GM announces upcoming “Eyes Free” models with Siri integration

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Date: Tuesday, November 27th, 2012, 07:24
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPhone, News, Software

This could be nifty.

Per The Next Web, General Motors on Tuesday announced that it will be integrating Apple’s new “Eyes Free” Siri mode in two of its cars early next year, making it the first car maker in the world to implement the technology in a commercial product.

The auto manufacturer announced during the Los Angeles International Auto Show that the Chevrolet Spark (1LT and 2LT) and Sonic LTZ and RS models will sport the new Siri integration when they roll off the assembly line “early next year.”

Interestingly, the feature, which is part of Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system and will be compatible with an iPhones running iOS 6, is slated to debut in two sub-compact cars rather than a model from one of GM’s luxury marquees like Cadillac.

“Safe, easy, reliable and portable connectivity is a top priority for our customers, and Siri complements MyLink’s existing capabilities to help deliver an incredible driving experience,” said Cristi Landy, Chevrolet marketing director for small cars.

Announced as a new Siri feature in iOS 6, Apple’s “Eyes Free” allows a user to an iPhone as well as certain vehicle amenities strictly by using voice commands. For example, a driver can simply ask Siri to play a song or make a call, all without taking their eyes off the road.

It was reported in June that GM would be integrating Eyes Free in the Spark and Sonic, but the automotive giant fell short of announcing a specific launch window. Eight other car makers have partnered with Apple to introduce similar systems in the near future, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Nokia releases “Here” map application to iOS App Store, offers alternative to Apple’s iOS 6 Maps program

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Date: Tuesday, November 20th, 2012, 08:40
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

If you’re looking for an alternative to Apple’s iOS 6 Maps, Nokia just delivered.

Per The Next Web, Nokia on Tuesday made good on a promise to bring its new “Here” mapping service to iOS as it launched a free app complete with offline caching and voice-guided walking directions.

The “Here” app comes exactly one week after Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced that the app would be available for iPhones, iPads and iPods sometime in the coming weeks.

According to Nokia, the HTML5-based mapping solution includes offline capabilities and, unlike Apple’s own Maps app, voice-guided walking navigation and public transportation directions.

“Maps are hard to get right – but location is revolutionizing how we use technology to engage with the real world,” said Nokia’s Executive Vice President of Location & Commerce Michael Halbherr, who is responsible for Here. “That’s why we have been investing and will continue to invest in building the world’s most powerful location offering, one that is unlike anything in the market today.”

The Finnish company also noted that future updates will come with 3D capabilities akin to Apple and Google’s solutions, which will come from technology acquired by earthmine. Nokia is rolling out the mapping service on its Microsoft Windows Phone handsets as well as versions for Google’s Android and Mozilla’s Firefox OS.

Nokia’s app is one of the first major no-cost mapping submissions to rival Apple’s Maps app, which caused a flap with consumers and the media when it was released as part of iOS 6 in September. With Maps, Apple chose to move away from its longstanding partnership with Google Maps to a proprietary solution built completely in house. Upon launch, however, the program was fraught with problems like rendering issues and incorrect location data.

The internet search giant is said to be planning its own standalone iOS app that may see release soon as rumors claim the company is distributing near final versions of the software to outside testers. One of the major gripes with Apple’s solution is the lack of Google’s Street View option, however that feature was brought back to mobile Safari with the Google Maps web app in October with limited functionality.

Nokia’s Here is available now for iOS as a free download from the App Store.

If you’ve tried the Here app and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

AT&T activates additional 4G LTE networks in 24 U.S. cities

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Date: Friday, November 16th, 2012, 07:13
Category: iPhone, News

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The 4G LTE networks have arrived.

Per AppleInsider, wireless carrier AT&Tturned on its 4G LTE network in 24 markets across the U.S.

The announcement of the 24 new markets comes as AT&T also began sales of Apple’s latest iPads, which feature high-speed 4G LTE radios, along with the iPhone 5.

A total of 16 new LTE-capable markets were announced by AT&T on Friday. They are:
– Charleston, S.C.

– Columbia, S.C.

– Columbus, Ohio

– Corvallis, Ore.

– Downriver Wayne & Monroe Counties, Det.

– El Paso, Tex.

– Eugene, Ore.

– Fairfield County, Conn.

– Greater Mobile, Ala.

– Greenville, S.C.

– Jonesboro, Ark.

– Pensacola, Fla.

– Portland, Maine

– Saratoga & Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

– South Bend, Ind.

– Toledo, Ohio

Those 16 new locations were joined by eight more that were announced by AT&T earlier this week. Those markets were:
– Anne Arundel County, Md.

– Daytona Beach, Fla.

– Denver, Colo.

– Louisville, Ken.

– Milwaukee, Wis.

– Tacoma, Wash.

– Twin Cities, Minn.

– York, Penn.

AT&T said Friday that its 4G LTE network covers more than 150 million people in 103 markets across the U.S., a number that more than doubles the company’s LTE coverage as of the end of 2011. More expansions are planned through the end of the year.

AT&T plans to have its LTE network reach 250 million people by the end of 2013, and 300 million by the end of 2014.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’re in any of these markets, let us know how the new 4G LTE network is performing for you.

Apple looking into quieter “vibrate” function for future iPhone handsets

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Date: Thursday, November 15th, 2012, 07:05
Category: iPhone, News, Patents

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Your iPhone might get a bit quieter soon.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office and AppleInsider, Apple is investigating ways to make the iPhone’s “silent mode” truly silent by monitoring audible sound levels generated by a phone’s vibrator and adjusting the mechanism if it becomes too loud.

Since the earliest days of portable telecommunications, devices like pagers incorporated a silent option to the standard beeping tones that alerted a user of an incoming message or, years later, cell phone call. The system is flawed, however, in that the so-called “silent mode” is not completely silent, especially when a device vibrates on a hard surface, causing a rattling noise often times more disruptive than a normal audible tone.

The current iPhone 5, with its aluminum uni-body construction, is another candidate that may be less than discreet in some circumstances. To remedy this longstanding problem, Apple has devised a method in which a phone’s vibrations, as well as the result of said vibrations, are monitored by microphones or movement sensors. If these sensors detect conditions that may cause an unwanted disturbance, a number of mitigation methods are initiated, including tuning the vibrator and introducing feedback signals to reduce reverberation.

Apple’s solution takes into account two types of haptic devices, or vibrators, commonly used in modern smartphones, both of which present separate problems. The usual rotating vibrator used in many devices has an eccentric weight attached to a spinning drive shaft, while an oscillating linear vibrator relies on magnetic force to drive a weight back and forth.

While the rotating motor is somewhat louder than its magnetically-driven cousin, it produces an arguably more violent vibration which can be an asset for those who wear thick pants or need a stronger alert. For reference, the CDMA version of the iPhone 4 and all versions of the iPhone 4S used a linear vibrator, while the iPhone 5 marks the return of the rotating system found in legacy models.

As described in the invention, movement, sound and visual sensors begin monitoring various attributes when a vibration alert is detected. The sensors can determine If the vibration is causing the phone to move or generate a noise louder than ambient noises in the surrounding environment.

Once a movement or sound threshold has been reached, the mitigation mechanisms kick in to modify the alert or stop it altogether. In some embodiments, the action of vibrator motor is adjusted. For a rotational vibrator, the frequency of the motor can be slowed, while the motion of a linear vibrator can be dampened by an electromagnetic force.

The patent application goes on to offer alternative alert methods that can be used when a vibrator is found to be disturbing, such as visual alerts or soft audio tones which are output at level deemed to be more quiet than the sound created by the phone’s vibrations.

Such mechanisms do not exist in the current iteration of Apple’s handset, though the technology may one day make its way to a future iPhone as an enhancement to the product line.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Public Radio Exchange Labs locates multiple-download bug in iOS 6.0.0, says bug may be responsible for data overages

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Date: Thursday, November 15th, 2012, 07:17
Category: iPhone, News, Software

There’s a reason bug fixes exist and this might be one of them…

According to the Public Radio Exchange Labs, a system-wide bug in Apple’s iOS 6.0.0 AV Foundation framework has been found to trigger multiple downloads of streaming media, such as podcasts, over Wi-Fi and cellular networks that could lead to massive data bills.

The flaw was discovered by Public Radio Exchange Labs, the host of popular podcasts such as This American Life and The Moth, after researching a curiously high spike in download traffic. According to PRX, there is an issue in iOS 6 Audio Playback frameworks that results in files being downloaded multiple times, however the problem has apparently been resolved in iOS 6.0.1 and 6.1 beta.

First tipped off by This American Life, which complained of unusually high content delivery network (CDN) bills, PRX thought that the “rather extreme” spike in bandwidth was due to Apple’s release of its Podcasts app. Following a series of tests that compared transfer activity in iOS 6 with iOS 5, it was determined that audio files were being downloaded multiple times due to errors in the new operating system’s code.

“The player appears to get into a state where it makes multiple requests per second and closes them rapidly,” PRX wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. “Because the ranges of these requests seem to overlap and the requests themselves each carry some overhead, this causes a single download of an MP3 to use significantly more bandwidth than in iOS 5. In one case, the playback of a single 30MB episode caused the transfer of over 100MB of data.”

Not only does the bug affect Apple’s first-party Podcasts app, but third-party titles as well, indicating that the underlying issue is system-wide.

It is unknown what exactly triggers the re-downloading of content, though it appears the timing is variable as the PRX test saw normal content downloads lasting for up to five minutes. What is consistent, however, is the activity seen when a file has completely downloaded. The tests show that once a file has finished downloading, the AV player restarts the download from the beginning and continues to do so as long as a user is streaming the file.

As seen in the video below, which shows the HTTP activity of the Podcasts app on iOS 6, the system sends multiple rapid requests even after buffering is complete and the file is downloaded.

PRX speculates the bug could be the cause of recent complaints regarding trouble with iPhone 5 data overages, with subscribers from various carriers claiming the handset was using cellular data despite being connected to Wi-Fi.

Because iOS 6.0.1 appears to have fixed the error, it is recommended that users running iOS 6.0 upgrade to the latest version to avoid incurring unintended and costly data charges.

If you’ve seen this bug on your end, please let us know.

And, well, take the time to update to iOS 6.0.1 today. It tends to be worth it.

Sprint activates 4G LTE networks in 9 additional U.S. cities

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Date: Wednesday, November 14th, 2012, 07:10
Category: iPhone, News

It never hurts to have a fast connection.

According to PC Magazine, wireless carrier Spring revealed on Tuesday that it has begun work on its 4G LTE network in nine new cities. The new markets include:

– Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.

– Oakland/Fremont/Hayward, Calif.

– Key West, Fla.

– Fort Smith, Ark.

– Michigan City/La Porte, Ind.

– Bloomington, Ind.

– Eau Claire, Wis.

– Arrdmore, Okla.

– McAllen/Edinburg/Mission, Texas

Sprint debuted its 4G LTE service in July and plans to have 125 cities on its LTE grid within “the coming months.” No more specific dates are being offered by the company at this time.

This number is well behind AT&T and Verizon, with the latter promising to have its entire 3G network converted by mid-2013. On Thursday, Verizon is flipping the switch on LTE coverage for more than 20 cities, including much of Missouri and large chunks of Wyoming and Arizona.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

20% Samsung price hike could affect Apple’s margins by 1-2%

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Date: Wednesday, November 14th, 2012, 07:53
Category: iPad, iPhone, News, Processors, retail

The ne’er ending fight between Apple and Samsung continues.

Following up on yesterday’s story about Samsung potentially raising the cost of building mobile processors for Apple, such a change would be expected to reduce the company’s overall margins by as much as 2 percentage points.

Per AppleInsider, Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray noted on Wednesday that the processors built by Samsung at its chip fabrication plant in Austin, Tex., are the core component of Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The chips tend to represent between 6 and 9 percent of the total component cost of a given iOS device.

A report surfaced this week that claimed Samsung has increased the price of its mobile processors for Apple as the two rival companies are driven further apart.

Munster said a 20 percent increase in chip prices would result in a hit to Apple’s margins between 1 and 2 percentage points. He also said that he would not be surprised if the price increase turns out to be accurate, “given the legal tension” between the two companies.

But he also buys in to rumors that Apple plans to move its chip production away from Samsung, and will have assembly of its custom processors like the A6 found in the iPhone 5 handed to another company, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

“We believe that if Apple were to move to another vendor in the next year or two, they may be able to negotiate better chip prices, which would roll back the impact from the Samsung price increase,” he said.

But in the meantime, Munster said it appears Apple has no choice but to continue its partnership with Samsung, even if the Korean electronics maker did put a massive price hike in place.

Piper Jaffray has projected that while Apple’s margins will dip during the December quarter in the face of a number of major product transitions, margins will quickly improve in the company’s fiscal year 2013. Munster has called for Apple to earn gross margins of 41.5 percent for calendar years 2013 and 2014.

“It does not appear that new product launches for iPhone 5 and iPad mini carry significantly different margins than prior launch margins for the same product lines,” he said.

Margins have been a major concern among investors in recent weeks, as Apple’s stock has taken a major hit. But most analysts have stood by Apple. Chris Whitmore of Deutsche Bank said last month that concern over Apple’s margins has been “overblown,” and that the reduction is “nearly entirely cyclical and not structural.”

Stay tuned for additional updates as to the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys as they become available.

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.