Intel cites possible 50% battery life improvement in upcoming MacBooks under Haswell architecture

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Date: Tuesday, May 28th, 2013, 06:45
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

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What a difference a next-gen architecture can make.

According to PCWorld, Intel’s next-generation processor in Apple’s MacBook line could see 50 percent greater battery life thanks to the processors expected to go into them, according to Intel.

In a media briefing ahead of the launch of its Haswell processor platform, Intel chief Rani Borkar said that the chipmaker had designed the line with notebooks and tablets in mind. That focus on mobile devices led to dramatic increases in battery life, with 50 percent longer operation in normal use and extending idle and standby battery life by up to 20 times.

That could mean that battery life for future MacBooks — already near the top of the industry — will see considerable improvements. A 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro’s battery life could jump from about six hours and 15 minutes to Apple’s seven-hour estimate under normal use.

The Haswell line is the latest in the chip giant’s instruction set architecture. The rise of smartphones and tablets has hobbled the PC industry, the main source of Intel’s sales. Increasingly, consumers are opting for mobile devices rather than traditional computing form factors, and Intel has struggled to gain a foothold in the mobile device segment.

The Haswell line, then, is intended to address both traditional computers and tablets as well. Some components of the line have had their power consumption reduced to as low as 7W. Intel’s tablet-tailored offerings are said to offer better performance than non-Intel chipsets, but with comparable battery life.

Intel has been talking up the possibilities of the Haswell line for months ahead of its launch. Most recently, the chipmaker released a document showing that Haswell will double or triple graphics performance compared to previous models.

Apple’s expected refresh of its MacBook line of devices is widely expected to feature Intel’s latest and greatest processor set.

Currently, retailers are running low on supplies of some MacBooks, and many Apple observers expect the company to announce the next generation during the keynote of its Worldwide Developer Conference in June.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Fifth-gen iPad to receive rear-facing mic, thinner, lighter design

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Date: Friday, May 24th, 2013, 06:09
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

A rear-facing mic might be in the next-gen iPad’s future.

Per Macotakara and AppleInsider, the fifth-generation iPad is expected to ship after Apple’s anticipated “iPhone 5S.” Reports have pegged Apple’s next iPhone for launch around September, which would be around a year after the iPhone 5 went on sale.

According to author Danbo’s sources, the next 9.7-inch iPad will gain a rear microphone next to the camera, much like Apple added to the iPhone 5 in 2012. The report noted that prototypes of the iPad mini also included rear microphones, but were not included in the final shipping product introduced last October.

While Apple apparently opted to remove the rear mic from the iPad mini in late stages of development, thus far it appears the microphone will remain on the next 9.7-inch iPad.

Earlier reports have claimed that Apple’s fifth-generation iPad will adopt many of the same design elements Apple adopted with the iPad mini, including a thinner bezel around the screen and more rounded edges. Those changes are expected to make the device 25 percent lighter and 15 percent thinner than its predecessor.

Among the internal changes expected is a “GF2″ touch panel, which would make the touchscreen component of the iPad thinner. And improved power efficiency could also allow Apple to reduce the size of the iPad’s internal battery, which currently accounts for most of the device’s weight.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AppleCare, AppleCare+ to undergo significant changes this fall, feature updated warranty policies, in-store iOS device repairs

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Date: Monday, May 13th, 2013, 03:34
Category: iPhone, News, retail

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You’re going to see some changes in AppleCare this fall.

Per AppleInsider, in a town hall session held on Thursday, Apple informed tech staff that major changes to the AppleCare and AppleCare+ service programs will be enacted starting this fall, with a broadening of current policies likely to cut costs and make the service more attractive to consumers.

The town hall session was led by Apple Vice President Tara Bunch, who revealed a set of after-sales policy shifts would soon be rolling out across the U.S., and eventually the world, with many of the changes referred to under the “One Apple” brand, said a source close to the story. While Bunch was referred to as Vice President of AppleCare, AppleInsider cannot confirm this assertion. On her LinkedIn page, Bunch lists her current job as simply “Vice President at Apple,” but it is known that she was previously vice president of Global Customer Support Operations at Hewlett-Packard prior to joining Apple in 2012.

As for the “One Apple” moniker, it is unclear if the term is an internal designation for the vast restructuring about to take place, or is intended to become a consumer mark once the new changes are in place.

“The biggest announcement, was the way repairs for iPhones will be handled soon,” the person, who asked not to be identified due to their active status as an Apple employee, told reporters. “The way it is now, if almost anything is wrong with an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, the entire device is exchanged for a like-new re manufactured (sic) device, whether brought into an apple store or sent in for mail in repair. Now we are starting to actually repair the products and return the same device to the customer.”

Currently, Apple Stores have the tools to replace speakers, receivers, home buttons, the vibrator motor and battery. Come June, capabilities will be expanded to display replacement, and by July cameras, sleep/wake buttons and logic boards will be dealt with in-store. In addition, employees will have access to advanced diagnostics tools that can remotely assess hardware issues and relay the data directly to technicians, allowing for quicker turnaround times.

The new in-house repairs are to be rolled out across the U.S., with international support coming online soon thereafter. Bunch reportedly said Apple expects to save nearly US$1 billion per year with the change in policy.

In another huge departure, Apple will reportedly reconfigure its paid AppleCare service as a subscription model, or introduce a new tier, which will be attached to a customer rather than a specific product. Under the proposed system, a customer is entitled to in-store training similar to the One to One program available to new Mac buyers, with each device owned being covered by the warranty. The new AppleCare may also include “exclusive” 24/7 support, though that has not been confirmed as a full set of features and pricing is not yet etched in stone.

Gratis after-sales coverage is also slated for an update, and will move over to a new system where phone support will persist for at least an entire year, with possible two-year support offered in the future. Apple currently offers 90 days of free phone support without buying the add-on AppleCare plan. Online support, knowledge base articles, online live chats and Genius Bar visits will continue to be free.

Apple is also looking to grow its home advisor team, which currently consists of over 4,200 technical advisors who work from home instead of an office, approximately double the number from one year ago. The program is meant to cut overhead costs and provide for a larger pool of potential employees.

Finally, the source said Apple’s online resources will see an overhaul in the coming months as the company is working to expand its current offerings to include support over iMessage and a revamp of the Support Pages website, which is expected to focus on interactive tutorials and video content. Unsurprisingly, the Web-based enhancements will be optimized for both computer and iOS device perusal.

In addition, Apple personnel will begin to take a more active role in the discussion boards, helping to answer questions, consolidating threads and performing general maintenance.

Most of the changes mentioned above will roll out by fall if all goes according to plan.

The source briefed on Apple’s upcoming changes pointed out that in-store repairs would also be a plus for those customers whose products are no longer under warranty. Instead of paying a universal “swap out” fee, out of warranty hardware issues will be fixed on a per device basis. Apple has reportedly deployed advanced in-store repairs at select locations, with customer response being largely positive.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple files patent applications for curved battery technology, could lead to unique new devices

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 08:44
Category: News, Patents

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If nothing else, the patent applications tell you what’s coming down the pipe.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a pair of patent applications (1, 2) filed by Apple reveal the company is working on unorthodox battery designs with curved cells and irregular shapes, suggesting slimmer, more shapely iOS devices could be on the horizon.

The patents filings for “Curved battery cells for portable electronic devices” and “Non-rectangular batteries for portable electronic devices,” both describe methods in which a battery can be designed and manufactured for incorporation into slim, new device chassis.

Both filed for on Oct. 28, 2011, the applications call for battery cells to be manipulated during the manufacturing phase in order to facilitate easy installation into curved and non-rectangular device designs.

For example, the invention regarding curved batteries uses industry standard production techniques, which include a set of layers, a cathode, an anode, a separator and active coatings, before manipulating the unit to a given specification. Like some batteries already on the market, Apple’s proposed design uses a flexible pouch to enclose the cell layers created by the separator.

The pouch is then exposed to pressure of “at least 0.13 kilogram-force (kgf) per square millimeter” and heat of about 85 degrees Celsius in a set of curved plates in order to set the shape. As noted, this process may take as long as four hours.

In some embodiments, the curve is held by employing a binder coating within the battery cell, which is activated during the curing process to laminate the layers together. The resulting structure would be solid and take the shape of curved plates.

From the filing’s summary:
“In some embodiments, the curve is formed to facilitate efficient use of space inside a portable electronic device. For example, the curve may be formed at one or more ends of the battery cell to allow the battery cell to occupy a curved and/or rounded space within the enclosure of a laptop computer, tablet computer, mobile phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), digital camera, portable media player, and/or other type of battery-powered electronic device.”

In the second application a similar method is employed, but where the former uses pressure and heat to set the shape, the “non-rectangular” property removes material from the battery before stacking the cell layers. An example is given of how a non-rectangular shape can be achieved by removing material from one or more sides of the anode and cathode to form a rounded corner. By utilizing this method, varying thicknesses can be achieved, such as those seen in the fourth-generation iPad.

Both techniques aim to shape a battery that fits snugly into a device’s housing, thereby reducing wasted internal space. While merely speculation, the battery designs could be used in an upcoming version of the iPhone or iPad, both of which are becoming increasingly slim as consumers demand thin, lightweight portables.

Also a possibility is the use of such battery design in an iPhone with a “wrap-around” display, the patent of which passed through the USPTO in late March. While it is unlikely that such a device will make it to market in the near future, if ever, the recent patent filings show Apple is continuously looking for innovative ways to save space in its iOS device lineup.

Both patent applications credit Ramesh C. Bhardwaj, John Raff, Stephen R. McClure, Erik L. Wang and Taisup Hwang as their inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple’s OS X 10.8.3 prompts use of discrete GPU in mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 08:42
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

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There’s sort of a love/hate relationship with operating system updates, especially given the fact that you never quite know what’s going to change with your Apple hardware and how it performs after the fact.

To that end, the mighty Topher Kessler has written a terrific piece over on CNET as to Apple’s latest OS update for its mid-2010 MacBook Pro notebooks.

To this end, a number of the notebook’s owners noticed that after upgrading to OS X 10.8.3, their systems with dual graphics cards would automatically switch to using the more powerful discrete graphics chip regularly, even when using non-graphics intensive applications like Google Chrome, Dropbox, and Growl. This does not result in crashes or other interruptions in workflow, but it does increase the drain on the systems’ battery and result in a shorter working time when not connected to AC power.

The article then moves on to discuss how to ration battery power, how to drop back to OS X 10.7 if necessary and the new challenges for developers under these conditions.

It’s there, it’s good, so take a gander and let us know if you’ve seen anything like this with your mid-2010 MacBook Pro on your end.

Apple releases iOS 6.1.3 beta 2 build to developer community, looks to resolve recently-discovered lock screen security hole

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Date: Friday, February 22nd, 2013, 07:21
Category: iOS, News, security, Software

This could be useful.

Per MacNN, Apple on Thursday pushed a new beta build to the developer community of its iOS mobile operating system designed to address a bug that can allow users to get past an iPhone lock screen even when a secure passcode is enabled.

iOS 6.1.3 beta 2 is available to members of Apple’s development community for testing prior to the software’s official release. Sources familiar with the latest build indicated it addresses the security hole discovered last week that could allow anyone to bypass an iPhone lock screen.

Those with access to the new software indicated it is identified as “Build 10B318.”

The software also reportedly includes a number of improvements related to the Maps application in Japan. Specifically, they are:
- Improved pronunciation of roads during turn-by-turn navigation.

- Optimized directions to more strongly prefer highways over narrower roads.

- Now indicates upcoming toll roads during turn-by-turn navigation.

- Added labels for junctions, interchanges, on-ramps, off-ramps, and intersections.

- Added indicators for transit station buildings, subway lines, and traffic lights.

- Updated freeway color to green.

- Updated icons for some location categories including fire stations, hospitals, and post offices Added 3D buildings including Tokyo Station, Japan Imperial Palace, and Tokyo Tower.

The new beta comes only two days after Apple released iOS 6.1.2 to the public, addressing a bug related to Exchange calendars that could drain a device’s battery.

Apple first began testing its planned improvements for iOS Maps in Japan with the first beta of iOS 6.1.1 earlier this month. But that software number was quickly used for an update issued to iPhone 4S owners that addressed issues related to battery life and 3G connectivity.

Thursday’s beta software release was renamed iOS 6.1.3 for developers because the iOS 6.1.2 identifier was also used this week in the latest public update.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6.1.2 update

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Date: Tuesday, February 19th, 2013, 12:42
Category: iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch, News, security, Software

Never doubt the speed of a fix in the wake of bad PR…

On Tuesday, Apple released iOS 6.1.2, a 107 megabyte download offering the following fixes for its supported iOS devices:

- Fixes an Exchange calendar bug that could result in increased network activity and reduced battery life.

iOS 6.1.2 is available via iTunes or Over-The-Air updating and requires an iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, 5, iPad 2, third or fourth-gen iPad, iPod Touch 4th Gen or iPad Mini to install and run.

Evasi0n hack now over 7 million downloads, updated version available for iOS 6.1.1

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 13th, 2013, 08:16
Category: Hack, iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

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You can’t knock a good hack.

Per Redmond Pie, the Evad3rs team on Tuesday rolled out an update for the Evasi0n untethered jailbreak tool, fixing bugs found in the initial software while adding support for the Apple’s iOS 6.1.1 mobile operating system just one day after its release.

After launching last week, version 1.3 of the Evasi0n jailbreak is now available to the public, allowing iPhone, iPad and iPod touch owners to liberate any device running iOS 6, 6.1 and 6.1.1.

Multiple reports noted that Evasi0n was downloaded over seven million times in four days, making the so-called liberation tool the most popular in iOS history.

Apple’s release of iOS 6.1.1 on Monday broke compatibility with the software hack, but version 1.3 brings back support for all iOS devices, including the iPhone 5 and iPad mini. Apple’s iOS release targeted battery life and 3G issues seen by some iPhone 4S users, and was not meant to patch the Evasi0n exploit.

Available on OS X, Windows and Linux, the untethered hack allows users to jailbreak their devices without having to connect to a computer.

It should be noted that the process of jailbreaking is legal, but will void the supplied Apple warranty as it leverages exploits in the iOS software to run unauthorized code.

If you’ve run the Evasi0n hack on your iOS device and have any feedback to offer, please let us know via the comments.

Apple receives patent for “microslot antennas”, could see improvements in wireless functionality in coming years

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Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 08:01
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, wireless

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Your notebook and iOS device’s wireless system could be getting that much niftier.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday won the patent rights to “microslot antenna” technology that allows micron-wide antenna assets to be integrated into the housing of a portable device, such as an iPhone, making them nearly invisible to the human eye.

As portable electronics become thinner and more compact with each successive generation, internal space is quickly becoming a limiting factor to device designers. Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,373,610 for “Microslot antennas for electronic devices,” granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, could drastically cut down on the size of at least one component needed to create products like the iPhone.

While the patent refers to implementations in a laptop computer, the antenna tech can be used in other portable electronics like smartphones and tablets.

With Apple’s current technology as seen in the iPhone 5, two internal radio antennas dynamically switch between multiple frequency bands, including those carrying fast LTE data. In order to fit the units within the handset’s slim body, Apple had to design a window for radio waves, while keeping the unit small enough to leave room for other important structures like the logic board and battery.

Tuesday’s patent focuses on so-called “microslot antenna” technology, or “dielectric-filled microslots that are formed in a ground plane element.” According to the invention, the ground plane can be a device’s housing as long as it is conductive, meaning the slots would be integrated on the outer hull of a product. The system can also support multiple communications bands, meaning functionality would not be compromised for size enhancements.

As for the size of the microslots, the patent language states that the widths of the slots are usually significantly less than their lengths. For example, widths can range from microns to hundreds of microns, while a microslot’s length can be on the order of millimeters or centimeters.

Filling the slots is a dielectric such as epoxy, plastic, air or other suitable substance that prevents foreign matter from entering. Antenna feeds can be located at or between the functional microslots, and operate on common communication bands that support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G cellular, among others.

The ’601 property was first filed for in December 2007, less than six months after the original iPhone debuted, and credits Bing Chiang, Gregory Allen Springer, Douglas B. Kough, Enrique Ayala and Matthew Ian McDonald as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6.1.1 update for iPhone 4S users

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Date: Monday, February 11th, 2013, 12:32
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, Software

Well, that was quick.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Monday released iOS 6.1.1 to address a number of bugs for iPhone 4S owners who recently ran into a handful of issues following the release of iOS 6.1 for all of Apple’s mobile devices.

The release is currently available as a direct download here (968MB) or as an over-the-air download (weighing in at about 23 megabytes). It’s available only to iPhone 4S users. No release was issued for iPhone 5 or other models of the handset at this time, despite claims from iPhone 5 owners that they were also negatively impacted by the iOS 6.1 update.

Two weeks after Apple released iOS 6.1, a number of iPhone 4S users began reporting battery drain and overheating issues possibly related to the update. British wireless carrier Vodafone UK even sent out a warning telling iPhone 4S owners not to upgrade to the latest OS version because the carrier determined it to cause 3G performance problems.

For instance, Apple’s Support Community forum battery drain and overheating problems after applying the iOS 6.1 update.

In particular, the carrier noted that iOS 6.1 was creating intermittent problems with iPhone 4S models, causing the handsets to experience 3G-related issues with making calls, sending texts and accessing the company’s data network. The reports on Apple’s support forums, however, suggested that the problems may not be limited to just iPhone 4S users and may also affect iPhone 5 users to some extent.

One iPhone 5 owner saw their battery drain of 35 percent overnight, while an iPhone 3GS user said Apple’s latest update actually boosted battery life. It’s unclear whether Apple is separately preparing an iOS 6.1.1 update for iPhone 5 owners.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried iOS 6.1.1 and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.