Dec 29, 2011

Mid-Range and High-End iPad 3 Launching at iWorld Seems Unlikely

There have been an increasing number of rumors about the next generation iPad which is expected to launch sometime in early 2012. Digitimes is the source for many of these reports, but some of the claims are becoming increasingly questionable. 

The latest report from the publication now claims that Apple will unveil its next generation iPad at the Macworld|iWorld conference on January 26th, 2012. 

Aside from a surprise Apple return to Macworld|iWorld, Digitimes also reports that the new iPads will keep 9.7" screens, carry 1536x2048 Retina Displays, A6 processors, 5-megapixel and 8-megapixel cameras, and over double the battery capacity (6500mAH -> 14,000mAH) for the higher end model. 

The two new models are described as targetting the mid-range and high-end segments. 

Digitimes has a bit of mixed record on Apple rumors with our internal tracking putting their accuracy at 55%. Examining the rumor more closely, this isn't the first time that a high end or "HD" iPad has been suggested. ThisIsMyNext suggested this possibility back in July. At the time, this "iPad HD" was described as a "pro" device aimed at video and photo professionals. While Apple is widely expected to introduce an Retina-display iPad at some point in 2012, the most recent prevailing rumors have not been suggesting that Apple would split the iPad line into mid and high range models. 

High end iPad questions aside, the other even harder-to-believe claim from Digitimes is the launch of any new device at the Macworld|iWorld conference. Apple officially withdrew from Macworld in December 2008, and Apple's last official presence at the show was in January 2009. Apple had said at the time that trade shows were becoming a very minor part of Apple's overall strategy. They company has been able to successfully launch products on their own timetable by simply holding their own media events with a single week's notice. 

Macworld has continued on with Apple's absence, but with a smaller presence than before. This year, the conference was rebranded to Macworld|iWorld, reflecting the increasing importance of the iOS ecosystem.

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Apple's Continued Patent Offensive Poses Risks for Shareholders

Bloomberg takes a look at the ongoing patent battle between Apple and a number of manufacturers of Android-based mobile hardware, suggesting that continued offensive action seeking to block competitors from using Apple's intellectual property may prove riskier for shareholders than licensing the technology.

“A scorched-earth strategy is bad news because it doesn’t optimize the value of their patents -- because people will get around them,” said [intellectual property advisor Kevin] Rivette, whose clients include Android licensees. “It’s like a dam. Using their patents to keep rivals out of the market is like putting rocks in a stream. The stream is going to find a way around. Wouldn’t it be better to direct where the water goes?”

Rivette suggests that Apple could probably extract about $10 in licensing fees for each Android handset sold, but with Apple having a war chest of over $80 billion already, the company could use its intellectual property as leverage in other ways if it opted to settle with its opponents.

"The company could offer to drop its more than two dozen patent claims against Samsung in exchange for an agreement to hold off using Apple technology for six months or a year, he said. Cook could also try to get price breaks or guarantees that would give it greater access to Samsung parts, Rivette said."

Other industry experts take something of an opposing view, noting that Apple has yet to face any significant threat from its competitors on the intellectual property front, and in the meantime those competitors are being slowed by Apple's aggressive legal actions.

“Apple has the patents, the money and the expertise to go to war,” [MDB Capital Group chairman Christopher] Marlett said. “I just don’t see why Apple would seek détente, since they’re the clear leader. Until they’re hit with an injunction by Google or Samsung, they don’t need to get serious about licensing.”

But even those who believe that Apple's strategy remains viable for now suggest that at some point the company will need to shift course and reach settlements. With innovation obviously still continuing in the industry and an increasing number of players participating in it, it seems likely that Apple will at some point find itself on the losing end of a significant intellectual property suit. 

Once competitors begin to land victories over Apple, as Samsung has been attempting with lawsuits over 3G-related patents, Apple may find it beneficial to settle the ongoing lawsuits to bring some stability back to the market.

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Foxconn Likely to Win Contract for Building Apple Television Set

Following up on yesterday's report claiming that Apple's supply chain is set to begin gearing up for the introduction of 32-inch and 37-inch television sets in 2012, Digitimes now claims to have received more information about companies likely to play roles in supplying components for the products. Among the highest-profile companies involved in the rumors is Apple's primary iOS device manufacturing partner, Foxconn, which is said to also be likely to win the contract for assembly of the television set products.

"Following sources' claims that Samsung Electronics and Sharp will manufacture chips and displays, respectively, for the so-called Apple "iTV," others have suggested that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), Advanced Semiconductor Engineering (ASE) and Siliconware Precision Industries (SPIL) have the potential to win orders for Apple's smart TV. 

Foxconn Electronics (Hon Hai Precision Industry) likely will obtain assembly orders for the Apple smart TV, according to industry sources."

The report goes on to note that Apple is expected to finalize the device design by the end of the second quarter and launch the television sets by the end of the year, claims which are slightly at odds with yesterday's report citing a launch targeted for the second or third quarter. 

Separately, AppleInsider and Forbes report on a new research note from Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu, who suggests that Apple may be interested in disrupting the television industry on the content side by launching its own à la carte live television programming services.

"This is obviously much more complicated (than current offerings) from a licensing standpoint," Wu wrote in a note to investors on Wednesday. "And in our view, would change the game for television and give AAPL a big leg-up against the competition." 

Hardware and technology are not the issues holding back Apple from releasing a television set, he said. Instead, Apple must negotiate unique content deals that will allow the company to differentiate its product from other televisions on the market."

Apple has been said to have developed "new technology" for delivering video content to televisions, and had previously been rumored to be expressing interest in shaking up television with "best of television"subscription packages through iTunes. Resistance from content providers had, however, forced Apple to put those plans on hold.

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Ivy Bridge Processors Launching as Early as April 8?

Earlier this month, leaked information suggested that Intel's next-generation mobile Ivy Bridge processors would debut in May, with a few models perhaps becoming available in April. The mobile Ivy Bridge processors are expected to be used in Apple's MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini lines. 

new report from Digitimes indicates, however, that the first Ivy Bridge processors may launch as early as April 8th, with both the mobile processors and desktop processors such as those used in the iMac debuting around the same timeframe.

"Desktop CPUs to be unveiled include quad-core Core i7-3770K, 3770, 3770S, 3770T, and Core i5-3570, 3550 and 3450, with prices ranging from US$184-332. Additionally, the Core i5-3470T will be available in May priced at US$184. [...] 

Notebook CPUs Core i7-3920Qm, 3820QM and 3720QM will be released in April priced at US$1,096, US$568 and US$378, respectively. Other models including Core i5-3520M, 3360M, 3320M and ultrabook CPUs Core i7-3667U and Core i5-3427U will be unveiled later."

While the report also appears to confuse chipsets being released at the same time with the processors themselves, information on specific processor models does help offer some picture of what Apple might be able to accomplish in terms of updated machines. 

The 3820QM and 3720QM processors in particular appear to be the natural successors to Apple's current processor options in the high-end 15" and 17" MacBook Pro models. Apple's upgrade route in many other cases is less clear given the company's propensity to use custom-produced chips and a limited first wave of Ivy Bridge processors. The Core i7-3667U and Core i5-3427U processors appear to be the only processors in the initial wave of Ivy Bridge processors to meet the thermal design requirements for the MacBook Air, with those processors apparently set for the later May debut. 

Apple has been rumored to be launching a new 15" MacBook Pro with "Retina" display technology in the second quarter of 2012, matching the Ivy Bridge launch timeline. A new 15" MacBook Air has also been rumored alongside an update for the rest of the line in the first quarter of 2012. But with the appropriate Ivy Bridge processors apparently not debuting until May, it is unclear how Apple would meet this timeline.

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Dec 28, 2011

Untethered iOS 5.0.1 Jailbreak Available for Non A5-Devices

Dev-Team and Chronic Dev Team have released an untethered 5.0.1 jailbreak for non-A5 devices. Developed by @pod2g, the new jailbreak is now available:

"A few days ago, @pod2g gave the untether to both the iPhone devteam and the chronic devteam. We’ve put it into redsn0w 0.9.10 and PwnageTool, and the chronic devteam put it into a Cydia package (the same set of exploits is in all three)."

Detailed instructions are available on each respective site. The new jailbreak is only available to devices prior to the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S which both use the A5 processor. Jailbreaks for those devices are still pending. 

This is also the first "untethered" 5.0.1 jailbreak which allows the jailbreak to remain active without having to reconnect to a computer upon reboot. 

Further discussions here, in the comments area and in the MacRumors forums and discussion thread.

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Apple Planning Completely Redesigned iPhone for Fall 2012 Launch?

BGR reports that Apple is planning to launch a completely redesigned iPhone in the fall of next year, following the trend set by the iPhone 4S of new hardware being released later in the year as opposed to the mid-year timeframe used previously. 

According the report, the next iPhone will utilize an aluminum back panel rather than the glass found on the iPhone 4 and 4S. The new design will reportedly also see the incorporation of a rubber or plastic bezel covering similar to that used on Apple's iPhone bumpers, with the covering serving to protect the device's antennas from direct skin contact.

"We have also learned that Apple is planning to use a rubber or plastic material — similar to the material used in the company’s bumper cases — that will be built into the new iPhone case. In all likelihood, this material will be used as a bezel surrounding the front edge of the phone (like the iPhone 3GS bezel) and it will serve two purposes. First, it will join the glass iPhone face with a new aluminum back plate. It will also cover a redesigned antenna system that surrounds the device, allowing Apple to build the rear case out of aluminum without having to use a large plastic insert above the antennas as the company does on its iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G."

BGR has a mixed track record when it comes to hardware rumors, coming relatively close on Apple's late 2011 iPhone lineup while missing with a claim of a redesigned WiMAX iPhone 5 exclusive to Sprint.

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Holiday Gifts Drive New iOS Device Activations Sharply Higher

While it seems obvious that the holiday gift-giving season is a strong driver for iOS device sales, as evidenced in part by past history and Apple's forecast of a blockbuster quarter, it is generally difficult to quantify that holiday boost before Apple reports device sales as part of its quarterly earnings or makes public statements about App Store milestones. 

A couple of analytics firms have, however, put out reports today seeking to offer some measure of the bump in demand for iOS devices and those of competing platforms such as Android

According to Flurry, both iOS and Android saw a "massive influx" of devices registering on the firm's servers, coming in through the over 140,000 apps using Flurry Analytics. Data collated by Flurry shows that combined new device activations for iOS and Android rose from an average of 1.5 million per day during the first three weeks of December to 6.8 million devices on Christmas Day, an increase of 353%. This compares to a total of 2.8 million new devices detected on the previous record-setting day of Christmas 2010. 

All of those new device activations also drove increased App Store activity, with Flurry measuring an increase of 125% in iOS and Android app downloads on Christmas Day compared to the early December baseline. Flurry's data shows that the 242 million app downloads on Christmas Day spiked from an average of 108 million per day during the first three weeks of the month. Flurry notes that the increase in app downloads is smaller than that for new device activations on a percentage basis due to the higher baseline from apps being installed onto the already-large installed base of devices. 

Illustrating how different analytics firms can see somewhat different patterns due in part to what data is used for baseline purposes, Localytics issued a report showing iOS device activations coming in more than 12 times higher during the holiday weekend than they did during previous weekends. The increase was over 15x for iOS devices as a whole in the United States, with the iPod performing strongly at a 21x increase due to the relative lower cost and lack of service contract, factors which make them relatively more popular as gifts than iPhones or iPads. 

Comparing iOS to Android, Localytics found that Android also grew at approximately 12.5x over baseline. Localytics also looked at country-by-country comparisons, showing iOS outpacing Android in terms of growth in the United States, Germany, and the UK, while Android performed better in most of the other top countries.

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