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.
- December 9, 2013
Former Apple Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall has kept busy since his departure from Apple, according to The Information. The new pay site, which lists Forstall as one of technology’s big “free agents,” reports Forstall has traveled to Italy and South Africa in the past year. He’s also advised startups and has become more involved in philanthropy. Apple employees reportedly believe Forstall will start his own company at some point. [via Business Insider]
Former Apple accessories head Jesse Dorogusker left the company and joined Square to design the new Square Reader, Wired reports. According to the report, Dorogusker previously led development on Apple’s Lightning connector, and spent eight years heading up the accessories division for Apple before leaving. Wired notes with Square’s new Reader, Dorogusker “had the chance to take a crack at a flagship product.”
Much of the article focuses on the technical details of developing the new Square Reader, which is 45 percent thinner than Square’s old credit card reader, and no longer requires an internal battery for power. The Reader also improves the tactile feel of card swiping despite its smaller size.
- December 9, 2013
Eight major technology companies are making an appeal to reform government surveillance, the Wall Street Journal reports. Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn and AOL have drafted an open letter to President Obama and members of Congress — a short version of the letter appears as a full-page ad in several print publications today. The companies have also created a set of reform principles. A joint website, www.reformgovernmentsurveillance.com, has been launched. The site includes the open letter, reform principles, and other details. This effort comes on the heels of new reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) has used a previously-unknown ability to activate computer web cameras without triggering their “on” lights, covertly spying on some users; it’s unclear whether Apple’s FaceTime cameras have been compromised with this technique.
Apple has released iOS 7 adoption statistic on its developer website, unusually nestling the information within an App Store Distribution section of the site. The company claims that “74% of devices are using iOS 7,” though it’s interesting how Apple reached that number. It says that the 74% was “as measured by the App Store during a 7‑day period ending December 1, 2013,” which would rule out iOS users who didn’t visit the App Store in that given week, a different and less absolute metric than has been offered by the company in the past. By contrast, Apple suggests that 22 percent of devices are using iOS 6, with 4 percent of devices still using an older edition of iOS.
- December 6, 2013
All 254 U.S. Apple Stores have now implemented Apple’s iBeacon technology, the Associated Press reports. Starting today, customers using the Apple Store app can benefit from in-store notifications as they move around the store, providing information such as orders ready for pick-up, iPhone upgrade eligibility, store events, and more. Notifications can differ based on where a customer is inside the store. The app will switch to “in-store” mode once a customer enters the Apple Store, provided that it has been set to allow location tracking and in-store notifications and Bluetooth are enabled on the iPhone.
- December 2, 2013
Apple has acquired social media analytics firm Topsy Labs, the Wall Street Journal reports. The deal, which was confirmed by Apple, is reportedly worth more than $200 million. Topsy is a Twitter partner that has full access to all tweets, and the company offers “tools to analyze tweets and other information to help track consumer sentiment,” according to the WSJ. Topsy’s website offers a search engine that allows users to “search and analyze the social web.” The report notes Apple’s plans for Topsy are “unclear,” but speculates the acquisition could benefit Apple’s iTunes Radio efforts in some way.
Apple has posted holiday shipping deadlines on its online store to inform customers of when orders must be placed to receive products by Dec. 24. The site shows when iPads, iPhones, iPods, Apple TVs, Macs, and other select accessories must be ordered to ensure delivery by Christmas Eve, for both standard and next day shipping. Notably, customers only have a few days left to receive an iPad mini with Retina display by Christmas Eve, with Dec. 5 being the deadline. The iPad Air can be ordered up until Dec. 9, and the iPhone 5s must be ordered by Dec. 12 for pre-Christmas delivery. Apple’s online store is offering free shipping on all products through Dec. 22.
- December 2, 2013
Apple is offering 0% financing on select online hardware purchases in many European countries. France, Italy, Spain, and the UK are a number of countries offering the promotion. The promotion differs slightly by country in how many monthly installments are required to pay off the device. There’s also a minimum amount financed for each country’s promotion — for instance, the UK site requires a minimum purchase of £449. The promotion runs through Jan. 10. [via 9to5Mac]
- November 29, 2013
Following reports of Apple’s Black Friday sales offering gift cards instead of the traditional discounts in Australia, the U.S., and Canada, it now appears that the Apple Store in the U.K. and other European Union countries are continuing to offer discounts for Black Friday promotions. The U.K. Apple Store has MacBooks and iMacs discounted by £80, while iPod and iPad discounts range between £25 and £31. Similar discounts have appeared in other EU countries. [via 9to5Mac]