Apple has agreed to replace some iPhone 5 batteries free of charge, claiming that “a very small percentage” of the smartphones needed to be charged more often and that those charges were quickly exhausted.
The program, which was announced last week, only in a support document published on Apple’s website, offered free battery replacements for iPhone 5 devices that “suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently.”
According to Apple, the affected phones were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and “fall within a limited serial number range.” The Cupertino, Calif. company also said that only “a very small percentage” of iPhone 5 devices were impacted.
Computerworld‘s experience was different. Out of an admittedly small sample — three iPhone 5 phones bought during the stretch in question, each several weeks apart — two were eligible for the battery replacement. Neither of the two that qualified, however, had required more charging than was normal for a nearly-two-year-old iPhone, nor did their batteries drain any faster than the third, ineligible, device.
Apple started selling the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, 2012. It retired the model last year when it was replaced by the iPhone 5S and 5C.
This was not the first time that Apple has dealt with iPhone battery issues. In October 2013, the company confirmed that it was contacting a “very limited” number of iPhone 5S owners and offering them a replacement phone.
In both 2009 and 2011, iPhone users also reported battery-draining problems with their iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S devices, respectively.
Customers can check their iPhone 5 for battery replacement eligibility onApple’s website by entering their device’s serial number. That can be found under Settings/General/About.
Until Friday, Aug. 29, the replacement deal will be available only in the U.S. and China; on that date, other countries will come online.
SMS Audio’s BioSport In-Ear Headphones, announced at an event will tell you. The headphones are good for people who work out as well as those who just want to check their heart rate, said Brian Nohe, president of SMS Audio, which was founded by rapper 50 Cent, who is the majority owner.
50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, wanted headphones with top-quality audio, fit, form and functionality, Nohe said. The rapper, along with New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who is the minority owner of SMS, were scheduled to appear at the event.
The headphones have sensors to measure the heart rate of users, drawing power from a smartphone through an audio jack. No batteries are required. SMS Audio is using technology from Intel in the headphones.
“Open the box, plug it into your smartphone device and it works,” Nohe said.
The earphones will ship worldwide in the fourth quarter this year. The price will be announced later.
The headphones will work with RunKeeper, a popular Android and iOS fitness application that assembles and tracks fitness data.
“The general marketplace is ripe for having more products in this area,” Nohe said. “We understood what was happening with wearable technology and what was going on with biometrics.”
The engineering challenge for Intel was how to draw power and transfer data through an audio jack. Intel also had to figure out the frequencies at which to handle data transfers. The goal was to deliver accurate heart-rate readings.
“It’s a seemingly easy thing to explain, but hard to implement,” said Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of the New Devices Group at Intel.
Intel didn’t want to use Bluetooth or other wireless technologies to transfer data, Bell said. Those technologies would require batteries and not fit well within the small size of headphones.
“The best technology is invisible. It’s as much form as it is function,” Bell said. “That’s the road we’re going down.”
Beyond tracking heart rate, headphones could also be enabled to capture more health information, the executives said. Other opportunities are being explored by SMS Audio and Intel.
“You don’t start a strategic alliance and become a one-trick pony,” Nohe said.
The headphone space has gotten attention lately because of Apple’s $3 billion purchase of Beats Audio, founded by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine.
“Final production of the current Reader model, PRS-T3, was made at the end of May,” a spokeswoman for Sony in Tokyo wrote in an email Wednesday. “The product will continue to be available until inventory supplies last, which differs by country.”
There are no plans for a successor to the device, she added.
The PRS-T3 was launched last year in 20 countries including Japan, Canada and European states, but was not released in the U.S.
Weighing 200 grams, it has a 6-inch E-ink touchscreen display, an optional night light, Wi-Fi and a battery life of six to eight weeks.
While it’s still available on Sony’s UK site for 99 pounds (US$166), it’s out of stock at Sony’s sites for France and Canada. The PRS-T3 will continue to be sold for the time being in Japan, where Sony maintains its Reader Store.
The company said earlier this year it is closing down its e-book business in North America, Europe and Australia and that users would be transferred to Kobo, owned by Japanese online shopping giant Rakuten.
Sony helped pioneer e-readers with a product it launched in Japan 10 years ago, the Librie. Developed with Philips, it was billed as the first commercial device of its kind to use E-ink’s electronic paper display technology.
Beginning with the PRS-500 Portable Reader System in 2006, Sony marketed a series of e-readers that were well received, though some reviewscomplained about its price compared to the features of cheaper rivals.
Sony Reader shipments had exceeded 800,000 units for 2010, according to IDC. But the product was never as popular as competitors from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Kobo. By late 2012, Amazon’s Kindle reader was used by over 50 percent of e-book buyers, according to Publishers Weekly.
The market for e-readers peaked in 2011 at 26.4 million units, IDC noted last year, adding it expects only modest growth in 2014 after a period of decline. The category was expected to begin a gradual, permanent decline in 2015.
Sony also shed its Vaio PC business this year as it continues to struggle with restructuring efforts.
The portable antenna connects to a smartphone via a Bluetooth Low Energy link. Once connected, users with either an iOS or Android app can then send text messages through the antenna. (The recipient must also have a goTenna, and consequently the product is sold in pairs.)
The device uses the 151MHz-154MHz frequencies, with range depending on location. In a densely populated place like Manhattan, that range could be less than a mile. In more open spaces, up to 50 miles is possible. The antenna, which takes a USB-delivered charge, will store messages and hold them until a connection can be made.
Businesses employ a range of backup communications technologies, including long-range satellite phones and ham radios, as well as shorter range walkie-talkies. The goTenna could serve as an alternative to a walkie-talkie — and even offers some advantages over other options. For example, its messages are encrypted and private, a separate device isn’t needed, and people can use the goTenna system with their smartphone interface.
The goTenna also has the ability to “shout” a message by delivering it to all goTenna users who have opted in to receive a broadcast.
“That fact that we are totally decentralized means that in many ways it can be a backup to your backup,” said goTenna CEO Daniela Perdomo, who co-founded the company with her brother, Jorge Perdomo, goTenna’s CTO.
In addition to using goTenna as an emergency tool, Perdomo said people could use the technology as a means of communicating while they’re traveling, when they’re taking part in outdoor recreation activities, or when they’re involved in any type of situation that requires private communication. The antenna uses a Lithium-ion battery and is estimated to last two to three days with normal use, or as long as 30 hours if it’s on continuously.
Perdomo said the outages created by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 prompted her to imagine ways smartphones could be made to directly communicate with other phones.
The goTenna will ship in late fall, but a pair of the devices can be preordered for $149.99.
The company plans to unveil a 7.5-watt, highly resonant charging system for thin-form devices, such as smartphones and phablets, that can also be expanded to 15 watts for tablets.
Previously, PowerbyProxi’s wireless charging devices offered 3.5-to-5 watts of power.
PowerbyProxi is a component company, so the wireless chargers it plans to demonstrate are proofs of concept. The company has partnerships with companies such as Samsung, Texas Instruments (TI) and Linear who choose to build the technology based on the working prototypes.
The new system – a bowl and an updated box into which enabled mobile devices can be placed — is designed to deliver up to 15W of power to a single tablet, or multiple smartphones and phablets. Ultimately this will be backwards compatible with the Wireless Power Consortium’s (WPC) Qi (pronounced “chee”) standard and forward compatible to resonant v1.2.
“We continue to drive advances in wireless charging technology,” Greg Cross, CEO of PowerbyProxi, said in a statement. “Our contributions to the future specification of the Qi 1.2 standard, will enable better performance and more convenient solutions for consumers.”
For the first time, PowerbyProxi will also demonstrate a wireless charging pad for mobile devices that enables vertical height charging of up to about one and a quarter inches.
Cross said the added distance will enable charging capabilities to be integrated into public locations like restaurants and hotels, as well as furniture and countertops. Charging can occur through materials including wood, plastic and composites, along with the ability to charge multiple devices within a designated area.
PowerbyProxi’s new wireless charging bowl transmitter is designed to charge smaller, personal devices — including wearables — and devices using AA batteries that can receive a wireless charge. Devices can be placed in any position or orientation, even on top of each other. The bowl, which measures about 4-in. in diameter, offers a sleek design and comes in several colors.
The Iconia Tab 8, announced on Friday, features 1920 by 1200 pixel resolution and an Intel Atom quad-core Z3745 processor code-named “Bay Trail.” It follows Acer’s announcement of two smaller 7-inch tablets, the Iconia One 7 and Iconia Tab 7, a month ago.
Both those tablets have a screen resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels, and were meant to target lower-end consumers. In the case of the Iconia One 7, the device uses an older Intel “Clover Trail” processor, and has a starting price of $129.99.
The pricing for the Iconia Tab 8 was not disclosed, but Acer wants to build affordable tablets with great value, said Maverick Shih, president of the company’s tablet business, last Thursday.
“We want everyone to be able to enjoy the features you can find in high-end products,” he added in an interview.
The Iconia Tab 8 weighs 360 grams and has a metallic back cover along with anti-fingerprint coating on its display. The tablet runs Android 4.4 and promises 7.5 hours of battery life when watching videos.
Acer made no mention of its memory features, but the device has a microSD card slot to add more storage. The PC maker also declined to name which markets the product will be available in. But Acer’s Shih said mainland China has become a big focus for its tablet business.
“Before, we didn’t really value the Chinese market enough,” he said. To change that, the company has started a new China-based team focused on tablets, he added.
The Air Force announced this week that researchers with the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, are testing Google Glass for potential battlefield use.
“Since [para-rescue first responders] have the need to recover personnel, it’s beneficial for them to monitor many people at once,” said Andres Calvo, a software developer and civilian contractor with the 711th HPW, in a statement. “The app aims to better enable them to assess who needs urgent medical attention. So, if a (pararescueman) has the need to see somebody’s vitals, immediately and urgently, Google Glass could fill that need.”
The trials are conducted by the Battlefield Air Targeting, Man-Aided Knowledge, or BATMA(N) group, an advanced technology demonstration and research program commissioned by the Air Force Special Operations Command. The group is focused on developing, building and investigating advanced wearable technologies.
Dr. Gregory Burnett, the chief engineer of the BATMAN program, noted in a report that the Air Force is interested in using Google’s wearable computers, which are still in beta testing, to enable soldiers and pilots to interact more easily and improve mission effectiveness.
“We look at visual, auditory and tactile interfaces that serve to leverage all the human perception channels to provide real-time battlefield data in the most intuitive fashion,” Burnett said in the report. “So, if the Airman is visually over-stimulated, we can offload that into auditory information so that he can still process information in a very chaotic scenario.”
The Air Force developed a medical app that is being used with Glass for the parachuting medics. With the app, medics could monitor multiple patients at the same time without taking his hands off patients or his weapon.
The military has sent some soldiers into the battlefield with ruggedized laptops, but the soldiers were limited by the machines’ size, weight and battery life.
Google’s computerized eyeglasses are being used in conjunction with smartphones and tablets also supplied to the soldiers, in case they need to see something on a bigger screen.
At first, the Latitude 12 looks like a laptop. But within the display panel, the screen rotates 180 degrees and the laptop turns into a tablet once placed on the keyboard.
The new Latitude 12 laptop is part of a new Rugged Extreme line of laptops, which also includes the Rugged Extreme 14. The new laptops are robust and can withstand six-foot drops and remain protected from extreme weather conditions.
The laptops have hard covers that add a layer of protection, but also make the products heavy. The Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme weighs 2.72 kilograms with a four-cell battery, while the 14-in. counterpart weighs 3.54 kilograms with a six-cell battery and no optical drive.
The laptops can also withstand solar radiation, “explosive atmosphere” and weather ranging from -20 degrees to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees to 63 degrees Celsius), according to specifications provided by Dell. The products are targeted at field workers like emergency responders and the military, and will compete against Toughbook rugged laptops from Panasonic.
The Latitude 12 rugged laptop has a starting price of $3,649, while the Latitude 14 begins at $3,499. The laptops will ship next month.
The hybrid design in Latitude 12 has been borrowed from the company’s XPS 12 Ultrabook Touch, which has a 12.5-inch screen that can similarly flip to turn the laptop into a tablet. The resistive touch screens on both laptops can show images at a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
The laptops will have storage options of up to 512GB solid-state drives. Users can configure the laptop with Intel’s latest fourth-generation Core processorscode-named Haswell. The laptops will come with either Windows 8.1 or 7, or Ubuntu Linux operating systems.
Other features include support for up to 16GB of DRAM, Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet through a connector. The laptop also has USB 3.0, USB 2.0, VGA and HDMI ports. Mobile broadband and docking are available as options.
Reusability is large component of any plan to making human life interplanetary, according to the CEO of SpaceX, one of the companies tasked with ferrying cargo, and someday astronauts, to the International Space Station.
And the company will take the first step in trying to prove that point this Sunday when it is scheduled to launch a rocket propelling a craft carrying nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies to the space station.
This time, unlike the two previous SpaceX trips to the space station, the company hopes to recover and hopefully reuse the craft’s rocket in another mission.
This time, the company will try to recover the rocket launched Sunday from the ocean. Future missions, will use “legs” built onto the rocket to gently fall to land.
“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of 100,” said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, in a statement. “A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.”
The company noted that its Falcon 9 rocket was built at a cost of about $54 million.
“The majority of the launch cost comes from building the rocket, which flies only once,” the company said. “Compare that to a commercial airliner. Each new plane costs about the same as Falcon 9, but can fly multiple times per day, and conduct tens of thousands of flights over its lifetime.”
The SpaceX-3 launch is set for 4:41 a.m. ET Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida,weather permitting.
The Dragon cargo craft will bring 4,969 pounds of cargo to the orbiting laboratory and returning 3,578 pounds to Earth. The cargo being ferried to the space station includes computer hardware, scientific experiments and new spacewalk tools.
SpaceX made its first resupply mission in 2012 and the second last spring.
The South Korean company has a history of launching its products ahead of Mobile World Congress, and this year is no different. Last week, the G Pro 2 arrived and now the company has added the L40, L70 and L90 to its 2014 line-up of phones.
The L90 is the most advanced of the three newcomers. It has a 4.7-inch screen with a 960 by 540 pixel resolution and is powered by a quad-core processor clocked at 1.2 GHz. It also has a 1.3-megapixel front camera and an 8-megapixel rear camera. There is 1GB of RAM and 8GB of integrated storage, as well.
The L70 and the L40 are powered by 1.2 GHz dual-core processors and each have 4GB of integrated storage. The L70 also has a 4.7-inch screen with a 800 by 400 pixel resolution, an 8-megapixel or a 5-megapixel camera and 1GB of RAM. The L40 has a 3.5-inch screen with a 480 by 320 pixel resolution, a 3-megapixel camera and 512MB of RAM.
As part of the development of Android 4.4, Google kicked off “Project Svelte,” an effort to reduce the memory needs of Android so it can “run comfortably” on entry-level smartphones that have as little as 512MB RAM, work that especially the L40 should benefit from. Android 4.4 offers improved performance as well as a more intuitive user interface, according to LG.
In addition to running the latest version of Google’s OS, all three phones also have removable batteries.
LG didn’t announce any details on when the L40, L70 and L90 will arrive in stores or their pricing, but the phones will be on display at Mobile World Congress next week.
Other batteries that are powered by sugar have been developed before but scientists say this one has an unmatched energy density, which enables it to run far longer before needing to be refilled.
These new sugar-based batteries could run smartphones, tablets and video games in three years, according to Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech.
“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang said. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”
Creating a stronger, longer-lasting, environmentally friendly battery has been getting a lot of research attention.
The U.S. Department of Energy is in the second year of a five-year, $120-million project to spur scientists to find a way to dramatically extend battery life.
Last fall, researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology reported that they had built a flexible battery out of carbon nanotubes that could power everything from tablet computers to electric cars.
Scientists at the University of the West of England, Bristol and the University of Bristol worked together to come up with a potential way to enable robots to operate without a battery at all. They announced this past November that they built a system that will enable robots to function using an unusual source — urine.
At Virginia Tech, researchers built a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strips all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity in an enzymatic fuel cell. Then, inexpensive biocatalyst enzymes are used as catalysts instead of costly platinum, which is typically used in conventional batteries.
The fuel cells in the new battery would combine the maltodextrin from the sugar with air to generate electricity.
Since the battery is refillable, more sugar can be added to it like filling the gas tank of a car.
Japan’s Sony Corp has changed its mind and decided not to sell its lithium-ion battery unit. Instead Sony has decided to take a chance at turning the business around with a weak yen and growing demand for smart phone batteries.
In addition to a weak yen, which can boost overseas earnings, the battery unit is also seeing increased demand for some of its new products, the Nikkei business daily reported.
For the past two years Sony had been planning to offload the unit, which was a pioneer in making lithium-ion batteries for computers and mobile devices but has struggled recently against cheaper South Korean rivals.
A government turnaround fund tried to broker a sale of the battery business to a Nissan Motor Co Ltd and NEC Corp joint venture earlier this year.
However, talks have stalled and Sony has now told the turnaround fund that it will hold on to the battery unit and develop it as a core business, the Nikkei reported, citing unidentified sources.
Sony, which last year sold its chemical business to the government turnaround fund, is trying to revive the fortunes of its consumer electronics business by focusing on cameras,gaming and mobile devices.
Researchers at the University of the West of England, Bristol and the University of Bristol collaborated to build a system that will enable robots to function without batteries or being plugged into an electrical outlet.
Based on the functioning of the human heart, the system is designed to pump urine into the robot’s “engine room,” converting the waste into electricity and enabling the robot to function completely on its own.
Scientists are hoping the system, which can hold 24.5 ml of urine, could be used to power future generations of robots, or what they’re calling EcoBots.
“In the city environment, they could re-charge using urine from urinals in public lavatories,” said Peter Walters, a researcher with the University of the West of England. “In rural environments, liquid waste effluent could be collected from farms.”
In the past 10 years, researchers have built four generations of EcoBots, each able to use microorganisms to digest the waste material and generate electricity from it, the university said.
Along with using human and animal urine, the robotic system also can create power by using rotten fruit and vegetables, dead flies, waste water and sludge.
Ioannis Ieropoulos, a scientist with the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, explained that the microorganisms work inside microbial fuel cells where they metabolize the organics, converting them into carbon dioxide and electricity.
Like the human heart, the robotic system works by using artificial muscles that compress a soft area in the center of the device, forcing fluid to be expelled through an outlet and delivered to the fuel cells. The artificial muscles then relax and go through the process again for the next cycle.
“The artificial heartbeat is mechanically simpler than a conventional electric motor-driven pump by virtue of the fact that it employs artificial muscle fibers to create the pumping action, rather than an electric motor, which is by comparison a more complex mechanical assembly,” Walter said.
AT&T will launch the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Zoom on Friday, Nov. 8, while Motorola is teasing the Moto G for Nov. 13.
The 4.3-in. Zoom will cost $199.99 with a two-year pact, or $25 a month on installment, AT&T announced. It runs Android Jelly Bean over 4G LTE and features a 16-megapixel camera with 10x optical zoom on the rear. There’s also a 1.9 megapixel front camera.
Samsung specs show the Zoom has a Pega dual-core chip and a 2330 mAh battery.
The Moto G is reportedly a low-priced entry-level version of the Moto X, which sells as a developer edition, unlocked, for $650.
All Motorola would say in a graphic of the globe emblazoned with a Motorola brand “M” was “Save the Date, 13 November 2013.” The globe likely indicates a global launch.
Some reports, including at Android and me, indicate the Moto G could have an unlocked price $215, even with a quad-core processor.
Last week, Sprint announced four new smartphones, including three for Nov. 8: the Samsung Galaxy Mega for $199.99 and the Galaxy S 4 mini for $99.99, as well as the LG G2 for $199.99. The HTC One max will also be available soon for $249.99, Sprint said.
The Google-owned phone maker has launched Project Ara to create a free, open and standardized platform to let people pick and choose the components they want in their phones, Motorola said in a blog post this week.
The goal is to create a standard endoskeleton, or frame, that can hold different modules, like extra-powerful processors, additional batteries or memory chips for storing more music, all based on the customer’s preferences.
“Our goal is to drive a more thoughtful, expressive, and open relationship between users, developers, and their phones. To give you the power to decide what your phone does, how it looks, where and what it’s made of, how much it costs, and how long you’ll keep it,” Motorola said.
Motorola’s vision of do-it-yourself smartphones builds on parent company Google’s success with its widely used Android smartphone platform, which it offers for free and allows manufacturers to customize. Android also gives people more leeway to tweak the features on their smartphones than Apple’s iOS platform offers to iPhone users.
Motorola said it has been working on Project Ara for over a year and that it recently teamed up with Phonebloks, an open source project that has also been working on creating modular smartphone components that can be easily replaced.
The announcement of Ara follows Motorola’s launch earlier this year of the Moto X smartphone, which lets customers choose the colors of the front and back panels and buttons.
On its website, Phonebloks envisions an online store letting consumers read reviews of smartphone components, shop for new and used parts, and order custom-designed handsets.
Project Ara is also a bit of a throwback to the 1980s and 1990s, when many technology-handy consumers assembled their own desktop PCs using hard drives, power supplies, CPUs and other custom-picked components.
That became less common when laptops, which are more difficult to customize, became widely used, but computer components are still made at standard sizes that can be slotted into most PCs.
Motorola said it will work on the project openly and create experimental modules. It plans to invite developers and recruit “Ara scouts” to help research and shape the project.