Sprint expected to stay with iPhone, trade off subsidized prices for lucrative contracts

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Date: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012, 07:07
Category: iPhone, News

Even if your profits are down, this is no reason not to back your winning horse.

Per the Barrons.com blog, despite expecting a decline in wireless profits due to the high subsidy cost associated with carrying the iPhone, Sprint plans to exceed its US$15.5 billion minimum purchase agreement with Apple and looks to make up for the profit loss with subscriber revenue.

In the Monday filing of Sprint’s 10-K report for the 2011 fiscal year, it was revealed that the company is betting on subscriber dues to offset an expected 2012 deficit from the agreement with Apple, which called for a minimum order of around US$15.5 billion worth of high-subsidy iPhones.

During 2011, the company entered into a purchase commitment with Apple, Inc. to purchase a minimum number of smartphones, which on average, is expected to carry a higher subsidy per unit than other smartphones we sell.

Sprint’s plan is to take a hit in profits early by purchasing and subsidizing iPhones, then reap the benefits yielded from subscribers with lucrative smartphone contracts. There is evidence that the strategy may be working, as the carrier sold 1.8 million iPhones over the holiday quarter, 40 percent of which were to new subscribers. In contrast, iPhone activations at the top two U.S. carriers Verizon and AT&T stood at 4.2 million and 7.6 million, respectively.

Carriers pay heavy subsidies to carry the iPhone, and Sprint is currently paying US$450 for every unit sold with a two-year contract. On top of what the company calls an “instant savings,” Sprint is the only carrier in the U.S. to offer unlimited data for any iPhone model.

The nation’s third-largest mobile carrier was the last of the “big three” networks to get the iPhone, and only started selling the device in October, 2011 when the newest iPhone 4S was debuted. Combined launch-day sales of the iPhone 4S and last-generation iPhone 4 helped set a new one-day record for Sprint, and the product line continues to draw in new customers.

Previous reports called the iPhone agreement a “bet the company” move, and estimated that the telecom would have to put up US$20 billion for rights to sell the popular Apple handset.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T customer wins in 3G throttling case, could open floodgates for similar lawsuits against carrier

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Date: Monday, February 27th, 2012, 07:18
Category: 3G Wireless, iPhone, Legal, News

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Sometimes you CAN fight the giant and win.

Per the Associated Press, in a California court ruling on Friday, an AT&T customer who saw a reduction in his iPhone’s download speed due to high usage was awarded US$850 on claims that the telecom’s throttling measures are unfair to consumers.

Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel handed down the decision in favor of Matt Spaccarelli in Ventura Superior Court in Simi Vally, bringing an end to the small claims case that was filed in January which asserted that AT&T unfairly reduces unlimited data plan users’ bandwidth speeds.

The ruling could affect the roughly 17 million subscribers, or a little under half of AT&T’s smartphone customer base, who pay for a so-called unlimited data plan that was first introduced alongside the original iPhone.

The nation’s second-largest mobile carrier ended its all-you-can-eat plan in 2010, however the company allowed existing users to keep their unlimited service on the condition that the privilege would end if they ever opted to go with a tiered contract. In other words, an unlimited subscriber cannot return to the endless data plan if ever they choose one of AT&T’s tiered options.

As smartphones grew in popularity after the launch of Apple’s handset and smartphones running Google’s Android OS, data bandwidth became increasingly scarce. In an attempt to stem the swelling tide of data users, AT&T and other telecoms made the decision to throttle the download speeds of the top five percent of “heavy users.”

An inherent issue with the new throttling model is that an unlimited plan subscriber can see speed reductions if they are deemed to be within the top five percent of heavy users, regardless of the amount of data used. Tiered subscribers are never throttled.

In Spaccarelli’s case, speed was reduced after about 1.5 GB to 2 GB of data usage during a particular billing cycle, which is far less than the identically priced 3 GB tiered plan. Currently, unlimited access to AT&T’s network costs US$30 per month for grandfathered-in customers, while tiered plans run US$20, US$30 and US$50 per month for 300 MB, 3 GB and 5 GB, respectively.

According to an in-court argument by AT&T area sales manager Peter Hartlove, the carrier has the right to modify or cancel a contract if data usage is so high that it bogs down the network.

In addition, a clause in contracts signed by data users prohibits customers from joining a class action suit or jury trial, and instead must take any grievance to arbitration or a small claims court.

The agreement also claims that if a plaintiff wins an arbitration case, the minimum award from AT&T would be $10,000. Although Spaccarrelli asked for the same compensation, the small claims court judge only awarded him for US$85 for each of the remaining 10 months of his contract.

In theory, every customer who has been throttled could potentially take the Dallas-based carrier to court if they feel that the speed reduction is a violation of rights.

AT&T’s attempt to clear data congestion has been vague since its introduction in 2011, as the system is based on a sliding scale and not a set bandwidth cap. User also won’t know if they are part of the top five percent until a warning message is received, and by that point they only have a few days of regular usage before seeing a reduction of speed.

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

Apple releases iMac Wi-Fi Update 1.0, hopes to resolve wake/reconnection issue

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Date: Monday, February 27th, 2012, 07:41
Category: iMac, News, Software

The firmware updates, they keep on rolling in.

Late Friday, Apple released iMac Wi-Fi Update 1.0, a 25.8 megabyte download that resolves an issue that may cause an iMac to not automatically connect to a known Wi-Fi network after waking from sleep. It is recommended for all iMac (Late 2009 or newer) users running 10.7.3.

The firmware update is available either via direct download or through Mac OS X’s Software Update feature on a qualifying iMac.

If you’ve tried the iMac Wi-Fi Update 1.0 upgrade and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to replace 30-pin iPhone, iPod, iPad connector with smaller alternative

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Date: Friday, February 24th, 2012, 07:10
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Rumor

It’s a rumor, but it involves replacing the classic 30-pin connector you know, love and are readily familiar with on your iPod, iPhone, and iPad with something new, so proceed to panic.

Also, begin hoarding food, as this means the apocalypse is well nigh.

An unsubstantiated rumor claims that Apple is looking to replace the venerable 30-pin iPhone, iPad and iPod dock connector with a smaller, space-saving successor that will possibly make a debut in the company’s next generation iPhone.

According to the iMore blog, unnamed sources have stated that the iPhone maker found a way to make the connector smaller in 2010 to help accommodate for the iPhone 4’s larger battery.

Another factor is the connector’s role in data transfer. With the advent of iCloud, AirPlay and the energy-sipping Bluetooth 4.0, a future iPhone may only need a cable for charging purposes.

It is unclear what would become of the huge ecosystem of existing “Made for iDevice” products, which is a lucrative business for both Apple and third-party companies, as it would be made obsolete by a redesigned connector.

Details remain scarce at this time, but check back and we’ll get information up as soon as it becomes available.

Apple releases firmware updates for early and late 2011 MacBook Pro, mid-2011 MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 18:11
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released firmware updates for its early and late 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks as well as its mid-2011 MacBook Air Notebooks.

MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 2.7, a 4.1 megabyte download, fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Pro (Early 2011) and MacBook Pro (Late 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update improves the reliability of booting from the network, addresses an issue that can prevent HDCP authentication after a reboot, and resolves an issue with boot device selection when a USB storage device is hot-plugged.

MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.4, a 3 megabyte download, fixes several issues to improve the stability of MacBook Air (Mid 2011) computers and is recommended for all users.

This update improves the reliability of booting from the network, addresses an issue that can prevent HDCP authentication after a reboot, and resolves an issue with boot device selection when a USB storage device is hot-plugged.

The updates can be directly downloaded and installed or located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and require Mac OS X 10.7.3 or later to install and run.

As always, if you’ve tried the new firmware updates and have either positive or negative feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Intego announces discovery of “Flashback.G” trojan variant, advises caution

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 12:21
Category: News, security, Software

On Thursday, security firm Intego announced that it has discovered more strains of the Flashback Trojan horse. The company says that “many Mac users have been infected by this malware,” especially the latest variant, Flashback.G.

Per Macworld, Intego describes three unique methods that the Trojan horse uses to infect Macs: It attempts to exploit a pair of Java vulnerabilities in sequence, which the company says allows infection with no further user intervention. Failing those two approaches, resorts to social engineering. In that last case, the applet presents a self-signed digital certificate, falsely claiming that the certificate is “signed by Apple Inc”; if you click Continue, the malware installs itself.

To fall victim to the Flashback Trojan horse, you first need to run software. By definition, Trojan horses disguise themselves as other kinds of software, tricking the user into, say, double-clicking an icon to launch a new download—thereby infecting themselves. Note, however, that if you’re still running Snow Leopard and your Java installation isn’t current, a maliciously-coded webpage could cause the malware to install without further intervention on your part, depending on your browser’s security settings.

According to Intego, the latest Flashback.G variant can inject code into Web browsers and other applications that connect to the Internet, often causing them to crash. It attempts to sniff out usernames and passwords that you enter into many popular sites (like banking sites, Google, PayPal, and others), presumably so that the malfeasants behind the software can exploit that information in other ways.

As part of its installation process, the malware puts an invisible file in the /Users/Shared/ folder; that file’s name is variable, but it uses a .so extension. Other files the malware creates include /Users/Shared/.svcdmp, ~/.MACOSX/environment.plist, and ~/Library/Logs/vmLog. It also places a Java applet in ~/Library/Caches.

Intego has stated that its VirusBarrier X6 software can detect Flashback if it’s installed, and even prevent it from installing in the first place.

If you suspect you’ve already been infected, you can check by launching Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities/) and pasting in the code below, and pressing Return:

ls /Users/Shared/.*.so
If the response you see in Terminal includes “No such file or directory,” you’re in the clear. If you instead see a list of one or more files with a .so extension and no “no such file” declaration, you may well have fallen victim to the malware.

If you do find that you’re infected, removing the files referenced above or installing antivirus software like Intego’s should remove any traces of Flashback.

If you’ve seen this trojan on your end or tried this fix, please let us know in the comments.

Camino updated to 2.1.1

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Date: Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012, 07:19
Category: News, Software

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Late Wednesday, the Camino Project released version 2.1.1 of Camino, its free, open source web browser.

The new version, an 18.5 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

– Upgraded to version 1.9.2.27 of the Mozilla Gecko rendering engine, which includes several critical security and stability fixes.

– Blocked versions of Adobe Flash Player 10 older than 10.3.183.15 and Flash Player 11 older than 11.1.102.62 on Intel Macs due to severe security issues.

– Tweaked the autocomplete algorithm to reduce the weight of visit count.
Added a hidden preference to allow turning off autocomplete’s use of page titles in matches.

– The location sheet once again shows an autocomplete window.

– It is now possible to clear the “Recently Closed Pages” menu with the “Clear History…” menu item even when history is disabled.

– Improved the appearance of the bookmark toolbar in background windows on Mac OS X 10.7.

– On Mac OS X 10.7, Camino now appears in the “Productivity” category when sorting Finder windows by category.

– Camino now correctly checks for the presence of a Java plug-in on Mac OS X 10.7.

– The “open location” AppleScript command now supports optional “referrer” and “loading in background” parameters.

– Camino will now display an error message when the “open location” command’s direct parameter is empty or missing.

– A new “reload” command allows AppleScripts to reload browser windows and tabs.

– The status of Camino’s offline mode is now available to AppleScript, and scripts can toggle offline mode on and off using the application object’s “online” property.

– The AppleScript “visit count” bookmark property once again works correctly.

– Pressing Escape will now cancel Tab Overview.

– “Fill Form” no longer fills disabled hidden form controls.

– The “Block Flash animations” checkbox is no longer enabled if Flash is not installed.

– Camino now correctly resolves Bonjour services that do not include an initial forward slash in their “path” information.

Camino 2.1.1 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to run.

If you’ve tried the new version of Camino and have any kind of feedback about it, let us know.

China Telecom announces iPhone 4S launch date of March 9th

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Date: Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 08:02
Category: iPhone, News

If you’re overseas and have been waiting for the iPhone 4S, it’s almost here.

After months of ads, China Telecom has announced that it will begin sales of the newest iPhone on March 9, 2012. The company will begin taking reservations for the iPhone 4S on March 2 in anticipation of the rollout a week later according to MacStories.

China Telecom is the second largest carrier in China, and uses a CDMA network as opposed to the GSM network run by market leader China Unicom (which has been selling the iPhone 4S since January). The iPhone 4S is the first iPhone that can run on both networks without requiring separate models.

As part of China Telecom’s rollout, the carrier will be offering the 16 GB iPhone 4S for free with a 2 year contract. According to a tweet from Asymco analyst Horace Dediu, China Unicom currently has 37 million 3G customers, with China Telecom adding another 33 million 3G users. That’s a huge potential iPhone 4S market for Apple, and one that the company is eager to tap.

During last week’s Goldman Sachs technology conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook made repeated references to the vast Chinese market and how the company is making that market a key target for its growth strategy in the future.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

“Working prototype” version of Office for iPad pictured, slated for submission to App Store soon

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Date: Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 07:45
Category: iPad, News, Software

You’ve been hankering for a version of Microsoft Office for the iPad since, well, the release of the iPad.

And it could hit very soon.

Matt Hickey of The Daily was offered the first glimpse at a “working prototype” of Office for iPad on Tuesday.

“Word, Excel and PowerPoint files can be created and edited locally and online,” he said. “But it’s unclear if Microsoft will support other Office apps at launch or at all.”

The design side of the project is said to have already wrapped up, but an exact launch date remains unknown. It was said that the project “could be released in the coming weeks.”

Citing anonymous sources, the report added that Microsoft Office for iPad will “soon be submitted to Apple for approval.” No pricing or other details were provided.

The Daily first indicated last November that Microsoft was preparing a new version of its Office suite for Apple’s iPad. In addition, an updated version of Office for OS X Lion users was also revealed, and is expected to become available on Apple’s Mac App Store.

Apple currently offers its competing iWork productivity suite on the iPad as three standalone applications. Pages, Keynote and Numbers for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch are each available for US$9.99 on the App Store.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

SkyDrive OS X client pics, specs leaked, iCloud may have worthwhile competitor

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Date: Tuesday, February 21st, 2012, 07:10
Category: Rumor, Software

If you’re not totally enthralled with iCloud at all times, Microsoft is working to ensure that there are options.

Per Germind, Microsoft is readying a significant update to SkyDrive in Windows 8, and reportedly leaked screenshots of the revamped file syncing and cloud storage service show that a Mac OS X client could be poised to compete with Apple’s iCloud.

Also of note are paid storage options that can be purchased in 20GB, 50GB or 100GB flavors for approximately US$10, US$25 or US$50 per year, respectively.

The extra space will supplement the already copious 25GB in free storage offered by SkyDrive. In comparison, iCloud only offers 5GB of free cloud storage, however Apple’s system does not count Photo Stream, iTunes’ media, apps and iBooks against the limit.

According to Microsoft’s blog, the Metro-style cloud-based Windows 8 app will share characteristics with Dropbox in that users can sync and backup certain files automatically, though SkyDrive goes further and allows limited remote access to files not synced to the cloud. Maximum file size for remote file fetching is pegged at 2GB.

Additional shots have also leaked through liveside.net that showed SkyDrive would support file sharing through social networks like Twitter and Facebook, BitLocker recovery keys, OpenDocument files from Office Web Apps and URL shortening.

iCloud’s current file-syncing implementation is aimed mainly at iOS users who can backup device profiles and data to the cloud. Apple’s free service does support certain automatic syncing to OS X programs such as Photo Stream and a clunky Pages document syncing procedure, but the process is not as smooth as other third-party solutions.

This situation could change when OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is released this summer as many iOS features like Notification Center and iMessage will be ported to the desktop operating system, though no official word has been given regarding iCloud upgrades.

Apple has invested heavily in iCloud, and the service which was introduced alongside iOS 5 could be getting more features, as previous reports that the company offered to buy Dropbox in a failed nine figure deal point to a definite interest in automatic file storage and syncing.

The SkyDrive update is set to launch later this year with support for Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 already announced.

It remains to be seen which Windows 8 SkyDrive features will be implemented in the rumored Mac client, if any, and to what extent the service will affect iCloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.