The Fair Labor Association has published a status report on implementation of its recommendations following its assessment of three Foxconn facilities in February and March. According to the group, the review covered items slated for April and May, finding that Foxconn has completed all of the 195 actions that were due. In addition, 89 items were completed ahead of their deadlines, with 76 items due over the course of the next year. The report also found that Foxconn has already reduced working hours to under 60 per week—including overtime—with the goal of reaching full compliance with the Chinese legal limit of 40 hours per week plus an average of 9 hours of overtime per week.
“Our verification shows that the necessary changes, including immediate health and safety measures, have been made. We are satisfied that Apple has done its due diligence thus far to hold Foxconn accountable for complying with the action plan, including the commitment to reform its internship program,” said Auret van Heerden, President and CEO of the Fair Labor Association. “The next phase of improvements will be challenging for Foxconn because they involve major changes in the working environment that will inevitably cause uncertainty and anxiety among workers. As Foxconn prepares to comply with the Chinese legal limits on work hours, consultation with workers on the changes and implications will be critical to a successful transition.”
“The verification confirmed that Apple and Foxconn are ahead of schedule in improving the conditions under which some of the world’s most popular electronics are being made,” added van Heerden. “Apple and Foxconn’s progress since the March assessment, combined with the additional actions planned through July 2013, would create the roadmap for all Chinese suppliers in the tech industry.” Apple was the first electronics company to join the FLA, a “coalition of universities, non-governmental organizations and businesses committed to improving the well-being, safety, fair treatment, and respect of workers”, in January of 2012.
Free Press has started a new petition aimed at getting the FCC to force AT&T to change its policies regarding FaceTime over Cellular. The feature, which is part of iOS 6, allows users to participate in FaceTime video calls over cellular networks; AT&T has said that the feature will only be available to customers on the company’s new Mobile Share plans. “Dear FCC Commissioners,” the petition reads, “AT&T just announced it’s blocking the FaceTime video calling app on its customers’ iPhones unless they subscribe to a more expensive text-and-voice plan.”
It continues, “[t]his is a clear violation of Net Neutrality and of your own Open Internet rules. AT&T knows that if it can get the FCC to condone this kind of Net Neutrality violation, then they can get away with just about anything. I urge you to put a stop to AT&T’s anti-consumer and anti-Net Neutrality actions.”
Apple is planning to begin direct sales of its products in Russia, according to a new report. Citing Russian-language Kommersant, the Moscow News reports that Apple has registered a new company name, Apple Rus, and has assigned local legal advisor Vitaly Morozko to act as its director general. According to an unnamed manager of an Apple distributor, direct sales in the country could start as early as next year, although there seems to be no timetable for opening a retail store. The report notes that Apple managers travelled to Moscow in search of a potential retail store location in 2011, but came away empty.
Google’s Motorola Mobility unit has filed a new patent-infringement complaint against Apple. Bloomberg reports that the suit claims that certain features on some Apple devices, including the virtual assistant Siri, infringe its patents. The complaint, filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), alleges that Apple’s products infringe on seven Motorola Mobility patents, including location reminders, email notification, and phone/video players. “We would like to settle these patent matters, but Apple’s unwillingness to work out a license leaves us little choice but to defend ourselves and our engineers’ innovations,” Motorola Mobility said in a statement. The complaint seeks a ban on U.S. imports of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac computers.
Apple has filed its master plan for its data center facility in Prineville, Oregon. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the plan shows two buildings with more than 500,000 sq. ft. of “data halls”; the overall facility is expected to cover about 107 acres. No time table is given in the plans for construction. “They really didn’t say how long they are looking at,” Prineville senior planner Joshua Smith said. Apple is already building a 10,000 sq. ft. data center on the Princeville property it purchased in February.
Apple is in talks with some of the U.S.’ largest cable operators about letting an Apple device serve as a set-top box for live television and other content, according to a new report. Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that no deal has yet been reached with any of the operators, possibly due to their reluctance to let Apple establish a larger presence in the TV business. Although the report does not state whether the device in question is an iteration of the current Apple TV or a more sophisticated device, it does cite two people briefed on the matter who claimed that the technology could be embedded in a television.
Apple has been granted a major patent relating to a new radial menu design for computer applications, according to a report from Patently Apple. In the newly granted patent 8,245,156, Radial menu selection, Apple describes a design for radial menus that can be used for both desktop and portable devices, working with a mouse or touch interactions using a finger, stylus or iPen, presenting menus and submenus at optimal locations. Such a new radial menu system would be an alternative method of presenting menu options from the traditional linear pull-down menus that have been used in most computer applications and operating systems to date.
Radial menus would appear as a collection of menu options presented as a set of wedges surrounding a central cursor position on a display, with submenus cascading from the first circle of wedges as necessary. Apple’s patent describes several unique aspects of radial menu implementations using sweep-based gestures, including Sweep Commands, Selecting and Activating Menu Items with Sweep Commands, Predicting Stopping Location of Sweep Commands, Serial Sweep Commands, Moving Menus and Spring-Load Commands. The patent was originally filed in 2008 and lists Charles Migos and Jean-Pierre Mouilleseaux as the inventors.
In recent testimony given in the Apple and Samsung patent trial, Apple patent licensing director Boris Teksler revealed that Apple has licensed its design patents to Microsoft, although the deal includes an “anti-cloning agreement” that prevents Microsoft from directly copying the iPhone and iPad in its own designs. Teksler described Apple’s decision to license its patents to Microsoft as consistent with its corporate strategy as the deal prohibited Microsoft from building direct copies of Apple’s products.
Teksler went on to note that Apple also offered a patent licensing arrangement to Samsung in 2010, although it viewed patents related to the “unique user experience” as a highly protected category, which included design patents involved in the current lawsuit between the two companies relating to the “look and feel” of the iPhone and iPad. Teksler told the court that he could “count on one hand” the number of times that Apple had actually licensed those patents. The two companies were ultimately not able to come to a licensing agreement at that time and Apple filed a lawsuit in federal court in April 2011.
Apple’s retail stores have started to match retailers’ and carriers’ discounted iPhone prices, according to a new report. Citing an unnamed source, MacRumors reports that the stores have received authorization to match “Market Support-approved” prices from major retailers and carriers. As such, a discount of $49.01 will be taken off select iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models, depending on the carrier. The report notes that customers will likely need to cite the source of the lower pricing in order for Apple to honor the offer; the policy appears to apply only at Apple’s retail stores and not to online orders.
The fourth beta version of iOS 6 has added a new Wi-Fi Plus Cellular data option for iPhones and iPads. AppAdvice reports that in the General>Cellular section of iOS 6 beta 4’s Settings app lies an option called Wi-Fi Plus Cellular. According to the screenshot posted in the report, the option is designed to “allow apps having trouble with Wi-Fi to use cellular data.” Notably, iOS 6 beta 3 appeared to enable such behavior by default; this switch in beta 4 is effectively adding a way for users to turn the feature off. Apple is set to release iOS 6 this fall.
Apple is now offering a range of refurbished third-generation iPads on its online store. Pricing for the refurbished units starts at $449 for a 16GB Wi-Fi model and goes up to $779 for a 64GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model. Notably, both black and white versions of both models are available, as are both AT&T and Verizon variants of + cellular models. As with all Apple refurbished products, all of them include a full one-year Apple warranty.
Apple has started to air a new TV commercial for the third-generation iPad. Entitled “All On iPad”, the ad follows the patten of prior third-gen iPad ads, showing the device performing various tasks in front of a white background while a narrator speaks. “Read it, Tweet it, be surprised, be productive,” the narrator reads. “Make a sale, make some lunch, make a movie night. Play a game, or an old favorite. Do it all more beautifully with the Retina Display on iPad.” The new commercial is available for viewing from the above link or in embedded form below.
Apple’s most recently released version of the iOS Simulator developer tool suggests that iOS 6 already contains support for 1136x640 displays. 9to5Mac reports that when using a tweaked version of the iOS Simulator application, iOS 6 fully supported the expected next-generation iPhone resolution, offering up five complete rows of icons, not including the dock. When the current public release of iOS 5.1 was used, the Simulator instead displayed the Home screen with a stretched set of four rows of icons. Notably, the report claims that the simulator will not correctly display five rows of icons at resolutions other than 1146x640, instead scaling icons to an “iPad-like” Home screen layout, and not at the proportions and scaling of the current iPhone and iPod touch display. Apple is expected to unveil its next-generation iPhone at a special media event on September 12.
A couple of noteworthy changes have been made to iOS 6 as of the fourth beta update. Perhaps most notably, Apple has removed YouTube from the list of built-in apps. YouTube was a last-minute pre-launch addition to the iPhone in 2007, and has remained a built-in app across all iOS devices since. Apple has recently moved to distance its mobile platform from Google in iOS 6, however, replacing the latter’s Maps service with an in-house solution. The YouTube app had not been updated in some time; Apple may simply be leaving its development up to Google, which will presumably be able to release a new YouTube app as a free download from the App Store.
In addition, a new “Bluetooth Sharing” menu has appeared inside the Settings app. Found under the Privacy heading, it lists apps that have requested the ability to share data via Bluetooth. While its exact purpose is currently unknown, it is possible that this menu could tie-in to the Bluetooth 4 linking feature revealed by iLounge in a report last week.
Update: Apple has released a statement regarding the removal of the YouTube app. “Our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended, customers can use YouTube in the Safari browser and Google is working on a new YouTube app to be on the App Store.”
Apple has released the fourth beta version of iOS 6 to developers. As with prior iOS 6 beta updates, beta 4 is available as an over-the-air software update or as a direct download from the iOS Dev Center, and is accompanied by a new beta version of the Apple TV software, as well as an updated version of Xcode and the iOS 6 SDK. The new version is listed as build 10A5376e; it is unclear what changes may be contained in the release. iOS 6 beta 4 is available now to registered iOS developers.
Apple is in talks to acquire The Fancy, a growing social commerce site, according to a new report. Business Insider claims that while it has learned that there have been talks between the two companies, there is no signed deal and no guarantee of one. It is unclear what price Apple proposed to pay, or how recently the talks took place, but the report claims—citing a source familiar with Apple’s acquisition strategy—that The Fancy is at a stage where Apple typically buys companies. The Fancy is similar to Pinterest in allowing its users to make lists of items they find interesting, but has also started linking users to transactions, taking a 10 percent cut of sales in the process. Notably, Apple CEO Tim Cook is a user, having opened his account after meeting The Fancy CEO Joe Einhorn at the Allen & Co. Sun Valley conference earlier this year. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes are on the company’s board, along with LeRoy Kim of Allen & Co. and Boston Celtics owner James Pallotta; Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz are also investors.
Apple has updated its Apple Store app for the iPhone and iPod touch adding the ability for customers to have Pages, Keynote and Numbers pre-installed on any MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac or Mac Pro ordered from the Apple Store. Added to the Apple Store on the web earlier this week, the new option allows users to choose to bundle the purchase of any of the iWork apps with their new Mac, which will come already installed from the Mac App Store in the same way as the iLife apps—iPhoto, GarageBand and iMovie—presently do. The latest update to the Apple Store app also includes performance enhancements designed to improve the shopping experience. Apple Store 2.3 requires iOS 5.0 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.
A recently published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on a Smart Cover for the iPad that offers more functionality than the current accessory. Notably, the patent outlines a flexible display embedded in the cover itself, receiving power and data via a connector on the side. According to the patent, the display may be touch-sensitive, or may have a portion of the cover flap dedicated to an eInk display, which would require no power to maintain state. As noted by Engadget, possible uses for such a display are space for extra icons, media controls, or as a notification display; an image accompanying the patent application also shows a portion of the cover’s interior being used as a keyboard, like Microsoft’s recently announced Surface tablet cover. 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.
The Nevada Board of Economic Development on Wednesday endorsed a deal negotiated by the state to help lure Apple to Reno with $89 million in tax breaks. The Associated Press (via the San Jose Mercury News) reports that the action was largely ceremonial, since the panel lacked the authority to change the agreement. Nevada Government Brian Sandoval called the deal a “win” for the state and said that Apple’s commitment will generate interest from other companies. The deal will see Apple build a 350-acre data center east of Sparks, NV, to house servers, as well as a purchasing and business center in a currently rundown area near downtown Reno.
Following dueling reports from earlier in the week indicating that Apple had met with Twitter reps about a strategic investment, a new report claims that talks between the two companies centered more on product integration ideas. Citing multiple people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that the investment idea never progressed into serious discussion or negotiations, while the product integration deal came together very quickly. According to the report, which cites two people briefed on the matter, the two companies continue to talk about future product integrations, which may include more deeply melding Twitter and iTunes as Apple prepares to phase out Ping later this year. Apple added Twitter integration in iOS 5 last year, and in OS X Mountain Lion last month.