The Fair Labor Association (FLA) has concluded its independent investigation into working conditions at Apple’s suppliers in China. FLA launched its investigation on February 13, 2012 following labor rights allegations at Foxconn and negative reports regarding plant conditions. Shortly after commencing the investigation, FLA president Auret van Heerden released preliminary findings indicating that the working conditions at Foxconn were far better than those in other factories elsewhere in China.
However, in its final report published earlier today, FLA noted that it had observed “at least 50 issues related to the FLA Code and Chinese labor law” covering areas such as health and safety, worker integration, communication, wages and working hours. The investigation consisted of both on-site visual observation and policy/documentation reviews, as well as interviews with hundreds of Foxconn workers and managers, plus surveys of more than 35,000 randomly selected Foxconn workers. The resulting report highlights the most serious problems as being excessive average working hours during peak production times, general issues regarding inconsistent health and safety policies, and lack of worker involvement and communication in the development of health and safety procedures. The report also noted that although Foxconn wages are above the Chinese average, fair compensation was not always paid for unscheduled overtime due to payroll policies.
As highlighted in the report, both Apple and Foxconn have committed to implementing remedial actions for all of these issues, and ensuring that FLA standards continue to be upheld in its supply chain. Apple became the first technology company to join the FLA in January following the release of its own supplier responsibility report in an effort to move toward “greater transparency and independent oversight” of its suppliers.
South African inventor Benjamin Grobler has filed a pair of lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging that Apple has infringed on a “data vending system” patent issued to him in 2004. The lawsuits claim infringements on U.S. Patent 6,799,084 by operating data vending systems such as iTunes, and that the companies are further inducing their customers’ infringement. Among other things, the patent in question describes a system that stores data such as digitized music, video and/or computer programs, the dispensing of data to a uniquely identifiable data carrier, and the maintaining of owner and/or possessor records for digital content. The suit against Apple is asking for a declaration of infringement, as well as damages to be decided at the trial. [via Computerworld]
Bloomberg reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook paid a visit to Foxconn’s newly-built iPhone manufacturing facility yesterday at Zhengzhou Technology Park in China. The visit is assumed to be related to Apple’s efforts to improve working conditions in its Chinese suppliers’ factories following earlier complaints by several human rights organizations. Cook’s visit to Foxconn follows a week of business travles in China which included a visit to an Apple Store in Beijing and a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang and Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong. Apple has not provided any further details on Cook’s visit or how much longer he will be in China.
The iPhone 4 “antennagate” class action settlement has now been announced, offering U.S. resident iPhone 4 owners who did not opt to receive a free bumper case from Apple to claim a $15 cash payment instead. To be eligible for the cash payment, iPhone 4 customers must also meet several additional requirements: they must have actually experienced antenna or reception issues, been unable to return their iPhone 4 without incurring any costs, been unwilling to use a case on their iPhone 4 and must also have completed certain troubleshooting steps if they still own their iPhone 4. Customers can file a claim at www.iphone4settlement.com; customers also still have the option of choosing a free black iPhone 4 bumper from Apple instead by contacting AppleCare or visiting an Apple Retail Store. [via Engadget]
Apple has released iTunes 10.6.1, the latest update to its digital media management software. According to Apple’s release notes, the update fixes several issues that may cause iTunes to unexpectedly quit while playing videos, adjusting artwork size in Grid view or syncing photos, addresses issues with VocieOver and WindowEyes and fixes problems with responsiveness while syncing the iPod nano or iPod shuffle. The update also resolves the sorting problem browsing TV shows on the Apple TV that was introduced in iTunes 10.6. iTunes 10.6.1 is available now via Apple’s Software Update utility or as a free download from apple.com/itunes.
During his recent visit to China, Apple CEO Tim Cook took time out to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Li Kegiang. According to a Xinhua report, the two men discussed intellectual property rights protection and economic development. “To be more open to the outside is a condition for China to transform its economic development, expand domestic demands and conduct technological innovation,” Li said. He continued on to say that trade and economic cooperation are an “important cornerstone” for the cooperative partnership of mutual respect and reciprocity that China and the U.S. are trying to establish. Li also called on multinational companies to expand cooperation with China, participate in development of western China, pay more attention to workers, and share development opportunities. Cook, for his part, said Apple will strengthen comprehensive cooperation with China, and conduct business in an honest, law-abiding manner. [via Engadget]
According to a new survey, half of all US households now own at least one Apple product. CNBC reports that its All-America Economic survey found that one out of every ten households that don’t currently own an Apple product plan to purchase one over the next year. In addition, homes that own at least one Apple product own an average of three, meaning that the average American household owns 1.6 Apple devices, with nearly 25 percent planning to buy at least one more in the next year. The survey found that Apple customers tend to be young, male, and college-educated, and the more money a person earns, the more Apple products they’re likely to own. The All-America Economic survey was conducted over landline and cellphone among 836 Americans from March 19 to March 22, with a margin of error of plus/minus 3.4 percent.
In the wake of a potential complaint from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Apple has agreed to clarify claims that the third-generation iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G is compatible with 4G networks. Earlier this week, the ACCC announced plans to file a complaint against Apple over what it considered to be “misleading” marketing. In addition to clarifying the device’s cellular capabilities in a statement in its stores and on its website that reads, ““This product supports very fast cellular networks. It is not compatible with current Australian 4G LTE networks and Wi-Max networks”, Apple also said that it would offer refunds to early purchasers who feel they were misled. Ultimately, the ACCC wants Apple to stop marketing the device as the “iPad Wi-Fi + 4G”, while it appears that Apple wants to retain the moniker, and feels that the extra disclaimers will be sufficient to eliminate confusion.
Apple, along with Sony, HTC, LG, and Samsung, has been sued by Graphics Properties, which claims the various companies’ products infringes on its patents. Reuters reports that company—formerly known as Silicon Graphics—alleges that Apple and the other companies named in the suit infringe upon a patent related to a computer graphics process that turns text and images into pixels to be displayed on mobile screens. Named in the suit are the iPhone, HTC’s EVO 4G, LG’s Thrill, Samsung’s Galaxy S and Galaxy S II, and Sony’s Xperia Play smartphones. Graphics Properties is seeking to stop sales of infringing products, as well as royalties and other damages.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been spotted taking a tour of an Apple Store in China, leading to speculation that he is there to meet with the country’s three wireless carriers. Citing reports on Chinese micro-blogging service Sina Weibo, AppleInsider reports that a photo of Cook from the Joy City Apple Store in Beijing was posted at 11:00 a.m. “People familiar with the matter” suggested that Cook may be in the area to discuss Apple’s sixth-generation iPhone with China Unicom and China Telecom, the company’s two current carrier partners in the country; it is possible he is also there for talks with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier and the last carrier holdout for Apple in China.
In an going dispute with Motorola Mobility, RIM, and Nokia over Apple’s proposed nano-SIM card, Apple has made a surprisingly generous offer in exchange for the standardization of the technology. Citing a “perfectly reliable source”, FOSS Patents reports that Apple sent a letter to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) last week, in which it made a commitment to grant royalty-free licenses to any and all Apple patents essential to nano-SIM. The proposal would only become effective if Apple’s proposal is adopted as a standard, and all other patent holders accept the same terms in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.
As noted in the report, the move shows that Apple is serious about establishing the nano-SIM standard, as it should nullify concerns of other handset manufacturers who worried that Apple might eventually own all the patents related to the technology, and thus give it the ability to charge royalties on any nano-SIM-compatible handsets. The new standard proposals are expected to be discussed at ETSI’s Smart Card Platform Plenary meeting later this week.
A newly published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on universal remote control functionality for its iOS devices. Patently Apple reports that the new invention relates to a configurable remote control, or more specifically, an iPhone or similar device with IR transmission capabilities. According to the patent, users would be able to snap a photo of their current remote controls using the device; the photo would then be sent to iCloud for analysis, which would send back a “virtual copy” of the remote for use on the device’s touchscreen. As with all Apple patents, this application does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research and interest in this area.
Two members of the U.S. Congress have sent letters to a number of iOS developers seeking information about how they comply with Apple’s privacy policies. The Next Web reports that House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Chairman Fred Upton sent letters to Tapbots, Twitter, Foodspotting, Turntable.fm,, Trover, Instagram’s Burbn, Path, Facebook, SoundCloud, Apple, and others, asking—in addition to the question about privacy policies above—how they gather information from users and what they do with that information afterwards. The representatives has asked that the answers to the eight questions be delivered no later than April 12, 2012. The inquiry follows the discovery that social networking app Path, along with many other apps, was uploading iOS users’ contact data to their servers; Path immediately issued an apology, and Apple soon vowed to require user approval for access to contact data. [via Mac Rumors]
Apple today launched its third-generation iPad in 24 additional countries, bringing the total number of countries in which the device has launched to 34. Alongside last week’s launches in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Switzerland, UK and the US Virgin Islands, the new iPad launched today in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Apple announced that it sold three million third-generation iPad units in four days earlier this week.
Apple has revealed that its new iPhoto app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch hit the one million user mark less than 10 days after its release. Without quoting any particular representative of the company, The Loop reports that the number is based on individual users, and not downloads, which could inflate the figure. Apple introduced iPhoto for iOS during its special media event earlier this month; the app became available that same day. For more information on iPhoto for iOS, see our full review.
Apple has issued a statement on the heat generated by the third-generation iPad during extended/demanding use. “The new iPad delivers a stunning Retina display, A5X chip, support for 4G LTE plus 10 hours of battery life, all while operating well within our thermal specifications,” Apple representative Trudy Muller said in a statement to The Loop. “If customers have any concerns they should contact AppleCare.” As noted in our prior report on thermal images comparing the new device to the iPad 2, the measurements taken during the imaging process showed that while the device was indeed warmer than its predecessor, it was within Apple’s normal operating temperatures as listed on its iPad Tech Specs page.
Apple today announced that it has sold three million units of the third-generation iPad since the device’s launch on Friday. “The new iPad is a blockbuster with three million sold―the strongest iPad launch yet,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Customers are loving the incredible new features of iPad, including the stunning Retina display, and we can’t wait to get it into the hands of even more customers around the world this Friday.” Schiller is referring to the second wave of launches scheduled for later this week, which will see the third-generation iPad go on sale at 8:00 a.m. local time in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
During the company’s conference call to discuss its dividend and stock buyback plan, Apple CEO Tim Cook indicated that the company was very happy with opening-weekend sales of the third-generation iPad. “We had a record weekend, and we’re thrilled with it,” Cook said; the company similarly declined to share exact launch weekend sales numbers for the iPad 2 after its launch last year. During the same conference call, Cook explained that the company felt extremely confident in its future product pipeline and potential growth opportunities, and also joked that the company loves to announce new products, just not during conference calls, after being asked about the product pipeline.
Update: AT&T has announced that it saw record iPad sales and activations on launch day, Friday, March 16.
Update x2: Verizon has also commented on its early sales. “We are quite pleased with sales, which have been brisk through the weekend, and we are excited to offer customers an alternative that lets them enjoy their new iPad on the nation’s largest 4G LTE network,” a company representative told AllThingsD.
Apple announced this morning that it plans to initiate a dividend and share repurchase program later this year. According to the announcement, the company plans to offer a quarterly dividend of $2.65 per share sometime in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2012, which begins on July 1. In addition, Apple’s Board of Directors has authorized a $10 billion share repurchase program to begin during its fiscal 2013, which begins on September 30, 2012. The repurchase program will be executed over three years, with the primary goal being to neutralize the impact of dilution from future employee equity grants and employee stock purchase programs.
“We have used some of our cash to make great investments in our business through increased research and development, acquisitions, new retail store openings, strategic prepayments and capital expenditures in our supply chain, and building out our infrastructure. You’ll see more of all of these in the future,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Even with these investments, we can maintain a war chest for strategic opportunities and have plenty of cash to run our business. So we are going to initiate a dividend and share repurchase program.”
“Combining dividends, share repurchases, and cash used to net-share-settle vesting RSUs, we anticipate utilizing approximately $45 billion of domestic cash in the first three years of our programs,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “We are extremely confident in our future and see tremendous opportunities ahead.”
Apple will hold a conference call at 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time/9:00 a.m. Eastern Time to discuss its plans.
Apple this morning confirmed yesterday’s report that it will begin to sell the third-generation iPad at 8:00 a.m. local time on Friday, March 16. As revealed last week during the company’s special press event, the device will initially launch in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, and the UK, along with Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. In the US, the third-generation iPad will be available at Apple’s retail stores, as well as Best Buy, Radio Shack, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart. Apple will continue its rollout of the device on March 23, when it launches in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.