Apple receives patent for “microslot antennas”, could see improvements in wireless functionality in coming years

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Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 08:01
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, wireless

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Your notebook and iOS device’s wireless system could be getting that much niftier.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday won the patent rights to “microslot antenna” technology that allows micron-wide antenna assets to be integrated into the housing of a portable device, such as an iPhone, making them nearly invisible to the human eye.

As portable electronics become thinner and more compact with each successive generation, internal space is quickly becoming a limiting factor to device designers. Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,373,610 for “Microslot antennas for electronic devices,” granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, could drastically cut down on the size of at least one component needed to create products like the iPhone.

While the patent refers to implementations in a laptop computer, the antenna tech can be used in other portable electronics like smartphones and tablets.

With Apple’s current technology as seen in the iPhone 5, two internal radio antennas dynamically switch between multiple frequency bands, including those carrying fast LTE data. In order to fit the units within the handset’s slim body, Apple had to design a window for radio waves, while keeping the unit small enough to leave room for other important structures like the logic board and battery.

Tuesday’s patent focuses on so-called “microslot antenna” technology, or “dielectric-filled microslots that are formed in a ground plane element.” According to the invention, the ground plane can be a device’s housing as long as it is conductive, meaning the slots would be integrated on the outer hull of a product. The system can also support multiple communications bands, meaning functionality would not be compromised for size enhancements.

As for the size of the microslots, the patent language states that the widths of the slots are usually significantly less than their lengths. For example, widths can range from microns to hundreds of microns, while a microslot’s length can be on the order of millimeters or centimeters.

Filling the slots is a dielectric such as epoxy, plastic, air or other suitable substance that prevents foreign matter from entering. Antenna feeds can be located at or between the functional microslots, and operate on common communication bands that support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G cellular, among others.

The ‘601 property was first filed for in December 2007, less than six months after the original iPhone debuted, and credits Bing Chiang, Gregory Allen Springer, Douglas B. Kough, Enrique Ayala and Matthew Ian McDonald as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6.1.1 update for iPhone 4S users

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Date: Monday, February 11th, 2013, 12:32
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, Software

Well, that was quick.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Monday released iOS 6.1.1 to address a number of bugs for iPhone 4S owners who recently ran into a handful of issues following the release of iOS 6.1 for all of Apple’s mobile devices.

The release is currently available as a direct download here (968MB) or as an over-the-air download (weighing in at about 23 megabytes). It’s available only to iPhone 4S users. No release was issued for iPhone 5 or other models of the handset at this time, despite claims from iPhone 5 owners that they were also negatively impacted by the iOS 6.1 update.

Two weeks after Apple released iOS 6.1, a number of iPhone 4S users began reporting battery drain and overheating issues possibly related to the update. British wireless carrier Vodafone UK even sent out a warning telling iPhone 4S owners not to upgrade to the latest OS version because the carrier determined it to cause 3G performance problems.

For instance, Apple’s Support Community forum battery drain and overheating problems after applying the iOS 6.1 update.

In particular, the carrier noted that iOS 6.1 was creating intermittent problems with iPhone 4S models, causing the handsets to experience 3G-related issues with making calls, sending texts and accessing the company’s data network. The reports on Apple’s support forums, however, suggested that the problems may not be limited to just iPhone 4S users and may also affect iPhone 5 users to some extent.

One iPhone 5 owner saw their battery drain of 35 percent overnight, while an iPhone 3GS user said Apple’s latest update actually boosted battery life. It’s unclear whether Apple is separately preparing an iOS 6.1.1 update for iPhone 5 owners.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried iOS 6.1.1 and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to release “iPhone 5S”, 5-inch “iPhone 6” this year

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Date: Friday, February 8th, 2013, 09:33
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

There’s got to be a nugget of truth in here somewhere…

Per BrightWire, a new report out of Asia claims Apple will release both an upgraded “iPhone 5S” as well as a new “iPhone 6” with a larger 5-inch screen this year.

The report comes out of Chinese mobile phone information site Laoyaoba.com. That source reportedly spotted two new iPhone models at Apple’s suppliers.

The report said that Apple “may” release both models in 2013. The iPhone 5S reportedly has a design similar to the current iPhone 5, while the 5-inch iPhone is said to be lighter and thinner.

As larger iPhones like Samsung’s Galaxy Note series have gained traction in the marketplace, there has been increasing speculation that Apple could go even bigger with a future iPhone model. The company increased the screen size of its flagship handset from 3.5 inches to 4 inches with the launch of the iPhone 5 last September.

Some have speculated that Apple could launch an iPhone with a bigger 5-inch display by keeping the same 640-by-1,136-pixel resolution as the current iPhone 5 screen. Stretching those pixels out to a 5-inch display would give a lower pixel density of 264-per-inch, but it would allow developers to continue to create applications for one screen resolution.

Analysts have also called on Apple to launch a big-screen iPhone, sometimes referred to as an “iPhone Plus.” They believe Apple is “leaving money on the tablet” by not competing with larger devices like the Galaxy Note.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Honda, Acura, other car makers to offer Siri-based Eyes Free support on some 2013 models

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Date: Thursday, January 31st, 2013, 08:44
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Soon you will talk to your car.

And it might actually do some of the things you ask of it.

Per AppleInsider, the American division of carmaker Honda announced on Wednesday it will integrate support for Apple’s voice-driven Siri personal assistant into its 2013 Honda Accord and Acura RDX and ILX models.

The 2013 Honda Accord will offer Siri Eyes Free integration as a dealer upgrade option.

The feature will be a dealer-installed option for customers who buy the latest model of the vehicles. Using a compatible iPhone running iOS 6, users will be able to direct Siri to perform specific tasks while keeping their eyes on the road.

Honda was already announced last June as one of nine auto makers that planned to support Siri’s Eyes Free mode. However, prior to Wednesday’s announcement, it was not known which vehicles Honda planned to offer with Siri integration, or when those vehicles would become available.

Earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show, Hyundai also announced it would include Eyes Free support for Siri in its next-generation infotainment systems. Hyundai did not give any specific vehicle models.

General Motors did, however, announce support for its Chevy Spark and Sonic vehicles last November.

Hands Free allows the iPhone screen to stay off and help prevent the driver from being distracted by their device. The Siri personal assistant software talks to a user out loud, allowing them to pay attention to the road.

The other companies that have announced plans to support Siri Eyes Free are BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, and Chrysler.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6.1 update

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Date: Tuesday, January 29th, 2013, 07:20
Category: iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

You’ve been hankering after it for a while and it’s finally here.

On Thursday, Apple released its iOS 6.1 update. The new operating system, a several hundred megabyte update available through iTunes, adds the following fixes and changes:
– LTE support for more carriers (complete list of supported carriers).

– Purchase movie tickets through Fandango with Siri (USA only).

– iTunes Match subscribers can now download individual songs from iCloud.

– New button to reset the Advertising Identifier.

iOS 6.1 requires an iPhone 3GS or newer, or a third-generation iPod touch or second, third or fourth-gen iPad or iPad mini to install and run.

As always, please let us know how iOS 6.1 works for you in the comments, no matter what the feedback may be.

Wireless handset unlocking becomes illegal in U.S. without carrier permission

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Date: Monday, January 28th, 2013, 08:45
Category: iPhone, Legal, wireless

Well, here’s the thing that’ll drive you nuts today.

Per Electronista and TechCrunch, phone unlocking without carrier permission is now illegal in the United States. A 90-day transition period, permitting the practice after an exemption added to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was reversed in October, has now run out. The expiration of the exemption now forces customers to either ask and potentially pay carriers for unlocking services, or to buy phones that have been unlocked beforehand.

The exemption was put in place after a campaign by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2010. Three exemptions were applied for, including making jailbreaking legal and the renewal of an existing exemption that permitted phone unlocking. In October, the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress reviewed and then overturned the unlocking exemption, citing the relative ease for consumers to either get an unlocked handset or to unlock a phone through a carrier. A 90-day transition period was then put in place, which has since ran out.

Penalties for unlocking, as outlined by CTIA, range from the carrier’s “actual damages and any additional profits of the violator”, to a court-awarded statutory damages of between US$200 and US$2500 per individual unlock, on the Civil Penalties side. Criminal penalties would see violators fined at most US$500,000 or imprisoned for up to five years, or both, for a first offense, with the values doubled for subsequent offenses.

In light of the unlocking exemption’s closure, a “We The People” petition asking for the Librarian of Congress to rescind the decision or to make unlocking permanently legal, has gathered over 25,000 signatures.

Jailbreaking and rooting of smartphones continues to be legal.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may incorporate fingerprint sensor into iPhone “Home” button for next-gen models

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Date: Friday, January 25th, 2013, 08:34
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, Rumor

This could be interesting.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is expected to launch a new iPhone this year with a fingerprint sensor hidden beneath the home button — an intuitive design that could be difficult for competing Android and Windows Phone devices to copy.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities expects Apple’s acquisition of AuthenTec to pay off this year with the so-called “iPhone 5S,” the company’s anticipated next-generation handset. He believes Apple will find a way to integrate the fingerprint sensor into the home button, allowing Apple to retain its “minimalist design.”

In contrast, many Android and Windows Phone devices have more than one button below the display, and those buttons frequently lack the mechanical push of Apple’s home button. As a result, attempts to integrate fingerprint scanning on competing devices would be less intuitive, and could frustrate users, Kuo said.

He believes that with the addition of a fingerprint sensor below the iPhone’s home button, Apple will be able to replace the use of usernames and passwords, allowing users to authenticate in a more efficient manner. He also expects that the fingerprint scanner will integrate with applications such as Passbook to enhance their functionality.

Kuo has a particularly strong track record in predicting Apple’s future product pipeline. Last year, the analyst accurately forecast the company’s entire fall lineup, including the taller design of the iPhone 5 and iPod touch, thinner iMacs, the iPad mini, and the fourth-generation iPad with Lightning connector.

Beyond the “iPhone 5S,” Kuo expects a new handset based on the iPhone 5 design will also launch this year. Kuo’s comments are in line with recent rumors, that have pegged Apple as planning to release a more affordable iPhone model this year targeted at emerging markets.

Kuo believes the less expensive iPhone 5 will feature a new design, including a plastic casing, to cut costs and expand Apple’s iPhone lineup.

The analyst has also predicted that the iPad mini will gain a Retina display in 2013, while the full-size iPad will sport a lighter and thinner design with a smaller bezel. He also expects new Retina MacBook Pros with cheaper prices, the discontinuation of the legacy MacBook Pros, and a refresh to the Apple TV set-top box — but no full-fledged television set this year.

Apple announces 36 international wireless carriers moving to 4G LTE networks in 2013

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Date: Thursday, January 24th, 2013, 08:31
Category: iPad, iPhone, News

If you’re traveling internationally with your iPhone 5, this will come in handy.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will more than double the number of carriers that support fast 4G LTE data service for its flagship iPhone 5 next week, with 36 new LTE carriers joining its existing pool of 24.

When asked about “the pace of LTE build outs across the globe, in Europe or parts of Asia” and how that could have an impact on Apple’s iPhone business as LTE capacity becomes more available, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook outlined big expansion plans beginning next week.

“Today we have 24 carriers around the world that provide LTE support for iPhone 5. Those are in countries like the US, Korea, the UK, Germany, Canada, Japan, Australia and a few others,” Cook said.

“Next week,” he added, “we’re adding 36 more carriers for LTE support. These carriers will be in countries that we are not currently supporting LTE.”

Cook specifically noted new carriers “in Italy, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Philippines, and also several middle eastern countries,” pointing out that “if you look at the total of all of these, the incremental subscribers in those countries it’s over 300 million.”

That subscriber total of the 36 country expansion is just over 10 percent larger than Verizon Wireless, which is currently the world’s largest LTE carrier, with about 257 million subscribers. Verizon just announced having sold 9.8 million smartphones in the winter quarter, 6.2 million of which were iPhones.

In addition to carriers supporting LTE, Cook also drew attention to iPhone 5’s ability to work with other advanced data networks, noting, “as you know iPhone 5 also supports other ultra fast networks like HSPA+, with downloads up to 42Mbps, which is 3 times the speed as iPhone 4S.”

Cook concluded his comments on global carrier expansion by saying, “we feel really good about the situation we are in, particularly with these adds next week.”

Apple first launched LTE support one year ago for its third generation iPad introducing a Retina Display. Last September, Apple launched iPhone 5 as its first LTE phone, expanding LTE and HSPA+ support to new carriers globally.

Apple currently sells three versions of iPhone 5 (and new iPad 4 and iPad mini models equipped with LTE mobile data): a model that works exclusively with American AT&T and Canadian carriers using LTE bands 4 and 17; a model supporting CDMA carriers Verizon and Sprint in the US and KDDI in Japan, using LTE bands 1,3,5,13 and 25; and a third model supporting LTE bands 1, 3 and 5, sold to subscribers in Germany, the UK, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Softbank in Japan.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts $54.5 billion in revenue, $13.1 billion profit for Q1 2013 financial returns

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Date: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013, 21:21
Category: Apple TV, Finance, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail

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It was a profitable quarter, but there were setbacks compared to last year.

Per Macworld, for the company’s first fiscal quarter of 2013, Apple posted revenue of US$54.5 billion and a net profit of US$13.1 billion. Revenue rose 17.7 percent from the 2012 first quarter, while profit was flat year-over-year. Apple earned US$13.81 per share, down half-a-percentage point from the US$13.87 it earned in the year-ago quarter.

Apple’s quarterly performance was in line with Wall Street expectations. Analysts were looking for sales of around US$54.7 billion for the quarter and earnings per share of US$13.42.

iPhone sales hit a record for the quarter ended Dec. 29, 2012, up 29 percent year over year to 47.8 million phones. That was within the 46 to 47 million range analysts were looking for. Apple says it sold 3.7 million phones a week during the quarter, compared to weekly sales of 2.6 million during the 2012 quarter.

iPhone sales growth was strong in all sales regions, Oppenheimer said, but particularly in Greater China, which includes China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Sales doubled year over year in that region.

Oppenheimer credited the “tremendous popularity” of iPhone 5 for driving Apple’s phone business—a not so subtle slap at rumors of sluggish iPhone 5 sales. Breaking with Apple’s typical practice of not addressing rumors, Cook did dismiss reports of iPhone order cuts.

iPad sales also set a new high-water mark, with 22.9 million tablets sold, compared to 15.4 million last year. That translates to more than 1.7 million iPads sold per week, a 60 percent increase from the year-ago quarter, according to Oppenheimer.

As is its custom, Apple didn’t break out sales figures between iPad models—it currently offers the iPad 2, a fourth-generation model of its full-sized iPad, and the iPad mini. Oppenheimer called the smaller version of Apple’s tablet a “tremendous hit.”

For the quarter, Apple sold more than 75 million iOS devices.

The company sold 12.7 million iPods, down about 21 percent compared to the year before. The iPod touch was (as always) popular during the holidays, and still accounts for more than half of all iPods sold. The company claims that the iPod owns more then 70 percent of the market for MP3 players.

iTunes generated US$2.1 billion in revenue, and the company established new all-time quarterly sales records for music, movies, and apps. The company added music stores in 56 countries, for a total of 119 around the world. The App Store sold 2 billion downloads in December; cumulative downloads have surpassed 40 billion, generating US$7 billion in payments to developers.

Apple made brief mention of its Apple TV offering, noting that it sold more than 2 million settop boxes during the holiday season quarter. That’s a 60 percent increase from the prior year.

Revenue from Apple’s retail effort was US$6.4 billion—an all-time high and a 5 percent increase over the 2012 first quarter. The company says that revenue is largely due to iPad and iPhone sales.

Apple opened 11 new stores, including four in its Greater China region. It expects to invest a bit less than US$1 billion in its retail stores this fiscal year.

Apple once again noted that the cumulative downloads have now surpassed 40 billion for the App Store, generating US$7 billion for developers. There were 2 billion downloads in the month of December alone.

Unusually, Apple did not break out the percentage of customers who purchased Macs at Apple Stores who were new to the platform. (In the past, that company has hovered consistently around 50 percent.) That omission could be a byproduct of the dip in Mac sales during the quarter.

For the second quarter ending in March, Apple expects sales to come in between US$41 and US$43 billion. That number would be slightly ahead of the US$39.2 billion in revenue the company logged in the 2012 second quarter. Apple is no longer giving analysts a forecast on earnings per share for the quarter, instead providing its expectations for gross margin and operating expenses in addition to revenue. (Apple expects gross margin to be between 37.5 and 38.5 percent for the upcoming quarter while operating expenses will come in at US$3.8 and US$3.9 billion.)

DigiTimes falls back on larger-screen iPhone story, agrees with Wall Street Journal’s assessment of next-gen iPhone hardware

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Date: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013, 07:55
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

Sometimes you’re dead-on, other times it’s time to head back to the drawing board.

Per AppleInsider, Taiwanese publication Digitimes on Tuesday backpedaled on its previous claims that Apple would be launching a cheaper, yet larger-screened, iPhone variant in 2013 to combat a growing low-end “phablet” market.

While DigiTimes reversed its original take on big-screen iPhone debut, the publication is hedging its bets and contends that Apple will eventually release such a handset, just not in 2013.

The report went on to agree with the The Wall Street Journal’s story, which previously claimed that Apple is planning on releasing two separate iPhone models this year. In its piece, the WSJ cited sources as saying both a successor to the current iPhone 5 and a budget smartphone, possibly made of polycarbonate, would launch sometime in 2013.

Adding to Tuesday’s rumor, DigiTimes noted that both the next-generation iPhone and rumored handset will feature in-cell touchscreen panels. The current iPhone 5 already boasts the advanced screen tech that allows for a thinner device by integrating touch sensing components within the LCD array. Yield rates of the complex displays caused supply constraints when the latest iPhone launched last year, but those production issues are said to have been corrected.

The latest rumor may be unfounded, however, as Apple is thought to have chosen older touchscreen tech, in addition to non-Retina resolution panels, with the iPad mini in attempts to capitalize on already slim margins. In-cell screens are not yet an industry standard and therefore substantially raise a device’s bill of materials.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.