Backstage | iLounge

Backstage

Backstage at iLounge is the combined blog of our editors, featuring casual and often only loosely iPod-, iPhone- or iPad-related discussions that our readers may enjoy. Founded in July, 2004, Backstage has served as a launching pad for stories that later appear on the main site, and as a place to discuss portable phones, games, computers, and accessories. Visit Backstage Archives for past stories, and bookmark backstage.ilounge.com for new ones.

Apple’s Digital AV Adapter Gets Interesting Little Changes

By Jeremy Horwitz | 03.12.12 | 2 comments

Up until a year ago, there wasn’t an official Apple-endorsed option for connecting iOS devices to the HDMI ports of high-definition televisions; the company instead sold some very expensive composite and component AV cables that were capped at far below the 720p output capabilities of the latest iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches. So Apple released the Digital AV Adapter in March 2011, featuring a male Dock Connector plug at one end and two ports at the other: an HDMI port for audio and video, and a female Dock Connector for charging. The Digital AV Adapter was typically Apple, made from glossy white plastic with gray cabling, and priced at $39—just enough to seem a little too expensive given that you still have to self-supply an HDMI cable in order to do anything with it, and your own wall adapter/Dock Connector cable to be able to charge a device with it.

Last week, with little fanfare, Apple updated the Digital AV Adapter to coincide with the announcement of the third-generation iPad. You can tell that you’re getting the new Adapter because it’s in a box (shown above) rather than a transparent bag. The new packaging specifically references the iPhone 4S, while mentioning that mirroring is “supported by iPad 2 or later,” without naming the third-generation iPad.

And Apple has made a series of tweaks to the Adapter itself. The new Adapter is ever so slightly longer than its predecessor—4 millimeters longer, or roughly 4.5” long.

The cable connecting the male Dock Connector plug and HDMI/female Dock Connector ports is slightly thinner.

The male Dock Connector plug is considerably smaller on the new model than the old one, and therefore more case-compatible.

The new model number is A1422 versus A1388. Apple has also switched the part number from MC953ZM/A to MD098ZM/A.

The male Dock Connector plug now has pressure-sensitive lock and unlock buttons on its sides.

The female HDMI/Dock Connector port housing is now several millimeters taller on the new model than the old one, and the HDMI port hole (on the bottom Adapter shown below) looks a little nicer than before.

Are there electronic differences? We’ll be playing with them more to find out. But the fact that Apple has changed the Digital AV Adapter at all after only a year is interesting. The smaller male Dock Connector plug is definitely welcome given that the original did occasionally present challenges with cases, and though no one’s going to care about the slightly longer length, it’s also a little surprising to see the female port side get bigger. Expect some updates to our review in the near future.

On Apple’s New iPad Case + Next Glass-Bodied iPhone Prototype

By Jeremy Horwitz | 03.05.12 | 1 comment

A couple of small tidbits today from a repeatedly reliable source regarding what’s in Apple’s development pipeline.

(1) The iPad Smart Case. Apple apparently has been working on a Smart Cover-influenced case of its own for the upcoming iPad. Said to be similar to Incase’s Magazine Jacket (and a host of subsequent alternatives that have appeared for the iPad 2), this new case has a folding magnetized Smart Cover on the front, and a rear shell made from fiberglass covered with PU/bicast leather. It’s unclear whether this case will be solely for the thicker new iPad or include backwards compatibility for the iPad 2.

(2) Another Glass iPhone. Despite the well-established “aluminum-backed iPhone 5” rumors that have continued to circulate since the iPhone 4 was released, Apple is nonetheless continuing to experiment with glass and ceramic rear shells for a future iPhone model. The upshot is that the new design would be like the iPhone 4, but thinner, thanks to Corning’s stronger Gorilla Glass 2 and the further reduction of internal components. Our source suggests that the 30-pin Dock Connector is likely on the way out in the near future, and that a larger screen remains in the cards.

OS X Lion: Serious Wi-Fi Disconnect Problems for Macs, And Solutions?

By Jeremy Horwitz | 02.22.12 | 104 comments

We began to track reports of Wi-Fi disconnection issues back when we upgraded one of our iMacs to a brand new 2011 model and started to experience daily Wi-Fi signal drop-offs—across-the-board disconnections of everything from iChat to Twitter and Safari. It wasn’t an isolated issue: plenty of people on Apple’s Discussion Forums were having the same problem, and hoping that 10.6.8 would fix it. When that didn’t happen, the hopes shifted to Lion. UPDATED: Originally posted on July 21, 2011, this article has been updated with the latest information from Apple as of February, 2012.

Now that Lion’s out, it’s clear that the problem wasn’t fixed—it’s actually become even worse on our iMac, which has started to lose its Wi-Fi connection multiple times a day. The same problem is being reported by numerous Apple Discussions users, in threads such as Wifi Constantly Dropping in Lion, Wifi Problems After Installing Lion, Lion WiFi Connection Problem, and New MacBook Pro 2011 weak and dropping wireless connection.

Based on testing, we get the impression that the issues stem (at least in part) from some mismatched or messed up settings saved by the Mac relating to specific wireless networks it has connected to before. Some people believe that there are wireless network settings with incorrect disk permissions; others think that there are corrupted files. Solutions that have been offered include:

(1) Deleting a system preferences file called com.apple.aif.plist, then restarting the machine to rebuild it. This is inside Macintosh HD > Library > Preferences, which is now harder to find in Lion’s Finder because Apple has hidden your hard drive by default in the Sidebar’s list of Devices. You can use Finder’s Preferences to add Hard Drives back to the Sidebar, but based on our experiences, deleting this file doesn’t work to fix the problem.

(2) Reset your Mac’s PRAM and NVAM. This was suggested by an Apple Discussions user, and is explained in this Apple Knowledgebase document. Most reports do not suggest that this works.

(3) Reset your Mac’s System Management Controller Another suggestion from an Apple Discussions user, explained here. Again, most reports do not suggest that this works.

Based on past experiences in trying to fix major issues such as this one, we know that it’s rare that one solution works for everyone, and that readers often come up with great ideas for how to get things working again. We’re going to keep hunting for answers to this, and will update this article when we have one that works for us—did one of these ideas, or something else, work for you? Post in the comments section below.

Updated September 8, 2011: After trying many different fixes, none of which worked for any extended period of time, we tested something new. After changing the passwords on both of our wireless networks, then setting the iMac up with the new passwords, the disconnect issue appeared to go away. Hopefully this or one of the other solutions recommended below will help you.

Updated February 22, 2012: Users—including one of our editors—have continued to experience problems at least intermittently despite several point releases of OS X 10.7, and Apple has posted an updated solutions page here. The company’s recommended solution (click “Solution” under “Symptom: The network connection drops unexpectedly”) is to use Network Preferences to delete all of your computer’s remembered wireless networks, then use Keychain Access to delete all of your wireless passwords from Login and System, and finally to restart your Mac and re-join your network of choice. For full details, see Apple’s link. We hope it helps!

Tweets On Apple’s iTV: Which Apple OS, Ports, and More

By Jeremy Horwitz | 01.26.12 | 0 comments

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’m now actively discussing Apple, general technology, and food topics from my personal Twitter account (@horwitz), so for the first time, iLounge readers will actually have a reason to follow that account. Right before CES, the big topic was iPad 3. Around CES, we had a nice discussion regarding Apple’s upcoming TV. Today, the TV topic picked up again (see this news story), so I wanted to point you towards the discussion in process.

Join the discussion on Twitter by following @horwitz! You’ll find prior and new tweets on the topic there, too.

Hope To See The Next iPad At CES? You Might, Without Knowing It

By Jeremy Horwitz | 01.10.12 | 3 comments

Yesterday, one day ahead of the 2012 CES, I saw what’s supposedly the next-generation iPad. I’d show you a picture, but there’s honestly nothing to be seen. Think iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S: this device so resembles the iPad 2 that differences are only obvious when they’re placed next to each other. From the back, you could walk past this new iPad on display and have no idea that anything had changed.

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iPad 2, above

Here’s the scoop on what companies believe Apple will announce in the next two months. The new iPad’s body is so slightly thicker than the iPad 2 that the change is unnoticeable on first inspection; a roughly 1mm increase will barely be perceptible to users. We’ve heard that the only accessories that might have issues are cases, and then, only cases that were precisely contoured to fit the iPad 2’s back. On the rear, the camera in the upper left corner has become bigger—noticeably so when placed alongside the iPad 2, but not so huge that anyone would think they were different at a distance. The new camera hole is silver-ringed, and does in fact look the same size as the iPhone 4S’s much-improved rear camera system, minus the LED flash.

From the front, the next iPad and iPad 2 appear to look basically the same—apart, of course, from the screen. That’s going to be Apple’s big focus when the new device is announced, but I didn’t see it. One company claimed to have heard the screen would be just a little smaller than the iPad 2’s, but if that’s the case, the front glass bezel I saw didn’t seem to suggest that. Switch, button, speaker, and other elements located on the side edges are all the same, as are the headphone and Dock Connector ports. In other words, last year’s accessories should generally work properly with the new model, which is great.

While it would be exciting to lead with a sensational “I touched the iPad 3!” headline, I feel obliged to mention a couple of things to put the information above in proper perspective. First, these changes are so modest that Apple could easily call this device the “iPad 2S” or “iPad 2HD” if it wanted to start the lettering game with its tablets. The screen and other major internal changes could collectively justify the “iPad 3” moniker, but we’ll see. Second, I don’t get the impression that what I saw was just manufactured—it actually seemed to be more than half a year old. That’s not a huge surprise given how long pre-production takes for a “new” device, but a lot can change between mid-2011 and early 2012. All I can tell you is that every company I’ve asked about the next iPad seems to think what I’ve told you above is correct, apart from the possible screen size tweak, which remains uncertain.

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Last year, on the first day of the 2011 CES, iLounge was the first to show pictures of a nearly final iPad 2 shell—one that looked virtually identical to what was announced, apart from tweaks to the bottom speaker grille and side switch. The curves and proportions were the same, the various elements in the right places, and so on. No one was 100% certain as to what was inside the new iPad, or even that it would be called “iPad 2,” but there were educated guesses that it would be faster, more powerful, and have twin cameras. This year, the smart money is on similar upgrades, but with improved image quality across the screen and cameras as a paramount focus. Those will be improvements worth getting seriously excited about.

Tweets On The Next iPad (And More)

By Jeremy Horwitz | 01.05.12 | 0 comments

I haven’t really publicized my individual Twitter account (@horwitz) in the past, because I was focusing my limited Twitter time on restaurant coverage and food-related topics—another passion. But now that I’m regularly tweeting from @horwitz, there’s actually a good reason for Apple fans to follow that account. And if I can, I’ll answer questions there from time to time. Here’s a bit of what just appeared on Twitter—join me there for the rest of the discussion!

  1. A few next-gen iPad notes, ahead of the show. Both cameras are getting upgrades. Front goes HD, rear becomes iPhone 4/4S-like (bigger).
  2. Body of the next iPad is, as we previously reported, getting just a little thicker to accommodate new parts - little = 1mm give or take.
  3. Curve radiuses on the body will change only a little to accommodate the added thickness, not dramatically. Think iPad 2 Pro, not a redesign.
  4. Looks likely that iPad 2 will stick around at lower price point, say $399, and next iPad with high-def screen + cameras will sit atop it.
  5. Incidentally, our source believes that the next iPad’s rear camera will be the same as iPhone 4S’s, b/c camera hole is very similar.
  6. If Apple is in fact moving the front camera to FaceTime HD, calls from the next iPad to current Macs + vice-versa will look _much_ better.
  7. Source thinks date will be similar to iPad 2’s. Correctly says a January launch (never likely) would anger holiday 2011 iPad 2 recipients.


Follow @horwitz on Twitter for much more.

A Few Thoughts on Phosphor’s E Ink World Time Sport Watch

By Jeremy Horwitz | 12.19.11 | 0 comments

Although I’ve never been a huge fan of black and white E Ink-based reading devices, Phosphor’s E Ink watches have made sense to me. I’m a fan of digital watches, love the idea of user-adjustable watch faces, and appreciate the value of achieving such adjustability without radically reducing battery life. Apple’s addition of new watch faces to the sixth-generation iPod nano was definitely a step in the right direction, but even if you’re willing to swallow the price and the need to buy a watchband separately, it’s a pain to plug your watch in for weekly recharges—and to keep turning the screen off to increase battery life. E Ink offers some of the same benefits with only one major compromise: the loss of color.

With the World Time Sport Watch ($100), Phosphor has eliminated another major hurdle: high pricing. Past Phosphor watches were in the $150 and up range, which is close enough to an iPod nano plus watch band combo to weigh decidedly in Apple’s favor, but this watch sets a new entry level price for the family without looking cheap. The band is rubber with matte plastic clasps, a matte plastic body, and a glossy plastic face; it feels as comfortable as most of the digital watches we’ve used and liked over the years. Two touch-sensitive buttons are below the screen, which can alternate between white on black or black on white text as you prefer. At least as shipped—before the plastic screen gets scratched—the screen is hugely readable in reasonable light, though as with Kindles and other E Ink devices, this isn’t the type of display you can rely upon if you want to check the time in a dark room. There’s no backlight.

One nice feature of this watch is the array of screen modes you can choose from: a “big time” mode with only the current hour and minutes in large numerals on two lines, a “small time” mode with the same digits in tiny characters on one line, a “dual time” mode with separate big and small times for two time zones, a “time/calendar” mode with calendar date and time together, and a “world time” mode” with just the large-numbered alternate time and a city abbreviation at the top of the screen.

All of the modes take advantage of such a high apparent screen resolution that individual pixels aren’t obvious to the eye—a major plus—but they’re also unnecessarily limited by the use of a decidedly old-school LCD-styled font that really should be replaced with something nicer, as well as graphic designs that all look a lot more similar to one another than they need to with such a versatile display. E Ink offers developers the chance to really vary up their interface options, but World Time Sport looks a lot like a traditional LCD watch, for better and for worse.

The only other thing that’s a little bit off is the control system, though it’s not bad. Only two capacitive buttons are used for device settings, and you’re interestingly able to double tap or swipe inwards on the buttons to activate different settings. While it’s not terribly difficult to figure out how to use the controls to set the watch and then move through the different options, the controls definitely aren’t intuitive, and the timing of swipes will take a little getting used to. Additionally, if you screw a setting up (say, moving the calendar year forward accidentally), you may find yourself doing a lot of extra tapping in order to bring yourself back to the correct date or time.

It’s not perfect, but Phosphor’s World Time Sport Watch is definitely a step in the right direction for E Ink watches. The price point is right, the design is largely unobjectionable, and the core features—18-24-month battery life, 30-meter water submersibility, and a very readable clock—are all solid enough that we’d actually use this watch, something that we haven’t been able to say for most of the iPod nano watchbands and kits we’ve tested so far. Bravo to Phosphor for continuing to evolve its initial concepts, and hopefully we’ll see a next-gen version with new art options, as well.

Early Details On 2012’s Redesigned iPad, iPhone + MacBook Pro

By Jeremy Horwitz | 11.18.11 | 8 comments

Our most reliable source has spoken: expect body changes for the next iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro. Here’s what we’ve heard.

(1) The third-generation iPad will become modestly thicker (0.7mm) in order to accommodate the twin light bar system needed for its higher-resolution display. It’s currently on track for a March timeframe release, and according to our source could be publicly shown as early as January, depending on conditions.

(2) Our source says that the next-generation iPhone will not look like the teardrop-shaped version that was widely rumored for release in 2011. We’ve been told that the device will have a 4-inch display and will be 8mm longer than before, with a metal casing (probably aluminum). It is on track to be introduced in summer of 2012, and is still in the engineering phase, not early production. We suspect that poor battery life doomed the prior prototype version, and that this one is being built with LTE-ready battery drain in mind.

(3) Barring some huge and unexpected issue, 2012 will be the year when the MacBook Pro line gets its new design. Think thinner.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire: A Tweener Worth Your (And Apple’s) Serious Consideration

By Jeremy Horwitz | 11.16.11 | 11 comments

Love him or not, Steve Jobs was truly a visionary with an amazing big picture track record—the sort of person whose enlightened words often predicted or shaped reality, much to his competitors’ dismay. So when Jobs unexpectedly appeared on an Apple quarterly conference call to attack 7” Android tablets, we paid attention. He called the devices “tweeners,” dismissing them as kludges that were too big to be phones and too small to run worthwhile tablet applications. At the time, we disagreed with his suggestion and believed it to be self-serving, much like his earlier downplaying of the value of video-screened iPods until he was ready to release them. Similarly small iPad tablets were confirmed by reliable sources to be in near-final testing stages. But looking at the array of 7” tablets that were then and subsequently available, it was obvious that software was more the issue than hardware—the iPad had launched with a third- (nearly fourth-) generation operating system that had worked well from version one, while Android devices were still trying to work out early and subsequent major kinks.

This isn’t a review, but just a collection of observations about Amazon’s Kindle Fire ($199)—a new device that demonstrates that the seven-inch form factor is more than viable; it’s actually a great size, particularly if you’re looking for a “media player” rather than a “tablet.” While it’s fair for the time being to say that some full-fledged iPad “tablet” apps might be ill-suited to seven-inch displays, the Kindle Fire works so well as an alternative to the media- and game-focused iPod touch that Apple would be hard-pressed to explain why it’s not competing in this category. If you like watching videos, you’ll find that they look bigger and better on the Fire’s screen. Web pages are at least as easy to read on Amazon’s color display, as are traditional text-formatted books. Streaming music, cheap games and apps all work well on the Kindle Fire, too.

You can nitpick elements of the device’s performance—some amplifier hiss in the headphone port, the absence of cameras or hardware volume buttons, a hint less speed here or there—but then you get two built-in speakers, a much more usable on-screen keyboard, generally smooth UI performance, and quite possibly the simplest setup process we’ve ever seen on a device of this kind. Kindle Fire arrives in a box pre-customized for your Amazon account. We powered it on, let it update its software over our Wi-Fi network, and then started to use it. The interface is surprisingly intuitive, too; under some conditions, it makes even the iPad seem complicated, and streaming videos are every bit as impressive on the Kindle Fire as on Apple’s best devices. Yes, Apple’s done a great job with iOS, but Amazon has pulled off some impressive feats here, and to underplay them would be unfair.

And if you’re really worried about having to sand down your fingers to tap on app icons, arguably the most facially ridiculous thing Steve Jobs said about 7” devices, don’t worry—Amazon can fit five rows and columns of them on screen with plenty of space to spare. Each icon is larger than an iPhone’s or iPod touch’s, and only a little smaller than an iPad’s, without the gaping holes between icons you’ll see on an iPad’s Home Screens. But then, most of the Kindle Fire’s UI isn’t icon-dependent. A fluidly animated carousel of your most recently accessed content provides a Cover Flow-like way to page through whatever’s on the device, each item substantially larger than any Apple device’s icons. Underscore at this point that Kindle Fire directs you towards content, rather than apps, a very appealing change of focus. If you’re coming to Kindle Fire as a user who revisits the same content again and again, you’ll find it very easy to do on this device.

There are, of course, counterbalancing considerations. Kindle Fire has fewer apps and virtually no accessories on its side; it also manages its very limited 8GB of storage space with cloud-dependent features akin to iTunes in the Cloud. Its 1024x600 screen has as many pixels as an iPhone/iPod touch Retina Display, but they’re in a 10:6 aspect ratio that’s optimized for widescreen videos and games rather than the 4:3 aspect ratio of the iPad and iPad 2. Whereas the iPads put up huge black bars when displaying wide videos, the Kindle Fire’s screen has more of a negative impact on web pages, which are better viewed in portrait mode. Fire’s body has a soft touch rubber back and more obviously grid-dotted glass front touch surface, both steps down from the iPad, but still better-looking than HP’s TouchPad. And of course, there’s the issue of the software and hardware inside; much (too much) has been made of Amazon’s decision to use similar hardware to the RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook and a modified version of Google’s Android operating system inside. Some Apple die-hards scoffed at these decisions, but trust us when we say that these things will not matter in any negative way to most users. If anything, these decisions gave Amazon the advantages it needed to quickly bring a powerful little $199 device to market, and rapidly offer key apps/games to its customers.

Following reports that Amazon pre-sold tons of Kindle Fires, it wasn’t surprising that Apple attempted to downplay the new device’s apparent success by claiming that Kindle Fire sales will only further fragment the Android tablet world—a suggestion that’s pure spin, and not particularly effective, either. Kindle Fire is a viable device with its own unique interface, regardless of whether it’s built on top of Google’s Android or something else. Every Kindle Fire sold represents a potential iPod touch or iPad sale lost, and quite possibly another person satisfied by a product with a bigger screen and similar capabilities to an iPod touch for the same price. Given the opportunity to do something new or better this year with the iPod touch, Apple merely dropped the price and added a white-bezeled version, giving Amazon the opportunity to swoop in and steal customers. Several of our editors have purchased or are seriously contemplating purchasing the Kindle Fire. Our strong belief is that it’s time for Apple to embrace this form factor; regardless of whether it calls the device an iPod or an iPad, the iOS ecosystem will be much better for having the option available.

Soft-Launch: The Amazing 2012 iPhone + iPod Buyers’ Guide

By Jeremy Horwitz | 10.31.11 | 0 comments

Every year for the past seven years, iLounge’s editors have spent Halloween finishing up a special treat for our readers: our annual Buyers’ Guide. This year, due to the growth of the iPad, we decided to create two Guides—one was released in June for the iPad, and the one we’re soft-launching right now is focused on the iPhone and iPod.

As you probably could have guessed from past editions, our Buyers’ Guides require a huge amount of time to create and test. The 2012 iPhone + iPod Buyers’ Guide was the product of both the past year of everything you’ve seen on the iLounge site, and two very intense months of additional writing and photography.

At 218 pages in length, including some special new sections, this publication is the largest Buyers’ Guide we’ve ever assembled. There’s so much inside that we’re going to just let you grab it and digest it all; a full table of contents can be found on our Library page if you want a quick preview.

As always, two versions are available, and both can be viewed using iBooks for iOS devices, Adobe Acrobat on PCs, and Preview on Macs—as well as other PDF readers and PDF-ready web browsers. One version of the Guide is in a single-page format that fills the entire screen of an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch with one page at a time, and requires one swipe to turn every page. This version is ideal for Apple’s pocket devices, but less necessary on the iPad or a full-sized computer. Our second version offers a double-page spread that looks like a magazine. We recommend this for computer users and generally for iPad users as well; you can always zoom in on the pages if you want to see more. We ask that you download only one version so that other readers can get their copies without needing to wait.

Single-page version:
http://www.iloungeserver.com/iLounge_2012BG_s.pdf

Double-page version:
http://www.iloungeserver.com/iLounge_2012BG_d.pdf

Thank you to all of the iLounge editors past and present whose contributions made the 2012 iPhone + iPod Buyers’ Guide possible. We’re thrilled with this year’s edition, which looks particularly outstanding on iPad screens. Enjoy!

On Rumors, Metal iPhone Backs, and Radio Transparency

By Charles Starrett | 09.15.11 | 0 comments

Like everyone else, we’ve been excited and confused by the never-ending wave of iPhone 5/iPhone 4S rumors. On one hand, it’s hard to believe that Apple would wait so long to introduce nothing more than a speed-bumped iPhone 4, but it’s equally hard to imagine an iPhone 5 with a glossy metal casing. For years, the issue with metal has been wireless antenna reception, since metallic iPhones, iPods, and iPods have had big black plastic compartments to let their Wi-Fi and cellular signals through. After yet another “what’s taking so long” discussion between our editors, talk shifted to an answer, and one that may have been a matter of public record the entire time.

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Remember all the excitement over Apple gaining an exclusive license to use Liquidmetal alloys in electronic products? Interviewed by Cult of Mac last August, shortly after the Apple deal was revealed, Liquidmetal co-inventor Dr. Atakan Peker suggested that Apple would likely use the technology in a future iPhone. Peker specifically noted that Apple could create a case that was structural and functional, optimized for receiving radio signals and in essence serving as one big antenna. “You can build casings with functional characteristics, and the alloy’s properties as an antenna can be optimized,” Peker said back then. Are we nearing the release of a Liquidmetal iPhone?

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When you really think about it, there’s seemingly no other way to build the widely mocked-up phone without incorporating the sort of large, plastic antenna that Apple has moved away from in recent iPhone and iPod designs. The fourth-generation iPod touch was able to direct wireless signals through the front glass because you don’t put your face against the touch to make phone calls—a major difference relative to the radiation and attenuation risks that go along with an iPhone. Apple’s already experimented with Liquidmetal, at the very least in SIM ejector tools (top photo), and Liquidmetal was also used to create parts of the Verizon USB727 wireless modem (pictured above), reportedly including the antenna.

It’s possible that Liquidmetal parts have been used in other Apple products that no one realized contained Liquidmetal at the time. The first known Liquidmetal part from Apple was that SIM ejector tool, but there could well have been others. Consider earlier debates over what the bodies of iPhones were actually made from. Make’s Phillip Torrone notably claimed after laser etching tests that the original iPhone’s “aluminum” back was actually “a nice plastic,” a point that was further discussed by Intomobile, which suggested that the “plastic” iPhone 3G shell may in fact have contained ceramic materials, as well. Apple never went into much detail about the bodies of the iPhones until the iPhone 4 came along. Whether or not Apple releases a Liquidmetal-backed iPhone this year—and whether or not it admits as much—remains pure speculation at this point, but if the “iPhone 5” renderings people are coming up with reflect the actual device, that’s almost certainly how it was accomplished.

Don’t Shed A Tear For The Teardrop-Shaped “iPhone 5”

By Jeremy Horwitz | 09.12.11 | 0 comments

Just a quick note regarding Apple’s upcoming iPhone and iPod hardware updates.

The world has been completely consumed by iPhone 5 rumors for the past few months. We’ve been following them just like you have, but the reports have been so crazy that other publications have been e-mailing us to ask what we think is happening. Since we’re sharing our thoughts with them, we wanted to share them with you, too.

1. Why are the “iPhone 5 cases” making the rounds right now so different from one another in size? From what we’ve heard, a number of companies created these cases based on mockup images that were circulated around the Internet—not based on actual iPhone 5 bodies. They represent guesses as to the device’s size and shape, and most (maybe all) of them will not actually fit the next iPhone. Developers are split on whether the teardrop-tapered polished metal represents the design of a next-generation iPod touch, an iPhone, or wishful thinking.

2. What will the actual iPhone 5 look like? Several things about the mockups don’t make a ton of sense. iPhone antennas would have trouble with an all-metal device back. Dramatic slenderizing ahead of the impending (2011 or 2012) addition of LTE would be surprising—not impossible, just surprising. And similarly, thinning the iPhone at the same time as it gets a larger screen would be unusual. While all of these things are conceivable—and apart from resulting battery life problems, quite desirable—Apple could more easily stuff new components into an old enclosure, and wait until next year for a big body change. There’s obviously precedent for that.

Based on what we’ve heard, actual rear body shells for the iPhone 5 are not circulating in the way that they would have if a new body design was just around the corner. What has been circulating is a revised iPhone 4 body frame that combines the prior GSM and CDMA frames into one part. It seems highly likely that this and some flat glass will be at the heart of at least one new iPhone model. The iPod touch could be getting little more than internal tweaks and a white color option. Or it could be making a radical evolution into that teardrop-shaped casing. No one’s really sure.

3. So what happens if I buy an iPhone 5 case that doesn’t fit? You’re stuck with it. The companies making these early cases are doing so to keep their production lines moving during an otherwise slow time. They don’t particularly care whether the cases fit or not. It’s a business gamble, sort of like putting $400 on a longshot horse hoping to make $5,000 or more if it wins. If you go out and buy an iPhone 5 case right now, when no device has been announced, that’s your money to lose if the bet doesn’t pay off.

Our advice would be to hold off on making any case purchases for the time being. The new iPhone and iPod launches are only weeks off at this point, and for now, the best idea would be to wait and see what Apple’s magicians pull out of their hats on stage.

Post-Mortem: Lessons Learned From HP’s TouchPad Fire Sale

By Jeremy Horwitz | 08.22.11 | 6 comments

Though we’ve played with some of the iPad’s competitors over the past two years, we’ve passed on formally reviewing them since before the iPad was even announced—they come and go, rarely making any mark, and just haven’t seemed worth the time to write about. As we noted in this February 2009 discussion of Amazon’s Kindle, it seemed obvious a year before the iPad was announced that Apple could blow the Kindle away with “nothing more than… a quick and dirty rewrite to [iOS] for a higher resolution display,” and a bigger battery for a bigger touchscreen, which is pretty much exactly what happened. Last year, Apple defined the tablet market. Today, it all but owns that market. And regardless of whether or not this momentum would otherwise have continued in 2012, last week’s epic Hewlett-Packard consumer-side collapse and Motorola acquisition announcements seem to guarantee that it will. Apple’s rivals are so intimidated that they’re literally falling apart or walking away from competing, seemingly not thinking twice about the consequences of abandoning just-released products and still growing markets.

HP’s TouchPad was a particularly noteworthy casualty for two reasons. First, the hardware and software contained as much Apple DNA as HP’s Palm unit was able to extract from the company, including formerly key Apple executives, designers, and engineers. Second, the TouchPad was backed by the world’s largest computer vendor—one that sold more PCs than anyone else on the planet, and had no obvious reason (apart from mismanagement) to walk away from the mobile or personal computer business. If any product could have been a rival to the iPad, with enough technology, distribution, and marketing wherewithal to make it happen, the TouchPad would have been it. But it wasn’t: failures in engineering, pricing, and marketing brought it to market, then just as quickly to the grave.

What follows isn’t a review of the TouchPad, but rather a brief postmortem on an iPad wannabe that coulda been a contender, but instead took an early fall and got pulled from the ring. We grabbed a TouchPad after the price fell to a staggering $99 (16GB) or $149 (32GB) closeout this weekend, going into the purchase with the sort of expectations such low price tags carry: “how bad could it be?” And yet the experience of using the TouchPad led to some really interesting discoveries, including some often overlooked facets of iPad ownership that we’d taken for granted before. Read on for all the details.

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On iPhones in China

By Jeremy Horwitz | 07.22.11 | 1 comment

Just a brief tidbit regarding rumors that are circulating regarding Apple’s plans for the iPhone family in China.

Some people are speculating that Apple will roll out the iPhone 5 to all of mainland China in order to radically enhance its footprint there. A well-informed source has suggested that the plan is to drop the iPhone 3GS’s price—perhaps by half—and use it with modest regionally-appropriate modifications as an entry-level model for China. This just makes sense in light of Apple’s historic challenges in ramping up production on totally new products; keeping the 3GS around as the no-contract iPhone option for developing countries is highly plausible.

Note: many of the reports we get from our sources are “this is happening,” and some are less clear. This is one of the less clear ones, along with a bunch of other details (downgraded iPad coming in multiple color choices alongside the iPad 2 Plus) that are being deemed unreliable at this point.

OS X Lion for Mac: 10 Things Worth Knowing Before Your Purchase (Not A Review)

By Jeremy Horwitz | 07.20.11 | 7 comments

Unlike many (perhaps most) journalists who cover Apple’s products, I deliberately avoided playing with the OS X Lion betas, so my only exposure to the just-released Mac operating system was what most of our readers have seen—Apple’s public marketing materials, and a handful of reports from beta testers. But I actually went a little further than the average person, and also attempted to avoid the spoilers and biases of other writers’ opinions of the pre-release versions. So when I purchased and installed Lion this morning, I was pretty close to fresh-minded regarding the experience, and ready to share a “just like you” perspective for readers who are thinking of starting fresh with Mac OS X 10.7 today.

Click on Read More for the list of 10 key things that are worth knowing before making your OS X Lion purchase.

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