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 expands iOS Maps data coverage in and around France

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Date: Thursday, May 9th, 2013, 05:15
Category: iOS, News, Software

You can’t say Apple’s not trying.

Apple has steadily been making improvements to its Maps data following a controversial launch. Last year Apple pushed out major updates to its 3D Maps coverage, adding a number of new cities in the US, UK, France, and Canada, while just last March it quietly pushed out some big improvements to Maps data in Japan. Per igen.fr, Apple has just pushed out another big update to its 3D Flyover mode, this time bringing new content to more locations across France. Some of the new coverage areas include Paris, Versailles, Aulnay-sous-Bois, Disneyland Paris and to The Hay-les-Roses. Currently, Apple only lists support for 3D building coverage for Lyon, France.

If you’re in or around France and have seen an uptick in Maps data and coverage, please let us know in the comments.

Apple seeds OS X 10.8.4 build 12E47 to developer community

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Date: Thursday, May 9th, 2013, 05:12
Category: News, Software

You’ve been hankering for OS X 10.8.4 and it’s getting closer every day…

Per 9to5Mac, just over a week following the previous build, Apple has seeded OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.4 build 12E47 to registered Mac developers. The update is available via the Mac App Store for developers and should be on the Mac Developer Center shortly. Apple, once again, tells developers to focus on WiFi performance, Safari, and Graphics Drivers…

It’s been previously noted that 10.8.4 includes support for Mac computers with 802.11ac WiFi chips.

While 10.8.4 is a minor update to OS X Mountain Lion, Apple also has a major release launching in the next couple of months. We previously reported that OS X 10.9 will include an enhanced Finder, much improved multiple-monitor support, a new version of Safari, and various other features from iOS.

If you’ve gotten your hands on the 12E47 build and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

U.S. Cellular to begin carrying Apple products this year

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Date: Friday, May 3rd, 2013, 07:13
Category: iPhone, News

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U.S. Cellular, the Chicago-based carrier serving around 5.8 million customers in 126 markets, will likely start offering the iPhone later this year, possibly in addition to other iOS devices. Per 9to5Mac, the carrier announced today in its first quarter results that it will soon begin carrying Apple products, but didn’t provide any further information regarding when or what specific products it might launch:

“We have a number of strategies in progress to increase loyalty and attract more customers, including our announcement today that we will begin offering Apple products later this year. By further strengthening our device portfolio, we’ll give consumers another great reason to switch to U.S. Cellular, and enable our existing customers to choose from an even wider variety of iconic smartphones, and enjoy the outstanding U.S. Cellular customer experiences they deserve. Our smartphone penetration is currently 43 percent of core market customers and growing quickly. We believe there will be strong, ongoing demand for smartphones and data products and services from our customers, and we have significant room for growth in this area.”

It was only a few years back that U.S. Cellular claimed it said no to the iPhone 4S with CEO Mary Dillon at the time saying Apple’s “terms were unacceptable from a risk and profitability standpoint.” Later, CEO of the cellular provider’s parent company, TDS, hinted that the carrier would wait until Apple unveiled an LTE capable device, which was of course before the unveiling of Apple’s LTE iPhone 5.

After it decided not to carry the iPhone 4S, it soon after launched its Wonderphone ad campaign that were seen by many as mocking the iPhone.

U.S. Celluar today reported service revenues for the first quarter of US$996.3 million and noted that it plans to roll out its 4G LTE service to 87 percent of its subscribers this year. The carrier also said it plans to close its US$480 million deal to sell its Chicago, St. Louis, central Illinois and other markets to Sprint in the second quarter of 2013.

Earlier this year the carrier added Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy S4 device and Dillon noted today that the higher subsidies of LTE smartphones will impact profitability. The CEO said its “long-term strategy is to balance those costs with growth in ARPU and reduced capital expenditures for our legacy networks.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Blockbuster releases On Demand app for iOS devices

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Date: Friday, May 3rd, 2013, 07:43
Category: iOS, News, Software

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Maybe there’s some life in the ol’ girl we call “Blockbuster” after all…

Per AppleInsider, Dish Network released Blockbuster On Demand for iOS, an Apple device-ready version of the app that has been available on Android, PC, Mac, TVs and set-top boxes since January.

After filing for bankruptcy in 2010 and being acquired by Dish in 2011, Blockbuster launched a streaming on demand service in 2012, but until today had not offered an app for Apple’s iOS device lineup.

Working in much the same way as the company’s services on other platforms, Blockbuster On Demand streams “thousands” of movies in HD and full surround sound to the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Users can watch selections instantly, or save them to a Watchlist for later viewing. There is also an option to filter movies based on Rotten Tomatoes ratings

Unlike competitors like Netflix, which require monthly subscriptions, Blockbuster’s service is based on a per-view model pricing model with no late fees.

Blockbuster On Demand is free to download, with movie rental prices pegged at US$2.99 and US$4.99. The app is available for free and requires iOS 4.3 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the Blockbuster On Demand app or service and have any feedback to offer, let us know in the comments.

Apple releases iOS 6.1.4 update for iPhone 5 handsets

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Date: Friday, May 3rd, 2013, 07:09
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, Software

This might come in handy.

Lat Thursday, Apple released iOS 6.1.4, a 107 megabyte download offering the following fixes for its iPhone 5 handsets:

- Updated audio profile for speakerphone.

iOS 6.1.3 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.

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

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.

Rumor: Apple looking to expand Siri, Maps integration with upcoming car models

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Date: Tuesday, April 30th, 2013, 06:30
Category: iOS, iPhone, Rumor

Make no mistake about it: Apple wants Siri and its mapping program in your car.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple plans to move aggressively into the in-car integration space later this year, according to multiple people familiar with the initiative. The company is working with car makers to deeply embed iOS’s Maps and Siri services into cars, according to these people. While companies sell accessories to place iPhone and other iOS devices on car dashboards for easy access to Apple Maps’ turn-by-turn navigation, Apple wants to break into the space with its own solutions…

According to sources, Apple is working with car makers on updated versions of car center consoles that could attach to iOS devices like the iPhone. Specifically, an iPhone could be plugged into a car and an optimized, redesigned version of Apple Maps will appear on the car’s built-in display instead of a proprietary GPS system found in many cars.

Sources have described this as a feature akin to a video-out or mirrored display representation of the iPhone’s Maps app onto the bigger screens included with most modern vehicles. This is unlike the new Volkswagen iBeetle car that simply holds an iPhone running a third-party app.

With the iPhone connected, Siri would be used to control the Maps functions and other iOS features.

Last year, Apple announced a new “Eyes-Free” Siri service that allows users to connect their iPhone to their car and use Siri with the iPhone’s display turned off. Apple announced at WWDC that it is working with car makers on Eyes-Free, including BMW, Toyota, Audi, Honda, and Land Rover. It is likely that Apple is bolstering its existing partnerships with these same car makers to take advantage of the new Maps and Siri car-integrated offerings.

While the new car functionality is based on technologies in iOS 7, sources warned that a public release could be potentially be far off. Roadblocks that Apple will need to overcome before the feature launches to the public include more extensive car-based testing, improvements to Apple Maps and Siri infrastructures, and deals with car makers. It is uncertain if Apple plans to debut this new in-car integration at WWDC or at its iPhone hardware event later this year. Because of the processing power that such integration could require, it is likely that the feature will be exclusive to recent iOS hardware.

Apple’s interest in cars goes beyond future iOS integration. Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue, who happens to now be in charge of Siri and Maps, has long had an interest in cars. At Apple’s 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference, the executive demonstrated the iCloud Photo Stream feature by taking a picture of a toy car featured in a Pixar movie. Additionally, Mr. Cue sits on Ferrari’s Board of Directors. Earlier this year, Ferrari began equipping one of its car models with iPad minis.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs shared privately that he considered taking on Detroit with a car design of his own. Patents in recent days reveal that Apple is interested in creating software to make unlocking vehicles and findings cars in parking lots easier.

Earlier this year, Apple posted a series of job listings on its website related to iOS device integration with car stereo systems. Apple is seeking Software Quality Assurance testers for stereo compatibility with iOS products. These job listings, which also cover creating software for car integration, require expertise in Bluetooth product testing. This may mean that the aforementioned upcoming features could rely on Bluetooth rather than wired connections.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Wanted: Game reviewers for Mac mobile, iOS-based game reviews

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Date: Monday, April 29th, 2013, 08:25
Category: Announcement, iOS, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

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Ladies and gentlemen, O’Grady’s PowerPage is looking for a few good game reviewers to cover titles on the Mac OS X and iOS platform. Simply put, we’re looking to continuously review titles on Apple’s notebooks as well as the company’s iOS devices and are looking for a few talented reviewers to take on assignments. So, if you’re in the habit of firing up your favorite game on your MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro or iOS device, you’re halfway there.

The good news: It’s (relative) fame, you will be perceived as having increased sex appeal, you’ll receive the accolades of those around you and free review copies galore. Plus, if you’re an aspiring writer, it’s a spiffy chance to build your clippings and portfolio and cover the stuff you love.

The bad news: At this time, we’re unable to offer compensation for the reviews, so it’s a labor of love with the aforementioned (but nifty) review copies to keep and treasure and trade for Pogs after the fact.

If interested, please let us know via the contact page, get a few samples along and we’ll see what we can do.

If not interested, you can always blame Chris. And devise weaponry to fire confused, flailing ocelots at his head with terrifying accuracy.

Rumor: OS X 10.9 to arrive with additional power-user features, iOS elements

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Date: Monday, April 29th, 2013, 07:49
Category: Rumor, Software

The feature rumors about OS X 10.9 have begun.

Per 9to5Mac, the upcoming operating system, which is internally codenamed “Cabernet,” will focus on various “power-user” enhancements and take core features from iOS, according to sources. Unlike operating system updates such as OS X Leopard and OS X Lion, OS X 10.9 will likely not be an overhauled approach to how the operating system feels and functions.


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The new operating system is purported to include major enhancements to the Finder application such as tags and tabbed browsing modes. Those additions are notable as many pro-users have relied on third-party solutions and hacks to enable these features. Additionally, the new operating system will include a new Safari web browser with a redesigned backend for improved page loading, speed, and efficiency…

Third-party TotalFinder tool:
The ability to keep a different “Space” or full-screen app open on a different monitor (in multiple monitor setups) is another important power-user feature coming in 10.9. This feature was forecasted by Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi last year.

In October, Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi became involved in an e-mail exchange in which a user complained about the lack of proper multi-monitor support in OS X Mountain Lion. The Apple executive said that Apple is “absolutely aware of [its] customers’ passion on this topic,” according to the e-mail exchange.

OS X 10.9 will also apparently see some user-interface changes, but the changes will not be drastic ones.

The upcoming operating system is said to incorporate some level of Siri functionality, but it is unclear if full Siri-support is still in the cards for OS X 10.9 or if the functionality will be glued to future hardware updates (for instance, iPhone 4 versus iPhone 4S). The shake-up at the top of Apple’s overall software group shifted around multiple iOS and OS X projects, so anything on the roadmap prior to this shakeup could have been altered, according to a person familiar with the situation.

OS X Mountain Lion added many app-based features from iOS, such as Messages, Notes/Reminders, Game Center, and AirPlay, but the additions in OS X 10.9 from iOS will focus more on system fundamentals. According to one source, Apple has been testing a new multi-tasking system for OS X that is similar to the quick-app-switcher function on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. The multitasking feature will be functional for applications in the background, according to this person. Additionally, Apple could use app-pausing technologies from iOS to pause background application processes in OS X. This is significant as full performance could be given to foreground apps, which could help optimize battery life on Apple’s notebook computers. It is unclear if this feature will make the cut for 10.9′s public release.

Apple will also likely announce Xcode 5.0 later this year. Apple’s new version of its developer app suite is said to be redesigned and include improved application testing tools. Perhaps hinting at this is Apple’s own WWDC press release:

“Our developers have had the most prolific and profitable year ever, and we’re excited to show them the latest advances in software technologies and developer tools to help them create innovative new apps. We can’t wait to get new versions of iOS and OS X into their hands at WWDC.”

Apple’s last two operating systems shipped in the summer, which suggests it is likely that 10.9 will also see a summer release. OS X 10.9 was originally scheduled to be previewed earlier this year, but Apple decided to introduce the operating system alongside iOS 7 at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference. Recent rumors have indicated that Apple moved resources away from OS X 10.9 development in order to focus on iOS 7. This likely contributed to Apple moving back the next OS X’s debut.

As previously noted, the operating system seems to have already been fairly widely distributed inside Apple, based on views to the 9to5Mac web site with computers running OS X 10.9.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.