A data analytics firm estimates that Apple has sold 2.79 million Apple Watch units as of mid-June, with nearly 20 percent of purchasers also springing for an extra band, Reuters reports. Although Apple itself has not released specifics on how many Apple Watches have been sold, research firm Slice Intelligence has developed estimates based on mining e-mail receipts from a panel of two million people considered to be representative of online shoppers in the U.S. If accurate, the numbers suggest that Apple is making a hefty profit from the sales of spare watch bands, which retail for prices starting at $49 with raw manufacturing costs estimated to be starting at $2.05. The report notes, however, that such estimates do not include packaging and shipping expenses, and in fact “may not capture the full cost of the material Apple uses to make the band.” The data collected by Slice indicates that the black sport band is the most popular choice overall — both with the Apple Watch and as a secondary band — while the $149 Milanese Loop is the most popular option being purchased separately as a second band.
The Federal Communications Commission has announced its intention to fine AT&T $100 million for “misleading its customers about unlimited mobile data plans.” According to the FCC, AT&T “severely” slowed data speeds for customers with unlimited data plans, and the company “failed to adequately notify” customers that speeds could be slower than advertised. Millions of customers were said to be affected by the slowed data. As the FCC notes, AT&T no longer offers unlimited plans to new customers, but many long-time customers have retained the unlimited plan from when it was offered in the past. The company has been charged with violating the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule. AT&T said in a statement that it would “vigorously dispute the FCC’s assertions,” claiming it has been “fully transparent” with customers.
Apple has been fined nearly $650,000 after losing an anti-competition lawsuit in Taiwan, Reuters reports. The country’s Fair Trade Commission fined Apple in 2013 for requiring telecom partners to get the company’s approval for iPhone prices, subsidies, advertising content and price differentials between old and new phone models. Under Taiwanese law, once telecoms take possession of a phone, they can set prices however they see fit, the commission said. Apple countersued, but a judge ruled against the company. The commission claims this is the first case of a jurisdiction successfully defeating Apple’s practice of dictating pricing terms to its telecom partners. Apple could still appeal the decision; the company declined to comment when contacted.
Independent record labels are crying foul over Apple’s insistence that they provide their music without being paid during Apple Music’s three-month free trial, The Telegraph reports. British labels for artists like Adele and Arctic Monkeys have rejected Apple’s request for the unpaid trial period and don’t intend to cut a deal that would “literally put people out of business,” according to Andy Heath, chairman of lobbying group UK Music. Apple has confirmed it is paying a slightly higher-than-industry-standard 71.5 percent of revenues to rights holders in the hopes of assuaging doubts about the free trial period, but Heath said that solution misses the point. “If you are running a small label on tight margins you literally can’t afford to do this free trial business,” Heath said. “Their plan is clearly to move people over from downloads, which is fine, but it will mean us losing those revenues for three months.”
Heath confirmed ongoing Apple negotiations with some indie labels, but Billboard reports that others haven’t heard from Apple at all with only two weeks before Apple Music’s launch, leading them to speculate Apple will send out a mass-emailed opt-in contract soon. After a huge push for unique content, Apple Music is viewed as a big threat to Spotify, but if the company can’t lock down indie music rights holders before launch, Spotify could end up with its own advantage.
While you still can’t just walk into an Apple Store unannounced and buy an Apple Watch, starting today you can reserve a watch online for in-store pickup if you live in the U.K., Canada, Australia and some U.S. states. When looking at a specific watch and band combination, Apple’s online store now offers an “Interested in buying in-store?” option accompanied by a link to check availability at Apple Stores in the customer’s area. Apple Watch Sport models with a sport band are available at most Apple Stores, but more expensive models like the Apple Watch with a Milanese loop band seem to be in-stock at far fewer locations. Apple Watch Editions are even available for in-store pickup in ritzier locations like New York City’s Fifth Avenue Apple Store.
University researchers have exposed a security flaw in iOS and OS X that lets an installed app exploit Apple’s cross-app resource sharing and communication to steal passwords from other apps and Apple’s Keychain, The Register reports. The team says they were able to upload their malware into an app that successfully passed the App Store’s vetting process. Once the app was downloaded, the researchers were able to raid users’ Keychain to steal passwords for iCloud, the Mail app and anything stored within Google’s Chrome browser. The team was able to steal banking credentials from Chrome, copy photos from WeChat and gain access to popular cloud service Evernote. Nearly 90 percent of a large sample of OS X and iOS apps were found to be “completely exposed” to the attack. Lead researcher Luyi Xing said his team informed Apple of the problem in October 2014 and complied with Apple’s request to hold off publishing the research for 6 months, but hasn’t heard back from the company since delivering an advance copy of the findings to Apple in February. Apple didn’t comment on the story, but Google’s Chromium security team has since removed Keychain integration for Chrome, saying the security flaw probably can’t be solved at the application level. AgileBits, which owns browser extension 1Password, said their company hadn’t found a way to fend off the attacks four months after the team’s disclosure. Since the malware was delivered in an app that got past Apple’s vetting process, the only protection for iOS and OS X users at this point is to scrutinize the developer before downloading an app and be wary of login prompts for things usually handled by Keychain.
Apple has revoked Monster’s MFi program membership, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Representatives from Monster reported the news, indicating that the move was in retaliation to Monster’s lawsuit against the now-Apple-owned Beats Electronics. Monster has been making licensed accessories under the MFi program since 2005, and many of its accessories have even been sold in Apple’s retail stores. David Tognotti, general counsel for Monster, stated that Apple’s chief litigation counsel advised him that their MFi agreement was being terminated as of May 5 due to their relationship with Apple no longer being “mutually beneficial” and that Monster’s lawsuit against Beats would “destroy the working relationship” between the two companies. Monster has reportedly paid Apple more than $12 million in licensing fees since 2008, and more than 20 percent of the company’s products are produced under the MFi program license. Under the terms of the agreement, Monster will still be able to sell its existing stock of Apple-licensed accessories until September, but will no longer be permitted to manufacture new MFi accessories.
Apple considered using Uber’s fledgling delivery service in select cities, but instead made a deal with start-up courier Postmates for same-say deliveries, The Wall Street Journal reports. Uber has twice the number of drivers as delivery giant UPS, but the company’s delivery service has stalled, with some customers complaining about Uber’s inability to insure high-priced items. Uber says it is committed to making deliveries, but is still in the early phases of testing new approaches to using its existing infrastructure.
Canada’s Competition Bureau is looking into alleged anti-competitive practices in Apple Canada’s contracts with cell phone carriers, The Toronto Star reports. The bureau has filed requests for iPhone sales records from Rogers, Bell and Telus after court-ordered disclosures from Apple Canada last December left bureau investigators dissatisfied, a source says. A judge is expected to rule on the request today, and a bureau spokesman was careful to point out that there is no conclusion of wrongdoing by Apple Canada at this time. If the court finds Apple’s contracts with cell carriers unfairly prevent promotion of competing handsets, the carriers could renegotiate the terms of those deals as those respective contracts with Apple expire. Apple couldn’t be reached for comment.
Apple has confirmed it will pay music rights owners slightly more than 70 percent of the revenue from the new Apple Music service, Re/code reports. U.S. music owners will get 71.5 percent of the $10-a-month subscription fees, while international rates are variable but average out to around 73 percent, according to Robert Kondrk, the Apple executive in charge of negotiating music deals. He says Apple’s payments are a few percentage points higher than the industry standard to account for rights holders not being paid during Apple’s three-month free trial of Apple Music, which was a bone of contention with music labels during negotiations.
When Apple acquired Beats Electronics, the company killed a project aimed at creating WiFi-connected speakers that would play subscription music services straight from the Internet, Variety reports. Efforts to create a more complete, room-to-room Beats home listening solution ran into serious problems and delays, leading Apple to scrap it. In related news, Apple recently pulled the Beats Pill XL speaker off its website after a safety recall. The company has offered customers refunds, but no ability to fix or replace affected devices, fueling further speculation that Apple isn’t committed to the Beats hardware brand. Some of the Beats engineers working on the new speaker project have since left the company, and sources say around 50 percent of Beats employees have left or lost their jobs post-acquisition.
A tweet from developer Steve Troughton-Smith shows Apple has made big additions to iOS 9’s keyboard, hinting at the release of a long-rumored 12” iPad. When set to larger resolutions while running iOS 9, the iPad keyboard now adds Tab and Caps Lock keys and an entirely new top row of symbols that’s traditionally found above the numbers on a standard keyboard. Curly braces and a pipe symbol are also added in their usual places, next to the “P” key. The top row of symbols is also duplicated below the numbers on the second keyboard page, which manages to contain enough keys to eliminate the need for the third screen of keys.
Apple is also bringing full support for audio plug-ins to iOS 9, 9to5Mac reports. The support will allow Audio Units effects and instrument apps currently available on OS X to be ported over with only slight changes.
Parrot has announced a lineup of 13 new Minidrones, including two water-based Hydrofoil drones. The new collection includes six new jumping drones, including the Diesel, Buzz, and Marshall “night” drones which are equipped with night vision and variable-intensity LEDs, as well as the Max, Tuk-Tuk, and Jett “race” drones which are capable of reaching top speeds of 13 km/h (8.1 mph). Five new airborne drones have also been introduced, in “night” and “cargo” versions, with the Blaze, Swat, and Mc Clane providing dimmable LED running lights for maneuvering in the dark, and Travis and Mars capable of carrying small cargo loads such as LEGO characters or bricks. We reviewed two Parrot Minidrones last year — the Jumping Sumo and Rolling Spider.
The two Hydrofoil models, Orak and Newz, represent a new direction for Parrot, as a pair of flying drones that can descend onto a lake or pool and cruise around at a top speed of 5.4 knots (2.78 mph) while being able to make rapid turns without capsizing. All of the new drones feature standard cameras and other sensors, and are controlled with Parrot’s FreeFlight3 application using a standard Wi-Fi connection from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. The new drones range in price from €99 to €199 ($110 to $225 USD), and although Parrot hasn’t revealed North American release dates or pricing as of yet, iLounge will be attending a Toronto press event later this month where we expect to get more details on the company’s plans for the new models.
During Apple’s announcement earlier this week that public transit directions would be coming to Maps in iOS 9, the company provided a list of ten major North American and European cities where the service would be offered. However, with transit already available in the first iOS 9 beta, it now appears that the service may extend beyond the core cities. In Toronto, for example, it has already been discovered that not only is Toronto’s TTC included, but also GO Transit and many other providers in cities throughout Southern Ontario, including Mississauga, Brampton, Oakville, Burlington, York Region, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Welland, and the Niagara Region. Similarly extended areas may be available outside of other core cities where the iOS 9 transit feature is launching, although that’s not yet clear. [via MacRumors]
Apple CEO Tim Cook received complaints directly from at least two retail employees regarding Apple’s bag search policies, Reuters reports. The Apple retail store policy of checking employees’ bags is at the center of a 2013 lawsuit alleging that the company should compensate employees for the time taken to conduct the searches, which are often done as employees are leaving after their shift has formally concluded.
In a court filing made public on Wednesday, unsealed employee complaints showed messages to Cook suggesting that the precautionary searches are “embarrassing and demeaning” and that Apple managers “are required to treat ‘valued’ employees as criminals.” One employee complaint noted that these searches “are often performed in front of gawking customers,” while another email sent to Cook by a retail worker in Beijing accused Apple of treating its retail employees “as animals” and thieves. Cook had reportedly forwarded the messages to Apple retail and human resources execs asking, “Is this true?” although the filing doesn’t include what responses Cook received to that inquiry, or what further action was taken as a result of it. Denise Young Smith, Apple’s vice president of human resources, however, did make a statement: “If it is simply a deterrent there has to be a more intelligent and respectful way to approach.” A hearing in the lawsuit is expected to take place on July 2.
Developer Hamza Sood has tweeted a photo of internal code from the first iOS 9 beta that hints at a 1080p front-facing camera in new Apple devices — possibly the next iPhones. The code suggests the addition of a front flash and support for taking panoramic photos and 240fps slow-motion video. The front camera for current iOS devices tops out at 720p and has no flash. It’s been rumored that Apple’s next iPhones will see a dramatic leap forward in camera technology.
Security researcher Jan Soucek has discovered a bug that would let hackers run a fake re-login prompt using an email sent to iOS Mail. Once opened, code in the email could imitate an iCloud login prompt and trick users into giving away their Apple ID user name and password. Souceck says he found the bug in iOS 8.1.1 back in January and filed a bug report with Apple, but after not hearing back or seeing a fix after five months, he made the code public. Now that the code is available to anyone, users should be wary of login requests made by their iOS devices while iOS Mail is running. Apple hasn’t commented on the issue. [via The Register]
Apple has confirmed that those camera-laden vans seen in public are indeed collecting images for use in Apple Maps. Apple has pledged to respect privacy while collecting its images, blurring faces and license plates before publishing the photos. The vans will be in some larger cities throughout the U.S., England, and Ireland until the end of the month. The push for adding images, combined with the new Transit feature coming in iOS 9 and a contract extension with TomTom, shows Apple is continuing its push to make Maps a viable competitor to Google Maps.
Apple has released its fourth beta of iOS 8.4 to developers. The new iOS 8.4 beta notably includes a redesigned Music app. With Apple Music set to debut on June 30, we should see iOS 8.4 on that date or before.
GM has announced that Cadillac’s 2016 models will include Apple’s CarPlay for in-car iPhone integration. The company announced in May that 2016 Chevy models will also support CarPlay. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said “every major car brand” is committed to supporting CarPlay in some fashion. During Monday’s WWDC keynote, Apple announced wireless CarPlay would be coming to iOS 9.