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NPR One Delivers A Curated Public Radio Stream For The Smartphone Era

Posted by | July 28, 2014.
npr-one

Radio is an increasingly perplexing mode of content delivery as we gain access to more and better streaming services with on-demand programming. But the serendipity of radio is still appealing, the ability to turn on and tune in without having to monitor, tweak and pester. That’s why it’s great that NPR is looking to deliver its public programming in a way that combines the benefits… Read More
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Supply Chain Sources Claim December Launch for 5.5-Inch iPhone 6 and iWatch [iOS Blog]

Posted by | July 28, 2014.
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Reports from within Apple’s Asian supply chain (via GforGames) again suggest the company is planning to launch the 4.7-inch iPhone separately from the 5.5-inch model, with the latter model entering mass production in September. This staggered launch would allow Apple to debut the highly-anticipated 4.7-inch iPhone 6 early this fall and then follow with the iWatch and the larger iPhone model later this year.

The report claims a December launch for both the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 and iWatch, which would be unusual timing for Apple given the holiday shopping season. The company generally prefers to launch its consumer-focused products before Black Friday kicks off holiday shopping in late November. But if supply constraints are an issue, it is possible Apple might choose to make a limited launch of the devices before the end of the year to get them onto shoppers’ radars.

Apple is rumored to be planning its first press event in September, which will be used to unveil the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 along with the official release date of iOS 8. Apple may hold a second event in October to announce the next generation iPads, OS X Yosemite and possibly the 5.5-inch Continue Reading

European Commission Approves Apple’s $3 Billion Acquisition of Beats [Mac Blog]

Posted by | July 28, 2014.
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The European Commission has approved Apple’s acquisition of Beats Electronics and Beats Music (Via Engadget). The Commission concluded that merger posed no threat to competition as “the combined market share of Apple and Beats Electronics is low.”

In its decision, the Commission noted that the Apple and Beats merger would not negatively effect either the headphone or the streaming music market in the European Union.

“The Commission concluded that the combination of the two businesses did not raise competition concerns because the combined market share of Apple and Beats Electronics is low. In addition, Apple and Beats Electronics are not close competitors because the headphones they sell differ markedly in functionality and design. Moreover, even after the transaction, a large number of global competitors such as Bose, Sennheiser and Sony would remain. The Commission also examined the transaction’s likely effects on the distribution of digital music to consumers. Both Apple and Beats Music are active in this field. Apple offers a music downloading service through iTunes and Beats Music offers a music streaming service, although it is currently not available in the EEA. The Commission concluded that Apple faces several competitors in the EEA such as Spotify Continue Reading

Bare Logic Boards for 4.7-Inch and 5.5-Inch iPhone 6 Compared in New Photos

Posted by | July 28, 2014.
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Following the publication of several photos over the weekend showing what was claimed to be the bare logic board for the upcoming 4.7-inch iPhone 6, Logic board fronts left to right: newly shown iPhone 6, iPhone 5s, previous iPhone 6
(Click for larger)

The component layout of the logic boards from the two iPhone 6 models appear very similar, but the board design and screw hole layout are somewhat different, particularly on the upper portion of the board including the arm extending across the top of the device above the battery. As with the first logic board, this part allegedly includes support for near field communications (NFC).

Logic board backs left to right: newly shown iPhone 6, iPhone 5s, previous iPhone 6
(Click for larger)

While the legitimacy of the parts can not be confirmed, they do appear very similar to existing parts and exhibit complexity that would be expensive to fake. They also contain part numbers (820-3675-04 and 820-2486-09) in the pattern followed by Apple.

The iPhone 6 is expected to debut around the September timeframe, although it is unclear whether that launch will include both versions or only the 4.7-inch model. Continue Reading

Retina MacBook Pro Updates Reportedly Due Tuesday, July 29

Posted by | July 28, 2014.
mbp_retina_late_2014_chart

Following yesterday’s reported spotting of in-store digital signage from an Apple retail store in China showing upgraded specs for the Retina MacBook Pro, MacG.co now claims [Google Translate] the update is set to arrive tomorrow, July 29. The information comes from a reliable source who has accurately predicted MacBook Air, iMac, and iPod touch updates in recent months, although the source was off by a few days on the iPod touch update timing.

Few details on the new Retina MacBook Pros are available from the source other than that the update will include both 13-inch and 15-inch models and that only minor changes to the internal model number (J44a and J45a respectively) point to a simple speed bump.

The in-store digital signage had shown details on three 15-inch MacBook Pro models, all carrying “Haswell refresh” processors clocking in at 200 MHz faster than their counterparts currently used in the Retina MacBook Pro line. Those new Haswell chips were introduced by Intel last week, and we noted at the time that the list of three dual-core and three quad-core processors appeared almost custom tailored for a Retina MacBook Pro update.

In Continue Reading

Microsoft Launches New Cortana vs. Siri Ad Showing Off Context-Aware Reminders

Posted by | July 28, 2014.

Microsoft today launched a new commercial comparing its new Cortana virtual assistant to Apple’s virtual assistant Siri, demonstrating how the former is able to perform contextually-aware tasks using a number of services.

Titled “Happy Anniversary”, the commercial shows Cortana and Windows Phone 8.1 running on the Nokia Lumia 635 as the narrator makes commands related around a wedding anniversary. First, the narrator asks Cortana to remind him to wish his wife a happy birthday he next time she calls, as the voice assistant schedules a reminder around the call. Meanwhile, Siri does not comply to the request.

The narrator then asks Cortana to remind him to get roses when he comes near any flower shop, while Siri once again does not comply. Finally, Cortana automatically gives a traffic reminder prompting the narrator to leave before traffic delays, as Siri finishes by saying “Now that is a smart phone.”

This is the first time that Microsoft has demonstrated its new Cortana voice assistant against Siri, however the company has used Siri’s voice to poke fun at the iPad in the past. Cortana was originally announced in April alongside Windows Phone 8.1, as Microsoft Continue Reading

Apple Close to Acquiring Radio Streaming Service Swell for $30 Million

Posted by | July 28, 2014.
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Apple is close to acquiring talk radio curation service Swell for about $30 million, reports Re/code. Swell’s iOS app launched last year and allows users to listen to streaming audio from iTunes, NPR, ABC, ESPN and others through a design that emphasizes simplicity.

As a part of the acquisition, Swell will shut down its iOS app this week as its CEO Ram Ramkumar and other members of its development team will join Apple. Apple will likely look to use Swell’s technology to improve its own Podcasts app, which holds a 1.5 star rating and has been widely criticized for performance issues. Users of Podcasts also experienced an outage last month, as the app constantly crashed upon opening.

swell_app
Apple’s purchase of Swell follows the acquisition of “Pandora for Books” startup BookLamp in April for a reported sum between $10 million and $15 million, as the company also acquired Beats Electronics this past May for $3 billion. It was revealed in the company’s Q3 2014 results earnings call that it had acquired 29 companies since beginning of 2013, with 5 coming from beginning of March quarter, not Continue Reading

Apple Stores to Allow Customers to Purchase iPhone Through U.S. Carriers’ Early Upgrade Programs [iOS Blog]

Posted by | July 28, 2014.
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Apple Retail Stores will soon allow customers to purchase an iPhone through U.S. carrier early upgrade programs including AT&T Next, Verizon Edge, and T-Mobile Jump, reports 9to5Mac. Apple is aiming to implement the new initiative right before the launch of the iPhone 6 this fall, as both Genius Bar workers and store employees will receive training on the program from Sunday, August 10 to Thursday, August 28.

Currently, Apple Store customers are only limited to purchasing an iPhone through a regular two-year contract at subsidized pricing or unlocked at full-price. All three early upgrade programs allow customers to upgrade their phones more frequently as the complete cost of a device is split into monthly payments which are rolled into the standard bill each month. Verizon and T-Mobile allow customers to upgrade their phones twice every year after six months of payments, while AT&T customers can upgrade once every 12 months after a year of payments.

The move also comes after Apple Stores began allowing customers to add pre-paid or month-to-month plans when purchasing full-priced, unlocked iPhones in June. Apple CEO Tim Cook noted last year that 80 percent of Continue Reading

Chart Suggests Speed-Bumped 15-Inch Retina MacBook Pros with 16GB of RAM Standard Coming Soon

Posted by | July 27, 2014.
mbp_retina_late_2014_chart

Apple may be planning to launch a slightly refreshed line of 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros complete with faster Haswell processors and 16GB of RAM standard, according to a photo said to have come from the company’s Chongqing, China store (via BBS Feng, Google Translate).

The purported pricing chart shows two standard configurations priced at 14,288 yuan and 18,688 yuan, which is the same as Apple’s current pricing for its 15-inch notebook line in China. If real, this pricing chart would likely indicate that Apple would keep its current pricing instead of offering each new model for less as done for the MacBook Air earlier this year.

The first configuration comes with a faster Intel Core i7 2.2 GHz processor and 16GB of RAM standard compared to the current 2.0 GHz Intel Core i7 and 8GB of RAM found on the current base model 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. Meanwhile, the second configuration features a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7 processor and the same 16GB of RAM, up from the current 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7 processor. Both models feature the same graphics, with the first configuration coming with Intel’s Iris Pro graphics and the Continue Reading

Apple Stores to Adjust Genius Bar Appointments, Set to Train Employees on New Initiative [Mac Blog]

Posted by | July 26, 2014.
apple_store_genius_bar_official

Apple is planning to make a number of changes at its retail stores ahead of the upcoming holiday season, which include adjustments to Genius Bar appointments and training for its employees on a new initiative, according to 9to5Mac.

The report notes that Apple will do away with the suggested 15 minute time limit for Genius Bar appointments in favor of a system that allows customers to book sessions with time limits based on how many issues they have. A few Apple Retail Stores have already started training for the new measures, as a full rollout of the new policy is expected to take place in the near future.

The company will also reportedly be training its employees on a significant new initiative from Sunday, August 10 to Thursday, August 28, which may pertain to in-store iPhone activations. During the aforementioned time period, Genius Bar employees will receive three hours of training while sales employees will receive five hours or training.

Lastly, Apple will be standardizing its attire for all of its U.S. retail employees, as those on the Apple Store Business Team will switch from their black polo shirts to the blue T-shirts worn by other Continue Reading

Bare iPhone 6 Logic Board Surfaces, Claimed to Support NFC and 802.11ac Wi-Fi

Posted by | July 26, 2014.
iphone_6_5s_logic_boards

Claimed internal components for the iPhone 6 are beginning to surface with increasing frequency as it is now likely less than two months until launch. In line with those developments, a Annotation of likely iPhone 6 logic board component locations
(Click for larger)

With the photos showing only the bare printed board and no chips or other components installed, it is difficult to tell much new information from the part, although the locations of some components can be identified based on their similarities to other iPhone logic boards.

The iPhone 6 is expected to see a similar launch timeframe as in recent years, with a September media event introduction followed by a launch shortly after. While the 4.7-inch model is expected to follow this timeline, an even larger 5.5-inch model is said to still be in flux and may not debut until several months later.

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Apple Reportedly Acquired ‘Pandora for Books’ Startup BookLamp In April

Posted by | July 26, 2014.
booklamp

Apple has acquired BookLamp, a “Pandora for books” startup that aimed to provide personalized book recommendations to readers via specialized algorithms, reports TechCrunch. BookLamp first shut down in April.

BookLamp was known for its Book Genome project, a book discovery engine that analyzed the text of books to break them down by various themes and variables to let readers search for books similar to books they liked.

For example, analyzing The Da Vinci Code, the search engine would break it down to elements of 18.6% Religion and Religions Institutions, 9.4% Police & Murder Investigation, 8.2% Art and Art Galleries, and 6.7% Secret Societies and Communities, and then it would be able to recommend a book similar to The Da Vinci Code based on that data.

BookLamp screenshot via Mashable
This type of analytics service could be directly used to improve recommendations and search in iBooks, and as noted by TechCrunch, BookLamp’s technology could be used to create a competitor to Amazon X-Ray, which lets readers see where in the book certain terms or characters appear.

BookLamp also provided content analysis services to a number of e-book distributors like Amazon, Apple, and Continue Reading

U.S. House Approves Bill Making Smartphone Unlocking Legal, Obama Pledges to Sign it Into Law

Posted by | July 25, 2014.
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We’re one step closer to being able to legally unlock smartphones again, as the United States House of Representatives today passed legislation that legalizes cell phone unlocking, unanimously voting in favor of the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act.

The Act was approved by the Senate last week, which means the final step is presidential approval. Obama has long supported making cell phone locking legal again, and today pledged to sign the bill into law.

I applaud Members of Congress for passing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. Last year, in response to a “We the People” petition from consumers across our country, my Administration called for allowing Americans to use their phones or mobile devices on any network they choose. We laid out steps the FCC, industry, and Congress should take to ensure copyright law does not undermine wireless competition, and worked with wireless carriers to reach a voluntary agreement that helps restore this basic consumer freedom.

The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget. I commend Continue Reading

Buyer’s Guide: Discounts on MacBook Air, Retina MacBook Pro, AppleCare, and Apple Accessories [Mac Blog]

Posted by | July 25, 2014.
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This week’s Buyer’s Guide includes deals on the MacBook Air, the Retina MacBook Pro, and AppleCare, as well as an array of Apple-related accessories that are currently on sale.

MacBook Air

Apple’s MacBook Air is currently available for up to $150 off at Best Buy, with Adorama, Amazon, and B&H Photo offering similar deals on some models.

The entry-level 11-inch MacBook Air with 128 GB of storage can be purchased for $799 from Best Buy, Adorama, or B&H Photo. The higher-end 11-inch MacBook Air with increased storage is available for $949 from Best Buy and Amazon.

The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Air with 128 GB of storage is available for $849 from Best Buy and the higher-end model with more storage can be purchased for $1,099 from Best Buy, Adorama, or B&H Photo.

Best Buy’s MacBook Air discount is only available until July 26, but it can be combined with the site’s educational deal that offers $100 off all Macs, making it a solid choice for students. Buying from Adorama and B&H Photo gives the benefit of no sales tax in many states, as these two Continue Reading

Verizon to Begin Spot Throttling of High-Usage Customers on Unlimited LTE Plans [iOS Blog]

Posted by | July 25, 2014.
verizon_lte_reliable

Following a report by Droid Life yesterday, Verizon has now confirmed to Gigaom that starting October 1 the carrier will begin spot throttling of certain high-usage customers connecting to carrier’s LTE network. The policy affects users on grandfathered unlimited data plans that are no longer offered and who rank in the top five percent of data users at Verizon.

While Verizon has had a similar policy in place for its 3G network for several years, the extension of it to the LTE network that now handles 76 percent of the carrier’s data traffic will be noticeable for a number of users.

On October 1, Verizon will start throttling back LTE speeds on its heaviest unlimited-plan subscribers when they move into congested cells on its networks. What that means is that when the network gets crowded, Verizon will prioritize 4G customers who buy their data by the gigabyte over unlimited plan customers who fall into the top fifth percentile of monthly data usage.

As of today, the top five percent consists of customers who use 4.7GB or more of data each month, though that number will fluctuate month-to-month as traffic patterns change.

Rather than blanket throttling of users speeds Continue Reading

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