Facebook Messenger now offers free calling, as the feature has made its way to US iPhone users. The standalone Facebook app allows users to open a conversation with another Messenger user by opening a conversation, tapping the “i” button, and then tapping the new Free Call button. The calls are free using Wi-Fi or the iPhone’s data connection. The VoIP calling service was announced as a new feature about two weeks ago. An App Store update is not needed to start making calls. [via The Verge]
A Dutch court has ruled that three Samsung Galaxy tablets do not infringe an Apple design, citing previous British court decisions. The ruling involves rounded corners on the tablets. Apple lost a tablet design infringement case in the UK and was required by law to post ads stating that Samsung did not infringe on its designs. [via Reuters]
AT&T has announced it has enabled FaceTime over Cellular at no extra charge for customers using any tiered data plan and a compatible iOS device. Customers with an iPhone 4S and a tiered data plan will now be able to make FaceTime calls on the AT&T network. After initially limiting FaceTime over Cellular to specific shared data plans, AT&T later announced it would allow customers with a tiered data plan and LTE device to use the service. This new announcement removes the LTE device requirement. Now, only users with grandfathered unlimited data plans will be left out. The update should be rolled out “in the next couple of weeks.”
Jerry McDougal, Apple’s Vice President of Retail, has left the company. Reports say McDougal left to spend more time with his family. McDougal is the latest in a growing line of executives that have left the company in recent months — that list includes Senior Vice President of Retail John Browett, who was let go in late October. Many believed McDougal had a chance at replacing Browett, which obviously won’t be happening now. Jim Bean, former Apple VP of Finance, will replace McDougal. The company continues to search for a replacement for Browett.
[via ifoAppleStore.com, AllThingsD]
Apple and Amazon have been ordered to hold settlement talks to resolve the ongoing case in which Apple is claiming trademark infringement for Amazon’s use of the term “Appstore.” The companies will meet on March 21 in an attempt to settle, before reaching a trial in August. A few weeks ago, Apple’s false advertising claim against Amazon for use of the term was dismissed. [via Bloomberg]
Apple will hold its annual shareholder meeting at 9 a.m. Pacific, Feb. 27, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The meeting will be held at the company’s Cupertino headquarters. Proposals up for a vote include the election of Apple’s board of directors, an advisory vote on executive compensation, ratification of Ernst & Young as the company’s independent accounting firm, and two shareholder proposals — one requiring executives to hold onto a percentage of shares until normal retirement age, the other regarding the establishment of a Board Committee on Human Rights. Apple’s board opposes both proposals. Also, a proposed amendment would establish a “par value” of $0.0001 per share for Apple common stock, among other measures. [via Apple Insider]
A couple of new iPhone rumors suggest Apple could be looking to release both high-end and low-end models this year, while the iPhone 5 remains in the middle. Analyst Peter Misek has suggested that the iPhone 5S will go through preliminary builds in March, with a launch in June or July, less than a year after the iPhone 5 debuted. Originating from Asian part suppliers, a second report claims that a recently rumored lower-cost iPhone could include a plastic chassis, or a plastic-and-metal chassis designed such that parts might be seen from the outside — a rumored launch date for this model is sometime in the second half of this year. While the rumors should be taken with requisite grains of salt, particularly when they come from analysts, the rumors follow Friday’s withdrawn report regarding Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller’s comments on a cheaper iPhone—a withdrawal that has been taken to suggest that the company is indeed pursuing a new affordable model. iLounge’s own sources suggest that Apple hopes to release a less expensive version of the iPhone 5, featuring such components as a Lightning connector and 4” screen.
[via Street Insider, Digitimes]
Belgian consumer watchdog agency Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats has filed a complaint against Apple for the company’s warranty practices. The complaint is over Apple’s marketing of its AppleCare, which the watchdog group believes is being marketed to consumers without Apple properly explaining consumer rights. EU customers are already entitled to a free two-year warranty of any consumer electronics purchase. Apple has been fined twice in Italy over similar complaints, most recently in December for $264,000, and in December 2011 for about $1.2 million. The Belgian complaint mentions the first Italian fine as a precedent. [via TechCrunch]
Apple has announced that the Wi-Fi + Cellular versions of the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad will be available in China on Friday. Both iPads will be available through Apple retail stores, the Apple online store, and select Apple Authorized Resellers. The Wi-Fi versions of the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad went on sale in China on Dec. 7, with plans to release the cellular models within a month; Apple CEO Tim Cook personally traveled to China to speak with leading cellular providers before the announcement was made.
The release of iOS 6.1 could be coming soon, suggests a recent report. Apple’s fifth beta version of 6.1 — which is undergoing “extensive internal testing,” and deals mostly with bug fixes and optimizations — may wind up being the gold master build. If everything remains on track, this version will be released to developers shortly, followed by a public release. [via iFun (translated link)]
Apple has reportedly decreased orders for LCD screens and other iPhone 5 parts due to “weak demand.” The company has asked Japan Display Inc., Sharp, and LG Display Co. to cut their LCD panel shipments by about 50 percent, according to sources — down from 65 million screens in the first quarter, leading observers to believe sales aren’t as high as Apple expected. Other component orders were also decreased. Apple has not yet commented on the reports, which have apparently contributed to declines in its stock this morning. [via San Jose Mercury News]
Apple TV has added an app for Watchever video service in Germany, according to reports. Watchever is a Netflix-style streaming video service that offers movies and TV series for a monthly fee. This is the first time Apple has added a service to Apple TV that is only available internationally, with the service limited to one country — in this case, Germany. It raises the possibility that Apple could add more smaller, more regional services to Apple TV going forward. [via The Next Web]
Recent reports claim that both the fifth-generation iPad and second-generation iPad mini will launch in March, as noted by an analyst.
iLounge has heard numerous indications, including several from reliable sources, that Apple will be capable of launching the next full-sized iPad in March, right around the one-year anniversary of the third-generation model. Based on what we’ve seen at this point, the device will have a dramatically thinner bezel—think only a little larger than the 9.7” screen on the left and right sides, a thinner body, and a chamfered body design that’s effectively an elongated version of the iPad mini and iPod touch. Our sources are not so confident about the supposed March launch of the next iPad mini; however, all indications are that its body will be nearly identical to the current model, with a Retina display inside.
In an interview with the Shanghai Evening News, Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller responded to rumours of a cheaper iPhone, essentially stating that Apple will continue to focus on producing the best quality iPhone possible and will not cut corners on its iPhone design simply to produce an inexpensive smartphone for the mass market.
Speaking regarding Apple’s products in China, Schiller noted that the Chinese market has already evolved from non-smartphones to cheap smartphones, but that despite their popularity, this will not be the future of Apple’s products. Schiller emphasized that Apple considers using only the “best technology available” in every product that it creates, and that Apple continues to make the majority of profit despite only owning a relatively small market share of smartphones.
Update: Reuters has issued a brief statement that it has withdrawn the prior story due to the Shanghai Evening News report being “subsequently updated with substantial changes to its content.” Notably, Reuters has indicated that no replacement story will be issued. There is some confusion as to the reasoning for this, as the Shanghai Evening News reports does not appear to have substantially changed since its initial publication by English media, however there has been some speculation that Schiller’s comments may have been misinterpreted or mistranslated.
Apple CEO Tim Cook met with China Mobile Chairman Xi Gouhua earlier today to discuss “matters of cooperation” according to a China Mobile spokesperson. This latest move suggests that Apple and China Mobile may be moving toward a deal. The iPhone 5 was released in December on China Unicom and China Telecom, however Apple has yet to reach an agreement with China Mobile—the world’s largest mobile carrier by subscribers—despite several years of talks.
Cook also met with government officials and partners earlier this week, including China’s minister for industry and information techonlogy, and senior executives from China Unicom. More details on Apple’s talks with China Mobile are unavailable due to a confidentiality agreement between both parties.
You’ve already seen dozens of our pre-show reports from Las Vegas, but today’s the day when the 2013 International CES officially opens for business. Completely filling the Las Vegas Convention Center’s floor space, offices, and meeting rooms for the rest of this week—as well as the nearby LVH and just about every other hotel—CES is going to be packed from edge to edge with new product and service announcements—many of potential interest to iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Mac users.
iLounge’s team has been in town for days now, meeting with leading developers from around the world. We’ve shared “under construction” photos from the massive 120,000-foot iLounge Pavilion at CES on our Twitter account, and posted everything from First Looks at new products to company-by-company previews of what’s about to be shown. Join us today at CES.iLounge.com for plenty more live coverage of all things Apple from the show floor—we’re very excited by what we’ve seen so far, and can’t wait to share more with you.
New App Store statistics released by Apple today include several milestones: 40 billion unique downloads of over 775,000 apps by over 500 million active accounts. The 40 billion downloads notably do not include re-downloads or updates, but do include nearly 20 billion downloads in 2012 alone—a huge uptick in growth reflecting iOS’s increased user base, availability of apps, and comfort with apps. Apple notably hit the 25 billion mark in March 2012.
While the pace of downloads continues to quicken, the number of apps doesn’t appear to have grown as dramatically: Apple’s 775,000 app number is up from 550,000 in early 2012, a significant increase that the company is attempting to bolster further. In its press release announcing the latest statistics, Apple also appealed to developers by noting various individual developer successes: tens of millions of downloads for inexpensive games and apps, over $100 million of revenue for freemium titles, and growth of tiny developers into medium-sized businesses.
Alongside the massive iLounge Pavilion at the 2013 International CES, enterprise technology-focused publication MacTech will offer MacTech Insight, a CES conference track focused primarily on technical topics related to Apple’s products and services. Starting at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 10, MacTech Insight will offer sessions on topics including iCloud, storage solutions, content and app creation, organization-wide mobile device management, backing up data, and home automation.
Same-day admission to the one-day MacTech Insight conference track is $500, and includes access to the CES show floor; use the coupon code MT25P for a 25% discount off the regular registration price. The conference will take place in North Hall N260, up the escalators from the iLounge Pavilion’s North Hall show floor area. A full list of conference topics and a registration link can be found here.
Apple has announced that it will release its Q1 2013 earnings on Jan. 23, 2013. A conference call will start at 5 p.m. Eastern/2 p.m. Pacific Time, according to the company’s investor page. Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer previously said that the company expects revenue of $52 billion in Q1 2013.
Apple’s false advertising claim over Amazon’s use of “app store” has been dismissed, according to a report. The claim was part of Apple’s lawsuit against Amazon for use of the term “app store,” a suit that began in March 2011. As the court filing notes, “The mere use of ‘Appstore’ by Amazon to designate a site for viewing and downloading/purchasing apps cannot be construed as a representation that the nature, characteristics, or quality of the Amazon Appstore is the same as that of that of the Apple App Store.” It’s worth noting that this is only a partial summary judgment, and one of six parts of Apple’s case, so the case will continue. [via Bloomberg, The Verge]