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.

Patent reveals Apple’s exploration of emergency services app for iOS devices

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 10th, 2013, 08:16
Category: iPhone, News, Patents

You’re never far from help with an iPhone in hand.

Per FreePatentsOnline, Apple has shown continued interest in offering easy access to local emergency services when traveling through the iPhone.

The concept is detailed in a patent continuation published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Entitled “Location-Based Emergency Information,” the proposed invention is credited in part to Scott Forstall, Apple’s former chief of iOS who was chased from the company late last year.

“When a person travels abroad, emergencies can occur,” the filing states. “For example, the person can become injured in an accident, be a victim of a crime, or lose their travel documents. In those situations, having knowledge of contact information for local emergency services or the pertinent consular services can be beneficial.”

Apple notes that the process of gathering local emergency service information before traveling can be time consuming, particularly if a person plans to stop in multiple cities or countries. It’s also likely that a traveler would neglect to gather this information entirely, potentially placing them in a bad situation.

To resolve this issue, Apple’s concept includes an “Emergency” Application for iOS that would give users quick access to local medical, police or fire assistance, based on the current location of their iPhone.

The information could allow users to quickly contact emergency authorities in foreign countries, where users may not know the proper emergency number. Or in the U.S., it might provide direct numbers for non-emergency calls to authorities, preventing unnecessary calls to 9-1-1.

In one illustration, the iPhone app is shown with a unique application “drawer” that Apple said could slide out when selected. This would allow users to then tap on which emergency response service they wish to contact.

In addition to Forstall, the application is also credited to inventors Gregory N. Christie, Robert E. Borchers, and Imran A. Chaudhri. The continuation filing, made in September of 2012, stems from a patent originally filed in June 2007, around the time that the first-generation iPhone went on sale in the U.S.

Apple acquisition of Waze reportedly “not happening” according to multiple sources

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Date: Friday, January 4th, 2013, 07:07
Category: iOS, News, Software

It was an interesting rumor while it lasted.

Per TechCrunch, multiple sources have indicated that Apple will not buy Waze. Author MG Siegler was reportedly told by multiple sources that “there is no deal happening… now or anytime soon.”

He suggested that the companies could have talked about a potential acquisition, but noted that larger companies talk with smaller companies about possible deals “on a daily basis.”

Initially, Mike Butcher reported on Wednesday that Apple was “sniffing around Waze.” A similar rumor also appeared on an Israeli website.

Waze is a popular iOS application that the company says has more than 30 million users. It allows users to share real-time information on traffic congestion, gas prices, accidents, speed traps, checkpoints and more.

The Waze application for iOS was highlighted by Apple in September as an alternative mapping option on the App Store. Apple began promoting competing applications after users complained that its new Maps application in iOS 6, which replaced Google Maps data with its own proprietary service, was substandard.

The poor perception of the new iOS Maps was originally believed to be a driving force behind Apple’s supposed interest in Waze, but with Thursday’s report it’s now said that such a deal will not be happening.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple in negotiations to purchase Waze map service

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013, 10:16
Category: iOS, Rumor, Software

When in doubt about your own technologies, maybe it’s time to go shopping.

Per TechCrunch and The Mac Observer, Apple is apparently deep in negotiations to buy the online map service Waze. Sources say the Mac, iPhone and iPad maker is willing to pay upwards of US$500 million for the company, although Waze is said to be holding out for US$750 million.

Waze’s twist on the online map and navigation market is social networking. The company gathers map data through users as they drive, and is seen as generally more accurate than some other online map services since users are contributing information daily. In contrast, Google’s Maps relies primarily on its own cars to gather data and street view photos.

Apple found itself with a marketing black eye after the release of iOS 6 in fall 2012 when it replaced Google’s Maps for its own service — a service that suffered from accuracy issues and missing location data. Apple responded with a public apology and a promise to “throw its weight” behind improving its Maps service.

The company also recently approved Google’s own mapping app for the iPhone, which brought back features missing from Apple’s own app such as public transportation information. With Google Maps available, competition in the navigation space ramped up a little, although Waze is apparently the only navigation app that gained serious traction after Apple released its own Maps app.

Apple also already has a working relationship with Waze since the company is providing some of the location data iOS 6 users rely on.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iOS 6 New Year’s Eve “Do Not Disturb” bug to auto-correct itself on Jan. 7th according to Apple

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Date: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013, 07:24
Category: iOS, News, Software

This is sort of an awkward thing, but Apple says it should resolve itself in four days’ time.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has posted a support document, informing users that a bug with the “Do Not Disturb” feature in iOS 6 will automatically be resolved after Jan. 7.

The document, published on Wednesday, acknowledges the “symptom” of the problem, in which the Do Not Disturb mode stays on past its scheduled end time. The bug went into effect with the start of the new year on Tuesday.

“Do Not Disturb scheduling feature will resume normal functionality after January 7, 2013,” Apple’s document reads. “Before this date, you should manually turn the Do Not Disturb feature on or off.”

Users can manually switch the automatic feature of Do Not Disturb on or off by opening the iOS Settings application, choosing “Notifications,” then “Do Not Disturb,” and switching “Scheduled.” Until next Monday, Jan. 7, the feature will not auto-enable or disable as it has done since the launch of iOS 6 in September.

The iPhone has a history of New Year’s bugs, with another issue arising at the start of 2011 that prevented non-repeating alarms from ringing. When the bug became known, Apple suggested that users set recurring alarms until Jan. 3 of that year, when the alarms automatically began working again properly.

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

Metropolitan Transit Authority releases train-locating app for iOS devices

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Date: Monday, December 31st, 2012, 08:10
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

If you live in the greatest city in the world, this can only help.

Per the Wall Street Journal, the Metropolitan Transit Authority on Friday released an iOS app that will let riders of seven train lines plan their trips to the minute, a first for the largest subway system in the U.S.



The official MTA Subway Time app uses train location data to provide iPhone and iPod touch owners with up-to-the-minute arrival times for seven of the system’s 24 lines.

The MTA spent 11 years and over US$228 million to install digital train-tracking sensors and relevant equipment required to serve up real-time location data. The iOS app taps into the system and feeds commuters with arrival times, though the service is available mostly aboveground as cellular extension networks planned for underground stations have yet to be completed. A large portion of the subway’s train location sensors date back fifty years, just before the proliferation of microprocessors and digital communications.

Among the first lines to get support for the new free service are Nos. 1 through 6 and the 42nd Street Shuttle. Two more lines, the L line between Brooklyn and Manhattan’s 14th Street and the No. 7 line between Queens and Midtown Manhattan, are currently being upgraded to be compatible with the new system. Updates to the L line are expected to be completed in six months to a year, while the No. 7 won’t be ready until at least 2016.

According to the app’s description, users will also be notified of service delays and reroutes prior to fare payment, a useful tool for on-the-go commuters.

Android and Windows Phone versions of the app are in the works, but unlike the iOS app, those will be built by third-party companies. The agency is also allowing developers access to the sensor data feeds, allowing app makers to build real-time tracking programs with more robust features than those offered by the official app.

MTA Subway Time for iOS is available now as a free download through the App Store and requires iOS 5.0 or later to install and run.

Apple patent highlights motion-controlled mouse idea for future Macs

Posted by:
Date: Friday, December 28th, 2012, 06:15
Category: News, Patents

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This could lead to something interesting.

Per AppleInsider, a patent filing published on Thursday details an Apple invention pertaining to a computer input device that uses motion gestures, like tilting, brushing and tapping to manipulate a computer’s GUI.

Apple’s “Methods and apparatus for processing combinations of kinematical inputs” describes a system that translates a variety of force and velocity data detected by an input device into commands for a computer’s user interface, such as control of a mouse cursor.

The invention calls for an input device with one or more motion sensors to feed a receiving system adapted to convert gesture data into GUI navigation commands.

In order to achieve precise calculations, the input device can use a number of motion sensors including one or more gyroscopes, optical sensors and accelerometers, among others. By taking force and vector data from the device, the receiving computer generates a “gesture profile” that is associated with a certain system command. For example, if a user slides the input device across a plane or object, a cursor will move in that direction.

Two gestures can be combined, for example below a sliding gesture is performed in conjunction with a tilt gesture, thus enabling a different UI command than would a simple lateral movement of the device.

The system is programmable, meaning different gestures can be assigned to various commands. A “nudge” gesture can equate to the waking of the input device when it is in sleep mode or moving a mouse cursor slightly in one direction. Tilting, tapping and other gravity-based gestures are supported by the system and can likewise reproduce any number of UI commands on a computer’s screen.

Gesture profiles can be multi-step operations. In the example below, the input device starts at the left at a speed of 0 meters per second. Once the start motion is detected, a minimum velocity must be reached in order to enable the gesture. When the magnitude of the force vector reaches zero, that is when the unit is lifted off the desk, the conditions satisfy the second gesture circumstance and the command is triggered.

It appears from the patent drawings that Apple could possibly incorporate the additional motion gesture control into an upcoming mouse. While just speculation, the iPhone and iPod lineups could also be used asinput devices as they carry integrated accelerometers, gyroscopes and imaging sensors. There are existing apps in the iOS ecosystem that “transform” iDevices into usable input peripherals, like R.P.A.Tech’s Mobile Mouse, but Apple may one day use the invention’s technology to offer a built-in first-party solution.

Apple’s patent application was first filed in April and credited Jean L. Lee is credited as its inventor.