- June 16, 2014
The New York Times has released an edited transcript of an interview with Apple design chief Jony Ive, who was interviewed for the paper’s recent profile of Apple CEO Tim Cook. In the interview, Ive said, “I would love to talk about future stuff – they’re materials we haven’t worked in before. I’ve been working on this stuff for a few years now.” Although Ive didn’t specify the new materials, Apple has shown clear signs of interest in working further with LiquidMetal and sapphire glass, each material having been used only in minor prior components. Alleged rear assemblies for the iPhone 6 appear to show a unibody metal housing with bonded antenna stripes, despite the fact that most metals inhibit antennas rather than letting them radiate, an issue that the more complex glass-like LiquidMetal is apparently capable of solving.
While people wait for the next big thing from Apple, Ive notes that it’s hard to be patient, even for the company’s key executives. Despite public clamor for new products, Ive also pointed out that the iPhone, iPod, and iPad were all dismissed by some people upon being introduced.
- June 16, 2014
Nuance Communications — the company behind the speech-recognition technology used in Apple’s Siri — has held buy-out discussions with Samsung, according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s reported that Nuance has discussed a sale with both Samsung and private-equity firms, but it’s unclear how close the company is to being sold at this time. Nuance’s biggest shareholder is Carl Icahn, who currently has a large stake in Apple. Last July, a report noted that Apple assembled a new team to work on Siri speech-recognition — a team that included a number of members who previously worked for Nuance — in a possible move to reduce its reliance on Nuance’s technology. [via MacRumors]
- June 16, 2014
Tim Cook is the subject of a New York Times profile that attempts to explain how the Apple CEO is reshaping the company in his own ways. While his predecessor Steve Jobs was known for being “maniacal about design,” Cook takes a less hands-on approach, with more decisions delegated to his trusted team. Cook is praised in the piece for his strong values, and how he believes Apple is committed to “advancing humanity.” As he told shareholders in a February meeting, “If you want me to make decisions that have a clear [return on investment], then you should get out of the stock.” Curiously enough, though Apple design chief Jony Ive, Disney CEO and Apple board member Robert Iger, and others were interviewed for the profile, Cook himself declined an interview.
The article points out how Cook’s values can be seen in the development of Apple’s iWatch. Cook is apparently most intrigued by the big picture health implications of the device — how it can change health for the better by monitoring vital measures and reducing visits to doctors. Some space in the profile is given to the recent clamoring for more innovation from Apple, with critics finding Cook “uninspiring,” and claiming that the company’s prior soul has been lost. Growth concerns are also noted; the company’s sales are currently so large that there may not be an opportunity for a big needle-moving increase. Ive, however, doesn’t believe anything has changed within the company when it comes to a desire to innovate. Though the report notes Cook “digests things carefully, with time,” Ive suggested that waiting for such innovations to be revealed has always been a challenge. “It is hard for all of us to be patient,” he said. “It was hard for Steve. It is hard for Tim.”
iOS Bitcoin wallet app Coin Pocket has recently been published in the App Store, as it appears Apple is again allowing such apps in its ecosystem. A recent report noted that Apple updated its App Store Review Guidelines to allow for certain virtual currency apps. Coin Pocket is an app that allows users to send and receive Bitcoin from an iOS device. It won’t be a surprise to see more Bitcoin wallet apps pop up in the App Store now — popular Bitcoin wallet Blockchain was pulled in February, but Blockchain CEO Nic Cary has already said he will be resubmitting the app for Apple’s approval. As noted by CoinDesk, a few other non-wallet apps are also now allowing Bitcoin transactions, as well.
Apple has reportedly been removing fake App Store reviews that have improved the chart ranking of certain apps, according to TechCrunch. These rating removals have been going on for an indeterminate amount of time. A recent tweet noted one app saw 20,000 ratings removed “overnight,” and the report claims it was due to Apple’s intervention.
20k ratings gone overnight? Without update ? Mmm pic.twitter.com/fK3R7CS9Gw— Ouriel Ohayon (@OurielOhayon) June 10, 2014
Another recent report noted that Apple has started rejecting apps that offer rewards for video ads and social sharing. It appears as if Apple is once again taking a larger role to step in and adjust what it sees as problems within the App Store.
Apple has announced an exchange program for its 5W European USB power adapters that “may overheat and pose a safety risk.” The affected adapters came with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S models shipped from October 2009 to September 2012 in a number of European countries — the full list is included within the announcement. Though the adapters only pose a risk “in rare cases,” the company is voluntarily offering a free, new, redesigned power adapter for each affected adapter exchanged. Affected models are marked “Model A1300” with the letters “CE” in solid gray.
Apple recommends users with these adapters discontinue use and exchange the adapter. In the meantime, users can charge their iPhones by connecting the USB cable to a computer. Users must bring their affected adapters to an Apple Retail Store or participating Apple Authorized Service Provider to make the exchange for a new adapter.
- June 12, 2014
Nest founder and “father of the iPod” Tony Fadell is featured in a new Fortune profile that devotes plenty of time to his relationship with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Fadell regrets that he never got to show Nest to Jobs. “I would have loved to have been able to show it to him, but the timing didn’t work,” he said.
The article describes the Jobs-Fadell relationship as alternating “between the father/son and school principal/naughty student archetypes,” with Fadell saying, “He thought I asked too many questions,” and Jobs often returning the favor. While it’s believed Jobs fired Fadell on numerous occasions, instead, Fadell says he “repeatedly quit.” The article notes that on at least two occasions, Fadell recanted his resignations, “having gotten his way each time.”
- June 11, 2014
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.
- June 10, 2014
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.
- June 10, 2014
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.
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.
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.
- June 9, 2014
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.”
- June 9, 2014
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.
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.
- June 6, 2014
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 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.
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 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.
- June 5, 2014
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.