The Tech News Blog

November 27, 2014

Report: Yahoo, Bing Vie to Replace Google on Safari

Safari Tips

The term "Google" has become synonymous with search, but Apple users may soon have to readjust and "Yahoo" or "Bing" a query.

While Google serves as the Safari browser's default search engine, the companies' agreement is reportedly set to expire next year, making way for Cupertino to choose a new partner.

And according to The Information (via Ars Technica), Microsoft (maker of Bing) and Yahoo are already in talks with Apple Internet Software and Services Senior Vice President Eddy Cue.

Upstart engine DuckDuckGo is also reportedly on the short list.

Yahoo recently announced that it will replace Google as Mozilla's default search engine for Firefox. And CEO Marissa Mayer has made it clear in the past that she wants to usurp Google as Apple's iOS search default.

Google declined to comment on the reports; Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

November 25, 2014

iPad Slump Signals ‘Massive Deceleration’ in Tablet Shipments

How We Test Tablets

The worldwide tablet market is poised for a "massive deceleration" in 2014 as iPad shipments continue to decline, according to a new forecast from IDC.

The analyst firm on Tuesday predicted that tablet shipments will increase just 7.2 percent this year to 235.7 million units, compared to 52.5 percent growth last year. The main reason for the decline? A slowdown in iPad demand.

In fact, 2014 is expected to mark the first full year of decline in iPad shipments. However, the iPad and overall market slowdown doesn't come as too much of a surprise as tablet lifecycles have continued to lengthen, IDC said.

"In the early stages of the tablet market, device lifecycles were expected to resemble those of smartphones, with replacement occurring every 2 to 3 years," Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, said in a statement. "What has played out instead is that many tablet owners are holding onto their devices for more than 3 years and in some instances more than 4 years. We believe the two major drivers for longer than expected tablet lifecycles are legacy software support for older products, especially within iOS, and the increased use of smartphones for a variety of computing tasks."

November 22, 2014

Report: Sony Ditches Steve Jobs Movie

Steve JobsIt seems like there's some major change regarding the Sony-backed Steve Jobs bio-pic every week. If it's not someone dropping out of playing the late, iconic Apple co-founder, then it's rumors about who could be Jobs incarnate (or Woz).

In this case, however, the news is that Sony Pictures is dropping the movie entirely. Oops. But it seems as though the film has been kind of a mess ever since Sony bought the rights to Walter Isaacson's best-selling biography in 2011.

According to the rumors, David Fincher was first planning to direct it, with Christian Bale as Jobs. But when Fincher dropped out, so did Bale. Attention then turned to Leonardo DiCaprio, but when he too bowed out, Bale's name re-appeared on the casting shortlist, and the Oscar-winning actor officially signed on. But he apparently had (another) change of heart and left the project.

November 20, 2014

Apple Swaps ‘Free’ for ‘Get’ in App Store

Apple 'Get' Apple is falling in line with the European Commission's request that app sellers do more to stop inadvertent in-app purchases.

Following Google's lead, Cupertino has removed all instances of the word "free" within its iOS and Mac app stores (with the exception of its own apps, like iMovie), and replaced them with the term "Get."

The new label clarifies what users can expect when downloading an app. Apps previously labeled as "Free" will now have a "Get" label. If those apps include in-app purchases, a small gray "In-App Purchase" label will appear below the "Get" button.

The move comes several months after the European Union chastised Apple for not moving quickly enough to stop inadvertent in-app purchases. At the time, the EU said Google had committed to removing the word "Free" from games that include in-app purchases by September, providing targeted guidelines for developers so they can avoid encouraging children to make micro-transactions, and requiring a password before every in-app purchase unless the consumer opts out.

"Get" in iOSThat first commitment is now live. Though it was requested by EU officials, Re/code said Apple confirmed the "Get" rollout is happening worldwide.

Google took a similar approach this fall, removing the word "free" from all games that contain in-app purchases. It has also provided targeted guidelines for developers, so they can avoid encouraging children to make micro-transactions.

Both companies require users to enter passwords when making purchases or downloading new apps from their app stores.

The EU, however, called out Apple's 15-minute window once the password is entered, saying that "should not remain the default setting in the future."

In the U.S., Apple in January agreed to refund at least $32.5 million to customers in an FTC settlement over unauthorized in-app purchases made my children.

Google made a similar deal with the FTC in September, agreeing to refund up to $19 million to customers. Google was sued in March by a California woman whose children made about $66 worth of in-app purchases over the course of 30 minutes.

Amazon, meanwhile, was sued by the Federal Trade Commission in July over accidental in-app purchases. The agency also asked that Amazon forfeit any money made from those unauthorized purchases.

November 19, 2014

Report: Apple to Add Beats Music App to iOS Devices

Beats Music

As iPhone and iPad users know, there are a few apps that stay on your device no matter what — Messages, Weather, Apple Maps, GameCenter, Stocks, etc. They come pre-installed when you buy your handset, and you can't delete them.

Soon, that list of mandatory apps could also include Beats Music. According to a report from The Financial Times, Apple is planning to roll the subscription music service it picked up as part of its $3 billion Beats acquisition into its iOS mobile operating system. This means, the service will be available on every iPhone and iPad — whether you like it or not.

The rollout is expected to happen at some point next year, possibly as early as March, sources familiar with the situation told The Financial Times. The move would mark Apple's first major push into subscription streaming music, a market that Spotify currently dominates.

November 14, 2014

Sprint Adds ‘iPad for Life’ Leasing Option

iPad Reviews: iPad Air 2

If you balk at the idea of plunking down a ton of money for a brand-new tablet all at once, then Sprint has a new program that turns the financial pain into a smaller sting. You're not getting a discount, though; you're just spreading the cost of your new tablet over the span of many months.

The offer, dubbed "iPad for Life," lets you acquire either an iPad Air 2 or an iPad mini 3 right now but pay it off over the course of two years.

For example, if you're interested in a iPad Air 2 (16GB), then you'll pay Sprint $20 each month across a 24-month contract to use the device. At the end of the contract, you can either keep paying for the iPad on a monthly basis, return the iPad (assuming it's in good condition) and terminate the lease program, purchase the tablet by paying off the remaining balance (as in, the portion of its retail cost you have yet to pay), or exchange the iPad for a new model and continue on with a new two-year lease.

So, you're not really saving any money by taking advantage of Sprint's program. At least, not in normal conditions. However, Sprint is currently offering a promotion where the company will waive the $10 access fee it would normally charge those looking to add tablets to Sprint Family Share Packs. In other words, if you want to use your tablet as part of your shared data plan, Sprint won't charge you extra to do so if you're currently buying 20GB or more worth of data.

November 14, 2014

Beats, Apple Launch Solo2 Wireless Headphones

Beats Solo2 Wireless Beats by Dr. Dre today expanded its wireless lineup with the launch of the Solo2 Wireless on-ear headphones.

Solo2 Wireless features the same sound and design as the original Solo2, but without the hassle of being tethered to your device.

Using Bluetooth, the Solo2 Wireless can connect to a smartphone, tablet, computer, or boombox from up to up to 30 feet away. But they also allow the wearer to take calls, skip songs, and change the volume on the headphones' ear cup.

A rechargeable battery also promises up to 12 hours of wireless playback. Once the headphones run out of juice, just plug in the provided RemoteTalk cable, and continue jamming out.

"We're taking the most popular headphone in the world and adding wireless Bluetooth functionality to it," Beats president Luke Wood said in a statement. "The Solo2 is already a world-class headphone much lauded for its acoustics, and now it joins our growing family of successful wireless products."

November 12, 2014

Apple to Face Lawsuit Over iMessage Bug

iMessageApple will be forced to face a U.S. federal lawsuit after failing to tell consumers that their text messages could be stuck in purgatory if they ditched their iPhone in favor of a smartphone on another platform.

Reports of the so-called "iMessage purgatory" issue have persisted for months, but made headlines in May when a California woman, Adrienne Moore, sued over the issue after switching to a Samsung Galaxy S5 from an iPhone 4. Apple sought to have the case thrown out, but Cupertino wasn't so lucky.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh on Monday said that Apple must face Moore's claim that the message blocking interfered with her Verizon Wireless contract. Moore is seeking class-action status and unspecific damages.

Apple's iMessage is a convenient way to chat with other iOS users without eating into your monthly text allotment. But if you ditch your iPhone for a smartphone on another platform, and do not switch off iMessage, your messages will be delivered to your old iPhone, even if it's no longer in use.

Moore claims Apple failed to mention that its messaging system would block the delivery of messages from other iPhone users after switching to a non-Apple device.

The legal setback comes after Apple over the weekend finally released a tool to help those whose messages were stuck in iMessage purgatory. Apple's online tool lets you deregister iMessage on your old phone.

On Apple's new website, enter the phone number you want to deregister from iMessage and Apple will send a confirmation code to your current device. When you get that code, enter it on Apple's website, and Cupertino will deregister it.

November 9, 2014

Fitbit Devices Yanked From Apple’s Online Store

Fibit Surge

After removing Bose products from its online store last month, Apple has now dropped another brand — Fitbit.

On the Apple Online Store, you'll see a range of fitness-tracking devices from Nike, Jawbone, and Mio, among others, but nothing from Fitbit anymore. Apple previously sold the Fitbit Flex and several of the company's other fitness tracking devices.

The move comes after Re/Code last month reported Apple was planning to remove Fitbit devices from its stores to make room for its own Apple Watch wearable. Now it's actually happened.

Apple's new wearable is scheduled to launch in spring 2015, starting at $349. You can choose from three versions, which have different bands: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, and Apple Watch Edition. The Apple Watch Sport version will likely target other fitness-tracking wearables on the market, like the Fitbit, though the $349 price point puts it at the high end of the market.

As 9to5Mac points out, some Apple retail locations still have Fitbit devices for sale, but don't expect it to stay that way for long.

But why pull Fitbit but not Jawbone? One reason, 9to5Mac noted, could be that Fitbit has no plans to support Cupertino's new iOS 8 Health app, which pulls together all your health and fitness data into a comprehensive dashboard. Jawbone is among those that support the new app.

Fitbit isn't the first company Apple has given the boot. In the wake of its Beats acquisition, Cupertino last month removed all Bose products from its stores and website, including the SoundLink Mini and QuietComfort headphones.

For Fitbit fans, the company has three upcoming devices. The Fitbit Charge is a wrist-worn activity tracker, the Charge HR adds an optical heart rate monitor, and the Fitbit Surge is a GPS-enabled runner's watch that also measure the user's daily activities. The Charge is on sale now, while the Charge HR and Surge are expected next year.

November 3, 2014

Apple Watch Coming in the Spring

Apple Watch

We know that the Apple Watch is coming in 2015, but when? Tim Cook has declined to elaborate during recent public presentations, but Cupertino's retail chief, Angela Ahrendts, says we can expect the connected timepiece by spring.

In the leaked transcript of a voice message shared with retail employees, Ahrendts said the Apple Watch will hit shelves "in the spring," after the Chinese New Year.

"You guys were hired because you're the best people in the world," Ahrendts said in her message. "And you know how to service customers. But we're sprinting a marathon right now, and it's not going to stop."

First on the agenda is the holiday shopping season, which Cupertino no doubt hopes be a success thanks to its new iPhone and iPad lineups. Overseas employees must then prepare for the company's Chinese New Year sale, which begins Feb. 19.