Apple is working on a way to make sure customers visiting an Apple Store’s Genius Bar for support can get their issue resolved in one appointment, even if their visit goes over the allotted time, 9to5Mac reports. The current booking system provides 10 minutes for an iOS device appointment or 15 minutes for a Mac, and if a problem can’t be solved in that amount of time the customer is left to book another followup appointment so the technician can move on to the next customer. In the next few months, the company plans to let Genius Bar technicians extend an appointment beyond those time constraints if necessary, with employees speculating that the new system will rely on an algorithm to reassign that technician’s next appointment to other employees within the store as needed. To serve all scheduled appointments despite the new variable time limits, employees believe the change may require pushing back break times until an appointment is completed, but won’t change the break’s length once they can finally go.
In a memo sent out this morning, Apple CEO Tim Cook thanked employees for their support during the company’s high-profile fight with the FBI and reiterated the company’s position against complying with an order to develop a new “backdoor” to decrypt information stored on the cell phone of one of the San Bernadino shooters,Buzzfeed reports. Cook responded to the FBI’s request via an open letter to customers last Tuesday, and today Apple posted a Q&A addressing further questions customers may have about the growing debate, explaining that the removal of privacy safeguards and the legal precedent set by such a move would put all Apple users at risk of having their personal information compromised. While FBI Director James Comey argued in a blog post that the FBI isn’t looking for a master key for access to all iPhones, Apple said the FBI’s argument — that the unlocking technique, once created, would be used only once for this specific iPhone — is impossible to guarantee. “Yes, it is certainly possible to create an entirely new operating system to undermine our security features as the government wants,” the document reads. “But it’s something we believe is too dangerous to do. The only way to guarantee that such a powerful tool isn’t abused and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is to never create it.”
In addition to the previously rumoured dual-camera system, a new report from MacRumors suggests that the iPhone 7 may also include dual stereo speakers, with the second speaker being located in place of the 3.5mm headphone jack found on current iPhone 6s models. Reports that Apple was considering dropping the headphone jack began to surface last fall, although it wasn’t until last week that two analysts from Barclays suggested that Apple was in fact considering adding a second speaker in its place for stereo audio. The Barclays report suggested that the speaker system would be powered by an amp chip from Cirrus Logic, a notion seemingly confirmed by today’s report from DigiTimes that Cirrus Logic has now begun ramping up production capacity to provide chips for the iPhone 7.
In a further salvo against Apple for its refusal to unlock an iPhone for the FBI, the New York Times reports that the U.S. Justice Department has now filed court documents demanding that a judge immediately order Apple to provide the necessary technical tools, precluding any opportunity for the company to provide a formal response. Prosecutors for the Justice Department are asking a federal judge to enforce the court’s order of Feb. 16, stating in court documents that Apple’s refusal to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone “appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy,” rather than any kind of legal rationale. “Rather than assist the effort to fully investigate a deadly terrorist attack by obeying this court’s order of February 16, 2016,” the latest filing reads, “Apple has responded by publicly repudiating that order.”
Following an order by a federal judge earlier this week to unlock an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded with an open letter, reiterating the company’s stance on digital privacy and stating that the company would challenge the order to create a “backdoor” for government access to encrypted content, citing “implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” Apple’s lawyers are expected to file a formal response to the order by next Friday, likely challenging it on the basis that the Justice Department’s demands and the judge’s order exceed the government’s statutory powers in gathering and searching for evidence under the All Writs Act — a law dating to 1789 which is being used as the court’s justification for ordering Apple to comply.
An article in The New York Times provides some additional background details on what led up to Apple’s recent legal battles with the FBI over unlocking the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. The Times profiled Tim Cook and his past efforts involving digital privacy and human rights, and highlighted scenarios where Apple has previously worked with law enforcement agencies in responding to data-extraction requests, contrasting those with the current situation in which the CEO of the Cupertino company is now digging in his heels.
Notably, Apple has cooperated with law enforcement agencies in past years, although the company has often required that officials bring the devices under investigation to the company’s headquarters to be worked on by trusted Apple engineers in RF-shielded Faraday bags. More recently, however, with the development of iOS 8, Apple had taken steps to make it virtually impossible for even Apple engineers to gain access to encrypted iPhone data, essentially putting “keys squarely in the hands of the customer.” Apple continued to comply with court orders to the extent that it could, and in another situation similar to the current FBI request, a federal judge in New York ruled last October that the U.S. Government was overstepping its boundaries in the use of the All Writs Act to compel Apple to open an iPhone for a drug investigation — that particular case also still remains pending. Interestingly, the Times report also notes that Apple did work with the FBI following the San Bernardino attack to gather and provide data from the iPhone in question that had been backed up to iCloud. However, investigators also wanted unspecified information on the iPhone that had not been backed up, resulting in the judge ordering Apple to create a tool specifically to allow investigators to easily crack the iPhone’s passcode to gain access to the device.
Following reports earlier this month that certain unauthorized repairs made to iPhones were causing device failures, Apple has now issued an updated version of iOS — version 9.2.1 — that will restore any iPhones that have been “bricked” with this error message as well as preventing future iPhones from being disabled in the event of third-party repairs. Apple has also issued a support document detailing the error and the process to update or restore devices that are affected by the issue.
Apple has created a new hybrid of its iPhone Reuse + Recycle Program and iPhone Upgrade Program, allowing users to trade-in their old iPhone and then pay for a new model in installments, USA Today reports. The new program, dubbed “Trade Up With Installments,” can cost users as little as $15 per month depending on the iPhone and other smartphone models involved, and it allows users to trade in an older iPhone or even an Android or Windows phone. iPhone models as far back as the iPhone 4 can be traded in, and the report estimates that users will pay about $15 per month for each step up in model, with an interest-free term lasting for 24 months, similar to Apple’s current direct iPhone Upgrade Program. The report provides examples, indicating that users could pay $14.54 to $14.58/month to move from an iPhone 6 to an iPhone 6s or from an iPhone 4 to an iPhone 5s, or at the other extreme, $35.37/month to move from an iPhone 4 to a 128GB iPhone 6s Plus. The program is expected to be available in U.S. Apple Stores today.
A Bloomberg Business profile on Johnny Srouji, Apple’s recently promoted Senior VP of Hardware Technologies, reveals some interesting details about Apple’s timeline for the iPad Pro, noting that the larger tablet was originally planned for a Spring 2014 debut by Apple, but was delayed to a fall release after falling behind schedule. Notably, the iPad Pro as originally conceived would have included the same A8X processor found in the late 2014 iPad Air 2 model, but due to the delay and the expected debut of the iPad Pro alongside the A9-equipped iPhone 6s, Srouji was forced to scramble to move up the development of the A9X chip by half a year to have it ready in time for the iPad Pro debut. The Bloomberg profile goes on to spotlight Srouji’s background and history of contributions to Apple from the development of the company’s first A4 system-on-a-chip for the original iPad through to the unprecedented 64-bit A7 that powered the iPhone 5s.
Apple has made it possible for Apple TV users to watch previews of the apps available for their device and has encouraged developers to upload app preview videos in a message sent out today. The 15 to 30 second videos are intended to showcase the features, functionality and user interface of an app or game and can be watched by selecting the “preview” button on an app’s product page. Since the feature was just opened to developers, we haven’t spotted any apps that feature a preview yet — not even Apple’s in-house products. Guidelines for recording and submitting previews are available on Apple’s developer site.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has upheld Apple’s $450 million settlement in an e-book price fixing case, rejecting a challenge by a purchaser who questioned the fairness of the settlement, Reuters reports. Apple is still appealing the ruling that it is liable for conspiring to raise e-book prices, but agreed to a settlement that leaves the company paying out different amounts based on how its appeal goes. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote agreed to a deal letting the company pay $450 million to compensate consumers and cover legal fees if the judgment is upheld, $70 million if the case is ordered to retrial and nothing at all if the liability finding is overturned. The challenge accused Cote of abusing her discretion in authorizing the settlement, but an expert witness testified that the deal, combined with $166 million of earlier settlements with the publishers, would likely provide consumers with more money than they claimed to lose in the suit. In today’s decision, the 2nd Circuit ruled that Cote did not overstep her bounds in approving the settlement.
Bon Appétit insisted photographers shoot the main photos for its March issue with the iPhone 6s and documented their reactions to trading in their camera equipment for Apple’s flagship smartphone. Common complaints were a lack of fine control over depth of field and ability to keep lighting consistent, but New Orleans photographer Daymon Gardner said the experience was “liberating,” allowing him to keep everything more “conversational and loose” with the subjects as he shot photos. While he bought a couple of macro lenses to give the phone’s camera a boost, Gardner said he didn’t find them very effective. “The beauty of iPhone photography is that it’s very simple,” he said.
Apple has stopped selling to iPhone 4s and 5c models to customers in India, The Economic Times reports. The move essentially doubles the price of an entry-level iPhone in the country, from the 12,000 rupees charged for the iPhone 4s to 24,000 rupees for the iPhone 5s. The move brings the Indian market in line with countries like the U.S. and Canada, where the iPhone 5s is already the low-end option available from Apple, but the move could impact the company’s sales to a greater extent in India, where the fastest growing segment of the cell phone market is priced below 20,000 rupees. Apple is making a strong push in the Indian market, planning to open its own retail locations and starting up a development center in Hyderabad expected to employ around 150 people on the Maps team.
A federal judge has ordered Apple to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has responded with a letter noting that Apple opposes the court order. As reported by NBC News, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has argued that it needs Apple’s help to access encrypted content contained on the iPhone in question. The court ruled that Apple had five days to respond if the company believed compliance would be “unreasonably burdensome.” The iPhone is actually owned by the employer of the shooter, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, and the county has consented to investigators’ requests to search its contents.
Apple’s official response has arrived much earlier than five days. In an open letter titled “A Message to Our Customers,” Apple CEO Tim Cook has reiterated the company’s stance against creating a “backdoor” for government access to encrypted content. As the letter begins, “The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”
After a rocky rollout, disappointing box office returns and pointed criticism from those who knew the Apple founder best, Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs biopic is available on Blu-ray and DVD today. The film, which traces Jobs’ life alongside three of his most iconic product launches, met with mostly positive reviews and garnered Academy Award nominations for stars Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet, but never really caught on with the general movie-going audience and was pulled from theaters after two weeks. Despite ruffling plenty of feathers at Apple, the movie arrived on iTunes today, though with no promotion or fanfare.
Apple Pay is set to launch in China on Feb. 18 for customers of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Reuters reports. The bank’s representatives broke the news on social media today, making China the fifth country to adopt the digital payment system. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the post, but Apple cleared the way for expanding into China last year by reaching a deal to use UnionPay’s terminals. The company’s China website lists 19 lenders as Apple Pay partners and state media is reporting that two others will launch the service on Feb. 18. Apple Pay has seen strong push back in countries with existing mobile payment methods and faces stiff competition from entrenched competitors in a Chinese market where consumers are already used to paying for things with their devices.
Citing unnamed sources, South Korean site ETNews claims Apple is expanding its use of electromagnetic interference shielding to most of the major chips in the new iPhone 7. Apple has previously applied shielding to its circuit boards and connector, but expanding the technique to more components would decrease the space required between them, allowing for further miniaturization of the phone’s profile and possibly providing more space for the battery. Apple first used the process in the original Apple Watch — where space was at a premium — and has reportedly invested “tens of millions of dollars” in contracts with South Korean companies StatsChipPac and Amkor to expand the technology into the iPhone 7. The new process means higher costs for each shielded component, but the publication’s source emphasized the growing necessity to reduce interference “as clock signals of digital chips have increased and as diverse functions such as 3D-touch and others have recently [been] added.” [via Patently Apple]
After reports last week of Apple releasing its own original television show based on Dr. Dre, an insider has told Re/code the company’s video content is only being used “to extend Apple Music,” not as the company’s first foray into the TV business. News that Apple had produced a “dark semi-autobiographical drama” about the rap icon and Beats co-founder titled Vital Signs added fuel to ongoing speculation that the company is making an entry into the original TV programming business, with the largest question being how the show would be distributed. As with Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video and Taylor Swift’s recent concert film, the answer seems to be Apple Music. In the same way that Netflix funds original programming in the hopes of selling its primary service of delivering third-party content, Apple seems to be producing its own video programs to draw users to its Apple Music service. Sources familiar with the company’s plans say there is more video content to come, but its focus will primarily be pushing users toward Apple Music for the time being.
Happy Presidents’ Day from all of us here at iLounge! In observance of the U.S. holiday, alongside Family Day in Canada, we’ll be on a limited publishing schedule today. We will be back to normal updates tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 16. Thanks for reading!
Following reports that the iPhone 5se and iPad Air 3 will be unveiled on March 15, it now appears that the models will also be available in Apple Stores three days later, on March 18, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. With the devices going on sale so soon after the event, sources suggest that Apple is unlikely to offer pre-orders for either of the new devices, although they cautioned that Apple’s plans could still change. In the case of iPhones, in particular, Apple has traditionally opened pre-orders within two to three days after it unveils a new model, with in-store availability coming one to two weeks later, around the same time pre-orders begin arriving in customers’ hands. While Apple’s iPad releases have been a little less consistent in this regard, it would still be unusual for Apple to release both devices in-store so quickly following a major Apple event. Sources have suggested that Apple has already begun ramping up production of the new four-inch iPhone, which is intended to bring the latest technology — specifically NFC for Apple Pay — to the iPhone 5 family for users who may be reluctant to embrace the larger iPhone 6 screen sizes.
Apple is forging ahead with plans for unveiling its own original, exclusive television programming, and is in fact already getting ready to announced its first television show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The series, which will reportedly be titled Vital Signs, is described as a “dark semi-autobiographical drama” featuring Beats co-founder and rap legend Dr. Dre, who now works in the upper echelons of Apple. Multiple sources are said to have confirmed that Dre will be both starring in and executive producing the six-episode vehicle, with the production funded by Apple.