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Apple releases iOS 9.3 beta 3, tvOS 9.2 beta 3, watchOS 2.2 beta 3 to developers

Apple has released three of its latest betas to developers today with iOS 9.3 beta 3, tvOS 9.2 beta 3, and watchOS 2.2 beta 3. The public version of iOS 9.3 beta 3 should be released later this week. We’ll update our iOS and tvOS “Inside the betas” article later on with any relevant information.

Indie game ‘The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth’ rejected by Apple over violence toward children

Apple has rejected an iOS version of the popular indie game The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth after deciding its content depicts “violence towards, or abuse of, children,” the game’s developer said on Twitter. The game, based loosely on the Old Testament story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac, revolves around the child protagonist’s efforts to escape the basement where he is being held by his mother. The console and platform versions of the game are rated Mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, but feature only cartoonish violence similar to that found in Limbo, another popular iOS title that had no trouble getting approved despite being a platformer where a child essentially dies over and over again. But promotional images for The Binding of Isaac show a child naked and weeping on the floor, and Nintendo initially rejected the game for the 3DS and Wii U over objections to “questionable religious content.”

Apple likely to receive approval to open retail stores in India

After filing applications last month, Apple is on track to receive the necessary approval to open its own retail locations in India, Bloomberg reports. A person with knowledge of the process said the Indian government plans to push through Apple’s application after the company resubmitted it in the proper format, but declined to provide a timetable for final approval. The source said Apple will likely qualify as a provider of cutting-edge technology, exempting the company from rules forcing single-brand retailers to obtain 30 percent of a product’s materials locally — a provision that could have all but doomed Apple’s venture in India, since the company makes most of its devices in China. Spokesmen for Apple and India’s Finance Ministry both declined to comment on the story, but after last month’s earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he is optimistic India’s business environment will improve and is looking forward to investing in the country.

Report: Some third-party repairs ‘bricking’ iPhones with iOS 9

A new report from The Guardian notes that thousands of iPhone 6 users are claiming to have been left holding useless iPhones as a result of repairs carried out by non-Apple authorized technicians. According to the report, users who previously had iPhone 6 models repaired at unauthorized third-party service centers have encountered an “Error 53” when updating to iOS 9, leaving their devices locked in a completely unusable state. The problem seems to center on handsets where a Touch ID home button has been repaired by an unauthorized company or individual, but it has also reportedly impacted customers with damaged iPhones that have otherwise been able to carry on using them without repairs.

Challenges with third parties making repairs involving the Touch ID sensor aren’t actually new: A 2013 report from iMore, released shortly after Apple introduced Touch ID on the iPhone 5s, revealed the Touch ID sensor and related hardware on each iPhone unit is specifically paired to that unit, presumably for security purposes. Home buttons, which include the Touch ID sensor, cannot be swapped between even identical iPhones, and the iMore article states that “For DIY repairers, things just got a bit more difficult. When removing the screen, say to replace a cracked screen, you’ll also need to remove the Touch ID cable to transfer it to the new screen. Extra care will need to be taken to ensure the cable isn’t damaged.”

Report: Apple to bid on NFL Thursday Night Football streaming rights

Apple plans to put in a bid for NFL Thursday Night Football streaming rights, according to a new report from Variety. A report late last year indicated that the NFL was accepting bids for streaming rights for the package, having sent formal requests for proposals to several major digital media players, including Apple, Amazon, Google, and Yahoo — although it was unclear at the time whether Apple actually had any plans to submit a bid in response to the RFP. In the process of announcing two-year TV broadcast deals with CBS and NBC for the package earlier this week, the league also noted that it is “in active discussions with prospective digital partners” for global streaming rights to the same games. Although the league declined to comment on which companies it is specifically in discussions with, multiple sources indicate that Apple is among those looking to put in bids.

Apple to begin taking broken iPhones for trade-in, offer in-store screen protector installation

Apple is planning to launch two new retail initiatives for iPhone users, according to a new report by 9to5Mac. The first is an enhancement to the company’s Reuse and Recycle Program that it launched two years ago, allowing customers to bring in an older iPhone model to trade it in and receive credit toward the purchase of a new iPhone. Starting this week, in addition to working iPhone models, Apple will now begin accepting iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus units with damaged displays, cameras, and buttons, with sources indicating that the current trade-in values for such models will be $50 for an iPhone 5s, $200 for an iPhone 6, and $250 for an iPhone 6 Plus. Sources indicate that Apple believes this will encourage users to upgrade to a newer iPhone model, rather than simply paying for a standard iPhone screen repair.

Apple ordered to pay $625M to VirnetX in patent case

Apple has been ordered to pay $625.6 million in damages to patent-holding company VirnetX over its FaceTime and VPN patents, CNET reports. This latest lawsuit is a retrial of a 2012 award where Apple was ordered to pay $368.2 million; an appeals court dismissed that damage award against Apple and ordered a new trial for some of the infringement claims. VirnetX refiled the suit in January, covering these earlier infringement claims as well as infringements based on newer generations of iOS devices.

Apple has said that it plans to appeal the decision, with a spokesperson making the statement that “Our employees independently designed this technology over many years, and we received patents to protect this intellectual property.” The damage award is actually worth more than VirnetX, which is a small patent-holding company that doesn’t actually make any products of its own.

Apple acquires security company LegbaCore

Apple acquired firmware security company LegbaCore last November, as the acquisition was disclosed in a presentation by security researcher Trammel Hudson at the 32C3 conference in December. LegbaCore is focused primarily in security consultancy, with a stated aim to “help build systems that are as secure as we know how to make.” LegbaCore’s founders revealed in November that they had joined Apple as full-time employees, with LegbaCore’s website announcing around that time that it would also “not be accepting any new customer engagements,” but would remain up as a reference for the company’s past work. LegbaCore and Trammel Hudson previously collaborated to create Thunderstrike 2, the first firmware worm to impact Macs as a proof-of-concept, alerting Apple to the vulnerabilities that the worm exploited. LegbaCore founder Xeno Kovah noted on Twitter that Apple began discussions with the two founders after their presentation in 2015, revealing some “very interesting and highly impactful work” that the two could participate in, eventually convincing them to begin working at Apple. While LegbaCore doesn’t own any specific technology, it seems likely that the founders have been acquired for their expertise and knowledge in security research to help improve firmware and software security in future Apple products. [via MacRumors]

Report: iPhone 5se, iPad Air 3 set for March 15 unveil

Apple is looking to hold an event on March 15 to unveil a new iPhone, iPad Air, and Apple Watch band options, 9to5Mac reports, following a report last week that the new standard-sized iPad would be available in March, while also revealing that the rumored 4-inch iPhone model will debut at the same time. Sources suggest that the new “iPhone 5se” will include an A9 chip, improved cameras, Live Photos support, and Apple Pay, while mirroring the general design of the iPhone 5s and coming in at the same price, starting at $450 for 16GB, with a 64GB model also being available. The report suggests that the iPad Air 3 will look much as suggested in previous reports, with enhanced speakers, a possible rear LED flash, and a Smart Connector like that found on the iPad Pro. Apple will also reportedly introduce new Apple Watch bands and software at the same event, although it appears no actual new Apple Watch device hardware will be unveiled.

Apple building team for secret virtual reality project

Apple is building a team of experts in virtual and augmented reality, according to a new report from the Financial Times. The secret research team apparently includes hundreds of staff collected from a series of “carefully targeted acquisitions” and other VR companies, and it has already been building prototypes of VR headsets for several months. Apple experimented with virtual reality under Steve Jobs about ten years ago, but abandoned the technology at the time as not being sufficiently mature; however, the company has rekindled its efforts in the area over the past two years, beginning with the acquisition of motion sensor maker PrimeSense in 2013, followed by augmented reality company Metaio and motion capture company FaceShift last year, and most recently Flyby Media, an augmented reality company that previously worked with Google in developing 3D positioning technology for Project Tango. It’s unclear whether Apple aims to release an actual VR headset, some other more ambitious project, or simply apply the technology to its new car project. Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted obliquely at VR earlier this week when he responded to a question from analyst Gene Munster on the matter during Apple’s quarterly earnings call, referring to virtual reality as having some “interesting applications” and definitely not being a niche area.

Report: Apple aiming to unveil original, exclusive TV programming by September

Apple may be looking in a new direction in efforts to get its television streaming service off the ground. A new report from The Street reveals that the company has been in talks with Hollywood’s creative community since late last year about producing original TV shows that could be offered exclusively to iTunes customers. While Apple has yet to sign any agreements, two people with knowledge of the matter have suggested that Apple is ideally trying to get deals in place for September so it can announce exclusive content with the unveiling of the iPhone 7. The discussions are reportedly being led by Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, who is effectively the force behind Apple’s entertainment initiatives, with Robert Kondrk, VP of iTunes content, also involved in the talks, according to sources. An Apple spokesperson naturally declined to comment on the matter. It was first reported in September that Apple had interest in creating original programming.

Apple acquires LearnSprout, an educational software startup

Apple has acquired LearnSprout, an education technology startup, Bloomberg reports. LearnSprout creates software for schools and teachers to track student performance, and is currently used by more than 2,500 school districts across 42 U.S. states. The acquisition likely ties into Apple’s recent push into more sophisticated educational tools for the iPad with iOS 9.3, which will allow students to engage in interactive lessons and more easily share iPads within the classroom. In response to the acquisition, an Apple spokesperson gave the usual boilerplate statement that “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” LearnSprout’s CEO also did not immediately response to a request for comments from Bloomberg.

Apple issues voluntary recall for certain AC wall plug adapters

Apple has issued a voluntary recall covering some of its AC wall plug adapters and world travel kits. The recall affects AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Continental Europe, New Zealand and South Korea, noting that in very rare cases, the affected two-prong adapters may break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched. The adapters shipped with Mac and some iOS devices between 2003 and 2015 and were also included in the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. The release notes that Apple is aware of 12 incidents worldwide, and specifies that the issue does not affect any other Apple AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom, or the United States, nor does it affect any Apple USB power adapters. Customers should stop using affected plug adapters immediately and visit www.apple.com/support/ac-wallplug-adapter for information about how to exchange their affected adapters for new, redesigned adapters.

Apple releases second iOS 9.3 public beta

Apple has released the second public beta of iOS 9.3 through its Apple Software Beta Program. Released to developers earlier this week, the second beta makes a number of minor changes to Night Shift mode and CarPlay enhancements to Apple Music and Maps, along with adding a new button for Night Shift mode in Control Center. Be sure to check out our updated peek at what’s new in both the latest iOS 9.3 and tvOS 9.2 betas. 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.

Notes from Apple’s Q1 2016 earnings call

Kicking off Apple’s investor conference call in which the company once again announced record-breaking numbers for Q1 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook reported again that Apple had its strongest financial results ever, with all-time record quarterly revenue, noting that this is a huge accomplishment given the “turbulent world” around us. To put the iPhone’s sales numbers in perspective, Cook noted that 74.8m iPhones sold represents an average of over 34,000 iPhones sold per hour, every hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for 13 straight weeks, adding that this represents 50 percent more than the volumes in Q1 two years ago, and four times the volume of iPhones sold five years ago.

Cook went on to explain that Apple’s results are particularly impressive given the “challenging global macro-economic environment,” highlighting how major markets such as Brazil, Russia, Japan, Canada, Southeast Asia, and others have been impacted by slowing economic growth and weakening currencies, with the Euro and British Pound both down by double-digits since 2013. Major currencies such as the Canadian Dollar, Australian Dollar, Mexican Peso, and Turkish Lira have also declined by 20 percent or more. Cook explained how these currency fluctuations have had a meaningful negative impact on Apple’s results, noting that with constant currency Apple’s earnings would have been more than $5 billion higher, or more than the total annual revenue of an average Fortune 500 company. Cook also highlighted that Apple continues to see growth in China, with revenue growing 14 percent over last year, and Apple saw its highest ever quarterly iPhone sales and record App Store performance in China. “Despite economic challenges all over the world, Apple remains extremely strong,” Cook concluded.

Apple sets Q1 record: $75.9B revenue, 75M iPhones, 16M iPads sold

Apple reported its first quarter 2016 financial results today, with 74.8 million iPhones and 16 million iPads sold. The company posted quarterly revenue of $75.9 billion and quarterly net profit of $18.4 billion, or $3.28 per diluted share. In Q1 2015, Apple had revenue of $74.6 billion and net profit of $18 billion, or $3.06 per diluted share. Gross margin was 40.1 percent compared to 39.9 percent a year ago. International sales contributed to 66 percent of this quarter’s revenue. For Q2 2016, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $50 billion and $53 billion, and gross margin between 39 percent and 39.5 percent. Apple’s earnings call will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern time, and can be heard live on the company’s investor website.

Report: Apple to offer subscription content via News app

Apple is planning to expand its News service to provide subscription content through the iOS 9 News app, Reuters reports. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the report notes that the aim would be to give publishers with paywalls a way to limit access to their content, and would help to distinguish Apple’s offering from other online news apps and services such as Facebook’s Instant Articles. The move may address concerns raised by publishers, which cannot ignore Apple’s hundreds of millions of users, while at the same time preferring to still connect directly with readers. Making paid content available through the iOS News app would allow publishers to maintain relationships with their existing reader base and possibly attract new subscribers, although it’s still unclear at this time how Apple plans to authenticate subscribers or whether it would take its usual cut of subscription payments, as the company did with its prior Newsstand system.

Apple under fire again for VPN, FaceTime related patents

Apple is once again the target of a lawsuit from VirnetX concerning patents related to VPN and FaceTime technologies, Bloomberg reports. A lawyer for VirnetX told a federal jury in Texas earlier this week that Apple owes the company $532M for using the company’s patented secure communications technology. Apple originally came under fire from VirnetX in 2012, when Apple was ordered to pay the Texas-based patent holding company $368.2M for infringing on VPN patents used in the company’s FaceTime and VPN On Demand services in iOS — a move that prompted Apple to change the way VPN On Demand works on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. An appeals court later dismissed the damage award against Apple and ordered a new trial for some of the infringement claims, which this new lawsuit covers, along with infringements based on newer generations of iOS devices. An Apple lawyer stated that “Apple believes in fairness and protecting intellectual property,” adding however, that “VirnetX keeps moving the boundary, asking for more and more and more.”

Report: Apple car project ‘at crossroads’

Apple’s “Project Titan” — the company’s automotive project — is at a “crossroads,” with the project team under a hiring freeze, according to Apple Insider. A source said Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive recently “expressed his displeasure” with the team’s progress, and executives are reportedly “unhappy with the project’s direction and progress.” It’s believed that Apple has more than 1,000 people working on the project.

This follows a recent article from The Wall Street Journal, which reported that Steve Zadesky, who “has been overseeing (Apple’s) electric-car project for the last two years,” is leaving the company. Zadesky, a longtime Apple employee who worked on the iPod and iPhone, is reportedly leaving for personal reasons. The timing of his exit is unclear, but it does appear there’s some instability surrounding Apple’s car project at the moment. Apple reportedly wants to ship its first electric vehicle by 2019.

Google paid Apple $1B to be iOS default search engine

A transcript of court proceedings between Oracle and Google has revealed that Google paid Apple $1 billion in 2014 to remain the default search engine on iOS devices, Bloomberg reports. An Oracle attorney said that Google and Apple have an agreement which gives Apple a percentage of the revenue Google generates through iPhone. While a revenue share of 34 percent was discussed, a Google attorney attempted to get the number stricken from the record, saying, “We are talking hypotheticals here.” The magistrate judge refused this request, but Google and Apple have filed to seal and redact the transcript. Both Apple and Google declined to comment on the proceedings.

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