The Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman has sent a letter to Apple accusing the company of deceptive marketing for the latest iPad model being sold in Norway. The letter notes that Apple advertises “next-generation wireless technology” and “lightning-fast wireless connections” specifically related to support for 4G LTE, however the 4G LTE aspects of the new iPad are only compatible with LTE networks in the U.S. and Canada and will not work on the 4G LTE network in Norway as it uses other frequencies. The complaint goes on to note that the “wireless characteristics of a mobile device such as an iPad” are very important and would be considered as one of the “main characteristics” of the device under the country’s Marketing Act, which deems a commercial practice to be misleading if it contains incorrect information or misleads consumers with regard to “the main characteristics.”
The Consumer Ombudsman goes on to state that while Apple does include a statement on the limitations of 4G LTE support “in a footnote on the Apple website” the limitations are not displayed prominently enough, requiring more clicks into the site and presented at the bottom of the page in a very small, light grey font on a white background. The letter alleges that “so long as consumers cannot benefit from the support for 4G LTE in Norway” that Apple should not be using the name “iPad Wi-Fi + 4G” or statements like “next-generation wireless technology” without properly disclosing “in a clear way” that the functions are only available in the U.S. and Canada, and ultimately requests that Apple clarify its marketing materials to ensure that consumers are not misled. [via Mac Rumors]
Following yesterday’s report by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) into working conditions at Foxconn and the announcement that Apple and Foxconn would be taking action to bring working conditions into compliance with FLA standards, Reuters reports that many Foxconn workers are unhappy with the impact these changes will have on their income.
Among other concessions, Foxconn has reduced overtime for its 1.2 million workers with a promise of adjusted compensation to offset lost income. However, the Reuters report notes that many workers are concerned that their pay will still be cut as well due to the fewer number of hours worked. Foxconn plans to reduce working hours to 49 per week, including overtime, with a maximum cap of 36 hours of overtime per month for each employee. Many Foxconn employees make a significant portion of their income from extended overtime and the move has workers unhappy with the new limitations which they feel will result in lost wages. Although specific details have not been provided, Foxconn for its part has agreed to develop a “compensation package that protects workers from losing income due to reduced overtime,” although it seems workers may be having difficulty coming to terms with the idea of earning the same pay while doing less work.
Australian newspaper Herald Sun reports that the Australian Government has given approval for devices running iOS 5 to be used for storing and communicating classified information. The organization responsible for information security within the Australian Department of Defence, the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), has developed a set of policies and hardening procedures that will permit iOS 5.1 devices to be used to handle classified information at the PROTECTED level—the lowest general security classification used within the Australian Government. Mike Burgess, acting director of the DSD, stated that iOS 5 has successfully passed a stringent and intensive security assessment to ensure that it meets Australian Government information security requirements. The security evaluation, which is believed to be the first of its kind for iOS, covers only those devices owned and managed by Australian government agencies that have had specific DSD hardening procedures implemented and are used in accordance with DSD security advice. Examples of such standards include use of the devices in Apple’s Supervised mode, use of iOS Data Protection and storing information only within Data Protection enabled applications, disallowing the use of third-party applications and using non-secure apps and services, including Siri dictation, only for unclassified information. [via AppleInsider]
Following reports earlier this week that Apple has offered to grant royalty-free licenses to any and all Apple patents essential to its nano-SIM standard proposal at this week’s Smart Card Platform Plenary meeting, French newspaper Les Echos is reporting (translated link) that the vote on the new standard has been postponed after the parties involved failed to reach an agreement. In particular, Nokia opposes the Apple proposal in favour of its own design and claims to have over 50 required patents that it will refuse to license to builders for Apple’s proposed standard.
Further, Research in Motion (RIM) has also now petitioned the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) to disallow proxy voting, making allegations in a recent filing that companies, including Apple, are registering their own personnel as representatives from other telecommunications companies. The RIM filing notes “a number of representatives from one company changing their affiliation over night and registering to the meeting not representing their employer or any of their affiliates but representing a completely different company” and cites as examples three specific Apple UK employees registering as representatives from Bell Mobility, SK Telekom and KT Corp. [via Engadget]
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) has concluded its independent investigation into working conditions at Apple’s suppliers in China. FLA launched its investigation on February 13, 2012 following labor rights allegations at Foxconn and negative reports regarding plant conditions. Shortly after commencing the investigation, FLA president Auret van Heerden released preliminary findings indicating that the working conditions at Foxconn were far better than those in other factories elsewhere in China.
However, in its final report published earlier today, FLA noted that it had observed “at least 50 issues related to the FLA Code and Chinese labor law” covering areas such as health and safety, worker integration, communication, wages and working hours. The investigation consisted of both on-site visual observation and policy/documentation reviews, as well as interviews with hundreds of Foxconn workers and managers, plus surveys of more than 35,000 randomly selected Foxconn workers. The resulting report highlights the most serious problems as being excessive average working hours during peak production times, general issues regarding inconsistent health and safety policies, and lack of worker involvement and communication in the development of health and safety procedures. The report also noted that although Foxconn wages are above the Chinese average, fair compensation was not always paid for unscheduled overtime due to payroll policies.
As highlighted in the report, both Apple and Foxconn have committed to implementing remedial actions for all of these issues, and ensuring that FLA standards continue to be upheld in its supply chain. Apple became the first technology company to join the FLA in January following the release of its own supplier responsibility report in an effort to move toward “greater transparency and independent oversight” of its suppliers.
South African inventor Benjamin Grobler has filed a pair of lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging that Apple has infringed on a “data vending system” patent issued to him in 2004. The lawsuits claim infringements on U.S. Patent 6,799,084 by operating data vending systems such as iTunes, and that the companies are further inducing their customers’ infringement. Among other things, the patent in question describes a system that stores data such as digitized music, video and/or computer programs, the dispensing of data to a uniquely identifiable data carrier, and the maintaining of owner and/or possessor records for digital content. The suit against Apple is asking for a declaration of infringement, as well as damages to be decided at the trial. [via Computerworld]
Bloomberg reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook paid a visit to Foxconn’s newly-built iPhone manufacturing facility yesterday at Zhengzhou Technology Park in China. The visit is assumed to be related to Apple’s efforts to improve working conditions in its Chinese suppliers’ factories following earlier complaints by several human rights organizations. Cook’s visit to Foxconn follows a week of business travles in China which included a visit to an Apple Store in Beijing and a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang and Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong. Apple has not provided any further details on Cook’s visit or how much longer he will be in China.
FiftyThree has released Paper, a new sketching and drawing app for the iPad. Focused on a providing a minimalist design, Paper acts as a simple notebook or journal effectively turning the entire iPad screen into a freeform drawing canvas with no additional buttons, controls or other distractions. The app instead relies heavily on a gesture-based control interface: users open and close journals and journal pages with pinch gestures, flip pages by swiping in from the bezel at the sides and access the drawing tools by swiping up from the bottom; users can “Rewind” (undo) by rotating with two fingers in a counter-clockwise direction while other one-finger gestures are used simply to draw on the page with the currently selected tool. The free app includes an eraser and single fountain pen drawing tool with 9 colours; additional tools are available via in-app purchase for $2 each or $8 for the full set of four. Paper is available from the App Store as a free download.
The iPhone 4 “antennagate” class action settlement has now been announced, offering U.S. resident iPhone 4 owners who did not opt to receive a free bumper case from Apple to claim a $15 cash payment instead. To be eligible for the cash payment, iPhone 4 customers must also meet several additional requirements: they must have actually experienced antenna or reception issues, been unable to return their iPhone 4 without incurring any costs, been unwilling to use a case on their iPhone 4 and must also have completed certain troubleshooting steps if they still own their iPhone 4. Customers can file a claim at www.iphone4settlement.com; customers also still have the option of choosing a free black iPhone 4 bumper from Apple instead by contacting AppleCare or visiting an Apple Retail Store. [via Engadget]
Apple has released iTunes 10.6.1, the latest update to its digital media management software. According to Apple’s release notes, the update fixes several issues that may cause iTunes to unexpectedly quit while playing videos, adjusting artwork size in Grid view or syncing photos, addresses issues with VocieOver and WindowEyes and fixes problems with responsiveness while syncing the iPod nano or iPod shuffle. The update also resolves the sorting problem browsing TV shows on the Apple TV that was introduced in iTunes 10.6. iTunes 10.6.1 is available now via Apple’s Software Update utility or as a free download from apple.com/itunes.
Foundation Games has released Lumi Lite for the iPhone and iPod touch, an all-new free prequel to its popular action-puzzle game for the iOS platform. Originally released last December, Lumi challenges players to explore powers of light and magnetism as Lumi. a small but powerful creature who must travel through a darkened world to save his friends and restore peace. Rather than simply being a limited free version of the full game, Lumi Lite is an entirely new game designed as a prequel; players are taken back 100 years before the events in the original Lumi to take on three new levels. Lumi Lite requires iOS 4.3 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.
During his recent visit to China, Apple CEO Tim Cook took time out to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Li Kegiang. According to a Xinhua report, the two men discussed intellectual property rights protection and economic development. “To be more open to the outside is a condition for China to transform its economic development, expand domestic demands and conduct technological innovation,” Li said. He continued on to say that trade and economic cooperation are an “important cornerstone” for the cooperative partnership of mutual respect and reciprocity that China and the U.S. are trying to establish. Li also called on multinational companies to expand cooperation with China, participate in development of western China, pay more attention to workers, and share development opportunities. Cook, for his part, said Apple will strengthen comprehensive cooperation with China, and conduct business in an honest, law-abiding manner. [via Engadget]
25dev has released a new flashlight app that uses the proximity sensor on the iPhone to turn the LED flash on and off. Like other iPhone flashlight apps, the app allows users to turn their iPhone 4/4S LED flash on for use as a flashlight, however it also makes use of the proximity sensor allowing users to have the flashlight automatically turn off when the iPhone screen is covered, such as when the iPHone is in a pocket, flip-case or simply lying face-down on a table. FlashLight also includes an integrated battery meter and built-in compass mode as well as a quick tap signal light feature with included morse code table. FlashLight: Proxmiity Sensor Powered Flash Light requires an iPhone 4/4S and is available from the App Store for $1.
Speaking at an investor conference, Sprint Chief Financial Officer Joe Euteneuer has indicated that the company is free to offer a future iPhone model sporting LTE networking. Dow Jones Newswires reports that Euteneuer declined to say if Apple has such a model planned, but did say that Sprint’s contract with Apple is similar to those of rival carriers Verizon and AT&T, and that the carrier isn’t subject to any LTE coverage requirements in order to carry such a device. “If you make the assumption that they launch a device at a similar time that they did last year, you’re basically done with the major markets” on Sprint’s 4G LTE buildout, Euteneuer said, noting the carrier plans to initially cover around 100 million Americans. “So I don’t think we are really disadvantaged at all.” Notably, Sprint does not currently offer the iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G, although it has yet to publicly launch its LTE network.
Google has made a background update to its Gmail mobile app for iOS devices adding support for sending from alternate addresses. Users of both the native Gmail iOS app and HTML5 web app can now choose to use any of their configured From addresses when sending a new e-mail message or replying to an existing message. As before, Gmail will still select the appropriate sender address automatically when replying to a message, however the new feature now allows users to visually confirm which address will be used when composing a reply. Alternate address support has been added on Google’s end and does not require an update to the native Gmail iOS app; users of the native app should see the option appear over the next few days. The native Gmail app is a universal iOS app and is available from the App Store as a free download.
According to a new survey, half of all US households now own at least one Apple product. CNBC reports that its All-America Economic survey found that one out of every ten households that don’t currently own an Apple product plan to purchase one over the next year. In addition, homes that own at least one Apple product own an average of three, meaning that the average American household owns 1.6 Apple devices, with nearly 25 percent planning to buy at least one more in the next year. The survey found that Apple customers tend to be young, male, and college-educated, and the more money a person earns, the more Apple products they’re likely to own. The All-America Economic survey was conducted over landline and cellphone among 836 Americans from March 19 to March 22, with a margin of error of plus/minus 3.4 percent.
Urbanspoon has released a major update to its iPhone and iPod touch app adding support for customizable filters and location-aware wish lists along with new editorial lists and a redesigned user interface. Urbanspoon helps users locate restaurants based on their location and/or specified food and price preferences and also provides expanded information such as ratings and reviews for restaurants sourced from newspapers, bloggers and fellow eaters. Urbanspoon 2.0 now allows users to create personalized filters with additional criteria such as hottest spots, most popular with diners and availability to help provide an even more relevant focus on restaurant recommendations. An interactive map is now also included on restaurant lists that allow users to narrow their view down by cuisine, distance, name, popularity and price.
The new version also now includes pre-defined editorial lists that users can choose from, such as James Beard Award winners, Eater’s hottest 38 restaurants in major cities and more. Wish lists are now location-aware allowing users to be notified if they are near a restaurant on their wish list. The latest update also features a new visual design to make it easier for users to browser and search within the app. Urbanspoon 2.0 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Following an extended period of App Store submissions and rejections, Zanther has released Taposé, a new iPad productivity app that provides an integrated collection of tools including a collaborative multimedia journal, fully featured web browser, interactive maps, calculator and more. Designed with a focus on collaboration, Taposé is tied into a cloud-based service with a unified virtual workspace, allowing multiple users to share and edit journals in real-time. In addition to text editing and formatting features, the journal also supports rich content such as drawings, media elements, contact cards, web clippings and maps. Users can also share either complete journals or individual pages as static PDF documents via e-mail, Evernote, and Dropbox, or print them via AirPrint. Taposé is available from the App Store for $3. Collaborative sharing requires registration for a Taposé account; 400MB of storage is provided for free with unlimited storage available for a $30/year subscription.
Our initial impressions of Taposé show evidence of a great concept in need of significant user interface improvements. The UI relies on many gesture-based actions that are not immediately apparent to the user, and the included tutorial journal does not provide enough information in this regard. Further, the decision to mimic a real-world journal design in the app contributes to this confusion, forcing the user to endure a disorienting left/right “sliding pages” interface when working in portrait view. Turning pages requires corner swipes that are confusing at first, and worsened when you change orientations. The app appears to be considerably less confusing and more usable and responsive in landscape orientation. It is also worth noting that the button to log into or register for a Taposé account only appears in the control hub in landscape orientation.
Apple manufacturing partner Hon Hai—better known as Foxconn—has bought in to Japanese firm Sharp. According to a Reuters report, Hon Hai took around a ten percent share of the company, and may use its new stake as extra leverage in attempting to win orders of Apple’s rumored TV set. “Hon Hai is already the assembler of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, it needs the next driver, which is Apple TV,” said Yuanta Securities analyst Vincent Chen. “It’s something that [Hon Hai founder] Terry Gou cannot afford not to do. But this is a very big gamble.” The report goes on to note that the newly formed relationship between Hon Hai and Sharp may give the latter a leg up in bids for Apple display orders, as Hon Hai/Sharp may be in a position to offer superior pricing. Sharp currently supplies Apple with Retina Displays for the third-generation iPad.
In the wake of a potential complaint from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Apple has agreed to clarify claims that the third-generation iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G is compatible with 4G networks. Earlier this week, the ACCC announced plans to file a complaint against Apple over what it considered to be “misleading” marketing. In addition to clarifying the device’s cellular capabilities in a statement in its stores and on its website that reads, ““This product supports very fast cellular networks. It is not compatible with current Australian 4G LTE networks and Wi-Max networks”, Apple also said that it would offer refunds to early purchasers who feel they were misled. Ultimately, the ACCC wants Apple to stop marketing the device as the “iPad Wi-Fi + 4G”, while it appears that Apple wants to retain the moniker, and feels that the extra disclaimers will be sufficient to eliminate confusion.