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New Apple Patent Could Shut Down iPhone Cameras when Entering “Sensitive Areas”

Posted by Zack | Posted in Consumer Electronics | Posted on 25-09-2012

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iPhone cameraIn recent Apple patent news, and for the first time recently patent news that DOESN’T involve the company suing somebody, a patent was granted to Apple enabling them  to wirelessly disable the camera function on specific iPhones in certain locations, which naturally sparked a flurry of fear among consumers.

Needless to say, smartphones have made it extremely simple to take a video and upload instantly to millions of people on the internet. Some of the most popular videos on the internet today are ones captured on cell phones depicting fights, protests, riots or other crazy events involving civilians and authorities. This allows viewers to get a point of view that other news outlets fail to capture, the one from right in the middle of the action.

According to U.S. Patent No. 8,254,902, in theory, “apparatus and methods of enforcement of policies upon a wireless device” could be implemented with the push of a single button. The patent itself states:

Apparatus and methods for changing one or more functional or operational aspects of a wireless device, such as upon the occurrence of a certain event. In one embodiment, the event comprises detecting that the wireless device is within range of one or more other devices. In another variant, the event comprises the wireless device associating with a certain access point. In this manner, various aspects of device functionality may be enabled or restricted (device “policies”). This policy enforcement capability is useful for a variety of reasons, including for example to disable noise and/or light emanating from wireless devices (such as at a movie theater), for preventing wireless devices from communicating with other wireless devices (such as in academic settings), and for forcing certain electronic devices to enter “sleep mode” when entering a sensitive area.

In layman’s terms, an encoded signal could potentially be transmitted to all wireless devices entering a “sensitive area” which would command them to disable all recording functions. However, one of the biggest questions here is who is in charge of determining these “sensitive areas”?

The biggest fear here is that this can and will be used by authorities at certain times to control what you can and cannot record on your own phone. This comes right after innovation by technology companies making wireless connectivity a major component on the latest smartphone cameras.

This could severely impact photographers and citizen journalists as this patent could constitute the creation of virtual walls around certain areas that would automatically shut off your camera whenever you crossed the barrier. The lighter side is that patents are filed every day that never come to fruition, which could be exactly what happens to this one, though it still lets off an ominous feeling of what the future may hold.

Source: International Business Times – Apple Granted Patent to Disable iPhone Recordings Near Government Buildings or Political Events

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The iPhone 5: Nothing Special, Nothing New, Nothing Groundbreaking

Posted by Zack | Posted in Consumer Electronics | Posted on 11-09-2012

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Apple iPhone 5 Debut

Apple has officially announced the iPhone 5, an announcement that has been long anticipated and much hyped, but is the new phone worth the wait? Initial inclinations point to no. While the iPhone is lighter, thinner and faster than the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, it doesn’t bring anything new or groundbreaking to the table that hasn’t already been done by Android or other smartphone developers.

If you come down off your excitement high for a moment and really look at the new iPhone, has Apple really added a single, legitimately new feature? The answer is no. There is nothing groundbreaking here, nothing that will make people look at the iPhone 5 and honestly go “wow”. I mean, the biggest thing Tim Cook and company stressed during the announcement was all the work that went into the new, larger screen, which is still smaller than other devices, like the Galaxy S III from Samsung.

The lack of any real new feature won’t mean much to the average Joe consumer. Most of these people can’t see past the words “Apple iPhone” anyway, so you could essentially hand them a brick that says Apple iPhone on it and they would think it was the best thing on the market. But for anybody with half a brain that does their research, they will see that the iPhone 5 isn’t the market buster that it was poised to be and is, in fact, just another smartphone for sale.

When you break it down, what exactly did Apple talk about during the press conference? There was a lot of talk about the addition of 4G LTE, something that has actually been on a lot of smartphones for over a year now. There was talk about the ability to take a photo directly from a video, which is cool until you realize that the Galaxy S III and One X can do the same. Putting together a group of photos in Panorama mode was also mentioned, though is also available on the new Droid Razr phones.

If you haven’t been paying attention, there is nothing here that sets a new bar for the industry, at least not in the way the original iPhone or iPhone 3G did. Everything that the new iPhone 5 has to offer has already been done before by other developers, leaving Apple, for one of the first times ever, behind the curve.

Yahoo! has actually made a nice comparison chart pitting the new iPhone 5 against some of the other popular smartphones on the market, including the phone I recently purchased, the Galaxy S III from Samsung. The list, which can be found below, compares the iPhone 5’s screen size, operating system, cameras, battery and size, offering some pretty interesting statistics if you ask me.

Screen Size

  • Galaxy Note II – 5.5 inches, 1280 x 720, 267ppi
  • Galaxy S III – 4.8 inches, 1280 x 720, 306 ppi
  • Motorola RAZR HD – 4.7 inches, 1280 x 720, 312ppi
  • Lumia 920 – 4.5 inches, 1280 x 728, 332 ppi
  • iPhone 5 – 4 inches, 1136 x 640, 326ppi

Operating system

  • Galaxy Note II – Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • Motorola RAZR HD – Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Galaxy S III – Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Lumia 920 – Windows Phone 8
  • iPhone 5 – iOS 6

Cameras

  • Lumia 920 – 8.7 megapixels (rear), 1.3 megapixels (front)
  • Galaxy Note II – 8.0 megapixels (rear), 1.9 megapixels (front)
  • Galaxy S III – 8.0 megapixels (rear), 1.9 megapixels (front)
  • Motorola RAZR HD – 8.0 megapixels (rear), 1.3 megapixels (front)
  • iPhone 5 – 8.0 megapixels (rear), 1.2 megapixels (front)

Battery

  • Galaxy Note II – 3,100mAh (No official stats given)
  • Motorola Razr HD – 2,530 mAh (10 hr video playback, 6hr web browsing, 6hr GPS usage)
  • Galaxy S III – 2,100 mAh (No official stats given)
  • Lumia 920 – 2,000 mAh (10hr 3G talk time, 67hr music playback, 6hr video playback)
  • iPhone 5 – (8hr 3G/LTE talk time, 10hr web browsing via wifi)

Size

  • Galaxy S III – 70.6 x 136.6 x 8.6 mm, 133g
  • Motorola RAZR HD – 67.9 x 131.9 x 8.4 mm, 146g
  • Galaxy Note II – 80.5 x 151.1 x 9.4 mm, 180g
  • Lumia 920 – 70.8 x 130.3 x 10.7 mm, 185g
  • iPhone 5 – 58.6 x 123.8 x 7.6 mm, 112g

The stats speak for themselves. In comparison to the Samsung Galaxy S III, which is the most popular 4G LTE smartphone on the market right now, the iPhone 5 has a smaller screen, a lower-resolution front-facing camera, a weaker battery, and is generally smaller all around. In fact, the iPhone 5 ranks last in every single category out of all the phones listed (Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S III, Razr HD, Lumia 900, iPhone 5).

Overall, the hype surrounding the iPhone 5 was more than what Apple delivered. What we have here is a somewhat generic 4G LTE smartphone that is outmatched by at least four other phones, not to mention the fact that it brings absolutely nothing new to the table. Add that to the fact that Apple could be sued by HTC and Samsung for (ironically) patent infringement over 4G LTE technology and you have one big dropped ball from Apple.

If you still think the iPhone 5 is the greatest thing since sliced bread then by all means, throw your money at Apple once again. Pre-orders for the device will become available on Friday, September 14th with actual shipments of the phone going out on September 21st. Pricing is the same as the launch of the iPhone 4S with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions available for $199, $299 and $399, respectively.

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