A Washington Post report claiming the National Security Agency and FBI are accessing the servers of Apple and eight other companies has been denied by Apple. The program is code-named PRISM — launched in 2007, it is claimed to let the NSA directly collect data from Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, and Youtube. It is unknown whether the program involves direct cooperation with these companies, or relies upon indirect monitoring of their servers using surveillance tactics.
For its part, Apple has denied knowledge of PRISM. “We have never heard of PRISM,” said Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple. “We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.” Other companies have also denied the report, using similar language. The Post claims the program focuses on “foreign communications traffic.”
In an effort to sell more iPhone 5s, Apple will start an in-store iPhone trade-in program this month, according to a new report from Bloomberg. Apple is running the program in conjunction with mobile phone distributor Brightstar Corp. According to the report, “Used iPhones collected in the U.S. will only be resold in emerging markets, where Apple’s share is lower and demand for cheap devices is greater.” By doing this, sales of the used devices won’t chip away at Apple’s iPhone 5 sales. Apple has not publicly announced any trade-in plan, and it’s unclear whether the company’s buy-back prices will be competitive with existing third-party vendors.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced that he and San Francisco District Attorney George Gasćon will be questioning Apple, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft officials about why the companies haven’t taken more steps to combat theft. Schneiderman recently sent letters to Tim Cook and other CEOs expressing his concerns with the theft of electronic devices, including the iPhone. Gasćon has previously sought ways to combat theft through technology. Both men have pushed companies to install technologies that would make a stolen device inoperable, thus eliminating the black market. The summit will take place on June 13 in New York City.
Curbed Network’s popular food blog Eater has introduced its free Eater app. Eater’s app offers dining recommendations from the site, allowing users to find the Eater 38 and Eater Heatmap restaurants and bars in their location. Keep in mind that only selected cities will have Eater recommendations, due to the site’s focus on major population centers. A list of all restaurants can also be perused, and Eater stories can also be viewed right through the app.
Zen Studios’ new Marvel Pinball ($1) is a prime example of how in-app purchases can work properly. The game begins by including a full-fledged Avengers pinball table in 3-D, complete with all of the 2012 film’s major characters — it’s a good game on its own. Another 14 extra tables are offered for $2 each, focusing narrowly on specific Marvel comic books (including Captain America, The Amazing Spider Man, Ghost Rider) or series (Civil War, The Infinity Gauntlet, World War Hulk). Every table adds enough new voice samples, art, and music to give each table its own distinctive theme and collection of 3-D models to see. Tables always have multiple levels thanks to ramps, intensity comparable to the best real-world pinball machines, and occasional opportunities for camera-zoomed close-ups on individual character models.
While there’s certainly $2 worth of value in each of the extra tables we tested, including X-Men, Iron Man, and Wolverine, fans of Marvel’s movies may find the comic-inspired source material choices a little iffy: for instance, the Iron Man table eschews War Machine/Iron Patriot references in favor of jokes about Tony Stark’s boozing history, while X-Men leans heavily on 1980’s-vintage characters and color schemes rather than the films’ darker versions. Additionally, though you can shift between several very different camera angles in landscape mode, the views in portrait orientation are substantially similar, and don’t show off the 3-D table models quite as well. Apart from those small issues, Marvel Pinball is certainly worth checking out if you love pinball or any of Marvel’s franchises.
Following the release of hacked carrier files for Apple’s latest iPhone and iPads, developer Joseph Brown has written a blog post claiming that Apple is reducing the peak cellular data speeds of iPhones and iPads through coding. Notably, Brown writes that AT&T, Verizon and Sprint devices are all throttled in some way, but T-Mobile devices are not. Brown suggests that AT&T limits HSPA+ and LTE to below their peak speeds, while Verizon permanently throttles LTE, both Verizon and Sprint throttle down 3G, and signal issues for T-Mobile and AT&T are caused by band preferences set by Apple. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple’s upcoming iRadio music streaming service will feature virtual radio stations akin to Pandora’s, according to a new report, but will differ in selling “highly targeted” interstitial audio ads and onscreen ads using the iOS iAds service. Advertisers will be able to target users based on location, as well as entertainment tastes, due to Apple’s collection of user data from the device and iTunes account. These ads would conceivably be more pricey and desirable than Pandora ads, which can’t target users as specifically, relying on only several comparatively basic pieces of information. Selling ads and songs through iTunes will reportedly enable Apple to offer the service for free to iOS users, though it’s unknown if there will be a subscription-based alternative without ads. If the report is accurate, iRadio will notably not include on-demand song selection, which Spotify offers to mobile users who pay a monthly fee. [via Ad Age]
Apple has released iTunes 11.0.4, which “fixes a problem that may cause iTunes to quit if you switch between wired and wireless syncing.” Also, an issue that forced users to repeatedly login to the iTunes Store is resolved. The update is available through the Mac App Store, and will soon be offered through the iTunes download page as well.
Two hacks capable of exploiting Apple products have recently surfaced. Plexconnect allows the Plex media player client to run on Apple TV without jailbreaking the device. While an iOS Plex app has been available, this new hack puts Plex on the Apple TV with nothing more than a brief connection between the Apple TV and a computer, thanks to a trick that re-routes the Trailers application to a different web address. Apple will likely respond quickly to patch this exploit.
Another Apple hack comes through a phone charger and exploits iOS devices. Researchers from Georgia Tech claim to have developed an accessory that can invisibly install malware on a device running the newest version of iOS. The malicious charger is built around a $45 open-source single-board computer, and it can allegedly compromise an iOS device in less than a minute. Researchers plan on revealing the charger at July’s Black Hat security conference; it’s unclear whether the charger uses a Dock Connector or Lightning interface. [via 9to5Mac, Forbes]
Apple has reportedly applied to register a trademark for “iWatch” in Russia, according to Russian news service Izvestia.ru (translated link), which notes that the trademark application specifically contemplates timepieces and computers/computer peripherals. The report also claims that the “iWatch” name was first registered in Jamaica by Apple last December. Despite efforts to verify these alleged trademark applications, we were unable to confirm the details in either Russia or Jamaica; Apple might have initiated the international trademarking process in one of these countries specifically because their databases are considerably more difficult to search than their American or European counterparts. [via Apple Insider]
The U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that Apple violated a Samsung standards-essential patent, and now faces an import ban on the AT&T iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, and the first- and second-generation 3G iPad. Apple plans to appeal the decision. “We are disappointed that the Commission has overturned an earlier ruling and we plan to appeal,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told AllThingsD. “Today’s decision has no impact on the availability of Apple products in the United States. Samsung is using a strategy which has been rejected by courts and regulators around the world. They’ve admitted that it’s against the interests of consumers in Europe and elsewhere, yet here in the United States Samsung continues to try to block the sale of Apple products by using patents they agreed to license to anyone for a reasonable fee.”
Bose has introduced its QuietComfort 20 series in-ear earphones ($300). The noise-canceling earphones include an in-line control module for noise-cancellation — the module can run for 16 hours before needing a charge via Micro-USB. QuietComfort 20 earphones also allow users to enter “aware mode” to let in sound from outside. A three-button remote comes on the iOS version of the earphones, which should be available this summer.
Bose also debuted the SoundLink Mini ($200), a much smaller Bluetooth speaker than the company’s SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II. Seemingly designed as a Jawbone Jambox alternative, the SoundLink Mini features two drivers and dual-opposing passive bass radiators. Playback controls are located on top of the speaker, which can play for seven hours per charge. The SoundLink Mini will be released June 11. [via Engadget]
Google’s Chrome (free) has been updated to version 27.0.1453.10. Voice search has been improved in the update, as the app now features faster voice recognition, with text results streamed on the fly. Answers are now spoken back to users, and web results are tailored to questions. Pages also reload faster now, even if the network is slow or unavailable.
Eye-Fi (free) has updated its app to version 3.0 with iPhone 5 screen support, as well as a somewhat redesigned interface, and support for the new mobile device-focused Mobi model of the Eye-Fi card. Bug fixes and stability improvements are also included in the update, along with in-app video playback.
Cannon Security Products has announced the RadioVault ($350), a highly unusual iPhone/iPod speaker dock with a biometric fingerprint-activated security drawer underneath it. The top half of the RadioVault functions like a standard iPhone audio dock, charging the device alongside a speaker, digital alarm clock, and FM radio.
The bottom of the RadioVault, however, is a stealth, steel-reinforced security drawer featuring a biometric fingerprint scanner. Up to 120 fingerprints can be programmed into the scanner. RadioVault is available now in a 30-pin Dock Connector version.
Apple was issued a patent for a near field communications system allowing two devices to transfer data. The patent contemplates that tapping two devices together will transfer selected data—a concept similar to existing Samsung phones with the S Beam feature, as well as other NFC-capable devices. It’s unclear how the patent will impact non-Apple products already including the same functionality.
In Apple’s version, any NFC-enabled devices can be used, with one example detailing files transferred between an iPhone and a Mac. Both device-to-device functionality and peer-to-peer use are detailed within the patent. [via Apple Insider]
Accused of conspiring with publishers to fix e-book prices, Apple claimed in its opening court statement that the government is trying to “reverse engineer a conspiracy from a market effect.” The case is a “sinister inference,” said Apple attorney Orin Snyder, maintaining that the company did not conspire with any publishers, and that “every single indicator of market health improved after Apple entered the e-book market.” Snyder also expressed concern over recent comments from presiding U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote, who suggested that the government would likely be able to prove a conspiracy was in place. [via All Things D]
A new report from the spotty DigiTimes claims that Apple will release the fifth-generation iPad in the third quarter, but will delay the release of the second-generation iPad mini by a few months. The new iPad mini will allegedly be delayed for one of two reasons: to prevent the mini from impacting sales of the larger iPad, or due to Apple’s supply chain “being unable to meet the mass-production schedule.” Despite the supposed delay, it could be released for the holiday season. The report also claims that the redesigned fifth-generation iPad will feature a “thin-film-type touch panel solution” to reduce its weight.
The U.S. Department of Justice has released its opening statements against Apple in the e-book pricing conspiracy case, which began in court today. Apple participated in a conspiracy with publishers to raise e-book prices, the DOJ claims. Over 80 slides are included, such as Apple’s emails to publishers, in which the DOJ attempts to illustrate how the company allegedly initiated the conspiracy. The publishers have all settled out of court, but Apple has denied any wrongdoing, despite emails that appear to suggest a deliberate coordinated effort to increase prices in the iBookstore. [via CNET]
Apple has started to replace iPhone 5 screens at its retail stores, according to a new report. A new display replacement costs $149, enabling users to avoid replacing the entire iPhone, and AppleCare+ isn’t necessary to use the service. A prior report noted that display repairs would be ready in-house by June. The same report said Apple stores should be able to repair cameras, sleep/wake buttons, and logic boards by July. [via MacRumors]
Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in April, and as noted by MacRumors, the school recently posted clips of Cook’s appearance on YouTube. Cook — who earned his MBA from Duke — speaks about leadership and collaboration, among other topics. The key points Cook made were:
* Hiring Apple employees: Cook said that Apple looks to hire people who “aren’t bureaucrats,” “don’t care who gets credit,” are “wicked smart,” “appreciate different points of view,” and “care enough that they have an idea at 11 at night and they want to call and talk to you about it” because they know that collaborating will move the idea forward. Cook noted that virtually no one can take a great idea from concept to reality alone, and that at Apple, the intersection of hardware, software, and services makes collaboration necessary.
* Focusing on three things: Cook apparently advises leaders, in Steve Jobs fashion, to focus on three things in order to succeed. He explained that his three focuses at Apple are on working with brilliant “people,” creating a heavily product-focused “strategy,” and “executing like crazy,” suggesting that getting those things right makes almost everything else work properly.
* Following rules: A student asked Cook when it’s okay to break the rules, particularly given what professors have been teaching them. In all seriousness, Cook responded, “I think you should rarely follow the rules. You should write the rules.” Following someone else’s formula will make you at best the same as your rivals, he suggested, so “if you want to excel, you can’t do that.” A good education helps you learn broad concepts, how to learn more, and how to work with people who may possess different viewpoints, things that will lead to success.
An alleged photo leak of iPhone 5S components on Chinese site Weibo provides further evidence that Apple is planning a gold color option for the device. A SIM tray, volume control, mute switch, and power button — reportedly for the iPhone 5S — are pictured, all in the same gold tone.
Despite the fact that Apple famously released and quickly discontinued a gold-colored iPod mini due to weak demand—the only color it removed from that device’s lineup—gold color options have been rumored for both the iPhone 5S and budget-priced iPhone. The company’s apparently renewed interest in gold might have something to do with the color’s popularity in China, which is a major growing market for Apple products, and likely to be specifically targeted by both of the new iPhone models. [via Apple Insider]