AWT News Update: May 17, 2016

Today's AWT News Update brings you news from the world of Apple!

  • The iOS 9.3.2 update is bricking some iPad Pros
  • Apple's apparently hiring a number of people with expertise in wireless charging
  • Foxconn and Pegatron are hiring iPhone assembly workers earlier than usual this year
  • Free the FM!

The text version of this podcast can be found below.

Text Version

Hi, I’m Steve Sande from Apple World Today, and this is the AWT News Update for May 17, 2016. Our sponsor this week is Elgato Eve Energy, providing Apple HomeKit-compatible control of your home through Siri.

Have an iPad Pro? You might want to hold off on updating the tablet to iOS 9.3.2. Why? Well, reports are coming out with the news that the latest iOS update is bricking those devices, and by bricking, we mean that the device asks to be plugged into iTunes but can’t be restored. The issue can also display a fun, generic “Error 56” message on the screen, meaning that it’s a hardware error. At this time, there are no signs that an official fix is on the way. What can you do if your device is having problems? The best idea is to take it to your local Apple Store. While they may not be able to fix it, they can offer you a replacement iPad Pro. All iPad Pros are currently under warranty and free service is yours for the asking.

Whenever Apple hires a number of employees into new positions, we pundits immediately try to figure out what it means. Lately, Apple is hiring people with wireless charging experience, meaning that the company may finally be planning on adding that technology to 2017 iPhones and iPads. The Verge noted that Apple has hired over a dozen people with expertise in the area, with two coming from wireless charging firm uBeam in the past four months. Usually wireless charging requires that a device be in contact with a charging mat, dock or puck, like the one used to charge the Apple Watch. Apple’s interested in truly wireless charging, allowing a device to just be in the same room as a charger. uBeam’s technology is quite controversial, since last week a former company engineer stated that the ultrasonic wave charging method they’ve developed doesn’t work as advertised.

We still have about four months before the iPhone 7 will allegedly be available, and Taiwan’s Economic Daily News reports that Apple’s two assembly partners — Foxconn and Pegatron — have begun to hire earlier than usual this year. Apparently, the extra time will allow the companies to get an earlier start on production and get workers up to speed with training on Apple’s new design. So what could be so different that the workers need extra training and a longer production cycle is in place? One idea is that the device — like the competing Samsung Galaxy models — could be completely waterproof. There are also rumors about a dual-lens camera system and Smart Connector on the iPhone 7 Plus, which could take additional work to install.

One thing you might not be aware of is that every iPhone has a hidden FM radio chip in it. The chip is part of an overall radio chipset that is used for the rest of the communications provided by the iPhone. The National Association of Broadcasters started calling on Apple to unlock the iPhone’s FM chip last year, noting that FM radio has some benefits over streamed radio and can be used in emergency situations. While US mobile carriers Sprint, AT&T, Blu and T-Mobile say that they’ll activate the chip, there’s one fly in the ointment. Apple needs to comply with the petitions and activate the services. That’s probably unlikely given that some countries are trying to get rid of radio and replace it completely with streaming services, but it is possible that the ability to get emergency notifications even with cell towers out of commission could rule the day.

We’ll be back tomorrow afternoon with another edition of the AWT News Update.