Apple patent points towards clip-on iPod nano, iPod shuffle devices with integrated speakers

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, November 10th, 2011, 08:30
Category: iPod, News, Patents

applelogo_silver

It’s the patents that make tech interesting.

Per freepatentsonline, Apple has shown interest in building a clip-on iPod with the same wearable form factor as the current iPod nano or iPod shuffle, but with a new integrated speaker built directly into the rear clip.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled, “Speaker Clip.”

The text of the proposed invention makes no specific mention of the iPod nano, or even the similarly shaped iPod shuffle. In fact, it doesn’t even include Apple’s iPod brand name. But the accompanying images show a device that looks like the current clip-on iPod nano and iPod shuffle, only with the new inclusion of an integrated speaker.

The new iPod would feature the same clip on the back that is found on the current wearable models, but that new clip would have a cavity in the middle. Filling that hole would be an “acoustical device,” or speaker.

That speaker could simply be used for user-interface feedback, providing simple sounds such as clicks to create a more intuitive experience for users when utilizing the multi-touch screen on the front of an iPod nano. Or it could also be used as a more full-featured — albeit tiny — speaker to listen to music tracks, or perhaps even do something new, like play games.

The speaker located on the attachment clip would be wired back to the main housing of the device through a “conduit” in the spring-loaded hinge that attaches the clip to the device. The speaker could also be protected by a cover that could shield the speaker from the elements, but also allow sound to pass through.

The filing notes that any kind of acoustic speaker could be used in this device, but one example given is a piezoelectric speaker. The conduit that connects the speaker to the main housing and processor could be a coaxial cable, flex microstrip, or fine gauge wire.

The protective cover layer could be a solid surface with numerous perforations, allowing sound to pass through. A mesh layer atop the speaker, woven from either plastic, metal or natural fibers, could be attached with an adhesive to the protective cover layer.

The iPod nano gained its touchscreen-driven design in September 2010 with its sixth-generation hardware revision. The small, wearable device is 46 percent smaller and 42 percent lighter than its predecessor, yet it still manages to include up to 16GB of storage, a 30-pin dock connector, hardware volume buttons and a lock button, an FM radio, and even Nike+ integration with a pedometer.

There has been some previous evidence that Apple plans to expand the functionality of its diminutive iPod nano even further while retaining its current form factor. One alleged prototype reveled in a picture this May claimed to show a rear-facing camera placed on the device. But this week’s filing is the first suggestion of an integrated speaker.

The proposed invention, made public this week, was first filed with the USPTO in May of 2010. It is credited to John Benjamin Filson, Eugene Whang, and Matthew Rohrbach.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Store app hits 2.0, adds in-store pickup, Easy Pay features

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, November 8th, 2011, 07:37
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, retail, Software

applelogo_silver

Apple may not make all aspects of your life easier at all times, but they do try to streamline buying more of their products…

Per AppleInsider, Apple has updated its official Apple Store application for iOS, adding the new “Personal Pickup” option, as well as an “Easy Pay” feature, which allows customers to pay for an item on their own, direct from an iPhone, while in a retail store.

The Apple Store application was updated on Tuesday to version 2.0. The free application is a 4.0MB download that requires iOS 4.2 or later to install and run and is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

The most significant new features in the update are EasyPay and Personal Pickup. With EasyPay, an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S the user can scan the barcode of an accessory while in a store, and complete the transaction using the same credit card information tied to their Apple ID.

Word of the self-checkout option first surfaced last week, and accurately revealed that the option would only apply to accessories and items found on the shelf. Users cannot complete a self-checkout with more expensive items that are kept in Apple’s retail stockrooms, including the iPhone, iPad, iPods or Macs.

The updated Apple Store application also features a built-in Personal Pickup feature. With the software, users can buy an item on their iOS device, and then pick it up in a store in less than an hour if it is in stock.

Apple began offering an in-store pickup option on its website last month with a trial that began in San Francisco, Calif., and quickly spread to New York City stores. The in-store pickup option is currently available in the U.S. only.

The full list of new features included in version 2.0 of the Apple Store iOS application are included below:

Personal Pickup: Buy in the app and choose to pick up your order at any Apple Retail Store. Most in-stock orders are available for pickup within an hour. (U.S. only)

EasyPay: Purchase select accessories in store quickly by scanning the barcode and completing your transaction right in the app. (U.S. only, requires iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S)

Track your stuff: View the status of current and previous orders from the order status section in the More tab.

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

Rumor: Prior to passing, Steve Jobs left iTunes creator in charge of HDTV project

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 05:51
Category: Rumor, Software

blueituneslogo.jpg

When Steve Jobs passed away, he put certain Apple employees in place to keep things going and make sure his final goals were realized.

It looks like another has been discovered.

According to Bloomberg, Jeff Robbin, an Apple vice president and engineer who helped create both iTunes and the iPod, is leading the company’s efforts to produce a connected TV with integrated search functionality.

Citing multiple sources familiar with the project, Bloomberg reported on Monday that Robbin is in charge of Cupertino, Calif., company’s secretive high-definition TV project. According to the sources, Apple is working to integrate seamless content search features into the device.

“For example, instead of having to separately check to see if a movie or show is available through Netflix or a cable service, all the material could be integrated,” the report noted.

Robbin worked as a system software engineer at Apple in the 1990s before leaving to work on his own software projects. While at software publisher Casady & Greene, he helped to develop the SoundJam MP MP3 player software. In late 2000, Apple purchased the rights for SoundJam from Casady & Greene, bringing Robbin back into the fold to head up the software’s transformation into iTunes.

Back at Apple, Robbin also played a crucial role in the development of the iPod, which just recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. He is listed among the inventors of several key iPod-related patent filings, though not all of the applications were successfully converted into legitimate patents.

His current role at Apple is vice president of consumer applications and lead software designer for iTunes.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs at one point considered Robbin to be of such high value to the company that he worked to keep Robbin’s role under wraps. According to the bestselling biography on Jobs, officially released on Monday, Jobs refused to allow a Time magazine reporter to use the engineer’s full name in an article because he feared Robbin would be poached by another company. The book also noted that Robbin was one of the Apple executives who successfully lobbied Jobs to allow a Windows version of iTunes.

Having persisted for years, rumors surrounding Apple’s connected television initiative have gained momentum after Jobs’ biography confirmed that he had been working on such a device. Author Walter Isaacson quoted Jobs in an interview as saying that he wanted to make television sets “simple and elegant,” just like he had done with computers, music players and phones.

“It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine,” Jobs reportedly said of the project. “I finally cracked it.”

Multiple analysts claimed on Monday that Apple has been building prototype high-definition TVs, possibly in preparation for a 2012 launch. The rumored product would represent a strong opportunity for the company, as some have projected the LCD TV market to top US$100 billion next year.

Apple currently sells a US$99 Apple TV set-top box, but considers the device to be little more than a “hobby.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Industrial designer Jonathan Ive left with additional power/privileges after Steve Jobs’ death

Posted by:
Date: Friday, October 21st, 2011, 06:41
Category: Hardware, News

If you’re on your way out, leave someone behind to protect your ideals and legacy.

And if that person is less than conventional but has created some of the coolest industrial designs of the past 13 years, all the better.

Per the Associated Press, Apple’s widely praised design chief Jonathan Ive has no true boss who can tell him what to do at the company, a distinction put in place by Steve Jobs himself.

Information from the new biography of Jobs, set to arrive next week, continues to arrive, offering a glimpse into the highly private life of the Apple co-founder. The news wire obtained an early copy of the book, and shared some details on the relationship between Jobs and Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design.

In talking with author Walter Isaacson for the book, Jobs revealed that he viewed Ive as his “spiritual partner” at Apple. Showing his trust in Ive, the company co-founder left him more freedom than anyone else in the company — a perk that remains even after Jobs’s death.

“He told Isaacson that Ive had ‘more operational power’ at Apple than anyone else besides Jobs himself — that there’s no one at the company who can tell Ive what to do,” the report said. “That, says Jobs, is ‘the way I set it up.’”

Ive and Jobs became close at Apple, working directly together on designing a number of the company’s core products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Ive, a 44-year-old native of London, joined Apple in 1996 and has held his current job since 1997.

Showcasing their extensive work together, Jobs and Ive share credit for inventing over 200 patents. Jobs is responsible for the most total patents at the company, at 313.

A 2006 profile of Ive said that at the time he and his team worked in a large, secretive open studio that many Apple employees were not allowed to enter. There a “massive sound system” played music as he and his team worked with state-of-the-art prototyping equipment with “intense iteration.”

Ive has been heralded as one of the most influential designers of his time, and legendary Braun designer Dieter Rams publicly praised him in the 2009 documentary Objectified. In return for his design work at Apple, Ive has been well compensated, and is said to be worth more than US$128 million.

In 2009, Ive was declared the “smartest designer” in technology by Forbes. He was also honored with the title “Designer of the Year” in 2003 by Design Museum London, and was named “Royal Designer for Industry” by The Royal Society of Arts.

More details on the relationship between Ive and Jobs will be available in Isaacson’s book, arriving next week. Entitled “Steve Jobs,” will be available in a hardcover edition, as well as digitally through Amazon Kindle and Apple’s iBooks.

Apple posts $28.27 billion revenue, $6.62 billion profit for Q4 2011, still disappoints some analysts

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, October 19th, 2011, 04:00
Category: Finance, News

applelogo_silver

You can offer evidence of something pretty amazing, but you’ll never win the entirety of your audience over all the time.

In this vein, Apple released the financial results for its fiscal fourth quarter yesterday, reporting record sales of the Mac and iPad product lines as well as the company’s highest September quarter revenue and earnings ever, the news still failing to meet some analysts’ expectations.

Per Mac|Life, Apple announced its quarterly financial results for the fiscal 2011 fourth quarter which ended on September 24. Even without a new iPhone over the summer, the company still racked up quarterly revenue of US$28.27 billion and quarterly net profit of US$6.62 billion, or US$7.05 per diluted share. Last year at the same time, Apple had revenue of US$20.34 billion and net quarterly profit of US$4.31 billion, or US$4.64 per diluted share. The company’s gross margin was 40.3 percent compared to 36.9 percent in the same quarter a year ago, with international sales accounting for 63 percent of the quarterly revenue.

Even with this at hand, analysts on Wall Street looked at the report glumly, with Apple missing their own expectations of US$7.22 per share and revenue of US$29.5 billion. Per the Wall Street Journal, Apple hasn’t missed earnings forecasts since the second quarter of 2002, but others are saying sometime in 2004 instead. Whatever the case, the stock fell eight percent after hours but rebounded just a bit to close at US$398 per share.

While Apple has already sold more than four million iPhone 4S devices in the first weekend which won’t be accounted for until next quarter, the company still managed to move 17.07 million of the older handsets in the current quarter, a 21 percent year-over-year growth and certainly nothing to sneeze at. 11.2 million iPads flew out the door, marking a 166 percent increase from the same quarter last year, with 4.89 million Macs also finding homes in the quarter, a 26 percent unit increase.

“We are thrilled with the very strong finish of an outstanding fiscal 2011, growing annual revenue to US$108 billion and growing earnings to US$26 billion,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Customer response to iPhone 4S has been fantastic, we have strong momentum going into the holiday season, and we remain really enthusiastic about our product pipeline.”

One product category that took a hit was the iPod, which sold only 6.62 million units during the quarter, marking a 27 percent decline from the same quarter last year — but certainly not bad for a lineup that’s now a decade old, and the iPod continues to hold more than 70 percent market share.

“We are extremely pleased with our record September quarter revenue and earnings and with cash generation of US$5.4 billion during the quarter,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2012, which will span 14 weeks rather than 13, we expect revenue of about US$37 billion and we expect diluted earnings per share of about US$9.30.”

As usual, Apple held a conference call to provide further highlights and field questions from analysts and investors, with CEO Tim Cook noting that it marks the first since the passing of co-founder Steve Jobs. “The world has lost a visionary and an amazing human being,” Cook stated. “He was an amazing leader and mentor. His spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple, and we are dedicated to continuing the amazing work that he loved so much.”

Cook then got down to business by turning things over to CFO Peter Oppenheimer, who repeated most of the details from Apple’s earlier press release before throwing out some additional numbers. These included iTunes Store revenue of US$1.5 billion, 180 million iBooks sold, US$11 billion in revenue from iPhone handsets and accessories, and six million downloads of OS X Lion in the quarter.

Asia-Pacific growth doubled year over year, which the company was expecting to fall when it became clear in June that no new iPhone was on the horizon. The handset is now available on 230 carriers in 105 countries, with Consumer Reports listing the device with its highest customer satisfaction rating for the sixth consecutive time. 93 percent of Fortune 500 companies are now either deploying or testing the iPhone, up from 91 percent last year.

The App Store is also flying high, with 22 more countries enlisted during the quarter for a total of 123. Retail stores are also enjoying “very strong” year-over-year growth, particularly for Mac and iPad sales, which enjoyed their best quarter ever — which no doubt helped lessen the blow from the iPhone 4S being unveiled in fiscal Q1 2012 instead.

Last but not least, during the closing question and answer session, Cook proclaimed confidence that Apple would have record sales for the next quarter, which includes the all-important holiday season. That quarter will also bring the iPhone 4S to another 22 countries at month’s end, with even more coming by year’s end.

iFixit posts 7th generation iPod nano teardown

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, October 6th, 2011, 10:18
Category: iPod, News

It’s the new components that make the next generation of a device interesting.

Once again, the cool cats at iFixit have pulled apart a new Apple gadget, the company releasing a teardown of the new 7th generation iPod nano.

The new nano, which looks exactly like its predecessor, sports a 1.54-inch multi-touch display, a 240 x 240 pixel resolution, built-in accelerometer and stock Nike+ package.

The device also features no screws, so if you want to take yours apart, you’ll have to use a heat gun to open up the casing.

The new iPod nano is available now with prices starting at US$129.

Live Blog: Apple’s “Let’s Talk iPhone” media event

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, October 4th, 2011, 09:46
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

applelogo_silver

Ok, here are the touch points so far, as noted via the cool cats at Mac|Life:

- iOS 5 will be released on October 12th and continue to be free.

- iOS 5 will function on the iPhone 3GS, 4, iPad, iPad 2, and the two recent generation iPod touches.

- Contacts, calendar items and events will all be backed up with iCloud.

- Users will be able to turn location finding on and find friends with a “Find My Friend” feature.

- The iPod app is gone in iOS 5 and has been replaced with the iPod touch’s Music app icon.

- iCloud will debut on October 25th.

- Apple has apparently announced an updated iPod nano with FM radio, pedometer and larger buttons.

- The updated iPod nano will be available at the following price points: 8GB US$129 and 16GB for US$149.

- The updated iPod touch will be available at the following price points: 8GB for US$199, 32GB for US$299 and 64GB for US$399.

- The iPhone 5 will be available in both black and white upon release.

- The iPhone 4S will be powered by the A5 processor.

- The iPhone 4S will feature dual-core graphics, be 2x faster and function as a much better gaming device.

- Apple is citing eight hours of 3G talk time with the iPhone 4S.

- 50 hours of listening to your favorite tunes on the new battery…

- A new antenna system will switch between transmitting and receiving functions, Apple citing this as more reliable than the current iPhone 4 antenna.

- Apple is citing 2X faster downloads with the iPhone 4S.

- The iPhone 4S will function on both GSM and CDMA networks.

- A new 8 megapixel camera will offer a 3264 x 2448 resolution (Apple is stating that this is 60% more pixels than the current camera resolution).

- Camera: f/2.4 aperture, 30% more sharpness due in part to five element lenses.

- Better white balance and facial detection on the iPhone 4S camera.

- The A5 processor allows for speedier shots, Apple citing that the camera can go from the first shot to the next shot in half of a second.

- The new camera will feature 1080p HD recording, temporal noise reduction and video image stabilization.

- AirPlay mirroring will allow your iOS’s apps to be mirrored to a larger monitor via your AppleTV.

- The iPhone 4S looks exactly the same as the current iPhone 4.

- A “Siri” feature will allow you to give spoken commands (such as “What will the weather be like today?” to the device).

- Siri will allow you to reply to texts while the device is in a pocket and will allow for a reply text with a Bluetooth headset.

- Siri’s interface is both onscreen as well as audio, the feature being hardware-dependent and running on the iPhone 4S only.

- Siri will apparently read a text message to you and ask you questions as to how you’d like to reply.

- Siri can do dictations for emails too, the app placing a microphone next to the space bar in the keyboard. The app will start as a beta in the U.S., U.K., Australia, French and German with more languages and services coming.

- The iPhone 4S apparently features an identical screen size to the current iPhone 4.

- And now, your long-awaited pricing and capacities for the iPhone 4S: 16GB for US$199, 32GB for US$299 and 64 GB for US$399.

- The iPhone 3G can now be purchased new for US$49.

- Sprint has now been added to the list of iPhone wireless carriers along with AT&T and Verizon.

- Pre-orders for the iPhone 4S begin Friday, October 7th.

- The iPhone 4S will be released on Friday, October 14th.

- The iPhone 4S will be available in 22 additional countries on October 28th and reach 70 countries by the end of 2011.

That’s all for now and let us know what you think via the comments.

Rumor: Apple to discontinue iPod Classic, Shuffle models this year

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, September 28th, 2011, 06:03
Category: iPod, Rumor

applelogo_silver

The iPod classic and Shuffle models may not be long for this world.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Apple will streamline its iPod range by removing the iPod classic and iPod shuffle from its physical and online stores.

The source is apparently not an analyst, who preferred to remain anonymous, stated that the tip isn’t apparently that new.

The iPod classic still uses a traditional, spinning-disc hard drive and while Apple is making a conscious shift to flash memory it is beginning to look somewhat outdated. The iPod shuffle is at the lowest end of the iPod range and once it is discontinued, the iPod nano will take its place.

The iPod will see its 10th anniversary this October, which could make this a good time to put it to rest. Besides, iPods only account for eight percent of Apple’s total sales these days.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recently published Apple patents describe steps towards driverless printing for Mac OS X, iOS devices

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 03:27
Category: Patents, Rumor, Software

applelogo_silver

In a pair of recent filings, Apple proposed methods that would eliminate the necessity of printer drivers in order to streamline the printing process for users of its Mac OS X and iOS devices.

The first of the two patent applications, entitled “Walk-Up Printing Without Drivers,” reveals methods of circumventing the printer driver requirement when such a driver is absent from Apple mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, as well as Macs.

According to ConceivablyTech, Apple describes a new printing process for such mobile computing devices that would allow them to wirelessly detect a printer and determine whether a printer driver is installed.

The user would then be able to continue the printing job even without a driver by employing a series of APIs based on a discovery protocol such as Bonjour, an Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) and the PostScript Printer Description (PPD) file, which is used to detect the printer.

In the event that the device still fails to pair up with the printer, the user would have a third way of completing the print job — by sending the documents to the cloud and using cloud-specific printing technology to communicate with the printer.

The second patent, filed on the same day as the first one, September 14, 2010 according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office and entitled “Data Formats to Support Driverless Printing,” shows a different driverless and wireless printing concept also explored by Apple.

The company suggests a new way for mobile devices to bypass the printer driver requirement by storing a specific data structure that would be able to specify the following printing characteristics when detecting a printer: “resolutions, color spaces, bit depths, input slots, face-up/face-down input orientation, output bins, face-up/face-down output orientation, duplex printing support, media types, copy support, supported finishings, and print quality.”

A new “URF-supported key,” part of discovery and transport protocols, is also mentioned by the second patent. Its purpose would be to offer a “standardized set of capabilities that are supported by a printer” that would let the user “generate printer data for any type of printer” without actually storing any printer-specific details on the computing device in question.

The new wireless and driverless technologies described by these two new patents would complement Apple’s existing AirPrint capabilities for iOS devices and could lead to a future driver-free printing experience for most Mac OS X computers.

Apple has high hopes for AirPrint, but has run into a few snags in the transition to driverless printing. Late last year, one rumor suggested that Apple had run into intellectual property issues with the AirPrint architecture, a problem that could potentially be alleviated should the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office grant the above patents to Apple.

Meanwhile, printer makers such as HP and EFI have been steadily adding support for the feature to their printer offerings.

If you have any thoughts on this, let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to hold iPod media event on September 7

Posted by:
Date: Friday, August 12th, 2011, 03:17
Category: iPod, Rumor

applelogo_silver

An unverified report claims Apple will hold its annual iPod media event on September 7th and could possibly announce the iPhone 5 later that month September or in early October.

Per Japanese Mac site Kodawarisan, Apple will release a new line of iPods at the event. The rumor also claimed the fifth-generation iPhone is “likely to be announced” in late September or Early October. Though the publication has been an accurate source for Apple predictions in the past, Friday’s report remains unconfirmed.

Last year, the iPod maker held the event on September 1st, releasing a new iPod touch, new multi-touch iPod nano, iPod shuffle and the US$99 cloud-centric update to the Apple TV.

In May, photos of a part allegedly for the seventh-generation iPod nano have fueled rumors that Apple may add a 1.3-megapixel camera to the device. The supposed leak came on the heels of a separate unverified photo purportedly of an iPod nano frame that emerged in April.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.