Apple files patent for inductive charging pad that could also offer device syncing features

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Date: Thursday, September 27th, 2012, 06:02
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod, Patents

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It’s not the newest peripheral idea in the world, but it’s still sort of nifty.

Per FreePatentsOnline.com, Apple has shown interest in building an inductive charging mat that would allow users to dock, charge and sync their portable devices by simply placing them on top of the accessory.

Apple’s filing, entitled “Device Orientation Based Docking Functions,” describes a “docking device” that would allow devices to be placed on top of it.

The mat would accomplish docking functions such as charging, data transfer, syncing, diagnostic checking, or any other potential use based on the physical orientation of the user device on the surface.

The filing notes that smartphones, like the iPhone, as well as digital cameras and media players like iPods can all be built to utilize inductive charging surfaces. Circuitry in these devices would respond to a magnetic field provided by the charging surface that would also allow data to be transferred while the device is docked.

While inductive charging surfaces are not new technology, Apple’s application brings a new twist to the concept with the idea of interpreting the device’s orientation for specific purposes. For example, a future iPhone with inductive charging capabilities could be placed face down on the mat for charging only, while placing the handset face-up on the mat could initiate syncing with a computer or iCloud as well as charging.

Once a device is placed on the mat, its current docking mode may be indicated to the user by either a sound, a graphic displayed on the device’s screen, an electronic message notification, or a vibration of the device.

Beyond a local computer for syncing, the inductive charging mat could also be connected to a host of devices throughout a person’s home. In one example, the mat is connected to speakers for audio output when docked.

Apple’s proposed invention was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March of 2011. It is credited to Jorge S. Fino.

When the iPhone 5 was announced earlier this month, Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller was asked why the new handset does not include inductive charging capabilities. He said the perceived convenience of such technology is questionable, as charging mats must still be plugged into an outlet.

“Having to create another device you have to plug into the wall is actually, for most situations, more complicated,” he explained.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6.0 update

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Date: Wednesday, September 19th, 2012, 09:59
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

The wait is over.

On Wednesday, Apple released its long-anticipated iOS 6.0 update. The new operating system, a 912 megabyte update available through iTunes, adds the following fixes and changes:

Maps:
- Apple designed vector based maps.
- Turn-by-turn navigation with spoken directions on iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (2nd and 3rd generation).
- Real-time traffic information.
- Flyover for photo-realistic, interactive 3D views of major metro areas on iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad (3rd generation), and iPod touch (5th generation).
- Local search results with Yelp photos, ratings, reviews, and available deals.
- Siri integration for requesting directions and finding places along a route.

Siri improvements:
- Sports: scores, player stats, game schedules, team rosters, and league standings for baseball, basketball, football, soccer and hockey.
- Movies: trailers, showtimes, reviews and facts.
- Restaurants: reservations, reviews, photos and information.
- Send a Tweet.
- Post on Facebook.
- App launch.
- Eyes Free in supported automobiles.
- Local search available in Siri supported countries (availability may be limited during initial rollout).
- Additional country and language support for Canada (English and Canadian French), China (Mandarin), Hong Kong (Cantonese), Italy (Italian), Korea (Korean), Mexico (Spanish), Spain (Spanish), Switzerland (Italian, French, German), Taiwan (Mandarin), US (Spanish).
- Supported on iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad (3rd generation) and iPod touch (5th generation).

Facebook integration:
- Single sign-on from Settings.
- Post from Photos, Safari, Maps, App Store, iTunes, Game Center, Notification Center and Siri.
- Add location and choose audience for any post.
- View up-to-date Facebook profile photos and contact information in Contacts.
- View Facebook events and birthdays in Calendar.
- Like content and see your friends’ Likes in App Store and iTunes Store.

Shared Photo Streams
- Share selected photos with the people you choose.
- Friends can view shared photos in Photos app, iPhoto and Apple TV.
- Friends can like and make comments on individual photos.

Passbook:
- One place for boarding passes, store cards, movie tickets and other passes.
- Barcode display for boarding flights, buying coffee, getting into movies and other actions.
- Passes displayed on Lock Screen based on time or location.
- Passes can be automatically updated.
- Supported on iPhone and iPod touch.

FaceTime improvements:
- FaceTime over cellular support for iPhone 5, iPhone 4S and iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (3rd generation).
- Receive FaceTime calls, sent to your iPhone number, on your iPad and iPod touch.

Phone improvements:
- Do Not Disturb to suppress incoming calls and notifications.
- ‘Reply with message’ option when declining a call.
- ‘Remind me later’ option based on time or location when declining a call.

Mail improvements:
- VIP mailbox to quickly access mail from important people.
- Flagged email mailbox.
- Insert photos and videos when composing email.
- Open password protected Office docs.
- Pull down to refresh mailboxes.
- Per account signatures.

Safari improvements:
- iCloud tabs to see open pages on all your devices.
- Offline Reading List.
- Photo upload support.
- Full screen landscape view on iPhone and iPod touch.
- Smart app banners.
- JavaScript performance improvements.

App Store and iTunes Store improvements:
- Updated store design.
- iTunes Preview history.
- Complete my season.
- Complete my album.

Game Center improvements:
- Challenge friends to beat high scores and achievements.
- Post high-scores and achievements to Facebook and Twitter.
- Friend recommendations based on your Facebook friends.

Accessibility improvements:
- Guided Access to limit device to one app or restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen.
- VoiceOver integration with Maps, AssistiveTouch and Zoom.
- Support for Made for iPhone Hearing Aids for iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S.

- Improved privacy controls for Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Photos and data shared over Bluetooth.

- Reminders can be reordered in the Reminders app.

- Custom vibrations for alerts on iPhone.

- Clock app for iPad.

- Clock alarm with song.

- Search all fields in Contacts.

- Automatic movie mode for improved video sound quality.

- Definitions of a selected word for Chinese, French, German and Spanish.

- New keyboard layouts for French, German, Turkish, Catalan, Arabic and Icelandic.

- Keyboard shortcuts shared across devices via iCloud.

- Bluetooth MAP support.

- Global network proxy for HTTP.

Features for China:
- Baidu web search.
- Sina Weibo integration.
- Share videos to Tudou.
- Share videos to Youku.
- Improved text input for handwriting and Pinyin.

- Bug fixes.

iOS 6.0 requires an iPhone 3GS or newer, or a third-generation iPod touch or second or third-gen iPad to install and run.

As always, please let us know how iOS 6.0 works for you, no matter what the feedback may be.

Apple cites iCloud e-mail problems as fixed, despite user complaints

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Date: Friday, September 14th, 2012, 09:01
Category: iCloud, News

They hammered away at iCloud for a bit and with any luck, the e-mail outage has been resolved.

Per CNET, Apple’s iCloud services are now being reported as fully operational again according to the iCloud status page, but some problems may linger for users.

For the past few days, a large number of iCloud users had been hit with an outage that prevented them from using their e-mail accounts. In some cases the problem resulted in delayed e-mail messages that would arrive hours after being sent, but in other cases no mail would get through at all.
When the problem happened Apple did not offer much information on what was causing the outage, and only mentioned in a terse status update on its Web site that about 1-2 percent of users were affected and that the company would be fixing the problem ASAP.

Efforts to fix the problem from the user end generated stories such as this:
“The Apple tech I spoke with had me delete my account on my iPad and then reinstall it which did nothing more than make me lose all my previous emails that I had already received. I have a case number and a direct contact to that technician but he is allowing all his calls go to voicemail and not returning any calls. I am so deeply disappointed in the service they are providing. Their lack of communication is seriously hurting my business.”

Even for those who did not touch their computer’s settings, Apple has claimed e-mails that did not arrive over the past few days should begin to do so once the problems were addressed. However, even though messages are beginning to arrive, some users are noticing other problems such as garbled messages in their e-mail inboxes that have dates of 12/31/1969 and illegible subject lines or no apparent content to them at all.

These issues have a number of the approximate 2-3 million affected users concerned that they may not be properly receiving messages sent to them during the outage.

Restoring the Mail folder in the user library to that before you made any changes to your account should restore your account as it was, allowing it to receive messages sent over the past few days during the iCloud outage.

If when you first noticed this problem you attempted to correct it by deleting your previous e-mail settings and have lost messages from doing so, you might be able to retrieve them from a Time Machine backup. To do this, quit Mail if it is running and then in the Finder choose “Go to Folder” from the Go menu. Enter ~/Library in the path field that appears, and when the library folder opens, invoke the Time Machine interface. Locate the backup from before you made your modifications, and then restore the Mail folder from this backup instance. After doing this, exit Time Machine and re-launch Mail, and both your previous messages should be in your inbox along with new ones received now that the outage has been addressed.

If you are concerned about not having received e-mails sent to you during the outage, then you might consider sending an e-mail to your contacts informing them of the outage and requesting they re-send any messages from the past few days. The service being online and operational means once users tackle any residual problems on their end they should be able to continue using the e-mail service without problems.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and please let us know if the iCloud e-mail fix did or didn’t work for you.

Apple making changes with iCloud Notes and Reminders, adding more comprehensive Lost My iPhone feature in forthcoming updates

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Date: Tuesday, September 11th, 2012, 06:27
Category: iCloud, News, Software

Some upcoming iCloud features could prove incredibly useful and interesting.

Per AppleInsider, the upcoming iCloud Notes and Reminders apps are virtually identical to their iOS and OS X Mountain Lion siblings. The new Reminders web app offers a cloud-based version of events synced with iOS mobile devices and desktop Macs, although it does not support location based reminders (simply ignoring any “geofence” reminder settings triggered to go out when entering or leaving a particular location).

Notes gets a similar web treatment, although unlike its iOS and OS X counterparts, there’s no way to change the default font from Noteworthy. Notes on the web also reflects the stitched leather binding of its iOS counterpart rather than the plainer version in OS X.

In addition to the two new apps, iCloud Mail and Calendar are both getting minor updates. The new Mail adds support for VIP inboxes introduced in Mountain Lion’s Mail this summer.

Mail also uses iOS style scroll bars that are skinnier and translucent, in strange contrast to iCloud’s Calendar app, which continues to use a standard scroll bars with a full gutter and arrow buttons.

The only apparent change in Calendars is the removal of the Reminders list, which is now its own app. Similarly, the iCloud Contacts app hasn’t changed at all, so it retains the odd “bookmark” control for accessing contact groups that Apple has removed from both the OS X and iOS 6 versions of the app.

Also left apparently unchanged is Apple’s support for saving and accessing iWork documents from the web. Overall, the company’s web strategy for iCloud seems very conservative, given that both Google and now Microsoft have made web versions of their office apps a prominent part of their software strategy.

One final feature Apple has added to iCloud’s web portfolio is a new “Lost Mode” within Find My iPhone. The new feature is an enhancement over the previous version, which only offers to lock the device and optionally send it a message.

If your iOS 6 device goes missing, you can click on Lost Mode and the app prompts you to enter a phone number and message, locks the device remotely and will track the device every time it moves, reporting changes in location via email updates. It will also draw each location change on the map, showing a trail of where the device has shown up.

Devices that haven’t yet upgraded to iOS 6, along with Macs registered to use iCloud’s Find My Mac, continue to support the old Lock feature, without updates or live tracking.

Notably, Apple is still using Google Maps within iCloud rather than its own Maps that will launch with the new iOS 6 update later this week. The company may transition over to its own map services at some point.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

OS X 10.8.2 beta focuses on improving Power Nap, other features

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Date: Thursday, September 6th, 2012, 07:45
Category: News, Software

Come OS X 10.8.2, your Mac will take more efficient naps.

Per AppleInsider, Apple seeded a new OS X 10.8.2 beta on Wednesday, asking developers to focus on a number of areas including the Power Nap feature introduced with Mountain Lion.

Build 12C43 of OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.2 beta was seeded with no known issues, however it appears Apple is looking to improve operability of the Power Nap feature introduced with the operating system in July.

Power Nap enables Macs to stay up to date and allows for the automatic backup of data while the computer is in sleep mode. Time Machine and iCloud syncing are supported, though compatibility is limited to mid-2011 or later MacBook Airs and the MacBook Pro with Retina display.

The newest 12C43 build comes one week after Apple seeded the second 10.8.2 beta, asking developers to focus on system-wide Facebook sharing integration.

As always, if you’ve gotten your mitts on an early copy of the beta, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.

How-To: Remote lock, remote wipe and restore data to a Mac via iCloud

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Date: Tuesday, August 14th, 2012, 06:11
Category: How-To, iCloud, News

You might want to take a gander at this.

Following last week’s news that Wired journalist Mat Honan had his Mac remotely wiped as part of a devastating attack by hackers, a lot of interest has been focused on how to both remotely wipe your Mac’s data via iCloud as well as restore your data via iCloud.

Jim Tanous has stepped up to the plate over at the Mac Observer and offered a useful step by step guide as to how to remote lock, remote wipe and restore data to your Mac as well as recover data from a damaged hard drive.

Take a look, see what you think and be careful out there.

Apple to add “Wi-Fi Plus Cellular” feature in iOS 6

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Date: Thursday, August 9th, 2012, 11:38
Category: iOS, News, Software

This could be useful.

Per AppleInsider, a new feature that appears to be making its way to iOS 6 this fall aims to automatically detect these hiccups and toggle your iPhone back to cellular data until the Wi-Fi network clears up. This way, some of your most important data and applications will keep on syncing.

Dubbed ‘Wi-Fi Plus Cellular,’ the feature is listed under General->Cellular systems setting pane in the latest beta of iOS 6. If it makes it into the final release of the software, you’ll be able to tell your iPhone to automatically revert back to cellular data to keep your iCloud Documents, iTunes purchases, Passbook and Reading Lists up to date.

In much the same way, it will also attempt to keep your FaceTime video conferences from dropping on an iPhone 4S or greater (the FaceTime toggle does not show up on iPhone 4 or earlier). It’s not yet clear, however, how individual carriers will handle cellular data use for FaceTime, as an earlier finding from within the iOS 6 betas indicated that AT&T may charge for the capability, which is currently limited to WiFi in iOS 5.

Either way, the potential new feature underscores Apple’s drive to equip customers with the best possible user experience where things ‘just work.’ It’s joined by other additions in the latest iOS 6 beta that are similarly designed to keep users connected, including a Bluetooth Sharing feature and an option to be notified when someone subscribed to one of your shared calendars makes an update.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6 beta 4, removes YouTube app in newest developer version

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Date: Tuesday, August 7th, 2012, 06:30
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, Software

Apple on Monday afternoon released the 4th beta of iOS 6 to developers and in the process appears to have nixed the inclusion of the once-standard YouTube app in what appears to be an escalation of tensions between the company and rival Google.

Per AppleInsider, upon installing the release, sources familiar with the software confirm that the Apple-developed YouTube app is no longer part of the distribution — potentially a sign of increased tensions between the two companies which are facing off against each other in both the mobile and connected television segments.

Google owns YouTube.

Update: in a statement issued yesterday, Apple offered the following:

“Our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended, customers can use YouTube in the Safari browser and Google is working on a new YouTube app to be on the App Store.”

At the release of the original iPhone in 2007, Apple partnered with Google to develop a native, bundled YouTube app for the iPhone that would allow users to access Google’s vast library of user-created videos.

Without work on Google’s side to make those videos available using the open H.264 codec, its YouTube videos would not have worked with the iPhone because Google’s player and distribution formats were tied to Adobe Flash, a software platform that wasn’t functional on smartphones and wouldn’t be made available by Adobe in a partially-usable form until 2010, and then only on brand new hardware powerful enough to run it.

Because of the proprietary nature of Flash, Apple would have been severely constrained in any of its efforts to create an in-house compatibility layer to support it. It would also have required significant resources and introduced new limitations on Apple’s iOS.

Rather than taking on the nearly impossible task of supporting Flash on 2007-era mobile devices, Apple decided to instead provide alternative workarounds that minimized the feature loss of not having Flash available.

Because the primary valuable uses of Flash revolved around simple web site animations and video playback, Apple focused on providing rich support for advanced HTML techniques and began promoting Flash-free, direct H.264 video playback, two features that became prominent capabilities of HTML 5.

After initially supporting YouTube playback on the iPhone, Apple TV and later the iPad by converting its huge library to enable raw H.264 video downloads, Google began an attack on the H.264 standard because it incorporated licensed technologies that put it at odds with free software advocates in the open source community, particularly Mozilla.

Google acquired its own proprietary codec (renaming it WebM) and made the specification “open” in the sense of requiring no licensing fees to use it. However, the MPEG Licensing Authority, the standards body behind H.264, insisted that Google’s new specification infringed upon the technical patent portfolio already developed by the global community for H.264.

Concerns around the legal legitimacy and infringement risks of Google’s own WebM codec, as well as the codec’s serious technical shortcomings (including a lack of mobile hardware acceleration support) has caused it to fail to gain any serious traction in the market since, even despite Google’s removal of H.264 playback support from its Chrome web browser.

Over the last five years, Apple’s support for HTML 5 and H.264 video has made both open standards (one freely licensed, the other requiring licensing from the MPEG LA) the new foundations of web development. This is particularly the case in the global market for mobile devices, about half of which are now produced by Apple.

Adobe has canceled Flash development on mobile devices, and its middleware platform is now becoming increasingly irrelevant on the web as HTML 5 takes over more and more features formerly served by Flash. After YouTube’s switch to serving H.264, other prominent video distributors followed suit, to the point where most of the world’s web videos do not require Flash to work, an unbelievable scenario back in 2007.

At this point, iOS doesn’t need a special app to access YouTube videos, and as Apple indicated in its comment to the media, Google has terminated its license to access YouTube videos natively, rather than via Google’s website.

While Apple no longer needs to direct attention to YouTube videos in a special iOS app, the removal of its YouTube app sends a strong message when combined with other, related efforts Apple has made to exclude Google from its once intimate position on Apple’s iOS platform.

New “Share Sheets” Apple introduced for iOS 6 and this summer’s OS X Mountain Lion specifically support Google’s YouTube competitor site Vimeo, but not YouTube.

Apple has also added support for Yahoo’s Flickr photo site but not Google’s Picassa, and has added or announced new social link features for Twitter and Facebook, but conspicuously not Google’s own competing services Buzz and Google+.

One of the most significant features of iOS 6 is Apple’s new Maps, which erases its former support for Google’s mapping services and establishes Apple’s own in-house services in their place.

Apple’s new Maps app for iOS 6 (below) similarly avoids any support for Google’s Places, instead partnering with Yelp, and makes no effort to incorporate Google’s Latitude location sharing, having introduced Apple’s own device location and Find My Friends services tied to iCloud.

Apple’s removal or lack of support for Google’s services (particularly given the support of its competitor’s) is apparently an intentional distancing effort Apple has initiated as a response to Google’s increasingly intense competitive efforts, which include Google’s Android software platform, legal efforts to challenge Apple’s infringement complaints with offensive use of standards essential patents through Google’s new Motorola subsidiary, and most recently, efforts to take on the iPad and Apple TV with Google-branded hardware devices.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve gotten your mitts on the new iOS 6 beta, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.

Users complain of shorter battery life after Mountain Lion install, Apple reportedly launching investigation of issue

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Date: Friday, August 3rd, 2012, 12:15
Category: battery, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News, Software

This is either the end of the world or a firmware update that may need to happen.

Per AppleInsider, a number of MacBook Pro and MacBook Air owners who updated to the recently-released OS X Mountain Lion are complaining of battery performance issues, with some reporting their batteries only last half as long as when OS X 10.7 Lion was installed.

Since the first complaints surfaced in an Apple Support Communities thread started on July 25, the day Mountain Lion launched, the number of reportedly affected MacBook Pro and MacBook Air owners has grown to the point where Apple has supposedly initiated an investigation. As of this writing the thread, titled “Battery life dropped considerably on Mountain Lion” now stands at 15 pages.

While most users are seeing battery life drops of about one to two hours, some cases claim performance has fallen to less than 50 percent as their machines are only capable of staying on for a little over two hours.

Community members have been trying a variety of methods to remedy the issue, from re-installing the software to turning off some of Mountain Lion’s new features like Power Nap, but the attempts have yet to produce a fool-proof solution. Some members have seen limited success in resetting the machine’s system management controller (SMC), though the battery issue crops up again after continued use.

Many users are reporting heightened CPU temperatures even when the machine is at idle, possibly pointing to a backend program management problem, while others are seeing battery drain when the system is sleeping.

Apple has taken notice of the complaints and, according to one community member, sent out a questionnaire on Friday in an attempt to pinpoint the problem.

OS X Mountain Lion launched last week, bringing with it over 200 new features including tighter iCloud integration, the Messages app, Notification Center, Facebook integration, Dictation, AirPlay Mirroring and Game Center.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

And, as always, if you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Apple shutters iWork.com web site, grace period for file transfer ends

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Date: Wednesday, August 1st, 2012, 14:13
Category: News, Software

Sometimes the store just closes.

Per MacRumors, Apple finally brought an end the grace period that had allowed users to retrieve their Gallery photos and iDisk files from the iWork.com web site and to transition their accounts to iCloud following the June 30 shutdown of the service.

As of today, visitors to MobileMe.com are no longer given the option to convert their accounts to iCloud or to retrieve old photos and files, with Apple now simply pointing users to iCloud.

Also in line with previous announcements, Apple has officially discontinued its iWork.com service, automatically redirecting visitors to the main Apple home page. While the service was to officially shut down as of the end of the day yesterday, it did continue to function until just a short time ago.