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Google announces $3.2B Nest acquisition

Google has announced it has agreed to acquire Nest for $3.2 Billion. Nest Founder and CEO Tony Fadell was formerly senior vice president of Apple’s iPod division, and has been referred to as the “father of the iPod.” The company is best known for its Nest Learning Thermostat, and recently released its Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Detector.  Apple currently sells both products online and in its retail stores. Nest will continue to operate under Fadell with its own brand identity. The deal is expected to close “in the next few months.”

Google CEO Larry Page said in a statement, “Nest’s founders, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, have built a tremendous team that we are excited to welcome into the Google family. They’re already delivering amazing products you can buy right now — thermostats that save energy and smoke/CO alarms that can help keep your family safe. We are excited to bring great experiences to more homes in more countries and fulfill their dreams!”

Fadell said in the same statement, “We’re thrilled to join Google. With their support, Nest will be even better placed to build simple, thoughtful devices that make life easier at home, and that have a positive impact on the world.” Reports suggested that Fadell left Apple on less than fond terms, and Nest has continued to hire former Apple engineers to work on its products.

Apple device theft driving NYC larcenies

New York City has seen decreases in many major crimes during the last 12 years, with the exception of grand larcenies — a category which is increasingly being driven by the theft of Apple products, the Wall Street Journal reports. The New York Police Department attributes a rise in grand larcenies from last year to the trend of stealing electronic devices, and Apple products made up more than 18 percent of all grand larcenies last year. The NYPD tracks Apple device thefts specifically due to their frequency. An Apple spokeswoman said that Apple has “led the industry in helping customers protect their lost or stolen devices” with the 2009 release of the Find My iPhone app, which the NYPD recommends Apple users activate. The police department also has its own program that allows people to register their e-devices.

iOS 7.1 beta 3 released

Apple has released its third beta for iOS 7.1, including bug fixes and improvements. The beta also notably features redesigned swipe to power off graphics, tweaks to the look of the Phone application for iPhones, and a variety of other cosmetic changes. iOS 7.1 beta 2 was released in mid-December.

iLounge is live at the 2014 CES: follow us at CES.iLounge.com!

iLounge’s editors have arrived in Las Vegas for the 2014 CES, and we’re already scoping out the latest Apple accessories under wraps at the gigantic Las Vegas Convention Center. On our new CES mini-site, you’ll find behind-the-scenes photos and early details from the show. Keep checking out the site over the next week, as we’ll be updating it frequently with new info and imagery.

iBeacon ‘scavenger hunt’ game planned for 2014 CES

Announced by Apple in mid-2013 as an application of new Bluetooth low-energy (LE) technology, iBeacon will be used to power what the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) describes as “the first promotional iBeacon-based scavenger hunt,” rewarding a “limited number” of attendees with special prizes for collecting virtual badges scattered throughout the show. Attendees will find instructions on gathering badges within CEA’s official 2014 CES app, which will wirelessly look for iBeacons within 100 feet of an iOS or Bluetooth 4-equipped Android device, tallying each badge discovered during the hunt. The first three people to gather all of the badges will receive a “special prize,” with other prizes for people who complete the hunt during the rest of the show.

According to CEA, the hunt was developed in partnership with iBeacon vendor Radius Networks and Bluetooth SensorTag chip provider Texas Instruments. Having deployed iBeacon with mixed results in its retail stores last December, Apple does not appear to have anything to do with the promotion.

Apple denies working with NSA on iPhone spying

Reacting to a recent report from Der Spiegel, Apple said it has never worked with the NSA to create any sort of backdoor entry for iPhone monitoring. The report claimed the NSA has the ability to access Apple’s iPhones through a secret spyware program named DROPOUTJEEP. According to alleged NSA documents, data could be downloaded or uploaded from an iPhone, while messages, voicemails, the device’s address book, microphone, camera, and location can all be accessed without the user noticing.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Apple said: “Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a backdoor in any of our products, including iPhone. Additionally, we have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products. We care deeply about our customers’ privacy and security. Our team is continuously working to make our products even more secure, and we make it easy for customers to keep their software up to date with the latest advancements. Whenever we hear about attempts to undermine Apple’s industry-leading security, we thoroughly investigate and take appropriate steps to protect our customers. We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them.” The initial report notes the program was still being developed at the beginning of 2008. Though the software implant required physical contact with the device, the document notes remote installation would be “pursued for a future release.”

Apple hires NYT mag designer as creative director

  • December 30, 2013
  • Apple

New York Times Magazine design director Arem Duplessis has been hired by Apple as a creative director. Duplessis will apparently be involved in Apple’s internal marketing team, though it’s likely that he could contribute in other ways. In a 2011 interview with Mediabistro, Duplessis said his dream project would be to “design a revolutionary iPad app that would make the world wonderful and happy” before changing his answer. [via Mediabistro]

Report: Apple, Samsung resume patent talks

  • December 30, 2013
  • Apple

Apple and Samsung are negotiating to end their disputes over patent infringement, The Korea Times reports. An official at the Fair Trade Commission said, “As far as I know, the companies recently resumed working-level discussions toward the signing of a potential deal. They are in the process of narrowing differences over royalty payments.” Apple CEO Tim Cook and Samsung CEO Choi Gee-sung reportedly held talks last year, but couldn’t reach an agreement, as Samsung wouldn’t accept Apple’s royalty demands. Samsung seeks a cross-licensing deal, which would allow the company to access certain Apple patents. But Apple is asking Samsung to pay more than $30 per device, which is “too much,” according to a Samsung official. Last week, Apple renewed a motion seeking a U.S. sales ban on certain Samsung products.

Apple renews motion seeking Samsung product ban

  • December 27, 2013
  • Apple

Apple renewed a motion on Thursday seeking a U.S. sales ban on certain Samsung products, according to a report. A court ruled in November that Apple could seek sales bans once more after determining that Judge Lucy Koh “made errors” in denying the company a request to ban products, and Apple is now pursuing that option. Apple is looking to stop the sales of Samsung products which are believed to infringe on three patents — the pinch-to-zoom patent, rubber-banding patent, and a tap-to-zoom patent. It’s possible that another injunction hearing could be held as soon as Jan. 30, 2014. [via FOSS Patents]

Apple to again offer lucky bags in Japan

  • December 26, 2013
  • Apple

Apple will again offer its Japan-only New Year’s promotion in which customers are offered the opportunity to purchase “lucky bags.” The annual event will kick off at the company’s Japanese retail locations at 8 a.m. on January 2.

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It’s a tradition in Japan for retailers to offer such lucky bags on New Year’s Day. The grab bags — known as Fukubukuro — contain random items at a deep discount. Apple’s lucky bags can be purchased for 36,000 yen (about $344), and typically include bundles of accessories that are collectively worth the asking price, though without the ability to choose or change items. Some “lucky” customers receive iPods, iPads, or MacBook Airs in their bags, significantly surpassing the prices they’ve paid.

Report: Cook to visit Turkey over potential iPad deal

Apple CEO Tim Cook will reportedly visit Turkey in 2014, according to Turkish site emlakkulisi.com. Cook will meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gül regarding the country’s Fatih Project, which plans on acquiring 10.6 million tablet computers for the country’s education program. Cook will be looking to secure the deal, which could be worth $4 billion. It’s also noted that Cook will visit Turkey’s first Apple Store in Istanbul during his visit. It’s notable that Turkey has seen three cabinet ministers resign in recent days, with one of the ministers calling for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to resign, as Reuters reports, political upheaval that could threaten the tablet deal. [via Apple Insider]

Taiwan agency fines Apple for iPhone pricing

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]

Apple posts iOS 7 Tech Talk videos

  • December 23, 2013
  • Apple

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.

Report: Apple likely acquired BroadMap, Catch in 2013

  • December 23, 2013
  • Apple

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.”

Tim Cook memo alludes to ‘big plans’ in 2014

  • December 23, 2013
  • Apple

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 announces China Mobile iPhone deal

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.

iOS FaceTime Audio to hit Mac in 10.9.2 update

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]

App submissions must be iOS 7-ready by Feb. 1

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 iPhone deal remains elusive

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.

Apple must adopt new refund policy in Australia

  • December 18, 2013
  • Apple

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.

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