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Sunday, April 24, 2011

The iTracking "Scandal"

Wondering why your iPhone and 3G-enabled iPad are storing your general location in an easily accessible database on your PC? It's simple. Apple uses this information to build a cell tower and Wi-Fi access point location database, and the company admitted as much last year. At least that's my theory. Let's take a look.
The iTracking "Scandal"
On Wednesday, two researchers released an open source application called iPhone Tracker that pulls data from a hidden location history database contained in your iOS device's backup files saved on your PC. The app then plots this location information on a map allowing you to see your phone's travels over the past year. Your iOS devices have been building this location database since iOS 4 was released in June of last year, the researchers say.
The data appears to be based on cell tower triangulation and not GPS. This means the location information is not pinpoint accurate, but only shows your general location. The researchers also discovered in the database a list of Wi-Fi access points that your device has been in range of during the past year.
The researchers don't believe this data is leaving your custody, but I disagree. My best guess is that it is leaving your device as anonymized and encrypted information that Apple then uses to build its cell tower and Wi-Fi access point database.

New iPhone 5 Mockup Is Ultra Sexy

Stay calm, it's only a mockup. But Apple's iPhone 5 will be either a thing of beauty or the ugliest phone in existence -- depending on your tastes -- should any element of a new but credible Photoshopped suggestion make it into the end product.
The image was created by former Engadget chief Joshua Topolsky based on a sketched design from one of his sources as well as credible rumors he's heard. Topolsky admits the sketch might be little more than one of many prototype designs, but what the hey--it's fun to speculate!
Rumors have already suggested a virtually bezel-free screen, for example, courtesy of glass bonding breakthroughs at Apple HQ. Topolsky claims this allows for a slightly larger screen area of 3.7 inches -- 0.2 inches larger than the iPhone 4, but still retaining the ultra high-resolution Retina Display of over 300 pixels per inch.
It's even suggested that, somehow, the microphone and speaker might be behind the glass, although this isn't shown in the mockup. Apple has made much of how it carves MacBooks out of solid aluminum using lasers, including making microscopic holes for microphones and for power lights to shine through. It's possible the same techniques might have evolved so they can be used on glass, allowing sound to pass through.
In profile, Topolsky's iPhone 5 has a teardrop shape, rather like the MacBook Air, tapering towards the bottom, although Topolsky says this might not be as extreme as his mockup suggests, due to his lack of Photoshop skills.
One big change is the home button, which is expanded to become a "gesture area." How this works isn't clear, and in Topolsky's mockup the home button area is wide but not tall, indicating only side-to-side swipe gestures are possible. It's possible this is a labor-saving trick so users can simply swipe to activate the phone, rather than hit the home button first, and then swipe across the screen.
Although not featured in the mockup, the sketch Topolsky saw also showed induction-based power, which is to say, wire-free battery charging. This is already possible using third-party products so it isn't a leap of imagination, and there's been long-term rumors of Apple being interested in such technologies
The sketch also showed what Topolsky calls a "swipe area," which he suggests could be a near field communication (NFC) area. It's been rumored that NFC will be coming to the iPhone 5, although it would be strange of Apple to draw attention to a small area of the phone for NFC purposes. NFC payments are designed around the idea of simply tapping any part of a device against a receiver.
Creating rumors and even mockups is a crime with no consequences. Nobody's going to chide Topolsky when the iPhone 5 arrives and his mockups turn out to be bunkum. In fact, many Apple-watchers suggest that the iPhone 5 won't look much different from the iPhone 4. However, there's little doubt that Topolsky's sexy imagery pours petrol onto the flames of the iPhone 5 hype machine.