Google hires designer behind Apple’s mobile chips

Google wasn’t shy about targeting its Pixel phones at iPhone users (it even helped them migrate), and now that similarity could extend to the processors under the hood. Variety has discovered that Google recently hired Manu Gulati, a key chip designer at Apple, to become its lead system-on-chip architect. While Gulati’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t say much about what he’s doing, sources claim that Google hired him with the goal of designing its own CPUs for Pixel phones. It’s looking for more chip experts, too, and has posted job listings or a “mobile SoC CPU architect” and similar roles.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment and will let you know if it can elaborate on the hire.

It’s not completely shocking that Google would go this route: there were rumblings in 2016 about Pixel phones eventually adopting custom processors. The big concern is whether or not it’s practical. Apple, Huawei and Samsung can all justify in-house CPUs because they sell many millions of devices every quarter. Google hasn’t divulged Pixel sales, but it’s safe to say they’re nowhere near as large as more established rivals with wider availability and bigger marketing budgets. If Variety is accurate, Google is betting either on the Pixel line’s continued growth or is willing to take the likely financial hit that comes with making chips in smaller batches.

The custom chip strategy could also make Google’s Android partners nervous. They’ve had to accept Google as a hardware competitor for years, to varying degrees, but they’ve also known that Nexus and Pixel phones were using off-the-shelf chips that reduced their ability to stand out. If Google can give itself a performance advantage through custom processors, that would change the game. The Pixel line would have an edge over the sea of Snapdragon-based phones on the market, and it might fare better against Huawei and Samsung phones. Apple wouldn’t have as much to worry about (it’s the only choice for iOS, after all), but it might sweat a bit if Google can brag about its hardware brawn.

Source: Variety, LinkedIn

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Apple’s fabled iPad redesign may arrive at WWDC

Apple could have more than one hardware treat to unveil at WWDC this year. KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (who has a mostly solid track record for Apple predictions) now believes that Apple is likely to launch a long-rumored 10.5-inch iPad redesign when the developer conference kicks off on June 5th. Kuo understands that mass production is supposed to start in the late second quarter (aka June), so it only makes sense for the tablet to launch around the same time. As for what the device would entail, provided the report is accurate? To no one’s surprise, Kuo mostly focus on the display.

As hinted at in the past, the 10.5-inch iPad (possibly badged as an iPad Pro) would be the first example of the narrow-bezel design that would come to the iPhone this fall. You would get a noticeably larger screen in the same approximate surface area as Apple’s 9.7-inch tablets. There has also been some talk of this new model carrying a souped-up “A10X” processor (much as other iPads have used upgraded “X” chips), but it’s not certain that this would be the case. Other iPads might stick around, whatever happens. Kuo previously asserted that there would be refreshed 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch Pro models as well, so this would just represent a sort of middle child.

The WWDC launch is plausible, although there are definitely reasons to be skeptical. If it largely amounts to the familiar iPad with a bigger screen, it’d be a safe choice for WWDC — it’d make a splash and encourage developers to write apps that take advantage of practical upgrades, such as a higher resolution screen or faster processor. An iPad launch might also ensure that the next iPhone doesn’t share the spotlight with other major introductions.

At the same time, Apple might not want to spoil the next iPhone’s debut by launching an iPad with a similar narrow-bezel design just a few months earlier. And that’s assuming the 10.5-inch device shows up. We wouldn’t rule out Apple sticking to its existing tablet sizes. If both this and the rumored Siri speaker appear, though, WWDC could entail much more than the usual round of operating system updates.

Source: 9to5Mac

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Now Apple’s Live Photos can work on any website

Apple first introduced Live Photos in the iPhone 6S series back in 2015, but the odd photo/video-clip hybrid has taken its time coming to the internet. While Tumblr was the first to integrate Live Photos into its site last September, Apple is finally introducing an official JavaScript API to get its odd photo/video hybrid format out onto the web at large.

Developers will add their Live Photo as a DOM element like any other photo or video. They’ll be able to control how long their media should play, or if they should only play if end users hover over a “LIVE” button in the Live Photo’s top right corner.

Tumblr was the first to fully integrate the format last fall, but Google was the first to store Live Photos online over a year ago with an update to its Google Photos app for iOS. Then it released Motion Stills for Apple devices in June, an app that converted the hybrid media to looping GIFs or movie files so they could be exported and uploaded to the internet at large. After another update last month, Google’s app will likely continue be the most popular method to transfer Live Photos to the web for awhile since Apple’s API will still need developers to build it into apps and sites.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Apple

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Apple’s ‘we’re sorry we took away your ports’ dongle sale ends today

When Apple rolled out its controversial new MacBook Pro last fall, potential buyers were a bit miffed at the need to buy a host of expensive dongles to make the computer work with their old devices. Apple quickly responded by cutting prices on a host of USB-C cables and accessories, as well as the new LG 4K and 5K displays that are compatible with the MacBook and MacBook Pro. Originally, those discount prices were set to expire at the end of 2016, but Apple extended the deal until the end of March. Well, that day of reckoning is here — the discount on cables, accessories and monitors is set to expire today, March 31st.

So if you’ve been considering buying one of those LG monitors, today is definitely the day to do it. The 21.5-inch 4K display currently sells for $ 524, down from $ 700. The 27-inch 5K screen is priced at $ 924, a pretty notable discount from the $ 1,300 it will cost tomorrow.

You’re not going to save nearly as much cash on cables and adapters, but Apple is still offering pretty steep discounts. The super-helpful USB-C to USB dongle is $ 9 right now, down from $ 19, while you can save $ 5 on USB-C to Lightning cables for your iPhone or iPad. More expensive multiport adapters for outputting video to external displays are $ 49 instead of $ 69. All third-party USB-C accessories are 25 percent off, as well. If you’ve been thinking about buying a new MacBook Pro (or already have one) and have been dragging your feet on getting the cables you need, now’s a good day to go get them.

Source: Apple Store

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Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone could cost over $1,000

To mark 10 years of metal and glass slabs, Apple is expected to debut an ultra high-end version of the iPhone alongside its next scheduled update. According to a report from Fast Company, Tim Cook and company will likely roll out three new phones this year: the incremental iPhone 7S in the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch sizes, as well as a slightly larger, even more expensive 5.8-inch iPhone 8 with an edgeless OLED display and a few completely new features.

To really play up the 10th anniversary bit, Apple may even call the new flagship model the “iPhone X,” and the price is expected to shoot up past the $ 1,000 mark. That’s not too far-fetched by Apple’s standards, considering a maxed-out iPhone 7 Plus already costs $ 969 unlocked. We’ve heard rumors of an OLED iPhone before, but Fast Company‘s sources seem to confirm its existence. They higher-end screen alone is expected to cost Apple twice as much as the LCD displays it currently uses and with only Samsung’s OLEDs meeting Apple’s strict tolerances, the company is reportedly hogging up manufacturing capacity as well. There’s also a chance the iPhone 8/iPhone X will eliminate physical buttons entirely by incorporating the Home button into the screen itself and replacing the side buttons with touch-sensitive inlays in a metal frame with a glass back.

Probably the most interesting rumor about the next-generation iPhone, however, is Apple’s partnership with Lumentum. According to Fast Company‘s sources, Apple plans to incorporate Lumentum’s 3D-sensing technology into the flagship phone in some way — which could mean anything from better camera performance to advanced augmented reality features or even a facial recognition system that could supplement Touch ID. Of course, these features are just rumors at this point, so take them with a big lick of salt for now.

Source: Fast Company

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Apple’s ‘polarizing’ new products are paying off

Throughout much of 2016, it seemed like lots of Apple fans were unhappy. The year brought few updates to the Mac (and the one big change was quite polarizing), a barely redesigned iPhone with no headphone jack, AirPods that shipped two months late and a new Apple Watch that was a modest improvement to a product still seen as nonessential.

But it’s time to accept that the complainers on the internet (including those of us in the media) might not have our fingers on the pulse of Apple fandom. Case in point: Apple just reported a massively successful quarter. According to CEO Tim Cook, both iPhone and Apple Watch sales hit records for both unit sales and revenue. In the case of the iPhone, that reversed three consecutive quarters of declining sales. The iPhone turnaround had to be a huge relief for Apple: The product is the company’s biggest revenue source by far.

Mac sales also generated record revenue, despite the fact that the new MacBook Pro was limited in supply and the rest of Apple’s computer lineup hasn’t been updated in a long time. Meanwhile, Apple’s services business (iCloud, Apple Music, Apple Pay and so on) increased 18 percent over last year. Tim Cook has been talking up the company’s services for a year now and says the goal is to double its size over the next four years. The one weak spot in Apple’s quarter was the iPad, which is facing three years of declining sales and had the second-worst holiday quarter in its history. (The worst holiday quarter for the iPad was in 2010, when the original iPad was less than a year old and just carving out a place in the market.)

The iPad’s ongoing struggles aside, this quarter suggests Apple might actually be giving customers what they want. Or, more cynically, customers who’ve become locked into the Apple ecosystem decided that now was the best time to upgrade, not jump ship to another platform. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. While power users might miss the MacBook Pro’s full-size USB ports and longer battery life and those with great headphones might be annoyed at having to use a dongle with the iPhone 7, it seems the majority of “normal” consumers out there are not rejecting Apple’s new products en masse because of these changes.

The iPhone’s strength was particularly surprising when you consider how many viewed the iPhone 7 as an iterative update. It has essentially the same design as the iPhone 6 and 6S, and many believe that Apple is saving a radically redesigned smartphone for later this year, the iPhone’s 10th anniversary. But dismissing the iPhone 7 because of its looks does the phone a disservice. The dual camera and portrait photo mode in the 7 Plus are huge steps forward in mobile photography, and they appear to resonate with customers. Tim Cook specifically called out unexpectedly high demand for Apple’s larger phone in this week’s earnings call.

Waterproofing and the expected battery and performance improvements make for less-dramatic but nonetheless welcome updates. And when you figure it’s been two years since Apple’s positively massive quarter that accompanied the iPhone 6 launch, it stands to reason plenty of people were in the market for a new phone.

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It’s a little harder to explain the Mac’s successful quarter. But the simple answer is that the Mac is fitting customers’ needs, despite the relative lack of updates over the past 18 months. Indeed, last year’s tech is more than enough for the average consumer at this point. Pros might bristle about not having the latest Intel processor, but for those who aren’t rendering video or dealing with massive Photoshop files, the Macs out there are more than capable. That plus a bump from the new MacBook Pro was enough to put the Mac back in the black.

A year of iterative updates that were nonetheless successful with consumers last quarter speaks to an industry-wide trend of modest improvement in both PCs and smartphones. These product categories are extremely polished at this point, and there are simply not going to be sweeping, massive changes every year anymore. That might be a bummer for those of us who breathlessly await new products from the tech industry’s biggest companies. But you can currently buy a Mac or iPhone and rest assured that it’ll last you years, even if it doesn’t have a shiny new form factor or the latest Intel processors in it. For the average consumer who just wants to buy something that works well with minimal fuss, that maturity is a good thing.

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Apple’s next custom Mac chip could do a lot more

Intel processors have powered Apple’s Mac computers for over a decade now, but Apple has also found success designing its own A-series ARM-based chips for the iPhone and iPad. While the company isn’t going to dump Intel chips in the Mac any time soon, a report from Bloomberg indicates that Apple at least intends to put its foot in the water and test out designing its own silicon for the Mac.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Ian King, Apple is building an ARM-based chip that’ll offload the Mac’s “Power Nap” features from the standard Intel processor as a way to save batter life. Power Nap currently lets the Mac run software updates, download email and calendar updates, sync to iCloud, back up to Time Machine drives and a number of other features while the computer is asleep. Some of these features only work when plugged in, though — perhaps with a chip that consumers less energy, Power Nap’s capabilities could be expanded.

This could also be a first step towards a move away from Intel processors entirely, although Bloomberg says such a move would not happen in the immediate future. But Apple has invested a lot of money in its own series of chips since 2010 and could have more freedom to update the Mac without having to rely on Intel’s schedule.

It’s worth noting that this rumored Power Nap chip wouldn’t be the first Apple-designed chip to make it into a Mac. That honor would go to the T1, an ARM-based chip that showed up in the new MacBook Pro last fall. That chip controls the laptop’s Touch Bar and the Touch ID sensor but otherwise doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting. Apple has been pretty quiet about the chip, but it seems that the next MacBook Pro could have another ARM chip — maybe the T2? — that takes more tasks away from the main Intel processor. If that’s the case, we probably won’t know for a while, as Apple probably won’t update the MacBook Pro lineup again until this fall.

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Apple’s ‘Find My iPhone’ app will help you locate lost AirPods

When Apple announced its wireless AirPods last fall, there was some anxiety over how easy it would be to lose one of the wireless earbuds. Well, the company is looking to ease that burden a bit. As part of the upcoming iOS 10.3 update, you will be able to use the Find My iPhone app to locate a lost AirPod. Just like the app helps you find a misplaced laptop, iPad or iPhone, it will soon tell you were that earbud fell out of your pocket.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the app uses the AirPods’ wireless tech to locate them. The earbuds don’t have a GPS connection, so Apple employs the iPhone’s GPS tech. The map inside the Find My iPhone app will show you the last place the AirPods were in range of an iOS device connected to your iCloud account. If you happen to lose one out of range, the software will show you a general location of where it was last connected to one one of your gadgets. However, you will have to use your phone to employ this method.

What happens when you drop an AirPod at home and you just can’t see it? The app will also let you play a sound through the earbuds to help you locate them. Here, you have the option beaming a noise through one or both of the audio accessories. Of course, this is dependent on the fact that the AirPods haven’t run out of battery yet. iOS 10.3 was released to developers today, so it shouldn’t be long before it and its earbud-locating tool are available for everyone to use. Hey, at least it might save you $ 69 on a replacement set.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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Canada finds Apple’s carrier deals don’t hurt competition

France may think Apple is up to no good with its carrier deals for the iPhone, but you won’t hear similar gripes from Canada. The country’s Competition Bureau has determined that there isn’t “sufficient evidence” to show that Apple had illegally strong-armed carriers into deals that gave it preferred treatment. While there’s no question that the iPhone is a “must-have” for carriers, the regulator says, the terms only have a minor effect at most — there’s plenty of competition, and ditching Apple’s agreements wouldn’t significantly change the playing field.

The investigation started in 2014 after the Bureau received info hinting that Apple was placing a heavy burden on providers. As in other countries, there were concerns that carriers had to buy a minimum number of iPhones, agree to up-front retail subsidies and give Apple a “most favored nation” clause that prevented rivals from getting better treatment. What evidence exists suggests that carriers could easily “mitigate” these terms, according to the decision.

From first-hand experience, the findings appear to hold up. The Canadian market is big on the iPhone, but you’re just as likely to see carriers push the latest Samsung phone or the Google Pixel line. You’ll frequently see other flagship devices get more prominent treatment, or discounts that aren’t offered for Apple’s handsets. While this doesn’t rule out the possibility of overly strict deals, it’s clear that there’s no international consensus on Apple’s competitive stance — it largely depends on individual markets.

Via: AppleInsider

Source: Competition Bureau

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Apple’s tiny, totally wireless AirPods get meticulously torn down

After having been delayed for months — for reasons never publicly confirmed, no less — Apple’s AirPods are finally here. And really, what better to way to celebrate one of the most curious delays in Apple history than by tearing those things apart? The folks at iFixit have done just that (as always), and the end result is a fascinating look at $ 160 worth of meticulously crafted silicon and audio parts. Spoiler alert: there’s more glue in them than you’d think.

As you might imagine, the tiny scale of Apple’s work and all the glue sealing everything in place make the AirPods a nightmare where repairs are concerned. In fact, all the components are so tightly packed in there that the idea of replacing parts or fixing them in general is downright laughable. Still, this kind of surgery does a great job illustrating the insane, compact origami that goes into modern consumer gadgets. And if nothing else, iFixit’s strangely gorgeous imagery more thoroughly explains the importance of the AirPods’ most questionable design choice: those stems that dangle out of your ear.

People stare, but they probably don’t realize that those stems are mostly all battery — their charge capacity works out to 1 percent of the iPhone 7’s — with long antennas glued to them to maintain a strong connection between the Pods themselves and the phone. (For what it’s worth, we’ve had a pair of AirPods for months and the multiple wireless connections were more-or-less rock-solid the entire time.)

Knowing that doesn’t make the stems look any better, though, as evidenced by all the shade thrown at me by coworkers whenever I wear these things. Also nestled deep within there is what makes the AirPods really tick: the minuscule W1 chip. It’s responsible for the Pods’ dead-simple pairing and power-sipping tendencies, which so far have been the big reasons our review units have seen such consistent use. The level of tension subsides when attention is turned to the AirPods’ charging case, but make no mistake: if you’re a fan of lilliputian tech, this is one teardown you have to see.

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