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Apple buys motion capture company Faceshift

Photo: TechCrunch

Apple has acquired Faceshift, a motion capture company best known for its work on creating animated characters for the new Star Wars film, TechCrunch reports. Faceshift’s technology records a person’s facial expressions in real time, allowing that information to be used in creating realistic faces for animated characters in movies or rendering custom avatars for players within video games. With several Faceshift employees now working for Apple out of Europe, speculation about how Apple will use Faceshift’s capabilities has centered around identification or security applications. Apple kept quite about buying the company when rumors first circulated earlier in the year, and has since issued its usual statement: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” Apple already owns several patents in the areas of facial recognition, augmented reality and motion capture.

Apple CarPlay included in 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi is the latest auto maker to jump on the Apple CarPlay bandwagon, adding the feature to its 2017 Mirage. The hatchback is the first Mitsubishi model to offer the entertainment system, putting the company a year behind competitors GM and Volkswagen, which included CarPlay in select 2016 models.

Apple aims to launch Apple Pay in China by February

Apple is planning to launch Apple Pay in China by early February, The Wall Street Journal reports. After grueling negotiations, the company has struck deals with China’s four major state-run banks, people familiar with the discussions said. While Apple may still face serious regulatory hurdles, the company is hoping to launch its digital payment service before China’s Spring Festival on Feb. 8. Apple officially began the process of bringing Apple Pay to China in June, when it registered to operate in the Shanghai free-trade zone as Apple Technology Service (Shanghai) Ltd. Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly said he’s “very bullish on Apple Pay” in China — where iPhone sales are actually starting to outpace demand in the U.S. — but several other competing mobile payment options already exist within the country. Apple Pay is currently available in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia.

MasterCard giving Apple Pay users free trips on London’s public transit system

Starting today, MasterCard is offering four “Fare Free Mondays” on London’s public transit system for cardholders using Apple Pay. The promotional periods running today, Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 extend from 4:30 a.m. that day until 1 a.m. the next day. During that time, customers using their U.K. MasterCard through Apple Pay to pay for travel on London Buses, London Underground, London Trams, Docklands Light Railway, London Overground, TfL Rail, Emirates Air Line and most National Rail services in London will be billed for the trip, but can expect to see their fares refunded within 28 working days, up to a maximum value of £27.90 per cardholder. The offer excludes travel on Thames Clipper River Bus services. While the promotion is very specific, we’re left to wonder whether we’ll be seeing other similar spot promotions aimed at getting users enrolled in Apple Pay, and getting them familiar with how the technology works.

Apple wins DRM patent case against ContentGuard

A U.S. district court judge has ruled Apple’s method of distributing and authenticating content doesn’t infringe on DRM patents owned by ContentGuard Holdings, Reuters reports. ContentGuard sued in 2013, claiming Apple applied five of its DRM patents in iTunes and iBooks to dispense movies, songs, shows and books that could be restricted to function only for approved users. Apple denied infringing on the patents and went even further by claiming the patents themselves were invalid. A jury didn’t buy Apple’s argument that the patents were invalid, but also didn’t find enough proof that Apple had infringed the patents, so no damages were awarded to ContentGuard. An attorney for ContentGuard expressed his disappointment in the ruling and said he and his clients were evaluating their options. Apple declined to comment.

Apple working on app to diagnose problems with iOS devices?

Photo: uSwitch

Apple is building an app to diagnose problems with iOS devices and help users schedule service, according to uSwitch. A source with direct knowledge of the app’s development said it will ask “basic questions (about the device in need of repair) to boil down to the problem quickly.” The new app will reportedly provide user guides and basic how-to information for every iOS device registered to the user’s Apple ID and offers tips for resolving a series of commonly experienced problems. If those fail to resolve the issue, the app will aid users in booking service at an Apple Store, sending their device in for service, or calling Apple for further support. The current Apple Store app only provides assistance in booking appointments with an Apple Store’s Genius bar; it’s unclear if this functionality will be shifted into the Apple Store app, or if it will be a new app of its own. Photos of the app show it also provides an option to chat live with Apple’s tech support network.

Apple Music: Iovine apologizes for remarks about women; Adele won’t stream new album

Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine issued an apology for remarks he made about “some women” finding it difficult to find music, Buzzfeed reports. The cringe-inducing moment came while Iovine was on CBS This Morning with Mary J. Blige discussing a new Apple ad featuring Blige alongside actresses Kerry Washington and Taraji P. Henson. “I just thought of a problem,” Iovine said. “Girls are sitting around, talking about boys, right? Or complaining about boys, when they have their heart broken or whatever, and they need music for that, right? And they need music for that. So it’s hard to find the right music. Not everyone has the right list or knows a DJ.” Iovine later said he could have chosen his words better. Iovine added that the company approached Oprah to be a part of the ad campaign, but she declined.

Apple expands personal pickup to Apple Stores in the UK

After expanding in-store pickup for items purchased from Apple’s online store to Canada and Australia earlier this week, the company has made the option available in the United Kingdom, as well. Apple is also said to be training employees in France on the new process. Apple Stores allow customers to reserve in-stock products online in most parts of the world, but those purchases still must be completed inside the store. The option to pick up already purchased items in-store was only available at U.S. locations until this week. [via MacRumors]

Apple acknowledges iPad Pro charging problem, doesn’t have fix yet

In a brief support document, Apple has acknowledged the reported problem of iPad Pro devices requiring a hard restart to resume functioning after an extended period on the charger. The company instructs users to force restart the device if it becomes unresponsive and notes that “Apple is aware of this issue and is investigating.” We at iLounge have yet to experience the problem despite more than a week of working with the tablet.

App Store rules may limit number of iPad Pro-specific apps

The iPad Pro has been touted as powerful enough to replace laptop and desktop computers, but many developers tell The Verge that they see big problems with developing apps specifically for the larger device’s enhanced capabilities. While the tablet is fast enough to run professional-grade software, it still operates on iOS, making all apps developed for it subject to App Store rules. The App Store doesn’t allow free trials as part of the download process, and developers like Bohemian Coding co-founders Pieter Omvlee and Emanuel Sa don’t see users paying $99 for their Sketch app without ever seeing it work. “Sketch on the Mac costs $99, and we wouldn’t dare ask someone to pay $99 without having seen or tried it first,” Omvlee said. “So to be sold through the App Store, we would have to dramatically lower the price, and then, since we’re a niche app, we wouldn’t have the volume to make up for it.”

iFixit tears down the Apple Pencil

iFixit has posted a teardown of the new Apple Pencil. The report notes the basic specs of the Pencil, noting a new Apple model number of A1603, and draws comparisons to the Microsoft Surface Pen and 53’s “iPad Pencil,” the latter of which oddly bears the same Pencil name and continues to be sold by Apple in its retail stores. The Apple Pencil box includes a spare tip along with a Lightning-to-Lightning adapter to allow users to charge their Pencils using any available Lightning cable instead of connecting the device to the bottom of their iPad. A Lightning Connector cap keeps that end covered when not in use, snapping into place with magnets, although it’s small enough to be easily lost when not attached to the Pencil.

Apple releases iOS 9.2 beta 4, tvOS 9.1 beta 3

Apple has released a pair of betas to developers this afternoon — iOS 9.2 beta 4 and Apple TV’s tvOS 9.1 beta 3 are both available now. The new iOS beta includes a number of small changes, including support for AT&T’s NumberSync feature. iOS 9.2 beta 4 is also now available to public testers.

Apple expands NYC same-day delivery, brings personal pickup to Canada + Australia

After launching same-day delivery in San Francisco this May, Apple has expanded the expedited shipping option to most areas of New York City and some of its surrounding towns, MacRumors has discovered. For $19, most orders placed through the Apple Store app or on Apple’s online store are guaranteed to be delivered by Postmates within a two-hour window, and customers who order through the Apple Store app are provided with tracking information and estimated delivery times. Shoppers who don’t live within the Postmates delivery area won’t see the option for same-day delivery at checkout. So far the option has only popped up in the NYC and San Francisco areas, but Postmates has a presence in several other major U.S. cities.

Apple apparently pulls HomeKit-incompatible devices from its stores

Apple has stopped selling HomeKit-incompatible devices made by August, Kwikset and Belkin, MacRumors reports. August’s Smart Lock and Kwikset’s Kevo Wireless-Enabled Deadbolt Lock are both Bluetooth-enabled and can be operated by a user’s iPhone, but they’re not HomeKit-compatible and can’t be used with HomeKit devices. Apple’s online store still has Schlage’s Sense Smart Deadbolt up for sale, and that smart lock comes with HomeKit compatibility. Belkin’s WeMo light switch has also gone missing, suggesting all home-connected products that don’t come with HomeKit capabilities are going away.

Leaked photo shows official Apple Watch dock packaging (Updated: dock released)

A photo posted by French site iGeneration appears to show the packaging and instructions for an official Apple dock for the Apple Watch. The box reads “Magnetic Charging Dock” and features a diagram of a circular dock supporting the Apple Watch in both horizontal and vertical positions. The dock appears to come with a Lightning cable, but not the USB adapter for plugging the cable into the wall. The price tag on the box shows the cost to be 89 euros, which will likely translate into around $79 in the U.S. No extra information was provided alongside the photo. [via MacRumors]

Update: The new dock has appeared in some European Apple Stores. As anticipated, the dock’s central magnetic ring allows an Apple Watch to charge lying flat and also raises up to let the watch charge vertically while operating in Nightstand mode. According to Apple Insider, the dock is on sale for £65 in a London location and 89 euros in other countries. We haven’t heard about any of the U.S. locations making the new dock available and it’s not yet available for purchase online.

Foursquare added to Apple Maps business listings

Apple has updated the acknowledgments page for its Maps app to include Foursquare as a provider of business listings. Foursquare officially joins Yelp, Trip Advisor and as official providers of information about businesses, restaurants and attractions within the app, but so far we at iLounge haven’t seen any Foursquare information popping up when searching in Apple Maps. In other Foursquare news, the company’s Swarm app got an update yesterday, making it possible to use the 3D Touch feature to press on a friend’s check-in for quick access to more information about their current location.

Conflicting reports over rumored new 4-inch iPhone

Citing “credible sources,” Macotakara claims Apple has a 4” “iPhone 5s Mark II” ready for production and shipment. If true, the new phone will feature a patchwork of Apple’s older technology, including the A8 chip found in the iPhone 6 and the f/2.2 aperture FaceTime HD camera found in the most recent iPod Touch.

The new report conflicts yesterday’s rumor from IHS analyst Kevin Wang claiming a new “iPhone 6c” with an A9 processor is on the way in mid-2016. Wang’s information seemed to back up a prediction made earlier this month by KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who also said a new 4” phone would feature the A9 chip and enter production in the first half of 2016. [via Apple Insider]

Apple Pay coming to Australia this week, introduced in Canada today

Apple Pay debuted in Canada today and will arrive in Australia later this week for some American Express cardholders, The Financial Post reports. Retailers in both countries are ahead of the U.S. in adoption of the tap-to-pay technology necessary to use Apple Pay, but so far in Canada, only non-bank issued American Express cards will work with the digital payment system, since the company hasn’t finalized a deal with any major Canadian banks. Apple is having similar problems locking down a deal with banks in Australia, making it likely that only non-bank American Express cards will be usable when Apple Pay launches there as well.

Some users report iPad Pro unresponsive after long charge, requiring restart

Some users of the new iPad Pro are finding the device becomes unresponsive after being charged for a lengthy period, requiring a hard restart to restore functionality, MacRumors reports. Dozens of MacRumors forum users claim that the large tablet appears frozen after overnight charging, forcing them to restart the device. The issue has affected 32GB and 128GB versions running iOS 9.1 and is present in both Wi-Fi and cellular models. Users have speculated that restoring from an iCloud backup may be contributing to the freezing issue, but Apple’s support team has been giving customers varied suggestions for a fix, suggesting the exact cause of the problem is still unknown. After days of testing, we at iLounge haven’t seen this particular behavior exhibited in our iPad Pro, but other users have had some success getting around the issue by restoring the iPad to factory settings using iTunes or force restarting the device by holding the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons down at the same time.

Apple under investigation in Germany for audiobook deal with Amazon

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office is investigating Apple’s agreement for distributing audiobooks from Amazon, Reuters reports. The inquiry comes a little more than a month after Apple rid itself of a court-appointed antitrust monitor put in place by a 2013 ruling over the company’s conspiracy with publishers to fix e-book prices. The German investigation focuses on Apple’s long-term agreement to sell audiobooks from Amazon’s Audible business through iTunes. “The two companies have a strong position in the digital offering of audiobooks in Germany. Therefore, we feel compelled to examine the agreement between these two competitors in the audiobooks in more detail,” cartel office chief Andreas Mundt said in the statement. Both Apple and Amazon declined to comment.

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