Apple CEO Steve Jobs takes medical leave of absence, will remain involved in major decisions

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Date: Monday, January 17th, 2011, 06:30
Category: News

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For the second time in two years, Apple CEO Steve Jobs will take a medical leave of absence from his company. According to a press release distributed by Apple, the company co-founder will remain CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions.

Monday’s announcement included a note from Jobs that was sent to all of the company’s employees. In it, Jobs revealed that Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook will again take over the company’s day to day operations.

“At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health,” Jobs wrote. “I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company.”

The CEO said he believes that Cook will do a “terrific” job for Apple as he has done in the past. Cook’s job as interim CEO during Jobs’ previous medical leave of absence in 2009 recently earned him US$59 million.

“I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can,” Jobs wrote. “In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.”

Cook assumed the role of interim Apple CEO from January to June of 2009 so that Jobs could recover from liver transplant surgery. During that time, he oversaw the launch of several key products, most notably the iPhone 3GS.

Jobs returned to Apple in June 2009 after he received a liver transplant. In 2004, he also underwent surgery to address pancreatic cancer.

Jobs has long maintained that he believes his health is a private matter, a fact reiterated in Monday’s note to employees.

The announcement comes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S., a holiday on Wall Street where markets, including the NASDAQ, where AAPL trades, is closed. The news was also delivered a day before Apple is set to announce its quarterly earnings after the market closes on Tuesday.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iBooks app changes point towards quadrupled pixels for iPad 2 screen

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Date: Monday, January 17th, 2011, 06:17
Category: iPad, Rumor

Assorted rumors have suggested Apple will give the second generation iPad a much higher resolution screen, although short of the ppi density of the Retina Display of iPhone 4. New graphics discovered within Apple’s iBook app suggest this is true.

Per AppleInsider, last summer, iPhone 4 doubled its screen resolution in both directions (from 320×480 to 640×960), resulting in four times the pixels and an industry-leading pixel per inch density of 326. Apple called the new screen the “Retina Display,” because it exceeded the typical resolution of the human eye, making individual dots all but impossible to discern.

The original iPad offered a 1024×768 resolution (at 132 ppi), leading many to guess that the next version might also get a similar Retina Display. However, a 300+ ppi display covering a 9.7 inch screen would require a fantastically high resolution.

Instead of aiming for a specific pixel density, it appears Apple will instead simply quadruple the iPad’s native resolution as it did when it introduced iPhone 4, resulting in a very high resolution display with a pixel density of around 260 ppi, short of “Retina” status but still higher than most high end smartphones.

Evenly quadrupling the resolution makes it easy for developers to ship apps that take full advantage of both existing and new screen resolutions by simply including two versions of graphic assets, one labeled (by Apple convention) file.png and and a higher resolution version named file@2x.png.

Apple has reportedly slipped multiple examples of “@2″ graphics in versions of its iBooks app, one targeted at iPhone 4 and another at a high resolution future iPad, according to tweets and a separate developer report. This includes “bookmark-ribbon-iPad@2x.png” and a “Wood Tile@2x.png” background image that covers 1536×800, rather than the standard 768×400 image used on iPad.

Stay tuned for further details as they become available.

Apple’s CDMA iPhone en route to Asian markets

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Date: Friday, January 14th, 2011, 07:07
Category: iPhone, News

Apple’s new CDMA iPhone for the Verizon network in the U.S. will also become available with compatible carriers in China, Japan and South Korea, according to a new report from Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes. In the article, it was reported on Thursday that Foxconn will be the sole manufacturer of the Verizon CDMA iPhone, while another overseas supplier, Pegatron, will build the CDMA model of Apple’s smartphone for “China and other countries.” The report went on to note that Apple is “set to start supplying its CDMA iPhone to Japan and South Korea.”

The anticipated launch of the CDMA iPhone in at least four countries is expected to help Apple achieve a record year of handset sales. The report noted that the availability of the iPhone to 93 million Verizon customers on Feb. 10 is expected to double its sales in the U.S.

Sources indicated that Apple currently plans to have about 7 million CDMA iPhones built in the first quarter of 2011. The report also noted that the CDMA baseband module in the new iPhone 4 is slightly more expensive, which would make the handset’s bill of materials as high as US$200 — higher than the estimated US$188 cost of components in the GSM iPhone 4.

Earlier this week, one Wall Street analyst said that higher cost could result in the Verizon iPhone 4 carrying a subsidized price US$20 to US$30 higher than the standard. However, the CDMA iPhone 4 will have the same US$199 starting price as on AT&T for the 16GB model.

Carrier China Telecom has been viewed as a potential candidate for the new CDMA iPhone, and one analyst also believes India’s Reliance would be an ideal alignment. While Thursday’s report mentioned China, along with Japan and South Korea, it made no mention of a potential launch in India.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent application shows interest in developing solar as a power source for mobile devices

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Date: Friday, January 14th, 2011, 06:44
Category: News, Patents

A recently revealed patent application shows that Apple is continuing to research solar power as a potential secondary power source for its mobile devices.

Per freepatentsonline, the application, which describes an auxiliary solar cell that interfaces with a device’s battery, was published earlier this week.

The invention includes a “battery charging manager” that can handle power from a “plurality of power sources including a solar power source.”

According to the filing, the patent is for “a solar power package for use with an electronic device, the package comprising: at least one solar cell operable to derive solar power from solar energy; and a power charger operable to provide the derived solar power to the portable electronic device, wherein the derived solar power is provided in a plug-and-play fashion when the portable electronic device is coupled to the package, and wherein the power charge is operative to adjust the amount of power provided to the portable electronic device based on attributes of the portable electronic device.”

Alternate embodiments of the invention include charging the device’s battery or an accessory battery, simultaneously charging a battery and providing power to the device and removable solar cells. The described solar power charging accessory could be used to power “a media player, a notebook computer, a tablet computer, a cellular phone, an image processing device, and a handheld computing device.”

IPBiz has reported that Apple’s patent application hit several snags because of similarities to a patent for a solar charger case and a patent for solar power connector cables, but that Apple maker was able to distinguish its patent because the invention is “plug-and-play” and regulates power levels according to the attributes of the device it is powering.

Apple has been looking into solar power for its portable devices for several years now. Early last year, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published an application describing a portable device such as an iPod or iPhone with solar cells on the front and back that could power the device and recharge the battery.

The patent, which was filed in Feb. 2009, is titled “Portable devices having multiple power interfaces” and replaces a prior application from 2006 with the same title. Wendell B. Sander and Daniel A. Warren are listed as the inventors.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Daniel Warren is an iPod System Integrator for Apple and has previously worked on the iPod Nano, iPod Classic and iPod Shuffle.

Apple’s interest in solar power may be a result of environmentally conscious initiatives that the company has adopted in recent years.

Several years ago, Apple was openly criticized by Greenpeace for the use of toxic chemicals in its products. Last year, Greenpeace praised Apple for its turnaround, honoring the Mac maker with the environmental advocacy group’s top ranking as the greenest electronics marker.

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 remove “Home” button from future generations of iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, January 13th, 2011, 05:12
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, Rumor, Software

An unverified report claims that Apple is planning to remove the home button on the iPad and iPhone as early as later this year, the company opting towards multitouch gestures to return to the home screen.

According to Boy Genius Report, an anonymous source has claimed that Apple is already testing iPads and iPhones without home buttons on its Cupertino, Calif., campus. However, since the report itself admits the information is “pretty wild,” readers should take it with a grain of salt.

“We are told that Apple, at some point in time, will remove the home button from the iPad’s design. Instead of button taps, you will use new multitouch gestures to navigate to the home screen and also to launch the app switcher,” the report predicted.

“It’s possible we will see this new change materialize with the next-generation iPad and iPhone devices set to launch this year,” wrote author Jonathan S. Geller.

The report also cites new multitouch gestures from a beta version of iOS 4.3 released Wednesday that enable a 5-finger pinch gesture for accessing the home screen. Other gestures new to the beta include a swipe up to reveal the multitasking tray and a swipe left or right to switch between open applications.

Apple’s iLife and photo-taking application Photo Booth could also make their way onto the next iPad, the report speculated.

Right now it’s just a rumor, though anything’s possible.

Stay tuned for more information as we get it.

Apple releases iOS 4.3 beta to developer community

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Date: Thursday, January 13th, 2011, 05:20
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Apple on Wednesday released the first beta of iOS 4.3 for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV to the developer community. Per Macstories.net, the update will bring support for Personal Hotspot, new multi-touch gestures, the ability for third-party applications to use AirPlay, and a software option for changing the functionality of the iPad hardware switch.

The initial beta is available to developers in the iOS Dev Center. iOS 4.3 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch is dubbed build 8F5148b.

According to the article, iOS 4.3 brings new multi-touch gestures built specifically for the iPad, including 4- and 5-finger gestures. The new beta reportedly allows users to pinch to access the home screen, to swipe up to reveal the multitasking tray, and swipe left and right to switch between open applications.

In addition, another iOS 4.3 beta for the Apple TV was also released. It allows developers to test AirPlay functionality with iOS applications on the new Apple TV.

Update: In addition, the new update also reportedly adds the ability to change the functionality of the iPad hardware switch. When the iPad launched, the switch originally acted as an orientation lock, but with the release of iOS 4.2, the button changed to mute the device.

The download page makes no mention of the iPhone 3G or second-generation iPod touch. Supported devices currently include the iPad, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, third-generation iPod touch, and fourth-generation iPod touch.

The new beta confirms rumors that Apple would add its new Personal Hotspot feature to existing GSM iPhones with iOS 4.3. The functionality allows users to share their 3G data connection with up to five devices over Wi-Fi. Those reports claimed that Apple plans to publicly release iOS 4.3 in March.

The new Wi-Fi tethering ability was first revealed on the new CDMA iPhone for Verizon when the product was announced on Tuesday. That forthcoming phone was demonstrated running a different version of iOS, 4.2.5. The latest public version of iOS for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch is 4.2.1.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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.

Verizon deal could open doors for other carriers to carry iPhone

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Date: Tuesday, January 11th, 2011, 12:07
Category: iPhone, News

If there’s a domino effect with the iPhone coming to Verizon, this could get interesting.

Per AppleInsider, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook revealed on Tuesday that his company’s agreement with Verizon for the CDMA iPhone is non-exclusive, meaning the new handset could also appear on Sprint’s CDMA network.

When asked if the new CDMA iPhone is exclusive to Verizon, Cook called the deal “multi-year” and “non-exclusive.” That means the other major CDMA carrier in the U.S., Sprint, could also offer Apple’s smartphone, if it were to reach a deal with Apple.

Of course, the non-exclusive deal also leaves open the possibility of a future GSM iPhone offering compatibility with the fourth-largest carrier in the U.S., T-Mobile.

T-Mobile’s U.S. network relies on different frequencies in the AWS 3G spectrum, supporting the 1700MHz and 2100MHz bands, while AT&T supports 850MHz and 1900MHz. The current iPhone hardware does not support the 1700MHz frequency, meaning a modification of the hardware would be necessary.

Another possibility could be regional wireless provider MetroPCS, the fifth-largest carrier in the U.S. Like Verizon and Sprint, it too operates a CDMA network.

Prior to Tuesday’s news, some had speculated that Verizon could pay Apple extra in their deal to keep the iPhone away from other carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint, leaving Apple’s smartphone only available from AT&T and Verizon.

Outside of the U.S., the new CDMA iPhone will likely also allow Apple to make the iPhone available on other carriers like China Telecom. Last October, it was rumored that Apple and China Telecom were already in talks to offer a CDMA variant of the iPhone.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Verizon announces iPhone, will begin selling units on February 10th

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Date: Tuesday, January 11th, 2011, 12:45
Category: iPhone, News

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You’ve been hankering for it for over a year.

And now it’s less than a month away.

Per Reuters, wireless carrier Verizon will begin selling a version of the phone on February 10 at the same prices as AT&T Inc.

“I’m going to switch right away. I’m going to go back to Verizon,” said Raheem Noble, 24, a New York City rapper, who was on his way to buy the device before being told that pre-orders would not begin until February 3.

The new phone puts an end to AT&T’s three-year-old status as the exclusive U.S. provider for the iPhone — but leaves questions over how much Verizon Wireless would be able to capitalize on the deal with Apple.

For one, Verizon did not say on Tuesday what it would charge for its iPhone data and service plans when the phone goes on sale. There were expectations that it would trump AT&T by offering the device with unlimited data service plans.

Verizon likely will announce those prices before pre-orders begin on February 3, said Verizon Wireless Chief Executive Daniel Mead. He said he was prepared for “unprecedented” demand.

The phone will not work all around the world because it runs on the CDMA network, which is not supported in many big markets such as the United Kingdom and France.

In addition, Verizon’s first iPhone customers may buy a phone that is outdated only months later if Apple upgrades the iPhone on its typical early summer launch schedule.

“Some buyers may want to wait for a new iPhone that is likely coming in June. I already had people coming to me asking, ‘should I wait?’” said BGC partners analyst Colin Gillis. “On the other hand, a surprising number of people just don’t want to wait.”

Some analysts, pointing to years of pent-up demand among Verizon Wireless customers, expect it to sell 9 million to 13 million iPhone 4 units this year.

Verizon, a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc, said the phone would be available at 2,000 of its stores. Prices with a two-year agreement for US$199.99 for the 16-gigabyte model or US$299.99 for the 32-gigabyte model — comparable to what AT&T charges.

Still, there are some provisos to consider: A CDMA iPhone will not allow users to simultaneously support voice and data connections, the same limitation that faced users of the original iPhone connecting to AT&T’s EDGE network.

Kim Caughey Forrest, senior analyst with Fort Pitt Capital Group, which holds shares in Verizon, said she believes there are many people who have been reluctant to buy an iPhone because of worries about the quality of AT&T’s network.

As an example she cited her home town of Pittsburgh: “A lot of people in Pittsburgh are really excited about the prospect of having a Verizon iPhone. I don’t believe they are alone. I don’t think we are a unique market,” she said.

On the other hand, AT&T is expected to face its toughest year since 2004 as a result of the Verizon deal with Apple.

AT&T, which has come under fire for patchy wireless service in some cities, nonetheless added an estimated 15 million new iPhone customers in 2010. It has tried to reduce its dependence on the iPhone by adding other devices to its service.

“For iPhone users who want the fastest speeds, the ability to talk and use apps at the same time, and unsurpassed global coverage, the only choice is AT&T,” an AT&T spokesman said following the Verizon announcement.

One problem for Verizon Wireless may be the high cost of selling Apple products, which come at a premium to other smartphones, analysts said.

Like AT&T, Verizon Wireless will have to shoulder part of the cost of the devices to convince people to sign long-term contracts.

Verizon Wireless will have to pay a US$400 subsidy for each iPhone it sells if it keeps the price in line with AT&T’s, UBS analyst John Hodulik estimated.