Apple files patent applications for curved battery technology, could lead to unique new devices

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 08:44
Category: News, Patents

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If nothing else, the patent applications tell you what’s coming down the pipe.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a pair of patent applications (1, 2) filed by Apple reveal the company is working on unorthodox battery designs with curved cells and irregular shapes, suggesting slimmer, more shapely iOS devices could be on the horizon.

The patents filings for “Curved battery cells for portable electronic devices” and “Non-rectangular batteries for portable electronic devices,” both describe methods in which a battery can be designed and manufactured for incorporation into slim, new device chassis.

Both filed for on Oct. 28, 2011, the applications call for battery cells to be manipulated during the manufacturing phase in order to facilitate easy installation into curved and non-rectangular device designs.

For example, the invention regarding curved batteries uses industry standard production techniques, which include a set of layers, a cathode, an anode, a separator and active coatings, before manipulating the unit to a given specification. Like some batteries already on the market, Apple’s proposed design uses a flexible pouch to enclose the cell layers created by the separator.

The pouch is then exposed to pressure of “at least 0.13 kilogram-force (kgf) per square millimeter” and heat of about 85 degrees Celsius in a set of curved plates in order to set the shape. As noted, this process may take as long as four hours.

In some embodiments, the curve is held by employing a binder coating within the battery cell, which is activated during the curing process to laminate the layers together. The resulting structure would be solid and take the shape of curved plates.

From the filing’s summary:
“In some embodiments, the curve is formed to facilitate efficient use of space inside a portable electronic device. For example, the curve may be formed at one or more ends of the battery cell to allow the battery cell to occupy a curved and/or rounded space within the enclosure of a laptop computer, tablet computer, mobile phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), digital camera, portable media player, and/or other type of battery-powered electronic device.”

In the second application a similar method is employed, but where the former uses pressure and heat to set the shape, the “non-rectangular” property removes material from the battery before stacking the cell layers. An example is given of how a non-rectangular shape can be achieved by removing material from one or more sides of the anode and cathode to form a rounded corner. By utilizing this method, varying thicknesses can be achieved, such as those seen in the fourth-generation iPad.

Both techniques aim to shape a battery that fits snugly into a device’s housing, thereby reducing wasted internal space. While merely speculation, the battery designs could be used in an upcoming version of the iPhone or iPad, both of which are becoming increasingly slim as consumers demand thin, lightweight portables.

Also a possibility is the use of such battery design in an iPhone with a “wrap-around” display, the patent of which passed through the USPTO in late March. While it is unlikely that such a device will make it to market in the near future, if ever, the recent patent filings show Apple is continuously looking for innovative ways to save space in its iOS device lineup.

Both patent applications credit Ramesh C. Bhardwaj, John Raff, Stephen R. McClure, Erik L. Wang and Taisup Hwang as their inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: OS X 10.9 to arrive with additional power-user features, iOS elements

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Date: Monday, April 29th, 2013, 07:49
Category: Rumor, Software

The feature rumors about OS X 10.9 have begun.

Per 9to5Mac, the upcoming operating system, which is internally codenamed “Cabernet,” will focus on various “power-user” enhancements and take core features from iOS, according to sources. Unlike operating system updates such as OS X Leopard and OS X Lion, OS X 10.9 will likely not be an overhauled approach to how the operating system feels and functions.


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The new operating system is purported to include major enhancements to the Finder application such as tags and tabbed browsing modes. Those additions are notable as many pro-users have relied on third-party solutions and hacks to enable these features. Additionally, the new operating system will include a new Safari web browser with a redesigned backend for improved page loading, speed, and efficiency…

Third-party TotalFinder tool:
The ability to keep a different “Space” or full-screen app open on a different monitor (in multiple monitor setups) is another important power-user feature coming in 10.9. This feature was forecasted by Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi last year.

In October, Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi became involved in an e-mail exchange in which a user complained about the lack of proper multi-monitor support in OS X Mountain Lion. The Apple executive said that Apple is “absolutely aware of [its] customers’ passion on this topic,” according to the e-mail exchange.

OS X 10.9 will also apparently see some user-interface changes, but the changes will not be drastic ones.

The upcoming operating system is said to incorporate some level of Siri functionality, but it is unclear if full Siri-support is still in the cards for OS X 10.9 or if the functionality will be glued to future hardware updates (for instance, iPhone 4 versus iPhone 4S). The shake-up at the top of Apple’s overall software group shifted around multiple iOS and OS X projects, so anything on the roadmap prior to this shakeup could have been altered, according to a person familiar with the situation.

OS X Mountain Lion added many app-based features from iOS, such as Messages, Notes/Reminders, Game Center, and AirPlay, but the additions in OS X 10.9 from iOS will focus more on system fundamentals. According to one source, Apple has been testing a new multi-tasking system for OS X that is similar to the quick-app-switcher function on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. The multitasking feature will be functional for applications in the background, according to this person. Additionally, Apple could use app-pausing technologies from iOS to pause background application processes in OS X. This is significant as full performance could be given to foreground apps, which could help optimize battery life on Apple’s notebook computers. It is unclear if this feature will make the cut for 10.9′s public release.

Apple will also likely announce Xcode 5.0 later this year. Apple’s new version of its developer app suite is said to be redesigned and include improved application testing tools. Perhaps hinting at this is Apple’s own WWDC press release:

“Our developers have had the most prolific and profitable year ever, and we’re excited to show them the latest advances in software technologies and developer tools to help them create innovative new apps. We can’t wait to get new versions of iOS and OS X into their hands at WWDC.”

Apple’s last two operating systems shipped in the summer, which suggests it is likely that 10.9 will also see a summer release. OS X 10.9 was originally scheduled to be previewed earlier this year, but Apple decided to introduce the operating system alongside iOS 7 at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference. Recent rumors have indicated that Apple moved resources away from OS X 10.9 development in order to focus on iOS 7. This likely contributed to Apple moving back the next OS X’s debut.

As previously noted, the operating system seems to have already been fairly widely distributed inside Apple, based on views to the 9to5Mac web site with computers running OS X 10.9.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple reports Q2 2013 profit of $9.5 billion, revenues of $34.6 billion

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013, 14:50
Category: Finance, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, News

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It’s 18% lower than it was last year, but it’s still US$9.5 billion in the bank…

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday said second quarter profits fell roughly 18% to US$9.5 billion — or US$10.09 per diluted share — despite record second quarter sales of US$43.6 billion — the first year-over-year decline in earnings for the one-time tech darling in nearly a decade.

The results for the three-month period ended March 30, 2013 compare to revenue of US$39.2 billion and net profit of US$11.6 billion, or US$12.30 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 37.5 percent, approximately 100 basis points lower than the 47.4 percent reported in the year-ago quarter, as consumers gravitated to more affordable, lower-margin products like the iPad mini.

During the quarter, Apple sold 37.4 million iPhones and 19.5 million iPads, compared to 35.1 million iPhones and 11.8 million iPads in the year-ago quarter. The company also said it sold just under 4 million Macs, compared to 4 million in the year-ago quarter. Overall, international sales accounted for 66 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

“We are pleased to report record March quarter revenue thanks to continued strong performance of iPhone and iPad,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software and services, and we are very excited about the products in our pipeline.”

Looking ahead to the current June quarter, Apple provided following guidance:
– Revenue between US$33.5 billion and US$35.5 billion.

– Gross margin between 36 percent and 37 percent.

– Operating expenses between US$3.85 billion and US$3.95 billion.

– Other income/(expense) of US$300 million

– Tax rate of 26%.

“Our cash generation remains very strong, with $12.5 billion in cash flow from operations during the quarter and an ending cash balance of $145 billion,” said Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer.

For Apple, Tuesday’s results mark the first year-over-year decline in profits since the first quarter of 2003 when the “early 2000s recession” began to set in stateside.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Purported images of next-gen iPhone camera leaked

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Date: Friday, April 19th, 2013, 07:50
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

You’ve gotta admit, Apple doesn’t let people down when it comes to its built-in cameras.

Per French Web site NoWhereElse.fr, a leaked image purporting to show off a camera component and another piece of a supposed “iPhone 5S” have hit the Internet, fanning the rumors that Apple’s follow-up to the iPhone 5 is on deck.

One of the components featured in the supposed leak is what appears to be a front-facing camera, similar in appearance to the one built in to the iPhone 5. The serial number shown on the “leaked” part is similar to the one seen on the iPhone 5 part, notes NoWhereElse.fr. The flexible portion where the component connects to a motherboard, though, is apparently quite different from the one seen on the iPhone 5 component.


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Friday’s report also brought images of another supposed component, though its function is unclear.

The same site previously leaked components that went into Apple’s new Lightning connector, and the site has shown off other parts said to be from an “iPhone 5S” or an “iPhone 6,” as well as a supposed cover glass surface from a fifth-generation iPad.

The new images appear to add to the rumors that Apple will bring a rapid follow-up to its iPhone 5, iPad, and iPad mini, and possibly introduce a lower-cost iPhone model in the near future. Currently, rumors have the Cupertino company releasing new devices some time over the summer.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Next-gen iPad to be 15% thinner, 25% lighter, use smaller, more efficient battery

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Date: Thursday, April 18th, 2013, 07:14
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

This could be nifty.

Per MacRumors, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has on a number of occasions offered accurate information on Apple’s product plans, recently published a new research note outlining his expectations for Apple’s fifth-generation iPad. Kuo expects mass production and shipments of the new iPad to ramp up in the August-September timeframe, with the device registering roughly 15% thinner and 25% lighter than the current full-size iPad.

The new version’s expected dimensions, which are purported to be 7.5-8.0mm thick, will be 15% thinner than iPad 4. The new device will likely be about 500 grams, or some 25% lighter than iPad 4, run on an A7X processor, and sport cameras with similar specs to the iPad 4’s (front HD, rear 5MP). The casing shape and color (silver and black) and narrow bezel design will be similar to the iPad mini’s.

The prediction of a 7.5-8.0 mm thickness is in line with previous claims that the next iPad will see a roughly 2 mm reduction from the current 9.5 mm thickness.

Kuo predicts that Apple will adopt the same GF2 touch technology used in the iPad mini, enabling Apple to design a thinner display for the new full-size iPad. In addition, more efficient display and chip technologies are expected to bring down the device’s overall power consumption, allowing for a smaller and thinner battery.

The battery is expected to be 25-30% smaller, at 8,500-9,000mAh, than the iPad 4’s, and the battery’s thickness will be 15-20% smaller, at 7.5-8.0mm, and the number of cells will be reduced to two from three.

As for the chip powering the iPad 5, Kuo believes that Apple will be sticking with Samsung for a new A7X chip that will take advantage of Samsung’s 28-nanometer process node. There have been reports that Apple will be shifting its A-series chip production to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), but it appears that Kuo believes that transition has a bit further time horizon, in line with rumors that a partnership between Apple and TSMC for 20-nanometer A7 chips will not begin production until early 2014.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recent Apple job postings allude to chip development effort in and around Florida

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Date: Tuesday, April 16th, 2013, 07:00
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

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If you’re looking to design chips for Apple in sunny Florida, your dream may have come true.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple posted several job openings looking for both hardware and software engineers reveal that Apple is looking to begin its own chip development in Orlando, Florida.

Last week it was discovered that Apple is hiring software engineers to work on fingerprint technology at Authentec in Melbourne, Florida, which is about one hour south of the future site of the company’s development labs.

The job posting are interesting as Samsung, which works with Apple to develop the custom chips used in iPhones and iPads, continues to compete with Apple in the smartphone and tablet space.

Tim Cook mentioned last May that the engine that drives the iPhone was produced in Austin, Texas, which many believe pointed to Samsung’s chip development location.

The job listings range from ‘front end design management’ to ‘3D Graphics Micro-Architect’, all of which were posted in recent weeks.

Notably, the area is already populated with relevant talent as it is home to popular semiconductor company/Apple chip partner Qualcomm which may be the reason for the location.

Apple currently hosts a small office for its “Latin America General Manager” in Coral Gables, Florida, some five hours south of Orlando, Florida, illustrating the Cupertino-based company’s increasing presence in the Sunshine State.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to use LED backlighting system to reduce weight of next-gen iPad

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Date: Friday, April 12th, 2013, 07:20
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

This could prove spiffy.

Per CNET, a report released on Thursday says Apple will likely use a modified LED backlight apparatus in a bid to make the 9.7-inch tablet as thin and light as possible.

NPD DisplaySearch stated that it expects Apple’s fifth-generation iPad to sport a more efficient LED array, as well as a change to film-based touch sensor technology, as the company slims down its largest tablet offering.

“It’s likely that part of the thinner/lighter design will be reducing the size of the LED backlight, partly by making the display more efficient and partly by using more efficient LEDs,” said analyst Paul Semenza.

Apple is widely expected to launch a redesigned 9.7-inch iPad with an aesthetic borrowed from the current iPad mini. Such a design was revealed in an image of a purportedly leaked next-gen iPad cover glass, which had thinner bezels and significantly modified dimensions in comparison with existing models.

Turning to display technology, Semenza said it’s too soon to tell if the next-gen iPad will make the switch to more efficient IGZO panels. Rumors dating as far back as 2011 have Apple preparing to transition to the LCD tech, though such displays have yet to be used in the company’s product lineups. Most recently, industry chatter has pointed to the inclusion of IGZO in this year’s iPhone and iPad models, with the panels coming from Apple partner supplier Sharp.

Finally, Semenza said a third-quarter debut is most likely for the upcoming iPad. Prediction regarding the iPad’s launch timeline have been highly varied, however, with some analysts claiming an October release, while other sources say the tablet could be unveiled this month.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Fifth-gen iPad production to begin in July-August time frame

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Date: Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, 07:11
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

There’s gotta be a kernel of truth in here somewhere…

Per DigiTimes, sources in Taiwan-based supply companies have stated that production of the fifth-gen iPad is slated to start in a July-August window. The sources added that the display is expected to be manufactured by Sharp and LG Display, while touch panel assembly will be done by TPK, and ITO thin film will come from Nitto Denko and Teijin. Some earlier rumors had an iPad announcement taking place as soon as this month.

The DigiTimes sources repeat views that the fifth-gen tablet will be thinner and lighter than its predecessor, and moreover use a slimmer bezel, similar to the one on the iPad mini. The fourth-gen iPad was little different than the third-gen model, mainly gaining a faster processor, a Lightning connector, and broader cellular support. It was also released just months later, whereas it now appears that the fifth-gen device may resume Apple’s normal annual update cycle.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked Blackberry product roadmap shows potential iPad competitor on the horizon

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Date: Monday, April 1st, 2013, 06:45
Category: Hardware, iPad, News

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You may not love and adore Blackberry, but it looks like the company intends to stick around long enough to release a tablet competitor to the iPad.

Per @BB10Leaks and TechnoBuffalo, Canadian manufacturer BlackBerry appears to be readying another go at the tablet sector, as an image purporting to be a leaked product roadmap shows a potential iPad competitor slated for a late 2013 release.

The supposed product roadmap appeared Friday in a tweet and appears to show BlackBerry’s forthcoming products through the second quarter of 2014. In addition to the already released Z10 and its hardware QWERTY keyboard sporting counterpart, the Q10, the roadmap shows a tablet, a phablet, and a phablet-esque device with a hardware QWERTY keyboard of its own.


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The iPad competitor appears to be named the B10. The roadmap gives no details on its dimensions or specifications, but it looks to be a large tablet in the vein of Google’s Nexus 10 and Apple’s full-size iPads. Should the device materialize, it would represent BlackBerry’s second attempt at breaking into the tablet segment.

The Canadian manufacturer previously released a 7-inch PlayBook tablet, meant to provide enterprise-minded customers with a more portable alternative to Apple’s iPad, which dominated the tablet segment then as it does now. Poor software implementation and developer support, though, doomed the PlayBook to sluggish sales even as Apple’s tablet moved to greater heights. Eventually, then-RIM’s inventory of unsold PlayBook units caused the company to take a US$485 million charge.

With the launch of BlackBerry 10, though, the manufacturer has seen encouraging signs. BlackBerry’s most recent financial figures revealed one million Z10’s shipped since the device’s launch in February. That, in combination with drastic cost reductions, led to BlackBerry’s first profitable quarter in some time.

A new tablet would help flesh out the range of devices BlackBerry offers, making it a more capable alternative for customers looking outside of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. Speaking earlier in March, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said that the company would have to do something “really substantial and meaningful… [and] profitable as well,” if it were to enter the tablet space again.

Should the leaked roadmap prove accurate, BlackBerry’s tablet will see release some time in either the third or fourth quarter of 2013. It would be followed shortly thereafter by a large-screened BlackBerry 10 device, apparently dubbed the U10. That device — likely a “phablet” in the vein of Samsung’s Galaxy Note II — may be the rumored Aristo device that surfaced late last year. Following the phablet’s release, another large-screened model would follow quickly thereafter, this one sporting a hardware QWERTY keyboard much like BlackBerry’s forthcoming Q10.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft Windows 8 certification change could hint at upcoming iPad mini competitor

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Date: Friday, March 29th, 2013, 06:02
Category: iPad mini, News

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Microsoft could have an iPad mini competitor en route.

Per AppleInsider, recent changes quietly made to the Windows 8 hardware certification guidelines suggest that Microsoft could be gearing up to debut a new, smaller “Windows Reader” tablet designed to compete with more portable devices like Apple’s iPad mini.

The company recently relaxed its hardware certification rules to allow devices with screen resolutions of 1,024 by 768 pixels at a depth of 32 bits. But the Redmond, Wash., company also warned developers that it doesn’t mean they are allowed to develop hardware with low-resolution displays.

“This doesn’t imply we’re encouraging partners to regularly use a lower screen resolution,” Microsoft said. “In fact, we see customers embracing the higher resolution screens that make a great Windows experience. We understand that partners exploring designs for certain markets could find greater design flexibility helpful.”

The company has been rumored to be at work on a so-called “Windows Reader” for some time.

The new resolution allowed for Windows 8 devices happens to match the display of Apple’s iPad mini, which also sports a 1,024-by-768-pixel 7.9-inch screen. And the iPad 2, which Apple also continues to sell, features the same resolution on a larger 9.7-inch display, giving it a lower pixel density.

Windows 8 operating systems that run at Microsoft’s newly approved lower resolution will lose the operating system’s “snap” feature, which allows two Windows Store applications to be viewed simultaneously side by side. Manufacturers are required by Microsoft to disclose this loss “to avoid potential customer disappointment.”

While Microsoft looks to lower resolutions, some expect that Apple will boost the iPad mini to a Retina-caliber display with a second-generation model this year. However, others have suggested that doubling the iPad mini’s resolution on its small 7.9-inch display may be too difficult a feat to accomplish this year.

Microsoft’s current closest competitor to the full-size iPad is the Surface with Windows RT, which has a screen resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels on a 10.1-inch display. A head-to-head comparison conducted last November by Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate found that the Surface outperforms Apple’s iPad 2, but falls short of newer full-size iPad models with Retina displays.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.