O'Grady's PowerPage » Apple

Apple patent shows interest in adjusting on-screen brightness according to content being shown

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013, 06:00
Category: News, Patents

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This could lead to some interesting stuff.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a patent discovered on Tuesday outlines a system in which displays like the iPhone and iPad’s Retina panels are automatically dimmed based on what type of content is showing on screen, allowing for portable devices to conserve energy.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Apple’s patent No. 8,358,273 for a “Portable media device with power-managed display,” which describes a unique method of adjusting the intensity (brightness) of a device’s screen depending on what is being displayed.

Other techniques like photosensor-based display controls have been in use for years, but Apple’s method goes further by managing display brightness based on the monitoring of actual content. Currently, devices may auto-dim in dark-lit rooms or when they haven’t been used for a set amount of time. With the ‘273 patent, both the type and characteristics of displayed content is taken into consideration, allowing for further refinement of auto-dimming procedures that could translate to power savings.

The method relies on identifying the type of content being displayed and setting an output intensity for the display device based on either a predetermined configuration or a set of user preferences. Content types are described as images, photos or video, among others.

After determining what type of content is on a device’s screen, the system then takes into account the characteristics of said content. For example, if a light image is being displayed, the brightness may be lowered. This process becomes more complex for video content, which must be monitored frame by frame and weighted by metrics like contrast, darkness, lightness and color. In some embodiments, the system may sample at stepped intervals like every 10 frames to keep brightness consistent throughout viewing.

The management system offers users more control over screen auto-dimming by allowing a set of preferences to override automatic controls. An example user-configurable setting could be “Brightness Mode,” which would act much like a modern HDTV to provide levels of brightness referenced by the control module.

It is unclear how much processing power the system would require, though there are various embodiments that leverage software, hardware or a combination of the two to achieve the desired results.

The patent is credited to Andrew Bert Hodge, Guy Bar-Nahum, Shawn R. Gettemy and David John Tupman.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent shows e-wallet program with controllable accounts for children

Posted by:
Date: Friday, January 18th, 2013, 08:28
Category: iOS, News, Patents, Software

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This could be useful.

Per FreePatentsOnline, a recent patent application shows Apple’s idea for an “e-wallet” iPhone application that would allow subsidiary accounts for children, complete with customizable spending limits and restrictions.

Apple’s interest in the concept was revealed in a patent application published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Parental Controls.” It describes ways that a user could establish rules for subsidiary financial accounts.

The proposed invention shows a hypothetical application on the iPhone home screen named “E-Wallet.” The software allows users to have a primary account tied to a credit card, allowing transactions to be conducted with an iPhone.

The key feature of the filing are the E-Wallet subsidiary accounts. By creating one, the user can allow new users, such as children, to have access to the E-Wallet app with controlled spending limits.

The customizable rules would allow a parent to set, for example, a weekly or monthly allowance for their children. The application would also enable parents to decline transactions if they are over a certain amount of money.

Parents could also restrict transactions from certain merchant categories, or even block sales to a specific merchant or location. In one example, the application is set to prevent the user from purchasing alcohol or tobacco with Apple’s iPhone e-wallet.

Illustrations included in Apple’s patent filing show that the concept for the E-Wallet application would include purchase history, bill summary, and the ability to search for specific transactions. The E-Wallet app would be driven by users’ existing credit cards, with numbers entered into the software to link them together.

The filing goes on to note that a future iPhone could have an integrated near-field communication chip to supplement the E-Wallet app. It notes that communication using the NFC component would occur in a range of 2 to 4 centimeters.

The proposed invention, published by the USPTO this week, is a continuation of a filing first made by Apple in January of 2009, and issued as U.S. Patent No. 8,127,982 in March of 2012. It is credited to Brandon J. Casey, Gary L. Wipfler, and Erik Cressall.

Not the worst idea in the world and please let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple allies with Merchants Bank Co. to offer installment-based payment plans to Chinese customers

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2013, 09:06
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail

If you’re buying Apple equipment in China, there’s a payment plan for you.

Per Bloomberg, Apple on Thursday introduced a new option for Chinese buyers of iPhones and MacBooks, allowing them to spread the cost of purchases ranging from from 300 yuan (US$48) to 30,000 yuan (US$4,800) over as long as two years.

The new installment payment plans require a China Merchants Bank Co. credit card, with fees ranging from zero percent for a three-month installment plan to 8.5 percent for a 24-month plan. The payment structure likely represents Apple’s attempt at making its products, typically priced at a premium, more affordable for urban Chinese workers.

The article noted that Apple fell from fourth to sixth place in China’s smartphone market in the third quarter and now trails firms such as ZTE, Samsung, and Lenovo, whose smartphone offerings are more affordable than Apple’s iPhone.

Industry observers have long held that a cheaper iPhone would give Apple control over the growing Chinese market, and the financing move may allow Apple to retain its typical profit margins and brand image while widening its base of potential buyers in what will soon become the world’s largest market.

The iPhone 5, which hit the Chinese market last month, costs 5,288 yuan on Apple’s site, or about six weeks’ pay for the average urban worker. By comparison, handsets from competitors often cost less than 1,000 yuan.

Sales of other Apple products have demonstrated demand for the Cupertino company’s devices, as the iPad mini debuted to “insatiable demand” in China last December. Apple has increased its focus on the country accordingly, with chief executive Tim Cook visiting China twice in the past 10 months, most recently meeting with China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases seventh OS X 10.8.3 beta to developer community

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2013, 08:32
Category: News, Software

The betas, they just keep on comin’

Per AppleInsider, a seventh beta of OS X 10.8.3, Apple’s forthcoming maintenance and security update for the Mountain Lion operating system, was supplied to developers on Wednesday.

Sources familiar with the latest pre-release software said it is identified as build “12D54.” Any changes that may have been made to the software from its previous release are unknown.

Its release comes just over a week after Apple provided the last beta of Mountain Lion. That test software contained only minor changes from the previous build.

In earlier builds, developers have been asked to focus their testing on AirPlay, AirPort, Game Center, Graphics Drivers, and Safari.

Apple’s latest betas have touted a new “OS X Software Update Seed Configuration Utility” that retrieves new seeds through Software Update. When new builds are provided, Apple sends out notifications to install the update via the Mac App Store.

If you’ve gotten your hands on the new beta and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to release all-Retina iPad, MacBook Pro lineups in 2013

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, January 16th, 2013, 08:09
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, MacBook Pro, Rumor

Even though it’s a rumor, there’s got to be a nugget of truth in there somewhere.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has made his Apple hardware predictions for the upcoming year, and expects a bevy of new iOS and Mac product releases will help the iPhone maker address a wider swath of the market

Kuo, who has seen previous success in predicting future Apple products, says the company will introduce a number of new iOS devices in 2013, including an inexpensive iPhone 5, upgraded iPhone 5S, Retina display-toting second-gen iPad mini and a redesigned fifth-generation iPad, among others. He goes on to say that Apple will retire the non-Retina MacBook Pro line and replace it with an all-Retina lineup at a lower price.

Kuo is quick to note that none of the product forecasts are expected in the first quarter of 2013 and says “many” will be introduced in the second half of the year.

According to the analyst, Apple will release both an iPhone 5S with updated internals as well as an inexpensive version of the current iPhone 5 design with a thicker plastic chassis available in six colors. The iPhone 5S, which Kuo believes will launch sometime in June or July, will have largely the same aesthetic as the existing model, but will boast a built-in fingerprint sensor, improved camera and more powerful A7 SoC. A slightly revamped “new design” iPhone 5 is expected to go on sale as a less-expensive alternative to Apple’s flagship handset at around the same time, with the affordable price tag attributed to a plastic exterior that will be available in multiple colorways.

Kuo believes a new fifth-generation 9.7-inch iPad will launch with lighter frame and a more refined look, borrowing the narrow bezels seen on the iPad mini. In turn, the smaller tablet will move to generation two and get a Retina display that sports the same 2,048-by-1,536 pixel screen resolution as the existing full-size iPad. By using an identical resolution, app makers won’t have to make software changes to fit a new native format. The same thinking was used when the iPad mini was released with a resolution identical to the iPad 2.

As for Apple’s MacBook, the analyst sees an end of life for non-Retina MacBook Pros, which will be replaced by an all-Retina lineup that eschews optical drives. Pricing should be reduced to help move units. The MacBook Air will see little change besides a bump in internal specs as sizing down the high-resolution Retina display is seen as too steep a challenge at this time. Because the Air will not see a significant design change, the tweaked models are expected to arrive earlier in the year, with the all-Retina MacBook Pro line coming in quarter three.

In respect to the iPod product line, Kuo isn’t expecting much in the way of revolutionary changes. With the fifth-gen iPod touch released, Apple will likely introduce a cheaper variant of the current design without a camera and less built-in memory to reach a target price of US$199.

Finally, 2013 is expected to be the last year in which the Apple TV is considered a “hobby,” but Kuo doesn’t believe the company will introduce a full-fledged television set in the next 12 months. The existing media streamer is likely to morph into a serious business — possibly a full-fledged HDTV — in 2014, as Apple already has the infrastructure to support such a device with iTunes, the App Store and iCloud services. What the company lacks, however, is experience in the industry, especially concerning the establishment of a reliable supply chain. Kuo looks to the much-rumored “iTV” as a source of growth in the coming years.

Rumor: Apple to begin building preliminary “iPhone 5S” units this spring

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, January 16th, 2013, 08:24
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

If you were holding out for the next-generation iPhone, you can probably expect Apple to once again release something this summer.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will begin preliminary builds of the successor to the iPhone 5 in March, setting up for an earlier-than-expected debut in June or July, according to a new report.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said in a note to investors this week that two future iPhone prototypes are currently testing. At least one of these is said to be a so-called “iPhone 5S,” while the other could be Apple’s rumored low-cost iPhone.

Misek previously predicted in December that Apple will launch an incremental upgrade to the iPhone 5 this summer. He also believes the company’s next-generation iPhone, referred to as an “iPhone 6,” will sport a larger 4.8-inch display.

As word of the “iPhone 5S” production begins to spread, Misek expects there to be a slight slowing of demand for the iPhone 5.

He expects Apple to sell 44 million iPhones in the current March quarter — a number he noted is “still well above” recent concerns that shipments might be in the mid-30-million range.

Like some other analysts, Misek believes an apparent decline in iPhone 5 component orders from Apple is not related to significantly reduced demand for the popular handset. Instead, he believes the order cuts are related to three factors:
An assembly bottleneck that caused component inventories to rise in the holiday quarter.

Demand may be either in line or “slightly below optimistic expectations,” Misek believes.

While Misek expects Apple’s next iPhone to launch sooner than expected in the June-July timeframe, he also believes Apple is separately planning a low-cost iPhone that would be geared toward emerging markets like China. Such a device may already have been greenlit, he said.

“Similar to the iPad mini, we expect a concentrated low-cost iPhone rather than a ‘cheap’ one,” he said. “Likely specs: polycarbonate case with 4″ non-Retina display and no LTE.”

In his view, a less expensive iPhone would increase Apple’s smartphone market share, but would also decrease the company’s gross margins. He does not expect the rumored product to have much of an effect on the company’s earnings per share.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Fourth-gen Wi-Fi, cellular iPad to arrive alongside iPad mini in China on January 18th

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 2013, 08:09
Category: iPad, News, retail

Come Friday, the newest and coolest iPad will be available in China.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Apple CEO Tim Cook has teased that Wi-Fi + cellular versions would hit China sometime this month, and it looks like January 18 is indeed the magic day. Cellular-capable versions of both the iPad mini and 4th gen iPad with Retina will be offered at Apple retailers and on the web via the Apple Online Store.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’re in/around China and have noticed the 4th-gen iPad or the iPad mini surface, please let us know in the comments.

SquareTrade report reveals where most iPhones meet their demise

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 2013, 08:19
Category: iPhone, News

Well, at least now you know where not to take your iPhone.

Per a study published last October by third-party warranty company SquareTrade and The Mac Observer, most damage (51 percent) to an iPhone reportedly occurs in an owner’s home. Of the areas in the home, kitchens are the most likely location for an iPhone to die due to their usually hard floors, heavy traffic, and the abundance of foods and liquids that the device can encounter. It’s also likely that usage models play a role, as many iPhone owners like to listen to music or podcasts while cooking, or look up recipes on the fly.

The living room (18 percent), bathroom (16 percent), and driveway (10 percent) are the next most-likely locations for an accident while the bedroom at 8 percent rounds out the top five “danger zones.”

Some interesting statistics on exactly how iPhones die are also available. A surprisingly low 5 percent of iPhone owners have accidentally washed their iPhone in the washing machine, 9 percent have dropped it in a (hopefully clean) toilet, and 6 percent have left the phone on top of a car and then driven off.

When it comes to iPhones damaged by liquids, 43 percent of liquid damaged phones met their end due to water, 19 percent encountered soda, 12 percent drowned in a farewell pool of beer, and another 12 percent went out thanks to coffee or tea.

Finally, most accidents overall are the fault of the owner, and not a careless child, friend, or coworker. In all, 69 percent of accidents are caused by the owner.

If you have your own tale as to where and how you accidentally destroyed your iPhone, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt supply running short, may indicate forthcoming upgrade in near future

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 2013, 08:39
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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You know that spiffy monitor Apple sells? It might be about to be upgraded.

Per AppleInsider, a number of resellers have run dry of Apple Thunderbolt Display inventory, suggesting the 27-inch monitor may be due for an upgrade, perhaps with a thinner design that takes cues from the latest iMacs.

As of Monday, major resellers Amazon, MacMall, and J&R are all out of stock of the Thunderbolt Display. Stock-outs are often one of the first signs of a forthcoming upgrade to Apple hardware.

At the very least, the Thunderbolt Display is in need of an upgrade to its MagSafe cable. Apple currently ships a MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter with every Thunderbolt Display to allow compatibility with the latest MacBooks.

But the Thunderbolt Display and its predecessor, the Cinema Display, have historically borrowed LCD technology from Apple’s all-in-one iMac lineup. And the iMac was recently redesigned with a reengineered display panel that is thinner and reduces glare by 75 percent.

Miroslav Djuric, chief information architect with iFixit, noted that the current-generation Thunderbolt display employs the same screen as the previous generation of 27-inch iMacs: an LG-built TFT active-matrix LCD panel.

“Think of the Thunderbolt display as an iMac minus the computing hardware,” Djuric explained.

If that trend were to continue, an updated Thunderbolt Display would include a thinner LCD panel, and likely an overall thinner design. Apple’s new 21.5-inch iMac actually has the same LCD as its predecessor, but the panel is 5 millimeters thinner, suggesting the same components have been squeezed into a smaller space.

Apple also made its new iMacs thinner by fusing the LCD to the front glass. Djuric said he expects that design decision to also be utilized in a next-generation Apple Thunderbolt Display.

However, if Apple is planning to bring the new iMac panel design to a refreshed Thunderbolt Display accessory, the new big-screen monitor’s arrival may not be imminent because of potential production issues.

Apple’s new 27-inch iMac remains in short supply because of apparent production issues associated with the display. Until those issues are worked out, Apple may not have enough panels to also provide for a new 27-inch Thunderbolt Display.

One report last week claimed that Apple and LG have only been able to produce about 100,000 27-inch iMacs per month. Apple’s online store continues to advertise that new orders of the 27-inch iMac ship in three to four weeks.

Analyst Ming-chi Kuo of KGI Securities was first to reveal in August that Apple was planning to use a new screen lamination process in its redesigned iMacs. Kuo also noted that manufacturing of the panels would be difficult.

Another possible upgrade for the Thunderbolt Display could be its ports: The current model features three USB 2.0 ports, but Apple began offering faster USB 3.0 connectivity on its 2012 Macs, including the redesigned iMac. USB 3 offers transfer rates up to 5 Gbps, compared to just 480 Mbps for USB 2.

The Apple Thunderbolt Display was released in July of 2011, making it the world’s first display compatible with Apple’s high-speed Thunderbolt I/O technology. In addition to the aforementioned MagSafe charging cable and three USB 2.0 ports, the 27-inch screen includes a FaceTime HD video camera, 2.1 speaker system, one FireWire 800 port, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a Thunderbolt port for daisy chaining up to five additional Thunderbolt devices.

Apple also still continues to sell the previous-generation 27-inch LED Cinema Display for older Macs that have a Mini DisplayPort instead of the newer Thunderbolt port. Both the LED Cinema Display and the Thunderbolt Display are sold for US$999.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Third-party Lightning accessories begin to arrive in Apple Store retail locations

Posted by:
Date: Monday, January 14th, 2013, 08:07
Category: News, retail

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If you’ve been looking for third-party Lightning adapters, they’ve begun to arrive in Apple Store retail locations.

Per The Mac Observer, which so far, only car chargers are available, other compatible accessories are likely coming soon.

Lightning-compatible accessories with Apple’s official approval have been slow coming because the company has apparently taken its time ramping up its review process. With companies finally getting the green light, customers should start seeing more Lightning devices on store shelves in the coming weeks.

Several manufacturers exhibiting at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week stated that they have Lightning accessories ready to go, but are currently waiting on Apple to complete its licensing approval process.

If you’ve seen third-party Lightning adapters at your local Apple Store location, please let us know in the comments.