Rumor: Apple's iPad mini 4 will be a miniature iPad Air 2, could launch alongside A9

Jul 25, 2015 - 12:52 PM - by sparkyscott21

A new report out of the Far East claims that Apple's iPad mini 4 will see many of the same upgrades received by the iPad Air 2 last year, only compressed into a much smaller footprint. Meanwhile, a 2015 debut of the iPad Air 3 is said to remain a possibility.

The Japanese-language Macotakara said on Saturday that its industry sources are describing the iPad mini 4 as a shrunken version of the iPad Air 2, with plans calling for the adoption of many of the same specifications, notably a new 8MP iSight camera, A8-series processor, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

Additionally, the new iPad mini 4 is rumored to see its thickness shaved down from 7.5mm to match the iPad Air 2's thickness of 6.1mm. It's also likely to gain the Air 2's laminated display with antireflective coating, according to the report.

Separately, the report looks to hedge recent rumors that Apple may forgo an upgrade to the iPad Air this year in order to reduce pressure on manufacturers who will be tasked with pumping out both a 12.9" iPad Pro and all-new iPad mini 4.

Citing sources, it claims that the design footprint – including the length, width, depth and thickness – of the iPad Air 3 will remain unchanged from the iPad Air 2, thereby raising the likelihood that an A9-powered version of the tablet will make a simultaneous debut alongside the new iPad mini 4 and iPad Pro this fall.


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Leaked Intel Skylake info reveals future MacBooks will gain graphics boosts

Jul 24, 2015 - 1:21 PM - by sparkyscott21

Newly-leaked Intel presentation slides suggest that the company's upcoming Skylake processors could bring important performance and power consumption improvements to future Macs.

The slides, obtained by FanlessTech, state that Skylake's 14-nanometer architecture should improve CPU performance by 10 to 20 percent over Broadwell systems, while simultaneously advancing battery life by as much as 30 percent. In a given example, a laptop with 8.5 hours of battery life could jump to 11.3 hours.

Integrated graphics chip performance should be anywhere between 16 and 41 percent faster, with the biggest boost coming to Y-Series Skylake chips, suitable for ultra-mobile laptops like the 12-inch MacBook. Reviews have often criticized the MacBook's ability to handle graphics-heavy apps.

U-Series chips could conceivably be adopted for future versions of the MacBook Air, while the H-Series is intended for higher-end laptops like the MacBook Pro. The desktop-level S-Series could theoretically make it into the iMac or Mac mini.

Apple has already updated several Mac lines in 2015, which could mean that few if any Skylake Macs will be released this year. The 15-inch MacBook Pro is still on Haswell architecture though, and the iMac lineup has not seen any major changes beyond price reductions. The Mac mini was last updated in October 2014.

Past rumors have hinted that Skylake laptop processors could ship in October, which might be in time for one of Apple's usual fall press events, as well as the launch of OS X El Capitan.


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Apple stops selling Nest’s thermostat following launch of HomeKit-compatible Ecobee 3

Jul 24, 2015 - 11:37 AM - by sparkyscott21

Apple has removed Google’s Nest smart thermostat from both its online store and physical retail locations following the launch of some of the first HomeKit devices. As reported by Mashable, Google’s smart thermostat is not available from Apple and searching for the product on Apple’s online store now reveals HomeKit-compatible smart devices instead.

Specifically, Apple is marketing the Ecobee 3 smart thermostat instead of Nest’s offering. The Ecobee 3 runs $249 and officially went on sale in Apple Stores earlier this month following Apple official documenting HomeKit last month. The Ecobee is, of course, compatible with HomeKit and can be controlled via Siri.

This isn’t the first time Apple has pulled competitor products from its retail location and online store. Following the announcement of Apple Watch, Apple stopped selling the Fitbit fitness tracking lineup of devices. Not only was Fitbit a competitor to Apple, but it also refused to support Apple’s HealthKit platform. Apple also removed the Jawbone and Nike fitness bands from its retail stores prior to the launch of Apple Watch, although the former of the two returned after missing for three months.

Apple’s motive for removing the Nest thermostat from its lineup of accessories is unclear at this point. Nest was co-founded by former Apple engineers Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers. Perhaps the device will return at a later point like Jawbone’s offerings did, but with Apple also streamlining the accessories it offers, that seems unlikely.


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Apple throws clout behind Equality Act blocking discrimination against LGBT Americans

Jul 24, 2015 - 11:30 AM - by sparkyscott21

Via a press statement, Apple on Thursday officially backed the Equality Act, an expansion of 1964's Civil Rights Act that – if voted in – would add gender identity and sexual orientation to non-discrimination protections for Americans.

The statement appeared on the website of Human Rights Campaign, an activist organization devoted to LGBT issues. The proposed legislation was introduced to Congress on Tuesday afternoon, and has the support of other major corporations like Dow and Levi Strauss.

"At Apple we believe in equal treatment for everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love," Apple wrote. "We fully support the expansion of legal protections as a matter of basic human dignity."

Most U.S. states still lack non-discrimination laws for the LGBT community. Such laws can be controversial, since they sometimes conflict with conservative religious views, but supporters consider them essential to safeguarding access to jobs, housing and other civil rights.

Apple has been a leading corporate backer of LGBT causes for decades, having been one of the first American companies to offer equal benefits to same-sex couples. It vocally and financially opposed a 2008 ballot measure that temporarily banned gay marriage in California, and current CEO Tim Cook – who is gay himself – has spoken out repeatedly on LGBT issues.

The company has also become a staple of San Francisco's annual Pride Parade. In June, thousands of Apple workers and supporters marched for the parade's 45th anniversary, wearing official t-shirts and carrying a corporate banner.


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Apple celebrates 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with App Sto

Jul 24, 2015 - 11:28 AM - by sparkyscott21

Observing 25 years of the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act, Apple is profiling a collection of accessibility apps expressly designed to accommodate users with vision, hearing, speech, physical and motor skills or learning and literacy issues.

Accessibility is seen as a core value at Apple, where engineers are specifically trained how to implement accessibility features across all products. Prior to today's ADA-inspired Accessibility app catalog, the company has regularly featured third party apps that take advantage of the accessibility features included in iOS, OS X and watchOS.

The company has set a high standard in innovative assistive technologies–including VoiceOver, Zoom and Mono Audio–which are built into the core of iOS, OS X and watchOS at no additional cost for users, a major advance from previous decades where users with special accessibility needs had to buy add-on products (such as a screen reader for Windows) that could easily cost thousands of dollars.

Apple's third party developers can make their apps seamlessly functional for a broad range of users using Apple's accessibility APIs provided in iOS, OS X and WatchKit.

Earlier this summer, Apple's VoiceOver technology was honored with an award from the American Foundation for the Blind for its "success in improving quality of life for people with vision loss through groundbreaking innovation."

Last year, Mark A. Riccobono, the president of the National Federation of the Blind, similarly praised the company, noting that "Apple has done more for accessibility than any other company to date, and we have duly recognized this by presenting the company with at least two awards (including our annual Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award) and publicly praising it whenever the opportunity arises."


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Consortium-backed Apple Pay competitor CurrentC to launch 'trial run' in August

Jul 24, 2015 - 11:25 AM - by sparkyscott21

CurrentC, the MCX-developed mobile payment platform backed by a number of major U.S. retailers, will reportedly see an initial trial run in August, signaling that the service is finally approaching a public launch.

That trial will be limited, three sources explained to Bloomberg, although they did not mention details. A spokeswoman for one company in the MCX consortium, Lowe's, said that a CurrentC app should launch sometime in the September quarter. MCX COO Scott Rankin confirmed only that tests are beginning this year and that the consortium is "making good progress" on the app.

"We expect there to be more than one successful player in mobile payments, and we expect to be one of them," he added.

CurrentC was created as a way for retailers to reduce fees paid to credit card comanies and other financial services, and has the backing of businesses like Best Buy, Walmart, CVS, and Wendy's. The service should also allow retailers to hold on to customer data, something they stand to lose if other mobile payment platforms catch on.

It faces several serious problems however, such as a potential lack of confidence – owing to a 2014 security breach – and no support for credit or debit cards other than store-issued ones. The only alternative will be giving MCX direct access to a checking account.

The biggest barrier is likely to be rival mobile payment platforms, above all Apple Pay and Android Pay. The former has already gained significant traction, and Android Pay will be available alongside the next version of Android, launching later this year. Since the platforms are being integrated into popular mobile devices, there may be little reason to install CurrentC unless a favorite retailer simply isn't accepting alternatives.

MCX did impose three-year exclusivity agreements on participating merchants, but Bloomberg sources said these are ending in August. One MCX partner, Best Buy, announced as far back as April that it would support Apple Pay by the end of 2015.


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