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ExtraBITS for 12 July 2010

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It was a blessedly slow week for serious news, but a few items jumped out at us. Consumer Reports dinged the iPhone 4 on its antenna design, Apple finally acknowledged problems with certain Time Capsules, AT&T explained why iPhone 4 users in some cities were seeing slow upload speeds, Apple started a beta for a new version of MobileMe Calendar, Sony dropped prices on its ebook readers, and the New York Times warned that rising labor and currency costs may result in higher electronics prices.


Consumer Reports Confirms iPhone 4 Antenna Flaw -- The redoubtable Consumer Reports says the iPhone 4 can drop connections in weak signal areas when you hold the phone with your skin covering the antenna gap on the lower left side. The non-profit organization tested three separately purchased iPhone 4s in a radio-frequency isolation chamber. The group says a little tape over the gap eliminates the problem (or you could, as Steve Jobs suggests, just not hold the phone like that). Consumer Reports does not recommend the purchase of an iPhone 4 at this time as a result. Ouch.

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Apple Replacing Defective Time Capsules -- Apple has announced that it is now replacing or repairing, free of charge, Time Capsules purchased roughly between February 2008 and June 2008 that exhibit certain power failures. These failures include not powering on, or shutting down unexpectedly after startup. A recent Knowledge Base article has more information on how to identify whether your Time Capsule has a qualifying serial number, how to arrange for Apple to retrieve data from your device, and how to receive a refund for a previously paid repair or replacement.

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iPhone Supply Chain Points to Rising Costs -- The New York Times uses a discussion of the iPhone 4's supply chain as a springboard to discuss how rising labor, currency, and housing costs in China may result in increased prices for consumer electronics. Though the actual assembly of a product like the iPhone makes up only a fraction of its total cost, prices of commodity parts such as circuit boards and batteries also reflect fluctuations in labor costs. And while Apple's wide profit margins may provide some insulation from these pressures, other electronics companies that compete largely on price could be hit hard.

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AT&T Denies Data Capping -- Ars Technica has received confirmation from the horse's mouth that AT&T is not capping data speeds for iPhone 4 users, as recent rumors have suggested. AT&T said that what some users are experiencing - a degradation in upload speeds to as low as 100 Kbps - is the result of a software defect in the Alcatel-Lucent equipment that AT&T uses in some of its cell towers. AT&T noted that the defect should affect only about 2 percent of users, and that Alcatel-Lucent is working on a fix.

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Apple Unveils MobileMe Calendar Beta -- Apple is now offering a beta preview of its revamped MobileMe Calendar. The latest version includes the capability to share and edit calendars with other MobileMe members, and to publish read-only calendars that can be viewed by anyone. Email event invitations can also be sent to any contact through the new Web application interface. The latest version of MobileMe Calendar is compatible with Mac OS X 10.6.4, iOS 4 (for iPhone and iPod touch), and iOS 3.2 (for iPad). To try out the new service, log in at www.me.com and click the Request an Invitation link; one will be sent to you shortly in email.

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Sony Cuts Digital Reader Prices -- Barnes & Noble started it, by cutting the price of the Nook from $259 to $199, prompting Amazon to drop the Kindle 2's price to $189 and the Kindle DX's price to $379. Now Sony is following suit, cutting prices on its Reader Daily Edition to $299, the Reader Touch Edition to $169, and the Reader Pocket Edition to $149. Only the Reader Daily Edition has wireless capabilities, though, so Sony may have more work (or price cutting) to do before its products can compete with the Kindle and Nook, much less the iPad.

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