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Apple back on top in phone sales for first time since 2011

Apple took back the throne as the world’s top-selling phone manufacturer in the final quarter of 2014, according to Gartner, Inc. Sales of the iPhone made up more than 20 percent of the total phone market, narrowly edging out Samsung for the first time since 2011. Apple reported its best quarter ever at the end of 2014, selling 74.8 million units. The increase is attributed to Apple’s strong ecosystem of products and the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which were a concession to users in the U.S. and China looking for bigger screens than previous iPhone models ever provided.

Phishing scam targets iCloud credentials of iOS device theft victims

Criminals who stole iPhones and iPads are phishing for iCloud information from the very people they robbed in a new scam, according to Symnantec’s security blog. Some users with lost or stolen devices have reportedly received messages informing them that their device has been found — these users are then sent links to fraudulent websites that often incorporate the word “icloud” into the URL and are made to look like the real iCloud login page. Once the thieves have the user’s iCloud credentials, they’re able to turn off Lost Mode and use or sell the device. Symantec warns users with lost devices to be wary when receiving unsolicited messages and to carefully examine URLs before entering any information. [via MacWorld]

VISA ‘tokenization’ may speed Apple Pay EU deployment

VISA has announced that it will be introducing a new payment “tokenization” service in Europe designed to help facilitate mobile payment solutions. Intended to be available for European financial institutions to take advantage of as early as April, the new service will replace traditional plastic credit card numbers with unique one-time tokens that can be used to authorize payments without needing to expose account information. This form of one-time “tokenization” is a key component of the security behind Apple Pay, and while the VISA announcement simply mentions mobile devices and contactless payments in general terms, it seems likely that this development is intended to at least indirectly provide support for a future rollout of Apple Pay within the European Union. [via TNW]

Apple releases iOS 8.3 beta 2 to developers

Apple has released a second beta of iOS 8.3 to registered developers, continuing its parallel iOS 8.3 beta cycle which started earlier this month alongside the iOS 8.2 betas. This latest beta features a build number of 12F5037c and details few changes in the release notes from the prior beta. According to a report last week, Apple plans to begin releasing public betas with iOS 8.3 sometime in March; this second developer beta is likely the last for this version prior to the beginning of the public beta cycle.

Toyota currently has ‘no plans’ to adopt CarPlay in the US

Despite being listed as a partner company on Apple’s CarPlay page, Toyota currently has “no plans to adopt [...] CarPlay in the United States,” according to an article from The New York Times. The report mostly examines how Google and Apple are vying to develop the best in-car dashboard systems. John Hanson, the national manager of Toyota’s advanced technology communications, noted that the company is in frequent talks with both companies, but that the car maker currently prefers to use its “own in-house proprietary platforms for those kinds of functions.” Hanson conceded that the company may “eventually wind up there,” which may explain why Toyota remains a CarPlay partner, but the lack of any specific plans in this case raises questions about how soon CarPlay may actually be coming to new vehicles from any of Apple’s listed CarPlay partners. While it also remains unclear as to whether Toyota may implement CarPlay in other markets — considering that Hanson specifically limited his comments to the company’s U.S. operations — it’s worth noting that as a national manager, he likely wouldn’t comment on what Toyota’s plans may be outside of the U.S.

Report: Apple to release iOS public betas

Apple plans to begin releasing new versions of iOS as public betas, according to a new report by 9to5Mac. Intended to help eliminate bugs from upcoming iOS versions before general release, the model will follow the one used by Apple for OS X Yosemite last summer — a public beta cycle that will begin following the early developer betas, running in tandem with the developer program up until general availability of the new operating system. The report notes that Apple intends to begin the new program with the release of the upcoming iOS 8.3 update as a public beta in March, aligned with the third developer beta release of that version; iOS 9 will also allegedly follow a similar schedule to last year’s OS X Yosemite releases, with an announcement at WWDC and the beginning of the developer beta program, followed by a public beta in mid-summer, and the normal final release in the fall. The iOS public beta program is expected to be limited to 100,000 users “in order to maintain a higher level of exclusivity.”

Apple extends two-step verification to FaceTime, iMessage

Apple has extended its two-step verification feature to include authentication of FaceTime and iMessage logins, The Guardian reports. First introduced in early 2013, Apple’s two-step verification requires users to enter a verification code that appears on a trusted iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch when signing in with their Apple ID and password, providing an extra layer of protection against compromised or hacked passwords. The security feature has been enabled for direct iCloud account features since its introduction, although other services continued to only require a standard password for access.

Apple raises size limit for Apps to 4GB

Apple has announced that developers can now submit applications up to 4GB in size to the App Store, an increase from the prior 2GB limit. This will allow developers of media-rich apps and games to include more content directly within their app, as opposed to using over-the-air downloads — a process that some developers previously relied on in order to provide content beyond that which could be included in the App Store download itself. The announcement notes that the cellular network delivery size limit of 100MB remains unchanged, however, meaning that larger apps will need to either be downloaded over Wi-Fi or synced via iTunes.

iPhone theft decline attributed to Activation Lock feature

iPhone thefts have been dropping dramatically in at least three major cities since Apple introduced its Activation Lock feature in 2013, Reuters reports. Specifically, the number of stolen iPhones in San Francisco has reportedly dropped by 40 percent, while the number of iPhone thefts in New York has dropped by 25 percent, and smartphone theft in general has dropped by half in London. The drop is believed to be a direct result of the anti-theft features that Apple added to iOS 7 in September 2013, which effectively “locked” an iOS device to its owner, preventing a stolen device from being used without entering the original user’s Apple ID and password. Supplementing the “Find My iPhone” feature introduced by Apple some time ago, the new Activation Lock feature essentially turns a stolen iPhone into a useless brick, reducing the motivation for theft. With smartphone theft now accounting for half of all crimes in cities like San Francisco, several U.S. states are considering laws mandating the use of similar “kill switches” in smartphones — California passed a smartphone “kill switch” law last year that has yet to go into effect. While Samsung and Google have added a similar feature, only Apple currently has it setup to be enabled by default.

iOS 8.4 already in development?

In addition to the iOS 8.3 beta released earlier today, a new report from 9to5Mac indicates that Apple has also begun development on iOS 8.4 in parallel. Codenamed “Copper,” iOS 8.4 is expected to be released sometime after the Apple Watch debuts, and sources indicate that support for Apple’s upcoming streaming music service may also be incorporated into this release.

Apple releases iOS 8.3 beta to developers

In an unusual move, Apple has released a new beta of iOS 8.3 to registered developers, alongside the fifth beta of iOS 8.2 seeded last week. This latest beta features a build number of 12F5027d, and includes extremely sparse release notes noting some minor issues with CarPlay and WatchKit. The parallel release of this newer iOS beta suggests that iOS 8.2 has likely reached a freeze point and will be released soon, while Apple wants to allow developers to get an early start on working with the new iOS 8.3 development environment as soon as possible. Notably, this latest version is also accompanied by an Xcode 6.3 beta that incorporates version 1.2 of the new Swift development language, noting “a number of noteworthy changes to the language” as well as a migrator for moving existing code to Swift 1.2 and “enhancements that ease interoperability between Swift and Objective-C code.”

Report: iOS 9 to focus on stability and optimization

Apple’s next major iOS update will be primarily focused on delivering stability, optimization, and performance improvements, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. While most major iOS updates have released at least a few landmark features, the rapid development pace has reportedly taken a toll on the operating system’s overall performance as engineering teams have been more focused on delivering new features than polishing existing ones. With iOS 9, Apple is apparently going to focus primarily on delivering under-the-hood improvements; fixing bugs and improving stability and performance, while also striving to keep the size of the OS manageable to accommodate users with lower-capacity devices.

The report speculates that it’s possible Apple may even limit iOS 9 support to newer 64-bit devices, essentially discontinuing support for the iPhone 5c, iPod touch, and first-generation iPad mini. This approach would be similar to the one Apple took with OS X Snow Leopard a few years ago, but it’s expected that Apple may still debut some new iOS features, such as Transit and Indoor mapping modes for its Maps app. However, features like these would be more dependent on back-end services than forming key new iOS components.

iOS 8 adoption rate reaches 72 percent

According to Apple’s developer website, approximately 72 percent of devices are now running iOS 8 as of February 2, 2015. While this number is up dramatically from estimates made in late September, it’s still lower than the 80 percent adoption rate of iOS 7 reported around this time last year. These latest statistics report that the majority of the remaining devices are still running iOS 7, and approximately 3 percent of iOS devices operate on some prior version. As not all devices are upgradeable to the latest iOS versions, this also includes users who may be unable to upgrade without purchasing a newer device. It’s also worth noting that these numbers are intended for developers and only include devices that actively connect to the App Store, suggesting that they may not be generalizable to the entire iOS user base.

Apple releases iOS 8.2 beta 5 to developers

Apple has released the fifth beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers, featuring a build number of 12D5480a. As with other recent betas, this latest one appears to be primarily focused on continuing to refine the development environment for preparing apps for the upcoming debut of the Apple Watch. This latest beta is also accompanied by a beta version of updated software for the third-generation Apple TV.

Verizon to allow users to opt out of web tracking ‘supercookies’

Verizon has apparently decided to implement an option in its mobile ad-targeting program that will provide Verizon customers with the ability to opt out of targeted ad tracking, according to a New York Times report. It came to light last fall that both Verizon and AT&T had implemented unique identifier headers (UIDH) on their respective mobile networks to allow for the tracking of web activity from mobile devices. “Users who do not want to be tracked with an identifier that Verizon uses for ad-targeting purposes will soon be able to completely opt out,” the company said on Friday.

As the earlier report noted, although Verizon had provided a means for customers to opt out of being actively tracked by the company’s Relevant Mobile Advertising program, there was no way to turn off the UIDH completely, meaning that other third-party ad networks could easily leverage this data, regardless of what Verizon chose to do with it. This latest announcement confirms that Verizon is changing course and will allow users to opt out from having the UIDH attached to their web traffic entirely. Users will need to actively choose to opt out, however, and critics of the tracking program — including the Electronic Frontier Foundation — have suggested that Verizon needs to go further, making the ad tracking an “opt in” program, as most consumers are unlikely to fully appreciate the privacy implications of this kind of tracking.

Apple releases iOS 8.1.3

Apple has officially released iOS 8.1.3 to the public, another relatively minor maintenance release that notes bug fixes, increased stability and performance improvements. The update also addresses problems some users have had signing into Messages and FaceTime, issues with Spotlight sometimes not displaying app results, and multitasking gesture fix for iPad users. The amount of free storage space required to perform an update has also been reduced, and new configuration options have been added for education standardized testing. iOS 8.1.3 is available as an over-the-air update or by updating via iTunes on a Mac or PC.

Report: Bank verification methods leave Apple Pay vulnerable to fraud

Verification methods used by many banks and credit card providers are leaving Apple Pay open to potential fraud, according to a new report by Drop Labs. While Apple Pay remains secure at a technical level – there have been no incidents of stolen iPhones being used for unauthorized purchases, or Touch ID or NFC being compromised — criminals are resorting to much lower tech methods of identify theft and social engineering to steal credit card information and use it with Apple Pay. In short, thieves are stealing credit card numbers the old fashioned way, and then loading them onto their own iPhones using Apple Pay, taking advantage of inadequate procedures used by some banks and credit card providers for verifying and authorizing cards to be used with Apple Pay.

As the Drop Labs report notes, all participating card issuers were required by Apple to build a “Yellow Path” for verifying cards added to Apple Pay. However, this experience varies with each issuer, with some requiring nothing more than a phone call – a method that can easily be used by an identity thief to add a stolen credit card to an Apple Pay device such as an iPhone. Part of the problem stems from this “Yellow Path” requirement initially being optional for card issuers, with Apple reversing course and making it mandatory less than a month before Apple Pay was actually launched. Card providers that had originally not planned out a “Yellow Path” verification process were thereby forced to build in this support on relatively short notice or miss the initial Apple Pay rollout.

While Apple Pay itself remains inherently secure, it’s ironically this secure “trust’ system built into Apple Pay — with features like Touch ID and secure NFC — that makes it more attractive for this type of fraud. Once a card has been verified and authorized for Apple Pay, no further checks and balances are implemented, making it easier to use a stolen credit card on an Apple Pay device than it would be to physically produce a counterfeit card from a stolen credit card number. [via Gizmodo UK]

Apple releases iOS 8.2 beta 4 to developers, adds Apple Watch support

Apple has released the fourth beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers. The latest release appears to add direct support for pairing an Apple Watch via Bluetooth, with a note in the standard Bluetooth settings directing users to use the “Apple Watch app” to do so. The note appears to link to the App Store, suggesting that an Apple Watch app could be available as a separate download that users will need to install, rather than being bundled with the future iOS 8.2 update.

Apple Pay coming to Canada in March?

Apple may be planning a Canadian rollout of Apple Pay as early as this March, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. Citing “sources close to the situation,” the report notes that Canadian launch partners are currently in negotiations with Apple. Those partners are also in the process of planning advertising and promotional material scheduled for a possible release in March. While the report notes that negotiations are still ongoing, it claims that several sources have indicated that Apple is also targeting that timeframe. It remains unclear at this time whether Apple Pay would be launched across all of the six major Canadian banks right away, or limited to only specific partners for the initial rollout.

Apple releases iOS 8.2 beta 3 to developers

Apple has released the third beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers, featuring a build number of 12D5452a. As with other recent versions, the latest beta appears to be primarily focused on fixes and enhancements to WatchKit to allow developers to continue preparing their apps for next year’s debut of the Apple Watch.

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