Honda, Acura, other car makers to offer Siri-based Eyes Free support on some 2013 models

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Date: Thursday, January 31st, 2013, 08:44
Category: iPhone, News, Software

Soon you will talk to your car.

And it might actually do some of the things you ask of it.

Per AppleInsider, the American division of carmaker Honda announced on Wednesday it will integrate support for Apple’s voice-driven Siri personal assistant into its 2013 Honda Accord and Acura RDX and ILX models.

The 2013 Honda Accord will offer Siri Eyes Free integration as a dealer upgrade option.

The feature will be a dealer-installed option for customers who buy the latest model of the vehicles. Using a compatible iPhone running iOS 6, users will be able to direct Siri to perform specific tasks while keeping their eyes on the road.

Honda was already announced last June as one of nine auto makers that planned to support Siri’s Eyes Free mode. However, prior to Wednesday’s announcement, it was not known which vehicles Honda planned to offer with Siri integration, or when those vehicles would become available.

Earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show, Hyundai also announced it would include Eyes Free support for Siri in its next-generation infotainment systems. Hyundai did not give any specific vehicle models.

General Motors did, however, announce support for its Chevy Spark and Sonic vehicles last November.

Hands Free allows the iPhone screen to stay off and help prevent the driver from being distracted by their device. The Siri personal assistant software talks to a user out loud, allowing them to pay attention to the road.

The other companies that have announced plans to support Siri Eyes Free are BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, and Chrysler.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple secures 48 assorted patents, including inductive charging, integrating portable electronics with bicycles

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Date: Wednesday, January 30th, 2013, 08:44
Category: News, Patents

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It never hurts to have a patent for something.

Much less 48 of ‘em.

Per AppleInsider , the United States Patent and Trademark office published 48 newly granted Apple patents on Tuesday, covering technologies ranging from inductive charging to bike-integrated iPods, as well as one property covering the touchscreen technology that enables the latest iOS devices to achieve their current slimness.

The patents granted on Wednesday involve components and design elements for virtually all of Apple’s product offerings.

Inductive charging using printed coils:
This patent, filed for in June of 2012, describes systems “for harnessing power through electromagnetic induction utilizing printed coils.” Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,362,751 calls for one or more moveable magnets that, when traveling along the path of the printed coils, can power a device.

The technology is akin to shake-to-charge flashlights that use induction to produce electric current which is stored in capacitors for later use. This type of system eschews the need for bulky batteries that must be plugged in for charging or replaced when depleted.

A similar technology is used in rival devices — including the Google-LG-produced Nexus 4 and Nokia’s Lumia line of Windows Phone 8 handsets — which integrate inductive charging systems that use a wall charger to recharge built-in batteries, thus doing away with pesky electrical cords. Apple has yet to bring a competing technology to market. Prior to the release of the iPhone 5, rumors circulated that Apple would bring wireless charging to bear in that handset, but Apple marketing exec Phil Schiller said after the unveiling that the perceived convenience of such systems was questionable, since charging mats would still need to be plugged into an outlet.

In September, an Apple patent application emerged demonstrating a “realistic and practical approach to wireless power, providing over-the-air electricity to low-power devices within a distance of one meter.

Integrated touchscreen:
Apple also was granted a patent on a design for “displays with touch sensing circuitry integrated into the display pixel stackup.” This is a continuation of the in-cell touchscreen patent, granted in July of 2012, which made an appearance in the iPhone 5. The in-cell touch panel technology allows Apple to make its devices noticeably thinner, but initial yield rates for the panels were problematic, and Apple is said to be evaluating a newer technology using “touch-on” displays, averting some of the problems that came with in-cell touch panels.

Notably, the patent granted today gives a mobile phone, a media player, and a notebook computer as examples of where the technology could be implemented. Tim Cook famously dismissed touch-enabled PC form factors, saying they were like “[converging] a toaster and a refrigerator.”

Integrating a portable electronic device with a bicycle:
Also among the patents Apple secured today was a design for interfacing an electronic device with a bicycle. In the filing, the device receives output from sensors coupled to the bicycle, displaying riding characteristics and even communicating with other devices in order to allow cyclists to ride as a team and assist each other.

The application for the patent originally emerged in 2010. Technology such as that seen in the patent has yet to materialize in any Apple products, but it is in keeping with other fitness-related offerings, such as the Nike+ compatibility seen in iPods and iPhones.

Tuesday’s patent haul covers many other technologies, including motion-based payment confirmation, beamforming antenna systems, device cooling mechanisms, and more. Among companies worldwide, Apple in 2012 ranked 21st for the total number of patents granted in 2012. Last year saw the Cupertino company granted 1,135 patents, just behind Google, which secured 1,151 patents.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases fourth-gen 128 gigabyte Retina Display iPad

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Date: Tuesday, January 29th, 2013, 07:02
Category: iPad, News

This came out of nowhere, but it’s appreciated.

Following up on a series of software updates, Apple on Tuesday announced it has launched a new 128-gigabyte model of the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display, doubling the previous maximum capacity offered.

The 128-gigabyte version of the fourth-generation iPad are available starting Tuesday, Feb. 5 in black or white. They will have a suggested retail price of US$799 for the Wi-Fi-only model, while the cellular-capable model will sell for US$929.

Apple’s 9.7-inch iPad lineup now extends to four different capacities, starting at 16 gigabytes for the entry-level model. The smaller iPad mini still tops off with a 64-gigabyte model.

The announcement of the new iPad model comes only a few days after it was discovered in the newly released iOS 6.1 software update that Apple had included references to a new iOS device with a storage capacity of 128 gigabytes. Previously, the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad lineups all maxed out at 64 gigabytes.

Aside from the higher storage capacity, the new 128-gigabyte iPad with Retina display is unchanged from the previously released fourth-generation models. It includes the Apple-designed A6X processor, a 9.7-inch Retina display, and forward facing FaceTime HD camera.

If you get your mitts on the 128 gigabyte iPad in the next few days, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.

Apple releases iOS 6.1 update

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Date: Tuesday, January 29th, 2013, 07:20
Category: iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

You’ve been hankering after it for a while and it’s finally here.

On Thursday, Apple released its iOS 6.1 update. The new operating system, a several hundred megabyte update available through iTunes, adds the following fixes and changes:
- LTE support for more carriers (complete list of supported carriers).

- Purchase movie tickets through Fandango with Siri (USA only).

- iTunes Match subscribers can now download individual songs from iCloud.

- New button to reset the Advertising Identifier.

iOS 6.1 requires an iPhone 3GS or newer, or a third-generation iPod touch or second, third or fourth-gen iPad or iPad mini to install and run.

As always, please let us know how iOS 6.1 works for you in the comments, no matter what the feedback may be.

Apple seeds fifth iOS 6.1 beta to developer community, adds new features

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Date: Monday, January 28th, 2013, 07:22
Category: iOS, News, Software

The iOS 6.1 seeds, they just keep coming.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Saturday released a fifth iOS 6.1 beta to developers, continuing the testing phase of the company’s mobile OS that will bring users a number of features, including enhanced mapping options and Siri-integration, when it launches later this year.

While rumors claimed Apple would soon rollout an iOS 6.1 Golden Master, the beta supplied to developers today is not the finalized version that traditionally heralds an imminent public release.

Apple made the first iOS 6.1 betas available to developers in November of 2012, two months after iDevice users were given access to iOS 6. The version change came with a number of all-new features like the Apple-designed maligned Maps app, built-in Facebook integration, Photo Stream and Passbook, among others.

Past beta iterations revealed that iOS 6.1 will offer an enhanced Map Kit framework that will allow users to search for map-based place names and points of interest with natural language strings. In an example given by a developer with access to the beta, a search for “coffee” returned the location and corresponding information of nearby coffee shops.

Additionally, iOS 6.1 will offer Fandango movie ticket purchases through Siri and refined iCloud security steps when setting up a new device.

The latest release comes over a month after the fourth iOS 6.1 beta arrived in mid-December alongside fresh developer versions of Apple TV software and Xcode.

Developers can access the fifth iOS 6.1 beta from Apple’s developer website.

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

Apple posts $54.5 billion in revenue, $13.1 billion profit for Q1 2013 financial returns

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Date: Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013, 21:21
Category: Apple TV, Finance, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail

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It was a profitable quarter, but there were setbacks compared to last year.

Per Macworld, for the company’s first fiscal quarter of 2013, Apple posted revenue of US$54.5 billion and a net profit of US$13.1 billion. Revenue rose 17.7 percent from the 2012 first quarter, while profit was flat year-over-year. Apple earned US$13.81 per share, down half-a-percentage point from the US$13.87 it earned in the year-ago quarter.

Apple’s quarterly performance was in line with Wall Street expectations. Analysts were looking for sales of around US$54.7 billion for the quarter and earnings per share of US$13.42.

iPhone sales hit a record for the quarter ended Dec. 29, 2012, up 29 percent year over year to 47.8 million phones. That was within the 46 to 47 million range analysts were looking for. Apple says it sold 3.7 million phones a week during the quarter, compared to weekly sales of 2.6 million during the 2012 quarter.

iPhone sales growth was strong in all sales regions, Oppenheimer said, but particularly in Greater China, which includes China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Sales doubled year over year in that region.

Oppenheimer credited the “tremendous popularity” of iPhone 5 for driving Apple’s phone business—a not so subtle slap at rumors of sluggish iPhone 5 sales. Breaking with Apple’s typical practice of not addressing rumors, Cook did dismiss reports of iPhone order cuts.

iPad sales also set a new high-water mark, with 22.9 million tablets sold, compared to 15.4 million last year. That translates to more than 1.7 million iPads sold per week, a 60 percent increase from the year-ago quarter, according to Oppenheimer.

As is its custom, Apple didn’t break out sales figures between iPad models—it currently offers the iPad 2, a fourth-generation model of its full-sized iPad, and the iPad mini. Oppenheimer called the smaller version of Apple’s tablet a “tremendous hit.”

For the quarter, Apple sold more than 75 million iOS devices.

The company sold 12.7 million iPods, down about 21 percent compared to the year before. The iPod touch was (as always) popular during the holidays, and still accounts for more than half of all iPods sold. The company claims that the iPod owns more then 70 percent of the market for MP3 players.

iTunes generated US$2.1 billion in revenue, and the company established new all-time quarterly sales records for music, movies, and apps. The company added music stores in 56 countries, for a total of 119 around the world. The App Store sold 2 billion downloads in December; cumulative downloads have surpassed 40 billion, generating US$7 billion in payments to developers.

Apple made brief mention of its Apple TV offering, noting that it sold more than 2 million settop boxes during the holiday season quarter. That’s a 60 percent increase from the prior year.

Revenue from Apple’s retail effort was US$6.4 billion—an all-time high and a 5 percent increase over the 2012 first quarter. The company says that revenue is largely due to iPad and iPhone sales.

Apple opened 11 new stores, including four in its Greater China region. It expects to invest a bit less than US$1 billion in its retail stores this fiscal year.

Apple once again noted that the cumulative downloads have now surpassed 40 billion for the App Store, generating US$7 billion for developers. There were 2 billion downloads in the month of December alone.

Unusually, Apple did not break out the percentage of customers who purchased Macs at Apple Stores who were new to the platform. (In the past, that company has hovered consistently around 50 percent.) That omission could be a byproduct of the dip in Mac sales during the quarter.

For the second quarter ending in March, Apple expects sales to come in between US$41 and US$43 billion. That number would be slightly ahead of the US$39.2 billion in revenue the company logged in the 2012 second quarter. Apple is no longer giving analysts a forecast on earnings per share for the quarter, instead providing its expectations for gross margin and operating expenses in addition to revenue. (Apple expects gross margin to be between 37.5 and 38.5 percent for the upcoming quarter while operating expenses will come in at US$3.8 and US$3.9 billion.)

Apple patent shows e-wallet program with controllable accounts for children

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Date: Friday, January 18th, 2013, 08:28
Category: iOS, News, Patents, Software

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This could be useful.

Per FreePatentsOnline, a recent patent application shows Apple’s idea for an “e-wallet” iPhone application that would allow subsidiary accounts for children, complete with customizable spending limits and restrictions.

Apple’s interest in the concept was revealed in a patent application published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Parental Controls.” It describes ways that a user could establish rules for subsidiary financial accounts.

The proposed invention shows a hypothetical application on the iPhone home screen named “E-Wallet.” The software allows users to have a primary account tied to a credit card, allowing transactions to be conducted with an iPhone.

The key feature of the filing are the E-Wallet subsidiary accounts. By creating one, the user can allow new users, such as children, to have access to the E-Wallet app with controlled spending limits.

The customizable rules would allow a parent to set, for example, a weekly or monthly allowance for their children. The application would also enable parents to decline transactions if they are over a certain amount of money.

Parents could also restrict transactions from certain merchant categories, or even block sales to a specific merchant or location. In one example, the application is set to prevent the user from purchasing alcohol or tobacco with Apple’s iPhone e-wallet.

Illustrations included in Apple’s patent filing show that the concept for the E-Wallet application would include purchase history, bill summary, and the ability to search for specific transactions. The E-Wallet app would be driven by users’ existing credit cards, with numbers entered into the software to link them together.

The filing goes on to note that a future iPhone could have an integrated near-field communication chip to supplement the E-Wallet app. It notes that communication using the NFC component would occur in a range of 2 to 4 centimeters.

The proposed invention, published by the USPTO this week, is a continuation of a filing first made by Apple in January of 2009, and issued as U.S. Patent No. 8,127,982 in March of 2012. It is credited to Brandon J. Casey, Gary L. Wipfler, and Erik Cressall.

Not the worst idea in the world and please let us know what you think in the comments.

AT&T to enable FaceTime for tiered customers with compatible iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2013, 08:00
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, News, Software

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Nothing like a little competition to get the wireless carriers to try to beat each other’s offerings.

That and the FCC yelling at you to do it sort of helps.

Per the company’s blog, AT&T announced on Wednesday it will enable FaceTime over cellular at no extra cost to any customers with a tiered data plan and compatible iOS device.

The announcement was made on the carrier’s website by Mark Collins, senior vice president of voice and data products. The change means that iPhone 4S customers with tiered plans will be able to make FaceTime calls over the AT&T network.

“We have already begun updating our systems and processes and expect to start rolling the update out to customers on an ongoing basis beginning in the next couple of weeks,” Collins wrote. “Customers do not need to do anything — the update will be applied automatically over the next few months.”

FaceTime over cellular will not come to older devices such as the iPhone 4 or second-generation iPad, even if they are running iOS 6. But that’s because the hardware does not support mobile FaceTime connections — a decision made by Apple, not AT&T.

Previously, AT&T had restricted FaceTime over cellular to customers who had switched to its Mobile Share plans, as well as those with an LTE device, such as the iPhone 5 or latest iPad, on a tiered plan.

AT&T came under fire for its initial decision, and the company was compelled to defend itself in a statement claiming its plan complied with Federal Communications Commissions that prohibit carriers from blocking services that compete with their own. The carrier argued that its decision was in compliance because AT&T does not offer its own competing preloaded video chat application.

AT&T began quietly activating FaceTime over cellular for more subscribers in November. At the time, some users who had grandfathered unlimited data plans said they too were able to use FaceTime. However, Wednesday’s announcement indicated the ability will only extend to customers who have tiered data plans.

If you get a chance to try FaceTime over AT&T’s cellular connections and have any feedback to offer about it, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to release all-Retina iPad, MacBook Pro lineups in 2013

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Date: Wednesday, January 16th, 2013, 08:09
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, MacBook Pro, Rumor

Even though it’s a rumor, there’s got to be a nugget of truth in there somewhere.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has made his Apple hardware predictions for the upcoming year, and expects a bevy of new iOS and Mac product releases will help the iPhone maker address a wider swath of the market

Kuo, who has seen previous success in predicting future Apple products, says the company will introduce a number of new iOS devices in 2013, including an inexpensive iPhone 5, upgraded iPhone 5S, Retina display-toting second-gen iPad mini and a redesigned fifth-generation iPad, among others. He goes on to say that Apple will retire the non-Retina MacBook Pro line and replace it with an all-Retina lineup at a lower price.

Kuo is quick to note that none of the product forecasts are expected in the first quarter of 2013 and says “many” will be introduced in the second half of the year.

According to the analyst, Apple will release both an iPhone 5S with updated internals as well as an inexpensive version of the current iPhone 5 design with a thicker plastic chassis available in six colors. The iPhone 5S, which Kuo believes will launch sometime in June or July, will have largely the same aesthetic as the existing model, but will boast a built-in fingerprint sensor, improved camera and more powerful A7 SoC. A slightly revamped “new design” iPhone 5 is expected to go on sale as a less-expensive alternative to Apple’s flagship handset at around the same time, with the affordable price tag attributed to a plastic exterior that will be available in multiple colorways.

Kuo believes a new fifth-generation 9.7-inch iPad will launch with lighter frame and a more refined look, borrowing the narrow bezels seen on the iPad mini. In turn, the smaller tablet will move to generation two and get a Retina display that sports the same 2,048-by-1,536 pixel screen resolution as the existing full-size iPad. By using an identical resolution, app makers won’t have to make software changes to fit a new native format. The same thinking was used when the iPad mini was released with a resolution identical to the iPad 2.

As for Apple’s MacBook, the analyst sees an end of life for non-Retina MacBook Pros, which will be replaced by an all-Retina lineup that eschews optical drives. Pricing should be reduced to help move units. The MacBook Air will see little change besides a bump in internal specs as sizing down the high-resolution Retina display is seen as too steep a challenge at this time. Because the Air will not see a significant design change, the tweaked models are expected to arrive earlier in the year, with the all-Retina MacBook Pro line coming in quarter three.

In respect to the iPod product line, Kuo isn’t expecting much in the way of revolutionary changes. With the fifth-gen iPod touch released, Apple will likely introduce a cheaper variant of the current design without a camera and less built-in memory to reach a target price of US$199.

Finally, 2013 is expected to be the last year in which the Apple TV is considered a “hobby,” but Kuo doesn’t believe the company will introduce a full-fledged television set in the next 12 months. The existing media streamer is likely to morph into a serious business — possibly a full-fledged HDTV — in 2014, as Apple already has the infrastructure to support such a device with iTunes, the App Store and iCloud services. What the company lacks, however, is experience in the industry, especially concerning the establishment of a reliable supply chain. Kuo looks to the much-rumored “iTV” as a source of growth in the coming years.

Rumor: Apple prepping iOS 6.1 beta, build expected to go Golden Master

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Date: Monday, January 14th, 2013, 07:51
Category: iOS, News, Software

Just the term, “golden master”, it pretty much sounds awesome.

Per German web site iFun, Apple is said to be internally testing a new beta of iOS 6.1 that is expected to be the golden master build, suggesting the software is nearly ready to be released to the public.

Citing a “reliable source,” the web site reported Friday that the fifth beta of iOS 6.1 is about to be released to developers. The software is said to have gone through “extensive internal testing,” and if all goes well it will be the golden master of the software.

The software is expected to be released to developers either on Friday or potentially on Monday.

Apple began supplying beta builds of iOS 6.1 to its development community in early November. To date, there have been four betas seeded, the most recent arriving in mid-December.

Changes in iOS 6.1 are mostly minor, with the most significant user-facing additions including the ability to purchase movie tickets through Fandango with Siri, and a new prompt that asks users to enter security questions for iCloud when setting up their device for the first time.

For developers, iOS 6.1 includes an enhanced Map Kit framework that will allow third-party applications to search for map-based addresses based on points of interest. For example, a user could search the term “coffee” and the new framework would return the location of local coffee bars along with information about each one.

iOS 6.1 builds released to date have been compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, and iPhone 3GS; fourth-, third-, and second-generation iPad; iPad mini; and fifth-and fourth-generation iPod touch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.