Siri to arrive on wider array of devices, gain additional features in iOS 6

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Date: Tuesday, June 12th, 2012, 06:28
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

Even if Siri can be a bit flummoxing at times, Apple believes in it.

Per Macworld, company representatives stated during the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote Monday that Siri will have a starring role in iOS 6, the next version of the operating system that powers the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Representatives also cited that the technology will move just the iPhone 4S to the latest version of Apple’s iPad.

During his demonstration, Apple’s Scott Forstall pointed out how Siri on iOS 6 can launch apps. Forstall demonstrated by launching Temple Run with a voice command.

Siri’s integration with iOS 6’s overhauled Maps app runs deep. Ask Siri how to get somewhere, and you immediately get turn-by-turn directions—even from the lock screen. Then you can ask Siri to repeat herself, where gas stations are along the way, what the traffic is like, how long until you get there, and every traveling kid’s favorite question: “Are we there yet?”

Forstall also mentioned a new feature called Eyes Free. He said Apple is working together with car manufacturers to integrate a button for triggering Siri from your steering wheel; among the companies looking to integrate that feature in the next twelve months are GM, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler, and Honda.

Siri’s also getting more international, with support for Canadian French and English; Italian; Spanish (for Spain, Mexico, and the U.S.); Swiss Italian, French, and German; Mandarin for Taiwan; Cantonese for Hong Kong; and Mandarin and Cantonese for mainland China.

And soon another iOS device will find its voice, too: Forstall said the third-generation iPad will get Siri support as well.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Virgin Mobile to offer iPhone calling plans starting at $30/month beginning June 29th

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Date: Thursday, June 7th, 2012, 13:56
Category: iPhone, News

It never hurts to have a cheap calling plan, even if you do have to buy the handset at the unsubsidized price…

Per AppleInsider, wireless carrier Virgin Mobile USA announced on Thursday that it will offer Apple’s iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 beginning Friday, June 29, with contract-free plans as low as US$30 per month.

Customers will be able to purchase the 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S for US$649, matching the price of a contract-free handset purchased through the Apple Store or AT&T. That’s different from regional wireless carrier Leap, which announced late last month that it would sell a 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S for US$500, meaning the carrier is subsidizing the price by about US$150.

While customers who buy the iPhone through Virgin Mobile USA will pay a higher upfront premium, they could also see considerable savings on their plans. The carrier offers customers a US$5-per-month discount when they register for automatic monthly payments, which results in a basic plan with “unlimited” data and text messaging and 300 voice minutes for US$30.

Users can upgrade to 1,200 voice minutes for $40 per month, or obtain unlimited minutes for US$50 per month. Though data is advertised as “unlimited,” all plans include 2.5 gigabytes per month of full-speed data, and any overages can be throttled.

Virgin Mobile USA will also offer Apple’s previous-generation iPhone 4 for US$549 in the 8 gigabyte capacity. The contract-free phones will be available at Virgin Mobile’s website, RadioShack, Best Buy, and select local retailers.

Word first surfaced on Tuesday that Virgin Mobile USA would become the second American carrier to offer Apple’s iPhone without a service contract. However, the launch date and exact pricing were not known until the official announcement was made Thursday by Virgin Mobile.

Virgin’s voice and data service relies on Sprint’s “Nationwide Network.” The sale of iPhones through Sprint’s Virgin mobile could go toward the US$15.5 billion in iPhones sprint had pledged to sell over a four-year span in a deal with Apple.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Google unveils new 3D mapping feature for iOS, Android devices

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Date: Wednesday, June 6th, 2012, 10:05
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

You can’t knock a kickass 3D mapping system, especially when it’s on your iPhone or iPad.

Google on Wednesday unveiled what it has promoted as the “next dimension” of its Maps service, with new full 3D renderings that were demonstrated live on an Apple iPad.

Google has been using automated technology to extract data from aerial models captured by airplanes owned by the company. With planes flying overhead in tightly controlled patterns snapping pictures, Google can use the imagery and data to create three-dimensional mapping imagery.



Images of the ground are snapped from 45 degrees at four angles, and those pictures and data can be combined to recreate maps in three dimensions. The whole process allows 3D maps to be built without human interaction, unlike with previous 3D imagery in Google Earth.

In a live event on Wednesday, Google demonstrated 3D models of individual buildings and entire cities. The new features were shown off to members of the press on an Apple iPad, rather than an Android-based tablet.

The company promised that its new 3D imagery will be coming to both iOS and Android devices “in the coming weeks.” The technology will be part of both the Google Maps service, as well as its Google Earth application.

By the end of the year, Google expects to have communities home to about 300 million people mapped in its new space.

Google also revealed that it will bring an offline version of its Maps software to Android devices. The company said it is “working very hard” to bring offline Maps to iOS as well, but did not offer any more information.

Wednesday’s media event comes just five days before Apple is set to hold its own keynote address at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference. There, Apple is expected to unveil an all-new version of its Maps software for iOS that will ditch Google Maps.

Apple’s mapping intentions have been evident since at least 2009, when the company began acquiring mapping technology companies. The iPhone maker bought Placebase that year and then Poly9 in 2010. Last year, Apple bought Swedish 3D-mapping company C3.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone to slim down to 7.9 mm, could feature front-facing HD camera

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Date: Wednesday, June 6th, 2012, 10:25
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

It’s hard to knock an interesting rumor.

Per AppleInsider, KGI analyst Mingchi Kuo said in a note to investors that in addition to the move to HD, he believes Apple will also employ a flip-chip (FC) solution for the front-facing camera on the upcoming iPhone. The camera’s position would be moved to the middle, he said.

Kuo noted that an HD front camera would better suit the 4-inch display that he expects Apple’s sixth-generation handset to have. Currently, the front-facing camera of the iPhone 4S is capable of VGA resolution.

As for the rear-facing camera, Kuo said Apple will likely retain the 8-megapixel camera while improving the aperture range to go up to f/2.2. The iPhone 4S has a maximum aperture of f/2.4. The analyst also predicted that the rear camera on the next iPhone will be noticeable thinner, “making it the most challenging iPhone design yet.”

According to his analysis, the new iPhone’s rear camera will have a CCM of 5.55mm and a lens TTL of 4mm, down from 6mm and 4.8mm on the iPhone 4S. Apple’s suppliers will reportedly face “unprecedented challenges” producing the rear camera component because of the changes to the design.

Kuo issued a report in April claiming that Apple will slim down the iPhone to 7.9mm or less. The iPhone 4S has a depth of 9.3mm. The use of an in-cell touchscreen display is expected to shave as much as 0.4mm off the phone.

Sony, which provides the CMOS for the iPhone 4S, announced this January that it had developed a thinner next-generation CMOS. Last month, camera parts allegedly bound for the next iPhone surfaced online. If the parts were indeed authentic, they would suggest that Apple plans to redesign the cameras for its sixth-generation handset.

Apple is expected to launch the new iPhone this fall in either September or October. Some reports have claimed that the device will feature a redesigned form factor and 4G LTE connectivity.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Virgin Mobile to offer prepaid wireless plan for iPhone in July

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Date: Tuesday, June 5th, 2012, 14:16
Category: iPhone, News

No one ever said that prepaid was out of vogue.

Per MarketWatch, Sprint’s Virgin Mobile USA will become the second American carrier to offer Apple’s iPhone without a service contract, according to a new report.

Virgin Mobile’s addition of the iPhone to its product lineup will be announced later this week. The iPhone will debut on Virgin Mobile as soon as July 1.

The deal could go toward the US$15.5 billion in iPhones Sprint has committed to sell over a four-year span. The company pledged to buy the iPhones last year in a deal that brought the iPhone to Sprint, which is the third-largest carrier in the U.S.

Last week, it was announced that Cricket Wireless would become the first prepaid carrier to sell a contract-free iPhone in the U.S. on June 22. Cricket will offer the 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S for US$500 along with an “unlimited” US$55-per-month plan.

But Cricket will only sell the iPhone in smaller markets where the brand is available, while Virgin would make the iPhone more widely available to prepaid customers. The Virgin service, which uses Sprint’s network, covers 278 million people.

The price for a prepaid iPhone through Virgin was not revealed, but the carrier has prepaid plans that begin at US$35 a month for “unlimited” capped data. Tuesday’s report said it was “unclear” whether the iPhone would be compatible with those plans.

Apple began expanding the iPhone to regional carriers last October with C Spire wireless, while more were added in April and again in May of this year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to transition from Google Maps to its own solution for iOS later this year

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Date: Tuesday, June 5th, 2012, 06:15
Category: iPhone, Rumor, Software

You’ll get from point A to point B, just via Apple’s way of doing it.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has made plans to break from Google Maps and use its own technology for the native Maps app on iOS later this year and could announce the feature at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

Present and former Apple employees revealed to The Wall Street Journal that the Cupertino, Calif., company is set to bump Google’s maps service from its mobile OS. Apple would instead “release a new mapping app that runs Apple’s own technology,” the report said.

One source suggested that Apple may show off the new software at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco next week. The company is reportedly looking to convince third-party application developers to implement its technology into their offerings.

The report went on to note that, according to tipsters at Apple, the plan to oust Google Maps has been in motion for years. The rapid rise of Android sales is believed to have quickened the pace of Apple’s plans.

The iPhone maker’s mapping intentions have been evident since at least 2009, when the company began acquiring mapping technology companies. The iPhone maker bought Placebase that year and then Poly9 in 2010. Last year, Apple bought Swedish 3D-mapping company C3.

The company also revealed last April that it was collecting data for a crowd-sourced “improved traffic service” for iPhone users. Given that the revelation came as a result of a location data controversy, Apple’s comments have been taken as referring to street traffic, though the company declined to provide further details.

Small steps have been taken to gradually wean iOS off Google Maps. In 2010, Apple notified U.S. senators that, beginning with iOS 3.2, it had begun relying on “its own databases” for location-based services and diagnostic purposes. In March, it was discovered that Apple had switched to OpenStreetMaps for the maps in its iPhoto iOS app.

Apple’s reported switch comes as location services are quickly attracting a significant percentage of advertising dollars. According to the Journal, Opus Research projects map- or location-related ads will comprise 25 percent of the estimated US$2.5 billion that will be spent on mobile ads this year. However, the report suggested that Apple’s move isn’t just about the money.

“But more than ad revenue, Apple is going after the map market to have more control over a key asset in the widening smartphone war,” the report read, noting that 90 percent of American iPhone owners use Google Maps. “So Apple believes controlling the mapping experience and offering features that Google doesn’t have can help sell more devices and entice developers to build unique apps for iPhone users.”

The maps issue has taken on greater importance as the relationship between Apple and Google has become increasingly complicated. The two companies were close partners for years, but have grown apart as they have become fierce competitors in several key markets, such as smartphones, tablets and advertising.

According to the report, Apple became concerned in 2008 that Google may have been compromising user privacy with its map program. Google executives, on the other hand, reportedly felt Apple was being too controlling. The Mountain View, Calif., search company is believed to have angered Apple leaders by withholding the Street View and turn-by-turn navigation features. Its demands were for better branding within the app and incorporation of its Latitude service, which Apple was unwilling to integrate.

The disagreement served as the impetus for Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ search for acquisitions to build out the company’s own mapping team, the report noted. The group from Poly9 allegedly became a secretive “geo” team within Apple. The employees were said to have built a new geocoder to replace Google’s own and began using it last fall.

Google hasn’t been sitting still either, though. Last week, the company sent out invites for an event that will show off the “next dimension of Google Maps.” The wording of the invite has prompted speculation that the company will announce new 3D features for its mapping service. The event comes just days before Apple kicks off its WWDC confab on June 11.

A bevy of reports have claimed that Apple will take the wraps off a new 3D mapping technology at WWDC. Last month, one report cited sources as saying the solution would “blow your head off.”

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu said last week that his research points to the unveiling of a “greatly enhanced” Maps application with 3D capability next week. The new service has reportedly been developed in-house.

“We hear the key reason why AAPL decided to do this is that it believes it can deliver a much better use experience in Maps, not to mention provide further differentiation for its mobile devices business,” Wu said.

Apple is also expected to showcase new Macs, iOS 6 and new camera and photo apps at the conference.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T CEO states data-only plans could become “inevitable” with next 24 months

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Date: Monday, June 4th, 2012, 13:20
Category: iPhone, News

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One day, AT&T will provide something for everyone.

Per the Associated Press, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on Friday that data-only wireless phone plans are likely to arrive within the next two years, marking a dramatic shift away from traditional cell network usage toward VoIP and text-as-data solutions like Apple’s iMessage.

Speaking at an investors conference, Stephenson said that while AT&T had no plans in place to offer an all-data subscription model, the industry is trending in that direction as smartphones continue to gain popularity led by Apple’s iPhone and handsets running Google’s Android mobile operating system, reports the Associated Press.

“I’ll be surprised if, in the next 24 months, we don’t see people in the market place with data-only plans,” Stephenson said. “I just think that’s inevitable.”

Under a data-centric plan users would have to use VoIP solutions like Skype to hold voice conversations, changing Internet calling into a necessity rather than an option to save on billed minutes. The switch would also be disruptive to the installed system in which telecoms monetize voice calls by charging each other to connect to cellphone numbers. This is one of the reasons why voice and data charges are billed separately.

Stephenson recently bemoaned AT&T’s decision to offer unlimited data with the original iPhone and iPad, adding that Apple’s iMessage is also a source of concern because it takes away from the company’s texting revenue.

While it may seem ironic that texting is quickly moving the industry away from voice technology toward a style of communication seen in pagers during the 1990’s, the reality is that modern data exchanges offer a much richer and more immediate experience than their obsolescent counterparts. Smartphones give users the ability to be in constant contact with each other, and new data-driven apps like Sounder literally keep an open connection to friends and peers.

As telecoms move to 4G LTE, an increasing amount of consumers will use an increasing amount of limited bandwidth which could force carriers to raise prices or find alternative solutions.

For now, AT&T is hoping to introduce a shared data plan similar to how the company offers shared voice plans for families. The initiative is a long time coming and the carrier has been “working on it” for over a year, presumably to find a way to implement such a service without losing profits.

With shared data plans essentially representing a discount for users that would normally buy separate plans for each device they owned, the prospect of the pricing structure would seemingly be damaging to telecoms’ bottom lines. Stephenson pointed out that AT&T is looking to make more money from shared data, not less.

When you have millions of devices such as tablets that lack cellular data plans, Stephenson said, “it seems to me it’s a lift, not a deterioration” to get them connected. The chief executive is referring to users who may not be using the cellular capabilities of their iPads or other tablets and are instead operating solely on Wi-Fi.

To make data plan pricing more attractive to consumers Stephenson noted that the wireless industry will experiment with charging content providers for the data used to access their websites in a type of “800 toll-free number” system. Critics say this would give the upper hand to well-established companies that can afford to pay the instituted subsidy and squelch competition from cash-poor startups. The experiment will likely start within the year, though it is unknown which carriers will be taking part in the initiative.

“It’s not us going out and mandating this. The content guys are coming in asking for it,” Stephenson said. “If you don’t allow those kinds of models to flourish, you’re going to inhibit the potential of these services.”

Something for everyone somewhere down the line.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Cricket Wireless to offer contract-free iPhone 4S, will sell units for $500

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Date: Thursday, May 31st, 2012, 10:57
Category: iPhone, News

It’s not the highest end wireless carrier in the world, but if it carries contract-free iPhones, who’s to criticize?

Per AppleInsider, on June 22, Cricket Wireless will become America’s first fully prepaid wireless carrier to offer Apple’s iPhone, with an “unlimited” US$55-per-month plan.

Cricket Wireless is a prepaid subsidiary of Leap Wireless, which offers “unlimited” data plans under a “fair usage policy” of 2.3 gigabytes per month. The small carrier with 6.2 million customers announced on Thursday that it will become the first prepaid carrier in the U.S. to offer the iPhone to its customers.

On June 22, Cricket will sell the 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S contract-free for US$500, in addition to the 8-gigabyte iPhone 4 for US$400. Both will be compatible with the carrier’s “unlimited” US$55-per-month talk, text and data plan.

Customers will be able to buy both the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 in Cricket company-owned stores and select dealers in nearly 60 markets. The iPhone will also be available for sale on the company’s official website, and over the phone at 800-853-7682.

Cricket offers wireless voice and mobile data services over 4G LTE and 3G CDMA wireless networks. Its parent company, Leap, is the owner of the seventh largest wireless telecommunications network in the U.S. with coverage in all 50 states.

Cricket is the latest regional wireless carrier to receive the iPhone, as Apple has been aggressively expanding the presence of its smartphone to smaller carriers in the U.S. Earlier this month, Apple added Kentucky’s Bluegrass Cellular, California’s Golden State Cellular, and Kansas’ Nex-Tech Wireless to its list of official carrier partners.

In April a total of five carriers began selling the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4: Alaska Communications, Appalachian Wireless, Cellcom, GCI and nTelos. And last October, the iPhone also launched on C Spire Wireless, a regional U.S. carrier with about 900,000 customers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Next-gen iPhone schematics surface, show possible 4″ display, repositioned FaceTime camera

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Date: Wednesday, May 30th, 2012, 08:32
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

If you’re going to build something, you probably need a schematic.

Per 9to5 Mac, a set of black and white schematics of what are purported to be the next-generation iPhone have been discovered. The schematics show assorted new features of the device such as the redesigned speaker grills, and repositioned earphone jack and FaceTime camera, exact display dimensions are still unknown. The plans show what appears to be the next-generation iPhone front glass with enough room for the much rumored, roughly 4-inch display.

On Wednesday, new schematics have surfaced via Cydia Blog that show a diagonal opening of just slightly over 4-inches. The designs also show the repositioned FaceTime camera above the earpiece.



Although calculations of the display show an opening less than .1 of an inch over 4-inches, the display could likely measure a flat 4-inches diagonally as the front panel is typically slightly larger than the display itself.

All this is up in the air right now, but hey…schematics!!!

Purported screenshots show possible new mapping functions in iOS 6

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Date: Tuesday, May 29th, 2012, 06:46
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Rumor, Software

They’re not the most elegant pictures and they’re even a bit blurry, but they ARE interesting.

Per Boy Genius Report, a collection of blurry photos claim to reveal Apple’s redesigned Maps application, expected to be a major component of the anticipated iOS 6 update for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

The five pictures claiming to show the new iOS 6 Maps application were credited to a “trusted source,” and hint at a redesigned user interface with a silver color scheme, rather than the current blue.



The new Maps application will reportedly feature a button in the bottom left corner with two options: a “locate me” feature,” and quick access to a new 3D mode. Apple’s 3D mapping solution is expected to be driven by the acquisition of C3 Technologies in 2011.

The 3D mapping functionality is said to be near complete, and is being tested in a build of iOS 6 reportedly labeled “10A3XX.”

Details on the anticipated revamped iOS Maps application first surfaced earlier this month, claiming that the 3D mapping functionality will be a key component of Apple’s new in-house solution. The new Maps application is expected to be shown off as part of an iOS 6 demonstration at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which will be held June 11 through 15 in San Francisco, Calif.

Apple’s plan to move away from Google and develop its own proprietary mapping solution has been a long time in the making. The company’s plans were first signaled in 2009, when it purchased Placebase, a competitor to Google Maps.

And in 2010, Apple bought Poly9, another mapping company, and began using its own location databases for the Maps application with the launch of iOS 3.2 for the first-generation iPad. Another key acquisition came in 2011, when Apple bought C3 Technologies, a Sweden-based 3D mapping company.

Another key component of the anticipated Maps overhaul in iOS 6 could be traffic. Apple publicly announced last April that it was “collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database,” for an “improved traffic service” that would launch in “the next couple of years.”

In addition to a 3D mapping button, the purported iOS 6 Maps pictures revealed on Tuesday also include a button for “Directions,” which could include Apple’s in-the-works traffic service to aid in turn-by-turn driving directions. The pictures also show a different look for the mapping data that is similar to the OpenStreetMap data Apple began using with the release of iPhoto for iOS in March.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.