Apple unveils updated retail experience, introduces interactive iPad displays

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Date: Monday, May 23rd, 2011, 03:52
Category: News, retail

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There were rumblings that Apple was doing something for its 10th retail anniversary.

And they apparently did.

Per Mac Prices Australia, Apple retail stores have taken the wraps off Apple’s new retail upgrade, which makes use of interactive iPad displays to provide product information, pricing and features.

Apple launched “Retail 2.0″ on Sunday morning in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Apple retail stores. The company opened its first retail stores on May 19, 2001, in McLean, Virginia and Glendale, Calif.

According to the report, the main change is the addition of stationary iPads placed next to other Apple products in order to display product prices, information and features. The touchscreen tablets can also be used to compare models and ask for help from a specialist. Photos of the new iPad display units reveal that the devices are placed in plexiglass.

The iPads appear to be running a custom software application, as customers report that pressing the home button on the tablets does nothing. Though the power cable for the device does not appear to connect to the dock, one person familiar with the matter said the cable is indeed connected to the dock connector, but is “very well hidden.” Also, detaching the cable will reportedly activate an alarm.

Some reports also suggested that Apple retail employees were wearing party hats to celebrate the occasion. Customers reported via Twitter that the Apple store updates created a “totally new experience.”

Apple had been reported as stockpiling iPads in preparation for a retail overhaul, the new in-house iPads having been slated for use with an updated version of RetailMe, Apple’s proprietary retail software.

Apple reportedly scheduled overnight shifts for retail employees in preparation for the updates to the Apple store. The company had blocked employees from taking vacation from May 20 to May 22. Mandatory meetings have been scheduled on Sunday morning and evening for Apple retail staff.

Apple has also taken offline the Order Status page from its website until Sunday, May 22 in order to perform a system update.

A recent report claimed Apple will update its “Apple Store” retail app for iOS this weekend, adding full build-to-order purchasing options to the application. Apple first released the retail app last year with support for stock configuration orders.

If you’ve wandered into an Apple Store location since the overhaul this weekend and have anything to report, let us know.

Recently published patent shows Apple’s interest in adding camera, games to iPod nano

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Date: Friday, May 13th, 2011, 04:12
Category: iPod Nano, Patents

A newly released patent application shows that Apple has interest in improving its multi-touch iPod nano with a camera and support for new software such as games.

Per AppleInsider, potential features of a future touchscreen iPod nano were revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Environment Sensitive Display Tags.” The document describes adding new sensors to the iPod nano, including a camera, to add new functionality.

The application concentrates on software features like screen savers, allowing information or content to be displayed on the device. Apple’s proposed invention would use sensors that would display unique content, or change the manner in which it is displayed.

But even more interesting are the illustrations shown in the application that include references to a camera and games. Currently, the sixth-generation iPod nano does not feature a camera, and cannot run software outside of what is preinstalled on the device.

In addition to a camera, the application also makes mention of the inclusion of a motion sensor, temperature gauge, and a microphone. Each of these sensors could be used to dynamically alter the way a screensaver would be played on an iPod nano.

While the application itself makes no mention of the iPod nano model in its text, the images show a small device with no physical buttons with an appearance similar to the multi-touch model Apple released last September.

The mention of a camera in the patent filing comes just days after a new photo claimed to show a seventh-generation iPod nano with a rear-facing camera, and without the built-in clip featured on the sixth-generation model. Another picture, also suggesting Apple could add a camera to its tiny media player surfaced in early April.

A camera was previously featured on the iPod nano in its larger fifth-generation model, released in 2009 and featuring the classic-style click wheel for input. Previous version of the device also supported iPod Click Wheel Games, but no games are available for the touchscreen sixth-generation iPod nano.

While the iPod nano operating system is designed to look and feel like iOS, which powers the iPod touch and iPhone, it is actually a different, unique operating system. In December, hackers managed to crack the software, but have not yet released any useful hacks aside from removing icons.

Apple’s patent application was first filed in November of 2009. It is credited to Duncan Kerr, Nicholas King, and Michael B. Victor.

Apple releases iPhoto 9.1.3 update

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Date: Thursday, May 12th, 2011, 02:56
Category: News, Software

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Apple on Tuesday released iPhoto 9.1.3, the latest version of its image organization and editing application. The update, a 112 megabyte download which can be be snagged via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature, offers the following major fix:

- Fixes a problem that could cause some events merged in iPhoto to be split back into multiple events on iOS devices after being synced.

iPhoto 9.1.3 retails for US$49 as part of iLife ’11 and requires Mac OS X 10.6.3 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know.

Amazon quietly adds iOS support for Cloud Player music streaming service

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Date: Tuesday, May 10th, 2011, 03:10
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, Software

Competition’s a bit weird sometimes.

Amazon has silently added support for browser-based playback of music in its new cloud streaming service on iOS-powered devices.

Per TechCrunch, Amazon quietly added support for iOS devices through its built-in Safari browser. Users can log into their account on Amazon and access the Cloud Player, which now allows streaming of audio files stored on its servers.

Users who visit the site will still be prompted with a message warning them that their browser is not supported. However, music playback now works through the service, and audio is even paused when a push notification or call is received.

“Of course, this implementation is still not as good as it is on Android, where Cloud Player is part of a native app,” author MG Siegler wrote. “But if Amazon did a little web work and made the web-based player optimized for the iPhone and iPad, it would certainly be very useable on a regular basis.”

Amazon’s cloud streaming service launched in March, but initially only had support for streaming via the Web and on Android devices. Amazon Cloud Drive offers 5GB of free online storage, with premium accounts expandable to up to 1,000GB.

The push to launch the service, which requires users to upload their own songs and is not backed by any recording industry licensing deals, was seen as a move to preemptively take on Apple and its own anticipated cloud music streaming service. It’s also been reported that Apple is expected to unveil its “iCloud” service this year with support for bookmarks, e-mail, contacts and more, in addition to music streaming.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve played around with Amazon’s Cloud service on your iOS device and have any feedback to offer, let us know.

iPhone dev team releases untethered jailbreak for iOS 4.3.3

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Date: Monday, May 9th, 2011, 03:33
Category: iPhone, News, Software

For those of you who don’t mind living on the edge, you can now do it a bit more sensibly with your iPhone.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, jailbreakers hesitant to update to iOS 4.3.3 can now do so without losing their ability to jailbreak. The iPhone dev team confirmed iOS 4.3.3 is still vulnerable to the untethered jailbreak exploit that @i0n1c created for 4.3.1. Released earlier this week, this version of iOS fixes the location bug that made headlines a few weeks ago.

Both the group’s PwnageTool and redsn0w have been updated and will jailbreak iOS 4.3.3 devices including the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (GSM), iPod touch 3G, iPod touch 4G, iPad1 and AppleTV 2G (v4.3;8F202). Unfortunately, the iPad 2 is not yet supported and its jailbreak is still under development.

Head over to the dev team’s blog for more information about this untethered jailbreak. As with all jailbreak attempts, follow the directions carefully and proceed at your own risk…

Rumor: Apple may switch to ARM processors for notebooks in 2013

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Date: Friday, May 6th, 2011, 05:27
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Rumor

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s the rumors that make life interesting.

Per SemiAccurate, sources have claimed that Apple will be transitioning from Intel processors to ARM processors in the not too distant future.

The short story is that Apple is its notebook line, and presumably desktops too, to ARM-based chips as soon as possible.

The transition seems unlikely to take place after ARM has moved to full 64-bit cores which won’t likely be until at least mid-2013.

At that point, Apple can move to ARM without worrying about obsoleting code with an [instruction set architecture] that is on the verge of changing, and no memory overhead worries either.

Apple has made a heavy investment in the ARM architecture which presently powers their iOS line of products. Apple even made the bold move to take ARM processor design in house with the acquisition P.A. Semi and Intrinsity.

A transition of the Mac notebook line over to a different processor architecture would still present some roadblocks. While Apple did previously succeed in such a transition in the past with the PowerPC to Intel transition, it was not without an incredible amount of engineering to ease the process. Existing Mac applications would be unable to run on the new ARM processors without some sort of emulation layer. Mac applications would have to be recompiled to support the ARM processors.

While ARM is known for their low power processors, last year they announced plans to move into high-performance computing in the future, and has been rumored to moving into the 64-bit space as well.

Codenamed “Eagle,” the A15 architecture is ostensibly aimed at netbooks and tablets, but a look at the spec sheet leaves no doubt that ARM is absolutely gunning for the server market that Intel and AMD currently dominate.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available

Apple releases iOS 4.3.3 update

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Date: Wednesday, May 4th, 2011, 14:20
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

Responding primarily to its recent location tracking controversey, Apple on Wednesday released iOS 4.3.3, the latest update to its mobile operating system. The update includes the following fixes and changes for iOS-based devices:

- Reduces the size of the cache.

- No longer backs the cache up to iTunes.

- Deletes the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.

The update is recommended for all users of the GSM iPhone 4, the CDMA iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad, iPad 2, and the third and fourth-generation iPod touches. To download and install it, connect your device to your Mac or PC and click Check for Updates in iTunes.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes (for better or for worse), please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases Thunderbolt, Sandy Bridge-equipped 2011 iMacs

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Date: Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011, 09:57
Category: iMac, News

It’s kind of fun when the rumors are true.

Per Macworld, on Tuesday, Apple announced a new generation of iMac models, running at speeds up to 3.4 GHz and powered by the next generation of Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors. The models also build in support for the new Thunderbolt high-speed peripheral connection interface that debuted in Apple’s MacBook Pro line earlier this year.

In terms of processors, Apple has shifted to Intel’s second-generation Core technology—codenamed “Sandy Bridge”—for the iMac line. “What Intel has done is very tightly engineer the processor, the graphics, the cache, and the memory controller on a single die,” said Apple’s David Moody, vice president of hardware product marketing. Moody said this accelerates transfer between processor components, resulting in some impressive performance gains.

In addition, the processor architecture upgrade has enabled a transition to quad-core processor configurations across the iMac line—in comparison, the previous iMac line had only a single quad-core configuration on the highest-performance model.

“Even in the top-end, moving from the old quad-core configuration to the new quad-core configuration has seen 30 percent faster performance,“ said Moody.

The desktop line now sports the latest generation of AMD Radeon HD discrete graphics processors. The high-end Radeon HD 6790M boasts 1.3 Teraflops of performance and is up to 80% faster than the previous generation. Moody described the technology as “Mac Pro-class graphics” and said it’s the “first time we have the same level of performance in the iMac that you’d have in a Mac Pro.” The gains aren’t limited to high-end either; even the entry-level version’s Radeon HD 6750M graphics processor clocks in at three times faster than the previous configuration.

For external connectivity, the new iMacs boast the same Thunderbolt ports introduced in its new MacBook Pro line released in February. Co-developed with Intel, Thunderbolt offers two bi-directional channels that can transfer data at up to 10Gbps each—12 times faster than the theoretical maximum of FireWire 800. The technology is based on the PCI Express protocol that most Macs use for internal I/O, but via adapters it can support pretty much any other type of connectivity protocol, including FireWire, USB, and Gigabit Ethernet.

The smaller iMac sports a single Thunderbolt port while the larger version includes two—Moody confirmed that those ports are independent as well, meaning that users essentially have four 10Gbps channels. That allows, for the first time, the 27-inch iMac to drive two external displays—and that’s in addition to other high-speed peripherals. Moody also said that the adoption of Thunderbolt is progressing, with several vendors announcing plans for compatible peripherals at the NAB show last month.

As with the MacBook Pro refresh also earlier this year, the iMac line also now has a FaceTime HD camera for video conferencing. The camera can supports 720p high-definition video in a 16 by 9 widescreen format, and supports a wider viewing angle to make it easier for multiple people to get in the picture. High-definition video calls are only supported between Macs with a FaceTime HD camera, such as the iMac and MacBook Pros—calls with other Macs, or iOS devices are limited to standard definition.

The new machine comes in four basic configurations: two 21.5-inch models with a 2.5GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 and 2.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 processor respectively, and two 27-inch models with a 2.7GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i5 and 3.1GHz Quad-Core Intel i5. Apple is also offering build-to-order Web-only options to bump the 21.5-inch model to a 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, and the 27-inch model to a 3.4GHz Intel Core i7; the i7 processor upgrades add US$200 to the cost.

The low-end 21.5-inch model sports a 500GB hard drive and an AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 512MB of video RAM, while the more powerful 21.5-inch configuration has a 1TB hard drive and an AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 512MB of video RAM. Both versions feature a 1920 by 1080 pixel display and 4GB of memory. They retail for US$1,199 and US$1,499 respectively.

Both of the 27-inch models sport a 1TB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, and a 2560 by 1440 pixel display. The 2.7GHz model has an AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 512MB of video RAM, while the 3.1GHz model has an AMD Radeon HD 6970M with 1GB of video RAM. They retail for US$1,699 and US$1,999 respectively.

Additional build-to-order options include 2TB hard drives, an additional 256GB solid-state drive alongside the main drive, and up to 16GB of DDR3 memory. Customers can choose between a Magic Mouse or a Magic Trackpad with their order.

If you’ve snagged a new iMac, let us know when it arrives and what you make of it and stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iBooks 1.2.2 update

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Date: Friday, April 22nd, 2011, 03:22
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

On Thursday, Apple released a minor update to its iBooks e-book and PDF reading app for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

Per Macworld, iBooks 1.2.2 includes “a number of important stability and performance improvements” for playing video with enhanced books from the iBookstore, incorrect fonts being displayed, and navigational responsiveness.

The new version’s fixes and changes include the following:
- Addresses issues playing video included with enhanced books from the iBookstore.

- Resolves a problem where some books open with a different font than expected.

- Makes iBooks more responsive when navigating books with many items in their table of contents.

iBooks requires an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 3.2 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

Apple receives RFID tag reader patent, iPhone 5 possibilities seen on horizon

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Date: Wednesday, April 20th, 2011, 07:25
Category: iPhone, Patents

If it’s not the rumors that keep things interesting, it’s the patents for stuff that might be coming down the line…

Per AppleInsider, a patent recently granted to Apple detailing a method of incorporating a Radio Frequency Identification tag reader into the screen of a portable touchscreen device in order to save space has furthered speculation that Apple plans to add RFID features to the iPhone.

The patent, entitled “Touch Screen RFID Tag Reader,” describes “the efficient incorporation of RFID circuitry within touch sensor panel circuitry. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published the filing on Tuesday.

RFID allows devices to sense embedded chips in nearby objects without the requirement of contact or a visible line of sight.

In the filing, Apple documents a process by which the touch sensor panel of a device can be modified to double as an “RFID transponder,” thereby eliminating the need for a “space-consuming RFID antenna.”

According to the invention, loops for the antenna of the RFID circuit can be formed from “metal on the same layer as metal traces form in the borders of a substrate” without requiring a separate metal layer.

Apple’s method for employing RFID tag reader technology within a touchscreen joins a growing collection of RFID patent applications, which include the invention of a mobile “ID App” for reading RFID tags and a method of using RFID to sense and connect to WiFi networks.

The proposed “ID App” would utilize an RFID reader, camera and an IR image capture device to identify objects, such as a painting in a museum, and search a set of databases to gather more information.

Last August, rumors emerged that Apple was planning to bring near field communications technology, such as RFID, to the next-generation iPhone. Further evidence of Apple’s alleged plans for an RFID-capable iPhone came in October of last year when reports suggested that an Apple partnership with chip manufacturer Gemalto could pave the way for contactless transactions on the iPhone via RFID.

In January, Apple web site visitors discovered a job listing for an iPhone hardware engineer with RFID experience. It has been suggested that Apple will implement an e-wallet feature to take advantage of the rumored NFC-capabilities in future iOS devices.

Analyst Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities claimed in February that the next iPhone will utilize NFC for a ‘unique’ twist that would go beyond just e-wallet functionality. After a suprising contrary report suggested that NFC would not make it into the next iPhone, Forbes reported in March that, according to a trustworthy source in the NFC market, the iPhone 5 will indeed have NFC contactless capabilities.

Michael Nathaniel Rosenblatt and Steve Porter Hotelling are listed as inventors of the patent.