Samsung ramps up iPad 2 components to meet orders

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Date: Friday, April 1st, 2011, 04:14
Category: iPad, News

Your neighbor has an iPad 2.

Your pets somehow managed to get their own.

And, ya know, it’d be nice to get your hands on the one you ordered…

Per EETimes, electronics giant Samsung will hire 300 engineers and technicians for a semiconductor plant in Austin, Tex., in the company’s latest round of expansion largely driven by increased demand for the iPad and iPhone, while AU Optronics has denied rumors that it received orders for flat panel screens bound for the iPad 2.

The web site reports that Samsung Austin Semiconductor plans to create 300 more engineering jobs this spring as part of a US$3.6 billion expansion. According to sources, most of the production at the 300-mm fab is commissioned by Apple.

The 300 new employees will join a large batch of employees from last year’s growth. “In 2010, we hired more than 600 employees as part of the current expansion, bringing total employment to approximately 1,700,” said Charmaine Winters, senior human resources manager at Samsung Austin Semiconductor, in a statement.

Though rumors had suggested that Apple had inked a deal with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. for production of the A5 chip for the iPad 2, due to concerns of increased competition with Samsung, X-ray analysis of Apple’s A5 CPU in the iPad 2 confirmed that the chip was still manufactured by the Korean electronics giant.

All told, Apple is projected to purchase US$7.8 billion worth of components from Samsung this year, including liquid crystal displays, mobile application processors and NAND flash memory chips, making Apple Samsung’s largest customer.

In assorted updates, component manufacturer AU Optronics executive vice president Paul Peng has denied rumors that the company received display orders from Apple and no further additional comment was offered.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple may be looking into creating external “quick charge” battery packs for devices

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Date: Friday, April 1st, 2011, 03:26
Category: Patents

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Apple has apparently shown an interest in developing an integrated external battery pack into its standard charging cable, providing extra power for devices like a MacBook or iPhone when a power outlet isn’t available.

Per AppleInsider, the potential future accessory was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing for “Power Adapter with Internal Battery” describes a wall charger with an integrated battery pack, allowing users to charge a device at home and give that device extra juice when on the go.

Apple’s application acknowledges that rechargeable external battery accessories do already exist. However, it notes that such accessories are not as advantageous as one that might be integrated with a standard charging cable.

“Such external batteries are generally cumbersome to use, at least because they must be unpacked for use and then repacked for storage,” Apple’s filing states of current options available on the market. “In addition, many users forget to bring the external battery in addition to the adapter while in transit.

“What is needed is a way to combine a power adapter and a battery so that a user does not have to carry an additional battery while traveling with a portable electronic device.”

Apple’s solution would include a “smart” charger with an integrated processor. This would allow the charger to intelligently determine how to distribute charge between the integrated adapter battery, and the battery on a device like a MacBook.

The hardware would also include the ability to share the status of the battery with the device it is charging. This way, users would be able to check the status of the external adapter battery and how much power it has left.

Such a device could be augmented by a “trickle source” for power, such as solar. And it could also include a USB port for charging a device like an iPhone or iPod. The accessory could also include a wireless adapter, allowing a MacBook or other device to access the power adapter even when it is not physically connected.

Apple’s application also notes that its external battery solution could employ current power adapter features, such as its patented MagSafe connector.

The need for such third-party external battery makers could be significantly lessened if Apple were to follow through on its pursuit of power adapters with integrated rechargeable batteries.

Apple first filed the patent application made public this week in September of 2009, and the proposed invention is credited to Duncan Kerr, David Robbins Falkenburg and Michael Nugent.

Apple releases Mac OS X Supplemental Update to resolve MacBook Air/iTunes issue under Mac OS X 10.6.7

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Date: Thursday, March 31st, 2011, 04:43
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

Just over a week after releasing Mac OS X 10.6.7, Apple has issued a subsequent patch aimed at users of the new Late 2010, 13 inch MacBook Air to fix a system crash related to iTunes.

“This update addresses an issue that makes the system unresponsive when using iTunes,” Apple notes on its support page.

Per AppleInsider, the patch is just a 461 KB download and requires Mac OS X 10.6.7 Build 10J869 to be installed first. Both are available via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

The system lockup problem on new 13″ Air models appeared in Apple’s discussion forums after the release of Mac OS X 10.6.7 as an easy to replicate issue that resulted in having to force reset affected systems, indicating that the problem was inadvertently introduced with last week’s larger update.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any differences, please let us know in the comments.

iFixit performs full iPad 2 3G teardown, finds antennas similar to iPhone 4 units

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Date: Wednesday, March 30th, 2011, 08:14
Category: iPad, News

I think we all have a certain fondness in our hearts for iFixit, as they follow the habit we all had when we were six and took everything apart to see how things worked, even if it meant that our parents invariably wound up screaming at us for the destruction involved.

On the plus side, iFixit is staffed by adults and releases some interesting finds.

And they’re nice enough to clean up the things that they destroy.

The latest iFixit teardown of the iPad 2 3G the differences between Apple’s different versions of the iPad 2, comparing the components of the Wi-Fi-only, GSM and CDMA models and discovering similarities with the iPhone 4.

The comparison shows design decisions similar to the differences between the GSM and CDMA iPhone 4 models. For example, the CDMA version of the iPad 2 has one more antenna than the GSM model, just like the Verizon iPhone 4.

Also like the Verizon iPhone 4, the CDMA iPad 2 features an integrated GPS receiver. On the GSM model, GPS is a separate chip from Broadcom, like with the GSM iPhone 4.

The other major difference between the GSM and CDMA iPad 2 models is the inclusion of a Micro-SIM card slot on the GSM model. Located in the upper left corner of the device, the slot’s inclusion gives that model a unique design.

The Micro-SIM tray is integrated into the headphone jack assembly for the GSM iPad 2. Since the CDMA iPad 2 does not have a space for a SIM card, it uses the exact same headphone jack assembly as the Wi-Fi-only model.

Chips providing 3G connectivity for the CDMA iPad 2 include a Qualcomm MDM6600 Baseband/RF Transceiver, Qualcomm PM8028 Power Management IC, Toshiba Y890A111222KA, Skyworks 77710 Power Amplifier Module, and Skyworks 77711 Power Amplifier Module. All of these are also found in the Verizon iPhone 4.

The GSM iPad 2′s 3G radio has an Intel 36My1EF with 128MB of Numonyx NOR flash and Elpida Mobile DDR SDRAM, Infineon 337Se833 Baseband Processor, Skyworks & TriQuint Transmit Modules, and Infineon 338S0626 GSM/W-CDMA Transceiver. It also includes a Broadcom BCM4751 Integrated Monolithic GPS Receiver, which is an update from the BCM4750 found in the GSM iPhone 4.

Japanese earthquake/tsunami may be leading to lithium supply problems for iPod components

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Date: Wednesday, March 30th, 2011, 08:46
Category: iPod, News

Ya know, they say natural disasters are never good things.

And I believe them.

Apple is reportedly running short of lithium-ion batteries for its iPods as Japanese chemical maker Kureha stuggles to deal with the aftermath of the recent natural disasters to strike the country.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Kureha has a 70% share of the global market for a particular polymer, said to be crucial in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries used by the iPod.

Kureha was forced to shut its factory in Iwaki, close to the epicentre of the recent quake, and is looking to move its production line overseas.

The plant in Kureha is the only place that the polymer is made. The polymer, which is made from resin called polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), binds components of the battery together. It is vital to the construction of batteries that are pliable rather than rigid, as they need to be to fit into the small spaces dictated by modern, small designs.

Kureha is reportedly looking to move PVDF production to its existing factories in China or the US, while keeping its research and development plant in Japan. Meanwhile, analysts warned that any mobile gadgets using lithium-ion batteries, including Apple’s iPod, could be affected by the production stoppage.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple looking to expand on voice commands in iOS 5.0

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Date: Tuesday, March 29th, 2011, 08:49
Category: iPhone, Rumor, Software

Because you don’t spend enough time talking to your iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Per TechCrunch, Apple is rumored to be working on a means of vastly improving voice commands on devices like the iPhone and iPad with the anticipated release of iOS 5 later this year.

Apple’s “deeply integrated” voice control feature in iOS 5 is expected to be demoed at this year’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference. The voice control will reportedly be a combination of artificial intelligence and assistance technology, and Apple’s team is said to be putting the “finishing touches” on elements that will be demonstrated at WWDC.

The new features are said to stem from technology and personnel Apple obtained through its acquisition of Siri in 2010. Siri is the developer of a personal assistant application for the iPhone, and it allows users to speak to the device in plain conversational English to find information and automatically accomplish tasks, like booking a reservation at a restaurant.

The advanced voice control technology owned by Apple and said to be coming in iOS 5 may even be opened up to developers for use in third-party applications. However, author MG Siegler cautioned that information “isn’t quite as concrete.”

The latest rumor corroborates a report filed that went public earlier this year which claimed that Apple is working on “voice navigation” features in iOS 5. It also builds on rumors that circulated in February that Apple hopes to improve operation of the iPhone through voice commands due to some users’ dislike of using a virtual keyboard.

Apple announced on Monday that WWDC will kick off on June 6 at San Francisco’s Moscone West, where the company plans to “unveil the future of iOS and Mac OS.” The annual developers conference sold out in a record 10 hours.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple looking to add alternate payment methods for MobileMe services

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Date: Tuesday, March 29th, 2011, 04:44
Category: MobileMe, Rumor, Software

You like your MobileMe account.

And there may be new ways to pay for it.

Per MacNews.de, Apple may be coming up with plans to implement alternative payment methods for MobileMe in the near future. Currently, users without credit cards are caught in a dilemma — they can’t renew their subscriptions electronically, but neither can they buy a retail “box” with the MobileMe activation or renewal code from a retail store (Apple has removed the MobileMe box from its retail stores, though some dealers may still have older stock available).

Rumors have swirled for months that the service is due to undergo a major revamp, spurred by an e-mail from Apple CEO Steve Jobs to a customer promising the service “will get better in 2011.”

The rumors have taken various forms, from making at least some version of the service available for free to adding a cloud-based “media locker” for a small fee — or changing, dropping or revamping existing services (which include website hosting, photo and video galleries, ad-free IMAP e-mail, account syncing, limited backup, equipment tracking, personal storage space and other features).

Last month, Apple made MobileMe only available as a free online trial offer, and the only way to buy or renew a subscription required a credit card — leading to speculation that the revamp could come soon (now currently believed to be in April).

The report that Apple is working on alternate payment methods would indicate that the company is still planning on charging for at least some of the services in an overhauled MobileMe offering.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have any thoughts on this, please let us know in the comments.

iPad 2 to arrive at 500 RadioShack locations today

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Date: Tuesday, March 29th, 2011, 04:44
Category: iPad, News

I have a love-hate relationship with RadioShack.

Still, this gives me another reason to like it.

Starting Tuesday, some of the most heavily trafficked RadioShack stores in the U.S. will begin selling the iPad 2, as Apple continues to expand the retail availability of its hot-selling touchscreen tablet.

Per AppleInsider+, the iPad 2 will be available at 500 RadioShack stores Tuesday. A corporate memo scarce on details only reveals that the chosen stores have already been informed they will receive the device for sale.

Sources close to the story have stated that the deal to sell the iPad 2 at RadioShack was only finalized within the last few days.

The continued retail expansion comes only a few days after Apple launched the iPad 2 overseas in 25 countries. The second-generation iPad first went on sale in the U.S. earlier this month.

Signs of improving iPad 2 inventory came last week, when estimated shipping times from Apple’s online store improved to three to four weeks. Previously, new orders were estimated to wait at least a month before shipment.

The iPad 2 has seen strong demand and regular sellouts at stores since it first became available. Apple’s launch strategy has also been significantly more aggressive than with the first-generation iPad, which debuted only at Apple’s stores and select Best Buy locations.

RadioShack’s partnership with Apple expanded last March, when the company began selling the iPhone. The retailer also made waves late last year when it offered discounts on the iPhone, something rarely seen with Apple’s rigidly priced handset.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you run across an iPad 2 at a RadioShack in your area today, let us know.

Rumor: Apple could release Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” in early summer

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Date: Monday, March 28th, 2011, 04:25
Category: Rumor, Software

Following the release of the Mac OS X 10.6.7 update, Apple’s Mac OS X 10.7 release could see the light of day a bit earlier than expected. Per TechCrunch, Apple could release the new operating system in the early part of this summer. If a new rumor is to be believed, it would appear that Apple should have no troubles meeting this deadline, as it appears the latest and greatest OS X could already be nearing “Golden Master” status.

Apple has continued to work through many OS X Lion bugs and other performance issues as the stated summer release date draws ever closer. Just the same, if GM candidates are already nigh, then there should not be any cause to worry.

By comparison, with OS X Snow Leopard, Apple had released the GM edition to developers a few weeks for the actual public release. If there are no bugs in the first GM version, then Apple could see a similar timeframe with Lion. To give benefit of the doubt to Apple though, it would seem an early summer release may be likely and could be found at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco this summer.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve gotten your mitts on a Mac OS X 10.7 build, let us know what you think in the comments.

Rumor: Apple may be planning iOS 5.0 around a fall release

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Date: Monday, March 28th, 2011, 04:59
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, Rumor, Software

Even if you’re still trying to figure out if Apple’s iOS 4.3.1 update provided any meaningful fixes, there’s still iOS 5.0 on the horizon. Per TechCrunch, iOS 5.0 may not see the light of day until this fall, the rumor mill stating that Instead of Apple possibly unveiling the latest version this spring, we may not see an official preview until summer, possibly alongside WWDC.

The current rumors have presented the following details:
-iOS 5 will launch in the fall and will be a major revamp of the OS.

-It could well be previewed at WWDC, but won’t be released then.

-The iOS 5 launch may coincide with the release of the oft talked about iPad 3.

-The new iOS would be built heavily around the cloud, and could see the launching of several new services by Apple that would take advantage of this.

-One of those said services would be a “music locker” service, which would see the aim for a fall launch, which is usually when Apple hosts their music-themed event.

-Much of the cloud information would first be covered at WWDC.

-The new cloud service element would include a location service for finding friends and family members.

-Some of the new cloud features could also make their way into OS X Lion as well.

Still, it could be interesting stuff, even if the usual timeline is thrown off a bit.

Stay tuned to PowerPage and we’ll bring you additional information as it becomes available.