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Apple continues extended search for retail chief

Apple’s search for a new retail chief continues as the company has still not settled on a finalist for the position, The Wall Street Journal reports. Since the departure of John Browett in late October, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been overseeing retail. Wireless and telecommunication executives have been interviewed for the open position, but “rejected as a poor fit,” according to sources. Apple was turned down by a “CEO of a privately held retailer in France,” who believed it would be tough to “change Apple’s culture as an outsider.” Outsiders, however, are all that Apple appears to be interested in, as a source said the company isn’t considering internal candidates for the position. Sales at Apple retail stores are still high, but down 4.5 percent per square foot in this fiscal year.

Apps: Bento, Bloodmasque, Hipmunk 3.1, Peek-a-Zoo + Temple Run 2 1.4

Apple-owned Filemaker has announced that it will stop offering its Bento app for iPad ($10) and iPhone ($5) after Sept. 30. The company will also discontinue support for the personal database app after July 30, 2014.

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Square Enix’s new Bloodmasque ($7) is a vampire hunting game that mixes Infinity Blade-style fighting with the RPG elements Square fans have come to expect. Bloodmasque allows a team of vampire hunters to fight together in multiplayer action, with one player taking control of a customizable on-screen hero, assisted by others. Players are given a fair amount of virtual controller freedom while exploring towns, and the game is heavy on story elements, as well. One of the more notable features lets users swap in a photo of their own face to create their character — or a photo of anyone else. Up to three photos can be added to express different emotions for the user’s virtual hunter. The graphics are top-notch, and as such, Square Enix notes the game may consume battery life “relatively quickly.”

Hipmunk has updated Hipmunk Flights & Hotels (free) to version 3.1.0. The app has added Tonight Only hotel deals, which allows travelers to find a hotel room for up to 60 percent off. Also, Fare Alerts allow users to be notified instantly whenever airfare changes. The interface for the iPad side of the app has also been improved.

Apple informs MobileMe users of expiring free iCloud storage

Apple is now notifying former MobileMe members via email that the free 20GB iCloud storage upgrade they received will be expiring on Sept. 30, as was announced last year. iCloud storage for those users will revert to the free 5GB plan after the complimentary upgrade expires. Users who wish to retain their extra iCloud storage must purchase a storage plan by Sept. 30. An Apple support document provides additional details.

SMS Audio launches Street by 50 headphones

SMS Audio has released its new Street by 50 Over-Ear Active Noise Control Wired headphones ($280). The 50 Cent-branded headphones feature active noise cancellation, 40 mm drivers and leather memory foam ear cushions. With the rechargeable lithium ion battery, listeners can get up to 70 hours of music playback.

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The foldable headphones come with a removable cable with microphone, micro-USB cable, airplane adaptor, and carrying case. Street by 50 Over-Ear Active Noise Control Wired headphones come in silver or black and are available now.

Apple acquires wireless chip developer Passif

Apple has acquired wireless chip developer Passif Semiconductor, according to a report. Passif specializes in making Bluetooth LE communication chips. The report notes Passif’s technology is “promising for health-monitoring and fitness devices that need extra-long battery life.” It’s been reported that Apple’s upcoming iWatch will be focused on fitness. Apple verified the acquisition, as a company spokeswoman said, “Apple buys small technology companies from time to time.” This is Apple’s known third acquisition in recent weeks, following the company’s additions of Locationary and Hopstop. [via Jessica Lessin]

Patent filing reveals iPhone-stored user environments

A new Apple patent application details a system in which a user can use a device such as an iPhone to learn and configure environmental preferences, especially in a car. For example, a user sitting in a car might set up his or her car seat, steering wheel, power mirror, radio, and climate control preferences. An iPhone could conceivably store this information, and “when the user visits another automobile, such as when renting a car, or buying a new car,” the preferences could be imported to adjust the car’s settings.

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The system described is a more advanced version of Apple’s iOS in the Car, featured in iOS 7. In some embodiments of the system, a home or room environment can be adjusted — climate control, television, and lighting preferences may be able to be adjusted in a house or a hotel room, for instance. [via Apple Insider]

iOS 7 beta 4 fixes charger hack

A recently revealed charger hack for iOS devices has been fixed in iOS 7 beta 4, Reuters reports. The known hack involves using a malicious charger to invisibly install malware on an iOS device in less than a minute, and was officially unveiled at the Black Hat hacking conference on Wednesday. Apple confirmed the latest iOS 7 beta has fixed the issue. The hack will still work on devices running iOS 6.

Hi-res photos show iPad 5 rear housing

Another rear housing for the fifth-generation iPad has allegedly been leaked in very clear photos, which appear to be legitimate. The images suggest again that Apple has at least contemplated a rear microphone for this model, as a centered rear hole appears to be located behind the front-facing camera. Notably, a rear-facing mic was taken out of the iPad mini before release, and some early iPad 5 cases omit the hole.

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The report claims the fifth-gen iPad bezel is “now measuring at 3 mm” around the edges of the screen, but it’s impossible to tell if this is true without the front piece of the device. As with prior leaks, there is no space for a rear flash on the device. [via FanaticFone.com]

Retina iPad mini in 4Q, new rear shell colors?

Apple suppliers are readying mass production in the fourth quarter for a new Retina display iPad mini that will “likely feature” a Samsung screen, according to The Wall Street Journal. Sharp and LG Display will also reportedly make screens for the next iPad mini. The report also notes Apple has “been contemplating multiple color back covers for the new tablet.” A number of reports — including a Wednesday report — have also referenced a non-Retina second-generation iPad mini, but it’s unclear when such a device would be released, if at all.

iOS 7 code points to faster, non-Retina iPad mini?

References spotted in the iOS 7 SDK appear to show that Apple is testing a new, faster iPad mini without a Retina display, 9to5Mac reports. The code refers to the same A6 processor found in Apple’s iPhone 5, which would be faster than the current iPad mini processor. A lack of “@2x” references — generally how developers reference a Retina display — hint that this device would be non-Retina. As the report notes, there is no way to tell whether Apple is merely testing such a model, or if it will be released as a final product. Recent reports have noted that a non-Retina iPad mini could be released this year, possibly as an interim model before a 2014 Retina mini.

Cook meets with China Mobile chairman

Apple CEO Tim Cook met Tuesday with the chairman of China Mobile, Reuters reports. China Mobile, the world’s largest carrier, is the only major Chinese carrier not currently offering the iPhone. Cook and China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua discussed “matters of cooperation” in Beijing, according to China Mobile, suggesting that a partnership to sell iPhones to the company’s customers is becoming more likely. It was previously speculated that Cook would meet with China Mobile during his visit.

Apps: Kindle 3.9, Prince of Persia, Riptide GP2 + Yahoo! Fantasy Football 5.0

Amazon has just released version 3.9 of its free Kindle app. The app now allows for a free sample search — using the existing Library Search, customers can now search books and download free samples from within the app. Also notable in the new update is the ability to use previously purchased dictionaries or translation references to look up word definitions in other books. Accessibility gestures for blind and visually impaired customers have also been added for quick reference, and the new Instant Cover Loader displays book covers quickly.

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Prince of Persia: The Shadow and the Flame ($3) from Ubisoft brings a new chapter to the classic Prince of Persia series, which has continued its evolution following film adaptations. The new iOS Prince of Persia features a 14-level single player side-scrolling adventure, including fully polygonal, detailed artwork for the levels, and a brand new combat system with combos and new weapons. Prince of Persia’s gameplay allows users to choose between a virtual joystick or gesture-based touch controls, with all of the classic jumping, running, ducking, climbing, and attacking options fans would expect.

Report: Foxconn seeks 90k workers for iPhone production

Foxconn is reportedly looking to hire a remarkable 90,000 workers for production of a new iPhone — likely the iPhone 5S — for its Shenzhen industrial complex. A report out of Taiwan notes that assembly testing has been completed for the device, and claims the company is ready to start production. Reports from multiple outlets in April noted Foxconn had increased hiring to produce Apple’s next iPhone. [via Focus Taiwan]

Apple CEO Cook returns to China

Apple CEO Tim Cook has returned to China, and held a meeting with Apple partner China Telecom, according to a Chinese report (translated link). The visit is Cook’s second of the year, as the CEO last visited China in January. Cook is also reportedly expected to meet with executives from China Unicom and China Mobile during the trip. Other speculative reasons for the visit could include upcoming iPhone releases, and checking in on supplier Pegatron, which was recently accused of numerous labor violations in a report. During last week’s Q3 2013 financial results conference call, Cook acknowledged sales in China were weaker during the quarter, but noted he was not “discouraged” over a 90-day cycle, saying China was a “huge opportunity” for Apple. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple retail workers file suit over unpaid bag searches

A group of former Apple retail store employees in New York and Los Angeles have filed a class action suit against the company for lost wages due to lengthy bag searches. The suit claims that improper practices include subjecting hourly employees to “personal package and bag searches,” which are illegal and require workers to wait in line off-the-clock to get clearance checks when leaving for meal breaks and at the end of their shifts.

Examples note plaintiffs being subjected to searches lasting 5 to 15 minutes, without compensation, accounting for 50 to 90 minutes of uncompensated overtime a week. Calculations note the workers in these examples lost an average of $1,400 or $1,500 annually. The lawsuit seeks compensation in unpaid minimum wages, overtime, and waiting time, and seeks to declare the practices as unlawful, requiring “termination or modification.” [via Apple Insider]

iPhone fingerprint sensor confirmed by iOS 7 beta 4?

A discovery in iOS 7 beta 4 appears to confirm that an upcoming iPhone will include a fingerprint sensor. Hamza Sood tweeted a picture of a folder titled “BiometricKitUI.axbundle” within the code of the upcoming operating system.

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From the description, it appears that the code is describing a thumbprint sensor located within the Home Button of an iPhone. It also appears that a user will need to “enroll” in volunteering a thumbprint for the feature, with a progress percentage meter and color-shifting fingerprint image updating a user during the recognition process. Rumors have suggested that the iPhone 5S will include a fingerprint scanner, likely used for a digital transaction security feature. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple releases iTunes 11 developer beta with iTunes Radio

Alongside today’s release of iOS 7 beta 4, Apple has also posted a beta version of iTunes 11 for Registered iOS Developers.

Listed as iTunes 11 beta 1, the new version includes support for iTunes Radio for those in the U.S. It also notes that OS X 10.7 or later is required for iTunes Radio support.

Apple releases iOS 7 beta 4

Apple has released the fourth beta of iOS 7 to registered developers. The company released the third beta three weeks ago — the fourth beta was expected to be released last Monday, but Apple’s developer site was down last week, delaying the release. iOS 7 beta 4 is now available through Software Update in iOS settings and Apple’s developer portal.

USPTO again rejects Apple’s pinch-to-zoom patent

Samsung has notified the courts that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has rejected all claims of Apple’s “pinch to zoom” patent, according to a report. The rejection is a “Final Office Action,” but the decision is far from finished, as Apple will have additional opportunities to appeal. Notably, Apple’s “rubber-banding” patent initially had a main claim ruled invalid in a “Final Office Action,” but that claim was later confirmed. In December, the USPTO initially ruled all claims of the “pinch to zoom” patent invalid; this is a continuation of that action. [via FOSS Patents]

Chinese scalpers booking all Genius Bar appointments

Chinese scalpers are booking all available Genius Bar appointments and selling them online, according to the Beijing Morning Post (translated link). Customers looking to book Genius Bar appointments at local Chinese Apple stores often find that all appointments have been taken. After searching for alternatives online, they discover that scalpers are selling the appointments for 10 Yuan to 40 Yuan — about $1.60 to $6.50. Reporters attempted to contact Apple on the matter but did not get a response by press time. [via 9to5Mac]

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