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Apple acquires TestFlight parent company Burstly

Apple has acquired Burstly, the parent company of mobile app testing platform TestFlight, according to TechCrunch. Burstly also makes SkyRocket, an in-app management platform for ads. Notably, TestFlight recently announced it would be terminating Android support. Apple, which confirmed the acquisition with Re/code, could be looking to improve its own beta testing platform with the purchase.

Apple releases iOS 7.0.6

Apple has released iOS 7.0.6 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. The 35.4 MB security update provides a fix for SSL connection verification.

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iOS 7.0.6 is available now over-the-air.

Update: Apple has also released Apple TV Software Update 6.0.2. According to the company’s support page, this update addresses SSL issues as well. Apple TV Software Update 6.0.02 is available now for second- and third- generation Apple TVs via the Software Update feature of the Apple TV’s Settings menu.

Steve Jobs postage stamp arriving in 2015

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs will be the subject of a commemorative USPS postage stamp in 2015. A list of stamps obtained by The Washington Post reveals a Jobs stamp is coming next year. The stamp is already in design development, according to the obtained document.

Apple ID two-step verification comes to Canada, France, more

Apple has introduced two-step verification for Apple IDs in a number of countries today, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain. The countries that can currently use the optional two-step verification feature for Apple IDs are listed in an Apple support document. Two-step verification can be activated via the My Apple ID website. Apple first debuted the service last March. [via 9to5Mac]

Tesla CEO Musk verifies Apple meeting; acquisition ‘unlikely’

Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed in a Bloomberg interview that his company did meet with Apple’s acquistions chief, but said a sale of Tesla was “unlikely.” A recent report noted Apple’s mergers and acquisitions chief Adrian Perica met with Musk. “We had conversations with Apple, I can’t comment on whether those revolved around any kind of acquisition,” Musk said. He said any acquisition of Tesla could distract the company from focusing on creating a compelling mass market electric car, which would make a sale unlikely. 

Musk noted any scenario that would make it easier to produce such an electric car could make a Tesla acquisition possible, but he doesn’t foresee such a development. When asked what he would tell Apple if the Cupertino company wanted to make cars, Musk said, “I’d probably tell them that I think it’s a great idea.” Tesla recently confirmed plans for its battery “Gigafactory” — there’s speculation that Apple could partner with Tesla in the new battery plant. [via GigaOM]

Apple bringing iTunes Festival to US

Apple has announced it is bringing the iTunes Festival to the U.S. for the first time. The event — which previously has only taken place in London — will be held at SXSW in Austin, Texas, from March 11-15, at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Pitbull, Keith Urban, and ZEDD have already been announced as acts. All five nights of the event will be able to watch as a free stream on the iTunes Store, and the iTunes Festival app will offer HD streaming to iOS devices and Apple TV.

Reports: Apple has talked with Tesla, Basis Science

According to recent reports, Apple has spoken to a few companies, possibly regarding acquisitions. Apple’s mergers and acquisitions chief Adrian Perica reportedly spoke to Tesla CEO Elon Musk “last Spring.” Both Tesla and Apple declined comment, though it has been speculated that the companies might collaborate in some way on a domestic rechargeable battery production facility. The same report noted that Apple is exploring “sensor technology that can help predict heart attacks.” Apple audio engineer Tomlinson Holman, the inventor of THX and 10.2 surround sound, is “exploring ways to predict heart attacks by studying the sound blood makes as it flows through arteries.” Such a technology would likely come into play in Apple’s iWatch, if at all — a recent report suggested that iWatch sensors won’t be as advanced as some expect.

Another report notes Basis Science, maker of the Basis Health Tracker Watch, has spoken to companies including Apple and Google about a potential sale. Considering that Apple is working on its own fitness tracking watch, if the company had any prospective interest in Basis, it would likely involve incorporating the watch’s tracking technology into its own upcoming device. A Basis representative said the company doesn’t comment on “rumor or speculation.” [via San Francisco Chronicle, TechCrunch]

Patents: Apple, Samsung can’t agree; Schiller to be witness

Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Samsung mobile chief JK Shin last week about settling the companies’ legal battle over intellectual property, but ZDNet Korea reports the executives failed to reach an agreement. There was a February 19 deadline for mediation talks; it’s unlikely any further negotiations will occur before that date. The two companies are expected to return to court next month, and Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller will be called to testify again, according to a report. Samsung may also call on former Apple SVP of iOS Software Scott Forstall to testify. [via The Verge, PC World]

Report: Apple to discontinue iPad 2

Apple is expected to discontinue its iPad 2 “in the near future,” according to AppleInsider. Sources said the decision was made to decrease production as customers are “resoundingly” buying more of the iPad Air and iPad mini. The second-generation iPad is currently the only $399 full-sized iPad option on the market, with only the 16GB model offered at this point — the 16GB Wi-Fi + Cellular version is also sold for $529. Released in March 2011, iPad 2 is also the only remaining Dock Connector iPad still sold by Apple. It’s believed the iPad 2 has remained in Apple’s product lineup due to its popularity in the education market.

Apple releases 2014 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report

Apple has released its annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report for 2014. The report says Apple confirmed in January that “all active, identified tantalum smelters in our supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third party auditors, and we’re pushing our suppliers of tin, tungsten, and gold just as hard to use verified sources.” Apple drew criticism last year for its tin mining practices — the company reacted by launching a “fact-finding visit” to Bangka Island, Indonesia. This year’s report notes that Apple has worked with groups to develop the Indonesian Tin Working Group, “whose goal is to explore how its members can help resolve the environmental and social challenges of tin mining on Bangka and Belitung Islands while also supporting the economic benefits of a robust mining trade.”

Also within the report, Apple says it drove suppliers to achieve “an average of 95 percent compliance” with the maximum 60-hour workweek, and more than 1 million workers were tracked in the program. The company found 14 facilities had excessive recruiting fees — suppliers were required to pay back excess foreign contract worker fees, equaling $3.9 million in 2013. Apple found a total of 11 active underage labor cases, “significantly fewer than the previous year.” The company has also launched a Clean Water Program pilot for 13 water-intensive sites — Apple has previously drawn criticism for its suppliers polluting nearby rivers. The full Supplier Responsibility Progress Report is here.

Sony to supply Apple with front-facing iPhone cameras?

Sony is negotiating with Apple to double its supply of camera components in the iPhone, according to Nikkei Asian Review. Noting that Sony supplies Apple with most sensors for the rear-facing iSight cameras on current iPhones, the report speculates Apple will likely switch to Sony sensors for the front-facing cameras, as well. The components could be found in a new iPhone “as early as next year,” which means any iPhones introduced this year would likely not include the additional Sony components. Considering the supplier switch, it’s possible front-facing iPhone cameras will get a spec boost with the Sony sensors. Nikkei also notes Sony has started to provide batteries for the iPad Air.

Court: Apple must comply with antitrust monitor

A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that court-appointed monitor Michael Bromwich can continue to supervise Apple’s antitrust policies, Reuters reports. Apple was given a temporary reprieve from monitor Bromwich in late January, but Bromwich will once more be able to perform his duties, which are limited to assessing compliance policies and disseminating those policies. “Today’s ruling makes abundantly clear that Apple must now cooperate with the court-appointed monitor,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Gina Talamona said. The monitor was originally appointed to examine Apple after the company’s involvement in fixing e-book prices. Apple is still seeking a broader appeal to remove the monitor completely.

iPad, Mac operations VP Lane retires from Apple

Rita Lane, Apple vice president of iPad, Mac desktops, and Mac accessories has retired from the company, as noted by her LinkedIn profile. According to the profile, Lane has held her VP position since 2008; she was directly involved in the success of the iPad since its launch. Lane was noted as one of the highest ranking women at Apple in a 2012 Business Insider article. Her successor is unknown. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple debuts iTunes Radio in Australia

Apple has announced iTunes Radio is now available in Australia. As in the U.S., iTunes Radio is ad-supported, with iTunes Match subscribers able to listen without ads. With the Australian launch official, it’s likely other countries will soon follow — a report from last October anticipated iTunes Radio would launch in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K. in early 2014.

Icahn withdraws $50B Apple stock buyback proposal

Billionaire Apple investor Carl Icahn has withdrawn his proposal for Apple to buy back an additional $50 billion of its own stock. The withdrawal is in reaction to a recommendation from proxy advisory firm ISS, which recommended investors vote against Icahn’s proposal, Reuters reports. Icahn wrote on his Shareholders’ Square Table website that he was disappointed in the ISS recommendation, but “we do not altogether disagree with their assessment and recommendation in light of recent actions taken by the company to aggressively repurchase shares in the market.” Seemingly in response to market pressures, Apple has repurchased $14 billion in shares in the past two weeks, and the company is on track to repurchase “at least $32 billion in shares” in this fiscal year. Apple CEO Tim Cook has mentioned that the company is balancing repurchase programs with a desire to maintain cash flexibility for large acquisitions, and is not ruling out the prospect of a $1 billion purchase under the right circumstances.

Report: Apple to release iOS 7.1 in March

Apple is planning to release iOS 7.1 in March, 9to5Mac reports. It’s noted that no “secret features” will come in iOS 7.1; rather, users should expect what’s been seen in the five 7.1 betas, including UI tweaks, a revamped Calendar app, and speed improvements. iOS 7.1 beta 5 was just released Tuesday. The report speculates Apple could announce iOS 7.1 at a March event that could possibly introduce a new Apple TV.

Cook: Apple not against big acquisitions, new categories coming

Contrary to its history, Apple is not opposed to making big acquisitions, CEO Tim Cook told the Wall Street Journal. “We’ve looked at big companies,” Cook said. “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.” The report juxtaposes Apple’s history of making smaller acquisitions with Google’s recent $3.2 billion purchase of Nest, a company founded by “Father of the iPod” Tony Fadell that has hired a large number of other ex-Apple employees.

Cook also reiterated in the interview that Apple will enter new categories this year. “There will be new categories. We’re not ready to talk about it, but we’re working on some really great stuff,” Cook said. The most obvious thought is that, as rumored, Apple will release the iWatch this year — though Cook’s use of “categories” suggests another new type of product could also be on the way.

Also in the interview, Cook revealed Apple has bought back $14 billion in stock since reporting its financial results about two weeks ago. Cook said the company was “surprised” by its 8 percent decline in shares since Jan. 28. Apple has now bought back more than $40 billion of its shares during the past week. “It means that we are betting on Apple. It means that we are really confident on what we are doing and what we plan to do,” he said.

Report: Apple reduces MFi licensing fees

Apple has reduced its MFi licensing fees, according to a Japanese report. The licensing rate was lowered in January, along with the purchase rate for Lightning connectors. It’s possible the rate reductions will be reflected in cheaper prices for future third-party Lightning accessories. This may also result in seeing Lightning products from additional companies, although it’s worth noting that Apple’s strict development restrictions have not changed and may still hamper that possibility. [via Macotakara]

Report: Apple sapphire plant has capacity for mass production

Apple’s new sapphire plant in Arizona already has the capacity for large-scale sapphire production, according to 9to5Mac. Reported shipping documents note that the plant has already received 518 sapphire furnace and chamber systems, with 420 machines still to be assembled. The report speculates that more than 103 million 5-inch iPhone displays per year could be made with the furnace systems already in place — but conceivably, any number of sapphire components could be manufactured on a large scale. Considering the plant already has the systems in place, it’s possible that one or more of this year’s new Apple devices could include those sapphire components. A previous report noted Apple was pushing to open the plant this month to create a “critical new sub-component of Apple products.”

Apple seeks physiologists in job listing

An Apple job listing seeking physiologists is the first official sign from the company that it’s looking to move into the health realm. The job listing — which was posted earlier today and has since been removed from Apple’s website — seeks a “user studies exercise physiologist” to “design and run user studies related to cardiovascular fitness and energy expenditure.” Although numerous reports have noted Apple is going in a health-related direction with its iWatch — including reports that Apple has hired experts from the medical field — this is the first signal that’s come directly from Apple. A recent report claimed iOS 8 and a new app with the codename “Healthbook” would be designed with iWatch in mind. [via 9to5Mac]

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