Sprint to add 28 cities to 4G LTE network in coming months

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Date: Friday, January 18th, 2013, 08:10
Category: iPhone, News

A growing network…that’s never a bad thing.

Per AppleInsider, U.S. carrier Sprint announced Thursday that its 4G LTE network, which offers faster connections to the iPhone 5 and Apple’s latest iPads, will expand to 28 new cities in the coming months.

The continuing deployment is part of Sprint’s Network Vision strategy, in which the company will consolidate multiple network technologies into one new, seamless network.

The goal, Sprint said, is to increase efficiency and enhance network coverage, call quality and data speeds for customers across the U.S.

The full list of markets that will gain access to Sprint 4G LTE follows:
Albany, Ga.
Anderson, S.C.
Bay City, Mich
Branson, Mo.
Bremerton/Silverdale, Wash.
Columbus, Ga.
Columbus, Miss.
Decatur, Ala.
Florence/Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Gadsden, Ala.
Gaffney, S.C.
Gettysburg, Pa.
Glasgow, Ky.
Homosassa Springs, Fla.
Hot Springs, Ark.
Lake City, Fla.
Lake Havasu City/Kingman, Ariz.
Midland, Mich.
Nacogdoches, Tex.
Opelousas/Eunice, La.
Oxford, Miss.
Paris, Tex.
Pittsfield, Mass.
Saginaw, Mich.
Spartanburg, S.C.
The Villages, Fla.
Waycross, Ga.
Winona, Minn.

During the pre-launch phase, customers of Sprint with compatible 4G LTE devices, like Apple’s iPhone 5, may begin to see coverage. Customers are welcome to use the network before it officially launches.

Sprint promises that customers on its LTE network will see enhanced call quality and better performance. 4G LTE allows for significantly improved data speeds, which will enhance browsing the Web, streaming music or video, and downloading applications from the App Store.

Sprint has already announced nearly 200 markets where Sprint 4G LTE is on its way, including Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans; New York; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C. The carrier announced plans to expand its LTE network in 100 new cities in September.

If you’ve had a chance to try the new Sprint network locations, let us know what you make of them in the comments.

Apple allies with Merchants Bank Co. to offer installment-based payment plans to Chinese customers

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Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2013, 09:06
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail

If you’re buying Apple equipment in China, there’s a payment plan for you.

Per Bloomberg, Apple on Thursday introduced a new option for Chinese buyers of iPhones and MacBooks, allowing them to spread the cost of purchases ranging from from 300 yuan (US$48) to 30,000 yuan (US$4,800) over as long as two years.

The new installment payment plans require a China Merchants Bank Co. credit card, with fees ranging from zero percent for a three-month installment plan to 8.5 percent for a 24-month plan. The payment structure likely represents Apple’s attempt at making its products, typically priced at a premium, more affordable for urban Chinese workers.

The article noted that Apple fell from fourth to sixth place in China’s smartphone market in the third quarter and now trails firms such as ZTE, Samsung, and Lenovo, whose smartphone offerings are more affordable than Apple’s iPhone.

Industry observers have long held that a cheaper iPhone would give Apple control over the growing Chinese market, and the financing move may allow Apple to retain its typical profit margins and brand image while widening its base of potential buyers in what will soon become the world’s largest market.

The iPhone 5, which hit the Chinese market last month, costs 5,288 yuan on Apple’s site, or about six weeks’ pay for the average urban worker. By comparison, handsets from competitors often cost less than 1,000 yuan.

Sales of other Apple products have demonstrated demand for the Cupertino company’s devices, as the iPad mini debuted to “insatiable demand” in China last December. Apple has increased its focus on the country accordingly, with chief executive Tim Cook visiting China twice in the past 10 months, most recently meeting with China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T to enable FaceTime for tiered customers with compatible iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2013, 08:00
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, News, Software

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Nothing like a little competition to get the wireless carriers to try to beat each other’s offerings.

That and the FCC yelling at you to do it sort of helps.

Per the company’s blog, AT&T announced on Wednesday it will enable FaceTime over cellular at no extra cost to any customers with a tiered data plan and compatible iOS device.

The announcement was made on the carrier’s website by Mark Collins, senior vice president of voice and data products. The change means that iPhone 4S customers with tiered plans will be able to make FaceTime calls over the AT&T network.

“We have already begun updating our systems and processes and expect to start rolling the update out to customers on an ongoing basis beginning in the next couple of weeks,” Collins wrote. “Customers do not need to do anything — the update will be applied automatically over the next few months.”

FaceTime over cellular will not come to older devices such as the iPhone 4 or second-generation iPad, even if they are running iOS 6. But that’s because the hardware does not support mobile FaceTime connections — a decision made by Apple, not AT&T.

Previously, AT&T had restricted FaceTime over cellular to customers who had switched to its Mobile Share plans, as well as those with an LTE device, such as the iPhone 5 or latest iPad, on a tiered plan.

AT&T came under fire for its initial decision, and the company was compelled to defend itself in a statement claiming its plan complied with Federal Communications Commissions that prohibit carriers from blocking services that compete with their own. The carrier argued that its decision was in compliance because AT&T does not offer its own competing preloaded video chat application.

AT&T began quietly activating FaceTime over cellular for more subscribers in November. At the time, some users who had grandfathered unlimited data plans said they too were able to use FaceTime. However, Wednesday’s announcement indicated the ability will only extend to customers who have tiered data plans.

If you get a chance to try FaceTime over AT&T’s cellular connections and have any feedback to offer about it, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to release all-Retina iPad, MacBook Pro lineups in 2013

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Date: Wednesday, January 16th, 2013, 08:09
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, MacBook Pro, Rumor

Even though it’s a rumor, there’s got to be a nugget of truth in there somewhere.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has made his Apple hardware predictions for the upcoming year, and expects a bevy of new iOS and Mac product releases will help the iPhone maker address a wider swath of the market

Kuo, who has seen previous success in predicting future Apple products, says the company will introduce a number of new iOS devices in 2013, including an inexpensive iPhone 5, upgraded iPhone 5S, Retina display-toting second-gen iPad mini and a redesigned fifth-generation iPad, among others. He goes on to say that Apple will retire the non-Retina MacBook Pro line and replace it with an all-Retina lineup at a lower price.

Kuo is quick to note that none of the product forecasts are expected in the first quarter of 2013 and says “many” will be introduced in the second half of the year.

According to the analyst, Apple will release both an iPhone 5S with updated internals as well as an inexpensive version of the current iPhone 5 design with a thicker plastic chassis available in six colors. The iPhone 5S, which Kuo believes will launch sometime in June or July, will have largely the same aesthetic as the existing model, but will boast a built-in fingerprint sensor, improved camera and more powerful A7 SoC. A slightly revamped “new design” iPhone 5 is expected to go on sale as a less-expensive alternative to Apple’s flagship handset at around the same time, with the affordable price tag attributed to a plastic exterior that will be available in multiple colorways.

Kuo believes a new fifth-generation 9.7-inch iPad will launch with lighter frame and a more refined look, borrowing the narrow bezels seen on the iPad mini. In turn, the smaller tablet will move to generation two and get a Retina display that sports the same 2,048-by-1,536 pixel screen resolution as the existing full-size iPad. By using an identical resolution, app makers won’t have to make software changes to fit a new native format. The same thinking was used when the iPad mini was released with a resolution identical to the iPad 2.

As for Apple’s MacBook, the analyst sees an end of life for non-Retina MacBook Pros, which will be replaced by an all-Retina lineup that eschews optical drives. Pricing should be reduced to help move units. The MacBook Air will see little change besides a bump in internal specs as sizing down the high-resolution Retina display is seen as too steep a challenge at this time. Because the Air will not see a significant design change, the tweaked models are expected to arrive earlier in the year, with the all-Retina MacBook Pro line coming in quarter three.

In respect to the iPod product line, Kuo isn’t expecting much in the way of revolutionary changes. With the fifth-gen iPod touch released, Apple will likely introduce a cheaper variant of the current design without a camera and less built-in memory to reach a target price of US$199.

Finally, 2013 is expected to be the last year in which the Apple TV is considered a “hobby,” but Kuo doesn’t believe the company will introduce a full-fledged television set in the next 12 months. The existing media streamer is likely to morph into a serious business — possibly a full-fledged HDTV — in 2014, as Apple already has the infrastructure to support such a device with iTunes, the App Store and iCloud services. What the company lacks, however, is experience in the industry, especially concerning the establishment of a reliable supply chain. Kuo looks to the much-rumored “iTV” as a source of growth in the coming years.

Rumor: Apple to begin building preliminary “iPhone 5S” units this spring

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Date: Wednesday, January 16th, 2013, 08:24
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

If you were holding out for the next-generation iPhone, you can probably expect Apple to once again release something this summer.

Per AppleInsider, Apple will begin preliminary builds of the successor to the iPhone 5 in March, setting up for an earlier-than-expected debut in June or July, according to a new report.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said in a note to investors this week that two future iPhone prototypes are currently testing. At least one of these is said to be a so-called “iPhone 5S,” while the other could be Apple’s rumored low-cost iPhone.

Misek previously predicted in December that Apple will launch an incremental upgrade to the iPhone 5 this summer. He also believes the company’s next-generation iPhone, referred to as an “iPhone 6,” will sport a larger 4.8-inch display.

As word of the “iPhone 5S” production begins to spread, Misek expects there to be a slight slowing of demand for the iPhone 5.

He expects Apple to sell 44 million iPhones in the current March quarter — a number he noted is “still well above” recent concerns that shipments might be in the mid-30-million range.

Like some other analysts, Misek believes an apparent decline in iPhone 5 component orders from Apple is not related to significantly reduced demand for the popular handset. Instead, he believes the order cuts are related to three factors:
An assembly bottleneck that caused component inventories to rise in the holiday quarter.

Demand may be either in line or “slightly below optimistic expectations,” Misek believes.

While Misek expects Apple’s next iPhone to launch sooner than expected in the June-July timeframe, he also believes Apple is separately planning a low-cost iPhone that would be geared toward emerging markets like China. Such a device may already have been greenlit, he said.

“Similar to the iPad mini, we expect a concentrated low-cost iPhone rather than a ‘cheap’ one,” he said. “Likely specs: polycarbonate case with 4″ non-Retina display and no LTE.”

In his view, a less expensive iPhone would increase Apple’s smartphone market share, but would also decrease the company’s gross margins. He does not expect the rumored product to have much of an effect on the company’s earnings per share.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

SquareTrade report reveals where most iPhones meet their demise

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Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 2013, 08:19
Category: iPhone, News

Well, at least now you know where not to take your iPhone.

Per a study published last October by third-party warranty company SquareTrade and The Mac Observer, most damage (51 percent) to an iPhone reportedly occurs in an owner’s home. Of the areas in the home, kitchens are the most likely location for an iPhone to die due to their usually hard floors, heavy traffic, and the abundance of foods and liquids that the device can encounter. It’s also likely that usage models play a role, as many iPhone owners like to listen to music or podcasts while cooking, or look up recipes on the fly.

The living room (18 percent), bathroom (16 percent), and driveway (10 percent) are the next most-likely locations for an accident while the bedroom at 8 percent rounds out the top five “danger zones.”

Some interesting statistics on exactly how iPhones die are also available. A surprisingly low 5 percent of iPhone owners have accidentally washed their iPhone in the washing machine, 9 percent have dropped it in a (hopefully clean) toilet, and 6 percent have left the phone on top of a car and then driven off.

When it comes to iPhones damaged by liquids, 43 percent of liquid damaged phones met their end due to water, 19 percent encountered soda, 12 percent drowned in a farewell pool of beer, and another 12 percent went out thanks to coffee or tea.

Finally, most accidents overall are the fault of the owner, and not a careless child, friend, or coworker. In all, 69 percent of accidents are caused by the owner.

If you have your own tale as to where and how you accidentally destroyed your iPhone, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple prepping iOS 6.1 beta, build expected to go Golden Master

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Date: Monday, January 14th, 2013, 07:51
Category: iOS, News, Software

Just the term, “golden master”, it pretty much sounds awesome.

Per German web site iFun, Apple is said to be internally testing a new beta of iOS 6.1 that is expected to be the golden master build, suggesting the software is nearly ready to be released to the public.

Citing a “reliable source,” the web site reported Friday that the fifth beta of iOS 6.1 is about to be released to developers. The software is said to have gone through “extensive internal testing,” and if all goes well it will be the golden master of the software.

The software is expected to be released to developers either on Friday or potentially on Monday.

Apple began supplying beta builds of iOS 6.1 to its development community in early November. To date, there have been four betas seeded, the most recent arriving in mid-December.

Changes in iOS 6.1 are mostly minor, with the most significant user-facing additions including the ability to purchase movie tickets through Fandango with Siri, and a new prompt that asks users to enter security questions for iCloud when setting up their device for the first time.

For developers, iOS 6.1 includes an enhanced Map Kit framework that will allow third-party applications to search for map-based addresses based on points of interest. For example, a user could search the term “coffee” and the new framework would return the location of local coffee bars along with information about each one.

iOS 6.1 builds released to date have been compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, and iPhone 3GS; fourth-, third-, and second-generation iPad; iPad mini; and fifth-and fourth-generation iPod touch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release updated iPad, iPad mini models in March

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Date: Friday, January 11th, 2013, 09:42
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

Come March…you may buy the next generation of iPad.

Per AppleInsider, a new rumor has pegged both the full-size iPad and iPad mini as due for updates in March.

Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets said his checks with industry sources at this week’s CES event in Las Vegas, Nev., indicated both the fifth-generation iPad and second-generation iPad mini will debut this March, just five months after the last update was announced.

White was told that the new “iPad 5” will be lighter and thinner than the fourth-generation model Apple released late last year. The updated model features a new A6X processor and Apple’s smaller Lightning chip but maintained the same design as the third-generation iPad released last March.

As for the iPad mini, White said the second-generation device is expected to have the same form factor. A new model would likely just have upgraded components, such as a faster chip.

No mention was made of a potential high-resolution Retina display in a new iPad mini. One report from last month claimed Apple was focused on boosting the resolution of the next-generation iPad mini.

Though many industry insiders attend CES, Apple does not have an official presence at the annual event. White did not indicate the source of his information aside from unnamed “checks” at the show.

White also reported last week that Apple is expected to debut new iPhones this summer in more sizes and colors, expanding the lineup from the current black and white options. He expects the new iPhones to debut in the May-June timeframe, which would be earlier than the last two years.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Patent reveals Apple’s exploration of emergency services app for iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, January 10th, 2013, 08:16
Category: iPhone, News, Patents

You’re never far from help with an iPhone in hand.

Per FreePatentsOnline, Apple has shown continued interest in offering easy access to local emergency services when traveling through the iPhone.

The concept is detailed in a patent continuation published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Entitled “Location-Based Emergency Information,” the proposed invention is credited in part to Scott Forstall, Apple’s former chief of iOS who was chased from the company late last year.

“When a person travels abroad, emergencies can occur,” the filing states. “For example, the person can become injured in an accident, be a victim of a crime, or lose their travel documents. In those situations, having knowledge of contact information for local emergency services or the pertinent consular services can be beneficial.”

Apple notes that the process of gathering local emergency service information before traveling can be time consuming, particularly if a person plans to stop in multiple cities or countries. It’s also likely that a traveler would neglect to gather this information entirely, potentially placing them in a bad situation.

To resolve this issue, Apple’s concept includes an “Emergency” Application for iOS that would give users quick access to local medical, police or fire assistance, based on the current location of their iPhone.

The information could allow users to quickly contact emergency authorities in foreign countries, where users may not know the proper emergency number. Or in the U.S., it might provide direct numbers for non-emergency calls to authorities, preventing unnecessary calls to 9-1-1.

In one illustration, the iPhone app is shown with a unique application “drawer” that Apple said could slide out when selected. This would allow users to then tap on which emergency response service they wish to contact.

In addition to Forstall, the application is also credited to inventors Gregory N. Christie, Robert E. Borchers, and Imran A. Chaudhri. The continuation filing, made in September of 2012, stems from a patent originally filed in June 2007, around the time that the first-generation iPhone went on sale in the U.S.

Apple CEO Tim Cook meets with China Mobile representatives

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Date: Thursday, January 10th, 2013, 08:26
Category: iPhone, News

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Mr. Smith went to Washington, so it’s only logical that Tim Cook go to China.

Per Sina Tech, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook gave an interview with local media, in which he revealed that he met with China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier.

Cook declined to say in his interview with Sina Tech what came of his meeting. Rumors of the iPhone becoming available on China Mobile have persisted for years, but no deal has been struck yet.

A spokesman for China Mobile confirmed that the talks took place, and said the two sides discussed “matters of cooperation.” No further details were given, as a confidentiality agreement was reportedly signed.

Currently, the iPhone is available on carriers China Unicom and China Telecom. China Mobile’s president confirmed a month ago that talks with Apple were ongoing, but a deal had not been reached.

Analyst Amit Daryanani of RBC Capital Markets believes Apple could earn 13 percent of China Mobile’s 75.6 million high-speed 3G subscribers. That doesn’t include the nearly 700 million total subscribers the carrier has, some of which could switch to smartphone plans for the iPhone.

Daryanani predicted in November that a potential deal with China Mobile could add about US$3 to Apple’s annual earnings per share, and US$45 to the company’s stock price.

The number of 3G subscribers in China grew 88 percent year over year in 2012 to 222 million. China Mobile is the only major carrier in the country that does not have a deal for Apple’s iPhone, which market watchers believe has helped to stifle the carrier’s smartphone adoption rates.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.