Apple has issued a public response after the U.S. government dropped its lawsuit demanding the company’s assistance in hacking into a terrorist’s iPhone, with the company saying it will continue to aid law enforcement while also continuing to increase the security of its products. “From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent,” Apple said. “As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.”
The U.S. Justice Department said it gained access to the information on San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone without Apple’s help and has dropped its lawsuit against the company, Reuters reports. Last week prosecutors asked for a delay the day before a court showdown with Apple, saying the FBI was working with a third party to gain access to the phone. While reports claimed Israeli company Cellebrite was the third party working on breaking Apple’s encryption, law enforcement officials haven’t publicly revealed the party responsible for the hack, or what was found on the phone. “The FBI has now successfully retrieved the data stored on the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple required by this Court Order,” DOJ spokeswoman Melanie Newman said in a statement. Apple had requested that the FBI share information on how it accessed the phone, but an unnamed law enforcement source refused to tell CNN whether the FBI would make good on that request. “We can’t comment on the possibility of future disclosures at this point,” the official said. Apple declined to comment on the news.
Apple has released a new version of iOS 9.3 with build number of 13E237, designed specifically for older iOS devices. The first finished public release of iOS 9.3 had an issue during the activation process. Users of such devices — including the iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and earlier devices — who were unable to recall their Apple ID info could find their devices rendered inaccessible. This new build is meant to provide a fix for that problem. We’re also awaiting an iOS update for everyone that will provide a fix for the current hyperlink bug seen in Safari and elsewhere after updating to iOS 9.3, but it appears like we’ll have to wait a little longer on that front.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is predicting a drastic redesign of the iPhone coming in 2017, including wireless charging, AMOLED displays and a “completely new form factor design” with narrower bezels. Kuo has pushed up his estimate for Apple’s release of AMOLED displays in iPhones, now backing previous rumors that customers will see the technology next year in a 5.8-inch iPhone that will completely replace the 5.5-inch iPhone, provided Apple can get enough of the larger AMOLED displays in time.
Sony has announced plans to develop mobile games for the “smart device market” under a newly-formed subsidiary, ForwardWorks Corporation. The new mobile gaming arm will “leverage the intellectual property” of a number of PlayStation games and characters in developing gaming applications for the iOS and Android platforms, although it appears that it will be focusing these releases on the Japanese and Asian markets. While Sony seems to clearly be following the lead of Nintendo, which debuted its first game Miitomo in the Japanese App Store earlier this month, in contrast to Nintendo’s efforts, it appears ForwardWorks will be delivering “full-fledged game titles” for users to “casually enjoy” on their mobile devices. [via TechCrunch]
Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software, is said to be the company helping the FBI in its efforts to crack the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reports. Cellebrite officials refused to comment, but the company has been providing the FBI with decryption technology since 2013. Yesterday, a judge approved a two-week postponement of the FBI’s court action against Apple as the government explores a “third-party” method of unlocking the iPhone.
Google has been developing its own third-party keyboard for iOS that would incorporate the company’s search engine, The Verge reports. Sources said the keyboard has been in circulation among employees for months and is designed to boost the search traffic from Apple devices by providing one-button access to picture, GIF and traditional web searches. Like its Android counterpart, Google’s iOS keyboard also employs gesture-based typing, allowing users to drag their finger from one letter to the next and have Google guess their intended word.
Both the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro will include 2GB of RAM alongside their A9 and A9X processors, according to a tweet from TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino. This further puts the iPhone SE on par with the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus in terms of raw processing power, although the 9.7-inch iPad Pro comes in slightly less powerful than its larger counterpart, which includes 4GB of RAM. Panzarino also notes that the A9X in the standard-sized iPad is underclocked in comparison to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, although it’s worth noting that the smaller tablet can likely get away with less RAM and CPU power to drive the smaller display, which includes only slightly more than half the pixels of the larger model — 3,145,728 as opposed to 5,595,136.
U.S. prosecutors have postponed their showdown with Apple by two weeks to try a “third party” method for unlocking the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, Reuters reports. A federal judge granted the Department of Justice’s request to stall the hearing until April 5 while the FBI tries the newly discovered method to unlock the phone, which is at the center of a case which has seen Apple refusing to cooperate with the FBI’s request to develop new software for disabling the phone’s password security features. Until Monday, the government insisted it had no other way to access the iPhone, and lawyers supporting Apple said the timing of the request for delay suggests the DOJ feared it would lose a legal battle based on the assertion that it had tried every other way to get into the phone. “From a purely technical perspective, one of the most fragile parts of the government’s case is the claim that Apple’s help is required to unlock the phone,” said Matt Blaze, a professor and computer security expert at the University of Pennsylvania. “Many in the technical community have been skeptical that this is true, especially given the government’s considerable resources.” The government’s use of the All Writs Act had also recently come into doubt after a judge ruled the AWA couldn’t be used to compel Apple to unlock an iPhone in a similar case.
Apple officially announced the release of iOS 9.3 today during the company’s special event in Cupertino, and the update is now available. Originally released in January to developers, and then later as part of the company’s public beta program, iOS 9.3 is an unusually feature-packed update for a point iOS release, as we observed in our early analysis of the betas.
As expected from recent reports, Apple today announced the new 4-inch iPhone SE. Apple VP Greg Joswiak took the stage to highlight the new addition to the company’s iPhone lineup, explaining that, despite the popularity of larger-screened iPhone models, a market for a 4-inch iPhone still exists, as “some people love smaller phones” and many users are still new to the iPhone entirely, especially in markets such as China.
The U.S. Supreme Court will review a judge’s decision to award Apple $548 million in damages from Samsung in a patent infringement case, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple had hoped the Supreme Court wouldn’t get involved, arguing that the lower court had appropriately assessed the fines. The Cupertino company also deemed the case “legally unexceptional” despite the high dollar amount involved. A federal appeals court upheld the awarded damages last December, but the Supreme Court will now hear Samsung’s appeal that the 1887 law cited is “outdated and too punitive for modern products such as a smartphone.” A jury ruled that basic design elements of certain Samsung smartphones were too close to Apple’s iPhone design, but Samsung argues that those design aspects don’t affect the functionality of the phone. [via Apple Insider]
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University discovered a bug in Apple’s iMessage software which allowed them to decrypt photos and video sent through the secure messaging service, The Washington Post reports. Apple says it partially addressed the problem with the release of iOS 9 last fall and will fully fix the issue with the release of iOS 9.3. “We appreciate the team of researchers that identified this bug and brought it to our attention so we could patch the vulnerability,” Apple said in a statement. “Security requires constant dedication and we’re grateful to have a community of developers and researchers who help us stay ahead.”
The FAA and Alaska Airlines are investigating after a passenger’s iPhone 6 burst into flames during a flight, ABC News reports. Anna Crail claimed she was watching a movie on the phone when flames began shooting out of the device. “All of the sudden there was like 8-inch flames coming out of my phone,” Crail said. “And I flipped it off onto the ground and it got under someone’s seat, and the flames were just getting higher and a bunch of people stood up.”
A photo posted on Chinese site Weibo shows an alleged spec sheet for the four-inch iPhone, which appears to confirm that the upcoming model will indeed be named the “iPhone SE” as expected, and that a 16GB capacity model will be available. Unsurprisingly, the image also shows that the new model will support NFC for use with Apple Pay. The new four-inch iPhone SE is expected to be announced at Apple’s upcoming event on Monday, March 21. [via 9to5Mac]
Another leaked photo obtained by French website NowhereElse appears to support previous rumors that the upcoming iPhone 7 will do away with the straight horizontal antenna lines of its iPhone 6s predecessor. The photo shows the bottom half of a silver device featuring a curved antenna line instead of the iPhone 6s’s dual-line design on the phone’s rear. Another leaked photo from earlier in the week appeared to show a design schematic for a new iPhone that featured curved antenna lines at both the top and bottom of the device. The antenna line in this new image is similarly positioned to that in the previous image, but slightly higher and seemingly bulkier. The angle of the new picture doesn’t allow for a glimpse at the possible top antenna or the bottom of the phone, lending no further insights into rumors that the new phone will do away with its headphone jack in favor of stereo speakers.
Alongside redoubled efforts to strengthen iOS security, Apple is trying to make iCloud encryption so tough that the company won’t be able hand over information to law enforcement, but has concerns that such strong encryption could be a detriment to users who forget their passcodes, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple’s current iCloud backups are encrypted, but not tied to a user’s unique passcode, so authorities can access content users back up this way with relative ease. Over the years Apple has provided police with information tied to a variety of court cases, but after FBI demands that Apple build a way to crack a terrorist’s iPhone, the company is faced with the possibility that it could be asked to hack into its own security systems. Tim Cook has reportedly told colleagues that he continues to stand by Apple’s goals to encrypt everything stored on Apple devices and online services, including iCloud. So in response to FBI pressure, Apple wants to re-engineer the iCloud backups with encryption based on each user’s passcode, making the company unable to decrypt the data without the proper passcode. That would take the keys out of Apple’s hands when the government comes asking for information, but it would also leave users who forget their passcode without a viable option for retrieving their personal data, leaving Apple in something of a quandary over how far it’s willing to inconvenience users in order to make its products more secure. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple recently released the seventh beta for its upcoming iOS 9.3 update. The new beta was released to both developers and public beta testers. With an iOS 9.3 final public release expected to come as early as next week, it’s already surprising that Apple has released a seventh beta installment. Although the release notes are sparse, it’s safe to assume that this seventh beta predominantly includes bug fixes and minor optimizations to tighten up iOS 9.3 before its final release. Apple also released a seventh watchOS 2.2 beta to developers. Anything particularly noteworthy will be found in a future update of our Inside the betas piece.
An unverified tip claims Apple is preparing a promotional video ahead of next week’s event touting the ability to shoot 4K video on the new ‘iPhone SE,’ Apple Insider reports. Until now there hasn’t been speculation one way or the other as to whether the new phone would be able to capture 4K video, but if rumors about the new device’s camera and CPU being basically equivalent to those of the iPhone 6s are accurate, the omission of 4K recording would seem to be an artificial limitation, rather than a technical one.