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Japan's Asahi Kasei to supply magnetometer for next-gen iPhone

post #1 of 58
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Apple will tap Japan's Asahi Kasei to provide hardware support for the "magnetometer" -- or digital compass -- that's slated to make its debut in the company's next-generation iPhone handset, AppleInsider has learned.

People familiar with betas of the iPhone 3.0 software developers kit recently dug up several header files attributed to the Japanese manufacturer in a directory appropriately labeled "compass." More specifically, the files identify Asahi Kasei's azimuth sensor No. AK8973, a 16-pin leadless IC package measuring 4mm square and 0.7mm thick, as the chip that will help future iPhone users determine their direction. It bundles a master clock oscillator.

Asahi Kasei specializes in chemical and material sciences in a number of fields including electronics, and is known to have been one of Apple's component suppliers for the iPod touch dating back to the first-generation model. It's unclear exactly what parts the company supplies for the handheld, though liquid submersion indicators (LSIs) are one of its specialties.

Over the past couple of years, Apple has inserted LSIs across most of its portable products in an effort to help its technicians determine whether customers reporting faulty hardware are actually responsible for the damage themselves by allowing liquids to penetrate their devices, something that's not covered under the Cupertino-based company's standard warranties.

A diagram and enlarged photo of the azimuth sensor taken from Asahi Kasei's website can be seen below, and header files included with betas of the latest iPhone SDK suggest the part may be nearly two years old. They're dated July 19th, 2007, just days after Apple brought its first-ever iPhone to market.

The addition of a magnetometer to the iPhone is expected to open the door to some exciting new functionalities, a handful of which have already made their way to T-Mobile’s Andriod-based G1 handset, which has long shipped with a digital compass. For instance, users may be able to simply point their next-generation iPhones at an object or landmark and have an application combine GPS, accelerometer, and compass information to pinpoint what that object or landmark is. Gaming applications that interact with a user's surrounding real-time environment would be another possibility.



With the current generation of iPhone hardware, applications can locate the user (GPS) and determine the tilt of the phone (tilt sensor) but not the direction the phone faces (compass). An example of the problem this presents is that a user could turn in place holding the phone in the same orientation and the phone would not register a difference.

A magnetometer is just one of three new hardware advances confirmed through multiple discoveries to be making its way to Apple's next-gen handsets, with a video-capable camera and 802.11n low-power mode -- both of which were first reported by AppleInsider -- being the others.
post #2 of 58
Sounds great for military purposes but why would I need this exactly? Adding to gaming (toy) functionality I guess.
post #3 of 58
Oh... I could have told you this over a week ago.

http://twitter.com/slasht/status/1759914454

Asahi Kasei's got other code in the SDK that's been there forever that has to do with audio: S/PDIF, AC'97-like codecs and digital audio interfaces. I'd assume the chips they provide are related to that.
post #4 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by slasht View Post

I could have told you this over a week ago...

http://twitter.com/slasht/status/1759914454

Well, ya didn't, and someone else did

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post #5 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

... already made their way to T-Mobile’s Andriod-based G1 handset, which has long shipped with a digital compass. ...

"long shipped"? Really?

Why not go whole hog and say that "every single version of the G1 has always shipped" with a digital compass?

Seriously though, isn't a bit hyperbolic to refer to a device less than a year old as doing anything for "long"? It makes it sound like Apple is just now catching up to something that it's competitors have had for ages, when the truth is not even close to that. I've had lots of phones and dozens of PDAs over the years and not a single one of them ever had a compass inside.
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post #6 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kasper View Post

Well, ya didn't, and someone else did

Not only that but I didn't really have much of an audience anyway. Really, though, I'm pretty excited for this chip. It'll essentially complete the iPhone's geospatial detection portfolio; GPS and an accelerometer are already included. I think that opens up a lot of potential for app developers.
post #7 of 58
Very neat. We'll be able to be given directions through a building like in the Matrix.
post #8 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Sounds great for military purposes but why would I need this exactly? Adding to gaming (toy) functionality I guess.

Oddly, the military is using iPhones for translation. Maybe that's the Touch and I misremeber.

In any case, it's not a toy function if you want to know which way is north and have improved navigation capabilities in the phone. GPS alone isn't enough to determine direction if there is no (or slow/erratic) motion.

Of course, this is just you turning something positive into a negatives for attention.
post #9 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by slasht View Post

Not only that but I didn't really have much of an audience anyway. Really, though, I'm pretty excited for this chip. It'll essentially complete the iPhone's geospatial detection portfolio; GPS and an accelerometer are already included. I think that opens up a lot of potential for app developers.

Are the accelerometers good enough to build a INS?
post #10 of 58
Would be nice if the map could turn the direction you are facing so when you are heading south you don't have to turn the phone upside down
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post #11 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by dizzy13 View Post

Would be nice if the map could turn the direction you are facing so when you are heading south you don't have to turn the phone upside down

i agree! there have been times when i had gotten myself lost because i forgot which way i was facing.

...i should have pulled over at a gas station to ask for directions like my wife said
post #12 of 58
a bit late for having final product in Jun?

Not that I can figure out easily, what's that damn magnetometer for...

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post #13 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Sounds great for military purposes but why would I need this exactly? Adding to gaming (toy) functionality I guess.


To know which way you are going (or pointing), even when you are standing still. Suppose you are stargazing, this could help you face the right direction. Current GPS apps require that you move at a minimal speed in a direction to calculate your direction. For the app I use, the minimum speed is a bit of an uncomfortably fast walk. It's ok for jogging or biking but almost useless for walking.
post #14 of 58
The possibilities this allows are very exciting. I can't wait to see what developers and hopefully Apple/Google come up with!
post #15 of 58
fine article and everything, but is anybody else getting tired of apple being referenced as the "cupertino-based company"?? I mean, i completely understand that's common in journalism when referencing a company, but i mean, it's in practically EVERY story on this site.... lol, just one of my growing pet peeves. Oh well. I mean, AppleInsider is great and all, but it's not what i'd consider "mainstream media." A little informality wouldn't hurt every now and then. Everyone on this site knows where Apple is based.
post #16 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

"long shipped"? Really?
Why not go whole hog and say that "every single version of the G1 has always shipped" with a digital compass?

lol, that goes right along with my pet peeve about referencing apple as "the cupertino-based company." I LOVE this site and check it many times a day, but it appears they strive to be mainstream journalists when i don't know that they are...idk, the stories are fine, but sometimes they are bit more "polished" than they need to be.
post #17 of 58
I'm wondering how they can cram all of these chips in there in such a tiny space. When I looked at the iFixIt teardown of the iPhone 3G, the silicion board looked pretty full already. And with other rumors of FM-something (they never make it clear on FM receiving or transmitting, though the latter is just silly), board space is really at a premium.
post #18 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by dagamer34 View Post

I'm wondering how they can cram all of these chips in there in such a tiny space. When I looked at the iFixIt teardown of the iPhone 3G, the silicion board looked pretty full already. And with other rumors of FM-something (they never make it clear on FM receiving or transmitting, though the latter is just silly), board space is really at a premium.

i'd bet money there will never be an FM receiver/transmitter. Syncing with your car will be via Bluetooth. Plus i'm sure somebody will make an attachable FM receiver for those who really want that feature. That's the beauty of opening up the connector port for third-party attachments - the possibilities are endless.
post #19 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTL215 View Post

i'd bet money there will never be an FM receiver/transmitter. Syncing with your car will be via Bluetooth. Plus i'm sure somebody will make an attachable FM receiver for those who really want that feature. That's the beauty of opening up the connector port for third-party attachments - the possibilities are endless.

It would be nice if Apple added support for the iPod Remote they already have. In fact, it's likely the reason why it doesn't have support for the iPhone/iPod Touch is because they didn't have any frameworks to talk to the 30-pin Dock Connector. No iPhone app, official or not, has used to the Dock connector for anything more than transmitting sound from whatever is playing to some external source.
post #20 of 58
I can't wait until "Faces" functionality (as used in iPhoto) is opened up for iPhone developers ... imagine combining that with the built in camera. You could scan a crowd of people and instantly determine if one of "America's Most Wanted" is nearby .... (shudder) ....

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post #21 of 58
Great, sounds useless for everyday use and barely useful once a year. I hope you can turn it off like the GPS chip, with GPS and WIFI enabled battery life is not so good.
post #22 of 58
actually i think this function is quite good. Imagine holding a map in your hand that always faces north? You are standing on a street corner and its pretty obvious which way to go for people who are not used to looking at maps.

This sounds quite smart.
post #23 of 58
What happens when you are near a decent-size magnetic source? Walk around in circles?

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post #24 of 58
how about a app to help point your dish receiver in the correct direction. finding 207 degrees by 33 degrees is difficult without some sort of tool to point you in the right direction.
post #25 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by mickeymantle View Post

how about a app to help point your dish receiver in the correct direction. finding 207 degrees by 33 degrees is difficult without some sort of tool to point you in the right direction.

Great idea. Soon you'll find "there's an app for that"...

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post #26 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Sounds great for military purposes but why would I need this exactly? Adding to gaming (toy) functionality I guess.

This would serve you no purpose since it would be necessary for you to leave your parents' basement. Ask them nicely and they may remove the padlock.

For non-members of the Church of Teckstud, having a compass that determines the actual direction the unit is pointing could have many useful applications. I don't think Apple would go through the trouble of installing an extra chip just to please the geek world. They're seeing a bigger picture reasoning for it.

For the same reason you complain [whine] about the iPhone not having certain [basic] functionality, the same could be said by other folks about an internal compass. You wouldn't use it but other folks would.

Time for you to lose the "If I don't use it, no one needs it" mentality.
post #27 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

This would serve you no purpose since it would be necessary for you to leave your parents' basement. Ask them nicely and they may remove the padlock.

For non-members of the Church of Teckstud, having a compass that determines the actual direction the unit is pointing could have many useful applications. I don't think Apple would go through the trouble of installing an extra chip just to please the geek world. They're seeing a bigger picture reasoning for it.

For the same reason you complain [whine] about the iPhone not having certain [basic] functionality, the same could be said by other folks about an internal compass. You wouldn't use it but other folks would.

Time for you to lose the "If I don't use it, no one needs it" mentality.

Right- Add this basically useless feature,unless you trek in the wilderness, and then forget about multiple app capabilities! But then who would need or want that??
You sound like you would defend everything and anything that Apple adds to the iPhone or anything else. In other words pathetic since you haven't stated a legitimate purpose for it-yet defend it. Maybe it could help you climb over all the homeless in SF to find your way North.
post #28 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by xyz001 View Post

actually i think this function is quite good. Imagine holding a map in your hand that always faces north? You are standing on a street corner and its pretty obvious which way to go for people who are not used to looking at maps.

This sounds quite smart.

Like directions for DUMMIES.
post #29 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by sflocal View Post

This would serve you no purpose since it would be necessary for you to leave your parents' basement. Ask them nicely and they may remove the padlock.

For non-members of the Church of Teckstud, having a compass that determines the actual direction the unit is pointing could have many useful applications. I don't think Apple would go through the trouble of installing an extra chip just to please the geek world. They're seeing a bigger picture reasoning for it.

For the same reason you complain [whine] about the iPhone not having certain [basic] functionality, the same could be said by other folks about an internal compass. You wouldn't use it but other folks would.

Time for you to lose the "If I don't use it, no one needs it" mentality.

Church of Teckstud?? was that the red neck walmart preacher that was here last night ??

and why do we need a magnet to find him ???
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post #30 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacTel View Post

Very neat. We'll be able to be given directions through a building like in the Matrix.

Imagine several people pointing their iPhones and snapping in various directions and elevations and the results being combined near instantaneously into a full topological and built-object digital photographic map. And reproducing it in the Holodeck when back on board the Enterprise. Check out.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodeck

The possibilities are astonishing to think about and only bounded by one's imagination (and programming skills).

Enz
post #31 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Right- Add this basically useless feature,unless you trek in the wilderness, and then forget about multiple app capabilities! But then who would need or want that??
You sound like you would defend everything and anything that Apple adds to the iPhone or anything else. In other words pathetic since you haven't stated a legitimate purpose for it-yet defend it. Maybe it could help you climb over all the homeless in SF to find your way North.

Other posts already have. If you use Google maps, it would be great to know which way you are facing. In NYC you just type in a store for example and it shows up on the map and makes it easy to find it. Above 14th st it's a no brainer since the streets are all numbered but below is a maze.

I'm surprised that you would need someone else to tell you what it could used for given you pride yourself in being all-knowing. How disappointing...
post #32 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Right- Add this basically useless feature,unless you trek in the wilderness, and then forget about multiple app capabilities! But then who would need or want that??
You sound like you would defend everything and anything that Apple adds to the iPhone or anything else. In other words pathetic since you haven't stated a legitimate purpose for it-yet defend it. Maybe it could help you climb over all the homeless in SF to find your way North.

lets talk in 3 months when this becomes hot apple pie . i will re post this here stuff you just said .here onlie at apple insider .

yes

9

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post #33 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

Sounds great for military purposes but why would I need this exactly? Adding to gaming (toy) functionality I guess.

This is AWESOME!

And yes Spam, it sure will be affected! Grab a compass and walk under some high-voltage power transmission lines or near a substation! I remember walking under those for a few months while delineating wetlands. ZzzZzzZZZZzz...probably explains a bit. I believe I remember the compass being affected.
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post #34 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by macnyc View Post

Other posts already have. If you use Google maps, it would be great to know which way you are facing. In NYC you just type in a store for example and it shows up on the map and makes it easy to find it. Above 14th st it's a no brainer since the streets are all numbered but below is a maze.

I'm surprised that you would need someone else to tell you what it could used for given you pride yourself in being all-knowing. How disappointing...

I am. I live in NYC and wouldn't need anything that crappy like you would to get around. If you can't find your way around NYC (which is a grid system) than you are truly pathetic. I have never had a problem finding anything in NY- of all places?
post #35 of 58
This is good. People didn't think much about the accelerometer and look what developers creativity did with the features. I can't wait to see the possibilities. I can think of a one right now (Rotating maps). Many people find it hard to read maps on GPS and phones since their orientation is fixed to how you hold your phone/GPS. If the map rotate to match your direction this problem will disappear.
post #36 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by NasserAE View Post

This is good. People didn't think much about the accelerometer and look what developers creativity did with the features.

Thats absolutely false.
post #37 of 58
Compass functionality will almost certainly be incorporated into the various star chart apps available.

If your phone knows what time it is in your time zone (which it does) and where on the planet you are (which it does) and now knows which way you're facing, all you have to do is hold up your phone to see a start chart that matches the visible sky. One that could pan the view with your movements. Pretty sweet.
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post #38 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by addabox View Post

Compass functionality will almost certainly be incorporated into the various star chart apps available.

If your phone knows what time it is in your time zone (which it does) and where on the planet you are (which it does) and now knows which way you're facing, all you have to do is hold up your phone to see a start chart that matches the visible sky. One that could pan the view with your movements. Pretty sweet.

Like how did I ever live without that need before?
post #39 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by steviet02 View Post

Thats absolutely false.

So are you saying that when Apple announced the iPhone in January 2007 people knew that they can use the accelerometer to measure slop with 1 degree accuracy, play flight simulator and car racing games with the accelerometer being the main control, detect movement to control the camera functionality,,, etc?

For the first year, the accelerometer had one function only. That function was to rotate Safari pages between landscape and portrait.
post #40 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

users may be able to simply point their next-generation iPhones at an object or landmark and have an application combine GPS, accelerometer, and compass information to pinpoint what that object or landmark is.

After watching Leno awhile back and seeing that some people couldn't identify the Lincoln Memorial but confused it with the Washington Monument, or some of the fluffs major news casters have perpetrated, this could be a god-send.
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