Apple reaching out to users for iPhone 4S battery life data, firmware update may be in the works

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Date: Monday, October 31st, 2011, 05:17
Category: battery, iPhone, News

With any luck, a firmware update will fix the issue.

Per The Guardian, responding to complaints of battery life issues with the iPhone 4S, engineers from Apple are said to have contacted customers directly in an effort to solve any issues.

One user who spoke with the newspaper said that he was contacted by Apple, and was asked to install a monitoring program on his phone. Apple’s engineers hope to be able to use the diagnostics to determine what is causing shorter battery life for some users, though the report said the problems are thus far “unexplained.”

The person said they were contacted by a senior engineer at Apple who read a post they made online, and indicated that the company was contacting users to resolve the problem. The Apple representative also allegedly admitted that the company isn’t “close to finding a fix.”

“(He) asked lots of questions about my usage and then asked if he could install the file… and that he would call back the day after to retrieve the info,” the person wrote. “I extracted the file from my Mac after a sync and mailed it to him. He was incredibly helpful and apologetic in the typical Apple way!”

Experiences of reduced battery life are supported by a growing thread on the Apple Support Communities website, where numerous users have found they experience significantly less uptime with the iPhone 4S. As of Friday afternoon, the thread as nearly 100,000 views and 1,300 replies.

“Glad to see people are talking about this,” user ‘telarium’ wrote. “My 4S battery life is terrible… even worse than my 3GS, even though all the settings are the same.”

Another user, ‘Frenzi,’ said they found some success by turning off many of the features on the phone, and only gradually re-enabling them as needed. Among the features disabled included sending of diagnostic data to Apple, automatically searching for Wi-Fi connections, automatic date and time, iTunes Ping, and even the Siri “raise to speak” feature. “The improvement has been nothing short of miraculous,” they wrote.

Still another user on the Apple Support Communities website, “Snowwolfwarrior,” said they spoke with an Apple technician who also gave them special software to install on their iPhone 4S. The software logs all of the usage from the handset over a 24-hour period, after which the user obtains the data and sends it back to the Apple technician.

When it was unveiled earlier this month, Apple claimed that the iPhone 4S had an increased battery talk time of eight hours. But standby battery time, when compared to the previous-generation iPhone 4, is advertised at 100 hours less.

In spite of this, the iPhone 4S does have a slightly larger battery than the iPhone 4, and includes an extra .05WHrs when compared to its predecessor. Apple also limited the amount of RAM in the iPhone 4S to 512MB, in an effort to conserve battery life.

The iPhone 4S includes the same A5 processor found earlier this year in the iPad 2. It is a dual-core chip that runs up to twice as fast as the A4, and includes graphics processing up to seven times faster with the SGX 543MP2 GPU.

If you’ve seen battery issues with your new iPhone 4S and want to throw your two cents in, let us know what’s on your mind via the comments.

iLounge review finds iPhone 4S battery less robust for 3G data, media when compared to iPhone 4

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Date: Monday, October 17th, 2011, 10:25
Category: battery, iPhone, News

The good news is that the iPhone 4S is out and is being regarded as fairly spiffy.

The bad news is that its battery may not be the greatest thing in the known universe.

Per the iLounge review, the site compared the iPhone 4 battery to the iPhone 4S battery to test comparative better times given various functions.

For tests with 3G Data, Audio Playback, Video Playback, and Video Recording, iLounge found that the iPhone 4S came in under the iPhone 4′s battery life times. For Wi-Fi and FaceTime testing they found it to be similiar to the iPhone 4, and on cellular calls, they found the iPhone 4S slightly better.

One interesting finding with 3G data was that while their Verizon 4S unit ran for the same time as the AT&T model (~ 5 hours and 54 minutes), they found the Sprint model to lag at 5 hours and 23 minutes. Comparisons across mobile providers may not be completely fair due to differences in signal strength which could impact battery life.

In voice calls, they found the AT&T iPhone 4 and AT&T iPhone 4S to have comparable times of around 7 hours and 6-16 minutes. The Verizon 4S model, however, showed a surprising 8 hours and 27 minutes, while the Sprint 4S again lagged at 6 hours and 27 minutes. iLounge notes that the Verizon model may have shown 4 bars more often than the other two.

Both media playback and recording has taken a hit on the iPhone 4S as compared to the iPhone 4. For video recording, of course, it should be noted that the iPhone 4S is recording much higher resolution video than the iPhone 4.

Ultimately, their conclusion on iPhone 4S battery life is based on what your exact usage model is:

If you spend much of your day near a Wi-Fi network and only rely upon the iPhone 4S for web browsing and phone calling, you won’t notice a major difference—unless you’re thinking of switching to Sprint, in which case we’d be a little concerned. Similarly, if you use 3G data, plan to record or play videos, or want to listen to hours of audio during the day, you can expect greater battery drain from the iPhone 4S.

There may be some confounding data due to regional signal strengths, but given the other complaints about Sprint’s data speeds, it still seems to be the worst choice amongst the iPhone carriers.

In other news, some users have reported dramatically decreased battery life on their iPhone 4S. One solution to that is said to be the calibration of the battery, in which case you drain your entire battery once and then charge to full. Some have found their battery gauge to be inaccurate until this is performed. Apple includes other tips on their site about improving your battery life on the iPhone.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve had a few days to tinker with the new iPhone 4S, please let us know what you think in the comments.

Rumor: Apple shifts iPad 2 battery orders from Simplo to Dynapack after leak-prone units discovered

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Date: Wednesday, October 12th, 2011, 05:08
Category: iPad, Rumor

When in doubt, switch a component supplier.

Per DigiTimes, part supplier sources maintained Wednesday that Apple had recently been pushed into switching battery supply for the iPad 2. Apple moved some of its orders from Simplo to Dynapack at the end of September after Simplo’s eastern China plant produced some leak-prone lithium-polymer packs according to the story. Apple’s use of safer lithium-polymer batteries kept them from showstopper fires, but the recharging problems were enough to require better.

Normally, Simplo would supply about 60 percent of iPad 2 batteries with Dynapack providing the rest. That ratio would have shifted more towards neutral with a part swap.

The issue hasn’t been independently confirmed. Both Dynapack and Simplo are widely known as Apple’s battery suppliers, and Simplo handles the batteries for the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Companies like Apple are known to change orders for other components to keep supply up, such as a well known diversification away from LG for iPad 2 displays until it resolved display issues.

A successful swap could minimize any disruption in Apple’s manufacturing, although it still comes just as Apple is likely seeing a peak in shipments as it goes into the holidays. As such, it might be more sensitive to unplanned switches.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel discusses Haswell achitecture, cites 24 hour notebook battery charge, 10 day standby, expected 2013 release date

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Date: Thursday, September 15th, 2011, 09:43
Category: battery, Hardware, News

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Wait two years and your notebook’s battery life problems could get quite a bit easier to deal with.

Per Macworld, Intel’s next processor platform, code named Haswell, will offer more than 10 days of connected standby battery life and the ability to run your laptop for a full 24 hours on one charge.

Standby connected power will be decreased about 20 times over current Sandy Bridge processors. In real-life terms, this means you could put your laptop to sleep, unplugged, and it could still be working in the background, getting your emails and IMs, for ten days straight.

With 24 hours of battery life, those long-distance flights and day trips will no longer be a worry.

Intel also stated that this technology was slated for 2013, which means you have plenty of time to hanker for it.

For those looking to the more near-term, Intel is expected to released the Ivy Bridge chipset in 2012, which will use a new 22-nanometer architecture to replace the current Sandy Bridge architecture and help make laptops more power efficient in the process.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

China Mobile CEO hints at upcoming 4G technologies for Apple iPhone

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Date: Thursday, September 15th, 2011, 09:08
Category: iPhone, News

It’s the hints that make technology interesting.

The chairman of China Mobile, the largest wireless operator in the world, revealed this week that his company is hopeful it will collaborate with Apple to create a 4G LTE-capable iPhone model.

Per Bloomberg, Chairman Wang Jianzhou said in an interview on Thursday that China Mobile has been in talks with Apple about producing a high-speed 4G iPhone. The carrier has been working to launch its time-division long-term evolution, or TD-LTE, fourth-generation data network, and wants to see that Apple’s iPhone is compatible.

“We discussed this issue with Apple,” Wang reportedly said. “We hope Apple will produce a new iPhone with TD-LTE. We have already got a positive answer from Apple.”

Currently, the iPhone is exclusive to China Unicom in the nation of over a billion people. But China Mobile is the largest prize, with more than 611 million subscribers.

The iPhone currently operates on 3G data speeds, but newer and faster 4G networks are spreading across the globe. Apple has publicly downplayed the prospect of embracing LTE technology in the iPhone in the near future, as first-generation LTE devices available on the market have been plagued with poor battery life, among other issues associated with the still-early technology.

In April, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook indicated his company is in no rush to adopt 4G technology in its products. He admitted that Apple has explored LTE, but the company wasn’t ready to make the jump with the launch of a CDMA Verizon iPhone in February.

Before Apple creates a TD-LTE iPhone for China Mobile, it will likely first introduce a 3G-capable model compatible with its unique homegrown network. Wang revealed on Thursday that there are more than 8.5 million iPhone users on China Mobile, but those using unlocked phones are restricted to the carrier’s much slower second-generation network. Apple is rumored to release the its fifth-generation iPhone for China Mobile this year.

In March, Wang went on record as saying that Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs had “expressed interest in an LTE iPhone” and was willing to start development “at an early date.” Wang also said in January that Apple has “made it clear” that future updates to the iPhone will support long-term evolution 4G technology.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple testing 4G-capable LTE iPhone with carrier partners

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Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 03:53
Category: iPhone, Rumor

A new rumor claims that carriers who support Apple’s iPhone are testing a new prototype handset that is capable of connecting to high-speed 4G long-term evolution data networks.

Per Boy Genius Report, Apple’s carrier partners are testing an iPhone prototype with LTE. The rumor is evidence that Apple is pursuing support of the high-speed 4G network standard.

The report includes images said to be code from the firmware of an internal iOS test build issued to “one of Apple’s major carrier partners.” The references to LTE support are included in a property list, or .plist, file.

Specifically, a “key” tag allegedly discovered in the testing code references “Connected mode LTE Intra-frequency Measurement.” It offers no indication of what iPhone model might include 4G support.

In the U.S., Verizon’s LTE network launched in late 2010 in major markets across the country, while AT&T plans to have a full-fledged 4G network in 15 markets available to 70 million customers by the end of 2011.

Reports have suggested that an LTE-capable iPhone is likely more than a year away, as one recent report claimed that appropriate chips from Qualcomm are not ready for the iPhone’s required production levels. Also a concern is battery life with devices running power-hungry 4G antennas.

Commenting on LTE networks in April, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said his company has been extremely happy with the performance of its 3G handsets, including the iPhone 4, leaving him in no rush to produce an LTE-capable smartphone.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Security researcher to illustrate MacBook batteries’ vulnerabilities to malware

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Date: Monday, July 25th, 2011, 04:19
Category: battery, News, security

In the category of “weird but interesting and mildly disturbing”, a prominent security researcher has discovered a vulnerability in the batteries of Apple’s MacBook line of portable computers that could allow hackers to ruin the batteries or install malware on them that could corrupt a Mac.

Per Forbes, Charlie Miller, a renowned white-hat hacker who works for security firm Accuvant, plans to reveal and offer a fix next month for a MacBook battery vulnerability he has discovered. Miller uncovered default passwords, which are used to access the microcontroller in Apple’s batteries, within a firmware update from 2009 and used them to gain access to the firmware.

Apple and other laptop makers use embedded chips in their lithium ion laptop batteries to monitor its power level, stop and start charging and regulate heat.

During the course of his tests, the researcher “bricked” seven batteries, rendering them unusable by rewriting the firmware. Of more concern is the possibility that hackers could use the vulnerability to install difficult to remove malware, or, in a worst case scenario, cause the batteries to explode.

“These batteries just aren’t designed with the idea that people will mess with them,” he said. “What I’m showing is that it’s possible to use them to do something really bad.” According to him, few IT administrators would think to check the battery, providing hackers with an opportunity to hide malicious software on a battery that could repeatedly implant itself on a computer.

Miller admitted that he hasn’t tried to blow up any batteries, but he did say it might be possible. “You read stories about batteries in electronic devices that blow up without any interference,” he noted. “If you have all this control, you can probably do it.”

Another researcher, Barnaby Jack, who works for antivirus software maker McAfee, also looked into the battery issue a couple years ago, but said he didn’t get as far as Miller did.

Miller, who is a regular winner of security contests demonstrating Mac, Safari and iPhone exploits, has notified Apple and Texas Instruments of the issue. Despite requests from several other researchers not to proceed, he plans to unveil the vulnerability, along with a fix he calls “Caulkgun,” at the Black Hat security conference next month.

“Caulk Gun” will change a battery’s default passwords to a random string of characters. While the fix will prevent hackers from breaking into the battery, it would also block any future firmware updates from Apple.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple may incorporate Sharp’s next-gen p-Si LCDs in iPhone 6, see a launch next spring

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Date: Wednesday, April 27th, 2011, 04:13
Category: iPhone, News

It never hurts to plan ahead.

Apple has reportedly selected Sharp to create next-generation low-temperature poly-silicon LCD displays, which will allow a thinner and lighter design for the anticipated sixth-generation iPhone in 2012.

Per Japanese newspaper Nikkan, Sharp will begin manufacturing of the displays in the spring of next year. The company is said to have already begun preparing equipment at its Kameyama Plant No. 1, which is primarily used for building LCD TVs.

The liquid crystal display on the anticipated “iPhone 6″ is said to feature “low-temperature poly-silicon” technology, a next-generation display format that allows for thinner and lighter screens that consume less power than traditional LCD screens.

In a “p-Si LCD,” the thin film transistor, or TFT, of the screen is made of polycristalline silicon. With this method, the display drivers can be mounted directly onto the glass substrate, shrinking the TFT section and allowing for a thinner LCD display.

This technology has allowed companies to create “system on glass” devices, in which the optical sensors, signal processing circuits and other components are located directly on the glass substrate. This negates the need for additional components in a device like an iPhone, saving space within the device and even improving battery life with increased efficiency.

Other advantages of a p-Si display are said to be a higher aperture ratio, which allow for more vivid images onscreen, and enhanced durability, with the amount of connecting pins reduced.

The display of the iPhone 4 is a major selling point of the device, with the high-density 326ppi screen dubbed a “Retina Display” by Apple. Apple also pushed the in-plane switching screen of the iPad last year, a feature that allows enhanced viewing angles, and one that returned again for the new iPad 2.

The rumors of a p-Si LCD would suggest that Apple is not considering organic LED displays, an alternative low-power technology that has been pushed in iPhone-competing devices like the Samsung Galaxy S. Numerous rumors have suggested that Apple has shown interest on OLED, but the iPhone maker has not utilized the technology in any of its devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple may be looking into creating external “quick charge” battery packs for devices

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Date: Friday, April 1st, 2011, 03:26
Category: Patents

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Apple has apparently shown an interest in developing an integrated external battery pack into its standard charging cable, providing extra power for devices like a MacBook or iPhone when a power outlet isn’t available.

Per AppleInsider, the potential future accessory was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing for “Power Adapter with Internal Battery” describes a wall charger with an integrated battery pack, allowing users to charge a device at home and give that device extra juice when on the go.

Apple’s application acknowledges that rechargeable external battery accessories do already exist. However, it notes that such accessories are not as advantageous as one that might be integrated with a standard charging cable.

“Such external batteries are generally cumbersome to use, at least because they must be unpacked for use and then repacked for storage,” Apple’s filing states of current options available on the market. “In addition, many users forget to bring the external battery in addition to the adapter while in transit.

“What is needed is a way to combine a power adapter and a battery so that a user does not have to carry an additional battery while traveling with a portable electronic device.”

Apple’s solution would include a “smart” charger with an integrated processor. This would allow the charger to intelligently determine how to distribute charge between the integrated adapter battery, and the battery on a device like a MacBook.

The hardware would also include the ability to share the status of the battery with the device it is charging. This way, users would be able to check the status of the external adapter battery and how much power it has left.

Such a device could be augmented by a “trickle source” for power, such as solar. And it could also include a USB port for charging a device like an iPhone or iPod. The accessory could also include a wireless adapter, allowing a MacBook or other device to access the power adapter even when it is not physically connected.

Apple’s application also notes that its external battery solution could employ current power adapter features, such as its patented MagSafe connector.

The need for such third-party external battery makers could be significantly lessened if Apple were to follow through on its pursuit of power adapters with integrated rechargeable batteries.

Apple first filed the patent application made public this week in September of 2009, and the proposed invention is credited to Duncan Kerr, David Robbins Falkenburg and Michael Nugent.

Rumor: Next-Gen MacBook Pros to have improved batteries, will see the end of the white model

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Date: Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011, 10:39
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The rumors are coming in a bit more rapidly now with details emerging that the upcoming MacBook Pros will sport larger trackpads, weigh slightly less than the current models and have a 8 – 16 GB SSD boot drive to house Mac OS X (everything else will be stored on a separate HDD). Per MacRumors, tt’s also been reported that the new MacBook Pros will come with a custom all-SSD option at a higher price point.

French Mac site MacGeneration has thrown in its two cents to claim that the new MacBook Pros will feature a SSD (16GB mSATA) boot drive, providing faster startup times and performance improvements. It also claims that new MacBook Pros will weigh 200 – 300 grams less than the current versions: 1.8 kg for the 13-inch model, 2.3 kg for the 15-inch model and 2.65 kg for the 17-inch model.

The site also expects HD resolution displays (1,440 x 900 for the 13-inch model and 1,680 x 1,050 for the 15-inch model), plus a newer Core i3 chip, an extra USB port and 12 hours of battery life for the 13-inch model. The 15-inch model will have 10 hours of battery life.

The article also claims that customers will be able to order the 15- and 17-inch models with additional storage (a solid-state drive replacing the SuperDrive). The 17-inch model is expected to have 8 GB of RAM and the high-end 13-inch model will apparently have a matte screen order option, too. The site claims the MacBook Pros will see the introduction of a “new technology” (most likely, Light Peak, a.k.a “Thunderbolt”.

Finally, MacGeneration has claimed that the white MacBook model will be discontinued, though the memories will always remain…

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.