O'Grady's PowerPage » iPhone

Patent granted for scratch-proof nitride coating on Apple devices

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Date: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011, 08:02
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod, News

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The good news: Your Apple device might get a bit tougher.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has been granted ownership of an invention related to scratch-proof coatings on stainless steel devices, using a nitride layer to potentially make iPhones, iPads and Macs more durable.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week granted ownership of the invention “Nitriding Stainless Steel for Consumer Electronic Products” to Apple. Known as U.S. Patent No. 7896981, it describes a cost-effective system that uses a nitride coating to prevent scratches and blemishes on the metal surface of a mobile device.

Adding a layer of nitride atop a stainless steel exterior would protect a device from damage. But the choice of material would maintain the look and feel of stainless steel, as nitride allows the color of the metal to show through.

Nitride is not to be confused with titanium nitride, a ceramic material that is also used as a coating on metal. Unlike nitride, which is clear, titanium nitride has a metallic gold color that conceals the look of the metal beneath it.

Apple’s invention notes that stainless steel, while scratch-prone, is an ideal material to craft electronic devices. Stainless steel is preferable because it is not magnetic, and it is less likely to inhibit wireless technology like a cell phone signal, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

The addition of nitride could give Apple the best of both worlds: the advantages of stainless steel would remain, while a nitride coating would address the chief concern of durability.

The invention also includes specifics on how the nitride coating would be applied to a device. It describes using a salt bath nitride process to coat stainless steel with an initial layer at least 15 to 30 microns thick and with a Vickers Hardness value of at least 1,000. Another method would use a nitrogen salt bath with an average temperature of no more than 580 degrees Celsius.

After the stainless steel sits in a superheated salt bath for between 45 and 90 minutes, the material would be removed and the nitride layer would be polished to remove no more than 10 percent, resulting in a smooth exterior.

Apple first filed for the invention in April of 2010. The invention is credited to Douglas Weber.

Analyst: Apple may be looking into offering lower-priced/prepaid iPhone option

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011, 05:33
Category: iPhone, News

A series of comments from Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook indicate that Apple doesn’t want its products to be “just for the rich” have fueled speculation that the company is interested in offering a cheaper iPhone.

According to Forbes, Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi met last week with Cook, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer, and Vice President of Online Services Eddy Cue. The analyst came away with the impression that Apple is “likely to develop lower priced offerings” in its handset business.

Cook also reportedly said that Apple is planning “clever things” to compete in the prepaid handset market. He also said that Apple is “not ceding any market,” and the company doesn’t want its products to be “just for the rich.”

Cook’s comments, and the analyst’s interpretations, come soon after two prominent publications claimed that Apple is working on a new, smaller, US$200 contract-free iPhone that it could sell directly to customers and bypass wireless carrier contracts. Both Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal said that Apple’s alleged plans were in an effort to compete with Google’s growing Android mobile platform.

Going against the tide, The New York Times rebuffed those two reports only days later, and said that Apple is not developing a smaller handset. However, it was reported by the Times that Apple has explored opportunities to create a less expensive iPhone.

In his meeting with Sacconaghi, cook reportedly referred to the iPhone as “the mother of all halos,” as the handset has expanded sales of Apple’s other devices, particularly in emerging markets. Apple has long referred to sales of the iPod — and later iPhone — as having a “halo effect” that drives sales of Macs.

And one emerging market where Apple has found great success in a short period of time is China. Cook reportedly acknowledged that Apple has spent “huge energy” in China, and also noted that it is a “classic prepaid market,” which would be an ideal candidate for a cheaper iPhone.

The company is also said to be looking to expand its carrier partnerships. Oppenheimer said that Apple has 175 carrier partners, while rival Research in Motion, maker of the Blackberry, partners with 550 carriers.

Cook also said he believes the tablet market will eventually be bigger than the PC market, and that competition for tablets will be even more intense than with smartphones. He also hinted that the company has interesting new things in its product pipeline.

Finally, Oppenheimer also said that Apple’s current capital structure is not efficient. He said the company is likely to use its cash to secure supplies of key components, much like the recent secret US$3.9 billion deal Apple recently revealed it made with component suppliers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Anonymous Apple exec casts shadow on iPhone nano development, reveals other developments

Posted by:
Date: Friday, February 18th, 2011, 05:02
Category: iPhone, Rumor

While various media outlets seemed confident that Apple was certain to release an iPhone nano, an anonymous source has told the New York Times that “Apple is not currently developing a smaller iPhone,” and that the company is “not planning to introduce a smaller iPhone anytime soon.” Per Engadget, the Times doesn’t outright deny the existence of such a device at any point in the story, it does quote an anonymous Apple executive as saying that it doesn’t make sense for the company to create multiple iPhone form factors at any given time, and an anonymous Apple engineer as saying that cheaper components, not a smaller size, would make for a cheaper overall price.

One thing’s for sure: either Apple’s making one, or it’s not.

In related news, the Times’ sources corroborate the idea that Apple will make MobileMe free, and say that the next full-sized iPhone is nearly complete.

iPhone 5 could feature 4″ screen, A5 processor

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Date: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 05:09
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The iPhone may be getting a bit bigger.

Per Taiwanese publication DigiTimes, upstream component suppliers report that Apple will expand the screen size of the fifth-generation iPhone to 4 inches in order to compete with a growing class of ‘super phones’ in the 4- to 7-inch range. By comparison, the iPhone 4 sports a 3.5-inch display with a resolution of 960 by 640 pixels.

The screen bump could also serve to push the iPhone toward the smaller end of the tablet market. “The component suppliers noted that the production lines for Apple’s next generation iPhone have begun testing, and Apple is interesting in expanding the screen size to 4-inches to support the tablet PC market as the vendor only has a 9.7-inch iPad in the market,” said the report.

If accurate, the report could dovetail with recent rumors of an “iPhone nano,” as Apple may be looking to differentiate its iPhone lineup with bigger and smaller displays. Though rumors of a smaller version of the iPhone have persisted for years, recent reports from Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal of an upcoming cheaper, smaller iPhone have lent credence to the rumors.

A second report from DigiTimes claims that Apple is hoping to outsource the production of its A4 processor and the next-generation A5 processor, which will likely utilize the ARM Cortex A9 design, to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company due to concerns over increased competition between Samsung and Apple. At this week’s Mobile World Congress, Samsung has shown a number of new products, such as the Galaxy S II smartphone and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, that will directly compete with Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

Though Apple’s A4 processor is currently exclusively produced by Samsung Electronics, Apple has tapped TSMC for help producing the A4 in the past when Samsung’s capacity was unable to meet demand for Apple’s devices. Sources indicated to DigiTimes that “the move at that time was perhaps to test TSMC’s capability.”

“According to Digitimes Research,” the report continued, “the iPad 2 will support an enhanced version of the A4 and the A5 will power the iPhone 5. TSMC will initially produce the improved A4, and could likely become the exclusive manufacturer of the A5.”

The report echoes rumors from January suggesting that the next iPhone will run atop “Apple’s new A5 CPU (a Cortex A9-based, multi-core chip).”

It’s speculation at this point but it’s still interesting.

If you have any thoughts on this, please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Rumor: iPhone mini could drop internal storage, rely extensively on MobileMe streaming

Posted by:
Date: Monday, February 14th, 2011, 10:50
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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It’s the rumors that keep technology interesting.

With that in mind, the iPhone mini is making the rounds with the cool cats at Cult of Mac stating that the smaller iPod smartphone combo may rely on the also rumored MobileMe cloud-based iTunes storage server for streaming content from user’s media libraries.

Access to music, video and photos on the iPhone mini “would be a mostly cloud-based iOS,” according to Cult of Mac’s anonymous sources.

The rumored changes to Apple’s MobileMe service include a new Internet-based iTunes library storage system for iPhone users. Since content would be pushed wirelessly to them, the need for large amounts of RAM for local data storage would go away.

The notion that users would be able to stream their entire iTunes library may not, however, go over well with cell service providers. Relying on 3G data connections instead of Wi-Fi networks at least some of the time would push up iPhone user’s wireless data usage dramatically, and carriers may not want to deal with the extra network traffic per the Mac Observer.

Streaming content libraries would also a problem in places where data connections aren’t available, such as many flights. Unless the iPhone mini includes at least some local storage for media, users won’t be able to listen to music or watch movies when they can’t get an Internet connection.

It’s been presumed that an iPhone mini would have at least some built-in storage so users could load apps and store their contacts and appointments on the device.

As of now, Apple has yet to offer any comment, leaving the rest of this up to speculation…

Modest lines reported for Verizon iPhone 4 launch

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, February 10th, 2011, 06:06
Category: iPhone, News

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After months of anticipation and years of speculation, both Apple and Verizon itself today marked the launch of the Verizon iPhone 4. Initial reports suggest mixed lines at both locations. Regardless of whether it’s an Apple, Best Buy or Verizon store, some report very few in line, even at Apple’s 5th Avenue flagship, where others are seeing significant queues. Staff have been on hand to guide launches where queues existed.

Per Electronista, the modest turnout is roughly in step with past Verizon launches but may be affected both by Apple’s own launch strategy. Many if not most existing Verizon customers already bought the phone through online reservations and led to the carrier’s best-ever first day sales just by themselves. Early adopters have the option of getting the phone at Best Buy and Walmart today as well, where past launches have often removed one or both of these chains as options.

Timing is also likely to have guided many buyers’ decisions. Apple’s choice to launch at 7AM, mid-week in February has deterred some from standing in line in the cold. The knowledge that a CDMA iPhone 5 is likely to ship in four to five months’ time is known to have stopped technology enthusiasts or more patient buyers from signing up.

Even so, the sales have been enough that they triggered a slowdown in Motorola sales at Verizon as a significant number of customers held off on Android phones. An unusually large number of buyers are moving from the original Droid and the Droid X as well as BlackBerry devices, especially the touchscreen BlackBerry Storm.

If you have any Verizon iPhone 4 line stories to share, send them along.

Also, this whole “choice of carriers” thing…you could get used to it.

Apple releases iOS 4.2.6 update for Verizon iPhone 4

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, February 10th, 2011, 06:33
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

If you’ve just snagged a Verizon iPhone 4, here’s your first patch.

On Thursday, Apple released iOS 4.2.6, its first update for the Verizon iPhone 4 handset. The update, a 401.4 megabyte download, fixes a bug to ensure Personal Hotspot data usage is accurately reported.

As always, the update can be snagged via iTunes by attaching the iPhone, clicking on the unit in the device window and clicking the “Check for Update” button.

iOS 4.2.6 currently requires a Verizon iPhone 4 to install and run.

Verizon iPhone 4 now available via Apple Store, Walmart web sites web site (updated)

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 9th, 2011, 05:32
Category: iPhone, News

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It’s finally here.

Or just about.

At midnight, Apple replaced a “be back soon” notice on the Apple Store web site with an active online storefront offering the new iPhone 4 on both US carriers: AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Starting today, U.S. shoppers buying an iPhone 4 can now choose between AT&T and Verizon for service, with the Apple Store offering links to both carrier’s plans and service maps.

Per AppleInsider, wait times for AT&T are still listed as shipping within 24 hours, while the new Verizon iPhone 4 model is currently stating an shipping availability of February 18th for orders set to be mailed to the user.

When we placed an order for the new phone, the shipping receipt stated our order would ship “by February 18th,” and be delivered “within 5 business days after shipping,” potentially as late as February 25.

A choice to reserve a Verizon iPhone for pickup in a retail Apple Store was not listed as an available option, and the black model remained the only version currently listed for sale. Buyers who prefer to pick up their new phone will want to “check back soon.”

Apple offers free shipping on its online orders, while in-store pickups are stated to include free setup. Existing AT&T customers who enter their account information will have their phone number switched over to new Verizon service when they receive their new phone and connect it to iTunes to initiate setup. Users who purchase or pickup a new phone in the store will be switched over in the store. The actual switchover process may take between one to three hours, according to Apple’s site.

If you’ve snagged a Verizon iPhone 4 and have any feedback to offer, please let us know and thank ye!

Updated: We’ve just gotten word that Walmart has stepped in and users can order the Verizon iPhone 4 via the retailer’s web site.

Verizon iPhone dissected, interesting chipset, revised battery found

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, February 8th, 2011, 05:50
Category: iPhone, News

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If there’s any doubts as to a new Apple product, just let the cool cats at iFixit tear it apart and they’ll tell you all about it.

This is exactly what’s happened with the company’s teardown of the new Verizon iPhone. The procedure located several interesting things including Qualcomm’s MDM6600, a chipset that can handle not just the CDMA and EVDO needed for the network but also GSM and up to 14.4Mbps HSPA+. The part suggests Apple could have designed a dual-mode phone but didn’t for the iPhone 4, likely due to space constraints in the existing frame.

The examination also showed that Apple is using a different battery. Although it has the same capacity, the new battery is over a gram lighter and should lead to a slightly easier to carry phone. The absence of a SIM slot also expectedly helps reduce the weight and changes the layout inside. The mechanical vibrator has been removed. Since a vibrator still exists, it’s likely the vibrator has been pulled or built into another part.

An empty solder contact point on one side of the board is unusual, but it may be the SIM slot’s connection.

Other details are still being determined as the teardown continues, but the phone doesn’t have any known fundamental changes so far underneath apart from the cellular hardware. Apple’s redesign has mostly focused on tuning reception and adjusting for the newly shuffled components.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Early shelf space spotted for iPhone 4 at Best Buy, The Source stores

Posted by:
Date: Monday, February 7th, 2011, 04:59
Category: iPhone, News

You’ve been hankering for it.

And it may finally be here.

After several months of delays, the white iPhone 4 looks like it is finally about to hit U.S. store shelves. Per Engadget, tipsters have sent in some photos of the pricing tickets for the device at both Best Buy and The Source. What’s more, when looking closely at the photo below, it appears that the shot taken at Best Buy has in fact been taken with a white iPhone 4 as is seemingly apparent in the reflection on the ticket surface. Even more intriguing is that if it is indeed a White iPhone 4, it also seems that it may either be missing the LED flash, or it has been repositioned possibly on the side opposite to the lens.

Issues with photos taken by white iPhone 4s have long been thought to be the cause of the extended delay and even its possible cancellation altogether. Initially, it was speculated that the white paint finish, combined with the glass back caused too much light leakage in photos. However, a recent report pinned the alleged camera problems on cheaply made clone parts.

If the photo below does indeed show a white iPhone 4, it looks as though Apple may have overcome the camera issue with a slight redesign of the rear glass housing.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.