DOJ reportedly using fake aircraft-mounted cell towers to spy on mobile phones

The US Department of Justice is installing equipment on airplanes that masquerades as a cell phone tower in order to gather mobile phone data, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. The program's goal is to identify criminals, but each plane is capable of collecting data from thousands of phones in a single flight.

The Journal says these spy devices are called "dirtboxes," and have a surface area of two feet by two feet. They're being installed on fixed-wing aircraft by the US Marshals Service's Technical Operations group, and purport to be strong-signaled cell towers. This tricks cellphones into giving them their IMSI info, making them totally trackable.

Apple launches iTunes Pass in the US and other countries

On Tuesday, Apple launched a new service in Japan called 'iTunes Pass.' The service allows customers to purchase iTunes Store credit from an Apple retail store using Passbook, eliminating the need for physical gift cards and redemption codes.

At the time of launch, it was unclear if Apple intended to roll out iTunes Pass to other countries, or if it was merely just testing the waters for a bigger project. After 24 hours, that question was answered tonight when the service popped up in the US...

Apple joins ‘SupplierPay’ initiative to speed up payments to small businesses

Apple has joined Coca-Cola, IBM and other major companies as an early adopter in the new White House 'SupplierPay' program. The initiative is aimed at accelerating payments from these larger firms to smaller businesses in their supply chain.

The program is a private-sector extension of QuickPay, another federal initiative designed to ensure small contractors are paid within 15 days of submitting an invoice. This helps them avoid borrowing money, increasing their chances to succeed...

Apple cuts maximum iPhone trade-in value to $225

Less than 24 hours after extending its in-store and online iPhone trade-in program to Italy (and coming to Australia later this week), word on the street reaches us that Apple Stores have now slashed the maximum trade-in value of eligible iPhone models, as part of its Reuse and Recycle program, to a new low of $225 for good condition iPhone 5 units...

T-Mobile announces new ‘Music Freedom’ and ‘Unradio’ initiatives

During T-Mobile's event in Seattle tonight, the carrier announced a handful of new 'uncarrier' initiatives. There's Test Drive, which we've already talked about here, and two new programs for music lovers: 'Unradio' and 'Music Freedom.'

Unradio is an interesting new streaming music service from T-Mobile and Rhapsody that addresses "major pain points" of other services, and Music Freedom allows users to stream music without it hitting their monthly data allowance.

Keep reading for a full breakdown of both programs...

Foxconn looking to open large display manufacturing plant in US

Foxconn is looking to beef up its presence in the US according to some recent comments made by Terry Gou. During an event marking the company's 40th anniversary, the chairman said they were exploring the possibly of opening a large display plant in the country.

The manufacturing giant already has a handful of factories scattered across the US, but this particular facility would be capable of producing TV-sized display panels over 60-inches. And the move could save Foxconn's American clients millions of dollars in shipping costs...

Foxconn looking to invest $40 million in new US plant

As part of its ongoing efforts to expand its North American operations, Foxconn is looking to invest over $40 million over the next two years building a high-tech manufacturing facility in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Bloomberg is reporting this week that the company, which counts Apple as its largest client, will spend $30 million on the new plant and $10 million in research and development at Carnegie Mellon University...

Remarkable sophistication of Mac Pro manufacture

Not that long ago, these three words - 'Made in USA' - stood out for American quality, craftsmanship and reliability. What a difference a few decades make! As everyone's been building virtually everything in China, small wonder even Apple's boss Tim Cook, like his predecessor Steve Jobs, suspects those manufacturing jobs won't be coming back anytime soon. What might is (some) assembly work.

It was only recently that the nation's tech brands began experimenting with doing final assembly domestically. Motorola, for example, is putting the final pieces of the Moto X in place at a Texas plant, previously a Nokia facility.

Apple, in the meantime, has always designed its products in California and tapped its vast network of suppliers and contract manufacturers in Taiwan and China to build its gizmos. That's starting to change now as Apple's next-generation Mac Pro marks the company's return to the US in a limited manufacturing capacity.

The upcoming dream desktop is being assembled in a $100 million U.S. plant. And like Motorola's, Apple's facility is located in Texas. So, how does Apple build such a sophisticated and radically rethought desktop computer? Industrial designer Greg Koenig took a closer look at an eye-candy Mac Pro assembly video Apple played at yesterday's keynote, here's what he gleaned from it...

New iPhones pushed Apple to top US smartphone seller in September

According to data from market research firm Counterpoint Research, Apple was the top US smartphone seller in September. The company overtook the spot from Samsung, who had been #1 in the country since May.

And it's not hard to guess where the boost came from, Apple released not one but two new handsets last month. The iPhone 5s was the overall top selling smartphone in September, and the iPhone 5c came in third place...

Apple applauds Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage

Normally, the words 'Apple applauds' and 'Supreme Court' don't go together. The Cupertino company isn't on the greatest terms with the US government at the moment, what with the whole tax evasion thing and the ongoing e-book trial.

But today is a different story. In a pair of 5-4 decisions this morning, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex couples in two major cases, effectively allowing federal benefits for gay couples. And Apple says it applauds the ruling...

New bill introduced that legalizes cellphone unlocking and more

Back in January, the mobile homebrew community suffered a major blow when several DMCA exemptions expired. Among them was a rule that made unlocking cellphones legal, effectively making the practice illegal here in the United States.

But it may not be that way for long. A new bill just landed in the House of Representatives called The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013, which, among other things, would make the process of unlocking your cellphone unequivocally legal...

Apple says its iOS app economy created 80,000 US jobs last year

Apple has come under heavy fire in recent years by critics for outsourcing its manufacturing jobs to Asia. Folks don't like the fact that while the US struggles with unemployment, it pays Chinese factory workers to build its products just to save a few dollars.

In response to the criticism, Apple posted a new page on its website last year touting the more than 500,000 jobs it's either created or supported in the US with its business. In fact, according to its records, its app economy alone created 80,000 jobs last year...