U.S. Senate Questions Apple About Slowing Down Older iPhones

There’s no denying the fact that many people have criticized Apple’s sneaky procedures to slow down older iPhones, and the U.S. Senate has upped the pressure.

According to the Guardian, the Senate has begun quizzing the tech giant about its practice for slowing down aging iPhones. The firm is thought to do this to convince users to upgrade to newer handsets.

Senator John Thune, who is the chair of the Senate’s commerce committee, has penned a letter to CEO Tim cook. He wants to learn more about the situation and how it affects consumers.

“Apple’s proposed solutions have prompted additional criticism from some customers, particularly its decision not to provide free replacement batteries,” said Thune.

His quote was included in a report from the Wall Street Journal, and allegedly, the Senate wants to hear back from Apple by January 23rd.

In December, the company confirmed that it slows down older iPhones. And as a result, the company has been faced with class-action lawsuits as well as grueling criticism.

Apple apologized for the situation, saying: “We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.”

“We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down.”

The company added: “First and foremost, we have never – and would never – do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.”

Meanwhile, the French Government has just opened a legal case against the company for apparently committing “planned obsolescence” – following moves by the U.S.

Consumer support group Stop Planned Obsolescence has been a staunch critic of  the tech company’s actions. It told the BBC: “The slowing down of older devices seems to have the deliberate aim of pushing Apple customers towards purchasing the new model.

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France Launches Obsolescence Investigation Against Apple

It’s certainly no longer fresh news that Apple has been slowing down older iPhones so that customers upgrade to newer models, but this has caused a major stir in France.

According to BBC News, French prosecutors recently opened an investigation against the tech giant on the grounds that it’s committed “planned obsolescence”.

They’ve accused Apple of knowingly committing this crime across its range of mobile products. In France, it’s against the law to shorten product lifespans so customers buy newer models.  

In December, the firm hit the headlines around the globe when it confirmed that it intentionally issues software updates slows down older iPhones.

Although customers can go to their nearest Apple store and get their handset’s battery replaced for a fee, most people end up upgrading to the latest model.

French politicians aren’t happy with this, and the country’s government has ordered an investigation. Its economy ministry consumer protection agency is leading the case.

Apple has already been hit with a ton of lawsuits across the world, and consumer support group Stop Planned Obsolescence has also criticised the tech company’s actions. The organisation told the BBC that France has become the third country to investigate Apple on claims of obsolescence, following moves from Israel and the US.

However, this is apparently only illegal in France. If the court deems Apple guilty of this charge, then it may have to cough up 5 percent of its annual turnover.

“The slowing down of older devices seems to have the deliberate aim of pushing Apple customers towards purchasing the new model,” said the group.

Last month, Apple apologised for its actions. It said: “We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.”

“We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down.”

The company added: “First and foremost, we have never – and would never – do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.”

“Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.”

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Google Celebrates Dr. Har Gobind Khorana with Home Page Doodle

If you visit Google today you’ll see a doodle of a man in a laboratory with two colorful strands of RNA floating overhead. This is a representation of Dr. Har Gobind Khorana who today would have turned 96 years old. His exact date of birth is unknown, but documents show January 9, 1922. Dr. Khorana died on November 9, 2011 at 89 years old.

A Nobel Prize Winner

Dr. Khorana created the first synthetic gene. He was known for his collaborative research on DNA and RNA, as well as being one of three recipients of the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine. The prize was shared with Drs. Robert W. Holley and Marshall W. Nirenberg. Working together they researched the order of nucleotides in the nucleic acids within DNA and RNA—the four corresponding nucleobases: adenine, cytosine, uracil/thymine, and guanine. His research helped us better understand DNA and protein synthesis.

A Lifetime of Achievement

Dr. Khorana was born in Raipur, India which became part of Pakistan in the year 2000. He was the youngest of five children born to Ganpat Rai Khorana and Krishna Devi Khorana. His father, Ganpat, was an agricultural taxation clerk and put a heavy emphasis on educating his family. The Khoranas set the only literate family in their small village of about 100 people.

In 1945, Dr. Khorana left India to study for his Ph.D. at the University of Liverpool in England. Prior to 1945 he was unable to leave India, however an award of India Fellowship allowed him to pursue an education.

Between 1949 and 1952, Dr. Khorana was granted another fellowship and returned to England. During this time he became intrigued with nucleic acids and proteins found in RNA.

While studying in Switzerland, Dr. Khorana met and married his wife, Esther Elizabeth Sible, with whom he had three children. Much of Khorana’s work took place in Vancouver after he was offered a job there in 1952 and at the University of Wisconsin in 1960. After moving to Wisconsin, Dr. Khorana became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1966.

An Inspiration

Dr. Khorana’s desire for knowledge and incredible accomplishments show us that anything is possible if we work together and apply ourselves to the fullest. While scholarships made his schooling possible, his achievements were obtained through perseverance and teamwork.

Google’s latest doodle was drawn by Rohan Dahotre, an illustrator from Bangalore, India.

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Apple Promises New iOS Parental Controls Amid Investor Backlash

Apple on Wednesday moved to defend itself amid criticism that it doesn’t do enough to combat child-age smartphone addiction, disclosing in a written statement published by The Wall Street Journal that it’s currently developing several advanced parental control features as part of an upcoming iOS software update.

At the same time, Apple ingeniously seized on its opportunity to remind everyone that it’s been a staunch proponent of moderating children’s iPhone and iPad usage, pointing to the myriad of parental controls already built into iOS.

“We have new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust,” Apple said in its official statement to WSJ, while going on to stress that “We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them.”

“We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids.”

Apple’s statement to WSJ comes in response to an open letter the company received earlier this week from two of its largest shareholders — activist investors Jana Partners, and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), who combined own about $ 2 billion in AAPL shares.

In their letter, as we we shared with you just yesterday, the frustrated investors sounded the alarm around what they dubbed the “growing public health crisis” that is smartphone addiction in young children and teens — while going to essentially accuse Apple of failing to sufficiently tackle the issue or address concerns surrounding it.

Of course, in addition to all the “new features and enhancements” Apple says it currently has in the pipeline, the company has in reality been one of the most ardent proponents for parents who desire to moderate their kid’s smartphone and tablet usage. While it’s not publicized in great detail, the company pointed to its existing slate of iOS parental controls — which allow parents to moderate content like apps, websites, movies, songs, and books and much more.

Apple pointed out, furthermore, that some of these features (including the ability to block or restrict essentially anything your child has access to online) have been instated since as far back as 2008.

Unfortunately, today’s statement is mum on exactly what these upcoming parental controls will bring to the iOS platform, but it’s reasonable to assume that we’ll hear more about them at or before Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June.

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Apple Now Offers Refurbished 10.5-inch iPad Pro 15% Off Retail

Apple began offering refurbished models of its 10.5-inch iPad Pro on Wednesday via its online store in the U.S. and Canada.

There are quite a few variants to choose from, about 20 in all. That includes various colors and storage configurations in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The refurbished 10.5-inch iPad Pros retail for around 15 percent less than brand new models — so it might be a good time to pick one up if you’re in the market for an iPad Pro.

For the most basic configuration, a Wi-Fi-only model with 64 gigabytes of internal storage, Apple is pricing refurbished devices at $ 549. That’s about $ 100 off the same model sold as new. Currently, there are Silver, Gold and Space Gray versions available. Wi-Fi-only models with 256GB and 512GB retail for $ 649 and $ 849, respectively ($ 150 off the usual prices of $ 799 and $ 999).

If you’re wary of purchasing pre-owned electronics, keep in mind that Apple still offers its standard one-year warranty on the refurbished models (effective until one year from the date that the device is delivered). As with new iPad Pro devices, Apple also allows users to purchase the extended two-year warranty AppleCare+ for iPad for $ 99.

Apple says that it thoroughly inspects, tests and cleans all refurbished products before repackaging them in new white boxes, with all of the standard manuals and accessories included. The company also replaces the battery and outer steel of the devices with new components. Put simply, it’s tough (if not nearly impossible) to tell a refurbished model from a new one.

Of course, as with all of Apple’s refurbished products, supplies are limited. So it’s smart to place an order as soon as possible if you’re interested — particularly if you want a specific color or storage configuration.

Apple first introduced the 10.5-inch iPad Pro last June. It’s only slightly larger and heavier than the 9.7-inch iPad Pro that it replaces, and the tablet sports a display about 20 percent larger due to reduced bezels. The iPad Pro is powered by Apple’s A10X Fusion chip, and features Touch ID, a 12-megapixel rear camera, four speakers, and a ProMotion Retina display with a 120GHz refresh rate.

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7.3-inch Foldable Samsung Galaxy X Could Launch in December 2018

Samsung has long been rumored to be developing a foldable or flexible smartphone, and today, a series of reports suggest that the device could be just over the horizon after years of speculation.

A report published Tuesday by Korean outlet ET News claimed that Samsung had decided to begin mass producing foldable smartphones in November of this year for a possible December launch.

According to the outlet, the device would feature a 7.3-inch flexible OLED display that could fold open like a book — allowing the phone to be used both in a traditional form factor, as well as a more tablet-like design.

As far as price range, expect the device to be in the high-end of the spectrum — even a step above current Samsung flagships (sources state that Samsung wants to target the “ultra-premium” market). As such, a price upwards of $ 1,000 is likely, especially for the amount of “screen space” the phone would sport.

ET News even reported that Samsung could be prepared to show off off early prototypes of the foldable smartphone’s display in a “private space” at CES ’18.

But it might be smart to take the December 2018 launch date rumor with a grain of salt. The Korea Herald, who spoke to Samsung mobile chief DJ Koh, reports a slightly different story. “It is difficult to talk about the date of the launch now. We want to unveil the products properly but now seems a bit early,” Koh told the publication.

He added that Samsung wants a good reaction from its customers but that there are currently “durability issues” with the foldable smartphone that the Korean tech giant has yet to address.

Those “durability issues” might have to do with the actual folding display. ET News reported that Samsung engineers are currently working to ensure the display leaves no trace of having been folded when fully opened.

Koh’s comments don’t necessarily contradict rumors of a foldable smartphone — in fact, they basically confirm that Samsung is working on it. But they do throw the exact release date up in the air. In other words, a foldable Galaxy X could launch in December. Just don’t expect it to.

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Google and Uber Are Building AI Systems That Doubt Themselves

Google and Uber are introducing a sense of uncertainty into their deep-learning models, so that AI programs can measure their confidence in predictions and decisions, according to The MIT Technology Review.

The aim is to create AI programs that are less error prone and make better decisions in critical scenarios that require good judgment, such as those involving self-driving cars. Beyond self-driving, Uber uses machine learning for everything from matching riders to drivers, routing, assigning Uber pool rides, to setting surge pricing.

“You would like a system that gives you a measure of how certain it is,” says Dustin Tran, a member of Google’s AI team. “If a self-driving car doesn’t know its level of uncertainty, it can make a fatal error, and that can be catastrophic.”

Self-doubt, probability, and uncertainty would make for smarter deep learning programs, says Noah Goodman, a Stanford professor affiliated with Uber’s AI Lab. For example, it would allow programs to recognize objects by referring to a few examples, which would also make it easier to develop complex deep-learning systems.

As such, Uber recently released Pyro, a programming language that combines probabilistic programming with deep-learning, allowing systems to be pre-programmed with knowledge.

“In cases where you have prior knowledge you want to build into the model, probabilistic programming is especially useful, ” Goodman says.

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LG to Supply TrueDepth Tech for Next-Gen iPhone, iPad Lineup

Apple is gearing up to make a sizable investment in one of its go-to camera suppliers, as the company moves to secure a sufficient quantity of 3D sensing camera modules for its 2018 iPhone and iPad models, according to a report out Tuesday from The Investor.

Citing industry sources, Apple is readying as much as $ 820.9 million for an “upfront payment” [investment] in LG Innotek, which the camera maker would reportedly use to build out additional facilities to manufacture the 3D sensing modules for Apple.

“The affiliate of LG Group said in a regulatory filing on Jan. 8 that it would invest 873.7 billion won (US$ 820.90 million) to build additional facilities for its mobile camera module and next-generation module business,” The Investor said, while EDN went on to speculate that Apple’s decision to invest exclusively in LG Innotek is more than likely the result of a meeting between the company’s CEOs, Tim Cook and Park Jong-seok, back in November of last year.

Advanced Manufacturing Fund

Today’s report, if accurate, stands to represent Apple’s third, multi-million dollar investment as part of its previously announced Advanced Manufacturing Fund — a $ 1 billion effort to help jumpstart next-generation manufacturing projects here in the U.S.

Back in December, 2017, it was reported the company would invest as much as $ 390 million in Finisar Corp. while earlier in 2017, Kentucky-based Gorilla Glass makers, Corning, were christened the first recipient of $ 200 million from Apple’s fund.

Worth pointing out is that Finisar and LG Innotek manufacture different components for Apple’s TrueDepth cameras — with the former responsible for building Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSEL) chips, and the latter responsible for producing other, crucial Face ID components, including the camera’s flood illuminator and dot projector.

New iPhones in 2018

So, Apple’s planned investment in LG Innotek actually makes perfect sense — especially if the company is indeed planning to incorporate Face ID on all of its iPhone and iPad models this year. Which should be the case, according to recent mumblings from the historically accurate KGI Securities analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, who recently said Apple could release as many as three new iPhones in 2018, including a refreshed 5.8-inch iPhone X, a larger 6.5-inch ‘iPhone X Plus’, and a mid-range 6.1-inch LCD-equipped legacy model.

Apple is also believed to have at least one iPad Pro model boasting Face ID in the pipeline for 2018, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.

Today’s report is unfortunately not clear about when LG Innotek might get started developing its proposed facilities; however with iPhone manufacturing season set to kick off in mid-July it’s safe to say they still have plenty of time to wade through the details.

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New iPhone Overheating Incidents Reported in Orlando, Zurich

Apple’s iPhone isn’t known for spontaneously bursting into flames. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t isolated incidents of Apple flagships overheating or even catching fire.

Orlando Teen Burned

A teenager in the Orlando, Florida area recently told local media that she was burned by her iPhone during routine use. The teenager, 17-year-old Tina Pierre, said she was waiting for a text with her iPhone on her stomach when she started feeling pain.

“It was really painful. It was, like, extremely painful,” Pierre told ClickOrlando.com. She added that the iPhone was extremely hot to the touch following the incident.

But Pierre’s complaint isn’t solely levied at Apple’s product, but rather Apple’s alleged response. After the incident, Pierre said she was left with a burn mark the exact size and shape of her iPhone 7 Plus — a scar that only got darker as time went on, and is still visible on her stomach.

When Pierre sent pictures of the injury to Apple, she said they seemed more concerned about the iPhone than her. “They didn’t ask me about my burn,” Pierre said. “They weren’t concerned about it.”

Pierre sent her phone in after Apple staff promised her an upgrade. Despite that, she received a new model of iPhone 7 Plus. More than that, Apple support claimed there that they couldn’t find any defects with the iPhone.

While we don’t know exactly what went wrong with Pierre’s iPhone 7 Plus, we do know that most overheating issues with iPhones — or any smartphones — stem from their lithium-ion batteries. Even when such battery issues don’t cause injuries, they can still be dangerous.

Apple Store Evacuated Due to Smoking Battery

In a separate incident that occurred today, an Apple Store in Zurich was evacuated when an iPhone overheated and started smoking, Reuters reported. Local authorities say the incident took place when an Apple repair worker removed the device’s battery, which promptly overheated and burned his hand.

Apple staff responded quickly, pouring quartz sand over the malfunctioning battery so that the smoke — which had forced more than 50 customers and employees to be evacuated — could be contained and sucked out via ventilation.

Currently, the exact model of the iPhone is unknown. Seven people received medical treatment but did not need to be hospitalized because of the incident.

Other iPhone Battery Incidents

Apple’s flagship smartphones don’t have the fiery reputation of other infamous exploding devices, but iPhone-related fires and explosions do occur from time to time.

In July 2017, a Wisconsin woman and State Farm sued Apple over an iPhone 4s that caused a “damaging fire” in the woman’s home. Earlier than that, an Atlanta man’s iPhone 6 Plus was reported to have burst into flame in December 2015. Even amidst the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, Apple was investigating two separate reports of exploding iPhones.

In all of the incidents, the cause of the overheating seems to have been the iPhone’s standard lithium-ion battery. While normally safe, such batteries are prone to overheating or even catching fire if damaged or charged via a third-party, unregulated charger. But even during routine use, with billions of lithium-ion batteries out in the world powering our everyday devices, accidents are bound to happen to some of them.

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‘Made In India’ iPhone SE 2 Could Sport Glass Back, Wireless Charging

Apple is rumored to be on the verge of releasing a refreshed iPhone SE this year, and a new report suggests that it could borrow an important design element of the company’s current lineup of flagships.

The second-generation iPhone SE could come with a new glass construction and Qi-compatible wireless charging, according to a “very reliable source” cited by Indian tech outlet Tekz24. Notably, that lines up with reports that suggest the “iPhone SE 2” will be closer to an iPhone 8 than an iPhone X in terms of design and features.

In other words, even if the iPhone SE 2 has a glass back and wireless charging, it probably won’t have an “all-screen” design or Face ID.

Tekz24 is one of the first websites to start reporting rumors of an upcoming iPhone SE 2. The outlet previously published a set of specifications supposedly belonging to the second-generation device. Though, at this point, it’s worth noting that the outlet doesn’t have an established track record in the Apple blogosphere.

News of a refreshed iPhone SE began circulating in August 2017, when a Focus Taiwan report claimed that Apple had tapped partner Wistron to begin producing the next-generation 4-inch handset. That report also stated that the iPhone SE 2 would be produced at Wistron’s Bengaluru, India-based plant (where the partner already produces current iPhone SE models) — and could be an India exclusive when it launches initially.

While that fact about the device is still unverified, the existence of an iPhone SE 2 has been backed up by other outlets. In December, China-based Economic Daily News reported that a second-generation iPhone SE could launch in the first half of this year. And, buried within a report on smartphone market growth by research firm TrendForce was a prediction that Apple would release a new iPhone SE in 2018 to target the mid-range phone market.

While an India-exclusive iPhone would be an unprecedented move, it would also line up with Apple’s aggressive attempts to gain a larger foothold in the burgeoning market — which is the second largest in the world after China, and where Apple controls less than 5 percent of the market share. That’s largely due to several factors, like the cost of Apple’s products, the Cupertino tech giant’s failure to get special tax incentives, and even recent import tax hikes.

Similarly, if the iPhone SE 2 is initially an India exclusive that’s also assembled within the bounds of the country, that could lend some credibility to local media rumors about the device. Geographically, it makes sense that Indian outlets would have greater access to sources within Apple’s supply and assembly partners in the country.

iPhone SE 2 Specs

Specification-wise, Tekz24 previously reported that the iPhone SE 2 would sport Apple’s A10 Fusion chip, 2GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera, and a slightly upgraded 1,700mAh battery. Reportedly, it’ll come in 32GB and 128GB configurations.

iPhone SE 2 Release Date

While we’re not sure when the rumored device could launch, Apple first unveiled the iPhone SE in March 2016, before updating its storage capacities in March 2017. That might hint at a March 2018 release date for Apple’s refreshed 4-inch smartphone.

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