Apple has approached more than a dozen artists to attempt to negotiate exclusivity deals for its upcoming streaming music service, Bloomberg reports, with the goal of encouraging users to pay for a subscription in order to gain access to content that would be unavailable through competing services. The list of artists, which includes Taylor Swift and Florence and the Machine, among others, have been in discussions with Apple about deals ranging from limited streaming rights to individual new tracks to closer overall partnerships with the new service. Music label executives and artists alike have been pushing back in recent months toward free-tiered streaming services such as Spotify, with Taylor Swift notably pulling her entire catalog from that service after it refused to restrict her latest album to only its paying customers. Apple’s new subscription service is expected to be available in a paid tier only, priced at $10 per month for individual users, and a previously unrevealed “family plan” that would be priced at $15, although it is unclear how many users would constitute a “family.”
Apple has been putting a strong effort into marketing the Apple Watch on U.S. prime-time television, Reuters reports. Since the March 9 Apple Watch event, the company has spent $38 million on its “Watch Reimagined” television campaign — only slightly less, in relative terms, than the $42 million Apple spent on TV spots for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Out of more than 300 airings of the Apple Watch commercial, almost half have been in specific primetime spots, tied in with shows such as AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and NBC’s “The Voice.”
Apple Watch quickly sold out of its initial launch allotments, and Apple Watch bands are also experiencing a shortage online. A glance at the Apple Watch bands page on the Apple Online Store reveals most bands will now be shipping in May. As of this writing, the 38mm Link Bracelet ($449) and 38mm Milanese Loop ($149) have 2-4 week shipping estimates, while the 38mm Modern Buckle is completely unavailable, in all sizes. It’s currently unclear what Apple Watch band stock will be like in Apple Retail Stores on April 24 and beyond.
Apple Watch models sold out very quickly after the device’s launch at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time this morning. Some models were showing shipping estimates of 4-6 weeks almost immediately after the Apple Online Store opened to accept pre-orders. The earliest shipping time available was a two-week estimate — the official April 24 launch date to May 8. As of this writing, only one Watch model in the entire lineup — the 38mm stainless steel Watch with Black Classic Buckle — has that same early shipping estimate. Sport models are now showing June for a shipping estimate, stainless steel models with Sport bands are getting 4-6 week estimates, while some other stainless steel models are showing June or July as an estimated shipping time. All Edition models are showing a June shipping estimate as of this time.
Apple Stores are also currently accepting Apple Watch try-on appointments. As of this writing, there are plenty of available appointments today and this weekend at many stores.
Apple has released iTunes 12.1.2, a relatively minor update that adds support for syncing photos to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch from the new Photos app for OS X, released earlier this week as part of the OS X 10.10.3 update. The release notes also note “several refinements to the Get Info window” and general stability improvements. iTunes 12.1.2 is available through the standard software update mechanism, or for direct download at iTunes.com.
Mophie has debuted a new series of Space products for the iPhone and iPad mini. Building on last year’s Space Pack for iPhone 5/5s, the new lineup includes not only iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus versions of the battery and storage expansion case, but also a version for the iPad mini. Each of the new Space Packs are now available in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB versions, and feature extra battery power capable of providing a 100 percent charge to an iPhone 6 or iPad mini (3300 mAh and 8000 mAh, respectively), or a 50 percent charge to an iPhone 6 Plus (2600 mAh). The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus versions will retail for $150, while the iPad mini version sells for $200; all three cases are available for pre-order now from Mophie’s web site, and are expected to ship in the coming weeks. Mophie has also introduced the
With yesterday’s release of iOS 8.3, users on Sprint and EE in the UK can now take advantage of Wi-Fi calling. While the feature was initially debuted in iOS 8, only T-Mobile supported it at initial launch; for whatever reason other carriers seem to have been excluded up until this most recent iOS update, with Sprint issuing a formal press release, and EE more quietly announcing it via a posting in their community forums. An update to Apple’s support article on Wi-Fi calling provides confirmation that the service is now available specifically on “T-Mobile and Sprint in the United States and EE in the United Kingdom.”
Disney is putting pressure on Apple to carry more Disney-owned channels on its upcoming streaming television service, a new report from The Street reveals. The two companies are reportedly in negotiations regarding what content will be carried on the new service, expected to debut as early as this fall, with the issue of how many Disney channels Apple will be required to carry apparently forming a key point in the discussions. The report cites people with knowledge of the talks who have revealed that Disney is pushing Apple to take most — if not all — of its channels, including Disney, ESPN, and several spinoff channels, while Apple is trying to limit the amount of content carried in order to keep the price of its service down. Apple reportedly is hoping to formally announce the service in June, along with a list of content partners, with the service expected to be priced at $30-$40 per month for a 25-channel offering.
Apple today issued a press release officially confirming the preview and online pre-ordering of the Apple Watch for 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time, tomorrow, April 10, and availability for April 24. The Apple Watch will be available for customers to try on at Apple Stores and other select retailers in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. In the release, Apple SVP of Retail and Online Stores, Angela Ahrendts, confirms earlier reports that the new device will be available solely online for the initial launch.
Based on the tremendous interest from people visiting our stores, as well as the number of customers who have gone to the Apple Online Store to mark their favorite Apple Watch ahead of availability, we expect that strong customer demand will exceed our supply at launch. To provide the best experience and selection to as many customers as we can, we will be taking orders for Apple Watch exclusively online during the initial launch period.
Customers will still be able to visit Apple Stores to try on the Apple Watch and explore its features, although even in this case, they are encouraged to make appointments online rather than simply walking into the store. In addition to Apple Retail Stores, the Apple Watch is also being previewed at Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Isetan in Tokyo, Selfridges in London, and select Apple Authorized Resellers in Japan and China, and will also be sold at several additional boutique stores in major cities beginning on April 24th, including colette in Paris, Dover Street Market in London and Tokyo, Maxfield in Los Angeles and The Corner in Berlin.
Apple has acquired Dryft, a small startup that develops keyboard apps, TechCrunch reports. While the acquisition appears to have taken place last year, it has only recently come to light with LinkedIn profiles of a principal within the company showing him as having joined Apple last September as leading development for Apple’s “internal keyboard efforts.” It’s unclear whether the acquisition was for talent or assets, and financial terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed.
Apple has publicly released iOS 8.3, noting more than 50 new fixes and improvements across areas such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Messages, CarPlay, Family Sharing, Accessibility, Enterprise features, orientation and rotation features, and more. The update also boasts improved performance for launching apps, responsiveness of apps, Messages, Wi-Fi, Control Center, Safari tabs, third-party keyboards, and other features. Notably, with iOS 8.3, Apple has also removed the “beta” label from its iCloud Photo Library feature which debuted last fall, optimizing it to work with the new Photos app now available in OS X Yosemite 10.3.3. Other notable fixes and improvements include a new Emoji keyboard featuring over 300 new characters, the ability to filter out Messages not sent by people in your contacts list, a way to report junk iMessages directly from the Messages app, italic and underline formatting options on the iPhone 6 Plus landscape keyboard, and the ability to remove shipping and billing addresses used with Apple Pay. iOS 8.3 can be downloaded by going to the iOS Settings app and choosing General, Software Update, or by connecting your iOS device to iTunes and using the Check for Update option found on the iTunes device summary screen.
After being pulled from the App Store twice for objectionable content, the anonymous After School app is back with improved safety features, The Daily Dot reports. The app requires students to sign in with Facebook credentials to verify their location and school, then lets them post content anonymously to be viewed by others at their school. Bullies used that anonymity to torment other students, so After School’s parent company, One, spent three months improving the app’s safety. One co-founder Cory Levy said moderators now review every post before it goes live, with a “mature content” filter preventing anyone under 17 from accessing more adult posts. To verify age, the app will require a driver’s license scan. Students posting about harming or killing themselves will be referred to a 24/7 anonymous support team. Threats posted to the app will be flagged by an automated program that emails police and school officials. Even with the new safeguards, the App Store has After School rated 17+ for mature themes, mild sexual content, mild profanity and infrequent references to drug and alcohol use, among other things.
A new Wired interview with Apple human interface chief Alan Dye provides insight into the intricate design process behind some of the Apple Watch’s faces. Dye said that to capture a flower blooming for one Motion face, Apple designers took more than 24,000 photos over 285 hours instead of turning to CGI techniques. The team built a fish tank in its studio to capture jellyfish movements at 300 frames per second for another Motion face, and the Astronomy face starts its path from a user’s precise location on Earth toward the moon. Even seemingly simple decisions like using concentric circles to represent progress toward fitness goals took a year to finalize. Other details include Mickey Mouse’s one-second foot tap, timed so that it’s exactly the same on every Apple Watch. “We have a group of people who are really, really super-talented, but they really care. They care about details that a designer might not show in his portfolio because it’s so arcane. And yet getting it right is so critical to the experience,” Dye said. Apple has released a series of tutorial videos for manipulating Apple Watch’s faces, but customers will have to wait until the watch’s official launch on April 24 for the full experience.
Three photos showing the packaging for an Apple Watch and an individual watch band appeared on Instagram Tuesday. The photos from the Instagram account of Daily Mail employee Jeremy Gan (the account has been made private since the photos were posted) show what appears to a 42mm stainless steel Apple Watch with a Milanese Loop band on a stand inside its packaging. Other photos show the Apple Watch box and what appears to be the light brown Leather Loop band in a separate box. The images haven’t been confirmed as real, but the Daily Mail published its review of the Apple Watch today, so it’s plausible Gan had access to the Apple Watch and its packaging. [via MacRumors]
New photos and a video alleging to show the rear shell of the next-generation iPad mini have appeared on French blog nowhereelse.fr. The accompanying description notes that the shell includes two rows of ten holes for the speakers on either side of the Lightning port, differing from the number of holes on the current-generation iPad mini. Notably, the report also indicates that the lock switch has disappeared and the new shell appears more similar to the design of the iPad Air 2.
Add the release of the “Star Wars” movie series on iTunes to the list of big things happening for Apple on April 10. A TV ad from Disney and tweets from iTunes confirm SD and HD versions of all six “Star Wars” movies with hours of new bonus extras are available for pre-order in iTunes at $20 each. Reactions on Twitter were mixed, with many complaining that there’s no bundle discount for buying all 6 movies when fans have already bought the films multiple times in various formats. Amazon offers a bundle discount for digital versions of the films that will also be delivered April 10.
Apple’s upcoming subscription music streaming service is facing new scrutiny from federal regulators, the New York Post reports. Sources confirm the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice are holding talks with music industry executives to see if Apple’s attempts to undercut streaming music competitors violate any antitrust laws. European regulators are conducting a similar investigation. Jimmy Iovine, Apple’s executive in charge of the streaming service, has gone on record saying he doesn’t like the way the freemium model employed by services like Spotify devalues music — an argument many record labels have made as well. While Apple’s attempts to negotiate with record labels for lower music prices than those offered to competitors have apparently failed, regulators are investigating whether Apple has made any exclusive deals with labels that would take content away from competing music services. Apple hasn’t announced deals with any major record labels.
The much-anticipated HBO Now channel has been added to Apple TV. While the streaming standalone service costs $15 a month, a 30-day free trial is currently being offered. HBO Now iPhone and iPad apps should be appearing in the very near future.
Update: The HBO Now iOS app has also launched.
Customers using Apple’s Reserve and Pickup service will only be able to reserve one Apple Watch for in-store pickup, MacRumors reports. All customers will be required to present government-issued photo ID when picking up their reserved watch, and Apple is painting a pretty dire picture for people who miss their pickup appointment or try to game the system. The reservation policy states, “Inventory is subject to change. Your reservation is valid for pickup only at the Apple Retail Store that you selected. If you do not pick up your selected item(s) by the designated date and time, your reservation will be cancelled and your item(s) will be returned to stock. There is a maximum of 1 reservation per customer. Number of reservations may be limited. Apple reserves the right to refuse, limit or cancel a reservation if Apple determines that a customer has provided misleading or fraudulent information and/or abused, disrupted or attempted to circumvent the reservation system.”
Sources claim Apple was planning to allow two reservations per customer as recently as last month, but the limited stock has dropped that number to one. The limit doesn’t apply to pre-orders that will be shipped to homes starting April 24. Walk-in customers can try on a watch, but won’t be able to buy one.
With very limited quantities of the Apple Watch and 12-inch Macbook likely to be in stores at launch, Apple will be depending on Apple Store employees to steer customers online to place orders, Business Insider reports. In a memo from Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts, employees are instructed to promote the ease of using the Apple Store app and the company’s online store when customers come in looking for the latest products. “This is a significant change in mindset, and we need your help to make it happen. Tell your customers we have more availability online, and show them how easy it is to order,” the memo reads. As has been previously reported, the Apple Watch won’t be available for walk-in customers to purchase.