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Apple Pay to launch in China via UnionPay

Apple has officially announced that Apple Pay will be coming to China in early 2016 as part of a partnership with China UnionPay. Apple Pay will work with China UnionPay’s QuickPass-enabled POS terminals, and UnionPay cardholders will be able to easily add their bank cards to Apple Pay on their iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad. China UnionPay operates China’s national inter-bank clearing and settlement system, and a worldwide UnionPay Card acceptance network; over 5 billion UnionPay cards have been issued worldwide, which can be used at more than 26 million merchants throughout both urban and rural areas in China. Apple Pay and UnionPay still need to pass elevant tests and certification required by Chinese regulators for the service to be deemed in compliance with the applicable national mobile payment and financial industry standards in China.

Apple promotes Jeff Williams to Chief Operating Officer

Apple has announced the promotion of Jeff Williams, formerly Senior VP of Operations, to the position of Chief Operating Officer. Williams has effectively been serving as the de facto head of Operations at Apple since Tim Cook’s appointment as CEO four years ago — Williams was appointed VP of Operations in 2004, and later promoted to Senior Vice President of Operations in 2010, while the Chief Operations Officer (COO) role formerly held by Tim Cook under Steve Jobs remained vacant after Cook became Chief Executive in August 2011, leaving Williams as the senior executive on the Operations side. As a result, Williams’ appointment as Chief Operating Officer is unlikely to have much impact on his day-to-day responsibilities within Apple, although the promotion likely means an increase in compensation and is clearly intended to recognize Williams’ contributions to Apple over almost two decades, with Cook referring to Williams as “hands-down the best operations executive I’ve ever worked with.”

Frogmind releases Badland 2

Frogmind has released Badland 2 ($5), the sequel to its award-winning game Badland, for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The new side-scrolling, action-adventure game expands on the original world of Badland, adding rich new graphic detail and levels that now extend and scroll in all directions, as well as new obstacles and elements to fly through, such as liquids, flamethrowers, frost, magma, water, and searing light. The single-player campaign provides unique, physics-based challenges, however players can also jump into online levels for competing against friends in seasonal asynchronous multiplayer events. Frogmind also promises more content for both modes will be provided in future free updates, as in the original Badland. The new sequel also includes support for 3D Touch capability for iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus users.

NFL accepting bids from Apple, others to stream Thursday Night Football

The NFL is now accepting bids for streaming rights to its Thursday Night Football package, Sports Business Daily reports. In addition to the usual formal request-for-proposal (RFP) that the league sent to its usual TV partners, an RFP also went out to Apple and several other digital companies including Google, Yahoo, and Amazon, to stream the entire Thursday night schedule on a non-exclusive basis, with sources suggesting that the plan would have the digital streams simulcasted with television production, including the same ads and in-game production features. While bidding for television rights is expected to start in the low $300 million range, reflecting what CBS is currently paying for the package, it’s not clear how much the NFL is expecting to make from the streaming rights, although sources noted that the availability of streaming is not expected to diminish the fee for the TV rights.

Philips reverses course on Hue blocking of third-party bulbs

On the heels of yesterday’s news that Hue was set to begin blocking uncertified third-party bulbs from the Hue ecosystem due to “interoperability” issues, the company has now rapidly reversed course as a result of customer feedback. Philips has revised the notice on its developer blog, noting that while the decision was “made in good faith” to ensure an optimal customer experience, the company underestimated the impact that it would have on customers, and that in view of this it has decided to reverse the software upgrade so that lights from other brands will “continue to work as they did before” with the Hue system. The post notes that the company is working on the reversal of the upgrade and will soon confirm when this will be available to affected customers.

Philips is still encouraging third-party accessory makers to join the Friends of Hue partnership program so that their devices can be tested and certified to work seamlessly with Hue, and notes that customers using uncertified lights will likely still experience the same incompatibility issues that they have in the past, although Philips will no longer stand in the way of customers using other ZigBee LL capable accessories.

Apple shuts down 2013 acquisition Topsy

Topsy, a Twitter analytics company acquired by Apple in 2013, tweeted last night that the company has searched its last tweet, as Apple has shut down the service. Topsy’s website now redirects to an Apple page which shows how to use search in iOS 9, perhaps hinting at where Topsy’s technology was used most. Topsy was acquired by Apple for more than $200 million two years ago. The company was originally known for analyzing tweets and “the social web,” though how Apple used Topsy was never completely clear.

Samsung appeals Apple patent case to Supreme Court

Despite having agreed earlier this month to pay $548 million in damages, Samsung has now asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the previous verdict, according to a new Wall Street Journal report. While Samsung agreed to pay the damages to Apple as ordered in the earlier judgements, the company also made it clear at the time that it “reserves all rights to obtain reimbursement from Apple” as well as the rights to “reclaim or obtain reimbursement of any judgement amounts paid by Samsung to any entity,” should the judgement be reversed.

Apple working on new display technology in Taiwanese lab

Apple has opened a new laboratory in Taiwan for developing new display technologies, Bloomberg reports. Citing people with “knowledge of the facility,” the report indicates that the production laboratory building in Longtan houses at least 50 engineers and other workers who are tasked with creating new screens for future iPhones, iPads, and other devices. Apple is said to have recruited talent from local display makers AU Optronics Corp. and Qualcomm, who used to own the building where the new lab is now located. New display technology under development allegedly includes more advanced versions of the current LCD iPhone and iPad displays as well as research on OLED screen technology. A spokesperson for Apple declined to comment.

Philips starts blocking uncertified third-party bulbs from Hue ecosystem

Starting with last week’s Hue Bridge firmware update, Philips is now blocking third-party bulbs that have not been tested with the Hue system. In a post on its developer blog, Hue provided an update on “Friends of Hue” — the company’s program for certifying third-party apps and hardware to work with the Hue Bridge — noting that due to “an increasing number of interoperability issues” the latest firmware updates will begin blocking any devices that have not been tested and certified by Philips from joining the Hue Bridge. Since Philips uses the ZigBee Light Link (LL) standard, many users have found over the years that bulbs from GE, Cree, and Sylvania that support ZigBee LL can also be paired with a Hue Bridge and integrated into the Hue ecosystem, although compatibility issues are commonly reported online, such as lights that do not turn fully off, or lights that don’t respond properly to Hue scenes.

Philips notes in its post that these third-party bulbs only make up a “minimal fraction” of the number of products being used within the Hue ecosystem, and the percentage of users affected should be minimal. Further, the update only applies to new untested products being linked; bulbs that have already been linked to a Hue Bridge will continue to work as they did before, as long as they are not deleted or the Hue Bridge isn’t reset, although Philips makes no guarantees that future firmware updates won’t expose compatibility issues.

FAA announces drone registration program

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced its new registration program for owners of “small unmanned aircraft,” known to most as drones. The program will require owners to register all drones weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds, including payloads such as on-board cameras. A short list of examples has been compiled by the FAA — for instance, Parrot’s Bebop Drone must be registered under the new program. The normal registration fee is $5, but that will be waived for owners who register within the first 30 days (Dec. 21, 2015 to Jan. 20, 2016).

 

BBC iPlayer app arrives on Apple TV in UK

BBC has launched its iPlayer app for Apple TV in the U.K. According to the BBC, the app features Siri voice search, along with typical playback and search functions. At this point, though, the app doesn’t support subtitles, as Apple doesn’t support the same format used by the BBC. The BBC also notes that it’s working with Apple on making BBC iPlayer shows available via the Apple TV’s search — that may arrive sometime next year.

Apple releases iTunes 12.3.2

Apple has released iTunes 12.3.2, a minor update that adds the Apple Music enhancements related to browsing for Classical music that appeared in iOS 9.2 earlier this week — specifically the ability to see works, composers, and performers while browsing through Classical music in the Apple Music catalog. The new version also includes the usual stability and performance improvements. iTunes 12.3.2 is available as a software update in the Mac App Store, or as a direct download from iTunes.com.

Leaked document reveals Mercedes’ CarPlay plans

A leaked document sent to Mercedes-Benz dealers in the U.S. (PDF) has been obtained by C450 AMG, revealing that the company plans to include CarPlay in select 2016 models beginning with Dec. 1 and Jan. 8 builds. Specifically, CarPlay will be offered on CLA, GLA, and B-Class models either as a standalone $350 package with the Audio 20 sound system or as a no-cost enhancement to the traditional Multimedia Package. E-Class Coupe & Cabriolet, CLS, GLE, and GLE Coupe models will automatically include CarPlay at no extra cost with the applicable packages that include the COMAND Navigation system. No information is available on when or if the C class will get CarPlay support.

The document suggests that CarPlay will only be available via a wired USB connection, and adds that Apple has confirmed a number of apps to be supported at launch, including Podcasts, Audio Books, iHeartRadio, MLB At Bat, Spotify, Stitcher, CBS Radio, Rdio, Overcast, Audiobooks.com, Audible, and Pandora, but notes that “content and features available on Apple CarPlay are selected solely by Apple” suggesting the final list may be subject to change — for example with Rdio scheduled to shut down in the coming weeks it seems unlikely that an Rdio app would be included.

Apple patent application reveals method for weatherproofing iPhone connectors

A new Apple patent application reveals that Apple may be working on a new method of weatherproofing iPhone connectors such as the Lightning port and audio jack, lending more credence to recent rumors that the company is working on making the next-generation iPhone waterproof. The patent application, titled Electronic device with hidden connector, describes using a layer of self-healing elastomer to protect sensitive electrical contacts in headphone and Lightning ports. Connectors would be able to penetrate the elastomer material to make electrical contact, but the material would re-seal itself upon removal of said connectors. Multiple examples are provided in the application, including applying the material to the opening of a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, lining the inside of the cylinder, or filling the audio jack completely with the material. The patent application was first filed in June 2014, and while rumors of a weatherproof iPhone 7 have been circulating recently, it’s unclear whether the methods described in this patent would be applied to the iPhone 7, some unspecified future device, or if they will make it into any future Apple device at all. [via AppleInsider]

Cook responds to criticisms of new Apple iPhone Smart Battery Case

In an interview with Mashable, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to various criticisms of the Apple’s new iPhone 6s Smart Battery Case, ranging from the “hump” on the back of the case to the idea that the release of the case is a tacit admission by Apple that the iPhone 6s’ battery life is insufficient. Regarding the protruding “hump” on the back of the case — a feature that many see as an “un-Apple” aesthetic — Cook notes that it was a conscious design decision to keep the case flexible in order to make it easier to insert and remove the iPhone, as compared to other battery cases which are so rigid that it takes “considerable strength and patience” to remove or insert an iPhone into them.

Apple: Upgrading to iOS 9.2 may fix unresponsive iPad Pro issue

In an update to its support page, Apple informed users that upgrading to iOS 9.2 may prevent the iPad Pro from becoming unresponsive after an extended period charging. Last month users began reporting that iPad Pro tablets running iOS 9.1 would appear frozen after charging, requiring a hard restart to resume functioning. Apple acknowledged the problem and recommended a forced restart as a temporary solution, but has since updated its support document to add that “Updating your iPad Pro to iOS 9.2 or later might prevent this issue from occurring in the future.” While users have speculated that restoring from an iCloud backup may be contributing to the freezing issue, Apple has offered no official word on what causes the iPad Pro to become unresponsive. After almost a month using the iPad Pro, we at iLounge have yet to experience the problem. [via App Advice]

More Apple picks for Best of 2015: Apple Watch apps, Books, Podcasts

Apple agreed with iLounge’s pick for the Best Apple Watch App of 2015, naming weather app Dark Sky its choice for Apple Watch App of the Year. Apple Watch Game of the Year went to Rules!, a fast-paced puzzle game which is a smaller version of its iOS edition. Best Classic Podcast went to WTF with Marc Maron, and newcomer Mystery Show was named Best New Podcast of 2015. Apple also released its picks for best books of 2015 in 16 categories, listed below.

Cue: Apple is working on ‘Siri Remote’ app for Apple TV

In an interview with BuzzFeed News discussing the success of the new fourth-generation Apple TV, Apple SVP Eddy Cue revealed that the addition of Apple Remote app support in yesterday’s tvOS update may actually just be a stop-gap measure while the company produces an enhanced Remote app for iOS devices. Cue noted that a new Apple TV remote app is in development that will provide “the full functionality of the Siri Remote on your iPhone,” and he expects Apple to release the new updated app in the first half of 2016.

Microsoft’s Cortana now available on iOS

A little more than a month after its open beta period, Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant hit the App Store today. The free app allows users access to functions similar to those performed by Apple’s Siri, like getting answers to questions, but adds the ability to sync reminders between an iOS device and a Windows PC. Cortana is also able to track packages, flights, sports scores and stocks for those looking for up-to-the-minute updates, and a Notebook function stores information about a user’s interests and activities. But Cortana’s functionality is much more limited on the iPhone than on Windows phones where it’s fully integrated: Cortana isn’t allowed to change iPhone settings or activate when users say “Hey Cortana,” making the app less of a full replacement for Siri and more of a handy extension for iOS device users operating a Windows PC that they want to integrate with their device.

Apple makes its picks for best iPhone, iPad and Apple TV apps of 2015

Apple has released its picks for best apps of 2015. The company picked Periscope (our runner up for App of the Year) as its iPhone App of the Year — calling it a game-changer that “made sharing and watching live videos an instant obsession” — and selected photo editor Enlight and stock-trading app Robinhood as its runners-up. Workflow won Most Innovative app for iPhone, and Instagram’s 3D Touch enhancements won it Best App on iPhone 6s. Lara Croft GO won Best Game of the Year for iPhone for its “beauty and clever design,” with Fallout Shelter and Mr Jump earning runner-up honors. Dark Echo was listed as the Most Innovative iPhone game and “immersive 3D Touch controls” won Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade honors as Best Game on iPhone 6s.

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