Apple is being probed for possible antitrust violations in the European Union, as a group of cellphone carriers have complained about the strict terms in contracts to sell iPhones, according to a report. A formal antitrust investigation has not begun at this point. Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said, “Our contracts fully comply with local laws wherever we do business, including the EU.”
Meanwhile, in Australia, Apple is being questioned for its pricing of hardware and software, which is much higher than in the U.S. A 2012 survey showed that in Australia, software and hardware products sold for an average of 50 percent more than in the U.S. An Australian parliamentary committee questioned Apple, which blamed “old-fashioned” record companies, film studios, and TV networks for inflated prices on digital downloads. Adobe and Microsoft executives were also taken to task, and the committee found some of the answers “evasive.” [via The New York Times, Reuters]
More than 20,000 college students in the Chinese city of Wuhan have taken out high-interest loans in the past year to buy high-end electronics — mostly Apple products — according to a report. From Jan. 2012 through Feb. 2013, these loans totaled about $25.7 million in value, with about 90 percent of the credit used to buy Apple products, according to a credit manager. The loans, offered by Home Credit China, carry annual interest rates of over 47% on a 12-month-term loan. Despite the high interest rates, the loans are easy to get, and have “encouraged students to embrace the craze for Apple devices.” [via China Daily]
Apple hardware and software designers are now collaborating earlier in the design process than before, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. While iOS designers were previously “cut out of the loop on specifics” regarding new mobile devices while a separate “stealth group” of software developers worked on prototypes, Apple’s mobile software team is now briefed about the prototypes earlier. Sources said Apple Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive, who now sits in on those meetings, is pushing for a simpler, starker, more “flat design” for the next Apple operating system. Changes are expected to be “pretty conservative.”
Apple has announced on its developer website that starting May 1, the App Store will also no longer accept new apps or updates that access device-specific identifiers known as UDIDs. It’s been known for some time that Apple planned to phase out the use of UDIDs, replacing them with the new Advertising Identifier in iOS 6. On the same date, new apps and updates submitted to the App Store must be built for iOS devices with Retina displays, and must support the iPhone 5/iPod touch 5G four-inch displays, suggesting that Apple will emphasize larger and/or higher-resolution screens while downplaying smaller, lower-resolution ones.
Apple has updated its Podcasts app to version 1.2, adding custom stations which update automatically with new episodes from your favorite podcasts, and playlists synced from iTunes, among other features. Stations are also stored in iCloud and kept updated on all devices.
The interface has seen a few changes, as well — notably, the “reels” optionally shown while playing an audio podcast are now gone, with some previously obscured functionality merged into the main audio playback screen. Buttons have been moved around within the My Podcasts library screen, and “Top Stations” are now referred to as “Top Charts,” amongst other tweaks. Our editors have noted new crash bugs, however, so you might want to hold off on downloading the update for now.
Apple has introduced an optional new two-step verification service for Apple ID and iCloud users. Like many other two-step verification systems, Apple users can now receive a verification code on a trusted device — that code is then entered into a new device to make an iTunes or App Store purchase, or to make account changes. A recovery key can also be set up to access an account if a user forgets a password or loses a device. The new service can be set up on the Apple ID website. [via 9to5Mac]
Google’s personal assistant, Google Now, is apparently ready to debut on iOS sometime in the near future — but just when appears to be up to Apple. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was asked at the Google Big Tent Summit, “When can I get Google Now on my iPhone?” Schmidt said, “You’ll need to discuss that with Apple. Apple has a policy of approving or disapproving apps that are submitted into its store, and some of the apps we make they approve and some of them they don’t.” Schmidt also referred to Google Maps, saying it was “recently” approved by Apple. [via TechCrunch]
Update: Apple says Google Now hasn’t been submitted to its App Store. [via CNET]
In an unusual move of supporting third-party APIs, Apple has released an update to GarageBand for iOS adding the ability to receive audio from other iOS apps via Audiobus. Designed to facilitate mixing audio across multiple apps on a single iOS device, Audiobus is a third-party app that other iOS music apps can interface with to send and receive audio with other compatible apps. The addition of Audiobus support in GarageBand now allows users to record and sequence sounds from a wide variety of other Audiobus supported apps, such as Amplitube, Music Studio, AmpKit, BeatMaker, and dozens more.
The latest GarageBand update also adds the ability to disable grid snapping for finder editing control and resolves an issue with connecting third-party audio accessories to the 3.5mm headphone/mic jack. GarageBand 1.4 is available from the App Store for $5.
Just released, Speedbump’s Kingpin Lanes ($2) is an iOS universal bowling game completely rendered in 3-D, and impressively built by one man using the Unreal Engine. In addition to the expected ball-tossing, pin-knocking action, the game offers a fully explorable bowling alley, including a functioning pro shop, and an arcade with four playable mini games. Five fully voiced and animated characters can compete on a variety of lanes. The game also lets users create their own soundtrack using a device’s on-board music.
Now featuring full French and German translations in version 1.2, The Orchestra ($14) from Touch Press is an iPad app that features eight symphonic works performed by London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. As the orchestra plays extended extracts of the works — from the likes of Beethoven, Haydn, Debussy, Stravinsky, and others — the app lets users select from multiple video and audio tracks in real-time. A synchronized score and note-by-note visualization of each piece are also included. Audio and subtitled commentaries are also available on every piece, from the conductor and the players. Each instrument is also profiled, and the musicians explain their roles in the orchestra.
Intertrust Technologies Corporation, a company owned by Sony and Philips, has announced it is filing a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple. According to the announcement, “The lawsuit accuses Apple of making products and services that infringe on 15 Intertrust patents on security and distributed trusted computing.” Though the specific patents in question are not mentioned, “The lawsuit covers a broad range of key Apple products and services including iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad, Mac computers and laptops, Apple TV, and services including iTunes, iCloud, and the Apple App Store.” The Wall Street Journal notes that Sony and Philips each hold a 49.5 percent stake in Intertrust. [via 9to5Mac]
Adobe’s chief technology officer Kevin Lynch unexpectedly left the company to join Apple as vice president of technology, a hiring decision that pundits are already questioning. Most obviously, Apple engaged in a major public spat with Adobe over its Flash software, which was amongst Lynch’s products. An essay from Steve Jobs from April 2010 detailing the ways “Flash falls short” can still be found on Apple’s website, while a YouTube parody from 2009 shows Lynch and another Adobe staffer destroying iPhones in a number of ways, including running an iPhone over with a steamroller.
While many have questioned Apple’s reasoning for bringing Lynch in, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber has been particularly pointed in his criticism, suggesting that Lynch may be “a bozo” and a bad hire, based largely on Lynch’s continued support for Flash well after the point at which it was publicly considered an albatross. It’s been noted that Apple CEO Tim Cook has now made several such questionable executive hires at Apple, including Mark Papermaster, John Browett, and Lynch, while other executives such as iOS senior VP Scott Forstall and retail VP Jerry McDougal have departed the company. It is unclear at this point what projects Lynch will be involved with at Apple, but he will report to Apple’s Bob Mansfield in his new role. [via AllThingsD]
Sharp has said it will not receive the second part of a $120 million investment from Qualcomm before a March 29 deadline, since it failed to complete a plan to start fabricating screens based on Sharp’s IGZO technology, according to a new report. Qualcomm only agreed to pay the remainder of the money if Sharp met certain production preparations and financial conditions. As a consequence of the delay, Apple’s ability to start using the thin, power-efficient IGZO panels in its next-generation devices—a plan that has been reported for some time—now seems less likely, at least for the immediate future. “The financial targets are not the reason for the delay,” Sharp spokeswoman Miyuki Nakayama said. The companies will now try to meet a June 30 deadline for production of the new screens, which might then become available in late 2013 products. [via Reuters]
As the latest Peapod Labs ABC-themed title, ABC Farm ($3) teaches children vocabulary in English or Spanish through sight, sound, and touch. More than 50 farm-related words are taught through photos, interactive scenes, videos, pictures, and sounds. ABC Farm’s major new feature is the addition of a bilingual mode that enables the app to pivot with a single button push from English to Spanish — this feature can be used to teach a single Spanish word after seeing the English version, or the entire Spanish word set, alphabetized, as an alternative to the English word set. Every word and letter is spoken aloud in the currently selected language. While it looks familiar on the surface, ABC Farm boasts impressive new depth, and kids will enjoy it.
Evernote’s Evernote Food (free) has been updated to version 2.1. The update adds OpenTable integration, so users can make restaurant reservations and view restaurant ratings from within the app. It’s also easier to share recipes, both from Evernote to Evernote Food’s My Cookbook section, and via Facebook, Twitter, and email. It’s also possible to browse and search for recipes in Japanese and Chinese. Other improvements involve bug fixes, better image uploading, and improved search results.
Apple has released Apple TV software version 5.2.1 for Apple TV.
The update notably features a redesigned Hulu Plus app, now sporting a horizontal bar and banner-based navigation design closer to the iTunes Store access points on the Apple TV, as well as various bug fixes. It’s available now from the General settings menu of the Apple TV interface.
Apple has released iOS 6.1.3, which contains improvements and bug fixes, including a fix for a bug that could allow someone to bypass the passcode and access the iPhone app. The update also features improvements to iOS Maps in Japan.
European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Apple still isn’t informing consumers about their legal rights to a two-year warranty in EU member states, according to a report. “In at least 21 EU Member States Apple is not informing consumers correctly about the legal warranty rights they have. This is simply not good enough,” Reding said. She mentioned lawsuits filed against Apple by consumer associations in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and Portugal. Apple was fined twice in Italy over similar complaints, and the company may be facing some heat in Australia, as well. Warranty coverage for Apple products now varies considerably by country, despite Apple’s efforts to sell AppleCare and AppleCare+ extended warranty policies while offering standard 90-day telephone support and 1-year repair coverage across product lines. [via Dow Jones Business News]
Bowers & Wilkins has announced the Z2 ($400) Airplay Lightning speaker dock and an updated Lightning version of its Zeppelin Air ($600) AirPlay speaker dock. Z2 is a redesigned version of the company’s Zeppelin Mini, capable of docking an iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod touch, or seventh-generation iPod nano within a newly recessed top hole. The speaker features two 3.5” full range drivers with 40 watts of total amplifier output, and comes in black or white.
Zeppelin Air, an AirPlay dock reviewed by iLounge two years ago, has also been updated with a Lightning connector for the iPhone 5, fifth-generation iPod touch, and seventh-generation iPod nano. Z2 will be available in April; the updated Zeppelin Air hits the market in May.
T-Mobile has announced an event on Tuesday, March 26, during which it is expected to announce details about its new no-contract value plans. Reports have suggested that the company may use the event to announce the availability of the iPhone on T-Mobile’s network, as well. In early December, T-Mobile announced it would sell Apple products at some point in 2013, and a follow-up report confirmed the iPhone would be sold by the company. The company has recently come under fire by AT&T, which attempted to pre-emptively dismiss the quality of T-Mobile’s 4G wireless network; T-Mobile will apparently compete with rivals by offering contract-free access to its existing 4G network, and introducing LTE service this year. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple stores in Australia will fix products under warranty purchased in the past two years, but a circulated email told staff not to discuss the warranty with customers, according to a report. Australian Consumer Law suggests that certain expensive items can be returned or fixed for up to 24 months. Apple’s new 24-month warranty policy currently applies to iPhones, iPads, and other iOS devices. However, it’s been reported that customers who didn’t know their rights under Australian Consumer Law and didn’t purchase AppleCare have often had to pay for fixing or replacing products. Apple has been fined twice in Italy for similar issues with warranty violations and Italian law; a Belgian consumer group has also filed a complaint based on the same issues. [via The Sydney Morning Herald]
Andrew “weev” Auernheimer, who was found guilty for his role in a 2010 security breach that exposed the information of 114,000 AT&T iPad users, has been sentenced to 41 months in prison. He is subject to three years of supervised release following his release from prison. He must also pay $73,162 in restitution to AT&T. Auernheimer was found guilty of one count of identity fraud and one count of conspiracy to access a computer without authorization. The hack exploited what was at the time relatively light security on the AT&T account login page for cellular iPads, and was addressed by a more aggressive sign-in system. [via The Verge]