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Apple responds to EU tax investigation

As expected, the European Commission today officially announced an investigation into Apple’s tax practices in Ireland. The EU is checking whether the deal, along with separate deals made by Starbucks and Fiat, qualifies as illegal state aid, Bloomberg reports.  “Apple pays every euro of every tax that we owe,” Apple responded in an e-mailed statement. “We have received no selective treatment from Irish officials. Apple is subject to the same tax laws as scores of other international companies doing business in Ireland.” Ireland’s Finance Ministry is “confident” that no state aid rules were breached.

EU to investigate Apple’s Irish tax practices

The European Commission will launch a formal investigation into Apple’s tax practices in Ireland, RTE reports. It’s expected that the commission will officially announce the investigation tomorrow. Apple CEO Tim Cook testified on Apple’s tax policies to a U.S. Senate subcommittee last year. Recently, a March report accused the company of moving $8.9 billion in untaxed profits from Australia to Ireland.

Apple plans 1,000 in-house ad/marketing employees, more competition

Ad Age has a new comprehensive report on Apple’s shifting strategies in advertising and marketing, claiming the company is “madly building an internal agency that it’s telling recruits will eventually number 1,000.” The article starts with an anecdote about a pitch from Apple’s longtime ad agency partner TBWA/Media Arts Lab being spurned in favor of an Apple in-house ad. That’s by design, as Apple is reportedly creating more direct competitions between TBWA/MAL and its own internal agency “with ‘jump balls’ to mine the best creative ideas, a controversial tactic with outside agencies, let alone an internal one.” One source said Apple has always used such techniques, but they’ve become more obvious since Apple’s internal agency is now winning most of those “jump balls.” Apple is also inviting other agencies to make pitches on major projects.

While Apple has poached a few top advertising names — including a number of recruits from the noted Portland, Oregon-based ad firm Wieden & Kennedy — candidates still have concerns, including skepticism about the company’s creative direction. “I don’t feel that energy from Apple,” said a top agency exec who was approached by Apple. “The revolution has come and gone, and I’m not sure a job at Apple would be a creative opportunity. If I were going to go brand-side, there are a lot more interesting companies I’d rather work for, like Coke or Pepsi.” Another executive cited the high cost of living in Cupertino as an issue. The article adds a tremendous amount of background to a recent report noting Apple was now producing more ads in-house; the move wasn’t completely surprising considering Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller’s vocal displeasure with Media Arts Lab, as seen in January 2013 emails released in an April report.

FOIA request reveals Apple, FDA medical sensor discussion

Apple and the FDA discussed Apple’s interest in including medical sensors in mobile devices, according to a report from Apple Toolbox, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request to gain insight into Apple’s December meeting with the FDA. The response notes that “[w]ith the potential for more sensors on mobile devices, Apple believes there is the opportunity to do more with devices, and that there may be a moral obligation to do more.” It’s also explained that while sensors would not necessarily mean a device must be reviewed by the FDA, the FDA would likely regulate any software that uses those sensors for medical purposes.

A glucometer, which measures blood sugar level, was cited as a specific example — it would be regulated if the software was marketed toward diabetics, under the label of diagnostic software. If only used to monitor blood sugar for nutritional reasons, a glucometer could be unregulated. Apple also received guidance for Mobile Medical Apps, which was likely a stand-in name for the company’s now announced HealthKit. The FDA noted that “Apple will work closely with FDA as they develop future products.” It’s widely believed Apple will include biometric sensors in its upcoming iWatch.

Report: Apple rejects apps rewarding video ads, social sharing

Apple is now cracking down on apps that reward users for watching videos or sharing socially, according to TechCrunch. App developers are now reportedly receiving rejection notices as Apple cites sections 2.25 and 3.10 in its App Store Review Guidelines. Section 2.25 reads: “Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected, unless designed for a specific approved need (e.g. health management, aviation, accessibility, etc.) or which provide significant added value for a specific group of customers,” and section 3.1 reads: “Developers who attempt to manipulate or cheat the user reviews or chart ranking in the App Store with fake or paid reviews, or any other inappropriate methods will be removed from the iOS Developer Program.” The latter section suggests that Apple has become concerned about apps containing content that may influence the App Store’s charts.

One developer said his app was rejected even though it had already been released four times before, and the report claims the new rejections may also be applied retroactively. It will be interesting to see how many apps Apple will reject or pull based on these guidelines, especially considering that many popular apps have benefitted from such techniques for quite some time.

Apple looking for ‘high-profile’ corporate communications VP

Apple is hoping to find some “high-profile external candidates” in its search for a new VP of worldwide corporate communications, Re/Code reports. The company is looking to fill the position vacated by longtime PR chief Katie Cotton, whose retirement was announced last month. CEO Tim Cook is reportedly overseeing the search. The report claims Apple has strong internal candidates in Steve Dowling and Natalie Kerris, but notes that Cook is searching for someone who “could put a friendlier, more approachable face on Apple’s public relations efforts.”

Dr. Dre profile highlights perfectionism, mysterious process

A Wall Street Journal profile of Beats Electronics co-founder and new Apple executive Dr. Dre says that the vaunted producer and rapper is a perfectionist, and “serves as Beats’ ‘cultural barometer’ of what is cool,” but uses a “mysterious process” and is “rarely seen at Beats headquarters.” In detailing the highlights of Dre’s career, the profile notes that Dre has released only two solo albums since 1992, with a third album called Detox long in gestation, as he focused on producing songs for other artists. While working with Beats, Dre’s “main obsession is perfecting the sound of the company’s signature high-end headphones,” but the “fitness-obsessed” producer also weighed in on advertising, fonts, and elements of the Beats Music streaming service, rapidly dismissing “corny” ideas and disregarding “artificial deadlines.” According to the article, Dre worked to keep the company’s ads focused on sound with an “insider message,” and resisted attempts to expand Beats’ appeal beyond its predominantly male, under 24-year-old core consumer. The WSJ notes that Dre’s seeming lack of productivity could be an issue for Apple, which has not commented on whether Dre and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine will have employment contacts with the company.

Report: Apple Maps improvements derailed by internal politics

A new report from TechCrunch purports to explain the absence of major improvements this year to Maps, Apple’s iOS and OS X competitor to Google Maps, blaming bad “planning, project management, and internal politics” for delays of features that were expected to debut at the Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) last week. In March, 9to5Mac listed a collection of enhancements planned for Maps, including enhanced and more reliable point of interest data, a cleaner cartography design, and public transit directions, the latter depicted by the publication in rendered screenshots. None of these features was actually announced during WWDC; Apple instead briefly noted Maps improvements for Chinese users, and added an M7 processor-dependent indoor positioning feature.

According to two TechCrunch sources, Apple project managers improperly planned and failed to deliver the other intended improvements on time; one of the sources also suggested that “many developers left the company.” Apple has been purchasing mapping and potentially map-related companies for years, though it has rarely commented specifically on the acquisitions, and it’s unclear how many of the companies’ employees have remained at Apple thereafter. Soon after the widely-panned debut of Maps, Apple Senior VP Eddy Cue was given responsibility for fixing the app, though improvements have been mostly under-the-radar since then.

Report: Apple acquires social search engine Spotsetter

Apple has acquired Spotsetter, a social search engine, TechCrunch reports. According to Spotsetter’s website, the search engine “provides personalized recommendations for places to go.” The deal was reportedly made to acquire Spotsetter’s technology and its two founders, Stephen Tse and Johnny Lee, with some of the Spotsetter team also joining Apple. It seems likely that Apple would want to work the technology into its Maps app in the future.

Six days ago, an announcement on the Spotsetter blog noted the Spotsetter app was being closed down. The app allowed users to access personalized place results through its search engine in a manner somewhat similar to Foursquare — though the app used data from a number of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram. Apple has yet to comment on the report.

Apple to intro in-store prepaid and month-to-month iPhone plans

Apple is readying prepaid and month-to-month plans for iPhones in its retail stores, 9to5Mac reports. A source claims the move is being made to boost iPhone sales. Customers will soon be able to purchase a full-price iPhone, and then connect it to prepaid or month-to-month calling and data plans while in the store. It’s noted that Apple will partner with AT&T and T-Mobile for the new initiative.

Apple will use AT&T GoPhone activation kits and SIM cards, and existing T-Mobile SIM cards. Training will commence soon, and it’s expected these plans will be offered by the last week of June. Retail employees will reportedly be pushing AT&T’s $60 per month prepaid plan, and two T-Mobile plans costing $50 or $70 per month. Notably, it’s also claimed that the devices must be activated in store and cannot be returned for a refund.

Report: Apple employees reveal issues with iTunes Radio management

The development of Apple’s iTunes Radio and Ping suffered from shortsighted management, and Apple engineers often preferred to use Spotify and Pandora, according to a new report from Buzzfeed, which interviewed both former and current Apple employees. “Pandora is an awesome radio that blows iTunes Radio out of the water. Seriously, iTunes Radio sucks and it sucks because of Apple’s arrogance,” a former mid-level Apple employee said. “I was floored by the decision-making skills by management over and over again.” It’s reported that management ignored iTunes’ biggest streaming competitors, “with some managers refusing to open or use Spotify,” and some not even understanding what Spotify did. “They didn’t understand how Spotify worked, which is why they thought iTunes Radio would be a Spotify killer,” a source said.

Employees also said Apple “didn’t seem to have an interest in how the song collections created by iTunes Radio sounded, or whether they were cohesive.” iTunes Radio users have reported hearing the same songs too often, or hearing songs that don’t fit into certain stations. Buzzfeed speculates that a major reason for the Beats acquisition was due to Apple’s problems in tackling streaming music on its own.

Apple reveals more Family Sharing details

Apple has set up a FAQ within iTunes Connect for Family Sharing in iOS 8, and it reveals more details about the upcoming feature. The feature lets up to six family members share iTunes, Books, and App Store content through the credit card of one adult with an Apple ID, referred to as “the family organizer” in the FAQ. The FAQ notes that if a family member leaves the group, “their purchases — including any purchases made while part of the Family — will no longer be available to the remaining family members, and vice versa.”

It’s also notable that in-app purchases cannot be shared with family members — apps that only allow access of most content through an in-app purchase will be far less useful for those accessing the app through Family Sharing. Further details can be seen in the included screenshot.

Apple producing more ads in-house

Apple is now producing more of its own television advertisements, Reuters reports. The company is decreasing its reliance on longtime ad agency partner TBWA\Chiat\Day, as Apple is “seeking a fresh approach to regain advertising as one of its key competitive advantages.” Recent iPad ads, including the iPad Air “Pencil” ad and “Your Verse” ads, were both made by an in-house Apple team. Apple has hired “at least two” people who worked for Media Arts Lab, a special Apple-focused unit in TBWA.

Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller became upset with Media Arts Lab, as revealed in January 2013 emails that were released this year — months after those emails were sent, Apple started creating in-house ads. The report notes Media Arts Lab is still working on Apple ads, including current iPhone TV commercials.

iOS 8 adds new MIDI and other audio enhancements

Additional information from WWDC this week reveals that Apple plans to introduce new audio enhancements in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, including new CoreAudio and CoreMIDI APIs that will include support for MIDI over Bluetooth LE and enhancements to Apple’s iOS inter-app audio feature.

While third-party accessories such as the iRig Blueboard (iLounge rating: A-) have implemented wireless MIDI support over Bluetooth in the past, Apple’s updated frameworks will provide standard APIs that third-party applications and presumably accessories will be able to take advantage of. The new CoreMIDI Bluetooth support will also allow iOS and Mac devices to communicate with each other more effectively, providing the ability for multiple devices to work together in music creation and studio applications—essentially an enhancement that lines up with Apple’s new Continuity approach in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. [via 9to5Mac]

Report: Apple plans Lightning cable MFi headphones

Apple has added a specification to its Made For iPhone/iPad/iPod program allowing manufacturers to create headphones with Lightning connectors, rather than traditional 3.5mm headphone plugs, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. While not currently supported by iOS devices, Lightning headphone support will be enabled in a future software update. According to the report, the Lightning standard will allow for stereo 48 kHz digital audio output from iOS devices, and mono 48 kHz input for integrated microphone support, though the actual sound quality will depend considerably on superior headphone and microphone components. It will also allow power to transfer between the headphones and the iOS device in both directions, which could eliminate batteries in noise-cancelling headphones, and enable other headphones to add backup power to the connected device.

The report also states there will be two configurations: Standard Lightning Headphones, and Advanced Lightning Headphones. The former “are described by Apple as using minimum components when paired with a digital-to-analog converter supported by the Lightning Headphone Module,” while the latter use a digital signal processor and digital/analog converter, and allow for “digital audio processing features like active noise cancellation.” Lightning headphones would likely be physically incompatible with non-Apple devices, as well as Mac computers, unless Apple adds Lightning ports to Macs.

Apple announces Controller Forwarding feature

Apple announced a new Controller Forwarding feature in a closed presentation Monday at WWDC, 9to5Mac reports. The feature would allow MFi iPhone controllers to act as controllers for iPads and Macs. Additionally, the iPhone’s touchscreen and motion control could also be used as a controller for those devices. These features may also open up the possibility for using iOS devices as game controllers for Apple TV.

Xcode 6 contains resizable iPad, iPhone simulators

Apple’s Xcode 6 contains a new feature that lets developers test interfaces for “resizable iPhones” and “resizable iPads.” Allowing for adjustments for both devices alludes to possible new resolutions for both iPhone and iPad devices. While 4.7” and 5.5” iPhone models are expected at this point, allowing developers to adjust to new iPad resolutions may add some fuel to rumors of a 12” iPad, which we’ve referred to as the “iPad Pro.” [via 9to5Mac]

Apple updates app guidelines to allow ‘approved’ virtual currencies

Apple has updated its App Store Review Guidelines to allow transmission of certain approved virtual currencies, Reuters reports. Section 11.17 in the guidelines states: “Apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions.” It’s unclear which virtual currencies would be allowed under the updated guidelines; Apple provided no further details and didn’t issue a response to the report.

Apple previously pulled Blockchain, a popular Bitcoin wallet, from the App Store in February. Blockchain CEO Nic Cary told Bitcoin news service newsBTC that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the recent change, and plans on resubmitting the Blockchain iOS app for approval.

iOS 8: More New Features, Revealed

Every time Apple introduces a new operating system, there are always features that either only get mentioned in a giant list on a slide behind the presenter, or go completely unspoken and are only discovered once people begin playing around with it. iOS 8 is no different; in addition to all new features Apple made a big deal out of, there are plenty more worth noting. Here are some of the biggest ones.

  • Weather Channel Providing Information To Weather App
  • DuckDuckGo Support
  • iBooks Preinstalled
  • Wi-Fi Calling
  • Time-Lapse Videos
  • FaceTime Call Waiting
  • Panaromic Photos on iPad
  • Battery Usage By App
  • Tips App
  • Time Limits And Countdown Timer For Guided Access
  • Camera Timer
  • Rich Text In Notes

If you find additional iOS 8 features that may be of interest, feel free to add them to the comments section at the bottom of this article!

Apple debuts Swift, new development language

Today at its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple took the wraps off Swift, an entirely new development language for iOS, effectively replacing the requirement for developers to use Objective-C. Swift provides developers with a simpler and higher-performance development language to build apps in, eliminating many of the common errors that can be encountered with Objective-C while improving development time. Swift will be integrated into XCode and uses the same Objective-C runtime environment, allowing developers to seamlessly mix Swift and native C code into the same projects.

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