First look at the assembly process of an iPad at Foxconn factory

Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz is the second reporter ever to get an inside look at Foxconn, the manufacturing plant where Apple’s products are made. Today, Schmitz posted a video showing our first-ever look at the assembly process of an iPad as it goes down the assembly line at the Foxconn plant in Shanghai, China. It is interesting to look at how machines streamline some of the process. Schmitz also noted a few other interesting points, such as workers switching positions every few days while making $14 a day when first starting.


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New Apple TV A5 actually built from dual-core chip, 41% smaller than older A5s

In order to bring 1080P video playing to the new Apple TV, Apple included what they called a single-core A5 processors. Many industry watchers noted that this A5 was a new A5 chip specifically designed for the new Apple TV, as it is Apple’s only single-core A5. The A5 SoC from the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 is a dual-core variant. While Apple calls it a single-core A5, Chipworks reveals that, while the chip runs as a single-core unit, the chip is actually dual-core based. Chipworks provides a possible explanation:

Either Apple is only utilizing one core or they are binning parts. Parts binning is a common process in semiconductors where devices are segregated (binned) based on meeting a subset of the overall requirements,  in this case they could disable the “bad” core, this increases the usable die per wafer, lowering the cost.

Additionally, the teardown firm says this new A5 chip for the new Apple TV is 41% smaller than the A5 processors found in Apple’s other A5-driven devices. The reasoning is quite important for a small, TV-based product: the smaller architecture offers cost-savings to Apple (important for the retention of the $99 pricing), improved power efficiency, and even better performance. Chipworks believes that this new type of A5 chip may be a peak into Apple’s future chips. Earier this week, we reported that Apple is working on a variant of the A5X iPad processor for the sixth-generation iPhone.

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Rockstar’s original Max Payne lands in App Store with Retina graphics

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Update: The app is live on most stores now including the U.S. store for $2.99 here.

Rockstar announced a couple of weeks ago that the iOS port of classic PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox title “Max Payne” would make its way to the App Store April 12. One day early, it looks like the game is already available in App Stores around the world with the New Zealand store, the Australian store, and others already listing the game.

The game in terms of plot and gameplay does not stray far from the original, but Rockstar updated the port with new high-res textures and graphics with full support for the iPhone 4S and the third-generation iPad’s Retina displays. Controls were reconfigured for the touchscreen, and Rockstar is bundling support for its Social Club Xbox Live-like network for iPhone 4, 4S, iPad 2, and the new iPad users. The game will also support cheats, such as the “Skip to Level.”

We will keep you updated when “Max Payne” lands in the United States store, most likely for around the $4.99 $2.99 mark. When it does, the universal app will be compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod Touch 4, iPad 1, iPad 2, and the new iPad.

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Apple online store apparently testing screen sharing guided tours of product pages

The Apple Store went down last night and updated with a new “We’ll be back soon” logo, but Apple also appears to be testing a new virtual product tour as part of its sales chat feature. Apple has provided the ability to chat with sales support through certain product pages for a long time via an “Ask Now” button.

As of today, the feature has a slightly refreshed look, and —as discovered by MacMagazine— Apple is apparently testing a feature on at least the Brazilian store that lets Apple employees share their screen to give a guided tour of the product page. It appears the guided tours must be initiated by Apple support staff and confirmed by the user before beginning. The report also provided the image above, which shows the new feature in action.

The image to the right was sent in by a reader showing Apple support asking if the user would like to view their screen while chatting. The support staff also requested to talk on the phone during the guided tour.

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DOJ explains settlement with three publishers, Macmillan CEO explains why they won’t settle

The U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney Gen. Eric Holder just announced (via CNN) a settlement with three publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster— following this morning’s report that it would launch an antitrust suit against Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin, which refused to settle. The settlement is said to give publishers the “freedom to reduce the prices of their e-book titles,” allowing Amazon to return to its previous wholesale model.

The states are seeking $51 million in restitution that will be provided through a credit toward a future book purchase or a check, although the Department of Justice’s charges remain civil. The exact details of the settlements with the three publishers were not discussed, but Apple, Penguin, and Macmillan will continue to fight charges in the lawsuit filed earlier today in New York.

As for exactly why Apple and the two other publishers have decided to take the case to court, at least one publisher is speaking. Macmillan’s Chief Executive Officer John Sargent published an open letter today explaining the company’s stance (via PaidContent). In the letter, Sargent claimed the Department of Justice’s settlement demands “could have allowed Amazon to recover the monopoly position it had built before our switch to the agency model.” He also said it is “hard to settle a lawsuit when you know you have done no wrong” and called the agency model the future of an “open and competitive market.”

Interestingly, AllThingsD pointed us to a line from the Department of Justice’s official complaint that indicates Apple proposed teaming up with Amazon at one point:

In addition to considering competitive entry at that time, though, Apple also contemplated illegally dividing the digital content world with Amazon, allowing each to “own the category” of its choice—audio/video to Apple and e-books to Amazon.

Go past the break for Sargent’s full letter, which is a great rundown of the case from the perspective of the publishers that have decided not to settle:
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Verizon Wireless instating $30 mobile device upgrade fee April 22

Following suit with other carriers, Verizon Wireless announced this morning its plan to instate a $30 mobile device upgrade fee April 22. This means if you are an existing Verizon customer looking to purchase a new device on a two-year contract, you will have to pay $30. Thanks!

Verizon was the only carrier not to charge its customers an upgrade fee. AT&T and Sprint each charge their customers $36 to upgrade to a new device on contract, while T-Mobile charges customers $18 to upgrade. Verizon claims the reason is: “This fee will help us continue to provide customers with the level of service and support they have come to expect which includes Wireless Workshops, online educational tools, and consultations with experts who provide advice and guidance on devices that are more sophisticated than ever.”

Since the fee covers “all mobile devices,” 3G+4G enabled tablets would also appear to be also under this window. You can check out the full press release after the break.

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US government sues Apple in eBook price-fixing antitrust suit

Bloomberg is reporting that the United States has filed an antitrust lawsuit in a New York district court against Apple and publishers Hachette SA, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster over alleged eBook price-fixing. The news follows reports from Reuters yesterday that the U.S. Department of Justice was preparing to launch a lawsuit against Apple and five major publishers accused of colluding to fix and increase the price of eBooks.

According to the report, all the parties named in the suit—except Macmillan, Penguin, and Apple— are willing to settle to avoid legal costs. The Department of Justice could announce “unspecified” settlements as early as today.

At the core of the settlement discussions is the agency model introduced with the iPad in 2010. The deal with publishers was described by Steve Jobs to biographer Walter Isaacson:

“We told the publishers, ‘We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway…. They went to Amazon and said, ‘You’re going to sign an agency contract or we’re not going to give you the books.’ “

The model allows publishers to set their own prices as long as Apple gets a 30 percent cut and a guarantee that the same content is not offered lower elsewhere, but the Department of Justice is trying to return to Amazon’s wholesale model by giving retailers like Amazon control over pricing. Bloomberg explained: Read more

So much for Instagram defections, displaces its buyer Facebook as No. 1 iOS App

O.K., here is another Instagram story, but now its about the iOS app landing the No. 1 free app spot in the App Store for the first time—despite much media attention on the subject of it selling out to Facebook.

Hipsters everywhere donning their skinny jeans took to Twitter to post one last heavily filtered image, while threatening to delete their Instagram accounts after news broke earlier this week that social network giant Facebook bought the app for a cool $1 billion.

Many tweets and reports even detailed how to keep Instagram photos from Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisitive hands through export services like that essentially leave users free and clear to erase the Instagram app from their smartphones.

The public’s warning now seems empty, of course, as Instagram itself used Twitter this morning to announce its sudden surge in popularity. It looks as though the intense press scrutiny only encouraged the iOS app to soar up the charts. Meanwhile, its new parent company does not even sit in the top 25 free apps in Apple’s App Store.

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