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Report: About 100 Apple designers working on smart watch

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.

Cook talks up growth, potential of iPad

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.

At Goldman Q&A, Apple CEO Cook attacks specsmanship

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 patents 4th-gen iPod, Newsstand

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]

 

Apple to stream audio from CEO Cook’s presentation

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]

iPhone 5S front, inside photos leaked? (Update: No)

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.

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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.

European carriers suggest 4S users avoid iOS 6.1

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]

Report: Apple’s Cook never wanted to sue Samsung

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.

Apple testing curved glass smart watch?

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]

Apple Human Interface Group founder talks iWatch

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]

Facing lawsuit, Apple responds to preferred stock proposal

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.”

iOS 6.1.1 beta released to developers

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 announces 25 billion songs sold on 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.

Apple tweaking PR strategy, sharing 3rd-party reports

A new report from the Wall Street Journal highlights how Apple has been adjusting its PR efforts recently, citing the company’s press release announcing the relatively minor iOS 6.1 update last week, as well as an uptick in favorable third-party reports being sent out to members of the press—a practice common within the technology industry, and apparently increasing at Apple. According to the WSJ, a person familiar with the matter notes that these latest PR moves “represent a recognition that competition is heating up.” The report goes on to note that despite strong international growth in countries such as China, Apple stock growth has slowed and competitors such as Samsung have begun spending more on advertising and marketing to compete.

iTunes adds self-published Breakout Books section

Apple has introduced Breakout Books, a new section to its iBookstore. The section features selected independently published books that have earned four and five star reviews.

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Currently, four categories are featured in the section: Romance, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Mysteries & Thrillers, and More to Explore. Breakout Books will be featured at the top of the iTunes Store’s book section for at least two weeks before being moved to a less prominent location. [via MacRumors]

Report: ‘Radio Buy” button hidden in iPad iOS 6.1

A new set of files discovered in the iPad music app may signal new functionality in the future, according to a new report. Discovered on a jailbroken iPad running iOS 6.1, button files are labeled with “radio buy” in the file names. It’s unknown as to what these files may actually mean, if anything, but previous reports suggest that Apple plans to launch its own streaming radio service; one report suggested that the feature could have been launched as an iPhone 5 feature prior to royalty negotiations breaking down. It’s notable that these “radio buy” files have not been discovered in jailbroken iPhones running iOS 6.1. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple patents fourth-generation iPod shuffle

Apple has been awarded a patent for the fourth-generation iPod shuffle, originally filed in August 2010 immediately before the device’s launch. The patent is for a “very small form factor consumer electronic product,” and the device is described in great detail in the patent.

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In patenting the shuffle, Apple attempts to protect a housing with “integral front and side walls that cooperate to form a cavity in cooperation with a front opening where an edge of the side walls define a rear opening and at least some of the edges have flanges.” The clip assembly and other parts are also covered at length, with some details as to how such a small device can be protected against moisture intrusion. [via AppleInsider]

Report: iOS bugs, policies hurting users, developers?

A new report details a number of software-related issues that are impacting Apple users and developers, as Adam C. Engst of TidBITS provides anonymized summaries of “some concerning problems that haven’t gotten as much press” as recent hardware manufacturing delays. Engst notes that iOS 6 has seen “more (and more-troubling) bugs in iOS 6 than any previous version of iOS in particular,” noting that users were hit with problems such as excessive cellular data usage and battery drain, issues that Apple took four months to address with iOS 6.1. Second-hand reports shared by Engst suggest that Apple engineers have left “because they felt their software was being shipped before it was ready,” and that he has also “heard story after story of Apple’s App Store policies and behaviors causing significant headaches.” While developers wouldn’t go on the record with their individual issues, they described iTunes Connect problems regarding app approval, company changes, and customer management that were creating unnecessary problems for users, such as confusing update and upgrade paths for important new releases. Engst suggests that Apple’s success has “effectively blinded” it to the software and developer problems, which he deems “the emperor’s wardrobe malfunction,” issues that “aren’t likely to affect the stock price in the short term, but could have long term consequences.”

Court backs Apple in online credit card privacy case

Apple and other online retailers did not break the law by requiring consumers to provide their addresses and phone numberes to make credit card payments, the California Supreme Court ruled on Monday, noting that state privacy protections for credit cards don’t apply to downloaded online purchases. Consumer David Krescent had sued Apple after making purchases from iTunes, which sells content exclusively online. Notably, the same court ruled in 2011 that the privacy protections apply to brick-and-mortar retailers, which would not be allowed to request a ZIP code during a credit card transaction. In this case, four California Supreme Court justices backed Apple, while three said that the ruling was “a major loss for consumers.” [via Reuters]

Appstore.com links appear during Super Bowl ad

Third-party developers can now use Apple-provided Appstore.com links to make shortened URL links to their apps, as was demonstrated this weekend. An Appstore.com short link appeared briefly at the end of the commercial for the upcoming film “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which read, “For details and ticket information go to AppStore.com/StarTrekApp.”  The Appstore.com domain name, which was given to Steve Jobs as a personal gift by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, has been used as the official website for the App Store Twitter account since its launch in January 2011.

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