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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.

Dr. Dre’s new album coming to iTunes, Apple Music on Friday

Dr. Dre shocked fans on Saturday, announcing during his Beats 1 show “The Pharmacy” that his new — and reportedly final — album will be released exclusively on iTunes and Apple Music this Friday, August 7. The rap icon said he secretly recorded the album after being inspired during the filming of the upcoming N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton.” “I was leaving the set, coming to the studio, and I felt myself just being so inspired by the movie that I started recording an album,” Dre said during the show. “And I kept it under wraps. And the album is finished.” The album, titled “Compton: A Soundtrack,” is available for pre-order on iTunes and features appearances by Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. This is the first album released by the rapper since 1999’s “2001,” and during the Beats 1 show Dre addressed why he never released the much-anticipated album “Detox,” saying simply that it “just wasn’t good” and it wouldn’t have been fair to release it to his fans. He is clearly more excited about his upcoming offering, saying, “All my friends came in and we all came together to build this thing. It’s going to be my grand finale.” [via Billboard]

Nokia’s HERE Maps sold to automakers in $3.1B deal

Nokia has sold its HERE Maps mapping service to Audi, BMW and Daimler, CNET reports — a move that could set up the automakers to compete with Apple and Google in the self-driving car arena. It was reported in April that Nokia was looking to sell its maps division, and the company was believed to be courting Apple, among others.

As Apple Maps vans are rushing to map the streets of major metropolitan areas worldwide in an effort to catch up with Google — and fueling speculation about Apple’s long-rumored electric car project —  the automakers have invested $3.1 billion to acquire Nokia’s mapping technology. The deal is expected to help the companies’ vehicles collect real-time updates on traffic, parking and other variables that would make self-driving cars a more efficient means of transportation. With Apple reportedly interested in using BMW’s i3 electric car as a starting point for its own vehicle, the expensive map acquisition may even provide increased leverage for BMW in further negotiations.

Report: Apple plans to use Siri to transcribe voicemails

Apple is testing a service that uses Siri to answer missed calls and transcribe voicemail messages, Business Insider reports. The iCloud service would then deliver voicemails in text form, preventing users from having to listen to their voicemail. Since it can be quicker to leave a voicemail than send a text, but quicker to read a text than access a voicemail, the rumored solution aims to bridge that gap and simplify the interaction from both sides. The iCloud Voicemail service is also able to relay information about where the phone’s owner is and why they’re unable to take the call. Apple employees are testing the service now with the hopes of rolling out the new feature some time in 2016, presumably in iOS 10. Apple has beefed up Siri substantially in recent months, adding commands to control HomeKit-enabled devices and providing more contextually relevant search results in iOS 9.

Leaked photos suggest thicker, Force Touch-equipped iPhones

Two new leaks further speculation that new iPhones will be Force Touch-equipped and have slightly thicker bodies. Alleged renders of the new iPhone 6S posted by uSwitch seem to reinforce previously leaked schematics suggesting the new iPhone will be slightly thicker than the original. The images are purported to be CAD renders sent by Apple to third-party case manufacturers ahead of the new phone’s release, which show that the new iPhone 6s will increase in thickness from 6.9 mm to 7.1 mm. The iPhone 6S Plus will get a similar boost, from 7.1 mm thick to 7.3 mm. uSwitch attributes the increase in thickness to Apple wanting to ensure their new phones don’t bend, but more leaks posted by French site NowhereElse suggest the increase in size may be to accommodate Force Touch technology.

Those images of an alleged iPhone 6S prototype show a rectangle cut out of the metal plate that usually separates the screen from internal components. The site speculates that the minor difference could be making room for Force Touch technology — expected to be one of the major changes coming in the iPhone 6S. But the rectangular space also bears a striking resemblance to the space left inside the Apple Watch for its taptic engine, so time will tell what actually ends up occupying that space.

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Report reveals additional details on Apple and BMW talks

Following news earlier this week that Apple and BMW had been in discussions last year about using the BMW i3 as a foundation for its own electric car initiative, a new report from Reuters suggests that those negotiations may yet resume at some indeterminate point in the future. Sources familiar with the original talks told Reuters that the dialogue between the two companies ended last fall due to Apple’s desire to explore developing the car on its own and BMW was cautious about becoming a “mere supplier to a software or internet giant,” but had seemed willing to consider licensing parts. While one source indicated that “exploratory talks between senior managers may be revived at a later stage,” recent staff changes in the upper echelons of BMW may complicate matters, with the new CEO focusing on internal priorities rather than new projects along with the departure of Herbert Diess, the board member who led initial discussions with Apple. BMW’s new head of R&D, Klaus Froehlich, has stated that Apple and BMW have much in common, but indicated that his company would not “consider any deal that forces it to open up its core know-how to outsiders.”

Report: New Apple TV to debut in September, subscription service to come later

Apple is on track to unveil its new Apple TV hardware this September, according to a new report from BuzzFeed News, however the rumoured TV subscription service won’t be accompanying it just yet. Several reports suggested that Apple originally planned to launch the new device at WWDC this past June, but refocused its efforts on Apple Music instead. A fall launch of the new hardware comes as little surprise, however there were expectations that Apple would launch a TV subscription service at the same time, however this latest news echoes a report from early June that suggested that it could easily be delayed into next year due to delays in finalizing licensing deals. The next-generation Apple TV is expected to be announced during the fall iPhone event and remains in line with what previous rumours have indicated, with a new, slimmer design and an Apple A8 CPU, a “drastically improved” remote with touch-pad input, Siri support, and an App Store and SDK to provide support for third-party apps.

Apple releases second iOS 8.4.1 beta to developers

Apple has released a second iOS 8.4.1 beta to developers. Featuring a build number of 12H318, this second release, like the first, provides no release notes, and likely simply addresses unresolved issues with Apple Music and other features from last month’s iOS 8.4 release. The latest build has not yet appeared for direct download on the Apple Developer site; it is currently only available as an over-the-air update to those running the first iOS 8.4.1 beta released two weeks ago,

Volkswagen adds CarPlay to 2016 lineup

Volkswagen has announced CarPlay support for almost its entire 2016 lineup of cars, with the first models expected to be arriving in dealerships this week. The company’s all-new Modular Infotainment Platform (MIB II) is being incorporated into the entire 2016 VW lineup, “in virtually every trim” and will include support for Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto, MirrorLink and Volkswagen’s own Car-Net connected vehicle services platform, the latter of which will integrate with VW’s iOS apps to provide features such as remote door lock and unlock, remote honk and light flash, last parked location, remote door and window status check, vehicle monitoring, and more. Volkswagen also plans to provide a VW Car-Net app for Apple Watch later this year that will allow customers to access vehicle features directly from their wrist.

Four different head unit configurations will be available depending on the trim level of the vehicle, with entry level models featuring a basic color touchscreen with a five-inch resistive 400x240 display and AUX-IN, SD card support, an iPhone/iPod-compatible USB interface, and Bluetooth support, but notably omitting CarPlay support. Select trims acrosss the entire Volkswagen line will include the “Composition Media” package which will include full CarPlay support along with a 6.3 or 6.5-inch 800x480 capacitive color touchscreen with proximity sensor along with the ability to sync two phones simultaneously, dual SD card slots, SiriusXM Radio, HD Radio, and FLAC support. Higher trim levels will offer “Discover Media” and “Discover Pro” head units which incorporate all of the features of the “Composition Media” package while adding integrated navigation features.

 

AT&T wants $100M data throttling fine thrown out

AT&T is asking the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to cancel a proposed $100 million fine levied against the company for throttling data speeds for users with “unlimited” data plans, The Hill reports. The FCC launched a complaint in October 2014 claiming AT&T slowed speeds for users who had used a certain amount of data each month without informing customers of the policy, then announced in June that it intended to fine the company for that practice.

In a July court filing, AT&T argues that it had properly disclosed its policies to customers – both in online postings and via direct text messages – and took issue with the proposed fine. The company is asking that courts weigh in on the legality of the fine – the largest ever handed down by the FCC – and that any action be halted until they reach a decision. “The Commission’s findings that consumers and competition were harmed are devoid of factual support and wholly implausible,” the company’s filing states. “Its ‘moderate’ forfeiture penalty of $100 million is plucked out of thin air, and the injunctive sanctions it proposes are beyond the Commission’s authority.” The FCC claims a “transparency” provision in a 2010 net neutrality order gives it the authority to levy the fine, but AT&T says that assumption is based on a misreading of a portion of the law taken out of context. The FCC declined to comment on AT&T’s latest filing.

Apple Music added to T-Mobile’s Music Freedom

T-Mobile has added Apple Music to its Music Freedom program, allowing listeners to stream Apple Music songs without counting against their data limit. The carrier is also offering customers the ability to lease an iPhone for $15 a month and allowing anyone picking up an iPhone before Labor Day to upgrade to the next model later this year at the same rate. “Now, every single customer who gets a new iPhone 6 this summer as part of this deal can simply swap it for the next iPhone, if they upgrade before the end of the year,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere wrote on the company’s blog. [via CNET]

Report: Apple Music hits 10M subscribers

Apple Music has attracted more than 10 million subscribers in its first four weeks, according to music site Hits Daily Double, which cites unnamed music industry sources. Apple doesn’t publicly disclose streaming numbers, but rights holders who see the reports have reportedly been surprised by how big the figures already are. Numbers for some titles — specifically “a couple of cutting-edge hip-hop titles”  — are already competitive with Spotify, which boasts 75 million users. Whether Apple can make it to its rumored goal of 100 million subscribers during the remainder of Apple Music’s three-month free trial — and how those numbers will fare once users have to start paying for the service — remains to be seen. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple Maps vans landing in France, Sweden in August

Vans collecting data for Apple Maps will be making their way into France and Sweden starting next month, according to the company’s website. The regions around Paris and Stockholm are slated to be photographed in August, adding those cities to the list of major metropolitan areas already being captured in the U.S., England and Ireland. Drivers in the outskirts of those areas — and even beyond — shouldn’t be surprised if they spot the camera vans, as iLounge spotted a van last week well outside the New York City area, mapping the suburb of Tarrytown, N.Y., 25 miles north of midtown Manhattan.

Report: Slimmer iPad mini 4 on the way, upgraded iPad Air 3 a possibility

A report from Macotakara has breathed new life into speculation about a possible iPad Air 3 and supports previous rumors that the new iPad mini 4 will be thinner than previous models. The blog cites sources saying the iPad mini 4 will have the same 6.1 mm thickness found in the iPad Air 2, making it slimmer than the 7.5mm thick iPad mini 3. The report also notes that the updated 8MP iSight camera found in the iPad Air 2 will likely make its way into the iPad mini 4, as well as the possibility of a fully laminated display and antireflective screen coating being included on the new device. The possibility of a new iPad Air 3 featuring an A9 chip — but still keeping the same external dimensions as the iPad Air 2 — being released alongside the new “iPad Pro” and the iPad mini 4 is also mentioned, flying in the face of other rumors suggesting the company was skipping an update to the iPad Air this time around.

Beijing police bust massive iPhone counterfeiting operation

Police in Beijing have busted a factory that made more than 41,000 fake iPhones — some of which reached the United States — and arrested nine suspects in the counterfeiting operation, Reuters reports. The group set up a factory in January under the guise of a gadget maintenance shop and hired hundreds of workers to repackage second-hand smartphone components for export as iPhones. Police raiding the facility on May 14 found 1,400 handsets and large quantities of accessories. Beijing police said the investigation began after they received a tip from U.S. authorities who had seized some of the fake iPhones. Apple declined to comment, saying the investigation was still ongoing. Knock-off Apple products in China have been a problem for years, pushing Apple to organize a team in 2008 to combat counterfeiters. In 2011, Chinese bloggers uncovered several unauthorized retailers that carefully replicated the look and feel of an Apple Store, right down to the employee uniforms. Since then, the Chinese government has taken stiffer action to protect intellectual property rights, cracking down on fakes and pushing firms to apply for trademarks and patents.

Report: Apple interested in BMW i3 as ‘starting point’ for its own car

Apple is rumored to be interested in using the body of BMW’s i3 electric car as the starting point for its own electric car, Manager Magazin reports. The German-language publication claims that Apple CEO Tim Cook met with senior managers of the i3 project during a trip to Leipzig and opened negotiations with BMW in the fall of 2014. The talks broke off with no firm deal in place, but the companies have agreed to check in with one another from time to time in the future. Apple refused to comment on the story, but a BMW iDrive app was visible in initial demonstrations of Apple Watch and BMW has long been listed as an auto maker looking to add CarPlay into its vehicles. Cook has also taken meetings with the CEO of Fiat over Apple’s “intervention in the car.”

Nike to offer customers cash in proposed FuelBand settlement

Apple and Nike have reached a proposed settlement in a class action lawsuit involving Nike’s FuelBand, with Nike offering cash to those affected. Apple is offering no compensation. The lawsuit, filed in 2013, claims that Nike and Apple made false claims about FuelBand’s ability to track calories burned and number of steps taken by users. Both companies still deny any wrongdoing, but Nike stopped producing FuelBands in April 2014 and Apple pulled the device from its stores this March. Under the proposed settlement, Nike is offering $15 cash or a $25 gift card to U.S. Nike stores for each member of the settlement class who submits a claim form and waives their rights to further action in connection with the lawsuit. U.S. residents who bought a Nike+ Fuelband between January 19, 2012 and June 17, 2015 are eligible for the settlement from Nike.

Apple Watch coming to Best Buy on August 7

Starting August 7, Best Buy will be the first national retailer outside of Apple Stores to carry the Apple Watch. According to a press release from the company, more than 100 Best Buy stores and the retailer’s website will start selling Apple Watch next Friday, with another 200 stores slated to get the watch “in time for holiday shopping.” Customers will be able to try on and buy Sport and Watch models in 38mm and 42mm sizes, along with accessories including bands, screen shields, stands, and chargers.

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