Tag Archives: Apple
ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s antitrust has opened a probe into allegations that Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd used software updates deliberately to speed up the ageing process of their products.
The antitrust body said in a statement it would investigate whether the two firms made their products obsolete to stimulate new purchases.
Apple acknowledged last month that iPhone software had the effect of slowing down some phones with battery problems, but denied that it had ever done anything to intentionally shorten the life of a product. [nL1N1OK282]
Reporting by Crispian Balmer
On Wednesday, Apple confirmed what many customers have long suspected: The company has been slowing the performance of older iPhones. Apple says it started the practice a year ago, to compensate for battery degradation, rather than push people to upgrade their smartphones faster. But even giving that benefit of the doubt, there are plenty of better ways Apple could have accomplished the same goal without betraying customer trust.
Earlier this week, John Poole, a developer at Geekbench, published a blog post indicating that a change in iOS is slowing down performance on older devices. According to Apple, factors like low charge, cold climates, and natural battery degradation can all affect the performance of its mobile devices, and the company confirmed that this policy was implemented last year to counteract these effects.
As much sense as that explanation may make, Apple could have made plenty of choices that would have benefited consumers instead of penalizing them. These same choices could have also saved the company from the public shaming it suffered this week.
In a statement to WIRED, Apple confirmed Poole’s findings, saying it was purposely slowing down older iPhones to compensate for the effects of age on their batteries. “Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components,” the company says.
While many have speculated that the company has been doing this for years, Apple says the feature was implemented last year for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone SE. Now, with iOS 11.2, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are getting the same treatment, and the company intends to bring other devices into the fold down the road.
Rather than secretly hamstring the iPhone’s CPU, though, Apple could have simply educated users about the limitations of lithium-ion batteries, says Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, a company that sells repair kits and posts repair guides for consumer electronics. While Apple does say in the iPhone user manual that batteries degrade over time and should be replaced, you’d have to dig through a few links outside of the manual to learn that by 500 charge cycles, your phone’s battery will hold a charge of about 80 percent.
Another tactic Apple could employ is selling battery replacement kits to consumers, letting them pop a fresh battery into their aging iPhone. It would be an easily understandable solution to an easily understandable problem, rather than software manipulation that feeds into a long-running, planned obsolescence conspiracy theory. But Apple has actively fought against laws that would require it to provide a way for users to repair their devices. According to a report from HuffPost, Apple argues that allowing consumers to replace the battery could make the iPhone more vulnerable to hacks, and that letting people peek inside would make the iPhone easier to counterfeit.
“Apple won’t sell batteries to consumers, people should be furious about that,” Wiens says. “Your battery is a maintenance item, and everyone should expect to replace their battery fairly frequently.”
Apple does cover one battery replacement under its one-year warranty program, but only for “defective batteries,” a term that isn’t clearly defined on the company’s site. If your phone is out of warranty and you don’t have an AppleCare+ plan, the company offers a battery replacement for $ 79 plus a $ 6.95 shipping charge. The problem, Wiens says, is that Apple doesn’t advertise this policy to consumers, leaving iPhone users to believe that the only solution is to buy a costly iPhone.
Direct battery fixes certainly would have made the most sense. But even allowing that a software tweak was the only way Apple could have proceeded—untrue, but just for argument’s sake—it had a much better option than making its software solution covert.
Rather than quietly push out an update that crimped older iPhones, it should have made that throttling opt-in. As it stands, there’s no way to avoid having your phone slowed down once the battery reaches its limits. By giving users the choice, and giving them the information necessary to make their own decision, Apple could avoid the frustrations many have expressed over the policy.
While making the throttling opt-in could cause performance issues for users who opt-out, it would give users a sense of control over the situation and avoid making them feel like they’re being tricked into buying a new phone. As it stands, Apple’s move comes off as deceptive.
Instead of leaving users confused about why their phones are suddenly slowing to a crawl, Apple could take user education a step further by providing a battery health monitor in the Settings app. That way, an iPhone owner could figure out if the battery is the issue, or if something else is going on.
Lay Down the Law
The damage, unfortunately, is already done. But it’s also unlikely that Apple will behave differently going forward. At the very least, the company almost certainly won’t shift gears and start selling battery replacement kits to consumers. For starters, the iPhone’s casing uses proprietary Pentalobe screws, which make it hard for average users to get inside to swap the battery.
Apple has also lobbied against right-to-repair legislation, which would allow third-party repair shops and typical consumers to more easily fix their broken phones. Proposed right-to-repair laws typically require companies to publish their repair manuals, as well as make the necessary repair tools available for purchase rather than requiring a specialist to make these repairs.
Wiens says that, ideally, right-to-repair legislation would pass and ensure consumers have the ability to fix their devices on their own terms without having to deal with warranties or acquire difficult-to-find tools.
Apple’s throttling is misleading, and it’s far from the best way the company could have handled the situation. Still, lithium-ion batteries are riddled with problems users should be aware of. The company isn’t likely to change its stance on the matter, but if you’ve noticed your iPhone getting slower over the last year, at least you know it wasn’t all in your head—and that a battery fix might bring your iPhone back up to speed.
(Reuters) – Apple Inc has addressed claims from an app company that says the maker of iPhones slows down the performance of older phones.
On Monday, the blog Primate Labs, a company that makes an app for measuring the speed of an iPhone’s processor, published data that appeared to show slower performance in the Apple’s iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 models as they aged.
Apple on Wednesday acknowledged that the company does take some measures to reduce power demands – which can have the effect of slowing the processor – when a phone’s battery is having trouble supplying the peak current that the processor demands.
The problem stems from the fact that all lithium-ion batteries, not just those found in Apple products, degrade and have problems supplying the big bursts as they age and accumulate charging cycles, Apple said in a statement. The problems with peak current draws can also occur when batteries are cold or low on charge.
”Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions,“ Apple said in an emailed statement to Reuters. ”We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.”
When an iPhone’s processor makes a big current draw from a flagging battery, the battery can deliver the current in spikes that can potentially damage the phone’s electronics. As a result, iPhones would suddenly shut down to protect the pricey processor from being damaged by the power spikes.
The sudden shutdown problem became widespread among iPhones in late 2016, forcing Apple to issue a software fix that had the net result of slowing the phone somewhat with an old, cold or low-charged battery, the company said.
The problem can be remedied by replacing the phone’s battery. Apple charges $ 79 to replace batteries not covered under the phone’s warranty. The company has long faced criticism from repair advocates for making its batteries difficult for users to replace on their own.
Reporting by Stephen Nellis; editing by Diane Craft
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is in talks to acquire Shazam Entertainment Ltd, whose software helps users identify songs by pointing their phone at an audio source, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Shazam’s smartphone app is already tightly integrated with Apple’s Siri digital assistant. Users of Apple’s iPhone with the Shazam app installed can say: “Hey Siri, what’s that song?” and the app will identify it. But Shazam has other features, such as the ability to identify television shows, that do not yet work with Siri.
Tech news website TechCrunch reported the talks earlier, writing that Apple could pay about $ 400 million for Shazam and that a deal could be signed as early as next week.
Shazam did not respond to a request for comment.
Privately-held, UK-based Shazam has raised $ 143 million from DN Capital Limited, Institutional Venture Partners, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among others, over its 18-year history, according to PitchBook, a firm that tracks private venture investments.
The price TechCrunch reported would fall far below Shazam’s most recent $ 1 billion valuation reported by PitchBook.
An acquisition of Shazam could help bolster Apple’s music efforts by making it easier for users to find songs and add them to playlists in its Apple Music service. As of mid-2017, Apple Music had 27 million subscribers, behind rival music streaming service Spotify’s 60 million users.
Reporting by Stephen Nellis, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien
LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Dialog Semiconductor said on Monday top customer Apple could build its own power-management chips into future iPhones rather than rely on the Anglo-German chipmaker, sending its shares plunging as much as 19 percent.
The company, which analysts reckon derives more than half of its revenue from Apple, said there was no risk to its existing supply deals in 2018 and it was in the advanced stages of working with Apple on designing “2019-type products” that could lead to commercial contracts by next March.
“Our position remains that we have seen no material change to our ongoing relationship with Apple Inc,” Chief Executive Jalal Bagherli told investors on a conference call.
However, the company acknowledged for the first time that “Apple has the resources and capability to internally design a PMIC and could potentially do so in the next few years.”
PMICs are power-management integrated circuits that are vital to conserve battery life in products like Apple iPhones.
Investors are wary of companies that rely heavily on Apple, which has cut out several small suppliers in the past.
The U.S. technology giant said in April it planned to replace graphics chip supplier Imagination Technologies, sending its shares down 70 percent in a single session. Imagination was subsequently sold off in two separate deals.
The Nikkei business daily last week quoted one source as saying Apple would make about half the iPhone’s power-management chips starting next year, with another source saying this could be delayed to 2019. (s.nikkei.com/2Al5nSl)
Since then, Dialog shares have lost nearly a third of their value. At 1035 GMT, they were down 15.2 percent at 26.47 euros.
Bagherli said Apple’s feedback so far on 2019 product plans had been “very good” and that he expected to have more clarity by March on the terms of new business from Apple for 2019. Dialog would update investors when it had more details, he said.
Semiconductor suppliers are typically barred by Apple from revealing their supply relationships. Dialog, which has previously declined to name Apple, referring to it only obliquely as its “largest customer” or its “main business”, said it had received a special dispensation from Apple to mention it.
Dialog emphasized it “does not have reason to believe its current expectations of 2018 Apple business would be impacted” should Apple decide to design the chips itself.
Dialog, itself heavily reliant on the smartphone industry, said it was aware that in order to remain a key supplier to Apple it would have to continue to meet the U.S. company’s “technology, quality, price and volume expectations”.
The slide in its shares echoed one in April, after Bankhaus Lampe analyst Karsten Iltgen advised investors to sell the stock because Apple was working on its own battery-saving chip. The stock is off more than 40 percent since then.
($ 1 = 0.8434 euros)
Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Potter
The world’s most valuable company crammed a lot into the tablespoon-sized volume of an Apple Watch. There’s GPS, a heart-rate sensor, cellular connectivity, and computing resources that not long ago would have filled a desk-dwelling beige box. The wonder gadget doesn’t have a sphygmomanometer for measuring blood pressure or polysomnographic equipment found in a sleep lab—but thanks to machine learning, it might be able to help with their work.
Research presented at the American Heart Association meeting in Anaheim Monday claims that, when paired with the right machine-learning algorithms, the Apple Watch’s heart-rate sensor and step counter can make a fair prediction of whether a person has high blood pressure or sleep apnea, in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly through the night. Both are common—and commonly undiagnosed—conditions associated with life-threatening problems, including stroke and heart attack.
The new study adds to evidence that the right algorithms might transform the Apple Watch from personal trainer to personal physician. Apple said in September that it is working on a study with Stanford that will test whether the gadget can detect atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, which can lead to stroke or heart failure. A study independent of Apple presented in May has already suggested the answer is yes. And health insurer Aetna said last week that it is partnering with Apple to give Apple Watches to members to try to reduce health costs.
The Apple Watch’s potential to predict high blood pressure and sleep apnea was revealed by a collaboration between University of California San Francisco and a startup called Cardiogram. The company offers an app for organizing heart-rate data from an Apple Watch, and other devices with heart-rate sensors. UCSF provided data from more than 6,000 Apple Watch users enrolled in a study on mobile health. Cardiogram’s founders drew on their previous experience as Google employees, working on speech recognition for Android phones and the Google Assistant.
Cardiogram’s engineers took the kind of artificial neural networks that Google and others use to turn our speech into text and adapted them to interpret heart-rate and step count data. (Like speech, they are signals that vary over time.) The system, dubbed DeepHeart, is given strings of heart-rate and step data from multiple people, and information about their health conditions. In May, the company and UCSF released results showing that DeepHeart could figure out how to predict atrial fibrillation from a person’s Apple Watch data. The study presented Monday shows that with one week of data on a wearer, the algorithms can predict hypertension with roughly 80 percent accuracy, and sleep apnea with about 90 percent accuracy.
Doctors don’t—and probably couldn’t—diagnose high blood pressure or sleep apnea just by eyeballing a week’s worth of data from your smartwatch. They diagnose hypertension by putting that familiar cuff on your arm. Sleep apnea requires a visit to a sleep clinic, or use of home monitoring equipment. So how do Cardiogram’s algorithms make good guesses without directly measuring a person’s blood pressure or breathing? We only sort of know.
Breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure are all connected to our autonomic nervous system, which regulates the unconscious bodily functions that keep us alive. Past research has shown how hypertension and sleep apnea alter the dynamics of heart rate. For example, heart rate variability is lower in people with sleep apnea. But Brandon Ballinger, a Cardiogram cofounder, admits that he doesn’t know all the patterns in a person’s heart rate that his algorithms use to make predictions. “They’re kind of a foreign form of intelligence,” says Ballinger.
Ballinger says that, with the right testing, that doesn’t prevent his alien intelligence from having business potential. Cardiogram’s app for Apple Watch and other devices is free today. But the startup’s business plan is to one day add features that advise a user to be checked for atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, or sleep apnea. To stay on the right side of the FDA, the app would have to advise a person to get tested, and not suggest the person has a particular condition. Cardiogram would make money by offering to ship the necessary equipment for a home test, and billing a person’s health insurer. The app could also provide advice after a diagnosis, or link people to medical practitioners or health coaches, Ballinger says. He predicts some of these features will appear within months.
That plan is plausible, but needs to be proved out. Leslie Saxon, a cardiologist and executive director of the Center for Body Computing at the University of Southern California, says the idea of inferring conditions indirectly from heart rate and step counts needs more testing. “The study is seeing a correlation and that’s important to know, but the value is still unproven for medicine,” she says. Saxon also notes that the Apple Watch’s heart data varies in accuracy depending on how a person wears the device. Cardiogram says it has more research underway, and expects accuracy to improve. There are now about 30,000 people enrolled in Cardiogram’s study with UCSF.
That’s big for a medical study—and perhaps a reflection of people’s readiness for wearables like the Apple Watch to act as medical advisers. Saxon says studies at USC have shown that patients eagerly engage with apps capable of medical-grade measurements. If people are properly educated about what they can do alone, their health care is better managed as a result, she says. Her center’s projects include testing a mobile heart sensor that pairs with a phone or watch made by startup AliveCor. “Patients would much rather self-manage than deal with you, the physician,” says Saxon. “And they’re already on their phone 200 times a day.” If Cardiogram and Saxon are right, medical-grade notifications may soon nestle among those for our Snaps, likes, and texts.
(Reuters) – Wearable device maker Fitbit Inc (FIT.N) on Monday launched its newest device, the Ionic smartwatch, with features ranging from fitness tracking to contactless payment, as it gears up to compete with rivals such as Apple Inc (AAPL.O).
Once the market leader in wearables, Fitbit has recently struggled due to fierce competition and had earlier blamed a shift among consumers toward feature-rich devices and smartwatches for its revenue decline.
Ionic smartwatches will feature GPS, heart rate tracking, water resistance up to 50 meters, Fitbit Pay, on-board music, multiple clock faces and a battery that will last more than 4 days, the company said in a statement.
“Over the coming months you will be able to add eligible American Express cards, as well as Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards from top issuing banks in over 10 markets across the globe,” Fitbit said.
The watch also has a new sensor technology — relative SpO2 sensor — for estimating oxygen levels in the blood that have the potential to track sleep apnea among others.
With a price tag of $ 299.95, Ionic is priced above Apple Watch’s starting price of $ 269.
“Fitbit can take some market share from Apple by appealing to those who are more focused on fitness, however, we do not expect this to be a significant share of Apple’s overall smartwatch sales,” Wedbush Securities analyst Alicia Reese said.
Ionic will be available for pre-sale from Monday on Fitbit’s website and at some online retailers from Tuesday, the company said in a statement.
The company on Monday also launched Aria 2 smart scale and Flyer wireless headphones.
Shares of Fitbit – known for its colorful wristbands that monitor heartrate, track sleeping patterns, count steps and calories – were up 5.9 percent at $ 6.07 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Additional reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta
Peeking inside a book bin at a Seattle Goodwill, Redditor vadermeer caught an interesting, unexpected glimpse into the early days of Apple: a cache of internal memos, progress reports, and legal pad scribbles from 1979 and 1980, just three years into the tech monolith’s company history.
If you visited Apple.com today and noticed something different about the homepage, but couldn’t put your finger on it, it’s not just you. Apple has switched its homepage over to San Francisco; a brand new font the company developed in-house. San Francisco is a radically new development for the company. It emerged in 2015, and is now starting to replace Myriad as Apple’s font of choice. As a condensed sans-serif font, it remains legible on smaller displays (like those found on the Apple Watch) as well as on larger, high-resolution displays. In fact, San Francisco was designed with scalability in mind,…
This story continues at The Next Web
An editor for The Verge took a job with Apple — but didn’t tell his employer.
Chris Ziegler, a founding editor at the tech-focused digital media publication, began working for Apple in July 2016. Ziegler did not tell The Verge, where he had been a deputy editor, and continued to be employed by the website, according to Editor-in-Chief Nilay Patel, who posted a note to The Verge on Friday afternoon.
Patel said that the website had become aware of Ziegler’s dual employment and investigated whether he had been involved in any coverage of his new employer. Strangely, Patel said that the website had not heard from Ziegler in August or September. Read more…