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iCloud Services Currently Down for Some Users

It appears that many individuals are currently experiencing issues with iCloud, with several people reporting difficulties receiving/sending iCloud mail and logging into iCloud.com. Users attempting to access iCloud.com are receiving the following erro…

Apple in Talks With Insurance Companies Over HealthKit Partnership

In addition to seeking partnerships with several different hospitals and health institutions for its HealthKit initiative, Apple is also speaking with major U.S. insurance companies like UnitedHealth and Humana.

In a report on rising medical costs and partnerships between insurance providers, corporate employers, and fitness device makers, Bloomberg suggests that Apple has spoken with insurance companies about HealthKit, but no specifics on the conversation were provided.

The focus of the piece, highlighting the insurance perks that companies can offer to employees with healthy habits, implies that Apple may be exploring partnerships that would possibly allow its collected data to be shared with insurance companies and other medical providers.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the new national health-care law, companies can spend as much as 30 percent of annual insurance premiums on rewards for healthy behavior.

Technology companies are taking note. Apple Inc., which has new health-tracking software called HealthKit that will be released this year and is said to be developing its own wearable device, has talked with UnitedHealth, the biggest U.S. insurer, and Humana, about its health initiatives, executives at the insurance providers said. The companies wouldn’t provide specifics about the conversations. Apple declined to comment.

An example of a partnership between a fitness company, an insurance provider, and a corporation is the agreement between Fitbit and oil company BP. As explained by Bloomberg, BP gave employees the option to wear a Fitbit fitness tracking device to earn points resulting in cheaper health insurance.

ios8healthappApple’s Health app
It is unclear if Apple is in talks about similar programs, but the company has been exploring many different options for its HealthKit initiative. First introduced during WWDC, HealthKit is a set of APIs designed to be incorporated into apps and hardware devices, collecting and aggregating a wealth of health and fitness data into one convenient location.

HealthKit pairs with the newly introduced Health app, which provides an interface for users to view all of this health data. Apple has already announced several partners it is working with on HealthKit, including Nike, the Mayo Clinic, and Epic Systems, a company that deals with electronic health records.

A recent report from Reuters has also suggested Apple is in talks with multiple health providers at Mount Sinai, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and Allscripts, with the company pushing HealthKit and its Health app as an all-in-one patient data resource for medical professionals.

The Health app, built into iOS 8, will be available to the general public as of next month, and the first fitness and health apps and devices will likely introduce support for HealthKit shortly after iOS 8 debuts. The Health app is also said to be heavily tied to Apple’s own upcoming wearable, which may measure several different health-related metrics including fitness levels and sleep quality.

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Apple Job Postings Point Towards Continued Work on Voice Over LTE

Several new job listings suggest Apple is continuing to work on building support for Voice Over LTE (VoLTE) into its line of mobile devices. VoLTE is designed to allow carriers to send voice calls over LTE networks, right alongside data. On the consumer end, this results in higher quality voice calls and faster call connection times.

Subscribers on CDMA networks (Sprint and Verizon) will further benefit from VoLTE, as it allows the simultaneous use of data and voice, something that’s not currently possible.

volteverizon
First discovered by LightReading (via Gigaom) job openings at Apple include Cellular Systems Protocol Engineer and Senior Baseband Audio Engineer. The protocol engineer position requires hands-on experience with VoLTE, among other wireless technologies, while the senior position also asks for experience with the VoLTE specification. Several additional positions also ask for experience with Session Initiation Protocol, which is essential for creating a connection between devices and LTE networks.

The company is currently advertising for a cellular systems protocol engineer, calling for experience with “VoLTE” and “IMS.” Other positions are calling for experience with the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) protocol. [...]

Apple is also looking for a senior baseband engineer to work on “cutting-edge” audio for its devices, which will include the Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband (AMR-WB) speech compression codec, which is part of the VoLTE specification. The engineer will help to “implement, port, and deploy AMR-WB, AMR-NB, CELP, EVRC-B, EVRC, EVS Vocoders, and Jitter Buffers on Mobile devices,” according to the ad.

VoLTE is in the early stages of a rollout, with a full implementation hinging on support from both carriers and device makers. In the U.S., carriers have already begun exploring and investing in VoLTE technology. Earlier this year, Verizon Wireless announced plans to roll out Voice Over LTE in 2014, promising “an HD Voice experience.”

AT&T and T-Mobile have also announced support for VoLTE on a limited number of devices and in a limited number of markets, also promising higher quality calls. VoLTE is also picking up steam in other countries around the world, with several global carriers now offering support for the technology.

While Apple is posting new job listings related to VoLTE, it is likely the company has been working on the technology for some time, in response to a carrier shift towards VoLTE. Previous reports from 9to5Mac have suggested that Apple may enable support for VoLTE alongside the launch of iOS 8, with support built into the iPhone 6.

Because the Qualcomm LTE chips used in Apple devices since the iPhone 5 natively support voice, it is also possible that existing devices, in addition to the iPhone 6, will be able to offer support for VoLTE following a software update. It does, however, remain unclear if this is a feature that will roll out immediately with the launch of iOS 8 or in a future iOS 8 update in late 2014 or early 2015.

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Apple Releases Second OS X Yosemite Public Beta, iTunes 12 Update

Apple today released the second Yosemite public beta for beta testers, following the release of the sixth Developer Preview earlier this week. Apple has also released a new version of iTunes 12 for Yosemite.

The software update can be downloaded through the software update function of the Mac App Store.

yosemitebeta
It’s likely the new public beta bundles the content introduced in the last several developer updates, including multiple design changes added with DP 6. The last beta included new wallpapers, new System Preferences icons, and more.

Apple is expected to release OS X Yosemite to the general public later this year, possibly following an October event that may also introduce both the iWatch and new iPads.

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Lawyers Researching Possible Class Action Lawsuit Over 2011 MacBook Pro Graphics Issues

Back in January, we profiled growing concerns from owners of 2011 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro models over failing graphics chips and system crashes. While Apple has assisted some customers with logic board replacements, the issues have been known to reoccur after servicing and some users have been faced with expensive repair bills to address the problem.

macbook_pro_2011_graphics_issue
With a Facebook group exceeding 2,200 members and a change.org petition requesting a more substantial response from Apple having surpassed 10,000 signatures, the issue appears to be a fairly widespread one, and now lawyers are getting involved in the situation.

Attorneys from Washington, DC-based Whitfield Bryson & Mason LLP have addressed the Facebook group, launching a survey to gather information from affected MacBook Pro owners as the firm considers a possible class action lawsuit.

Alerted to the pervasive failures concerning the 2011 MBP GPU’s, we commenced an investigation leading us to your community.

Your posts are a great source of information, but to determine if any legal claims may exist, we need your help. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey below.

The firm touts its experience with lawsuits against other technology companies including topics such as Google Buzz privacy issues, Lenovo IdeaPad hardware problems, and more. While it is not certain that a class action suit will be filed against Apple, it’s clear the issue is a substantial one.

The discrete graphics chips used in the affected machines are from AMD, and Apple previously launched a replacement program for AMD graphics cards used in 27-inch iMacs from a similar time period. While the graphics chips used in the two machines are different, the iMac repair program indicates that Apple would be willing to launch a similar program for the MacBook Pro if it is able to diagnose the issue and be convinced the problem requires such a program. Typically such programs provide for free repairs and reimbursement for those who had previously paid for repairs to fix the issue.

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Apple Reveals Furthers Details on Reversible USB Cable With Flexible Internal Connector

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today published another Apple patent application that describes a reversible USB connector with a “double orientation design.” (Via AppleInsider) Today’s patent application, filed in February and titled “Reversible USB Connector with Compliant Member to Spread Stress and Increase Contact Normal Force,” differs slightly from a separate application made a few weeks earlier by highlighting a key design detail that adds flexibility to the USB connector contacts.

According to the patent description, the USB connector would feature a flexible tongue allowing it to bend to fit an existing USB port regardless of the insertion orientation. This flexible plug connector was mentioned briefly in the January patent, but Apple has expanded upon this idea in this latest patent application to address various types of support elements that would minimize stress on the flexible portion of the tongue while still ensuring strong contact between the connector and a USB port.

As mentioned previously, some plug connectors of the present invention may include structural support elements made from materials chosen to allow plug connector tongues to deflect. Connector 1610 may also include a structural support element, e.g., a structural support 1635. Structural support 1635 may provide flexure to PCB 1632 to reduce stress and fatigue on PCB 1632 and allow tongue 1630, along with PCB 1632, to deflect toward and away from first or second inner surfaces 1620a, 1620b during insertion/extraction events. In order to provide this flexure, structural support 1635 may be made from an elastomer that deforms in response to stress, e.g., a mating event, but holds tongue 1630 centrally located between first and second inner surfaces 1620a, 1620b otherwise.

As shown in the patent drawings, Apple’s solution allows the contact portion of the tongue to be thicker and sturdier, while positioning it on a thinner, flexible “stalk”. This stalk will deflect in either direction in order to provide room for mating with existing USB ports while maintaining a strong connection with the contacts.

apple-USB-patent-applicationApple’s proposed USB connector with tongue showing durable contact portion (1939) on a thin, flexible stalk
This flexible tongue provides a distinct advantage over current solutions from competing products, which typically use a rigid tongue that has been slimmed down to fit existing USB ports. Though these cables can be inserted in either orientation, the very thin tongue is susceptible to breakage. With Apple’s proposed solution, the contact portion of the tongue can be thicker and more durable, with the flexible portion of the tongue minimizing the possibility of breakage and providing room for the thicker tongue to still fit in either orientation.

Recently leaked photos and videos suggest Apple may be working on a new Lightning cable with this reversible USB connector. These cables may ship with future iOS devices and also may contain other features such as support for high-definition audio playback on Made For iPhone (MFi) audio accessories.

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Leaked Schematics Suggest 128 GB Storage Option for iPhone 6

Leaked schematics from phone repair company GeekBar (via G 4 Games) suggest Apple may be preparing to release a 128 GB iPhone 6 model. An accompanying part supply list contains entries for NAND flash modules from Toshiba and Hynix in capacities of 16 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB. The 32 GB storage option is notably absent from the list, although the reason for its exclusion is unknown.

iphone-6-128-gb
Previous rumors have suggested Apple has been working on a 128 GB iPhone model, with one rumor claiming the higher capacity module would debut in the 5.5-inch model only. The same leak also predicted Apple would drop the 16 GB option, introducing a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 model with two storage options (32 and 64 GB) and a 5.5-inch model with three storage capacities (32, 64 and 128 GB).

iphone-6-memory-suppliers
This new parts list from GeekBar appears to refute that claim, opening the door for Apple to add the 128 GB model as a fourth storage option for consumers. Apple launched its first 128 GB iOS device in early 2013 with a mid-cycle upgrade to the fourth-generation iPad. The option expanded across the iPad lineup with the October 2013 introduction of the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display, which also are available in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB capacities. The 128 GB option has, however, yet to make its way into the smaller iPhone and iPod touch form factors.

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New Photos Claim to Show Various Internal Parts from iPad Air 2

New photos shared by French Apple news website iPhonote (Google Translate) claim to show a number of components for the upcoming iPad Air 2, including the device’s GPS antenna, microphone, and Wi-Fi module. While previous leaks have shown off the device’s front panel and rear shell, these images could be the first look at the various internal components in the iPad Air 2.

ipad_air_2_flex_components Purported iPad Air 2 GPS antenna, microphone, and WiFi module
The website also posted a variety of comparison images between each component for the iPad Air 2 and its corresponding part on the current iPad Air. While no major changes can be immediately spotted from any of the comparisons, it does appear that the next-generation iPad Air’s GPS antenna is longer than its predecessor. Also shown are pictures of the iPhone 6′s front panel, which appear similar to prior leaks of the component.

Apple is expected to announce the iPad Air 2 alongside the next-generation Retina iPad mini at an event this fall. A report from Re/code claimed that Apple would be unveiling the iWatch at an October event, which may also include the introduction of both new iPads. The iPad Air 2 may feature a thinner design thanks to an integrated display, anti-reflective coating, a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, a faster A8 processor, and 2 GB of RAM.

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Apple Halts In-Store Pickup Option for Apple TV in Online Store, Still Available for Shipping

Apple has seemingly halted in-store pickup for the Apple TV in its online store, as none of the company’s U.S. locations are providing the option. Notably, the Apple TV is still listed as shipping”within 24 hours” on the company’s online store, and is still being offered with a $25 iTunes Store gift card as a part of an ongoing promotion.

apple_tv_no_pickup
Currently, it is unknown as to why Apple halted the pickup option for the Apple TV. It is entirely possible that the inability to schedule an Apple TV for in-store pickup is an outage or error on Apple’s part. While mostly unlikely, it may also indicate that Apple is gearing up to release an updated Apple TV, which has been heavily rumored for quite some time.

Czech website Letem Svetem Applem (Google Translate) claimed last week that European Apple resellers have stopped receiving their supply of Apple TVs, however no other sources have indicated that stock has been running low. In the United States, retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon still show the product as “in stock”.

Previous rumors have suggested that the next-generation Apple TV would be a major product for Apple, featuring set-top box features that interact with live and on-demand content, gaming capabilities, Siri integration, and more. However, a report from The Information this past July claimed that the new Apple TV would be delayed until 2015 due to negotiation difficulities between Apple and cable companies. Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue stated earlier this year that it was “complicated” solving problems with TV, adding that Apple is continuing work on the subject.

Thanks, Kyle!

New Research Claims iMessage Accounts for 30% of Mobile Spam Messages

iMessage is responsible for more than 30% of all spam messages on mobile devices, according to research done by security expert Tom Landesman and anti-spam company Cloudmark (via Wired). The researcher notes that there are multiple reasons as to why the platform has become a prime choice for spammers, stating that iMessage’s reach across the iPhone, iPad, and Mac along with its accessibility have made it easy to target users:

That fusion of the desktop and mobile world makes it particularly easy for scammers to write a Mac OS script that can send messages to all types of devices just as fast as Apple will allow. “It’s almost like a spammer’s dream,” says Landesman. “With four lines of code, using Apple scripts, you can tell your Mac machine to send message to whoever they want.”

imessage_ios72
With iMessage, spammers can send unwanted messages to a user’s associated emails and phone numbers if enabled. The ability for the desktop Messages client to verify numbers with the iMessage network has also made sending spam to confirmed users easier, along with the fact that signing up for the service can be done with just an email. The researcher further notes that iMessage’s read receipts feature (which can be turned off) allows spammers to better generate a list of verified users to spam based on activity.

Apple has made a few moves to combat spam in iMessage over the past year, adding a rate-limit for sent messages after some iOS developers experienced a denial-of-service prank, and adding a spam reporting tool. However, that tool remains a bit complicated to use, as it requires users to send Apple an email containing the screenshot of the spam message, the email or phone number it was received from, and the date and time.

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Photo of Possible 5.5-Inch iPhone 6 Rear Shell Surfaces

While we’ve seen dozens of part leaks for the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, parts for the rumored 5.5-inch version of the device have thus far been scarce, possibly due to the fact that the larger iPhone 6 is said to have entered production later than the 4.7-inch iPhone 6.

Photos depicting what might be the rear shell of the larger device have finally surfaced, however, and have been shared by Evasi0nJailbreak.com. According to the site, the photos have been sourced from “deep within Apple’s supply chain in China,” and may be only a prototype of the final rear shell.

rearshell2Outside of 5.5-inch iPhone 6 rear shell compared to inside of 4.7-inch rear shell
That said, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 rear shell images, which are compared in the photos to the rear shell of a 4.7-inch iPhone, do resemble early images of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 rear shell, depicting thick antenna breaks, a rounded True Tone flash, a cutout for an embedded Apple logo, the camera, and the microphone.

rearshell1Inside of 5.5-inch iPhone 6 rear shell compared to outside of 4.7-inch rear shell
More convincingly, the screw holes on the rear shell image accurately match up with the screw holes on an earlier leaked image of a logic board said to be for the 5.5-inch iPhone 6, so this may be our first look at a true 5.5-inch iPhone 6 rear shell.

Apple is expected to introduce the iPhone 6 at an event on September 9, but it is unclear whether the company will show off both the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models at the same time. If the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 does make an appearance at the event, it may not ship to customers until several months after the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 ships due to production delays.

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