Apple said to scale down orders for iPhones

iPhone 6S box

Apple’s component suppliers are bracing for cuts in sales as the iPhone maker has apparently pared down its orders for the phones.

Problems for Chinese iPhone factories were seen in the final two months of last year, when they had some surprisingly idle capacity, at a time when they would have been usually rushing to meet orders from Apple.

Apple, which usually intimates its projections of its requirements to makers in advance, has cut its order forecasts to iPhone suppliers in the past several months, WSJ said, quoting three people familiar with the company’s supply chain.

Apple has decided to trim production in the current quarter because of a pile up of inventory of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus with retailers in markets including China, the U.S., Europe and Japan, according to the Nikkei business daily.

“I think we’re more than likely experiencing some supply chain hiccups and component vendor switching,” said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “I do not believe we are seeing issues with Apple’s competitive standing, and that’s what matters.”

Even Foxconn, a key Apple supplier, appears to have been affected and some workers at its Zhengzhou factory in China were sent on early holiday in December, ahead of the usual new-year holiday season in February, WSJ said, citing a person involved in the supply.

Apple is expected to reduce production of its latest iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models by about 30 percent in the first quarter, although it had initially told component makers to keep production of these models for the quarter at the same level as for the earlier versions iPhone 6 and 6 Plus a year earlier, Nikkei reported. Production is expected to return to normal by the second quarter, it added.

The Cupertino, California, company shipped 48 million phones in the third quarter for a 13.5 percent market share, up from 11.8 percent in the same quarter a year earlier, according to IDC. Most of the smartphone demand and growth is, however, expected to come from low to mid-range handsets, particularly in emerging markets, the research firm said.

Apple to pay a reported $350 million to settle Italian tax dispute

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Apple has reached a settlement with Italian tax authorities that could see the company pay Italy’s government as much as $350 million, according to a report.

The deal comes after the European country launched an investigation into whether the Cupertino, California-based tech giant funneled more than $1 billion in Italian revenue through an Irish subsidiary to lower its tax burden, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Apple’s complicated international tax structure has faced increased scrutiny in recent years. In 2013, a US Senate committee alleged that the company had created “a highly developed tax avoidance system,” with a report claiming that despite earning $22 billion in 2011, Apple’s Irish subsidiary paid just $10 million in taxes. Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook said such congressional attacks were “political crap,” and he blamed a “backwards” tax code “made for the industrial age, not the digital age.”

Apple isn’t the only large tech company with operations in Ireland, which has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world. Google and Microsoft also have a significant presence in the country and have drawn the ire of tax authorities who claim the companies are shifting profits offshore to lower their US and European tax burdens.

Is the iPhone getting a new screen?

Rumors are circulating that Apple, the Cupertino, California-based tech behemoth, is working out deals with LG and Samsung to use a different type of screen technology in the iPhone. The screens would change to organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, which promises better-quality images when compared with liquid crystal display, a standard that’s been used in computers for years. The Electronic Times, a Korean tech publication, wrote about the change, citing unnamed sources.

The move would mark the first substantive change in screen technology for the iPhone since 2010, when Apple released “retina” displays that promised to show so much detail that users wouldn’t be able to distinguish what’s on the screen from a printed image. Despite that change, Apple has relied on LCD technology since the iPhone’s debut in 2007.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment. Neither LG nor Samsung immediately responded to a request for comment. Previous stories from Japan’s Nikkei and othershave also claimed Apple is planning to change its display technology within the next couple of years.

Speculation about the next iPhone’s features is a sport in the technology industry. Publications large and small chase down hints of what might come next, be it a slimmer profile or a different size, or a new feature like wireless charging. There have even been rumors about what Apple will remove, such as a headphone jack.

Sometimes the rumors are correct but Apple ultimately delays the feature to a later iteration of the phone. Other times, reporters pick up on preliminary discussions that Apple is having. And sometimes the rumors are just plain wrong.

When it comes to OLED, though, there’s reason to both believe and distrust these rumors.

Apple has signaled a distaste for OLED displays in the past, for example. Three years ago, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, said he considered the technology “awful.”

“If you ever buy anything online and really want to know what the color is, as many people do, you should really think twice before you depend on the color from an OLED display,” Cook said at the time.

That opinion may have changed however. Since Cook’s statements, many of Apple’s competitors have switched to OLED displays. Even the Apple Watch, released in April, uses the technology.

Quick guide: How to use Apple Pay in Australia

The contactless payment system has been a long time coming, having launched in the United States a year ago.

In order to use Apple Pay in Australia, you will need to be an American Express card holder, which is about 20 per cent of the card market in Australia. Apple is continuing to work with the other card holders but there is no update yet on when Visa and Mastercard holders in Australia will be able to use Apple Pay. Apple Pay will be available for Australians with an Amex card issued directly by American Express — not an American Express card issued through a bank.

When you go to use Apple Pay, this is what you need to know:

• With the latest update to iOS, the Passbook app is now called Wallet. To set up Apple Pay, go to Apple Wallet and hit on the plus symbol. It can use your default iTunes card if it is an American Express card, or you can add a card by using the iPhone camera to take a picture of your card.

• You don’t have to unlock your iPhone when making a purchase with your iPhone. The NFC antenna is at the top on the phone, and you don’t have to touch your iPhone or Apple Watch against the reader. Just place it close to it and the receiver will detect the Apple device. You then need to confirm your identity with Touch ID on your phone.

• You can use an Apple Watch to pay for a purchase, and don’t need to have your iPhone with you. You just need to be wearing your Watch so that it is unlocked. If you’re heading out for a run and want a coffee when you finish, you can pay with a swipe of your Watch. No need to have an internet connection, an iPhone, cash, or your wallet.

• When you register your card to use Apple Pay on your Apple device, it generates an unique code that is not the three-digit security code on the back of your phone or your PIN. It also uses a dynamic security code for each transaction, so if the store’s security is hacked your credit card is still secure.

• If your Apple device is lost or stolen, you can log on to Find my Phone to disable Apple Pay.

• Just like when using a credit card, you don’t need your device to be connected to the internet to use Apple Pay. If you’re travelling with your iPhone and have data turned off, you can still use Apple Pay.

• American Express Card Members in Australia will be able to us Apple Pay at any store where contactless American Express payments are accepted, including: David Jones, Myer, Coles, Woolworths, Target, Bunnings and Shell.

• Apple Pay can also be used for purchases through participating apps. Rather than go to the online check-out, you can hit the Apple Pay button to finish the transaction without needing to put in delivery details which are store in your account.

A pensioner is suing Apple for clearing all of the data from his iPhone 5

Deric White, 68, wants $AU10,500 compensation for the loss of precious snaps from his honeymoon plus 15 years of contacts.

“My life was saved on that phone. I lost my favourite video of a giant tortoise biting my hand on honeymoon in the Seychelles,” he said.

The retired adman got texts saying there was a fault on his iPhone5 and took it to Apple’s store in London’s Regent Street.

Mr White claims staff looked at the handset and said the problem was “sorted” as they returned it — but all his data was gone.

“It was only after staff fiddled around they asked if I’d backed my things up,” he said.

“My wife was in tears and I started crying when I realised what had gone.”

He faces Apple in a London court today and will spend the money on a second honeymoon if he wins.

In court papers Apple said “the claimant has not demonstrated how he suffered any loss.”

Rumours suggest next iPhone will do without headphone port

APPLE’S quest to make the iPhone even thinner may herald the end of the headphone port in the iPhone 7.

It’s the one part of the phone that hasn’t changed for years but it’s currently preventing the iPhone from slimming down.

The often reliable Japanese blog, MacOtakara, reports that Apple is contemplating scrapping the 3.5mm port on its iPhone 7 in favour of the Lightning charging port or an entirely new styled USB-C port. Apple has already played around with USB-C, putting the new port style on its most recent MacBook.

By plugging headphones into this port, phone size could be reduced and music quality improved.

Various new features could also be enabled. By drawing power the new headphones could include an amplifier or they could send more detailed information back to phones such as a request to open specific apps.

Music could also be listened to via Bluetooth.

However, this means that any non-Apple or Apple-licensed headphones will be rendered obsolete with the iPhone 7 unless Apple supplies a traditional 3.5mm to Lightning/USB-C adaptor. There’s also the issue of charging your iPhone while listening to music, which would need a splitter adaptor to work.

Apple’s decision to change the charging port for the iPhone 5 in 2012 angered fans and forced many to purchase adaptors for their docks and speakers.

The iconic EarPods haven’t been updated for four years so are arguably due a redesign.

It is said Apple will release Lightning or USB-C equipped EarPods, which will incorporate a small digital-to-analog converter into the connector.

These would be included in the iPhone 7 package and sold separately for use with other future iOS devices.

Beats, which makes expensive headphones, is also owned by Apple and will no doubt see a dramatic rise in sales if this overhaul goes ahead.

Apple would not be the first smartphone manufacturer to ditch the headphone port, with Chinese giant Oppo removing it for its super skinny R5 and packaging in a micro-USB to 3.5mm headphone jack adaptor.

But of course, a rumour similar to this popped up before the iPhone 6 came out, so take it with a big grain of salt.

Apple is reportedly trialling five iPhone 7 prototypes that each offer radical design changes

APPLE is reportedly trialling at least five different models of the iPhone 7, with variations including a smaller phone, ditching the Lightning port and dual cameras to boost image quality of smartphone snaps.

While old rumours resurfaced yesterday of Apple’s plan to ditch the headphone jack, today’s batch of possible iPhone reconfigurations would mean a lot more changes than just relying more on wireless headphones.

Tech site G for Games today reports that the Cupertino-based technology giant is toying with a swag of radical changes in designing next year’s model of the iPhone.

According to the report, other variations of the prototype iPhone 7 includes one in which the Lightning port is replaced with the slightly larger USB-C, used in the new ultra-portable MacBook, which would allow faster charging and simple transfer between your smartphone and any other device, be it a camera, a tablet, a computer or a portable hard disk.

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IPhone 7 Rumors Have Already Started

For those people who still moan about the pain of switching from the original 30-pin iPhone cable, a change from Lightning to USB-C would give productivity gains but the pain of replacing the network of cables and docks that make up the typical home, office and car.

Another reported prototype is to finally add wireless charging to the iPhone, a feature that is common with other smartphone manufacturers. While you wouldn’t need to waste a few seconds in connecting a cable to your iPhone to charge it, wireless charging involves putting your phone on a physical charging mat which means you are more restricted in where you charge your phone.

One of the most radical reported design changes is to build fingerprint recognition into the display of the iPhone. Combine that with another reported prototype, which adds an extra layer of Force Touch control, and Apple could ditch the home button and make a iPhone that retains the display size but in much smaller size without the bottom bezels.

Another rumoured change is that Apple is considering using dual cameras in its iPhones, with one lens dedicated to image quality and the other on colour information so that the resulting image would in theory have twice the quality.

As with all Apple rumours, they may be nothing more than that although the release cycle of the iPhone suggests the iPhone 7 will have a significant hardware redesign from this year’s iPhone 6S.

How Apple Maps has been a game changer, challenging Google Maps

APPLE Maps quickly became the butt of jokes when it debuted in 2012. It overlooked many towns and businesses and misplaced famous landmarks. It marked New York’s Madison Square Garden arena as park space because of the word “Garden.” The service was a rare blunder for a company known for simple, easy-to-use products.

It’s a different story three years later.

Apple fixed errors as users submitted them. It quietly bought several mapping companies, mostly for their engineers and other talent. This fall, it added transit directions for several major cities, narrowing a major gap with Google. Apple Maps is now used more widely than Google Maps on iPhones.

“They really did a great job in a short amount of time,” said Alex Mackenzie-Torres, a former Google Maps manager who’s now with competing transit app Moovit. “Apple has something that few companies have — simplicity in design mixed with high doses of pragmatism and practicality.”

Apple’s significant investment in fixing Maps underscores how important maps and related services are to tech companies. Location is key to helping phone users find restaurants and shops, discover things to do and just get around. It’s also big business, as app makers tap into the core mapping functions of phones to direct people in helpful ways and sometimes offer them bargains based on where they’re standing.

The quick turnaround also demonstrates how easily companies like Apple can steer people to their own services. Google Maps and various third-party apps offer many features that Apple Maps lacks, yet Apple cleverly turned user inertia to its advantage. Many people use Apple Maps just because it comes with the phone. Even if you’ve taken the trouble to download a competing app, other iPhone services such as Siri and Mail will invariably take you to Apple Maps.

Location location ... the Google Maps-based software on an iPhone shows a view of Grantham in Queensland.

Without the ability to steer users this way, Apple “would not be in the position they are in,” IDC analyst John Jackson said. “Not that they aren’t improving the experience, but this helps the cause.”

Apple says its mapping service is now used more than three times as often as its next leading competitor on iPhones and iPads, with more than 5 billion map-related requests each week. Research firm comScore says Apple has a modest lead over Google on iPhones in the U.S., though comScore measures how many people use a service in a given month rather than how often.

Google still dominates among all US smartphones, though, in part because Apple Maps isn’t available on Google’s Android system, which is more prevalent than iPhones. In October, Google Maps had more than twice as many smartphone users as Apple Maps. Much like Apple, Google benefits as the default on Android.

For years, Google provided the default mapping service on iPhones. That changed as more people relied on turn-by-turn voice navigation with automatic rerouting, a feature Google offered only on Android. Apple built its own service from scratch and knocked Google Maps off the iPhone’s home screen.

Google’s initial forays into voice navigation in 2009 had problems, too, including directing motorists to left turns at no-turn intersections. But by 2012, Google Maps had improved significantly. By then, more people knew how a mapping service ought to work — and Apple’s new offering fell short.

Once a leader ... now Google Maps has some competition.

“I heard so many different horror stories that I was almost hesitant to try it,” said Rick Ostopowicz, an iPhone owner in Catonsville, Maryland. “I remember once, it was taking me on a road that no longer existed.”

CEO Tim Cook apologised and promised that Apple would “keep working non-stop” to deliver the best experience possible. Without much fanfare, the service gradually improved.

“We are fast learners and we are fast at fixing things,” said Greg “Joz” Joswiak, an Apple vice president who oversees product marketing for iPhones and related services. “We learned the maps business incredibly fast.”

Apple now gets data from more than 3,000 sources for business listings, traffic and other information. In adding transit, Apple sent teams to map out subway entrances and signs. That results in more precise walking directions, as stations can stretch for blocks and the centre point used by some services isn’t necessarily the closest. Apple also started sending out vehicles with sensors to map roads, similar to Google’s longstanding practice.

By making Maps a core iPhone feature, Apple made it easier for outside developers to include mapping features in their apps. When you go to Yelp, you can find directions to a business with one tap. When you go to the Starbucks app, you can see all the nearby stores.

On the flip side, the iPhone’s Siri voice assistant leads direction requests straight to Apple Maps, as does tapping on an address in Mail and other apps. With that integration, users like Ostopowicz no longer hesitate. The default behaviour isn’t just a competitive advantage for Apple; it’s a convenience for many users.

Popular choice ... here, the Apple Maps app displays transit directions in San Francisco. Picture: AP

But default settings mean nothing if the experience isn’t good — as it most definitely wasn’t three years ago. Kristi Denton, an iPhone user in Austin, Texas, said that after getting bad directions with Apple Maps long ago, she has gone as far as to copy addresses and paste them into Google to avoid the default Apple service.

Lots of users, though, have returned. And many new iPhone users never experienced Maps at its worst.

Google Maps, of course, has also been improving. Last month, Google started letting motorists store mapping data on their phones so they can look up businesses and directions even when cellular service is spotty. It’s available on Android now and coming to iPhones soon.

Google also has mapped such indoor venues as shopping malls and faraway lands as the Galápagos Islands. Google has better search tools for landmarks and business listings and offers transit maps for more regions than Apple. Google also provides biking directions and options to exclude highways and toll roads from driving directions.

Third-party apps, meanwhile, have their own innovations. Waze — now owned by Google — is a popular app for motorists to share traffic information and avoid jams. Moovit is better than both Google and Apple at factoring in temporary service changes in mass transit, while Citymapper offers suggestions on whether to board the front, middle or back of a train.

Apple says it’s not done improving Maps.

But ultimately, Apple Maps doesn’t need to be the best. It just needs to be good enough that its users won’t look for something else.

Apple’s answer to iPhone battery woes is to add an ugly hump

APPLE has finally heard the complaints that the iPhone battery is just not big enough. But the solution has given Apple fans the hump.

Apple has released its first smart battery case, joining a fleet of third-party accessory makers including Mophie who produce iPhone cases with an extra battery built in.

The iPhone 6/6S Smart Battery Case, which comes in white or charcoal grey, arrived in the Apple store overnight selling for $165.

Unlike most third-party battery cases, Apple’s solution for having a battery boosting case involves soft silicon edges and a big hump right in the middle of the phone.

Several reviewers have used the U word — ugly. And already Apple fans, who are happy to boast about the beauty of most Apple products, are taking to social media to agree.

One review in Endgadget says “The first time I laid eyes on this case I hated it”. That emphasis is in the original, although the reviewer does go on to find some beauty behind his initial repulsion..

Apple says it will boost the phone’s battery life so you get an extra 25 hours of talk, 22 hours of HD video playback and 18 hours of web browsing.

It has some advantages other battery cases do not. The main one is that it still has a Lightning port to charge your phone — most extra battery cases require you to carry a micro USB cable with you. And when your entire world is made up of Lightning cords around your home, car and office, having to remember to pack a non-Apple cable is a pain.

This battery case also, as is the Apple way, just works. That might be a plus or a minus, depending on how you look at it.

Most battery cases come with a button, and the user decides when to kick in that extra power boost. The Apple case starts charging your phone as soon as you put it on.

You can’t control when the power boost kicks in but you can easily observe your power capacity. Unlike with third-party cases, swiping down from the top of your screen will show you the battery level in both your phone and your case.

Having edges that are soft silicon, you can easily slip the case off — again, that’s often something tricky to do with a third-party battery case.

If that are all the positives, then the big negatives is that hump. And the elephant in the room has got everyone talking.

Is this the smart case for you? It depends on whether you like it or lump it.

 

Time’s up: Apple Watch 2 `coming in March’

IF you happened to drop a lazy $24,000 on an Apple Watch, you might want to stop reading. The eight-month old Apple Watch seems to be just a few months away from being outdated.

Mark Gurman, of 9To5Mac, has reported Apple is planning a March event to launch two new Apple products: a second-generation Apple Watch 2 and a smaller iPhone 6C which will go back to the 4-inch (10cm) display.

Gurman is considered the most reliable reporter of Apple leaks, which means this is not just another one of those daily Apple rumours.

The second generation Apple Watch is likely to have some key features many were expecting to see in the first edition, including extra health sensors which will probably work through a smart band.

Other features could include a camera for video calls, sleep tracking and more features for using the Apple Watch when not paired to an iPhone.

While an annual life cycle for an Apple product would not be surprising, it’s perhaps not the news people want to hear if they’re planning to buy an Apple Watch as a gift for Christmas.

The March event seems to be the most likely date for the release of a smaller, cheaper iPhone 6C — a phone targeted at those who don’t like the extra size of the iPhone 6/6S or even bigger iPhone 6/6S Plus.

When it released the iPhone 5C, Apple proved it would not make a cheap iPhone — just a slightly cheaper one.

Again, if an iPhone 6C becomes a reality, it will come with a lower price tag than the bigger iPhones and a few lesser specs, including most likely a 8-megapixel camera.