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iPad demo model catches fire in store

An iPad demo model recently caught fire in an Australian store as a “burst of flames” appeared from the charging port, news.com.au reports. The Vodafone store in Canberra was evacuated after the incident, and no one was injured. Though the report only refers to the device as an iPad, other reports — such as this report from the Daily Mail — claim the device was an iPad Air. Apple reportedly sent a representative to investigate the incident. Two shock incidents earlier this year involving iPhone chargers in China prompted Apple to add a power adapter page to its Chinese website, as those accidents were allegedly caused by counterfeit chargers.

Report details inhumane labor practices in Apple’s supply chain

A new report from Bloomberg Businessweek gives insight into the workings of Apple’s supply chain, while focusing on the story of one man’s journey to work for Apple supplier Flextronics on the iPhone 5 camera. The report claims such jobs are “so coveted that they’re not merely offered, they’re sold,” detailing how recruiters charge fees from families that are often paid back with loans. Though Flextronics offered to pay the brokers so workers wouldn’t be charged, brokers said the company “demanded so many men so quickly that there was no way to do it without tapping the country’s network of subagents” — Apple itself has noted the subagents “always charge.”

The article tells the story of Bibek Dhong, a 27-year-old Nepalese man who had to pay three recruiters, leaving him more than $1,000 in debt before starting work at Flextronics’ Bukit Raja facility near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Dhong was told not to mention the fees, because he would be “charged and punished.” The report follows Dhong during his work at Flextronics, including a time when Apple was “rejecting about 7 out of every 10 cameras.” A shutdown production left Dhong and fellow workers waiting in their living quarters for more than 20 days before the jobs were eliminated. Dhong and other workers were left stranded in Malaysia, as managers kept the workers’ passports — after a long, harrowing period, Dhong returned home more than two months after he last worked.

Apple spokesman Chris Gaither reiterated Apple’s commitment to ethical treatment of its workers. Gaither said the company aggressively investigates claims of bonded labor, and the company “is continuously auditing deeper into the supply chain,” while noting that “Flextronics’ Bukit Raja facility is no longer in Apple’s supply chain.”

Report: Apple to start in-store iPhone 5c, 5s repairs

Apple stores will soon be able to make hardware repairs to the iPhone 5c and 5s, according to a new report. Sources claim the touchscreens will be replaced in-store, with a replacement costing $149 for either device. The stores will also be able to replace the volume buttons, rear camera, speaker system, and vibrating motor on either device, and the Home Button on the iPhone 5c — but likely not the Touch ID Home Button on the 5s. Fees for part replacements will be waived if a device is under AppleCare warranty. [via 9to5Mac]

New U.S. Apple factory to produce sapphire

Apple will be building a new U.S. manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona, as announced recently by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. The factory will create “at least 700 quality jobs in the first year” and will also create about 1,300 construction-related jobs. “We are proud to expand our domestic manufacturing initiative with a new facility in Arizona, creating more than 2,000 jobs in engineering, manufacturing and construction,” Apple said in a statement to Pocket-lint. “This new plant will make components for Apple products and it will run on 100 percent renewable energy from day one, as a result of the work we are doing with SRP to create green energy sources to power the facility.”

Although Apple didn’t specify the facility’s use, a separate release from GT Advanced Technologies noted the company “has entered into a multi-year supply agreement with Apple Inc. to provide sapphire material.” GT will own and operate furnaces at “an Apple factory in Arizona.” Apple will pay $578 million to GT, which GT will later reimburse to Apple. It’s noted that GT “will be subject to certain exclusivity terms during the duration of the agreement.” Apple uses sapphire in a number of products, including the iPhone 5s camera lens and Touch ID. More sapphire will be needed if Apple plans on using the Touch ID in other products moving forward, as one would reasonably expect. It’s also possible that additional Apple components could incorporate sapphire in the future, such as fully sapphire screens for iOS devices.

Apple adding suppliers to boost device production

Apple is preparing to add Asian manufacturing partners to increase iOS device production, the Wall Street Journal reports. iPhone 5c manufacturing will reportedly be outsourced to Taiwan-based contract manufacturer Wistron Corp. later this year, while Compal Communications will manufacture the iPad mini “starting next year.” The shifts are being made to meet consumer demands.

Apple’s main supplier, Foxconn (Hon Hai), is focusing on making the iPhone 5s, which is in short supply. The report notes Apple’s frustration with Foxconn, stemming from scrutiny of its labor practices and defective iPhone 5 units produced by the manufacturer — Apple declined comment. An unnamed Foxconn executive said, “Apple has raised this quarter’s iPhone 5s orders from Hon Hai as demand has been stronger than expected. But it takes time to boost production capacity and Apple can’t find other assemblers to increase production to meet demand immediately.” Foxconn is taking a “cautious stance” on increasing production of the 5s, the executive said.

Apple releases iTunes 11.1.3

Apple has released iTunes 11.1.3, a minor update with some performance and bug fixes. The new version specifically resolves an issue where the equalizer may not work as expected and improves performance when switching views in large iTunes libraries. The latest version of iTunes can be downloaded via OS X Software Update or the “Check for Updates” options found within the iTunes app, or directly from Apple at http://www.itunes.com.

Apple releases details on Government Information Requests

Apple has published a report providing details on its customer privacy policies in light of information requests that it receives from government agencies. In the document, titled Report on Government Information Requests, Apple emphasizes that its priority is on ensuring that its customers “have a right to understand how their personal information is handled” and that it has released the report in the interests of transparency and included “all of the information [the company] is legally allowed to share.” Apple notes in the report that “the most common account requests involve robberies and other crimes or requests from law enforcement officers searching for missing persons or children, finding a kidnapping victim, or hoping to prevent a suicide” and that most requests usually involve providing only information such as a name or address, and only “in very rare cases” is the company asked to disclose content such as “stored photos or email.”

The document also includes charts that disclose how many requests the company has received from various governments throughout the first half of 2013 for both account information and devices. Account information is broken down for each country by total number of requests, accounts specified in the requests, and the number of requests for which data was disclosed or where Apple objected, and which type of content was disclosed. The second table provides details on the total number of device requests received by Apple, usually related to lost or stolen devices, and how many of these requests resulted in some data being provided. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple loses iOS Engineering VP Henri Lamiraux

iOS Vice President of Engineering Henri Lamiraux has left Apple, as confirmed by his LinkedIn profile. Lamiraux was reportedly in charge of developing iOS applications, leading feature implementation, and managing bug-fixing, among other duties; his position was underneath Senior Vice President Craig Federighi, who has recently become one of Apple’s public faces for iOS releases. Lamiraux was also listed as an inventor on a key Apple patent covering a great portion of the iOS interface. He departed the company some weeks ago, after the release of iOS 7.0.3; the reasons are unknown. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple CEO Cook pens op-ed on workplace equality

Apple CEO Tim Cook has written a short opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal in support of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. The proposed legislation would protect employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. “We urge senators to support the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, and we challenge the House of Representatives to bring it to the floor for a vote,” Cook wrote. He noted that Apple already goes beyond current legal protections, as the company prohibits discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees.

Apple discontinues iPad Smart Cover, Case

Apple’s online store now lists the iPad Smart Case and iPad Smart Cover as discontinued for the iPad 2 and iPad (3rd/4th-Gen). The site now only shows a dark gray Smart Case and Cover, but both are unavailable for purchase online. Limited inventory may be available in some retail stores.

This is a somewhat curious move, considering Apple has kept the iPad 2 in its lineup. However, Apple is still selling a number of third-party cases that are compatible with the iPad 2, as well as new iPad Air and iPad mini Smart Cases and Smart Covers.

Update: Apple is now selling dark gray versions of the iPad Smart Case and Smart Cover in its online store again.

Claim forms sent for iPad 3G lawsuit

Customers who ordered an iPad 3G before June 7, 2010 have begun receiving claim forms for the class action settlement over misleading AT&T iPad data plans. Apple previously agreed to pay $40 to customers as the result of a suit based on AT&T advertising of an iPad unlimited data plan that was later eliminated. Some customers may also be eligible to receive a $20/month discount from AT&T on the carrier’s 5GB monthly plan. A website for the settlement offers more information. [via Apple Insider]

Apple annual report: R&D up $1.1 billion

Apple has filed its annual 10-K report with the SEC, revealing another jump in research and development expenses, among other details. The company spent $4.48 billion on R&D in 2013, a 32 percent increase from last year’s $3.38 billion expenditure. Apple also now has 80,300 full-time employees — last year, the number was 72,800. The report also notes that the company plans on opening “about 30 new retail stores” in 2014, with two-thirds of those stores to be located outside the U.S. The entire report can be viewed on Apple’s investor website.

Apple confirms battery drain in some iPhone 5s units

Apple has confirmed a problem with a “small number” of iPhone 5s units causing the battery to drain quickly, The New York Times reports. “We recently discovered a manufacturing issue affecting a very limited number of iPhone 5s devices that could cause the battery to take longer to charge or result in reduced battery life,” Apple spokeswoman Teresa Brewer said. “We are reaching out to customers with affected phones and will provide them with a replacement phone.” Apple did not say just how many phones were affected, although the report notes it could be “a few thousand phones.”

Steve Jobs’ childhood home granted historic designation

Steve Jobs’ childhood home — where Jobs co-founded Apple — was recently deemed worthy of historic designation, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The house, located at 2066 Crist Drive, Los Altos, Calif., was unanimously voted a “historic resource” by the Los Altos Historical Commission on Monday night. Any possible renovations to the house in the future would need to pass a review. Jobs built the first 100 Apple 1 computers at the home, which will eventually be listed on the Registry of Historic Places.

Notes from Apple’s Q4 2013 conference call

Apple’s Q4 2013 earnings conference call kicked off with Apple CEO Tim Cook saying “Apple’s business is stronger than ever” while briefly discussing the company’s new and upcoming products. Cook said the company sold 150 million iPhones and 71 million iPads during the 2013 fiscal year. Apple also made more than $16 billion in revenue from iTunes software and services. Cook also said the company earned a record revenue of $171 billion in the 2013 fiscal year. Apple completed 15 strategic acquisitions during the year.

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer started his portion of the call by discussing the just announced quarterly results. Oppenheimer said both iPhone and iPad sales exceeded expectations in the quarter. He also spent a few moments detailing the upcoming iPads before discussing Mac sales.

Oppenheimer said iTunes earned 4.4 billion in the September quarter. App developers have earned $13 billion through the App Store — half of that amount was earned in the last year. Oppenheimer announced Apple has $146.8 billion in cash, with $5.2 billion offshore.

During the Q&A, Cook called new technologies in the iPhone 5s — such as the 64-bit processor and Touch ID — “the front end of a long road map.” Cook expressed a desire to see the iPhone business grow within each category, from the entry model 4s to the 5s. “We do need growth,” Cook said. “And we’re happy that we’ve seen that.”

Asked about new product categories in the second half of 2013 and first half of 2014, Cook said, “I didn’t say in April that you would see them in this year and the first half of next year.” He only said there would be “new products” this year and “across 2014.”

Cook was complimented on Apple’s growth in China. “We had a pretty good quarter in China,” Cook said. “We obviously we want to do better.” He pointed out the company was able to launch the new iPhones in the “first round” in China.

Asked about the difference in how often people are upgrading iPhones as compared to iPads, Cook said, “We do believe the announcement last week was our largest iPad announcement ever.” He also said, “iPad Air is an absolutely incredible product, the best iPad we’ve ever done. I think it’s going to be an iPad Christmas.”

When asked about the competition from low-priced Google devices, Cook concentrated on Apple’s improvements in the education sector. “We do see Chromebooks in some places ... but the vast majority of people are buying PC/Mac or an iPad,” he said. Apple’s share of tablets in education is 94 percent.

Cook said there’s still a “backlog” for the iPhone 5s, but supply is building as the company rolls out the device to new countries. In regards to possible supply issues with the upcoming iPad mini with Retina display, Cook said it’s “unclear” if Apple can meet demand for the quarter. Cook noted Apple knows how many new iPad mini units it has, but isn’t quite sure of how high demand will be. As for the iPad Air, he said, “I think we’ll have a very good weekend,” but “it’s not clear” that everyone who wants an iPad Air will be able to get one.

Apple Q4 2013: 33.8m iPhones, 14.1m iPads, 3.5m iPods

Apple reported its fourth quarter 2013 financial results today, selling 33.8 million iPhones, a new record for the September quarter. It sold 26.9 million iPhones in Q4 2012. The company sold 14.1 million iPads in the fourth quarter, compared to 14 million in Q4 2012. Apple reported $37.5 billion quarterly revenue and a quarterly net profit of $7.5 billion — $8.26 per diluted share. In Q4 2012, Apple reported $36 billion quarterly revenue and a net profit of $8.2 billion, or $8.67 per diluted share.

Apple’s Board of Directors also declared a cash dividend of $3.05 per share of the company’s common stock, payable on Nov. 14 to shareholders of record, as of the close of business on Nov. 11. For the fiscal first quarter of 2014, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $55 billion and $58 billion, and gross margin between 36.5 percent and 37.5 percent.

“We’re pleased to report a strong finish to an amazing year with record fourth quarter revenue, including sales of almost 34 million iPhones,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a press release. “We’re excited to go into the holidays with our new iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, iOS 7, the new iPad mini with Retina Display and the incredibly thin and light iPad Air, new MacBook Pros, the radical new Mac Pro, OS X Mavericks and the next generation iWork and iLife apps for OS X and iOS.”

“We generated $9.9 billion in cash flow from operations and returned an additional $7.8 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the September quarter, bringing cumulative payments under our capital return program to $36 billion,” Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said in the release.

Update: A more detailed release reveals Apple’s dropping iPad sales numbers — the company sold 3.5 million iPods in Q4 2013, compared to 4.6 million iPods last quarter, and 5.3 million iPods in last year’s fourth quarter. In total, Apple has sold 382.78 Million iPods, 421.278 Million iPhones, and 169.18 Million iPads.

Apple to offer personal pickup for iPad Air

Apple will offer the personal pickup option for the upcoming iPad Air, according to recent reports. Customers will be able to reserve an iPad Air at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time on Nov. 1 and pick it up at an Apple store that day without a wait. The option to use personal pickup seems to indicate there won’t be any shortage of iPad Air supply on launch day. [via MacRumors]

Apple ordered to pay 12M euros for unpaid iPad fees

Apple has been ordered to pay 12 million euros to Copie France for iPads sold from March to December 2012, according to a report. While Apple collected fees from iPad consumers to be paid as renumeration for private copying, the money was apparently never actually paid to Copie France as required. French law requires payment for a number of devices and materials that can keep private copies of licensed material. Apple was ordered to pay 5 million euros in May for the same reason, and its total renumeration due has been estimated at 30 million euros. [via PC INpact]

Apple, others face anti-poaching class-action lawsuit

Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe must face an anti-poaching class-action lawsuit representing more than 64,000 employees, Bloomberg reports. The employees claim their incomes were restricted by the companies agreeing not to recruit each other’s workers. According to the ruling of U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, the suit represents technical employees, including software and hardware engineers, programmers, and web developers, among others. The original lawsuit from 2011 also included Intuit, Lucasfilm, and Pixar; those companies settled out of court.

Tesla hires former Apple VP Doug Field

Tesla Motors has hired away Apple’s Doug Field, who worked at the company in design and engineering capacities since 2008. Field was most recently Vice President of Mac Hardware Engineering at Apple, leading development of the latest MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac, according to a Tesla press release. His 2008 hiring from Segway was rumored at the time to be for a “moonshot” project, details of which were never confirmed. Field will be Vice President of Vehicle Programs at Tesla. [via Electrek]

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