Apple plans to open an enormous data center in Hong Kong SAR, China, according to 9to5Mac. The location will be near the Shenzhen, China border, and a bidding contractor employee suggests that the scale of the center will be massive.
Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2013, and the center should be operational by 2015. The article notes that companies often select Hong Kong for data centers due to both its autonomy — which keeps the Chinese government away from private data — and its close proximity to mainland China. Apple has also recently filed plans for a data center in Prineville, Oregon, and announced plans for a data center and a business and purchasing center in Reno, Nevada.
Apple was named best brand and best design studio of the last 50 years at the prestigious D&AD (Design and Art Direction) Awards, and Apple Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive and the rest of the design team flew into London to collect the awards. As The Weekly Standard reports, Apple’s design team has never before attended an award ceremony, and have rarely if ever been publicly photographed together, but all 16 members took the stage to receive the honors. Ive declined public comment at the D&AD Awards, which were held at Battersea Park, London.
Ive also made headlines for an announced collaboration with German photography company Leica, which said that Apple’s famed designer will create a one-off version of the Leica M for charity, to be auctioned off by U2 singer Bono. The Leica M usually costs about $8,100, so an exclusive Ive-designed edition will almost certainly sell for an incredible premium. Design on the camera has yet to begin. [via Engadget]
A report from VentureBeat offers more insight into the development of Apple’s A6 chip, refencing a post by chip analyst Linley Gwennap, who adds to claims that Apple has created a custom CPU. Gwennap’s notes that Apple has spent a total of $500 million on chip company acquisitions and chip development, investments that are beginning to bear tangible fruit with A6. By creating its own chips rather than relying on other companies’ designs, Apple will be able to narrowly target its processors to the horsepower and energy needs of its devices, as well as reducing costs — and/or raising its profits.
Following Apple’s acquisition of PA Semi, the company began work on separate projects, says Gwennap: the refinement of an ARM Cortex design into what became the Apple A4 chip, and the creation of an all-new CPU, leading Apple to inquire Intrinsity in 2010, and subsequently complete the A6 last year. Gwennap claims that the A6 is similar in complexity and performance to the ARM Cortex-A15 and the Krait CPU that appears in Qualcomm’s newest chips, noting that the A6 is larger than would have been the case if Apple’s third-generation iPad A5X processor was shrunk from a 45-nanometer manufacturing process to a 32-nanometer manufacturing process; had Apple done nothing more than shrink the A5X, the chip would have been 82 square millimeters. According to Gwennap, the 96 square millimeter size is likely attributable to a more powerful custom CPU core, as well as a better image processor for the camera. He expects Apple to use the A6 through 2013 and then launch a new CPU design in 2014, possibly based on the 64-bit ARMv8 instruction set.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has opened an investigation of Apple’s iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Macs, according to an official release. This investigation stems from a complaint filed by Motorola Mobility, which is requesting an exclusion order and a cease and desist order. Few other details are provided on the investigation, but seven patents are addressed in the complaint. [via TNW/9to5Mac]
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple a patent for bezel gap antennas, a design element that was originally utilized in the iPhone 4. While the design was initially touted as a breakthrough by Apple, it led to “Antennagate,” a public relations crisis after the iPhone 4 was discovered to have wireless connectivity problems when the gaps were bridged by users’ conductive hands.
The patent details how “a parallel-fed loop antenna may be formed from portions of an electronic device bezel and a ground plane,” and was filed on Dec. 3, 2009, half a year before the release of the iPhone 4. “Antennagate” led to a case giveaway by Apple, eventually ending in a class action settlement, entitling U.S. iPhone 4 owners to a free case or small cash payment. [via Apple Insider]
One user’s experiences with Apple’s new iOS 6 Maps app have led him to claim that local search is “broken.” After installing the seemingly final Gold Master of iOS 6, Josh Carr discovered point of interest database limitations attributed to Apple’s use of Yelp for business searches.
Now that Google is no longer associated with Apple’s Maps application, Carr reports users can search for businesses in one of three ways: business name, address, and Yelp category. Numerous searches revealed major issues, Carr claims, including a search for “iPhone repair” that only returned two results; both were companies that “illegally use the trademarked term ‘iPhone’ in the name of their company on their Yelp record,” even if the term wasn’t actually in their business names. Additionally, Yelp’s database isn’t as large as Google’s, and searches must now be more exact in their wording to yield proper results. Despite the addition of major new features such as turn-by-turn driving directions, Siri integration, and some 3-D mapping capabilities, Carr concludes that iOS 6 Maps is “a tremendous step backwards,” particularly for local point of interest searching. [via TUAW]
Apple announced this morning that pre-orders of the iPhone 5 exceeded 2 million in 24 hours, more than doubling the first-day sales pace of the iPhone 4S. In a press release, the company noted most pre-orders would be delivered on the Sept. 21 release date, but “many are scheduled to be delivered in October.” This news follows a morning announcement that iPhone 5 has set sales records for AT&T, though the company did not disclose figures. Verizon and Sprint have not as yet announced sales tallies.
Officially announced and briefly discussed at this week’s iPhone 5-focused event in San Francisco, Apple’s next-generation Lightning Connector has quickly become a flashpoint of confusion for iPhone and iPod users. Revealed piecemeal in several leaks ahead of the event, the Lightning Connector replaces Apple’s 30-Pin Dock Connector, a ubiquitous rectangular port found on every iPhone, every iPad, and every iPod released since 2003, except the iPod shuffle. The first device to feature the new port will be the iPhone 5, with the iPod nano and iPod touch following soon thereafter; iPads will reportedly begin to make the transition this year. To enable some prior accessories to work with the new devices, Apple is now selling three types of Lightning Adapters, two for old 30-Pin Dock Connector accessories and one required in Europe for Micro-USB chargers. Through a spokesperson, Apple has also announced plans to release at least two more Lightning Adapters for HDMI and VGA output.
Despite Apple’s connector and adapter announcements, significant uncertainty remains regarding prior accessory compatibility, and the availability of Lightning Adapters. Conflicting reports this week suggested that the “all-digital” Lightning Connector might not be able to support analog audio or video output; however, Apple has confirmed that its Lightning to 30-Pin Adapters will be capable of passing iPhone 5 audio to prior Dock Connector-based docks, speakers, and cables, but will not support video out from the iPhone 5 to older video accessories, or “iPod out” mode transmission of data and album art, used in some car and home video dock accessories. It remains unclear whether the iPhone 5 will display jarring error messages when used with Apple’s Lightning Adapters, or just gracefully pass through what it can share. The first third-party accessories built with Lightning Connectors are not expected to hit stores until late this year or early next year, according to an iLounge source.
Adapter availability has also become a point of concern. The iPhone 5 will be delivered to users starting next week, however, Lightning Adapters will apparently not be available until some time in October, so the first round of customers will not be able to test their prior accessories with the iPhone 5 until well after the phone arrives. Apart from one brief and apparently erroneous hint during the iPhone 5 ordering process, Apple has not suggested that the iPhone 5 or new iPhones will include Lightning Adapters. According to a dialogue box spotted by TheNextWeb during iPhone 5 pre-ordering this morning, Apple’s web site told some European customers that the iPhone 5 “includes a Lightning to 30-pin Adapter,” and offered the purchase of “this additional adapter to have a second adapter for your home or office.” Some time afterwards, Apple changed the language to omit references to the “included” and “additional” adapters, with sales representatives describing the text as “an error.”
Despite web site hiccups early on Friday morning, Apple and its carrier partners are now officially accepting and processing pre-orders for the iPhone 5. Falling a little behind schedule after promising a 12:01am PT/3:01am ET online pre-order process, Apple’s web site began to accept orders several minutes later, and provided a reasonably graceful fallback reservation process when AT&T’s computers buckled—an outage that lasted for approximately 30 minutes as AT&T’s own site quickly failed at processing upgrade eligibility status for existing users.
Users attempting to order Verizon phones were promptly processed, while AT&T iPhone 5 orders through Apple were given reservation numbers and the opportunity to log in to complete their orders when AT&T’s computers became operable. E-mails offering that opportunity began to go out by 12:35am PT, and were processed properly at that point. Notably, iPhone 4S customers have discovered that they are not eligible for discounted or fully subsidized iPhone 5 pricing, with October 8 of this year as the earliest date for discounts, and May 8, 2013 for full subsidized pricing. iPhone 5 unlocked and off-contract pricing remains the same as for the iPhone 4S: $649 (16GB), $749 (32GB), or $849 (64GB).
Apple also began to accept pre-orders for the fifth-generation iPod touch and seventh-generation iPod nano during the same time period. Unexpectedly, Apple limited iPod touch orders to two per person, with no limitation on iPod nano orders. iPod touch loop wrist strap accessories became available separately for $9 each. The company provided no further details on ship dates for the new iPods or accessories beyond the word “October.”
Updated: One hour after pre-orders began, Apple sold through its initial U.S. pre-order allocation of iPhone 5s; the Apple Store web site thereafter told customers that new orders would ship in “two weeks.” iPod availability apparently remained unchanged.
Apple has posted full videos of Wednesday’s media event, as well as separate videos focusing on the iPhone 5, and EarPods. The iPhone 5 video is nearly seven minutes long and shows a brief demonstration of its LTE network in action, in addition to detailing new features of the phone. The EarPods video concentrates mainly on the design and development of the earphones, which will be packed in with some iPods and the iPhone 5, as well as sold separately.
Apple has released its Gold Master seed of iOS 6 to registered developers. Listed as build 10A403, the GM build is normally the last to be seeded prior to the software’s official launch, expected on September 19, and as such can be used to submit iOS 6 applications to the App Store for review. It is unclear whether the iOS 6 GM seed will be made available as an over-the-air software update, as has been the case with past iOS 5 and iOS 6 beta releases, however Registered Developers can download the iOS 6 GM seed and the accompanying SDK from the iOS Dev Center now.
During today’s iPhone 5 event, Apple also unveiled a major update to iTunes, its iconic media management application. Designed to be “dramatically simpler” the new version provides a much more simplified user interface presented primarily as a grid view, with album content expanding in place in a style similar to iOS folders and deeper links into the iTunes Store for browsing and purchasing additional content. A new split screen view allows users to see their full library while working with playlists, a new popup and drop down dialogs provide access to now playing queues and search results, providing more effective navigation without taking the focus away from the main screen. Improved playlist management allows users to move effectively drag and drop tracks directly into their preferred playlists and a new mini-player interface has been added providing album artwork with basic controls and search capabilities.
The new version of iTunes will also provide direct iCloud integration allowing users to stream previously purchased content from iCloud such as Movies and TV shows, with playback positions automatically synced with iOS devices via iCloud. Tighter iTunes Store integration also allows artists to share photos and other information and allows users to access artist pages to look for information such as concert dates and scheduled new releases. The new iTunes is expected to be available in late October.
During today’s iPhone 5 event Apple announced the official release dates for iOS 6, the next major version of the company’s operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Originally announced at WWDC in June, iOS 6 is expected to add over 200 new user features. During the event, Senior iOS VP Scott Forstall took the stage to demonstrate several of the major new features in iOS 6 running on the new iPhone 5, including the new Apple Maps application with turn-by-turn navigation, a database of 100 million points of interest and integration with Yelp for photos and reviews.
Forstall also demonstrated the new 3D Flyover feature in iOS 6 Maps, new Safari features such as full-screen view and iCloud tabs, VIP support in the new Mail app, the new Passbook digital coupon and ticket app and Shared Photos Streams. Forstall also highlighted new Siri features such as the ability to request sports results, get movie recommendations, find restaurants and make reservations via OpenTable and post Facebook updates by voice. iOS 6 is compatible with the iPhone 3GS and later, second- and third-generation iPod and fourth-generation iPod touch and will be available for download via iTunes and OTA update on September 19th.
Internal Apple tension over the looks of the company’s applications is becoming public, according to a Fast Company report, with key executives and designers disagreeing about the aesthetics of software designs. Most of the criticism revolves around the company’s occasional penchant for skeuomorphism—ornamental designs inspired by real-world materials and products — that sometimes appears in software, such as in iCal’s “leather” stitching and Game Center’s wood-and-green-felt casino look. The skeuomorphic interfaces arguably make some users feel more comfortable with software, while offending the visual tastes of others.
The report suggests that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs and current Senior iOS VP Scott Forstall have aggressively promoted skeuomorphic interfaces, while Senior VP of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive and other designers believe the traditional visual metaphors are no longer necessary and create confusion. “There was lots of internal email among UI designers at Apple saying this was just embarrassing, just terrible,” a former senior UI designer at Apple reportedly told Fast Company in reference to the leather look of iCal, which reportedly was inspired by Jobs’ personal Gulfstream jet; another former designer is quoted as claiming that many Apple employees “think it’s gone too far.”
Import bans on the new iPhone and iPad could be possible, as Apple is unlikely to invalidate two allegedly infringed HTC patents for data transmission in wireless devices, Bloomberg reported. “I have to be pretty darn certain a U.S. patent is invalid,” U.S. International Trade Commission Judge Thomas Pender said during a trial on the patents, implying an uphill battle for Apple. HTC maintains that the two patents in question are critical to LTE technology; should the company win, it could seek bans on the iPhone and iPad, and persuade Apple to settle its own patent infringement claims against HTC.
Confirming prior speculation, the new iPhone will indeed support global LTE cellular technology, The Wall Street Journal reports, though most likely not for every mobile carrier. The Journal’s sources were unclear about which carriers or countries would be left out of the loop, and suggested that supporting multiple LTE radio bands was the key challenge. The new iPhone will almost certainly follow past precedent, falling back to support the fastest non-LTE speed of a supported carrier’s network.
However, Apple’s use of LTE won’t be uncontested. Confirming previous reports, Samsung will sue Apple for allegedly infringing on its 4G LTE patents, according to The Korea Times. A Samsung official quoted in the story said the U.S. and European countries are the “primary targets” in another legal battle against Apple.
American Airlines, United, Virgin, and Delta have all confirmed they’re either ready or working to support Apple’s new Passbook application, debuting with iOS 6 this month. Passbook stores boarding passes, tickets, loyalty cards and other forms of digital information, then uses the iPhone’s location services feature to call up the appropriate document on the Lock Screen when in the correct location. At the initial iOS 6 presentation, Apple suggested that Passbook would be backed by companies such as United, Amtrak, Starbucks, and Fandango. [via Electronista]
Apple has decorated the exterior of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for its Sept. 12 media event, leading to informed speculation that the artwork hints at a stretched iPhone screen. Based on a reader’s tip, a report at MacRumors suggests that the colors on the facade are actually stretched-out iOS icons, in an ode to the next iPhone’s taller 4” display.
Stretched versions of the iTunes, Music and Game Center icons, among others, are believed to be seen on the building. Earlier Apple art on the Center included a subtle transparent eye icon indicating the Retina display for the third-generation iPad’s unveiling.
Chinese newspaper Shanghai Daily reports that thousands of Chinese students have been pushed to work at a Foxconn plant instead of attending school. According to the paper, which cited online posts from students from Huai’an in Jiangsu Province, classes were suspended at the start of the new semester, and students were driven to a Foxconn factory to meet demand for production of the new iPhone. The students were paid 1,550 yuan (US $243.97) a month for a six-day work week, while having to pay for their own food and accommodations, one student wrote, claiming that Foxconn did not inform parents or sign agreements with the students. Other students from at least five colleges backed up the information, saying they were forced to work 12 hours a day.
Foxconn responded in a statement that its interns are free to leave at any time, and that a recent audit of three facilities found no evidence of pressuring interns to participate, Bloomberg reports. Apple has previously confronted reports of poor working conditions in Foxconn’s factories, accepting some responsibility for its partner’s issues while vowing to use audits and high standards to achieve improvements. While some of the damning reports from Foxconn’s factories have proved to be accurate, the veracity of others has been questioned, and several were subsequently discovered to be fraudulent.
After spending years downplaying the value of “all you can eat” subscription music services, Apple is now negotiating licensing agreements to create a customized streaming radio service similar to Pandora, according to the The Wall Street Journal (subscription req.). The new service would work on Apple’s hardware, and possibly on PCs running Windows, which suggests iTunes would feature the service. Perhaps not surprisingly, the report notes that the new service would not work on Android devices. Instead of preparing to pay royalty rates like Pandora, Apple is negotiating directly with record companies for licensing, according to the Journal’s sources.