Apple patent reveals consolidated headphone jacks for upcoming devices

Posted by:
Date: Monday, August 30th, 2010, 05:59
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

Per Patently Apple, Apple is looking to develop a new audio input port configuration for the iPod, iPhone and iPad devices. The effort seems to indicate that Apple is working to limit the amount of holes in its devices, because each ”breaches the barrier that protects components inside the housing.”

Apple’s answer is to reduce the hole count by making them multifunctional. It proposes removing the need for a separate microphone aperture by making it part of the socket the headphone jack plugs into. This adds only a couple of milllimetres to the socket length – the mic fits behind the tip of the jack plug. The result: “A microphone can be added to a mobile telephone without the need for an external aperture.”

According to the Apple Core, Apple appears to be considering combining multiple jacks into one smarter jack. It makes sense too. For starters, less holes mean less physical parts to manufacture (and potentially fail) and Apple is already heading down this road with the iPhone 4 which features two microphones and noise cancellation.

The first mic is for phone calls, voice commands and memos. The second mic is for FaceTime calls and for making your calls better.

The other potential direction could take is to use the new port for beamforming — where the audio input of the two microphones is used as an amiable directional input. Patently Apple thinks this could be advantageous for the iPhone in speakerphone mode or video camera mode when projecting or recording a sound source at some distance from the device.

Apple could even do away with invasive “breach” type ports altogether and convert its audio/microphone ports into surface contact ports that attach via a magnet — like the popular MagSafe power adapter found on its MacBook Pro notebooks. I just hope that Apple retains backward compatibility with the millions of 3.5mm stereo headsets that are out there, changing to a new jack entirely would alienate too many customers in one fell swoop.

The patent is credited to Apple employees Shaohai Chen, Phillip Tamchina, Richard Dinh, Jae Lee, Michelle Yu and Adam Mittleman as the inventors of patent application 20100216526.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Netflix app reaches version 1.1, adds iPhone, iPod touch support

Posted by:
Date: Friday, August 27th, 2010, 06:28
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Ok, this smacks of the nifty.

Netflix on Thursday updated its iOS App Store software, bringing compatibility for iPhone and iPod touch users to stream movies and manage their Instant Watch queue.

Netflix 1.1 is now available for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and allows Netflix customers with unlimited memberships to stream content from their Instant Watch queue.



Per AppleInsider, users can pick up watching where they left off with a movie or TV show on another device, such as their iPad, TV, or computer. The application also allows users to manage their Netflix queue, but only for Instant Watch. There is not currently a way to manage the queue for mailed discs.

As with on the iPad, the streaming service even works over 3G on the iPhone. The software uses adaptive technology that allows instant switching between Wi-Fi and 3G connections.

The app requires iOS 3.1.3 or later to install and run.

If anyone out there’s tried the new version, please let us know what you make of it.

China Unicom expected to offer free cases with iPhone 4 launch

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, August 25th, 2010, 03:49
Category: iPhone, News

When in doubt, provide a useful free gift.

Per Caixin, when the iPhone 4 launches in China on September 16th, carrier China Unicom is expected to give every customer a free case as a preemptive strike against the antenna concerns that caused a stir in the U.S.

In July, after reports of antenna issues with the iPhone 4 reached a deafening buzz in the tech community, Apple announced it would give away free cases to all iPhone 4 purchases made through Sept. 30. Customers can order their free case through the iPhone 4 Case Program App Store software.

The report did not indicate whether China Unicom’s complimentary case will be mailed after the purchase, or made available to the customer when they buy their iPhone 4.

Earlier this month, a Wi-Fi-enabled 8GB iPhone 3GS was released by China Unicom. Apple’s previous phones sold legitimately in the nation of over one billion did not have Wi-Fi, because the Chinese government had temporarily banned the technology.

Following the launch of the iPhone 4, China Unicom is expected to soon offer Apple’s iPad for sale.

Analyst points out advantages of iPhone on Verizon network, highlights Apple/Verizon negotiations in progress

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, August 24th, 2010, 04:24
Category: iPhone, News

It’s the rumor that never dies, but this time it could be garnering additional strength and credence.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Shaw Wu with Kaufman Brothers indicated that a deal between Apple and Verizon is being ironed out. The analyst went on to state that he expects Apple to expand the iPhone to another carrier in the U.S. next year. Apple needs this, he said, to maintain high growth, as the company’s smartphone nears saturation on the AT&T network.

The current front-runner is Verizon, which is said to be in talks with Apple for a “SVDO” iPhone which would allow both voice and data at the same time, something not possible with a traditional CDMA phone on Verizon’s network.

While Wu believes that the iPhone will eventually come to Verizon, that could happen as late as 2012, he said, if Apple decided instead to go another route: both T-Mobile and Sprint.

“It is notable that signing up both T-Mobile USA and Sprint would almost be the equivalent of Verizon (in terms of subscribers),” he said. “For point of reference, AT&T has 90 million wireless subscribers compared to 93 million at Verizon, 48 million at Sprint, and 34 million at T-Mobile USA.”

Wu said sources have indicated to him that important details are still being ironed out between Verizon and Apple, including technology and economics. But while the companies are in talks, he said it would be “premature” to rule out T-Mobile and Sprint.

However, the growth of Android on the Verizon network also provides Apple with an incentive to make the iPhone available on the carrier, he said. Making the iPhone available to Verizon customers would be the best way to address the growing presence of Android phones, Wu wrote.

While Apple and Verizon are said to be eying SVDO for the iPhone for now, the companies are said to be viewing that option as an interim device until a full-fledged long-term evolution (LTE) 4G phone debuts in a few years.

“From AAPL’s perspective, the debate is whether it makes sense to roll out an interim CDMA iPhone sometime in 2011 or perhaps wait until LTE becomes more available in 2012,” Wu wrote.

Stay tuned for additional details as we get them.

Rumor: China Unicom to launch iPhone 4 on September 16th

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, August 24th, 2010, 04:19
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Wireless carrier China Unicom may officially launch the iPhone 4 on September 16th, a local source claims. While the carrier is generally believed to have set plans in motion, it has yet to formally announce details. A launch on the 16th would come just a little over a month after the availability of the first Wi-Fi-equipped Chinese iPhones.

Per Caixin Online, the source mentions some other information about the launch. In order to get an iPhone 4, people may be required to order online in advance. The Chinese model is also expected to suffer from the same reception problems as other versions, but Unicom will allegedly be offering cases as free gifts. In other countries free cases will cease to be available for iPhone 4s bought after September 30th, barring an extension from Apple.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iOS 4.1 beta points out forthcoming fixes with proximity center, Bluetooth, Game Center, etc.

Posted by:
Date: Monday, August 23rd, 2010, 05:12
Category: iPhone, News, Software

The third beta of Apple’s upcoming iOS 4.1 update points out a slew of fixes to be expected when the software releases.

iOS 4.1 is currently in its third beta, released earlier this month. Per AppleInsider, the update addresses many issues that users have experienced, including problems with Bluetooth connectivity.

The official list of fixes and enhancements does not make mention of the proximity sensor or Bluetooth functionality. However, time spent with the latest beta build shows a marked improvement with those features.

The most recent update also added new features such as a new API that allows apps to access contact thumbnail pictures.

Proximity sensor:
While not documented by Apple, experience with the iOS 4.1 beta has shown that the proximity sensor on the iPhone 4 is far more reliable. Since the device launched in June, users have reported that the handset’s touchscreen will sometimes turn on in the midst of a call, resulting in accidental button presses that can end a call or place someone on hold.

At a press conference in July, Apple CEO Steve Jobs confirmed that his company was aware of the problem and working on a fix. But the first two minor updates to iOS 4, in the form of 4.0.1 and 4.0.2, did not address the problem.

Game Center:
Game Center has been touted by Apple as a major feature of iOS 4 and works much like Microsoft’s Xbox Live, making it easy for users to play and talk about games.

With Game Center, users will create an alias that represents their online persona. The community service allows players to interact with one another anonymously via their alias. When Game Center is launched later this year, users will be able to create a friends list, set “status updates” and more.

Developers access the features of Game Center through the Game Kit framework API provided by Apple. The API includes leaderboards for scores, allowing players to compare their performance in a game to friends and others.

Game Kit also allows developers to enable player-versus-player matchmaking for their titles. Through a Game Center account, players will be able to compete in online games against one another, or with a group of people.

As noted earlier this week, the latest beta also added a Game Center restriction. The feature allows the owner of an iPhone, such as a corporation or parent, to restrict access to certain functions of the device.

Other changes:
Users will have the ability to turn on or off a “Check Spelling” feature in the Keyboard section of the iPhone’s Settings application. Users can have misspelled or unrecognized words highlighted without enabling the Auto-Correction functionality.

As previously reported, the latest beta of iOS 4.1 allows users to conduct FaceTime video chat via another person’s e-mail address. This is likely how the forthcoming iPod touch refresh, widely expected to have a forward-facing camera, will allow users without a phone to engage in a FaceTime call.

Camera controls now reposition between portrait and landscape orientations. Currently in iOS 4, the flash and camera selection buttons will only rotate accordingly when the camera is physically turned. In the third beta, the buttons transition to remain atop the screen, regardless of orientation.

Developers have access to new functions to identify the BSSID or SSID of the current Wi-Fi hotspot that the user is connected to.

Developers now have new methods to save images to a user’s photo album.
iOS 4.1 also includes new capabilities that allow applications to control fonts.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve been able to play with the third beta of iOS 4.1, let us know what you made of it.

Apple files patent for iOS device “kill switch” technology

Posted by:
Date: Monday, August 23rd, 2010, 05:45
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News

applelogo_silver

An Apple patent application filed earlier this year could allow the company to more directly interact with jailbroken iOS-based devices such as iPhones, iPod touches and iPads.

Per CNET, Apple’s patent ‘Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device,’ includes a remote “kill switch” that could quickly restore an iPhone, iPod or iPad to its factory settings.

Along with the potential to restore factory settings, Apple also intends to send warnings to owners via email or text message when such activity as “hacking, jailbreaking, unlocking, or removal of a SIM card.” is detected CNET adds.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Patent describes how future iPhones could recognize, adjust for individual users

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, August 19th, 2010, 06:00
Category: iPhone, Patents

Since patents make life interesting, a recently published patent describes a technology that could rely on a user’s picture or the sound of their voice which future portable devices from Apple could recognize and use as login information.

Per AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week revealed a patent application from Apple entitled “Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device.” The security-centric invention describes methods to identify users through a picture, the sound of their voice, or even their unique heartbeat.

“The photograph, recording, or heartbeat can be compared, respectively, to a photograph, recording or heartbeat of authorized users of the electronic device to determine whether they match,” the application reads. “If they do not match, the current user can be detected as an unauthorized user.”

If an unauthorized user were to attempt to access an iPhone or another device, the owner of the handset could be notified in a variety of manners, including a phone call, text message or e-mail. The technology could also send the owner or the police a picture of the unauthorized user, or other information specific to the potential thief, such as the current location.

The handset could also recognize an unauthorized user if they do certain uncharacteristic activities with the phone. Specifically named are hacking, jailbreaking, unlocking, or removing a SIM card.

But beyond security, such technology could also be used to identify individual users and allow users who share a product, like an iPad, to customize it to their liking. Apple has shown interest in such capabilities for some time.

Prior to the iPad’s release, The Wall Street Journal revealed that an early prototype of the device would use a camera to recognize users’ faces, allowing it to be one device easily shared by the entire family. Apple reportedly experimented with the ability to customize the device, and have it automatically switch to a user’s personal settings once they picked it up.

One early feature included virtual “sticky notes” that one user could leave for another, and would be read the next time they picked up the iPad.

Apple’s security-centric patent application was first filed on Feb. 19, 2009. It is credited to Taido Nakajima, Pareet Rahul and Gloria Lin.

The invention is also not the first time Apple has explored recognizing users by their heartbeat. One patent application revealed in May dealt specifically with that technology, describing a heart rate monitor seamlessly built in to the exterior of an iPhone. Reading a user’s unique biometric data, the iPhone could then recognize them.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple testing NFC-enabled iPhones to use as mobile payment devices

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, August 18th, 2010, 06:28
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Following news that Apple recently hired an expert on near field communications, a new rumor suggests that the company is already testing a prototype iPhone that could be used for short-range wireless activities such as making in-store transactions.

Citing anonymous sources close to the store, web site TechCrunch reported Tuesdsay that Apple has already built NFC-enabled iPhone prototypes using hardware from NXP Semiconductor. The report alleged that Apple is already testing mobile payments for use in a future iPhone.

“The existence of prototypes would almost surely suggest that Apple will include NFC in iPhone 5, or whatever Apple decides to call its next iPhone,” author Steve Cheney wrote. The report also speculates that NFC could be used for high-speed wireless data transfers and proximity-based features between compatible Apple devices.

On Monday, it was revealed that Apple hired Benjamin Vigier, who has been working with NFC technology since 2004. His previous role was project manager for mobile wallet, payment and NFC at mFoundry, a company that specializes in mobile payments.

Support for RFID or a number of other NFC technologies could allow a variety of “touchless” technologies, ranging from swipe payments where an iPhone could be used to pay for items at checkout, or sensing of information from kiosks and objects.

Apple’s interest in NFC is well established and has turned up in numerous patent applications filed by the company. A recent filing from July described a system that would allow users to rely on NFC functionality in the iPhone to research products and quickly find helpful information, such as an instruction manual.

Last year, reports suggested that Apple had tested Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, in prototype iPhones. The technology allows a device to sense embedded chips in nearby objects without making direct contact or without using visible light, like a barcode reader.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple taps Benjamin Vigier as new Product Manager of Mobile Commerce, speculation emerges

Posted by:
Date: Monday, August 16th, 2010, 03:46
Category: iPhone, News

Per a quick release on the Near Field Communications World web site and his LinkedIn profile, Apple has tapped telecom guru Benjamin Vigier as its new Product Manager of Mobile Commerce. The hire immediately follows his handiwork on PayPal Mobile, Sprint MyMoneyManager and the iPhone-based Starbucks Card.

Prior to this, he spent two years heading SanDisk’s mobile commerce and near-field communication efforts and over a year doing NFC for Bouygues Telecom.

Current speculation points towards work on an iPhone-based commerce system, but we’ll have to see what comes along.