Apple announces updated, slimmer, Ivy Bridge iMac

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Date: Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012, 19:30
Category: Hardware, iMac, News

It may not have been the absolute centerpiece of the show, but it still looks nifty.

Per Macworld, Apple on Tuesday released a new, thinner iMac. The company reengineered the iMac’s internals and display, and Apple says the display system is 45 percent thinner and 8 pounds lighter.

The new iMacs are available in 21.5- and 27-inch models, with displays that support native resolutions of 1920-by-1080 pixels and 2560-by-1440 pixels, respectively. Previous models of the iMacs had a 2mm air gap between the glass and the display; that gap has been removed in the new iMac. Apple now laminates the display directly to the glass, and the company says the full lamination will improve optical quality.

Besides the new design, the other marquee feature of the new iMac is the Fusion Drive, which is a hybrid storage technology that combines flash storage with a hard drive. The Fusion Drive comes with 128GB of flash storage used mainly by the operating system to provide fast performance. The hard drive portion of the Fusion Drive is available in 1TB or 3TB capacities.

However, the Fusion Drive isn’t part of Apple’s standard configuration for the iMac—it is a build-to-order option. Apple has yet to release upgrade pricing for the iMac models with a Fusion Drive, though it’s worth noting that the 1TB Fusion Drive upgrade for the 2.3GHz Core i7 Mac mini is US$250.

As seen with the Retina MacBook Pro, Apple is relying on Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 for connectivity. The iMac has two Thunderbolt ports and four USB 3.0 ports, as well as a gigabit ethernet port. FireWire is no longer offered on the iMac, and users of FireWire devices will need an adapter.

The iMac also features a built-in FaceTime HD camera, dual microphones, stereo speakers, built-in Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0. The optical drive is no longer included, and the SDXC card slot that was located next to the optical drive can now be found on the back of the iMac, between the headphone jack and the USB 3.0 ports.

The 21.5-inch iMacs have only two RAM slots and support a maximum of 16GB of memory. The 27-inch iMacs have four RAM slots and support a maximum of 32GB of memory.

The new iMac is available in the following four configurations:
US$1299: 21.5-inch model with a 2.7GHz quad-core Core i5, 8GB of memory, a 5400-rpm 1TB hard drive, and 512MB nVidia GeForce GT 640M graphics.

US$1499: 21.5-inch model with a 2.9GHz quad-core Core i5, 8GB of memory, a 5400-rpm 1TB hard drive, and 512MB nVidia GeForce GT 650M graphics.

US$1799: 27-inch model with a 2.9GHz quad-core Core i5, 8GB of memory, a 7200-rpm 1TB hard drive, and 512MB nVidia GeForce GTX 660M graphics.

US$1999: 27-inch model with a 3.2GHz quad-core Core i5, 8GB of memory, a 7200-rpm 1TB hard drive, and 512MB nVidia GeForce GTX 675M graphics.

The 21.5-inch models will be available in November, while the 27-inch models will be available in December.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple looking to replace IR sensors with sonar technology in next-gen devices

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Date: Thursday, October 18th, 2012, 07:52
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Patents

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Look at it this way: sonar’s been around for a while.

And it’s always been nifty.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an Apple patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday describes a system that may one day replace the infrared proximity sensors deployed in current iPhones with sonar-like technology.

Apple’s invention for “Passive proximity detection” negates the need for the current IR sensor, replacing it with a system that can detect and process sound waves to determine how far away an object is from a portable device.

Much like passive echolocation or a loose interpretation of passive sonar, the filing describes a system that takes two sound wave samples, a “before” and an “after,” and compares the two to determine if an external object’s proximity to the device changed. “Sampling” occurs when a transducer, such as a microphone, picks up ambient sound and sends a corresponding signal to the device’s processor for analysis.

The invention relies on basic acoustic principles as applied to modern electronics. For example, a microphone’s signal equalization curve from an audio source changes when the device moves towards or away from an object, which “variably reflect[s] elements of the sound wave.”

This effect may be noticed when sound is reflected by soft material as opposed to a hard surface. Generally, sound reflected off the soft surface will seem muted when compared to the same sound reflected off a hard surface located at the same distance and angle from an audio transducer and a sound source.

In one of the invention’s embodiments, two microphones are situated at different planes on a device, and detect the subtle changes in broad-audio-spectrum caused by interference when a sound wave interacts with an object.

To relate this to a common phenomenon, when a sea shell is held up to one’s ear a resonant cavity is formed that amplifies ambient sounds. This hi-Q filtering results in the ocean like sounds one hears.

In another example, response signals produced by two microphones located at either end of a device can be compared to determine if an object is nearer to one or the other. For example, when a user’s face is close to the top of a device, as is usual when talking on the phone, the microphone located near the ear will produce a different reactance ratio than the microphone located at the device’s base.

Basically, the signals from two transducers, or microphones, detect slight changes in ambient sound and sends corresponding signals to a processor which then compares the two to determine whether an object is in close proximity to either of the mics.

Monitoring of the microphones can be live or set to take samples at predetermined intervals, such as after a user begins to speak. Placement of the microphones can also be tweaked, and in some cases can be located next to each other.

Finally, a more active detection method is proposed, where an internal speaker generates noise, taking the place of ambient sound waves.

As portable electronic devices become increasingly smaller, the need to develop space-saving components, or to combine parts to serve a number of uses, becomes more pressing. Such is the case with Apple’s latest iPhone 5, a device that packs 4G LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth communications, a battery that can last for days, a 4-inch Retina display, two cameras, and a litany of other features into a chassis only 7.6 mm deep.

Space is already at a premium with the iPhone, as evidenced by the new Lightning connector, which Apple’s Worldwide Marketing chief Phil Schiller said was needed to create such a thin device. Moving forward, the company is rumored to incorporate near field communications (NFC) for e-wallet payments, which will take up even more precious room.

It remains to be seen if Apple will one day employ the passive proximity detection technology in a consumer device, however the iPhone is a platform ripe for deployment as it already boasts three mics for noise canceling and call quality purposes.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Leaked SKU list shows upcoming “iPad mini” available in 24 different configurations

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Date: Tuesday, October 16th, 2012, 08:46
Category: iPad, Rumor

Per AppleInsider, Apple will launch its “iPad mini” in 24 different configurations, suggesting four different storage capacities and two color options.

According to a leaked list of product stock-keeping units, or SKUs, the unit will be available in 24 different varieties. Four different models will be offered — described as P101, P103, P105 and P107 — which one a source with the inventory said likely signifies four different storage capacities.

The lineup could suggest that Apple plans to introduce an 8-gigabyte model that would serve as an entry-level model for the lower-priced 7.85-inch iPad. Currently, the full-sized iPad does not come with a storage capacity lower than 16 gigabytes.

Each of the four different product descriptions also come with three different distinctions: “GOOD,” “BETTER,” and “BEST,” which could signify Wi-Fi-only, 3G, and 4G LTE models, respectively. Each model is also available in “A” and “B” variants, which likely identify color options of black and white.

The source said the company’s initial shipments suggest availability of the presumed entry-level “P101″ model will be the greatest at launch. An inventory list that surfaced from a retailer last weekend suggested an entry-level 8-gigabyte model could retail around US$249.

The person also added that Apple is rumored to begin selling new iMac desktops on Oct. 24, one day after the anticipated Oct. 23 event. In addition to the iPad mini, Apple is also expected to unveil a new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, but no timeframe on its availability was given.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Leaked part photo suggests thinner next-gen iMac

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Date: Monday, October 15th, 2012, 06:39
Category: Hardware, iMac, Rumor

The upcoming iMac: It may, in fact, be thinner AND snazzier than the current design.

Per Chinese web site WeiPhone.com and MacRumors, a picture out of the Far East shows what is claimed to be the logic board and internal components for a new, thinner iMac set to be released by Apple in the near future.

The image and purported details about a redesigned iMac show Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas, fans, and a hard drive and have been argued to be from a next-gen iMac.



The new iMac will reportedly be considerably thinner than the current model, and the new shell design is said to be curved like a water droplet, rather than squared off.

The report also reaffirmed earlier claims that the new iMac display will be attached to the protective cover glass, allowing the all-in-one desktop to be even thinner.

Inventory of iMac desktops has been constrained at third-party resellers for some time now. Limited stock of hardware through resellers is often one of the first signs that Apple is drawing down inventory ahead of a product refresh.

Apple could unveil a new iMac as soon as this month, as the company is expected to hold a media event on Oct. 23 to unveil a new, smaller iPad with a 7.85-inch display. That event could present an opportunity for Apple to show off a redesigned iMac, as well as a new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.

While the new iMac is expected to be redesigned, reports have suggested that the desktop will not receive a high-resolution Retina display. Apple is allegedly set to release a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display that will join the 15-inch model, but Retina-caliber displays are apparently not yet available for 21.5-inch and 27-inch screens.

It’s possible that if the iMac lineup is refreshed, the 21.5-inch model could become available first, with the 27-inch model to follow soon after. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities first reported in August that the new screen lamination process for the redesigned iMac is apparently more difficult with the 27-inch model, which could lead to it launching weeks after the 21.5-inch option.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Assorted iPhone 4S, third-gen iPad users reporting iOS 6 Wi-Fi issues

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Date: Thursday, September 27th, 2012, 07:29
Category: iOS, News, Software

Well, this is why they invented bug fixes and software updates…

Per AppleInsider, a whopping 91-page thread on Apple’s Support Communities webpage illustrates what appears to be a significant problem with upgrading iPhone 4S and third-generation iPads to the company’s newest mobile operating system, iOS 6.

Forum members report that after upgrading to iOS 6, both the legacy iPhone 4S and new iPad are experiencing disabled Wi-Fi connectivity that leaves the option to connect “grayed out.” The issue appears to be affecting Bluetooth capabilities as well, with some users claiming their units are unable to pair or even recognize other devices, and show the spinning “search wheel” indefinitely.

Another set of users have the ability to turn Wi-Fi on in Settings, but are unable to connect to their local network.

Both the nature and extent of the purported iOS 6 complications are unknown, including whether the two issues are related, though many affected users who have contacted Apple say the company is aware of the problems.

A number of fixes have been suggested, including a hard reset and reinstallation of iOS 6, but the most effective seems to be resetting Network Settings and changing the HTTP Proxy to “Auto.”

For those who are seeing a completely grayed out Wi-Fi toggle switch in Settings, a few users have had luck with downgrading to iOS 5.1, suggesting the issue is exclusive to iOS 6. Other members have successfully exchanged their affected iPhones for new hardware after demonstrating the grayed out Wi-Fi option to staff at the Apple Store Genius Bar, though it is unclear if handset replacement is the usual course of action.

When iOS 6 was released on Sept. 19, a number of early adopters suffered from Wi-Fi issues, however Apple was able to trace the problem back to a downed verification page which was quickly repaired.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know about your experience in the comments.

Some iOS 6 users reporting Wi-Fi issues, Apple may have fixed bug

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Date: Thursday, September 20th, 2012, 07:01
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

Whenever you release a major new operating system for millions of active devices, there might be a few bugs to sort out…

Per AppleInsider, just hours after Apple released iOS 6 to the public on Wednesday, users are already complaining of Wi-FI connectivity issues on the company’s Support Communities website, possibly stemming from a network verification system flaw.

A number of users reported a “page not found” error when trying to browse in Safari on iOS 6. While the exact cause of the connectivity issues is unknown, it seems the problem started sometime after Apple rolled out the new mobile OS, as multiple reports poured in at nearly the same time.

It appears the problem is rooted in how iOS 6 handles network verification. In order to test whether an accessible Wi-Fi connection is present, Safari is led to a special page, which apparently has gone down.

Currently, Apple’s Support Communities site has a 6-page thread discussing the matter, and with every passing minute a new user seems to confirm that they too are having difficulties. One forum member claims his iPhone was working fine when he first downloaded iOS 6, only to find hours later that his handset was unable to connect to the internet via Wi-Fi.

Both iPhone and iPad users who upgraded to the new OS have reported experiencing the same issue.

Based on the claims, the issue has arisen from a network verification process baked into the software, wherein the OS attempts to load a dummy page on Apple.com to detect if a users is connected to a paywalled network. Unfortunately, however, the verification page seems to lead to a 404 error, resulting in an inability to connect to Wi-Fi for many users.

Apple has been contacted regarding the alleged issue and may have resolved the issue by reactivating the webpage iOS 6 uses for network verification purposes.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.7.5 update

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Date: Wednesday, September 19th, 2012, 10:41
Category: News, Software

It may not be quite as snazzy as the iOS 6.0 release, but it’s still helpful to have updates.

On Wednesday, Apple released Mac OS X 10.7.5. The new operating system update, a 1.14 gigabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

- The 10.7.5 update is recommended for all OS X Lion users and includes general operating system fixes that improve the stability, compatibility and security of your Mac. It also includes Gatekeeper, a new security feature that helps you keep your Mac safe from malicious software by giving you more control over what apps are installed on your Mac.

- Resolve an issue where icons in Launchpad may get rearranged after a restart.

- Improve Wi-Fi reliability for iMac (Late 2009 and newer).

- Resolve an issue using Spotlight to search an SMB server.

- Improve compatibility connecting to Active Directory servers.

The Mac OS X 10.7.5 update is available for free and can also be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

Mac OS X 10.7.5 requires an Intel-based Mac and Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later to install and run.

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

Initial tests show forthcoming OS X 10.8.2 update may help resolve battery life issues

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Date: Tuesday, September 11th, 2012, 06:30
Category: News, Software

They may not be scientific tests, but they prove a point.

Per the intensely cool cats at The Mac Observer, a set of tests published on Monday claim to show significant a boost in MacBook battery life using a new developer build of OS X Mountain Lion, with the latest beta showing an 85-minute increase from the current 10.8.1.

The unscientific test from The Mac Observer pitted numerous revisions of OS X, from 10.6 Snow Leopard to 10.8.2 Mountain Lion developer build 12C35, against each other to determine how the operating system effects battery life.

The test used a 2011 15-inch MacBook Pro running a 2.0 GHz i7 processor with 8 GB of RAM, a Radeon HD 6490M GPU and two internal hard drives, an OCZ Vertex 4 64 GB SSD and a Seagate Momentus 750 GB HDD.

Each operating system was tested at full charge, with all applications and services disabled save for Wi-Fi, screen adjusted to 50 percent brightness with display set for continuous use and screen saver disabled. A moderate workflow was simulated using a custom Automator application, which repeated until the battery was fully drained.

Using OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard as a baseline, the compiled test data showed a significant hit to battery performance with the introductions of 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion. Upon release, Lion lost over 40 minutes of battery life and took three revisions to regain Snow Leopard power efficiency. In contrast, Mountain Lion saw a huge 105 minute loss in battery performance when it was released in July, with the latest 10.8.1 version moving the OS only 30 minutes closer to baseline.

With OS X 10.8.2, however, battery life is not just brought back in line with Snow Leopard levels, but the OS actually outperforms its predecessor by eight minutes. This marks an 88.5 minute savings in power consumption from the most recent 10.8.1 version of Mountain Lion.

It was previously reported that Apple’s Mountain Lion was causing battery life issues for many users, with some MacBook Air owners seeing their batteries lasting half as long as when OS X 10.7 Lion was installed. Subsequent tests of the latest public version of OS X, Mountain Lion 10.8.1, showed Apple engineers were working on a fix as battery life was substantially improved. If Monday’s tests are accurate, OS X 10.8.2 will bring further battery life improvements, perhaps besting even the legacy OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

While the final public version of OS X 10.8.2 may not boast power savings identical to the home-brew test, the developer builds are promising and show Apple is taking an aggressive stance in solving the battery degradation issues seen at Mountain Lion’s launch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve gotten your mitts on the current OS X 10.8.2 beta and have any feedback about battery life under the forthcoming operating system revision, please let us know in the comments.

Evidence of unknown iPad models surface in developers notes, speculation of forthcoming “iPad mini” grows

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Date: Friday, August 31st, 2012, 06:39
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

When in doubt, there’s always some interesting stuff in the logs.

Per the cool cats at MacRumors and his own blog, developer Marco Arment he noticed the two “curious entries” in Instapaper’s device stats on Friday, positing the device identifiers could offer clues to the supposed tablets’ internal hardware.

As a side note, Arment said, “There were also a few iPhone5,1 devices, but that’s not a surprise — that’s almost certainly next month’s new GSM iPhone,” but didn’t give specifics.

While Arment concedes the unknown “iPad2,5″ and “iPad2,6″ identifiers can conceivably be spoofed, he has “never had a device show up [on the logs] that didn’t end up being a real, about-to-be-released Apple device.”

Arment goes on to explain that when Apple first launched the iPad 2 in 2011, the Wi-Fi, GSM and CDMA versions were tagged with the internal designations iPad2,1, iPad2,2 and iPad2,3, respectively. Alongside the release of the New iPad in March, Apple unveiled a quietly updated iPad 2 Wi-Fi model with a new A5 processor manufactured on the 32nm process, identifying it as “iPad2,4.”

It is possible that the new “iPad2,5″ and “iPad2,6″ devices discovered by Arment could simply be GSM and CDMA versions of the iPad 2 carrying the 32nm A5 chip, but the developer believes such a move would be unusual so late in the product’s lifecycle.

If the unknown devices turn out to be a smaller iPad, Arment said, the Apple-assigned identifiers suggest “the iPad Mini is, effectively, an iPad 2″ with an A5 processor and 512MB of RAM.

“This is all speculation, of course,” Arment writes, “but I’m convinced: like the leaked Dock connector, this move is so ingenius that it’s most likely to be what Apple has really done.

Apple is rumored to debut the so-called “iPad mini” at a special event in October. Many expect the tablet to sport a 7.85-inch screen and boast a design resembling an iPod touch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T to require Mobile Share plan to use FaceTime under 3G, 4G connections

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Date: Monday, August 20th, 2012, 07:55
Category: iPhone, News, Software

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You’ll be able to do FaceTime over 3G and 4G connections, you’ll just need the right kind of account to do so.

Per AppleInsider, wireless carrier AT&T on Friday announced it will be limiting FaceTime over 3G and 4G networkds to iPhone who sign up for the carrier’s upcoming Mobile Share plans, which are slated to launch later this month.

While the wireless carrier will be providing FaceTime for free over its network, the catch is that subscribers will have to add sign up for the new Mobile Share data plans announced earlier in August.

Oddly, AT&T said iPhone owners can still use FaceTime for free on Wi-Fi networks, though that particular feature is not under the control of wireless providers.

From the statement:
“AT&T will offer FaceTime over Cellular as an added benefit of our new Mobile Share data plans, which were created to meet customers’ growing data needs at a great value. With Mobile Share, the more data you use, the more you save. FaceTime will continue to be available over Wi-Fi for all our customers.”

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in July said it was “too early” to talk about FaceTime over the company’s network. The statement was made in response to a error message discovered in Apple’s iOS 6 beta, prompting speculation the service would be fee-based.

In a subsequent report, Sprint noted it would be offering the feature for free when the next-gen iOS 6 launches this fall.

Speculation that FaceTime would be offered over cellular networks first began when a warning message in iOS 5.1.1 regarding 3G network data settings appeared to hint at the unannounced service.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.