As recent rumors have suggested Apple could offer a simple stylus to enhance a larger iPad model, a new patent application shows what kind of improved pen-based input technology the company has been working on behind the scenes.
Apple’s investigations into stylus support for touchscreen devices was disclosed in a new filing published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week, discovered by AppleInsider. The proposed invention, entitled Superheterodyne Pen Stimulus Signal Receiver,” describes a device that could have a unique frequency for stylus-based input that would be less than that of a traditional fingertip touch signal.
In the filing, Apple notes that most conventional styluses have a bulky tip made of a material capable of interacting with a touch-sensitive device. These devices are often meant to emulate a user’s finger for compatibility with modern touchscreens, which are meant to be controlled with fingertips.
But Apple says that these conventional styluses, by their nature, lack the precision and control of traditional writing instruments, like a pen and paper.
In the proposed invention, Apple says its goal is to create a stylus capable of generating more precise input than a fingertip or current styluses can allow. Apple’s solution is additional hardware that it says would not consume more power than a conventional touch-sensitive device.
Apple’s method would use a “superheterodyne receiver,” which can take an input signal and convert it to another frequency. The technology actually dates back to the origins of radio transmissions, and was developed by a U.S. soldier during Wold War I.
Virtually all modern radio receivers use “superhet” technology for superior selectivity and sensitivity. But in Apple’s more modern use, a hardware demodulator inside a device like an iPad would convert stylus touch input signals into an intermediate frequency signal less than that of a traditional fingertip touch signal.
In short, Apple’s system would feature a touch sensor that could detect the difference between a fingertip touch and a stylus touch, and offer more precise input accordingly.
The new patent application comes soon after a recent rumor suggested Apple could launch a simple stylus alongside an anticipated 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” later this year. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities also noted that a stylus is more precise than a person’s fingers, which could make it a more convenient method of input than a keyboard and mouse in some cases.
Development studio FiftyThree’s iPad stylus is one of dozens already on the market.
According to Kuo, Apple is likely to launch the stylus accessory as an optional add-on, rather than including it alongside the jumbo iPad. He believes the stylus will feature basic technology in its first iteration, while future models could add more advanced features like 3D handwriting.
Though the company has publicly panned pen-based input for years, Apple’s interest in stylus-based input is not new. This week’s filing is just the latest in a string (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) of stylus concepts the company has explored behind the scenes.
The superhet stylus signal receiver concept, published this week, was first filed with the USPTO by Apple in October of 2013. The proposed invention is credited to Shahrooz Shahparnia, whose LinkedIn profile states he is a touch ASIC and sensor architect at Apple.
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The new Microsoft Outlook for iOS is a free 22.5-megabyte download on the App Store. It works with Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com, iCloud, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail.
Outlook for iOS automatically surfaces users’ most important messages across all their email accounts. Users can swipe to quickly delete, archive, or schedule messages they want to handle later.
The software also offers an easy view of calendar, and gives users the ability to share available times and schedule meetings. Files can also be attached from email, OneDrive, or Dropbox.
The full list of features in Outlook for iOS, according to Microsoft, are:
- Manage your inbox
- Outlook automatically triages your inbox for you, surfacing your most important email. Less relevant email is placed in your “Other” inbox.
- Swipe to quickly delete, archive, or schedule messages.
- Schedule emails and they will return to your inbox at a later time.
- Your calendar built-in
- Switching between your email and calendar apps is a thing of the past. Outlook includes your calendar and notifies you with appointment reminders.
- Find available meeting times and share them in email or schedule a meeting.
- Attachments made easy
- View and attach any file from your email, OneDrive, Dropbox, and other accounts with just a few taps.
- Send large files even if you haven’t downloaded them to your phone.
- Find anything fast
- Filter your inbox to only show messages that are unread, flagged, or have attachments, with a single tap.
- Quickly find the right messages, people and files by typing just a few letters.
- Outlook shows people you communicate with most often, and lets you conveniently drill down to see all related emails, meetings and files.
Outlook for iPhone and iPad requires iOS 8.0 and above. The app replaces Outlook Web Access for iPhone and iPad.
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Many developers logging into Apple’s iTunes Connect portal on Thursday found themselves presented with a a peculiar and potentially crucial error: The site is displaying the username, company, and apps of someone who is not them.
After logging into the iTunes Connect website, many developers found that the login credentials displayed were for someone else. When browsing to the “My Apps” section, developers were also shown applications that are not theirs.
AppleInsider was able to verify the error with a developer who logged in, only to see the information for a random person who works for the Sherwin-Williams Company.
The applications displayed when logged in were for an entirely different company, Kelly Services, Inc., suggesting that the username may not be associated with the apps displayed.
After logging out and attempting to log back in, the developer was presented with a message saying that iTunes Connect is not available.
The bug first appearing Thursday morning appears to be widespread, as a number of developers took to Twitter to show how the glitch was affecting them. For example, Paul Haddad of Tapbot, maker of Tweetbot, logged in to see a series of HR Block tax applications, and received numerous responses from other developers experiencing similar issues.
The error allowed developers to see private email addresses and other details of people they were logged in as, presenting the issue as a major security concern. It’s unclear whether the login error allowed developers to actually make changes to others’ accounts.
iTunes Connect is the gateway developers use to make their applications available for sale on the iOS and Mac App Stores.
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Consumers who have previously signed up for pre-paid wireless plans advertised with unlimited data from TracFone now have the right to claim a refund, as the company has agreed to a $40 million settlement over charges that it throttled or disconnected customers who used too much data.
The Federal Trade Commission alleges that while TracFone did not impose consistent limitations, the company generally began to throttle access after 3 gigabytes and disconnected customers who used more than 4 gigabytes in a month. This was not done for technical reasons, the agency said, as internal TracFone documents showed it was an effort to “reduce the high costs associated” with providing unlimited data.
“The issue here is simple: when you promise consumers ‘unlimited’, that means unlimited,” Bureau of Consumer Protection director Jessica Rich said in a statement. “This settlement means that Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile, and Telcel America customers will be able to get money back from the company for services the company promised but didn’t deliver.”
Going forward, TracFone will be required to “clearly and conspicuously disclose” limits to speed or throughput in its advertising.
The FTC is also after industry leader ATT for similar practices. A lawsuit filed in October of last year accuses the carrier of “severe” throttling that may have affected as many as 3.5 million customers.
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Samsung Electronics reported overall Q4 operating profits of 5.29 trillion won ($4.9 billion)—a 36 percent year-over-year drop—but its Mobile division suffered a 64.2 percent drop in profits, falling from $5 billion in the year ago quarter to $1.8 billion in the December quarter.
Apple’s overall operating profits for the quarter were $24.2 billion, up 36.9 percent over the year ago quarter. That means Samsung Mobile is now earning less than 7.5 percent of Apple’s profits while still shipping more phone units.
Samsung Mobile is now earning less than 7.5 percent of Apple’s profits while still shipping more phone units
Apple’s net (after tax) profits were $18 billion for the quarter, provisioning $6.4 billion for tax payments. Samsung reported just $230 million in income taxes, an effective tax rate of 4.5 percent.
Apple’s effective tax rate is 26.4 percent. Apple pays so much more in taxes that some pundits in 2013 confused Apple’s net income with Samsung’s operational income, incorrectly reporting that Samsung had earned more than Apple.
Samsung still hasn’t paid Apple the nearly $1 billion judgement it was ordered to pay back in 2012 for patent infringement. However, it reported a $4.79 billion drop in mobile profits last quarter and an additional $3.2 billion decrease in the winter quarter, meaning that $7.2 billion of Samsung’s profits have vanished over just the last six months of 2014 compared the same period in 2013.
Profit contribution from Samsung’s smartphones collapsed in half within 2014
Samsung reported that while its overall sales were only down just slightly more than 11 percent over the year ago quarter, its mobile device revenues were down by 23.2 percent.
That was exaggerated into a 64.2 percent drop in mobile profits, because its lost sales where primarily among its higher end Galaxy S and Note product lines where it makes most of its profits.
That’s a critical problem for the company because most of its profits have been coming from its IT Mobile Communications (IM) group, which is roughly comparable to Apple’s operations. Other divisions of Samsung Electronics include its CE group that sells TVs and appliances (which remained flat year-over-year) and its DS division that includes sales of display panels, semiconductors and memory components (up 4.2 percent over the year ago quarter).
At the beginning of 2014, Samsung IM was contributing 70 percent of the company’s profits, primarily from smartphone sales, specifically from sales of its higher end Galaxy S and Note devices. Mobile division sales, which also include Samsung’s Chromebooks, Windows products and Galaxy Tab tablets, currently account for only 37 percent of the company’s profits.
Samsung notes a black hole in the Galaxy
The company’s earnings release noted that within the IM group, “despite slight decline in smartphone shipments QoQ, earnings improved due to efficient cost management and increase in revenue from improved product mix.”
Samsung’s IM profits were indeed up nearly 12 percent over the previous quarter, when then company described a “slight growth in shipments” while seeing its mobile group profits plummet by 73.9 percent.
The company noted “ASP [average selling prices] improved due to increase of high-end product portion, mainly driven by global expansion of [Galaxy] Note 4,” but in the launch quarter of Samsung’s most expensive phone, its financial summary made no comment on the 64.2 percent profit plunge compared to the previous Note 3 launch.
$7.2 billion of Samsung’s profits have vanished over just the last six months
In the previous quarter, Samsung said its phone shipments were “driven by mid to low-end products,” adding that its Note 4 release only contributed a “marginal increase” due to being released at the very end of the quarter. That makes the company’s winter quarter results particularly devastating, because even at the apex of Note 4 sales the flagship phablet wasn’t able to reverse the implosion of the company’s mobile sales.
Samsung stated that its “tablet shipments increased QoQ with Tab4 sales growth,” but non-phone tablets weren’t enough to rescue the quarter’s results either. Samsung’s tablet business is not very profitable.
Looking forward over 2015, the company guided, “expect smartphone competitions to intensify amid the demand growth driven by LTE and emerging market,” and “expect tablet growth to continue with mid to low-end demand.”
It also stated that the company has a “focus on increasing smartphone shipments and securing profitability with new product portfolio.”
Specific to the March quarter, Samsung set expectations low, warning, “expect decrease in smartphone and tablet demand under weak seasonality” and said it aimed to “strive to improve earnings with smartphone shipments growth due to the expansion of A series [middle tier phones], etc.”
Samsung’s second lowest profits since 2011
A report by Korea JoongAng Daily noted that the previous quarter had been the first where Samsung had earned less than 5 trillion won since Q3 2011. This quarter, Samsung just exceeded that level with profits of 5.29 trillion won, but the results still remain much lower than any point over the last two years (apart from Q3).
The paper cited Lee Se-chul, an analyst at Woori Investment Securities, as saying “Samsung’s smartphone performance is declining, and as the market is entering a phase of maturity, it is not easy for the company to come up with products differentiated from others.”
The report had also correctly outlined that “analysts expect that the fourth quarter will not be a major improvement from the third quarter.”
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The 74.5 million iPhones sold over the last three months of 2014 didn’t just help Apple report the highest quarterly profit of any publicly-traded company in history, they also propelled the Cupertino giant into a first-place tie with Samsung as the largest smartphone maker in the world.
Samsung and Apple each took 20 percent of the smartphone market in the fourth quarter, according to new data from market research firm Strategy Analytics. That represents a 2 percent year-over-year bump for Apple and 10 percent year-over-year decline for Samsung.
Those figures are borne out by data from Samsung’s fourth quarter earnings statement, as noted by Re/code. Though the company chose not to reveal exact sales numbers, they did say that nearly 80 percent of the 95 million Samsung handsets sold were smartphones, meaning they moved between 71 million and 75 million devices.
The slump has taken a massive bite out of Samsung’s profits. Its cash-printing mobile division dropped 64 percent year-over-year, contributing to a 32 percent decline for the company as a whole over the same period.
In comparison, Apple reported record quarterly revenues of $74.6 billion on the way to $18 billion in profit, the largest quarterly profit ever reported by a publicly-traded company.
The shift has bitten component suppliers as well, given Apple’s propensity for vertical integration. Qualcomm was forced to revised downward its projections for 2015 as demand for high-end smartphone processors slows in proportion to Apple’s growth.
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