Next iPhone could feature an ultra-wide lens

A new report from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo obtained by 9to5mac details the cameras in the next-generation iPhones. The report confirms previous rumors — the successors of the iPhone XS and XS Max will have three camera sensors on the back of the device.

In addition to the main camera and the 2x camera, Apple could add an ultra-wide 12-megapixel lens. Many Android phones already feature an ultra-wide lens, so it makes sense that Apple is giving you more flexibility by adding a third camera.

Kuo thinks Apple will use a special coating on the camera bump to hide the lenses. It’s true that pointing three cameras at someone is starting to look suspicious.

OnLeaks and Digit shared the following render (without any special coating) a few months ago:

The iPhone XR update will feature two cameras instead of one. I bet Apple will add a 2x camera.

On the front of the device, Apple could be planning a big upgrade for the selfie camera. The company could swap the existing camera sensor with 4 layers of glass with a camera sensor that has 5 layers of glass.

Apple could also be giving the camera a resolution bump, jumping from 7 megapixels to 12 megapixels. All three models should get the new selfie camera.

Apple expands global recycling programs, announces new Material Recovery Lab in Austin

Apple announced today a further investment in its recycling programs and related e-waste efforts, which includes an expansion of its recycling program for consumers and the announcement of a new, 9,000-square-foot Material Recovery Lab based in Austin, Texas, focused on discovering future recycling processes. The company also reported the success of its existing efforts around recycling and refurbishing older Apple devices, and keeping electronic waste from landfills.

The expansion of the recycling program will quadruple the number of locations in the U.S. where consumers can send their iPhones to be disassembled by Daisy, the recycling robot Apple introduced last year — also just ahead of Earth Day.

The robot was developed in-house by Apple engineers, and is able to disassemble different types of iPhone models at a rate of 200 iPhones per hour.

Daisy can now disassemble and recycle used iPhones returned to Best Buy stores in the U.S. and KPN retailers in the Netherlands. Customers can also send in iPhones for recycling through the Apple Store or through Apple’s Trade In program online.

When Daisy was first introduced, it could disassemble 9 different iPhone models. Now, it can handle 15. This allows Apple to recover parts for re-use. That includes iPhone batteries, which are now sent back upstream in Apple’s supply chain where they’re combined with scrap, allowing cobalt to be recovered for the first time.

Apple also uses 100 percent recycled tin in the main logic boards of 11 different products, and notes its aluminum alloy made from 100 percent recycled aluminum reduced the carbon footprint of the new MacBook Air and Mac mini by nearly half.

Apple says Daisy can disassemble 1.2 million devices per year, and it has received nearly a million devices through its various programs.

It also in 2018 refurbished over 7.8 million Apple devices for resale, and diverted over 48,000 metric tons of electronic waste from landfills.

This year, aluminum recovered through Apple’s Trade In program will be remelted into the enclosures for the MacBook Air.

The company announced today another significant investment in its recycling efforts with the opening of a Material Recovery Lab in Austin, which will work with Apple engineers and academia on coming up with more solutions to recycling industry challenges. The lab also houses large equipment, typically found at e-waste facilities, to aid in this research. (See above)

“Advanced recycling must become an important part of the electronics supply chain, and Apple is pioneering a new path to help push our industry forward,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, in a statement. “We work hard to design products that our customers can rely on for a long time. When it comes time to recycle them, we hope that the convenience and benefit of our programs will encourage everyone to bring in their old devices.”

Along with the news around recycling efforts, Apple also released its 2019 Environment report, which contains additional information on the company’s climate change solutions.

On Earth Day (April 22), Apple will host environmentally themed sessions at its stores and feature environmentally conscious apps and games on its App Store collections, as well.

iOS 13 could feature dark mode and interface updates

According to a report from 9to5mac’s Guilherme Rambo, the next major version of iOS for the iPhone and iPad will feature many new features, such as universal dark mode, new gestures, visual changes for the volume popup and more.

Dark mode should work more or less like dark mode on macOS Mojave. You’ll be able to turn on a system-wide option in Settings. Apps that support it will automatically switch to dark mode the next time you launch them. Let’s hope that third-party developers will support that feature. Otherwise, it would be a bit useless if Facebook, Instagram, Gmail or Amazon still feature blindingly white backgrounds.

The other big change is that you’ll be able to open multiple windows of the same app on the iPad. You can already open two Safari tabs side by side, but it sounds like Apple plans to expand that feature beyond Safari with a card metaphor. Each window will be represented as a card that you can move, stack or dismiss.

Other iOS 13 features sound like minor improvements that should make iOS less frustrating. And it starts with new gestures. Instead of shaking your device to undo an action, users will be able to swipe with three fingers on the virtual keyboard to undo and redo a text insertion.

Similarly, Apple could be working on a new way to select multiple items in a table view or grid view. You could just drag a rectangle around multiple items to select them. Once again, Apple is reusing a classic macOS feature on iOS.

Some apps will receive updates, such as Mail and Reminders. The default email client will sort your emails in multiple categories (marketing, travel, etc.) just like in Gmail.

Finally, that annoying volume popup could be on the way out. Apple could replace that popup with a more subtle volume indicator.

Overall, the most exciting change is probably the ability to launch multiple windows of the same app. It’ll be interesting to see how Apple plans to implement that feature and what you’ll be able to do with that. Moving away from the traditional “one app = one document” metaphor could open up a lot of different workflows.

New iPhones sport three-camera arrays in latest rumors

One thing we count on for sure in this unpredictable world of ours: the will, indeed, be new iPhones. Another thing that’s looking — at the very least — pretty likely is the inclusion of a three-camera array. A number of different rumors from different sources are currently circling around the addition of a third lens for 2019 models.

New reports from “reliable sources” in the Chinese supply chain (by way of 9 to 5 Mac by way of Macotakara, a Japanese Apple blog) have the three-camera system popping on on models with 6.1 inch and 6.5 inch OLED screens, marking another real estate for the base level model of the flagship.

The larger camera configuration (which may well induce minor trypophobia among some users) is said to be a driving factor in the decision to increase screen size). We’re still very much in the “grain of salt” portion of the Apple rumor cycle, through as 9 to 5 notes, the source has had a solid track record with these sorts of rumors before.

All of that, one assumes, would also come with a price increase for the handset, which has been pushing the $1,000 mark for a couple of years now. And all of this in a year when the company’s still not quite ready to pull the trigger on 5G. All signs currently point to a 2020 date on that one.

iPhones get a price drop in China

Apple this week lowered the price on a number key hardware lines in China, including AirPods, Macs, iPads and, most notably, the iPhone. The move, noted by CNBC, is believed to be the direct results of a three-percent tax cut that took effect in the country yesterday.

In many cases, however, the impacted product have dropped by even more, including a 500 yuan ($74) price cut to the iPhone XS, marking a nearly six-percent drop for the company’s latest flagship.

Along with an adjustment for tax rates, the drop is likely also due, in part, to a lagging demand for products like the iPhone in the world’s largest smartphone market. Early this year, Apple blamed lower than expected earnings on weak demand for the iPhone in China.

The handset’s revenue dropped 15-percent year-over-year in Q1, with China taking center stage. Among the factors are slowed economic growth in the country and flagging global smartphone sales, as users upgrade their devices less frequently.

Apple is also facing increased global competition from Chinese manufacturers like Huawei, which has quickly been rising the sales ranks to be a top competitor alongside the iPhone and Samsung devices.

Future iPhones could feature two-way wireless charging and bigger batteries

According to a new report from reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and shared by MacRumors, the next-generation iPhone should likely feature two-way wireless charging. This feature would let you charge other devices using your iPhone.

Other flagship smartphones already feature two-way wireless charging, such as the Samsung Galaxy S10, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Huawei P30 Pro.

Samsung released new Bluetooth earbuds to justify such a feature. Thanks to PowerShare, you can place the Galaxy Buds case on the back of your Samsung Galaxy S10 to charge them. But you can also use it with another phone or another accessory — it should work with any Qi-compatible device.

And now that Apple sells AirPods with a wireless charging case, chances are Apple will also showcase the new case sitting on top of the next iPhone.

According to Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple could include the new feature across the lineup. Updates to the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR should get two-way wireless charging.

Apple could also increase battery sizes to mitigate the impact of this new feature. The next iPhone XS could receive a 20 to 25 percent bump, the next iPhone XS Max could get a 10 to 15 percent bump. The iPhone XR, which already has the longest battery life, should more or less keep the same battery.

New book looks inside Apple’s legal fight with the FBI

A new biography of Apple chief executive Tim Cook out this month describes the moment — and the deliberations — after the FBI issued an unprecedented legal order demanding Apple undermines the security of its flagship product.

The new book, Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level by Leander Kahney, offers a first-hand view from former staff about how Apple battled against the order, which Cook said would be “too dangerous” to comply with.

Three years ago following the San Bernardino terrorist attack, which killed 12 people and injured dozens, the FBI demanded Apple create a special version of its mobile software capable of bypassing the encryption and other security features on an iPhone used by one of the shooters. But fearing the backdoored software could one day end in up in the wrong hands, Cook wrote in a public letter that the company would reject the order and fight the FBI in court. “This software would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession,” said Cook. What would ensue was a public battle between the tech giant and the government in a lawsuit lasting several months, until the government paid out for hackers to break into the device.

Apple long contented that the Justice Department’s wanted to fight Apple in the open to win over the public in the aftermath of the attack — painting Apple as helping terrorists — and sought a court order before the company could respond.

Had Apple lost the case, its long-running privacy and security mantra would be shattered. Cook is said to have “bet the company” on the decision to fight the order, according to former Apple general counsel Brian Sewell, who was quoted in the book.

Sewell described the FBI’s order as a tipping point following “a lot of activity” that preceded the decision by former FBI director James Comey to ask a judge to sign the order.

The order was issued an obscure law known as the All Writs Act, which the FBI interpreted as a way to ask a court to order a company to do something not otherwise covered by the law. An order cannot be “unduly burdensome,” a subjective term often determined by the court issuing the order.

Sewell said the FBI has as early as 2014 asked Apple for “getting access to phones on a mass basis” after Apple rolled out iOS 8, which encrypted iPhones and iPads with a passcode. Law enforcement struggled to get into devices they said was necessary to investigate crimes. There was no other feasible way to break into an iPhone — even with a court order. Not even Apple could unlock the devices. The company declined the FBI’s request.

But the book said law enforcement “saw it as an opportunity to force Apple’s hand,” wrote Kahney.

“There was a sense at the FBI that this was the perfect storm,” said Sewell, as quoted. “We now have a tragic situation. We have a phone. We have a dead assailant. This is the time that we’re going to push it. And that’s when the FBI decided to file [the order],” he said.

Apple knew public opinion was divided. But the company didn’t let up.

For the following two months, Apple’s executive floor at its former headquarters at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino “turned into a 24/7 situation room,” with an intensified effort to respond to press queries — which Apple had seldom done before, known historically as a secretive company.

The case eventually resolved without a trial. The day before Apple was meant to go head-to-head with the government in a California court, the government pulled the plug on its legal action. It had paid almost a million dollars to hackers to successfully break into the phone. Cook was said to be “disappointed” the case didn’t come to trial, according to Sewell, because he sought a resolution to the case that he believed would have ruled in Apple’s favor. The legality of the order remains unsettled today, despite efforts by the government to force other companies — like Facebook — to rework their software to allow access to police.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department did not immediately comment. Apple did not comment.

Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level is on sale April 16.

Apple cancels AirPower product, citing inability to meet its high standards for hardware

Apple has canceled the AirPower product completely, citing difficulty meeting its own standards.

“After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project. We apologize to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward,” said Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering in an emailed statement today.

After a delay of over a year since it was first announced in September of 2017, the AirPower charging mat has become something of a focal point for Apple’s recent habit of announcing envelope tickling products and not actually shipping them on time. The AirPods, famously, had a bit of a delay before becoming widely available, and were shipped in limited quantities before finally hitting their stride and becoming a genuine cultural moment.

AirPower, however, has had far more time to marinate in the soup of public opinion since it was announced. Along with recent MacBook keyboard troubles, this has functioned as a sort of flash point over discussion that something isn’t right with Apple’s hardware processes.

Everything I’ve personally heard (Apple is saying nothing officially) about the AirPower delay has been related to tough engineering problems related to the laws of physics. Specifically, I’ve heard that they ran too hot because the 3D charging coils in close proximity to one another required very, very cautious power management.

Obviously, it would do Apple very little good to release a charging mat that caused devices to overheat, perhaps even to the point of damage. So, it has canceled the project. If you know more about this, feel free to reach out, I’m fascinated.

There have been other scenarios where Apple has pushed the hardware envelope hard and managed to pull it off and ship them, the iPhone 7 Plus, its first with a twin-lens system, being one that jumps to mind. Apple had a fallback plan in a single-lens version but at some point had to commit and step off a ledge to get it done in time to ship — even though knowing they still had problems to solve. Apple has done this many times over the years, but has managed to ship a lot of them.

AirPower, however, was the other kind of case. The project was apparently canceled so recently that boxes of the new AirPod cases even have pictures of AirPower on them and the new AirPod sets have mentions of AirPower.

This is a very, very rare public mis-step for Apple. Never, throughout the discussion about when AirPower might be released, did the overall trend of the discussion lean toward “never.” That’s a testament to the ability of its hardware engineering teams to consistently pull of what seems to be nearly impossible over the years. In this case, it appears that the engineering issues have proven, at least at this point, insurmountable.

The fact of the matter is that hardware is, well, hard. The basic concepts of wireless charging are well known and established, but by promising the ability to place multiple devices anywhere on a pad, allowing them to charge simultaneously while communicating charge levels and rates Apple set its bar incredibly high for AirPower. Too high, in this case.

It’s a draw in latest Qualcomm v Apple patent scores

It’s Qualcomm 1, Apple 1 in the latest instalment of the pair’s bitter patent bust-up — the litigious IP infringement claim saga that also combines a billion dollar royalties suit filed by Cupertino alleging that the mobile chipmaker’s licensing terms are unfair.

The iPhone maker filed against Qualcomm on the latter front two years ago and the trial is due to kick off next month. But a U.S. federal court judge issued a bracing sharpener earlier this month, in the form of a preliminary ruling — finding Qualcomm owes Apple nearly $1BN in patent royalty rebate payments. So that courtroom looks like one to watch for sure.

Yesterday’s incremental, two-fold development in the overarching saga relates to patent charges filed by Qualcomm against Apple back in 2017, via complaints to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in which it sought to block domestic imports of iPhones.

In an initial determination on one of these patent complaints published yesterday, an ITC administrative law judge found Apple violated one of Qualcomm’s patents — and recommended an import ban.

Though Apple could (and likely will) request a review of that non-binding decision.

Related: A different ITC judge found last year that Apple had violated another Qualcomm patent but did not order a ban on imports — on “public interest” grounds.

ITC staff also previously found no infringement of the very same patent, which likely bolsters the case for a review. (The patent in question, U.S. Patent No. 8,063,674, relates to “multiple supply-voltage power-up/down detectors”.)

Then, later yesterday, the ITC issued a final determination on a second Qualcomm v Apple patent complaint — finding no patent violations on the three claims that remained at issue (namely: U.S. Patent No. 9,535,490; U.S. Patent No. 8,698,558; and U.S. Patent No. 8,633,936), terminating its investigation.

Though Qualcomm has said it intends to appeal.

The mixed bag of developments sit in the relatively ‘minor battle’ category of this slow-motion high-tech global legal war (though, of the two, the ITC’s final decision looks more significant); along with the outcome of a jury trial in San Diego earlier this month, which found in Qualcomm’s favor over some of the same patents the ITC cleared Apple of infringing.

Reuters reports the chipmaker has cited the contradictory outcome of the earlier jury trial as grounds to push for a “reconsideration” of the ITC’s decision.

“The Commission’s decision is inconsistent with the recent unanimous jury verdict finding infringement of the same patent after Apple abandoned its invalidity defense at the end of trial,” Qualcomm said in a statement. “We will seek reconsideration by the Commission in view of the jury verdict.”

Albeit, given the extreme complexities of chipset component patent suits it’s not really surprising a jury might reach a different outcome to an ITC judge.

In the other corner, Apple issued its now customary punchy response statement to the latest developments, swinging in with: “Qualcomm is using these cases to distract from having to answer for the real issues, their monopolistic business practices.”

Safe to say, the litigious saga continues. And iPhones continue being sold in the U.S.

Other notable (but still only partial) wins for Qualcomm include a court decision in China last year ordering a ban on iPhone sales in the market — which Apple filed an appeal to overturn. So no China iPhone ban yet.

And an injunction ordered by a court in Germany which forced Apple to briefly pull certain iPhone models from sale in its own stores in January. By February the models were back on its shelves — albeit now with Qualcomm not Intel chips inside.

But it’s not all been going Qualcomm’s way in Germany. Also in January, another court in the country dismissed a separate patent claim as groundless.

A decision is also still pending in the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust case against Qualcomm.

In that suit the chipmaker is accused of operating a monopoly and forcing exclusivity from Apple while charging “excessive” licensing fees for standards-essential patents. The trial wrapped up in January and is pending a verdict.

Apple unveils its $9.99 per month news subscription service, Apple News+

Apple today unveiled a revamped Apple News app which now includes a premium tier called Apple News+,  offering access to over 300 magazines and newspapers for $9.99 per month. At launch, the subscription includes magazine titles like Bon Appétit, People and Glamour, along with top publishers like The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times, among others.

TechCrunch’s premium product, Extra Crunch, is among the new participants.

“When we created Apple news over three years ago, we wanted to provide the best way to read the news on your iPhone and iPad,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, in introducing the company’s plans for Apple News+. “And we felt we can make a difference in the way that news is experienced and understood – a place where the news would come from trusted sources and be curated by experts,” he added.

The subscription introduces a new design feature called “Live Covers,” which shows animated images instead of static photos for the magazine’s cover. Inside the digital magazine’s pages, readers can view a table of contents, swipe through beautifully designed pages filled with text, photos and infographic content, and more. The experience looks very much like the popular digital magazine app, Flipboard.

The magazine publishers can also express their own unique look and feel through their design and photography, noted Apple designer Wyatt Mitchell, in presenting the new feature.

The News+ tab is where you can begin to explore the available magazines, while the Today tab features more recommendations of articles and issues. The service will also customize itself to your interests, but won’t do so by tracking what you read.

Instead, Apple says the service will download groups of articles from its servers. And then it uses on device intelligence to make recommendations. That means Apple won’t know what you read and won’t allow advertisers to track you either.

When you subscribe, your whole family can access the magazines through Apple Family Sharing, for the same price.

Apple had signaled its intention to enter the premium news subscription businesses when it acquired digital newsstand startup Texture in spring 2018. Shortly thereafter, reports surfaced that Apple was planning to relaunch Texture’s product as part of the existing Apple News application. The company had been courting high-profile publishers, but industry reaction was mixed.

That appears to remain the case as the service goes to launch. While it does offer The Wall Street Journal – announced ahead of today’s event – other top publishers like The New York Times and The Washington Post have chosen not to participate.

Apple News+ is available today in the U.S. and Canada, starting today. In Canada, The Star is participating. Later this year, Apple News+ will arrive in Europe, starting with the UK, and Australia.