In an audit of supply chain partners, Apple found increased labor violations in 2017

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Enlarge / An iPhone assembly worker works with Apple supplier Pegatron in an image distributed by Apple. (credit: Apple)

Each year, Apple releases a report called the Supplier Responsibility Progress Report detailing its audits of the labor practices of its suppliers around the world. Apple reports violations it finds at various categories of severity and gives its suppliers ratings based on how they treat their workers.

The 12th annual report was released this week, and in it, Apple says it found more violations than it did last year, at least in part because of new suppliers and partners added to supply chain.

Out of 757 suppliers included in the audit across 30 countries, 197 were being audited for the first time. Apple found twice as many “core violations” in 2017 as it did in the previous year. Core violations are those that Apple “considers the most serious breaches of compliance” and for which it claims to have “zero tolerance.”

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After nearly 10 years, Apple will stop taking new iTunes LP submissions

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(credit: Dan Goodin)

A small yet colorful part of the iTunes Store will be history by year’s end. According to an internal Apple email obtained by Metro, Apple will stop taking iTunes LP submissions this month. Apple confirmed the plans to The Verge, signaling the impending end of the paid multimedia album experience on iTunes.

The leaked email reportedly stated: “Apple will no longer accept new submissions of iTunes LPs after March 2018,” and “existing LPs will be deprecated from the store during the remainder of 2018. Customers who have previously purchased an album containing an iTunes LP will still be able to download the additional content using iTunes Match.”

According to the Verge’s report, customers who purchased LPs will continue to have access to them, and they will be able to download previous and new LP purchases via iTunes. Customers won’t see any newly added LPs available to buy in the iTunes Store after this month.

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Report: Apple is making its own high-end noise-cancelling headphones

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Enlarge / Bose’s QuietComfort 35 would likely be in the crosshairs of Apple’s reportedly high-end noise-cancelling headphones. (credit: Bose)

Apple is developing a pair of high-end wireless noise-cancelling headphones and could launch them as soon as the end of this year, according to a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Debby Wu.

The report corroborates a late February memo from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Gurman, who, like Kuo, has a long track record of reporting the existence of Apple devices before they’re released, says the headphones will be of the over-the-ear variety and would compete with similar pairs from Bose.

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911 recordings reveal Apple’s problem of employees walking into walls

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Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks about the new Apple headquarters during a media event in Cupertino, California on September 12, 2017. (credit: JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Apple Park, the massive donut-shaped Apple headquarters that Apple finished building last year, is an architectural marvel. The building makes extensive use of massive, floor-to-ceiling glass panels, giving the illusion that the building blends seamlessly into the surrounding forest.

But when Apple started letting employees use it in January, they discovered a big problem: they kept running into glass windows and doors. In the first few days, three people suffered injuries serious enough to require calls to 911.

“I walked into a glass door on the first floor of Apple Park when I was trying to go outside,” one person said in a January 4 911 call obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. He said he hit his head but didn’t suffer serious bleeding.

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Report: Apple plans three new iPhones for 2018—and they’re all like the iPhone X

Enlarge (credit: Samuel Axon)

According to a new report, three new iPhones will launch in 2018, all derived from the design and features of the iPhone X. One would be a direct successor to the iPhone X, another would be a significantly larger cousin with the biggest smartphone screen Apple has yet produced, and the third would be a cheaper version that makes some concessions for cost.

The source, Bloomberg, cites “people familiar with the products.” This report follows several rumors from various points in Apple’s supply chain that have described a similar lineup. The launches are still months away (they will likely come during September, October, or November, given Apple’s past releases), so plans are still subject to change.

According to the report, every model will come with a TrueDepth sensor array for Face ID instead of the Touch ID fingerprint reader. Each would also have an edge-to-edge screen. In other words, the iPhone X is the model for the next wave of Apple smartphones, not the iPhone 8 design whose basic elements can be traced back to 2014’s iPhone 6.

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The Ionic Adidas Edition is Fitbit’s answer to the Apple Watch Nike+

Enlarge (credit: Fitbit)

Those previously on the fence about getting a Fitbit Ionic smartwatch now have a new model to consider.

Fitbit revealed its device collaboration with Adidas today—the Ionic Adidas Edition is a spiced-up Ionic smartwatch featuring an Adidas-made watch face, special wristbands, and the Adidas Train app for runners. Similar to the Apple Watch Nike+ edition, this version of Fitbit’s smartwatch combines all of the features of the original Ionic with exclusive perks developed in collaboration with Adidas that users can’t get on any other Ionic model.

The Adidas Edition’s case is identical to that of a regular Ionic, but the former comes preloaded with a new Adidas-made watch face with the company’s logo at the top, huge block-like numbers for the time in the middle, and a bottom stats row featuring steps taken, current heart rate, and the date. Exclusive bands for the Adidas Edition are available as well, both of which have many small holes along the band’s entire surface. These kinds of perforations allow more air to pass through to the skin, reducing the possibility of skin irritation during long periods of use. These bands are also swim-ready, making them a good option to outfit the Ionic with before tracking a swim.

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Your Apple iCloud data is now stored on Google servers—surprised?

Enlarge / Apple’s iCloud Drive Web interface in Safari. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple has updated its publicly available iOS security documentation to disclose that personal data associated with the company’s iCloud service is stored in cloud servers operated by Google—specifically, the Google Cloud service.

Apple didn’t specify exactly what iCloud data is stored on Google’s servers. But the new document does explain a little bit about how the data is encrypted. Here is the entire iCloud section entry that includes the Google Cloud reference from the document in question:

iCloud stores a user’s contacts, calendars, photos, documents, and more and keeps the information up to date across all of their devices, automatically. iCloud can also be used by third-party apps to store and sync documents as well as key values for app data as defined by the developer. Users set up iCloud by signing in with an Apple ID and choosing which services they would like to use. iCloud features, including My Photo Stream, iCloud Drive, and iCloud Backup, can be disabled by IT administrators via MDM configuration profiles. The service is agnostic about what is being stored and handles all file content the same way, as a collection of bytes.

Each file is broken into chunks and encrypted by iCloud using AES-128 and a key derived from each chunk’s contents that utilizes SHA-256. The keys and the file’s metadata are stored by Apple in the user’s iCloud account. The encrypted chunks of the file are stored, without any user-identifying information, using third-party storage services, such as S3 and Google Cloud Platform.

S3 is part of Amazon Web Services (AWS). Previously, the document mentioned S3 and Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service. There is no longer any reference to Azure in the document, but the language does not necessarily preclude continued use of that service. The update to the document came in January; the most recent update before then was in March of 2017.

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Apple to suspend iTunes Store support for “obsolete” first-gen Apple TV

Enlarge / The first-generation Apple TV (credit: David Kidd)

A support document from Apple drives another nail in the coffin for the original Apple TV, first introduced in 2007. On May 25, 2018, first-generation Apple TV devices will no longer be able to connect to the iTunes Store due to new security changes to be implemented by Apple. In addition to first-gen Apple TVs, any PCs running Windows XP or Windows Vista will also lose access to the most recent version of iTunes.

According to the document, the “obsolete” original Apple TV won’t be updated in the future to support access to the iTunes Store. After May 25, users will only be able to access iTunes on second-generation Apple TVs and newer streaming devices.

The same security changes affecting the first-gen Apple TV will also affect Windows XP and Vista machines. Users on such devices can still run previous versions of iTunes, so they should still be able to play their music library without problems.

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Vulkan is coming to macOS and iOS, but no thanks to Apple

No, not that Vulcan (note, that’s spelled with a “c”). This one.

Vulkan—the open, cross-platform GPU API from the Khronos Group, the industry body that also develops OpenGL—is available on Windows, Linux, Android, the Nintendo Switch, and cloud systems, but it has one sizeable gap: none of Apple’s platforms support it. macOS has old, and slow, OpenGL drivers, and iOS supports OpenGL ES, the OpenGL subset designed for embedded systems. Apple has thus far shown no interest in offering the modern Vulkan API and instead has pushed its own proprietary API, Metal.

Today, that gap is being substantially filled, with the open source, royalty-free release of MoltenVK—a runtime for macOS and iOS that offers an almost complete subset of the Vulkan API implemented using Metal. Released under the Apache 2 license, MoltenVK will enable developers to build their Vulkan applications for Apple’s platforms, allowing for a single codebase to span Windows, Linux, Android, macOS, iOS, and more.

Valve is an early adopter of MoltenVK. The company has been testing MoltenVK for the macOS version of Dota 2, and indications are extremely promising: the Vulkan-on-Metal version of the game has frame rates as much as 50 percent higher than the version using Apple’s OpenGL stack. Apple’s OpenGL drivers have long been criticized, both for their poor performance and for Apple’s refusal to support the latest versions of the specification. The Dota 2 experience suggests that developers can reap big dividends by bypassing them.

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Apple preps new AirPods: One with hands-free Siri, one water-resistant


One of the smallest members of Apple’s product lineup may get a useful update this year. According to a Bloomberg report, Apple is working on new models of its AirPod wireless earbuds. One could debut later this year with an updated wireless chip and another with a water-resistant design may come out in 2019.

AirPods arrived in 2016 alongside the iPhone 7 as a solution to the smartphone’s lack of headphone jack. The W1 chip inside the AirPods helps it connect almost immediately to a user’s Apple products. According to the report, Apple is developing a new model with a new wireless chip that helps it better manage Bluetooth connections. It’s unclear if this new chip will be a variation of the W2 chip, which debuted with the Apple Watch Series 3 last year, or if it will be an entirely new one.

This year’s new model may also give users voice activation for Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri. Currently, users must tap the side of an AirPod before they can use voice commands. In the new AirPod models, summoning Siri would be hands-free, requiring only a voice command such as “Hey Siri” and no physical prompt.

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