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Apple, Google, Adobe, Intel attempt to end poaching lawsuit

Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel have agreed to a settlement in the anti-poaching lawsuit, Reuters reports. The suit accused several large Silicon Valley companies of collaborating to avoid poaching each others employees while also fixing salaries, and was originally brought against Apple and several other companies in 2011 as a class action by about 100,000 tech employees. In late 2013, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ordered that the suit would proceed against Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel; the other defendants originally named – Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar – had previously settled out of court.

The suit originally requested damages of $9 billion, or about $90,000 in lost wages per employee. While the four companies offered a settlement of $324.5 million in April 2014, the proposal was rejected by Judge Koh as falling “below the range of reasonableness” after one of the plaintiffs objected. Judge Koh referred to a 2013 settlement involving Disney and Intuit, noting that Apple and Google workers received proportionally less than Disney workers, despite the “much more leverage” that the plaintiffs had against Apple and Google; Koh wrote that the deal with Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel “would need to total at least $380 million.” The new agreement is reportedly closer to a joint payment of $415 million, and a detailed explanation of the deal is expected to be filed “imminently” at which point Judge Koh will then need to either accept or reject the new filing.

Details on Apple Watch ‘Companion’ app revealed

A new report from 9to5Mac reveals details on the “Companion” app for the Apple Watch expected to appear in iOS 8.2. iOS Developer Steve Troughton-Smith discovered a method for loading the app on an iPhone, allowing screenshots to be captured, providing some insight into how the Apple Watch will interact with the iPhone.

Some of the features noted by the report include the ability for users to customize the Apple Watch home screen from the iPhone app, respond to messages via canned responses, voice dictation, or audio messages, and customize messaging features and notifications in a manner similar to the Messages settings on the iPhone itself. A new clock face feature, Monogram, has also been discovered, which will allow users to include a virtual embedded character ‘stamp’ on a clock face. Further investigation of the app also reveals more details about accessibility and how the passcode system on the Apple Watch will be implemented.

Apple responds to EU iTunes refund abuse

Following the introduction of its 14-day iTunes refund policy in Europe, Apple has apparently begun clamping down on refund abuse, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. Citing a tweet from developer Rosyna Keller, users who are detected by Apple as abusing the new refund policy will now be presented with a dialog box requiring them to acknowledge that they will no longer be eligible to receive a refund once they have downloaded the item in question.

Since iTunes and App Store purchases normally begin downloading automatically once the user clicks the “Buy” button, this effectively removes the user’s right to receive a refund as soon as they click the “Buy” button. The relevant EU consumer protection laws specify that refunds are generally only available if the user has not begun “downloading or streaming the content,” provided the user is notified and acknowledges that this is the case prior to completing the purchase. Apple’s own Right of Withdrawal policy explicitly notes this as well:

You cannot cancel your order for the supply of digital content if the delivery has started upon your request and acknowledgement that you thereby lose your cancellation right.

In this case, it would appear that Apple has, by default, chosen the more user-friendly approach of providing a seamless one-click download experience rather than interrupting the user with additional confirmation popups. However, for those abusing the refund system – using it as a “try-before-you-buy” option, or taking advantage of a loophole previously reported by 9to5Mac – Apple is basically enforcing the letter of the law by notifying users that they will lose their right to a refund once they begin downloading the app, effectively requiring them to acknowledge that this is the case.

 

Apple releases additional specs on third-party Lightning port support

Following Apple’s announcement that third-party manufacturers will be able to license the female Lightning port, the company has now released more detailed specifications for how the port can be implemented various accessories, 9to5Mac reports. Apple is apparently hoping that a large range of different accessories will move from micro-USB to the Lightning port standard, and will allow manufacturers to have the port draw power from any MFi-certified power adapter, as well as providing passthrough charging and syncing for iOS devices connected to the other side of the accessory, such as iPhones used in battery cases. The passthrough feature could also allow a dock to simultaneously charge an iPhone while also providing audio output to Lightning headphones.

The specs note, however, that only one Lightning port will be allowed per accessory, ruling out the development of Lightning splitters or hubs. Faster charging will be possible via Lightning, however, with MFi-certified USB power adapters providing power ranging from a minimum of 1.0A to the Apple-recommended 2.4A level suitable for charging an iPad at full speed. Unfortunately, at this point the Lightning port is only available in sample quantities for development purposes, and all specs remain in “Developer Preview” mode, with some sections still listed as “to be determined.” It’s therefore unclear when the first accessories with female Lightning ports will actually appear.

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.

CES 2015: Day Two

It’s the second day of the 2015 International CES, so be sure to keep our CES Special Edition site up for live coverage throughout the day. We’ve already seen new products from more than 60 companies, including Adonit, IK Multimedia, iHome, Incipio, JBL, LifeProof, Logitech, Mophie, Scosche, Speck, Tylt, ZeroChroma, and many, many more.

We’ve got plenty more to sort through today, and we’ll reveal our Best of Show winners on Thursday. Our full CES coverage thus far can be seen on our Special Edition site.

CES 2015: Day One

Before CES even kicks off officially today, iLounge has already seen tons of new products from some of the biggest companies in the industry: Belkin, Griffin, iHome, JBL, Just Mobile, Olloclip, Otterbox, and many, many more. Of course, we’ve also got the details on unique products from smaller companies, too. You can find it all on our CES Special Edition site. Keep hitting the site up throughout the day — and all week long — for our continuing live coverage of the 2015 International CES.

iDevices announces Switch, the first Apple-certified HomeKit accessory

Today at CES 2015, iDevices announced Switch ($50), the first Apple-certified HomeKit product. Designed as an iOS controlled wall power accessory, Switch allows users to plug into any standard AC outlet for controlling standard household devices such as lamps and other appliances. Switch features both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE support to provide for flexible connectivity options, and will also provide the ability to act as a BTLE-to-Wi-Fi hub, a capability that will in the future allow other BTLE-only devices such as door locks to be controlled centrally from anywhere that Internet access is available. We got an early look at Switch before its official announcement and took a few pictures.

iLounge launches CES 2015 Special Edition site

iLounge has launched our Special Edition site covering the 2015 International CES. We’ve already got the scoop on a number of new products before the show even officially begins — be sure to keep checking the site throughout the week for continuing coverage on what’s going down in the iOS accessory world at CES!

Happy New Year 2015 from iLounge!

Happy New Year from iLounge! We’ll be on a limited publication schedule today and Thursday as we begin 2015 with our families and friends. We’ll return to our normal posting schedule on Friday, Jan. 2.

It’s definitely been an interesting 2014 for Apple, as the company unsurprisingly delayed its biggest releases to a series of fall events. However, we eventually saw the growth of the iPhone into two new, larger-screened models, the introduction of the thinner iPad Air 2, and the announcement of the long-rumored Apple Watch, setting the stage for an interesting 2015. While the iOS accessories and app markets are clearly maturing, there are still cool new products to surprise and delight us, and we’ve highlighted the year’s best Apple and third-party hardware and software releases in a special awards article.

We’ll again be heading out to Las Vegas later this week to prepare for the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show. As always, companies will unveil their latest and greatest iOS products at the show — debuting in our iProducts Marketplace and elsewhere during the week. The 2015 International CES officially kicks off next Tuesday. Feel free to browse through our archives until we return, and please join us for our upcoming CES live coverage. Once again, Happy New Year!

Apple introduces 14-day refund policy on iTunes purchases in the EU

Apple has introduced a fourteen-day return policy for iTunes purchases in EU countries, according to a new report by iFun. Outlined in a Right of Withdrawal document on Apple’s web site, the policy states that customers can cancel iTunes orders within 14 days from the date they receive their receipt, without a requirement to provide any reason. The policy also covers purchases such as iTunes Match and Season Pass subscriptions, as well as unredeemed iTunes Gifts and Allowances. Users can apparently request a “cancellation” of their iTunes order by using the “Report a Problem” form within iTunes and submitting a model cancellation form provided in the document, or “making any other clear statement.” While Apple’s policy document provides some additional clauses that are a bit unclear, the original report notes that people have already begun receiving refunds under the new policy, which appears to be a result of recent EU consumer protection initiatives.

Report: Beats Music arranging exclusive releases

Apple executive and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine is apparently in talks with artists about doing exclusive releases for Beats Music, the New York Post reports. Executives responsible for the music subscription service are said to be looking to replicate the success that artists such as Beyoncé have had with exclusive iTunes releases by bringing such exclusivity to the streaming side. Beats will apparently be able to leverage the connections it already has with artists such as Nicki Minaj, Will.i.am, Pharrell, Kanye West and Gwen Stefani. Record labels are reportedly less enthusiastic about the idea of artists making their own side deals with music streaming services. Beats Music launched last year and has an estimated subscriber base of around 300,000 users. Since acquiring the service earlier this year, Apple has reportedly been working to integrate Beats Music more tightly into its iOS and iTunes ecosystem, so exclusive artist deals may also be intended to pave the way for a rebranding and relaunch of the Beats Music service under a more Apple-centric branding.

Apple announces annual Japanese Lucky Bag promotion

Apple has once again announced its Japanese New Year’s promotion, offering Apple Store customers in Japan the opportunity to purchase “lucky bags.” The annual event will kick off at the company’s Japanese retail locations at 8 a.m. on January 2.

It has been a long-standing tradition among retailers in Japan to offer “lucky bags” or Fukubukuro on New Year’s Day. Containing random items, these grab bags are sold at significant discounts, and customers can potentially score some great deals depending on what they end up with in their bag – customers are required to purchase the bags without first knowing what’s in them. Last year the bags were sold for ¥36,000 (around $344 US at that time), however this year’s pricing has not yet been revealed. Apple’s lucky bags typically contain bundles of accessories that are always collectively worth the asking price, although lucky customers may even find iPods, iPads, or MacBook Airs in their bags.

Happy Holidays from iLounge!

On behalf of all of iLounge’s staff and volunteers we’d like to wish the happiest of holidays to you and yours. We will be on a limited publication schedule for the next few days as we celebrate with our families and friends, and we will return to our regular posting schedule on Monday, December 29th.

Hopefully, you’ll find a new iPhone, iPad, iPod, accessory, or gift card wrapped in a shiny box over the next few days! Let us know below what sort of Apple goodies you received or gave as gifts for the holidays!

If you’re looking for a way to spend either a gift card or a few dollars, don’t forget to check out our Best of the Year 2014 Awards, which highlight our top picks from the past year in more than 25 different categories of products, from cases to speakers to apps and games. We also have a Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide, which takes a look at some of the best products that came out after our Best of the Year awards were already decided. And as always, check out iLounge’s collection of thousands of reviews, covering products for all iPhone, iPad, and iPod models.

We hope all of you have a great and relaxing holiday!

Russian Apple Online Store returns with increased prices

Apple has restored its Russian online store after pulling it down last week due to “extreme” ruble fluctuations. Though the store is now back online, it’s returned with higher prices. iPhone prices have been increased by 35 percent — a 16GB iPhone 6 now costs 53,990 rubles ($956), up from the recent price of 39,990 rubles. As noted by Bloomberg, the iPhone’s price in Russia has increased 69 percent in less than a month.

Cook ‘deeply offended’ by BBC allegations

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is “deeply offended” by allegations in a new BBC documentary regarding Apple’s handling of workers at its Chinese suppliers, The Telegraph reports. In a BBC investigative report which aired last night, BBC’s Panorama revealed poor treatment of workers and a breach of working hour standards, after sending undercover reporters into factories run by Apple supplier Pegatron located on the outskirts of Shanghai.

This morning, Apple Senior Vice President of Operations Jeff Williams sent out an e-mail to around 5,000 UK staffers, saying that both he and Apple CEO Tim Cook were “deeply offended by the suggestion that Apple would break a promise to the workers in our supply chain or mislead our customers in any way,” and that in terms of accusations that Apple isn’t improving working conditions, “nothing could be further from the truth.” Williams alleges that Apple had shared “facts and perspective” regarding its commitment to human rights with the BBC, and that these details were “clearly missing from their programme.”

We know of no other company doing as much as Apple does to ensure fair and safe working conditions, to discover and investigate problems, to fix and follow through when issues arise, and to provide transparency into the operations of our suppliers.

In response to the BBC’s report that workers were falling asleep during extremely long shifts and being required to work numerous days while repeatedly being denied requests for time off, Williams responded that Apple has been tracking the weekly hours of “over one million workers” in its various manufacturing partners and that all of its suppliers are at an average of 93 percent compliance with Apple’s 60-hour work week limit. Williams conceded that the company can do better, but maintains its commitment to doing so.

The BBC documentary also claimed that it had found cases of child workers and dangerous working conditions in the mines on the Indonesian island of Bangka, where Apple sources its tin supply from. Williams responded to this in much the same way as Apple’s original statement, noting that “Apple has publicly stated that tin from Indonesia ends up in our products, and some of that tin likely comes from illegal mines,” but that the situation is complex and the company is actively working to improve the situation in that country, believing that remaining engaged is the more responsible course of action, rather than sourcing tin from elsewhere. Since Apple consumes a relatively small portion of the tin mined in Indonesia, Williams stated that simply sourcing tin from elsewhere would “do nothing to improve the situation for Indonesian workers.”

In the internal e-mail, Wiliams assured staff that despite Apple’s position on the documentary itself, the company is taking all of the allegations seriously and plans to investigate all of the claims that have been made, acknowledging that the company is aware that there are “a lot of issues out there” and that Apple “will not rest until every person in our supply chain is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

BBC investigative report claims Apple fails to protect Chinese workers

Apple has not lived up to its commitment to improve working conditions in its Chinese suppliers’ factories, according to a new undercover BBC investigation. In a documentary scheduled to air tonight, titled “Apple’s Broken Promises,” BBC Panorama shows what conditions inside a Chinese iPhone 6 production line are really like. The investigation found standards being breached at Pegatron factories on everything from workers’ hours, to dormitories, to juvenile workers — all areas in which Apple had promised sweeping improvements over the past several years. The documentary includes footage of exhausted workers falling asleep on 12-hour shifts, an undercover reporter who was forced to work 18 days in a row despite repeated requests for time off, and another reporter who worked shifts of up to 16 hours. Panorama also followed Apple’s supply chain down to the Indonesian island of Bangka, and found evidence that tin from illegal mines could be entering Apple’s supply chain, despite the company’s dedication to ethical sourcing of minerals. Investigative reporters also found children digging tin ore out of the mines by hand under extremely dangerous conditions.

Apple declined to be interviewed for the story, but the company did release a statement saying that it is “aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions.” The company noted that it was a “very common practice” for workers to nap during breaks, but that it would “investigate any evidence” of workers falling asleep while actually working. In its statement, the company said that it had monitored the working hours of “more than a million workers” and that the workers at the particular plant in question were averaging 55 hours per week. Responding to the situation in Bangka, Apple described it as a “complex situation” as many miners sell tin through a series of middle men, so it’s not always possible to confirm the sources of tin, but Apple remains engaged in Bangka to attempt to “drive changes on the ground” to improve the situation there.

Panorama: Apple’s Broken Promises airs tonight on BBC One and will be available later on BBC’s iPlayer platform.

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.

Tim Cook announces $20M raised for (PRODUCT)RED in internal e-mail

Apple CEO Tim Cook has sent out an e-mail to employees announcing that Apple has raised $20 million this quarter for (PRODUCT)RED, iClarified reports, with Apple’s Holiday (PRODUCT)RED campaign likely contributing the lion’s share of the fundraising, which goes to support the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.

I’m thrilled to announce that our total donation for this quarter will be more than $20 million — our biggest ever — bringing the total amount Apple has raised for (PRODUCT) RED to over $100 million. The money we’ve raised is saving lives and bringing hope to people in need. It’s a cause we can all be proud to support.”

Apple has long been a supporter of the (PRODUCT)RED campaign, beginning with the debut of the iPod nano (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition in 2006, although this year’s World AIDS Day 2014 campaign was the largest the company has undertaken, and the first time App Store content has been included.

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