are getting a little better over at the Foxconn plant…

Per AppleInsider, availability of the iPhone 5 continues to improve, as Apple’s website now advertises that all models ship within two to three weeks.

The latest estimated shipping times are an improvement from the previously advertised timeframe of three to four weeks. The shipping time applies to both the black and slate as well as the white and silver models, in all three capacities.

The improved shipping times corroborate reports from last week that revealed Apple’s supply was catching up with demand for iPhone 5 inventory at its U.S. retail stores. Gene Munster and his team at Piper Jaffray found that 54 percent of 100 Apple Stores had the AT&T iPhone 5 in stock, while 24 percent had the Verizon model, and 84 percent were stocked with the Sprint variety.

Those numbers from last week were a major improvement from the weeks prior, when supplies of the iPhone 5 were severely constrained, particularly for AT&T and Verizon customers.

“We believe this is an important step for Apple as it appears they are finally gaining momentum in being able to keep up with demand for the iPhone 5,” Munster wrote. “We believe that if AT&T and Verizon device availability follows the same trend as Sprint, it may only be 2-3 weeks before iPhone 5s are consistently available to customers.”

Also last week, Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee said his checks within Apple’s supply chain found that the company had significantly improved its production capacity of the iPhone 5 since the device launched in late September. According to Wu, the supply chain bottleneck for the iPhone 5 moved from components to the assembly of the device itself.

Earlier reports claimed that the iPhone 5’s in-cell touch panel and aluminum chassis have caused quality control issues for both Apple and Foxconn. One unnamed source from Foxconn said in October that the iPhone 5 is “the most difficult device” the company has ever been tasked with assembling.

If you’ve gotten word as to when your iPhone 5 is expected to ship, please let us know its estimated delivery time in the comments.

Rumor: Samsung initiates 20% price increase for iOS device chips

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Date: Monday, November 12th, 2012, 08:05
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Processors, Rumor

I think it’s about time we just rename “Apple” and “Samsung” as the “Hatfields” and the “McCoys”, because this is going to drag on for a while.

Per MarketWatch, Samsung has allegedly increased the price of its mobile processors by 20 percent for just one company: Apple.

The details come from an unnamed person allegedly familiar with negotiations between the two companies.

The person indicated that Samsung asked for a “significant price raise” for building chips such as the A6 chip found in the iPhone 5 and the A6X processor that powers the fourth-generation iPad.

Apple apparently balked at the terms of the deal at first, but eventually accepted the 20 percent price hike, as it could not find any other company to build its mobile processor.

All of Apple’s application processors for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch are made by Samsung. The company produces the chips at its fabrication plant in Austin, Tex.

Samsung is expected to build a total of 200 million chips for Apple this year. The companies have allegedly signed a long-term supply contract through 2014.

Although though Samsung remains the sole supplier of Apple’s custom chips found in the iPhone and iPad, the company has long been rumored to be pursuing a chipmaking partnership with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. One report from last month claimed that TSMC could begin building quad-core 20-nanometer chips for Apple as soon as late 2013.

And in October it was said that Apple was getting “serious” about moving chip production away from Samsung. Around the same time, Apple also hired away former Samsung chip designer Jim Mergard, who also designed and developed chips for AMD for 16 years.

Last week, one report claimed that Samsung was expecting to lose a portion of its future chip orders from Apple. It indicated that the Korean electronics company may put off construction of a new fabrication facility because of the expected decrease in orders.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Foxconn chair cites crushing demand, possible delays for iPhone 5 units

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Date: Wednesday, November 7th, 2012, 08:49
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

You know that iPhone 5 you ordered?

You may have to wait a little longer for it to be manufactured and ship.

Per Reuters, Crushing demand for the iPhone 5 has proven to be too much for Apple’s manufacturing partner, Foxconn, to handle, as it continues to struggle to produce the device.

Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou admitted on Wednesday that his company is finding it difficult to meet the significant demand for Apple’s iPhone 5. Foxconn is Apple’s primary partner for assembly of a number of its devices, including the iPhone.

“It’s not easy to make the iPhones,” Gou reportedly said. “We are falling short of meeting the huge demand.”

Sales of the iPhone 5 have been held back by limited supply since the device launched in September. Apple itself said the company has been “completely blown away” by consumer demand for the device.

In particular, the in-cell touch panel and aluminum chassis featured in the new design of the iPhone 5 are said to have posed quality control issues for both Apple and Foxconn. One unnamed source from Foxconn revealed in October that the iPhone 5 is “the most difficult device” the company has ever been tasked with assembling.

Rumors first surfaced a month ago that Foxconn had expanded production to a subsidiary known as Foxconn International Holdings in an effort to boost production. When asked about that rumor on Wednesday, Gou declined to comment.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple web site search reveals possible unlocked iPhone 5 units en route

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Date: Monday, November 5th, 2012, 10:17
Category: iPhone, News, Rumor

This is kind of interesting.

With the U.S. Online Apple Store still showing carrier-specific iPhone 5 delivery dates of three to four weeks, a quick search on Apple’s website may have revealed the pricing of factory unlocked units expected to hit stores later this year.

Per AppleInsider, the alleged unlocked units are anything but official and could merely be placeholders in Apple’s database, however the prices are consistent with identical models being sold in Canada where all iPhones are unlocked.

While not listed anywhere else on the site, a query for “iPhone 5 factory unlocked” in the Apple.com search bar reveals “Apple Store Results” as seen above. The units are priced at US$649 for the 16GB version, US$749 for the 32GB model, and US$849 for the 64GB iteration. While not present in the screenshot, all prices for both GSM and CDMA models can be found by adding the storage size to the search. For example, the price of unlocked 32GB GSM and CDMA iPhone 5s are found by searching for “iPhone 5 factory unlocked 32GB.”

It is unclear how long the purported iPhone 5 search results have been on Apple’s website, but a report in September showed an Online Apple Store iPhone comparison page that revealed the prices of unlocked versions bound for the U.S. and Canada. The prices quoted in that report are in line with the search results found on Apple’s U.S. website.

Currently, Apple does not offer factory unlocked versions of its latest handset in the U.S., however the CDMA version sold by Verizon was found to be compatible with the GSM networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. A subsequent report noted that the AT&T version can be unlocked to operate on T-Mobile’s network via an iTunes reset and nano-SIM card replacement.

Apple is expected to introduce unlocked versions of the iPhone 5 when its worldwide rollout is completed and supply of the handset normalizes.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6.1 beta, updated Xcode beta to developers, looks to improve iOS Maps application functionality

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Date: Friday, November 2nd, 2012, 07:22
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, Software

It’s time to sort out this iOS Maps snafu in a major way.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Thursday provided developers with a prerelease version of its forthcoming iOS 6.1 update, featuring improvements to its Maps application programming interface, and also issued a beta of Xcode 4.6.

Both iOS 6.1 and Xcode 4.6 are now available to download from Apple’s developer website. People familiar with the first iOS 6.1 beta indicated it is identified as “Build 10B5095f.”

The iOS 6.1 beta is available for the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS; fourth-, third- and second-generation iPads; and the fifth- and fourth-generation iPod touch.

Beta versions of iOS 6.1 compatible with the iPad mini and new fourth-generation iPad, which will become publicly available tomorrow, are not said to be offered on Apple’s developer website.

The only major new addition to iOS 6.1 is said to be “Map Kit Searches” as part of the “Map Kit” framework. It now lets developers search for map-based addresses and points of interest.

A new class labeled “MKLocalSearch” is also said to offer map-based content using a natural language string. This will allow users to enter place name information or portions of an address to return relevant information.

In one example provided to developers, users could search the string “coffee,” and it would return the location of local coffee bars along with information about each one.

The new Xcode 4.6 beta is reportedly labeled as “Build 4H90b,” and it includes the iOS 6.1 beta SDK, along with Mac OS X 10.8 SDK. The pre-release version of Xcode includes the Xcode IDE, iOS simulator, and all required tools and frameworks for building OS X and iOS applications.

If you’ve gotten your hands on the new development tools and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases iOS 6.0.1 update

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Date: Friday, November 2nd, 2012, 06:51
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, Software

It’s the bug fixes that matter.

On Thursday, Apple released its iOS 6.0.1 update. The new operating system, a 626 megabyte update available through iTunes, adds the following fixes and changes:
– Fixes a bug that prevents iPhone 5 from installing software updates wirelessly over the air.

– Fixes a bug where horizontal lines may be displayed across the keyboard.

– Fixes an issue that could cause camera flash to not go off.

– Improves reliability of iPhone 5 and iPod touch (5th generation) when connected to encrypted WPA2 Wi-Fi networks.

– Resolves an issue that prevents iPhone from using the cellular network in some instances.

– Consolidated the Use Cellular Data switch for iTunes Match.

– Fixes a Passcode Lock bug which sometimes allowed access to Passbook pass details from lock screen.

– Fixes a bug affecting Exchange meetings.

iOS 6.0.1 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 6.0.1 works for you, no matter what the feedback may be.

Revised DMCA allows for unlocking of handsets, other exemptions

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Date: Friday, October 26th, 2012, 07:20
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, Legal, News, Software

There’s exceptions to every rule and some of them get pretty interesting.

Per the cool cats at Ars Technica, the Digital Millennium Copyright makes it illegal to “circumvent” digital rights management schemes. But when Congress passed the DMCA in 1998, it gave the Librarian of Congress the power to grant exemptions. The latest batch of exemptions, which will be in force for three years, were announced on Thursday.

Between now and late 2015, there will be five categories of circumvention that will be allowed under the Librarian’s rules, one fewer than the current batch of exemptions, which was announced in July 2010. The new exemptions take effect October 28.

The new batch of exemptions illustrate the fundamentally arbitrary nature of the DMCA’s exemption process. For the next three years, you’ll be allowed to jailbreak smartphones but not tablet computers. You’ll be able to unlock phones purchased before January 2013 but not phones purchased after that. It will be legal to rip DVDs to use an excerpt in a documentary, but not to play it on your iPad.

The first exemption applies to “literary works, distributed electronically, that are protected by technological measures which either prevent the enabling of read-aloud functionality or interfere with screen readers or other applications or assistive technologies.” The work must have been purchased legitimately through “customary channels,” such that “the rights owner is remunerated.”

A similar version of the exemption was offered in 2010, but that one allowed circumvention only if “all existing e-book editions of the work contain access controls” that inhibit disabled access. Disability groups urged the Librarian to drop this restriction, arguing that “despite the rapid growth of the e-book market, most e-book titles remain inaccessible due to fragmentation within the industry and differing technical standards and accessibility capabilities across platforms.” That meant that the rule effectively required disabled users to own multiple devices—a Kindle, a Nook, and an iPad, for example—in order to gain access to a full range of e-books. The Librarian accepted this argument and allowed circumvention by disabled users even if a work is available in an open format on another platform.

The new rules allow circumvention of “computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute lawfully obtained software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications with computer programs on the telephone handset.” In other words, jailbreaking is permitted for “telephone handsets,” as it was under the 2010 rules.

Unfortunately, the Librarian “found significant merit to the opposition’s concerns that this aspect of the proposed class was broad and ill-defined, as a wide range of devices might be considered ‘tablets,’ notwithstanding the significant distinctions among them in terms of the way they operate, their intended purposes, and the nature of the applications they can accommodate. For example, an e-book reading device might be considered a ‘tablet,’ as might a handheld video game device or a laptop computer.”

The Librarian ruled that “the record lacked a sufficient basis to develop an appropriate definition for the ‘tablet’ category of devices, a necessary predicate to extending the exemption beyond smartphones.”

In 2006 and 2010, the Librarian of Congress had permitted users to unlock their phones to take them to a new carrier. Now that’s coming to an end. While the new rules do contain a provision allowing phone unlocking, it comes with a crippling caveat: the phone must have been “originally acquired from the operator of a wireless telecommunications network or retailer no later than ninety days after the effective date of this exemption.”

In other words, phones you already have, as well as those purchased between now and next January, can be unlocked. But phones purchased after January 2013 can only be unlocked with the carrier’s permission.

Why the change? The Librarian cited two key factors. One is a 2010 ruling that held that when you purchase software, you don’t actually own it. Rather, you merely license it according to the terms of the End User License Agreement. The Librarian argued that this undermined the claim that unlocking your own phone was fair use.

Also, the Librarian found that there are more unlocked phones on the market than there were three years ago, and that most wireless carriers have liberal policies for unlocking their handsets. As a result, the Librarian of Congress decided that it should no longer be legal to unlock your cell phone without the carrier’s permission.

The most complicated exemption focuses on DVDs. Between now and 2015, it will be legal to rip a DVD “in order to make use of short portions of the motion pictures for the purpose of criticism or comment in the following instances: (i) in noncommercial videos; (ii) in documentary films; (iii) in nonfiction multimedia e-books offering film analysis; and (iv) for educational purposes in film studies or other courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts, by college and university faculty, college and university students, and kindergarten through twelfth grade educators.” A similar exemption applies for “online distribution services.”

The Librarian also allowed DVDs to be decrypted to facilitate disability access. Specifically, it’s now legal “to access the playhead and/or related time code information embedded in copies of such works and solely for the purpose of conducting research and development for the purpose of creating players capable of rendering visual representations of the audible portions of such works and/or audible representations or descriptions of the visual portions of such works to enable an individual who is blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing, and who has lawfully obtained a copy of such a work, to perceive the work.”

But the Librarian did not allow circumvention for space-shifting purposes. While public interest groups had argued that consumers should be allowed to rip a DVD in order to watch it on an iPad that lacks a built-in DVD drive, the Librarian concluded that no court has found that such “space shifting” is a fair use under copyright law.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and, well, enjoy unlocking your handsets.

Apple to offer livestream of media event today

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Date: Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012, 06:08
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPad, iPhone, News

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Today’s Apple media event starts in just a few hours.

And Apple will be streaming it.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has added a new channel to its Apple TV set-top box called “Apple Events” that will live stream the company’s media briefing today. In addition, the event will also be streamed to iOS devices and Macs.

Users are invited to tune in at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern to watch the “Apple Special Event” live. The presentation will be held at the California Theatre in San Jose.

In addition to a live stream of the event, Apple TV users can also watch Apple’s other past presentations, including the iPhone 5 unveiling, the 2012 Worldwide Developers Conference, and the introduction of the third-generation iPad with Retina display. Streaming via Apple TV requires a second- or third-generation model with software 5.0.2 or later.

For those on a Mac, the live stream requires Safari 4 or later on OS X 10.6 or later. On iOS devices, Safari on iOS 4.2 or later is required. The stream will be made available at this link later today.

Apple has on occasion offered live streams of its events, most recently in September of 2010. However, those events were streamed to Mac and iOS devices, not the Apple TV.

A week ago, Apple sent invitations to members of the press inviting them to see “a little more.” The company is expected to introduce a new, smaller iPad with a 7.85-inch display.

Also potentially on tap today are new Macs, most prominently a new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. The company may also introduce a new version of iBooks, and a revamped version of its iTunes desktop software.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and happy streaming later on today!

Apple looking to replace IR sensors with sonar technology in next-gen devices

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Date: Thursday, October 18th, 2012, 07:52
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Patents

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Look at it this way: sonar’s been around for a while.

And it’s always been nifty.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an Apple patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday describes a system that may one day replace the infrared proximity sensors deployed in current iPhones with sonar-like technology.

Apple’s invention for “Passive proximity detection” negates the need for the current IR sensor, replacing it with a system that can detect and process sound waves to determine how far away an object is from a portable device.

Much like passive echolocation or a loose interpretation of passive sonar, the filing describes a system that takes two sound wave samples, a “before” and an “after,” and compares the two to determine if an external object’s proximity to the device changed. “Sampling” occurs when a transducer, such as a microphone, picks up ambient sound and sends a corresponding signal to the device’s processor for analysis.

The invention relies on basic acoustic principles as applied to modern electronics. For example, a microphone’s signal equalization curve from an audio source changes when the device moves towards or away from an object, which “variably reflect[s] elements of the sound wave.”

This effect may be noticed when sound is reflected by soft material as opposed to a hard surface. Generally, sound reflected off the soft surface will seem muted when compared to the same sound reflected off a hard surface located at the same distance and angle from an audio transducer and a sound source.

In one of the invention’s embodiments, two microphones are situated at different planes on a device, and detect the subtle changes in broad-audio-spectrum caused by interference when a sound wave interacts with an object.

To relate this to a common phenomenon, when a sea shell is held up to one’s ear a resonant cavity is formed that amplifies ambient sounds. This hi-Q filtering results in the ocean like sounds one hears.

In another example, response signals produced by two microphones located at either end of a device can be compared to determine if an object is nearer to one or the other. For example, when a user’s face is close to the top of a device, as is usual when talking on the phone, the microphone located near the ear will produce a different reactance ratio than the microphone located at the device’s base.

Basically, the signals from two transducers, or microphones, detect slight changes in ambient sound and sends corresponding signals to a processor which then compares the two to determine whether an object is in close proximity to either of the mics.

Monitoring of the microphones can be live or set to take samples at predetermined intervals, such as after a user begins to speak. Placement of the microphones can also be tweaked, and in some cases can be located next to each other.

Finally, a more active detection method is proposed, where an internal speaker generates noise, taking the place of ambient sound waves.

As portable electronic devices become increasingly smaller, the need to develop space-saving components, or to combine parts to serve a number of uses, becomes more pressing. Such is the case with Apple’s latest iPhone 5, a device that packs 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth communications, a battery that can last for days, a 4-inch Retina display, two cameras, and a litany of other features into a chassis only 7.6 mm deep.

Space is already at a premium with the iPhone, as evidenced by the new Lightning connector, which Apple’s Worldwide Marketing chief Phil Schiller said was needed to create such a thin device. Moving forward, the company is rumored to incorporate near field communications (NFC) for e-wallet payments, which will take up even more precious room.

It remains to be seen if Apple will one day employ the passive proximity detection technology in a consumer device, however the iPhone is a platform ripe for deployment as it already boasts three mics for noise canceling and call quality purposes.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.