Category Archives: Apple

How to do a “Cross-line Upgrade” on AT&T

So the new iPhone was announced yesterday. But AT&T recently changed its rules so that the primary line on a family plan can only upgrade every 18 months, compared to 12 previously.

So what to do? Use another line on the family plan to upgrade.

To begin, you’ll need a family plan with two or more lines. One of those lines must be eligible for a full upgrade (it’s been 18 months since their last subsidized upgrade).

  1. Order the new iPhone under the upgrade eligible phone line for the fully discounted price
  2. When the phone arrives, activate it on the line it was ordered on. This is a security feature that is required to prevent phones from being stolen during transport or delivery. Note that this will deactivate the users current phone, so you’ll want them around when you do this.
  3. Once activated then call AT&T and ask for a “cross line upgrade”. They will change the phone’s ownership to the line you request and the other person may be required to reactivate their current phone.
    With an iPhone, because it is SIM-locked to the phone number it is ordered, you have to visit an AT&T store and have them replace your SIM card.

And you’re done!

What to expect with the new iPhone (“iPhone 5”)

Things we’re sure of

  • 4″ Screen (in-cell)
  • New Design

Things I’m sure of

  • LTE on Qualcomm’s MDM9615+WTR1605L chipset
  • 32nm application processor (A6), fast dual core (1.5GHz)
  • International LTE (on EU-800 and EU/Asia-1800), but no worldwide LTE roaming (international roaming will be restricted due to 3G due to the different models needed to accommodate the various LTE worldwide bands)
  • IGZO screen for better battery life It appears that Sharp wont be delivering any IGZO screens until 2013. The good news is they had live demos showing IGZO screens using 60% of the power of a regular screen (1.86W vs 1.1W for a 7″ display). It appears the first IGZO screen will probably end up in the iPad 4 in Spring 2013 (and the battery will go back to 25-30Wh).
  • T-Mobile support (if not initially, eventually – definitely by end of Q2 2013)
  • China Mobile support (655M customers, again if not initially, eventually, expect before Chinese New Year)
  • 5GHz WIfi support (802.11n)

Expected Battery Specs

  • 12 Hours talk time (3G, since there is no VoLTE networks running yet)
  • 7 hours LTE data
  • 9 hours HSPA/CDMA data
  • 10 hours Wifi data
  • 10 hours video (H.264)

Most of the factors that go into this are that the processors are fabricated on a smaller lithography (28 and 32nm) and the IGZO screen cuts its power consumption by 50%. This is why the battery is only slightly larger instead of a lot larger than the previous generation.

Radio Configurations

US GSM: Lower 700 (Band 12), 850 MHz, 900MHz (for international 3G), 2100 (for international 3G), PCS (1900), AWS (1700/2100), WCS (2.3GHz)

US CDMA: Upper 700 (Band 13), 850 MHz, 900MHz (for international 3G), 2100 (for international 3G), PCS (1900), AWS (1700/2100), BRS/EBS (2.6GHz)

EU/Asia (Japan/Korea): 800MHz (digital dividend), 850 MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, PCS (1900), 2.6GHz

Notes:
  • The phone as-is wont support Sprint’s eventual LTE iDEN network. This would require a third US model since it would replace Upper 700 (Band 13) with the iDEN band.
  • The radio configurations don’t allow international LTE roaming, just 3G.
  • China Mobile may end up using the EU/Asia model, but probably reconfigured slightly such that it can use TD-SCDMA (may or may not require new hardware, probably not but we’ll see).

Why I think the iPhone 5 will support T-Mobile (3G & LTE)

So I came across this article this morning, based on an FCC filing Qualcomm made with the FCC. It details their septa-band (7-band) radio. The radio will support 3 bands under 1GHz (700 Upper & Lower, Cellular), 3 between 1.0-2.2Ghz (PCS, PCS-G, AWS-1), and one high band (2.2GHz+, likely for Clearwire’s LTE).

In its filing, Qualcomm said it has accelerated development of its next generation RF chip, the WTR1605L, which it said will support a total of seven frequency bands–three below 1 GHz, three higher bands, and one very high band (such as 2.5 GHz).

In the filing, it is more detailed – this is the radio for 28nm chips (they specifically name the S4/MSM-8960, though the MSM9615, likely to be Apple’s baseband chip, is also 28nm). They list all the bands that are expected to have LTE deployed on them in the filing

In the United States alone, operators have deployed or plan to deploy LTE in the:
700 MHz 3GPP bands (Band Classes 12, 13, 14, 17);
850 MHz cellular band (Band Class 5);
Original PCS band (Band Class 2);
PCS Block G (Band Class 25);
AWS-1 band (Band Class 4);
Potential AWS-4 band (Band Class 23);
Original 800 MHz iDEN band (Band Class 26); and<
BRS band (Band Class 41).

The carrier list that goes with that is as follows:

  • AT&T – Lower 700 (Band 17), possibly AWS-1, possibly AWS-4 (2015, if they team with Echostar)
  • Verizon – Upper 700, AWS-1
  • Sprint – PCS-G (2012), 800MHz SMR/iDEN (later)
  • T-Mobile – AWS-1
  • Clearwire – BRS (2.4-2.6GHz)
  • US Cellular – Lower 700MHz (band 12)
  • MetroPCS – AWS-1
  • Leap/Cricket – AWS-1, roaming with Cleariwre

I’m highly optimistic that, from a technical standpoint at least, said “The New iPhone”, were it to use the MSM9615 chip and be outfitted properly, could support all the bands necessary for LTE deployment in the US.

Crazy Idea: Apple should buy Clearwire, build iDevice LTE network

On a recent episode of Critical Path, it is noted that the fastest growing slice of the earnings pie for carriers around the world is data. Voice and SMS revenues are slumping, as users are turning to data networks for more and more of their communication. Phone apps like Apple’s iMessage and RIM’s BBM move text message traffic off SMS and to data networks. Phone calls will soon be replaced with Facetime calls when cellular networks are up to the task of carrying video traffic, with the exception of calling while driving.

If we look at Apple’s iPhone (and most cellular phones in general), the most disappointing facet of the device is often the carrier, specifically data traffic; followed closely by battery life (that’s another article entirely). So what is it that Apple can do to drive additional revenue as well as provide it a leg up on the competitions devices – tablets and phones, plus anything else they may think of in the future? It would need an end-run around the current cellular carriers. And this means owning and operating a cellular network.

This is initially difficult to do on a worldwide scale because of licensing issues. Each country has their own spectrum authority (FCC here in the USA), and the same slice of spectrum can be allocated for different uses around the world with the main exception of unlicensed ISM bands (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz for WiFi). Steve Jobsreportedly wanted to build their own network using these unlicensed ISM bands, but it was easy to see that it wouldn’t be technically possible.

Clear?

In the United States the obvious choice would be for them to acquire Clearwire’s spectrum and assets. Its market cap is incredibly low (less than $2B) and it doesn’t need a whole lot of cash to fix up ($900M in the next few yearsto build and operate a new LTE network), and is in desperate need of cash to pay its debt obligations, even choosing to skip a debt payment recently. Cheap considering how much spectrum they’re holding on to in major cities across the USA – 192MHz in many cities, 125MHz in NYC and as low as 75MHz in Detroit. The difficulty is that its majority owned by Sprint, however Sprint is in need of cash too and I expect it will have to be acquired by Verizon within the next five years if they don’t get their act together. Sprint seems less interested in Clearwire lately, especially since they announced they’re going on their own with LTE (using their own spectrum and Lightsquared spectrum instead of Clearwire spectrum). The downside to using Clearwire’s spectrum is that it is in the 2490-2690MHz band, which doesn’t have the best propagation characteristics (e.g. going through walls, into basements, etc). Apple would need to use their extensive antenna engineering knowledge to build a device that will still get fantastic reception even with poor signal strength.

The phone will still need (and should use) the voice networks from the old carriers. There is no need to build up that infrastructure again. Apple would roll out the TDD-LTE-Advanced (rel. 10) network on Clearwire’s 2.5-2.6Ghz spectrum in 2013 and provide tremendous speeds to end users – better than any of the current network carriers could offer. While LTE offers 10Mb/s down, the enormous spectrum holdings of Clearwire would allow speeds up to 50Mb/s on a regular basis, and peak speeds well above that. Putting their spectrum to use in a 50MHz TD-LTE-Adv configuration provides for over 250MB/s raw throughput (downlink, 2×2 MIMO) with user speeds around 20-50Mb/s and upload speeds around 10-15Mb/s.

How would the carriers react? A mixed bag – they’ve invested money in building up a network to handle tons of data, and while they might welcome Apple taking a load off their network (their CapEx would slow down dramatically, for a few quarters at least after rollout), they aren’t going to be happy with Apple taking revenue away – presumably because everyone could switch to no data plan or a minimum data plan for roaming outside of Apple’s initially incomplete network. But Apple recently just took a bite out of their revenue pie by introducing iMessage, reducing carrier revenue from text messages, though that is an order of magnitude smaller than the equivalent data revenues.

Killing Cable?

It also offers a hand in creating their own mini-cable system. With an abundance of spectrum, a separate 20MHz channel could be used just for broadcasting their own live TV on multicast – a 20Mhz channel (2×2 MIMO) with a 87:10 down/up ratio would have 120Mbs down, enough for 10 12Mbps 1080p feeds, the 8Mbps upstream channel would just be for device authentication and updates only. In true Apple/Pixar fashion, they’d only be showing a few choice channels with high quality content. During the low traffic periods of the day (would Apple sell informercials? I don’t think so…) they could turn off a few channels and stream prime content to the devices to be “unlocked” as prime-time TV shows. If they needed to increase throughput, they’d move to 4×4 MIMO and change the ratio to 90:7 for 255Mb/s down (21 channels 1080p channels) and a small control channel up.

Technical Difficulties

Apple would need to build dual-SIM devices, it would need a carrier SIM for voice and SMS, but an Apple SIM for data. However, Apple was rumored to be building a SIM replacement. This would allow for still one SIM card and Apple’s SIM would be based in software.

Building a network is no easy task, and considering that Clearwire is moving to a co-located configuration with Sprint (the same tower would have Sprint’s and Clearwire’s transmitters), any buy out might negate that cost-sharing benefit.

But overcoming one of the last poor aspects of the smartphone experience would be a huge deal, and give Apple a leg up on both other cellphone vendors and their carrier partners, at least here in the US.

How the iCloud could be huge

One of the key things that I think a lot of us techies are overlooking is that we’re used to syncing music and movies to our iPhones and iPads. Its second nature for us to pick playlists, artists, etc to copy them over. A few weeks later we want to change it up, so we fiddle with options and sync again.

But what if we didn’t have to put up with that garbage anymore? What if we just added new music to our iTunes collection – either through buying it at the Apple store or adding in iTunes – and it showed up on all of our devices? And our iDevices were smart enough to know what music we like, what music we listen to, and just use the local storage as a cache. It seems to have the following benefits…

1. Increase usability of iTunes store – purchases are sideloaded into your cloud storage, and then pushed down to your devices automatically if you’re on wifi (and manually if you’re on 3G). Amazon lacks the hardware device to make this work, and Google’s music store doesn’t really have any traction.
2. Increase usability of iTunes app – now you don’t have to manage your music syncing preferences, it just goes and does its thing. As long as Apple’s caching algorithm is smart enough, it’ll be fine.
3. This can also extend to apps & app data, podcasts, etc. Everything except for movies, which are too large to sync over Wifi/3G (though they could be re-encoded to lower bitrates and streamed to devices like the AppleTV and iPad over fast home broadband connections and WiFi).

Doing a mental “full stop” on the current way iTunes works an rethinking how to architect it with the iTunes Store and iCloud at the center seems to make it really compelling for all of the non-experts who buy Apple products because they’re easy. Put another way, I can teach my parents how to do this – buy songs from Apple music store, wait 30 seconds, music shows up on iPhone, hit play, listen.

The big question isn’t whether or not the concept of the cloud will work, but rather whether people are that in to music to do this (especially with a monthly fee), and can Apple pull it off without any glitches (like MobileMe had)? We’ll see in the next few weeks.

Remember, Apple’s ultimate goal isn’t necessarily to sell you another service to add to their revenue, its to make the iPhone more compelling than any Android, RIM or Windows phone. To get users to say, wow, that is really amazing, I need to get an iPhone because it fits me and my lifestyle.

Gripe: Apple Update Sizes

[Edit: and at WWDC, Apple announced support for delta updates, which should mean I don’t have to download the entire OS image to upgrade my iDevices]

So far this year I’ve downloaded at least 18.8GB of Apple updates over my home internet connection. Consider I have three Mac OSX devices and four iOS devices. Here is how it breaks down…

OSX 10.6.6 update: 143MB

OSX 10.6.7 update: 475MB

iPhone/iPad 4.3.0: 670MB

iPhone/iPad 4.3.1: 666MB

iPhone/iPad 4.3.2: 662MB

iPhone/iPad 4.3.3: 600MB

Times all the devices I have, is 12.2GB worth of software updates in five months, or about 2.4GB per month. This doesn’t include the OSX software updates or iOS app updates. iPhoto 9 (which has been through at least one revision since I bought it in February through the app store) weighs in at about 900MB, so two downloads to three OSX boxes is another 5.4GB. iTunes is comparatively smaller, 75MB or so times four computers (3 Macs and a PC) times four updates so far this year is 1.2GB. Plus many other smaller updates – from app updates to printer driver updates, etc. So lets round it up to 20GB total in five months. Thats 4GB per month. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but its more than the monthly cap I have on my AT&T iPhone, and likely to squeeze out any chance I have using some alternate wireless ISP, leaving me with only DSL and Cable to choose from.

Cloud music and double dipping

The appointed time has come, so why isn’t everyone stomping their feet and screaming out at the top of their lungs about the evils of the recording industry and how we’re handing them the end game without batting an eyelash?

Ever since the first MP3s were distributed the Internet in the late 90s on IRC and eventually into the mainstream with Napster, the main cry against DRM and the music industry’s continual lobbying for more power over the Internet was, “the RIAA won’t be happy until we have to pay every time we listen to a song!” Now, we’re practically there. While we aren’t paying per listen, and I doubt we ever will as long as there is such a thing as personal property (and we can still buy CDs through Amazon and Best Buy), “enhanced cloud services” are probably the closest thing we’ll get to paying the recording industry each time we hear music. We’re paying the music industry a recurring fee to listen to our already purchased music through the cloud.

It would be one thing if we were just paying Apple for the service of storing and streaming (as the regular cloud-based music lockers with Google and Amazon), but Apple has made a deal with the labels that pays them money to allow the service to exist. Apple has negotiated concessions like exchanging lower quality files with higher, and likely will substitute various quality AAC to facilitate streaming to 3G devices – playing a 256kbps or a 128kbps AAC makes a big difference if you’re AT&T’s network.

Why the industry isn’t trying to jump on board faster, I don’t know. Its a huge no-risk, all-reward opportunity. People who already have pirated music are still listening to those tracks now, at home and on their iDevices, while people who legitimately pay for music are going to pay again to store that same music in the cloud. As far as cloud music services go, fighting piracy is really an orthogonal issue – cloud services wont make pirated material any more or less attractive.

But for the rest of us, it amounts to paying a tithe to the record industry for the privilege to listen to music we already own. At least its not forced on us.. yet. Another 10 years and ubiquitous high speed Internet could leave us with no downloads of any kind – everything always in the cloud.

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.