iTunes Match Coming to Japan Soon?

A couple of week ago, it was reported that  Siri, the voice assistant found in Apple’s iPhone 4S, will get support for the Chinese language next month. It was also suggested that Apple would introduce support for Japanese and Russian. Then a week after, it was reported that watchful iPhone 4S users have noticed that Siri is now claiming to speak Japanese.

iOS Japan iTunes Match
Now it seems that the company maybe adding Japanese support for its iTunes Match service. Mactakara has discovered that the “iTunes in the Cloud” music component has gone live in Japan. Also, the “Purchased” tab within the desktop iTunes Store and iOS music application now allows users to access their previously-purchased iTunes Store music. Before this, iTunes in the cloud service was only limited to apps and books in Japan.

iTunes Match is a service that allows all your music, even songs you’ve imported from CDs to be stored in iCloud. The service is currently available in 37 countries, but international availability of the service has continued since it debuted in the U.S, Europe, and Australia in December. Since then, it was made available in 19 more countries across Latin America and Europe in January.

Apple and China Mobile Negotiating iPhone Deal

Yesterday, it was reported that China’s second largest carrier, China Telecom, will start offering the iPhone 4S on March 9th. Rumors of Apple offering the iPhone on the largest mobile carrier in the world, China Mobile, has been all over the place. Now, according to Reuters, China Mobile officials are “aggressively negotiating” a deal with Apple, but due to a technical limitation the offering remains a roadblock. China Mobile uses a non-standard unique 3G wireless technology, which is causing the roadblock. The network uses their own 3G technology called TD-SCDMA, which is a technology Apple doesn’t currently support on its iPhones.

With over 600 million subscribers, China Mobile is the largest mobile carrier in the world, which means there is a significant opportunity for Apple. That compares to the 117 million total subscribers at China Telecom, which was announced as a new official iPhone carrier yesterday.

Just to put the opportunity in perspective, the total number of mobile subscribers in China are expected to pass 1 billion this year alone! Last quarter, Tim Cook described China’s demand for the company’s products, particularly the iPhone, as “staggering.”

Apple Opens Up Supplier Factories to Third-party Environmental Inspections

Lately, lots of news regarding Apple’s factories have been coming out. Even though the stories are getting stale, media will continue to talk about since it is Apple. A couple of days ago, it was reported that according to the Fair Labor Association (FLA), Foxconn’s factory conditions are to be “first-class” in comparison to the garment factories the association has typically monitored.Then just a couple of days after, Foxconn announced that it had raised the wages for its workers by 16 to 25 percent.

Now, the company that doesn’t care about its workers has agreed to cooperate on audits with independent environmental group seeking to verify the company’s own findings, via The Next Web. Ma Jun, founder of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, said that he had agreed last month to open up its facilities to be audited.

In addition, Linda Greer, the person in charge of the National Resources Defense Council’s health program, said the company had agreed access to two of the 14 suppliers. The groups that will be reviewing the facilities will focus on whether Apple’s suppliers are improperly disposing of toxic waste or not.

Apple Settles Class-action Suit over iPhone 4 Antenna

CNET reports that a settlement for the class-action lawsuit in regards to the antenna performance of Apple’s iPhone 4 has been reached. The class-action complaint brought together 18 separate suits, which were accusing Apple of “misrepresenting and concealing material information in the marketing, advertising, sale, and servicing of its iPhone 4–particularly as it relates to the quality of the mobile phone antenna and reception and related software.”

Ira Rothken, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said that:  “We believe that the Apple iPhone 4 settlement is fair, adequate and reasonable. We believe that it allows members of the class to choose, and they can get $15 of cash or a bumper, so we believe that type of choice is proportional to the circumstances.” When the iPhone 4 was released in June 2010, reports started to come out that the handset suffered loss of signal when held in a certain way. Due to this, Apple held a press conference that July to address the issue by offering a free case for iPhone 4 units purchased through September 30, 2010.

The company now promises to offer $15 payouts to a small number of people, according to The Loop

“This settlement relates to a small number of customers who indicated that they experienced antenna or reception issues with their iPhone 4 and didn’t want to take advantage of a free case from Apple while it was being offered in 2010,” Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison told me on Saturday.

Apple’s latest iPhone, the iPhone 4S, was tested by Consumer Reports and the device is free of issues.

Apple Partner Foxconn Raises Chinese Worker Wages

Lately, Apple has been getting criticized a lot for its factory conditions. Just yesterday it was reported that according to the Fair Labor Association (FLA), Foxconn’s factory conditions are to be “first-class” in comparison to the garment factories the association has typically monitored. Today, Foxconn has announced that it has raised the wages of its workers by 16 to 25 percent.

According to Reuters, the salary of a junior-level worker  at its Shenzhen plant in China grew to 1,800 yuan per month. Also, that wage can even go beyond 2,200 yuan if the worker passes a technical examination and is a significant increase from the wage of 900 yuan from three years ago.”We will provide more training opportunities and learning time, and will continuously enhance technology, efficiency and salary, so as to set a good example for the Chinese manufacturing industry,” the company said in a statement.

This announcement from Foxconn comes only days after the Fair Labor Association began investing its facilities as part of a request from Apple. The last time Foxconn increased employee wages was in June 2010. Also, Apple announced last month that it was the first tech company to join the Fair Labor Association, which was a pretty big deal.

Apple Begins Counting Down to 25 Billion App Store Downloads

Today, Apple has added a counter to its website, which is a countdown to 25 billion App Store downloads. Also, Apple is offering a $10,000 gift card to the person who downloads the 25 billionth app. The gift card is an App Store gift card which can be used to purchase content via the iTunes Store.

App Store 25 billion

A year ago, the company had a similar countdown to the 10 billion mark. That countdown also included a contest for a $10,000 App Store gift card. Shouldn’t Google be offering the same thing because Android’s “winning”?  The 10 billion mark was reached on January 22nd last year, which means that the number of app downloads on the App Store have doubled in little over a year!

Since the time the App Store was introduced, the growth has increased exponentially. In the first year alone, the App Store reached 1.5 billion downloads. By January of 2010, the App Store downloads had passed 3 billion. Also, Apple has paid out more than $4 billion to developers, while Google has still yet to reveal how much they have paid out to its developers. To put that in perspective, over $1 billion was paid to developers by June 2010.

Apple Releases Public iMessage Beta for OS X

I love using iMessage and one functionality that it lacked was the ability to sync with your Mac, but now Apple has changed that. In addition to today’s OS X Mountain Lion news, Apple has released a public beta version of its new Messages app for OS X for existing users. About time, don’t you think? iMessage was one of the biggest features of iOS 5, and it allows users to chat across multiple devices using the same interface that’s used for SMSes. Something which Android still lacks till this day. The best part? While SMS costs additional money, iMessage does not. It is offered for free!

OS X Messages

The new Messages app includes the features of iChat and FaceTime and adds compatibility with the features of iMessage introduced for iOS last year. You can download Apple’s iMessage beta for free via their download page. It should be noted that you need to make sure the latest version of OS X is running on your Mac. The app also supports AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber accounts.

Download Messages Beta and get a taste of what’s coming in OS X Mountain Lion. When you install Messages, it replaces iChat. But iChat services will continue to work. And Messages brings iMessage to the Mac — just like on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch running iOS 5. Here are the features you can expect with Messages:

– Send unlimited iMessages to any Mac, iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.
– Start an iMessage conversation on your Mac and continue it on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.
– Send photos, videos, attachments, contacts, locations, and more.
– Launch a FaceTime video call and bring the conversation face-to-face.
– Messages supports iMessage, AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber accounts.

I have been using the app for a few hours now and it is incredibly simple to use and simply awesome. Like I said, about time!

Apple Releases First Developer Preview of OS X Mountain Lion

OS X Mountain Lion Macs

Whoa! That was a bit unexpected from Apple. Today, the company has announced that it has released the first developer preview of the company’s next-generation operating system, called OS X Mountain Lion. Surprisingly, OS X Lion was only released less than a year ago. This release will bring over a 100 new features, including many that already exist in iOS. For example, features such as Messages, Notes, Reminders, Game Center, Notification Center, Twitter integration, and AirPlay Mirroring. If we take a look into this further, it really is brilliant on what the company is doing with their ecosystem. They are combining iOS and Mac into one OS. No more fragmented OSes and versions like Windows!

“The Mac is on a roll, growing faster than the PC for 23 straight quarters, and with Mountain Lion things get even better,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “The developer preview of Mountain Lion comes just seven months after the incredibly successful release of Lion and sets a rapid pace of development for the world’s most advanced personal computer operating system.”

In addition, OS X Mountain Lion offers deeper integration with iCloud  to automatically configure services like Mail, FaceTime, and Find My Mac, while iCloud Documents handles automatic push syncing of documents across devices. Yup, this is also brilliant. Why? Because Apple has essentially made cloud computing popular among average consumers without them actually realizing it. Also, The Verge points out that the company has officially dropped “Mac” name from OS X Mountain Lion.

OS X Mountain Lion will be made available to the public in late summer.


iPad Helping Enterprise to Transition Away from Printing

Ah, here’s another success story for the tablet nobody wanted. A new analysis reveals that the adoption of the iPad in enterprise is causing decline of corporate printing. Morgan Stanley says that rapid increase of tablets for business use has affected printing by more than it had originally estimated. Wait a minute, I thought the iPad is just a “big iPhone”?

The firm surveyed 700 tablet users in the U.S. about their printing behavior at work. Turns out, 46 percent of respondents said they printed less, with 13 percent indicating that they printed 16 percent less after owning a tablet. In addition, 41 percent said that they thought print reduction is the main benefit of tablets.

It is also suggested by the analysis that  Lexmark, Ricoh and Konica Minolta, which all have exposure in corporate laser printing, are the most “structurally challenged” by the drop. Looks like the iPad is disrupting all sorts of markets. In the report, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer was also quoted  saying that the iPad has experienced “unprecedented adoption in business”. According to Oppenheimer, nearly all of the top Fortune 500 companies are actively using iPads.

Fair Labor Association Says Apple’s Plants Better Than Most Factories

When a company says that they are doing all they can to solve an issue, you better believe it. Lately, Apple’s been getting a lot of flak for factory working conditions even though they are the only one doing something about it in the industry. Just yesterday Tim Cook said that Apple is doing more to improve workers conditions than anyone else. Pretty hard to make that up if you ask me. On top of that, the day before the company issues a press release announcing  that the FLA has begun inspecting Foxconn’s facilities at Apple’s request.

Reuters now reports on the association’s initial impressions as it continues to investigate and analyze data on working conditions. According to the FLA, Foxconn’s factory conditions are “first-class” in comparison to the garment factories the association has typically monitored. In addition, it is reported that the association has 30 employees auditing the factories, with Foxconn employees being surveyed for the audit using iPads to record their responses. Three separate Foxconn factories representing 300,000 workers are being audited over the course of three weeks.

So I bet even after all of this, Apple still continues to remain evil in people’s eyes, right?