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Apple facing Siri patent lawsuit in China

Apple is facing a lawsuit from a Shanghai company over an alleged patent infringement for use of Siri, according to a report. Shanghai Zhi Zhen Internet Technology Co Ltd is suing Apple, claiming Siri infringes on its patent for Xiaoi, a “chat robot system” — the patent went into effect in 2006, prior to Siri. Xiaoi has been used in many fields, including telecommunications and banking, Shanghai Zhi Zhen has claimed. A pre-hearing is being held today. Shanghai Zhi Zhen is not seeking compensation; the company has asked the court to confirm the patent right. Apple is asking that Xiaoi’s patent be invalidated. [via Shanghai Daily]

Apple modifying iPhone 5 for T-Mobile AWS support

Apple has confirmed that it will begin sell a new version of its A1428 iPhone 5 model in order to support additional Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) bands for T-Mobile’s network, according to a report. Current iPhone 5 users will not be able to gain the new AWS support via any kind of software update; instead, Apple is updating the current A1428 model of the iPhone 5, and will begin to sell it on April 12, the same day the device comes to T-Mobile. Existing A1428 models will perform at lower speeds on T-Mobile’s network, and thus will be phased out in favor of the new AWS model. The updated iPhone 5 will continue to support AT&T’s LTE network, and likely gain support for low-cost WIND and Mobilicity carriers in Canada in the process. [via Engadget]

Apple acquires indoor GPS company WifiSLAM

Apple has acquired indoor GPS company WifiSLAM for around $20 million. WifiSLAM is a two-year-old startup that has developed ways for mobile apps to detect the location of a phone in a building with Wi-Fi. A brief description of the company notes applications including step-by-step indoor navigation, product-level retail customer management, and proximity-based social networking. The addition of the technology will theoretically help Apple compete with Google in mapping, as Google already offers a number of indoor maps. [via The Wall Street Journal]

Reported security hole allows Apple password reset

A new exploit has been discovered that allows anyone with both your email address and date of birth to reset your Apple password by pasting a modified URL on Apple’s iForgot page, according to a report. Further details about the issue were not provided for security reasons, but the hole was confirmed. Yesterday, Apple added an optional two-step verfication service; users of that service would not be susceptible to the security hole. [via The Verge]

Apple adds freemium app warning in App Store

Apple has confirmed that it has added an “Offers In-App Purchases” line to freemium apps found in the App Store. Currently, the line is only found within the iTunes desktop version of the App Store. The company recently settled a class action lawsuit over freemium apps aimed at children, but as one British boy showed during an in-app spending spree, freemium purchases remain an issue. The disclosure offers a somewhat more conspicuous up-front sign of the potential for post-download charges, though apps can squeak through by debuting without in-app purchasing and subsequently adding the feature. [via The Guardian]

Apple faces EU iPhone contract, Australian pricing heat

Apple is being probed for possible antitrust violations in the European Union, as a group of cellphone carriers have complained about the strict terms in contracts to sell iPhones, according to a report. A formal antitrust investigation has not begun at this point. Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said, “Our contracts fully comply with local laws wherever we do business, including the EU.”

Meanwhile, in Australia, Apple is being questioned for its pricing of hardware and software, which is much higher than in the U.S. A 2012 survey showed that in Australia, software and hardware products sold for an average of 50 percent more than in the U.S. An Australian parliamentary committee questioned Apple, which blamed “old-fashioned” record companies, film studios, and TV networks for inflated prices on digital downloads. Adobe and Microsoft executives were also taken to task, and the committee found some of the answers “evasive.” [via The New York Times, Reuters]

Chinese students use brutal loans to buy Apple products

More than 20,000 college students in the Chinese city of Wuhan have taken out high-interest loans in the past year to buy high-end electronics — mostly Apple products — according to a report. From Jan. 2012 through Feb. 2013, these loans totaled about $25.7 million in value, with about 90 percent of the credit used to buy Apple products, according to a credit manager. The loans, offered by Home Credit China, carry annual interest rates of over 47% on a 12-month-term loan. Despite the high interest rates, the loans are easy to get, and have “encouraged students to embrace the craze for Apple devices.” [via China Daily]

Apple hardware, software teams now collaborating

Apple hardware and software designers are now collaborating earlier in the design process than before, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. While iOS designers were previously “cut out of the loop on specifics” regarding new mobile devices while a separate “stealth group” of software developers worked on prototypes, Apple’s mobile software team is now briefed about the prototypes earlier. Sources said Apple Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive, who now sits in on those meetings, is pushing for a simpler, starker, more “flat design” for the next Apple operating system. Changes are expected to be “pretty conservative.”

Apple: new apps can’t use UDIDs, must support Retina, 4” screens

Apple has announced on its developer website that starting May 1, the App Store will also no longer accept new apps or updates that access device-specific identifiers known as UDIDs. It’s been known for some time that Apple planned to phase out the use of UDIDs, replacing them with the new Advertising Identifier in iOS 6. On the same date, new apps and updates submitted to the App Store must be built for iOS devices with Retina displays, and must support the iPhone 5/iPod touch 5G four-inch displays, suggesting that Apple will emphasize larger and/or higher-resolution screens while downplaying smaller, lower-resolution ones.

Apple debuts two-step ID verification service

Apple has introduced an optional new two-step verification service for Apple ID and iCloud users. Like many other two-step verification systems, Apple users can now receive a verification code on a trusted device — that code is then entered into a new device to make an iTunes or App Store purchase, or to make account changes. A recovery key can also be set up to access an account if a user forgets a password or loses a device. The new service can be set up on the Apple ID website. [via 9to5Mac]

Google Now apparently awaiting Apple approval

Google’s personal assistant, Google Now, is apparently ready to debut on iOS sometime in the near future — but just when appears to be up to Apple. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was asked at the Google Big Tent Summit, “When can I get Google Now on my iPhone?” Schmidt said, “You’ll need to discuss that with Apple. Apple has a policy of approving or disapproving apps that are submitted into its store, and some of the apps we make they approve and some of them they don’t.” Schmidt also referred to Google Maps, saying it was “recently” approved by Apple. [via TechCrunch]

Update: Apple says Google Now hasn’t been submitted to its App Store. [via CNET]

Apple adds Audiobus support to GarageBand

In an unusual move of supporting third-party APIs, Apple has released an update to GarageBand for iOS adding the ability to receive audio from other iOS apps via Audiobus. Designed to facilitate mixing audio across multiple apps on a single iOS device, Audiobus is a third-party app that other iOS music apps can interface with to send and receive audio with other compatible apps. The addition of Audiobus support in GarageBand now allows users to record and sequence sounds from a wide variety of other Audiobus supported apps, such as Amplitube, Music Studio, AmpKit, BeatMaker, and dozens more.

The latest GarageBand update also adds the ability to disable grid snapping for finder editing control and resolves an issue with connecting third-party audio accessories to the 3.5mm headphone/mic jack. GarageBand 1.4 is available from the App Store for $5.

Sony, Philips-backed group sues Apple over patents

Intertrust Technologies Corporation, a company owned by Sony and Philips, has announced it is filing a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple. According to the announcement, “The lawsuit accuses Apple of making products and services that infringe on 15 Intertrust patents on security and distributed trusted computing.” Though the specific patents in question are not mentioned, “The lawsuit covers a broad range of key Apple products and services including iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad, Mac computers and laptops, Apple TV, and services including iTunes, iCloud, and the Apple App Store.” The Wall Street Journal notes that Sony and Philips each hold a 49.5 percent stake in Intertrust. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple’s hiring of Kevin Lynch draws criticism, questions

Adobe’s chief technology officer Kevin Lynch unexpectedly left the company to join Apple as vice president of technology, a hiring decision that pundits are already questioning. Most obviously, Apple engaged in a major public spat with Adobe over its Flash software, which was amongst Lynch’s products. An essay from Steve Jobs from April 2010 detailing the ways “Flash falls short” can still be found on Apple’s website, while a YouTube parody from 2009 shows Lynch and another Adobe staffer destroying iPhones in a number of ways, including running an iPhone over with a steamroller.

While many have questioned Apple’s reasoning for bringing Lynch in, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber has been particularly pointed in his criticism, suggesting that Lynch may be “a bozo” and a bad hire, based largely on Lynch’s continued support for Flash well after the point at which it was publicly considered an albatross. It’s been noted that Apple CEO Tim Cook has now made several such questionable executive hires at Apple, including Mark Papermaster, John Browett, and Lynch, while other executives such as iOS senior VP Scott Forstall and retail VP Jerry McDougal have departed the company. It is unclear at this point what projects Lynch will be involved with at Apple, but he will report to Apple’s Bob Mansfield in his new role. [via AllThingsD]

Sharp misses Qualcomm deadline, IGZO screens delayed

Sharp has said it will not receive the second part of a $120 million investment from Qualcomm before a March 29 deadline, since it failed to complete a plan to start fabricating screens based on Sharp’s IGZO technology, according to a new report. Qualcomm only agreed to pay the remainder of the money if Sharp met certain production preparations and financial conditions. As a consequence of the delay, Apple’s ability to start using the thin, power-efficient IGZO panels in its next-generation devices—a plan that has been reported for some time—now seems less likely, at least for the immediate future. “The financial targets are not the reason for the delay,” Sharp spokeswoman Miyuki Nakayama said. The companies will now try to meet a June 30 deadline for production of the new screens, which might then become available in late 2013 products. [via Reuters]

Apple releases iOS 6.1.3

Apple has released iOS 6.1.3, which contains improvements and bug fixes, including a fix for a bug that could allow someone to bypass the passcode and access the iPhone app. The update also features improvements to iOS Maps in Japan.

EU judge criticizes Apple over warranty rights

European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Apple still isn’t informing consumers about their legal rights to a two-year warranty in EU member states, according to a report. “In at least 21 EU Member States Apple is not informing consumers correctly about the legal warranty rights they have. This is simply not good enough,” Reding said. She mentioned lawsuits filed against Apple by consumer associations in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and Portugal. Apple was fined twice in Italy over similar complaints, and the company may be facing some heat in Australia, as well. Warranty coverage for Apple products now varies considerably by country, despite Apple’s efforts to sell AppleCare and AppleCare+ extended warranty policies while offering standard 90-day telephone support and 1-year repair coverage across product lines. [via Dow Jones Business News]

T-Mobile announces March 26 event, could involve iPhone

T-Mobile has announced an event on Tuesday, March 26, during which it is expected to announce details about its new no-contract value plans. Reports have suggested that the company may use the event to announce the availability of the iPhone on T-Mobile’s network, as well. In early December, T-Mobile announced it would sell Apple products at some point in 2013, and a follow-up report confirmed the iPhone would be sold by the company. The company has recently come under fire by AT&T, which attempted to pre-emptively dismiss the quality of T-Mobile’s 4G wireless network; T-Mobile will apparently compete with rivals by offering contract-free access to its existing 4G network, and introducing LTE service this year. [via 9to5Mac]

Report: Apple kept two-year Australian warranties quiet

Apple stores in Australia will fix products under warranty purchased in the past two years, but a circulated email told staff not to discuss the warranty with customers, according to a report. Australian Consumer Law suggests that certain expensive items can be returned or fixed for up to 24 months. Apple’s new 24-month warranty policy currently applies to iPhones, iPads, and other iOS devices. However, it’s been reported that customers who didn’t know their rights under Australian Consumer Law and didn’t purchase AppleCare have often had to pay for fixing or replacing products. Apple has been fined twice in Italy for similar issues with warranty violations and Italian law; a Belgian consumer group has also filed a complaint based on the same issues. [via The Sydney Morning Herald]

Jobs films: Kutcher pic delayed, Funny or Die makes movie

The Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher — “Jobs,” formerly titled “jOBS,”— has been delayed, with no new release date determined as of yet. “Jobs” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in late January, and was originally slated to hit theaters April 19.

Meanwhile, comedy website Funny or Die announced its own Steve Jobs movie, “iSteve,” will be released online April 15, before “Jobs.” A report describes “iSteve” as “a biopic poking fun at biopics. Starring Justin Long as Steve Jobs, the “very silly” movie is 60 to 75 minutes long. That leaves Aaron Sorkin’s Jobs movie, based on Walter Isaacson’s officially authorized biography and said to consist of three scenes, likely to arrive third. [via The Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times]

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