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Australian banks accused of anti-competitive behavior over Apple Pay lockout

While Apple Pay officially launched in Australia last week, the country’s banks are still refusing to link their cards to the digital payment system, prompting calls for the Reserve Bank to examine banks for potential anti-competitive behavior, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Apple’s fees for using the service have been a sticking point in negotiations for months, with the company reportedly demanding the same 15 cents on every $100 of transactions that the company is believed to receive from banks in the U.S., even though banks in Australia make half as much from interchange fees as compared to their U.S. counterparts.

Apple reaches deal with UnionPay to bring Apple Pay to China

Apple has struck a preliminary agreement to use UnionPay’s point-of-sales network to bring Apple Pay to China, Bloomberg reports. Sources familiar with the negotiations said UnionPay, China’s largest payment network, aims to introduce Apple Pay as soon as next year, but noted that the two companies haven’t signed firm agreements with Chinese banks on linking local bank cards to the service. That information seems to conflict with yesterday’s report that Apple had reached deals with China’s four largest state-run banks to link Apple Pay with local bank accounts, with sources now saying some banks have lingering concerns about the fees charged by Apple Pay and the low number of users the service has worldwide. Apple Pay takes in 0.15 percent of each purchase made through its system — which comes out of the 2 percent fee paid by retailers in the U.S. — but that rate has proven too high in China, where the total fee paid by some retailers is only 0.38 percent.

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 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cook: Apple won’t make ‘converged’ Mac and iPad

While Apple CEO Tim Cook has touted the iPad Pro’s ability to replace a traditional laptop or PC in recent interviews, he told The Independent that Apple sees plenty of life left in its Mac line and has no plans to build a MacBook and iPad hybrid. “We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad,” said Cook. “Because what that would wind up doing, or what we’re worried would happen, is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants. So we want to make the best tablet in the world and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You’d begin to compromise in different ways.”

Report: Apple may use iMessage for person-to-person payments

Following news that Apple is looking to expand Apple Pay to allow person-to-person payments, sources who have discussed the program with Apple said iMessage could end up being the method the company will use to facilitate those transfers, Quartz reports. The messaging client is one of the most-used apps installed on the iPhone by default and is especially popular with the demographic currently making the most use of person-to-person payments. People with knowledge of the Apple program said the company finds using iMessage and partnering directly with banks particularly beneficial since the move would let Apple avoid obtaining the money transfer licenses that companies like PayPal, Venmo and Facebook already have. There’s also plenty of precedent for the successful pairing of messaging and payments, with messaging apps already a popular means of making payments and money transfers in Asia, and Facebook reportedly attempting to add payment capabilities to its Messenger app for its U.S. user base.

Apple shutting down Beats Music on Nov. 30

In a post on the Beats Music support blog, Apple said it’s shutting down Beats Music on Nov. 30 and urged users to move their picks and preferences over to Apple Music before it’s too late. Apple has been encouraging Beats Music users to switch to Apple Music since launching the new service in June, but those users still paying for Beats Music will see their subscriptions canceled at the end of the month. The “related articles” section attached to the post features links to newly updated user guides for migrating from Beats Music to Apple Music for both iOS and Android, making it possible that Apple was waiting until the Android app’s release earlier this week before finally pulling the plug on Beats Music.

Apple working on mobile person-to-person payment service

Apple is reportedly having discussions with U.S. banks about expanding Apple Pay to support person-to-person payments, according to The Wall Street Journal. The service would allow users to send and receive money with other users directly from their iPhones, and the report notes that it would likely be similar to Square Cash or PayPal’s Venmo platform, which has become popular among a younger demographic that uses it for features such as splitting tips, pitching in on gifts, and sharing rent and other household expenses among roommates. Some of the banks Apple has been talking with include J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Capital One Financial Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and U.S. Bancorp, although it does not appear that any of the firms have yet come to an agreement with Apple, with key details still to be worked out. While a launch isn’t imminent, one industry source suggested such a service could debut as soon as next year.

Jony Ive gives insight into Apple Pencil’s creation

In an interview with the Telegraph, Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive explained the pains Apple has taken create a totally new drawing experience with the Apple Pencil accessory for the iPad Pro. The pencil’s sensor-filled tip gives the device capabilities no other stylus has, making it able to deliver a bold dot when pressed down hard on its tip or produce a lighter fanned effect when gently brushed on its side, just like a real pencil. But creating a device sophisticated enough to deliver those abilities created other challenges since, unlike a traditional stylus, the Apple Pencil needs to be charged. Ive admits plugging the pencil into an iPod through its Lightning connector removes some of the natural and intuitive feel the company worked to maintain with the device, but said his team endeavored to make it as simple as possible. “We don’t like to have to charge multiple devices and manage them either so one of the things we’ve worked extremely hard on is the actual process of charging.”

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