Apple removes language from Transparency Reports signaling new government requests for data

Tim Cook

Just as Apple published a new letter from Tim Cook and an update on privacy and security policies, a new report points to evidence the company has recently received new government demands for user data under the Patriot Act. GigaOM reports that language previously included in Apple’s Transparency Reports noting the company had “never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act” has since been removed. That could signal, according to the report, Apple’s involvement with controversial National Security Agency programs that demand data from companies: Read more

Sprint announces revamped family data plans with double data, individual plans coming soon

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 6.43.20 PM

Sprint has unveiled its newest family data plans in an attempt to win back customers that have fled to rivals AT&T and Verizon. The new plans offer twice as much data as the competition at about the same prices. It’s the latest move by the floundering carrier following the less-than-stellar reception of its recently-announced “Framily” plans.

The new plans allow up to ten lines with a shared data pool of 20 GB—paired an additional 2 GB per device as part of a limited-time offer—for a grand total of up to 40 GB of shared data through 2015. A pricing chart (below) breaks down how all of the charges in the new plans work, including an additional $10 per tablet and shared data packs of up to 60 GB.

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Apple releases promised diversity data: 55% white in US, 7 out of 10 male

Apple-diversity-01

Following Apple CEO Tim Cook’s announcement last month that the company would soon begin providing diversity data, today the company is releasing its first report. While disclosing numbers on the gender and ethnicity of its employees, CEO Tim Cook has also published a letter alongside the report on the company’s website (full version below).

In the letter, Cook highlights some of the progress the company has made in recent years, but also notes that he’s “not satisfied with the numbers” and that Apple plans to do more to improve them.  Read more

FreedomPop brings its free voice, text & data plans to tablets including a $319 iPad mini

 

FreedomPop, the carrier offering free and cheap data plans on Sprint’s network, today announced that it’s bringing its free voice, data, and text plans to tablet users starting with the iPad mini and Samsung Tab 3. Since LTE iPads only support data over their cellular connection, the carrier provides iPad users with Apple headsets with mics for making calls and an app that routes calls/texts through its own VoIP platform.

While there are competitors like Skype that enable VoIP calling on iPads already, FreedomPop has a couple things going for it. The company’s CEO Stephen Stokols notes that “unlike some apps, we actually provision a new unique phone number and enable voice mail, number porting, etc, on it” …  Read more

iOS 7 How-to: Make FaceTime Audio calls and check how much data they use

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 11.14.50 AM

New in iOS 7 is the ability to make FaceTime Audio calls. FaceTime Audio works internationally and works on a Wi-fi network, or on a cellular connection. Using Facetime Audio sounds nicer than actually using the iPhone to make calls. FaceTime Audio sounds deep, and closer to the actual sound of the voice. Another benefit of using FaceTime Audio is that it is associated with your Apple ID and phone number and is built right into the core operating system. For example, while you are texting someone, and you want to make a FaceTime Audio call, you can press the Contact button in blue in the upper right hand corner:

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Developer claims Apple is throttling iPhone/iPad data speeds on AT&T, Sprint, & Verizon (updated)

Update: a person in the know has pointed out a few problems with Brown’s post:

  1. It was taken down and is currently down.
  2. If you look at one of the lines of Apple’s code that he uses to allege throttling, it doesn’t even have anything to do with throttling internet speed. It’s just the term, used to talk about how often a phone should ping the network when it doesn’t encounter a signal, or something like that.
  3. AnandTech posted a lengthy article explaining why it just isn’t true.

test-drive-t-mobile

Joseph Brown, the developer behind the hacked carrier updates floating around for AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile, just posted a lengthy blog post detailing how he claims “Apple limits devices to even out” the networks of its carrier partners. Specifically, Brown says that Apple is limiting the iPhone 5 to Category 10 (14.4Mbps) HSDPA despite the device’s support for category 24 (42.2Mbps) DC-HSDPA+ and the AT&T network supporting up to Category 14 (21.1Mbps) HSDPA+:

Here we can see what is quite obvious to, really, anyone at this point from being jerked around so much by carriers. Yes folks, this is throttling coding. When we made the AT&T Hacked Carrier Update, this was the first line of coding to be scrapped when the project started. Immediately, through my testing on an AT&T iPhone 5 and iPad 4th generation, there were significant and noticeable results. There is no argueing or disputing that this is clear evidence you are purposely, 24/7, being throttled, even if you haven’t used more data than your authorized to use or that you’ve purchased with your hard earned money. AT&T users, do you think this is fair?

The theory is that Apple limits the capabilities of the device in order to combat the large amount of data/bandwidth iOS device users consume and ease congestion on carrier networks. Brown found signs of throttling data speeds for Verizon and Sprint too. The only carrier that is apparently not limiting the iPhone 5′s capabilities is T-Mobile.

Brown also says “Apple has band preferences set for T-Mobile and AT&T causing signal issues” that could be easily fixed.

Here’s what Brown found in his analysis of the other carriers: Read more

German court rules Apple sharing customer data violates privacy laws

location-based-services

From Apple’s Privacy Policy

Bloomberg reports that the Berlin Regional Court in Germany has told Apple to change its policies for managing customer’s data on its website after ruling that Apple’s terms for data use go against German laws. According to a statement posted by a German consumer group Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VSBV), the courts have ruled that Apple cannot request “global consent” for use of a customer’s data” without informing the user of where and how the data will be used. It will also no longer be able to use German users’ data to “promote location-based services and products” or deliver the data to third-parties for advertising purposes:  Read more

Intel announces 2014 Thunderbolt update with 4K support; opens door for Retina iMacs?

Retina iMac mockup via MacSpoilers

Retina iMac mockup via MacSpoilers

Today, Intel announced a new version of its Thunderbolt technology that will ship with devices in 2014. The new Thunderbolt technology supports up to 20Gbps throughput, which is up from the 10 Gbps supported by the current version of Thunderbolt.

Notably, the new technology supports 4K resolutions, which could open the door for even higher-resolution Mac displays. Perhaps, this is the technology that Apple needs to work with in order to begin a Retina display rollout for its all-in-one desktop computer, the iMac, or even Mac Pro compatible Thunderbolt displays.

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New iPad users blowing by their monthly plan in hours thanks to LTE

While it is no secret that LTE devices are capable of burning through data quicker than their 3G counterparts burn, several reports claim many new iPad users are concerned about how quickly they are reaching their data cap. In some cases, users reported reaching their 2GB monthly cap within hours of just streaming video. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journalthatprofiled several disgruntled AT&T and Verizon customers, Apple’s “promise of superfast wireless connections collides with the reality of what those services cost.”

Doing some math that any consumer could: LTE speeds often hit 2 Megabytes/second. You would hit 2GB in 1000 seconds—or under 17 minutes.

One man profiled in the story, Brandon Wells, went through 2GB of his Verizon plan streaming March Madness college basketball games to his new iPad. WSJreports:

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Yes, the new Verizon iPad works on AT&T 3G networks

With the introduction of the new LTE iPad on Verizon and AT&T, many were wondering whether AT&T’s 3G network would work on a new Verizon iPad. According to a poster on the Mac Rumors forums, popping an AT&T SIM card into the Verizon iPad’s micro-SIM slot appears to work fine as long as you adjust the AT&T APN carrier settings. Of course, this does not mean you will be able to use AT&T’s LTE network on the Verizon iPad. However, if you already have an AT&T SIM for the iPhone, this is an alternative for data when LTE is not an option.
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FTC criticizes poor privacy disclosures in apps for kids, says industry must improve standards

Let’s take a quick break from the hordes of Mountain Lion OSX news to talk about privacy issues within apps…again. However, this time the spotlight is on children’s apps in both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Marketplace.

The Federal Trade Commission released a report today (PDF) based on a survey that found apps for children do not fully disclose the types of data collected nor do they adequately educate parents about data harvesting.

The consumer protection agency scrutinized privacy policies, recommended each developer give comprehensible disclosures on how data is accrued and shared, including whether children’s data is linked to social network apps, and it even mentioned conducting a six-month review on disclosures and using enforcement if needed. The report focused on the two main app stores themselves and requested more be done to tell children and their parents about privacy concerns…

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AT&T introducing new data plans for phones and tablets Jan. 22

AT&T announced it would introduce new data plans for phones and tablets on Sunday, Jan. 22.  There will be three phone plans: $20 for 300MB, $30 for 3GB, and $50 for 5GB with tethering. While the two tablet plans will be: $30 for 3GB and $50 for 5GB.

In the past, AT&T made available $15 for 200MB, $25 for 2GB, or $45 for 4GB with tethering. Each plan earned more data and a $5 price hike. AT&T will charge $10 for each 1GB roll over. AT&T explained the sudden change:

“Customers are using more data than ever before,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets. “Our new plans are driven by this increasing demand in a highly competitive environment, and continue to deliver a great value to customers, especially as we continue our 4G LTE deployment.”

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