Apple patent application shows interest in developing solar as a power source for mobile devices

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Date: Friday, January 14th, 2011, 06:44
Category: News, Patents

A recently revealed patent application shows that Apple is continuing to research solar power as a potential secondary power source for its mobile devices.

Per freepatentsonline, the application, which describes an auxiliary solar cell that interfaces with a device’s battery, was published earlier this week.

The invention includes a “battery charging manager” that can handle power from a “plurality of power sources including a solar power source.”

According to the filing, the patent is for “a solar power package for use with an electronic device, the package comprising: at least one solar cell operable to derive solar power from solar energy; and a power charger operable to provide the derived solar power to the portable electronic device, wherein the derived solar power is provided in a plug-and-play fashion when the portable electronic device is coupled to the package, and wherein the power charge is operative to adjust the amount of power provided to the portable electronic device based on attributes of the portable electronic device.”

Alternate embodiments of the invention include charging the device’s battery or an accessory battery, simultaneously charging a battery and providing power to the device and removable solar cells. The described solar power charging accessory could be used to power “a media player, a notebook computer, a tablet computer, a cellular phone, an image processing device, and a handheld computing device.”

IPBiz has reported that Apple’s patent application hit several snags because of similarities to a patent for a solar charger case and a patent for solar power connector cables, but that Apple maker was able to distinguish its patent because the invention is “plug-and-play” and regulates power levels according to the attributes of the device it is powering.

Apple has been looking into solar power for its portable devices for several years now. Early last year, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published an application describing a portable device such as an iPod or iPhone with solar cells on the front and back that could power the device and recharge the battery.

The patent, which was filed in Feb. 2009, is titled “Portable devices having multiple power interfaces” and replaces a prior application from 2006 with the same title. Wendell B. Sander and Daniel A. Warren are listed as the inventors.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Daniel Warren is an iPod System Integrator for Apple and has previously worked on the iPod Nano, iPod Classic and iPod Shuffle.

Apple’s interest in solar power may be a result of environmentally conscious initiatives that the company has adopted in recent years.

Several years ago, Apple was openly criticized by Greenpeace for the use of toxic chemicals in its products. Last year, Greenpeace praised Apple for its turnaround, honoring the Mac maker with the environmental advocacy group’s top ranking as the greenest electronics marker.

Hacker cracks iPod nano, finds support for slew of additional supported features

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Date: Wednesday, December 29th, 2010, 05:22
Category: Hack, iPod Nano

Irish hacker James Whelton announced Monday that he has successfully hacked Apple’s current iPod nano using a springboard hack. That process allowed him to create a “blank space” on the device by removing an app, and Mr. Whelton said that he hopes to be able to use this process to allow further modification to the device. Per The Mac Observer, Whelton stated that he also discovered support for movies, games, and more in the device.

“The springboard hack is just the removal of a app and creation of a blank space,” Mr. Whelton wrote at his site, Nanohack.me. “Not that amazing, but what’s important is the bypass of nano’s cache comparison, which compares any modded SB file and reverts it if it doesn’t like it, this opens up the possibility of hacking and modding, while not adding bootloaders or any of that fun stuff.

He was able to then root around in the devices files, and discovered a list of supported features in the nano’s preference plist file, including Movies, TV Shows, Apps, Games, vCards, Calender events.

“With the bypass I figured out,” he wrote, “I hope to enable these pretty soon.”

Mr. Whelton has opened up the process of hacking the device to other people, posting progress reports at Nanohack.me, as well as through his Twitter account. He also posted the following movie below to YouTube to demonstrate that the springboard hack was real:



As always, let us know what you think in the comments.

Unofficial iPhone Dev Team releases redsn0w beta, offers initial iOS 4.2.1 jailbreak

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Date: Monday, December 27th, 2010, 07:28
Category: iPhone, News, Software

The Unofficial iPhone Dev Team has advanced to its next project, posting a beta of redsn0w, its jailbreaking utility for iOS devices. Per iPodNN, the release supports untethered operation in iOS 4.2.1, that is, jailbreaking without having to stay connected to a computer via USB during the process. So far only the iPad, the iPhone 4 and the fourth-generation iPod touch devices are compatible.

The Dev Team warns that because things can potentially go “very wrong,” the software is aimed strictly at beta testers. People are asked to back up any essential content, and avoid the beta entirely if they use the ultrasn0w unlock. The software also requires a separate install of usbmuxd, and that Cydia have v4.2b3 SHSH blobs saved.

Owing to sandbox problems, Bluetooth support is temporarily unavailable. redsn0w 0.9.7b3 is a Mac-only download; the untethered mode can be used by selecting the Jailbreak Monte option. Testers are urged to do a fresh restore before installation in order to rule out variables.

If you’re feeling brave, let too know how it went in the comments.

Apple releases iTunes 10.1.1 update

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Date: Wednesday, December 15th, 2010, 15:25
Category: News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple released iTunes 10.1.1, the latest version of its digital jukebox/digital hub software. The new version, an 90.5 megabyte download, sports the following fixes and new features:

- Addresses an issue where some music videos may not play on Macs equipped with NVIDIA GeForce 9400 or 9600 graphics.

- Resolves an issue where iTunes may unexpectedly quit when deleting a playlist that has the iTunes Sidebar showing.

- Fixes a problem where iTunes may unexpectedly quit when connecting an iPod to a Mac equipped with a PowerPC processor.

- Addresses an issue where some music videos may not sync to an iPod, iPhone, or iPad.

iTunes 10 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run and can be located, downloaded and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the new version and noticed any major changes, please let us know.

Random FaceTime calls reported, iOS 4.2.1 bug suspected

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Date: Monday, November 29th, 2010, 14:50
Category: iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

As cool as the idea of FaceTime and videoconferencing can be, you really don’t want to be receiving these calls without expecting them.

Per iPodNN, some of Apple’s various FaceTime-compatible devices made a series of random calls to each other overnight between the 27th and the 28th, according to reports and complaints on Apple’s support forums. While the iPhone 4 was predominantly affected, the issue is also said to have hit the fourth-generation iPod touch, and even the Mac beta client. The calls are often described as showing mutual requests, even though no one actually dialed, and in some cases one of the devices was off.



The incidents are moreover said to have occurred at about the same time: approximately 6:30PM Pacific, 9:30PM Eastern and 3:30AM in central Europe. The exact cause is unclear, but could involve a problem on Apple servers handling the FaceTime system. Because of the involvement of Macs, the glitch is unlikely to be related to iOS 4.2.1, which was made public just last Monday.

Me, I’m of the opinion that this is a preemptive (and lame) initial attack by a SkyNet-esque computer that simply wants to terrify you by having to conduct a FaceTime call with relatives this close after Thanksgiving…

Cyber Monday deals continue on U.S. Apple Store web site

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Date: Monday, November 29th, 2010, 07:37
Category: News, retail

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The savings continue and you won’t need to be trampled at a mega-store to get them…

Per the Mac Observer, Apple is offering Cyber Monday deals on items such as the Beats by Dr. Dre Beatbox iPod and iPhone speaker dock for US$359.95, iPhone and iPad cases by Michael Kors, Panasonic’s HM-TA1 HD video camera for $152.95, the G-Technology Mobile Hard Drive for $89.95, Twelve South’s Compass portable iPad stand for $35.95, and more.

The deals are available on November 29 and only through Apple’s U.S. Web-based store.

If you’ve found a good deal elsewhere, please let us know and thanks!

Black Friday prices appear for Apple iOS-based devices

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Date: Friday, November 26th, 2010, 05:16
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPod, iPod Touch, retail

It’s begun.

Per the mighty AppleInsider and its iOS price guide, Apple is offering savings for the shopping holiday, though the company has sold out of its US$79.99 Apple TV deal and may be running low on its US$199 8GB iPod touch inventory.

iPods:
Meanwhile, Amazon.com is offering US$29 off the 8GB iPod touch. The online big-box reseller on Thursday held the best prices on the remained of Apple’s iPod line but has since raised its prices. As such, Apple’s Black Friday sale is extending the best discounts the rest of the iPod touches (up to US$51 off), as well as the iPod nano (up to US$21 off).

iPads:
Unfortunately, supply concerns have prompted Apple not to authorized resellers to take orders for the iPad online, so the product is not yet included in the price guide. Although iPads are listed on Amazon, they are priced above MSRP and sold online through other parties. Therefore, the best deals on iPads (US$41 off) come from Apple, in addition to the MiFi bundle deals offered by Verizon.

Stay tuned for additional Black Friday details as they become available and if you’ve heard of any good deals on your end, please let us know.

Apple may be relaxing liquid/spill-damage repair policies

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Date: Thursday, November 11th, 2010, 05:41
Category: Hardware, News

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A series of internal policy documents leaked to Boy Genius Report shows that Apple may be amending its liquid damage repair policy. Apple’s mobile devices, which currently come with small Liquid Contact Indicator (LCI) patches that react and change color when in contact with water, uses the color change to determine whether a device has been submerged in water before honoring warranty claims for the devices. This policy has resulted in some controversy, with some people claiming the LCIs are changing color in conditions of high humidity or are otherwise changing color without having been in contact with liquids.

Though previously Apple employees would just inspect the patches, the new policies apparently will grant more leeway and also require the employees to look for additional signs of liquid damage before determining that liquid contact was the cause for the device malfunction. This change does relax some of the return and replacement rules for iPods, and may make it easier for Apple employees to swap out devices for users; however, the document does note that the final determination of damage is still up to the Apple Store employees.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Jobs crushes 7″ iPad rumor at Q4 financial announcement

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Date: Tuesday, October 19th, 2010, 06:35
Category: iPad, News

It’s the in-between things during Apple’s financial announcements that make things interesting.

During yesterday’s Q4 earnings conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Monday took a moment to extinguish rumors that the company is working on a smaller iPad based around a 7″ screen according to AppleInsider.

“The reason we [won't] make a 7-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit that price point, it’s because we think the screen is too small to express the software,” Jobs said on Monday’s quarterly earnings conference call. “As a software driven company we think about the software strategies first.”

“We know developers aren’t going to deal well with these different sizes and they have to change their software every time the screen size changes,” he added. “When we make decisions on 7″ tablets it’s not about cost, it’s about the value of the product when you factor in the software.”

You see what I’m getting at?,” Jobs continued. “So we’re all about making the best products at aggressive prices and that’s what we do, and that’s what we will do with the iPad and iPod.”

Asked by an analyst how he would respond and whether Apple would lose share if the market suddenly moves to a lower price point with fewer features, Jobs said “You’re looking at it wrong, […] looking at it as a hardware manufacturer who doesn’t know much about software who assumes the software will take care of itself.”

“Hm, how can we make this cheaper? Well let’s put a smaller screen, slower processor, less memory, and you just assume the software will somehow come alive on this product but it won’t,” Jobs quipped. “Developers have taken advantage of faster processors and bigger screens to make better apps for customers.”

“It’s a hard one,” the Apple co-found said of such a strategy, “because it throws you in the chicken-and-egg question to change assumptions on developers.” Most developers won’t follow that lead, he suggest. Instead, they’re more likely to say, “Sorry, I’m not going to write a watered down version of my app just because you can sell this version of your phone for US$50 less.”

Rumors of a 7-inch iPad have come from numerous sources, several alleging that Apple is working on a smaller version of the iPad.

Those reports suggested that the current iPad is too heavy for users, and that a smaller form factor and lighter weight would be more ideal for reading.

Jobs’ comments on Monday come as a number of competitors are embracing the 7″ form factor with their own touchscreen tablets. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is set to launch this year with all four major U.S. wireless carriers, while BlackBerry plans to release its own PlayBook in early 2011.

Earlier this month, it was suggested that Apple developed a 7″ iPad alongside the current model, but eventually opted just to release the current 9.7″ model. Jobs’ comments Monday would support that rumor, as the CEO noted that his company has done extensive research on touchscreen interfaces and what works best for users.

“We really understand this stuff,” Jobs said.

As always, we’d love to hear what you have to say about this.

Apple posts over $20 billion in sales, $4.31 billion profit for fourth quarter

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Date: Tuesday, October 19th, 2010, 06:56
Category: Finance, News

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Apple on Monday reported a “great fiscal quarter,” citing a quarterly profit of US$4.31 billion, compared to US$2.53 billion for the same period last year. Over the quarter, Apple recored US$20.34 billion in revenue, an increase of nearly 67 percent from the year-ago quarter’s sales figure of US$12.21 billion.

Apple’s earnings of US$4.64 per diluted share handily beat estimates by Wall Street analysts who were expecting the company to report earnings of US$4.06 a share on $18.86 billion in revenue for September quarter.

“We still have a few surprises left for the remainder of the calendar year,” said CEO Steve Jobs in a statement accompanying the earnings. Apple has scheduled a press event for this Wednesday where the company is expected to focus on the Mac.

Per Macworld, Apple executive Peter Oppenheimer credited record iPhone sales, enthusiasm for the iPad, and a new quarterly sales record for Mac sales as the drivers behind Apple’s strong quarterly performance. In particular, Apple sold 4.19 million iPads during the first full quarter of sales for the tablet; all told, the company sold 7.5 million iPads during its 2010 fiscal year.

For the fiscal fourth quarter, Apple recorded US$2.8 billion in sales of iPads and related accessories, with the iPad accounting for US$2.7 billion of that figure. That translates to an average selling price of around US$645 for the tablet, Oppenheimer said.

iPad sales may disappoint some analysts, who were expecting Apple to sell close to 5 million tablets. One of the issues may be with inventory—Apple says it has three-to-four weeks worth of channel inventory, which is below its target range of four-to-six weeks. The company plans to expand its iPad distribution efforts, adding retailers like Verizon, Walmart, Target, and AT&T into the mix as well as launching in additional countries.

As for the iPhone, Apple managed to sell 14.1 million units during the quarter. This marks a 91% increase over the 7.4 million phones sold during the year-ago quarter and a new quarterly record for smartphone sales for the company.

For the 2010 fiscal year, Apple sold 40 million phones, a 93 percent jump over 2009. During September, the company says it passed the 125 million mark for cumulative iOS sales of its iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch offerings.

Apple also saw a record quarter for its Mac business. The company sold 3.89 million computers, up 27% from its year-ago sales. Fourth-quarter Mac sales topped the previous high-water mark of 3.47 million mark set during the June quarter. Year-over-year sales growth was more than double the growth rate projected for the overall PC market by research firm IDC, according to Oppenheimer.

Notebooks continue to drive Mac sales, with portable products, accounting for 71% of the Macs sold during the September quarter. However, sales of desktops rose nearly 28% to a little more than 1 million units, on the strength of the company’s iMac and Mac Pro updates over the summer.

Despite the largely positive news, the iPod segment continues to shrink, with Apple selling 9.05 million music players during the quarter (an 11% drop from last year’s figures). Apple updated its iPod line in September, though the company usually sees the fruits of those efforts during the holiday quarter.

While iPod sales growth stalled throughout 2010, Apple opted to focus on the positive Monday. It noted that the iPod’s share of the MP3 player market in the U.S. continues to top 70% according to research firm NPD’s figures. And Apple says its music player gained market share internationally from the year-ago quarter. The company also reported that its iTune Store brought in more than US$1 billion in revenue for the September quarter.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs took a minute during the conference call to comment on the company’s “hobby” product, the Apple TV, announcing that it had moved more than 250,000 units since the device went on sale. That’s the first time the company has ever revealed sales information for the device, which has gone through a number of iterations since its original introduction in 2007. Jobs confirmed that Apple had moved to an all-streaming model for content for the device, which will allow streaming of media from iOS devices in November when Apple ships iOS 4.2.

Apple’s retail segment had what Oppenheimer called a “record-breaking quarter,” with revenue rising 75% to US$3.57 billion. Apple sold 874,000 Macs through its retail arm, an increase of 30% from the year-ago quarter. The company sales that half of the Macs sold through its brick-and-mortar outlets continue to be to customers who are new to the platform.

Apple ended the fourth quarter with 317 stores, 84 of which were outside the U.S. The company opened 24 new stores during the quarter, with 16 of those opening outside of U.S. borders. In fact, with new store openings in Spain, Apple now has retail outlets in 11 countries.

The company also stated that it plans to open 40 to 50 stores during the coming fiscal year, with half of those slated for outside the U.S. The company also plans to start renovating several of its U.S. stores during 2011.

Monday’s earnings report closes the book on Apple’s 2010 fiscal year, which saw the company record US$65.2 billion in sales, a 52% increase from the US$42.9 billion in revenue recorded in 2009. Apple turned a US$14 billion profit in 2010, an increase of 72% from the previous year.

“The September quarter was the culmination of a monumental year for Apple,” Oppenheimer said.