Apple apparently exploring further updates to resolve MacBook Pro battery/Lion issues

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, November 15th, 2011, 15:11
Category: battery, MacBook Pro, News, Software

Sometimes the firmware update doesn’t fix everything…

Per AppleInsider, as some users continue to report battery life issues running Mac OS X 10.7 Lion on older MacBooks, Apple continues to look into the problem in hopes of finding a solution.

One user reported receiving a phone call from an Apple technician last week. The representative was said to be following up on both an AppleCare call and Genius Bar appointment involving the customer in July, just after Mac OS X Lion was released as an upgrade on the Mac App Store for US$29.99.

“My (MacBook Pro) battery life dropped precipitously after the install, and the Apple support team was clueless,” this person wrote. “It kind of ended there, until the phone call last week.”

The user was given the impression that Apple is still working on addressing the bug, as they were asked to send an e-mail back to the Apple technician sharing data from a number of tests. These tests included running commands in the terminal window of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

“I was told to expect a software update addressing the issue eventually,” they wrote.

Other users continue to detail their own problems with battery life after upgrading to Lion on Apple’s official Support Communities website. One thread has ballooned to more than 1,200 posts and 130,000 views, with more being added every day.

“After a full charge on my 17 inch (MacBook Pro), I booted up this morning and it took 5% of the battery to boot up,” user “DucatiMonster” wrote on Apple’s forums on Monday. “It said 2:52 minutes left, and now 20 minutes later it says 1:33 left. I will be lucky to get a full hour out of this battery that got 8 hours a couple days ago.”

The person later posted that their MacBook Pro, after upgrading to Lion, managed 2 hours and 24 minutes of uptime, most of it with the screen off. Another user, “Nickofari,” said they went through two calls to AppleCare and two Genius Bar visits to troubleshoot the problem, but no solutions have been provided.

“At the last Genius Bar appointment, they said I need to check-in my computer so they could diagnose the problem more deeply,” they wrote. “It’s a reasonable approach, but not for me. If I had an extra machine, I would do this, but as my (MacBook Pro) is my primary work computer and I can’t live without it. Even with AppleCare, Apple suggested that I buy into the US$499 Business Joint Venture Program so they might provide a loaner. Disappointing to be sure.”

If you’ve seen these concerns on your end, please let us know.

Scientists looking into methods of boosting consumer battery strengths via millions of tiny holes

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, November 15th, 2011, 08:27
Category: battery, News

Even if you’d like to throw your MacBook or MacBook Pro’s battery through a wall on occasion, there’s hope.

Per BBC News, a new battery development technique could allow batteries for phones and notebooks to recharge up to ten times faster and hold a charge ten times larger than current technology allows.

Scientists at Northwestern University in the US have changed the materials in lithium-ion batteries to boost their abilities.

One change involves poking millions of minuscule holes in the battery.

Batteries built using the novel technique could be in the shops within five years, estimate the scientists.

In essence, a mobile phone battery built using the Northwestern techniques would charge from flat in 15 minutes and last a week before needing a recharge.

The density and movement of lithium ions are key to the process.

Dr. Harold Kung and his team at Northwestern said they have found a way to cram more of the ions in and to speed up their movement by altering the materials used to manufacture a battery.

The maximum charge has been boosted by replacing sheets of silicon with tiny clusters of the substance to increase the amount of lithium ions a battery can hold on to.

The recharging speed has been accelerated using a chemical oxidation process which drills small holes – just 20-40 nanometers wide – in the atom-thick sheets of graphene that batteries are made of.

This helps lithium ions move and find a place to be stored much faster.

The downside is that the recharging and power gains fall off sharply after a battery has been charged about 150 times.

“Even after 150 charges, which would be one year or more of operation, the battery is still five times more effective than lithium-ion batteries on the market today,” said lead scientist Prof Harold Kung from the chemical and biological engineering department at Northwestern.

So far, the work done by the team has concentrated on making improvements to anodes – where the current flows into the batteries when they are providing power.

The group now plans to study the cathode – where the current flows out – to make further improvements.

A paper detailing the work of Prof Kung and his co-workers has been published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available…and a MacBook Pro battery that charged in less than 15 minutes, the ladies would love it.

Apple initiates first-gen iPod nano replacement program, cites occasional battery overheating concerns

Posted by:
Date: Monday, November 14th, 2011, 07:53
Category: iPod Nano, News

Sometimes you just have to make amends.

Per MacRumors, Apple has initiated a replacement program for the first-generation iPod nano due to issues with the device’s battery overheating.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based iPod maker first acknowledged the issue in 2008, offering replacements to customers who experienced overheating. The defect prompted investigations from several international government agencies, including South Korea, Japan and Europe.

In 2010, the trade ministry in Japan ordered Apple to publicize the replacement offer on its Japanese website.

According to the article, Apple began sending out emails to purchasers of the first-generation iPod nano on Friday, notifying them of the replacement program.

“Apple has determined that, in very rare cases, the battery in the iPod nano (1st generation) may overheat and pose a safety risk. Affected iPod nanos were sold between September 2005 and December 2006,” the company wrote. “This issue has been traced to a single battery supplier that produced batteries with a manufacturing defect. While the possibility of an incident is rare, the likelihood increases as the battery ages.”

The company now recommends that users stop using their first-generation iPod nanos and order a replacement. Customers can bring their iPod nanos an Apple Retail Store or an Apple Authorized Service Provider for help securing a replacement. They can also order a new unit via the web. Replacements will take approximately six weeks to arrive.

The fact that the likelihood of overheating increases over time explains why Apple chose to publicize the program now, more than six years after the first affected devices hit the market. iPod-related fire incidents have been reported since as early as 2005, though the Consumer Product Safety Commission ruled several years ago the the incidences weren’t common enough to warrant a full recall.

Apple had previously said that less than 0.001 percent of first-generation iPod nanos experienced the overheating issue, but it has yet to indicate how much that percentage has increased over time.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end or have engaged in the replacement program, please let us know.

Apple releases MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update 1.5 for unspecified MacBook Pro notebooks

Posted by:
Date: Friday, November 11th, 2011, 05:37
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

el17.jpg

In addition to the AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule firmware updates, Apple on Friday also released MacBook Pro SMC Firmware Update 1.5, which reportedly “resolves an issue where a MacBook Pro being used with a power adapter may unexpectedly shut down under heavy workload if the battery charge level is near empty.”

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, it’s not entirely clear which models of MacBook Pro are covered by this firmware update.

The update can be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature and requires a MacBook Pro running Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later on the Mac OS X 10.6 end and Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later for the Mac OS X 10.7 end to install and run.

This one’s still sort of up in the air, so if you’ve tried the firmware update and noticed any major changes, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases iOS 5.0.1 update, offer battery, security, document, speech recognition fixes

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, November 10th, 2011, 12:23
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

You’ve been hankering for it and it’s here.

On Thursday afternoon, Apple released iOS 5.0.1, the latest version of its iOS operating system for its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices. The update, a several hundred megabyte download, can be snagged by plugging in your respective iOS device and checking for updates in iTunes and will take several minutes to create a backup file in iTunes, install, update firmware and perform additional tasks.

The update offers the following fixes and changes:
- Fixes bugs affecting battery life.

- Adds Multitasking Gestures for original iPad.

- Resolves bugs with Documents in the Cloud.

- Improves voice recognition for Australian users using dictation.

iOS 5.0.1 requires an iPhone 3GS, 4 or 4S, an iPad, iPad 2 or third or fourth generation iPod touch to install and run.

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

Security researcher Charlie Miller outs iOS code signing flaw, security hole

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, November 8th, 2011, 05:46
Category: iOS, News, security, Software

It’s hard to say if it’s discouraging to see the iOS get spotted on assorted security failures or reassuring to see that security experts manage to notice these and bring them to the public’s attention.

According to Forbes, Mac hacker and researcher Charlie Miller has reportedly found a way to sneak malware into the App Store and subsequently onto any iOS device by exploiting a flaw in Apple’s restrictions on code signing, allowing the malware to steal user data and take control of certain iOS functions.

Miller explains that code signing restrictions allow only Apple’s approved commands to run in an iOS device’s memory, and submitted apps that violate these rules are not allowed on the App Store. However, he has found a method to bypass Apple’s security by exploiting a bug in iOS code signing that allows an app to download new unapproved commands from a remote computer.

“Now you could have a program in the App Store like Angry Birds that can run new code on your phone that Apple never had a chance to check,” Miller said. “With this bug, you can’t be assured of anything you download from the App Store behaving nicely.”

The flaw was introduced when Apple released iOS 4.3, which increased browser speed by allowing javascript code from the internet to run on a much deeper level in a device’s memory than in previous iterations of the OS. Miller realized that in exchange for speed, Apple created a new exception for the web browser to run unapproved code. The researcher soon found a bug that allowed him to expand the flawed code beyond the browser, integrating it into apps downloaded from the App Store.

Miller created a proof-of-concept app called “Instastock” to showcase the vulnerability, which was submitted to and approved by Apple to be distributed via the App Store. The simple program appears to be an innocuous stock ticker, but it can leverage the code signing bug to communicate with Miller’s server to pull unauthorized commands onto the affected device. From there the program has the ability to send back user data including address book contacts, photos and other files, as well as initiate certain iOS functions like vibrating alerts.

The app has since been pulled and according to his Twitter account, Miller has reportedly been banned from the App Store and kicked out of the iOS Developer Program.

Miller, a former NSA analyst who now works for computer security firm Accuvant, is a prominent Apple researcher who previously exposed the MacBook battery vulnerability and a security hole in the mobile version of Safari.

The researcher has refused to publicly reveal the exploit, reportedly giving Apple time to come up with a fix, though he will announce the specifics at the SysCan conference in Taiwan next week.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases second beta of iOS 5.0.1 to developer community, focuses on iPhone 4S battery fix

Posted by:
Date: Friday, November 4th, 2011, 11:16
Category: iPhone, News

The fix, it’s in the works…

Now it’s time for the developers to help out a bit.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is apparently working quickly to publicly release iOS 5.0.1, as evidenced by the company’s second beta in two days released on Friday.

Sources familiar with the latest build made available to iOS developers said it is known as “9A404.” It is available as a download from Apple’s developer site, or as an over-the-air update for those already running the first iOS 5.0.1 beta.

The first iOS 5.0.1 beta was issued on Wednesday with a few hiccups, as some developers said they were unable to activate their devices when updating to the pre-release software. Some developers were incorrectly given the message: “This device is not registered as part of the iPhone Developer Program.”

Apple is working quickly to issue iOS 5.0.1 publicly after the company acknowledged this week that flaws iOS 5 have cause battery life issues for some users. The company said that “a small number of customers” were experiencing the issue, which would be patched through the forthcoming software update.

The first beta of iOS 5.0.1 was labeled build “9A402.” It included a number of improvements listed by Apple:

- Fixes bugs affecting battery life.

- Resolves bugs with Documents in the Cloud.

- Improves voice recognition for Australian users during dictation.

- Contains security improvements.

- iOS 5.0.1 beta introduces a new way for developers to specify files that should remain on device, even in low storage situations.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve had a chance to play with the beta on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Apple patent points towards improved OLED displays in future iOS devices

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, November 3rd, 2011, 08:08
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

applelogo_silver

Uncertain about what’s coming down the pipe? Just check the recent patent applications.

Per freepatentsonline, Apple has shown interest in improving the technology behind organic light emitting diodes, or OLED displays, to provide even better battery life for devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Apple’s pursuit of better OLED technology was revealed this week in a new patent application that went public. Entitled “Power Efficient Organic Light Emitting Diode Display,” it describes ways in which an OLED screen could offer improved battery life, particularly when displaying the color white.

The filing notes that OLED screens can operate at lower voltages than traditional displays, like the LCD screens currently found on the iPhone and iPad. This is possible because OLED technology is light emissive rather than light transmissive.

But while OLED can offer some advantages over LCD — including darker blacks, higher contrast ratios, and improved power efficiency — those perks are diminished when an OLED display is used to generate large amounts of white display area.

In order to display a screen that is largely the color white, an OLED panel has to utilize a range of color channels for every pixel on the display. Doing this can be power intensive and make the device inefficient.

“The relative power inefficiency in display white spaces using an OLED display may be particularly problematic in certain contexts,” the filing notes. “For example, certain applications, such as word processing, spreadsheet design and use, database design and use, e-mail, and other business or productivity applications, typically utilize dark or black alphanumeric characters on a white background, such as to simulate writing or printing on a sheet of paper.

“As a result, these applications may cause the display of large expanses of white background with relatively little area devoted to the non-white alphanumeric characters. Such applications, therefore, may make the use of OLED displays unsuitable or undesirably power intensive for battery powered and/or portable electronic devices, such as handheld devices.”

Apple’s proposed solution to this problem would include a transparent OLED display panel positioned in front of a solid white background layer, like a white transflective sheet. The display would also feature an opacity switchable layer located between the OLED panel and the background layer.

“The switchable layer may be switched, in whole or in part, from an opaque or semi-opaque state to a transparent or semi-transparent state,” the application reads. “For example, in one embodiment, the switchable layer may be opaque, e.g. black, in the absence of a current. However, upon application of a current all or part of the switchable layer may be come transparent so that the underlying background layer is visible.”

The combination of a solid white background and an opaque layer that could be made transparent would allow a transparent OLED panel to avoid displaying the color white. By instead utilizing the white background, this could produce the color when appropriate, such as when reading black text on a white background, without consuming battery life to turn the individual OLED pixels white.

The white background could even be used for smaller elements on a screen, and applied even in situations where the entire background isn’t white. In one illustration, Apple shows a list of calendar events on an iPhone, with one tiny element — the selected “List” view — displayed against a white background.

Apple’s proposed invention, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in April of 2010. It is credited to Daniel William Jarvis, Albert John Golko, and Felix Jose Alvarez Rivera.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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

Posted by:
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

Posted by:
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.