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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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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Engadget giveaway: Win a Product Red edition iPhone 7 courtesy of Speck!

There’s been plenty of chatter lately about the new Product Red edition iPhone 7, which finally breaks free from the muted metallic lineup with its brilliantly colored exterior. From what I’ve seen around NYC, though, you’d be well advised to protect any new phone or suffer the all-too-ubiquitous cracked screen. Case and bag maker Speck has just the thing to protect and show off this brightly hued handset, its clear Presidio iPhone 7 case.

This protective shell cleared the 8-foot drop test with honors, offers scratch resistance and its custom-engineered material resists UV yellowing, since many users tend to walk around with their phones out and, you know, beach selfies. Speck has provided us with one of these enviable iPhone 7 handsets and a clear Presidio case to keep it safe for one lucky reader this week. You get up to three chances at winning this prize by entering in the Rafflecopter widget below. Don’t let that stop you from making a purchase, however, the Product Red edition profits go towards raising awareness and fighting HIV/AIDS.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. One (1) winner will receive one (1) Special Edition Product Red Apple iPhone 7 and one (1) Speck Presidio clear iPhone case.
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Engadget and AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until April 5th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!

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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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Apple explores using an iPhone or iPad to power a laptop

The notion of using a phone to power a computer isn’t new — we’ve seen companies like HP and Motorola try, and ultimately fail, to make it a reality for years. But that’s not stopping Apple from considering the idea. The USPTO issued a patent filing this morning detailing how an iPhone, or an iPad, could be used to power an ultraportable laptop, AppleInsider reports. As usual, the patent idea likely won’t end up turning into full-fledged product (it was originally filed last September). But it gives us an idea of how Apple is looking at the future of mobile devices and ultraportables.

The patent filing shows off multiple forms of a potential “electronic accessory.” One features a slot near the trackpad area where you can drop in an iPhone, which provides all of the hardware necessary to run the Macbook-looking ultraportable. And, in a truly unique spin, the iPhone would also serve as the actual trackpad. Another concept describes sliding an iPad in the screen area to power the accessory. Apple also considers plugging additional batteries and GPU hardware in the accessory base to buoy the performance of the iPhone or iPad.

This might all seem a bit crazy, but it makes sense for Apple to be considering new ways to use its mobile hardware. Both the iPhone and iPad are getting faster every year, and such a nimble accessory could give Apple some intriguing ways to combat the rise of convertible, touchscreen-equipped PC laptops. We’re in a world where Microsoft’s Surface devices are demonstrating far more innovation when it comes to portable computing, and where Apple is being forced to respond with its iPad Pro line. It’s about time for the Cupertino company to try something new.

Via: AppleInsider

Source: USPTO (1), (2)

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Apple doubles the storage of the iPhone SE and iPad Mini 4

The new, limited-edition red iPhone 7/7 Plus and upgraded 9.7-inch iPad aren’t the only things Apple has to share today. The company is also increasing the storage across all iPhone SE and iPad Mini 4 configurations. The lowest-capacity 4-inch iPhone SE is now 32GB, up from 16GB, and the 64GB model has been scrapped in favor of a 128GB version. Basically, Apple has doubled the storage and finally killed off the last 16GB iPhone, but good news: The prices haven’t changed. The new 32GB iPhone SE costs $ 399/£379 (the same price as the old 16GB device), while the 128GB model comes in at $ 499/£479. Both will go on sale this Friday, March 24th.

For the iPad Mini 4, Apple has simply done away with the 32GB and 64GB models, introducing a new, lone 128GB config. You’re getting an even better deal here, since you’re only expected to pay as much as the 32GB was worth for quadruple the storage — though it makes sense customers should get more bang for their buck since the internals of the Mini 4 are lagging behind Apple’s other iPads. The 128GB tablet goes on sale today for $ 399/£419 for the WiFi-only model, and $ 529/£549 if you add LTE connectivity.

Source: Apple (1), (2)

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Amazon puts Alexa inside your iPhone

Now you can talk to Amazon’s intelligent assistant whenever you use the Amazon app on your iPhone. Alexa will be able to do much more than just deal with your Amazon account, like play songs from Amazon Music, give you news updates, or even tell a (bad) joke or two. You’ll also be able to use any of your previously enabled skills that are available within the Alexa ecosystem. According to Amazon, the one thing you won’t be able to do just yet is to ask Alexa to open your door locks with your voice.

Don’t uninstall the Alexa app just yet, though, because you’ll need it to tweak your default settings.

The iPhone isn’t the only handset to get Alexa — Huawei announced the voice service for its upcoming Mate 9 phone — but it is the first. Getting Alexa on as many devices as possible makes a lot of sense for Amazon, which is competing with Apple and Google for digital assistant supremacy.

The iOS update to the Amazon app should roll out starting today and continue for the next week.

Via: VentureBeat

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Russia finds Apple guilty of fixing iPhone prices

Google isn’t the only American company facing regulatory trouble in Russia. The country’s antitrust body has ruled that Apple is guilty of fixing prices for iPhone 5 and 6 variants at 16 local retailers. Reportedly, the company tracked prices at these stores and would ask them to raise the price if it was ever deemed “unsuitable.” If they didn’t comply, Apple supposedly had the authority to terminate their reseller deals without so much as an explanation.

Apple has 3 months to contest the decision once it’s published in full later in March. It’s not clear what the proposed penalty will be, but Google was hit with a relatively modest 438 million ruble (currently $ 7.4 million) fine. Execs aren’t likely to lose sleep over the financial side of the ruling, then. Officials add that Apple has mended its ways with a policy that should prevent future trouble.

We’ve asked Apple for comment. However, a spokesperson tells the Financial Times that the company “worked closely” with the antitrust agency and is “glad to put this matter behind us.” Apple isn’t likely to fight this verdict, in other words — unlike in its e-book case, it’s more interested in moving on (and protecting sales in a major market) than fighting to the bitter end.

Via: Financial Times, 9to5Mac

Source: FAS (translated)

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This iPhone case is basically an Android phone

iPhones have a reputation for being user friendly, but ultimately, Android can do a lot of things iOS can’t. Aspects of Android could be useful to all phone users, but straying from the Apple ecosystem can be intimidating. Now, there’s a new way for iPhone users to easily access Android features like expandable storage and multiple SIM cards. Entrepreneur Joseph Savion and his company ESTI Inc. decided to (almost literally) strap an Android phone to the back of an iPhone. That sounds like a strange idea, but that’s basically what ESTI’s Eye phone case does.

The case, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, adds a 5-inch AMOLED display, a 2.3GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU, a 2800mAh battery, up to 256GB of microSD storage, dual SIM slots, a headphone jack and wireless charging, among other features. There are two versions of the case: one with cellular connectivity and one without. A comment from Savion on the Kickstarter page says that the Android device can make use of the iPhone’s internet connection. While there is some other integration between the devices — they share the iPhone’s speaker, microphone and cameras — they pretty much function as their own machines.

The case runs Android 7.1 Nougat, and if Eye is starting to sound more like a standalone phone than an iPhone case, well, it’s priced like one too. It’s expected to retail for $ 189 (or $ 229 for the 4G version), although early Kickstarter backers can get theirs for $ 95 ($ 129 for 4G). That said, $ 95 for a phone is pretty cheap.

The main question is, who this product is even for? Most iPhone users seem happy with their devices, and probably don’t need a product like this to “improve” it. Even for users wanting to test the Android waters, there are plenty of non-Apple devices available for under $ 100 that could satisfy their curiosity without adding bulk to their current phone.

Ultimately, Eye seems a lot more interesting than it does practical. As of this writing, the case has raised over $ 84,000 of its $ 95,000 goal with 32 days to go. So, it might not be necessary, but it will probably come to market anyway.

Via: The Verge, 9to5Google

Source: Kickstarter

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VSCO brings GIFs to its main iPhone app

In October, Giphy reported that it has over 100 million users every day. Yes, GIFs are huge, and camera app VSCO wants in. That’s why, back in 2015, it introduced DSCO. The iOS-only spin-off app allows users to create looping images and share them on the company’s own portal or their favorite social networks. Today, VSCO announced that it’s reducing phone clutter by bringing DSCO’s GIF-making capabilities to its main app.

The new feature appears to function very much like DSCO does: Open the in-app camera, switch to DSCO mode, hold the rainbow-colored circle to record a few seconds of video, then swipe to choose preset filters and post away. The company didn’t say whether this means the standalone DSCO app will be discontinued. What it did make clear in its blog post introducing the feature is that like DSCO, GIF creation will remain exclusive to iOS.

With the update, which VSCO says is rolling out in the next couple weeks, the app will also add some meat to its community features. The option to favorite an image will be added, although VSCO calls it “a private acknowledgment between two people,” since only an image’s creator will be able to see if their photos have been starred. Users will also soon be able to block annoying people, but not entirely: Blocked users will still be able to see a person’s images, but will be unable to follow them or interact with their posts.

VSCO’s devotion to Apple devices is clear: DSCO was introduced in late 2015 but has yet to make its way to Android. The company has previously addressed this preference, saying on its support website that “due to some device limitations found while developing for Android, there are some key features that are available for the iOS version that are not available in the Android version of VSCO.” With that in mind, non-iPhone users shouldn’t expect to see GIF capabilities on their VSCO apps any time soon, if ever.

Source: VSCO

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