Rumor: Apple in discussions with wireless carriers over LTE-capable iPads, iPhones

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Date: Wednesday, November 30th, 2011, 12:58
Category: iPad, iPhone, Rumor

What a difference a year might make.

Per Macotakara, Apple is gearing up to release new iPad and iPhone models in 2012 that will connect to long-term evolution 4G high-speed data networks, according to a new report.

Japane’s Nikkei Business reported that carrier NTT DoCoMo is in talks to release an LTE-capable iPad in the summer of 2012. That would be followed by a new 4G LTE iPhone in the autumn, or one year after the iPhone 4S launched.

Executives with the wireless carrier were said to have visited the U.S. in mid-November to talk with Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook. The two parties allegedly agreed to begin “full-scale negotiations” for the sale of LTE-capable iPhones and iPads.

That runs in contrast to an earlier report this month from The Wall Street Journal, which claimed that negotiations between Apple and NTT DoCoMo came to a standstill. It was said that the two parties reached an impasse over the carrier wishing to install proprietary applications on the iPhone, something that Apple would not agree to.

NTT DoCoMo President and Chief Executive Ryuji Yamada said it was difficult for his company to offer the iPhone because of large commitment requirements and Apple’s control over the iOS platform. But the latest report claims that Yamada came to the U.S. in mid-November to discuss Apple’s apparent next-generation LTE products and a potential partnership.

Claims of a 4G LTE iPhone and iPad are not new, and rumors have persisted for years that Apple plans to build such devices. There were even scattered reports claiming that the iPhone 4S would feature LTE, though most reports prior to the device’s announcement pegged 4G as a feature more likely to appear in 2012.

Reports from earlier this year 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.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release 15-inch MacBook Air notebook in early 2012

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Date: Monday, November 28th, 2011, 10:50
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

If this is true, it could become something nifty.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is said to be preparing an update to its MacBook Air series in the first quarter of 2012 with the addition of a new 15-inch thin-and-light model.

The new 15-inch MacBook Air would join the existing 11.6- and 13.3-inch ultraportable notebooks offered by Apples. Citing industry sources in the upstream supply chain, the publication reported on Monday that pilot production of the new MacBook Air models has already begun.

“Commenting on Apple’s move, sources from retail channels pointed out that Apple will start dropping the price of its existing MacBook Airs before launching its series and the promotion could further boost Apple’s share in the global notebook market,” the report said.

The move is said to be a strategy to counter the growing lineup of Windows-based PCs built on the Ultrabook specification from Intel. Though Ultrabooks have gotten off to a slow start, PC makers hope they will be able to capitalize on the popularity of Apple’s MacBook Air lineup with their own thin-and-light unibody notebooks.

Rumors of a new 15-inch notebook from Apple are not new, with one report from earlier this month claiming that such a device could appear as early as the second quarter of 2012. That report, however, did not make a distinction as to whether the notebook would be an extension of the MacBook Air lineup or a redesigned MacBook Pro.

Monday’s report, however, claims that new product will in fact be a MacBook Air, and provides a sooner release date of the first quarter of 2012.

The MacBook Air has become an important part of Apple’s lineup, with one report from earlier this month revealing that the product lineup now represents 28 percent of Apple’s notebook shipments. That’s well up from just 8 percent in the first half of 2011.

Apple last updated its 11- and 13-inch MacBook Airs in July with backlit keyboards, its new high-speed Thunderbolt port, and the latest Sandy Bridge processors from Intel.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Hitachi and Sony collaborating on unknown Apple iOS device, iPad 4 to receive new display connector technology

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Date: Monday, November 28th, 2011, 03:06
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

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It’s the rumors that keep life interesting.

Per Macotakara.jp, Hitachi and Sony are reported to have teamed up to supply Apple with 4-inch LCD displays for an unspecified iOS device that will hit the market in 2012.

Citing sources within Apple’s Far Eastern supply chain, macotakara.jp claims that Hitachi Displays, Ltd. and Sony Mobile Display Corporation have begun shipments of 4-inch LCD panels to Apple for unspecified iOS device due next year.

The two companies are further reported to merge their business with Toshiba Mobile Display Co., Ltd. to form “Japan Display” in 2012 spring.

The report arrives on the heels of claims last week that Sharp will also produce panels for the iPad 3 at its Kameyama No. 2 plant in central Japan; Apple typically sources its components from multiple partners.

A person familiar with the matter further claimed Apple has invested an unspecified amount in Sharp’s factories. The investment is believed to help support Sharp’s production capacity for IGZO (indium, gallium, zinc) LCD panels for the next iPhone and iPad that will allow for thinner designs and improved battery performance.

The web site also cites the same sources as saying that an unspecified Taiwanese company will soon be “providing LCD technology faces” to Apple for a “fundamentally changed” iPad 4 that will be manufactured by a new process.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked Intel documents present ideas for Thunderbolt-based docking components

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Date: Friday, November 25th, 2011, 12:39
Category: Hardware, News

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This could turn into something nifty.

Per VR-Zone, Intel is hoping to formalize a standard for docking on ultrabooks with Thunderbolt ports, leaked internal notes demonstrate. The implementation would combine the Thunderbolt port with a wider companion dock connector to handle other forms of data, such as Ethernet or USB, VR-Zone said. To keep the Ethernet connection alive for Intel’s vPro remote management or for Windows 8′s Connected Standby mode, however, the docking port would need to have direct access to the Ethernet chipset inside.

Intel also had suggestions for what the dock itself could have, including HDMI or Mini DisplayPort for video out, a USB hub, or even eSATA for fast external drives. Thunderbolt’s support for daisy chaining a total of six Thudnerbolt devices is an option, although it would require the widest bandwidth versions of Thunderbolt and may be rare.

Intel’s strategy would be primarily intended for business, where it’s expected that workers would dock the ultrabook at their desks and get an external display and desktop-like expansion with just one cable. It notably tries to downplay the use of USB 3.0, saying that the standard isn’t ideal for displays or certain kinds of links. Intel might have an economic incentive to discourage USB 3.0, however, since it can profit from its exclusivity on Thunderbolt controller chips where USB 3.0 is generic and won’t see Intel make much if any profit, even when its own hardware is in use.

Apple already has a form of Thunderbolt docking through its Thunderbolt Display and may end up having the superior option for simplicity: its lack of vPro lets it route audio, the display, Ethernet, FireWire, and USB through one cable. Intel’s approach would bring more of that experience to Windows users as well as provide some extras for the pro audience. Non-Mac systems with standard Thunderbolt aren’t due to show until at least early 2012, however, or roughly a year after Apple went first.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple television expected in mid-2012, initial production slated for February

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Date: Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011, 13:00
Category: Rumor

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Apple didn’t do the “Inc.” and “lifestyle company” change for nothing.

Per AppleInsider, commercial production of Apple’s anticipated television set is expected to begin in February at a Sharp plant in Japan, while competing HDTV makers are reportedly desperate to find out just what Apple plans to sell.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said in a note to investors this week that Apple is expected to partner with Sharp for TFT-LCD panels for its so-called “iTV.” Production is expected to begin in February at the company’s Gen 10 Sakai facility in Osaka, Japan, placing the television set in position for a mid-2012 launch.

Apple’s expected entrance into the television market is said to have sent other TV makers “scrambling” to identify what the features of the product may be.

“They hope to avoid the fate of other industries and manufacturers who were caught flat footed by Apple,” Misek wrote. “Having said that, it appears that mainstream TV manufacturers are likely to be at least 6 to 12 months behind in a best-case scenario.”

TV makers are said to be looking at Android as a potential option to counter Apple’s anticipated television set. In that scenario, the television market would act much like the current smartphone landscape, with manufacturers making the hardware and Google providing the operating system.

TV makers are said to be looking to Android because they lack the software and cloud capabilities Apple already offers. Earlier reports have also suggested that Apple will implement its proprietary voice recognition service, Siri, to allow controller-free navigation and further differentiate itself from current products on the market.

Rumors of an Apple television set picked up considerable steam with the release of the authorized biography of Steve Jobs. To biographer Walter Isaacson, Jobs hinted at a completely new product that would feature “the simplest user interface you could imagine.”

In an interview published last week, Isaacson revealed that before he died, Jobs had three products he wanted to reinvent, with the television being first among them, followed by textbooks and photography. Jobs reportedly felt there was “no reason” for televisions to be as difficult to use as they currently are.

Misek’s timeframe for a mid-2012 Apple television launch is slightly more aggressive than some other rumors have suggested. For example, last month The New York Times forecast Apple to announce the product by late 2012, with it going on sale to consumers by 2013.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to return to Nvidia GPUs for 2012 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011, 05:05
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Sometimes you’ve got to play the field and see which GPU works best for you.

Per SemiAccurate, a new rumor claims that next-generation MacBook models will once again feature Nvidia graphics processors.

Nvidia’s return to Apple’s Mac lineup is expected to begin next spring, when new hardware featuring Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors is anticipated. Rumors have suggested that Apple’s new MacBook Pro models, arriving in 2012, will feature a redesigned chassis that will take some design cues from the popular thin-and-light MacBook Air lineup.

The last MacBook Pro models to feature Nvidia graphics arrived in 2010 alongside a new proprietary graphics switching technology developed by Apple. But the higher end 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros launched early this year completed the switch to AMD graphics, while the entry-level 13-inch model relies on integrated Intel graphics.

In mid-2009, rumors began to crop up that Nvidia and Apple were at odds with each other, though there was no hard evidence to support a rift. But over the next few years, Apple gradually began to feature only ATI graphics across its entire Mac lineup, including desktop machines.

The same site to report the AMD GPU rumor also claimed last week that Apple had secretly built an AMD-powered MacBook Air model last spring, but scrapped the device at the last minute because of production issues. It said Apple had originally hoped to release a thin-and-light notebook powered by AMD’s Llano processor.

SemiAccurate also claimed in May that Apple plans to transition its future portable Macs to ARM processors, away from Intel CPUs. Low-cost, low-power ARM processors are currently found in Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices, but the report claimed Apple hopes to have ARM specifications also power its Macs by the end of 2012 or by early 2013, when 64-bit variations are expected to become available.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPhone 4S receives network license in China, will go on sale through China Unicom

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Date: Monday, November 21st, 2011, 10:23
Category: iPhone, Software

The iPhone 4S looks about ready for the big time in the Chinese marketplace.

Per M.I.C. Gadget, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology was reported on Monday as having approved the iPhone 4S for sale in China. The HSPA 3G version of the phone has passed government tests, clearing it for sale on China Unicom. It should get a network license this week, Sina claimed.

No mention had been made of the CDMA version that might reach China Telecom, although recent tips have had it arriving in 2012. China Mobile is believed to be waiting on LTE before making the leap.

An approval marks the quickest turnaround between an iPhone’s first launch and its appearance in China. Apple is known to be thriving on Asian sales and will want to both seize on mainland Chinese sales as quickly as possible as well as curb the rise of Android in the country.

The smartphone is already on sale in Hong Kong and helped contribute to high tensions at the launch as bootleggers conflicted with genuine buyers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple testing ultrathin, optical-drive-free 15″ MacBook Pro notebook

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Date: Monday, October 31st, 2011, 05:59
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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Never doubt the thin nature of the MacBook Air, as people tend to like it.

Per the Japanese Macotakara web blog, Apple is allegedly prepared to add a new thin-and-light 15-inch MacBook to its lineup in the near future, with one report claiming the company has finished development of a crucial test component.

Calling the new notebook model an extension of the MacBook Air family, Macotakara reported on Sunday that Apple is finishing up a “test phase” for the new 15-inch ultraportable. Citing an Asian source, the report said Apple has already finished development of an LCD test component for the anticipated notebook.

However, the report also noted that Apple is believed to be developing a next-generation MacBook Pro that will not have a built-in optical disc drive. The new 15-inch MacBook reportedly “seems to fill” the role of a next-generation MacBook Pro.

Whatever name the new portable Mac might take, rumors have suggested the current physical form factor of the MacBook Pro lineup will undergo a drastic redesign in 2012. For some time now it has been said that Apple will redesign its MacBook Pro lineup sometime next year.

Last week, Apple quietly updated its MacBook Pro lineup, adding slightly faster Intel Sandy Bridge processors, as well as improved AMD Radeon graphics. The new notebooks were a minor update ahead of the holiday buying season, believed to be an attempt to keep the MacBook Pro lineup competitive until a major refresh occurs next year.

Apple’s future MacBooks are expected to feature Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge processors, which are slated to arrive at some point in the first half of 2012. Intel confirmed last week that it has begun volume production of its 22nm Ivy Bridge processors, and systems powered by the new CPUs should be available in the spring of 2012.

Currently, Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup comes with screen sizes of 13 inches, 15 inches and 17 inches, and all of its professional notebooks feature optical DVD disc drives. The MacBook Air is available with screen sizes of 11.6 inches and 13.3 inches, and all models feature only solid-state hard drives with no optical drive.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts $28.27 billion revenue, $6.62 billion profit for Q4 2011, still disappoints some analysts

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Date: Wednesday, October 19th, 2011, 04:00
Category: Finance, News

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You can offer evidence of something pretty amazing, but you’ll never win the entirety of your audience over all the time.

In this vein, Apple released the financial results for its fiscal fourth quarter yesterday, reporting record sales of the Mac and iPad product lines as well as the company’s highest September quarter revenue and earnings ever, the news still failing to meet some analysts’ expectations.

Per Mac|Life, Apple announced its quarterly financial results for the fiscal 2011 fourth quarter which ended on September 24. Even without a new iPhone over the summer, the company still racked up quarterly revenue of US$28.27 billion and quarterly net profit of US$6.62 billion, or US$7.05 per diluted share. Last year at the same time, Apple had revenue of US$20.34 billion and net quarterly profit of US$4.31 billion, or US$4.64 per diluted share. The company’s gross margin was 40.3 percent compared to 36.9 percent in the same quarter a year ago, with international sales accounting for 63 percent of the quarterly revenue.

Even with this at hand, analysts on Wall Street looked at the report glumly, with Apple missing their own expectations of US$7.22 per share and revenue of US$29.5 billion. Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple hasn’t missed earnings forecasts since the second quarter of 2002, but others are saying sometime in 2004 instead. Whatever the case, the stock fell eight percent after hours but rebounded just a bit to close at US$398 per share.

While Apple has already sold more than four million iPhone 4S devices in the first weekend which won’t be accounted for until next quarter, the company still managed to move 17.07 million of the older handsets in the current quarter, a 21 percent year-over-year growth and certainly nothing to sneeze at. 11.2 million iPads flew out the door, marking a 166 percent increase from the same quarter last year, with 4.89 million Macs also finding homes in the quarter, a 26 percent unit increase.

“We are thrilled with the very strong finish of an outstanding fiscal 2011, growing annual revenue to US$108 billion and growing earnings to US$26 billion,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Customer response to iPhone 4S has been fantastic, we have strong momentum going into the holiday season, and we remain really enthusiastic about our product pipeline.”

One product category that took a hit was the iPod, which sold only 6.62 million units during the quarter, marking a 27 percent decline from the same quarter last year — but certainly not bad for a lineup that’s now a decade old, and the iPod continues to hold more than 70 percent market share.

“We are extremely pleased with our record September quarter revenue and earnings and with cash generation of US$5.4 billion during the quarter,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2012, which will span 14 weeks rather than 13, we expect revenue of about US$37 billion and we expect diluted earnings per share of about US$9.30.”

As usual, Apple held a conference call to provide further highlights and field questions from analysts and investors, with CEO Tim Cook noting that it marks the first since the passing of co-founder Steve Jobs. “The world has lost a visionary and an amazing human being,” Cook stated. “He was an amazing leader and mentor. His spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple, and we are dedicated to continuing the amazing work that he loved so much.”

Cook then got down to business by turning things over to CFO Peter Oppenheimer, who repeated most of the details from Apple’s earlier press release before throwing out some additional numbers. These included iTunes Store revenue of US$1.5 billion, 180 million iBooks sold, US$11 billion in revenue from iPhone handsets and accessories, and six million downloads of OS X Lion in the quarter.

Asia-Pacific growth doubled year over year, which the company was expecting to fall when it became clear in June that no new iPhone was on the horizon. The handset is now available on 230 carriers in 105 countries, with Consumer Reports listing the device with its highest customer satisfaction rating for the sixth consecutive time. 93 percent of Fortune 500 companies are now either deploying or testing the iPhone, up from 91 percent last year.

The App Store is also flying high, with 22 more countries enlisted during the quarter for a total of 123. Retail stores are also enjoying “very strong” year-over-year growth, particularly for Mac and iPad sales, which enjoyed their best quarter ever — which no doubt helped lessen the blow from the iPhone 4S being unveiled in fiscal Q1 2012 instead.

Last but not least, during the closing question and answer session, Cook proclaimed confidence that Apple would have record sales for the next quarter, which includes the all-important holiday season. That quarter will also bring the iPhone 4S to another 22 countries at month’s end, with even more coming by year’s end.

Recent Xcode references point towards quad-core ARM CPUs for future iOS devices

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Date: Friday, September 23rd, 2011, 09:12
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

While Apple may not always tell you what hardware features are on the horizon where its iOS devices are concerned, the development tools can spill the beans.

Per the cool cats at Ars Technica, a number of references found inside Apple’s Xcode developer tool point towards quad-core ARM CPUs, hinting at next-generation processors that will power Apple’s future iPhones and iPads.

The references specifically point towards the idea that Apple recently added support for Marvell’s quad-core ARM-based Armada XP processor.

Author Chris Foresman concluded that it’s “most probable” that Apple is using the Marvell chip in prototype versions of future iPhones and iPads. The existing chip could serve as a placeholder while Apple works on its own custom-built next-generation processors.

Reports have indicated that Apple’s next anticipated ARM CPU, dubbed “A6,” will be built on a 28-nanometer process and use 3D stacking technology. There has been no mention of a quad-core ARM CPU from Apple in 2012. The A5 CPU found in the iPad 2 is a dual core processor.

It’s also possible that the Xcode references signal that Apple will begin using Marvell chips in future iOS devices, or even a next-generation MacBook Air, something that Apple has been rumored to be testing in its internal labs. However, Foresman noted that Intel’s next-generation Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors are built on an advanced 22-nanometer process that will boost performance and reduce battery life, while ditching Intel would require developers to recompile Mac OS X software for ARM-based Macs.

Apple’s so-called “A6″ CPU is believed to be in trial production for a 2012 launch, presumably in a third-generation iPad. The company is believed to have even signed a new foundry agreement with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to build an “A7″ CPU, which would be projected to debut in devices in 2013.

Apple began designing its own chips following the acquisition of boutique microprocessor design company P.A. Semi in 2008 for US$278 million. Then in 2010, Apple acquired Intrinsity, another chipmaker, for an estimated $121 million.

Apple’s custom chips debuted last year in the first-generation iPad, in the form of the A4 processor. That same chip later appeared in the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch, while the A5 debuted this March in the iPad 2.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.