Rare Apple customer survey sparks hopes for 3G in next-gen MacBook Air

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Date: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 05:06
Category: MacBook Air, News

This could be interesting.

Apple, which typically relies on its own in-house research as opposed to customer feedback, began reaching out to select MacBook Air owners this week in a new survey that could help define future versions of the diminutive notebook, posing questions on 3G, data syncing, I/O usage, and the desire for models with more capable computing power.

Per AppleInsider, the wide-ranging survey touches on a number of issues, including the use of USB ports and external disc drives, Web-based file storage and syncing, and use of certain function keys on the keyboard. It also includes a number of queries related to wireless 3G data connectivity, suggesting Apple could be exploring integrated cellular radios in future notebooks.

Official Apple customer surveys on products are not unheard of, though they are rare. The last survey AppleInsider can recall was conducted back in February 2009 to help shape the future of the Apple TV, and that was related to the company’s self-proclaimed “hobby” that was a work-in-progress.

In addition to future MacBook Air models, the new survey could offer a glimpse into Apple’s plans for the MacBook Pro line of notebooks. When the new MacBook Air was released last October, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said the thin-and-light computer is “the first of a new generation of notebooks.”

Interestingly, the survey asks users whether they have connected their MacBook Air to a 3G network, how often they do so, where they connect to 3G, what type of device they use to connect to a 3G network (MiFi, USB device, or tethering with a cell phone).

Though the redesigned MacBook Air launched in late 2010, rumors of its successor have already begun to surface. Last week, it was said that Apple allegedly plans to upgrade its line of thin-and-light notebooks to Intel’s latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors this June. No claims were made about 3G connectivity.

Rumors of a 3G-capable Mac have persisted for years, but the company does not yet sell a notebook with an integrated cellular data radio. Apple even sought to hire a 3G expert for its Mac team in 2009, fueling those rumors that the functionality would be added to a future MacBook.

So, it’s hard to say how much attention to pay to this, but it is sort of interesting and could lead to something cool. If you’ve seen this survey on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: iPhone mini could drop internal storage, rely extensively on MobileMe streaming

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Date: Monday, February 14th, 2011, 10:50
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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It’s the rumors that keep technology interesting.

With that in mind, the iPhone mini is making the rounds with the cool cats at Cult of Mac stating that the smaller iPod smartphone combo may rely on the also rumored MobileMe cloud-based iTunes storage server for streaming content from user’s media libraries.

Access to music, video and photos on the iPhone mini “would be a mostly cloud-based iOS,” according to Cult of Mac’s anonymous sources.

The rumored changes to Apple’s MobileMe service include a new Internet-based iTunes library storage system for iPhone users. Since content would be pushed wirelessly to them, the need for large amounts of RAM for local data storage would go away.

The notion that users would be able to stream their entire iTunes library may not, however, go over well with cell service providers. Relying on 3G data connections instead of Wi-Fi networks at least some of the time would push up iPhone user’s wireless data usage dramatically, and carriers may not want to deal with the extra network traffic per the Mac Observer.

Streaming content libraries would also a problem in places where data connections aren’t available, such as many flights. Unless the iPhone mini includes at least some local storage for media, users won’t be able to listen to music or watch movies when they can’t get an Internet connection.

It’s been presumed that an iPhone mini would have at least some built-in storage so users could load apps and store their contacts and appointments on the device.

As of now, Apple has yet to offer any comment, leaving the rest of this up to speculation…

Verizon to offer $20/month “personal hotspot” WiFi tethering plan

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Date: Wednesday, January 26th, 2011, 06:06
Category: iPhone, News

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Verizon Wireless has finally confirmed that it will offer iPhone 4 with a US$20 “personal hotspot” WiFi tethering plan similar to what it currently offers its existing smartphone subscribers.

According to Macworld, Verizon’s mobile hotspot plan allows users, for an extra US$20 option on top of their data plan, to share their mobile 3G service with up to five WiFi devices (such as an iPad, iPod touch, MacBook, or any other WiFi device).

The iPhone 4 tethering plan has its own 2GB monthly cap, according to the report, with each additional gigabyte costing another US$20/month. Previous Verizon tethering plans cost US$30/month but delivered 5GB of data, in addition to the user’s data plan. That means the unlimited plan with tethering will cost a total of US$50, with 2GB for tethering and unlimited use of mobile data.

AT&T’s US$20 tethering plan currently only supports USB or Bluetooth tethering to a single device at once, and rather than offering a separate data pool, the plan counts use against the user’s plan. That means the 2GB data plan with tethering costs US$45 total, but still only offers 2GB of data per month.

Verizon earlier announced that its new CDMA iPhone 4 would only be offered with an unlimited data plan costing US$30, with no option for a limited use data plan as the company now allows its current smartphone users to choose.

In the future, Verizon says it will phase out the unlimited data plan, following AT&T toward tiered service plans. It has not detailed when it will do this, nor how much it will charge.

AT&T also announced earlier this month that it would be simplifying its texting plans to two options: 1000 messages for US$10/month, or unlimited texts for US$20/month.

iOS 4.3 beta code points towards Verizon iPad 2, iPhone variants and camera app for iPad

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Date: Thursday, January 13th, 2011, 06:54
Category: News, Software

The developers got the iOS 4.3 beta yesterday.

And they found some nifty stuff in it.

Per Engadget and 9 to 5 Mac, discoveries in the iOS 4.3 beta have revealed that Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone and second-generation iPad will come in native editions for Verizon along with camera functions. Mirroring the iPhone 3,1 and 3,2 entries that represent the iPhone 4 for GSM and CDMA respectively, device listings now exist for iPhone 4,1 and iPhone 4,2 as well. The appearance suggests Apple plans to synchronize its iPhone launches rather than stagger GSM and CDMA by a wide margin.

A third iPhone 4 variant (iPhone 3,3) has also appeared, which seems unusual and the device may be a version for GSM carriers on 1,700MHz 3G in North America, most notably including T-Mobile in the U.S. but also a slew of new Canadian carriers such as Wind Mobile, Videotron and Mobilicity. Without an iPhone 4,3 listed, though, it’s possible that either the third iPhone 4 variant will never ship or else that its iPhone 5 equivalent will ship sometime later.

The next iPad is also on show in the code and shows the newly promised Verizon model. Along with Wi-Fi (iPad 2,1) and HSPA 3G (iPad 2,2) variants, an iPad 2,3 version has tipped up and is almost certainly an EVDO version to give CDMA carriers one with internal 3G.

Separately, discoveries in the iOS 4.3 SDK have shown iPad-sized graphics for a camera app. The images show the camera iris effect as well as icons for both still photo and video modes, confirming movie recording. The full iris image tops out at 1024×768 and casts doubt on rumors of a higher resolution display unless Apple is deliberately keeping higher resolution graphics out of beta releases to avoid spoilers.

Rumor: Apple may add Personal Hotspot feature to AT&T/GSM iPhone in iOS 4.3 update

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Date: Wednesday, January 12th, 2011, 04:09
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The much-hyped Personal Hotspot feature found on iOS 4.2.5 will not remain exclusive to the CDMA variant of the iPhone 4, and will arrive with the release of iOS 4.3 for existing GSM-based handsets, according to a new rumor.

Per iPhoneHellas.gr, (via Google Translate), the feature will be part of a purported update in the works known as iOS 4.3. The rumor was credited to “reliable information” obtained by the site.

The Personal Hotspot feature is included in a new version of iOS, dubbed 4.2.5, that was spotted on pre-release CDMA iPhone hardware shown off at Tuesday’s Verizon iPhone press conference. The feature is found in the Settings application on the phone, where it can be turned on or off and the Wi-Fi password can be changed.

In addition, on Tuesday iPhoneclub.nl also reported that the iOS 4.3 update will only support the mobile hotspot feature, which allows up to five devices to be connected to a 3G data connection over Wi-Fi, will only be available if a carrier offers it.

AT&T famously did not allow tethering on the iPhone in the U.S. even after Apple had added the ability to share a wireless Internet connection via USB or Bluetooth to its mobile operating system. The feature eventually arrived last June alongside new, capped data plans. Tethering with an iPhone on AT&T costs an extra US$20 per month.

When asked on Tuesday whether AT&T will offer the Personal Hotspot feature on its network, a company spokesperson said they wouldn’t “speculate” on potential future features. Apple has not made any mention of the Personal Hotspot coming to existing iPhones since the feature was first revealed on Tuesday.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available.

Garmin releases StreetPilot GPS app for iOS

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Date: Tuesday, January 4th, 2011, 10:33
Category: iPhone, News, Software

GPS outfit Garmin announced on Tuesday that the company had released StreetPilot, its first turn-by-turn navigation app for the iPhone. Per Macworld, StreetPilot offers voice-prompted directions—with text-to-speech capability for reading aloud street names—along with a variety of more advanced GPS features.

As with Garmin’s standalone GPS devices, StreetPilot offers free traffic alerts, lane assistance with realistic previews of upcoming junctions, 2D and 3D views, and speed limit indicators. The application sports current maps of the U.S. and Canada that are fetched from Garmin’s servers, and also provides points of interests and local search integration.

The app also integrates with various bits of data on your iPhone: you can control your music, quickly access your friends’ addresses, and, of course, take advantage of iOS 4’s multitasking.

StreetPilot retails for US$40 and requires an iPhone 3G or newer, or an iPad with 3G, running iOS 3.0 or later to install and run.

Rumor: Apple could produce second-gen iPad with HSPA, EVDO models slated for March release date

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Date: Tuesday, December 28th, 2010, 06:16
Category: iPad, Rumor

It’s the second generations of a device where things get really interesting.

Per Electronista, Apple is looking to ship three separate versions of the next iPad and may ship earlier than expected, part suppliers said on Tuesday. The tablet should still have a pure Wi-Fi version but will serve 3G with both a regular HSPA version and an EVDO model for carriers like Verizon. The 3G versions have been unusually popular, at 60 to 65% of shipments and the extra wireless support would help fill demand.

The 3G push is corroborated by a slew of subsidized carrier plans that have been rolled out in recent months. Many cut the price of the iPad by half or less on a contract, and in some cases give the unit away for free.

Along with the known design change and extra wireless support, Apple is also reportedly taking steps to draw in Kindle buyers with changes to the screen. The display would get both an improved oleophobic (oil-resistant) screen to further reduce smudging as well as a more glare-resistant treatment to make it more suitable to the outdoors. A clue as to the anti-glare panel may have come with the new MacBook Air, whose display is still glossy but noticeably less reflective than on earlier MacBooks.

Apple might also be eager to advance the ship date beyond the original April target. Production shipments would start heading out as soon as late January, not the previously suggested February, and would see a small initial batch of 500,000 to 530,000 units arrive, 30% of which would be Wi-Fi, 40% HSPA and 30% EVDO. Additional shipments would continue right up to the release date, which could now include a March release date if Apple doesn’t have to push it back to a previously cited April target.

The release would be ambitious and could see Apple deliver as many as 40 million iPads in 2011, possibly taking hold of as much as 65% to 75% of the market worldwide. Such a ratio would be higher than expected by analysts, as many of them expect Android 3.0 to give Google’s partners a much stronger platform.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available

AT&T secures rights to US$1.9 billion of 4G wireless spectrum licensing, gearing up new network for 2011

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Date: Monday, December 20th, 2010, 08:47
Category: iPhone, News

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Wireless carrier and U.S. exclusive iPhone provider AT&T announced on Monday that it has agreed to purchase US$1.925 billion worth of wireless spectrum from Qualcomm for its forthcoming 4G network.

Per AppleInsider, AT&T has agreed to purchase spectrum licenses from Qualcomm in the lower 700 MHz frequency band. The US$1.925 acquisition is said to bolster AT&T’s ability to provide an advanced 4G mobile broadband service “in the years ahead,” the company said in a press release.

The spectrum being sold to AT&T is currently licensed to FLO TV, but that agreement with Qualcomm is expected to be shut down in March 2011.

The available spectrum acquired by AT&T covers more than 300 million people total nationwide. 12 MHz of lower 700 MHz D and E block spectrum is accessible by more than 70 million people in five of the top 15 metropolitan areas, including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The remaining 6 Mhz of lower 700 MHz D block spectrum covers more than 230 million people.

AT&T stated that it intends to deploy the spectrum as “supplemental downlink” once compatible handsets and network equipment are developed. AT&T and Qualcomm anticipate they will close on the sale in the second half of 2011.

While AT&T is still building its own 4G network, expected to launch in mid-2011, the company was recently beaten to the punch by rival Verizon, the company’s 4G long-term evolution network debuted earlier this month, offering 10 times faster download speeds in 38 metropolitan areas and more than 60 commercial airports across the U.S.

AT&T will partner with Alcatel and Lucent to build out its LTE network, which will deliver higher broadband throughput and lower latency than the company’s existing 3G network. But even before AT&T’s 4G launches, the company has touted that its existing 3G network is 20 to 60% faster than its competitors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and please let us know what you make of this in the comments.

Rumor: Foxconn to ship second-gen iPad in 100 days to meet April launch

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Date: Tuesday, December 7th, 2010, 07:41
Category: iPad, Rumor

Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn will begin shipping Apple’s next-generation iPad within the next 100 days according to a story published by DigiTimes.

After checks with Taiwan-based component makers, the publication reported Tuesday that Foxconn is set to ship the iPad 2 by the end of February 2011, with initial shipments of 400,000-600,000 units. Tuesday’s report echoes an earlier report from the publication that claimed suppliers would ramp up shipments of iPad 2 components in the first quarter of 2011.

Apple had reportedly planned to begin mass production of the device in January, but ongoing testing of the new iPad’s firmware has apparently forced Apple to postpone its schedule. The new iPad is still expected to launch in April, a year after the first-generation device debuted.

According to the report, Foxconn’s new production plants in Chengdu are still in “pilot production,” so the iPad 2 will be mainly supplied by the company’s Shenzhen plants.

In preparation for a spring launch of the second generation of Apple’s successful tablet device, production of the original iPad is expected to drop off in early February. According to the article’s sources, Apple will still place orders for an estimated 1.6-1.8 million iPads through the end of January before reducing orders.

Anonymous sources have also indicated that Apple would introduce FaceTime-equipped next-gen iPads by the end of the first quarter of 2011, ahead of the usual 12-month product cycle. In November, rumors emerged that the next iPad will be a “world mode” device with both GSM and CDMA radios, allowing it to work on a variety of networks.

In the U.S., Verizon has already begun selling the iPad, though it currently only offers the Wi-Fi-only model bundled with a MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot. The iPad 3G model is not compatible with Verizon’s CDMA network.

SlingPlayer Mobile app comes to iPad, allows streaming TV, video content from 3G and Wi-Fi connections

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Date: Wednesday, November 24th, 2010, 09:48
Category: iPad, News, Software

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It’s been nifty on other devices, it can’t help but nifty on the iPad.

Per iLounge, Sling Media has released an iPad version of its Slingbox client for iOS devices.

The SlingPlayer Mobile app for iPad allows users to stream TV and other video content to their iPad from select Slingbox devices using a Wi-Fi or 3G connection. Users can view and control video content via the SlingPlayer app and Slingbox from sources such as cable, satellite and IPTV set-top boxes and DVRs, TiVO, Apple TV and even home security cameras.

Slingbox Pro-HD users can also stream digital over-the-air broadcasts. SlingPlayer Mobile for iPad follows the release of SlingPlayer for iPhone (available for US$29.99) earlier this year with a redesigned iPad-native interface including a revamped programming guide and a recent channels feature.

Slingbox for iPad is available from the App Store for US$29.99. The SlingPlayer applications for iOS require a Slingbox Solo or Pro-HD and are not compatible with older Slingbox devices.

The app requires iOS 4.2 or later to instal and run.