Chip-Monks  ⁄  Apple

Apple was founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne  on April 1st, 1976. Well, we all now somewhat about the glorious history of Apple and how it emerged on the Global scene. Be it Steve Jobs’s ambition or Steve Wozniak’s innovations, Apple is a company that has found its place at the top of the industry and it is simply a fact worth admiring, considering that this company started from a garage.

So, what is it that made this company as big as it is today? Extraordinary skill and hard work? The immensely determined vision and ambition? Or a series of chances that were provided and capitalised upon? You can argue that it was a little of everything. This company started to develop and sell personal computers. It was incorporated as Apple Computer, Inc. on January 3, 1977, and was renamed as Apple Inc. on January 9, 2007, to reflect its shifted focus toward consumer electronics. Apple joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average on March 19, 2015.

Success came to Apple with the launch of its Macintosh, which was the first personal computer to be sold without a programming language. Well, a brilliant commercial that was also credited as the single event that gave Apple success, was indeed a masterpiece and it brought to the attention of the masses what Apple had to offer.

With its very first product, it was quite transparent what Apple was all about. Innovation and simplicity and doing what it did the best way it knew how to- these were traits and also are today that have been an integral part of this company’s philosophy and it surely reflects on all its products. For this, it has to be Steve Jobs who should be acknowledged. Apple may have seen a lot of ups and downs and power struggles. But it truly is and will always be Steve Jobs’s company, for it is his vision and work ethic that represent and define this company today, and if you look at it, they are also its biggest selling points.

In a keynote speech at the Macworld Expo that Steve Jobs gave on January 9th, 2007,  announced that Apple Computer, Inc. would thereafter be known as “Apple Inc.”, because the company had shifted its emphasis from computers to consumer electronics. This event also saw the announcement of the iPhone and the Apple TV. The following day, Apple shares hit $97.80, an all-time high at that point. In May, Apple’s share price passed the $100 mark. Apple would achieve widespread success with its iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad products, which introduced innovations in mobile phones, portable music players and personal computers respectively. Furthermore, by early 2007, 800,000 Final Cut Pro users were registered.

The death of Steve Jobs on October 5, 2011 marked the end of an era for Apple. People wondered what Apple would be without him. Apple needed to respond and show to the people that it can still deliver the best devices in the world. And indeed it responded.

From 2011 to 2012, Apple released the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, which featured improved cameras, an “intelligent software assistant” named Siri, and cloud-sourced data with iCloud; the third and fourth generation iPads, which featured Retina displays;  and the iPad Mini, which featured a 7.9-inch screen in contrast to the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen. These launches were successful, with the iPhone 5 (released September 21, 2012) becoming Apple’s biggest iPhone launch with over 2 million pre-orders and sales of 3 million iPads in three days following the launch of the iPad Mini and fourth generation iPad (released November 3, 2012). Apple also released a third-generation 13-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display and new iMac and Mac Mini computers.

With all this new tech, Apple answered all doubts and made a huge statement. A statement that reassured people that Apple still has the same philosophy and it was here to stay.

Apple became the most valuable company in the World and the second biggest manufacturers of phones. Today Apple continues to develop and innovate. Bringing new tech to the market and still being the benchmark to beat in whatever it does.

Apple is good at a lot of things. But it is the best in the business when it comes to innovation. A lot of its devices have been revolutionary in terms of what the world knew and what Apple showed to it that could be done. The iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and the list goes on. Apple is THE innovator of the industry and it continues to innovate, inspire and change the world.

Chip–Monks Recommend

Qualcomm Is Trying To Get iPhone Sales Banned In The U.S., Again.

The ongoing legal turmoil between Apple and Qualcomm is escalating every passing month, and both the parties are trying to hit the other where it could hurt the most.

Initially, angling for a ban on the import of iPhones and iPads, Qualcomm has changed tacks to now induce an outright ban on the sale of iPhones that have already been brought into the U.S.

Qualcomm filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) citing their view that these devices infringe on one or more Qualcomm patents that cover key technologies that drive some features and functionalities on Apple’s devices.

Since iPhones and iPads are all manufactured in China, Apple has to import its devices into the U.S. to sell them in its home country, and that’s exactly where Qualcomm wants to hit Apple. Its not entirely clear exactly which devices Qualcomm is seeking to get banned, but it’s likely that Qualcomm has the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models, and some recent iPads in it’s sights.

What is also most interesting is that Qualcomm has only requested devices running on AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks banned, even though these devices use chips from Intel. So you know, Apple devices on carriers such as Verizon use Qualcomm’s processors, so this move seems like a strike not just against Apple, but also against Qualcomm’s competition, Intel.

Qualcomm has been saying that Apple is in violation of six patents that pertain to extending a device’s battery life while allowing the device to retain certain functionalities.

  • US Patent No 8487658 (2013) – Connects high and low voltage circuits with efficient interfaces, thus allowing the device to be energy efficient.
  • US Patent No 9608675 (2013) – Allows the device to send high speed data while prolonging battery life.
  • US Patent No 8698558 (2014) – Allows the phone to optimize energy when transmitting data, whether it is video, voice or text.
  • US Patent No 8633936 (2014) – Allows the device to offer high performance and rich visuals in gaming.
  • US Patent No 8838949 (2014) – Allows “fleshless boot” which allows the device to connect to the internet after being powered on, thus reducing battery consumption.
  • US Patent No 9535490 (2017) – This enables the applications on the device to transfer data efficiently.

Interestingly, none of the patents are essential to a standard, which translates as Apple is not required to license these, as it is required to do for other patents the two companies are in dispute about.

The current complaint is being filed in both, the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (the same place where the previous complaints were logged).

Qualcomm’s General Counsel, Don Rosenberg said “Qualcomm’s inventions are at the heart of every iPhone and extend well beyond modem technologies or cellular standards”.
He added, “Apple continues to use Qualcomm’s technology while refusing to pay for it”.

It is expected that the complaint will start to be investigated in August, with a trial happening towards the end of the year, or early next year. If a ban is imposed (something that is being considered highly unlikely), it will not happen for the next 18 months.
We must also keep in mind that Qualcomm might not necessarily expect the ban to actually be put in place. It could very well just be another feint so as to attack Apple on multiple grounds, and thus gain leverage.

Truth be told, such escalation was expected in the fight between the two partners-turned-adversaries, that commenced at the beginning of the year.
While it started with the Federal Trade Commission suing Qualcomm for anti-competitive trade practices, it soon took on more ominous form when when Apple filed its own suit for the same.

Since then, the fight has only become clumsier, with Apple now withholding all payments due to Qualcomm, and the latter trying to get the iPhones banned from sale as a response.

Apple claims that the chipmaker is charging “disproportionately high” fees for the use of its patents, and abusing its position as the market leader in smartphone modems.

Qualcomm is not just a chipmaker, it is also one of the primary suppliers of LTE modems, along with a lot of what goes into your phones. They hold a considerable chunk of standard essential patents, which means that if a company wants to make and sell phones, it has to pretty much cut a deal with Qualcomm, at least for the use of the standard essential patents.

As I said before, the ongoing dispute between the two giants is likely to result in a new trend for the industry – which could culminate with the licensees having additional stake over the patented tech, while the patent holders will have lesser “pull” over how much they charge and thus how the industry functions.

Sounds good to me, now that I’ve learnt how much Qualcomm charges, unilaterally at that, and simple correlation yields that you and I ultimately end up paying for those self-servingly over-valued patents!

Meet Cortica: An Israeli AI Company That's Teaching Machines To Observe And Reason, Like Humans Do

An Israeli AI Company Is Giving Machines The Gift Of Sight

The human brain processes all information via electrical impulses. You knew that, right? Well, that is exactly what inspired Igal Raichelgauz, CEO of Cortica, an Israel-based Artificial Intelligence startup. He saw the human brain as an electrical circuit and set out to replicate that circuitry to create an AI-based capability that would endow machines with a similar skill set.

Cortica wanted their AI to have a sight sense on par with that of humans.

And we do indeed have an astonishingly complex sight system – everything you see with your eyes, open receptors in your eyes convert to electrical signals. All that information is transferred by those signals, to a part of your brain which sorts and analyzes the color, depth, shape, and size of all those objects. This data is then received by the cortex – the part that most interests Cortica.

Remember poststructuralism? For those of you who need help with that preface, you only know a table as a table because you see it in relation to a chair. If the chair didn’t exist, how would you know what a table is, what it’s used for?

Something similar happens in your visual cortex. It classifies all the objects you see into different categories by assessing them in relation to all the objects you’ve ever come across.
That’s how you know what you just saw was a bird, or a bottle, or your friend, or anything else.

Sure, you know how little time it takes for our brain to perform the entire process since you experience it every waking moment of your life, but have you ever stopped to wonder, to revel or to acknowledge the sheer speed and processing power behind it?
You know what you saw the moment you saw it. Cortica believes it has reverse engineered this process, replicated the biological visual cortex of humans.

Guess how they achieved that?

They worked on a piece of rat brain, a piece that is still living. Yup, you read that right!
The brain gave them access to the electrical interface of all the neurons contained in that tissue. They were able to understand the input-output process of the neurons. They discovered that with some modifications, a neural network could create a “conceptual signature” – without any prior training. It would be able to recognize similar objects, and differentiate them from others.

Such an AI would be able to learn by itself, much like babies do – by observation and reasoning. While we observe and learn from the world around us, it would do the same from the data available on the web.

This is Cortica’s own, unique approach to what is called ‘unsupervised learning’ within the field of artificial intelligence.

Just so you’re on the same page, there are 3 kinds of machine learning – supervised, unsupervised and semi-supervised.
Supervised learning is when you teach the AI from a pre-determined data set, so you already know the output. This is the most commonly used one.
Unsupervised learning is when you give the AI no prior training, and you tell it to solve the problem with only the necessary input. The output from such an algorithm is unknown. For instance, you want your AI to categorize certain geometrical shapes into matching groups.

If you’re using supervised learning, you would have taught the AI about circles, squares, hexagons etc. before giving it the problem. In unsupervised learning, however, you would teach your AI nothing before asking it to solve the problem. It would see the various shapes, categorize them based on similarity, and give its own label to them. This is a process much more difficult to teach an AI.

Semi-supervised learning falls between these two. The AI would have an incomplete set of reference data, and it would hazard the best possible guess based on the limited data it has, and it’s own abilities to extrapolate the data.

Now do you see the ramifications of what Cortica has achieved? Two words – it’s huge!

But Cortica isn’t completely done yet. There’s still time before the technology enters the consumer industry, but Cortica claims to have created an AI that can see and process information like humans.

So many possibilities!

Self-driving cars have already entered the marketplace. But imagine if they could actually recognize and understand what an object or obstacle ahead of them is. The car would stop by itself if it sees a pedestrian crossing the road, thus preventing many road accidents.
The might be able to recognise accidents on the road and could call for help independently.

Your smart home gadgets would revert to the settings that are specific to you when they see you approaching. An air conditioner could increase the temperature if it sees a child in the room, so they don’t get cold. The refrigerator could detect what groceries are finished up and remind you to get more.

Amazon’s grocery store in Seattle is already automated, but what if it could actually see you? That would even remove the need to even scan the app at the entrance. You could just walk right in and it would recognize you from its database, and be able to process you, and your purchases independently and accurately!

The possibilities are truly endless.

Other AI startups such as DeepMind, RealFace, and Genee have been acquired by Google, Apple, and Microsoft respectively. Would Cortica too become a target to be acquired, or would it be able to hold its own against them? Its technology certainly looks powerful enough.

The world is changing, friends. Get ready to see it differently, soon.

Updated: WhatsApp Withdrawing Support For These Devices

WhatsApp Withdrawing Support For These Devices Post 2016

This might come as bad news to some WhatsApp users, but the world’s foremost messenger application, with over one billion users worldwide has decided to withdraw support for some operating systems and devices on 31st December, 2016.

What this means is that the users of these devices will no longer receive any future software updates on the App thereafter, though WhatsApp will not be blocking services to the devices. So, WhatsApp will continue to run, but won’t get any more jazzy upgrades.

Well, since you are obviously going to be curious as to which these operating systems are, here’s the list that WhatsApp has published:

  • BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10
  • Nokia S40
  • Nokia Symbian S60
  • Android 2.1 and Android 2.2
  • Windows Phone 7.1
  • iPhone 3GS/iOS 6

This does not come as a fresh announcement as it is actually a reminder from their earlier announcement made on their blog back in February of 2016 (around the seventh anniversary of the application). The post had stated: “While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future. This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones using WhatsApp”.

The reasons stated for the withdrawal of support for these devices by the Facebook-owned company are simplified into – they believe that the messenger application and its features have grown far beyond the scope of these operating systems, which can no longer incorporate within them the latest features, in general, or those of security.
The technology over the years has obviously improved drastically, and these older operating systems, even logically speaking, would lack the capacity to withstand the changes.

The WhatsApp announcement post goes further, almost nostalgically explaining: “About 70 percent of smartphones sold at the time had operating systems offered by BlackBerry and Nokia. Mobile operating systems offered by Google, Apple and Microsoft – which account for 99.5 percent of sales today – were on less than 25 percent of mobile devices sold at the time”.

Updates to this Article:

In developing news, however, WhatsApp just launched a video calling feature on its application for all its users. Along with this new feature, it also decided to extend the support for Blackberry and Windows operating systems until July 2017, as of now.

This seems like a move planned as per the market, competing with a number of rivals such as Facebook’s own Messenger, Microsoft’s Skype, Apple’s iMessage, Google’s recently launched Duo, and independent similar applications like Viber, Line, and others.

WhatsApp has a dominant hand in the market, so, it would be wrong to state that WhatsApp is playing catch up with other applications, but what is certain is that WhatsApp is gearing up to retain its position in the market. These latest moves only serve to highlight that intent.

While WhatsApp, back in February, politely requested the users of these older operating systems (and of course, devices) to buy devices running on more recent OS before the end of the year, now, with their latest move they are extending the support for a few of these by six months.

But we don’t think they’re going to be providing any further extensions. So if you’re an avid chatter, on one of the devices on the endangered species list, we recommend you begin saving up and move out soon.

Update (on 8th June, 2017):

The six month extension that Facebook-owned Whatsapp had so zealously provided for the operating systems in concern has now come to an end. As of June 30th, the above mentioned operating systems will no longer receive support for the messenger application. The apps won’t die, they just won’t receive any more updates.

Whatsapp has been making a lot of changes to its ecosystem lately, with talk of bringing in unique features that will allow you to ‘recall’, or ‘edit’ a sent text. and with bringing in features like audio and video calls, stories, and working around the idea of a ‘status’. It is quite clear that Whatsapp is moving towards bringing in more and more features for its users in a crowded market. To keep doing that, it is important for them to invest their energy judiciously. The withdrawal of support for these operating systems is precisely that, a move towards judicious investment of energy.

Update (on June 23rd, 2017)

It seems like the end of life date for BlackBerry OS and Nokia S40 platforms has been pushed back again. WhatsApp, on their website, has reportedly confirmed the extension of its services for BlackBerry and Nokia S40 platforms till December 2017 and December 2018, respectively.

As per a report by Netherlands-based fan website WhatsAppen, WhatsApp for BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry OS7+ recently received an update that extends support for the platforms until December 31, 2017.

As far as support for Nokia S40 platform is concerned, the end-of-life date has been moved from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2018.
This, however, gives a mixed message, given the extension is not being granted to Nokia Symbian S60 platform. There are very limited number of customers who use the Nokia S40 platform, but the news will be a relief to them nonetheless.

Head over to our D-wise Recommendation Section if you need help deciding on your next device!

 

Soon You'll Be Able To Back Your Entire Computer Up To Google Drive

Soon you'll be able to back your entire computer up to Google Drive-correction

Google Drive is gearing up to be the answer to all your data and backup needs.

Soon, Google Drive will be able to automatically backup all the files residing in any folder on your computer that you point it to. The backup would include your computer’s desktop, files residing in your documents and all other possible locations on your computer.

This is a big change as it will mean that will no longer have to place files only in a specific ‘Drive’ folder on your computer, as you need to today.

All of this comes via an app called Backup and Sync. The app is the latest version of Google Drive for Macs and PCs, and is integrated with the Google Photos desktop loader.

From what it sounds like, this new app will replace the currently existing Google Drive app and the Google Photos backup app for computers.

The change, however, is only available to consumer users for now (those who use Google Drive for personal everyday things), and not to business users. Google is recommending that business users who have been using G Suite, for now, stick with the Google Drive for Mac/PC until the new enterprise-focused solution, Drive File Stream, is made available to them.

Drive File Stream will come with another approach altogether, which will allow users to access huge corporate data sets without taking up the equivalent space on their hard drives. The feature will definitely be something that business users will look forward to.

Once the personal version of the app goes live, users will be able to sign into the uploader via their Google Account, and then select which specific folders on their PC or Mac that they want continuously backed up to their Google Drive. It is not yet clear how much more users will be able to do with this expanded storage. The assumption is that users will be able to open and edit some common file types within Drive. It is, however, not clear that users will be able to sync those files back to the computer using the drive as an intermediary.

Another question that arises is that of the storage limit. The expanded backup will quite certainly count towards your Google storage limit too. Given that, the new app will be a quick and easy way to hit the 15 GB data storage limit that free accounts currently enjoy from Google. Users can then rent additional space from Google, which will cost them USD 2 a month for 100 GB, USD 10 for 1 TB, and USD 100 a month for 10 TB.

The new feature is definitely a smart move on Google’s part. It is a handy feature that users have been demanding from Dropbox for a while now.
Dropbox (like the Google Drive) currently required users to save files in a particular folder on their computer for them to back up. Microsoft’s OneDrive is another cloud storage service which lets users automatically back up files from their computers, but even for that users have to save the file in a particular folder, or prompt them to be saved on OneDrive while saving them in the first place.

Google’s new feature is likely to be popular with consumers looking to keep copies of their photo, video and music libraries. Given the ransomware attacks that have not faded from the memory of millions of users around the world, Google’s service might come as a relief to many.

The service was to be available from the 28th of June, but Google has postponed its release, “based on your valuable feedback, we’ve decided to delay the launch of Backup and Sync while we make improvements to the product“.

The service can be expected to be available in a few weeks’ time.

Surprise, Surprise! Apple Is Opening Up It's Secret Repair Machine To Third Party Stores

Surprise Surprise Apple Is Opening Up It is Secret Repair Machine To Third Party Stores

“Hey Siri, I broke the screen on my iPhone. Where can I get it fixed and how long will it take?”

You may well be able to ask Siri that pertinent question and get a surprisingly pleasing response, soon!

Apple’s customers will soon have more choices, and amenable ones, at that, when getting their broken devices repaired.

Apple, in a surprising move, is loosening its grip on “tricky” iPhone repair and allowing owners to get their devices fixed at a place other than the Apple Store.
Apple is reportedly going to do so by bringing its fabled ‘Horizon‘ machines to about 400 third-party repair centers across 25 countries by the end of 2017.

This will come as a big relief for users in certain areas where the density of Apple Stores is not too high, and thus users have to wait a long time for screen replacements and other iPhone-related issues to be fixed.

Apple has always been secretive about its tech, to a point that until now it had never even formally acknowledged the existence of the ‘Horizon’ machine.

What is the Horizon Machine?

Horizon is a machine that is integral to the repair of a damaged iPhone (or iPad). Even though it does not do any actual repairs itself, it is needed to calibrate iPhone display repairs on complex technologies like 3D Touch and home button malfunctions.

What makes this machine more important is that it is only this machine that is authorised to install and implement a replacement fingerprint sensor, as other repair procedures won’t be able to tell the iPhone’s processor to accept the new hardware. If you remember the infamous “Error 53” that had struck iPhones in January 2016, bricking them with no forewarning.

The machine has the ability to access every part of the iPhone. The machine works to calibrate the phone, meaning that it can also connect to iOS itself and potentially give access to proprietary software. Apple has always stated this, claiming that giving such machines to third-party vendors opened up its phones to hacker attacks. Apple now seems to be softening on that position.

Without this machine, smaller stores had been limited in the extent of repair that they could conduct. Such stores were then just collection points, and had to send the device to centralised centres for more extensive (and intensive) repairs.

Bringing the machine to more stores, third party stores specifically, is a surprising move on Apple’s part, as the tech giant has always kept this tech under strict lock and key.

The Cupertino-based giant has been running this decentralisation with a small number of outlets across the world, as a pilot program for about a year now.
One of the chain of stores that was a part of the pilot program is Best Buy, which has had a Horizon machine secretly installed in one of its Miami stores.

Some stores in London, Shanghai, and Singapore were also amongst the early recipients of the machine, in the pilot program.
Another retail chain, ComputerCare, is expected to get the machine in their stores soon.

We’ve been on a quest to expand our reach“, said Brian Naumann, Senior Director of Service Operations at Apple. He also went on to add that one of the reasons that Apple is taking this step is because repair wait times have grown manifolds at some of the company’s busiest retail stores – and has become a major sore-point for the customers, who, of course, want their devices fixed as soon as possible.

Critics have believed that Apple has been so secretive of their repair technology to maintain the revenue stream from the repair of their devices.
While Apple has never disclosed the amount it earns through repairs, but industry analysts place the amount between USD 1-2 billion a year. Considering that the entire smartphone repair business worldwide is estimated to be in the ballpark of USD 5 billion, that is a significant portion of the pie that Apple has been raking in.

In the defense of Apple, however, they got into the repair business just three years ago with the introduction of the iPhone 5. Before that, they would charge a customer with a severely damaged device a “repair fee” and simply replace their device with a refurbished, or new one.

Apple is starting the roll out with machines in around 200 of Apple’s 4,800 authorized service centers over the next few months, including places like Colombia, Norway and South Korea where it doesn’t have a retail presence. The number is expected to double by next year.

We have our fingers crossed for some stores in India to get it too.

Apple's About To Make Roads Safer

Apple patent disables wearables when you are driving

How many of us are scared to send our children out to play because of the fear of accidents? A lot, right?

Well, it stands to good reason. The increase in death statistics owes its majority to car accidents.

Distracted drivers have quick become the bane of the roads. Texting or being on a call while driving have become the two primary reasons for loss of lives – untimely and tragic ends.

Yet, no amount of persuasion, seems to convince some people to let go of this fatal habit.

Now what happens when people don’t willingly let go of bad habits? Some external force usually has to intervene, and in this case, Apple is this becoming the first form of external force that could potentially stop people from using their gadgets while driving.

Apple, per recent news, was granted a patent for “Detecting Controllers in Vehicles Using Wearable Devices”.
Restating in plain English, this patent implies that Apple will use the in-built motion detection features in a device, say an Apple Watch, to determine whether the person is driving the vehicle or not, and if so, the wearable will then automatically regulate the amount of notifications that the driver receives.

The motion sensors gather and feed the information into an associated system, who in turn, figures out the angular velocity of the device. That done, the system establishes if the velocity of the wearer is below the programatically-mandated minimum threshold or not.

If the velocity is below the threshold then the incoming flow of notifications is not affected, but if the velocity level is above the threshold, then the system does a double take – it approximates the direction of gravity of the reporting wearable, as well as the gravity from another device present in the vehicle (which could well be an iPhone, or perhaps another phone). All said, the system then automatically interdicts notifications sent to the wearable as well as the phone.

This new patent can have a positive effect on the drivers who get distracted while driving because of the constant need to keep checking their phones to see if any new notifications have arrived or not.

This is a revolutionary step towards making driving safe along with that it is also a big step  towards protecting and safeguarding the other commuters on the road.

This shows that perhaps we are a step closer towards making our travels safe.

There are two itsy-bitsy downers though – one, we don’t know when this would come to be – since we only know of it as a patent at this stage and can’t estimate the progress that Apple’s actually made in turning this into a real-world product/feature. Also, we aren’t sure if this feature would come to existing Apple products or forthcoming ones.

Second, this feature seems restricted to only Apple devices, we’d don’t yet know how much of cross-platform integration Apple would allow for something it’s patented.

That said, several people have come out in favour of this patent and a lot of us are now eager to see how well they’d put up with the newfound-old solace of driving in silence and (largely) at peace.

The Apple Orchard Is About To Bloom Again.

Apple Is Bringing Radical Changes To Its 2017  iPhone Model Here is Why

For close to ten years, Apple’s iPhone has been one of the torchbearers of the smartphone industry – keeping its consumers at the leading edge of technology, and compelling it’s competition to constantly innovate in order to stay relevant.

Announcements of new iPhone models churn the market with immeasurable excitement – however, over the last four years, the design ethos of the iPhone has seen marginal changes. Thus, while there’s a lot of excitement before the unveil, a lot of it deflates rapidly after Apple’s keynote event.

The only positive of the disappointment is (and I am being extremely brave calling it that), that the world begins holding it’s breath for the next September, and demand becomes pent up all over again.

It’s no different this year. There’s a lot of anticipation, and while the last three years’ disappointment is causing people to be very circumspect with their hopes and desires, however this year, there’s a new ingredient in the mix that is fanning some additional hope.

2017 will mark the tenth anniversary of the iPhone and people are hoping that the American tech giant has been building something truly remarkable and different, in their high-tech cave at Cupertino – in that milestone’s, and Jobs’ honour.

Trade pundits, while cautious, are predicting that Apple will most likely appease the market with substantial design changes on their upcoming iPhone 8 model (we’re assuming that is what it would be called on release, although a simple ‘iPhone’ moniker could well be used instead) as an attempt to woo old consumers and attract new ones.

Well, if there’s a bunch of people even more excitable than customers, it is Trade Pundits. As is always the case at this time of the year, they’ve been watching Apple, it’s supply chain, patent approvals and market acquisitions with an eagle’s eye.
Thanks to their optimism and focus on these telltale signs, a lot of rumours that have been doing the rounds, majority of which have come from credible sources.

More than ten prototypes are said to be under testing, to arrive at a decision for the final design. However, the implication of so many prototypes being considered is that it leaves us outsiders with a whole milieu of possibilities – most of which are wishful thinking on our part.

That said, basis whatever information is available as conjecture, we are listing the most prolific speculations being derived from the river of rumours. Bear in mind though, that none of these have been officially confirmed in any way yet.

  • Although the size of the phone itself might not change, but the screen is set to be bigger. Some rumors are even suggesting that the phone would feature a 5.8 inch display with 5.15 inches of usable area, while the rest of the area would be dedicated to virtual buttons that would replace the ‘Home’ button.
    So there is a possibility that you might have to say your goodbyes to the home button you’ve been using on every one of your iPhones.
  • Many sources are suggesting that Apple aims to minimize the top and bottom bezels, by using more glass (and perhaps a different aspect ratio) that would incorporate the Touch ID and camera features, directly embedded onto the screen.
    The front camera is also expected to be embedded on the display. This is a radical design change, since the last four models; the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone 7 and iPhone SE have had similar body designs.
  • Apple is also said to be working on a phone that is slimmer, and consumes less power. It is rumoured to be using a flexible plastic OLED screen instead of the usual LCD, which not only will cater to the ‘thinning’ of the body width but also provide a display with better contrast ratios and deeper colors.
  • For the body, rumors are suggesting that, much like the iPhone 4, a re-adoption of a glass body is on the agenda. Catcher Technology, a supplier of Apple, said that at least one iPhone model will use an all-glass body, and the glass will sandwich an aluminum or a stainless steel frame. The next iPhone is also expected to have an improved IP68 water resistance rating – better than even that featured on the recent iPhone 7.
  • As far as the camera is concerned, the front camera is set have 3D sensing capabilities which will be an industry-first.
  • Other features like wireless charging, iris-, facial- and gesture-recognition are also expected to be a part of the new design. Though most of these have been rumoured on earlier models too, but have never really come to pass.

Given the fact, that the last three iPhone models have looked nearly identical, consumer sentiment yields a “bored” expression. Thus, the pundits’ assumption that the iPhone’s tenth anniversary would be the perfect environment and time for a major design revamp, holds some water.

In what the Trade Pundits are claiming as another departure from standard practice, they’re saying Apple is going to be releasing three versions of the iPhone this year. The OLED-enabled iPhone 8 could be positioning of the as their top-line ‘premium’ model, towering over two regular-style LCD-equipped models.

Me? I’m holding my verdict at this stage, because I’m reading elsewhere that Apple’s facing some supply-chain issues with some parts, that may actually delay the release of their relaunch vehicle by a few months.

While I’m reading those stories in several channels, I am also reminded of two truths – Apple makes things happen – so if supply chain is holding up release dates, Apple will ensure that roadblocks would be cleared in time for the September launch as it leads up beautifully into the Christmas rush (which is usually Apple’s goldmine i.e. harvesting period). I believe they make more money during Christmas than they do any other time of the year – China and India notwithstanding.

The second truth is that Tim Cook was the person who set up Apple’s supply chain – digging up gold where no one believed any existed, identifying and contracting partners that no one even knew existed. So effective was Cook as a negotiator and so strong are Apple’s contracts, that if there’s any human way to meet timelines, Apple will get there.

So, I still have reason to believe that September will be a fair-weather month. Hang in there folks!

Apple's Hiding Some Brilliant New Tech. Here's A Sneak-Peek!

Image 10

Apple never fails to amaze us. But I think it also takes equal pleasure in confusing us!

Famous for its innovative tech, Apple also continues to earn patents for next-gen tech that industry watchers like us keep reading about, and salivating over- hoping that the next device from Apple carries the latest tidbit we happen to spot.

Keeping that mischievous tradition alive, the next up in the list of “we want” tech is for a recently-granted patent of a woven display!

The U.S. Patent and Trademark office has recently awarded Apple with that patent (filed back in May 2014) which is the result of efforts made by inventors Douglas J. Weber and Teodor Dabov.

So, what is a woven display?

Apple’s patent describes the use of a proprietary method of weaving light transmissive fibres into conventional textiles to get a visual display.

The interesting part is that these fibers would not conduct electricity and thus will not have light of their own, however they’ll be used to carry the luminance being transferred from the source (external LEDs or an external electric base), which will allow them to have varying optical properties.

These light tubes or light pipes as they are currently referred to, are optical waveguides used for transporting or distributing light for the purpose of illumination. Imagine them to be like threads running from one point to another carrying (not creating) signals.

Modern weaving, braiding, and knitting technology will be used along with three-dimensional knitting tools capable of producing flexible fiber band materials, to create fabric materials that would be difficult or impossible to implement using other fabrication technologies.

A schematic diagram of a weaving system that may be used to weave fibers is shown below:

Weaved Fibre

The idea of a woven display leads to a flexible display.

While plenty of other tech firms are working on bendable, flexible and foldable screens, Apple’s approach is novel and it has immense advantages over other innovators’ approaches.

Images made possible through the fibers could prove to be a boon in the sphere of Wearable devices, where the currently-unused surfaces on clothes (like sleeves or cuffs) could be converted to visually capable real-estate! Or it could convert your every-day sports accessories like a wrist band, for example, to act as extended add-ons to your devices.

Wearable flexible display

Isn’t that an amazing prospect!

Apple could perhaps want to kick-start the use of this proprietary technology on their Apple Watch’s bands – allowing them to have capability to display notifications or to show you your heart rate etc.

We grab this hint from the company’s own belief that the strap has so far, not been used to its fullest potential: ”While useful for such purposes, these tethers are generally decorative and serve no useful information providing, or other utilitarian, function other than for aesthetic purposes”.

The woven display for now seems more along the line of basic display of notifications. The notifications could be basic and mimic a digital watch like display, allowing for a passive display of missed calls or messages, exercise data like steps, calories burnt, steps climbed, etc.
This could help save the precious battery power while allowing the wearer access simple data.

This is not new, Alcatel Hero 2 had a snap on front cover which allowed for basic notifications like time, sms and email, just that it was not flexible.

HERO-MagicFlip

Now, with this technology, if this capability can be woven into a flexible cloth like material, the adaptations can be numerous, allowing the wearables to become truly communicative.

Google actually has Project Jacquard, a division within the company’s Advanced Technology and Projects that makes it possible to weave touch- and gesture-interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms.

Jacquard yarn structures combine thin, metallic alloys instead of light transmissive fibers with natural and synthetic yarns like cotton, polyester, or silk, making the yarn strong enough to be woven on any industrial loom. Their conductive yarns with touch and gesture capability can be woven anywhere. This March, they did showcase their collaboration with Levi’s in the form of a jacket, which could be washed.

This has the potential to allows us to transform everyday objects such as clothes and furniture into interactive surfaces. Similar to the tech patented by Apple, Google’s conductive yarn needs to be connected to a base which is the brains, while the conductive patch is an extension allowing the user ease in accessing and interacting with the interface.

Such progressive research that will create flexible screens and adventurous new surfaces will allow us to ingrain technology into our daily lives, making our interaction with technology more tactile and will allow us to consume it seamlessly.

Do read our Radar and Tech ShowCase sections for technology that is going to creep into your lives in the near future!

Apple May Be Surprising Us With It's Strategy For Cars

Apple May Be Surprising Us With It is Strategy For Cars

Apple is like one of those reticent movie stars who prefer to ignore gossip about them, rather than to comment upon the conjecture, to prove it one way or another.

And this mysterious demeanour works for them.

After years of conjecture on the issue, we (the outsiders) might have just caught a lucky break.

Some government documentation has let a little kitten out for the bag about Apple’s self-driving car, that provides the clearest indication yet, that Apple has plans for self-driving cars.

Even though there was no prior news of Apple having filed for a permit, yet the website of the California’s bureau of Driving Motor Vehicles (DMV) reflects that Apple has now received a permit for three Lexus RH 420h luxury hybrid sports utility vehicles to ply on public roads and undergo testing. With this permit, Apple is joining 29 other companies that currently have permits to run test vehicles in California.

The permit also authorizes six drivers to take charge of the vehicles, if necessary, during the course of this testing. In an interesting coincidence, Google too, in its early days, had used Lexus SUVs outfitted with cameras and laser sensors.

The laws for testing self-driving vehicles in California are quite strict, to a point that Uber, back in the day, had actually chosen take it’s vehicles to Arizona for testing instead of waiting for California to acquiesce. Uber did file for the permit and receive it eventually, and now also runs testing vehicles in California.

When we were discussing this internally at Chip-Monks, we realised that this sanction raised two big questions that we needed to find answers to:
One, what it means for Apple’s autonomous car plans, something that Apple has been infuriatingly secretive about, so far, and,
Second, what does it mean for autonomous car market?

The answer to the first of those questions is fairly simple: It means that Apple might finally be ready to reveal what’s it’s been doing in this flavour-of-the-decade industry.

In the past, Apple has been hiring automotive experts, particularly the ones who have experience in the field of self-driving cars. There has also been word that Apple has a project called Project Titan for their autonomous cars, but they have never acknowledged the existence of such a project. This grant of the permit could imply that Apple has made progress with this project and might be now ready to lift the blinds. ‘Might‘ being the key word there, though.

As for the answer to the second of those questions is concerned, that might be a little complicated.

The autonomous car market, at the moment, is working with two primary approaches. While players like Google consider autonomous cars to be a potential new market, where individuals would want to get their own cars, and it becomes another saleable product-revolutionary, yes, but saleable, as well.
They are joined in by brands like Tesla, which has already been making, and selling,self-driving cars, in different stages of automation, for a while now. Companies like Ford and General Motors, already existing automotive brands, view this as an extension of their already existing business.

On the other hand are the likes of Uber, which have an entirely different approach. Their focus is on eliminating the human driver, so that a car can function as a service, which can be availed, anywhere, anytime. So, basically, it will just be another cab, but it won’t need a driver.

Now, the entry of Apple might usher in a third approach – one of not wanting to build its own autonomous automobile, instead focusing on creating the software to enable these “pods”. Such software can be deployed in partnership with existing carmakers. And that is an approach that actually makes quite a lot of sense, for obvious reasons.

Car makers themselves do not have the necessary expertise for the software side of things; and, software makers in turn, do not have any expertise of designing and building cars.
Its an obvious paradigm; you can only be expected to know what you trade in.

Now, instead of expecting the former to walk the talk of the latter, or do the same with the latter, a better idea is to get them to work together.

In simpler words: car makers make cars. Software makers make software. Put the expertise of the two together in harmony, and they will deliver better results.

That said, we are not yet completely sure of what Apple is actually planning to do in this line. Whether Apple actually acts on this and puts some cars on the road is yet to be seen. They’ve been the ones to have bigger plans, and quite secretive ones at that, so the best thing to do is to wait for the coin to land before calling it a head or a tail.

Let’s just wait for the Wheel of Time to turn and see how Apple plays this.

Commission Alleges Qualcomm Kneecapped Samsung's Exynos Chips' Sales

Commission Alleges Qualcomm Kneecapped Samsung Exynos Chips Sales

Qualcomm is super, super, super-huge in it’s domain and even bigger in it’s influence over the smartphone industry. However the one thing it is not, is well-reputed.

The brand seems to be egotistic, almost neurotic when it comes to the control it wants to exert over the industry. I think this perhaps stems from being poor self worth.

Given it’s tech prowess, proprietary advancements and innumerable patents in the world of processors, Qualcomm has become the supplier choice for almost every premium brand out there. But… it’s proclivity to demand and enforce self-serving clauses in the agreements has been noticed by Trade Commission and Courts earlier. Now, it’s in a soup again, for the same self-serving and monopolistic restrictions placed within it’s agreements with Samsung.

Qualcomm has been accused by the Korean Fair Trade Commission of illegally blocking Samsung from selling its Exynos SoCs to third party phone manufacturers. However, no direct action is expected from Samsung against its ‘partner’.

Qualcomm and Samsung have had a symbiotic relationship for a couple of years now. This relationship while beneficial to both, has not really been a friendly one for either of the companies. Yet, given the fact that both these legal entities have leverage over each other, the ‘partnership’ shall remain existent until something of major consequence happens.

To understand why such an accusation has been made by the KFTC, acquainting oneself with a brief history about the relationship between both the companies becomes imperative.

Here is the whole timeline of events leading up to the current relationship

  1. Back in 1993, Samsung had entered into and had signed a patent deal with Qualcomm.
    The deal enabled Samsung to produce System on Chips (SoCs) also called Processors, for its own phones while utilising a number of CDMA patents, but only for its own products.
  2. Being the patentee, Qualcomm was liable to receive an additional licensing fee from Samsung or a third party manufacturer in business with Samsung, if the transaction involved Exynos SoCs.
  3. In 2011, Samsung intended to negotiate new terms with Qualcomm, that would be fair, given the fact that the patent deal was signed 18 years back.
  4. In 2013, talks between both the companies broke down.
  5. The same year, the Korean FTC started its antitrust probe against Qualcomm
  6. Then in 2015, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 received rampant complaints of overheating from smaller manufacturers. Samsung devices also used the same processor, but on the contrary had its own foundry, and decided to use its indigenous Exynos 7420 instead of the Snapdragon 810. Giving Samsung leverage against Qualcomm
  7. Qualcomm agreed to let Samsung’s foundry manufacture its subsequent Snapdragon SoCs presumably in exchange for a commitment that both Snapdragon and Exynos chips would be used in Samsung devices.
  8. December 2016, Qualcomm was fined USD 865 million for violating the antitrust law for charging royalty rates on phones rather than SoCs, not negotiating proper license terms and coercing customers to sign patent licenses while not paying fairly for patents held by other phone manufacturers.
  9. Then in March 2017, Qualcomm was accused by the Korean Fair Trade Commission of blocking Samsung from selling its Exynos chips to other manufacturers with the 1993 patent deal.

Qualcomm is currently appealing the fine, and it seems unlikely that Samsung will take any direct action against it for the Exynos sales to third party OEMs.
This might however change, if the regulators bring down the 1993 deal, leaving Samsung with the opportunity to sell Exynos processors to other smartphones without the risk of compensating Qualcomm with a high licensing fee.

Samsung might even turn into a strong competitor, on par with MediaTek, given the fact that it could add other components like memory chips and displays to the SoCs, which Qualcomm would not be able to match.

Why wouldn’t Samsung want to take direct action against Qualcomm?

As mentioned before, Qualcomm had agreed to let Samsung use both the Snapdragon (a Qualcomm product)  and Exynos (a Samsung product) SoCs in its devices. In case Samsung decides to stop using Snapdragon processors while using only the Exynos processors, Samsung would be costing its foundry its Snapdragon orders. Both, stock and flow of Snapdragon orders, would instigate unnecessary revenue cuts.
Given the fact that Samsung’s growth in mobile devices has been stagnant, this would be a business blunder.

The relationship remains symbiotic between these two companies, but any aggressive move is unlikely to be made by Samsung unless the 1993 patent deal is struck down. On the contrary Qualcomm’s reputation has been declining significantly given the fact that Apple, a longtime customer is suing it too, for lop-sided licensing agreements, along with many other smaller manufacturers.

There’s no other way to say this – Qualcomm needs to get real. The world today doesn’t suffer autocracy too well – and while Qualcomm may be whistling it’s way to the bank for now, however given that Apple, Samsung, MediaTek and Intel are all investing hugely in devising newer (and often better) chips of their own, Qualcomm may just have to use these agreements as packaging paper in a few years. With the Internet of Things well on it’s way, and Automobile Automation being the big ticket for the next decade, this mayn’t be the best time for Qualcomm to play the my-way-or-the-highway card.

It might just find itself on a rather desolate, lonely and barren stretch of road, with no place to go.

Alphabet’s Verily Launches Study Watch - A Health-Focused Smartwatch

Alphabet Verily Launches Study Watch - A Health-Focused Smartwatch

The market for body mappers and health readers has been increasing steadily – especially in the hospitality and fitness industries around the world.

Well, where there are customers – and customer data – Alphabet (née Google) can’t be far away.

Verily, the life sciences business division of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), has developed a smartwatch that can passively capture health data for medical uses.
According to the Verily’s official blog post, the device can track signals related to cardiovascular, movement and other medical data points.

The study watch measures ECG and electrodermal activity to gather loads of big data for analysis, which provide further insights into a person’s health conditions.

The Study Watch, as it is called, uses a two-point ECG – one source is the watch on the wrist while the other source is created when the user touches the metal bezel of the watch with his other hand.

Clearly, this is no run-of-the-mill smartwatch with some basic additional functionalities. It is clearly a medical tool.

As mentioned on Verily’s blog post, the architecture of the Study Watch was made specifically for high quality usage and seamless signal usage.
The company mentioned that the watch would be used in a Baseline Study – a Verily project that is aimed at establishing what a healthy human looks like, and also be used in the Personalised Parkinson’s Project, a multi-year study to identify patterns in the progression of Parkinson’s disease, giving way to a more personalised treatment.

The watch, unlike it’s distant cousins in the market, isn’t bulky and the processor that being used can easily manage and encrypt the data generated by the user.

That said, one of the major concerns with all smartwatches has been their battery life. With the Study Watch though, the company promises a week-long battery life for the device and also enough storage for the device to keep weeks’ worth of raw data, eliminating the need for continuous cloud sync.

The watch also has the capability of getting Over the Air updates, which indicates that the interface might change over time. The only catch is that this state-of-the-art device is not for sale. It’ll be given out to participants who will be participating in Verily’s medical studies.

Tech companies are usually not trusted to manage health data and their efforts at consumer health products or apps have garnered little or no interest at all. That’s primarily because the “health” capabilities of most wearables and trackers has been awash with basic gimmicky stuff only shoehorned into them, to justify their very existence (and to provide some form of superiority over smartphones).

There are a few commercial predecessors to the Study Watch, and the most important one being the FitBit Charge HR. This device is capable of monitoring the heart rate, the amount of calories burnt, the number of steps taken and much more, but without the uncomfortable chest strap.
The Garmin Vivo Smart HR+ also does the same stuff, but is a pricier variant of the FitBit.

Apple’s Watch is the only one that has somewhat caught the fancy of the masses. It does things well, including measuring heart rate – in fact, some instances were reported where the watch tipped off users about health emergencies after obtaining unusual readings.

But no company till date was ready to say that the watch could diagnose any diseases, and Alphabet may be a little ahead in the game with their Study Watch.

The Indian Market

India has been the target for all international companies, as Indian users amount to a considerable size of the global smart device sales. The Indian community is a growing digital market and could prove to be a valuable ground for some smart device companies – firstly because of the tech savvy Indian youth, and secondly due to the governments “go digital” idea.

Will the Study Watch catch on? Well, considering it’s not a retail product, it’s reach will be limited to the market of serious users. That said, Epi Pens, Diabetes tests (Glucometers), even pregnancy tests and other such home-use medical tools are a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone! Imagine the potential that the Study Watch has, if provided economically and promoted empathetically to India’s 1.3 billion population…

Alphabet’s going to have to play this smart – and knowing them, as well as we do, they will.

New Chefs In The Apple Health Kitchen: Diabetes Specialists

Apple hires secret team for treating diabetes

Apple has recently hired a bunch of biomedical engineers as a part of what seems to be a secret mission to fight diabetes. As initially envisioned by late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, this would be an R&D program to develop sensors to fight diabetes, by monitoring glucose levels.

While the company has for now declined to make a statement in this regard, many people supposedly familiar with the matter have come forward to share their “knowledge”.

The team is said to work at a nondescript office in Palo Alto, California, in close proximity to the Silicon Valley headquarters. While we do not know the details of the project yet, we do believe this is an adventure to create ‘breakthrough’ wearable devices that detect the disease and monitor blood-sugar levels.

The reason that this could prove to be instrumental in the field of medicine is because up until now it is impossible to monitor sugar levels without breaking through the skin. Electronic diabetes detection devices have proven to be lifesavers for the hundreds of millions of people who are affected by the ailment, but all of them require plucking through the skin to get blood, to discern the sugar level.

There is a cemetery full of efforts to measure glucose in a non-invasive way“, said DexCom chief executive Terrance Gregg, whose firm is known for minimally invasive blood-sugar techniques. “To succeed would require several hundred million dollars or even a billion dollars“.

What Apple has is much more than that, so it may well be investing some of it to solve this biggie.

Reports state that about 30 people are working on this project now, and the project has been in folds for about five years now. Reports also state that the team has been carrying out clinical trials in San Francisco, the results of which have not been revealed yet.
In addition, they have also reportedly hired consultants to look into the rules and regulations around bringing such a product to market.

For those of you who might be a little surprised, Apple, yes, the makers of the iPhone and the iPad, also have a secret workshop that they have had running for a while now. In this R&D workshop, they have been known to work on many non-phone related products, most of which are experimental for now.

This speaks to the larger Silicon Valley trend that Google, Microsoft, Facebook and the likes have also been feeding into, through their R&D divisions. From Artificial Intelligence, to automated cars, to technology that works with medicine – they’ve got a lot going on in their backyards.

The news of the project comes at a time when the line between pharmaceuticals and technology seems to be blurring, and quite fast. While on the one hand, you have scientists detecting rare genetic disorders wth facial recognition technology, on the other you have Elon Musk’s Neuralink that plans to work on the much risky uncharted territory of the brain.

The approach most companies are taking is of combining biology, software, and hardware,  to tackle chronic diseases using high-tech devices. This has led to the jump-start of a novel field of medicine called bioelectronics, and it’s gratifying to see that Apple is not the only player in the game on this one.

It was last year that another biggie came into the scene when GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Google’s parent Alphabet Inc. joined hands and unveiled a company aimed at making bioelectronic devices to fight illness by attaching to individual nerves. U.S. biotech firms Setpoint Medical and EnteroMedics have already shown that strides can be made with bioelectronics in treating rheumatoid arthritis and suppressing appetite in the obese. Medtronic Plc., Proteus Digital Technology, Sanofi SA, and Biogen Inc., are others that are playing in the field, trying to make a mark in this extremely interesting field.

Specifically, in the field of diabetes, Virta is a fairly new startup, which is working on tackling type 2 diabetes, to completely cure patients by remotely monitoring behavior. Livongo Health is another startup, which has recently raised about USD 52 million to launch its blood sugar monitoring product. Alphabet too is involved, via it’s subsidiary Verily who’s tried to tackle this big one with a smart contact lens that measures blood glucose levels through the eye, but that has not proven to be quite successful yet.

While we don’t know exactly what the shape of Apple’s project is, for now, yet it does seem to fit into the bigger vision of the company that Steve Jobs famously dreamed. Jobs believed Apple would one day be at the intersection of technology and biology, and making this happen would be a perfect manifestation of the same.

They are already halfway there with the Apple Watch which counts calories, and steps, takes heart rate, and other biological measures. Add this, and voila!

Siri, All Set To Tap Into iMessage And iCloud For The New 2017 iPhone Model

Siri, All Set To Tap Into iMessage And iCloud For The New 2017 iPhone Model

If you’ve been keeping up with the rumours and talks about Apple’s upcoming 2017 iPhone, you’d have read our articles about the new iPhone model’s larger OLED screen or the introduction of Augmented Reality as a prime feature on their next salvo.

But behind all the fuss around both hardware innovations, is a forgotten hero.

The software that’s going to power it all. An upgraded iOS has been released alongside every major iPhone revamp, till date. No one understands the criticality of an improved and energised software platform, better than Apple.

So, expect iOS 11, people. Not only is iOS the primary bond that has retained Apple consumers, and refrained them from shifting to a competing operating system, it has also been the very bedrock of Apple’s own growth and prosperity.

You may not have caught it so far, but patents have recently been awarded to Apple, that primarily focus on a revitalised Virtual Assistant feature – clearly hinting at a significant revamp of the iOS and how it’s next avatar will function.

Well, the patent which is for a “Virtual Assistant In A Communication Session”, lays out the basic fundamentals of the new journey. Siri, will most likely be integrated into iMessage and iCloud – which is a monumental change, much like that of the rumoured AR introduction.

The virtual assistant would be able to respond to queries made inside an iMessage chat. But does that mean that Apple will be listening in on your personal conversations?

No.

iMessage already is end-to-end encrypted and it is highly unlikely that Apple would compromise on user privacy for the sake of bringing Siri to iMessage.

To protect the privacy of its consumers, typically, Apple has made it quite transparent in their patent that members of an iMessage chat would be notified that at least one of them is using the Siri assistant within the chat session. And that the users would be privy to, and would be the authorizing party that would censor what personal data Siri can access.

On top of that, Apple is also planning on allowing Siri to make payments on behalf of the user, by choosing the suitable payment app when the user asks Siri to do so during the iMessage session. Users can currently make PayPal payments using Siri, but not while accessing iMessage. The transaction would have to be authorized using the Touch ID. This peer-to-peer payment system riding on an already end-to-end encrypted messaging session would be an impressive addition to the features already being rumoured for the next iPhone(s).

The extent of Siri’s reach might not just be limited up to the iMessage, but might even gain enough powers over the iCloud to access data from any other Apple device the user owns. Using the Apple ID, the information from the user’s devices would be derived and the necessary action and responses would be offered to devices across the operating system including the Mac, iPhone and even an iPad.

But here is the value judgement that you or any other Apple user/enthusiast should make.

Google has already beaten Apple to the stadium as its Google Allo app already provides similar services. The only difference is the fact that Allo isn’t encrypted simply because features like Google Assistant tap into a user’s data to provide its services and Allo needs to communicate with Google’s servers to cater to all the requirements of the consumers.

The decision will always remain subjective, dependent on the dilemma of choosing between privacy and being the first mover.

Irrespective of that choice, the upcoming iPhone seems to be destined to become an immensely powerful ace – backed by significant changes in hardware, software and the very ecosystem supporting it.

The only thing that might hurt it’s trajectory is if we’ve been hoping too hard, and reading too much into the rumours/conjectures and dreaming up a device that Apple isn’t going to launch come September!

There’s nothing worse than wishes that crash against the rock of reality, is there? And yet, Apple won’t be to blame, because they never said they were going to wow us. We just fervently, hopelessly and oh-so-desperately want them to!

Phone Brands Shifting Focus To Brick And Mortar Stores In India - Here's Why

Phone Brands Shifting Focus To Brick And Mortal Stores In India - Here Why

The differences in the prices of smartphones between online and offline stores are expected to diminish soon, with the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) – which is due to roll out on July 1.

In preparation of this transition, smartphone companies such as Asus, InFocus, Xiaomi, Motorola, ZTE and Huawei have had to come up with a new and more efficient strategy to retain the demand for their smartphones, in the offline market.

Currently, when you buy a device online, you find it at least a couple thousand bucks cheaper than you would in a neighborhood store. For brands like Xiaomi, and Motorola, that have majorly stuck to online stores so far, this plays into their court; they already have comparatively lower prices, and they can sell their devices at a lower tax rate online.

Presently, online sellers based in areas like Bengaluru and Hyderabad sell smartphones at a lower VAT (Value Added Tax) i.e. 5%, than those who are based in locations where the VAT% on smartphone devices are much higher (usually in the 10-15% range).
The national average is about 12%.

It is this imbalance in the VAT levied, that will soon become uniform across the nation via the GST since it is a national tax, and not a state-drive one.

So, even though these brands have off and on, been working on their offline sales strategies, to sell to the larger group of Indians that are not online, their focus has been the urban educated buyer who is already online. A change in this focus seems around the corner now, but the reason might not necessarily be a want for further expansion into the market; the reason this time is the need to get a better grip on the offline market before the playing field is leveled.

These brands have chalked out some novel plans of action to enhance the sale of their devices in India’s challenging market. Direct distribution, a partnership with large-format retail, building separate models for the offline market, putting together their own stores, expanding marketing expenditure – are some of the ways in which the smartphone makers are planning their extension.

There is a scramble amongst online smartphone brands to expand into offline retail. While a couple of brands like Xiaomi and Huawei are intensifying efforts, most others are making fresh attempts. With GST, the value added tax (VAT) advantage, which the online sellers enjoy, will disappear completely, making online and offline a much more level playing field”, announced cellphone retail chain Hotspot’s director, Subhasish Mohanty.

With the new approach that the brands are gearing up to adopt, they would directly sell the smartphone to the retail stores – not just any retail stores though – only stores that they have collaborated with.

Xiaomi, for the same, has recently collaborated with four of the major South Indian retail stores, namely, Sangeetha, Poorvika, BigC and LOT. The Chinese budget brand also plans to set up self-owned Mi Home stores in India, just like the ones they have in China.

Asus is another Chinese brand that has mostly had an online presence in the country so far, and is now planning on expanding into the offline market.
InFocus, a Foxconn-owned brand, which plans to invest big money in offline trade and marketing replicating the strategy of Chinese rivals, Oppo and Vivo, too, is re-launching its offline business and building a portfolio of models.
ZTE is also going into offline expansion, including expansion into smaller towns, and so is Huawei.

These changes are going to be interesting not just for the smartphones they bring, but also for the Indian e-commerce market, given that the business of smartphones is quite a chunk of it. It is because of that, that companies such as Amazon and Flipkart are drawing up plans to foray into the offline distribution of smartphones for brands like Coolpad, OnePlus and Lenovo.

This, altogether, could be an interesting change in the smartphone world. Bigger brands such as Samsung, LG, HTC etc., already sell through their offline stores heavily in India. Even Apple has third party reseller stores in the country and is soon opening up its own stores.

Thus, these “economical” brands might find it difficult to sink their teeth in to a market that is already quite populated, and to an extent, these brands may be outclassed by the larger ones.

On the other hand, they might also be welcomed open armed, given how well they’ve done through their online channels so far.

The Galaxy Note 8 - Leaked Already?

Check Out What Might Be A First Look At The Galaxy Note 8

A year back when the Galaxy Note7 was released, it was touted as a revolution in the smartphone market. However, with issues pertaining to batteries that would heat up very quickly coupled with some phones burning or even exploding, it turned out to be a tough year for the Korean electronics giant.

With the scheduled release of the new Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ backed by the assurances of a healthy battery along with each unit of the products put for sale in the market, Samsung has managed to regain its ground, at least when it came to creating a hype in the market.

But perhaps what is really getting the market riled up is an alleged leaked image of the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 which is poised to release around September this year. The image gives us an idea of how it might look – and going by the alleged “leaks” the Note 8 does not seem to have too many visible differences from the Galaxy S8 or S8+.
The sole reason for coining it as a possible Note 8 is the fact that an S Pen can be seen lying beside the phone in the leaked image.

What the leaked image has managed to do is, set the fuse for speculation and guesswork (oops! pun not intended!!). Given the fact that the Note 8 has to both be physically and virtually different from the S8 duo, here are a few features that might define the Note 8’s exclusivity:

  • Larger Display Screen: The Galaxy S8+ has a 6.2 inch super AMOLED screen. This means that the Note 8 must either match or excel on the features provided by the S8+. It is widely being conjectured that the Note 8 would have a 6.4-inch display screen with a 4K resolution, working with an S Pen stylus.
  • Repositioned Finger Print Sensor: Those who’ve got their hands on the S8 have often complained about the finger print sensor being very close to the rear facing camera and being a little difficult to reach when using the phone one-handed.
    The proximity to the rear faced camera has also often caused smudging on the lens. The Galaxy Note 8 might just position the sensor to the centre of the rear plate.
  • Specification upgrades: The Note 8 might sport a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. Given Samsung’s deal with Qualcomm it would be economical for Samsung to continue with the same processor, coupled with the fact that the processor is new and very efficient.
    A 6 GB RAM device is expected along with a storage capacity between 64 GB to 256 GB
  • Camera: A dual lens camera is expected on the Note 8. Samsung’s camera picks are always high up on the ladder. The camera should capture more photons and a better low light performance in order to stand out from the pack. 3D-mapping and distance measurements might also feature as a bid to combat the iPhone 8’s supposed features. The notable difference being the use of Virtual Reality, instead of Apple’s rumoured use of Augmented Reality on the upcoming iPhone.
  • Bixby: Samsung’s virtual personal assistant is set to feature on the new phone. There are some apprehensions about it and its ability to match up to Siri’s capabilities, but Samsung might just hit it out of the part against all expectations.

Overall, the Galaxy Note 8 would need to be solid package if it has to tear people away from the Galaxy S8+ and the iPhone 8, not to mention the Xiaomi Mi 6 and the such like.

On paper, basis the leaks and our conjecture above, the Note 8 does look like, a reliable, sporty and sleek phone that would certainly be worth buying. The only issue that can be foreseen is that the iPhone 8 might overshadow the Note 8 given the proximity of its release dates.

The features of the iPhone 8 ‘seem’ far ‘better’, however, do keep in mind, that neither of the phones have any official creds from their respective manufacturers yet. Also, that the Note 8 has generally been slightly cheaper than the iPhone, it might eke a little bit of headroom there.

We’re all going to have to wait on this one, to see how much Samsung is able to bring to the party, before we can really establish if the Note 8 has enough going for it to swing the deal.

BlackBerry Is Getting A Huge Refund From Qualcomm After A Royalty Dispute

BlackBerry is getting a huge refund from Qualcomm after a royalty dispute

Qualcomm, the chipset maker, is set to return nearly USD 815 million to the Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry. This hard bargain from Qualcomm comes as a return on the royalties overpaid by BlackBerry between 2010 and 2015.

The dispute between the two has been over royalties BlackBerry paid in advance to Qualcomm. These royalties were seemingly for use of Qualcomm parts or patents used in BlackBerry smartphones. While BlackBerry’s argument is that that there was supposed to be a cap on those royalty payments, which was not applied at the time, Qualcomm is saying that BlackBerry’s payments were supposed to be non-refundable. In addition to the base amount, Qualcomm will also be paying BlackBerry an interest and the attorney fee.

The facts of the primary royalty deal between the two are not clear. But what is quite clear is that Qualcomm seems to just be tired of all that is going on with it lately. Qualcomm’s global business has been taking a lot of hits, with lawsuits and allegations, and it finds itself in a position where it is now working on self-preservation.

The decision, for a change, was not made in court but reached upon by the two parties in mutual agreement. While Qualcomm has made it clear that it does not agree with the agreement, it seems to be going ahead anyway, perhaps only to make the matter go away.

There have been a lot of similar matters that Qualcomm has been dealing with recently.

Their much-heated multi-country and multi-lawsuit battle with Apple, of course, deserves a mention. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also in binds with Qualcomm for alleged anti-competitive practices involving its licensing agreements. There’s even a matter of a commission finding Qualcomm’s “prenup” agreements to be unfair especially with agreements signed almost 20 years ago with Samsung.

Issues of this kind have lately been turning into a bigger and bigger problem for Qualcomm. While most of us know them for their chipsets in our devices, a major chunk of Qualcomm’s business is licensing patents. If issues of this kind keep creeping up, the latter might keep taking hit, or worse, might be in danger of something bigger.

We are not yet clear on how much of the Apple scene, or the FTC scene, actually feeds into Qualcomm’s battle with BlackBerry, but we can certainly say that this new deal is a hit to their global patents business.

Apple Disavowing 32-Bit Apps - Starting iOS 11

Apple Disavowing 32-Bit Apps - Starting iOS 11

As we’d said back in September 2016 and even earlier in April 2016, Apple has embarked on a very serious mission – that of cleaning up it’s App Store, and by extension, improving the quality of the apps in it.

Clearly, user experience – with the Store and with iDevices, is at the core of this mission. It may not be apparent to you, but as Facebook’s app had proved, apps do far more on the device than they let on, and it is to mitigate such negative impact that Apple is taking a significant step to force developers to improve the quality of their wares, and by extension, your experience with your device.

iOS app developers have been intimated that Apple is about to completely pull support for 32-bit apps in a few months. Believed to be the bedrock of the upcoming iOS 11, Apple is moving to only allowing 64-bit apps on the Store.

This is obviously not a newfangled plan. Apple has been gradually working to this end over the last few years. This year it will take a complete and clean break from all 32-bit iOS apps which will affect approximately 200,000 apps – uprooting them from the Store, unless they are updated.

A Quick Rundown On Apple’s Move to 64-bit iPhones

Launched in September 2013, iPhone 5s was the first iDevice with a 64-bit processor. After the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple discontinued iPhone 4S, so the iPhone 5C was technically their last 32-bit iPhone.

In February 2015, Apple made it mandatory for all new apps to have 64-bit support. You can see where they were going with this – slowly integrating all their hardware and software with 64-bit support. With the announcement of the iPhone 6s and 6s plus in September 2015, Apple withdrew all their 32-bit devices.

To get their Developer ranks moving to adopt the 64-bit way of line, since 2016, Apple even began inserting warning notes on each App’s detail page (on their App Store) – “This app will not work with future versions of iOS. The developer of this app needs to update it to improve its compatibility”.

Many developers read the writing on the wall and began upgrading their wares. But not all.

So Apple’s now upped the ante – with iOS 11 coming out sometime around September, the mandate is that Apple will only support the 64-bit apps.

If you’re wondering how this will be benefit Apple, even though they might lose many apps – well, there’s a fairly simple answer.

64-bit CPUs can process data quicker than their 32-bit counterparts, in addition to using RAM more productively. If a code is written specifically for a 64-bit CPU, a 32-bit CPU won’t be able to run it. On the other hand, while 64-bit CPUs are compatible with 32-bit software, the performance efficiency that is a part of the 64-bit processor is lost due to emulation. So by removing all 32-bit software, Apple is essentially improving the performance quality on its products.

Apple’s complete control of their hardware as well as their software and App Store puts them in a unique position to be able to run such heave-ho’s. And there’s good reason.

Besides filtering out their app store of all the abandoned apps, it will also free up some storage space on your devices, and you’d be able to get better experiences, more suited to the hardware that you’ve invested in. What’s the point in driving your super car in second gear?

 

You the hardship to Developers aside, there are plenty of reasons why this move is good for you and me.

Apple To Explain Why Decrypting iPhones Would Be “Unduly Burdensome”

Apple to explain why decrypting iPhones would be unduly burdensome

It does not take much effort to make a legal case interesting and popular. Just add the name ‘Apple’ to it.

You’d recall, in a recent case against Apple, the FBI had demanded Apple provide a backdoor to all encryption. FBI’s Director, James Comey who is clearly in favour to backdoor encryption, now says (and believes) that it can be done “without disregarding safety”.

The administration as well as the Congress decided to go against the move and thus Apple was able to ward off the pressure of being forced to unlock and decrypt the iPhone.

But, Apple is yet to explain why decrypting iPhones is “unduly burdensome”.

Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York wants to bring forth the issue of privacy against law enforcement in the domain of debate.

But the judiciary is divided.

He’s clearly a judge who is interested in opening topics to discussion in the judiciary, but he also thinks the larger public should know about the debate” said Brian Owsley, a former Magistrate Judge in Texas who had issued rulings that heightened privacy protections for the government’s use of cellphone-tracking devices.

The presiding Judge in the case, Judge Gabriel Gorenstein, who’s dealt with a case resembling the current situation (in 2005), is challenging Comey’s desire to use the 1789 All Writs Act so as to emerge victorious in 2015 encryption issue.

Despite such support, Apple is still having a hard time dealing with law enforcement agencies as they are unconvinced with Apple’s plea regarding the inviolability of the iPhone’s security.
The company has gone on record, saying that it literally has no way of getting a hold of the encryption key which is required to access a user’s data.
If the government laid a subpoena on us to get your iMessages, we can’t provide it. It’s encrypted and we don’t have the key”.

Despite this and other logical arguments, including the right to privacy, FBI’s James Comey continues to maintain his opposition
The notion that we would market devices that would allow someone to place themselves beyond the law, troubles me a lot. As a country, I don’t know why we would want to put people beyond the law”.

Accusations, arguments are being thrown back and forth. Manhattan’s District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr, suggested that the iPhone would soon be “the terrorists’ communication device of choice”, underlining the danger of the infallible security features like iPhone encryption.

Apple, on the other hand, tries to elucidate the danger of sacrificing such features. Building in a backdoor would mean making it vulnerable to cyber attacks.

The NY Times said it best,
The Obama administration has backed down in its bitter dispute with Silicon Valley over the encryption of data on iPhones and other digital devices, concluding that it is not possible to give American law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to that information without also creating an opening that China, Russia, cybercriminals and terrorists could exploit”.

All that said and done, if one takes an impartial view of the matter, both sides are correct in their own right – there’s need of privacy, and there’s the threat of mal intent. And America of all countries of the world, faces the maximum acts borne of that malice, year after year.

So while I can’t pretend I don’t see the chance of misuse of backdoors, I (like the rest of the world, including Apple and the FBI) also can’t see a viable middle path – one that I can think of being used conscionably. Oh, NSA, what have you done?!

Apple AirPod Cases To Become Portable Chargers In Another Pioneering Move

Apple AirPod Cases To Become Portable Chargers In Another Pioneering Move New

Apple has proven itself to be a true master of innovation time and again. So many new concepts were first introduced to us by Apple, such as the iPhone, the Mac, iPads, and more – even the icons we see on our PCs seem inspired from Apple’s design principles. The smartphones and tablets we use on a day to day basis now would never have made their way to us if not for Apple’s iDevices entering the market. And not to forget, removing the headphone jack from their phones is another pioneering move by Apple.

They’re not about to ever let us forget just how creative, resourceful and original they are; but they’re so well tuned into consumer needs, that they cannily include capabilities and then surprise us, leading to an “Oh yeah! Of course!” moment.

So hold your breath, because they’ve apparently come up with another one of those epiphany-inducing ideas. The case that holds the AirPods, could soon become a secondary charging port for several other devices in the near future.

A smart move too, taking into account the rumours about iPhone 8 having inductive wireless charging.

Patently Apple found a patent accorded to Apple in March-end, in a rather large pile of 250 patents, which conceptualizes the designs for this next-gen AirPod case.
Their conception is of a wireless power transmitting component embedded into the AirPod case. When placed flat somewhere, the case will then become a charging port for an external device, in addition to the AirPods that are charged internally. And voila! You would be able to charge two of your Apple devices at once, with just an unassuming little case.

The same patent also gives a broad list of the kind of devices that would be compatible with the case:
“Such devices can include, for example, portable music players (e.g., MP3 devices and Apple’s iPod devices), portable video players (e.g., portable DVD players), cellular telephones (e.g., smart telephones such as Apple’s iPhone devices), video cameras, digital still cameras, projection systems (e.g., holographic projection systems), gaming systems, PDAs, as well as tablet (e.g., Apple’s iPad devices), laptop (e.g. MacBooks) or other mobile computers. Some of these devices can be configured to provide audio, video or other data or sensory output.”

Not only this, the upcoming products will also be equipped with a number of sensors that could help the case in recognizing the presence of other devices. These would be a mass sensor, mechanical interlock, hall-effect sensor, and an optical sensor.

The only real question left to ask is how much power these cases will be packed with.

But hold on, I’m not done surprising you yet!

There is also a strong likelihood of the future cases being waterproof. This is the cherry on top. I mean, not only will the case be a portable charger for most of your Apple devices, but you will also be able to take it with you in wet places. It makes sense to believe that the AirPods themselves might be waterproofed very soon. And although we might have to wait for a while to get our first glimpse of them, never ending fun is what these cases promise us.

X Trumps Apple In Tablet Satisfaction - Guess Who!

X Trumps Apple In Tablet Satisfaction - Guess Who

iPad is the world’s most popular tablet” boasted Philip Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at the launch of 9.7 inch iPad less than two months ago.

Popular it may be, but is Apple’s iPad the most satisfactory tablet anymore?

Nope.

As per the new J.D. Power study, Apple’s tablet has been relegated to second position in the sphere of customer satisfaction.

So who bagged the gold medal? Microsoft Surface.

2,238 people who have owned a tablet for less than a year were asked for their views, so as to measure their satisfaction with their tablets.

The study evaluates customer satisfaction across five major factors – Performance, Ease of Operation, Features, Styling & Design, and Cost.

Microsoft’s Surface tablets managed to grab top honours with people finding its styling and design factor to be superior to that of Apple’s iPads. Yes, you read that right!

Jony Ive must surely have seen red at that one (got the pun?)

 

He’s sure to be disheartened as design is one of Apple’s chief strengths. Its like Microsoft has beaten Apple on its home turf with a smashing six (pun intended).

The study also indicates that a number of Surface users are young people who are early adopters of technology – hence once they like a product, they tend to be loyal.

It’s not an easy task to push Apple from the top of any pile, least of all from that of tablets (a line that for the longest time has held iPads as synonymous to Tablets), and for Microsoft to have managed to do that, is quite a strong indicator of the character of the machine that Microsoft has created.

Microsoft must be gloating over its win and it’s new “customers-our-priority” ethos might have a lot to do with the strong performance put out by the Surface lineup. A Microsoft spokesperson put it succinctly, ”Building products that deliver the power, versatility and dependability that allows our customer to create their best work in any setting is fundamental to everything the team does”.

Apple has every right to sulk but it cannot really complain about the results. A lot of people believe Apple has not provided adequate attention to the iPad lineup, and innovation is grinding to a halt. Microsoft on the other hand, won its customers delight when it did away with the ARM-based version of Surface, and moved to Intel hearts. The move worked and Surface has been appreciated by its customers for the improved performance.

It will be interesting to see Apple does anything to change course and revitalises it next few iPads. Meanwhile, kudos to Microsoft.

Apple To Build It's Own Graphics Processor

Apple to build its own GPU

People say Apple is ruthless when it comes to ditching companies – we think it’s actually more attuned to its own needs, and when the time comes that it’s current crop of vendors can’t keep up with Apple’s exacting requirements to empower it’s products, the tech behemoth doesn’t dither in setting up a new team to design and create the hardware it needs.

The latest announcement that Apple’s decided to build its own graphics chips within the next 15-24 months. is a prime example.

While the implicit aim is being cited as Apple’s desire to halt its dependence on Imagination Technologies – the company that currently manufactures the graphics processor used in Apple devices like the iPhone, iPad and even the iPod Touch – we at Chip-Monks believe there’s a more fundamental reason, than even cost.

But why did Apple make this move?

Apple had earlier made a similar move with regard to the central processor used in its devices. The company had dumped the PowerPC CPUs when Intel’s X86 silicon was picking up pace.

We believe that apart from ending its reliance on Imagination Technologies, the independently-made graphics processor would also allow Apple to build chips that perform better around the iOS and will be far more efficient on the battery.

The Linley Group also notes that the PowerVR GT 7600 GPU used in iPhone 7 and the iPhone 6s is incapable of sustaining an efficient performance when used for a long stretch of time.

For a company that has long been reputed as building their hardware around their software, unlike every other tech company in the world, surely, this plateauing of processor performance would not be acceptable. And truth be told, almost everyone of us realises that if you want to build something really well, usually the best thing to do, is to build it yourself.

Well, Apple certainly has the resources, and the desire to achieve that!

What is Imagination’s reaction to it?

Imagination is currently playing the violation-of-Intellectual-Property-Rights card.
The company claims that the technology required by Apple to make the chips would violate, “Imagination’s patent, intellectual property and confidential information.” Imagination further adds that Apple won’t be able to perform the intended task without causing breach in Intellectual Property Rights.

No doubt that Imagination is crestfallen, literally – working with Apple is an unparalleled feather in any hardware manufacturer’s cap. But even more famous, is a loss of such accolade.

Apple is also determined to hold it’s customers’ value more than its own profitability – that’s clear from the fact that Apple owns 8% of all shares in Imagination Technologies Following the announcement the share value of Imagination has declined by about 70%. And Apple doesn’t seem to be minding that loss, because it’s focussed on something more important to it’s core value – Customer Interests.

Apple Patent Application Alludes To The Touch Bar And Touch ID On A New Magic Keyboard

Apple Patent Application Alludes To The Touch Bar And Touch ID On A New Magic Keyboard

It really excites people (including me!) whenever Apple is awarded a new patent. Patents inherently give us a sneak peek into the minds of those secretive folks at Apple. And this is Exciting!
Even though not all its patents transform into reality – but one can hope.

Apple had introduced the Touch Bar last year, in its upgraded MacBook Pro laptop. However, other users (desktop and even other netbook users) immediately felt envious – as they couldn’t take advantage of the new capability even though their machines were quite capable of leveraging it.

It appears that Apple is finally attempting to address the grievances of its users.

One of the comments people have been making about the Touch Bar on the new MacBook is that it will be irrelevant to those professionals who mostly use their Mac at their desk with an external monitor and keyboard. Unless Apple can offer an external keyboard with a Touch Bar, the feature may not see much use”.

The language of the patent is as deliberately difficult as ever:

In some embodiments, the device may also include a processing unit positioned within the housing, and a primary display positioned at least partially within the housing and configured to display a graphical-user interface executed by the processing unit. In some embodiments, the display is an organic light-emitting diode display”.

In English, reading into the above text, we believe Apple has indicated at the possibility of a keyboard with a Touch Bar built in it. The electronic device may even be just an external keyboard like it’s Magic Keyboard; in fact images from Patently Apple point at the possibility fairly  strongly.

And there’s more! Not only Touch Bar, we believe the upgrade may also add another really cool feature – the Touch ID fingerprint sensor (as those which are used on the iPhone and iPad).

What does that mean? Well, it means that soon iMac, Mac Pro and MacBook users would be able to use the Touch Bar functionality and unlock their machines via their fingerprints!

While such a device is yet to be announced, we feel confident that you might soon see such a device at an Apple Store near you. So, if you’ve been waiting to buy an external keyboard for your MacBook etc.,, then I suggest you hold off for a bit, my friend!

Apple Entices Indian Developers With A New App Accelerator

Apple invests in Indian developers with a new app accelerator

After almost a year long wait, Apple finally opened the door to its App Accelerator in Bangalore this week.

The App Accelerator, as the name suggests, will function as a place to speed up the development of mobile applications for Apple’s iOS ecosystem – by providing weekly training, app reviews, and one-on-one guidance to to developers.

Clearly, the App Accelerator comes with the idea of harnessing the already-bustling app development market in India. It’s a little late though – announced in May 2016, it’s indeed curious that it took the Tech Monolith this long to get set up in one of the world’s foremost software development markets.

I think what we hope from this accelerator is that we can help the local market create apps for customers in India that better meet the needs of our growing customer base here“, said Apple’s marketing head Phil Schiller. “We also think we can help developers here at the accelerator to make apps that reach further around the world, because there’s an entire world that wants their software too, and having that opportunity is something that’s of benefit to them and now people here can help them learn more about that and take better advantage of it“.

This is not the first place that Apple has opened an App Accelerator – Brazil and Naples have already witnessed similar platforms to boost app development in and around their locales.

What could set India apart, is that while Brazil and Naples’ ecosystems focus on students as new developers, the App Accelerator in India will also focus on India’s existing app development community.

The market in India is strongly dominated by Apple’s competitor, Google’s Android ecosystem. This App Accelerator probably won’t do much in that regard, but what it might do is provide a way for Apple to court developers who are looking to branch out of Google’s ecosystem.

Apple has been showing a lot of interest in the Indian market for a few years now. The reason for their interest is obvious: India, outside of China, is the biggest market a brand can cater to or even hope for.

However, the market also comes with its complexities, and while Apple has diligently been navigating a lot of those in the last year, they might still be a long way to go.

Expect A Reboot On Apple TV and iTunes Movies - Apple's Just Landed A Big Fish!

Expect A Reboot On Apple TV and iTunes Movies - Apple is Just Landed A Big Fish

Apple never goes out of the news. But it is making too many headlines lately, isn’t it?

With the aim of improving its user experience in the ever-improving video content space, Apple has hired Shiva Rajaraman, a stalwart of the field.

As per The Information, it’s received reports that Apple has hired the former YouTube and Spotify executive to better its own video and music efforts.

The man of the hour, Rajaraman has an awe-inspiring profile. He’s worked at senior positions in Google, YouTube, Twitter and then Spotify (where he was last tasked as the Vice President of Product).

Rajaraman would be given the responsibility to improve Apple’s video offerings and other media products like Apple Music with the clear intent to compete with Spotify.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook is a shrewd one – he (and previously Jobs) realized the importance of entertainment and related areas – which they both considered to be the major tools for future revenue growth (especially as hardware sales slow over the years). Hiring Rajaraman appears to be a definitive step in this direction.

As per the Information we’ve pieced together (since Apple’s not the most open with such information), Apple’s Eddy Cue, Senior VP of internet and Software Services, will supervise Rajaraman on the various projects that will be assigned to him.

Apple has not been able to come up with an effective, clear strategy regarding its video arsenal. The lack of consensus over one particular strategy regarding videos has lead to frequent debates. Even Apple Music hasn’t really hit the right chords, pun intended.

Interestingly, Apple recently announced two new shows – “Planet of the Apps” and “Carpool Karaoke”. The latter will be launched next month in the new Apple Music section called “TV & Movies.”

This desire to usher into the field of original content is aimed more at getting the upper hand over Spotify, than to yet provide competition to Netflix and Amazon – both of whom spend a billion bucks on the content.

Rajaraman thus, has an important role to play which is in keeping with his previous spot in the lineup. He’s aided YouTube in writing up content partnerships with the likes of Disney. He did something similar at Spotify by helping the company get licensed video content from Disney, Time Warner and NBC.

In the past few years, Apple has failed to reach an agreement with cable TV networks, stalling the much-rumoured streaming TV package (a la Netflix).

However, with this move, and it’s strides in the realm of original content, Apple seems to be rearing up to give Spotify (and subsequently the Big Two) a tough time.

We’re loving it! Who doesn’t love good content?!

The Lead Designer Of The Original iPhone Is Leaving Apple

The lead designer of the original iPhone is leaving Apple

Christopher Stringer, the lead designer of the original iPhone, and one of the top two or three dreamers on Apple’s Design team, has decided to leave the Silicon Valley megabrand. Though an official statement of departure is yet to be made by Stringer as well as the company, the news has been confirmed by multiple sources.

Stringer, even before joining Apple, was quite a star in the tech world. He’s is the same creator who helped develop Dell’s design language and won an ID Design Review award for an innovative light switch.

Stringer has been a designer with Apple since 1995, and over the course of his career at Apple, he worked on projects of different sizes and magnitude – including the early PowerBooks and tower computers, the iPhone, or even something as overlooked, but ever-admired as the designs on product packaging. It was not the size of the project that seemed to draw him, but the magnitude of the vision.

Stringer was also the first designer to give testimony at the Apple-Samsung trial where, according to Reuters news service, “Stringer looked every inch the designer with his shoulder-length hair, salt-and-pepper beard, wearing an off-white suit with a narrow black tie”.

Speaking of his work at Apple, Stringer described the role of an industrial designer at Apple as “to imagine objects that don’t exist and to guide the process that brings them to life. And so that includes defining the experience that a customer has when they touch and feel our products. It’s managing the overall form and the materials, the textures, the colors. And it’s also working with engineering groups to, as I say, bring it to life, to bring it to the market and to building the craftsmanship that it absolutely needs to have to have that Apple quality.”

A couple years ago, when Jony Ive (now, Chief Design Officer at Apple), was promoted, Stringer was one of the two people who were contenders to take on the design studio. Even though he did not get to be the top boss back then, he has been the right-hand man for Ive, and the backbone to the Apple design team.

It is unclear at this point if he is joining another company, or if he is looking forward to a well-deserved retirement, but 52-year-old Stringer will definitely be missed at Apple after he is gone.

The departure of a person such as Stringer would ordinarily raise the question of how would it affect the team and the work around it, what would the future Apple designs be like, and would a difference, or ‘something missing’ be felt?

Well, the answer to the last one would mostly be no.

This is so because the designing of a product at Apple is not done by one person alone. The design team at Apple, or any organization of the kind, is a tightly knit team, and each product has designated a design lead, the designer who does most of the actual work, and one or two deputies, who all work on the idea together. The vision, thus, is a shared one.

Even though Stringer’s contributions will be missed, his departure from Apple is not expected to jeopardise the creativity that the world’s come to respect Apple for.

Apple Gains A Win In Australian Courts To Retain Control Over Apple Pay

Apple wins Australian court ruling against banks to retain Apple Pay control

It really was fun to watch Australia’s four big banks sweating and trying to win a legal battle against Apple for its proprietary payment technology Apple Pay.

They tried every which way to Sunday, to convince the esteemed bench that they ought to have access to Apple Pay, but in turn all they received was a facepalm.

It had to be a tough battle when big names like Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Bendigo & Adelaide are involved. The four banks collectively control two-thirds of Australia’s credit card market!

Now, since the question would be burning in your head – the banks wanted Apple to grant them access to its contactless payment technology so as to avoid paying commission to Apple for charges made through Apple Pay.

However, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has made it clear that banks cannot force the demand of their own digital wallets (integrated within their individual apps) on Apple.

The Near Field Communication (NFC) based technology allows iPhone users to settle their payments from their phones, and the money gets deducted from the bank card which is registered with Apple Pay.

So each time an iPhone user makes a transaction, Apple gets fees for it.

No doubt, the stakes were high for Apple as being on the losing end would have meant severe blow to it’s profit margins. In a way, the banks wanted Apple to function more like Google in terms of its method of payment – Google allows contactless payment from individual apps.

So far the banks have prevented their customers from using Apple Pay until the company agreed to give them access to iPhone payment technology. The threat to Apple was seen as a tool to “reduce or distort competition”, Rod Sims, Chairman of the ACCC explained that “it is a tricky issue for competition regulator to force one competitor to adopt a strategy of other competitor”.

So where do banks stand now?

Let’s be real, the four banks (and thus other Australian banks too) have lost the pressure they had built on Apple. Now they can only individually negotiate with the company.
Plus, if they still refuse their customers to make payments through Apple Pay, then they face the risk of decrease in number of account holders.

It’s not surprising that the banks are “disappointed”.

SIM Cards Rebooted - Say Hello To e-SIMs

Are we ready for eSIMs in India

The traditional SIM card has been dying a slow death over the last few years.
The normal SIM cards (now called “Macro SIMs”) that seem from prehistoric times now, set the ball rolling for mobile telephony. Then we got to micro SIM cards as smartphones arrived. As devices became bigger, the real estate within them became even more at a premium, hence smartphone manufacturers hit upon nano SIM cards.
Now, it’s time for better the technology in an even smaller card – called the e-SIM.

In light of this changing environment, the GSMA (who represents carriers and mobile companies around the world), has announced the specifications for e-SIMs, that are expected to be used in smart watches, fitness trackers, and even tablets. These SIMs will allow users the freedom to activate the SIM embedded in those devices on any carrier of their choice, as well as bring in the convenience of switching carriers and devices without swapping SIMs.

If everything works out as planned, the team behind the development of e-SIM suggests the new technology will be rolled out by 2018.

For now, the leaders of the smartphone industry are in talks with American and British mobile carriers with the intent of making e-SIMs a reality in those regions.
Apparently, conversations are already on with AT&T, T-Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Orange, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa and Teleónica – which are some of the biggest around the world.

The GSMA plans to roll out a similar standard for smartphones themselves in June, at which point the days of the SIM card could be numbered.

Since this specification is also backed by manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung, BlackBerry, LG and Huawei! The freedom and convenience that this welcome ability of switching operators will bring is best understood by device manufacturers – it drives better customer satisfaction and it frees up the manufacturer from having to kowtow to operator-demands. It even helps them move inventory around more seamlessly, instead of suffering the logistical nightmare they currently face – the device is operator agnostic, but since it was packed with a specific-operator’s SIM (at the factory), the manufacturer can’t lift and shift the inventory to other regions/stores/operators at will.

Once implemented, this universal tech will allow users to add mobile devices to a single subscription, in turn allowing them to connect directly to any mobile network. No separate SIM cards, no phone-as-a-middle-man, just an embedded SIM in each device, programmed to connect to a network all by itself!

Not that the GSMA sees it that way. It says “the initiative does not aim to replace all SIM cards in the field, but is instead designed to help users connect multiple devices through the same subscription and will help mobile device manufacturers to develop a new range of smaller, lighter mobile-connected devices that are better suited for wearable technology applications”.

Some Reactions From The Smartphones Industry

BlackBerry:
The technology allows an individual to have both, a personal and business number on a single mobile device, with separate billing for voice, data and messaging usage on each number. People can switch between business and personal profiles easily without carrying multiple devices or SIM cards,” BlackBerry India Managing Director, Sunil Lalvani said at as per Tech First Post.

Apple:
Well, Apple has already explored with its own SIM cards that can swap networks on flights and lets users choose from three different carriers.

For what it’s worth, the first example of a programmable SIM card, is already out there are – notably in Apple’s iPads. But it wasn’t officially recognised by the GSMA.
The GSMA notes there recently announced specifications as “the only common, interoperable and global specification that has the backing of the mobile industry“.

So, the integration of the e-SIM into upcoming iPhones seems like the next logical step for the Cupertino tech giant.

Samsung:
The world’s other smartphone giant also has intentions of using this “programmable” SIM in it’s smartwatch line.

So this isn’t technology that’s a way off-you might be using it yourself by the middle of the year!

Samsung Lands Bang In The Middle Of A Legal Wrangle Between Nokia And Apple

Samsung Lands Bang In The Middle Of A Legal Wrangle Between Nokia And Apple

Legal battle and Apple – call it a houseful show.

This particular story started a year back, when the good old Cupertino technology giant Apple sued Nokia on the grounds of patent infringement.

Apple accused Nokia of intentionally removing certain patents from an agreement between the two companies. As per Apple, five of the removed patents were transferred to certain third party companies so that Nokia could ‘extort’ an excruciating amount of USD 100 million from Apple.

But then Nokia hit back at Apple with a list of accusations against the company. It alleged various instances of breach of patent by Apple. Nokia claimed that Apple has violated as many as 32 of Nokia’s patents in every iPhone following the iPhone 3GS.

That’s not all, a new twist in the case has made it all the more interesting.

Nokia has requested to be granted access to documents and deposition testimonies from the Samsung-Apple case which pertain to Samsung’s legal allegations against Apple on the issue of patents. Nokia believes these documents will be helpful to it’s patent related legal battle against Apple, and prove Apple’s culpability and repeated violations of patents.

As per Patently Apple, Nokia has requested a motion to be granted access to certain documents that can prove to be highly favorable to its position in the on-going legal conflict against Apple –
The Letter seeks documents and deposition testimony from Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., based in the Republic of Korea. The evidence sought by Nokia is highly relevant to the Investigation and unobtainable by other means”.

There’s not been a decree on this request yet, though, a favourable decision in this regard may actually prove to be an interesting wildcard in the Nokia-Apple fight.

Apple To Introduce A New Ultra Accessory Connector, In Lieu Of The USB Type-C

Apple To Introduce A New Ultra Accessory Connector In Lieu Of The USB Type-C

When a big tree sways whichever way, the earth shakes.

Such is also the way of the world in the devices universe. Industry Pundits are forced to keep their keen ears to the ground, waiting to hear what a certain Cupertino giant is planning to do next, as it would inevitably impact the rest of the world, and not just it’s own industry.

One of the favourite points of contention that the Android hoi polloi have had with Apple of recent years relates to it’s (Apple’s) ‘whimsical’ choices. Be it the 30-pin port that transformed to the Apple-unique Lightning port, or the absence of the 3.5 mm audio jack – all other device and peripheral makers are constantly having to react to Apple’s decisions about it’s own devices.

Even now, when the rest of the world is going the USB Type-C way, Apple’s obstinacy to stick with proprietary port surely might appear to be an arrogant move to some.

Furthering the consternation is Apple’s vacillation – it actually is already a strong proponent of USB Type-C, having campaigned for it with their new MacBook notebooks released in 2015, but for some reason, the company is determined to retain the Lightning for its iPhones and iPads  – which creates a lot of confusion for people desiring universal accessories that connect to every object in their devices portfolio.

Before we proceed with the story, I’d like to turn your attention to an article we’d written in June 2016, “Could Apple Be Removing The Headphone Jack To Deliver Better Sound To You?“, and I quote (for those of you who won’t be reading that article:

At Chip-Monks, we believe that Apple might migrate us to the Lightning port for another reason too – to deliver improved sound quality. No one knows or understands the potential of the proprietary Lightning port better than Apple. And they’re going to juice the port and it’s capabilities any which ways it possibly can.

So, while a lot of people would’ve been wishing and hoping that Apple would for once acquiesce to user-prayers, a recent conjecture that Apple is launching a new Ultra Accessory Connector (UAC), it looks like peoples’ dream of a USB Type-C iPhone will forever remain just that.

The Ultra Accessory Connector is actually intended to ameliorate some of the pain that Apple loyalists who possess devices that use USB Type-C and Lightning ports feel, but it’s a definitive answer too.

When the UAC was spoken about initially, many, many people reacted adversely, presuming that Apple was yet again changing the port on the next iPhone/iPad.

Untrue.

The UAC connector is a connector, an adapter that Apple is offering as an olive branch of sorts. It is to be used as an intermediary between the headphone and the device’s port – splitting them in half so that the top part can be universal, and the bottom can be either a Lightning, USB-C, USB-A, or a regular old 3.5 mm analog plug.

The intent is to restore some of the universality of wired headphones – which, until not too long ago, all terminated in a 3.5 mm connector (or 6.35 mm on non-portable hi-fi models designed for at-home listening). With UAC, a headphone manufacturer can issue multiple cable terminations very cheaply, making both the headphones and any integrated electronics, like a digital-to-analog converter or built-in microphone, compatible across devices with different ports.

The reason that this matter raised such a furore is simple – if Apple ever had any intentions to make a switch in its mobile devices to a USB Type-C, it wouldn’t have ever cared to create an exclusive Made For iPhone (MFi) standard for the UAC.
It would have just switched the port!

As I’ve said earlier, it is not that the Lightning port is whimsical a nuisance. In fact it remains a licensed Apple technology and thus the company is legally allowed to capitalize on the sale.
The Lightning conductor is also a bit smaller, and thus fits the aesthetics of the phone where the emphasis is on strict minimalism.

Also, given the ubiquitous nature of USB-C technology, it becomes really hard to regulate the invisible incompatibility in some cases, and that can be downright destructive for your device.

There has also been a question that why headphone makers can’t start making USB Type-C cables with Lightning adapters. Well, as much we rave about the USB Type-C becoming the democratic tech of the future, it is still a long way off from that. That’s especially true compared to Apple’s more than 900 million Lightning-enabled devices already out on the market.

As an accessory maker, you want to sell to the market that already exists first, not the one that is to come.

For Apple, moving to a USB Type-C iPhone would mean a great deal of upheaval, for little payoff. The Cupertino giant has its eyes set on total wireless freedom, and everything  -Lightning, USB Type-C, UAC – that it’s working with today are just temporary compromises en route to that goal.

So no, a USB Type-C iPhone was probably never going to happen. But now that we have the UAC to ease the switching between Lightning and USB Type-C music sources, even daydreaming about it seems silly.

Much as I know that this isn’t what users were looking for, yet I know that Apple has it’s reasons for doing things, usually solid ones – no matter what the populace may claim, nor how loudly the Twitterati may chant slogans and epithets.

The Newness Of iOS 10.3

The Newness Of iOS 10-3

All good things are made up of small bits that add up to a wholesome package, and an operating system is no exception. With the release of Apple’s iOS 10.3 on March 27, one notices the value of small cog wheels, that don’t seem much in seclusion but make our life a wee bit easier.

One of the biggest changes in the iOS scenery is that Apple has moved to a new type of file system. Prior to iOS 10.3, the de facto file system on iOS was the popular HFS+ one. Now, with the latest release, Apple has adopted its own Apple File System (AFS).

Advantages? Yes, there are many. And so are one or two disadvantages.

The move from HFS+ to AFS provides better optimisation for NAND flash storage and SSD storage, more accurate time stamping and support for stronger encryption.
Come to think of it, HFS+ with its stacks of 30 years of legacy, was a historical artefact that was waiting to be changed.

Well, change comes with it baggage too. Once you decide to update your phone to iOS 10.3 the entire file system changes. And you can’t go back to yesteryear-status.

Let us understand the gravity of this move – as most of you would know, data is made up of packets and those packets make an imprint. The imprint has its own pattern which helps in retrieving data from memory, and even in the super-important data recovery, should the memory or device malfunction. Now, if you move to iOS 10.3, it will change the file system – so, the data packaging and the patterns of the old system will be deleted and the new one will be overlaid instead.

So there can be no recovery. The lack of recovery options means that you now have to backup your data prior to updating the OS. You can do that through iCloud or manually to iTunes on your PC/Mac (we prefer the iTunes route – it’s faster and you can make a copy of the backup and put it on an external drive for safekeeping – such that it doesn’t get overwritten by subsequent backups).

Well, here’s a list of what else is new with iOS 10.3:

Find My AirPods:

Only for those who own the precious nifty new AirPods, this feature enables a tracker – well, sort of – for you to find their location.
Fact is, the AirPods themselves cannot connect to GPS or any network (Apple either forget about this need, or ran out of space in the diminutive earphones to shoehorn in the requisite hardware).

So this new Find My AirPods option (which sits within the Find My iPhone app) allows you to locate and find AirPods lost within your vicinity (say in your couch or left behind in last night’s jeans). If you’re within Bluetooth range of the AirPods, it’ll play an audible beep through the AirPods and even guide you to their reclusive hiding place via an on-screen map.

If they’re out of Bluetooth range (in your car parked in the basement, or at last night’s pub), the app digs into it’s internal logs and points out where it last logged the AirPods’ location (via a map). Best of luck though – these buggers tend to become reclusive often – hence my longstanding advice: carry them in their case at all times that you aren’t using them!

App Transition Animations:

What is a good change? One, which you don’t even notice!

Apple has made some tiny adjustments to the flourishes and animations that iOS makes during its app-transitions. Now, when the app opens and shuts, the edging in the animation is chiseled to have a soft-round outlook. But the most important part is that the animations have been shortened and made faster, which makes ziplining between apps feel like a breeze!

Revised Apple ID Profile:

This setting profile is made like a Master Log of a ship – with all the information about your Apple ID (and iCloud) included in one place.
So your contact profile, security settings, payment method, iCloud usage details, App Store settings and even the Family Sharing settings are now on a singIe page. It also keeps a note of every device that’s currently signed in on using your Apple ID.

Better Security:

With the 10.3 Apple has fixed some gaps in the Safari browser, as well as some ‘backdoors’ that had the potential of being exploited by hackers.

There are quite a few other things that have been implemented through iOS 10.3 but we aren’t going through those bit-piece here. We’ll probably write you a more comprehensive article at a later date.

As we emphasised twice earlier, these changes are small and they probably will go unnoticed by most users. That said, it’s a good idea to update your phone – for battery improvement and faster interactions due to leaner code and bug fixes, if nothing else!

Grab Your Wallet, There’s a Red iPhone Now!

Stop Everything There is a Red iPhone Now

After so very long, Apple has done a “… One more thing”!!

Unexpectedly, out of the blue, well… red, there now is a new iPhone in town – and it’s Red!

It’s not a tinge of red, not metallic pink, it is all red. The back, the buttons, the fiddly little nano-SIM tray – all red!

There’s so much red on it, that you almost don’t notice that the front is white. The thing I love most about it? The silver Apple logo around the back. It just shimmers and pops against the gorgeous red!

Why am I gushing? Well, time to be honest – there’s never been any other exciting colour on iPhones, since… well, forever.
They created Rose Gold (and every other brand suddenly followed suit) – I know, I know. But for some reason, the pinkish phone never really struck my fancy. It was too, well pale and subtle. There’s never been a stand out, “look at me” colour, on an iPhone. Nor a cheerful one.

Part of the (RED) campaign to help fight HIV/AIDS, this phone puts the focus right back on the noble cause, and how much some of the largest people and brands are committing to it.
A portion of the proceeds from every sale go toward the Global Fund, a group committed to fighting AIDS around the world.

I don’t know if you know this or not, Apple has been working with PRODUCT(RED) for about ten years now.

For 10 years, our partnership with (RED) has supported HIV/AIDS programmes that provide counselling, testing and medicine that prevents the transmission of HIV from a mother to her unborn child. So far, we’ve raised over US$130 million through the sale of our (RED) products. Now we’re introducing iPhone 7 (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition. Every purchase brings us a step closer to an AIDS‑free generation“, (RED)’s website states.

So, all the iPhone 7 (PRODUCT)RED bang is for a good cause in a way.

If you’re still in the dark about the changes on this newest iPhone – well there aren’t any others. Except for the exterior colour, nothing else has changed on the devices.  All the interior hardware and functionality remain the same – which is alright, because we’re sure they already have the iPhone 8 (or whatever it’ll finally be called) in the pipeline, and most Apple users would be expecting the real changes there. I don’t think the world would’ve settled for just this novelty on the iPhone 8.

Who all got this treatment? Well, only the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. All the other iPhones bear only the existing livery – clearly Apple’s giving you yet another reason to ditch that old iPhone!

Speaking of which – will folks ditch their current phone? Well, to be honest, I and my boss, almost did. Instantly.

Realistically though, we do not have a clear answer to how many people would trade in their current devices for a ‘novelty’. We do have some speculation though – much like the iPhone SE last year filled in the gap in the 12 month product cycle, this novelty iPhone too, is kind of filling in the blank pause, till September 2017.

A lot of smartphone brands launch multiple models through the course of the year, but Apple doesn’t like to satiate demand that’s building up during summer. They let it simmer till Fall. But with mid-term product launches two years running, maybe, just maybe, they’re tentatively agreeing to the notion that 12 months becomes to long a period of silence.

Further, while the new Red iPhone may be more a product of vanity than a product of genius, it sure does fill in another void nicely – that left behind by the Note7 crash-and-burn. In fact putting out a ‘new’ variant just before the Samsung Galaxy S8 has even been formally announced, may be another show of genius on Mr. Cook’s part.

He is known to be a shrewd operator, no matter what, who says!

Moving on, also released alongside the iPhone 7 PRODUCT(RED) was a 9.7 inch iPad that comes with an upgraded processor, and a dramatic price cut. The new iPad starts at USD 330 (for 32 GB), down from USD 400 previously.
Apple also increased the minimum storage on the iPhone SE to 32 GB (up from the previous lowest of 16 GB), without increasing the price.
There’s more. The new iPad Mini will only come in a 128 GB model, and that certainly is a lot of memory capacity for a tiny tablet!

You can get the iPhone RED starting March 24th, at USD 750 for the 128 GB iPhone model and at USD 870 for the 128 GB iPhone 7 Plus model. If memory’s failing you, these are the exact same prices of the non-RED models. Sweet!

Last, and I particularly love this part – for the first time ever, the new model launches in India, on the very same day as it does in the U.S. Now, that makes me proud! Apple finally proves that India’s just as important as the Dollar economy!!

Apple's Patent Indicates Touch ID Would Be Built Into Displays

Apple patents fingerprint scanner in phone screen

Back in February 2017, Apple was granted a patent for their schematic technology that might enable the tech giant to build a fingerprint sensor and scanner directly into the glass display on its devices and other products.

Clearly, this would revolutionise the biometric use as the world knows it. Not only could Apple include this in the display of the upcoming iPhone, but also in any other device in it’s immense product portfolio – iPads, Apple Watch, MacBooks (with or without the Touch Bar) forthcoming wearables, even Apple TV remotes – well almost anything it wants to. So passwords could well be a relic of the past.

Acquired in the U.S. and published recently by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, the patent details an interactive display with IR diodes, which would enable the device (let’s call it the iPhone) to have a fingerprint sensor embedded in the glass of the front display, thus enabling Apple to replace the one that is embedded in their physical home button.

The patent was originally filed for by the micro-LED display company LuxVue in 2014, but Apple acquired the patent when they acquired the company.

The patent’s description reads: “When the fingerprint is placed upon the transparent substrate, the sensing IR diodes within the display panel sense patterned IR light reflected off grooves of the fingerprint surface. This patterned IR light is relayed to the output processor as a bitmap where it is processed to determine the fingerprint surface’s unique pattern. Because the display panel can sense IR light, the display panel is able to perform surface profile determination when the display panel is not emitting visible light”.

The patent would enable Apple to radically redesign their iPhone. For starters, the home button on the front could go, because it really does not have much of a reason anymore to stay; Apple phones anyway have a virtual home button – they’d just move that leverage that “soft” button and marry it to their existing 3D Touch (pressure-sensitive capacitive touch) technology.

The patent would save space on the phone, granting greater design flexibility and the broad bezel (the forehead and the chin) on the front might not be a necessary design choice anymore.

Most importantly, this could suddenly provide Apple the means to build in an edge-to-edge display, which would once again be a landmark design element that will set iPhones apart in the crowded marketplace.

Apart from that, let us be honest here, it would just make the iPhone a lot cooler!

This is not the first time that technology of this kind has been talked out. In fact, the truth be told, having a fingerprint sensor in the display is one of the most obvious and expected innovations in the tech world today; something that everyone knows is coming, but none have been able to achieve. There are numerous technical challenges that have prevented almost all of the lesser players from getting there first.

But not all.

If Apple does make use of the patent in their next phone, they won’t be the first ones to do so.
Back in 2016, Xiaomi released two flagships – the Mi 5s and Mi 5s Plus that had an under-glass ultrasonic fingerprint reader on the front. The phones have only been available in the Chinese market hence you mayn’t have heard of them.

The ironical part is, even if the Mi 5s or the Mi 5s Plus were available in the international market, the West would’ve mostly been deprived of them because Xiaomi does not (and currently, can not) sell phones in the Western markets due to patent infringement risks.

Apple’s patent was reportedly first filed for in June 2014 and credits Kapil V. Sakariya and Tore Nauta as its inventors.

Apple has always had this sweet vision to pace their hardware development ahead of the market (most times), with a view of delivering superlative user experiences – often things users didn’t even know they needed.

From the moment Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone back in 2007, Apple has constantly kept users hooked and competitors at bay through such innovations and breakthroughs.

That said, we must mention that Apple’s patent is only a patent so far. Even though they are celebrating the 10th anniversary this year, which means that the world is expecting something radical and big from them, we might not necessarily see the usage of the tech in their next phone.

I understand if your heart sinks as I say this. But there’s still going to be a lot of good stuff on the 2017 iPhone – amongst other things, we are expecting wireless charging, a lovely, reworked steel and glass body and a curvy edge display(s).

Yet, I keep hoping, they’re able to whip up the secret sauce of the in-screen fingerprint scanner – I really, really want to see an “infinity” display on an iPhone!

Hackers 'Steal' Millions Of Apple Accounts' Data

Hackers 'Steal' Millions Of Apple Accounts' Data

In a move that looks straight from a chewed out heist film, authorities at Apple yesterday awoke to an unknown entity’s claims that they’d broken into almost 300 million iCloud and Apple email accounts.

The hackers are demanding ransom from Apple, threatening to wipe out all the accounts’ data if not paid. Most of the accounts supposedly compromised are of Apple’s @icloud and @me domains.

The hackers, quaintly naming themselves as the “Turkish Crime Family” first asked for 75,000 in Bitcoin or Ethereum (which is another form of online cryptic currency like Bitcoin).
Alternatively, they have asked for USD 100,000 worth of iTunes gift cards in exchange of leaving the data intact. The deadline for providing the demanded ransom is April 7.

The threat came to light, when Motherboard published the incident and it’s contact with one of the hackers. The hacker supposedly told Motherboard “I just want my money and thought this would be an interesting report that a lot of Apple customers would be interested in reading and hearing”.

To prove the veracity of their claims, hackers provided Motherboard with screenshots of the alleged email exchange between them and Apple’s security team. Later, they also provided Motherboard access to one of the accounts that was used to contact the security team.

According to the chats contained in the email account provided to Motherboard, a week ago, Apple’s security team asked the hackers to share a sample of the data set. The contact seems authentic, as the return path of the email address bore routes via an @apple.com domain server.
They also uploaded a YouTube video, where one can see a hacker controlling a senior citizen’s iCloud account, including her backed-up images, along with access to the remote-wipe ability.

Despite the alleged gravity of the events, security agencies are considering the evidence as “inconclusive”, at best.

One wonders that this might be just an elaborate bluff to extort money from the company. The name of the group sounds amateurish at best, the ransom amount seems disproportionate and the evidence of break-in is quite flimsy.

But most tellingly, the claim of hacking these many accounts on their own, seems braggadocios, at best. One of the major inconsistencies in their stories is that one of them claims 559 million compromised accounts, another, a mere 300 million.
Last, they’ve not provided any further evidences to back up to their rather lofty claims, except for the aforementioned YouTube video.

To quote Lee Munson, security researcher at Comparitech.com,Whether the group has the means to do as it claims is debatable – supposed correspondence with Apple and a YouTube video showing the takeover of an account may well have been faked – but what is not up for debate is Apple’s resolve to not pay a ransom to make the group back down. While Apple’s stance that it will ‘not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law‘ is the right one to take, I cannot help but wonder if the option to pay $100,000 in iTunes gift cards, rather than $75,000 in untraceable crypto-currency, could have been explored in association with law enforcement”.

Even more interesting is Apple’s response to the ransom request – Apple itself threatened to send the archived communication data to the authorities and retorted, “We firstly kindly request you to remove the video that you have uploaded on your YouTube channel as it’s seeking unwanted attention, second of all we would like you to know that we do not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law”.

These type of break-ins are not new, nor are their ways novel.
Reading the email-exchange on the account provided to Motherboard, it is plain to see, that the hackers approached multiple media outlets shopping around for any one of them to listen to, and take the hackers’ threat seriously. Finally, one of them agreed to publish the story.

Clearly, This is one of those attempts to put pressure on Apple using someone’s journalistic integrity.

Apple has told Fortune magazine that there was no evidence of a break-in into their systems, including iCloud and Apple ID’s.
The alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services”, the company said.

One of the security analysts who had access to the sample data shared by the hackers found that most of the accounts being claimed as hacked actually contained data that matched information obtained during the LinkedIn breach.

For those of you who don’t know about this, last year it became know that LinkedIn was gradually hacked into since 2012 and almost 100 million accounts’ data was stolen. This was a huge blow not only to LinkedIn but to other platforms too.

Here’s why. Most of us use the same password(s) across most of our online accounts. Now, in any case of any of your accounts being breached, your common password can easily be used to access your other personas and accounts online, and your data can be stealthily stolen, long after the breach comes to light.

Assuring the customers of their safety, Apple’s spokesperson has assured that the usual methods and standard procedures of safety have been taken.
The company is actively monitoring to prevent unauthorised access to user accounts and are working with law enforcement to identify the criminals involved. To protect against these type of attacks, we always recommend that users always use strong passwords, not use those same passwords across sites and turn on two-factor authentication.”

Till now, there has been no further news of any progress, one way or another. We’ll keep our ear to the ground and let you know what we hear. Meanwhile, we highly, highly recommend you immediately trigger two-factor authentication on all your iCloud, Me and Google/Gmail accounts!

Takes only a minute, but you’ll sleep better.

Need A Laptop? Grab Your iPhone!

Need A Laptop Grab Your iPhone

What if you could use your iPhone or iPad as a laptop? Sound like a good idea to you? Well, Apple seems to agree.

While others have done this already, it’s come to light that Apple had apparently filed a patent for a hardware accessory that can transform your humble smart device, into a futuristic full-function computer.

Recently, the U.S. Patent Application Publication published an approved design proposed by Apple that was actually filed last year in September.
This patent that proposes an “electronic accessory device” that is like a thin portable dock, much like a laptop in form factor. This accessory carries all the required components to transform your iPhone or iPad into a full-blown computing device.

The intent behind this creation seems to be to lend a modular approach to computing, whereby your iPhone or iPad would breathe life into an otherwise lifeless setup.

“The present application describes various embodiments of systems and methods for providing internal components for portable computing devices having a thin profile. More particularly, the present application describes an electronic accessory device available to extend and expand usefulness of a portable computing device,” the patent’s description reads.

Apple’s patent also specifically mentions aluminum as an “ideal enclosure material”, hinting that the accessory could well be something that keeps with the MacBook’s very lithe appearance and form.

First off, let’s just call it a ‘dock’, for ease of reference.

Well, the dock is not a dumb piece of aluminium. There’s actually a full-form touchscreen display, a full-size keyboard and internal components like the all-important graphics processor, onboard solid-state storage and a large battery all built into the passive dock.
All these will come together when paired with an iPhone or iPad which actually functions as the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle – the central processing unit a.k.a. Processor!

If you’re wondering what this setup reminds you of – let me help you.
Well, it resembles HP’s LapDock’s, Asus’ PadFone and most recently, Microsoft’s Surface Book.

So, it seems like Apple’s taken Asus’ idea of using a phone to become a laptop, and seated the graphics processor in the “base” or the dock (as I’m referring to it in this article) – much in the same manner that the Surface Book mates it’s removable screen with the base that contains the GPU, the keyboard and a big battery.

“It is anticipated that the accessory device is not a stand-alone computing device but only acts in concert with a host device”, the patent says. “The host device can be a portable computing device, such as a smart phone, media player, tablet computer, or other portable computing device”.

The iOS-powered accessory would be able to establish communication with the host device via physical connectivity through either a Lightning port or (more believably) smart connector.
Wireless communication points like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or LTE don’t emerge as front runners for regular connectivity for the back-and-forth of information and the unnecessary pressure to transmit graphics etc. over the air. That said, all three may exist, and be used for their respective original uses.

To simplify the technicalities and jargon of the patent for you, it seems that there are two kinds of configurations.

In the first configuration, its iPhone that assumes the place of the trackpad and can be placed in the slot where the trackpad is found usually in laptops. Once the iPhone sits in the trackpad slot it performs two functions – that of powering the “laptop” as well as the mouse trackpad, facilitated by the full-size physical keyboard which part of the dock. Of course, you’ll need a large monitor to make your PowerPoint presentations on.

The second configuration as figured out from the patent relates to the coupling of an iPad to a base-only dock.
The iPad plays the double role of powering the dock and also assuming the role of the display screen. The iPad in this setup works as a pointing tool too, leveraging the dock’s physical keyboard, for the true “computing” feel.

What I’m most excited about is that the accessory comes with an added bonus of being able to supply a long missing feature of a pointing tool on an iPad or iPhone!

While it is all natural to be excited for this new development, it would be unrealistic and naïve to assume that this patent would definitely build into a commercially available mainstream product by the Cupertino tech giant.

Why? Well, because this how the world of Research and Development works. There is a possibility that this doesn’t make it to the market but remains useful only on the experiment end. To me, that would be a waste – considering the success that the Surface Book is already enjoying, and with a lot of consumers yearning for a hybrid machine to lessen their baggage-weight – such a machine would definitely be a welcome option – especially if it does enables the user without compromising on her computing needs

Apple Pulled Up For Fixing Prices Of iPhones In Russia

Apple illegally fixed prices of iPhones in Russia investigation finds

Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service conducted a rigorous seven month long investigation into Apple’s trade and pricing practices, for it’s products being sold in the region.

The investigation found Apple’s Russian unit guilty of fixing prices for a variety of its iPhone models across retailing enterprises within the country.
The agency implied that Apple’s indigenous unit in the country had reportedly told retailers to ‘hold the prices’ of their iPhones; in the event that Apple’s demanded prices were not met or if the prices were ‘inappropriate’, the company had the discretionary power to terminate key contracts with the aforementioned retailers for not conforming to its pricing guidelines.

As ascertained from the report, the prices were fixed for a period of three months, which worked significantly in Apple’s favour. The models that were affected include notable iPhone versions including that of the iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. However, the agency is reported to not have found any signs of price manipulation and coordination for the current iPhone 7 model.

Apple has been granted three months to appeal the ruling, if at all. And on the occasion that the company does contest the ruling but loses the appeal, it could be fined around 15% on the sales that were attributed to the Russian market.

The value of the fine might not be something that would worry Apple’s executives and hence, the production and supply cycles are not likely to experience any notable changes. That said, the report and it’s conclusions will definitely be a slur on the brand’s normally-whistle-clean image.

There’s some good news on this matter though.

The Federal Antimonopoly Service has already appreciated the level of cooperation it received from the multinational technology company, and has also stated that Apple has confirmed it’s cessation of these practices with immediate effect.
Apple has also instrumented a set of training protocols and regulatory antitrust compliance norms to prevent the company from indulging in similar activities in the future.

Now, let me attempt to explain why Apple enlisted such practices in the first place.

Perhaps the reason why Apple exercised such practices is because it has consistently positioned itself as a luxury brand producing premium products, and could hence charge a premium price for them.

This market strategy has found itself to be successful almost everywhere, but revenue-hungry retailers deliberately selling their products at prices lower than the MSRP tend to undercut those efforts and hence damage the company’s goals to promote itself as a luxury brand.

On the other side of the spectrum, this isn’t the first time the Russian authorities, especially the, FAS has held a top smartphone company accountable.
Google had been fined just a year back, for stopping phone manufacturers from installing rival search engines on their phone’s home page. The fine amounted to about 438 million roubles which amounts to around USD 7.4 million. This penalty ended up allowing other competitors to enter the market and stopped the multinational firm from exercising a monopoly over it.

Back to Apple. In August, when the company was initially being investigated, it had maintained that it was innocent and that the retailers were free to set their own prices. However, the stance had changed recently. An Apple spokesperson speaking to the Times said that Apple has “worked closely with FAS during their investigation” and is “glad to put this matter behind us.”

Apple will surely move forward while giving fairly less weightage to this as a problem.

Apple Hires Respected iPhone Security Researcher To Enhance iOS Security

Apple Hires Respected iPhone Security Researcher To Enhance iOS Security

Privacy has become an issue-paramount, in today’s digital world.
Not only are privacy advocates driving attendance to potential concerns, now privacy issues also rest at the center of concern for everyday users of all things digital.

Be it smartphones, laptops, email, social media or even app-security – the risks are manifold.

So it’s no surprise that tech brands are starting to pay increasing attention to privacy and security in all that they do. This reflects best in Apple’s latest hiring of Jonathan Zdziarski.

Zdziarski is an iOS security researcher who has spent several years independently researching security and privacy hacks in Apple’s operating systems.

Known as NerveGas in the hacker community, Zdziarski is the person who pointed out security backdoors to Apple’s iOS, back in 2014.
He also provided technical expertise during Apple’s clash with the FBI last year, following the San Bernardino shooting – by taking apart aspects of FBI’s case.

He”s so good at what he does, that he’s even published his findings in full-scale books; like one book on forensic analysis and recovering data on the smartphones and another book that explains how to write software for smart devices.

The news of his employment with Apple came through via his personal blog, where he announced:
I’m pleased to announce that I’ve accepted a position with Apple’s Security Engineering and Architecture team, and am very excited to be working with a group of like-minded individuals so passionate about protecting the security and privacy of others.
This decision marks the conclusion of what I feel has been a matter of conscience for me over time. Privacy is sacred; our digital lives can reveal so much about us – our interests, our deepest thoughts, and even who we love. I am thrilled to be working with such an exceptional group of people who share a passion to protect that
“.

We aren’t yet sure what capacity he will be joining the tech megabrand at, but one can safely assume that he’ll be working on making the already quite secure iOS ecosystem, even more so.

Apple’s stance on user privacy and security became quite clear last year when their tiff with FBI was dragged to court in a prolonged proceeding. They refused to help FBI crack into the phone, and they took the stand until the last bit, until FBI managed to get an external source to crack the phone for them.

Zdziarski’s hiring could very well be to ensure that if another such situation were ever to arise, no external source whatsoever would be able to crack into the phone again.

Apple has long been boasting of their phones being so secure that even they (Apple themselves) can’t crack into them, or so is their claim on the latest devices and with iOS 10’s security capabilities. So, if some external source has been able to crack into an iPhone, that’s quite an egg on Apple’s face and could impact their device sales and most definitely, iOS’ image in the marketplace.

Zdziarski would be just the right person to make things better and even more inviolable.

Apple has, for now, declined to comment on the hire. But it certainly makes sense for them to bring in-house one of the world’s foremost experts on their technology who has proven his grain time and again, especially by pointing out things that Apple got wrong in the first place.

Grab A Tissue - Apple Rumoured To Be Delaying The Next iPhone

Apple rumoured to delay the new iPhone

The iPhone has come to represent a lot of things – technological progress, corporate endeavor and even the mushrooming human reliance on gadgetry. But from a sales perspective, it also stands as a marker for customer anticipation.

For a decade now, customers have learned to patiently wait in endless lines at the Apple Stores, eyes shining with hope.

Only this year , they might have to wait a little longer.

This is the tenth year of the iPhone, and the company is said to be prepping to launch something really divergent from their current bankroller.

Rumours abound – one of them being that the next iPhone will be called the iPhone Edition. Nomenclature conventions aside, there is already confusion regarding the release date.
We know this is disappointing, but the phone has already gathered such a mythical status that every rumor becomes a news.

There are some sources in the industry who’ve heard from some internal sources at Apple, that it’s decided to delay the release of iPhone Edition because Apple has just arrived at the unhappy conclusion that it needs more time to test the device to perfection.

The typical process of an iPhone validation is that the company makes a few prototypes of a single version. Then these prototypes are subjected to an Engineering Validation Test (EVT).
Once approved by the EVT, the company then subjects the design to it’s Design Validation Test (DVT) who puts the final stamp on the creation.
In the end, the specific design that passes the DVT is the one released to the customers.

According to the “reports”, the iPhone Edition prototypes that we’re subjected to the EVT could not pass it; thus they couldn’t even move forward to the DVT.
The reports allege that the engineering is still considered inconclusive at the moment, and not fit for public release.

We’ll keep an ear on the ground for you, and let you know as we hear more.

Meanwhile, here’s a round-up of some of the rumours that the internet is running with over the last fortnight or so:
The company is said to be considering different materials for the new iPhone and is on the brink of taking various decisions regarding the design. Rumours also abound claiming Apple’s consideration on Ceramic as one of the potential materials. There is also confusion if the phones will have an OLED design or not.
If the OLED design is adopted, then the phones are conjectured to retail at higher than USD 1,000.

That itself, kind of blows the credibility of the rumour in Chip-Monks’ estimation. Apple is a canny operator. It knows it’s market, it’s customers’ budget appetites – so much so, that Apple’s estimation of customer-acceptability has so far been anything but optimistic. More often than not, they actually err on the side of caution when considering the pricing of their products. Further, considering the huge competition they are facing in China, and also their imminent full-blown entry into price-sensitive India (which is their current muse – and said to be Apple’s focus for 2017 and 2018), one seriously doubts that Apple will be too adventurous with their pricing!

Then there’s the age-old wish (we can’t call it “anticipation”), that the iPhone will dump Apple’s proprietary Lightning Port for a USB Type-C port – which we (Chip-Monks) have already shelved from our minds. The downer though would be if Wireless Charging is deferred to future models.

That’s because any postponements would not be minor – if the next iPhone is launched in November or thereabouts, then the actual sales would probably gather momentum in the next year; which means that the customers might have to wait an entire year more for the subsequent iPhone to be Wireless Charging-enabled.

Apart from some much-talked design improvisations, there are some changes that would be added for the first time in the phone. Take, for example, a 3D camera system that industry-watchers are claiming is coming with the next iPhone.
The camera is supposed to be able to detect the depth of objects which are placed in front of it. So it might be used in a facial recognition feature that Apple could be including a la the Samsung Galaxy S8.

ST Microelectronics is supposed to be making the sensors for the front 3D camera system, and it’s CEO has said (without mentioning any names) that “a contract recently taken [will lead to] substantial revenues expected in the second half of 2017”.
So if the stock of equipment is going to be built in the last months of the calendar year, then it is highly unlikely that the 2017 iPhone will be launched with this feature.

I know I’m about to toss this article on it’s head, but if you ask me, I’m finding it hard to put much faith in any of the above rumours. They all seem to be the creation of fertile minds, hoping to drive hits to their respective websites through these “sensationalist” claims.

Apple has never missed a September launch, considering its a segue into worldwide Christmas rush, and many other such events of promise (like India’s gargantuan Diwali, where no spend is too big). And Apple’s not about to miss the bus.

So, hold your breath, don’t let your shoulders droop. We’ll let you know the moment we hear more credible stuff.

Apple To Assemble iPhones In India Starting April 2017.

Apple to make iPhones in India from April

In a move that will define the progress of smartphone industry of India, Apple Inc. will be assembling its high-end flagship iPhones in India starting April 2017.

This would definitely bolster Apple’s foothold in the Indian smartphone market – a place currently dominated by Chinese and Indian players.

Earlier in January, the company officials had met the Ministry of information and technology representatives in Delhi, to decide the process of transfer to the country. The company is rumoured to have been negotiating issues such as tax concessions and import duties.

Analysts in the industry have been pursuing the case for equal treatment of players to ensure a level playing field. Therefore, any tax concessions or removal of import duties is liable to cause an outcry of protests from the other companies.

India has a smartphone base that is growing by leaps and bounds, and companies are rushing to tap the profits from it. Already, the country looks set to become the greatest market for the smartphones after the U.S. by next year.

Yet, Apple doesn’t enjoy any major share in the overall smartphone sales in India – coming at a meager 10th rank in the fourth quarter last year. It’s pricey products are attributed by many, as one of the major reasons. The market is dominated by Samsung and other such players who are selling the phones at costs that land at about one-fifth of the Apple.

There’s another problem that Apple faces in India (like they do in China) – three-quarters of Indian smartphones are made locally. So, if the company wants to build a stronghold here, it must build an Indian Apple ecosystem. And Bengaluru seems like a perfect place for building an environment!

The company currently sells phones through local distributors; per the latest development, Apple will assemble iPhones in Bengaluru. It has applied for opening retail stores in India last year, and that might come to pass sometime soon too (this our wishful-thinking comment, and not really supported by any official comment).

Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron Corp is supposed to help Apple built its ecosystem here.

Speaking about the move, Indian Minister Priyank Kharge said that instead of giving Apple special treatment the government wants to give them certain incentives such as timelines and subsidies.
Detailing the government’s vision, he added, ”The government should give companies a timeline, say in 10 years they should be able to manufacture 100 per cent of phones and its components by procuring them from the local market. Such a timeline should be given because we don’t have that environment now.”

The groundwork for the company’s shift can be accorded to being an after-effect of Indian government’s “Make In India“ campaign, which insists on companies manufacturing their products locally instead of procuring them through import.

To encourage foreign investment, Government has also partially exempted the companies from the 30% rule. According to the rule, any overseas firm who was willing to profit from Indian market must procure 30% of raw materials locally in order to set up a commercial establishment.

The company is also looking to substitute its main sales region China in the Asian market. With Indian prices lowering due to a future manufacturing plant here, the company might be able to supplant its slowing growth in the Chinese market.

iPhone Manufacturing In India Almost A Done Deal

iPhone Manufacturing In India Almost A Done Deal

iPhone manufacturing in India seems almost like a done deal in light of the statements given by both the parties involved, after a team from Apple met the officials from various departments of the Government of India today. As we’d written last week, this is part of an endeavour to bring more of Apple to India, something that both the parties have been wanting for a while now.

Various meetings between Apple, led by Priya Balasubramaniam, on Apple’s side, and various senior government officials on the opposite, have happened in New Delhi over the last week. The subject of these meetings have been the requests that Apple has made over the last few weeks, to bring their manufacturing to India.

From what it looks like right now, things might be going in the right direction.

We’ve been working hard to develop our operations in India“, Apple said in a brief statement, post the meeting. “We appreciate the constructive and open dialogue we’ve had with the government about further expanding our local operations“.

As we have discussed before, Apple has sought a range of requests from the government for bringing production of their signature iPhones to India. These include relaxed labelling laws, tax concessions, and more. This is after their request for concession with the 30% rule that requires a foreign store to sell 30% product made in India, and their request to sell what they call refurbished devices, has been denied in the year 2016.

As for their present requests, the most practical one is the one in regards to the labelling laws. Currently, the law of the country requires that certain product details be printed on the device itself, but Apple has asked that it be allowed to print the information on the iPhone’s packaging or somewhere in iOS.

But the most important of their requests is the 15 year relief from import tariff that they have demanded, mostly because giving this away could score quite a big win for the ‘Make in India’ campaign, but on the other hand it might also set a precedent for other companies, and a relaxation like this is not something that the Department of Revenue can go around granting too many companies.

For now, it seems that the government officials might be coming up with a creative approach to giving Apple these incentives without it backfiring at them. Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recently said that a government panel headed by the cabinet secretary would now clear investment proposals in the electronic sector above USD 1 billion, instead of them going through multiple government departments.
What this basically does is that it gives an opportunity for Apple’s incentives to be cleared and that of companies of equal magnitude being cleared, while at the same time not enabling all companies to be able to demand incentives based on Apple’s precedent.

A move like this would also benefit the ‘Make in India’ campaign quite significantly. In the last year, announcements from smartphone makers like global internet technology conglomerate LeEco, Micromax, Vivo India, Huawei, and LG, among others, have been quite an encouraging push for the government to make way for bigger brands like Apple. But it also raises the question of why Apple should be given special treatment in the first place, when none of these other similar brands have been given any and is its brand value big enough for that?! The answer has been left on to the government to decide, for now.

It is very rudimentary as of now. There are several stages to cover. They will meet the officials, make a presentation, tell what they want. The government has to decide what has to be given and what not. These are simple meetings going on“, a source told IANS. “It is not DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion) alone but several ministries in it. It all depends on how things move. There needs to be a consensus from everyone“, the source added.

Other related news that is making the ranks right now is that if the deal does work out, Foxconn might not be Apple’s primary iPhone assembler in India; it might be Wistron.
Foxconn, a Taiwanese company, has been the biggest manufacturer and assembler for iPhone until now, and Apple has always seemed partial to it. On the other hand, Wistron, also a Taiwanese company, which used to once upon a time be Acer Inc.’s manufacturing arm, would be a fairly new choice for Apple. We will keep an eye out for more on this one.

As we have mentioned time and again, India is a huge potential market for Apple, with its large population and growing middle class. For now, it is the U.S. which tops the company’s sales, but the love for Apple in China makes it seem like China might take the prime spot in the next few years, with India following in its tow.

With such a timing then, India’s move to welcome Apple with open arms seems like quite a good idea for both parties.

Even if all goes well, it will still be a little while before Apple Stores are seen in India, and iPhone manufactured within the country can be bought – bringing a company to a country is a long process after all, and Apple is still in very early stages of it. So hang in there!

Qualcomm Being Sued For Billions Of Dollars

Qualcomm Being Sued For Billions Of Dollars

In the world of technology, the line between fair- and unfair-practices is extremely thin, and crossing over from the right to the wrong side of this line results not only in huge criticism, but a lot of public bashing, legal proceedings and usually, huge unwanted fines.

One such case these days seems to be that of the chipmaker Qualcomm.

The San Diego-based company seems to be taking a lot of heat this week from the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as well as from one of its biggest clients, Apple.

While the former is suing Qualcomm for unfair market practices, the latter is suing Qualcomm for having overcharged them consistently for the chips. The suits, together, amount to more than a couple billion dollars.

The former case is based on FTC’s complaint that Qualcomm used its dominant position as a modem supplier to drive out the competition in the market. What it essentially means is that Qualcomm gave smartphone manufacturers two choices: pay extra for use of it’s patents, or, don’t make a widely available phone.

The lawsuit also says that the fee Qualcomm charges for allowing for its patents to be used are “disproportionately high” in relation to how much value they contribute overall to the device. The FTC says that these added costs are then passed down to the customers.

An example given in the lawsuit is that of Apple. The lawsuit states that it is to obtain relief from Qualcomm’s excessive patent licensing fees. Apple had made an agreement to not use modems from any other company for a period of five years, in exchange, Qualcomm paid back some of its fees. It wasn’t until earlier this year when the deal is said to have ended, that Apple began using Intel modems in addition to Qualcomm modems.
Intel has been trying to enter the relevant market for a while now, but competitors like Qualcomm have made the market unnecessarily hostile.

Qualcomm denies the allegations, saying they’re “based on a flawed legal theory, a lack of economic support, and significant misconceptions about the mobile technology industry”.

In the second case, Apple, one of Qualcomm’s most important clients is suing them for USD 1 billion.

Their suit is based on the argument that the mobile chipmaker has been dramatically overcharging it for the use of basic patents.
The more Apple innovates with unique features such as TouchID, advanced displays, and cameras, to name just a few, the more money Qualcomm collects for no reason and the more expensive it becomes for Apple to fund these innovations“, Apple said in a statement. “Qualcomm built its business on older, legacy, standards but reinforces its dominance through exclusionary tactics and excessive royalties. Despite being just one of over a dozen companies who contributed to basic cellular standards, Qualcomm insists on charging Apple at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors we have agreements with combined“.

The patents in concern being essential to industry-wide standards, ideally ought to be licensed out on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms.

The accusations state that instead of doing this, Qualcomm is doing the opposite, using its market position as the dominant smartphone modem supplier to force manufacturers into paying excessive fees.

In a statement, Qualcomm general counsel Don Rosenberg said that Apple “has intentionally mischaracterized” the companies’ agreements and has been “actively encouraging regulatory attacks on Qualcomm’s business” around the world. “We welcome the opportunity to have these meritless claims heard in court where we will be entitled to full discovery of Apple’s practices and a robust examination of the merits”, Rosenberg said.

This is not the first time that Qualcomm is getting sued in a similar fashion either.

It was recently fined USD 853 million by the South Korean government, and in 2015, Chinese regulators fined Qualcomm USD 975 million over anti-competitive licensing terms.

This won’t be the first time a company of this magnitude faces a lawsuit of this kind either. The most famous example that comes to mind is that of Microsoft, which was sued by the U.S. government back in the late 1990s.
The software giant was accused of unfair market practices, for having abused monopoly power on Intel-based personal computers in its handling of their operating system (OS) and web browser. The packaging of its Windows operating system with Internet Explorer was central to the issues back then.

The lawsuits can prove to be quite an issue for Qualcomm. For starters, the price tags on these lawsuits are quite big. Secondly, while the company is better known for its smartphone processing chips, they make a major chunk of their money from licensing their patents. In case the court decisions go against them, this can come under effect, and that might not exactly be favourable for Qualcomm.

This would, of course, be in addition to the criticism and sternness the company will have to face within the industry going forward.

Apple App Store Is Apple's Actual Cash Cow. Here's Proof.

Apple App Store Is Apple Actual Cash Cow Here is Proof

The New Year began brightly for Apple – in the truest sense of the term as it’s App Store bagged a whopping USD 240 million in purchases.
While the holiday period itself worked its magic for Apple, the first day of 2017 was the star of the show – it was the busiest single day on New Year’s Day ever.

Why? Well, may be because the first day of 2017 was a Sunday and all those who were tired after their wild parties from the previous night decided to while away the day by purchasing games from the App Store.

Also, since subscriptions were relaxed and available across all 25 app categories including the likes of Games and Kids, users could subscribe to their favourite services from over 20,000 apps – with Netflix, HBO Now, Line, Tinder and MLB.com at bat.

To provide you with the numbers and put things into perspective, since 2008, when the App Store was launched, the developers have managed to earn over USD 60 billion as they created awesome app experiences for the users across iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV and Mac.

In 2016 itself, developers bagged over USD 20 billion which is up by over 40% in comparison to 2015. Perhaps these efforts that have now dovetailed into USD 240 million purchases on the first day of 2017.

These figures clearly denote the rise that the company has developed over years. The holiday season seems to be a perfect happy hunting ground for Apple’s App Store as a lot of people download apps and played games on the devices many of which might have been received as gifts.

“2016 was a record-shattering year for the App Store, generating $20 billion for developers, and 2017 is off to a great start with January 1 as the single biggest day ever on the App Store,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing.
“We want to thank our entire developer community for the many innovative apps they have created – which together with our products – help to truly enrich people’s lives.”

In December 2016, the purchases from the App Store touched the highest as it touched USD 3 billion. At the same time, Nintendo’s Super Mario Run made a monumental mark of 40 million downloads in just four days after its release and became the most downloaded app globally on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Pokemon Go, undoubtedly emerged at the top of 10 most downloaded apps worldwide. Pokemon Go became a rage in mid-2016 itself.
Prisma, Reigns, Procreate, Lumino City, Sweat With Kayla and djay Pro, from some of Apple’s independent developers, were among the most successful apps for iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch and Mac, respectively.

Apple’s App Store has its reach across 155 countries and the top-grossing markets include the US, China, Japan and the UK. The kind of global attention that Apple’s App store enjoys can be illustrated with the two campaigns in the past year – Apps for Earth and Games for (RED).
The campaigns sure have made substantial contribution in the form of helping protect life on Earth and encouraging people to join the fight against AIDS, in association with the World Wildlife Fund.

App experiences on the App Store too have improved. With the introduction of iMessage apps and SiriKit in iOS 10, developers have been able to create new and exciting type of app experiences. So much so, users on iPhone and iPad have access to over 21,000 iMessage apps to send stickers and easily team up with friends and Siri.

So, much as everyone looks and rattles off sales numbers for Apple’s iPhones and the (dwindling) numbers for it’s iPads, one must remember to keep an eye out to the cashier window that is the App Store, because that’s where a bulk of Apple’s moolah is coming in.

Google Ready To Ride The Cashless Transaction Wave In India

Google Ready To Ride The Cashless Transaction Wave In India

Three terms that all of India, and nigh almost every Indian got a crash course on in recently – demonetisation, cashless economy, and digital payment solutions; have become an intrinsic part of our new lives in the cashless economy.

December 2016, demonetization in India saw both, a lot of support and tons of criticism from the masses.

But the one industry that witnessed a hitherto unbelievable trajectory (post demonetization) is that of Digital Payment Solutions – where cash is transferred virtually, especially via mobile devices.

As digital payment becomes popular amidst users in India , there is word that Google may soon back this burgeoning technology.

In his latest statement, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai stated that the company was thinking of making such a move and that Google would work hard on offering some of its services on top of the Unified Payments Interface.

For the uninitiated, Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is India’s intrepid project to make person-to-person and e-commerce transactions easier and more efficient.
The UPI is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), amalgamating several banking features, uninterrupted fund routing and merchant payments under one umbrella.

UPI is built over IMPS (Immediate Payment Service), which makes the transfer of funds even easier than the new and revolutionary IMPS.

Like the IMPS, UPI’s new payment interface will still need payee details like bank name, branch, IFSC code and full name to be entered; the only relevant thing here becomes the Virtual Payment Address (VPA) which enables the user to send and receive payments.

Currently, UPI is only enabled on Android-based apps, without any information about its debut on iOS. Given the fact that Android is the most extensively used platform in India, Google’s move towards introducing a UPI-based payments solution definitely constitutes a sagacious move and is expected to relieve hassled consumers.

Already, some of the major UPI apps in usage include ICICI Pockets, Canara Banks’ ‘epower’ etc.

In fact, the Indian government has also taken steps in this direction and launched a common UPI app, called BHIM.

Talking about UPI, Pichai said in an interview, “I think it’s a bold and courageous move and it is a platform shift for the underlying economy to try and digitize how cash moves around and we are excited by it“, also adding that such moves work out “gradually”.

Currently, in India, the dissemination of bank accounts, and by extension, debit cards and credit cards remain fairly low. With UPI, the Indian government is trying to bring banking and financial services accessible for its entire population.

Another program called Aadhaar by the government seems to be an initiative to make it easier for the users to have one set of information work across abundant services.

Maybe we will bring services from Google that will work on top of UPI which will make things work better for users in India“, Pichai said in the interview, adding, “We are working on it hard. Anything we can do to make payments easier for users in India. So we are trying to understand UPI stack, to bring some services, which will make things better for Indian users in terms of digital payments”.

This clearly implies that Indians will soon be able to enjoy Google-powered payments solution just like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay which could be either voice or biometric authentication-based.

Pichai’s comment gains perspective, when the fact that the Indian government has held talks with Google, Apple, and Microsoft to bring Aadhaar-enabled authentication system to their respective mobile operating systems is brought into the purview. Though at that time, the companies didn’t accede to the proposal.

Mr. Pichai showed his confidence in India being a global player in digital economy. “I think I am absolutely, with full certainty, convinced that India will be a global player in digital economy and it will be competitive with any country in the world in the digital economy. We have all the foundation“.

Google is also working on numerous projects like ‘Internet Saathi‘ to educate people on Internet and to get more people online, particularly in rural areas. Google was working on making its services available in as many local Indian languages as possible.

Pichai is of the view that, “English is spoken only by a small segment of the overall population. So just getting Google to work in other languages is a big focus. We have made progress today in Android, with search, we support many languages but we want to do all that better so that it works even in rural situations with the right dialects and so on”.

Google seems to have picked the right and most lucrative vein in India and is ready to make the most of this cashless era.

Apple Pulls The New York Times App From Their China App Store

Apple Pulls The New York Times App From Their China App Store

Apple has reportedly removed the New York Times news app from its App store in China.

This was done on the explicit request from Chinese authorities. This request is largely being seen as a part of the stronghold that the Chinese authorities apply on the Media within their bounds – regulating the news that is circulated within the country; an element of the Chinese governance system that has been the object of stark criticism around world for many years now.

This happened on the 23rd of December, 2016, and the first news of it came from the New York Times itself, which reported the action through its website.
The removal applies to both, the English, and the Chinese, language versions of the app.

The request by the Chinese authorities to remove our apps is part of their wider attempt to prevent readers in China from accessing independent news coverage by The New York Times of that country”, the New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told Reuters. Murphy further said that NYT has requested Apple to reconsider this removal, and by the virtue of it, make their stand in the matter.

This episode occurred as an NYT reporter, David Barboza was almost in the final stages of a story about billions of dollars in hidden perks and subsidies that are provided to Foxconn, the biggest iPhone manufacturer in the world, by the Chinese government.
The story within the Chinese territory could have functioned to highlight the policies of the government that are not exactly commonplace knowledge for the people.
The story was published internationally on December 29th, 2016, and is available on the NYT website.

The New York Times report further goes to talk about the history of its conflict with the Chinese government. It states that the government first started to block the NYT website from the country back in 2012, when they did a series of articles about the wealth of the family of the then Prime Minister, Wen Jaibao. NYT has also been critical of the private wealth of the Chinese political elite, over the years, and have published many related stories over the years.

What’s unsettling about this is that this is not a singular instance. The Western media has been facing significant problems of the kind in China, with many international publications temporarily or permanently blocked over the years. A number of other Western websites like Google, YouTube and Facebook are also blocked in China.

All of these are merely examples of how the control is tightening everyday in what is debatably the greatest censorship in the world, known as the Great Firewall of China.

Even BBC is not spared. The Chinese version of their app, as well as the website, are banned, while the English version, even though available, is quite strictly regulated. Human rights and political stories on their website as well as the app are blocked quite often by the Chinese authorities.

Other international publications that have faced similar things by the Chinese government are Reuters, Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg, amongst the many others.

On the other hand, Apple hasn’t stated much on the matter, having shrugged their shoulders metaphorically, by having stated that they had been told that “the app was in violation of the local regulations”.

What emphasizes the governmental stand is the fact that even though they did reportedly tell Apple that the app was in violation of the local regulations, no regulations were stated in particular that were supposedly being violated by the app.  A blanket referral of regulations issued in June 2016 was given, that supposedly prevented mobile apps from engaging in activities that endanger national security or disrupt social order.

Apps from other international publications, including The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, still remain available on the App store for now.

While global criticism rains down and mounts for this one particular action, it is quite significantly only one of the thousands of others that the Chinese government has implemented to ensure complete censorship within their bounds. An action of this sort, though seemingly small, speaks volumes of the government and its policies. The sad fact however is that not much is going to change anytime soon in this regard.

Apple has stated that the NYT app will be back on the App Store when the situation changes. That however won’t be happening anytime soon, as far as it can be told, for now.

Is Samsung's "Beast Mode" The Antithesis Of "Battery Saver Mode"

Is Samsung Beast Mode The Antithesis Of Battery Saver Mode

What comes to your mind when you hear the term “Beast Mode”?

In most cases, it evokes images of the complete utilization of whatever that it is, with brute force thrown in for good measure.

You must be wondering in what context is all this relevant?

Well, Samsung recently got the term “Beast Mode” trademarked in the European Union.
Discovery of this trademark set the rumour mill abuzz, with lot of them mentioning that the South Korean tech giant is probably planning to introduce this feature on the next Samsung flagship, the Galaxy S8 that is expected to release sometime in the first quarter of 2017.

Although Samsung has made no official announcements about the specifications on the Galaxy S8, there are rumours that the phone might feature Qualcomm’s most powerful processor the Snapdragon 835, which, Qualcomm is believed to be working on in collaboration with Samsung.
There is also a possibility that some regional variants of the Galaxy S8 might house Samsung’s own next-generation Exynos processor as well.
Interestingly enough, both the processors are built by utilizing the 10nm process.

If you’re trying to recall where you’ve heard of the 10nm process, you probably heard of if being incorporated in the upcoming iPhone 8 set to release in 2017.

Coming back, in the context of the current article, it is in the processor arena that the alleged Beast Mode fits in.

Trademarked in December 2016, the term “Beast Mode” is explained in the trademark application to imply that it is supposed to cover all of Samsung’s devices including “…Smartphones; Mobile phones; Application software for smart phones; Computer software; Notebook computers; Computers; Tablet PCs; Portable computers; Netbook computers”.

There is no official word explaining the implications of this Beast Mode but as rumors suggest, it is possible that by turning on the Beast Mode on the Galaxy S8, the processor will be able to work at its maximum power.
This is to say that the processor would be able to realise its complete potential.

This further looks like an extension of Android Nougat’s Performance Mode whereby the users are given the options of four presets of high performance to choose from. Android users are now getting used to different modes on different smartphones like “Gaming Mode”.

It seems valid that by switching on the Beast Mode, the users won’t be able to use the Power-Saving mode, meaning that users will have to barter longer battery life for maximum results of the processor.

If Samsung Galaxy S8’s Beast Mode is for real, then it seems the upcoming iPhone 8 is in for a great competitor. History has it, the Galaxy Series by Samsung has never been able to outshine iPhones by Apple, perhaps Beast Mode by Samsung is the key to achieving this.

On another side of possibilities, the Beast Mode could also help gear the Galaxy S8 towards VR.

Other rumored specifications on the Samsung Galaxy S8 are wireless earphones, the absence of a physical home button and the embedding of the fingerprint sensor under the screen itself (a la the rumoured iPhone 8), with a 6 GB or 8 GB of RAM.

Perhaps, Samsung is trying to mitigate the Samsung Galaxy Note7 disaster by overcompensating.

However, it will be idealistic to assume that this “Beast Mode” is going to do all things good for a company like Samsung that is still dealing with the Note7 debacle. Odds are that the same Beast Mode could also overwork the processor in turn leading to more heat and higher battery temperatures.

And of course, no one would want their precious smartphones to explode. (Just saying!)

Don't Update Your Apple Watch To WatchOS 3.1.1!

Don't Update Your Apple Watch To WatchOS 3 1 1

Apple has pulled the latest watchOS 3.1.1 update after some users reported that it bricked their Apple Watch.

Unfortunate users who had installed the update – which launched on Monday and promised various bug fixes – were left with watches displaying a red exclamation mark on the screen and a link to https://support.apple.com/en-in/HT204776.

While it’s not yet clear what has caused the issue, Apple’s support page suggests it could be resolved by force-restarting the watch (by pressing and holding the side button and the Digital Crown at the same time).

A series of users posting on Reddit and other sites are reporting that the recent watchOS 3.1.1 update has hopelessly locked their Apple Watches, leaving the device displaying a red exclamation point and directing them to visit the Apple Watch help page, while other users are seeing the update run on their watches without a hitch. Those with bricked devices have been told by Apple support that they have to send their watch off for a fix. Apple Stores are unable to service the watches, and have been facilitating replacements. Series 2 watches seem particularly susceptible to the problem, though the cause is currently unknown.

Users who have not yet updated their OS but have already downloaded it are advised to hold off until Apple issues a fix.
Apple said in a statement that, “A very small number of Apple Watch customers experienced an issue while installing watchOS 3.1.1, so as a precaution we’ve pulled back the software update. Any customers impacted should contact AppleCare, but no action is required if the update installed successfully. We are working on a fix for an upcoming software update“.

Apple Watch update woes follow reports that sales of the wearable have slumped since last year. According to IDC, Apple sold 1.1 million units in the third quarter of 2016, down 71% from a year ago. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that “sales growth is off the charts“. Apple Watch sales haven’t tanked, says Tim Cook. “In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product’s history”, Cook continued. “And as we expected, we’re on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch“.

Will Synaptics Revolutionise Fingerprint Sensors?

Will Synaptics Revolutionise Fingerprint Sensors

2017 looks like a year that will have bezel-less smartphones pouring in!

Xiaomi recently released its bezel-less smartphone called Mi Mix and there are strong rumors floating around that Samsung’s adopting a bezel-less OLED display for their Galaxy S8 too!

What’s more, even the next iPhone from Apple is expected to abandon the physical home button for a fingerprint scanner embedded within the screen itself.

Back in October 2014, Synaptics acquired fingerprint ID provider Validity for $255 million, giving it an entry into the fingerprint identification market that had, for years, suffered in relative facelessness.

Not complete anonymity though. It was with the launch of iPhone 5 in September 2012, that biometric sensing to unlock the phone via fingerprints suddenly became the hot new thing. Once Apple did it, everybody else did it too. And devices changed forever.

Keeping in line with these rumours is the actual news of a new model of an optical fingerprint scanner called the ‘Natural ID FS9100’ by Synaptics.

Synaptics claims it to be the industry’s first optical-based fingerprint scanner for smartphones and tablets where the fingerprint scanner can be placed under a covering glass including a 2.5D glass that rides atop the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge etc.

This is quite a big breakthrough.

A fingerprint scanner that can work without a physical button, under glass, is a big deal as it can completely eliminate the space-hogging bezels above and below the screen, and make the face of the phone one complete sheet of glass. What a beauty the device would be!!

Additionally, eliminating cutouts and shaving of glass around the cutouts would result in cleaner industrial design and significantly reduce the amount of glass wasted due to cracking during production.

Synaptics elaborates on the functionality of its new fingerprint scanner on its website: “Under cover glass biometrics eliminates button cut-outs and glass thinning processes required by capacitive under-glass sensors, leading to glass yield improvements. The highly reliable FS9100 optical solution excels with wet finger performance, and being protected by glass, is durable, scratchproof, waterproof, and eliminates ESD concerns”.

Now you know what the FS9100 is capable of!

This is not all for the new-age sensor, though.

The company also highlights the fact that the sensor is equipped with PurePrint anti-spoof technology, which does the job of examining the fingerprint images through artificial intelligence, thereby enabling the sensor to distinguish between fake and actual fingerprints.

Just so you know, Synaptics is not the pioneer in the field of optical sensor technology. Earlier, Qualcomm had introduced Sense ID, which works primarily through glass, sapphire, aluminum, stainless steel, and plastics. The recently launched Xiaomi Mi 5s can be considered amongst the first wave of smartphones to feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sense ID fingerprint sensor under glass.

Back to Optical Sensing Technology.

Les Santiago, Research Director for IDC elaborates upon the benefits of Optical sensing technology: “Optical sensing technology, which is very high performance and widely proven in other markets, has many advantages such as durability, scratch resistance, and resistance to ESD, but optical has not been widely adopted in smartphones and tablets due to form factor and power consumption limitations. Synaptics is enabling the elimination of the home button which is a critical next step to full top-to-bottom, edge-to-edge smartphone and tablet displays”.

By bringing optical sensing technology with the right form-factor and power consumption envelope to smartphones and tablets, Synaptics is enabling the elimination of the home button, which is a critical next step to full top-to-bottom, edge-to-edge smartphone and tablet displays“, said IDC Research Director Les Santiago in a press release.

The fingerprint sensors will go into the mass-production phase in the second quarter of 2017, which almost overlaps with the current rumors of Samsung going bezel-less in its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, which is expected to hit the shelves late-March 2017 after being officially disclosed at the MWC 2017, in February.

If Samsung indeed chooses to opt for Synaptics’ optic-based fingerprint sensors, then it could kickstart a new trend in the smartphone industry and bezel-less phones imply a farewell to physical buttons on smartphones.

The rumours around the ‘iPhone 8’ also picking up steam are implying that Apple too, is opting for the fingerprint sensor to be directly embedded within the screen.

Synaptics first launched what we now call touchpads in 1995, and its capacitive touchpad technology is now used by most notebook PC manufacturers. However, with the announcement of FS9100 now, it seems that the company is inching closer towards its dream of being the independent supplier of fingerprint recognition technology to the remainder of the industry, as professed in 2014.

Rumours Around iPhone 8 Take Strength

Rumours Around iPhone 8 Take Strength

While some people are still immersed in the hangover of iPhone 7 and are unable to get over the concept of wireless earphones by Apple, rumours regarding iPhone 8 are already gaining momentum. There is a so much that is being written about it that there are conflicting rumours, no real details at present, that the voices are getting confusing and contradictory.

First things first. 2017 will be the 10th anniversary of the iPhone’s release, and thus a lot of people are betting on the belief that Apple has big plans for this milestone. Industry pundits, aficionados and tech sites, are all prophesying that Apple has been holding back some of the biggest hardware features in the last year or so, to bundle it into a ‘revolutionary’ device that will mark a landmark change in Apple’s design ethos and also take iPhones down a new path of prosperity.

Let’s break down all the rumours one at a time.

Wireless Charging

The first new big thing on the purported iPhone 8 is the belief that Apple will introduce wireless charging into its next phone, as per trusted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (KGI Securities).

Previously, Foxconn Technology Group, one of Apple’s main manufacturing partners was reported to be making wireless charging modules for the 2017 iPhone, but that never came to pass. Now, new reports have surfaced suggesting that a California startup called Energous is thought to be working on a mid-range wireless charging transmitter which could work over distances up to 15 feet (4.5 metres).

Energous is the company behind the ‘WattUp‘ platform, which utilises small antennas to transfer energy over fairly long distances. The charging process in turn, is controlled by software, which means that end users will be able to decide the order in which devices receive power and create a sort of schedule for their charging.

This technology by Energous is expected to release toward the latter half of 2017, which would coincide with the expected release of three anticipated new models of iPhone (more on that a bit later).

Wireless charging is already available on Apple Watches and would be a total new factor on the iPhone. However, the concept of wireless charging in general has been there for quite a few years and manufacturers like Samsung have already adopted this technology for their smartphones.

According to Kuo, Apple users in 2017 with the new iPhone model will be able to use wireless charging but Apple will probably not ship the wireless charger and might charge separately for it.

With this new platform called ‘WattUp’ on the new iPhone model, it seems that the dream of a cable-free future might soon turn into reality for iPhones.

Plastic Curved OLED Display

Fact is, the iPhone form factor while practical, widely copied, and immensely beautiful, is old and boring. Rumour has it that the new ‘iPhone 8’ (or whatever it will be called – since Apple is quite unpredictably known to play around with nomenclatures) will undergo a radical transformation in terms of design.

The physical home button at the front bottom of the phone might be removed entirely and instead be directly embedded into the display, to provide an edge-to-edge display that eliminates both top and bottom bezels that currently play host to the front-facing camera and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor respectively.

Jony Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple, has for long, wanted to introduce an iPhone that looks like a single sheet of glass. Additionally, glass also emerges as an essential component if Apple wants to introduce wireless charging on the device.

The only doubt that creeps in with the possibility of an edge-to-edge display is regarding the screen size of the phone. This is to say whether the display will grow to fit the iPhone or the iPhone will be shrunk to fit the display.

In fact, the display itself seems to be a matter of discussion here since there are reports that Apple this time will make use of flexible plastic OLED rather than an LCD, which would in turn enable the company to introduce a thinner device that devours much less power and offers a better display with higher contrast ratio and more true-to-life colors, in turn being a treat to the eyes.

Plastic OLED display will also enable Apple to incorporate sturdier material without the corresponding baggage of a heavier device.

What’s more, KoreaHerald reported that Apple has commissioned Samsung to supply an estimated 70 to 100 million plastic OLED units to use in (presumably) the iPhone 8.

Three New Models

The most interesting piece of news for Apple fans is the possibility that the brand may be planning to release three variants (instead of the current two) in 2017.

As per reports from KGI Securities analysts, one model will sport a 5.5-inch OLED screen and a dual camera. One will have a 5.5-inch LCD screen, also with a dual camera. The third will be a 4.7-inch iPhone with an LCD screen and a single camera system, much like the current iPhone 7 model.

As far as the body of the device is concerned, Apple seems to be finally bidding farewell to the aluminium utilised in the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone SE and instead be going back to the glass body like the one used in the iPhone 4.

The Processor on the new iPhone is to touted be the A11 chip built on a 10-nanometer process, completing the first stages of the design that is likely slated for 2017.

I’ll say this – at this time we don’t really know how much of the above is built on fact (or at least factual information), and how much is wishful thinking.

That said, I (like millions others) am bored of the iPhone and the iOS. Upgrading devices no longer has that a-ha moment for me, and like others, I am forced to look at the colour of my device these days, to remind myself that I did indeed get a ‘new’ iPhone this year.

If these rumours are true, and Apple does better its track record via a pathbreaking iPhone 8, it will be definitely spell an exciting upgrade to everyone – not only iPhone owners, but also to Android fans, as the industry will once more bend to follow Apple’s achievements.

'Touch Disease' Hits iPhone 6 Plus, Literally.

Touch Disease Hits iPhone 6 Plus, Literally.

Apple has launched a new repair program for its widely reported iPhone 6 Plus hardware malfunction sardonically referred to as “touch disease”. The malfunction renders the touchscreen useless and unresponsive and manifests as a thin grey line flickering at the top the display.

According to Apple however, this flaw is caused by dropping the phone repeatedly. The company says it will not cover the cost of a repair and will ask those affected by the issue to pay $149 to have it fixed via a newly launched a “Multi-Touch Repair Program”.

This did not not sit too well with the affected iPhone owners who filed class action lawsuits against Apple over the malfunction and Apple’s insistence of the user paying for the repairs.

In August 2016, repair guide website iFixit published a blog post detailing what it and other repair companies described as a growing number of complaints about a touchscreen issue among iPhone 6 Plus and some iPhone 6 users. iFixit blamed it on hardware malfunction, which it dubbed “touch disease”, and was brought to Apple’s attention through its own support forums online and via retail stores.

iFixit originally claimed the problem wasn’t the screen but rather the two touchscreen controller chips, or Touch IC chips, on the logic board inside the phone.

Apple has determined that some iPhone 6 Plus devices may exhibit display flickering or Multi-Touch issues after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface and then incurring further stress on the device. If your iPhone 6 Plus is exhibiting the symptoms noted above, is in working order, and the screen is not cracked or broken, Apple will repair your device“. The last three words thus imply that the company will not cover the cost of a repair whatsoever.

What if you already paid for a repair?

Apple said those who have already paid for a service repair are eligible for reimbursement equal to the difference between the original service repair cost and the new $149 program price. It has begun contacting iPhone 6 Plus customers who went through an Apple retail store or Apple technical support in the past for a repair related to the issue and ultimately paid for a fix.

How does the repair program work?

Apple is giving iPhone 6 Plus users three service options: contact an Apple authorized service provider, go to an Apple retail store, or contact Apple technical support. Apple said that the iPhone will be examined prior to any service to verify that it’s in working condition and is eligible for the program.

There’s no word on any such issues on the smaller iPhone 6 phones.

Apple's OLED Journey May Encounter Some Bumps In The Road To Fame

Apple OLED Journey May Encounter Some Bumps In The Road To Fame

It is said that Apple is finally acquiescing to have OLED screens on some of it’s iPhones. Apparently, it has big plans to outfit its next iPhone (at least one variant) with vibrant, energy-sipping (not guzzling) organic LED displays, seeking to enamour consumers with a technology that’s already been embraced by other high-end smartphone makers.

We’d written about the voices we’d heard of Samsung being Apple’s supplier of choice for OLED screens. You should read that article – it has some interesting insights.

But there’s a twist.

The stormy clouds on an otherwise sunny day come in the form of the four main suppliers who might not have adequate production capacity to manufacture the OLED screens next year, with constraints continuing into 2018. People familiar with the matter said this presents a potential challenge for the Cupertino, California-based company to include this change in it’s next iteration of iPhones.

OLED screens are more difficult to produce, putting Apple at the mercy of suppliers who are still struggling to manufacture the displays in mass quantities.
The four largest producers are Samsung Display Co., LG Display Co., Sharp Corp., and Japan Display Inc. While Samsung is on track to be the sole supplier for the new displays next year, the South Korean company may not be able to make enough units due to low yield rates combined with increasing iPhone demand. While Sharp and Japan Display are still working on test procedures for OLED screens, they have confirmed that they are on track for production in 2018, while seeking to manage expectations.

The supply constraints may force Apple to use OLED in just one version of the next-generation iPhone, push back adoption of the technology or cause other snags.

Apple has already figured there will be high demand for the OLED model and they’ve also figured out there will be constraints to these panels“, said Dan Panzica, a Supply Chain Analyst at IHS Markit. The combination of Apple’s stringent quality requirements and the difficulty of producing OLED panels will likely lead to supply constraints, he said.

While Sharp’s President, Tai Jeng Wu told reporters recently “There is all this talk about OLEDs, but I’m not at all sure about their future, we need to work on developing the technology, but whether we can succeed remains to be seen”.

Shuji Aruga, president of Japan Display, said earlier this month that he sees a 50:50 split between OLEDs and LCDs that will be used in high-end phone screens. “We are not yet at a stage where we can decisively choose between OLED and LCD”, he said. “We need to develop OLED capacity so that we are not caught empty-handed if the technology does end up capturing a majority”.

LG Display is the laggard in the team. “It’s true that we were late in OLED investment for smaller electronics devices compared to that of televisions”, LG Display’s Chief Executive Officer, Han Sang-beom said earlier this year, adding that the company now understands OLED’s importance for smartphones.

Display technology is still a pretty key driver of the purchasing experience“, said Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies.
Apple has previously used new display features as iPhone selling points. For example, the iPhone 4 in 2010 added Apple’s first Retina Display, the iPhone 5 in 2012 introduced the iPhone’s first display size increase, and the iPhone 6 in 2014 brought new 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screen options.

The OLED screens ordered by Apple in the Samsung deal are for displays larger than 5 inches, a person familiar with the matter said. If Samsung sees supply constraints in its ramp up of OLED panels for the fall 2017 iPhone launch, Apple may not have another major provider to fall back on.

The OLED iPhone, at least, will have a new look that extends glass from the display to the device’s back and edges, according to a person familiar with Apple’s plans. This all-glass design will have a virtual Home button embedded in an edge-to-edge screen, rather than a physical button that can be pressed, the person added.

Apple plans to ship at least one new iPhone with an OLED screen next year, being the 10th anniversary of the smartphone’s debut. A pair of other new iPhone models will likely feature screens that use older LCD technology, partly because there won’t be enough OLED displays to satisfy anticipated demand, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Apple typically introduces new technologies for its iPhones across all models when they’re unveiled every September, as it did for 3D Touch and Apple Pay. Using different core, user-facing technology in the same iPhone generation would be an unusual step.
All current iPhone 7 models have LCD screens.

Still, Apple may have no choice. Apple and Samsung have an exclusive OLED supply deal for 2017, still, that doesn’t guarantee the South Korean technology giant will have enough output to meet demand for the revamped iPhone. For example, Samsung’s OLED supplies have even been constrained for its own mobile division’s smartphones, however representatives for Samsung Display declined to comment.
Apple’s initial OLED order from Samsung is for 100 million units over one year, even so, Samsung will probably only be able to deliver a portion of that for the 2017 holiday period.

To get perspective, Apple shipped about 75 million iPhones in the 2015 holiday quarter, and some analysts estimate that as many as 90 million could be sold in the last three months of 2017.

Apple has run into supply problems before, for example when it sought to adopt tough sapphire screens for their iPhone 6 in 2014.
Even though it financed a sole supplier, GT Advanced Technologies Inc., to ramp up production and deliver the material, the manufacturer wasn’t able to deliver enough sapphire glass of acceptable quality. As a result, Apple abandoned plans to use stronger screens, and GT Advanced ended up seeking bankruptcy protection.

Apple has learnt from that fiasco and usually has multiple suppliers for key components. For example, it has sourced LCD panels from all of the major Asia-based display makers. That said, for the next year, at least, it appears that OLED supply chain may be a single-company affair.

Well, I must end with an opinion. Well, I know a fair bit about displays, and I also know that the debate is an unending one. Yet, as Shuji Aruga said, I don’t believe the industry (and our eyes) are yet compelled to choose only one of the two options. LCDs still work beautifully, as every Apple device of late – be it the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, or the iPad Pro indicate – we can’t really cite any shortcomings in the displays we’re using. Over time, technology and content may make the differences more distinguishable, but for the moment, the only thing we need to worry about is – if this new tech will end up make the iPhone even heavier on the pocket, will we want OLED iPhones then?

If that be the case, then I am sure a lot of you will agree with me, we’re fine with LCDs!

LeEco Introduces CDLA Audio Technology

LeEco Introduces CDLA Audio Technology

The times, as they are – are certainly changing! LeEco – the Chinese major, has just become the first company to dump the traditional 3.5 mm earphone jack from its latest line-up of smartphones, and moving to USB Type-C based audio technology.

There’s a sound reason too.

When it comes to audio technology, the 3.5 mm headphone jack is possibly one of the oldest existing survivors. While the audio players have seen a sea change from cassettes, to CDs, to MP3, to Hi-Fi players – yet, the audio jack has remained all the same, unfazed and curiously unchallenged.

While it can rule roost in the analog era, most smartphone manufacturers are realising that digital-audio can do with better support equipment. In fact, if you consider it, with processors and RAM and all-metal bodies becoming commonplace, there’s very little that distinguishes smartphones from each other any more. So the battle is moving to two different zones – cameras and audio.

So LeEco, with its second generation ‘Superphones’ Le 2 and Le Max 2 that were launched recently in India, has led the revolution in the audio technology space.  Using a technology called CDLA (Continual Digital Lossless Audio) , LeEco intends to revolutionise the music experience on their smartphones. And, just to be sure that it is a sound investment – the company is going to pump an investment of Rs 200 million in the industry with a motive to popularise and pioneer the CDLA standard.

In fact, so committed is the internet technology conglomerate towards this cause of popularising the new technology that it’s going be giving away a free CDLA earphone worth INR 1,990 to all Le 2 and Le Max 2 buyers during it’s first flash sale of its Superphones that’s scheduled for June 28.

So what is this technology all about? According to LeEco, “Delivering uninterrupted sound quality, CDLA improves signal-to-noise ratio from a standard best case of 60dB to 90dB. With our introduction of Type-C USB headphones, we are embedding digital signal processors (DSP) within the earphones themselves to handle the audio decoding. This results in a drastically reduced signal degradation”.

In other words, the digital signal goes straight from the phone and into the headphone’s audio processor, which decodes it, resulting in a purer sound.

The analog audio jack has indeed fallen far behind other components like the USB Type-C connector, that can not only handle high-throughput data transfers but even be cross-utilised to charge the device itself (and that’s not only phones – the Type-C can even charge laptops!).
Being a digital connection, headphones can leverage the USB Type-C port and even integrate a digital-to-analog converter and amplifier right into their headphones, ensuring consistent quality across devices.

In a 3.5 mm jack-based system, the decoder is built into the smartphone and there is no power source for the headphone or the earphone, which means there is no way the earphones can boost the audio quality to prevent quality loss.
Thus, loss usually occurs in traditional 3.5 mm headphones and earphones, irrespective of whether you are using a phone or a laptop.

In CDLA technology, the headset contains an integrated audio processing chip and a decoder which does not induce any sound quality loss.

Other than the loss itself, there are many problems in analog audio like interface noise, compatibility problem, poor sound field, noise from a connector, and etc. No matter how good the performance of the drive circuit is, as long as a 3.5 mm jack is used, there will always be inevitable losses. Coupled with the fact that users may use any possible options from a variety of earphones, it is just impossible to achieve real integration between the phone and the earphone.

Removing the dependence on the quality of the earphone’s circuitry, and moving it to a more self-contained and controllable element in the source device itself, thus will cause an automatic improvement in sound quality, which is agnostic to the earphone.

Additionally. CDLA also supports hi-fi (high-fidelity audio) which is used for high-quality audio reproduction and includes-quality high file formats such as FLAC.

Back to LeEco’s transition – all these benefits and features work with a USB Type-C based headphones that come with the Le Max2 and Le2 smartphones; but that also means that if a user decides to use a traditional 3.5 mm headset with a converter, he won’t get the same CDLA-equivalent sound quality.

In real-world field testing, the audio quality in the CDLA headset, when used with Le 2, was distinctly superior to the audio quality on the 3.5 mm headset (used with a converter).

LeEco has already launched their Superphones in China that come with standard Type-C interface, along with CDLA headphones, thus making LeEco the world’s first to launch the CDLA standard in smartphones!

While we at Chip-Monks believe that CDLA and similar music standards are on their way to redefine audio experience in smartphones thanks to breakthrough technology, intelligence and an upheaval in the supporting ecosystem, yet this ‘revolution’ will need our our open minds. And sympathetic ears.

Eggs-and-omlettes comes to mind, but since we’re talking about auditory senses, lean back, close your eyes and envisage a concert performance, hear the guitar strings, and the plectrum. If you can hear them and feel the pulse of the music, then you need better audio technology; get excited about it… it’s on it’s way to a smartphone near you!

Is Foxconn Sneaking Up On Apple?

Is Foxconn sneaking up on Apple

Fact:

Japan is one of Apple’s hottest markets worldwide. In fact, the iPhone continues to govern the Japanese smartphone market year-after-year.

Rumour:

Foxconn, a company most famed for manufacturing Apple’s devices (mainly the iPhone) is gearing up to sell its own smartphones in Japan.

Background:

Almost since the beginning of iPhones, Foxconn which now employs around 1.3 million people and 40,000 robots, has been playing a vital role as the supplier for Apple’s device manufacturing.

Foxconn recently acquired Sharp, reportedly to provide a helping hand to launch Foxconn’s own line of smartphones. Not only that, Sharp may even be involved in the manufacture and distribution of the handsets.

If reports are to be believed, then Foxconn is claimed to be working on launching entry-level and mid-range phones, expected to roll out in the first quarter of 2017. No specific dates can be pinned down at this stage, nor can the device specifications or features.

In fact, the brand name itself is a mystery – according to the sources within the Japanese manufacturing industry, it “remains unclear as to which brand Foxconn will use” to market the devices, though it is possible that Foxconn might sell them under Sharp’s branding  – perhaps owing to the recent acquisition and it’s brand positioning in the market.

This is clearly a bold move and clearly a long-planned overture.

You may not know it, but one of Foxconn’s subsidiaries, FIH Mobile, purchased all of Microsoft’s feature phone business earlier this year (for approximately USD 350 million) and is almost set to roll out its first Android phone under the Nokia brand name!

Let’s surprise you once more.

If you head over to Snapdeal’s site, you’ll see over 15 smartphones and features phones by the the brand name of InFocus. That’s Foxconn too!

In fact, InFocus’ latest mobile phone is the M535+. Launched in July 2016, this smartphone comes with a 5.5 inch display, 3 GB of RAM and packs a 13 megapixel primary camera on the rear and an 8 megapixel front shooter for selfies. The phone runs on Android 6.0. Overall, fairly decent specs for it’s price point.

Back to the mystery at hand.

Foxconn’s plans to introduce its own cheaper set of smartphones in collaboration with Sharp could also counterbalance Sharp’s own Aquos line of devices, which holds a major section in the high-end market in Japan but leaves the company the leeway in their product lineup to introduce entry-level and mid-range devices for consumers.

If sources are to be believed, the inclusion of Foxconn’s smartphones “will enrich Sharp’s product portfolios“, if the reports are true and the company is really the brand attached to the new handsets.

Adding to the triangle, Apple was long rumored to be in talks with Sharp to provide OLED displays for its next-generation iPhones – the deal relying on Sharp’s ability to produce a lot of displays. Apple currently uses LCD screens on its smartphones and tablets, and it’s move to OLED can’t seem to happen via it’s existing supply chain.

In fact, Sharp, the electronics manufacturer is said to have plans to spend a whopping USD 570 million on it’s OLED panel production capabilities, although the output goal is 2018.

Thinking tangentially, does this mean that Apple will not use OLED screen in the next iPhone (8?) launch in the next year? Hmmm.

Now for the other important question: Would Apple be worried about Foxconn’s intentions of launching its own smartphones?

Nope.

It wouldn’t be that huge a concern – because if Apple can manage to work in a comfortable space with its global rival Samsung, to produce iPhone’s components, then it sure can handle Foxconn’s nascent forays. I doubt Apple feels insecure anyway.

The iPhones 7 Are In India!

The iPhones 7 Are In India

Apple’s iPhone 7 has been ruling the internet and airwaves for months at end.

Finally, the much hyped device finally is being released in India this evening.

Last year at the midnight launch of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, people lined up outside stores to get their hands on the then new device, despite pre-registrations and advance bookings.

This time, iPhone clearly is in love with the number 7, as retailers are insisting on selling the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus only after 7 PM IST. How’s that for branding!

As is becoming a practice the world over, this time around too, Apple resellers have been taking pre-orders for the iPhones 7, so you need not queue outside stores if you have already booked and paid an advance for your new iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, because you will get the smartphone on the scheduled day.

Physical stores like Croma, Mapple, iZenica and online retailers like Flipkart, Snapdeal and Infibeam received a lot of advance bookings and promised to deliver the phone on the day of the launch in India itself.

Now if you haven’t been proactive enough to take advantage of the early-bird offers, you still stand a chance to avail some offers that are still being run by online retailers like Flipkart and Snapdeal.
Flipkart is still running a discount of up to INR 24,500 if you get your old smartphone exchanged for either an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus.
Snapdeal is offering a flat discount of Rs 10,000 to all those who buy  iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus using Axis Bank credit, the ones who use Axis bank debit card will get a 10% discount. A Snapdeal spokesperson said in a statement that its entire stock is pre-booked and the company might revive the offers later on their website.

Not just retail stores, but even telecom companies are also making hay while the sun shines as the hot new entrant Reliance Jio is offering additional 12 months of Jio Digital Services complementary with purchase of all iPhone models.
Reliance Jio says the offer is not limited to just limited to iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus but also extends to iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone SE.

To refresh your memory, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will be available in three storage variants this year- 32 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB. The phones come in five colour options – Gold, Rose Gold, Silver and the very latest additions – Jet Black and Matte Black.

Prices:

  • iPhone 7, 32 GB: INR 60,000,
  • iPhone 7, 128 GB: INR 70,000,
  • iPhone 7, 256 GB: INR 80,000,
  • iPhone 7 Plus, 32 GB: INR 72,000,
  • iPhone 7 Plus, 128 GB: INR 82,000,
  • iPhone 7 Plus, 256 GB: INR 92,000.

Staying with prices, a major issue that haunts Apple is the tariffs on imported phones. In Mark Hung’s  (Vice President, Research at Gartner) words, “The biggest challenge for Apple today is that the tariffs that India imposes on imported phones greatly increases the pricing of iPhones in India“, further stating that Apple in the first half of 2016 imported as much as a million iPhones in India. The tag price of iPhone 7 goes up to $900 (~ INR 60,000) from $649 (~ INR 43,500), all thanks to India’s import taxes.

Some smartphone makers like Huawei are escaping this hindrance by establishing manufacturing bases in India itself, so that they can sell directly to the customers.

Hung also expressed his concern over the fact that currently India represents only less than 1% of Apple’s total smartphone revenue and Apple itself has a share of less than 5% in the Indian market.

The reason for these statistics is simple enough; to buy a smartphone which is equivalent to half of an average Indian’s annual salary is definitely not a cake walk.

We have facts to back it all.

The World Bank estimated in 2015 that the average income in India was just USD 1,581.60, compared with USD 55,836.80 for an average American.

Apple’s attempt at targeting this average Indian user also failed as it launched a comparatively lower-priced iPhone SE which couldn’t really make its presence felt.

The Indian market is a lucrative market as it is one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world.

Research from International Data Corporation in August showed that for the April-June quarter, there were 27.5 million devices shipped in the country, a 17.1% jump from the previous quarter and a 3.7% uptick from a year earlier. It was a stark contrast to the anemic 0.3% on-year growth in the global smartphone market for the same period.

For Apple to have a solid footing in the Indian market it is important to outshine its global rival Samsung, a train of Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, Lenovo and Huawei, who have come up with improved devices at lower prices.

The Indian market has been dominated by Apple’s global rival Samsung, local brand Micromax and a slew of Chinese manufacturers, such as Xiaomi, Lenovo and Huawei, which have improved their phone quality, while offering a much lower price than the iPhone.

What Would New iPad Pro Models Have? We Foretell.

What Would New iPad Pro Models Have  We Foretell

Will there be a successor to the iPad Pro this year? Well, a lot of us are hoping for that, but it may not happen in 2016.

The Apple iPad Pro (12.9) has been around for just under a year now, and the iPad Pro 9.7 inch version was introduced a few months hence, when we were least expecting it. Sense would be that the team at Apple lets the users experience the current models and release their future siblings in the coming year.

Nonetheless, let us round up the rumoured specs that are doing the rounds, for you.

Introduction of a IPad Pro 10.5 inch or a smaller iPad Pro Mini:

Rumors have suggested that we might see an iPad Pro 10.5 inch version. According to renowned market analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, there will be three sizes of iPad Pro by the end of the year – and given that we’ve seen two already, the third may well be a 10.5 inch version, a middle ground between the existing options.

If Apple wants to capture the middle ground between the tablets and smartphones, they could also introduce an iPad Pro Mini – a capable tablet that can drive the agenda for mobile computing.

Since Apple has launched a 9.7 inch version, the “Pro” label no longer refers to the size of the device, but to the features and specs it holds instead, so we do not see a problem there.

According to recent reports, the iPad Pro 2 should feature an A10X processor rather than the A9X chip in the older model. This will make it chirpier, albeit conscious of saving on battery too. The A10X chip could take it multitasking capabilities further, making it a true competitor to notebooks, as the Pro series has already left netbooks behind by a mile.

It’s pretty much a given that the iPad Pro 2 will have a better camera. The current one has an 8 megapixel rear and a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera, and an educated guess warrants that we should expect to see a jump to 12 megapixel and 5 megapixel cameras respectively.
True 4K video recording should definitely be on the cards at this point too.

Going by the prices of the earlier models, we can paint a reasonably clear picture of how much we can expect to fork out for the latest versions when Apple finally shows them off.

The 32 GB 12.9 inch model originally retailed for USD 799, with a bump to USD 949 for the 128 GB version, and USD 1,099 for the 256 GB option. I can’t see Apple changing the price too drastically, although we may see a 64 GB option this time around, which you could expect to retail for around USD 849. If you’re for 4G connectivity, you’ll likely have to fork out at least USD 150 on top of the standard price.

With the iPhone sales on the decline, it is imperative for Apple to focus and recapture more of the tablet market space – a space they should not have too much trouble ruling as they laid its foundations, and the competition has never really had an answer or an equitable machine (except perhaps the extremely versatile Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft).

Does Your iPhone 7 Hiss? You Need To Read This!

Does your iPhone 7 HISS

As happens with all Apple’s products, the latest flagship, the iPhone 7 Plus has managed to grab global limelight and as expected, demand for the device has surpassed its supply.

Other than this business-as-usual, the age-old tradition that new iPhones have been cursed with, one of “…Gates”, like ‘Chipgate’, ‘Antennagate’, ‘Bendgate’ follow the iPhone 7 Plus. Now, the new flagship bears the ignominy of having created a new “…Gate”, the ‘Hissgate’.

Apple was smart enough to proactively play it safe when it voluntarily cautioned customers that the Jet Black version of the iPhones 7 would potentially scratch easily. Little did it know that the hissing would surface as a problem.

Stephen Hackett from 512 Pixels, brought the concern to everyone’s attention.
He recorded his iPhone 7 Plus emitting a hissing sound and shared it on YouTube. “As my iPhone 7 Plus was restoring from iCloud, I thought I noticed some sound“, Hackett wrote in the description of a YouTube video. “After picking the device up from my desk, it was clear the sounds are coming from back of the phone, possibly from the CPU“.
According to Hackett the hissing sound resembles what you might hear in case of poorly connected speakers and increases when the iPhone 7 Plus is “under load.”

Some users have reported that the sound resembles the buzzing of a laptop fan, although of course, there are no fans on the iPhone 7 Plus.

The culprit may be the new A10 processor in the device. Performance wise, the A10 makes the iPhone 40% more powerful than its predecessor, the iPhone 6s, and twice as powerful as the iPhone 6.
Apparently, the hissing sound occurs only when the iPhone is processing large files or programs and the source of the sound seems to be generating from where the new A10 chip is. How faint or loud the sound is not that big an issue, the problem is that no one would want their brand new iPhone 7 Plus to emit weird hissing noises! It’s unnerving, and one feels utterly helpless!

If reports by Ars Technica are to be believed then the hissing issue is not that serious an issue, though.

Going to the root of the problem, the hissing noise was also reported by some of the owners when their phone was restoring from a backup.
The process of restoring puts a lot of pressure on a device’s main microchip or SoC. In case of iPhone 7 Plus, the SoC is placed in the general area behind the Apple logo, which is the alleged spot where the hissing noise is emanating from.

A plausible explanation to all this could be Coil Noise. Coil noise usually stems in case of large electronic devices whereby when the moving parts of a high- powered processor hit a certain frequency, the whole circuit starts to vibrate and “whine”.
This side effect manifests more in stronger processors, which explains our being accustomed to hearing it from laptops and desktops, than smartphones.

Marco Arment, an iOS developer, said, “It’s the phone equivalent of hearing the fans spin up loudly whenever your Mac’s CPU gets used to its actual potential”.

Whether this issue has affected all the iPhone 7 Plus handsets or just some of them is still unclear.

As we said earlier, this is not the first time that such issues have surfaced on the iPhone.
Back in 2010, in case of iPhone 4, the antenna was wrapped around the outside of the phone resulting in the loss of cellular connectivity when the phone was held in a certain position, this fuss was dubbed as the Antennagate.

The list continued in 2014, sometime after the iPhone 6 Plus went on sale, it was reported that the phone was found to bend quite easily in trouser pockets; this was christened as Bendgate.

The only question that now remains unanswered is: What to do if your iPhone 7 Plus hisses? Well, you should visit Apple Store and get the device checked by a trained representative. Yet, be prepared – if the device is to be replaced, it could likely take some time, considering the alleged worldwide stock shortage of the new devices!

Apple iPhone 7 Battery Life - Surprisingly More And Still Unappreciated

Apple iPhone 7 Battery Life - Surprisingly More And Still Unappreciated

One must expect Apple critics to be pumping their fists for glory after the supposed headphone jack removal, which many naysayers suggested was the tech giant’s not-so-clean intentions regarding arm-twisting the customers into accepting the product.

Ever since we set up Chip-Monks in 2012, in fact the very reason we set it up in the first place, our motive has been to remain stoically unbiased. To remain true to customer-interest. To be clear in our thoughts (not vacillate), and yet be clearer in our support when due. We aren’t swayed by glamour, by larger-than-life propaganda, and definitely not by loud voices (whose only intent is to make noise, to be noticed). 

So, we don’t support any one brand out of financial or personal interest. On the other side of the coin, we don’t berate any brand either!

One must see through the clouds of criticism to praise the iPhone 7 (and even more, the iPhone 7 Plus) for what it brings to the table instead of hopping onto the bandwagon of bias.

The fact is, Apple, under the direction of Jony Ive, has striven to make the iPhone increasingly sleeker. This creates something of a disconnect with users who shout rather loudly that they’d be more than happy to put up with a thicker device if it resulted in improved battery life.

in fact, countless surveys over the past few years made it overwhelmingly clear that improved battery life was the most desired feature among iPhone owners, ranking far above design features like thinness!

Nonetheless, Apple’s near-obsession with device thinness marched on unabated, prompting some to wonder if Apple had completely lost touch with its user base.

With the iPhone 7, however, Apple has delivered the drastic improvements to battery life that users had been seeking for years. And, they’ve done that without making the iPhone gain any girth, at all.

Curiously, the iPhone 7’s battery life almost seems like a complete non-story as all anyone can seemingly hear being spoken about is the missing headphone jack or the curious design of Apple’s AirPods.

According to Apple, processor improvements and bigger physical batteries have resulted in the longest battery life ever in an iPhone. Those upgrading from an iPhone 6s to an iPhone 7 will see two hours of additional battery life on average while iPhone 7 Plus users upgrading from an iPhone 6s Plus will see at least an hour more battery life.

All said and done, in most cases, users will see much greater increases in battery. 3G and LTE browsing improved by a solid 20% while Wi-Fi browsing increased by an even more impressive 27%. And rounding things out, video playback increased by a respectable 2 hours.

Interestingly, the iPhone 7 marks the first time that Apple managed to increase LTE browsing time on the iPhone since the release of iPhone 5! On the iPhone 7 Plus, users should be able to enjoy an additional hour of battery life relative to the iPhone 6 Plus even on LTE.

So far, we’re impressed with the iPhone 7’s battery life during real-world usage; it is at least 12 hours of engaged use, two more than the iPhone 6s.

Physically the iPhone 7 battery grows to 1,960 mAh, up from 1,715 mAh in iPhone 6s. The iPhone 6s tended to end the day at about 30% remnant charge, when it was new (after one year, it’s at 10% remnant charge), and the iPhone 7 is currently ending the day at about 44% battery life on most days.

We still end up charging it every night, so there’s no real change in habit, but it’s less stressful to have plentiful juice when you’re driving home or watching some videos to unwind, while on the Metro.

Given that the iPhone 7 has a 1,960 mAh battery, we’d hazard a guess that Apple wanted the battery case (iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case retailing at $99 on Apple.com) to actually be able to fully charge your iPhone. Apple says the smart battery case combined with your fully charged iPhone can give you 22 hours of internet use over LTE or 26 hours of talk time, which is enough juice to get even the most ardent user through an entire day.

It’s worth noting here that while Apple has managed to improve the iPhone’s battery life, it hasn’t sped up the charging process itself.

Some Android smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and OnePlus 3, support Quick Charging technology; While OnePlus says its phone can recharge up to 60% after being plugged in for just 30 minutes, HTC has been promoting their Quick Charge functionality which supposedly works even faster.

Looking at the battery specs on the recent Android phones many wonder why Apple isn’t making bigger batteries – well, Chip-Monks surmises that current battery tech isn’t allowing commensurate growth of charge retention. Also, there are legal restrictions on the size and wattage of a battery that more Airlines and Aerospace Governance bodies have mandated for portable devices (which most people aren’t aware of). But that’s another story for another day.

Closing up on this story: Apple’s done a lot to improve the battery life on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and they’ve done it the smart way – without busting implicit weight and dimensional expectations of their users.

Purge Anarchy - Apple To Clean Up Its App Store

Purge Anarchy - Apple To Clean Up Its App Store

As we’d written back in April (here’s the original article), Apple was taking the clean-up of their App Store very seriously.

Our subsequent article had explained the why’s and what’s of Apple’s intentions. Now, on Wednesday, September 7th, the day when they unveil their new iPhone: Apple is rumored to start its review of their App Store content, with the fittest and up-to-date App surviving the cut, while the others will be swept out of the store.

To make it easier for customers to find great apps that fit their needs, we want to ensure that apps available on the App Store are functional and up-to-date“, the company said in a post on its developer site. “We are implementing an ongoing process of evaluating apps, removing apps that no longer function as intended, don’t follow current review guidelines, or are outdated“.

It is good news for consumers sick of wading neck deep in a flood of unwanted apps. According to a news agency, developers will be given 30 days to release an updated version of an app before it’s culled from the store.

A report from last year found that the top iOS developers averaged 45 days in between updates on average however smaller and indie developers may not have the resources to maintain quite as fast-paced a schedule. It is a reasonable expectation to have that an actively maintained app would at least be updated annually, or when a new iOS operating system is released or new hardware arrives. Most apps aren’t, though and they will get the sharp end of the cane.

There are 2.1 million active apps on the App Store worldwide however according to data from Adjust, a business intelligence firm for app marketers, developers have abandoned 50% of all apps since May 2015.
According to data from another app intelligence firm, Sensor Tower, 328,000 iOS apps haven’t been updated in three or more years.

With half the App Store potentially up for deeper examination, Apple’s marketplace could soon look a lot different, following the upcoming purge, with the emphasis being on quality over quantity. Meanwhile, Sensor Tower says that roughly 40% of apps were updated in the last three months, while 7.5% don’t support the iPhone 6 or newer devices.

Quality is extremely important to us“, Apple said. “We know that many of you work hard to build innovative apps and update your apps on the App Store with new content and features. However, there are also apps on the App Store that no longer function as intended or follow current review guidelines, and others which have not been supported with compatibility updates for a long time. We are implementing an ongoing process of evaluating apps for these issues, notifying their developers, and removing problematic and abandoned apps from the App Store“.

There is another suggestion too: “App Names you submit in iTunes Connect for new apps and updates will now be limited to no longer than 50 characters”.
According to the company: “Search is one of the most frequently used methods for customers to discover and download apps from the App Store. In hopes of influencing search results, some developers have used extremely long app names that include descriptions and terms not directly related to their app and are not fully displayed on the App Store thus adding no user value.”

While the initiative will be enforced going forward in new apps and app updates submitted to ITunes Connect, the quality cleanup measure will likely result in some disgruntled developers when non-quality apps are removed.

Apple App Store - Cleaning Up The Forest

Apple App Store - Cleaning Up The Forest

We wrote about the imminent clean up of Apple’s App Store a few months ago, via our brilliant and rather eloquent article titled “Is Apple Revamping The App Store?” and predicted that Apple would be clearing out the store to make it more attractive and usable (since a lot of the apps were archaic and not very well defined either).

Well, we were right.

Since the early years of the App Store, Apple has experienced some insane numbers, of both apps available at the App Store, as well as the number of installs for some of the most prominent apps.
As of June 2016, there are 2 million iOS apps for the iPhone and iPad. They have been downloaded 130 billion times ever since the App Store was launched in 2008.

But many of these apps don’t work at all and are never downloaded. Hundreds of millions of apps were probably built on an older version of iOS and never updated. So it’s time to improve App Store discovery. It’s going to be interesting to see whether the number of apps in the App Store reduces drastically once Operation Cleanup ends.

Apple recently notified its customers that it will be starting the cleanup of the App Store starting September 7.

Apple will begin removing old, outdated apps that do not comply with current review guidelines, apps that have not received compatibility updates and apps that no longer function as intended. This will result in culling of many old apps that have been long abandoned by their developers.

The team at Apple shared their intent and reason with their customers and App Developers, saying, “Quality is extremely important to us. We know that many of you work hard to build innovative apps and update your apps on the App Store with new content and features. However, there are also apps on the App Store that no longer function as intended or follow current review guidelines, and others which have not been supported with compatibility updates for a long time. We are implementing an ongoing process of evaluating apps for these issues, notifying their developers, and removing problematic and abandoned apps from the App Store”.

Apps across all categories will be subject to Apple’s new review process this September. Developers with problematic apps will be notified and will have 30 days to make changes to their app to prevent it from being removed from the App Store. Apps that crash on launch will, however, be removed from the App Store immediately.

Interestingly, Apple also plans to limit the number of characters that can be used in an app’s name, preventing some developers from using excessively long app names to influence search results. Beginning September 7, app names submitted in iTunes Connect for both new apps and app updates will be limited to a maximum of 50 characters.

Search is one of the most frequently used methods for customers to discover and download apps from the App Store. In hopes of influencing search results, some developers have apparently used extremely long app names that include descriptions and terms not directly related to their app. These long names are not fully displayed on the App Store and provide no user value.

 

Earlier this summer, Apple also unveiled more significant changes to the App Store including paid search ads and allowing subscriptions for all app categories. After the first year of the usual 70/30 revenue split, developers with a subscription app will only be required to give 15 percent to Apple.

For developers concerned about the future of their apps, Apple made it clear that ousted apps could still have a life later on. “When apps are removed from the App Store, they are not deleted from your account”, Apple told developers. So the developers could easily rework, update and rejuvenate these apps to have them listed back at the Store.

At the time of writing this article, the cleaning had commenced and Apple had issued further guidelines. All told, this seems like the kind of improvement that’s probably going to make the App Store easier to navigate… which is undoubtedly a good thing – considering that it’s become tough to spot the oaks from the weeds!

Future Tech - New Anti-Theft Feature For Future iPhone

Future Tech - New Anti-Theft Feature For Future iPhone

In a move that appears borrowed straight from espionage classics, Apple looks all set to introduce a new anti-theft feature in its iPhones, that involves covertly capturing both a photo and fingerprints of a phone-thief without his or her knowledge.

Invented by Ryan W Palumbo, the technology is named “Biometric Capture For Unauthorized User Identification”. The process is pretty straightforward – the act of unauthorized use triggers the device to secretly record fingerprints, photos, video and even the audio of the perpetrator and sends it back to the device’s owner.

That information would be stored somewhere on the device, hidden away, encrypted and timestamped. Once the owner, or the police, requests it from another device, via iCloud, the device transmits the information to help identify whose stolen/possesses the smartphone, and even where it can be found.

The act of capturing shall be pretty sneaky too – although we’ll only know more about the technology when Apple announces it formally.

The trigger-conditions could be the detection of an unauthorized user attempting to bypass the iPhone’s security features or unauthorized access attempts coming from a third-party device.

This facility will ride atop the strong anti-theft measures that iPhones and iPads currently already have.
Currently, users have five attempts to unlock their iPhone or iPad with Touch ID (the fingerprint sensor) before the device defaults to a 6-digit passcode or custom alphanumeric code to be physically entered onto the device.

Ten failed passcode attempts results in a “cool down” period or a complete data wipe depending on user settings. Further, passcodes are required when an owner wants to manage Touch ID and Passcode device settings after more than 48 hours have elapsed between unlocks.

Not only that, the Find My iPhone functionality allows devices to be marked as lost and their locations tracked, while another feature, Activation Lock prevents a device from being reset without the original owner approving it using her own Apple ID and password.

But this new patent would step things up a notch by providing law enforcement with evidence of the identity of a thief.

While all this sounds great news for device owners, this new feature comes with its share of baggage too – considering the myriad of privacy related laws in the US (which are ill-famed as counterintuitive to logic at times), there are some technical and legal issues challenging Apple’s idea. The capturing of a phone thief’s biometric data like fingerprints and photos raises some privacy and legal red flags!

And then there’s perceptions. Even a brand as universally heralded as customer- and privacy-centric, could take a perception-hit, for this feature designed for consumer’s protection, covertly capturing and storing biometric information.

That said, Apple is no shrinking violet when it comes to taking stands, on the basis of values and customer promise. It has, on numerous occasions, stated its decision to not store any unencrypted information at it’s own servers.

Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has routinely used the company’s record on protecting user privacy in order to present Apple’s hardware and software in a favorable light. You’d recall that the megabrand did not compromise on user privacy issues even when confronted by the FBI and threatened by severe repercussions.

Such an anti-theft system might be unprecedented. While that sounds useful, it’s important to keep in mind that this might fall into murky legal waters.

Current laws may not consider it legal to record someone (the phone-thief) without their permission or knowledge, even if they’ve allegedly stolen your phone! And would all that information be accessible only by the original owner, or forwarded only to the relevant law-enforcement authorities?

Apple has invested in its image of being a righteous company that goes out of its way to ensure data protection of its consumer(s). This development might be welcomed by some but (in typical confused-American pattern) be opposed by others. We can only wait and see how this pans out.

iOS 9.3.5 Patch: Plugging In The Loopholes

iOS 9 3 5 Patch Plugging In The Loopholes

In these of times of careful scrutiny, the invasion of privacy is all too common. Security loopholes in operating systems have been serving as a breeding ground for such instances.

Apple’s recent brush with FBI over security features had already muddled up the water. Now, recent happenings have unearthed a new not-so-surprising invasion on its devices.

Earlier this month, an Emirati human rights activist named Ahmed Mansoor got a suspicious text. It promised new details of torture in the country’s state prisons, along with a link to follow if he was interested. If Mansoor had followed the link, it would have jailbroken his phone on the spot and implanted it with malware, capable of logging encrypted messages, activating the microphone and secretly tracking its movements.

A detailed report on the case by the Citizen Lab says “The ensuing investigation, a collaboration between researchers from Citizen Lab and from Lookout Security, determined that the links led to a chain of zero-day exploits (“zero-days”) that would have remotely jailbroken Mansoor’s stock iPhone 6 and installed sophisticated spyware. We are calling this exploit chain Trident. Once infected, Mansoor’s phone would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone’s camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device, recording his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging messages sent in mobile chat apps, and tracking his movements”.

The Trident works in a three pronged attack – Once the target clicks on the link with the “Pegasus” package, her iPhone is jailbroken, and the monitoring and data theft suites are installed.

Three zero-day vulnerabilities were discovered as a result of the misfired attack. The first is a vulnerability in Safari WebKit that allows the attacker to compromise the device if a user clicks on a link. The WebKit flaw, coupled with an information leak in the Kernel problem, and an issue where Kernel memory corruption could lead to a jailbreak allowed for the entire attack method to be implemented against the discoverer, and one additional activist in Mexico.

Lookout claims that the payload delivered by “Pegasus” allows the attackers to access passwords, messages, calls, emails, and logs from apps including Gmail, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, FaceTime, Calendar, Line, Mail.Ru, WeChat, SS, Tango, amongst others.

What’s worse, is that the overall “Pegasus” package is not iOS exclusive, and can exploit flaws in Android and BlackBerry as well. It appears that the attacker must have some knowledge of platform that the targeted user utilizes to aim the attack, and develop a server-side payload delivery and data receptacle suitable to the device.

Based on some indicators in the code, the spyware’s iOS variant is capable of infecting users on iOS 7 or above. Successive updates to the devices afflicted by the malware appear to have no effect on existing malware installations.

Citizen Lab and Lookout informed Apple of the vulnerabilities on August 15 and a subsequent iOS update released by Apple, called iOS 9.3.5 patches the vulnerability and blocks the attack.

Citizen Lab linked the attack to a private Israeli spyware company known as NSO Group, although it’s unclear how the exploits were first discovered.

Earlier this year, the exploit broker Zerodium offered and awarded a million-dollar bounty for remote jailbreaking capability in iOS 9, which Citizen Lab notes is similar to the exploit used against Mansoor.

Apple recently launched its own bug bounty to encourage disclosure of such vulnerabilities. The highest bounty, up to $200,000, was offered for vulnerabilities that compromise the secure boot firmware.

The attack is likely to reignite the debate over private sector malware companies, which have drawn harsh criticism for selling intrusion software to oppressive regimes in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Bahrain.

Apple Acquires Health Data Startup Gliimpse

Apple acquires health data startup Gliimpse

We wrote about Apple getting serious about Health just a week or so ago and now we learn something that vindicates us further!

Apple quietly acquired a start-up, Gliimpse, and we didn’t find out until much later. It is a Silicon Valley-based health data collection portal founded by Anil Sethi in 2013.

Lets pry a little into the union of the two.

What does Gliimpse do?

Anil Sethi, a man who has a proven track as his previous start-ups have been acquired by WebMD, and Citrix Systems, founded Gliimpse with Kartik Hariharan.
Gliimpse is a software company bringing together people’s medical data into shareable reports by collating users’ personal health data from different platforms, turning information from labs, hospitals, and pharmacies into a single shareable report.

This has enabled doctors and medical professional get easy, comprehensive and systematic access to a patient’s medical data when needed and can be used for great purposes of complication resolution and analysis. It can be used to determine health graphs, and aid research, and can be scaled to a national level, helping researchers seeking medical breakthroughs and trends.

When did the acquisition happen?

The news was initially reported on 22nd of August, 2016 by FastCompany. The actual acquisition, however, had happened much earlier in the year, the particulars of which can only be speculated since neither company involved is willing to share any information on it.

Once the news started making rounds, Apple, however, did confirm the purchase, saying it’s usual: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans“. The acquisition has been kept out of all official channels and websites of either companies, even the amount of the acquisition settlement also remains undisclosed.

What are Apple’s plans with Gliimpse?

The obvious answer would be to expand Apple’s existing portfolio, giving it another niche under its foray. Apple already has some healthcare platforms, including a well-equipped team of medical researchers.

Back in 2014, they introduced HealthKit, which aggregates data from both fitness apps like Nike+ and health care providers like the Mayo Clinic to name a few. Then they have ResearchKit, which lets researchers craft medical studies and recruit users for them via iOS apps. They even have CareKit, a lesser-known app that helps users manage diseases like diabetes and depression.

With Gliimpse, they would be making another significant addition to their line-up.

Economically, the move would make sense for Apple, giving it another avenue for collecting, collating and analyzing health data within its expanding healthcare technology portfolio. Not burdened by insurance providers, the company could be going for a share in the more than $9 trillion in global healthcare spending, especially in light of the global smartphone market taking a downturn.

There are obvious parallels between what Gliimpse offers and what Apple already has and if they choose to use Gliimpse as a separate entity, or use it and work toward bettering their own software and applications, is yet to be seen.

What’s in it for Gliimpse?

The company was born out of Sethi’s personal debacle, with his sister’s breast cancer.

Seen on his LinkedIn page: “As a consumer of healthcare, I leave behind a bread-crumb-trail of medical info wherever I’ve been seen. But, I’m unable to easily access or share my own data. ObamaCare is one of several forcing functions federally mandating physicians and hospitals give us our data: meds, labs, and allergies . . .you get the idea. However, there’s no single Electronic Health Record that all physicians use, sigh. Worse, there isn’t even a common file format across 1000+ systems.”

Gliimpse could be used for research specializing in helping people with illnesses like cancer and diabetes, that need aggressive report keeping and constant testing.

Apple recently hired a top pediatric endocrinologist, Rajiv Kumar, who has developed the HealthKit app for teens with Type 1 diabetes. This is not out of the ordinary as Apple’s medical team of experts includes Divya Nag, a former biotech entrepreneur and Mike O’Reilly, an anesthesiologist who runs the ResearchKit platform, along with other able hands.

The acquisition, for Gliimpse, might not be about the money or the shade of a big umbrella, but the simple fact that Apple might have resources to take Gliimpse’s technology where they themselves might not be able to make it.

Will we see the traces of this deal in the iOS 10? We’ll find out post-facto, as is always the case with Apple. *sigh*

Apple Getting Serious About Health

Apple getting serious about Health

Apple has an eye on your health and is taking it very seriously. We say this because Apple recently filed a patent application for a wearable device that is capable of measuring Electrocardiographic (ECG) signals via sensors to monitor the health of your heart.

The patent application, published by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), reflects on Apple’s consistent efforts and commitment to enter the health care industry.

In order to regulate the said device, the users need to undergo an “enrollment” process whereby the readings are taken from different parts of the body before putting the device to use. “It can use those measurements to correct abnormalities resulting from the device’s location on a person’s body”, the report added.

If the wearable comes into being then it would play a crucial role for cardiology tests.

Conventionally, what happens is that ECG readings vary based on the distance of the device from the heart, but the device that Apple wants to patent describes a calibration process, which professes that it can calculate accurate readings no matter where the device is on the body.

At a recent interview with The Telegraph, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook revealed that he didn’t want the Apple Watch to go “through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process”, but he “wouldn’t mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it”.

Apple has been channelizing its energies in the direction of health care for some time lately and had filed the patent on April 15.

Last year, Apple had released ResearchKit, an open source software framework enabling doctors to gather data from various participants using iPhone apps. In fact, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the U.K. drug manufacturer announced last month that it is running a clinical trial via ResearchKit.

Apple and IBM (IBM) are also collaborating on iOS apps in the field of health care and is a part of a broader alliance between the two tech giants.

The developments are making a difference in people’s life out there in the real world.
Last month, Apple’s Vice President of Environment Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson shared a touching story of a nine-year-old boy who could hear again after about 6 years of isolation, with the help of a new type of bone conduction based hearing aid that is controlled by a companion iPhone app.

Hence, emphasizing upon the transformation that technology is bringing to the lives of many.

An upcoming Apple Watch software update will let people contact 911 via their wearable”, reports Carson.

The Apple Watch is already capable of monitoring pulse of the user and has a cool feature whereby it buzzes when you continue to be lazy or sit around for too long. CEO, Tim Cook, believes that “sitting is the new cancer” and this product can be a possible solution.

A wearable of this patent could enable Apple to participate in the USD 148 billion US market for medical devices. It appears as a logical development from the Apple Watch, which is a mainstream product primarily initiating the idea of having technology at your wrists all the time.

Samsung, LG and Sony were there with their smartwatches, however Apple Watch led the pack coming in from behind with their focus on user health and moving past the wearable being just an extension of the smartphone.

The wearables market is constantly evolving and by 2019 it is expected to be worth USD 25 billion, as forecast in a CCS Insight report.

However exciting this prospect of having a wearable capable of measuring ECG signals sounds, one must always remember that different companies file patent applications for various products and technologies, but only a few out of those see the light of the day and others don’t.

With Apple having filed a few patents in quick succession around wearables, optimizing power consumption, flexible screens and inclusion of health monitoring technology, we could be looking at a serious health add-on to pair with your smartphone or smartwatch soon.

Apple’s iPhone 7: More From The Rumour So Far

Apple  iPhone 7  More From The Rumour So Far-min

As one gets closer to September – the much hallowed release date for the iPhone 7- the entire rumour mill industry keeps churning up new news. Some of them are expectedly progressive, some of them are surprising.

Some rumours tell us of Apple aiming to make the iPhone 7 thinner by 1 mm by removing the 3.5 mm headphone jack and bringing in a thinner Lightning port, but other rumours suggest the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will have a body that is the same thickness as the iPhone 6s.

With no headphone jack, wired headphones will connect to the iPhone 7 using its Lightning port and Bluetooth headphones will connect wirelessly. Apple is rumoured to be working on Lightning-equipped EarPods to sell alongside the iPhone 7.

On the design front, the iPhone 7 will look largely the same. Asian Media has remarked the iPhone 7 could be Apple’s toughest smartphone yet, with Apple set to kit it out with a strengthened and waterproof frame.

A report from TrendForce weighed in on the matter too, claiming that Apple will kit out the iPhone 7 with “hardware innovations” such as water resistance. The removal of the headphone jack may also improve water resistance.

And, of course, since Apple owns Beats, you can expect some fancy new wireless PowerBeats to arrive alongside iPhone 7, too.

In a recent leaked video, the camera component of the phone is embedded into the metal body with a curved, smooth, edge. Positioned closer to right end of the device, unlike the existing iPhone 6s where the camera is offset horizontally-the size of the camera hole is also about 25% larger, suggesting that significant upgrades to camera quality are in the cards.

The current iPhone 6s has a 12 megapixel rear camera: it is possible Apple will keep the megapixel count the same but increase the amount of light per pixel for better quality photographs with less noise in low light situations. The new iPhone 7 antenna lines are also visible and compared against the (uglier) antenna strips on the iPhone 6s.
Rather than stretching across the rear of the device, the iPhone 7 antenna lines only trace the top and bottom edges.

Apple is also expected to ditch the 16 GB variant, and make 32 GB as the new base storage variant. Some reports claim that Apple will also discontinue the 64 GB variant, and introduce the 128 GB variant.

The report also said that there are going to be two speaker grilles – one on each side of the Lightning port now that there is more space with the 3.5 mm audio jack gone. Both speakers will be on a ‘monaural system’, and not be stereo speakers as previously rumoured.

It’ll come as no surprise to hear that the iPhone 7 is expected to be even thinner than the current 7.1 mm iPhone 6s, and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reckons Apple could trim down its new handset to as little as 6 mm, and newer reports point to a 6.1 mm-thin body.

If true, then we’re concerned that the battery capacity won’t be up to scratch, even with Apple’s expected optimisations, though it’ll undoubtedly look and feel beautiful.

Of course, Apple only has the power to keep such rumours to rest.

Apple’s iPhone 7 : More From The Rumor Mills.

Apple  iPhone 7  More From The Rumor Mills

As one get’s closer to September- the much-awaited release date for the iPhone 7- the rumor mill industry keeps churning up news. Some news pieces are expectedly progressive while some of them are surprising.

We’d summarised and prophesied on some of the rumours around the iPhone 7 a few days ago. Weeks have passed and now that we have more way more conjecture to wade through, we thought to put together another rumour-study for you.

In this article, we will share the developments that could find their way into the new iPhone.

Removal of the 3.5 mm jack

This is a speculation that will singlehandedly bring this particular phone to prominence. The 3.5 mm jack was not just a plugin hole at the end of a screen, it is a reminiscence of a bygone era, an era that even covered bigwigs like Sony Walkman.

The transition from a 3.5 mm jack to Lightning Port will not be simple. Also its seems pretty inexplicable to most who mistake it as a whim of the company. For some folks, it represents arm twisting the consumer base into accepting a certain product which might not have any compatibility outside the Apple universe (well, for that matter Apple universe always prided itself on certain insulations from the outside world).
According to a research done by the Deutsche Bank supply-chain sources claim that Apple will sell the iPhone 7 with a Lightning-to-Audio dongle rather than providing Lightning headphones. However supply-chain sources aren’t always the most reliable source of information on Apple’s plans, as Tim Cook himself observed in the past.

Additionally, to work with existing headphones, the dongle would have to contain a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC). Unless Apple is able to make a DAC significantly smaller than existing ones, it would make for a pretty clunky adapter.

Since Apple owns Beats, you can expect some fancy new wireless PowerBeats to arrive alongside iPhone 7, too. Like most other phones, you could use the iPhone 7 with any existing Bluetooth headphones or speakers, too; thankfully.

Hardware Specifications

Weibo has uploaded a video showing a purported model of the iPhone, which has led to even more speculations. The video shows an iPhone 7 casing (4.7 inch model) that corroborates previous rumors: new larger camera, redesigned antenna lines, missing headphone jack in lieu of an additional speaker grille. The video compares the purported iPhone 7 design to an iPhone 6s, with which it shares many design characteristics.

The iPhone 7 dummy unit is encased in a Space Grey metal matches the iPhone 6s’ livery and includes the same camera bulge as a leaked photo released last week. The new camera component is embedded into the metal body with a curved, smooth, edge positioned closer to the corner of the device, unlike the existing iPhone 6s where the camera is offset horizontally. The size of the camera hole is also about 25% larger, suggesting that significant upgrades to camera quality are on the cards.

New rumors claim that the iPhone 7 will be the first Apple smartphone to ship in a darker Space Black model.

This same rumor suggests that the Home Button might be tweaked and will feature haptic feedback to simulate a click, using the same approach as Force Touch on the MacBook. With haptic feedback, iPhone users would still feel the sensation of pressing on the home button even without a button to actually depress.

These home button rumors come from somewhat sketchy sources and should be viewed with some skepticism until confirmed with more information as they do not match up with rumors of only minor design tweaks.

There have also been murmurs of a potential “Pro” model of the 5.5-inch iPhone 7, potentially including a Smart Connector, although there is no consensus from the rumor mill on this topic.

Parts of the Chinese media have remarked the iPhone 7 could be Apple’s toughest smartphone yet, with Apple set to kit it out with a strengthened and waterproof frame.

It’ll come as no surprise to hear that the iPhone 7 is expected to be even thinner than the current 7.1 mm iPhone 6s, and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reckons Apple could trim down its new handset to as little as 6 mm, and newer reports point to a 6.1 mm-thin body.

If true, then we’re concerned that the battery capacity won’t be up to expectation, even with Apple’s expected optimizations, though it’ll undoubtedly look and feel beautiful.

There is also an emphasis on the phone being water resistant, while the front panel may also see some design changes with a slightly longer earpiece and relocated ambient light sensors. Bear in mind, any front panel changes with tweaks, or to the thickness of the phone, or even to the rear camera will render iPhone 6s cases and screen protectors unusable with the iPhone 7, despite the overall design similarities.

Specifications Speculations:

The current iPhone 6s has a 12 megapixel rear camera; it is possible Apple will keep the megapixel count the same but increase the amount of light per pixel for better quality photographs with less noise in low light situations. The new iPhone 7 antenna lines rather than stretching across the rear of the device only trace the top and bottom edges.

Apple is also expected to ditch the 16 GB variant, and make 32 GB as the new base storage variant, while some reports claim that Apple will also discontinue the 64 GB variant, and introduce the 128 GB variant.

The speculations suggest that there are going to be two speaker grilles on each side of the Lightning Port now that there is more space with no 3.5 mm audio jack; however both speakers will be ‘on a monaural system’, and not be stereo speakers as previously rumored.

Wireless Earphones:

Along with Lightning-equipped EarPods that will perhaps ship alongside the iPhone 7, Apple is rumored to be working on a new set of wireless Bluetooth earphones that would be sold alongside the iPhone 7 as a premium accessory and an alternative to the EarPods.

While traditional Bluetooth headphones have a wire that connects the left and right earpieces to each other, Apple is said to be designing earphones that do not include a connective cord between the earpieces. These earphones would be similar in design to the Bragi Dash; an upcoming set of earphones that feature individual earpieces for each ear.

Dual SIM Trays

A part leak suggests the iPhone 7 could include dual SIM trays to allow the device to send and receive calls and messages from multiple phone numbers. Dual SIM trays would also allow the iPhone 7 to work with multiple carriers at the same time, however Apple going this path seems bleak. Of all that I’ve read and heard, and as I think of Apple as it were, this is singularly the easiest rumour for me to discard. I don’t see Apple going down a dual-SIM path. Ever.

Why sell a customer one phone when you could easily sell him two?

LTE Speeds

Apple is said to be sourcing some LTE modems for the iPhone 7 from Intel, perhaps adopting the Intel 7360 LTE modem and introducing faster LTE speeds on the device. The chip features faster theoretical downlink speeds of up to 450 MB/s, uplink speeds of up to 100 MB/s, and support for LTE category 10 and 29 bands. The rumour mill believes that Intel will supply at least 50% of the LTE chips for the iPhone 7.

Longtime Apple modem supplier Qualcomm is also expected to provide some of the LTE modems for the iPhone 7, and the X12 modem is the most likely candidate for inclusion in the device. Qualcomm’s X12 chipsets feature theoretical download speeds up to 600Mb/s and upload speeds up to 150Mb/s, with support for 4×4 MIMO, LTE Advanced carrier aggregation, LTE-U small cells, and automatic LTE and Wi-Fi switching. Apple might use Intel modems for the AT&T iPhone 7 and some versions of the iPhone sold in other countries, while Qualcomm will supply modems for use in Verizon iPhone models and all Chinese models.

This is what we thought was remotely credible to share, of course, Apple only has the power to lay such rumors to rest, which they will at the September launch. Till then, it is just a long wait.

Microsoft’s New Pix Camera App Brings AI To Your Photos

Microsoft New Pix Camera App Brings AI To Your Photos

Microsoft’s research arm has launched a photography app for iOS users called Pix.

The magic of Pix is that it enhances the photos that the users click, on it’s own.

The app makes the photos better and augments the quality of Apple’s Live Photos ability to capture the scenes that have elements in motion in them.

This is clearly a move on Microsoft’s part to continuously push the building of applications for platforms beyond the platforms that are directly under it’s own control. And it’s also a clear plan for Microsoft to try and be relevant and contemporary on the world’s most App-energetic operating system.

Pix is for those lazy people who want a professional feel to their photos but are not really interested in making all those changes and adjustments in the contrast, brightness, frames and more themselves, to get that perfect picture.

Worry not my friend as Microsoft may have answered your prayers! The app literally has very few manually adjustable settings and uses artificial intelligence to give you best possible pictures with a single tap.

We think that people are the most important subjects in the photographs you take”, said John Weisberg, principal program manager in the computational photography group within Microsoft’s research organization.

Microsoft Pix is specifically suited to capture pictures of people and comes with inbuilt adjustments, which enable the user to take a photo even when the scene changes within a blink of your eye. What this ensures is that the exposure of an image is always tuned to the right conditions.

When users press the shutter button, the app takes a burst of photos and then chooses the best ones for final use on the basis of analysis of traits like quality, sharpness, as well as facial traits like smiles and whether the people in the frame had their eyes open. It uses the best frame and also augments the best aspects from the other photos clicked in the background.

The app also recognises faces quickly and employs Microsoft’s Hyperlase technology to stabilize video shot clicked through the app. Microsoft Hyperlapse is already available for Android and Windows Phone users and is now available on iOS. It employs image stabilization algorithms and intelligently selects which frames to keep for optimal flow in time lapses.

That burst also powers Pix’s Live Image feature, which in turn creates a short moving picture when there’s motion in the background, like flowing water, or the leaves rustling in the wind.. Now what’s interesting here is that this enables any iPhone or iPad to click Live images, a feature that Apple has made available on recent models like iPhone6, iPhone 6S and iPhone SE.

Microsoft is pitching this feature as a way to get the best parts of Apple’s moving picture functionality without requiring a lot of storage space and getting stabilized images as a result.

Microsoft’s app places focus on people and after facial recognition adjusts aspects like brightness, contrast, white-balance etc. by itself. During dim light conditions, the app automatically enables “Denoise” mode, effectively reducing noise by using burst shots resulting in an enhanced image in real-time.

The app also features a ‘compare’ option, whereby you can compare the effects of Pix’s app and the “normal” click.

Weisberg confirms that the interface of the app is “intentionally simple”, with no modes or settings to select, helping users take better photos with a minimalist set of tools. With Pix, Microsoft intends to “bring a lot of extra value” to smartphone photography.

We agree with you Mr. Weisberg, and are waiting for this app to release for Android users also.

Patent Spotted: Tech That Would Allow Apple Pencil To Work With A Mac

Patent Spotted Tech That Would Allow Apple Pencil To Work With A Mac

This patent would enable the Apple Pencil to work with Mac Trackpad along with the two iPad Pro models. The patent also serves to describe how the Apple Pencil could use a three or six-axis inertial sensor to act as a more general input device, including a joystick and an air mouse.

Inertial sensor input may be gathered when operating the stylus in one or more input modes; as an air mouse mode, a rotational controller mode, a joystick mode, and/or other inertial sensor input modes.

The patent would also enable the Apple Pencil to detect lateral movement (in three dimensions), rotational movement, and orientation. The patent is about making the current version of the Apple Pencil more sophisticated.

Who does this new feature really work for?

While this new feature would certainly work towards enhancing the user experience in general, it will be a boon for the designers who rely upon a stylus and the Apple Trackpad to sketch in popular design applications, like Adobe Illustrator and should also capture the attention of the gaming community.

With this new patent, the Trackpad would act like a design pad, enabling users to use the stylus to trace their creations, convert them into digital representations of their vision on the Mac without having to use tablet for the same.

The patent was reportedly filed back in 2014, back when the Apple Pencil was only called a ‘stylus’, however it was published in May this year.

Most text in the patent filing focuses on use of a stylus with a ‘touch screen display’, which we assume to be the iPad, however, there are also drawings in the patent filing that show what appears to be a Trackpad and a Mac that the stylus is being used with.

When can the newly patented technology be expected in the market?

A patent enables a company to secure their technology and brand it under their name. What it also enables the company to do is make sure that no one else uses their technology, keeping it safe and secure for them to benefit from their hard work.

The thing about patents is that companies do acquire them quite often for their newly developed technology but there is no guarantee that any of it will ever come in the market.

Apple would surely love to make better the lives of its users by bringing this technology they recently patented out to the market in their devices. While Steve Jobs wanted us to use our fingers in lieu of a stylus, if Apple Pencil brings in additional functionality of being a joystick, an air mouse and more – he would not be disappointed, as again Apple would have brought in a product that did more than what it was meant to.

The Billionth iPhone Sold!

The Billionth iPhone Sold!

Right on time! We’d written back in April 2016, in our article “Another Apple Billion, This One’s Extra Special” that Apple was expected to hit the 1 billion mark in iPhone sales, by July 2016. Guess what? Apple was spot on!

While official word of Apple’s incredible milestone came to light via a press release, but in typical Apple fashion, employees heard of it first.

An employee meeting held at Apple last week, witnessed CEO Tim Cook make the following statement as he held in his hand the billionth iPhone sold in all its glory, “iPhone has become one of the most important, world-changing and successful products in history. It’s become more than a constant companion. iPhone is truly an essential part of our daily life and enables much of what we do throughout the day. Last week we passed another major milestone when we sold the billionth iPhone. We never set out to make the most, but we’ve always set out to make the best products that make a difference. Thank you to everyone at Apple for helping change the world every day”.

While Apple witnessed its first year-over-year drop in the overall sales of iPhone over the last quarter, however that in no way diminished the tech giant’s mind-bending achievement of selling its one-billionth iPhone last week.
Reaching the mark of billion iPhones is not a child’s play; it is an exceptional feat in itself and is commendable.

The primary reason for decline of iPhone sales and revenue during the third quarter could be attributed to the anticipated introduction of Apple’s next-generation iPhone this fall (which is normal by-product of this anticipation).

The device, which might be called iPhone 7 if the naming system of Apple is to be followed or iPhone 6SE if rumors are to be believed, is rumoured to have an upgraded camera system on board, new storage tiers, the elimination of the 3.5mm headphone jack, and much more, in a package that holds resemblance to the current iPhone 6/iPhone 6s in terms of its physical design.

Back to the milestone – the billionth iPhone was sold about only two years after Apple sold its 500 millionth iPhone. That’s impressive. If any product takes 7 years to see the first half of the billion, and only two years to push out the next half, that’s more than impressive… it’s practically unheard of! Slowdown is a relative term then, huh?

The statistics are expected to soar once again, post the launch of their new additions in 2016. The downside is the that the company’s next device is rumoured to get relatively minor design changes compared to the iPhone 6S, with a more sweeping renovation due in 2017 corresponding with the iPhone’s 10th anniversary.

Let’s take a moment to go a little back in time. Back in 2007 when Steve Jobs first introduced then iPhone, the Apple co-founder set a rather modest goal of selling 1 million units. Then, 1 million in unit sales meant 1% of the global smartphone market approximately. Apple managed to achieve the target with ease and it also became evident that the iPhone was Apple’s revolutionary smartphone with the potential to change the way users interact with technology.

And the world changed – technology, apps, accessories, music, education – everything tilted in a new, next-generation direction. And it continues to change, thanks to this one device and what it taught the world (and manufacturers), and how it enabled humanity.

During a call with investors, Tim Cook emphasized upon a ‘very successful’ launch of the iPhone SE, remarking about its popularity in both developed and emerging markets, especially among people who bought an iPhone for the first-time.

And it’s not only sales that make the iPhone such an important product. Cook quoted a Kantar survey, which said iPhone purchasers in the US had a 95% loyalty rate, “the highest ever measured for any smartphone”.

Tim Cook sees India as a promising market, pointing out that the iPhone sales in the country were up 50% on year. Apple had also witnessed great numbers in terms of sales in Japan, Turkey, and Russia during the third quarter.

Tellingly, Apple has witnessed a record number of Android switchers (people moving from Android OS to iOS) in recent months, which’ve added to their number. And India may further Apple’s cause once they arrive on Indian shores in full-form.

Using SMS For Two-Factor Authentication May Be No More

Using SMS For Two Factor Authentication May Be No More

Two factor authentication is the current norm for web services. They provide that additional layer of security during online transactions that makes us feel warm and secure. However, a new draft by the US National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), proposes to rule out the use of Two Factor Authentication as a valid security measure.

The basis for this decision comes from the fact that text messaging is not considered as being sufficiently secure and hence may be barred as a vehicle for such communication in the future.

This may have been prompted in the wake of some incidents like the attacks on political activists in Iran, Russia and USA. They’ve demonstrated that determined hackers can sometimes hijack the SMS messages that were meant to keep the users safe in the first place.

So it seems like a wise idea to welcome a better system – the likes of smartphone based authentication apps that generate one-time codes. Services like Twitter that have yet stuck with second factor protections that depend on SMS, are taking note from the incidents around the world and are apparently switching to more secure methods.

NIST formulates national-level guidelines and rules, which are used as a yardstick by various industries and organisations. Its role in keeping the policies related to secure electronic communications updated has kept us secure for a long time. While NIST guidelines do not have the power of law, still most of major companies do follow by them.

As a parable, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) fills the same shoes in India, albeit only in telecom, and related circles.

The NIST draft reads “If the out of band verification is to be made using a SMS message on a public mobile telephone network, the verifier shall verify that the pre-registered telephone number being used is actually associated with a mobile network and not with a VoIP (or other software-based) service. It then sends the SMS message to the pre-registered telephone number. Changing the pre-registered telephone number shall not be possible without two-factor authentication at the time of the change. OOB using SMS is deprecated, and will no longer be allowed in future releases of this guidance.”

What this implies is that NIST draft wishes that companies must ensure that only trusted phone numbers are linked to a mobile network, and not a virtual number functioning through a VoIP service, as VoIP services can be compromised and tampered with.

The only intriguing and confusing part of this draft is the sentence at the end that mentions ‘Out of band [verification] using SMS is deprecated, and will no longer be allowed in future releases of this guidance.’

The term ‘out of band’ could mean a lot of things in this case, referring to a physically discrete channel, which in the lingo of telecoms is sometimes used to refer to VoIP services.
However, in security parlance, out of band could also mean logging-in on the web and receiving a verification code by phone. In the case of this draft, it seems that the reference here is to the latter, which is to say that use of SMS will be barred.

This is an indication towards the fact that Apple and others might have to bid farewell to this option.
Apple currently provides the options for two-factor authentication: a code is sent to a trusted device which could be an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac, a phone call to a trusted phone number or a code sent by SMS to a trusted phone number.

The only question that arises after this ruling is that if two-factor authentication via SMS is barred as an unviable option, then what are the valid options to uphold security of the user and the process?

Tools like Google Authenticator or an RSA token could probably act as an alternative as these work by generating a unique code that matches the one generated on a web service’s server.

This doesn’t involve communication between the two devices, thereby making the whole procedure safer than sending a text message with a one-time code to someone’s phone; however, the convenience has been compromised here and that why that it lags in popularity among users.

And as security related concerns swirl around in the smart devices world, it’s ironical that the erstwhile authority on mobile device security, BlackBerry is almost on it’s way out of the industry. Perhaps it’s decision to exit the Mobile OS market and focus on its’ Enterprise platforms (like the Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) platform) was a foresightful one, and it (BlackBerry) will be able to resurrect itself as the Phoenix that the smart devices world needs desperately.

That aside, authentication via SMS has always been there – it’s ease, convenience and universally acceptable integrations made it so preferable. It will be missed by many of us!

Technology Helps A Little Boy Hear Again

Technology Helps The Boy Gain The Power To Hear Again

Through ABC 7 News, Apples’ VP of Environment Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson shared a touching story of a nine-year-old boy who could hear again after about 6 years of isolation, with the help of a new type of bone conduction based hearing aid that is controlled by a companion iPhone app.

Emphasizing upon user-friendliness and inclusion, Jackson wrote that ‘technology can transform lives [and] 9-year old Joshua is a great example.

Joshua Gomez started losing his ability to hear at the tender age of three due to congenital cholesteatomas. It was when at the age of three, Joshua broke his elbow and was sent to the hospital and a routine check-up diagnosed some problem with his ears and eventually he lost most of his hearing.

A series of surgeries over a five-year period failed to reverse the effects. Conventional hearing-aids aren’t of much use with his particular condition, either.

It was heart breaking because there wasn’t anything I could do about it“, said Amelia, Joshua’s mother. “All I could do was take him to the doctors and hope that, maybe this will work this time“.

The Children’s Hearing Center at Stanford came to Joshua’s rescue and helped find a unique solution.

Trying a new approach, Joshua was equipped with the Cochlear Baha 5 – a cutting edge device that has enabled Joshua to hear all sound around him, clearly from both his ears – for the very first time!

The device, which is made for the iPhone, is different from conventional hearing-aids. What makes Cochlear Baha 5 different is its ability to transmit sound to the inner ear through bone conduction, sidestepping other parts of the ear that wouldn’t be able to hear a device.

Instead of traveling through the ear as a typical hearing aid does, where it’s in the ear, and going through all those parts of the ear, it’s actually using the bone for the sound to be able to be transmitted to the inner ear“, explained Dr. Melissa Tribble, Stanford Children’s Health.

Apple’s part is played via an iPhone which helps allow the sound to be tuned differently according to different environments – for instance, segregating speech in a noisy environment and enhancing the softer speech tones of a child. Sound from an iPhone or iPad can also be transmitted directly to the Cochlear Baha 5.

Apple has already won numerous awards for its Accessibility-related work, recognising Apple’s efforts and compassion by increasingly making its devices as ‘accessible’ as possible.
What’s more, the company this year created an accessibility accessory section in the Apple Store, and introduced new accessibility features in iOS 10 also.

This sort of deep commitment and perseverance to the cause was highlighted by one of Apple’s accessibility engineers, who herself is blind.

After six whole years, a Morgan Hill boy, Joshua will now be able to hear everything around him – all thanks to an incredible team of doctors at Stanford and Apple’s inclusive technology and it’s heart.

Joshua with his life story and experience aims to inspire others who are battling with similar kinds of problems. “If you have a hearing aid, don’t think that people will bully you and be mean to you cause really you’re really special and it’s really something that’s good about you“, said Joshua.

Joshua will enter the fifth grade this fall and he must be super excited for this new phase of his life.

In case you’re interested in learning a little more about Bone Conduction technology, do read our fantastic article about it, from a fortnight ago.

We’d also written about a related product called Headbones, back in 2014! You should read that quick article too, just to see what Joshua’s new best friend may have started out as, a few years ago.

Chip-Monks joins the world in wishing Joshu the very best for the new life, and also thanks Apple, for well, hearing and listening.

Apple Is The World's Favorite Company, Yet Again

Apple Is The Worlds Favorite Company Yet Again

FutureBrand just announced Apple as the world’s favorite company.

FutureBrand takes a look the world’s 100 largest companies and conducts an annual survey of about 3,000 consumers and industry professionals to rank them on the basis of a range of elements such as Personality, Consistency, Trust, Innovation, Price Premium, Resource Management, etc.

After providing them attributes to rank, the respondents are then asked to place the company on the basis of personal preference that ranges from Distant and Passionate at the extreme ends of the rung, with Indifferent, Close, and Admiration in between.

This year, Apple is back in the #1 slot and is followed by tech companies Microsoft and Samsung. Last year it was Google however this year Google has lost out, potentially on a technicality.

With Google’s reorganization, only parent company Alphabet has made it large and was able to make it onto the top 100 shortlist and Google itself didn’t even qualify.

Last year, the FutureBrand rankings had Google, Apple, Microsoft, Walt Disney, AbbVie, Gilead Sciences, Samsung, MasterCard, Celgene, SABMiller as the top 10 rank holders.

 

The two most likeable feelings that respondents showed toward Apple were passion and admiration. Apple was ranked highly for its attributes like individuality, authenticity, innovation and thought-leadership.

The remainder seven positions read like this:

  • Walt Disney,
  • AbbVie,
  • Facebook,
  • Toyota,
  • Amazon,
  • Celgene and
  • Gilead Sciences.

We spy some lesser-known names and this clearly indicates the significant role that industry professionals play in the rankings.

Both Apple and Microsoft have risen higher in the ladder as they have jumped a place from last year’s rankings to stand 1st and 2nd, with Samsung jumping four places from last year to advance ahead of tech industry giants like Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com, Inc.

When asked where the respondents saw Apple three years from now, more than 75% believed that Apple has a linear progression and they expect it would continue to do so in the future. Half of them were ready to buy Apple’s devices and many of them were ready to work for the company. These views reflect on the high regard with which Apple is seen among industry professionals.

Coming back to Alphabet, it managed to bag the 21st place in the list probably because of the lack of brand awareness as Google. It could also be for the fact that since the company is so varied (businesses range from Android OS, to Phones, to Networking, to Search Engine, to their Special projects like Loon, Jacquard, etc.) that it was difficult for the respondents to assign the attributes to it and reflected in the response that they had.

While 25% of respondents said that they felt ‘close’ to Alphabet, the rest on the other hand felt indifferent and only 20% said that they admired Alphabet, with a minority of them feeling passionate about it. The two strongest attributes associated with the company were a sense of purpose and the quality of its people.

Apple definitely is stealing the show this time at the FutureBrand Index 2016. Apple seems to be the current favorite of many as it last week it sold its billionth iPhone.

The company is close to celebrating its 10th anniversary next year with major upgrades and overhauls.

Is Edward Snowden Working On An iPhone Case?

Is Edward Snowden working on an iPhone case

Despite living in exile in Russia, former National Security Agency (NSA) whistle-blower, Edward Snowden has helped design a mobile phone case called the “introspection engine” that, he claims, will show when a smartphone is transmitting information that could be monitored.

Presenting via video link to event at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Snowden and co-designer Andrew “Bunnie” Huang showed how the device connects to a phone’s different radio transmitters, showing its owner knows when a cellular, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection is being used to share or receive data.

Initial mock-ups of the introspection engine show a small, monochromatic display built into its casing which alrets its user if the phone is “dark”, or whether it is transmitting, and additionally supply an iPhone with extra battery power. It could be developed to act as “Kill Switch” that would disconnect a phone’s power supply when it detects that a radio is transmitting data after its owner has attempted to turn it off.

The device is an academic project and not yet ready for the mass market, but could still influence how consumers view the devices which track their movements – otherwise known as smartphones that they rely on every day.

If you have a phone in your pocket that’s turned on, a long-lived record of your movements has been created” Snowden said. “As a result of the way the cell network functions your device is constantly shouting into the air by means of radio signals, using a unique identity that validates you to the phone company. This unique identity is not only saved by that phone company, but can also be observed as it travels over the air by independent, even third parties with malicious intent”.

Most smartphones disable Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular transmission when in airplane mode, but Snowden and Huang say that can’t be trusted.

Malware packages, peddled by hackers at a price accessible by private individuals, can activate radios without any indication from the user interface. Trusting a phone that has been hacked to go into airplane mode is like trusting a drunk person to judge if they are sober enough to drive.

The project is an extension of Snowden’s work to inform the public about the surveillance capabilities available to governments around the world.
In June 2013 he revealed from the National Security Agency, where he was a contractor, and he has since become the closest thing digital security has to Neil De Grasse Tyson or Bill Nye: a recognizable name that can explain these issues in a way the average person can understand.

In addition to educating people about security risks, he now wants to help citizens defend themselves – if the introspection engine ever becomes a reality. Snowden and Huang say there’s no guarantee the device will ever be more than a mock-up. “Over the coming year, we hope to prototype and verify the introspection engine’s abilities”, they wrote. “As the project is run largely through volunteer efforts on a shoestring budget, it will proceed at a pace reflecting the practical limitations of donated time”. If they do receive the proper funding, they could release the device in partnership with the Freedom of the Press Foundation media advocacy group.

Snowden said the introspection engine was designed to help protect journalists. “One good journalist in the right place at the right time can change history. One good journalist can move the needle in the context of an election. One well-placed journalist can influence the outcome of a war”, he said. “This makes them a target, and increasingly the tools of their trade [are] being used against them. Our technology is beginning to betray us not just as individuals but as classes of workers, particularly those who are putting a lot on the line in the public interest”.

Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin was reportedly killed in Syria after government forces were able to trace her position, according to a new lawsuit.

Snowden and Huang are concentrating on working with Apple’s iPhone, but added that the device could be modified to work on other smartphones also. It’s not immediately clear how Apple will respond to the introspection engine; while it has worked to give consumers security features meant to thwart even sophisticated attackers, the company might not be fond of a device that can separate an iPhone from all networks. Apple has not responded to a request for comment.

Still, the connection to Snowden and the rush of attention following MIT Media Lab’s event might inspire others to work on devices similar to the introspection engine. Even if the tool never becomes more than an interesting subject discussed at an academic conference, it could lead to consumers having more control over what exactly their iPhone is sharing from their pockets.

The Tough Just Got Tougher: Introducing Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5!

The Tough Just Got Tougher Introducing Corning s Gorilla Glass 5

This one goes out to all my clumsy comrades who keep dropping their smartphones from new heights and of course, to all you other more sapient creatures who’d like to know just how sturdy the next generation of touchscreen iPhones is going to be.

Corning is coming up with the King Kong of tough glass material, the “Gorilla Glass 5”.

Established in 1851, Corning Inc. is a veteran in the glass and ceramics manufacturing industry with the experience of over a century and a half under its belt, and the credit for developing the ion exchange and fusion process to make toughened glass – a kind of shatterproof glass with a high resistance to physical and thermal pressure. It is used everywhere from automobiles to buildings to cookware to bulletproof windows and even space shuttles!

Corning Gorilla Glass has been used on more than 4.5 billion devices worldwide, including more than 1,800 product models across 40 major brands! Some companies that use Corning Glass in their products are: Acer, Asus, HP, HTC, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, OnePlus, Samsung, Micromax and Huawei.

A standard feature of any smartphone worth its salt, Corning’s Gorilla Glass is a similarly toughened glass made especially for electronic devices and displays. Interestingly, it was used for the very first time in the first generation of iPhones that was launched in 2007 – months before Corning made it available on the market. While thin and lightweight, it is highly resistant to the battery of scratches that befall a smartphone on a daily basis.

Vice President and General Manager at Corning Gorilla Glass, John Bayne, states on Corning’s website that the new product will secure Corning’s position over those of its competitors.

According to a recent global study, over 85% of smartphone owners have dropped their phones at least once per year and 55% have dropped their phones three times or more. Additionally, more than 60% of smartphone owners reported dropping their devices between shoulder and waist height.

In addition to the ability to withstand unfortunate falls, the tougher glass promises an unmatched clarity and sensitivity while being thin enough for your smartphone to look as slim and slick as ever.

Mobile devices are the primary tools consumers use to capture, view, create, send and consume digital content, and the cover glass is the interface for touching, typing and swiping that content. Consumers count on their cover glass to deliver damage resistance, optical clarity, touch sensitivity, and protection from drops.

Gorilla Glass 5 is a marked improvement over its previous iterations. Where Gorilla Glass 4 could only survive falls of up to 3.2 feet, the new one can survive those of up to 5.2 feet. With more than half of all smartphone users dropping their cell phones at least thrice each year, and with most of those falls occurring from shoulder or waist height, the new glass is a much-needed advancement in prolonging the lifespan of our precious devices.

There has also been some speculation, ever since the launch of the iPhone 5 in 2014, over whether Apple might choose Sapphire glass, a harder material made of Sapphire crystal, over Corning’s Gorilla Glass. However, Apple has consistently refused to use it on its displays and with good reason.

Sapphire is costlier and bulkier than glass. It is also less transparent, which means that more light must pass through the display for it to be bright enough, putting a strain on battery life while making the iPhone bulkier and costlier. Sapphire is, however, practically immune to scratches and which is why Apple uses it on the camera and home button/fingerprint scanner of the iPhone 6.

In all probability, the upcoming series of iPhones will feature Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5. Not only would this be in line with Apple’s plan to make a stronger build of the iPhone after the “Bendgate” fiasco, but it would also make sense given the fact that each successive generation of the iconic phone has used Corning’s high strength glass.

Even though Corning and Apple work in a rather clandestine fashion, and there has been no official statement on the matter, it would be rather safe to make that prediction.

iPhone Series 7: What The Rumours Say

iPhone Series 7 What The Rumours Say

All aboard the hype train!

You could have a series 7 iPhone in your hand in less than two months i.e. in September 2016!

But let’s get you excited about that, first. Here are some of the rumours we’ve been hearing, about what the series 7 iPhones will entail.

Lending a huge hand to the hype train is normally-reticent Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook’s bold claims that iPhone 7 will make everyone want to upgrade to the new device and people won’t be able to live without it.

If you’ve been following the rumour mills in the last few months, you’d already have a fairly good idea of all the top-ticket “new stuff” will be on the the iPhones 7.
Thousands of articles and hundreds of “reliable” images have been flooding etherspace for months now. And from what can be gathered from the leaked images, the devices bears significant similarities to the previous two versions of iPhones, albeit with changes here and there.

Are those changes “minor” or “superficial” – well, we don’t think so.

An apparent increase in onboard snapper (rear camera) is brought by introduction of a bigger lens this time along with a more powerful sensor. The antenna lines have been moved from across the back to the top and bottom of the phone.

A bizarre rumour that has been much discussed, is the possibility that the device(s) may lose the headphone jack. Uncertainty lies over how or if Apple plans to replace something like a headphone jack if that is even actually the case. The newer USB-C has appeared to become a frontrunner in such a scenario.
Tech experts reckon that by removing the headphone socket, Apple engineers will be able to shave 1 mm off the thickness of the phone. Still a little confused on this, as the iPod Mini seems thin enough with its 3.5 mm headphone jack still intact!

Recent reports suggest that the home button, an Apple trademark, could be shown the door and instead the company could be opting for an on-screen button.

The company did not benefit much from iPhone 6s which had more or less the same design as iPhone 6, hence a slew of design changes for iPhone 7 could prove quite beneficial in changing the phone’s now-stale outlook.

Recently Samsung and LG both have embraced curvy screens with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge and the LG G Flex 2 respectively. One hopes that Apple too, has been adventurous in the screen’s form factor – to some degree at least!

Apple’s last two releases have been with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens. This covers a broad range and the tech giant could decide to keep things as they are, considering their past struggles with bending screens.

The new device is said to have the yet-to-be-confirmed iOS 10 software and the new A10 chipset thus encompassing greater power and efficiency. Other rumors include:

  • OLED screens for better colour reproduction for videos and games
  • 256 GB SanDisk NAND flash memory chip for iPhone 7 Plus
  • a Low Power Mode built into iOS 9 to help the battery life last even longer
  • a Dual-Lens camera
  • LiFi connectivity capable of transmitting information at 100 times the speed of WiFi (highly unlikely considering LiFi is still in early stages of development)
  • Complete waterproofing of the smartphone with a “compound material”
  • Switching of base model from 16 GB storage to 32 GB storage in addition to customizations (The current iPhone 6s and 6s Plus lineup offers customers a choice of 16GB, 64GB, or 128GB storage options)

Price wise it is expected to be priced at USD 849 for the base variant.

While most reports at this juncture are unconfirmed, the sheer diversity has us excited and we’re looking forward to the seventh rendition of Apple’s iPhone.

Apple IS Focusing On AI, But They Aren't Saying So

Apple IS Focusing On AI But They Are not Saying So

In the race of being innovative, Apple is thought of being a notch behind Google and Facebook, especially when developments in the much sought-after field of artificial intelligence (AI) are taken into consideration.

Artificial Intelligence is no doubt being hailed as the next big thing in computing. In fact, that’s been the moniker it’s worn for years now, perhaps even decades (most people didn’t see smartphones, phablets and tablets coming!).

If Google and Facebook’s developments in this field are taken into account, then they have developed self-learning AI agents that can learn and master even complex games like Go, whereas Apple only has Siri on board, that we know about at least.

Facebook has demonstrated Chatbots and Microsoft made its place in the world of bots with Tay, a debatable Twitter bot that ended up disappointing and offending many.

Well just because Apple is not spelling it out loud or making headlines about its ongoing work related to AI, doesn’t mean that Apple is sitting idle.
It’s just that Apple practices great introversion to works-in-progress. This is one brand that is loathe to talking about plans and experiments, and make things public only when it figures out how to employ the technology in its products.

In fact, Apple is making a self-driving car in Silicon Valley, and is hunting for secure locations in the San Francisco Bay area to test it. This too, is a rumour. Not a verifiable fact!

Anyhow, at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the team hinted strongly at the fact that Apple is by no stretch of imagination, “out of the league” or behind anyone. Among the many announcements that the company announced at the WWDC were, iPhone voicemail transcription, facial recognition features within Apple Photo and keyboard recommendations based on text message conversation.

All these features count on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to a huge extent. These make use of software that considers what’s going on (be it in a message thread or a photo library) and then provide a suitable suggestion accordingly.

It won’t be justified if we say that these features are new or unique to Apple but one thing is for sure that these features are getting better with each passing day, becoming more user-friendly on its devices than on other platforms.

Apple’s new version of iOS will include voicemail transcriptions; Federighi announced this in the WWDC conference in San Francisco. This implies that instead of having to listen to long, tedious voicemails, the users will now be able to see text transcriptions of the new messages in your voicemail inbox.

Also announced was a new facial recognition system — blink and miss, unless you were watching closely.

This facial recognition system came as part of an upgrade to Photos, which will soon help you to organize or list your pictures according to the faces in them. “The big news in Photos this year is Advanced Computer Vision“, Federighi told the eager audience out. “We’re applying advanced deep learning techniques to bring facial recognition to the iPhone“.

This might sound a little similar; because it is indeed similar to Facebook’s established system of auto-tagging photos and cataloguing them by person. In fact, it has resemblance to Google Photos also.

So it can be said that Apple seems to be “catching up”.

Next up in Photos is Faces and Places. Places, has made a comeback on iOS with an Advanced Computer Vision which brings facial recognition to the table and also works with objects and scenes for search just like Google Photos. Advanced AI also searches locally on device to search photos for Memories to re-emerge trips and highlight reels of certain dates. Thereby, taking you down by the memory lane.

All this is an indicator to Apple not being lazy, but probably sitting there, observing other companies’ experiences, finding talent in companies, planning acquisition, boosting budgets, creating the best products it call, and only then setting its foot down in the battlefield to deliver its best shot in (some) September.

Backdoor.Mac.Eleanor- A New Malware Detected In Mac

Backdoor Mac Eleanor  A New Malware Detected In Mac

Detected by Bit Defender researchers, a new malware is found to that could expose Apple systems to cyber espionage, and unauthorised control by third party resources.

This chink in Apple’s armor is termed as Backdoor.MAC.Eleanor. The backdoor is embedded into a fake file converter application that is accessible online on reputable sites offering Mac applications and software. The EasyDoc Converter.app poses as a drag-and-drop file converter, but has no real functionality – it simply downloads a malicious script.

The app was found on websites with the following fake description:

EasyDoc Converter is a fast and simple file converter for OS X. Instantly convert your FreeOffice (.fof) and SimpleStats (.sst) docs to Microsoft Office (.docx) by dropping your file onto the app. EasyDoc Converter is great for employees and students looking for a simple tool for quickly convert files to the popular Microsoft format. EasyDoc Converter lets you get to work quickly by using a simple, clean, drag-and-drop interface. The converted document will be saved in the same directory of the original file.

EasyDoc Converter was previously available on software download website MacUpdate, but the app was removed by July 5. It may remain available for download elsewhere online,
That said, the app was never available through the Mac App Store.

Created with Platypus, a developer tool used to create native Mac apps from Shell, Perl, Python or Ruby scripts, this malware is one of the few that has been found to be targeting the Apple ecosystem over the past many years.

How does this malware work?

Backdoor.MAC.Eleanor creates a hidden service that provides attackers with full anonymous access to the infected Mac remotely through a PHP-based local web server dubbed Web Service – via a Tor-generated address.

Attackers then have the ability to access and modify files, execute shell commands, capture images and videos from iSight or FaceTime webcams, and more through a web-based control panel:

  • File manager (view, edit, rename, delete, upload, download, and archive files)
  • Command execution (execute commands)
  • Script execution (execute scripts in PHP, PERL, Python, Ruby, Java, C)
  • Shell via bind/reverse shell connect (remotely execute root commands)
  • Simple packet crafter (probe firewall rule-sets and find entry points into a targeted system or network)
  • Connect and administer databases
  • Process list/task manager (access the list of processes and apps running)
  • Send emails with attached files

Macs have an extra security step called Gatekeeper, which is located in System Preferences under Security & Privacy. By default, it stops unsigned applications from unidentified developers from running. If you download an unsigned application from outside the Mac App Store and try to run it, you will be met with a prompt stating the application cannot be opened.

If you downloaded the application, assuming you don’t have Gatekeeper disabled, this prompt would have appeared when you tried running the application. To open the app, you would have to deliberately override the security settings to run the application the first time.So if you never downloaded the application and/or didn’t bypass Gatekeeper settings to run it, your Mac is not infected with the Backdoor.MAC.Eleanor malware.

Malwarebytes and Sophos have already been updated to detect Backdoor.MAC.Eleanor, and any anti-virus software that scans for malware should soon follow suit. To rid your Mac of the malware, download the Malwarebytes Anti-Malware application for Mac or Sophos Home, run a scan immediately and delete any associated files.

Good luck!

Apple Vs. Spotify, Round One!

Apple Vs Spotify Round One

Apple’s just saddled up, taken its arsenal and set foot on the battleground. The Internet Radio battleground.

Now, when Apple normally enters an arena, it comes in late, and it comes in strong. That may well not be the case here, because their entry (resplendent as it may be with an elaborate service bouquet), may be a trifle too late.

Spotify, the streaming music company that holds a subscriber base of a whopping 30 million is clearly in it’s sights. But Spotify has seen adversity and competition earlier, and has prevailed. Always.

Let’s dig into the details of this Tom and Jerry style row and find out what led to all this.

Spotify has claimed that Apple is making it difficult for the streaming music company to compete by blocking an upgraded version of its iPhone app from being launched in Apple’s App Store.
Spotify sent an official letter to Apple, whereby Spotify highlighted the damage that is being caused to them by Apple’s rejection of an update to Spotify’s iOS app. Spotify said Apple is “causing grave harm to Spotify and its customers”.
The letter mentions that Apple turned down a new version of the app while quoting “business model rules” and was of the view that Spotify should use Apple’s billing system if “Spotify wants to use the app to acquire new customers and sell subscriptions”.

For the past year, Spotify has been in the limelight as it tried to highlight the snags of Apple’s subscription policies at various public forums in the U.S. and Europe, whereby Apple tries to promote the use of its own music platform. Spotify claims that the brunt of this approach is borne by third-party music services like Spotify.

Apple naturally isn’t required to pay any subscription charges to use its own iTunes billing service, but in case of other app makers who use iTunes billing service, Apple charges a monthly fee of up to 30%.

You must be wondering that, in that case other app makers like Spotify could simply opt out of the billing system and use alternate subscription options outside the apps. Well, my friend, Apple has laid out all its cards very smartly and has made sure that its throne remains intact.

Spotify for years, had been using Apple’s billing system and very intelligently passed on the burden of Apple’s fee to its customers by charging $12.99  a month instead of the $9.99  a month – the charge that one has to pay to use Spotify outside Apple’s store.

Apple launched its own music service in the past year and it seems that since then, Spotify is pushing it’s users to pay for the service outside of iTunes.

This antagonism and constant efforts to outsmart each other have been going on between the two parties for long. We have an instance to back this statement.

Last fall, Spotify started a new promotional campaign whereby new subscribers had a chance to get three months of the service for just $0.99. The only condition here was that the subscribers should sign up outside the app available on the Apple store, i.e. via Spotify’s own website.

This month Spotify employed the same strategy but Apple put its trump card out as it threatened to remove the app from its store (as per Gutierrez, who is the General Counsel for Spotify) unless Spotify stopped selling its vigorous promotional campaign to iPhone users.

Spotify did submit and stopped advertising the promotion but at the same time acted like a mischievous child who will do what he has been advised against by his parents and turned off its App Store billing option!

Now you know what acted as fuel to this current dispute between Apple and Spotify.

In the letter that Spotify General Counsel, Horacio Gutierrez sent to Apple’s General Counsel, Bruce Sewell on June 26, there are indications that Spotify intends to use the impasse as ammunition in its fight over Apple’s rules dictating subscription services for those who use its App store.

Gutierrez throwing light over Apple’s unfair policies wrote in the letter wrote – “This latest episode raises serious concerns under both U.S. and EU competition law, It continues a troubling pattern of behaviour by Apple to exclude and diminish the competitiveness of Spotify on iOS and as a rival to Apple Music, particularly when seen against the backdrop of Apple’s previous anticompetitive conduct aimed at Spotify … we cannot stand by as Apple uses the App Store approval process as a weapon to harm competitors.

Spotify has made sure to spread the word and has distributed copies of the letter to some Congressional staff in Washington, D.C.
Senator Elizabeth Warren for that matter criticized Apple, Amazon and Google for what she termed as anticompetitive practices; Warren said  “Apple has long used its control of iOS to squash competition in music.

The whole buzz created due to Apple’s policy is not new. As far back as 2011, when the policy was introduced, a lot of publishers dissented but eventually had to assent in order to use Apple’s in-app billing option and paying Apple it’s fee.

A minority like Amazon who didn’t relent, decided to offer limited versions of their apps in Apple’s app store thereby forcing the users to switch to the website to enjoy a wider array of products. In fact, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently suggested that Apple’s subscription rules led Amazon to stop selling the Apple TV box in its store.

Apple Music, introduced last year was a little late in the game and seems like it is trying to catch up in the competition (with half the subscribers as compared to Spotify) by moves like blocking a new version of Spotify’s iOS app. Apple clearly is using its privileged position on platforms like iPads and iPhones to push Apple Music at the expense of third-party services.

This whole incident highlights the vulnerable stand that third-party services like Spotify, Netflix, Amazon and others have when it comes to paying on platforms like Apple and Google, who themselves provide competing services.

But then again, Apple, Google and other such platforms are in the business to make money for their respective shareholders, and to grow value year after year. If any of the service providers really don’t want to put up with any platform’s policies, they do have the option to not participate on said platform. Therein lies the rub – because these same fundamentals of ‘capitalism’ that the ‘aggrieved’ platforms are banding about, are the very reasons why they are attracted to the platform in the first place. Money talks, all else walks, don’t they say?

With that perspective, it’s an interesting question – who needs who? Whosever’s need is greater, get with the program!

Apple Appears All Set To Innovate The Stylus

Apple appears all set to Innovate the stylus

Revelling in the sensation that the Apple Pencil became ever since it was launch in 2015, Apple seems to be retracting on its staunch stand against the stylus. Apple’s competitors like Samsung and Motorola, on the other hand, have had styluses on their devices for a while now.

Apple owed its stand against styluses to Steve Jobs, who was always quite against the use of styluses. He believed that the use of one’s finger leads to a much more gratifying experience while interacting with a touch-sensitive screen. But last year with iPad Pro (12.9) Apple did release a stylus and this was called Apple Pencil.

A patent that has recently come to light suggests that Apple is ready to take this stylus to the next level.

According to the latest patent, Apple wants to add touch sensors to their Apple Pencil. These touch sensors will enable the users to manipulate their interaction on the iPad screen simply by changing how they hold the Apple Pencil.

Additionally, this patent (spotted last month) also describes different stylus-tips for the Apple Pencil, and has an sensor at the top of the Pencil, so as to be used like an eraser, mimicking a real pencil.

On the face of it, the idea doesn’t sound too radical; functionalities like this have existed on styli for quite some time,  but what’s in reference now will certainly change the Apple user experience drastically.

In the illustrations submitted along with the patent, there are several touch-sensitive regions that are visible in the stylus. It is these regions that would enable for the user experience to be enhanced. They would help the device detect hand movement to be able to do so.

These new added features might mean that you can run your finger along the stylus to scroll, that you can rotate the stylus in your hand to perform the same action on a corresponding object on the screen. This might also mean that you might be able to change the density or the accuracy of the drawing on screen just by holding the stylus tighter or with more force.

Of course, this isn’t the first Apple patent that has surfaced in this regard. AppleInsider spotted initial patents for the concept back in 2014, one full year before the first Apple Pencil even released.

Amongst other patents Apple has recently filed, there is another one that might help boost their stylus a bit.
This patent alludes to technology that would allow a stylus to determine which hand the user is using, and then subsequently customize the user interface for left or right handed usage. The user interface currently caters primarily to right-handed people, with the left-handed users having to adapt to be able to use the device which is a little counterintuitive for left-handers. This patent would turn that around, giving Apple an edge over others.

Also, sensors like proximity sensors, accelerometers and even Touch ID would help the device determine which hand a person is using and set in motion, changes to the paired iPad’s controls and interfaces.

Clearly, these new features would enhance the user experience on big phones like iPhone 6S Plus too. And that’s a big change.

Ever since 2007, Apple had stuck to medium sized smartphones that fit in a person’s hand easily, until they launched the big iPhone 6 Plus phablet in 2014. Considering the phablet’s immense size, two-handed use became an activity de facto, and Apple was forced in invent a better way of interacting with the device. They should have gone with a stylus, but instead created a new tech/interaction called Reachability to make the experience better for the users.

Speaking on behalf of consumers, most said they would adopt a stylus in a blink of an eye instead of Reachability.

While Apple continues to apply its Reachability feature on bigger phones, improvements like Apple Pencil would definitely help give Apple an edge over the others in enhancing the user experience.

We also need to understand that these are just patents that have been filed and patents are filed all the time to secure the rights over certain technology, and development. It does not necessarily mean that these features will make their way into consumer products.

So, for now, all of this is just speculation and a whole lot of wishful thinking. But with a lot of merit!

Apple Retires Its Thunderbolt Display

Apple Finally retires thunderbolt display

In a move that responded to some of the market speculations about its hardware ambitions, Apple has announced that it shall discontinue its Thunderbolt display from its line of products.

The company announced on its page, “We’re discontinuing the Apple Thunderbolt Display. It will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last. There are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users”.

The discontinuation of the display would have had definitely come across as a matter of closure for those folks who’d bought the product and were stuck without updates and upgrades for a long while. The last update that came for it was in 2011 and since then, the customer base had been eagerly awaiting development. The last edition had been a proprietary high-speed connectivity technology – a dual-channel I/O solution that delivers 10Gpbs using a single cable.
But given that this was still a product that people liked and wanted (as an extended monitor especially), this announcement is a bit of a downer. The market is rife with speculations though, and tech pundits are having a field day predicting the next move of the company.

That said, the rumour mill considers this announcement with some silver lining.

Rumours have suggested Apple is working on a 5K display, and if true, such a display could feature a resolution of 5120×2880 pixels, USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 peripherals, and a design that mimics the latest iMacs. Speculation suggests it could come equipped with a built-in GPU or use a Display Port 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport setup to stitch two halves of a display together to make one seamless display.

Not exactly Apple’s main product category, the Thunderbolt has gotten lost among a crowd of smartphones, wearables, and all-in-one Macs, which currently come in 4K and 5K Retina display options.

The big question is, what happens next? Apple isn’t saying yet, but there are a couple of options. It could get out of the monitor game entirely, of course, and leave the market to companies with more aggressive pricing. Alternately, this could be preparation for a replacement, which might happen when Thunderbolt 3-equipped Macs (necessary for 5K external displays) hit the scene. One thing’s for sure: once the current inventory disappears, Apple won’t make everything you need to outfit a Mac mini or Mac Pro. At least for now, you’ll have to turn elsewhere to get that missing piece of the puzzle.

What is also interesting though, is Apple’s suggestion for a third party product. This  move, although not unprecedented, shows a new technological transaction where, for the first time Apple might be relying on some other product for its consumer base. This speculation, although might be just faff if there is a new product launched sometime in the future.

There are quite interesting alternatives to Apple’s erstwhile display. Sites such as 9to5 mac.com offer alternatives such as 27-inch Dell Ultra HD (P2715Q) monitor (USD 498), LG Electronics 4K UHD 27UD88-W 27″ Screen LED-Lit Monitor (USD 609) and ASUS 32-inch PA328Q 4K/UHD (USD 979).

Still this development, for one thing is actually helpful to the consumer, for it may finally allow the Indian market to access budget display alternatives for their display. One can’t be more thankful for that. Still, the souvenirs hunters must act fast.

The device is still available on Apple Stores currently, but there’s no telling how long the stocks will last. If you wanted an external monitor, you better trudge over to the nearest store. Soon!

Will There Be An iPhone 7 in 2016? Maybe Not!

Will there be an iPhone 7 in 2016 Maybe Not

Will there be an iPhone 7 in 2016? Well, maybe not.

But before you panic on that, let me break it down for you. There will be an iPhone released this year, but it does not mean that it will be the new full-number device that Apple lets out every alternate year.

In the past, iPhones have witnessed major design overhauls every two years, instead of one. They usually release a number model and then an S model the next year. And going back that, after last year’s iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, an iPhone 7 was expected. But this year might not hold much, except for Apple trying to perfect these already out designs on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. Apple, however, might now be moving to a three-year cycle, at least temporarily, instead of two.

Thus, even if Apple releases an iPhone with a full number, i.e. the iPhone 7, the world will think of it as iPhone 6ss (no the double-s is not a typo). Apple it seems, is taking a break from releasing an all-out new device in 2016, and apparently holding back it’s big fireworks for the device that they intend to release in 2017.

After the release of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus last year, and the iPhone SE earlier this year, Apple might be taking a break from the iPhone serial-name bandwagon.

Reports claim that the iPhone worth waiting for might not be this year’s release, but the next year’s… as the significant design overhaul that the Apple fans had been waiting for might not be on this year’s device but the next year’s.

Sources say that these “major changes” might include an all-glass enclosure for the iPhone, along with a potentially curved screen. The phone might have an OLED display, and be made of liquid metal. It will, of course, feature wireless charging and more biometric recognition capabilities if the speculators are to be believed.

One of the changes that can be expected this year are a removal of the headphone jack from the iPhone, a thing that has been much criticised in advance, because it would make headphone connectivity much more complex for the device. Improved water resistance might also be on the table, along with a dual lens camera. Possible smart connector, and redesigned antenna bands, with an upgraded processor and two screen sizes.

The reports regarding the major changes on the iPhone come from sources like The Wall Street Journal. They, however, do not say anything about the name ‘iPhone 7’ directly. Instead, it is sources like Venture Beat, which indicate that Apple might be saving the name ‘iPhone 7’ for next year’s releases. It would not only bring a major design overhaul to the market but also mark the ten year anniversary of the first iPhone.

All  said, no one really knows what this year’s iPhone will be called, or if the phones would be remarkable in any way. But if it is 7, and if the duo is remarkable, then it would be interesting to see how the other manufacturers react to interim/placeholder devices that rock the industry, despite the blockbuster on the anvil next year.

Apple May Need To Halt iPhone 6 Sales In China

Apple to halt iPhone 6 sales in China

China has never been an easy market for Apple – never has Apple bent so low at the waist, to appease a market, yet with every swing of political will, it keeps getting worse.

With a recent ruling by the Beijing Intellectual Property Office, China now puts a ban on the sale of certain iPhones in Beijing. The matter, they say, is of patent law.

As per the ruling, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus look too similar to the 100C smartphone by Shenzhen Baili, which is why their sales must be immediately stopped in the city of Beijing.
The ruling bans the sale of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but only in the city of Beijing, not in the entire country.

The ruling could, however, set a precedent for the rest of the country if not overruled.

While experts say that the ruling is bogus and that the devices do not share anything in common at all, analysts are sure that the ruling won’t really affect the sales or the brand positioning of the company in the market much, or at all.

“The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus infringe on Shenzhen Baili’s patent rights because of similarities to its 100C phone,” the Beijing Intellectual Property Office wrote in its decision.

The bizarre ruling is not quite unusual in the Chinese market. But, the ruling comes at a time when Apple has already taken a few in the knees in the Chinese market.

  • Apple lost their exclusive rights to the iPhone trademark there just last month.
  • It wasn’t too long back that products were banned in the country off of the Apple Store iTunes.
  • Before that, there were issues with bringing Apple products into the country.

The government has continually made it arduous for American products to enter their market, or to thrive if they do.
Sad to say, Apple has been just one of the targets – Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, all American brands suffer similar ignominy. The government has even accused them of spying for the American government at times!

The Chinese market has been very important to Apple, but sales there are already on a downward trend, with local Chinese brands being their ambitious, pushy and cheaply priced selves.

Apple has not said much publicly with the regards to the ruling, but it’s been reported that they’ve already filed a lawsuit calling for the ruling to be annulled. Apple could go ahead with it, but on the other hand, Apple could also settle. The point not being that Apple is guilty in any way, but a smart decision would be to achieve a financial settlement and avoid a long stretched legal battle for no reason.

What Apple, however, has said is this: “iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, as well as iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone SE models, are all available for sale today in China. We appealed an administrative order from a regional patent tribunal in Beijing last month and as a result, the order has stayed pending review by the Beijing IP Court.”

Patent Hints That A Camera Could Be Inside The Next Apple Watch

Patent Hints A Camera Could Be Inside The Next Apple Watch

The Apple Watch would certainly be feeling like a step child of late. It’s been left out from the updates and upgrades to the rest of the Apple Devices family lately. Even after 13 long months from its release, there have been no substantial updates to the Apple Watch. Ironically even the humble Apple TV got an upgrade in the interim.

But fanboys also take heart from this silence. Perhaps there’s a whole new Apple Watch coming..!

The rumour mill has been abuzz with news of a ‘second-generation’ Apple Watch for a long time now, and there was speculation that Apple would raise curtains to Apple Watch 2 at the WWDC 2016.
However all we got on the Apple Watch at the WWDC were some new band designs and a slashed price of USD 299 (which was a welcome announcement, of course).

One can’t help be optimistic though. So, what are the possible changes that could be incorporated into the smartwatch in Round 2? Quite a few, if the rumour mills are to be heeded. And there’s some fire to the smoke, too.

Recently, a patent published by the US Patent and Trademark Office indicates the arrival of camera on some forthcoming version of the Apple Watch.
The patent describes the positioning of the camera on the edge of the Apple Watch ‘oriented to allow a user to capture images of nearby objects in the environment such as a bar code or QR code’. It also mentions that the camera could be on the front surface of the wearable, ‘to capture images of the user’.

Apparently, this camera is not just meant to capture pictures but might be capable of capturing videos as well, as indicated by the language of the patent so published. Given that passwords are being replaced by facial recognition on other devices, likewise a smartwatch with a built-in camera makes a lot of sense.

This information is backed in the patent submission which clearly shows the word ‘camera’ in the user interface section together with the likes of ‘display‘, ‘audio jack‘ and ‘microphone‘. Also, the text of the document refers to ‘a compact digital camera that includes an image sensor such as a CMOS sensor and optical components (e.g. lenses) arranged to focus an image onto the image sensor, along with control logic operable to use the imaging components to capture and store still and/or video images’.

There’s more.

Depicted in the illustrations included in the patent filing, are two physical buttons on the side of the Apple Watch. Currently, the Apple Watch has a ‘crown’ button and another button on the right side of the wearable.
The functionality of a second button on the next Apple Watch is currently unknown, but if we try to join the pieces of this puzzle then the possibility of the new physical button might help in kick starting the camera on the smartwatch.

We all know that it is not necessary for every patent being registered to end up being a product. At times, the patents don’t ever see the light of the day and remain just as a part of a Research and Development portfolio.

So should this patent of a camera and two additional buttons on the Apple watch be taken with a pinch of salt and should we not let our hopes fly? There are merits to both sides of the argument. What’s not arguable though, is the very premise. The Apple Watch most definitely needs an upgrade if it has to stay relevant in the marketplace. And it needs to be competitively upgraded too.

So, if rumours are to be believed and logic followed, then the Apple Watch 2 with its much-speculated camera might make its debut in September along with its co-star iPhone 7.

All you have to do is wait and keep checking this space at Chip-Monks for further updates.

iMessages Redone, In iOS 10.

iMessages Redone, In iOS 10.

For time immemorial, people have poked derision at Apple’s tendency to ‘maintain a walled garden’. They allude to Apple’s denial of access to third party (external to Apple) developers, to certain core parts of the iOS.

It’s not any one specific part of the OS platform. The march continues for feature after feature.

First it was an issue with access to the internals of Safari, then the iMessage framework, the Notification Centre, the Onscreen Keyboard, and then to ‘share sheets’ that function across the OS.

Forced into a moral corner, Apple began ‘liberalising’ back in September 2013 – with the opening of doors in iOS 7, and has continued to further liberalise with every subsequent release of iOS versions.

The latest OS to launch – iOS 10, carries third party access to Apple’s secure iMessage platform.

Under strict guidance, parlayed by a new Software Development Kit (SDK), Developers can create ‘App Extensions’ to add bells, whistles and capabilities to Messages, just as they did for third-party keyboard apps.

Not only does the new access enable Developers to create stickers (like emojis) for iPhones and iPads., it also allows them to create Apps that customise and enhance functionalities within iMessages. This will lead to the users being able to do more and more things without leaving the iMessage interface.

If that was gobbledegook for you, in plain English, it means that you can expect more colourful emoticons, stickers, GIFs and other more important interfaces that uncomplicate interactions right within the iMessage screen!
So not only will you be able to dress up your messages like never before, you could even be conducting commercial transactions right through iMessage!

iMessage has already started getting new stuff ahead of iOS 10’s release. Apple’s already released four animated sticker packs to stoke the excitement of fans around the world.
The sticker packs consist of Smileys, Hearts, Hands, and Classic Mac etc.

Needless to say, the Apple store is going to be flooded with sticker apps as and when iOS 10 releases officially, and Apple’s already given it a jumpstart.

On business opportunity – it’s huge, and more importantly, its the next evolution in m-commerce. Facebook is already providing such commercial and other interactions in their Messenger functionality. So Apple is smart to jump in right away.

Imagine if you could choose, transact, pay (and cancel) things directly from iMessage… No more webpages, or apps or entering card details! Heaven, right?

To help understand the scope and potential of this change, Apple showboated a few integrations already in play.

Following the announcement during the keynote at the WWDC, Apple allowed the developer of Square Cash to share some details about how their, Square Cash’s payments service works as an app extension for iMessages.
The whole procedure goes something like this – when a user installs Square Cash, the app can be located in the new iMessage “app drawer.” If an e-commerce company or a friendly business sends the user a message with a product recommendation, and the user likes it, all he (the user) has to do is just swipe up in the Message,N pick an amount to pay, and attach it to the message. And one more tap to deposit/pay for it!

Game changer!

Not only that, iMessages now do GIFs too! GIFs are trending these days, anything that happens around the world ends up being a GIF in the world of social media.
Entertainment-targeted apps like JibJab also found a mention. Cashing on the same fad, JibJab has drawn up an app that enables the users to access the iPhone’s camera to place their faces on GIF-like videos and share it with their friends. Instant personal entertainment!

During the keynote, another iMessage app called DoorDash was introduced by Craig Federighi. His demo showed a group lunch, whose order was placed without even leaving iMessages.

Once he decided what he wanted to order from the menu provided, and selected the quantity of the order, he shared his choice with one of those present in the ongoing iMessages group and added his lunch to the group ticket. Simply amazing, isn’t it?

Although Apple has not showcased or indicated too many other iMessage Apps, yet we are hopeful that Apple will live up to the things mentioned on its developer beta site which states that the users will be able to ‘share content, edit photos, play games, send payments, and collaborate with friends’.

The unknown and new always induces a sense of excitement. Although, it is expected that the execution of these third-party iMessage Apps might be similar to third-party keyboards (released in iOS 9), yet it may create a new world order in messaging.

Liberalising things always creates interesting new ideas that sometimes change the world.
This too, will yield more than just new kinds of shortcuts or simply message-enriching features.

There is a lot of build up around the public release of iOS 10, and this is amongst one of those changes that mayn’t strike the average user immediately, but it will definitely impact each of them in the near future.

Note: While some of you might be able to see these stickers if you are running iOS 9 but the sticker packs are only available for download to the users of iOS 10 (currently on Beta).
If you’re on the Beta, then go have fun. If not, then either sign up for the Public Beta or wait for the public launch in September this year.

Either way, have fun!

Apple WWDC 2016: What Apple Has In Store For Us

Apple WWDC 2016 What Apple Has In Store For Us

Every year Apple holds a Worldwide Developers Conference. This year the conference was in San Francisco, from June 13th to June 17th, and the response to it was mixed.

As expected, the three major events at the WWDC were the showcasing of Apple’s updated operating system, in addition to showcasing Siri, their personal assistant, for Mac laptops, and a new and improvised iMessage.

Further details on that are as follows:

iOS 10:

The mobile software, iOS 10, is softer and more aesthetic, with an interactive lock screen which has been enabled with 3D Touch-enabled notifications that offer more information, and personalised home screen widgets. It includes a revamp of Music, News, Maps, and HomeKit. The camera has been made more accessible as well.

The personal assistant Siri on the new OS has been made more efficient. Developers have now been enabled to build Siri’s support system into their apps. This will enable Developers to create apps that do things like call you an Uber cab or send a message for you on Whatsapp, right from Siri itself.

Music and Maps on the OS have been redesigned, and now have a cleaner interface. The maps themselves now have more proactive suggestions and third party app integration, while the Music app now focuses on lyrics in addition to enabling better content discovery.
As for the News app – Apple has fixed it up with with subscriptions, breaking news notifications, and a better organisation overall.

What will make this new operating system special is not a whole hoard of new features, but improvisation of older features. The stars shall nevertheless remain the app integration of Siri, and the interactive lock screen, and easier camera accessibility.

MacOS Sierra

Mac computers now have a new operating system by the name of Sierra, and the most important thing about it is that it has Siri integration for laptops. This is the first time that Siri appears on Mac laptops.

The functionality of Siri on the laptop would be pretty similar to that on other devices, expect it will have some Mac-specific features. For example, it will have the ability to search through and for documents, pin the said searches to the notifications or add them to documents to provide well-updated information. It will also be able to search through Photos, set reminders, initiate FaceTime calls, amongst other things.

Another important feature would be the Photos, which would use facial, object and scenic recognition to recognise people, places, and things in your images.
This will enable intelligent collections, with features such as ‘Memories’ which would bring curated collections of past photos, and ‘Places’ that would display your photos on a world map.

The OS also has deeper cloud integration, which enables the files stored on the desktop or the documents folder to be available on all the other devices within the network, including other Macs, iPhones, and iPads. This will work via the iCloud Drive app.

Swinging an Apple Watch on your wrist? You can now unlock your Mac just by bringing the watch into the vicinity of the computer!

The OS for the Mac laptop, MacOS Sierra shall be remembered for having brought Siri to laptops. Other features to be remembered have more to do with the integration of Siri, rather than anything specific for themselves. Better photo galleries and deeper cloud integration shall definititely be appreciated.

iMessage

The iMessage has newer and cooler features that are mostly aesthetically enhancing and, to be frank, do make it more ‘cool’.
It now has background animations, bubble effects, rich links and Digital Touch, which enables users to draw and annotate their pictures and videos. This last feature was first launched on the Apple Watch.

iMessage also has Handwritten notes, hidden “invisible ink” messages, quick “Tap back” replies, and bigger emojis.

To support the growth of iMessage (and make it catch up in a way, with Facebook Messenger), it now also has its own Message App Store, which enables developers to develop their own additions to it, which might later enable users to do things like sending stickers and GIFs to making payments to making collaborative dinner orders.

Just one thing to say about iMessage: The thing just turned bloody damn cool!

WatchOS 3

A better OS has also been made available for the Apple Watch. This has better device navigation flows and an improved Control Centre. Activity sharing will now allow users to share things like workouts and other activities, and even allow you to communicate with friends and family over activity achievements.
There is a Breathe App for help you through deep breathing session in addition to a new Reminders app and Find my Friends app. There is even an added SOS feature to dial emergency contact numbers.

Star features include a quick reply button for pre-written reply texts and a scribble feature for handwritten replies There is a new dock feature as well.

With the smartwatch being the latest pillar in the market, the company is certainly and obviously paying attention to making the experience better and taking it to the next level.

tvOS 10

The operating system meant for smart Apple TVs has been improvised as well. The newer on has expanded Siri capabilities, single sign-on authentication, and a dedicated Apple TV Remote app for iOS devices.

Siri can now search for shows by topics, can help with your YouTube searches and help manage your HomeKit accessories. It also has the capability of connecting with a phone for better typing options, in addition to a ‘dark mode’ for a darker shaded interface.

tvOS: Back in the day Apple predicted that apps will be the future of TV. They certainly have stoo by that and now the channel provided via apps on the Apple TV have increaded to 1,300 from 80, since the last WWDC.

Better Siri integration and a tad bit of cool features added. Not much going on there to boast about, but since smart TVs aren’t really that big a deal in the market right now, we can maybe expect more, a lot more, in the future.

Other important announcements:

  • Apple Pay is now available on the web, via MacOS Sierra, enabling users to pay for purchases made on the web via Apple Pay. The OS shall use a connected iPhone for the touch verification, or an unlocked Apple Watch, to authenticate the payment made.
  • On iOS 10, Quicktype keyboard is smarter, with more contextual predictions
  • On iOS 10, the ‘Raise-to-wake’ feature wakes up the smartphone by you having to simply raise your wrist.
  • Notes, Clock, and Phone have been updated with newer versions.
  • A new feature on the iOS 10 will automatically transcribe an answer phone message left by a caller on your phone.
  • HomeKit gets a Home app for you to control all your internet-of-things gear. Say hi to Siri in the morning, and it can now set your house ready for you to get going.
  • The SwiftPlay Playground is a new app on the iPad which enables kids to learn how to code in swift using their iPad. “The game-like app lets you learn different principles, like loops or turning specific features (such as gravity or gyroscoping) on and off,” as explained on TheNextWeb. It is all ready to turn your kids into tiny coders with iPads.

WWDC conferences are held by Apple every year and traditionally the focus of the conference is to showcase the software that the company has been working on. This gives us an idea of what we can expect from the company in the near future, and from the looks of it, most of it is pretty damn cool.

WWDC 2016, What Will Apple Announce?

WWDC 2016, What will Apple announce

Apple is all set to unleash some changes to its software stack that powers their Macs and iDevices. Curtains go up at it’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, 13th June.

At last year’s WWDC, Apple had introduced OS X 10.11 (El Capitan), iOS 9, and WatchOS 2.
The News App too, made its debut, Maps added Public Transit Directions, and HomeKit and CarPlay both got updates.

But this year, it seems Siri is going to be the show stopper, penetrating deeper into Apple’s major OS.

Siri – The Show Stopper

This year we’re expecting hear a lot about how Siri is moving deeper into Apple’s major OS’, and about her advances in general smarts and usefulness.

Apple execs will probably talk about how the company has further integrated its cloud services into its OSs and apps.

OS X has had the least share of Siri in its neural networks, but this might soon change. On your Mac, Siri could be used to send texts or e-mails, or making hands-free voice calls using the usual voice control at Siri. This could be in the form a keyboard shortcut or an icon in the Mac’s menu bar. This sounds interesting and ease at Mac would definitely be increased if that happens.

Apple Music Makeover

Apple is rumoured to be refurbishing and re-designing it’s streaming music service that was revealed last year at WWDC. This makeover of Apple Music is more to do with interface changes than with functional retrofitting. Much needed, we say!

If 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman speculations are to be believed, then the “New” tab, which currently  contains curated playlists, top lists, and featured content, will be cleaned up and rechristened “Browse“.
Gurman is also of the view that the app will get a prominently dual black-and-white color scheme, thus relying largely on album art to lend that pop of color. Other reports speculate that Apple will add support for song lyrics to Apple Music.

Earlier this year, the rumour mill was abuzz that the social aspect of the app – Connect– will be abandoned. Perhaps, it might disappear at this WWDC.

Simply said, what could happen is that Apple Music might likely get rid of the complicated version of the app making it simpler with fewer colors and different screens.

Since the download business is about three times as profitable, as per Bloomberg, it would be desirable for Apple to continue featuring downloads in any redesigned interface it brings to the table.

What’s up with iOS 10?

The major change that everyone is expecting is Siri on Mac and its integration with third party developers. Other than that, Apple is purportedly working on a person-to-person payments system, something similar to Venmo, as reported by The Wall Street Journal back in November 2015.
So it is possible that Apple might launch some new service related to the Apple Pay which might get a mention at this WWDC keynote.

WWDC keynotes always excite iPhone fans since it gives them a peep into what the new handsets might look like and what new features are coming to the table in autumn.

Furthermore, Apple CEO Tim Cook told BuzzFeed News last year that the company may allow iPhone owners to get rid of default apps that they use less or don’t use altogether, like the Stocks app. That would definitely come as a welcome change for many but it’s important to constantly keep in mind that all these are speculations and nothing has been set in stone as yet.

Messaging AI on the way?

Keeping in mind, the current trend of standalone home assistant devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, Apple might incorporate the same Artificial Intelligence (AI) into its messaging platform. Rumours about home device being launched looks like a doubtful case; instead, it is more likely that this new intelligence could be built into its iMessage service. Personal mobile payments via Apple Pay perhaps?

A VR to be mentioned?

On similar lines, there have been rumours regarding Apple working on a VR device. But the What, How and When still remain unanswered in this case.
Apple has this habit of not jumping head long into the sea of new trends, it sits back, observes, analyses, learns from the mistakes and experiences of other companies and then hits the bulls eye.

What we mean here is that you might have to wait a little longer for Apple to come out with its VR device, in case you got excited with the mere possibility of it.

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch hasn’t got a makeover or any significant love since it was first launched in April, 2015. Changes in this department are the most expected ones. Rumour has it that Apple might bring a camera to the Watch and its own internet connection so that it can work without a phone.

To know what really materializes and what remains behind just as a rumour, watch out for the keynote.

Rest assured, we at Chip-Monks will keep you updated.

Could Apple Be Removing The Headphone Jack To Deliver Better Sound To You?

Will Lightening Port Serve You Better Than The Erstwhile Audio Port

There was a lot of talk recently (mostly rumours though) that the new iPhones will roll out without the 3.5mm headphone jacks. Initial thoughts among the tech hoi-polloi were that Apple had a dearth of space inside the phones and needed to sacrifice the port, to further their quest of slimming their devices as much as possible.

They’ve done this before, most recently with the latest MacBook – to reduce the weight and thickness, they’ve removed all the ports in it, barring the USB-C type multi-purpose port; making it harder to multi-task.
The battery couldn’t be fit in as one piece and hence was divided into multiple segments, which ends up covering almost the entire interior body.

Yet, if you’ve seen the iPod Nano, your doubts of the 3.5mm headphone jack limiting the slim form factor of an iPhone will evaporate – the iPod could undoubtedly be slimmer were the circular jack be removed.

Although, a newer leak has recently implied that Apple has decided to retain the 3.5mm headphone jack for the upcoming edition of phones, at least.
Well, if not now then definitely in the future, Apple is definitely going to come out with an iPhone featuring major changes, which may look at changing human behaviour.
There are several examples of such user-habit changes triggered at Apple’s behest – we’re now far more comfortable in using the Cloud to store data, and listening to music streaming off the internet via iTunes, and used to the effective (and automated) optimisation of the limited memory on our notebooks, and even consuming data on an iPad over our erstwhile trusted notebooks, to name a few.

So, Apple knows that we’ll get used to new ways of listening to music too. Especially if there’s something in it for us…

At Chip-Monks, we believe that Apple might migrate us to the Lightning port for another reason too – to deliver improved sound quality. No one knows or understands the potential of the proprietary Lightning port better than Apple. And they’re going to juice the port and it’s capabilities any which ways it possibly can.

Companies such as Audeze have mastered the efficiency of the lightening ports to work as audio transmitters, which has resulted in a much higher quality audio than the audio generated through normal 3.5 mm jacks.

The high quality Audeze headphones have their own digital signal processors (DSPs) and Digital-to-Analog (DAC) converters inside them, both of which remove the burden of audio processing from the iPhone and move it to the headphones’ hardware itself. This improves the functionality of the iPhone, something which Apple must’ve taken note of definitely.
The only problem with these headphones is that they are the state-of-the-art type headphones and cost a whopping $800 – more than the iPhone itself!

Fortunately there are cheaper variants available too, which are fairly good and beat any 3.5mm headphones in terms of audio quality.

Keep in mind, this is right now, before Apple has optimized them. We can only ponder how good the quality can be harnessed post the Apple intervention!

A damper would be that the amplifiers in the hardware of these headphone systems can reproduce sound louder than the normal, which is NOT good for direct hearing. Although, if used appropriately with loudspeaker connectors, these are bound to increase the stability of the audio quality at high volumes by reducing the conversion load for the speaker system.

Another con of this sudden upgrade would be that all your current headphones will be rendered useless, although am sure you can still use them with a connector, however the sound quality would be sacrificed incrementally.

Fret not, Apple, they will ensure that you get a good set of stock headphones with the iPhone, unlike the Nexus devices, which overlook providing them in their box. In fact, some rumours have also parlayed that there will be an adapter to convert from Lightening Port Audio to normal 3.5mm jack audio and vice versa, included in the box, making the transition easier.

One unanswered question remains though – why is Apple compromising on the users’ ability to multitask by integrating all the features into one port? Well, all we can say is that Apple is not the first company to be doing that and definitely not the last.
With the advent of USB-C type ports, all devices across all platforms are likely to switch to this common connector for multi-tasking soon.

LeEco has already rolled out phones without headphone jacks, and using USB-C type port for the purpose. Their reason? The same. Why have stone-age audio quality when the hardware is ready to support something so much better.

Apple enthusiasts, and all fellow music enthusiasts – we are in for a treat in the upcoming years! If the conjecture is to be believed, audio quality from the Lightning port may actually be an upgrade, even if it has some minor irritating side effects like the inability use the headphones while charging the device. Maybe Apple has a plan for that too!

iPhone Can Now Run Android!

iPhone Can Now Run Android!

Yup! You heard it right, and it seems like nothing is really sacred anymore!

The latest version of Android can be run on the latest iPhone, i.e. iPhone 6s Plus but to make that happen you will need to build your own hardware and software.

This is basically a hack that Tendigi’s Nick Lee has come up with. He was the same guy who once ran Windows 95 on Apple Watch.
Making the hack work is not as easy as you’d want for it to be. To make the hack work you need both hardware and software customization. The key is that the Android operating system should not be installed on the flash memory of the iPhone.

To overcome that, Lee created a custom case that runs the Android and has extra ports including USB, microUSB, HDMI, and microSD. This case would connect to the iPhone via a Lightning plug.

So, you would need to place the iPhone in this case (created using 3D printing), then hook up the cables and run a special iOS app on the phone. Once you are through, then your Android Marshmallow will magically appear on your iPhone.

This 3D printed case that is the base hardware you need is not available for you to buy anywhere. So you either got to get Tendigi to give you one, which is kind of impossible, or build yourself one, which isn’t too plausible an idea either. To help you though, Lee has provided detailed instructions on the Tengidi website, on how to go about doing that.

Running two operating systems on one device is not really a new thing. People have done it on laptops all the time, running two different operating systems in two different ‘instances’.
Apple even enabled users to install Windows or Linux on Mac computers using Boot Camp.

This, however, would be an entirely different thing since the second OS is not installed on the hardware but an eternal hardware.

Apple has kept their phone only to their own operating system, the iOS, since forever. They have done so to have greater control over the functionality of the device and to be able to have a uniform platform for their users, and the services have been great; we don’t see users complaining.

On the other hand has been Google’s Android that has been free for companies to install onto their devices, and has been open for them to experiment with. Companies like Huawei make quite a good use of that, tweaking the stock Android and putting in their own user interface to enhance the user experience.

The Android platform has been bigger than that of iOS, but iOS has been the exclusive one, that has always had its head held high. All this hack does is that it proves that Apple has some loopholes it might want to look into.

Well if you think that this sounded a lot more exciting than it actually is, I would completely agree with you. There is certainly some lag in the technology and it is of course not a permanent thing, but more of a trick that you can perform for the heck of it.

But it does prove that an iPhone can be hacked to run an Android operating system, even if you have to build your own hardware to do so.

Xiaomi Now The Top Wearables Vendor

Xiaomi Now The Top Wearables Vendor

Xiaomi with its flagship affordable fitness tracker, Mi Band, has managed to secure the top position with a 27.1% market share in the first quarter of 2016 for the Wearable category in India, according to research reports by IDC.

International Data Corporation (IDC) is a global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets.

The study puts GOQii at the second position with 18.1% of market share during the Q1 2016. Fitbit arrives third, with 6.2% market share in terms of units, however the brand leads in terms of market value share, with it being currently over 10% greater than its closest competitor.

In terms of units, Xiaomi and GOQii together contributed over 45% share, however Fitbit had maximum market value share.

Korean smartphone maker Samsung bagged the fourth position in the wearable segment with a 2.5% market share. But, Samsung has a 20.4% market share in the Smart Wearable category owing to the success of its Gear S2 smartwatch.

Motorola stands at number five in the list with 1.4% market share.

Smart Wearables (any wearable that is capable of running third-party application) were low at 12.3% as compared to fitness bands with 87.7% market share according to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker report.

The smart wearables have not yet gained enough ground because of the higher price attached to them“, shared Senior Market Analyst, Client Devices at IDC Raj Nimesh.

The wearable devices have become immensely popular in the past one year, and more players are expected to make an entry into the market in both the basic and smart wearable categories“, Nimesh said.

The first two positions here were bagged by Samsung and Motorola while surprisingly enough the global smartwatch leader Apple stood third due to channel-related issues.

The increase in volume is giving more scope to the vendors to come up with better features such as display and NFC. Both Intex’s recently launched Fitrist and Xiaomi’s soon-to-be-launched Mi Band 2 come with a display at affordable prices“, IDC India Research Director Swapnil Bhatnagar said.

To recall, Mi Band which helped Xiaomi secure the first position with 27.1% market share in the first quarter of 2016, was launched at an amazingly low price of INR 999.

Compatible with iOS and Android devices, the Mi Band has two components – the band and a Bluetooth capsule that tracks your activity. The three LED indicators on the top of the Bluetooth capsule let you know about how close you are to achieving your daily step goal at any given point, and in addition the capsule is capable of tracking your sleep patterns, let you unlock your phone without a password when it is nearby (a feature enjoyed by the Android users), and vibrate to alert you about incoming calls and alarms.

Xiaomi has been active this year with a number of launches in their portfolio, ranging from smartphones, tablets, wearables (the Mi Band 2 was recently released), add-ons and even a drone. Now, they really are a force to reckon with.

Apple's App Store Services Resumed After Outage

Apple's App Store Services Resume after outage.

On Thursday, June 2, Apple users faced problems when an array of Apple services including the App Store and Apple TV went offline for hours due to a technical malfunction which hasn’t been explained by the company as yet.

This outage started around 4 p.m. EDT and was confirmed by Apple on its status webpage. The problem however, was solved in bits and pieces as Apple’s App Store and Game Center were restored by Thursday evening at about 6:30 p.m. EDT in California. iCloud online data storage system was still unavailable as confirmed by the status page.

The outage comes just one day after many Apple users reported connectivity issues with iCloud Music Library. Some iTunes users who attempted to stream music tracks came across “Unable to connect to iCloud Music Library” messages, while others faced problems with Apple Music authentication. For some, their music libraries vanished altogether.

This is not the first time that Apple users had to face such issues. In March last year, App Store and iTunes were rendered inaccessible to many Apple users due to some malfunction.

With yesterday’s outage, users from different parts of the world including North America, Europe and parts of Asia took to social media to report their grievances. Users reported issues in purchasing and updating apps, backing up devices and streaming from Apple TV.

The issues started popping up during late afternoon on Thursday, June 2. The initial hitch  affected a large number of services which includes iCloud Backup, iCloud Account & Sign In, iCloud Calendar, iCloud Bookmarks & Tabs, iCloud Drive, iCloud Contacts, iCloud Notes, iCloud Reminders, iCloud Storage Upgrades, iCloud Web Apps, iCloud Keychain, Documents in the Cloud, Back to My Mac, Find My iPhone, Find My Friends, iMovie Theatre, iPad, iPhone Calls to iPad and Mac, iPod Touch and Mac, iWork for iCloud, Mail Drop, Mac App Store and Photos.

Apple however, decided to maintain silence over the issue of this outage and refused to discuss the cause, magnitude or duration of the outage. What they did was to refer AFP to the status page. The company however, put out an assuring message stating that the company was “investigating” the case of outage which ended up affecting numerous iCloud and Apple store services.

During the outage, the users were greeted with error messages like “The iTunes Store is unable to process purchases at this time” and “Unable to connect to iTunes purchases“, while they attempted to access iTunes and App store applications. This hints that probably one of the glitches was related to Apple’s purchase processing system.

The company was able to get rid of all the glitches by Friday, June 3. The California-based tech giant was able to resume all its applications by 11:55 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

Apple’s U.S. web page now displays a message which states “no reported issues“. The company also stated that the services related to Photos and iCloud apps have also been restored.

The woes of Apple users don’t just end here because recently Apple users faced problems in the iOS update especially on the 9.3.2 version for the 9.7- inch iPad Pro. Apple however, promptly took the reins into its hands and fixed the issue immediately.

Perhaps, this is the reason why Apple has managed to retain a huge share in the market worldwide. After all, all is well that ends well.

New Apple Patent: Walkie-Talkie Lightning Headphones

Walkie-Talkie Lightning Headphones, A New Patent By Apple

Apple has added another feather (patent, in this case) to its cap.

This time it’s for Wireless Lightning headphones. But this is no usual patent because the technology so registered at the U.S. Patent and Trademark office by Apple is a unique communication platform which seemingly does away with traditional cellular means in favour of a point-to-point network technology.

On 26th May, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published Apple’s patent application which mentions ‘Point-to-point ad hoc voice communication’ and includes different versions of the smart device. This patent was originally first filed back in November, 2014 to the credit of inventors Esge B. Andersen and Cedrik Bacon.

The invention specifically outlines a headset capable of connecting with other devices of the same type via P2P links, allowing communication with other units in a shorter range. It also is packed with a typical assortment of audio hardware including a microphone and speaker.
The headphones proposed in the patent also include an internal battery, processor and memory. Well, this sounds cool.

Walkie-Talkie Lightning Headphones, A New Patent By Apple Inline

Going by the patent document titled ‘Point-to-point ad hoc voice communication’ and the diagrams associated with it, it seems that Apple is working on short range communication technology that would leverage Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to enable two (or more) users can talk to each other on a peer-to-peer (P2P) basis. Sounds familiar? The idea looks very similar to old school walkie-talkie, but since Apple has invested in it, it’s definitely going to be an amazing 21st century avatar of the walkie-talkie.

What makes it different from the old school walkie-talkie is the smart software that this amazing Bluetooth headset packs. The document indicates that the device might contain smart touch interface which would help manage communication between individuals.
Thus this specific feature would enable the user to set different channels of encryption for every conversation and accordingly set the priority as well.

Apple’s software could power the User Interface of the device and enable it to also connect with other Apple devices, similar to a Bluetooth headset.

This radio based communication is already successful in fields like construction, logistics, security where this kind of technology is made use of.

Here’s a handy example: If this technology does materialise and Apple does release it commercially then the front desk employees of Apple Store, could make use of it and easily connect with the back office folks. This new technology might revive the whole system of this Cupertino tech giant.

Apple could also release this device as a contact management system within a specific range. Looks too useful, doesn’t it?

The aspect that has excited the most rumours and speculations about this patent is the fact that one of the versions of this headset allegedly enables connectivity between the gadget and a mobile device through a Lightning or standard 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. A lot of mystery around iPhone 7 has built up with regard to the fact as to whether iPhone 7 will have the 3.5 mm audio jack or if it would be done away with in order to make the phone thinner and compact. Should that happen, the most conducive way for headsets to connect with the iPhone 7 would be over Bluetooth LE or Radio Frequency or over Wi-Fi Direct. All of which could be the transporters referred to in the patent currently in reference.

So are we about to see a brand new set of wireless earphones from Apple? Hmmm… definitely seems like it!

It is also possible that Apple decides to sell them as an add-on accessory only. Whatever it is, Apple sure has left us all excited.

Well, in all this excitement one important thing that Chip-Monks’ readers shouldn’t forget is that this is just a patent technology by Apple and it is totally possible that crushing all our hopes and excitement this technology might not see the light of the day. This is because not all patents are meant to be products.

Apple Must Sell Locally-Sourced Goods To Set Up Stores In India

Apple Must Sell Locally-Sourced Goods To Set Up Stores In India

If you are in India, then your closest connection to Apple until now has been the “Authorised Reseller” and sometimes even the unauthorised resellers that you buy your iDevices from (and subsequently have to go to for after-sales support).

India does not, for now, have an authorized Apple Store like the first world countries like the U.S., the U.K. do, and most of the Europe does.

India has been one of the two biggest markets that Apple has been trying to target in the last few years. The other such country has been China. With the population of over a billion, and a very fast-growing market for technology, not only is India a market for the hardware, but also space where Apple could do more than just utilize the market.

While in China, the government is not only hostile to foreign companies in general, but specifically hostile to American companies. Apple has over the years, faced many issues, including the recent ban of products off of the Apple Store.

In India, the situation is a little different.

The economic policies of the country have not been as favourable to Apple as it would like for them to be. The economic policies in India are designed in a manner for the government to be able to integrate them with the local trade and business.

What this simply means is that the policies include more taxes and other regulations to integrate the foreign brand with the local ones.

The rule that has been a bone stuck in Apple’s gullet is this – a regulation that requires foreign companies that have stores in the country to have at least 30% of their goods made in India.

This regulation was installed last year by the Modi government to promote local trade and products. The only exceptions to this rule are companies that “state of the art” or “cutting edge technology” products but even they have to apply for a waiver. Apple, with its cutting edge technology based products, did apply, and this week its waiver was denied.

For now the company has about 2-4% of the market share. Yet, despite that paltry sounding number, Apple for the first time exceeded USD 1 billion in sales in the country, this past year.

So far the company has been for the niche, for the business centric, and for those who can afford to spend money on their devices. But that’s like only dipping your finger on the icing on the cake and not really tasting the cake at all!

Apple has been trying to get to the Indian market in many ways. It has brought phones like the iPhone SE which was targeted directly at developing markets.
Not only that, Apple has also been bringing down the prices of its devices in India.

The cost-conscious Indian market has been very prone to go for devices by companies such as Samsung, Lenovo, Micromax, Xiaomi, Huawei, which bring high-end devices at lower costs.
To compete with that, another thing Apple planned to do was bring to the Indian market used second-hand devices at cheaper prices. Even that was denied permission by the government.

Apple could also gain from the start-up and entrepreneurial culture that India has seen in the last couple years. The IT abilities of the people in the country are unquestionably good, especially since after Bengaluru and Gurgaon turned into two of the biggest IT hubs in the world.
Not only are these the sites for most global companies to outsource their work to, they also gain tremendous resource-expertise from these highly talent-rich pools.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook has been certainly aware of this. During his recent visit to India, several detailed conversations and many negotiations took place with the government. But the meat of those conversations aren’t yet available for public consumption.

All in all, Apple is not just planning to bring its devices, but its brand altogether to India.
It recently even stated plans to open an office in India and invest about USD 25 million in it. This would bring a fair deal of employment to the area, and the country in general.

Sources say that Apple plans to open at least three or four stores in India by the end of 2017.

With this new regulation, it would be interesting to see how Apple goes about it, without having a manufacturing facility within the country. Apple has not made a statement in the regard yet.

Beware: Apple ID Expiration Scam

Beware Apple ID Expiration Scam

Apple users in U.K. have been hit by a scam whereby some of them are informed by text message that their Apple ID has expired and that they need to login into a website mentioned as a hyperlink in the text message to “get their new Apple ID”. However, as discovered by a twitter user Dave Vitty and spotted by publication The Independent, the text message isn’t real and is part of a scam.

What makes the text message credible is the fact that the message contains the real first and last name of the recipient.
The message reads: “[Name] your Apple ID is due to expire today. To prevent termination confirm your details at appleidlogin.co.uk — Apple Support”. When the user clicks on the hyperlink, he/she is redirected to a website which the scammers have made appear almost authentic.

The phishing website that the user lands on displays a message which says that “This Apple ID has been locked for security reasons” and then users are required to put in their personal details like date of birth, telephone number, address, credit card details, Passport number etc. to unlock their Apple ID.

This scam is similar to the one launched by cyber criminals in December 2015, tricking users into sending their iCloud login data to avoid supposed Apple ID suspension.

Apple didn’t respond for comments but states on its official support page that the company never chooses to approach its customers via text messages or Emails like these. The official support page of Apple states:  “As a general rule, never send credit card information, account passwords, or extensive personal information in an email unless you verify that the recipient is who they claim to be…..Many companies have policies that state they will never solicit such information from customers by email”. Apple states that “In general, all account-related activities will take place in the iTunes application directly, not through a web browser“.

This obviously should warn the users and prevent them from falling prey to any possible phishing attempts.

It’s important to note that these rules don’t just apply to Apple users – if anyone gets an email from a company (be it PayPal, eBay, Google, and so on) asking for login information, it should be highly dissected.

If you get an email saying that your account has been compromised, to play it smart you should head out to your account by opening the official website in a web browser and then change your password, rather than falling for the URL given in the email or text message.

The most common technique used by phishers, as noted by Apple is to “include links in an email that look like they go to a legitimate website”. It then is up to the users to verify the legitimacy of the sender and then respond accordingly.

Graham Cluley, a security expert explains in his blog post, “Of course, the scammers have chosen their words carefully – making the message appear urgent to encourage as many people as possible to click on the link without properly considering the potential pitfalls”.

Cluley explains the machinations of the cybercriminals, by drawing attention to the potential use of the personal information extracted from the users. He remarks that the website is “designed to grab your personal information and pass it straight on to online criminals. They could use those details to commit fraud, or sell your credentials on to other crooks on the computer underground.That’s obviously even worse news if you have made the mistake of reusing your passwords across the net”.

We at Chip-Monks advise you to think carefully about the message’s claims before heading out to some URL’s given in the message. Also, keeping a close eye at the address bar of a website, which in case of genuine website would be green at one end, depending on the browser you use might help.

Paying close attention to the URL might help as well, because genuine websites contain the domain name of the company and something like AppleExpired.co.uk , should immediately put you on guard.

To prevent your data from prying eyes and from falling into wrong hands, all you need to do is be cautious and report anything that smells fishy.

Apple Loses Trademark Battle To Exclusively Use "iPhone" In China

BEIJING, CHINA - JUNE 3: (CHINA OUT) Citizens walk into an Apple Store on June 3, 2016 in Beijing, China. Apple Inc. was recently listed as an enterprise of serious dishonesty and fined 50,000 yuan (about 7,612 USD dollar) by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics due to some discrepancies in their financial status and retail status in 2014. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

If in China, you now hear the mention of “iPhone” it might not actually mean a phone!

The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court has allowed Xintong Tiandi Technology (a name you probably wouldn’t have heard of) to use “iphone” as a brand name for selling it’s leather goods such as handbags and cell phone cases.

This dispute over intellectual property has been going on between Apple and the local Chinese company since 2012, as Apple strove to gain exclusive rights over the iPhone brand in the world’s largest mobile market.

The trademark authority in China as well as a lower Beijing court dismissed Apple’s claims. Apple appealed, but on March 31st, 2016 the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court rejected the appeal, allowing Xintong Tiandi to continue to sell its products under the prestigious name, reported local media.

As per a 2013 ruling from the Chinese trademark authority, since Apple couldn’t prove that “iPhone” was already a well-known trademark in China before Xintong Tiandi registered it in 2007.

Xintong Tiandi is of the view that they won’t harm Apple’s interests because everyone knows what Apple manufactures and no one would confuse the bags manufactured by “iphone”, to be that manufactured by the Cupertino based tech giant.
On its website, Xintong Tiandi seemed delighted with the decision of the court and expressed a desire to work with Apple to further the iPhone brand. “We will also make full achievement of the ‘iphone’ trademark, and work together [with Apple] to benefit more iphone consumers,” Quartz translated from the Chinese website.

Well, Apple doesn’t seem to share mutual feelings as is reflected by its statement.
Apple is disappointed the Beijing Higher People’s Court chose to allow Xintong to use the iPhone mark for leather goods when we have prevailed in several other cases against Xintong. We intend to request a retrial with the Supreme People’s Court and will continue to vigorously protect our trademark rights.”

Apple first registered the name “iPhone” in China in 2002 for making computer software and hardware but the trademark wasn’t approved until 2013 under Class 9: Electrical and Scientific Apparatus.
Xintong Tiandi registered it in 2007. In 2010, their trademark was approved under Class 18: Leather goods.

Obviously, you’d recall, in September 2007 Apple unveiled its first iPhone in the U.S. Since both the companies manufacture different line of products, therefore, Chinese trademark authority issued the same name to both the companies. This is what was challenged by Apple in 2012.

Apple didn’t start selling the phones on the mainland in China until 2009. This is the only fact which proved fatal for Apple in this case and was used as a basis to rule a judgment against Apple.

Apple has repeatedly found itself entangled in intellectual property disputes in China. Back in 2012, Apple was made to pay USD 60 million to a Shenzhen tech firm called Proview International Holdings to end a dispute over the use and registration of the iPad brand name.

This is not the end of troubles for Apple in China. Recently iTunes Movies and iBooks services were mysteriously shut down by the Chinese State Administration of Press, Publication, Film, and Television for reasons yet not clear. This sudden shut down came barely after 7 months of the services being launched in China.

But as scrutiny over Apple’s relationship with Chinese authorities rises, and the company’s share price slides. And it could ultimately raise significant questions about Apple’s future in China.

All this comes with inopportune timing, as Apple is already facing a fall in its sales of 26% (year-on-year) in the first quarter of 2016 in Greater China, which is a key market for Apple. The sales decline has obviously caused a decline in Apple’s first quarterly revenue.

Strained relationships between Apple and Chinese authorities have caused the company’s stakes to tremble and have put Apple’s future in China under a big question mark.

Seems like tough times for Apple.

The Next Apple Watch May Include Cellular Connectivity

Will The Next Apple Watch Include Cellular Connectivity

Wearables, for now, is an expanding market. For now.

It’s bound to hit the “explosive market” tag in the next 12-24 months. Yet its a market that is basically complimentary to that of the smartphones and the tablets. Playing second fiddle to primary devices isn’t what’s going to make this a long-term market. And accessory makers realise that. They also realise that being dependant on primary devices limits their own markets.

We wrote a brilliant article on why folks should seriously consider Wearables, given the changing lifestyles. You should read it!

Back to the story about independence.

Remember how the original Moto 360 smartwatch launched as being only compatible with Android phones (actually, while Motorola would never accept it, but the 360 was most attuned to Motorola’s own phones at the time, and supported other Android devices by extension, not by rule). But it never really took off, until it opened its (metaphoric) arms to the world of iPhones, via the Moto 360 2nd Generation watches. The point is, to be successful, any wearable has to be universally  compatible and be able to stand for itself – be (as close to) completely independent as it can be.

And of the Wearables diaspora, the one product line that has the maximum ability to be independently effective is the smartwatch.

The smartwatch market has been expanding at a fast pace. Smartwatches have become the thing to have today. They look sexy, can be connected to your phone and provide you tons of information, are empowered by multiple sensors that help garner all kinds of data, and ease out your dependence on your phone. Yet, most of them still need to be connected to the phone.

Breaking the leash, may provide that quantum leap of capabilities, utility, and hence customer-acceptance that has been missing so far.

Apple, the poster boy of the smart devices market for more than a decade now, is seemingly planning to redesign its smartwatch to make it far more useful, and self-contained. The redesign seems include shoehorning a cellular connection into the diminutive wearable.

A report by The Wall Street Journal stated that the world’s most successful smartwatch is getting cellular connectivity and a faster processor in it’s iteration. The redesign can be expected to hit wrists in the next year (it is rumoured that a mid-term upgrade to the existing design will be issued this year, but the big jump will happen in the subsequent release).

Despite being the most successful smartwatch ever, the Apple Watch hasn’t been doing too well on the market, all things considered. Apparently the “best” smartwatch in the market sold only about 12 million pieces in 2015. While this is double the sales of the first iPhone back in 2007, but it’s like a lone bud in a bouquet of roses (in comparison to the near-200 million iPhones sold in 2015).

There are apparently many reasons behind the Apple Watch’s “sub-par” performance, however the appallingly slow performance of the device’s internal hardware is one of them foremost reasons. Additionally, some critics say that the features are not at all original, nor really consequential enough for everyday users to spend the oodles of money it takes to get the snazzy timepiece.

Overall, they don’t seem appealing to the general tech critic, or so it seems. Consider this: even I haven’t felt the urge to get one yet ;-).

The issue’s not just with the Apple Watch’s internals. The entire concept of a smartwatch altogether, seems really redundant to a lot of people. Their view is that if you’re going to check your messages, your notifications and calls on your wrist, how much more difficult is it to take the phone out of the pocket? Their argument for the redundancy lies in mere seconds that the smartwatches save. So barring the heart rate sensor (and may be a few more minor things), a smartwatch really does nothing that a decent smartphone can’t, especially if paired with a much more economically priced fitness band.

Update: We subsequently wrote more about this smartwatch conundrum – read that interesting article here

The argument, I must say, does have merit.

But, adding a cellular connection to the smartwatch would make it an independent entity. One that would allow you to download apps directly, get your incoming traffic instantly, and most importantly free you of the digital leash of carrying your smartphone everywhere you go.

This untethering is probably what the smartwatch needs the most, and that liberation might make the device more appealing for a lot more people. Being able to replace the phone with a screen on the wrist may also add ‘convenience’ in sufficient quantity to attract real-world folks, not just geeks and first-movers.

A smartwatch with cellular connectivity is not the newest thing, though. Brands like Samsung and LG have both offered them for a while now. These include 3G and 4G connections that make it possible for people to leave their smartphones behind while being on the go or exercising.

It may not resolve all the roadblocks, but cellular connectivity will definitely change how the device works and significantly improve the experience.

Time will tell – obviously, the pun is intended!!

iPhones To Get Their OLED Display Panels From Samsung

Starting in 2017 Apple to get their OLED Display Panels from Samsung

Apple’s got a dichotomous reputation in the market – while some think of it as the world’s leading innovator and a proponent of new ideas, others think of it as merely a quick adapter of new trends and ideas.

The jury is still out on which claim is more legitimate, yet it is irrefutable that Apple, through its myriad movements and market achievements, has become one of those brands that is the swiftest and most receptive to change.
Sometimes they cause the change, at others, they embrace something that’s already out there in the marketplace – and juice it up to deliver an even better product than the original form.

One of the many talking points of Apple devices has been Apple’s insistence to continue using LCD panels on it’s iPhones and iPads. While the Android world is replete with OLEDs of every form and evolution, Apple has “lagged behind”, because of this affinity to LCDs. In fact, Apple’s eventual change to OLED that has been “predicted” many times over. Since it was something competitors were already doing so and also keeping in mind the advantages that OLEDs present compared to LCDs, it could very well be said that Apple was at a risk of falling behind.

That may be about to change as Apple seems to be making headway in that direction.

According to a new report from the Korean Herald, Samsung and Apple have signed a deal, basis which Samsung will supply around 100 million 5.5-inch OLED panels to Apple, starting 2017. The 3 year deal is said to be worth USD 2.59 billion.

Apple’s previous attempts at switching to OLEDs were thwarted by the lack of a manufacturer who could cater to the busy outflow of iPhones. This time, Apple is said to have approached both LG and Samsung to vie for a supplier contract for these displays.

That Samsung was able to secure the deal is perhaps more to do with its image as the market leader in OLEDs than its supply capabilities.

The deal also comes at the back of LG’s announcement in January that it will boost its production capacity for curved display panels in 2017. That was a follow up of its plans from the previous year to construct an advanced facility for OLED production.

Considering that Apple is expected to ship approximately 250 million iPhones annually over the next couple of years, it would come as no surprise if Apple decides to go for multiple suppliers. In the wake of recent developments, LG would be a frontrunner.

Long-time Apple partner and iPhone assembler Foxconn is also expected to enter the fray to win OLED supply contracts. The Taiwanese giant acquired Japan’s OLED-maker Sharp recently, and could leverage its healthy relationship with Apple as a viable means to attract the iPhone-maker into a contract.

The report does not speak of OLED displays for the smaller 4.7 inch phones; this only-5.5 inch OLEDs is a peculiar twist. We (at Chip-Monks) think that only the Plus variants will carry the new screen tech for the first year – so as to further differentiate the phablet version from the 4.7 inch sibling (as the camera set up and battery size does currently). So, the screen capability could perhaps further enforce demarcation between Apple’s high-end and mass-appeal phones.

The general belief is that that the 4.7 inch ones drastically outsell the 5.5 inch ones with the ratio being 2:1 in favour of the smaller ones. This could perhaps be attributed to the lower cost price of the 4.7 inch ones with features that could sustain if not overly entertain the everyday user.

The lure of OLEDs is the display offers quicker response time and brighter colours, as opposed to LCDs. Moreover, its effective battery consumption improves battery life. It is for anyone to see that Apple could be vying to boost the sale of its 5.5 inch higher end phones.

However this move could backfire since it could cannibalise sales of the smaller handset, adn also clear the way for some customers to jump ship and consider similar sized options among other brands at a much more reasonable price tag.

Back to the deal. Samsung’s supposed contribution of 5.5 inch panels disrupts the coherency with predictions from noted insider Ming-Chi Kuo, who last month said Apple would market a 5.8 inch AMOLED iPhone as part of next year’s lineup. Per the leakster, the 2017 handset would bear a “glass sandwich” design reminiscent of iPhone 4/4s, but with a curved front and back.

Kuo had said the 5.8-inch AMOLED model will either be tacked on to Apple’s existing 4.7 inch and 5.5 inch iPhone formats, or completely replace the 5.5 inch TFT-LCD model, depending on supply.

The so called “revamp” comes at the back of the somewhat underwhelming sales of iPhones that Apple has had to endure. Apple is also said to be considering adding wireless charging and biometric sensors to its new iPhone in 2017.

Well, we’ll all have to wait to see how things pan out, but one thing’s for certain – it’s going to be yet another interesting year!

Apple's About To Revamp It's App Store

Is Apple Revamping The App Store

Apple’s App Store has become as unfathomable as an Amazonian forest. Lots of trees crowded in by lots of undergrowth.

Result: an unwelcoming journey that fewer folks are desiring to initiate.

And that can’t be to Apple’s benefit. One of the biggest success stories of consumerism and the greatest display of micro-products raking in billions for the seller, the App Store’s success has become its failing.

And whatever views the world may have about Apple, the one thing that it agrees to unanimously is that Apple likes to wring out every possible dollar they can convince you to part with.

So when customers become wary or stop buying, Apple digs out it’s broom and issues its clean-up crew some very clear instructions.

In this case, the instructions are very simple: Showcase the Oaks more than the weeds.

App discovery needs to be improved, drastically. Crowded by a plethora of apps that are disorganisedly ordered, all lying in a heap for the user to sort through, clearly, the App Store’s user experience needs to change.

Now, Apple seems to be implementing a new algorithm that determines how search results show up on the App Store. Reportedly, the Cupertino-based company has put together a “secret team” reportedly, around hundred employees, Including a bunch of engineers from the Apple’s iAd team to work on different possibilities and methods to improve the discovery of apps on the App Store.

The new algorithm could implement paid-search like mechanisms onto the App Store (similar to those employed by Google) that will stack certain apps higher up in the search results thus making them more noticeable. All this, for a charge of course, that App Developers will need to pay to Apple.

Touted as a win-win situation, this policy of promoting content will undoubtedly help App Developers significantly increase revenues from their apps.

The App Store is the backbone of both, the iOS and Mac OS ecosystems. Not only has it earned Apple their loyal fan base it is an important bread-earner for the oligarch. Apple currently earns 30% from all app sales on their App Store, and this revenue is an important part of Apple’s Balance Sheet.

According to Bloomberg, “Among the ideas being pursued, Apple is considering paid search, a Google-like model in which companies would pay to have their app shown at the top of search results based on what a customer is seeking. For instance, a game developer could pay to have its program shown when somebody looks for a game of football, word puzzle, or blackjack.”

Apple is most probably motivated by the rip-roaring success that Google’s Ad-Words business has enjoyed all these years. And Google’s not the only one. Social networking giants like Facebook and Twitter have also garnered profitable, long-term sources of revenue from some famous game and app developers.

It seems that Apple’s iAds Vice President, Todd Teresi has initiated the scheme seeking to change the perception and usability of the App Store. While there has been no official statement by Apple about the incorporation of the new changes onto the App Store, this could move could also be necessitated to negate the drop in the iPhones sales (which is being headlined in the media and on Wall Street).

Apple does have a full year ahead – it has their June launch of the iPhone 7, the new Mac line-up, new markets like India to explore; and the added improvements in their App Store could be the cherry on the cake, with them having the last laugh at the end of the year.

We at Chip-Monks, are all for it. The forest is becoming a jungle, and pruning it will help everybody involved, so long as it is not overly biased towards the paying clients (App Developers), else we’ll be looking at yet another contravention of economic theory and buyer discretion (a la net neutrality).

Microsoft Sues The U.S. Department Of Justice

Microsoft Sues The US Department Of Justice

While the Indian populace may have only recently heard (due to Apple’s recent tryst with the FBI in the U.S.) of the friction between Tech giants who store customers’ personal data and a government that uses its constitutional power to wrangle access to that data, however it’s not a new phenomenon.

For many years now, conscientious brands who possess customer data have tried to assume a “protector” avatar to preserve customer privacy, even if it meant going up in arms against some of the most powerful adversaries.

Microsoft, the Redmond-based tech giant has endeavoured to play guardian for its users many a time; and is doing it yet again.

Microsoft is filing a lawsuit in a federal court in Seattle against the U.S. Department of Justice citing it’s own right to inform its customer(s) when federal agencies access the user’s data.

Currently, the Justice Department pressurizes the company to prevent notifying the user whenever the authorities investigate his/her data. Microsoft terms this forceful act as unconstitutional.

Over the past 18 months, there have been nearly 2,600 secrecy orders issued by the federal courts, silencing Microsoft from speaking about warrants and other legal process seeking Microsoft customers’ data.” When those 2,600 secrecy orders were examined, it was quite astonishing to find out that most of the orders were without a fixed end date, making it permanent, thus making the issue more critical.
All the while, Microsoft is prohibited from informing the affected customer(s). Microsoft considers this as a forced compromise in it’s loyalty to the customer.

There was a complaint filed today in a Washington District Court reading that, “Microsoft brings this case because its customers have a right to know when the government obtains a warrant to read their emails, and because Microsoft has a right to tell them. As Microsoft’s customers increasingly store their most private and sensitive information in the cloud, the government increasingly seeks and obtains secrecy orders.

Microsoft believes that the government is misusing Section 2705(b) of the thirty year old Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). It is also concerned by the absolute power in this regard while carrying out investigations and are citing parts of the law governing national security requests that have been declared unconstitutional by previous courts.

The government is trying to strengthen their stance by compelling the tech companies to walk the path they want them to. National security letters for the request of data currently don’t require a court order and can be issued by the FBI. it seems the federal agencies are using them to their benefit post the introduction of the Patriot Act in 2001, which allows the government to gain access to complete web browsing histories, the IP addresses of everyone the user has corresponded with, user’s online purchase information, and also cell-site location information, to name some of the personal data that becomes accessible.

While there are some exceptional situations when the secrecy orders are completely justified to prevent tip-offs, which may result in leaks or destruction of data, however they should be temporary and shouldn’t arise on every occasion at the whim of the governmental agencies.

While we’re going to have to wait and see how this plays out, however seeing how Apple has been a taken for several rounds in courts for their stand, one thing is clear – someone’s got the stand up for the customer and we welcome brands of conscience.

I am sure this peril exists in India too, and I live in the hope that some folks here too, stand up for the customer and protect us against unwarranted infringements of our privacy.

Apple Shuts Down iTunes Allowance For Kids

Apple Shuts Down iTunes Allowance For Kids No Country For Small Ones

In a surprising development, Apple announced its plans to shut down its iTunes kids allowance feature.

The feature enabled children to buy items on the App Store or from iTunes, using an allocated amount from the parents’ credit cards. Monthly allowances could be purchased in amounts from USD 10- 50 from a particular credit card.

While recipients were given an ID and the allowance could be cancelled anytime, however Apple obviously didn’t consider this as adequate control (and no we aren’t being sarcy to Apple).
The company has already stopped minor users from setting up new accounts since yesterday, and a complete shut down of all services will happen from 25th May.

Although any credit left in the user’s account will be left for her to finish through transfer in her basic iTunes account.

Detractors have been swift to criticise the move, calling it a move on the company’s part to shy away from accountability. Rather than having the assurance of their child not being able to spend more than a particular amount per month, now parents would have to approve of every single purchase ,even if it is free.

Also gone, is the flexibility regarding payments. From this month on, the European payment service Click-and-Buy will be discontinued, leaving users with only two options in many countries: credit card or gift card. This will make it increasingly difficult to use the Store.

Many have speculated the reason behind the starting of iTunes allowance earlier in 2003, citing cases where kids spend far too much on Apple’s content. In December, for instance, a seven-year-old child reportedly spent nearly USD 6,000 on in-app purchases in the game Jurassic World. Also last year, another child, eight years old, spent USD 1,400 on another game through their parent’s account. But those were nothing like the USD 46,000 a teenager reportedly spent in the iOS game Game of War: Fire Age.

The controversy regarding the cases snowballed to such an extent that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered companies to install some security features in the online marketplace. The iTunes allowance was a result of such a move.

Although the tech giant has refused to offer an explanation for terminating the services, but it is considered as an effort to start a shift towards the new OS X that the company is preparing to launch. The company recommends that users set up Family Sharing, a feature that allows up to six people to share an account. It also includes an approval process that pings parents before their kids try to spend cash.
Content purchased by any one on the Family Sharing group can be shared/utilized on devices of others on the same Family Sharing account.

For parents who may be still shying away from using Family Sharing, Apple offered another option: Buying kids digital gift cards that will act much in the same way as iTunes Allowances did. The gift cards can be set for a certain amount and will not run out until the child spends the total sum.

Under its ambit kids under 13 will have their own IDs.

The Family Sharing Account will also enable the parent to put a restriction on the content that the child comes in contact with, using iTunes parental controls or OS restrictions.

Although, the discontinued feature is one that won’t be missed sorely by the general user base, however it marks a certain shift in the company’s policy, which one cannot help but notice.

One can understand dissenting parents’ derision regarding the move. But one can also understand some of the motives on Apple’s part. One only needs to lucidly consider the implied sentiment – if the parent can’t take the ownership and responsibility of monitoring and managing the offspring’s activities, why should Apple take the onus?

Homeland Security Urges Users To Uninstall QuickTime On Windows

Homeland Security Urges Users To Uninstall QuickTime On

The US Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has issued a general advisory asking Windows users to uninstall QuickTime off their computers. Before you jump to conclusions, let us assure you that there’s nothing wrong with the multimedia program! There’s no current security or malware issue.

The reason for this advisory is that it’s creator, Apple, has decided to abandon the application for Microsoft’s Windows OS and will hence no longer release security updates for the same. QuickTime for Mac OS will however continue to receive updates.

The secondary trigger for US-CERT’s came from security firm Trend Micro’s initiative “Zero Day” [as defined by Wikipedia, a Zero Day vulnerability is a hole in software that is unknown to the software vendor. This security hole is usually exploited by hackers before the vendor becomes aware and fixes it] releasing two advisories that pertain to the recent identification of two security threats for in the program’s code. Since Apple will no longer patch up vulnerabilities, the only safe option left is to uninstall Quicktime as soon as possible.
Trend Micro has also issued an advisory on their own blog; “Our TippingPoint customers have been protected against these two vulnerabilities since November 24, 2015 with filters 21918 (ZDI-CAN-3401) and 21919 (ZDI-CAN-3402). However, even with protections, ultimately the right answer is to follow Apple’s guidance and uninstall QuickTime for Windows.”

The Department of Homeland Security said “the only mitigation” is to remove the software entirely, or else risk “loss of confidentiality, integrity, or availability of data, as well as damage to system resources or business assets.

There is a silver lining to this advisory though, “Zero Day” initiative has not identified any active security threats against the critical vulnerabilities, however that doesn’t mean that may not happen in future (especially now that the vulnerability in the OS is out for all to know!).

From what we understand, these security vulnerabilities are open-ended and will allow remote arbitrary code execution. Decrypted to a common man’s language this means that if users visit a malicious web page, anyone could gain control over your system via the innocent guise of QuickTime player. For the more technically inclined of you, it opens the possibility that the bug will allow the virus to write code outside the allocated heap buffer and the other vulnerability will take place in the stco atom (The stco atom for a track lists the offsets for the various chunks that comprise a media track and only allows for 32-bit offsets) allowing execution of invalid index, resulting in loss of valuable data and business assets.

Therefore the logical step for Apple’s QuickTime users is to follow the advice of Apple and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and uninstall the application rather than wait for any untoward experience.

As a side note: With this warning, QuickTime for Windows has now joined the league of Microsoft Windows XP and Oracle Java 6, as software that is no longer updated to fix security vulnerabilities and is now included in the Department of Homeland Security’s Alert List to shutdown.

Is Apple’s decision to kill QuickTime an indication that Apple is leaning towards a “no-support for Windows OS” policy, we’ll just have to wait and watch? It is a bit of a surprise though, given the recent bonhomie displayed during an iPad launch event just a few months ago.

While we ponder this, go get your PC booted up and the Quicktime Player uninstalled!

AirPlay Comes To HTC Flagships

AirPlay Comes To HTC Flagships

What happens when you have much? You tend to give to others.

In the case of the well-endowed HTC 10, it is the passing down native AirPlay support to its siblings, the erstwhile HTC flagship models.

The updated HTC Connect app is set to bring one of the HTC 10’s most interesting features to the HTC One M7, One M8 and One M9. This will allow wireless streaming from all of the prominent One series phones to a number of other devices – all through Apple’s AirPlay protocol.

For those of you who have largely been on the Android boat for many years now, it bears some explanation. Through AirPlay, your older HTC flagship smartphone or phablet will be able to push audio and video to other devices that support the protocol. So for example, if you have an Apple TV in your home, you’ll be able to push (screencast) video or apps to your TV screen — much like you can with Chromecast. And if you have AirPlay-enabled speakers, you can wirelessly push your favourite music onto them!

Sure, there are several third-party apps in the Play Store that perform the same function, however the presence of the AirPlay icon on HTC devices is significant as it hints at a potentially noteworthy partnership between two popular tech manufacturers. HTC has acknowledged that this is a part of the company’s long-term policy that entails embracing the maximum options for users, even if it has not developed by them (as reported by Slash Gear).

Emphasising that HTC is not ‘platform agnostic’, Darren Sng, Vice President (Product Marketing) at the Taiwanese tech firm, said they are willing to go beyond just the streaming standards. For instance, if Apple and Samsung made Apple Pay and Samsung Pay available to third-party brand manufacturers respectively, HTC would certainly lap up the opportunity, the report quoted Sng as saying.

In spite of the competition, HTC has decided to use Apple’s proprietary AirPlay protocol on their devices as as well as many other prominent streaming formats – DNLA, Miracast, Chromecast, AllPlay and HTC Connect.

Why is this important? Surely, AirPlay is not a killer feature for most Android users. But HTC may be targeting iOS users who are already heavily invested – literally and figuratively – in Apple’s ecosystem. After all, people who spent a lot of money to build entertainment systems that support AirPlay need to be cajoled to give up on their iPhones for an Android device.

From that perspective, HTC is pretty smart to adopt AirPlay for its top of the line devices.

Sng substantiated his company’s stand on the issue saying that if one wouldn’t like credit card companies to decide what he/ she would want in their wallet, why would they go for a specific vendor to determine the payment system they want in their phone, Mac Rumors reported.

This is not the first time that Apple is releasing its in-house apps for Android users. Previously, the Cupertino tech giant rolled out it’s Move to iOS app, enabling Android users to move their data from an Android phone to their new iPhone, and Apple Music, which was developed from scratch for Android users with a view to expand the market for Apple’s music service. By releasing AirPlay for HTC 10, which was launched on Tuesday, Apple has once again made it clear that it is willing to work with rival companies.

This year, HTC has been focusing on an improved music experience, and this is proved by the company’s restructured BoomSound Hi-Fi Edition tech. By incorporating the AirPlay audio streaming into the HTC One devices, the company looks forward to be a step ahead over its primary rivals – Samsung, LG and even Xiaomi. And strange as it may sound, Apple might be the safest one to partner with!

Is Google Building An iOS Keyboard

A part of reinvention that most people ignore is to keep going back to the original, to propel the same idea so far that it suddenly has an innate freshness associated with itself too everytime someone thinks of it. Now imagine if you are a search engine giant in the modern technological world, what would your next innovation be? The answer lies in the question itself: ‘search engine”, and this is where Google plans to expand its domain. If the report by the Verge is to be believed, Google is working on a third party keyboard for iOS.

Apple made provisions for third party keyboard from iOS 8 onwards and since then we’ve seen companies like Swiftkey, Swipe and Flesky take the plunge. Let us not forget that these are known players in the Android keyboard industry. Google is now the latest player to throw its hat in the ring.

The common notion would to be to suggest that this keyboard would be a copy of Google’s keyboard for Android but if that was to be the case then Google would not have wanted to venture in the iOS territory for it is not just competition that is on its mind. Further quoting the report, the keyboard will have a slew of new features, the most crucial among them being integrated searching, by means of tapping on the google logo that will be provided on the keyboard. Why this is the most crucial is because it aims to accentuate Google’s use as a searcg engine. Let’s say I’m using a messaging app and I happen to look up some clarification on the word “juxtaposed”, then I can just highlight the word or phrase and tap the google logo which will redirect me to the search engine and its results page on the query in question. What this does is promotes Google’s use as a search engine cutting through the logistical hassle of jumping through apps.

The current Android keyboard by Google promotes text and voice search but not picture of GIF search, something that they plan to amend with their iOS keyboard through Google image search functionalities as well as allowing messages to be sent through pictures. Other features include “gesture typing” as already introduced by Swiftkey and Swipe. Furthermore, the keyboard will supposedly feature word prediction, much like the built-in iOS keyboard.

All of these features are to lure users towards mobile Google searches which are already falling way behind their Desktop counterpart. The reason could be that the ordinary user googles keywords such as “Facebook”, “Gmail”, etc. to redirect themselves to the said pages but on mobile they directly have an app to access those utilities. Searches are also important to Google because that is where they display the chunk of their most expensive ads; hence less number of searches is less revenue for Google. Looking at the direct correlation Google’s motives cannot be questioned, add to that the fact that Siri is running on Bing search, along with the ability to change the default search engine in Safari, and one would understand the need for Google to expand.

Third-party keyboards have not been very popular on iPhones and iPads either. When users have more than one installed, they must constantly cycle through them. Many third-party keyboards have also suffered from sluggishness and other performance issues. However that is not Google’s main problem. To establish what Google has set out to do it needs to rid itself of claims of keeping a tab of users’ search history and invasion of privacy. The claims are already out there that Google keeps a log with itself of everything that the users do and with an integrated keyboard being rolled out by the company, the skeptics can be excused for thinking that this will enable Google to keep a log of every keystroke that a user makes or everything that is on its mind at a certain given point in time.

In a time when WhatsApp has introduced end-to-end encryption to ensure user’s privacy, Google will benefit most with coming up with something on similar lines since garnering user’s trust will go a long way in boosting the brand value.

The keyboard is said to have been under development for months and is already being circulated among Google’s employees. It however remains to be seen if and when the company decides to go public about the project and if it is able to lure people’s interest after all.

Does iOS 9.3.1 Also Have A Bug?

Does iOS 9.3.1

iPhone SE users have something to fret about. Recently, iPhone SE users reported about a bug in the latest iOS update – iOS 9.3.1.

Some users on MacRumors and even on Apple’s own Support forum have reported issues with Bluetooth audio connectivity in the device.

MacRumors reader HickDead recently posted a forum topic to share his experience:
I actually had to return my SE back to Verizon because my Bluetooth calls reception quality was terrible. Playing music or YouTube videos through the Bluetooth was excellent but when it came to phone calls, the sound was constantly cutting in and out and sounded “scratchy” and distorted. Never had this issue with my previous 6S or my work-issued Android phone. Tried my SE in a different vehicle and got the same results. I’ve unpaired and re-paired and I even restored my SE and set up as a new device but nothing has worked”.

This issue of distorted and incomprehensible voice doesn’t permeate into phone calls made outside of Bluetooth. In fact, the music streaming on Bluetooth is also working normally.

The problem then seems to be only with Bluetooth phone calls when the smartphone is paired with a vehicle or wireless headset.
The issue doesn’t limit itself here but also extends to GPS voice navigation in some cases.

It is important to note that the problem is apparent only in the iPhone SE. This is for the users in the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden, and UK for now. iPhone 6s with the same iOS version 9.3.1 isn’t facing any such audio issues.

It is not that the quality of the phone call being distorted has any relation to the brand or the make of the car. In-car infotainment systems from Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jeep, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen have been affected equally.

The iOS 9.3.1 update was a key update for iOS 9 users, since it came as a solution to the bug in iOS 9.3 whereby the problem of web links crashing was a major issue. But this new update 9.3.1 seems to have problems of its own and hasn’t really acted as a relief.

This bug is creating trouble for many, as is evident from the reports on Apple support forums across several regions. The petulance at the users’ end is quite reasonable as the number of people with headsets and in car Bluetooth calling is obviously great and this bug must have bit a little too hard to those.

Also, no amount of restarts, reset or factory resetting phones, toggling cellular data, and changing SIM cards has worked to fix this issue. The bug doesn’t seem to budge. Consequently, users are waiting for Apple to fix this issue at the earliest.

Not that Apple is sitting out there, enjoying the show, doing nothing. Naah, folks at Apple are responsible people..!

A user called ‘skierrob2’ highlighted the news of Apple being in action and working towards fixing this bug when he posted on Apple Support forum, “I got a call from Apple Support from an iOS Senior Advisor this morning. In the call, he stated he worked with his colleagues to test Bluetooth on the iPhone SE, and that Apple support has been able to reproduce this issue on more than one bluetooth device. They have already forwarded the information on to their engineers”.

Many users made a special mention of the fact that Apple’s customer support is taking a special interest in this issue and has asked for log files in order to be able to diagnose the issue in a better way. This clearly implies that the company has started working on resolving the issue but how long this is going to take is not clear.

This is not the first time that Apple is facing such an issue.

In October 2014, the same glitch affected iPhone users, leaving them unable to pair their handsets and audio car systems via Bluetooth after updating to iOS 8. However, Apple fixed the issue by rolling out iOS 8.1.

Apple is already beta testing iOS 9.3.2. and this might solve the issue. But what’s interesting is that despite rigorous internal testing before release of any new update, any bug such as this one can creep in after millions of people download it and are then troubled till the bug resolves. This goes on to show that no matter how reputed the company is, any software is vulnerable to bugs.

Anyhow, Apple solves this one quick, is what we hope.

Another Apple Billion, This One's Extra Special

Another Apple Billion, This One's Extra Special

Wall Street says Apple’s about to sell their 1 billionth iPhone some time in July 2016.

It seems like yesterday when Apple launched its first iPhone on June 29th 2007, It garnered market hysteria like no other device ever launched, and has seen unprecedented success ever since.

Success? By the end of 2015 Apple had sold 896 million iPhones and if the Wall Street estimates are to be believed they’ll add around 50 million more sales to the tally during the last quarter of the present financial year (April 2016).
So that means if the iPhone SE succeeds, even partially and adds to the runs scored by the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, Apple could make the billion-iPhone mark in July.

Even though the sales per quarter have reduced for Apple this season but it is still in a very comfortable position to reach the 1 billion-device milestone.

Here’s some more trivia. Apple hit the mid-way mark (500 million iPhones) in March 2014. So it took them about 7 years to get to hit the halfway mark, and now they’d have sold the next 500 million in a little over (only) 2 years!

Since we’re on a trivia roll, here are some more. The “billion” mark is not new to Apple. They reached the billion mark for the Apple family of devices in November 2014. They crossed the “Billion” mark for their active user base (users who engaged with Apple Services). They’ve achieved upwards of 10 billion iTunes Music Store downloads, and more than 50 billion iOS app downloads in 2013.

Now for the not-so-good news. The picture at Apple is not completely rosy – not only has there been a recurring decline in iPad sales, now Morgan Stanley predicts a slowdown in iPhone sales in the neighborhood of about the 5.5%.
Chinese markets have not picked up at the desired haste, and iPhone sales have been tapering off to around 50 million iPhones per quarter from a high of 74 million device sales it had achieved earlier.

But all is not lost. Here’s another story:

For this angle, I had to borrow someone’s rather complicated scientific calculator (and an A4 sheet) to run this calculation. The mind boggled more than once, so I was forced to guzzle Mint Lattes at regular intervals just to unwrap the synapses of my mind.

Before I start the story, let me reveal the spoiler, Apple makes three times more money every year than the entire Indian Railways does, just via their iPhone sales.

Now I know, that those of our non-India readers mayn’t grasp that enormity, so let me spell a little background numbers out to you about the Indian Railways –

India had 1.31 billion people, as of 2015.
The Indian Railways carried 8.397 billion passengers in 2015 (which equates to more than 23 million passengers every day), and over 1 billion tons of freight across 71,000 miles of track. And for all those trains, tracks, people, and boxes, the Railways earned USD 24 billion in 2015.

Apple produced fanciful iPhones and earned about USD 77 billion (roughly averaged out sales over the 9 years of sales to hit 1 billion iPhones at assumed value of $650 per iPhone).

Phew! I don’t even want to know about the App Store, and the iTunes Store, and the iPad, and the Macs. Christ, no! There’s not enough mint out there.

As I wind down, I hope Apple does something spectacular to commemorate the Billionth iPhone’s sale – maybe they’ll even fulfill Steve Jobs’ dream to dress up as Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and give the billionth customer a tour of the Apple headquarters along with a plethora of goodies. Who knows!

FBI Claims To Have Hacked Into The iPhone

Close up of hand in white glove open the curtain. Place for text

Having spent a more than a month in court proceedings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has claimed that its managed to hack into the iPhone 5C in question.

The court debacle triggered by FBI demanding Apple’s help to forcibly unlock the smartphone, was still in progress, when FBI came up with this ‘sensational’ claim.

Why The Court Case?

Apple had refused to provide FBI any assistance in hacking into the phone, on the grounds of user privacy. And despite all manners of pressure Apple stuck to it’s guns.

We’d earlier written about Apple’s side of the story and why it decided not to help the FBI ‘hack’ the phone. It makes for extremely intense and intriguing reading. I suggest you hop over to that article, and arm yourself with Apple’s side of their battle and reasoning, and then resume this article with that perspective in mind.

Apple’s refusal lead to an active and heated debate weighing the importance of user privacy over national security, involving more than just the two parties.

The iPhone 5C in question belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino shootings. This specific phone was important as Farook and his wife, who was also involved in the shootings, had destroyed every other smart device they owned, before dying in the shootout the same day.

To know what the fuss is all about – why FBI needed Apple’s help in this day and age of technical wizards on FBI’s payrolls, head over to another article I wrote a month or so back, which will help you understand the fundamentals of this dichotomy.

Also, there were some unanswered questions, relating to why FBI didn’t just brute force the device on their own. We dug around, researched the topic in depth. You should read the article, to gain a clearer answer how a small automated check holds up a federal investigation behemoth.

Did The iPhone 5C In Question, Really Contain Any Useful Information?

The FBI, even though it claims that it has broken into the device, refuses to provide any further information in this regard.

Owing to that rather pregnant silence from FBI, many speculate that the smartphone might not really have had any information of use after all, since Farook destroyed other devices and left only this one active.

How Do We Know FBI Even Broke Into The Device?

The truth is, we don’t. The Bureau has refused to provide any further information in this regard. All they have stated has been that they have been able to break into the device with the help of a third party.
All we have at this point is the FBI’s word, but it’s also possible that the FBI hasn’t actually hacked the iPhone but is simply saying it has to save face as it backs out of its legal battle with Apple” said Tony Bradley, a contributor to the Forbes on the matter.

Having Raised The Obvious Question Of Suspicion First, Let Us Now Address The Rest.

For that, first, let us believe that FBI has indeed managed to hack into the iPhone 5C in question, taking a report published on the InVerse for the same: “A senior law enforcement official told The Associated Press that the FBI managed to disable the passcode memory wipe feature, which would have destroyed the phone’s data after 10 incorrect passcode attempts. After that feature was offline, the government was able to use a brute force attack (a computer crunching every possible combination rapidly) to get into the phone in just 26 minutes.

The first question that comes to mind on reading this is – Did FBI know all along that it could hack into the device or was it a surprise when they actually succeeded?

We don’t have any clear answers to that. All we may have are speculations.

Why Does It Matter, Though?

Because FBI could not have gone to the court knowing that there were other things it could try, by the law of the country.

Given the stature of the organization, the law states that it must try certain extreme measures and exhaust all possible options before it goes ahead and demands external help from private entities.

But How Could The FBI Not Know?

Anyone who works in computer and information security knows that there is no such thing as invulnerable security and every device and the operating system has vulnerabilities that can be exploited. The FBI should have known before it even started its legal battle with Apple, that there are ways to access the device without Apple’s help, so it’s possible the FBI actually had a hack (or three) all along” said Bradley, the Forbes reporter.

Unless… FBI has a different axe to grind with Apple Inc.

Let us, however, give the FBI, the benefit of the doubt here as well. Let us assume that they believed that they had exhausted all possibilities before they went to the court to solicit Apple’s help. Let us also believe that it came as a surprise to them when this supposed third party was able to crack the device for them.

The questions then are just two: the “How” and the “Who”, and the FBI has refused to answer either. While the “Who” can be speculated about, let us just assume that it was a freelancer because that seems like the most likely of possibilities. As for the how there are many possibilities.

  • Edward Snowden, of the WikiLeaks fame, commented recently that the FBI could easily break into the phone. He talked about copying the phone’s memory and then replacing it every time it self-destructs, getting the FBI uncountable number of tries. This method is called NAND mirroring and is commonly used in the circles.
  • Another method suggested was that the feds could conceivably hack Apple’s software running the iPhone through a software flaw, according to Johnson. “Apple … is never going to be able to compete with what is going on behind the scenes in the black market” Jay Kaplan, a former NSA analyst and co-founder of security firm Synack, told The New York Times.
  • The most volatile and dangerous of the methods suggested was that by the name of Acids and Lasers. Zdziarski, an expert in the field, describes it as follows: investigators could remove the microprocessor from the iPhone and run it through a chemical treatment before hitting it with a laser. But… One wrong move and the chip would be ruined. Not only would the data be lost, there would no longer be any point in forcing Apple to write new software.

The last one of the three some how seems like the most dangerous to use on the iPhone in question. We, however, can only speculate since the FBI has refused to give any details as to this.

The How And Who Are Not The Only Questions Here Anymore. There Are Questions That Are Much More Important.

Are other Apple devices vulnerable? Does Apple even know what is going on?

Quite possibly, yes!

Other devices are vulnerable to the same technique. The entire security system of Apple devices gets called into question. Since FBI has refused to divulge anything, all Apple can do is speculate what FBI did and how they did it.

Should the government, ethically report their methods to Apple?

Ethically, yes, they should! Since it compromises the security of other devices and other private citizens and entities well. But it seems highly unlikely that they would. They instead could be planning to use this technique for greater things in the future, perhaps help the NSA with them.

Since Apple did not play nice with the government, it is highly doubtful that the Bureau would.

What does this do for Apple’s reputation?

This certainly tarnishes Apple’s reputation. Apple has been a company that has boasted of its security and the measures that it puts into them. Especially after iOS 9, Apple has been deemed the company with one of the most secure devices.

The public eye that the FBI has hacked the phone under, some say, may tarnish Apple’s reputation in this regard. However, given that the FBI’s not provided any conclusive evidence to back up their claim on having successfully intruded on the iPhone, there’s a lot of people who are discounting “vulnerabilities” just yet.

Moreover, Apple standing up for their user’s security and privacy would also have earned them far more loyal followers – hopefully the righteous kinds.

Is the debate over privacy and security done for?

No way!

It is not a debate that could be done for just like that, however, in this particular case, it might have suffered a setback. The iPhone that the FBI seemed to be planning to use to set a precedent has set a precedent of an absolutely different kind. “This iPhone seems to have been chosen very specifically as the one the FBI wanted to force the issue on because it believed that it could play on the fear of terrorism to sway public opinion and establish a legal precedent that would empower the government to compel private corporations to cooperate” said Bradley, of the Forbes.

Let us see where the debate goes with future incidents of the sorts which are bound to come through. The FBI, thus, having hacked into the iPhone 5C that belonged to a terrorist, has raised many questions of grave importance.

The answers to most of these questions are simply speculations. They, instead, perhaps would be the center of much debate in the near future.

Apple responded to the news thus: “Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk. This case raised issues, which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy. Apple remains committed to participating in that discussion.

In other related news, the FBI has already tried to hack into the iPhone and iPod involved in a murder investigation in Arkansas. They’re not telling if they succeeded or not.

Telling silence, isn’t it?

iPhone SE Coming To India Soon!

iPhone SE Coming To India Soon

Apple’s finally getting serious about India. Evidence? Well, they announced their latest iPhone just three days ago, and 72 hours later, we hear it’s headed to India…  just a week after it launches in what we’d call Apple’s “first-launch” list of ‘developed countries’.

Historically Indian customers had to wait 6-8 months from announcement date.

The much awaited, harshly critiqued and newly launched iPhone SE will be available in India from 8th April for INR 39,000 for the 16 GB version. The initially speculated price was INR 30,000 for the base model, which would have been far more competitive for the Indian market.

The phone is surprisingly the most affordable to have come out of Cupertino headquarters and Apple, in its inimitable style, calls the iPhone SE the “most powerful 4 inch smartphone”

Beetel Teletech Limited has announced that it will offer Apple’s newest iPhone at over 3,500 retail outlets it controls across India.
While there is no word regarding pre-orders from Redington, Beetel Teletech has announced that pre-orders for the phone will open on March 29 at 12:01 AM.
Beetel Teletech is a part of US-based global distribution firm Brightstar.

With the initially announced price, the phone would have had a more competitive stance in the price sensitive market like India, and at INR 39,000 people might reconsider the iPhone 6 as a sensible option to acquire at INR 32,990 for a similar 16 GB variant.

The iPhone SE is replacing the iPhone 5s, which has been removed from the official Apple website and the existing stock would now be available at discounted prices.
Already, the 16 GB variant of the iPhone 5S is now available for INR 19,699 at Flipkart.

Apple maintains that the 4-inch form factor is still popular with them having sold over 30 million iPhones last year. This, for Apple goes on to prove that the new iPhone SE might be just as much or more successful thanks to the love for smaller phones. Also, countries like China and India along with other developing economies — make up most of the 4 inch phones sales in the world, essentially because these are older models and are usually the more affordable picks of the lot.

To recap, do read our detailed write-up on the iPhone SE.

If you’re burning up to know what’s different between the iPhone 5s and the SE, head over to this other great article that we wrote for you recently.

All this is interesting, especially since we’re all expecting Apple to release it’s next flagship in September, just six months from now. Does this then signal that Apple is moving towards a two-phone-launches-a-year model? Ooh… Interesting! Let’s wait and watch on that one!

Meanwhile head out and checkout the SE at an Apple Store near you.

Apple Said To Be Planning To Buy Graphics Chip Maker Imagination Technologies

Does Apple Plan To Buy Graphics Chip Maker Imagination Technologies

Apple has frequently acquired small businesses and budding enterprises, to further some ambition, gain an unprecedented advantage or simply to execute a strategy that we don’t yet know about.

Numbers of such acquisitions have been increasing exponentially over the last three years. Thus, the news of Apple planning to acquire its long-term chip partner, Imagination Technologies doesn’t come as a surprise, nor does it really seem an improbable rumour.

Talks between Apple and Imagination Technologies are reported to be at an advanced stage, and speculations also indicate that Imagination may be planning to cut jobs. Apple, did acknowledge holding talks with the company but have not indicated any plans or intentions of making an offer for acquisition, as of now.

The British chip-maker is eminent for producing the PowerVR graphics processors, that are embedded within Apple’s proprietary chips like the Apple A9 in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

In fact, Apple has been utilizing graphics processor chips from Imagination Technologies since the dawn of the iPhone 4, which had a built-in Apple A4 chip.

In a similar vein, Apple has since been designing its own CPU cores for its proprietary A-series of SoCs since the acquisition of PA Semi, a fabless chip design company, however, Apple has refrained from designing the chip’s graphics components (GPUs).

Apple had earlier acquired 3.9% of the company’s shares back in 2008 and increased it to about 9.5% in 2009.

If Apple were to engage the deal, it would be beneficial for them as they could design in-house, and produce at will, and with utmost secrecy… something that Apple vies for in everything they do.

Apple Fixes A Bug In iOS 9.3 That Could Leak Your Contacts and Photos

Apple Fixes A Bug In iOS 9

It was reported on Tuesday (April 4), that a bug in iOS 9.3 allowed infiltration and access to an iPhone user’s pictures and contacts via Siri.

This implies that all those hundreds of duck-faced selfies that you clicked before finalising the one that would finally emerge as your Facebook Profile picture, could be under someone’s prying eyes!

How is this possible?

A YouTuber on Monday demonstrated, that the bug enabled Siri to look for any results with an email address.  Next, on the iOS 9.3 in iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S, one could “force tap” the email link to access the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch menu and thereby selecting the option “Add to Existing Contact” and tadaaa – you are there with all the information about contacts on your phone, and all the photos at your hand.

You could also select “Create a New Contact” here. All this, provided you use Siri on your lockscreen which many users might do because after all its meant to provide convenience to users, isn’t it?

What has Apple done about this bug?

The bug came under the whip of Apple’s watchdog and a timely update saved the information from prying eyes.

Apple needs to be appreciated for its lightning speed because by Tuesday morning Apple confirmed in a statement to the Washington Post that the bug was fixed.

The fix being that now Siri won’t be allowed to search Twitter on a locked phone, come what may. When using a locked iPhone, asking Siri to “Search Twitter” now results in the personal assistant saying “You’ll need to unlock your iPhone first“. This prevents any kind of exploitation by any potential hacker.

Users might not need to run a software update as according to Apple most users should have a fix in place.

Well this lightning speed is quite commendable. Apple played it smart as it unobtrusively fixed another Siri bug, as reported by 9to5Mac, which enabled the users to use the Night Shift feature and Low Power Mode simultaneously.

After the bug being squashed Siri now warns that turning on Night Shift requires turning off Low Power Mode.  However, this doesn’t pose as a security threat.

Certainly, this does point out to the fact that Siri is sometimes vulnerable and could be tricked into performing some mischievous tasks. The problem in iOS 9 also shows that the companies need to check softwares for all potential bugs that could creep into a software at any point of time.

Flaws which allow access to any sensitive or private information that one would not want to share or go public.

Previous security issues with iPhone

iPhone and its “insecurities” have already been in the limelight with the recent legal battle between Apple and the FBI, which required Apple’s help to bypass the security on iPhone 5C belonging to gunman Syed Farook. The news gained momentum when FBI was able to infiltrate iPhone’s hack-proof security system.

Not only this, the same YouTuber who revealed the present bug in Siri tried hacking Siri and Clock App back in September 2015.

The recent bug definitely points out to the fact that no software is full proof and impenetrable; that said, a closed ecosystem like that of Apple’s iOS can be leveraged to expeditiously change and/or secure itself.

Here's What iOS 9.3 Is All About

Here's What iOS 9.3 Is All About

iOS 9 was unveiled in September when Apple announced its latest flagship, the iPhone 6s along with iPad Mini 4 and Apple TV. It was subsequently updated and just recently received it’s fourth iteration, titled iOS 9.3.

iOS 9.3 promises improvements to a number of it’s captive apps, adds new features to CarPlay, and also adds new features and capabilities to the OS overall.

Let’s have a look at the updated offerings provided by Apple through its latest OS.

3D Touch Shortcuts – When 3D Touch was initially launched with iPhone 6s (and the iPhone 6s Plus), it had only a few shortcuts and limited usability, With 9.3, its functionality has significantly improved – there are new 3D Touch shortcuts for the Settings, Health, Weather, App Store, iTunes Store and Compass apps.
In the Weather app, all the places added to your locations are displayed under the Quick Actions for cities, while the shortcut for the Health app now displays the dashboard and medical ID; in addition there are shortcuts named “Update All” and “Purchased” for iTunes and the App Store apps now.
Users can also set the wallpaper, check the battery settings and control Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, right from the 3D Touch shortcuts.

Night Shift – A distinctive feature that Apple claims will help the users in getting a better sleep, is Night Shift.
Night Shift allows the user to control the display of her device along the ability to adjust the colors, temperature and brightness of the display to her tastes.
After automatically determining the sunset in user’s location with the help of the device clock and geo-location, the proprietary app instantly shifts the colors and brightness of the screen to a warmer hues (like red, orange and yellow) which is believed to be relaxing for the eyes, thus allowing the body a good natural sleep.

Researchers believe that exposure to bright blue light in the evening can affect your circadian rhythms (24 hour body rhythm) as the blue light emitted by the device screens halts the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells our brains to sleep, and makes it harder to fall asleep.

The feature switches back the settings to the original display in the morning.
There are third-party apps like Flux and Twilight for computers and Android devices, which are allowed to alter the display, however, till now, it was required to jailbreak the iOS device before we could control the screen colors.

A “More Secure” Notes App – The Notes App in an iPhone is a requisite, and it gains more prominence in the user’s ecosystem if they own a device running on Mac OS X, as data in the Notes app – website logins, to-do lists, banking details, reminders and other personal data, can be synced with Mac OS X.
With iOS 9.3, it is now also possible to sort the notes in an alphabetical order or by the modified/created date and also lock the Notes app with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor and a passcode (a feature in iOS devices with a Touch ID, so iPad 3 and iPhone 5 lose out on this feature as they don’t come armed with a Touch ID).

A “Personalized” News App – News, something everyone tries to keep themselves updated with, however, as there are a variety of subjects to read about, people often find it overwhelming when dealing with varied news pieces and end up not reading any news at all.

Personalization of news feed helps get rid of these situations, where users are suggested the Editor’s picks and trending articles which further help discover the user’s preferred areas of interest.
There is a specific “For You” section in the News app that is personalized according to the user’s interests and the videos incorporated in any news article can now be played directly from the news feed. The News app can be viewed in the landscape mode as well, and thanks to the performance updates stories to load faster.

Upgraded Health App – The users can now personalize the Health dashboard to keep a check on the workouts, weight and sleep quality by connecting to a range of third-party apps and wearable devices highlighted in the new slider menu.
Apple Watch users can access the exact movement data, which can be extracted from the Health app. Incorporation of all features in a single app makes the update desirable for the health conscious folks.

Better audio experience via CarPlay – The functionality of CarPlay for entertainment and navigation has significantly improved with the addition of new features. While Apple Music offers “For You” option for CarPlay which consists of tracks, artists and albums based on the user’s preferences, Maps offer a new nearby feature which lets the user locate petrol pumps, restaurants and other services with a single tap.

A Smart Education Experience – Apple promises to offer a world class learning experience with the new integrated features which includes a new Classroom app, Apple School Manager, Managed Apple IDs and Shared iPad for students.

While the Classroom app will help the teachers plan their deliverables and track the student’s progress, students can now share their iPads by logging in with two different accounts. These apps will allow for Apple to strengthen their inroads into the education sector, giving their devices an edge over the Android ecosystem.

Dolby Digital Plus support allows the use