All posts in “Apple”

Apple makes an unexpected deal to improve cell service in Puerto Rico

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The ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico is making some strange bedfellows.

On Wednesday, Apple announced that it will, with AT&T’s help, enable the 900 MHz Band 8 ban cell service on many iPhones in Puerto Rico. That band can only connect to Google’s Project Loon.

“We are working with AT&T to activate cellular service for iPhone users in Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria. Apple engineers have created a special carrier settings update which users connected to Wi-Fi or who are connected to a cellular network will automatically be prompted to download throughout the week,” said Apple in an official statement.

Devastated on an almost unprecedented scale by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to rebuild core parts of its infrastructure, including basic communication technologies. Many people reported being unable to contact friends and families via cellphones and the internet. 

900 MHz (a 3G Extended GSM network) is not the normal band for cell communications and is not even one licensed for use in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. However, it is the communication band supported by Google’s Project Loon project. 

Earlier this month, Google got the okay to float its still-experimental, helium-balloon-based connection technology over the storm-ravaged island. The Loon balloons are designed to provide internet connectivity for rural areas and operate, more or less, as unmoored cell-towers, floating in the stratosphere and staying aloft for six months. A network carrier, like AT&T, communicates from the ground with the nearest Loon balloon and the balloons communicate with each other. Google’s balloons can provide up to a 10 Mbps LTE connectivity for cellphone owners on the ground.

However, before AT&T iPhone owners (iPhone 5c and above running iOS 10 and higher) can connect to Google’s Loon balloons, they need a crucial carrier update which will enable the 900 MHz Band 8. The iPhone’s mobile broadband radio already supports the provisional band, it’s just not enabled on the phone so the device doesn’t waste battery power scanning for a band that usually doesn’t have service.

The update is comparatively tiny (it can be measured in kilobytes), but the question remains: If there’s limited connectivity, how are Puerto Rico’s iPhone users going to download it?

According to StatusPR, a governmental web site dedicated to tracking Puerto Rica’s infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Maria, more than half of the U.S. territory’s cell towers are out of commission and 75% of cell antennas are still not functional.

There are pockets of connectivity and, overall, StatusPR reports 61% of the Puerto Rican telecommunication system is back online. This, however, includes wired and wireless systems. It’s not clear if AT&T iPhone customers can also download that carrier update from wired systems.

We’ve contacted AT&T for clarification and will update this story with their response.

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Apple is already being sued over one of the iPhone X’s features

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, announces features of the new iPhone X at the Steve Jobs Theater on the new Apple campus in Cupertino, California on Sep. 12, 2017.
Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, announces features of the new iPhone X at the Steve Jobs Theater on the new Apple campus in Cupertino, California on Sep. 12, 2017.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

The iPhone X isn’t even out yet and Apple is already being sued over one of its biggest features.

A developer is suing Apple for copyright infringement, alleging that Apple stole the “Animoji” name from the developer’s app of the same name.

“This is a textbook case of willful, deliberate trademark infringement,” reads the complaint, which was flied in federal court in San Francisco Wednesday.

The Animoji app, which has been in the App Store since 2014, allows people to send animated texts to friends via iMessage and other messaging apps. In the suit, Emonster kk, the Japanese company behind the app, alleges that Apple was fully aware of its app and the name, which is trademarked.

Apple declined to comment, but the lawsuit describes a pretty aggressive fight over the trademark.

Emonster kk says Apple began trying to buy its trademark in the summer of 2017. That’s when, according to the suit, Animoji’s creator Enrique Bonansea was approached by a series of companies with names like “The Emoji Law Group” who tried to buy the trademark and “threatened to file a cancellation proceeding if Bonansea did not sell the mark.”

Bonansea believes that Apple was really behind these groups. A day before Apple’s iPhone X event, one of these groups filed a cancellation request with the U.S. Patent Office.

Interestingly, Apple’s use of the “Animoji” name may have ended up helping the app — at least in the short term. The app, which has only seen about 10,000 downloads overall, saw a sizable bump in downloads in September around the time of Apple’s iPhone event, according to data from Sensor Tower. The increased downloads were likely the result of people searching for Animoji following Apple’s keynote.

Still, the company says its business has suffered since Apple’s launch — both because its app is no longer the top search result for “Animoji,” and because they’re now having to rush out their next update.

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If you’re hoping for an iPhone X at launch, get ready to wait

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Apple’s upcoming iPhone X has reportedly been plagued with production issues — but the company’s manufacturing woes might finally be over.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a respected supply chain source, claims that Apple and its partners have ironed out the problems that have hampered the initial production. Kuo wrote in an investors note he shared with Macrumors that the worst of those challenges have been solved, clearing the road ahead for a ramped up manufacturing schedule. 

Kuo identified three major problems Apple and its partners faced that were causing the production headaches. The most challenging of these was likely the flexible printed circuit board (FPCB) for the iPhone X’s antenna. Original supplier Murata couldn’t meet Apple’s demands, and the parts had to be sourced entirely from a second supplier after manufacturing had already begun.

Another prominent issue was much more widely publicized recently: the infrared dot projector for the new TrueDepth front-facing 3D camera system, aka Romeo. The wide-angle lens for the rear camera also reportedly suffered from quality issues at the supplier level, which have now been resolved.

Apple’s main manufacturing partner, Foxconn, reportedly shipped out the first wave of iPhone X devices earlier this week, presumably after the supply bottlenecks were solved. A Taiwanese publication claimed that the manufacturer was just starting to pump out about 400,000 units per week. 

Apple overcoming its production bottlenecks is exciting for everyone eagerly waiting for the iPhone X preorder period to begin on Oct. 27, but there’s still some bad news: Kuo downgraded his projections for how many devices Apple will be able to ship before the end of the year. 

He thinks Apple will only be able to bring 25 to 30 million units to market before 2018, down from his previous estimate of 30 to 35 million, which isn’t great news for consumers as there are expected to be around 50 million preorders alone for the X. 

Kuo only expects that Apple will be able to ship two to three million of the devices to its distribution channels for the Nov. 3 launch, well under the massive demand. That means that most people won’t come close to one of the new smartphones, at least not right away.

If you’re hoping for one of the deluxe new phones, get ready to wait. Apple has a ton of new phones to make.

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Apple reportedly isn’t producing enough iPhone X units for first weekend sales


According to a new report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple is still facing supply chain constraints for the upcoming iPhone X. The company will have around 2 to 3 million units before the launch on November 3rd, which shouldn’t be enough to meet demand.

While Apple didn’t disclose exact numbers for first weekend sales last year, the company sold 13 million iPhone 6s units during the first weekend, 10 million iPhone 6 units and 9 million iPhone 5s/5c units. The iPhone 8 is already available, which could mitigate demand for the iPhone X, but it sounds like many buyers will be disappointed by Apple’s initial stock.

In many ways, the iPhone X packs more innovative components than your average new iPhone. Apple usually adds cutting-edge components when its suppliers can produce tens of millions of them. But multiple parts of the iPhone X are generating supply chain issues.

According to KGI Securities, Apple now uses a flexible printed circuit board for the antenna. This is not your average circuit board, so Apple has had issues finding suppliers that can produce those components at scale. Murata was supposed to be the main supplier for this part, but it sounds like the company can’t meet Apple’s strong requirements. Since then, Apple has found a new supplier, which created some delays.

On the camera front, Apple is using a different circuit board for each sensor. Other phone makers only use one circuit board. This custom design has also been a challenge.

Finally, the iPhone X features a ton of sensors on the front of device. Apple has packed a tiny Kinect in the notch of the device. One component in particular projects a network of infrared dots to create a 3D map of your face based on the reflection of those dots on your face. Apple has had issues finding a supplier that can produce enough dot projectors for the iPhone X.

iPhone X pre-orders start on Friday, October 27th at midnight Pacific time. If you plan on getting the new phone, you shouldn’t delay your pre-order. Chances are that shipping estimations are going to slip to multiple weeks after just a few minutes.

Production should ramp up in the coming weeks, but it sounds like it could take months before you can just walk in an Apple store and buy a new iPhone X. It’s going to be interesting to hear Tim Cook’s comments on those supply chain issues when Apple announces its quarterly earnings in a couple of weeks.

Mac mini is not dead, sayeth Tim Cook

You thought that just because Apple hasn’t updated it in over three years, the Mac mini is dead? We don’t blame you, but according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, there’s still hope for Apple’s tiny desktop computer. 

The news comes via Cook’s somewhat surprising response to a customer’s letter, unearthed by MacRumors

“I’m glad you love Mac mini,” wrote Cook. “We love it too. Our customers have found so many creative and interesting users for Mac mini. While it is not time to share any details, we do plan for Mac mini to be an important part of our product line going forward.”

Cook’s letter echoes Phil Schiller’s statement from April 2017, when he said that the mini is “still a product in (Apple’s) lineup.”

Six months later, it still doesn’t appear like a new mini is right around the corner, but at least we know Apple hasn’t completely forgotten about it. 

Combined with previous news, this vague update on the Mac mini spells an interesting near-future for fans of Apple desktop computers. The iMac Pro is launching in December,  and a completely revamped Mac Pro is coming sometime next year. 

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