Apple has released its 2016 Environmental Responsibility Report, covering fiscal year 2015 with details on the company’s efforts toward becoming more eco-friendly throughout its operations. The report highlights three priorities that Apple has focused on to maximize its positive environmental impact, including using renewable energy sources and driving energy efficiency in the company’s products and facilities, conserving precious natural resources, and leading in the use of safer materials in both its products and its manufacturing processes.
Following yesterday’s news that the FBI bought information from independent hackers to assist it with unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone, a new report from Reuters reveals that the company the FBI acquired the procedures from retains sole legal ownership of the method, although it is unclear whether this “company” represents the “independent hackers” referred to in the earlier report. Either way, Obama administration sources have indicated that this makes it “highly unlikely” that the government will be able to disclose the technique. Technology security flaws are ordinarily reviewed by the White House to determine which should be made public, as part of a procedure known as the Vulnerabilities Equities Process — but sources note that the FBI would not even be permitted to submit the method to the White House for consideration without the permission of the private company that owns the technique. Rob Knake, a former White House staffer who was previously responsible for managing the process, noted that the FBI likely doesn’t even know the details of the technique other than that it successfully unlocked the iPhone in question, and added that the Vulnerabilities Equities Process had been created in 2010 to handle situations where government employees invent their own methods for circumventing security. The process was not designed for “a world of commoditized exploitation” by private companies, and that the government cannot “force companies to share the methods that they are trying to sell,” nor can they be prevented from buying technology from those companies.
Apple has announced that it will be ending the iTunes Allowance program as of May 25, 2016. The allowance feature, which has been available on the iTunes Store for over a decade, was designed to allow parents to setup iTunes Store accounts for their children and automatically add a fixed amount of credit to the account each month. Apple has suggested that users instead move to the new Family Sharing feature debuted in iOS 8, which allows purchases by children on a shared family account to require approval by a parent on an item-by-item basis. Users can also still send iTunes Gifts electronically, either as a dollar amount or for specific items, and of course traditional iTunes Store Gift Cards remain an option as well. Apple notes that users will not be able to create new iTunes Allowances as of April 13, 2016, and existing allowances will automatically be cancelled as of May 25, 2016, with any unused credit remaining in the recipient’s account until it’s used, in the same manner as credit from an iTunes Gift or Gift Card.
Accessory maker Logitech said it has agreed to acquire Jaybird, which is known for its wireless earbuds and fitness trackers geared toward the workout crowd. (Read our review of Jaybird’s X2 here.) Logitech paid $50 million for the company with provisions for up to $45 million in additional payments dependent upon Jaybird hitting growth targets. Like Ultimate Ears, a Bluetooth speaker company Logitech purchased in 2008, Jaybird will continue to sell products under its own name even after the acquisition. Bracken Darrell, Logitech president and chief executive officer, said the move gains Logitech entry into the burgeoning wireless audio wearables market and will allow his company to combine its audio engineering and design capabilities with Jaybird’s sports expertise.
A new Washington Post story claims a group of independent hackers sold the FBI information that helped crack the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, contradicting earlier reports that Israeli tech firm Cellebrite was the company behind the hack. People familiar with the matter said a group of researchers who specialize in hunting for vulnerabilities in software sold knowledge of a previously unknown iOS flaw to the FBI for a one-time flat fee. The information was used to create a new piece of hardware that allowed the FBI repeatedly guess the iPhone’s four-digit PIN without triggering the security feature that erases all the data on the phone.
After coming to the iPhone a few months back, popular Mac email client Airmail has released its first iOS version that works with the iPad, complete with support for iOS 9 multitasking features Split View and Slide Over. The update adds new features that work on the iPhone as well, including custom shortcuts and support for Touch ID.
Apple has drawn the ire of the Reddit community after suddenly dropping popular third-party Reddit clients from the app store over their ‘not safe for work (NSFW)’ filters. Apple informed the creators of Narwhal, Antenna, Eggplant and BaconReader that their apps were removed from the app store for violating clause 18.2 of the App Review Guidelines, which prohibits apps from displaying “user generated content that is frequently pornographic.” Rick Harrison, co-creator of Narwhal, told MacStories it was odd that third-party Reddit apps were removed after being available for months but Reddit’s official app, which launched last week, wasn’t pulled despite Apple contacting Reddit over the same concerns. “I reached out to Reddit asking them if they knew anything, and they informed me that they did not request Apple to pull these apps, and they were also receiving issues from Apple about 18.2,” Harrison said. “I think that Apple did not pull their app because they are a big company and were recently featured. As shown time and time again, Apple does not really care whatsoever about indie developers. From taking 30 percent of barely any revenue to rejecting apps based on features that have been available for 18+ months.”
Dozens of users have taken to Apple’s customer support page to complain about problems with call quality when using their iPhone SE over Bluetooth. Those pairing their device with car Bluetooth systems are reporting scratchy and distorted audio when using their phone to make calls. Some also reported poor audio quality when using their phones for GPS navigation in the car, and one user said his Jawbone Bluetooth headset experienced similar audio problems when connected to the iPhone SE. The phone audio quality is fine when not paired to Bluetooth, and the connectivity issue doesn’t seem to affect music streaming over Bluetooth.
Drake has announced that his upcoming album “Views from the 6” will be an Apple Music exclusive. The announcement came on the latest episode of Drake’s “OVO Sound Radio” on Apple Music — during that episode, he also played a new version of the song “Pop Style.” Drake has premiered several songs on the radio show and recently released a video trailer form the album on Twitter. [via Pitchfork]
The Delhi High Court has directed Apple to stop using ‘Split View’ to describe its multitasking feature that allows users to run two apps side by side in iOS 9, The Economic Times reports. Vyooh, a vendor for Microsoft, developed a similar software in 2006 under the name Splitsview to allow users to work within multiple windows. The company filed an objection to Apple’s use of a similar name for a similar product, leading the court to rule that Apple cannot use the term ‘Split View’ on any of its products or services in India. Apple declined to comment, but is appealing the ruling.
While still not publicly confirming that it was the firm that helped the FBI crack the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, Cellebrite has offered to help a father gain access to his deceased son’s iPhone 6, CNN reports. Leonardo Fabbretti said his 13-year-old son Dama had given him Touch ID fingerprint access to the phone before his death from bone cancer, but that the phone now required his son’s passcode to unlock after a restart. Fabbretti asked Apple for help unlocking the phone, but was told the company couldn’t access the device without his son’s passcode. After hearing the story, Cellebrite reached out to Fabbretti, and on Friday a forensic analyst delivered a promising update during a meeting in northern Italy. “They were able to download the directories with the iPhone’s content, but there is still work to be done in order to access the files,” Fabbretti said.
Well-connected KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is predicting this year’s second-generation Apple Watch will look mostly the same externally, but feature improved internal components, Apple Insider reports. Kuo said those hoping for a thinner Apple Watch will likely have to wait until 2017, with this year’s upgrade focused on “spec improvements with limited changes to form factor design.” This jives with a January report stating that the next Apple Watch would be a “minor revision.” Kuo didn’t mention any specifics about what new features Apple could include, but previous reports have speculated about the appearance of a FaceTime camera, better battery, and improved outdoor display.
A new report from The Wall Street Journal reveals that Apple’s history in working with the FBI goes back as far as 2008, when the company reportedly not only assisted the FBI in accessing the data on a locked iPhone, but actually had its lawyers assist in drafting the court order to do so. While the government reportedly had no means of compelling Apple to cooperate back then — other than the All Writs act used in the more current case — Apple basically voluntarily offered its assistance on the basis of the government providing the necessary paperwork. The case in question was a horrific child molestation case where the FBI needed evidence from the perpetrator’s iPhone, which was taken to Apple’s headquarters in California by a New York State Police investigator. There, the iPhone passcode was bypassed while the investigator watched. The case contrasts sharply with Apple’s more recent standoff with the FBI, but it’s also important to consider that 2008 model iPhone models did not encrypt data at all, nor provide any of the other advanced security features now commonplace on modern iPhone models, making for significantly different technical and ethical considerations.
FBI Director James Comey has revealed that the FBI purchased “a tool” from a private party to crack the San Bernardino iPhone, according to a report from CNN Money. Specifically, in formally announcing that litigation between the government and Apple has ended, Comey stated that “the government has purchased, from a private party, a way to get into that phone, 5C, running iOS 9.” Comey also added that he knows “a fair amount” about the people that the FBI purchased the tool from, that he has a “high degree of confidence that they are very good at protecting it,” and that the private party’s motivations align with those of the FBI. He also revealed that the tool purchased by the FBI only works on a “narrow slice of phones” that does not include the iPhone 5s or later models, possibly due to Apple’s new Touch ID and Secure Enclave architecture on those devices. The FBI Director also noted that the government has not yet decided whether to reveal the details of the hack to Apple, as he assumes Apple will fix the vulnerability if it is revealed to them, and the FBI will be “back where we started from.”
Reddit has released an official iPhone app for its popular online service, allowing users to more easily access Reddit content while on the go. The app allows users to browse all of Reddit directly, search and discover new communities by topic or interest, submit comments, images, links, and posts, and access messages, comment replies, post replies, and mentions. The app also provides the ability to customize Reddit with themes, including a night theme, and see content in either compact or card view layouts. Reddit is also gifting three months of Reddit Gold, its premium membership program, to users who log in to the new mobile app during launch week.
Hermés is expanding its collection of Apple Watch bands with new colors, and the high-end bands will also soon be available for separate purchase for the first time. The bands were previously only available with the Apple Watch Hermés edition, which required buying the watch and band together. Hermés’ website has a section for the Watch bands which will be sold separately, along with their prices. Band availability differs from the 38mm to 42mm model, and prices range from $340-$690, dependent on each strap’s style. Apple’s own website also lists the bands as “coming soon,” and Elle Australia claims the bands will be available April 19.
Apple has released a new round of developer betas for iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. The release notes for the new versions are relatively sparse, and the very minor version numbers — 9.3.2, 2.2.1, and 9.2.1, respectively — would suggest that these are primarily maintenance releases and do not likely include any new features worth noting. The new betas are available to registered developers from Apple’s Developer Site; those developers who installed the necessary beta configuration profiles for the prior beta cycle should also automatically see the new betas appear as an over-the-air update.
The Apple News account on Twitter appears to be up and running, promoting stories as of last night. So far the feed has sent out a handful of sports and news items with links that direct users back to the Apple News app. Anyone clicking on story links from a device without Apple News or in a country where Apple News isn’t available will be redirected to the affiliate news provider’s site instead.
A newly discovered security flaw in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus allows users to bypass the lock screen and gain access to contacts and photos. The exploit only works on 3D Touch-equipped phones set to allow Siri access to Twitter, Contacts and Photos, but if all of those variables are in place, gaining access to a user’s photos is relatively easy.
If a Twitter search run through Siri yields a tweet that contains an email address, a 3D Touch gesture can then be used to call up the contextual menu with options to send mail to the address or add it to contacts. Choosing to add the address to contacts allows access to the phone’s existing contact list, and using the contact list’s option to add photos to a contact, the user can browse the phone’s photos without ever entering a passcode. To guard against the potential intrusion, users need only disable Siri’s Twitter integration under Settings > Twitter. [via Apple Insider]
Update: Apple has tweaked Siri to stop the personal assistant from allowing access to Twitter searches from a locked iPhone. A spokesman confirmed to the Washington Post that the company pushed out a fix to make Siri force users to unlock their phone before delivering Twitter search results. The update was handled on Apple’s on servers, so it won’t require any action from users.
A French watchdog agency claims Apple should pay 48.5 million euros in damages over illegal contracts with cellular carriers, French website BFMTV reports. The Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and Fraud has filed a complaint with the Commercial Court in Paris alleging Apple’s contracts with carriers are “significantly unbalanced” in favor of Apple, in violation of the Commercial Code.