Flash, Microsoft Office, Apple Watch deprivation, tales of woe
It's Monday, and that means time for another episode of The MacNN Podcast! This week, as usual, we cover a range of topics from around the Apple and general tech world, and we throw in a cruel experiment in Apple Watch deprivation, mercilessly conducted on one of our own staffers. We also mourn the passing of Electronista, note the release of MS Office 2016 and the OS X and iOS public betas, and more. Show notes after the jump.
FBI, diplomats had previously denied direct North Korean involvement
US government officials now believe North Korea is, in fact, behind the attack of Sony Pictures Entertainment's computer system and subsequent data leaks, according to reports. The government is also said to be preparing to make an official statement about its findings, which may arrive as soon as tomorrow, though apparently there is still some internal debate as to what kind of response to make to the insular country. Previously, the FBI had said it had "no evidence" of a direct North Korean connection, though the country was suspected from the outset.
Includes delayed SMS Relay tech, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth fixes
As planned, Apple has released iOS 8.1 to the public. The main addition is support for Apple Pay, but a number of other important features are present. These include beta support for iCloud Photo Library, and the return of the Camera Roll to the Photos app. SMS Relay enables SMS/MMS messaging via a nearby Mac or iPad, and people can now force a device to use 2G, 3G, or 4G for data, instead of it selecting networks automatically. A minor photo-related improvement generates alerts whenever there's too little storage to start a timelapse video.
Home screen icon appears to confirm changes coming to Passbook
A functioning version -- perhaps a genuine finished unit, or a cleverly-disguised Goophone -- of the allegedly forthcoming 4.7-inch iPhone 6 has been demonstrated in brief video clips. Going beyond any previous demo, the unit appears to function normally, is clearly running iOS 8 and is activated. The home screen shows the Health application (briefly demo'd in a different video) and the modified Passbook app icon, which now has a fourth red "stripe" resembling a payment card, seemingly confirming the idea that a mobile payment system will be introduced at the September 9 event.
Apple TV, OS X Server, Configurator get matching updates
Apple is now seeding its fifth betas of iOS 8, OS X Yosemite, and Xcode to developers, as well as a preview of OS X Server 4.0, and fourth betas of new Apple TV firmware and Configurator 1.7. Relatively little is known about their content so far, although notes for the iOS 8 beta add that "spirometry data types are now available in HealthKit;" spirometry is the measurement of lung capacity. Xcode has received Swift-related improvements involving ranges and easier scripting.
Accessible only to Beta Program participants
As promised earlier this week, Apple has begun seeding the first public beta of OS X Yosemite. Access is limited to the first million people entered into the OS X Beta Program. That requires having both an Apple ID and a Mac running OS X Mavericks.
$100 gift cards for Macs, $50 cards for iPhones and iPads
As anticipated, Apple has launched the 2014 edition of its Back to School promotion in the US. The offer is open to qualifying students and faculty, and gives people a $100 Apple Store gift card for buying a Mac, or a $50 card for buying an iPhone or iPad. It applies on top of regular educational discounts, which do however exclude iPhones.
Builds in Safari 7.0.5
In addition to iOS 7.1.2, Apple has issued the final version of OS X 10.9.4 via Mavericks' Software Update feature. Like its sibling, v10.9.4 deals exclusively with bugfixes. It solves a glitch preventing Macs from automatically connecting to recognized Wi-Fi networks, as well as the reliability of waking a computer from sleep mode.
Software has struggled in competition with Lightroom
Development of Aperture has halted, and is instead shifting to the editing tools in OS X Yosemite's Photos app, Apple has announced. Photos -- which will actually miss the launch of Yosemite, and ship in early 2015 -- will include an option to import Aperture libraries. Compatibility updates should let Aperture run in Yosemite, but no further support is planned. Apple and Adobe are cooperating to help some users migrate to Lightroom.
Amazon Fire Phone has 4.7-inch display, unlimited photo storage
Amazon's long-rumored smartphone has been unveiled at the retail giant's launch event, and it is called the Fire Phone. The first smartphone from Amazon, the Fire Phone joins the growing stable of hardware including the Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HDX, with the mobile device offering a 4.7-inch IPS LCD display with 590 nits of brightness, dynamic image contrast, and a circular polarizer.
Feature additions yet to be discovered
Apple has begun distributing second betas of OS X Yosemite, iOS 8, Xcode 6, and updated Apple TV firmware to developers. Relatively few details are available so far. The Yosemite beta is listed simply as build 14A261i, and in release notes for the iOS 8 code, Apple states only that it "contains bug fixes and improvements."
Includes Safari 7.0.3
Following a long beta period, Apple has released the final version of OS X 10.9.3. The update makes relatively few changes, but does improve support for 4K displays on 2013 models of the Mac Pro and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. It also restores the ability to sync contacts and calendars between a Mac and an iOS device using USB, instead of alternatives like iCloud.
Web version also gains additional functionality, just after Office for iPad arrives
In what is probably a coincidental update following the recent release of Office for iPad, Apple has launched new versions of the trio of apps formerly known as iWork (i.e., Pages, Numbers and Keynote) for both OS X and iOS. The biggest new feature across all versions is a new "view only" setting that allows users to share documents but keep them read-only. Pages for OS X and iOS gains better support for key features such as ePub export, Numbers for OS X and iOS has improved Excel compatibility, and Keynote for both platforms now supports PPTX export, among many other new and improved features for all three programs.
Samsung mulls appeal
Apple didn't infringe on Samsung data communications patents and won't have to pay any damages, a Tokyo District Court has ruled. Samsung had filed a lawsuit that brought Apple's iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPad 2 into the crosshairs. "We are disappointed by the court's decision," an emailed statement from Samsung reads. "Upon a thorough review of the ruling, we will determine which measures to take, including an appeal."
Available for all iOS 7-compatible devices
After a lengthy development and testing period, Apple has released the finished version of iOS 7.1 to the public. The code makes a number of improvements to iOS 7, for instance enabling CarPlay support in yet-to-be-launched vehicles. Siri will now let users hold down the Home button to decide how long a device should listen, instead of having to wait for the system to decide no one is talking. More naturalistic voices have been supplied for Japanese, British and Australian English, and Mandarin Chinese.
Claims verdict was a 'radical departure from modern antitrust law'
Apple has filed an official appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, seeking to overturn District Court Judge Denise Cote's verdict in July, which found Apple in violation of antitrust laws through its handling of e-book deals. "The district court's ruling that Apple, in the very act of launching the iPad, inventing the iBooks Store, and entering the e-books market, violated the Sherman Act is a radical departure from modern antitrust law and policy. If allowed to stand, the ruling will stifle innovation, chill competition, and harm consumers," the company claims in its appellate opening brief.
Apple's own expanded buyback 'so close' to fulfilling goals, investor says
Investor Carl Icahn is dropping efforts to get Apple to pay for an extended share buyback program, which would've cost the company an extra $50 billion in 2014, according to a newly-published open letter. "We [Icahn's investment firm] see no reason to persist with our non-binding proposal, especially when the company is already so close to fulfilling our requested repurchase target," Icahn writes. The quote makes reference to Apple's recent $14 billion buyback, which took advantage of an 8 percent drop in Apple's share value following first-quarter results.
Gates to help support Nadella in new role, devote more time to Microsoft
Microsoft has announced its new Chief Executive Officer is Satya Nadella, the head of cloud computing at the company. At the same time, Bill Gates will be stepping down as Chairman of the Board of Directors to become Founder and Technology Advisor, in order to help support Nadella in his new role, and is being replaced by new Chairman John Thompson.
Fixes problems with Chinese cellular networks
Apple is now seeding a rare iPhone-only iOS update, v7.0.5. The release is intended exclusively for the iPhone 5s and 5c, and deals with unspecified "network provisioning" problems on some Chinese models. For people who already have iOS 7.0.4 installed, the download is just 35.4MB when fetched via Software Update.
Plastic of iPhone 5c to disappear, sources claim
Apple is planning to ship two new iPhone models this year, one of which will have a display over 5 inches, sources tell the Wall Street Journal. The other is expected to measure over 4.5 inches. Otherwise the phones are expected to take after the style of the iPhone 5s, and the plastic exterior of the iPhone 5c will allegedly be discontinued. The new devices are forecast to debut in the second half of 2014; the smaller phone is said to be ready for mass production, but the bigger one is reportedly in "preliminary development."
App Store loopholes must be closed by April
Apple must pay out at least $32.5 million in refunds to settle a lawsuit brought by the US Federal Trade Commission over in-app purchases, the two parties have announced. Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, states in a memo to workers that while it "doesn't feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled" -- something he calls "double jeopardy" -- the "consent decree the FTC proposed does not require us to do anything we weren't already going to do, so we decided to accept it rather than take on a long and distracting legal fight."
Tech used is similar but different, court finds
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has upheld an International Trade Commission ruling that found Apple didn't violate a Motorola patent on communications between devices and data networks, reports say. The ruling, issued in May, specifically dealt with Claim 12 of the patent, and whether or not it covered the deletion of apps capable of receiving push notifications. The ITC determined that Apple's implementation of status updates to halt notifications was non-infringing.
'Red Friday' event coming to China, Hong Kong, Thailand, more
Apple is celebrating the Lunar New Year in select Asian countries with a one-day sales event dubbed "Red Friday." The sale will take place in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand on Friday, January 10. Both the physical stores as well as the online and iOS App Stores for those countries will offer sale prices on various items, including both Mac and iOS hardware as well as Apple and perhaps third-party accessories.
Chance to pre-order new iPhones on China Mobile may be just hours away
An official China Mobile page which lets Beijing-based users make reservations for its new "4G" LTE service features a graphic of the iPhone 5s and (on a different page) a jewel-encrusted golden apple -- which both confirms that the world's largest cellular carrier will be including the iPhone at long last, and hints that pre-orders for it could begin as early as late Thursday. China Mobile is the last of China's major cellular providers to carry the iPhone, the result of nearly six years of negotiations.
First acknowledgement of deal between Apple and world's largest carrier
A website owned by a subsidiary of China Mobile has begun taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, the first time any site affiliated with China's (and the world's) largest carrier has done so. The move signals a formal deal between Apple and the carrier, which has taken some six years to put together -- and marks the opportunity of a lifetime for Apple to make more serious inroads in China's expanding smartphone market.
Four-inch display, 5MP camera with flash, autofocus on Firefox OS smartphone
LG has launched its first Firefox OS smartphone, with the mobile device going on sale in Brazil starting today. The entry-level LG Fireweb running the fledgling open operating system touts a four-inch, 480x320-resolution display, and though it goes on sale after the Alcatel One Touch Fire and the ZTE Open, the Fireweb offers a few marginal improvements.
Majority of BBM downloads on iOS, users still waiting for access
BlackBerry Messenger has been downloaded more than 10 million times in its first 24 hours of availability. The app for Android and iOS, free on both platforms, is said by the company to be the top free app in more than 75 countries, including the US, UK, and Canada, which BlackBerry calls one of the "best single-day openings for a mobile app to date."
Plans scale up to 4.5GB for $40
T-Mobile is now available as default carrier on LTE models of the new iPad Air and iPad mini, according to Apple's website. In an unexpected move, the carrier is offering 200MB of monthly data for free; the next cheapest plan is Sprint's $15 tier, which includes 1GB. AT&T only offers 250MB for $15, and Verizon charges $20 for 1GB.
Should improve performance, add Mavericks support
Apple has started seeding a beta of iTunes 11.1.2 to employees, a leak indicates. The update will add full compatibility with OS X Mavericks, as well as Arabic and Hebrew language support. For all users, the code should boost performance and stability.
Apple Online Store down for scheduled maintenance until 4AM ET
The online store from Apple has been listed on the company's System Status page as down for planned maintenance from approximately midnight Wednesday (eastern time) to 4AM ET. The downtime occurred just after a three-hour partial iCloud.com outage in which users could access most services, but the web Calendar and Reminders applications were nonfunctional. Most iCloud disruptions are brief and only affect a small portion of users, but both of the recent downtimes affected all users.
New Mac Pro, Mavericks may also be unveiled
Sources with knowledge of Apple's plans have revealed that the company will soon send out press invitations for an event introducing the latest iPad models on Tuesday, October 22. The event is likely to be held at Apple's Town Hall Auditorium in Cupertino, given the short notice for the event, and will highlight the both the full-size iPad and iPad mini. Also planned for the event, according to the reports, will be the formal debut of the new Mac Pro and OS X Mavericks.
Results will include first 10 days of new iPhone sales
Apple has scheduled an unusual Monday conference call with analysts to discuss its fiscal fourth-quarter (July-September) results on October 28 at 2PM PT, just after markets close. The results will include the first 10 days of sales from Apple's iPhone refresh, supplementing the debut weekend numbers of over nine million handsets sold by the company. The iPhone's launch and early sellout prompted the company to issue a rare restatement of guidance, with Apple now expected to see near $37 billion in revenue for the quarter.
Company's new iCloud Keychain to be included in final release
After first releasing a build of the next major version of OS X exclusively to AppleSeed members that had dropped the words "Developer Preview" from the title, very late Thursday Apple sent developers the same build -- now labelled the "Golden Master" of Mavericks. Barring the discovery of any serious flaws, the version seeded tonight will be the final that is distributed to the public when OS X Mavericks (10.9) is formally released -- though the company has not yet announced a date.
Company will notify users if affected, recommends changing passwords
Adobe has notified users through a post on its company blog that has been hacked, detecting a number of "sophisticated attacks" on its network that accessed Adobe products' source code as well as some user account information for roughly three million users. The company says that credit and debit card numbers stolen in the attack were encrypted, and that it believes any decrypted payment information was not copied or removed.
Says problem is not widespread, but will soon issue patch to correct it
Following widespread reports of iMessage issues for some users who have upgraded to iOS 7, the company on Tuesday said it was aware of the problem and working on a fix. The official statement from the company says the problem is affecting "a fraction of a percent" of users, but with Apple's enormous mobile userbase, this amounts to millions of people even if Apple's accounting is accurate. The problem seems most likely to strike those who upgraded after the first updates.
Each city to see separate app, game development talks
Originally teased earlier this year, Apple has today formally announced its 2013 series of Tech Talks, themed around iOS 7. The events start in San Francisco on October 8th, and will come to a close in London on December 18th. Other destination cities in the interim will include New York, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Berlin.
iOS 7 activations break 200 million
Apple achieved over nine million in combined iPhone 5s and 5c sales this launch weekend, according to an official statement. The figure tops the five million iPhone 5 units Apple achieved last year, and handily shattered even optimistic analyst estimates, causing an upward spike in the stock price. Apple hasn't broken down sales figures between the 5s and 5c, but it's generally believed that the 5s sold up to three times as many units, since it's Apple's flagship product and the 5c is effectively an iPhone 5 with a new plastic back and modest improvements.
Upgrading spike doubled some ISP traffic; 12 percent worldwide Internet usage jump
ISPs monitoring traffic spikes noticed a huge one just minutes after the official release of iOS 7, with reports from some providers that data usage doubled compared to normal levels. Late on Friday, the new iOS version overtook iOS 6 as the most popular, less than 48 hours after the upgrade first became available. Analytics company Mixpanel estimates that more than 130 million users had updated their devices within the first 10 hours of availability, out of a potential iOS 7-eligible base of 415 million.
Carriers receiving only 'Space Gray' model; gold buyers pointed to Apple
Sales of the iPhone have begun in eastern Australia, with customers lining up to be among the first in the world to buy one of the new iPhone models at retail. As expected, interest is high in the new iPhone 5s -- however, our reporter in line in Penrith (a city not far from Sydney) reports that while stores have "plenty" of the silver and "Space Gray" models on hand, the prized "gold" model is in short supply, with the Penrith Apple Store having 50 or fewer units on hand, while well over 200 potential customers lined up prior to opening.
iPhone 5s, 5c expected to get special update
As planned, Apple has released iOS 7 via iTunes and as an over-the-air update. The firmware gives iOS a radically new look, and adds numerous features, such as Control Center, AirDrop, Activation Lock, iTunes Radio, and a new multitasking motif. To install the OS, people must be using at least an iPhone 4, iPad 2, or fifth-generation iPod touch.
New release brings new game, new look to iCloud web portal
In the early hours of what promises to be a big day, Apple on Wednesday updated the look of its iCloud.com portal and the web app versions of Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Notes, Reminders and Find My iPhone to utilize the new iOS 7 style, hours ahead of the update's formal launch. Users who sign in will also be greeted by beta releases of Pages, Numbers and Keynote for iCloud, being finalized for full release later this year. Finally, the highly-anticipated Infinity Blade III has turned up on the App Store ahead of the new iOS upgrade.
New Safari 6.1 beta has also been released for Lion, Mountain Lion
[Update: more details added, including iTunes 11.1] A day early, Apple has seeded another "Developer Preview" of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, two weeks after the previous release. Registered developers can obtain the new version by signing into the Mac App Store with their developer account Apple IDs. In addition, Apple released a new Safari 6.1 beta for Lion and Mountain Lion, as well as an updated build of iTunes 11.1. Mavericks DP7 also continues to list iCloud Keychain as an area for testing, with several bugs still existing in its implementation. Current speculation has Mavericks on track to be released alongside updated Mac models sometime in mid to late October.
New model will be the exclusive camera documenting runway showcase
[Updated with promotional video] Luxury outerwear designer and historic fashion house Burberry will be using the new iPhone 5s exclusively to document in HD video and still images its Spring/Summer 2014 fashion show in London next week, according to an announcement from both Apple and the clothier. The designer will get early access to the iPhone 5s, which is not expected to formally debut until September 20, for its September 16 women's wear show -- which will be streamed live from London's Hyde Park on the Burberry website. The entire show will be captured using the iPhone 5s' advanced camera.
Presentation covers updates, iOS 7, iPhones, iWork and iLife in 85 minutes
[Update: Keynote now available on iTunes, videos from the keynote now on YouTube] The video of this morning's Cupertino presentation of the iPhone 5s and 5c has been made available, along with the videos shown within the presentation, on Apple's website and through Apple TV. The 85 minute talk showcases the new Stanford Apple Store, the introduction of iOS 7, the debut of the iPhone 5c and high-end 5s, the iTunes Festival, a look at the new camera and photos app in the 5s, new cases and docks, and a surprise concert by Elvis Costello, among other highlights.
Touch ID sensor brings fingerprint recognition to iPhone
During Apple's omnibus iPhone and iOS 7 announcement today, Apple officially revealed the iPhone 5s. The device boasts Apple's new 64-bit A7 processor, and is constructed of "high-grade aluminum" with chamfered edges, now being offered in three colors: silver, gold, and a new "Space Gray" color. Also added to the phone are a new motion-sensing chip, as well as a greatly improved camera and flash system.
Prices to start at $99
Today Apple officially announced the iPhone 5C, a new mid-tier model. The device uses a seamless plastic back shell, available in green, yellow, blue, white, and pink colors. Apple is also touting a reinforced steel structure, along with a 4-inch Retina display, an 8-megapixel iSight camera, an A6 processor, and a FaceTime HD front camera. The phone supports LTE, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0.
On track to 'become the world's most popular mobile operating system'
Apple's head of software engineering, Craig Federighi, demonstrated the new iOS 7 today as part of the company's iPhone rollout. In addition to showing off features previously seen at the Worldwide Developers Conference (including parallax wallpaper, full-size photo viewing and organization, an easier-to-reach Command Center, revamped search and improved Siri functionality), the audience was treated to a number of new ringtones not previously announced. The company also introduced new camera software, Touch ID compatibility, and the fitness-oriented CoreMotion API.
Security feature will be left out of cheaper iPhone 5C, paper says
On the eve of Apple's announcement of new iPhones, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the long-rumored home button fingerprint scanner will become a feature of the iPhone 5S, the company's next model of premium smartphone. The fingerprint sensor will likely be used in addition to standard security measures such as PIN numbers or passcodes, but add a significant extra layer of security which could push e-commerce, banking and other high-security applications forward, in addition to making iPhones less valuable to thieves.
Kuo says Apple unlikely to go beyond five inches
If Apple is indeed working on larger-screened iPhones for release in the next year or so, the Cupertino company is unlikely to roll out anything with a display larger than five inches. This according to well-connected analyst Ming-hi Kuo, who explained in a note that any larger-screened iPhone will probably launch with a 4.5 to five-inch display. The reason: Apple's "unwavering principle of one-hand use."
Third party will monitor compliance
(Updated with DoJ statement) Apple has been hit with a permanent injunction in the e-book price-fixing case pursued by the Department of Justice. As previously noted, the company will be restricted from signing agreements with five major book publishers that could artificially inflate or reduce e-book retail prices. A third party will be tasked with directly monitoring compliance for two years, while the final judgment will expire after five years.