Two new patents show how Apple would use iPhone, Bluetooth to interact with cars

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Date: Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 07:29
Category: iOS, News, Patents

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One day, your iPhone WILL talk to and control your car.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office (1, 2) and AppleInsider, a pair of patent filings discovered on Thursday reveal Apple is actively investigating the possibilities afforded by the iOS mobile platform’s various wireless connectivity options, including the ability to interact with, and at times control, a Bluetooth-enabled automobile.

The two patents, describe Apple inventions for using an iOS device to find a parked car in a parking structure, getting guidance to said car, gathering parking fee information and, once near the automobile, activating vehicle functions like door locks, power windows and the engine starter.

First, Apple’s “Method for Locating a Vehicle” outlines a method in which a mobile device can pair with a vehicle via Bluetooth to determine whether it is in a parked state. If the condition is met, the handset then communicates with a wireless system within the parking structure to determine a parking location before moving away from the vehicle.

When returning to the parking structure, the mobile device can access the parking structure’s location system to request current positioning data. The received information is then compared to the vehicle location already stored on the device to determine a route back to the car.

In another embodiment, the automobile itself communicates with the parking structure’s location system, which logs the car’s position and stores the data for later access by a mobile device. This method also allows the parking system to handle guidance and routing directions, which are subsequently sent to a handset upon request.

Apple’s invention calls for the parking structure to hold an array of wireless sensors that are deployed in such a way as to determine the location of a car and a mobile device. An example would be one sensor per stall, or one per row. The system can use Bluetooth technology to transmit positioning data, as well as guidance data if necessary, to the mobile device.

Further, the parking system can also incorporate cameras, microphones and other sensors to determine whether a car is in a parked state. Such information would include an opened car door, active running lights or engine noise. In some embodiments, a user can manually inform the system that a car is parked by interacting with a digital interface either in the vehicle or on a mobile device.

Regarding guidance, a handset can receive a map over cellular or Wi-Fi, which can have an overlay of current positioning data much like a GPS navigation system. Indeed, in some examples, GPS can also be used in concert with the parking structure’s location data to determine a route back to the vehicle.

As a side note, Apple recently acquired “indoor GPS” firm WiFiSLAM, which developed technology to serve up location data within structures where GPS signals are usually absent. Such systems could be implemented effectively in the utility filing described above.

In Apple’s second car-related patent application, titled “Accessing a vehicle using portable devices,” a mobile handset pairs securely with a car over Bluetooth or other suitable method to control various onboard functions.

The invention is basically a more intelligent replacement for existing automobile personalization systems offered by some manufacturers. These methods usually rely on key fobs, which interact with the car via NFC or radio to open doors, roll down windows, start the engine, and so forth. Instead, Apple proposes a mobile device take the place of a fob to offer enhanced control of the vehicle through wireless protocols like Bluetooth.

As noted in the filing, the system can support a primary and a secondary mobile device. Both would use proven authentication methods to access the vehicle, thereby allowing said devices to act as a security point in lieu of a key fob. A user can set preferences to cause the system to act automatically, or have greater control by requiring a PIN or passwords before a device unlocks and interacts with the car.

Some embodiments allow restrictions to be placed on the second mobile device, such as authorization to start the engine only within a given time period, for example between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Further limitations can include speed, entertainment options, number of “uses” allotted and GPS-based fencing, among others.

Besides describing the variety of functions available for operation, much of the patent application focuses on authentication techniques and device-to-car security.

Apple is apparently looking to take advantage of popular “infotainment” systems a number of auto makers include in their vehicles, which usually carry some sort of wireless communications protocol such as Bluetooth. While it is unknown if and when the pair of patent applications will be used in a consumer product, a number of car manufacturers have already signed on to support Apple’s “eyes-free” initiative.

Both of the applications were filed in 2011 and credit Brian J. Tucker, Emily C. Schubert, Jess L. Dorogusker, Joakim Linde; Joakim and Stephen Chick as their inventors.

Apple revises terms of One to One service plan, installs 60 day deadline for data migration

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Date: Monday, April 22nd, 2013, 07:15
Category: News, retail

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You know Apple’s One to One service, available for US$99 with the purchase of a new Mac?

Well, there are now some new provisos.

Per ZDNet, the service terms now state that data migration is available only in the first 60 days (previously 12 months), transfer must be by wired means (no more Wi-Fi transfers), only hardware bought with the Mac will be installed (previously any hardware) and staff will now ‘assist’ with installation of software purchased during training sessions (previously they’d install it for you).

Beyond that, you’re sorta on your own…

Apple seeds third OS X 10.8.4 beta to developer community

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Date: Thursday, April 18th, 2013, 07:21
Category: News, Software

OS X 10.8.4 is en route.

It’ll just be in beta for a bit longer.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Wednesday seeded build 12E33a of OS X 10.8.4 maintenance update to developers, with the latest beta coming a little over one week after the build 12E30 went out for testing in early April.

Mountain Lion’s latest build comes with no known issues and once again asks testers to focus on Wi-Fi, Graphics Drivers and Safari.

In the last beta build 12E30, code was discovered mentioning the 802.11ac “Gigabit” wireless protocol, suggesting that Apple could be making preparations to launch compatible hardware in the near future.

Wednesday’s release is the third beta build release for OS X 10.8.4. Developers can access the most recent seed through the Mac App Store’s Software Update mechanism, a feature first seen with the OS X 10.8.3 beta builds.

If you’ve gotten your mitts on the new build and have any feedback to offer about it, please let us know in the comments.

Apple offers replacement program for certain third-gen Apple TV units, cites Wi-Fi issues

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Date: Tuesday, April 16th, 2013, 06:59
Category: Apple TV, News

Well, this is why they invented recall and replacement programs in the first place.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple has informed its official retail stores, AppleCare employees, and authorized resellers that a small number of third-generation Apple TV units have Wi-Fi issues. These issues surround not being able to locate a Wi-Fi network, unable to join a network, and dropped or intermittent connections.

Apple has determined that a very small number of Apple TV (3rd generation) products might experience one of these Wi-Fi related connectivity issues: Cannot locate network, Unable to join network, Dropped or intermittent connection.

If an Apple technician determines that an applicable Apple TV has these issues, the unit can be replaced as part of a replacement program that Apple has begun because of these WiFi issues. Apple says that replacements can be offered free of charge up to two years after the device’s purchase date.

Here are the serial number pairs that are eligible:


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Earlier this year, Apple silently began shipping a tweaked version of its third-generation Apple TV. This new model, as revealed in FCC filings, features new Broadcom wireless chips. It is plausible, we speculate, that the change in WiFi parts could have been in response to these Wi-Fi issues in some third-generation models.

If you’ve seen these issues with your third-gen Apple TV unit or have looked into the replacement program, let us know about your experience in the comments.

802.11ac support noted in OS X 10.8.4 beta

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Date: Wednesday, April 10th, 2013, 07:00
Category: News, Software

Never doubt the power of an operating system upgrade.

Per AppleInsider, code found in the just released Mountain Lion 10.8.4 beta build references the next-generation 802.11ac wireless protocol, hinting that Apple may soon introduce the technology in its Mac lineup.

The string was discovered in the OS X 10.8.4 beta build 12E30, which was seeded to developers earlier on Tuesday, and suggests Apple is planning on releasing a lineup of Macs compatible with the 802.11ac wireless draft.

While 802.11ac has yet to be ratified as a wireless standard by the IEEE, a number of OEMs have already started rolling out routers based on the draft. Although Apple has yet to adopt the protocol, other manufacturers began shipping products last year, meaning the Cupertino company shouldn’t be far behind.

As the fifth-generation wireless standard, 802.11ac promises to deliver data speeds of 1 gigabits per second over two channels, each carrying single link speeds of 500 megabits per second. In theory, the draft can reach speed of up to 1.3Gbps, which improves upon the existing 802.11n spec that tops out at a theoretical maximum of 900Mbps (450Mbps per channel). In addition, 802.11ac can accommodate up to 8 MIMO streams and extends effective range over previous technologies.

In January, Apple posted job listings for Gigabit Wi-Fi engineers, and the company was rumored to have struck a deal with Broadcom to use the chipmaker’s “5G Wi-Fi” silicon in as-yet-unannounced products.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple seeds first OS X 10.8.4 beta to developer community

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Date: Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013, 06:54
Category: News, Software

That OS X 10.8.4 goodness you’re looking for…it just entered its first beta.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Monday began seeding the OS X 10.8.4 beta to developers, though not much is known about the new maintenance update as little information was offered in the release notes.

According to sources familiar with the release notes, build number 12E27 doesn’t show any changes in the areas on which developers should focus, suggesting the software contains bug fixes and small enhancements at this time.

Like the final OS X 10.8.3 betas, the first 10.8.4 seed asks testers to look at Wi-Fi, Graphics Drivers and Safari, while the seed comes with no known issues.

Interestingly, Apple said it is not offering the build as a software update through the Mac App Store, as it did with the 10.8.3 builds. This may change with future seeds, but the company didn’t elaborate further.

The new seed come a over two weeks after Apple released OS X 10.8.3 to the public with Safari 6.0.3 and enhanced iTunes integration. Along with the new feature set, 10.8.3 brought bug fixes and wider support for Windows 8 in Boot Camp.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple receives patent for “microslot antennas”, could see improvements in wireless functionality in coming years

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Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 08:01
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, wireless

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Your notebook and iOS device’s wireless system could be getting that much niftier.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday won the patent rights to “microslot antenna” technology that allows micron-wide antenna assets to be integrated into the housing of a portable device, such as an iPhone, making them nearly invisible to the human eye.

As portable electronics become thinner and more compact with each successive generation, internal space is quickly becoming a limiting factor to device designers. Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,373,610 for “Microslot antennas for electronic devices,” granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, could drastically cut down on the size of at least one component needed to create products like the iPhone.

While the patent refers to implementations in a laptop computer, the antenna tech can be used in other portable electronics like smartphones and tablets.

With Apple’s current technology as seen in the iPhone 5, two internal radio antennas dynamically switch between multiple frequency bands, including those carrying fast LTE data. In order to fit the units within the handset’s slim body, Apple had to design a window for radio waves, while keeping the unit small enough to leave room for other important structures like the logic board and battery.

Tuesday’s patent focuses on so-called “microslot antenna” technology, or “dielectric-filled microslots that are formed in a ground plane element.” According to the invention, the ground plane can be a device’s housing as long as it is conductive, meaning the slots would be integrated on the outer hull of a product. The system can also support multiple communications bands, meaning functionality would not be compromised for size enhancements.

As for the size of the microslots, the patent language states that the widths of the slots are usually significantly less than their lengths. For example, widths can range from microns to hundreds of microns, while a microslot’s length can be on the order of millimeters or centimeters.

Filling the slots is a dielectric such as epoxy, plastic, air or other suitable substance that prevents foreign matter from entering. Antenna feeds can be located at or between the functional microslots, and operate on common communication bands that support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G cellular, among others.

The ’601 property was first filed for in December 2007, less than six months after the original iPhone debuted, and credits Bing Chiang, Gregory Allen Springer, Douglas B. Kough, Enrique Ayala and Matthew Ian McDonald as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule Firmware Update 7.6.3

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Date: Friday, February 8th, 2013, 08:42
Category: News, Software, wireless

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You can’t knock a decent networking update.

On Friday, Apple released its AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule 7.6.3 firmware updates. The updates, which are available for all 802.11n AirPort Express, 802.11n AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule models, include the following fixes and changes:

- Extend the Guest Wi-Fi network for a network configured with multiple AirPort Base Stations.

- Ability to add a WPS capable Wi-Fi printer.

- Support for additional countries.

It is recommended that AirPort Utility 5.6 or later be installed before updating to Firmware version 7.6.3.

The updates can be located and installed via AirPort Utility’s update feature and require an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run.

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

Apple releases AirPort Utility 6.2

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Date: Friday, February 8th, 2013, 07:47
Category: News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released AirPort Utility 6.2, a 10.2 megabyte download which offers the following fixes to the AirPort Utility software:

- The ability to extend the Guest Wi-Fi network on a network that is configured with multiple AirPort Base Stations.

- The ability to add a WPS-capable Wi-Fi printer.

- Improved international support.

The update requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.5 or later to install and run. The AirPort Utility update can be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature or via the update feature in Airport Utility itself.

Apple releases fourth-gen 128 gigabyte Retina Display iPad

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Date: Tuesday, January 29th, 2013, 07:02
Category: iPad, News

This came out of nowhere, but it’s appreciated.

Following up on a series of software updates, Apple on Tuesday announced it has launched a new 128-gigabyte model of the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display, doubling the previous maximum capacity offered.

The 128-gigabyte version of the fourth-generation iPad are available starting Tuesday, Feb. 5 in black or white. They will have a suggested retail price of US$799 for the Wi-Fi-only model, while the cellular-capable model will sell for US$929.

Apple’s 9.7-inch iPad lineup now extends to four different capacities, starting at 16 gigabytes for the entry-level model. The smaller iPad mini still tops off with a 64-gigabyte model.

The announcement of the new iPad model comes only a few days after it was discovered in the newly released iOS 6.1 software update that Apple had included references to a new iOS device with a storage capacity of 128 gigabytes. Previously, the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad lineups all maxed out at 64 gigabytes.

Aside from the higher storage capacity, the new 128-gigabyte iPad with Retina display is unchanged from the previously released fourth-generation models. It includes the Apple-designed A6X processor, a 9.7-inch Retina display, and forward facing FaceTime HD camera.

If you get your mitts on the 128 gigabyte iPad in the next few days, please let us know what you make of it in the comments.