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Apple launches smaller-capacity 8GB iPhone 5c in Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Czech Republic, more


Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 05:19 am PT (08:19 am ET)

Apple has continued to slowly expand availability of its new entry-level 8-gigabyte iPhone 5c model, with the handset debuting in a number of additional countries this week, including Italy and Sweden.

Joining them were the Czech Republic, Belgium, and the Netherlands, according to LetemSvetem Applem. It’s also available in Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, and Switzerland. The new 8-gigabyte iPhone 5c expands the handset’s lineup, flanking the previously available 16- and 32-gigabyte capacities.

In Italy, the 8-gigabyte iPhone 5c is available for 579 euros, which is 50 euros less than the 16-gigabyte model. In Sweden, the smaller-capacity model comes at a discount of 500 krona, while in the Czech Republic, it’s 1,300 koruna cheaper than the 16-gigabyte version.

A month ago, the 8-gigabyte iPhone 5c debuted in a number of major markets including the U.K., France, China,, Germany, and Australia. It did not, however, replace the low-end iPhone 4s, which remains the company’s cheapest smartphone option available.

The 8-gigabyte iPhone 5c is intended for users who aren’t planning to heavily use the handset for media or applications. It ships with 4.9 gigabytes of storage available to users, with the remaining space used up by the iOS operating system and various services.

Market watchers expect the 8-gigabyte iPhone 5c, along with last month’s return of the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display, as having a “slight positive” on the company’s bottom line for the current June quarter.

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TI brings Apple’s iBeacon to Bluetooth products for industrial, automotive & embedded applications


Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 06:23 am PT (09:23 am ET)

Silicon firm Texas Instruments on Wednesday announced plans to support Apple’s iBeacon microlocation technology across a large swath of TI’s Bluetooth product line, including chips for embedded and automotive applications.

TI’s SensorTag development kit

“Restaurants, retailers and even sports stadiums have started using iBeacon technology, but there are many more applications that could benefit from the technology. Everything from asset trackers, retail, building automation systems, automotive and industrial applications, and a wide variety of consumer electronics,” TI wireless connectivity executive Oyvind Birkenes said in a press release.

TI will bring iBeacons to the company’s SimpleLink CC2541, CC2543, and CC2564 microcontrollers alongside the BL6450Q controller designed for automotive applications. iBeacons will also make their way into TI’s WiLink series of integrated WiFi and Bluetooth packages, including the WiLink 8Q which enables advanced connectivity in vehicles and adds support for GPS and GLONASS signals.

“By providing support for iBeacon technology across our entire Bluetooth low energy portfolio as well as a new SimpleLink SensorTag location app and broadcaster reference design, we are enabling manufacturers to quickly add micro-locationing capabilities to their products,” he added.

The SensorTag app, a companion for TI’s $25 iBeacon development kit of the same name, allows developers to virtually “place” SensorTags within a digital floorplan. The app provides ranging feedback and will launch a customized URL based on its proximity to specific SensorTags.

TI also unveiled a new reference design for a broadcast-only iBeacon system, based on the CC2543, which the company says is coin cell-sized, uses minimal power, and can be manufactured quickly for a low cost.

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Hyundai’s CarPlay-equipped 2015 Sonata will likely be costly


Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 09:20 am PT (12:20 pm ET)

Customers looking to purchase a new CarPlay-equipped vehicle from Hyundai may experience sticker shock, as the company has said that the feature will only be available alongside a navigation system, an upgrade that could cost thousands of dollars.

According to Hyundai, CarPlay will be “available on 2015 Sonatas equipped with navigation later in the 2015 model year.” Hyundai unveiled the 2015 edition last last month.

The cheapest way for buyers to get a 2014 model year Sonata with a navigation system is to add the $3,000 “Premium Package” to the purchase of a Sonata — itself already upgraded to the SE trim level, which costs some $2,850 more. That package also nets buyers a power sunroof, blind spot detection system, a premium audio system, and a subscription to traffic, weather, sports, and stock updates that are delivered on the in-dash touchscreen.

That combination ratchets the manufacturers’ suggested retail price up to just over $27,000 before tax, nearly $6,000 more than the base model Sonata GLS.

Bundling CarPlay with premium accessory packages and trim levels may drive price-conscious buyers into the arms of aftermarket manufacturers. CarPlay-compatible head units from Alpine are expected to start at just $500, while Pioneer said on Tuesday that its dashboard installable kits will start at $700.

While it is unknown exactly what tack other Apple partners will take when it comes to offering CarPlay as an option, few marques cater to the same financial strata of consumers as Hyundai, who have long been known to strive for affordability. The majority of Apple’s other CarPlay partners — like Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo, who have already shown of CarPlay-equipped vehicles of their own — are known as premium brands.

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Apple-highlighted iOS toy Anki Drive gains new cars, tracks & race mode


Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 10:34 am PT (01:34 pm ET)

Anki Drive, a lineup of iOS-compatible intelligent toy race cars which are exclusive at retail to Apple Stores, expanded on Wednesday with new cars, tracks, and an entirely new race mode.

Existing Anki Drive owners will be able to upgrade their cars with new artificial intelligence programming, making the robotic vehicles smarter than ever. The update also adds a new Race Mode to play sessions, allowing the first driver who reaches 15, 30 or 45 laps to win.

The new features can be accessed by updating the official Anki Drive app available in the iOS App Store. Version 2.2.0 features the new race game type, a “boost” support item for all cars, improved in-game setup, an in-game scoreboard and various bug fixes.

Two new tracks are also now a part of the Anki Drive collection, with Crossroads placing an intersection in the middle of the road designed as a sort of figure-eight, while Bottleneck sees the track narrow at certain points, allowing less space for the vehicles. Both tracks can be bought for $99 each, and preorders are available now.

Finally, the Anki Drive family has also gained two new vehicles: Corax, billed as the “ultimate warrior” with multiple weapon mount options, and Hadion, a “built for speed” vehicle that comes equipped with “Turbo Boost.” Each vehicle runs $69.

While the new cars and tracks are available at Anki’s website, the company said the products will also be available at “select retail stores” in the coming week. Until now, the products have been exclusive at retail to Apple’s own stores, so the company’s announcement may suggest retail expansion of the product.

Apple was so impressed by Anki Drive that the company chose to showcase the product at last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference. The company ran a demo that showed four tiny remotely controlled cars each communicating with an iOS device over Bluetooth Low Energy to drive around a miniature track.

The product eventually went on sale to the public last October, exclusively at Apple’s retail stores with a starter kit priced at $199.

What makes the toy set interesting is the autonomy of each car. With the AI handling steering, players can take control of the gas and fire imaginary guns, as well as special weapons like a tractor beam, at other racers. Shooting bullets and other weaponry is limited to a car’s line-of-sight, while effects are played out as if in a video game.

For example, if one player is trailing and strikes a critical hit on the car ahead of it, lights will flash and the toy will come to a halt or slow down as if disabled. On the iOS device, sound effects play and the handset vibrates in reaction to the strike. A point system grants players power ups and access to special abilities that can be used in future races.

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Samsung calls on computer scientists to refute Apple patent claims


Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 11:41 pm PT (02:41 am ET)

In the ongoing Apple v. Samsung patent trial on Tuesday, Samsung continued its defense against by calling on a cavalcade of computer science experts who testified that Apple’s patents were not novel, should not have been granted or did not apply to alleged infringing products.

Samsung’s day in court was filled with highly technical testimony as counsel used the time to bolster a defense that Apple’s five patents-in-suit are not colorably different from prior art, irrelevant and not worth the $2.19 billion in damages the company is seeking.

According to in-court reports from the San Jose Mercury News, Samsung called on MIT computer science professor Martin Rinard and founder of the Internet Archive Brewster Kahle to argue against Apple software like “slide-to-unlock” and universal search. The publication noted Rinard was compensated $800,000 for time spent analyzing the subject — not out of the ordinary for an expert witness in a high-profile tech case.

A separate report from CNET said Rinard offered testimony on Apple’s ’959 patent for universal search functions.

“What I’m saying is the patent office didn’t have the information in front of it to make the right decision [when it granted Apple the patent],” Rinard said.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, computer science professor Kevin Jeffay took on Apple’s ’647 property covering “data detectors.” As described in court, the patent uses a server-based system to identify data points in digital documents. For example, phone numbers and dates are detected and parsed out in a “clickable” interface that sends the user to another app for further processing.

Jeffay said Samsung’s implementation of a similar feature accomplishes much the same thing, but since the process runs completely in-app he found no infringement of Apple’s patent.

Like past witnesses, the professor mentioned Google and its Android Jelly Bean operating system, which runs on a number of Samsung products accused of infringement. Samsung’s counsel has taken to using Google and its OS as a shield, deflecting Apple’s advances by saying accused features are part of Android.

Arguing against Apple’s slide-to-unlock patent was Saul Greenberg, a professor of human computer interaction at the University of Calgary in Canada. According to CNET, Greenberg said swiping gestures are common in many device UIs. It is unclear if he detailed the origin or history of the gesture, which some believe to have been popularized by Apple’s iPhone.

Samsung’s final witness for the day was Daniel Wigdor, a computer science professor from the University of Toronto. Wigdor offered testimony on Apple’s ’172 patent covering predictive text entry by saying a number of other tech firms developed “autocorrect” features before the patent was filed.

Looking forward, presiding Judge Lucy Koh noted jury deliberations may start earlier than planned as both parties are ahead of schedule. Out of the 25 hours granted to each side, Apple has used 15 hours and 38 minutes, while Samsung used 17 hours and 39 minutes. If proceedings continue at this pace, the court is looking to counsel to wrap testimony on Apr. 25 and offer closing arguments on Apr. 28.

The Apple v. Samsung trial will pick up on Friday with Apple finishing its cross examination of Wigdor.

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Samsung email targeted Steve Jobs’ death as "our best opportunity to attack iPhone"


Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 12:09 am PT (03:09 am ET)

Samsung executives discussed Steve Jobs’ passing as “unfortunately” having an “unintended benefit for Apple,” and at the same time, “our best opportunity to attack iPhone,” in internal memos marked “highly confidential,” presented in the Apple v. Samsung trial.

On October 4, 2011, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook announced the new iPhone 4S, which was scheduled to go on sale October 14. Apple began taking preorders a week earlier on October 10. The announcement also included new details on iOS 5 and revealed the new Siri.

That same day, executives from Samsung Telecommunications America engaged in a discussion about the new iOS 5 and iPhone 4S, referencing a feature checklist comparison by Fierce Wireless that contrasted Samsung’s own Galaxy S II and Motorola’s Droid Bionic, both running Android 2.3; the BlackBerry Bold running BlackBerry OS 7; and HTC Titan running Windows Phone 7.5.

Michael Pennington, then Samsung’s vice president of sales operations and head of national sales for its STA, suggested that Samsung should “use Google to attack Apple” in a marking campaign as a way to “avoid attacking Apple due to their status as a large customer.”

The next afternoon, Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011. Apple and his family announced his death shortly afterward.

“The point here is the there is an unintended benefit for Apple”

On October 7, the day preorders for iPhone 4S started, Pennington replied to the previous iPhone 4S discussion, noting that “Google’s core strength, Search Engine, can be radially minimized by Apple’s new iPhone 4S implementation of Siri,” describing the situation as “Google’s ‘Burning Platform’ issue,” an allusion to Nokia’s similarly titled internal memo from the beginning of 2011.

“Unfortunately,” Pennington then wrote, “Steve Job’s [sic] passing has led to a huge wave of press coverage of Apple’s and iPhone’s ‘superiority,’ all created by the, ‘passionate, tireless, perfectionist…’“I know this is our best opportunity to attack iPhone” – Michael Pennington, Samsung

“The point here is the there is an unintended benefit for Apple, since the external messages by 3rd parties are all highlighting and/or supporting the consumer perception that Apple products are superior, since Jobs’ was such a visionary and perfectionist. What consumer wouldn’t feel great about purchasing a device developed by such a person.”

“Sorry to continue to push this issue, but I have seen this far too long and I know this is our best opportunity to attack iPhone,” Pennington wrote.

Todd Pendleton, Samsung’s chief marketing officer in the STA, replied, “Hey Michael, we are going to execute what you are recommending in our holiday GSII campaign and go head to head with iPhone 4S.

“We are working on a very aggressive strategy touting our advantages in hardware and software. In the process we will demystify the perceived Apple advantage (ecosystem/services) by showing how consumers can easily switch to Android and have more personalization/more choice by being part of the Samsung ecosystem. More to come soon… Best TP”

Apple announced the following Monday that iPhone 4S had racked up more than one million preorders over its first weekend.

The conglomerate strikes back

Samsung’s response included a Facebook page that compared its Galaxy S II, styled to look identical with Apple’s iPhone, as “new school” versus Apple’s iPhone 4, an early 1990s cellular phone and two cans on a string.

“To be fair,” wrote Cody Lee, for the iDownload Blog, “the iPhone 4S supports ATT’s HSPA+ network, as does the carrier’s version of the Samsung’s Galaxy S II. All of the other features line up pretty evenly as well, from the dual core processors, to the 8MP cameras. So the 1980′s cell phone is a bit of a stretch.”

The company also orchestrated “Global PR Reviews to increase Buzz,” resulting in glowing reviews for the Galaxy S II from a series of high profile blogs (below), which the company touted in an internal marketing document.

After iPhone 4S launch, Samsung predicts an “iPhone 5 tsunami”

NPD reported the following February that Samsung’s S II was the fourth best selling smartphone in the U.S., after Apple’s iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS.

The next summer, STA president Dale Sohn wrote an email to Samsung general managers stating, “As you know well, there will be a tsunami when iPhone 5 is coming.”

Pennington replied, “we need to quickly understand the exact reasons why we win customers away from iPhone,” adding, “we should also quickly understand where we failed to win customers away from iPhone in our initial GS3 launch.”

The next year, Sohn was replaced as STA president by Samsung’s Global Marketing Operations chief Gregory Lee last summer. Sohn is now an advisor to Samsung Mobile chief executive JK Shin.

Pennington is among the “at least five” high ranking Samsung executives that have left the company over the past two months, according to a recent report by CNET.

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