News/Rumors

Apple details iOS diagnostics capabilities in response to ‘backdoor’ concerns

Earlier this week, forensic expert, and former jailbreak hacker, Jonathan Zdziarski, attracted attention to suspicious iOS background assets that could allow for covert data collection of users’ information from devices. They could be exploited by law enforcement agencies or hackers to steal sensitive personal data.

Apple of course denied the claim, stating that these so-called ‘backdoor services’ are actually used for troubleshooting.

“As we have said before, Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products of services,” Apple said.

Then the company published a new support document, where Apple offers a limited description of the three services— coincidentally listed in the same order as presented by Zdziarski in his slide deck. The company also provided details of how each works.

Apple (1)

From Apple’s support document:

  1. com.apple.mobile.pcapdpcapd supports diagnostic packet capture from an iOS device to a trusted computer. This is useful for troubleshooting and diagnosing issues with apps on the device as well as enterprise VPN connections. You can find more information at developer.apple.com/library/ios/qa/qa1176.
  2. com.apple.mobile.file_relayfile_relay supports limited copying of diagnostic data from a device. This service is separate from user-generated backups, does not have access to all data on the device, and respects iOS Data Protection. Apple engineering uses file_relay on internal devices to qualify customer configurations. AppleCare, with user consent, can also use this tool to gather relevant diagnostic data from users’ devices.
  3. com.apple.mobile.house_arresthouse_arrest is used by iTunes to transfer documents to and from an iOS device for apps that support this functionality. This is also used by Xcode to assist in the transfer of test data to a device while an app is in development.

Apple has already been mentioned by Edward Snowden’s PRISM leak last summer, which was followed tons of questions concerning the company’s stance on privacy.

 

News/Rumors

Starbucks working on coffee ordering service for mobile app

For Starbucks-goers, there is great news. Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee-shop operator, is reportedly working on a smartphone service that will allow coffee-obsessed fans to order items ahead of time at some U.S. cafes.

“It’s something our customers have asked for,” said Adam Brotman, chief digital officer at the Seattle-based company. “We’re not revealing a lot of details about it now.”

Using the mobile Starbucks app, customers will be able to place orders that they can send in ahead of time and pick up as soon as they arrive at their Starbucks location of choice.

It is a great step to increase the quantity of orders, as Americans are increasingly turning to apps on their phones to order different products and services to be picked up or brought to them. There are already Uber and Lyft, Chipotle, that help consumers enjoy high usage for their order-ahead feature. Such companies like GrubHub, Tapingo and Square also created apps to allow people to order food and beverages from various smaller food and drink establishments.

starbucks

Starbucks first mentioned a new ordering feature to investors in 2012, but didn’t elaborate on its intentions. The team standing behind the initiative consists of employees from across various Starbucks divisions – from store operations to IT.

The company intends to make buying coffee and food as easy and fast as possible, but there are, of course, some complications. The company is currently analyzing the rate at which its caffeinated items change temperatures, in order to ensure that drinks are in optimal condition when customers come to collect them.

Additionally, Starbucks negotiates with potential partners to provide its customers with the ability to use the Starbucks app as a payment instrument in other stores. The company wants to extend Starbucks’ customer loyalty program to other companies, as well. Brotman declined to name the companies Starbucks is in talks with.

News/Rumors

Amazon testing ‘Kindle Unlimited’ e-book subscription service

Amazon appears to be testing a new e-book and audiobook subscription service, called “Kindle Unlimited,” which is expected to give people unlimited access to about 600,000 titles as well as thousands of audiobooks. The service reportedly costs $9.95 a month.

The list of publishers includes such names as Open Road Media, Workman, Algonquin, Bloomsbury and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. More publishers, including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Macmillan and Hachette are also promised to join the project once Amazon launches it.

The existing Kindle Unlimited section on Amazon.com shows a number of popular e-book titles, including Water for Elephants, Life of Pi and the full series of Harry Potter and Hunger Games books. The books appear to mirror a lot of those available through Amazon’s existing Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, a service that gives Kindle-owning Amazon Prime subscribers ability to rent free e-books.

Amazon-Kindle-Unlimited

The Kindle Unlimited service is believed to be available on all devices, including the iPhone and the iPad likely via Amazon’s Kindle app. Amazon’s test page and mini-site may still be accessible via Google Cache.  Unlike Amazon’s other media subscriptions, Kindle Unlimited seems to be available as a standalone service, meaning it doesn’t come free for Prime Members.

Kindle Unlimited isn’t the first e-book subscription service and it will put Amazon in direct competition with Oyster and Scribd, offering a larger variety of books, advertising more than 600,000 titles compared to Oyster’s 500,000 and Scribd’s 400,000, plus more than 7,000 audiobooks.

The exact date of release of the service is still unclear.

Accessories, News/Rumors

Logitech debuts Protection+ case for iPhone 5 and 5s

Earlier this year, Logitech announced its new Case+ accessory for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5, which contained a metal case and multiple magnetic attachments. Today, the company finally revealed its newest line of smartphone cases, including the Protection+ for iPhone 5 and 5s, product aimed to mount an iPhone to a car’s air vents for easy viewing.

The protection+ case is compatible with the iPhone 5 and 5S and Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and features a slim design with a protective outer shell and internal impact-resistant materials. Its body is made of a hard polycarbonate shell while its corners hold impact resistant polymers. They are specially-designed to absorb shocks without breaking and dissipate the energy of the impact across the surface of the product. According to the manufacture, the protection+ exceeds the U.S. military’s drop-test standard for “rugged” devices, which tops out at 1.8 meters (just under 6 feet) off the ground.

logitech_protection

Logitech also introduced its +trip and +drive car accessories, which help users to mount a device and case to an air vent (+trip) or windshield/dashboard (+drive).

logitech_trip

Logitech’s director of smartphone accessories, Ariel Fischer noted in a statement: “We designed the Logitech protection+ to give you peace of mind disguised in a great looking protective case that absorbs the daily shocks your phone experiences.”

The Protection+ case will go on sale next month for $34.99, and will be available in colors of Winter White, Gunmetal Black, Scarlett Plum, and Pacific Blue. The +Trip and +Drive accessories will also launch next month and sell for $29.99 and $49.99, respectively. The products are already available for pre-order on Logitech’s official website.

iPhone, News/Rumors

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts 5.5-inch iPhone 6 delay

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has previously given accurate Apple product information, has issued a note on Sunday, saying that while Apple’s 4.7-inch “iPhone 6″ is still believed to debut this fall, the larger 5.5-inch model could see a serious delay in the release.

According to the analyst, the company is already suffering from production bottlenecks on the 4.7-inch model related to the new technology for the product’s in-cell touch panel, and color irregularity on the redesigned “iPhone 6″ metal casing. The 5.5-inch model will also face these issues.

“These problems will likely be even more complicated with a larger size,” Kuo said. “In addition, from a technical perspective, we don’t expect sapphire cover, used for the first time on the 5.5-inch model, will easily pass the drop test near term. We are conservative about 5.5-inch iPhone launching by end-2014. Even if the product is launched in 2014, it is likely to take place after mid-4Q14, which is later than the September-October of consensus, with shipments being lower than consensus of 15- 20mn units.”

iPhone6

In addition to the aforementioned problems, the device’s sapphire display may not be firm enough in drop tests to go to market yet. Kuo also predicts that when the larger model finally ships, fewer than 15-20 million units will be available.

The analyst believes that the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 may not go on sales by the end of 2014, or may debut after October in very limited quantities. In addition to delay, he says, that the prices of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c will drop alongside the launch of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6.

According to the early rumors, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 was facing production issues related to the device’s display and battery life. However, later reports noted that both models would enter production and launch at the same time.

Apple is believed to announce and launch the iPhone 6 in September. The device is expected to include a thinner profile and a faster A8 processor.

News/Rumors

Apple blocks older Flash plug-in versions and posts Safari update

Apple on Thursday issued a security message stating it has blocked old versions of Adobe’s Flash Player plug-in for Safari due to a major security issue.

In a security note, Apple explained: “Due to security issues in older versions, Apple has updated the web plug-in blocking mechanism to disable all versions prior to Flash Player 14.0.0.145 and 13.0.0.231.”

The company said, it has taken action against a recently revealed Flash vulnerability by restricting plug-in access through its Safari Web browser.

Users will see a notification saying, “Blocked plug-in,” “Flash Security Alert” or “Flash out-of-date” when trying to access Flash content in Safari. Clicking on the message brings users to Adobe’s Flash installer page with the latest version of the plug-in availble to download and install.

According to Adobe, the flaw can be met in Flash Player for Mac version 14.0.0.125 and earlier.

The company notes, that the block doesn’t affect third-party browsers.

Flash

Mac users are advised to update to Adobe Flash Player 14.0.0.145 if possible. Version 13.0.0.231is available for computers which aren’t compatible with the newer software.  Re-enabling older Flash versions requires Safari 6.1 or later.

Apple notes:

Please test general website compatibility.

  • Subpixel rendering is now on by default for all web content. Web sites or in-app web views with extremely tight design constraints may render differently.

  • CSS object model getters will return fractional double values based on subpixel layout and rendering metrics instead of rounded integral values.

Please test extension compatibility.

 

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Apple updates iTunes U with discussions, creation tools and more

As expected, Apple on Tuesday issued a significant update to its iTunes U application for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.  The new version focuses on improvements for both teachers and students, by adding new discussion options for students and iPad creation tools for teachers.

“Education is at the core of Apple’s DNA and iTunes U is an incredibly valuable resource for teachers and students,” said Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue.”iTunes U features an amazing selection of academic materials for everyone around the world. Now, with the ability to better manage and discuss educational content, learning becomes even more personalized on iPad.”

Enhancements for students allow to collaborate, with the ability to begin class discussions, answer queries and ask questions right within the app. They can also join conversations on new topics. Push notifications for new topics are available, too.

ipad_itunesu

In addition to discussion option, the updated version includes the ability to add content like images and videos captured via the iPad’s built-in camera. Students are also offered to import learning materials from Apple’s iWork and iBooks Author or from any of the over 75,000 educational apps available for the iPad on the App Store.

Teachers can also take part in forum discussions and moderate them by removing any off-topic messages or undesired replies.

According to the Apple’s report, the iTunes U app features over 750,000 individual learning materials and thousands of educational institutions hosting over 7,500 public and thousands of private courses, including the arts, health and medicine, sciences, education, business and others.

69 countries have access to iTunes U courses and 155 countries can download the app itself.

iTunes U version 2.0 is available as a free download from the iOS App Store.

News/Rumors

Foxconn may replace workers with ‘Foxbot’ robots in iPhone 6 assembly process

At a recent shareholder meeting, president and CEO of Apple partner manufacturer Foxconn said, that Foxconn is preparing to enhance its assembly process by rolling out robots on assembly lines responsible for products like the iPhone. That means, that the iPhone 6 will be the first phone to be produced by the new machines.

According to CEO Terry Gou, the robots — called “Foxbots” — are being tested, as Foxconn plans to deploy 10,000 robots to its factories in the near future. The company will install, replacing a portion of its workers, likely including those who were responsible for Apple’s popular iPhone product. Each Foxbot is believed to assemble an average of 30,000 devices per year and costs anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000 to make.

Foxconn’s robot initiative has been delayed since it was first announced in 2011. According to the company, there were about 10,000 devices already in operation, a number that was expected to reach 300,000 units in 2012, then one million by 2014. The current quantity of machines being used in Foxconn’s factories is unknown.

foxconn

Despite the robots implementation, Foxconn will still use human hands for the foreseeable future. Foxconn recently went on a hiring spree in preparation for the upcoming Apple device, reportedly hiring as many as 100,000 new workers. Meanwhile, it is still unclear, how the robotics initiative on the assembly line will affect those jobs. Production of the iPhone 6 is reportedly set to ramp up next month ahead of its debut around September. The new smartphone is expected to be available in two sizes of 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches, and feature a thinner profile, an enhanced camera, a faster A8 processor, and more.

Apps Lists, iPad, News/Rumors

Facebook Messenger hits the iPad

Facebook on Thursday updated its Facebook Messenger application for iOS adding a new user interface optimized specifically for Apple’s iPads.

The iPad Facebook Messenger app version works much the same as the iPhone one but takes advantage of the much larger display by showing more content like message threads while in other messages. The iPad version also features the same video sharing and calling features and, of course, sticker packs.

Facebook Messenger launched on the App Store in August 2011. The all-new version 7.0 allows you to make free calls to others worldwide, send images privately, use emoticons and stickers and make use of several other standard features.

Previously, messaging option of Facebook was available only to the official Facebook for iPad app. The new version of the service comes with an improved experience for chatting via Facebook on the tablet.

Along with the universal layout, the company also promises some bug fixes and more reliable voice calling. Facebook also made several changes, allowing to more quickly determine which of their friends are currently online. That means, that the list of active Facebook friends shows up faster.

Facebook-Messenger-for-iPad

Below is the change log for Facebook Messenger 7.0:

What’s New:

  • Now available for iPad!
  • Videos you shoot in Messenger can be saved to your phone’s camera roll.
  • It’s easier to invite more of your Facebook friends to get Messenger, too.
  • Plus, other fixes to make the app more reliable.

Facebook Messenger version 7.0 is available now as a free download from the App Store.

Mac, News/Rumors

Apple introduces $50 Mac Pro security lock adapter

Apple on Tuesday introduced the first official hardware security adapter specifically designed for the late-2013 Mac Pro, providing an easy way for users to secure their desktop.  The $49 adapter attaches to the rear of the Mac Pro without need for any special tools and is compatible with most third-party Kensington locks or similar products.

The adapter latches on to the Mac Pro’s body and aluminum case, giving access to each port and the power cord while preventing the case from being opened.  Apple states, that its in-house design is completely temporary and does not modify or damage the Mac.

Here are the accessory’s highlights from Apple:

  • Enables Mac Pro (Late 2013) to be physically secured with a compatible lock (sold separately)
  • Attaches to Mac Pro without tools or enclosure modification
  • With a third-party lock attached, prevents Mac Pro from being opened, protecting internal components
  • Compatible with most standard Kensington or similar lock products

MacPro_Lock

Since the iPhone maker made up decision not to create a security mechanism or lock attachment point into the Mac Pro’s sleek chassis, third-party solutions with a more advanced setup process started hitting the Mac Pro accessory marketplace.

Apple’s $50 Mac Pro Security Lock Adapter can be purchased on the Online Apple Store, while Apple’s stores are not yet stocking the product.