Regulators in China are looking into allegations that two Apple suppliers — Foxconn and UniMicron plants in Kunshan — are polluting nearby rivers with toxic heavy metals. Chinese environmental regulator and local vice director Ding Yudong said testing could take a while, and violations could come with serious penalties. Foxconn said it complies with emissions standards and noted that other facilities in the same industrial park discharge wastewater into the rivers. UniMicron said that it does daily wastewater inspections, and quarterly inspections are done by a third party. An Apple spokeswoman said the company regularly audits suppliers and works to ensure environmental standards are met. [via The Wall Street Journal]
Apple can continue to sell the AT&T iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, and the first- and second-generation 3G iPads in the U.S. after the Obama administration overturned an import ban on the devices, Bloomberg reports. The import ban, which was to start today, came about after the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Apple violated a Samsung standards-essential patent. However, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the ban was unwarranted, as Samsung could continue to seek financial damages without stopping Apple from selling the devices.
An Apple spokeswoman told AllThingsD, “We applaud the administration for standing up for innovation in this landmark case. Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way. On the other side, a Samsung spokesman said, “We are disappointed that the U.S. Trade Representative has decided to set aside the exclusion order issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC’s decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license.” The matter isn’t completely over, as Samsung has already said it’s been granted an appeal hearing on the issue next year, according to the Financial Times.
Apple has responded to the U.S. Department of Justice’s proposed restrictions to remedy the company’s e-book price fixing, calling the proposal “a draconian and punitive intrusion into Apple’s business.” The company argues in its opposing brief that the restrictions proposed today could cost both dollars and “lost opportunities for American businesses and consumers.” Apple doesn’t believe any further injunction is warranted — but if an injunction is issued, the company suggests mild limitations and obligations which would be a far cry from what the DOJ suggests. A hearing on the remedies is set for Aug. 9. [via AllThingsD]
The U.S. Department of Justice has released a proposed remedy addressing Apple’s e-book price fixing, for which the company was found guilty last month. Under the proposal, Apple would be required to terminate “existing agreements with the five publishers with which it conspired” and to “refrain for five years from entering new e-book distribution contracts which would restrain Apple from competing on price.” The company would be prohibited from “again serving as a conduit of information among the conspiring publishers or from retaliating against publishers for refusing to sell e-books on agency terms.” Apple would also be prohibited from entering into agreements with any content providers that are “likely to increase the prices at which Apple’s competitor retailers may sell that content.” Additionally, for two years, Apple would be required to allow other retailers — such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble — to provide links from their own e-book apps to their e-bookstores, allowing for easy comparison between their own prices and Apple’s prices.
The DOJ is also “asking the court to appoint an external monitor to ensure that Apple’s internal antitrust compliance policies are sufficient to catch anticompetitive activities before they result in harm to consumers.” Apple would pay the salary and expenses of the court-appointed monitor. It must be noted that the DOJ’s proposal must be approved in court. A hearing on the remedies is scheduled to be held on August 9.
Color Zen must be downloaded from within the Apple Store app to get it for free. Reportedly, Apple will be providing a new app, iBook, or piece of iTunes content for free each week, apparently as an enticement to increase interest in Apple’s retail operations. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple’s search for a new retail chief continues as the company has still not settled on a finalist for the position, The Wall Street Journal reports. Since the departure of John Browett in late October, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been overseeing retail. Wireless and telecommunication executives have been interviewed for the open position, but “rejected as a poor fit,” according to sources. Apple was turned down by a “CEO of a privately held retailer in France,” who believed it would be tough to “change Apple’s culture as an outsider.” Outsiders, however, are all that Apple appears to be interested in, as a source said the company isn’t considering internal candidates for the position. Sales at Apple retail stores are still high, but down 4.5 percent per square foot in this fiscal year.
Apple is now notifying former MobileMe members via email that the free 20GB iCloud storage upgrade they received will be expiring on Sept. 30, as was announced last year. iCloud storage for those users will revert to the free 5GB plan after the complimentary upgrade expires. Users who wish to retain their extra iCloud storage must purchase a storage plan by Sept. 30. An Apple support document provides additional details.
Apple has acquired wireless chip developer Passif Semiconductor, according to a report. Passif specializes in making Bluetooth LE communication chips. The report notes Passif’s technology is “promising for health-monitoring and fitness devices that need extra-long battery life.” It’s been reported that Apple’s upcoming iWatch will be focused on fitness. Apple verified the acquisition, as a company spokeswoman said, “Apple buys small technology companies from time to time.” This is Apple’s known third acquisition in recent weeks, following the company’s additions of Locationary and Hopstop. [via Jessica Lessin]
A new Apple patent application details a system in which a user can use a device such as an iPhone to learn and configure environmental preferences, especially in a car. For example, a user sitting in a car might set up his or her car seat, steering wheel, power mirror, radio, and climate control preferences. An iPhone could conceivably store this information, and “when the user visits another automobile, such as when renting a car, or buying a new car,” the preferences could be imported to adjust the car’s settings.
The system described is a more advanced version of Apple’s iOS in the Car, featured in iOS 7. In some embodiments of the system, a home or room environment can be adjusted — climate control, television, and lighting preferences may be able to be adjusted in a house or a hotel room, for instance. [via Apple Insider]
A recently revealed charger hack for iOS devices has been fixed in iOS 7 beta 4, Reuters reports. The known hack involves using a malicious charger to invisibly install malware on an iOS device in less than a minute, and was officially unveiled at the Black Hat hacking conference on Wednesday. Apple confirmed the latest iOS 7 beta has fixed the issue. The hack will still work on devices running iOS 6.
Apple suppliers are readying mass production in the fourth quarter for a new Retina display iPad mini that will “likely feature” a Samsung screen, according to The Wall Street Journal. Sharp and LG Display will also reportedly make screens for the next iPad mini. The report also notes Apple has “been contemplating multiple color back covers for the new tablet.” A number of reports — including a Wednesday report — have also referenced a non-Retina second-generation iPad mini, but it’s unclear when such a device would be released, if at all.
References spotted in the iOS 7 SDK appear to show that Apple is testing a new, faster iPad mini without a Retina display, 9to5Mac reports. The code refers to the same A6 processor found in Apple’s iPhone 5, which would be faster than the current iPad mini processor. A lack of “@2x” references — generally how developers reference a Retina display — hint that this device would be non-Retina. As the report notes, there is no way to tell whether Apple is merely testing such a model, or if it will be released as a final product. Recent reports have noted that a non-Retina iPad mini could be released this year, possibly as an interim model before a 2014 Retina mini.
Apple CEO Tim Cook met Tuesday with the chairman of China Mobile, Reuters reports. China Mobile, the world’s largest carrier, is the only major Chinese carrier not currently offering the iPhone. Cook and China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua discussed “matters of cooperation” in Beijing, according to China Mobile, suggesting that a partnership to sell iPhones to the company’s customers is becoming more likely. It was previously speculated that Cook would meet with China Mobile during his visit.
Foxconn is reportedly looking to hire a remarkable 90,000 workers for production of a new iPhone — likely the iPhone 5S — for its Shenzhen industrial complex. A report out of Taiwan notes that assembly testing has been completed for the device, and claims the company is ready to start production. Reports from multiple outlets in April noted Foxconn had increased hiring to produce Apple’s next iPhone. [via Focus Taiwan]
Apple CEO Tim Cook has returned to China, and held a meeting with Apple partner China Telecom, according to a Chinese report (translated link). The visit is Cook’s second of the year, as the CEO last visited China in January. Cook is also reportedly expected to meet with executives from China Unicom and China Mobile during the trip. Other speculative reasons for the visit could include upcoming iPhone releases, and checking in on supplier Pegatron, which was recently accused of numerous labor violations in a report. During last week’s Q3 2013 financial results conference call, Cook acknowledged sales in China were weaker during the quarter, but noted he was not “discouraged” over a 90-day cycle, saying China was a “huge opportunity” for Apple. [via 9to5Mac]
A group of former Apple retail store employees in New York and Los Angeles have filed a class action suit against the company for lost wages due to lengthy bag searches. The suit claims that improper practices include subjecting hourly employees to “personal package and bag searches,” which are illegal and require workers to wait in line off-the-clock to get clearance checks when leaving for meal breaks and at the end of their shifts.
Examples note plaintiffs being subjected to searches lasting 5 to 15 minutes, without compensation, accounting for 50 to 90 minutes of uncompensated overtime a week. Calculations note the workers in these examples lost an average of $1,400 or $1,500 annually. The lawsuit seeks compensation in unpaid minimum wages, overtime, and waiting time, and seeks to declare the practices as unlawful, requiring “termination or modification.” [via Apple Insider]
A discovery in iOS 7 beta 4 appears to confirm that an upcoming iPhone will include a fingerprint sensor. Hamza Sood tweeted a picture of a folder titled “BiometricKitUI.axbundle” within the code of the upcoming operating system.
From the description, it appears that the code is describing a thumbprint sensor located within the Home Button of an iPhone. It also appears that a user will need to “enroll” in volunteering a thumbprint for the feature, with a progress percentage meter and color-shifting fingerprint image updating a user during the recognition process. Rumors have suggested that the iPhone 5S will include a fingerprint scanner, likely used for a digital transaction security feature. [via 9to5Mac]
Alongside today’s release of iOS 7 beta 4, Apple has also posted a beta version of iTunes 11 for Registered iOS Developers.
Listed as iTunes 11 beta 1, the new version includes support for iTunes Radio for those in the U.S. It also notes that OS X 10.7 or later is required for iTunes Radio support.
Apple has released the fourth beta of iOS 7 to registered developers. The company released the third beta three weeks ago — the fourth beta was expected to be released last Monday, but Apple’s developer site was down last week, delaying the release. iOS 7 beta 4 is now available through Software Update in iOS settings and Apple’s developer portal.
Samsung has notified the courts that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has rejected all claims of Apple’s “pinch to zoom” patent, according to a report. The rejection is a “Final Office Action,” but the decision is far from finished, as Apple will have additional opportunities to appeal. Notably, Apple’s “rubber-banding” patent initially had a main claim ruled invalid in a “Final Office Action,” but that claim was later confirmed. In December, the USPTO initially ruled all claims of the “pinch to zoom” patent invalid; this is a continuation of that action. [via FOSS Patents]