Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission has fined Apple Asia NT$20 million (US$666,220) for restricting the iPhone pricing of local carriers. Apple Asia demanded that three carriers send the company their iPhone pricing plans for review, according to FTC Vice Chairman Sun Lih-chyun. In doing so, Apple Asia violated a section of the Fair Trade Act that states trading partners should “be allowed to decide their resale prices freely” when offering goods for resale. Apple Asia also required local companies to adjust iPhone subsidies and price differences between iPhones, and required approval of the carriers’ promotion plans. If Apple doesn’t stop the practice immediately, another fine could total anywhere from NT$100,000 to NT$50 million. [via Taipei Times]
- December 23, 2013
Apple has posted videos and slides from its iOS 7 Tech Talks to its developer website. The talks were held earlier this year in a number of cities. The sixteen featured talks tackle a number of topics in app and game development.
- December 23, 2013
Apple likely acquired mapping firm BroadMap and cross-platform note application Catch this year, 9to5Mac reports. CEO Tim Cook said in October that Apple made 15 strategic acquisitions this year, and although a number of those acquisitions are still unknown, this report may fill in a few gaps. Broadmap is a mapping firm that specializes in geographic information systems. Catch was an Evernote-competitor — its app allowed note taking and syncing over the cloud. The company also once ran a popular app for Android called Compass, which linked notes to locations; it’s possible Catch could also be a map-related acquisition for Apple. The report also notes Apple’s 2013 acquisitions of Cue and Topsy were made “specifically for enhancements to Siri over the next few major releases of iOS.”
Update: While AllThingsD confirmed Apple acquired both companies, BroadMap’s official Twitter account has tweeted: “Sorry to disappoint everyone but contrary to current reports @BroadMap has not been purchased by Apple.”
- December 23, 2013
Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a year-end email to employees that reflects on Apple’s 2013, and alludes to “big plans” in 2014. “We have a lot to look forward to in 2014, including some big plans that we think customers are going to love,” Cook wrote. The email touched on a number of Apple releases and accomplishments in the past year, including iPhone 5s, iOS 7, iPad Air, and the iPad mini with Retina display. It’s notable that Cook didn’t mention the iPhone 5c in his email. Cook also mentioned the App Store’s 50 billionth download and noted Apple’s charitable donations and commitment to equal rights. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple announced it has entered a multi-year agreement with China Mobile to bring its iPhone to the world’s largest carrier, ending years of anticipation and speculation. China Mobile will carry the iPhone 5s and 5c in its retail stores and through Apple stores in mainland China starting Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Both phones will be available for preorder starting on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, at China Mobile’s official website. iPhone will support both China Mobile’s 3G and growing 4G service — the carrier claims more than 340 cities will have 4G service by the end of 2014.
Apple recently seeded the first beta of OS X 10.9.2 to developers, and the update has notably been discovered to include FaceTime Audio. The feature has reportedly been “integrated deeply” into Messages and FaceTime on Mac, enabling Mac users to enjoy the same free voice calling feature that has been available on iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches since the release of iOS 7 earlier this year. Quality of FaceTime Audio calls is markedly higher than regular cellular telephone calls thanks to a roughly CD-quality audio compression technology. Once OS X 10.9.2 becomes available to the public, iOS users will be able to make FaceTime Audio calls to Mac users, and vice-versa. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has announced on its developer website that all new app submissions as of February 1, 2014 must be optimized for iOS 7 and built with the latest version of Xcode 5. The submission standard includes all new apps and app updates. As a result, there will likely be a surge of app updates before the deadline, as developers race to tweak their apps before Apple starts rejecting apps based on the use of pre-iOS 7 software elements, as well as older versions of Xcode.
China Mobile is still negotiating an iPhone deal with Apple, as there will be no announcement of an agreement today, Reuters reports. China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua told reporters there was no announcement to make; some expected a deal to be announced today. Although a number of recent details — an ad on China Mobile’s website which was later removed, a subsidiary briefly taking preorders, a leaked poster — made a deal appear to be inevitable, it does not appear to have been finalized as of yet.
- December 18, 2013
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has found that Apple has misled consumers regarding their rights under the new Australian consumer law, and as a result, Apple must change its refund policy. The Sydney Morning Herald also reports that Apple will reassess all claims about faulty products purchased during the last two years. Starting on Jan. 6, Apple will assess older claims for the next 90 days. The ACCC found that Apple and its suppliers told customers the company did not have to replace, repair, or offer refunds for products with a “major failure,” when the opposite was true. Customers also should have been offered free repairs, replacements, or refunds for products with minor issues.
Among other issues, Apple told consumers that: a free refund could only be given if a product was returned within two weeks; a refund or replacement for damaged goods could only be provided within a year of purchase; the company wasn’t responsible for non-Apple products sold in Apple stores; and a store credit was the option for faulty products, instead of a full refund. The company will now provide consumers with the correct information about Australian consumer law. A report earlier this year claimed a circulated email to Apple staff instructed workers not to discuss the two-year warranty policy with customers. Apple has had similar issues in Italy and Belgium.
Apple has released its “Best of 2013” list on iTunes. The annual best of list highlights Apple’s favorites and best-sellers in apps, music, movies, books, TV shows, and podcasts. In apps, Apple selected Duolingo, the free language learning app, as its iPhone App of the Year.
Apple’s iPad App of the Year was Disney Animated ($10). The iPhone Game of the Year and iPad Game of the Year are Vlambeer’s Ridiculous Fishing — A Tale of Redemption ($3) and Frogmind’s Badland ($4), respectively.
- December 17, 2013
Tim Cook and a number of other tech executives will meet with President Obama today at the White House, TIME reports. The executives will discuss HealthCare.Gov, national security “and the economic impacts of unauthorized intelligence disclosures,” in addition to other economic tech-related issues, according to a White House official. Google’s Eric Schmidt, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings are also among the 15 executives expected to attend. It appears all the tech companies which recently wrote an open letter looking to reform government surveillance will be represented today, with the exception of AOL.
Apple is actively pushing its iAds team to work on iTunes Radio sales, Adweek reports. As the team focuses on iTunes Radio, sources claim Apple will build a “real-time bidding exchange to automate selling in-app ads.” The report suggests that Apple SVP Eddy Cue made clear during a recent staff meeting that iTunes Radio ad sales are now the top priority, with in-app ads less relevant going forward. Apple recently hired a top radio executive for iTunes Radio as the company looks to expand to different countries and seek $1 million, year-long commitments from advertisers.
Beyoncé‘s self-titled, initially iTunes-exclusive album “Beyoncé” has become the iTunes Store’s fastest selling album ever, Apple announced. The company said today that Beyoncé sold 828,773 albums worldwide in its first three days, with 617,213 of those albums sold in the U.S., breaking the iTunes first week album sales record. It’s unknown which albums previously held those records, however, Apple has rarely had a global exclusive on an album’s release, and has previously not allowed most albums to be sold solely in album form; the vast majority of albums have been made available alongside individual singles on the day of release.
Beyoncé‘s album notably includes 14 songs and 17 videos, all of which initially must be purchased together in album form rather than as singles. Single sales for the album will begin on December 20, and the album will become available in other stores as a CD+DVD combination before the end of the year.
Apple has released iOS 7.1 beta 2 to developers. The update is available through Apple’s developer portal, as well as an over-the-air update for iOS 7.1 beta 1 devices. Initial discoveries within the beta include changes to the iPhone/iPod touch version of Calendar, plus some very small tweaks to settings, including the creation of a top-level settings menu for passcode management, the addition of a third color-modified version of a prior piece of background art, and an accessibility option to create underlines or shadowy boxes for text-format buttons.
Apple has also released an update to its Apple TV beta software, and a new Xcode beta as well.
- December 13, 2013
A newly published Apple patent application reveals a number of systems and methods for processing orders and reservations at restaurants. One such described system can dynamically update wait times for tables at a restaurant based on the menu items ordered by seated customers. A customer can monitor wait times and change reservation requests from their portable electronic device.
Customer profiles within the system can store previous orders at a restaurant and other information. A personalized menu could be transmitted to an electronic device — in one example, the menu transmitted to a customer would remove all items containing ingredients the customer is allergic to. Movie theaters, museums, and auto repair services are also mentioned as possibilities for the waitlist system. [via Patently Apple]
- December 12, 2013
Apple has responded to a China Labor Watch report, suggesting that working conditions at an Apple contract manufacturer did not cause the death of a 15-year-old worker. Reuters reports the company sent independent medical experts to Pegatron to investigate, and found that the pneumonia death of Shi Zhaokun was unrelated to working conditions. “Last month, we sent independent medical experts from the U.S. and China to conduct an investigation of the (Pegatron) factory,” Apple said in a statement. “While they have found no evidence of any link to working conditions there, we realize that is of little comfort to the families who have lost their loved ones.” Zhaokun reportedly used his 21-year-old cousin’s ID to apply for the job. A Pegatron spokesman also said three other employee deaths this year were unrelated to working conditions at the factory.
In a separate report, the Fair Labor Association noted three Foxconn factories in China now limit working hours to 60 hours per week. The FLA expects Apple and main supplier Foxconn to “make progress toward the Chinese legal limit of 49 hours per week,” according to FLA President and Chief Executive Auret van Heerden. Reuters notes that many Foxconn workers don’t want a reduction in overtime for financial reasons.
Samsung lost a bid to ban older iPhones and iPads in a South Korean court on Thursday, Reuters reports. A court dismissed a lawsuit claiming Apple infringed on three Samsung mobile patents. The iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, and second-generation iPad were among the devices ruled not to violate mobile messaging patents. Samsung was also seeking 100 million won ($95,100) in damages, which it will not receive. “We are glad the Korean court joined others around the world in standing up for real innovation and rejecting Samsung’s ridiculous claims,” Apple Korea spokesman Steve Park said. Samsung has yet to decide if it will appeal the ruling.
Apple has pushed out another quiet but major content update for the Apple TV, adding four additional channels. While availability of the new content channels varies between countries, U.S. Apple TV users now have access to the ABC television network, Bloomberg, Crackle, and 16 different Korean television channels in KORTV.
The new Bloomberg channel provides streaming access to a variety of programming on business, lifestyle, and politics and allows users to browse by show for on-demand viewing, watch live streams of specific events or breaking news, or search for specific content. The ABC channel provides clips, full episodes and live streaming—though most of the content is locked unless you subscribe to one of a number of participating cable providers. Crackle, previously available as an iOS app, brings Sony’s free online movie and TV show streaming service to the Apple TV. KORTV is a Korean TV network providing access to ten free channels and six premium channels along with video-on-demand content. These new channels appear on the Apple TV without the need for a specific software update, and are available now.
Apple has hired a top traditional radio executive to help make advertising deals for iTunes Radio, Ad Age reports. Michael Pallad, formerly of Cumulus Media, is now leading international ad sales for iTunes Radio. The report notes that Apple is getting ready to “offer the service widely to advertisers in 2014,” following expiration of initial ad contracts made for iTunes Radio’s mid-2013 launch. Apple is seeking year-long commitments from advertisers that are worth at least $1 million. Apple SVP Eddy Cue has said plans are to bring iTunes Radio to more than 100 countries, with the service expected to launch in a number of countries early next year.
- December 10, 2013
China Labor Watch is reporting that several workers at Apple supplier Pegatron have died suddenly, including Shi Zhaokun, a 15-year-old worker. These workers “passed away in a very short period of time,” and Pegatron failed to carry out “in-depth investigations into the causes of death,” according to China Labor Watch. CLW is demanding that Apple and the factory perform autopsies to verify the reasons for the workers’ deaths. Zhaokun reportedly died of severe pneumonia on Oct. 9, though the respiratory infection was apparently determined to be from non-contagious causes. He worked at Pegatron making Apple products, where “the factory demanded workers to work for 12 hours each day.” Pegatron assembles the iPhone 5c, among other products. CLW is seeking donations for an independent autopsy into the boy’s death.