Recent reports suggest that Apple may be once again rejecting apps that make use of the iPhone volume buttons for shutter control, despite iOS 5’s addition of the feature into the built-in Camera app, and the subsequent approval of several camera apps implementing the feature.
Several app developers added volume button shutter controls to their iOS 4 camera apps in 2010, most notably Tap tap tap’s Camera+. Apple rejected the app due to this feature, so Tap tap tap added it as a hidden option instead. Soon thereafter, Apple began cracking down on apps with the feature, citing App Store Guidelines that prohibited changing the features of iOS hardware buttons. When Apple discovered the hidden feature in Camera+, it removed the app entirely from the App Store, and Camera+ didn’t return until several months later, with the “VolumeSnap” feature conspicuously absent.
With iOS 5.0 Apple brought the ability for the volume-up button to be used as a shutter control in the built-in Camera app. Several developers took this as a sign of Apple’s willingness to approve the use of this feature in third-party apps, and Camera+ was able to resurrect VolumeSnap late last fall. Several other camera app developers followed suit.
It appears that Apple is planning to change the volume button shutter, though it should be noted that the App Store Guidelines were never updated to permit third-party apps to use the feature. Last week, SmugMug released an update to its Camera Awesome photo app, adding Instagram support, however as Harry McCracken discovered, the update also quietly removed the ability to use the volume up button to take photos. McCracken contacted SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill for an explanation and was informed that Apple had “called and told [them] that they were asking all app developers using the volume button this way to remove the functionality because it was going to break in a future iOS update.” MacAskill goes on to explain that Apple has not confirmed whether it will provide an approved method for using the volume button as a shutter control, and notes that he “expect[s] more apps to start removing their volume button support in the future as a result.”
Notably, however, the latest version of Camera+, updated around the same time as Camera Awesome last week, still retains the ability to use the volume up button as a shutter control.
Apple has announced that it will report its results for the second fiscal quarter of 2012 on Tuesday, April 24. The release will be followed by the usual conference call to discuss the financial results, which will begin at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. iLounge will be providing coverage of the call. The call will likely discuss first quarter sales of the third-generation iPad and third-generation Apple TV, and could possibly offer insight into Apple’s product plans for the rest of the year.
Well-respected Judge Richard Posner has handed Apple a key victory in its ongoing patent dispute with Motorola. Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents reports that Posner has delivered his interpretation of Apple’s touchscreen heuristics patent—which covers a handful of basic gestures—and has agreed with many of Apple’s assertions. In more detailed terms, the patent covers the strategy used by software to interpret a user’s touchscreen input by recognizing movements that are not straight lines, thus enabling vertical and horizontal scrolling using natural gestures. “Jury trials come with considerable uncertainty, but based on Judge Posner’s conclusions, Motorola will realistically be unable to avoid a finding of infringement and will have to come up with some really good invalidity arguments if it wants to avoid a disaster,” Mueller writes.
Notably, a passage from Apple’s argument is also included in the report. “[H]aving identified the problems associated with imprecise finger gestures, solved them, and successfully incorporated them into a commercial product, Apple should be entitled to the fruits of its innovation via broad patent protection, and the public is benefited by the disclosure of Apple’s invention,” it reads; Mueller notes that the “disclosure” would not happen until 2028.
Apple over the weekend announced that it has increased the share of revenue that developers receive from its iAd network. AppleInsider reports that Apple posted a statement on its developer center stating that it had made changes to its Developer Advertising Services Agreement for the iAd Network. “The revenue share for the iAd Network is now 70% to the Developer,” the message reads. Apple previously offered developers a 60% share of revenue; the change became effective immediately.
The Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman has sent a letter to Apple accusing the company of deceptive marketing for the latest iPad model being sold in Norway. The letter notes that Apple advertises “next-generation wireless technology” and “lightning-fast wireless connections” specifically related to support for 4G LTE, however the 4G LTE aspects of the new iPad are only compatible with LTE networks in the U.S. and Canada and will not work on the 4G LTE network in Norway as it uses other frequencies. The complaint goes on to note that the “wireless characteristics of a mobile device such as an iPad” are very important and would be considered as one of the “main characteristics” of the device under the country’s Marketing Act, which deems a commercial practice to be misleading if it contains incorrect information or misleads consumers with regard to “the main characteristics.”
The Consumer Ombudsman goes on to state that while Apple does include a statement on the limitations of 4G LTE support “in a footnote on the Apple website” the limitations are not displayed prominently enough, requiring more clicks into the site and presented at the bottom of the page in a very small, light grey font on a white background. The letter alleges that “so long as consumers cannot benefit from the support for 4G LTE in Norway” that Apple should not be using the name “iPad Wi-Fi + 4G” or statements like “next-generation wireless technology” without properly disclosing “in a clear way” that the functions are only available in the U.S. and Canada, and ultimately requests that Apple clarify its marketing materials to ensure that consumers are not misled. [via Mac Rumors]
Following yesterday’s report by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) into working conditions at Foxconn and the announcement that Apple and Foxconn would be taking action to bring working conditions into compliance with FLA standards, Reuters reports that many Foxconn workers are unhappy with the impact these changes will have on their income.
Among other concessions, Foxconn has reduced overtime for its 1.2 million workers with a promise of adjusted compensation to offset lost income. However, the Reuters report notes that many workers are concerned that their pay will still be cut as well due to the fewer number of hours worked. Foxconn plans to reduce working hours to 49 per week, including overtime, with a maximum cap of 36 hours of overtime per month for each employee. Many Foxconn employees make a significant portion of their income from extended overtime and the move has workers unhappy with the new limitations which they feel will result in lost wages. Although specific details have not been provided, Foxconn for its part has agreed to develop a “compensation package that protects workers from losing income due to reduced overtime,” although it seems workers may be having difficulty coming to terms with the idea of earning the same pay while doing less work.
Following reports earlier this week that Apple has offered to grant royalty-free licenses to any and all Apple patents essential to its nano-SIM standard proposal at this week’s Smart Card Platform Plenary meeting, French newspaper Les Echos is reporting (translated link) that the vote on the new standard has been postponed after the parties involved failed to reach an agreement. In particular, Nokia opposes the Apple proposal in favour of its own design and claims to have over 50 required patents that it will refuse to license to builders for Apple’s proposed standard.
Further, Research in Motion (RIM) has also now petitioned the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) to disallow proxy voting, making allegations in a recent filing that companies, including Apple, are registering their own personnel as representatives from other telecommunications companies. The RIM filing notes “a number of representatives from one company changing their affiliation over night and registering to the meeting not representing their employer or any of their affiliates but representing a completely different company” and cites as examples three specific Apple UK employees registering as representatives from Bell Mobility, SK Telekom and KT Corp. [via Engadget]
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) has concluded its independent investigation into working conditions at Apple’s suppliers in China. FLA launched its investigation on February 13, 2012 following labor rights allegations at Foxconn and negative reports regarding plant conditions. Shortly after commencing the investigation, FLA president Auret van Heerden released preliminary findings indicating that the working conditions at Foxconn were far better than those in other factories elsewhere in China.
However, in its final report published earlier today, FLA noted that it had observed “at least 50 issues related to the FLA Code and Chinese labor law” covering areas such as health and safety, worker integration, communication, wages and working hours. The investigation consisted of both on-site visual observation and policy/documentation reviews, as well as interviews with hundreds of Foxconn workers and managers, plus surveys of more than 35,000 randomly selected Foxconn workers. The resulting report highlights the most serious problems as being excessive average working hours during peak production times, general issues regarding inconsistent health and safety policies, and lack of worker involvement and communication in the development of health and safety procedures. The report also noted that although Foxconn wages are above the Chinese average, fair compensation was not always paid for unscheduled overtime due to payroll policies.
As highlighted in the report, both Apple and Foxconn have committed to implementing remedial actions for all of these issues, and ensuring that FLA standards continue to be upheld in its supply chain. Apple became the first technology company to join the FLA in January following the release of its own supplier responsibility report in an effort to move toward “greater transparency and independent oversight” of its suppliers.
South African inventor Benjamin Grobler has filed a pair of lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging that Apple has infringed on a “data vending system” patent issued to him in 2004. The lawsuits claim infringements on U.S. Patent 6,799,084 by operating data vending systems such as iTunes, and that the companies are further inducing their customers’ infringement. Among other things, the patent in question describes a system that stores data such as digitized music, video and/or computer programs, the dispensing of data to a uniquely identifiable data carrier, and the maintaining of owner and/or possessor records for digital content. The suit against Apple is asking for a declaration of infringement, as well as damages to be decided at the trial. [via Computerworld]
Bloomberg reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook paid a visit to Foxconn’s newly-built iPhone manufacturing facility yesterday at Zhengzhou Technology Park in China. The visit is assumed to be related to Apple’s efforts to improve working conditions in its Chinese suppliers’ factories following earlier complaints by several human rights organizations. Cook’s visit to Foxconn follows a week of business travles in China which included a visit to an Apple Store in Beijing and a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang and Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong. Apple has not provided any further details on Cook’s visit or how much longer he will be in China.
The iPhone 4 “antennagate” class action settlement has now been announced, offering U.S. resident iPhone 4 owners who did not opt to receive a free bumper case from Apple to claim a $15 cash payment instead. To be eligible for the cash payment, iPhone 4 customers must also meet several additional requirements: they must have actually experienced antenna or reception issues, been unable to return their iPhone 4 without incurring any costs, been unwilling to use a case on their iPhone 4 and must also have completed certain troubleshooting steps if they still own their iPhone 4. Customers can file a claim at www.iphone4settlement.com; customers also still have the option of choosing a free black iPhone 4 bumper from Apple instead by contacting AppleCare or visiting an Apple Retail Store. [via Engadget]
Apple has released iTunes 10.6.1, the latest update to its digital media management software. According to Apple’s release notes, the update fixes several issues that may cause iTunes to unexpectedly quit while playing videos, adjusting artwork size in Grid view or syncing photos, addresses issues with VocieOver and WindowEyes and fixes problems with responsiveness while syncing the iPod nano or iPod shuffle. The update also resolves the sorting problem browsing TV shows on the Apple TV that was introduced in iTunes 10.6. iTunes 10.6.1 is available now via Apple’s Software Update utility or as a free download from apple.com/itunes.
During his recent visit to China, Apple CEO Tim Cook took time out to meet with Chinese Vice Premier Li Kegiang. According to a Xinhua report, the two men discussed intellectual property rights protection and economic development. “To be more open to the outside is a condition for China to transform its economic development, expand domestic demands and conduct technological innovation,” Li said. He continued on to say that trade and economic cooperation are an “important cornerstone” for the cooperative partnership of mutual respect and reciprocity that China and the U.S. are trying to establish. Li also called on multinational companies to expand cooperation with China, participate in development of western China, pay more attention to workers, and share development opportunities. Cook, for his part, said Apple will strengthen comprehensive cooperation with China, and conduct business in an honest, law-abiding manner. [via Engadget]
According to a new survey, half of all US households now own at least one Apple product. CNBC reports that its All-America Economic survey found that one out of every ten households that don’t currently own an Apple product plan to purchase one over the next year. In addition, homes that own at least one Apple product own an average of three, meaning that the average American household owns 1.6 Apple devices, with nearly 25 percent planning to buy at least one more in the next year. The survey found that Apple customers tend to be young, male, and college-educated, and the more money a person earns, the more Apple products they’re likely to own. The All-America Economic survey was conducted over landline and cellphone among 836 Americans from March 19 to March 22, with a margin of error of plus/minus 3.4 percent.
In the wake of a potential complaint from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Apple has agreed to clarify claims that the third-generation iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G is compatible with 4G networks. Earlier this week, the ACCC announced plans to file a complaint against Apple over what it considered to be “misleading” marketing. In addition to clarifying the device’s cellular capabilities in a statement in its stores and on its website that reads, ““This product supports very fast cellular networks. It is not compatible with current Australian 4G LTE networks and Wi-Max networks”, Apple also said that it would offer refunds to early purchasers who feel they were misled. Ultimately, the ACCC wants Apple to stop marketing the device as the “iPad Wi-Fi + 4G”, while it appears that Apple wants to retain the moniker, and feels that the extra disclaimers will be sufficient to eliminate confusion.
Apple, along with Sony, HTC, LG, and Samsung, has been sued by Graphics Properties, which claims the various companies’ products infringes on its patents. Reuters reports that company—formerly known as Silicon Graphics—alleges that Apple and the other companies named in the suit infringe upon a patent related to a computer graphics process that turns text and images into pixels to be displayed on mobile screens. Named in the suit are the iPhone, HTC’s EVO 4G, LG’s Thrill, Samsung’s Galaxy S and Galaxy S II, and Sony’s Xperia Play smartphones. Graphics Properties is seeking to stop sales of infringing products, as well as royalties and other damages.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has been spotted taking a tour of an Apple Store in China, leading to speculation that he is there to meet with the country’s three wireless carriers. Citing reports on Chinese micro-blogging service Sina Weibo, AppleInsider reports that a photo of Cook from the Joy City Apple Store in Beijing was posted at 11:00 a.m. “People familiar with the matter” suggested that Cook may be in the area to discuss Apple’s sixth-generation iPhone with China Unicom and China Telecom, the company’s two current carrier partners in the country; it is possible he is also there for talks with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier and the last carrier holdout for Apple in China.
In an going dispute with Motorola Mobility, RIM, and Nokia over Apple’s proposed nano-SIM card, Apple has made a surprisingly generous offer in exchange for the standardization of the technology. Citing a “perfectly reliable source”, FOSS Patents reports that Apple sent a letter to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) last week, in which it made a commitment to grant royalty-free licenses to any and all Apple patents essential to nano-SIM. The proposal would only become effective if Apple’s proposal is adopted as a standard, and all other patent holders accept the same terms in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.
As noted in the report, the move shows that Apple is serious about establishing the nano-SIM standard, as it should nullify concerns of other handset manufacturers who worried that Apple might eventually own all the patents related to the technology, and thus give it the ability to charge royalties on any nano-SIM-compatible handsets. The new standard proposals are expected to be discussed at ETSI’s Smart Card Platform Plenary meeting later this week.
A newly published Apple patent application suggests the company is working on universal remote control functionality for its iOS devices. Patently Apple reports that the new invention relates to a configurable remote control, or more specifically, an iPhone or similar device with IR transmission capabilities. According to the patent, users would be able to snap a photo of their current remote controls using the device; the photo would then be sent to iCloud for analysis, which would send back a “virtual copy” of the remote for use on the device’s touchscreen. As with all Apple patents, this application does not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offers evidence of the company’s research and interest in this area.
Two members of the U.S. Congress have sent letters to a number of iOS developers seeking information about how they comply with Apple’s privacy policies. The Next Web reports that House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Chairman Fred Upton sent letters to Tapbots, Twitter, Foodspotting, Turntable.fm,, Trover, Instagram’s Burbn, Path, Facebook, SoundCloud, Apple, and others, asking—in addition to the question about privacy policies above—how they gather information from users and what they do with that information afterwards. The representatives has asked that the answers to the eight questions be delivered no later than April 12, 2012. The inquiry follows the discovery that social networking app Path, along with many other apps, was uploading iOS users’ contact data to their servers; Path immediately issued an apology, and Apple soon vowed to require user approval for access to contact data. [via Mac Rumors]