Apple and AT&T have removed no-contract iPhone purchasing options from their websites, signaling a further tightening of restrictions on U.S. iPhone users compared to those abroad. Previously available at prices significantly higher than those of even early upgraders—$599 for a 16GB iPhone 4 and $699 for a 32GB unit—the options allowed customers to purchase the phones without extending their existing AT&T contracts. Apple has also changed its FAQ found at the bottom of its online store’s iPhone page, noting that the iPhone is not available without a commitment and “requires a two year AT&T wireless service contract.” Curiously, Apple did not begin contract-free sales of the iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS until the devices had been on the market for roughly nine months; it is unclear what prompted the change in policy with the iPhone 4. [via MacNN]
Updated: An AT&T spokesman has issued a statement indicating that the language on Apple’s site has not been changed, and that customer should still be able to purchase a contract-free iPhone 4 by visiting an AT&T store.
Chua Kim Guan, chairman of Singapore-based JLJ Holdings Ltd., has stepped down amid a scandal that allegedly saw kickbacks given to an Apple employee for confidential information. JLJ Holdings has been named in a lawsuit by Apple against former Apple global supply manager Paul Shin Devine, which claims Devine shared confidential information from Apple with suppliers of iPod and iPhone accessories, who used the information to negotiate favorable contracts with Apple. “In order to facilitate the impartial review of all activities relating to the Apple claim that may involve the company and its subsidiaries, the company’s executive chairman has voluntarily relinquished all executive duties…for the time being,” JLJ said in a statement. The Wall Street Journal reports that JLJ revealed Chua is the brother of Andrew Ang, a former assistant general manager of its Jin Li Mould Manufacturing unit who is also named in Apple’s suit. Both Devine and Ang were recently indicted for wire fraud, money laundering, and kickbacks. [via MDN]
Apple’s applications director is selling his own fart apps on the App Store. Wired reports that Phillip Shoemaker, director of applications technology at Apple, is behind a selection of seven iPhone apps from Gray Noodle, including both a fart app called Animal Farts and a urination simulator called iWiz. Shoemaker’s apps range in price from $1 ro $2, and have generally received below-average ratings from users, while also testing the limits of Apple’s App Store decency restrictions. Apple told Wired that Shoemaker was hired partly because of his background in application development. “Phillip’s apps were written, submitted and approved before he became an Apple employee,” an Apple spokeswoman said in a statement. “His experience and perspective as a developer is one of the valuable things he brings to Apple’s developer relations team. Apple’s policy allows for employees to have apps on the App Store if they’re developed and published prior to their start at Apple.” The report notes that Shoemaker said he had started working at Apple via a tweet on March 9, 2009, while three of his apps weren’t published until afterwards.
Former Apple senior iPhone software engineer Evan Doll said the company typically doesn’t allow employees to sell apps unless they receive special permission from an executive, part of a policy to avoid conflicts of interest. “Apple employees are generally prohibited [from selling apps],” Doll told Wired. “You have to get a special exception from a VP. Otherwise, big no-no. If he was doing it pre-Apple then he’d have an easier time getting an exception.” Doll left Apple last year and now runs the company behind the Flipboard application for the iPad. Following the publication of Wired’s story, Shoemaker edited or outright deleted many of his social networking profiles that linked him with Gray Noodle, and has yet to comment on the matter.
Apple has released a new iPad television ad, the second for the company’s tablet device. The new app-focused spot shows the iPad being used mostly in front of a white background, while showing a variety of different apps. The spot starts with the words “iPad is” on the screen, and a different descriptor—including “delicious,” “current,” “learning,” “playful,” “literary,” “artful,” “friendly,” “productive,” “scientific,” and “magical.” In addition, it features the song “Never Stop” by Gonzales in the background. Apple’s latest iPad ad is available for viewing on the company’s website.
South Korea-based Cresyn Co., a supplier of earphones for the iPod, has said that former Apple global supply manager Paul Shin Devine was paid for what was thought to be consulting work. “It was our understanding the contract was with Apple since we knew he was an Apple employee,” Kim Chang Jun, a spokesman for the Seoul-based company, told Bloomberg. “Apple was specified in the contract, and we believed it, so we sent the money.” Devine, along with associate Andrew Ang of Singapore, was recently indicted for wire fraud, money laundering, and kickbacks. Devine allegedly shared confidential information from Apple with suppliers of iPod and iPhone accessories, which then used the information to negotiate favorable contracts with Apple.
Reuters reports that in addition to Cresyn, Apple claims that Devine was also in contact with Singapore’s Glocom/Lateral Solutions, JLJ Holdings, and Fastening Technologies, as well as Taiwan’s Nishoku Technology and Pegatron. Said Jonathan Chang, a deputy spokesman for Pegatron, “We are investigating the case now and feel sorry about this.” Pegatron owns Kaeder Electronics, a maker of third-party plastic cases for the iPhone, iPod, and other devices, which was named in the kickback charges but is not a direct Apple supplier.
- August 16, 2010
Apple has hired Benjamin Vigier, a veteran of Near-Field Communications (NFC) development, as its new product manager for mobile commerce. Vigier, who joined Apple in July, according to his LinkedIn page, was most recently product manager for mobile wallet, payment, and NFC at US mobile payments company mFoundry. NFC World reports that while at mFoundry, Vigier helped develop and managed both the PayPal Mobile service and Starbucks’ barcode-based mobile payments service, among several other high-profile projects. It is not yet known what future products Vigier may be working on for Apple, but the company has applied for a number of NFC-related patents over the past year. [via Mac Rumors]
Apple is facing some early challenges in getting its iAd mobile advertising network up and running, according to a new report. Citing unnamed ad executives, the Wall Street Journal reports that some ad campaigns are experiencing delays due to Apple’s tight control over the creative process and the agencies’ learning curves. The report claims that the creation of iAds is taking from eight to ten weeks, or longer than normal for typical mobile ads, and the building of the actual ads, which is currently being handled by Apple, is sometimes taking two weeks longer than expected. Of the 17 iAd launch partners named by Apple, only ads from Unilever and Nissan were running for much of July; Citigroup, Disney, and J.C. Penney have since launched iAd campaigns with more companies to follow. Notably, one named launch partner—Chanel SA—is now saying it has no iAd campaigns planned at this time. A recent report claimed that early advertisers and developers are nonetheless pleased with iAd’s early performance; Apple recently added new functionality to iAd allowing developers to sell apps directly from within iAds, helping the company to fill iAd slots.
An Apple manager has been arrested and accused of accepting kickback payments from iPod and iPhone accessory suppliers. The San Jose Mercury News reports that Paul Shin Devine, a global supply manager with Apple, along with Andrew Ang of Singapore, were named in a grand jury indictment for wire fraud, money laundering, and kickbacks. According to the report, the scheme saw Devine share confidential information from Apple with the suppliers, which used the information to negotiate favorable contracts with Apple. In return, the suppliers gave Devine monetary kickbacks, which were routed through U.S. and foreign bank accounts, plus a front company. Devine is currently being held by the U.S. Marshals Service; Apple has filed a separate civil suit against Devine, claiming he received more than $1 million in “payments, kickbacks and bribes” over several years. “Apple is committed to the highest ethical standards in the way we do business,” said Apple spokesman Steve Dowling. “We have zero tolerance for dishonest behavior inside or outside the company.”
Update: According to Macworld UK, China’s Kaeder Electronics, South Korea’s Cresyn, and Singapore’s Jin Li Mould Manufacturing were all involved in the kickback scheme, along with three other suppliers; none of the three named suppliers has yet commented on the case.
Following news from earlier this week on a hidden volume shutter button feature in the Camera+ app, it appears that Apple may now be cracking down on other iPhone camera applications that have employed similar features. In a post on Tap tap tap’s blog explaining how its Camera+ update was initially rejected by Apple, developer John Casasanta noted that there were other camera apps that “make use of the volume buttons for snapping photos” but that Apple advised him that these likely “slipped through the review cracks” as a result of developers intentionally omitting the feature from descriptions and screenshots. Tap tap tap was forced to remove the volume button shutter feature from Camera+ but later revealed via Twitter that the feature was still hidden away within the app and described how to enable it. Camera+ was subsequently removed from the App Store, presumably for violating the terms of Apple’s Developer Agreement.
Today, another iOS developer, KendiTech, released an update to its Camera Zoom 2 app with release notes indicating that it had “Removed [the] Volume Button Shutter feature.” It is unclear whether this removal was precipitated by a specific request from Apple or whether the developer chose to be proactive in removing this feature as a result of the demise of Camera+.
Citing precedent with Apple’s approach to LED flashlight apps, which were originally banned from the App Store for a similar reason, Casasanta has submitted a feature request to Apple to allow for the hardware volume controls to be used for other purposes and encourages users to send feedback to Apple to attempt to pressure the company to change its policy.
Apple’s new iAd mobile advertising platform is pleasing early partners on both sides, according to a Los Angeles Times report. Application developers, including Dictionary.com and CBS Mobile, told the paper that iAd is allowing them to charge more for ad space in their applications — a 177% increase in Dictionary.com’s case. Meanwhile, advertisers like Nissan and Unilever report that their initial ads are attracting more users and holding their attention for a longer period of time. “We feel pretty strongly that this is the way to capitalize on where the mobile Web is heading,” said Chad Jacoby, a senior manager of Nissan’s media operations. “What iAd promises is the most progressive thing I’ve seen to date” in digital advertising. Rob Master, the North American media director for Unilever — which ran an iAd for its men’s line of Dove hygiene products — said the company’s iAd resulted in a double-digit percentage of users seeking more information about the product. “The ad served to help rally the organization at large” to the possibility of iAd advertising, he said. “And now that we’ve been through one, the amount of time and team dedicated [to producing an ad] drops dramatically.” Apple began rolling out its iAd platform on July 1.
Apple has released iOS 4.0.2 for the iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4, second-, and third-generation iPod touch, as well as iOS 3.2.2 for the iPad. According to Apple’s release notes, both releases patch a “security vulnerability associated with viewing malicious PDF files.” Apple recently came under fire for the security hole, which could result in a hacker gaining administrator access to the device. iOS 4.0.2 and 3.2.2 are available now through the Update function in iTunes.
Updated: One iLounge editor has noticed an uptick in reported iPhone 4 signal strength since installing iOS 4.0.2 software. Under 4.0.0, the iPhone reported 4-5 bars of strength, falling to 2-3 bars when 4.0.1 was installed. The same iPhone 4 now shows 3-4 bars of strength, suggesting that something may have changed again in Apple’s bar-displaying algorithm. If you’ve noticed a change, or no change, please let us know in the comments to this article.
Apple has launched a new replacement program for potentially troublesome first-generation iPod nano units in Japan. Following another rash of overheating incidents, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) told Apple last week that it must post an “easy to understand” statement on its website explaining how users of first-generation iPod nano can receive a replacement battery. Apple seems to have gone one step further, and is offering full replacements for any units that overheat. “We’ve worked closely with METI to make sure first-generation iPod nano customers who are concerned with their battery have the latest information,” U.S.-based Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told Reuters. Apple faced a similar situation in 2008, during which it blamed the problem on faulty batteries from a single supplier and offered to replace the batteries of affected, or even concerned, customers.
The European Commission has joined the FTC in probing Apple’s iOS developer policies, according to a new report. Citing an anonymous source, the New York Post reports that the European body is investigating whether Apple’s decision to bar iOS developers from using other companies’ tools to developer software is harming competition. Also at issue is Apple’s decision to ban Adobe’s Flash technology from its iOS devices. According to the report, the investigation could last another four to six months. [via Mac Rumors]
- August 9, 2010
Apple has gained an exclusive license to use unique, amorphous metal alloys created by Liquidmetal Technologies. The deal, revealed in an SEC filing and reported by AppleInsider, gives Apple “a perpetual, worldwide, fully-paid, exclusive license to commercial such intellectual property in the field of electronic products in exchange for a license fee.” The alloys feature an amorphous, non-crystalline structure that gives them a greater strength than comparable aluminum or titanium alloys, or even stainless steel, while offering a scratch and corrosion-resistant exterior. Liquidmetal also licenses its alloys to defense contractors, sports equipment manufacturers and medical suppliers.
Mark Papermaster, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Devices Hardware Engineering, has left the company following a number of highly publicized stumbles with the iPhone 4 launch. The New York Times, which broke the story, reports that it is not clear if Papermaster quit or was asked to leave; Papermaster has until this point declined to comment. Apple spokesman Steve Dowling told the NYT that Papermaster “is leaving the company and Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Macintosh hardware engineering, is assuming his responsibilities,” while adding that Mansfield already oversees several iPhone-related technologies, including the A4 chip, the retina display, and touch screens.
In a separate report, the Wall Street Journal suggests that the reasons for Papermaster’s departure went beyond the iPhone 4, however. Citing people familiar with Papermaster’s situation, the report says his departure was driven by a “broader cultural incompatibility.” It also claims that Papermaster had lost the confidence of Apple CEO Steve Jobs “months ago” and hadn’t been involved in the decision-making process for some time. Papermaster was announced as a replacement for “father of the iPod” Tony Fadell in late 2008, but didn’t actually start working for Apple until April 2009 due to a lawsuit by ex-employer IBM.
A newly published Apple patent application is causing controversy online as it contains a screen illustration that is very similar to the interface of a third-party iOS application. The patent application, titled “Systems And Methods For Accessing Travel Services Using A Portable Electronic Device,” describes an app offering services such as “reserving a travel itinerary, checking-in remotely for a reservation, providing airport information, providing for social networking, obtaining dining or entertainment during travel, controlling and requesting cabin services, providing arrival notifications to third parties,” and “providing destination location information.”
The issue stems from figure 6 of the patent application, which contains an illustration of a screen virtually identical to the main interface of WhereTo? from FutureTap. As the app has been available since day one of the App Store and the application was filed in December 2009, it is unlikely that Apple didn’t know of WhereTo? prior to the filing—in fact, the app’s name appears in the illustration. “At first, we couldn’t believe what we saw and felt it can’t be true that someone else is filing a patent including a 1:1 copy of our start screen. Things would be way easier of course if that ‘someone else’ would be really an exterior ‘someone else.’ Unfortunately, that’s not the case,” said Ortwin Gentz of FutureTap. “We’re faced with a situation where we’ve to fear that our primary business partner is trying to ‘steal’ our idea and design.” While the text of the patent application doesn’t completely overlap with the idea and purpose of the WhereTo? app, its very appearance in an Apple patent application without prior notice or warning is cause for concern; Apple has yet to comment on the matter.
Apple has updated the iPad App Store to add its Genius Recommendations feature for iPad apps. Introduced to the iPhone and iPod touch App Store last year in iOS 3.1, the Genius for Apps feature for the iPad provides personalized recommendations on additional apps that users may be interested in based on their existing purchases, installed apps and how often and how long existing apps are used for. As with the Genius feature in iTunes and on the other iOS devices, users must specifically opt-in within the iPad App Store application to enable Genius for Apps on their device and agree to additional Terms of Service. Notably, the Terms of Service indicate that Apple will anonymously collect information related to the applications installed on a users’ device, including time spent with each application and the number of times each application is launched, as well as users’ application download histories. This information is aggregated with similar information from other users who opt-in to the Genius feature along with customer ratings of applications on the App Store to provide personalized recommendations through the service. Users who have enabled the Genius feature may also later opt-out from the App Store Account settings page on their device.
Apple has been ordered to post an “easy to understand” statement on its website explaining how users of first-generation iPod nano can receive a replacement battery, Reuters reports. The Japanese trade ministry issued the order after a recent incident caused the same group to ask Apple to explain what caused 27 incidents of overheating in some models of the first-generation iPod nano. Apple has said that the issue has been traced back to a single battery supplier, and that safety is a high priority for the company; Apple released a similar statement in 2008, telling any user who saw signs of overheating to contact AppleCare for a replacement.
Apple has already completed a patch that fixes the PDF-related iOS security hole discovered earlier this week. “We’re aware of this reported issue, we have already developed a fix and it will be available to customers in an upcoming software update,” an Apple spokeswoman told Cnet. It is unknown when Apple plans on releasing the update, or if the same update will also alleviate proximity sensor issues for some iPhone 4 users.
Apple’s Remote app was well-received by iPhone and iPod touch users when it was released in July 2008, but after eight months with no updates, many users have wondered what the status was with its development. According to Sachin Agarwal, former Apple employee and CEO of Posterous, the Remote app is written and maintained by a single man—a good friend of his—who has been busy working on other things. Agarwal explains, “Apple doesn’t build large teams to work on every product they make. Instead, they hire very few, but very intelligent people who can work on different projects and move around as needed. One day you might be working on the Remote app, and the next day you might get pulled on to another project that needs your help.” The lack of updates to the Remote app have left it unable to take full advantage of iOS 4, the iPhone 4’s retina display, or the iPad’s larger screen; no timetable has been given for when the app might again be updated.