Rumor: iPhone 5 “silver ring” around Home button could be part of fingerprint reader system

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Date: Monday, September 9th, 2013, 09:20
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

You know that rumored cool “silver ring” that’s been rumored for the upcoming iPhone 5S handset?

It might be part of a fingerprint sensor.

Per AppleInsider and Fox News’ This Week in Tech, reporter Clayton Morris proposed the ring is merely aesthetic, possibly added so users can easily distinguish an iPhone that has a built-in fingerprint sensor from those that do not.

However, given recent patent filings, the metallic ring may be a functional component necessary to the sensor’s operation.

There stands a variety of ways to accomplish biometric fingerprint readings, including the stereotypical “swiping” motion made famous in movies, as well as methods using optical, thermal, pressure and capacitive measurements, among others. AuthenTec, which Apple purchased in 2012 for US$356 million, uses a few different capture methods in its products, though the tech most likely to be used in the iPhone doesn’t involve swiping.

Typical methods of swipe authentication, usually direct capacitance, involve a thin “strip” sensor that captures and stitches together multiple images of a fingerprint as a user sweeps their finger across the sensing plate. With direct capacitance, an electrical field is applied to the sensor, which detects ridges and valleys — the skin structures that form fingerprint whorls — by measuring variations in capacitance at the sensor plate. Lower capacitance denotes skin that is farther from the sensor, or valleys, while higher capacitance is associated with ridges.

A more accurate and robust method of capture is called radio frequency field sensing, or AC capacitance. Like direct capacitive sensing, this technique also measures capacitance of a sort, but the similarities end there. Instead of measuring the effect on an electrical field, a low frequency RF signal is inserted into the finger and received by the sensor. In this case, RF signal strength captured by the pixel traces are measured and the corresponding data is translated to form an image of the print.

Benefits of RF field/AC capacitance sensing include static non-swipe readings, resistance to dust and capability for the sensor to operate even when covered by layers of protective material. These types of sensors are usually larger in size to allow for a wider capture area.

One patent, filed by AuthenTec cofounder Dale R. Setlak and subsequently assigned to Apple, goes into detail about a technology based on mechanics which are very similar to RF field sensing. The property also relates to the company’s “Smart Sensor” — also based on RF field sensing tech — which has been used successfully in at least one phone, the Japan-only Toshiba REGZA T-01D.

As noted in Setlak’s patent, along with other similar inventions credited to his name, electrodes need to be in contact with the finger to pump the drive signal that will ultimately be measured by pixel traces on the pixel plate.

In nearly all RF field sensors, a ring disposed around the sensor array acts as the electrode that drives the low frequency RF signal into the finger, which is attenuated by ridges and valleys in the print and finally captured by AC sensors as a high quality image.

As a type of bonus side effect, the tech can also be used as a form of input. By analyzing slight movements or changes in attenuation over time, the system can interpolate gesture behaviors like scrolling, cursor control and, when combined with a physical or virtual button, drag-and-drop operations.

Embedding this type of package in an iPhone’s home button is likely quite challenging as the part moves up and down constantly, which would put undue wear on the sensing module’s interconnects. It is possible that Apple has found a way to separate the finger ring from the sensor array in order to isolate the integral components from wear and tear. Such a system would also be less apt to fouling or misreadings due to debris.

As for utility, the sensor design wouldn’t force users to swipe the home button to authenticate, but would have the module read the print while a user presses the button to wake the phone from sleep. In other words, the security factor would take place seamlessly. No new gestures to learn, just enhanced functionality, transparent to the user.

It remains wholly unknown if Apple has incorporated this particular fingerprint technology into the next-gen iPhone, though circumstantial evidence seems to point in that very specific direction.

Further, a non-functional aesthetic bezel rimming the home button, which has seen nary a design tweak since the first iPhone launched in 2007, simply to demarcate new biometric capabilities seems to go against Apple’s design sensibilities. When the company introduced a front-facing camera with the iPhone 4, it buried the feature just above the earpiece. No special decorations or embellishments to note that the handset sported FaceTime capabilities.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and be sure to check in tomorrow for coverage of Apple’s September 10th iPhone press event.

Leaked internal document shows Vodafone Germany slimming down iPhone 4S, 5 options following next-gen iPhone release

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Date: Friday, September 6th, 2013, 07:29
Category: iPhone, News, retail

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Come the next generation of iPhones, your Vodafone iPhone 5 and 4S choices in Germany could be limited to the most basic models.

Per Flo’s Weblog and MacRumors, an internal email has noted that the 32 and 64GB iPhone 5 in both black and white will be discontinued, along with the black/white 16GB iPhone 4S.

This confirms an inventory leak from Canadian carrier Telus, which also suggested that Apple would discontinue the higher end iPhone 5 models. Both carrier leaks indicate that Apple’s upcoming product lineup will consist of the flagship iPhone 5S, the low-cost iPhone “5C”, and the 16GB iPhone 5.

Apple’s iPhone lineup has been in question over the past several months, and it has been unclear whether the iPhone 5C will serve as a replacement for the iPhone 5 or the iPhone 4S. The cost of the iPhone 5C remains unknown, and speculation has suggested that the phone, which is said to use many of the same parts as the existing iPhone 5, may not be truly low-cost, necessitating the inclusion of the lower-priced iPhone 4S in the product line.

An August note from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo indicated that Apple would discontinue the iPhone 5 in favor of the iPhone 5C while continuing to sell the iPhone 4S through the end of of the year, but the information from Vodafone Germany contradicts this theory.

It is unclear where the iPhone 5 will fit into Apple’s iPhone line in terms of price. Estimates have suggested that the iPhone 5C will retail for US$400 to US$500 off-contract, and it is likely that the iPhone 5 would have a similar price tag. The iPhone 4S, though, could be priced below the iPhone 5C if it remains in Apple’s product lineup.

Apple plans to unveil the iPhone 5S and 5C during a September 10 iPhone event. The phones are expected to ship to a number of countries shortly after, on September 20.

If you’re in the German marketplace and have heard anything to this extent, let us know in the comments.

Apple pins down September 11th for China media event, speculation surfaces

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Date: Thursday, September 5th, 2013, 06:09
Category: iPhone, News

A recent announcement that Apple will hold its first-ever iPhone media event in China has indicated some huge things, such as a sooner-than-expected launch of new models in that country, or perhaps a deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest carrier.

Per AppleInsider and the Wall Street Journal, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has repeatedly identified China as a crucial market that will play a key role in his company’s future growth. But competitors such as Samsung and Lenovo have had more success in China recently.

For that reason, it’s been speculated that the Chinese market is one of the key reasons Apple is planning to release a new, more affordable iPhone model with a plastic back. And this week, Apple sent out invitations to members of the press for a media event on Sept. 11, a day after Apple is set to debut its new iPhones in the U.S.

While that event is expected to simply be a rebroadcast of the company’s keynote presentation, the fact that Apple is holding a media event in China for the first time has fueled speculation that the company may be planning something big for that market.

Two theories making their rounds include a day-and-date launch of new iPhone models matching their debut in the U.S. and other large markets, as well as the possibility of an agreement with mega-carrier China Mobile. The latter has been an obstacle for Apple for some time, as China Mobile is the world’s largest carrier with more than 700 million active subscribers.

Cook himself is said to have traveled to visit with the head of China Mobile on a number of occasions in an effort to forge a deal. But sticking points have remained, including the fact that the carrier would like to receive a cut of software sold on the iOS App Store.

Some have suggested that Apple may even be willing to make concessions in order to make the iPhone available on China Mobile. In particular, China Mobile is interested in keeping the devices it offers affordable, as it serves hundreds of millions of poor rural subscribers.

As for the launch date, Apple is expected to make its new iPhones available on Friday, Sept. 20, based on past release schedules. One rumor from last month claimed that government regulation could hold up the launch of new iPhones in China until late November, but now market watchers are hopeful that Apple could make those devices available in China much sooner.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked internal document shows Telus’ possible discontinuation of 32GB, 64GB iPhone 5 units after September 28th

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Date: Wednesday, September 4th, 2013, 07:50
Category: iPhone, News, Software

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If you’re up north, here’s your moderate heart attack for the day.

Per MobileSyrup and 9to5Mac, a leaked document from Canadian carrier Telus shows that the carrier has plans to discontinue the iPhone 5 on September 28 just days after the next-generation iPhones are rumored to launch. Although it would lend weight to the theory that Apple could get rid of the iPhone 5 since the rumored iPhone 5S and especially the lower cost iPhone 5C are so close internally to the current device, the doc only shows that the 32GB and 64GB models will be discontinued, which might be a clue the 16GB iPhone 5 will stick around as an entry level model.

Keeping the 16GB iPhone 5 seems to line up with what we’ve been hearing at Verizon and adds even more weight to the theory that Apple will keep the iPhone 5 around as a lower cost option perhaps in between the 5S and the 5C in much the same way that the last-gen iPhone 4S currently occupies the US$99/plan spot in Apple’s lineup.

On the other hand, often-accurate KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said earlier this month that he thinks Apple will stop selling the iPhone 5 at the end of Q3 2013 and continuing selling the iPhone 4S until the end of the year.

Apple yesterday sent out invites to the September 10th event and is expected to start selling the iPhone 5S and 5C starting around the 20th of September.

If you’re currently a Telus subscriber and have noticed any changes up north, please let us know via the comments.

Apple confirms September 10th media event, hints at next-gen iPhone handsets

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Date: Wednesday, September 4th, 2013, 06:12
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPhone, News, security, Software

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It went official yesterday.

On Tuesday, Apple sent out invitations for a media event next Tuesday, Sept. 10, at which the company is expected to show off its next-generation iPhone models that will come in a new range of colors.

Per The Loop, the event will kick off at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern, according to The Loop. It will be held at Apple’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

Though the invitation itself makes no mention of the iPhone, it does say that the announcement “should brighten everyone’s day” — a likely reference to the fact that Apple is expected to offer its next iPhones in an array of new colors. Specifically, leaked parts have suggested “iPhone 5S” will be available in a new “champagne” shade, while a low-cost plastic “iPhone 5C” will potentially be available in white, green, red, blue, pink, and possibly more.


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Colors featured in the invitation include yellow, green, orange, white, red, pink, and shades of dark and light blue. Apple’s forthcoming iOS 7 update is also a more vibrant and colorful update to the company’s mobile operating system.

The company may have some surprises in store for fans and observers when Chief Executive Tim Cook presumably takes the stage next Tuesday, but the event is widely expected to center on the company’s largest revenue generator: the iPhone. It will likely see the unveiling of the successor to the iPhone 5, currently thought to be named the “iPhone 5S.”

The company’s next-generation premium smartphone is expected to include a fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button. Last year, Apple purchased AuthenTec, a biometric security firm, potentially setting the stage for the defining feature of this year’s iPhone.

Integrating a fingerprint sensor — a move that would largely negate the need for passwords and lock-screen codes — could give Apple an edge that its competition could not likely soon address.

Apple’s “S” series iPhones have typically been refinements of the models immediately preceding them, and most of the rumors surrounding the “5S” have been in that vein. Leaked cases for the device have shown that it will retain the same form factor as the iPhone 5, though it may be available in a “champagne” color option, as well as the existing black and white models.

Analysts expect a 31 percent faster “A7” chip that could be 20 percent more power efficient than the A6 seen in the iPhone 5. It may also feature a dedicated motion-tracking chip to enable a new range of user interactions.

Apple is also rumored to offer a model of the device with 128 gigabytes of storage, while the camera is expected to be upgraded with a dual-LED flash component for better low-light pictures. It’s likely that the camera itself will also see improvements.

Perhaps the most widely leaked device, though, has been the expected lower-cost plastic iPhone. That model is believed to be called the “iPhone 5C,” and recent leaks of an apparent user manual seem to confirm that name.

Observers believe that Apple will largely repackage the internals of the existing iPhone 5 into a polycarbonate shell to lower manufacturing costs. To differentiate the device, the “5C” would be available in a range of colors.

The move back to polycarbonate for the chassis would allow Apple to offer the “iPhone 5C” at a much lower price point than the premium-built iPhone 5 or anticipated “iPhone 5S.” That lower price could give Apple a better chance of picking up mid-range smartphone customers, who often choose Android phones when upgrading from feature phones simply due to price.

Most importantly, though, a lower-cost iPhone would give Apple a much better chance of competing in the world’s largest smartphone market: China. Investment firm UBS opined in August that an affordable iPhone would move more than 11 million units on China Mobile alone.

The Sept. 10 event will also mark the announcement of a release date for Apple’s newest mobile operating system, iOS 7. The new platform, revealed at this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference, features an almost complete visual overhaul, with many of the features of previous iOS versions giving way to a “flatter” aesthetic spun out of the leadership of Jony Ive, Apple’s design chief.

Aside from the new look, iOS 7 will also feature iTunes Radio, a new music streaming service that will take on Pandora, Spotify, and other services. It will also come with improvements to Siri, allowing Apple’s digital assistant to display more information and control phone settings, and tweaks to the Camera app, giving users access to more editing options.

The media event is likely to offer final – and long-anticipated – release dates for the next-gen iPhone handsets as well as iOS 7.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked internal memo shows Apple blocking AppleCare employees’ vacation time between Sept. 15 – 28, next-gen iPhone, iOS 7 launches cited

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Date: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013, 06:18
Category: iPhone, News, retail

When a company blacks out employee vacation days, they’re up to something.

Per AppleInsider, AppleCare employees have been restricted from taking time off for a two-week period, from Sept. 15 through 28 — a span during which Apple is expected to launch its new iPhone lineup, as well as the revamped iOS 7 mobile operating system.

An internal company document purportedly shows time off available for AppleCare employees for the latter half of September. As can be seen in the calendar, available time off drops off significantly starting Sunday, Sept. 15, and continues through Saturday, Sept. 28.

The image provided shows the calendar being accessed via virtual private network from an internal Apple employee domain. Potentially identifying portions of the picture have been cropped out.

Apple is generally expected to make its new iPhone models available for sale on Friday, Sept. 20, just over a week after the company is gearing up to hold a media event to introduce the new devices. Based on prior years’ release schedules, it’s likely that iOS 7 a few days prior, perhaps on Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Between the debut of new iPhones and the launch of a different-looking operating system in iOS 7, AppleCare telephone support will likely have their hands full. As such, Apple has restricted employee time off for a two-week span covering not only the expected launch, but a full week after.

Developers have had their hands on iOS 7 since the new platform was unveiled at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The platform has a cleaner and more colorful look than its predecessor, with simpler icons and graphics, but it also packs in new features and functionality, such as a revamped Notification Center and quick-access Control Center.

Built-in apps and functions such as Photos, Camera, Weather, Safari, multitasking and Siri also sport new designs that may initially confuse new users once they are prompted to update to iOS 7.

As for hardware, Apple is set to hold an event on Sept. 10 that will focus on the company’s new iPhones. Specifically, Apple is expected to introduce a new high-end “iPhone 5S” with an integrated fingerprint sensor under the home button, as well as a more affordable “iPhone 5C” with a plastic back available in a range of colors.

The iPhone is Apple’s most popular product, and 2013 is expected to be the first time the company launches two new models at the same time, which sets the stage for the company’s biggest product debut ever.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple confirms iPhone trade-in program at retail locations, certain Best Buy locations

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Date: Friday, August 30th, 2013, 08:52
Category: iPhone, News, retail

The rumors of an iPhone trade-in program are true.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has confirmed rumors that it has been developing an iPhone trade-in program to be based out of its retail locations, saying that that program will begin rolling out nationwide today.

Rumors of the program surfaced in June of this year when it was reported that Apple had confirmed the program’s existence, as well as its Friday launch. The program will see Apple Store customers able to trade-in an older model iPhone for store credit toward the purchase of a new model.

Notably, the program appears designed to keep current iPhone owners within the iPhone ecosystem. Reports stated that “customer[s] must leave [the] store with [a] new contract” in order to take part in the program.

Shortly after news of Apple’s confirmation broke, the Wall Street Journal reported that the highest value a customer can receive for a trade-in will be US$280.

The confirmation aligns with previous claims as to the program’s nature. Those claims had customers being given a gift card for the value of their trade-in with the requirement that that gift card be used toward the purchase of a new iPhone model.

Further, the gift card is only usable is the purchaser is eligible for a phone upgrade from their selected carrier. Any leftover value can be used for other retail store purchases.

Apple is launching the trade-in program only about a week and a half before it is expected to unveil the next iteration of its bestselling smartphone. A rumored September 10 media event may well see the introduction of both a high-end and low-end model of the new iPhone, and having a trade-in program up and running would likely help draw current iPhone owners back into Apple’s retail stores to grab the newest generation.

Prior reports had the trade-in company being run by Brightstar Corp., the same company that handles trade-ins for AT&T and T-Mobile. Previously, it was expected that Brightstar would resell the units in emerging markets, though some have since disputed such claims.

Apple is not the only firm offering discounts for iPhone trade-ins. Best Buy has its own program going on for Labor Day weekend. That program will see the electronics retailer offering 50 percent off of the on-contract price of an iPhone 5 in exchange for working iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: AT&T to black out employee holidays around September 20th for next-gen iPhone launch

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Date: Friday, August 30th, 2013, 07:19
Category: iPhone, retail, Rumor

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When companies begin penning in blackout dates for their employees, a product launch tends to be imminent.

Per Boy Genius Report, citing sources close to the story, the web site claims that AT&T has blacked out vacation dates for the second half of September, a move supposedly meant to handle an expected deluge of customers looking to get their hands on Apple’s next-gen iPhone. The telecom did the same last year ahead of the iPhone 5 launch.

The publication also notes that the nation’s second largest mobile carrier will not be releasing any other major handsets during the period, suggesting the no-vacation days are being set for the

While somewhat vague, the report comes just one day after T-Mobile purportedly issued its own employee blackout dates set to start on Sept. 20.

Apple is expected to announce the next-generation “iPhone 5S” at a special event on Sept. 10, possibly alongside a lower-cost plastic composite handset many have taken to calling the “iPhone 5C.”

The iPhone 5 successor is rumored to sport a fingerprint sensor embedded in its home button, a 31 percent faster A7 processor, motion tracking and upgraded camera components. Numerous parts “leaks” have also pointed to a new “champagne” color option for the handset.

The iPhone 5C is rumored to carry a plastic composite shell to be offered in a variety of colors, though not much is known regarding its internals. Some claim the unit will use the same 4-inch form factor of the iPhone 5, but with older components to keep costs down.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

T-Mobile issues September employee blackout dates, signs point towards next-gen iPhone launch

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Date: Thursday, August 29th, 2013, 09:20
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

Some more definitive dates have appeared regarding the next-gen iPhone release.

Per the TmoNews blog, sources on Wednesday have claimed that the upcoming Sept. 20 to 22 employee blackout dates came with no explanation, but speculated a tie to an as-yet-unannounced Apple iPhone launch.

The report is in line with previous rumblings about a Sept. 20 debut for Apple’s “iPhone 5S” and “iPhone 5C” handsets, which are expected to be announced on Sept. 10.

The publication points out that the blackout dates may be in relation to the release of Samsung’s Galaxy Note III, as the Korean company is said to be announcing the device on Sept. 4. That scenario is unlikely, however, as a new Note model would hardly require T-Mobile to bolster its in-store staff.

Rumors surrounding Apple’s next-generation iPhone are heating up ahead of the anticipated announcement, with supposed parts “leaks” popping up on the Web in the form of videos and comparison pictures, which can be found over on JailBreak Nation.



Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to hold off on next-gen iPad announcement for September 10th media event, more likely to announce new iPhones

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Date: Thursday, August 29th, 2013, 08:32
Category: iPad, iPhone, News

You might have to wait a bit longer for that next-gen iPad you’ve been hankering for.

Per The Loop, there will be “no iPads” at Apple’s upcoming September 10th media event. The keynote is expected to feature Apple’s next-generation iPhones, rumored to be called the “iPhone 5S” and “iPhone 5C.”

The mighty Jim Dalrymple’s comments were provided in response to an earlier media report that had suggested iPads could be introduced at Apple’s Sept. 10 media event. However, Apple has historically kept its iPhone and iPad announcements separate.

Last year, the iPhone 5 was unveiled at a media event in September, while the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad were introduced to the public in October. It’s likely that Apple will follow a similar schedule this year, and introduce a second-generation iPad mini and redesigned fifth-generation iPad in October, ahead of the holiday shopping season.Jim Dalrymple’s comments assure that there won’t be iPads at Apple’s iPhone-centric Sept. 10 event, but new MacBook Pros with Haswell processors remain a possibility.

The new fifth-generation iPad is expected to feature many of the same design elements as the current iPad mini, including smaller size bezels, a thinner body, and lighter weight. Parts claimed to be for the “iPad 5” have appeared regularly throughout 2013.

As for the iPad mini, it’s expected that Apple’s second-generation 7.9-inch tablet will see an upgraded high-resolution Retina display. There has also been speculation by well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities that Apple could additionally offer a low-cost iPad mini, potentially without a Retina display, to allow the company to hit an even lower price point than the current US$329 entry price.

While Dalrymple’s comments assure that there won’t be any iPads at Apple’s Sept. 10 event, the possibility of new Macs being unveiled at the keynote remains. Most of Apple’s Mac lineup, including the MacBook Pro and iMac, are due for upgrades to Intel’s latest-generation Haswell processors.

The September event is also expected to announce the release date for iOS 7, Apple’s next-generation mobile operating system currently available in beta to developers. If prior release schedules hold again for 2013, iOS 7 will likely become available to the public about a week after the event, while Apple’s next-generation iPhones will be in the hands of customers on Friday, Sept. 20.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.