Apple hit with class-action lawsuit over 2011 MacBook Pro graphics failures

Oct 28, 2014 - 4:09 PM - by sparkyscott21

Screenshot of MacBook Pro graphics issue

A long-running issue with owners of Apple's 2011 series of MacBook Pros has resulted in a class-action lawsuit, seeking compensation for apparent graphics card failures experienced by customers.

The firm of Whitfield, Bryson & Mason LLP announced on Tuesday that it has filed a class-action complaint in a California federal court against Apple. The lawsuit covers residents of both California and Florida who purchased 2011 MacBook Pro notebooks with AMD graphics.

The complaint was filed on behalf of plaintiffs Zachary Book, Donald Cowart, and John Manners. The lawsuit alleges that Apple failed to reimburse owners for out-of-pocket repairs that could cost anywhere from $350 to $600.

Some owners of those devices have vocally complained for years that they have experienced graphical distortions and system crashes. Complaints from out-of-warranty MacBook Pro owners first began to gain steam in early 2013, and one thread in particular on the Apple Support Communities forums has ballooned to over 9,300 replies since then.

People familiar with Apple's internal repair network informed AppleInsider in August that the company had no immediate plans to initiate a replacement program for early-2011 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro models suffering from systematic crashes and graphics failures. The issues are seemingly related to the laptops' discrete AMD-built graphics cards.

The GPU issue might present itself onscreen as visual artifacts, banding or a blank screen. What triggers the failure is unknown, though a common thread seems to be graphics-intensive operations like watching high-definition videos and performing processor-intensive operations in digital media programs.

Whitfield, Bryson & Mason LLP said Tuesday that the firm is investigating other cases of MacBook Pro failures across the country, beyond California and Florida. It has also created a quick survey for those who have had one or more logic board replacements due to graphical issues with the 2011 notebook lineup.



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Apple SIM simplifies buying international data plans with supported carriers

Oct 27, 2014 - 2:09 PM - by sparkyscott21

An internal Apple sales document clarifies the possible uses of the Apple SIM, which is included in cellular versions of the iPad mini 3 and Apple iPad Air 2. The Apple SIM launched with several supported carriers: T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint in the US and EE in the UK.

Given that EE is the only available carrier in the UK, the purpose of its existence in the region was unclear. However, this document confirms that customers travelling between the US and the UK can benefit from the deal.

If American customers have chosen T-Mobile or Sprint for their domestic coverage, when travelling to the UK they will be able to use Apple SIM to open an account with EE for data without messing about with changing SIM’s. This feature will be unavailable for AT&T users, which locks the Apple SIM to its network upon activation.

This will also work for UK customers travelling to the US. With an Apple SIM, they will be able to start a data plan on T-Mobile by going to Cellular preferences in the Settings app.

Additional Apple SIMs can be purchased from Apple retail stores, if necessary. For Verizon, the document reaffirms that the company is not participating in the Apple SIM program. In addition, the language is interesting. The text refers to EE as the ‘initial participating cellular’ service provider in the UK, suggesting that more may come aboard shortly.



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Apple in talks to expand NFC in iPhone 6 beyond Apple Pay, replace building keycards

Oct 27, 2014 - 2:07 PM - by sparkyscott21

The Information is reporting that Apple is actively scouting out partnerships to increase the utility of the NFC chip inside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Right now, the chip can only be used for payments through Apple Pay as the API is not available to third-party developers.

The Information says that the company is talking to potential partners about using the technology for things like building security, public transit tickets and more. The report names that Apple has already been in talks with HID Global and Cubic, who make electronic ‘keycard’ secure building access and transit fare systems.

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.

In fact, Apple has already announced a similar partnership with Starwood Hotels, where Apple users can replace hotel keycards with their Apple Watch, although this uses Bluetooth rather than NFC technology.

Naturally, none of the companies wanted to speak on record about the discussions. However, it is not difficult to see how the iPhone could replace transit tickets used on the BART trains. Information could be safely stored in the Secure Element where credit card data is stored today.

Apple is already facing some backlash in the payments department by merchants, but this report shows that the company is undeterred in making the iPhone an even bigger part of everyday life.

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iPhone 6 Plus users report persistent unexplained crashing issues

Oct 24, 2014 - 12:23 PM - by sparkyscott21

A number of iPhone 6 Plus users have reported an issue in which the phone inexplicably crashes or enters a reboot loop, prompting many to take it in to Apple for service, where it is usually swapped out for a new unit. Some owners are on their fourth replacement 6 Plus.

Multiple owners have reported identical crashing problems on Apple's Support Communities forum, with one thread now standing at more than 9,000 views and 60 replies.

The exact trigger has yet to be discovered, though 6 Plus owners posting to the thread claim to have nailed down a few commonalities: 128GB iPhone 6 Plus is the most affected model; apps installed number at more than 700; and crashes can occur without user interaction. Some pin the trouble on hardware as Apple's recent iOS 8.1 update did not fix the issue, though others believe software is to blame.

At first, it was thought that restoring from a previous iPhone image carried over faulty app settings or incompatible apps, but this theory was seemingly debunked after multiple attempts to restore phones as new before adding on apps manually failed. This does not rule out individual app incompatibility with iOS 8, but with so many apps in question, testing and cross-checking results would be extremely difficult.

Some forum members and AppleInsider readers have taken their 6 Plus in to an Apple Store for assessment. In some cases, Geniuses exchange the non-functional unit, while others have been told to hold on to their phone as their repair ticket escalates up the tech support chain of command. Few have reported success with new iPhone 6 Plus replacements.

As for workarounds, some are seeing varying success in restoring the phone as new, then manually installing each previously purchased app one-by-one. However, as mentioned above, a good number of owners have tried this tactic to no avail. Manually reinstalling purchased apps is a time consuming process and seemingly does not provide a surefire solution to the problem. In fact, some forum members say the fix only lasts for a few minutes before the phone once again enters into a crash cycle.

Interestingly, others have found that turning on the Display Zoom function sometimes helps alleviate crashes, but the method is far from a proven fix.

As of this writing, the number of owners affected by the crashing issue is unknown. The number of views on each Support Communities thread suggest the issue is not widespread. However, if current speculation is correct and the problem is linked to 128GB iPhone 6 Plus owners who have expansive app libraries, the relatively low number of reported cases may not be indicative of the issue's severity.

Apple has not yet officially commented on the matter and does not have policies in place to deal with incoming repairs at Apple Stores.


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iTunes sales down 13% this year as Apple plans to rebuild, rebrand Beats Music

Oct 24, 2014 - 12:20 PM - by sparkyscott21

Sales from Apple's iTunes Store have fallen significantly thus far in 2014, helping to push forward the company's alleged plans to revamp the recently acquired Beats Music and make it part of the iTunes brand.

Citing people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that sales from Apple's iTunes Store have fallen between 13 and 14 percent so far this year. That's much worse than last year, when global revenue from music downloads fell 2.1 percent.

The report also reaffirmed an earlier rumor claiming that Apple may be looking to end the Beats Music brand, and instead repackage the service it acquired as part of a $3 billion acquisition of Beats earlier this year. It's been said that the branding change would more closely align the property with Apple's other first-party offerings, such as the iTunes Store and iTunes Radio.

According to the Journal, Beats Music will relaunch next year completely rebuilt, and integrated into iTunes.

The report comes on the heels of a fresh rumor this week that claimed Apple is looking to cut the price of its subscription music service to $5 per month. Currently, Beats Music costs $9.99 per month on a month-to-month basis, or $99.99 if users are willing to sign up for a full year.

The acquisition of Beats Music represented Apple's entrance into a key subscription market where iTunes Store downloads and iTunes Radio streaming service did not compete. The subscription Beats Music service allows on-demand streaming of tracks and albums, as opposed to the randomized nature of iTunes Radio.

Streaming has become increasingly important in the music industry as sales of digital albums have been declining. Many users who previously purchased music have been migrating to services like Spotify and Pandora.



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Apple looks to repurpose Arizona factory after GTAT bankruptcy

Oct 23, 2014 - 2:29 PM - by sparkyscott21

Apple’s sapphire ambitions with GT Advanced Technology have been a complete disaster, but even though the plan to turn Mesa, Arizona into the Sapphire Capitol of the West failed, Apple executives are still looking for a way to repurpose its new factory.

The city of Mesa and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer bent over backwards to bring Apple to the Grand Canyon state, but now that GTAT plans to run down operations, Apple has told Recode it’s still committed to helping the area.

“We’re going to continue evaluating GTAT’s progress on larger sapphire boule development, as well as consider other options for the facility. We remain committed to the city and we’re going to work with Mesa and Maricopa County to help the GT Advanced employees who will be impacted by this find new jobs.”

GTAT filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month, after it failed to meet performance requirements which kept the company from receiving its final $139 million payment from Apple. As a result of the company’s bankruptcy, over 650 employees have been laid off after the plant opened less than a year ago.

The sapphire glass factory was expected to bring in over 2,000 jobs and $1 billion to the Mesa area, but after the project failed to produce a single sapphire iPhone display, Apple and GTAT reached a $439 million settlement to end all current agreements.



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