Apple has posted a ten-question Q & A document discussing the collection of location data on iOS devices. In response to the first question, “Why is Apple tracking the location of my iPhone?”, the company writes, “Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.” The second question asks why, then, is everyone so concerned; Apple responds by saying that users are confused, partially because creators of new technology—including itself—have not provided enough education about such issues. In response to the third question, “Why is my iPhone logging my location?”, Apple explains that the iPhone—and presumably other iOS devices—are not logging locations, but “maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around your current location, some of which may be located more than one hundred miles away from your iPhone, to help your iPhone rapidly and accurately calculate its location when requested.”
Apple blames the size of the current on-device database on a bug it has uncovered, which is also to blame for the continued updating of the database after Location Services is turned off. Interestingly, Apple admits to “collecting anonymous traffic data to build a crowd-sourced traffic database with the goal of providing iPhone users an improved traffic service in the next couple of years.” In response to the final question, “Does Apple believe that personal information security and privacy are important?”, the company responds, “Yes, we strongly do. For example, iPhone was the first to ask users to give their permission for each and every app that wanted to use location. Apple will continue to be one of the leaders in strengthening personal information security and privacy.”
Apple states that it will release a free iOS update “in the next few weeks” that will reduce the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone, cease backing up this cache, and delete the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off, and promises that the next major iOS software release will encrypt the database on the iPhone.
A report from last week revealing that iOS 4 devices regularly record their positions to hidden files has sparked a wave of inquiries from government agencies and representatives. According to the New York Times, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts have contacted Apple separately, each asking for an explanation as to why the location data was being collected and stored, and what it was being used for. The same report indicates that various agencies in Germany, Italy, and France are planning investigations and/or inquiries into the matter, while Politico reports that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is also looking into it. Separately, Bloomberg reports that South Korea’s Korea Communications Commission has also asked Apple how often the location data is collected and saved, whether users have a choice over whether it is saved or deleted, and whether the information is being stored on the company’s servers.
The Wall Street Journal has tested the feature on an iPhone with its Location Services turned off, and discovered that the location data is still recorded despite the setting, although the coordinates recorded were not from the exact locations the phone traveled, which is consistent with prior results. Finally, Mac Rumors reports that a reader emailed Apple CEO Steve Jobs about the issue, saying, “Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It’s kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don’t track me.” Jobs responded in his typically terse style, saying, “Oh yes they do. We don’t track anyone. The info circulating around is false.” While it is obvious that iOS 4 devices are indeed tracking and recording users’ locations, it’s possible Jobs was referring to the fact that the data does not appear to be collected by Apple, thus supporting Jobs’ “we don’t track anyone” claim.
Condé Nast is pulling back on its goal to deliver iPad versions of all of its magazines, according to an AdAge report. Citing anonymous company employees, the report claims that the change in strategy is due to lower sale volumes than are optimal for attracting advertisers. The report states that the company is still committed to the iPad as a platform, and has another undisclosed iPad edition of one of its magazines arriving in May. “It’s a shift,” one Condé publisher said. “The official stance was we’re going to get all our magazines on the iPad because this is going to be such an important stream. The new change is maybe we can slow it down. In my opinion it makes Condé look smart because we have the ambition, but we’re not rushing. They’re not all doing all that well, so why rush to get them all on there?” The company was one of the earliest supporters of the iPad, announcing prior to the iPad’s launch its intentions to bring out iPad editions of Wired, GQ, Vanity Fair, Glamour, and The New Yorker. [via Mac Rumors]
During Apple’s Second Quarter 2011 Financial Results Conference Call, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer and Apple COO Tim Cook made several comments concerning its media-related products, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. In his opening statements, Oppenheimer said that it was the highest March quarter in revenue and earnings ever for the company, with the highest year-over-year revenue growth ever generated. The numbers were boosted by an single-quarter record for iPhone sales, plus “robust” iPad sales—he said the company was “thrilled” with the iPad’s momentum—and 28% year-over-year growth in Mac sales, which totaled 3.76 million.
Oppenheimer also said that the iTunes Store had its best quarter ever, and the iBookstore saw 17,000 eBooks added during the quarter; the iBookstore now offers eBooks from 2,500 publishers, and has seen over 100 million downloads. While overall iPod sales were down, they were ahead of internal expectations, and were comprised of 60 percent iPod touch units, enabling Apple to maintain a 70 percent share of the MP3 player market. Overall, just under 189 million iOS devices had been sold, cumulatively, by the end of the quarter.
FileMaker has released an update for FileMaker Go, its iOS app for mobile access to FileMaker Pro databases. The new version adds support for printing FileMaker data via AirPrint and viewing and editing charts created with FileMaker Pro 11 using chart data from FileMaker or passed through from SQL database sources. FileMaker Go now also provides the ability to capture and save digital signatures directly on an iOS device, making it easy to sign contracts and invoices; signed documents can be exported to a computer or uploaded to centralized FileMaker Server databases. Other new features in the update include enhanced PDF creation for sending print-ready reports, notifications of record lock conflicts and the ability to open hidden files. FileMaker Go is available from the App Store in two separate versions: FileMaker Go for iPhone ($20) and FileMaker Go for iPad ($40). Both require iOS 4.2 or later. FileMaker is also offering new FileMaker Go customers 50% off the purchase price of FileMaker Pro 11 until June 17, 2011.
Apple has dropped its estimated shipment wait times on the iPad 2 to 1-2 weeks in many of the countries where the device is available. As noted by Mac Rumors, the new 1-2 week estimate is now posted on Apple’s online stores in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand, while estimates on its European stores remain at 2-3 weeks. Apple last dropped its wait times to 2-3 weeks on April 4.
Eye-Fi has released a major update to its iOS application adding support for Direct Mode transfers and native iPad compatibility. The new Direct Mode feature allows Eye-Fi X2 card users to transfer photos and videos from their camera directly to their iOS device by establishing a direct Wi-Fi network between the camera and the device. Photos transferred using Direct Mode are saved in the device’s built-in camera roll and appear in the Eye-Fi app where they can be previewed or uploaded to the user’s home computer or any of their configured online sharing services. An optional full-screen mode allows users to automatically preview photos on their iOS devices as they are transferred. The update also adds support for background file transfers on multitasking-capable devices and can automatically transfer photos taken with the Camera app on the iPhone, fourth-generation iPod touch or iPad 2. The Eye-Fi app requires a device running iOS 4.0 or later; Direct Mode requires an Eye-Fi X2 card with firmware 4.5021 or higher and Eye-Fi Center 3.3 or later for configuration. Eye-Fi 2.0.1 is available from the App Store as a free download.
A pair of programmers has discovered that iOS 4 devices are regularly recording their positions to hidden files, which reside on the devices and are transferred to any computer the devices are synced with during backup. Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden report for O’Reilly that while working on data visualization projects, they discovered a file “consolidated.db” that contains latitude-longitude coordinates along with a timestamp, and while the coordinates aren’t always accurate, they are rather detailed. According to the report, it appears that the location collection started with iOS 4, and thus the file could potentially contain tens of thousands of data points, or an entire year’s worth of movements. The pair note that the file is unencrypted and unprotected, and have contacted Apple’s Product Security team, but have yet to hear back.
As noted in our forums, Apple appears to have moved away from Skyhook and to an internal location database/detection service as of iOS 4. Given that users of Wi-Fi-only iPads and iPod touches have reported an ability to fairly accurately determine their location in situations that would prove challenging for an actual Skyhook-based system—such as in a moving car, with no Internet access available—it appears likely that iOS 4 devices are relying on this internal database to provide users with approximate location data even when no such data would normally be available. For those interested in seeing their own data, Allan and Warden have created a free Mac OS X application called iPhoneTracker that will automatically search the computer for any location files and display them on a timeline-enhanced map.
Update: The authors of the report have added a new section entitled “Who has access to this data?,” in which they state, “there’s no immediate harm that would seem to come from the availability of this data. Nor is there evidence to suggest this data is leaving your custody. But why this data is stored and how Apple intends to use it — or not — are important questions that need to be explored.”
Update 2: One week after the release of this report, Apple posted a Q&A on Location Data, explaining that while some iOS devices are in fact storing location information indefinitely, the data refers to locations of nearby cell towers rather than the particular GPS coordinates of the user, and is primarily being used for quickly providing mapping information. Our followup article explains how the company will change the collection of this data going forward.
Firemint has released an update to Real Racing 2 HD for the iPad adding support for 1080p HD TV output on the iPad 2. With this latest update Real Racing 2 HD users can connect their iPad to a television set or monitor via HDMI using the Apple Digital AV Adapter in order to play the game on a larger screen. When connected to an external monitor, the game displays real-time racing telemetry on the iPad screen while displaying the actual race on the HDTV. The update also provides enhanced visuals for the Alkeisha Island and San Arcana tracks for iPad 2 users and various other minor improvements and fixes. Real Racing 2 HD requires an iPad running iOS 3.2 or later; the new TV output feature requires an iPad 2, Apple Digital AV Adapter and HDMI connection. Real Racing 2 HD is available from the App Store for $10.
Crackle has released an iOS application allowing users to stream movies and TV shows from its online service to an iOS device. A division of Sony Picture Entertainment, the Crackle service was started back in 2007 to allow users to watch popular full-length movies and TV shows online, beginning with a web-based streaming player and later expanding to a wide variety of third-party hardware and mobile platforms. The release of the universal Crackle app for iOS devices now provides iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users with the ability to stream Hollywood movies and mainstream TV series directly to their device. The app provides unlimited, on-demand viewing of video content streamed over either a Wi-Fi or 3G connection, optimized for both the iPhone/iPod touch or iPad. Users can browse through movies, TV shows by genre or search by keyword and build a viewing queue for use within the app of online at Crackle.com. The library includes movies and TV series from Columbia Pictures, Tri-Star, Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Classics and more; users can view a list of available content at the web site or directly within the app. Crackle requires iOS 4.0 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download. Crackle is available in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia; not all content is available outside of the U.S.
iOS as a whole is outpacing Android among U.S. mobile subscribers, according to the latest data from comScore. The research firm reports that iOS enjoys an installed base of 37.9 million users among U.S. mobile subscribers age 13 and up, good for a 16.2 percent share, compared to a base of 23.8 million users for Android, good for a 10.2 percent share. Among the iOS users, the installed base of iPhones slightly exceeded that of iPod touches, both of which were roughly twice as high as the number of iPads; only four million iOS users—10.5 percent—used more than one iOS device. Indeed, the percentage of iPad users who also use an iPhone is only slightly higher—27.3 percent—than the percentage of smartphone users who use an iPhone (25.2 percent); 17.5 percent of iPad users were found to use a RIM BlackBerry as a smartphone, while 14.2 percent of iPad owners use Android phones.
Apple is planning to add a new combined multitasking and search view to a future version of iOS, according to a new report. Vietnamese-language Tinhte.vn has posted video of an iPhone running what appears to be a post 4.x version of iOS, complete with a redesigned multitasking interface. Instead of the row of app icons that currently slides up from the bottom of the screen when double-pressing the Home button, the version of iOS depicted in the video instead brings up a new view with nine thumbnails showing the current state of open applications; the app thumbnails can be pressed and held to bring up small black “x” buttons for closing the app, similar to what is seen when doing the same maneuver on the Home screen. In addition, the view has a “Search iPhone” box at the top that appears to function in the same way as the current Spotlight search, while the version of iOS depicted doesn’t appear to have a separate Spotlight search area to the left of the first Home screen. Tinhte.vn has provided correct reports of future Apple products in the past, however, it remains unknown whether the “test version” of the software seen in the video is legitimate, or if it will be included in any public iOS release. The video is available for viewing in embedded form below. [via Engadget]
Update: Tinhte has posted a second video showing the same interface running on a different iPhone. The phone in the second video carries an “XXGB” marking on the back, but in fact has 64GB of internal storage, and is seen running a version of iOS 4.0, suggesting that the thumbnail multitasking interface has been in development since before the release of iOS 4; it is still possible that Apple might move to a thumbnail-style interface in future versions.
PBS has released an update to its iPad app adding support for AirPlay video streaming on iOS 4.3 devices. Originally released last fall, the PBS app allows users to view current programs and content from the PBS archives streamed to their iPad on-demand, with access to classic PBS shows and new content created specifically for the iPad. Version 1.2 adds the ability to stream video to an Apple TV using AirPlay and now supports multitasking allowing users to quickly resume where they left off in a program after switching between apps. The update also fixes issues with audio playback when using the Mute switch on the iPad and adds several performance enhancements and network-related improvements. PBS for iPad is available from the U.S. App Store as a free download.
Apple has sued Samsung over the latter’s Galaxy series of phones and tablets, claiming that the products infringe on Apple’s intellectual property. The Wall Street Journal reports that the suit names products such as the Galaxy S 4G, Epic 4G, Nexus S, and Galaxy Tab as copying the look and feel of Apple’s iPhone and iPad. “Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple’s technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products,” the lawsuit said. Notably, Apple purchases flash memory and other components from Samsung, and the South Korean company is the manufacturer of the A4 chip found in the iPhone 4, as well as the new A5 chip that powers the iPad 2.
Good.iWare has released an update to GoodReader for iPad adding support for encrypting files stored within the app using the Data Protection features in iOS 4. With the latest version, users can now easily designate which files and folders they wish to have secured and the underlying operating system will automatically encrypt those files whenever the device is locked with a passcode. By integrating with the iOS Data Protection features, GoodReader is able to leverage hardware level encryption built into modern iOS devices making the process fast and transparent for end users while ensuring that sensitive files are protected in the event a device is lost or stolen. The update also adds support for “flattening” PDF annotations, embedding them in the main PDF body for reading in PDF viewers that do not provide annotation support and protecting them from further modification. Additional new features include symbolic PDF page label support, AirPlay video playback and several improvements related to connecting and synchronizing with remote servers. GoodReader for iPad 3.6 is available from the App Store for $5.
Update (04/19/2011): An update to GoodReader for iPhone is also now available adding the Data Protection and other new features to the iPhone version. Data Protection requires an iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS or third- or fourth-generation iPod touch running iOS 4 or later.
Dropbox has released an update to its popular iOS application adding several improvements related to file uploading and making some small UI changes. Dropbox 1.4 returns to the former tab-based navigation interface and adds a new dedicated Uploads section for tracking current and recent file uploads. The new version also adds support for bulk uploading of photos and videos from directly within the app and uploading files from other apps such as Mail and Safari using the iOS 4 “Open In” feature; the latter feature now allows users to upload any file type to their Dropbox directly from other supported apps. The update also adds Spanish, French German and Japanese language support and numerous bug fixes. Dropbox 1.4 is available from the App Store as a free download.
Toys ‘R’ Us is now selling the iPad 2 at select stores. According to 9 to 5 Mac, the children’s retailer is offering 16GB Wi-Fi models in both black and white, as well as 32GB Wi-Fi units in black only. It is also carrying pink, blue, and green polyurethane Smart Covers at most stores, while its Times Square location in New York City will also offer leather Smart Covers in black and tan. For a full list of Toys ‘R’ Us locations carrying the iPad 2, see the company’s online store list.
Software developer Panic, known for award-winning Mac apps such as Transmit and Coda, has made its debut on the iOS App Store with Prompt, a new SSH client for the iPhone and iPad. Designed to be clean and easy to use, Prompt is targeted at system administrators, web developers and other technical users who regularly need to connect to SSH-based servers and other devices. The application provides full support for Bluetooth keyboards, including special command keys and customizable keys and shortcuts and full VT100 compatibility. Frequently used commands are automatically saved for autocompletion and each connected server is automatically saved as a favorite. The application also includes support for SSH public/private key pairs for secure password-free login, can handle multiple active connections and automatically discover local SSH servers via Bonjour. Prompt is available from the App Store for $5.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has released an iOS application based on its Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll exhibit. The app features a multimedia showcase of over 600 songs from the 1920s through to 2006 selected by the museum’s curatorial staff and a number of rock critics and historians as influential in the evolution of rock and roll. Users can swipe through the app to experience the music from each era. Individual songs in each decade are presented using an album cover slideshow and users can listen to an audio preview of the song and read about the history of it and an explanation of why it made the celebrated list. Users can build a custom playlist of songs within the app or tap a link to purchase a song from the iTunes Store. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a universal app and is available from the App Store for $2.
Apple has released iOS 4.3.2 for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (GSM), iPad, iPad 2, and third- and fourth-generation iPod touch. According to Apple’s release notes, the update “fixes an issue that occasionally caused blank or frozen video during a FaceTime call,” “fixes an issue that prevented some international users from connecting to 3G networks on iPad Wi-Fi + 3G,” and “contains the latest security updates.” Notably, the notes make no mention of the problems domestic iPad 2 CDMA users had connecting to Verizon Wireless’ network, as had been previously speculated. In addition, Apple has released iOS 4.2.7 for the CDMA iPhone 4. Both updates are available now via the Update feature in iTunes.
Update: Apple has posted a support article documenting the security changes in iOS 4.3.2.