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News

Report: Apple to discontinue iPad 2

Apple is expected to discontinue its iPad 2 “in the near future,” according to AppleInsider. Sources said the decision was made to decrease production as customers are “resoundingly” buying more of the iPad Air and iPad mini. The second-generation iPad is currently the only $399 full-sized iPad option on the market, with only the 16GB model offered at this point — the 16GB Wi-Fi + Cellular version is also sold for $529. Released in March 2011, iPad 2 is also the only remaining Dock Connector iPad still sold by Apple. It’s believed the iPad 2 has remained in Apple’s product lineup due to its popularity in the education market.

Apple releases 2014 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report

  • February 13, 2014
  • Apple

Apple has released its annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report for 2014. The report says Apple confirmed in January that “all active, identified tantalum smelters in our supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third party auditors, and we’re pushing our suppliers of tin, tungsten, and gold just as hard to use verified sources.” Apple drew criticism last year for its tin mining practices — the company reacted by launching a “fact-finding visit” to Bangka Island, Indonesia. This year’s report notes that Apple has worked with groups to develop the Indonesian Tin Working Group, “whose goal is to explore how its members can help resolve the environmental and social challenges of tin mining on Bangka and Belitung Islands while also supporting the economic benefits of a robust mining trade.”

Also within the report, Apple says it drove suppliers to achieve “an average of 95 percent compliance” with the maximum 60-hour workweek, and more than 1 million workers were tracked in the program. The company found 14 facilities had excessive recruiting fees — suppliers were required to pay back excess foreign contract worker fees, equaling $3.9 million in 2013. Apple found a total of 11 active underage labor cases, “significantly fewer than the previous year.” The company has also launched a Clean Water Program pilot for 13 water-intensive sites — Apple has previously drawn criticism for its suppliers polluting nearby rivers. The full Supplier Responsibility Progress Report is here.

Sony to supply Apple with front-facing iPhone cameras?

Sony is negotiating with Apple to double its supply of camera components in the iPhone, according to Nikkei Asian Review. Noting that Sony supplies Apple with most sensors for the rear-facing iSight cameras on current iPhones, the report speculates Apple will likely switch to Sony sensors for the front-facing cameras, as well. The components could be found in a new iPhone “as early as next year,” which means any iPhones introduced this year would likely not include the additional Sony components. Considering the supplier switch, it’s possible front-facing iPhone cameras will get a spec boost with the Sony sensors. Nikkei also notes Sony has started to provide batteries for the iPad Air.

Court: Apple must comply with antitrust monitor

  • February 11, 2014
  • Apple

A federal appeals court ruled on Monday that court-appointed monitor Michael Bromwich can continue to supervise Apple’s antitrust policies, Reuters reports. Apple was given a temporary reprieve from monitor Bromwich in late January, but Bromwich will once more be able to perform his duties, which are limited to assessing compliance policies and disseminating those policies. “Today’s ruling makes abundantly clear that Apple must now cooperate with the court-appointed monitor,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Gina Talamona said. The monitor was originally appointed to examine Apple after the company’s involvement in fixing e-book prices. Apple is still seeking a broader appeal to remove the monitor completely.

iPad, Mac operations VP Lane retires from Apple

Rita Lane, Apple vice president of iPad, Mac desktops, and Mac accessories has retired from the company, as noted by her LinkedIn profile. According to the profile, Lane has held her VP position since 2008; she was directly involved in the success of the iPad since its launch. Lane was noted as one of the highest ranking women at Apple in a 2012 Business Insider article. Her successor is unknown. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple debuts iTunes Radio in Australia

Apple has announced iTunes Radio is now available in Australia. As in the U.S., iTunes Radio is ad-supported, with iTunes Match subscribers able to listen without ads. With the Australian launch official, it’s likely other countries will soon follow — a report from last October anticipated iTunes Radio would launch in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K. in early 2014.

Icahn withdraws $50B Apple stock buyback proposal

  • February 10, 2014
  • Apple

Billionaire Apple investor Carl Icahn has withdrawn his proposal for Apple to buy back an additional $50 billion of its own stock. The withdrawal is in reaction to a recommendation from proxy advisory firm ISS, which recommended investors vote against Icahn’s proposal, Reuters reports. Icahn wrote on his Shareholders’ Square Table website that he was disappointed in the ISS recommendation, but “we do not altogether disagree with their assessment and recommendation in light of recent actions taken by the company to aggressively repurchase shares in the market.” Seemingly in response to market pressures, Apple has repurchased $14 billion in shares in the past two weeks, and the company is on track to repurchase “at least $32 billion in shares” in this fiscal year. Apple CEO Tim Cook has mentioned that the company is balancing repurchase programs with a desire to maintain cash flexibility for large acquisitions, and is not ruling out the prospect of a $1 billion purchase under the right circumstances.

Report: Apple to release iOS 7.1 in March

Apple is planning to release iOS 7.1 in March, 9to5Mac reports. It’s noted that no “secret features” will come in iOS 7.1; rather, users should expect what’s been seen in the five 7.1 betas, including UI tweaks, a revamped Calendar app, and speed improvements. iOS 7.1 beta 5 was just released Tuesday. The report speculates Apple could announce iOS 7.1 at a March event that could possibly introduce a new Apple TV.

Cook: Apple not against big acquisitions, new categories coming

Contrary to its history, Apple is not opposed to making big acquisitions, CEO Tim Cook told the Wall Street Journal. “We’ve looked at big companies,” Cook said. “We have no problem spending 10 figures for the right company, for the right fit that’s in the best interest of Apple in the long-term. None. Zero.” The report juxtaposes Apple’s history of making smaller acquisitions with Google’s recent $3.2 billion purchase of Nest, a company founded by “Father of the iPod” Tony Fadell that has hired a large number of other ex-Apple employees.

Cook also reiterated in the interview that Apple will enter new categories this year. “There will be new categories. We’re not ready to talk about it, but we’re working on some really great stuff,” Cook said. The most obvious thought is that, as rumored, Apple will release the iWatch this year — though Cook’s use of “categories” suggests another new type of product could also be on the way.

Also in the interview, Cook revealed Apple has bought back $14 billion in stock since reporting its financial results about two weeks ago. Cook said the company was “surprised” by its 8 percent decline in shares since Jan. 28. Apple has now bought back more than $40 billion of its shares during the past week. “It means that we are betting on Apple. It means that we are really confident on what we are doing and what we plan to do,” he said.

Report: Apple reduces MFi licensing fees

Apple has reduced its MFi licensing fees, according to a Japanese report. The licensing rate was lowered in January, along with the purchase rate for Lightning connectors. It’s possible the rate reductions will be reflected in cheaper prices for future third-party Lightning accessories. This may also result in seeing Lightning products from additional companies, although it’s worth noting that Apple’s strict development restrictions have not changed and may still hamper that possibility. [via Macotakara]

Report: Apple sapphire plant has capacity for mass production

Apple’s new sapphire plant in Arizona already has the capacity for large-scale sapphire production, according to 9to5Mac. Reported shipping documents note that the plant has already received 518 sapphire furnace and chamber systems, with 420 machines still to be assembled. The report speculates that more than 103 million 5-inch iPhone displays per year could be made with the furnace systems already in place — but conceivably, any number of sapphire components could be manufactured on a large scale. Considering the plant already has the systems in place, it’s possible that one or more of this year’s new Apple devices could include those sapphire components. A previous report noted Apple was pushing to open the plant this month to create a “critical new sub-component of Apple products.”

Apple seeks physiologists in job listing

An Apple job listing seeking physiologists is the first official sign from the company that it’s looking to move into the health realm. The job listing — which was posted earlier today and has since been removed from Apple’s website — seeks a “user studies exercise physiologist” to “design and run user studies related to cardiovascular fitness and energy expenditure.” Although numerous reports have noted Apple is going in a health-related direction with its iWatch — including reports that Apple has hired experts from the medical field — this is the first signal that’s come directly from Apple. A recent report claimed iOS 8 and a new app with the codename “Healthbook” would be designed with iWatch in mind. [via 9to5Mac]

First Apple retail store in Brazil to open Feb. 15

Apple has announced that its first retail store in Brazil will open on Saturday, February 15. The store will be located at VillageMall in Rio de Janeiro. A recent report claimed Apple will restart production of the iPhone 4 for three markets, including Brazil.

Apple pulls popular Bitcoin wallet from App Store

Apple has pulled the popular Bitcoin wallet Blockchain from its App Store, leaving iOS users with no remaining Bitcoin wallet apps. Blockchain was removed on Wednesday, and Apple didn’t provide a specific reason to Blockchain CEO Nicolas Cary, only explaining the app was removed “due to an unresolved issue.” “It’s well known that Apple is developing its own payment system,” Cary told The New York Times. “They are building a walled garden to interfere with innovation.” According to Wired, Blockchain is the world’s most popular Bitcoin wallet. The app is used by about 120,000 people, with more than 1 million Blockchain users in total.

Report: iWatch to use LG stepped battery tech

Apple will use stepped lithium-ion batteries in its upcoming iWatch, according to a report from The Korea Herald. The batteries will be supplied by LG Chem, Samsung SDI, and Tianjin Lishen Battery, sources said. As the report notes, a stepped battery uses layers of batteries to offer more energy efficiency in a footprint similar to a regular battery. The report also suggests the iWatch is “unlikely to sport a curved screen.” LG Chem announced production of stepped batteries and curved batteries last year. LG’s G2 phone uses a step design to increase capacity in a small space.

A recent report suggested Apple was experimenting with magnetic induction charging for the iWatch, as well as new battery technologies, including solar charging, and kinetic charging — though that report noted some of the methods were “years” from happening. An Apple patent application from July revealed a flexible battery pack, while an early iWatch report said Apple was hoping battery life for the device could reach four to five days.

Apple seeks SCOTUS help on patent abuse; hit with $2B suit

Apple, Google, and a number of other companies are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to make it easier to collect attorneys’ fees from patent holding companies that lose infringement suits, Bloomberg reports. Both Apple and Google have been sued more than 190 times in the past five years by patent assertion entities, often referred to as “patent trolls.” A favorable ruling for the tech companies would make it more risky for such entities to present “frivolous” patent lawsuits. Apple said it is currently facing 228 unresolved patent claims, and the company “employs two attorneys just to respond to letters that demand royalties.” The U.S. Patent Act says fees can be awarded “in exceptional cases,” which leaves room for interpretation. Two upcoming cases unrelated to Apple will have the Supreme Court justices considering patent litigation fee awards; two companies that defeated patent suits are seeking fee awards from those trials.

In related news, the Wall Street Journal reports that a German patent assertion entity has accused Apple of patent infringement and is claiming $2.12 billion in damages. IPCom GmbH has accused Apple of improperly using a technology that allows emergency calls to take precedence on mobile networks. The technology is mandatory for UTMS and LTE cellphone standards, IPCom claims.

Report: Apple reviving iPhone 4 for India, Indonesia, Brazil

Apple has reportedly restarted production of the iPhone 4 for just three markets — India, Indonesia, and Brazil. It would be the first time Apple has resumed production of a discontinued iPhone. New iPhone 4 shipments have recently reached retail stores with a reported December 2013 manufacturing date, and trade partners have been told new shipments will have January manufacturing dates. A recent report from the same publication noted Apple would be relaunching the 8GB iPhone 4 in India due to the loss of sales and market share in the region. iPhone 4 is now selling for about 20,000 rupees (about $320), which is notably higher from the price cited in the past report. [via The Economic Times]

Apple releases iOS 7.1 beta 5 to developers

Apple has released iOS 7.1 beta 5 to developers, notably including improved Siri voices for certain international countries. The fourth beta was released about two weeks ago. Apple TV Software beta 5 was also released, as well as Xcode 5.1 Developer Preview 5.

Apple CEO talks iPad, iPhone + Siri with Turkish president

Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Turkish President Abdullah Gül, discussing research and development possibilities in Turkey, among other issues. Cook also revealed that Apple’s first store in Turkey will open in Istanbul in April. Gül suggested Apple should consider Turkey for research and development, while also requesting a Turkish edition of Siri. Cook suggested that the iPhone and iPad should be excluded from Turkish luxury taxes. The two also discussed the country’s Faith Project for education; a previous report forecasting Cook’s visit claimed that Turkey might acquire 10.6 million tablet computers.

The visit was another high-profile overseas meeting for Cook. Apple’s CEO recently met with UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny. [via Presidency of the Republic of Turkey]

Apple pledging $100M in equipment to ConnectED

Apple is pledging $100 million in “iPads, computers and other tools” to President Barack Obama’s ConnectED initiative. The Associated Press reports that a number of companies have committed around $750 million in total toward the goal of connecting more students to high-speed Internet. Obama’s ConnectED initiative has the goal of connecting 99 percent of American students to high-speed Internet within five years of its June announcement.

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