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TSMC confirmed as manufacturer of Apple’s 20nm A8 processor


Friday, September 19, 2014, 04:47 pm PT (07:47 pm ET)

According to a report on Friday, Apple’s latest 64-bit A8 system-on-a-chip, currently powering the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, is built by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., not longtime partner Samsung.

Less than a day after Apple’s latest iPhones made their worldwide debut, the team at Chipworks on Friday disassembled both models to take a closer look at the components inside, revealing an A8 processor fabricated by TSMC.

The finding confirms rumors from last year claiming Apple would switched away from Samsung foundries to TSMC, which employs a 20-nanometer CMOS process for the latest-generation A-series SoC. According to Chipworks, the A8′s contacted gate pitch of around 90nm is consistent with Qualcomm’s MDM9235, a chip known to be fabricated by TSMC.

Other substantial finds include previously unannounced NFC controller made by NXP that dates back to 2012. Chipworks cites insiders as saying the design was made exclusively for Apple, meaning the Cupertino company has had access to the silicon for at least 18 months.

In addition, Apple tapped InvenSense for the new iPhones’ six-axis accelerometer and gyroscope, unseating previous supplier STMicroelectronics. Texas Instruments also makes an appearance with a haptics driver used to control the vibrator unit.

Sony is once again supplying the iSight chip, which in the case of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is the company’s Exmor RS back-illuminated CMOS image sensor (CIS). As previously announced, the chip features 1.5-micron pixels on a die size of 4.8 mm-by-6.1 mm. Further, Chipworks discovered Apple’s “Focus Pixels,” or phase detection system, are implemented in the green channel.

The public got its first look at the components used to build the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in a pair of teardowns late Thursday night.

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Out-of-warranty repairs for iPhone 6 runs up to $299, iPhone 6 Plus up to $399


Friday, September 19, 2014, 05:18 pm PT (08:18 pm ET)

Apple on Friday updated its repairs webpage to reflect current pricing for the iPhone models released today, revealing out-of-warranty fixes could cost up to $299 for the iPhone 6 and up to $329 for the 6 Plus.

As seen in the image above, Apple is quoting out-of-warranty iPhone 6 and 6 Plus repairs at a respective $30 and $60 above iPhone 5s/5c/5 pricing, which currently stands at $269.

While the gratis Apple One Year Limited Warranty applies to all new purchases, the protection plan does not cover accidental breakage, meaning the cost to customers without additional AppleCare+ may equate to a new subsidized iPhone 6, depending on storage capacity and model.

With the $99 AppleCare+ extended warranty, owners are covered for two years and are allowed two accidental damage repairs, minus a set $79 service fee for each.

Interestingly, Apple’s price for fixing accidental screen damage runs only $109 for the new iPhone 6, while the iPhone 6 Plus is lumped in with the iPhone 5s/5c/5 at $129, plus $6.95 shipping fee.

Finally, Apple notes out-of-warranty battery replacement for all iPhone models, including the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, comes in at $79, plus shipping.

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Support for Verizon’s VoLTE ‘HD Voice’ and video calls confirmed for iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus


Friday, September 19, 2014, 08:27 pm PT (11:27 pm ET)

A few days after Verizon launched its first-generation voice over LTE (VoLTE) system in the U.S., dubbed Advanced Calling 1.0, it was confirmed on Friday that Apple’s latest iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models support the carrier’s suite of services, including HD voice and video calling.

As noted on the U.S. carrier’s website, Verizon’s Advanced Calling 1.0 services suite went live nationwide on Sept. 15, bringing high-definition voice calling, simultaneous voice and data over LTE and video calling to compatible smartphones. First spotted by MacRumors and independently verified by AppleInsider, Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus support the new VoLTE network.

iPhone 6 owners take advantage of Advanced Calling 1.0 HD Voice and video calling by adding the free services to their account via Verizon’s website. Once activated, the telecom informs users to navigate to the iPhone’s Settings menu and select “Cellular Enable LTE Voice Data” to turn on the feature.

With the added functionality, Verizon follows in the footsteps of T-Mobile and becomes the latest major U.S. telecom to offer advanced VoLTE services to iPhone customers.

In addition to VoLTE, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus support Wi-Fi calling, a new iOS 8 feature that lets users place voice calls over Wi-Fi data networks. T-Mobile announced support for Wi-Fi calling in June, while ATT promised its network will be compatible come 2015.

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BlackBerry App Roundup for September 19, 2014


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Verizon Will Be Getting iPhone 6-Friendly Wi-Fi Calling In 2015


A quick update for those trying to figure out which carriers will/won’t support the iPhone 6’s Wi-Fi calling feature anytime soon: T-Mobile is a go. ATT will get it in 2015. Now Verizon is pledging to support it next year, too.

Word of the new feature comes from Verizon CFO Fran Shammo who mentioned it at a conference this morning — but not before taking the opportunity to take a not-so-subtle jab at T-Mobile for rushing to play up their support for it.

FierceWireless quotes him here:

“We built our voice platform so extensively [that] there was never a need for us to tell our customers, ‘Oh, our network is not good enough so you need to go on Wi-Fi to complete your call.’”

So WTF is Wi-Fi calling, and why should you care?

In short: Wi-Fi calling lets you place calls/send texts as you normally would, except it all runs over any Wi-Fi network you’ve got access to rather than your cell carrier’s towers. Even if you leave Wi-Fi-range mid-call, the call will just transition right over to the cell network (implementing that bit, as it happens, is a good chunk of why most carriers can’t flip the switches and claim iOS Wi-Fi calling support right this second).

And as an added bonus: Depending on your carrier’s policies, Wi-Fi calls often don’t count against your monthly minutes.

If your coverage is consistently solid, it might not be a huge thing for you. If you consistently find yourself dropping calls at your home, or work, or any other place you’ve got Wi-Fi, though, it’s a damned killer feature — though not one that is at all exclusive to iPhone. With all of the carriers now moving to support it following the iPhone 6 launch (and T-Mobile requiring it in all new phones they sell), I’d expect it to be a standard feature within two years.

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Rumor: Oculus Will Unveil A Handheld Virtual Reality Controller At Its Conference


Oculus‘ headset lets you look around virtual reality but requires integrations with unofficial controllers to move an avatar, fire weapons, or input other commands. But at tomorrow’s Oculus Connect virtual reality conference, sources say Oculus is expected to unveil an official controller or controller industry standard to make it easier for developers to build more complex games. Several developers have been placed under NDA regarding the conference’s big news, though sources could not confirm details. However, four sources told TechCrunch that a gamepad is what’s being whispered around the Los Angeles VR community.

The Sixense STEM System wireless virtual reality controller

One developer told us that code in the new Oculus SDK implies some official controller or API for connecting the Rift headset to a gamepad is on the way. The news makes a lot of sense considering that earlier this year, Oculus acquired Carbon Design, which designed the Xbox 360 controller and the Kinect motion sensor. We’ve reached out to Oculus for comment.

Right now, some developers use hacked console video game controllers or third-party VR controllers like the Sixense STEM to pipe inputs beyond head movements into Oculus. I tried the lightsaber game demoed below last night at TechCrunch’s Virtual Reality Meetup in LA, and the Sixense STEM felt natural and easy to pick up (literally). It was clear why Oculus would want to officially support these kinds of experiences.

Oculus could potentially release an input device of its own design. This could look like a traditional Xbox controller that may or may not have motion control, or like two handheld Wii Nunchucks which would allow for more realistic wielding of objects, such as pistols, swords, or a bow and arrow like in Survios’ ‘Zombies On The Holodeck’.

Alternatively, Oculus may simply create a standard for controllers built by third-parties like Sixense that could connect to the Rift, along the lines of the MFi standard for game controllers introduced by Apple with iOS 7 last year. It would then likely present an example of these controllers built by partner.

The Sixense Razer Hydra controller

Since the Rift already uses a camera facing the user to detect head movement, controllers could piggyback on the same platform to recognize how a user moves the input device or devices.

An official input device or platform could unify some of the fragmented VR space, encouraging developers to invest in building games, art, and social apps that work on Oculus hardware connected to PCs and mobile offerings like Samsung’s VR headsets. That confidence will be critical to getting flagship experiences built that lure mainstream consumers to the alternate dimensions offered by virtual reality.

Come back to TechCrunch at 9:30am PST on September 20th to watch the livestream of the Oculus Connect conference and see what’s unveiled.

Additional reporting by Kyle Russell

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Bitcoin Slips Back Under $400


After a steady decline from former, mid-year highs, bitcoin is now back under the $400 mark. The cryptocurrency hit that mark in April, at which point TechCrunch pointed out that the stuff was off 60 percent from its record highs.

The price of bitcoin recovered. And then it un-recovered. Same question as before: “What next centennial mark will bitcoin reach? $300 or $500?” Last time, the answer was $500. But past has been a poor predictor for bitcoin thus far.

Here’s the chart, courtesy of Coinbase:

There has been an almost-paradox at play with bitcoin this year: As adoption has increased, and the constant media cycle asking if the currency will die has slowed, its price has slipped. At $400 per coin, what percentage of mining operations are profitable?

If the price of bitcoin continues to slip, dragging consumer interest down at the same time, does that present the chance of something akin to ‘deflation’ in adoption of bitcoin, that could relegate it to niche status?

IMAGE BY Jason Benjamin UNDER Public Domain LICENSE

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