Users report second iMessage, FaceTime outage in one week

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Date: Monday, November 19th, 2012, 07:04
Category: News, Software

Sometimes a network runs perfectly, other times it flops over and takes a prolonged nap a la Seabiscuit…

Per AppleInsider, users reported that iMessage and FaceTime experienced outages across the U.S., the second time in a week that services attached to Apple’s iCloud saw issues.

A number of users reported on Sunday that they could not send or receive iMessages from their iPhones and iPads, a problem that is becoming more common since the company’s newest iOS 6 was released in September.

According to Apple’s iCloud system status webpage, “some” users unable to use iMessage or place FaceTime calls, with the error coming less than two days after an issue appeared with iCloud storage upgrade payment transactions. Apple said service will return to normal “ASAP.”

Sunday’s downtime marks the fourth such outage in the past three months, with one incident in September and two in October affecting users of iMessage on both iOS and OS X clients. At the time, messages sent through Apple’s proprietary service were pushed through as SMS texts.

While iMessage and FaceTime appear to be the most prone to errors, iCloud’s email service has also seen problems, the latest being a September outage that affected 1.1 percent of all users.

Introduced alongside iOS 5, iMessage is Apple’s smartphone-integrated answer to online messaging services like AOL Instant Messenger and Google Chat. The service is data based, allowing iOS device users to communicate with each other and Macs running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, without racking up text fees.

The services were apparently restored as of 4:41 AM PST on Monday.

If you noticed the outage on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Google nearing completion of standalone Maps app for iOS

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Date: Friday, November 16th, 2012, 07:54
Category: iOS, Rumor, Software

The great, heralded competitor to iOS’ Maps application may be about ready for distribution.

Per the Wall Street Journal, it was reported on Thursday that Google is distributing a test version of a standalone iOS Maps app to people outside the company, suggesting an application to the App Store may be imminent.

According to a source close to the story, a Google Maps-powered app may soon hit the iOS App Store as the internet search giant is almost finished tweaking the software for Apple devices.

“We believe Google Maps are the most comprehensive, accurate and easy-to-use maps in the world,” a Google spokesman said. “Our goal is to make Google Maps available to everyone who wants to use it, regardless of device, browser, or operating system.”

Google’s standalone app will reportedly feature turn-by-turn navigation, which was reportedly one of the main reasons Apple ditched the service in iOS 6. According to reports, which were later corroborated by CEO Tim Cook, Apple decided to move away from Google’s service because of disagreements related to offering free turn-by-turn directions, a feature Google had long since included in its own Android operating system.

Google has been working to re-establish its presence on iOS after its YouTube app was also deprecated from the platform, and has offered a number of free apps that return most of that functionality back to Apple’s devices. Maps has been noticeably absent, however, though the company did activate Street View for web apps, meaning mobile Safari users can access the feature in-browser.

In October, photographs of an iOS device running Google’s alleged standalone iOS Maps app were leaked to press, showing what appeared to be a near-final version of the software. It is unclear if and when Google will submit the app for approval.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iBooks 3.0.2 update

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Date: Thursday, November 15th, 2012, 10:59
Category: iOS, News, Software

Never knock a good update.

Late Wednesday, Apple released version 3.0.2 of its iBooks update for its iOS reader program.

The new version, a 41 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

– See all your iBookstore purchases in iCloud – on your bookshelf with iOS 6.

– Scroll vertically through your books using the new Scroll Theme.

– Receive free content updates to purchased book (new chapters, etc.)

– Look up definitions for words under the German, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Simplified Chinese languages under iOS 6.

– Share thoughts about your favorite books via Facebook, Twitter, Messages or Mail.

– Resolves a crash wherein the iBooks app may unexpectedly quit in iOS 6.

iBooks 3.0.2 requires a compatible iOS device and iOS 5.0 or later to install and run.

Public Radio Exchange Labs locates multiple-download bug in iOS 6.0.0, says bug may be responsible for data overages

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Date: Thursday, November 15th, 2012, 07:17
Category: iPhone, News, Software

There’s a reason bug fixes exist and this might be one of them…

According to the Public Radio Exchange Labs, a system-wide bug in Apple’s iOS 6.0.0 AV Foundation framework has been found to trigger multiple downloads of streaming media, such as podcasts, over Wi-Fi and cellular networks that could lead to massive data bills.

The flaw was discovered by Public Radio Exchange Labs, the host of popular podcasts such as This American Life and The Moth, after researching a curiously high spike in download traffic. According to PRX, there is an issue in iOS 6 Audio Playback frameworks that results in files being downloaded multiple times, however the problem has apparently been resolved in iOS 6.0.1 and 6.1 beta.

First tipped off by This American Life, which complained of unusually high content delivery network (CDN) bills, PRX thought that the “rather extreme” spike in bandwidth was due to Apple’s release of its Podcasts app. Following a series of tests that compared transfer activity in iOS 6 with iOS 5, it was determined that audio files were being downloaded multiple times due to errors in the new operating system’s code.

“The player appears to get into a state where it makes multiple requests per second and closes them rapidly,” PRX wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. “Because the ranges of these requests seem to overlap and the requests themselves each carry some overhead, this causes a single download of an MP3 to use significantly more bandwidth than in iOS 5. In one case, the playback of a single 30MB episode caused the transfer of over 100MB of data.”

Not only does the bug affect Apple’s first-party Podcasts app, but third-party titles as well, indicating that the underlying issue is system-wide.

It is unknown what exactly triggers the re-downloading of content, though it appears the timing is variable as the PRX test saw normal content downloads lasting for up to five minutes. What is consistent, however, is the activity seen when a file has completely downloaded. The tests show that once a file has finished downloading, the AV player restarts the download from the beginning and continues to do so as long as a user is streaming the file.

As seen in the video below, which shows the HTTP activity of the Podcasts app on iOS 6, the system sends multiple rapid requests even after buffering is complete and the file is downloaded.

PRX speculates the bug could be the cause of recent complaints regarding trouble with iPhone 5 data overages, with subscribers from various carriers claiming the handset was using cellular data despite being connected to Wi-Fi.

Because iOS 6.0.1 appears to have fixed the error, it is recommended that users running iOS 6.0 upgrade to the latest version to avoid incurring unintended and costly data charges.

If you’ve seen this bug on your end, please let us know.

And, well, take the time to update to iOS 6.0.1 today. It tends to be worth it.

20% Samsung price hike could affect Apple’s margins by 1-2%

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Date: Wednesday, November 14th, 2012, 07:53
Category: iPad, iPhone, News, Processors, retail

The ne’er ending fight between Apple and Samsung continues.

Following up on yesterday’s story about Samsung potentially raising the cost of building mobile processors for Apple, such a change would be expected to reduce the company’s overall margins by as much as 2 percentage points.

Per AppleInsider, Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray noted on Wednesday that the processors built by Samsung at its chip fabrication plant in Austin, Tex., are the core component of Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The chips tend to represent between 6 and 9 percent of the total component cost of a given iOS device.

A report surfaced this week that claimed Samsung has increased the price of its mobile processors for Apple as the two rival companies are driven further apart.

Munster said a 20 percent increase in chip prices would result in a hit to Apple’s margins between 1 and 2 percentage points. He also said that he would not be surprised if the price increase turns out to be accurate, “given the legal tension” between the two companies.

But he also buys in to rumors that Apple plans to move its chip production away from Samsung, and will have assembly of its custom processors like the A6 found in the iPhone 5 handed to another company, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

“We believe that if Apple were to move to another vendor in the next year or two, they may be able to negotiate better chip prices, which would roll back the impact from the Samsung price increase,” he said.

But in the meantime, Munster said it appears Apple has no choice but to continue its partnership with Samsung, even if the Korean electronics maker did put a massive price hike in place.

Piper Jaffray has projected that while Apple’s margins will dip during the December quarter in the face of a number of major product transitions, margins will quickly improve in the company’s fiscal year 2013. Munster has called for Apple to earn gross margins of 41.5 percent for calendar years 2013 and 2014.

“It does not appear that new product launches for iPhone 5 and iPad mini carry significantly different margins than prior launch margins for the same product lines,” he said.

Margins have been a major concern among investors in recent weeks, as Apple’s stock has taken a major hit. But most analysts have stood by Apple. Chris Whitmore of Deutsche Bank said last month that concern over Apple’s margins has been “overblown,” and that the reduction is “nearly entirely cyclical and not structural.”

Stay tuned for additional updates as to the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys as they become available.

Apple releases updated iOS 6.1 beta, Apple TV beta and Xcode 4.6 preview to developer community

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Date: Tuesday, November 13th, 2012, 07:08
Category: Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, Software

The iOS updates, they’re en route…

Per AppleInsider, a new build of iOS 6.1 was provided to developers on Monday, less than two weeks after the first beta was issued, along with a new preview of Xcode 4.6, and new beta software for the Apple TV.

Sources familiar with the second beta of iOS 6.1 indicated it is known as build 10B510c. It’s compatible with the fourth-, third- and second-generation iPad, iPad mini, iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 3GS, and fifth- and fourth-generation iPod touch.

The second beta of iOS 6.1 arrived Monday alongside a new Xcode 4.6 Developer Preview 2, said to be known as build 4H95e, as well as a new beta software release for the Apple TV set-top box.

As with the previous beta of iOS 6.1, the latest build enhances the Map Kit framework in iOS, allowing developers to search for map-based addresses and points of interest.

In one example provided to developers, users could search the string “coffee,” and it would return the location of local coffee bars along with information about each one.

Relevance behavior rules have also changed with Passbook iOS 6.1 for boarding passes with both a date and location. Developers are encouraged to provide both piece of information, when appropriate, to make boarding passes relevant for a longer window of time.

Because it is beta software, a number of known issues remain with iOS 6.1. For example, Apple has notified developers that when browsing for TV shows in iTunes Store, options to view content by networks, genres and Genius recommendations are not available.

Sources who tested the first beta of iOS 6.1 indicated that the software was relatively stable, aside from some crashing issues that were present when using the camera’s panorama mode.

The last update to iOS arrived in the form of software version 6.0.1 earlier this month. It addressed a number of minor bugs with the software, including screen distortion, issues with the camera flash, and problems with Exchange.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on the new betas and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

British Airways confirms support for iOS Passbook feature

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Date: Friday, November 9th, 2012, 11:44
Category: iOS, News, Software

If you can get the major partners, then a new technology comes closer to being a de-facto standard.

Per AppleInsider, British Airways has confirmed that it will be supporting Apple’s Passbook payment system.

“I’m pleased to confirm that the ba.com team are already looking into our website being able to work with the new Apple app, available with the iOS6 upgrade,” a company representative wrote in an e-mail. “Please be assured that we will get our Passbook-compatible functionality live on ba.com as soon as we can.”

British Airways already offers digital boarding passes through its official iOS application. But the carrier does not yet offer integration with Apple’s Passbook.

Passbook launched with iOS 6 in September featuring support from Delta Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Australia.

The addition of British Airways would be a major catch for Apple. The U.K.-based carrier has a fleet of 249 aircraft and serves 169 total destinations.

Just this week, Apple updated its own Apple Store application for iOS to add support for Passbook. With the new software, users can purchase gift cards and e-mail them to friends, and those cards can be stored as passes in the Passbook application in iOS 6.

Passbook is Apple’s first stab at offering digital e-wallet type services on the iPhone. Rather than relying on near-field communication technology for wireless transactions, Apple has instead focused on replacing items such as store cards, boarding passes, movie tickets and retail coupons.

One of the first adopters of Passbook was Major League Baseball, which offered digital tickets for four teams at the end of the 2012 season. The league’s digital ticketing operation was “floored” by the initial adoption rate for Passbook, as they found Apple’s service accounted for 12 percent of MLB e-tickets.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple notifies customers, announces that iPad mini with Wi-Fi + cellular support to ship on November 13th

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Date: Friday, November 9th, 2012, 07:45
Category: iPad mini, News

You know that nifty iPad mini with support for 3G and 4G LTE networks?

It ships in four days.

Per AppleInsider, Apple is notifying users that the new iPad mini with support for 3G/4G LTE networks will begin shipping on November 13th, and has posted new iOS 6.0.1 builds for the iPad mini and iPad 4.

Apple began delivering WiFi only iPad mini models around the first of November, after immediately selling out its initial inventory.

Three days ago, the company reported sales of three million new iPad mini and iPad 4 units over the first three day weekend of sales, but that only included WiFi models.

Mobile data versions of the two new iPads were expected to begin shipping in “a few weeks,” but Apple’s recent email updates forwarded by multiple users stating that initial shipments will begin in five business days, or late next week.

Apple has also make available four new iOS 6.0.1 firmware downloads available to support the new models today, which include two versions (GSM and CDMA) of both the LTE iPad mini and iPad 4.

If you’ve received word as to your iPad mini with Wi-Fi and cellular support being en route, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Microsoft to release free Office app for iOS in early 2013, will charge subscription fees for document editing

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Date: Wednesday, November 7th, 2012, 08:46
Category: Rumor, Software

microsoftlogo.jpg

This is interesting.

According to The Verge, a version of Microsoft Office designed for Apple’s iPhone and iPad is now expected to arrive on the iOS App Store in early 2013, offering free document viewing, while a subscription will be needed for editing.

Details on the rumored software were revealed on Wednesday, which also obtained screenshots of the software and other details from “several sources close to Microsoft’s plans.” The “Office Mobile” application will be a free option available on the iOS App Store that will require a Microsoft Office account.

Included in Office Mobile will be Word, PowerPoint and Excel support, while those with an Office 365 subscription will be able to edit documents. Office Mobile is also expected to come to Google’s Android platform, though it will debut on Apple’s iOS first.

An Office 365 subscription will reportedly be available for purchase through the application, meaning it will comply with Apple’s in-app purchase rules for App Store content. Wednesday’s report said the subscription will allow for “basic editing” in the application, though it “won’t go very far in attempting to replace regular full use of a desktop Office application.

Those who do not purchase an Office 365 subscription will still be able to use the free Office Mobile application for iPhone and iPad for basic viewing of documents.

Last month, a Microsoft product manager in the Czech Republic indicated that the new version of Office for iOS could arrive as soon as March of 2013. A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to give a date, only saying that its Office suite would “work across Windows Phone, iOS and Android.”

Rumors of a version of Microsoft Office for iPad have swirled for the past year, and a picture claiming to show a screenshot of the iPad application surfaced this February. One report from late May pegged a specific release date of Nov. 10 for Office for iPad, but recent reports suggest that date will not be met.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Analyst: ARM-based Macs “inevitable”, though still a ways off

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Date: Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, 09:24
Category: News, Processors

Apple’s future may be in the hands of ARM some day.

Per AppleInsider, Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu has gone on record as saying it’s “inevitable” that Apple will merge its Mac and iOS devices at some point, but such a change is not expected to happen for years.

Wu said in a note to investors on Tuesday that he believes it will take Apple some time to optimize its Mac OS X operating system for the ARM processors currently found in the iPad and iPhone.

Intel processors are currently much more powerful for running intensive Mac applications, as well as for development. But he believes that ARM processors will eventually become powerful enough to replace Intel chips.

In his view, making Apple’s entire product line based on custom-built ARM-based processors would simplify the architecture of its devices, and also help to create a more seamless experience for users.

Wu also noted that the Mac represents just 14 percent to 18 percent of Apple’s total revenue. In comparison, the iPhone accounts for between 45 and 50 percent of the company’s revenue, and the iPad is 20 to 25 percent.

Wu’s take was issued in response to a report that surfaced on Monday from Bloomberg, which indicated that Apple’s engineers are confident that the company’s A-series custom chip designs will one day be powerful enough to run the company’s desktop and laptop machines. ARM-based silicon in Apple devices is currently limited to iOS devices.

Monday’s report also suggested a change to ARM processors is not likely to take place “in the next few years.” But it also portrayed a shift to proprietary chip designs as an “inevitable” transition for the company in the future.

Apple is said to have a team dedicated to the project, with engineers working to design a lineup of machines that rely on a common chip design. Apple already employs this approach with its current lineup of iPhones, iPads and iPods.

A potential switch to ARM chips would pose a challenge to Intel, Wu said. He noted that Apples’ 11-inch MacBook Air gets four to five hours of battery life under heavy use, compared to 10 hours of battery life with an ARM-based iPad.

Reports suggesting Apple could power future Macs with ARM processors are not new. One recent story issued in October also said Apple has “deliberated” moving its lineup of Mac computers away from Intel processors, though such a change was said to not be “imminent.”

Apple has made headway in designing its own custom silicon for the iPhone and iPad. Earlier this year, rumors suggested Apple was looking to use its own ARM processors in upcoming iterations of the MacBook, especially in power-critical applications like the thin-and-light MacBook Air.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.