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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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]
Beyoncé has unexpectedly released her latest album — a “visual album” — exclusively on iTunes. The album is self-titled “Beyoncé.” Selling for $16, the album features 14 songs and 17 videos, which currently cannot be purchased separately.
Guest collaborators include Jay-Z, Drake, Frank Ocean, Pharrell, Timbaland, Michelle Williams, Kelly Rowland, Justin Timberlake, and more. Individual songs will be available for purchase on Dec. 20.
U.S. wireless carriers will soon make it easier for customers to unlock mobile phones for use on various networks, as the carriers have reached an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. According to sources, the agreement would guarantee that carriers notify customers about their unlocking eligibility. It’s also believed the deal will require carriers to process or deny unlocking requests within two business days. Earlier this year, the Obama administration expressed its support for unlocking phones after a 114,000-signature petition was submitted to the White House. More details will be presented at an FCC meeting later today. [via Reuters]
Update: Additional details have been released in a document from wireless industry trade group CTIA.
With over 1,100 votes from readers, our latest poll—Now that the dust has settled, which of the new iPad models do you prefer?—has now ended. With both the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display available, we wanted to know which device our readers thought was the better of the two.
The overall majority of respondents clearly preferred the iPad Air, garnering fifty-four percent of the vote. Twenty-seven percent chose the iPad mini with Retina Display as their favourite, while fifteen percent of readers found both devices equally appealing. The remaining four percent of the responses came from those who didn’t really like either of the new iPad models.
Apple has responded to a China Labor Watch report, suggesting that working conditions at an Apple contract manufacturer did not cause the death of a 15-year-old worker. Reuters reports the company sent independent medical experts to Pegatron to investigate, and found that the pneumonia death of Shi Zhaokun was unrelated to working conditions. “Last month, we sent independent medical experts from the U.S. and China to conduct an investigation of the (Pegatron) factory,” Apple said in a statement. “While they have found no evidence of any link to working conditions there, we realize that is of little comfort to the families who have lost their loved ones.” Zhaokun reportedly used his 21-year-old cousin’s ID to apply for the job. A Pegatron spokesman also said three other employee deaths this year were unrelated to working conditions at the factory.
In a separate report, the Fair Labor Association noted three Foxconn factories in China now limit working hours to 60 hours per week. The FLA expects Apple and main supplier Foxconn to “make progress toward the Chinese legal limit of 49 hours per week,” according to FLA President and Chief Executive Auret van Heerden. Reuters notes that many Foxconn workers don’t want a reduction in overtime for financial reasons.
Angry Birds Go! (free) takes Rovio’s furious fowl to a new realm — the racetrack. The fully 3-D cart racing game marks the first time the birds have moved beyond the traditional 2-D side-scrolling play environment, raising the prospect that we’ll see the now famous characters in all sorts of games as time goes on, a la Mario. Unfortunately, Angry Birds Go! is a pretty standard racing game with little to set it apart from the masses besides the graphics, which are really quite impressive; the gameplay is surprisingly limited and overly structured to gradually introduce new characters and upgrades at a plodding pace. Additionally, the freemium title is shameless in waving pay-to-play opportunities in your face, filling the tracks with coins rather than power ups and creating unnatural cart upgrade incentives to compel players to spend money.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas ($7) from Rockstar Games is the long-awaited iOS port of the popular PlayStation 2-vintage sandbox game, featuring all of the adult-themed content and impressive audio of the original title. The iOS version of GTA: San Andreas features dynamic lighting enhancements, improved character models, and enriched colors, in addition to the enhanced vehicle models originally introduced in the console game. Support for iOS game controllers is built-in, but the button labeling is a bit awkward during use. There are three different standard control schemes, and dual analog stick controls allow for full camera and movement control. Rockstar Social Club Members get cloud save support, as well. Unfortunately, the game appears unstable at this point, as we’ve experienced a lot of crashes; reset your device if you want to improve your chances of stability.
Samsung lost a bid to ban older iPhones and iPads in a South Korean court on Thursday, Reuters reports. A court dismissed a lawsuit claiming Apple infringed on three Samsung mobile patents. The iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, and second-generation iPad were among the devices ruled not to violate mobile messaging patents. Samsung was also seeking 100 million won ($95,100) in damages, which it will not receive. “We are glad the Korean court joined others around the world in standing up for real innovation and rejecting Samsung’s ridiculous claims,” Apple Korea spokesman Steve Park said. Samsung has yet to decide if it will appeal the ruling.
Apple has pushed out another quiet but major content update for the Apple TV, adding four additional channels. While availability of the new content channels varies between countries, U.S. Apple TV users now have access to the ABC television network, Bloomberg, Crackle, and 16 different Korean television channels in KORTV.
The new Bloomberg channel provides streaming access to a variety of programming on business, lifestyle, and politics and allows users to browse by show for on-demand viewing, watch live streams of specific events or breaking news, or search for specific content. The ABC channel provides clips, full episodes and live streaming—though most of the content is locked unless you subscribe to one of a number of participating cable providers. Crackle, previously available as an iOS app, brings Sony’s free online movie and TV show streaming service to the Apple TV. KORTV is a Korean TV network providing access to ten free channels and six premium channels along with video-on-demand content. These new channels appear on the Apple TV without the need for a specific software update, and are available now.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on Tuesday that wireless carriers will move away from subsidizing smartphones. “When you’re growing the business initially, you have to do aggressive device subsidies to get people on the network,” Stephenson said at an investor conference. “But as you approach 90 percent penetration, you move into maintenance mode. That means more device upgrades. And the model has to change. You can’t afford to subsidize devices like that.” Stephenson believes a shift to financing new devices — instead of subsidizing them — will be “transformative.” AT&T’s Next program offers no money down and 0 percent financing for new phones, and other carriers offer similar programs; Stephenson said this model is more sustainable. [via CNET]