Apple has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over freemium apps aimed at children—titles that could be downloaded for free, but offered in-app game purchases. As originally reported by Law360 (subscription link), Apple will offer a $5 iTunes credit for claims that a minor bought in-game items without knowledge or permission. If the in-game items cost more than $5, Apple will offer a matching iTunes credit, and if the charges exceeded $30, the user can claim a cash refund.
A group of parents first sued Apple in 2011 over the “bait apps” in question. An email notice will be sent to more than 23 million iTunes account holders “who made a ‘Game Currency’ purchase in one or more apps.” The settlement must receive preliminary approval from a federal judge before Apple can start accepting claims. [via GigaOM]
An iPad casing manufacturer is facing sanctions from Chinese authorities for discharging waste that has turned a river “milky white.” A local water worker told the Financial Times that such waste incidents often occur weekly from a Riteng factory, which according to a waste water treatment employee has killed fish and made the river unusable for watering vegetables. Riteng is a subsidiary of Casetek, which said that the discharge was “just Chinese new year annual cleaning.” Casetek claimed the discharge had nothing to do with production — rather, it was due to a staff error during cleaning. Apple declined comment, but confirmed that Riteng does produce iPad back panels. [via Apple Insider]
Qualcomm has announced the RF360 Front End Solution, a family of chips designed to give next-generation devices global 4G LTE compatibility. The chips will support all seven cellular modes — LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE. All 40 cellular radio bands currently in use will be supported, as well as 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, and LTE Advanced, allowing companies such as Apple to make devices that will access all LTE bands, rather than just the small subsets offered in current iPhone and iPad models. The RF360 Front End Solution will be available in the second half of 2013.
Apple has released iOS 6.1.3 beta 2 to developers for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This is notably the second version of the one-time “6.1.1” beta, containing the same Japanese-focused enhancements to the Maps application; Apple changed the name after releasing 6.1.1 and 6.1.2 patches to fix bugs with iOS 6.1. The beta is available through Apple’s developer portal. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple faces a class action lawsuit in Brazil regarding the introduction of the fourth-generation iPad, according to Brazilian newspaper Jornal do Comércio (translated link). Two separate allegations are made in the lawsuit: first, that Apple’s deviation from its yearly product cycle update is “planned obsolescence,” affecting customers who just purchased a third-generation iPad, which had only been available in Brazil for five months before the fourth-generation model was released. The second allegation maintains that Apple didn’t effectively communicate the discontinuation of the third-generation iPad in Brazil, such that some consumers unknowingly bought “what was already an obsolete version.” Brazilian newspaper O Hoje (translated link) notes the suit seeks replacement iPads for Brazilians who bought third-generation iPads, as well as penalties for “improper commercial practices, misleading advertising and product offering,” such as a 50 percent reimbursement of the amount each customer paid for the third-generation iPad, and/or a 30 percent fine for each unit sold in the country. [via MacRumors]
A patent application from Apple published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office reveals details about a “wearable accessory device” that could hint at its plans for the rumored “iWatch.” Originally filed on Aug. 17, 2011, the patent application for “Bi-stable spring with flexible display” describes a wearable accessory device that includes a flexible display, coupled to a bi-stable spring—a bendable surface that can lock into two positions, like a slap band. The patent also notes that “[w]ith a touch screen user input a user can accomplish a number of different tasks including adjusting the order of a current playlist, and reviewing a list of recent phone calls,” phrases that suggest possible functionality for the device.
One included image shows the accessory as a bracelet, worn around the wrist. The wearable video device would have a “flat state” and “curled state” and an “electronic module in communication with the flexible display.” As an example, the application lists snaps or velcro as possibilities for securing the device to a wrist, though the patent’s abstract points out such a device could be “easily worn in a number of convenient locations.” [via Apple Insider]
Apple Chairman of the Board Arthur Levinson spoke at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business on Tuesday, and he described his experience running the company’s board of directors as “weird” after the death of Steve Jobs. Levinson said that he misses Jobs, and mentioned that “The Steve Jobs that was in the public eye was not, for the most part, the Steve Jobs that I knew.”
Describing Apple’s recent quarter as “phenomenal,” Levinson mentioned that a company’s short-term earnings mean very little, and noted that he felt confident about the company’s long-term goals. He also said that Apple’s board doesn’t have much input in the creation of new products. “The board is not there to define product specs,” Levinson said. “It’s there as a sounding board. It’s there as a resource. And ultimately, the board is there to hire and fire the CEO.” [via Fortune]
Apple Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive recently appeared on the British children’s program Blue Peter, and offered some insight as to how Apple’s design team approaches new product categories, using a lunchbox as an example. “If we’re thinking of lunchbox,” Ive said, “we’d be really careful about not having the word ‘box’ already, you know, give you a bunch of ideas that could be quite narrow. Because you think of a box as being square, and like a cube. And so we’re quite careful with the words we use, because those can sort of determine the path that you go down.” In the segment, Ive also provides feedback on the lunchbox designs of youngsters, and receives a gold Blue Peter badge, the show’s highest accolade. [via Tom Davenport]
Apple’s largest manufacturing partner Foxconn has frozen its hiring across China. Bloomberg reports the decision was unrelated to iPhone 5 production, according to Foxconn spokesman Bruce Liu. However, the Financial Times (subscriber link) reports the hiring freeze is related to a slow down in iPhone 5 production, citing spokesman Liu Kun.
Apple’s recent hack, initially attributed to hackers out of China, is now claimed to have come from Eastern Europe. At least 40 companies — including Apple, Facebook, and Twitter — were targeted by malware from an Eastern European gang of hackers attempting to “steal company secrets,” according to a new report containing more details about the hacks. People familiar with the matter said the hackers want company secrets, research, and intellectual property they can “sell underground.” Company computers were initially infected by malware — implanted through a browser security flaw — at the iPhone developer site iphonedevsdk.com. Investigators have tracked at least one of the servers used by the hackers to a Ukraine hosting company. [via Bloomberg]
Apple has released iTunes 11.0.2, a minor update adding a new Composers view for browsing music along with several stability and performance improvements. The update specifically promises to improve responsiveness when syncing large playlists and fixes an issue where purchases may not appear in the iTunes library.
Apple computers were recently hacked by the same hackers who targeted Facebook, but it appears no data was stolen, according to Reuters. A “small number” of employee Macs were breached, but there is “no evidence that any data left Apple.” The company announced that a software tool will be released today to protect Mac users against the malicious software used in the attacks. Apple also released a statement to AllThingsD, saying that malware infected a “limited number of Mac systems through a vulnerability in the Java plugin for browsers. The malware was employed in an attack against Apple and other companies, and was spread through a website for software developers. We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network.” Facebook announced it was attacked on Friday, tracing the attack to unidentified hackers in China.
Apple has acknowledged the lock screen security flaw found in iOS 6.1, and a fix is on the way. Company spokeswoman Trudy Miller said the company is aware of the issue, and a fix will be delivered in a future software update. [via AllThingsD]
Staples has announced to corporate employees that the company will soon start selling Apple products in the U.S, according to reports. A number of employees tweeted about the news, including Staples Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources Regis Mulot, who later deleted his tweet. A mock-up page was found on Staples’ website in late January, with an Apple TV test page among the pages seen before removal. [via 9to5Mac]
Nat Brown, “a founder of the original xBox project at Microsoft” who “gave it its name,” has suggested in a blog post that Apple could easily turn the Apple TV into an open game console, taking advantage of the still-poor Xbox user and developer experience to rapidly conquer the market. “Apple, if it chooses to do so, will simply kill Playstation, Wii-U and xBox by introducing an open 30%-cut app/game ecosystem for Apple-TV [sic],” Brown wrote. “I already make a lot of money on iOS – I will be the first to write apps for Apple-TV when I can, and I know I’ll make money.”
According to Brown, “The current numbers already say a lot, even with Apple-TV not already an open console: 5.3M sold units in 2012, 90% year-over-year growth — vs. xBox 360 — about 9M units in 2012, 60% YoY decline,” though the Xbox 360 is notably nearing the end of its life cycle. Brown argues that a “console-capable” Apple TV could benefit indie developers as well as users, who would jump at a chance to get away from Xbox’s confusing menus, loading times, and poor online marketplace for software, which hides smaller titles in an area without any promotion. Microsoft and Sony are both expected to announce next-generation game consoles this year, but at price points significantly higher than the Apple TV’s, which Brown suggests could become more expensive while still undercutting rivals.
A team of roughly 100 Apple product designers are currently working on a “wristwatch-like device that may perform some of the tasks now handled by the iPhone and iPad,” according to a Bloomberg report. The team includes managers, marketing group members, and software and hardware engineers who worked on the iPhone and iPad. People familiar with Apple’s plans said the team size suggests that the smart watch has moved beyond the experimentation phase. Other media outlets known to receive official leaks from Apple reported earlier this week that Apple is developing a smart watch.
During the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed the huge potential for tablet sales, noting that 50 percent more iPads were sold last quarter than PCs. “There has been a sea change here, but I think we’re in the early innings of this game,” Cook said. While noting that competitors don’t disclose their actual sales numbers, he said that around 120 million tablets were sold last year, and cited an estimate that tablet sales would more than triple to 375 million units per year over the next four years.
Apple has made significant expenditures in building the iPad’s ecosystem, said Cook, and laid the groundwork for all of the key elements of future success—investments competitors may not have made. Cook noted that 300,000 apps have already been custom-made for the iPad’s screen, versus “hundreds” for competing devices.
Cook doesn’t “really think about” the cannibalization question as it relates to the iPad mini having any impact on the full-sized iPad. “If we don’t cannibalize, someone else will,” he said, later mentioning, “It seems perfectly reasonable to me to have an iPad and an iPad mini” in the product lineup.
Currently speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to a question about increasing the screen size on phones by mounting a direct attack on specsmanship. “The customer experience is always broader than that which can be defined by a simple number,” Cook said, suggesting that specs are what companies focus on when they can’t make truly great products. “Do you know the speed of an AX processor?” asked Cook. “Does it matter?” He said that for Apple, a great experience and great products were the goal, “the only religion that we have.”
Cook compared Apple’s Retina display to OLED displays, which have been the topic of much discussion yet have what Cook deemed “awful” color saturation. “The Retina display is twice as bright as an OLED display,” he said, mentioning that Apple feels very confident about the choices it has made with displays. “The only thing we’ll never do is make a crappy product. We’re going to make a great product… We must do something great, something bold, something ambitious. We want the customer to be the center of it ... to enrich customers’ lives.”
As for future display technology, Cook said, “I’m not going to comment about what we’re going to do in the future, that releases our magic, I’m not going to do that.”
Apple was awarded two design patents on Tuesday for the fourth-generation iPod and Newsstand app icon. Released in July 2004, the fourth-generation iPod features the Click Wheel, and introduced the photo and iPod color models. Apple Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive is credited as an inventor of the design.
The Newsstand app icon, which launched in June 2011 with iOS 5, features a skeuomorphic bookshelf design. Elizabeth Caroline Cranfill is the only credited designer of the icon. [via Apple Insider]
Once again, Apple has announced that CEO Tim Cook will speak at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, and his presentation will be streamed live tomorrow, February 12 at 10:15 a.m. Eastern on Apple’s site. While Cook will probably discuss Apple’s business, it’s unlikely that he’ll make any sort of product announcement. [via 9to5Mac]