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Judge: US can show Apple e-book pricing conspiracy

The U.S. government has sufficient evidence to prove Apple participated in a conspiracy to raise e-book prices, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote said during a court conference. “I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books, and that the circumstantial evidence in this case, including the terms of the agreements, will confirm that,” Cote said. The U.S. Department of Justice alleged Apple engaged in a price-fixing scheme with book publishers, which Apple denied — the DOJ originally filed the suit in April 2012. A non-jury trial on the case is scheduled to start on June 3. The trial could last as long as three weeks. [via Bloomberg]

AT&T’s GoPhone to add LTE/HSPA+ support for iPhone

AT&T’s GoPhone brand will reportedly be adding support for AT&T’s LTE and HSPA+ networks today, allowing iPhone users to use cellular data. Three service plans will be offered — a $65 per month plan offers unlimited calls and texts and 1 GB of data. Other plans are available for $25 or $50 a month, but both require separate data packages for cellular data use. Current GoPhone customers who use iPhones will automatically gain cellular data access on June 21, but customers can request a manual upgrade before that. [via MacRumors]

Report: iOS 7 ‘black, white, and flat all over’

The new iOS 7 is reportedly dropping heavy textures and adding black and white elements, with sources calling the new iOS “black, white, and flat all over.” A new report from 9to5Mac offers more details about iOS 7, about a month after a previous report noted the new iOS would have a “very, very flat” interface. Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive is — as many expected — leading iOS away from skeuomorphism, reportedly believing “designs filled with physical metaphors do not stand the test of time,” and that differing designs could confuse users.

Ive has apparently made sweeping changes to the interface. These changes may include: A removal of the shiny, transparent time bar on the lock screen, replacing it with a “shine-free, black” interface; the square pin code grid will feature round, black buttons; the lock screen could utilize additional gestures; widgets may be added to Notification Center; Notification Center will be dark with white text instead of featuring the current “dark linen” background; a panel for Wi-Fi, airplane mode, and Bluetooth toggles could be added; app icons have “lost shine” and Apple icons have been made less skeuomorphic; Apple’s Notes, Mail, Calendar, and Maps apps have a uniformed “flat white” look; panorama-like wallpapers are available; navigation and tab bars have lost gradient textures with some bars sporting a “minor blurring effect”; App Store, Newsstand, Game Center, Safari, Camera, and Weather have changed significantly; iPhone may introduce its own standalone FaceTime app, just like iPad and iPod touch.

iOS 7 has reportedly been “re-architected” several times, so interface changes are still possible. Designers and engineers are also “prioritizing an overhaul of the iPhone’s version of iOS” over iPad’s version of the software. As noted earlier, Flickr and Vimeo will likely be integrated. iOS 7 will likely be released in the fall with new Apple hardware.

Apple WWDC Keynote set for June 10

In case there was any ambiguity on the matter, Apple has confirmed that it will open its annual Worldwide Developers Conference with a keynote speech on Monday, June 10. By all accounts, Apple will be showing a preview of iOS 7 at the event, as well as the next generation OS X operating system for Macs. It’s still unclear if Apple’s “iRadio” streaming music service will debut during the conference, which runs from June 10-14. [via AllThingsD]

Apps: Foursquare 6.2, Hyper Breaker Turbo, Pandora 4.3 + Shazam 6.0

Foursquare Labs has introduced a number of new search features to its Foursquare (free) app in version 6.2, letting users filter searches by price, places that users have saved, places users haven’t been yet, places open at that time, and more new options. These advanced filters were added to the desktop version of the site a few weeks ago; now they’ve made their way to Foursquare’s mobile app.

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“Fearless” isn’t the first word we’d generally use to describe brick-breaking games—the Breakout-inspired genre is so old and established that new versions can’t help but feel iterative. Yet Barry Kostjens’ new Hyper Breaker Turbo ($2) manages to feel genuinely fresh and even pretty ingenious, thanks to the developer’s decision to throw away some of Breakout’s most classic rules. Instead of requiring you to break every brick on the screen before moving to the next level, Hyper Breaker Turbo’s 75 stages continue scrolling upwards to follow the motion of your ball, which can be gently reflected off your curved paddle, or smashed with upward momentum. The paddle can pass through bricks, but the ball must break or dodge them, adding another interesting twist to keep things moving smoothly. You beat each stage by making the ball touch a goal that’s generally several screen lengths up, buried behind layers of destructible bricks and walls formed by unbreakable blocks. While the game’s graphics and music aren’t going to wow anyone, they’re competent enough to look and sound good on even the latest Retina iPads and iPhones, while the touchscreen is used ideally for paddle and ball physics. Breakout fans should consider this one a must-see for the price.

Apple patent application details interactive AirPlay, TV

A newly-published Apple patent application discusses an interactive AirPlay update—one that lets a single AirPlay-enabled app simultaneously show multiple, different user interfaces on multiple display devices, coordinating separate interactivity with each display. User input through any display can make changes to the central app and/or modify the app’s data. In short, an app running on an iOS device could also be controlled via the second screen it’s displaying on, rather than just the iOS device itself.

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This new AirPlay implementation appears to contemplate a more sophisticated Apple TV or iTV product: Apple’s invention would enable two-way communication between the TV and the Apple TV, such that their separate remote controls—simple or sophisticated—could actually interact with both devices. A TV with integrated Apple TV functionality is also referenced in the application. [via Patently Apple]

Report: iWatch pushed to late 2014?

Previously believed to launch in late 2013, Apple’s iWatch should arrive in late 2014, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo claims that the iWatch will use a 1.5- or 2-inch display and GF2 touch technology, components similar to ones previously found in the iPod nano and iPad mini, respectively. However, Kuo believes the iWatch won’t be seen until late 2014 because Apple does not have the resources necessary to develop an iWatch-specific version of its iOS platform, and that there would be a scarcity of components needed to meet high demand. He also expects the device to feature biometrics, secure user identification, and iOS integration.

In a note to investors, Kuo wrote, “Investors shouldn’t be misled by the word ‘Watch’. We think iWatch will not be positioned as a time-telling device, nor as a device that displays information from other Apple products.” As noted on our rumor page about the device, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a name closer to “iBand.” [via Apple Insider]

Griffin releases iPhone 5 Survivor + Catalyst Waterproof Case

Following a quiet announcement at CES, Griffin has released its Survivor + Catalyst Waterproof Case for iPhone 5 ($70). Submersible down to three meters of water, the Survivor + Catalyst is a polycarbonate hard shell case that uses a silicone gasket to keep water sealed out, with shock-absorbing bumpers and an integrated screen cover inside.

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Survivor + Catalyst also protects from dust and dirt, and the case is shockproof for a drop up to six feet. It is available now.

OtterBox acquires LifeProof

OtterBox announced today that it has acquired fellow case maker LifeProof, one of its main competitors in the protective case market. “This is a big strategic move for us,” OtterBox CEO Brian Thomas said. He said the LifeProof name will remain part of the brand. Thomas cited the move as a way for OtterBox to get further into the waterproof case market — the company decided to integrate rather than compete with LifeProof. Interestingly, LifeProof just announced a new protective case — Frē for iPad mini.

LifeProof debuts Frē case for iPad mini

LifeProof has introduced its Frē case for iPad mini. As expected from a LifeProof case, Frē for iPad mini is billed as waterproof, dirtproof, snowproof, and shockproof, notably sharing its name with the previously-released Frē for iPhone 5 rather than the Nüüd for iPad. The company says the iPad mini case is fully submersible in water up to 2 meters deep for one hour.

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Frē also meets a military standard of withstanding drops from 4 feet. No pricing has been announced yet for Frē, though the company says that the case will be available in June.

Logitech debuts Wired Keyboard for iPad

Logitech has introduced its Wired Keyboard for iPad ($60), which the company is billing as “[t]he first wired keyboard for iPad specially designed for the classroom.” The keyboard comes in two versions, with either a Lightning or 30-pin connector. It features a spill-resistant design and a promised key lifespan of more than five million strokes.

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Unlike many of the keyboards that have been designed to match the sizes and shapes of various iPad models, Logitech’s Wired Keyboard for iPad boasts full-size keys, including shortcut keys. It is currently available for preorder; the Lightning version is expected to arrive in August, and the Dock Connector version is slated for an October release.

New Apple online store design alters focus, hides deals

Apple has revamped the look of its online store’s homepage, placing a considerably stronger focus on Apple-developed hardware and high-margin accessories. Fewer and generally more expensive items have been given prominent positions on the Store’s main pages, while text and links have been reduced. Notably, the redesign removes front-page graphic links to educational discounts, as well as refurbished and clearance products, hiding text links in a tiny “More Stores” section at the bottom of the page.

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High-margin accessories have been placed “below the fold” on the new pages, with the “Shop iPod” section pushing particularly expensive speakers below Apple’s own products. Currently, a Father’s Day promotion sits in the center of the main page.

Apps: ABC Aquarium, Disney Jr. Appisodes, Pinterest 2.4 + Pocket Informant Pro 3.0

ABC Aquarium ($3) by Peapod Labs is yet another release in the company’s ABC family of universal iOS education apps. Each app has brought a new theme, complete with an alphabet’s worth of new photographs, videos, and simple rub-on-the-picture activities, plus small user interface improvements. Aquarium leverages all of the prior titles’ UI tricks to provide a relatively seamless look at dozens of different fish and animals you’d find at aquariums, ranging from sea lions to koi, lobsters to zebrafish. The photos in this edition are particularly compelling, thanks to high-res details and great colors, though as with prior editions, some issues slip through — two images of Emperor Angelfish are nearly identical, for instance, and some of the swiping activities feel a bit underdeveloped and stale. Once again, each letter of the alphabet includes multiple photos for one or more creatures, plus in-frame YouTube videos that teach kids more than just the letters and words for each animal. Parents looking for bilingual instruction can also switch on an optional translation feature that flips each word between English and Spanish.

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Disney’s Disney Junior Appisodes app (free) is a new hub to hold interactive versions of full-length TV episodes. Recommended for ages 4 and up, Disney Junior Appisodes let children touch, tap, swipe, tilt, shake, and talk through Disney Junior episodes while completing activities. The app comes with the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Road Rally Appisode—a standalone download we previously found incredibly impressive—and additional Appisodes are available for purchase within the app.

Report: iOS 7 could see Flickr, Vimeo integration

Apple is reportedly planning an “increased presence of third-party social networks” in iOS 7, and more specifically, a deeper integration of photo and video sharing services Flickr and Vimeo. According to a 9to5Mac report, users will be able to sign into Flickr or Vimeo using iOS 7’s Settings application. Users could log into and use Flickr and Vimeo as simply as they currently use Facebook or Twitter for iOS. However, the report notes a “very real possibility that any feature in testing could be removed” before iOS 7 is announced.

While a recent report detailed Apple and Yahoo’s discussion of a deeper partnership, it’s unknown if the Yahoo-owned Flickr was part of those talks. The proposed addition of Vimeo to iOS could conceivably further distance Apple from Google’s YouTube app; sources didn’t comment on Vimeo completely replacing YouTube.

Apple CEO Cook testifies on taxes, faces Senate critics

In front of the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Apple CEO Tim Cook reiterated the company’s claim that Apple uses no gimmicks to avoid paying U.S. taxes. “We pay all the taxes we owe. Every single dollar,” Cook said. Under the country’s current tax system, Cook argued that it would be expensive to bring money earned from international sales back to the U.S. As in the pre-released testimony, Cook said that Apple recommends “dramatic” tax code reform. Regarding Apple’s use of Irish subsidiaries, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said those subsidiaries employ nearly 4,000 people. He noted that profits of Apple Operations International and Apple Sales International are already taxed by foreign governments, and U.S. taxes are unaffected by those profits.

Earlier in the hearing, U.S. Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) brought up many of the points they made in their statements, while placing additional emphasis on Apple’s techniques in using subsidiaries such as Apple Operations International and Apple Sales International to avoid taxes. For instance, in the case of Apple Operations International: the U.S. system taxes based on where a company is incorporated, while Ireland — where AOI is incorporated — taxes based on the people managing the company. Since AOI is incorporated in Ireland but managed in the U.S., it appears to avoid any tax burden in either country — though Apple noted that AOI pays taxes on interest. Levin estimated Apple avoided paying $9 Billion in U.S. income taxes in 2012 alone. McCain pointed to a “flawed system,” while Levin said closing unjustified tax loopholes could provide hundreds of billions of dollars, “whether or not we reform the overall tax code.” By contrast, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) praised Apple and said the company should be apologized to for having to attend the hearing, and the company should be congratulated for creating jobs.

Update: Apple has published today’s opening statements from CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer.

Google Play Music All Access to get iOS app support?

Google’s new music subscription service Google Play Music All Access doesn’t yet have its own iOS app, but an existing app may add support for the service in the near future. An update for gMusic, a $2 Google music player app, has been submitted to the App Store to support Google Play Music All Access. If accepted, the update will let users access Google’s new service through the gMusic iOS app. [via Wired]

Senate subcommittee accuses Apple of tax avoidance

The U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations claims Apple has avoided paying billions of dollars in U.S. income taxes by using offshore entities. “Apple wasn’t satisfied with shifting its profits to a low-tax offshore tax haven,” subcommittee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in a statement. “Apple sought the Holy Grail of tax avoidance. It has created offshore entities holding tens of billions of dollars, while claiming to be tax resident nowhere.” The subcommittee also released a 40-page memorandum with findings and recommendations.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to appear at a hearing on Apple’s tax practices this morning — the company released its testimony yesterday. In the testimony, Apple points out that it is “likely the largest corporate income tax payer in the US.” Subcommittee ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement that “Apple claims to be the largest U.S. corporate taxpayer, but by sheer size and scale, it is also among America’s largest tax avoiders.” The subcommittee does not appear to believe that Apple acted illegally, however, the company took advantage of legal loopholes to dramatically lower its tax burden.

One of the findings in the subcommittee’s memorandum involves Apple’s tax rate in Ireland, which is said to be less than 2 percent. The subcommittee maintains Apple’s cost sharing agreement with offshore affiliates in Ireland is “primarily a conduit for shifting billions of dollars in income from the United States to a low tax jurisdiction,” as $74 billion in sales income was shifted to Ireland from 2009 to 2012. Ireland said it’s not to blame for Apple’s low payments, claiming its system is transparent, and other jurisdictions’ tax systems are at fault, according to Reuters.

AT&T: All video chat apps will work over cellular in 2013

AT&T has made a statement suggesting the carrier will allow all mobile video chat apps over cellular on its network by the end of the year. In a statement made to The Verge, AT&T said that pre-loaded Apple, Samsung and BlackBerry’s video chat apps will be enabled by mid-June “over cellular for our unlimited plan customers who have LTE devices from those three manufacturers.” Additionally, “Throughout the second half of this year, we plan to enable pre-loaded video chat apps over cellular for all our customers, regardless of data plan or device; that work is expected to be complete by year end.” The company notes that any mobile video chat app downloaded from the Internet can already be used. AT&T said due to the higher usage of pre-loaded apps, the carrier took a “deliberate” approach on enabling the apps on its network.

Apple releases testimony before CEO’s Senate appearance

Apple has released a document containing CEO Tim Cook’s testimony ahead of his scheduled appearance tomorrow before US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Responding to questions about the company keeping more than $100 billion overseas, Apple used the testimony to state that it does not use tax gimmicks, and “has substantial foreign cash because it sells the majority of its products outside the US.” The company also points out that it is “likely the largest corporate income tax payer in the US” and notes that it has “created or supported approximately 600,000 jobs in the US.”

As anticipated by comments from Cook last year, Apple proposes that the current US corporate tax system must be reformed — “to reflect both the digital age and the globalization of commerce.” The company believes comprehensive reform should “be revenue neutral; eliminate all corporate tax expenditures; lower corporate income tax rates; and implement a reasonable tax on foreign earnings that allows free movement of capital back to the US.” It does not make more specific proposals in the testimony, but suggests that the simplification of the tax system is in line with its long-held belief system that simplicity is superior to complexity.

New Apple offers in India can reduce iPhone price

Apple has introduced incentives to make the iPhone more affordable for customers in India. Indian students who trade in an old smartphone will get 7,777 rupees ($144) toward a new iPhone. Non-students will earn the equivalent of $130 toward an iPhone purchase. Additionally, customers who use an American Express credit card to purchase an iPhone will receive ten percent cash back — a maximum refund of $111 to customers who purchase an iPhone 4, 4S or 5 before June 10. [via ZDNet]

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