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

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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

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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

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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.

CDMA iPhone 4 receives “N92″ code name, enters new testing stage

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Date: Friday, August 13th, 2010, 05:20
Category: iPhone, News

It’s got a code name, which makes it that much more real.

Per Electronista, Apple’s long rumored CDMA iPhone has been given a codename according to sources close to the story. The device is now known internally as N92 and is already at the Engineer Validation Test (EVT) stage. As just a step before the Design Validation Test (DVT) stage like that of the stolen iPhone 4, its progress is appropriate for the often-rumored January Verizon launch.

There are no guarantees the CDMA model will ultimately ship or necessarily that it will reach Verizon. Apple could reach Sprint, US Cellular and most other smaller carriers in the U.S., and it could be intended primarily for international carriers like China Telecom or some Latin American providers. With 92.1 million subscribers, however, Verizon is usually considered the largest CDMA carrier and would almost certainly be the primary target.

Apple is now believed to have had a change of heart on CDMA. Where it once described the standard as “dead” since a clear majority of cellular networks use GSM and HSPA, the company has reconsidered after recognizing length of time to transition to LTE for 4G and, more importantly, the threat of Android. Verizon is the world’s largest Android carrier and has helped Google thrive with HTC and Motorola phones being “safe” from Apple.

Analysts believe a Verizon iPhone could flatten Android as some customers may only be choosing Android as AT&T’s network quality and the cost of switching carriers discourage them from jumping networks to get an iPhone. While AT&T has tried to minimize the risk of losing customers, others have anticipated that AT&T could lose tens or hundreds of thousands of customers almost immediately.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

id’s John Carmack demos 60 fps Rage game on iPhone 4

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Date: Friday, August 13th, 2010, 05:19
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Ok, this qualifies as nifty.

Per Kotaku, id Software’s John Carmack demonstrated Rage on the iPhone 4 handset at QuakeCon 2010. The title, which ran at 60 frames-per-second, allowed Carmack to “kill anything done on the Xbox or PlayStation 2.”

The demo incorported id’s Tech 5 engine and could easily run on the 3GS with the visuals rivaling anything from the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox.



The first Rage game for the iPhone will be a small “show-off” sort of title, with a larger game due out next year to coincide with the big game’s release.

Apple releases iOS 3.2.2, 4.0.2 update

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Date: Thursday, August 12th, 2010, 04:18
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple somewhat unexpectedly released iOS 3.2.2 and iOS 4.0.2, the latest versions of its operating system for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices. The new version, which weighs in at over 500 megabytes, repairs a security vulnerability associated with viewing malicious PDF files.

To download and install the update, attach your iPhone or iPad to your computer, open iTunes, select the device and search for an update. The process will occur as per usual.

And if you’ve noticed any major changes or would like to offer feedback on this, let us know.

Rumor: Apple planning CDMA iPhone, smaller iPad tablets, AMD-powered Apple TV devices

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Date: Tuesday, August 10th, 2010, 06:02
Category: Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, News, Rumor

It’s the rumor mill that keeps things interesting.

Per DigiTimes, overseas component suppliers have started rumors of a number of new products coming from Apple in the next year, including a new Apple TV running iOS and powered by an AMD Fusion processor, a 7″ iPad, a CDMA iPhone, and a new 9.7″ iPad with a Cortex-A9 processor and 512MB of RAM in 2011.

DigiTimes went somewhat overboard on Monday, reporting a lengthy list of potential future hardware from Apple. The site made mention of a Verizon-compatible CDMA iPhone expected to start production in December, piggybacking on rumors that resurfaced over the weekend, claiming the iPhone 4 will debut on the Verizon network in the U.S. in January 2011.

“Pegatron is expected to start mass production in December and will supply to both US-based Verizon Wireless and China-based China Telecom,” the report said. “The CDMA iPhone’s back plate will be forged from metal materials and will feature an integrated antenna.”

Sources also indicated to the publication that Apple will upgrade its 9.7″ iPad to an ARM Cortex-A9-based processor, and also add 512MB of RAM in the first quarter of 2011. The current model has 256MB or RAM and a custom A4 processor based on the Cortex-A8 design.

The report also rekindled rumors of a smaller iPad with a 7″ screen. The report claimed that the hardware will also sport a Cortex-A9-based processor, and like the 9.7-inch model, will have an LCD panel with in-plane switching technology and a resolution of 1,024-by-768 pixels.

Finally, the report also claimed that the Cupertino, Calif., company is working on a new Apple TV powered by AMD’s Fusion package, dubbed an “accelerated processing unit,” or APU. AMD’s yet-to-be-released hybrid processor combines the CPU and GPU functions into one package. The ARM-based chips found in Apple’s iPhone and iPad already accomplish similar functions with low power consumption.

AMD touts that its forthcoming Fusion product will offer strong HD, 3D and data-intensive performance on the single-die processor. “APUs combine high-performance serial and parallel processing cores with other special-purpose hardware accelerators, enabling breakthroughs in visual computing, security, performance-per-watt and device form factor,” the company said.

DigiTimes claimed that the new Apple TV will switch to “a user interface similar to the iPhone with support for social networking websites, network multimedia and the App Store. Mass production of the device will start in December.”

Aside from the inclusion of an AMD processor, the rumors largely reiterate what was stated in May by assorted web sites. That report indicated that Apple would release a new product that would offer 1080P cloud-based content streaming for just US$99. However, it indicated that the device would run on a custom-built A4 processor, just like the iPad and iPhone 4.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T report to SEC hints at end of carrier exclusivity, possible Verizon CDMA iPhone

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Date: Tuesday, August 10th, 2010, 04:33
Category: iPhone, Rumor

It’s the rumor that won’t die, but it’s picking up some interesting evidence that might make it that much more valid.

Per the Wall Street Journal and Macworld, wireless carrier AT&T AT&T discussed its exclusivity arrangements at great length in its recent quarterly filing with the Securities Exchange Commission. The filing has sparked speculation not so much for what it said about the iPhone, but what it didn’t say.

When discussing its wireless business, the carrier said it offered a wide range of devices including 18 smartphones. The reason for offering so many phones, the company said, was to reduce “dependence on any single handset.” The reference to the “single handset” has been seen as pointing towards the iPhone, currently the most popular device AT&T offers for sale.

After declaring the company doesn’t depend on one handset, AT&T’s report gets even more suggestive. “As these exclusivity arrangements end,” the report says, “we expect to continue to offer such handsets…[and] do not expect any such terminations to have a material negative impact on our Wireless [sic] segment income.”

Taken together, the comments about dependence on one device and the end of exclusivity sure sound like AT&T may be preparing its investors for a soft landing once the carrier loses control of the iPhone.

While AT&T may be preparing for the end of iPhone exclusivity, Apple is reportedly ramping up production of CDMA chipsets for the iPhone, according to TechCrunch. CDMA is the cellular network standard used by Verizon, while current versions of the iPhone are made for GSM networks. So Apple would to produce a modified iPhone for Verizon, and that could take as long as six months.

Per TechCrunch, anonymous sources that purportedly have deep knowledge of Apple’s supply chain. The report contends that Apple has ordered “millions of units of Qualcomm CDMA chipsets” to produce Verizon-compatible iPhones. The handsets would reportedly be finished by December in time for a January launch.

It’s an old rumor by this point but there may be a nugget of truth to be found here.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple ousts iPhone head Mark Papermaster, speculation flies as to who might be next

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Date: Monday, August 9th, 2010, 04:23
Category: iPhone, News

In November of 2008, Apple hired IBM’s Mark Papermaster to be Apple’s Senior Vice President of Devices Hardware Engineering, thereby replacing Tony Fadell as head of Apple’s iPod and iPhone divisions. A court deal later forced Papermaster to wait until April 2009 before starting at Apple.

Sixteen months later, Papermaster is out.

Per The Apple Core, speculation abounds that he’s the first casualty of the iPhone 4′s problematic antenna design, but neither Apple nor Papermaster have given a public reason for the departure, the current opinion having reasoned that he may have been asked to resign for the design flaw in Apple’s the iPhone 4.

Its suspect antenna design (dubbed “Antennagate”) has lead to rumors that its successor (the iPhone 5) is being to rushed to market and that it could come as soon as in January 2011, six months earlier than the traditional summer time frame for iPhone launches.

MacRumors chimed in with a rumor that Papermaster has been virtually invisible from Apple’s promotion of the iPhone 4, curious for the head of the department that designed it.

In retrospect, these current events should have cast a light during Apple’s iPhone 4 press conference last month. During the Q&A portion of the press conference, Papermaster, whose division designed the iPhone 4, didn’t seem to be in attendance at the event.

Even Apple’s promotional video for the iPhone 4 released at the device’s introduction in early June, which featured a number of Apple executives talking about the handset, failed to include Papermaster. Bob Mansfield is, however, featured with the job title of Senior Vice President of Hardware, dropping the “Mac” qualifier that had been part of his official job at that time. Per the New York Times, Mansfield was involved in the design of several aspects of the iPhone 4, including its A4 chip and Retina display.

Apple confirmed the shakeup at Apple’s most important devision in a statement to the New York Times stating that Papermaster is leaving the company. Apple noted that Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Macintosh hardware engineering, who recruited Papermaster in the first place, will be assuming his responsibilities.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

China Unicom to bring Wi-Fi enabled iPhone 3GS to market come Monday

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Date: Friday, August 6th, 2010, 04:19
Category: iPhone, News

Following up on yesterday’s story about wireless carrier China Unicom selling Apple’s iPhone with Wi-Fi capabilities, Wen Baoqiu, a spokesman for China Unicom, has announced that starting Monday the Beijing-based telecom operator will offer an 8-gigabyte model of the iPhone 3GS with Wi-Fi capability. 16- and 32-gigabyte versions without Wi-Fi will continue to be available as well.

Per AppleInsider, prior to the initial launch of the iPhone in October 2009, China temporarily banned the IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi standard in an effort to promote its alternative WAPI standard. The ban was relaxed in May 2009, but not before manufacturing of the China-specific iPhone had already begun.

China Unicom’s iPhone launch sold just 5,000 handsets in its first 4 days, the lack of Wi-Fi being seen as a flaw. With this, the official iPhone struggled to gain momentum against a well-developed Chinese ‘gray market,’ which offered full-featured imported iPhones. Sales of the China Unicom iPhone eventually picked up, reaching 100,000 units in December.

In July, Chinese regulators posted an approval notice of a Wi-Fi iPhone, although the approval appeared to be for the iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS, not the iPhone 4. Chinese consumers seeking to obtain an iPhone 4 will have to look to Hong Kong, where it was released on July 30th, while they wait for a mainland release date.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.