The Tech News Blog

February 26, 2015

Apple Ordered to Pay $533M in iTunes Patent Case

iTunes Tips

Apple this week lost a patent infringement case related to iTunes software and was ordered to pay $532.9 million in fines.

As reported by Bloomberg, Apple argued that it never used the patents in question, and had asked the court to invalidate those patents, held by Texas-based Smartflash.

In a statement, Cupertino said Smartflash is nothing but a patent troll.

"Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has not U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented," an Apple spokeswoman said in an email. "We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system."

Smartflash, meanwhile, said the jury "worked hard" through the trial, paying close attention to facts.

"Ultimately, the jury saw through Apple's arguments and reached the right result," a lawyer with Caldwell Cassady & Curry, which is representing Smartflash, told PCMag in a statement. "The jury's verdict provides well-deserved and long-overdue recognition."

The firm won't get the $852 million in damages it sought, but the final ruling still throws a heavy financial punch at Apple, which claimed the three patents were worth no more than $4.5 million, Bloomberg said.

According to the original suit, filed in May 2013, Apple's iTunes infringed on copyrights regarding access to and storage of downloaded songs, videos, and games. Smartflash specifically pointed to infringements in iOS apps developed by Game Circus and KingsIsle Entertainment. Those companies served as defendants, but were dismissed from the case last year, Bloomberg reported.

Launched at the turn of the century by inventor Patrick Racz, Smartflash's only business is licensing seven patents issued between 2008 and 2012, Bloomberg said.

Smartflash has also sued Google, Amazon, HTC, and Samsung for patent infringement regarding data storage and access systems.

January 31, 2015

Apple iTunes 12.1 Adds Notification Center Widget

iTunes Tips

Apple has rolled out an update for iTunes, which brings a Notifications Center widget in OS X Yosemite and some other improvements for the music software.

The widget lets you see whatever is currently playing on iTunes or iTunes Radio, as well as skip ahead, and star specific tracks to mark them as favorites. In addition, when you're listening to iTunes Radio, you'll have the option to purchase the song that's being played right from the widget, which should save you a few clicks if you really like a tune.

But as Tidbits points out, "clicking the displayed price button in the Notification Center widget automatically buys the song and downloads it to your library — you aren't brought to an iTunes Store page to ponder your purchase." So be sure you actually want the song before you click to buy it.

Meanwhile, the update also includes some bug fixes and performance improvements when syncing an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to iTunes, though Apple did not go into detail about what is better. This is the first major update to iTunes 12, which was released alongside OS X Yosemite this past fall.

Apple has been on a bit of an update spree this week, releasing OS X Yosemite 10.10.2, which fixes Wi-Fi and Web browser issues, and iOS 8.1.3 to squash a number of bugs. The iOS update also offers some stability and performance improvements, but reportedly does not fix the slow Wi-Fi and battery-drain issues that have been plaguing older iPhone and iPads since the release of iOS 8 back in September.

December 4, 2014

Apple Deleted Music From Rival Services Off iTunes

iTunes Tips

It turns out Apple has been controlling your music library since long before shoehorning U2's latest album into iTunes.

According to attorneys representing consumers in an antitrust case against Cupertino, the tech giant deleted music that iPod owners downloaded from competing services between 2007 and 2009.

As described by opposing counsel, those users who downloaded music from a rival service—like Real Networks—and tried to sync it with an iPod were met with an error message and instructions to restore the device to factory settings. Once the user followed through, those songs would disappear.

"You guys decided to give them the worst possible experience and blow up" users' music libraries, attorney Patrick Coughlin said in a California U.S. District Court, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

But Apple told jurors on Wednesday that the maneuver was a legitimate security measure - and intentionally cryptic so as to not confuse users.

"We don't need to give users too much information," Apple security director Augustin Farrugia testified, according to the Journal.

July 17, 2014

Apple Rolls Out iTunes Pass Payment System

iTunes Pass Apple iOS users in the U.S. and a handful of other countries now have access to Apple's new iTunes Pass feature, which first debuted in Japan.

Customers in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Germany, and the U.K. can now use the Passbook-based service to refill iTunes account balances at brick-and-mortar Apple Stores.

To get started, visit the iTunes Store on your iDevice, then scroll down to the "Redeem" button and follow the on-screen instructions.

With iTunes Pass—not to be confused with the short-lived music subscription service—accessible via Passbook, it's easy to personally deposit money into a digital account, instead of fumbling with a credit card number or scanning gift cards.

April 24, 2014

Apple Closing In on 800M iTunes Accounts

Review: iTunes 11.1

Apple this week announced that iTunes accounts are approaching 800 million.

That's a "staggering number," CEO Tim Cook said during a Wednesday earnings call with analysts. Most of those accounts, meanwhile, are linked to a credit card, he said.

"iTunes software and services revenue continues to grow at a double-digit rate, thanks to an incredible ecosystem and our very large, loyal and engaged customer base," Cook said. "With its strong momentum in growing profitability, iTunes is a very important driver of our business not only here in the United States, but around the world."

Overall iTunes software and services revenue was $4.6 billion for the first quarter, up 11 percent year over year and an all-time quarterly record, said Luca Maestri, who will take over for Peter Oppenheimer as CFO this fall.

September 18, 2013

iTunes 11.1 Update Rolls Out With iTunes Radio

iTunes Radio

Apple pushed out the latest version of iTunes this morning, offering a reprieve for those mobile fans awaiting today's iOS 7 update.

Like iOS 7, iTunes 11.1 includes iTunes Radio — Cupertino's new streaming music service aimed at rivals like Pandora.

Boasting more than 250 stations, plus those created specifically by users, iTunes Radio also includes ad-free listening for those with an iTunes Match subscription; ad-supported listening is free.

Apple unveiled iTunes Radio at WWDC in June, promising availability on iOS 7, the Mac and PC via iTunes, as well as on the Apple TV set-top box. Like competitor Pandora, iTunes Radio will serve up music based on your listening habits. Apple will suggest genre-specific stations, and tweaks its recommendations depending on your ratings. If you find a new tune you want to add to your personal library, tap the link above the song to buy it on iTunes.

July 23, 2013

Apple iTunes Store Hits 1 Billion Podcast Subscriptions

iOS Podcast App

When Apple announces new iTunes Store milestones, they usually relate to apps or music. But today, the Cupertino tech giant is calling out an achievement for podcasts.

The iTunes Store has reached more than one billion podcast subscriptions, Apple announced Tuesday. To celebrate the milestone, Apple created a special section in iTunes to highlight some of the most popular podcasts of all time.

The section lists "classics" like This American Life, NPR: All Songs Considered, and 60 Minutes in addition to popular offerings like The Adam Corolla Show, TedTalks, and NBC Nightly News. There's also a list of new and noteworthy podcasts like Conversations with Maria Menounos and The Alton Browncast.

Podcasts launched on iTunes in the summer of 2005 as an alternative to radio shows, and the store now boasts roughly 250,000 different podcasts in more than 100 languages for a total of more than 8 million episodes, according to Macworld.

"From comedy to hard news to sports to innovative educational content and so much more, podcasting has transformed the global media landscape," Apple wrote in a note on its podcasts page.

June 27, 2013

iTunes Radio Royalties Reportedly Higher Than Pandora’s

iTunes Radio WWDC 2013

Apple already hooked the big-three music labels for its new iTunes Radio service, but now it's looking to bolster its indie cred.

The company has reportedly been sharing details with independent record labels about the royalties it will pay to major labels for iTunes Radio, and those rates are more than what rival Pandora pays to stream songs on its service, the Wall Street Journal reported.

During the first year of iTunes Radio, Apple will pay 13 cents each time a song is played, plus 15 percent of net advertising revenue, according to the Journal, which reviewed Cupertino's terms. That amount gets a boost in year two, rising to 14 cents per listen, plus 19 percent of ad revenue.

Pandora, meanwhile, pays out 12 cents per listen on its Internet radio service, which currently boasts more than 70 million listeners, as well as a library of more than 100,000 different artists.

But Apple does not pay for performances of songs already in listeners' iTunes libraries or those on an album the user already owns part of. Those tracks selected for special promotions also come royalty-free, the Journal said, and Cupertino will get away without paying for songs that listeners skip in the first 20 seconds — applicable only to two songs per hour for any given user.

Apple did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment.

June 21, 2013

iTunes Users Buying About $12 Worth of Music Each Year

iTunes 11

What are you buying on iTunes? According to new stats from Asymco, users are spending most of their money on apps, though video consumption has exploded in recent years.

In announcing that HBO GO and WatchESPN are now on Apple TV, Cupertino this week revealed that iTunes users have now downloaded one billion TV episodes and 380 million movies to date, and are purchasing over 800,000 TV episodes and over 350,000 movies per day.

Asymco's Horace Dediu decided to break down those numbers, and "my new estimate for the rate of spending on iTunes video is about $1.75 billion" per year, he wrote in a blog post. Dediu had previously underestimated how much money people were spending on movies, so "this is much more substantial than prior estimate," he wrote.

June 10, 2013

Apple Demos iTunes Radio Service

iTunes RadioAs expected, Apple today unveiled a new music service, dubbed iTunes Radio.

The Internet radio feature, debuting this fall, will be available on iOS 7 devices via the music app and on the Mac and PC via iTunes, as well as Apple TV. Ad-supported listening is free, while those who pay for iTunes Match can listen without interruption.

Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, provided a demo of iTunes Radio at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) today. It functions much like Pandora, with users able to tap into more than 200 stations. Cue didn't specify which labels signed deals with Apple for iTunes Radio, but he played a song from Maroon 5 during his demo, which is Sony, as well as Bruno Mars from Warner Bros. and The Rolling Stones from Universal Music, which are the big three labels.

Like Pandora, meanwhile, iTunes Radio will serve up music based on your listening habits. "The more you use iTunes Radio and iTunes, the more it knows what you like to listen to and the more personalized your experience becomes," Apple said.

Apple will suggest genre-specific stations, but users can create their own stations as well. Tell iTunes Radio if you like or dislike a song, or if you hear one you want to add to your wish list.