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Notes from Apple’s Q4 2015 earnings call

Kicking off Apple’s conference call announcing its record-breaking numbers for Q4 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook reported that the company had its largest absolute revenue growth ever, noting that Apple’s growth in one quarter was greater than the full year revenue of almost 90 percent of the companies in the Fortune 500. Cook also noted that in this past quarter Apple crossed 100 billion cumulative downloads from the App Store, debuted Apple Pay in the U.K., Apple Music in over 100 countries, and Apple News in the U.S. Cook mentioned that the company is ending the year on a “high note” with a record-breaking September quarter, and that while momentum for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus remains strong, the company also set a new launch record for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Another 5.1 billion dollars in service revenue, fuelled by the App Store, was also an all-time record. Cook also highlighted that the App Store now has over 13,000 Apple Watch apps, over 1300 of which are native apps, and the numbers are growing rapidly.

Apple Q4 2015: Record $51.5B revenue, 48M iPhones, 9.8M iPads

Apple reported its fourth quarter 2015 financial results today, with 48 million iPhones and 9.8 million iPads sold. The company posted quarterly revenue of $51.5 billion and quarterly net profit of $11.1 billion, or $1.96 per diluted share. In Q4 2014, Apple had revenue of $42.1 billion and net profit of $8.5 billion, or $1.42 per diluted share. Gross margin was 39.9 percent compared to 38 percent a year ago. International sales contributed to 62 percent of this quarter’s revenue.

For Q1 2016, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $75.5 billion and $77.5 billion, and gross margin between 39 percent and 40 percent. Apple’s earnings call will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern time, and can be heard live on the company’s investor website.

Apple releases first iOS 9.2 beta to developers

Less than a week after the public release of iOS 9.1, Apple has already released the first beta version of iOS 9.2 to developers. The iOS 9.2 beta release notes reveal little about what’s new in this version, simply noting some minor issues in the beta surrounding Apple Watch support, iCloud Keychain, Safari, and Video, suggesting that these are areas being worked on. The iOS 9.2 beta continues to support the same devices as iOS 9.1. Registered iOS developers can download the iOS 9.2 beta from Apple’s Developer site.

Judge upholds $234M judgment against Apple

A federal judge has upheld the $234 million in damages handed down by a jury that found Apple guilty of infringing on a University of Wisconsin-Madison patent earlier this month, according to Apple Insider. After the initial verdict, Apple filed a motion arguing that its A7 and A8 chips didn’t meet the strict criteria detailed in the suit, and filed another motion attempting to avoid damages by passing blame to chip manufacturer Samsung, but U.S. District Court Judge William M. Conley dismissed the motions and upheld the the jury’s ruling. A second lawsuit filed by the university, claiming similar grievances over Apple’s use of the same patent in processors found inside the iPad Pro, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, is still pending.

Apple expands ‘Nearby’ search results in Maps to four new countries

Apple’s iOS 9 feature availability page shows the company has expanded its ‘Nearby’ search functionality in the Maps app to Canada, Australia, Germany and France. The feature — which allows users to see restaurants, bars, gas stations and other places of interest near their current location — was previously only officially available in the U.S. and China, though some Canadian users reported seeing the feature appear intermittently during the past few weeks.

Users report overnight iOS updates shutting off iPhone alarms

Some users opting to update their iPhone’s operating system overnight have noticed the process turns off any alarms they have set, Apple Insider notes. Overnight updates became available starting with iOS 9.0 and Apple addressed some problems with alarms in its iOS 9.0.1 release, but users began reporting the overnight alarm bug after last week’s iOS 9.1 update. Users have taken to Twitter to complain, but so far Apple hasn’t publicly addressed the issue.

Select Apple Stores to send some iPhones off-site for repair, offer loaners

According to several employees, select Apple Stores are about to begin testing a repair program that sends some iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s and 6s Plus devices off-site for repairs, 9to5Mac reports. Apple has previously completed all repairs in-store while customers wait, but the new pilot program will have Genius Bar employees shipping phones to a repair center if they’re unable to power on, won’t boot up past the Apple logo, or can’t connect to iTunes on a computer. Apple has communicated to employees that the change is being made because these specific issues take a significant amount of time to repair, increasing wait times for customers with simpler issues. A new automated system within the Genius Bar will determine whether the device can be fixed in-store or needs to be shipped out, and those customers agreeing to have their phones sent out for repair as part of the pilot program will be loaned a 16GB iPhone 6 to use for the three-to-five business days that it’ll take to service their device. Select stores in the U.S., Europe and Japan are taking part in the pilot program, but Apple hasn’t publicly announced the change or commented on which specific locations will be taking part.

U.S. dismisses Apple’s iOS encryption arguments

The U.S. Justice Department has rejected Apple’s arguments against helping the government break into iPhones, saying the company’s operating system is “licensed, not sold” to users, The Daily Dot reports. In a case where police requested access to the iPhone of a suspect indicted for methamphetamine possession, the DOJ argued that Apple not only manufactured and sold the device — which is subject to a search warrant — but that the company also “wrote and owns the software that runs the phone, and this software is thwarting the execution of the warrant.”

Apple sued for activating Wi-Fi Assist by default

Apple has been hit with a class action lawsuit for enabling Wi-Fi Assist automatically without informing users, Apple Insider reports. The new iOS 9 feature uses cellular data to boost a user’s Internet speed when the local Wi-Fi network quality is poor, which plaintiffs William Scott Phillips and Suzanne Schmidt Phillips allege has cost users more than $5 million in cellular data charges. The complaint centers around the fact that Apple set the feature to be enabled by default when users update to iOS 9 and only worked to inform the public about the possibility of extra data usage after a series of stories outed the problem. Apple has addressed the issue, saying that average users won’t see much of an increase in data usage with Wi-Fi Assist enabled, but the lawsuit claims that “reasonable and average consumers use their iPhones for streaming of music, videos, and running various applications — all of which can use significant data.”

New Apple TV now available from Apple’s online store

The new Apple TV went on sale this morning on Apple’s online store, as expected. Orders placed today may arrive as early as Oct. 30 with the fastest shipping selection. The 32GB model costs $149 and the 64GB costs $199. Both versions come with the Siri remote, Lightning cable, and a power cord, but users will still need to buy an HDMI cable separately.

Apple opens tvOS App Submissions

Apple has sent out an email to registered developers announcing that it is begun accepting submissions of third-party apps for the new Apple TV. The email explains that developers will need to build their apps and games using the newest Xcode 7.1 GM, which includes the tvOS SDK, and test them on the tvOS GM seed. This requirement suggests that only developers that have received a new Apple TV as part of the Apple TV Developer Kit will be able to build and submit apps at this point. Apple also notes that it has updated its App Review Guidelines for tvOS. Additional details on building and submitting apps for tvOS can be found on Apple’s tvOS Developer Page.

Apple releases iOS 9.1, watchOS 2.0.1

Apple has officially released iOS 9.1 to the public. After going through a very rapid developer beta cycle following the major release of iOS 9.0, this latest update is primarily a maintenance release with fixes for Apple’s new Live Photos feature on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus — which now uses the accelerometer to avoid capturing frames when you raise or lower your iPhone — as well as more than 150 new emoji characters available in the iOS keyboard. Additional fixes highlighted in the release notes include improved stability for CarPlay, Music, Photos, Safari, and Search, improved performance in the Multitasking UI, and fixes related to Calendar, Game Center, Mail, recent contacts, carrier activation errors, and App Store app updates. The new version also adds new APIs for developers to allow displaying and sharing Live Photos in third-party apps. As usual, iOS 9.1 is available either as an over-the-air update or by updating via iTunes on a Mac or PC.

Apple Store employee charged with stealing nearly $1 million in gift cards

An Apple Store employee has been charged with using stolen credit card numbers to buy $997,000 in Apple gift cards, NBC reports. An investigation into charge-backs Apple began receiving on the gift card purchases led authorities to Ruben Profit, who told police he was paid $200 for each $2,000 Apple gift card he purchased with the stolen credit card information. When arrested, Profit was allegedly in possession of seven Apple gift cards worth $2,000 each and 51 Visa and American Express gift cards that had been fraudulently re-encoded with stolen credit card information. Profit has been charged with grand larceny among other crimes, and if convicted, could face up to 15 years in prison.

Apple opposes new cybersecurity bill

Apple has issued a joint statement with Dropbox condemning the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act currently under consideration by the U.S. Senate, The Washington Post reports. Sen. Diane Feinstein, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, argues that the bill allows companies to share information about “cyber threats” with the government, but doesn’t provide for the collection of personal data. “Things like Social Security numbers, addresses, passwords and credit information would be unrelated to a cyber threat and would, except in very exceptional circumstances, be removed” before data on a threat was sent to authorities, she said.

Apple can’t access encrypted data on newer seized iPhones

Apple has stated that it is “impossible” to access encrypted data on devices using the latest version of iOS, Reuters reports. Although the company conceded that it has the “technical ability” to help law enforcement access older iPhones, in a brief filed in a U.S. court it said that for devices running iOS 8 or higher it “would be impossible” to grant a request by the Justice Department to help authorities access the data on a seized iPhone due to strengthened encryption algorithms in the latest versions of iOS.

Tim Cook joins CEO Council for Sustainable Urbanization

The Paulson Institute has named Apple CEO Tim Cook to its CEO Council for Sustainable Urbanization, a group of 17 leaders from U.S. and Chinese companies aimed at encouraging businesses to support green development in China. In his welcome message, Paulson Institute Chairman Henry M. Paulson, Jr. said Cook has demonstrated a commitment to advancing sustainable business practices and “will play an important role in helping to advance the work of the Council.”

Cook reiterated Apple’s commitment to running its global operations on 100 percent renewable energy and the company’s efforts to push members of its supply chain to reduce their emissions, saying the company looks forward “to participating in the CEO Council’s effort to advance China’s green transformation and hope to do our part in helping China reach its climate goals.” This year the council will focus on scaling clean technologies and overcoming the barriers that limit their broader adoption in China’s new building developments. Apple also has its own environmental efforts underway in China, working to protect up to a million acres of sustainable forest land in China to produce the fiber used in Apple packaging and products.

Apple TV available for pre-order Monday, ships later next week

During a wide-ranging interview with The Wall Street Journal interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook said users will be able to pre-order the new Apple TV starting Monday, with the devices set to start shipping later next week. Touting the new device’s ability to search across multiple streaming services and interact with apps, Cook said the company has “developed an infrastructure to fix [a] terrible broken thing that none of us like.” Although Apple hasn’t yet secured all the deals it will need to start its own streaming TV service, Cook said the new Apple TV lays a foundation for changing the TV experience away from “linear viewing,” which has outlived its usefulness. (Cook didn’t mention a similar firm release date for the upcoming iPad Pro.)

Apple Maps adds Amtrak routes, Boston transit directions

Apple has added a number of Amtrak routes to Apple Maps. It appears as if routes included thus far are concentrated in the Northeast U.S. These routes include the Acela Express, Northeast Regional, and Pennsylvanian, among others.

In other Apple Maps news, Boston Transit directions have finally gone live, as The Boston Globe points out. Apple added Transit support for Boston a few weeks ago, but directions haven’t actually been available until now. [via MacRumors]

Electric motorcycle company blames collapse on Apple’s talent poaching

Mission Motors claims that Apple’s poaching of top engineers caused the company to fold, Reuters reports. Despite financial struggles, former Chief Executive Derek Kaufman said the company could have kept going if it hadn’t lost key employees to Apple, a development that further complicated fundraising efforts. “Mission had a great group of engineers, specifically electric drive expertise,” Kaufman said. “Apple knew that — they wanted it, and they went and got it.” A key investor backed out of funding Mission after two engineers jumped ship for Apple last fall, and more employees followed in the next few months, including the company’s director of power train systems engineering and vice president of software and electrical engineering. Apple decliend to comment on the situation at Mission, but the company has taken heat for poaching employees for its electric car project before, most recently settling out of court with battery manufacturer A123 after luring five of its top employees to Apple last June.

Apple ordered to pay $234 million for patent infringement

A U.S. jury has ordered Apple to pay $234 million for infringing on a University of Wisconsin-Madison patent, Reuters reports. The company was facing up to $862 million in damages for using the university’s microchip technology in the A7, A8 and A8X processors found in the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus and several versions of the iPad, but U.S. District Judge William Conley limited the damages, ruling that Apple had not willfully infringed on the university’s patent. Apple has vowed to appeal the verdict, claiming that the patent entitles the university to as little as 7 cents per device sold, in contrast to the university’s request for $2.74 per device. The university has also filed a second lawsuit claiming similar grievances over Apple’s use of the same patent in processors found inside the iPad Pro, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

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