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AirPods now available on Apple’s website, deliver by Dec. 21 (Update: Shipping slips to two weeks)

After being pushed back from an October release, AirPods are now available on Apple’s website. They’ll deliver to some U.S. locations as early as Dec. 21, with some international locations seeing earlier delivery dates. People familiar with the development process said the release was delayed due to problems ensuring that one of the AirPods is able to properly transmit a synchronized audio signal to the other. The W1-equipped earbuds will be Apple’s first wireless offering under its own brand, and our full review will follow shortly after the release.

Update: As expected, after a flood of online purchases the shipping estimates for new AirPod orders in the U.S. has already slipped to two weeks.

WSJ: Apple held talks to invest $1B in SoftBank technology fund

Apple has reportedly held talks about investing up to $1 billion in SoftBank Group’s technology fund, the Wall Street Journal reports. Japanese corporation SoftBank is aiming to raise $100 billion for its SoftBank Vision Fund, and Apple’s investment could enable the Cupertino company to “gain insight on emerging technologies,” the report notes. Sources note nothing has been finalized, and it’s unclear where the talks are at this point.

SoftBank is investing $25 billion of its own money in the fund, which seeks to lead the way in still-emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence. The company was in the news recently for its announced $50 billion investment in the U.S. SoftBank’s CEO, Masayoshi Son, made a public appearance with President-elect Donald Trump.

Apple releases iOS 10.2, tvOS 10.1, watchOS 3.1.1

After a significant number of beta releases, Apple has finally released iOS 10.2 to the public today. The release features the new TV app for accessing video content across multiple apps, 100 new emoji, and new screen effects in Messages, along with many other updates, new features, and improvements. Apple also released tvOS 10.1, with its own version of the TV app, and watchOS 3.1.1 for Apple Watch. Users can download iOS 10.2 by going to Settings > General > Software Update.

Apple intros new ‘Report Junk’ option to combat iCloud calendar spam

Some iCloud users have seen spam pop up in their calendar invitations in recent weeks, and Apple has now introduced a way of reporting such spam. Users will now see a “report junk” option in unsolicited calendar invites from any senders who aren’t contacts. The “report junk” option is currently available on iCloud.com, and it will hopefully be seen in the iOS calendar app in the near future. While this isn’t a complete solution to the problem, it’s a step in the right direction. There are a few workarounds in the meantime — if it’s an issue for you, we suggest going to the Advanced tab in Calendar preferences, and opting to receive event invitations as email messages, rather than as in-app notifications. [via MacRumors]

Report: AirPods delay due to problems with wireless audio synchronization

A new report in The Wall Street Journal sheds some insight on the reasons for Apple’s delay in shipping its new AirPods wireless earphones. Citing people familiar with the product’s development, the report explains that the main reason for the delay has been related to engineering challenges around the AirPods unique new wireless technology, specifically in ensuring that one AirPods is able to properly transmit a synchronized audio signal to the other.

Apple offering hands-on demos of Super Mario Run in stores

In advance of Nintendo’s Dec. 15 iOS release of Super Mario Run, Apple is now offering playable demos of the game on display iPhone and iPad units in Apple retail stores. Nintendo has also been promoting the title, with an appearance by Nintendo U.S. head Reggie Fils-Aimé on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last night, who led a TV demo and allowed Fallon to run through a level of the game.

Report: Apple pursuing studio agreements for early movie rentals

Apple is attempting to negotiate with Hollywood studios to offer access to movie rentals — possibly as early as two weeks after they open in theaters — according to a new report by Bloomberg. The move appears to have been initiated by several of the big studios, including 21st Century Fox, Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures, which have confirmed that they are looking for ways to offer “high-priced” video rentals of new movies shortly after they open in theaters. People familiar with the matter have said that the studios are considering a deal with iTunes as a possible option, although Apple is not necessarily the only company that the studios have been in talks with. Sources have suggested that one of the main concerns regarding whether iTunes will be a suitable choice centers on the security of the platform to avoid jeopardizing box office sales from pictures that are still in theaters. Despite Apple’s tight FairPlay DRM security on existing iTunes rentals, studio executives are concerned that users could still use a camera to record a movie playing on a TV screen; by comparison at least one competing startup named in the report has implemented watermarking technology that would in theory allow the source of a leak to be tracked to a specific end user, thereby discouraging piracy.

Apple releases seventh beta of iOS 10.2 to developers

Only two days after a sixth iOS 10.2 beta was released to developers, Apple has now released a seventh beta for the upcoming iOS version today. The latest beta, with a build number of 14C92, actually comes in as a 1.98GB OTA update, unlike prior beta updates that were generally under 100MB; the larger size points to the possibility that this latest beta may be a final “GM” release leading to an impending general release of iOS 10.2 to the public. We’ll update with any notable findings.

Apple makes its picks for best iPhone, iPad and Apple TV apps of 2016

Apple has revealed its “Best of 2016” picks for the apps, movies, TV shows and books sold in its App Stores and iTunes. The company chose the photo editing app Prisma as its iPhone App of the Year (as did we), calling the app’s ability to turn photos into works of art “almost too cool for words.” MSQRD, with its live photo and video filters, took the runner-up spot. Clash Royale was named iPhone Game of the Year, followed by runner-up Reigns, with Pokémon GO getting a special distinction as the Breakout Hit of 2016.

Apple acknowledges Apple Music now includes ‘all the benefits of iTunes Match’

Apple has quietly made a change to its Apple Music Membership FAQ, explaining that Apple Music members no longer need to subscribe separately to iTunes Match. The FAQ appears to have been updated within the last three to four weeks, and unequivocally states that users who subscribe to Apple Music do not need to also subscribe to iTunes Match, as “Apple Music includes all the benefits of iTunes Match to make all of your music available on all of your devices.”

Apple Music tops 20 million subscribers

Apple Music has passed the 20 million subscriber mark a year and a half after its launch, Billboard reports. Apple SVP of Internet Software and Products Eddy Cue said 60 percent of those subscribers haven’t bought music from iTunes in the last year, signaling a new era where streaming is becoming the new normal. Cue said offering exclusives is a big part of that, with the company giving a particular push to hip-hop acts that he felt were “underrepresented both in iTunes and in the streaming chart.” “We were thrilled to see that we could take [artists’] passions and drive them all the way to No. 1,” Cue said “Chance the Rapper, who we put on Apple Music exclusively, hit the top 10 on the Billboard charts [based on streams alone], and I can’t recall that being done before.”

Apple blames ‘external factors’ for iPhone fires in China

Apple’s investigation into a series of iPhone fires in China has uncovered “no cause for concern,” with the company blaming physical damage to the devices, the BBC reports. Eight users filed complaints with Shanghai’s consumer protection agency, claiming their phones spontaneously caught fire or exploded. The report quoted one woman who said her iPhone 6s Plus exploded in August, “shattering the screen and leaving the battery and back of the phone blackened.” Apple has recently offered battery replacements for some users whose phones are experiencing sudden shutdowns, but has offered assurances that the problem isn’t a safety issue and blamed the fires reported in China on external physical damage “which led to the thermal event.”

Rumor: 2017 iPhones won’t include glass chassis or wireless charging; will add red color

Supply sources in Taiwan are claiming Apple’s 2017 iPhones will simply be iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus — typical “s” updates to this year’s models — and there won’t be a spectacular redesign, Macotakara reports. A source claims a red color offering is the only likely change to the design, flying in the face of nearly every other rumor about next year’s iPhone, most of which foresee at least one model with an OLED screen, glass chassis and a bezel-less display that increases screen size. The new sources also claim that the main internal upgrade will be the addition of an A11 chip, adding that the much-rumored wireless charging addition isn’t coming either.

Top Apple supplier Foxconn planning U.S. investment

Foxconn, Apple’s biggest assembly partner, is in the early stages of discussions to expand its U.S. operations, Bloomberg reports. The company confirmed the news after a document displaying Foxconn’s logo was shown by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and SoftBank Group Corp.’s Masayoshi Son during the announcement of a $50 billion investment in the U.S. by the bank. While the page listed the figures “$7 billion in U.S.” and “50,000 new jobs in U.S.” on the same page as Foxconn’s logo, the company said “the scope of the potential investment has not been determined” in an official statement, adding, “Those plans would be made based on mutually-agreed terms.”

Apple enables Single Sign-On across all iOS 10 and tvOS 10 devices

Apple has enabled its promised Single Sign-On service for all devices running at least iOS 10 or tvOS 10, despite it only previously appearing in the iOS 10.2 and tvOS 10.1 betas. The service is only accessible to users in the United States, with eight providers currently on board: CenturyLink Prism, DirecTV, Dish, GTA, Hawaiian Telecom, Hotwire, MetroCast, and Sling TV. The Single Sign-On allows subscribers of any of these supported providers to log in with the credentials from their cable/satellite account to access content in supported content apps without having to authenticate to each app separately — apps will simply request the user’s permission to access saved sign-on credentials when first using the app. Note that content provider apps will need to be specifically updated by their developers to add support for Single Sign-On as well. Hopefully, now that the feature is live, we see more cable/satellite providers added to Single Sign-On, as the list is relatively short at this time.

Apple releases fifth beta for tvOS 10.1 to developers

Apple has released the fifth beta for Apple TV’s tvOS 10.1 to developers. We’ll update if any major changes are found, but it’s more likely these updates will offer minor tweaks for features added in previous betas, including the new TV app and Single Sign-On feature.

Apple to start publishing its AI research

Apple is about to start publishing some of its artificial intelligence research findings, breaking with the company’s usually stringent privacy, Business Insider reports. A series of tweets show that Russ Salakhutd, director of AI research at Apple and a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, announced the company’s policy reversal to attendees at the annual Neural Information Processing Systems conference. Apple has historically closely guarded its technological breakthroughs, forcing its employees to keep quiet in the name of protecting the company’s intellectual property while competitors like Facebook and Google allow their employees to publish their research findings in a number of fields. Apple’s secrecy has been a point of contention for years, hampering its ability to draw top talent who see publishing their work as a key component of career advancement.

Supreme Court rules against Apple in design patent case

In its first patent case decision in more than a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has sided with Samsung’s argument that its infringement of design patents held by Apple doesn’t mean it should have to surrender its full profits from smartphone sales, USA Today reports. Apple was initially awarded more than $1 billion over Samsung’s improper use of a number of design and utility patents, but Samsung took the case to the country’s highest court, arguing that lower courts misapplied the law around design patents, specifically when assessing ornamental versus functional aspects of a product’s design.

Study finds half of kids headphones exceed safe volume limits

An investigation has found that nearly half of headphones intended for children don’t reliably keep volume down to safe levels to prevent hearing damage, The New York Times reports. Many headphones marketed as “safe for young ears” and promising to provide “100 percent safe listening” had “design flaws that could allow a child to bypass their volume-reduction features easily,” proving that volume-limiting headphones are not the perfect solution many parents had hoped. The worst among the 30 pairs tested “produced sound so loud that it could be hazardous to ears in minutes,” with some relying on resistors within the cord to limit volume, which sometimes failed to work at all. The full results of The Wirecutter’s investigation are available on its website.

More iPhone 6s devices affected by shutdown bug; iOS update coming

On its Chinese language website, Apple is admitting that the battery issue making some iPhone 6s devices shut down unexpectedly is affecting more models than previously thought. The company has said that some iPhone 6s devices made between September and October 2015 contained a faulty battery component, and Apple is offering free battery replacements based on the devices’ serial numbers — but new cases are cropping up outside that initial batch.

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