Apple files patent for inductive charging pad that could also offer device syncing features

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Date: Thursday, September 27th, 2012, 06:02
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod, Patents

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It’s not the newest peripheral idea in the world, but it’s still sort of nifty.

Per FreePatentsOnline.com, Apple has shown interest in building an inductive charging mat that would allow users to dock, charge and sync their portable devices by simply placing them on top of the accessory.

Apple’s filing, entitled “Device Orientation Based Docking Functions,” describes a “docking device” that would allow devices to be placed on top of it.

The mat would accomplish docking functions such as charging, data transfer, syncing, diagnostic checking, or any other potential use based on the physical orientation of the user device on the surface.

The filing notes that smartphones, like the iPhone, as well as digital cameras and media players like iPods can all be built to utilize inductive charging surfaces. Circuitry in these devices would respond to a magnetic field provided by the charging surface that would also allow data to be transferred while the device is docked.

While inductive charging surfaces are not new technology, Apple’s application brings a new twist to the concept with the idea of interpreting the device’s orientation for specific purposes. For example, a future iPhone with inductive charging capabilities could be placed face down on the mat for charging only, while placing the handset face-up on the mat could initiate syncing with a computer or iCloud as well as charging.

Once a device is placed on the mat, its current docking mode may be indicated to the user by either a sound, a graphic displayed on the device’s screen, an electronic message notification, or a vibration of the device.

Beyond a local computer for syncing, the inductive charging mat could also be connected to a host of devices throughout a person’s home. In one example, the mat is connected to speakers for audio output when docked.

Apple’s proposed invention was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March of 2011. It is credited to Jorge S. Fino.

When the iPhone 5 was announced earlier this month, Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller was asked why the new handset does not include inductive charging capabilities. He said the perceived convenience of such technology is questionable, as charging mats must still be plugged into an outlet.

“Having to create another device you have to plug into the wall is actually, for most situations, more complicated,” he explained.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Analyst: Apple’s new Lightning connector should have product lifespan of 5-10 years

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Date: Friday, September 21st, 2012, 06:01
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod, News

If you’re irked about having to buy a new Lightning adapter for your iPhone 5 or updated iPod, at least it’ll be around for a while.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s new Lightning connector, introduced alongside the iPhone 5 last week, is thought to be a key longterm investment for the company, and will possibly have a lifetime of ten years.

In a research note shared with clients, well-connected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo broke down the cost of components used in the iPhone 5, and found the Lightning’s ASP (average sales price) to have risen the most compared to parts in the iPhone 4S.

Kuo notes the new Lightning connector’s cost of US$3.50 represents a huge 775 percent rise in ASP compared to the legacy 30-pin dock connector’s last price of US$0.40. Concurrently, the Lightning cable’s US$6.00 ASP is a 233 percent jump from the previous standard’s US$1.80 model.

The spike is to be expected as Lightning is a new technology, replacing the nearly decade old 30-pin dock connector first introduced with the third-generation iPod.

While Apple’s new plug is similar in size to the Micro USB standard, Kuo believes the Lightning’s specs are higher, making the connector more difficult to manufacture. Included in the new high-tech part is a unique design which the analyst says is likely to feature a pin-out with four contacts dedicated to data, two for accessories, one for power and a ground. Two of the data transmission pins may be reserved for future input/output technology like USB 3.0 or perhaps even Thunderbolt, though this is merely speculation.

As for Lightning’s expected lifespan, the format is estimated to be in use for the next five to ten years, almost identical to the now-defunct 30-pin standard.

While ASP may be high in the first one to two years following deployment, the cost is acceptable as Apple will likely make back its investment in royalties from accessory sales. Apple is thought to be using a Texas Instruments chip for accessory authorization, making it difficult for third party manufacturers to build and sell Lightning-compatible products without paying royalties.

Looking at other critical parts in the iPhone 5, Kuo notes Apple’s quest to make high-quality products has boosted the ASP of other components as well, including the sapphire camera lens cover, upgraded baseband system, the A6 processor and the 4-inch in-cell touch panel. The second-highest ASP rise comes from the iPhone 5′s all-aluminum back casing’s $17 price which represents a 240 percent increase from the US$5 “metal band” design seen in the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

2012 model iPod touch, iPod nano, third-party Lightning adapters begin to appear on Amazon

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Date: Monday, September 17th, 2012, 10:56
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod Nano, iPod shuffle, News

Even if Apple’s Lightning connector adapter pre-orders sold out in only a few hours, there’s always third party models to choose from.

Per AppleInsider, third-party adapters for Apple’s new Lightning connector have begun to appear online. In addition, the new iPod touch and nano can also be preordered from Amazon.

As of Monday, resellers on Amazon were offering a pair of new Lightning to 30-pin adapters made by third parties. The US$17.95 Nanotch adapter features a male Lightning port on one end, with a female legacy 30-pin device port on the other. The two are connected by a 20-centimeter cord.

Also available is the US$9.99 iTronz USB Sync Data/Charging adapter. It features a male Lightning plug on one side, with a female 30-pin port on the other, and the two are connected by a single solid plastic piece rather than a wire.

Apple sells its own first-party Lightning to 30-pin adapter and cable, but those accessories quickly sold out once they went on sale late last week.

In addition, as of Monday, Amazon began taking direct preorders for Apple’s updated iPod lineup. Available for purchase are the new fifth-generation iPod touch, the seventh-generation iPod nano with multi-touch display, and the fifth-generation iPod shuffle.

The new iPod lineup is advertised to ship anywhere between two and five weeks from now. Apple has said its new iPods will ship in October. The latest iPod touch and iPod nano, along with the iPhone 5, use the new Lightning port, which is 80 percent smaller than the legacy 30-pin dock connector.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Lightning port adapters sell out in 30 minutes, shipments slip to 2-3 weeks

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Date: Friday, September 14th, 2012, 08:49
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News

It wasn’t the sale of the century, but it WAS a part people needed and it went fast.

Per AppleInsider, just half an hour after the iPhone 5 went up for pre-order, USB adaptors for Apple’s new Lightning port sold out, forcing users with compatible accessories to wait until new shipments arrive in October.

Both versions of Apple’s new Lightning to 30-pin adaptor are already quoted to ship in October, but the Lightning to USB adaptor saw shipments slip to two to three weeks within 30 minutes of Apple initiating iPhone 5 pre-orders on Friday.

Currently, there are three adaptor models available in the U.S., a US$39 version with a 0.2-meter cable and a US$29 unit that resembles an oversized 30-pin plug and the regular Lightning to USB adaptor that runs for US$19.

Apple unveiled the smaller 9-pin Lightning connector alongside the iPhone 5 at a special event on Wednesday, with the new plug said to be a necessity in building thinner iDevices. The proprietary part is 80 percent smaller than the legacy 30-pin connector it replaces, is all-digital and can be plugged into compatible devices in any orientation.

Besides the iPhone 5, the new iPod touch and iPod nano also use the newly introduced standard.

The Lightning to USB adaptor may be available in brick-and-mortar Apple Stores, though the stock allotted to each location is not known.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts video of iPhone 5/refreshed iPod models media event

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Date: Thursday, September 13th, 2012, 07:48
Category: iPhone, iPod, News

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It’s the day after, there’s a new iPhone and new iPod models en route and Apple just posted the video of yesterday’s press event here if you’re interested.

So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, take a gander and let us know what your hopes, dreams and expectations of the new stuff are in the comments section.

Apple announces 7th-gen iPod nano, units to go on sale in October

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Date: Wednesday, September 12th, 2012, 11:41
Category: iPod, iPod Nano, News

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The new stuff is rolling in today.

Per 9to5Mac, in addition to announcing the iPhone 5 today, the company announced a completely refreshed 7th generation iPod nano sporting a larger display, Bluetooth, Home button, and Lightning connector. The new Nano is also the thinnest yet at just 5.4mm, includes play/pause, forward/back physical buttons in addition to an iPhone-style Home button. and comes in seven colors, and has the longest battery life of any Nano with up to 30 hours of music playback.

Other features include an FM tuner with live pause, built-in pedometer, and a 38% thinner frame over the previous generation.

The new nanos will be available for US$149 in October.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple announces September 12th media event

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Date: Tuesday, September 4th, 2012, 17:07
Category: Hardware, iPhone, iPod, MacBook Pro, News

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You’ve been waiting for this for about a year now.

Per The Loop and MacRumors, Apple has sent out invitations for a media event scheduled for next week Wednesday, September 12. The event will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and is scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM Pacific / 1:00 PM Eastern. The tagline on the invitation is simply “It’s almost here.”



The image sort of says it all, as a conspicuous “5″ appears in the shadow, the company being expected to deliver a long-awaited iPhone 5 handset. Apple’s iPod lineup is also rumored to be seeing an update at one of the two events, while rumored iMac updates and the launch of a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro are likely to appear separately.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and full coverage of the event come September 12th.

Analyst: Apple producing 13-inch Retina Display screens, may launch 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro this fall

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Date: Monday, August 27th, 2012, 06:27
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, News

You love the MacBook Pro with the Retina Display.

Get ready for it in a smaller size.

Per CNET, an analyst citing upstream supply chain sources claims that a high-resolution display bound for a rumored 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is now in production, with initial output volumes expected to be higher than the current 15-inch version.

According to NPD DisplaySearch analyst Richard Shim, the display purportedly being produced for the smallest MacBook Pro features a resolution of 2,560-by-1600 pixels, compared to the current iteration’s 1,280-by-800 pixel screen.

“The supply chain indications are that it’s for a MacBook Pro 13.3 — not a MacBook Air,” Shim said.

The analyst goes on to say Samsung, LG Display and Sharp are all churning out the new 13-inch panel to meet a higher initial volume compared to the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display’s launch in June. Stock of Apple’s top-of-the-line laptop quickly dwindled as supply couldn’t meet demand due to low display yield rates, and only recently has the company been able to catch up, with shipments now quoted at two to four business days.

“With 15.4 it’s production of a few hundred thousand units versus one to two million for the 13.3,” Shim said. He prefaced the estimates by noting volume depends on yield rates, noting that if the manufacturers are able to reach rate of 70, 80, or 90 percent, output of the 13-inch panel will likely be in the “million and a half range.”

Shim also pointed out that the manufacturing capabilities of the three different suppliers can factor into how many displays will be ready for assembly.

“With Samsung, if you look at the new [Retina] iPad, they had fewer issues reaching the higher resolution requests from Apple,” he said. “They were the first vendor to get to volume with that panel.”

The production timeline could point to a fall debut for the rumored 13-inch Retina display-packing MacBook Pro, which is in line with previous reports that Apple would be launching the laptop in September.

Sunday’s rumor comes on the heels of multiple sightings (1, 2) of an unknown MacBook Pro seen on online benchmarking site Geekbench.

Currently, the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is identified as “MacBookPro10,1,” while the legacy 15-inch model is “MacBookPro9,1.” The “10,2″ identifier, first spotted in the logs of an online battery testing site, hints at a Retina version of the 13-inch laptop as the recently updated non-Retina version carries the “MacBookPro9,2″ designation.

While it is unclear when Apple will decide to launch the purported device, the company is expected to debut the next-generation iPhone at an as-yet-unannounced Sept. 12 event. Further rumors suggest a smaller iPad will also be launched in October ahead of a revamped iPod touch and iPod nano.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

iPod nano retail stock shortages hint at model refresh come September

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Date: Monday, August 20th, 2012, 12:34
Category: iPod, iPod Nano

When the supplies get short, the new stuff’s en route.

Or that’s the more hopeful school of thought when it comes to being unable to buy the cool thing that you want.

Per 9to5Mac, a number of retailers are running out of stock of the iPod nano. In the US these include major chains like Amazon, Target, Walmart and Best Buy. Amazon and Target are believed to be out of about half of their Nanos, while Walmart has just a few in stock. Outside of the US, Amazon UK is also seeing stock-outs; some retailers do have plenty of units though, including Apple itself and B&H Photo.

Apple is expected to refresh several products at a September 12th event. Like the iPod touch, the Nano is overdue for an update, since it was left essentially unchanged after an event last October. What Apple might have in mind hasn’t emerged in many reports, but one rumor does have the player reverting to a rectangular design. In any case the Nano will probably switch to Apple’s new, smaller dock connector, since space is a particular problem on the device. It measures just 1.61 inches long, 1.48 inches wide, and 0.35 inches thick, including a clip.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts $8.8 billion profit, $35 billion in sales for Q3 2012 returns

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Date: Wednesday, July 25th, 2012, 06:30
Category: Finance, News

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There’s a nice ring to the words “US$8.8 billion quarterly profit”…

Per Macworld, Apple announced its returns for the third quarter of 2012 yesterday, the company’s sales hitting US$35 billion, up 22 percent from US$28.6 billion last year while profits rose 20.5 percent to US$8.8 billion from US$7.3 billion. Earnings for the quarter were US$9.32 a share, up 20 percent from last year. Reported earnings topped Apple’s forecast, but fell short of Wall Street expectations of US$10.35 per share on projected revenue of US$37 billion.

Apple sold 17 million iPads during the quarter, the most the company has ever sold during a quarter. The company tallied June quarter records for both Mac and iPhone sales—the latter figure coming even as customers have held off on purchasing a new iPhone in anticipation of a new model coming out later this year.

Despite the sales records, the third quarter saw the slowest growth rate for profit since 2009. Still, Apple finds itself better positioned than most tech companies. Sales of Macs, for example, rose during the quarter while the rest of the PC market saw a 1 percent decline, according to figures from market-research firm IDC.

Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer, told analysts during a conference call that the company was “pleased” with its quarterly results.

The number that probably pleased Apple the most came from its surging iPad business, where Apple saw sales of its tablet grow 84 percent from the year-ago quarter. This was the first full quarter of sales for Apple’s third-generation iPad, which debuted on March 16. Apple is currently selling iPads in 97 countries.

Recognized revenue from the iPad lineup hit US$9.2 billion for the quarter, up 53 percent from the US$6 billion in revenue Apple recorded last year. Apple says it sold twice as many iPad as Macs to its education customers—and Apple just happened to set a record for Mac sales to U.S. educational institutions for the quarter.

As for its Mac business, Apple sold 4 million computers, up slightly from the 3.9 million Macs it sold in the year-ago quarter. Even with slight 2 percent gain, Apple still sold more Macs in this three-month period than in any June quarter before.

Those sales were largely driven by the revamped MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models Apple released, even though those notebooks came out less than three weeks before the end of the June quarter. According to Cook, prior to the release of those models at June’s Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple’s Mac sales were off last year’s pace. Once the updated MacBooks hit the market, though, Apple’s weekly sell-through increased, allowing it to beat last year’s figure and outpace PC industry growth for a 25th straight quarter.

In particular, Cook noted that the MacBook Pro with Retina Display has been “incredibly well-received. We still have not caught up with demand, but we anticipate doing so next month.”

Mac sales are usually dominated by portables, and this quarter was no exception. Notebooks accounted for three-fourths of the Macs Apple sold.

In addition to the June record for overall Mac sales, Apple executives noted that the quarter was the best ever for Mac sales to U.S. education institutions.

Apple sold 26 million iPhones during the quarter, compared to 20.3 million last year—another June quarter record for the company. The 28 percent growth in iPhone sales was also ahead of the amount Apple factored into its quarter guidance, Oppenheimer noted.

While Apple hasn’t made any iPhone hardware changes since it rolled out the iPhone 4S last year, it has been expanding the reach of its smartphone. During the June quarter, for example, the company added a number of regional carriers in the U.S. More than 250 carriers now provide service for the iPhone in 100 countries.

Recognized revenue from the iPhone rose 23 percent from last year to US$16.2 billion.

Despite the record sales, this quarter’s iPhone figures represent something of a blip for Apple. Both unit sales and iPhone revenue were down sequential in the third quarter; in 2011, unit sales and revenue rose from the second quarter to the third quarter. That’s largely a sign that customers may be holding off on iPhone purchases in anticipation of a new smartphone from Apple.

Pressed by analysts about the impact iPhone rumors might have on Apple’s bottom line, Cook said that while the company goes to great lengths to keep its product road map under wraps, he doesn’t put any value in clamping down on speculation about product releases.

“That’s just the environment we’re in,” Cook said. “I’m glad that people want the next thing. I’m super happy about it.”

Apple may have less reason to happy with its iPod sales, which saw another dip. The company sold 6.8 million music players, down from 7.5 million iPods in the year-ago quarter. Average selling price for iPods was also down for the quarter. Still, Apple notes that the iPod continues to hold a 70 percent share of the music-player market.

Combining iPod touch numbers with iPhone and iPad figures, Apple says that cumulative iOS device sales have reached 410 million units.

Revenue from the iTunes Store topped US$1.8 billion for the quarter; Apple brought its online music, movie, TV, and app store to 12 more countries.

Cook said that Apple sold 1.3 million Apple TVs during the quarter, bringing total sales for the fiscal year to 4 million units. The set-top box is “still at a level that we would call it a hobby, but we’ll continue to pull the string to see where it takes us,” Cook added.

During Tuesday’s briefing, Apple also unveiled the details of the stock dividend plan it first announced in March. The company will pay out US$2.65 per share on August 16, 2012 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on August 13. Subsequent dividends will be announced at the same time as the company’s results, with future payouts subject to declaration by the board of directors. Apple will begin buying back stock starting in its 2013 fiscal year, which starts September 30, 2012.

Both the dividend and the stock buyback program are part of Apple’s efforts to dispense with the massive amounts of cash the company has on hand. Apple ended the June quarter with US$117.2 billion in cash and short- and long-term securities, up from US$110 billion the previous quarter.

In terms of future performance, Oppenheimer told analysts to expect revenue of US$34 billion during the company’s fiscal fourth quarter and earnings of US$7.65 a share. That compares to 2011 fourth-quarter revenues of US$28.27 billion and earnings per share of US$7.02.