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Apple earns full marks in government data request report

A report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation titled “Who Has Your Back?” has awarded Apple a full six-star rating when it comes to standing with users when the government seeks access to data. Apple earned a star in all six criteria: require a warrant for content of communications, tell users about government data requests, publish transparency reports, publish law enforcement guidelines, fight for users’ privacy rights in courts, and publicly oppose mass surveillance.

In the last three years, Apple only earned one star in the report, which notes this year that “Apple shows remarkable improvement in its commitments to transparency and privacy.” The report features summaries for 26 tech companies. Eight other companies joined Apple in earning a six-star rating, and the lowest grade went to popular appmaker Snapchat, with one star.

OS X 10.9.3 update re-adds USB contact and calendar syncing to iOS

Today’s OS X update, 10.9.3, has re-added the ability to sync contacts and calendars with iOS devices via iTunes over a USB or Wi-Fi connection. Apple had quietly removed this feature in Mavericks, presumably as part of the deprecation of OS X SyncServices, directing users to iCloud instead for syncing. It has returned in this latest OS X update, possibly due to pressure from users concerned about the use of cloud-based services, although it is unclear if Apple has returned to the prior SyncServices model or simply developed a new synchronization architecture for this purpose.

Apple updates Podcasts, iTunes Connect apps

Alongside updates to its iTunes software, Apple today released new versions of two of its iOS apps: Podcasts and iTunes Connect. Podcasts 2.1 sees a number of improvements to episode browsing, Siri integration, and more. A new Unplayed tab lists podcasts that haven’t yet been listened to, while the Feed tab shows episodes available to download or stream. Podcast episodes can now be set to be automatically deleted after being played.

Among other new features, Siri can now play specific podcasts and stations, CarPlay support has been added, and links can be shared using AirDrop.

iTunes Connect, a developer tool, has been completely redesigned for iOS. Additionally, it can now be used to access music, movies, and TV shows developers have made available in the iTunes Store, in addition to apps.

Beats deal may not come until next week

Re/code is reporting Apple’s acquisition of Beats Electronics may not be finalized until next week. Original rumors pegged the deal to close this week at the earliest, although there’s been no word from either company on the issue. “Apple’s planned deal to buy Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion may not be finalized until next week, according to people familiar with the transaction. That’s a longer timetable than some people expected as recently as a few days ago,” reports Peter Kafka.

Report: Apple acknowledges iMessages being sent to unused Apple IDs

An Apple tech support representative has reportedly verified that iMessages are still being sent to previously used Apple IDs in some cases, resulting in text messages never making it to their intended recipient. Former Lifehacker editor Adam Pash wrote a blog post about how he’s not receiving text messages from anyone with an iPhone, because he recently switched from iPhone to Android. The iPhone users sending the messages get a “delivered” receipt, but even after getting his phone number removed from his Apple ID, Pash hasn’t received any text messages from iPhone users. According to Pash, an Apple tech support employee explained that lots of people are having similar problems, but there’s no standard fix at this point. “No one can fix this but Apple because it’s a problem at the device level, which means people in my position have no recourse but to wait for Apple to figure out with the problem is,” Pash wrote. [via 9to5Mac]

Report: Apple restricting employee vacation time in September for product launch

Apple is reportedly restricting its German retail employees from taking time off in September, hinting at the launch of a new product that month, iFun reports. It’s expected the 4.7” iPhone 6 will launch in September. Other stores across the world will likely follow suit with similar vacation time restrictions. Another recent rumor expected the new iPhone to launch in August, but that appears unlikely at this point.

Apple plans to offer hi-res audio, new headphones?

A report from Japanese Apple blog Macotakara suggests that Apple is planning to offer “high-resolution audio” hardware and iOS software options, though the specifics of the functionality remain somewhat unclear. According to the report, iOS 7 and the current Lightning connector limit audio playback of high-definition audio files, so Apple will update the Lightning connector’s unseen chipset and iOS to support the higher-bitrate audio, as well as offering high-definition audio tracks such as upcoming remastered “Super Deluxe Editions” of three early Led Zeppelin albums. The report also claims that Apple plans to launch a new and improved version of its In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic, though there are no details on what the update will include.

Although rumors of high-resolution audio support for iOS devices have appeared before, there has been a continued lack of mainstream consumer interest in previously-announced formats, despite numerous attempts to market virtually unhearable sonic distinctions as worthy of higher album and song prices. It’s possible that Apple’s reportedly pending acquisition of Beats Electronics will be used to push the high-definition format, despite the well-established lack of sonic accuracy in prior Beats products.

Blog spotlights risks in cheap, counterfeit iPad chargers

Comparing $19 Apple iPad 10W USB Power Adapters and clones sold on eBay and elsewhere for $3, Ken Shirriff elucidates the risks unknowingly assumed by buyers of knockoff accessories. Cosmetically all but identical from the outside, the iPad chargers actually differ dramatically inside, with the Apple version providing a more stable flow of 2-Amp power with overheating and electrocution protection. By contrast, the clone produces only around 1-Amp power despite branding to the contrary, and cuts corners on everything from stability of the current to protection against temperature, moisture, and other electrical failures. Beyond supplying an inadequate flow of power to quickly recharge an iPad, Shirriff notes that the counterfeit charger’s board “is unsafe. If you use the charger in a humid bathroom and a drop of water condenses across the 0.6 mm gap, then zap!”

Counterfeit and other low-quality power adapters have been blamed for a number of iPhone-related electrocutions and deaths, most notably but not exclusively in China. In response to concerns, Apple offered to replace knockoff chargers last year for the equivalent of $10 U.S. in local currency. Similar concerns over sparking and exploding iPad chargers have been raised, as well.

Apple to offer India 8GB iPhone 5c with trade-in discount

Apple will launch the 8GB iPhone 5c in India following a brief early-2014 campaign to resuscitate the iPhone 4 there, reports The Times of India, using an old phone trade-in program to make the iPhone 5c more affordable for Indian consumers. According to the report, Apple will price the 8GB model at 35,000-37,000 rupees (approx. $588-$621), with the trade-in program reducing the price to 30,000 rupees (approx. $504)—a discount of only 2,000 rupees (approx. $34) below the 16GB version. The company has struggled to gain market share in India, selling far fewer units than rival Samsung and even regionally-known brands, but is apparently working to increase the average selling price of its devices in the value-conscious country.

Nokia PureView camera expert headed to Apple

Senior Lumia engineer Ari Partinen, who worked on Nokia’s PureView smartphone cameras, has been hired by Apple. Partinen confirmed the move in a tweet.

Nokia has referred to Partinen as the company’s “camera expert.” The PureView cameras are known for their large megapixel sensors, including the 41-megapixel sensor found in the Lumia 1020. [via Engadget]

Beats acquisition confirmed in Facebook post?

After last night’s report that Apple is in talks to acquire Beats Electronics, the deal was seemingly confirmed by a now-deleted post on actor Tyrese Gibson’s Facebook page. In the video, Gibson and Dr. Dre are both seen celebrating, with Dre describing himself as “the first billionaire in hip hop.” The caption to the video read: “How did I end up in the studio with Dr Dre ON THE night his deal went public that he did with Apple 3.2 BILLION!!!!! The BEATS HEADPHONES JUST CHANGED HIP HOP!!!!!!” [via The Verge]

Report: Apple close to acquiring Beats Electronics for $3.2B

Apple is reportedly close to acquiring Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion, according to the Financial Times. A deal with the headphone maker could be announced as soon as next week, sources said, though “talks could still fall apart.” Apple would acquire Beats’ audio equipment business and its streaming music service, Beats Music. The acquisition would be the largest in Apple history, were it to happen. If the acquisition goes through, the Beats management team would report to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Both companies declined to comment on the report.

In February, Cook told the Wall Street Journal, “We have no problem spending 10 figures for the right company, for the right fit that’s in the best interest of Apple in the long-term. None. Zero.” It’s not immediately clear how the acquisition of streaming service Beats Music would affect Apple’s iTunes Radio. Beats Music is a subscription service, unlike iTunes Radio, so the two services could conceivably continue as separate entities, but perhaps Apple has other plans.

Apple posts guidelines for law enforcement data requests

Apple has publicly posted its guidelines for U.S. law enforcement or other government entities requesting information on a new website. As reported recently, Apple states that it “will notify its customers when their personal information is being sought in response to legal process except where providing notice is prohibited by the legal process itself….” The company points out it can intercept email with a valid Wiretap Order, but not iMessage or FaceTime communications, due to end-to-end encryption. It’s also reiterated that Apple doesn’t have access to user passcodes, “but may be able to extract some data from a locked device with a valid search warrant.”

Apple PR chief Katie Cotton retiring

Apple’s vice president of worldwide corporate communications Katie Cotton is retiring, Re/Code reports. The PR maven has worked at Apple for almost two decades, and she’s long been one of the most powerful, important figures at the image-conscious company. “Katie has given her all to this company for over 18 years,” Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said in a statement. “She has wanted to spend time with her children for some time now. We are really going to miss her.”

Cotton told Re/Code the decision was a difficult one. “This is hard for me,” she said. “Apple is a part of my heart and soul.”

Report: TSMC shipping fingerprint sensors for new iPhone, iPads

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has already started to supply Apple with fingerprint sensors for its new devices, cecb2b.com reports. According to the report, TSMC started sending Apple fingerprint sensors in mid-April for the iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, and third-generation iPad mini. Xintec and Suzhou Jing Fang are reportedly taking care of the assembly. It’s been rumored that Apple’s Touch ID will be included in the new devices — recently, iOS 7.1 code was found to contain a reference to the iPad family within Touch ID resources.

Report: iOS 7 doesn’t encrypt Mail attachments

Security researcher Andreas Kurtz wrote a blog post in late April noting that iOS 7 does not actually encrypt email attachments from the Mail app, as Apple claims. The issue reportedly remains in the current iOS 7.1.1. Kurtz was told by Apple that the company was aware of the issue, “but did not state any date when a fix is to be expected.” It’s possible a patch will be issued in the near future, but for now, it’s advisable to send sensitive files using other, more secure means. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple mulls new App Store-style health and fitness platform

Apple has “aspirations beyond wearable devices” within the health realm, as the company is looking at creating “a full health and fitness services platform modeled on its apps store,” Reuters reports. A source passed on the information after reportedly meeting with an executive member of the iWatch team. The report notes that a health platform modeled after the App Store may create a space for startups to release their own mobile medical applications. Apple has hired a number of biomedical experts in the past year, one of those being former Masimo Corporation chief medical officer Michael O’Reilly. Masimo CEO Joe Kiani said Apple is offering their new hires large salaries, but little information about the work they’ll be doing. “They are just buying people,” Kiani said. “I just hope Apple is not doing what we’re doing.”

Apple awarded $119.6M, Samsung $158K in patent trial

Both Apple and Samsung were found to be guilty of infringing on some of each other’s patents, with a jury awarding Apple $119.6 million and Samsung $158,400. Samsung was found to infringe Apple’s “quick links” patent, and some devices infringed upon Apple’s “slide to unlock” patent as well, CNET reports. Apple was found to infringe upon a Samsung patent for photo and video organization. Neither company got anything close to what it demanded, with Apple seeking $2.2 billion and Samsung looking for $6.2 million. The jury will meet again today to reconsider damages on the infringement of Apple’s autocorrect patent.

Report: Apple acquires micro-LED display company LuxVue

Apple has acquired LuxVue Technology, a company that develops low-power, micro-LED displays, TechCrunch reports. According to the report, Apple acquired LuxVue to “add to their hardware innovations area.” Micro-LED technology could lead to improved battery life and screen brightness in Apple devices. Last year, LuxVue was said to have had “a technical breakthrough in displays.” It’s unknown when Apple acquired LuxVue, and Apple has yet to comment on the report.

Apple to notify users about government data requests

Apple and other companies are updating their policies to “expand routine notification of users about government data seizures,” the Washington Post reports. Microsoft, Facebook, and Google are also taking similar steps, with the report noting the companies would move forward with user notifications about data demands, excepting specific requests by a judge or another legal authority. “Later this month, Apple will update its policies so that in most cases when law enforcement requests personal information about a customer, the customer will receive a notification from Apple,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said.

While Apple and the other companies argue that users have a right to know about such requests, the Justice Department believes these new policies will threaten investigations and endanger potential victims. Investigators will be forced to choose between withdrawing data requests, letting users be notified of such requests, or seeking gag orders or search warrants, which take a longer period of time. Not all requests fall under these new policies — any requests approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are kept secret, as are any national security letters issued by the FBI.

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