Apple will be making changes to its Genius Bar and Workshop services online, more deeply integrating them within individual Apple Store Retail pages as soon as Tuesday, August 25, 9to5Mac reports. In a note to retail employees, Apple said the updated service will focus on accessibility for those with visual and hearing impairments and provide a much more streamlined interaction for users on mobile devices. Like the upgraded Apple website, the new system will have unique appearances customized for viewing on desktops, smartphones and tablets. Sources briefed on the plans said in addition to moving to individual store pages, the existing complex array of Workshop scheduling options will be narrowed down within three categories — Discover, Create and Organize — making it easier for customers to select the workshops that apply to them. The system will also provide deep social media integration for sharing Workshops on Twitter, Facebook, Weibo, QQ, and email.
Apple recently announced a replacement program for defective iSight cameras found in some iPhone 6 Plus units sold between September 2014 and January 2015. Apple said a “small percentage” of the devices sold during that time contain a component that may fail, causing photos to come out blurry. The offer only applies to the iPhone 6 Plus, as Apple claims the iPhone 6 has been unaffected by the defect. Users can search their phone’s serial number here to see if it is covered by the recall and, if so, can have their phone’s iSight camera replaced free of charge after an examination to make sure the unit is in working order. Customers can contact Apple customer service or take their phones to an Apple Authorized Service Provider, or an Apple Store for more information.
Apple and Beats co-founder Dr. Dre have both issued a formal response to the allegations of his past incidents of misogyny and decades-old criminal charges of physical abuse against women, which have resurged in the wake of the new N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton. In a statement to The New York Times, Dre said, “Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I’ve been married for 19 years and every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again. I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.”
Apple followed this up with its own statement: “Dre has apologized for the mistakes he’s made in the past and he’s said that he’s not the same person that he was 25 years ago. We believe his sincerity and after working with him for a year and a half, we have every reason to believe that he has changed.”
The CEO of Daimler — the automotive company best known for its Mercedes-Benz brand — has indicated that he’s open to “different types” of cooperation with Apple, Reuters reports. Although Damiler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche’s comments remained generally noncommittal, in an interview with Deutsche Unternehmerboerse, Zetsche simply said that “many things are conceivable,” with companies such as Apple and Google taking on a more active role in developing key software components for vehicles, and that such solutions can be “interesting for both sides.” Similar comments have been made by Volkswagen’s CEO Martin Winterkorn, suggesting it’s necessary for traditional car makers to work with technology firms to “make future cars safer and more intelligent.” While it’s unclear what role Daimler would want to take in such a partnership, Zetsche did indicate that the company would not “allow itself to be demoted to the role of dumb supplier” that merely provides hardware to third parties and loses the relationship with customers.
Following the rejection last week of Samsung’s appeal to have its iPhone patent infringement judgement overturned, the San Jose Mercury News reports that the South Korean tech company now plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, the only legal recourse left open to it at this point. An 2012 jury verdict had ruled that Samsung violated Apple’s iPhone patents, originally resulting in a judgement of more than $1 billion against Samsung, although the amount was later reduced. In court papers filed this week, Samsung’s legal team wrote that “the questions present issues of enormous importance to patent litigation and the scope of innovation, especially in high-technology industries.” Other major Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Facebook, and Hewlett-Package had also backed Samsung’s appeal, and are also expected to weigh in to persuade the Supreme Court to hear the case. A decision by the Supreme Court as to whether or not to take the case may not come until the end of its term next June, however.
Apple retail sources say starting next Wednesday, August 26, Apple Stores will be stocking iPods on store shelves alongside accessories, according to 9to5Mac. The move further separates the iPod from other Apple devices, which are kept in the back of the store and brought out to customers once they decide to buy one. Despite just getting a fresh set of updates, the iPod line has been demoted in Apple’s website redesign, as the once-flagship device is no longer prominently featured in the online store’s navigation menu. In store, the iPod will now sit beside accessories like headphones, iPhone cases and Apple Watch bands.
The common sight of iPads turned into “smart signs” featuring product information is also going away in most stores, with pricing information and product details about display iPhones, iPads, and Macs now being loaded onto the devices themselves. Retail employees said the iPad signs confused customers who didn’t realize the iPads were there simply to provide information about the nearby product. The iPad mini displays set up near the Apple Watches will be hanging around, but getting rid of the other iPad signs will give Apple the space to feature more devices — including its new iPhones, which will be displayed on redesigned white docks.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is echoing previous speculation that Apple’s long-rumored 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” will come with a Force-Touch enabled screen and a stylus to make it easier for users to navigate on the larger surface (via MacRumors). Rumors about the “iPad Pro” have been circulating since 2013, but Kuo thinks Apple will finally start mass production some time in September or October, making the new tablet unlikely to appear at the September 9 iPhone event.
Also, mobile analytics firm Appsee thinks it has finally found “very concrete” proof that the larger “iPad Pro” exists. The company’s data logs show a new device — designated as “iPad6,8” — running live apps at 2048×2732, which is a much higher resolution than the 2048×1536 currently supported on the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2, Apple’s largest current iPad offering. Changes to the keyboard in iOS 9 when set to higher resolutions also seem to indicate a larger iPad is on the way.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has ruled that one of Apple’s iPhone design patents should never have been granted, Foss Patents reports. The patent office’s Central Reexamination Division — acting on an anonymous request from 2013 that may have came from Samsung — issued a non-final action last week rejecting the design patents that formed part of a 2012 Apple lawsuit against Samsung. That suit resulted in a judge ordering Samsung to pay nearly $1 billion in damages to Apple, an award that was later reduced to $548 million. This latest blow against Apple’s patents — while still technically non-final — further undermines the basis of that $548 million ruling, but Samsung’s appeal on that verdict was rejected last week despite other tech companies voicing support for Samsung’s position, leaving an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to be Samsung’s last option.
Apple’s rebranded iTunes Music Festival — now called the Apple Music Festival — will take place from September 19 to 28 at London’s Roundhouse and feature headlining acts Pharrell Williams, Florence + The Machine, One Direction, and Disclosure, among others. U.K. residents can apply to win tickets through Apple Music and Apple’s media partners, but as always, Apple plans to make performances available for free to Apple Music and iTunes users live and on-demand. Apple TV owners will also be able to view the event in HD. Beats 1 and individual artists’ Connect pages will provide continuing coverage of the event and access to backstage news and footage. The event has been held in London annually under the iTunes Music Festival name since 2007.
Apple seems to have eliminated try-on appointments for the Apple Watch from its online store. An appointment was never required to try on an Apple Watch (though prospective customers would have to make an “appointment” in store), but high demand early on meant that walk-in customers trying on an Apple Watch had to buy online. Four months after the Apple Watch’s debut, Apple Retail employees say customers looking to try on the watch can now simply walk in and will be accommodated in a first-come, first-served fashion, 9to5Mac reports. While they won’t have to give up any personal information to try the watch, customers can provide their email address and Apple Watch preferences in-store to be saved in their Apple Online Store wish list for purchase later through the Apple Store app or website. Apple has relaxed requirements around buying the watch in recent months, allowing for in-store pickup in June and opening watch sales to Best Buy earlier this month.
Apple executives said Dr. Dre’s “Compton: A Soundtrack” had 25 million streams worldwide on Apple Music in its first week and sold nearly half a million copies in iTunes, scoring Apple’s first high-profile success with exclusive content, The New York Times reports. While not quite popular enough to unseat “Kill the Lights” by country star Luke Bryan from the top spot on Billboard’s charts, Dr. Dre’s first album since 2001 netted 11 million streams in the U.S. alone. But compared with other, more broadly available streaming hits this year, those totals are modest. “If If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” by rapper Drake netted 48 million streams in its first week with the benefit of additional plays on Spotify, which boasts a paid subscriber base which is about twice as large as Apple Music’s reported 11 million users. With Dr. Dre’s album also likely benefiting from the coinciding release of the NWA biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” industry observers are still skeptical that Apple Music’s early successes will translate to paying users once the three-month free trial period ends.
Australia’s largest banks are balking at Apple Pay’s fees and slowing down the rollout of the payment service in their country, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Apple is reportedly demanding the same 15 cents on every $100 of transactions that the company is believed to receive from banks in the U.S., even though banks in Australia make half as much from interchange fees as compared to their U.S. counterparts. British banks struck a much tougher deal than those in the U.S., paying only a few cents on each £100 of transactions. With the reserve bank of Australia threatening to push interchange fees even lower — down from 50 cents to around 30 cents on each $100 of transactions — the timing of Apple Pay’s entry into the market makes the stakes of negotiations even higher for Australian banks.
Apple’s slice of the estimated $2 billion in interchange fees isn’t the only issue holding up talks. Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief executive Ian Narev said the CBA has been offering the same functionality to users through an app for Andriod phones for 2 years, so the introduction of Apple Pay isn’t as innovative in Australia as it was when it was introduced into the U.S. market in October 2014. Westpac, another Australian bank, also allows customers to pay with an Android phone, but notes that most customers still prefer to pay with their cards. National Australia Bank is rumored to be closer to a deal with Apple than the other major banks, but sources told Fairfax Media that a smaller bank may be the first to jump on-board, using an Apple Pay deal to appeal to iPhone users and draw in more customers.
Apple has introduced a larger size for its Sport bands, L/XL. The new size band is paired with the M/L band, while the S/M band is also paired with the M/L band. The new, larger sized band will fit up to 245mm wrists, where the M/L size fits up to 210mm wrists. Apple also introduced a 42mm Link Bracelet Kit for larger sizes — it extends the existing Link Bracelet an extra 40mm. Both the new Sport band and Link Bracelet Kit cost $49. [via 9to5Mac]
A new report from The Guardian reveals that Apple is in fact working on a self-driving car project in Silicon Valley, and has already began scouting for secure locations in the area to conduct testing. Documents obtained by the news agency reveal that Apple’s car project, dubbed Project Titan, may be further along than many previously suspected. The report reveals that engineers from a secret Special Project group within Apple met with officials from GoMentum Station, a former naval base near San Francisco that is being transformed to serve specifically as a testing ground for autonomous vehicles. The correspondence obtained by the Guardian cites a communication from an Apple engineer, Frank Fearon, to the base, stating that the company would “like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].”
An old naval weapons station, GoMentum Station is a high-security facility still guarded by the U.S. military with 20 miles of paved highways and city streets that make it particularly well-suited to the “testing validation and commercialization of connected vehicle (CV) applications and autonomous vehicles (AV) technologies to define the next generation of transportation network infrastructure,” according to officials. The facility has already been used by other car manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz and Honda to carry out experiments with self-driving cars. Apple has naturally declined to comment.
Samsung’s most recent appeal in the 2012 iPhone patent suit has been rejected, the San Jose Mercury News reports. On Thursday, the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Samsung’s request to re-examine the verdict that had ruled the company violated Apple’s iPhone patents — a verdict that had originally resulted in a judgement of more than $1 billion against Samsung (that award was later reduced). The appellate court upheld the core of Apple’s case against Samsung, essentially confirming the judgement that the South Korean company’s smartphones and tablets violated Apple’s iPhone patent rights. Other major Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Facebook, and Hewlett-Package had also backed Samsung’s appeal. This decision leaves an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court as Samsung’s only remaining recourse.
A new report from Bloomberg has confirmed an earlier report at the end of last month stating that Apple’s planned subscription TV service will be delayed into 2016. While the report notes that the company had wanted to introduce the service this fall, source familiar with Apple’s plans note that talks with TV networks such as subsidiaries of CBS and 21st Century Fox are progressing more slowly than expected. Further, Apple is apparently still working to build the network capacity to “ensure a good viewing experience.” As a result, Apple has reportedly canceled its original plan to announce the service in September with the beginning of the new network TV season, although the company is apparently still on track to introduce the rumored new Apple TV set-top box at the event.
Apple has updated its diversity report, outlining the company’s efforts in ensuring employment equality in the workplace. The latest report notes that Apple has hired over 11,000 women globally — an increase of 65 percent over the previous year — and that Apple hired more than 2,200 black employees and 2,700 Hispanic employees – increases of 50 percent and 66 percent, respectively, and that nearly 50 percent of all new U.S. hires in the first six months of 2015 were women, black, Hispanic, or Native American.
In comparison to last year’s diversity report, the breakdown now shows 54 percent of Apple employees identifying as white, with 18 percent Asian, 11 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent black. Three percent identified as belonging to multiple or other racial groups, while six percent did not declare their race. Gender distribution was 69 percent male and 31 percent female, globally, a one percent shift from last year’s numbers. In his comments released with the report, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated, “We are proud of the progress we’ve made, and our commitment to diversity is unwavering. But we know there is a lot more work to be done.”
Apple has released iOS 8.4.1 and iTunes 12.2.2, a pair of relatively minor updates that add fixes and enhancements mostly related to Apple’s Music and Beats 1 Radio services. iOS 8.4.1 notes fixes related to iCloud Music Library, adding songs to playlists, displaying album artwork, and resolves issues experienced by artists posting to Connect. iTunes 12.2.2 fixes a number of display and sorting problems related to Apple Music, and adds the ability to view a list of followed artists and see a schedule of upcoming Beats 1 programming. The iTunes update also allows artists using the Connect service to now post new content directly from within the iTunes app.
Apple is increasing its efforts to position the iPad as a work and business tool, The Wall Street Journal reports. With sales of the iPad having fallen recently, Apple has refocused its efforts on business computing, working with over 40 companies to build business solutions for the iPad. The move echoes last year’s partnership with IBM, but unlike that initiative, this appears to focus more on the small-to-medium business market.
Apple has reportedly involved officials from accounting firms and other partners in the business application program to train Apple business specialists, and has even invited some of its partners to present at a traditionally closed Apple sales conference. The company has also been working closely with its partners, reviewing apps and offering very detailed suggestions for improvements, and pairing up companies to build integrated solutions from complementary apps. Apple has internally referred to the initiative as the “mobility partner program,” although partners have been “discouraged” from using that name publicly. Further, in line with Apple’s typically secretive approach, many partners are still unclear on what their role will be in selling apps. The identities of most of the individual partners also remain undisclosed by Apple except in specific cases, so many partners don’t know who else is involved. Apple’s long-term goal has been described as hoping to sell curated bundles of applications for specific vertical markets, as opposed to simply leaving people to scour the App Store on their own, in turn positioning the iPad as a device that can be focused for specific business needs.
Apple has joined the NFC Forum as a top-tier sponsor and taken a seat on the group’s board of directors, NFC World reports. Apple introduced an NFC chip last year in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to enable Apple Pay and is now in a prime position to help steer new developments in the technology. The NFC Forum’s website now lists Apple among its sponsor members – the highest level of membership – alongside companies like Samsung, Visa and Sony. Aon Mujtaba, a director of wireless systems engineering at Apple, has been appointed the company’s representative on the NFC Forum board of directors. In June Apple made a similar move, gaining voting rights and a board seat in Bluetooth’s Special Interest Group by becoming a Promoter Member. [via 9to5Mac]