iOS Devices August 24, 2011

There is no shortage of iPhone 5 renderings, leaks and case designs and we posted those on a few..different..occasions. As opposed to artists’ renditions predominantly based on leaked cases and late rumors, let’s step back for a moment and think big. Courtesy of Aatma Studio, a San Francisco-based 3D animation and digital content shop, here comes a cool iPhone 5 concept they fashioned, shown above.

We absolutely love the virtual laser keyboard that can be “swapped out” of the device and perched on the desk. It is also pinch-zoomable and illumination controlled. As for the holographic display, the idea actually stems from Apple’s patent filings related to pico projection systems letting you (theoretically, of course) flick whatever’s shown on your device’s display onto the wall. Enjoying a movie projection while camping at night suddenly takes on a whole new dimensions. Wondering about that thriller-like soundtrack? It’s “Movement Proposition” by Kevin MacLeod.

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Acer’s seven-inch Iconia Tab A100 tablet, which hit US shores earlier this month

Sixteen months following the original iPad launch back in April 2010, the Android camp has hit unexpected roadblocks as first tablets based on Google’s software fail to impress the mass consumer or gain any meaningful traction in the marketplace. Earlier this year heads rolled at companies that couldn’t produce a viable answer to Apple’s market-defining product, while nasty quotes from competitors only served to stress their jealousy. Computer maker Acer is a typical example. Their former CEO and president Gianfranco Lanci was forced to quit his post abruptly in the wake of the iPad challenge as the company outlined reorganization plans.

Today, the Acer Group posted preliminary results and the numbers don’t look good. They suffered a quarterly operating loss of NT$7.1 billion (about $246 million) – Acer’s first-ever quarterly loss – and a 32 percent annual drop in consolidated revenues of NT$102.1 billion, or about $3.5 billion. Three hundred jobs will be cut in Europe and the company will take a $150 million hit to write off inventory and doubtful payments in Europe. Acer shares fell a whopping 65 percent this year in a broader market down 16.4 percent. Also, they have no compelling products in sight in the run-up to the holiday quarter. It gets worse, chairman JT Wang tells Guardian:

Today I have to say, trying to break even this year becomes impossible.

Why poor results? As mentioned earlier, Acer had to swallow significant costs attributed to company-wide reorganization and clearing up excessive inventory. The latter is in line with other makers reducing prices of Android tablets in order to “digest inventory overstock”. Interestingly, Acer will no longer report sell-in, which only includes shipments to the channel, and will instead switch to the sell-through model which counts actual sales to end users.

This is what the post-PC world ranking looks like today, if you count tablets as PCs

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iOS Devices August 23, 2011

Apple has won 16 new patents published by the the US Patent and Trademark Office today (via PatentlyApple) that cover everything from possible methods of charging future Apple products via solar power, to key multi-touch technology and iOS camera related patents. Certainly more fuel for the ongoing patent wars between Apple and the rest of the smartphone industry.

We already know Apple is experimenting with solar power from past patents, even going as far as considering which company would produce panels for future products. We also heard reports in March of a superthin solar panel layer from French company Wysips that could be rolling out to handset manufactures within a year. Today one of the 16 newly granted patents gets us a step closer by detailing “methods and apparatuses for operating devices with solar power”.

PatentlyApple explains:

“a solar power tracking apparatus includes, but is not limited to, a voltage converter and a controller coupled to the voltage converter. The voltage converter includes an input capable of being coupled to a solar power source and an output capable of being coupled to an electronic load, such as, for example, a portable electronic device. The voltage converter is configured to monitor or detect an amount of power drawn by the electronic load at the output of the voltage converter. In response to the monitored power drawn, the controller is configured to control the voltage converter to reduce amount of power to be drawn subsequently if the monitored amount of power exceeds a predetermined threshold. As a result, the output voltage from the solar power source is maintained within a predetermined range.”

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You may have heard about “prior art”. In patent law, prior art is basically all information made available publicly before a date which might be relevant to a patent’s claims of originality. Hence, if any invention can be described in prior art, its patent can be invalidated. Samsung is resorting to some pretty sci-fi (literally!) arguments in its legal spat with the Cupertino gadget maker, having gone as far as citing Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” movie as prior art against Apple’s tablet.

The finding, discovered by intellectual property expert Florian Mueller on his blog FOSS Patents, stems from page two of an exhibit Samsung filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The document reads:

Attached hereto as Exhibit D is a true and correct copy of a still image taken from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey”. In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. The clip can be downloaded online at As with the design claimed by the D’889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table’s surface), and a thin form factor.

The prior art claim is in Samsung’s defense against Apple’s motion for a preliminary injunction. Samsung must be pretty desperate if they’re resorting to such childish tactics. Color us blue, but this one tops Samsung’s claim in a Dutch court that Apple doctored Galaxy smartphone images.

Go past the break for the said YouTube clip from “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Now, I’m no lawyer but Samsung would probably be better served to use their own prior art, perhaps something like this Photoframe from 2006. What do you think?

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Reuters this morning ran a story sourced from “two people with knowledge of the matter” who confirmed that Apple in fact is gearing up to launch an inexpensive iPhone model alongside a new fifth-generation iPhone in “late September”, which 9to5Mac was first to report on with the September 29 pre-order date. The cheapo one? An 8GB version of iPhone 4, expected to launch “within weeks”:

Asian suppliers to Apple Inc have begun manufacturing a lower-priced version of its hot-selling iPhone 4 with a smaller 8 gigabyte flash drive, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The flash drive for the 8GB iPhone 4 is being manufactured by a Korean company, one of the people said Tuesday, declining to name the company. Apple currently sources its flash drives from Japan’s Toshiba and South Korea’s Samsung Electronics.

There has been some talk as of late that Apple has begun sourcing Samsung parts from other suppliers amid a nasty patent spat with the Korean consumer electronics maker. It is therefore entirely possible that Apple bought the 8GB NAND flash model from Toshiba, but with the price being paramount for this cheap iPhone 4 we wouldn’t be surprise if the chips came from Samsung, if the price was right. The Reuters report also describes iPhone 5 as sporting an improved antenna, a bigger screen and an eight-megapixel camera on the back. Surprisingly, the sources insist iPhone 5’s form factor is similar to its predecessor, which contradicts the rumor-mill and recent case leaks that point to a slimmer, redesigned appearance.

Apple currently offers iPhone 4 in 16GB and 32GB flavors for $199 and $299, respectively, after a two-year service contract. It is unclear whether Apple will remove the two-year old iPhone 3GS from market this Fall and replace it with the 8GB iPhone 4 at a similar asking price or perhaps free? The story corroborates our own speculation that September will see Apple launch two iPhones, a major upgrade that is the iPhone 5 and an inexpensive model for emerging markets that could either be this 8GB iPhone 4 or even a re-worked iPod touch with 3G connectivity added.

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iOS Devices August 22, 2011

Multiple leaks of various parts purported to belong to a fifth-generation iPhone, which we’ve been hearing is up for launch October 7, are a norm that late in the game. Today, MacRumors points (here and here) to several components allegedly sourced from suppliers. These parts might have been used in the design of iPhone 5. The back camera module, picture above next to its iPhone 4 counterpart, reveals the familiar compact design calling for the LED flash embedded closely to the CMOS sensor.

Surprisingly, the iPhone 5’s back camera appears to lack dual LED flash. Of course, you never know with those leaks. For all we know, this part could just as easily have been used in one of early iPhone 5 design prototypes. It could also be the case of a repair shop looking for some free coverage. As 9to5mac reported back in April, Apple is likely to keep iPhone 5 ahead of other smartphones in the camera department by using Sony’s eight-megapixel camera.

The company also might keep its current supplier, OmniVision. That company unveiled in May a 1080p camera sensor that could lend itself well to a thinner designs, said to be one of the iPhone 5’s treats. Asian trade publication DigiTimes followed-up with a report that both Sony and OmniVision cut a deal to supply Apple with eight-megapixel cameras for iPhone 5s. The other leaked parts reveal little new information, but are nevertheless interesting…

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