It's a fact that Apple is investing heavily in supplies of sapphire crystal, including building their own manufacturing facility in Arizona that's expected to come online this month. It's unknown, however, exactly what this material will be used for. Virtually indestructible, the material is currently used to protect the camera lens and the Touch ID from scratching in the iPhone 5s. So what else will Apple be using it for? According to comments made Wednesday by the CEO of a company called Canonical that had to scrap plans for making a smartphone, Apple has bought up the "entire three-year supply" of the same sapphire crystal display they had been planning to use for their 4.5-inch device. The comments, which were reported by GigaOm, diverge somewhat from the most recent rumor out of the Far East that Apple would use Corning's Gorilla Glass for the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and sapphire crystal for an "experimental" 5.5-inch "phablet."
We have yet another report out of Taiwan saying that two new phones are coming from Apple with larger displays of 4.7 and 5.6 inches. This article, citing sources in Apple's supply chain, is from the Economic Daily News; you can see Google-translated report on Macotakara. A couple details stand out. The report labels the 5.6-inch phablet as "experimental" — and says that it won't be called an iPhone. A post on BGR says this detail is highly dubious, because the iPhone brand is so popular. Plus, they point out that none of the other rumors have indicated this. The Taiwan report also says that Apple's phablet will use sapphire crystal for the display. The iPhone 6 is said to have a display of 4.7 inches, and will continue to use Corning's Gorilla Glass. It will go into full production in July and will be out in September.
The torrent of evidence for new products with a focus on health and fitness is astonishing, including a wide range of top experts Apple has hired. According to AppleInsider, a report last week in China's Electrical Engineering Times said that Apple is considering using optoelectronics in their rumored iWatch to monitor pulse and blood oxygen levels. This technology measures the changes in light reflected by the body. Light from small LEDs is projected onto one's finger, for example, and then the sensors measure the amount and color of the light reflected. From this it can determine how fast your heart is beating and how much oxygen saturation there is in your blood. Adding to the credibility of this report is the fact that Apple has hired experts in this area in recent weeks. Whether this technology is slated for an iWatch or other wearable device is unclear, but it appears likely that Apple is developing a product that will use it.
The iPad Air blasted the competition in recent tests of battery life conducted by the website Which Tech Daily. In fact, the testing found that it did even better than the advertised 10 hours, offering an impressive 13 hours of video playback. It beat out the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, the second generation Nexus 7, the Tesco Hudl, the Amazon Kindle Fire HD (2013 version), and the 2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. The Air had a 40 percent longer battery life than the Galaxy Note 10.1, the lone tablet in the 10-inch range besides the Air. The iPad 2 and iPad mini with retina display didn't perform as well in video playback, scoring about in the middle of the pack. However, all three of the iPads tested performed better than all the other tablets in a test of Internet use, with the iPad Air again having the longest battery life, clocking 11 hours. The best an Android tablet, the Galaxy Note 10.1, was able to do was 8 hours. By comparison, the iPad mini with retina display lasted 10.23 hours and the iPad 2 lasted 9.8 hours.
Major League Baseball announced on Friday that installation of iBeacon transmitters in two stadiums has now been completed as part of a project to install the technology in over 20 ballparks by the start of the season in late March. Some 65 iBeacon transmitters were installed in Dodger Stadium and Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. So what will it do for you? You'll need to load the MLB.com At the Ballpark app (free) on your iPhone or iPad, and then as you approach specific locations within the park, you'll receive messages on your device. Typically you'll receive offers for discounts at nearby concessions. Also, some parks are planning to use the technology to help guide you to your seat. And some will likely use it to offer information about points of interest within the ballpark. For example, a demo of the technology last fall at Citi Field, home of the Mets, used iBeacon to offer fans digital coupons as they entered the team's store. The demo also brought up an informational video when walking near the giant Apple in the stadium. Different parks will use it for different purposes.
In a previous post, I reported on the story from Bloomberg that Apple was closing in on a deal with Time Warner and was hoping to introduce a new Apple TV device by April. That's starting to look unlikely. An article in the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that one source familiar with Apple's plans said Apple hopes to release a new device by June, and another said it may not be ready until several months after that. The WSJ article also helps to clarify the earlier reports of Apple's possible deal with Time Warner. The question was whether Apple was still trying to make a deal that would allow it to offer its own cable channels or if it's simply hoping to offer the cable companies a better set-top box. Apple had earlier wanted to offer full seasons of TV shows along with live programming. However, the article says Apple has given up on that idea, given the resistance of the cable providers. Most recently Apple is asking just for the five most recent episodes of TV shows. It's also possible, the article says, that Apple would simply sell the new Apple TV devices to the cable companies, who would then rent them as set-top boxes to subscribers, rather than Apple selling the device directly to consumers.
There's been an odd coincidence of events this week, with Bloomberg reporting on Wednesday that Apple was negotiating a partnership with Time Warner and hoped to announce a new Apple TV by April. Then on Thursday news reports said that Comcast had agreed to buy Time Warner, causing observers to wonder what that will mean for Apple's deal with Time Warner. In any case, the Bloomberg report had some interesting details, citing "people with knowledge of the matter." The report said the updated Apple TV would have a faster processor and a new interface. The report also said Apple had also been in talks with Comcast and Direct TV, but they were reluctant to partner with Apple.
When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, it was dramatically different. Smartphones back then were covered with buttons, and typically had a keyboard on the front, like the Blackberry. Apple's iPhone was almost free of buttons, and unlike most phones at the time, used much of the face of the device for the display. There were bezels (or borders) around the edge to give you something to hold on to and avoid inadvertent touches of the display. Then Apple figured out how to recognize and ignore inadvertent touches, and therefore make the bezels narrower. Now the latest rumor, via The Korea Herald, is that Apple is testing a prototype of the iPhone 6 that has no bezel at all. The display would be the entire width of the phone.
MobiHealthNews posted a number of iWatch scoops Monday based on sources with "limited but direct knowledge of Apple's plans...." They reported that Apple has over 200 employees working on the project. That suggests Apple is really serious about this new device, not just experimenting with prototypes.
Rumors continue to swirl regarding the Apple TV set-top box. One rumor is that Apple will be adding gaming and an App Store for the device sometime within the next six weeks. My hunch is that there's a good chance for this happening. In addition, there have been rumors that we'll see a new Apple TV device in the first half of this year. Now, according to a post on 9To5Mac, we have confirmation of a new device. Buried in iOS 7 is a reference to the forthcoming device, alongside references to the already-available versions. It's referenced as AppleTV4,1, with the previous iteration being AppleTV 3,2. The post says that the jump in increment to 4 suggests that the box will be a major upgrade rather than a minor update. 9To5Mac also notes that the previous Apple TV was introduced in March 2012, so it would make sense that March would be the month for the announcement for a new generation of the device.