Monthly Archives: February 2011

iOS 5.0 Wishlist

Since we’re likely to see new iPads announced this week, and probably iOS 5.0 at least talked about, I’m going over my wishlist for the updated OS.

  1. Notifications are awful. Redo the system so they aren’t modal and I don’t have to dismiss them before I continue. Also rework some OS level quirks, like if you’re recording video or audio and a phone call comes in, don’t have it cancel what you were doing, let the app keep working and if you hit reject its like the call never came in.
  2. Sync basic information (e.g. calendar, contacts, sms/mms, but not movies, music, pictures) over wifi to your PC/Mac. Alternately sync that same basic information up to the cloud via mobile me. I lost a weeks worth of SMSes a few weeks ago when I had to reinstall the OS on the phone after it wouldn’t power back on for some reason.
  3. A nice, professional sounding text message notifier sound. One that I can have go off in my office and not be embarrassed that isn’t tri-tone. All the guys I know use tri-tone and the girls I know use the ringing bells. And that’s it. Or just let people set it themselves.
  4. I want to be able to read/reply to text messages that land on my iPhone from my iPad or Mac when they’re in close proximity (or at least in my house). Right now, my iPhone is downstairs and I’m upstairs with my iPad and Mac. I’m always near one of my devices but that notification isn’t passed around. This may necessitate a multi-user approach for the iPad, since I wouldn’t want to let my friend use my iPad and have my text messages sent to it if he is using it (both annoying and an invasion of privacy).

Thats it! We’ll hopefully find out what Apple is up to on March 2nd.

Did Intel announce the iPhone 5 (GSM) radio chip?

Most of the “conventional wisdom” currently going around is that Apple has lock, stock and barrel moved to the Qualcomm baseband (RF – the cellular part) processor for all future iPhones. If that does turn out to be the case, then you can just ignore the rest of this post.

However I’m inclined to believe Apple may not yet unify the GSM and CDMA iPhones, especially given the size footprint of the Qualcomm CDMA/EVDO/HSPA+ chipset inside the iPhone 4 (CDMA). Without a significant redesign Apple just cant put all those chips necessary for a dual-mode phone, plus the Micro-SIM slot, plus the Qualcomm chip inside on that tiny PCB. Given recent rumors, the next iPhone isn’t expected to be a big overhaul.Anandtech was smart to point out the space limitation…

Though the baseband supports dual mode operation, upon looking at more of the CDMA iPhone disassembled, it’s quickly apparent why that isn’t put into use. There simply isn’t space for the required power amps as the mainboard is organized right now. Though there’s definitely space picked up from losing the SIM slot (which, as an aside, explains why Apple seemed keen on losing SIMs entirely – it’s starting to become a huge chunk of real-estate), but the MDM6600 is simply larger than the Infineon X-Gold 618. Unless you can get in there and add both the signaling for the SIM and necessary RF components, there’s no way the CDMA iPhone is becoming dual-mode anytime soon.

To make a dual-mode phone that would work on both AT&T and Verizon, you’d need 3 more RF amps, a 10-way switch, and numerous other parts (along with paying for both CDMA and GSM/HSPA licensing fees to the respective patent owners for every phone, an extra cost of up to $20/unit). While keeping the phones separate means paying less money to patent holders for technology the user may never use (how often would an AT&T customer use the CDMA parts of the phone – I cant think of any exclusively CDMA countries, even South Korea has a 3G GSM network).

So in comes Intel’s (neé Infineon), the provider of the RF baseband chips in the iPhone, 3G, 3GS and 4-GSM models with a new 3G/HSPA+ RF baseband chip. The specifications are impressive – 21Mb/s down and 11.5Mb/s up, which translates roughly to 5-6Mb/s down and 2.5Mb/s up in the real world on a good network. But more importantly there are two features Intel is really pushing about the chip that make this seem to be custom tailored for Apple.

First is the power efficiency. The previous chip (in the 4-GSM model phones) was built at 65nm, and the new chip is 40nm. To those that understand semiconductor fabrication technology know those numbers mean a huge leap in terms of power consumption – for the same workload the new chip may consume as much as 65% less powerthan the previous generation chip, since the fabrication technology has gone down 1.5 “nodes”. This is something Apple, in their never ending quest for battery life and usability, could benefit tremendously from. I’d estimate it buys an extra 30% on 3G talk time, and 15% on 3G web, bringing Apple’s stated totals to 9 hrs 3G talk and 7 hrs 3G web.

Second is the package size. Intel is pushing hard that the chip’s footprint is very small, which is appropriate for Apple’s notoriously small circuit boards. The goal to make the chip small allows Apple to make the circuit board smaller, and make the battery larger (or just the same volume, just thinner). Making the package smaller could also accommodate larger/alternate amps and radios, to possibly accommodate other GSM bands (perhaps even T-Mobile’s AWS band?).

Anyways, just some wishful speculation. To me its always made sense that Apple not unify their product line at the iPhone 5 from a cost perspective. We’ll see the first unified phones when we move to LTE in 2012, and if Apple can get their way, no more SIM card either.

Why bother with a 3G iPad?

Recently, it was announced that an updated iPhone OS will have support for Wifi tethering. Verizon is offering unlimited data packages, while AT&T announced today that they’ll offer an extra 2GB of monthly data transfer on the new iPhone Wifi tethering plans.

So if you happen to have an iPhone, why bother with a 3G iPad, when the Wifi version will be enough? Paying $25 twice for 2GB each of iPhone data and iPad data is $50, while for $5 less, plus the $130 you’ll save on the initial purchase, you can get 4GB of data to share between the two (and between any laptops you might have).

There are certainly some downsides – you’ll have to turn on and turn off the Wifi hotspot on the iPhone to conserve battery, and you risk running your iPhone’s battery down quicker. Gruber stated that in his testing on a Verizon iPhone, the hotspot feature used 5% every 20 mintues of hotspot use, or 15% per hour. The iPad’s battery is larger and is better suited to running for longer (and using the cellular data connection more frequently), however since you cant pool your data connections together (yet) and the 3G option is rather expensive ($130 for generation 1 iPads) you’re stuck using the iPhone as the hotspot. The only thing missing is a hardware hack to allow the iPad to recharge the iPhone so that the iPhone can last longer with tethering enabled.