Apple introduces Lightning to Micro USB adapter to North American customers

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Date: Monday, November 5th, 2012, 07:02
Category: Hardware, News

You can’t knock a useful adapter.

Per AppleInsider, alongside the iPad mini, Apple on Friday introduced the Lightning to micro USB adapter, a tiny dongle first available in Europe, to the U.S. market.

Initially built and released in tandem with the iPhone 5 in Europe to fulfill the European Commission’s regulation that all smartphones sold in the region be micro USB compatible, the US$19 adapter has now become available in North America.

Previously, those iPhone, iPod and now iPad users needed to buy the component through third-party resellers or directly from an Apple Store in Europe if they wanted to charge and sync their devices via micro USB. As there is no official standard in the U.S., manufacturers offer their products in a variety of charging methods, causing many consumers to build up a stockpile of various cables and chargers. The Lightning to micro USB adapter looks to do away with at least one of those cables.

Apple’s adapter is compatible with the iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod touch, seventh-generation iPod nano, fourth-generation iPad, and iPad mini. According to the company’s website, the dongle is able to both charge and sync devices, though it is unlikely that audio line out is supported as the Lightning protocol is completely digital and would require an embedded digital-to-analog converter to function.

The US$19 adapter can be purchased directly from store.apple.com, with shipments available to ship in one to three days.

If you’ve tried the adapter and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases iOS 6.1 beta, updated Xcode beta to developers, looks to improve iOS Maps application functionality

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Date: Friday, November 2nd, 2012, 07:22
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, Software

It’s time to sort out this iOS Maps snafu in a major way.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Thursday provided developers with a prerelease version of its forthcoming iOS 6.1 update, featuring improvements to its Maps application programming interface, and also issued a beta of Xcode 4.6.

Both iOS 6.1 and Xcode 4.6 are now available to download from Apple’s developer website. People familiar with the first iOS 6.1 beta indicated it is identified as “Build 10B5095f.”

The iOS 6.1 beta is available for the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS; fourth-, third- and second-generation iPads; and the fifth- and fourth-generation iPod touch.

Beta versions of iOS 6.1 compatible with the iPad mini and new fourth-generation iPad, which will become publicly available tomorrow, are not said to be offered on Apple’s developer website.

The only major new addition to iOS 6.1 is said to be “Map Kit Searches” as part of the “Map Kit” framework. It now lets developers search for map-based addresses and points of interest.

A new class labeled “MKLocalSearch” is also said to offer map-based content using a natural language string. This will allow users to enter place name information or portions of an address to return relevant information.

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

The new Xcode 4.6 beta is reportedly labeled as “Build 4H90b,” and it includes the iOS 6.1 beta SDK, along with Mac OS X 10.8 SDK. The pre-release version of Xcode includes the Xcode IDE, iOS simulator, and all required tools and frameworks for building OS X and iOS applications.

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

Apple releases iOS 6.0.1 update

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Date: Friday, November 2nd, 2012, 06:51
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, Software

It’s the bug fixes that matter.

On Thursday, Apple released its iOS 6.0.1 update. The new operating system, a 626 megabyte update available through iTunes, adds the following fixes and changes:
– Fixes a bug that prevents iPhone 5 from installing software updates wirelessly over the air.

– Fixes a bug where horizontal lines may be displayed across the keyboard.

– Fixes an issue that could cause camera flash to not go off.

– Improves reliability of iPhone 5 and iPod touch (5th generation) when connected to encrypted WPA2 Wi-Fi networks.

– Resolves an issue that prevents iPhone from using the cellular network in some instances.

– Consolidated the Use Cellular Data switch for iTunes Match.

– Fixes a Passcode Lock bug which sometimes allowed access to Passbook pass details from lock screen.

– Fixes a bug affecting Exchange meetings.

iOS 6.0.1 requires an iPhone 3GS or newer, or a third-generation iPod touch or second, third or fourth-gen iPad or iPad mini to install and run.

As always, please let us know how iOS 6.0.1 works for you, no matter what the feedback may be.

ARM lays out specs for 64-bit Cortex-A50 mobile processors, sets release date for 2014

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Date: Wednesday, October 31st, 2012, 06:15
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

No matter how nifty your devices are, it’s the next-gen stuff that smacks of awesome promises.

Per AppleInsider, processor company ARM on Tuesday unveiled new its next-generation of high-performance, power sipping 64-bit chips — CPUs that could power future devices from companies like Apple as soon as 2014.

ARM’s new Cortex-A50 processor series is based on the ARMv8 architecture. The series will initially include the Cortex-A53 and Cortex-A57 processors with new energy-efficient 64-bit processing technology.

ARM said its new system-on-chips will be available for use in products ranging from smartphones to servers. The new chips will be 64-bit-capable, but will also support 32-bit software.

ARM said the addition of 64-bit execution to its A50 chip line will “enable new opportunities in networking, server, and high-performance computing.” The new chips are expected to boost smartphone and tablet speeds while also reducing power consumption.

The Cortex-A57 will be the most advanced high-performance applications processor, while the Cortex-A53 has the distinction of being the world’s smallest 64-bit processor, and ARM’s most power-efficient application processor.

Currently, Apple’s iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV are all powered by custom chips based on ARM’s reference designs. Apple’s work in this area has grown over the years, as the new A6 chip in the iPhone 5 represents Apple’s first custom-designed CPU core.

The A6 chip is based on Apple’s own ARMv7-based processor design, and is not based on ARM’s Cortex-A9 or Cortex-A15 designs. The chip features a gigabyte of RAM with two CPU and three GPU cores, and Apple’s first-ever control of the design allowed the company to customize the performance as they chose.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Forstall’s refusal to sign iOS Maps apology letter may have been the last straw

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Date: Tuesday, October 30th, 2012, 07:19
Category: News

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There may be a few pretty valid reasons as to why Scott Forstall is leaving Apple.

Per the Mac Observer, sources have indicated that Forstall’s ouster was due to his refusal to sign a letter of apology over Apple Maps in September. The New York Times, Fortune, and The Verge all claim sources saying as much, suggesting that this could have played a role in his departure from Apple.

At issue was the rollout of Apple Maps as a replacement for Google Maps on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Apple Maps is a beautiful service that brings all manner of performance enhancements to Apple’s iOS devices, but it was rolled out with significant flaws, none of which were mentioned by Scott Forstall when he introduced the service at Apple media events.

Pushback and criticism of the service by customers, critics, fans, and Apple-haters alike led to Apple pulling back on its claim that Apple Maps was the, “most beautiful, powerful mapping service.” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an open letter apologizing for the rollout and promising that Apple Maps would improve over time.

On Monday, Apple announced that Mr. Forstall would depart Apple and that his various fields of responsibility would be split up among Apple’s other top executives. In coverage of that shakeup, The New York Times and Fortune both included minor notes that Scott Forstall had refused to put his name on the letter published by Tim Cook.

The Times specified that Mr. Forstall dismissed the criticism that was being heaped on Apple as exaggerated. Fortune said that it “sealed his fate” at Apple, a sentiment echoed at The Verge, which said the reports were backed up by its own sources.

This, in addition to recurring reports that Mr. Forstall’s management style had angered Apple’s other executives and was causing friction with those ranks, seemed to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases OS X 10.8.2 Update for 13″ Macbook Pro with Retina Display, late 2012 21.5″ iMac and Mac mini models

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Date: Thursday, October 25th, 2012, 07:48
Category: iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro, News, Software

Where new hardware is released, the software updates will follow.

Per AppleInsider, only one day following the announcement of new iMac, MacBook Pro and Mac mini models, Apple on Wednesday released an OS X Mountain Lion update built specifically for those devices.

While the download is called OS X 10.8.2, just like the most recent update to Apple’s current operating system for all other Macs, Wednesday’s release is “for 13″ Macbook Pro with Retina Display, 21.5″ iMac (Late 2012)Mac mini (Late 2012).”

A quick look at the release notes doesn’t yield much in the way of new information, possibly pointing to issues the new 2012 units are facing with some features in 10.8.2. Of note is the update’s compatibility with the 21.5-inch iMac, a model that has yet to be released, though the no mention was made of the 27-inch version.

The update, a 654 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and changes:

Facebook:
– Single sign on for Facebook.
– Facebook as an option when sharing links and photos.
– Facebook friends’ contact information and profile pictures in Contacts.
– Facebook notifications in Notification Center.

Game Center:
– Share scores to Facebook, Twitter, Mail, or Messages.
– Facebook friends are included in Game Center friend recommendations.
– Facebook Like button for games.
– Challenge friends to beat your score or achievement.

Other new features:
– Power Nap support for MacBook Air (Late 2010).
– iMessages sent to your phone number now appear in Messages on your Mac.
– From Safari and Mail on your Mac you can add passes to Passbook on your iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 6.
– New shared Reminders lists.
– FaceTime now receives calls sent to your phone number.
– New sort options allow you to sort notes by title, the date you edited them, and when you created them.
– Dictation now supports Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, Korean, Canadian English, Canadian French, and Italian.
– The Dictionary application now includes a French definition dictionary.
– Sina Weibo profile photos can now be added to Contacts.

This update also includes general operating system fixes that improve the stability, compatibility and security of your Mac, including the following fixes:
– An option to discard the changes in the original document when choosing Save As.
– Unsent drafts are opened automatically when launching Mail.
– Receive Twitter notifications for mentions and replies from anyone
– URLs are shortened when sending tweets from Notification Center
– Notifications are disabled when AirPlay Mirroring is being used
– SSL support for Google searches from the Smart Search Field in Safari
– New preference to have Safari launch with previously open webpages
– Graphics performance and reliability enhancements
– USB 3.0 reliability enhancements

As always, the update can be located and installed via the Mac App Store or OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

Apple looking to replace IR sensors with sonar technology in next-gen devices

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Date: Thursday, October 18th, 2012, 07:52
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Patents

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Look at it this way: sonar’s been around for a while.

And it’s always been nifty.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an Apple patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday describes a system that may one day replace the infrared proximity sensors deployed in current iPhones with sonar-like technology.

Apple’s invention for “Passive proximity detection” negates the need for the current IR sensor, replacing it with a system that can detect and process sound waves to determine how far away an object is from a portable device.

Much like passive echolocation or a loose interpretation of passive sonar, the filing describes a system that takes two sound wave samples, a “before” and an “after,” and compares the two to determine if an external object’s proximity to the device changed. “Sampling” occurs when a transducer, such as a microphone, picks up ambient sound and sends a corresponding signal to the device’s processor for analysis.

The invention relies on basic acoustic principles as applied to modern electronics. For example, a microphone’s signal equalization curve from an audio source changes when the device moves towards or away from an object, which “variably reflect[s] elements of the sound wave.”

This effect may be noticed when sound is reflected by soft material as opposed to a hard surface. Generally, sound reflected off the soft surface will seem muted when compared to the same sound reflected off a hard surface located at the same distance and angle from an audio transducer and a sound source.

In one of the invention’s embodiments, two microphones are situated at different planes on a device, and detect the subtle changes in broad-audio-spectrum caused by interference when a sound wave interacts with an object.

To relate this to a common phenomenon, when a sea shell is held up to one’s ear a resonant cavity is formed that amplifies ambient sounds. This hi-Q filtering results in the ocean like sounds one hears.

In another example, response signals produced by two microphones located at either end of a device can be compared to determine if an object is nearer to one or the other. For example, when a user’s face is close to the top of a device, as is usual when talking on the phone, the microphone located near the ear will produce a different reactance ratio than the microphone located at the device’s base.

Basically, the signals from two transducers, or microphones, detect slight changes in ambient sound and sends corresponding signals to a processor which then compares the two to determine whether an object is in close proximity to either of the mics.

Monitoring of the microphones can be live or set to take samples at predetermined intervals, such as after a user begins to speak. Placement of the microphones can also be tweaked, and in some cases can be located next to each other.

Finally, a more active detection method is proposed, where an internal speaker generates noise, taking the place of ambient sound waves.

As portable electronic devices become increasingly smaller, the need to develop space-saving components, or to combine parts to serve a number of uses, becomes more pressing. Such is the case with Apple’s latest iPhone 5, a device that packs 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth communications, a battery that can last for days, a 4-inch Retina display, two cameras, and a litany of other features into a chassis only 7.6 mm deep.

Space is already at a premium with the iPhone, as evidenced by the new Lightning connector, which Apple’s Worldwide Marketing chief Phil Schiller said was needed to create such a thin device. Moving forward, the company is rumored to incorporate near field communications (NFC) for e-wallet payments, which will take up even more precious room.

It remains to be seen if Apple will one day employ the passive proximity detection technology in a consumer device, however the iPhone is a platform ripe for deployment as it already boasts three mics for noise canceling and call quality purposes.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple granted patent for unauthorized iPhone usage, detection and reporting technology

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Date: Tuesday, October 16th, 2012, 08:24
Category: News, Patents

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This could be useful.

Among a series of patents granted to Apple on Tuesday, an interesting invention regarding iPhone security was discovered, with the property describing various methods to protect sensitive data if an unauthorized user gets hold of the device.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, U.S. Patent No. 8,289,130 for “Systems and methods for identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device” offers a unique security solution to the ever-present problem of having one’s iPhone lost or stolen.

The patent’s begins by stating that “This is generally directed to identifying unauthorized users of an electronic device,” but goes far beyond any identification technology currently available in Apple’s handset. For example, one embodiment of the invention calls for heartbeat monitoring, which can be used to determine whether the person holding an iPhone is its owner.

From the patent abstract:
In some embodiments, an unauthorized user of the electronic device can be detected by identifying particular activities that may indicate suspicious behavior. In some embodiments, an unauthorized user can be detected by comparing the identity of the current user to the identity of the owner of the electronic device. When an unauthorized user is detected, various safety measures can be taken.

The patent essentially covers three main operations: the detection of an unauthorized user; the gathering of information of an unauthorized user; and the transmission of an alert notification to the electronic device’s owner containing said information.

As mentioned above, a person’s heartbeat can be used to determined whether he or she is the owner of a device, though more conventional methods are also described, such as taking a photograph or matching voice recordings. Perhaps most effective are the patent’s other embodiments in which an unauthorized user is identified through a number of actions. For example, “entering an incorrect password a predetermined number of times in a row, hacking of the electronic device, jailbreaking of the electronic device, unlocking of the electronic device, removing a SIM card from the electronic device, or moving a predetermined distance away from a synced device” can all be used as means of detection.

When a non-owner is identified, the device can enter an information gathering mode in which location, photographs, voice recordings, screenshots, keylogs, and internet usage are stored. Another option is to restrict the phone’s functions and erase sensitive information when an unauthorized user takes control of the device.

Finally, an alert is sent to a “responsible party,” such as the device owner or police, containing a predetermined message like “Warning, your electronic device may have been stolen.” In addition, the alert, sent via text, email, instant message, or over the internet, can contain the information the device gathered when in the hands of the unauthorized user.

In some embodiments, near field communications, or NFC, can be employed to pair the handset with a key fob or similar device. If the phone moves far enough away from the key fob, it will issue a warning which will turn into a formal alert if the device moves a substantial distance.

As with most Apple patents, it is unclear if the technology will be deployed in an upcoming product, however recent additions to iOS like Find My iPhone illustrate the company’s focus on device security.

Cool stuff and it’ll be interesting to see what comes of it.

Apple releases version 1.0.1 firmware update for seventh-generation iPod nano

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Date: Friday, October 12th, 2012, 08:02
Category: iPod Nano, News, Software

You’ve had your spiffy new seventh-generation iPod nano for a day or two.

Now let’s update that sucker.

Per iLounge, Apple released version 1.0.1 of the new iPod nano’s software.

The new software only mentions “Support for iPod nano (7th generation)” in its release notes, offering little information as to what issues, if any, are addressed with version 1.0.1. Speculation points to tweaks to make the device compatible with the most current version of iTunes, however the specific problems regarding the device’s interoperability with Apple’s media management software is unknown.

Users will be able to update their new iPod nanos upon delivery by simply plugging the unit into their computer, which should automatically recognize the device and bring up the “Download and Update” new iPod software prompt.

Apple announced the seventh-generation media player in September alongside the iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod touch and newly-designed EarPods headphones. The most recent nano ditches the last-generation’s small square form factor for a more iPod touch-esque layout, complete with 2.5-inch mutli-touch display, integrated Bluetooth connectivity and the reversible Lightning connector.

If you’ve tried the iPod nano with its updated firmware and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Leaked “iPad mini” display case instructions hint at smaller iPad for holiday season

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Date: Thursday, October 11th, 2012, 08:05
Category: iPad, Rumor

If it’s not the suppliers that offer interesting hints as to upcoming products, it’s the retailers.

Per AppleInsider, one retailer is preparing in advance for the rumored device by sending out in-store displays to sell accessories to customers.

A leaked image shows instructions for standalone displays designed to sell iPad mini accessories. The instruction manual comes from a large box that apparently includes parts from which the future displays will be assembled.

The tipster indicated that the pages labeled “Amazon/Apple Tablet Display Parts List” came from a box with a note attached, telling employees not to look inside. They said the papers fell out of the box, revealing the contents of the recently delivered package.

Exactly what store the display parts were shipped to was not provided, but the design shown in the illustration looks similar to in-store displays seen at major retailers such as Best Buy or Target.

The shipment comes after a list of dozens of supposed “iPad mini” cases were revealed in a spreadsheet on Wednesday. That list of products suggested that third-party accessory makers Belkin, Kensington and Trust all have cases for Apple’s smaller iPad ready to go.

The fact that the name “iPad Mini” is included on the design of the accessory display should not be taken as a confirmation that it will be the final name of the rumored product. Because the name of the iPhone 5 was not known as case-makers built accessories based on leaked schematics, many cases available for sale at launch came in boxes that simply advertised they were for the “New iPhone.”

Case makers have bet — and lost — on rumored Apple product designs before. In 2011, some third-party accessory makers banked on a completely redesigned look for Apple’s next iPhone, but that October the iPhone 4S debuted with a design nearly identical to its predecessor, the iPhone 4.

Similarly, one report this week claimed that a major accessory maker had halted production of cases designed for the so-called “iPad mini”. Manufacturing of those cases was reportedly stopped because of an apparent “design change” that caught the manufacturer-off guard.

Apple is expected to hold an event later this month to officially unveil a smaller iPad with a 7.85-inch display. The company is said to have ordered more than 10 million units for sale this holiday shopping season.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.