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Apple introduces new, free Music Memos app

Apple has introduced a new free iOS app geared toward songwriters, Music Memos. The company sent out a press release and has also set up a webpage dedicated to the app. As Apple describes the app, Music Memos “can record any musical instrument through the iPhone’s built-in microphone in a high-quality, uncompressed format, then name, tag and rate it to start building a library of your ideas. The app can analyze rhythm and chords of acoustic guitar and piano recordings, and instantly add drums and a bass line to provide a virtual, customizable backing band that plays along to match the feel of your song. Music Memos can even provide basic notation that displays the chords that were played.” Think of it as a Voice Memos app for songs. Though the app may not be showing up in the App Store yet on your iOS device, it is indeed already available for download through iTunes. Music Memos requires iOS 9.1 or later, and it works on any compatible iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.

Apple Watch Hermès to be sold online starting Friday

Apple Watch Hermès, a special edition of Apple Watch which has only been sold in select boutiques, will be available for purchase online starting this Friday, Jan. 22, Fashionista reports. The watch will be available at both Apple and Hermès’ online stores. Prices for Apple Watch Hermès range from $1100-$1500, and come in 10 variations, differing by size and band. While some high-end shoppers may have been waiting for Apple Watch Hermès to become more widely available, it might make sense for any prospective Apple Watch buyer to wait just a bit longer to see if Apple will indeed introduce a new, revised Apple Watch this spring.

Apple looks to open retail stores in India

Apple has formally filed an application to open its own retail stores in India, according to India’s Economic Times. Currently, Apple sells its products in India through independent, authorized franchisee stores. A report from late 2014 claimed Apple was looking to open smaller “iOS” stores in the country, and although details are still unclear, those plans might be expanded to include full-sized Apple Stores. India recently relaxed foreign direct investment rules that should make it easier for Apple to establish stores in the country. Apple’s recently submitted proposal is currently being examined, India DIPP Secretary Amitabh Kant said.

ESPN president says Apple ‘frustrated’ by lack of progress in developing TV service

It’s still very unclear when Apple’s much-discussed TV service will make its debut on Apple TV, and ESPN president John Skipper mentioned the company’s frustrations in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Skipper said ESPN has “had discussions with Apple” about a streaming TV service. When asked if Apple had a “path to being a player in the TV industry,” Skipper was relatively upbeat, saying the company is “creating a significantly advantageous operating system and a great television experience,” but he also noted that Apple has “been frustrated by their ability to construct something which works for them with programmers.”

While Apple has long been working on its own TV subscription service, the company wasn’t able to ready the service for the debut of the fourth-generation Apple TV last year, and it’s unclear at this point just when such a service may debut. Judging by Skipper’s recent comments — and bolstered by past reports and whispers — it doesn’t appear the service will be ready anytime soon. Apple has recently been linked to both the NFL and Time Warner, but it’s unknown how much interest — if any — Apple has in getting involved with either entity as related to its TV service.

Apple releases iOS 9.2.1

Apple has released iOS 9.2.1, a minor update that contains security updates and bug fixes. Also included is a “fix for an issue that could prevent the completion of app installation when using an MDM server.” The update is available now through Settings > General > Software Update. Apple just released the iOS 9.3 public beta last week.

Apple wins sales ban on obsolete Samsung products in patent battle

The U.S. District Court in San Jose has ruled that Samsung must stop “making, using, selling, developing or designing software or code that helps its products infringe” on three particular Apple patents Bloomberg reports. While the patents in question deal with autocorrect, slide-to-unlock, and data detection, this ruling only affects devices no longer sold by Samsung, including the Galaxy S II, S III, and Note smartphones. Though the ruling will have a minimal effect on Samsung’s business, Apple will seemingly have a stronger position going forward in arguing that Samsung’s more recent devices still infringe on the same patents, as the companies continue to square off on patent issues. A statement from Samsung said that even though American consumers wouldn’t be directly impacted by the ruling, the company is still “very disappointed.”

Apple investigating iPhone 6s/6s Plus battery percentage issue

Apple has released a support document acknowledging a battery percentage issue on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. As the document notes, “If you change the time on your iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus manually or change time zones when traveling, you might notice that the battery percentage doesn’t update.” The document instructs users to restart the iPhone, then turn on Set Automatically in Settings > General > Date & Time. Apple says that it is “aware of this issue and is investigating the cause and a solution.”

Free ad-supported iTunes Radio to end Jan. 29

Apple has announced in an email to customers that it will be discontinuing its free ad-supported version of iTunes Radio. Starting on Jan. 29, iTunes Radio will only be accessible with an Apple Music subscription. iTunes Match users will also be losing ad-free iTunes Radio as a perk — the only place to access those stations will be behind the Apple Music paywall. Apple’s Beats 1 station will be the only free remaining music option from Apple. We’d expect that Apple will announce additional free Beats stations — Beats 2-5 — to give customers more free music options, but we’ll see.

Apple releases iOS 9.3 beta 1.1

In an unusual move, Apple has released a minor update to its iOS 9.3 beta released earlier this week. Rather than carrying a “beta 2” designation, the new beta appears in the iOS Software Update as “iOS 9.3 beta 1.1” — the first time we’ve seen a point release of a beta. Designated as build 13E5181f — a very minor update from the original beta’s 13E5181d build number, the release notes indicate that the new beta fixes “some cases of an issue customers encountered while updating to 13E5181d that caused devices to freeze on the Apple logo.” The new “beta 1.1” is available via an over-the-air software update or direct download from Apple’s iOS Developer Site, where it simply remains listed as “iOS 9.3 beta” with no mention of the “.1” update.

Apple may owe up to $8B in European back taxes

Apple may be on the hook for as much as $8 billion in taxes owing to the European Union, Bloomberg reports. A European Commission investigation which began in 2014 called into question Apple’s tax deals in Ireland, where the company’s European operations are headquartered. More recently, Apple agreed to pay $347m in back taxes to Italy after failing to declare revenue to that country’s tax authorities, instead transferring profits to its Irish subsidiary.

The European Commission has been contending that Apple’s deal in Ireland has allowed it to pay lower taxes to the Irish government by calculating its tax bill using lower operating costs in that country. Bloomberg’s analysis suggests that Apple’s foreign tax rate is about 1.8 percent, despite the company generating more than 50 percent of its revenue outside of the U.S. As a result of its findings, the European Commission may decide to enforce a tougher accounting standard that could require Apple to pay eight years of back taxes, covering $64.1 billion dollars in profit from the years 2004 to 2012, at a higher 12.5 percent tax rate. Notably, Apple is not alone in facing scrutiny from EU regulators, with other high profile companies including Starbucks, Amazon, and McDonalds also having had their tax policies reviewed by the Commission. Apple has also listed the investigation as a risk factor to investors in its financial statements for 2015, noting that if the tax rates were to change, Apple’s “financial condition, operating results and cash flows could be adversely affected.” A ruling on the matter could come as early as March.

Apple releases iOS 9.3 public beta

Following the release of the iOS 9.3 Developer Beta earlier this week, Apple has now released iOS 9.3’s first beta for non-developers through its Apple Software Beta Program. In contrast to recent public betas, iOS 9.3 includes a number of new features and enhancements that will likely generate more interest from early adopters. 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.

Report: Apple contracting with Samsung to supply flexible OLEDs

A new report in Korea’s etnews indicates that Apple and Samsung Display are very close to an agreement for the display maker to supply Flexible Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) screens to Apple for its next-generation iPhones. The report suggests that the undertaking will require an investment of $7.47 billion in plant facilities and equipment, and will begin receiving orders from Apple as early as the end of the first quarter for between 30,000 and 45,000 sheets per month, with production likely ramping up to an additional 45,000 sheets per month in 2017. The report suggests that Samsung Display will be the primary supplier of flexible OLED screens to Apple, but not necessarily the exclusive supplier. A past report claimed LG would also supply OLED screens, while another report claimed Japan Display would be the supplier, and that the screens wouldn’t appear on iPhones until 2018.

Report: Apple looking at potential Time Warner acquisition

A new report from the New York Post suggests that Apple may be looking at the possibility of acquiring at least some of Time Warner’s assets, which is likely to be sold off or at least have its assets spun off in the next few months. Citing a senior tech insider, the report notes that Apple may acquire Time Warner’s assets to help with developing a standalone TV service — a project that was originally reported to be in the works last spring, but was later put on hold due to difficulties in coming to an agreement with traditional broadcasting networks. A deal between Apple and Time Warner could provide Apple with significant headway in the streaming TV service market, potentially including CNN, Turner Sports, shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Sesame Street,” and the Warner Bros. library of movies and TV shows.

Tesla’s Elon Musk calls Apple’s car project an ‘open secret’

During an exclusive BBC interview, Tesla’s founder and CEO Elon Musk stated that it’s basically an “open secret” that Apple is making an electric car to rival Tesla’s. While Apple has not formally announced it is working on a vehicle, the company has registered numerous automobile-related domains such as apple.car and apple.auto and has been on a recent hiring spree for automotive-related talent. Musk noted that several of its engineers have been hired by Apple, among other companies, and felt that it was “obvious” that Apple would enter the car market, noting, “It’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it.” Musk said, however, that he doesn’t see Apple as being a threat to Tesla’s business — rather that he feels that it will expand an industry where there is currently room for more than one player. “Tesla will still aspire to make the most compelling electric vehicles, and that would be our goal,” Musk said, “while at the same time helping other companies to make electric cars as well.”

Apple releases iOS 9.3, tvOS 9.2, watchOS 2.2 betas

Apple has simultaneously released new betas for iOS, Apple TV and Apple Watch — iOS 9.3 beta 1, tvOS 9.2 beta 1, and watchOS 2.2 beta 1 are all now available to developers. The new iOS beta is available from the developer center. A public beta will likely be made available in the near future. Apple’s tvOS 9.2 includes the long-awaited addition of Bluetooth keyboard support to Apple TV, while the new iOS and watchOS betas enable the pairing of multiple Apple Watches to one iPhone.

Apple Music tops 10 million subscribers, Apple News numbers a mystery

Apple Music has topped 10 million subscribers, according to a new report from The Financial Times. The article notes the service has taken six months to hit the mark, while main competitor Spotify took six years to reach the same level. Last June, Spotify said it had 20 million paid subscribers, and 75 million monthly listeners — that number has almost certainly grown since then, but Apple is also taking a big cut of the growing streaming market, despite what we believe are persistent UI issues with Apple Music.

Apple buys AI startup Emotient

Apple has acquired Emotient, an artificial-intelligence development company, The Wall Street Journal reports. Emotient has been working on solutions that use artificial intelligence to read people’s emotions by analyzing facial expressions, a technology that has up until now been primarily targeted at advertisers to gauge viewer reactions. While it’s unclear what Apple might do with this acquisition, many Silicon Valley companies have recently been working to improve image recognition, and investing heavily in AI techniques. An Apple spokesperson confirmed the purchase but gave the standard boilerplate statement that Apple always makes after an acquisition, that Apple “buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Apple mix: Dual camera zoom lens patent, executive compensation + child labor discussion

A new patent filing reveals that Apple is working on a new dual camera zoom lens system that could be incorporated into future iOS devices. Patently Apple reports on patent application 20160007008, simply titled “Mobile Camera System” which describes methods and systems by which multiple cameras can be used to provide an effective optical zoom. Some of the concepts include using two cameras to capture separate images of different visual fields, while others suggest that the cameras would employ different focal lengths to achieve similar results. The patent also describes images being combined or preserved to the storage medium as separate data structures for later processing. The patent also interestingly suggests that the solution could be applied to a desktop computer with a camera or even a “gaming computer with orientation sensors” suggesting that Apple may have more far-reaching goals for this technology.

Apple debuts special edition Apple Watch models for Chinese New Year

Apple is releasing a limited edition of the Apple Watch Sport model in honor of the Chinese New Year. Debuting in new yellow gold aluminum and silver aluminum finishes, the new editions are paired with bright red straps, a color traditionally associated with good luck in Chinese culture. The special Chinese New Year editions sell for the same price as the standard Apple Watch Sport model, and are only available in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia from Jan. 15 to Feb. 22, although Apple is taking pre-orders as of today. [via Mashable]

Apple Watch ‘four times’ more accurate than iPhone at timekeeping

In an interview with Mashable, Apple’s VP of Technology Kevin Lynch, who is widely regarded as one of the main architects behind the Apple Watch, explained how the wearable device has been designed to maintain extremely accurate time synchronization. Lynch noted that not only is the Apple Watch designed to be “extraordinarily accurate,” but that any two Apple Watches will remain in perfect synchronization, which can be demonstrated by holding them side-by-side and viewing the second hands moving in “perfect unison.” In the interview, Lynch describes the complex processes that Apple uses to maintain such highly accurate synchronization, including “curating” their own network of “Stratum One” Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers synchronized with atomic clocks at the U.S. Naval Observatory via GPS satellites, which then pass time information on to iPhones — those then synchronize time with Bluetooth-connected Apple Watches, incorporating corrections for time delays in communication.

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