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Google’s Schmidt talks Apple, Maps

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt had plenty to say about Apple in a recently posted interview with AllThingsD. Schmidt said the Android-Apple platform fight is “the defining contest” in the industry right now, mentioning there are “four times more Android phones than Apple phones,” and noting that consumers are benefitting from the companies’ competition.

Schmidt also suggested that Apple should have kept Google’s maps, noting that “They’re better maps,” while mentioning that Apple’s decision to make its own maps was made long ago. He underscored that a new Google Maps app would need Apple’s approval, and that not all Google apps have been approved by Apple in the past.

Among other comments in the interview, Schmidt said the patent wars “are a disaster for all of us.” And when asked if he’d rather be a CEO again, if choosing between Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, he said, “I was on Apple’s board, and I’ll always have a soft spot for them,” ultimately answering the question with, “Which one has the most cash? That would be Apple.”

New scratch standards slow iPhone 5 production

Production of the iPhone 5 is slowing as Apple aims to reduce obvious damage to units leaving its factories, confirms Bloomberg, noting that Apple has indeed instituted tighter quality control standards at contract manufacturer Foxconn. Customers have reported scratches and nicks on their brand new iPhones, which Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller claimed was “normal”. According to the report, the new, stricter benchmarks have caused a shortage of parts, even halting production at a factory in Shenzhen for a day. Notably, an earlier report had claimed that workers at contract manufacturer Foxconn briefly went on strike in response to the new quality control demands, though Foxconn denied that a stoppage had taken place. Apple has not made an official statement on the quality control changes.

Foxconn workers protest iPhone 5 dent, scratch controls

A just-issued China Labor Watch report claims that thousands of workers at Foxconn, Apple’s contract manufacturer, went on strike following heightened quality control demands for the iPhone 5. The new standards apparently limit dents in the aluminum body to 0.02mm or less, and relate to “scratches on frames and back covers.”

Some early purchasers of the iPhone 5 noted the presence of scratches and/or dents on the aluminum bodies of newly-opened devices, as discussed in iLounge’s comprehensive review of the device, and although Apple’s marketing chief dismissed them as “normal,” the company apparently quietly attempted to improve the quality control standards to guarantee that such marks would not be visible to customers.

According to the report, Foxconn’s workers were unable to “turn out iPhones that met the standard,” claiming that the new guidelines were too difficult to meet without proper training, and suggesting that the iPhone’s design is flawed. Fights between workers broke out, leading to injuries, property damage, and additional physical threats, which were allegedly ignored by Foxconn management, subsequently leading to a work stoppage. China Labor Watch blames Foxconn pressure on the workers, including limits on vacation time during Chinese holidays, for contributing to the issues. [via AppleInsider]

Update: Foxconn denied that a strike or workplace stoppage had taken place, conceding that two fights had broken out but claiming that they were quickly addressed by management. The company also said that workers had been paid three times their normal wages for labor over the Chinese holiday break, which they had undertaken voluntarily. Regardless, China’s official news agency Xinhua reported that quality inspectors had indeed briefly halted their efforts after a workplace clash at Foxconn.

Apple posts brief, moving tribute to late CEO Jobs

Marking the one year anniversary of former CEO Steve Jobs’ untimely passing, Apple this morning posted a brief video tribute and letter on its home page. Describing Jobs’ death as “a sad and difficult time for all of us,” current Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed his “hope that today everyone will reflect on his extraordinary life and the many ways he made the world a better place.” An embedded video runs for under two minutes, including photos of Jobs and brief audio snippets from several of his most memorable product introductions, overlaid atop a Yo-Yo Ma rendition of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1: Prelude.

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Cook’s letter says that Apple was one of Jobs’ greatest gifts to the world, and that “[n]o company has ever inspired such creativity or set such high standards for itself. Our values originated from Steve and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.” The letter is reprinted in full below.

Apple patent examines hybrid wireless headphones

A patent application from Apple reveals the company has been exploring hybrid wireless headphones that could detach from a cable if needed. Convenience during physical activity is noted as the reason for Apple’s investigation of this headphone design, which would allow a user to use corded headphones, magnetically detaching the top half of the cables for wireless listening while using the bottom half of the cord to transmit audio to the detached headphones.

While most iPods now have integrated Bluetooth transmitters, a feature that would minimize the need for special headphones, the Mar. 29, 2011 patent filing uses images of the sixth-generation iPod nano, and hints at a 3.5mm headphone port-based recharging solution for the headphones akin to the iPod shuffle. [via AppleInsider]

Report details post-Jobs Apple, Mansfield/Riccio moves

A new Bloomberg Businessweek feature offers new insights into the post-Steve Jobs era at Apple, drawing from “interviews with more than two dozen current and former Apple executives, employees, and partners.” The story notably discusses reactions to the retirement of Senior Vice President Bob Mansfield, as “several senior engineers on Mansfield’s team vociferously complained to Cook about reporting to his replacement, Dan Riccio, who they felt was unprepared for the magnitude of the role.” Cook responded by offering Mansfield a package of cash and stock worth roughly $2 million per month to stay at Apple as an adviser, after which Mansfield unretired.

Information about Jobs’ involvement with iOS 6 Maps is included, as insiders said Jobs initiated the project. The report speculates that Jobs could have killed the app before its launch, and notes that “Jobs also discussed pulling Google search from the iPhone, but figured that customers would reject that move, according to two former Apple executives.”

The Bloomberg story also includes details about the leadership style and decisions of CEO Tim Cook, who gave a speech to employees that Jobs’ death was “the saddest moment in his life.” As the story notes: “No one would say Apple is better off without Steve Jobs. But to a surprising degree, it’s doing fine.”

Apple tightens MFi rules, stalls 3rd-party Lightning add-ons

Following up on prior reports that Apple had not made Lightning connectors available to developers, multiple reliable sources have confirmed to iLounge that Apple has made significant changes to its Made For iPad/iPhone/iPod (MFi) policies, tightening control over the manufacturing of Lightning accessories. According to the sources, only Apple-approved manufacturing facilities will be allowed to produce Lightning connector accessories, even including third-party accessories. Moreover, Apple hasn’t approved any factories yet, which the sources say will limit the number of Lightning accessories available in the near future.

One source notes that Apple is planning an MFi “seminar,” where it will discuss changes to the program and the rules for Lightning accessory development going forward. The seminar will be held in November in China, notes the source, after the point at which third-party Lightning accessories could be manufactured in time for holiday sale. Sources have further noted that the Lightning connector has proved difficult to copy, reducing the near-term likelihood of unauthorized third-party connector cables.

Notably, Amazon orders for a third-party “iTronz” Lightning Adapter offered in September have now been canceled, with the vendor citing a “very critical functional issue.” An e-mail from Amazon made reference to authentication chips found in the Lightning connector, initially citing a 20-25 day shipment delay. The vendor subsequently ceased sales altogether.

Updated Oct. 17: The seminar is scheduled for Nov. 7-8, according to a TechCrunch report. The report also notes Apple will strictly regulate sales of Lightning connectors for MFi partners, and that Apple will control the supply of Lightning pins β€” it will only supply partners with the pins when their products meet Apple’s specifications and standards.

Report: Apple signs deal for Microlatch fingerprint tech

Apple has reportedly struck a licensing deal with Microlatch for fingerprint recognition technology. The Australian (registration required) reported the agreement, concluding that it’s “another sign the company is readying its iPhone line for the mobile payment era.” Microlatch’s patented technology apparently can register a user’s fingerprint on a device to authenticate financial transactions, a feature that could add additional security for near-field communications applications such as a digital wallet. It’s worth noting that Apple recently acquired AuthenTec, a company that makes mobile security software and chips for fingerprint recognition and NFC. [via Apple Insider]

WSJ: Apple now mass producing iPad mini

Apple is now officially mass producing a smaller version of the iPad, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cites the company’s Asian component suppliers as sources. The report reaffirms that the tablet will have a 7.85-inch display and a lower resolution than the third-generation iPad. This follows yesterday’s apparent leak of iPad mini parts, and a recent report that iPad mini event invitations will go out on Oct 10.

New iPad mini photos show black metal, part locations

Photos of alleged iPad mini parts have been posted on Ukranianiphone.com, and are claimed to have originated in China.

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The photos show the purported inner and outer housing of the iPad mini, as well as a front glass piece. Notably sporting black or slate anodized aluminum akin to the iPhone 5, the inner housing is labeled with circles showing the locations of the headphone port, plastic antenna cover, nano SIM tray, and Lightning connector. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple patents wireless accessory-to-device adapter

Apple has been awarded a patent for device-to-accessory adapters, notably including an adapter design with wireless functionality. Noting that “media players may have different sized connectors,” specifically that a “newer media player may have a more advanced, smaller sized connector receptacle,” the patent’s abstract notes that the invention would “provide compatibility among incompatible accessories and portable media players,” suggesting that Lightning-equipped devices could be connected to older accessories built with 30-pin Dock Connectors.

Another concept covered in the patent is wireless functionality similar to what iSkin offered years ago in the Cerulean TX+RX Stereo Bluetooth Transmitter and Receiver β€” a Dock Connector-based Bluetooth adapter accessory that Apple reluctantly permitted the company to sell, while denying other vendors the ability to produce similar devices. If similarly designed, Apple’s adapter could allow all wireless iPods, iPhones, and iPads to stream music to older docking speakers without making a physical connection. [via Apple Insider]

Apple to announce Q4 2012 earnings on October 25

Apple has announced that it will release its fourth quarter fiscal results at 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, October 25. The conference call will be broadcasted live here. While sales of the new iPhone 5 will surely be discussed during the call, Apple executives may also discuss the new iPods due for October release, and possibly even the long-rumored iPad mini, which may have been announced by then.

AT&T iPhone 5 Wi-Fi/cellular data drain reported

While Apple has released a fix for Verizon iPhone 5 users experiencing unexpected cellular data usage while on a Wi-Fi network, AT&T iPhone 5 users are also reporting the same issue, suggesting that an iOS 6 problem is to blame. Apple’s support forum has complaints on the issue from both Verizon and AT&T users, but no fix has been announced for AT&T iPhone 5s thus far. [via 9to5Mac]

Report: iPad mini event invites on Oct. 10?

Apple is expected to send out invitations on October 10 for a special iPad mini-focused event, according to a report from Fortune, citing a “major Apple investor” as the source. While the Fortune report suggests that standard Apple scheduling would place the unveiling event on the following Wednesday, October 17, with a launch on Friday, November 2, a typical nine-day gap would place the launch on Friday, October 26. Apple has already scheduled a new major release of iTunes for “late October,” with releases of the seventh-generation iPod nano and fifth-generation iPod touch taking place at an unspecified time during the same month; iTunes 10.7 already includes support for the new iPods, but makes no mention of the widely rumored but as-yet-unannounced smaller iPad.

Clause could restrict third-party app store promotion

A new clause in Apple’s App Review Guidelines could make it tough for third-party services and affiliate programs to promote apps within the App Store. As noted in mid-September on Twisted Logic’s blog, and more recently further examined by PocketGamer.biz, clause 2.25 in the new App Store Review Guidelines reads, “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.” The new clause may be an indication that Apple is putting itself in a position to reject any apps that promote apps from other developers, although it may only be intended to target pure app promotion services such as FreeAppADay, AppoDay and AppGratis. [via 9to5Mac]

iCloud 25 GB storage expires in 2050?

Former MobileMe users including iLounge’s editors have noted that Apple’s free 25 GB iCloud storage plans are currently listed as effective through the year 2050. Under Apple’s previously-announced MobileMe to iCloud transition plan, a free extra 20 GB of storage was supposed to expire yesterday, but users have noted that their plans are said to expire on Sept. 30, 2050. Considering the coincidental date of Sept. 30, this could be an error; there has been no comment from Apple as of yet. [via TUAW]

Verizon iPhone 5 update fixes cellular data usage

Verizon iPhone 5 users can now download an update to fix issues with the phone’s cellular data usage while using Wi-Fi. Apple’s website notes that the “carrier settings update resolves an issue in which, under certain circumstances, iPhone 5 may use Verizon cellular data while the phone is connected to a Wi-Fi network.” Many users were reporting cellular data drain with the phone while using Wi-Fi, an issue that may have resulted from a planned but seemingly absent Settings switch to let iOS 6 users fall back to cellular data when Wi-Fi wasn’t working properly. Installation details for the update can be found here.

Report: Apple music streaming nixed over royalties

Apple planned to build its own Pandora-style music streaming service—allegedly as a new iPhone 5 feature—until talks with the world’s largest music publisher Sony/ATV reached a late impasse, according to the New York Post. The two companies couldn’t agree on a per-song rights fee, sources said, dashing the possible deal. While those rights are normally a tenth of a penny per stream, Sony/ATV sought a higher rate from Apple. According to the report, Sony/ATV is also reportedly set to leave the ASCAP and BMI copyright associations, throwing a wrench into future negotiations with other services over streaming rights. [via CNET]

Apple CEO Cook “sorry” for Maps, suggests other apps

A letter from Apple CEO Tim Cook posted on Apple’s website apologizes for the much-maligned launch of iOS 6 Maps. The letter begins, “At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”

Cook’s letter also suggests trying alternatives while Apple is “improving Maps,” naming apps from Bing, MapQuest, and Waze, as well as mentioning the option to create a home screen icon for Google or Nokia’s web apps. He notes that the new Maps has already been installed on 100 million iOS devices, with “nearly half a billion locations” searched for—interestingly, an average of less than five location searches per device. The letter is currently at the bottom of Apple.com’s front page, as “A letter to our customers regarding Maps.”

Apple patent suggests next-gen inductive charging

Apple has applied for a patent on an inductive charging mat that could perform different functions based on the physical orientation of devices on top of the mat. The application notes that functions such as charging, data transfer, data synchronization, and diagnostic checking could be performed depending on how a device rests on the mat. For instance, an iPhone facing down on the mat could sync, while an iPhone facing up could charge. Physical orientation wouldn’t be limited to face-up or face-down β€” devices placed sideways or facing specific directions could also activate functions.

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The inductive mat could also alert the user to what’s been activated using sounds, vibrations, or on-screen indications, as well as connecting wirelessly to other devices. [via Apple Insider]

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