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Congress passes bill to legalize phone unlocking

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill today that will legalize cell phone unlocking, following the Senate’s approval of the bill last week. All the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” needs now is for President Obama to sign the bill into law — a virtual guarantee considering the White House has already expressed its support for legally unlocking phones. The bill covers any device that operates on a wireless network. Currently, consumers need carrier permission to get a phone unlocked. However, the Library of Congress will revisit the rule again in 2015, so there’s a possibility phone unlocking could become illegal again in the future after this bill is passed into law.

Report: Apple could launch own mobile wallet this fall

Apple executives have had recent conversations about launching an iPhone-based mobile wallet as soon as this fall, according to The Information. The company has reportedly told partners its mobile payment system would contain “secured element” hardware within the phones that would store sensitive financial information. The Secure Enclave coprocessor in Apple’s A7 chip would likely fit the bill — as noted by Apple, it relies on a random number generator and encrypted memory to safely store information. It’s also noted that Visa is in discussions with Apple about a possible partnership to bypass third-party payment processors to lower costs.

Mobile payments from Apple have been rumored for years. But with Apple reportedly interviewing candidates for a mobile payment service, and CEO Tim Cook recently characterizing mobile payments as “an area of interest” while freely discussing the possibilities of such a service, perhaps we’ll see an iPhone wallet in the near future. [via MacRumors]

Report: Apple ‘tentatively’ plans mid-September iPhone event

Apple is “tentatively” planning an event for mid-September to announce the iPhone 6, 9to5Mac reports. Though not a surprise — numerous reports have all pegged September for the iPhone 6 reveal — the new report claims the second and third weeks of September are the most likely weeks for the event, though plans are still yet to be finalized. If the event was held on a Tuesday, as is commonplace, it would be held on September 9 or 16, with a likely product release on September 19 or 26. However, it’s unclear if both new iPhones will be announced or launched at the same time. According to the report, the 4.7” iPhone 6 will be showcased, but no decision has been made regarding inclusion of the 5.5” iPhone 6. Final details on iOS 8 will also be unveiled at the event.

WSJ: Apple asking suppliers to make 70-80M new iPhones this year

Apple is asking its suppliers to manufacture between 70-80 million units of its upcoming two new iPhones combined by Dec. 30, The Wall Street Journal reports. As noted in the report, this represents a significant step up from last year’s initial order of 50-60 million units for the iPhone 5s and 5c. It still appears there could be a delay with the larger model, as display makers are “struggling to improve the production of the larger 5.5-inch screens.” The in-cell technology used to create a thinner, lighter display is reportedly causing the complications, and using sapphire instead of glass could also present more issues. Additionally, sources said that Apple is asking component makers to prepare enough parts for 120 million new iPhones by the end of the year, in case the displays have a high failure rate.

Tips app debuts in iOS 8 beta 4

Apple’s new Tips app has debuted within the fourth beta of iOS 8. The app shows people how to use the device with a list of tips, each consisting of around a paragraph of text plus an animated image. A list of six tips is shown initially, with the first being “Quickly respond to a notification.” Users can like/unlike tips and share tips, as well. All of the tips at this point are iOS 8-specific.

Forensic scientist notes iOS ‘back doors’

Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensic scientist and the author of five iOS-related books, has posted slides from a recent conference talk titled “Identifying Back Doors, Attack Points, and Surveillance Mechanisms in iOS Devices.” Zdziarski’s talk, which he gave at the recent HOPE/X conference in New York, reveals an overview “of a number of undocumented high-value forensic services running on every iOS device,” including “suspicious design omissions in iOS that make collection easier.” While Zdziarski characterizes iOS devices as “reasonably secure,” there are undocumented services that can bypass backup encryption, and can be accessed via USB and wirelessly — over WiFi and “maybe cellular.” He notes the “personal nature of the data” is carried in a raw format, which would make it useless for tech support.

Notably, Zdziarski claims that commercial forensic software manufacturers are taking advantage of these backdoor iOS services to develop forensic tools that law enforcement agencies can use to easily extract data from seized devices. He notes that Apple is allowing packet sniffing without permission and is “dishing out a lot of data behind our backs.” Although Zdziarski raises suspicion to the nature of these services and notes that they “shouldn’t be there,” several of the services he identifies are in fact well-known internal Apple processes for handling things such as device activation, background iCloud and iTunes backup, and iTunes synchronization—processes that by design need to function without requiring the user to first unlock their device. For more details, the slides are available here. [via ZDNet]

iPhone 6: 1810 mAh battery, improved color 13MP camera?

Two new reports claim the iPhone 6 will be getting an upgraded battery and camera. NowhereElse located a picture of the alleged iPhone 6 4.7” model battery, which has a stated capacity of 1810 mAh. The iPhone 5s had a 1560 mAh cell, so this would be a reasonable upgrade, albeit offset by the likely greater power demands of a larger display. It’s still unclear how much of an effect the expanded capacity would have on overall battery life due to factors such as A8 chip power consumption.

Another report, sourced from a Chinese web forum, claims the iPhone 6 will have a 13MP Sony Exmor sensor. The report claims the Sony Exmor RS IMX220 sensor will be used, however, iLounge’s research suggests that Sony’s Exmor RS IMX220—a 20MP sensor—is likely too large to fit inside the new iPhone, and the 13.1MP IMX214 is a more likely possibility. Relative to the iPhone 5s, the new camera would offer 4208x3120 resolution, improved color accuracy and less visual noise in low-light conditions, as well as support for high-resolution HDR videos, 4K videos, and full-resolution HDR panorama images. [via G for Games]

NFL Sunday Ticket to stream on iPad, iPhone with no satellite subscription (Update)

A DirecTV promotional page for NFLSundayTicket.TV reveals a plan in which iOS and Mac users can receive the NFL Sunday Ticket package without a satellite subscription for the 2014 NFL season. An NFLSundayTicket.TV Digital package allows users to stream live, out-of-market NFL games to a computer, tablet, or phone for $200, with a student discount available. More expensive plans allow for console streaming and additional features. Curiously, a list of compatible devices references a number of iPhones, but not iPhone 5s or 5c, and a number of iPads, but not the iPad Air or iPad mini with Retina display. It seems obvious that this is an oversight, and the new devices should support this new NFL Sunday Ticket plan. [via Apple Insider]

Update: It appears that not all addresses are eligible for NFLSundayTicket.TV — a pop-up form verifies eligibility. Although it seems the service is limited to apartment dwellers, university students, and other locations which are unable to get DirecTV, we even found some apartment residences as being deemed ineligible. At this point it’s not completely clear who is eligible without filling out the form, as the site’s FAQ only claims the service is “available to people in select areas, residence types, and enrolled in select universities.”

Apple, IBM partner up for giant iOS business solution push

Apple and IBM have announced a new global partnership to bring “IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities to iPhone and iPad.” The partnership, which aims to “transform enterprise mobility,” will introduce more than 100 industry-specific enterprise solutions for iPhone and iPad, unique IBM cloud services for iOS, a new AppleCare service level focused on the enterprise, and new IBM offerings for device activation, supply, and management. The agreement, which is being called IBM MobileFirst for iOS, will see IBM selling iPhones and iPads with built-in industry-specific solutions.

A new class of business apps, IBM MobileFirst for iOS Solutions, will target retail, banking, healthcare, travel, transportation, telecommunications, and insurance. Those apps will be available this fall “and into 2015.” The IBM MobileFirst Platform for iOS will give business users on-premise software solutions necessary for end-to-end enterprise capability.

In an interview with Re/code, Tim Cook said of the new partnership, “We’re good at building a simple experience and in building devices. The kind of deep industry expertise you would need to really transform the enterprise isn’t in our DNA. But it is in IBM’s.” Explaining their ability to work together today despite once fiercely competing for customers and mind share, Cook also noted that Apple and IBM “do not compete on anything. And when you do that you end up with something better than either of you could produce yourself.” IBM CEO Ginni Rometty called Apple the “gold standard for consumers.”

PayPal 5.5 app update scans, stores loyalty cards

PayPal’s most recent update of its free iOS app has notably added the ability to digitize and store loyalty cards. Version 5.5 lets users carry virtual versions of an impressive variety of loyalty cards within the app. After selecting the specific retailer from a long but easily searchable list of participating vendors, including regional supermarkets, restaurants, and shops, you simply scan your loyalty card’s barcode or punch in the ID number to add a card to the app. The app’s login process has also been sped up, as well. This new update goes head-to-head with Apple’s Passbook, and considering the collection of supported vendors, compares favorably to say the least.

Report: iPhone 6 A8 chip to reach 2GHz range

Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6 will be equipped with an A8 dual-core microprocessor that will reach or exceed 2GHz per core, Chinese site cnBeta claims. This would be a significant jump from the current 1.3GHz A7 chip found in the iPhone 5s. It’s believed the chip will remain 64-bit, and it will be manufactured using a 20nm process. A number of reports have indicated Apple’s newest devices will feature the upgraded A8 chip; a Thursday report noted Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has started shipping chips to Apple. [via G for Games]

China calls iPhone tracking a ‘national security concern’

State-run China Central Television has called the iPhone’s location-tracking a “national security concern,” The Wall Street Journal reports. The broadcaster criticized the “frequent locations” function in iOS 7; researchers quoted in the report claimed those with access to the data could learn state secrets. It’s noted that CCTV’s broadcasts are very influential in China, though not always accurately representative of the views of the country’s leaders. While Apple only holds a 6 percent share of the Chinese smartphone market, the company has an 80 percent share of the high-end $500+ market, according to research firms.

Apple has had a number of recent issues in China. Last April, Cook publicly apologized for misunderstandings with the company’s warranty policies; Apple made changes to those policies in China. That apology was met with praise from media and China’s Foreign Ministry. Last July saw Apple adding a power adapter page to its Chinese website to help users identify official Apple chargers, following two reported incidents in the country involving shocks from third-party chargers — soon after, the company announced its USB Power Adapter Takeback Program. In October, Apple was criticized for showing too much loyalty to the Chinese government after pulling an app that allowed anonymous browsing.

iPhone 6 to feature haptic feedback?

The iPhone 6 will reportedly feature haptic feedback, according to Chinese site Laoyaoba. A tactile feedback linear motor would allow the phone to send differing, subtle vibrations to users through the touchscreen. Users would also be able to feel vibrations on specific areas of the screen. It’s claimed this new motor would cost two to three times more than the current $0.60 vibration motor featured in the iPhone 5s. Apple did publish a patent application in 2009 relating to haptic display technology, and although it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility, we would consider the inclusion of haptic feedback in the iPhone 6 to be unlikely.

WSJ: TSMC shipping microprocessors to Apple

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has started shipping its microprocessors to Apple as of this year’s second quarter, The Wall Street Journal reports. There have long been reports of Apple using TSMC for its chips in order to decrease dependence on Samsung, which previously manufactured all the microprocessors for Apple’s smartphones and tablets. It’s unclear how many chips TSMC has shipped thus far; Apple will still use Samsung for some of its microprocessors for now. TSMC and Apple will continue working on “more advanced chips” next year, a source said. A previous report claimed TSMC would make A8 chips for this year’s new Apple devices, and would start producing A9 chips in this year’s third quarter for future iPhones and iPads.

iPhone 6 part leaks point to possible color variations

Recent leaks of alleged iPhone 6 parts point to various questionable color options on the upcoming devices. A parts leak on Czech site letemsvetemapplem shows three SIM card trays for the iPhone 6 in what appears to be space gray, silver, and gold, matching the colors of Apple’s iPhone 5s. Although it’s not a surprise that these would be the colors for Apple’s upcoming device, the gold color on the card tray does look a bit darker than the current 5s gold, though that could be due to the way the photo was taken. Also included in the leak are the power flex cable with power button and volume flex cable with mute and volume buttons. Based on the power flex cable, it does seem likely that the position of the power button will be on the side of the phone, as has been rumored and seen in various mockups.

Today, MacRumors posted photos of alleged rear shells for the upcoming 4.7” iPhone 6. The leaks show an unfinished silver shell provided by Moscow company Feld & Volk, and more interestingly, a dark gray rear shell from a separate source. The latter part appears darker than the current space gray color — nearly black, like the original iPhone 5 — but as always, these photos should be taken with a grain of salt.

iOS 8 Health app adds step and caffeine tracking

Apple has updated its Health app in iOS 8 beta 3. The app now uses the M7 chip — currently only found in the iPhone 5s — to track steps, as pointed out by 9to5Mac. A full week of data is added to the app instantly from the M7, similarly to the step tracking app Breeze; users of non-M7 devices can manually input step data. Health can also now track caffeine intake, as caffeine has been added to the app’s nutritional categories, currently requiring manual entry of caffeine in milligrams. A number of already available App Store apps can track caffeine intake.

iOS 8 beta 3 released to developers

A little less than three weeks after releasing the second beta of its upcoming iOS 8 software, Apple has released beta 3 to registered developers. We’ll update here with any notable information on what’s included in the new beta.

Update: Apple also released new betas of Apple TV Software, as well as Find My iPhone 4.0 and Find My Friends 4.0. 9to5Mac reports that enhancements in the latest beta include new toggles for Handoff, App Analytics, and upgrading from Documents in the Cloud to iCloud Drive. Some new wallpapers and a few other UI tweaks are also included.

Foxconn to use robots in iPhone production

According to a report from IThome.com, Foxconn CEO Terry Gou announced at a recent shareholder meeting that new manufacturing robots are in the final testing stage. The first company to take advantage of the new robots’ capabilities will be Apple, presumably for the iPhone 6. Called “Foxbots,” these robots will cost between $20,000 to $25,000 each, and 10,000 are expected to be deployed. Each robot reportedly has a production capacity of 30,000 units, although it’s not clear what time frame that number speaks to. Foxconn previously announced plans to deploy a million robots on its assembly lines, and has already deployed at least 20,000 robots for other projects.

FTC accuses T-Mobile of knowingly billing for fraudulent charges

The Federal Trade Commission has accused T-Mobile of making “hundreds of millions of dollars” through unauthorized “premium” SMS subscriptions offered by third-parties. T-Mobile kept 35 to 40 percent of charges for “content such as flirting tips, horoscope information or celebrity gossip,” which cost users $9.99 per month, the FTC claims. It’s also said that even after T-Mobile was made aware of these fraudulent charges, the carrier sometimes continued to bill customers for the services. A T-Mobile bill excerpt included in the FTC report alleges the carrier included the charges under the vague line of “usage charges.”

The FTC is seeking a court order to prevent T-Mobile from continuing these practices; refunds are also being sought by the commission. T-Mobile has not yet responded to the accusations.

AppleCare+ purchase window now 60 days, basic plan discontinued

Apple is extending its AppleCare+ purchase window to 60 days starting today, 9to5Mac reports. Previously only available within the first 30 days of purchase, the plan costs $99 for recent iPhone and iPad models and can be purchased in Apple stores or online. Additionally, Apple is discontinuing its AppleCare plan without protection for iPhone and iPad today in the U.S., Canada, and Japan. The company is now only offering the more expensive AppleCare+ plan for those devices.

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