Customers who pre-ordered the iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular model have begun receiving notifications that their device is expected to ship within the next five business days, corresponding to the mid-November availability date that has been listed on Apple’s website. Four new iOS 6.0.1 firmware downloads have also now appeared for the Cellular versions of the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad in the form of a GSM and CDMA version for each device. Currently, both Wi-Fi and Cellular iPad mini models are listed on Apple’s U.S. Store with a shipping estimate of two weeks. [via Apple Insider]
AT&T has announced that it will begin allowing FaceTime over Cellular at no additional charge for customers with an LTE device on any tiered data plan. Apple added the ability to use FaceTime over a cellular data connection in iOS 6, however AT&T originally announced that only customers on Mobile Share plans would have access to the new feature on the AT&T network, a move that sparked a complaint to the FCC. Notably, AT&T is the only iPhone carrier that required users to be on specific data plans to use the FaceTime over Cellular feature.
AT&T now expects to roll out this additional functionality during the next eight to ten weeks. In a post on the company’s website titled “A Few Thoughts on FaceTime”, AT&T’s Jim Cicconi wrote that AT&T initially took a “cautious” approach — limiting FaceTime over Cellular to specific shared data plans — because the company’s engineers couldn’t effectively assess network impact. Several recent billing plans also allow deaf and hard of hearing customers to use FaceTime. Cicconi anticipates AT&T will “expand the availability of FaceTime to our customers on other billing plans in the near future.” Note that this policy change applies only to tiered plans; FaceTime over Cellular will remain unavailable for customers still on unlimited data plans.
A report from TUAW regarding Apple’s MFi manufacturers’ conference in Shenzhen, China indicates that the company may be planning to require third-party accessory makers to comply with its supplier code of conduct, as a condition of licensing under the MFi program. The Apple Supplier Code of Conduct — which requires safe and healthy working conditions, fair hiring practices, and other standards — currently only applies to supply chain partners and component vendors for Apple’s own products; a requirement for third-party manufacturers to also comply with the code would be another strong push by Apple to exercise further control over the outer reaches of its accessory ecosystem.
Apple has updated its Apple Store iPhone and iPod touch app adding Siri integration for compatible devices and rolled out its EasyPay feature to five additional countries. With the latest version, users can now make requests to Siri such as “I want to buy an iPad mini” or “Find prices on MacBook Pro” directly opening the Apple Store app to the appropriate page. Users in Canada, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany can also now take advantage of EasyPay, a feature that allows purchases to be made in an Apple Retail Store with an iPhone 4/4S/5 by scanning the barcode with the camera and completing the transaction directly within the app. Apple Store 2.4 requires iOS 5.0 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.
Three newly published Apple patent applications filed Thursday show some possibilities for future Apple devices. The first application examines a cooling system for mobile devices which could presumably provide options for cooling future iPhones, iPods and iPads. Configured to drive both a fan and alert device, the patent describes a shared motor and clutch that would save space by powering both the fan and the device’s vibrating function. The description notes that faster, more powerful processors could produce more heat within mobile devices and an internal fan within the device would alleviate that problem; air could be pulled into the device through an input port, whether it be a new, dedicated port, or an existing component such as a headphone jack.
In a second application, Apple presented a new dual-mode headphone design which could also be used as a speaker system. The headphones would be able to detect if they were being used near a user’s ears to determine if they should be in “headphone mode” or “speaker mode”, with the audio signal passing through an amplifier in the latter case that would be bypassed in headphone mode.
The third application involves a new design for multi-use packaging that would allow packaging such as plastic iPod touch cases to be re-used to store or display an item. Various configurations coudl be employed including an integrated hinge to support a lid which could be used to prop up an item for display. All three applications were originally filed on May 2, 2011. As with all Apple patents, these applications do not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offer evidence of the company’s research and interest in various areas. [via Patently Apple]
Former Apple engineering manager Dan Crow believes the company’s best days are behind it, he opines in a column for The Guardian. As Crow writes, “…I think Apple has peaked and the story of the next few years will be one of slow but real decline.” Crow cites “a number of signs” showing that Apple is on a downhill slide, including the recent missteps with iOS 6 Maps and the executive reshuffle that jettisoned Scott Forstall and John Browett — with Browett’s decisions during his brief retail reign being an example of “Apple putting its corporate needs ahead of its customers.” He also refers to the fourth-generation iPad as an “insipid update.”
Crow says that after the death of Steve Jobs, Apple has had issues with balancing hype and product. He concludes that Apple has yet to find its way in the post-Jobs era and the company has “serious structural faults.”
Foxconn chairman Terry Gou said the company’s Hon Hai unit is having trouble keeping up with iPhone manufacturing demands, Reuters reports. “It’s not easy to make the iPhones. We are falling short of meeting the huge demand,” Gou told reporters. He declined to comment on reports that another unit, Foxconn International Holdings, has taken on some production. More than a month after the iPhone 5’s initial release, Apple’s website still shows the smartphone as available to ship in “3-4 weeks.”
Microsoft will release a version of Office for iOS in early 2013, according to The Verge. Office Mobile will debut as free apps, and users will be able to view documents with a Microsoft account. At first offering basic viewing functionality, an Office 365 subscription will allow users to edit documents. A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that “Office will work across Windows Phone, iOS and Android.” First reported in early October, it’s now expected Office Mobile for iOS will debut in late February or early March.
Apple must pay $368.2 million to VirnetX for infringing VPN patents for use in FaceTime, a federal jury in east Texas ruled. The patents entail using a domain-name service to set up secure virtual private networks. VirnetX, which sought $708 million in damages, won a ruling against Microsoft in 2010. After the verdict, a lawyer for VirnetX said the company would seek to block further use of its inventions. [via Bloomberg]
Updated Nov. 9: VirnetX filed a new lawsuit against Apple — this lawsuit concerns infringement on the same patents, but it covers new Apple devices not included in the previous lawsuit, including iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod Touch, fourth-generation iPad, iPad mini, and the new Macs.
iHealth Labs has announced three new iOS-compatible devices — a new scale and two new blood pressure monitors. The Wireless Body Analysis Scale ($110) is an updated version of the company’s iHealth Scale, which can now track weight, body fat, lean mass, muscle mass, bone mass, body water, visceral fat rating, and daily calorie intake, while automatically detecting which user is standing on the scale. Results are shown through the new, free iHealth MyVitals app or on the scale itself.
iHealth’s Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor ($100) tests, tracks, and shares blood pressure information using a Bluetooth-connected upper-arm cuff. It’s an updated wireless version of the company’s previous blood pressure monitor. The Wireless Blood Pressure Wrist Monitor ($80) is similar, but fits around the wrist instead of the upper arm. Both devices also use the IHealth MyVitals app.
Fourth-generation Wi-Fi iPads are now listed as “in stock” on Apple’s website, ready to ship immediately; retail stores also continue to have the new iPads available immediately. Delays in shipping time for the fourth-generation iPad continue to be much shorter than those for the iPad mini — the Wi-Fi mini is still listed as available to ship in two weeks. The Wi-Fi and Cellular models for both devices are still listed as available to ship in mid-November. [via 9to5Mac]
An Apple lawsuit against Google’s Motorola Mobility over alleged patent abuse was dismissed from Wisconsin federal court hours before going to trial, Reuters reports. Apple sought fair licensing over patents Google acquired along with Motorola, but District Judge Barbara Crabb dismissed the case. Crabb questioned whether she had legal authority to hear the claims, and it’s possible that Apple will appeal the decision. Apple recently offered Motorola $1 per iPhone for licensing standard-essential wireless patents.
A Google Maps app for iOS is reportedly in development and could be released by year’s end, but sources at Google are “not optimistic” the app will be approved by Apple, according to a report from The Guardian. Sources say plans are only proceeding in “the unlikely event” of the app’s approval. A number of reasons are given as to why sources speculate Apple won’t approve Google Maps, from industry politics to the current App Store setup, which lacks any mapping app using Google Maps APIs in the “Find maps for your iPhone” section of the store. It’s also noted, however, that Google and Apple are still in constant communication, so an agreement between the companies could be made quickly.
Japanese display manufacturer Sharp is looking for investments from other companies, with Japanese media reports linking the company to Apple and Intel, according to a report from IDG News Service. Known for some time to be struggling, Sharp announced that there is “material doubt” about its ability to keep operating. The company is looking to cut costs and secure enough credit to survive, while placing more emphasis on its IGZO technology for mobile displays going forward. Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn agreed to purchase an 11 percent stake in Sharp earlier this year. Also, Sharp is already an Apple component supplier, and there’s been speculation that Apple will use IGZO technology in future devices, lending more credence to a possible Apple investment. [via 9to5Mac]
Research firm IHS reports that the iPad mini costs at least $188 to build, after its teardown of a Wi-Fi-only 16GB mini. Adding additional memory increases the cost only slightly while adding a fair amount of profit — an additional $90 in profit for the 32GB model, and $162 for the 64GB model. It’s important to bear in mind that this teardown only includes cost of materials; manufacturing, labor, research and development, and any other expenses are unaccounted for in analyzing the actual profit of the tested device, which sells for $329. Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer notably mentioned during the company’s fourth quarter conference call that iPad mini has higher costs, and said that the gross margin is significantly below Apple’s corporate average, suggesting that manufacturing expenses are higher than usual. [via AllThingsD]
Apple announced it has sold three million iPads in the three days surrounding the launch of the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad. The company did not mention how many of those sales were specific to the mini, versus the fourth-generation iPad and iPad 2; the company ceased sales of the third-generation iPad leading up to the new models’ release. CEO Tim Cook said in the statement, “We set a new launch weekend record and practically sold out of iPad minis.” Apple notes that the sales of the Wi-Fi-only models double the milestone of the third-generation iPad’s release, which featured 1.5 million Wi-Fi only iPad sales in its first weekend.
Apple has released its Lightning to Micro USB Adapter (seen in our First Look here) in North America. Priced at $19, the adapter was originally available only in Europe due to a European Union directive requiring Micro USB compatibility for smartphone charging. The new Adapter allows users to connect a Lightning connector-equipped iPhone, iPod touch or iPad to a computer or power source using a standard Micro USB connection, however it is worth noting that the adapter sells for the same price as Apple’s Lightning to USB Cable, making it a practical option only for those with a specific need to use a Micro USB connection.
Apple has lost the exclusive rights to the iPhone trademark in Mexico, according to a report from El Universal. The Mexican company iFone, which registered its brand in 2003, has been confirmed as the legitimate owner of the trademark. Apple originally sought to prevent iFone from using its name.* It’s unclear as of yet what the fallout from the decision will be, though iFone corporate lawyer Eduardo Gallástegui said iFone is entitled to compensation for damage to the brand. [via 9to5Mac]
* Updated: The Verge reports that the Mexican court’s ruling does not as yet prohibit Apple from using the iPhone name for its own products, but rather permits iFone to use its name as it was previously registered for a somewhat separate class of products, regardless of Apple’s opposition.
Apple’s first court-ordered print advertisement from its appeal loss to Samsung has appeared, and it certainly doesn’t resemble a typical Apple ad. Gizmodo UK posted a copy of the extremely plain and arguably difficult to read ad, which appeared on page five of The Guardian today. The ad dryly states that Samsung’s Galaxy tablet computers do not infringe on Apple’s “Community registered design No. 0000181607-0001” — the iPad is not mentioned by name.
Updated Nov. 5: Apple published the same advertisement on its U.K. website. The link notes that the previously published notice “...was inaccurate and did not comply with the order of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales.”
Alongside the user release of iOS 6.0.1, Apple has released iOS 6.1 beta to developers. The release supports a number of iOS devices, though the fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini are absent from the list.
Apart from a change to a developer-side searching capability for Maps, other changes in the beta version are not immediately known. [via 9to5Mac]