Apple sees its redesigned retail stores as community spaces

Apple’s retail stores have long had a social side. You might not visit just to hang out, but the combination of free workshops and an abundance of connected devices gives you a reason to stay besides gawking at the latest products… if just to check up on Facebook. And now, Apple is banking on that social aspect as a selling point. The company is both redesigning its 100 largest stores and launching new “Today at Apple” workshops to turn its stores into community spaces of sorts. The shops are still very much geared toward sales, but you’ll have more reasons to swing by on a frequent basis.

The bigger stores are now changing their Genius Bars into “Genius Groves,” complete with lines of trees. We doubt the flora will help you feel better when your iPhone is broken, but they’re at least more inviting. You’ll also see new conference and meeting spaces alongside new video screens.

The workshops, meanwhile, revolve around new in-store Creative Pros who host free sessions based around Apple tools and Apple-friendly devices. There are 90-minute Studio Hours that let you bring in your own project for advice (or simply work outside of your usual space), music and photography labs, a Kids’ Hour with programmable Sphero robots and pro-specific sessions. You’ll even see photo and sketch walks that take you outside of the store. All stores are getting new mobile screens to help present “Today at Apple” sessions, as well as the seating and sound systems to match.

The new workshops will be available by the end of May. As for the larger stores’ upgrades? That’s likely to vary by location, but it’ll likely be impossible to miss.

Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts tells CBS that this isn’t so much a reinvention as a logical extension of what the tech giant has already been doing in its stores. And yes, she imagines that people might soon decide to meet at Apple instead of the nearby coffee shop. That may be a tad optimistic when the workshops are clearly tailored to rookies and niche pros. However, the shift is still important — it suggests that Apple will fight retail competition from Microsoft and even Amazon by turning stores into regular destinations rather than strictly functional shopping hubs. If you keep coming back, after all, it increases the odds that you’ll buy an iPhone or Mac for your next tech upgrade.

Via: The Verge

Source: Apple, CBS

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Apple threatened to drop Uber’s app over iPhone tracking (updated)

Uber is no stranger to trouble, but it may have landed in some especially hot water two years ago. New York Times sources claim that Apple CEO Tim Cook held a face-to-face meeting in early 2015 to call out Uber’s Travis Kalanick (and threaten to remove his app from the App Store) after learning that Uber was not only violating iOS app privacy guidelines, but was trying to cover it up. Reportedly, the ridesharing outfit had been “fingerprinting” iPhones with permanent identities so that it could prevent drivers from cheating by creating fake accounts and accepting rides from these bogus customers. The IDs would last even after the app was deleted or the entire phone was wiped. While this helped keep drivers honest, it was clearly a privacy violation — and it was made worse by Uber’s bid to hide the tracking from App Store reviewers.

Reportedly, Kalanick told staff to “obfuscate” the Uber app’s fingerprinting code for anyone operating from Apple’s current headquarters in Cupertino. As far as the people at Infinite Loop could see, it was business as usual. However, the trick didn’t work for long. Apple workers outside of the headquarters eventually spotted the shady behavior, leading to the meeting with Kalanick. The approach isn’t that uncommon for Uber (it recently admitted that it used location-based techniques to fool regulators), but it’s particularly brazen given the risk of being dropped from the App Store and losing millions of customers.

Apple isn’t commenting on the meeting with Cook, and we’ve reached out to Uber for its take on the allegations. However, it’s safe to say that Uber would like to leave an issue like this in the past. The company is trying to turn a corner, and Kalanick himself is looking for a second-in-command to keep his boundary-pushing tendencies in check. This revelation certainly won’t help matters, though. It reinforces the notion that Uber is all too willing to break rules in the name of money, even if it’s motivated by honest concerns like fraud.

Update: Uber has responded to Engadget, and maintains that its staff “absolutely do not” track individual users after they’ve deleted the app. The company adds that fingerprinting is a “typical way” of preventing people from using stolen phones for joyrides, and otherwise thwarting “known bad actors.” You can read the full statement below. It’s good to hear that the company isn’t tracking people, but the heart of the story revolves around hardware fingerprints — those still violated Apple’s privacy guidelines, even if Uber couldn’t definitively associate phones with specific customers.

“We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they’ve deleted the app. As the New York Times story notes towards the very end, this is a typical way to prevent fraudsters from loading Uber onto a stolen phone, putting in a stolen credit card, taking an expensive ride and then wiping the phone—over and over again. Similar techniques are also used for detecting and blocking suspicious logins to protect our users’ accounts. Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users.”

Source: New York Times

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Apple is on a mission to only use recycled materials

With the release of its new environmental report, Apple is looking to push the envelope of what it can do for the good of the planet. Last year, it boasted about how much cash its recycling efforts had saved it, including $ 40 million worth of gold re-used from old devices. This year, it’s talking about “closing the loop” on its use of raw materials, potentially redefining how gadgets are made altogether.

Apple believes that it’s now on the road to being able to use only recycled materials to build its next generation of products. It’s not there yet, of course, and there’s still much to be done in order to ensure secondhand iPhones come back to Apple, rather than the scrap heap. Still, if the company can make good on its admittedly lofty goals in the next few years, it’s good for everyone.

The company also believes that its experiments with material reclamation — embodied by its Liam robots that disassemble 2.4 million iPhone 6 models a year. Apple says that the two lines that have a Liam on it have salvaged 1,900 kg in aluminum for every 100,000 phones taken apart. In fact, the company has built a secret run of Mac Mini units with materials recovered by Liam, which are used to run iPhone production lines.

The rest of the report is the usual self-congratulation, although it does make a big point about saying that its data centers are wholly renewable. Apple is probably mindful of Greenpeace’s recent public shaming of companies like Netflix, Amazon, HBO, ASUS and Acer for using coal and gas power to run their servers. By comparison, iMessage, FaceTime and Siri “run on 100 percent renewable energy.”

Apple, famously, wants to own and control every part of its computers, and that attitude carries over to its energy. The company is aiming to own as much of its power generation as it can, rather than buying juice on the wholesale market. So, where it can, it’s building, running and /owning/ its solar and wind facilities rather than partnering with a third party.

By 2020, the company is hoping to have 4 GW of power generation capacity by 2020, enough to power 725,000 homes. That will be spread between Apple owned and operated sites and those that it has helped bankroll with partners. It’s entirely plausible that Apple could start selling its excess power as a side hustle without anyone realizing.

As always, most of the credit goes to Lisa Jackson (pictured), a former head of the EPA that joined Apple way back in 2013. She’s been spearheading the company’s efforts in switching to renewables, cutting carbon emissions and generally being a good citizen of the world. Her work has ensured that Apple went from the bottom of Greenpeace’s rankings in 2011 to the top for the last three years running.

Source: Apple (.PDF)

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Qualcomm countersues Apple over iPhone and iPad royalties

For years, Apple and Qualcomm have worked together on technology that’ goes inside your iPhone and iPad. Qualcomm specifically handles a lot of the modem chips that connect devices to cellular or WiFi networks, and are crucial to any mobile hardware. Since Apple needed a lot of chips, Qualcomm supplied them, and everything seemed good — until January when Apple filed a $ 1 billion lawsuit claiming Qualcomm charged royalties on tech it had nothing to do with, and then followed up with two antitrust lawsuits in China. Tonight, Qualcomm has responded with a lawsuit of its own (you can grab the 139 page PDF here), claiming that Apple is in the wrong, and has breached its contract with the company.

Among a number of accusations, Qualcomm chose to highlight charges claiming that Apple “Chose not to utilize the full performance of Qualcomm’s modem chips in its iPhone 7, misrepresented the performance disparity between iPhones using Qualcomm modems and those using competitor-supplied modems; and
Threatened Qualcomm in an attempt to prevent it from making any public comparisons about the superior performance of the Qualcomm-powered iPhones.”

Further along in the document, it also says:

Qualcomm has been relieved of its obligation to make Cooperation Agreement payments to Apple because, among other reasons, Apple has misled government agencies around the world about Qualcomm’s business practices in order to induce regulatory proceedings against Qualcomm. As merely one example, on August 17, 2016, Apple told the Korea Fair Trade Commission (“KFTC”) that “Apple has yet to add a [second chipset] supplier because of Qualcomm’s exclusionary conduct”. But when Apple made that statement to the KFTC, it already had added Intel as a second baseband chip supplier and had purchased Intel chips to incorporate in the iPhone 7, which was only a few weeks away from its September release. Apple already knew that every iPhone 7 offered for sale in Korea would incorporate an Intel chip, not a Qualcomm chip. Apple’s statement to the KFTC was false

Apple started using Intel modems in some versions of the iPhone 7 in 2016. Qualcomm also claims that Apple encouraged regulatory attacks, and interfered with agreements it has with the companies that manufacture iPads and iPhones.

Source: Qualcomm

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Australian regulator sues Apple over phone-bricking ‘Error 53’

When iPhone owners hoping for a cheap screen repair started getting the notorious, phone-bricking Error 53 message last year, the company claimed it was a security measure meant to protect customers from potentially malicious third-party Touch ID sensors. An iOS patch eventually alleviated bricking issues, but some consumer rights advocates still aren’t pleased with Apple’s lack of transparency. This week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced it will be taking legal action against Apple for allegedly making “false, misleading, or deceptive representations about consumers’ rights” under Australian law.

According to a statement released today, the ACCC looked into the Error 53 reports and found that Apple “appears to have routinely refused to look at or service consumers’ defective devices if a consumer had previously had the device repaired by a third party repairer, even where that repair was unrelated to the fault.” In other words: it is illegal under Australian Consumer Law for Apple to disqualify your iPhone for future repairs just because you got your screen fixed at a mall kiosk.

Meanwhile, in the US, at least five states (Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Massachusetts and New York) have introduced “right to repair” bills that would give small businesses and third-party repair services more freedom to buy replacement parts or get access to official repair manuals for everything from smartphones to large appliances and tractors. Combine that growing right-to-repair support in the US with the ACCC’s new lawsuit in Australian and it seems Apple’s walled garden of repairs could be slowly be forced to open up its gates.

Source: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

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Apple iPad review (2017): No alarms and no surprises

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the iPad go from curious experiment to Apple’s vision for the future of computing. But we’ve also seen the tablet market dry up — not even the iPad has been immune to those changes. Still, it’s hard not to look at the new, 2017 iPad as a market mover, a $ 329 machine meant to appeal to newcomers and old-school iPad owners in need of an upgrade. While this iPad is priced for everyone, it’s not meant for everyone. It’s not as slim as older models, and it lacks some of the really neat features that appear in Apple’s Pro line. In other words, the 2017 iPad is a no-nonsense machine. But, it’s a damned good one.

Hardware

No, it’s not just in your head — this iPad feels very, very familiar. It’s as if a designer tore a hole in time itself, reached into the past to grab an original iPad Air and stuck some more up-to-date parts inside. That said, Apple wanted to keep these basic models distinct from more premium iPads, so you won’t find any Smart Connector pins on the iPad’s left side or a laminated display (more on that later).

This presents a fascinating problem for Apple and its loyalists: This iPad effectively replaced 2014’s premium iPad Air 2 as the best full-size, non-Pro tablet in the company’s lineup. That wouldn’t be a problem for some people if the 2017 iPad was as slim and sleek as the Air 2 was, but it’s not. Both pack a 9.7-inch screen running at 2,048×1,536, but the 2017 iPad’s 7.5m waistline is slightly thicker than the Air 2’s, and it’s a little heavier, to boot.

These extra millimeters and grams may be a point of contention for some in the Apple community, and to them I say, “Whatever.” Those minor changes barely registered after the first moments. (And this is coming from a guy who toted around an Air 2 until it died.) This thicker design was palatable once before, and while it’s not as technically impressive as Apple’s more recent iPads, I didn’t notice my hands, arms or wrists getting more fatigued than usual while reading Kindle books for a few hours. And there’s a plus side hidden inside this aluminum frame: Apple went with a 32.9Whr battery, which is much bigger than the Air 2’s and even a little more capacious than the original Air’s. Now, I miss the Air 2’s design as much as anyone else, but it’s nice to see a company — especially Apple — offer up better battery life, even if it comes at the expense of sleekness.

Also inside the new iPad is one of Apple’s A9 chipsets, which we first met in the iPhone 6s. It’s paired with 2GB of RAM and either 32 or 128GB of storage. And no, that’s not a typo: There’s no 64GB option available. As always, you’ll be able to shell out extra ($ 130, in this case) for an LTE-enabled model, which adds a few grams to the iPad’s weight. The new iPad is also home to an 8-megapixel rear camera that takes surprisingly good photos, and there’s something to using such a big screen as a viewfinder. But you’ll still look a little silly doing it, and your phone is probably the better camera anyway.

And then there are the little things. The Touch ID sensor embedded in the home button works as fast as the iPhone 6s’ — which is to say you’ll probably never have trouble with it. Oh, and Apple moved some magnets around, so most original iPad Air cases won’t work correctly with the 2017 model.

Display and sound

The 2017 iPad’s screen runs at the same resolution as the Air 2 and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but there are a few key differences. See, all of the new iPads Apple released in the past three years had optically-laminated displays; that is, the screen was physically bonded to the glass, leaving no gap between them. Not so with this iPad. This saves Apple some money in the manufacturing process but it keeps the iPad from feeling like a seamless window onto the digital world. That said, if you hate the hollow thunking sound that comes with tapping a nonbonded screen, maybe just stay away from this one.

You also won’t find an anti-glare coating on this iPad’s screen, either, likely another cost-saving measure that I wish Apple had reconsidered. The display itself is actually slightly brighter than the Air 2’s (500 nits, compared to the earlier models’ 400), which keep visuals nice and legible in most situations. Things get a little hairier when you take the iPad outside or into a bright room; reflections that seem dull on the iPad Pros are more distracting on this model. For an iPad that’s mostly great, this stands out as one of its most pronounced bummers.

Those compromises, while not ideal, aren’t deal-breakers considering the price. That gap doesn’t matter much when you’re looking at the iPad dead-on, where colors are bright and vivid. Viewing angles are still quite good, so (assuming you dodge those reflections) you won’t have trouble sharing videos with the people sitting next to you.

The sound, meanwhile, hasn’t changed much since the days of the Air 2. There’s a single row of speaker holes drilled into the iPad’s bottom, and the output gets plenty loud without distortion. You’ll miss out on some bass relying on these built-in speakers, obviously. But, thankfully, Apple isn’t taking a stand here — there’s still a headphone jack, so you can plug in your go-to cans.

Performance and software

While we’ve tested some faster iPads, make no mistake: Cheap or not, the 2017 model is a big step up from most earlier models. That’s all thanks to the included dual-core A9 chipset (clocked at 1.85GHz, or so Geekbench says) and 2GB of RAM, which allows for comfortable web browsing, app use and multitasking. Over my week of testing, I mostly used the iPad as a productivity and gaming machine, so I’d punctuate long stretches of email triaging and Slack messaging with a few rounds of that Elder Scrolls card game or cruising around in Galaxy on Fire 3. The iPad handled all of these tasks with only the occasional hiccup when I was trying to flummox it by rapidly jumping in and out of apps.

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It just works well, and that’s a pretty big compliment. I never found myself wondering why something was taking so long to load. Our usual slew of benchmarks bear out my experience: While less powerful than either of the two iPad Pro models, the 2017 iPad showed healthy gains compared with the iPad Air 2.


iPad (2017) iPad Pro 9.7 iPad Air 2
Geekbench 3.0 Multi-core 5,235 5,235 4,510
3DMark IS Unlimited 29,247 33,403 21,659
Google Octane 2.0 17,993 19,946 10,659

There’s really not much to say on the software front — the iPad comes loaded with iOS 10.3, which should be plenty familiar by now. You can check out the broad strokes in our iOS 10 review, but you’ll now benefit from Apple’s new, more-stable file system and the ability to locate errant AirPods. If nothing else, the iPad is a capable foundation for features like split-screen multitasking.

Running two apps in side-by-side windows worked well enough on my old Air 2, but the extra power produced by the new iPad’s A9 kept everything running more smoothly. It’s clear why Apple wanted this iPad to exist. It isn’t just because the company needed a low-cost tablet to boost its bottom line; it also wanted to provide a stronger base level of performance to help iOS really shine.

More important than the software that comes on the iPad are the updates it will eventually get. With the introduction of the 2017 model, people can go out and buy a relatively cheap iPad that’ll continue to be supported for years. That’s a pretty big deal when you consider the Air 2 — the previous budget-friendly 9.7-inch iPad — is more than 2 years old. Future versions of iOS and the apps they enable will continue to tax our hardware, and a longer support window is reason enough to buy this model over an aging Air.

Battery life


Battery life

iPad (2017) 12:41
iPad Pro 12.9 10:47
iPad mini 4 13:04
iPad Air 2 11:15
iPad Pro 9.7 9:21
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 7:36
Surface Pro 4 7:15

I was concerned that Apple’s choice of chipset might have had some effect on battery life, but I shouldn’t have been. In terms of pure longevity, this is one of the best iPads we’ve tested. Consider the standard Engadget video rundown test, where we loop an HD video with the screen set at 50 percent brightness: The 2017 iPad lasted for 12 hours and 41 minutes. That’s well ahead of either the iPad Pro and the Air 2. (The only model that came out ahead was the iPad mini 4, which obviously had to drive a much smaller screen.) That’s also well past the 10-hour figure Apple trotted out once again, which isn’t exactly a surprise. Apple, after all, is notorious for low-balling its battery estimates. It holds up well when you’re doing more than bingeing on The Night Manager, too. When it came to my usual working-and-gaming cycle, the iPad stuck around for five or six days of consistent use before needing a recharge.

The competition

With a price starting at $ 329, there aren’t many good, direct competitors to the 2017 iPad. Devices like the new Galaxy Tab S3 are more expensive and are meant to stack up against the iPad Pro. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 could be a worthy alternative if you haven’t pledged allegiance to an operating system. It packs an incredible Super AMOLED display and a surprisingly clean, if not quite up-to-date, build of TouchWiz’d Android 6.0.

If you plan to pick up a low-cost tablet for gaming, you might also want to check out NVIDIA’s Shield K1, which starts at $ 199. It packs a smaller 8-inch screen, but the included Tegra chipset and mostly clean build of Android 7.0 Nougat make it one of the better inexpensive tablet picks. That said, the 2017 iPad would still be our pick — it’s the most tantalizing choice for the money.

Wrap-up

This iPad, perhaps more than any in recent memory, is an exercise in compromise. Yes, Apple has said that the iPad most clearly represents its vision of “people should get things done,” and the development of products like the iPad Pro speak to that belief. There is a time for innovation, and this wasn’t it. This time, Apple was just trying to build the best iPad it could for the masses. In that respect, it did a great job, even if the result isn’t as exciting as everyone hoped.

I feel for people who wanted something a little sleeker or more powerful: They have no other choice than to pay up for the Pro line. For everyone else, though — people who have never had iPads or people stuck with really old ones — this thing is a tempting buy that won’t let you down.

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Apple is building its own GPU for the iPhone and iPad

Imagination Technologies is famous for one thing: it’s the company that provides the graphics for the iPhone. But today, Imagination announced that its longstanding relationship with Apple is coming to an abrupt end. In a statement, the outfit has conceded that Apple will replace the PowerVR GPU at the heart of its iOS devices with a graphics chip of its own design.

When Apple started making the iPhone, it used a generic, Samsung-made ARM system that was paired with a PowerVR GPU. Over time, Apple began crafting more and more of its own silicon, thanks to its purchase of various chip design firms. These days, the PowerVR chip on the A10 Fusion is one of very few components that Apple didn’t have entire control over.

The decision to dump Imagination was probably inevitable given the company’s trend towards control, but there may be another story here. Third-party analysts The Linley Group spotted that the iPhone 7 used the same PowerVR GT7600 GPU that was used for the iPhone 6S. That piece of silicon, while powerful, couldn’t sustain its performance for very long and so throttles the component to avoid overheating.

Apple is well-know to be unsentimental when it comes to ditching chip makers when they can’t meet performance targets. After all, the company ditched PowerPC CPUs because — so the legend goes — Intel’s X86 silicon was getting faster while IBM and Motorola dragged their feet.

It’s clearly a massive blow for Imagination, which has already said that it’s planning to take the matter to the courts. After all, building a graphics platform from scratch is likely to involve using technology that other companies like Imagination has already patented. The famously-secretive Apple is also not going to look favorably upon one of its suppliers going public with this licensing dispute.


As TechCrunch explains, the split could spell doom for Imagination, since it relies upon Apple for the bulk of its cash. Even worse, is that the news has already caused Imagination’s stock to freefall, dropping between 60 and 70 percent in the last few hours.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Imagination Technologies

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The Apple TV Remote app is finally optimized for iPads

No, we still don’t have an iPad version of the Instagram app, but another longtime holdout has gotten some big(ger) screen love. Apple has finally given its Apple TV Remote app a refresh tailored for the slate’s display. The iTunes listing says that in addition to the expected visual improvements, there’s also lyrics and “playlists for music and chapters.” That’s in addition to captions section for movies and TV shows.

Last February, Apple’s Eddie Cue and Craig Federighi said that with the then-forthcoming app that it would be a “full replacement” for the Apple TV remote. At the time, he was speaking directly about how an iPhone armed with the app can be a second controller for games. Now, the same functionality (with Siri voice commands, no less) on a more substantial screen is a reality. Don’t have an iPad? Well, then you’ll have to settle for the usual “general performance and stability improvements.”

Source: iTunes

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China says Apple isn’t cloning a local phone maker

Did it seem ridiculous to you that Beijing officials ordered a ban on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus over a dubious design patent claim? You’re not the only one. A court has reversed the ban (which was suspended during a dispute process) and declared that Apple isn’t violating the patents of Shenzhen Baili Marketing Services, which insisted that the iPhone 6 riffed on the look of its 100c smartphone. Regulators issued the ban without real proof of wrongdoing, according to the ruling, and the iPhone has traits that “completely change the effect” of its design versus its (frankly very generic-looking) rival. Customers haven’t had a problem telling the difference between the iPhone and 100c, the court says.

This is water under the bridge for Apple given that it stopped selling the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus a while back — it wasn’t going to lose much money even if the court upheld the ban. However, the win could serve as a shot across the bow of other Chinese companies that might try a similar move in the future. If they want future claims to stick, they’ll have to show that there’s more than a passing similarity between devices. Otherwise, they may not get much more than a brief burst of publicity.

Source: SCMP, Reuters

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Hackers try to extort Apple by threatening to wipe iPhones

Someone claiming to be a group of hackers called themselves the “Turkish Crime Family” has apparently been trying to extort money from Apple. As Motherboard reported a few days ago, the group claims to have login details for hundreds of millions of Apple accounts and is threatening to remotely wipe devices via iCloud unless it’s paid $ 75,000 in Bitcoin or $ 100,000 in iTunes gift cards. Today, ZDNet says that it was able to verify 54 accounts revealed by the hackers, although it’s still unclear how many other accounts they have or how they came by them.

In a statement, Apple said its systems have not been breached, and the alleged list appears to have been obtained from other sources. It also says it’s “actively monitoring” to prevent unauthorized access and is working with law enforcement.

Apple:

There have not been any breaches in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud and Apple ID. The alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services.

We’re actively monitoring to prevent unauthorized 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.

Because of shared passwords, hackers frequently use details obtained in other breaches to try and access more valuable accounts, which may be happening here. Previously, we’ve seen hackers try to extort users directly this way, using Find My iPhone to remotely lock devices until they’re paid. We’ve contacted Apple and will update this post if there are any other details.

Now that at least some of the information has been verified, it seems like a good time for anyone who has (or used to have) an Apple or iCloud account to update and lock down their security settings. Even if these hackers (or someone else) has obtained a password for your account, using two-factor authentication should keep them from being able to access details or remotely wipe devices.

Instructions on setting up two-factor authentication for your Apple ID can be found here. Additionally, if you haven’t changed your password in a while, or have ever shared it with an account anywhere else, it’s a good idea to change it to something strong and unique. Visit Apple’s password reset page at https://iforgot.apple.com/ (check for the secure padlock and correct URL in your address bar) to do that now.

Source: ZDNet

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