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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 loses German patent lawsuit over slide-to-unlock feature

Germany’s top civil court has ruled that Apple’s slide-to-unlock technology isn’t sophisticated enough to warrant a patent, Bloomberg reports. In 2012, Apple won an injunction against Motorola Mobility based on its patent on using a finger swipe to unlock smartphones, and while that case is still pending, Tuesday’s ruling is the second to say that feature can’t be patented. “This user-friendly display was already suggested by the state of the art. The contested patent thus isn’t based on an invention,” the court wrote in its ruling. Apple didn’t immediately comment on the ruling.

Best Buy expanding Apple Watch sales to all its stores in September

Best Buy will expand Apple Watch sales to all its stores in September, Fortune reports. The company started selling the watch in August and initially expected to have the watches in 300 of its stores by the holiday season. But in a call with Wall Street analysts, CEO Hubert Joly said Best Buy has seen such strong demand for the Apple Watch, both in stores and online, that sales will be expanding to all 1,050 of its storefronts next month. Joly also said 740 Best Buy locations are updating their Apple shop-in-shops to include new fixtures and more display tables for phones, computers and tablets. Best Buy will also begin selling AppleCare product service and support this quarter, with 50 stores acting as authorized service providers on a trial basis.

Philips introduces dimmer remote kit for Hue lights

Philips has announced a new no-installation dimming kit for its Hue wireless light bulbs. The kit comes with a single Hue white light bulb and a battery-powered dimmer switch that can be mounted on the wall, or slide out of the base plate for use as a remote as well. The dimmer can control up to 10 bulbs at once through the Hue bridge, making it able to alter the lights in an entire room remotely. In a June Facebook post, Philips promised that Hue lighting will be integrated with Apple’s HomeKit “starting this fall,” but details about how the systems will integrate still haven’t been released. GE is also working on integrating its LED lighting system with HomeKit by the end of the year. Philips’ dimming kit will cost $39.95 (with additional Hue bulbs costing $19.95 each) and be available in North America starting in September.

Report: Apple ending One to One tutoring program

Apple may be discontinuing its One to One tutoring program for iOS and Mac users, MacRumors reports. An unnamed source claims Apple is stopping the program to place more emphasis on free workshops that allow one employee to teach multiple people at once. Apple is also reportedly in the process of revamping its website to make registering for free workshops easier and more accessible to those with disabilities. The One to One program currently charges users $99 for one year of instruction on how to use their Mac, iPhone or iPad, providing users with individual or group training sessions on basic usage, Apple services and specific apps like Photos, Mail and Final Cut Pro. Apple plans to honor existing One to One memberships until they expire, but will no longer be offering new memberships.

Rumor: Apple working on health tracking ‘smart bands’ for Apple Watch

Czech website Letem Svetem Applem claims Apple is planning to release a set of ‘smart bands’ that will use the hidden data port on Apple Watch to add new health monitoring functionality to the device. Citing unnamed sources, the website claims the new straps will include sensors to let the watch monitor blood oxygen levels, respiratory rate, and body temperature. The sensors would be located on the side of the wrist opposite the watch, to control for the heat and interference coming from the internal components of the watch itself. The sources claimed the new bands could appear as soon as early 2016 and be available with an array of sensor configurations. The 6-pin sensor port — located within the groove on the lower half of the watch where the wristband attaches — has proven to be capable of transmitting data and power to the watch, but is sealed. Apple’s guidelines for third-party band manufacturers make no mention of the hidden diagnostic port, but that hasn’t prevented speculation about possible uses for the port since its initial discovery in May. [via Apple Insider]

Apple provides iPads to 114 schools through ConnectED program

In an interview with Good Morning America at Tuskegee Public School in Alabama, Apple CEO Tim Cook touted the company’s participation in the White House’s ConnectED initiative, which has delivered iPads to 114 schools in 29 states. Cook – himself a product of the public school system – said too many kids are stuck in a less-engaging analog environment at school that isn’t giving them the tools to succeed in a highly competitive digital world. “I think technology has to be a key part [of education] and that’s why we’re here,” Cook said. “Too many times today kids aren’t given the right for a great public education and this isn’t right. It’s not fair.” Cook also said establishing more diverse role models to encourage kids from various backgrounds to pursue a career in technology will benefit the industry in the long run, since “inclusion and diversity inspires innovation. And so we actually make better products because we’re more diverse.”

Apple to streamline Genius Bar, Workshop scheduling online

Apple will be making changes to its Genius Bar and Workshop services online, more deeply integrating them within individual Apple Store Retail pages as soon as Tuesday, August 25, 9to5Mac reports. In a note to retail employees, Apple said the updated service will focus on accessibility for those with visual and hearing impairments and provide a much more streamlined interaction for users on mobile devices. Like the upgraded Apple website, the new system will have unique appearances customized for viewing on desktops, smartphones and tablets. Sources briefed on the plans said in addition to moving to individual store pages, the existing complex array of Workshop scheduling options will be narrowed down within three categories — Discover, Create and Organize — making it easier for customers to select the workshops that apply to them. The system will also provide deep social media integration for sharing Workshops on Twitter, Facebook, Weibo, QQ, and email.

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.

Dr. Dre, Apple make statements on Beats co-founder’s abusive past

Apple and Beats co-founder Dr. Dre have both issued a formal response to the allegations of his past incidents of misogyny and decades-old criminal charges of physical abuse against women, which have resurged in the wake of the new N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton. In a statement to The New York Times, Dre said, “Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I’ve been married for 19 years and every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again. I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.”

Apple followed this up with its own statement: “Dre has apologized for the mistakes he’s made in the past and he’s said that he’s not the same person that he was 25 years ago. We believe his sincerity and after working with him for a year and a half, we have every reason to believe that he has changed.”

Daimler CEO open to future Apple partnership

The CEO of Daimler — the automotive company best known for its Mercedes-Benz brand — has indicated that he’s open to “different types” of cooperation with Apple, Reuters reports. Although Damiler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche’s comments remained generally noncommittal, in an interview with Deutsche Unternehmerboerse, Zetsche simply said that “many things are conceivable,” with companies such as Apple and Google taking on a more active role in developing key software components for vehicles, and that such solutions can be “interesting for both sides.” Similar comments have been made by Volkswagen’s CEO Martin Winterkorn, suggesting it’s necessary for traditional car makers to work with technology firms to “make future cars safer and more intelligent.” While it’s unclear what role Daimler would want to take in such a partnership, Zetsche did indicate that the company would not “allow itself to be demoted to the role of dumb supplier” that merely provides hardware to third parties and loses the relationship with customers.

Samsung takes patent appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

Following the rejection last week of Samsung’s appeal to have its iPhone patent infringement judgement overturned, the San Jose Mercury News reports that the South Korean tech company now plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, the only legal recourse left open to it at this point. An 2012 jury verdict had ruled that Samsung violated Apple’s iPhone patents, originally resulting in a judgement of more than $1 billion against Samsung, although the amount was later reduced. In court papers filed this week, Samsung’s legal team wrote that “the questions present issues of enormous importance to patent litigation and the scope of innovation, especially in high-technology industries.” Other major Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Facebook, and Hewlett-Package had also backed Samsung’s appeal, and are also expected to weigh in to persuade the Supreme Court to hear the case. A decision by the Supreme Court as to whether or not to take the case may not come until the end of its term next June, however.

Apple moving iPod stock to accessory shelves in stores

Apple retail sources say starting next Wednesday, August 26, Apple Stores will be stocking iPods on store shelves alongside accessories, according to 9to5Mac. The move further separates the iPod from other Apple devices, which are kept in the back of the store and brought out to customers once they decide to buy one. Despite just getting a fresh set of updates, the iPod line has been demoted in Apple’s website redesign, as the once-flagship device is no longer prominently featured in the online store’s navigation menu. In store, the iPod will now sit beside accessories like headphones, iPhone cases and Apple Watch bands.

The common sight of iPads turned into “smart signs” featuring product information is also going away in most stores, with pricing information and product details about display iPhones, iPads, and Macs now being loaded onto the devices themselves. Retail employees said the iPad signs confused customers who didn’t realize the iPads were there simply to provide information about the nearby product. The iPad mini displays set up near the Apple Watches will be hanging around, but getting rid of the other iPad signs will give Apple the space to feature more devices — including its new iPhones, which will be displayed on redesigned white docks.

Rumors: ‘iPad Pro’ found in data logs, to enter production in coming months

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is echoing previous speculation that Apple’s long-rumored 12.9-inch “iPad Pro”  will come with a Force-Touch enabled screen and a stylus to make it easier for users to navigate on the larger surface (via MacRumors). Rumors about the “iPad Pro” have been circulating since 2013, but Kuo thinks Apple will finally start mass production some time in September or October, making the new tablet unlikely to appear at the September 9 iPhone event.

Also, mobile analytics firm Appsee thinks it has finally found “very concrete” proof that the larger “iPad Pro” exists. The company’s data logs show a new device — designated as “iPad6,8” — running live apps at 2048×2732, which is a much higher resolution than the 2048×1536 currently supported on the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2, Apple’s largest current iPad offering. Changes to the keyboard in iOS 9 when set to higher resolutions also seem to indicate a larger iPad is on the way.

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.

Pharrell Williams, Florence + The Machine to headline Apple Music Festival in September

Apple’s rebranded iTunes Music Festival — now called the Apple Music Festival — will take place from September 19 to 28 at London’s Roundhouse and feature headlining acts Pharrell Williams, Florence + The Machine, One Direction, and Disclosure, among others. U.K. residents can apply to win tickets through Apple Music and Apple’s media partners, but as always, Apple plans to make performances available for free to Apple Music and iTunes users live and on-demand. Apple TV owners will also be able to view the event in HD. Beats 1 and individual artists’ Connect pages will provide continuing coverage of the event and access to backstage news and footage. The event has been held in London annually under the iTunes Music Festival name since 2007.

Apple Stores shifting to walk-ins for Apple Watch trials

Apple seems to have eliminated try-on appointments for the Apple Watch from its online store. An appointment was never required to try on an Apple Watch (though prospective customers would have to make an “appointment” in store), but high demand early on meant that walk-in customers trying on an Apple Watch had to buy online. Four months after the Apple Watch’s debut, Apple Retail employees say customers looking to try on the watch can now simply walk in and will be accommodated in a first-come, first-served fashion, 9to5Mac reports. While they won’t have to give up any personal information to try the watch, customers can provide their email address and Apple Watch preferences in-store to be saved in their Apple Online Store wish list for purchase later through the Apple Store app or website. Apple has relaxed requirements around buying the watch in recent months, allowing for in-store pickup in June and opening watch sales to Best Buy earlier this month.

Dr. Dre’s ‘Compton’ streamed 25 million times on Apple Music

Apple executives said Dr. Dre’s “Compton: A Soundtrack” had 25 million streams worldwide on Apple Music in its first week and sold nearly half a million copies in iTunes, scoring Apple’s first high-profile success with exclusive content, The New York Times reports. While not quite popular enough to unseat “Kill the Lights” by country star Luke Bryan from the top spot on Billboard’s charts, Dr. Dre’s first album since 2001 netted 11 million streams in the U.S. alone. But compared with other, more broadly available streaming hits this year, those totals are modest. “If If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” by rapper Drake netted 48 million streams in its first week with the benefit of additional plays on Spotify, which boasts a paid subscriber base which is about twice as large as Apple Music’s reported 11 million users. With Dr. Dre’s album also likely benefiting from the coinciding release of the NWA biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” industry observers are still skeptical that Apple Music’s early successes will translate to paying users once the three-month free trial period ends.

Report: Apple Pay fees hindering rollout in Australia

Australia’s largest banks are balking at Apple Pay’s fees and slowing down the rollout of the payment service in their country, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Apple is reportedly demanding the same 15 cents on every $100 of transactions that the company is believed to receive from banks in the U.S., even though banks in Australia make half as much from interchange fees as compared to their U.S. counterparts. British banks struck a much tougher deal than those in the U.S., paying only a few cents on each £100 of transactions. With the reserve bank of Australia threatening to push interchange fees even lower — down from 50 cents to around 30 cents on each $100 of transactions — the timing of Apple Pay’s entry into the market makes the stakes of negotiations even higher for Australian banks.

Apple’s slice of the estimated $2 billion in interchange fees isn’t the only issue holding up talks. Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief executive Ian Narev said the CBA has been offering the same functionality to users through an app for Andriod phones for 2 years, so the introduction of Apple Pay isn’t as innovative in Australia as it was when it was introduced into the U.S. market in October 2014. Westpac, another Australian bank, also allows customers to pay with an Android phone, but notes that most customers still prefer to pay with their cards. National Australia Bank is rumored to be closer to a deal with Apple than the other major banks, but sources told Fairfax Media that a smaller bank may be the first to jump on-board, using an Apple Pay deal to appeal to iPhone users and draw in more customers.

Apple now offering L/XL Apple Watch Sport bands

Apple has introduced a larger size for its Sport bands, L/XL. The new size band is paired with the M/L band, while the S/M band is also paired with the M/L band. The new, larger sized band will fit up to 245mm wrists, where the M/L size fits up to 210mm wrists. Apple also introduced a 42mm Link Bracelet Kit for larger sizes — it extends the existing Link Bracelet an extra 40mm. Both the new Sport band and Link Bracelet Kit cost $49. [via 9to5Mac]

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