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Apple is giving its employees their own health clinic

‘AC Wellness’ will launch later this Spring in California

Without any fanfare, Apple has quietly rolled out a website trumpeting a new healthcare initiative called the AC Wellness Network that will service the company’s 80,000 U.S.-based employees and their families.

“AC Wellness Network believes that having trusting, accessible relationships with our patients, enabled by technology, promotes high-quality care and a unique patient experience,” a message on the website reads.

The company calls its plan “a unique concierge-like healthcare experience,” and provided details on the kinds of health professionals it wants to hire for those clinics. “Candidates must have an appreciation for the patient experience and passion for wellness and population health — integrating best clinical practices and technology in a manner that drives patient engagement.”

Those jobs include:

  • Behavioral health partners who will work with physicians to help patients improve health and wellness through sustainable behavior change;

  • Clinical exercise coaches who will help craft fitness programs for patients, especially those with cardiovascular, pulmonary, and metabolic diseases and disorders;

  • Wellness physicians focused on holistic-driven care, with an emphasis on preventing future disease; and

  • Care navigators who will serve as the first point-of-contact for the clinic’s patients and help establish its concierge service model.

Apple’s primary care group will start off with two clinics, both in Santa Clara County, California, home to the tech giant. At present, there are no additional details for the health clinics at the company’s other campuses.

Company site healthcare continues to grow

Offering employees on-/near-site healthcare is on the rise; it’s estimated that 30 percent of companies with 5,000+ workers offer the perk. Included on that list are corporations like Goldman-Sachs, USAA, Mars, and Capital One Financial.

Other corporations have also moved to build a better healthcare system for employees, but not necessarily with on-site clinics like Apple’s. Amazon recently announced a partnership with Berkshire-Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase to develop its own healthcare plan.

Walmart also inked deals with niche healthcare providers like the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo to aid its 1.1 million employees in need of heart care and organ transplants.

Without any fanfare, Apple has quietly rolled out a website trumpeting a new healthcare initiative called the AC Wellness Network that will service the com...

iPhones headed for a chip change in 2018

Apple to drop Qualcomm baseband chips and go exclusively with Intel

While Qualcomm’s chip relationship with the iPhone goes back to 2011, Apple started splitting its baseband chip orders with Intel and Qualcomm when the iPhone 7 was released in 2016.

However, reports are now circulating that Apple may switch from Qualcomm-based chips to Intel ones altogether. Some Apple watchers consider this a big gamble because of differences in performance. In tests performed by Cellular Insights, the iPhone 7 Plus using the Qualcomm modem “had a significant performance edge over the iPhone 7 Plus with the Intel modem.”

While Apple never disclosed its reasons for limiting the Qualcomm modem on the iPhone 7, those familiar with the situation feel it was an effort to level the performance playing field between the Verizon/Sprint and the AT&T/T-Mobile versions of the phone. Now, with only one supplier, the iPhone’s performance might be slower with the Intel chip, but at least it should be consistent and without any speed comparisons like it faced when Qualcomm was a co-supplier.

What’s the real backstory on why Apple is changing chip makers?

Apple and Qualcomm have been embroiled in a legal spitting match for more than a year, according to several reports. The squabbles started when Qualcomm accused Apple of sharing its proprietary code with Intel. At the same time, Apple alleged that Qualcomm overcharged for chips and refused to pay the tech giant promised rebates.

Qualcomm sits on a treasure trove of patents -- more than 130,000 of them -- and they’re the kinds of things that make phones run. If you want to manufacture a phone that has the ability to send and receive data or one capable of a high-speed internet connection, you more than likely have to get a license from Qualcomm.

However, to get that license, the company charged Apple as much as a 5 percent royalty on the average selling price of its phones. That means Apple handed over as much as $40 to Qualcomm on an $800 iPhone.

Apple got tired of paying a royalty it considered unfair and asked Qualcomm to give them a break on standard-essential patents. When things didn’t go Apple’s way, the company decided to wage war and Qualcomm retaliated in kind. Patent validity, anti-trust, vindictive marketing campaigns -- no threat was left off the table.

Apple sued Qualcomm for a billion dollars in the U.S., plus another $145 million in China. The company even raised the bar another couple of notches with 20 filings in federal court alleging that there was “mounting evidence of Qualcomm’s perpetuation of an illegal business model that burdens innovation.”

It may not be a great time for Qualcomm to be bullish

To make matters worse, four global regulators have fined Qualcomm in the last three years. In the latest instance in January, the European Commission slapped the company with a $1.23 billion fine and said its practices prevented competitors, such as Intel, from supplying 4G LTE radios to Apple for five years.

The immediate impact of Apple’s supposed shift from Qualcomm to Intel was felt by all three players at the close of business on Monday. Intel shares were down 3.53 percent; Apple shares were down 2.5 percent; and Qualcomm shares fell by 6.57 percent.

Reuters also reports that rival Broadcom Ltd made a $121 billion “best and final offer” to acquire Qualcomm Inc, raising further questions about the company’s ability to see its way clear from all its entanglements.

While Qualcomm’s chip relationship with the iPhone goes back to 2011, Apple started splitting its baseband chip orders with Intel and Qualcomm when the iPh...

Apple under investigation for how it handled iPhone slow-down update

The DOJ and SEC are looking into possible securities laws violations

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating how Apple handled communications regarding the software update that slowed down older iPhone models, Bloomberg reports.

The report indicates that the investigation is still in the early stages, but the government is starting to look into whether Apple violated securities laws in how it informed consumers about the update that slowed down aging iPhones.

Earlier this month, Apple apologized for the way it handled the update and announced that a new update was on the way.

This Spring, users can download iOS 11.3 and switch off the functionality that slows down iPhones as their batteries degrade. However, Apple doesn’t recommend doing so since it can cause unexpected shutdowns.

Apple responds

In response to the investigation, Apple told Axios:

"About a year ago, we delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on certain iPhones with older batteries. We know that iPhones have become an important part of the daily lives of our customers and our intention was to improve the customer experience.”

Apple said its actions -- which included dropping the cost of out-of-warranty battery replacements from $79 to $29 and developing a new feature to show battery health -- “were taken to further assist our customers and help extend the life of their iPhones.”

The company reiterated that it would never do anything to intentionally shorten the life of a user’s Apple product or “degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.”

“Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love. Making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.”

“We have received questions from some government agencies and we are responding to them,”  Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller told The Washington Post in a statement

Government officials including Sen. John Thune (R - S. Dak.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, have also asked Apple to provide more information on the processor slowdown issue.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating how Apple handled communications regarding the software update...

Apple promises more parental controls amid addiction concerns

Shareholders say Apple should do more to help parents manage access to smartphones

In an open letter sent earlier this week, two major Apple shareholders urged the company to do more to restrict the use of smartphones and tablets by children over concerns that the devices are too addictive.

"There is a growing body of evidence that, for at least some of the most frequent young users, this may be having unintentional negative consequences" on their health, said Jana Partners LLC and California State Teachers' Retirement System (Calstrs).

The "growing societal unease" over children’s overuse of smartphones is "at some point likely to impact even Apple," the letter warned.

More robust parental controls

Apple responded by saying that it plans to roll out new features to help parents manage their children’s use of its smartphones.

"Apple has always looked out for kids, and we work hard to create powerful products that inspire, entertain, and educate children while also helping parents protect them online," an Apple representative said in a statement late Monday.

Devices made by the tech giant already include parental controls that allow parents to manage which apps and content their children can and cannot use. But the two shareholders say current parental control settings offer an “all or nothing” approach that should be improved upon.

In its response statement, Apple vowed to improve existing iOS parental controls in future updates.

"We have new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust,” the company added.

Addiction concerns

The open letter to Apple comes amidst growing concern over children’s overuse of smartphones, which experts say can even carry the hallmarks and health repercussions of addiction.

The letter cites several key studies that link inappropriate or prolonged smartphone use to multiple adverse effects on children and teens.

Addressing this issue now would enhance the value of Apple in the long-term for all shareholders, the two large shareholders contend.

“We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them,” Apple told The Wall Street Journal. “We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids.

In an open letter sent earlier this week, two major Apple shareholders urged the company to do more to restrict the use of smartphones and tablets by child...

iPhone introduced 10 years ago today

Device arguably changed how humans interact

“Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone,” Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said on January 9, 2007.

In a presentation to the Apple faithful, Jobs proceeded to introduce a new mobile phone that not only turned an industry upside down, but changed how human beings interact with one another.

In the 10 years since Apple's introduction of the iPhone, smartphones have been used less for talking and more for communicating on social media, buying things online, getting directions and watching TV. In other words, they have become computers in our pockets. Chances are, you're reading this on one.

It was a vision that Jobs, who died of cancer in 2011, laid out in the presentation below.

Exclusive to AT&T

Apple partnered with AT&T in the development of the iPhone and for several years, AT&T was the exclusive carrier for the device.

In his presentation Jobs mentioned that Apple had patented its revolutionary design, expressing confidence that the smartphone future belonged to Apple. But after Google's Android operating system appeared and was adopted by many electronics manufacturers, a protracted legal battle ensued. In the end, Apple found that it had to share the smartphone space.

According to Statista, there are approximately 215 million smartphone users in the U.S., with the number estimated to reach 222.9 million this year. The number of users worldwide is projected to reach 2 billion by the end of this year.

“Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone,” Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said on January 9, 2007.In a presentation to the Apple faithful, Jobs procee...

China complains to Apple about iPhone 6 problems

Government says the device fails to 'meet basic consumer needs'

While there is no doubt that Apple and its flagship iPhone have legions of fans, the product has its detractors. Perhaps the most notable at the moment is the Chinese government.

According to Quartz, Chinese consumers have been complaining recently about the iPhone 6 series just shutting down unexpectedly. The Chinese Consumers Association took the extraordinary step of calling out the Cupertino, Calif., firm for not addressing the problem. It further charged that Apple is failing to “meet basic consumer needs for normal wireless communication.”

Ouch.

The Chinese agency might be losing patience, since Quartz points out it's the second formal complain the government agency has sent Apple in the last month.

The issue is tied to battery life

The complaint has to do with battery life. Quartz says consumers have been complaining that the iPhones have been shutting down, even though the battery life indicator is still showing 30%.

ConsumerAffairs readers have also been registering complaints about the iPhone 6 series lately.

“Have an iPhone 6 Working fine, but after installing iOS 10, my battery life is draining,” writes Roman, of North Hollywood, Calif. “AppleCare says that my battery has been consumed, and that it's just a coincidence that the battery won't hold a charge since I've installed the update.”

Touch screen issues

We're also getting complaints about the iPhone 6 touch screen, notably from many of our international readers. Rahul of Noida, India, reports his touch screen stopped working three months after he bought his iPhone. Closer to home, Barry of Sparland, Ill., also reports a touch screen issue.

“I started having trouble with my iPhone 6, touch screen nonresponsive, screen crashes, thumb scanner acting up,” Barry writes in a ConsumerAffairs post.

Maroof of Dubai, reports his iPhone 7 started giving him software problems within two weeks of his purchase.

“Home button becomes irresponsive,” Maroof writes. “You cannot even turn off the phone since home screen is frozen.”

As for Chinese consumers' iPhone angst, Quartz reports Apple sent out many replacement batteries, but the Chinese Consumers Association says that didn't solve the shutdown problem. It wants a more complete explanation from Apple.

Apple Insider, meanwhile, reports Apple insists the shut down problem is limited to a small number of devices manufactured in September and October 2015. The company says a battery component was exposed to ambient air for too long a period, leading it to degrade faster than it should.

While there is no doubt that Apple and its flagship iPhone have legions of fans, the product has its detractors. Perhaps the most notable at the moment is...

Apple will likely win big over Samsung's Note 7 disaster, analyst says

The expert says Apple will likely gain between 5 and 7 million customers

Samsung’s Note7 debacle has truly shaken the mobile division of the company, along with its customers’ confidence. While the South Korean company will be scrambling for some time to mitigate the damage, competitors like Apple are likely to enjoy a bit of a boom.

But how much should the tech company expect to gain from the situation? According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, quite a lot. The expert says that Apple will likely gain 5-7 million customers because of Samsung’s phone disaster. Kuo says that many disenchanted Note7 owners will make the leap to the iPhone 7 Plus because of the device’s dual camera, which will be a big drawing point.

The analyst arrived at the prediction after examining sales of the Note7. Before reports surfaced about their tendency to catch on fire, Samsung’s device was a hot commodity; around 12 million of the devices were originally sold.

Half may defect

Kuo says around 50% of those customers are likely to choose an Apple device as a replacement, while the other 50% of customers will consider devices sold by Android manufacturers Huawei and Google, which recently released its new Pixel smartphone.

While Kuo’s prediction is only an educated guess, real numbers on Apple’s performance confirm that the company has been thriving as of late. The company’s stock has risen in recent weeks due to the Note7 issues, and fourth quarter projections look pretty favorable. Investors will be able to learn more when Apple releases its earnings report on October 25.

Meanwhile, Kuo predicts that the Note7 failure will only impact Samsung for a couple more months. However, if more of its devices continue to have technical problems, then its image may take a long-term hit. Customer complaints have flooded in over many the company’s other products recently, so it will likely be something the manufacturer will need to be careful of going forward.

Samsung’s Note7 debacle has truly shaken the mobile division of the company, along with its customers’ confidence. While the South Korean company will be s...

Consumers report bugs with new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

Users say that they have faced service disruptions and lost control of the device when using the new Lightning EarPods

In the past, there’s always been a notable excitement and anticipation whenever a new phone technology is becoming available. This is perhaps doubly true for fans of Apple products, who aren’t unfamiliar with camping out for hours in order to be first in line.

And while the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have been received with some positivity (certainly more than Samsung’s defective Note 7), there are still some notable bugs that consumers have run into with the new devices.

Reports indicate that there are currently two bugs affecting the new Apple products; the first is a problem with the phones’ signal, and the second is a glitch with the new Lightning Earpods, which were a source of contention leading up to the release.

Service disruption

Consumers who have cited service issues say that the problem centers around the devices’ ability to recover from Airplane Mode. Reports indicate that the new phones take much longer to recover signal after Airplane Mode is switched off.

In a YouTube video, user Loay Oweis compares the recovery speed of the iPhone 7 with an iPhone 6S sitting right next to it. After turning off Airplane Mode on both phones, the 6S recovers signal and 4G service right away, but iPhone 7 shows a “No Service” indicator for around a minute.

Apple has stated that it is investigating the problem, but it recommends that consumers try turning their phones off and then back on to see if signal is regained more quickly. If that doesn’t work, the company says removing the SIM card before turning the phone back on should do the trick.

Losing control

In a separate issue, consumers are saying that they are losing control of their phones whule using the new Lightning EarPods. Reports specify that the remote control buttons on the headphones malfunction after the EarPods have been in use for a few minutes.

This lack of control leads to a couple of odd effects. Users have said that their phones will randomly play and pause songs, the volume  and Siri is activated and deactivated intermittently. Trying to fix the problem by using the actual device proves to be difficult, since the buttons have seized up.

Apple has stated that this glitch occurs because of a problem with the headphone software. It says that it will be providing a fix for the problem in a future update.

In the past, there’s always been a notable excitement and anticipation whenever a new phone technology is becoming available. This is perhaps doubly true f...

Apple sued by scorned upgrade members

Members say the company showed preferential treatment towards new customers during the iPhone 7 pre-order process

It used to be that the release of a new iPhone was greeted by insane levels of enthusiasm by faithful consumers. While lines at the Apple store no longer extend outside and around the block, there are still those who scramble to pick up the latest iteration of the popular smartphone.

However, some of these consumers feel jilted by Apple and are voicing their displeasure in the form of a lawsuit. They allege that Apple showed preferential treatment to new customers during the recent preorder process for the iPhone 7, leaving members of Apple’s Upgrade Program without a new phone when the products were released. This is especially egregious, the complainants say, because being a part of the program is supposed to guarantee an upgrade every year.

“While scores of customers signed up for the program and were ready to take advantage of the every-year upgrade with the release of the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple had a different plan in mind. It allowed non-iPhone Upgrade Program customers to snap up the limited inventory of the new devices while telling countless iPhone Upgrade Program customers to ‘check back later,’” the lawsuit stated.

Preferential treatment

Consumers who sign up for the iPhone Upgrade Program are usually sold new iPhones by Apple when they’re released. The payments for the phones are divided up into 24 monthly installments, and consumers who pay at least 12 of the 24 payments are eligible to trade in their existing iPhone when a new one comes out, or after six months.

By favoring new customers and not following through on upgrades for members, the complainants say that Apple failed to deliver on its promise of an upgrade “every year.” Now members will have to wait weeks or months for a new batch of phones to become available. Additionally, the lawsuit says that forcing members to wait now will inevitably lead to them having to wait again next year or pay extra to secure the latest phone.

The lawsuit is seeking reimbursements for any payments made on 2015 iPhone models while members of the iPhone Upgrade Program wait for their new phones. It also demands that Apple allow members to be eligible for the 2017 iPhone next September, even if they’re delayed in purchasing the iPhone 7 this year. The complainants also require that the company not restrict availability of supplies to upgrade members in the future.

It used to be that the release of a new iPhone was greeted by insane levels of enthusiasm by faithful consumers. While lines at the Apple store no longer e...

Should you upgrade to the iPhone 7?

Some plans and carriers will cost you more than others

Apple's introduction of the iPhone 7 last week didn't make much of a splash. Apple stock actually went down afterward.

Gone are the days when excitement surrounded the launch of a new smartphone and consumers would line up outside stores to buy them. Yes, the new phones are better than the old ones they replace, but the improvements have become incremental. The price has also gone up.

So now that the iPhone 7 will soon be available, a question a lot of consumers might be asking is whether it makes sense to upgrade, and if so, who has the best deal?

Crunching the numbers

Unfortunately, there's not a simple answer, but personal finance website WalletHub has crunched the numbers and has shed some light on the subject. The 32GB version of the iPhone 7 starts at $649, assuming you were to pay the full price upfront. However, most consumers take the option of paying a portion with each monthly bill.

WalletHub estimates keeping your old iPhone will save you money, and you don't really need a calculator to figure that out. But the savings might be more than you think. It says keeping your old phone and using the Walmart Family Mobile network can save more than $1,324 over a two-year period.

Consumers on a family plan can save up to $2,294 by keeping their old phones and getting coverage from RingPlus Mobile.

Okay, but suppose you've already decided you want to upgrade. Should you consider switching carriers to make it more affordable?

The best deals

According to WalletHub's calculations, consumers who want the new iPhone can save up to $1,074 by paying the full price of the phone upfront and signing up for a no-contract plan from RingPlus Mobile, rather than the same types of plans from T-Mobile and Verizon. Walmart comes closest with a cost of $1,579.

Only four carriers offer an installment plan on the iPhone. Of them, WalletHub says Sprint offers the best deal, at a cost of $1,757 over two years. AT&T comes closest, with a cost of just over $2,000.

After looking at the numbers, maybe you're rethinking your plan to purchase the iPhone 7 but are wondering how much you would save at your particular carrier if you just kept using your current phone. WalletHub has broken that down as well, showing that T-Mobile and Verizon provide the biggest savings over two years – $1,324.

Still not sure if upgrading makes sense, or are you entertaining the idea of switching to an Android phone? WalletHub developed this calculator to help you figure it out.

Apple's introduction of the iPhone 7 last week didn't make much of a splash. Apple stock actually went down afterward.Gone are the days when excitement...

Apple hopes to turn a page with the introduction of iPhone 7

Company ready for some good news in September

It's been a long, hot summer for Apple, and the company is probably ready to bid August good-bye and to move on to September.

In the latest setback, the European Union this week ordered Apple to pay $14.5 billion in back taxes to the government of Ireland. Remarkably, the Irish government is contesting the ruling, since its favorable corporate tax rates have been key to persuading companies like Apple to set up shop in its country.

Here at home, Apple reportedly faces a lawsuit focusing on the iPhone. Reuters reports a proposed class-action lawsuit claims there is a design defect in the iPhone 6 that causes the screen to become unresponsive while in use.

The complaint, which Reuters says was filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., claims the problem is due to Apple not using a metal “shield” or “underfill” to provide adequate protection to vital components.

The suit alleges the protection was provided on the iPhone 5 but discontinued on the iPhone 6. Apple has not responded to the allegation.

iPhone 7 on the way

Instead, the company is likely looking ahead to next week, when it is expected to unveil the iPhone 7, and perhaps announce upgrades to the Apple Watch. A new survey may give Apple reason for optimism.

The survey of 1,000 current iPhone users showed that half plan to upgrade to the next iPhone when it becomes available, presumably sometime in September. That's a marked improvement from March, when only 22% said they planned to upgrade.

Half is a pretty sizable percentage under any circumstances, but today, when cell phone carriers no longer subsidize new device purchases, the bar for upgrading has become significantly higher, since the consumer must pay the full retail price.

"Apple customers have been hesitant to upgrade their smartphones this year," said Chris Mason, co-founder and CEO of Branding Brand, which conducted the survey. "In March, there was high anticipation that Apple would launch its newest generation of iPhones, but the 4-inch iPhone SE felt like a step back for consumers that enjoy more innovative Apple products."

The leaked details about possible new features on the iPhone 7 may also be responsible for increased enthusiasm. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed said they were excited about possible camera upgrades in the new device. About 20% said they looked forward to a new operating system.

It's been a long, hot summer for Apple, and the company is probably ready to bid August good-bye and to move on to September.In the latest setback, the...

Apple to launch bug bounty program in September

The company will pay out substantial rewards to those who find flaws in their products

Increasingly, technology producers and companies are using outside resources to test for security weaknesses in their products. Now it seems that the trend has extended to Apple, which plans to launch a bug bounty program in September.

Initially, white- and gray-hat hackers will only be able to participate if they’re invited by the company. However, individuals may be able to work their way into this elite group if they find a particularly interesting bug or flaw.

Successfully collecting a bounty could be quite lucrative for participants or the charities they choose to donate to. Apple has declared that it will match any donation made by participants on a 1:1 basis.

According to an Apple Insider report, the company is willing to pay out:

  • $200,000 for bugs connected to secure boot firmware components;
  • $100,000 for extraction of confidential material protected by Secure Enclave Processor;
  • $50,000 for execution of arbitrary code with kernel privileges;
  • $50,000 for unauthorized access to iCloud account data on Apple servers;
  • and $25,000 for access from a sandboxed process to user data outside of that sandbox.

The tech company hopes that incentivizing the discovery of potential threats will decrease the likelihood that a flaw is exploited on millions of consumer devices. Expansion of the types of bug categories that will be incentivized will be addressed at a later date. 

Increasingly, technology producers and companies are using outside resources to test for security weaknesses in their products. Now it seems that the trend...

Apple unveils system upgrades at developers conference

In new operating system, Siri is being assigned more tasks

It was show and tell day for Apple, as the company previewed the latest wrinkles in iOS 10 for developers attending the annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco.

In years past, the WWDC witnessed the dramatic unveiling of new products like the iPod and iPhone. This year, the emphasis was on system enhancements to existing hardware.

Apple says it has made major upgrades to Messages, redesigned a number of apps, and expands what Siri can do.

“iOS 10 is our biggest release ever, with delightful new ways to express yourself in Messages, a native app for Home automation, and beautifully redesigned apps for Music, Maps, and News that are more intuitive and more powerful, making everything you love about your iPhone and iPad even better,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.

More jobs for Siri

In iOS 10, Apple has extended Siri into new areas to work with existing apps. For example, developers will now be able to use Siri to interact with apps using just voice commands. New areas of interaction include photo search, ride booking, personal payments, and workouts.

The Maps app in iOS 10 has also gotten a makeover. Apps like OpenTable will be able to book reservations into Maps, and ride-sharing apps can be accessed through Maps as well.

Apple says Maps has even been upgraded with intelligence to figure out where you might want to go next, based on the appointments in your calendar and where you have gone in the past – a feature some might find a little creepy.

Siri has also been given new capabilities to help you watch TV. Teamed with Apple TV, users will be able to use Siri to search for video content by topic or theme. Later this month Siri will start searching YouTube for specific types of content.

Siri and Apple TV

“The future of TV is apps, and Siri on Apple TV has changed the way we interact with our television and these expanded features will continue to deliver viewers what they want to watch even faster,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “There are over 6,000 apps to enjoy on your Apple TV including over 1,300 video channels, which are even more fun to watch with the new Siri features combined with single sign-on.”

Apple also announced upgrades for Apple Watch, the company's offering in the increasingly crowded wearable tech field. It said WatchOS 3 will be able to instantly launch favorite apps and will have enhanced health and fitness capabilities.

Among the new Apple Watch apps is Breathe, which will encourage users to take periodic breaks throughout the day for breathing exercises.

It was show and tell day for Apple, as the company previewed the latest wrinkles in iOS 10 for developers attending the annual World Wide Developers Confer...

Apple earnings raise questions about smartphone future

Will consumers keep upgrading now that they have to pay the full cost?

Apple shocked Wall Street this week by reporting its first quarterly earnings drop in 13 years. Sales and revenue were down, along with profits.

Of course, when you are talking about Apple these days, you are mostly talking about the iPhone, which has become the iconic company's principal product. In the U.S., the iPhone makes up about half the smartphone market.

But in what some see as a troubling sign, iPhone sales in the latest quarter were down 16%; the cause is mostly blamed on slowing sales in China. However, Apple's troubles may have less to do with its global marketing efforts than how U.S. consumers are reacting to changes in the smartphone market.

When smartphone makers, like Apple, were posting solid quarterly sales increases year after year, the system was a little different. If you were a customer of one of the major cellphone carriers, you didn't directly pay the full cost when you purchased a new device.

Smartphone subsidies

It was standard in the industry for the carrier to “subsidize” the cost, by selling the newest iPhone or Android device for $199 or less. They were willing to do that because it locked customers into a two-year contract. To repay the company for picking up part of the cost of the phone, consumers had to pay for cell service for two years.

After two years, consumers were on a month-to-month basis with the cellphone company, free to cancel at any time with no early termination fee. However, they were encouraged to upgrade to the very latest smartphone for a subsidized price, triggering the start of another two year contract.

In 2014 major carriers began moving to a different business model. The big profit was in selling data. They revised monthly plans and began phasing out the phone subsidies.

Paying the full price

Now, consumers pay the full price of a phone – either in a lump sum up front or on a payment plan over 18 months to two years. They can cancel their contracts at any time but would have to pay the balance owed on the phones, so the system has the same effect as the old two-year contract.

Carriers are doing quite well with this arrangement, but it remains to be seen what impact it will have on smartphone manufacturers. When consumers have to pay the full price for a new iPhone, will they be as willing to upgrade every two years? The Apple earnings report could be seen as evidence that they are not.

Smartphone developers like Apple may also be victims of their own success. Both iPhone and Android devices are highly sophisticated, with high-quality cameras and lightning-fast processors.

How much better can they get? And if they don't significantly raise the technology bar, will consumers be motivated to spend $600 to buy one, when their current phone seems to be just fine?

Apple shocked Wall Street this week by reporting its first quarterly earnings drop in 13 years. Sales and revenue were down, along with profits.Of cour...

Justice Department withdraws court order that would force Apple to bypass its own security

The action comes after a successful attempt to access information on the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters

After an extended period of protest from privacy advocates and Apple, it looks like the FBI won’t be needing the tech company’s assistance in unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. According to a Reuters report, the agency reported on Monday that it had successfully gained access to the phone.

The successful hacking attempt brings to an end a legal battle that had been escalating in the privacy community. Until Monday, Apple had strongly denounced a court order that would have forced engineers to create a backdoor so that the feds could access the phone.

“From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a back door into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. . . As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought,” said Apple in a statement.

Privacy concerns

Unfortunately, the dismissal of this case does not necessarily put consumer fears about privacy to rest. A clear line has been drawn in the sand between law enforcement and tech industry experts; the former believes that not having access to encrypted data will hamper criminal investigations, while the latter believe that undermining security features puts everyone at risk.

Members of the tech industry also believe that giving in to such demands would give the judicial system too much power. In essence, the courts would be able to turn private companies into their agents in order to obtain information.

This isn’t to say that tech companies are completely unwilling to help police investigate crimes – they just aren’t comfortable with lowering their own security features in order to give agencies like the FBI the level of access that it wants.

“We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated,” said Apple.

After an extended period of protest from privacy advocates and Apple, it looks like the FBI won’t be needing the tech company’s assistance in unlocking the...

U.S. Supreme Court denies Apple appeal on price-fixing charges

The company must pay $400 million to e-book consumers

After years of appeals and court proceedings, the U.S. Supreme Court has closed the book on a suit against Apple. On Monday, the court ruled that the company will be forced to pay a $450 million settlement for its role in fixing prices on e-books on the Apple iBooks platform. Consumers of those inflated e-books will receive $400 million in the settlement and $50 million will go towards plaintiff lawyer fees.

“Apple’s liability for knowingly conspiring with book publishers to raise the prices of e-books is settled once and for all,” said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

Fixing prices

The case goes back to 2012, when Apple and five book publishers – Macmillan, HarperCollins, Penguin, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster – were sued by the Justice Department and the attorney generals of 33 states. The charges were that the companies conspired to raise e-book prices, working together to take undue money from consumers.

While all of the book publishers eventually settled the case, Apple continued to fight the decision. The company made an appeal to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, saying that it was simply raising prices to encourage competition and that it was not in violation of any antitrust laws.

With an appeal pending, Apple agreed to pay $450 million if they lost the case in court. However, if it won a retrial, then it would only pay out $70 million. If it won that retrial, then the company would not be on the hook for any payment.

Plea denied

Unfortunately for Apple, the court determined that the company had engaged in price-fixing. In one last-ditch effort, Apple tried to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court – but its plea was denied on Monday.

“The outstanding work of the Department of Justice team – working with our steadfast state attorney general partners – exposed this cynical misconduct by Apple and its book publisher co-conspirators and ensured that justice was done,” said Baer.

After years of appeals and court proceedings, the U.S. Supreme Court has closed the book on a suit against Apple. On Monday, the court ruled that the compa...

New iPhone becomes a weapon in carrier price war

New phones debut Friday with discounts from T-Mobile and Sprint

T-Mobile is at it again. The mobile carrier that immediately priced the new iPhone 6s below where Apple did has now lowered the cost to certain customers once again.

For customers with JUMP! On Demand and an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus to trade in, the new iPhone 6s or 6s plus is just $5 a month for the 6s and $9 a month for the 6s Plus, for an 18 month term. The company previously announced a $20 a month plan without a trade-in, which is less than Apple's rate.

“With these incredible $5 and $10 a month deals, we’re giving customers just one more reason to come to T-Mobile,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. “This is a deal that only the Un-carrier could create, let alone make into a reality - and the crazy demand we’re already seeing tells me the carriers’ customers just aren’t buying their BS anymore. For your new iPhone, the choice couldn’t be clearer.”

Even older phones accepted

T-Mobile says the new price promotion builds on its previously announced $20 a month for a new iPhone 6s 16GB with JUMP! On Demand, without a trade-in. In addition to the $5 deal, the company is offering lower rates when customers trade in older phones; $10 a month with trade-in of iPhone 5s, Note 4 or Note edge and $15 a month with trade-in of almost any other phone you own, like the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S3, HTC M8, and Motorola Droid Turbo.

T-Mobile says its customers who pre-ordered with a trade-in will receive the same reduced rate with an upfront bill credit.

At the end of 18 months, you turn in your iPhone – but there is another option. T-Mobile says you can keep the device when the agreement is up by paying $125 less than the full retail price. That comes to $524 for a new iPhone 6s 16GB without trade in. With a trade-in, you can keep your iPhone 6s 16GB after 18 months by paying a total of $254.

Sprint's iPhone Forever

T-Mobile isn't the only carrier hoping to use the new iPhone to pull in new customers. Earlier this month Sprintannounced its iPhone Forever plan. Qualified Sprint customers can get the iPhone 6s for $15 per month and iPhone 6s Plus for $19 per month with a trade-in.

Customers who choose not to trade in an existing smartphone at the time of purchase can get the iPhone 6s for $22 per month and iPhone 6s Plus for $26 per month. After that, Sprint customers can get a new iPhone every year.

iPhone Forever is available on any eligible Sprint rate plan and upgrade eligibility is included in the price. Through Dec. 31, 2015, Sprint says customers on any other carrier, or existing Sprint customers who are upgrade-eligible and turn in any smartphone, will get the promotional rate of $15 per month on iPhone 6s.

The latest iPhones make their debut Friday. In years past each release was greeted with excitement worthy of a quantum leap in technology. These days, there may be more excitement – certainly more competition – built around the rate packages.

T-Mobile is at it again. The mobile carrier that immediately priced the new iPhone 6s below where Apple did has now lowered the cost to certain customers o...

Hackers gnaw into the core of the Apple Store

Many popular apps may be infected; users should download newer versions

Apple's App Store defenses have at last been breached. The company confirms that a tool used by developers was copied and modified by hackers, allowing them to insert bad code into apps at the store.

Researchers at Palo Alto Networks said in a blog posting that about 40 apps had been contaminated with malware, dubbed XcodeGhost. A Chinese security firm said it had found more than 300.

The infected apps include the messaging app WeChat and the business car scanner CamCard. 

Apple has removed all of the infected apps that have been identified so far and is working to assess the damage, according to a spokesperson.

The Palo Alto researchers said that once the malicious code can go to websites hosting viruses, which are then installed on the user's Apple device. It can also open pop-up screens that probe for personal user information, including passwords to their Apple account.

Innocuous-looking

Once the infected apps are downloaded, researchers said, the malicious code can open particular websites designed to infect the device with more viruses. It can also open innocuous-looking pop-up screens that ask users for more information, like passwords to their Apple account.

“Since the dialogue is a prompt from the running application, the victim may trust it and input a password without suspecting foul play,” Palo Alto Networks said in its blog post.

A partial list of apps that may be infected was published by BusinessInsider and other sites. In some cases, only the most recent versions are infected and not all language versions are infected.

  • Angry Birds 2
  • CamCard
  • CamScanner
  • Card Safe
  • China Unicom Mobile Office
  • CITIC Bank move card space
  • Didi Chuxing developed by Uber’s biggest rival in China Didi Kuaidi
  • Eyes Wide
  • Flush
  • Freedom Battle
  • High German map
  • Himalayan
  • Hot stock market
  • I called MT
  • I called MT 2
  • IFlyTek input
  • Jane book
  • Lazy weekend
  • Lifesmart
  • Mara Mara
  • Marital bed
  • Medicine to force
  • Micro Channel
  • Microblogging camera
  • NetEase
  • OPlayer
  • Pocket billing
  • Poor tour
  • Quick asked the doctor
  • Railway 12306 the only official app used for buying train tickets in China
  • SegmentFault
  • Stocks open class
  • Telephone attribution assistant
  • The driver drops
  • The Kitchen
  • Three new board
  • Watercress reading
  • WeChat

If you have any of these apps isntalled, the safest course is to delete them and download a new version from the App Store when it becomes available.

Apple's App Store defenses have at last been breached. The company confirms that a tool used by developers was copied and modified by hackers, allowing the...

iOS9 available today; it's the latest operating system for iPhones and iPads

Lots of new features, including improved security

Apple enthusiasts already know this, but for the rest of us, here's a reminder: iOS 9 is available today. It's the latest version of the software that makes iPhones and iPads run.

This latest version of Apple's venerable mobile operating system has lots of new features you may or may not care about, but Apple insists the new operating system is devoid of many bugs and overlooked irritants which drove many iFolks to distraction with iOS 8.

Of course, if you're the cautious type and you're not unduly determined to have the very latest version of anything Apple, there's nothing wrong with waiting a week or two. There will undoubtedly be a few glitches that come to light in the first days.

Among its biggest advantages, iOS 9 is quite a bit more compact than its predecessor, weighing in at a mere 1.3 gigabytes of free space needed for an update. iOS 8 wanted 4.58, which was more than many consumers had available.

But what's so great about 9? According to Apple, the search function is much improved, Maps and News work better, Siri is better behaved, and there are new multitasking features that will let you run two apps at once. 

Smart & secretive

Siri is not only smarter and better behaved, she's also good at keeping secrets, like other Apple products and services. Although Siri tries to notice and keep track of your wants and needs, she does it all on the hardware in your phone -- not in someone's cloud. 

This is part of Apple's "privacy built-in" policy, often cited by CEO Tim Cook as a prime differentiator between Apple and competitors like Google and Microsoft. Their "free" services are paid for, at least in part, by their mining of the data they capture from their users, whereas Cook swears that Apple is not looking over your shoulder. Nor is it reading your mail, which is now encrypted for better security.

There's a complete list of new and improved features on Apple's website.

Apple enthusiasts already know this, but for the rest of us, here's a reminder: iOS 9 is available today. It's the latest version of the software that make...

T-Mobile undercuts Apple Store on price of new iPhones

Customers would end up paying significantly less each month

When the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, announced Wednesday, go on sale Saturday (pre-orders), T-Mobile customers are going to find it costs less to get it from the carrier than if they were to buy it at the Apple Store.

A lot less.

When Apple introduced its smartphone upgrades, it started the price of the 6s at $27 for 24 months and the Plus at $31 for 24 months. That works out to a price of $648 and $744 respectively.

But in his blog, T-Mobile CEO John LeGere said the carrier will offer the devices at a lower price; $20 a month for 18 months for the 6s and $24 a month for 18 months for the Plus. That means the $648 phone from Apple costs $360 from T-Mobile and the $744 Plus at Apple goes for $432 at T-Mobile.

The catch

The catch is this deal is for customers signing up for Jump! On Demand, a T-Mobile program where you trade in your phone after 18 months and get a new one. It's very similar to an auto lease. The customer does not pay for the residual value of the phone at the end of 18 months.

Those who pay the full price from Apple own their devices once the payments end, just like buying a car. Jump! On Demand customers who want to keep their iPhones at the end of 18 months may do so by making a one time $164 payment for the 6s.

“That means your total cost to own your phone is just $524 – that’s a screaming deal,” LeGere writes. It’s special introductory pricing for our launch, and it won’t last long.”

Lifetime Coverage Guarantee

At the same time, LeGere introduced what he calls the T-Mobile Lifetime Coverage Guarantee for customers buying one of the new iPhones.

“For as long as you use your iPhone 6s or 6s Plus on T-Mobile, if you aren’t completely satisfied with your coverage experience we’ll refund you for every penny you’ve paid for your new device in the first month, or after that, we’ll unlock it at no charge so you can use it with one of the other wireless companies,” LeGere writes.

The CEO said his company will also refund up to a full month of service fees. If a phone is unlocked, he says customers will be able to keep the interest-free payment plan at standard prices.

When the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, announced Wednesday, go on sale Saturday (pre-orders), T-Mobile customers are going to find it costs less to get it fro...

Apple updates iPhone, introduces bigger iPad

Siri now integrated into Apple TV, helping to find your favorite program

In the past, Apple's product announcements were anticipated with bated breath and barely concealed excitement by the faithful. These days the bar is a lot higher.

With that in mind, Wednesday's presentation in San Francisco was more about improving a mature product portfolio instead of unveiling huge technological advancements. Still, the company showed it is willing to move in a new direction that includes a larger iPad and a stylus, the Apple Pencil.

But most of the attention was on the upgrade to the iPhone, with Apple CEO Tim Cook introducing the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus. Some analysts are calling them “bridge phones” since there aren't many dramatic departures from last year's versions.

3D Touch

The new phones have something Apple calls 3D Touch, which it says is a new way to interact with content. It works by sensing pressure to enable new gestures — what Apple has named Peek and Pop — so you can dip in and out of content without losing your place. Press lightly to Peek at a photo, email, web page or other content, and press a little deeper to Pop into the content itself.

Live Photos is a new feature that alters images, bringing still photos to life by capturing a moment in motion. The improved camera also takes video up a notch, capturing video in 4K resolution – 3840 x 2160 – delivering over eight million pixels.

All the upgrades are powered by the A9 chip, which Apple claims is the most advanced chip ever used by a smartphone; it delivers faster performance and extends battery life.

“The only thing that has changed with iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus is everything — 3D Touch lets users interact with iPhone in entirely new and fun ways, and the innovative Live Photos brings your pictures to life,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “These are the most advanced iPhones ever, with 7000 series aluminum, ion-strengthened glass, the new 64-bit A9 chip, 12-megapixel iSight and 5-megapixel FaceTime HD cameras, faster Touch ID, LTE and Wi-Fi.”

Bigger iPad

In addition to the new iPhones, Apple introduced a new, 12.9 inch iPad with a host of optional components that can, in essence, turn the tablet into a laptop – which begs the question, why not buy a laptop in the first place?

Working with the iPad Pro is the optional Apple Pencil, which can be used for drawing and sketching on the tablet. Apple says the system has been tweaked to provide for extreme detail, such as fine art and precision drawings.

In addition to the Pencil, Apple is introducing an optional keyboard with the new iPad, giving the device many of the same features as the popular Microsoft Surface. The keyboard attaches to iPad Pro’s Smart Connector port, eliminating the need for a separate battery, on/off switch or Bluetooth pairing.

Apple TV

Finally, Apple took a new approach to its Apple TV product, introducing a Siri-based remote so users can search for programs using their voice. Apple TV runs the new tvOS operating system, based on Apple’s iOS, enabling iOS developers to create new apps and games specifically for Apple TV and deliver them directly to users through the new Apple TV App Store.

“There has been so much innovation in entertainment and programming through iOS apps, we want to bring that same excitement to the television,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “Apps make the TV experience even more compelling for viewers and we think apps represent the future of TV.”

In the past, Apple's product announcements were anticipated with bated breath and barely concealed excitement by the faithful. These days the bar is a lot ...

American Express adds Apple Pay for corporate cards

Company was among the first to accept it for consumer cards

American Express says it is the first major corporate card portfolio that has been activated for Apple Pay, allowing business members to pay on the go using their compatible Apple mobile devices.

Cards that may be used with Apple Pay include only corporate cards issued to employees of commercial card customers working in the U.S. The Corporate Green Card, Corporate Gold Card, Corporate Platinum Card, Corporate Centurion Card, Business Extra Corporate Card and Corporate Defined Expense Program Corporate Card are all eligible. Prepaid Cards and other products are not eligible.

“Businesses today are going digital, and American Express is at the forefront of digital innovation, helping companies to streamline their payments systems and simplify their processes,” said Greg Keeley, Executive Vice President, Global Corporate Payments, American Express. “We continue to invest and expand digital offerings for our corporate customers in ways that maximize security and enhance the user experience.”

For use at contactless merchants

Apple Pay allows American Express members to register their eligible card and pay with their mobile devices at contactless merchants – those using a smart chip technology – in stores, or within participating apps that accept American Express.

The company adopted Apple Pay for its consumer cards and OPEN Small Business Cards in late 2014.

American Express praised Apple Pay for its security and privacy features, saying they mesh well with those that it offers. When you add a card to Apple Pay, the actual card numbers are not stored on the device, nor on Apple servers.

Apple Pay instead issues a unique Device Account Number, that is encrypted and securely stored in the secure element on the customer's device. Each transaction is authorized with a one-time unique dynamic security code.

But as with any wireless, encrypted technology, nothing is 100% secure. As we reported in June, security researchers at the mobile security company Wandera discovered and warned Apple about a vulnerability in iOS that would allow hackers to set up a wi-fi spot and then, once an iDevice connects to it, present it with a fake “captive portal” page imitating the genuine Apple Pay page asking users to enter their credit card data.

How it works

Apple Pay debuted last October, getting Apple into the mobile wallet game. To use it, customers just hold an iPhone 6 near the contactless reader with a finger on Touch ID. You don’t even have to look at the screen.

Among phones, Apple Pay is only compatible with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which are the only iPhones equipped with the requisite NFC radio antennae.

To pay with Apple Watch, just double-click the side button and hold the display of Apple Watch up to the contactless reader. A gentle tap and beep confirm that your payment information was sent.

According to MacWorld, Whole Foods Market has seen mobile payments increase by more than 400% since Apple Pay launched last year. Square integration is expected to expand its use to small, independent retail businesses.  

American Express says it is the first major corporate card portfolio that has been activated for Apple Pay, allowing business members to pay on the go usin...

Apple Watch sales drop by as much as 90%

Still a bestseller by smartwatch standards, but that's not saying much

Is the Apple Watch destined to be the next big iFlop? According to a report by California-based market researchers Slice Intelligence, Apple Watch sales have dropped 90% in the United States since the watches first went on sale in April.

These are unofficial estimates, as Apple generally doesn't release its sales figures. Slice based its estimates on e-receipts from shoppers who have allowed access to their inboxes for such data.

Slice's most recent report is very different from what it said in mid-June, when it told Reuters that it estimated Apple had sold about 2.79 million watches since April — and that Apple likely stood to make even higher profits off the sale of watchbands and other accessories.

Stagnant sales

Apple sold an estimated 1.5 million watches during the first week it was available, according to Slice – about 200,000 per day. But now, Slice estimates Apple is selling fewer than 20,000 watches per day in the U.S. sometimes less than 10,000.

Apple itself has not commented on the report, but some Apple fans are taking umbrage on the company's behalf. Apple Insider said that “Widely publicized study data reported by clickbait sites as evidence that Apple Watch sales have 'plunged' and 'are tanking' actually shows something completely different: that Apple has launched the most successful smartwatch product by a vast margin.”

Apple Insider didn't specify which “clickbait” sites were saying such things, but tech-news sites reporting the plunging-sale statistics did nonetheless point out that even if the 90% drop is true, the Apple Watch still remains the best-selling smartwatch to date.

Daily Tech, for example, said “Indeed, the Apple Watch is a blockbuster -- but in smartwatch terms. Last year all Android OEMs combined only summed up to roughly 720,000 sales of Android Wear smartwatches. When the Apple Watch went on sale on April 10 via a preorder, it quickly racked up 1.5 million orders, in a week doubling Android's entire sales total for the last year.”

Successful, but in small terms

So even pessimists agree Apple Watch is a smashing success by smartwatch standards; it's just that in tech-company-sales terms, circa mid-2015, “the best seller on the smartwatch market” is kind of like being “the most maturely behaved student in preschool” — impressive in some contexts, but not necessarily a standard which a 39-year-old adult (or 39-year-old best-selling multinational tech company) should brag about surpassing.

Of course, even if the Apple Watch does prove a failure, that doesn't necessarily say anything about the current or future market for wearable tech devices; it could simply mean there's not much of a market for a wearable device that's completely useless on its own, but works only as an accessory to another expensive device (in this case, an iPhone 6).

Is the Apple Watch destined to be the next big iFlop? According to a report by California-based market researchers Slice Intelligence, Apple Watch sales ha...

Apple launches Apple Music services today

With streaming music, artists' social media, a radio station and musical “bubbles”, you never need leave

Today, Apple finally launched its long-anticipated Apple Music streaming subscription service. In fact, Apple launched three separate services today, all huddled together under a single “Apple Music” umbrella: the Apple Music streaming service; iTunes Connect (a sort of Apple Music/social media hybrid); and the Beats 1 radio station.

You'll need to upgrade your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to iOS 8.4 if you want to sign up for Apple Music right now. An Android-compatible version is supposed to come out this autumn.

Apple fans have been able to buy music by the song since 2003, when the iTunes Store opened. But the iTunes Store is a la carte, whereas Apple Music is more like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Basic ad-free Apple Music streaming subscriptions will be free for the first three months, and will then cost a flat monthly fee – $9.99 per month for an individual, or $14.99 per month for a family plan covering up to six people. (The numerical cost is the same in pounds and euros, too – £9.99 per month in the United Kingdom, €9.99 monthly in the Euro zone.)

Customizing the music experience

Although the supply of songs is almost “unlimited” from Apple's end, remember that streaming music does count against your mobile phone's data limits.

In addition to Apple Music, there's also iTunes Connect, which is a type of social media – but only for musicians, not fans. Artists will be able to set up profile pages to share content, most likely videos or music tracks. But fans will not be able to use Connect to communicate with each other — which makes it hard to predict whether Connect will actually be successful. As the Guardian noted, “a lot of the success or failure of the service will depend on whether or not artists genuinely aid music discovery, or simply use the service for self-promotion. Following Pharrell Williams to find out his favourite tracks is one thing; following him to see a playlist of his last few singles is rather less exciting.”

The Beats 1 radio station will be free for everyone, even people who don't subscribe to Apple Music.

Among the features available to subscribers is the For You tab, which Mashable called the “real heart of Apple Music …. basically your music homescreen.”

When you tap For You, you'll see a series of “bubbles” representing different genres of music; you can expand the bubbles corresponding to genres or artists you do like, and discard the bubbles you don't like. Also, as Rolling Stone said, “The service will also scan your music library to see your preferred artists. Much like Netflix, this feature tells the company what music you like and what artists you are indifferent to … so that it can make educated guesses on playlists and other content.”

Scanning your music library

What if you don't want Apple to scan your pre-existing music library? Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an opt-out feature.

A reporter for Business Insider commented, “It's really useful that Apple figures out your music taste for you, as it saves customers from manually selecting which artists and genres they like.” Whether he was being sincere or sarcastic is hard to tell.

That said, if you genuinely have a hard time knowing what taste in music you have – “Look at all these songs in my collection! But which ones do I actually enjoy? I cannot possibly be expected to know such arcane trivia” – then you will be relieved to learn there's an app for that, and Apple Music's bubble system makes it easy to expand your musical bubble without ever having to leave it.

Today, Apple finally launched its long-anticipated Apple Music streaming subscription service. In fact, Apple launched three separate services today, all h...

Apple Watch early reviews: it's a nifty device, but don't bother buying it

Wearable tech is definitely coming, but the Apple Watch isn't quite there yet

Though the Apple Watch, Apple's first new product line since the iPad, won't be available to the public until April 24, a handful of tech writers and reporters have spent the past week previewing the upcoming new devices, and those reviews all came out today.

The results are an odd mix: pretty much everyone agrees the Apple Watch is an amazing new piece of technology, yet even the most enthusiastic reviews found a lot to complain about. (My personal cover-all-bases prediction: the Apple Watch will prove either a dazzling success for Apple, a colossal failure, or something in between. You heard it here first!)

The Watch combines many features of a wearable miniature iPhone, iPod and iPad combination, with some new technological features as well. For example, the underside of each watch is outfitted with what Apple calls a “Taptic Engine,” which lets the watch literally tap you on the wrist anytime it wants your attention.

The Apple Watch review in Bloomberg BusinessWeek actually kicks off with a description of the Taptic Engine in action:

I’m in a meeting with 14 people, in mid-sentence, when I feel a tap-tap-tap on my wrist. I stop talking, tilt my head, and whip my arm aggressively into view to see the source of the agitation. A second later, the small screen on my new Apple Watch beams to life with a very important message for me: Twitter has suggestions for people I should follow. A version of this happens dozens of times throughout the day—for messages, e-mails, activity achievements, tweets, and so much more. Wait a second. Isn’t the promise of the Apple Watch to help me stay in the moment, focused on the people around me and undisturbed by the mesmerizing void of my iPhone? So why do I suddenly feel so distracted?

Fashion statement

The Wall Street Journal concluded that the Apple Watch was more of a fashion statement than an actual useful gadget:

After over a week of living with Apple’s latest gadget on my wrist, I realized the company isn’t just selling some wrist-worn computer, it’s selling good looks and coolness, with some bonus computer features. Too many features that are too hard to find, if you ask me.

Re/Code.net's reviewer felt the opposite — it's pretty nifty having these techno-gadgets strapped to your wrist, but not very fashionable:

I’ve liked having access to iMessages, email and photos on my wrist. I didn’t resent the reminders to get up and move around after I’ve been sitting for too long. I even got used to accepting or rejecting phone calls from my wrist. … Apple Watch strives for high fashion, but it still looks like a techie watch. Even if you can easily swap out the basic, smooth plastic band for a more elegant one — the $149 leather band, the $149 Milanese loop or the $449 link bracelet — the face looks kind of like a miniature iPhone.

On the other hand, Re/Code feels that if you must wear a smartwatch solely as a fashion statement, the Apple Watch is probably your least-worst option:

… the face looks kind of like a miniature iPhone. With that said, I’ve worn my fair share of smartwatches and none are as good-looking as Apple Watch....

Quite smart

The New York Times agreed with the Wall Street Journal on two main issues: both think the watch is good-looking – the Times said it “looks quite smart, with a selection of stylish leather and metallic bands that make for a sharp departure from most wearable devices” – and both think the device is plagued by typical first-gen technology issues.

Quoth the Times: “the Apple Watch works like a first-generation device, with all the limitations and flaws you’d expect of brand-new technology.”

And if you ask the Wall Street Journal writer if you should buy yourself a new Apple Watch, she'll tell you no:

[E]very time I gaze down to admire it, I start seeing how the next one will look better. You could say the same about many fashion objects, but watches should be timeless (ironically). Unlike the Cartier I got for college graduation, the original Apple Watch’s beauty will soon fade. Unless you opt for the cheapest $350 sport version, you should really wait for the future.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the U.K.'s Telegraph said pretty much the same thing, going on at length about the Watch's many neat and nifty features before concluding:

That’s not, however, to say that even Apple fans with £299 burning a hole in their pocket should rush out and buy this first generation Watch. It’s beautifully designed and frequently rather useful - but history suggests version two or three will be even better.

Even worse, at least according to the Times: unlike earlier Apple product lines, the Apple Watch could prove difficult for “tech novices” to use, at least at first:

unlike previous breakthrough Apple products, the Watch’s software requires a learning curve that may deter some people. There’s a good chance it will not work perfectly for most consumers right out of the box, because it is best after you fiddle with various software settings to personalize use. Indeed, to a degree unusual for a new Apple device, the Watch is not suited for tech novices. It is designed for people who are inundated with notifications coming in through their phones, and for those who care to think about, and want to try to manage, the way the digital world intrudes on their lives.

Of course, if you want to manage (or even limit) the way the digital world intrudes on your analog real life, altering notifications and other settings on those techno-gadgets you already have might be a better bet than buying a new techno-gadget, and is definitely less expensive.

Though the Apple Watch, Apple's first new product line since the iPad, won't be available to the public until April 24, a handful of tech writers a...

Apple Watch: As glamorous as Google Glass?

It's hard to know just what to say about such a frivolous creation

When Google Glass debuted, it was widely derided as looking unbearably geeky. Also, some called it a privacy nightmare. When the Apple Watch debuted yesterday, it was given the worshipful treatment reserved for motherhood, the flag and Apple.

Just why this should be so is not quite clear. Both gadgets are basically luxury items -- something no one really needs and probably won't use very often, merely status symbols for those who are into such things.

After all, for $25 you can buy a Timex watch that will tell time just as well as the Apple Watch. Whether it's better looking is a matter of taste. The Timex won't remind you of meetings and won't automatically change time zones when you get off the plane.

On the other hand, the Timex will work even if you don't have an iPhone 6, something you can't say about the Apple Watch, which will sell for $349 to $1,099 (or $10,000 if you want it in gold). Also, the Timex will run for a year or more on a single battery. The Apple Watch? Maybe 6 or 7 hours.

The Apple Watch will do things the Timex won't, of course. It will place calls, send texts and maybe let you know if you're approaching a Starbucks or other temple of modern marketing. 

In other words, matters of status aside, the Apple Watch will save you the trouble of taking your iPhone out of your pocket to send a text. You'll still have to look at your wrist to see what time it is though. 

If that's worth $1,099 to you, grab your iPhone 6 and order one now. It will ship April 24. 

When Google Glass debuted, it was widely derided as looking unbearably geeky. Also, some called it a privacy nightmare. When the Apple Watch debuted yester...

Identity thieves come to Apple Pay

Apple's mobile wallet remains secure, but the cards attached to those accounts might not be

Just how safe is Apple Pay, anyway? Apple's “mobile wallet,” a standard feature on the iPhone 6, first became available last October, and not only offered people the ability to pay for things with their mobile device (as opposed to carrying a credit or debit card with them), it also promised to be far more secure than traditional American credit card purchases.

Hence the huge upset this week, when the Wall Street Journal reported that “Fraud comes to Apple Pay”:

It didn’t take long for fraud to find its way to Apple Pay .

Some banks are seeing a growing incidence of fraud on Apple’s mobile-payment service as criminals exploit vulnerabilities in the verification process of adding a credit card, according to people familiar with the matter.

Hardly an anomaly

The Journal, in turn, learned this from Cherian Abraham, a payment expert for Drop Labs, who on Feb. 22 published a blog post “Explaining the current state of Apple Pay fraud.” And that current state sounds pretty awful: according to Abraham, it is “hardly an anomaly” for fraud to appear in as much as 6% of all Apple Pay transactions, compared to a mere 0.1% of transactions with regular plastic credit cards.

Sounds like a catastrophe for Apple Pay. Yet it's a little more complicated than that: the security gap isn't with Apple Pay itself, but with the credit cards being attached to Apple Pay accounts. As the Guardianexplained: “crooks have not broken the secure encryption around Apple Pay’s fingerprint-activated wireless payment mechanism. Instead, they are setting up new iPhones with stolen personal information, and then calling banks to 'provision' the victim’s card on the phone to use it to buy goods....”

To make an analogy: imagine an old-fashioned bank vault secured with a special new kind of lock that's guaranteed impossible to open unless you have the key. Without the key to open the lock, not even the most talented lockpicker or safecracker in the world can get into that vault.

So the lock can never be broken or picked, but that does not mean the vault can never be robbed — it simply means that would-be robbers have to obtain a copy of the key first. And in this analogy, Apple Pay did a great job in creating unpickable bank-vault locks; problem is, the banks themselves have been very careless in handing out copies of the keys. And there's nothing Apple can do to fix the problem; it's the banks who need to improve their key-sharing protocols.

Fortunately, the banks have a strong motivation to do this, since they're the ones losing money from this fraud — not Apple Pay, and not the various merchants who accept it. As the Trustev anti-fraud blog pointed out, “The banks are the ones footing the bill here, and taking huge losses in the land rush to be everyone's default credit card for Apple Pay. It's on them, not Apple, to solve the issue.”

Just how safe is Apple Pay, anyway? Apple's “mobile wallet,” a standard feature on the iPhone 6, first became available last October, and not only offered ...

CVS and Rite-Aid stop accepting Apple Pay

What made them jump off the bandwagon after less than a week?

This past week has been a bad one for boosters of the Apple Pay mobile-payment system, which only launched last Monday.

First, due to a glitch somewhere in Bank of America's software, Apple Pay customers with Bank of America  accounts found themselves double-charged for everything they bought, and Apple Pay ended up collecting quite a bit of bad publicity over it even though fault for the mess did lay entirely with BoA.

And now the major pharmacy chains Rite-Aid and CVS have announced that they would stop accepting Apple Pay (with more companies likely to follow their example).

When Apple unveiled its then-new iWatch and iPhone 6 on Sept. 9, the devices' Apple Pay capability was trumpeted as a major selling point. And that same day, CVS was quick to announce that it would accept Apple Pay at its stores.

So what happened since then to make CVS change its mind? The company hasn't publicly said, but chances are it's because CVS decided instead to work with a retailer-owned group called the Merchant Customer Exchange to develop a competing mobile payment option, CurrentC, due to be released sometime next year.

Giving away data

Here's the problem: from the perspective of a customer who wants a non-cash payment system, Apple Pay offers two advantages over the current status quo of credit or debit cards. The first advantage benefits merchant and customer alike: Apple Pay's use of tokenization is supposed to make it far more secure against hacking and identity theft than today's easy-to-fake and easy-to-steal American credit cards.

But the second advantage, which benefits consumers, arguably works against the merchants' best interests: current credit and debit card payment systems grant sellers alike the ability to collect lots of potentially useful marketing data about individual buyers and their shopping habits – where do you shop, what do you buy, how much do you pay for it.

However, Apple Pay promises customer anonymity: the company itself can't collect this information about you, and neither can the merchants who accept Apple Pay.

How much data will the upcoming merchant-owned CurrentC mobile payment system collect about its customers? Information about CurrentC and just how it'll work has not yet been made available.

This past week has been a bad one for boosters of the Apple Pay mobile-payment system, which only launched last Monday....

Bank of America double-bills accounts for Apple Pay users

Promises to repay double charges; fix the glitch responsible

Poor Apple. On Monday, the company officially launchedApple Pay, its long-awaited mobile-payment system promising greater security than credit or debit-card payment systems thanks to the process of “tokenization” (which basically means that even if a hacker does successfully break into a retailer's database, or plant malware on a store's cash registers, he won't be able to steal anything useful, only a now-worthless authentication token).

So Apple launched its new era of secure reliable mobile payment on Monday, and the very next day it started getting bad publicity over a serious glitch that wasn't even Apple's fault but Bank of America's, which double-charged certain customers for anything they bought with Aple Pay.

“Problems with #ApplePay - it looks like my @bankofamerica account was double charged by @Walgreens” one man Tweeted on the morning of Oct. 21.

The next morning, CNN Money published a story by tech reporter Samuel Burke, who mentioned being “among the first people to try out Apple Pay the moment it came available on Monday” and said he was double-charged for every purchase he made with Apple Pay.

Since his Apple Pay account was tied to a debit account through Bank of America, he called BoA “and they assured me it was a problem on Apple Pay's end. That seemed feasible, because all of the purchases I made without Apple Pay were only charged one time.”

Sounded feasible but turned out to be false; later that morning, a Bank of America spokesperson publicly admitted and apologized for an unspecifid glitch in Bank of America's software that resulted in double-billed charges for about 1,000 account-holders.

But Bank of America also promised to refund all double charges, so by the standards of contemporary problems with non-cash payment systems, this Apple Pay double-billing business proved to be only a minor inconvenience.

That said: if your mobile wallet is tied to your Bank of America account, you might want to hold off on using Apple Pay until this glitch is fixed.

Poor Apple. On Monday, the company officially launched Apple Pay, its long-awaited mobile-payment system promising greater security than credit or debit-ca...

Apple's iPod is obsolete, but iPod anti-trust class action suits are not

Possible setback for Apple in a decade-long lawsuit

Earlier this month, Apple unveiledits latest-gen iPhone 6 and first-gen iWatch, and also officially discontinued its iPod family of MP3 players.

Though iPods were undeniably cutting-edge technology when the first one was released in 2001, by 2014 they were officially obsolete. But their legacy lives on, especially in the decade-old anti-trust class action suit Apple's faced over them.

Courthouse News reported today that last week, a federal judge denied Apple's attempt to exclude a certain expert witness chosen by the plaintiffs in that suit. (The judge also denied the plaintiffs' attempt to exclude the testimony of Apple's chosen counter-witnesses, so it's hard to say which side, if any, “won” this latest round in the legal battle.)

Apple released its first iPod player in 2001. What's the difference between an iPod and a non-Apple MP3 player? Not much, except that iPods were Apple-branded, and could only play Apple-branded MP3 files — in other words, if the iTunes store didn't offer a particular song, your iPod couldn't play it.

Disharmonious

In July 2004, the RealNetworks company put out a product called Harmony, a workaround allowing iPod owners to play any MP3 files, not just Apple-branded ones, on their devices.

On July 29, 2004, Apple released a statement suggesting RealNetworks was engaged in criminal hacking activity:

“We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod, and we are investigating the implications of their actions under the DMCA and other laws. We strongly caution Real and their customers that when we update our iPod software from time to time it is highly likely that Real's Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future iPods.”

Sure enough, in December 2004 Apple quietly updated its iPod software so that music from RealNetworks could no longer play on iPods — which also meant many iPod owners suddenly found they couldn't listen to their own music libraries anymore.

So in early 2005, an iPod-owning Apple customer named Thomas Slattery filed a class-action suit against the company, claiming that its policy of limiting iPod owners to iTunes music violated federal anti-trust and California's state unfair-competition laws.

An amended suit filed in 2007 with different lead plaintiffs also says that Apple's actions limited iPod owners to songs from the iPod store.

Stymied

As of earlier this year, the plaintiffs intended for Stanford economist Roger Noll to offer testimony claiming two basic things: one, that the Apple software updates limiting iPods to playing iTunes music made it “more costly” for an iPod user to switch to a different brand of MP3 player, since it was so difficult to get songs that could be played on all devices. Noll also planned to testify that Apple's software “encouraged” iPod owners to only buy songs from iTunes.

As a result of these (apparently self-evident) claims, Noll further intended to testify that as a result of this effective monopoly, Apple was able to charge more for its devices, for a total of $305 million in damages to consumers.

Of course, experts hired by Apple for the defense disagree with Noll's analysis.

Apple's attorneys sought to exclude Noll's testimony, and the plaintiffs in turn sought to exclude the testimony of Apple's counter-experts, but last week, as Courthouse News reported, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Rogers denied both motions.

Earlier this month, Apple unveiled its latest-gen iPhone 6 and first-gen iWatch, and also officially discontinued its iPod family of MP3 players....

Bad week for Apple: bent phones followed by flawed iOS update

But Apple will replace bent phones -- if they pass a "Visual Mechanical Inspection"

If you downloaded and installed Apple's iOS 8.0.1 software update on Wednesday, whether to your iPhone, iPad or iPod, bear in mind the update proved to be so flawed, the company stopped the release a mere hour after starting it.

The Wall Street Journal initially reported that Apple yanked the update after hearing complaints from customers that the update not only interfered with their phones' ability to make calls, but disabled the TouchID sensor which allowed people to unlock their phones with their fingerprints.

Of course, iOS 8.0.1 was supposed to fix several flaws with iOS 8.0, including problems with the large phones' “reachability” (or ability to be used with only one hand), a bug that prevented users from accessing their photos, or uploading photos and videos from certain platforms, issues with various apps, and more. Instead, the intended fix only traded one set of major flaws for another.

The flawed update can no longer be downloaded and installed. However, for people who have already put iOS 8.0.1 on their iThings, it's uncertain as of press time what, if anything, Apple plans to do for them.

Bent out of shape

This hasn't been the only embarrassment Apple's faced this week; the company received plenty of bad press after people who bought iPhone 6 Plus devices complained that the phones are flimsy enough to bend out of shape, especially when people kept the phones in their pants pockets.

However, Apple finally responded to such complaints by offering to replace any bent iPhone 6 Plus models – after Genius Bar employees subject the phones to a “Visual Mechanical Inspection” to ensure the warranty covers the damage.

So if you are plagued by such a bent iPhone 6 Plus, you might try visiting your local Apple Store to see if your bent phone passes the Visual Mechanical Inspection. Thus far, it's too early to report how those VMIs turn out for bent-phone owners.

If you downloaded and installed Apple's iOS 8.0.1 software update on Wednesday, whether to your iPhone, iPad or iPod, bear in mind the update proved to be ...

Reports: Apple iPhone 6 bends in your pocket

Is this normal wear-and-tear, or something worse?

How sturdy is Apple's new iPhone 6, anyway? An ever-growing number of customers are saying that the phone has a tendency to bend from the pressure when carried in people's pants pockets.

TechCrunch reported it yesterday, noting that every time a new Apple device is launched, looking for the first flaw in it has become a popular sport. “Unfortunately, this year we haven’t been able to come up with something entirely new. With the iPhone 6 and, more pointedly, the iPhone 6 Plus, reports suggest that the phone will bend when left in a pocket, seated, for a prolonged period of time.”

TechCrunch also noted that there were similar complaints about the iPhone 5 when it first came out.

The Washington Post picked up the story at 3:30 a.m. (Eastern time), reporting that “The new iPhone 6 bends,” and before 9:30 that morning, the Post updated its story to say that “Questions about the supposed bent iPhone 6 are now showing up on the [official] Apple users forum, without, so far, a response from Apple. The actual number of people claiming to have encountered this issue remains very limited.”

Disaster!

However limited the number might be in the official Apple forum, it's exploded on Twitter under the hashtag #bendgate. A typical complaint came from Alan Pope @popey, who also tweeted a photo to illustrate his complaint: “Disaster! Took phone out of my pocket and it's bent.”

At the same time, Apple also had its share of defenders, both on Twitter and elsewhere. “In all fairness, anyone who puts a gadget made of aluminium in their back pocket and sits down deserves for it to bend.”

Wired's Gadget Lab blog seemingly had little patience for the whole affair, pointing out that “Duh: Of course the iPhone 6 Plus can bend in your pocket.”

Meanwhile, the gadget reviewer Unbox Therapy posted a video to his YouTube channel called “The iPhone 6 bend test.”

He said, “Normally, I wouldn't do a video like this, but I woke up this morning and saw a number of reports claiming that the iPhone 6 Plus was bending inside of people's pockets.”

The bend test

So he carefully inspected his own phone, which he'd been using and carrying for the past couple of days, and “noticed a tiny little indentation toward the center of the device.” He was then able to make that small indentation grow into a full-fledged bend by applying pressure to the ends of it — that said, it's not known just how much pressure he applied, either.

Unbox Therapy also posted a “follow-up” video applying the bend test to the Samsung Galaxy, claiming that it did not bend. (Assuming this is true, there's a very simple explanation why: the Galaxy case is plastic, not metal.)

Even if the latest iPhone iteration is more likely to bend than you should reasonably expect from a device of that particular size and composition, there does appear one way for Apple users to avoid the problem: take it out of your pants pocket before you sit down, especially if you're wearing tight pants. The same holds true if you have a Galaxy or any other type of phone: maybe your device won't bend, but under enough pressure, anything can break.

One industry expert says the bending isn't all that surprising. 

"This is Apple's first device with a phablet sized screen, but it is not the first bending issues to surface on larger devices like the Galaxy S4," said David Anderson of Protect Your Bubble, a warranty provider for iPhones and other devices. "There have been many customers who have broken their screens or bent their devices by sitting on them while in their back pockets."

Anderson said there have even been previous cases of Apple's iPhone 5 and 5s having bending issues when put under a lot of stress.

"As the screens and devices get larger and thinner it will simply take less stress on their metal frames to bendm" he said. 

How sturdy is Apple's new iPhone 6, anyway? An ever-growing number of customers are saying that the phone has a tendency to bend from the pressure when car...

Watch out for these iPhone6 scams

Nobody's giving free phones away over Facebook or email, either

Well, that didn't take long: Apple had barely finished formally unveiling its new iPhone6 earlier this month before various scammers started using the lure...

Latest iPhones are built to last, tests find

SquareTrade finds the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are tougher than previous models

Tired of hearing about the newest iPhones? Fair enough, but amidst all the hoopla over technical upgrades, consider this: warranty company SquareTrade says the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are tougher than their predecessors, making them better able to withstand harsher treatment

The new phones did especially well in the "grip-ability" test, meaning you're less likely to drop yours onto the subway tracks or into the toilet. The iPhone 6 also held up well when tested for drop damage, surviving falls from four feet with only minor knicks. 

The 6 Plus didn't fare quite as well in the drop test but, tests aside, if you're going to spring for a top-end phone it's probably a good idea to spend a few dollars more for a protective case.

The phones also did well when confronted with that most feared enemy of consumer electronics -- water. That's not something previous iPhones haven't always handled very well so it's a welcome change.

See more in this SquareTrade video:

Tired of hearing about the newest iPhones? Fair enough, but amidst all the hoopla over technical upgrades, consider this: warranty company SquareTrade says...

Apple's “warrant canary” died; did Patriot Act spy activities kill it?

Despite Apple's pro-privacy headlines this week, something darkling might lurk behind the scenes

There's possible bad news for privacy advocates and Apple customers alike: a sharp-eyed look at Apple's two most recent Transparency Reports (more specifically, what's not in them) suggests that, despite the company's recent announcements affirming its strong commitment to protecting customers' privacy, it might have been forced to secretly spy on people under provisions of the Patriot Act.

First, a little background: Apple CEO Tim Cook made privacy-related headlines twice this week, first for giving a televised interview to PBS' Charlie Rose where, among other things, Cook said the company is not in the business of collecting or selling people's private information. He also discussed (and obliquely criticized) the U.S. government's mass, warrantless surveillance of its citizens, and other revelations exposed by former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“I don’t think that the country or the government’s found the right balance. I think they erred too much on the collect everything side. And I think the [U.S.] president and the [Obama] administration is committed to kind of moving that pendulum back,” Cook said to Rose.

A couple days later, Apple updated its Privacy Policy, promising more stringent protections for customers' personal data. Cook also released an open letter saying, in part, that “Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”

Incidentally, Cook's statement in no way contradicts the suggestion “Apple has handed sensitive customer data over to the government;” it only specifies that the government wasn't able to reach in and grab such data by itself.

Gag order

Cook released his letter on Sept. 17. The very next day, Gigoam.com discovered that a look at Apple's two most recent Transparency Reports (from a total of three) strongly suggests the FBI or some other branch of government is secretly forcing Apple to spy on its customers, though the company is legally forbidden to admit this since it's operating under a legal gag order.

Such claims might sound like a paranoid conspiracy theory, but under modern U.S. law – specifically the Patriot Act – they are all-too-plausible.

Apple didn't get into the habit of writing and releasing Transparency Reports until last November, when it issued its first-ever such report, including some language which BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow first identified as a potential “warrant canary.”

The phrase “warrant canary” stems from the older saying “canary in a coal mine,” which in turn alludes to a common mining practice from the old days: before going down into the mines for a day's work, miners first had to make sure no poisonous or suffocating gases had collected there overnight. So before descending into the mine themselves, they'd lower a cage holding a canary or other small bird. If the bird lived, that proved the air in the mine safe to breathe. But if the bird died, the miners knew something was wrong.

Secrets are secret

A warrant canary is a statement meant to show that an organization, such as a tech company or even a public library, has not been forced to comply with a secret (and possibly warrantless) government investigation coupled with a gag order. And should the warrant canary later disappear, that suggests the opposite.

In Apple's case, its Transparency Report from November 2013 (which is available here in .pdf form, but only covers the first half of 2013) included this potential warrant canary statement: “Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”

What does that mean? Section 215 says that the FBI can order any person or organization/entity to hand over “any tangible things,” provided the FBI says it is “for an authorized investigation . . . to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”

However, as the ACLU points out in its call to reform the Patriot Act, Section 215 goes far beyond standard constitutional limits on how the government is allowed to perform investigations:

The FBI need not show probable cause, nor even reasonable grounds to believe, that the person whose records it seeks is engaged in criminal activity. 

The FBI need not have any suspicion that the subject of the investigation is a foreign power or agent of a foreign power. 

The FBI can investigate United States persons based in part on their exercise of First Amendment rights, and it can investigate non-United States persons based solely on their exercise of First Amendment rights. For example, the FBI could spy on a person because they don't like the books she reads, or because they don't like the web sites she visits. They could spy on her because she wrote a letter to the editor that criticized government policy.

Another part of Section 215 — the part that makes “warrant canaries” a necessity in modern-day America – specifies that “Those served with Section 215 orders are prohibited from disclosing the fact to anyone else. Those who are the subjects of the surveillance are never notified that their privacy has been compromised. If the government had been keeping track of what books a person had been reading, or what web sites she had been visiting, the person would never know.”

Timeline

So let's recap what we know so far: in November 2013, Apple decided to release a Transparency Report for the first time, covering all activities through end-of-June that year, and including a statement which might be interpreted as a warrant canary, especially since (as Gigoam announced on Sept. 18), the canary does not appear in Apple's next two Transparency Reports.

If you believe that the statement “Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us,” which appeared only in the first of three Transparency Reports, was indeed put there as a warrant canary, that strongly suggests a behind-the-scenes timetable something like this:

January 1 through June 30, 2013: Apple was not forced to comply with any Section 215 orders.

Sometime between July and November 2013: Apple got a Section 215 order and was forced to comply, meaning it not only had to turn over sensitive customer data to the government with no regard for warrants, probable cause or other constitutional niceties, Apple was also legally forbidden from telling anybody about this.

Early November 2013: Determined to let people know something's going on yet forbidden to outright say so, Apple released its first Transparency Report including the warrant canary, announcing it had no Section 215 orders as of June 30, 2013 — knowing full well that the canary's absence from its second Transparency Report would strongly imply that Apple did receive such an order shortly afterwards.

Missing canary

Gigoam's discovery of the warrant canary missing from Apple's latest two reports is not the only discouraging bit of Apple-related privacy news to come out this week. On Sept. 17, when Apple updated its privacy policy, it boasted that any data stored on a mobile device with the iOS8 operating system was so secure, even the police and Apple itself couldn't access it unless they know your own personal, secret password.

More specifically, Apple said, “it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

Of course, “technically” can cover a lot of ground – after all, the Patriot Act including the whole need for warrant canaries is, many would argue, technically unconstitutional and therefore can't happen in America, yet current legal reality does not reflect this at all.

And so, on the same day that Gigoam.com first noted the possible death of Apple's warrant canary, Wired's Threat Level security blog found the technicality, noting that “Despite Apple's privacy pledge, cops can still pull data off a locked iPhone”:

iOS forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski offered a word of caution for the millions of users clamoring to pre-order the iPhone 6 and upgrade to iOS 8. In many cases, he points out, the cops can still grab and offload sensitive data from your locked iPhone without Apple’s help, even in iOS 8. All they need, he says, is your powered-on phone and access to a computer you’ve previously used to move data onto and off of it.

Such claims might sound like a paranoid conspiracy theory, but under modern U.S. law – specifically the Patriot Act – they are all-too-plausible. ...

Apple says even the government can't get your private data with iOS8

But protections only apply to information on your device, not in the cloud

Apple updated its privacy policy this week and released a letter from company CEO Tim Cook, both expressing the company's overall commitment to customer privacy protection, and the iOS8's security features in particular.

Apple says its new privacy protections are so stringent, some of your stored data is thoroughly inaccessible even to Apple itself — and even if the police or other government agents have a warrant for it.

Apple updated its Privacy Policy on Sept. 17, saying that “The changes were made predominantly to cover new features in iOS 8, or to provide additional information on current use of data such as your date of birth or information you’ve provided about others (for example, when sending products or gift certificates to another person). None of these changes are retroactive.”

After several reassurances about protecting users' privacy and/or personal information, the new privacy policy also says this:

“It may be necessary − by law, legal process, litigation, and/or requests from public and governmental authorities within or outside your country of residence − for Apple to disclose your personal information. We may also disclose information about you if we determine that for purposes of national security, law enforcement, or other issues of public importance, disclosure is necessary or appropriate.”

Post-Snowden

That's pretty standard corporate-boilerplate language from any company that has your personal information (even dating back to the pre-Internet, pre-computer era): we'll keep everything we have on you private, unless we are legally ordered to do otherwise.

Yet such assurances take on a slightly different meaning in a post-Edward Snowden world, where it's old news that the National Security Agency routinely tracks Americans' whereabouts and monitors our electronic communications en masse, without warrants, probable cause or other things required by the constitution. The government has even ordered tech companies to hand over private data about its users — then made it illegal for the tech companies to admit what they were doing.

But Apple went even further in its newly updated “Privacy/Government Information Requests” page, saying:

On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.

In addition to these assurances, written by anonymous Apple employees, Apple's CEO Tim Cook also posted a letter on Apple's Privacy page, saying:

“Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”

(Hopefully, Cook's statement is true. If, however, it's one day discovered otherwise, remember not to judge him or other technology executives too harshly; if they're lying, it is only to comply with current American law, which makes it illegal for Apple, Yahoo or other tech companies to inform their customers if the NSA or other arms of government are collecting data on them, with or without a warrant.)

Apple updated its privacy policy this week and released a letter from company CEO Tim Cook, both expressing the company's overall commitment to customer pr...

States, Apple reach settlement in e-book price-fixing lawsuit

Consumers stand to get up to $400 million if the settlement is upheld

Thirty-three states reached a settlement today in their e-book price-fixing lawsuit against Apple Inc. Consumers nationwide will receive $400 million if the district court’s liability holding is affirmed.

"This settlement – contingent on the outcome of Apple's appeal – represents a fair and equitable effort by all parties to resolve this litigation," said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen. "Consumers across the country have already received compensation from $166 million in settlement funds paid by the five publishers involved in this price-fixing conspiracy. Through the terms of this settlement, they will receive additional compensation from another $400 million should the states prevail in the appeal."

Last year, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that evidence presented at trial showed Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing a conspiracy designed to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices. Apple has appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  

Under the settlement announced today, if Apple loses its appeal, it has agreed pay $400 million in compensation to e-book consumers.

“The price-fixing conspiracy between Apple and the publishers caused an immediate increase in cost to these consumers. We’re pleased that additional ill-gotten profits may ultimately be returned to consumers,” saidColorado Attorney General John W. Suthers.

Apple's  appeal is currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The settlement is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Thirty-three states today reached a settlement today in their e-book price-fixing lawsuit against Apple Inc. Consumers nationwide will receive $400 mi...

Will new Apple updates threaten Google's bottom line?

There's good reason to say yes ... or no

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference grinds on and continues to be a hugely big deal for iFans everywhere. Truth to tell, even Apple-free households have reason to take interest. Apple's a huge player in the computing industry, and if the company unveils anything truly innovative, everyone else will eventually follow. Remember: before there were generic “tablets,” there was the iPad.

After Day Two, it turns out that Google stockholders (and anyone else concerned with the welfare of the search-engine giant) might worry that Apple's latest update might hurt Google's bottom line. As AdAge magazine asked on June 3: “Did Apple's 'Spotlight' [local search function] update just sideline Google Search ads?”

The question arises from the fact that Apple has made Microsoft's Bing search engine the default on its upcoming products, in addition to its current status as the default search engine for voice-activated Siri products. (However, Google will remain the default search engine for Apple's browser Safari.)

Furthermore, Apple Spotlight users will get web-only search results stripped of ads — gutting one of Google's money-making models.

No guarantees

None of this guarantees that Google has reason to worry, though. AdAge notes that Apple's Bing-powered search engine generally brings back far fewer results than Google.

Bing has, in previous commercials, tried portraying this as a positive feature – you'll get a small number of search results specific to your query, rather than a large number of search results cluttered with useless junk – but, as AdAge noted, “Apple would have to prove that its small number of results are accurate enough to fulfill someone's query. Good-enough search has never been enough to unseat or take share from Google.'

It's day two of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, which continues to be a hugely big deal for iFans everywhere. Truth to tell, even Apple-free house...

Apple kicks off Worldwide Developers Conference

New operating system unveiled Monday; hardware innovations not expected

The Worldwide Developers Conference is for Apple kind of what the Super Bowl is to football, except it lasts a whole week, there's only one team, and hardly any beer commercials to speak of. So on second thought it's not like the Super Bowl at all, but it is a very big deal.

For Apple fans rather than developers, the high note so far has been the preliminary unveiling of the new iOS8 operating system, which is currently available only to developers but should be released to users this fall. However, the real suspense is whether Apple plans to unveil any new hardware, rather than software, at the conference.

Current rumor says that the answer is no, though until the conference ends on June 6 nobody (outside a few high-ranking Apple executives) can say for certain.

Apple streamed the conference live for those with Safari; for everyone else, a wide variety of media outlets have live or semi-live bloggers covering the event.

The Worldwide Developers Conference is for Apple kind of what the Super Bowl is to football, except it lasts a whole week, there's only one team, and hardl...

Apple to release new operating system, updated iPads

Promises extended battery life for MacBook Pro

Tech and consumer journalists could save a lot of time if they’d program their work computers so that pressing a single key made the sentence “Apple’s releasing some new products” instantly appear on their screen.

Anyway, Apple’s releasing some new products. Specifically, updated iPads and a new operating system called OS X Mavericks, which will add an extra hour and a half to the battery life of a MacBook Pro, according to Apple’s software engineering chief Craig Federighi.

The Washington Post tech blog reported the upcoming Apple unveilings as part of a larger piece discussing the current market for tablets.

“While Apple continues its reign on top of the tablet world, analysts say the company is beginning to see some of the same competitive pressures it faced in the smartphone market. It once dominated that market, but has recently been unseated by smartphones running the Android operating system.”

Of course, the Post also quoted Apple executives insisting they’re not remotely worried about competitors in the tablet market; as Apple chief executive Tim Cook said, “Our competition is confused … We have a very clear direction and a very ambitious goal. We still believe deeply in this category, and we’re not slowing down in our innovation.”

Which is why we said tech journalists could save a lot of time, if they’d program their work computers so that pressing a single key made the sentence “Apple’s releasing some new products” instantly appear on their screen.

Tech and consumer journalists could save a lot of time if they’d program their work computers so that pressing a single key made the sentence “...

The new iPhone 5C comes in colors everywhere

The 5C is not only colorful, it's also a lot cheaper than its predecessor

Apparently taking its cue from the Rolling Stones, Apple today unveiled the new iPhone 5C, one of two phones that will replace the current iPhone 5.

And what's so new and different about the 5C? Well, not much. It's basically the same as the iPhone 5, now officially yesterday's news. A new, fancier model is the 5S.

The "C" -- we think -- stands for "color" and that's because the 5C, well, it comes in color everywhere -- at least five of them. 

Or it could stand for "cheap." The 5C will cost just $99 with a contract, thus making one of the world's costliest smartphones more affordable, as Apple works to boost its market share in developing countries. 

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, showed the colorful versions of the iPhone 5C today at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. It's made of polycarbonate plastic, in green, blue, white, red and yellow and has no visible seams.

"The iPhone 5C is beautifully, unapologetically plastic," Schiller said. "Multiple parts have been reduced to a single polycarbonate component whose surface is continuous."

The 5S

And then there's the new high-priced spread, the iPhone 5S. No colors here. It comes in aluminum but features a faster processor and a fingerprint sensor that is supposed to make it more secure. With a contract, the iPhone 5S will set you back $200, twice as much as the colorful 5C.

Both phones will be available in the U.S., Japan and China on September 20. 

Apparently taking its cue from the Rolling Stones, Apple today unveiled the new iPhone 5C, one of two phones that will replace the current iPhone 5.And w...

Suit wants Apple to protect consumers from porn

Lawyer wants company to install controls on all devices

Apple has seen its share of litigation, but this may be the most interesting suit yet.

Chris Sevier, 36 a Nashville lawyer and model, wants “all [of Apple’s] devices,” including the iPhone, sold “in 'safe mode,' with software preset to filter out pornographic content."

Sevier’s trail of tears began when he bought a MacBook Pro, which came with the web browser Safari already installed. Sevier “accidentally misspelled ‘facebook.com,’” according to the complaint, “which lead [sic] him to ‘fuc[*]book.com’ and a host of websites that caused him to see pornographic images that appealed to his biological sensibilities as a male and lead [sic] to an unwanted addiction with adverse consequences.”

Sevier admits in the complaint that he “ loves Apple ... and knows that it has good intent,” and is certain that the company is concerned with the welfare of our Nation's children, while furthering pro-American values."

Nevertheless, Sevier wants Apple to “set the example for all device makers” and equip all of its devices with strict controls on access to porn, requiring the user to “take proactive steps to block pornographic images.”

“Apple is hijacking great sex”

Among the reasons Sevier gives for his request are “patriotism” (“American [sic] is in many respect [sic] a lighthouse for the rest of the world to follow, arguably because it was formed on Judeo-Christian values ... Apple should set the example for device makers all over the world...”); “knowledge” (“the burden to safe guard [sic] its consumers should fall on Apple, not the purchasers who would otherwise not like to be inflicted with the myriad of problems that stem from viewing porn”); and that “Apple is hijacking great sex by failing to sell its products in safe mode” (“pornography ... obviously encourages lust, which hijacks great sex, making the thrill of engaging in deviant behavior the primary objective of intercourse”).

Whether any of these colorful opinions constitutes a legal cause of action remains to be seen.

In his complaint, Sevier suggests that there will be a groundswell of outrage if Apple does not comply with his suggestion, writing that “Apple should see this lawsuit as a warning sign of the class action lawsuits to follow in the event Apple elects to resist the Plaintiff’s reasonable request.”

“Save ... countless marriages”

Sevier insists in his complaint that he “is not a proponent of legislating morality in the extreme,” writing that “members of society should not be prosecuted for ‘being human.’” Nevertheless, he says that porn controls on Mac devices could “save ... countless marriages [and] impact generations to come.”

The complaint, filed in federal court in Tennessee, alleges fraudulent misrepresentation, products liability, outrageous conduct and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Apple has seen its share of litigation, but this may be the most interesting suit yet.Chris Sevier, a Nashville lawyer, wants “all [of Ap...

"Tough to see" Google Glass having big impact: Apple CEO

But Tim Cook says "wearable devices" have a big future

People have been wearing wristwatches since, well, forever and we've been strapping on various types of music players ever since the Sony Walkman debuted in 1979.  And, of course, some folks wear guns, so really, there's nothing new about "wearable devices," even though the term has only lately come into vogue thanks to Google Glass.

But Apple CEO Tim Cook says it's "tough to see" how Google Glass will gain wide acceptance, given objections about privacy and the risk that wearers will make themselves targets for muggers.

Instead, Cook hinted at the D: All Things Digital Conference yesterday that Apple's still-unannounced wearable devices will get a better reception, the Wall Street Journal reported.

It's been rumored that Apple is developing a wristwatch-like device that functions like a smartphone, sort of a latter-day Dick Tracy gizmo.  Cook wasn't revealing details but said that Apple has "several more game-changers" in development.

Cook also announced that Apple has hired former Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson to oversee the company's environmental activities. 

Perhaps sounding somewhat defensive, Cook turned aside complaints that Android devices have overtaken Apple in the smartphone and tablet market. He said Apple is more concerned with having happy customers than with having the most customers.

People have been wearing wristwatches since, well, forever and we've been strapping on various types of music players ever since the Sony Walkman debuted i...

Pressure grows for cheaper iPhone

Report suggests new iPhone could be offered at lower cost

The iPhone lags Android phones in sales but Apple remains the most profitable smartphone maker. Some Apple fans think that's small consolation, that the company could dominate the smartphone universe if only it would lower the price of its flagship device, the iPhone.

Currently the iPhone 5 sells for $649 through most participating carriers but is $199.99 with a two-year contract. That happens to be the very same price as Samsung's newest smartphone, the Galaxy S4.

However, budget-conscious shoppers can get other Android phones for much less. The Samsung Galaxy Stellar is just $19.99 with a two-year agreement. The LG Lucid 2 at Verizon Wireless is free when you sign on for two years. Some in the tech world think Apple would sell more iPhones if it had a cheaper version that wasn't two generations behind.

Persistent rumor

Last week the buzz about a possible lower-cost iPhone got louder. A technology news site in Japan – Macotakara – has reported that Apple is preparing for trial production of a new device, the iPhone 5S, that will come in a variety of colors. This isn't the first time these kinds of rumors have floated to the surface. In fact, Apple shot down one such report earlier this year.

But it's worth noting that Apple's co-founder, the late Steve Jobs, vowed Apple would never produce a seven-inch iPad. Yet in 2012 it did exactly that, rolling out the popular iPad Mini. One reason for the device's popularity, tech analysts said, was its lower price tag. They suggest the same thing could help iPhone sales. So tech analysts tend to look at Apple's denials with a bit of skepticism.

The Macotakara report suggests the cheaper iPhone would carry an unsubsidized price as low as $350, meaning its subsidized price could fall below $100. The report also said Apple is planning an update of its current iPhone and iPad products, presumably at their present price points.

Repair costs aren't cheap either

Consumers rate Apple iPhone
The cost of the iPhone isn't the only concern for Michelle, of Lawrenceville, Ga., who spent nearly $700 for an unsubsidized iPhone 5. It was what happened when the phone stopped working that sparked her ire.

“I had to bring it to the Apple store because they couldn't restore it,” she wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “They said they couldn't do anything about it but I must replace the phone for another $250 and another $100 for insurance. One-thousand dollars total that I had to pay for this phone. Arghhhghhhhhh.”

Even when iPhones can be repaired, it's expensive. Marketwatch.com recently reported that the going rate to repair an iPhone 5 with a damaged screen is $229, more than the initial subsidized cost of the device.

More companies turning out Android phones

While Samsung is viewed as Apple's biggest smartphone competitor, it is only one company turning out Android phones. Other companies are increasing their sales at a rapid clip as they, combined, turn out dozens of new model phones in the time it takes Apple to update the iPhone.

LG has announced a doubling of its smartphone sales over the last 12 months. LG credit that growth to the fact that it has produced phones for both the premium and budget markets.

The question is, is Apple about to follow suit?

The iPhone lags Android phones in sales but Apple remains the most profitable smartphone maker. Some Apple fans think that's small consolation, that the co...

iPhone 4: The check is in the mail

It's the final chapter of Antennagate settlement

The Apple iPhone 4 has achieved its place in history as the last iPhone not spookily inhabited by Siri. But the phone was also responsible for one of 2010’s biggest tech scandals: “Antennagate.”

Within days of the phone’s June 2010 release, users discovered that when the device was held a certain way, it received almost no signal. Users said that putting one’s hand over the phone’s metal frame in the lower left-hand corner -- where the antenna is exposed -- led to a marked decrease in signal strength.

Unsurprisingly, the issue quickly produced a flurry of lawsuits, with class actions filed in California and Maryland by the beginning of July. Ultimately, 18 cases were filed, although all were ultimately combined into a single class action.

Last year, Apple agreed to settle the matter for $53 million. This week, the final chapter of Antennagate will be written, with $15 checks being sent to eligible class members. Apple had also offered free iPhone 4 cases in place of monetary compensation.

Jobs: “Just avoid holding it that way”

The issue provoked a characteristically brusque response from late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. When a customer emailed Jobs to ask, “What's going to be done about the signal dropping issue[?],” Jobs replied, “Non issue. Just avoid holding it that way.”

Jobs did ultimately issue a mea culpa, stating that, “We are human and we make mistakes sometimes.”

Consumers who receive a check must cash it by July 16. If you haven’t filed a claim yet, it’s too late -- the deadline passed in August 2012.

Glassgate

The iPhone 4 was also at the center of “Glassgate,” involving the device’s alleged propensity to shatter when dropped. A Los Angeles suit centering around that issue claimed that “Apple ... failed to warn and continues to sell this product with no warning to customers that the glass housing is defective.”
The Apple iPhone 4 has achieved its place in history as the now-ubiquitous smartphone that first introduced the world to Siri. But the phone was also...

Duplicate downloads from iTunes? Pay up, the judge orders

Court dismisses suit that claims Apple's policies are deceptive

Apple's stock price is down and there are fears that sales of iPhones and other iStuff may be slumping but you've got to give Apple credit for one thing: the company has good lawyers.

Just the other day, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that claimed the MacBook Pro drains its battery even when it's plugged in. The judge said Apple's promotional literature had never claimed the battery wouldn't go dead. Case dismissed.

And now, another judge has dismissed claims that Apple deceptively charges consumers for downloading the same song more than once. The judge said -- guess what? -- it's not deceptive because Apple discloses that multiple charges accompany multiple downloads.

Robert Herskowitz and Phoebe Juel had hoped to represent a class of customers who were charged for multiple downloads of the same song from iTunes.

Apple argued that the plaintiffs "do not and cannot point to any legal obligation requiring Apple to provide them with a second download of the same song free of charge. To the contrary, their agreement with Apple expressly bars that claim, and provided an express and exclusive remedy that plaintiffs ignore." That remedy is to contact Apple for assistance, Courthouse News Service reported.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh agreed with Apple, noting that "the agreement in effect at the time of Juel's purchase contained an express provision that purchasers were not entitled to re-download a song free of charge."

The judge noted that Apple's Terms and Conditions state that "products may be downloaded only once and cannot be replaced if lost for any reason." 

In both cases, the plaintiffs have the opportunity to amend their original complaints.

New computer, no songs

Consumers rate Apple iTunes

Sometimes, of course, hanging onto your iTunes titles is easier said than done. Ellen of Grand Island, N.Y., said in a ConsumerAffairs postingthat she bought a new desktop computer last November.

"When I went to transfer the 30-plus songs I had purchased on iTunes, the songs disappeared," she said. "Thus began the saga of over 10 hours spent  responding to emails, over 3 hrs on the phone with their support team. None of their steps worked to retrieve my already paid for songs!"

"I believe this is a ruse to get customers to buy songs over and over to increase their revenue," Ellen groused. "This borders on greed to me."

It's not just music that sometimes strikes a sour note wit Apple customers. Lynn of Hot Springs, Ark., tried to buy two audio books that she could listen to during an upcoming road trip. But Lynn, who said she has limited vision and is not very computer-savvy, soon found that only one of the books would play.

"After hours of searching and struggling to read and understand all the help webpages, I finally managed to speak directly to an Itunes customer service person. They were unable to figure out the problem and furnished phone number for Apple," Lynn said. "The Apple rep immediately told me that I had purchased an "iBook", not an audio book. They suggested I contact iTunes for solution."

Lynn did that, but didn't get much in the way of results. iTunes refused to credit her for the mistaken purchase.

"They did not care about honest mistakes, being blind in one eye, being over 65 and not the best on a computer. Their customer support was not to soothe or assist the customer," she said.  "I may have only spent a few hundred a year with iTunes and they won't miss my business, all over a $12.00 book."

Apple's stock price is down and there are fears that sales of iPhones and other iStuff may be slumping but you've got to give Apple credit for one thing: t...

Judge dismisses suit claiming Apple misled MacBook Pro purchasers

Users say the battery runs down even when the machine is plugged in

Though so far unsuccessful in court, disgruntled owners of  MacBook Pro laptops continue to flood social media with their expressions of outrage about what they regard as the expensive machines' substandard performance.

"I have the new 13" MacPro and even when it's plugged in, if you are using a site that is graphic intensive, it starts to drain battery power," a consumer named Sharon said in a ConsumerAffairs posting.

Earlier this year, a federal judge in California dismissed a suit filed by Alex Tomek, who alleged that in 2011, he bought a MacBook Pro based on Apple's claims of "huge leaps in performance."

But Tomek, whose suit sought class-action status, said he soon found the battery was not charging under certain conditions and that sometimes the machine was draining power from the battery even when it was plugged in. Eventually, it go so bad that Tomek said he had to stop working and turn the machine off to let it recharge.

Not enough power

Tomek's suit alleges that the 85-watt power adapter supplied with the machines is not up to the job of powering the the 2.3 gHz Intel Core 17 processor and its accompanying AMD Radeon graphics processor, despite Apple's advertising which promised that users would be able to "surf the web wirelessly for up to 7 hours on a single charge."

Tomek said consumers were complaining about the problem since the machines were released but received no satisfaction from Apple, which the suit alleges has "failed and refused and continues to faill and refuse to provide adequate customers service ... to cope with this defect."

In its defense, Apple argued that Tomek had failed to build a strong case for his assertion that Apple had intentionally misled purchasers. 

In dismissing the case, the judge wrote that the suit was "devoid of any facts demonstrating that Defendant ever represented to Plaintiff that the MacBook Pro's battery would not drain under certain circumstances, even if plugged into an external power source, resulting in a shutdown. In fact, Defendant's support representative told Plaintiff the battery drain was 'expected behavior.'"

Also, the judge noted, Apple claimed battery life would be "up to" seven hours, thus leaving itself considerable wiggle room. Tomek has the option to amend certain provisions of the suit and refile it.

Though so far unsuccessful in court, disgruntled owners of 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops continue to flood social media with their expressions of outrage abo...

Apple paying $53 million to settle 'water damage' claims

Customers' iPhone warranty claims were denied because of supposed water damage

Make no mistake, if you get your iPhone or other sensitive electronic device wet, you will likely cause irreparable, or at least expensive, damage. Over the years, however, many Apple iPod and iPhone owners have claimed that Apple used "phantom" water damage as an excuse not to honor claims for other damage and defects.

Apple has now agreed to a $53 million class action settlement with some of its customers whose claims were denied because of Apple's assessment that the devices were exposed to water, thus voiding the warranty.

Hundreds of thousands of consumers would be eligible for cash payments under terms of the settlement. The payouts are expected to amount to a few hundred dollars per person.

The proposed settlement, which will not be final until it is approved by the court, doesn't affect everyone who owns an iPhone or iPod. Only consumers with the iPhone 3G and 3GS or iPod Touch will be eligible to receive compensation.

Robert, of Slidell, La., is one of many consumers who've written to ConsumerAffairs about the problem. Robert writes that his iPhone 4 stopped working a month after he purchased it. He took it to the Apple Store to have it evaluated.

“The Apple Store took the phone in the back room, came out several minutes later and said the phone is not warranted because of liquid,” he writes. “The phone was not wet. I believe the Apple Rep wet my phone and thus I had to purchase another phone for more than the first one cost me at AT&T.”

Honest mistake

More likely, it was an honest error. According to court documents, a moisture-sensing tape made by 3M has been shown to be affected by humidity, and can thus indicate false positives. The paper tape is attached near the headphone jack of the devices, allowing technicians to quickly determine if moisture had gotten inside. In the documents, Apple has admitted no wrongdoing.

Whatever the reason, the issue of water damage has been a hot one over the years. Jeff, of Minnetonka, Minn., reported in February that his iPod Nano claim was denied – wrongly, in his opinion.

Kept in a baggie

“Only use the Nano when running,” Jeff wrote. “It went dead, so I went into the Apple Genius Bar and they said dead due to water damage. Told him only use it when I run and it's in a baggie. He said 'sorry it's water damage.'”

Johanna, of Castlerock, Colo., got the same story when she filed a claim on her iPod Nano.

“I brought it in to an Apple store to find out what's going on and they said there was water damage,” she wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “What? I have never gotten the device wet. My husband and I used it for running, so the only thing that makes sense is sweat."

Non-working iPhones

There have been more complaints about denied claims for non-working iPhones. Last September Jean, of Milford, Pa., contacted us about her daughter's iPhone 4S. As soon as she loaded IOS 6.0, she said she lost wi-fi capability.

“We tried everything, but all failed,” Jean writes. "So we were supposed to get a replacement, unfortunately Apple pulled the water damage scam on us.”

Consumers whose names and addresses are on file will be notified by mail of their eligibility for payment when the settlement is approved. Notices will also be placed in USA Today and MacWorld.

The lead attorneys representing the plaintiffs are Jeffrey Fazio of Fazio Micheletti LLC, San Ramon, Calif., and Steve A. Schwartz of Chimicles & Tikellis LLP, Haverford, Pa. 

Make no mistake, if you get your iPhone or other sensitive electronic device wet, you will likely cause irreparable, or at least expensive, damag...

New year brings new bug to iPhone

Some users report Do Not Disturb setting does not turn off as scheduled

Some iPhone users may be a little harder to reach today. When the calendar turned over to 2013 Tuesday, the Do Not Disturb function in the iOS6 operating system -- the mobile platform for the iPhone and iPad -- developed a bug, according to users.

The Do Not Disturb function, which is new to iOS 6, allows users to set a time when their phone will not ring -- calls will go directly to voicemail. Users schedule the time for the feature to start and to end.

The problem, apparently, is that since the new year began, the Do Not Disturb function does not always turn off as scheduled. As a result, calls continue to go to voicemail.

Bad timing

In a bit of bad timing for Apple, the company chose this week to launch a new commercial, featuring Venus and Serena Williams, promoting the Do Not Disturb function.

On the MacRumors Website, a place where Apple product users post comments, there was some discussion of the problem today.

Didn't notice right away

“I didn't notice anything wrong with it yesterday on the 1st because I was sleeping in, but it's officially on two minutes after it should have turned itself off on the 2nd,” a user going by aardwolf posted.

Another user using the handle Bezetos wondered why Apple bothered to make an ad promoting a feature that has been available on other platforms.

“Will I be going too far by saying that Apple are starting to have little to say for themselves these days?” Bezetos asked.

Other posters reported that going into “settings” and turning off the Do Not Disturb function, then turning it on again, seems to reset the system so that it operates properly.

Some iPhone users may be a little harder to reach today. When the calendar turned over to 2013 Tuesday, the Do Not Disturb function in the iOS6 operating s...

Where is Your iPhone in Most Danger?

Study finds most damage occurs in the kitchen

Last month we reported iPhones tend to have a lot of accidents. SquareTrade, a company that sells smartphone insurance policies, released a study showing that damaged iPhones have cost U.S. consumers $5.9 billion since their introduction in 2007.

But where and how does this damage occur? SquareTrade can now answer that question, releasing a study that shows 51 percent of accidents to iPhones happen around the home, usually in the kitchen.

Unusual not so unusual

The study also revealed that "unusual" iPhone accidents are much more common than previously expected: In addition to an astonishing nine percent toilet mishap statistic, the research shows that five percent of iPhone users have put an iPhone in the washing machine and six percent of users have put their device on top of their car and then driven off.

"Smartphones have become our third hand -- our instinctual resource for information and entertainment," said Ty Shay, SquareTrade's CMO. "Whether or not you're the one in ten that drops your iPhone in the toilet, you're likely taking your phone everywhere, and that habit needs protection."

Danger zones

As far as danger around the house, the survey ranks it this way:

  1. the kitchen (21 percent of accidents around the home happen here)
  2. the living room (17 percent)
  3. the bathroom (16 percent)
  4. the driveway (10 percent)
  5. the bedroom (8 percent)

SquareTrade, of course, would like to sell you an insurance policy to cover your phone or other device. Considerations before making such a purchase should be how much you paid for the phone and what the replacement cost would be, what exclusions or deductibles are included in the policy, and how careful you tend to be.

Keeping your phone out of the kitchen, it appears, greatly improves your odds.

Last month we reported iPhones tend to have a lot of accidents. SquareTrade, a company that sells smartphone insurance policies, released a study showing t...

Some iPhone Users Report Battery Drain, Other iOS 6 Issues

Some new and older iPhones aren't reacting well to the update

No one is happy with their smartphone battery life these days but the release of iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 has increased the complaints from iPhone users. Not just users of the new iPhone 5 but from those using older models, who have installed the new operating system.

It turns out iOS 6 is taking a toll on batteries in the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Eric Zeman, a technology writer for Information Week, reports testing the iPhone 5 for 10 days and finding the battery life to be very good. He credits it to a larger battery and efficient power management in the A6 processor.

But when he installed the new operating system on older iPhones, it was a different story.

Noticeable change

“With Wi-Fi on, but cellular data turned off on the 4 and 4S, neither device lasts 24 hours any more,” he writes. “They used to--and still should--last several days at a minimum.”

But not everyone is as happy with their iPhone 5 battery life as Zeman is. Jim Tanous, writing in the MacObserver, says a strong LTE signal will run down the iPhone 5 battery faster than a weak signal, or when connected via 3G.

“While all cellular devices experience decreased battery life when cellular signals are weak, the relatively few areas with strong LTE signals means that iPhone 5 users may see less than half of Apple’s advertised running time,” he writes.

Other headaches

Consumers rate Apple iPhone

Apple's new iOS 6 appears to be causing other types of headaches as well. Jean, of Milford, PA, reports her daughter's iPhone 4S has been unable to connect via WiFi since she installed iOS 6.

“Her phone worked fine with iOS 5.1 but once she updated to iOS 6.0 then no WiFi,” Jean wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “We tried everything, but all failed.”

Jaime, of Ironton, Ohio, has an even older iPhone, the 3GS. She reports that her phone locked up when she updated it with iOS 6.

“I attempted to restore my phone with iTunes, this did not work as my phone continued to be locked up,” Jaime posted on ConsumerAffairs. “I called AT&T, my Wireless Service Provider, they called Apple Customer Care, they suggested I try and do the restore again because their servers were bogged down with all the IOS6 problems. I tried to restore again with no luck.”

Just get a new phone

Jaime said an Apple rep's suggestion to her was spending $149 and getting a new iPhone.

“Why should I have to spend money to replace my phone, when they created the problem in the first place,” she asked.

Meanwhile, Adam Engst, writing on the Apple news site Tidbits, thinks he's stumbled across another possible reason for the rapid battery drain on phones running iOS 6. He traced his problem to corrupted bookmarks in his phone's browser.

“Since I don’t really use Safari, I’d never worried about the fact that the bookmarks had been imported from multiple other systems years ago and horribly duplicated through who knows what syncing services,” he writes. “Despite this, they’d never caused problems in previous versions of iOS.”

No one is happy with their smartphone battery life these days but the release of iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 has increased the complaints from iPhone users. Not...

Apple Maps Flap Mars iPhone 5 Debut

Users complain of distorted images and many inaccuracies

There was at least one sour note as consumers lined up to take delivery of the iPhone 5, Apple's latest version of its smartphone. Apple's replacement of Google Maps with its own version, called Apple Maps, drew some instant consumer complaints.

It wasn't just that Apple wanted to cut the cord with Google, it said it wanted to provide an improved "map experience." The maps in the app were supposed to be prettier, provide turn-by-turn directions, synced up with Siri, and give users the perspective of flying over the landscape.

But some users say it's not ready for prime time. Specifically, they say there are problems with accuracy and in some cases, distorted or missing images. An Apple spokeswoman, in a statement to, asked users be patient.

We're working on it

"We launched this new map service knowing that it is a major initiative and we are just getting started with it," Spokeswoman Trudy Muller said. "We are continuously improving it, and as Maps is a cloud-based solution, the more people use it, the better it will get. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better.”

Writing on Apple Forum, a poster going by Sparkyscott21 said Apple should have called the new maps app a beta and introduced it slowly, overlapping it with Google Maps.

"To have such a 'not ready' product as one of the most touted new features in the brand new iOS 6 is pretty embarrassing," he wrote.

The technology press was similarly unkind.

“Apple's decision to swap out Google Maps is a rare example of the company openly placing its own interests above those of its customers,” wrote Nilay Patel at The Verge.

Google and Apple are not on the friendliest of terms. Apple, notably late CEO Steve Jobs, has maintained that Google's Android operating system is just a bit too similar to the iPhone's.

No interest in Google?

Google, meanwhile, has reportedly produced a version of its maps app for the OS6 system but there has been no indication it will be added to the new iPhone, whose first day of sales proceeded with the usual frenzy in spite of the maps flap. Consumers who pre-ordered an iPhone were able to pick them up for the first time today.

Apple said pre-orders of the iPhone 5 topped two million in just 24 hours, more than double the previous record of one million held by iPhone 4S. Demand for iPhone 5 exceeded the initial supply and while the majority of pre-orders were expected to be delivered to customers today, many are scheduled to be delivered in October.  

  There was at least one sour note as consumers lined up to take delivery of the iPhone 5, Apple's latest version of its smartphone. Apple's ...

Damage to iPhones Totals $5.9 Billion Since 2007

Are consumers hard on these phones or are they just fragile?

The release of the iPhone 5 has created record sales for Apple's smartphone, which is the company's major profit center. But the consumers who shell out $199 and up for the device have paid a lot more than that.

SquareTrade, a company that sells smartphone insurance policies, has released a study showing that damaged iPhones have cost U.S. consumers $5.9 billion since their introduction in 2007.

Based on a survey of more than 2,000 iPhone users, the results combined the cost of repairs, replacements and insurance deductibles for cracked, dropped, pummeled, kicked, and water-damaged iPhones. The study also found that in the last 12 months alone, 30 percent of iPhone users damaged their device.

Hard on their phones

The study also shows that younger consumers are clumsiest with their iPhones: half of iPhone users under 35 have had an accident.

The top five iPhone accident scenarios, according to the study, are:

  1. Phone dropped from my hand
  2. Phone fell into a toilet, sink, hot tub, swimming pool, lake, etc.
  3. Phone dropped from a lap
  4. Phone knocked off a table
  5. Phone drenched by some liquid

Common complaints

Complaints about the fragility of iPhones are nothing new. Consumers generally expect problems to be covered under warranty but usually find out they are not.

“Less than one month after purchasing an iPhone4 which AT&T suggested for an upgrade, my iPhone went out, no screen, nothing,” Robert, of Slidell, LA, wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “The AT&T store could do nothing. I was told to go to an Apple store and make an appointment first, of course. Apple store took phone in the back room, came out several minutes later and said phone not warranted because of liquid-wet. Phone was not wet (was in a life proof case) but they proceeded to show me red dots in phone to indicate wet.”

But SquareTrade says it sees plenty of problems with iPhones caused by moisture.

The toilet drop

"We were astonished at how many people drop their phones in the toilet as well as how frequently an innocuous drop from the hand actually killed the device,” said Ty Shay, CMO at SquareTrade. “We look forward to seeing what the new iPhone 5 users report with regard to durability."

Because of common accidents and the high cost of repairs, the SquareTrade study suggests many iPhone owners resort to improvised repairs.

For example, 11 percent of iPhone owners surveyed are currently using a device that is cracked and 6 percent have taped up their iPhone as a solution.

  The release of the iPhone 5 has created record sales for Apple's smartphone, which is the company's major profit center. But the consumers ...

AT&T Reports iPhone 5 Sales Record

Apple's new phone greeted with predictable enthusiasm

It didn't take long for the iPhone 5 to sell out once carriers who will offer it started taking orders over the weekend. Apple may introduce only one new smartphone per year but when it does, everyone seems to want it.

AT&T reports pre-order sales for the iPhone 5 set a record over the weekend, with customers ordering more of the devices than any previous model both on its first day of pre-orders.

The carrier did not release any numbers for sales but did say there are still phones available for pre-order and that it expects to have a supply of the devices in stores September 21 when it officially goes on sale.

Not everyone's buying one

But not every tech aficionado is lining up to buy the new iPhone. James Kendrick, who writes about mobile technology for ZDNet, says he, for one won't be rushing out to buy the new iPhone.

He says it's not because it's not a good phone -- he calls is a very "solid" upgrade. The problem, he says, is that he still has another year to go on his Verizon contract for his iPhone 4S. To get a new phone now would require him to pay the full, unsubsidized price. In his case, since he would buy the top of the line 64 GB model, his cost would be more than $800.

Other consumers may be held by by their carriers recent change in policies, requiring new contracts to switch to a shared data plan rather than unlimited data. Verizon Wireless customers, for example, may keep their unlimited data plans until they buy a new subsidized phone. At that point they must switch to a shared data plan.

  It didn't take long for the iPhone 5 to sell out once carriers who will offer it started taking orders over the weekend. Apple may only int...

Apple Unwraps its iPhone 5

The latest Apple smartphone features a bigger screen and thinner case

It was the worst-kept secret in the technology world as nearly all the rumors turned out to be true. Apple today took the wraps off its newest iPhone, the iPhone 5.

The new phone ships September 21 and will cost $199 for the 16GB, $299 for the 32GB version, and $399 for a 64GB. The iPhone 4 is now free and the iPhone 4s is now $99.

Unlike the iPhone 4S, which disappointed many Apple fans because of its relatively few changes, the new iPhone appears to have had a complete make-over.

"We have updated every aspect of iPhone 5," said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Apple calls it the world's thinnest smartphone, made entirely of glass and aluminum. And as expected, it has four-inch display. It's also designed to run on 4G networks, will feature an A6 processing chip, and boasts a longer battery life.

The iPhone 5 will feature LTE, quicker Wi-Fi, an A6 processing chip, and greater battery life. According to Apple the spec for the iPhone 5 include:

  • Weight: 112 grams (20 percent lighter than 4s)
  • Thickness: 7.6 mm (18 percent thinner)
  • Screen: four-inch display (up from 3.5 inches), 1136x640 pixel resolution (up from 960x640), a fifth row of icons on the screen, 44 percent more color saturation,
  • Networks: LTE network compatible, available on Verizon/Sprint/ATT
  • Speed: processor and graphics are 2-times faster.

Apple said it has also enhanced the camera and replaced Google Maps with its own Apple Maps.  

  It was the worst-kept secret in the technology world as nearly all the rumors turned out to be true. Apple today took the wraps off its new...

Apple's iPhone 5 Likely to Debut Sept. 12

But will the company also introduce a mini-iPad?

Apple is sending very strong signals that it will take the wraps off its latest version of the iPhone next week. Members of the media have begun receiving invitations to an event September 12 in San Francisco.

With all the rumors and hype about the impending release of the next version of Apple's smartphone, it seems very likely the wraps are about to come off the iPhone 5. The invitation all but gives it away, proclaiming “It's almost here.” The invitation also bears a large number 5.

So, what will the new device feature that the old one doesn't? There is no shortage of conjecture.

Rumor central

The tech site Gizmodo has been collecting all the leaks about the new phone over the last few months and predicts it will feature a unibody design with two-tone back and be available in both black and white, as the current model is.

Reports also suggest the iPhone 5 -- it's just assumed that's what it will be called -- will feature a four-inch screen. Apple has already announced its new mobile operating system, iOS6, so it is assumed the new phone will run that.

It is also widely assumed that the new iPhone will have 4G LTE network capability. Android phones have offered it for more than a year but the iPhone 4S, which came out last fall, only operates on the 3G network.

While many iPhone users say that's plenty fast for their uses, carriers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, with lots of iPhone customers, have reportedly found iPhone users' voracious data appetites have placed a strain on their 3G networks.

The 4G network also drains batteries faster. Gizmodo opines that Apple held off on moving the iPhone 4S to 4G for that very reason.

Mini iPad?

The real mystery about the Sept. 12 event is whether Apple will also use the occasion to introduce a mini iPad. Such a device is said to be in the works, even though the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was on record rejecting such a notion.

The iPad, introduced in 2010, features a 10-inch screen and retails starting at $499. Since then a number of small tablet computers and e-readers, featuring seven-inch screens, have hit the market at $199, proving wildly popular with consumers.

Apple is rumored to be readying a seven-inch iPad that would sell at or near that price point and reportedly plans to have it out in time for the holiday season.

Apple is sending very strong signals that it will take the wraps off it's latest version of the iPhone next week. Members of the media have begun receiving...

YouTube Fades to Black in Latest Apple-Google Spat

Consumers are again the losers as the giants tussle

Sometimes couples stay together after the magic wears off.  That's not happening to Google and Apple, though. The Silicon Valley giants are splitting the blanket and this time it's YouTube that's being left at the curb.

Apple is stripping YouTube from iOS 6, which means users of iPhones and other devices won't have the default ability to watch YouTube videos.

Nobody is saying exactly what happened, although Apple is portraying it as a simple case of its license to use YouTube expiring. 

"Our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended, customers can use YouTube in the Safari browser and Google is working on a new YouTube app to be on the App Store," Apple said in a statement. 

YouTube issued a similarly vague statement: "We are working with Apple to ensure we have the best possible YouTube experience for iOS users."

Odd couple

It all seems a bit odd.  Building a new app to run YouTube is not a big deal and there will undoubtedly be any number of them out there momentarily. 

It's not as though YouTube was something new. It has been included by default since the very first iPhone and, in fact, Google had to rewrite the YouTube platform when Apple banished Flash, which formerly powered YouTube and lots of other video content.

It's just the latest sign that things aren't all peaches and cream in the Google-Apple family. Not long ago, Apple declared it would rip Google Maps out of its systems and replace it with an in-house version. 

All of this is fine, of course. No one really cares what goes on behind closed doors but it does mean that consumers are likely to be at least mildly inconvenienced as two big powerful companies embark on their latest power trip.

Sometimes couples stay together after the magic wears off.  That's not happening to Google and Apple, though. The Silicon Valley giants are splitting ...

Speculation Builds for September iPhone 5 Release

Photos purported to be the new device hit the Internet

Apple isn't saying a word but speculation continues to build across the Internet that the new iPhone 5 -- the next version of the iconic smartphone -- will be revealed in September.

The latest and perhaps strongest rumor comes from iMore.com, which predicts Apple will introduce the iPhone 5 on September 12 and start delivering them September 21. iMore said it learned from its sources about Apple's plans.

It further reports that Apple will, at the same special event, introduce its iPad mini – a smaller version of the popular tablet that would sell in the range of its seven-inch tablet competitors. Also on the agenda at that September 12 event, iMore reports, will be a new iPod nano and a new iPod Touch.

New schedule

Apple changed up its product release cycle last year. Until then it introduced new iPhones at the end of June. In 2011, Apple introduced the iPhone 4S in October.

Many Apple fans were expecting the iPhone 5 last year, with big advances in features and technology. Instead, the 4S was mostly an update of the previous model, the iPhone 4, but with Siri, a voice-activated personal assistant.

As for the iPhone 5, purported photos of a prototype device have already leaked to the Internet. A Japanese website, iLab, has released photographs showing a thin, sleek device with a four-inch screen, 19-pin connector, relocated headphone jack and a centered FaceTime camera.

What hasn't leaked is what advances an iPhone 5 will offer. Nick Bilton, a writer for TheNew York Times, hopes Apple improves Siri. Earlier this month Bilton wrote an article complaining that Siri didn't always operate properly and sometimes didn't respond at all. It's not clear whether this is a widespread problem.

Sturdier phone

Apple customers writing to ConsumerAffairs would apparently like to see a sturdier phone. Margaret, of Westbury, CT, reports her iPhone 4s “died” at the age of seven weeks.

“I made two calls totaling almost three hours to Apple, got it working for less than 24 hrs,” Margaret wrote in a post. “I called back, tried to get a replacement per the one year manufacturer warranty. What a joke!”

“My 17 year-old daughter has had trouble with her six-month old iPhone 4s in the functions of playing music and camera use recently,” Catharine, of Landenberg, PA, wrote at ConsumerAffairs. “When we went to the store, we were told the entire warranty was void due to a small crack in the front glass due to my daughter dropping the phone about 2 months ago. Though the small crack had nothing to do with the software issues, we were told our only option is to purchase another phone for $199. We just paid $199 in December. The front glass is an inferior product that should be able to withstand being dropped as people frequently drop their phones.”

A common complaint about the iPhone, as well as most other smartphones, is battery life. The tech site Tapscape reports the iPhone 5 is expected to offer improved battery life thanks to advancements in its display technology.

Apple isn't saying a word but speculation continues to build across the Internet that the new iPhone 5 – the next version of the iconic smartphone &n...

Apple Put on Feds' No-Buy List

Apple withdraws from environmental testing program that's required for federal vendors

You've heard of the no-fly list?  Well, there's also a no-buy list for federal agencies and Apple is now on it.

Reason? The secretive computer and gadget company has withdrawn from a voluntary program that certifies products meet minimum environmental protection standards.

"We regret that Apple will no longer be registering its products in EPEAT. We hope that they will decide to do so again at some point in future," said a statement posted by the federal body that administers the environmental protection program.

Under a law passed in 2009, companies must submit their products to the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) for certification if they want to sell to federal agencies.

It's not clear why Apple has pulled out of the program. The U.S. government is, after all, one of the largest -- if not the largest -- purchaser of computer and electronics gear. 

Not a crusader

Apple is not exactly known for its crusading environmental activism. Greenpeace and other groups have criticized Apple for its secrecy and refusal to open its manufacturing process to scrutiny by outside groups.

In one of its latest beefs with Apple, Greenpeace is charging that the "iCloud" is hosted on servers powered by electricity generated by coal-burning plants.

"They said their design direction was no longer consistent with the EPEAT requirements,” said Robert Frisbee, CEO of the EPEAT program, the Wall Street Journalreported. “They were important supporters and we are disappointed that they don’t want their products measured by this standard anymore.”

Blowing off the U.S. government is one thing but in this case, Apple's drop-out is likely to fall even farther from the tree. Many educational institutions, local and state governments and non-profit organizations have their own environmental programs and they're not likely to be pleased to learn that Apple no longer supports standards that are intended to ensure that computer equipment can be easily broken down for recycling.

The secretive computer and gadget company has withdrawn from a voluntary program that certifies products meet minimum environmental protection standards....

Apple Unveils New MacBook Pro, Previews iOS 6

MacBook Pro features high-def display, all-flash storage

Apple did its thing today, unveiling new products and goodies intended to intensify its competition with Google and Microsoft.

Taking center stage at the WWDC 2012 developers conference was the new 15-inch MacBook Pro featuring a high-defination Retina display, all flash storage and quad-core processors in a thinner and lighter case.

“The MacBook Pro with Retina display pushes the limits of performance and portability like no other notebook,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “With a gorgeous Retina display, all flash architecture and a radically thin and light design, the new MacBook Pro is the most advanced Mac we have ever built.”

It was Cook's first keynote speech at the event since the death last October of Apple co-founder and perennial emcee Steve Jobs. He was at times upstaged by Siri, who (or which?) opened the show with a few understated jokes.

"It's hard for me to get emotional, because my emotions haven't been coded yet," Siri admitted, perhaps ruefully. 

Cook said the new MacBook Pro Retina display is the "world’s highest resolution notebook display" with over 5 million pixels, 3 million more than an HD television.

Light & thin

With an aluminum unibody design and an all-flash storage architecture, the  new MacBook Pro is the lightest MacBook Pro ever and nearly as thin as a MacBook Air. The flash storage architecture also delivers improved reliability, instant-on responsiveness and 30 days of standby time, Apple said.

Apple claims the MacBook Pro battery delivers up to 7 hours of wireless productivity, and uses advanced chemistry and Adaptive Charging technology to provide up to 1,000 recharges. The MacBook Pro also features a FaceTime HD camera, glass Multi-Touch trackpad, full-size backlit keyboard, dual microphones, enhanced speakers, 3-stream 802.11n Wi-Fi and a thinner MagSafe 2 power port.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is available through the Apple Online Store (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers. Prices start at $2,199 (US).

iOS 6

Also at WWDC, Apple previewed iOS 6, introducing over 200 new features  and released a beta version to iOS Developer Program members. iOS 6 will be available to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users this fall as a free software update.

New iOS 6 features include: an all new Maps app with Apple-designed cartography, turn-by-turn navigation and a new "Flyover" view; new Siri features, including support for more languages, access to sports scores, restaurant recommendations and movie listings; Facebook integration for Contacts and Calendar, with the ability to post directly from Notification Center, Siri and Facebook-enabled apps like Photos, Safari and Maps; Shared Photo Streams via iCloud; and Passbook.

Apple confirmed earlier that it is dumping Google maps for a new in-house system that one Apple executive said will "blow your head off." By integrating its system more tightly with Facebook, Apple also throws yet another obstacle into the already rugged road Google faces with its Google+ social site, derided by critics as a "ghost town." 

“iOS 6 continues the rapid pace of innovation that is helping Apple reinvent the phone and create the iPad category, delivering the best mobile experience available on any device,” said Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president of iOS Software. “We can’t wait for hundreds of millions of iOS users to experience the incredible new features in iOS 6 including the new Maps app, expanded Siri support, deep Facebook integration, Shared Photo Streams and the innovative new Passbook app.”

There had been speculation that Apple might reveal its plans for an integrated TV, dubbed iTV, but that revelation apparently must wait until the time is right.

Apple did its thing today, unveiling new products and goodies at its WWDC 2012 conference. Taking center stage was the all new 15-inch MacBook Pro fea...

Thanks But No Thanks: Apple Parting Ways With Google Maps

Both companies promise more excitement in next-generation products

It's not you, it's me. That's what Apple is telling Google in its impending breakup with the Google Maps tool.

As we reported last month, Apple will soon be using its own map application for mobile devices, and will no longer use the popular Google Maps program when it releases its new iOS6. What's making Apple and Google part ways after such a fruitful union?

"Because there is money to be made in mobile mapping technology, and for Apple, the pieces finally are in place to give Google the boot," said a representative from investorplace.com.

Not a problem

It's not that Google and Apple users are fed up and disenchanted with the existing product, although a ConsumerAffairs sentiment analysis of about 1.1 million comments posted to social media over the last year finds that net sentiment has declined over the last few months, as shown in the following chart.

Emotions about the existing mapping products are still largely positive but both Google and Apple think their next-generation products will be much more compelling.  An Apple insider was quoted recently as saying the next Apple maps will "blow your head off." 

The Google and Apple love affair started back in 2007 when Apple began using Google Maps for its iPhones.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the first signs of the relationship going south started when phones powered by Google's Android operating system beat out Apple's iPhone in number of shipments.

Apple then bought three companies, Poly 9, Placebase, and C3 Technologies, that it used to build its own mapping system, thus starting the breakup of the huge power couple.

New features

And just like a person being newly single wants to show of their new look and partner, Google just announced a bunch of new features it has in store for its new mapping system.

 Google announced it will revamp its digital mapping by allowing offline access on mobile devices, and will also include more three-dimensional images of major cities. "We're trying to create magic here," the company said at a San Francisco speaking engagement.  It's part of a "never-ending quest for the perfect map."

The search engine giants also announced its mapping tool will have a hiking system for when users are traveling in remote locations by foot. Google says its new hiker's tool will be better and have more uses than its current backpacker app Google trike.

 Apple is trying to give Google a run for its money in the area of mapping, as over 90 percent of  iPhone users in the U.S. already use Google Maps.

"Apple is aiming squarely at Google on multiple dimensions," Rajeev Chand, a managing director at investment bank Rutberg & Co., told the Wall Street Journal. "Google and Apple are in a battle over data, devices, services, and the future of computing. This is the historic battle of today."

Google also announced its planes will photograph more cities and surrounding areas to provide a more realistic view for users, so people will have full view of areas that can't be picked up by Google's Street View maps.

Apple is rumored to be making an announcement on its new mapping system sometime next week, in attempts to show Google that it can compete in the digital mapping game, and prefers the single life.

It's not you, it's me. That's what Apple is telling Google in its impending breakup with the Google Maps tool.Apple just announced it will be using its o...

Cricket Wireless to Offer iPhone in June

First pre-paid wireless provider to offer the device

Cricket Communications, Inc., will become the first U.S. prepaid wireless provider to offer customers an iPhone. Starting Friday, June 22, Cricket will offer iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 with a $55 per-month, unlimited talk, text and data plan.

Previously, the iPhone has only been sold through traditional contract carriers AT&T,Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

"Our customers want the best products available and we are excited to bring iPhone to our prepaid consumers with an industry leading $55 per-month service plan," said Doug Hutcheson, president and chief executive officer, Leap Wireless International, Inc. "Launching iPhone is a major milestone for us and we are proud to offer iPhone customers attractive nationwide coverage, a robust 3G data network and a value-packed, no-contract plan."

iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 will be available in Cricket company-owned stores and select dealers in nearly 60 markets.

Consumers chirp about Cricket

Cricket's service plans feature all-inclusive pricing packages with no service fees or overage charges. The advantage, says Cricket, is that the bill that doesn't fluctuate based upon monthly usage. 

Because there is no contract, consumers pay the full, retail price for the handsets. In the case of the iPhone, Cricket will sell the 16 GB iPhone 4S for $499.99 and the 16 GB iPhone 4 for $399.

The 16GB iPhone 4S sells for $199 at other carriers that subsidize the cost to the consumer through a two year service agreement.

Cricket Communications, Inc., will become the first U.S. pre-paid wireless provider to offer customers an iPhone. Starting Friday, June 22, Cricket will of...

Have Mobile Providers Fallen Out of Love With the iPhone?

Some may be finding the subsidies just a little too steep

Apple's iPhone may still be popular with consumers, as rising sales suggest, but evidence is growing within the industry that the companies selling the popular phone may be losing some of their enthusiasm.

In recent weeks there have been anecdotal indications that one carrier, Verizon Wireless, is actively discouraging consumers from buying the iPhone. There may be something to it because this reporter experienced it in March, when I decided to replace my aging Blackberry.

Since everyone else in my family has an iPhone, I thought I would try one as well. When I entered the Verizon store, the associate asked what I was interested in and I told him.

He asked if I was dead set on an iPhone or if I would consider an Android model. I replied I wasn't convinced either way and was open to an Android phone. That's what I ended up purchasing. I'm sure if I had really wanted an iPhone he would have been happy to sell me one but it was clear he preferred to sell me an Android.

3G vs. 4G

After lobbying long and hard to break AT&T's exclusive agreement to sell the iPhone, why would Verizon now try not to sell it? There could be several reasons, but some industry insiders speculate it has to do with the fact that the iPhone 4S is still a 3G phone.

Verizon has spent a fortune building its 4G LTE network and would like to move subscribers off its overcrowded 3G network. The last thing Verizon wants to do, the reasoning goes, is add new subscribers to 3G – especially iPhone users, who tend to use the most data.

Another reason might be the subsidies Verizon Wireless and other carriers must pay for the iPhone. Most wireless customers don't pay the full retail price for a mobile phone. If they do, they pay $649 for an iPhone. If they buy it with a two-year service agreement with a wireless carrier, the price is $199. The carrier makes up the difference.

Business news channel CNBC recently noted that wireless carriers appear to be actively pushing back, becoming more disciplined about how much they pay in subsidies, not just to Apple but all mobile phone makers.

Some carriers have also made noises about extending the life-cycles on their contracts, meaning consumers would be paying longer for their phones. That could end up making prepaid phones a more attractive option.

Apple's iPhone may still be popular with consumers, with rising sales, but evidence is growing within the industry that the companies selling it may be los...

Apple Prepares to Dump Google Maps

Insider: Apple's new 3D maps will "blow your head off"

If there was any remaining doubt that Apple and Google are now full-fledged competitors, it should be removed by the news that Apple is planning to dump Google Maps in its next operating system and on its iPhones, iPads and related gadgets.

Instead, Apple will be unveiling what insiders say is an "incredible" new in-house maps application that is said to be much cleaner, faster and more reliable than the current version.

AllThingsD, a Wall Street Journal publication, quotes an Apple insider as saying the new maps will “blow your head off.”

9to5Mac reported that the company has been combining services from subsidiary companies, Placebase, C3 Technologies, and Poly9 in order to develop its own maps service. The new version is expected to be launched when iOS 6 is announced, probably at an upcoming June conference.

Google Street View will also be replaced by an in-house version supplied by one of the many companies Apple has been acquiring lately.

There's also a 3D option built into the new maps app.  9to5Mac describes it as "beautiful, realistic graphics based on de-classified missile target algorithms."

If there was any remaining doubt that Apple and Google are now full-fledged competitors, it should be removed by the news that Apple is planning to dump Go...

Suit Charges Apple Double-Bills for Online Purchases

Company refuses to issue refunds, suit further charges

A federal class action lawsuit claims that Apple double-bills customers who buy products at its e-stores and routinely refuses to issue refunds to consumers who discover the double-billing.

In the suit, Robert Herskowitz claims he bought a single song from the iTunes store for $1.29, for which Apple charged him twice. 

When he brought the error to Apple's attention, he says, the company responded: "Your request for 'Whatya Want from Me' was carefully considered; however, according to the iTunes Store Terms of Sale, all purchases made on the iTunes store are ineligible for refund. This policy matches Apple's refund policies and provides protection for copyrighted materials," according to Courthouse News Service

Herskowitz says the agreement "says no such thing" and charges the policy has "resulted in substantial numbers of Apple customers throughout the country having been double billed by Apple."

The complaint adds: "Under the agreement, as with any consumer transaction, Apple may bill customers only once for each product or service that is purchased. With troubling regularity, however, Apple has 'double billed' customers for purchases made through the Apple Stores. In those cases, when a customer purchases a song, movie or book, Apple bills that customer twice for the same download. Apple, however, has effectuated a policy and practice of refusing to refund the extra charge to customers whom it has overbilled."

Herskowitz claims that in addition to the iTunes store, Apple follows the same illegal policy at its App store, iBookstore and the Mac App store. He seeks damages of more than $5 million for a national class.

A federal class action lawsuit claims that Apple double-bills customers who buy products at its e-stores and routinely refuses to issue refunds to consumer...

Apple iPhone Battery Fix Not Working, Some Users Say

Some, posting on message boards, say the problem is now worse

An update to the IOS 5 operating software was supposed to have fixed a problem with rapid battery drain on the new iPhone 4S. It might not have.

The release came out Thursday and there are already reports that the battery issue continues. A check of an Apple iPhone forum this afternoon produced these comments:

“I am suffering from servers battery drain. Worked great on 5.0 but infinitely worse after upgrade (iOS 4, 5.0.1),” said a poster going by Finchystryder.

“Yes, yes, I am seeing way worse performance on my iphone 4s with 5.0.1.,” responded a poster going by hori.

Super anal about battery life

Then, there was this detailed post from Cmoz:

“I'm super anal about my battery life on the 4s. I always close my background applications right away so there's never anything open in the background. My wi-fi is always off unless i need it, location services are off unless i need it, push notifications are all off, my brightness is as low as it can be, my e-mail does not automatically fetch new data, i turned off diagnostics and usage reports sent to apple, bluetooth is off, Facetime is off. I also let my phone completely drain the battery before I charge it and never charge unless its at 1-2% or shuts itself off.

“I've tried to optimize my phone for pro-longed usage by turning off features I don't really need on a daily basis. I've actually lasted between 3-4 days on one charge only using it when I seriously need it but typically get 1.5-2 days on one charge. It doesn't look like that will be the case with 5.0.1.

“I've dropped 27% from 100% since this morning at 8AM and all I've done is play a Hanging with Friends. I watched battery life drain 5% just when trying to create one word for a friend. I haven't made any calls, sent texts, used Safari, listened to music or anything and the brightness is always low.

“This is kind of discouraging since I'm so anal about prolonging battery life. I'm considering a system restore if I don't notice an improvement. But I can say that I haven't noticed any improvement with the new update and my battery is in fact draining faster than it did before I applied the update.”

The fix

Apple offered the IOS 5.0.1 update as a remedy to complaints of rapid battery drain. According to Apple Insider, the update is now available to all users through iTunes, and will also be made available for download as an over-the-air update. In addition to addressing battery life issues, it is also designed to add new multi-touch gestures for multitasking to the first-generation iPad.

The full list of fixes in iOS 5.0.1, according to Apple, are:

  • Fixes bugs affecting battery life
  • Adds multitasking gestures for original iPad
  • Resolves bugs with Documents in the Cloud
  • Improves voice recognition for Australian users using dictation
Apple may not have fixed its battery problem with the iPhone 4S...

Apple Pinpoints Battery Problem In iPhone 4s

Bug found in operating system, fix promised within weeks

Not long after consumers picked up their new iPhone 4S smartphones last month they began reporting a problem with the battery life. It wasn't as long as they expected – certainly not as long as the previous model, the iPhone 4.

Now, Apple says it has found the problem in the device's iOS5 operating system.

"A small number of customers have reported lower than expected battery life on iOS 5 devices,” Apple said in a statement. “We have found a few bugs that are affecting battery life and we will release a software update to address those in a few weeks."

Apple started getting complaints from customers that the battery life drained from the 4S in less than 24 hours in some cases. Some users found work-arounds, such as turning off the smartphone's location settings.

The announcement from Apple that the battery problem is software-related comes as a relief to new iPhone users, who initially feared the devices new advanced features – such as its voice control system – might be causing the problem.

Apple Insider reports the company has released the first beta iOS5.1 for developers to begin testing. In addition to addressing the battery life issue, the update will reportedly add multitasking gestures for the original iPad, fix bugs with Documents in the Cloud, improve voice recognition for Australian users who are using the dictation feature and add other security enhancements.

Because the battery life issue involves the operating system, consumers should not have to take their iPhones in for any kind of repair, but simply download the update once it becomes available.

Meanwhile, CNET reports Sprint, which began supporting the iPhone with the release of the 4S, is investigating reports of slow iPhone 4S download speeds on its network. Sprint told the tech site that it has not been able to replicate the problem but takes seriously the complaints from its customers.

Apple has discovered the cause of the battery life problem in the iPhone 4S...

Does the iPhone 4S Have a Battery-Life Problem?

Software bug may be to blame but so far Apple's not talking

The new Apple iPhone 4S has been getting rave reviews but there are undercurrents of dissatisfaction from early users who say the battery life is subpar.

It's not clear how serious or how widespread the problem is but a ConsumerAffairs.com analysis of more than 1.1 million consumer comments on Twitter, Facebook and other social media and blogs finds numerous complaints about battery life.

Of the negative comments analyzed, fully 23% were about poor battery performance, more than any other single topic.

Users report situations like finding 20% less power after leaving the phone unused overnight, 10% loss of power in 15 minutes of iMessage usage over WiFi, and 50% power loss in three hours without use, according to Information Week.

It's not unusual to have problems in new versions of the iPhone.  We all remember the complaints about the iPhone 4's antenna, which actually turned out to be a software glitch.

Most of geekdom seems to feel that the battery problem is most likely a software glitch as well and, thus, easily fixable once the exact error is nailed down.

The Guardianreported that  Apple engineers have been contacting some iPhone 4S customers and asking them to install performance profiling software.

One owner said Apple contacted him directly and asked him to install a monitoring program on the phone to try to diagnose the problem.

---

Sentiment analysis by NetBase

The new Apple iPhone 4S has been getting rave reviews but there are undercurrents of dissatisfaction from early users who say the battery life is subpar....

Best Place to Buy an iPhone 4S?

Best Apple service doesn't fall far from the tree, mystery shoppers find

Looking to buy an iPhone 4S?  So are lots of other people and it's tempting to avoid the lines at Apple stores by buying online.  But just where online?

A report from a mystery-shopper service says that Apple.com is "hands down the best choice" and says the Apple site has superior customer service phone support and offers an "expansive" warranty program.

“Apple.com outperformed its reseller partners hands down when it comes to customer service, and we found no reason that consumers should look anywhere else,” said STELLAService co-founder and CEO Jordy Leiser. “With pricing for the
iPhone 4S uniform across all online sellers, the overall quality of customer service should be the deciding factor in choosing where to buy the iPhone 4S online.”

A STELLAService spokeswoman said the study was not funded by Apple. 

For the report, STELLAService said it looked at the five retailers and carriers offering the iPhone 4S online – Apple.com, BestBuy.com, VerizonWireless.com, ATT.com, and Sprint.com.
In addition to evaluating key policies and features, such as return and warranty policies, STELLAService rated the quality of customer service phone support  by placing ten phone calls to each retailer and asking ten questions -- from how to buy insurance to how to change a pass code lock.
STELLAService describes itself as "an independent company that leverages a nationwide network of full-time mystery shoppers to evaluate online retailers across more than 350 customer service metrics, including shipping, returns, and customer support."  It says it "does not accept payment from companies to rate them." 
Leiser said STELLAService conducted the study to provide consumers with clear guidance in light of unclear policies, misinformation, rumors, and scams relating to online retailers selling Apple products.

Leiser points out that Apple.com, which provides a list of authorized online resellers for its popular products, such as the iPod and iPad, does not provide a list of authorized online sellers for the iPhone.

Other findings

Other findings from the study include:
  • To evaluate the quality of customer service phone support, STELLAService rated each seller based on factors such as product knowledge, issue resolution, and overall tone and attitude of the customer support representatives. Apple.com’s representatives earned the highest score (4 out of 5), significantly outpacing others when it came to their ability to address questions (4.4 for Apple vs. 3.6 for AT&T and Verizon). STELLAService said the average customer service quality score for consumer electronics retailers was 3.7.
  • While BestBuy.com allows customers to purchase the iPhone 4S online, it does not offer shipping and delivery. As of the days leading up to the iPhone 4S release, customers could only pick up the product in stores.
  • Apple.com’s AppleCare+ warranty program is by far the most cost-effective.  Even though it does not cover loss and theft, the monthly fees and deductions for BestBuy’s Geek Squad and AT&T’s and Verizon’s Asurion warranties come close to the cost of buying a completely a new iPhone.
  • Apple.com and BestBuy.com offer the most generous return window for a refund (30 days) versus 14 days for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon
  • Apple.com and BestBuy.com do not charge customers for returning an iPhone 4S, while AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon each have a $35 restocking fee.
  • AT&T is only online seller that does not allow customers to trade-in old phones by mail. AT&T customers can only trade-in phones in-store.
Looking to buy an iPhone 4S?  So are lots of other people and it's tempting to avoid the lines at Apple stores by buying online.  But just where ...

Apple After Steve Jobs May Not Seem The Same

Tech titan's death casts shadow over latest product launch

Tuesday's release of Apple's latest update of its iPhone has been overshadowed by the death the following day of its legendary founder, Steve Jobs.

Jobs, whose declining health was no secret, forcing him to limit his role at the company he co-founded, died Wednesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

It may not have been a coincidence that the first recent product launch without Jobs at the helm – Tuesday's rollout of the iPhone 4S - fell a bit flat. Wall Street was obviously disappointed, with Apple stock selling off sharply in Tuesday's trading.

Expecting more

After weeks of rumors and hype, it was clear the technology world was expecting more than what it got this week. The technology site Fudzilla called it “an underwhelming launch.”

On the plus side, the iPhone 4S offers a more robust A5 processor, which should provide improvements in both processing speed and graphics capabilities. It also has improved optics, with an 8 megapixel camera and full HD video recording.

For sex appeal, the iPhone 4S the Siri “personal assistant,” a voice recognition app allowing users to call up information from their devices in normal conversational English, French and German. But not Spanish.

Where's the iPhone 5?

But many people were obviously also expecting the “iPhone 5,” with even more advances. For example, a phone that would run on the 4G LTE networks that providers are rolling out nationwide. A number of Android phones, for example, are already on the market with 4G capability.

The technology world, accustomed to being rocked back on it's heels with every Apple product launch, seemed oddly subdued after Tuesday's festivities in Cupertino, Calif. Maybe it was because, for the first time, the master showman in the black turtleneck wasn't on the stage, making the introduction.

Comeback kid

Jobs is being hailed around the world as the innovator of his generation. After co-founding Apple Computer in the 1970s, he was forced out in 1985 by the man he hired as CEO, John Sculley. With Apple on the ropes financially in 1997, Jobs returned to introduce one successful product after another – the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

At the time of Job's death, Apple – which recently dropped “computer” from its name – was worth $359.4 billion, making it the world's most valuable company. It will be up to Job's successors to keep it at that lofty perch.

How will Apple fare post Steve Jobs?...

Apple Unveils Next Generation iPhone

iPhone 4S to be available on Sprint for the first time

To the surprise of no one in the technology world, Apple today announced the release of its next generation smartphone, the iPhone 4S.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who officially took over earlier this year for the ailing Steve Jobs, took the stage for the event at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, California.

The new iPhone is called the iPhone 4S and perhaps one of the biggest improvements is in the processor, an A5 chip. Another is its voice recognition capabilities with a software called Siri. For example, by holding down the “home” button, you can ask your iPhone “what will the weather be like today?” The app responds “here is today's forecast.”

Siri will understand three languages to start but, oddly, Spanish isn't one of them. Apple says it will start with English, French and German.

Enhanced camera

Apple has also boosted the phone's optics. It comes with an eight magapixel camera and a video camera that can capture 1080p HD video with real time video image stabilization.

Pre-orders for the iPhone 4S start Friday, October 7 and will come in both black and white. Apple is maintaining its current price structure, selling the 16 GB model for $199, 32 GB for $300, $64 GB for $400, with a two year contract. The iPhone 3GS will now be available for free, and an 8 GB iPhone 4 will sell for $99.

It will be available on three U.S. carriers – AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint. By December it will be available in 70 countries.

Rolling

Cook says the future looks incredibly bright for the iPhone, noting that, while it has a significant profile in the smartphone universe, it currently only has five percent of the smartphone market. Apple's deal earlier this year with Verizon, ending its exclusivity agreement with AT&T, has opened up more potential iPhone customers.

Cook also took the time to provide updates on other Apple products. He said the iPod, which recently celebrating its 10th anniversary, has sold over 300 million worldwide.

He said the MacBook Pro and iMac are currently the No. 1 laptop and desktop in the country. Apple's computer market share is 23 percent, Cook said.

Apple unveils its new iPhone...

Insider Predicts October iPhone 5 Release

Speculation builds that new phone will be out next month

Okay, the release of the next generation iPhone is now officially the worst kept secret in business.

Former Vice President Al Gore, a member of the Apple board of directors, said he believes the “new iPhones” will be here next month. Gore was speaking at Discovery Invest Leadership Conference in South Africa, when he let the news slip.

Apple declined to comment and has said nothing officially about when the iPhone 5 will be released, preferring to let rumors and buzz build around the iconic product. Even without Gore's loose lips, most industry analysts have long predicted an October launch, with one even pinpointing the expected launch date as between October 3 and 5.

Still a mystery

The real unknown is what kind of device the iPhone 5 will be. Normally, Apple updates this product between June and July, but failed to do so this year. Some have speculated on a major upgrade from the iPhone 4, while others has suggested minor tweaking of the current model.

The iPhone 4, introduced in July 2010, is a 3G device. Since its introduction, competitors have turned out a number of 4G phones that take advantage of the faster networks the major carriers are beginning to roll out. It is hard to believe Apple would update its best-selling device without making it 4G.

Two iPhones?

This week J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz told Fortune Magazine he's predicting two new iPhones before the year ends. One he calls the “iPhone 4-plus. The other, he says will be a significant advancement.

Regardless of when Apple decides to update it's iPhone, it continues to gobble of market share in the smartphone sector. While Wall Street has sunk in recent weeks, Apple stock is up along 20 percent in the last month.

Apple likely to release new iPhone in October...

Consumers Rally Around Apple in Wake of Jobs' Retirement

Iconic executive's departure doesn't dim enthusiasts' love for the company

Steve Jobs' sudden retirement as CEO of Apple shocked the stock market, rattled the company's employees and sparked endless thumb-sucking op-eds by columnists of all stripes.

But if anyone thinks Jobs' retirement is an ill omen for the Apple brand, it may be time to think again. 

A computerized analysis of consumer sentiment by ConsumerAffairs.com finds that positive sentiment peaked during August, when Jobs announced that he was stepping aside because of chronic health issues.

An analysis of 27 million sentiments expressed over the last year on Facebook, Twitter and other social media and public forums finds that positive sentiment hit a high for the year in August, when Jobs made his announcement.  

Positive & negative consumer sentiments about Apple

During August, nearly 50% of all analyzed comments were positive while slightly less than 20% were negative -- about 170,000 positives  against 64,000 negatives in August. Typical comments:

  • "Apple will be fine thanks to his leadership."
  • "Apple is incredibly solid thanks to him." 

The most frequent comment in August was: "Apple all the way," expressed by hundreds of consumers in various venues.  An exact count was not possible because of variations in punctuation and spelling.

While the positive comments tended to focus on Jobs and his leadership, negative comments mostly revolved around technical and pricing issues.  A few samples:

  • Apple freaks me out
  • Apple is screwing over web developers with iOS 4.3

Many of the comments deemed negative actually concerned external events that had afflicted Apple, including an attack by hackers.  The most frequent negative comment was a re-post of a previously published headline: "Apple suffers from hackers' Mac attack."
Consumer reviews submitted to ConsumerAffairs.com, which tend to be negative for all companies and products, were fairly typical in August. Most concerned problems with iPhones, MacBooks and other Apple products.
A California consumer said he left his iPhone on the seat of a BART train.  After watching the train -- and his phone -- leave the station, he went to an Apple store, only to learn that he would have to shell out $600 for a new phone.
Several consumers, including Paul of Raleigh, N.C., reported experiencing "kernal panics" on their MacBook Pros but complained that the Apple Store "genius" disputed their diagnosis and said it was a failed logic board.
---
Sentiment analysis powered by NetBase
Steve Jobs' sudden retirement as CEO of Apple shocked the stock market, rattled the company's employees and sparked endless thumb-sucking op-eds by columni...

Is The iPhone Next Headed For Sprint/Nextel?

Rumor has it Sprint will be the third carrier to get it

Apple hasn't been making much news lately, but that hasn't stopped the rumors. In fact, it may have fed them.

The latest hot rumor is that Apple will make a version of its yet-to-be-announced iPhone 5 for Sprint/Nextel. The Wall Street Journal was first to report the rumor, based on sources. Analysts were quick to say the move would make sense for both parties.

Apple has already seen the benefits of adding Verizon Wireless as a carrier, selling 4.6 million iPhones to Verizon subscribers in six months. Technology analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray estimates Sprint/Nextel customers would buy six million iPhones in the first year of availability.

CNET chimed in with the opinion that adding the iPhone to its offerings would almost certainly require Sprint/Nextel to end its unlimited data plan, as AT&T and Verizon have done.

The deal would also make a lot of sense for Sprint/Nextel, which will need some kind of advantage if the AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile is allowed to go through. Sprint/Nextel would become a small number three carrier behind AT&T and Verizon.

Cheaper iPhone 4?

The Sprint/Nextel hook-up is not the only iPhone rumor this week. It's also being reported that Apple is considering production of a cheaper iPhone 4.

When the iPhone 4 debuted a year ago, the iPhone 3GS – the model it replaced – was repackaged and sold for $49 with a two year service plan. Reuters reports Apple would follow the same formula with the iPhone 4, reducing the memory to 8GB.

That, of course, is all contingent on there being an iPhone 5. No one on the planet doubts that there will be, but the biggest rumor of all concerns when that product might launch and what it will look like. In the past, Apple has introduced new product in late June or early July, but those months passed without an iPhone 5.

Consensus opinion is that the launch will take place in October. The people at Apple, of course, are the only ones that know but they aren't talking – saying they never comment on rumor or speculation.

Apple's iPhone is the source of several rumors this week...

Apple Enthusiasts Beware! iPhones Attract Scam Artists and Crooks

Scams and thefts swirl around the popular devices; victims find little help

Apple iPhones are hot all right. So hot that they're becoming the principal players in a number of scams and organized theft rings around the country.  And victims?  They find little help from Apple or anyone else.

In San Francisco, a consumer named Patrick reported being approached by a stranger who asked if he would like to make $100 “real easy.”

Sure, he replied, and Patrick soon found himself in a nearby Apple store with the stranger, who bought five iPhones and put them in Patrick's name, using Patrick's driver's license and Social Security number.

The stranger then gave Patrick $100 and drove off with the phones.

“Yesterday I got a bill in the mail for $450 from AT&T," Patrick told us. “I thought I was just helping them to purchase the phones. I mistakenly assumed that they would be billed for the service.”

Not long afterwards, Patrick was hanging around another Apple store, he said, when another stranger approached him with the same offer. Patrick said he sought out the store manager and told him what was happening.

Tough, said the manager, who said the practice is legal because the victim of the scam is willingly supplying his information.

“This is a scam and Apple is in on it,” declared Patrick. “The ones getting screwed are AT&T, Verizon and the person who will get a ding on their credit report.”

Fences

Store personnel are also implicated in a series of arrests in the Washington, D.C. area. The FBI recently busted three men who worked at local shopping mall cell phone kiosks in Virginia and accused them of purchasing stolen iPhones and reselling them at a profit.

The arrests were the result of an investigation into the theft of a large number of Apple products from riders on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's buses and trains, the FBI said.

Two of the men were later indicted by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., on charges of brokering 27 stolen iPhones and 14 Macbooks. Another was indicted for allegedly paying $16,000 to buy 28 stolen iPhones and 14 Macbooks.

Victims

And what happens to those whose iPhones are stolen? Besides losing their valuable little gadget, some consumers also have a hard time recovering their data.

“Having had my iPhone stolen, I called Apple to see how to get acess to my telephone numbers that have been safely backed up on my home computer,” said Brandon of Mountlake Terrace, Wash.

“Apple's representative told me that there was no way for me to get the phone numbers from iTunes without buying another iPhone or borrowing someone else's phone. I now have no access to all of the numbers that I thought were safely available on my computer in the event that I lost my iPhone,” Brandon said.

Dennis of Brooklyn, N.Y., had his iPhone for only two months before it was swiped. When he called Apple to explore his options, he was told he could buy a new phone at the full retail cost, get an older reconditioned one for $299 or switch to a non-iPhone.

“To be punished for having my iPhone stolen (punishment enough I think) is outrageous and a travesty,” fumed Dennis. “Being told I have to pay retail to replace a non-insurable phone has got to be the best scam going between Apple and ATT. I guess these replacements get counted towards the total iphone sold number that is often trotted out in the press.”

Apple iPhones are hot all right. So hot that they're becoming the principal players in a number of scams around the country. In Sa...

Apple Said To Be Making Smaller, Cheaper iPhone

Electronics firm hasn't commented

Now that the buzz about Apple's Verizon iPhone has run its course, the electronics firm is at the center of a new round of speculation concerning its iconic smartphone.

Various media reports over the weekend said Apple is getting ready to release a new iPhone model that will be both smaller and cheaper. Bloomberg News was the first to report the news, but the Wall Street Journal, quoting unnamed sources, put forward more details today, saying the new iPhone could be ready for release this summer.

The Journal quotes a source who viewed the prototype and described it as lighter than the iPhone4 -- the current model -- and having an edge-to-edge screen. The Journal says the codename for the new iPhone is N97.

Half the price

According to media reports, Apple plans to make the phone available to carriers at about half the price of the current model. That would allow cell phone providers to subsidize the entire cost of the phone, making it free to subscribers who sign a two year service agreement.

Currently, AT&T and Verizon pay over $600 for the iPhone4, making it available to customers at the subsidized cost of $199, if they sign a two year contract.

Apple generally introduces new iPhone products at the end of June, and most industry analysts expect a new release this June as well. However, it is not yet clear just what that will be.

In its report today, the Journal referred to the anticipated release as an "upgrade," suggesting the new product might not actually be a new model, just the iPhone4 re-engineered to run on 4G networks.

Persistent rumor

Interestingly, this isn't the first time that Apple has been rumored to be contemplating a cheaper, "Nano" version of its iPhone. The first time the rumor surfaced was September 2007, just a couple of months after the original iPhone hit the market.

Kevin Chang, an analyst for JPMorgan Chase, based in Taipei, reported three and a half years ago that Apple had filed a patent for such a smaller, cheaper iPhone. He also said unnamed parts manufacturers confirmed his hunch.

At the time, the smartphone market was largely non-existent and Apple was still not sure that consumers would pay $400 (less with a carrier subsidy) for an iPhone. Little did they know.

The first Apple iPhone went on sale June 29, 2007, commanding prices of $499 and $599, depending on memory size. Sales estimates for the first two days ranged from 250,000 units to 525,000.

There were early complaints over activation issues, as many consumers who stood in line to buy one of Apples new iPhones had difficulty in getting it to work. With the introduction of the iPhone4, consumers complained that if they held the phone a certain way, the number of bars dropped off and sometimes, so did calls.

Apple eventually addressed the problem by making plastic cases available, that seemed to solve the problem. Though the antennae design was changed in the version of the iPhone made for Verizon, reports suggest some consumers are still having the problem.

Apple is reportedly preparing to launch a smaller, cheaper version of the iPhone, according to various media reports....

Verizon iPhone Sales Set One-Day Record

Company reports ordering process went smoothly

Verizon Wireless says, not only did its first day of iPhone sales go smoothly, the company set a one day sales record Thursday.

At 8:10 p.m. EST Thursday, Verizon Wireless halted online orders of the iPhone 4 to existing customers after having what it called "the most successful first day sales in the history of the company." The company did not disclose how many iPhones had been ordered.

"This was an exciting day," said Dan Mead, president and chief executive officer for Verizon Wireless. "In just our first two hours, we had already sold more phones than any first day launch in our history. And, when you consider these initial orders were placed between the hours of 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., it is an incredible success story. It is gratifying to know that our customers responded so enthusiastically to this exclusive offer - designed to reward them for their loyalty."

Mead praised Verizon Wireless employees, who he said worked tirelessly to strengthen and scale the company's systems, enabling what proved to be unprecedented customer orders through the company website.

A good day

"Overall, it was a very good day," he said.

Verizon Wireless apparently took lessons from AT&T's well publicized activation problems when the iPhone debuted in 2007. Many consumers who stood in line to buy one of Apples new iPhones had difficulty in getting it to work.

"Your activation requires additional time to complete," many consumers reported being told.

Normally, a mobile phone is activated by personnel in the retail store where it is purchased. But with the anticipated sales volume for the new device, Apple and AT&T devised a plan whereby consumers would activate the phones themselves, connecting the phone to their computers and using Apples iTunes to complete the process. AT&T said the system worked as planned for the vast majority of consumers but conceded some customers experienced activation issues.

Two-step process

Verizon chose only to take orders yesterday, so there were no activation issues. Phones won't be activated until they begin arriving February 10.

Mead also said Verizon customers will have another opportunity at being among the nation's first to own an iPhone 4 on the Verizon Wireless network.

"Yesterday's launch set the pace for next week when we open up sales to everyone across America."   

The general market launch of the iPhone 4 on the Verizon Wireless network will occur on Feb. 10. The company said it will open its more than 2,000 Verizon Wireless Communications Stores at 7 a.m. The phone will also be available at all Apple store locations, Best Buy, select Wal-Mart stores, and online.

Verizon Wireless says its first day of iPhone sales went smoothly and set a single-day sales record....

Verizon Wireless Reveals iPhone Pricing

Sales start Thursday for existing customers

Starting Thursday, February 3, Verizon Wireless customers may begin pre-ordering an iPhone4, with orders shipping to arrive on or before February 10, the company said.

However, you must be an existing Verizon Wireless customer to order. The company said it has set aside a limited quantity of iPhone 4 smartphones solely for existing customers.

"We appreciate our many customers who told us that iPhone 4 should be on the nation's most reliable network," said Dan Mead, chief executive officer for Verizon Wireless. "We heard them and we agreed, which is why we are letting them be among the first to own an iPhone 4 on the Verizon Wireless network. We thought it fitting to say thank you to our customers by giving them the phone they want, a week before the general population."

Pricing and Availability

Meanwhile, Verizon confirm previously reported pricing information. The iPhone 4 on the Verizon Wireless network is priced at $199.99 for the 16 GB iPhone 4 or $299.99 for the 32 GB iPhone 4 with a new two-year customer agreement.

Customers can subscribe to a Nationwide Talk plan, beginning at $39.99 for 450 minutes, or a Nationwide Talk and Text plan, beginning at $59.99 and including unlimited text, picture and video messaging, as well as an unlimited Email and Web data plan, available for $29.99 per month.

The iPhone 4 also gives customers a unique 3G Mobile Hotspot feature that can power up to 5 devices over Wi-Fi. The 3G Mobile Hotspot plan is $20 per month for 2 GB.

The Verizon iPhone will go on sale at 3 a.m. EST on Thursday online. www.verizonwireless.com/iphone

Buy now or wait?

Before they do, however, it might be wise to do a little research. As smartphones go, the iPhone4 will soon be old technology. Apple normally updates the produce line every July.

In five months it is likely Apple and Verizon will offer an iPhone5, with expanded capabilities and able to operate on Verizon's faster 4G LTE network.

However, there may be one good reason to buy the iPhone4 now, rather than waiting for the updated model. For those early adopters, Verizon is offering an unlimited data package. There is every indication that offer won't apply when the new, faster phones come out later this year.

Verizon Wireless is ready to start taking orders for the iPhone....

iPhone 4 Glass Prone To Shatter: Lawsuit

Litigation is latest development in widely-discussed 'Glassgate'

The iPhone finds itself at the center of another class-action lawsuit -- this one alleging that the phone’s purportedly durable, scratch-resistant glass screen is actually quite easy to break.

Lead plaintiff Donald LeBuhn says the screen on his iPhone 4 shattered after his daughter, who was using the phone to send a text message, dropped it from a height of around three feet. Before shelling out $252 for the iPhone 4, LeBuhn owned its predecessor, the iPhone 3 GS -- which he said withstood a drop from similar heights.

"Months after selling millions of iPhone 4s, Apple has failed to warn and continues to sell this product with no warning to customers that the glass housing is defective," says the suit, filed in Los Angeles.

Suit takes issue with Apple claims

Indeed, LeBuhn points out that Apple specifically markets the newest iPhone as having especially sturdy glass -- an allegation that is backed up by the language currently gracing the iPhone 4 homepage.

“All the breakthrough technology in iPhone 4 is situated between two glossy panels of aluminosilicate glass -- the same type of glass used in the windshields of helicopters and high-speed trains,” the site claims. “Chemically strengthened to be 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic, the glass is ultradurable and more scratch resistant than ever.”

In a claim that LeBuhn may find more convincing, the site adds that the glass is “also recyclable.”

Study finds iPhone 4 more fragile than predecessor

LeBuhn isn’t the first one to cry foul over the glass issue. The apparent fragility of the iPhone 4’s screen is such a hot topic that it earned the nickname “Glassgate” on technology blogs.

And in the fall, SquareTrade, an independent warranty provider, published a study finding that iPhone 4 owners “reported 82% more damaged screens in the first 4 months” than owners of the iPhone 3 GS; that “the [overall] reported accident rate for iPhone 4s was 68% higher than for the iPhone 3gs”; and that “[a]n estimated 15.5% of iPhone 4 owners will have an accident within a year of buying their phone.”

“Glassgate” follows “AntennaGate”

Some techies are taking Apple’s side, though. Self-decribed “Apple Holic” Jonny Evans, who writes for ComputerWorld, called “Glassgate” a “myth” comparable to “AntennaGate” -- a reference to the iPhone 4’s seeming propensity to drop calls when a certain part of its antenna is covered up.

Discussing SquareTrade’s findings, Evans pointed out the “82 percent” figure simply “means 3.9 percent of 20,000 iPhone 4 owners reported a cracked screen rather than 2.1 percent of 20,000 iPhone 3GS owners.” Evans also noted “the iPhone 4 has glass on the back as well as the front of the product, while the iPhone 3GS carried it only on the front of the device.”

LeBuhn wants Apple to provide a refund to iPhone 4 owners, as well as reimbursement for any repairs already made.

iPhone 4 Glass Prone to Shatter: Lawsuit Litigation is latest development in widely-discussed 'Glassgate'...

Verizon Ditches "New Every 2" Upgrade Perk Sunday

If you're switching to Verizon for the iPhone, it might be the last new phone you can afford

Verizon's announcement Tuesday that it would soon be offering the new iPhone whipped many current iPhone owners into a froth of excitement and preparation.

Until this week, the only cell phone company that carried the iPhone was AT&T. Many customers grew weary of the constant dropped calls and slow data service that AT&T has become known for.

Now, many of those customers are eager to give their business to Verizon, who has long been known for their large coverage areas and reliable service.

Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Maybe not. Consumers who plan to jump ship to Verizon -- especially those who like to buy a brand new phone every two years at a discount -- should be warned exactly what they’re getting into.

Contract changes

Smartmoney.com reported Wednesday that Verizon has quietly made some changes to the terms of its upgrade policy. Most notably, as of January 16, 2011, new customers will not be enrolled in Verizon’s “New Every 2” incentive program at the end of their two-year contract.

The New Every 2 program offers Verizon subscribers a credit of $30 to $100 toward a new phone every two years if they agree to sign a new, two-year contract.

The NE2 program has been a perk many customers have enjoyed, considering cell phone technology evolves exponentially every year.

Higher price

But starting Sunday, that perk is gone -- unless new customers choose the pricier option of a one-year contract.

(And we do mean "pricier." For example, as a new customer, choosing the HTC Droid Incredible with a two-year contract saves $200 right off the bat.)

Existing Verizon customers are allowed to get one more “NE2” upgrade if they’re currently eligible for it this year. (Whether they’ll be able to use their last NE2 upgrade towards the new iPhone is yet to be seen, however Verizon’s Support Twitter account recently tweeted they could.)

That’s all well and good for existing customers, but what about customers who are only a few months into their new, two-year contracts? Or those who haven’t even signed up yet? They’re apparently out of luck.

Interestingly, Verizon appears to have been planning this since before Tuesday‘s big iPhone announcement.

The tech blog AndroidCentral.com posted a screen cap of training material sent out to Verizon employees, announcing the policy change back on January 4, 2011.

Consumer quandry

So, what does this mean for consumers signing up with Verizon for the new iPhone?

Once their two-year contract is up, and the newest iPhone undoubtedly hits the market, customers will most likely have to pay full retail price for it -- or any other phone, for that matter -- even if they agree to stay with Verizon for another two years.

For people who like to stay current with new phone technology, it could be a wallet-draining move.

Verizon Ditches "New Every 2" Upgrade Perk SundayIf you're switching to Verizon for the iPhone, it might be the last new phone you can afford...

Verizon To Announce iPhone Tuesday

Is this the end of AT&T's iPhone monopoly?

It's the worst-kept secret in Las Vegas. Verizon Wireless has the media covering the Consumer Electronics Show buzzing about an event in New York on Tuesday for a special announcement.

What could it be?

Quoting "a person familiar with the matter," the Wall Street Journal reports Verizon will make the long-awaited announcement that it will begin selling an iPhone that will operate on its network. Since the inception of the iconic device, it has operated exclusively on the AT&T network.

For the first time, consumers who want an iPhone will be able to choose which carrier it operates on.

Since late October, industry blogs have been abuzz with speculation that Apple was going to produce an iPhone that would operate on Verizon's CDMA network, which is a different technology than the one used by AT&T.

AT&T iPhones won't work on Verizon Wireless

Current iPhone owners who drop AT&T and move to Verizon will have to purchase a new iPhone. The ones that operate on the AT&T network won't operate on Verizon's.

In October there were widespread reports that Verizon had suddenly begun rehiring hundreds of workers for its call centers. What could be behind it, many wondered, if not to have people in place to accept the anticipated flood of orders for a Verizon iPhone?

Even back in October, blogger Ben Parr was calling the Verizon iPhone "Apple's worst-kept secret," and is already  went so far as to conduct a among Verizon customers, asking if they will switch to an iPhone.

Sarah Ellison, writing in Fortune in October, called the Verizon iPhone "the most talked about cell phone that doesn't actually exist." In fact, neither Apple nor Verizon have said a word about a long-anticipated Verizon iPhone. At the time, Apple was playing coy, sahying it was quite happy with its present relationship with AT&T.

Gaining steam

The story gained steam when Verizon announced it would begin selling an Apple iPad that would run on its 3G network. Many technology writers saw that as the opening move toward Verizon, that would ultimately end with an iPhone.

Moving to Verizon makes sense for Apple, which narrowly leads in the universe of smartphone operating systems. Tapping into Verizon's customer base, many of whom may change to the iPhone, could help it increase its marketshare.

While the technology world sees the Verizon iPhone as a foregone conclusion, one piece of information remains unknown. No one seems to know when the Verizon iPhone will be available in stores. That, perhaps, will have to wait untul Tuesday.

Verizon Wireless is set to announce it will begin offering an iPhone, according to media reports....

AT&T Offers $49 iPhone

Older model price cut by 50 percent

With persistent rumors of a Verizon iPhone sometime this year, AT&T is beefing up its Apple offerings with a new price on the iPhone 3GS. Starting Friday, January 7, 2011, AT&T will begin selling the device for $49.

The offer will be available online, across more than 2,200 AT&T retail locations nationwide and through AT&T business channels, as well as Apple channels.

Exclusivity

The phone can be used, of course, only on AT&T's network -- at least for now. There have been numerous media reports over the last few months that Apple plans to offer an iPhone that will operate on the Verizon, and perhaps other networks. Since its introduction, the iPhone has been exclusive to AT&T.

"We want to deliver the best, most complete package for our customers -- from price, to speed, to worldwide access and more," said David Christopher, chief marketing officer of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. "Combined with our new, lower monthly data plans beginning at just $15 a month, this new price brings even more value to one of the most popular devices in our leading lineup of smartphones. We're very excited for more people to experience iPhone on the nation's fastest mobile broadband network."

The iPhone 3GS was introduced in June 2009. It was updated a year later by the iPhone 4, which remains the most current model. But AT&T says the older model gives users access to the latest iPhone iOS 4 software as well as access to the App Store.

Two-year contract

To get the iPhone 3GS for $49, consumers must sign up for a new two-year AT&T wireless agreement of $39.99 or higher with min $15/mo plan.

The current price of the 8 GB version of the iPhone 3GS is $99, so the new promotional offer represents a 50 percent price reduction.

AT&T has begun positioning itself for a new environment where the iPhone is available on multiple carriers. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week in Las Vegas, it announced plans to begin offering 20 new smartphone models this year, moving from its reliance on Apple to multiple manufacturers.

AT&T says it will start selling the iPhone 3GS for $49, starting Friday, January 7, 2011....

AT&T 'Wins' Worst Cell Phone Derby

Consumer Reports rates U.S. Cellular tops in service, ahead of Verizon Wireless

Bedraggled by broadband-hogging iPhones, AT&T is now the worst-rated cell-phone service carrier according to a new survey of Consumer Reports readers . U.S. Cellular, a regional carrier that provides service in 26 states, beat out the long-standing top provider Verizon Wireless with outstanding marks for value, voice service and customer support.

More than half of the AT&T customers surveyed owned an iPhone, the Apple smart-phone that is currently available exclusively from AT&T. Consumer Reports data, reflecting all versions of the phone, found that iPhone owners were much less satisfied with their carrier and rated data service (Web and e-mail) lower than owners of smart phones on other carriers that, like the iPhone, have a host of apps to encourage heavy data use.

"Our survey suggests that an iPhone from Verizon Wireless, which is rumored, could indeed be good news for iPhone fans", said Paul Reynolds, Electronics Editor for Consumer Reports.

The consensus prediction among tech industry bloggers appears to be a January 2011 launch of the Verizon iPhone. Verizon Wireless recently introduced its version of the popular iPad, breaking AT&T's long-held monopoly on Apple products and further fueling speculation that a Verizon iPhone was close behind.

Cynics have predicted that the addition of tens of thousands of iPhones to the Verizon network will quickly drag it down to AT&T's performance level but others note that Verizon already supports a variety of data-hungry smartphones, including those powered by Google's Android operating system, which is seen as comparable to the iPhone in terms of data usage.

58,000 responses

In this year's version of its annual survey on cell-phone carriers, more than 58,000 ConsumerReports.org subscribers weighed in about their service and customer support experiences with contract and no-contract providers.

AT&T was the only carrier whose scores for overall satisfaction dropped significantly since last year.

Verizon Wireless remains among the better performers, but Sprint has pulled even with the carrier in overall satisfaction. The carrier actually even scored better than Verizon in some aspects of customer service, a remarkable turnaround from past years when that was a weak point for the company. T-Mobile was only slightly behind those two carriers in overall satisfaction.

The full article also features carrier Ratings in 23 metropolitan markets and is in the January 2011 issue of Consumer Reports and at www.ConsumerReports.org

AT&T 'Wins' Worst Cell Phone DerbyConsumer Reports rates U.S. Cellular tops in service, ahead of Verizon Wireless...

Verizon Making 'iPhone Friendly' Changes To Its Network

Reports of an iPhone for the Verizon network after the first of the year pick up momentum

The long-rumored, long-awaited Verizon Wireless iPhone may finally be about to happen.

The wireless network is making technical changes that could be in preparation for an iPhone that would run on its network. Currently, AT&T is the exclusive network for the iPhone.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Verizon is making changes to its network so that smartphone users would be able to talk on their phones while accessing the Internet. Currently, it's a capability that AT&T possesses and has promoted heavily, pointing out that Verizon lacks that capability.

 Verizon executive Brian Higgins confirmed to the Journal that the changes are in the works, but said it's not something that has been in demand from Verizon's current subscribers - fueling speculation that the sole reason for doing it is to make Verizon more acceptable to Apple and current iPhone users.

AT&T's network has been the source of many complaints among iPhone users, who cite limited coverage and dropped calls, especially in major cities like New York and Los Angeles.

After months of below the surface rumblings, there are now more persistence reports that Verizon might offer an iPhone early next year.

 Network differences

While Verizon is making some accommodation in its network, chances are a Verizon iPhone would be different in some respects from an AT&T iPhone because of differences in the two carriers.

AT&T's standard is called Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS). Verizon's is called Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). Some experts think it's inferior to UMTS in some respects and isn't used much outside the U.S. The principal difference, however, is the inability to access both voice and data at the same time, something Verizon is now addressing.

It was just last month that Verizon itself was downplaying the whole notion of a Verizon iPhone. Verizon Communications CEO Ivan Seidenberg, speaking at a Goldman Sachs conference, said little about the iPhone, expect that he hoped Apple would eventually make one for Verizon's 4G network, which will begin to deploy by the end of the year.

But with Verizon customers snapping up smartphones from Motorola and HTC, both of which run Google's Android software, Seidenberg didn't seem to feel the need for an iPhone to keep subscribers happy.

"We don't feel like we have an iPhone deficit. We would love to carry it when we get there, but we have to earn it," Seidenberg said.

Maybe Verizon's current subscribers don't have their heart set on Apple's trendy device, but there may be a competitive reason to jump through a few hoops to break AT&T's monopoly on the iPhone. A September survey by Credit Suisse suggested 23 percent of AT&T customers would become Verizon subscribers if Verizon had an iPhone.

With the success of Android-based smartphones, Verizon Wireless is doing quite well without an iPhone. But they may be about to get one anyway....

Suit Contesting iPhone, AT&T Exclusivity Agreement Moves Forward

Class certification granted to action covering nationwide group of consumers

A lawsuit taking issue with AT&T's exclusive rights to the iPhone has been certified as a class action, meaning that iPhone users who want out of their AT&T contracts will at least have their day in court.

The suit, originally filed in 2007, says that Apple and AT&T are perpetuating an illegal monopoly by refusing to unlock consumers' iPhones for use with another wireless carrier. As a result, the complaint says, consumers have little choice but to stay with AT&T, even after their two-year contract expires.

Although AT&T provides that iPhone users can terminate their contract at any time and switch to another carrier, the suit says that the provision is essentially meaningless, since consumers are unable to get their phone onto another network.

The plaintiffs argue that, by offering a two-year contract, AT&T gave consumers the false impression that the exclusivity agreement would likewise last two years. In fact, according to the suit, the agreement is essentially indefinite -- no one knows exactly when it will end and, until it does, customers are stuck with AT&T.

For its part, Apple is arguing that the exclusivity agreement was always expected to last five years -- through 2012 -- and that claims of a monopoly are nonsense.

[T]here was widespread disclosure of [AT&T's] five-year exclusivity and no suggestion by Apple or anyone else that iPhones would become unlocked after two years, Apple asserts in court papers. Moreover, it is sheer speculation -- and illogical -- that failing to disclose the five-year exclusivity term would produce monopoly power.

No end in sight?

iPhone users who want out of their AT&T contracts have seen their share of false starts. Last April, USA Today reported that Apple and Verizon were discussing a potential partnership, although Apple quickly threw cold water on that idea when it swooned about its great relationship with AT&T. Then in August, the research firm Piper Jaffray reported that Apple seemed set to end the exclusivity agreement this summer, most likely when it introduced the iPhone 4. Of course, that milestone has come and gone, and the agreement remains in place.

One analyst has speculated that Apple agreed to further extend the agreement back in January, when AT&T provided bargain data plan prices for the newly-released iPad. Brian Marshall, an analyst with BroadPoint AmTech, figures that the cheap data prices were worth an extra six months.

AT&T had to do something dramatic to get the iPad, Marshall told Computerworld in May. For that pricing [on the iPad], AT&T was able to negotiate a six-month extension on the iPhone exclusive.

The suit, which is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is brought on behalf of [a]ll persons who purchased or acquired an iPhone in the United States and entered into a two-year agreement with [AT&T] for iPhone voice and data service any time from June 29, 2007, to the present.

Suit Contesting iPhone, AT&T Exclusivity Agreement Moves Forward...

iPhone 4 Antenna Defective, Several Suits Allege

Holding the phone a certain way can lead to no bars, dropped calls

That didn't take long.

The iPhone 4, which made its long-awaited debut last week, is now the subject of several lawsuits taking issue with the device's apparent propensity to drop calls.

Two class actions were filed in San Francisco, and one in Maryland. The suits allege that, when the iPhone is held a certain way, it receives almost no signal -- leading to dropped calls and much frustration. Specifically, using one's hand to cover the phone's metal frame in the lower left-hand corner -- where the antenna is exposed -- causes a dramatic drop in bars indicating signal strength.

One of the California suits says that the only way to prevent the signal failure is to buy a certain phone cover -- and fork over more money to Apple in the process.

Consumers are left with three options: hold their phones in an awkward and unnatural manner; return their phones and pay 10 per cent 'restocking fee', or purchase Apple's own 'bumper' cases for their phones, costing $29.95 in addition to the premium they have already paid for the phones themselves, which may somewhat ameliorate the iPhone 4's defects, the complaint says.

Christopher Dydyk, the Massachusetts plaintiff, contends that Apples sale of the iPhone with this unannounced defect, assuming Apples prior knowledge of the defect, constitutes misrepresentation and fraud. In omitting to disclose the defect in the iPhone 4, Apple perpetrated a massive fraud upon hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting customers.

Apple blames reception bars

Apple, for its part, says that the problem is due in large part to the way that the phone displays reception bars. The display is determined by a formula that's totally wrong, according to the company, meaning that the phone might show lots of bars in an area with almost no reception, or vice-versa.

But that explanation fails to account for the fact that the Maryland plaintiffs say they began to experience significantly reduced reception and performance when handling the phones as demonstrated in Apple's advertisements or as a reasonable person would handle a mobile telephone. The trouble persisted regardless of whether the plaintiffs were making phone calls, browsing the Internet, [or] sending text messages.

The company had previously offered the suggestion that consumers buy a bumper case for their phones, but that suggestion was absent from the company's latest statement -- perhaps due to the blowback from consumers who just finished paying for a brand new smartphone.

Jobs dismissed concerns

One of the suits also cites a supposed email exchange between a newly-minted iPhone 4 owner and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, in which Jobs appeared to dismiss the problem as a non-issue.

MacRumors forum user samcraig emailed Steve Jobs about the low signal issue while holding the new iPhone 4 in a specific way, the suit reads. Samcraig emailed Steve Jobs: 'Question -- what's going to be done about the signal dropping issue. Is it software or hardware?' To which, Jobs replied with a typically short response: 'Non issue. Just avoid holding it that way.'

Some reports have questioned whether the exchange actually occurred, suggesting that the supposed Jobs response may have come from an impostor.

Apple has promised to provide a software fix for the problem within the next few weeks, although it's unclear whether the remedy will deal only with the supposed bars formula glitch or will address the larger issue of phones' actual antenna strength.

iPhone 4 Antenna Defective, Several Suits Allege...

iPhone the 'Worst Phone Ever?'

Website amassing data for dropped call class action suit

A new website is setting the stage for a class action lawsuit regarding the Apple iPhone's apparent propensity to drop calls. The site lets iPhone users upload their internal phone data, including the number of calls that their respective phones have dropped. The site administrators plan to aggregate the data and file a lawsuit on behalf of everyone who has used the site.

The website calls the iPhone "the best portable computer ever made, while at the same time being the worst phone ever because it drops calls all the time," and urges users to "run Apple and AT&T; through the ringer."

The site's administrators, Cory Forsyth and Dan Albritton, know firsthand the frustration that goes with a phone that constantly drops calls. According to the website, the pair "make[s] games that people play with cell phones, and every time that a client of ours does a demo with an iPhone that drops, or a player out in the world has the same thing happen, it diminishes the coolness of what we do."

Additionally, Forsyth and Albritton report that their "office is in Times Square, NYC, and our iPhones are completely useless there. It drives us bananas every day, and we're offended that AT&T; is going to try to charge for their femtocell service."

Widespread dissatisfaction

The site provides a potential outlet for AT&T; wireless users fed up with the network's ability -- or lack thereof -- to carry calls. A March survey conducted by research outfit ChangeWave found that AT&T; drops 4.5 percent of all calls, far more than any of its rivals: Sprint drops 2.4 percent, T-Mobile 2.8 percent, and Verizon only 1.5 percent.

The survey also found that only 23 percent of AT&T; users count themselves "very satisfied" with their cellular service, compared with 35 percent of Sprint customers and 49 percent of Verizon customers.

The survey further reported that "while Verizon has its all-time best dropped call rating in the current ChangeWave survey, AT&T; has just reached its all time worst rating on this all important measure." Indeed, a similar survey conducted in September 2008 found AT&T; and Verizon less than a point apart, with AT&T; dropping 3.6 percent of calls and Verizon 2.7 percent.

Ironically, though, the iPhone itself is preventing AT&T; users from jumping ship, at least for now. The ChangeWave survey reported that, despite AT&T;'s abysmal ratings, only eight percent of its customers plan to switch providers. That number is nearly identical to Verizon's seven percent, and considerably lower than Sprint's 10 percent and T-Mobile's 14 percent.

According to the survey, "AT&T;'s low churn rate...is attributable to the huge advantage it continues to maintain as the exclusive U.S. service provider for the Apple iPhone."

Whether AT&T; will be able to maintain its customer base in the long term is an open question. The network still boasts the fastest 3G network, according to a Gizdomo study , although T-Mobile is making gains in that area. More importantly, the carrier's exclusivity agreement with Apple is slated to end in 2012, meaning that other wireless companies will potentially be able to offer the iPhone on their own networks.

The ChangeWave survey suggests this will be a vulnerability for AT&T.; In addition to the company's current status as the only iPhone provider, the survey found an "unprecedented level of pent up demand for the iPhone among Verizon subscribers." Fifty-three percent of Verizon users said they would buy a Verizon iPhone, with 19 percent describing themselves as "very likely" to do so.

"If Verizon were ever to offer the iPhone, the evidence points to it having a profound and likely transformational impact on the industry," according to the survey.

In the meantime, frustrated iPhone users can let off some steam at WorstPhoneEver. While sharing cell phone data raises obvious privacy concerns, Forsyth and Albritton say that "there is no personal or uniquely identifying information in the files," although they do warn that "whatever data you give us is no longer entirely 'yours' anymore."

iPhone the 'Worst Phone Ever?'...

Signal Problems Plague iPhone 3G

Apple issues firmware upgrade but analysts are skeptical

By Truman Lewis
ConsumerAffairs.com

Problems with cracked iPhone screens have been getting lots of press but a potentially more serious and widespread glitch has to do with the 3G model's ability to pull in a strong signal — which, after all, is a pretty basic requirement of any cell phone, especially one loaded down with as many features as the iPhone.

Apple released a firmware update today for 3G, claiming it will clear up the problems but some analysts aren't so sure about that.

There's speculation among some Wall Street types that the reception problems are being caused by an antenna design flaw or an issue with the chipset and that a simple firmware upgrade won't be enough to get iPhone users the five bars they're hoping for.

Financial analysts get angina whenever there's an indication of hardware problems that could force a massive — and costly — recall.

Some users rushed to blame AT&T Wireless for the weak reception but cooler heads note that other portable devices in the same reception areas are working just fine, thanks — both cell phones and other Web-enabled devices that use the EDGE network.

Adding fuel to the fire are reports from Europe, where users are encountering similar problems in locales where the signal strength has never been a problem before.

Engineers quoted in the trade press are speculating that the antenna is the likely culprit. The iPhone 3G has no fewer than ten different antennas. That's a lot of antennas in a small place, and as any radiohead will tell you, having too many antennas in one place can cause interference and signal loss.

Of course, most consumers could care less what the problem is, they just want the thing to work. When it doesn't, customers can find themselves facing a stiff termination fee if they want to throw up their hands and walk away.

"Advertised twice as fast for half the price, but the twice as fast and the iPhone don't communicate," lamented Richard of Victorville, Calif. "AT&T is requiring customers who return their iPhones for this failure to pay a restocking fee; Apple Stores will replace the phones, but you are likely to end up with a replacement that has the same problem."

"Apple has refused to acknowledge the issue: AT&T's spokespersons deny any widespread problems; iPhone 3G users have to pay for 3G service that many (most) are not able to access due to the faulty iPhone," he said.

Likewise Mike of Waldwick, N.J. He bought an iPhone 3G on eBay but found he couldn't get a reliable signal.

"Tried to cancel this contract since I was within my 30 days. It took me 2 days with AT&T after convincing them that one of the phone was purchased off ebay instead of having them making me take the phone back to an Apple store," Mike told us.

"The iPhone is a nice item but as I found out it really isnt worth the headache," Mike concluded.

More about the iPhone ...
Signal Problems Plague iPhone 3G...

Apple Sued Over 'Millions of Colors' Claim

MacBook actually displays only 262,144 colors


Even after decades of regulatory sanctions and consumer lawsuits, companies tend to get carried away with their advertising. The latest case involves Apple's bold advertising claims that its MacBooks support "millions of colors."

Nice ad, but the problem is that MacBook LCDs only display 262,144 colors. Geeks say that's because they use 6-bit TFT models instead of a true 8-bit display, which would indeed support 16,777,216.

But someone at Apple was counting pennies and decided to downgrade the display to 6 bits, even though Mac users pay a considerable premium for what they think will be a superior machine. So says a class action lawsuit against the computer maker.

Apple has already settled one lawsuit filed by aggrieved customers. Details are confidential, but what's not confidential is a new suit filed by a powerful Los Angeles legal firm, Kabateck Brown Kellner, a frequent litigant in high-tech circles.

"Apple is duping its customers into thinking theyre buying 'new and improved' when in fact theyre getting stuck with new and inferior," said managing partner Brian Kabatech.

Kabatech says his firm wants "to help those customers who were deceived and make sure Apple tells the truth in the future."

Track record

In the previous "millions of colors" case, MacBook owners Fred Greaves and Dave Gately filed a class action suit against Apple last May.

The case was initially viewed as frivolous but as hundreds of disgruntled MAcbook purchasers began posting their embittered complaints on apple.com and other online forums, both the legal community and Apple began to take the case more seriously.

Apple settled out of court with the two, reaching a confidential settlement. But by then, the damage had been done and others consumers -- and, more significantly, other lawyers -- began following the scent and Apple now faces a much more daunting opponent.

Apple Sued Over 'Millions of Colors' Claim...

Apple Cuts Price Of iPhone

Offers $100 credit to early adopters

Just two months after introducing its iPhone, Apple has cut the price of its most expensive model by $200. In what it called a holiday promotion, Apple said the 8 GB model will sell for $399 instead of its original price of $599.

That's good news for would-be iPhone buyers but it infuriated those who had paid full price for the devices. In an unusual bit of backtracking, Apple CEO Steve Jobs offered a backhanded apology and said the company would offer a $100 credit to most of those who paid full price.

Jobs' letter, posted on Apple's Web site, said that anyone who bought the Apple cellphone in an Apple or AT&T store and who is not eligible for a rebate, can receive a $100 Apple store credit. Details remained sketchy.

While striking a somewhat apologetic tone, Jobs made it clear early adopters shouldn't be surprised if they don't get the best price.

"This is life in the technology lane," he wrote. "If you always wait for the next price cut or to buy the new improved model, you'll never buy any technology product because there is always something better and less expensive on the horizon."

It's a somewhat more combative tone than Jobs had adopted the day before, when he announced the price cut.

The surveys are in and iPhone customer satisfaction scores are higher than weve ever seen for any Apple product, he said Tuesday. Weve clearly got a breakthrough product and we want to make it affordable for even more customers as we enter this holiday season.

The 8GB iPhone is available immediately for $399 in the US through Apples retail and online stores and AT&T retail stores. Apple said the iPhone 4GB model will be sold while supplies last, apparently indicating the lower priced model will be phased out.

The price cut was predicted back in January 2007, almost six months before the iPhone was introduced.

iSuppli, a market research firm, predicted Apple would quickly cut iPhone's price because at the introductory price of $599, each unit carried a huge profit margin.

New iPod

Apple this week also introduced the new iPod classic, featuring 80GB or 160GB of storage. The new device is priced from $249 up, a significant reduction from earlier models.

Apple Cuts Price Of iPhone...

Look For Early iPhone Price Cuts

Apple Has Plenty of Room to Cut Retail Price

Would you pay $499 for Apple's new iPhone? Apple is betting you will, but if not the computer maker has plenty of room to make you a deal. In fact, iSuppli, a market research firm, predicts Apple will quickly cut iPhone's price.

The reason is simple. According to iSuppli, Apple will take advantage of the "must-have" buzz surrounding its new gadget to try and get at least $499 for it, but would have a 50 percent gross profit margin at that price. Price cuts, they say, are inevitable.

"iSuppli estimates the 4Gbyte version of the Apple iPhone will carry a $229.85 hardware and manufacturing cost and a $245.83 total expense, yielding a 50.7 percent margin on each unit sold at the $499 retail price," said Andrew Rassweiler, teardown services manager and senior analyst for iSuppli.

"Meanwhile, the 8GByte Apple iPhone will sport a $264.85 hardware cost and a $280.83 total expense, amounting to a 53.1 percent margin at the $599 retail price."

For Apple, such a strong hardware profit is par for the course, with the company having achieved margins of 45 percent and more in products including the iMac and iPod nano, according to iSuppli. However, because Apple is facing extensive competition in the music-phone market, the company may need to cut into its margins to reduce pricing in the future.

"With a 50 percent gross margin, Apple is setting itself up for aggressive price declines going forward," said Jagdish Rebello, PhD, director and principal analyst with iSuppli.

Apple faces a bevy of competitors in music phones, with 835 models expected to be introduced by various competitors in 2007. iSuppli estimates that 14 music-enabled mobile phones with features that compete closely with the Apple iPhone already are shipping from manufacturers including Nokia, Motorola Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and LG.

Shipments of music-enabled mobile phones will rise to 618.1 million units in 2007, up 39.9 percent from 441.7 million units in 2006, iSuppli predicts. By 2010, the company estimates that shipments of such phones will increase to 1 billion units.

Look For Early iPhone Price Cuts...

Apple Faces Another iPod Lawsuit

iPod Nano is Cool But Delicate, Suit Charges


A consumer group has filed yet another lawsuit against Apple, claiming its popular iPod Nano music player, marketed for its sleek beauty, cannot withstand normal use without becoming severely scratched, often to the point where its screen is unreadable. The suit was filed in San Mateo Superior Court in California.

Moreover, the plaintiffs charge, Apple is refusing to give refunds to purchasers who bought the defective product, while forcing others to pay a $25 fee to get a replacement that is supposed to be "free" under Apple's warranty.

The suit, brought against Apple Computer, Inc. under the state's consumer protection laws on behalf of California purchasers of the recently-introduced Nano, demands that Apple recall and repair the defect, without charge, or refund the purchase price to dissatisfied customers.

The Los Angeles-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is a party to the suit.

Reports of problems with the Nano became apparent within a few weeks of its introduction last fall, with many consumers complaining in chatrooms on the Internet.

Apple has acknowledged there is a problem, at first urging customers to buy a third party cover. Apple now supplies a "sleeve" to cover the Nano.

"Selling 'cool' stuff isn't 'cool' if the stuff doesn't work as advertised and Apple fails to comply with its obligations under its warranty and California laws," said consumer advocate Harvey Rosenfield, a lawyer for FTCR.

"Like every other industry, Apple must fix products that are defective for free, and refund the costs incurred by its customers."

The lawsuit notes that many Nano users pay substantial additional money purchasing music and videos on Apple's iTunes web site. The iPods, including the Nano, are the only portable devices on which iTunes downloads can be played.

Apple Faces Another iPod Lawsuit...

iTunes Includes "iSpy" Feature


At this week's MacWorld expo, Apple proudly unveiled version 6.0.2 of iTunes, which it simply claimed "includes stability and performance improvements over iTunes 6.0.1."

Among these supposed improvements is the Apple iTunes MiniStore -- a localized "recommendation" engine that looks at what you listen to and then suggests additional songs and artists you might like. The MiniStore arrives turned on by default without asking a user's permission first.

What Apple didn't point out in all its hoopla over the new version is that the MiniStore not only makes recommendations but also automatically transmits your listening information over the Internet back to the Apple Mothership.

What Apple does with this information is unknown.

The company says it is not collecting data on its users -- at least not yet. But Apple has not disclosed what steps, if any, it is taking to prevent disclosure or leakage of the information to third parties.

The news follows the recent Sony BMG DRM fiasco, a part of which included an undisclosed "phone home" feature of its own.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) condemned Apple's listener-tracking as "part of a dangerous trend EFF has been witnessing in the digital music space market."

"When companies like Apple and Sony BMG start adjusting or installing software to micro-monitor our personal and private actions, even under the rubric of convenience, it is just one short stop down the road toward attempting to condition and control our behavior," EFF said.

EFF said the data collection would not be so objectionable if it were no so surreptitious.

"Allowing users to upload information voluntarily and expressly with adequate privacy protections is pro-user; surreptitiously siphoning it into a remote database without any privacy guarantees is not. It's time for Apple to pick a side of the line and walk it," EFF said in a statement.

EFF noted that users can turn off the Apple MiniStore by hitting Shift- Command-M, or choose Edit: Hide MiniStore. "EFF recommends that iTunes users do so until Apple at least comes clean about its MiniStore data practices," it said.

iTunes Includes 'iSpy' Feature...