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Apple’s accessory grip slips due to Lightning, Bluetooth

Thanks in part to Apple’s switch to more expensive Lightning connectors, as well as the ascendance of Bluetooth wireless connectivity, Apple’s grip on accessory makers is starting to slip, according to a New York Times report. While many retail stores and hotel rooms previously featured Dock Connector accessories, the market has expanded and broadened, reducing Apple’s presence. A number of accessory makers expressed frustration with the Lightning connector transition, as companies were not notified of the change in advance, and fees for both licensing and manufacturing have gone up. Consequently, accessory makers opted to leave Apple docks out of their products; Logitech, Voxx, and Geneva Lab told the Times that they’ve dropped physical Apple connectors from most or all of their products.

For its part, Apple says it doesn’t mind accessories continuing in a more wireless direction. Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said, “Apple provides users with the best wired and wireless connectivity options to work with the broadest range of accessories.” Still, sales of speakers with docks dropped 16% in 2012, while sales of wireless streaming speakers jumped 175%, according to an NPD Group report.

U.S. Cellular to carry Apple products this year

U.S. Cellular announced that it will “begin offering Apple products later this year” during a release of its quarterly revenue results. Though no specific products were mentioned in the announcement, the iPhone will likely be offered, as U.S. Cellular notes, “By further strengthening our device portfolio, we’ll give consumers another great reason to switch to U.S. Cellular, and enable our existing customers to choose from an even wider variety of iconic smartphones, and enjoy the outstanding U.S. Cellular customer experiences they deserve.” U.S. Cellular currently boasts 5.8 million customers — the carrier claims its 4G LTE network currently covers 61 percent of its customers, and the network will be expanded to cover 87 percent of its customers by year’s end. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple counting down to 50 billion app downloads

As it has for a number of iTunes milestones, Apple has launched a new contest, this time for the 50 billionth iOS app downloaded. The person who downloads that app will win a $10,000 App Store Gift Card, and the next 50 people will win $500 App Store Gift Cards.

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Along with the prizes, Apple has listed the top 25 all-time paid and free apps, for both iPhone and iPad, with Angry Birds, Facebook, Pages, and Skype for iPad at the top of the lists, respectively. As of the time this story was posted, the counter appeared to be at just over 49,207,000,000 downloads; a rough calculation suggests that the 50 billion mark will be hit in roughly 11 days.

Apple releases iOS 6.1.4 for iPhone 5

Apple has released iOS 6.1.4, an iPhone 5-only update. The software update lists an updated speakerphone audio profile as its only revision.

Apple CEO Cook to open D11 conference

Apple CEO Tim Cook will be interviewed on opening night to kick off All Things D’s D11 Conference, which runs from May 28-30. All Things D notes there’s “lots to talk about,” including mobile market growth, competition from Samsung and Android, changes at Apple, and new products in the pipeline. Cook also spoke at last year’s conference, discussing post-Steve Jobs Apple, Chinese manufacturing partners, and patent disputes, among other topics.

iOS 7 redesign risks delays, may miss September

A “sweeping software overhaul” of iOS leaves Apple at risk of delaying the operating system’s release, according to a new report. While Apple expects to release iOS 7 “on time as soon as September,” “engineers are racing to finish” the software in time for a preview at next month’s WWDC, and internal development milestones are being shortened due to the rush. As noted in a previous report, Apple’s Jony Ive is apparently making massive changes to iOS, moving toward a flat interface and away from skeuomorphism. “More dramatic changes” are also expected for email and calendar features in the new iOS. Ive is reportedly taking great care to review new designs, as Apple looks to avoid a repeat of iOS 6’s Maps fiasco, which cost former iOS software chief Scott Forstall his job. [via Bloomberg]

Original iPhone to reach ‘obsolete’ status

Apple’s original iPhone, released in 2007, will soon enter “obsolete” status in Apple Retail Stores, according to an internal document. The switch will occur on June 11. Obsolete status means the original iPhone will no longer be supported at bricks and mortar Apple locations, though AppleCare and Authorized Service Providers will treat the device as “vintage” and continue to provide service for it. [via 9to5Mac]

Report: iOS 7 seeks greater in-car integration

Following a recent report about iOS 7’s interface, 9to5Mac has more information on Apple’s plans for the new operating system, reporting that “Apple plans to move aggressively into the in-car integration space later this year.” Multiple sources noted Apple is “working with car makers to deeply embed iOS’s Maps and Siri services into cars.” The company is reportedly working with car makers on center consoles that could attach iOS devices — at that point, an optimized version of Apple’s Maps could then appear on the car’s display, with Siri used to control Maps and other features. It’s noted that the new functionality could still be a long way from public release, and the feature may require newer iOS devices.

Apple has quietly crept further into the automotive world recently. Volkswagen introduced the iBeetle, a special edition Beetle with iPhone integration — though the integration is not nearly as deep as the proposals reported with iOS 7. Touted as an iOS 6 feature, Apple’s Siri Eyes Free feature was first integrated by GM, followed by Honda and Acura, with BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, and Chrysler also announced as partners. Apple and Ferrari have apparently discussed a deeper partnership, and Ferrari’s FF model integrates Siri voice commands, using iPad minis for rear seat entertainment. Also, Apple recently filed two patents related to communication between iOS devices and vehicles.

Apple patent explores controller for touchscreen devices

An recently published Apple patent demonstrates that Apple has continued to contemplate the use of a physical controller accessory with iOS devices. However, the patent filing appears to be mainly concerned about how users with disabilities can interact with touchscreen devices.

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A controller could offer advantages to users who aren’t “physically present” at the touchscreen, users who “are unable to provide touch input,” and those with disabilities who could nonetheless use a physical accessory to control the touchscreen. Apple’s image of a controller accessory resembles a joystick, though gaming doesn’t appear to be the focus of the patent; the basic patent concepts could be applied for other purposes. [via Apple Insider]

Report: iOS 7 to have ‘very, very flat’ interface

Sources claim the look of Apple’s upcoming iOS 7 will be simpler than past incarnations, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. “Multiple people who have either seen or have been briefed on the upcoming iOS 7” claim the new operating system will be attractive to new users, but “potentially unsettling” for long-time iOS users. The interface is “very, very flat,” one source says, while another says it loses “all signs of gloss, shine, and skeumorphism” (sp). Immediately after the departure of former Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall, speculation has been that Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive’s work on the new OS would move away from skeuomorphism, which Forstall and former Apple CEO Steve Jobs both favored.

One source compared iOS 7 to the Windows Phone UI. Reportedly, there is no new learning curve for the new operating system, as the “core apps and system fundamentals” operate similarly to the current iOS. Interface changes allegedly include a new icon set for native apps, newly designed tool bars, and tab bars. Apple has also apparently been researching ways to add more quick glance panels, such as Notification Center, into the new software. One idea included swipes from the left and right of the display. Sources note iOS 7 is codenamed “Innsbruck,” likely after the Austrian city.

Apple announces traveling Tech Talks for developers

Apple has announced that it will be “hitting the road this fall” with Tech Talks for developers. Though Apple says the talks will be coming to “a city near you,” no cities have been announced so far. The company notably held an iPhone Tech Talk World Tour in late 2008, and has used multi-city events to reach out to developers who couldn’t attend its California developers’ conferences. Apple also noted WWDC 2013 sold out of tickets in record time, and reminded developers that videos of the sessions would be posted during the conference.

iMessage deletes ‘Obama,’ ‘surprise’ in iPhone messages

A peculiar iMessage bug is making certain words disappear from the end of messages. The phrases “I could be the next Obama” and “The best prize is a surprise,” when followed by a trailing space, are sent with the last word deleted; both sender and receiver see a blank space instead. It appears the bug is only affecting iPhones, according to an Apple forum discussion; other phrases also seem to trigger the bug. Apple has not commented on the bug yet. [via The Verge]

‘Learn More About In-App Purchases’ now in App Store

Apple has added a new section to the App Store to help consumers “Learn More About In-App Purchases.” The informational section describes what in-app purchases are, the different types of in-app purchases, how in-app purchases work, and how to restrict a child’s ability to make in-app purchases using parental controls. In the wake of legal issues and other complaints regarding these follow-on purchases, Apple is making more of an effort to inform consumers about in-app purchases — the company recently added an “Offers In-App Purchases” line to all relevant apps.

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.

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