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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.

Apple files antitrust lawsuit accusing Nokia of collusion and patent extortion

Earlier this week, Apple filed an antitrust lawsuit against two patent lawsuit companies affiliated with Nokia, The Street reports. In the filing, Apple accuses Acacia Research Corp. and Conversant Intellectual Property Management of colluding with Nokia “to extract and extort exorbitant revenues” from Apple and other mobile device manufacturers. Both of the named companies purchased portfolios of patents from Nokia after the Finnish company sold the majority of its cellphone business to Microsoft in 2013. In the suit, Apple claims that since Nokia has basically exited the cellphone business, it has become a company “bent on exploiting the patents that remain” in its portfolio. Further, since Nokia still retains a financial stake in the patents that it sold to Acacia and Conversant, Apple alleges that these two companies are “willing conspirators” that “have conspired with Nokia to use unfair and anticompetitive patent assertions to improperly tax the innovations of cell phone makers.”

 

Nokia files suit against Apple for patent infringement

Nokia has announced that it has filed several complaints against Apple in Germany and the U.S. alleging infringement of a number of Nokia patents. The patents in question cover what Nokia refers to as “fundamental technologies used in today’s mobile devices” such as display, user interface, software, antenna, chipsets, and video coding. A total of 32 patents are currently listed in the suit, and Nokia says it is in the process of filing “further actions” in other jurisdictions. Nokia claims that it has tried to reach an agreement with Apple for “several years” to license Apple’s use of the patents, and is now taking legal action as a last resort. According to Nokia’s announcement, Apple agreed to a license to cover some patents from the Nokia Technologies portfolio in 2011, but has “declined subsequent offers” by Nokia to license other patents that are “used by many of Apple’s products.”

Apple releases first developer beta of watchOS 3.1.3

Apple has released the first developer beta of watchOS 3.1.3, following of the first last week’s release iOS 10.2.1 and tvOS 10.1.1 betas. The sparse release notes suggest this latest watchOS release is focused primarily on bug fixes and other minor improvements, although it’s notable that this latest beta skips a minor version from last week’s public release of watchOS 3.1.1.

Apple releases second developer beta of iOS 10.2.1

Apple has released the second beta of iOS 10.2.1 to registered developers, which appears to be focused primarily on bug fixes and minor improvements. A corresponding tvOS 10.1.1 beta has not yet been released, and new watchOS betas remain conspicuously absent.

Apple asks users to send company Health app data for research

Apple’s Health app is asking users to send their data to a reporting program which will use the information to improve the company’s health-related offerings. If a user opts in, Apple will gain access to workout and activity information from their iPhone and Apple Watch, which the company says will be used to “understand the effectiveness of health and fitness features on Apple devices.” Apple claims the data won’t be used for any other purpose and that it won’t include any personally identifiable information. The company will also gather some location data and information about what other fitness apps are installed on a user’s devices.

Apple offering next-day delivery on all items ordered by Dec. 23

Apple is now offering free next-day shipping on all in-stock items ordered before 2 p.m. on December 23, according to product pages on its website. Next-day service is typically reserved for iPhones—with most of the rest of Apple’s products shipping with two-day delivery—but in a bid for last-minute shoppers, the company is sending everything as fast as possible. For those in an even bigger rush who don’t mind braving the crowds, Apple also offers in-store pickup within an hour of an online purchase, provided the item is in stock.

Apple appeals $14 billion EU tax ruling

Apple has submitted its appeal of the EU’s $14 billion tax judgment, claiming the ruling ignores advice from tax experts and singles out Apple unfairly because of its success, Reuters reports. The European Commission said Apple paid substantially less than other companies in Ireland due to a preferential deal, ending up with a corporate tax rate of no more than 1 percent, while other companies pay around 12.5 percent. But Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell said the commission intentionally used a method to calculate the tax rate that would maximize the penalty and gain more media attention. “Apple is not an outlier in any sense that matters to the law,” Sewell said. “Apple is a convenient target because it generates lots of headlines.”

AirPods coming to Apple retail stores Monday Dec. 19

Apple is planning to begin selling AirPods in its retail stores this coming Monday, Dec. 19, according to a new report by MacRumors. While Apple previously announced that AirPods would be in stores sometime next week, more specific information has surfaced that product is already in transit to retail locations and is expected to go on sale Monday morning. Shipments are also en route to Apple Authorized Resellers and carrier stores, so AirPods should be available at most retail locations come Monday morning, although initial stock will likely be limited; Apple has noted that its retail locations will continue to receive regular shipments, however.

Apple reveals service pricing for lost AirPods, battery replacements

Apple has updated its iPhone Service Pricing page with a section detailing the service prices related to its new AirPods. The update reveals that Apple will replace a single lost AirPod or AirPod battery case for a fee of $69, while out-of-warranty replacements for battery issues will cost $49 per AirPod, as well as $49 for the AirPod charging case. The full $69 replacement fee also applies to replacing AirPods that are accidentally damaged, and therefore not covered under Apple’s standard one-year warranty. [via TechCrunch]

Apple clarifies relationship between Apple Music and iTunes Match

An Apple Senior Product Specialist has confirmed to iLounge that Apple Music has been expanded to include all of the key features of iTunes Match, clarifying the update to the Apple Music Membership FAQ that we reported on last week. The specialist confirmed that Apple Music subscribers can now download DRM-free versions of “matched” tracks without an iTunes Match subscription, although he clarified that this won’t necessarily be the case for older DRM-laden songs purchased from the iTunes Store — basically, those tracks purchased prior to the 2007-2009 period when Apple began selling music without DRM. Specifically, an iTunes Match subscription is still required to download 256-kbps DRM-free versions of any of those older purchased iTunes Songs — provided the DRM-free versions are available on the iTunes Store — whereas users without an iTunes Match subscription will be limited to the originally-purchased 128kbps DRM-protected versions from their purchase history.

Wireless charging startup Energous is teaming up with Apple supplier Dialog

Energous, a startup that many have speculated has been working with Apple on wireless charging solutions, has just signed a big deal with Apple chip supplier Dialog Semiconductor, Fast Company reports. According to a source, Dialog presently makes about three-quarters of its revenue supplying power management chips to Apple, suggesting that the new partnership could put Energous into a position to more effectively deal with Apple in bringing wireless charging to future iPhone models. Energous has been working on a long-range wireless charging technology known as WattUP RF that would allow devices to recharge wirelessly at distances of up to 15 feet away from a charging transmitter —  technology that certainly seems like the practical type of wireless charging solution that Apple would be interested in, as opposed to current implementations based on plug-in charging mats. The report goes on to suggest that WattUP RF technology could be incorporated into Macs to allow an iPhone to be charged when it’s simply sitting on the table within a few feet of a powered Mac.

Apple releases first developer betas of iOS 10.2.1, tvOS 10.1.1

Only four days after the public debut of iOS 10.2 and tvOS 10.1, Apple has already released the first betas of iOS 10.2.1 and tvOS 10.1.1 to registered developers. The sparse release notes and very minor version numbering suggest that both of these releases are focused primarily on bug fixes and minor improvements. A new watchOS beta is notably missing at this point, which may be due in part to Apple still addressing recent problems in the watchOS 3.1.1 release earlier this week.

Apple loses $2 million lawsuit over employee breaks and paychecks

Apple has been ordered to pay $2 million to more than 21,000 employees who sued the company over unfair working conditions, Apple Insider reports. The suit—which was filed in 2011 and gained class-action status in 2014—claimed the company denied retail workers adequate breaks and took months to issue paychecks. Apple hasn’t made a statement on the ruling, but barring an appeal, each employee will receive a maximum of $95, with those payments also subject to legal fees.

Apple hiring engineers away from automotive mapping company

Over the last few months, Apple has hired at least six employees from Berlin-based Here, an automotive mapping company owned by Audi, BMW, and Daimler, Business Insider reports. One of the engineers, Konstantin Sinitsyn, declined to confirm how many people Apple had hired from Here, and no other employees responded to requests for comment. Apple doesn’t have an official office in Berlin, but in April a German website claimed the company was operating a secret facility in the city staffed by 15 to 20 “top-class” employees of the German automotive industry. At the time they were believed to be working on Apple’s Project Titan electric car project, but the company has since scaled back its automotive ambitions to focus on autonomous driving systems. Former employees from Here could be a natural fit within that scheme, with many of the new hires showing they’re assigned to the Apple Maps team on LinkedIn.

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