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The Week’s 10 Hottest Apple News Stories, January 23


Apple Daily: ‘Leaked’ 12-Inch MacBook Air, China and Apple, iPhone Activations

It wouldn’t be Friday without a juicy Apple leak or rumor, and, as if on cue, photos of the display and lid of the rumored 12-inch MacBook Air supposedly leaked today. In other news, Tim Cook reportedly agreed to let Chinese officials check Apple products for security flaws, and iPhones accounted for precisely half of all phone activations in the U.S. during the last quarter.

‘Leaked’ Photos Reportedly Show Parts from 12-Inch MacBook Air

Just in time for weekend speculation fun, a set of photos have popped up on iFanr purporting to show the lid and display for the rumored 12-inch MacBook Air. The photos are noticeably less fuzzy than the usual leaked fare, and they helpfully show the parts stacked alongside a 13-inch MacBook Pro and a 9.7-inch iPad for comparison.

There’s some doubt about the authenticity of the photos, however, in that they show that the traditional backlit Apple logo for MacBooks has been traded out for the polished metal logo common to iPads. For its part, iFanr believes Apple might have chucked the widely beloved backlit Apple in favor of making the unit ever so slightly thinner.

Also missing are the gray bezels common to most new MacBook Air models, which means that Apple might be extending the glass to the edges of the unit as seen with the MacBook Pro. That sounds lovely, but it does clash with an earlier rumor that the device would have the familiar gray bezels. Of course, there’s always a good chance that Apple simply changed its mind.

Tim Cook Reportedly Agrees to Let China Search Products for Security Flaws

China’s massive market means a lot to Apple—so much, in fact, that Apple CEO Tim Cook has reportedly agreed to let the country’s officials inspect its products for security flaws, according to The Beijing News (via MacRumors). The officials are supposedly interested in finding “back doors” that would grant the Cupertino company (or anyone else, for that matter) access to private data stored in the units.

Calligraphy exhibit for the upcoming Apple Store in Hangzhou, China.

Lu Wei, director of China’s State Internet Information Office, had expressed concerns last year that Apple might be afforded a window into Chinese state secrets through its devices. Cook assured Wei that this was not the case in a well-publicized visit, but the official apparently wanted to check out the products for himself.

The danger of such a decision is that it might reveal some secrets about how Apple designs its own software, which could in turn lead to leaked knowledge regarding how to exploit the vulnerabilities. But if it means staying in China’s billion-strong market, that’s a chance that Cook’s apparently willing to take.

Half of All Phones Activated in Q4 2014 Were iPhones

Just in case you needed any more proof that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are wildly popular, consider the latest report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partner, which states that Apple accounted for half of all phone activations in the United States for Q4 2014 (via AppleInsider).

“Apple had virtually double the sales of Samsung, and five times that of LG. No other brand accounted for as much as 5% of US sales,” says Josh Lowitz, partner and co-founder of CIRP.

Keep in mind that, at 500, the data sampling is quite small for reaching such sweeping conclusions, and that 86 percent of activations came from consumers who’d upgraded from an earlier iPhone. Still, Apple has certainly accomplished a major feat here, and impressively enough, CIRP reports that 25 percent of new iPhone users were former Samsung users and that 15 percent came from LG phones.

Follow this article’s writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.


Apple Daily: Apple Watch Battery, BlackBerry and Forced App Ports, Apple Salaries

According to a new blog post from BlackBerry’s CEO, the U.S. government needs to force developers to make their apps available across all platforms, and he specifically singles out Apple as representing part of the problem. Elsewhere, there’s new information from “inside sources” regarding the battery life for the upcoming Apple Watch, as well as specifics on how much key Apple executives made last year.

Apple Should Be Forced to Port iMessage to BlackBerry, CEO Says

BlackBerry isn’t taking its slow fall from favor too well. In a blog post published yesterday, BlackBerry CEO John Chen asserts that the U.S. government should support “application/content neutrality” in addition to net neutrality. The upshot of this? Developers would be required to make all apps and content available to all platforms.

Source: UTB Blogs

Chen doesn’t beat around the bush, as he specifically singles out Apple as evidence of the system working against BlackBerry.

“Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple’s iMessage messaging service,” Chen says in his post. “Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them.”

That’s quite the assertion, especially coming from a company that was famously loath to port its BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) service on other platforms until recently.

“Neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet,” Chen goes on to say. “All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer’s mobile operating system.”


Rumor: Apple Targeting 19-Hour Battery Life for Apple Watch

We’re still a few weeks away from the official launch of the Apple Watch, but thanks to the chatty inside sources who hang out with 9to5Mac‘s Mark Gurman, we have a better idea of what to expect from the device’s battery life.

The reports state that Apple’s current version of the Apple Watch offers around 2.5 hours’ worth of processor-intensive activities such as games, 3.5 hours for the continuous use of standard apps, and four hours of active fitness tracking. Apple reportedly wants the device’s mixed usage (i.e., sporadic use punctuated by periods of inactivity) to add up to around 19 hours, but that may not be possible with the first generation.

According to Gurman, Apple had hoped for better numbers, but was unable to attain them even after significant delays to tinker with the battery. That’s unfortunate, as “2.5 to 4 hours of active application use” sounds dismal on paper.

On the bright side, that kind of usage requires staring at your wrist for multiple hours at a time. The Apple Watch (and any kind of watch, really) is designed primarily as an occasional use device, which means that even if it doesn’t reach the targeted 19-hour battery life, it should come reasonably close. And consider this—when the original iPhone came out, Apple only promised five hours’ worth of “talk, video, and browsing.”


Tim Cook Made .2 Million Last Year; Angela Ahrendts Earned Million

Last year was a good year for Apple financially, and it stands to reason that it would be a good year for its executives as well. And boy, according to Apple’s latest SEC filing, was it ever.

Apple CEO Tim Cook raked in .22 million for the year, which came from a .7 million salary and non-equity incentive compensation amounting to 6.7 million. That’s more than double the .3 million in compensation Cook received in 2013.

But Cook’s numbers look almost impoverished compared to the earnings of new Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts, who earned million in cash and stock. Her actual salary was “only” 0,000, but the former Burberry CEO also received a 0,000 bonus and million in Apple stock for her first year with the Cupertino company. That’s a significant step up from the million she was making at Burberry.

The filing also lists salaries from other Apple executives, including Eddy Cue and Jeff Williams, who both made over million all total, and new CFO Luca Maestri, who brought home million.

Follow this article’s writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.


Apple Daily: iPhone’s Gains in South Korea, Apple Buys Musicmetric, Seek XR

In today’s Apple Daily, we learn that Apple’s making some serious inroads into Samsung’s native South Korea. In addition, word just dropped that the Cupertino giant bought a British music analytics company last year (presumably to improve Beats Music), and one of the iPhone’s best thermal imagining attachments gets an upgrade.

Apple Nabs a 33% Smartphone Market Share in Samsung’s Home Turf

Samsung historically (and understandably) has a massive lead in smartphone sales over Apple in its home base of South Korea, but the Cupertino company has been eating away at that dominance with its recent successes. According to the latest report from Counterpoint Research, Apple commanded a full 30 percent of sales in the country last November.

The jump is part of a larger trend that sees Apple finding a new strengths in Asian markets. In Japan, Apple accounted for 51 percent of all smartphone sales in October and November, and the iPhone 6 helped Apple’s smartphone sales in China increase by 45 percent year-over-year. Worldwide, in fact, Apple’s year-over-year iPhone sales grew by 26 percent.

Impressive, but South Korea remains the big news here.

“No foreign brand has gone beyond the 20 percent market share in the history of Korea’s smartphone industry,” says Counterpoint’s Tom Kang. “It has always been dominated by the global smartphone leader, Samsung. But iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have made a difference here, denting the competition’s phablet sales.”

Kang adds that Apple probably would have been even more successful in the region had supplies of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus not been so strained early on.

Apple Acquires Music Analytics Startup Semetric

Apple may have bought Beats with the intention of getting a leg up on the streaming music business, but after dropping a cool billion on Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s company, it’s apparently still not finished forking out more cash to improve the service. Today The Guardian reported that Apple bought British music analytics service Semetric late in 2014, presumably with the intention of improving Beats Music ahead of its rumored relaunch under the iTunes banner later this year.

Semetric is the company behind Musicmetric, which is aimed at helping labels and artists better understand who’s listening to their music and how. Currently, it tracks venues outside of iTunes such as YouTube videos and BitTorrent downloads, but there’s a small chance that might change in Apple’s hands. On the other hand, Musicmetric also analyzes the consumption of films, e-books, games, and TV shows, so Apple might extend the service to cover the full library of its digital offerings.

Currently there’s no word from Apple regarding how much the acquisition cost them, and thus far the company has only released its usual canned statement it shoots out when it acquires smaller companies. Last year, though, Spotify spend 0 million on the similar Echo Nest service, which may point to how much Apple’s pockets were emptied in the wake of the Semetric deal.

Seek XR Brings Optical Zoom to Thermal Imaging in iOS

One of the niftier gadgets for the iPhone is the Seek Thermal attachable infrared camera, which allows you to look at heat signatures from objects like hot water pipes and living creatures (and presumably roleplay as the Predator or Batman from the Arkham Asylum games).

It’s been out since late last year, but it’s been missing a key optical zoom function that would make it ideal for spotting wildlife in the forest or some such. Seek Thermal’s new Seek XR remedies that problem with an optical zoom that reportedly works up to 2,000 feet.

Alas, the long-awaited feature also bumps up the price from 9 for 9, but seeing as how the zoom greatly augments the usefulness of the device, it’s probably well worth it.

Follow this article’s writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.


Apple Daily: Super Bowl XLIX on iOS, Apple Wins Eye Movement Control Patent

Super Bowl XLIX (featuring the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots) is just under two weeks away, and you can watch the whole thing for free if you have an iPad or an iPod touch. On the development front, Apple just won a new patent that should fix a common problem associated with screen navigation based on eye movement.

Watch Super Bowl XLIX on Your iPad/iPod Touch for Free

If you’re a football fan with an iPad or an iPod touch, NBCUniversal has a surprise for you: When Super Bowl XLIX airs on February 1, you can watch the whole thing on either Apple device completely free or charge. And nope, you don’t even need a cable subscription.

The content is available either through NBCSports.com or via the NBC Sports Live Extra app on the iPad or iPod touch. All total, the network’s “Super Stream Sunday” promotion will feature 11 continuous hours of content, including Super Bowl XLIX itself, Katy Perry’s halftime show, the pre- and post-game shows, and an episode of The Blacklist. You won’t even has to provide login information for either venue.

Sorry, (many) iPhone fans — you’re out of luck, unless you’re a Verizon user. Thanks to the NFL’s exclusive smartphone contract with Verizon, the 11 hours of free streaming will only be available on the popular smartphone if you’re signed up with the service provider. Verizon plans to stream Super Bowl content for its users via the NFL Mobile app, which will feature “exclusive in-stadium video content including commercials and replays from four different camera angles.”

Apple Wins Key Patent for Visual Control Technology

Apple has been on a roll lately with noteworthy patents, and today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the Cupertino company a new one pertaining to perfecting technology that lets users control computers or smartphones with eye movements (via AppleInsider).

In this case, the patent specifically covers technology that keeps users from losing track of their cursors when they stare at the screen for a long time. This is called the Troxler Effect (or Troxler’s fading), which causes peripheral objects to seem to disappear when people focus on one element for extended periods. Apple’s new patent (credited to David P. Julian) would bring the cursor back into the user’s line of vision.

The technology seems like it would be best employed by users with disabilities, although the patent specifically mentions vehicles, game consoles, and entertainment systems as possible avenues for use. To see Troxler’s Effect in action, stare at the cross in the image above for more than seven seconds (via Wikipedia).

Follow this article’s writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.


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