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Survey: Apple online store drops in satisfaction

Apple’s online store has dropped in holiday customer satisfaction, according to a recent survey. The ForeSee Holiday E-Retail Satisfaction Index measures customer experience based on more than 24,000 surveys collected between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Apple earned an 80 rating, down from an 83, which is the company’s lowest score in four years — this is the eighth annual report. Though it’s unclear as to how many of the customers surveyed specifically rated Apple, the number of responses and popularity of Apple’s online store lend credence to the results. Amazon topped the list with an 88 rating.

Do Not Disturb issues reported as ad debuts

Some iOS 6 users have reported that Apple’s Do Not Disturb feature wasn’t automatically turned off by their devices on New Year’s Day. Though this hasn’t been a problem for every user, manually disabling and re-enabling Do Not Disturb is a quick fix for those having issues. A new year’s bug is nothing new for iOS users — in 2011, for instance, alarms failed to go off after being set on iOS devices.

Ironically, Apple debuted a new television ad yesterday promoting its Do Not Disturb feature, the same day the bug affected users. It stars Venus and Serena Williams, who are playing ping pong against the narrator in a dream — a dream that continues due to Apple’s Do Not Disturb feature.

Updated: Apple has acknowledged the bug on its support site. It announced the Do Not Disturb feature will “resume normal functionality after January 7, 2013.” Before that, Apple recommends turning the feature on or off manually.

Next iPhone, iOS 7 seen in developer usage logs

Developers have seen references to the next-generation iPhone and iOS 7 in app usage logs, according to a new report. One particular developer noted Apple has been testing hardware identified as “iPhone 6.1,” powered by a device running iOS 7. The iPhone 5 is identified as either “iPhone 5.1” or “iPhone 5.2,” depending on the model and 4G band. Because the developer app requests come from an Apple Cupertino IP address, it’s unlikely this new data is faked, and highly possible that apps running on the new device and operating system are already being tested. [via The Next Web]

Samsung faces $14.8B fine over Apple 3G patent bans

Samsung could be fined up to $14.8 Billion by the European commission for attempting to use standard-essential 3G patents to ban sales of the iPhone and iPad in Europe, according to a new report. The fines could total 10 percent of a company’s worldwide revenues — Samsung took in $148.9 billion in 2011. While Apple has sought bans due to infringements of specific, non-standard patents, Samsung has often used its standard-essential patents to seek bans. Because Apple agreed to pay a licensing fee to Samsung for those 3G patents, the commission decided Samsung’s requests for sales bans were unjustified. An official statement of objections was issued by the commission, and Samsung will respond before the commission makes any further decisions. [via The Guardian]

Apple fined for Chinese copyright violation

Apple has been fined 1.03 million yuan ($165,908) for selling unlicensed e-books in China. A Beijing court ruled against the company on Thursday, according to a report out of China. The money will be paid to eight Chinese writers and two companies, as third-party apps featuring unlicensed versions of their books were available for download. In the United States, Apple is effectively able to avoid liability for third-party copyright violations within apps, simply removing them from the App Store when violations are reported. [via Xinhuanet]

Reports conflict on Foxconn factory improvements

Conflicting reports have recently surfaced regarding the current state of working conditions in the factories of Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn. Envoyé Spécial, a French news investigation show, sent undercover reporters to the Zhengzhou Foxconn factory and found few changes following promised improvements from Apple earlier in 2012. According to the story — which ran a few weeks ago — reporters found some workers living in dorms without electricity, running water, or elevators. Also, some student employees were allegedly working at Foxconn because their school administrators threatened to take away diplomas if they didn’t go to work.

However, a New York Times report notes Apple and Foxconn have started to carry out reforms to improve working conditions in factories, as “interviews with more than 70 Foxconn employees in multiple cities indicate a shift among the people on iPad and iPhone assembly lines.” An anecdote about a female employee receiving a sturdy chair with a high back to replace a prior short stool is included in the report, as are other reforms, including protective foam on ceilings and automatic shut-off devices on machines. Foxconn has also announced that increased wages and decreased weekly work hours will be fully enacted by July 2013. [via Engadget]

Report: Apple again mulls Sharp IGZO screens

As the latest in a series of reports regarding screen sourcing plans for new iOS devices, Apple is again reportedly discussing IGZO panel production with Sharp for possible inclusion in its next generation iPads and iPhones, according to a Digitimes story that cites unnamed industry sources. These sources claim that Apple is evaluating how many IGZO panels will be available in 2013. Speculation that Apple would use Sharp’s thin, low-power, high pixel density IGZO displays in future devices has continued for some time, but actual products with the new technology have only recently arrived on the market, and in limited quantities. Apple and other companies have reportedly made substantial investments in Sharp to keep the financially unstable company afloat, in large part due to its screen production technologies. [via Digitimes]

Apple receives curved glass production patent

Apple has received a patent for high temperature manufacturing processes to form glass — a process that would enable Apple to create curved glass without the use of chemicals. An alignment system would allow thin glass to bend around a mold without interference.

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Speculation has hinted at a curved-screen iPhone, but the process could be used for glass covers in a number of devices — phones, media players, tablets, monitors and televisions, among other devices, are all listed as possible beneficiaries in the patent summary. [via Patently Apple]

Apple receives SIM insertion/replacement patent

Apple has received a SIM card-related patent, specifically for inventions that would prevent the connectors in SIM cards from being damaged or improperly inserted while being removed or replaced. The patent includes the ejection of a SIM card via a “plunger rod,” similar to the tools Apple has included with some iPhones and cellular-capable iPads; the patent discusses using the rod to put pressure on a lever that releases the SIM card inside of a housing, as the SIM trays have worked on prior Apple devices. Apple’s patent was originally filed on Sept. 30, 2010. [via Patently Apple]

The Wall Street Journal joins iOS Newsstand

The Wall Street Journal has finally joined Apple’s iOS Newsstand service. One of the last high-profile publishers to holdout from offering subscriptions via iTunes, the Journal will now sell digital subscriptions from directly within the app — and will pay the standard 30 percent of subscription revenue from in-app subscriptions to Apple. Although The Wall Street Journal has long had its own reader app for iOS, it initially chose to remove in-app subscription purchasing following the launch of Apple’s in-app subscription service early last year, rather than sharing revenue and customer data with Apple. Former Dow Jones president Todd Larsen had opposed Newsstand subscriptions, but he left the company last summer. [via All Things D]

Apple fined $264k in Italy for warranty violations

Apple has been fined €200,000—roughly $264,000—by the Italian antitrust authority, Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM), for failing to make changes to its AppleCare warranty policies from March 28 to November 10. The Italian regulator originally fined Apple €900,000 (approximately $1.2 million) last year for selling two-year AppleCare warranty coverage while failing to inform customers that Italian law already offered two years of coverage. Apple made changes on November 10th that now present consumer rights as “clear and unambiguous,” according to the AGCM, but the company still faces the additional fine for not complying with the AGCM regulations sooner. Notably, Apple has also discontinued the sale of physical AppleCare packages in Apple Stores; Italian customers can now only purchase AppleCare online. [via The Next Web]

Apple denies Lightning licensing approval to Kickstarter charger

Apple has denied approval to POP, a popular Kickstarter portable charger that aimed to power multiple devices, including the iPhone 5. According to an update from project creator James Siminoff of Edison Junior Design Laboratory, Apple is “no longer willing to approve a product that uses the Lightning charger alongside any other charger (including their own 30-pin – seriously).” More than $139,000 has been pledged to the project, which started with a funding goal of $50,000, and Siminoff has promised to provide full refunds to all backers. He notes that Edison Junior will be required to absorb more than $11,000 in credit card and Kickstarter fees, however.

Though not entirely surprising, this denial reveals a heretofore unknown rule regarding the Lightning connector being used alongside any other charging connectors, and shows Apple drawing a clear line in the sand regarding Lightning licensing. Companies require Apple approval to license the Lightning connector, allowing the company to apply its tightened rules to reject projects such as POP.

Updated: Apple now says it will allow its Lightning cable to co-exist with the Dock Connector within the same accessory. “We support accessories that integrate USB and Lightning connectors, but there were technical issues that prevented accessories from integrating 30-pin and Lightning connectors so our guidelines did not allow this,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said. [via CNET]

Apple in talks to acquire home automation startup R2 Studios

Apple may be among several companies looking into acquiring home automation startup id8 Group R2 Studios Inc., according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. Microsoft and Google are also said to be in acquisition talks with the company, which holds patents for controlling electronic devices and interfaces, and has also released an Android app for heating and lighting systems control. R2 Studios was created in May 2011 by Blake Krikorian, founder of Slingbox maker Sling Media Inc. The report notes, however, that “a deal may not happen and some talks may be preliminary.”

Updated Jan. 3: Microsoft has acquired id8 Group R2 Studios Inc. to “beef up its Xbox unit,” the WSJ reports.

FTC expands child online privacy, App Store not liable

Following a review initiated in 2010, the Federal Trade Commission has amended its rules regarding the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), strengthening privacy protections for children under 13. COPPA was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1998, requiring online services for children under 13 to obtain parental consent before collecting personal information.

Starting July 1, 2013, parents will need to consent to the gathering of their kids’ photos, videos, and/or location information, and the consent process has been streamlined, among other changes. Notably, COPPA now explicitly covers services such as apps, plug-ins, and advertising networks, however, Apple’s App Store and competitors will not have to police apps for violations. The FTC’s action comes on the heels of a recent report criticizing the privacy practices of kids’ apps found in the App Store and Google’s Android Market. [via The Wall Street Journal]

USPTO tentatively nixes key Apple pinch patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has tentatively ruled all claims of an Apple ‘pinch to zoom’ patent invalid, possibly affecting the $1.05 billion in damages Apple won from Samsung. Apple’s patent was rejected in a first Office action, meaning the patent could later become invalidated. Samsung brought the tentative rejection to the court’s attention, as Claim 8 of the patent was declared most valuable by Apple in the court case that ended in August. An upcoming judgment on the awarded damages is expected to be made in the near future. [via Foss Patents]

Report: No Apple TV set in 2013, 46- to 55-inch screens?

A new report out of Taiwan suggests the long-rumored Apple TV set won’t be seen until at least 2014. Though the report is of questionable veracity, it includes some interesting claims from an anonymous source at Apple manufacturing partner Hon Hai/Foxconn. According to this source, initial testing of the TV design has begun, with Apple considering 46- to 55-inch flat panel screens. As these sizes are commonly available, Hon Hai would not need to rely exclusively upon Sharp—which reportedly is focusing production on 60-inch panels—as an exclusive provider for the screens. The report suggests that some products relating to the Apple TV set could appear at CES in January, though there is little to no chance that this will happen at the 2013 show. [via Focus Taiwan News Channel]

Apple granted patent for original iPhone

Apple was awarded a design patent for its original iPhone on Tuesday. The patent is described simply as “The ornamental design of an electronic device, as shown and described.” Steve Jobs and Jony Ive are among those credited as inventors. As previously noted, Apple was also granted a key multi touch patent and a patent for reducing the size of system-on-chip architectures in its devices.

Kodak sells patents for $525M, Apple one of 12 licensees

Kodak has announced the sale of its digital imaging patent portfolio for $525 million to a consortium organized by Intellectual Ventures and RPX Corporation, and Apple is one of the 12 licensees involved in the deal. The other licensees are Google, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC, Facebook, RIM, Adobe, Fujifilm, Huawei, Amazon, and Shutterfly. Each licensee will receive rights to the portfolio and to “certain other Kodak patents.” A recent report noted that Apple and Google made a joint $500M bid for the patents. [via The Next Web]

Apple wins ITC patent ruling against Motorola Mobility

Apple didn’t violate a patent owned by Google’s Motorola Mobility division, U.S. International Trade Commission judge Thomas Pender has ruled, a finding that is subject to review by the full ITC. The patent in question is for a sensor that prevents hanging up accidentally. Pender found Motorola’s patent invalid, the second time he’s ruled Apple did not violate this particular patent. [via Bloomberg]

Brazilian company plans ‘IPHONE’ brand smartphones

Brazilian electronics makers IGB Eletronica SA announced it will sell smartphones in Brazil under the brand name “IPHONE,” to which it has exclusive local rights. The company registered the name in 2000, and secured rights to the name in 2008. The first smartphone from the company will be called “Neo One.”

It remains to be seen how Apple will address the issue, but this isn’t new territory for the company: a recent Mexican court ruling allows Apple to use the “iPhone” name in Mexico, despite a Mexican company iFone’s ability to use its name for its own products. In 2009, Apple settled a trademark dispute over the iPad name in China, paying Proview $60 million for the naming rights. [via Reuters]

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