Apple informed staff at a recent town hall session that major changes would be coming to the AppleCare and AppleCare+ programs this fall, according to a report. Many of the changes will apparently focus on in-house repairs — instead of exchanging an iPhone, iPod, or iPad for a new device, Apple will repair the same device and return it to the customer. Apple Stores will reportedly have the ability to replace displays by June, and to repair cameras, sleep/wake buttons and logic boards by July. Advanced diagnostic tools to remotely assess hardware issues will also be available. It’s unclear whether this new system will lengthen initial turnaround times for customers, who were previously able to walk into Apple Stores and swap devices quickly, though repaired units might not require time-consuming content restoration.
AppleCare may introduce a new tier for consumers, instead of specific products, and offer in-store training for customers. There’s also a possibility that AppleCare will be reconfigured as a subscription model. Additionally, free support for the iPhone may jump from 90 days to one year without buying AppleCare. Apple Vice President Tara Burch announced the changes, which would come to the U.S., then the rest of the world, reportedly under the “One Apple” brand — though it’s unclear if “One Apple” is an internal or marketing term. [via Apple Insider]
Apple has created a waiting list to decrypt iPhones seized by police, due to high demand. A new report notes a case in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had to wait for Apple to assist in unlocking the device of a man accused of distributing crack cocaine. According to the search warrant affidavit of an ATF agent, numerous law enforcement agencies do not have “the forensic capability” of unlocking an iPhone. Reportedly, the agent was told there would be at least a seven-week delay to unlock the phone, but the process apparently took at least four months. [via CNET]
Despite a report last month that Apple was close to making the deals necessary to move forward with the company’s streaming music service, a new report notes Apple is still discussing royalties. Universal Music is reportedly on board, and Warner Music is close, but Apple is still negotiating with Sony Music. Sources say Apple raised its royalty offer of 6 cents per 100 songs streamed up to 12.5 cents per 100 songs — the same rate as Pandora — but it’s unknown if Universal accepted that rate.
Some music executives argue Apple should pay a higher rate than Pandora due to its “broader ambitions” for iRadio, including the use of prediction data from iTunes users and a seamless plan to purchase songs through iTunes. Apple is reportedly offering revenue to labels through streaming royalties and advertising, while offering a guaranteed minimum sum as a safety net in case the revenue streams disappoint. [via Financial Times]
Apple won a lawsuit on Wednesday over the use of the term “iBooks” as Black Tower Press, which sued Apple in 2011, was ruled not to have exclusive rights to the term. Black Tower Press, a small publisher, owned the “ibooks” mark, but never obtained a registered trademark. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote explained “ibooks” only described books sold on the Internet, and wrote that consumers would not confuse Apple’s iBooks with the term used by Black Tower Press. [via GigaOM]
Multiple reports have noted a surge in mobile traffic from devices using iOS 7 recently, as Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is now about a month away. Notably, there’s been a reported rise in usage from iOS 7 iPhones and iPads in the Cupertino and San Francisco areas. Increased testing suggests Apple will have a public preview of iOS 7 available for developers at the conference, as many already expect. [via MacRumors, TechCrunch]
During its patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung, Apple is attempting to force Google to turn over documents related to the Android operating system. In a court filing, Apple argued that Android is used in all of the allegedly infringing products from Samsung, and the operating system “provides much of the accused functionality” in Apple’s claims. Apple claims Google is improperly withholding information about the terms it’s using to locate documents that Apple requested. “It’s a question of transparency,” Apple lawyer Mark Lyon said. “We have concerns that they’re not doing a full search.” [via Bloomberg]
A German court has told Apple to change customer data rules, according to a consumer group that has noted on its website that eight of 15 provisions in Apple’s data-use terms were struck down. Apple cannot ask for “global consent” to use customer data or use the location information of customers. The ruling only applies in Germany — however, a U.S. judge ruled in March that Apple must submit “a detailed account of how it collects and evaluates” documents, and the company may face court-ordered penalties over its practices. The U.S. lawsuit alleges Apple collected data from millions of devices without permission. [via Bloomberg]
Apple’s largest manufacturing partner, Foxconn, is reportedly undergoing a new shift in strategy to reduce its reliance on Apple. Recently, the company reported that its first quarter revenue was down 19.2 percent compared to last year, due to declining iPad and iPhone orders. “The decline in the business of our partners, such as Apple and Nokia, does affect us,” Foxconn spokesman Simon Hsing said. “We don’t want to just wait for orders. We are actively talking with many clients and asking if they can fully utilize what we make.” Some estimate the Taiwan-based Foxconn receives at least 40 percent of its revenue from Apple. Foxconn is looking to develop products of its own, with an “especially aggressive push” into large TVs. The company recruited Vizio to sell their TVs in the U.S., as Foxconn apparently doesn’t want to market its own brand. Apple declined to comment on the story. [via The New York Times]
Fortune has released this year’s Fortune 500, its annual ranking of America’s largest corporations, and Apple has cracked the top ten for the first time. Despite well-publicized issues that have deflated the company’s stock value, Apple rose to 6th on the list, up from last year’s rank of 17th. Though Fortune notes “Apple is bigger than ever,” the company’s overview also says last October’s product announcements “maintained more than disrupted,” while CEO Tim Cook’s apologies for Apple maps and Chinese repairs are also cited in the brief summary.
Thanks in part to Apple’s switch to more expensive Lightning connectors, as well as the ascendance of Bluetooth wireless connectivity, Apple’s grip on accessory makers is starting to slip, according to a New York Times report. While many retail stores and hotel rooms previously featured Dock Connector accessories, the market has expanded and broadened, reducing Apple’s presence. A number of accessory makers expressed frustration with the Lightning connector transition, as companies were not notified of the change in advance, and fees for both licensing and manufacturing have gone up. Consequently, accessory makers opted to leave Apple docks out of their products; Logitech, Voxx, and Geneva Lab told the Times that they’ve dropped physical Apple connectors from most or all of their products.
For its part, Apple says it doesn’t mind accessories continuing in a more wireless direction. Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said, “Apple provides users with the best wired and wireless connectivity options to work with the broadest range of accessories.” Still, sales of speakers with docks dropped 16% in 2012, while sales of wireless streaming speakers jumped 175%, according to an NPD Group report.
U.S. Cellular announced that it will “begin offering Apple products later this year” during a release of its quarterly revenue results. Though no specific products were mentioned in the announcement, the iPhone will likely be offered, as U.S. Cellular notes, “By further strengthening our device portfolio, we’ll give consumers another great reason to switch to U.S. Cellular, and enable our existing customers to choose from an even wider variety of iconic smartphones, and enjoy the outstanding U.S. Cellular customer experiences they deserve.” U.S. Cellular currently boasts 5.8 million customers — the carrier claims its 4G LTE network currently covers 61 percent of its customers, and the network will be expanded to cover 87 percent of its customers by year’s end. [via 9to5Mac]
As it has for a number of iTunes milestones, Apple has launched a new contest, this time for the 50 billionth iOS app downloaded. The person who downloads that app will win a $10,000 App Store Gift Card, and the next 50 people will win $500 App Store Gift Cards.
Along with the prizes, Apple has listed the top 25 all-time paid and free apps, for both iPhone and iPad, with Angry Birds, Facebook, Pages, and Skype for iPad at the top of the lists, respectively. As of the time this story was posted, the counter appeared to be at just over 49,207,000,000 downloads; a rough calculation suggests that the 50 billion mark will be hit in roughly 11 days.
Apple has released iOS 6.1.4, an iPhone 5-only update. The software update lists an updated speakerphone audio profile as its only revision.
Apple CEO Tim Cook will be interviewed on opening night to kick off All Things D’s D11 Conference, which runs from May 28-30. All Things D notes there’s “lots to talk about,” including mobile market growth, competition from Samsung and Android, changes at Apple, and new products in the pipeline. Cook also spoke at last year’s conference, discussing post-Steve Jobs Apple, Chinese manufacturing partners, and patent disputes, among other topics.
A “sweeping software overhaul” of iOS leaves Apple at risk of delaying the operating system’s release, according to a new report. While Apple expects to release iOS 7 “on time as soon as September,” “engineers are racing to finish” the software in time for a preview at next month’s WWDC, and internal development milestones are being shortened due to the rush. As noted in a previous report, Apple’s Jony Ive is apparently making massive changes to iOS, moving toward a flat interface and away from skeuomorphism. “More dramatic changes” are also expected for email and calendar features in the new iOS. Ive is reportedly taking great care to review new designs, as Apple looks to avoid a repeat of iOS 6’s Maps fiasco, which cost former iOS software chief Scott Forstall his job. [via Bloomberg]
Apple’s original iPhone, released in 2007, will soon enter “obsolete” status in Apple Retail Stores, according to an internal document. The switch will occur on June 11. Obsolete status means the original iPhone will no longer be supported at bricks and mortar Apple locations, though AppleCare and Authorized Service Providers will treat the device as “vintage” and continue to provide service for it. [via 9to5Mac]
Following a recent report about iOS 7’s interface, 9to5Mac has more information on Apple’s plans for the new operating system, reporting that “Apple plans to move aggressively into the in-car integration space later this year.” Multiple sources noted Apple is “working with car makers to deeply embed iOS’s Maps and Siri services into cars.” The company is reportedly working with car makers on center consoles that could attach iOS devices — at that point, an optimized version of Apple’s Maps could then appear on the car’s display, with Siri used to control Maps and other features. It’s noted that the new functionality could still be a long way from public release, and the feature may require newer iOS devices.
Apple has quietly crept further into the automotive world recently. Volkswagen introduced the iBeetle, a special edition Beetle with iPhone integration — though the integration is not nearly as deep as the proposals reported with iOS 7. Touted as an iOS 6 feature, Apple’s Siri Eyes Free feature was first integrated by GM, followed by Honda and Acura, with BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, and Chrysler also announced as partners. Apple and Ferrari have apparently discussed a deeper partnership, and Ferrari’s FF model integrates Siri voice commands, using iPad minis for rear seat entertainment. Also, Apple recently filed two patents related to communication between iOS devices and vehicles.
An recently published Apple patent demonstrates that Apple has continued to contemplate the use of a physical controller accessory with iOS devices. However, the patent filing appears to be mainly concerned about how users with disabilities can interact with touchscreen devices.
A controller could offer advantages to users who aren’t “physically present” at the touchscreen, users who “are unable to provide touch input,” and those with disabilities who could nonetheless use a physical accessory to control the touchscreen. Apple’s image of a controller accessory resembles a joystick, though gaming doesn’t appear to be the focus of the patent; the basic patent concepts could be applied for other purposes. [via Apple Insider]
Sources claim the look of Apple’s upcoming iOS 7 will be simpler than past incarnations, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. “Multiple people who have either seen or have been briefed on the upcoming iOS 7” claim the new operating system will be attractive to new users, but “potentially unsettling” for long-time iOS users. The interface is “very, very flat,” one source says, while another says it loses “all signs of gloss, shine, and skeumorphism” (sp). Immediately after the departure of former Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall, speculation has been that Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jony Ive’s work on the new OS would move away from skeuomorphism, which Forstall and former Apple CEO Steve Jobs both favored.
One source compared iOS 7 to the Windows Phone UI. Reportedly, there is no new learning curve for the new operating system, as the “core apps and system fundamentals” operate similarly to the current iOS. Interface changes allegedly include a new icon set for native apps, newly designed tool bars, and tab bars. Apple has also apparently been researching ways to add more quick glance panels, such as Notification Center, into the new software. One idea included swipes from the left and right of the display. Sources note iOS 7 is codenamed “Innsbruck,” likely after the Austrian city.
Apple has announced that it will be “hitting the road this fall” with Tech Talks for developers. Though Apple says the talks will be coming to “a city near you,” no cities have been announced so far. The company notably held an iPhone Tech Talk World Tour in late 2008, and has used multi-city events to reach out to developers who couldn’t attend its California developers’ conferences. Apple also noted WWDC 2013 sold out of tickets in record time, and reminded developers that videos of the sessions would be posted during the conference.