Apple announces ‘Activation Lock’ theft deterrent feature for iOS 7 ahead of gov’t meeting on rising smartphone crime

Ahead of a meeting with government officials later this month to discuss how Apple could prevent increasing smartphone crimes, Apple today introduced a new feature called ‘Activation Lock’ that it says will be “a really powerful theft deterrent” when released later this fall in iOS 7.

We told you earlier this month that government officials in the US were calling Apple, Google and others to a “smartphone summit” later this month on June 13 to discuss the increasing amount of smartphone related crime in New York city and the rest of the country. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon have been pushing smartphone makers to come up with solutions to prevent crime and discourage thefts of devices.

Today, during its WWDC keynote presentation ahead of the meeting later this month, Apple introduced the ‘Activation Lock’ feature that will require an Apple ID and password to reactivate a stolen phone after being remotely erased/wiped by the owner through Apple Find my iPhone feature. The login information will also now be required to turn off Find My iPhone.

If a user’s device is stolen, wiping the device clean will essentially leave the thief with a device that is inoperable without the user’s Apple ID and password (as pictured above): Read more

Government officials call on Apple, Google & others to secure smartphones following increasing thefts

Apple police

After sending a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google, and others questioning if the companies could be doing more to prevent increasing thefts of smartphones, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has now scheduled a face to face meeting with the companies to discuss the issue.

NYDailyNews reports Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon will meet with representatives from Apple, Google, Motorola, Samsung and Microsoft at a June 13 “smartphone summit” in New York.

Schneiderman wants the same thing that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón has been pushing device makers on in recent months– a ‘kill switch’ that would render a device inoperable and discourage thefts of devices:

Letting customers shut down their phones would make them worthless on the black market and reduce so-called “Apple picking” — the fastest-growing street crime in New York City. Schneiderman cited statistics that show a 40% jump in the theft of mobile devices in New York City in 2012.

Back in December, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed thefts of iPhones and iPads were the cause of the increase in the city’s annual crime index and the NYPD’s most recent report showed crimes involving Apple products in the city had increased 40 percent. Read more

Leak causes flood at Fifth Avenue Apple Store, employees blame recent construction

Apple-store-flood

The New York Post reports that the flagship Fifth Avenue Apple Store in Manhattan was flooded following heavy rain in the city this morning due to a leak in the retail store’s roof. The flood apparently began shortly after opening at approximately 8 a.m while around 15 customers were shopping in the store. According to reports from NY Post, employees blamed construction completed on the location last year for the leak: Read more

Apple analysts react to Galaxy S4 launch with a variety of wild insights

Samsung-GalaxyS4-vs-iPhone-5

Samsung officially unveiled its flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone last night at a theatrical, Broadway-style presentation in New York, and analysts are quick to jump in today with opinions on what it means for Apple. AAPL is having a decent morning hitting a high of 442.50 and opinions from analysts seem to be split down the middle regarding whether the S4 has what it takes to cut into Apple’s market share.

Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray doesn’t seem too impressed with the S4 upgrade but noted Samsung’s new S Band is “a quick first pass for Samsung on wearable technology ahead of Apple’s watch. Munster added that he expects Apple to launch its smart watch product by 2014 (via Barron’s):

The Galaxy S4 appears to be largely an incremental update to the S3 including a slightly larger screen (4% larger on diagonal), better camera and processor, and updated software, but largely the same body style and casing. We believe some of the software features are unique, including the tilt to scroll, video pausing based on facial recognition, and hand gesture based interactions, but view these software improvements as minor compared with what Siri was to the iPhone 4S or even Google Now to Android.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek thought the S4 will be “incrementally negative for Apple” but doesn’t view the S4 upgrade as “revolutionary” (via Zdnet): Read more

Movies and TV Shows oddly disappear from Apple TVs for many users

Several 9to5Mac readers, most of which are located in the United Kingdom, reported that movies and TV shows have oddly disappeared from the Apple TV menu. A thread on Apple’s Support forums confirmed many users are now experiencing the issue.

While the problem originally appeared to only affect users located in the U.K., more reports on Twitter, as highlighted in the selection of tweets below, from New York, France, Ireland, and Australia further confirmed missing icons. One user on Apple support forums claimed Apple informed him the icons would be restored soon and that the stores continue to work in the U.S. and Luxembourg:

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Google’s launches Android holiday lineup: LG Nexus 4, Samsung Nexus 10, $299 4G 32GB Nexus 7

Google is making some big product announcements today, despite having to cancel its event due to Hurricane Sandy. Among the announcements: a new Nexus smartphone from LG, a Samsung-built Nexus 10 tablet, and updates to Google’s 7-inch Nexus 7 lineup.

LG Nexus 4: Google is launching the much-rumored LG Nexus 4 on Nov. 13 starting at $299. Much of the specs were confirmed previously, but Google has interestingly decided to not offer an LTE-capable model of the device. It is, however, including a wireless charging dock. T-Mobile is Google’s premier launch partner for the Nexus 4. Full specs on 9to5Google.

Samsung Nexus 10: Clearly, Google’s iPad competitor, its new 10-inch offering, is a Samsung-built tablet that packs in iPad-like specs starting at $399. The Verge said its 10-inch 2,560-by-1,600-pixel resolution (same as 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro) display is “on par with the iPad’s Retina display, with sharp text, excellent color fidelity, and great viewing angles.” Full specs and more here.

Nexus 7: Google has also confirmed today that its 7-inch Nexus 7 lineup is being refreshed. Google’s iPad mini competitor will now start at $199 for 16GB, and it will offer a 32GB model for $249. Those are both Wi-Fi-only, but Google will also offer an HSPA+ 32GB model for $300, $30 less than Apple’s entry-level iPad mini. The 8GB model is gone. That 32GB HSPA+ Nexus 7 is going up the bigger iPad mini that starts at $329.

Head over to 9to5Google.com for more coverage of Google’s leaked product announcements. Oh, and Microsoft is launching Windows Phone 8 as well.

Verizon CFO says unlimited is ‘going by the wayside’, many customers embrace Share Everything

Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo told attendees at a Goldman Sachs investor conference in New York today that unlimited data plans are no longer relevant and the carrier’s Share Everything plan is doing well.

“We are surprised on shared from many different aspects,” said Shammo, as first reported by CNET. “…More people are going to shared than we actually anticipated. And the thing that really surprised us is we have a lot of people coming off unlimited to go to shared.”

Verizon’s Share Everything plan launched in June and allows users to, well, share data with up to 10 devices through a single account. The carrier stopped offering unlimited data to new customers last year, due to growing smartphone usage clogging the carrier’s pipelines; and with the standard now at 4G LTE, Verizon is likely trying to capitalize on every bit of data funneled through its network.

Unlimited data customers are flocking to Share Everything, Shammo suggested, because many of them realize they don’t consume much data. He also noted customers have added more devices than expected.

“Unlimited is just a word, it doesn’t really mean anything,” Shammo contended. “So that whole unlimited thing I think is going by the wayside and they see the benefit of going to the shared. ”

Read more

AT&T denies ‘vacation blackout’ rumors

Reports emerged over the weekend about AT&T forcing its employees into a Sept. 21 to Sept. 30 “Vacation Blackout”.

According to an AT&T sales rep, AT&T staff has been given a vacation blackout from September 21 to September 30, just like Verizon employees. Our source also mentioned that blue carrier employees are undergoing training for an “iconic release.”

“Not true!” we’ve heard. We reached out to AT&T to see what it had to say regarding the above. An AT&T spokesperson told us this morning that there is no company-wide vacation blackout for the end of September.

We also talked to AT&T reps at other stores who implied more people are being put on duty, depending on staffing levels of that particular store, but there is no “blackout.” One New York employee will even sit out the first week of the iPhone launch due to a long-planned vacation.

TechCrunch sourced one rep from a single AT&T store, which may have its own little under-staffed blackout, but, as we heard, the policy is not nationwide.

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Which iPhone carrier has the fastest network in your area? AT&T, Verizon, & Sprint get accurate comparison by city

The argument over which carrier has the fastest network speed in any given location in the United States is still up for debate. Putting network speed comparisons aside, which are often not an accurate representation of speeds, you will receive in your specific area, a new app from startup SwayMarkets aims to provide a more realistic comparison.

The app, CarrierCompare, allows users to test the network speed of their current carrier against the two other major iPhone providers. CNNMoney went hands-on when the app released last month and just posted the user data it obtained that compares major iPhone carriers in multiple locations.

Analyzing user-generated data from Boston, New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, these were the results:

Read more

Sotheby’s to auction 1 of 6 working Apple I’s and rare Steve Jobs memo

Sotheby’s plans to auction two pieces of Apple history on June 15 in New York, including a rare document penned by Steve Jobs while working at Atari and an operational Apple I motherboard expected to fetch up to $180,000 USD. An excerpt from Sotheby’s description for the Apple I lot is below, and it claims less than six Apple I’s in working condition are known to exist:

As the first ready-made personal computer, the Apple I signaled a new age in which computing became accessible to the masses. The interface of circuitry and software that Woz created enabled users to type letters with “a human-typable keyboard instead of a stupid, cryptic front panel with a bunch of lights and switches,” as he explained to the Homebrew Computer Club. Even so, it was sold without a keyboard, monitor, case, or power supply, An exceptionally rare, working example with original Apple cassette interface, operation manuals and a rare BASIC Users’ Manual. It is thought that fewer than 50 Apple I Computers survive, with only 6 known to be in working condition. Read more

Western Digital begins shipment of their Thunderbolt Duo Drives (WDBUPB0040JSL-NESN and WDBUPB0060JSL-NESN)

We first profiled the Western Digital MyBook Thunderbolt Duo at CES in January and noted the extraordinary speed of the drives, especially when daisy chained (above find 780MB/s read, 600+MB/s write). Today, Macrumors notes that Western Digital is making the drives available for $599 (4TB) and $699 (6TB).  While those prices are steep, they fall in line with new Thunderbolt parts across the line.

We’ve reviewed the much slower Firewire/USB Western Digital Studio 6TB drives and came away impressed. Those retail for around $430 currently ($270 less than the Thunderbolt version) but use energy efficient (read: slower) internal drives and slower Firewire 800 connectivity options.

Notably B&H Photo and Video is selling the Western Digital MyBook Thunderbolt Duo already with $50 discounts (6TB – $649, 4TB- $549) and tax only in New York but without solid shipping dates. Read more

Apple acknowledges use of Corning Gorilla Glass on iPhone, means Gorilla Glass 2 likely for iPhone 5

Apple’s relationship with Corning has always remained shrouded in mystery. The relationship started famously when Steve Jobs visited Corning Headquarters in 2006 and told CEO Wendell Weeks not to be afraid to make the stuff.  Corning however never made it into Apple marketing material after that and even isn’t included in Apple’s supplier lists (PDF).

That and Apple’s reliance on Asian parts materials makers had led some to believe that Apple had gone to Asian glass manufacturers for their iPhone production.

In the New York Times’ iEconomy series, Corning is said to have shifted its glass manufacturing to China.

“Our customers are in Taiwan, Korea, Japan and China,” said James B. Flaws, Corning’s vice chairman and chief financial officer. “We could make the glass here, and then ship it by boat, but that takes 35 days. Or, we could ship it by air, but that’s 10 times as expensive. So we build our glass factories next door to assembly factories, and those are overseas.”

However, today, Apple released its US Jobs report which included the following info:

Corning employees in Kentucky and New York who create the majority of the glass for iPhone,..

What’s the takeaway? Read more