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Google covering some Samsung defense costs in Apple case

Google has agreed to take over defense of some of Samsung’s claims in Apple’s current patent lawsuit, also agreeing to indemnify Samsung on potential losses from those claims, Re/Code reports. Though Google agreed to cover four patents, two were dropped from the case before the trial — remaining are the ‘414 and ‘959 patents, involving background synchronization and universal search. The information was revealed through Google attorney James Maccoun’s deposition testimony. As the report notes, “this was the first evidence shown to the jury that Google is playing a central role in the defense.”

Changes introduced to Apple’s app content rating system

Apple has sent an email to developers about recent changes that may affect the content rating of certain apps. A new rating system has been instituted in Brazil to meet local regulations — the rating is determined by an app’s existing content description. Territory-specific restrictions in the Brazil, Korea, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia app stores have also changed. Additionally, developers can now use new descriptions for apps: medical/treatment information, gambling and contests, and unrestricted web access.

Apple releases iOS 7.1.1

iOS 7.1.1, an update to Apple’s mobile operating system, is now available for download. The update lists improvements to Touch ID fingerprint recognition, the virtual keyboard, and Bluetooth keyboard usage.

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While complaints regarding iOS 7.1’s keyboard space key have been fairly widespread, the update appears to address keyboard responsiveness issues rather than design.

Apple Reuse & Recycling program expands to iPad

Apple has expanded its in-store Reuse & Recycling program to iPad, 9to5Mac reports. Previously, only iPhones could be traded in for credit toward other iPhones. Now, iPads can be traded in for credit, and credit from iPhones and iPads can be applied to a newer version of either device. It’s noted that Apple is less lenient on used iPad conditions — for example, stores won’t accept an iPad with a cracked screen, but will accept an iPhone in the same condition. Apple won’t accept trade-ins of its newest current devices — iPad Air, iPad mini with Retina display, and iPhone 5s and 5c — or its retired devices.

Apple offering free recycling of used products in stores

Apple is now offering free recycling for all of its used products in its retail stores, the Associated Press reports. Previously, only some devices could be recycled in-store. The company will still give out gift cards for devices with monetary value. Apple’s recycling policy change coincides with Earth Day and the company’s new environmental campaign.

Apple interviewing candidates for mobile payment service

Apple has been interviewing senior payments industry executives as the company looks to move forward with its own mobile payments service, Re/Code reports. The company is looking to hire for two new positions — head of product and head of business development — concentrating “exclusively on building a business around the hundreds of millions of credit cards it already has on file.” Apple executive Jennifer Bailey is reportedly leading the initiative — a prior report noted Bailey was in a new role. A source said on the plans, “their ambitions are very, very serious.” While this report claims that the initiative is now further along, rumors of an iTunes-based mobile payment service have been circulating for long enough that it’s hard to imagine the company is just staffing up for this purpose now.

Apple launches environmental responsibility campaign

Apple has launched a new environmental responsibility campaign with a revamped environmental webpage on its site. The new site includes a short film, “Better,” narrated by CEO Tim Cook. “But now, more than ever, we will work to leave the world better than we found it,” Cook says. The page includes information on how Apple is reducing its impact on climate change, and how the company is conserving resources and reducing toxins in its products. Environmental reports are also included for each current Apple product.

Apple, Google seek exclusive game debuts

Both Apple and Google are approaching game developers to get top titles to debut first on their respective operating systems, the Wall Street Journal reports. The companies are both offering premium placement within their app stores in exchange for exclusivity.  It’s reported that Apple doesn’t offer money for exclusive game debuts, only “marketing or promotional assistance.”

Apple and EA reached a deal for the launch of Plants Vs. Zombies 2 last August — Apple got about two months of exclusivity for the game, and it was released on Android in October. ZeptoLab’s Cut the Rope 2 was also featured exclusively on Apple’s App Store for about three months. Gameloft has considered Apple exclusivity, but thus far has decided against it, opting for simultaneous iOS and Android launches.

Yahoo aims to become default iOS Safari search engine

Yahoo is attempting to make its search engine the default option on Apple’s iPhone and iPad Safari browsers, Re/Code reports. Though it is a major goal for Yahoo, it “has not happened as yet officially and no deal is imminent.” Currently, Google is the default search on iOS, though users can change that to Yahoo through setting adjustments.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer reportedly has the attention of some Apple executives, including SVP of design Jony Ive. One source said “it will take more than pretty pictures” to get Apple to switch from Google as the default browser, as Apple aims for providing a top-notch user experience. It’s notable that Apple already uses Yahoo to power its iOS weather and stocks apps.

Apple working with Shazam on iOS song discovery feature

Apple is partnering with Shazam on a song discovery feature that will appear in a future iOS update, Bloomberg reports. The new feature will not require a separate download, and it will also incorporate Siri so that an iPhone user has the option of doing a voice search for what song is playing. It’s likely the app will then be able to link users to iTunes to purchase the song — as the report notes, Apple has been considering several options on how to tweak iTunes, with a number of rumors and reports already floating about. Though it’s pointed out that Apple will preview iOS 8 at its Worldwide Developer Conference next month, it’s unclear if the new feature will be a part of the next major iteration of iOS, or if it will come in a separate update.

Report: Apple bans UK music service from iAd

Bloom.fm, a U.K.-based streaming music service, has reportedly been blocked from using iAd by Apple. A spokesman for Bloom told CNET Apple must view the much smaller service as a threat. “We were surprised at Apple’s decision to ban us from their iAd network as their iTunes Radio service isn’t even available in the U.K.,” the spokesman said. “Bloom.fm gives you 22 million tracks for £1 a month — the price of a single download on iTunes — so I can see why they’d want to protect their business.” Although Bloom spent £2,000 per month on iAd, the company was informed it could no longer advertise on the platform. Apple said Bloom.fm is “a competitive service to iTunes Radio and it is against Apple policy,” according to a Bloom tweet. iTunes Radio still has yet to launch in the U.K., though a report said the service would launch in early 2014.

Apple says services not affected by Heartbleed

The Heartbleed security flaw, which has affected hundreds of thousands of websites using OpenSSL, has not done the same to Apple’s services. Apple confirmed to Re/Code that its mobile, desktop, and web services were not affected. “Apple takes security very seriously. iOS and OS X never incorporated the vulnerable software and key Web-based services were not affected,” an Apple spokesperson said. It’s recommended that Internet users look into which sites were vulnerable to Heartbleed, then update their passwords after those sites update their security software.

Apple considering ‘dramatic overhaul’ of iTunes Music Store

Apple is now considering “the most dramatic overhaul of its iTunes music store in more than a decade,” Billboard reports. The internal debate has been prompted by iTunes Radio’s inability to cease the decline of music downloads. Apparently, only 1-2 percent of iTunes Radio listeners are clicking the buy button. But just how Apple plans on revamping the iTunes store is up in the air.

It’s previously been reported that Apple is considering creating an on-demand music streaming service like Spotify, and the company has looked into creating an iTunes app for Android. Apple is also reportedly pressuring labels for exclusive album releases to boost sales, though it’s likely the company is placing more focus on streaming music at this time.

Apple Human Interface VP Greg Christie leaving company

Apple Human Interface Vice President Greg Christie’s clashes with Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive have led to Christie’s imminent departure from the company, 9to5Mac reports. Ive will take control of the company’s software design group. Christie is an original iPhone designer who has led software design at the company, and he recently testified for Apple in the current patent trial against Samsung. Ive and Christie reportedly butted heads over the design of iOS 7. With the departures of Christie and former SVP of iOS Software Scott Forstall, Ive is now in position to be in control of Apple design on both the hardware and software fronts.

Update: Apple confirmed Christie’s exit to the Wall Street Journal. A company spokesman said, “Greg has been planning to retire later this year after nearly 20 years at Apple.”

Report: Apple mulled Square acquisition

Apple considered making an acquisition offer for Square in the past year, Re/Code reports. Google also thought about making an offer for the payment company, but Square CEO Jack Dorsey reportedly favors Apple. Dorsey believes Apple’s aesthetics and values align more closely with Square, and he was also reportedly “put off” by Google when the company engaged in acquisition talks with his prior company, Twitter. “Jack does not want to sell to Google,” a source said.

An offer around $8 billion would “get Dorsey and the board’s attention,” the report notes, though sources doubt Square could receive such an lucrative offer at the moment. Apple and Square both declined comment.

Apple, other firms could pay $9 Billion in poaching suit

A class-action lawsuit is seeking $9-Billion in lost wages from Apple and other companies for their alleged roles in preventing employees from being hired by rivals, the New York Times reports. Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe are negotiating to settle the case. Though the companies “privately scoff” at the $9-Billion amount, the employees — about 100,000 of them — contend the facts are so convincing and embarrassing that “they won’t settle for anything less than a blindingly high number.” A number of emails from Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs and Google chief executive Eric Schmidt reveal the anti-poaching agreement between the companies, with Google seeking permission from Jobs to hire an Apple employee at one point; the offer was rescinded after Jobs objected.

The lawsuit was granted class-action status in October 2013, but the number of employees is higher than was initially reported. Each employee would be owed about $90,000 in lost wages if the $9-Billion amount is accepted.

Former Amazon A9 search VP now at Apple

Former Vice President of Amazon’s A9 Search Technology group, Benoit Dupin, has taken a job with Apple. Dupin’s LinkedIn page has been updated to note he is a “Director” at Apple. He will work on search for Maps, the iTunes Store, and the App Store, 9to5Mac reports. Apple has been pushing to improve search functionality, and the company has been testing a ‘related’ search feature in the App Store.

More Schiller emails reveal Apple ad turmoil

A recent report illustrated how Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller was bothered by Samsung’s marketing campaign targeting Apple, and newly released January 2013 emails show the back-and-forth between Schiller and Apple ad agency TBWA/Media Arts Lab. These emails, posted by Business Insider, follow Schiller’s email to the agency noting that Apple had “a lot of work to do” in response to an article titled “Has Apple lost its cool to Samsung?” The agency responded at length with thoughts on how to fix the “chilling negative narrative,” including needing more freedom — even comparing the situation to Apple’s predicament in 1997, as well as suggesting than the company hold an emergency executive meeting akin to one Steve Jobs held during Antennagate. Schiller was “shocked” by the response, writing that Apple placed no limits on the agency, and take the agency to task for its 1997 comparison.

“This is not 1997,” Schiller wrote. “Nothing like it in any way. In 1997 Apple had no products to market. We had a company making so little money that we were 6 months from out of business.” The agency apologized via email. In another email days later, Schiller wrote that while iPad advertising improved, iPhone advertising was “not good,” especially compared to a recent Samsung ad at the time.

iOS 8: Healthbook as aggregator, faster camera speed

Apple’s planned Healthbook app in iOS 8 is described as “an application that aggregates health and fitness data from various applications and hardware accessories” in a new 9to5Mac article. The feature, which mainly summarizes much of what’s already been reported about iOS 8, alludes to Healthbook being a sort of base app for other possible health-related applications. Additionally, the article notes Apple is working to speed up the time required to take a photo with the new iPhone’s hardware components, and pushing to further improve overall speed in iOS 8.

Apple internal slides reveal need for larger, cheaper phones

Internal Apple slides revealed by Samsung in the latest patent battle between the companies illustrate Apple’s need to create larger and cheaper smartphones. The slides from an April 2013 meeting, posted by Re/Code, show that while the iPhone growth rate is slowing, there’s still demand and growth for cheaper and larger phones.

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One slide, titled “Consumers want what we don’t have,” shows all of the market growth coming from smartphones either priced at $300 or cheaper, or phones more expensive than $300 with a screen larger than 4”. Apple is rumored to be developing two new iPhones with displays larger than 4.7”.

Update: The same Re/Code article contains internal Samsung documents showing the company regarded Apple’s iPhone as its top rival. One slide noted that “everything must be in context of beating Apple,” and the “threat from Apple is extremely real and urgent.”

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