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Apple to sell limited-edition Olympic Apple Watch bands exclusively in Brazil

Apple is planning to jump on board the fashion trends for the 2016 Olympic Games with a lineup of special edition Apple Watch bands representing the flags of fourteen of the major countries who will be participating in the Games. A new report in GQ reveals that the new limited-edition nylon bands will be sold exclusively at the Apple Store, VillageMall in Barra da Tijuca for $49 beginning in early August, and will include bands for the U.S.A., Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and The Netherlands.

Report: iPhone 7 will include Lightning adapter instead of Lightning EarPods

A new research note from Deutsche Bank (via Business Insider) reports that the next-generation iPhone will include a “Lightning-to-audio dongle” in the package rather than a set of Lightning-equipped EarPods. Although the research note confirms several other recent rumors about the upcoming iPhone, including the elimination of the 3.5mm audio jack in favor of a Lightning connection, it cites supply chain sources claiming that Lightning headphones will not be included in the package; however it’s unclear whether this means Apple will simply continue to include the 3.5mm EarPods of prior versions, or eliminate the headphones from the packaging entirely.

Edward Snowden designing device to prevent iPhone wiretapping

Former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden is designing a device to help prevent unauthorized monitoring of iPhone signals, Wired reports. The proposed device, which has been developed in cooperation with hardware hacker Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, is a case-like accessory that connects into the iPhone’s internals via its SIM card slot to monitor the signals sent to the iPhone’s internal antennas. The add-on would constantly check on whether the iPhone radios are transmitting, and Huang and Snowden suggest that it’s an “infinitely more trustworthy method” of ensuring that no unauthorized radio signals are being sent than simply using “Airplane Mode” which can be hacked or spoofed. By designing this device, which they’ve duebbed an “introspection engine,” Snowden and Huang are looking to provide strong privacy guarantees to iPhone users who would need to shield their iPhones from “government-funded adversaries with advanced hacking and surveillance capabilities,” such as reporters working in hostile foreign countries who want to shield their locations.

Report: Apple Car team running into challenges, launch may slip to 2021

A detailed profile in The Information (via Macrumors) of three brothers allegedly working on Apple’s new car initiative, codenamed “Project Titan,” notes that the rumored 2020 launch date may be slipping to 2021 due to a number of challenges that the team has encountered. According to people “briefed about aspects of Titan,” the group has been struggling, and the January departure of Apple VP of Product Design Steve Zadesky, who was believed to be heading up the project since 2014, has not helped both in terms of direction and morale. Despite this, however, the project remains at an early stage, and with another several years of research and development ahead, it would not be unexpected for Apple’s roadmap to change even further — last fall the Wall Street Journal reported that the Apple Car was targeted to ship as early as 2019.

Corning announces Gorilla Glass 5

Corning has announced Gorilla Glass 5, the fifth-generation of the chemically-strengthened glass that has been used in iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads. The latest version promises to protect against even higher drops, and has been tested to survive 1.6-meter shoulder-height drops onto hard, rough surfaces up to eighty percent of the time — an improvement by a factor of four over competing glass solutions. Corning also notes that despite the improved toughness, Gorilla Glass still retains the same damage resistance, optical clarity, and touch sensitivity as prior generations. To date, Corning Gorilla Glass has been deployed in 4.5 billion devices worldwide across more than 1,800 product models and 40 major brands, and the company’s announcement notes that the new glass is “expected to be on product models from leading global brands later this year,” suggesting the possibility that it might make it into the next-generation iPhone. [via iPhone in Canada]

Apple under fire for providing refurbished replacements under AppleCare+

A new class action lawsuit has been filed in California alleging that Apple is not living up to the terms of its AppleCare+ service plan by providing refurbished service stock replacements to customers rather than new devices. The suit takes specific issue with Apple replacing damaged devices with refurbished devices, focusing on the clause in the AppleCare+ terms that state that devices replaced under the program are “equivalent to new in performance and reliability” with lawyers for the plaintiffs arguing that refurbished means “a secondhand unit that has been modified to appear to be new” and therefore can’t be considered to be equivalent to a new unit in durability or functionality.

Report: Apple acquires cloud music provider Omnifone? [Update: No]

A new report by Macrumors suggests that Apple may be behind the recent acquisition of Omnifone, a cloud-based music provider behind the MusicStation service as well as providing the foundation for mobile partnerships through companies including Samsung, Vodafone, LG, Blackberry, Sony, and others, powering Samsung’s Milk, Sony’s Music Unlimited and Blackberry’s BBM Music services. A report earlier this month in Music Ally indicated that Omnifone’s tech business and assets had been purchased by a “mystery buyer” in the U.S. for $10 million, and sources back in May of this year suggested to Music Ally that Apple was believed to be interested in the company. Despite earlier reports that Apple might purchase Omnifone for its patent portfolio, documents covering the sale note that the patent portfolio was excluded, as were all debts and investments, although the terms did include a “royalty bearing license” that the company claims will help it to determine the value of its patent collection; Omnifone holds a number of patents related to downloading music, digital rights management, and generating recommendations that would likely appeal to streaming music companies.

Update: Jim Dalrymple of The Loop notes that although the original report does indicate a “mystery buyer” of Omnifone, his sources have told him that Apple is not the buyer.

Apple releases second iOS 10 public beta

Apple has released the second public beta of iOS 10 through its Apple Software Beta Program. Corresponding to the third beta released to developers earlier this week, the latest public beta continues enhancements to Music, Maps, Messages, and News, the new lock screen, today widget, and notification system, and on-device intelligence for face, scene, and object recognition in the Photos app on 64-bit devices. iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE users in the United States should also now be able to take advantage of the new beta transcription service in the Visual Voicemail app. Users who have already signed up for the Apple Software Beta Program should be able to log in and download the new versions now; users who haven’t signed up can do so at the same site.

India clears the way for Apple to open retail stores

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet is finally clearing the way for Apple to open retail stores in India after a series of delays hampered the company’s plans for expansion into the country, Bloomberg reports. People familiar with the discussions said the cabinet is likely to approve a three-year exemption to the country’s requirement that single-brand retailers obtain 30 percent of their products’ materials locally, overruling the country’s Foreign Investment Promotion Board, which ruled in May that Apple had to comply with all of the restrictions. To justify the exemption, the government is making it easier for foreign companies like Apple to meet the criteria to be listed as a provider of “cutting-edge technology,” according to sources who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to talk to the media.

Apple Pay launches in Hong Kong

Just a few hours after going live in France, Apple Pay became available for customers in Hong Kong as well. Apple’s website lists the Bank of China, Hang Seng Bank, DBS, HSBC and Standard Chartered as participating partners at launch. Users can link Visa, Mastercard and American Express credit cards issued by those banks to their Apple Pay accounts, with the company promising future agreements with BEA and HKT. Apple has been ramping up its efforts to expand Apple Pay in recent months, with a particular focus on Asian countries.

Apple Stores providing $5 iTunes Gift Cards with Apple Pay signup

Apple is adding an additional incentive for Apple Store customers in the U.S. and U.K. to activate Apple Pay by offering a $5/£5 iTunes Gift Card, according to a new report by Macrumors. Customers making an in-store purchase will be asked by Apple Store staff whether they will be paying with Apple Pay, and customers who do not already have Apple Pay set up on their iPhones and wish to do so will be taken through the process by the Apple Store employee and receive an iTunes Gift card in return for setting up Apple Pay and using it to make their purchase. The promotion will be available for any purchase made in an Apple Store, regardless of whether the customer is purchasing an Apple product, third-party accessory, or even an Apple Store or iTunes Store gift card.

Kia offering free CarPlay upgrades on some new and used models

Kia has announced that it will be offering a free Apple CarPlay update to certain vehicles equipped with a compatible navigation system or UVO3 display. Owners of new and pre-owned Forte, Optima, Optima Hybrid, Sedona, Soul, Soul EV, Sorento and Sportage vehicles can register at myuvo.com to see if their car is eligible for the upgrade and get instructions on how to download and install the required software. Customers will be notified by email at the end of July when the software is available.

Report: Army switching from Andriod to iPhone for tactical smartphone

A new report from Military.com claims the U.S. Army Special Operations Command is ditching its Android tactical smartphone in favor of the iPhone. An Army source not authorized to speak to the media said the iPhone 6S is slated to be used in an iPhone Tactical Assault Kit, a special-operations version of the Army’s Nett Warrior battlefield situational awareness tool. The source said the Army is making the switch because the iPhone is “faster, smoother. Android freezes up” and has to be restarted often.

Iran threatens to ban, seize iPhones unless Apple registers in the country

In an effort to crack down on phones being imported into the country by smugglers, Iranian officials have demanded that Apple officially register in Iran or have its products banned, The Japan Times reports. “If Apple will not register an official representative in Iran within the next few days, all iPhones will be collected from the market,” the director of Iran’s anti-smuggling office told Tasnim News Agency. The director’s name wasn’t provided in the report. The new project, running under the president’s office, will require all mobile phones to be registered with Iran’s telecommunications user database.

Apple bringing full iTunes Match capabilities to Apple Music subscribers

Apple is in the process of rolling out the more sophisticated audio fingerprint capabilities from its iTunes Match service to all Apple Music subscribers, according a new post by Jim Dalrymple of The Loop. Although Apple Music provides the ability to integrate a user’s own iTunes library tracks into a cloud-based “iCloud Music Library,” as Dalrymple’s post explains the matching capabilities of the Apple Music service have been limited in comparison to Apple’s $25/year iTunes Match service, meaning that users who subscribed only to Apple Music without also paying for an iTunes Match subscription were stuck with a “metadata version of iTunes Match” which relied on track information rather than acoustic fingerprinting to match a user’s own tracks with Apple Music’s collection, resulting in significantly less accurate results, such as live versions of songs being replaced by studio versions.

Apple Pay launches in France

Apple Pay has officially launched in France, supporting Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards from Banque Populaire, Caisse d’Epargne, Carrefour Banque and Ticket Restaurant. The French Apple Pay website also promises that Boon and Orange will soon be added as well. Earlier this year Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s VP of Apple Pay, revealed the company is working to rapidly expand the electronic payment method, with its sights set on Brazil, Hong Kong, India and several countries across the Asia Pacific region. With the addition of France Apple Pay is now available in 8 countries.

Apple releases third developer betas for iOS 10, tvOS 10 + watchOS 3

Apple has released the third developer betas for iOS 10, tvOS 10, and watchOS 3. The third round of betas is intended to allow developers to continue working on the new features and APIs first debuted at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference last month, with the unveiling of each of the major new operating system releases; the third round of betas likely continues to refine the experience from the second round of betas, with the release notes indicating mostly minor updates. A new voicemail transcription beta is available in the iOS 10 beta 3 on iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE with Siri language set to English (United States), and a new beta of the Apple TV Remote app is also available.

Apple releases iOS 9.3.3, watchOS 2.2.2, tvOS 9.2.2, iTunes 12.4.2

Apple released a big set of of updates yesterday afternoon, as iOS 9.3.3, watchOS 2.2.2, tvOS 9.2.2, and iTunes 12.4.2 were all launched to the general public. The updates mostly contain bug fixes and minor enhancements, but the iTunes update resolves a playback issue with short Apple Music songs in your Up Next queue. The updates are currently available. We’ll add to this piece this afternoon if there are any other major findings.

Questionable photos claim to show ‘iPhone 7 Pro’

A new round of photos unearthed by NowhereElse on Chinese search engine Weibo purport to show three new iPhone models, an iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and the rumored iPhone 7 Pro. When viewed from the screen side, the devices labeled Plus and Pro are virtually identical in size and shape. But in images of the back, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus both feature a single camera lens, where the iPhone Pro features a dual-lens camera and what appears to be a Smart Connector.

Apple proposes flat rate for streaming music royalties

Apple has filed a proposal with the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board suggesting that songwriters and royalty holders be paid a flat rate for online streams, Billboard reports. Apple suggests a simple, “all-in” statutory rate of 9.1 cents per 100 plays, which the company said is “fair, simple and transparent, unlike the incredibly complicated structure that currently exists.” The move would directly undercut rivals like Spotify and YouTube, who pay songwriters and publishers a percentage of the revenue they generate from streaming.

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