Apple files patent applications for curved battery technology, could lead to unique new devices

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 08:44
Category: News, Patents

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If nothing else, the patent applications tell you what’s coming down the pipe.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a pair of patent applications (1, 2) filed by Apple reveal the company is working on unorthodox battery designs with curved cells and irregular shapes, suggesting slimmer, more shapely iOS devices could be on the horizon.

The patents filings for “Curved battery cells for portable electronic devices” and “Non-rectangular batteries for portable electronic devices,” both describe methods in which a battery can be designed and manufactured for incorporation into slim, new device chassis.

Both filed for on Oct. 28, 2011, the applications call for battery cells to be manipulated during the manufacturing phase in order to facilitate easy installation into curved and non-rectangular device designs.

For example, the invention regarding curved batteries uses industry standard production techniques, which include a set of layers, a cathode, an anode, a separator and active coatings, before manipulating the unit to a given specification. Like some batteries already on the market, Apple’s proposed design uses a flexible pouch to enclose the cell layers created by the separator.

The pouch is then exposed to pressure of “at least 0.13 kilogram-force (kgf) per square millimeter” and heat of about 85 degrees Celsius in a set of curved plates in order to set the shape. As noted, this process may take as long as four hours.

In some embodiments, the curve is held by employing a binder coating within the battery cell, which is activated during the curing process to laminate the layers together. The resulting structure would be solid and take the shape of curved plates.

From the filing’s summary:
“In some embodiments, the curve is formed to facilitate efficient use of space inside a portable electronic device. For example, the curve may be formed at one or more ends of the battery cell to allow the battery cell to occupy a curved and/or rounded space within the enclosure of a laptop computer, tablet computer, mobile phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), digital camera, portable media player, and/or other type of battery-powered electronic device.”

In the second application a similar method is employed, but where the former uses pressure and heat to set the shape, the “non-rectangular” property removes material from the battery before stacking the cell layers. An example is given of how a non-rectangular shape can be achieved by removing material from one or more sides of the anode and cathode to form a rounded corner. By utilizing this method, varying thicknesses can be achieved, such as those seen in the fourth-generation iPad.

Both techniques aim to shape a battery that fits snugly into a device’s housing, thereby reducing wasted internal space. While merely speculation, the battery designs could be used in an upcoming version of the iPhone or iPad, both of which are becoming increasingly slim as consumers demand thin, lightweight portables.

Also a possibility is the use of such battery design in an iPhone with a “wrap-around” display, the patent of which passed through the USPTO in late March. While it is unlikely that such a device will make it to market in the near future, if ever, the recent patent filings show Apple is continuously looking for innovative ways to save space in its iOS device lineup.

Both patent applications credit Ramesh C. Bhardwaj, John Raff, Stephen R. McClure, Erik L. Wang and Taisup Hwang as their inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple adds 256, 512 GB Flash drive options as build-to-order options for iMac

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 07:40
Category: hard drive, Hardware, iMac, News

It’s pricey, but it’s a useful option.

Per MacRumors, Apple has added new storage options to its iMac lineup, allowing users to choose either a 256 GB or 512 GB flash storage drive as part of the order customization process. The new options are available as US$300 and US$600 surcharges respectively to replace the 1 TB traditional hard drive that is standard across all iMac models.

Previously, the 21.5-inch iMac had not been available with dedicated flash storage options, only offering the standard 1 TB traditional hard drive and a US$250 Fusion Drive option. Apple’s Fusion Drive marries a 128 GB flash drive with a 1 TB traditional hard drive to seamlessly provide fast access to most-used files while also offering relatively cheap mass storage for the remainder of the user’s storage needs. Those options remain available, but for those looking for an all-flash storage solution, Apple is now offering that in 256 and 512 GB capacities.

For the 27-inch iMac, Apple did previously offer an all-flash storage solution, but only as a 768 GB drive carrying a US$900 upgrade fee. The 27-inch iMac is also available with 1 TB and 3 TB traditional hard drive options, with each of those also available in a Fusion Drive configuration. But with the addition of 256 GB and 512 GB flash options, Apple is now offering users who do not need massive amounts of storage the ability to maximize speed on their machines.

If you have a Mac with a Fusion drive and want to throw in your two cents as to how its performance has been, please let us know in the comments.

Apple seeds OS X 10.8.4 build 12E40 to developer community

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Date: Wednesday, May 1st, 2013, 06:10
Category: News, Software

The mighty OS X 10.8.4 update is being worked on, much like a zesty-but-complicated stew.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple on tuesday seeded build 12E40 of OS X 10.8.4 maintenance update to developers, the new build arriving about a week after the previous one.

The build comes with no known issues and once again asks testers to focus on Wi-Fi, Graphics Drivers and Safari.

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

Rumor: Apple looking to expand Siri, Maps integration with upcoming car models

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Date: Tuesday, April 30th, 2013, 06:30
Category: iOS, iPhone, Rumor

Make no mistake about it: Apple wants Siri and its mapping program in your car.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple plans to move aggressively into the in-car integration space later this year, according to multiple people familiar with the initiative. The company is working with car makers to deeply embed iOS’s Maps and Siri services into cars, according to these people. While companies sell accessories to place iPhone and other iOS devices on car dashboards for easy access to Apple Maps’ turn-by-turn navigation, Apple wants to break into the space with its own solutions…

According to sources, Apple is working with car makers on updated versions of car center consoles that could attach to iOS devices like the iPhone. Specifically, an iPhone could be plugged into a car and an optimized, redesigned version of Apple Maps will appear on the car’s built-in display instead of a proprietary GPS system found in many cars.

Sources have described this as a feature akin to a video-out or mirrored display representation of the iPhone’s Maps app onto the bigger screens included with most modern vehicles. This is unlike the new Volkswagen iBeetle car that simply holds an iPhone running a third-party app.

With the iPhone connected, Siri would be used to control the Maps functions and other iOS features.

Last year, Apple announced a new “Eyes-Free” Siri service that allows users to connect their iPhone to their car and use Siri with the iPhone’s display turned off. Apple announced at WWDC that it is working with car makers on Eyes-Free, including BMW, Toyota, Audi, Honda, and Land Rover. It is likely that Apple is bolstering its existing partnerships with these same car makers to take advantage of the new Maps and Siri car-integrated offerings.

While the new car functionality is based on technologies in iOS 7, sources warned that a public release could be potentially be far off. Roadblocks that Apple will need to overcome before the feature launches to the public include more extensive car-based testing, improvements to Apple Maps and Siri infrastructures, and deals with car makers. It is uncertain if Apple plans to debut this new in-car integration at WWDC or at its iPhone hardware event later this year. Because of the processing power that such integration could require, it is likely that the feature will be exclusive to recent iOS hardware.

Apple’s interest in cars goes beyond future iOS integration. Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue, who happens to now be in charge of Siri and Maps, has long had an interest in cars. At Apple’s 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference, the executive demonstrated the iCloud Photo Stream feature by taking a picture of a toy car featured in a Pixar movie. Additionally, Mr. Cue sits on Ferrari’s Board of Directors. Earlier this year, Ferrari began equipping one of its car models with iPad minis.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs shared privately that he considered taking on Detroit with a car design of his own. Patents in recent days reveal that Apple is interested in creating software to make unlocking vehicles and findings cars in parking lots easier.

Earlier this year, Apple posted a series of job listings on its website related to iOS device integration with car stereo systems. Apple is seeking Software Quality Assurance testers for stereo compatibility with iOS products. These job listings, which also cover creating software for car integration, require expertise in Bluetooth product testing. This may mean that the aforementioned upcoming features could rely on Bluetooth rather than wired connections.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: OS X 10.9 to arrive with additional power-user features, iOS elements

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Date: Monday, April 29th, 2013, 07:49
Category: Rumor, Software

The feature rumors about OS X 10.9 have begun.

Per 9to5Mac, the upcoming operating system, which is internally codenamed “Cabernet,” will focus on various “power-user” enhancements and take core features from iOS, according to sources. Unlike operating system updates such as OS X Leopard and OS X Lion, OS X 10.9 will likely not be an overhauled approach to how the operating system feels and functions.


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The new operating system is purported to include major enhancements to the Finder application such as tags and tabbed browsing modes. Those additions are notable as many pro-users have relied on third-party solutions and hacks to enable these features. Additionally, the new operating system will include a new Safari web browser with a redesigned backend for improved page loading, speed, and efficiency…

Third-party TotalFinder tool:
The ability to keep a different “Space” or full-screen app open on a different monitor (in multiple monitor setups) is another important power-user feature coming in 10.9. This feature was forecasted by Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi last year.

In October, Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi became involved in an e-mail exchange in which a user complained about the lack of proper multi-monitor support in OS X Mountain Lion. The Apple executive said that Apple is “absolutely aware of [its] customers’ passion on this topic,” according to the e-mail exchange.

OS X 10.9 will also apparently see some user-interface changes, but the changes will not be drastic ones.

The upcoming operating system is said to incorporate some level of Siri functionality, but it is unclear if full Siri-support is still in the cards for OS X 10.9 or if the functionality will be glued to future hardware updates (for instance, iPhone 4 versus iPhone 4S). The shake-up at the top of Apple’s overall software group shifted around multiple iOS and OS X projects, so anything on the roadmap prior to this shakeup could have been altered, according to a person familiar with the situation.

OS X Mountain Lion added many app-based features from iOS, such as Messages, Notes/Reminders, Game Center, and AirPlay, but the additions in OS X 10.9 from iOS will focus more on system fundamentals. According to one source, Apple has been testing a new multi-tasking system for OS X that is similar to the quick-app-switcher function on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. The multitasking feature will be functional for applications in the background, according to this person. Additionally, Apple could use app-pausing technologies from iOS to pause background application processes in OS X. This is significant as full performance could be given to foreground apps, which could help optimize battery life on Apple’s notebook computers. It is unclear if this feature will make the cut for 10.9′s public release.

Apple will also likely announce Xcode 5.0 later this year. Apple’s new version of its developer app suite is said to be redesigned and include improved application testing tools. Perhaps hinting at this is Apple’s own WWDC press release:

“Our developers have had the most prolific and profitable year ever, and we’re excited to show them the latest advances in software technologies and developer tools to help them create innovative new apps. We can’t wait to get new versions of iOS and OS X into their hands at WWDC.”

Apple’s last two operating systems shipped in the summer, which suggests it is likely that 10.9 will also see a summer release. OS X 10.9 was originally scheduled to be previewed earlier this year, but Apple decided to introduce the operating system alongside iOS 7 at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference. Recent rumors have indicated that Apple moved resources away from OS X 10.9 development in order to focus on iOS 7. This likely contributed to Apple moving back the next OS X’s debut.

As previously noted, the operating system seems to have already been fairly widely distributed inside Apple, based on views to the 9to5Mac web site with computers running OS X 10.9.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to debut updated MacBook models at this year’s WWDC

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Date: Monday, April 29th, 2013, 06:03
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

If there’s one new-ish rule of the universe, it’s that Apple chooses when it gets to hold its dog and pony shows.

And the next one might be during the Worldwide Developers Conference this June.

Per AppleInsider, noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities believes Apple will showcase updated MacBook Pro models at its upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference in June, with the most notable upgrade being the move to Intel’s next-generation Haswell family of processors.

Kuo, who has a reliable track record in predicting Apple’s product plans, said in a research note that while the Cupertino company is likely to bump its current MacBook lineup to Intel’s latest platform, speculated upgrades like a MacBook Air with Retina display are unlikely.

While no major design changes are thought to be in store for WWDC, Kuo now thinks Apple will keep the optical drive-toting MacBook Pro alive alongside the company’s most advanced MacBook Pro with Retina display and MacBook Air models. The analyst previously forecast Apple would retire the line as it moved to all-Retina product offerings.

“There is still demand in emerging markets, where Internet penetration isn’t advanced, for optical disk drives,” he said of the 13- and 15-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro. Apple’s top-tier MacBook lineup eschewed the previous built-in SuperDrive in a bid to slim down the chassis and cut weight.

For the consumer market, Kuo said the biggest change to the MacBook lineup in 2013 will be the introduction of Intel’s Haswell processor, which replaces the Ivy Bridge architecture currently used in the company’s computers. Intel recently announced that Haswell will be unveiled on June 3, one day prior to the Computex Taipei trade show.

Kuo believes the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro will begin shipping by the end of the second quarter, close to the forecasted WWDC launch, while the MacBook Pro with Retina display will see release later in the year due to low yield of the notebook’s high-resolution panels.

Apple has traditionally used WWDC as an opportunity to launch innovative new products, with last year’s event seeing the debut of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.

WWDC 2013 is scheduled to run from June 10 through 14 at Moscone West in San Francisco. Tickets to the conference sold out in less than two minutes, breaking the previous record of about two hours.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Two new patents show how Apple would use iPhone, Bluetooth to interact with cars

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Date: Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 07:29
Category: iOS, News, Patents

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One day, your iPhone WILL talk to and control your car.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office (1, 2) and AppleInsider, a pair of patent filings discovered on Thursday reveal Apple is actively investigating the possibilities afforded by the iOS mobile platform’s various wireless connectivity options, including the ability to interact with, and at times control, a Bluetooth-enabled automobile.

The two patents, describe Apple inventions for using an iOS device to find a parked car in a parking structure, getting guidance to said car, gathering parking fee information and, once near the automobile, activating vehicle functions like door locks, power windows and the engine starter.

First, Apple’s “Method for Locating a Vehicle” outlines a method in which a mobile device can pair with a vehicle via Bluetooth to determine whether it is in a parked state. If the condition is met, the handset then communicates with a wireless system within the parking structure to determine a parking location before moving away from the vehicle.

When returning to the parking structure, the mobile device can access the parking structure’s location system to request current positioning data. The received information is then compared to the vehicle location already stored on the device to determine a route back to the car.

In another embodiment, the automobile itself communicates with the parking structure’s location system, which logs the car’s position and stores the data for later access by a mobile device. This method also allows the parking system to handle guidance and routing directions, which are subsequently sent to a handset upon request.

Apple’s invention calls for the parking structure to hold an array of wireless sensors that are deployed in such a way as to determine the location of a car and a mobile device. An example would be one sensor per stall, or one per row. The system can use Bluetooth technology to transmit positioning data, as well as guidance data if necessary, to the mobile device.

Further, the parking system can also incorporate cameras, microphones and other sensors to determine whether a car is in a parked state. Such information would include an opened car door, active running lights or engine noise. In some embodiments, a user can manually inform the system that a car is parked by interacting with a digital interface either in the vehicle or on a mobile device.

Regarding guidance, a handset can receive a map over cellular or Wi-Fi, which can have an overlay of current positioning data much like a GPS navigation system. Indeed, in some examples, GPS can also be used in concert with the parking structure’s location data to determine a route back to the vehicle.

As a side note, Apple recently acquired “indoor GPS” firm WiFiSLAM, which developed technology to serve up location data within structures where GPS signals are usually absent. Such systems could be implemented effectively in the utility filing described above.

In Apple’s second car-related patent application, titled “Accessing a vehicle using portable devices,” a mobile handset pairs securely with a car over Bluetooth or other suitable method to control various onboard functions.

The invention is basically a more intelligent replacement for existing automobile personalization systems offered by some manufacturers. These methods usually rely on key fobs, which interact with the car via NFC or radio to open doors, roll down windows, start the engine, and so forth. Instead, Apple proposes a mobile device take the place of a fob to offer enhanced control of the vehicle through wireless protocols like Bluetooth.

As noted in the filing, the system can support a primary and a secondary mobile device. Both would use proven authentication methods to access the vehicle, thereby allowing said devices to act as a security point in lieu of a key fob. A user can set preferences to cause the system to act automatically, or have greater control by requiring a PIN or passwords before a device unlocks and interacts with the car.

Some embodiments allow restrictions to be placed on the second mobile device, such as authorization to start the engine only within a given time period, for example between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Further limitations can include speed, entertainment options, number of “uses” allotted and GPS-based fencing, among others.

Besides describing the variety of functions available for operation, much of the patent application focuses on authentication techniques and device-to-car security.

Apple is apparently looking to take advantage of popular “infotainment” systems a number of auto makers include in their vehicles, which usually carry some sort of wireless communications protocol such as Bluetooth. While it is unknown if and when the pair of patent applications will be used in a consumer product, a number of car manufacturers have already signed on to support Apple’s “eyes-free” initiative.

Both of the applications were filed in 2011 and credit Brian J. Tucker, Emily C. Schubert, Jess L. Dorogusker, Joakim Linde; Joakim and Stephen Chick as their inventors.

13-inch MacBook Pro determined as “best performing Windows laptop” according to PC services company Soluto

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Date: Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 07:44
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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You’re gonna either love or hate this.

Per CNET, Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro is the “best performing” Windows laptop.

The MacBook Pro won out over established PC makers like Dell, Acer, and Lenovo, according to Soluto, which was quick to explain its finding.

A main factor in this machine’s metrics is the fact that every Windows installation on it is clean. With PC manufacturers loading so much crapware on new laptops, this is a bit of an unfair competition. But, on the other hand, PC makers should look at this data and aspire to ship PCs that perform just as well as a cleanly installed MacBook Pro.

The report went on to admit that it might be more fair to compare a cleanly installed MacBook Pro with a cleanly-installed PC from Acer or Dell.

The company’s metrics included crashes per week, hangs per week, Blue Screens (of Death) per week, and average boot time.

Soluto did list the disadvantages of running Windows on a Mac, including that it’s more work to set up Windows on a Mac and there may be driver issues.

Acer’s Aspire E1-571 came in second and Dell’s XPS 13 received the third-highest ranking.

Apple’s Tim Cook dismisses larger screen rumors for iPhone, cites trade-offs

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Date: Wednesday, April 24th, 2013, 06:10
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

It’s the post-event questions that get interesting.

Per iMore, asked during today’s Q2 2013 fiscal results conference call as to whether or not Apple’s and CEO Tim Cook’s disinclination towards larger screens has changed, Cook said that there are a number of trade-offs that have come with larger screens. He said that Apple’s own research has revealed while some customers obviously place value on larger screen sizes (those giant Samsung, LG, and HTC phones wouldn’t be selling otherwise), others value resolution, color quality, brightness, portability, and app compatibility. He said that “our competitors have made significant trade-offs in many of these areas” and that Apple would not launch a larger-screen iPhone while these trade-offs exist.

It’s worth taking into consideration that Apple said similar things running up to the launch of the iPhone 5 and its larger screen, and Cook said as recently as the last quarter that he’s happy with the 4-inch screen. It’s also worth nothing that while Cook says he believes the iPhone 5 has “the absolute best display in the industry”, the advent of 1080p smartphone screens has obviated some of his stated advantages such as resolution.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Store app hits version 2.6, now includes iPhone upgrade pricing notification feature

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Date: Wednesday, April 24th, 2013, 06:19
Category: iPhone, News, Software

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Ok, now this is sort of a nifty update.

On Wednesday, Apple released version 2.6 of its iOS Apple Store program. The new version, a 6.1 megabyte download, has been updated with bug fixes and offers a new feature that will notify you when you’re eligible for upgrade pricing on a new iPhone. You can even buy your new iPhone directly with the app after receiving the notification since all you need is your Apple ID credentials to do so.

The updated Apple Store will now help you keep track of your shipments and send you notifications about important updates, and when it has been delivered.

The iOS Apple Store program 2.6 requires iOS 5.0 or later to install and run.

Cool stuff and I’m waiting for the upgrade price for my beloved-but-battered iPhone 4S handset…