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iPhone sales are about to explode

A new report from the Wall Street Journal points to iPhone sales exploding over the next few months.

It’s a song and dance that’s become somewhat of a routine: just as analysts believe iPhone sales are on the verge of peaking, new evidence suggests that the iPhone is about to become more popular than ever.

According to a report published on Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, Apple recently asked its suppliers overseas to gear up for a production run of about 85 to 90 million iPhone units. By way of contrast, Apple during the build-up to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus release anticipated orders in the 70 to 75 million unit range. In other words, Apple’s iPhone sales during the company’s next refresh cycle could skyrocket by upwards of 28%.

As for what features the iPhone 6s will bring to the table, it’s been widely reported that Apple’s new iPhone models will include a Force Touch display. It remains to be seen, however, how such a feature will translate into real-world usage on a smartphone. As for other features, users can look forward to faster internals, 2GB of RAM, and an improved Touch ID sensor.

Additionally, the Journal adds that the iPhone 6s may come in an additional color to the current lineup of silver, gold, and space gray. While this remains to be seen, some previous rumors on this topic have suggested that Apple is exploring both Rose Gold and Pink color options.

So while Apple Watch sales may be lagging, according to some reports, Apple’s primary revenue generator — the iPhone — appears to be healthier than ever before.
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Pricing a low-cost iPhone: How ‘cheap’ is cheap?

How, and why, Apple may price an “iPhone 5C”

Though still unsubstantiated, a low-cost iPhone is now widely seen as a possible product announcement in early September, along with a new high-end phone. And it’s finally possible to create a coherent explanation of why such a move makes sense for Apple in 2013.

Analyses by a range of Apple watchers and others now paint a picture of a lower-cost iPhone, often dubbed “iPhone C,” selling for under $400, and as low as $300. It would have full support for the soon-to-be-released iOS 7, but lower-end hardware and features compared to the current top of the line iPhone 5.

[Background: 5 years ago they said iPhone would flop. Now?]

Such an average selling price would put the low-cost iPhone close to the range of Android phones globally, but not at the very bottom of their price range. The price paid by consumers could be even lower through promotions, special offers, and by offering it with a two-year mobile contract.

The new phone hardware features would be contrasted with the expected high-end “iPhone 5S,” the 2013 iPhone model, which presumably will have the same starting retail price as the iPhone 5: $649 for the 16-Gbyte model. The 5S could have a more powerful processor, improved camera, and possibly a fingerprint scanner integrated with the phone’s home button, all setting it apart from the low-cost phone, and from the existing iPhone 5. By contrast, iPhone 5C can realize cost savings by using a plastic instead of metal body, possibly using the iPhone 5’s existing A6 processor (or a tweaked version of it), less memory, and having only a front-facing camera. Yet it would give the “full iPhone experience” by virtue of supporting all of iOS and its attendant cloud services.

Between these two, Apple can then discount the iPhone 5, offering just the 16-Gbyte model at $549 full retail, or lower via promotions and two-year contracts.

As Apple watcher John Gruber argues, Apple’s model for the low-cost iPhone could be the iPod Touch, which starts at $229 for the 16-Gbyte model, introduced earlier this year without the rear-facing 5 megapixel camera still found on the 32- and 64-Gbyte Touch models (but it retains a 1.2 megapixel at the front for FaceTime video chatting, and for video and still photos.

“Take an iPod Touch and add cellular networking components. Boom, there’s your lower-priced iPhone,” he writes.

Apple charges $130 to add a cellular radio to the Wi-Fi-only iPad. At that price, a cellular-equipped 32-Gbyte iPod Touch would be $429, or $359 for the 16-Gbyte Touch. But Gruber believes the $130 is a premium and the actual cost of the radio is much less.

“All told, I think Apple could build and sell an iPod Touch-caliber iPhone 5C for $399, possibly as low as $349,” Gruber concludes.

That’s a lower price point than suggested in this analysis – “How will iPhones 5S and 5C be priced?” — by Asymco’s Horace Dediu, an independent analyst who covers the mobile market.

He drew on Apple’s data on average selling price for both iPhone and iPad models, made a number of assumptions about the mix of models, and compared how the ASP tracked over time for both product lines. Here’s the diagram.

As he notes, the iPad 3 was replaced with a “’bracketed’ portfolio of the higher-priced iPad 4 and the lower-priced iPad mini. Note also that the mini reflects similar pricing to the legacy iPad 2.”

Based on this iPad bracketing, Dediu assumes that Apple will do the same with the upcoming 5S and 5C. “This means that the 5C will take up the [average selling price] trajectory of the 4S while the 5S will take up the upper bracket around $650,” he concludes.

The end result: 5S starts in the $650 range at the high end, the discounted 5 at about $550, and the low-end 5C at something under $500, perhaps close to $450.

The final price for the low-end iPhone will hinge in part on the savings Apple can achieve in hardware, and in part on how much lower a profit margin it will accept for the cheaper handset.

Apple may be willing to quite aggressive with regard to margin and price for the 5C, according to an analysis by Benedict Evans, who writes about mobile technology for, among other outlets, Enders Analysis, a subscription research service. In his own blog, Evans posted an excerpt, “Defending iOS with cheap iPhones,” from his more extensive Enders analysis.

Evans argues that the key change in the competitive dynamic between Android and iOS is not mainly the larger number of Android devices sold compared to iOS devices – raw market share. What’s really important is that Android users are finally starting to do more with their Android smartphones.

“Android has had a larger installed base than iOS since mid-2011, but [user] engagement remained far behind,” Evans writes. “Until well into 2012 publishers and developers tended to see app download rates on Android of a half to a quarter of what they experienced on iOS, in absolute terms, while payment and purchase rates were a quarter or lower of iOS rates.”

That has now changed, he says, with engagement measures rising for Android. “Hence, by the first half of 2013 Android cumulative downloads caught up with iOS (both at around 50bn), and both now see a run-rate of something around five apps downloaded per active device per month.”

“If total Android engagement moves decisively above iOS, the fact that iOS will remain big will be beside the point,” Evans writes. “This is a major strategic threat for Apple. A key selling point for the iPhone (though not the only one) is that the best apps are on iPhone and are on iPhone first. If that does change then the virtuous circle of ‘best apps therefore best users therefore best apps’ will start to unwind and the wide array of Android devices at every price point will be much more likely to erode the iPhone base.”

A successful low-priced iPhone can block that erosion. “A new, cheaper, high-volume iPhone would have the potential to mitigate or even reverse this trend,” according to Evans. “Clearly, like current low-end Android, [iPhone 5C] would sell to a demographic with a lower average engagement and purchase rate and so the average iOS rates would drop. However, it would mean that iOS’s reach would expand significantly at the expense of Android. How would a $200 or $300 iPhone sell? Easily double digit millions, possible up to 50m units a quarter.”

Clearly that projection would change if the iPhone 5C was priced higher. If Evans is right, the iPhone 5C is intended to counter this “strategic threat,” and not simply add incremental revenue and profits.

“This means that the financial value of a cheaper iPhone cannot be considered in isolation,” he concludes. “A large part of its purpose is to defend sales of the high-end model.”

Many had expected that the iPad mini would be priced under $300. Instead, Apple slapped on a $329 price tag. It’s possible the low-ball estimates for the low-cost iPhone will also prove too low. Evans himself says Android phones average $250-300 globally versus $600 for the iPhone. A low-cost iPhone for around $350 may achieve Apple’s goals.



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Will Windows Phone feel any pain after getting dumped by LG?

Claiming sales are too weak, did LG make a valid point in dumping Windows Phone, or an excuse to avoid competing with Nokia? How about both?

Ahead of a meeting between their CEOs, Korea’s LG Electronics has decided to shun any more Windows Phone products because there have yet to be “meaningful” sales.

That should get the meeting off to a good start.

The electronics manufacturer told the Korean Herald this week that Windows Phone devices are just not selling well enough worldwide to warrant continued manufacturing WP phones. Instead, LG will turn its focus to the Android platform.

RELATED: Expected Windows Phone 8 features justify Samsung’s decision to hold out

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“The total unit of Windows Phone sold in the global market is not a meaningful figure,” a LG spokesman told the Herald, adding that the company currently has no plans of rolling out another LG-manufactured Windows Phone soon.

The company will “continue research and development efforts” on Windows Phones. Translation: we give up, unless it takes off in the marketplace.

RELATED: The Nokia Lumia 900: Pros and cons compared to the iPhone 4s

It’s not exactly a huge loss for Microsoft. LG is getting its you-know-what handed to it by Samsung. The Herald notes that the mobile business unit’s performance has consistently failed to meet expectations, with operating losses for seven consecutive quarters. It was only when the company focused on LTE Android phones that it got back into the black

It’s not like Windows Phone will suffer as a result of this decision, either. Microsoft still has HTC, Nokia and Samsung, all of which are clobbering LG. And with all the hoopla around the Nokia Lumia 900, including raves from Steve Wozniak, it’s easy to see why LG would get its feelings hurt.

Still, it’s embarrassing PR for Microsoft to lose a mobile partner, especially one that had previously gone all in for the Windows Phone OS. Back in 2009, Microsoft and LG signed a partnership in which LG chose Microsoft’s mobile OS as its main phone platform, committing to manufacturing up to 26 Windows Phones for 2012.

So, if nothing else, the lawyers might get involved, which will do nothing to help sell phones..

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Enterprise IT likes what it sees in new iPad

Display, processing & LTE outfit new iPads for demanding users

The new third-generation Apple iPad is generally a hit with a sampling of enterprise users, based on quick reactions from half a dozen IT professionals and consultants. All like the greatly enhanced display, the graphics processing boost and 4G LTE wireless support.
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But a few were hoping for a bigger processing boost or one of several specific features, a number of which Apple seems unlikely to ever deliver (like support for Adobe Flash Web content). And several noted that the real locus for enterprise benefits, and problems, lies in the latest update to the iOS firmware (release 5.1 for the new iPad), about which Apple has had little to say publicly.

Dubbed simply the “new iPad,” Apple’s latest tablet features double the screen resolution of the iPad 2 and four times the pixels at 2048 x 1536, a slightly beefed up dual-core CPU (the A5X) with a new quad-core graphics processor, LTE cellular support, voice dictation, and a greatly improved rear-facing 5-megapixel camera. It will run iOS 5.1 and be available starting next week. Importantly, both pricing and battery life are unchanged.

Inside the iPad’s worldwide ubiquity

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“The processor speed, 4G, and improved screen resolutions are all big pluses for the enterprise,” says Manoj Prasad, vice president of global applications and testing for Life Technologies, a biotech products company in Carlsbad, Calif., with a growing iPad deployment. “4G, the new processor speed and improved screen resolutions will allow IT to port more backend applications like Oracle, and Siebel to iPad.”

But he still thinks the tablet can’t yet substitute for laptops. “It still lacks the capabilities to completely replace laptops, making the ROI calculation for iPad difficult,” Prasad says.

Others say Apple’s priorities for the new iPad means it can be applied in entirely new, emerging areas where laptops make no sense, or at least no sense anymore.

“For an understanding of where the iPad is going it’s critical to note the focus on processing power and resolution,” says Benjamin Levy, a principal with Solutions Consulting, a Los Angeles firm that specializes in Apple and iOS deployments for enterprise customers. “The iPad is no longer an addition to existing platforms and work structures but is now fully capable on its own and will be defining new ways of working with media in the professional space.”

“The new iPad can be seen as more of a tool for digital media than ever before, able to work with high resolution DSLRs [digital single lens reflex camera images] and video, high resolution audio files, high resolution graphics files, etc.,” Levy adds.

Although lacking the quad-core CPU that many were expecting, these users see real performance gains with the new iPad.

“The combination of the retina display, the [new A5X] chip and 4G/LTE is going to make the iPad an even more productive business device,” says Hugh Owens, director of mobile at MicroStrategy, a business intelligence and analytics software vendor with an extensive iPad 2 deployment, and with iPad customers. “4G will enable users of MicroStrategy Mobile [the company’s iOS application] to pull down analytics even faster, and our native app is already positioned to take advantage of the A5X chip for faster and more compelling rendering.”

“The iPad continues to be a great business device in consumer clothing,” he adds.

“Overall, the new iPad is a significant upgrade. Apple is going to sell a boatload of these,” says Derick Okihara, IT technician at Mid-Pacific Institute inHonolulu, where he oversees the iPad and iPhone deployments. “In our environment, having a solid camera capable of 1080p video, faster graphics for apps, and the high resolution display, make the iPad that much more useful, especially for students.”

Levy sees camera applications that go beyond snapshots and home videos. “The camera improvements will be very useful, especially in custom apps for data entry, bar code reading, situation reports and documentation,” he says. “Couple that camera with a decent custom app and many [enterprise] workflows can be changed for the better.”

The new iPad is now more clearly, and effectively, a platform for creating new kinds of apps, and content, exploiting images, video, high-definition audio, in new ways, according to Randy Saeks, network manager, Northbrook/Glenview School District 30, Northbrook, Illinois, another iPad site.

“What I see in the announcement today is really showing that an iPad isn’t just a consumption device but has the ability to create really rich, engaging content,” he says. “With a lot of the [new] app updates and announcements — iMovie, iPhoto, the iWork suite, as well as what is added to the hardware with a great display and improved camera — it opens the door for how they can be used in classrooms and creative environments.”

“Especially with looking at [the question of] what kinds of devices to put in the hands of our students, the value for what you can do with the new iPad and [its] associated cost is much more attractive than it was with the first iPad announcement,” Saeks says.

Most of these users agreed they see no IT-specific implications in the new iPad, at least yet. “I’m not seeing any challenges to support the new devices,” Saeks says.

“I’ll have to take a deeper dive into iOS 5.1,” says James Gordon, vice president of IT at Needham Bank, a small community bank in Massachusetts that has deployed iOS devices among a majority of its staff and the board of directors.

An enterprise consultant with a federal systems integrator, who requested anonymity, echoed that attitude. “I hope to see more with iOS 5.1 once that is released,” he says.

Apple’s decision to cut the price of the iPad 2 by $100, bringing the entry-level price to $399, may have a significant impact on deployments. “This opens up possibilities, especially in education markets with a lower buy-in price point,” says Okihara. “$100 x 1,000+ [units] is significant.”

Levy agrees. “By lowering the price on the iPad 2 while bringing advances into the new iPad, Apple is able to deliver new technology and features quickly to those who want them right away, while removing some of the barrier of entry to those who don’t yet have an iPad,” he says.

Gordon was hoping the rumors of a quad-core CPU were true. And at Life Technologies, where a lot of content is in Adobe Flash, the continued and apparently eternal lack of iOS support for that technology remains a complaint.

Prasad at Life Technologies also says he’d like to see direct video output for iPads.

“The bar for tablets and mobile computers has been set very high [with the new iPad],” says Gordon.

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Microsoft extends operator billing platform for Windows Phone apps

Microsoft has struck a deal which will make it easier for more Windows Phone users to pay for Marketplace apps via their phone bill. Payments on Microsoft Marketplace are handled by Microsoft’s new Commerce Platform, which it has now integrated with the Direct Billing Gateway (DBG) developed by Mach.

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The integration makes it easier for mobile carriers to add operator billing, according to Mach. Among the first to profit from the new arrangement will be customers of Canadian operator Telus Communications.

For users, operator billing makes the payment process easier, according to Charles Damen, vice president Mobile Billing and Payments at Mach. They can just click to buy, without having to enter credit card details or store them on the app store servers, Damen said.

Microsoft made its first connection to Mach’s gateway in January last year, but, so far, take-up has been slow. Mach says 50 operators use DBG to bill for content downloads and applications, but only two are using it to offer direct billing for Windows Phone users: Telus and Australia’s Telstra.

The growing variety of Windows Phones has increased the interest for Microsoft’s operating system, according to Damen, who expects more carriers will join Telus and Telstra this year, but isn’t willing to announce any details. Mobile carriers have also been upgrading their own systems to be able to handle the billing method, he said.

Operator billing options on Android and Windows Phone allow carriers to be part of app stores, in contrast to Apple’s App Store, which completely excludes operators from the application billing process.

Today, operators such as Vodafone, Telenor, Sprint and AT&T offer users the option to pay for apps on their monthly bill. Orange and T-Mobile have also added operator billing for Windows Phone apps using other payment platforms.

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Apple second place in UK’s largest online retailers; Amazon retains top spot

Apple’s online store has become the second-most visited online retail site in the UK, beaten only by retail giant, according to new research.

New data from Experian Hitwise and IMRG shows that Apple has jumped six-places north of its previous slot to beat Argos as the second-place contender in the UK online retail space, with no let up in sight from Amazon, which still reigns supreme ahead of other major brands.

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But Apple is catching up, with Apple accounting for one in every 250 visits from UK web users in last month alone. In total, 14 million visits to the Apple online store were recorded, an increase of five-fold.

Between August and October, Argos who previously held second place slipped to third, grocery and supermarket chain Tesco remained at fourth place, followed by clothing chain Next, then Marks & Spencer, and then online music and video store

The iPhone 4S launch, along with the passing of co-founder Steve Jobs, according to the research, pushed the UK web traffic to its “highest ever levels for Apple” in October. Previous to the smartphone’s launch, the increasing popularity of the iPad tablet pushed Apple’s online sales through the roof.

Tablets seem to be at the forefront of the online retail game for the upcoming Christmas festivities — the main holiday season in the UK, which does not celebrate Thanksgiving — as Amazon expects its Kindle to be one of the online giants biggest seller. “It will be fascinating to see just how influential tablets become for consumers”, Tina Spooner, IMRG’s chief information officer said.

IMRG estimates that £3.72 billion ($5.8 billion) will be spent online alone during the peak-week in the run up to Christmas, between November 28th and December 5th.

eBay recently announced it would open up a store in London’s West End during the same busy season, as part of an experiment to bring online shoppers to a retail store. Though shoppers will not walk home with any goods from the store, users will be able to browse the online auction house from in-store tablets and smartphones, and have them delivered to their front door at a later date.

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Apple’s iPhone 4S issues show the problem with being an early adopter

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the iPhone 4S has been having more than its share of issues over the past few days. But should early adopters be surprised?

Here’s the rundown:

First, the battery life. Dubbed “batterygate” the iPhone 4S’s biggest problem so far has been characterized by inexplicably bad battery life. On Wednesday, Apple eventually dropped a few, mostly vague details on the causes of the issues, which the company ascribed to bugs in iOS 5. “A small number of customers have reported lower than expected battery life on iOS 5 devices”, Apple said in a statement. “We have found a few bugs that are affecting battery life and we will release a software update to address those in a few weeks.”
But that wasn’t the last of Apple’s problems. The latest set of issues involve Siri, the now-beloved voice assistant plugged into the iPhone 4S. Since 11AM on Thursday users have reported a pretty widespread outage of the Siri software. So far Apple hasn’t said anything on the cause if the issues, – which isn’t much a surprise considering it tends to be how Apple handles these sorts of things. Explained or not, the loss of Siri is a big deal for many users, many of whom picked up the iPhone 4S for that very functionality.

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But in the midst of the outage it is easy to forget one thing: as robust as Siri currently is, the software is still in beta. Apple doesn’t say this too loudly, of course.  Instead the company relegates the mentioning of Siri’s beta distinction to a small bit of print on the software’s page: “Siri is available in Beta only on iPhone 4S and requires Internet access.” Perhaps Siri’s current issues should be understood within that context.

Either way, the beta label is an interesting one and leads, somewhat inevitably, to the question of whether all new devices be given the same title. After all, less than a month has passed since the iPhone 4S was released. Shouldn’t a few hardware and software hiccups be a given? Early adopters of the Xbox 360 and countless other devices have also felt the effects of buying into a new technology early on. It’s called the early adopter tax, and is rarely ever a good thing. Then again, its just as easy to argue the opposite: Products that come to market should be complete ones, not bug-filled, semi-complete releases. Whatever direction a new product goes, its the early adopters that are hit with the bulk of the issues. And that’s not an enviable position to be in.

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Apple mulling end of life for Mac Pro line, report says

Apple’s line of high-end desktop towers could be more endangered than originally thought, with a new report claiming that the company is considering shelving what is currently its most expensive product.

Citing anonymous sources, AppleInsider says that a sharp decline in sales of the workstations, which begin at $2,499 in the U.S., have led executives to reconsider whether it’s worth continuing to invest in the product line.

“People familiar with the matter said management as far back as May of 2011 were in limbo over whether to pour any additional resources into the product line,” the report says.

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An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying the company does not comment on rumors and speculation.

Apple does not break down its sales numbers by device, and only lists them by product category, with the most recent fiscal quarter pulling in sales of 4.89 million Macs. Yet most of those in this most recent quarter, as well as in the past few years, have been the company’s portables. During its fourth quarter earnings call, the company noted that sales were “fueled by the very strong growth of the MacBook Air, as well as the continued strong performance of the MacBook Pro.” All told, those two portables accounted for 74 percent of the Mac sales for the quarter, with desktop sales being led not by the Mac Pro, but by Apple’s iMac instead.

Apple last updated its Mac Pro line on July 27, 2010 (that’s 1 year, 3 months and 4 days ago if you’re counting), bumping up the processing power to 12 cores and moving to speedier graphics cards. The exterior design has remained relatively unchanged since before the company made its move to Intel processors. A report from MacRumors last week suggested that the next update to the hardware might not come until the first quarter of 2012, given recent delays to Intel’s Sandy Bridge E processor line.

If Apple were to shelve its Mac Pro line it would further bring into question Apple’s involvement in the professional market, something that has been under a microscope over the past few years. Most recently, that shift can be seen with the company’s transition from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X, a jump that left a number of video professionals dissatisfied after Apple omitted key workflow features. Apple countered, saying that the new version of the software represents a complete rethink of that particular software line, the likes of the jump from Mac OS 9 to OS X. A similar effort has been rumored to be in the works for Apple’s audio software Logic, which has gone the longest without a major release among Apple’s line of pro software.

On the hardware side, pros have also taken aim at Apple for moving to glossy screens on its notebooks by default, as well as making the batteries on those units unable to be swapped in favor of delivering longer battery life.

In either case, there’s no arguing the fact that desktop sales just weren’t what they used to be compared to when Apple introduced the original design of the Mac Pro (then the Power Mac G5) in mid-2003. While Mac hardware sales have grown considerably overall, notebooks have been the belle of the ball since they surpassed the company’s sales of desktop computers in 2004. Those same notebook units now face cannibalization from Apple’s iPad, which itself blew past Mac sales last year.

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Make any Surface TouchScreen

We’ve seen how you can use your hand as TouchScreen. However, with the hack finally being mastered with Kinect technology, you can make just any surface touch screen, no matter what.

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Microsoft researchers have come up with a way to make devices sensitive to touch input through fabric — for silencing a phone or even entering text without taking the device out of a pocket or bag.

PocketTouch uses a custom sensor on the back of a smartphone that can detect multitouch gestures even through heavy fleece or a jacket pocket. The The first prototype is complete and we would see a demonstration sometime soon.

Microsoft uses “orientation-defining unlock gesture” that essentially tells the device which way is up, thereby removing the problem where device can be in a different orientation inside pockets. Grid of touch sensors can detect finger strokes through cloth and hence make it possible to have a specific unlock gesture that reorientates the screen each time you use it – avoiding the need to flip your phone upside down before using the interface.


OmniTouch makes any surface touch compatible. OmniTouch uses a a pico projector and a depth camera (like Kinect) to let people interact with programs projected onto their skin or other surfaces. Users can define the size and location of their own interfaces, or let the system decide the best choice of display.

The researcher calls it a “mega Kinect hack” and an extension of his previous device which could only work on skin. While the prototype device is quite bulky, soon it would be possible to reduce the size of the equipment to the size of matchbox.

Both systems are being presented this week at the User Interface Software and Technology symposium in Santa Barbara, California.

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Samsung tries to stop iPhone 4S sales in Australia

Samsung just isn’t willing to go down without a fight.

After losing an important patent battle with Apple in Australia last week, the company has now fired back with Apple’s new iPhone 4S in its crosshairs.

Samsung today filed an injunction request in an Australia court, saying that Apple’s iPhone 4S, which launched on Friday, violates wireless patents it holds. According to ZDNet Australia, a CNET sister site, Samsung argues that Apple’s new smartphone (in addition to the iPhone 4 and iPad 2) violate three patents in Australia. In a similar suit filed today in Japan, Samsung argues that those devices violate four of its patents.

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In Australia, the patents relate to the use of wireless technology, including WCDMA and HSPA, in mobile devices. According to ZDNet Australia, the patents in the Japanese suit relate to HSPA and user-interface elements.

Apple launched its iPhone 4S on Friday. The device features the same exterior design as its predecessor, the iPhone 4, but comes with a host of improvements, including a dual-core processor and an 8-megapixel camera. The device is running Apple’s latest operating system release, iOS 5.

For months now, Apple and Samsung have been locked in a bitter patent battle over the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet. Apple argues that the tablet copies its iPad, while Samsung argues that this isn’t the case. However, last week, the federal court of Australia agreed with Apple, and barred the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from sale in that country until a full patent case can be heard.

That ruling came just before a U.S. District Court judge in Northern California said that Samsung’s devices violate patents that Apple holds in the U.S., but the iPhone maker must prove that the patents it holds are, in fact, valid. So far, no injunction has been ordered in the U.S.

Last week’s rulings are just the latest setbacks for Samsung and its mobile products. In the Netherlands, the company has been forced to rework its Galaxy S, Galaxy S II, and Ace smartphones, so it can continue selling the devices after a court ruled they violated Apple patents. In Germany, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has been barred from sale due to alleged infringement on Apple patents.

But in Australia in particular, Samsung seemingly believes that the best defense is a good offense. Prior to this latest filing, the company took aim at Apple’s iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, arguing that those devices violate patents it holds.

Neither Samsung nor Apple immediately responded to CNET’s request for comment on the latest lawsuit.

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iOS 5: Excellent, Awesome and Somewhat Confusing

Apple claims there are something like 200 new feature in iOS 5, so it’ll probably be a long time before most users happen to find all or even most of them. The biggest standouts, though, include improvements to the Camera app, a new Notifications Center, and of course, iCloud. That last one is one of the biggest things to hit iOS for a while, and for now it’s still a little tricky to figure out.

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After learning that it would cost me US$449 to upgrade from my iPhone 4 to an iPhone 4S, I pushed the pause button on those plans and decided to see how iOS 5 on my iPhone 4 shakes out first. After all, it’s not as if I don’t appreciate my iPhone 4. It’s a great phone, quite serviceable, and now, with iOS 5, it’s better than it was just a few days ago.

Where do I start? Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) boasts 200 new features in iOS 5, and for sure, I haven’t found or noticed more than a fraction of them. Sure, some of them, like Siri, the new intelligent assistant app that listens to voice commands and then implements them, belong only to the iPhone 4S and the wicked-fast hardware packed inside. Other features have to do with iCloud integration, which in fact seems to be mostly what iOS 5 is all about — providing users with easy access to files and communications services from the sky.

First, the New Camera App

Just because iPhone 4 owners can’t get the sweet new 8 megapixel, 1080p-HD-video-shooting camera like the one in the iPhone 4S doesn’t mean Apple doesn’t know how to spread the love: Now, finally, I can use the up or “+” volume button to snap a photo or start a video. Better yet, when my iPhone 4 is asleep, I can double-tap the home button, which will bring up a lock screen that offers a camera icon button that will launch the camera app. The big deal? I can go from iPhone-in-my-pants-pocket to snapping-a-photo faster than ever before. (That’s right, Bigfoot should be afraid, very afraid.)

Before iOS 5, after you snapped a photo, cropping it to make it ready to send to another phone or email it meant that you had to move it into a separate image-editing app. For most of my cropping needs, this little hoop-jump meant that I didn’t bother cropping at all. In addition, Apple offered up a magic editing wand to help automatically clean up some photos, along with a red eye correction feature. Since I rarely blind my portrait victims with the iPhone’s harsh LED flash, this is a rare need for me.
Next, Reminders

The one app I was really looking forward to was Reminders, a handy and clean little task manager app. It’s pretty lightweight compared to some of the robust and feature-rich task managing applications on the market, but where it compensates is the notifications features: You can quickly and easily set the iPhone to remind you about something — whatever you jotted down — on a particular day at a particular time, or when you leave or arrive at a particular place, or both: on a day at a time and if you leave or arrive at an address.

I set a real reminder with a fake notification, and as I was driving out of my neighborhood early in the morning, I heard a weird notification noise come from my iPhone. Sure enough, I had left the area, so it was reminding me to do what I wanted to do. What makes this cool? Say, for example, you want to buy a special item from a store at the mall, but you’re not going to make a special trip to your local mall just to get this item. You can create a reminder and set it to holler next time you drive by or arrive at the mall. Boom. No more forgetting esoteric little tasks — as long as you use Reminders, of course.
No More Android Envy, We Get a Notification Center Too

Some of the features that I most appreciate on other smartphones are the notification centers and the ability to consolidate the latest action on your phone into your home screen. Now, with Apple’s Notification Center feature, we get that sort of option, though it’s all based on alerts.

As new email, text messages, voicemail, stock tickers, weather reports, or notifications from your favorite compatible apps come in, you can see them at a glance on your iPhone lock screen. Swipe them and you can jump right into the application — for instance, right into a text message. If you’re working in an app and get some notifications, a bar will appear at the top. Swipe from it down, and boom, you’ll see all your notifications in a well-designed, swipeable layout. It’s gorgeous, actually. Get some notifications and you can enjoy it too.

Figuring out all the apps and the notifications can be a bit daunting, though, but at least Apple lets you decide how you want to let the apps (and which apps) notify you via notifications.

Another big new feature (of the 200) is iMessage, which is Apple’s new messaging service that lets you avoid your cellular service provider’s text messaging service in favor of using WiFi or iPhone Internet data access. If someone has an iPhone, iPad or iPod with iOS 5, you can send instant messages through Apple’s iMessage, which is built into the messages app.

This is a little confusing because it requires registering users with iMessage, and so far, I haven’t been able to put it to work much because no one I know and want to message with has their iGadgets on iOS 5 yet! When they do, I can “text” them with photos, videos, locations, contacts and funny sentences from my WiFi-only iPad 2 — or vice versa. I can see parents texting their young children on their iPod touches — or letting kids who aren’t yet old enough for cellphones to “text” each other through their Apple iGadgets.

Sure, it feels like cellular service companies are ripping us off by charging freakish prices for texts, but then again, I still think it’s magic when I’m driving across the country with desolate tumbleweeds blowing around … and I can still call my mom. So thank you cellular service providers. Meanwhile, I really like the ability to text any device no matter how it’s “connected” and not have to have everyone shell out for traditional texting plans.
Safari and iCloud

Another handy feature of iOS 5 is a much-improved Safari. On my iPad 2, I can now use tabbed browsing (but not on the iPhone), and on both I can save URLs to my Reading List (like on Mac OS X) for easy access later. I can also use the Reader feature to zoom into just the relevant text of an article online for easier, clutter-free reading. This last bit is awesome when you’re holding a small screen in your hand.

Last of all, the big new feature that I’m still learning is iCloud and the ability for me to avoid syncing through iTunes on my MacBook. There’s a lot here, and iCloud warrants plenty of special looks by writers and users alike.

For starters, it’s a synchronization service that keeps all your data synced up on each of your iOS devices — documents, photos, your email. Apple’s individual apps can use it, and third-party app developers will be able to also. It’s also an online storage locker, and apparently I’ll be able to access anything I’ve purchased through my iTunes account via iCloud. Nice. Haven’t really tried it yet, but I’m sure I will.

I’ll like this especially because it means I won’t have to plan out my media before I leave for a big trip. There’s also Photo Stream, which I’m not sure I’ll like or not. I take plenty of photos on my iPhone that I don’t really want to appear anywhere else. So I’ll have to see how that shakes out.

In the meantime, iOS 5 appears stable, looks cooler in subtle ways like green bubbles in Messages or new rocker switches, and offers up a lot of promise for more fun and better productivity.

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iPhone 5 rumor rollup for the week ending Aug. 26

Next Apple iPhone on sale in October, new parts, new carriers, and Steve Jobs’ PR plot

As Hurricane Irene closes in on the East Coast, iOSsphere rumors of iPhone 5 ticked up slightly to Category 2. Fueled by hot air, rumors broke out about iPhone 5 sales starting in October, a new battery design and audio jack flex cable, new carriers, Steve Jobs’ cunning PR plot, and much less.


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You read it here second.
“A dubious source from a no-name site — but it makes sense!” — Gizmodo, covering without a trace of irony a rumor that iPhone 5 is coming to T-Mobile

iPhone 5 will go on sale in October, at least at AT&T.
Citing “one of our high-level AT&T sources,” Jonathan Geller at Boy Genius Report reveals that an “AT&T Vice President has confirmed to several employees that the iPhone 5 is slated to launch in early October.”

In the iOSsphere, “launch” is used interchangeably to mean “announcing a new product” and “making a new product available for purchase.” Geller here means the latter.

But there’s more. “Additionally, the VP communicated the following to a group of managers …” Your breath catches, your pulse races. You think, “LTE? Lower price? The return of unlimited data plans?”

But no: “Expect things to get really, really busy in the next 35-50 days, so prepare your teams accordingly.” Oh.

The fact that this rumor has not merely a source but a high-level AT&T source, means “this particular rumor is worth paying attention to because BGR was one of the first sites to heavily push a September release for the iPhone 5,” reasons Devinda Hardawar at VentureBeat. “I don’t suspect the site would backtrack on its previous reports unless it had a legitimate reason to …”

The best kind of rumors are the ones grounded in facts.

Apple will reveal the date for the iPhone 5 announcement on Monday, Aug. 29.

That’s the conclusion of Beatweek’s Bill Palmer, who uncovers Steve Jobs’ cunning PR plot.

How can he know? Because Steve Jobs resigned on Wednesday, Aug. 24. It makes complete sense, of course.

“Steve Jobs just resigned his Apple CEO position, and on a Wednesday no less,” Palmer writes. “This is the strongest evidence yet that Apple will send out invites for an iPhone 5 event as soon as next week.”

He reasons that the Jobs resignation is such bad news that Apple wants to bury it under good news. And what could be gooder than the iPhone 5?

BACKGROUND: Steve Jobs: “I hereby resign as CEO of Apple”

“The remedy for getting the Jobs news out of the Free MCTS TrainingMCTS Online Training . tech headlines, then, is to put out the iPhone 5 news quickly thereafter so that attention shifts as quickly as possible,” Palmer theorizes. “Jobs and his PR team likely decided to hold this news until the iPhone 5 was just about ready to be announced, so as to deliver the two in a one-two counter punch which would cancel out the former with the latter. The fact that the news was pushed out mid-week means that Apple is looking for this news cycle to have fully dissipated by the end of the weekend, with no Monday carryover. That in turn suggests that by Monday, Apple will be looking to turn attention elsewhere.”

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