Apple’s largest manufacturing partner Foxconn has frozen its hiring across China. Bloomberg reports the decision was unrelated to iPhone 5 production, according to Foxconn spokesman Bruce Liu. However, the Financial Times (subscriber link) reports the hiring freeze is related to a slow down in iPhone 5 production, citing spokesman Liu Kun.
Apple’s recent hack, initially attributed to hackers out of China, is now claimed to have come from Eastern Europe. At least 40 companies — including Apple, Facebook, and Twitter — were targeted by malware from an Eastern European gang of hackers attempting to “steal company secrets,” according to a new report containing more details about the hacks. People familiar with the matter said the hackers want company secrets, research, and intellectual property they can “sell underground.” Company computers were initially infected by malware — implanted through a browser security flaw — at the iPhone developer site iphonedevsdk.com. Investigators have tracked at least one of the servers used by the hackers to a Ukraine hosting company. [via Bloomberg]
Apple has released iTunes 11.0.2, a minor update adding a new Composers view for browsing music along with several stability and performance improvements. The update specifically promises to improve responsiveness when syncing large playlists and fixes an issue where purchases may not appear in the iTunes library.
Apple computers were recently hacked by the same hackers who targeted Facebook, but it appears no data was stolen, according to Reuters. A “small number” of employee Macs were breached, but there is “no evidence that any data left Apple.” The company announced that a software tool will be released today to protect Mac users against the malicious software used in the attacks. Apple also released a statement to AllThingsD, saying that malware infected a “limited number of Mac systems through a vulnerability in the Java plugin for browsers. The malware was employed in an attack against Apple and other companies, and was spread through a website for software developers. We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network.” Facebook announced it was attacked on Friday, tracing the attack to unidentified hackers in China.
Apple has acknowledged the lock screen security flaw found in iOS 6.1, and a fix is on the way. Company spokeswoman Trudy Miller said the company is aware of the issue, and a fix will be delivered in a future software update. [via AllThingsD]
Staples has announced to corporate employees that the company will soon start selling Apple products in the U.S, according to reports. A number of employees tweeted about the news, including Staples Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources Regis Mulot, who later deleted his tweet. A mock-up page was found on Staples’ website in late January, with an Apple TV test page among the pages seen before removal. [via 9to5Mac]
Nat Brown, “a founder of the original xBox project at Microsoft” who “gave it its name,” has suggested in a blog post that Apple could easily turn the Apple TV into an open game console, taking advantage of the still-poor Xbox user and developer experience to rapidly conquer the market. “Apple, if it chooses to do so, will simply kill Playstation, Wii-U and xBox by introducing an open 30%-cut app/game ecosystem for Apple-TV [sic],” Brown wrote. “I already make a lot of money on iOS – I will be the first to write apps for Apple-TV when I can, and I know I’ll make money.”
According to Brown, “The current numbers already say a lot, even with Apple-TV not already an open console: 5.3M sold units in 2012, 90% year-over-year growth — vs. xBox 360 — about 9M units in 2012, 60% YoY decline,” though the Xbox 360 is notably nearing the end of its life cycle. Brown argues that a “console-capable” Apple TV could benefit indie developers as well as users, who would jump at a chance to get away from Xbox’s confusing menus, loading times, and poor online marketplace for software, which hides smaller titles in an area without any promotion. Microsoft and Sony are both expected to announce next-generation game consoles this year, but at price points significantly higher than the Apple TV’s, which Brown suggests could become more expensive while still undercutting rivals.
A team of roughly 100 Apple product designers are currently working on a “wristwatch-like device that may perform some of the tasks now handled by the iPhone and iPad,” according to a Bloomberg report. The team includes managers, marketing group members, and software and hardware engineers who worked on the iPhone and iPad. People familiar with Apple’s plans said the team size suggests that the smart watch has moved beyond the experimentation phase. Other media outlets known to receive official leaks from Apple reported earlier this week that Apple is developing a smart watch.
During the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed the huge potential for tablet sales, noting that 50 percent more iPads were sold last quarter than PCs. “There has been a sea change here, but I think we’re in the early innings of this game,” Cook said. While noting that competitors don’t disclose their actual sales numbers, he said that around 120 million tablets were sold last year, and cited an estimate that tablet sales would more than triple to 375 million units per year over the next four years.
Apple has made significant expenditures in building the iPad’s ecosystem, said Cook, and laid the groundwork for all of the key elements of future success—investments competitors may not have made. Cook noted that 300,000 apps have already been custom-made for the iPad’s screen, versus “hundreds” for competing devices.
Cook doesn’t “really think about” the cannibalization question as it relates to the iPad mini having any impact on the full-sized iPad. “If we don’t cannibalize, someone else will,” he said, later mentioning, “It seems perfectly reasonable to me to have an iPad and an iPad mini” in the product lineup.
Currently speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to a question about increasing the screen size on phones by mounting a direct attack on specsmanship. “The customer experience is always broader than that which can be defined by a simple number,” Cook said, suggesting that specs are what companies focus on when they can’t make truly great products. “Do you know the speed of an AX processor?” asked Cook. “Does it matter?” He said that for Apple, a great experience and great products were the goal, “the only religion that we have.”
Cook compared Apple’s Retina display to OLED displays, which have been the topic of much discussion yet have what Cook deemed “awful” color saturation. “The Retina display is twice as bright as an OLED display,” he said, mentioning that Apple feels very confident about the choices it has made with displays. “The only thing we’ll never do is make a crappy product. We’re going to make a great product… We must do something great, something bold, something ambitious. We want the customer to be the center of it ... to enrich customers’ lives.”
As for future display technology, Cook said, “I’m not going to comment about what we’re going to do in the future, that releases our magic, I’m not going to do that.”
Apple was awarded two design patents on Tuesday for the fourth-generation iPod and Newsstand app icon. Released in July 2004, the fourth-generation iPod features the Click Wheel, and introduced the photo and iPod color models. Apple Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive is credited as an inventor of the design.
The Newsstand app icon, which launched in June 2011 with iOS 5, features a skeuomorphic bookshelf design. Elizabeth Caroline Cranfill is the only credited designer of the icon. [via Apple Insider]
Once again, Apple has announced that CEO Tim Cook will speak at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, and his presentation will be streamed live tomorrow, February 12 at 10:15 a.m. Eastern on Apple’s site. While Cook will probably discuss Apple’s business, it’s unlikely that he’ll make any sort of product announcement. [via 9to5Mac]
Images posted on a Chinese site allegedly show Apple’s as-yet-unannounced iPhone 5S. The photos notably show a front panel similar to the iPhone 5, with a slightly different front proximity sensor design.
Images of the interior components reveal what appears to be a linear oscillating motor for vibration, which differs from the iPhone 5. [via 9to5Mac]
Update: Reversing its original report, 9to5Mac now identifies the images as an iPhone 5 clone, pointing out the presence of a smaller 1150 mAh battery and SD card slot.
Two European mobile operators, Vodafone UK and 3 Austria, have told iPhone 4S users to avoid updating their devices to iOS 6.1 due to a 3G connectivity issue. Vodafone’s statement contends that 4S handsets have seen their 3G performance impacted, as “Some customers may occasionally experience difficulty in connecting to the network to make or receive calls or texts or connect to the internet.” While the statements notes that “Apple is working on a solution to their software issue,” Apple has yet to comment. [via GigaOM]
Apple CEO Tim Cook never wanted to sue Samsung, according to a new report examining the relationship between the two companies. Reuters suggests that Cook didn’t want to sue due to Samsung’s role as a component supplier for Apple, while Steve Jobs preferred a legal war against all “clones,” including Samsung’s. Jobs maintained that “Samsung was counting on the supplier relationship to shield it from retribution” and Apple first filed suit against Samsung in April 2011. The two companies continue to fight legal battles across the world, with a final International Trade Commission ruling in their U.S. patent case expected in August.
Following a recent post by Apple Human Interface Group founder Bruce Tognazzini detailing the possibilities of an “iWatch,” multiple reports suggest that Apple is indeed currently experimenting with designs for a smart watch. According to The New York Times, the watch would use curved glass to stand apart from competitors, quite possibly Corning’s Willow Glass, which “can flop as easily as a piece of paper in the wind without breaking.” Corning chief technology officer Pete Bocko told the Times that Willow Glass can “wrap around a cylindrical object and that could be someone’s wrist.” The article also suggested that an Apple smart watch would use iOS, and according to the Wall Street Journal, would perform some functions of a smartphone. Apple has discussed the device with manufacturing partner Foxconn, according to sources. The sources were unnamed in both reports, and Apple declined comment. [via The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal]
Bruce Tognazzini, former Apple employee and founder of Apple’s Human Interface Group, has discussed how Apple could practically position an iWatch as a companion product to current iOS devices, and handle user experience challenges. Tognazzini suggests that the “iWatch will fill a gaping hole in the Apple ecosystem,” and add conveniences such as remote and local Siri device control, phone call management, doing away with passcodes on other devices, finding a misplaced iPhone, handling NFC payments, and plenty of other features. Fitness features and numerous sensors could also be integrated into the wearable device. According to Tognazzini, the “Apple iWatch development team I expect exists is likely already well ahead of the ideas I’m suggesting here.” Some outside-the-box iWatch ideas include temperature control within the room you’re in, and the use of crowdsourced altitude data to build a “precision altitude map of the world.” Tognazzini also details his concerns with current smartwatches, including poor power management and recharging requirements, while discussing the ways Apple could avoid their pitfalls. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has taken the unusual step of issuing a press release in response to a lawsuit filed today by Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn, who has pressured the company to create preferred stock that will distribute additional cash to shareholders. Indirectly addressing the lawsuit and a related open letter Einhorn published to fellow Apple investors, Apple began by citing the company’s existing plan to return $45 billion to shareholders over the next three years, while noting that “as of next week we will have executed $10 billion of that plan.”
Einhorn has claimed that adoption of an Apple proxy proposal would prevent the company from issuing preferred stock, but Apple disputes that, suggesting that the proposal would actually enable shareholders to approve issuance of preferred stock. “We remain committed to having an ongoing dialogue with our shareholders to get perspectives around return of capital and driving shareholder value,” Apple said, noting that the company has found itself “in the fortunate position of continuing to generate large amounts of cash, including $23 billion in cash flow from operations in the last quarter alone.”
Following last week’s general release of iOS 6.1, Apple has now released iOS 6.1.1 beta to developers. The new version includes a number of improvements to Maps for Japan, including improved pronunciation of roads and identification of toll roads during turn-by-turn navigation, direction optimizations, and new indicators and icons for various features such as interchanges, transit systems and location categories. The beta also adds 3-D buildings for locations such as Tokyo Station, Japan’s Imperial Palace and Tokyo Tower.
It is notably unusual for Apple to release betas to developers for minor iOS versions; for example, both iOS 6.0.1 and 5.1.1 were released directly to the public with no prior betas sent out for developer testing. It is also worth noting that this beta release does not include an iOS SDK update nor any updates for the Apple TV or iTunes.
Apple today issued an unexpected press release announcing that more than 25 billion songs have now been purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Store, setting a new record. In the press release, Apple SVP Eddy Cue thanked users for making iTunes the most popular music retailer in the world, and noted that the iTunes Store averages over 15,000 songs downloaded every minute.
The 25 billionth song was “Monkey Drums” (Goksel Vancin Remix) by Chase Buch and was purchased by Phillip Lüpke from Germany, who will receive a €10,000 iTunes Gift Card for the download. Apple previously publicized major music download milestones with public countdown contests, however, this milestone was reached without advance publicity or the promise of a prize. The last major music milestone to feature a prize was the 10 billion downloaded song mark, reached in late February 2010 and awarded a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card. Apple has recently focused more attention on app downloads, which have accelerated far faster than music downloads, hitting 25 billion in March 2012, then 40 billion less than a year later.