Rumor: Apple purchasing 55 and 65-inch 4K display panels from LG for Apple TV project

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Date: Thursday, July 18th, 2013, 07:36
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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When Apple goes buying components, it at least drops a hint as to what’s coming up in the product line.

Per 9to5Mac and DigiTimes, Apple has apparently been purchasing 55 and 65-inch Ultra HD TV panels from LG.

Apple has been rumored several times to be building a full fledged HDTV to go along with the much expected revamped AppleTV service coming in the the near future. The latest from the usual lineup of analysts points to a launch as early as the end of this year or early 2014. LG and Sharp – two of Apple’s regular display suppliers – would be obvious choices to source panels, but there’s no proof at this point that Apple is beyond the experimenting stage and we’ve heard rumors from more reliable sources ranging from 40-inch to 60-inch in the past.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Verizon follows trend, announces Edge smartphone upgrade program

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Date: Thursday, July 18th, 2013, 07:46
Category: iPhone, News, retail

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If you’re a Verizon aficionado, this isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Per AppleInsider, in response to similar offerings from rivals AT&T and T-Mobile, Verizon on Thursday unveiled its new Edge smartphone upgrade program, offering subscribers the ability to upgrade to a new handset after six months.

Verizon Edge is pitched as a “flexible equipment payment plan,” allowing customers to spread the retail price of a new phone over a 24-month period. If users pay 50 percent of the retail cost of their smartphone, they can upgrade to a new phone in as soon as six months.

The new program is available for any smartphone that Verizon offers, including Apple’s iPhone lineup. Customers choose the phone they want along with a month-to-month service plan.

The full retail price of the handset is then divided over two years. Customers pay the first month of that plan at the time of purchase.

When a customer upgrades to a new phone after six months, the 24-month payment period starts over again. Verizon Edge, which launches for Share Everything customers on August 25, does not include any service contracts, finance charges or upgrade fees.

The announcement comes only a few days after Verizon’s main rival, AT&T, announced its own similar plan, dubbed Next. With AT&T Next, customers can upgrade their smartphone or tablet every 12 months with no down payment and no activation or upgrade fees.

Starting July 26, AT&T will allow customers to spread the cost of a new smartphone or tablet over a 20-month period as part of their monthly wireless bill. Subscribers will have the option to trade in their device and upgrade to a new model after one year.

Both AT&T and Verizon followed in the steps of T-Mobile, which unveiled its own program called Jump last week. That service allows customers to upgrade their smartphone as often as two times per year at an added cost of US$10 per month.

T-Mobile Jump allows customers to pay the same subsidized price for a new smartphone as a new customer. Subscribers are required to wait at least six months after enrollment, after which they will be able to trade in their phone and upgrade to a new model twice a year.

Verizon’s announcement on Thursday leaves out only Sprint as the only carrier among the “big four” wireless providers in the U.S. that does not offer an early upgrade subscription program.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Top three Russian wireless providers drop iPhone over subsidies, other costs

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Date: Wednesday, July 17th, 2013, 07:29
Category: iPhone, News, retail

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If you’re headed to Russia and need to pick up an iPhone, your options may have become a bit more limited, comrade.

According to Fortune, three major Russian wireless providers have stopped carrying Apple’s iPhone, with the largest telecom, MTS, dropping the handset due to the high subsidy costs associated with being an Apple partner carrier.

As reported last week, Russia’s largest provider by subscribership, MTS, announced that it would be dropping the iPhone from its lineup, saying subsidies and marketing costs were to blame.

“Apple wants operators to pay them huge money, subsidizing iPhones and their promotion in Russia,” said MTS CEO Andrei Dubovskov. “Now it’s not beneficial for us. It’s good we stopped selling the iPhone as these sales would’ve brought us a negative margin.”

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt speculates three factors played a part in the “big three’s” decision to ditch Apple’s handset. First, Russian carriers are limited by the federal agency Rospechat, which does not allow subsidies on the same level as seen in the U.S. For example, MTS is not able to offer an iPhone 5 for US$199.

Duties and taxes are also higher than normal for Europe, with an unlocked 16GB iPhone 5 selling for roughly US$925 on on the just-opened Russian Online Apple Store, or US$276 more than an identical U.S. variant. Apple says US$140 goes to Russian VAT, while the remaining US$129 is for foreign exchange rates, import duties, and channel mark-up.

Finally, Apple’s contract requirements, specifically those pertaining to marketing, are said to be extremely stringent. Because the contract terms are unknown, it is impossible to tell whether Russian carriers are subject to any special clauses.

The future of the iPhone in Russia is unclear, though estimates from IDC suggest that demand for the handset was already on the decline, dropping to 8.3 percent in the second quarter of 2013, down from 9 percent in 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple considering purchase of Israeli-based PrimeSense, creators of the Xbox Kinect

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Date: Tuesday, July 16th, 2013, 07:19
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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It’s speculation, but it could lead to something interesting.

A series of reports from Israeli publication Calcalist.co.il and 9to5Mac claims PrimeSense, the company behind the original Microsoft Kinect’s technology, is in acquisition talks with Apple, somewhere near a valuation in the US$280-US$300M range. According to the report, a delegation of PrimeSense senior executives visited Apple’s engineering offices in recent days. The purchase would bolster Apple’s living room TV interface offerings and allow Apple to add controls with body movements and hand gestures to its products.

Apple purchased Israeli Flash chip optimization company Anobit in late 2011 for US$400M+, also originally reported by Calcalist. The company now functions as one of Apple’s R&D centers in that country.

It’s been rumored that Apple is working on such 3D gesture interface and may have already been licensing IP from the Israeli firm and/or its competitors. At US$280M, Apple may believe it’s better to own this IP and technology rather than let others have access to it in the future.

Microsoft used the sensor technology that PrimeSense developed for its original Kinect, previously known as Project Natal, but has since replaced the technology with its own in-house technology for 3D body mapping and movement.

PrimeSense was founded in 2005 and is a founding member of OpenNI, an industry-led non-profit organization formed to certify and promote the compatibility and interoperability of Natural Interaction (NI) devices, applications and middleware.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple vows to aid investigation surrounding electrocution of 23-year-old woman using charging iPhone 5

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Date: Tuesday, July 16th, 2013, 07:55
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Legal, News

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It’s hard to say where this will go.

Per Reuters, Apple has said it will aid in the investigation of the death of a Chinese woman who was allegedly electrocuted when she answered a charging iPhone 5.

Apple announced the company is “deeply saddened” by the “tragic incident” that killed 23-year-old Xinjiang woman Ma Ailun. Apple vowed to “fully investigate and cooperate with authorities in this matter.”

Police say Ma was killed when she answered a call on her charging iPhone 5. The story gained traction when her sister wrote on the microblog Sina Weibo to warn other users to be careful.

Prior to the incident in China, there have been no widespread claims about faulty charging with the iPhone 5. Apple did recall iPhone 3G power adapters back in 2008 over a shocking risk that affected just a “very small” number of adapters.

Negative publicity in China regarding warranty policies prompted Apple to issue a formal apology in April. Since then, the company has been more aggressive in publicly responding to negative reports from the Chinese media.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Mid-2013 Haswell-based MacBook Air owners cite volume fluctuation issue

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Date: Monday, July 15th, 2013, 08:51
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News, Software

This is why they invented firmware updates…

Per Macworld UK, a number of MacBook Air owners have taken to Apple’s Support Community forums to express concern over unexpected, and unwanted, changes in volume when viewing video content.

According to numerous posts, the issue presents itself in both first-party and third-party applications, such as QuickTime and Google’s Chrome. It is unclear whether the issue extends into other areas of OS X, though many of the replies to the thread started on June 21 pertain to watching videos.

A trigger or cause has yet to be discovered, though some users have found third-party volume control and enhancement apps like Boom can serve as a temporary fix while Apple works to resolve the problem.

Apple recently refreshed its MacBook Air lineup in June, concentrating on a significant boost to battery life instead of focusing on performance. With the new Airs, Apple also introduced the first Macs to boast 802.11ac “Gigabit Wi-Fi,” a next-generation wireless protocol that promises speeds up to 1300Mbps with the also new AirPort Express.

Previous to Friday’s news, both MacBook Air models were found to be running 802.11ac at speeds far less than advertised. It is thought that OS X is to blame for the artificial speed cap, but Apple has yet to acknowledge the issue and it remains unresolved.

If you’ve seen this issue with your own mid-2013 MacBook Air, please let us know in the comments.

Apple apparently ramping up hiring for iWatch design, device could see late 2014 launch

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Date: Monday, July 15th, 2013, 07:03
Category: Hardware, News

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Apple looks to be staffing up to build the iWatch.

Per The Mac Observer and the Financial Times, Apple is apparently hiring more employees for its wearable technology efforts to address issues that will likely push the rumored iWatch launch out to the end of 2014. Sources said Apple has been aggressively hiring new employees for its smartwatch project over the past few weeks, adding to its already growing pool of wearable tech engineers.

Sources close to the story said Apple went on the hunt for new talent to help overcome “hard engineering problems that they’ve not been able to solve.”

The idea that the iWatch won’t ship until later in 2014 has already cropped up thanks to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. He noted in May that the company needed to update iOS as well as the iPhone and iPad to take advantage of the iWatch’s features, and that required more people.

Kuo recently offered the following comment:

“Apple may not have adequate resources to develop an iWatch version of iOS because it may require big changes to iPhone and iPad iOS this year. For these reasons, we think mass production of the iWatch is more likely to begin in 2014, not 2013 as the market speculates.”

Adding to the notion that a smartwatch is coming, Apple recently filed for a trademark on the iWatch name in Japan and other countries. Company CEO Tim Cook has also said that Apple has some “amazing new hardware” to introduce throughout the rest of 2013 and 2014, leading to further speculation that the iWatch is on the way.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple, Samsung sign deal for Samsung to build A9 chips for 2015 iOS devices

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Date: Monday, July 15th, 2013, 07:21
Category: Hardware, iOS, Processors, Rumor

From friends to litigants to partners again…

Per MacRumors and the Korea Economic Daily, Apple and Samsung on Sunday officially signed an agreement that will see the two companies working together on future A-series chips for Apple’s iOS devices, with the deal specifically covering A9 chips based on a 14-nanometer process node starting in 2015. The claim comes just weeks after Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) confirmed a deal with Apple to begin producing A-series chips in 2014.

Samsung Electronics had supplied the AP [application processor] to Apple since 2007 but lost the contract to supply 20 nano AP A8 chips to Apple to Taiwan’s TSMC last year when it was engaged in patent disputes with Apple. Samsung Electronics developed state-of-the-art nanometer models ahead of its rival TSMC, regaining the order from Apple.

A previous report about Apple’s agreement with TSMC had indicated that it was a three-year deal covering not only Apple’s future A8 chip but also A9/A9X chips. Reports had indicated that Samsung would remain Apple’s primary supplier through next year as TSMC began ramping up its production.

As a result, it is unclear whether today’s deal will see both TSMC and Samsung producing A9 chips for Apple or if Apple has already shifted gears to return to Samsung as its primary supplier as part of its long-term roadmap.

Apple has reportedly been seeking to reduce its reliance on Samsung as a component supplier as the two companies have become fierce rivals in both the mobile marketplace and in the courtroom. The two companies have, however, continued working together in several areas, particularly where Samsung’s competitors in the component market are unable to match its technology, production capacity, or pricing.

The shift to TSMC for production of the high-profile main chips for Apple’s iOS devices had been viewed as breaking one of the most significant remaining ties between Apple and Samsung, but it appears that Samsung has been able to bring Apple back into the fold by leading the charge to 14-nm chips. With partnerships with both Samsung and TSMC, it appears that Apple should be well-positioned to take advantage of whichever company takes the lead in developing the latest technologies.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to ship Retina display-equipped iPad mini in early 2014

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Date: Friday, July 12th, 2013, 14:05
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, Rumor

There’s gotta be a nugget of truth in here somewhere.

Per the Economic Daily News and AppleInsider, Apple’s iPad mini may not gain a high-resolution Retina display until early next year, if the latest rumor about the second-generation 7.9-inch tablet proves accurate.

The claim was published on Friday which said that though Apple originally planned to launch a Retina iPad mini this fall, it may be delayed until the first quarter of 2014. As such, the rumor suggests that a second-generation iPad mini will not launch this year.

It’s expected that a Retina display on the iPad mini would follow the same double-resolution approach used by Apple in existing devices like the iPhone and full-size iPad. That would mean the iPad mini’s 7.9-inch display would need to pack in the same 3.1 million pixels into a panel nearly two inches smaller in diameter.

The latest report comes on the heels of a separate rumor out of the Far East from earlier this week which claimed Apple plans to launch a new fifth-generation, full-size iPad in September. That report claimed that the features of a second-generation iPad mini, such as a Retina display, remain in flux at Apple.

Reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities said in April that Apple was experiencing yield issues in manufacturing high-resolution screens for its next iPad mini. He suggested that production issues would push back the launch of the second-generation tablet, but at the time he believed it would still launch this October.

The first-generation iPad mini debuted last October with a screen resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels. That matches the resolution of the first-generation iPad and iPad 2, but packs the pixels into a smaller space, giving the display a higher pixel density.

Still, the iPad mini display squeezes in only 163 pixels per inch — an improvement on the 132 pixels per inch found on the first two iPad releases, but still well below the 264-pixel-per-inch density of the third- and fourth-generation iPads.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple, Google may be improving relations following Jobs’ passing

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Date: Friday, July 12th, 2013, 07:13
Category: News

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It’s funny how quickly things can change in the world of tech. One second, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is on stage with Steve Jobs during the iPhone introduction, and the next, Jobs is threatening to destroy Android and go “thermonuclear” against Google for “slavishly copying” the look and feel of Apple’s crown jewel — iOS.

You might also recall that Jobs, during an Apple town hall meeting in 2010, didn’t mince words when asked a question about Google and, in return, replied with the following comment:

“We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake: they want to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them […] This don’t be evil mantra? It’s bullshit.”

All that said, it hardly comes as a surprise that Apple over the past few years has removed every Google property from the iOS home screen. You may have also noticed that Bing is now the search engine that powers Siri’s web search results in iOS 7.

Suffice it to say, Google and Apple are full-on competitors and have been for quite some time. Indeed, it almost seems like eons ago when Schmidt actually held a seat on Apple’s board of directors.

But the vitriol between the two companies, as evidenced by Jobs’ statements above, appears to have died down a bit — at least if you’re inclined to believe Schmidt.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday at the Allen and Co media conference, Schmidt said that relations between Apple and Google have improved and that the two companies are having “lots and lots of meetings.”

Reuters reports:

He noted that Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora, who joined him at the press briefing, was leading many of the discussions. The two companies are in “constant business discussions on a long list of issues,” Schmidt said.

That’s all well and good if it’s in fact true, but it’s easy to be skeptical when Google and Schmidt have always played it coy when it comes to publicly characterizing their relationship with Apple.