Skype WiFi out the door, focuses on offering cheap Internet access abroad

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Date: Thursday, August 18th, 2011, 06:44
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

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You asked for a cheap way to communicate on the road and Skype seems to have something to offer…

Per AppleInsider, Skype on Wednesday released a new iOS application that will offer iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users access to over 1 million WiFi hotspots around the globe for a nominal pay-as-you-go basis.

The Skype WiFi application offers those on the go an alternative to pricey international data plans, which can fetch around US$25 for just 20MB worth of downloads, by allowing them to connect to locally available WiFi hotspots for as little as 6 cents per minute.

Skype says it is working with a third party WiFi operators to provide access to “over 1 million WiFi hotspots around the world, including hotels, airports, train stations, convention centers, bars and restaurants,” thus eliminating extra data roaming costs or other WiFi voucher purchases.

The application itself — previously known as Skype Access — is available as a free download from the App Store, but requires that users purchase Skype Credits in order to connect to one of the supported hotspots.

Prices for access to Skype WiFi hotspots start at US$0.06/4p/€0,05 (inclusive of VAT) and there is no data cap in place, which means iPhone, iPod and iPod touch users can use the same hotspot connection without worrying about any traffic limitations.

In order to promote the app’s launch, Skype said it plans to offer up to 60 minutes (or four 15-minute sessions) of free internet access for each unique Skype ID starting Saturday, August 20, 00:00 BST until Sunday, August 21, 23:59BST.

Skype WiFi requires iOS 3.0 or later to install and run.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried the new app and have any feedback to offer, let us know what you think in the comments.

Recently published Apple patents describe steps towards driverless printing for Mac OS X, iOS devices

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Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 03:27
Category: Patents, Rumor, Software

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In a pair of recent filings, Apple proposed methods that would eliminate the necessity of printer drivers in order to streamline the printing process for users of its Mac OS X and iOS devices.

The first of the two patent applications, entitled “Walk-Up Printing Without Drivers,” reveals methods of circumventing the printer driver requirement when such a driver is absent from Apple mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, as well as Macs.

According to ConceivablyTech, Apple describes a new printing process for such mobile computing devices that would allow them to wirelessly detect a printer and determine whether a printer driver is installed.

The user would then be able to continue the printing job even without a driver by employing a series of APIs based on a discovery protocol such as Bonjour, an Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) and the PostScript Printer Description (PPD) file, which is used to detect the printer.

In the event that the device still fails to pair up with the printer, the user would have a third way of completing the print job — by sending the documents to the cloud and using cloud-specific printing technology to communicate with the printer.

The second patent, filed on the same day as the first one, September 14, 2010 according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office and entitled “Data Formats to Support Driverless Printing,” shows a different driverless and wireless printing concept also explored by Apple.

The company suggests a new way for mobile devices to bypass the printer driver requirement by storing a specific data structure that would be able to specify the following printing characteristics when detecting a printer: “resolutions, color spaces, bit depths, input slots, face-up/face-down input orientation, output bins, face-up/face-down output orientation, duplex printing support, media types, copy support, supported finishings, and print quality.”

A new “URF-supported key,” part of discovery and transport protocols, is also mentioned by the second patent. Its purpose would be to offer a “standardized set of capabilities that are supported by a printer” that would let the user “generate printer data for any type of printer” without actually storing any printer-specific details on the computing device in question.

The new wireless and driverless technologies described by these two new patents would complement Apple’s existing AirPrint capabilities for iOS devices and could lead to a future driver-free printing experience for most Mac OS X computers.

Apple has high hopes for AirPrint, but has run into a few snags in the transition to driverless printing. Late last year, one rumor suggested that Apple had run into intellectual property issues with the AirPrint architecture, a problem that could potentially be alleviated should the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office grant the above patents to Apple.

Meanwhile, printer makers such as HP and EFI have been steadily adding support for the feature to their printer offerings.

If you have any thoughts on this, let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Rumor: Apple testing 4G-capable LTE iPhone with carrier partners

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Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 03:53
Category: iPhone, Rumor

A new rumor claims that carriers who support Apple’s iPhone are testing a new prototype handset that is capable of connecting to high-speed 4G long-term evolution data networks.

Per Boy Genius Report, Apple’s carrier partners are testing an iPhone prototype with LTE. The rumor is evidence that Apple is pursuing support of the high-speed 4G network standard.

The report includes images said to be code from the firmware of an internal iOS test build issued to “one of Apple’s major carrier partners.” The references to LTE support are included in a property list, or .plist, file.

Specifically, a “key” tag allegedly discovered in the testing code references “Connected mode LTE Intra-frequency Measurement.” It offers no indication of what iPhone model might include 4G support.

In the U.S., Verizon’s LTE network launched in late 2010 in major markets across the country, while AT&T plans to have a full-fledged 4G network in 15 markets available to 70 million customers by the end of 2011.

Reports have suggested that an LTE-capable iPhone is likely more than a year away, as one recent report claimed that appropriate chips from Qualcomm are not ready for the iPhone’s required production levels. Also a concern is battery life with devices running power-hungry 4G antennas.

Commenting on LTE networks in April, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said his company has been extremely happy with the performance of its 3G handsets, including the iPhone 4, leaving him in no rush to produce an LTE-capable smartphone.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Kingston announces Wi-Drive external storage unit for iOS devices

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Date: Monday, August 15th, 2011, 05:57
Category: Accessory, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

This could be nifty.

Per Macworld UK, accessory maker Kingston has announced the Wi-Drive, a portable storage and file-management device for iOS.

The flash memory-based drive is aimed specifically at the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and offers additional storage space and file-management features to owners of iOS devices.



Users can transfer files onto the Wi-Drive from your Mac or Windows PC via USB and communicate with the drive with the free Wi-Drive app from the App Store. Once installed, you’ll be able to connect your iOS device to the Wi-Drive over Wi-Fi.

The unit comes with either 16GB or 32GB of storage space and up to three users can then wirelessly access the content stored on the Wi-Drive.

The 16GB version is available from Cancom for £89 and the 32GB version costs £119 from the same supplier. It is also available through solutions inc., Square Group, Farpoint, Western Computer, MCC Group, Micro Anvika stores and online at Ebuyer.

Apple expands buyback/recycling program for old iPhones, iPads and Macs

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Date: Wednesday, August 10th, 2011, 04:03
Category: Hardware, News

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If you have elderly Mac stuff, you can still get something for it.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has enhanced its recycling program to add a new “reuse” option that pays owners of existing iPhones, iPads, Mac or PC desktop or notebook computers a fair market value for their old equipment, paid via an Apple Gift Card.

The company continues to offer a variety of recycling programs: a place to dump unwanted electronics of any kind at its Cupertino, California head quarters (which it has operated since 2002); free recycling of Mac batteries at any of its retail stores; and free pickup and disposal of any brand of computer or display contracted through WeRecycle!, which user can obtain a free prepaid shipping label from at www.werecycle.com.

Users who own an iOS device or a computer from any manufacturer can obtain a credit for the fair market value of that device, calculated by PowerOn, a third party company Apple has contracted with to run the reuse program.

While recycling old products dismantles them and harvests valuable components such as metal, plastic and glass for recycled use in new products, reuse is an even greener option, as it extends the useful life of products that have value in the second hand market.

“If your product qualifies for reuse — meaning it has monetary value — you’ll receive an Apple Gift Card equivalent to its fair market value as determined by PowerON,” Apple states on its new recycling program website.

“You can use the gift card for eligible purchases at any U.S. Apple Retail Store or the U.S. Apple Online Store. If your product does not have monetary value, we’ll recycle it at no cost to you.”

Users can get a preliminary valuation for their old devices online, then arrange to ship them to PowerOn at no cost. The company will then contact the user if the apprised value is different than what was quoted online, a figure based on the user’s own description of the product’s condition.

If the user chooses not to accept the final value, it will be returned at no charge. Otherwise, PowerOn will arrange to credit the user via an Apple Gift Card within three weeks of receipt. The company also securely erases all data remaining on the devices while preparing them for resale.

PowerOn’s estimated value of a functional, first generation iPad in very good condition is US$165, for example. Users may likely be able to find their own second hand buyer for relatively new products in good condition, and fetch a higher price.

However, for older devices with some damage or dysfunctional features, the reuse option may provide an easier, more convenient option that still recoups some value they can then reinvest in new Apple gear.

Google releases Google+ app with native iPhone/iPod touch support, non-native iPad support

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Date: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011, 11:55
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

Google has updated its Google+ social networking app, adding native iPod touch and non-native iPad compatibility along with several other minor improvements according to iLounge.

Released last month and similar to Facebook, Google+ provides access to Google’s new social network allowing users to share information with people in their Google+ Circles and keep up to date on what their Google+ friends are doing. The initial version of the app was specifically designed to run only on the iPhone, leaving iPod touch and iPad users unable to load the app on their devices at all; this latest update resolves that issue by adding compatibility with the iPod touch and iPad in 2X mode—native iPad support is not provided.

Additional improvements include customizable Huddle settings, aggregated add notifications for Circles and performance and stability improvements. Google+ is available via the App Store as a free download.

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

Apple begins hunting down, closing device slots of users running unauthorized iOS 5 beta versions

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Date: Monday, August 8th, 2011, 04:13
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News

If you’re using an unauthorized iOS 5 beta, Apple probably wants you to stop.

Per Karthikk.net, Apple has reportedly begun closing the accounts of some developers who have inappropriately sold their account device slots, allowing them to profit from the installation iOS 5 on unauthorized non-developer iPhones and iPads.

Some developers who sold their slots for UDIDs, the unique identification numbers associated with every iOS device, have been tracked down by Apple according to the report. Apple has reportedly sent e-mail warnings to developers, notifying them that their illicit activities have been discovered.

In addition, Apple is said to have begun closing developer accounts for some who have been identified as selling their device slots. Apple has also reportedly flagged UDIDs associated with a developer account found in violation, making the device running iOS 5 “unusable.”

“Once Apple locks your iOS device, the phone will enter the initial setup mode asking you to connect to a WiFi network,” the report said. “And nothing happens more than that.”

Because it is not final, public software, iOS 5 is currently meant only for testing purposes, and is restricted to authorized members of Apple’s official iOS Developer Program. Selling device slots and allowing non-developers to test and run the latest beta build of iOS 5 is a direct violation of the iOS Developer Program rules.

But some developers have ignored these binding terms and have chosen to register another person’s iPhone or iPad UDID in exchange for a fee. Those who pay the developer can receive early access to iOS 5 and test out its new feature base.

iOS 5 is currently available to developers in its fourth beta, released last month. The latest version was issued via the operating system’s new over-the-air update feature, allowing for a much smaller-than-usual 133MB delta update over Wi-Fi.

Members of the general public will not be able to utilize iOS 5 until this fall, when Apple will release the software. The new operating system is expected to become available alongside a new fifth-generation iPhone.

In addition to wireless updates, iOS 5 will also allow for wireless syncing through iCloud. It will also offer an all-new Notification Center for prompting users, a Newsstand application for newspapers and magazines, and system-wide integration with the social networking service Twitter.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to officially end MobileMe sync for certain features in iCloud transition

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Date: Monday, August 8th, 2011, 03:52
Category: News, Software

Apple’s transition to the iCloud is coming and it won’t always be easy…

Per AppleInsider, while many of the features of MobileMe are simply being upgraded in the move to iCloud, Apple has previously noted that Gallery, iDisk and iWeb are on the chopping block. Now, the company has further made it clear that data sync features will also be canceled in its iCloud transition steps.

A key feature of .Mac and later MobileMe was the cloud integration of iSync, Apple’s Mac-centric tool for keeping data in sync among a variety of devices as part of its “digital hub strategy” first unveiled a decade ago. The data sync of .Mac and subsequently MobileMe moved the “truth database” from the user’s Mac into the cloud, making it possible to sync additional types of data between Macs.

MobileMe currently allows a user to sync a variety of settings between Macs, including the layout of Dashboard widgets, Dock items, passwords and credentials saved in the Keychain, email account information including Mail Rules, Signatures and Smart Mailboxes, and System Preferences.

However, all of these features will terminate as soon as a user migrates from MobileMe to the new iCloud, according to Apple’s transition pages at me.com/move.

Other MobileMe features that are not being carried forward into iCloud include Gallery media hosting, iDisk cloud storage and its integrated iWeb web hosting, will be continued for exiting MobileMe subscribers until June 30 of 2012, even after migrating other data to iCloud. These features are easy to maintain independently from iCloud, because there is no direct equivalent in iCloud.

Gallery media hosting is being dramatically reworked as a Photo Stream feature, a push updating feature that presents a user’s photos on the mobile devices, Mac photo albums, and on Apple TV rather than via a web site. Similarly, iDisk is making way for an entirely new type of document and data updating that focuses on a users’ own hardware rather than web-centric hosting.

The iCloud migration process is currently only open to developers, as it requires users to have iOS 5 beta 5 on their mobile devices, Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2 with the iCloud for Os X Lion beta 6 package on their Macs, and the iCloud Control Panel for Windows beta 4 running on any PCs they use.

Apple notes that while Mail, Contacts and Calendars can be migrated from MobileMe to iCloud, shared calendars may be affected in the move, while Bookmarks will simply be imported from a client system. This indicates the reduction in data supported in the transition to iCloud may largely be explained by Apple’s hopes to keep the migration as simple and problem-free as possible, avoiding the issues users had in the move from .Mac to MobileMe.

Another reason for the shift in features between MobileMe and iCloud may be explained by the underlying security changes that differentiate the wide open iDisk from the carefully sandboxed design of iCloud’s Documents & Data.

Currently, data synced to MobileMe by Mac OS X Sync Services is copied into openly accessible folders. It is likely Apple hopes to completely secure all iCloud data to avoid any embarrassing lapses and contain sensitive data from potential malware attacks. Individual apps, such as Keychain Access, Launchpad and System Preferences, may be modified in the future to take advantage of iCloud’s key value data store, duplicating the old MobileMe features in a more secure fashion.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Two Apple patents surface, company looking into inductive charging solutions

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Date: Thursday, August 4th, 2011, 10:09
Category: iOS, Patents

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It’s the patents that make things interesting.

According to Patently Apple, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent application on Thursday detailing two specific plans for an “Inductive Charging System” for iOS devices.

Inductive charging is a wireless method using the electromagnetic field to transfer energy over short distances between two objects. In theory, a charging station would send energy through inductive coupling to an electrical device which would store the energy in batteries.

The first Apple solution uses a charging tower in which a user would wrap their earphone cables around the tower and place a new conductive metal mesh earphone on their device to begin charging.

The second Apple solution uses an acoustic charging mechanism, and no tower of doom. In this system, an earphone is fitted into a recess in an acoustic charger. Then, a speaker within the acoustic charger produces an acoustic signal which causes a corresponding speaker in earphone to vibrate. These vibrations generate a current in earphone, and this current could be used to charge the battery of the attached device.

The article points out that, “Instead of creating separate inductive chargers for various media players and tablets as others have done, Apple is trying to create a single inductive charger that would fit the needs of multiple devices.”

Cool stuff if it happens and check back here for additional details as they become available.

Apple begins iOS 5 app approval process

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Date: Thursday, August 4th, 2011, 07:56
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, Software

If you’re hankering for iOS 5, it may not be that far off.

Per Cult of Mac, developers have begun updating their App Store software to provide compatibility with Apple’s forthcoming iOS 5 update for the iPhone and iPad, though no applications actually built on new iOS 5 code are yet available.

One of the first applications with iOS 5 compatibility to be approved was “Camera+” from developer tap tap tap. Recently, the release notes for version 2.2.3 of Camera+ noted that the software features “compatibility with that upcoming OS That Must Not Be Named.”

Less coy about iOS 5 support was “Mashable,” which updated its own iPhone application this week to version 1.5.4 and advertised that the software now has “iOS 5 compatibility.”

The software updates have led to wishful speculation that the release of iOS 5 could come sooner than expected, perhaps earlier than the fall debut Apple previously announced.

However, while some software may now be “compatible” with iOS 5, the latest builds released on the App Store are likely still based on the iOS 4.3 application programming interface provided by Apple. Developers are able to test application compatibility with iOS 5 by using the latest beta of the forthcoming software update.

There is no indication that Apple has begun approving applications based on the iOS 5 API. For example, last year Apple began accepting applications based on the iOS 4.0 API only 10 days before the update became publicly available, allowing software to take advantage of new features such as multitasking.

That means any iOS 5 software currently available on the App Store likely does not yet take advantage of new features in the forthcoming update. With iOS 5, developers will be able to take advantage of new functionality such as Notification Center for prompting users; Newsstand for purchasing, organizing and updating newspapers and magazines; and system-wide Twitter integration.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what’s on your minds via the comments.