Apple is under scrutiny from EU regulators concerning its new streaming music service, The Financial Times reports. Likely in response to a formal complaint, the European Commission has contacted several music labels and digital music companies, sending them questionnaires asking for more information about agreement between Apple and the labels. The report notes that the commission is concerned that Apple may use its size and influence to force music labels to abandon licenses that allow competitors such as Spotify to provide free, ad-supported services — something that music executives would reportedly be amenable to as well, based on earlier reports. If the Commission were to find wrongdoing as the result of a formal investigation, it could require changes to Apple’s business practices and possibly even impose hefty fees, however information gathering such as this is normally only a very preliminary step and does not necessarily mean a formal antitrust investigation will even be launched.
Apple wants TV networks to “handle the responsibility and cost of the streaming infrastructure” for its web TV service, Re/code reports. While Apple wants to launch its service in the fall, the streaming issue is “one of many unresolved questions,” with executives reportedly hesitant regarding the demand. It’s still too early to tell if this issue could push back the proposed autumn launch, but Apple has been pursuing some kind of TV service for some time now, with many apparent bumps in the road along the way. Additionally, Apple’s attempts at creating its new music streaming service have also reportedly found the company butting heads with others, with little to show for it thus far. Apple declined comment on the new report.
Pandora CFO Mike Herring says his company and Apple have a “frenemy kind of relationship going on” with Apple poised to enter the streaming music market, Fox Business reports. The report also notes that “one can expect” Pandora will be integrated into Apple Watch, and Herring said “we’ll definitely be in CarPlay.” While Pandora and Apple have a close partnership — “We were part of what made it fun to have an iPhone,” Herring said — Apple’s development of a streaming music service comes at a time when Pandora’s share price has dropped over uncertainties about royalty rates paid to artists. Herring admits that if royalties go much higher than the current $0.0014 per song, Pandora would have a hard time staying profitable. Even though Pandora is still at the top of the streaming heap with 81 million monthly active users, Apple siphoning off a significant portion of that number would further strain the already struggling company. But since Pandora still owes much of its success to the popular iPhone app, Herring said it’s a “very interesting relationship.”
Apple has announced that third-party iOS Developers can now begin submitting their Apple WatchKit apps to the App Store for review, along with other data such as the app icon, screenshots, and description. Apple has also released guidelines for Apple Watch app submissions, including notes that up to five screenshots may be included, that WatchKit app icons should be “visually similar” to the corresponding iOS app icons, and that the iPhone app and WatchKit app should “share one name and one description” and the iPhone app should contain notes on Apple Watch functionality. Notably, WatchKit apps cannot include the phrase “Apple Watch” in their names. App Previews can also only include footage of the iPhone app, and developers are explicitly instructed not to show the WatchKit app in their app previews. Apple also notes that “a small group of people who currently have an Apple Watch will be able to use [...] WatchKit app[s] before April 24” although it notes that developers can choose to restrict availability until launch day in the same manner as for any other app.
While several developers released iPhone app updates late last week, it’s unclear whether those developers have received priority access for App Store submissions, or if their actual corresponding WatchKit apps were still waiting for final submissions to open. The Apple Watch App Store was added to the iPhone in iOS 8.2, although it remains closed with a “Coming Soon” banner and instructions to pre-order the Apple Watch on April 10th; the store will presumably open to begin showcasing apps closer to that time.
Apple has hired former Dolby Executive Vice President Mike Rockwell as an executive in its hardware division, 9to5Mac reports. A source says Rockwell was likely recruited to improve audio and display performance of Apple’s upcoming products. Rockwell oversaw Dolby’s new technology development, including efforts to create “state-of-the-art color display technology” at a company mostly known for its audio applications. Before coming to Dolby, Rockwell was with Avid Technology, a company specializing in video and audio production technology. AnSEC filing shows Rockwell resigned from Dolby on January 30 and his LinkedIn profile shows him coming on board at Apple in February, but lists no current title. Rockwell’s addition fits with Apple’s hiring spree for top talent in recent months and further bolsters the company’s audio credibility following last year’s acquisition of Beats Electronics.
The U.S. International Trade Commission is investigating Ericsson’s claims that Apple violated its patents, PC World reports. Apple sued Ericsson in January, claiming Ericsson was charging too much for patents it holds and that the patents are no longer essential for the LTE technology in Apple’s iPhones, iPads and other cellular-enabled products. Ericsson counter-sued, arguing Apple had infringed on its patents and that the price demanded to use the technology was fair and non-discriminatory. With those lawsuits likely to take years to play out in court, Ericsson has turned to the ITC, which can act quickly to ban products from being imported into the U.S. Such an import ban would immediately affect sales, so companies like Ericsson are increasingly using the threat of ITC action to force settlements in patent disputes.
Apple has announced that it will release its Q2 financial results on Monday, April 27. The company will conduct its conference call at 5 p.m. ET that day. For the first quarter, Apple previously provided guidance for Q2 of revenue between $52 billion and $55 billion, and gross margin between 38.5 percent and 39.5 percent. As always, iLounge will provide coverage of the results.
New images found on Weibo and posted by HDBlog.it may reveal some additional details about the rumored larger “iPad Pro” expected to be coming later this year. The images claim to show the edges and parts of the rear cover of the new iPad, ostensibly revealing a second Lightning port on the left side, a rear camera with the volume adjustment buttons, and the headphone jack and speaker grid. While the veracity of these images is completely unclear, the idea of a second Lightning port is not entirely unprecedented — early rumors for the original iPad suggested that the device would have an extra Dock Connector on the side for docking in either portrait or landscape mode, and an early iPad prototype with a second Dock Connector also later appeared on eBay, suggesting that Apple at one point considered the idea even for the original iPad. Apple has eschewed docks with more recent iPad models, however, it’s entirely possible that Apple may re-introduce a standalone dock or similar solution for the larger-screened iPad Pro.
Apple’s rumored expansion of its iPhone trade-in program to include non-Apple devices went live today in the U.S. and Europe, French blog MacPlus reports. The U.K. website for Brightstar, a third-party company that handles Apple’s trade-ins, indicates Apple is now offering Apple Store credit in exchange for select handsets from Sony, Nokia, Blackberry, Samsung, NTC and LG. The change to Apple’s exchange program was handled with little fanfare in the U.S., with the announcement buried on individual store pages according to 9to5Mac. This would seem to imply U.S. stores are accepting non-Apple devices for trade-ins, but it’s unclear when Apple’s website will provide a link to allow online U.S. users to get an estimate for the value of their Android phones.
Alleged photos of an alleged “iPhone 6c” rear shell have been posted on Future Supplier. The housing — which Future Supplier claims to have found but neglects to disclose from where — is similar to that of the iPhone 5c, but with an oval-shaped opening for the rear camera’s flash, matching the iPhone 5s flash instead of the round opening on the iPhone 5c. The purported iPhone 6c images also show two speaker grilles on the bottom while the similar 5c model only has one. Again, this is a closer match to the iPhone 5s. If the shell is real, this leads one to believe the 6c will be closer to an 5s, but within a plastic “c” body. A recent report claimed Apple is planning to release an iPhone 6c alongside an iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. The 6c’s four-inch screen size would offer an alternative to the larger iPhones.
iLounge has recently added a new section: Gear. This section will further highlight products we’ve received that have often “slipped through the cracks” in the past — items that don’t fit into our Reviews section. We’ve already featured some new bags and a small battery pack. Apple Watch bands will also have a home in Gear.
Also, for those who haven’t noticed, we’d like to point out that we’ve moved to the popular Disqus system for comments. Our comments system was neglected for far too long, and we’re proud to open the site back up again for feedback. Personal attacks and coarse language still won’t be permitted, but intelligent, reasonable discourse is encouraged.
With the Apple Watch poised to launch Apple into the health care industry, the Food and Drug Administration is doing its best to stay out of the way, Bloomberg reports. Current FDA guidelines leave mobile applications geared toward wellness and fitness tracking mostly free from scrutiny, focusing more on technology used to diagnose, treat and prevent illnesses. The Federal Trade Commission has cracked down on apps making dubious claims about diagnosing illnesses, but Bakul Patel, the FDA’s associate director for digital health, said his agency is a long way from scrutinizing the Apple Watch and other wearables. “We are taking a very light touch, an almost hands-off approach,” Patel said. “If you have technology that’s going to motivate a person to stay healthy, that’s not something we want to be engaged in.” Patel said the level of future FDA regulation will depend on how devices are marketed and whether a product is being promoted to aid doctors in making medical decisions.
Leaked documents confirm Apple Stores won’t be selling Apple Watches to walk-in customers when the product launches on April 24, according to MacRumors. Customers will have to make an online “Product Reservation” to purchase a specific model at their local Apple Store, with Apple noting that even making a “try-on appointment” doesn’t reserve a specific Apple Watch for purchase. New training documents for Apple Store employees state, “If a customer walks in and wants to purchase a watch, offer the option to try on a watch. Then help them place an order online or through the Apple Store app.” This confirmation isn’t a big surprise, however, as Apple’s initial press release about the device’s launch noted that “On April 24, Apple Watch will be available online or by reservation in Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers in China and Japan.”
During checkout, customers who have an Apple Watch reserved for purchase will be offered accessories and an upgrade to AppleCare+, adding a second year of hardware protection for aluminum and stainless steel models. The gold Edition comes with two years of protection standard, jumping to three years with AppleCare+. This information comes from 9to5Mac, which also reports that Apple has plans for a combined coverage program for customers buying both a new iPhone and Apple Watch from an Apple Store, but no official details have been released.
In an op-ed column for the Washington Post, Apple CEO Tim Cook says pro-discrimination “religious freedom” laws popping up all over the country are dangerous. Cook sees a law passed last week in Indiana which allows individuals to use their religious beliefs to refuse service to customers — and another in Texas taking the pay of clerks issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples — as transparent efforts to legalize discrimination. “These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality,” Cook said.
In keeping with Apple’s commitment to “empower and enrich” the lives of its customers, Cook is adding his voice to the growing group of public figures and businesses opposing the Indiana law and similar legislation being considered in other states. Citing examples from the 1960s civil rights movement, Cook said the debate isn’t political or religious. “This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous,” he said.
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Perhaps not surprisingly, most Apple Stores are expected to have limited stock of the Apple Watch for the initial launch, 9to5Mac reports. Sources at Apple Stores have noted that priority will be given to reservations as well, limiting stock even further for walk-in purchases, and employees have been told to treat launch day as if there is no walk-in stock available at all. This problem will be exacerbated by the wide variety of models available, making it even harder for a walk-in customer to get the specific Apple Watch that they may be looking for.
Apple’s recent acquisition of database developer FoundationDB actually follows another quiet acquisition of a related company in 2013, Bloomberg reports. Acunu Ltd., a U.K. based data analytics company, appears to have been acquired by Apple in late 2013, according to a LinkedIn entry that reveals that Acunu’s Chief Technology Officer began working as a manager for Apple’s iCloud division, followed by several other Acunu employees beginning to work at Apple shortly thereafter. Not much is known about what Apple’s plans for the new technologies would be, but the Bloomberg report suggests that Apple is “placing more emphasis on the development of solid data infrastructure to help provide services to its legions of global consumers beyond iPhones and iPads” and it seems reasonable that such technologies would be used to expand and improve iCloud and other cloud-based services.
Apple may be planning to release three different iPhone models later this year, essentially adding a new 4-inch model to the lineup, according to the often-dubious DigiTimes. Citing “industry sources,” the report notes that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus would be directly upgraded to the “iPhone 6S” and “iPhone 6S Plus”, respectively, and that a new “iPhone 6C” would be added to the lineup — a four-inch model that would presumably be the spiritual successor to the iPhone 5s. The devices would allegedly all include Corning Gorilla Glass, with the 6S series using A9 chips and the 6C using the current A8 chip, and all devices would include NFC and Touch ID hardware. The report’s sources also indicate that Apple would likely use different manufacturing partners for the smaller-sized iPhone.
While any early reports — especially from sources such as Digitimes — should be taken with an appropriate grain of salt, the move would not be entirely unexpected for Apple, particularly if demand for iPhones with the more “traditional” screen size remains high. As has been the company’s practice in previous years, Apple is currently still selling the older four-inch iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c alongside the larger iPhone 6 models, providing customers with a variety of screen sizes to choose from. However, as newer models are introduced, the company may not wish to leave these users with only significantly older hardware options.
The New York Times has a report today that provides some additional insight into Apple’s plans for the upcoming streaming music service that the company is rumored to be developing with its Beats division. Being billed as a service that is expected to rival Spotify, the new subscription offering has Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame overseeing the redesign of the iOS Music app to accommodate the new services. The report also notes that Apple is planning improvements to iTunes Radio to focus more on regional listeners, and “splashy new albums” that will be released initially as iTunes exclusives. Former BBC Radio DJ Zane Lowe has apparently been hired by Apple to play a role in redesigning iTunes Radio to “bear some resemblance to a traditional radio station.”
The report also confirms that Apple’s new service will not come in at a lower price than competing services. Several music executives told the New York Times that Apple’s attempts to negotiate lower pricing from record labels have failed, suggesting that Apple’s service will likely be priced at the $10/month level that has pretty much become standard across all streaming music services. Unlike services such as Spotify, however, Apple’s new service is not expected to have a free version, a decision that music executives are reported to be particularly happy about.
Apple has added CNNgo to its list of Apple TV channels, just a day after adding a trio of channels to the set-top box. CNNgo offers live news coverage, shows, and recorded news clips. While live coverage and CNN programming require cable authentication, the news clips are free for all to access.