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iTunes adds self-published Breakout Books section

Apple has introduced Breakout Books, a new section to its iBookstore. The section features selected independently published books that have earned four and five star reviews.

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Currently, four categories are featured in the section: Romance, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Mysteries & Thrillers, and More to Explore. Breakout Books will be featured at the top of the iTunes Store’s book section for at least two weeks before being moved to a less prominent location. [via MacRumors]

Report: ‘Radio Buy” button hidden in iPad iOS 6.1

A new set of files discovered in the iPad music app may signal new functionality in the future, according to a new report. Discovered on a jailbroken iPad running iOS 6.1, button files are labeled with “radio buy” in the file names. It’s unknown as to what these files may actually mean, if anything, but previous reports suggest that Apple plans to launch its own streaming radio service; one report suggested that the feature could have been launched as an iPhone 5 feature prior to royalty negotiations breaking down. It’s notable that these “radio buy” files have not been discovered in jailbroken iPhones running iOS 6.1. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple patents fourth-generation iPod shuffle

Apple has been awarded a patent for the fourth-generation iPod shuffle, originally filed in August 2010 immediately before the device’s launch. The patent is for a “very small form factor consumer electronic product,” and the device is described in great detail in the patent.

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In patenting the shuffle, Apple attempts to protect a housing with “integral front and side walls that cooperate to form a cavity in cooperation with a front opening where an edge of the side walls define a rear opening and at least some of the edges have flanges.” The clip assembly and other parts are also covered at length, with some details as to how such a small device can be protected against moisture intrusion. [via AppleInsider]

Report: iOS bugs, policies hurting users, developers?

A new report details a number of software-related issues that are impacting Apple users and developers, as Adam C. Engst of TidBITS provides anonymized summaries of “some concerning problems that haven’t gotten as much press” as recent hardware manufacturing delays. Engst notes that iOS 6 has seen “more (and more-troubling) bugs in iOS 6 than any previous version of iOS in particular,” noting that users were hit with problems such as excessive cellular data usage and battery drain, issues that Apple took four months to address with iOS 6.1. Second-hand reports shared by Engst suggest that Apple engineers have left “because they felt their software was being shipped before it was ready,” and that he has also “heard story after story of Apple’s App Store policies and behaviors causing significant headaches.” While developers wouldn’t go on the record with their individual issues, they described iTunes Connect problems regarding app approval, company changes, and customer management that were creating unnecessary problems for users, such as confusing update and upgrade paths for important new releases. Engst suggests that Apple’s success has “effectively blinded” it to the software and developer problems, which he deems “the emperor’s wardrobe malfunction,” issues that “aren’t likely to affect the stock price in the short term, but could have long term consequences.”

Court backs Apple in online credit card privacy case

Apple and other online retailers did not break the law by requiring consumers to provide their addresses and phone numberes to make credit card payments, the California Supreme Court ruled on Monday, noting that state privacy protections for credit cards don’t apply to downloaded online purchases. Consumer David Krescent had sued Apple after making purchases from iTunes, which sells content exclusively online. Notably, the same court ruled in 2011 that the privacy protections apply to brick-and-mortar retailers, which would not be allowed to request a ZIP code during a credit card transaction. In this case, four California Supreme Court justices backed Apple, while three said that the ruling was “a major loss for consumers.” [via Reuters]

Appstore.com links appear during Super Bowl ad

Third-party developers can now use Apple-provided Appstore.com links to make shortened URL links to their apps, as was demonstrated this weekend. An Appstore.com short link appeared briefly at the end of the commercial for the upcoming film “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which read, “For details and ticket information go to AppStore.com/StarTrekApp.”  The Appstore.com domain name, which was given to Steve Jobs as a personal gift by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, has been used as the official website for the App Store Twitter account since its launch in January 2011.

FTC report makes mobile privacy recommendations

A new Federal Trade Commission report offers suggestions to “the major participants in the mobile ecosystem” on providing privacy information and transparency to customers. Titled “Mobile Privacy Disclosures: Building Trust Through Transparency,” the report makes a number of recommendations to developers of apps and operating system providers. The suggestions for system providers, such as Apple, include “developing icons to depict the transmission of user data,” making a “Do Not Track” mechanism available that allows consumers to stop third-party tracking, and providing “just-in-time disclosures” to consumers before apps can “access sensitive contact like geolocation,” among other recommendations. App developers are urged to provide similar disclosures while making privacy policies easily accessible within app stores. The FTC recently amended its rules for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Apple to patent proximity sensing for TV audio, video chat

A newly revealed Apple patent application reveals a system that can adjust and enhance audio based on a user’s proximity to the device. While the application notes that the device could be a computer, tablet, or audio player, Apple also notes that it could be used for a television—and includes illustrations showing what appears to be a TV.

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Operating as novel proximity sensors, a multiple microphone array and face detection processing could enable a video conferencing camera and mic to focus on one of multiple users. The system could also conceivably adjust audio based on the environment. “For example, echo cancellation may be desired and/or affected by the size and acoustics of the room,” the description reads, meaning that a small, carpeted room could receive different audio output than a large room with hardwood floors. [via Patently Apple]

Report: Apple accused of bribing Russian officials

Apple is suspected of bribing Russian officials with a paid trip to London, according to a report from Russia. The company is alleged to have set up a week-long seminar for Russian regional ministers of education and other officials to learn more about Apple products, at a time when the government is about to award up to $66.5 million per region for equipment modernization. A representative from the National Anti-Corruption Committee said the matter should be investigated as if Apple completely financed the trip. Apple denies paying for the officials’ travel. [via Brightwire from Regnum]

Apple aims to patent laser-aided virtual keyboard

An Apple patent application published today reveals a laser-based depth perception system that could be used to create a virtual keyboard. The system described in the patent would use an image capturing device and a laser source that would “emit a fan shaped laser beam” to capture depth.

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A “projected control panel” is described as a possibility, as the system could create a virtual keyboard that would determine the depth of “a user’s finger, a stylus, or other input mechanism.” An autofocus camera feature would also be a possibility using this system. It’s noted that the technology could be implemented in a computer, tablet, or mobile device, and the iPhone is referred to specifically by name. [via Apple Insider]

Samsung infringement of Apple patents ruled not willful

Samsung did not willfully infringe Apple’s design and utility patents, Judge Lucy Koh ruled Tuesday night. In August, a jury ruled that the patents in question were infringed upon by Samsung, leading to a $1.05 billion fine for the company. Samsung argued that it believed Apple’s patents to be invalid, and as such, it couldn’t have infringed them willfully. The new ruling means that Apple won’t receive additional damages — the original fine could be reduced, but not necessarily. A bid for a new trial by Samsung was also rejected in the ruling. [via The Verge]

Report: Apple losing power over carriers, subsidies changing?

Apple’s share of the smartphone market is expected to peak at 22 percent this year, according to a Reuters report, and cellular carriers may be in a position to negotiate more competitive prices. The report details how the strength of other smartphone operating systems may loosen Apple’s grip on the overall market. “The more operating systems we have to compete in this area the better the competition,” said Fran Shammo, chief financial officer of Verizon Communications, noting that Apple’s iOS now confronts Android, Windows, and Blackberry as strong platforms. Reuters also notes that T-Mobile USA plans to stop subsidizing smartphones when it begins to sell the iPhone, and other carriers are considering follow suit. “That’s something we’ve looked at on several occasions. I kind of like that idea,” said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. “It’s something we’re going to be watching.”

The report claims that a “less powerful Apple could be welcomed by telecommunications carriers and component suppliers that have grown accustomed to the tough terms Apple was able to exact thanks to its massive scale and leadership in the market.” Apple may already be anticipating the loss of subsidies and a future with lower-cost devices as it prepares a low-cost iPhone for release.

Philips exits consumer electronics, sells business to Funai

After over 80 years in the consumer electronics business, Philips announced Tuesday that it has sold the remainder of its consumer-focused electronics business to Japan’s Funai. Although Philips steadily reduced its involvement in consumer electronics, leaving its television and mobile phone divisions behind in recent years, the company suffered a fourth-quarter net loss of €358 Million (about $481 million).

Philips has had an interesting history with Apple. It originally sold products that challenged the iPod, including its GoGear series of media players. It then started to make iPod-friendly speaker systems, and later bought iPod/iPhone accessory maker DLO to become a major player in Apple accessories. The company developed quite a few distinctive speakers, eventually including some AirPlay models at widely varying price points, and continued to sell earphones and headphones. Funai will apparently continue to sell these products under its own brand.

Philips will now turn most of its attention to medical equipment, as healthcare sales made up 40 percent of the group’s revenue in the fourth quarter. Consumer lifestyle products accounted for 26 percent of the company’s fourth quarter revenue. [via Wall Street Journal]

Apple announces 128GB fourth-gen iPad

Confirming reports, Apple has officially announced that a 128GB version of the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display will go on sale Tuesday, Feb. 5, in black or white. The Wi-Fi model will cost $799, and the Wi-Fi + Cellular model will cost $929. Apple is pitching the higher-capacity iPad primarily to “enterprises, educators and artists,” suggesting that its capacity will be useful for “over 300,000 native iPad apps.” This appears to be an acknowledgement that the iPad is becoming a viable alternative to laptops, and will be offered in capacities rivaling them.

Leaked photos show iPad 5 back piece

Photos of a prototype back piece for the fifth-generation iPad have been leaked by a “purported China-based iPad accessories maker,” according to a new report. The photos show a smaller, thinner casing with chamfered edges and virtually no left or right bezel, confirming our exclusive report from last week.

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The top of the backplate indicates that this is an LTE model. Our sources have said the fifth-generation iPad will launch in or near October. [via 9to5Mac]

iPad 4th-gen, mini add LTE carriers, 3rd-gen ignored

Buried with asterisked footnotes in the press release announcing iOS 6.1, Apple today dramatically expanded international LTE support for the fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini debuted in November, while apparently leaving LTE support untouched in earlier third-generation iPads. An updated version of Apple’s iPad LTE support chart illustrates the now considerable network differences between 2012’s iPad versions, as well as another interesting change: the dual-mode CDMA/GSM iPads designed for Verizon and Sprint now offer considerably broader LTE support than the GSM-only iPad that is offered to AT&T and Canadian customers.

The GSM-only fourth-generation iPad and iPad mini gained only three carriers in today’s update: Canadian carriers MTS and Sasktel, plus Mexican carrier Telcel. By comparison, the dual-mode CDMA/GSM models sold for Verizon and Sprint today added support for Belgium’s Proximus, Denmark’s 3, Telenor, and Telia, Finland’s DNA, Elisa, and Sonera, Greece’s Cosmote, Hungary’s T-Mobile, Italy’s 3, TIM, and Vodafone, Luxembourg’s Orange and Tango, the Philippines’ Globe, Portugal’s Optimus, TMN, and Vodafone, Romania’s Orange, and Switzerland’s Swisscom. Notably, the CDMA/GSM iPads support five LTE bands—1, 3, 5, 13, and 25—while the GSM-only versions support two bands, 4 and 17. With today’s update, it’s increasingly clear that the GSM-only iPad models will be significantly less useful than the CDMA/GSM models for LTE outside of North America, though they can still operate on slower pre-LTE networks.

According to Apple’s iPad LTE support chart, the company did not add the same new LTE carrier support to the third-generation iPad, which was released in March of last year. The third-generation AT&T iPad featured the same LTE band 4 and 17 support as the fourth-generation model, but the CDMA version was apparently built specifically for Verizon’s network, with support only for band 13.

Staples to sell Apple products?

A mock-up page found on office supply company Staples’ website briefly advertised the Apple TV for half off, according to a new report, leading to speculation that the retail chain will start selling Apple products—most likely without such aggressive discounting. Other temporary product pages included references to adapters, Lightning adapters, EarPods, and iPad Smart Cases and Smart Covers.

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Since the initial report, the test pages have apparently been removed by Staples, but screenshots show the mock-ups. Staples has not carried Apple’s product line, reportedly due to issues in acquiring products from Apple itself. [via 9to5Mac]

 

Leaked photos show alleged new iPhone speakers

Speaker components from two upcoming iPhones have leaked, according to a new report.

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While the report suggests that the parts are for the “iPhone 5S” and the “iPhone 6,” as shown in the included photo, there’s good reason to believe that the parts are for the iPhone 5S and lower-cost iPhone currently believed to be coming later this year. They show only modest changes from the current-generation iPhone 5 speaker, with the “iPhone 6” part noticeably thicker than the iPhone 5S component, consistent with reports that the less expensive iPhone will be thicker than the nearly identical-looking iPhone 5 and 5S. [via Nowhereelse.fr]

 

Report: Apple to release 128GB fourth-gen iPad

Apple is expected to release a 128GB version of the current fourth-generation iPad, according to a new report. Like the device released late last year, the iPad will come in both black and white options, and in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular versions. The report is based in part on new SKUs at a “high-profile U.S. retailer,” referring to an “ultimate” edition of the P101 and P103 iPads — internal Apple names for the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular editions of the fourth-generation iPad. Apple SKU descriptions of current products only refer to “good,” “better,” and “best,” which are the 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64GB models. No pricing information is known as of yet.

Further evidence pointing to a new 128 GB iPad is found within the code for iOS 6.1 beta 5, which was recently released to developers. The code contains a reference to a device with 128 GB capacity. iTunes 11 notably included a badge for a 128GB device, though none has yet been released. [via 9to5Mac]

Update: The 9to5Mac report has been updated with pricing information. The Wi-Fi model will cost $799, and the Wi-Fi + Cellular model will cost $929.

Apple releases Supplier Responsibility Progress Report

Apple has released its 2013 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, detailing audits the company has made within its supply chain. The company conducted 393 audits of its own, a 72 percent increase over 2011. Apple also notes it achieved “an average of 92 percent compliance with a maximum 60-hour work week.” The company is now tracking more than one million workers weekly.

According to Apple, a January audit of a supplier revealed 74 cases of workers under 16 — Apple then terminated its relationship with the supplier. The company also discovered that a labor agency conspired to forge age verification documents. Apple alerted provincial governments to the agency’s action, and the agency “had its business license suspended and was fined.” The full report is in PDF form on Apple’s website.

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