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Follow iLounge’s live Twitter coverage of today’s Apple event

Follow @iLounge on Twitter during Apple’s Spring Forward event today for up-to-the-second coverage of everything new about the Apple Watch, and any other surprises Apple has in store. After the event ends we’ll have all the details here, so check back regularly throughout the day for an in-depth look. Apple’s special event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. EST), and will be streaming live on Apple’s website and on Apple TV’s Special Events channel.

Apple Watch details leaked prior to today’s event

A number of alleged Apple Watch details have leaked in the past few days leading up to today’s Apple event. Sources who have used the Apple Watch say the device’s battery will be able to handle 5 hours of “fairly heavy application use,” besting an earlier estimate of 2.5 to 4 hours, according to 9to5Mac. Meanwhile, TechCrunch is reporting it will take the watch about 2 hours to charge fully.

Other tidbits from the 9to5Mac piece include details on the Heart Rate Glance, a yet-to-be-announced feature that will allow users to view their heart’s beats per minute any time. The touch of a button will start the BPM monitor, which sources say starts reading the heart rate almost instantly and is “seemingly accurate.” Apple has only publicly mentioned the watch’s heart rate sensor being used with communication features and the fitness app. Additionaly, default glances installed on the Apple Watch will include: Fitness Stats, Activity, Clock, Weather, Music, Quick Settings, Calendar and Maps. The watch will also include Notification Center, accessed by swiping down from the top of the display while on any screen.

Japan Display vying to be Apple’s primary display supplier (Update: new plant confirmed)

Japan Display is in talks with Apple about the possibility of manufacturing smartphone screens, Reuters reports. Citing a “person familiar with the situation,” the report reveals that Japan Display and Apple are presently negotiating, with Japan Display looking for Apple to carry the majority of the 200 billion yen ($1.7 billion) investment in building a new display manufacturing plant. The discussions are confidential, but a successful deal between the two companies would attempt to have the new plant in operation next year, and would make Japan Display the primary supplier of displays for next-generation iPhones. The report notes the new plant would be expected to have a larger capacity than Japan Display’s existing facilities in Mobara — a plant that is running close to its capacity, according to Japan Display CEO Shuichi Otsuka. Japan Display currently produces approximately 50,000 meter sheets of LCD screen per month, with some of the sheets being used for the iPhone 6.

Update: Japan Display has confirmed that it will build a new $1.4 billion LCD manufacturing plant starting in 2016, and a source within Apple has confirmed the plant will supply display screens for the company. Apple will also be “investing an unspecified amount” in the plant, furthering the possibility that Japan Display will become the primary supplier for iPhone screens.

Apple comes to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, will replace AT&T

Apple will be gaining a place in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, CNBC reports. Expected to take place after the market closes on March 18, Apple will replace AT&T in the DJIA with the opening of trading on March 19. “The DJIA is price weighted so extremely high stock prices tend to distort the index while very low stock prices have little impact,” noted David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. He went on to outline how a recent Visa 4-for-1 stock split reduced the “technology weight” in the index, effectively making room for Apple after its 7-for-1 stock split last June brought its stock price down closer to the DJIA median price. With a $736 billion market capitalization, Apple is currently the largest publicly traded company in the world.

Apple extends iPhone 5 Battery Replacement Program

Apple’s iPhone 5 Battery Replacement Program has been extended, as noted by iPhone in Canada. The program, which launched last August, replaces iPhone 5 batteries in select units free of charge — a serial number checker on the site confirms device eligibility. Initially, the program was set to run until March 1, 2015, but the program now claims to cover “affected iPhone 5 batteries for 3 years after the first retail sale of the unit.” The affected devices were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, which means the program will extend until January 2016 at the latest.

Revamped Apple music service not coming until WWDC; new Apple TV later this year?

Following on earlier rumors that Apple’s new streaming music service may have been ready for a March launch, a new report from 9to5Mac indicates that the new service likely won’t be unveiled until at least June, when the company holds its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Citing music industry sources that have been briefed on Apple’s timeline for the new service, the report confirms that the new iTunes music streaming service is being developed, but notes that the company plans to introduce the new service as a beta at WWDC in early June.

The same report also notes that Apple is still working on a new Apple TV as well, which is expected to be a slimmer set-top box with an improved remote control and a redesigned operating system. It’s also expected that Apple will introduce an App Store with the redesigned OS — a feature which has been long-awaited by many Apple TV users. Apple had apparently hoped to debut the new Apple TV as early as this month, however, the company is still experiencing issues negotiating with content providers.

Larger iPad production delayed until later this year, USB 3.0 ports to be added?

Apple’s release plans for a 12.9-inch iPad have been pushed back to later this year, according to multiple reports. Production of the device will start “around September” due to display panel delays, Bloomberg reports. Initially, Apple was set to start manufacturing the larger device this quarter.

A report from The Wall Street Journal also notes production will start in this year’s second half. However, this report makes no mention of display panel issues, instead noting that Apple is considering “new designs and features for the enterprise market.” Apple could reportedly add USB 3.0 ports, keyboard and mouse ports to the larger iPad.

Apple, others likely to reach $415M settlement in poaching lawsuit (Update: settlement approved)

A U.S. judge appears ready to accept a $415 million offer to settle a lawsuit accusing Apple and three other Silicon Valley companies of conspiring to keep employee wages low, Reuters reports. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh rejected an earlier $324 million offer as too low after one of the plaintiffs objected. Apple, Intel, Google and Adobe are accused of agreeing not to recruit employees from the other companies, limiting job mobility to keep salaries lower. The lawsuit, filed in 2011, was largely based on emails from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and leaders at the other rival companies.

Update: Judge Koh has tentatively approved the settlement, the Associated Press reports, stating that she was satisfied after the companies increased their earlier offer. The tentative approval is to allow for comments prior to granting a final approval at a hearing scheduled on June 9.

Apple and HBO in talks for ‘HBO Now’ service launch

Apple is in talks with HBO about launching its new “HBO Now” streaming video service on the Apple TV, International Business Times reports. HBO is apparently working with partner Major League Baseball Advanced Media to launch the standalone web service in April, tied in with the premiere of the fifth season of “Game of Thrones.” Unlike HBO’s prior streaming offerings, HBO Now will be available for purchase directly from the company, rather than requiring the user to have an account with a cable or satellite provider. It’s expected that it will launch at a retail price of $15/month, which is in line with the current HBO pricing through traditional providers. While HBO and Apple are in talks about having HBO Now available on the Apple TV, it’s not expected that this will be an exclusive deal, and the service is likely to also be available on other devices such as Roku, Xbox, PlayStation and other platforms.

Report: Next-gen ‘iPhone 6s’ to feature 2GB RAM, Apple SIM

Apple plans to increase the RAM in the next-generation iPhone — likely to be dubbed the ‘6s’ — to 2GB, according to AppleInsider. This would provide more working memory to allow for apps to stay open and preserve data in the background, although at a potential battery cost. While Apple has defied expectations thus far in maintaining the iPhone RAM at 1GB in recent years, the iPad Air 2 received a RAM bump to 2GB last year, suggesting a high probability that Apple will do the same for the next-generation iPhone. The report suggests that this would apply to both the base iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

The same report also suggests that Apple is “strongly considering” including the “Apple SIM” in the new iPhone models as well, which would allow users to sign up for service directly with their carrier of choice right from within an iOS app or setup screen. While the iPad Air 2 included the Apple SIM last fall, the idea was met with resistance from carriers, with some such as Verizon choosing to opt out of the program entirely. The more complex iPhone plans that most carriers offer — in comparison to the more basic data-only iPad plans — would make this even more of a challenge for Apple to work out with carriers.

Apple looking to settle with electric car battery company

Apple is in talks to settle the lawsuit recently brought against the company by electric car battery manufacturer A123 Systems, Reuters reports. The breach of contract lawsuit against Apple and five former A123 employees claims that Apple began poaching engineers from the company last June. A123 specializes in creating large lithium-ion batteries for use in cars and other machines — it’s believed that Apple is working on its own electric car. In a court filing Tuesday, Apple requested an extension in responding to the lawsuit to explore a “potential resolution.”

Apple pushing out fix next week for ‘FREAK’ security flaw

Apple will be releasing a fix next week to remedy the newly discovered “FREAK” security flaw affecting the company’s iOS devices and Macs, according to Re/code. Researchers who uncovered the vulnerability in encryption technology said it could be used to spy on users of Apple’s Safari browser. A U.S. government regulation banning American companies from using the strongest encryption standards for users from overseas — ostensibly so the government could more easily monitor that communication, according to some experts — left websites vulnerable to hackers who realized they could exploit the weaker export encryption standard to break into sites in a matter of hours. The hackers could then steal data or take over elements of the affected websites. The bug left Apple and Android users vulnerable to attack while using hundreds of thousands of websites, including Whitehouse.gov, FBI.gov and NSA.gov.

Report: Apple Watch retail strategy aims to push iPhone sales

The approach expected to be used by Apple Retail to sell and promote the Apple Watch has been unveiled in a new report by 9to5Mac. The strategy will focus on “three key features” as well as a plan to encourage Apple Watch customers to adopt the latest iPhone models. Citing sources within Apple Retail, the new selling guidelines indicate that Apple believes “many customers have already decided they want an Apple Watch.” The company expects to leverage the Apple Watch to “position the benefits” of users either upgrading to the latest iPhone model or switching to the iPhone from other platforms. Retail employees have been specifically instructed to “highlight the ways Apple Watch will add value” to a customer’s life, before asking a variety of iPhone-related questions. It’s interesting that Apple appears convinced of customers’ desire to buy an Apple Watch — as the report notes, employees aren’t instructed to make a “hard sales pitch” regarding the device.

Apple back on top in phone sales for first time since 2011

Apple took back the throne as the world’s top-selling phone manufacturer in the final quarter of 2014, according to Gartner, Inc. Sales of the iPhone made up more than 20 percent of the total phone market, narrowly edging out Samsung for the first time since 2011. Apple reported its best quarter ever at the end of 2014, selling 74.8 million units. The increase is attributed to Apple’s strong ecosystem of products and the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which were a concession to users in the U.S. and China looking for bigger screens than previous iPhone models ever provided.

Apple adds vehicles to list of company’s activities in Switzerland

Apple has filed to expand protection of its brand name and logo to the automotive industry in Switzerland, ApfelBlog reports. Public filings made by Apple lawyers to Swiss regulators request protection of Apple’s trademarks to be used with multiple types of vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, golf carts, trains, planes and ships. Though not a major development, it’s another sign pointing to Apple’s rumored car plans; a recent report claimed the company intends to produce an electric vehicle by 2020.

Apple again under fire as Ericsson escalates legal action

Ericsson has escalated its legal dispute with Apple, Bloomberg reports. The Swedish phone maker announced that it plans to file seven new lawsuits in a U.S. court as well as a request to the U.S. International Trade Commission to block Apple products from being sold in the U.S. Last month, Apple and Ericsson filed several suits against each other over LTE patents, after Apple’s license to use Ericsson’s technology expired and re-negotiations broke down between the two companies. Ericsson’s latest series of complaints allege that Apple has infringed as many as 41 patents related to mobile device communications, user interfaces, battery conservation, and the operating system itself.

In other patent litigation news, after Apple was ordered to pay $532.9 million to Smartflash, LLC earlier this week, Reuters reports that the Texas-based patent licensing company has launched a second lawsuit against the larger company, over the same patents’ continued use in devices that were introduced after the original case began. The $532.9m settlement in the original case was awarded to Smartflash as a result of Apple using the company’s patents in all devices capable of accessing iTunes up to the point the lawsuit was filed, but it excluded the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPad Air 2. This second salvo by Smartflash is intended to make Apple pay the royalties deemed necessary by the original case, applied to these newer devices, as well.

Apple announces ‘Spring Forward’ event for March 9

Apple has sent out media invitations for an event on March 9, with the tagline “Spring forward.” The Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco will host the event. It’s expected that the event will mainly focus on the Apple Watch, which is scheduled for an April release, but some other surprises may also be in store. [via The Loop]

Update: Apple has announced that it will stream the event live on its website. The event takes place at 10 a.m. Pacific time, March 9.

Apple Maps adds new third-party data providers

Apple has been adding new data providers to Apple Maps, according to a new report from Apple Maps Marketing. The report notes several new services have recently appeared as suppliers of “Business Listings Data” in Apple’s Maps Acknowledgements page. Some of the notable new providers include GasBuddy, which provides gas price information, and GreatSchools, which provides school reviews and other school-related data. Although none of this data appears to have been incorporated into any actual Apple Maps listings, the appearance of these providers suggests that Apple is taking steps to integrate direct feeds from specialty services to enhance the amount of information available in Apple Maps. The report goes on to note that there may be a number of other companies beta testing integration with Apple Maps under typical Apple non-disclosure agreements.

Apple ordered to pay $532.9m in iTunes patent infringement case

Apple has been ordered to pay $532.9 million in an iTunes patent infringement case, Bloomberg reports. Texas-based Smartflash LLC brought a suit against Apple claiming that the Cupertino company infringed three patents related to iTunes digital rights management and “inventions related to data storage and managing access through patent systems.” The original claim sought $852 million in damages as an entitlement to a percentage of sales of all of Apple’s devices capable of accessing iTunes.

Apple had responded to the allegations by stating that it did not recognize the Smartflash patents, pointing out that “Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented.” Apple lawyers repeatedly argued that the patents in question were invalid and that Smartflash’s royalty demands were “excessive and unsupportable,” noting that Apple should not be required to pay royalties on the full price of an iPhone when the dispute only pertains to a single feature, stating that “It doesn’t make a lick of sense that one person would buy an iPhone and not make calls.” Apple notes that it will appeal the decision. Smartflash, which appears to be in the sole business of having licensed seven patents, has also launched patent infringement claims against Samsung, Google, and Amazon.

Apple reportedly streamlining Genius Bar experience

Apple is planning some significant changes to how Genius Bar appointments are handled in its retail stores, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. Citing several inside sources, the report notes that the initiative, dubbed “The new Concierge,” is expected to launch in Apple’s U.S. retail stores starting in early March. Under the new system, customers walking into a store and looking for a Genius Bar appointment will be placed on a priority-based wait list after describing their issue to an Apple Store employee, and will then receive a wait time based on how “important” the issue is. So a customer with a broken iPhone screen would be automatically prioritized over somebody seeking help with a more minor issue. Customers can then provide a phone number to receive text messages with time updates, so they can continue shopping elsewhere in the area and know when to return to the Apple Store for their scheduled appointment.

The brainchild of Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail Operations, the new system is being heralded by Apple employees as “one of the most significant changes to Apple Store operations in several years” and is expected to reduce congestion in Apple Stores and hopefully make customers happier by reducing fatigue and impatience while waiting for appointments. At this point, the new system will only apply to walk-in Genius Bar requests, however; appointments booked online will continue to be scheduled for specific times as they have been in the past.

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