Apple and a handful of app developers have been sued—not once, but twice—over the collection and sharing of user data with outside companies. Both suits—Lalo v. Apple and Freeman v. Apple—were filed in the Northern District of California; the former was first reported by Bloomberg while the latter was spotted by Wired. Both suits appear to be heavily based on research compiled and published by the Wall Street Journal, which showed that some apps send age, gender, location, and phone identifier information to ad networks without notifying the user.
“Some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users’ location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views,” reads the Lalo suit. The Freeman suit claims that “[d]efendant Apple, by exercising significant control over App developers and sharing profits with them, has created a ‘community of interest’ with the other Defendants to render them joint venturers, who are responsible for each other’s torts. Defendant Apple has also aided and abetted the remaining Defendants in the commission of their legal wrongs against Plaintiffs and the proposed class.” In addition to Apple, Pandora, Paper Toss, the Weather Channel, Dictionary.com, Toss It, Text4Plus, Talking Tom Cat, and Pimple Popper Lite were all named in either one or both the suits; both are seeking class action status.
Apple has updated its Investor Relations page to indicate that it will announce its financial results for the first fiscal quarter of 2011 on Tuesday, January 18, and will conduct a conference call to discuss the results at 2:00 p.m. PT that day. As always, iLounge will be covering the conference call, and will post any relevant notes from the discussion. Apple’s quarterly results are highly anticipated as an indicator of the relative strength of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad product lines. Though the company saw a noteworthy decrease in iPod unit sales from Q1 2009 to Q1 2010, iPhone unit sales doubled, foreshadowing a year of rapidly increasing demand for the company’s touchscreen products. The results will also include sales numbers from the iPad’s first holiday quarter, expected to be spectacular, and will complete the company’s first calendar year sales numbers for the device, which stood at 7.46 million as of September 25.
Apple has started to sell Beatles-themed iTunes Gift Cards in stores. Spotted by iLounge, one card, with a value of $149, features an image of the band members in front of a white background, with the text “The Beatles Box Set” at the top. The Beatles’ digital Box Set includes remastered versions of all the band’s studio albums in iTunes LP format, as well Past Masters Vols. 1 & 2, a series of Mini Documentaries, and a film of the band’s performance at the Washington Coliseum from 1964. Another card, with a value of $50, features an image of the four band members walking down the street, but doesn’t specifically mention the band by name. The cards represent yet another extension of the partnership between Apple and the Beatles that has included prominent placement on Apple’s home page as well as a series of television commercials.
Multimedia Patent Trust (MPT), a subsidiary of telecom firm Alcatel-Lucent, has filed suit against Apple, Canon, LG, and TiVo, claiming patent infringement. Paid Content reports that MPT is claiming the companies violate four of its patents relating to digital video compression technologies, including MPEG-2 and two different varieties of MPEG-4. The company is seeking royalty payments on all “video-capable” Apple products, including iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Macs. As the report notes, the MPEG-LA was set up to collect royalties on all relevant digital video patents, but that doesn’t stop companies such as Alcatel-Lucent from suing for royalties years after negotiations are completed.
Apple has released an update to its Remote app for iOS devices adding support for AirPlay video streaming and enhancing integration with iTunes. Remote 2.1 now allows users to stream videos via AirPlay from their iTunes library to an Apple TV and access and play Movie and TV Show rentals in the iTunes library. The update also adds support for browsing and playing back Internet radio streams in iTunes and addresses issues connecting to an iTunes library or Apple TV from an iOS device. Remote 2.1 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Apple has released version 3.2 of its iPhone Configuration Utility for Mac and Windows, the latest version of its iPhone configuration management utility for enterprise users. The utility allows enterprise users to create configuration profiles which can then be used to setup multiple iPhones. It is currently unknown what, if any, changes are included in the update. iPhone Configuration Utility 3.2 for Mac OS X requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later; the Windows version requires Windows 7, Vista SP1, or XP SP3, along with .NET 3.5 SP1. Both are available now as free downloads. [via AppleInsider]
Apple has announced that it expects sales of the second-generation Apple TV to top one million units later this week. According to the release, iTunes users are now renting and purchasing over 400,000 TV episodes and over 150,000 movies per day. Notably, this is the first time Apple has made an official announcement regarding Apple TV sales, although Apple CEO Steve Jobs did say during the company’s most recent financial results conference call that the company has sold roughly 250,000 units since its release, meaning Apple has sold roughly 750,000 units since Jobs’ statement on October 18. Perhaps not coincidentally, Roku CEO Anthony Wood recently said that it expected to sell its one millionth set-top box by the end of this year, adding that the company’s sales actually doubled when the new Apple TV came out, thanks to the increased attention it brought to the product category.
Update: Apple has since confirmed that it did pass one million second-generation Apple TV units sold prior to Christmas.
Apple has begun airing a holiday-themed iPhone 4 commercial. Entitled “Under The Covers” and set to “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole, the ad—shot in the style of Apple’s original FaceTime iPhone 4 spots—shows a mother and son on a FaceTime call with Santa. As the mother leaves the room, the young boy covers up with his bedsheet and continues talking to “Santa,” who is revealed to actually be the son’s father, calling from the family’s garage. Apple’s new iPhone 4 commercial is available for viewing now on the company’s website.
A variety of apps for iOS and Android are secretly collecting and sharing user data with outside companies, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation. The investigation looked at 101 popular apps for both platforms, and found that 56 transmitted the phone’s UDID number to third parties without users’ awareness or consent, while 47 transmitted the phone’s location, and five sent age, gender, and other personal details. The iPhone apps TextPlus 4, Paper Toss, Grindr, Pumpkin Maker, and Pandora are all named in the investigation for sending out varying amounts of data; popular music streaming app Pandora was also named for sending age, gender, location, and phone identifiers to multiple ad networks; the company claims the information is voluntarily offered by users, and isn’t linked to an individual name.
For its part, Apple claims that app makers must notify the user before requesting or transmitting such information. “We have created strong privacy protections for our customers, especially regarding location-based data,” says Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr. “Privacy and trust are vitally important.” Ideally, any app transmitting information without the users’ knowledge or consent would be caught during the company’s App Store review process and rejected, but the WSJ’s report claims that at least one app transmites location to an ad network without asking permission. To carry out the investigation, the publication designed a system to intercept and record the data being transmitted by the apps, then decode the data stream. 50 iPhone and 50 Android apps were tested, along with the WSJ’s own iPhone app; although the iPhone apps transmitted more data than the Android apps, the article does note that Google doesn’t review apps, saying the developers “bear the responsibility for how they handle user information.”
Apple is now offering the iPad in the Philippines. The company is selling all six models of iPad on its online store, with prices ranging from PHP 23,990 (roughly $541) for the 16GB Wi-Fi model to PHP 40,990 (~$924) for the 64GB 3G model. As TUAW notes, the iPad’s Filipino rollout was delayed quite a bit longer from the device’s U.S. launch than was the iPhone 4’s, which launched in the country just three months after its initial introduction.
Apple’s iTunes director of global music initiatives Alex Luke has left the company to join U.K.-based major EMI. According to a 9 to 5 Mac report, Luke will serve as an executive vice president of A&R with EMI’s Capitol & Virgin Label Group, and will be based in Los Angeles. Luke joined Apple in 2003, and during his tenure was responsible the launch of the “Live From” series of live performances held at Apple’s retail stores, as well as the iTunes Originals series and the Single of the Week programs. In his new position, Luke will report directly to Dan McCarroll, the recently-appointed President of the Capitol & Virgin Label Group in North America. “Alex is simply one of the best music people I’ve had the privilege of working with,” said McCarroll in a statement. “He has a great understanding of what it takes to have a hit and to sustain success, and he is able to work in partnership with artists to deliver the positive outcomes that they truly deserve.”
Sharp plans to spend 100 billion yen (roughly $1.2 billion) to build production lines for small and midsized LCDs, the bulk of which Apple is expected to purchase for use in the iPhone, according to a new report. Citing the Nikkei business daily, Reuters reports that Sharp will begin installing the lines at a Mie Prefecture plant next year, with mass production expected to begin in the second half of 2012. Apple is expected to shoulder a large portion of the investment and buy most of the LCD panels produced; Toshiba is also said to be building a new LCD plant primarily to supply small panels to Apple, which hopes to expand procurement in order to help it gain market share in the smartphone market.
An executive at Flextronics, a parts supplier to Apple, passed on secret information about the iPad and iPhone 4 before their announcements, according to a new report. Citing a 39-page legal complaint lobbied against Walter Shimoon, a senior director of business development at Flextronics, and three other men, the Wall Street Journal reports that Shimoon shared information about Apple’s iPad, iPhone, and iPod with an unnamed government informant. “They [Apple] have a code name for something new…It’s, it’s totally…it’s a new category altogether. And, uh, I speculate, it doesn’t have a camera in it, what I figured out. So I speculated that it’s probably a reader…Something like that…I believe it’s called…K48,” Shimoon told the informant in October 2009, nearly four months before the iPad’s introduction. During the same call, Shimoon said that Apple was working on a new version of the iPhone that would include two cameras; the iPhone 4 was launched eight months later. Shimoon is also said to have provided information about Apple sales figures for the iPhone for the third quarter of 2009, and sales forecasts for the iPhone and iPod for the fourth quarter of 2009.
Nokia has filed a total of 13 new patent complaints against Apple in Europe, representing the latest chapter in a legal battle that started over one year ago. According to a Reuters report, the new complaints were filed in Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, and accuse Apple of infringing on Nokia patents related to several technologies, including touch user interfaces, on-device app stores, signal noise compression, and modular structure. “The Nokia inventions protected by these patents include…a wiping gesture on a touch screen to navigate content, or enabling access to constantly changing services with an on-device app store, both filed more than ten years before the launch of the iPhone,” Paul Melin, vice president of Intellectual Property at Nokia, said in a statement. “These actions add 13 further Nokia patents to the 24 already asserted against Apple in the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Delaware and Wisconsin Federal courts.”
Nokia first filed suit against Apple in October 2009, claiming that the iPhone infringes on several Nokia patents; Apple filed a countersuit claiming patent infringement in December. The lawsuits were followed by a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) complaint from Nokia near the end of the year, alleging that Apple infringes on the Finnish company’s patents “in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers.”
The ITC launched an investigation into Nokia’s claims against Apple in late January; it announced a similar investigation into Apple’s claims against Nokia in February. In March, a federal judge in Delaware signed an order halting litigation between Nokia and Apple pending resolution of the companies’ respective claims with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC); Nokia then sued Apple again in May, alleging that the iPhone and iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G infringe on five of its patents. The ITC case between the two companies is ongoing, but ITC staff issued a pre-trial memo stating that Nokia shouldn’t be found liable of infringing upon Apple’s patents. A recent report indicated that Apple has been bolstering its legal team ahead of key battles with Nokia, as well as HTC and Motorola.
Apple has released iTunes 10.1.1, the latest version of its digital media management software. According to Apple’s release notes, the update addresses an issue where some music videos may not play on Macs equipped with NVIDIA GeForce 9400 or 9600 graphics, resolves an issue where iTunes may unexpectedly quit when deleting a playlist that has the iTunes Sidebar showing, fixes a problem where iTunes may unexpectedly quit when connecting an iPod to a Mac equipped with a PowerPC processor, and addresses an issue where some music videos may not sync to an iPod, iPhone, or iPad. iTunes 10.1.1 is a 54.8 MB download for Mac users and is available now via Apple’s Software Update utility.
Apple has released an update to iBooks for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch adding support for illustrated books, AirPrint and organizing PDF files. iBooks 1.2 now supports fully illustrated books such as children’s picture books and art books which are now available for download from the iBookstore. The new version also allows users to organize their own PDF files into personal Collections that can be accessed by swiping left or right in the PDF section and can print PDF documents and iBooks notes using AirPrint. The new version also takes advantage of iOS 4.2 to automatically hyphenate text to fit more words per page. iBooks 1.2 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Apple has risen to fifth place in the Japanese cellphone market, according to new data from IDC Japan. Citing the data, The Mainichi Daily News reports that Apple grabbed a 12.2 percent share of the Japanese cellphone market over the July-September period, good for fifth place behind local companies Sharp, Panasonic, Fujitsu, and Kyocera, the former of which led the market with an 18.8 percent share. Notable beyond the challenges faced by foreign companies in Japan is the fact that the numbers include all cellphones, not just smartphones, and that the iPhone is offered by only one Japanese carrier—SoftBank—which is the third-largest in the country, behind market leader NTT DoCoMo and KDDI. [via MDN]
Apple has received approval from Canadian regulators to open the iBookstore in the country, following a review to determine if the investment made by Apple Canada in opening the store would be of benefit to Canada. “Our Government is committed to strengthening Canada’s economy through all its sectors, especially arts and culture,” said Canadian Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages James Moore in an official release. “Apple has demonstrated how iBookstore Canada represents new opportunities for Canadian authors and publishers, and I have determined that this investment will be of net benefit to Canada.” According to the release, Apple has promised to promote Canadian-authored books in its iBookstore both in Canada and internationally, offer increased access to titles from Aboriginal authors and publishers, and assist Canadian publishers in streamlining the e-book creation process, among other commitments. Canadian users have had access to limited version of the iBookstore in the past; it is unclear how quickly Apple will expand the store’s offering based on the Minister’s approval.
Apple has extended its iAd mobile advertising network to the iPad. Citing an Apple spokesperson, AdAge reports that a spot for Disney’s upcoming film Tron Legacy will be the first iAd to appear on the iPad, and will remain the sole iPad-formatted iAd through the end of the year. According to the report, the iAd includes nearly 10 minutes of video content, images from the movie, a theater locator with showtimes, a preview of the film’s Daft Punk-scored soundtrack with the ability to purchase the album from iTunes without leaving the ad, and the ability to send an email promoting the movie from within the ad. “Disney and Apple are excited to debut the ‘Tron Legacy’ iAd today as a special preview of iAd for iPad, which launches next year,” said the companies in a statement for Ad Age. “iAd brings ‘Tron’s’ pulsing energy and vivid graphic style to iPad’s stunning display, creating a truly immersive ad experience.” In addition, Apple also told AdAge that many of the early challenges that led to lengthy ad creation processes have been overcome.