Apple has issued a public response after the U.S. government dropped its lawsuit demanding the company’s assistance in hacking into a terrorist’s iPhone, with the company saying it will continue to aid law enforcement while also continuing to increase the security of its products. “From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent,” Apple said. “As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.”
The U.S. Justice Department said it gained access to the information on San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone without Apple’s help and has dropped its lawsuit against the company, Reuters reports. Last week prosecutors asked for a delay the day before a court showdown with Apple, saying the FBI was working with a third party to gain access to the phone. While reports claimed Israeli company Cellebrite was the third party working on breaking Apple’s encryption, law enforcement officials haven’t publicly revealed the party responsible for the hack, or what was found on the phone. “The FBI has now successfully retrieved the data stored on the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple required by this Court Order,” DOJ spokeswoman Melanie Newman said in a statement. Apple had requested that the FBI share information on how it accessed the phone, but an unnamed law enforcement source refused to tell CNN whether the FBI would make good on that request. “We can’t comment on the possibility of future disclosures at this point,” the official said. Apple declined to comment on the news.
Apple has released a new version of iOS 9.3 with build number of 13E237, designed specifically for older iOS devices. The first finished public release of iOS 9.3 had an issue during the activation process. Users of such devices — including the iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and earlier devices — who were unable to recall their Apple ID info could find their devices rendered inaccessible. This new build is meant to provide a fix for that problem. We’re also awaiting an iOS update for everyone that will provide a fix for the current hyperlink bug seen in Safari and elsewhere after updating to iOS 9.3, but it appears like we’ll have to wait a little longer on that front.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is predicting a drastic redesign of the iPhone coming in 2017, including wireless charging, AMOLED displays and a “completely new form factor design” with narrower bezels. Kuo has pushed up his estimate for Apple’s release of AMOLED displays in iPhones, now backing previous rumors that customers will see the technology next year in a 5.8-inch iPhone that will completely replace the 5.5-inch iPhone, provided Apple can get enough of the larger AMOLED displays in time.
Amidst rumours that have been swirling about Apple’s desire to unveil original TV programming, a new report from The New York Times indicates that the company may be making its first foray into the arena with a show about apps. Apple announced earlier today that it’s working with Will.i.am and veteran TV executives Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens to create a new unscripted show that highlights the “app economy.” Apple executives have declined to discuss any specifics around the show, including even a title, timeline, or how the show will be delivered to viewers. Although it’s notably the company’s first original effort outside the music category — as Dr. Dre’s upcoming show is — Apple SVP Eddy Cue noted that this latest entry does not represent any “broader ambition” by Apple in terms of original productions or streaming video, although he notes Apple will “continue to explore exclusive projects similar to the series about apps or its push into music programming.” This particular project was apparently initiated as a result of a pitch by Ben Silverman, executive producer of several recent hit TV series’ such as “Jane the Virgin” and “Marco Polo.” Silverman worked with Cue to make “The Office” available on iTunes nearly a decade ago.
Apple has been migrating more of its cloud computing to Google, but a new report from The Information claims the company is aiming to create its own extensive set of data centers and servers to bring all of its cloud services in-house. Last week CRN reported Apple has quietly been moving much of its cloud computing to the Google Cloud Platform and away from Amazon Web Services, whose infrastructure it uses to run online services like iCloud. Anonymous sources said Apple is now spending between $400 million and $600 million on Google’s services after becoming dissatisfied with AWS being unable to quickly load photos and videos on users’ iOS devices.
Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software, is said to be the company helping the FBI in its efforts to crack the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reports. Cellebrite officials refused to comment, but the company has been providing the FBI with decryption technology since 2013. Yesterday, a judge approved a two-week postponement of the FBI’s court action against Apple as the government explores a “third-party” method of unlocking the iPhone.
Apple is reportedly in “advanced talks” to acquire British chip design company Imagination Technologies, primarily know for the PowerVR line of GPUs used in Apple devices, Ars Technica reports. Apple has owned a significant number of shares in Imagination Technologies since 2008 — the same year Apple acquired chip designer PA Semi and took over the design process for its own CPU cores. Buying out Imagination Technologies would move GPU design in-house as well. Imagination Technologies has been struggling in recent months, cutting 350 jobs just last week. When reached for comment, the company refused to deny a planned takeover by Apple.
U.S. prosecutors have postponed their showdown with Apple by two weeks to try a “third party” method for unlocking the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, Reuters reports. A federal judge granted the Department of Justice’s request to stall the hearing until April 5 while the FBI tries the newly discovered method to unlock the phone, which is at the center of a case which has seen Apple refusing to cooperate with the FBI’s request to develop new software for disabling the phone’s password security features. Until Monday, the government insisted it had no other way to access the iPhone, and lawyers supporting Apple said the timing of the request for delay suggests the DOJ feared it would lose a legal battle based on the assertion that it had tried every other way to get into the phone. “From a purely technical perspective, one of the most fragile parts of the government’s case is the claim that Apple’s help is required to unlock the phone,” said Matt Blaze, a professor and computer security expert at the University of Pennsylvania. “Many in the technical community have been skeptical that this is true, especially given the government’s considerable resources.” The government’s use of the All Writs Act had also recently come into doubt after a judge ruled the AWA couldn’t be used to compel Apple to unlock an iPhone in a similar case.
Apple officially announced the release of iOS 9.3 today during the company’s special event in Cupertino, and the update is now available. Originally released in January to developers, and then later as part of the company’s public beta program, iOS 9.3 is an unusually feature-packed update for a point iOS release, as we observed in our early analysis of the betas.
With today’s unveiling of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Apple has dropped the pricing of the iPad Air 2 to $399 and $499 for the 16GB and 64GB versions, respectively. The 128GB version of the iPad Air 2 has also been removed from the lineup, forcing users who want a larger-capacity 9.7-inch iPad to opt for the new iPad Pro instead — albeit it for only $50 more than the 128GB iPad Air 2 previously sold for. The new pricing actually puts the iPad Air 2 pricing on par with the iPad Mini 4, although the smaller tablet retains its 128GB version at $599. All models continue to be available in both Wi-Fi only versions, or Wi-Fi + Cellular versions for an additional $130.
Apple has announced a new 9.7-inch version of its iPad Pro, essentially upgrading the standard-sized iPad tablet to a “Pro” model, with features matching the 12.9-inch version debuted last fall. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro will include the same features as its larger counterpart, including the 64-bit A9X CPU and M9 motion coprocessor, support for the Apple Pencil and a new, smaller-sized version of the Apple Smart Keyboard, while the new screen is both a “Wide color display” and “True Tone Display,” the latter of which will automatically measure the color temperature of ambient light to produce a natural paper-white color under any set of lighting conditions.
As expected from recent reports, Apple today announced the new 4-inch iPhone SE. Apple VP Greg Joswiak took the stage to highlight the new addition to the company’s iPhone lineup, explaining that, despite the popularity of larger-screened iPhone models, a market for a 4-inch iPhone still exists, as “some people love smaller phones” and many users are still new to the iPhone entirely, especially in markets such as China.
Apple has officially announced the availability of tvOS 9.2, a new feature update for the company’s fourth-generation Apple TV. First released to developers in January, tvOS 9.2 adds several new features for Apple TV users, including support for using Siri for dictation into text fields — including speaking or spelling out passwords — as well as for searching the tvOS App Store. The update also adds the ability to organize apps into home screen folders, similar to the folder implementation on iOS devices, support for Live Photos taken on the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and new iPhone SE, and the ability to access a user’s entire iCloud Photo Library from the set-top box. tvOS 9.2 is expected to be available later today.
Today at Apple’s special event in Cupertino, CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple is reducing the price of entry for the Apple Watch to $299, which will become the new price of the 38mm Sport Edition. The 42mm Sport Edition will now be priced at $349. The price reduction affects only the Sport Edition models — the various stainless steel versions remain in the $549 to $1049 range, depending on band selection.
Cook also announced a new selection of Apple Watch bands, including a woven nylon band series, as well as new colors for the sport and leather bands, and a new space black Milanese Loop band. Interestingly, Cook claimed that “about a third” of Apple Watch users regularly change their watch bands.
The U.S. Supreme Court will review a judge’s decision to award Apple $548 million in damages from Samsung in a patent infringement case, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple had hoped the Supreme Court wouldn’t get involved, arguing that the lower court had appropriately assessed the fines. The Cupertino company also deemed the case “legally unexceptional” despite the high dollar amount involved. A federal appeals court upheld the awarded damages last December, but the Supreme Court will now hear Samsung’s appeal that the 1887 law cited is “outdated and too punitive for modern products such as a smartphone.” A jury ruled that basic design elements of certain Samsung smartphones were too close to Apple’s iPhone design, but Samsung argues that those design aspects don’t affect the functionality of the phone. [via Apple Insider]
Former Apple employees told Reuters that an admired and feared trio of employees internally known as “privacy czars” exercises extreme control over privacy standards set forth by CEO Tim Cook, sometimes standing in the way of profitable new expansions to the company’s business model. One of these “czars” is Jane Horvath, a lawyer who previously served as Google’s global privacy counsel, focuses on legal and regulatory requirements after being hired to formalize privacy practices in the wake of 2011’s “locationgate” scandal. She works alongside Guy Tribble, vice president of software technology and a member of the original Macintosh team who is venerated by other Apple employees for his ties to Steve Jobs. Tribble devotes substantial amounts of his time to working closely with engineers on privacy issues, as does rising Apple star Erik Neuenschwander, who has been known to review individual lines of code to ensure engineers are following through on privacy agreements.
Be sure to follow @iLounge on Twitter for our live coverage and analysis of everything that happens on stage during Apple’s latest event today. We’re expecting to see the new 4” iPhone SE, a 9.7” version of the iPad Pro, and some new Apple Watch bands. Who knows what other surprises Apple may have in store? Following the event, we’ll have all the details on the company’s latest products here on iLounge.com, so check back regularly this afternoon. Apple’s “Let us loop you in” event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. EST), and it will be streaming live on Apple’s website and Apple TV’s Special Events channel.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University discovered a bug in Apple’s iMessage software which allowed them to decrypt photos and video sent through the secure messaging service, The Washington Post reports. Apple says it partially addressed the problem with the release of iOS 9 last fall and will fully fix the issue with the release of iOS 9.3. “We appreciate the team of researchers that identified this bug and brought it to our attention so we could patch the vulnerability,” Apple said in a statement. “Security requires constant dedication and we’re grateful to have a community of developers and researchers who help us stay ahead.”