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 patent shows effort to develop thinner keyboards

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Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:51
Category: News, Patents

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Remember your Apple keyboard?

It might just be about to go through a training montage and get thinner in the process.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple may be looking to make its notebook computers and keyboard accessories even thinner and lighter with a brand new take on the classic input method.

Apple’s interest in reinventing the keyboard was revealed in a new patent application entitled “Single Support Lever Keyboard Mechanism,” it describes a handful of ways that a keyboard could be shrunk in size without affecting its performance.

In the filing, Apple notes that the size of existing keyboards presents a challenge for the company as it attempts to design thinner, lighter and more attractive devices.

“It would be beneficial to provide a keyboard for a portable computing device that is aesthetically pleasing, yet still provides the stability for each key that users desire,” the application reads. “It would also be beneficial to provide methods for manufacturing the keyboard having an especially aesthetic design as well as functionality for the portable computing device.”

One of the most common keyboard types is the “dome switch,” in which the key pushes down on a rubber dome located beneath the key. Other types of keyboards include capacitive, mechanical switch, Hall-effect, membrane, and roll-up, and each offer their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of two important categories: response (positive feedback that the key has been pressed) and travel (the distance needed to push the key).

Apple’s solution is a single support lever keyboard mechanism, which the proposed invention says would allow the keyboard cap to be formed of almost any material, but would also provide stability to each key.

The application notes that the material chosen for the key caps is very important, not only for the appearance of the keyboard but also how it feels on users’ fingers. The application includes a number of potential off-the-wall materials that could be used, like glass, wood, stone, and even “polished meteorite.”

Regardless of the material, Apple’s keyboard key caps would be held in place by a rigid support lever. With its design, the keys could have a total travel range of as little as 0.2 millimeters.

In another method, Apple describes a support lever holding the key cap that would be made of a flexible material. This support lever could be made of spring steel that could allow good tactile feedback to the user when they are typing.

The key cap and support lever would have an “elastomeric spacer” between them and a metal dome positioned below. The spacer would be made of a material such as rubber or silicone that would “provide a desirable and distinctive feel to the user when pressed,” in addition to reducing rattling on the keyboard.

“The advantages of the invention are numerous,” the filing states, adding: “One advantage of the invention is that a low-travel keyboard may be provided for a thin-profile computing device without compromising the tactile feel of the keyboard.”

The filing, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed by Apple in August of 2010. It is credited to Patrick Kessier, Bradley Hamel, and James J. Niu.

Cool stuff if it happens and stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T announces data plan price increases

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Date: Thursday, January 19th, 2012, 07:13
Category: iPhone, News

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You might not like this.

Per AppleInsider, AT&T has introduced new data plans for smartphone and tablet users, adding additional cap space but also charging customers more. The new plans max out at 5GB with tethering for US$50 per month.

A press release on Wednesday stated that the new rates that will take effect on Sunday, Jan. 22, marking the first change to the company’s data plans since 2010.

“Customers are using more data than ever before,” said David Christopher, Chief Marketing Officer of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. “Our new plans are driven by this increasing demand in a highly competitive environment, and continue to deliver a great value to customers, especially as we continue our 4G LTE deployment.”

The new smartphone pricing is basically a US$5 surcharge for a 1 GB bump in data for DataPro users, while DataPlus subscribers will get an extra 100 MB for the same price.

Tablet owners will see a reshuffling of options as the previous 2 GB DataConnect plan is to be replaced a 3 GB per month flavor previously only available on a two-year contract. An additional 5 GB plan will also be added for US$50 per month and the lowest 250 MB plan remains unchanged.

Current subscribers can keep their existing plans or opt in to one of the new tiers when the program launches on Sunday.

Smartphone plans are as follows:
- AT&T DataPlus 300MB: US$20 for 300MB

- AT&T DataPro 3GB: US$30 for 3GB

- AT&T DataPro 5GB: US$50 for 5GB, with mobile hotspot / tethering

Additional data pricing remains at US$10 per gigabyte for the DataPro plans and US$20 per additional 300 MB for DataPlus customers.

Tablet data tiers have changed to:
- AT&T DataConnect 250MB: US$14.99 for 250MB

- AT&T DataConnect 3GB: US$30 for 3GB

- AT&T DataConnect 5GB: US$50 for 5GB

Overage charges only apply to 30-day tablet prices and include US$14.99 for and extra 250MB with AT&T DataConnect 250 MB, and US$10 per additional gigabyte for DataConnect 3 GB and 5 GB.

The new plans reflect an upward trend in cellphone and tablet data pricing from U.S. carriers as their networks strain under the pressure of a growing customer base.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent describes using 3D interface for iPhone

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Date: Friday, January 13th, 2012, 08:57
Category: iPhone, News, Patents

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This could definitely qualify as “nifty”.

Per AppleInsider, an Apple patent filing submitted in July of 2010 and made public this week by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), details a new iPhone interface concept in which the user relies on motion controls to interact with a 3D environment. However, this is not 3D in the sense of images springing off the screen; the patent filing refers to it as 3D images built with polygons.

According to the patent application, the interface “uses orientation data from onboard sensors, like a gyroscope and compass, to navigate the system.” A picture accompanying the patent filing shows a virtual room that the user could look around in by moving their device; a “snap to” feature would allow the user to automatically switch to a specific view through a preset action, such as shaking the iPhone.

Cool stuff if it comes to fruition.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent for iOS device facial recognition goes live

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Date: Friday, December 30th, 2011, 05:59
Category: iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

At least your iPad will remember who you are.

Per Free Patents Online, a recently published patent application shows how future iOS devices could use a forward-facing camera to recognize an individual user, whereupon the device could automatically customize applications, settings and features to a user’s personal preferences once they pick up the unit.

Entitled “Low Threshold Face Recognition,” the patent describes a low-computation solution for quickly and accurately recognizing a user.

The filing provides a simple way for multiple users to share a single device, like an iPad. Each user could customize their personal profile with unique wallpaper, applications and settings, and that profile would be immediately accessed once the iPad recognizes a user’s face.

Apple’s application notes that robust facial recognition systems that work in various lighting conditions and orientations can be taxing on an electronic device, requiring resources and draining battery life.

Its solution would reduce the impact of lighting conditions and biometric distortions on an image. The filing describes a “low-computation solution for reasonably effective (low threshold) face recognition that can be implemented on camera-equipped consumer portable appliances.”

Rather than aggressively analyzing a user’s entire face and using up time and resources, Apple’s concept would rely on a “high information portion” of a human face. Potential high information portions could include eyes, a mouth, or the tip of a user’s nose.

By recognizing the individual features on a user’s face, the system could scale the distance between someone’s eyes and their mouth. That distance could then be measured against the reference image originally captured by the user in order to confirm it is in fact the same person.

Apple’s application notes that its facial recognition capabilities could be constantly active due to lower power consumption. This means a user could simply point an iPhone or iPad at their face, without pressing a button, and have the screen automatically turn on and unlock the device.

This could be accomplished through an “orange-distance filter,” which would capture the “likely presence” of a human face in front of a camera. This filter would also be used to detect a person’s skin tone, and measure the distance of their face from the camera.

Once a user has been recognized, the facial recognition technology could not only grant them access to the device, but also customize its settings based on a unique user profile. Each user would be presented with a personalized configuration, as an iPhone or iPad would be able to “modify screen saver slide shows or other appliance non-security preferences,” the application reads.

The proposed invention, made public this week, was first filed by Apple in June of 2009. It is credited to Robert Mikio Free.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple exploring fuel cell technologies for future notebook power sources

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Date: Thursday, December 22nd, 2011, 12:52
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Patents

It’s the patents that make life interesting.

Per two articles (1, 2) at Free Patents Online, Apple is apparently exploring ways to power its notebooks via fuel cells.

“Our country’s continuing reliance on fossil fuels has forced our government to maintain complicated political and military relationships with unstable governments in the Middle East, and has also exposed our coastlines and our citizens to the associated hazards of offshore drilling,” the filings state. “These problems have led to an increasing awareness and desire on the part of consumers to promote and use renewable energy sources.”

Apple’s proposed invention notes that the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT, has helped to increase consumer awareness of the environmental friendliness of electronic devices. In addition, Apple usually highlights the EPEAT ratings of products it introduces at highly publicized keynote events.

“As a consequence of increased consumer awareness, electronics manufacturers have become very interested in renewable energy sources for their products, and they have been exploring a number of promising renewable energy sources such as hydrogen fuel which is used in hydrogen fuel cells,” both documents state.

Apple then makes a case for using fuel cells to power portable electronic devices, noting that hydrogen and associated fuels could allow such devices to operate “for days or even weeks without refueling.” But the company also notes there are challenges in creating hydrogen fuel cell systems that are portable and cost-effective.

The solution presented by Apple describes a fuel cell system that can both provide power to and receive power from a rechargeable battery found in a device like a MacBook.

“This eliminates the need for a bulky and heavy battery within the fuel cell system, which can significantly reduce the size, weight and cost of the fuel cell system,” one filing reads. “This fuel cell system includes a fuel cell stack which converts fuel into electrical power. It also includes a controller which controls operation of the fuel cell system.”

“Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device” was first filed with the USPTO in August of 2010. It is credited to Bradley L. Spare, Vijay M. Iyer, Jean L. Lee, Gregory L. Tice, Michael D. Hillman and David I. Simon. “Fuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing device” is a continuation-in-part of a patent filed in 2010. It lists Iyer and Spare as its inventors.

Apple’s interest in fuel cell technology is not new and other patent applications have been found that showcase Apple as looking into lighter and more efficient hydrogen fuel cells. The company proposed accomplishing this by building multiple fuel cells connected in a parallel configuration by a power bus, along with a voltage-multiplying circuit to increase the voltage of the stack.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release 2880 x 1800 resolution MacBook Pro with Retina Display in Q2 2012

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Date: Wednesday, December 14th, 2011, 05:59
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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This could be amazing.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is rumored to be preparing a new MacBook Pro for launch in the second quarter of 2012 with a Retina Display resolution of 2,880 by 1,800 pixels.

Citing sources in Apple’s upstream supply chain, the publication reported on Wednesday that Apple’s new Retina Display MacBook Pro lineup is expected to set off “a new round of competition for panel specifications in the notebook industry.” A resolution of 2,880 by 1,800 would be exactly twice that of the 1,440-by-900 display currently found on the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

“While the prevailing MacBook Models have display resolutions from 1680 by 1050 to 1280 by 800, the ultra-high resolution for the new MacBook Pro will further differentiate Apple’s products from other brands,” the report said.

Only the 2,880-by-1,800 display was specifically cited in the report in reference to a new MacBook Pro “lineup.” Given that Apple’s different MacBook Pro screen sizes sport different resolutions, it’s likely that the 13- and 17-inch models would sport double-pixel resolutions of 2,560 by 1600 and 3,840 by 2,400, respectively.

Rumors of Retina Display MacBook Pros from Apple in 2012 have reportedly already spurred the competition to work on their own higher resolution displays for notebooks. Acer and Asustek are said to be preparing high-end Ultrabook models with display resolutions of 1,920 by 1,080, an improvement from the 1,366-by-768-pixel displays found on current models.

More evidence of Macs potentially gaining Retina Displays came in September, when Intel revealed that its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors will support the 4K display resolution, at up to 4,096 by 4,096 pixels per monitor. A 4K resolution with a 16-by-9 ratio would be screen resolution of 4,096 by 2,304, or a pixel density of 174 pixels-per-inch.

Apple introduced its Retina Display branding with the iPhone 4 in 2010, featuring a resolution of 960-by-640, packing 326 pixels-per-inch. Recent reports have suggested that Apple also plans to increase the resolution of its next-generation iPad in early 2012.

Not a bad thing if it’s true and 2012 will be interesting to watch.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Rumor: Mac OS X 10.7.3 beta references hint at upgraded Mac Pro units, improved video cards

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Date: Monday, December 5th, 2011, 07:20
Category: Hardware, Rumor, Software

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It’s the beta references that provide the best hints.

Per netkas.org, Apple’s Mac Pro may be getting a long awaited refresh according to hints tucked away in the most current Mac OS X 10.7.3 beta. The beta version of the OS update includes references to an ATI video card code named “Tahiti” tucked away in the ATIRadeonX3000 driver file, which would give a new Mac Pro model even more powerful graphics processing than current models.

The article stated that “Tahiti” is a code name for ATI’s next generation AMD-based video cards, and may be the upcoming high-performance 7900-series.

The Mac Pro was last updated in July 2010, making the current configuration well over a year old.

The long interval between updates has to reports claiming Apple is questioning whether or not to continue selling its pro-level tower computer, especially since processors like the Core i7 are available, and Thunderbolt ports offer a potential alternative to the Mac Pro’s built-in expansion slots.

Referencing new AMD video cards doesn’t, however, necessarily mean new Mac Pros are on the way. Apple could simply be adding support for the upcoming cards as a build-to-order option, or developers might be misinterpreting what the references in the driver files mean.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple looks into universal power adapter to charge MacBook, iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, November 17th, 2011, 07:58
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patents that make things interesting.

Per freepatentsonline, Apple has shown interest in building a new universal power adapter compatible with different DC voltage levels, allowing portable devices like a MacBook Pro, iPhone and iPad to be charged at the same time with just one wall plug.

The proposed invention was revealed this week in a new Apple patent application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing, entitled “Multi-Output Power Supply,” notes that most commercially available adapters do not include multiple outputs for supplying different DC voltage levels.

“As such, users may often purchase a device-specific adapter for powering a device,” it states. “However, this requires that the user carry a separate adapter for each device, which can be cumbersome when a user is traveling, as many users forget to bring all of the associated adapters required for various devices.”

Those adapters can also be relatively bulky, Apple notes, making them less than ideal to carry while traveling. The company also said that it can be confusing to users when multiple adapters are at use in a stationary location, like a home or office.

Apple’s solution is a new universal power supply that would connect to multiple electronic devices. This would make it unnecessary for users to carry multiple power adapters while traveling with multiple portable devices.

The filing describes a single power adapter that includes a DC-to-DC converter, allowing it to meet the different voltage requirements of unique devices. The adapter could also intelligently control power supplied through its outlets to ensure that the correct voltage is sent out to appropriate devices.

In addition to iPods, iPhones and iPads, the application specifically notes that such a system could also be compatible with Apple’s patented MagSafe technology, used to supply power to the company’s MacBook line of notebooks.

The charging cable could include a power “brick” similar to the ones currently used with a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. That brick would include the necessary voltage converter, and could allow another portable device like an iPhone to be plugged in to charge.

The proposed invention was first filed by Apple in May of 2010, and was made public this week. It is credited to Aleksandar Pance, Nicholas Alan Rundle, and John Douglas Field.

The latest application is not the first time Apple has shown interest in redesigning its power adapters to allow charging of multiple devices. In September, another filing showed the company is interested in building a universal charger that would allow portable devices to not only recharge their batteries, but also sync data while plugged in to the same adapter.

Apple releases MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0 (Snow Leopard) firmware update for 15-inch MacBook Pro units running Mac OS X 10.6

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Date: Tuesday, November 15th, 2011, 05:12
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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It’s not the meatiest firmware update in the world, but it could still prove helpful in a pinch.

Per The Mac Observer, Apple has released its MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0 (Snow Leopard) firmware update, a fix for Snow Leopard users experiencing the “Intermittent black screen or loss of video” issue. The company released a fix for Lion users in October, and this release brings Snow Leopard users up to date on the problem, too.

Apple’s patch notes simply say, “This update addresses an issue where MacBook Pro (15-inch Mid 2010) computers may intermittently freeze or stop displaying video.”

The update, a 51.45 megabyte download, can also be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature provided you have a qualifying MacBook Pro and Mac OS X 10.6.8 installed.

If you’ve tried the update and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.