Apple in talks to have 3G MacBook prototype returned to company

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Date: Wednesday, August 31st, 2011, 05:41
Category: MacBook Pro, News

Remember that 3G MacBook prototype that went on eBay recently?

Apple would like it back.

Per CNET, Apple is in talks to arrange for the return of a MacBook Pro prototype with built-in wireless 3G functionality from a North Carolina resident who attempted to sell it on eBay.

Earlier this month, owner Carl Frega had a friend post the prototype on eBay, where it quickly garnered bids as high as US$70,000. Within a day, Apple was successful in having the listing pulled, citing infringement on copyrights, trademarks, or other intellectual property rights.



The device resembles a 2007 15-inch Santa Rosa MacBook Pro, but with the curious addition of an extendable cellular antenna along the top right side of the display and a SIM card slot. Red circuit boards and the lack of an EMC Number serve as evidence that the machine is a pre-production prototype.

Frega was contacted by Apple Tuesday afternoon to arrange for a representative to pick up the device.

Frega has been purchasing used machines for spare parts, moving up from a hobby to a full-time repair job. He purchased the machine from an alleged former Apple engineer off of Craigslist. Earlier this year, he posted photos of the prototype to the forums of a tech site, but failed to attract interest.

“Few people were really interested, and the thread turned into a discussion about tethering rates and wireless carriers,” Frega said. “(It’s) part of why I figured the machine wasn’t anything particularly special (except to a tech geek like me) and not worth the trouble of selling as a collector’s piece.”

He replaced the hard drive and sold the machine on Craigslist. But, the new buyer took the laptop to the Genius Bar at a local Apple Store and was denied service.

“Opened machine to observe that nearly every internal part was third party; main logic board, optical drive, display, hard drive, top case, and others. Machine serial number (W8707003Y53) is also not recognized as a valid number,” the Genius Bar repair sheet read.

The new owner took Frega to small claims court, accusing him of selling a fake MacBook Pro. The case even drew the attention of a syndicate court TV show, but he declined the offer. The small claims judge eventually ruled that Frega must pay the buyer US$740, receiving the notebook back in return.

For its part, Apple has not indicated whether it will compensate Frega for the amount he originally paid for the device.

Rumors that Apple was working on a 3G laptop solution swirled several years ago. The antenna solution in the MacBook Pro prototype has been viewed as not matching Apple’s design principles, possibly explaining why the prototype was never released as a full-fledged product.

Recent Apple patent shows move to build wireless antennas into Mac keyboards

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Date: Wednesday, August 17th, 2011, 03:46
Category: News, Patents

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The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office granted Apple a batch of 20 patents on Tuesday, including one for an invention that describes integrating wireless antennas into a keyboard.

Per AppleInsider, the filing entitled “Antennas for electronic devices,” describes “key antennas,” or radio-frequency transmitters mounted inside individual keys of a keyboard, for devices such as a laptop computer. Apple suggests that fitting a key with an antenna resonating element, such as a flex circuit containing a strip of conductor, a piece of stamped metal foil and a length of wire, could serve as an improved antenna design.

Possible advantages from the invention include a more pleasing appearance by avoiding protruding antennas and reduced risk of damage to the antenna. According to the application, the antenna would function better when the key was not being pressed because of an “increase in separation” between the antenna and the conductive housing of the device.

Apple also suggests that the key antenna could include an indicator light, such as the one found on the “caps lock” key.

One embodiment of the invention would utilize the keyboard to add wireless functionality to a non-wireless device by way of a wired connection. The keyboard could also be used to extend wireless capabilities of another device after being wirelessly coupled with it.

The invention lists Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as possible communications methods, though it also references the use of the patent with “other types of communications links,” such as GPS and 3G data.

Apple filed for the patent on Apr. 2, 2008. Chris Ligtenberg, Brett William Degner and Douglas Blake Kough are credited as the inventors.

2007 MacBook Pro prototype with 3G modem, SIM card, surfaces on eBay

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Date: Monday, August 15th, 2011, 06:59
Category: 3G Wireless, MacBook Pro, News

It’s a bit odd but it could be something.

Per MacRumors, a 15-inch MacBook Pro from the 2007 Santa Rosa processor era has recently appeared on eBay, originally purchased from Craigslist for parts. The unit, strangely enough, surfaced “with a 3G antenna, 3G hardware and SIM card slot built in.”



“Upon removing the top case it was immediately clear this was no normal Macbook Pro: the circuit boards inside were bright red as opposed to the normal blue!” writes the eBay seller, whose prototype is currently up to more than US$11,000.

“Further inspection found multiple differences from the stock version, most notably a feature never seen in a Macbook laptop of any kind: what appears to be a fully integrated cellular modem and SIM slot. There is an extendable cellular antenna located at the right top side of the display assembly (The antenna is marked with ‘Tyco Proto / #006’ when slid out), and a standard size SIM card slot located underneath the memory cover on the bottom of the machine. The SIM card board is connected to the logic board via a connector not found on production machines. The solder footprint for it is still present on the production boards and not populated, which is interesting.”

“This would seem to suggest that it was a last minute decision to remove the cellular functionality before going into mass production,” the seller concludes. “The optical drive is marked as a ‘Sample for Evaluation.’ Rather than a normal EMC Number the specifications lapel simply says ‘XXXX,’ and the serial number does not show up in Apple’s online database.”

The good news is that the seller was able to repair the machine to working condition, although the 3G modem “is not presently functional,” despite being seen by the operating system. The inclusion of a SIM card means the 3G would have been GSM-bound, “allowing for use on AT&T and many other international networks.”

Cool stuff from a generation of hardware ago…

The auction ends on August 20th, so be sure to get your bids in now if you want a shot at the unit.

Skype releases native client for iPad

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Date: Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011, 08:37
Category: iPad, News, Software

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After over a year of anticipation, Voice Over Internet Protocol outfit Skype released an iPad-native version of its client on Tuesday. Per Macworld, the iPad app bears more than a passing resemblance to Skype 5 for Mac and uses a thumbnail grid of your Skype contacts; tap on any of them to bring up a look at their profile, along with options for voice calling, video calling, chat and SMS. Skype allows users to access their contacts via “Tags,” (think groups) but doesn’t allow them to actually assign contacts into those categories on the iPad app—you need to use the desktop program for that. You can also add new contacts, or even just dial any phone number you like via a standard keypad.

The app lets you make calls over Wi-Fi or 3G and you’ll need a Skype account as well as some credit if you want to make calls to actual phones. Video calls let you switch back and forth between the iPad 2’s front and rear cameras. If you’re using an original iPad, you’ll obviously only be able to receive video. And there’s support for instant messaging via Skype, including emoticons.

Skype for iPad is free and requires iOS 4.0 or later. It is not a universal app, meaning that if you already have the iPhone version on your iPad, you’ll need to download this one separately.

Analyst notes possible “iPhone 4S” in September, iPad 3 prototype for early 2012

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Date: Tuesday, June 28th, 2011, 04:28
Category: iPad, iPhone, Rumor

In non-software-update-esque news, a second investment research firm on Monday cited sources in Taiwan as indicating that Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone will hit the market early in the third quarter and also did its part to downplay rumors of an iPad 3 launch prior to next year and a low-cost iPhone in 2011.

Per AppleInsider, pointing to “recent Apple supply chain checks,” FBR Capital Markets analyst Craig Berger said production of the company’s fifth-generation iPhone has come into view for component suppliers “like Broadcom, Qualcomm, and Omnivision,” each of which are indicating “a late September or early October” manufacturing ramp for the handset.

In a note to clients on the matter, Berger identified the new iPhone as going by the code name “N94” and indicated that his sources have referred to the device under the presumed marketing name “iPhone 4S,” which would suggest the handset will arrive as an evolutionary upgrade to the existing iPhone 4 rather than a radical redesign like the ones that took place during the transition from the original iPhone to the iPhone 3G and from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 4.

Berger, added that his sources “see no near-term plans for a low-end iPhone for emerging markets, or a new iPhone in a transparent case.”

Additionally, the analyst pointed to conversations with the same supply chain contacts in reporting that Apple has been “evaluating various touchscreen displays” for its third-generation iPad.

Thought he acknowledged conjecture and speculation over the possibility that such a device could launch later this year, he said his intelligence suggests that the company’s progress with display manufacturers indicates a prototype of the next iPad won’t be ready until early 2012, implying an announcement would again likely come in the spring.

“This should squarely put to rest any debate about a 2011 launch of the iPad 3 — after all, Apple is severely supply constrained on the iPad 2, and it is by far the best-performing and functioning tablet in the world,” the analyst wrote.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release fifth-generation iPhone in China this September

Posted by:
Date: Friday, June 24th, 2011, 04:34
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Per Boy Genius Report, analyst Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities said in a new note to investors on Thursday that China Mobile may receive the iPhone in September. The source is said to be an employee of China Mobile, who reportedly posted the information on “Weibo,” which is China’s version of Twitter.

The Weibo message was said to have been quickly deleted, but not before an image of the text was captured.

White noted that if the report is true, it would mean that the iPhone 5 would need to support China Mobile’s current 3G TD-SCDMA network, because the carrier’s 4G TD-LTE network is only in trials. Apple is said to have already agreed to support China Mobile’s 4G network at some point in the future.

“If this weibo message and story are true, this would represent a landmark agreement for Apple, providing the company with access to the largest wireless carrier in the world with 611 million wireless subscribers at the end of May or 68% of the total China wireless market,” White said. “Additionally, the timing would be much sooner than expected and provide another growth driver for the final months of (calendar year 2011).”

White has been on top of the Apple-China Mobile story, and earlier on Thursday offered his analysis that Apple would make great inroads in the nation, particularly by reaching an agreement with the largest carrier in the world. In addition, he believes Apple would do extremely well by releasing a smaller, cheaper iPhone that could be sold in China without a contract.

Rumors of an agreement between Apple and China Mobile picked up steam on Wednesday, when a report claimed that Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook was spotted at the carrier’s corporate headquarters. Cook was said to be in good spirits, and speculation began to swirl that the two parties are nearing a deal.

China Mobile currently uses home-grown 3G data technology that is incompatible with the existing GSM and CDMA iPhone models. Despite this fact, there are estimated to be 4 million iPhone users on the massive network, running their device at much slower 2G wireless data speeds.

The iPhone 4 launched in China on carrier China Unicom last September, drawing crowds of thousands at Apple’s retail stores. The handset debuted first in the U.S. in late June of last year.

Apple begins selling unlocked GSM iPhone 4 units in online store

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Date: Tuesday, June 14th, 2011, 06:24
Category: iPhone, News

Apple updated its online store on Tuesday to begin offering unlocked models of the iPhone 4, starting at $649.

Both the white and black versions of Apple’s bestselling smartphone are available, with the 16GB and 32GB versions selling for $649 and $749, respectively, in the U.S. Apple online store. The device is not eligible for international shipping.

Currently, the black versions of the unlocked iPhone 4 are estimated to ship within 1-3 business days, while white versions are listed as shipping within 3-5 days.

“The unlocked iPhone 4 requires an active micro-SIM card that you obtain from a supported GSM wireless carrier,” Apple notes on the product description page.

As with unlocked iPhones sold internationally, the device will work on all Apple-supported GSM networks around the world. Apple also takes care to note that an iPad 3G micro-SIM card will not work in the unlocked iPhone 4.

In the U.S., customers with unlocked GSM iPhones can choose from AT&T and T-Mobile, though data transmission on the T-Mobile network will occur over the slower EDGE protocol because the carrier’s 3G network is incompatible with the iPhone.

Over the weekend, reports emerged that Apple would begin sales of the unlocked iPhone 4 in the U.S., though the device went on sale a day earlier than sources had suggested. On Monday, various outlets noted that unlocked iPhones had been shipped to Apple Stores with a price tag of $649 and $749.

If you’ve been hankering for an unlocked iPhone, Apple seems to have come through.

Per AppleInsider, the company has posted an unlocked GSM iPhone 4 (available in both black and white) on its online store.

The release of an unlocked iPhone 4 comes as a blow to AT&T, which held an exclusive on the iPhone in the U.S. for more than three years, up until the release of the iPhone 4 on the Verizon network in February.

The handset is available for US$649 and “requires an active micro-SIM card that you obtain from a supported GSM wireless carrier,” Apple notes on the product description page.

As with unlocked iPhones sold internationally, the device will work on all Apple-supported GSM networks around the world. Apple also takes care to note that an iPad 3G micro-SIM card will not work in the unlocked iPhone 4.

In the U.S., customers with unlocked GSM iPhones can choose from AT&T and T-Mobile, though data transmission on the T-Mobile network will occur over the slower EDGE protocol because the carrier’s 3G network is incompatible with the iPhone.

Over the weekend, reports emerged that Apple would begin sales of the unlocked iPhone 4 in the U.S., though the device went on sale a day earlier than sources had suggested. On Monday, various outlets noted that unlocked iPhones had been shipped to Apple Stores with a price tag of $649 and $749.

If you’ve snagged an unlocked iPhone, please let us know how it works for you in the comments.

iPhone dev team releases untethered jailbreak for iOS 4.3.3

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 03:33
Category: iPhone, News, Software

For those of you who don’t mind living on the edge, you can now do it a bit more sensibly with your iPhone.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, jailbreakers hesitant to update to iOS 4.3.3 can now do so without losing their ability to jailbreak. The iPhone dev team confirmed iOS 4.3.3 is still vulnerable to the untethered jailbreak exploit that @i0n1c created for 4.3.1. Released earlier this week, this version of iOS fixes the location bug that made headlines a few weeks ago.

Both the group’s PwnageTool and redsn0w have been updated and will jailbreak iOS 4.3.3 devices including the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (GSM), iPod touch 3G, iPod touch 4G, iPad1 and AppleTV 2G (v4.3;8F202). Unfortunately, the iPad 2 is not yet supported and its jailbreak is still under development.

Head over to the dev team’s blog for more information about this untethered jailbreak. As with all jailbreak attempts, follow the directions carefully and proceed at your own risk…

HBO releases Go App for iOS devices

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Date: Friday, April 29th, 2011, 15:05
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

It’s been promised for a while and it’s finally here.

Per Macworld, The HBO cable network has released its long-awaited iOS client Go app for iPhone and iPad. The app brings both HBO original series as well as hit movies to Apple’s iOS devices, but there is a catch: Unless you’re already an HBO subscriber with a participating television provider, you’re out of luck.

In addition to currently airing programs like Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, and True Blood, HBO Go also provides access to a backlog of older programs, like Deadwood, The Wire, and the recently concluded Big Love. In addition, there’s access to bonus features and behind-the-scenes extras, and the app supports video over both Wi-Fi and 3G connections, so users can access their favorite shows from any location. A customizable Watchlist feature lets you mark programs you want to view later, and you can set up a Series Pass to automatically populate it with shows you’re following.

Of course, those looking to follow HBO’s series without subscribing to the preimum channel are still stuck. The network doesn’t provide à la carte access via its app (or its Web-based streaming service), and as its shows aren’t available in the iTunes Store while airing, you’re pretty much consigned to wait until the season is over—unless you want to pony up for an HBO subscription.

The HBO Go app requires a device running iOS 3.2 or later to install and run.

Leaked photos surface of supposed T-Mobile-compatible iPhone prototype

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Date: Monday, April 25th, 2011, 07:54
Category: iPhone, Rumor

It’s the leaks that make life interesting.

A series of leaked photos of a supposed iPhone prototype indicate that Apple may be testing the smartphone on the T-Mobile USA network.

Per Boy Genius Report, a series of photos allegedly of a white iPhone prototype “with T-Mobile USA 3G bands.” The device appears to be code-named as N94, just two numbers up from the Verizon iPhone 4, which was reportedly called N92.

According to the report, the prototype runs a test version of Apple’s iOS that resembles that of another prototype discovered in a video earlier this week. The fact that the N94 device has Apple test apps scubas Radar and the company’s employee directory app may also serve to substantiate its authenticity.

The front of the prototype looks “a little different” from recent leaked photos of the retail white iPhone 4. “Specifically, the proximity sensor has changed on the retail version,” the report noted. On Friday, photos of an official retail white iPhone 4 from Vodafone U.K. emerged, though Vodafone has reportedly halted sales of the device until next week.

The lock screen of the prototype device contains the message: “Confidential and Proprietary. If Found, please contact +1 408…”, but the rest of the number has been whited out in the photos.

The report goes on to speculate that Apple is “just testing the new T-Mobile-friendly radio with its current iPhone 4 hardware, possibly in preparation for integration in a future device. It’s also entirely possible the internals on this iPhone prototype are being disguised in an iPhone 4 shell, though we doubt it.”

AT&T announced last month a US$39 billion deal to acquire T-Mobile USA from parent company Deutsche Telekom. A subsequent “>FAQ from T-Mobile suggested that the carrier would hold off on offering the iPhone until at least after the acquisition is completed in “approximately 12 months”

A T-Mobile FAQ regarding last month’s announcement of AT&T’s US$39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile USA explained that T-Mobile does not yet carry the iPhone and will remain independent for up to a year. According to one official at the Federal Communications Commission, AT&T faces a “steep climb” ahead of it to obtain approval for the deal, which would make AT&T the largest wireless provider in the U.S by a large margin.

We’ll see how this plays out and if you have two cents to hurl in on this, please let us know in the comments.