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Apple posts iOS 7 Tech Talk videos

Apple has posted videos and slides from its iOS 7 Tech Talks to its developer website. The talks were held earlier this year in a number of cities. The sixteen featured talks tackle a number of topics in app and game development.

Report: Apple likely acquired BroadMap, Catch in 2013

Apple likely acquired mapping firm BroadMap and cross-platform note application Catch this year, 9to5Mac reports. CEO Tim Cook said in October that Apple made 15 strategic acquisitions this year, and although a number of those acquisitions are still unknown, this report may fill in a few gaps. Broadmap is a mapping firm that specializes in geographic information systems. Catch was an Evernote-competitor — its app allowed note taking and syncing over the cloud. The company also once ran a popular app for Android called Compass, which linked notes to locations; it’s possible Catch could also be a map-related acquisition for Apple. The report also notes Apple’s 2013 acquisitions of Cue and Topsy were made “specifically for enhancements to Siri over the next few major releases of iOS.”

Update: While AllThingsD confirmed Apple acquired both companies, BroadMap’s official Twitter account has tweeted: “Sorry to disappoint everyone but contrary to current reports @BroadMap has not been purchased by Apple.”

Tim Cook memo alludes to ‘big plans’ in 2014

Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a year-end email to employees that reflects on Apple’s 2013, and alludes to “big plans” in 2014. “We have a lot to look forward to in 2014, including some big plans that we think customers are going to love,” Cook wrote. The email touched on a number of Apple releases and accomplishments in the past year, including iPhone 5s, iOS 7, iPad Air, and the iPad mini with Retina display. It’s notable that Cook didn’t mention the iPhone 5c in his email. Cook also mentioned the App Store’s 50 billionth download and noted Apple’s charitable donations and commitment to equal rights. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple announces China Mobile iPhone deal

Apple announced it has entered a multi-year agreement with China Mobile to bring its iPhone to the world’s largest carrier, ending years of anticipation and speculation. China Mobile will carry the iPhone 5s and 5c in its retail stores and through Apple stores in mainland China starting Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Both phones will be available for preorder starting on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, at China Mobile’s official website. iPhone will support both China Mobile’s 3G and growing 4G service — the carrier claims more than 340 cities will have 4G service by the end of 2014.

iOS FaceTime Audio to hit Mac in 10.9.2 update

Apple recently seeded the first beta of OS X 10.9.2 to developers, and the update has notably been discovered to include FaceTime Audio. The feature has reportedly been “integrated deeply” into Messages and FaceTime on Mac, enabling Mac users to enjoy the same free voice calling feature that has been available on iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches since the release of iOS 7 earlier this year. Quality of FaceTime Audio calls is markedly higher than regular cellular telephone calls thanks to a roughly CD-quality audio compression technology. Once OS X 10.9.2 becomes available to the public, iOS users will be able to make FaceTime Audio calls to Mac users, and vice-versa. [via 9to5Mac]

Apps: Build-A-Truck, Cut the Rope 2, Infinity Blade III 1.2 + Ridge Racer Slipstream

Duck Duck Moose’s new Build-A-Truck ($2) allows kids to — you guessed it — build a truck. Children can create a truck, then add paint, decals, wheels, and all sorts of other crazy contraptions to their vehicle. Kids can then race their truck, which is legitimately fun, and the design chosen for the vehicle affects how the truck drives. Collecting stars during the racing game lets kids unlock additional objects to customize the truck.

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Cut the Rope 2 ($1) is ZeptoLab’s sequel to the popular Cut the Rope. The new game offers 120 levels, and five new characters, “the Nommies,” each affecting gameplay in their own ways. Other new gameplay tweaks have been added — Om Nom can sometimes even be moved now. He can also be customized with new hats, if you’re into that sort of thing. Fundamentally, the gameplay and graphics are extremely similar to the original titles, but the new levels are neat.

Apps: Angry Birds Rio HD 1.8, Camera+ 5, Disney Animated 1.0.4 + République

Rovio’s Angry Birds Rio HD is now free in version 1.8.0. The game also has added 26 new levels — 20 standard levels and 6 bonus levels to unlock. Two new characters have also been introduced into the game: Stella, with her bubble blower, and Rocket Bird, who appears in the new bonus levels.

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Camera+ ($2) from tap tap tap has updated to version 5, which introduces “The Lab” — a collection of cool new photo editing options. The new features include an adjustable clarity filter, auto-straighten, tint adjustments, soft focus and film grain effects, blurring, sharpening, and more, all designed to make real-world practical photo editing as easy as possible. An iOS 7 wallpaper creation feature is also present. Dozens of icons within the app have been redesigned to match iOS 7, as has the app icon itself.

App submissions must be iOS 7-ready by Feb. 1

Apple has announced on its developer website that all new app submissions as of February 1, 2014 must be optimized for iOS 7 and built with the latest version of Xcode 5. The submission standard includes all new apps and app updates. As a result, there will likely be a surge of app updates before the deadline, as developers race to tweak their apps before Apple starts rejecting apps based on the use of pre-iOS 7 software elements, as well as older versions of Xcode.

China Mobile iPhone deal remains elusive

China Mobile is still negotiating an iPhone deal with Apple, as there will be no announcement of an agreement today, Reuters reports. China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua told reporters there was no announcement to make; some expected a deal to be announced today. Although a number of recent details —  an ad on China Mobile’s website which was later removed, a subsidiary briefly taking preorders, a leaked poster — made a deal appear to be inevitable, it does not appear to have been finalized as of yet.

Apple must adopt new refund policy in Australia

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has found that Apple has misled consumers regarding their rights under the new Australian consumer law, and as a result, Apple must change its refund policy. The Sydney Morning Herald also reports that Apple will reassess all claims about faulty products purchased during the last two years. Starting on Jan. 6, Apple will assess older claims for the next 90 days. The ACCC found that Apple and its suppliers told customers the company did not have to replace, repair, or offer refunds for products with a “major failure,” when the opposite was true. Customers also should have been offered free repairs, replacements, or refunds for products with minor issues.

Among other issues, Apple told consumers that: a free refund could only be given if a product was returned within two weeks; a refund or replacement for damaged goods could only be provided within a year of purchase; the company wasn’t responsible for non-Apple products sold in Apple stores; and a store credit was the option for faulty products, instead of a full refund. The company will now provide consumers with the correct information about Australian consumer law. A report earlier this year claimed a circulated email to Apple staff instructed workers not to discuss the two-year warranty policy with customers. Apple has had similar issues in Italy and Belgium.

Apps: Mickey Mouse: Mash-Up, Tomb Raider, UltraTuner + Yahoo Weather 1.5

Disney’s Mickey Mouse: Mash-Up ($4) lets children participate in the “making” of a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Kids can draw a handful of objects that can appear in the short cartoon, which is titled “No Service!” You can then watch your creations appear and interact with them, including scenes in which Mickey and Donald Duck swap clothes, and Mickey has to hide behind objects you’ve created. Timeless and deliberately silly, the Mash-Up app is good as-is, but could really benefit from additional shorts for kids to play with.

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The classic 3-D adventure and shooting game Tomb Raider ($1) from Eidos/Square Enix is now available in the App Store. Interestingly, it’s being billed as Tomb Raider I, which suggests that the sequel will be available at some point. The full game from 1996 is included, in addition to two extra “Unfinished Business” chapters included in the 1998 Tomb Raider Gold re-release. Tomb Raider supports iOS game controllers, as well as on-screen input, though the controls remain as dicey as they were decades ago.

UK Apple TV users get Sky Sports channel

Apple has added a Sky Sports channel to Apple TV in the U.K. The channel, from Now TV, enables viewers to purchase access to live sporting events on an as-needed basis. To the best of our knowledge, this appears to be the first permanent, international-only Apple TV channel. A Sky Sports Day Pass offers 24 hours of sports coverage from six channels for £9.99. [via Engadget]

Apple releases ‘Best of 2013’ on iTunes

Apple has released its “Best of 2013” list on iTunes. The annual best of list highlights Apple’s favorites and best-sellers in apps, music, movies, books, TV shows, and podcasts. In apps, Apple selected Duolingo, the free language learning app, as its iPhone App of the Year.

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Apple’s iPad App of the Year was Disney Animated ($10). The iPhone Game of the Year and iPad Game of the Year are Vlambeer’s Ridiculous Fishing — A Tale of Redemption ($3) and Frogmind’s Badland ($4), respectively.

Tim Cook, other execs to meet with Obama on NSA, healthcare

Tim Cook and a number of other tech executives will meet with President Obama today at the White House, TIME reports. The executives will discuss HealthCare.Gov, national security “and the economic impacts of unauthorized intelligence disclosures,” in addition to other economic tech-related issues, according to a White House official. Google’s Eric Schmidt, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, and Netflix’s Reed Hastings are also among the 15 executives expected to attend. It appears all the tech companies which recently wrote an open letter looking to reform government surveillance will be represented today, with the exception of AOL.

Report: iTunes Radio top priority for Apple ad team

Apple is actively pushing its iAds team to work on iTunes Radio sales, Adweek reports. As the team focuses on iTunes Radio, sources claim Apple will build a “real-time bidding exchange to automate selling in-app ads.” The report suggests that Apple SVP Eddy Cue made clear during a recent staff meeting that iTunes Radio ad sales are now the top priority, with in-app ads less relevant going forward. Apple recently hired a top radio executive for iTunes Radio as the company looks to expand to different countries and seek $1 million, year-long commitments from advertisers.

‘Beyonce’ becomes fastest-selling iTunes album ever

Beyoncé‘s self-titled, initially iTunes-exclusive album “Beyoncé” has become the iTunes Store’s fastest selling album ever, Apple announced. The company said today that Beyoncé sold 828,773 albums worldwide in its first three days, with 617,213 of those albums sold in the U.S., breaking the iTunes first week album sales record. It’s unknown which albums previously held those records, however, Apple has rarely had a global exclusive on an album’s release, and has previously not allowed most albums to be sold solely in album form; the vast majority of albums have been made available alongside individual singles on the day of release.

Beyoncé‘s album notably includes 14 songs and 17 videos, all of which initially must be purchased together in album form rather than as singles. Single sales for the album will begin on December 20, and the album will become available in other stores as a CD+DVD combination before the end of the year.

Sprint intros 4G LTE in 70 new markets

Sprint announced today that it has introduced 70 new 4G LTE markets. The new markets include Birmingham, Green Bay, Orlando, San Diego, St. Louis, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, among others. Sprint now offers 4G LTE in 300 U.S. markets. Verizon currently claims its 4G LTE network is available in more than 500 markets, while AT&T’s 4G LTE network includes 476 markets.

Report: Sprint seeks to acquire T-Mobile

Sprint is “working toward a possible bid” for T-Mobile, the Wall Street Journal reports. It’s noted the deal could be worth more than $20 billion. An approved deal would preserve Sprint’s status as the third largest carrier behind Verizon and AT&T, but up its subscriber count to 53 million postpaid customers. However, former antitrust officials said the government would be “very wary” of such an acquisition. AT&T’s attempt to acquire T-Mobile in 2011 was abandoned after the Department of Justice moved to block the merger; a merger with Sprint would not as radically change the competitive landscape.

Apple releases iOS 7.1 beta 2 to developers

Apple has released iOS 7.1 beta 2 to developers. The update is available through Apple’s developer portal, as well as an over-the-air update for iOS 7.1 beta 1 devices. Initial discoveries within the beta include changes to the iPhone/iPod touch version of Calendar, plus some very small tweaks to settings, including the creation of a top-level settings menu for passcode management, the addition of a third color-modified version of a prior piece of background art, and an accessibility option to create underlines or shadowy boxes for text-format buttons.

Apple has also released an update to its Apple TV beta software, and a new Xcode beta as well.

Apple patent reveals restaurant ordering, reservation system

A newly published Apple patent application reveals a number of systems and methods for processing orders and reservations at restaurants. One such described system can dynamically update wait times for tables at a restaurant based on the menu items ordered by seated customers. A customer can monitor wait times and change reservation requests from their portable electronic device.

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Customer profiles within the system can store previous orders at a restaurant and other information. A personalized menu could be transmitted to an electronic device — in one example, the menu transmitted to a customer would remove all items containing ingredients the customer is allergic to. Movie theaters, museums, and auto repair services are also mentioned as possibilities for the waitlist system. [via Patently Apple]

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