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BBC investigative report claims Apple fails to protect Chinese workers

  • December 18, 2014
  • Apple,

Apple has not lived up to its commitment to improve working conditions in its Chinese suppliers’ factories, according to a new undercover BBC investigation. In a documentary scheduled to air tonight, titled “Apple’s Broken Promises,” BBC Panorama shows what conditions inside a Chinese iPhone 6 production line are really like. The investigation found standards being breached at Pegatron factories on everything from workers’ hours, to dormitories, to juvenile workers — all areas in which Apple had promised sweeping improvements over the past several years. The documentary includes footage of exhausted workers falling asleep on 12-hour shifts, an undercover reporter who was forced to work 18 days in a row despite repeated requests for time off, and another reporter who worked shifts of up to 16 hours. Panorama also followed Apple’s supply chain down to the Indonesian island of Bangka, and found evidence that tin from illegal mines could be entering Apple’s supply chain, despite the company’s dedication to ethical sourcing of minerals. Investigative reporters also found children digging tin ore out of the mines by hand under extremely dangerous conditions.

Apple declined to be interviewed for the story, but the company did release a statement saying that it is “aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions.” The company noted that it was a “very common practice” for workers to nap during breaks, but that it would “investigate any evidence” of workers falling asleep while actually working. In its statement, the company said that it had monitored the working hours of “more than a million workers” and that the workers at the particular plant in question were averaging 55 hours per week. Responding to the situation in Bangka, Apple described it as a “complex situation” as many miners sell tin through a series of middle men, so it’s not always possible to confirm the sources of tin, but Apple remains engaged in Bangka to attempt to “drive changes on the ground” to improve the situation there.

Panorama: Apple’s Broken Promises airs tonight on BBC One and will be available later on BBC’s iPlayer platform.

Apple releases iOS 8.2 beta 3 to developers

Apple has released the third beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers, featuring a build number of 12D5452a. As with other recent versions, the latest beta appears to be primarily focused on fixes and enhancements to WatchKit to allow developers to continue preparing their apps for next year’s debut of the Apple Watch.

Tim Cook announces $20M raised for (PRODUCT)RED in internal e-mail

  • December 18, 2014
  • Apple,

Apple CEO Tim Cook has sent out an e-mail to employees announcing that Apple has raised $20 million this quarter for (PRODUCT)RED, iClarified reports, with Apple’s Holiday (PRODUCT)RED campaign likely contributing the lion’s share of the fundraising, which goes to support the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.

I’m thrilled to announce that our total donation for this quarter will be more than $20 million — our biggest ever — bringing the total amount Apple has raised for (PRODUCT) RED to over $100 million. The money we’ve raised is saving lives and bringing hope to people in need. It’s a cause we can all be proud to support.”

Apple has long been a supporter of the (PRODUCT)RED campaign, beginning with the debut of the iPod nano (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition in 2006, although this year’s World AIDS Day 2014 campaign was the largest the company has undertaken, and the first time App Store content has been included.

Apple announces 64-bit and iOS 8 requirements for app updates

Apple will begin requiring app updates submitted to the App Store after June 1, 2015 to include 64-bit support and be built with the iOS 8 SDK, as outlined in an e-mail sent out today to registered iOS Developers. As the e-mail noted, Apple had previously announced this requirement back in October for new iOS apps, scheduled to take effect February 1, 2015. However, this note indicates that Apple will also be applying this policy to updates to existing apps. This only affects updates submitted by developers, however, and since developers are not required to submit updates, apps built with the older SDK can likely remain available on the App Store in their present form until they otherwise need to be updated.

Apple ordered to turn over records in Canadian iPhone antitrust probe

A Canadian Federal Court has ordered Apple Canada to turn over documents to the Government’s Competition Bureau as part of an investigation into possible unfair marketing practices by the company, Reuters reports. The Competition Bureau, which is responsible for enforcing various competition and marketing acts on behalf of the Canadian Government, stated in a filing to the court that it believes Apple unfairly used its bargaining power from the popularity of the iPhone to negotiate contracts with wireless carriers that encouraged them to overprice rival phones, thereby reducing competition for the iPhone. Among other things, the Bureau is investigating whether the terms of their contracts with Apple may have discouraged carriers from reducing competing handset prices or encouraged them to charge higher prices for wireless services than they may otherwise have done.

Federal Court Chief Justice Paul Crampton stated that he would sign the disclosure order later on Wednesday, at which point Apple will have 90 days to turn over the documents to the Competition Bureau, including all of the agreements that it has with Canadian mobile carriers. In response, Apple’s lawyers have suggested that the company is considering launching a constitutional challenge to determine whether Canadian courts actually have the jurisdiction to force Apple’s wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary to turn over documents that are held by the California-based parent company. The Competition Act provides Canadian courts with this power, however, and both the lawyer for the Competition Bureau and Chief Justice Crampton have stated that these provisions have never been found to be unconstitutional, and that there is increasing consensus in the worldwide legal community that such provisions are legitimate.

Apple halts online sales in Russia

  • December 16, 2014
  • Apple,

Apple has ceased sales on its online stores in Russia due to “extreme” fluctuations in the ruble, Bloomberg reports. A spokesperson for Apple stated that the Russian online store is “currently unavailable while we review pricing.” With Russia’s currency varying wildly in recent weeks, Apple has already been working to deal with the changes, with the company increasing the price of the iPhone 6 by 25 percent in that country.

Apple found not guilty in iPod, iTunes Store lock-in suit

Apple has been cleared of wrongdoing in the recent antitrust case on iPod and iTunes Store lock-in, The Verge reports. The decade-old class-action lawsuit accused Apple of putting procedures in place in iTunes 7.0 that would remove music found on iPods from competing music services. Apple, for its part, claimed that the measures were simply “extra security” that the company added to its iPod and iTunes platforms in 2006. The lawsuit originally asked for damaged of more than $350 million to be distributed across 8 million consumers who bought affected iPod models between September 2006 and March 2009. Had Apple been found guilty of violating antitrust laws, however, the company could have potentially been liable for damages of more than $1 billion.

In a unanimous decision today, the eight-person jury in the trial rules that iTunes 7.0 was a “genuine product improvement” that was good for consumers, rather than a deliberate attempt by Apple to thwart competition by limiting purchased music to only Apple’s platform, as plaintiffs in the case had tried to argue. During the trial, Apple had repeatedly compared its iTunes and iPod ecosystem to integrated systems such as video game consoles, stating that it had simply built all of the pieces to work together. Further, the company’s lawyers noted that the DRM that ultimately locked out competitors was a necessary requirement of Apple’s deals with the major record companies, and that Apple was contractually obligated under the terms of those deals to patch any security holes that could have led to piracy of purchased content.

Apple Pay cards represent 90 percent of US credit purchase volume; Samsung readying rival service

  • December 16, 2014
  • Apple,

Apple Pay now supports cards that “represent about 90 percent of the credit card purchase volume in the United States,” Apple has told The New York Times. Apple has repeatedly and consistently announced Apple Pay partnerships with more companies — ten more banks will back the mobile payment option today. Though the total amount of Apple Pay transactions on the supported cards is still a small number, the report notes that all of the partnerships “suggest that Apple has generated more traction for the service than any competing service.”

Speaking of competing services, Re/code reports that Samsung is discussing a deal with LoopPay to launch its own wireless mobile payment system in 2015. A deal would enable Samsung smartphone users to pay by waving their phones, though a source notes “the deal could still fall apart.” LoopPay’s technology mimics a credit card swipe, conceivably allowing it to work in more locations than Apple Pay. LoopPay CEO Will Graylin said his company is talking with Visa about how to make the payment process more secure — the company looks to use tokenization in its payments, as Apple Pay does.

Report: Apple outlines more stringent requirements for MFi case makers

Apple is now enforcing more stringent requirements for case manufacturers in its Made for iPhone (MFi) program, 9to5Mac reports. The new requirements are intended to ensure that cases provide better protection for Apple devices from impact, as well as providing proper glass coverage. Case makers will now be required to ensure that devices are protected from drops of up to 1 meter onto a hard surface, from any possible device orientation. Cases will also be required to protect an iPhone, iPad, or iPod’s glass when resting flat on a surface such as a table, providing a buffer of at least 1mm between the cover glass and a flat surface — this can be accomplished either by including full screen protection or having the front lip of the case protrude slightly to keep the glass from touching a flat surface.

The report also notes that Apple is now listing a number of restricted substances and materials in order to lessen the environmental impact of MFi cases. The list of newly restricted substances includes “Formaldehyde, Endangered species of flora and fauna, PFOS, PFOA, PBDE, PBB, and Phthalates.” While companies are not required to be part of Apple’s MFi program simply to produce cases for Apple devices, Apple’s licensing program provides certification for third-party accessories, allowing manufacturers to include a “Made-for-iPhone/iPad/iPod” logo on their packaging.

iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3 cellular models available in China this week

Apple has announced the Chinese release of the cellular models of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, noting that both versions will be available in China “starting this week.” Both tablets are now available on Apple’s Chinese online store. A single cellular version of each model provides support for the Chinese TD-LTE and FDD-LTE standards, as well as TD-SCDMA, DC-HSDPA, HSPA+ and other fast network technologies, providing cellular connectivity in both China and most other countries.

Apple releases iOS 8.2 beta 2 to developers

Apple has released the second beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers, following up on the first 8.2 beta released with the debut of WatchKit last month. The latest beta features a build number of 12D445d and appears to contain mostly minor tweaks and fixes, particularly focused on enhancements to WatchKit as developers prepare apps for next year’s debut of the Apple Watch.

First wave of IBM MobileFirst for iOS Apps appear

  • December 10, 2014
  • Apple,

Apple has announced the first group of enterprise apps born out of the landmark Apple-IBM partnership. Targeted at enterprise organizations in the banking, retail, insurance, financial services, telecommunications, government and airline industries, IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions are designed to strengthen the role of the iPad and iPhone for use in large-scale business applications. The first IBM clients with MobileFirst solutions include Citi, Air Canada, Sprint and Banorte.

The IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps are delivered in a secure environment directly to enterprise customers, rather than appearing on the App Store, and are tailored to meet specific organizational needs and integrate with core enterprise processes. However, IBM provides a framework where apps can be easily customized for any organization and deployed, managed, and upgraded via IBM’s iOS-specific cloud services platform. The first suite of apps includes flight planning and passenger services for the airline industry, mobile client profile and portfolio access for the banking and financial industry, retention management for insurance companies, caseworker and law enforcement applications for government, and sales and inventory systems for the retail industry. IBM is continuing to develop additional applications that will address various mobile data and analysis needs across a variety of enterprise markets.

Apple and IBM are also providing additional services related to the IBM MobileFirst for iOS platform, including enhanced mobile device management through IBM’s enterprise cloud systems, streamlined end-to-end procurement to allow enterprise organizations to properly manage the lifecycle of their iOS device hardware and keep pace with the latest device releases, and AppleCare for Enterprise to provide 24/7 telephone support from Apple for IT departments and end users, with on-site hardware service delivered by IBM.

Apple releases iOS 8.1.2, fixing missing ringtones issue

Apple has officially released iOS 8.1.2 to the public, a minor maintenance release that notes “bug fixes” as well as addressing a problem with missing ringtones previously purchased through the iTunes Store. The ringtone issue has been noted in an Apple Support article, which provides instructions for either restoring missing tones by syncing with the associated iTunes library containing those tones, or visiting http://itunes.com/restore-tones from Safari on an affected iOS device after updating.

iOS 8.1.2 is available as an over-the-air update or by updating via iTunes on a Mac or PC.

Report: Bose products returning to Apple Stores?

Bose products might be making a return to Apple Stores, according to a new report from French blog iGen.fr. A report earlier this fall speculated that Apple’s acquisition of Beats may have caused the company to end its retail relationship with Bose, possibly due to the exclusive deal between Bose and the NFL that prohibited players form wearing other branded headphones during televised interviews. This latest report suggests that Apple and Bose may have now come to some kind of new agreement and that Bose products may begin reappearing on Apple Store shelves as early as next week.

Update: A number of Bose products have indeed turned up again on Apple’s online store.

Former Apple exec receives one-year prison sentence

  • December 8, 2014
  • Apple,

Former Apple global supply manager Paul Devine has been sentenced to one year in prison for selling confidential information to Asian suppliers that they were able to use to negotiate more favorable deals with the company, the Associated Press reports. Devine pled guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering three years ago, agreeing at the time to give up around $2.28 million in money and property. While the charges carried a potential maximum prison sentence of 20 years, Devine has ultimately been sentenced to only a year in prison. However, he has also been ordered to repay $4.5 million – twice what was offered during his guilty plea. The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to provide any reasons for the lengthy delay in Devine’s sentencing, which was originally scheduled for June 6, 2011. Devine was a global supply manager at Apple for five years prior to his arrest in 2010.

Apple announces iTunes Best of 2014

Apple has announced its Best of 2014 picks on iTunes, a list that chooses the best content selected by Apple’s iTunes Editorial team in each of the various sections of the App Store. Apple’s 2014 App of the Year was Elevate - Brain Training (free) by Elevate, with Instagram’s Hyperlapse (free) coming in as runner-up. Other notable runners up for Apps include Yahoo News Digest (free), SwiftKey Keyboard (free), 1Password (free), and Camera+ ($3).

The Top Game of the Year was Sirvo’s Threes ($3), with Leo’s Fortune ($5) by 1337 & Senri as the runner-up in the Games category. Other notable runners-up in the category include Monument Valley ($4), Hitman Go ($5), and Smash Hit (free).

Apple expanding into India with 500 ‘iOS’ stores

  • December 5, 2014
  • Apple,

Apple is reportedly planning to open 500 ‘iOS’ retail stores in India, according to The Economic Times. While Apple has had a presence in India since 2011, it has not been a “mainline” brand there, and has relied exclusively on two major distributors and a collection of independent authorized resellers. This new initiative would see the company opening a large number of its own stores, albeit in the smaller 300-600-square foot range as compared to its usual 2,000-square foot Apple Stores. The new stores would be sited mostly in smaller towns and cities, the report says, and it seems likely that the focus would be on iPhones, iPads, and iPods, rather than Macs. The report notes that Apple also plans to increase direct advertising spending in the country.

Apple hiring to expand Maps crowdsourcing

A new job posting on Apple’s web site suggests that the company is looking to expand upon certain features in the iOS Maps application for “crowdsourcing improvements to the Maps experience.” The job opening, for a “Maps Community Client Software Engineer,” appears to be primarily focused on the user interface and architecture for the “Report a Problem” feature in the iOS Maps app, but also interestingly notes that the position will involve work on frameworks and plugins to integrate Maps with Siri and Passbook to “extend and enhance the feedback experience.” Apple has struggled with data accuracy since the inception of its own Maps app in iOS 6, and although the company has become much more responsive to user reports in recent months, it appears to also be seeking to streamline the reporting process itself. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple to offer free programming workshops

  • December 4, 2014
  • Apple,

In recognition of Computer Science Education Week, Apple will be running various free programming workshops and other events at its Retail Stores throughout the U.S. from Dec. 8-14, including a special one-hour introduction to the basics of computer programming on Dec. 11 for Code.org’s Hour of Code campaign. The annual campaign, sponsored by non-profit website Code.org, aims at teaching basic programming techniques to students around the world through free workshops. In addition to the programming workshops, a number of other individual special events are being held throughout the week at major Apple Retail Stores around the world, including Tokyo, Chicago, London, New York, Berlin, and Osaka. [via MacRumors]

Antitrust lawyers claim Apple deleted competing songs from users’ iPods

Apple has been accused of deleting music from users’ iPods that had been downloaded from competing music services, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal. In the recently commenced class-action antitrust suit against Apple regarding iPod and iTunes Store lock-in, lawyers for the consumers told jurors that between 2007 and 2009, Apple knowingly had procedures in place to delete music found on iPods from competing music services without telling users. When users who had downloaded music from a rival service attempted to sync an iPod to their iTunes library, an error message would be displayed by iTunes instructing the user to restore to factory settings, a process that removes all content on the portable device and then reloads it from the user’s iTunes library. This process caused songs from rival services to disappear, the lawyers said, further alleging that Apple directed the system “not to tell users the problem.” The plaintiffs in the case claim that this demonstrates that Apple was stifling competition for music players and downloads from other services; they are seeking $350 million in damages based on the claim that Apple’s lock-in forced them to pay more for music players by being forced to keep buying iPods rather than being able to consider competing options.

Apple responded by stating the moves were legitimate security measures, with the company’s security director, Augustin Farrugia, testifying that Apple did not provide detailed information as the company doesn’t “need to give users too much information,” and doesn’t “want to confuse users” – an approach that is typical in the software designed by the company. Farrugia noted that Apple was “very paranoid” about protecting iTunes in light of hackers that were working to crack the FairPlay copy protection used by iTunes and the iPod, and that updates which removed non-Apple music files were intended to protect customers. “The system was totally hacked,” Farrugia said. E-mails from Steve Jobs presented in evidence revealed similar security concerns.

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