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Google's Planning a Cheaper Smartphone to Rival iPhone XR

Google is planning to unveil a cheaper smartphone as part of an aggressive effort to draw more users into the Google ecosystem and to better compete with Apple, according to a recent report from Nikkei.

Google is said to be planning to exploit Apple's current pricing issues. Apple suffered poorer iPhone sales than expected during the holiday quarter, and one major factor was the high cost of iPhones around the world.

Google's alleged low-cost smartphone, via Andro News
Google's upcoming smartphone will be priced similarly to Apple's iPhone XR, which costs $749 for the entry-level model in the United States. Google is targeting customers looking for a more affordable smartphone option and customers in emerging markets where higher-priced smartphones don't sell well.

Prior Google smartphones, such as the latest Pixel, have started at higher prices. The 2018 Pixel 3 released in October was priced starting at $799.

Along with a new lower-cost smartphone, Google is planning on hardware that includes new smart speakers, wearables, and web cameras. Google has been planning its hardware push for years and has scooped up hundreds of hardware engineers and supply chain specialists from Apple.

Google wants to use Google-branded hardware to push various Google services, a tactic that has been successful for Apple.

Alleged photos of Google's lower-cost Pixel smartphone surfaced earlier this year, depicting a device that looks a lot like the Pixel 3 but with a plastic shell.

Rumors have suggested the smartphone will feature 1 5.56-inch 2,220 x 1,080 LCD display

$249 iPhone SE Temporarily Back in Stock on Apple's Clearance Site

For those who have been unable to take advantage of the $249 iPhone SE deal on Apple's U.S. clearance site, Apple again has a limited supply of the discounted 4-inch devices.

You can purchase the 32GB iPhone SE in gold for $249 or the 128GB iPhone SE in space gray or silver for $299.

Apple has been offering iPhone SE models on clearance since mid-January, but available stock often sells out quickly. Apple has done several restocks, however, giving those who prefer smaller devices one last chance to purchase a 4-inch iPhone on the cheap.

Apple originally discontinued the iPhone SE in September 2018 when the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR were announced. Apple's iPhone lineup now starts with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus as its entry level devices.

The iPhone SE, first announced in March 2016, was the last 4-inch smartphone that Apple offered, with the 4.7-inch iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models now the smallest that Apple officially sells in retail stores.

With these clearance sales, Apple seems to be getting rid of remaining iPhone SE stock, and it's clear that available supply is dwindling. There are just three iPhone SE models that can be purchased on the site now, while earlier stock updates had more options.

Those who want to get an iPhone SE should do so soon because it's not clear how many more restocks Apple will be

Advertising Legend Behind Apple's Iconic '1984', 'Think Different', and Mac vs. PC Campaigns Retires

The creative mastermind behind some of Apple's most iconic advertising campaigns announced his retirement today.

Lee Clow
Lee Clow, the Global Director of Media Arts at Apple's advertising agency partner TBWA, will move into an advisory role as Chairman Emeritus of TBWA\Media Arts Lab, a division of the agency he founded in 2006 to exclusively serve Apple. His iconic, award-winning career spanned five decades.

Over a 30-plus-year partnership with Apple, Clow worked on some of the company's most famous campaigns, including its "1984" ad for the original Macintosh, "Get a Mac" series of Mac vs. PC ads, "Think Different" slogan after Steve Jobs returned in 1997, and colorful silhouette ads for the iPod and iTunes.

Apple CEO Tim Cook reflected on Clow's legendary career:
During his long partnership with Steve and Apple, Lee told powerful visual stories that elevated new technologies with the passion, creativity and ingenuity that define our own humanity. He helped Apple carry itself through times of challenge, and his work inspired audiences to look beyond the horizon as an exciting future came into view. Lee's body of work over five decades hums with cleverness, warmth and enthusiasm—and there is no doubt that it will inspire and motivate generations of 'Crazy Ones' still to come.
A look back at some of those ads:





TBWA\Media Arts Lab will continue to serve Apple around the world, led by executives Katrien De Bauw and Brent

Apple to Sell Modified iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 in Germany to Skirt Sales Ban

Apple today confirmed rumors that it will start selling modified iPhone models in its German stores to comply with a patent infringement lawsuit Qualcomm won against the company in December.

The California-based company said it had "no choice" but to replace Intel chips in the iPhone models with chips from Qualcomm in order to allow them to be sold again in the country.

"Qualcomm is attempting to use injunctions against our products to try to get Apple to succumb to their extortionist demands. In many cases they are using patents they purchased or that have nothing to do with their cellular technology to harass Apple and other industry players," an Apple spokesperson said.

"To ensure all iPhone models can again be available to customers in Germany, we have no choice but to stop using Intel chips and ship our phones with Qualcomm chips in Germany. Qualcomm is working to eliminate competition by any means they can, harming consumers and stifling industry innovation along the way."
Sources in German retail hinted last week that Apple was working on new versions of the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, and 8 Plus with updated modem hardware that does not violate the injunction levied against it in Germany that resulted in a sales ban on the devices.

Mobile chip supplier Qualcomm sued Apple in Germany alleging that some older iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models violated Qualcomm patents related to so-called "envelope tracking," which helps mobile phones save battery power while sending and receiving wireless signals. The German court sided with Qualcomm and demanded Apple

Apple's Enterprise Developer Program Also Being Used to Distribute Hacked Apps

Misuse of Apple's enterprise developer program certificates continues to make news, with a new report from Reuters outlining how software pirates have been using the program to distribute hacked versions of popular apps like Minecraft, Pokemon Go, Spotify, Angry Birds, and more.

Using so-called enterprise developer certificates, these pirate operations are providing modified versions of popular apps to consumers, enabling them to stream music without ads and to circumvent fees and rules in games, depriving Apple and legitimate app makers of revenue.
The software pirates in turn make money by charging some users annual subscription fees for "VIP" versions of their hacked apps that are "more stable than the free versions."

After being alerted by Reuters to these developer accounts being used to distribute hacked apps, Apple removed a number of them, but more have since sprung up to take their place.

Revelations regarding abuse of Apple's enterprise developer program surfaced late last month, led by word that Facebook and Google were using the program to distribute market research apps to users that were capable of tracking all of their online activity in exchange for rewards.

Apple briefly revoked enterprise certificates for both companies, which had the side effect of temporarily disabling Facebook's and Google's internal apps including custom testing versions of their own public apps as well as private internal apps for corporate use such as transportation and food.

And just yesterday, additional abuse of Apple's enterprise program came to light in the form

Magazine Publishers Support Apple's 50% Split for Paid Apple News Service

Apple is set to launch an Apple News service that will provide access to paywalled news content and magazines for one $9.99 monthly fee in March, but the company is still working to establish deals with newspapers.

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal said that Apple was having trouble convincing some major news publications like the Washington Post and The New York Times to sign up for the service, due to Apple wanting a 50 percent revenue split.

Apple would keep 50 percent of all subscription revenue and the other half of the revenue would be split among publishers "according to the amount of time users spend engaged with their articles."

Compared to Apple's 70/30 App Store split and the more than 70 percent of revenue that goes to Apple Music artists, the 50/50 split sounds stingy, but Recode today spoke with industry insiders and provided some insight into why Apple settled on that number.

As it turns out, there are many magazine publishers already on board with the 50/50 revenue agreement, with most convinced that Apple will get millions of people to subscribe to the new service, providing a lot of revenue to publishers despite the dramatic split. From Re/code:
And some publishers are happy to do it, because they think Apple will sign up many millions of people to the new service. And they'd rather have a smaller percentage of a bigger number than a bigger chunk of a smaller number.

In the words of a publishing executive who is optimistic about Apple's plans: "It's the absolute dollars paid out that matters, not the percentage."
Magazine

Apple to Invite Hollywood Stars to TV Service Launch on March 25 [Updated]

Apple is planning to unveil both its news service and its TV streaming service at its March 25 event, reports Bloomberg, and celebrities will be in attendance.

Apple's plans for a March 25 event were revealed yesterday, but at the time, Apple was only known to be unveiling an upcoming news subscription service in Apple News. The rumored TV service that's in the works will also reportedly be included.

Hollywood stars such as Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner, and JJ Abrams are set to attend the event, which will be held at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. All of these actresses are starring in television shows that Apple has purchased, and JJ Abrams is directing one of them.

Apple's upcoming video service is said to be similar to Amazon's Prime video option and Netflix's service. It will include TV shows and movies acquired by or funded by Apple, and Apple has more than two dozen original television shows in the works. An actual paid subscription service will launch by the summer.

There is some confusion over Apple's streaming TV plans. While Bloomberg's report suggests Apple's content will be delivered via paid streaming service, other rumors have indicated that Apple plans to provide at least some of its original content to Apple device owners for free.

These other rumors have also suggested that Apple will be teaming up with content providers like Showtime to allow Apple owners to sign up for add-on services like Showtime premium through its TV app, where the upcoming streaming service will

Apple's Self-Driving Car Performance May Not Be So Bad After All

Apple's preliminary disengagement data for its self-driving car project surfaced yesterday pointing towards a high number of disengagements, and today, the DMV has shared the full disengagement reports from the company, providing more insight into Apple's autonomous car testing.

A disengagement report tracks the number of times an autonomous vehicle disengages and gives control back to a safety driver or the number of times the safety driver in the vehicle interferes.

Yesterday's information suggested Apple had the worst rank when it came to disengagements, but Apple has now provided details [PDF] explaining its disengagement reporting procedures and some changes that were made mid-year.

For the period between April 2017 and June 2018, Apple vehicles drove 24,604 miles autonomously and experienced 40,198 manual takeovers and 36,359 software disengagements, a number that is comparatively high based on disengagement reports from other companies.

As of July 2018, however, Apple stopped reporting its total number of disengagements and instead began focusing on "Important Disengagements," aka disengagements that might have resulted in a safety-related event (aka accident) or a violation of the rules of the road.

Using this metric, Apple vehicles have driven 56,135 miles since July 2018, with only 28 "Important Disengagements" reported. Two of these "Important Disengagements" were indeed minor collisions that weren't the fault of Apple's vehicles. One accident took place in August 2018 and the other was in October 2018.

Under Apple’s revised reporting

Apple Aiming to Launch New Streaming Video Service in April or May

Apple is planning to launch its rumored streaming television service in April or May, but some cable content providers won't be participating, reports CNBC.

Recent rumors have suggested that along with Apple's own original content, which will be provided to Apple users for free, the service will allow Apple customers to subscribe to additional add-on subscription services on top of Apple's own offering. Customers will be able to sign up for existing digital services like Showtime and watch that content within the TV app, so long as those services are partnered with Apple.

According to CNBC, as Apple prepares to launch the service, some content providers are still not on board. HBO may not be participating because of disagreements over data sharing and revenue splits, for example, and Hulu and Netflix are not expected to participate.

Starz, Showtime, and Viacom are all expected to offer subscription streaming services through Apple's platform, though, and HBO may also join up if the disagreements can be settled.

Apple is requesting a 30 percent cut on every subscription that originates from its TV service, higher than the 15 percent cut that Apple takes when customers sign up for services like Netflix through the App Store.

The April or May target launch date is in line with past details from The Information, which suggested Apple was telling content partners to be prepared for a launch by mid-April.

Apple has more than two dozen original television shows and movies in the works for its streaming service, which rumors have suggested will be available in

SEC Charges Former Apple Lawyer Gene Levoff With Insider Trading [Updated]

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Apple's former vice president of corporate law Gene Levoff with insider trading, according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for New Jersey on Wednesday.

The complaint alleges that Levoff had access to Apple's earnings results before they were publicly announced and used this information to buy Apple shares in advance of better-than-expected earnings results and to sell shares ahead of weaker-than-expected earnings results between 2011 and 2016.

Through his illegal insider trading in 2015-2016, the complaint alleges that Levoff profited and avoided losses of approximately $382,000:
For example, in July 2015 Levoff received material nonpublic financial data that showed Apple would miss analysts' third quarter estimates for iPhone unit sales. Between July 17 and the public release of Apple's quarterly earnings information on July 21, Levoff sold approximately $10 million dollars of Apple stock – virtually all of his Apple holdings – from his personal brokerage accounts. Apple's stock dropped more than four percent when it publicly disclosed its quarterly financial data.
Levoff also served on Apple's Disclosure Committee from September 2008 to July 2018. In this position, he was ironically responsible for ensuring that other Apple employees were compliant with Apple's insider trading policies, including enforcement of "blackout periods" around the time of Apple's earnings reports.

Levoff was also tasked with signing off on some Apple acquisitions in his role. He was terminated in September 2018,

Tim Cook Named to President Trump's American Workforce Policy Advisory Board

The U.S. Department of Commerce today announced the 25 members of the Trump administration's new American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.

The advisory board's recommendations will help guide the National Council for the American Worker's efforts to establish a strategy to ensure that American students and workers have access to "affordable, relevant, and innovative education and job training that will equip them to compete and win in the global economy."

The board, co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, is expected to help address a "skills crisis" due to the rapidly increasing use of technology, automation, and artificial intelligence that is shaping many industries across the United States.

The full list of members:
  • Jay Box, President, Kentucky Community and Technical College System
  • Walter Bumphus, President & CEO, American Association of Community Colleges
  • Jim Clark, President & CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  • Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
  • Tom Donohue, CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Juanita Duggan, President & CEO, National Federation for Independent Business
  • Elizabeth Goettl, President & CEO, Cristo Rey Network
  • Marillyn Hewson, Chairman, President, & CEO, Lockheed Martin
  • Eric Holcomb, Governor, Indiana
  • Barbara Humpton, CEO, Siemens USA
  • Al Kelly, CEO, Visa
  • Vi Lyles, Mayor, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Bill McDermott, CEO, SAP America
  • Sean McGarvey, President, North America’s Building and Trades Unions
  • Doug McMillon, President & CEO, Walmart
  • Cra

Apple Tweaks British and Australian Speaking Voices for Siri on HomePod

Over the past 24 hours, we've seen a handful of reports talking about a new update to the speaking voice of Siri on HomePod in a few regions. These reports are mostly located in the United Kingdom and Australia, and mention the British (Male and Female) and Australian (Male and Female) speaking voices for the assistant, specifically on Apple's HomePod smart speaker.

The change appears to be very subtle. MacRumors readers described the Australian Female and British Male voices as "more natural" and "much clearer," and similar reports have emerged about other voices. Although there are many different descriptions for each voice, the consensus appears to be that the tweaks make Siri sound more human-like.

HomePod users can choose any Siri voice no matter the region they are located in, but as of now the vast majority of these reports appear to be located in the same regions as the voice they represent. This may be the beginning of a wider rollout, but that's still unclear at this point.

Twitter user @callumjcoe recorded the difference between the current iteration of the Australian Female voice (on an iPad) and the updated voice (on HomePod). Of course, distortion and muddled sound quality from a recording don't provide a perfect example, but there is a slight change between the two heard in the video, which is likely much more pronounced in person.


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