In what might turn out to be a shrewd marketing campaign for iPhone 4 accessories, a rubber and molded plastic skirt made for the latest version of Apple's handheld has been found to be a possible fix for the phone's signal quality problems.
Consumer Reports reported Wednesday that the cover, called a Bumper, "solves the signal-strength problem," and provides a more fashion-friendly solution than applying a piece of duct tape in a certain spot on the phone, a remedy the publication also says works.
Whether Apple will highlight the report in a iPhone 4-centric news conference Friday isn't likely because Apple's tried promoting this fix before.
Consumer Reports noted phone signal would drop when a finger covered "a small gap in the casing on the bottom left edge of the phone." A Bumper, or piece of duct tape, placed over the gap resulted in "a negligible drop in signal strength," the publication reported.
Even with the Bumper -- costing $29 -- approved as a fix, Consumer Reports still called on Apple to give iPhone 4 customers a solution free of charge, a more likely topic of discussion for Friday's press conference.
With the iPhone 4 antenna issue becoming a major headache for Apple, analysts are busy handicapping the costs of a potential recall, which observers like Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster deem "highly unlikely." But the larger questions are whether Apple is too cocky for its own good or handling a skirmish with Consumer Reports properly since the antenna flap may be overblown.
In recent days, it has been an interesting duel between Consumer Reports and Apple. Apple has admitted that there is an antenna reception problem on its iPhone 4, but told customers that the fix is to hold the phone the right way--when you touch the antenna, reception dies. Consumer Reports and other testers have documented signal degradation when touching the lower left portion of the device, bridging the iPhone's antennas. A bumper case fixes the problem.
Consumer Reports verified that there's a hardware issue and has called on Apple to fix the iPhone 4. Duct tape seems to help.
Simply put, Consumer Reports says "we think it's the company's responsibility to provide the fix--at no extra cost to consumers." Typically, Consumer Reports' recommendations are gold and companies don't mess with the publication's findings. In most cases, product companies respond to the concerns in an open and public fashion. Every once in a while Consumer Reports is off, but its track record is solid.
Apple hasn't given much of a response. After all, it's still moving a lot of iPhone 4s. Macquarie analyst Phil Cusick says in a research note:
While we do not see any evidence of a slowdown in sales and our checks indicate almost no returns, the antenna issue could become a public relations problem and potentially impact Apple's sterling brand image.
In the meantime, analysts have been handicapping the costs of a recall or providing a bumper case free of charge. Bottom line is that the expense is negligible.
Alexey Karetnikov, the 12th Russian spy, spent nine months working at Microsoft as a software tester at the company's Redmond, Washington campus.
He was deported based on immigration violations rather than any criminal acts, such as those that landed the other eleven spies in trouble with the U.S. government. However, officials said he was not associated with the Russian agents arrested on June 27.
Based on the Facebook page content from one Alexey V Karetnikov, he graduated from St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University in 2009 and from the Physics and Mathematics Lyceum 30 high school in 2004. He previously worked NeoBIT, a Romanian-based technology company that has associations Russian defense and intelligence agencies.
It's unclear what Karetnikov's mission was while he worked at Microsoft. He was monitored by the U.S. government soon after he entered the country in October 2009. "He was just in the early stages; had just set up shop," a senior federal law enforcement official told the Washington Post.
In a research report on Apple's increasing travails over the iPhone 4 antenna issue, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co analyst Toni Sacconaghi said a full product recall of the iPhone 4 would represent the equivalent of about 5 weeks of free cash flow or about 3.5% of its total cash balance.
"While logical arguments can be made that suggest that iPhone momentum remains strong and the antenna issue can be "solved" with a rubber case, the press appears to be increasingly crying foul at Apple, which suggests that Apple's image - and potentially iPhone sales - could be compromised if Apple does not explicitly - and constructively - address the issue of what it believes is wrong with the phone and how it will address it," Sacconaghi wrote.
The issue became more urgent in the aftermath of a Consumer Reports announcement that it would not recommend consumers buy the iPhone because of issues surrounding the unit's antenna reception.
Sacconaghi said it was hard to gauge whether a software patch would resolve the iPhone's antenna issue or whether it would take in-stores adjusting by Apple-trained technicians. If it involves the latter, Sacconaghi said a "guess-timate" would put the expense to the company at $75 per unit, or $450M, "assuming 6 million 4th generation phones sold, in inventory, or in transit. If we assume the worst case - a full recall of the device and issuance of a new iPhone, which we believe is highly unlikely - it might cost Apple $1.5B."
The easiest option put forward by Sacconaghi: Issue rubber cases. The cost would be $1 per unit (or less.) But that would force Apple to eat a slice of humble pie and acknowledge a design issue with the iPhone. And that's where Sacconaghi noted a growing perception problem that may hurt Apple.
"Perhaps the bigger longer term concern for Apple investors is the emerging pattern of hubris that the company has displayed, which has increasingly pitted competitors (and regulators) against the company, and risks alienating customers over time."
Referring to past controversies, such as Apple's lack of transparency about Steve Jobs health or its sattack on Adobe's Flash, and more recently, "its ostensibly dismissive characterizations of the iPhone's antenna issues," Sacconaghi said that "the worry is that collectively these issues may over time begin to impact consumer's perceptions of Apple, undermining its enormous prevailing commercial success."
The latest brainstorm about how best to prevent an invasive Asian carp species from devastating native fish populations in the Great Lakes comes courtesy of Governor Pat Quinn.
Illinois is entering into an agreement with Chinese meat processing company Beijing Zhuochen Animal Husbandry Company and Big River Fisheries located in Pearl, Ill. to harvest 30 million pounds of carp from Illinois rivers. Big River will process, package and ship the fish to Zhuochen for resale in international markets where the fish is a delicacy. The company is expected to harvest at least 30 million pounds of fish for the purpose of this agreement by the end of 2011.
Quinn's office says the agreement will generate about 180 jobs.press conference.
Environmentalists, who have been frantic since a Bighead Asian carp was caught in Lake Calumet along the Chicago Area Waterway System in June, were not terribly impressed. They described the idea was a tactic that at best, would buy time.
"Many communities have been robbed of their ability to use and fish on the Illinois River by the slow response to limit the Asian carp's infestation," according to Natural Resources Defense Council Midwest Director Henry Henderson. "Governor Quinn's announcement will be welcome news for people in places like Peoria, where it might help them get their river back. But our goal for the Illinois River should be to eradicate this dangerous invasive species, not manage a fishery."
Asian carp can eat up to 40 percent of their body weight daily and grow as large as 100 pounds, lending urgency to lawmakers' desire to do something. The question of how best to proceed, though, remains a vexing one. Last year, for instance.Illiniois carried out what was the largest organized fish kill in the state's history. Boats dumped poison into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in a bid to stop the carps. But after the operation was complete, officials were able to identify one dead carp.
Paul D. Ceglia of Wellsville, N.Y., claims in a lawsuit (see below) that he entered into a contract with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2003 to design and develop a Web site that would ultimately become the social-networking giant. The contract entitled Ceglia to a $1,000 fee and a 50 percent stake in the final product, which eventually launched as TheFacebook.com, according to the suit, which was filed in the Supreme Court of New York's Allegany County on June 30.
The suit also claims Zuckerberg agreed to pay Ceglia an additional 1 percent stake per day until the Web site is completed, giving Ceglia an 84 percent stake in the company as of February 4, 2004.
Judge Thomas Brown issued a temporary restraining order blocking any transfer of assets earlier this month after Facebook requested the case be dismissed.
Privately held Facebook dismissed the suit as frivolous.
"We believe this suit is completely frivolous and we will fight it vigorously," Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said in a statement.
The company, which has nearly 500 million users, is estimated to be worth $6.5 billion after receiving aContinue »
post explaining why it couldn't recommend buying the iPhone 4. The more likely reason for the sell-off: the growing drumbeat about a possible product recall.
Perception often has a way to turning into reality. Just a month ago the tech market was gripped by iPhone 4 fever. Now, the conversation has shifted and some public relations executives say that a recall is likely, if not inevitable.
Advised against buying the iPhone 4, Consumer Reports concluded from its testing that the iPhone 4's antenna problems are not related to software and more serious than Apple has let on.
As if that was not enough, Apple's been taking a shellacking in the blogosphere after the tech blog TUAW reported that the company had deleted a message thread on its online support board related to the Consumer Reports news.. (Here's the cached version.)
I can't tell you how many people I've talked to this summer who have told me that they had finally made their decision to get a new smartphone only to have their plans thwarted when they got to the store and their well-researched choice was unavailable.
This is exactly what happened to my former college roommate, Stephanie Rahill. After months of research and several conversations with me, her husband came out of the Verizon Wireless store three weeks ago and told her that she would have to wait nearly a month for her new HTC Droid Incredible smartphone.
"When he came out of the store empty-handed, I was like, 'Where is my phone?'" she said. "My current phone has a crack in the screen and won't last much longer. He had researched which phones he wanted us to buy for two months, so he wanted to wait. But I was aggravated."
The Rahills' experience is not uncommon this summer. From the hot new iPhone 4 to the HTC Evo 4G and the HTC Droid Incredible, millions of potential consumers are leaving stores empty-handed with nothing more than a promise that they'll get their coveted smartphones in a matter of weeks, if they're lucky.Continue »
Hardcore iPhone fans can try as much as they'd like to discredit the Consumer Reports findings - and some are already doing just that - but they'll have a hard time convincing mainstream consumers that CR is turning this into something more than it is. After all, this isn't just some thumbs-down from a tech blogger who had a bad experience with the iPhone. This is Consumer Reports - and that matters.
Yes, sales of the iPhone 4 were strong right out of the gate - but it's important to note that 77 percent of those initial sales were upgrades by existing iPhone owners. And many of those folks were likely early-adopter Apple fans who probably would have bought the phone even if it only handled smoke-signal communications. After all, dropped calls are no big deal when your friends see you carrying around the latest cool gadget, right?
But what about everyone else, the regular folks who don't place pre-orders or spend the night outside Apple stores, those who care about the quality of the service and refuse to pay even more money to fix a problem that should have been addressed before the product was sold in the first place? Many of those people are the same ones that will take their time researching and comparing products - starting with what Consumer Reports had to say. The magazine has a stellar reputation of testing products and for some, the magazine's word is gospel. Its ratings and rankings can spread like word-of-mouth wildfire among mainstream consumers.Continue »
The walls have ears, the saying goes--but at some point, so might people's clothes. With the help of fiber research at MIT, fabrics of the future could both hear and make noises.
Yoel Fink, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his colleagues developed fibers that are active where most are passive. Specifically, through a new application of widely used technology called piezoelectrics, fibers can convert sound waves into an electrical signal and vice versa, MIT announced Monday.
Piezoelectric speakers have been around for a long time--beeping digital watches and those musical greeting cards use them, for example--but Fink's approach uses fibers instead of a flat speaker. Key to the approach is making the fibers so that one side is different from the other, rather than being symmetric.
One edge of the fiber has more fluorine atoms running along it, and the other has more hydrogen atoms. This difference is responsible for the connection between the fibers' movement--whether caused by sound or causing it--and its electrical properties.
"Fabrics woven from piezoelectric fibers could be used as a communication transceiver," the researchers wrote, describing their approach in the July 11 issue of Nature Materials.
Sound isn't the only sensitivity possible with smarter fabrics. MIT also has worked on cameralike fibers sensitive to light.
The fibers aren't easy to make. They're produced from much larger cylinders that are "drawn" through a small aperture at higher temperatures. The MIT group managed the task using a number of techniques, including the use of an electrically conducting graphite-based plastic and a strong electric field to align necessary molecules.
Don't expect walking boom boxes anytime soon, though. Besides manufacturing and other practical constraints, the fibers today work only with kilohertz to megahertz sound frequencies, and humans employ much lower frequencies.This piece originally appeared on CNET
Defense specialists in Lancashire, England got a look at their nation's first remotely-controlled fighter aircraft.
Named after the Celtic god of thunder, the "Taranis" is the United Kingdom's entry into the nascent field of Uncrewed Combat Air Vehicles or UCAV While the United States military has led in unmanned aerial vehicles, most famously with the Predator line, the difference here is that the Taranis is powered by a jet engine, rather than propellers.
Consumer Reports said on Monday that it could not recommend the iPhone 4 because of lingering reception problems.
The testing firm also challenged Apple's official explanation that explained issues with the Phone 4's signal-strength as due to software that "mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength."
Scientists had believed that the Earth was 4.537 billion-years-old. But a new study by an international team of researchers suggests that the planet's age is actually closer to 4.467 billion-years-old. The new mathematical models they came up with was based on a comparison of geochemical information taken from the Earth's mantle with meteorites containing similar materials.
"The whole issue hinges on working out how long it took for the core of the Earth to form, which is one of the big unknowns in this area of science," co-author Dr. John Rudge, from the University of Cambridge, said. "One of the problems has been that scientists usually presume Earth's accretion happened at an exponentially decreasing rate. We believe that the process may not have been that simple and that it could well have been a much more staggered, stop-start affair."
Their findings are published in the journal Nature Geoscience,