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Apple Working on Wireless Earbuds With Custom Bluetooth Chip for Longer Battery Life

Apple is working on wire-free earbuds built around a custom Bluetooth radio chip that will result in a longer battery life than is possible with traditional Bluetooth chips, reports Forbes. Citing a source with knowledge of Apple's plans, Forbes says Apple has spent the last several years working on a custom Bluetooth chip that's designed to solve the battery life problems that plague existing wireless earbuds.The low-power Bluetooth chip comes from technology developed by Passif Semiconductor, a startup Apple purchased in 2013. But the project has hit performance snags. Apple originally planned to launch the Bluetooth gadget in 2015, but Bluetooth performance issues stalled the release, the source told FORBES. "The way it works at Apple is if it doesn't work 100%, it gets cut," the source said. Whether Apple's wireless earbuds arrive with a custom Bluetooth chip by Apple, or instead use a third-party supplier is still unknown.This isn't the first time we've heard about Apple's work on wire-free earbuds. Back in January, a rumor unveiled Apple's earbud plans, pointing towards Bragi Dash-style wireless Bluetooth earbuds with a battery life of approximately four hours. According to that rumor, the earbuds will also charge through an included carrying case that serves as a rechargeable battery, further extending battery life. In recent years, Apple has delved into developing its own chips to reduce its reliance on third-party vendors, cut down on supply chain issues, and drive technology improvements. Apple has been developing its own ARM-based CPUs for mobile devices

Apple Named World's Most Valuable Brand Despite Recent Slowdown

Apple has been named the world's most valuable brand in 2016, according to the latest Forbes rankings, despite posting its first negative-growth quarter since 2003 with declining sales across its iPhone, iPad, and Mac product lines. Apple's recent slowdown was not enough to prevent the company from securing the number one position in the list for the sixth consecutive year, ahead of rivals Google and Microsoft. Forbes placed Apple's brand value at $154.1 billion, up 6-percent from 2015 and nearly double Google's value of $82.5 billion. Coca-Cola, Facebook, Toyota, IBM, Disney, McDonald's, GE, Samsung, Amazon, AT&T, BMW, and Cisco rounded out the top fifteen. Apple Watch fashion partner Hermès ranked 48th on the list. Other notable companies listed include Intel (17th), Verizon (21st), HP (38th), Sony (76th), Netflix (79th), and T-Mobile (93rd). Apple remains the world's most valuable company with a market cap of over $510 billion, despite its stock being down around 30-percent from May 2015 highs. Google parent company Alphabet trails closely behind, and briefly surpassed Apple as the world's most valuable company in February. Apple also topped Interbrand's most valuable brand list in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Update: AAPL is down nearly 3 percent in trading today, resulting in Google parent company Alphabet's market cap once again briefly surpassing Apple's. The two companies will likely continue to trade positions until the volatility

Samsung May Follow Apple by Launching Smartphone Leasing Program

Samsung is planning to follow in Apple's footsteps by launching its own Galaxy smartphone leasing program in the U.S. over the coming months, according to Forbes.The South Korean electronics giant is planning to launch a program for leasing its Galaxy phones in the U.S. market, similar to the one Apple announced just weeks ago, according to an industry executive with knowledge of Samsung’s plans. Samsung may be launching this leasing program in the next several months, although that timeline may accelerate, the executive said.The report does not offer any other details about Samsung's plans for the rumored smartphone leasing program, but the move would make sense as the wireless industry moves away from subsidized pricing and two-year contracts in favor of monthly installment plans and financing programs for payments. Apple introduced the iPhone Upgrade Program alongside the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus earlier this month, enabling customers to upgrade to a new iPhone every year with AppleCare+ warranty coverage included. Eligible customers who sign up for the program will have the full cost of their new iPhone broken down into 24 equal payments of around $30 to $45 per month depending on the model, plus a premium for AppleCare+. After the first 12 monthly payments, the customer gains the option to trade in their iPhone for a new one and enter into a new 24 month installment plan to pay it off. The final cost of an entry-level 16GB iPhone 6s with AppleCare+ purchased through the iPhone Upgrade Program is $777.84, which is ultimately the same price as purchasing a

Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Quickly Dominate Japanese Smartphone Sales

Apple's new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus handsets are dominating the Japanese market in their first week of sales, reports Forbes, which cited weekly sales rankings provided by Japan's BCN. iPhone sales were boosted by carrier Softbank, which edged out KDDI and NTT DoCoMo as the top wireless provider and accounted for 42.9 percent of weekly iPhone sales. According to the tracking, individual iPhone models took the top 18 spots in sales for the week. The iPhone 6 was the most popular iPhone version, displacing competitors and the company's own the iPhone 5s and 5c handsets, which previously topped the list for the month of August. According to BCN, the relative split between iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models was roughly 82 percent to 18 percent, with the smaller iPhone 6 seeing much greater sales than the larger model.BCN tracks smartphones on a weekly and monthly basis, and in its latest weekly rankings the iPhone 6 took 8 of the top 10 spots with the iPhone 5s taking 5th and 8th place. The iPhone 6 Plus’ highest ranking was 11th and it has a fairly strong showing taking 5 of the next 7 spots. Apple’s success compares to the month of August where the iPhone 5s took the 3rd and 4th positions and the 5c captured the 6th, 7th and 10th positions. A similar dominance of the iPhone 6 was observed in US metrics with the iPhone 6 far outpacing the bigger iPhone 6 Plus. Much of this disparity may be the result of supply constraints affecting the availability of iPhone 6 Plus handsets, making it much harder for customers to find the models in retail stores and online. Apple began

Survey Shows Strong Consumer Interest in Larger-Screen iPhone 6

Research firm ChangeWave (via Fortune) has released the results of a new survey, showing that interest among early-adopter and professional consumers in a larger-screen iPhone 6 is at an all time high. 40% of respondents indicated they are 'very likely' or 'somewhat likely' to buy an iPhone 6 that is described as having a "larger screen size" and a "faster processor" along with an "updated iOS operating system" at a starting price of $199 with a two year contract. “This is the highest level of demand for an unannounced Apple model in a ChangeWave survey – stronger than we’ve seen in previous years for the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5 models prior to their announcements,” said Andy Golub of 451 Research. “Speculation over a larger screen iPhone is clearly striking a chord with consumers.” Internal memos from the second ongoing trial between Apple and Samsung indicate that Apple is eager to release a larger phone, as a slide deck from an April 2013 presentation showed that customers want less expensive and notably, larger screen smartphones. Apple will likely unveil its next-generation iPhone later this year, as it has done with previous models. Unlike past iterations however, the iPhone 6 may come in two versions, including one with a 4.7-inch screen and another with a larger 5.5-inch screen that will be released later. In addition to a larger display, the iPhone 6 is expected to feature a narrower bezel that surrounds a thinner design along with a faster A8 processor and an upgraded camera. According to a research note from well-sourced KGI Securities analyst

Apple Planning Fix for OS X SSL Bug as New Research Reveals iMessage, Other Apps Affected

Apple has confirmed that it will issue a software update "very soon" to patch the security flaw found in OS X that allows attackers to capture or modify data protected by the SSL/TLS protocols in Safari, reports Reuters. The vulnerability of OS X to the bug was detailed by security firm CrowdStrike and a Google engineer last Friday, and came right after Apple released iOS 7.0.6 to fix the SSL-related issues on iOS. However, the security flaw, which has been termed "GoToFail" by security specialists due to the improperly used "goto" command that triggers it, may be affecting more than just Safari. Independent privacy researcher Ashkan Soltani has pointed out on his Twitter (via Forbes) that Apple's vulnerable SSL library is also used by apps including FaceTime, iMessage, Twitter, Calendar, Keynote, Mail, iBooks, Software Update, and more. A list of apps deemed vulnerable to the SSL bug found in OS X and iOS by security researcher Ashkan Soltani Soltani does point out that apps such as iMessage and FaceTime have addded security measures that weaken the effects of the security flaw, but also added that the initial iCloud login used to authenticate such apps may also be compromised. The researcher states that other parts of the protocol such as the handshake between a service and a device are vulnerable to an attack as well, and will need to be secured by Apple. Currently, users can check whether or not their computers are affected by the vulnerability by visiting gotofail.com in Safari. As users wait for a fix to the flaw, CrowdStrike recommends avoiding

Intel to Begin Manufacturing 64-Bit ARM Chips in 2014

Intel partner Altera announced at the ARM developers' conference yesterday that the world's largest semiconductor chip maker will start manufacturing 64-bit ARM chips beginning in 2014, reports Forbes. The move brings Intel's chipmaking prowess to the most popular architecture for mobile devices and could prove to make Intel a foundry option for Apple and its custom A-series chips for its iOS devices at some point in the future.“It’s huge. Imagine ARM’s most powerful and technologically advanced 64-bits processor built on Intel’s leading-edge fabs. A duo that will be hard to beat,” explains Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. [...] “Intel will build Apple's, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon or the Nvidia Tegra for the right price. Now, the question is, are they ready to pay that premium and feed their direct competitor, except for Apple. But that would actually make business sense for everyone,” adds Brookwood. Apple notably signed a three-year deal in June with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) to produce A-series Chips for future iOS devices beginning in 2014, with the move seen as a part of Apple's strategy to move away from rival Samsung for component supplies. However, Samsung was soon after reported to have landed another deal to produce chips for Apple beginning with the A9 in 2015. According to a report in June, Samsung will also remain involved in next year's A8 chip family, with TSMC handling 60 to 70 percent of the manufacturing load and Samsung picking up the remainder. Apple was also originally rumored in 2011 to be moving from Intel's x86

Apple Seriously Considered Switching to AMD in 2011 MacBook Air

In an upcoming profile of AMD, Forbes reports that the company's Llano family of Fusion combination CPU-GPU systems was under consideration by Apple to be used as the brains behind the MacBook Air for its 2011 revision. AMD lost out to Intel, however, as the necessary parts were late in being delivered to Apple and had unacceptably high failure rates.AMD struggled with its new fabless model while trying to crank out “fusion” processors that combined a CPU and a GPU in a single part. On paper the idea was promising. A notebook processor dubbed “Llano” got a close look from Apple for an update to the ultralight MacBook Air, scheduled for launch in mid-2011. But AMD couldn’t get early working samples of Llano to Apple on time, one former employee says. Several former AMD employees disagree on just how close AMD came. “We had it,” one says. But too many of the Llano parts were faulty. AMD lost the deal.The company reportedly also pitched Apple on using its Brazos family of Fusion systems in the Apple TV, but Apple proved to be uninterested in the proposal. Forbes' Brian Caulfield has more on AMD's efforts to lure Apple in a separate article in which he talks further about yield issues on the Fusion chips planned for the MacBook Air. The claim echoes a November report from SemiAccurate alleging that AMD's Fusion platform was Apple's "Plan A" for the 2011 MacBook Air and that such machines were "on the verge of production" before Apple ultimately decided to stick with Intel. Apple had been struggling with chip options in its small portables for several years as

iPhone 5 May Get NFC Payments After All?

A Forbes blog by Elizabeth Woyke claims that despite recent rumors to the contrary, Near Field Communications (NFC) payment systems may indeed be coming to the iPhone 5. Woyke's sources include second hand information from an entrepreneur in the NFC industry. From what I hear, it is possible the iPhone 5 will include NFC. An entrepreneur who is working on a top-secret NFC product told me today that he believes the iPhone 5 will have NFC and cited a friend who works at Apple as a reliable source for the information.NFC manufacturers are also expecting the iPhone 5 will arrive with an NFC payment system. While we're sure that Apple engineers are working on the technology, this friend-of-a-friend report seems less credible than the Independent's report which claimed that Apple had informed international carriers that NFC was not coming to this year's iPhone revision. Apple is expected to launch the iPhone 5 this