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Apple content delivery network for faster downloads now live in US, Europe

Apple’s new content delivery network has gone live in the U.S. and Europe, according to Frost & Sullivan analyst Dan Rayburn. The network is able to deliver multiple terabits of data per second, which should allow Apple to offer faster iOS downloads. Rayburn claims Apple is still using other services for iTunes, radio, and app downloads, “but over time, much of that traffic will be brought over to Apple’s CDN.” It’s unknown when that traffic may shift to the new network. The new network delivers traffic directly to Comcast and other ISPs through interconnect deals. Apple has reportedly invested “well more than” $100 million in this new network. [via Ars Technica]

Apps of the Week: NPR One, Crazy Taxi: City Rush, Interactive Alphabet 4.0 + more

New Apps

Beehive (free) — Beehive - The Social Network Filter from Kendall Innovations is that rare thing: a new social networking app that should be useful to certain people. The app takes your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, and lets you narrow them down to the friends you care about most. All of those updates can then be viewed from the single Beehive app. Most appealing to those who would be interested in this sort of thing is the app’s anonymity. You never have to worry about deleting or unfollowing friends — just pick who you want to follow within Beehive, and they’ll be none the wiser. Additionally, Beehive doesn’t require an email address, or even the creation of an account. It’s also ad-free. Not all users will find such an app necessary, of course, but for those looking to cut down on their social networking time without missing anything important — or without offending people — Beehive might be the perfect answer. Right now the app is built for iPhone, but an iPad version will be coming soon.

NPR One (free) — NPR’s new NPR One app curates a stream of public radio news and stories for the listener. The app’s bizarre, meandering description describes NPR One as “a handcrafted experience” while noting the app also delivers the big stories of the day. Basically, it’s a different way of accessing public radio through a somewhat personalized set of recommended stories — users must sign in using their Facebook, Google, or NPR accounts.

Report: Apple TV relaunch not coming this year

Apple engineers working on the new version of Apple TV have been on timelines that assume a 2015 launch, The Information reports. Those engineers “have been told by their bosses not to expect a launch this year.” It’s been expected for some time that Apple would release a newer version of its Apple TV with an updated TV service, with many reports stating it would happen this year. The initial timeline may have targeted 2014, but employees claim that cable companies are “dragging their heels,” and the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger has also slowed down the process. However, cable executives and TV programmers place the blame at Apple’s feet, saying the company “needs permission from multiple types of rights holders” to create the service it has in mind.

Report: Apple eliminating positions of some Beats employees

Apple has started transitioning employees and technology from Beats, but not all Beats employees will be making the move, 9to5Mac reports. While many Beats employees in development and creative roles have been offered jobs at Apple, Beats’ support, finance, and HR departments “have already been largely dismantled,” according to the report — some employees have been laid off, others have been offered Apple positions, and some have only been offered a temporary position during the transition period. On the technology side of the transition, it’s been noted that Beats Music “is not easily compatible” with Apple servers, and that parts of the service “will need to be re-architectured.”

Update: The New York Post is reporting that Apple will cut about 200 jobs at Beats — about 40 percent of the company’s workforce.

Russian government seeks Apple source code

The Russian government is asking for access to Apple’s source code, in order to ensure the company’s products aren’t used for spying purposes, Reuters reports. Communications Minister Nikolai Nikiforov said in a statement, “Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 and U.S. intelligence services’ public statements about the strengthening of surveillance of Russia in 2014 have raised a serious question of trust in foreign software and hardware.” European software company SAP has also been asked to share its source code. The Russian Communications Ministry noted that Microsoft has shared its source code for Windows and other products with Atlas —a subordinate company that reports to the ministry — since 2003. Apple has declined comment.

Square announces new Reader for chip cards

Square has announced Square Reader for chip cards, a new credit card reader built to handle EMV chip cards—credit cards equipped with microchips, as already found in many countries around the world. The major U.S. credit card companies have planned to implement a fraud liability shift in October 2015, which will transfer liability for some fraudulent transactions away from merchants using EMV reader technology, and Square is looking to stay ahead of the curve. It appears as if the new Square reader will increase in size from the current model. The new reader will work with both chip and magnetic stripe cards, and use a Micro-USB port for charging. No release date or price information has been announced as of yet.

Apple TV adds FOX Now, CNBC channels

Apple TV has added two new channels, FOX Now and CNBC. Both channels require a cable subscription to access full content, although a number of FOX episodes and CNBC clips are available for viewing without authentication. The FOX Now channel includes a number of popular FOX shows, while the CNBC channel offers shows, clips, and a live stream.

Popular Bitcoin wallet app Blockchain returns to App Store

Apple has reinstated popular Bitcoin wallet app Blockchain to the App Store. It’s not an entirely unexpected move, considering Apple recently started allowing Bitcoin apps back in the App Store, after making a change to its App Store Review Guidelines. Blockchain was originally pulled from the App Store in February. Nicolas Cary, Blockchain’s CEO, told Bloomberg that Blockchain’s Bitcoin wallet has 1.9 million users.

Report: Apple Stores to support carrier early iPhone upgrade programs

Apple Stores will soon allow customers to purchase new iPhones using early upgrade programs from carriers, including AT&T Next, T-Mobile JUMP, and Verizon Edge, according to 9to5Mac. It’s unclear whether or when Apple will support Sprint’s One Up program. The report claims that “many” stores will offer the purchase option in late August, ahead of the expected iPhone 6 September launch. At the moment, any iPhone purchased in an Apple Store must be bought with a two-year contract or at full price with no contract.

Report: Apple buying talk radio app Swell

Re/code is reporting that Apple is about to acquire Swell, an app described as “Pandora-for-talk-radio,” for $30 million. Although it hasn’t yet been confirmed by either company, the report cites multiple sources, and Re/code has a strong track record when it comes to Apple news. According to the report, the app will shut down this week, as Apple attempts to improve its podcast-listening experience. It was also revealed late Friday by TechCrunch that Apple recently acquired BookLamp, described as a “Pandora for books.”

Congress passes bill to legalize phone unlocking

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill today that will legalize cell phone unlocking, following the Senate’s approval of the bill last week. All the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” needs now is for President Obama to sign the bill into law — a virtual guarantee considering the White House has already expressed its support for legally unlocking phones. The bill covers any device that operates on a wireless network. Currently, consumers need carrier permission to get a phone unlocked. However, the Library of Congress will revisit the rule again in 2015, so there’s a possibility phone unlocking could become illegal again in the future after this bill is passed into law.

Bose sues Beats over noise-canceling patents

Bose is suing Beats over noise-canceling technology patents used in headphones, according to CNBC. Patent search site PriorSmart.com appears to have a list of the five Bose patents cited in the case. The patents cover signal processing and high frequency compensation, among other aspects of noise-canceling technology. Beats Electronics and Beats Electronics International are both listed as defendants in the suit. [via 9to5Mac]

iLounge Game Spotlight: Modern Combat 5: Blackout

Modern Combat 5: Blackout ($7) is one of the most high-profile iOS games to be released this year. Blackout is the latest first-person shooter in Gameloft’s Call of Duty-esque series, and this time around, there are no in-app purchases to be found. However, an internet connection is required to play at all times.

As Modern Combat players will expect, Blackout has a great presentation. From the seriously impressive, detailed graphics, to the immersive sound and all of the requisite bells and whistles one would expect, there’s no doubt that Gameloft’s newest is a truly premium title. It’s important to note the frame rate during the game was solid for us on an iPad mini with Retina display, whether in single-player or multiplayer mode.

Apps of the Week: ShipAntics, Modern Combat 5, This American Life 3.0 + more

New Apps

Matter ($2) — Photo app maker Pixite is back with Matter, a new app that allows users to add 3D effects to photos. Those effects come in the form of various 3D objects — users have the ability to change the traits of the objects, as well. A video feature allows users to create short animated loops of the object within the photo. To us, the objects look a bit “prog-rock album cover,” but to some that’s likely part of the appeal.

ShipAntics: The Legend of The Kiki Beast ($2) — The prolific StoryToys continues to move in a new direction with ShipAntics: The Legend of the Kiki Beast. Unlike many of the developer’s storybook apps, this is a full-fledged adventure title for young gamers. Though the gameplay is mostly in simple point-and-click style, there are plenty of puzzles and cartoon cutscenes. This app is chapter one of a three-part series, with chapter two coming as a “low cost” in-app purchase in the future.

Report: Apple could launch own mobile wallet this fall

Apple executives have had recent conversations about launching an iPhone-based mobile wallet as soon as this fall, according to The Information. The company has reportedly told partners its mobile payment system would contain “secured element” hardware within the phones that would store sensitive financial information. The Secure Enclave coprocessor in Apple’s A7 chip would likely fit the bill — as noted by Apple, it relies on a random number generator and encrypted memory to safely store information. It’s also noted that Visa is in discussions with Apple about a possible partnership to bypass third-party payment processors to lower costs.

Mobile payments from Apple have been rumored for years. But with Apple reportedly interviewing candidates for a mobile payment service, and CEO Tim Cook recently characterizing mobile payments as “an area of interest” while freely discussing the possibilities of such a service, perhaps we’ll see an iPhone wallet in the near future. [via MacRumors]

Report: Apple ‘tentatively’ plans mid-September iPhone event

Apple is “tentatively” planning an event for mid-September to announce the iPhone 6, 9to5Mac reports. Though not a surprise — numerous reports have all pegged September for the iPhone 6 reveal — the new report claims the second and third weeks of September are the most likely weeks for the event, though plans are still yet to be finalized. If the event was held on a Tuesday, as is commonplace, it would be held on September 9 or 16, with a likely product release on September 19 or 26. However, it’s unclear if both new iPhones will be announced or launched at the same time. According to the report, the 4.7” iPhone 6 will be showcased, but no decision has been made regarding inclusion of the 5.5” iPhone 6. Final details on iOS 8 will also be unveiled at the event.

Apple faces class action suit in California for labor violations

A lawsuit filed by Apple employees in December 2011 has been given class action status, as the company is being sued for labor violations in California, TechCrunch reports. Those alleged violations include not providing employees with timely meal and rest breaks, or timely paychecks. According to the plaintiffs, the case affects approximately 20,000 Apple employees. No financial demands have been made as of yet. Notably, this case is not to be confused with a somewhat similar suit involving Apple retail employees allegedly losing wages due to lengthy bag searches.

Apple, AT&T now sending $40 checks to some iPad 3G owners

Apple and AT&T have started sending out $40 checks to U.S. customers who bought or ordered a first-generation iPad with 3G capabilities before June 7, 2010. A ruling was made in September in a class action lawsuit stemming from AT&T’s elimination of an advertised unlimited data plan about a month after it was introduced. The checks have started to arrive in customers’ mailboxes, as per 9to5Mac. AT&T is also offering a $20/month discount on its 5GB monthly data plan for consumers who didn’t sign up for any other AT&T data plan.

Apple denies iOS “back door” access in new report

After denying a report earlier in the week that iOS is prone to “back door” access, Apple has put forth a new document outlining three diagnostic capabilities, and how they’re used. “Each of these diagnostic capabilities requires the user to have unlocked their device and agreed to trust another computer,” the report states. “Any data transmitted between the iOS device and trusted computer is encrypted with keys not shared with Apple. For users who have enabled iTunes Wi-Fi Sync on a trusted computer, these services may also be accessed wirelessly by that computer.”

This comes after Apple issued a denial to the Financial Times, stating it “has never worked with any government agency to create a backdoor in any of our products or services.”

Notes from Apple’s Q3 2014 earnings call

Apple’s conference call after announcing its Q3 2014 financial results kicked off with Apple CEO Tim Cook discussing Yosemite, iOS 8, and Swift. Cook also touched on CarPlay, HealthKit, HomeKit, in addition to the company’s new partnership with IBM.

Getting to the financial results, Cook announced that Apple set a June quarter record, with iPhones also setting a new third quarter record. “iPad sales met our expectations but we realize they didn’t meet many of yours,” Cook said, noting an overall decline in the tablet markets while moving on to citing surveys in which customers expressed satisfaction with iPad.

Cook expressed excitement with Apple’s acquisition of Beats, citing Beats’ subscription service, “access to rare talent,” and a growing lineup of products. As he’s done in the past, Cook briefly referenced upcoming new products and services.

Apple CFO Luca Maestri talked about the iPhone and its impressive results in the quarter. As for the iPad, he announced increased sales in the Middle East, China, and India, while adding that such growth was offset by lower sales in “more mature markets.” iTunes revenue was up to $2.6 billion. Apple expects $37 billion to $40 billion in revenue next quarter, with a gross margin between 37 and 38 percent. Maestri said he expects a busy fall, as Apple is “very excited” about what’s in the pipeline.

When asked about decreased tablet sales, Cook said that “significant innovation” can still come to the iPad, “and we plan on doing that.” Cook believes there’s a “substantial upside” in iPad sales within business, which led him to remark on the recently announced IBM partnership. “I honestly believe the opportunity is huge,” he said.

On sales in China this quarter, Cook said, “We thought it would be strong, but it well went past what we thought.” He noted that unit growth was “off the charts.”

Asked about trade-in programs for iPhone, Cook said trade-ins are “hugely beneficial for our ecosystem,” as those phones often go to “price sensitive” customers. Cook also believes the cannibalization factor is low due to that price sensitivity, while pointing out the high resale value of Apple products. But he also noted, “It’s very different to quantify with certainty.”

Cook said iPhone 5c had the highest growth of the current three iPhone tiers in the quarter.

When asked how Apple is changing, in reference to the Beats acquisition and the IBM partnership, Cook said that although the company is always on the lookout for acquisitions, “we don’t let our money burn a hole in our pocket.” Again, Cook referenced Beats’ subscription service and products, while taking the time to note that Beats has “a very rare set of talent that we think can do great things in Apple.”

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