Apple is expected to discontinue its iPad 2 “in the near future,” according to AppleInsider. Sources said the decision was made to decrease production as customers are “resoundingly” buying more of the iPad Air and iPad mini. The second-generation iPad is currently the only $399 full-sized iPad option on the market, with only the 16GB model offered at this point — the 16GB Wi-Fi + Cellular version is also sold for $529. Released in March 2011, iPad 2 is also the only remaining Dock Connector iPad still sold by Apple. It’s believed the iPad 2 has remained in Apple’s product lineup due to its popularity in the education market.
- February 13, 2014
Apple has released its annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report for 2014. The report says Apple confirmed in January that “all active, identified tantalum smelters in our supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third party auditors, and we’re pushing our suppliers of tin, tungsten, and gold just as hard to use verified sources.” Apple drew criticism last year for its tin mining practices — the company reacted by launching a “fact-finding visit” to Bangka Island, Indonesia. This year’s report notes that Apple has worked with groups to develop the Indonesian Tin Working Group, “whose goal is to explore how its members can help resolve the environmental and social challenges of tin mining on Bangka and Belitung Islands while also supporting the economic benefits of a robust mining trade.”
Also within the report, Apple says it drove suppliers to achieve “an average of 95 percent compliance” with the maximum 60-hour workweek, and more than 1 million workers were tracked in the program. The company found 14 facilities had excessive recruiting fees — suppliers were required to pay back excess foreign contract worker fees, equaling $3.9 million in 2013. Apple found a total of 11 active underage labor cases, “significantly fewer than the previous year.” The company has also launched a Clean Water Program pilot for 13 water-intensive sites — Apple has previously drawn criticism for its suppliers polluting nearby rivers. The full Supplier Responsibility Progress Report is here.
- February 13, 2014
- Apple TV
Apple attempted to license TV programming for its own service before turning its attention to negotiating with existing TV distributors, the Wall Street Journal reports. A source said Apple could try seeking rights to programming directly in the future, however. A report from Wednesday noted Apple was negotiating with Time Warner Cable to add content to the device, but today Comcast has announced a deal to purchase Time Warner Cable in an all-stock transaction for $45.2 billion, pending regulatory approval. It’s unknown what the merger might do to the negotiations with Apple, but Wednesday’s report noted Apple was having trouble negotiating with Comcast. It’s also unclear whether Apple anticipated the merger. The WSJ reports the Apple TV could come “as early as June,” with one source saying it could be later. Wednesday’s report noted the device could be announced in April for a holiday release.
- February 12, 2014
- Apple TV
Apple will introduce a new Apple TV set-top box “as early as April,” according to Bloomberg. However, Bloomberg also claims Apple is “aiming to have the device available for sale by the Christmas holidays,” though the release date could change pending distribution and programming negotiations. The report notes Apple is working on a deal with Time Warner Cable and other partners to add video content to the device. Such a lengthy amount of time between the announcement and release date would differ greatly from Apple’s usual protocol, especially for an upgrade of an existing product.
- February 12, 2014
Apple’s iPhone 6 will launch in September in two sizes — 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches — the South China Morning Post reports. The cited sources are “industry insiders” who have reportedly seen the iPhone 6 prototypes. As some have speculated, the screens will allegedly be made entirely out of sapphire crystal. The new screens will be flat — not curved — and also will supposedly offer a pixel density of 441 pixels per inch, a jump from the current 326 ppi display, although it’s unclear which of the screen sizes would have that dot pitch. A prior report noted two new iPhones would feature displays larger than 4.5 inches and 5 inches.
The questionable and increasingly strange saga of the mediocre game Flappy Bird has gotten plenty of attention lately, but the App Store has long had a one-touch flapping game that’s actually great — Frogmind’s Badland ($4). Badland now has iOS 7 game controller support in version 1.90. The update also adds a co-op multiplayer level to the game. Badland is $2 for a limited time.
Documentarian Ken Burns has released his own iPad-only app, Ken Burns. The app takes clips from Burns’ filmography and places them in a slick interactive timeline that offers a view of American history. It’s free to download the app, which comes with access to the innovation-themed playlist. The other playlists — featuring more than three hours of video and other exclusive content — can be unlocked in the full version for $10. Other themes include art, hard times, politics, race, and war. iOS 7 is required for the Ken Burns app.
Sony is negotiating with Apple to double its supply of camera components in the iPhone, according to Nikkei Asian Review. Noting that Sony supplies Apple with most sensors for the rear-facing iSight cameras on current iPhones, the report speculates Apple will likely switch to Sony sensors for the front-facing cameras, as well. The components could be found in a new iPhone “as early as next year,” which means any iPhones introduced this year would likely not include the additional Sony components. Considering the supplier switch, it’s possible front-facing iPhone cameras will get a spec boost with the Sony sensors. Nikkei also notes Sony has started to provide batteries for the iPad Air.
- February 11, 2014
An upcoming iPhone could feature a display with no bezel, according to The Korea Herald. A source said Apple is testing a prototype iPhone with a bezel-less screen that incorporates a fingerprint scanner, though there are still issues with mass-manufacturing the scanning component. The report notes the next iPhone is rumored to have a bigger display, as has been reported, though bezel-less screens might be overly “vulnerable to external impact” when mishandled. It’s been speculated Apple could use sapphire in its next phone’s display to reduce scratching, while other materials and design elements might provide the necessary shatter protection for the screen.
- February 11, 2014
A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that court-appointed monitor Michael Bromwich can continue to supervise Apple’s antitrust policies, Reuters reports. Apple was given a temporary reprieve from monitor Bromwich in late January, but Bromwich will once more be able to perform his duties, which are limited to assessing compliance policies and disseminating those policies. “Today’s ruling makes abundantly clear that Apple must now cooperate with the court-appointed monitor,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Gina Talamona said. The monitor was originally appointed to examine Apple after the company’s involvement in fixing e-book prices. Apple is still seeking a broader appeal to remove the monitor completely.
Rita Lane, Apple vice president of iPad, Mac desktops, and Mac accessories has retired from the company, as noted by her LinkedIn profile. According to the profile, Lane has held her VP position since 2008; she was directly involved in the success of the iPad since its launch. Lane was noted as one of the highest ranking women at Apple in a 2012 Business Insider article. Her successor is unknown. [via 9to5Mac]
According to a new report from MobiHealthNews, Apple currently has more than 200 people working on the iWatch, but the smartwatch will be a peripheral device that relies on an iPhone connection for full functionality, rather than intended as a purely standalone product. Qualifying rather than contradicting an earlier 9to5Mac story detailing potential iWatch features, the report notes that sensors in the iWatch may not be as advanced or numerous as some expect, with simpler measurements concentrated on displaying accurate, “real metrics like calories,” rather than abstract Nike Fuel numbers, and a lower likelihood of features such as integrated hydration measurement.
Exercise, diet, sleep, stress, and medication adherence are all believed to be targeted by the device, which will aim to bring meaningful health tracking to the masses. It’s believed Apple that is planning on keeping the iWatch and rumored “Healthbook” app — which may have a different name — unregulated by the FDA, which was the crux of the company’s recent meeting with the agency. In order to avoid FDA regulation, Apple would have to report measured health statistics without analysis.
Apple has announced iTunes Radio is now available in Australia. As in the U.S., iTunes Radio is ad-supported, with iTunes Match subscribers able to listen without ads. With the Australian launch official, it’s likely other countries will soon follow — a report from last October anticipated iTunes Radio would launch in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K. in early 2014.
- February 10, 2014
- Apple TV
A reference to new Apple TV hardware has been discovered in iOS 7. The reference is to “AppleTV4,1,” which would be a new Apple TV, as the current Apple TV is referenced internally as “AppleTV3,2.” Though the reference has reportedly been in iOS since iOS 7.0’s release in September, it was only found recently by developer Hamza Sood. Given that the model is shown as part of the existing Apple TV family, it’s likely that the new device will remain a set-top box, with upgraded internal components. The report also notes that new Apple TV software builds make references to iOS 7’s Game Controller framework, suggesting that some game controllers could connect to Apple TV. It’s been reported that Apple has been testing new versions of Apple TV. We previously reported that a coming Apple TV update would add downloadable game support to the platform. [via 9to5Mac]
- February 10, 2014
Billionaire Apple investor Carl Icahn has withdrawn his proposal for Apple to buy back an additional $50 billion of its own stock. The withdrawal is in reaction to a recommendation from proxy advisory firm ISS, which recommended investors vote against Icahn’s proposal, Reuters reports. Icahn wrote on his Shareholders’ Square Table website that he was disappointed in the ISS recommendation, but “we do not altogether disagree with their assessment and recommendation in light of recent actions taken by the company to aggressively repurchase shares in the market.” Seemingly in response to market pressures, Apple has repurchased $14 billion in shares in the past two weeks, and the company is on track to repurchase “at least $32 billion in shares” in this fiscal year. Apple CEO Tim Cook has mentioned that the company is balancing repurchase programs with a desire to maintain cash flexibility for large acquisitions, and is not ruling out the prospect of a $1 billion purchase under the right circumstances.
- February 10, 2014
- Apple TV
Apple has added The Beatles channel to Apple TV, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the group’s landmark appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. For a limited time, users can watch the footage from that appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The channel also includes song previews from the Beatles’ “The U.S. Albums,” a 13-album set recently released on iTunes, but not the band’s larger catalog of releases. As a result, many major Beatles albums and tracks are missing from the channel.
Users have the option of purchasing the songs and albums through the Apple TV. It’s currently unclear how long the channel will be around, and whether it will change forms once the “limited time” Ed Sullivan video is removed.
A few weeks ago, we reviewed Chillingo’s In Fear I Trust, noting it was a step in a more mature direction for the company. Chillingo continues down that road with this week’s 17+ rated Bloodstroke ($3), a John Woo game. Yes, that’s Hong Kong film director John Woo, who last entered the world of gaming in 2007 with the third-person shooter Strangehold. Prepare for doves.
Bloodstroke puts players into the shoes of Mai Lee — codename Lotus. A private security agent, Lotus must protect her client, Dr. Koorse, from assassination. Lotus looks pretty tough from the outset, but as you jump into the game, you soon realize — she’s actually invincible. Scores of enemies attack, but Ms. Lee runs around like it’s nothing, completely unaffected by an onslaught of bullets. Dr. Koorse, however, is not quite so indestructible. And therein lies the challenge.
Apple is planning to release iOS 7.1 in March, 9to5Mac reports. It’s noted that no “secret features” will come in iOS 7.1; rather, users should expect what’s been seen in the five 7.1 betas, including UI tweaks, a revamped Calendar app, and speed improvements. iOS 7.1 beta 5 was just released Tuesday. The report speculates Apple could announce iOS 7.1 at a March event that could possibly introduce a new Apple TV.
Contrary to its history, Apple is not opposed to making big acquisitions, CEO Tim Cook told the Wall Street Journal. “We’ve looked at big companies,” Cook said. “We have no problem spending 10 figures for the right company, for the right fit that’s in the best interest of Apple in the long-term. None. Zero.” The report juxtaposes Apple’s history of making smaller acquisitions with Google’s recent $3.2 billion purchase of Nest, a company founded by “Father of the iPod” Tony Fadell that has hired a large number of other ex-Apple employees.
Cook also reiterated in the interview that Apple will enter new categories this year. “There will be new categories. We’re not ready to talk about it, but we’re working on some really great stuff,” Cook said. The most obvious thought is that, as rumored, Apple will release the iWatch this year — though Cook’s use of “categories” suggests another new type of product could also be on the way.
Also in the interview, Cook revealed Apple has bought back $14 billion in stock since reporting its financial results about two weeks ago. Cook said the company was “surprised” by its 8 percent decline in shares since Jan. 28. Apple has now bought back more than $40 billion of its shares during the past week. “It means that we are betting on Apple. It means that we are really confident on what we are doing and what we plan to do,” he said.
Apple has reduced its MFi licensing fees, according to a Japanese report. The licensing rate was lowered in January, along with the purchase rate for Lightning connectors. It’s possible the rate reductions will be reflected in cheaper prices for future third-party Lightning accessories. This may also result in seeing Lightning products from additional companies, although it’s worth noting that Apple’s strict development restrictions have not changed and may still hamper that possibility. [via Macotakara]
- February 6, 2014
Apple’s new sapphire plant in Arizona already has the capacity for large-scale sapphire production, according to 9to5Mac. Reported shipping documents note that the plant has already received 518 sapphire furnace and chamber systems, with 420 machines still to be assembled. The report speculates that more than 103 million 5-inch iPhone displays per year could be made with the furnace systems already in place — but conceivably, any number of sapphire components could be manufactured on a large scale. Considering the plant already has the systems in place, it’s possible that one or more of this year’s new Apple devices could include those sapphire components. A previous report noted Apple was pushing to open the plant this month to create a “critical new sub-component of Apple products.”