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Apple to drop iPhone 3G, 3GS support as of June 9th

Apple will be discontinuing support for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS effective June 9, 9to5Mac reports. Citing Apple internal documents, the report notes that the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3G (China), iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 3GS (China) will be designated as “Obsolete” in Asia-Pacific/Canada/EU/Japan/Latin America and all Apple Retail Stores, while these models will be designated as “Vintage” in the U.S., where Apple is still required to provide hardware service for a longer period of time as required by California law. The original iPhone, which was declared obsolete outside of the U.S. in 2013, will also lose its U.S. “Vintage” status and be added to the U.S. “Obsolete” list as well. Apple typically declares products “Vintage” when they have not been manufactured for more than five years, but less than seven. “Obsolete” products are those that have not been manufactured for more than seven years.

Report: Spotify to discontinue free streaming tier?

Spotify may be planning to effectively eliminate its free, ad-supported streaming option, according to a new report by Digital Music News. The change would see the popular streaming music service limit free ad-supported access to a three month “trial” period, rather than the current open-ended and unlimited plan that many users currently enjoy. Spotify is said to be resisting this change, and has been trying to make the case that its “freemium-to-premium” migration path is working to effectively create new paying subscribers, however the service is under pressure from Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, who remain generally unconvinced and have reportedly disliked unpaid streaming options from the very beginning. While no mention is made of Apple’s attempts to sway the music industry to kill off licenses for free streaming for Spotify and YouTube, it seems likely that Apple’s new paid-only Apple Music service could factor into the labels’ decision-making process.

The three-month “proposal” would allow some artists and labels to extend availability of their content past three months through “emerging” or “up-and-coming” playlists, as well as continuing to allow for a non-interactive radio-style streaming feature. Both of these are similar to ideas likely to be included in Apple Music as well, further suggesting that the labels’ negotiations with Apple are having a backlash effect on existing services. It is not clear, however, whether specific artists would be able to limit free access entirely — an issue that has previously caused major artists such as Adele and Taylor Swift to leave services such as Spotify entirely. Further, not all labels are entirely on board with the new proposal, with some, such as Warner Music Group, suggesting that free streaming services are valuable at providing an alternative to outright piracy while still providing a small trickle of revenue.

Report: Apple pushes HomeKit launch to fall (Update: Apple responds)

Apple has delayed the launch of its HomeKit home automation platform until the fall, Fortune reports. Originally expected to arrive in May or June, sources participating in the program have revealed that the launch date has been moved back to “something closer to late August or September.” While Apple has not formally announced a launch date, several HomeKit partners had suggested at CES that products could be expected this spring, with one even suggesting that they could arrive “in time for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.”

While Apple is now said to be planning a smaller HomeKit announcement in the near term, the official launch has been pushed out to later this year, with sources indicating the delays were a result of the code base for managing online devices having grown too large for the smaller, battery-powered iOS devices, and Apple now requiring more time to shrink the code back down to something manageable.

Update: Apple told The Wall Street Journal the first HomeKit accessories will be arriving in June.

Apple objects to inclusion of customer data in sale of RadioShack assets

Apple has filed a formal objection with a U.S. bankruptcy court to prevent the transfer of customer information as part of RadioShack’s auctioned-off assets, according to a new report from the Dallas Business Journal. In its filing, Apple claims that a reseller agreement it had in place with RadioShack prohibits the company from selling information specific to Apple’s customers, and further claims that such information does not “fall within RadioShack’s estate,” giving it no right to sell the information at all. AT&T has also filed similar claims, along with the State of Texas; the latter claiming that the sale of customer data would violate the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and other consumer protection laws. The state filing also points out RadioShack’s online and in-store privacy policies that promised customers that their information would never be sold. The customer information in question allegedly includes up to 117 million customer files, according to the court documents.

Investment firm Standard General won the auction for RadioShack’s assets earlier this week, however while the bankruptcy court has accepted the winning bid, it has not yet granted formal approval for the sale. At this point, the court could conceivably halt the sale entirely, however legal experts believe that it’s more likely that the court would simply exclude the customer info from the assets being transferred to the buyer. The hearing for these claims is expected to occur next week. [via MacRumors]

Apple Music service to include social pages for artists

Apple’s new Beats-based streaming music service, expected to be named “Apple Music”, will feature Ping-like social network pages for artists, 9to5Mac reports. While the network won’t extend to users of the service, artists will be able to setup their own pages that can be used to post information such as track samples, photos, videos, and concert updates. Artists will also be able to cross-promote by sharing content from other artists on their own pages, and users will be able to comment on and like content on artist pages, but will not be able to create or post their own content.

It appears the feature will be referred to as “Artist Activity” and can be disabled in Restrictions, as evidenced by a new setting found in the latest iOS 8.4 beta. The feature is expected to be available across the iOS, Android, and Mac versions of Apple Music, although it remains unclear whether it will also come to the Apple TV.

Lack of Activation Lock makes Apple Watch easier theft target

A new report from iDownloadblog highlights how Apple’s latest wearable device lacks the important theft deterrent feature found on Apple’s other mobile devices. First introduced in iOS 7, Apple’s Activation Lock feature prevents an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that is associated with an iCloud account from being erased and reactivated without the iCloud Apple ID and password of the original owner. As this feature has become common knowledge, would-be thieves appear to have deemed iOS devices not worth stealing, resulting in a measurable drop in iPhone theft rates.

In its current form, the Apple Watch does not include this feature, and as the report notes, it is currently “extremely easy” to wipe an Apple Watch to factory settings and pair it with a new device. Although the Apple Watch is arguably less prone to loss or theft as a wearable device, it seems like an odd omission to exclude this now-standard iOS feature — but it’s worth noting that Activation Lock is intrinsically tied to Apple’s Find My iPhone feature, which is similarly absent from the Apple Watch due to its lack of the independent cellular, Wi-Fi, and GPS hardware that would be required to support it.

Tesla hires Apple’s Senior Director of Corporate Recruiting

Apple and Tesla are continuing to lure away each other’s senior employees, 9to5Mac reports, with Apple’s Senior Director of Corporate Recruiting, Cindy Nicola, joining Tesla as that company’s new Vice President of Global Recruiting. Apple previously hired away Tesla’s Lead Recruiter last year to join its own electric car project, amidst other automotive experts. Tesla has reportedly been hiring top talent from Apple in recent months as well, although this latest hiring appears to be taking the poaching of employees up a notch.

Apple settling lawsuit with A123 Systems

Apple is close to settling a lawsuit brought by battery maker A123 Systems earlier this year, The Boston Globe reports. A123, which makes large lithium-ion batteries for vehicles, accused Apple of poaching five of the company’s key engineers last June - fueling speculation that the engineers were working on Apple’s rumored electric car project. Apple asked a judge to dismiss the case in March to no avail. The two sides reported Tuesday that they “have reached an agreement, signed a term sheet, and are in the process of drafting a final settlement agreement.” The terms of the agreement haven’t been made public.

WWE Network comes to Apple TV in UK, Ireland; Australia, Japan and Scandinavia also get new channels

The WWE Network is now available to Apple TV users in the United Kingdom and Ireland. WWE’s channel requires a subscription to access pay-per-view content and the network’s on demand library. WWE Network launched on Apple TV in the U.S. last year. Bandai appeared yesterday on Apple TVs in Japan and Australian users picked up Stan, a channel with localized movies, TV shows and children’s programming. Users in Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark now have access to Viaplay, which features local sports content, movies and TV shows. U.S. and Canadian users received new channels last week. [via 9to5 Mac]

Greenpeace finds Apple to be a ‘green Internet’ leader

Apple is leading the way on clean energy among companies delivering Internet services, according to a new Greenpeace report. The report praises the company’s efforts to use only renewable energy to power its facilities, noting all three of Apple’s data center expansions announced in the past year will be powered by renewable energy sources. Apple was the only one of the 13 tech firms listed to score 100 percent on Greenpeace’s Clean Energy Index and earn “A” rankings across the board for energy transparency, efficiency, policy and advocacy, placing the company head and shoulders above others in the industry. Apple was also praised for pushing affiliated companies to adopt cleaner energy standards, since much of Apple’s environmental impact comes from third-party suppliers. “Apple’s commitment to a 100 percent renewable cloud appears to be driving change not only among Apple’s utility sector partners, but also among other major data center operators that play a supporting role in the delivery of Apple’s online products,” the report notes. Other innovative ideas, like using a Denmark data center’s excess heat to warm other buildings, are taken as proof of Apple going above and beyond what others in the industry are doing to creatively limit waste.

Apple CEO Tim Cook ‘bullish’ on Apple Pay, iPhone sales in China

Visiting Beijing to tout Apple’s environmental strides in China, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Xinhua he is “very bullish on Apple Pay” for the country, despite a series of snags that has kept the payment system from going live there. Once Apple Pay is available, Cook said he believes China will adopt it even faster than the U.S. has. China has already become a more lucrative market than the U.S. for iPhone sales, with Apple overtaking local phone maker Xiaomi to become the top smartphone vendor in China. “I think China is a market where everyone will own a smart phone,” Cook said, adding he hopes to convince “a reasonable percentage” of that market to carry the iPhone. Apple is rapidly expanding its retail presence in China to meet growing demand, opening seven more Apple stores since the start of 2015 and planning to nearly double the current total of 22 stores by the middle of 2016. “Forty is a good objective for us for mid next year,” said Cook, “That is not where we want to end. We’ll keep adding from there.”

Noted analyst lists 11 predictions for new iPhone

In a note to investors, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo — who seems to be right about Apple products more frequently than most analysts — has made 11 big predictions about new iPhone models to be released this year. Kuo sees new 4.7-inch and 5.5 inch iPhone models in mass production by late August, but doesn’t think a new 4-inch model is coming in 2015 for those turned off by the new larger iPhones. His predictions for the new “iPhone 6s” and “iPhone 6s Plus” models include Force Touch, an A9 processor with 2GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel camera and a rose gold color option. Here’s the full list:

(1) Force Touch will be the biggest upgraded selling point, but also one of the main bottlenecks of the supply chain. Force Touch can enhance user experience due to more input methods and support of handwritten signatures, which is beneficial for expanding in the commercial market;
(2) Screen will remain at 4.7 and 5.5 inches, with resolution the same as existing models. There will be no new 4-inch model;
(3) There will be an additional casing color, rose gold, matching the rose gold Apple Watch Edition;
(4) The camera will have a pixel upgrade, likely to 12 MP;
(5) One microphone will be added near the speaker to enhance voice quality;
(6) The A9 processor with upgraded 2GB LPDDR4 will be adopted;
(7) The bending issue will be improved by using different casing materials and internal mechanical design changes;
(8) If drop test issues can be resolved, the 5.5-inch model will have a limited number of units with sapphire cover lens;
(9) The recognition rate of Touch ID will be improved further in a bid to promote Apple Pay;
(10) Gesture control support; and
(11) It’s expected that mass production will start in mid-to-late August. Total shipments will be 80-90mn in 2015, with a 2:1 ratio of 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models.

[via MacRumors]

Apple releases third iOS 8.4 beta to developers

Apple has released its third beta of iOS 8.4 to developers, continuing to focus on the new iOS Music app. Featuring a build number of 12H4098c, the release is also accompanied by a new Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment. The release notes for this latest beta indicate both improvements and limitations in App Extensions, the iTunes Store, Siri, Videos, and WatchKit, as well as with the new Music app. The new Music app appears to continue having a long list of issues that remain to be addressed, with limited progress since the first beta, although the language of several has been softened from phrases such as “does not work” to “may not work” suggesting that Apple is perhaps slowly working on improvements in these areas.

Apple experimenting with silver nanowire tech for ‘iPad Pro’ touch panel?

Apple has received samples of silver nanowire materials to be used for touch screens in a “large screen iPad, which will be released next year,” Korean outlet ETNews reports. The new material is thinner and more pressure sensitive than the indium tin oxide film used in current touch screen displays, allowing the silver nanowire to be incorporated into thinner devices. The more touch sensitive material could augment Apple’s Force Touch technology, already available in Apple Watch and newer MacBooks, and rumored to be featured in the coming “iPad Pro.” The silver nanowire can even maintain an electrical signal when bent or snapped, making it ideal for use in flexible screens. The material is also cheaper to create because rare materials like indium aren’t required and major display suppliers like LG and Samsung already have the ability to mass produce it. [via Apple Insider]

Fiat CEO meets with Tim Cook over Apple’s ‘intervention in the car’

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said he has met with Apple CEO Tim Cook, but was tight-lipped about the details of the meeting, Reuters reports. Marchionne told the press that Cook is “interested in Apple’s intervention in the car,” but declined any further comment about Apple’s rumored car project. Recently, Marchionne told Bloomberg he was open to the possibility of collaborating with companies like Apple and Google, saying he was intrigued by how tech firms can disrupt marketplaces. “If they show up and they are truly successful, with their cash piles and know-how, they could fundamentally hurt this industry,” Marchionne said. Fiat is an official Apple CarPlay partner.

Apple announces new environmental initiatives in China

Apple is expanding its environmental protection and renewable energy push in China, announcing that it has partnered with World Wildlife Fund to protect up to a million acres of sustainable forest land in China to produce the fiber used in Apple packaging and products. This adds to the 36,000 acres of working forests the company is working to conserve in the U.S. with the help of The Conservation Fund. Apple is also partnering with several Chinese power companies to create two more solar farms. The company’s first solar project in China, started only three weeks ago, will produce enough power to run all of Apple’s corporate offices and retail stores in the country. The additional solar farms will generate up to 80 million kilowatt hours of additional clean energy that Apple can feed back into the Chinese power grid, bringing Apple closer to its goal of running its operations on 100 percent renewable energy.

With the company sitting at 87 percent now, CEO Tim Cook acknowledged the large scale of the task — especially since much of the environmental fallout related to Apple products comes from third-party suppliers out of the company’s direct control — but doubled down on the company’s commitment to achieving it. “This won’t happen overnight — in fact it will take years — but it’s important work that has to happen, and Apple is in a unique position to take the initiative toward this ambitious goal. It is a responsibility we accept. We are excited to work with leaders in our supply chain who want to be on the cutting edge of China’s green transformation,” Cook said.

Apple streaming music service to provide limited free listening options

Apple is apparently looking at options to provide limited free listening options for users of its new streaming music service, Re/Code reports. While Apple still doesn’t intend to offer a free tier, the new report suggests that some limited listening options will be available, designed to push users toward the paid streaming model. Industry sources have suggested that Apple is considering offering free trial periods of one to three months and a feature that will allow labels to provide a sampling of songs that users can listen to. Sources also note that Apple intends to not only continue offering its free, ad-supported iTunes Radio service, but is expected to be working to enhance it, having acquired new talent expressly for this purpose.

First Nintendo mobile game expected to arrive this year

Nintendo may be on track to release its first iOS game later this year, according to details revealed in the company’s Financial Results Briefing. Back in March, reports surfaced that the company was partnering with DeNA to allow its intellectual property to be used on non-Nintendo mobile hardware. The latest report refers rather obliquely to games for “smart devices,” making it unclear which platforms the company may be targeting for the initial release, however the current plan suggests that the company will debut one title later this year, with four more expected to arrive by March 2017. Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata’s comments make it clear that the company is taking a cautious and measured approach to ensure that customers will “appreciate the quality” of the games developed for smart device platforms, with designs intended to “match the play styles” of other devices, as opposed to simply being direct ports, and that the company will “carefully select appropriate IP and titles for our smart device deployment.” Iwata goes on to state that five titles is “not a small number at all” and that it “should demonstrate our serious commitment to the smart device business.” [via Engadget]

Ericsson continues Apple patent suit in Europe

Continuing a legal battle that began in January with Apple, Reuters reports that Ericsson has now filed patent infringement lawsuits in Germany, Britain, and the Netherlands. The legal actions, which concern licensing fees and royalties over LTE patents, were escalated in February as the Swedish company filed seven additional lawsuits in the U.S. and asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate. The dispute began after the two companies were unable to come to an agreement on appropriate licensing arrangements, even after offers of arbitration. Ericsson now claims that Apple is infringing on as many as 41 patents related to mobile device communications, user interfaces, battery conservation, and the operating system itself, while Apple insists that Ericsson is demanding excessive royalties for its LTE patents and that the patents are “not essential to industry cellular standards.”

Music services accuse App Store pricing of being anticompetititve

Following reports earlier this week that Apple has been using its influence to encourage record labels to kill off free streaming licenses for services like Spotify and YouTube, some services are accusing Apple of anticompetitive pricing as a result of its App Store subscription model. Several music industry sources have spoken with The Verge, strongly calling out Apple for the thirty percent cut that it takes from all in-app subscriptions, which of course includes subscriptions to services such as Spotify and Rdio. While the sources acknowledge that some fee for administrative overhead is reasonable, the feeling is that a 30 percent cut is excessive.

The sense is that Apple gets an unfair pricing advantage for its own upcoming streaming service, as other services are forced to either give up 30 percent of their base fees to Apple, or raise their prices for in-app subscriptions to make up the difference. While most of these services provide alternate methods for purchasing subscriptions outside of the App Store, such as visiting the company’s web site directly, Apple’s App Store Guidelines specifically prohibit redirecting users to a web site or even providing this information in the app itself, resulting in many users not being aware of another way to purchase a subscription.

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