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Apple to testify about EU tax deals

Apple will testify tomorrow before European Union officials, defending the company’s tax deals in Europe as lawmakers increase pressure on multinationals to pay more taxes on local profits, Reuters reports. While the European Parliament tax committee holding the inquiry has no power to order changes, the hearing reflects growing discontent over large companies avoiding local tax liabilities. Google, McDonald’s and IKEA will also take part in the hearing, while Starbucks and Fiat turned down the invitation over on-going legal squabbles with the EU over taxation. Apple’s tax deal with Ireland is still under EU review, but the company has repeatedly stated that it complies with all EU tax rules.

Apple adding ‘native’ ads that look like articles to News app

A new Apple technical document shows that sponsored “native” ads which look like news stories are coming soon to your News app feed. The new ads “display directly in the content feeds, inline with News articles.” They’ll feature the same title, text excerpt and small image fields, with the only thing setting them apart from news content being the “Sponsored” tag at the bottom of the story. Apple says the new ads “are intended to blend in with their surroundings” and will be set to display in the same font used for news stories. The sponsor can include its name in the disclaimer at the bottom of the ad or opt out, leaving only the word “Sponsored” in the space below.

Apple SVP pledges to improve App Store category algorithms

Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller has pledged to look into complaints that contend certain Apple Store algorithms are broken. Schiller responded on Twitter after two developers sent him a screenshot illustrating how the company’s categories in Canada and other countries sort apps, piling apps with names beginning in a number at the top of the heap and stacking similarly-named apps together to push other legitimate apps out of the top spots. Screenshot++ developer Wesley Dyson told Schiller, “Rip-off apps should never be showcased by Apple,” which prompted Schiller’s response. [via 9to5Mac]

‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ takes on the Apple/FBI encryption battle

John Oliver — from HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver — has unleashed his satirical brand of humor on Apple’s fight with the FBI over cell phone encryption, spending the last half of this week’s show on the issue. After pointing out the simplified way that Apple’s critics portray the security issues at stake in the case, Oliver admits it sounds scary. But once he lays out Apple’s case for not wanting to create code that could used to hack all of its devices, Oliver concludes, “The FBI and its supporters can be weirdly dismissive of that issue in ways that indicate they either don’t fully understand how technology works or are pretending not to.” The segment lambasts the government’s use of the All Writs Act to compel the company’s cooperation and the idea that the code Apple makes to access the phone can be destroyed after a single use.

DOJ raises stakes in iPhone case, Apple chief counsel calls DOJ filing a ‘cheap shot’

The U.S. Justice Department has raised the stakes in the San Bernardino iPhone case with its latest filing (via The Verge), in which it describes Apple’s response to the court order as “rhetoric” that is “not only false, but also corrosive of the very institutions that are best able to safeguard our liberty and our rights,” accuses Apple of a “deliberate marketing decision to engineer its products so that the government cannot search them, even with a warrant,” and uses hyperbolic statements, such as claiming Apple has “deliberately raised technological barriers that now stand between a lawful warrant and an iPhone containing evidence related to the terrorist mass murder of 14 Americans.”

In addition, a footnote on page 22 of the brief, highlighted by ACLU principal technologist Christopher Soghoian, includes a thinly-veiled threat by the DOJ to simply seize Apple’s iOS source code and digital signatures if the company refuses to comply:

For the reasons discussed above, the FBI cannot itself modify the software on Farook’s iPhone without access to the source code and Apple’s private electronic signature. The government did not seek to compel Apple to turn those over because it believed such a request would be less palatable to Apple. If Apple would prefer that course, however, that may provide an alternative that requires less labor by Apple programmers.

Responding to the filing in an on-the-record conference call with reporters, Apple’s Chief Counsel, Bruce Sewell, called the DOJ’s latest filing a “cheap shot,” noting that it “reads like an indictment” and seeks to “vilify Apple” as having “deliberately made changes to block law enforcement.” Sewell went on to state, “In 30 years of practice, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a legal brief that was more intended to smear the other side with false accusations and innuendo, and less intended to focus on the real merits of the case” and called on both sides to be more civil.

Let’s at least treat one another with respect and get this case before the American people in a responsible way. We are going to court to exercise our legal rights. Everyone should beware, because it seems like disagreeing with the Department of Justice means you must be evil and anti-American. Nothing could be further from the truth.

[via Daring Fireball]

Apple officially announces March 21 event: ‘Let us loop you in’

Apple has sent out media invitations to its March 21 event. Instead of the larger venues in which Apple typically holds its media events, this event will be held in Cupertino at Apple’s 1 Infinite Loop campus, at the usual 10 a.m. Pacific (1 p.m. Eastern) start time. Apple is expected to debut the new four-inch iPhone SE, and a new 9.7-inch iPad which will likely include many of the same features — and the name — of the larger iPad Pro released last fall. New Apple Watch bands are also expected to be shown, and Apple will also likely announce a formal release for iOS 9.3, tvOS 9.2, and watchOS 2.2, all of which are currently in beta. Apple has also already setup a page where it will livestream the event, complete with a link to add the event to the Calendar app.

Apple’s Federighi officially debunks idea of quitting iOS apps to improve performance, battery life

Apple’s Senior VP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, has officially debunked the longstanding myth that users should quit background iOS apps in order to improve performance or save battery life, 9to5Mac reports. A 9to5Mac reader emailed Apple CEO Tim Cook asking the company for an official stance on whether this was necessary. The message was passed on to Federighi who responded with an uncategorical “no.”

While Apple’s own support documents and various iOS presentations over the years have pretty clearly implied that force-quitting apps should not be necessary except in cases where apps become unresponsive, there has been a persistent myth for years that force-quitting apps somehow improves the performance or battery life on iOS devices, perhaps due to the way that multitasking works on traditional Windows and OS X-based computers, not to mention Android devices. Further, even Apple’s own stance has not been entirely consistent at the lower levels, with iLounge’s own editors and readers encountering Genius Bar staff in Apple Stores who have recommended closing apps to “improve performance.” However, since the multitasking frameworks in iOS exercise an almost draconian control over background processes, most apps are actually suspended when in the background, using no CPU or battery power at all. While there are exceptions to this rule, these are usually obvious, such as navigation apps that use the actual GPS hardware (as opposed to mere “geo-fencing” apps that trigger location-based alerts), Voice-over-IP apps, and apps that play or record audio in the background. In many cases the user should be well aware that these apps are running, and are likely actively using them in some way.

Justice Department appeals pro-Apple encryption ruling

The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing last week’s court ruling that prevented the government from forcing Apple to unlock an iPhone, Reuters reports. The DOJ has submitted its arguments to a higher court after a magistrate judge in Brooklyn ruled the All Writs Act can’t justify asking Apple to help the government access an encrypted device. The new filing cites the ruling of a judge in California who found the All Writs Act an acceptable rationale for compelling Apple’s cooperation, pitting two lower courts against one another. While the cases are slightly different, the government’s use of the AWA to justify its position is the same, and Apple CEO Tim Cook said he is willing to take the California case all the way to the Supreme Court. The DOJ has at least a dozen more iPhones it wants cracked in a similar fashion, and FBI Director James Comey has publicly admitted that success in applying the AWA in any of these cases would be used as a precedent to justify similar legal requests moving forward.

Report: Apple CEO Cook attends GOP meeting on ‘how to stop Donald Trump’

Tim Cook was one of several technology CEOs who attended last weekend’s American Enterprise Institute World Forum, an annual gathering of top Republicans and influential business leaders that this year primarily focused on how to deal with Donald Trump, The Huffington Post reports. The secret meeting was closed to the press, but sources familiar with the discussions said leaders from Apple, Google, Tesla and other tech giants sat alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and other prominent Republicans as political guru Karl Rove presented focus group findings about Trump exposing the business mogul’s weaknesses.

Apple releases iOS 9.3 beta 6 to developers and public testers

Apple has released yet another beta for its upcoming iOS update, in the form of iOS 9.3 beta 6. The new beta has been released to both developers and public beta testers. With an iOS 9.3 final public release believed to be around the corner, this sixth beta could be the last beta seen before the iOS update goes live to all users. Apple also released a sixth watchOS 2.2 beta to developers today. Anything particularly noteworthy will be found in a future update of our Inside the betas piece.

Apple draws both more support and more criticism in fight against FBI

Lavabit, the secure email company that shut down in 2013 rather than hand over its encryption key to the U.S. government, has joined the growing list of companies filing amicus briefs on Apple’s behalf as it battles the FBI in court, TechCrunch reports. In the brief, Lavabit details the “extraordinary assistance” the FBI demanded three years ago, after public disclosures by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden led authorities to the company’s email service. “In the same vein, the government now seeks extraordinary assistance from Apple,” Lavabit wrote, arguing that “the government’s extraordinary request eviscerates the purpose of the All Writs Act, and unnecessarily compromises the proprietary intellectual property of a private company that has not been implicated, in any way, with the crime under investigation.”

Supreme Court refuses to hear Apple appeal in e-book price fixing case

The Supreme Court has refused to hear Apple’s appeal in its e-book price fixing case, Bloomberg reports. That final ruling ends a years-long battle over whether the company conspired with five publishers to increase e-book prices, and leaves Apple on the hook for the previously determined $450 million settlement to resolve U.S. state and consumer claims from the case. Last month the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld the $450 million judgment against a separate challenge from a purchaser who questioned the fairness of the settlement.

EU investigator: ‘Don’t hold your breath’ waiting for Apple tax ruling

The European Union’s competition chief told reporters “don’t hold your breath” waiting for an end to the inquiry over whether the tax breaks Apple enjoys in Ireland are legal, Bloomberg reports. Last November, Ireland’s finance minister Michael Noonan said he expected the case to be resolved by Christmas, but EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said, “No, we wait for the job being done thoroughly and with the quality that we want it to be done with. That is what decides the timeline.”

Report: Apple not bidding for NFL Thursday Night Football rights

Apple does not plan on bidding for the digital streaming rights to the NFL Thursday Night Football package, Re/code reports. The NFL sent out a requests for proposal (RFP) to several major digital media players back in December, offering non-exclusive rights to stream the entire Thursday Night Football package online. While earlier reports suggested Apple was planning to put in a bid, it now appears that Apple has decided to bow out of the bidding process on the basis that the sports package would not be enough to set the Apple TV or any future streaming media service apart from the competition. Other companies, including Facebook, Amazon, Verizon, and Yahoo, are reportedly still interested and will likely submit bids. No information or even speculation is available on what the digital rights package will sell for, however the report notes that NBC and CBS each paid $225 million to air the Thursday Night games on their television networks, a deal that also gives them the rights to stream those games on their own online platforms.

 

Apple launches official Apple Support account on Twitter

Today Apple has launched an official Apple Support Twitter account, @AppleSupport. The bio for the new account reads, “We’re here to provide tips, tricks and helpful information when you need it most, and if you have a question, well — we’re here to help with that too.” So far the account is living up to those claims, having tweeted almost 50 times since first tweeting about an hour ago. Most of the tweets are responses to customer questions, with a tip thrown in, as well. If you happen to be interested in tips and tricks for iOS and Apple TV, check out our iLounge Tips archive, which goes back to 2011.

Fiat CEO says Apple shouldn’t make its own car

Nearly a year after meeting with Tim Cook over “Apple’s intervention in the car,” Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the tech giant should collaborate with carmakers instead of trying to build a car on its own, Reuters reports. Speaking to reporters at an auto show, Marchionne said it makes more sense for Apple to use the expertise already available in his industry rather than enter into such a “complex business” on its own. “If they have any urges to make a car, I’d advise them to lie down and wait until the feeling passes,” Marchionne said. “Illnesses like this come and go. You will recover from them. They’re not lethal.”

FBI director admits that Apple precedent would be used to unlock more iPhones

When pressed during testimony before Congress, FBI Director James Comey was forced to admit that his agency would use the precedent from a win in the San Bernardino iPhone case to compel Apple to unlock more phones (via Apple Insider). After weeks spent trying to reassure the public that the government’s request for Apple to break into a terrorist’s iPhone would result in one-time access used only in this particular instance, Comey told members of the House Judiciary Committee, “If the All Writs Act is available to us, and relief under the All Writs Act fits the powers of the statute, of course” his agency would apply the precedent to other cases involving iPhones. The admission underscored Apple’s emphasis on the far-reaching nature of the case, given that sources have said the Department of Justice already has at least a dozen iPhones it wants unlocked. In a ruling handed down Monday, a federal judge sided with Apple in a similar case, arguing that the government doesn’t have the legal authority to use the All Writs Act to gain access to encrypted iPhones.

Congress mulls intervention in Apple’s spat with FBI

Members of the House Judiciary Committee may file a “friend of the court” brief asking that Congress be allowed to decide Apple’s encryption dispute with the U.S. government, Reuters reports. Five sources confirmed the possibility, although they were quick to caution that no final agreement had been reached. The move would be an unusual intervention by Congress in a legal proceeding and needs to be filed by Thursday’s court deadline for consideration. Sources said the filing would argue that the Feb. 16 federal court order for Apple to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c threatens the constitutional separation of powers, but the committee won’t file anything until today’s congressional testimony from Apple’s general counsel Bruce Sewell and FBI Director James Comey is concluded. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and several other large technology firms are expected to file briefs on Apple’s behalf.

Judge rules FBI can’t order Apple to unlock iPhone in New York case

A federal judge has ruled the government cannot use the All Writs Act to force Apple to unlock an iPhone, a judgement that could have far-reaching implications in Apple’s ongoing legal battle with the FBI, Reuters reports. While all eyes are on Apple’s public debate with the FBI over whether or not the company should unlock an iPhone used by the San Bernardino terrorists, a similar case has been working its way through appeals courts. Last October the Department of Justice dismissed Apple’s argument against helping the government break into the iPhone of a suspected drug dealer, saying the company’s operating system is “licensed, not sold” to users. But U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein disagreed with the DOJ’s assessment, stating that he does not have the legal authority to order Apple to disable the phone’s security measures.

Apple releases prepared statements ahead of congressional testimony

Apple vice president and general counsel Bruce Sewell will testify before Congress tomorrow about the company’s stance on helping the FBI create a back door to access an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino terrorists. Sewell’s prepared remarks were released ahead of tomorrow’s testimony, and while they simply reiterate Apple’s stated position that creating a means to break iPhone encryption is dangerous, this will mark the first time the issue has been aired in testimony before Congress. Apple has stated that it wants Congress rather than the courts to decide the issue. FBI Director James Comey, New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and Worcester Polytechnic Institute professor Susan Landau are also scheduled to speak to Congress tomorrow on the legal questions surrounding the FBI’s request. [via Vice’s Motherboard]

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