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Cook: Apple not against big acquisitions, new categories coming

Contrary to its history, Apple is not opposed to making big acquisitions, CEO Tim Cook told the Wall Street Journal. “We’ve looked at big companies,” Cook said. “We have no problem spending 10 figures for the right company, for the right fit that’s in the best interest of Apple in the long-term. None. Zero.” The report juxtaposes Apple’s history of making smaller acquisitions with Google’s recent $3.2 billion purchase of Nest, a company founded by “Father of the iPod” Tony Fadell that has hired a large number of other ex-Apple employees.

Cook also reiterated in the interview that Apple will enter new categories this year. “There will be new categories. We’re not ready to talk about it, but we’re working on some really great stuff,” Cook said. The most obvious thought is that, as rumored, Apple will release the iWatch this year — though Cook’s use of “categories” suggests another new type of product could also be on the way.

Also in the interview, Cook revealed Apple has bought back $14 billion in stock since reporting its financial results about two weeks ago. Cook said the company was “surprised” by its 8 percent decline in shares since Jan. 28. Apple has now bought back more than $40 billion of its shares during the past week. “It means that we are betting on Apple. It means that we are really confident on what we are doing and what we plan to do,” he said.

Report: Apple reduces MFi licensing fees

Apple has reduced its MFi licensing fees, according to a Japanese report. The licensing rate was lowered in January, along with the purchase rate for Lightning connectors. It’s possible the rate reductions will be reflected in cheaper prices for future third-party Lightning accessories. This may also result in seeing Lightning products from additional companies, although it’s worth noting that Apple’s strict development restrictions have not changed and may still hamper that possibility. [via Macotakara]

Report: Apple sapphire plant has capacity for mass production

Apple’s new sapphire plant in Arizona already has the capacity for large-scale sapphire production, according to 9to5Mac. Reported shipping documents note that the plant has already received 518 sapphire furnace and chamber systems, with 420 machines still to be assembled. The report speculates that more than 103 million 5-inch iPhone displays per year could be made with the furnace systems already in place — but conceivably, any number of sapphire components could be manufactured on a large scale. Considering the plant already has the systems in place, it’s possible that one or more of this year’s new Apple devices could include those sapphire components. A previous report noted Apple was pushing to open the plant this month to create a “critical new sub-component of Apple products.”

Apple seeks physiologists in job listing

An Apple job listing seeking physiologists is the first official sign from the company that it’s looking to move into the health realm. The job listing — which was posted earlier today and has since been removed from Apple’s website — seeks a “user studies exercise physiologist” to “design and run user studies related to cardiovascular fitness and energy expenditure.” Although numerous reports have noted Apple is going in a health-related direction with its iWatch — including reports that Apple has hired experts from the medical field — this is the first signal that’s come directly from Apple. A recent report claimed iOS 8 and a new app with the codename “Healthbook” would be designed with iWatch in mind. [via 9to5Mac]

First Apple retail store in Brazil to open Feb. 15

Apple has announced that its first retail store in Brazil will open on Saturday, February 15. The store will be located at VillageMall in Rio de Janeiro. A recent report claimed Apple will restart production of the iPhone 4 for three markets, including Brazil.

Apple pulls popular Bitcoin wallet from App Store

Apple has pulled the popular Bitcoin wallet Blockchain from its App Store, leaving iOS users with no remaining Bitcoin wallet apps. Blockchain was removed on Wednesday, and Apple didn’t provide a specific reason to Blockchain CEO Nicolas Cary, only explaining the app was removed “due to an unresolved issue.” “It’s well known that Apple is developing its own payment system,” Cary told The New York Times. “They are building a walled garden to interfere with innovation.” According to Wired, Blockchain is the world’s most popular Bitcoin wallet. The app is used by about 120,000 people, with more than 1 million Blockchain users in total.

Report: iWatch to use LG stepped battery tech

Apple will use stepped lithium-ion batteries in its upcoming iWatch, according to a report from The Korea Herald. The batteries will be supplied by LG Chem, Samsung SDI, and Tianjin Lishen Battery, sources said. As the report notes, a stepped battery uses layers of batteries to offer more energy efficiency in a footprint similar to a regular battery. The report also suggests the iWatch is “unlikely to sport a curved screen.” LG Chem announced production of stepped batteries and curved batteries last year. LG’s G2 phone uses a step design to increase capacity in a small space.

A recent report suggested Apple was experimenting with magnetic induction charging for the iWatch, as well as new battery technologies, including solar charging, and kinetic charging — though that report noted some of the methods were “years” from happening. An Apple patent application from July revealed a flexible battery pack, while an early iWatch report said Apple was hoping battery life for the device could reach four to five days.

Apple seeks SCOTUS help on patent abuse; hit with $2B suit

Apple, Google, and a number of other companies are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to make it easier to collect attorneys’ fees from patent holding companies that lose infringement suits, Bloomberg reports. Both Apple and Google have been sued more than 190 times in the past five years by patent assertion entities, often referred to as “patent trolls.” A favorable ruling for the tech companies would make it more risky for such entities to present “frivolous” patent lawsuits. Apple said it is currently facing 228 unresolved patent claims, and the company “employs two attorneys just to respond to letters that demand royalties.” The U.S. Patent Act says fees can be awarded “in exceptional cases,” which leaves room for interpretation. Two upcoming cases unrelated to Apple will have the Supreme Court justices considering patent litigation fee awards; two companies that defeated patent suits are seeking fee awards from those trials.

In related news, the Wall Street Journal reports that a German patent assertion entity has accused Apple of patent infringement and is claiming $2.12 billion in damages. IPCom GmbH has accused Apple of improperly using a technology that allows emergency calls to take precedence on mobile networks. The technology is mandatory for UTMS and LTE cellphone standards, IPCom claims.

Report: Apple reviving iPhone 4 for India, Indonesia, Brazil

Apple has reportedly restarted production of the iPhone 4 for just three markets — India, Indonesia, and Brazil. It would be the first time Apple has resumed production of a discontinued iPhone. New iPhone 4 shipments have recently reached retail stores with a reported December 2013 manufacturing date, and trade partners have been told new shipments will have January manufacturing dates. A recent report from the same publication noted Apple would be relaunching the 8GB iPhone 4 in India due to the loss of sales and market share in the region. iPhone 4 is now selling for about 20,000 rupees (about $320), which is notably higher from the price cited in the past report. [via The Economic Times]

Apple releases iOS 7.1 beta 5 to developers

Apple has released iOS 7.1 beta 5 to developers, notably including improved Siri voices for certain international countries. The fourth beta was released about two weeks ago. Apple TV Software beta 5 was also released, as well as Xcode 5.1 Developer Preview 5.

Apple CEO talks iPad, iPhone + Siri with Turkish president

Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Turkish President Abdullah Gül, discussing research and development possibilities in Turkey, among other issues. Cook also revealed that Apple’s first store in Turkey will open in Istanbul in April. Gül suggested Apple should consider Turkey for research and development, while also requesting a Turkish edition of Siri. Cook suggested that the iPhone and iPad should be excluded from Turkish luxury taxes. The two also discussed the country’s Faith Project for education; a previous report forecasting Cook’s visit claimed that Turkey might acquire 10.6 million tablet computers.

The visit was another high-profile overseas meeting for Cook. Apple’s CEO recently met with UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny. [via Presidency of the Republic of Turkey]

Apple pledging $100M in equipment to ConnectED

Apple is pledging $100 million in “iPads, computers and other tools” to President Barack Obama’s ConnectED initiative. The Associated Press reports that a number of companies have committed around $750 million in total toward the goal of connecting more students to high-speed Internet. Obama’s ConnectED initiative has the goal of connecting 99 percent of American students to high-speed Internet within five years of its June announcement.

Apple bulking up Internet infrastructure for more TV content?

Apple is signing long-term deals for more bandwidth as the company builds up its Internet infrastructure, the Wall Street Journal reports. The infrastructure will be “capable of delivering large amounts of content to customers.” Though the WSJ points out Apple could need more bandwidth for existing services such as iCloud, iTunes, and the App Store, the report also notes the infrastructure could handle more traffic if Apple “decides to move deeper into television.” Bill Norton, chief strategy officer for International Internet Exchange, estimates Apple now has the bandwidth to move hundreds of gigabits of data per second. “That’s the starting point for a very, very big network,” he said. It’s possible that Apple is expecting to radically increase the number of Apple TV devices in the marketplace, begin to offer 4K-quality streams, or both.

Apple recently added a new Apple TV page to its online store, fueling speculation that a major update to its “hobby” device will be happening soon. iLounge has reported that games will be a larger part of Apple TV after an update.

Apple sued by Univ. of Wisconsin over A7 chip

The University of Wisconsin’s patent licensing arm, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), has sued Apple over its A7 processor. WARF alleges the processor infringes upon a university patent titled “table based data speculation circuit for parallel processing computer.” The research foundation believes Apple incorporated technology from the patent to improve efficiency and performance in its A7 processor, currently found in the iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and iPad mini with Retina display. Apple previously cited the patent in one or more of its own patent applications, WARF notes, yet the company apparently maintains that it won’t accept licensing proposals from patent holding organizations. Wisconsin is at least the second U.S. university in the past year to file a lawsuit against Apple for alleged patent infringement, as Boston University filed an infringement lawsuit last July. [via Patently Apple]

Report: iPhone 5c catches fire, burns Maine girl

A 14-year-old Maine girl reportedly suffered second-degree burns when her iPhone 5c caught fire in her pants pocket. According to the report, the girl and her friends heard a “pop” from the phone, which then started billowing smoke and caught fire. The girl stopped, dropped, and rolled, then had to remove her pants, and sustained burns on her thigh and back. “The phone fell out of her pocket ... and it was still smoldering,” school principal Jeff Rodman said. Area repair shop owner Andrew Rosenstein noted of the iPhone’s lithium-ion battery, “It’s very rare there can be an issue, but any battery is just a chemical composition that can be flammable in extreme circumstances.” Several battery issues with prior iPhones have been blamed on third-party chargers. [via Morning Sentinel]

iWatch reports: New battery tech, ‘Healthbook’ app

Apple is testing new charging options for its iWatch, The New York Times reports. The company has reportedly tested a method to charge the wristwatch’s battery using magnetic induction. Apple is also “experimenting” with types of new power-charging methods. Among these experiments is a solar-charging layer over a curved glass screen that could power the device during daylight, and a battery that’s charged by kinetic movement, such as arm swinging during walking. The Times notes some of the methods being tested “are years from becoming a reality,” which means that a first-generation iWatch release this year might not include any of the technologies. “Hoping and betting on new battery technology to me is a fool’s errand,” former Apple SVP and “father of the iPod” Tony Fadell told the Times. “Don’t wait for the battery technology to get there, because it’s incredibly slow to move.”

Apple is also likely developing its upcoming iOS 8 update with iWatch in mind, according to 9to5Mac. iOS 8 will reportedly include a new app with the codename “Healthbook.” The app will be able to monitor a user’s vital signs, in addition to health tracking features, using Passbook-style data cards to organize different results captured by the device and accessories. It’s suggested that “Healthbook” could relay information from the iWatch, as the iWatch has reportedly been “designed to be heavily reliant on the iPhone.”

Apple CEO Cook talks taxes during Ireland visit

Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny today during a visit to Ireland, and Kenny confirmed the meeting included a discussion of corporate tax rate. Kenny, the Irish head of government, said Ireland is “participating fully” in EU discussions about corporate tax rate, and denied that the Irish government makes special deals with Apple or any other companies. Apple drew criticism last year for allegedly avoiding taxes in both Ireland and the U.S due to a loophole stemming from the incorporation of the company’s international operations in Ireland. Cook said in a statement at the time, “We pay all the taxes we owe — every single dollar.” During his visit, Cook also addressed Apple staff in the company’s Cork office. [via thejournal.ie]

MLB stadium iBeacons to be ready by Opening Day

Thousands of iBeacons will be placed in Major League Baseball ballparks next week, with MLB hoping to have 20 parks outfitted by Opening Day in late March. Boston, Milwaukee, San Diego, San Francisco, and the L.A. Dodgers will be among the teams with iBeacons installed in their stadiums, MacRumors reports. Each park should have about 100 iBeacons installed. It was reported last year that many MLB teams expressed interest in iBeacon, with the New York Mets already testing the technology. iBeacon will work with MLB’s At The Ballpark app. Though functionality will differ in each ballpark, it’s likely the app will use iBeacon to offer ballpark information, concessions coupons, and loyalty programs, among other features.

Report: PayPal wants to aid Apple with mobile payments

PayPal has been pitching Apple on helping out with the Cupertino company’s rumored mobile payments system, Re/code reports. Industry executives say PayPal is offering to “white-label parts of its own payment service,” from infrastructure to payment processing. While PayPal may be keen to partnering with Apple, the interest may not be reciprocated — two executives said it’s “unlikely” Apple would need to team with PayPal. It’s tough to see why Apple would seek such a partnership, considering the company has the infrastructure and technology to go it alone. According to a recent report, Apple SVP Eddy Cue has met with industry executives about making payments through iTunes accounts. Additionally, Apple CEO Tim Cook said during Monday’s earnings call that making mobile payments “was one of the thoughts with Touch ID.”

Report: Nest team to work on Google hardware

Google will keep its newly acquired Nest group intact to work on hardware for the company, TechCrunch reports. Nest, founded by “father of the iPod” Tony Fadell, will “not necessarily” work on thermostats or smoke detectors, as Google reportedly “would like Fadell to work on gadgets that make more sense for the company.” It’s possible that phones or tablets could be part of that plan. Google’s recent acquisition of Nest cost $3.2 billion.

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