Apple may be looking into creating external “quick charge” battery packs for devices

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Date: Friday, April 1st, 2011, 03:26
Category: Patents

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Apple has apparently shown an interest in developing an integrated external battery pack into its standard charging cable, providing extra power for devices like a MacBook or iPhone when a power outlet isn’t available.

Per AppleInsider, the potential future accessory was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing for “Power Adapter with Internal Battery” describes a wall charger with an integrated battery pack, allowing users to charge a device at home and give that device extra juice when on the go.

Apple’s application acknowledges that rechargeable external battery accessories do already exist. However, it notes that such accessories are not as advantageous as one that might be integrated with a standard charging cable.

“Such external batteries are generally cumbersome to use, at least because they must be unpacked for use and then repacked for storage,” Apple’s filing states of current options available on the market. “In addition, many users forget to bring the external battery in addition to the adapter while in transit.

“What is needed is a way to combine a power adapter and a battery so that a user does not have to carry an additional battery while traveling with a portable electronic device.”

Apple’s solution would include a “smart” charger with an integrated processor. This would allow the charger to intelligently determine how to distribute charge between the integrated adapter battery, and the battery on a device like a MacBook.

The hardware would also include the ability to share the status of the battery with the device it is charging. This way, users would be able to check the status of the external adapter battery and how much power it has left.

Such a device could be augmented by a “trickle source” for power, such as solar. And it could also include a USB port for charging a device like an iPhone or iPod. The accessory could also include a wireless adapter, allowing a MacBook or other device to access the power adapter even when it is not physically connected.

Apple’s application also notes that its external battery solution could employ current power adapter features, such as its patented MagSafe connector.

The need for such third-party external battery makers could be significantly lessened if Apple were to follow through on its pursuit of power adapters with integrated rechargeable batteries.

Apple first filed the patent application made public this week in September of 2009, and the proposed invention is credited to Duncan Kerr, David Robbins Falkenburg and Michael Nugent.

Apple releases iOS 4.3 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices

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Date: Thursday, March 10th, 2011, 04:02
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

If you missed it yesterday, Apple released its latest version iOS on Wednesday, the long-awaited iOS 4.3 update becoming available through iTunes and introducing the following new fixes and features:

- Personal Hotspot – Share iPhone 4 cellular data connection with up to 5 devices (combination of up to 3 Wi-Fi, 3 Bluetooth, and 1 USB).

- iTunes Home Sharing – Play music, movies and TV shows from a shared iTunes library on a Mac or PC (requires iTunes 10.2).

- New Airplay features – Play videos from the Photos app including the Camera Roll album, iTunes previews, enabled third-party appsand websites on Apple TV – Play slideshows from Photos on Apple TV using transitions available on Apple TV.

- Faster Safari performance with Apple Nitro JavaScript engine.

- HD video out using the Apple Digital AV Adapter – View 720p HD videos from Videos app, iPod app, Photos, YouTube, Safari, Keynote, and enabled third-party apps on an HDMI display
Ping features.

- Push notifications for comments and follow requests.

- Post and Like songs directly from the Now Playing screen.

- Parental controls.

- New Settings.

- Messages setting for number of times to repeat an alert.

- iPad side switch setting to lock screen rotation or mute audio notifications and sound effects.

- Single tap conference call dialing with a pause to send a passcode.

- Bug fixes.

Amongst the biggest inclusions are Home Sharing (the ability to stream audio and video from iTunes on a local network to the iOS device); AirPlay (the ability to stream audio and video from the iOS device to an Apple TV or computer) for third-party developers; and the ability to create a personal WiFi hotspot from an iPhone or iPad with 3G support.

Per Macworld UK, users may need a qualifying data plan from your carrier and any necessary hotspot or tethering options to enable the much-anticipated Personal Hotspot feature. Users with an unlocked iPhone can use the feature without restriction. However, we advise users of this feature to keep a close eye on data charges as some mobile phone companies are now restricting data usage.

A couple of minor features snuck into iOS 4.3. Users can now enable Push Notifications for Ping activity, and the iPod app’s Now Playing screen offers the options to post about songs and like them on your Ping profile. Also new is a preference to specify how many times an SMS alert is repeated, as well as a conference dialing option to add a pause for entering a passcode.

Missing from iOS 4.3, however, are the new multitouch gestures that Apple asked developers to test on the iPad during the beta period. Gestures like four- and five-finger swipes could switch between apps and reveal the multitasking bar, and a pinch could exit an app and return you to the Home Screen. With the second iOS 4.3 beta, however, Apple clarified that these features were only for testing and would not ship to consumers in the final version. Obviously, they could return in a future iOS update or upgrade, but Apple hasn’t stated any plans.

iOS 4.3 is available now as a free update in iTunes for the iPad, iPhone 3GS, the GSM iPhone 4, and third- and fourth-generation iPod touch. As for the Verizon iPhone 4, it runs a custom version of iOS 4.2.6 that includes some features like hotspot support. Comments from an Apple representative at the iPad 2 event suggest that it might take a little while for Verizon’s iPhone 4 to converge with the same iOS version as Apple’s other mobile devices.

If you’ve snagged the iOS 4.3 update, please let us know how it’s working on your devices, for better or for worse.

iFixit performs full teardown of early 2011 MacBook Pro, finds interesting new components

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Date: Friday, February 25th, 2011, 05:52
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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It’s been all of a day since the release of Apple’s new Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Pro noteboooks, but already the cool cats at iFixit have performed a full teardown of the new models.

Per the report, the guys found that the controller for Thunderbolt is the fourth largest chip on the logic board, after the CPU, GPU and logic board controller.

“We believe the chip’s footprint is a testament to the potential of this port,” they said.

iFixit ranked the new 2011 MacBook Pro a 7 out of 10 on its reparability scale. It noted that the new version allows for the battery to be disconnected without removing it from the laptop.

The addition of a “spudger” makes disconnecting the battery easier.

“It’s a nice design choice since you *should* remove all power before performing any repairs,” they said. “The unibody design also allows for easy access to most of the other components, so it won’t be terribly hard to replace things on the machine. The only tricky repair is LCD replacement, which could easily result in shattering the front glass panel.”

Other noteworthy details from the teardown:
- You can chain up to six Thunderbolt devices. In comparison, FireWire supports 63 devices and USB supports up to 127 devices.

- The lower case is secured by Phillips #00 screws, while the battery is secured by Tri-Wing screws, just like the predecessor. There were no Pentalobe screws inside or outside.

- The new MacBook Pro has the same 77.5 watt-hour battery as the earlier model, but Apple has decreased their run-time estimate from 8-9 hours to 7 hours, likely due to more stringent testing.

- The Thunderbolt controller is the fourth-largest chip in the new MacBook Pro.

- iFixit said they’re concerned about Apple’s quality control, as they found a stripped screw holding the subwoofer enclosure in place, and an unlocked ZIF socket connecting the IR sensor.

- RAM has been upgraded to PC3-10600. That’s the same RAM used in the 2010 revision of the 21.5″ and 27″ iMacs, but faster than earlier MacBook Pros.

- The wireless card received a make-over and now includes four antennas instead of three. Wireless connectivity is provided by a Broadcom BCM4331 “wireless solution.”

- The wireless card bracket is aluminum, rather than the plastic found in earlier MacBook Pro revisions. The change was likely made for thermal reasons, as a pink thermal pad is visible and used to transfer heat from the Broadcom chip to the aluminum bracket.

The logic board features four primary chips:
- Intel i7 Quad-Core Processor
- AMD Radeon HD 6490M GPU
- Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub
- Intel L051NB32 EFL (which seems to be the Thunderbolt port controller)

The teardown uncovered a great deal of thermal paste on the CPU and GPU when the main heat sink was removed. The excess paste may cause overheating issues down the road, iFixit said.

The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is still designated Model A1286. Apple has been using that same model number since October 2008.

Rumor: Next-Gen MacBook Pros to have improved batteries, will see the end of the white model

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011, 10:39
Category: MacBook Pro, Rumor

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The rumors are coming in a bit more rapidly now with details emerging that the upcoming MacBook Pros will sport larger trackpads, weigh slightly less than the current models and have a 8 – 16 GB SSD boot drive to house Mac OS X (everything else will be stored on a separate HDD). Per MacRumors, tt’s also been reported that the new MacBook Pros will come with a custom all-SSD option at a higher price point.

French Mac site MacGeneration has thrown in its two cents to claim that the new MacBook Pros will feature a SSD (16GB mSATA) boot drive, providing faster startup times and performance improvements. It also claims that new MacBook Pros will weigh 200 – 300 grams less than the current versions: 1.8 kg for the 13-inch model, 2.3 kg for the 15-inch model and 2.65 kg for the 17-inch model.

The site also expects HD resolution displays (1,440 x 900 for the 13-inch model and 1,680 x 1,050 for the 15-inch model), plus a newer Core i3 chip, an extra USB port and 12 hours of battery life for the 13-inch model. The 15-inch model will have 10 hours of battery life.

The article also claims that customers will be able to order the 15- and 17-inch models with additional storage (a solid-state drive replacing the SuperDrive). The 17-inch model is expected to have 8 GB of RAM and the high-end 13-inch model will apparently have a matte screen order option, too. The site claims the MacBook Pros will see the introduction of a “new technology” (most likely, Light Peak, a.k.a “Thunderbolt”.

Finally, MacGeneration has claimed that the white MacBook model will be discontinued, though the memories will always remain…

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rare Apple customer survey sparks hopes for 3G in next-gen MacBook Air

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Date: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 05:06
Category: MacBook Air, News

This could be interesting.

Apple, which typically relies on its own in-house research as opposed to customer feedback, began reaching out to select MacBook Air owners this week in a new survey that could help define future versions of the diminutive notebook, posing questions on 3G, data syncing, I/O usage, and the desire for models with more capable computing power.

Per AppleInsider, the wide-ranging survey touches on a number of issues, including the use of USB ports and external disc drives, Web-based file storage and syncing, and use of certain function keys on the keyboard. It also includes a number of queries related to wireless 3G data connectivity, suggesting Apple could be exploring integrated cellular radios in future notebooks.

Official Apple customer surveys on products are not unheard of, though they are rare. The last survey AppleInsider can recall was conducted back in February 2009 to help shape the future of the Apple TV, and that was related to the company’s self-proclaimed “hobby” that was a work-in-progress.

In addition to future MacBook Air models, the new survey could offer a glimpse into Apple’s plans for the MacBook Pro line of notebooks. When the new MacBook Air was released last October, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said the thin-and-light computer is “the first of a new generation of notebooks.”

Interestingly, the survey asks users whether they have connected their MacBook Air to a 3G network, how often they do so, where they connect to 3G, what type of device they use to connect to a 3G network (MiFi, USB device, or tethering with a cell phone).

Though the redesigned MacBook Air launched in late 2010, rumors of its successor have already begun to surface. Last week, it was said that Apple allegedly plans to upgrade its line of thin-and-light notebooks to Intel’s latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors this June. No claims were made about 3G connectivity.

Rumors of a 3G-capable Mac have persisted for years, but the company does not yet sell a notebook with an integrated cellular data radio. Apple even sought to hire a 3G expert for its Mac team in 2009, fueling those rumors that the functionality would be added to a future MacBook.

So, it’s hard to say how much attention to pay to this, but it is sort of interesting and could lead to something cool. If you’ve seen this survey on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Source claims that Apple MacBook Pro delay from Intel chip bug probably minimal

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Date: Saturday, February 12th, 2011, 05:10
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Following up on a widely publicized chip design error on Intel’s part has disrupted Apple’s plans for its next-generation MacBook Pro models, but the impact will be largely immaterial to both the company’s bottom line and its customers according to a source.

Per AppleInsider, Intel said late last month that a design flaw in all of its 6 Series Cougar Point chipsets — due to support new Sandy Bridge Core processors bound for mainstream notebooks and desktops like Apple’s MacBook Pro and iMacs — would delay volume launches of those chips due to a lapse in production while it corrected the glitch.

The impact on Apple due to the setback hasn’t been immediately clear. However, one source has stated that some of the company’s upcoming MacBook Pros were affected by the situation. According to the source, Apple elected to make minor tweaks to the logic boards of those models, but that those changes would translate to a delay of less than two weeks.

Reading between the lines can only lead to speculation that Apple was an early recipient of some of those Cougar Point chipsets from Intel, and that the changes it’s making involve tweaks to SATA ports that those MacBook Pros will utilize.

Those chipsets offer support for a total of six SATA ports, but Intel acknowledged the only problem with the chips was the potential for four of those ports — 2 through 5 — to “degrade over time, potentially impacting the performance or functionality of SATA-linked devices such as hard disk drives and DVD-drives.”

However, an Intel spokesperson confirmed that that the problem does not affect SATA ports 0 or 1, so any system builders that received those parts would be clear to ship those chips in systems that utilize only ports 0 or 1. For its part, Apple makes use of only two SATA ports in its current MacBook Pros, according to iFixit teardown specialist Kyle Wiens, and has no reason to require more going forward.

“There are two connections on the board — one for optical drive, and one for HDD,” he said. “The other internal devices (trackpad, keyboard, SD card reader, etc.) use USB.”

In total, Intel said it shipped roughly 8 million of the Cougar Point chipsets to system manufacturers before it discovered the error but that “relatively few consumers” were impacted by this issue because the only systems that actually made it into end consumers hands’ were those based on its new Sandy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 quad core processors for desktop systems. The rest of the chips — presumably some of which went to Apple — hadn’t yet been built into systems available to consumers.

As such, the launch window for Apple’s new MacBook Pros, which have been rumored to “feature a slight change in chassis design” and speculated to employ the Sandy Bridge Core processors listed in the chart below, remains hazy. Still, evidence from those familiar with the matter and checks within the company’s supply chain suggest a period sooner than later — likely between late February and early April for volume shipments.

Apple as early as last month began drawing down inventories of its lower volume MacBook Pros, namely the 17-inch model, in anticipation of the transition. For instance, some of the company’s largest resellers including Amazon direct, MacMall and J&R Computer World (1,2,3) have long run dry of this model. And just this week, MacConnection and MacMall appear to have run into trouble securing more of the two high-end 15-inch models (1,2,3,4), which are now both out of stock.

People familiar with the buy side of operations for big box retailers like Amazon and Best Buy say Apple initially offered restocking dates of late January for those MacBook Pros but then missed those dates and pushed them out a week late. This trend has continued for the past two weeks, where a restocking date is supplied, only to be missed and rescheduled.

According to those same people, such anomalies in Apple’s Mac supply chain only manifest in the face of a significant production problem or on the cusp of major product line refresh.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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 Time Capsule and AirPort Base Station Firmware 7.5.2

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Date: Friday, December 17th, 2010, 05:22
Category: News, Software, wireless

Late Friday, Apple released its Time Capsule and AirPort Base Station Firmware 7.5.2. The update provides bug fixes for all 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Stations, AirPort Express Base Stations, and Time Capsules. Some of the fixes include the following:

- General fixes to Wi-Fi base station stability.

- Fixes some issues with AirPlay streaming.

- General fixes with USB interoperability including connection to external storage devices.

- Fixes some issues with NAT port mapping settings.

- Disables TKIP security with 802.11n rates per the Wi-Fi Alliance specifications.

The update can be found, downloaded and installed via the software update feature in the AirPort Utility program (Applications–>Utilities), takes about a minute to install and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to install and run.

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

Apple releases LED Cinema Display Firmware Update 1.0 for 27″ monitor

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Date: Thursday, December 16th, 2010, 06:00
Category: Hardware, News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple released its LED Cinema Display Firmware Update 1.0 to try and fix a bug that’s been plaguing some users.

Per Macworld, the issue in question involves audio from the display’s speakers dying intermittently. In order to fix the sound issues, users have resorted to unplugging and replugging the monitor’s USB cable or even rebooting their Mac.

The update, a 957KB download, can be snagged from Apple’s support download site or via Software Update and then run it from your /Applications/Utilities folder and requires a Mac running Mac OS X 10.6.4 or later to install and run.

If you’re tried the firmware update and noticed any changes, please let us know.

Apple 27″ Cinema Display units demonstrating audio, slow volume control response problems

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Date: Wednesday, December 1st, 2010, 13:19
Category: Hardware, News

As nifty as Apple’s 27″ Cinema Display, there may be some kinks to work out.

Per MacNN, the device is suffering from serious audio problems, some owners say. Complaints reportedly surfaced back in October on the Apple boards, but have persisted without any solution from Apple. In worst-case scenarios Cinema Displays have been losing built-in audio entirely, although the glitch can be temporarily solved by unplugging and reconnecting the monitor, or in some instances changing audio settings.

Another problem involves slow response times for keyboard-based volume controls. Affected displays can potentially take as long as 6 or 7 seconds to respond to keyboard presses, making onboard sound impractical.

The issues are notably affecting both Mac and Windows systems, suggesting that any permanent solution will require a firmware or hardware fix. The root cause may in fact involve USB connections, as Macs using Mini DisplayPort for audio have been going unaffected. Apple support staff are said to be aware of the problem, but unable to tell if or when a fix is coming. Some customers have managed to secure replacement monitors only to encounter the same trouble.

If you’ve seen these issues on your end or discovered your own fix or workaround, please let us know.