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Future iPhones Could Have Apple-Designed Cellular Modems, But Possibly Not Until 2021

Apple is actively building its own cellular modem chip for future iPhones, according to a paywalled report by The Information today. The report, citing a person briefed on the plans, claims that Apple has engineers working on the project close to its headquarters in Northern California. For several months, Apple has also been actively hiring engineers in San Diego, where the company has an office with a growing Wireless Architecture team. Due to the complexity of wireless modems, it could take Apple as long as three years to ship iPhones with them, according to analysts cited in the report. Apple is already rumored to debut its first 5G-enabled iPhone in 2020, with an Intel modem, so the first iPhone with an Apple-designed modem could launch in 2021. The move would align with Apple's increasing shift towards in-house chip designs, including its best-in-class A-series processors in iPhones, S-series processors in Apple Watches, W-series wireless chips in AirPods and select Beats headphones, and T-series coprocessors in some of the latest Macs. The shift wouldn't be all that surprising, as Apple is currently in a high-profile legal battle with its former modem supplier Qualcomm over chip-related licensing fees. Intel has since become the exclusive supplier of modems in the latest iPhones. Qualcomm is based in San Diego, turning the city into a hotbed for wireless engineers, explaining Apple's presence there. One of the executives leading Apple's cellular modem effort is Bernd Adler, who joined the company in 2015 after serving as an executive on Intel's

Apple Said to Have 'Dramatically Reduced' Multi-Billion-Dollar iPhone Repair Fraud in China

Within the past four years, Apple has managed to "dramatically reduce" the rate of iPhone-related repair fraud in its retail stores in China, according to The Information's Wayne Ma. The report is based on interviews with more than a dozen former Apple employees who spoke on condition of anonymity. Image: iFixit In 2013, Apple is said to have discovered a highly sophisticated fraud scheme in which organized thieves would buy or steal iPhones, remove valuable components like the processor or logic board, swap in fake components, and return the "broken" iPhones to receive replacements they could resell.Thieves would stand outside stores with suitcases full of iPhones with some of the original components stripped out and replaced with inferior parts, two of the people said. The fraudsters would hire people to pretend to be customers to return them, each taking a device to stand in line at the Genius Bar, the people said. Once the phones were swapped, the actors would pass the new phones to the fraudsters and get paid for their time, the people said."In the old-school world, this would be a car chop shop, where you would take all the pieces off and sell them," said Kyle Wiens, co-founder and CEO of iFixit. "Now they're doing that with iPhones." The report claims most of the schemes originated in Shenzhen, a southern Chinese city known as a hotbed for criminal organizations because of its proximity to gangs in nearby Hong Kong. Shenzhen is also the largest electronics manufacturing base in the world, home to many Apple suppliers like Foxconn. When the first Apple

Amazon Has Reportedly Gained Edge Over Apple in Deals With Smart Home Builders

Amazon appears to have gained an edge over Apple in deals with smart home builders, according to The Information. The paywalled report claims that an increasing number of home builders have agreed to partnerships with Amazon to build homes with preinstalled Alexa-enabled accessories, rather than HomeKit-based products from Apple. Last year, for example, Amazon reportedly struck a large-scale deal with Lennar, one of the biggest home builders in the United States. Lennar first had a partnership with Apple in 2016, but the company is "prioritizing Amazon now."As part of its deal, Lennar gets access to Amazon's growing army of so-called Amazon experts, the company's in-home service team, to go around to every new homeowner and make sure their smart home is hooked up. Every new Lennar home comes with Echo Dot speakers and Echo Show displays to connect with Alexa, as well as a suite of connected doorbells, locks, light switches and thermostat.A few other builders, such as Arizona-based Meritage Homes and Shea Homes, also said they considered Apple but opted for Amazon."Apple is closed source about what will talk to their system, so we shied away from it," said CR Herro, a vice president with Arizona-based Meritage Homes. "I don't want to restrict what I think the future could be because I have no idea what it will be."The report claims that Apple requiring accessory makers to install an authentication chip for HomeKit compatibility has "significantly limited the number of new devices getting to market," but that is no longer the case, as iOS 11.3 introduced

Former Apple Employees Reflect on Siri's 'Squandered Lead' Over Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

The Information has published an in-depth look at how Siri has transitioned from one of Apple's most promising technologies into a "major problem" for the company. The article includes interviews with a dozen former Apple employees who worked on the various teams responsible for the virtual assistant. The report claims that many of the employees acknowledged for the first time that Apple rushed Siri to be included in the iPhone 4s before the technology was fully ready, resulting in several internal debates over whether to continue patching up the half-baked product or start from scratch.Siri's various teams morphed into an unwieldy apparatus that engaged in petty turf battles and heated arguments over what an ideal version of Siri should be—a quick and accurate information fetcher or a conversant and intuitive assistant capable of complex tasks.The team working on Siri was overseen by Apple's then iOS chief Scott Forstall, but his attention was reportedly divided by other major projects, including the upcoming launch of Apple Maps. As a result, Forstall enlisted Richard Williamson, who was also managing the Apple Maps project, to head up the Siri team. According to the report, several former employees said Williamson made a number of decisions that the rest of the Siri team disagreed with, including a plan to improve the assistant's capabilities only once a year. Williamson, in an emailed response to the report, wrote that it's "completely untrue" that he decided Siri shouldn't be improved continuously.He said decisions concerning "technical leadership of the

Apple News Drives Significant Traffic to Stories, Publishers Can Pitch Articles via Slack

Apple News can yield a flood of traffic for news publishers, with the app accounting for as much as 50 to 60 percent of readership for some stories, according to a paywalled report by Tom Dotan for The Information. Apple News has generated half of Vox.com's daily traffic at times, according to a person familiar with Vox's numbers. An executive at the website of a major TV network said Apple News has accounted for as much as 60% of traffic for some stories.The report claims Apple has an editorial team of about a dozen former journalists, led by veteran Apple executive Roger Rosner, who decide which articles get featured in the Top Stories or Spotlight sections of Apple News, or in the News tab on an iPhone, accessible by swiping left from the first page of the home screen. The editorial team in the United States runs a dedicated Slack channel in which publishers can pitch stories to Apple, which tends to favor big breaking stories, special features, and multi-part series, according to the report. Apple is said to have similar teams working with publishers in Australia and the United Kingdom. The curation process isn't praised by all publishers, as smaller to medium-sized sites say Apple News tends to favor big mainstream outlets, which get featured prominently when users first sign up for Apple News. A bigger issue that publishers have with Apple News is that many don't earn any significant ad revenue from the app.Part of the problem relates to how it sells ad space next to stories. Apple initially used its ad team iAd, but it later outsourced sales to NBC. It

Huawei Boosts Goal of Outselling iPhone as AT&T Agrees to Carry Its Upcoming Flagship

AT&T has tentatively agreed to sell a flagship smartphone made by Chinese company Huawei, according to The Information. The report, citing people familiar with the matter, said the device AT&T carries may resemble Huawei's upcoming Mate 10 smartphone, a new high-end model that the company is rumored to unveil in Europe this October. However, the smartphone could have a different name in the United States.A deal isn’t finalized until the phone clears all the technical hurdles and the companies agree on the commercial terms of the release. Huawei’s engineers are working on hardware and software modifications that are necessary for meeting U.S. telecom standards and AT&T’s requirements, the people said.The partnership would be a major win for Huawei, already the world's third largest smartphone maker by market share. Huawei is the most popular smartphone maker in China, and it has aggressively pushed into Canada and several European countries, but it has considerably less brand awareness in the United States, where it lacks agreements with the big four carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and until now, AT&T. American customers have to resort to retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart, or Amazon to purchase a Huawei smartphone, reducing the brand's visibility in a country where Apple and Samsung reign supreme. Huawei's reputation also suffered when it was banned from selling network equipment in the United States. In 2012, citing a risk to national security, a U.S. congressional report raised concerns that Huawei could build backdoors in their equipment to leak

Apple Eyes Original Content, But Looks to Avoid Expensive Bidding Wars With Netflix and Amazon

Apple has shown a willingness to buy projects that can help promote its services, but its interest in acquiring original content remains tepid, according to The Information. The report claims Apple is not interested in getting into billion-dollar bidding wars over projects with rivals such as Netflix and Amazon. Getty Images Apple bought an unscripted TV series based on James Corden's highly popular "Carpool Karaoke" segment to promote Apple Music, for example, while it is also planning an original TV series called Vital Signs, described as a dark semi-autobiographical drama starring Beats co-founder and Apple executive Dr. Dre. Meanwhile, Apple reportedly met with representatives for comedian Chris Rock earlier this year about a potential video deal, although the discussions did not lead anywhere and Rock ultimately signed a reported $40 million deal with Netflix to deliver two stand-up specials airing in 2017. Apple's lack of original content is seen as a disadvantage for the company, potentially hurting its efforts to expand the Apple TV's market share.Not having a slate of originals hurts Apple’s ability to differentiate its video-streaming offerings against rivals like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon, each of which now make their own shows that get them lots of attention, while also licensing reruns from TV networks. That could stymie Apple’s ability to increase market share for its streaming video device, the Apple TV, and lock more people into the Apple ecosystem.Apple has sent mixed signals to Hollywood about its interest in original programming over the past

Apple Car's Rumored 2020 Launch Target May Have Slipped to 2021

In an in-depth profile about Brian, Kevin, and Michael Sumner, three brothers said to be working on the Apple Car, The Information reports that Apple's rumored 2020 target for launching the much-rumored electric vehicle, codenamed Project Titan, may have slipped to 2021.The group has run into challenges, say people briefed about aspects of Titan along with other reports. Its top executive left in January, a sign that things there weren’t going well. One person who worked briefly with the Titan team was told during their tenure at Apple that the company had been trying to deliver a vehicle by 2020 but the target slipped to 2021.The report refers to the January departure of Apple VP of Product Design Steve Zadesky, who was believed to be leading Apple's electric vehicle development efforts since 2014, as one of multiple challenges that may be pushing back the target date for launching the vehicle. Tesla CEO Elon Musk previously said the so-called Apple Car is unlikely to be ready by 2020, calling it a "missed opportunity." With seemingly another three to five years of research and development ahead, Apple's roadmap could change. Last September, for example, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Apple Car was labeled as a "committed project" with a prospective 2019 shipping date. Tesla, meanwhile, has sold the Model S since 2012 and received some 400,000 pre-orders for its lower-priced Model 3 due in 2017. The bulk of Apple's electric vehicle development is believed to be underway in Sunnyvale, California, a short drive from the company's Cupertino headquarters.

Apple Working on Amazon Echo Competitor, Opening Siri Up to Developers

Apple is actively developing a product that would compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home, reports The Information. Citing a source with direct knowledge of Apple's plans, the report suggests Apple is working on a Siri-based device that would include a speaker and microphone that could be used for features like listening to music, getting news headlines, and more. In addition to developing such a device, Apple is planning to improve Siri by opening the voice assistant up to outside developers. Apple is said to be preparing to release a Siri software development kit that would allow developers to make their apps and their app content accessible through Siri voice commands. Apple plans to require developers to use the tool responsibly. Opening Siri up to third-party developers will go a long way towards expanding the capabilities of Apple's virtual assistant. Right now, Siri only works with a handful of apps like OpenTable and Yelp, and Apple has been hesitant to develop a Siri API and improve Siri's functionality because of privacy concerns. According to The Information, a Siri SDK could be introduced as soon as WWDC, meaning third-party Siri access would be built into iOS 10 and perhaps OS X 10.12, which is also rumored to be gaining Siri support. Both Amazon and Google have developed robust in-home personal assistant devices built around their respective AI platforms, which Apple hopes to compete with. The products are able to perform a wide range of features, from giving weather reports and answering queries to controlling smart home devices like light

iCloud and Siri Teams at Odds as Apple Seeks to Move Cloud Services In-House

Apple's efforts to move its cloud infrastructure in-house for its web services are being slowed by "political infighting" between the company's iCloud and Siri engineering teams, according to The Information. The paywalled report claims that the fighting is holding back Apple from fixing "technical problems that have plagued iCloud and iTunes," while at least one key engineering manager is said to have departed the company over the ongoing conflict.Steve D’Aurora, an engineering manager in a team led by Patrick Gates, resigned last week. That’s raised the possibility that Mr. D’Aurora’s superior, Darren Haas, a “head of cloud engineering,” would leave as well. Both Mr. D’Aurora and Mr. Haas joined Apple through its 2010 acquisition of Siri, the voice-activated assistant on the iPhone.Multiple sources claim that Apple is working on building its own internal cloud infrastructure, known as "Project McQueen" internally, to reduce its dependence on services like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Apple spends an estimated $1 billion or more on cloud services each year. Apple reportedly inked a $400 to $600 million deal with Google last year to "significantly" cut down on its reliance on Amazon Web Services, but its reliance on third-party providers should decrease as it builds or expands new data centers in Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Ireland, and Denmark.The new infrastructure is meant to help improve the reliability of iCloud and Apple’s other apps. The infrastructure work has taken on added significance this year. Apple CEO Tim Cook has

Apple Building Unified Cloud Platform for iCloud, iTunes, Siri and More

Apple is moving forward with plans to build a unified platform for cloud-based web services such as iCloud, iTunes and Siri over the next few years, according to The Information. The new platform is based on Siri, which itself is powered by open source infrastructure software called Mesos on the backend, according to the report.The system will be what’s called an “orchestrated infrastructure” that has the ability, among other things, to run Internet applications inside “containers,” which make it easier to scale the apps and make changes to them on the fly, one of these people says.Apple is reportedly placing more emphasis on open source software in an attempt to attract open source engineers that can help improve its web services, but it remains to be seen how far the company shifts away from its deep culture of secrecy.Apple sometimes requires engineers submitting code to open-source products to do so through a third party rather than let Apple be affiliated with the code. One person who’s been through the process says they felt that submitting code to an open-source project like Mesos or Hadoop is generally “frowned upon” by managers at Apple. But the process has gotten easier over time, people who have participated in the process say.The paywalled report explains how Apple is slowly embracing the open source community and becoming more transparent about its open source projects. It also lists some of the open source technologies that Apple uses, including Hadoop, HBase, Elasticsearch, Reak, Kafka, Azkaban and Voldemort. Bloomberg reported in June that Apple is

Yahoo and Microsoft Court Apple as Google's Safari Search Engine Deal Expires in 2015

Apple renewed its maps and search partnership with Google in 2010, but with that contract reportedly set to end in 2015, both Yahoo and Microsoft are actively vying to be the next default search provider for Apple's Safari products, reports The Information. Both Microsoft and Yahoo have existing relationships with Apple, with Yahoo providing stock data to iOS and Microsoft supplying Siri with Bing search results. Executives from both companies have reportedly already approached Eddy Cue, Apple's Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, about a potential agreement that could see one of them displace Google to become the default search engine for iOS devices and Macs. There is no indication Apple has made any decision which company, if any, will replace Google. Yahoo has approached Apple in the past about expanding their relationship on mobile, although things moved in the opposite direction with iOS 8 as Apple cut out middle-man Yahoo for weather data and instead began sourcing data directly from The Weather Channel. Yahoo has also reportedly been working on a revamp of its mobile search in hopes of landing an agreement with Apple to be the default search provider on iOS, but for now the companies are still in the discussion stages as Apple's deal with Google remains in effect for the time being. Microsoft was said to be in the running for the 2010 deal with its Bing services, but Apple ultimately opted to extend its deal with Google that has seen Apple reportedly receiving in excess of $1 billion per

Apple's NFC Ambitions Extend Beyond Apple Pay to Building Security, Transit Ticketing

Apple is pushing NFC in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus for Apple Pay, but the company may have bigger plans for the wireless technology beyond mobile payments. A report from The Information claims Apple has been in talks with technology providers about using NFC for building security access and public transit ticketing. The Apple representatives have talked to technology providers like HID Global and Cubic, which enable secure access to buildings and transit fare systems, respectively, said people briefed on the discussions. Spokespeople for the companies declined to comment about any discussions with Apple, but executives there discussed how they could integrate their systems with the iPhone. Apple debuted NFC in its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and is using the short-range wireless technology for mobile payments processing.The technology has wide-ranging applications beyond payments, including a replacement for office and hotel security cards, home automation processes and more. Besides the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple has also included an NFC chip in the new iPad Air 2 and Retina iPad Mini 3 to provide secure element of Apple Pay information for in-app purposes on those devices. Future iterations of the device, could however, add antennas and other components to enable NFC functionality for a variety of

Apple Working to Expand Siri's Third-Party App Integration for iWatch

As Apple continues work on its much-rumored iWatch, the company is placing a significant focus on expanding Siri's ability to interface with third-party apps, according to a report from The Information summarized by TechCrunch. With input methods for the iWatch limited due to the device's size, Siri's voice capabilities may be one of the best tools for Apple to leverage, and that means improving Siri's capabilities.The report points out how the Siri of today can’t do things like book a car rental or make a hotel reservation, or use a messaging app other than Messages to send a text. The improvements to Siri would potentially enable those types of things, enabling third-party integrations that don’t require one-to-one business arrangement between Apple and the external company. Current integrations like those with OpenTable and Wolfram Alpha do involve those direct deals, which limits the pace at which new third-party powers can be added to Siri.The report also claims that Apple is working on technology to dynamically adjust what content is being shown on a device's display, offering the example of a running app automatically being shown when the user begins jogging. The technology would obviously be useful for a device such as the iWatch with very limited display size and input capabilities. Apple has been rumored for several years to be working on a smart watch project, with the company reportedly placing a strong focus on biometrics to include health-related data tracking for the iOS