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Apple reverses course on iOS VPN change

Apple has backtracked on a prior decision to change the way VPN On Demand connects in iOS. An updated support article notes that “Apple no longer plans to change the behavior of the VPN On Demand feature of iOS 6.1 for devices that have already been shipped. The ‘Always’ option will continue to work as it currently does on these devices.” Previously, Apple announced VPN On Demand configured to “always” would behave as “establish if needed.”

The initial change was made due to a patent suit loss to VirnetX; there’s speculation that because of Apple’s reversal on the VPN issue, the two companies have reached some kind of agreement. Notably, because Apple only mentions devices that have “already been shipped,” the changes still might be made to as-yet-unshipped items. [via MacRumors]

Apple files two patents for iOS-car communication

Apple recently filed two patents that feature portable devices communicating with vehicles through Bluetooth. The first patent, titled “Method for locating a vehicle,” would let iOS device users locating their vehicle using wireless connections. More specifically, this system would let a device like an iPhone communicate with a system set up within a parking garage to find a car. Considering the lack of signal in many parking garages, this system would conceivably be a solution for finding one’s car in such a situation — however, it would require a system investment from the parking garage.

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The other patent, titled “Accessing a vehicle using portable devices,” would let a device access a vehicle to perform a number of functions wirelessly. This patent could enable an iOS device to function as a smart key, but it could also go deeper, by “limiting a time period during which the vehicle can be accessed,” or even “limiting a speed of the vehicle to an upper limit.” Though apps such as Hyundai Blue Link already exist that can perform some of the functions included in both of these patents, Apple’s filings go deeper and further to open up new widespread possibilities between computing devices and vehicles. [via Apple Insider]

Apple to pay Chinese writers for copyright infringement

Apple has been ordered to pay three Chinese writers a total exceeding $118,000 for infringing their copyrights. The writers, including a popular author Mai Jia, discovered that their books were being sold in the App Store without their permission. While Judge Feng Gang said Apple has a duty to determine if books uploaded by third-party vendors violate authors’ copyrights, some experts are skeptical and believe that unauthorized uploads will continue. Apple was also fined in December for selling unlicensed e-books. [via China Daily]

Apple’s WWDC to run June 10-14

Apple has announced it will hold its annual Worldwide Developers Conference from June 10-14 at Moscone West in San Francisco. The company’s release notes that developers will “learn about the future of iOS and OS X.” More than 100 technical sessions will be presented by more than 1,000 Apple engineers. Tickets go on sale 10 a.m. tomorrow — the first time tickets have been announced before going on sale. And as 9to5Mac notes, Apple will be posting developer session videos during the conference this year.

“We look forward to gathering at WWDC 2013 with the incredible community of iOS and OS X developers,” Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller said in a release. “Our developers have had the most prolific and profitable year ever, and we’re excited to show them the latest advances in software technologies and developer tools to help them create innovative new apps. We can’t wait to get new versions of iOS and OS X into their hands at WWDC.”

Update: Apple sold out of its ticket allotment for WWDC 2013 in less than two minutes.

Notes from Apple’s Q2 2013 Conference Call

As Apple’s second-quarter 2013 financial results conference call began, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced first half revenue of more than $98 billion, and net income of more than $22 billion, including sales of 85 million iPhones and iPads. He acknowledged Apple’s growth rate has slowed from a high level. Cook mentioned “the potential of exciting new product categories” when looking at the future of Apple. He also mentioned “amazing new hardware that we can’t wait to introduce” in the fall.

Cook said Apple remains committed to make attractive returns to shareholders, as the company has more than doubled the size of the capital return program to a total of $100 billion by the end of 2015. The company also approved a 15 percent increase in the stock dividend.

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer mentioned new March records for iPhone and iPad sales and detailed the numbers. iPad sales doubled in greater China and Japan. The “overwhelming majority” of iPad mini users are first-time iPad customers, Oppenheimer said. He also touched on the iPad’s spread into emerging markets. iPad accounted for 82 percent of all North American tablet web traffic in March, he said.

Oppenheimer mentioned iPods, but while listing the device’s dropping sales numbers, he focused on the iPod market share among MP3 players.

As for iTunes sales, Oppenheimer reports more than $4 billion in combined revenue from iTunes, software and services. Also, he said that in total, app developers have made more than $9 billion from their sales through the App Store. Also, iCloud now has 300 million daily users. “We will continue to invest in the ecosystem,” Oppenheimer said, with more features “in the pipeline.”

Oppenheimer spent some time detailing Apple’s stock buyback and dividend increase.

In the Q&A, Cook was asked if Apple was “hitting a wall” in China. “We actually had our best quarter ever in greater China,” Cook said, with revenue of $8.8 billion. Notably, iPads grew 138 percent year-over-year in China. “Going forward we still see a significant opportunity in China,” Cook said. “China has an unusually large number of potential first-time smartphone buyers, and that’s not lost on us.”

As for Cook’s allusion to fall announcements of products and whether or not that means there will be no new Apple products until the fall, Cook said, “I don’t want to be more specific…I’m just saying we’ve got some really great stuff coming in the fall and all of 2014.”

Cook touched on how the iPhone 4 was now even more affordable and attractive to first-time buyers, which allows more people to get into “the ecosystem with a really, really phenomenal product.”

Apple doesn’t want to forecast gross margin beyond June, Oppenheimer said. Apple is “willing to trade off short-term profits for long-term potential.” He mentioned how the iPod inspired the iPhone, and how the iPad mini was a “great strategic decision.”

Cook was questioned on if his views changed regarding the 5” phone market. “My view continues to be that iPhone 5 has the absolute best display in the industry,” Cook said. “Some customers value large screen size, others also value other factors.” He talked about battery life, resolution, and portability in a display. He concluded, “We would not ship a larger display iPhone while these trade-offs exist.”

When talking about the Mac market, Cook mentioned the high iPad sales numbers. “It’s certainly true that some of those iPads cannibalized some Macs. I don’t think it’s a huge number, but I think it’s some,” he said.

Apple increases stock buyback, dividend

Alongside its quarterly earnings results, Apple today increased both its stock repurchase authorization and quarterly dividend, by a total of $55 billion from the original amount announced last year. The repurchase authorization has been increased to $60 billion from $10 billion. It’s “the largest single share repurchase authorization in history,” and is expected to be executed by the end of calendar 2015. Apple’s board approved a 15% increase in the stock dividend putting it at $3.05 per common share, payable on March 16, 2013. “We are very fortunate to be in a position to more than double the size of the capital return program we announced last year,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We believe so strongly that repurchasing our shares represents an attractive use of our capital that we have dedicated the vast majority of the increase in our capital return program to share repurchases.” CFO Peter Oppenheimer said “We will continue to return capital to shareholders through dividends, share repurchases, and cash used to net-share-settle vesting RSUs. We continue to generate cash in excess of our needs to operate the business, invest in our future, and maintain flexibility to take advantage of strategic opportunities.”

Apple Q2 2013: 37.4m iPhones, 19.5m iPads, 5.6m iPods

Apple has reported its financial results for its fiscal 2013 second quarter, ending March 30. The company announced it sold 37.4 million iPhones, compared to 35.1 million in the same quarter last year, but down from 47.8 million iPhones last quarter. Apple sold 19.5 million iPads, as opposed to 11.8 million in Q2 2012, but down from 22.9 million last quarter. The company sold 5.6 million iPods, down from 12.7 million in the previous quarter. iPod numbers were also down from last year’s second quarter, in which 7.7 million iPods were sold. Notably, the iPod numbers were not included in Apple’s press release.

Apple posted quarterly revenue of $43.6 billion and net quarterly profit of $9.5 billion, or $10.09 per diluted share. In the same quarter one year ago, revenue was $39.2 billion and net profit $11.6 billion, or $12.30 per diluted share. Gross margin was 37.5 percent in Q2 2013, as opposed to 47.4 percent in the year-ago quarter, and international sales accounted for 66 percent of the revenue in the quarter.

“We are pleased to report record March quarter revenue thanks to continued strong performance of iPhone and iPad,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in the press release. “Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software, and services and we are very excited about the products in our pipeline.”

“Our cash generation remains very strong, with $12.5 billion in cash flow from operations during the quarter and an ending cash balance of $145 billion,” Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said in the release.

For its fiscal third quarter, Apple expects revenue between $33.5 billion and $35.5 billion, gross margin between 36 and 37 percent, and operating expenses between $3.85 billion and $3.95 billion.

Apple selling refurb seventh-gen iPod nano

Apple is now selling refurbished seventh-generation iPod nanos in its online store for $129. All colors are now available, except for red. Refurbished fifth-generation iPod touch models also recently went on sale in the online store. [via 9to5Mac]

Motorola patent suit against Apple thrown out

The U.S. International Trade Commission has thrown out the last patent-in-suit remaining in the original complaint against Apple from Google’s Motorola Mobility in Oct. 2010. A Motorola patent for a “sensor controlled user interface for portable communication device” was found invalid. In December, Apple also won a ruling over Motorola, as Apple was found not to violate another patent. Google is currently appealing a decision to throw out three other patents; this new decision can also be appealed. [via FOSS Patents]

Apple adds ‘download later’ option to iTunes

Apple has added a “download later” option for large media purchases in the iTunes store. Users who purchase a TV season, Season Pass, movie bundle, music box set, or an individual movie or TV episode now have the ability to download the media at a later time from iTunes in the Cloud. This new option could benefit users who want to buy such media, but don’t have the time or data connection to download a large file at the moment of purchase. The “later” option is available for users using iTunes 11, or iOS 6 or later, and in countries that support iTunes in the Cloud for the selected media.

Report: Apple rejects 5-8m iPhones from Foxconn

Apple has returned at least 5 million iPhones to Foxconn due to substandard appearance or dysfunctional problems, according to a new report out of China. An anonymous source said the number of rejected iPhones could be as high as 8 million. It’s estimated the issues could cost Foxconn as much as $1.6 billion to cover the cost of replacement handsets. The report didn’t specify which iPhone model failed Apple’s quality tests. [via China Business (translated link), The Register]

Apple keeps Siri data for up to two years

Apple has revealed that Siri data is stored on the company’s servers for up to two years. Apple spokeswoman Tracy Muller noted the data is anonymized, and the voice clips are only collected to improve Siri. Siri users are assigned randomly generated numbers when using the software, and are represented by these numbers, rather than Apple IDs or email addresses. After six months, Apple “disassociates” user numbers from voice files. Those files are then kept for up to 18 more months. [via Wired]

Goodreads-Apple partnership nixed by Amazon deal

Apple and book recommendation site Goodreads discussed integrating Goodreads’ service into the iBookstore, but a possible partnership was halted by Amazon’s recent purchase of Goodreads. A new report claims Apple and Goodreads were talking about integration “over the past year.” Goodreads proposed that its ratings appear within iTunes, in a manner similar to Rotten Tomatoes’ movie ratings. Apple reportedly entertained the idea, but talks stalled — Apple wanted to move forward “around March,” but by then, Goodreads had started discussions with Amazon. [via The Wall Street Journal]

Apple named in Chinese porn investigation

Chinese state-run newspaper the People’s Daily has named Apple as one of a number of websites and app stores investigated for providing pornographic content in the country. Apple is listed next to names of other app stores — a report notes the company is not emphasized or prominently featured. Of course, Apple does not allow pornographic content on its app store, according to the company’s terms of use. Recently, Apple responded to criticism from Chinese state-controlled media with an apology and warranty improvements. That apology was praised by Chinese authorities and media. [via The Wall Street Journal]

Apple to pay $53M to settle warranty lawsuit

Apple has agreed to pay $53 million to settle a class action lawsuit in San Francisco federal court involving iPhone and iPod touch warranties, according to a new report. The settlement, which has yet to be filed, will pay cash to iPhone and iPod touch customers denied repair or replacement of a faulty device, whether through Apple’s standard one-year or extended two-year warranty. A number of combined lawsuits noted that Apple refused to honor warranties if a white indicator tape within the phone turned pink or red. The changing tape color was believed to signal a device had made contact with water, but tape maker 3M said humidity could have turned the tape pink. Devices affected are from older generations: the original iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and the first, second, and third-generation iPod touch. [via Wired]

Judge: Apple, Google using litigation as strategy

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola said in an order that neither Apple nor Google’s Motorola Mobility unit have any interest in resolving their ongoing patent litigation, instead using the lawsuits as business strategy. “The parties have no interest in efficiently and expeditiously resolving this dispute; they instead are using this and similar litigation worldwide as a business strategy that appears to have no end,” Scola said in an order. “That is not a proper use of this court.” Apple and Google are battling over “more than 180 claims related to 12 patents, and disputes over the meaning of more than 100 terms” in Florida court. Scola gave both companies four months to streamline the scope of the case; a failure to do so will put the case on hold until all of the term disputes are resolved. [via Bloomberg]

Apple job listing refers to flexible displays

A job listing on Apple’s website specifically mentions flexible displays, indicating the company has at least some interest in the technology. The listing, for a Sr. Optical Engineer, notes in its summary that “Apple Inc. is looking for a Display Specialist to lead the investigation on emerging display technologies such as high optical efficiency LCD, AMOLED and flexible display to improve overall display optical performance.”

Various rumors about Apple’s iWatch have involved a possible flexible display or curved glass for the watch. Recently, Apple published a patent application for a wraparound display. But Corning, which supplies glass to Apple suggested a flexible display using its Willow material is at least three years away. [via 9to5Mac]

iOS Office not due until fall 2014?

An alleged plan for Microsoft’s next wave of Office updates indicates we may not see an iOS version of Office until fall 2014. An apparent roadmap spotted for Microsoft’s “Gemini Wave” lists Office for iOS in October 2014. Though such roadmaps often change, a source indicated this plan was “likely current as of the start of 2013.” This drastically contradicts prior reports, which pegged an iOS Office release for early this year. The reported late February or early March release date has came and went, with no sign of iOS Office. [via ZDNet]

Apple bans in-app comic for sexual content (Update: No)

Apple has refused to carry a comic, Saga #12, on app-based platforms due to gay sex scenes, according to a report. The comic’s writer, Brian K. Vaughan, said in a press release, “Unfortunately, because of two postage stamp-sized images of gay sex, Apple is banning tomorrow’s SAGA #12 from being sold through any iOS apps.” Vaughan notes that Saga has “featured what I would consider much more graphic imagery in the past.”

Notably, the comic should still be available in Apple’s iBookstore, according to publisher Image Comics. Apple is known for curating its App Store, but Comixology’s Comics app is rated as 17+. “Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity” is listed as one of the reasons for the rating. Other illustrations of sexual content and nudity have been allowed within the app — and in earlier issues of the same comic. [via Comics Beat, The Verge]

Update: Comixology CEO David Steinberger has released a statement noting Apple did not ban the comic; rather, Comixology did not release Saga #12 based on the company’s understanding of Apple’s policies. Steinberger notes, “We did not interpret the content in question as involving any particular sexual orientation, and frankly that would have been a completely irrelevant consideration under any circumstance.” Saga #12 will be available on the Comixology app soon.

Apple licenses Palm-related patents

Apple has paid about $10 million to license patents from ACCESS, including patents related to Palm, Bell Communications Research and Geoworks. Japan’s ACCESS owns the company formerly known as PalmSource. The move was likely done to aid Apple in patent litigation moving forward. Interestingly, Steve Jobs once threatened to file a patent lawsuit against Palm to prevent poaching employees. [via Macotakara]

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