Apple exploring wireless charging, over-the-air electricity technology

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Date: Thursday, November 29th, 2012, 08:01
Category: News, Patents

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This could lead to something interesting.

Per FreePatentsOnline, a new patent application reveals Apple’s interest in a “realistic and practical approach” to wireless power, providing over-the-air electricity to low-power devices within a distance of one meter.

Apple’s interest in wireless charging technology was detailed in a new patent application published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Entitled “Wireless Power Utilization in a Local Computing Environment,” it describes a system that would rely on “near-field magnetic resonance” to provide power to nearby devices.

Apple’s filing notes that transferring power wirelessly has historically been successful only in fairly limited applications. Specifically, the technology requires a power source and receiver located very close to each other.

This method may be acceptable for devices that require a very small amount of electricity. But Apple says this process is not acceptable for devices that require between a few watts to hundreds of watts.

However, Apple noted that electricity can be transferred from a power source to a receiver within a “near field,” or a distance a few times larger than both objects involved in the transfer. In most scenarios, this near field would be about a meter large.

“In this way, a realistic and practical approach to wireless transferring useable amounts of power over distances suitable for limited applications can be realized,” the filing reads.

By adopting wireless charging technology, Apple could minimize or eliminate what it referred to as “unwieldy” existing chargers that must be plugged into the wall.

Apple’s system goes one step further than the near field, and aims to improve efficiency when transferring electricity wirelessly. It would also allow a number of peripheral devices to be charged wirelessly within the near field, thanks to “cooperation” between them.

Apple’s charging accessory would be able to provide electricity to a number of devices located within the near field, or “virtual charging area.” Low-power devices cited by Apple include a mouse and keyboard.

The power supply transmitter could be a stand-alone device, or it could be embedded in an existing device such as a desktop or notebook computer. The transmitter could also be portable, such as a dongle that could be connected to a legacy device via a port like USB.

Peripheral devices would need to be tuned to the appropriate frequency. This would allow them to receive power from the near-field magnetic resonance (or NFMR) power supply.

“The device being brought into the range of the NFMR power supply can communicate its initial presence using a standard communication protocol such as WiFi or Bluetooth,” the application reads. “However, once incorporated into the resonance circuit, the device can use a communication back channel.”

Apple’s application also describes the use of a “re-resonator” that would allow electricity to be wirelessly shared between multiple accessories. In one example, a Mac desktop may not be able to adequately provide power to a wireless mouse because of an obstacle interfering with the connection between the two devices.

“In this case, (the) keyboard can act as a re-resonator such that a portion of the power delivered to (the) keyboard from the NFMR power supply can be passed on by way of a re-resonator transmission unit,” the filing states.

Apple’s patent filing for a wireless charging system, published this week by the USPTO, was first filed by the company in November of 2010. The proposed invention is credited to Michael F. Culbert, Brett. C. Bilbrey, David I. Simon, and Peter M. Arnold.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPhone 5 supply stabilizes, units now readily available for holiday shopping season

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Date: Thursday, November 29th, 2012, 07:41
Category: iPhone, News, retail

It took a while and there were muchos conflicts with Foxconn, but it finally happened: Apple’s iPhone 5 supply chain has stabilized.

Per AppleInsider, the popular iPhone 5 handset is now readily available in the U.S. at Apple’s brick-and-mortar retail stores as the company has apparently overcome supply issues experienced since the device was launched in September.

While the Apple online store still shows one-week ship-by dates, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said a poll of 20 U.S. Apple Stores reveals the iPhone 5 is readily available at physical Apple Stores for the first time since the unit was released at the end of September.

“We believe the iPhone 5 has finally reached a point where consumers can walk into an Apple Store and walk out with a phone,” Munster said in a note to investors on Thursday.

The analyst performs a nightly check with the online Apple Store for local pick-up orders half an hour after new stock arrives at 100 locations. He also noted that 20 out of 20 Apple Stores polled showed availability for Verizon models, the supply of which has been the most constrained out of the three major U.S. carriers.

“The bottom line is that AT&T, Sprint and Verizon are consistently showing 90%+ availability,” Munster wrote.

A similar report earlier this month showed that, while inventory of Sprint versions of the Phone 5 was improving, models supported by AT&T and Verizon’s networks were still seeing constraints.

Going further, Munster maintains his estimate of 45 million iPhone shipments for the fourth quarter, but warns that there may not be a significant upside as supply is only now meeting demand.

According to a recent report, the iPhone 5 helped to double Apple’s share of the U.S. smartphone market, pushing it ahead of worldwide leader Android.

Rumor: Apple to release iTunes 11 on Thursday, November 29th

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Date: Thursday, November 29th, 2012, 07:45
Category: Rumor, Software

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It’s been a work in progress.

Apple is rumored to release its next-generation iTunes 11 as soon as Thursday following a delay due to “engineering issues” which forced the company to rebuild select areas of the new program’s code.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple could release the media store and player by Thursday, which would make the launch about one month later than originally planned.

The information came in a WSJ profile on Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue, the head of Apple’s iTunes group who recently took over iOS Maps and Siri after former iOS chief Scott Forstall was ousted from the company.

In October, Apple announced that iTunes 11 would be pushed back from its promised debut date, but failed to offer an explanation as to the delay, saying only that it “wanted to take a little extra time to get it right.” At the time, spokesman Tom Neumayr said the new iTunes would roll out sometime in November.

iTunes 11 is expected to sport a clean, iOS-inspired user interface with tighter integration with other Apple services like iCloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iOS 6 Maps chief Richard Williamson fired, Cue reportedly “racing” to apply fixes to app

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Date: Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, 09:24
Category: iOS, News, Software

Sometimes a few heads have to roll.

Per Bloomberg, Apple has reportedly fired the executive in charge of its widely ridiculed Maps application built in to the iOS 6 mobile operating system.

Richard Williamson, who oversaw Maps in iOS 6, was let go by Apple, according to “people familiar with the move.” Williamson was reportedly fired by Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president and the new man responsible for both iOS Maps and Siri following an executive shakeup last month.

As Cue looks to improve Maps in iOS, he is said to be seeking out advice from mapping technology experts outside of Apple. In addition, Cue is also said to be encouraging its partner TomTom to “fix landmark and navigation data it shares with Apple.”

“In removing Williamson, Cue wants to install a new leadership team for the group, one person said,” author Adam Satariano reported. “A replacement for Williamson wasn’t immediately known.”

In other news, executive Eddy Cue is reportedly “racing to turn around the troubled service,” according to a report published by Bloomberg on Wednesday.

Cue also has a history with Jobs, and Wednesday’s report referred to him as a “close confidant” of the late CEO. For years he has overseen Apple’s iTunes and iCloud services, but his role expanded last month as part of an executive shakeup at the company.

Apple releases Thunderbolt Firmware Update 1.1 for mid-2012 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, 08:32
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

This could come in handy.

Late Tuesday, Apple released its Thunderbolt Firmware Update 1.1, a 468 kilobyte download for the mid-2012 MacBook Pros that offers the following fixes and changes:

– Addresses an issue with MacBook Pro (mid-2012) and some Thunderbolt cables that may prevent bus-powered Thunderbolt devices from functioning properly.

The firmware update can be downloaded directly or located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature and requires a mid-2012 MacBook Pro, running Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.

Next-gen iMac to go on sale Friday, November 30th

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Date: Tuesday, November 27th, 2012, 08:19
Category: Hardware, iMac, News, retail

If you’re hankering for the new, thinner iMac, just wait 72 hours.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday announced that its all-new iMac desktop will launch this Friday, Nov. 30, meeting its deadline to launch before the end of the month.

The 21.5-inch model will be available through Apple’s online store, Apple retail stores and select authorized resellers. The 27-inch variety will begin shipping in December, but orders will begin at Apple’s online store on Friday.

The 21.5-inch iMac will feature a 2.7-gigahertz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor and Nvidia GeForce G6 640M graphics for a suggested retail price of US$1,299. A faster 2.9-gigahertz model will be offered for US$1,499.

The larger 27-inch iMac will have a 2.9-gigahertz quad-core Intel Core i5 and GeForce GTX 660M graphics for US$1,799. The high-end 3.2-gigahertz model with GTX 675MX graphics will cost US$1,999.

The redesigned iMac has an aluminum and glass enclosure that is 5-millimeters thin at its edge. It also features a reengineered display that Apple has said reduces reflections by 75 percent.

The new iMac also sports 8 gigabytes of 1,600-megahertz memory, along with a 1-terabyte hard drive and standard Intel Core i5 processors that can be upgraded to a Core i7. The new Nvidia GeForce graphics processors also promise up to 60 percent fast performance.

The all-in-one iMac desktops also sport Apple’s new hybrid Fusion Drive, which gives customers the performance of flash with the capacity of a hard drive. This is accomplished by combining 128 gigabytes of flash with a standard hard drive, creating a single storage volume that intelligently manages files to optimize read and write performance.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases first OS X 10.8.3 beta, inclusion of AMD Radeon 7000 drivers hints at next-gen Mac Pro

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Date: Tuesday, November 27th, 2012, 07:31
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, News, Software

This could turn into something really interesting.

Per Netkas.org, Apple’s first beta of OS X 10.8.3 has quietly added support for the AMD Radeon HD 7000 series of graphics cards, hinting that they could be featured in the company’s designed Mac Pro desktop.

Support for the AMD Radeon HD 7XXX series was discovered by Netkas.org this week, following the launch of the first beta of OS X 10.8.3. Specifically, the Mac operating system supports the Radeon HD 7900 series, codenamed “Tahiti,” which includes the Radeon HD 7970 and 7950.

Both of those cards feature 3 gigabytes of GDDR5 memory, and are based on a 28-nanometer chip manufacturing process. The cards are the first products to feature AMD’s “Graphics Core Next” compute architecture.

Support for the dedicated desktop graphics card series could signal that AMD’s latest GPUs may be headed for an updated Mac Pro. Apple’s lone tower computer was quietly updated in June with a modest speed bump featuring a two-year-old Intel Xeon E5645 chip.

After users expressed frustration over that update, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook quickly confirmed that his company was working on an overhaul of the Mac Pro. He indicated that the updated desktop would be released sometime in 2013.

“Don’t worry as we’re working on something really great for next year,” Cook said to a customer in an e-mail.

Signs of a sixth-generation Mac Pro appeared in internal configuration files found in the Mountain Lion operating system earlier this year. The “MP60” is expected to be a significant overhaul of the current Mac Pro model, which has had the same basic aluminum box design introduced for the 2005 PowerMac G5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

GM announces upcoming “Eyes Free” models with Siri integration

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, November 27th, 2012, 07:24
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPhone, News, Software

This could be nifty.

Per The Next Web, General Motors on Tuesday announced that it will be integrating Apple’s new “Eyes Free” Siri mode in two of its cars early next year, making it the first car maker in the world to implement the technology in a commercial product.

The auto manufacturer announced during the Los Angeles International Auto Show that the Chevrolet Spark (1LT and 2LT) and Sonic LTZ and RS models will sport the new Siri integration when they roll off the assembly line “early next year.”

Interestingly, the feature, which is part of Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system and will be compatible with an iPhones running iOS 6, is slated to debut in two sub-compact cars rather than a model from one of GM’s luxury marquees like Cadillac.

“Safe, easy, reliable and portable connectivity is a top priority for our customers, and Siri complements MyLink’s existing capabilities to help deliver an incredible driving experience,” said Cristi Landy, Chevrolet marketing director for small cars.

Announced as a new Siri feature in iOS 6, Apple’s “Eyes Free” allows a user to an iPhone as well as certain vehicle amenities strictly by using voice commands. For example, a driver can simply ask Siri to play a song or make a call, all without taking their eyes off the road.

It was reported in June that GM would be integrating Eyes Free in the Spark and Sonic, but the automotive giant fell short of announcing a specific launch window. Eight other car makers have partnered with Apple to introduce similar systems in the near future, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Samsung reportedly ends flow of MacBook, iPad battery supplies

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Date: Monday, November 26th, 2012, 09:24
Category: Hardware, iPad, MacBook Pro, News

The feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys continues.

Per the cool cats at The Mac Observer and China Business News, Apple has apparently turned to Amperex Technology Limited and Tianjin Lishen Battery for its laptop and iPad battery needs after Samsung reportedly stopped supplying the components. If true, it underscores the ongoing tension between the two companies over patent infringement claims.

This latest claim follows reports that Samsung stopped selling display parts and raised the cost for manufacturing Apple’s custom chips — both of which Samsung has denied. Apple has, however, moved away from working with Samsung on future custom processor designs and instead is using the electronics giant just as a manufacturing partner.

“Samsung’s agreement with Apple is limited to manufacturing the A6 processors,” a senior Samsung executive said in October. “Apple did all the design and we are just producing the chips on a foundry basis.”

Apple and Samsung have been fighting in courts around the world over claims they are using each other’s mobile device patents without proper licensing. Apple managed to win a major victory in August when a U.S. Federal Court ruled Samsung was infringing on a long list of patents and awarded the Cupertino-based company over US$1 billion in damages.

Apple has also reportedly been grooming Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to take over its processor manufacturing.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

eBay begins Cyber Monday sale, offers $989 deal for mid-2012 13-inch MacBook Pro, other offers

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Date: Monday, November 26th, 2012, 09:38
Category: iPad, MacBook Pro, News, retail

Hey, a deal’s a deal.

Per AppleInsider, eBay, which is currently undergoing a rebranding itself to be in more direct competition with Amazon via a push towards more direct sales, is hosting a Cyber Monday sale offering 5% off iPads with Retina display and 18% off the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro (US$989), as well as significant discounts on other consumer electronics like cameras, game systems and more.

The US$989 price (US$210 savings) on the 2.5GHz 13″ MacBook Pro (MD101LL/A) is the lowest price that’s currently been published, and presents an exceptional value proposition for consumers in the market for a sub-US$1000 Apple notebook that still retains a CD/DVD optical drive.

Other notable deals include 5% off 16GB iPads with Retina display (US$474.99, 56% off, 42% off a new Canon T3i Digital SLR Camera with 2 Canon IS lenses 747.25 (US$551.75 savings), and 74% off a 32GB SanDisk SDHC TM Memory Card for US$17.99 (US$52 savings).

Meanwhile, retailers including Amazon, MacMall, B&H Photo, MacConnection and Best Buy have launched their own Cyber Monday sales with pricing on Macs and iPads similar to pricing seen on Black Friday. Additionally, MacMall continues to advocate inventory of the vast majority of Apple’s iPad mini product line (see chart), while Wal-Mart recently received all flavors of the AT&T iPad mini which its shipping out today.

For users looking for a new Mac with 3-years of AppleCare extended protection, B&H Photo’s Buy Together & Save (bundle prices, instructions) offer savings of up to US$450 with its Cyber Monday pricing.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.