Apple looking less likely to include near-field communications in iPhone 5

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Date: Monday, May 16th, 2011, 10:02
Category: iPhone, Rumor

In the apparently never-ending speculation regarding the appearance of near-field communications in the upcoming iPhone 5, the current consensus is leaning towards “no”.

According to Business Insider, Wall Street research firm Bernstein issued a note to investors on Monday in which it claimed the next iPhone won’t include an NFC chip, according to Business Insider. That would run contrary to previous rumors that Apple was planning to include such a chip in its next iPhone.

Numerous reports from various sources had suggested that Apple planned to include NFC chips for e-wallet functionality in its next iPhone. Wireless short-range technology like RFID can allow for secure transmission of data, and could turn a user’s smartphone into a credit card.

In March, it was also reported that Apple was planning e-wallet functionality for a “coming” iPhone. However, the newspaper could not confirm whether the functionality would appear in Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone.

Apple has shown a great deal of interest in RFID over the years, with numerous patent filings, job listings, and even public comments from mobile executives. Reports of iPhone prototypes with RFID functionality date back to 2009.

If true, Monday’s report could mean that users would have to wait until at least the sixth-generation iPhone, likely to arrive in 2012, before such functionality would become available. That would jibe with other rumors that the next iPhone will not feature any significant changes to its hardware.

It would also support a claim out of the U.K. made in March that said RFID functionality had been scrapped. The Independent cited sources at mobile operators who said that Apple plans to include NFC technology in the sixth-generation iPhone in 2012.

Last week, a separate analyst report claimed that the biggest feature of Apple’s fifth-generation handset, given the moniker “iPhone 4S,” will be support for both Sprint and T-Mobile networks in the U.S. It is also expected to feature better cameras and the dual-core A5 processor found in the iPad 2.

Over the weekend, a separate part and case claimed to be for the fifth-generation iPhone suggested that the camera flash on the rear of the device will be placed farther from the lens. This would allow for better pictures when taken in low lighting.

Apple’s next iPhone is widely expected to miss the traditional summer launch timeframe when previous devices have been introduced. Instead, it is believed that the next iPhone will arrive at some point in Apple’s 2012 fiscal year, which begins in late September.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-party case points to edge-to-edge screen for iPhone 5

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Date: Monday, May 16th, 2011, 04:56
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Additional evidence that the iPhone 5 will have an edge-to-edge screen surfaced over the weekend in the form of a case manufactured by Chinese firm Kulcase.

Per Electronista, which found the case listed on Alibaba.com, the listing describes it as a “crystal case for Apple iPhone 5g”.

Images of the case include a mock up of the iPhone 5, which has an edge-to-edge screen on the front, with the rear of the device showing that the camera lens and flash have been moved to opposite corners of the device.

While the iPhone 5 is expected to be the same size as the iPhone 4, this is not the first time that rumours of a larger screen have come to light and an edge-to-edge display would enable Apple to increase screen size while keeping the chassis the same size.

Going back to the camera lens and flash, the mockups appeared to show that the camera lens would remain on the top left of the back of the device, while the flash would move to the top right hand side.

Further evidence that this could be the case appeared on the Apple.pro website over the weekend, which published photographs of what it claims are various different camera components for the next-generation iPhone.

The iPhone 5’s rear-facing camera component does not have an LED flash next to it, as it does on the iPhone 4, suggesting that the flash will indeed be moved to elsewhere on the device.

Though misleading mock-ups and fake components for future Apple products have been seen in the past, the edge-to-edge screen has been mentioned several times in iPhone 5 reports, so it would be surprising not to see it on the iPhone 5 when it launches.

At this point, a June launch for the iPhone 5 handset is regarded as unlikely, with September or perhaps even early 2012 more realistic.

However, contradictory reports about the next-generation iPhone emerged late last week, suggesting that rather than the iPhone 5, the name is likely to be the iPhone 4S. While analyst Peter Misek of Jefferies & Co thinks that it will have an A5 chip, this will be the only significant spec change.

Misek made no mention of an edge-to-edge screen or NFC capabilities and as such the iPhone 4S will be little more than an incremental upgrade, hence the name.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.6.8 builds to developer community

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Date: Monday, May 16th, 2011, 04:03
Category: News, Software

snowleopard

There may not be a ton of details about it, but it’s on its way.

Per MacRumors, Apple has released a new build of Snow Leopard to developers, the first since 10.6.7 in March, and potentially the last before the delivery of Mac OS X Lion this summer.

The new build, identified as 10K521, reportedly comes without any detail of changes.

That update was delivered in two flavors, one specifically for Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pros identified as build 10J3250, and a general release for other models 10J869.

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is anticipated to be released at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference during the first week of June.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple TV 4.2.2 update out the door

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Date: Thursday, May 12th, 2011, 03:59
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

A new software update addresses a variety of minor issues for users of the second generation “black box” A4-powered Apple TV. You can install the update on your Apple TV by navigating to Settings -> General -> Update Software and following the directions there.

Per AppleInsider, the update, which is the second minor update to version 4.2, is named 4.2.2, but internally is described as iOS 4.3 build 8F305, addresses a half dozen minor issues:

– Audio: Addresses an issue in which audio is not output when playing some video content.

– Video playback: Addresses an issue in which video is not displayed when playing some content.

– Audio output setting: Adds an audio output setting for switching to 16-bit audio for compatibility with some TVs and AV receivers.

– Live FF/RW improvements: Improves the performance of fast-forwarding and rewinding live events.

– Movie description: Addresses an issue in which the description information is not displayed for some movies.

– YouTube video order: Addresses an issue in which YouTube subscription videos were not ordered by date.

Users of the original, Intel-based Apple TV are still stuck with software update 3.0.1, as that model is now discontinued.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any major changes, please let us know.

Apple releases iPhoto 9.1.3 update

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Date: Thursday, May 12th, 2011, 02:56
Category: News, Software

eliphoto

Apple on Tuesday released iPhoto 9.1.3, the latest version of its image organization and editing application. The update, a 112 megabyte download which can be be snagged via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature, offers the following major fix:

– Fixes a problem that could cause some events merged in iPhoto to be split back into multiple events on iOS devices after being synced.

iPhoto 9.1.3 retails for US$49 as part of iLife ’11 and requires Mac OS X 10.6.3 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know.

Microsoft purchases Skype for $8.5 billion

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 04:26
Category: News, Software

skypelogo.jpg

You’ve got to admit, Skype does have its uses.

And companies tend to see this.

According to Fortune, Microsoft has agreed to buy the voice-over-Internet company for US$8.5 billion, including the assumption of debt.

There had been reports last week that Skype was in acquisition or partnership talks with both Microsoft and Facebook.

Skype will become a new business unit within Microsoft, to be run by current Skype CEO Tony Bates, who will report directly to Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer.

Luxembourg-based Skype began life as a VC-backed company, before being acquired by eBay (EBAY) for US$2.6 billion in 2005. The combination didn’t pan out as expected, and eBay gave public thought to either selling the unit outright or spinning it off into an independent public company. In November 2009, it agreed to sell a 65% stake in Skype for US$1.9 billion to an investor group that included Silver Lake Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Index Ventures (the 7th-largest leveraged buyout of 2009).

Skype then filed for a US$100 million IPO last August. The company reported a US$6.9 million net loss in 2010, on nearly US$860 million in revenue. It reported just US$686 million in long-term debt, and just over US$1 billion in liabilities.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Skype updated to 5.1.0.935, resolves security flaw

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 04:56
Category: News, Software

skypelogo.jpg

On Monday, version 5.1.0.935 of Skype went public. The new version, a 20.2 megabyte download, resolves a security issue that could allow hackers to gain control of a Mac via a maliciously crafted Skype message. The vulnerability made headlines last week when a security researcher publicized the issue. In response, Skype promised that an update would come early this week.

Skype 5.1.0.935 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

Amazon quietly adds iOS support for Cloud Player music streaming service

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 03:10
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, Software

Competition’s a bit weird sometimes.

Amazon has silently added support for browser-based playback of music in its new cloud streaming service on iOS-powered devices.

Per TechCrunch, Amazon quietly added support for iOS devices through its built-in Safari browser. Users can log into their account on Amazon and access the Cloud Player, which now allows streaming of audio files stored on its servers.

Users who visit the site will still be prompted with a message warning them that their browser is not supported. However, music playback now works through the service, and audio is even paused when a push notification or call is received.

“Of course, this implementation is still not as good as it is on Android, where Cloud Player is part of a native app,” author MG Siegler wrote. “But if Amazon did a little web work and made the web-based player optimized for the iPhone and iPad, it would certainly be very useable on a regular basis.”

Amazon’s cloud streaming service launched in March, but initially only had support for streaming via the Web and on Android devices. Amazon Cloud Drive offers 5GB of free online storage, with premium accounts expandable to up to 1,000GB.

The push to launch the service, which requires users to upload their own songs and is not backed by any recording industry licensing deals, was seen as a move to preemptively take on Apple and its own anticipated cloud music streaming service. It’s also been reported that Apple is expected to unveil its “iCloud” service this year with support for bookmarks, e-mail, contacts and more, in addition to music streaming.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve played around with Amazon’s Cloud service on your iOS device and have any feedback to offer, let us know.

Google Chrome updated to 12.0.742.30

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 09:21
Category: News, Software

google-chrome-logo

Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 12.0.742.30 for the Mac. The new version, a 36.2 megabyte download, offers the following the following changes:

– Finished implementing support for hardware-accelerated 3D CSS, which allows web developers to apply slick 3D effects to web page content using CSS.

– In addition to protecting you against malware and phishing websites, Chrome now warns you before downloading some types of malicious files.

– You now have more control over your online privacy. Many websites store information on your computer using forms of local data storage such as Flash Local Shared Objects (LSOs). In the past, you could only delete Flash LSOs using an online settings application on Adobe’s website, but we’ve worked closely with Adobe to allow you to delete Flash LSOs directly from Chrome’s settings.

– Improved screen reader support in Chrome. Many people who are blind or visually impaired use a screen reader, a special type of software that describes the contents of the screen using synthesized speech or braille. It’s a very important technology for people who would otherwise be unable to use a computer, so we’ve added preliminary support for many popular screen readers including JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver.

– We’ve removed the Google Gears plug-in, as promised on the Google Gears blog in March. We’re excited about the potential of HTML5 to enable powerful web applications, and we hope that Google Gears rests in peace.

The full changelog can be found here and Google Chrome 12.0.742.30 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) to support up to 450 mbps Wi-Fi speeds on newer Mac models

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 03:09
Category: News, Software

Although it’s unknown as to exactly when Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) will be released, its feature list is looking interesting.

Among these features is a new protocol that will unlock the latent capacity of recently released Thunderbolt MacBook Pro and iMac systems to use faster 450 Mbps 802.11n wireless networking, thanks to triple send and receive antennas capable of supporting three spacial streams of wireless traffic.

Per AppleInsider, the 802.11n WiFi standard supports faster networking speeds through a number of technologies, including the use of multiple antennas (aka “MIMO” or multiple-input multiple-output).

Devices and wireless base stations supporting 802.11n can use multiple antennas (up to four each for send and receive) to spatially multiplex multiple independent data streams within one spectral channel of bandwidth enabling faster data throughput, a major factor of why the relatively new 802.11n is faster than previous 802.11 a/b/g wireless networks.

The 802.11n standard also supports the less-utilized (but higher frequency and therefore weaker wall penetrating) 5GHz frequency band, which was previously only tapped by 802.11a devices in corporate networks; 802.11b/g standards both only use the (often heavily saturated) 2.4GHz frequency band, potentially suffering from interference with neighboring wireless networks or Bluetooth devices.

New 802.11n networks can also speed up data transfers by using wide, 40MHz bandwidth channels to double the amount of radio spectrum used. Apple’s Airport base stations only support wide channels when configured to work as “802.11n only (5GHz)” networks. The option is hidden behind the “Wireless Network Options” button.

MCS is reported by Mac OS X clients in the AirPort menu when holding down the Option key. This index number can scale down depending on signal strength and interference, but its top limit is bound by the features of the hardware on the client and the network’s base station.

For example, iPhone 4 is 802.11n but lacks support for 5GHz and wide channels, limiting it to 802.11n networks configured to use 2.4GHz. The iPad, in contrast, can see and connect to “802.11n only (5GHz)” wireless networks. However, the iPad can still only support one spatial stream using a 20MHz channel because, like the iPhone, it lacks multiple “MIMO” antennas (due to battery life, cost and complexity constraints, as each antenna also requires radio support as well).

This limits Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPad to an MCS index of 7, with a top throughput rate of 65 Mbps. Earlier 802.11b/g devices (including older iPhones) can only support a maximum data rate of 54 Mbps. The iPad, unlike iPhone 4, can also make use of 5GHz networks, which may enable for less interference from neighboring wireless traffic but does not raise its MCS index.

All Macs supporting 802.11n have multiple antennas and can therefore support two spacial streams, allowing them to achieve an MCS of 15 and a top data rate of 130 Mbps on 2.4GHz networks. Unlike iOS devices, Macs can also handle wide 40MHz channels in the 5GHz band, enabling a doubled data throughput of 300 Mbps when connecting to a “802.11n only (5GHz)” network configured to support wide channels.

This year, Apple began incorporating three send and receive antennas in its Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro and iMacs, enabling them to achieve an MCS of 23 and a top data rate of 450 Mbps on 5GHz networks with wide channels. This new capability goes beyond the baseline certification of 802.11n as defined by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which maxes out at 300 Mbps

While not currently supported by Mac OS X Snow Leopard, a developer has reported that the developer preview of Lion does indicate support for the new hardware when used with modern base stations such as Airport Extreme or Time Capsule.

The developer tested a MacBook Pro using a 2.3GHz Core i5, and reported an MCS of 23 with a transmit rate of 450 using a 5GHz network hosted by Airport Extreme. Previous machines are only able to achieve MCS 15.

If you’ve gotten your hands on an early build of Mac OS X 10.7, let us know how it went and we’ll have additional details as they become available.