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Report: Some third-party repairs ‘bricking’ iPhones with iOS 9

A new report from The Guardian notes that thousands of iPhone 6 users are claiming to have been left holding useless iPhones as a result of repairs carried out by non-Apple authorized technicians. According to the report, users who previously had iPhone 6 models repaired at unauthorized third-party service centers have encountered an “Error 53” when updating to iOS 9, leaving their devices locked in a completely unusable state. The problem seems to center on handsets where a Touch ID home button has been repaired by an unauthorized company or individual, but it has also reportedly impacted customers with damaged iPhones that have otherwise been able to carry on using them without repairs.

Challenges with third parties making repairs involving the Touch ID sensor aren’t actually new: A 2013 report from iMore, released shortly after Apple introduced Touch ID on the iPhone 5s, revealed the Touch ID sensor and related hardware on each iPhone unit is specifically paired to that unit, presumably for security purposes. Home buttons, which include the Touch ID sensor, cannot be swapped between even identical iPhones, and the iMore article states that “For DIY repairers, things just got a bit more difficult. When removing the screen, say to replace a cracked screen, you’ll also need to remove the Touch ID cable to transfer it to the new screen. Extra care will need to be taken to ensure the cable isn’t damaged.”

Report: Apple to bid on NFL Thursday Night Football streaming rights

Apple plans to put in a bid for NFL Thursday Night Football streaming rights, according to a new report from Variety. A report late last year indicated that the NFL was accepting bids for streaming rights for the package, having sent formal requests for proposals to several major digital media players, including Apple, Amazon, Google, and Yahoo — although it was unclear at the time whether Apple actually had any plans to submit a bid in response to the RFP. In the process of announcing two-year TV broadcast deals with CBS and NBC for the package earlier this week, the league also noted that it is “in active discussions with prospective digital partners” for global streaming rights to the same games. Although the league declined to comment on which companies it is specifically in discussions with, multiple sources indicate that Apple is among those looking to put in bids.

Apple to begin taking broken iPhones for trade-in, offer in-store screen protector installation

Apple is planning to launch two new retail initiatives for iPhone users, according to a new report by 9to5Mac. The first is an enhancement to the company’s Reuse and Recycle Program that it launched two years ago, allowing customers to bring in an older iPhone model to trade it in and receive credit toward the purchase of a new iPhone. Starting this week, in addition to working iPhone models, Apple will now begin accepting iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus units with damaged displays, cameras, and buttons, with sources indicating that the current trade-in values for such models will be $50 for an iPhone 5s, $200 for an iPhone 6, and $250 for an iPhone 6 Plus. Sources indicate that Apple believes this will encourage users to upgrade to a newer iPhone model, rather than simply paying for a standard iPhone screen repair.

Apple ordered to pay $625M to VirnetX in patent case

Apple has been ordered to pay $625.6 million in damages to patent-holding company VirnetX over its FaceTime and VPN patents, CNET reports. This latest lawsuit is a retrial of a 2012 award where Apple was ordered to pay $368.2 million; an appeals court dismissed that damage award against Apple and ordered a new trial for some of the infringement claims. VirnetX refiled the suit in January, covering these earlier infringement claims as well as infringements based on newer generations of iOS devices.

Apple has said that it plans to appeal the decision, with a spokesperson making the statement that “Our employees independently designed this technology over many years, and we received patents to protect this intellectual property.” The damage award is actually worth more than VirnetX, which is a small patent-holding company that doesn’t actually make any products of its own.

Apple Pay reaches 2 million retail locations

Apple Pay is now available in more than two million retail locations, The Business Times reports. In addition, new merchants such as Crate & Barrel, Chick-fil-A, and Au Bon Pain have begun rolling out Apple Pay in their stores. Last year, Apple set a goal to make Apple Pay available in 1.5 million locations by the end of 2015, and not only has the company exceeded that goal, but Apple notes the volume of in-app purchases using Apple Pay have more than doubled in the last six months of the year, as compared to the first half of 2015. Further, according to a survey by Pymnts and InfoScout, in October 16.6 percent of people who own newer iPhones had tried Apple Pay, a jump from only 9 percent in November 2014, shortly after the service launched in the U.S.

Apple acquires security company LegbaCore

Apple acquired firmware security company LegbaCore last November, as the acquisition was disclosed in a presentation by security researcher Trammel Hudson at the 32C3 conference in December. LegbaCore is focused primarily in security consultancy, with a stated aim to “help build systems that are as secure as we know how to make.” LegbaCore’s founders revealed in November that they had joined Apple as full-time employees, with LegbaCore’s website announcing around that time that it would also “not be accepting any new customer engagements,” but would remain up as a reference for the company’s past work. LegbaCore and Trammel Hudson previously collaborated to create Thunderstrike 2, the first firmware worm to impact Macs as a proof-of-concept, alerting Apple to the vulnerabilities that the worm exploited. LegbaCore founder Xeno Kovah noted on Twitter that Apple began discussions with the two founders after their presentation in 2015, revealing some “very interesting and highly impactful work” that the two could participate in, eventually convincing them to begin working at Apple. While LegbaCore doesn’t own any specific technology, it seems likely that the founders have been acquired for their expertise and knowledge in security research to help improve firmware and software security in future Apple products. [via MacRumors]

Zagg to acquire Mophie for $100 million

Accessory manufacturer Zagg has announced that it has signed a merger agreement to acquire iPhone battery case maker Mophie for $100 million plus additional adjusted earnings over $100m across a 12-month earn-out period. In a press release on Zagg’s website, the company notes that the combination of the two companies will create a market share leader in the battery case, external battery, screen protection, and tablet keyboard accessory categories, and that the combined 2015 net sales of the two companies were about $470 million. The merger will also create expanded distribution opportunities for both companies, and allow strengthening and consolidation of engineering and manufacturing resources in China. The merger is expected to close during the first quarter of 2016, subject to the usual regulatory approvals.

Report: iPhone 7 to include flush camera lens, drop rear antenna bands

A few new details have emerged on Apple’s iPhone 7, as reported by MacRumors. Citing a reliable source, the report notes that the iPhone 7 body will be very similar to the iPhone 6 design, although the rear camera will apparently sit flush with the rear casing, rather than protruding as it does on the iPhone 6 and 6s. The iPhone 7 will also reportedly exclude the antenna bands across the rear, providing a cleaner, flat metal look on the back, although antenna bands at the sides and around the top and bottom edges will apparently remain much the same as they are on current iPhone 6/6s models.

Report: iPhone 5se, iPad Air 3 set for March 15 unveil

Apple is looking to hold an event on March 15 to unveil a new iPhone, iPad Air, and Apple Watch band options, 9to5Mac reports, following a report last week that the new standard-sized iPad would be available in March, while also revealing that the rumored 4-inch iPhone model will debut at the same time. Sources suggest that the new “iPhone 5se” will include an A9 chip, improved cameras, Live Photos support, and Apple Pay, while mirroring the general design of the iPhone 5s and coming in at the same price, starting at $450 for 16GB, with a 64GB model also being available. The report suggests that the iPad Air 3 will look much as suggested in previous reports, with enhanced speakers, a possible rear LED flash, and a Smart Connector like that found on the iPad Pro. Apple will also reportedly introduce new Apple Watch bands and software at the same event, although it appears no actual new Apple Watch device hardware will be unveiled.

Alleged iPad Air 3 drawing shows Smart Connector, four speakers, camera flash

A drawing representing the alleged iPad Air 3 shows a number of rumored features for the device, along with a slight size increase. The drawing, published by Engadget, shows a Smart Connector and four speakers, in addition to a rear camera flash. If the drawing is correct, the new iPad Air 3 will be 0.1 mm wider and 0.05 mm thicker than iPad Air 2 — a thicker screen could portend Apple Pencil support. Another recent report featuring an alleged case for the device showed support for similar features.

iPad Air 3 case photos reveal Smart Connector support, four speakers

A Chinese company has posted photos of an alleged case for iPad Air 3. Spotted by Macotakara, the case photos reveal a small cutout on the left longer side of case where the Smart Connector would be on iPad Pro, implying that iPad Air 3 will also have Smart Connector support. The alleged case also has four speaker cutouts — two on each short side, like the iPad Pro. It also appears as if the camera hole has been extended, possibly to make room for an LED flash. The Smart Connector support is a new development — it’s possible this company may only be guessing at a final iPad design, as these cases are both early and extremely low-cost. However, early reports have noted the possibility of extra speakers and a rear LED flash. iPad Air 3 is expected to debut in March.

Apple building team for secret virtual reality project

Apple is building a team of experts in virtual and augmented reality, according to a new report from the Financial Times. The secret research team apparently includes hundreds of staff collected from a series of “carefully targeted acquisitions” and other VR companies, and it has already been building prototypes of VR headsets for several months. Apple experimented with virtual reality under Steve Jobs about ten years ago, but abandoned the technology at the time as not being sufficiently mature; however, the company has rekindled its efforts in the area over the past two years, beginning with the acquisition of motion sensor maker PrimeSense in 2013, followed by augmented reality company Metaio and motion capture company FaceShift last year, and most recently Flyby Media, an augmented reality company that previously worked with Google in developing 3D positioning technology for Project Tango. It’s unclear whether Apple aims to release an actual VR headset, some other more ambitious project, or simply apply the technology to its new car project. Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted obliquely at VR earlier this week when he responded to a question from analyst Gene Munster on the matter during Apple’s quarterly earnings call, referring to virtual reality as having some “interesting applications” and definitely not being a niche area.

Report: Apple aiming to unveil original, exclusive TV programming by September

Apple may be looking in a new direction in efforts to get its television streaming service off the ground. A new report from The Street reveals that the company has been in talks with Hollywood’s creative community since late last year about producing original TV shows that could be offered exclusively to iTunes customers. While Apple has yet to sign any agreements, two people with knowledge of the matter have suggested that Apple is ideally trying to get deals in place for September so it can announce exclusive content with the unveiling of the iPhone 7. The discussions are reportedly being led by Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, who is effectively the force behind Apple’s entertainment initiatives, with Robert Kondrk, VP of iTunes content, also involved in the talks, according to sources. An Apple spokesperson naturally declined to comment on the matter. It was first reported in September that Apple had interest in creating original programming.

Wells Fargo, Bank of America ATMs to support Apple Pay?

Both Bank of America and Wells Fargo are currently developing contactless ATM solutions that could include support for Apple Play, TechCrunch reports. Citing sources familiar with the teams on the projects, the report notes that engineers at both companies have been assigned to build in Apple Pay options. Jonathan Velline, Wells Fargo’s head of ATMs, also implied that Apple Pay would be coming to its ATMs, noting that the company has been “working on the technology that allows us to hook to digital wallets [and] leveraging NFC on mobile phones to replace the card at the transaction at the ATM.” However, Velline noted that right now the company is only looking to support Android Pay for the initial launch, although he suggested that they’re looking at “lots of different mobile wallets” and when pressed, admitted it’s likely that Apple Pay is on the horizon.

Report: Apple working on iPhone model with wireless charging

Apple is working on developing new wireless charging technology for a future iPhone model, a new report by Bloomberg reveals. New technologies being developed by Apple would potentially allow iPhones and iPads to be powered from a farther distance than the charging pads used for current smartphones, according to sources familiar with the matter, and Apple is looking to overcome technical barriers such as power loss over distance. The Apple Watch currently uses magnetic induction technology for charging, and a patent Apple filed for in 2010 outlined a method of wirelessly recharging a device at a distance of about 1 meter, using an iMac as a hub. Although the technology is still in the early research stages at this point, sources suggest it could be ready for deployment on next-generation Apple devices as soon as next year.

Apple acquires LearnSprout, an educational software startup

Apple has acquired LearnSprout, an education technology startup, Bloomberg reports. LearnSprout creates software for schools and teachers to track student performance, and is currently used by more than 2,500 school districts across 42 U.S. states. The acquisition likely ties into Apple’s recent push into more sophisticated educational tools for the iPad with iOS 9.3, which will allow students to engage in interactive lessons and more easily share iPads within the classroom. In response to the acquisition, an Apple spokesperson gave the usual boilerplate statement that “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” LearnSprout’s CEO also did not immediately response to a request for comments from Bloomberg.

Facebook rolls out Live Video to US users

Facebook has announced the rollout of its Live Video feature on the iPhone to all Facebook users in the U.S., with expansion to the rest of the world “in the coming weeks.” Originally introduced as a trial in early December, the Live Video feature allows users to broadcast in real-time to friends, family, or other Facebook users via the Facebook app, initiated as a status update. Users can write a quick description and choose the audience that they wish to share with before going live. During the broadcast, Live Video users will see the number of live viewers, names of friends who are watching, and a stream of comments presented in real-time. Once ended, live video broadcasts will be saved onto the user’s Timeline like any other video.

Apple issues voluntary recall for certain AC wall plug adapters

Apple has issued a voluntary recall covering some of its AC wall plug adapters and world travel kits. The recall affects AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Continental Europe, New Zealand and South Korea, noting that in very rare cases, the affected two-prong adapters may break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched. The adapters shipped with Mac and some iOS devices between 2003 and 2015 and were also included in the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. The release notes that Apple is aware of 12 incidents worldwide, and specifies that the issue does not affect any other Apple AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom, or the United States, nor does it affect any Apple USB power adapters. Customers should stop using affected plug adapters immediately and visit www.apple.com/support/ac-wallplug-adapter for information about how to exchange their affected adapters for new, redesigned adapters.

Apple expected to debut iPad Air 3 at March event

Apple is planning to unveil its new iPad Air 3 at an event in March, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. After skipping the release of a new standard-sized Apple model at last fall, the new 9.7-inch iPad Air 3 is expected to replace the year-old iPad Air 2 with an upgraded model — possibly including a rear-facing LED flash, additional speaker grills to match the audio quality of the iPad Pro, and possibly even support for the Apple Pencil. A separate report from DigiTimes also seemingly confirms the March release, also suggesting that the new device will include a 4K resolution LCD panel and up to 4GB of RAM, although it should be definitely be noted that DigiTimes’ track record is unreliable, to put it mildly. 9to5Mac’s sources note that Apple is planning to hold its keynote during the week of March 14th, although the exact date is yet to be determined.

Apple releases second iOS 9.3 public beta

Apple has released the second public beta of iOS 9.3 through its Apple Software Beta Program. Released to developers earlier this week, the second beta makes a number of minor changes to Night Shift mode and CarPlay enhancements to Apple Music and Maps, along with adding a new button for Night Shift mode in Control Center. Be sure to check out our updated peek at what’s new in both the latest iOS 9.3 and tvOS 9.2 betas. Users who have already signed up for the Apple Software Beta Program should be able to log in and download the new versions now; users who haven’t signed up can do so at the same site.

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