Rumor: Apple to update iOS retail store app, allow for self-checkout feature

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Date: Monday, October 31st, 2011, 08:19
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail, Software

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As nice as the Apple retail store employees can be, sometimes you just want to grab your merchandise and go.

Per MacRumors, Apple is working on plans to give retail customers the ability to finalize their own in-store purchases via its iOS application for the iPhone, according to a new report.

Perhaps arriving even sooner than expected, the new functionality is expected to arrive as soon as this week.

An update to the official “Apple Store” application for iOS is said to allow users to charge purchases to their iTunes Store account, linked to an Apple ID and credit card just as App Store purchases are authorized. The anticipated option will only apply to accessories and items found on the shelf.

The new ability will not apply to more expensive items like the iPhone, iPad, iPods or Macs. Those devices will remain kept in the stockroom at Apple’s retail stores, and will require assistance from a salesperson in order to purchase.

But for accessories sold in stores, including cases for products like the iPhone and iPad, users will be able to complete the transaction on their own with an iOS device. An automated e-mailed receipt will serve as confirmation of the transaction, allowing customers to show employees that an item has been paid for.

The new self-checkout option is rumored to arrive soon after Apple launched an in-store pickup program via its online store. Customers in San Francisco can now order a product online and pick it up at a local Apple retail store, and that ability is expected to expand to other U.S. stores in the near future.

Another change is also said to be coming to Apple’s online store, allowing customers to place a single order with multiple items, and have those items shipped to different addresses. The enhanced functionality is expected to debut in time for the holiday shopping season.

Stay tune for additional details as they become available.

Apple reaching out to users for iPhone 4S battery life data, firmware update may be in the works

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Date: Monday, October 31st, 2011, 05:17
Category: battery, iPhone, News

With any luck, a firmware update will fix the issue.

Per The Guardian, responding to complaints of battery life issues with the iPhone 4S, engineers from Apple are said to have contacted customers directly in an effort to solve any issues.

One user who spoke with the newspaper said that he was contacted by Apple, and was asked to install a monitoring program on his phone. Apple’s engineers hope to be able to use the diagnostics to determine what is causing shorter battery life for some users, though the report said the problems are thus far “unexplained.”

The person said they were contacted by a senior engineer at Apple who read a post they made online, and indicated that the company was contacting users to resolve the problem. The Apple representative also allegedly admitted that the company isn’t “close to finding a fix.”

“(He) asked lots of questions about my usage and then asked if he could install the file… and that he would call back the day after to retrieve the info,” the person wrote. “I extracted the file from my Mac after a sync and mailed it to him. He was incredibly helpful and apologetic in the typical Apple way!”

Experiences of reduced battery life are supported by a growing thread on the Apple Support Communities website, where numerous users have found they experience significantly less uptime with the iPhone 4S. As of Friday afternoon, the thread as nearly 100,000 views and 1,300 replies.

“Glad to see people are talking about this,” user ‘telarium’ wrote. “My 4S battery life is terrible… even worse than my 3GS, even though all the settings are the same.”

Another user, ‘Frenzi,’ said they found some success by turning off many of the features on the phone, and only gradually re-enabling them as needed. Among the features disabled included sending of diagnostic data to Apple, automatically searching for Wi-Fi connections, automatic date and time, iTunes Ping, and even the Siri “raise to speak” feature. “The improvement has been nothing short of miraculous,” they wrote.

Still another user on the Apple Support Communities website, “Snowwolfwarrior,” said they spoke with an Apple technician who also gave them special software to install on their iPhone 4S. The software logs all of the usage from the handset over a 24-hour period, after which the user obtains the data and sends it back to the Apple technician.

When it was unveiled earlier this month, Apple claimed that the iPhone 4S had an increased battery talk time of eight hours. But standby battery time, when compared to the previous-generation iPhone 4, is advertised at 100 hours less.

In spite of this, the iPhone 4S does have a slightly larger battery than the iPhone 4, and includes an extra .05WHrs when compared to its predecessor. Apple also limited the amount of RAM in the iPhone 4S to 512MB, in an effort to conserve battery life.

The iPhone 4S includes the same A5 processor found earlier this year in the iPad 2. It is a dual-core chip that runs up to twice as fast as the A4, and includes graphics processing up to seven times faster with the SGX 543MP2 GPU.

If you’ve seen battery issues with your new iPhone 4S and want to throw your two cents in, let us know what’s on your mind via the comments.

iPhone 4S reservation/pickup program launches in San Francisco

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Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, 10:06
Category: iPhone, News, retail

Reservations are preferred.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Wednesday began offering customers in San Francisco the ability to order a product online and pick it up in a local retail store.

When checking out from Apple’s online store, a new “Pick up” option is available, from which users can select a store in San Francisco, Calif. It also states that the in-store pickup option is “coming soon to a U.S. Apple Store near you.”

The “Select an Apple Store” feature allows users to enter their zip code and find a local Apple Store, though for now the program is limited to San Francisco. Users who pick up their order at an Apple Retail Store get Personal Setup for any new Apple product.

Products listed as “Available now” at the store can be picked up within an hour. Customers can also designate someone other than themselves to pick up an order.

Word first surfaced on Monday that Apple was planning to launch its in-store pickup option in its online store. The pilot program was tested internally at the company under the codename “Sherwood.”

In addition to in-store pickup, Apple’s retail stores are also expected to begin accepting returns of online orders. By doing this, customers can avoid shipping an item back to Apple for the return process.

Apple began offering an in-store pickup option in a limited capacity in 2009, with a Christmastime “Reserve and Pick Up” program. That was restricted to specific products: the iPhone, iPod and MacBook lineups, Mac mini, iMac and Mac Pro. It did not include accessories.

But Apple’s new in-store pickup option applies to any product available in Apple’s online store, including accessories such as iPhone and iPad cases.

Apple’s retail operations has become a very important part of the company’s business model. The company revealed in its last quarterly earnings report that it plans to expand many of its retail locations in the U.S., as officials believe the current stores are now “too constrained” to properly serve the high volume of customers they experience.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried the iPhone 4S reservation system and have any feedback to offer, let us know.

Apple cites iPhone 4S, MacBook Air and Mac mini products as “Bluetooth Smart Ready”

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 11:32
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Mac mini, MacBook Air, News

No one ever said wireless communication with devices was a bad thing.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s latest products, including the iPhone 4S and updated Mac mini and MacBook Air, are among a group of low-power Bluetooth devices now branded as “Bluetooth Smart Ready.”

Bluetooth Smart is a new brand extension given by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group to devices that implement Bluetooth 4.0. Compatible devices include phones, tablets, PCs and TVs.

“Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready devices will revolutionize the way we collect, share and use information,” said Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. “In order to ensure consumers know what these extraordinary devices have to offer, we created the Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready marks. These new logos will help consumers manage compatibility, and encourage manufacturers to build their best Bluetooth devices yet.”

Bluetooth Smart devices are sensor-type devices like heart-rate monitors or pedometers. They run on button-cell batteries and were created to collect only a specific piece of information.

Bluetooth Smart Ready devices can connect to traditional Bluetooth devices, as well as new Bluetooth Smart devices that are just starting to enter the market. But Bluetooth Smart devices, because of their lower power consumption, will only connect with products labeled as Bluetooth Smart Ready.

Packages will now carry three potential logos created by the Bluetooth SIG to help consumers identify what their device offers, whether it be traditional Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, or Bluetooth Smart Ready.

“Consumers can look at new Bluetooth Smart Ready devices the same way they would a 3D ready TV — having the TV is just the first part of the puzzle, you need glasses and content in order to really experience 3D,” said Suke Jawanda, CMO of the Bluetooth SIG. “Once consumers have a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, like the new iPhone 4S, they can continue connecting to existing Bluetooth devices and are also ready to experience the new world of Bluetooth Smart peripheral devices that will carry the Bluetooth Smart logo.”

Bluetooth 4.0 support first appeared in Apple’s products in July, when the MacBook Air lineup and Mac mini were refreshed. Other Macs released this year — new iMacs and MacBook Pros — only support Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), but Bluetooth 4.0 also came to the new iPhone 4S released earlier this month.

Apple joined the Bluetooth SIG board of directors in June, and now takes part in overseeing the development of standards and licensing for the short-range wireless technology. When Apple joined, the special interest group said the iPhone maker would provide insight on platform development, as the company understands that technology is now driven by “hub devices” that capture data, utilize data at the application layer, and even upload it to the cloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release official 4G-capable iPhone in 2012

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 05:22
Category: iPhone, Rumor

When the iPhone 4S was released recently, one of the major complaints was that the unit lacked an official 4G function.

This may be resolved next year when Apple is “expected to join the LTE club,” according to sources who spoke with DigiTimes.

Apple’s entrance into the 4G LTE smartphone market is expected to come as Nokia, Research in Motion and Sony Ericsson also release their own next-generation high-speed handsets next year. The debut of those smartphones will come as carriers around the world launch their own LTE networks.

Just 35 LTE networks are online globally at the moment, but that number is expected to triple and exceed 100 before the end of 2012. By 2015, LTE networks are expected to reach 290 million people, and sales of LTE smartphones are projected to top 154 million units.

In the U.S., competition for 4G networks is expected to pick up next year, when Sprint launches its own LTE services in the middle of the year. The third-largest carrier in America, which began offering the iPhone earlier this month, reportedly expects to launch 15 LTE-enabled devices in mid-2012.

Earlier this year, reports claimed that Apple had eyed building an LTE-capable iPhone in 2011, but opted to push back the launch of such a device in 2012. It was said that the implementation of LTE networks had not yet matured enough to satisfy Apple.

In a quarterly conference call earlier this year, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, then the company’s chief operating officer, said that poor battery life and other issues with current LTE technology were enough to dissuade the company from pursuing an LTE iPhone at the time.

“The first generation of LTE chipsets force a lot of design compromises with the handset, and some of those we are just not willing to make,” Cook said.

The just-released iPhone 4S features an improved antenna that it HSDPA compatible for theoretical download speeds of up to 14.4Mbps. That has led U.S. carrier AT&T to advertise that the iPhone 4S has 4G-like speeds on its GSM network. However, the world-mode phone is not capable of achieving those same speeds on CDMA networks with carriers like Sprint and Verizon.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple confirms C Spire Wireless as fourth U.S. iPhone carrier

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Date: Wednesday, October 19th, 2011, 09:39
Category: iPhone, News

The south shall rise again.

This time, with its own wireless carrier for the iPhone.

Per Macworld, C Spire Wireless will join Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T as the fourth U.S iPhone carrier. The company, which functions as the largest privately-held cellular carrier in the country, announced on Wednesday that it will begin offering the iPhone 4S “in the coming weeks.”

C Spire is a regional carrier; until last month, it did business as Cellular South. The company accepts customers primarily in the southeast, focusing on Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida. Dave Miller, C Spire’s Media Relations Manager, stated that he couldn’t yet comment on whether the company would also carry the iPhone 4 or 3GS, though he did say “more details will be coming out soon about all the Apple devices we will offer.” C Spire is a CDMA carrier, like Sprint and Verizon.

Like Sprint, C Spire currently offers plans that include unlimited data. Miller indicated that he couldn’t yet confirm what plans the company would offer for the iPhone 4S, but declared that C Spire offers “what we consider the best plan in the industry, the 80/40 plan.” That plan offers unlimited minutes, text, and data for US$80 per month for your first line, and US$40 for additional lines.

An Apple spokesperson also confirmed that C Spire will carry the iPhone 4S soon.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you have any feedback from your experience with C Spire, please let us know in the comments.

Apple now requiring customers to go through online reservation system before purchasing an iPhone 4S at an Apple Store retail location

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Date: Tuesday, October 18th, 2011, 04:59
Category: iPhone, News, retail

You’re going to need to call ahead.

Per AppleInsider, Apple said on Monday that customers looking to purchase a new iPhone 4S from its US or Canadian based retail outlets will first be asked to make a reservation online, suggesting that record-setting sales of the device coupled with an upcoming international expansion are straining availability.

Apple’s “how-to-buy” iPhone webpage now advises that customers can check back online after 9 p.m. where they can attempt to make a reservation for pick up the following day. Customers can check stock availability at each store before they make a reservation, and must select which carrier, color, and capacity they require.

“The iPhone 4S is available in store by reservation only. Reserve yours after 9:00 p.m. tonight for pickup tomorrow. When you come in, you’ll choose a carrier and plan, and we’ll get your iPhone up and running before you leave the store.”

Apple is instituting the restrictions in other countries as well, noting that only on-contract phones are available to walk-in customers, while both on-contract and SIM-free models can be purchased by reserving the night before.

Apple’s in-store reservation requirement is nothing new and underwent significant re-engineering alongside the release of the second-gen iPad.

A source familiar with Apple’s retail operations stated this week that the new shipment of iPad 2 stock sold by some stores on Tuesday was actually delivered on Monday. Apple is said to have elected to hold the inventory for a next-day sale to grant its inventory control specialists the time to “calmly and accurately” process new shipments.

It was suggested that the change could be a “lesson learned” following the launch of major in-demand products in 2010: the iPhone 4 and first-generation iPad. For those launches, Apple’s reservation system was said to have been plagued by a myriad of problems, including technical glitches that caused reservations to disappear, and resellers attempting to “game” the system.

Apple’s previous strategy was to get products from the pallet to the shelf as fast as possible. But that approach was said to have caused “utter havoc” for Apple’s retail employees, and led to inventory inaccuracies.

Under the revised strategy, Apple retail stores know exactly how many units it has to offer up for reservations the following day, allowing it automatically accept a specific number of reservations that it can guarantee to customers.

In years past, any excess iPhones or iPhone reservations that go unclaimed by the end of the day are made available for sale to walk-in customers.

The iPhone 4S is currently available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K., with availability coming to 22 more countries by Oct. 28, and more than 70 countries by the end of the year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have any feedback on your iPhone 4S purchase experience, please let us know in the comments.

iLounge review finds iPhone 4S battery less robust for 3G data, media when compared to iPhone 4

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Date: Monday, October 17th, 2011, 10:25
Category: battery, iPhone, News

The good news is that the iPhone 4S is out and is being regarded as fairly spiffy.

The bad news is that its battery may not be the greatest thing in the known universe.

Per the iLounge review, the site compared the iPhone 4 battery to the iPhone 4S battery to test comparative better times given various functions.

For tests with 3G Data, Audio Playback, Video Playback, and Video Recording, iLounge found that the iPhone 4S came in under the iPhone 4’s battery life times. For Wi-Fi and FaceTime testing they found it to be similiar to the iPhone 4, and on cellular calls, they found the iPhone 4S slightly better.

One interesting finding with 3G data was that while their Verizon 4S unit ran for the same time as the AT&T model (~ 5 hours and 54 minutes), they found the Sprint model to lag at 5 hours and 23 minutes. Comparisons across mobile providers may not be completely fair due to differences in signal strength which could impact battery life.

In voice calls, they found the AT&T iPhone 4 and AT&T iPhone 4S to have comparable times of around 7 hours and 6-16 minutes. The Verizon 4S model, however, showed a surprising 8 hours and 27 minutes, while the Sprint 4S again lagged at 6 hours and 27 minutes. iLounge notes that the Verizon model may have shown 4 bars more often than the other two.

Both media playback and recording has taken a hit on the iPhone 4S as compared to the iPhone 4. For video recording, of course, it should be noted that the iPhone 4S is recording much higher resolution video than the iPhone 4.

Ultimately, their conclusion on iPhone 4S battery life is based on what your exact usage model is:

If you spend much of your day near a Wi-Fi network and only rely upon the iPhone 4S for web browsing and phone calling, you won’t notice a major difference—unless you’re thinking of switching to Sprint, in which case we’d be a little concerned. Similarly, if you use 3G data, plan to record or play videos, or want to listen to hours of audio during the day, you can expect greater battery drain from the iPhone 4S.

There may be some confounding data due to regional signal strengths, but given the other complaints about Sprint’s data speeds, it still seems to be the worst choice amongst the iPhone carriers.

In other news, some users have reported dramatically decreased battery life on their iPhone 4S. One solution to that is said to be the calibration of the battery, in which case you drain your entire battery once and then charge to full. Some have found their battery gauge to be inaccurate until this is performed. Apple includes other tips on their site about improving your battery life on the iPhone.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve had a few days to tinker with the new iPhone 4S, please let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple sells over four million iPhone 4S units in first weekend of availability

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Date: Monday, October 17th, 2011, 06:48
Category: iPhone, News

If you were alive on Friday, you probably made an effort to snag a brand new iPhone 4S.

So did several million other people.

Per AppleInsider, Apple sold a total of 4 million units in its first three days of availability.

“iPhone 4S is off to a great start with more than four million sold in its first weekend—the most ever for a phone and more than double the iPhone 4 launch during its first three days,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “iPhone 4S is a hit with customers around the world, and together with iOS 5 and iCloud, is the best iPhone ever.”

Sales of four million iPhone 4S units in three days more than double’s the company’s previous record of 1.7 million iPhone 4 units sold in the summer of 2010.

Apple also revealed that more than 25 million customers are already using iOS 5, the latest mobile operating system upgrade for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Those 25 million customers have made the upgrade in just five days of availability.

More than 20 million customers have also signed up for iCloud, the set of free cloud-based services offered by Apple for iOS and Mac OS X 10.7 Lion users. iCloud will remotely store users’ data and push it to all of their devices, automatically.

The iPhone 4S is currently available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the U.K. Apple will launch its new iPhone in 22 more countries on Oct. 28, and it will be available in more than 70 countries by the end of the year.

A week ago, Apple announced that it had sold a million preorders of the iPhone 4S on its first day of availability. That provided the first hint that the iPhone 4S was on pace to have a record-breaking start when it went on sale.

The sale of four million iPhone 4S units at launch exceeds Wall Street expectations, which had called for Apple to sell around three million units over the weekend. Analysts have also called for Apple to sell around 25 million total iPhones this holiday quarter, which concludes in December.

If you snagged an iPhone 4S over the past few days and have any thoughts about it, please let us know what you make of Apple’s newest handset via the comments.

PocketMac unveils BerryMover, helps with BlackBerry-to-iPhone migration

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Date: Friday, October 14th, 2011, 10:33
Category: iPhone, News, Software

This could be useful.

Per the cool cats at the Apple Core, Information Appliance Associates on Tuesday released BerryMover, an app capable of bringing Blackberry data files over to an iOS-based device.

BerryMover allows you to open the Blackberry backup file and can recover calendars, contacts, tasks, notes, email messages and text messages for the iPhone. The company said owners can “import as many backup files as you want.”

Developer and PocketMac co-founder Tim Goggin stated there was increasing demand for this Blackberry-to-iPhone migration utility. His company previously created the Mac-Blackberry sync software.

“We developed the app because a lot of people are moving away from the BlackBerry to their iPhone,” he said. “Overall, I think it shows how seriously business takes the iPhone that so many people are migrating from BlackBerry to it.”

He described the development process as tough, especially getting the iPhone to work with BlackBerry backups, he added.

BerryMover retails for $9.99 and requires an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad running iOS 4.2 or later to install and run.