Alleged iPhone 5 proximity sensor picture leaked, subtle differences noted

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Date: Friday, August 5th, 2011, 06:59
Category: iPhone, Rumor

If you’re going to get excited about something today, it might as well be a purported proximity sensor.

The SW-Box.com web site claims to have obtained a genuine iPhone 5 proximity light sensor flex cable in advance of the device’s launch, which is expected this fall. The site boasts that its offices are “just a stone’s throw” from “the Apple factory,” presumably a reference to contract manufacturer Foxconn’s plant in Shenzhen, China.

“We spend a lot of resources on research and intel,” the company wrote on the part’s product page, asserting that the component is indeed the “real deal.” The part’s pricing starts at US$3.77 and goes as low as US$2.52 for volume orders of 50 or more.

According to the site, the flex cable is “evidence of solid engineering” and is “micro-architectured to stand the tests of time and heat.” The part also contains “dynamic light sensing diodes and high flow terminals” that balance functionality and cost.

The part contains minor differences in the orientation of the components as compared with a corresponding iPhone 4 part, possibly providing evidence of at least a partial redesign in the next-generation iPhone. One difference appears to be the fact that, as with the CDMA iPhone 4, the noise canceling microphone has been moved off of the proximity sensor part.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Iomega Mac Companion hard drive boasts iOS device charging port, 2 and 3TB capacities

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Date: Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011, 04:52
Category: Accessory, hard drive, News

Apple’s recent Mac OS X Lion release shows how the Mac and iOS platforms are increasingly overlapping. And third-parties are beginning to follow Apple’s platform-blurring lead: On Tuesday, Iomega rolled out an external hard drive that also features a charging port designed for Apple’s mobile devices.

Per Macworld, the Iomega Mac Companion Hard Drive, which arrives in 2TB and 3TB capacities and sports 7200-rpm hard drives, feature a USB charging port for Apple’s iOS devices. Users will be able to plug their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch into the Mac Companion Drive to recharge the batteries on those mobile devices whenever they’re back at their desktop.

In all, the Mac Companion Hard Drive offers two FireWire 800 ports, a USB 2.0 port, and a two-port integrated USB 2.0 hub. That latter connection means that users can connect printers, other external hard drives, or other devices to Iomega’s new offering. The Mac Companion Hard Drive ships with three cables—one for FireWire 800, another for USB 2.0, and a FireWire 400-to-800 conversion cable.

The drive also sports a capacity indicator gauge—basically a set of four LEDs—that will give users an idea of how much space they have left on the Mac Companion Hard Drive. Four white LEDs mean that less than 20 percent of the capacity is in use, for example, while a single red LED indicates that more than 80 percent of the storage space has been used up.

Iomega’s Mac Companion Hard Drive starts at US$195 for the 2TB model with the 3TB version retailing for US$295. The drive includes Iomega’s QuickProtect file-level backup software and 2GB of free online backup through Mozy. The drive is initially available through Apple’s online store and retail outlets, though Iomega plans to expand sales to other stores and sites later in August.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Skype releases native client for iPad

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Date: Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011, 08:37
Category: iPad, News, Software

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After over a year of anticipation, Voice Over Internet Protocol outfit Skype released an iPad-native version of its client on Tuesday. Per Macworld, the iPad app bears more than a passing resemblance to Skype 5 for Mac and uses a thumbnail grid of your Skype contacts; tap on any of them to bring up a look at their profile, along with options for voice calling, video calling, chat and SMS. Skype allows users to access their contacts via “Tags,” (think groups) but doesn’t allow them to actually assign contacts into those categories on the iPad app—you need to use the desktop program for that. You can also add new contacts, or even just dial any phone number you like via a standard keypad.

The app lets you make calls over Wi-Fi or 3G and you’ll need a Skype account as well as some credit if you want to make calls to actual phones. Video calls let you switch back and forth between the iPad 2′s front and rear cameras. If you’re using an original iPad, you’ll obviously only be able to receive video. And there’s support for instant messaging via Skype, including emoticons.

Skype for iPad is free and requires iOS 4.0 or later. It is not a universal app, meaning that if you already have the iPhone version on your iPad, you’ll need to download this one separately.

Rumor: iPhone 5 might be ‘larger than expected’, could sport 4G-LTE features

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Date: Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011, 05:45
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The iPhone 5 will inevitably get here.

It’s a question of how large the unit will be when it does.

Per AppleInsider, sources in Apple’s overseas supply chain have reportedly indicated that the company’s forthcoming fifth-generation iPhone could be a more significant upgrade than previous rumors have suggested, sporting a larger display and thinner design.

Analyst Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee said he has consistently received one question from investors regarding the upcoming iPhone: Why would a customer consider buying a so-called “iPhone 5″ without 4G if Apple plans to release a 4G long-term evolution handset in the future?

“Well, it turns out that we are picking up that this interim iPhone refresh in the Fall timeframe could be a bigger upgrade than we expected,” Wu wrote. “We believe this keeps the iPhone fresh and competitive and helps maintain its leadership position.”

He said that supply chain sources have indicated that the new iPhone will feature a slightly larger display than the current 3.5-inch screen found on the iPhone 4. The fifth-generation iPhone is also expected to feature the same dual-core A5 processor already found in the iPad 2.

In addition, those same sources reportedly said that the new iPhone will feature a similar form factor and size to the iPhone 4, but will sport a thinner bezel.

“We believe this makes sense to improve the iPhone experience without making it too bulky as we have seen with models from competitors,” he wrote.

While Wu expects the new iPhone to have a bigger screen and thinner profile, checks within the supply chain have said that the fifth-generation iPhone is not expected to have 4G-LTE high-speed wireless data connectivity. The new technology still has issues with battery life and network coverage, problems that Wu believes Apple will fix at some point in the future.

Rumors of an iPhone with a larger screen are not new, with a number of reports over the last year claiming that Apple’s next handset will feature an edge-to-edge display that would allow the iPhone to retain the same size. Such reports stand in contrast to other claims that the next iPhone will have a design largely similar to the current iPhone 4.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to launch next-gen iPhone in October

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Date: Monday, August 1st, 2011, 03:17
Category: iPhone, Rumor

It’s the rumor mill that keeps things interesting.

Per All Things D, Apple’s next iPhone may arrive even later than expected, with a new rumor claiming the handset will not go on sale until the month of October according to sources close to the story.

The latest rumor contradicts recent reports which have claimed the so-called “iPhone 5″ will debut in September. In addition, AT&T employees have allegedly been prohibited from taking vacation during the last two weeks of September, which has suggested to some that a new iPhone could launch in that timeframe.

“Sources with knowledge of the situation say reports claiming AT&T has blacked out employee vacations during the last two weeks of September in preparation for the retail debut of the next iPhone are misinformed,” Paczkowski wrote.

In recent days, cases claiming to show the new design of Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone have been appearing in large numbers in China. The proliferation of those cases has fueled speculation that the launch of a new iPhone could happen soon.

An October launch would be later than most expect, and much later than the typical June-July timeframe that Apple has used to launch new iPhone models in years past.

At this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple did not unveil any new hardware. Instead, the company showed off iOS 5, a software update it promised is coming this fall, presumably alongside the next-generation iPhone.

In early July, one report claimed that Apple’s component suppliers in Taiwan were gearing up and preparing materials for production of a fifth-generation iPhone in October. Most rumors have suggested that the upgrade will include an improved 8 megapixel camera, along with the speedy A5 processor already found in the iPad 2.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T to throttle data for top five percent of user base

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Date: Friday, July 29th, 2011, 14:06
Category: iPhone, News

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There’s a price to pay for using a ton of data on your iPhone plan…

Per Macworld, AT&T announced late on Friday that it will begin throttling data throughput for heavy users of its unlimited smartphone data plans beginning on October 1.

According to the wireless provider, data throttling will affect only those smartphone customers on an unlimited data plan who fall into the top 5 percent of data consumption. Once users are counted among that number, their data speed will be reduced, but their overall capacity won’t be touched—they can still consume as much data as they want, just at a slower speed.

Unfortunately, AT&T isn’t alone in that decision. In February, Verizon Wireless announced it too would throttle the top 5 percent of its smartphone data users. At the time, Verizon was offering unlimited data plans; earlier this month, it switched to a tiered model similar to AT&T.

An AT&T spokesman stated that it isn’t specifying a hard and fast data threshold that will signal the speed reduction—likely because data consumption patterns will shift from month to month. That seems to mean that the top 5 percent of smartphone customers in any given month will likely see their data speeds throttled, despite how much data they actually use. However, in its statement on the matter the carrier says it will provide notices and a grace period before imposing the speed reductions, and the customers will find their data speed returned to normal at the beginning of the subsequent billing period.

AT&T points to specific type of data most likely to trigger high levels of data consumption, such as streaming very large amounts of video and audio and transferring large files over the cellular network. The company suggests instead using Wi-Fi for these purposes, especially since its customers get free access to the company’s network of 26,000 hotspots around the country.

Smartphone customers subscribed to one of AT&T’s tiered data plans—the US$15 per month 200MB plan and US$25 per month 2GB plan—will not be affected by the data throttling. So if speed is the ultimate concern—and you don’t mind paying for additional data capacity on your smartphone plan—AT&T suggests you can always switch to a tiered plan.

This isn’t the first time AT&T has tried to get unlimited data customers to shift to its tiered data plans, which it introduced last summer. Prior to then, unlimited data was the norm for iPhone customers; upon tweaking its plan, AT&T also introduced the much-awaited ability to tether the iPhone’s 3G connection to a laptop—but only for users of its tiered plans.

According to AT&T, the decision to throttle the heaviest data users is part of a plan to combat “a serious wireless spectrum crunch.” Data throttling is only one part of the moves AT&T says it is making, with the company also investing money in building our its wireless network as well as trying to “acquire additional network capacity.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked iPhone 5 case schematic shows curved sides, other details

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Date: Wednesday, July 27th, 2011, 02:38
Category: iPhone, Pictures

Interestingly enough, it’s the upcoming cases that tend to provide the most interesting tidbits.

Per UK web site MobileFun.co.uk, a leaked schematic claimed to be for a case for Apple’s anticipated fifth-generation iPhone shows a larger area for the home button, a slightly larger screen, and the return of curved sides like on the iPhone 3GS.

The documents allegedly come from a Chinese case manufacturer and show a design with curved sides, similar to iPhone models released before the current iPhone 4.

On the front, the case appears to have a larger, oval-shaped opening for where the device’s home button would go. That could lend support to rumors from earlier this year that Apple’s next-iPhone would feature a multi-touch “gesture area” in place of the current home button.

That same report also predicted that Apple’s next iPhone would have a slightly larger 3.7-inch edge-to-edge screen. The images that claim to show a so-called “iPhone 5″ case also suggest that the device may have a larger screen.

The photos show the handset’s volume buttons and SIM card slot in the same place, but also show placement of the vibrate switch on the opposite side.

The case also suggests the device will feature an unmoved LED camera flash, which would contradict purported fifth-generation iPhone parts (1, 2), which leaked in May and suggested the camera lens and flash would be moved further apart to improve picture quality. Separating the camera flash and lens can reduce the red-eye effect seen in photographs.

The alleged schematic would contradict other rumors that the next iPhone will have a design largely similar to the current iPhone 4, with one of the biggest changes being a new, higher-resolution 8-megapixel camera and the addition of the A5 processor. Some reports have characterized the device as an “iPhone 4S,” in references to the alleged minor changes.

Though the next iPhone will arrive later than usual this year, reports from Apple’s supply chain have been picking up, indicating that the company is preparing to begin mass production of the next-generation device. Last week, during the company’s quarterly earnings conference call, Apple executives revealed that an unnamed major product transition is in the cards to take place by the end of September.

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

Apple releases iOS 4.3.5 update

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Date: Tuesday, July 26th, 2011, 03:38
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, security, Software

On Friday, Apple released iOS 4.3.5, the latest incarnation of its iOS operating system for its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices. The updates fix a security vulnerability with certificate validation and arrive in two versions, thanks to the different flavors of the iPhone 4. iOS 4.3.5 applies to the iPad and iPad 2, the third- and fourth-generation iPod touch, the iPhone 3GS, and the iPhone 4 (GSM model); users of the CDMA model of the iPhone 4 instead get iOS 4.2.10.

These updates can be snagged by plugging in your respective iOS device and checking for updates in iTunes.

If you’ve tried the updates and noticed any differences, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: iPhone 5 to launch in ‘early to mid-September’

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Date: Monday, July 25th, 2011, 07:58
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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The cool cats at Boy Genius Report are citing that AT&T is beginning preparations for an expected “early to mid-September” launch of the next-generation iPhone, in line with launch rumors and expectations and other reports of Apple beefing up its retail store staffing over a similar timeframe.

BGR has learned that AT&T has begun communicating launch plans internally for Apple’s next-generation iPhone 5 handset, informing employees across the company, and those who work in retail locations, to finish any sort of employee training as soon as possible. AT&T is asking managers to finish training in order to have employees available for the influx of foot traffic expected in September, a proven source has stated.

Apple has been preparing to increase staffing at its retail stores in the United States and United Kingdom, and rumors have suggested that Apple will use its traditional fall iPod media event to introduce the next-generation iPhone this year. That event has typically taken place in early September, although some reports have pushed that date up into late August this year ahead of a September launch for the device. Apple has announced that iOS 5 will debut this “fall”, and that software launch will undoubtedly occur right around the release of the next-generation hardware.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Security researcher to illustrate MacBook batteries’ vulnerabilities to malware

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Date: Monday, July 25th, 2011, 04:19
Category: battery, News, security

In the category of “weird but interesting and mildly disturbing”, a prominent security researcher has discovered a vulnerability in the batteries of Apple’s MacBook line of portable computers that could allow hackers to ruin the batteries or install malware on them that could corrupt a Mac.

Per Forbes, Charlie Miller, a renowned white-hat hacker who works for security firm Accuvant, plans to reveal and offer a fix next month for a MacBook battery vulnerability he has discovered. Miller uncovered default passwords, which are used to access the microcontroller in Apple’s batteries, within a firmware update from 2009 and used them to gain access to the firmware.

Apple and other laptop makers use embedded chips in their lithium ion laptop batteries to monitor its power level, stop and start charging and regulate heat.

During the course of his tests, the researcher “bricked” seven batteries, rendering them unusable by rewriting the firmware. Of more concern is the possibility that hackers could use the vulnerability to install difficult to remove malware, or, in a worst case scenario, cause the batteries to explode.

“These batteries just aren’t designed with the idea that people will mess with them,” he said. “What I’m showing is that it’s possible to use them to do something really bad.” According to him, few IT administrators would think to check the battery, providing hackers with an opportunity to hide malicious software on a battery that could repeatedly implant itself on a computer.

Miller admitted that he hasn’t tried to blow up any batteries, but he did say it might be possible. “You read stories about batteries in electronic devices that blow up without any interference,” he noted. “If you have all this control, you can probably do it.”

Another researcher, Barnaby Jack, who works for antivirus software maker McAfee, also looked into the battery issue a couple years ago, but said he didn’t get as far as Miller did.

Miller, who is a regular winner of security contests demonstrating Mac, Safari and iPhone exploits, has notified Apple and Texas Instruments of the issue. Despite requests from several other researchers not to proceed, he plans to unveil the vulnerability, along with a fix he calls “Caulkgun,” at the Black Hat security conference next month.

“Caulk Gun” will change a battery’s default passwords to a random string of characters. While the fix will prevent hackers from breaking into the battery, it would also block any future firmware updates from Apple.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.