British Airways confirms support for iOS Passbook feature

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Date: Friday, November 9th, 2012, 11:44
Category: iOS, News, Software

If you can get the major partners, then a new technology comes closer to being a de-facto standard.

Per AppleInsider, British Airways has confirmed that it will be supporting Apple’s Passbook payment system.

“I’m pleased to confirm that the ba.com team are already looking into our website being able to work with the new Apple app, available with the iOS6 upgrade,” a company representative wrote in an e-mail. “Please be assured that we will get our Passbook-compatible functionality live on ba.com as soon as we can.”

British Airways already offers digital boarding passes through its official iOS application. But the carrier does not yet offer integration with Apple’s Passbook.

Passbook launched with iOS 6 in September featuring support from Delta Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Australia.

The addition of British Airways would be a major catch for Apple. The U.K.-based carrier has a fleet of 249 aircraft and serves 169 total destinations.

Just this week, Apple updated its own Apple Store application for iOS to add support for Passbook. With the new software, users can purchase gift cards and e-mail them to friends, and those cards can be stored as passes in the Passbook application in iOS 6.

Passbook is Apple’s first stab at offering digital e-wallet type services on the iPhone. Rather than relying on near-field communication technology for wireless transactions, Apple has instead focused on replacing items such as store cards, boarding passes, movie tickets and retail coupons.

One of the first adopters of Passbook was Major League Baseball, which offered digital tickets for four teams at the end of the 2012 season. The league’s digital ticketing operation was “floored” by the initial adoption rate for Passbook, as they found Apple’s service accounted for 12 percent of MLB e-tickets.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Initial tests show faster boot, read and write times under Apple’s Fusion Drive

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Date: Friday, November 9th, 2012, 08:59
Category: hard drive, Hardware, iMac, Mac mini, News

There may be ample reason to go with a Fusion Drive inside your Mac.

Per Techfast Lunch&Dinner, a series of tests run by the site found the Fusion Drive Mac mini started in just 15.7 seconds, while the 2012 Mac mini with a traditional hard drive took 34.1 seconds to start.

Major improvements were also found in a disk speed test, which revealed the Fusion Drive can achieve read speeds of more than 300 megabytes per second, and write speeds exceeding 400 megabytes per second. In comparison, the Mac mini with 5400-rpm drive couldn’t exceed 100 megabytes per second on either the read or write test.

Fusion Drive was unveiled by Apple last month and is an upgrade option in the company’s latest Mac minis and iMacs. Apple has said the feature offers nearly the same performance as a solid-state drive, but also allows considerably more storage at a lower price point.

Apple’s Fusion Drives feature 128 gigabytes of flash storage paired with either a 1-terabyte or 3-terabyte 5400-rpm hard drive. Apple’s OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion operating system calculates which files and applications are used the most and automatically places them on the faster solid-state drive, while less frequently accessed software remains stored on the spinning drive.

Core applications and the operating system are permanently stored and accessed from the flash memory, while the leftover space is used for those frequently accessed files, folders or programs. File transfers between the drives take place in the background dynamically, so the system is seamless and unobtrusive to the user.

Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller last month compared the Fusion Drive to a baseline 1TB 7200 RPM HDD. He said the Fusion drive performs an Aperture photo import 3.5 times faster, a file copy of a 4GB folder 3.5 times faster, and system boot 1.7 times faster.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on a new Mac with a Fusion Drive and have any feedback to offer about it, please let us know in the comments.

Apple notifies customers, announces that iPad mini with Wi-Fi + cellular support to ship on November 13th

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Date: Friday, November 9th, 2012, 07:45
Category: iPad mini, News

You know that nifty iPad mini with support for 3G and 4G LTE networks?

It ships in four days.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is notifying users that the new iPad mini with support for 3G/4G LTE networks will begin shipping on November 13th, and has posted new iOS 6.0.1 builds for the iPad mini and iPad 4.

Apple began delivering WiFi only iPad mini models around the first of November, after immediately selling out its initial inventory.

Three days ago, the company reported sales of three million new iPad mini and iPad 4 units over the first three day weekend of sales, but that only included WiFi models.

Mobile data versions of the two new iPads were expected to begin shipping in “a few weeks,” but Apple’s recent email updates forwarded by multiple users stating that initial shipments will begin in five business days, or late next week.

Apple has also make available four new iOS 6.0.1 firmware downloads available to support the new models today, which include two versions (GSM and CDMA) of both the LTE iPad mini and iPad 4.

If you’ve received word as to your iPad mini with Wi-Fi and cellular support being en route, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Update 2.0 for mid-2012 notebooks

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Date: Friday, November 9th, 2012, 07:27
Category: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

It’s the firmware updates that really make a difference.

Late Friday, Apple released its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Update 2.0, a firmware update for its June 2012 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro notebooks. The update, a 76.6 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

– This MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Update includes graphics performance and reliability enhancements and improves compatibility with some USB devices.

The update requires a Mac notebook introduced in June of 2012, Mac OS X 10.7.4 or higher and can be downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the firmware update and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple patent shows interest in developing dual-function headphones

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Date: Thursday, November 8th, 2012, 08:28
Category: News, Patents

applelogo_silver

This could get really interesting.

Per AppleInsider, a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday shows that Apple presented an invention for a “dual-mode headphone” which can transform from a normal set of earbuds to a more robust speaker system.

First filed for in 2011, the proposed system incorporates the usual in-ear headphone arrangement with specialized position-sensing circuitry and a power amplifier, allowing a user to dynamically switch from personal listening mode to speaker mode.

From the application’s background:
“Users typically listen to content on their portable devices using headphones, although there are speakers available that can be connected to the portable devices to enable multiple users to listen in at the same time. This approach, however, may require a user to carry both a headphone and speakers, or may require the user to rely on speakers built into the device, which may not be as powerful or have as high a sound quality as external speakers.

In operation, the headphones can detect its position and output sound in “headphone mode,” where the amplifier is bypassed, or “speaker mode,” which passes the audio signal through said amplifier. To prevent a user from being harmed by inadvertently activating the speaker mode while wearing the headphones, a separate sensor can be employed to detect when the unit is near a user’s ears.

Any number of sensors can be implemented in the invention, including IR sensors, ambient light sensors, Hall effect sensors, and others. In one embodiment, a sensor that can detect contact with a user’s ears is integrated into the headphone to prevent hearing damage.

In addition to automatically detecting positioning, users can manually activate speaker mode with physical buttons. An articulating arm or other design component can also be used to prop the headphones up when in speaker mode. ”

Finally, one embodiment describes an implementation that allows the headphone to be used as an in-ear set as well as a speaker by positioning extra ports directed away from the user’s ears.

As with many patent applications, the fate of the dual-mode headphone remains uncertain, though Apple’s new EarPods illustrated the company is still researching new design techniques for its audio products.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Foxconn chair cites crushing demand, possible delays for iPhone 5 units

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Date: Wednesday, November 7th, 2012, 08:49
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

You know that iPhone 5 you ordered?

You may have to wait a little longer for it to be manufactured and ship.

Per Reuters, Crushing demand for the iPhone 5 has proven to be too much for Apple’s manufacturing partner, Foxconn, to handle, as it continues to struggle to produce the device.

Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou admitted on Wednesday that his company is finding it difficult to meet the significant demand for Apple’s iPhone 5. Foxconn is Apple’s primary partner for assembly of a number of its devices, including the iPhone.

“It’s not easy to make the iPhones,” Gou reportedly said. “We are falling short of meeting the huge demand.”

Sales of the iPhone 5 have been held back by limited supply since the device launched in September. Apple itself said the company has been “completely blown away” by consumer demand for the device.

In particular, the in-cell touch panel and aluminum chassis featured in the new design of the iPhone 5 are said to have posed quality control issues for both Apple and Foxconn. One unnamed source from Foxconn revealed in October that the iPhone 5 is “the most difficult device” the company has ever been tasked with assembling.

Rumors first surfaced a month ago that Foxconn had expanded production to a subsidiary known as Foxconn International Holdings in an effort to boost production. When asked about that rumor on Wednesday, Gou declined to comment.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Analyst: ARM-based Macs “inevitable”, though still a ways off

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Date: Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, 09:24
Category: News, Processors

Apple’s future may be in the hands of ARM some day.

Per AppleInsider, Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu has gone on record as saying it’s “inevitable” that Apple will merge its Mac and iOS devices at some point, but such a change is not expected to happen for years.

Wu said in a note to investors on Tuesday that he believes it will take Apple some time to optimize its Mac OS X operating system for the ARM processors currently found in the iPad and iPhone.

Intel processors are currently much more powerful for running intensive Mac applications, as well as for development. But he believes that ARM processors will eventually become powerful enough to replace Intel chips.

In his view, making Apple’s entire product line based on custom-built ARM-based processors would simplify the architecture of its devices, and also help to create a more seamless experience for users.

Wu also noted that the Mac represents just 14 percent to 18 percent of Apple’s total revenue. In comparison, the iPhone accounts for between 45 and 50 percent of the company’s revenue, and the iPad is 20 to 25 percent.

Wu’s take was issued in response to a report that surfaced on Monday from Bloomberg, which indicated that Apple’s engineers are confident that the company’s A-series custom chip designs will one day be powerful enough to run the company’s desktop and laptop machines. ARM-based silicon in Apple devices is currently limited to iOS devices.

Monday’s report also suggested a change to ARM processors is not likely to take place “in the next few years.” But it also portrayed a shift to proprietary chip designs as an “inevitable” transition for the company in the future.

Apple is said to have a team dedicated to the project, with engineers working to design a lineup of machines that rely on a common chip design. Apple already employs this approach with its current lineup of iPhones, iPads and iPods.

A potential switch to ARM chips would pose a challenge to Intel, Wu said. He noted that Apples’ 11-inch MacBook Air gets four to five hours of battery life under heavy use, compared to 10 hours of battery life with an ARM-based iPad.

Reports suggesting Apple could power future Macs with ARM processors are not new. One recent story issued in October also said Apple has “deliberated” moving its lineup of Mac computers away from Intel processors, though such a change was said to not be “imminent.”

Apple has made headway in designing its own custom silicon for the iPhone and iPad. Earlier this year, rumors suggested Apple was looking to use its own ARM processors in upcoming iterations of the MacBook, especially in power-critical applications like the thin-and-light MacBook Air.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple receives patent for “ionic wind generator”, may look to replace conventional fans in upcoming devices

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Date: Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, 08:10
Category: Hardware, News, Patents

applelogo_silver

This could turn into something interesting.

And, hey, if it works…there might be fewer dust bunnies in your computing devices.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday a patent for a cooling system that blows ionized air through an electronic device, controlling its path by creating electromagnetic fields that can be dynamically adjusted to direct cooling where it’s needed most.

Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,305,728 for “Methods and apparatus for cooling electronic devices,” describes a system in which the direction of ionized air moving through a computing device is deflected by either an electric or magnetic field. Currently, mechanical fans pull in air and push it through predetermined physical paths within a computer, usually over passive heat exchangers, and out through an exhaust port.

Driving the air in Apple’s system is the ionic wind generator, basically a solid-state air mover based on “corona discharge–an electrical discharge near a charged conductor caused by the ionization of the surrounding air.” The system is comprised of a corona electrode, a collector electrode and a high voltage power supply. When voltage is applied to electrodes, an electric field is created and causes particles in the surrounding air to take on a charge, or become ionized. An electric field propels the charged particles toward the collector electrode, which collide with other neutral particles as they move to create to generate “bulk air movement.”

As the ionized air moves through the device, it can be deflected or redirected by a “deflection field generator,” which can be a magnet or electromagnet. The magnitude of deflection is governed by the Lorentz force, or force on a charged particle from an electromagnetic field, which can be varied by the deflection field generator.

By employing standard issue heat sensors, the ion wind pump and deflection field generator system can direct cooling air to high temperature areas like the CPU or GPU.

The system also solves another problem associated with always-on mechanical fans, the so-called “no slip” condition at the “surface and the mean free stream velocity at the outer reaches from the surface” of a component. When such a condition arises, it creates a boundary layer of air over a component, making heat transfer more difficult. By modulating the rate of deflection, or time in which air flow passes over a component, the system creates eddy currents and turbulent flows to disturb the boundary layer.

Finally, the ionized air exits the device through a vent that is in the path of the ionic pump’s normal air flow.

Interestingly, the invention notes that the system is not limited to large desktops and laptops, but in mobile devices such as cell phones and media players as well.

Although such ion wind pump technologies are used in specialized industrial and laboratory settings, a solution has not yet been presented in a consumer device. Apple has shown that it is actively looking to solve issues related to cooling internal components, including noise reduction as seen with the asymmetrical fans in both MacBook Pro with Retina display models, however it is unknown if the company will implement the solid state generator any time soon.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple web site search reveals possible unlocked iPhone 5 units en route

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Date: Monday, November 5th, 2012, 10:17
Category: iPhone, News, Rumor

This is kind of interesting.

With the U.S. Online Apple Store still showing carrier-specific iPhone 5 delivery dates of three to four weeks, a quick search on Apple’s website may have revealed the pricing of factory unlocked units expected to hit stores later this year.

Per AppleInsider, the alleged unlocked units are anything but official and could merely be placeholders in Apple’s database, however the prices are consistent with identical models being sold in Canada where all iPhones are unlocked.

While not listed anywhere else on the site, a query for “iPhone 5 factory unlocked” in the Apple.com search bar reveals “Apple Store Results” as seen above. The units are priced at US$649 for the 16GB version, US$749 for the 32GB model, and US$849 for the 64GB iteration. While not present in the screenshot, all prices for both GSM and CDMA models can be found by adding the storage size to the search. For example, the price of unlocked 32GB GSM and CDMA iPhone 5s are found by searching for “iPhone 5 factory unlocked 32GB.”

It is unclear how long the purported iPhone 5 search results have been on Apple’s website, but a report in September showed an Online Apple Store iPhone comparison page that revealed the prices of unlocked versions bound for the U.S. and Canada. The prices quoted in that report are in line with the search results found on Apple’s U.S. website.

Currently, Apple does not offer factory unlocked versions of its latest handset in the U.S., however the CDMA version sold by Verizon was found to be compatible with the GSM networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. A subsequent report noted that the AT&T version can be unlocked to operate on T-Mobile’s network via an iTunes reset and nano-SIM card replacement.

Apple is expected to introduce unlocked versions of the iPhone 5 when its worldwide rollout is completed and supply of the handset normalizes.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple introduces Lightning to Micro USB adapter to North American customers

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Date: Monday, November 5th, 2012, 07:02
Category: Hardware, News

You can’t knock a useful adapter.

Per AppleInsider, alongside the iPad mini, Apple on Friday introduced the Lightning to micro USB adapter, a tiny dongle first available in Europe, to the U.S. market.

Initially built and released in tandem with the iPhone 5 in Europe to fulfill the European Commission’s regulation that all smartphones sold in the region be micro USB compatible, the US$19 adapter has now become available in North America.

Previously, those iPhone, iPod and now iPad users needed to buy the component through third-party resellers or directly from an Apple Store in Europe if they wanted to charge and sync their devices via micro USB. As there is no official standard in the U.S., manufacturers offer their products in a variety of charging methods, causing many consumers to build up a stockpile of various cables and chargers. The Lightning to micro USB adapter looks to do away with at least one of those cables.

Apple’s adapter is compatible with the iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod touch, seventh-generation iPod nano, fourth-generation iPad, and iPad mini. According to the company’s website, the dongle is able to both charge and sync devices, though it is unlikely that audio line out is supported as the Lightning protocol is completely digital and would require an embedded digital-to-analog converter to function.

The US$19 adapter can be purchased directly from store.apple.com, with shipments available to ship in one to three days.

If you’ve tried the adapter and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.