A new report from Re/code reveals that Apple is working to get the price of its subscription music services down to as low as $5/month. Apple was reportedly asking the labels to cut prices to pave the way for a cheaper Beats music subscription, and is suggesting that top iTunes buyers spend about $60/year on music downloads, which equates to about $5/month. On a $5/month subscription model, the music labels would therefore not lose any revenue as a result of those download buyers switching over to a streaming model, and would in fact potentially gain more revenue in the form of new subscribers who may not otherwise spend as much on downloads. The Re/code report also notes that Spotify has just made changes to its streaming plan, offering a “family plan” price of $5/month for additional accounts beyond the first account, suggesting that some room exists in the label agreements for lowering pricing. It’s also worth noting that competing streaming service Rdio has been offering a similar “family plan” for about two years now.
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After being offline for the past several hours, the Apple Store has returned and begun taking iPad pre-orders. When Apple unveiled the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 at yesterday’s event, the company announced that pre-orders would begin today, October 17th. While Apple did not specify at what time pre-orders would begin this time around, products have become available for pre-order as early as 12:01 PT, and pre-orders are usually available by the beginning of the business day. While it is unclear exactly why the Apple Store was down this morning, it seems likely that some technical issues prevented pre-orders from being available as early as Apple would have preferred.
Following yesterday’s release of OS X Yosemite, Apple has released updates to its three iOS iWork apps—Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—adding support for iCloud Drive and the new iOS 8 and Yosemite Handoff feature. The updates also include support for third-party storage providers in iOS 8 and note “updated file formats” that make it easier to send documents via services such as Drobox and Gmail. Additional new features have also been added such as more color options with a custom color mixer in the iPad versions, the ability to take photos and videos directly from within the apps, and accessibility, usability, and language improvements. Keynote also introduces a feature that allows users to pair with nearby iOS devices using Multipeer Connectivity.
Belkin has announced that it’s bringing its line of QODE keyboard cases to iPad Air 2. The line includes the QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2 ($150), QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2 ($130), and QODE Slim Style Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2 and iPad Air ($100) — the last of which is an already existing product that can fit the newer iPad Air. The updated keyboards have already been released for the first iPad Air — see our reviews for the original Ultimate Pro case here and the Ultimate and Slim Style cases here. While the QODE Slim Style Keyboard Case is already available, QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2 and QODE Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2 will be available in December.
Buried in other announcements today, Apple has introduced Apple SIM, a single pre-installed SIM card that “gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers in the U.S. and UK right on your iPad.” Pre-installed on Wi-Fi + Cellular versions of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, Apple SIM provides a list of participating national carriers—currently only AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the United States, with EE in the UK—that the user can choose from without having to swap SIM cards. Verizon apparently does not yet support Apple SIM.
Additionally, although the feature is currently quite limited, Apple suggests that some international data plans will be accessible with the Apple SIM when users travel: “you may also be able to choose a data plan from a local carrier for the duration of your trip.”
Alongside today’s announcement of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, Apple has updated the prior $39 iPad Smart Covers and $69-$79 iPad Smart Cases. Apple’s iPad Air Smart Cover now comes in seven colors—blue, red, yellow, green, black, white, or red—each made from polyurethane, and compatible with the iPad Air and iPad Air 2. By comparison, the leather iPad Air 2 Smart Case comes in five different colors, namely black, white, brown, blue, or red, and covers virtually the entire Air 2 when closed. It is not compatible with the original iPad Air.
Apple has debuted the newest edition of its 7.9” tablet, which it’s calling iPad mini 3. The new iPad mini 3 includes Touch ID, and it comes in silver, space gray, and gold. It notably continues to have an A7 processor, not an A8 or A8X, and does not include any of the wireless or camera upgrades found in the iPad Air 2.
iPad mini 3 starts at $399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, $499 for 64GB, and $599 for 128GB. Cellular + Wi-Fi models add $130 to each model. Like iPad Air 2, preorders for iPad mini 3 start Friday, Oct. 17, and the tablet ships by the end of next week.
Additionally, the former “iPad mini with Retina display” has been renamed “iPad mini 2” to more clearly differentiate it from its predecessor and successor. It will be offered in 16GB ($299/$429) and 32GB ($399/$529) models.
Apple has officially introduced the newest edition of its full-sized tablet today with the debut of iPad Air 2. Touch ID, first seen in iPhone 5s and included within iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, has been added to the tablet. The side switch has been removed, and it appears to have been replaced by another microphone.
iPad Air 2 is 6.1 mm thin, 18 percent thinner than the previous iPad Air. A single-component display reduces internal reflection with a sharper image. The screen also now has an anti-reflective coating, and reflections are reduced by 56 percent.
A new chip, A8X, has been created specifically for iPad Air 2. The second-generation 64-bit architecture chip is 40 percent faster. The GPU is 2.5x faster than iPad Air. iPad Air 2 has 10-hour battery life and an M8 coprocessor that can track elevation and motion.
A new iSight camera has been added to the new Air — an 8MP camera that can shoot 1080p HD video. Burst mode is also available on the iPad Air 2 camera. Slo-mo videos have also been added to video recording — 120 fps at 720p. A new FaceTime camera with an all new sensor has also been included in iPad Air 2 — improved face detection, burst selfies, HDR videos, and single-shot HDR photos are all included.
Faster Wi-Fi — 802.11 ac with MIMO — and faster LTE with 20 LTE bands are featured in iPad Air 2.
iPad Air 2 comes in silver, space gray and gold, and will cost $499 for 16GB Wi-Fi only, $599 for 64GB, and $699 for 128GB. Cellular prices are $130 more for each model.
Pre orders begin Friday, Oct. 17, and the iPad Air 2 will ship next week.
During his introduction of new iPads today, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that 225 million iPads have already been sold—70 million of them in the last 12 months, outstripping the unit sales of any PC manufacturer over the past year. Cook also noted that the product has a 100% customer satisfaction rating, and now has 675,000 iPad-specific apps available.
Oddly released without any fanfare in beta form to developers back in July, iTunes 12 has officially debuted at Apple’s media event today. As noted in our What’s New in iTunes 12 article, the Mac and PC application has received a “flatter” cosmetic overhaul inspired by iOS 7 and iOS 8. It largely does away with the traditional sidebar found in earlier versions of iTunes — a feature that was hidden but still present in iTunes 11 — to embrace a more media library-heavy interface. Various types of media are now individually browsed and managed using icons at the upper left of the iTunes window, with separate iTunes Store access points for each medium.
iTunes 12 has been announced for OS X Yosemite, but not yet for older versions of OS X or Windows PCs. Updated: It is now available for download for OS X 10.7.5 and newer through iTunes.com, as well as for Windows XP and newer.
Following earlier beta releases of iOS 8.1, Apple today formally announced the release of the first point update to September’s iOS 8.0. iOS 8.1 adds support for Apple Pay, the NFC-dependent wireless transaction technology introduced in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, as well as bringing back user-requested features, including the Camera Roll. Apple is also using iOS 8.1 to debut the iCloud Photo Library tied in with the public beta of Photos, the new OS X Yosemite photo management and editing app designed to replace iPhoto and Aperture.
During his introduction of iOS 8.1, Apple’s Craig Federighi also noted that 48% of the installed base are on iOS 8.0 after roughly a month, which sounds low, but is nearly twice as high as the last release of Android after nearly a year. iOS 8.1 will be available on October 20.
Apple Pay, the NFC-dependent wireless transaction technology introduced in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, has been confirmed for an October 20, 2014 launch in the United States. A collection of previously-announced retailers will be the first to have Apple Pay in their stores.
Five hundred additional banks have signed up to support Apple Pay since it was announced, including all of the major networks and a number of major retailers signing on to support by year’s end. Apple CEO Tim Cook noted today that Apple Pay payments can also be made online, not just at retail stores.
Later in the event, Apple also introduced Apple Pay for the iPad Air 2, however, it explicitly omitted any reference to NFC capabilities for in-store purchasing using iPads. The suggestion was that Apple Pay can only be used for iPad online purchases.
Apple announced today that its WatchKit SDK would roll out next month prior to the launch of Apple Watch. WatchKit will give developers a way to make apps for Apple Watch, which is still on track for an “early 2015” release. The November release of WatchKit should give developers time to tinker with creating their own watch apps before Apple Watch hits the market.
The Apple Events channel has once again returned to Apple TV ahead of today’s new product event, allowing users to stream the event live at 1 p.m. Eastern. Last month’s Apple event stream was plagued by technical problems. Additionally, the Apple Online Store is already down before the debut of the company’s new products, as Apple is expected to reveal new iPads and a new iMac during today’s event. Check in with iLounge during the event — we’ll be updating the site with all the new product details live this afternoon.
In anticipation of Thursday’s introduction of Apple’s iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 — leaked today by Apple — accessory maker Designed by M has already introduced the Simple Stand ($35) for iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. Simple Stand holds an iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3 in portrait or landscape position, and it includes a built-in amplifier for sound. The aluminum stand hasn’t been added to the company’s website yet, but it will be available in December in black or silver.
Apple’s own iOS 8.1 user guide in the iBookstore reveals screenshots of an iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, both with Touch ID. Additionally, the guide shows a screenshot noting that iPad Air 2 will be able to use Burst Mode when taking photos. Based on the shots, it does appear that Apple will call the devices iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. As the screenshots in the user guide are for iOS 8.1, we’ll likely also see that debut tomorrow, as well. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple is planning to stop selling Fitbit fitness products in its stores, according to a new report from Re/code. Although it’s unclear why Apple plans to discontinue sales of the Fitbit, this news comes shortly after Fitbit issued a statement that it was still “evaluating integration with HealthKit” in iOS 8. Several other major health and fitness accessory makers have already updated their apps for HealthKit integration, making Fitbit one of the few holdouts. Apple declined to comment on the basis that it doesn’t discuss its vendor partnerships. [via 9to5Mac]
A recent U2 interview posted on Facebook saw the band members taking questions from fans, and one of the questions concerned the automatic free download of U2’s Songs of Innocence album to iTunes playlists: “Can you please never release an album on iTunes that automatically downloads to peoples [sic] playlists ever again? It’s really rude.” The album was accessible for free to 500 million iTunes customers; early estimates claimed 33 million users accessed the album.
The question was posed to U2 frontman Bono, who answered, “Oops. Um. I’m sorry about that. I had this beautiful idea and we got carried away with ourselves. Artists are prone to that kind of thing. Drop of megalomania, touch of generosity, dash of self-promotion, and deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years mightn’t be heard. There’s a lot of noise out there. I guess we — we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.”
Ireland is planning major changes to its corporate tax structure, according to Reuters, including eliminating the “Double-Irish” tax loophole that has allowed companies such as Apple to use Ireland as a tax haven. Addressing Ireland’s parliament, the government’s Finance Minister Michael Noonan stated that “aggressive tax planning by multinational companies has been criticised by governments across the globe and has damaged the reputation of many countries,” further promising to change the country’s residency rules to require that all companies registered in Ireland also be “tax resident,” thereby requiring them to pay taxes to the Irish government. The change takes effect on January 1st, 2015 for new companies, however the government plans a transitional approach for existing companies including Apple through the end of 2020. Last month, the European Union issued a “preliminary view” notifying Ireland that its tax deals with Apple and other large companies constituted illegal state support for those companies.