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U.S. appeals court resurrects App Store antitrust lawsuit against Apple

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that iPhone users are free to sue Apple for its alleged App Store monopoly on iPhone apps, Reuters reports. This latest ruling resurrects a legal challenge that was originally filed back in 2012, which accused Apple of engaging in anticompetitive behavior by restricting iPhones to only run apps purchased from Apple’s own App Store, thereby artificially inflating the prices of apps by stifling market competition. In response, Apple argued that users did not have any standing to sue Apple because apps are sold by individual developers, and that Apple simply provides the storefront for developers, in return for a cut of app sales. A lower court originally sided with Apple on the matter, however, Judge William A. Fletcher of the appellate court ruled this week that since iPhone users purchase apps directly from Apple, iPhone users have a right to bring a legal challenge against Apple.

Apple increases maximum tvOS app size to 4GB

Apple has announced to developers that the size limit for tvOS app bundles has been significantly increased, with the new maximum size going up to 4GB from the prior 200MB limit. This change will allow developers to include more media content bundled in their app package so that it installs at the same time the user installs the app on their Apple TV, which should minimize the number of games and other apps that need to download additional content when first opened. tvOS apps can also now host up to 20GB of additional content on the App Store using On-Demand Resources.

This is likely to have an impact on users’ Apple TV storage capacities, meaning users with a lot of larger apps and the lower capacity 32GB Apple TV model may find themselves constrained for space as their apps are updated to include media content within the app bundles. The prior 200MB limit kept the apps small and allowed storage on the Apple TV to be optimized by discarding on-demand data from apps when the Apple TV ran low on space; this will not be an option for an app that stores a large amount of media content within the app bundle itself. This could also be a sign that Apple is preparing to release higher-capacity Apple TV models in the near future.

Apple releases fourth iOS 10.2.1 beta

Apple quietly released a fourth beta of iOS 10.2.1 to registered developers late in the day on Thursday. The new beta features a build number of 14D27 and eliminates virtually all of the “known issues” in the release notes, suggesting that a public release is imminent. The single listed issue remaining simply notes that the Emergency SOS feature which debuted in iOS 10.2 continues to only be supported in India, which appears to be a test area that Apple is using for the new feature. watchOS 3.1.3 and tvOS 10.1.1 have not received new beta updates, and there also still appears to be no sign of the iOS 10.3 beta that was rumored to appear this week.

Apple looking to produce original TV content for Apple Music subscribers

A new report in The Wall Street Journal has resurrected speculation from last year that Apple is still working on creating original television — and movie content — to offer as part of a subscription service. Citing people familiar with the matter, the WSJ report indicates that Apple is looking to “build a significant new business” in the area to make it a bigger player in Hollywood to offset slowing sales of its iPhone and iPad devices. Sources suggest that Apple would offer this programming to existing Apple Music subscribers to give it a competitive edge over rival streaming music services.

FBI releases heavily redacted information about cracking iPhone

The FBI has released 100 pages of documents related to its efforts to break into a locked iPhone owned by terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, but most of the useful information has been redacted, The Associated Press reports. The release excludes the name of the group paid to unlock the phone, the cost of the services rendered, and the method used to unlock the phone, essentially shedding very little light on how the government gained access to the device. The documents do reveal that the FBI signed a nondisclosure agreement with the vendor who finally unlocked the phone, and show that at least three other companies expressed interest in the job but couldn’t deliver a solution fast enough.

Rumor: Apple working on lightweight augmented reality glasses with Zeiss

Blogger Robert Scoble is stoking rumors that Apple is working with Carl Zeiss to create augmented reality optics after an encounter at CES. Scoble said he noticed that the Carl Zeiss booth was located in the AR section at CES despite not having any products to showcase. When he suggested to an employee that reason was, “Tim Cook didn’t let you,” Scoble said all of the “employees around me smiled nervously.” Other commenters on the thread said Carl Zeiss confirmed to them that they were “in development with a lead customer” on a pair of light AR or mixed reality glasses, but declined to say who the customer was. Scoble is speculating that the glasses could be released as early as this year, but given his sourcing it’s difficult to put too much stock in the rumor at this point. Zeiss currently offers the VR One Plus headset that turns smartphones into VR optical devices. [via Apple Insider]

Apple releases iOS 10.2.1 beta 3, tvOS 10.1.1 beta 2, watchOS 3.1.3 beta 2 to developers

Apple has released the third beta of iOS 10.2.1 to registered developers today, after a holiday break of sorts — the second beta was released before Christmas. A public beta release should soon follow. While a recent tweet claimed an iOS 10.3 beta would introduce “theatre mode” this week, that seems unlikely to happen so soon. Additionally, Apple has also released both the second betas for tvOS 10.1.1 and watchOS 3.1.3 to developers.

Russia orders Apple to pull LinkedIn app

Apple has pulled the LinkedIn app from its App Store in Russia, The New York Times reports. The move came after Russia blocked the social networking site for not complying with local laws requiring them to store data on Russian citizens. Nicole Leverich, a spokeswoman for LinkedIn, said the company was “disappointed” in Russia’s decision, adding the move “denies access to our members in Russia and the companies that use LinkedIn to grow their businesses.” Apple confirmed it was asked to remove the LinkedIn app in Russia, but declines further comment on the issue. Apple also confirmed that China has indeed requested the company remove The New York Times’ app, illustrating the direct blocking of websites — common in more repressive countries — is now creeping into the App Store.

Apple celebrates 10 years of the iPhone

Ten years ago today, Steve Jobs debuted the iPhone, which he called “a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet communications device.” Apple is celebrating the iconic iPhone by heralding the many ways the device has changed the industry. Essentially creating the smartphone as we know it, the iPhone was the first device to introduce or popularize many of the features users take for granted today.

Apple Executive Team sees reduced compensation as Apple misses 2016 targets

Apple CEO Tim Cook and other members of Apple’s executive team have received less compensation in 2016 as a result of revenue and profit goals for the year being missed, the Wall Street Journal reports. In its regulatory filing from earlier today, Apple stated that its revenue and operating income for 2016 had missed both its targeted and its stretch goals — the first time the company has failed to surpass its stretch goals since 2009, and the first time ever during Tim Cook’s tenure as CEO. As a result, unlike in prior years, company executives did not receive the full cash incentives specified in their compensation packages. In total, Apple CEO Tim Cook received $8.75 million in compensation for 2016, down from $10.3 million the year prior — a 15 percent decline; other Apple executives named in the regulatory filings saw an average decline of 9.6 percent. Apple has faced declining revenue in 2016 as a result of the first prolonged slump in iPhone sales, which account for 63 percent of the company’s annual revenue.

Canadian Competition Bureau closes Apple iPhone antitrust investigation

The Canadian Competition Bureau has announced that it has closed its investigation into concerns of anti-competitive conduct between Apple and Canadian wireless carriers related to the iPhone, stating that no “abuse of dominance” was found by the Bureau. The move brings to an end the investigation that began over two years ago when the Competition Bureau ordered disclosures from Apple Canada and several wireless carriers in separate court filings outlining concerns that Apple had been unfairly using its iPhone bargaining power to encourage carriers to overprice rival phones or charge higher fees for related wireless services. The Bureau reports that in examining the contracts between Apple Canada and the various Canadian wireless carriers, it “did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that Apple has engaged in an abuse of dominance under the Competition Act” and released a position statement on its website detailing the Bureau’s investigation.

Apple reports iOS 10 now on 76 percent of iOS devices

According to a recent update to Apple’s App Store Developer Page, over 76 percent of compatible iOS devices are now running iOS 10 as of Jan. 4, 2017, suggesting that iOS 10 is being adopted at a somewhat faster rate than iOS 9 was last year, which took until March to reach 79 percent of devices. The metrics presented on Apple’s App Store Developer page are measured based on App Store usage, and are therefore limited to those devices actually downloading apps from the App Store. [via iPhone in Canada]

Energous CEO says long-range wireless charging coming by end of 2017

In a recent interview with The Verge, Energous CEO Steve Rizzone stated that his wireless charging startup is on track to begin shipping its long-range wireless charging solutions by the end of 2017, likely in tandem with the key partner that Energous signed a deal with two years ago. While Rizzone has repeatedly declined to state the name of this partner, he did note that the partnership is with “one of the largest consumer electronic companies in the world,” with most speculation pointing in Apple’s direction.

I cannot tell you who it is, but I can virtual guarantee that you have products from this company on your person, sitting on your desk, or at home.

Energous first unveiled its long-range wireless charging solutions at CES two years ago, with promises to begin shipping by the end of 2015. However, those plans changed after the company signed a deal with a “key strategic partner” just a month after the 2015 show ended. The partnership deal gave Energous’ new partner exclusive rights to be the first to ship its charging technology, as well as leading to a renewed focus on miniaturizing the technology. Many initially speculated then that Apple was the “key partner” that Energous was working with, and a new report last month noted that Energous was teaming up with Dialog Semiconductor, one of the largest suppliers of power management chips for Apple’s iOS devices.

Apple announces record-shattering New Year’s Day for App Store

Apple has announced that the 2017 began with the busiest day ever for the App Store, with over $240 million in customer purchases made on Jan. 1, 2017. The year 2016 was also a record-breaking year for the App Store overall, with developers earning over $20 billion — an increase of more than 40 percent from 2015, representing about a third of the total developer earnings over the course of the entire eight year history of the App Store. App Store purchases in December 2016 topped $3 billion; top grossing apps included Monster Strike, Fantasy Westward, Clash Royale, and of course Pokémon GO, while Super Mario Run was the most downloaded app globally on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, after breaking records with 40 million downloads in the first four days after its Dec. 15 release. Apple also added that through its Apps for Earth and Games for (RED) campaigns, developers helped to raise over $17 million for the World Wildlife Fund and (RED).

Apple Q1 2017 earnings call set for January 31

Apple has announced that it will release its Q1 2017 financial results on Tuesday, January 31. As usual, the company will conduct its conference call at 5 p.m. Eastern time that day. Apple previously provided guidance for Q1 of revenue between $76 billion and $78 billion, and gross margin between 38 percent and 38.5 percent. As always, iLounge will provide coverage of the results.

Apple removes New York Times app from Chinese App Store

Apple has removed The New York Times’ apps from the App Store in China in response to a request from Chinese authorities, The New York Times reports. Both the English and Chinese language apps were removed from the App Store in China on Dec. 23, with Apple being told by Chinese officials that the app “is in violation of local regulations.” The move seems to affect only The New York Times’ apps, as other international publications such as The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal remain available in the Chinese App Store. The Chinese government began blocking The Times’ websites in 2012 following a series of articles on then-prime minister Wen Jiabao, although the government is said to have been struggling in recent months to prevent readers from using the Chinese-language app.

Apple to invest $1 billion in SoftBank Vision Fund

Apple has announced plans to invest $1 billion in a new SoftBank technology fund, the Wall Street Journal reports. The SoftBank Vision Fund, announced last October, is hoping to raise $100 billion to finance development of new technologies. An Apple spokesperson said “We believe their new fund will speed the development of technologies which may be strategically important to Apple,” noting that Apple has already been working with SoftBank for many years. SoftBank itself is investing $25 billion into the fund, while Saudi Arabia’s government is investing $45 billion. Other potential investors include the sovereign-wealth fund of Abu Dhabi, the Qatar Investment Authority and Qualcomm.

Apple giving away Beats Solo3 headphones with some purchases for Chinese New Year

Apple has announced it will give away a pair of Beats Solo3 headphones to customers in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Singapore who buy certain Mac or iPhone devices, in honor of Chinese New Year. The promotion starts at 8 a.m. on January 6 and will run as long as supplies of the special (PRODUCT)Red Beats headphones last. Most Apple computers qualify for the deal, but the new MackBook Pro with Touch Bar and Mac Mini are excluded. On the iPhone side, customers will need to buy a 6s, 6s Plus, 7, or 7 Plus to get the deal.

Apple seeking relaxed labeling in India, Chinese suppliers reportedly won’t shift to U.S. production

Apple is petitioning the Indian government to relax its product labeling rules for iPhones manufactured in India, The Economic Times reports. Apple’s concern is that the Indian regulatory requirements to print product-related information directly onto devices will clutter up the iPhone’s minimalist design; it’s said to be among several concessions Apple is seeking from India after expressing its intention to begin manufacturing there. Apple wants to instead provide those required product details either in software or on the product packaging, rather than having to etch them directly onto the iPhone itself.

Apple rolls out updated Photos web app at iCloud.com

Apple has debuted a major update to its web-based iCloud Photos app at iCloud.com, presenting a new user interface that more closely resembles the macOS Photos app. A new sidebar is enabled by default which provides more streamlined browsing of photo albums, although as in the corresponding macOS app, users can choose to toggle the sidebar off using a button at the top of the screen. Multiple photos can now be selected, and action buttons in the top-right corner will apply to all selected photos, allowing you to share, download, delete, or file several photos at a time; individual photos can also be organized into albums via drag-and-drop into the sidebar. Viewing an individual photo also now displays a carousel of thumbnails at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to quickly browse through other photos in the same album.

Notably, the new web Photos app doesn’t yet include the complete list of smart albums from the macOS and iOS versions, omitting such albums as People, Places, Selfies, and Depth Effect, and hasn’t yet added support for the new macOS Sierra and iOS 10 features such as memories, people, and places.

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