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Conflicting reports leave existence of ‘iPhone 6c’ a mystery

Well-known leaker Evan Blass tweeted yesterday that an iPhone 6c will be arriving concurrently with the upcoming iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, but new information from mobile marketing company Fiksu may fly in the face of that prediction. Fiksu’s web logs have turned up two new iPhone models — designated “iphone8,1” and iphone 8,2” — being used to access a range of popular travel, gaming and lifestyle apps. The company notes that these identifiers don’t match what the phones will be called once they’re released to the public, since the current iPhone 6 is designated “iphone 7,2” and the iPhone 6 Plus is designated “iphone 7,1” within that naming convention. The fact that Fiksu only found two new iPhone models being tested lends more credibility to previous rumors that the iPhone 6c won’t be coming until at least next year, if at all. Alleged photos of an iPhone 6c casing made news in March, but since then speculation has been all over the map, with some claiming that an iPhone 6c is coming this year and others saying Apple isn’t building one.

El Capitan file hints at split-screen apps on iPad mini 4

A resource file in the upcoming Safari 9 browser for OS X El Capitan seems to show support for a split-screen view on the iPad mini 4, 9to5Mac reports. Apple has already confirmed that iOS 9 will give some iPad users the ability to run two apps at once side-by-side, but the iPad Air 2 is the only current model with a processor strong enough to take advantage of it. A developer tool in El Capitan used for testing the responsiveness of websites also looks to simulate an iPad mini 3 running Safari in split-screen mode, but the iPad 3 mini’s hardware doesn’t support the split-screen feature. Those testing capabilities could be further proof that the upcoming iPad mini 4 — rumored to be a smaller version of the iPad Air 2 — will also have the power to handle split-screen functions.

Rite Aid to reactivate Apple Pay starting August 15

After joining CVS in disabling Apple Pay last October, Rite Aid has announced it will begin accepting the touchless payment method again on Saturday, August 15. The chain’s 4,600 U.S. stores will also start accepting other cell phone-based payment methods and credit or debit cards equipped with tap-and-pay technology, installing NFC terminals in its stores as consumers increasingly turn to the faster form of payment. “Increasingly, consumers are actively seeking out and incorporating mobile technology into many facets of their life, including their shopping and purchasing decisions,” said Ken Martindale, CEO of Rite Aid stores.

The drugstore chain belongs to a group of retailers known as the Merchant Consumer Exchange, which has invested heavily in creating its own contactless, QR-Code-based payment system, called CurrentC. Industry experts saw the move as an effort to avoid the cost of installing NFC terminals and bypass merchant fees imposed by credit card companies, but CurrentC’s three-year exclusivity agreement with MCX members is set to expire this month, just as the payment system begins its first limited test run in member stores. Other MCX members, like Wal-mart and Target, are still not accepting Apple Pay. [via MacRumors]

Falling currency value could raise iPhone prices in China

With China devaluing its currency Tuesday, Chinese iPhone buyers could see a big spike in prices soon, The Wall Street Journal reports. In its annual report last year, Apple warned investors that a stronger U.S. currency might translate to lower sales and profit margins overseas when those sales are expressed in U.S. dollars. “There is a risk that the company will have to adjust local currency product pricing due to competitive pressures when there have been significant volatility in foreign currency exchange rates,” the reports stated. Apple didn’t immediately comment on China’s move, but the company has raised prices on its products in Canada, Japan and other countries in recent years to respond to persistent changes in exchange rates. China is currently the second-largest market for Apple — after the Americas — and the iPhone is already among the most expensive smartphones in China.

Report: iPhone 6S Force Touch to focus on shortcuts

The upcoming version of Force Touch found on Apple’s next iPhones will concentrate on shortcut actions, according to new report from 9to5Mac. On Apple Watch, Force Touch is used to reveal additional controls, acting as a clever way to provide more options on the small-screened smartwatch. Apps on the iPhone won’t have that same screen space issue, so it makes sense for Force Touch to offer other capabilities. A source in the report noted a number of examples, including: accessing voicemail by Force Touching the Phone app icon, Force Touching a track in Music to quickly access another menu, and using Force Touch in Maps to immediately start turn-by-turn directions. It’s said that iPhone Force Touch will be used in a number of ways, including an interface localized to the gesture, and via a shortcut list.

It also appears that Force Touch will be included in the upcoming “iPad Pro.” Though not a surprise, this report claims the feature will interact with the rumored iPad stylus. The report also notes that Apple was working on 4K video recording for the iPhone 6S, but it’s unknown as to whether the feature will make it into the newest devices next month.

Verizon to stop offering subsidized phones on August 13

Verizon has announced that starting this Thursday, August 13, it will no longer subsidize phones for new subscribers, leaving new customers left with the options to buy their phones outright or spread out the payments with the company’s device payment option. The company is also doing away with two-year contracts in favor of a simplified monthly billing format. Verizon said current customers can keep their existing plan or move onto the new plan, but notes that “some restrictions” will apply. The move is aimed more at making cellular plans easier to understand than at providing a better value to customers.

EU ends one inquiry into Apple, begins another

The European Commission has ended its inquiry into Apple, saying it failed to find evidence that the company colluded with music labels to undercut free music streaming services offered by Spotify, Re/code reports. Multiple unnamed sources said questionnaires sent by European regulators to major record labels in April turned up no proof that Apple had made efforts to stifle Spotify’s free, ad-based offerings to users. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice also talked to music industry leaders in April about Spotify’s concerns, but haven’t publicly released any findings.

While the EU dropping its collusion investigation is good news for Apple, sources with knowledge of the situation say the company isn’t in the clear yet, with EU officials now asking Spotify and other streaming music services for more information about their App Store agreements with Apple. The FTC is conducting a similar investigation into whether the company’s share of profits from competitors to its Apple Music service violates antitrust laws. The 30 percent cut of revenue that Apple demands on subscription fees — which competing music streaming services charge through their iOS apps — has drawn scrutiny ever since Apple entered the streaming music business.

Leaked video hints at thinner iPad mini 4

A video tweeted by @onleaks appears to show 3D CAD images of the new iPad mini 4, which support previous rumors that the new device will shrink in thickness from 7.5 mm to 6.1mm. The precise renderings show the new iPad mini to have a similar form to the iPad Air 2 and a thickness of 6.13mm. Last month, KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted the slimmer iPad mini 4 will also have updated internal components akin to those in the iPad Air 2, with Macotakara speculating that those updates may include an 8MP iSight camera, a fully laminated display and antireflective screen coating.

Last week the @onleaks Twitter feed provided another CAD video showing the new iPhone will actually increase in thickness slightly, presumably to accommodate the new Force Touch screen. Details about both devices and a new Apple TV are expected to come from Apple at an event rumored to be scheduled for September 9. [via 9to5Mac]

Report: Apple’s fall iPhone event to be held September 9th

Apple is expected to hold its annual fall iPhone event on September 9th, according to a new report from BuzzFeed’s John Paczkowski. While Apple has yet to officially announce a date – the company rarely does until about a week before the event – Paczkowski notes that sources familiar with Apple’s plans indicate that the company is expecting to hold a special event “the week of September 7th” with the 9th being “the most likely date.” Notably, Apple held last year’s even on September 9th as well.

The report goes on to note that the event will focus on the next-generation iPhones models as well as debuting the new Apple TV. Interestingly, sources also note that the company will debut its latest iPad models at the same event—something that has traditionally been delayed until a later October event in prior years. It also remains unclear whether the new iPad lineup will include the rumoured 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” which is said to be “a wildcard still.”

Iovine suggests Apple Music curation may come to Apple’s TV service

In a recent interview with Wired, Apple’s Jimmy Iovine has hinted that the company may be looking to extend the human curation aspect of its fledgling Music service into its TV efforts. Rumours of Apple’s plans to introduce a streaming TV service appeared earlier this year and have gained traction with subsequent reports that company has been trying to take a more unique approach by pushing for local content to distinguish itself from competitors. Apple has similarly tried to distinguish its new Music service from rivals by lauding its “human curation” approach, so it stands to reason that it may be looking to apply this approach to television content as well.

In the interview, Iovine specifically states, “We all know one thing, we all have different television delivery systems, don’t we all wish that the delivery systems were better, as far as curation and service?” and touches on Netflix breaking new ground with original content. Iovine goes on to suggest that a company needs to “dig in and really help the customer” and that entertainment needs to “live and breathe.” He notes, however, that he has his hands full with Apple Music, and would likely not be the one to spearhead such an operation on television side of things. Apple’s subscription television service, originally expected to launch as early as this fall, now appears to be pushed back until early 2016 as Apple continues to work out licensing deals for the service.

TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington moves to Apple PR

Former TechCrunch Apple reporter Darrell Etherington has begun a new job with Apple PR, 9to5Mac reports. Etherington stopped writing for TechCrunch at the end of June, and it’s now been revealed that this was in preparation for a move to Apple’s PR office in Toronto, Canada. Apple has been hiring a number of journalists and other online authors in recent months, albeit for positions that appear unrelated to each other; Anandtech authors Anand Shimpi and Brian Klug were hired into engineering positions in 2014, while Chris Breen and Jon Seff, both formerly of Macworld, also joined Apple in different positions.

Apple releases fifth iOS 9 beta to developers

Apple has released the fifth developer beta of iOS 9. Featuring a build number of 13A4325c, the fifth beta once again lacks specific release notes, but likely continues to focus on improving the stability and reliability of the new features in the operating system. A new watchOS beta with a build number of 13S5325c has also been posted, which can be installed via a configuration profile that requires the corresponding iOS 9 beta to be installed, along with new betas of Xcode 7 and Apple Configurator.

Apple adds native Watch app support to TestFlight

With the release of iOS 9 and watchOS 2 on the horizon, Apple has announced that it has updated its TestFlight program to allow developers to roll out internal test versions of native watchOS 2 apps along with apps that take advantage of the new App Thinning features in iOS 9. The TestFlight platform allows developers to invite users to download official test versions of their apps before they are released on the App Store. While the platform allows for both testers internal to the developer’s organization as well as broader external beta tests, these latest changes currently only apply to builds distributed to internal users.

Apple announces 11m Apple Music trial subscribers

Apple has officially announced that Apple Music has reached 11 million subscribers, USA Today reports, a number not far off from last week’s unofficial report of 10 million subscribers to the service. Apple SVP Eddy Cue noted that Apple is of course “thrilled with the numbers so far” and added that two million of the eleven million subscribers have already opted for the $15/month family plan. Although all of these accounts still remain in the free trial period until the end of September, the current numbers work out to about half of the paid memberships of Spotify. The numbers also reportedly remain significantly short of Apple’s rumoured goal of 100 million subscribers.

Target testing in-store beacons for iOS app users

Target announced it is installing low-powered Bluetooth beacons in 50 of its stores, set to use the company’s iOS app to highlight products and special offers as customers walk through certain sections of the store. The beacons will track shoppers throughout the store and present limited recommendations depending on which section the customer is in – an alert that a nearby item in women’s apparel is trending on Pinterest, for example. Eventually Target hopes to provide more in-depth features, like reorganizing a shopping list based on the best path through a store or providing reminders if a user forgot an item once they make it to the checkout line.

The technology could even be used to pair employees with customers in need of assistance in real time. Users will have to “opt in” to share their location while in the store and allow the app to send push notifications to their phones. Target says it plans to limit those notifications to two per shopping trip, but in-app updates on the app’s “Target Run” page will offer deals in a social media-style news feed. Target said the 50 test stores – located in areas in and around Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle – were chosen because they represent a good cross-section of stores in various markets, according to TechCrunch. Expansion to other stores and support for Android phones is expected later in the year.

Judge denies class-action status to iMessage lawsuit

A federal judge has limited the scope of a lawsuit against Apple claiming the company’s iMessage system interfered with the delivery of text messages for former iPhone users switching to Android phones, Bloomberg reports. Plaintiff Adrienne Moore filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple in May 2014, arguing that the iMessage system hindered her ability to receive texts after she migrated her number to a Samsung phone running Google’s Android operating system. The iMessage system delivers messages from one iPhone user to another through a different process than standard text messages and Apple has acknowledged iMessages sent to unused Apple IDs may never reach their intended recipient if that user has switched away from an iPhone.

In November 2014, Apple released a deregistration tool allowing users to wipe their phone number from the iMessage system, but that same month the court ruled that Moore deserved a hearing to decide whether Apple had “interfered with her contract with Verizon Wireless” by not delivering her messages when she switched to a competing Android phone. The latest ruling from U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh states that the case can’t proceed as a group lawsuit because it’s unclear that all proposed members of the suit suffered an inconvenience due to “contractual breach or interference” related to the iMessage system. Moore’s lawyer couldn’t be reached for comment, and it’s unclear from the ruling whether Moore will still be able to proceed with her individual lawsuit in its current form or will need to file a new suit.

Apple Music starts offering replays of Beats 1 shows, joins Billboard charts

Over the past few days Apple Music DJs like Zane Lowe and Julie Adenuga have started sharing full replays of their individual shows on the Connect social network without any official announcement from Apple. The move seems aimed at capitalizing on the most popular aspect of Apple Music’s service so far – programs hosted by real live DJs –  and The Verge is speculating that Apple Music may expand on that success in the near future. The site reports that Apple is contractually allowed to launch up to five more Beats radio stations without renegotiating deals with artists and labels, saying another station based in Asia or Australia could be particularly appealing since Beats 1 is currently only live 12 hours a day. While industry sources have said labels are still skeptical that all of Apple Music’s current free-trial users will stick around once they have to start paying, the service is making other inroads to greater recognition within the music industry. Billboard announced that is has added Apple Music to the list of streaming providers used to compile data for the Billboard 200, Hot 100 and other charts, weighing streams from the service alongside those of competitors like Google Play, Spotify, Rhapsody, Amazon Prime and others.

Apple denies reported MVNO cellular service plans

According to a CNBC tweet, Apple has denied reports that it is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator service. The denial comes one day after Business Insider published a story claiming Apple was interested in leasing space from existing cellular carriers to provide its own service in which to offer data, calls and texts directly to iPhone users. As of this writing, Business Insider’s original story still ends with the line, “We reached out to Apple for comment on this story and will update if we hear back.”

Australian cellular carrier Telstra offering Apple Music free for 12 months

Australian cellular provider Telstra is offering customers a free 12-month Apple Music subscription when they sign up for an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus on the company’s Go Mobile plan. Users will receive an SMS message three days before their free subscription runs out and start being billed for the service automatically at the end of the free trial unless they cancel. Even users who have already signed up for Apple Music’s 3-month free trial are eligible for the full 12 months of Apple Music with a new cell phone plan. Telstra isn’t the first provider to use Apple Music to draw in customers, with T-Mobile adding Apple Music to its Music Freedom program that allows users to stream music from the service and not count it against their data limit. Data charges still apply to streaming Apple Music through Telstra.

The language of Telstra’s contract hints that a user’s bill for Apple Music after the 12 free months may be coming through the carrier itself, not Apple. Apple’s updated iTunes terms of service noted that carriers may start handling some Apple Music subscriptions, but Telstra would be the first. AT&T had a similar deal with the Beats Music streaming service, but when Beats Music was migrated to Apple Music those contracts were terminated, forcing users to set up new billing directly through Apple.

Report: Apple in talks to launch virtual network service

Sources close to Apple say the company is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator service in the U.S. and Europe, Business Insider reports. An MVNO would let Apple sell service for data, calls and texts directly to users, leasing the space from existing cellular carriers but allowing users to hop from one carrier to another to guarantee the best service available in the area. The service is still very much in a test phase, with telecom sources saying it could take at least five years to fully launch even if it proves viable. Apple has been in talks with various telecoms for years over the service, with sources calling plans for the virtual Apple network an “open secret.” A 2006 patent shows Apple’s long-standing interest in the concept of allowing its devices to jump from carrier to carrier, and the company’s rumored plan to use Siri to transcribe voicemails would help chip away at existing barriers to the company’s ability to offer its own cellular service. Apple’s iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 already feature built-in SIM cards that are compatible with multiple carriers, and the company is currently in discussions with the GSMA, aimed at a new “common architecture” to simplify allowing devices to operate on multiple carriers’ networks.

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