T-Mobile iPhone goes from myth to reality: $580, but no contract

The T-Mobile iPhone is real, and it will be available to subscribers starting on April 12. The company announced on Tuesday that qualifying customers would be able to buy the iPhone 5 for “$99.99 down, plus monthly payments” that are added to their monthly subscription fees. At $20 per month for 24 months, this brings the total cost of a 16GB iPhone 5 to its pre-subsidized price of just below $600—a far cry above what someone might pay for a subsidized device through AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint. On the upside, T-Mobile touted its lack of two-year contract (or any contract at all), which gives subscribers the freedom to leave the carrier at any time without penalty.

The iPhone 5 is not the only Apple device being sold through T-Mobile. The carrier also announced that it would offer the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4, though those devices will only be available in select markets. Like the iPhone 5, those buying an iPhone 4S through T-Mobile will be required to put down $69.99 up front (iPhone 4 will be $14.99 up front), with another 24 months of $20 payments.

“This is an important day for people who love their iPhone but can’t stand the pain other carriers put them through to own one,” T-Mobile USA CEO John Legere said in a statement. “We feel their pain. I’ve felt the pain. So we’re rewriting the rules of wireless to provide a radically simple, affordable iPhone 5 experience—on an extremely powerful network.”

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Apple Patents Battery-Saving Multi-Touch Displays That Don’t Need To Be Active To Work

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Apple was granted a patent Tuesday by the USPTO (via AppleInsider) that describes a system for implementing multi-touch in a mobile device even when there the display itself isn’t actively showing any images. It’s a neat trick, and one that could help portable gadgets save battery life by not invoking the most battery-hungry element in their construction nearly as frequently.

The patent also notes that the screen doesn’t have to be off for these no-look commands to work; a user could do things like swipe a finger in circle to change volume or tracks, for instance, even while a display is active. That adds new control options, but also makes it possible to both remove external buttons should a design benefit from that, and also make the device easier to use when in a pocket or clipped to an armband or waist during a workout.

While the display is inactive, the patent describes that it could use gestures that mirror the button press actions on current iPod and iPhone headphone remotes. So, a single click could play/pause, a double click could skip tracks, and a long press could call up Siri, for instance.

In terms of recognizing when touch is and is not wanted, the patent suggests implementing a special mode that would allow it to both keep the screen dark but also receive touch inputs. This might involve a way to activate a mode between a full lock and a completely on and active device, which can be selected specifically for when a user is commuting or using the device while working out, but disabled when there’s risk of accidental touch.

It’s an interesting patent, and one which Apple has shown off as working with its previous iPod nano design, which essentially featured a square display and little else in terms of physical buttons. The trick might be making this work in such a way that it still completely eliminates any chance of accidental input – the lock screen concept is synonymous with touchscreen devices for a reason, after all.

Not activating the screen as much as possible is the key to prolonging device battery life, though, so it’s good to see Apple looking at ways to deal with that primary limiting factor. It’s no e-ink display built into the back of a smartphone, but it’s something.

Apple Acquires Indoor GPS Startup WiFiSlam For $20M

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The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that Apple has acquired WiFiSlam, an indoor GPS startup that enables a smartphone to pinpoint its location — along with that of your friends — in realtime up to 2.5 meters in accuracy.

Apple paid $20 million to acquire WiFiSlam, although the specific terms of the deal have not been shared as of yet. However, Apple has confirmed the acquisition, telling Macrumors:

The two-year-old startup has developed ways for mobile apps to detect a phone user’s location in a building using Wi-Fi signals. It has been offering the technology to application developers for indoor mapping and new types of retail and social networking apps. The company has a handful of employees, and its co-founders include former Google software engineering intern Joseph Huang.

WiFiSlam seems to be part of Apple’s continued plan to build up its location capabilities, and is likely a sign that indoor GPS is just starting to get hot. Apple has acquired companies like C3 Technologies and Poly9 to do just that.

For its part, WiFiSlam wants to “engage with users at the scale that personal interaction actually takes place” and foresees its future use cases as “step-by-step indoor navigation to product-level retail customer engagement, to proximity-based social networking.”

A graduate of StartX, Stanford’s student accelerator, WiFiSlam has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from investors like AngelList’s Naval Ravikant, Google’s Don Dodge and Start Fund’s Felix Shipman — to name a few.

The TechCrunch Gadgets Podcast: Smartwatches, Apple On The Defensive, And The Nook HD+

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We’re back! After a long hiatus, we’ve started up the TechCrunch Gadgets Podcast, our weekly review of everything hardware. We’ll be talking about hardware startups, flagship gadgets, and the wild and wooly worlds of Apple, Samsung, HTC, and all the rest.

Featuring the TC Gadgets team, this weekly audio podcast will bring you the best we have to offer and comment on the news of the week.

We’re looking for guests! If you’d like to be featured, me a line at john@techrunch.com. We aim to make each of these about 20 minutes long – just right for a commute – and will bring on a rotating cast of TC writers.

This week we talk smartwatches, Apple on the defensive, and the release of the Nook HD+. Enjoy!

Click here to download an MP3 of this show.
You can subscribe to the show via RSS. We’ll a direct iTunes link next week.

Patent shows Google is, or was, thinking about smart watches

According to the Financial TimesGoogle may be working on yet another wearable computer in addition to Google Glass: a smart watch similar to the ones Samsung and Apple apparently have in the works. A patent application filed by Google in 2011 describes a watch with a “flip up portion” that includes a top display when open that acts as a supplement to the base of the watch, which presumably also includes a screen.

In addition to the flip-up portion, the watch would also include a touchscreen display and a camera as well as the typical mobile device drivers like a processor and “wireless transceiver.” Google makes specific note that the flip-up display would be concealed when the watch is closed.

The watch would be able to display e-mail messages, geographical location, and direction information, and it sounds like the camera would be able to effect some kind of augmented reality: “the processor is configured to activate an image retrieval system that generates information related to an image captured by the camera when the flip up portion is in the open position.”

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Vintage videos show Woz speaking on “computer abuse,” Steve Jobs, and more

Tales from the olden days of Apple have always been popular among the geek crowd, especially when they come from people like Steve Wozniak. That’s why a series of rare, vintage Woz videos uploaded to YouTube early Friday has sparked some interest. YouTube user Vince Patton told AppleInsider that the videos came from a VHS recording of Woz speaking at the Denver Apple Pi club on October 4, 1984, with Woz covering an entire range of topics. There’s also a bonus appearance from Apple’s sixth employee, Randy Wigginton.

Below are a handful of the videos uploaded by Patton (check out the rest on Patton’s YouTube page):

Woz on being put on probation for “computer abuse”:

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Apple forcing developers to ditch unique device IDs

Apple will officially start rejecting iOS apps that make use of the unique device ID or UDID, in order to track users. The company informed its developer community of the policy late Thursday (followed by a confirmation to Macworld) that it would no longer accept UDID-utilizing apps as of May 1. Instead, the company instructed developers to make use of other identifiers, such as Apple’s new Identifier for Advertising, or IDFA, which was introduced in iOS 6 last fall.

Apple had already warned developers in early last year that it would begin deprecating the UDID, and it had been rejecting apps that make use of it as early as May 2012. That didn’t stop every developer from using the UDID, though, and a high-profile leak in September (originally suspected to have come from the FBI but ultimately revealed to have come from an iOS app publisher) highlighted the need for a more privacy-conscious system to track users and offer targeted advertising.

That’s part of why Apple introduced its IDFA when it rolled out iOS 6. Not only do users have more control over whether they are being tracked; the IDFA also allows developers to follow iOS users across devices. With the UDID, users had no way to turn off the ad tracking, and since the UDID was tied to a specific device, the data could be cross-contaminated if a new user took control of it.

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Apple sets a May 1st cutoff for new apps that use UDIDs, don’t support iPhone 5 and Retina screens

Apple has been weaning app developers away from UDID and its privacy concerns for more than a year, but it looks like the company’s about to put its foot down — and up the hardware support requirements in the process. As of May 1st, the company will…