AT&T CEO drops hints at smaller SIM card format

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Date: Monday, June 6th, 2011, 05:50
Category: iPhone, News

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Prior to all the Worldwide Developers Conference hubbub, AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega said in an interview this week with All Things D that a smaller SIM card is a “no-brainer” and his company is looking into it, but declined to make the direct connection to Apple that the France Telecom CEO made last week.

When asked by All Things D’s Ina Fried whether AT&T is interested in the smaller SIM card that Apple and France Telecom have reportedly agreed upon, de la Vega acknowledged that the carrier is “working with the industry” to look at the possibility of smaller SIM cards. “I think that probably will happen,” he said.

In late May, France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard said in an interview that Apple and wireless carriers had reached a compromise to use a smaller SIM card format instead of an embedded SIM chip that Apple had expressed interest in. According to Richard, the next iPhone will be “smaller and thinner,” partially due to a reduction in the SIM card footprint.

Per another executive at Orange, a subsidiary of France Telecom, Apple in May submitted a new requirement for a smaller SIM form factor to a European standards institute. The iPhone 4 and iPad currently utilize a micro-SIM solution.

Like Richard, de la Vega expressed a preference for a smaller SIM card over an embedded SIM. “We think that making the card smaller and shrinking the size is a no-brainer and we should be able to make that happen,” he said, in response to a question about the possibility of an e-SIM.

During the interview, de la Vega expressed disappointment at Windows Phone sales. “We actually like [Windows Phone 7] very, very much,” he said. “It hasn’t sold as well as Microsoft or us would want it to.”

Despite the lackluster sales, the AT&T CEO remained optimistic about Microsoft’s prospects. “I think for the first thing out of the chute it is pretty good,” he said. “I think they just need to make it better… Giving customers more application choices, having a bigger app store with more functionality on the phone–I think that is all that it needs.”

For de la Vega, the iPhone and Google’s Android have been “positive surprises,” while sales of Research in Motion’s devices have dropped off. “Android and Apple are really the hot products right now,” he added, noting that customers have been “choosing other products rather than traditional BlackBerries.”

The executive also challenged tablet makers to continue to raise standards in order to compete with Apple’s iPad. According to de la Vega, all the manufacturers who make smartphones are also offering AT&T tablets. “The question is which ones of those are good enough to stand up to the iPad. That’s a very high bar,” he said.

Speaking at the D9 conference earlier this week, de la Vega confirmed that AT&T is working on a shared data plan that would allow users to pool minutes and data plans between devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

WHO study finds AT&T iPhone 4 emits “medium” amount of radiation

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Date: Friday, June 3rd, 2011, 02:25
Category: iPhone, News

I’m not sure if this is comforting or otherwise.

In the wake of the World Health Organization’s report on cell phones and radiation, the Environmental Working Group has released a database of cell phone models with the highest and lowest rates of radiofrequency energy according to a CNN report. Per the report, Apple’s iPhone 4 (the AT&T version; the Verizon model wasn’t tested) falls in the middle range of emissions, which are measured using a Specific Absorption Rate of energy by the body written as “watts per kilogram.”

Cell phones sold in the U.S. cannot exceed a measure of 1.6 watts per kilogram of radiofrequency energy, but there is no study that shows an increased risk — or any risk — in using phones that emit higher or lower amounts. The WHO announcement, which was a change from their previous, more neutral position, comprised a review of hundreds of other peer-review studies — a compilation of known data — and concluded that cell phone radiation is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Often omitted from reports of the meta-study is that its principle recommendation was that the issue needed further study.

The database of phone radiation showed that Motorola had the model emitting the most energy per kilogram of energy, AT&T’s Bravo at 1.59 W/kg — just under the legal limit. The phone with the least amount of exposure was AT&T’s LG Quantum at 0.35 W/kg. Apple’s iPhone 4 tested at 1.17 W/kg, which ranks it about average. Samsung had a number of phones that were among the 10 lowest, while Motorola had the most phones in the top 10 highest, along with the Palm Pixi, the Blackberry Bold and the HTC Magic also ranking very high in energy absorbed by the body.

Cell phones, by their nature, emit and receive small amounts of microwave energy at all times while they are on — communicating with cell towers, updating GPS coordinates and of course being used for communication. Studies have been unsuccessful at establishing a clear link between cell phones and specific medical issues, even when the unit is held next to the head for prolonged periods. Radiation is naturally present in the atmosphere and from other sources, but how much the human body can absorb on a low-but-constant level without ill effects remains unclear.

Stay tuned for more on this as we get it.

Microsoft looking to ARM processors, HTML5 for Windows 8 mobile strategy

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Date: Thursday, June 2nd, 2011, 04:38
Category: News, Software

There may be something to this whole HTML5 thing…

Per AppleInsider, Microsoft has provided a look at how it plans to bring Windows to more mobile devices in the future, leveraging ARM processors and using HTML5 as the basis of a new app platform.

As demonstrated at the D9 conference, Windows 8 will deliver a touch-centric new interface for apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript that runs on top of the existing, conventional Windows platform.

The company showed off a new Start screen patterned after the tiled home page of Windows Phone 7. The company says the new tiled interface “replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of apps.”

Microsoft’s mobile Windows CE core operating system differs dramatically from its desktop Windows operating system, but the two will grow closer together in appearance as Windows 8 adopts a similar, top level interface to Windows Phone 7 and the Zune.

In contrast, Apple’s desktop Mac OS X and mobile iOS share the same core operating system and use optimized versions of the company’s proprietary Cocoa development platform to deliver native apps, but differ in the interface they present, with Mac OS X retaining a mouse-based windowing environment while iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad present a completely rethought, touch-based interface.

Microsoft’s own efforts to build a cohesive development environment for both the Windows CE-based Windows Mobile 6 and its desktop Windows XP/Vista/7 platform initially revolved around the company’s .Net APIs before shifting Windows Phone 7 to use Microsoft’s Adobe Flash-like Silverlight as its mobile app platform.

Now, Microsoft is announcing a new shift that leverages the interest in HTML5 to deliver “web-connected and web-powered” apps (similar to HP’s webOS platform acquired from Palm) that will run alongside legacy Windows apps on the forthcoming Windows 8. Microsoft says this approach “is designed and optimized for touch,” although the company also says “it works equally well with a mouse and keyboard.”

Ironically, the new HTML5 layer of Windows 8 works like the Dashboard layer of Mac OS X, although rather than only supplying quick assess to simple widgets, the new “Windows 8 apps” are intended to supply a layer of highly animated, full screen, touch-based apps capable of competing with native apps running on Apple’s iPad.

Like Apple’s iOS, Windows 8 is intended to be deployed on highly mobile devices such as ARM-based tablets in addition to the conventional PCs Windows has powered in the past. Unlike Apple’s iOS, which became instantly popular on the iPhone before expanding to the iPod touch and iPad, Microsoft’s tile-based Zune interface hasn’t yet found a significant, sustainable audience. After the Zune failed, Microsoft KIN and Windows Phone 7 have both found little interest among consumers.

Microsoft’s radical experimentation with Windows Vista in 2007 caused a negative backlash from Windows PC users, which has only settled down with the more conservative release of Windows 7. Sales of PCs have yet to rebound to levels prior to the release of Vista, and new mobile devices, in particular Apple’s iPad, have siphoned off a significant amount of demand among generic PCs.

Microsoft does have considerable clout among its developers and hardware makers however, and describes the new Windows 8 as its biggest risk yet, hoping the new release, due sometime over the next couple years, will bring it back into relevance among new generations of consumers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple, Google retain deal for map, search functionalities on iOS devices

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Date: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 03:34
Category: News, Software

The good news: The Google functionality on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad device isn’t going anywhere for a while.

Google Executive Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt revealed Tuesday that his company had reached a deal with Apple to continue providing its maps and search technology for the iPhone.

Per Reuters, Schmidt, while speaking at the D9 conference organized by All Things D, said that Google’s relationship with Apple had gotten “rough” as competition between Android and iOS heated up, but they remained good partners in certain businesses.

Schmidt put to rest rumors that Apple planned to abandon Google’s maps and search technology in the iPhone. According to the executive, the two companies recently renewed their partnership to continue to provide services for the iPhone. “We just renewed our map and search agreements with Apple, and we hope those continue for a long time,” he said. Last year, it was suggested that Google pays Apple as much as US$100 million a year in a revenue sharing deal for searches made on the iPhone.

Schmidt also talked candidly about his company’s rivalry with Facebook. “We tried very hard to partner with Facebook ,” he noted. “They were unwilling to do the deal.” In hindsight, Schmidt said he would have pushed harder to compete with Facebook. “I screwed up,” he admitted.

Google co-founder Larry Page took over for Schmidt as CEO in April. Schmidt formerly served on Apple’s board of directors before stepping down due to a conflict of interest.

Apple does, however, appear to still be working on building out its own Maps team. In March, an Apple job listing was discovered for an iOS Maps Application Developer that would help “radically improve” Apple’s location-based services. Last year, Apple began using its own Maps location databases, though it still relies on Google for the maps themselves.

Last month, Apple revealed that it is collecting anonymous traffic data in order to build a “crowd-sourced traffic database,” though it was not immediately clear whether the use of the word “traffic” referred to network data or transportation.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple announces iCloud name, Steve Jobs keynote, other presentations for WWDC

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Date: Tuesday, May 31st, 2011, 05:43
Category: News

Apple announced on Tuesday that company CEO Steve Jobs will return to the stage, along with a team of company executives, to present Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and iOS 5 as well as introduce its new iCloud service.

Per AppleInsider, The Worldwide Developers Conference keynote will begin Monday, June 6 at 10 a.m. Pacific Time. Apple confirmed that it will show off the now-officially-named iCloud, dubbed “Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering.” No additional details were given.

Also set to be revealed by Jobs and Apple executives are Mac OS X 10.7, (a.k.a., “Lion”), the eighth major release of Mac OS X, and iOS 5, the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

The conference will feature more than 100 technical sessions presented by Apple engineers. Mac developers will see and learn how to develop world-class Mac OS X Lion applications using its latest technologies and capabilities. Mobile developers will be able to explore the latest innovations and capabilities of iOS and learn how to greatly enhance the functionality, performance and design of their apps. All developers can bring their code to the labs and work with Apple engineers.

Though Tuesday marks the first official confirmation of the iCloud service, its existence was hardly a secret. The company acquired the iCloud.com domain name for an estimated US$4.5 million in April.

The iCloud service is expected to replace the existing MobileMe cloud service, which offers e-mail and syncing of contacts and calendars.

A major new component of iCloud is expected to be a music streaming service that will allow users to access their music library from any Internet-connected device, like an iPhone, without the need to save music files locally on the device. It is expected that the product will scan users’ iTunes libraries and then mirror them with Apple’s own high-quality audio files stored in the cloud.

The picture for Lion is slightly more clear, as Apple first showed off the Mac software update last October and preview releases of the software have been provided to developers. Lion will bring iOS features “back to the Mac,” including home screens, tighter integration with the Mac App Store, new multi-touch gestures, and full-screen applications that auto-save and auto-resume.

As for iOS 5, both it and Mac OS X Lion are rumored to have deep connectivity with the new iCloud service. Numerous reports have claimed that iOS 5 will offer improved voice commands, but the software is not expected to be unveiled alongside new iPhone hardware. Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone is expected to show up sometime later this year, and not at WWDC.

A more recent iOS 5 rumor from last week suggested that Apple also plans to add widgets to its mobile operating system. It was also said that Apple plans to revamp its notification system, a part of the operating system that has been heavily criticized when compared to competing platforms like Google Android and HP’s Palm webOS.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release fifth-generation iPhone with 8MP camera, SIM-free design between July and August

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Date: Monday, May 30th, 2011, 12:20
Category: iPhone, Rumor

Per Japanese web site Macotakara, Apple is rumored to be releasing a fifth-generation iPhone with an 8-megapixel camera and a SIM-less design that will not be a major departure from the current iPhone 4 design.

Citing an anonymous source, the web site reported Monday that the next iPhone will have the same form factor as the iPhone 4, and will use an ARM Cortex-A9 processor. The report said it is “not confirmed” whether the new processor will have a single CPU or is dual-core.

The report also said the handset will have an 8-megapixel camera, and a SIM-less design along with 3-4 internal antennas that will allow the device to serve as a “world phone” compatible with both GSM and CDMA networks. That would allow the same hardware to run on both AT&T and Verizon networks in the U.S.

The report claims that the device, which will include a Qualcomm chipset, will be released at the end of July or in early August. While later than usual, that release date would be sooner than the fiscal 2012 claim the same site made back in March.

Finally, the report claims that Apple’s next “major new handset” will arrive in the spring of 2012. A spring release for a so-called “iPhone 6″ was previously suggested in April, in a Japanese newspaper report that said Apple had selected Sharp to create next-generation low-temperature poly-silicon LCD displays for a thinner and lighter design.

The details in Monday’s latest report restate and help to reinforce rumors that have previously surfaced. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with Concord Securities stated in April that the next iPhone will feature “slight modifications” from its predecessor, including a new 8-megapixel rear camera. Other reports have suggested the next-generation iPhone will include both CDMA and GSM radios, making it a world phone.

As for the SIM-less design, last week the CEO of carrier Orange said that Apple will introduce a new, smaller and thinner SIM card in its next-generation iPhone. There were reports last year that Apple was working on an embedded SIM design that would allow users to select a carrier and service plan directly from their iPhone, but it was claimed that those plans upset carriers who felt they could be marginalized by such a move.

Picture quality on the new iPhone is also expected to be improved with a separate component for an improved LED flash. Various reports, including one earlier Tuesday, have suggested the flash will be moved farther from the camera lens to reduce red eye.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple may incorporate widgets, new mapping technology into iOS 5

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Date: Monday, May 30th, 2011, 04:29
Category: iPhone, Rumor

The widgets: they can be useful.

And for that reason they may find themselves a part of iOS 5.

Per TechCrunch, Apple is looking to incorporate Widgets (small programs in floating windows that provide quick access to information or functions, such as weather, or website news feeds) into iOS 5. Google Android already has widgets, as do other smartphone platforms. There has been criticism from techies that widgets have been omitted from the iPhone and iPad platform to this point.

It’s unclear how widgets would be implemented on Apple mobile devices. Other moves Apple has been making may offer some clues.

Apple is merging the look and feel of its desktop and mobile operating systems. Last year, it said it was taking many iOS developments “back to the Mac”, for example. The next release of OS X — codenamed Lion — mirrors many iOS features. That isn’t surprising since iOS already borrows many features from Apple’s desktop operating system Mac OS X, such as the ever-present Dock at the bottom of the screen, and Spotlight search.

The widget system is called Dashboard within Mac OS X, and that is perhaps the name we will see when widgets are rolled out for iPhones and iPads. The widget interface for the mobile devices also may have a separate ‘space’ that users can swipe to, like what is being rolled out with the upcoming release of Mac OS X.

One suggestion is that it will replace the existing search screen, which is uncovered by swiping left to right from the first home screen.

As for what the new notification system might look like, that’s harder to guess. On Apple desktops, many Mac users rely on third-party add-ons like Growl.

Earlier this year, Apple was rumored to have purchased a small company that produces a notification application for the iPhone.

Apple has also snapped up mapping technology companies recently, though current rumors cite that iOS 5 will stick with a Google Maps backend. Google Maps data underpins Apple applications and those of third-parties that use mapping services. Also circulating within the rumor mill is the notion that although Apple doesn’t have its own mapping technology in place, there might be a new front-end application providing turn-by-turn navigation, so the iPhone can be used within vehicles for navigation without the need to buy a third-party application.

Stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available and please let us know what you think in the comments.

Apple looking to create outdoor, sunglasses-friendly LCD screens

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 02:35
Category: News, Patents

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It’s Friday, additional Apple patent applications have emerged and Apple has apparently shown interest in creating an improved LCD display for devices like the iPhone and iPad that is not distorted when viewed by a user wearing polarized sunglasses outdoors.

Per AppleInsider, the proposed new technology was revealed in a new patent application made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. Entitled “Display that Emits Circularly-Polarized Light,” the proposed invention describes a liquid-crystal display that reduces perceived distortion when viewed through linearly polarizing filters, such as sunglasses.

In the application, Apple notes that current LCDs are based on polarization optics, and typically utilize linear polarizers on their front surfaces. The problem is that the light from LCDs typically has an electric field that only vibrates in one direction, while polarized sunglasses only allow through light with an electric field that vibrates in the vertical direction.

“Hence a user looking at the LCD display of a portable device… may see a distorted image in the display when viewed through polarized sunglasses, due to the polarized filters in the sunglasses blocking the light when the display is viewed at some angles,” the application reads.

When an LCD display is seen through polarized sunglasses, at certain angles the screen may be completely dark or somewhat obscured. The issue can be made even worse when a lens cover is placed in front of a display for protection or industrial design, as these plastics can compound the issue with color and gray artifacts.

Apple’s solution is a display that emits circularly polarized light by placing a layer in the path of linearly polarized light.

“The layer receives the linearly-polarized light on one surface, converts the linearly-polarized light to circularly-polarized light, and then emits the circularly-polarized light from another surface,” the application reads. “By emitting circularly-polarized light, the display reduces the perceived distortion found at some angles when the display is viewed through a linearly-polarizing filter.”

The invention would allow for superior outdoor viewing of displays, like iPhone or iPad screens, by reducing perceived distortion created when a user wears sunglasses.

Apple’s adoption of glass screen covers and glossy displays has been a point of criticism against the company, as some have complained they make viewing of devices in sunlight near impossible. The company has even brought back antiglare matte screens to some of its MacBook Pro options as an optional US$150 upgrade.

By creating a screen that could accommodate sunglasses, Apple would craft a new LCD that would allow a reduced amount of light to reach a user’s eye without distorting the screen. This could improve the ability to use devices like an iPhone, iPad or MacBook Pro outdoors on a sunny day.

Apple first filed for the proposed invention in January of this year. It is credited to John Z. Zhong, Wei Chen, Cheng Chen, Victor H.E. Yin, and Shawn R. Gettemy.

AT&T to introduce 4G LTE network to 15 markets by end of 2011

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Date: Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 03:01
Category: iPhone, News

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Though reports have suggested Apple’s next iPhone will not support the 4G long-term evolution standard, AT&T will roll out its new high-speed network to more than 70 million customers by the end of 2011.

According to AppleInsider, Details for AT&T’s 2011 LTE plans were detailed by the company’s chief technology officer, John Donovan, in a post on his company’s web site. AT&T’s 4G network will debut this summer in five markets: Dallas, Tex., Houston, Tex., Chicago, Ill., Atlanta, Ga., and San Antonio, Tex.

“We plan to add another 10 or more markets in the second half of the year, and cover 70 million Americans with LTE by year-end,” Donovan wrote. “We also have plans to add 20 4G devices to our robust device portfolio this year, with some of those being LTE capable.”

He revealed that AT&T has invested US$75 billion in its wireless and wired networks in the last four years and that the company also plans to invest US$19 billion in wireless and wireline networks, along with other capital projects, this year.

The launch of AT&T’s LTE network will come well after rival Verizon, which debuted its fourth-generation high-speed network last December in 38 metropolitan areas and more than 60 commercial airports across the U.S.

AT&T has been hyping its forthcoming LTE network, and last week showed off download speeds of 28.8Mbps, along with 10.4Mbps uploads. The download rate is more than seven times faster than the 3.77Mbps rate that can be reached on AT&T’s current HSPA network, while uploads were more than eight times the current 1.21Mbps rate.

Verizon says its LTE network has real-world data rates of between 5Mbps and 12MBps downstream and 2Mbps to 5Mbps upstream. Verizon’s LTE network will be nationwide by the end of 2013, while AT&T has said its own LTE deployment will be “largely complete” by the same time.

Recent rumors have pegged an LTE-capable iPhone to come from Apple in 2012, and not this year. Verizon’s chief executive said earlier this year that Apple understands the “value proposition of LTE,” and that they will be “a part of” the technology’s future.

At the official Verizon CDMA iPhone 4 unveiling in January, executives revealed that Apple chose not to include LTE technology because it would require design changes. Officials from Verizon indicated they wanted the iPhone as soon as possible, so Apple obliged with a modified version of the GSM-based iPhone 4 released in 2010.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Opera Mini web browser 6.0 released, now native for both iPhone and iPad

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 08:46
Category: iPhone, News, Software

It’s an interesting alternative to Apple’s Mobile Safari web browser for its iOS devices.

And it just got a fairly large overhaul.

Per Mac|Life, the popular Opera Mini web browser just reached version 6.0 and is available as a redesigned, universal app that finally brings some love to the bigger screen of the iPad as well as Retina Display support for the iPhone 4.

Opera Mini 6.0 features an updated design with a fresh new look and feel as well as super smooth pinch-to-zoom and panning. In addition to its new support for the iPhone 4 Retina Display as well as universal support for the iPad and iPad 2, the new version allows for direct sharing to Facebook, Twitter and My Opera.

International font support is also now greatly improved for Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese and other non-Latin languages (Opera supports a laundry list of languages from all over the world). Finally, users have the ability to open a new page in a background tab as well.

Opera Mini 6.0 is available now from the App Store; the free app is a 3.4MB download compatible with all iOS devices running iOS 3.0 or later.

If you’ve tinkered with the new version of Opera Mini and have any feedback, please let us know and thanks.