Apple has made another adjustment to its App Store review policies, this time cracking down on apps that display examples of gun-related violence in their icons or screenshots, PocketGamer reports. Citing reports from multiple developers, the report notes that Apple has begun rejecting both new games and updates from the App Store that include screenshots that “show people holding guns, or being maimed or killed.” Several examples are noted in the report, with developers being required to change screenshots and resubmit to meet this new restriction, which is reportedly just a more active enforcement of Section 3.6 of the App Store Review Guidelines. Section 3.6 states that “Apps with App icons, screenshots, and previews that do not adhere to the 4+ age rating will be rejected.” It’s worth noting that the rejections seem to be limited exclusively to content shown on the App Store page such as screenshots and icons; there have been no reports of Apple rejecting apps for any guns or violence shown within applications themselves, assuming the content is appropriate for the assigned age rating on the App Store.
Apple has changed course and decided to readmit a marijuana-related app to the App Store, according to a new report from the San Francisco Chronicle. In a controversial move some weeks ago, Apple pulled the app MassRoots from the App Store, despite its presence there from July 2013 until Nov 4, 2014. While the rejection was likely based on Section 2.18 of the App Store Review Guidelines, which states that “Apps that encourage excessive consumption of alcohol or illegal substances, or encourage minors to consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes, will be rejected,” it seems clear that Apple had not enforced this policy when the app was originally submitted, perhaps in part due to the varying legality of marijuana use between different jurisdictions. Following the app being removed from the App Store, the founder of MassRoots had reportedly contacted Apple, offering to restrict the use of the app based on geofencing to only operate in jurisdictions where marijuana is legal. However, at the time Apple “refused to budge.” The company apparently changed course last week, when an Apple representative contacted the founder and notified them that “cannabis social apps” would be permitted on the App Store, provided they are “geo-restricted to the 23 states that have legalized medicinal cannabis.”
Apple has extended its two-step verification feature to include authentication of FaceTime and iMessage logins, The Guardian reports. First introduced in early 2013, Apple’s two-step verification requires users to enter a verification code that appears on a trusted iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch when signing in with their Apple ID and password, providing an extra layer of protection against compromised or hacked passwords. The security feature has been enabled for direct iCloud account features since its introduction, although other services continued to only require a standard password for access.
Apple has announced that developers can now submit applications up to 4GB in size to the App Store, an increase from the prior 2GB limit. This will allow developers of media-rich apps and games to include more content directly within their app, as opposed to using over-the-air downloads — a process that some developers previously relied on in order to provide content beyond that which could be included in the App Store download itself. The announcement notes that the cellular network delivery size limit of 100MB remains unchanged, however, meaning that larger apps will need to either be downloaded over Wi-Fi or synced via iTunes.
Apple has released its Supplier Responsibility Progress Report for 2015, providing an update on the actions the company has continued to take in ensuring that fair labor practices and human rights are respected through its supply chain. The report covers areas such as accountability, empowerment of workers, labor and human rights, health and safety, and environmental concerns. In the report, the company revealed it has doubled its number of conflict-free smelters to 135 — four smelters that would not agree to a third-party audit were informed they would be removed from Apple’s supply chain. Additionally, Apple has told its suppliers that “no worker employed on an Apple line could be charged any recruitment fees.” Apple has drawn plenty of fire in the past stemming from issues with smelters and foreign contract worker fees.
Apple’s auditors conducted a record number of 633 comprehensive, in-person audits to track working conditions, covering over 1.6 million workers in 19 countries, a forty percent increase in the number of audits performed in the prior year. Reviews were also conducted of 459 potential suppliers, including detailed risk assessments for those who had not been audited previously, a process which allowed Apple to address more than 700 findings related to labor standards, worker safety, permits, environmental hazards, and chemical management. In relation to protection of workers’ rights, Apple continued to enforce the maximum 60 hour workweek throughout its supply chain, noting that last year 92 percent of the company’s suppliers were complaint with that standard. The report also notes that Apple helped over 4,500 foreign contract workers recoup excessive fees paid to labor brokers. More than 870 Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) initiatives were also launched to improve working conditions, along with an extensive program to improve chemical management processes. Apple also expanded its clean water program, increased coverage to 50 percent of the total water withdrawn from its top suppliers, helped 13 suppliers save half a billion gallons of freshwater, and continued to closely monitor production facilities for hazardous waste and environmental violations.
In addition to the statistical compliance figures, the report also provides specific detail on significant non-compliance findings from the audit and the remedial steps taken in each case across areas ranging from anti-discrimination policies and juvenile worker protection to occupational injury prevention and wastewater and stormwater management. The full report can be found here.
iPhone thefts have been dropping dramatically in at least three major cities since Apple introduced its Activation Lock feature in 2013, Reuters reports. Specifically, the number of stolen iPhones in San Francisco has reportedly dropped by 40 percent, while the number of iPhone thefts in New York has dropped by 25 percent, and smartphone theft in general has dropped by half in London. The drop is believed to be a direct result of the anti-theft features that Apple added to iOS 7 in September 2013, which effectively “locked” an iOS device to its owner, preventing a stolen device from being used without entering the original user’s Apple ID and password. Supplementing the “Find My iPhone” feature introduced by Apple some time ago, the new Activation Lock feature essentially turns a stolen iPhone into a useless brick, reducing the motivation for theft. With smartphone theft now accounting for half of all crimes in cities like San Francisco, several U.S. states are considering laws mandating the use of similar “kill switches” in smartphones — California passed a smartphone “kill switch” law last year that has yet to go into effect. While Samsung and Google have added a similar feature, only Apple currently has it setup to be enabled by default.
Apple has been threatening sanctions against third-party accessory manufacturers that design iPhone and iPad products based on leaked and other unofficial device specifications, according to a new report by 9to5Mac. Last fall, prior to the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple reportedly required a number of accessory makers to sign agreements that would prohibit them from seeking out information about unannounced Apple devices. Manufactures were encouraged to sign the agreement or risk losing “future business opportunities that Apple and/or its affiliates may present” to them, and the agreement apparently includes language that could be interpreted as prohibiting developers from even reading any web site or newspaper that talks about upcoming Apple products, although it more specifically prohibits manufacturers from using “specifications from any source other than Apple” when developing new products for the iPhone and iPad.
To preserve its veil of secrecy, Apple traditionally only provides manufacturing specs after new devices have been formally announced, which places accessory makers at a disadvantage when it comes to getting products to market in a timely manner. This leaves customers with few options for things like cases other than Apple’s own offerings, which of course are generally made available simultaneously with a new product’s release. There has already been a stark decline in the number of third-party cases available in Apple Retail Stores, seemingly in favor of Apple’s own iPhone and iPad cases, which now take up approximately 75 percent of the display space in some stores. While there has been some speculation that Apple is simply making room for the Apple Watch, several sources have told iLounge that Apple Retail has been moving more toward a ‘boutique’ experience when it comes to cases, preferring to limit options to unique selections that it believes matches and enhances the aesthetics of its devices.
In addition to the iOS 8.3 beta released earlier today, a new report from 9to5Mac indicates that Apple has also begun development on iOS 8.4 in parallel. Codenamed “Copper,” iOS 8.4 is expected to be released sometime after the Apple Watch debuts, and sources indicate that support for Apple’s upcoming streaming music service may also be incorporated into this release.
In an unusual move, Apple has released a new beta of iOS 8.3 to registered developers, alongside the fifth beta of iOS 8.2 seeded last week. This latest beta features a build number of 12F5027d, and includes extremely sparse release notes noting some minor issues with CarPlay and WatchKit. The parallel release of this newer iOS beta suggests that iOS 8.2 has likely reached a freeze point and will be released soon, while Apple wants to allow developers to get an early start on working with the new iOS 8.3 development environment as soon as possible. Notably, this latest version is also accompanied by an Xcode 6.3 beta that incorporates version 1.2 of the new Swift development language, noting “a number of noteworthy changes to the language” as well as a migrator for moving existing code to Swift 1.2 and “enhancements that ease interoperability between Swift and Objective-C code.”
Apple’s next major iOS update will be primarily focused on delivering stability, optimization, and performance improvements, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. While most major iOS updates have released at least a few landmark features, the rapid development pace has reportedly taken a toll on the operating system’s overall performance as engineering teams have been more focused on delivering new features than polishing existing ones. With iOS 9, Apple is apparently going to focus primarily on delivering under-the-hood improvements; fixing bugs and improving stability and performance, while also striving to keep the size of the OS manageable to accommodate users with lower-capacity devices.
The report speculates that it’s possible Apple may even limit iOS 9 support to newer 64-bit devices, essentially discontinuing support for the iPhone 5c, iPod touch, and first-generation iPad mini. This approach would be similar to the one Apple took with OS X Snow Leopard a few years ago, but it’s expected that Apple may still debut some new iOS features, such as Transit and Indoor mapping modes for its Maps app. However, features like these would be more dependent on back-end services than forming key new iOS components.
Automotive maker Tesla has actually hired more of its employees from Apple than from any other company including other car manufacturers, a new report from Bloomberg Business reveals. The company has hired at least 150 former Apple employees for roles ranging from engineering to law, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes that Apple’s design philosophy is “closely aligned” with Tesla’s. Based in Silicon Valley, the car maker is striving to produce a futuristic generation of vehicles with a much stronger focus on design and user experience than most traditional cars have adopted to date, and to that end, recruiting talent from companies like Apple is key. Tesla employees who came from Apple describe their motivations as being based partially on a desire to work on the cars, but they also appear to be attracted to Musk himself, who has been compared to Steve Jobs. According to Musk, Apple has offered $250,000 signing bonuses and 60 percent salary increases to Tesla employees, but few have jumped ship.
Apple is reportedly going back to Samsung as the primary fabricator of its next-generation A9 CPU, Re/code reports. While the company previously used Samsung for numerous components, in recent years it has been attempting to distance itself from its chief rival by looking elsewhere for chip suppliers. In the case of the iPhone 6, for example, Apple had relied on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. for the majority of its A8 CPUs. However, according to people familiar with the situation, Samsung holds a technological advantage over TSMC in its ability to shrink the size of transistors on its chips, thereby allowing for a smaller chip that consumes less power. While Apple designs its own CPUs and other chips used in its mobile devices, the company relies on partners such as Samsung to actually produce the chips in the quantities required. Neither Samsung nor Apple have commented on the situation.
More detailed plans for Apple’s new Beats-based music service show an integrated song catalog combining streaming services and a user’s own music collection, according to 9to5Mac. Citing multiple sources from Apple and the music industry, this latest report indicates that the new, yet-to-be-named service will be designed entirely by Apple in terms of the user experience, but will leverage technology and music deals that Apple acquired from Beats. As previously reported, Apple will integrate the music service into iOS and the Apple TV, likely in much the same way that iTunes Radio was tied into the iOS Music app, rather than delivered as a standalone app. An updated iTunes application is also said to be in the works that will “deeply integrate” the streaming service. The new service will likely be a hybrid of a cloud-based streaming service and Apple’s existing iTunes Match service for mixing the user’s own catalog with the available streaming content, making it more akin to the services that Google’s Play Music provides, rather than the streaming-focused services like Spotify and Rdio. The service will also leverage Beats Music’s existing Playlists, Activities, and Mixes features to allow users to choose from a wide variety of pre-made playlists for various activities.
Despite the introduction of the new service, Apple apparently plans to continue providing its iTunes Match, iTunes Radio, and iTunes Store services in their current form for users who may prefer these options to the higher-priced streaming service alternative. Sources indicate that Apple is also working to provide pricing below competing services, having initially discussed a $5/month price point with record labels — however, the company will likely end up being forced to price the service closer to $8/month.
Last fall, news surfaced that Apple was planning to re-brand and likely re-release the Beats Music service as something more tightly integrated into the iOS ecosystem. It was also reported that the company was asking the music labels for price concessions to hopefully be able to offer a streaming music service at a lower price point than existing services such as Spotify and Rdio.
A new report from CBS affiliate KPIX reveals multiple sightings of a mysterious van registered to Apple roaming the streets of Concord, Ca., in the San Francisco Bay Area. The van in question has what appears to be a camera apparatus on top similar to those used by Google for both their mapping and self-driving car initiatives, leading to speculation that Apple may be pursuing similar projects. The most likely explanation would seem that Apple is working to improve data for its Maps service, possibly increasing resolution for its 3D Flyover service or building its own “street view” solution, although some analysts have speculated that the camera apparatus is not suitable for mapping purposes and suggests that Apple may in fact be building a self-driving car to compete with companies such as Google and Uber. Notably, however, Apple does not have a permit to test self-driving cars. Apple declined comment.
According to Apple’s developer website, approximately 72 percent of devices are now running iOS 8 as of February 2, 2015. While this number is up dramatically from estimates made in late September, it’s still lower than the 80 percent adoption rate of iOS 7 reported around this time last year. These latest statistics report that the majority of the remaining devices are still running iOS 7, and approximately 3 percent of iOS devices operate on some prior version. As not all devices are upgradeable to the latest iOS versions, this also includes users who may be unable to upgrade without purchasing a newer device. It’s also worth noting that these numbers are intended for developers and only include devices that actively connect to the App Store, suggesting that they may not be generalizable to the entire iOS user base.
Apple has announced plans to build a $2 billion global command center in Mesa, Arizona, according to a new report from CNBC. The initiative is part of a plan to repurpose the GT Advanced manufacturing facility after the sapphire supplier filed for bankruptcy last fall. Approximately 150 full-time Apple staff will be employed at the new facility, along with 300 to 500 construction trade jobs, according to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Apple also indicated that the facility will be fully powered with renewable energy based on solar projects, and the company described the new facility as “one of the largest investments we’ve ever made.”
Apple has released the fifth beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers, featuring a build number of 12D5480a. As with other recent betas, this latest one appears to be primarily focused on continuing to refine the development environment for preparing apps for the upcoming debut of the Apple Watch. This latest beta is also accompanied by a beta version of updated software for the third-generation Apple TV.
Apple has released iTunes 12.1, a relatively minor update that adds a new widget for the OS X Yosemite Notification Center and improves iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch syncing performance. The new widget allows users to control iTunes from the Notification Center, providing a “What’s Playing” view with controls to skip to the next track or even purchase songs while listening to iTunes Radio. iTunes 12.1 is available through the standard software update mechanism, or for direct download at iTunes.com.
A new report from The New York Times reveals that the Chinese Government is implementing new regulations that will require technology companies to comply with a stringent set of security disclosures and procedures in order to sell equipment to Chinese banks. The new rules are laid out in a 22-page document and are only the first in a new set of policies from the Chinese government which intend to strengthen cybersecurity in key Chinese industries. Requirements under the new terms would include turning over proprietary source code for operating systems and firmware, submitting to invasive audits, and including back doors in hardware and software that would allow the Chinese government to gain access to data stored on or transmitted from electronic devices. Apple, for example, would be required to redesign the encryption system used on the iPhone to protect user data in order to provide keys that would allow the Chinese government to decrypt such data. It was revealed last week that Apple agreed to allow the Chinese government to conduct “security inspections” on its products, although it is unclear if this is directly related to the new regulations.
Critics of the new policies, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, suggest that cybersecurity claims are really just covering for protectionism, and that the new rules are simply a means of bolstering the Chinese tech industry by requiring companies to use only domestically produced products and services. The new measures notably go far beyond those taken by most other countries, however they are also not atypical of the sort of technology policies seen in China – a country in which the government has routinely monitored and censored Internet traffic and services for decades. While the new policies only apply to companies doing business with Chinese banks, it’s generally anticipated that they will be expanded in the coming year to other industries which the Chinese government considers critical.
During Apple’s conference call announcing its record-breaking numbers from Q1 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked it off by saying that “demand for iPhone has been staggering, shattering our high expectations,” referring to the 74.5 million iPhones sold in the first quarter. “This volume is hard to comprehend.” He said the company sold 34,000 iPhones every hour of every day of the entire quarter.
Cook also briefly mentioned that he expects Apple Watch to ship in April. It’s the first official acknowledgment of a specific month for the release of Apple’s upcoming wearable. “My expectations are very high on it, I’m using it every day, and love it, and can’t live without it,” Cook said.
Questioned about the iPad’s future, Cook mentioned that first-time buyer rates for iPads are very high, and later mentioned that Apple’s enterprise partnership with IBM is “profound.”