New quick app switching & other concepts show options on the table for iOS 7 [Videos]

With the recent departure of longtime iOS chief Scott Forstall, many expect some big changes in iOS 7. Not only is Jony Ive taking over design responsibilities related to iOS, but also Apple is increasingly coming under criticism for its aging core iOS apps and highly requested features already available on other platforms that it has yet to implement. We discussed some of the big software features iOS 7 might have in store, but today we present a roundup of the best iOS 7 concepts we could find starting with a new one from the creator of jailbreak tweak Auxo.

Sentry, the original designer behind the popular Auxo jailbreak tweak, yesterday posted the new Quick App Switching concept above (via iFun). While Auxo provided a screenshot of running apps integrated into the iOS multitasking tray, the concept above takes a different approach and aims to add speed to the app switching process.

This next concept comes from YouTube user imjeanmarc and shows a tray accessible from the lock screen, providing quick toggles for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc.:

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Can Apple get away with another “S” iPhone?

iPhone5S-9to5-Feb2013

There have been many rumors this year about what upgrades Apple will include in its anticipated annual iPhone refresh. Most agree Apple will move to release two iPhones, but there is some debate about what those phones will be.

Rumor has it that Apple is working on a low-cost iPhone that will do away with the current iPhone design and instead use a new plastic case with a curved back similar to previous iPods. Despite being a less expensive device, that could make things even trickier for Apple to impress with an iPhone 5S upgrade that is largely expected to retain the “old” design of the currently shipping iPhone 5. The devices from competitors are making things even more difficult for Apple’s expected “S” upgrade. Rumors of a 4.8-inch iPhone prototype that recently surfaced don’t seem likely for the next iPhone, but that hasn’t stopped mainstream media and analysts from reporting that Apple is losing out on iPhone sales as consumers opt for larger screen devices. However, that might now be the case, at least not in the United States, with Strategy Analytics and NPD estimating Apple beat Samsung to become the No.1 phone vendor in Q4 2012. Will consumers want or expect a larger screen on the next iPhone, or will Apple’s usual minor refresh suffice?

What did past S upgrades have? Read more

Apple’s AuthenTec sells off embedded security solutions division, keeps the fingerprint & NFC tech

In July, a 10K filing showed that Apple acquired security company AuthenTec for $356 million. At the time, we noted Apple was presumably after the company’s various fingerprint-related technologies, while companies such as Samsung, Motorola, and others entered in deals with AuthenTec for its secure VPNs, encryption algorithms, and security-related products. Today, NFCWorld (via TechCrunch) reported Authentec has now sold its embedded security solutions division to NFC company Inside Secure. The sale would seem to indicate that Apple was indeed specifically after the company’s fingerprint and NFC solutions:

The sale suggests that Apple’s interest in acquiring Authentec lies with the company’s innovative combined fingerprint and NFC solution, which is not part of the division being acquired by Inside Secure, and will lead to renewed speculation that Apple will include NFC in future iPhones and other devices…. NFC and contactless chip provider Inside Secure is to acquire the embedded security systems division of Authentec, the fingerprint and secure solutions specialist which Apple agreed to buy for US$356m in July 2012. The transaction is valued at up to US$48m.

To get a hold of AuthenTec’s Embedded Security Solutions Division, Inside Secure will reportedly pay $38 million in cash and another $10 million “subject to completion of certain post-closing transactions.” Products the division is responsible for are currently used in hundreds of millions of mobile and networking devices worldwide, with customers ranging from Samsung, Nokia, LG, and Motorola to HBO, Cisco, and Texas Instruments. Last year, the division brought in sales of $25.3 million. Read more

Apple has a lot more NFC ideas than just a Wallet app

9to5Mac reported last month that prototypes of the next iPhone contained Near Field Communications hardware. The tech could obviously be used with the PassBook app to create some wallet-type functionality, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

The US Patent & Trademark Office published more patent applications today from Apple that indicated the company envisioned much more NFC capabilities than a Wallet app. The company apparently filed the applications between 2009 and 2010, and the graphics depict an iPhone interacting and controlling everything from a television and DVR to a standalone camera and a projector.

Patently Apple detailed the patent applications:

Our report mainly focuses on the new system as it relates to an iDevice controlling and interacting with a possible standalone television in addition to an expanded version of Apple’s current Apple TV styled device. The updated Apple TV could one day control cable or satellite television programming and video game play via a video game controller. This would really be a boost for Apple if users were able to play high end RPG video styled games with a standard styled controller. Further, Apple’s invention runs deep and they envision NFC ready iDevices being able to control standalone cameras, projectors, in-home security systems, lawn sprinkler systems, your thermostat, garage door and more. One of these fine days, future iDevices will finally support NFC; and when they do – watch out, because Apple will open the floodgates and release a new generation of applications noted in this report and others like their forthcoming iWallet. Will Apple’s next generation iPhone 5 finally be the one that will introduce NFC? Only time will tell.

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Start using Passbook on iOS 6 with a few simple steps

During Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference opening keynote, which took place earlier this month, Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall unveiled a new app called “Passbook” that allows customers to track a number of various types of stubs, including boarding passes, loyalty cards, movie tickets, and coupons.

The app is included in the iOS 6 preview currently available to developers a part of Apple’s developer program, but it is missing those virtual items to put inside. For now, it is just a sitting page with no functionality. However, Passbook will most likely swing into full gear as Apple makes more additions heading into this fall. For those of you itching to start using Passbook, you can get it going in iOS 6 with just a few simple steps:

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New iPhone prototypes have NFC chips and antenna

We have previously been able to pull data from PreEVT iPhone 5,1 and iPhone 5,2 prototypes codenamed “N41AP (5,1)” and “N42AP (5,2)”, which lead us to believe that the new iPhone will have a bigger 1,136-by-640 display. We also detailed a lot of the hardware (here), but we forgot one very important bit of information. Further investigation into this hardware code dump leads us to believe that these iPhones also have Near Field Communication controllers directly connected to the Power Management Unit.

The implications are obviously monstrous. With the recently announced PassBook application (which we detailed prior to its announcement while speculating about an NFC tie-in), Apple will be set to compete with Google Wallet and Microsoft’s similar service that unveiled last week. Apple could tie in with a payment processor like Citibank’s PayPass system for credit card transactions—or it could become a payment processor of sorts with its hundreds of millions of credit cards already on file at iTunes.

NFC would also allow iPhone users a quick and easy way to share files from one iOS device to another.

Jim Peters, CTO of SITA, agrees that NFC is coming to iPhone and retailers should prepare…

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Phil Schiller: App Store is more democratic than traditional retail, Passbook is not a direct payment service

In a recent story about growing concerns among app developers who want better ways to promote their apps in the App Store, The Wall Street Journal published quotes from an interview with Apple’s Vice President for Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller about the “tremendous amount” of work Apple does to help new apps get discovered. Schiller also talked about how things will improve with the redesigned App Store, Facebook integration, and new user tracking tools for developers in iOS 6:
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Mastercard/Paypass to be NFC partner with Apple on iPhone 5?

iPhone NFC by moneto

We had some time to talk to a well-connected developer at Macworld who was building an app that— among other capabilities— includes NFC reading for the purpose of mobile transactions.  We were obviously curious why they would do that, noting that third party NFC readers for iPhone were not popular (aside from the recently announced Moneto, above).  The developer told us that he had no hardware knowledge, but he had spoken to Apple iOS engineers on multiple occasions, and they are “heavy into NFC.”

I asked how confident he was, and he said, “Enough to bet the app development on.”

This is not the first we have heard that iPhone 5 would have NFC, however.  Besides the deluge of ideas Apple has patented with NFC, the New York Times said pre-iPhone 4S that an upcoming iPhone would have NFC.  While it did not turn out to be the iPhone 4S, it could be the one coming up.

(Moneto again)

The question is now: Who will Apple partner with for its payment systems?  Over the weekend we received some hints… Read more