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Report: Apple acquires mobile imaging company LinX

Apple has acquired camera technology company LinX, CNBC reports. The price of the acquisition appears to be around $20 million, according to sources who informed Dow Jones of the deal. The Israeli company develops high-quality imaging hardware for integration into mobile devices, and aims to “put SLR image quality” into users’ pockets, according to a press release last year announcing the company’s successful development of “miniature multi-aperture cameras designed for mobile devices.” The release notes that the camera modules are significantly smaller than typical mobile camera hardware while producing better quality results than typical smartphone cameras through various innovative technologies. It seems likely that Apple intends to use the company’s assets to help improve next-generation iPhone cameras.

Apple releases ResearchKit to medical researchers

Apple announced today it has released ResearchKit – a software framework designed to help doctors and other researchers gather health data from patients using mobile devices – to medical researchers worldwide. Apps developed with ResearchKit to study asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease have already enrolled 60,000 iPhone users.

Apple is hopeful that making the open source framework publicly available will expand researchers’ ability to recruit patients for studies and greatly increase the frequency and accuracy of data collected from individual patients. “Studies that historically attracted a few hundred participants are now attracting participants in the tens of thousands,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations. ResearchKit apps access data from iPhone sensors like the accelerometer, gyroscope, microphone and GPS to gain insight into a participant’s activity levels, motor impairments, memory and more. ResearchKit also works with iOS 8’s HealthKit health and fitness apps – with permission from the participant, ResearchKit apps can access and use data from the Health app such as weight, blood pressure, glucose levels and asthma inhaler use.

Apple Pay timeline in China unknown after negotiations stall

Sources close to Apple’s talks with Chinese banks say a disagreement over Apple’s fees has stalled Apple Pay’s rollout to China, MarketWatch reports. Despite rumors that Apple would wrap up negotiations in March, problems with UnionPay — the only company that handles inter-bank payments in China — have kept Apple Pay support for out of the iOS 8.3 Chinese release last week. An unnamed UnionPay employee said the company hasn’t made a deal with Apple or set a timetable for reaching one. Chinese banks also balked at the 0.15 percent charge Apple takes from the standard 2 percent fee on credit card transactions and the half-penny Apple collects from debit transactions in the U.S. Apple has also hit snags rolling out Apple Pay in other countries as well, including the U.K.

Apple releases iOS 8.4 beta to developers, with new Music app

Less than a week after the public release of iOS 8.3, Apple has already begun the developer beta cycle of the next iOS update, with the release of the first iOS 8.4 beta to registered developers. As expected, iOS 8.4 appears to focus primarily on a redesigned Music experience to pave the way for Apple’s upcoming streaming music service, with a number of significant changes to the built-in Music app, paralleling some iTunes features such as Now Playing, Mini Player, and support for adding to and managing the Up Next queue.

The Music app redesign is apparently being overseen by Trent Reznor, the creative head at Beats Music, who has reportedly been working on a secret project at Apple since at least last fall. This first iOS 8.4 beta, featuring a build number of 12H4074d, is also accompanied by an Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment, and notes about a dozen limitations with the new Music app at present.

It is expected that most of these are just issues related to the new Music app not being entirely finished in this first beta, and the app experience should improve through the remainder of the beta cycle.

Apple announces WWDC for June 8-12

Apple has announced its 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference will run from June 8 to June 12 at Moscone West in San Francisco. The event will feature technical sessions presented by Apple engineers and give developers exclusive access to the latest features of iOS and OS X. Select sessions from the event will be streamed online from the WWDC website and the WWDC app. Apple is expected to debut a new Apple TV featuring the long-awaited addition of an App Store at the event, along with a software development kit to get developers started on the necessary apps. Apple’s revamped music service will likely also be unveiled during the event. Tickets will be assigned via lottery, with applications being accepted here from now until 10 a.m. Pacific Time on April 17.

Apple takes 15 percent of subscription fees for Apple TV signups

While Apple notably takes 30 percent of any service’s subscription fees taken from within an iOS app, the company only takes a 15 percent cut for subscription signups on Apple TV, according to Re/code. Though most Apple TV channels are either free or require cable authentication, there are still a number of channels which allow for subscription signups on Apple TV. As the report notes, where a user signs up “could be worth millions” to Apple and the likes of HBO, which offers its new HBO Now service on both Apple TV and iOS devices. It’s also pointed out that either signup option is preferable for HBO when compared to the 50 percent fee that cable and satellite providers charge premium networks — a fact which may lead to more standalone streaming network offerings in the future.

Security change in iOS 8.3 limits some file manager and transfer apps

A security change in iOS 8.3 prevents some file manager and transfer utilities like iFunBox and iExplorer from accessing app directories on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, MacRumors notes. The apps allow users to manage, transfer and back up data between their iOS devices and a Mac or PC, but updated iOS 8.3 security features blocked the apps’ ability to control data in installed apps and games. Scrambling for a fix over the weekend, iFunBox released an updated version that partially addressed the problem, allowing any music file to be imported as a ringtone, and apps with “iTunes File Sharing” enabled to be opened for sandbox browsing. Any other apps are still not accessible in iOS 8.3. Macroplant’s iExplorer claims to be iOS 8.3 ready, making no mention of the security issues.

Apple Watch Sport, 42mm case and black Sport band top pre-sale estimates

Nearly a million people in the U.S. pre-ordered the Apple Watch on April 10, with many buying more than one, according to data from digital commerce measurement firm Slice Intelligence. More than half of all customers went for the less expensive Apple Watch Sport (62 percent), and most buyers opted for the larger 42mm case (71 percent). The black Sport band was the most popular band for Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport customers, making up an estimated 49 percent of online pre-orders, followed in popularity by the white Sport band and Milanese Loop. Slice claims to have based its estimates on daily e-receipt data from more than 2 million shoppers.

Report: Apple Watch Sport comes with three band pieces, not two separate bands

Despite the wording on Apple’s website, Apple Watch Sport doesn’t come with two bands, according to TechCrunch. Instead, the watch will come with three band pieces of the same color — one end with a fastener and two pieces that have holes, sized small/medium and medium/large to let users choose the appropriate fit. This development has thrown some cold water on sites like Bandswapper, which sprung up to let someone exchange an “extra band” which doesn’t fit their wrist for another band of the correct size.

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Apple vying for artist exclusives for streaming music service; family plan?

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.”

Report: Apple has spent $38 million on Apple Watch TV ads

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 bands also experiencing delayed shipping times

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 sell out quickly, shipping estimates now 4-6 weeks or later

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 releases iTunes 12.1.2 with OS X Photos app support

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 debuts new Space lineup

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

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Sprint, UK’s EE add Wi-Fi calling with iOS 8.3

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 pressuring Apple to include more of its channels in upcoming TV service

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 confirms online-only sales for Apple Watch at launch

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 quietly acquires keyboard app developer Dryft

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.

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