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Patent troll using 2018 patent to sue Apple over 2014 Shortcuts technology

Aftechmobile claims that with the design, implementation and use of the Shortcuts app, Apple infringes its patents regarding mobile application development software — but it appears to be using a patent that was filed for and issued after Apple’s first use of the technology.

Apple's Shortcuts app in iPadOS 13 (left) and iOS 13 (right)

Apple’s Shortcuts app in iPadOS 13 (left) and iOS 13 (right)

Aftechmobile has filed a lawsuit against Apple in the US District Court Northern District of California regarding the Shortcuts app. The suit asserts that Apple infringes Aftechmobile’s patents regarding mobile application development software and the use of what it calls “pre-coded software components.”

Referring to its US Patent No 10,133,558, dated November 2018 and known as the ‘558 Patent, Aftechmobile says Apple is infringing “at least one of the 28 claims” in that patent, by making and selling the Shortcuts app.

The suit repeatedly compares the ‘558 patent with Apple’s own descriptions of the Shortcuts app.

“Claim 5 [of the ‘558 Patent] includes, ‘inserting one or more of said pre-coded software components into said launched mobile application creation interface; assembling said inserted one or more of said pre-coded software components…” says Aftechmobile’s suit.

“Apple describes inserting one or more of said pre-coded software components into said launched mobile application creation interface,” it continues, “as ‘to add an action to your shortcut, touch and hold an action in the list, then drag it to the position you want in the shortcut editor.'”

What Apple calls Actions in its Shortcuts app, Aftechmobile refers to as “pre-coded software components.” Then similar assertions compare what the patent refers to as the “mobile application creation interface” with Apple’s description of how users can “create a new, custom shortcut using the Shortcuts app.”

Aftechmobile is seeking a trial by jury and an unspecified sum for “a fair and reasonable royalty.”

In Shortcuts, you drag actions from the list on the left, into the editor on the right. Aftechmobile calls these

In Shortcuts, you drag actions from the list on the left, into the editor on the right. Aftechmobile calls these “pre-coded software components.”

Apple has not publicly responded to the suit. The Shortcuts app is now shipping with iOS 13 and the forthcoming iPadOS 13, but was previously a separate, free product in the App Store. Prior to that, Apple’s Shortcuts app was a third-party one called Workflow, which was first released in 2014.

Aftechmobile is a company based in Virginia. Its LinkedIn entry describes it as developing “innovative solutions to help our clients with Enterprise Mobile Strategy, Salesforce.com consulting… development of mobile Apps and more.” The entry says the company has between 2 and 10 employees.

Currently Aftechmobile’s official website either returns a 502 Bad Gateway error or, periodically, redirects to one called Mobrise.net which at time of writing went from being a registered, but non-existent site into one returning an error saying it is temporarily unavailable.

According to Crunchbase, Mobrise’s founder and CEO is Arshad Farooqi. Aftechmobile’s suit includes a copy of the ‘558 Patent which lists Farooqi as the applicant and inventor.

On the same day that Aftechmobile filed this patent infringement suit against Apple, it also filed a similar suit against Salesforce.com. Both cases are with the Northern District of California, and in both Aftechmobile is being represented by the same legal firm.

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References in iOS 13.1 point to Smart Battery Cases for iPhone 11, Pro

 

Apple is planning to bring out a new version of its Smart Battery Case for the 2019 iPhone lineup, with updated versions thought to be on the way for the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

The iPhone XS Smart Battery Case

The iPhone XS Smart Battery Case

The Smart Battery Case is an Apple-produced accessory for the iPhone lineup, one that houses an extra battery within the case’s back to provide more power to the iPhone throughout the day. While unusual in its design, the accessory has been popular enough for Apple to produce multiple versions, and seems to be preparing to introduce more for the latest iPhone launches.

References to three new models of Smart Battery Case were found within the code of iOS 13.1, Apple’s update arriving on September 24 alongside iPadOS. The model numbers found in code of the under-beta operating system are A2180, A2183, and A2184.

While there is no indication of what models they relate to, the closeness of the numbers found by 9to5mac suggest they are all related, and could be for the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max, though which model number relates to which iPhone variant is still a mystery at this time.

There isn’t any sign of when Apple will introduce the next wave of Smart Battery Case models, but given Apple introduced the previous versions for the iPhone XS, XS Max, and iPhone XR in January of this year, it could be quite a while before the cases are available to purchase.

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Apple’s iconic Fifth Avenue ‘Cube’ store reopens this Friday

 

A bigger and radically revamped and Apple Fifth Avenue is to reopen with the release of the new iPhone range on Friday. The landmark store has been closed for two years while work done on the Cube entrance and store below.

Apple's iconic Fifth Avenue Store reopens after two years

Apple’s iconic Fifth Avenue Store reopens after two years

After two years, Apple Fifth Avenue is to reopen on Friday in New York in time to see the release of the new Apple Watch Series 5, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

“Our customers are at the center of everything we do, and Apple Fifth Avenue is for them, to inspire them, and to provide the very best place to discover our newest products,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, in a statement.

“It’s unique among Apple stores, and today it returns even more welcoming, and even more beautiful than ever,” he continued. “We’re so proud to be a part of this great city where so much happens every day.”

Apple Fifth Avenue was originally opened by Steve Jobs in 2006, and Apple claims that it has had over 57 million visitors since then. It’s one of six Apple Stores in Manhattan, but remains one of the most recognizable and most photographed of all the company’s retail outlets worldwide.

The redesign of Apple Fifth Avenue includes an greatly increased sales and Today at Apple area underground. The Cube itself has been removed and reworked at an estimated cost of $2 million.

This reworking of the Cube involved replacing the glasswork, but as previously reported, it lacks the iridescent look of the protective film that was seen during the last weeks of construction.

“We couldn’t be more excited and more ready to welcome customers back to Apple Fifth Avenue,” said Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail + People.

“Not only is the new space and experience absolutely inspiring,” she continued, “our amazing retail Geniuses, Creative Pros and Specialists have worked so hard preparing for this day. Who they are, and the talents they bring, are so essential to the excellence we strive for at Apple.”

Inside the new store

Inside the new store

Apple says that 900 employees, together speaking over 30 languages, will work in the store which opens at 8am Friday, and will then stay open 24 hours.

While the Cube store has been closed since 2017, a temporary Apple Store has been in its place —although not without some problems.

This is not the first time that Apple Fifth Avenue has been closed for renovation. Back in 2011, Apple spent six months replacing and updating the glass Cube at a cost of almost $6.7 million.

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Apple using recycled rare earth elements in iPhone 11 Taptic Engine

Apple is using recycled rare earth elements in the Taptic Engine of the new iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, according to Apple’s Vice President of environment, policy, and social initiatives Lisa Jackson.

The term “rare earth” refers to a set of 17 chemical elements that are often used in the production of high-performance magnets, glasses, alloys, and electronics. In the iPhone, rare earth minerals are used in the Taptic Engine, a feature which allows the phone to mimic a button press without the need for physical buttons.

Economically, it makes sense. Most rare earth used in electronics is processed in China, meaning that they are especially vulnerable to trade disputes. Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President of environment, policy, and social initiative, Apple’s use of recycled rare earth wasn’t related to trade tensions. Apple’s use of the materials reclaimed from older devices could, however, help to maintain a steady supply.

“This is one of those happy coincidences where what is good for the planet is really good for business at the same time,” Jackson told Reuters. “One of the things we talk about a lot internally, just in general, is how much more resilient this makes our supply chain.”

Using recycled rare earth is also good for the environment. When mined and processed, rare earth can leach into the soil and contaminate the soil, leading to a host of problems. Some rare earth elements can be absorbed into plants that are consumed by wildlife and humans, while others can contaminate the water table and render drinking water unsafe.

Recycling rare earth helps slow the damage done by reducing the need for both mining and processing raw materials. Less mining, and less processing, means less environmental damage.

Apple will be using recycled earth from an unnamed outside supplier, and not from recycled iPhones. Jackson has stated that Apple’s success has made the project viable.

“We have essentially made a market for this entrepreneur, this innovator, who found a way to recycle rare earths,” Jackson said.

Apple has also begun research into how to recover rare earth from its own products, including the iPhone, as well as encouraging other companies to try to do the same.

Apple has made some impressive strides in iPhone recycling in recent years. Liam, a robot introduced in 2016, was capable of disassembling iPhones into core components. These components could then be used in new products, such as cutting tools or solar panels.

Daisy, Liam’s successor, debuted on Earth Day 2018. Daisy is capable of dismantling 200 iPhones an hour, and at the time of introduction, could disassemble nine versions of the iPhone.

“There are some innovations of ours that we actually want people to copy. So as much as possible – as long as it doesn’t give away some of our other design and engineering innovation – we are happy to bring along the recycling industry,” Jackson said. “We have started to be much more transparent around this technology development than we usually are.”

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Apple proposes car hinges with force feedback, user-unlockable delivery trucks

Apple’s potential future car could have force feedback systems added to the door hinges to prevent them from being opened too far, while the suggestion of lockable storage in a vehicle opens the door to automated and secured delivery trucks unlocked by iPhones.

A van operated by Drive.ai, acquired by Apple earlier in 2019

A van operated by Drive.ai, acquired by Apple earlier in 2019

Over the years, Apple has produced a number of design ideas for vehicles it may employ in a future branded car, as part of its automotive efforts under the banner of “Project Titan.” Along with design concepts that fundamentally change key areas of a vehicle’s makeup, Apple has also considered smaller changes that can improve the quality of life of passengers and drivers.

In the first of two patents granted to Apple by the US Patent and Trademark Office titled “Hinge with feedback,” Apple proposes the creation of a hinge system that can provide force feedback, namely that it presses back against external forces attempting to move it.

Current hinges in vehicle doors are not typically built with motors and force feedback systems. Instead, most are made from a simple pivoting mechanism, which may be assisted by other elements to slow down movement or, in the case of gull-wing doors, help raise them up and out of the way.

Apple suggests the addition of force feedback, by using a motion control component and sensor system to determine the direction of intended motion for the door, and to set a level of force feedback to resist its motion. Depending on the system’s settings, this could resemble a simulated spring that stops the user from moving the door beyond a certain point, such as to prevent it from making contact with a detected nearby object or wall.

A flow chart for setting feedback on a hinge depending on whether a user is touching the door

A flow chart for setting feedback on a hinge depending on whether a user is touching the door

The motion control system can include a stepper motor that applies torque to the hinge, or to include piezoelectric elements capable of varying the magnitude of feedback force. A display or indicator would also be visible on or nearby the door to signal it can be moved freely or would provide some level of feedback.

The patent also outlines how the system could apply different levels of feedback to motion depending on the situation. For example, it could apply small amounts of feedback in the case of wind blowing against the door, or greater amounts if it detects a greater push by the elements, like a sudden gust.

The angle of a vehicle in 3D space could also be taken into account, with feedback being applied to prevent a door from swinging open too fast if it is on a downward slope and assisted by gravity. The ability to detect touch by a user could also allow the system to switch between low and high feedback states, reducing its strength against the elements if it knows a user is moving the door instead of resisting against that extra force.

While this largely has applications for vehicles, Apple also suggests the hinge resistance could also be used for notebook hinges, such as for the MacBook lineup. This would feasibly prevent the display section from moving about during strong winds, minimizing the chance of damage.

An example vehicle's storage compartments

An example vehicle’s storage compartments

The second patent, “Secure storage components” is more obviously for a car, with explicit mentions of “vehicle” within the abstract.

It is suggested a vehicle could have cavities and closures that can “selectively” secure the compartments. The secure closures could be set to open up when an authorization input is received, such as a code, digital key, or a user electronic device like a nearby iPhone.

While this could be used to add more security to a vehicle’s storage, such as locking a glovebox or preventing access to vehicle components by unauthorized persons, there could be more to the patent than at first glance.

The addition of one claim reading “the vehicle is operable to navigate autonomously to a user location in response to a user request for access to the storage components” proposes the use of the system for a self-driving delivery truck, with users able to unlock sections to retrieve their packages. This could be envisioned as a mobile version of the Amazon delivery lockers, or a FedEx truck with no driver, notifying users on their arrival to collect their packages before moving on to a new location.

Apple files numerous patents and applications on a weekly basis, though while the company does outline areas of interest for its research via the publication of the ideas, it however doesn’t guarantee they will appear in a future product or service.

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Mophie announces new adjustable wireless charging stand

 

Mophie has released a new adjustable wireless charging stand, allowing you to charge your iPhone in portrait, landscape, or flat “charging pad” mode.

We recently took a look at two wireless Mophie chargers, the two-in-one and three-in-one charging pads. Now, Mophie has added another product to their line, an adjustable wireless charging stand.

The new Mophie wireless charging stand is fast-charge enabled, perfect for those times when you need to quickly top off your iPhone.

The most convenient feature of this stand is easily that it allows you to adjust the charging pad. If you’re just keeping an eye on your notifications, allow it to set upright in portrait mode. If you’re watching YouTube while your phone charges, you can rotate the stand to hold your phone in portrait mode. If you’re just looking to put your phone down and leave it out of the way, the stand can also be pushed down flat like a traditional charging pad.

Of course, it’s not only the iPhone that works with the charging stand, either. If you have a pair of AirPods, you can use the Mophie to top off the charging case as well.

As always, if you’re looking to get a wireless charger, remember that you’ll have to be mindful of your case thickness. The Mophie wireless charging stand is capable of charging through cases that are up to 3mm thick. This means that some thicker, heavy-duty cases may not work with this stand.

Included in the box is the wireless charging stand and a Mophie outlet-to-USB power adapter, and works with any Qi-enabled smartphone or smartphone case. The Mophie wireless charging stand retails for $69.95.

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Crime blotter: Apple Store thefts reported on two continents

Apple Store thefts reported in the United States and Australia, one theft victim fought back in an attempted iPad sale, a spate of iPhone seizures in Bali performed by monkeys, and more in the Apple crime blotter.

The Apple Store in Perth in Western Australia

The Apple Store in Perth in Western Australia

The latest in an occasional AppleInsider series, looking at the world of Apple-related crime.

More than $300,000 in products stolen from Australia Apple Stores

In thefts that made worldwide news, six thieves broke into a pair of Apple Stores in Perth, Australia, and stole $300,000 in iPhones and other products. Per Gizmodo, the thieves broke into at least one of the stores by smashing the glass with a sledgehammer at 2 a.m. After fleeing, the thieves went to another store and executed a similar theft. However the iPhones, police said, were bricked and therefore useless to the thieves.

Apple Store thieves in San Mateo caught on video

In a theft a bit closer to home for Apple, a recent rash of Apple Store robberies in the Bay Area continued last week when thieves ran into the Apple Store at the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo and grabbed items. This led to a chase that crossed the Bay Bridge, although the accused thieves got away.

According to KTVU, the thieves took about 40 items, and the thefts were caught on security video:

Burlingame Apple Store hit for third time in a month

There was another Bay Area Apple Store robbery on August 30, when thieves took $70,000 worth of items from the Apple Store location in Burlingame, near San Francisco. San Francisco’s CBS station reports the theft was the third at that store in that month. Police are treating the crime as a grand theft.

$3,000 in AirPods taken from Target

Police in Wareham, Mass., are looking for a man who they say stole $3,000 worth of AirPods from a Target in the area. Per South Coast Today, the theft took place on August 30.

Couple accused of dragging 15-year-old during iPhone theft

A married couple in Utah are each facing a felony count of aggravated robbery, after an incident in which they dragged a teenaged girl with their car after attempting to steal her iPhone. According to St. George News, the couple had met the 15-year-old on an e-commerce app and agreed to buy her iPhone, but when they met they attempted to steal it.

After the couple attempted to drive off, the girl reached into the car, at which point the couple punched her, and the male “sped off with the teen’s torso still halfway inside the vehicle.”

Woman says she tackled thief during iPad sale

In another case involving an e-commerce sale of an Apple device that turned to violence, a Texas woman claims she tackled a man who was trying to steal her iPad during a sale arranged through the Offer-Up app. Click 2 Houston reports the woman and men met outside a Best Buy for the transaction, but when the man handed her money, it “looked fake.” When the man grabbed the iPad and ran, the woman and her husband chased and tackled him, getting the iPad back before he fled in a getaway car.

Amazon driver accused of stealing iPhone

A man who works for an Amazon-contracted courier service its accused of stealing an iPhone from a woman’s driveway. According to the Times Herald the phone, which belonged to the woman’s son, had fallen out of the family truck, and a Find My iPhone search revealed the delivery driver had it.

The driver, who threw the phone out a window when it started getting location pings, was arrested and charged with theft by taking.

Suspect wanted in armed robbery of two iPhone 7 devices

Thieves often steal dozens of iPhones at a time without the benefit of a weapon, but one man recently pulled a gun and only came up with two. Alabama News reports the man entered a cell phone store in Montgomery, Ala. in July, pulled a gun, and obtained two iPhone 7 units along with currency from the register. Police say he may have committed other robberies in the area.

Monkeys are stealing electronic devices in Bali

Australians who visit Bali are taking out insurance for an unusual reason —because monkeys are stealing tourists’ electronic devices, including smartphones. According to News.com.au, one local insurance company has begun to see faces of theft from “non-human culprits,” most notably “aggressive monkeys are often attracted to shiny and light-reflective items like phones and sunglasses.”

Also in Bali, there’s been an uptick in theft-by-motorcyle incidents involving phones and iPads, presumably carried out by humans and not monkeys.

Have an Apple crime-related story? Email AppleInsider and tell us about it.

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Disney CEO Bob Iger resigns from Apple board as streaming wars heat up

 

Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger on Friday announced his resignation from Apple’s board of directors, a move that comes just two months before the two companies will go head-to-head in the highly competitive video streaming business.

Iger

Iger’s exit was revealed in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, which notes the media mogul resigned effective Sept. 10. Prior to his departure, Iger served as chair of Apple’s corporate governance committee and participated on the company’s compensation board.

Speculation that Iger would be forced off Apple’s board surfaced in March shortly after the two companies finalized plans to launch competing streaming services. Apple is due to debut Apple TV+ with a slate of original content on Nov. 1, while Disney will make its Disney+ product available less than two weeks later on Nov. 12.

“It has been an extraordinary privilege to have served on the Apple board for 8 years, and I have the utmost respect for Tim Cook, his team at Apple, and for my fellow board members,” Iger said in a statement, as reported by CNBC. “Apple is one of the world’s most admired companies, known for the quality and integrity of its products and its people, and I am forever grateful to have served as a member of the company’s board.”

Iger attempted to put rumors of an imminent withdrawal to bed during an interview in April, suggesting there would be no conflict of interest should he remain.

“Obviously I’m mindful of my fiduciary responsibility to Apple shareholders as a member of the board,” Iger told Bloomberg at the time. “When the subject is discussed at Apple board meetings, I’m careful to recuse myself, and I’m in constant dialogue about making sure that I’m not doing anything that in any way would essentially cause me to be wouldn’t be in keeping with what an Apple board member would do.”

The situation has apparently changed.

Disney said it plans to make Disney+ available to owners of Apple hardware, including Apple TV set-top boxes, likely through a dedicated app that will launch alongside the service.

Iger joined Apple’s board in 2011 and is credited with rebuilding relations between Disney and late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ Pixar studio following unrest under former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. The current Disney chief was also pivotal in negotiating deals to sell content owned by Disney and its subsidiaries through the iTunes store.

Disney and Apple grew to be close allies in the years after Iger’s installment to the board. Along with media distribution agreements, Apple has gone so far as to build special animated Apple Watch watch faces featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse into its watchOS platform.

Iger is the second high-profile Apple board member to leave in the past decade due to potential conflicts of interest. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigned from his duties at Apple in 2009 as the search giant unleashed its Android mobile operating system as a market competitor to iPhone.

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iPhone 11 line may have bilateral charging hardware, but turned off in iOS

 

According to a frequent and reliable iPhone info leaker, the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro feature the hardware required for wireless charging of something like the AirPods Wireless Charging Case, but it is currently disabled in software.

iPhone 11 Pro

The story went public on Twitter via Sonny Dickson, who claims to have gotten the information from a reliable source.

Bilateral charging, or two-way charging, would allow the iPhone device to charge another device. It works in a fashion similar to charging a device on a wireless charging pad. Samsung’s Galaxy line is well known for already utilizing this feature.

Apple analysts had predicted that the new iPhone 11 line would feature bilateral charging, giving users the ability to charge other wireless-charging enabled iPhones, as well as AirPods and the Apple Watch.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had originally made a claim that the iPhone 11 line would include bilateral charging capabilities. Later, he had revised the statement as the system might not meet Apple’s requirements, due to inadequate charging efficiency.

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Sonos One SL and Sonos Port now available for purchase

 

Announced earlier in September, the Sonos One SL and Sonos Port AirPlay 2 speakers are now available for purchase.

Sonos Port and Sonos One SL

Sonos has released two new products for audiophiles everywhere. The wifi-enabled Sonos One SL speaker gives users a reasonably priced entry point into smart sound. The Sonos Port gives users a chance to incorporate their existing audio equipment into their smart home ecosystem.

Sonos One SL

Sonos One SL

Sonos One SL is a compact, fit-anywhere wifi speaker designed to seamlessly integrate into your life. At just over four pounds, it’s easily carried from room to room.

Additionally, it’s humidity resistant, giving it the ability to be use in high humidity spaces like bathrooms and kitchens without fear of damaging it.

The Sonos One SL is AirPlay2 compatible and works with over 100 streaming services, including Apple Music, Spotify, and more. Trueplay gives users the ability to tune speakers for a custom experience within their spaces.

Multiple Sonos One SLs can be paired with each other, or with the Sonos One. The Sonos app gives users the ability to group speakers together by room and control them as needed. If you’ve already got a Sonos Playbar, Playbase, or Beam, a pair of Sonos One SLs can be used as rear home theater surround sound speakers.

The Sonos One SL does not feature a microphone, which is likely a boon for those who want a bit of added security.

The Sonos One SL is available in both white and black and retails for $179.

Sonos Port

Sonos Port

The Sonos Port gives users the ability to turn their traditional stereo systems into smart devices.

Connecting a Sonos Port allows any amplified audio system to work with Apple’s AirPlay2—stream music directly from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac with Siri integration. Additionally, users can stream music from most streaming services, like Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, and more.

Connecting the Sonos Port to your vinyl, cassette, or CD player will allow you to play your audio to other Sonos speakers through the Sonos app.

The Sonos Port features a sophisticated digital-to-analog converter, providing a crisp, clear listening experience.

The Sonos Port retails for $399 and can be purchased directly from the Sonos website.