802.11ac support noted in OS X 10.8.4 beta

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Date: Wednesday, April 10th, 2013, 07:00
Category: News, Software

Never doubt the power of an operating system upgrade.

Per AppleInsider, code found in the just released Mountain Lion 10.8.4 beta build references the next-generation 802.11ac wireless protocol, hinting that Apple may soon introduce the technology in its Mac lineup.

The string was discovered in the OS X 10.8.4 beta build 12E30, which was seeded to developers earlier on Tuesday, and suggests Apple is planning on releasing a lineup of Macs compatible with the 802.11ac wireless draft.

While 802.11ac has yet to be ratified as a wireless standard by the IEEE, a number of OEMs have already started rolling out routers based on the draft. Although Apple has yet to adopt the protocol, other manufacturers began shipping products last year, meaning the Cupertino company shouldn’t be far behind.

As the fifth-generation wireless standard, 802.11ac promises to deliver data speeds of 1 gigabits per second over two channels, each carrying single link speeds of 500 megabits per second. In theory, the draft can reach speed of up to 1.3Gbps, which improves upon the existing 802.11n spec that tops out at a theoretical maximum of 900Mbps (450Mbps per channel). In addition, 802.11ac can accommodate up to 8 MIMO streams and extends effective range over previous technologies.

In January, Apple posted job listings for Gigabit Wi-Fi engineers, and the company was rumored to have struck a deal with Broadcom to use the chipmaker’s “5G Wi-Fi” silicon in as-yet-unannounced products.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Fifth-gen iPad production to begin in July-August time frame

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Date: Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, 07:11
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

There’s gotta be a kernel of truth in here somewhere…

Per DigiTimes, sources in Taiwan-based supply companies have stated that production of the fifth-gen iPad is slated to start in a July-August window. The sources added that the display is expected to be manufactured by Sharp and LG Display, while touch panel assembly will be done by TPK, and ITO thin film will come from Nitto Denko and Teijin. Some earlier rumors had an iPad announcement taking place as soon as this month.

The DigiTimes sources repeat views that the fifth-gen tablet will be thinner and lighter than its predecessor, and moreover use a slimmer bezel, similar to the one on the iPad mini. The fourth-gen iPad was little different than the third-gen model, mainly gaining a faster processor, a Lightning connector, and broader cellular support. It was also released just months later, whereas it now appears that the fifth-gen device may resume Apple’s normal annual update cycle.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple receives patent for offline purchasing system

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Date: Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, 07:46
Category: iOS, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Patents, Software

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Ok, this is interesting.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office and AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday was awarded a patent for an offline purchasing system that would allow iTunes users to buy music, movies and other media when not connected to the internet.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple U.S. Patent No. 8,417,575 for “On-device offline purchases using credits,” which describes a system involving the purchase of offline credits stored on a given device that can be put toward media in the iTunes store even when not connected to the online marketplace.

Currently, iTunes users must be logged in or have an internet connection to successfully purchase and download content from the online storefront, but Tuesday’s patent lays the groundwork for a type of “pre-loaded” payment system. Beyond the obvious applications for on-the-go iPod touch users and perhaps frequent travelers, the patent could be a harbinger of new never before seen iTunes functionality.

According to Apple, the proposed service involves media stored on an electronic device, like an iPhone or iPod touch, that is not part of the user’s owned library. If a user wants to buy a track, but cannot connect to the Internet to provide a means of payment, they can use pre-paid credits previously purchased through the store and subsequently loaded onto the device. Once a data network is accessed, the appropriate deductions are made to a user’s on-board credit allotment.

Users can add credits to their device accounts either through the device itself or what appears to be a specialized portal on the desktop version of iTunes, along with other options. Multiple forms of payment are accepted, including credit cards, bank accounts and other digitally connected assets a user links to their online profile.

As noted by the patent, in order to play back a purchased song or movie, a device must first have a copy of said media item, as well as authorization to play back the content. The device can retrieve copies of “unauthorized” media in any number of ways, including recommendations downloaded from the media store. Carrying on with the recommendation example, the device can restrict access to the content in any number of ways until authorization, or a purchase, has been detected. In some instances, the media might be played back at a lower quality, or there could be a limit to how many times a track is played.

The locally-stored media can be displayed in a variety of arrangements, including a layout similar to the existing iTunes iOS app, making browsing and buying new content easy. Once a user makes a selection, they can purchase the locally stored media with the credits they bought in advance, which will remove the restrictions previously imposed on the content. In other words, the authorization and playback transaction would be fully completed offline.

The property could be a boon for iTunes users who don’t have ready access to the Internet and, if made real, would likely drive sales for the digital music giant. Specific implementations were not thoroughly discussed, though Apple already has iTunes Match, which allows users iCloud access to their entire music collection, even tracks imported from CDs, for a yearly fee. While mere speculation, further cloud computing integration could bring even more tie-ins with the offline purchasing service, such as music sharing or gifting.

It remains unknown if and when Apple plans to roll out the offline crediting functionality, but the device-specific solution could theoretically be implemented with a firmware update as no hardware limitations were described in the patent.

Apple’s offline purchasing patent was first filed for in 2010 and credits Taido Nakajima, Tyler Mincey, Gloria Lin and Joey Darragh as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel announces improved Thunderbolt with 4K support for next year, could allow for Retina Display functionality on additional Macs

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Date: Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, 07:24
Category: Hardware, iMac, Mac Pro, News

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This could lead to some nifty stuff.

On Monday, Intel announced a new version of its Thunderbolt technology that will ship with devices in 2014. The new Thunderbolt technology supports up to 20Gbps throughput, which is up from the 10 Gbps supported by the current version of Thunderbolt.

Per 9to5Mac, the new technology supports 4K resolutions, which could open the door for even higher-resolution Mac displays. Perhaps, this is the technology that Apple needs to work with in order to begin a Retina display rollout for its all-in-one desktop computer, the iMac, or even Mac Pro compatible Thunderbolt displays.

Intel says the technology, which currently goes under the codename Falcon Ridge, will ship next year alongside Intel’s next-generation core processors.

One of the technical reasons for Apple to not release an iMac with a Retina display yet is that the current Thunderbolt processors available could not support the bandwidth needed to push so many pixels. Given Apple’s typical 2x Retina mode scaling, a Retina 27-inch iMac would need to power a resolution of 5120 x 2880 (2 times 2560 x 1440). The new Thunderbolt technology coming in 2014 would essentially double the current tech’s capabilities, making a Retina iMac more plausible.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iOS 7 user interface rumors fly, concept animation surfaces

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Date: Monday, April 8th, 2013, 06:38
Category: iOS, Rumor

And now comes the rumor mill and concept art.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple’s Jony Ive seems to be focusing iOS 7’s user interface on widgets and lock screen enhancements.

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, designer F. Bianco certainly gives us a taste of the possibilities constructed the following movie which shows concepts such as widgets, app switching, media controls and more.

Take a gander:

As always, let us know what you think or what you’re hoping to see in iOS 7 in the comments.

Rumor: Apple negotiating with content providers, could launch streaming radio service this summer

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Date: Friday, April 5th, 2013, 07:50
Category: Rumor, Software

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There could be some nifty stuff coming down the pipe this summer.

Per CNET, Apple is working to strike deals with both the Warner and Universal Music groups within the week to help add content to its upcoming streaming radio service. Sony would still be one of the major holdouts.

Apple could sign deals with both Warner Music and Universal Music Group within the next week, according to the sources. Both sources cautioned that the deals have not yet been made and could still fall apart. In addition, Apple still needs to get Sony Music Group on board, as well as the music publishers. Even so, Apple has told the labels it’s determined to get all its deals signed in time for a summer rollout. In addition to the U.S., Apple is hoping to quickly unveil the service in up to a dozen territories, according to sources, including the U.K, France, Germany, Australia, and Japan.

While recent reports have pinned the service’s launch for late 2013, CNET said Apple still wants to have a summer launch take place.

The report indicated that Apple is working on functionality such as quick-button-based access to restart a song and new payment terms for record labels. It also alluded to the upcoming service being more Pandora-like than Rdio, suggesting true, radio-like randomization versus play-on-demand audio content.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple’s OS X 10.8.3 prompts use of discrete GPU in mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 08:42
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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There’s sort of a love/hate relationship with operating system updates, especially given the fact that you never quite know what’s going to change with your Apple hardware and how it performs after the fact.

To that end, the mighty Topher Kessler has written a terrific piece over on CNET as to Apple’s latest OS update for its mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks.

To this end, a number of the notebook’s owners noticed that after upgrading to OS X 10.8.3, their systems with dual graphics cards would automatically switch to using the more powerful discrete graphics chip regularly, even when using non-graphics intensive applications like Google Chrome, Dropbox, and Growl. This does not result in crashes or other interruptions in workflow, but it does increase the drain on the systems’ battery and result in a shorter working time when not connected to AC power.

The article then moves on to discuss how to ration battery power, how to drop back to OS X 10.7 if necessary and the new challenges for developers under these conditions.

It’s there, it’s good, so take a gander and let us know if you’ve seen anything like this with your mid-2010 MacBook Pro on your end.

Recently published Apple patents show possible road to improved pedometer accuracy, possible health accessory

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 07:04
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patent filings that show the useful stuff coming down the road.

Per AppleInsider, three filings published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday reveal Apple is working to improve the accuracy of pedometer readings when implemented in mobile devices, hinting that the company may be planning an entrance into the health accessory industry.

While Apple’s patents (1, 2, 3), each titled “Techniques for improved pedometer readings,” don’t specifically mention a wearable accessory, the technology detailed can easily be applied to such a device. Perhaps most interesting is that Apple filed three separate patent applications describing three different pedometer logging techniques, yet the company has yet to implement a first-party solution or product that leverages such technology.

Each filing looks to solve the same problem: pedometer accuracy. Current devices, even those specifically made to track a user’s steps, are not completely accurate due to hardware and software limitations. Apple’s invention hopes to rectify the situation through intelligent data collection and processing.

The patent applications start out by describing a pedometer, which is a device having motion sensing capabilities, such as a built-in accelerometer or gyroscope, that provides step count, running step count, distance traveled and other metrics. It is pointed out that the device described in some embodiments is not limited to one suitable for step detection, meaning the tech can be applied to smartphones and the like.

Conventional techniques detects steps using acceleration swing over a fixed threshold, but Apple’s invention uses adaptive threshold and frequency filtering to garner more accurate results. Frequency analysis can include fast Fourier transform (FFT) or other algorithms, while distance calibration can apply least squares simple regression, least squares multiple regression, or K-factor.

However, by using fixed threshold techniques, some steps may not be detected due to offsets or shifts in the accelerometer. For example, when a user of the device is running, the average acceleration of the device may be higher due to the greater acceleration of each footstep and the overall faster forward motion. Due to the higher offset of average acceleration during running measurements, some negative slope 88 to positive slope 86 threshold crossings may not be detected. For example, the negative slope 88 to positive slope 86 transition at point 94 in the graphed modulus 52 does not cross the 1 g threshold between peaks 92a and 90a. As a result, while peaks 92a and 90a may actually correspond to two steps (e.g., a left step and a right step), conventional threshold filtering techniques may detect only one step due to the lack of a negative to positive transition (e.g., point 94) crossing below the fixed 1 g threshold.

These methods allow for a finer set of data due that can conform more readily to changes in stride and a user’s personal physical attributes. On that point, a GUI is also implemented into which weight, height and other user specifics can be entered for processing with the given algorithms.

By using these advanced methods, a more accurate assessment of user motion can be tracked, consequently generating more accurate pedometer data.

The language goes on to detail the various algorithms and implementations of adaptive threshold and frequency filtering.

Third-party app makers have indeed created pedometer software that uses data from the iPhone’s built-in sensors to track steps taken and estimated distance traveled, but Apple itself has yet to launch such an asset. Furthermore, the invention seeks to improve upon existing techniques, suggesting the company is planning to implement the tech in a pedometer app, or possibly a wearable device like the much-rumored “iWatch.”

All three applications were filed for in September of 2011 and credit Yash Rohit Modi, Vinay Bethgiri Ganesh Dixit and Saurabh Gupta as their inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: iOS 7 to incorporate overhauled user interface, “flatter” look

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Date: Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013, 08:38
Category: iPhone, Rumor, Software

It’s time to start talking about iOS 7.

Per the mighty John Gruber of Daring Fireball, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design and new head of Human Interface Jony Ive has apparently made noticeable visual tweaks to Apple’s mobile platform. So much so, that “word on the street” has it that iOS engineers are required to put a polarizing filter over their iPhone displays to prevent onlookers from getting a glimpse of the new UI.

The rumor was revealed in a Branch discussion regarding the latest Apple talk, with a number of well-known bloggers airing out their thoughts on what the company has in store for 2013.

Other rumors have stated the new iOS will incorporate a “flatter” look, albeit time will tell what that actually means.

Gruber claims that iOS 7 development is “running behind,” prompting OS X 10.9 engineers to be pulled from their work to lend a hand in getting the mobile OS ready in time for launch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

First “iSteve” parody trailer goes online

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Date: Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013, 07:34
Category: News

To everything, there’s a parody.

The first trailer for the “iSteve” parody has gone online, the movie will be released in theaters on April 15th and you guys can decide what you make of Justin Long as Apple co-founder Steve Jobs: