Apple exploring wireless charging, over-the-air electricity technology

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Date: Thursday, November 29th, 2012, 08:01
Category: News, Patents

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This could lead to something interesting.

Per FreePatentsOnline, a new patent application reveals Apple’s interest in a “realistic and practical approach” to wireless power, providing over-the-air electricity to low-power devices within a distance of one meter.

Apple’s interest in wireless charging technology was detailed in a new patent application published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Entitled “Wireless Power Utilization in a Local Computing Environment,” it describes a system that would rely on “near-field magnetic resonance” to provide power to nearby devices.

Apple’s filing notes that transferring power wirelessly has historically been successful only in fairly limited applications. Specifically, the technology requires a power source and receiver located very close to each other.

This method may be acceptable for devices that require a very small amount of electricity. But Apple says this process is not acceptable for devices that require between a few watts to hundreds of watts.

However, Apple noted that electricity can be transferred from a power source to a receiver within a “near field,” or a distance a few times larger than both objects involved in the transfer. In most scenarios, this near field would be about a meter large.

“In this way, a realistic and practical approach to wireless transferring useable amounts of power over distances suitable for limited applications can be realized,” the filing reads.

By adopting wireless charging technology, Apple could minimize or eliminate what it referred to as “unwieldy” existing chargers that must be plugged into the wall.

Apple’s system goes one step further than the near field, and aims to improve efficiency when transferring electricity wirelessly. It would also allow a number of peripheral devices to be charged wirelessly within the near field, thanks to “cooperation” between them.

Apple’s charging accessory would be able to provide electricity to a number of devices located within the near field, or “virtual charging area.” Low-power devices cited by Apple include a mouse and keyboard.

The power supply transmitter could be a stand-alone device, or it could be embedded in an existing device such as a desktop or notebook computer. The transmitter could also be portable, such as a dongle that could be connected to a legacy device via a port like USB.

Peripheral devices would need to be tuned to the appropriate frequency. This would allow them to receive power from the near-field magnetic resonance (or NFMR) power supply.

“The device being brought into the range of the NFMR power supply can communicate its initial presence using a standard communication protocol such as WiFi or Bluetooth,” the application reads. “However, once incorporated into the resonance circuit, the device can use a communication back channel.”

Apple’s application also describes the use of a “re-resonator” that would allow electricity to be wirelessly shared between multiple accessories. In one example, a Mac desktop may not be able to adequately provide power to a wireless mouse because of an obstacle interfering with the connection between the two devices.

“In this case, (the) keyboard can act as a re-resonator such that a portion of the power delivered to (the) keyboard from the NFMR power supply can be passed on by way of a re-resonator transmission unit,” the filing states.

Apple’s patent filing for a wireless charging system, published this week by the USPTO, was first filed by the company in November of 2010. The proposed invention is credited to Michael F. Culbert, Brett. C. Bilbrey, David I. Simon, and Peter M. Arnold.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

How-to: How to get around “Black Screen of Death” on dual-GPU MacBook Pro notebooks

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Date: Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, 10:50
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Software

Ok, this could be useful.

Per the mighty Topher Kessler of CNET, a workaround has been found for MacBook users who noticed a pretty annoying black-screen bug on their systems, in which the computer would appear to be running but would not show any output on the display. To get around this issue, people were forced to restart their systems, losing any unsaved data.

The primary workaround for this problem was to use the third-party GPU manager utility gfxCardStatus to force the system to use only one of its available GPUs, to avoid the automatic switching between the graphics cards that was leading to the problem. While the increased use of the more powerful dedicated GPU drained the battery a little more, it did avoid the problem for many.

Take a gander here for the full article and if this has been driving you nuts, rest assured that it drove other MacBook Pro users up the wall as well.

Rumor: Manufacturing glitches/low yields leading to delay of 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina Display notebook

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Date: Friday, October 12th, 2012, 07:04
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

This might be a little harder than Apple expected.

Per the sometimes-reliable DigiTimes, a new rumor cites that Apple’s supply chain is struggling to build new 13-inch MacBook Pros because of difficulty in manufacturing Retina displays.

The article claims that shipments of three key forthcoming Apple products — the new MacBook Pro, along with a 7.85-inch iPad and new iMac — were delayed from September to October because of production issues.

In particular, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display was said to have seen delays because of “weak yields” of its high-resolution screen. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with KGI Securities, who has a strong track record with predicting Apple product releases, originally said in July that Apple would release a new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro along with a new iMac in September, but those products failed to debut last month.

Kuo said that Apple had originally hoped for the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display to be unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, but the company was unable to do so because of a low yield rate and greater assembly difficulty. Instead, Apple only unveiled a 15-inch version of its redesigned Retina MacBook Pro.

According to Thursday’s report, Apple’s production issues go beyond the new MacBook Pro and also extend to the company’s so-called “iPad mini.” The publication claimed that Apple’s smaller iPad is “suffering low yields for components such as the display and chassis.” Unlike the third-generation iPad, the iPad mini is not expected to have a high-resolution Retina display.

Thursday’s report also said that while the iPad mini apparently has a chassis with material similar to the full-size 9.7-inch model, the 7.85-inch variety will allegedly have a “design and tactile feel” different from the full-size variety.

DigiTimes bases many of its reports off tips from Asian suppliers, but the publication has a shaky batting average with regards to accurate information on upcoming Apple products. However, the site was the first to report that Apple would adopt in-cell touch panels for its 2012 iPhone model — a prediction that came true with last month’s launch of the iPhone 5.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple awarded carbon fiber manufacturing patent, could make future MacBooks lighter, more shock resistant

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Date: Tuesday, September 4th, 2012, 07:06
Category: Hardware, MacBook, MacBook Pro, Patents

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The way your new MacBook notebook is manufactured is about to change.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent for a carbon fiber molding process that could one day be used to produce parts made from the lightweight material, like laptop casings or mobile device chassis.

The patent, number 8,257,075, for a “Carbon composite mold design” describes the systems and methods needed to manufacture “aesthetically pleasing” parts from carbon fiber and other resin based composites.

While the applications of carbon fiber composite materials are many, Apple specifically notes that the invention can be used to “form outer housings for a laptop computer or other similar device.” The patent may prove useful as an increasing consumer demand has pushed the industry toward slim and sleek portables with relatively heavy large screens. For example, the weight of the much-rumored next-generation iPhone’s expected 4-inch screen could be offset by a carbon fiber monocoque.

It seems that the invention is aimed at larger devices like Apple’s MacBook line, however, much like Sony’s carbon fiber Vaio Z thin-and-light series.

The patent is described as follows:
“As but one example, it would be particularly helpful if portable electronic device housings and components could be stronger and more durable than what is now typically provided in plastic parts that are formed via ordinary plastic injection molding processes. In particular, it would be beneficial if laptops, notebook computers, and other relatively large and heavy portable computing devices could have outer housings that are better able to protect the entire device from drops and other mechanical shocks.”

The patent notes that traditional resin-based composites are made by layering resin-impregnated sheets of into or over a mold, which then cures under increased heat and pressure. Removal of the part can prove a hassle as the resins stick to the mold surfaces, which often requires manual prying and peeling from an operator. As a result, surface blemishes and other defects often occur.

Apple’s proposed method looks to enable the mass-production of carbon fiber parts that have a consistent visual appearance by streamlining the manufacturing process.

The invention calls for a two-part mold, one a cavity and another portion “adapted to mate with the first,” allowing composite parts to be formed in between. After curing, ejector pins located on one or both of the mold portions are used to separate the material from the mold body.

In another embodiment, a mold can have one or more internal fluid lines to help with cooling, a permanent release coating, and guide pins to accurately align the fiber sheets. Either a fluid or gas-actuated ejection system can also be employed for easy removal of the cured parts.

While Apple has shown no signs of using the advanced carbon fiber molding techniques in any future devices, the company may very well choose to do so in its push toward lighter and stronger products.

So, if nothing else, your future MacBook could become lighter, stronger and perhaps shoot lasers at those who oppose you.

Which is never a bad thing.

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.

Geekbench scores of purported 13-inch Retina Display MacBook Pro leaked

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Date: Friday, August 10th, 2012, 14:54
Category: Hardware, MacBook Pro, Rumor

You have to love leaks.

And you have to love leaks about really cool upcoming products even more.

Per MacRumors and AppleInsider, the GeekBench scores for an unreleased 13-inch MacBook Pro notebook with Retina display designated by the ambiguous identifier “MacBook Pro 10,2″ has appeared over on the Primate Labs web site.

The profile of the machine accompanying the Geekbench scores includes the same Intel Core i7-3520M Ivy Bridge processor clocked at 2.9 gigahertz as the earlier sighting, but indicates the notebook was outfitted with 8GB of RAM and is running a newer, yet unreleased build of OS X Mountain Lion 10.8.1.

The “10,2″ model designation makes it distinct from the existing 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro 9,x models Apple released in June and instead associates it with the slim new 15-inch Retina Display model Apple internally designates as its “MacBook Pro 10,1″ model.

Given that Apple canceled its 17 inch offering (apparently due to limited sales, as analyst Ming-Chi Kuo with KGI Securities correctly predicted in April), this would strongly suggest the new model will be the rumored 13 inch version of the Retina Display MacBook Pro.

The appearance of 8GB of RAM is also noteworthy because the new design of the Retina Display MacBook Pro solders its memory chips directly to the logic board (below, highlighted in green) rather than offering user-upgradable sockets. The previous appearance of this new 13 inch model only indicated 4GB of RAM.

The unreleased new MacBook Pro model joins a new iMac and Mac Pro model designation that were recently discovered, with the new iMac similarly appearing in Geekbench results.

Per the results themselves, here you go and some things (like the idea of a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display) remain pretty sexy:



Picture: MacBook Pros galore helped Curiosity get to Mars

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Date: Monday, August 6th, 2012, 06:06
Category: MacBook Pro, News, Pictures

By the time I graduated from high school in 1996, I was one of two people in my school routinely carrying a notebook computer through the halls of Providence Country Day in East Providence, Rhode Island. I carried a PowerBook 150 and one of my best friends, Josh Ledgard, carried a white Toshiba notebook that he had named “Herbie”.

It was also around this time that Apple was at its lowest point, Steve Jobs had yet to officially return in any capacity and people wondered aloud if Apple would die and why I didn’t carry a Windows PC notebook?

A picture’s worth a thousand words, ladies and gentlemen, and via the extremely cool cats at 9to5 Mac, there’s the following killer picture of not just a few MacBook Pro notebooks helping to land Curiosity on Mars last night:



And yes, I know some of them may have booted Linux or Windows partitions at the time, so that joke still stands…

Happy Curiosity Day, guys!!!

Apple reduces shipping times for Retina Display MacBook Pro to under a week

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Date: Thursday, August 2nd, 2012, 07:17
Category: MacBook Pro, News, retail

You know that mucho-spiffy new MacBook Pro with the Retina Display you’ve been saving up for? Now it’ll get to you in a shorter time frame.

Per AppleInsider, the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is now advertised to ship in 5 to 7 business days from Apple’s online store.

Both the 2.3 gigahertz and 2.6 gigahertz standard configuration models now ship in a week or less when ordered directly from Apple. Previously, estimated shipping times were pegged at 2 to 3 weeks.

The shortened shipping times come as Apple has also expanded configuration options for the entry-level MacBook Pro with Retina display, allowing users to add 512- or 768-gigabyte solid-state drives to the base model with a 2.3-gigahertz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor.

Shipping times for the MacBook Pro with Retina display have readily improved since the next-generation notebook was unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Apple has called the new MacBook Pro, which borrows elements from the thin-and-light MacBook Air, “the most beautiful computer we have ever made.”

The standout feature of the new MacBook Pro is its 2,880-by-1,880-pixel Retina display that features 220 pixels-per-inch on the 15.4-inch screen. The new design also cuts glare by 75 percent by removing the glass cover found in previous models.

In addition to Apple’s own online store, the new MacBook Pro with Retina display is also available for purchase from authorized Apple resellers.

If you’ve ordered a Retina Display MacBook Pro and it’s en route, please let us know about your experience in the comments.

Rumor: Apple readying changes for next-gen iPad’s battery, camera lens

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Date: Thursday, July 5th, 2012, 06:10
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

Sometimes a few changes are needed.

Per DigiTimes, Apple is planning to make “small revisions” to its third-generation iPad, such as an enlarged lens hole and changes to the battery to keep the device from overheating, later this year.

Supply chain sources have indicated that Apple will likely release the updated iPad “around the holiday season.”

“The sources said the new iPad’s battery is being revised, which will help prevent overheating issues and could possibly make the device slightly lighter and thinner than previously designed,” the report noted.

No reason was given as to what Apple hoped to accomplish by enlarging the iPad’s lens hole. The third-generation tablet, which was released in March, features a 5-megapixel rear camera and a front camera capable of VGA-quality photos.

DigiTimes has a mixed track record and has been criticized for its willingness to report even the most speculative rumors from its sources. The publication did, however, correctly predict the Retina Display on both the new iPad and the new MacBook Pro.

Apple’s new iPad took some heat from product reviewer Consumer Reports shortly after release because it felt “very warm” while running a game. Separate tests also showed the device ran hotter than the second-generation iPad, though one report noted that the tablet was not much hotter than Android tablets or notebook computers.

For its part, Apple dismissed the concerns by stating that the new iPad operates “well within our thermal specifications.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

OWC unveils 960GB notebook SSD for almost $1,300

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Date: Monday, June 25th, 2012, 09:23
Category: Hardware, News

It’s the huge SSD unit you always wanted for your Mac notebook…and it’ll be pricey.

Per Mac|Life, Mac peripherals outfitter Other World Computing has announced the availability of the Mercury Electra MAX 3G, a whopping 960GB 2.5-inch solid-state storage drive clocked at 3.0Gb/s for high performance as well as high capacity.

The drive purportedly offers sustained reads up to 254MB/s and writes up to 250MB/s and while not quite as impressive as the read/write speeds clocked from Apple’s latest flash storage on the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display or even MacBook Air, it’s still pretty nifty for an SSD unit with no moving parts.

The Mercury Electra MAX 3G 960GB is available for US$1,269.99 and is currently in stock for same-day shipping.