The Federal Trade Commission has issued a report criticizing the privacy practices of the makers of kids apps in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market. Titled “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade,” the FTC report found almost 60 percent of 400 popular kids apps transmitted device information to the developer or another third party, such as an advertising network. Only 20 percent of the apps reviewed disclosed any information regarding privacy practices. Also, 17 percent of apps reviewed offered the ability to purchase virtual goods within the app — with in-app purchases ranging from 99 cents to $29.99 in the App Store. “The results of the survey are disappointing,” the report reads. “Industry appears to have made little or no progress in improving its disclosures since the first kids’ app survey was conducted, and the new survey confirms that undisclosed sharing is occurring on a frequent basis.” The FTC’s previous report was issued in February.
The report’s conclusion calls on everyone involved in the app marketplace to develop accurate disclosures regarding shared data. It also notes that “FTC staff has initiated a number of investigations to address the gaps between company practices and disclosures. These discrepancies could constitute violations of COPPA or the FTC Act’s prohibition against unfair or deceptive practices.” [via The Wall Street Journal]
Apple has refused to approve an update by Microsoft to its SkyDrive iOS app after the company began offering additional storage subscriptions, according to a report from The Next Web. Microsoft found a recent update to its SkyDrive iOS app rejected by Apple after enabling users of the cloud file-sharing service to purchase more storage space. The report notes that “Microsoft does not appear keen to pay Apple the 30% cut, as it lasts in perpetuity, regardless of whether a user continues to use an iOS device or not, as the billing is through their Apple account;” however, users should be able to cancel App Store-based subscriptions at any time and subscribe through other means. Microsoft has apparently offered to remove all subscription options on the app, but this compromise has not been accepted by Apple.
Since launching in-app subscription services in early 2011, Apple has required developers to use its own In-App Purchasing system for any subscription or content purchases that are accessible from an iOS application. Although companies have traditionally been free to offer their subscription services via other means such as a web site, these cannot be available or advertised within an iOS app unless Apple’s IAP system is being used, for which Apple takes a 30% share of subscription fees.
Notably, this issue also appears to affecting Apple’s approvals of third-party applications that integrate with SkyDrive. While the exact reasons for this are unclear at this time, a similar situation occurred with popular cloud-sharing service Dropbox several months ago, with the problem ultimately being traced to the appearance of subscription purchasing links in the web pages used to log in to the service.
The United States Patent & Trademark Office has ruled an Apple multitouch patent — commonly referred to as “the Steve Jobs patent” — as invalid on a non-final basis. All 20 claims of U.S. Patent 7,479,949 were rejected in a first Office action, a preliminary ruling that suggests a patent can be invalidated in the future, though it is being left in effect pending a final determination. The patent is for a “Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics.” This notably follows an October reexamination of Apple’s “rubber-banding” patent for a bounce back effect when scrolling, which similarly concluded on a preliminary basis that all claims would be invalidated. These patents have been at the heart of Apple lawsuits against rivals, and if found invalid would significantly damage the Cupertino company’s litigation positions. [via FOSS Patents]
Apple and Google have teamed up to buy Eastman Kodak Co.‘s patents out of bankruptcy, offering more than $500 million in the bid, according to Bloomberg. The companies partnered after separately attempting to buy some of the digital patents this summer, sources said. Both separate offers were for less than $500 million — a consortium had previously offered more than $500 million for Kodak’s digital patents, which relate to the capture, manipulation, and sharing of digital images. Apple, Google, and Kodak have not publicly commented on the patent sale.
Apple contract manufacturer Foxconn is looking to expand its manufacturing operations in the U.S. as customers request more American-made products, Bloomberg reports. “We are looking at doing more manufacturing in the U.S. because, in general, customers want more to be done there,” Foxconn spokesman Louis Woo said. Currently, the Taipei-based Foxconn has factories in California and Texas that make partially-assembled products, such as servers. Almost certainly related is today’s news from Apple CEO Tim Cook that Apple plans on investing more than $100M in expanding U.S. production. Further specifics of Foxconn’s plans are unknown at this time.
T-Mobile USA will finally sell Apple products starting next year, as the company and Apple have reached an agreement. Deutsche Telekom COO Rene Obermann made the announcement at an investors conference, Engadget reports. The news was also buried in the fourth paragraph of a Deutsche Telekom press release: “In addition, T-Mobile USA has entered into an agreement with Apple to bring products to market together in 2013.” No specific devices have been announced as of yet, but Apple sells the iPhone and iPad on AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint; Apple has partnered with Deutsche Telekom to sell iPhones outside the United States for years.
Highly recommended to Apple watchers, CEO Tim Cook’s lengthy interview with Bloomberg Businessweek covers a large range of topics, including some interesting insights into how Cook sees his job, relative to the famously bold and confident former CEO Steve Jobs. “…I love being CEO of Apple, I love it. It’s just something I have to, and continue to, adjust to. If you have some ideas there of how I can do it better, I would love to hear it,” he laughingly said, while noting that he receives hundreds or thousands of e-mails each day with comments from users.
Cook curiously mentions Apple’s “few” products. “I mean, if you really look at it, we have four iPods. We have two main iPhones. We have two iPads, and we have a few Macs. That’s it,” he said. Oddly, the CEO seems to be leaving out various products — likely the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2, perhaps shedding light on which products Apple truly cares about, while the Apple TV isn’t mentioned at all. New products seem to be the emphasis, and he proudly makes a point about Apple’s willingness to refresh its product lines later in the interview: “Eighty percent of our revenues are from products that didn’t exist 60 days ago. Is there any other company that would do that?”
The interview provides further insight into the company’s internal strategic planning, with Cook noting that an executive team meeting is held at 9 a.m. every Monday, and four hours are spent talking about “everything in the company that’s important — everything.” Every Wednesday, a subset of the executive team meets with each product division — Mac one week, and iPhone the next, for instance. Discussions illuminate the debates that go on within Apple as to current and future products, their roadmaps, and overall strategy.
Also discussed is Cook’s transition into the full-time CEO of Apple. Cook notes that Steve Jobs formalized plans for the transition in the summer of 2011 — Jobs resigned in August, and died in October. “Of course, we had talked about me being a successor before, so it wasn’t the first time I had heard that, but the conversation occurred at a period of time when I felt Steve was getting better, and I think he felt this way as well,” Cook said. “So from that point of view, I was a little surprised.” The timeline suggests that despite Jobs’ departing statement that the company had clearly been planning for the succession, the most critical detail was left ambiguous to even Cook until very late in the process.
Samsung has filed a redacted version of the Apple-HTC settlement into the public record, revealing that each company will get nonexclusive rights to a number of the other’s patents, although Apple’s design patents seem to be expressly excluded. Apple has agreed not to sue HTC over certain products, the names of which were redacted. HTC will remain liable for any products that “clone” an Apple product — whether or not a product is “cloned” will be determined by an arbitration process. A ruling earlier this week determined that the list of patents in the settlement can’t be sealed. [via AllThingsD]
For the first time, Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly hinted that Apple might be taking active steps towards making a television set, according to quotes from an NBC News interview with Brian Williams. “When I go into my living room and turn on the TV, I feel like I have gone backwards in time by 20 to 30 years,” Cook said, using language that moves beyond Apple’s gentler prior “hobby” and “pulling the string” descriptions of its TV-related initiatives. “It’s an area of intense interest. I can’t say more than that.” While it’s possible that Cook was speaking about the existing Apple TV, it would be curious to allude to an existing product in such a way; at the very least, Cook’s comments could suggest a major push, update, or redesign for Apple TV. Cook’s full interview on NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams” airs at 10 p.m. Eastern tonight.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has announced that the company will bring “some production to the U.S. on the Mac” in 2013, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek interview, which notes that the company will invest more than $100 million in the U.S. production of Macs. “We could have quickly maybe done just assembly, but it’s broader because we wanted to do something more substantial,” Cook said. Speaking on existing American-made Apple products, Cook also noted the processor for the iPhone and iPad is already made in the U.S., and the glass for the devices is made in Kentucky. Assembly, however, has been handled substantially in Asia by partners such as Foxconn.
Cook also mentions the American-made Mac line on tonight’s episode of NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams,” saying, “Next year, we will do one of our existing Mac lines in the United States.” The full interview airs at 10 p.m. Eastern tonight.
The rumored Apple streaming radio service appears unlikely to launch in the very near future, according to a CNET report. Though the article focuses on Pandora, it’s mentioned that Apple’s rumored competing service isn’t ready to launch, as sources note a deal with all the major record labels “is nowhere near to being completed.” All reports have indicated Apple is negotiating directly with record companies to secure music rights for the service. A previous report noted Apple planned on releasing the service in the first quarter of 2013; it’s unclear if that is still feasible, though possible that the company could launch with limited support and add companies later.
The list of patents included in Apple and HTC’s recent settlement can’t be sealed, according to a California judge’s ruling. U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh wrote that while pricing and royalty terms can be sealed for “compelling reasons” regarding future negotiations, the list of patents “does not meet the ‘compelling reasons’ standard” and that “there is nothing in the remainder of the agreement that presents a sufficient risk of competitive harm to justify keeping it from the public.” While Samsung was already given the right to view confidential details of the agreement, the public will now be able to see if Apple included any of its rarely shared “user experience” patents in the settlement. [via CNET]
The Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher, “jOBS,” will premiere in Park City, Utah at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 27 as the independent festival’s closing night film. A short synopsis notes “the defining 30 years of Steve Jobs’ life” will be chronicled in “jOBS.” A promotional photo released shows Kutcher replicating the pose of a young Jobs.
Also starring Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons, and Josh Gad as Steve Wozniak, “jOBS” is directed by Joshua Michael Stern. It is not to be confused with the script Aaron Sorkin is writing about Jobs for a different film that Sorkin says will only consist of three scenes, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Apple has seeded developers with a third beta version of iOS 6.1. The update is available to registered iOS developers as an over-the-air software update via the Settings app, however as of this writing it is not yet available on the main developer site. It is unclear what changes may be contained in the release, however past releases reportedly focused on internal improvements to the Map Kit framework for third-party apps. [via 9to5Mac]
Tony Fadell, former senior vice president of Apple’s iPod division, and widely credited as the “father of the iPod,” says Apple’s own mythology of the iPod being built as a knowing precursor to the iPhone is “revisionist history.” In an interview with The Telegraph, Fadell claims Apple was mainly focused on the Macintosh at the time, as what came to be the iPod team spent “the day job” building the Macintosh. He says Apple is a “visionary company” that enabled the success of the iPod, but “there was no vision of taking everything to a world of iPhones and iPads.”
“We built the iPod in weeks,” Fadell says. “It had to be what I thought it was going to be because there wasn’t time for endless refinements.” Fadell is now founder and CEO of Nest.
Although the iPhone 5 ships by default with 4G/LTE cellular capabilities, Apple only lets mobile operators use the LTE functionality if the carrier passes Apple’s own tests for LTE performance, according to Telecoms.com. A Swisscom spokesperson said, “Apple only enables 4G access after testing their device on an operator’s live network.” Unless the tests are passed, an operator is limited to 3G network access. The Apple testing may have been in response to international regulatory attention drawn by the third-generation iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G, which was renamed to “Wi-Fi + Cellular” after complaints that the device was not universally achieving 4G/LTE speeds. Apple has not commented on the matter as of yet.
Confirming speculation, Apple has officially announced that the iPhone 5 will be released on Dec. 14 in China, after recently receiving network access approval in China. Notably, no carrier details were announced in the press release, which mentions that sales in China will be restricted to online orders, pre-reserved units at physical Apple Stores, and through select Apple Authorized Resellers—most likely a response to overwhelming and unruly crowds that formed for the prior iPhone launch in China. The company also announced that the Wi-Fi versions of the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad will become available for sale in China on Dec. 7.
A new patent application from Apple reveals the company’s interest in a smarter approach to wireless charging, as the application outlines charging low-power devices from a near-field magnetic resonant (MFMR) power supply. A few watts of electricity could be transferred wirelessly from a NFMR power source, operating about a meter away from the receiving device rather than making physical contact. The filing notes that “a realistic and practical approach to wireless transferring useable amounts of power over distances suitable for limited applications can be realized.”
More than one device could be charged using this technology, as peripheral devices — “when tuned to the appropriate frequency” — could join a circuit to draw power from the NFMR power supply. A dongle could also be used as a range extender. Considering the current watt limitations, it’s possible such a technology could be useful for charging an Pod, iPhone, or possibly even an iPad mini, but likely not a full-sized iPad — at least not for a full-speed charge. However, the fact that charging could take place without the need for wired connections would make this a very viable alternative solution to current chargers. [via Apple Insider]
Following reports that Apple plans to shift away from Samsung for chip production, concerns over a chief rival’s CPU production capacity have been raised by a new report at Digitimes. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company may start producing chips for Apple’s next iOS devices as soon as next year, according to “industry observers,” but it’s unclear if the company will be able to provide proper capacity for Apple’s massive and growing needs given its existing contracts. TSMC still serves other major clients, such as Altera, Qualcomm, and Nvidia, so the company will be challenged to keep up production for those companies while taking on Apple’s massive production demands; it may also see profits decline due to tight Apple margins. A previous report noted TSMC would use 28nm and 20nm process technologies to produce CPUs for Apple; the new report notes that TSMC plans to open a new 20nm factory in Taiwan, increasing its production capacity.
A Dutch court has banned certain Samsung Galaxy products that infringe on an Apple patent, reports IDG. The patent involves scrolling through photo galleries on a touchscreen, and the ban applies to Galaxy products that run Android 2.2.1 or newer versions, and don’t use Samsung’s proprietary photo gallery software. Specifically, Apple has “patented a way to scroll past the edge of a zoomed-in photo and see a glimpse of the next in a series of images, after which the initial photo bounces back onto the screen, a technique that Samsung has used in its Galaxy products. Samsung’s proprietary photo gallery software replaces that bounce-back feature with a ‘blue flash’ that illuminates the edge of the image.” Samsung must pay Apple $129,000 each day it violates the ban. This follows a recent Dutch court ruling that Samsung did not infringe on an Apple patent involving the use of two fingers on a touchscreen.