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]
Shoppers using the Apple Store’s iOS app can now use Apple Store gift cards when making their purchases. Previously users wanting to shop with a gift card had to complete their purchases on the Apple Store website. In version 3.4 of the Apple Store app, users will now see a spot just above payment options where they can add gift cards during checkout. Gift cards can be scanned using an iOS device’s camera, and existing gift cards can also be imported from Passbook.
Well-known leaker Evan Blass tweeted yesterday that an iPhone 6c will be arriving concurrently with the upcoming iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, but new information from mobile marketing company Fiksu may fly in the face of that prediction. Fiksu’s web logs have turned up two new iPhone models — designated “iphone8,1” and iphone 8,2” — being used to access a range of popular travel, gaming and lifestyle apps. The company notes that these identifiers don’t match what the phones will be called once they’re released to the public, since the current iPhone 6 is designated “iphone 7,2” and the iPhone 6 Plus is designated “iphone 7,1” within that naming convention. The fact that Fiksu only found two new iPhone models being tested lends more credibility to previous rumors that the iPhone 6c won’t be coming until at least next year, if at all. Alleged photos of an iPhone 6c casing made news in March, but since then speculation has been all over the map, with some claiming that an iPhone 6c is coming this year and others saying Apple isn’t building one.
A resource file in the upcoming Safari 9 browser for OS X El Capitan seems to show support for a split-screen view on the iPad mini 4, 9to5Mac reports. Apple has already confirmed that iOS 9 will give some iPad users the ability to run two apps at once side-by-side, but the iPad Air 2 is the only current model with a processor strong enough to take advantage of it. A developer tool in El Capitan used for testing the responsiveness of websites also looks to simulate an iPad mini 3 running Safari in split-screen mode, but the iPad 3 mini’s hardware doesn’t support the split-screen feature. Those testing capabilities could be further proof that the upcoming iPad mini 4 — rumored to be a smaller version of the iPad Air 2 — will also have the power to handle split-screen functions.
After joining CVS in disabling Apple Pay last October, Rite Aid has announced it will begin accepting the touchless payment method again on Saturday, August 15. The chain’s 4,600 U.S. stores will also start accepting other cell phone-based payment methods and credit or debit cards equipped with tap-and-pay technology, installing NFC terminals in its stores as consumers increasingly turn to the faster form of payment. “Increasingly, consumers are actively seeking out and incorporating mobile technology into many facets of their life, including their shopping and purchasing decisions,” said Ken Martindale, CEO of Rite Aid stores.
The drugstore chain belongs to a group of retailers known as the Merchant Consumer Exchange, which has invested heavily in creating its own contactless, QR-Code-based payment system, called CurrentC. Industry experts saw the move as an effort to avoid the cost of installing NFC terminals and bypass merchant fees imposed by credit card companies, but CurrentC’s three-year exclusivity agreement with MCX members is set to expire this month, just as the payment system begins its first limited test run in member stores. Other MCX members, like Wal-mart and Target, are still not accepting Apple Pay. [via MacRumors]
With China devaluing its currency Tuesday, Chinese iPhone buyers could see a big spike in prices soon, The Wall Street Journal reports. In its annual report last year, Apple warned investors that a stronger U.S. currency might translate to lower sales and profit margins overseas when those sales are expressed in U.S. dollars. “There is a risk that the company will have to adjust local currency product pricing due to competitive pressures when there have been significant volatility in foreign currency exchange rates,” the reports stated. Apple didn’t immediately comment on China’s move, but the company has raised prices on its products in Canada, Japan and other countries in recent years to respond to persistent changes in exchange rates. China is currently the second-largest market for Apple — after the Americas — and the iPhone is already among the most expensive smartphones in China.
The upcoming version of Force Touch found on Apple’s next iPhones will concentrate on shortcut actions, according to new report from 9to5Mac. On Apple Watch, Force Touch is used to reveal additional controls, acting as a clever way to provide more options on the small-screened smartwatch. Apps on the iPhone won’t have that same screen space issue, so it makes sense for Force Touch to offer other capabilities. A source in the report noted a number of examples, including: accessing voicemail by Force Touching the Phone app icon, Force Touching a track in Music to quickly access another menu, and using Force Touch in Maps to immediately start turn-by-turn directions. It’s said that iPhone Force Touch will be used in a number of ways, including an interface localized to the gesture, and via a shortcut list.
It also appears that Force Touch will be included in the upcoming “iPad Pro.” Though not a surprise, this report claims the feature will interact with the rumored iPad stylus. The report also notes that Apple was working on 4K video recording for the iPhone 6S, but it’s unknown as to whether the feature will make it into the newest devices next month.
Verizon has announced that starting this Thursday, August 13, it will no longer subsidize phones for new subscribers, leaving new customers left with the options to buy their phones outright or spread out the payments with the company’s device payment option. The company is also doing away with two-year contracts in favor of a simplified monthly billing format. Verizon said current customers can keep their existing plan or move onto the new plan, but notes that “some restrictions” will apply. The move is aimed more at making cellular plans easier to understand than at providing a better value to customers.
The European Commission has ended its inquiry into Apple, saying it failed to find evidence that the company colluded with music labels to undercut free music streaming services offered by Spotify, Re/code reports. Multiple unnamed sources said questionnaires sent by European regulators to major record labels in April turned up no proof that Apple had made efforts to stifle Spotify’s free, ad-based offerings to users. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice also talked to music industry leaders in April about Spotify’s concerns, but haven’t publicly released any findings.
While the EU dropping its collusion investigation is good news for Apple, sources with knowledge of the situation say the company isn’t in the clear yet, with EU officials now asking Spotify and other streaming music services for more information about their App Store agreements with Apple. The FTC is conducting a similar investigation into whether the company’s share of profits from competitors to its Apple Music service violates antitrust laws. The 30 percent cut of revenue that Apple demands on subscription fees — which competing music streaming services charge through their iOS apps — has drawn scrutiny ever since Apple entered the streaming music business.
A video tweeted by @onleaks appears to show 3D CAD images of the new iPad mini 4, which support previous rumors that the new device will shrink in thickness from 7.5 mm to 6.1mm. The precise renderings show the new iPad mini to have a similar form to the iPad Air 2 and a thickness of 6.13mm. Last month, KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted the slimmer iPad mini 4 will also have updated internal components akin to those in the iPad Air 2, with Macotakara speculating that those updates may include an 8MP iSight camera, a fully laminated display and antireflective screen coating.
Last week the @onleaks Twitter feed provided another CAD video showing the new iPhone will actually increase in thickness slightly, presumably to accommodate the new Force Touch screen. Details about both devices and a new Apple TV are expected to come from Apple at an event rumored to be scheduled for September 9. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple is expected to hold its annual fall iPhone event on September 9th, according to a new report from BuzzFeed’s John Paczkowski. While Apple has yet to officially announce a date – the company rarely does until about a week before the event – Paczkowski notes that sources familiar with Apple’s plans indicate that the company is expecting to hold a special event “the week of September 7th” with the 9th being “the most likely date.” Notably, Apple held last year’s even on September 9th as well.
The report goes on to note that the event will focus on the next-generation iPhones models as well as debuting the new Apple TV. Interestingly, sources also note that the company will debut its latest iPad models at the same event—something that has traditionally been delayed until a later October event in prior years. It also remains unclear whether the new iPad lineup will include the rumoured 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” which is said to be “a wildcard still.”
In a recent interview with Wired, Apple’s Jimmy Iovine has hinted that the company may be looking to extend the human curation aspect of its fledgling Music service into its TV efforts. Rumours of Apple’s plans to introduce a streaming TV service appeared earlier this year and have gained traction with subsequent reports that company has been trying to take a more unique approach by pushing for local content to distinguish itself from competitors. Apple has similarly tried to distinguish its new Music service from rivals by lauding its “human curation” approach, so it stands to reason that it may be looking to apply this approach to television content as well.
In the interview, Iovine specifically states, “We all know one thing, we all have different television delivery systems, don’t we all wish that the delivery systems were better, as far as curation and service?” and touches on Netflix breaking new ground with original content. Iovine goes on to suggest that a company needs to “dig in and really help the customer” and that entertainment needs to “live and breathe.” He notes, however, that he has his hands full with Apple Music, and would likely not be the one to spearhead such an operation on television side of things. Apple’s subscription television service, originally expected to launch as early as this fall, now appears to be pushed back until early 2016 as Apple continues to work out licensing deals for the service.
Former TechCrunch Apple reporter Darrell Etherington has begun a new job with Apple PR, 9to5Mac reports. Etherington stopped writing for TechCrunch at the end of June, and it’s now been revealed that this was in preparation for a move to Apple’s PR office in Toronto, Canada. Apple has been hiring a number of journalists and other online authors in recent months, albeit for positions that appear unrelated to each other; Anandtech authors Anand Shimpi and Brian Klug were hired into engineering positions in 2014, while Chris Breen and Jon Seff, both formerly of Macworld, also joined Apple in different positions.
Apple has released the fifth developer beta of iOS 9. Featuring a build number of 13A4325c, the fifth beta once again lacks specific release notes, but likely continues to focus on improving the stability and reliability of the new features in the operating system. A new watchOS beta with a build number of 13S5325c has also been posted, which can be installed via a configuration profile that requires the corresponding iOS 9 beta to be installed, along with new betas of Xcode 7 and Apple Configurator.