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Taiwan court rules Samsung used stolen trade secrets to make A9 chip

Taiwan’s top court ruled that a former senior director of R&D at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company stole the trade secrets that enabled Samsung to produce A9 chips for Apple devices, DigiTimes reports. Samsung seemed to have lost Apple’s chip business to TSMC in 2013, when Apple signed a three-year deal with TSMC to produce its A8 and A9 chips. But after ex-TSMC employee Liang Mong-song allegedly helped Samsung shrink the size of the transistors in its chips, Apple turned back to Samsung to produce the A9 chip earlier this year. A report compiled by third-party experts shows that while older Samsung chips are very different in design from TSMC’s chips, newer models are almost impossible to tell apart. “It could be hard to tell (if the product) came from Samsung or TSMC if only structural analysis is used,” the report states. Liang taught at a Samsung-sponsored university in South Korea after leaving TSMC’s advanced modules technology division, then became CTO of Samsung’s system LSI division in July 2011. TSMC sued Liang in 2011 over trade secrets, and this latest ruling prohibits Liang from working for Samsung in any form until December 31, 2015. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple offering free replacements for some defective iPhone 6 Plus cameras

Apple recently announced a replacement program for defective iSight cameras found in some iPhone 6 Plus units sold between September 2014 and January 2015. Apple said a “small percentage” of the devices sold during that time contain a component that may fail, causing photos to come out blurry. The offer only applies to the iPhone 6 Plus, as Apple claims the iPhone 6 has been unaffected by the defect. Users can search their phone’s serial number here to see if it is covered by the recall and, if so, can have their phone’s iSight camera replaced free of charge after an examination to make sure the unit is in working order. Customers can contact Apple customer service or take their phones to an Apple Authorized Service Provider, or an Apple Store for more information.

US patent office invalidates iPhone design patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has ruled that one of Apple’s iPhone design patents should never have been granted, Foss Patents reports. The patent office’s Central Reexamination Division — acting on an anonymous request from 2013 that may have came from Samsung — issued a non-final action last week rejecting the design patents that formed part of a 2012 Apple lawsuit against Samsung. That suit resulted in a judge ordering Samsung to pay nearly $1 billion in damages to Apple, an award that was later reduced to $548 million. This latest blow against Apple’s patents — while still technically non-final — further undermines the basis of that $548 million ruling, but Samsung’s appeal on that verdict was rejected last week despite other tech companies voicing support for Samsung’s position, leaving an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to be Samsung’s last option.

Apple releases iOS 8.4.1, iTunes 12.2.2

Apple has released iOS 8.4.1 and iTunes 12.2.2, a pair of relatively minor updates that add fixes and enhancements mostly related to Apple’s Music and Beats 1 Radio services. iOS 8.4.1 notes fixes related to iCloud Music Library, adding songs to playlists, displaying album artwork, and resolves issues experienced by artists posting to Connect. iTunes 12.2.2 fixes a number of display and sorting problems related to Apple Music, and adds the ability to view a list of followed artists and see a schedule of upcoming Beats 1 programming. The iTunes update also allows artists using the Connect service to now post new content directly from within the iTunes app.

Conflicting reports leave existence of ‘iPhone 6c’ a mystery

Well-known leaker Evan Blass tweeted yesterday that an iPhone 6c will be arriving concurrently with the upcoming iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, but new information from mobile marketing company Fiksu may fly in the face of that prediction. Fiksu’s web logs have turned up two new iPhone models — designated “iphone8,1” and iphone 8,2” — being used to access a range of popular travel, gaming and lifestyle apps. The company notes that these identifiers don’t match what the phones will be called once they’re released to the public, since the current iPhone 6 is designated “iphone 7,2” and the iPhone 6 Plus is designated “iphone 7,1” within that naming convention. The fact that Fiksu only found two new iPhone models being tested lends more credibility to previous rumors that the iPhone 6c won’t be coming until at least next year, if at all. Alleged photos of an iPhone 6c casing made news in March, but since then speculation has been all over the map, with some claiming that an iPhone 6c is coming this year and others saying Apple isn’t building one.

Falling currency value could raise iPhone prices in China

With China devaluing its currency Tuesday, Chinese iPhone buyers could see a big spike in prices soon, The Wall Street Journal reports. In its annual report last year, Apple warned investors that a stronger U.S. currency might translate to lower sales and profit margins overseas when those sales are expressed in U.S. dollars. “There is a risk that the company will have to adjust local currency product pricing due to competitive pressures when there have been significant volatility in foreign currency exchange rates,” the reports stated. Apple didn’t immediately comment on China’s move, but the company has raised prices on its products in Canada, Japan and other countries in recent years to respond to persistent changes in exchange rates. China is currently the second-largest market for Apple — after the Americas — and the iPhone is already among the most expensive smartphones in China.

Report: iPhone 6S Force Touch to focus on shortcuts

The upcoming version of Force Touch found on Apple’s next iPhones will concentrate on shortcut actions, according to new report from 9to5Mac. On Apple Watch, Force Touch is used to reveal additional controls, acting as a clever way to provide more options on the small-screened smartwatch. Apps on the iPhone won’t have that same screen space issue, so it makes sense for Force Touch to offer other capabilities. A source in the report noted a number of examples, including: accessing voicemail by Force Touching the Phone app icon, Force Touching a track in Music to quickly access another menu, and using Force Touch in Maps to immediately start turn-by-turn directions. It’s said that iPhone Force Touch will be used in a number of ways, including an interface localized to the gesture, and via a shortcut list.

It also appears that Force Touch will be included in the upcoming “iPad Pro.” Though not a surprise, this report claims the feature will interact with the rumored iPad stylus. The report also notes that Apple was working on 4K video recording for the iPhone 6S, but it’s unknown as to whether the feature will make it into the newest devices next month.

Verizon to stop offering subsidized phones on August 13

Verizon has announced that starting this Thursday, August 13, it will no longer subsidize phones for new subscribers, leaving new customers left with the options to buy their phones outright or spread out the payments with the company’s device payment option. The company is also doing away with two-year contracts in favor of a simplified monthly billing format. Verizon said current customers can keep their existing plan or move onto the new plan, but notes that “some restrictions” will apply. The move is aimed more at making cellular plans easier to understand than at providing a better value to customers.

Apple releases fifth iOS 9 beta to developers

Apple has released the fifth developer beta of iOS 9. Featuring a build number of 13A4325c, the fifth beta once again lacks specific release notes, but likely continues to focus on improving the stability and reliability of the new features in the operating system. A new watchOS beta with a build number of 13S5325c has also been posted, which can be installed via a configuration profile that requires the corresponding iOS 9 beta to be installed, along with new betas of Xcode 7 and Apple Configurator.

Target testing in-store beacons for iOS app users

Target announced it is installing low-powered Bluetooth beacons in 50 of its stores, set to use the company’s iOS app to highlight products and special offers as customers walk through certain sections of the store. The beacons will track shoppers throughout the store and present limited recommendations depending on which section the customer is in – an alert that a nearby item in women’s apparel is trending on Pinterest, for example. Eventually Target hopes to provide more in-depth features, like reorganizing a shopping list based on the best path through a store or providing reminders if a user forgot an item once they make it to the checkout line.

The technology could even be used to pair employees with customers in need of assistance in real time. Users will have to “opt in” to share their location while in the store and allow the app to send push notifications to their phones. Target says it plans to limit those notifications to two per shopping trip, but in-app updates on the app’s “Target Run” page will offer deals in a social media-style news feed. Target said the 50 test stores – located in areas in and around Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle – were chosen because they represent a good cross-section of stores in various markets, according to TechCrunch. Expansion to other stores and support for Android phones is expected later in the year.

Judge denies class-action status to iMessage lawsuit

A federal judge has limited the scope of a lawsuit against Apple claiming the company’s iMessage system interfered with the delivery of text messages for former iPhone users switching to Android phones, Bloomberg reports. Plaintiff Adrienne Moore filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple in May 2014, arguing that the iMessage system hindered her ability to receive texts after she migrated her number to a Samsung phone running Google’s Android operating system. The iMessage system delivers messages from one iPhone user to another through a different process than standard text messages and Apple has acknowledged iMessages sent to unused Apple IDs may never reach their intended recipient if that user has switched away from an iPhone.

In November 2014, Apple released a deregistration tool allowing users to wipe their phone number from the iMessage system, but that same month the court ruled that Moore deserved a hearing to decide whether Apple had “interfered with her contract with Verizon Wireless” by not delivering her messages when she switched to a competing Android phone. The latest ruling from U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh states that the case can’t proceed as a group lawsuit because it’s unclear that all proposed members of the suit suffered an inconvenience due to “contractual breach or interference” related to the iMessage system. Moore’s lawyer couldn’t be reached for comment, and it’s unclear from the ruling whether Moore will still be able to proceed with her individual lawsuit in its current form or will need to file a new suit.

Apple denies reported MVNO cellular service plans

According to a CNBC tweet, Apple has denied reports that it is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator service. The denial comes one day after Business Insider published a story claiming Apple was interested in leasing space from existing cellular carriers to provide its own service in which to offer data, calls and texts directly to iPhone users. As of this writing, Business Insider’s original story still ends with the line, “We reached out to Apple for comment on this story and will update if we hear back.”

Australian cellular carrier Telstra offering Apple Music free for 12 months

Australian cellular provider Telstra is offering customers a free 12-month Apple Music subscription when they sign up for an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus on the company’s Go Mobile plan. Users will receive an SMS message three days before their free subscription runs out and start being billed for the service automatically at the end of the free trial unless they cancel. Even users who have already signed up for Apple Music’s 3-month free trial are eligible for the full 12 months of Apple Music with a new cell phone plan. Telstra isn’t the first provider to use Apple Music to draw in customers, with T-Mobile adding Apple Music to its Music Freedom program that allows users to stream music from the service and not count it against their data limit. Data charges still apply to streaming Apple Music through Telstra.

The language of Telstra’s contract hints that a user’s bill for Apple Music after the 12 free months may be coming through the carrier itself, not Apple. Apple’s updated iTunes terms of service noted that carriers may start handling some Apple Music subscriptions, but Telstra would be the first. AT&T had a similar deal with the Beats Music streaming service, but when Beats Music was migrated to Apple Music those contracts were terminated, forcing users to set up new billing directly through Apple.

Report: Apple in talks to launch virtual network service

Sources close to Apple say the company is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator service in the U.S. and Europe, Business Insider reports. An MVNO would let Apple sell service for data, calls and texts directly to users, leasing the space from existing cellular carriers but allowing users to hop from one carrier to another to guarantee the best service available in the area. The service is still very much in a test phase, with telecom sources saying it could take at least five years to fully launch even if it proves viable. Apple has been in talks with various telecoms for years over the service, with sources calling plans for the virtual Apple network an “open secret.” A 2006 patent shows Apple’s long-standing interest in the concept of allowing its devices to jump from carrier to carrier, and the company’s rumored plan to use Siri to transcribe voicemails would help chip away at existing barriers to the company’s ability to offer its own cellular service. Apple’s iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 already feature built-in SIM cards that are compatible with multiple carriers, and the company is currently in discussions with the GSMA, aimed at a new “common architecture” to simplify allowing devices to operate on multiple carriers’ networks.

Leaked photos suggest thicker, Force Touch-equipped iPhones

Two new leaks further speculation that new iPhones will be Force Touch-equipped and have slightly thicker bodies. Alleged renders of the new iPhone 6S posted by uSwitch seem to reinforce previously leaked schematics suggesting the new iPhone will be slightly thicker than the original. The images are purported to be CAD renders sent by Apple to third-party case manufacturers ahead of the new phone’s release, which show that the new iPhone 6s will increase in thickness from 6.9 mm to 7.1 mm. The iPhone 6S Plus will get a similar boost, from 7.1 mm thick to 7.3 mm. uSwitch attributes the increase in thickness to Apple wanting to ensure their new phones don’t bend, but more leaks posted by French site NowhereElse suggest the increase in size may be to accommodate Force Touch technology.

Those images of an alleged iPhone 6S prototype show a rectangle cut out of the metal plate that usually separates the screen from internal components. The site speculates that the minor difference could be making room for Force Touch technology — expected to be one of the major changes coming in the iPhone 6S. But the rectangular space also bears a striking resemblance to the space left inside the Apple Watch for its taptic engine, so time will tell what actually ends up occupying that space.

Apple releases second iOS 8.4.1 beta to developers

Apple has released a second iOS 8.4.1 beta to developers. Featuring a build number of 12H318, this second release, like the first, provides no release notes, and likely simply addresses unresolved issues with Apple Music and other features from last month’s iOS 8.4 release. The latest build has not yet appeared for direct download on the Apple Developer site; it is currently only available as an over-the-air update to those running the first iOS 8.4.1 beta released two weeks ago,

Apple Music added to T-Mobile’s Music Freedom

T-Mobile has added Apple Music to its Music Freedom program, allowing listeners to stream Apple Music songs without counting against their data limit. The carrier is also offering customers the ability to lease an iPhone for $15 a month and allowing anyone picking up an iPhone before Labor Day to upgrade to the next model later this year at the same rate. “Now, every single customer who gets a new iPhone 6 this summer as part of this deal can simply swap it for the next iPhone, if they upgrade before the end of the year,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere wrote on the company’s blog. [via CNET]

Beijing police bust massive iPhone counterfeiting operation

Police in Beijing have busted a factory that made more than 41,000 fake iPhones — some of which reached the United States — and arrested nine suspects in the counterfeiting operation, Reuters reports. The group set up a factory in January under the guise of a gadget maintenance shop and hired hundreds of workers to repackage second-hand smartphone components for export as iPhones. Police raiding the facility on May 14 found 1,400 handsets and large quantities of accessories. Beijing police said the investigation began after they received a tip from U.S. authorities who had seized some of the fake iPhones. Apple declined to comment, saying the investigation was still ongoing. Knock-off Apple products in China have been a problem for years, pushing Apple to organize a team in 2008 to combat counterfeiters. In 2011, Chinese bloggers uncovered several unauthorized retailers that carefully replicated the look and feel of an Apple Store, right down to the employee uniforms. Since then, the Chinese government has taken stiffer action to protect intellectual property rights, cracking down on fakes and pushing firms to apply for trademarks and patents.

Apple releases second iOS 9 public beta

Apple has released the second public betas of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan, corresponding to the fourth developer beta released earlier this week. Originally announced at WWDC, the public beta of iOS 9 allows non-developers to preview an early version of iOS 9 prior to the final release of a stable version in the fall. Users who have already signed up on the Apple Beta Website should be able to log in and download the new versions now; users who haven’t signed up can do so at the same site.

Home Sharing for Music returns in iOS 9 beta 4

After quietly dropping Home Sharing in iOS 8.4 and later tweeting that it would be working to bring it back in iOS 9, it appears that Apple has taken at least a partial step in this direction. iOS 9 beta 4, released earlier today, returns the Home Sharing option under Music in the iOS 9 Settings app, although the feature doesn’t yet appear to yet be implemented in the actual Music app. At this point, it remains unclear exactly how Home Sharing will be implemented in the new Music app and how it will interact with Apple Music and iCloud Music Library, but the appearance of this option in the latest beta suggests that Apple is at least working to address the omission.

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