News/Rumors

FBI reportedly paid less than $1 million to unlock San Bernardino iPhone

A new report claims the U.S. Federal Bureau of investigation paid less than $1 million for the tool it used to unlock the San Bernardino gunman’s iPhone 5c.

The FBI had to go through a third-party to gain access, as Apple refused to create a tool to do it. They now will be reportedly able to apply the technique to unlock other iPhone 5C models running iOS 9 without additional payment to the contractor who gave it.

However, even Comey doesn’t know who his agency contracted for the job.

It was first rummored that the FBI spent at least $1.3 million to get access to the device, as FBI director James Comey announced it cost “more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months.”

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently examining the contents of the device attempting to find information to fill gaps in their investigation of the shooting last December which killed 14 people and wounded 22, two U.S. government sources. Investigators are trying to find out if shooters Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, had associates or co-conspirators.

The FBI and the iPhone maker once again faced off in Congress last week to discuss encryption.

iPhone, News/Rumors

Apple may release iPhone with glass casing and AMOLED Screen in 2017

Apple will reportedly switch to non-aluminum casing, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed.

He noted some Apple’s competitors now offer smartphones with aluminum casings, and he believes next year’s iPhone will be provided with a glass back to stand out from the competition.

In a new report, Kuo said, that the iPhone will receive a major redesign in 2017, returning to the glass chassis. The company already adopts OLED technology in the wearable Apple Watch, but its iPhone lineup has relied on LCD technology since it first released in 2007.

“Apple already uses glass casing for iPhone 4/ 4S, and non-Apple brands have also been using glass casings. We therefore think a drop test will not be problematic for glass casing. A glass casing may be slightly heavier than an aluminum one of the same thickness, but the difference is so small that the use of the thinner and lighter AMOLED panel will compensate for that.”

Kuo suggests, a new AMOLED display panel will be thinner and lighter to compensate for the slight weight increase of glass compared with metal exteriors. Last week, the company reportedly reached a $2.6 billion agreement with Samsung to supply OLED panels for iPhone displays.

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A number of sources have already stated that Apple will introduce an OLED-based iPhone as early as 2017, with possible suppliers eventually including Samsung, LG Display, AU Optronics, Japan Display, Foxconn-owned Sharp, and others.

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

iPad Pro comes to the MLB dugouts this season

Apple and Major League Baseball have signed a multi-year deal that will see the sports league’s coaching staffs use iPad Pros in dugouts to make better use of data during games.

Sport managers and coaches have traditionally used notebooks, or just paper to monitor data. The new deal means, that MLB will provide 12.9 inch iPad Pros to every team in the league to keep track of player statistics, stat breakdowns, interactive data and more. 

Teams will be able sift through performance stats from current and past seasons, weigh potential pitcher-hitter matchups, look at “spray charts” showing where a player is likely to hit a ball, even cue up videos of plays from previous games.”

“We’re not just replacing binders with tablets, we’re actually helping them do things that weren’t possible before,” said Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller. 

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The iPads will be equipped with a custom app titled ‘MLB Dugout’, created by MLB’s media division with help from Apple. The Dugout app will allow each team to view only their own data rather than league-wide data well. The app will be preloaded before each match, but the MLB plans to update the app so that data could be provided in real time. Pllayers will now have access to videos of pitchers during the game rather than having to retreat to the locker room.

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Such deal became possible because of a recent change to the rules which worked on the ban on smartphones, tablets and laptops in the dugouts. 

iPad is expected to help speed up the pace of matches, making baseball more interesting to a younger generation drawn to fast action sports.

Apple isn’t the first company to offer such deal. Microsoft has agreed to a similar deal with the NFL, to feature Surface tablets prominently during games.

iPhone, News/Rumors

Apple aiming to debut OLED iPhone in 2017

Apple is reportedly planning to push up the debut of the OLED iPhone to 2017, which is a year earlier than previous estimates, reports Nikkei, who was among the first publications to report on iPhone’s rumored switch to OLED.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Apple has contacted LG and Samsung to talk about ramping up OLED production in time for next year’s handset launch.

If true, the company will debut OLED displays two years earlier than predicted by noted analyst Ming Chi Kuo. Last year, Kuo said that he believes Apple to continue using existing TFT-LCD panels until at least 2019.

Apple has long shown interest in OLED technology and even revealed a number of patents related to the tech. In addition, December report claimed that the company had opened a secret lab with at least 50 engineers working on advanced OLED and LCD projects.

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OLED displays are said to be thinner and more power-effeicent than LCD technology and will allow for deeper blacks. The iPhone maker currently uses OLED technology in the Apple Watch.

Apps Lists, iPad, News/Rumors

Next iOS 9.3 Beta will return Apple Pencil Navigation Functionality

According to the Apple’s statement to The Verge, the Pencil’s ability to be used as a finger replacement for the user interface navigation will return in the next iOS 9.3 beta.

“We believe a finger will always be the primary way users navigate on an iPad, but we understand that some customers like to use Apple Pencil for this as well and we’ve been working on ways to better implement this while maintaining compatibility during this latest beta cycle,” a company spokesperson said. “We will add this functionality back in the next beta of iOS 9.3.”

The early iOS 9.3 betas removed key functionality from the Apple Pencil, and there were rumors saying the feature removal was intentional.

The first iOS 9.3 beta didn’t allow its users to use the Apple Pencil for such tasks like choosing text, scrolling, swiping between apps, accessing menus, and general editing functions in non-drawing apps. All these options are available in iOS 9.2, and their absence from four betas made users suggest the removal was both permanent and intentional. 

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A lot of iPad Pro owners complained for the inability to use the Apple Pencil for navigating and a number of customers noted they were not planning to upgrade to the new operating system if it meant being unable to use the iPad Pro outside of drawing apps.

iOS, News/Rumors

Apple open sources benchmarking suite for Swift

Apple on Monday announced that its Swift benchmark suite is open source.

The announcement comes two months after the company made its Swift programming language open sourced as promised at the 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference. 

The benchmarking suite is available now on GitHub with an open source Apache license. The suite includes 75 benchmarks related to commonly used Swift workloads, libraries for different benchmarking functions, a driver for running said benchmarks and a utility for comparing metrics across Swift versions. 

Apple engineer Luke Larson explained that the benchmark suite is designed to track Swift performance and catch performance issues before they are committed.  Larson also encourages developers to make suggestions relating to Swift’s benchmark suite, saying that all requests for new benchmarks covering performance critical workloads, additions to benchmark helper libraries, and other enhancements are encouraged.

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Swift was first Introduced in 2014 and launched alongside iOS 8 and OS X. It is known as Apple’s programming language built for iOS, OS X, watchOS, and tvOS, designed to work with Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks along with Objective-C while also being widely accessible.

In 2015, the company launched Swift 2 with new features, including advanced error handling and syntax improvements.

The Swift benchmarking software is available open source now on GitHub.

News/Rumors

Apple’s battery suppliers use cobalt mined by child labor

According to a new investigation conducted by Amnesty International, Apple is using cobalt mined by child labor in their lithium-ion batteries.

The report, revealed on Monday by Amnesty and DPR non-profit Afrewatch, said children at the age of seven are mining for cobalt that makes its way into the supply chains of high-tech companies including Apple, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft and car manufacturers Daimler and Volkswagen .

There is a number of steps before the cobalt actually reaches an iPhone, however. Firstly, traders buy the mined cobalt from small producers, then sell it to Congo Dongfang Mining, a subsidiary of Chinese mineral purveyor Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd. (Huayou Cobalt). Then battery manufacturers acquire the cobalt, using it to produce the lithium-ion batteries found in smartphones like the iPhone.

Amnesty International interviewed 87 current and former cobalt miners, 17 of which were children.

“Children told Amnesty International they worked for up to 12 hours a day in the mines, carrying heavy loads to earn between one and two dollars a day. In 2014 approximately 40,000 children worked in mines across southern DRC, many of them mining cobalt, according to UNICEF.”

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For its part, Apple gave a statement to the BBC, saying that “underage labor is never tolerated in our supply chain and we are proud to have led the industry in pioneering new safeguards.”

“We are currently evaluating dozens of different materials, including cobalt, in order to identify labour and environmental risks as well as opportunities for Apple to bring about effective, scalable and sustainable change.”

This isn’t the first time one of Apple’s suppliers has been found using child labor. Every year the company provides a Supplier Responsibility Progress Report that discloses information discovered in audits of its suppliers around the world.

News/Rumors

Apple shuts down Topsy

Social media analytics firm Topsy Labs was shut down, according to a tweet from Topsy.

“We’ve searched our last tweet,” Topsy said in a post on Twitter.

Topsy was purchased by Apple as part of a deal in 2013 for more than $200 million. The analytics company made a wide range of products that searched and drew data from conversations happening on services like Twitter, including high-level analysis of tweets and other Twitter data to break down market trends in real time. The company could measure an ad campaign’s effectiveness. 

The company’s website is also inactive and now redirects to an Apple Support Documen texplaining iOS 9 search capabilities, including new features like proactive Siri Suggestions.

Apple has yet to acknowledge what specifically it used Topsy’s technology and talent for. In addition to Twitter, Topsy’s technology might be powering certain backend features in iOS 9 like intelligent Siri Suggestions. The new search option integrates geolocation data with data providers like Yelp! to surface nearest places of interest.

Apple shuts down Topsy

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Apple raises iTunes Match Music upload limits above 25,000 songs

As promised by Eddy Cue, Apple has raised the song upload/matching limit for iTunes Match and Apple Music libraries over 25,000.

Just ahead of the launch of Apple Music in late June, Eddy Cue, who serves as Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, said that the limit would rise to 100,000 around the iOS 9 release, but the increase did not occur in September when iOS 9 debuted.

Libraries that were previously held at 25,000 are now having additional tracks matched and/or uploaded, according to multiple reports.

It’s not known what the new practical limit is, and official iTunes Match documentation still refers to a 25,000-song cap.

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The new changes mean users with bigger music libraries can now enjoy the benefits of matching songs in the iTunes Cloud to make them available on all their devices. Matching tracks offers another option for users who cannot afford the more expensive 64 GB and 128 GB iPhone models by offloading local music storage to the cloud.

Update:

Eddy Cue has confirmed that the company has indeed “started rolling out support for 100k libraries.”

Mac, News/Rumors

Thinner MacBook Air in 13″ and 15″ sizes rumored for WWDC 2016

Apple may be getting ready to present a revamped MacBook Air at next year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, according to Taiwanese publication Economic Daily News.

The source reported on Monday that the company is working with suppliers on an all-new MacBook Air series due to launch at next year’s WWDC. 

The new MacBook Air is rumored to be slimmer and available in 13-inch and 15-inch sizes, but it wasn’t said if an 11-inch model will also be included. The slimmer design will be enabled by “fully redesigned” internal components across the board. 

Inside, the 2016 MacBook Air will be equipped with new battery packs, cooling modules, panels and more into a revamped metal chassis. 

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The company’s notebook lineup expanded earlier this year with the addition of the new MacBook, an ultrathin device carrying a 12-inch Retina display and utilizing ultra low voltage Intel chips for a fanless design.

While a reshuffled MacBook Air lineup is a possibility, today’s reports hint more on a long-awaited MacBook Pro refresh. Apple’s top-of-the-line MacBook Pro laptops are currently available in 13- and 15-inch flavors and are due for a redesign.

If the rumor is true, the company would be selling one 12-inch laptop, three 13-inch devices — iPad Pro, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro — and two 15-inch models.