Apple will soon let third-party products use its Lightning port, opening up new possibilities for accessories

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Last week at Apple’s yearly briefing for accessory makers in its Made-for-iPhone/iPad (MFi) licensing program, the company unveiled new Lightning connectors and specs for Lightning receptacles that will soon be available for implementation in MFi accessories. The new Lightning receptacle, scheduled to start shipping next year, will allow accessory makers to build new types of accessories that include a port for Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector previously reserved for its own iOS devices (pictured above). Read more

Apple retail chief John Browett previews third retail store in Beijing ahead of weekend opening

We told you a couple weeks back that Apple plans to open its third retail store in Beijing on Oct. 20. The new Wangfujing Street store will open at 9 a.m., but Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail John Browett today gave press in Beijing a preview of the three-story location that happens to be Apple’s biggest retail store in Asia. Browett also confirmed Apple will open another store in Shenzhen.

Below, we get some shots of the new store’s 360-degree Genius Bars, three-story glass staircase, and more (courtesy of M.I.C Gadget): Read more

Apple holding MFi conference November 7 -9 to discuss Lightning guidelines, here’s the event’s program

Earlier this month, iLounge and Macotakara reported that Apple made several changes to its MFi (Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod) policy that tightens control over manufacturers producing accessories. In its report, iLounge included word about a seminar in China where Apple plans discuss its policy change with manufacturers—talking specifically about Apple’s new Lightning technology. Today, thanks to a report by TechCrunch and a picture of the seminar’s program provided to us by a tipster (as seen above), we have learned more about the seminar. The conference will be held in Shenzhen, China from Nov. 7 to Nov. 9 to talk about the new standards.

With the new standards, Apple will have a strict control over the supply of Lightning pins that help power the Lightning connectors that MFi partners could build. Apple will only supply the pins to partners that the company has vetted to make sure its standards are met. Previous teardowns have already shown that what Apple has with its Lightning cables is not ordinary dumb cable technology.

As you can see in the program, Apple has a lot on the docket for those who attend. It will give manufacturers an insight into Apple Retail, how to design Lightning accessories, and the changes within the MFi program. Apple’s engineers will also assist with Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and Bluetooth. Once Apple has approved a company, it will sell them the Lightning pins in volume. According to TechCrunch, the pricing is “very fair when you consider the advance technology.”

Last year, at its MFi program that took place Dec. 7 to Dec. 9, Apple told developers to get busy building next-generation iOS accessories compatible with Airplay and support Bluetooth 4.0. As we now know, Apple has rolled out Bluetooth 4.0 to most of its devices and wants to make Airplay a standard for audio and video consumption.

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Apple could lose China iPad trademark, boasts Chinese govt official as groups enter mediation

Apple’s iPad trademark dispute with cash-strapped display company Proview has continued to drag on despite the Chinese company claiming it was in negotiations with Apple as recent as February. Today, several reports suggested Apple and Proview are now involved in court-moderated mediation with senior officials who are boasting Apple could lose the right to the iPad trademark in China. The mediation would be the first confirmation of settlement talks between the two companies. The Associated Press reports:

Apple Inc. risks losing the right to use the iPad trademark in China, a senior official suggested Tuesday, as a Chinese court was seeking to mediate a settlement between the technology giant and a local company challenging its use of the iPad name… Yan Xiaohong, deputy director of the National Copyright Administration, told reporters in Beijing that the government regards Shenzhen Proview Technology as the rightful owner of the trademark for the popular tablet computers

If Apple and Proview are unable to come to a settlement in the talks, Guangdong High Court in southern China will rule over the case in the months to come. According to Deputy Director of China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce Fu Shuangjian (via The Wall Street Journal), Proview is still the legitimate owner of the iPad trademark in the country:

“Currently, Proview Shenzhen is still the legitimate registered owner of the IPAD trademark,” Mr. Fu said. But he indicated that officials are waiting for the Guangdong court’s final judgment, after which the industry and commerce sector “will deal with the case according to law.”

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Fighting Proview in Shanghai Showdown, Apple highlights iPad’s benefits to China’s economy

An important update as a Shanghai court hearing this morning confronted Shenzhen, China-based LCD display maker Proview and Apple of California, the maker of the widely popular iPad tablet. The high-profile hearing drew more than a hundred reporters. As you know, Proview is dreaming of a multi-billion dollar settlement for rights to the iPad name in China where Apple pushes aggressively with claims it acquired the iPad trademark in 2009 from Proview’s Taiwanese affiliate for about $55,000. Associated Press this morning described a heated exchange between cash-strapped Proview, which recently filed for bankruptcy, and the Silicon Valley giant. At stake: A countrywide import and export ban on the iPad that enjoys a 76 percent share in China.

If enforced, the ban could easily disrupt worldwide iPad availability, because the world’s largest contract manufacturer Foxconn at its plants in the Chinese province of Shenzhen manufactures the tablet. Worse, it could disrupt a future iPad 3 launch allegedly scheduled for March 7 unveiling. So yeah, it is all about money.

Proview representatives presented as court evidence the company’s 2000 iMac-lookalike named IPAD (pictured on the right). The lawyers came down with all guns blazing on Apple, and said: “Apple has no right to sell iPads under that name.” The company’s CEO told reporters “both sides have willingness to negotiate,” and asserted, “both sides will submit their plans before the talks,” because an out-of-court settlement “is quite possible.”

To this, Apple responded:

They have no market, no sales, no customers. They have nothing. The iPad is so popular that it is in short supply. We have to consider the public good.

Reuters followed up with another quote attributed to Apple’s legal team:

Apple has huge sales in China. Its fans line up to buy Apple products. The ban, if executed, would not only hurt Apple sales but it would also hurt China’s national interest.

Explaining Proview has not sold or marketed its IPAD computer system in years while Apple only began selling the iPad tablet in 2010, the company said the fact essentially invalidates Proview’s trademark. Lawyers for Proview cried foul, and claimed any public good achieved through the creation of iPad manufacturing jobs in China and tax revenues should not be confused with trademark infringement:

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ABC teases the upcoming ‘iFactory: Inside Apple’ documentary [Video]


Note: A YouTube version should be up soon

As promised, ABC aired its documentary about Foxconn factories producing Apple products. In an unprecedented move, Apple decided to grant the network’s “Nightline” program full access to its Chinese supply chain, so correspondent Bill Weir traveled to Shenzhen, China to look at “iFactories,” as ABC dubbed them.

Full disclosure: Disney Corporation owns the ABC News network. The fact that the Steve Jobs Trust is Disney’s largest individual shareholder, coupled with Disney CEO Bob Iger now having a seat on Apple’s board of directors, certainly helped win the official approval from Apple. It also raises questions on a possible conflict of interest with this report.

The full “iFactory: Inside Apple” report is scheduled to air on a special edition of “Nightline” due tomorrow, Feb. 21, at 11:35pm ET/PT. A preview will air on “Good Morning America” and “World News with Diane Sawyer.” A long article that accompanies a video teaser, included above for your convenience, offers a grim description of working conditions inside Foxconn plants:

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Apple tells Amazon China to pull iPads over Proview trademark dispute, customs say it’s too popular to be banned

A country-wide import and export ban on Apple’s iPad that ProView is pushing for over an ongoing litigation with the iPad moniker will not be easy to implement, or at least that is what Chinese customs officials told Reuters this morning. Chinese company ProView owns the “iPad” trademark and is petitioning Chinese customs to stop shipments of iPads in and out of the country.

Foxconn manufactures the iPads in Shenzhen, China, and such a ban would disrupt global iPad supply. Another result of the legal battle over the iPad name: At Apple’s request, online shopping websites Amazon China and Suning reportedly removed the iPad until the trademark dispute is resolved. Proview is hoping to extract an estimated $1.5 billion from Apple for the rights to use the iPad moniker in China.

The plan reportedly is not working as expected, because local customs think implementing a country-wide ban on such a successful and globally popular product would be impractical, to say the least. Moreover, customs authorities are unlikely to intervene in the trademark battle, or so the story has it. For its part, Proview insists it started developing a tablet called the iPad in 2000. The company’s boss Yang Long-san confirmed the latest development to the news gathering organization:

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Proview tries to block iPads from coming in or going out of China

Not content with officials yesterday confiscating iPads in Shijiazhuang over an ongoing litigation on the iPad moniker, Taiwanese company Proview Electronics is now looking to put a ban on both iPad imports and exports, according to Reuters. The company is already petitioning Chinese customs to stop shipments of iPads. Proview sued Apple last year over its “I-PAD” trademark and could seek up to $1.5 billion for the name from the Cupertino, Calif.-headquartered gadget powerhouse.

Apple is in an increasingly difficult place here. Considering every iPad is built in China (until Brazil plants go online), a full-blown export ban could disrupt the iPad business on a global scale. Proview’s legal position stems from Chinese laws that seek to prevent the sale of counterfeit goods in the country. The news gathering organization confirmed the development this morning:

A Chinese tech firm claiming to own the “iPad” trademark plans to seek a ban on shipments of Apple Inc’s computer tablets into and out of China, a lawyer for the company, Proview Technology (Shenzhen), said on Tuesday.

Proview also asked the country’s Administration Industry and Commerce to put in effect iPad confiscations in as much as 30 cities. Apple’s position in this dispute remains unchanged as a spokesperson re-iterated the official line:

We bought Proview’s worldwide rights to the iPad trademark in 10 different countries several years ago. Proview refuses to honor their agreement with Apple in China and a Hong Kong court has sided with Apple in this matter.

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Pegatron: Apple hasn’t informed us about forthcoming labor audits

Apple’s contract manufacturer Pegatron Technology of Taiwan is unaware of any forthcoming labor inspections at its Asian plants because its client has not officially tipped them about labor audits, according to Chief Financial Officer Charles Lin tells to Bloomberg. Lin was reacting to yesterday’s announcement by Apple of California that the first audits in cooperation with the Fair Labor Association have started at Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China.

Pegatron Corp., a maker of Apple Inc.’s iPhones, said it hasn’t been informed of any pending inspections of factory work conditions by labor groups, a day after the U.S. company said checks would start this spring. Pegatron is aware of Apple’s corporate social responsibility policies, Charles Lin, chief financial officer of the Taipei-based company, said by telephone today. The client hasn’t informed him about any upcoming audits, Lin said.

Apple previously confirmed that audits at Pegatron and Quanta Computer, the company assembling Mac notebooks, are due this spring. The company said the results of FLA audits will be made available on its website at the end of March. In the wake of the Foxconn scandal, a month ago Apple became the first technology company admitted to the FLA. That announcement followed Apple’s release of 2012 Supplier Responsibility Report that for the first time named 156 companies currently supplying components for Apple products, which left only three percent of suppliers absent from the list.

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Fair Labor Association begins audits of Apple suppliers at Foxconn City

Following the release of Apple’s “2012 Supplier Responsibility Report,” Apple announced it would be the first technology company admitted to the Fair Labor Association. The FLA will “independently assess facilities in Apple’s supply chain,” and then publish its independent findings online. Apple announced through a press release today that the first audits have officially started with FLA President Auret van Heerden and his team beginning inspections at Foxconn City in Shenzhen. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the audits are “unprecedented in the electronics industry”: Read more

Group plans disruptive protest tomorrow at Apple’s Grand Central Store over Foxconn conditions

Consumer groups SumOfUs and Change.org are waging a war over the working conditions at Apple’s (and the rest of the electronics industry’s) main outsourced manufacturer Foxconn. The groups said that over 35,000 people signed their “Stop Worker Abuse” online petition in just 24 hours. Today, the groups announced they would deliver a quarter million petition signatures to Apple.

Furthermore, a protest will be staged tomorrow at 10 a.m. outside Apple’s new Grand Central Terminal retail store and representatives from both SumOfUs and Change.org promised to join the protesters. Change.org’s Mark Shields called abusive working conditions at Foxconn factories “appalling,” adding he was shocked to learn about them.

The two consumer groups are demanding that the iPhone maker release a worker protection strategy for new product releases because these are the instances “when injuries and suicides typically spike because of the incredible pressure to meet quotas timed to releases.” They are also pressuring Apple to publish the results of Fair Labor Association’s audit (to which the company willfully agreed): “Including the NAMES of the suppliers found to have violations and WHAT those violations are, so that there is transparency around the monitoring effort.” The petition (found here) opens with an interesting paragraph:

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NYTimes: Why Apple builds its products in China

The NY Times just published an absolutely fascinating piece on Apple and why it builds almost all of its stuff in China. Go read it.  Clearly some of our politicians could learn a lot from it.

The short of it is that companies like Apple simply cannot manufacture products in the United States.  The cost (though it is cheaper in China) is not the reason, however.  Years ago, the Chinese government subsidized building cities of factories that can hire 3,000 workers to live in a dorm per day —or 8,700 Industrial Engineers in two weeks (it would take 9 months to do this in the U.S.).  Today’s gadgets require thousands of little parts that are all made in the same areas.  This whole global supply chain cannot be moved to the U.S.

The most interesting tale might have been the last minute decision to make the iPhone’s display glass:

In 2007, a little over a month before the iPhone was scheduled to appear in stores, Mr. Jobs beckoned a handful of lieutenants into an office. For weeks, he had been carrying a prototype of the device in his pocket.

Mr. Jobs angrily held up his iPhone, angling it so everyone could see the dozens of tiny scratches marring its plastic screen, according to someone who attended the meeting. He then pulled his keys from his jeans.

People will carry this phone in their pocket, he said. People also carry their keys in their pocket. “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.

 New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

For over two years, the company had been working on a project — code-named Purple 2 — that presented the same questions at every turn: how do you completely reimagine the cellphone? And how do you design it at the highest quality — with an unscratchable screen, for instance — while also ensuring that millions can be manufactured quickly and inexpensively enough to earn a significant profit?

Other notable tidbits: Read more