New report profiles better working conditions in Foxconn’s Apple factories (Video)

In January 2012, The New York Times published a lengthy report covering the problems with Foxconn’s plants in China. The piece caused uproar, and it pushed Apple to perform its own audit in the factories that make its products and work to address the issues the audit found. Close to a year after publishing its first report, the New York Times has followed up with a second piece that found working conditions are getting better. One of the first steps was in March, when top Apple executives met with Foxconn executives to reduce worker hours and increase wages in 2013. This is said to create a ripple effect that will benefit the entire manufacturing industry.

Past wages and hours, changes are also coming about within the plant. According to the New York Times, new safety measures like automatic shut-off devices and protective foam are now in place to protect workers when doing their difficult jobs of assembling various Apple products. The piece told a story of one worker receiving a wooden, sturdy chair more comfortable on her back than the green plastic stool she once used. Apple also tripled the staff at its California headquarters to ensure safe working conditions across the world.

The changes also extend to California, where Apple is based. Apple, the electronics industry’s behemoth, in the last year has tripled its corporate social responsibility staff, has re-evaluated how it works with manufacturers, has asked competitors to help curb excessive overtime in China and has reached out to advocacy groups it once rebuffed.

Earlier this year, CEO Tim Cook spoke a lot about worker safety while changes were underway. “We insist that our manufacturing partners follow Apple’s strict code of conduct, and to make sure they do, the Supplier Responsibility team led more than 200 audits at facilities throughout our supply chain last year,” said Cook in an email. “These audits make sure that working conditions are safe and just, and if a manufacturer won’t live up to our standards, we stop working with them.” Subsequently, Apple issued a statement to the New York Times this week on the recent changes:

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Apple Australia hit with $28.5M in back taxes after questionable use of tax havens

Days after executives from Google, Amazon, and others were grilled by regulators in the United Kingdom over the issue of tax avoidance in Europe, The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that Apple’s Australian arm has been hit with a $28.5 million bill for back taxes in the country:

APPLE AUSTRALIA has been hit with a $28.5 million bill for back taxes, statements lodged with the corporate regulator in April show… News of the Tax Office bill comes as European governments put global technology companies under intense pressure over their complex ownership structures that rely heavily on a network of tax havens… Apple’s Australian arm reaped $4.9 billion in revenue last year through the sale of its computers, iPads and iPhones. The bill takes its total tax tab for the year ending September 24, 2011, to $94.7 million.

Earlier this year, The New York Times profiled how Apple uses tax havens, such as Nevada, Ireland, and Luxembourg, to sidestep taxes in both the United States and Europe. The U.K. isn’t the only country putting pressure on technology multinationals over tax avoidance schemes, SMH also noted the French government requested $252 million USD in back taxes from Amazon, a company that also uses Luxembourg as a tax haven for its Europe operations, earlier this week. Read more

Nokia to release free ‘Here’ maps app for iOS with voice-guided navigation, public transport directions, and offline

While a native Google Maps iOS app has yet to hit the App Store, Nokia said today it plans to release a new free maps for iOS under the “Here” brand in the coming weeks. “Here” is a cross platform effort for mapping applications that the company described as “the first location cloud to deliver the world’s best maps and location experiences across multiple screens and operating systems.”

San Francisco, California – Today Nokia introduced HERE, the first location cloud to deliver the world’s best maps and location experiences across multiple screens and operating systems. With the new brand, HERE, Nokia aims to inspire a new generation of location services and devices that make the mobile experience more personally significant for people everywhere… To further extend its location services, Nokia is launching a maps application for iOS under the HERE brand. 

The new HTML5-based iOS app, also called “Here”, will arrive in the App Store in the coming weeks and feature “offline capabilities, voice-guided walk navigation, and public transport directions.” Read more

NYTimes for iPad, Facebook Messenger, Aperture, Printer Pro for iPhone, FX Photo Studio, more

NYTimes for iPad version 2.5.3: The New York Times has updated its iPad app today with optimizations for the new iPad’s smaller display:

- Optimized for the iPad Mini

Facebook Messenger version 2.02: On top of “other improvements and bug fixes,” Facebook has added the ability to give feedback about its iOS Messenger app from within settings:

What’s New in Version 2.0.2
- Visit your settings to give feedback about the app
- Other improvements and bug fixes

FX Photo Studio version 2.6:

- MacBook Pro Retina display support
- Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion compatibility
- New look
- Overall memory usage and performance improvements
- Color processing improvements
- Enhanced adjustment for all filters
- Bug fixes

Aperture 3.4.3:

-Addresses an issue that could cause a licensed copy of Aperture to prompt for a serial number with each launch

iDisplay Mini: A new iPhone and iPod touch only version of the app that allows you to use your iOS device as a second screen for Mac or PC is out today. Instead of getting the $5 universal app, you can get this iPhone only version for 99 cents.

Shazam version 2.8.0: Read more

Apple’s manufacturing jobs in China comes up in US presidential debates, both candidates give their opinion [Video]

One of the last questions in the debate concerned how to bring Apple’s manufacturing jobs ‘back’ to the United States.

Mitt Romney went first and said China is stealing intellectual property, designs, cheating on currency, hacking into computers, and isn’t playing fair to U.S. workers: “We can compete with anyone in the world as long as the playing field is level.”

Obama went second and said the U.S. doesn’t necessarily want the low-skill, low-wage jobs and education and skills will bring higher-paying jobs home: “There are some jobs that are not going to come back. [...] I want high-wage, high-skill jobs. That’s why we have to invest in advanced manufacturing [...] make sure that we have the best science and research in the world.”

And the President should know: Steve Jobs told Obama in February 2011, according to Walter Isaacson, “If you could educate these [30,000] engineers, we could move more manufacturing plants here.”

The New York Times dived deep on this and probably has better answers than either politician.

[UPDATED with full transcript below]

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Swedish ‘iWatch’ concept features FaceTime, Retina display [Photos]

The New York Times reported in December that a small group of people at Apple were “conceptualizing and even prototyping some wearable devices,” so we posted Federico Ciccarese’s creepy take on a wearable, curved-glass iOS device last week. Now, Swedish designer Anders Kjellberg introduces his iteration of the tech with an “iWatch” concept featuring FaceTime.

The mockup touts a Retina display, an 8-megapixel camera with HD and FaceTime capabilities, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Airplay support, a built-in, rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, 16 GB of storage, accelerometer, proximity and ambient light sensors, and eight customizable wristbands. Oh, and iTunes and apps—of course.

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