A number of possible changes to the App Store being explored by Apple in recent weeks include the possibility of implementing a Google-like “paid search” feature, Bloomberg reports. Among the possibilities being considered by a secret team at Cupertino would be a plan to charge developers a fee to have their apps more prominently displayed in search results for specific terms, similar to the business model used by Google. The effort, reportedly being spearheaded by former iAd chief Todd Teresi, would be intended to cash in on the increasingly large marketing budgets of major app developers, which have become significant sources of revenue for companies such as Facebook and Twitter. Teresi’s team is said to consist of about 100 Apple employees, including many engineers from the now-defunct iAd advertising group, suggesting that this strategy may mark a directional shift for that group into pursuing other advertising and marketing-related opportunities, after recent reports that the advertising service suffered at the hands of Apple’s strict customer privacy policies.
Apple has released its 2016 Environmental Responsibility Report, covering fiscal year 2015 with details on the company’s efforts toward becoming more eco-friendly throughout its operations. The report highlights three priorities that Apple has focused on to maximize its positive environmental impact, including using renewable energy sources and driving energy efficiency in the company’s products and facilities, conserving precious natural resources, and leading in the use of safer materials in both its products and its manufacturing processes.
Apple has announced that it will be ending the iTunes Allowance program as of May 25, 2016. The allowance feature, which has been available on the iTunes Store for over a decade, was designed to allow parents to setup iTunes Store accounts for their children and automatically add a fixed amount of credit to the account each month. Apple has suggested that users instead move to the new Family Sharing feature debuted in iOS 8, which allows purchases by children on a shared family account to require approval by a parent on an item-by-item basis. Users can also still send iTunes Gifts electronically, either as a dollar amount or for specific items, and of course traditional iTunes Store Gift Cards remain an option as well. Apple notes that users will not be able to create new iTunes Allowances as of April 13, 2016, and existing allowances will automatically be cancelled as of May 25, 2016, with any unused credit remaining in the recipient’s account until it’s used, in the same manner as credit from an iTunes Gift or Gift Card.
A new Washington Post story claims a group of independent hackers sold the FBI information that helped crack the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, contradicting earlier reports that Israeli tech firm Cellebrite was the company behind the hack. People familiar with the matter said a group of researchers who specialize in hunting for vulnerabilities in software sold knowledge of a previously unknown iOS flaw to the FBI for a one-time flat fee. The information was used to create a new piece of hardware that allowed the FBI repeatedly guess the iPhone’s four-digit PIN without triggering the security feature that erases all the data on the phone.
Apple has drawn the ire of the Reddit community after suddenly dropping popular third-party Reddit clients from the app store over their ‘not safe for work (NSFW)’ filters. Apple informed the creators of Narwhal, Antenna, Eggplant and BaconReader that their apps were removed from the app store for violating clause 18.2 of the App Review Guidelines, which prohibits apps from displaying “user generated content that is frequently pornographic.” Rick Harrison, co-creator of Narwhal, told MacStories it was odd that third-party Reddit apps were removed after being available for months but Reddit’s official app, which launched last week, wasn’t pulled despite Apple contacting Reddit over the same concerns. “I reached out to Reddit asking them if they knew anything, and they informed me that they did not request Apple to pull these apps, and they were also receiving issues from Apple about 18.2,” Harrison said. “I think that Apple did not pull their app because they are a big company and were recently featured. As shown time and time again, Apple does not really care whatsoever about indie developers. From taking 30 percent of barely any revenue to rejecting apps based on features that have been available for 18+ months.”
Dozens of users have taken to Apple’s customer support page to complain about problems with call quality when using their iPhone SE over Bluetooth. Those pairing their device with car Bluetooth systems are reporting scratchy and distorted audio when using their phone to make calls. Some also reported poor audio quality when using their phones for GPS navigation in the car, and one user said his Jawbone Bluetooth headset experienced similar audio problems when connected to the iPhone SE. The phone audio quality is fine when not paired to Bluetooth, and the connectivity issue doesn’t seem to affect music streaming over Bluetooth.
The Delhi High Court has directed Apple to stop using ‘Split View’ to describe its multitasking feature that allows users to run two apps side by side in iOS 9, The Economic Times reports. Vyooh, a vendor for Microsoft, developed a similar software in 2006 under the name Splitsview to allow users to work within multiple windows. The company filed an objection to Apple’s use of a similar name for a similar product, leading the court to rule that Apple cannot use the term ‘Split View’ on any of its products or services in India. Apple declined to comment, but is appealing the ruling.
While still not publicly confirming that it was the firm that helped the FBI crack the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, Cellebrite has offered to help a father gain access to his deceased son’s iPhone 6, CNN reports. Leonardo Fabbretti said his 13-year-old son Dama had given him Touch ID fingerprint access to the phone before his death from bone cancer, but that the phone now required his son’s passcode to unlock after a restart. Fabbretti asked Apple for help unlocking the phone, but was told the company couldn’t access the device without his son’s passcode. After hearing the story, Cellebrite reached out to Fabbretti, and on Friday a forensic analyst delivered a promising update during a meeting in northern Italy. “They were able to download the directories with the iPhone’s content, but there is still work to be done in order to access the files,” Fabbretti said.
A new report from The Wall Street Journal reveals that Apple’s history in working with the FBI goes back as far as 2008, when the company reportedly not only assisted the FBI in accessing the data on a locked iPhone, but actually had its lawyers assist in drafting the court order to do so. While the government reportedly had no means of compelling Apple to cooperate back then — other than the All Writs act used in the more current case — Apple basically voluntarily offered its assistance on the basis of the government providing the necessary paperwork. The case in question was a horrific child molestation case where the FBI needed evidence from the perpetrator’s iPhone, which was taken to Apple’s headquarters in California by a New York State Police investigator. There, the iPhone passcode was bypassed while the investigator watched. The case contrasts sharply with Apple’s more recent standoff with the FBI, but it’s also important to consider that 2008 model iPhone models did not encrypt data at all, nor provide any of the other advanced security features now commonplace on modern iPhone models, making for significantly different technical and ethical considerations.
Apple has released a new round of developer betas for iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. The release notes for the new versions are relatively sparse, and the very minor version numbers — 9.3.2, 2.2.1, and 9.2.1, respectively — would suggest that these are primarily maintenance releases and do not likely include any new features worth noting. The new betas are available to registered developers from Apple’s Developer Site; those developers who installed the necessary beta configuration profiles for the prior beta cycle should also automatically see the new betas appear as an over-the-air update.
The Apple News account on Twitter appears to be up and running, promoting stories as of last night. So far the feed has sent out a handful of sports and news items with links that direct users back to the Apple News app. Anyone clicking on story links from a device without Apple News or in a country where Apple News isn’t available will be redirected to the affiliate news provider’s site instead.
A newly discovered security flaw in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus allows users to bypass the lock screen and gain access to contacts and photos. The exploit only works on 3D Touch-equipped phones set to allow Siri access to Twitter, Contacts and Photos, but if all of those variables are in place, gaining access to a user’s photos is relatively easy.
If a Twitter search run through Siri yields a tweet that contains an email address, a 3D Touch gesture can then be used to call up the contextual menu with options to send mail to the address or add it to contacts. Choosing to add the address to contacts allows access to the phone’s existing contact list, and using the contact list’s option to add photos to a contact, the user can browse the phone’s photos without ever entering a passcode. To guard against the potential intrusion, users need only disable Siri’s Twitter integration under Settings > Twitter. [via Apple Insider]
Update: Apple has tweaked Siri to stop the personal assistant from allowing access to Twitter searches from a locked iPhone. A spokesman confirmed to the Washington Post that the company pushed out a fix to make Siri force users to unlock their phone before delivering Twitter search results. The update was handled on Apple’s on servers, so it won’t require any action from users.
A French watchdog agency claims Apple should pay 48.5 million euros in damages over illegal contracts with cellular carriers, French website BFMTV reports. The Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and Fraud has filed a complaint with the Commercial Court in Paris alleging Apple’s contracts with carriers are “significantly unbalanced” in favor of Apple, in violation of the Commercial Code.
In honor of Opening Day in the MLB, Apple has rolled out some improvements to Siri’s baseball knowledge, but we’ve found there’s still a lot of room for improvement. The personal assistant is supposed to be able to provide more detailed statistics, including historical data going back to the beginning of baseball records, but simple questions like, “What was Ty Cobb’s best single-season batting average?” returned, “I don’t know who leads the league in batting average,” so she can’t even answer the question we didn’t ask, much less the one we did.
Apple’s latest push to sell used iPhones in India is meeting strong resistance from a consumer group backed by rival Samsung, Bloomberg reports. Apple’s 2015 application was rejected, and the company’s recent request has drawn opposition from technology executives who say allowing the sale of used phones will turn India into a dumping ground for electronic waste. “Make in India could turn into Dump in India,” said Sudhir Hasija, chairman of Karbonn Mobiles, referencing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India program that encourages local manufacturing.
Following reports earlier this week of a hyperlink bug which was causing freezes and crashes on some iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus units, Apple has released iOS 9.3.1, a minor update that promises to fix the issue. As usual, the update is available now through Settings > General > Software Update, or can be installed using a Mac or PC via iTunes.
We’ve just gotten our hands on Apple’s iPhone SE and have posted a number of unboxing and comparison photos, looking at the new 4” iPhone model alongside its larger siblings, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Be on the lookout for our full, independent, comprehensive iPhone SE review, coming on Monday.
Apple has asked a federal appeals court to reinstate a $120 million verdict against Samsung, claiming the three-judge panel that reversed the jury’s decision in February violated the U.S. Constitution, Reuters reports. In a petition filed Monday, Apple’s attorney said the panel’s use of its own outside research to overturn the judgment undermined Apple’s Seventh Amendment right to have a jury decide the case.
Apple is providing coaches with 12.9-inch iPad Pro devices running custom software through a new multi-year deal with Major League Baseball, The Wall Street Journal reports. The tablets will run a custom iOS app called Dugout, developed by the MLB’s Advanced Media division. The app will be loaded with player statistics, stat breakdowns, interactive data and game footage pertinent to the team’s matchup each day, with future iterations expected to support real-time data updates. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he hopes the iPads will help speed up the pace of games and make baseball more attractive to a younger generation drawn to fast-action sports. [via Apple Insider]
Now that the FBI has cracked San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone without Apple’s assistance, the company is left with the daunting task of fixing a security vulnerability it knows nothing about. Unlike other security issues where Apple is working to solve a known problem, the company has so far received no information from the FBI about the method used to break into the device. To complicate issues further, The New York Times reports Apple’s security operations have been in a state of transition since late last year, when Dallas DeAtley, leader of the Core OS Security Engineering team and the manager responsible for most government data extraction requests, left that team to work in a different part of the company.