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.
Apple has had the Lala team working on an undisclosed video service instead of a music offering, according to a new report. Citing unnamed sources, Cnet reports that Apple is now telling executives at the four top music labels that any upcoming cloud-based music features will be “modest in scope” and would not include functionality such as storing users’ music on its servers. In addition, Apple has yet to negotiate the licensing deals it would need to distribute music from the cloud. Sources at major film studios have indicated that Apple is planning a “digital shelves” strategy that would enable iTunes users to store movies and other media on Apple’s servers, possibly utilizing the data center Apple is building in North Carolina.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has launched an investigation into Apple’s and Amazon’s deals with major book publishers. According to a press release released by Blumenthal, the deals both companies have signed with the major publishers may be anticompetitive; letters have been sent to both Apple (PDF Link) and Amazon requesting meetings to discuss and address these concerns. “These agreements among publishers, Amazon and Apple appear to have already resulted in uniform prices for many of the most popular e-books—potentially depriving consumers of competitive prices,” Blumenthal said. “Amazon and Apple combined will likely command the greatest share of the retail e-book market, allowing their most-favored-nation clauses to effectively set the floor prices for the most popular e-books. Such agreements—especially when offered to two of the largest e-book retail competitors in the United States—threaten to encourage coordinated pricing and discourage discounting.”
Apple over the weekend quietly removed its webpage dealing with competitors’ antenna performance, while leaving up the page discussing its $100+ million design and testing facility. The missing page, which had been updated as recently as last week, offered videos, photographs, and text comparing the signal attenuation of competing smartphones from manufacturers including HTC, Nokia, Motorola, and Samsung to that of the iPhone 4. Apple has left a passage concerning signal attenuation on its antenna design and test lab page, and has not pulled down its smartphone antenna comparison pages from all of its international sites—notably, Canada’s is still online. It is unclear what motivated Apple to pull down the page, or whether it has any plans to re-post the information. [via Mac Rumors]
Apple has filed a lawsuit against several companies selling “unauthorized” electronic accessories for the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Filed in federal court in San Francisco, the suit against Eforcity Corporation, Accstation, Itrimming, Everydaysource, United Integral, Crazyondigital, and Boxware Corporation claims that the companies are violating as many as 10 of Apple’s patents and additional trademarks.
At issue are electronic accessories, including chargers, speakers, and cables, which have in the past been known to cause damage to iPods when developed without regard to Apple’s specifications. “Many are of inferior quality and reliability, raising significant concerns over compatibility with and damage to Apple’s products,” Apple says in the suit. For a number of years, Apple has run a “Made For iPod” program and iPhone/iPad equivalents as a way to certify that accessories will be compatible with its products, but has also changed specifications when moving from one generation of device to the next, leaving many formerly “Made For” products unable to charge or otherwise work fully with later iPod and iPhone models—including the company’s own iPod Hi-Fi speaker system.
Apple is abandoning past partners Skyhook and Google for location data in favor of its own database, signaling a further move towards in-house mapping and location services. TechCrunch reports that in a letter responding to a Congressional request for information about its data collection, Apple indicated it is now using its own location database to provide iOS 3.2 and later devices with location information. “For devices running iPhone OS versions 1.1.3 to 3.1, Apple relied on (and still relies on) databases maintained by Google and Skyhook Wireless (“Skyhook”) to provide location-based services,” Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell said in the letter. “Beginning with the iPhone OS version 3.2 released in April 2010, Apple relies on its own databases to provide location-based services and for diagnostic purposes.” Apple purchased online mapping firm Poly9 earlier this year and bought the mapping service PlaceBase in 2009; these acquisitions, along with confirmation that it is running its own location database, lend credence to the suggestion that Apple is planning to launch its own mapping service.
Apple is to blame for the current lack of iPad magazine subscription options, according to a new report. AllThingsD reports that Time Inc. was planning to launch a subscription version of its Sports Illustrated iPad app with payments being handled by the publisher, until Apple rejected the application at the last minute, forcing Time to sell single copies as in-app purchases. Notably, a number of the app’s negative reviews mention the lack of a subscription option. The report states that Time executives “have been going nuts” trying to find a way to get Apple to approve a subscription plan. In addition, Apple reportedly approved the company’s subscription plans prior to the iPad’s launch, during a time when Apple was communicating with Time executives. As the report notes, no other magazine publisher has gained approval to sell its own iOS app subscriptions, either.
Apple has been sued in U.S. District Court in Northern California over claims that the iPad overheats and fails to operate properly in warm conditions. Bloomberg reports that the suit, filed in Oakland, CA, claims that the iPad “does not live up to the reasonable consumer’s expectations created by Apple” due to the fact that it “overheats so quickly under common weather conditions.” Notably, it claims that the iPad “turns off, sometimes after just a few minutes of use,” when used in direct sunlight. The suit seeks unspecified damages as well as class action status.
Apple has issued an official response to yesterday’s Library of Congress Copyright Office ruling that jailbreaking a smartphone did not constitute a copyright violation, and instead fell under fair use. “Apple’s goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience,” an Apple spokesperson told Cult of Mac. “As we’ve said before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably.” Apple had in the past argued that jailbreaking was illegal—in that it constituted copyright infringement and a DMCA violation—and that it could enable “potentially catastrophic” network attacks.
Apple has added a new section focused on the Motorola Droid X to its smartphone antenna performance page. Apple’s testing shows the Droid X dropping from three bars down to no bars of service when phone is held in such a way that the user’s hand is blocking the majority of the bottom back portion of the device. Following Apple’s iPhone 4 press conference, Sanjay Jha, co-CEO of Motorola, said, “Consumers don’t like being told how to hold the phone ... It is disingenuous to suggest that all phones perform equally.” In addition, the prior-generation Motorola Droid was at the heart of the “iDon’t” advertising campaign aimed at the iPhone in late 2009.
Apple has added a new section to the App Store called “Newsstand,” highlighting a variety of publications. The section is divided into three sub-sections, one for magazines, showcasing apps from Wallpaper and GQ, among others, one for newspapers, promoting apps from USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, the LA Times, and more, and one for digital news sources, which includes the RSS application Reeder, Marco Arment’s Instapaper, and the Zinio Magazine application. Interestingly, Apple forced the iPhone RSS application Newsstand to change its name—it became NewsRack—due to a trademark complaint that was received by Apple, yet the company itself is now using the moniker. The new “Newsstand” section is accessible from the front page of the App Store on the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, and via iTunes on a Mac or PC.
Immediately following Apple’s launch of the iPhone 4 Case Program, a case giveaway designed to reduce reception-related issues traced to the iPhone 4’s external antenna, iLounge editors discovered two billing-related errors that appear to enable some users to receive more than the correct number of free cases or refunds due. The first error appears to enable a user who ordered a Bumper case from Apple to simultaneously receive an automated refund and still be eligible for a free case using the iPhone 4 Case Program application. Separately, iLounge has discovered that a single person’s order for multiple Bumper cases led to the receipt of multiple refunds—while still remaining eligible for a free case through the application. As a result, one of our editors has already received credits and order confirmations for three cases. It’s unclear whether this is due to a lack of cross-checking the Apple IDs used to register for free cases with past iPhone 4 Bumper case orders, or quiet but intentional over-generosity on Apple’s part. We have contacted Apple to notify it of the errors and obtain a comment, and will update this article if and when we receive a response.
Apple has posted details of its iPhone 4 case program. According to the webpage, iPhone 4 users who want to receive a free case need to download the free iPhone 4 Case Program app from the App Store. Once the app is installed, users need to login with their iTunes Store account or Apple ID. The app checks the device’s IMEI and serial number to verify that the user indeed does own an iPhone 4, and lets the user choose an iPhone 4 Bumper or another case. Apple notes that for iPhone 4 purchases made before July 23, 2010, users must apply no later than August 22, 2010; otherwise, they must apply within 30 days of the iPhone 4 purchase. For advice on picking your free case, take a glance at our recommendation article.
Apple has announced that it is delaying the launch of the white iPhone 4 once again. The press release states, “White models of Apple’s new iPhone 4 have continued to be more challenging to manufacture than we originally expected, and as a result they will not be available until later this year.” The company released a similar statement exactly one month ago, promising availability in the second half of July, and did not mention any manufacturing problems during either its iPhone 4 press conference last Friday nor during its fiscal results conference call earlier this week.
Apple has expanded the ranks of its senior executive team by promoting Jeff Williams from vice president of operations to senior vice president of operations. “Jeff Williams is Apple’s senior vice president of Operations, reporting to COO Tim Cook,” reads his Apple bio page. “Jeff leads a team of people around the world responsible for end-to-end supply chain management and dedicated to ensuring that Apple products meet the highest standards of quality.” Williams worked at IBM from 1985 until he joined Apple in 1998, initially taking on the role of head of worldwide procurement. He was named vice president of operations in 2004, and has led worldwide operations for the iPod and iPhone since the latter’s launch in 2007. Mac Rumors notes that Williams appears to have taken the position on or before July 7, and that Williams’ holdings in Apple stock and options are worth over $41 million at current prices, although not all of the options and grants have yet been vested or exercised.
Following a response from Nokia on Apple’s claims that signal attenuation is a problem for all smartphones, Apple has added a section covering the Nokia N97 mini to its smartphone antenna performance page. “Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying how people hold their phones and allows for this in designs, for example by having antennas both at the top and bottom of the phone and by careful selection of materials and their use in the mechanical design,” Nokia said in a statement. Apple’s antenna performance page, posted last Friday after Apple’s iPhone 4 press conference, originally compared the performance of the iPhone 4 to the BlackBerry Bold, HTC Droid Eris, Samsung Omnia II, and iPhone 3GS, and led to a similar response from BlackBerry-maker RIM’s co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.