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Apple releases band design guidelines for Apple Watch

Apple has laid out its guidelines for third-party developers looking to make bands for the Apple Watch. The document comes with only two basic guidelines — the band must securely attach to the watch and not hinder its operation — but there are still plenty of other restrictions. Most notably, bands are prohibited from integrating magnetic chargers or using certain materials that don’t meet environmental standards. No mention is made of the watch’s diagnostic port, located in the slot where the bottom band fastens to the watch. Bands will have to fasten tightly enough to keep the watch’s sensors in contact with the user’s skin while remaining comfortable. The bands must pass corrosion tests and resist efforts to pull the band off, while still providing easy detachment when a user wants to remove the band. Apple provides specifications for creating the special lugs used to secure bands to the Apple Watch, but the homepage for the new guidelines says Apple will be making its own lugs available to developers soon through the Made for Apple Watch program.

New Apple TV remote to have touchpad

The Apple TV remote is getting a touchpad when Apple debuts the new Apple TV this summer, The New York Times reports. An employee briefed on the product said the remote will have two physical buttons and the touchpad, which will be used for scrolling. The new remote will also be thicker than the previous model. Apple declined comment.

Apple asking music labels to kill Spotify’s free streaming tier

Apple is trying to convince record labels not to renew Spotify’s license to stream music for free, drawing even more scrutiny from the Department of Justice, The Verge reports. Apple’s aggressive attempts to undercut the competition ahead of releasing its upcoming subscription music streaming service have already drawn attention from regulators in the the U.S. and Europe. If successful, this latest gambit would leave an estimated 45 million free Spotify users without the free listening option, putting Apple in a prime spot to grab new users by offering exclusive content that the paid tier of Spotify doesn’t have. Sources also told The Verge that Apple has offered to pay YouTube’s music licensing fee to Universal Music Group if the label will pull its songs from YouTube. Apple is expected to launch the new streaming service at WWDC in June.

Apple reportedly hires four more producers from BBC Radio 1

Apple has been poaching more radio producers from BBC, according to a new report from Music Business Worldwide. On the heels of the recent move of BBC Radio 1 personality Zane Low to Apple in March, the report notes that four other producers from BBC Radio 1 have been hired by Apple, including Lowe’s former producer, James Bursey, who apparently is already headed to Los Angeles to work with Lowe. Three other BBC producers are expected to join Apple at the end of the month to work from the company’s London office, rumored to possibly include Natasha Lynch and Kirean Yeates, star producers responsible for the Huw Stephens show and BBC Introducing, respectively.

While MBW suggests that all of these recent hires, including Zane, are geared directly toward Apple’s upcoming Beats-based streaming service, it’s notable that earlier reports suggested that Zane, at least, was hired to play a role in redesigning iTunes Radio to “bear some resemblance to a traditional radio station,” suggesting that the addition of other talent from BBC Radio may also be directed toward the same project.

Limited Apple Watch supplies due to faulty taptic engine?

The limited availability of the Apple Watch at launch is the result of supply constraints related to the taptic feedback sensors, the Wall Street Journal reports. The component, which provides the wrist-based vibration feedback, was being manufactured by two suppliers, one of which was found to be producing faulty components. The problem apparently remained undiscovered until mass production began in February, only revealing itself through reliability testing on finished units coming off the assembly line. Some completed watches were apparently scrapped entirely as a result, and Apple was forced to move all of its production to a single supplier, which has not been able to scale up production as quickly as needed to meet the demand for the new wearable device. While it’s unclear how much the taptic engine component problems altered Apple’s retail availability plans overall, several other component suppliers have reported that they have been told to slow down production until June, in line with prior retail availability announcements and shipping estimates that have been coming out of Apple.

Apple rejects Apple Watch apps that just tell time, requires independent approval for certain health apps

In a series of updates to its App Store guidelines, Apple has spelled out some boundaries for which apps will be allowed on the Apple Watch. Watch apps built primarily to tell time will be rejected, reflecting the time Apple has spent in its own exhaustive efforts to create intricate faces for the watch. Apple also clarified that apps used for health-related research on human subjects will need to be approved by an independent ethics review board. [via 9to5Mac]

China outpaces U.S. in iPhone sales for first time

Apple sold more iPhones in China than the U.S. for the first time in Q2, Reuters reports. Apple’s revenue in the country was up 71 percent to $16.8 billion over the quarter, fueled by gift buying around Chinese New Year. Apple sold 61.2 million iPhones overall in the quarter, up 40 percent from last year’s Q2, but down from the previous record-breaking holiday quarter. The larger-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have proven popular with customers worldwide, helping Apple overtake Samsung in global smartphone sales last quarter.

Notes from Apple’s Q2 2015 earnings call

Kicking off Apple’s conference call announcing its record-breaking numbers for Q2 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook reported that the company had its strongest March quarter ever, with 27 percent revenue growth overall, and 55 percent year-over-year growth in iPhone revenue. Cook also noted that Apple has seen a higher rate of user switching to the iPhone than in previous iPhone cycles. He cited strong success of the iPhone in emerging markets with 63 percent year-over-year growth, and noted that the App Store had its best quarter ever with a record number of customers making purchases, driving a new record for App Store revenue.

Cook also touched on Apple’s successes in other areas, noting that Apple Pay has had great momentum, with the number of merchants accepting Apple Pay having tripled. More than 60,000 iPhone users enrolled in ResearchKit in only the first few weeks of its availability, and thousands of researchers have contacted Apple expressing interest in the technology for their own studies. Naturally, Cook also spoke on the Apple Watch debut, noting that the response to the Apple Watch has been positive and that more than 3,500 apps that are already available have added to “the surprise and delight” of Apple Watch. Cook expressed his thanks to third-party developers, customers, and Apple employees in making the Apple Watch launch a success.

Apple Q2 2015: Record $58B revenue, 61.1M iPhones, 12.6M iPads

Apple reported its second quarter 2015 financial results today, selling 61.1 million iPhones and 12.6 million iPads. The company posted quarterly revenue of $58 billion and quarterly net profit of $13.6 billion, or $2.33 per diluted share. In Q2 2014, Apple had revenue of $45.6 billion and net profit of $10.2 billion, or $1.66 per diluted share. Gross margin was 40.8 percent compared to 39.3 percent a year ago. International sales contributed to 69 percent of this quarter’s revenue.

For Q2 2015, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $46 billion and $48 billion, and gross margin between 38.5 percent and 39.5 percent. Apple’s earnings call will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern Time, and can be heard live on the company’s investor website.

Apple releases second iOS 8.4 beta to developers

Apple has released its second beta of iOS 8.4 to developers, a release that continues to focus on Apple’s new Music app introduced in the original iOS 8.4 beta. Featuring a build number of 12H4086d, the release is also accompanied by a new Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment. The release notes for this latest beta indicate both improvements and limitations in App Extensions, CarPlay, App Store, iTunes Store, MFi GPS accessories, Videos, and WatchKit, as well as with the new Music app. Notably, the list of limitations in the Music app remains the same as in the first beta, suggesting that the development process may be proceeding more slowly than expected.

Apple posts Apple Watch User Guide

Apple has posted the Apple Watch User Guide online in an advance of tomorrow’s public release of the new device. Designed as an interactive web guide, the site provides instructions on how to use the features and built-in apps on the Apple Watch, ranging from the basics of getting started and telling the time to using the wearable device as a remote control for an Apple TV or iPhone camera. The guide provides some insight into the details of many of the features on the Apple Watch.

Apple planning to release new iPod touch later this year?

Apple may be gearing up to release a new iPod touch model this year, according to a new report from Apple Insider. Citing “a source familiar with Apple’s future product plans” the report indicates that a new iPod touch would likely be a fall release, and may retain the same four-inch screen size as the current model, although that part of the information was less definitive. Based on the previous iPod touch release, it seems likely that a new iPod touch would feature specifications in line with older iPhones, rather than breaking new ground, although it’s unclear whether Apple would choose to align it with the 2013 iPhone 5s or the 2014 iPhone 6 in terms of design, features and capabilities.

While the first three iPod touch models saw annual updates, the fourth-generation iPod touch was released in 2010 alongside the iPhone 4 — and with the same A4 CPU — but received only the addition of a white model the following year when the iPhone 4S debuted. The fifth-generation iPod touch, originally released in 2012 at the same time as the iPhone 5, mimicked the general design and screen size of its iPhone counterpart but used the A5 processor from the prior year’s iPhone 4S. Apple made an unusual addition to the lineup in 2013 with a less-featured 16GB version, but then reversed course the following spring, releasing a new 16GB model that had feature parity with the larger capacity models, while dropping prices across the board. Throughout this, however, the basic specs of the fifth-generation iPod touch remained the same as when it first debuted, despite many hoping that a larger capacity model would appear, particularly in light of Apple’s elimination of the iPod classic and release of 128GB capacity iPhone models last fall.

Apple Watch pre-orders arriving tomorrow, Apple posts more Guided Tours

With the first pre-orders of the Apple Watch expected to arrive in customer hands tomorrow, Apple has posted more Guided Tours for the new device, covering topics such as Apple Pay, activity tracking, and workouts. Meanwhile, those customers who pre-ordered the Apple Watch immediately after it became available in the early hours of April 10 have begun receiving shipping confirmation emails suggesting that their devices will arrive tomorrow. Despite tomorrow being the “launch day” for the Apple Watch to become available to the public, the device will still not be sold directly in most stores, outside of a few “select destination fashion boutiques,” according to The New York Times.

Security flaw opens iOS devices to attack using fake WiFi hotspots

Researchers at Skycure have exposed an SSL certificate security flaw allowing them to create a ‘No iOS Zone’ where most apps on iPhones and iPads running iOS 8 will crash while connecting to the Internet, even crashing the devices themselves in some cases. While the exploit is normally triggered by users manually joining these rogue Wi-Fi networks, hackers can also take advantage of the WiFiGate vulnerability to create fake Wi-Fi networks with names that iOS devices on some carriers will automatically join — for example any iPhone on AT&T will join any nearby Wi-Fi network with the name “attwifi” without requiring any user interaction. Once the device is connected, either automatically or manually by the user, apps attempting to make a secure connection with a server will crash. Heavy use of the device while it is exposed to the fake Wi-Fi location can even cause the device’s OS to crash. In some instances that crash led to a repeatable boot cycle, rendering the device useless while within range of the fake Wi-Fi hotspot. Users can avoid the problem by disconnecting from the offending Wi-Fi network and generally avoiding connecting to suspicious free Wi-Fi networks, although in the case of carrier-defined Wi-Fi networks, the user may be required to move out of range of the Wi-Fi network entirely, as many of these carrier settings cannot be overridden. Skycure has reported the problem to Apple and speculates that iOS 8.3 may have fixed some of the underlying issues. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple releases its 2015 Environmental Responsibility Report

Apple has released its Environmental Responsibility Report for 2015, providing an update on the company’s progress toward becoming more eco-friendly during the 2014 fiscal year. The report emphasizes Apple’s use of clean energy sources like solar, wind, bio gas fuel cells and geothermal to power all of its U.S. data centers and 87 percent of those worldwide, but admits the company and its suppliers still emitted 34.2 metric tons of greenhouse gases last year, mostly from manufacturing processes. Apple is designing new buildings with more efficient lighting, air conditioning and plumbing to drive its carbon footprint lower, and is encouraging employees to cut pollution from their commute.

Apple’s new headquarters is being built with 95 percent recycled materials, and last week Apple announced a partnership with The Conservation Fund to conserve more than 36,000 acres of working forests in the hopes of producing packaging for all its products sustainably. The company is also running recycling programs in 99 percent of countries where Apple products are sold, diverting more than 508 million pounds of electronic waste from landfills since 2008. Apple stores accept any Apple product for recycling free of charge.

The report also discloses that Apple has removed toxins like PVC, brominated flame retardants, beryllium and phthalates from its products and has put pressure on suppliers to identify energy savings in their own facilities, which account for 72 percent of the carbon emissions related to Apple products. Once the devices leave the supplier, Apple says its focus on efficient charging, including power-efficient hardware and smarter power management software, is reducing consumers’ carbon footprint as well. Apple claims its devices far exceed Energy Star guidelines and estimates new Apple devices have reduced the greenhouse emissions directly related to Apple devices by 61 percent since 2008.

Apple Pay coming to Canada later this year?

Apple is currently in negotiations with Canada’s six major banks about a potential November Apple Pay launch, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. This would mark the beginning of the expansion of the service outside of the U.S., and would be expected to enable mobile payments for both iPhone and Apple Watch users, for both credit and debit cards, according to people familiar with the matter. The banks are reportedly open to an agreement, but are balking at Apple’s current fee proposals and are wary about the security vulnerabilities that U.S. banks experienced when the service was initially rolled out last year. The six major Canadian banks – RBC, TD Canada Trust, ScotiaBank, BMO, CIBC and National Bank of Canada — together account for more than 90 percent of retail bank accounts.

Most of these banks also comprise the primary stakeholders in the Interac Association — the organization responsible for debit cards and inter-bank transaction systems in Canada. Notably, since VISA and MasterCard only provide credit card services in Canada, a Canadian Apple Pay launch would need to expand to include support for Interac Flash contactless payment standards in order to be a viable debit card solution. The banks have reportedly formed a consortium in their dealings with Apple and hired a consultancy to “help develop a security protocol for Apple Pay.” Some of the report’s sources note that the Canadian banks may require Apple Pay to incorporate a “secondary authentication” system in addition to Touch ID, perhaps requiring customers to verify their cards with a PIN or log on to a mobile banking app before cards could be used with Apple Pay. The report was unclear, however, whether this would be a per-transaction point-of-sale authentication requirement, or whether it would simply provide extra security for initially adding a card into the Apple Pay system. Contactless payment card systems are already in very widespread use within Canada, so any implementation of Apple Pay would need to provide at least as seamless an experience as using a plastic card to be practical for consumers.

Report: Apple being uncooperative with antitrust monitor

Apple has “sharply declined” in cooperating with its court-appointed antitrust monitor, Reuters reports. Michael Bromwich was appointed to monitor Apple’s antitrust compliance policies after the company was found liable in conspiring to raise e-book prices. Bromwich reported this week that Apple has been objecting to providing information and is “inappropriately” attempting to limit his activities. Although Bromwich has had a strained relationship with Apple throughout the process, he reported to the court last fall that relations with the company had improved. His latest report, however, accuses Apple of taking a more “adversarial tone” in discussions, and in fact rejecting recent requests for interviews. Bromwich notes that despite this, he has interviewed Apple’s entire board and executive team, and credits the company with making progress in developing a “comprehensive and effective” compliance program.

While Apple’s appeal to the original e-book antitrust case remains ongoing, the company also filed a separate appeal earlier this year aiming to disqualify Bromwich, accusing the monitor of having been “overly aggressive” in seeking interviews with executives and holding private discussions with the Justice Department, as well as objecting to Bromwich’s fees.

L.A. school district seeking restitution over failed iPad program (Updated)

The Los Angeles Unified School District is looking to recover millions of dollars from Apple following the failure of an iPad-based curriculum program, the Los Angeles Times reports. Developed by Pearson, an educational consulting firm working as a sub-contractor to Apple, the $1.3-billion program was intended to provide iPads to every student, teacher, and school administrator. The devices began rolling out in the fall of 2013, however, the plan got off to a rocky start with declining political support, rising costs, and the resignation of the Superintendent who had spearheaded the initiative. Claims were later made that Apple and Pearson may have had an unfair advantage in the bidding process, leading to an FBI criminal investigation that remains in progress. The district suspended its contract with Apple last August.

Earlier this week, the Board of Education for the district held a closed-door meeting with its attorneys, authorizing them to look into possible litigation against both Apple and Pearson. According to district general counsel David Holmquist, new Superintendent Ramon Cortines “made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he’s dissatisfied with their product.” Holmquist sent a letter to Apple on Monday making it clear that the district will no longer accept or pay for new deliveries of the curriculum and related equipment, or any services related to the project.

Update: The federal Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an informal inquiry into the project regarding the legal use of bond funds, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Apple partners with The Conservation Fund to protect U.S. working forests

The Conservation Fund has announced a partnership with Apple to conserve more than 36,000 acres of working forests — more than 32,400 acres in Maine and more than 3,600 acres in North Carolina. Apple will receive a “steady supply of sustainably harvested timber” for its paper and packaging. Lisa Jackson, Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives, posted on Medium that the company “is striving to supply 100 percent of the virgin fibers used in its paper and packaging from sustainably managed forests or controlled wood sources.” Jackson calls the initiative “the beginning of a worldwide effort” for the company.

In-store sales of Apple Watch delayed until at least June

Limited availability of the Apple Watch is now expected to continue into June, according to a new report from The Telegraph. The articles quotes an internal memo from Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts in which she notes that lack of in-store availability of the Apple Watch is expected to “continue through the month of May” and directs Apple retail store staff to advise customers to order their watches online in order to receive “the model they want earlier and faster.”

Many of you have been getting questions asking if we will have the watch available in store on April 24 for walk-in purchases. As we announced last week, due to high global interest combined with our initial supply, we are only taking orders online right now. I’ll have more updates as we get closer to in-store availability, but we expect this to continue through the month of May. It has not been an easy decision, and I want to share with you the thinking behind it.

Ahrendts goes on to explain her reasoning, mostly in marketing language, describing the Apple Watch as an “entirely new category” and putting a positive spin on Apple’s new approach to “deliver the kind of service our customers have come to expect,” and that the Watch as an “object of self-expression” complicates Apple’s ability to deliver stock in stores with the number of band and design options available, as opposed to taking online orders. Notably, Ahrendts suggests that the current situation is an exception, and that Apple does not plan to launch all future products in this manner.

 

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