Apple announces next-gen MacBook Air notebooks, adds USB 3.0, Ivy Bridge and larger capacity flash storage

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Date: Monday, June 11th, 2012, 11:56
Category: Hardware, MacBook Air, News

The MacBook Air may not have received a Retina Display, but it has some cool new stuff under the hood.

Per AppleInsider, Apple announced the new generation of the lightweight notebook today, the new generation featuring USB 3.0 as well as Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge processors, and configurations running up to 2.0GHz in speed with a Core i7 processor and 512 gigabytes of flash storage.

The new MacBook Airs also feature 720p high-definition FaceTime cameras for both the 11- and 13-inch models. And they have been upgraded with high-speed USB 3.0 ports that offer up to 500MBps read speed, in addition to the existing Thunderbolt connection. Users can also configure the new MacBook Air with up to 8 gigabytes of RAM.

The 11-inch MacBook Air has a 1,366-by-768-pixel display and a 1.7GHz dual-core i5 processor. It has 4 gigabytes of RAM, Intel HD graphics 4000, and up to 128 gigabytes of flash storage. It starts at US$999 for the 64 gigabyte model, and is US$1,099 for the 128 gigabyte capacity.

The 13-inch MacBook Air has a 1,400-by-900 display and a 1.8GHz dual-core i5 processor standard, with 4 gigabytes of RAM and Intel HD 400 graphics. For 128 gigabytes of flash storage, it costs US$1,199, while 256 gigabytes is US$1,499.

Both new notebooks are shipping today, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller announced at Monday’s Worldwide Developers Conference Keynote.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple expected to phase out 17-inch MacBook Pro in upcoming hardware generation

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Date: Friday, June 8th, 2012, 08:15
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor


The 17-inch MacBook Pro had a great run, but it may not be long for this world.

Per AppleInsider, With a new MacBook lineup said to be on the way, Apple is expected to discontinue its 17-inch MacBook Pro this year, and might even ax the Pro lineup entirely in favor of the “new MacBook” in 2013.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with KGI said in a research note that Apple is still planning to retire the 17-inch MacBook Pro in 2012. He expects only the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros will receive updates from Apple this month.

A discontinuation of the 17-inch MacBook Pro is expected to be part of a major shakeup in Apple’s notebook lineup. Kuo also indicated on Friday that Apple is apparently planning to introduce an entirely new MacBook lineup next week, with new models positioned between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro sized at 13 and 15 inches.

The 17-inch MacBook Pro would be a logical choice for Apple to retire, as the premium professional notebook only accounted for 1.7 percent of the company’s notebook sales in the first quarter of 2012. The most popular option, Kuo said, was the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which took 46.9 percent of sales, followed by an 18.1 percent share for the 13-inch MacBook Air, and 16 percent for the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Kuo believes that Apple even plans to go beyond the 17-inch model and potentially discontinue the entire MacBook Pro lineup, replacing it with new 13- and 15-inch notebooks he has referred to as simply the “new MacBook.” If the new MacBook proves popular enough, he thinks Apple could reduce its notebook lineup to just four products: the 11- and 13-inch MacBook Airs, and the new 13- and 15-inch MacBooks.

But given a “high sales weighting” for the MacBook Pro, Kuo admitted it would be “difficult” for Apple to quickly discontinue the MacBook Pro. He expects the product will remain on the shelves until 2013, at which point Apple is seen as “likely” to reduce supply of the MacBook Pro to help boost sales of the new MacBook.

The new MacBook series is expected to be a merging of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lineups. Apple’s new laptops are believed to feature a thinner design and will lack optical disc drives, but will offer more power than the MacBook Air.

Kuo first suggested in April that Apple could discontinue the 17-inch MacBook Pro this year, citing falling shipments of the top-of-the-line notebook. He was the first to indicate in 2011 that Apple planned to phase out its 13-inch polycarbonate MacBook.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Virgin Mobile to offer iPhone calling plans starting at $30/month beginning June 29th

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Date: Thursday, June 7th, 2012, 13:56
Category: iPhone, News

It never hurts to have a cheap calling plan, even if you do have to buy the handset at the unsubsidized price…

Per AppleInsider, wireless carrier Virgin Mobile USA announced on Thursday that it will offer Apple’s iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 beginning Friday, June 29, with contract-free plans as low as US$30 per month.

Customers will be able to purchase the 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S for US$649, matching the price of a contract-free handset purchased through the Apple Store or AT&T. That’s different from regional wireless carrier Leap, which announced late last month that it would sell a 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S for US$500, meaning the carrier is subsidizing the price by about US$150.

While customers who buy the iPhone through Virgin Mobile USA will pay a higher upfront premium, they could also see considerable savings on their plans. The carrier offers customers a US$5-per-month discount when they register for automatic monthly payments, which results in a basic plan with “unlimited” data and text messaging and 300 voice minutes for US$30.

Users can upgrade to 1,200 voice minutes for $40 per month, or obtain unlimited minutes for US$50 per month. Though data is advertised as “unlimited,” all plans include 2.5 gigabytes per month of full-speed data, and any overages can be throttled.

Virgin Mobile USA will also offer Apple’s previous-generation iPhone 4 for US$549 in the 8 gigabyte capacity. The contract-free phones will be available at Virgin Mobile’s website, RadioShack, Best Buy, and select local retailers.

Word first surfaced on Tuesday that Virgin Mobile USA would become the second American carrier to offer Apple’s iPhone without a service contract. However, the launch date and exact pricing were not known until the official announcement was made Thursday by Virgin Mobile.

Virgin’s voice and data service relies on Sprint’s “Nationwide Network.” The sale of iPhones through Sprint’s Virgin mobile could go toward the US$15.5 billion in iPhones sprint had pledged to sell over a four-year span in a deal with Apple.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen Mac Pro units to feature Thunderbolt, USB 3.0 and 8-core Xeon X5 CPUs

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Date: Thursday, June 7th, 2012, 07:20
Category: Hardware, Mac Pro, Rumor

This could be snazzy.

Per MIC Gadget, Apple’s anticipated Mac Pro update will feature Intel Xeon E5 series processors with either six or eight cores, as well as native support for USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt.

The new Mac Pro desktop tower has been given a codename of K5B according to the report. It will also reportedly feature 1600MHz memory with 8 channels, SATA III/SAS 6-gigabyte-per-second drive connectivity, and PCI-Express 3 native support for video cards.

Intel’s new Xeon E5 workstation-class chips first hit the market in early March. They are based on the Sandy Bridge micro-architecture that first found its way into the remainder of Apple’s Mac lineup last year.

This year, Apple’s MacBook Pros, MacBooks Airs, iMacs and Mac minis are expected to be upgraded to Intel’s latest-generation Ivy Bridge processors. But the Mac Pro won’t be getting Ivy Bridge processors with this update because those chips “handle voltage far worse than their 32nm Sandy Bridge brethren,” according to the report.

The new SATA III/SAS native connectivity is expected to be a major boost for speedy solid-state drives, while native PCI-Express 3 support with 40 lanes per socket will enhance RAID arrays and video cards. The onboard memory controller has also reportedly been moved to the CPU itself, which will allegedly result in a “massive leap” in performance.

And along with standard USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt support, memory is said to be likely to see an upgrade to 1600MHz, an improvement from the 1333MHz memory in Apple’s previous-generation Mac Pros. The new desktops are also expected to have 8 physical memory lanes, allowing for 25 percent more memory.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to remove iPad purchase limits in immediate future

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Date: Thursday, June 7th, 2012, 07:32
Category: iPad, retail, Rumor

Yes, you too will be able to hoard iPads long after the zombie apocalypse…

Per 9to5 Mac, a leaked internal memo shows that Apple is finally dropping the long-existing iPad purchase quantity limit of two units per purchase.

The change goes into effect immediately at Apple’s Retail Stores worldwide (except in Hong Kong). The quantity limit is yet to be dropped on Apple’s official online store, but the change will appear on that digital storefront on June 11th, the date of Apple’s WWDC kickoff keynote. The removal timing likely implies absolutely nothing besides Apple possibly having enough iPad channel supply to remove a purchase limit.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPhone to slim down to 7.9 mm, could feature front-facing HD camera

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Date: Wednesday, June 6th, 2012, 10:25
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

It’s hard to knock an interesting rumor.

Per AppleInsider, KGI analyst Mingchi Kuo said in a note to investors that in addition to the move to HD, he believes Apple will also employ a flip-chip (FC) solution for the front-facing camera on the upcoming iPhone. The camera’s position would be moved to the middle, he said.

Kuo noted that an HD front camera would better suit the 4-inch display that he expects Apple’s sixth-generation handset to have. Currently, the front-facing camera of the iPhone 4S is capable of VGA resolution.

As for the rear-facing camera, Kuo said Apple will likely retain the 8-megapixel camera while improving the aperture range to go up to f/2.2. The iPhone 4S has a maximum aperture of f/2.4. The analyst also predicted that the rear camera on the next iPhone will be noticeable thinner, “making it the most challenging iPhone design yet.”

According to his analysis, the new iPhone’s rear camera will have a CCM of 5.55mm and a lens TTL of 4mm, down from 6mm and 4.8mm on the iPhone 4S. Apple’s suppliers will reportedly face “unprecedented challenges” producing the rear camera component because of the changes to the design.

Kuo issued a report in April claiming that Apple will slim down the iPhone to 7.9mm or less. The iPhone 4S has a depth of 9.3mm. The use of an in-cell touchscreen display is expected to shave as much as 0.4mm off the phone.

Sony, which provides the CMOS for the iPhone 4S, announced this January that it had developed a thinner next-generation CMOS. Last month, camera parts allegedly bound for the next iPhone surfaced online. If the parts were indeed authentic, they would suggest that Apple plans to redesign the cameras for its sixth-generation handset.

Apple is expected to launch the new iPhone this fall in either September or October. Some reports have claimed that the device will feature a redesigned form factor and 4G LTE connectivity.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Virgin Mobile to offer prepaid wireless plan for iPhone in July

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Date: Tuesday, June 5th, 2012, 14:16
Category: iPhone, News

No one ever said that prepaid was out of vogue.

Per MarketWatch, Sprint’s Virgin Mobile USA will become the second American carrier to offer Apple’s iPhone without a service contract, according to a new report.

Virgin Mobile’s addition of the iPhone to its product lineup will be announced later this week. The iPhone will debut on Virgin Mobile as soon as July 1.

The deal could go toward the US$15.5 billion in iPhones Sprint has committed to sell over a four-year span. The company pledged to buy the iPhones last year in a deal that brought the iPhone to Sprint, which is the third-largest carrier in the U.S.

Last week, it was announced that Cricket Wireless would become the first prepaid carrier to sell a contract-free iPhone in the U.S. on June 22. Cricket will offer the 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S for US$500 along with an “unlimited” US$55-per-month plan.

But Cricket will only sell the iPhone in smaller markets where the brand is available, while Virgin would make the iPhone more widely available to prepaid customers. The Virgin service, which uses Sprint’s network, covers 278 million people.

The price for a prepaid iPhone through Virgin was not revealed, but the carrier has prepaid plans that begin at US$35 a month for “unlimited” capped data. Tuesday’s report said it was “unclear” whether the iPhone would be compatible with those plans.

Apple began expanding the iPhone to regional carriers last October with C Spire wireless, while more were added in April and again in May of this year.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple TV 5.0.2 update goes live

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Date: Tuesday, June 5th, 2012, 13:28
Category: Apple TV, News, Software

Apple on Tuesday updated its Apple TV software to version 5.0.2 for second and third generation units.

Per AppleInsider, the Apple TV Software Update, released as build 9B830, brings unknown fixes to both the second and third generation set-top media streamers. Apple’s support web page has yet to divulge the contents of the update, but a more detailed description should be posted in the near future.

The quick download showed no visible changes to the UI or content meaning that the update may be a fix for backend performance issues or preparation for as-yet unreleased features set to be announced at WWDC next week.

To install the new 5.0.2 version on your Apple TV, navigate to the “Update Software” menu option under Settings > General.

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

And if anything caught fire or the dog proposed to the cat as a result of the 5.0.2 update, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Purported next-gen 13-inch MacBook specs image excludes Retina Display

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Date: Tuesday, June 5th, 2012, 06:18
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor


You might not be too enamored with this.

Per Macotakara, an image claiming to show specifications for an unreleased 13-inch MacBook Pro shows the notebook equipped with an Ivy Bridge processor and USB 3.0 ports, but without a high-resolution Retina display.

The image could easily have been faked. Even so, the questionable image shows hardware specifications as they would usually appear on the box of an Apple notebook.

The image claims the computer will feature a 2.5 gigahertz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with 3 megabytes of L3 cache and Turbo Boost up to 3.1 gigahertz. It also features 4 gigabytes of 1600 megahertz DDR3 SDRAM, a 500 gigabyte 5400-rpm hard drive, and the new Intel HD Graphics 4000 found in the latest Ivy Bridge processors.

The purported specifications also show the MacBook Pro with a 13.3-inch LED backlit glossy widescreen display with a resolution of just 1,280 by 800 pixels. That resolution would not qualify as an Apple-branded Retina display, as the company is expected to debut new MacBook Pros with higher resolution screens at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

In addition to having a traditional spinning hard drive, the list of features also suggests the 13-inch MacBook Pro will have an 8x slot-loading SuperDrive for CDs and DVDs. Apple’s next MacBook Pros are instead expected to be a significant redesign that will ditch the optical drive for a thinner design like the MacBook Air.

However, the alleged MacBook Pro update does feature two high-speed USB 3.0 ports, in addition to a Thunderbolt port, SDXC card slot, and FireWire 800 port.

The size and weight shown on the spec sheet has the MacBook Pro sized at 12.78 by 8.94 by 0.95 inches and 4.5 pounds. Those are identical to the current 13-inch MacBook Pro sold by Apple.

If legitimate, it’s possible the specifications could show a low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro that Apple intends to release. That model could lack some of the features of the higher end models, like a thinner design and Retina display.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to transition from Google Maps to its own solution for iOS later this year

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Date: Tuesday, June 5th, 2012, 06:15
Category: iPhone, Rumor, Software

You’ll get from point A to point B, just via Apple’s way of doing it.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has made plans to break from Google Maps and use its own technology for the native Maps app on iOS later this year and could announce the feature at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

Present and former Apple employees revealed to The Wall Street Journal that the Cupertino, Calif., company is set to bump Google’s maps service from its mobile OS. Apple would instead “release a new mapping app that runs Apple’s own technology,” the report said.

One source suggested that Apple may show off the new software at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco next week. The company is reportedly looking to convince third-party application developers to implement its technology into their offerings.

The report went on to note that, according to tipsters at Apple, the plan to oust Google Maps has been in motion for years. The rapid rise of Android sales is believed to have quickened the pace of Apple’s plans.

The iPhone maker’s mapping intentions have been evident since at least 2009, when the company began acquiring mapping technology companies. The iPhone maker bought Placebase that year and then Poly9 in 2010. Last year, Apple bought Swedish 3D-mapping company C3.

The company also revealed last April that it was collecting data for a crowd-sourced “improved traffic service” for iPhone users. Given that the revelation came as a result of a location data controversy, Apple’s comments have been taken as referring to street traffic, though the company declined to provide further details.

Small steps have been taken to gradually wean iOS off Google Maps. In 2010, Apple notified U.S. senators that, beginning with iOS 3.2, it had begun relying on “its own databases” for location-based services and diagnostic purposes. In March, it was discovered that Apple had switched to OpenStreetMaps for the maps in its iPhoto iOS app.

Apple’s reported switch comes as location services are quickly attracting a significant percentage of advertising dollars. According to the Journal, Opus Research projects map- or location-related ads will comprise 25 percent of the estimated US$2.5 billion that will be spent on mobile ads this year. However, the report suggested that Apple’s move isn’t just about the money.

“But more than ad revenue, Apple is going after the map market to have more control over a key asset in the widening smartphone war,” the report read, noting that 90 percent of American iPhone owners use Google Maps. “So Apple believes controlling the mapping experience and offering features that Google doesn’t have can help sell more devices and entice developers to build unique apps for iPhone users.”

The maps issue has taken on greater importance as the relationship between Apple and Google has become increasingly complicated. The two companies were close partners for years, but have grown apart as they have become fierce competitors in several key markets, such as smartphones, tablets and advertising.

According to the report, Apple became concerned in 2008 that Google may have been compromising user privacy with its map program. Google executives, on the other hand, reportedly felt Apple was being too controlling. The Mountain View, Calif., search company is believed to have angered Apple leaders by withholding the Street View and turn-by-turn navigation features. Its demands were for better branding within the app and incorporation of its Latitude service, which Apple was unwilling to integrate.

The disagreement served as the impetus for Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ search for acquisitions to build out the company’s own mapping team, the report noted. The group from Poly9 allegedly became a secretive “geo” team within Apple. The employees were said to have built a new geocoder to replace Google’s own and began using it last fall.

Google hasn’t been sitting still either, though. Last week, the company sent out invites for an event that will show off the “next dimension of Google Maps.” The wording of the invite has prompted speculation that the company will announce new 3D features for its mapping service. The event comes just days before Apple kicks off its WWDC confab on June 11.

A bevy of reports have claimed that Apple will take the wraps off a new 3D mapping technology at WWDC. Last month, one report cited sources as saying the solution would “blow your head off.”

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu said last week that his research points to the unveiling of a “greatly enhanced” Maps application with 3D capability next week. The new service has reportedly been developed in-house.

“We hear the key reason why AAPL decided to do this is that it believes it can deliver a much better use experience in Maps, not to mention provide further differentiation for its mobile devices business,” Wu said.

Apple is also expected to showcase new Macs, iOS 6 and new camera and photo apps at the conference.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.