Shoppers using the Apple Store’s iOS app can now use Apple Store gift cards when making their purchases. Previously users wanting to shop with a gift card had to complete their purchases on the Apple Store website. In version 3.4 of the Apple Store app, users will now see a spot just above payment options where they can add gift cards during checkout. Gift cards can be scanned using an iOS device’s camera, and existing gift cards can also be imported from Passbook.
A resource file in the upcoming Safari 9 browser for OS X El Capitan seems to show support for a split-screen view on the iPad mini 4, 9to5Mac reports. Apple has already confirmed that iOS 9 will give some iPad users the ability to run two apps at once side-by-side, but the iPad Air 2 is the only current model with a processor strong enough to take advantage of it. A developer tool in El Capitan used for testing the responsiveness of websites also looks to simulate an iPad mini 3 running Safari in split-screen mode, but the iPad 3 mini’s hardware doesn’t support the split-screen feature. Those testing capabilities could be further proof that the upcoming iPad mini 4 — rumored to be a smaller version of the iPad Air 2 — will also have the power to handle split-screen functions.
With China devaluing its currency Tuesday, Chinese iPhone buyers could see a big spike in prices soon, The Wall Street Journal reports. In its annual report last year, Apple warned investors that a stronger U.S. currency might translate to lower sales and profit margins overseas when those sales are expressed in U.S. dollars. “There is a risk that the company will have to adjust local currency product pricing due to competitive pressures when there have been significant volatility in foreign currency exchange rates,” the reports stated. Apple didn’t immediately comment on China’s move, but the company has raised prices on its products in Canada, Japan and other countries in recent years to respond to persistent changes in exchange rates. China is currently the second-largest market for Apple — after the Americas — and the iPhone is already among the most expensive smartphones in China.
The European Commission has ended its inquiry into Apple, saying it failed to find evidence that the company colluded with music labels to undercut free music streaming services offered by Spotify, Re/code reports. Multiple unnamed sources said questionnaires sent by European regulators to major record labels in April turned up no proof that Apple had made efforts to stifle Spotify’s free, ad-based offerings to users. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice also talked to music industry leaders in April about Spotify’s concerns, but haven’t publicly released any findings.
While the EU dropping its collusion investigation is good news for Apple, sources with knowledge of the situation say the company isn’t in the clear yet, with EU officials now asking Spotify and other streaming music services for more information about their App Store agreements with Apple. The FTC is conducting a similar investigation into whether the company’s share of profits from competitors to its Apple Music service violates antitrust laws. The 30 percent cut of revenue that Apple demands on subscription fees — which competing music streaming services charge through their iOS apps — has drawn scrutiny ever since Apple entered the streaming music business.
A video tweeted by @onleaks appears to show 3D CAD images of the new iPad mini 4, which support previous rumors that the new device will shrink in thickness from 7.5 mm to 6.1mm. The precise renderings show the new iPad mini to have a similar form to the iPad Air 2 and a thickness of 6.13mm. Last month, KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted the slimmer iPad mini 4 will also have updated internal components akin to those in the iPad Air 2, with Macotakara speculating that those updates may include an 8MP iSight camera, a fully laminated display and antireflective screen coating.
Last week the @onleaks Twitter feed provided another CAD video showing the new iPhone will actually increase in thickness slightly, presumably to accommodate the new Force Touch screen. Details about both devices and a new Apple TV are expected to come from Apple at an event rumored to be scheduled for September 9. [via 9to5Mac]
In a recent interview with Wired, Apple’s Jimmy Iovine has hinted that the company may be looking to extend the human curation aspect of its fledgling Music service into its TV efforts. Rumours of Apple’s plans to introduce a streaming TV service appeared earlier this year and have gained traction with subsequent reports that company has been trying to take a more unique approach by pushing for local content to distinguish itself from competitors. Apple has similarly tried to distinguish its new Music service from rivals by lauding its “human curation” approach, so it stands to reason that it may be looking to apply this approach to television content as well.
In the interview, Iovine specifically states, “We all know one thing, we all have different television delivery systems, don’t we all wish that the delivery systems were better, as far as curation and service?” and touches on Netflix breaking new ground with original content. Iovine goes on to suggest that a company needs to “dig in and really help the customer” and that entertainment needs to “live and breathe.” He notes, however, that he has his hands full with Apple Music, and would likely not be the one to spearhead such an operation on television side of things. Apple’s subscription television service, originally expected to launch as early as this fall, now appears to be pushed back until early 2016 as Apple continues to work out licensing deals for the service.
Former TechCrunch Apple reporter Darrell Etherington has begun a new job with Apple PR, 9to5Mac reports. Etherington stopped writing for TechCrunch at the end of June, and it’s now been revealed that this was in preparation for a move to Apple’s PR office in Toronto, Canada. Apple has been hiring a number of journalists and other online authors in recent months, albeit for positions that appear unrelated to each other; Anandtech authors Anand Shimpi and Brian Klug were hired into engineering positions in 2014, while Chris Breen and Jon Seff, both formerly of Macworld, also joined Apple in different positions.
Apple has released the fifth developer beta of iOS 9. Featuring a build number of 13A4325c, the fifth beta once again lacks specific release notes, but likely continues to focus on improving the stability and reliability of the new features in the operating system. A new watchOS beta with a build number of 13S5325c has also been posted, which can be installed via a configuration profile that requires the corresponding iOS 9 beta to be installed, along with new betas of Xcode 7 and Apple Configurator.
With the release of iOS 9 and watchOS 2 on the horizon, Apple has announced that it has updated its TestFlight program to allow developers to roll out internal test versions of native watchOS 2 apps along with apps that take advantage of the new App Thinning features in iOS 9. The TestFlight platform allows developers to invite users to download official test versions of their apps before they are released on the App Store. While the platform allows for both testers internal to the developer’s organization as well as broader external beta tests, these latest changes currently only apply to builds distributed to internal users.
Apple has officially announced that Apple Music has reached 11 million subscribers, USA Today reports, a number not far off from last week’s unofficial report of 10 million subscribers to the service. Apple SVP Eddy Cue noted that Apple is of course “thrilled with the numbers so far” and added that two million of the eleven million subscribers have already opted for the $15/month family plan. Although all of these accounts still remain in the free trial period until the end of September, the current numbers work out to about half of the paid memberships of Spotify. The numbers also reportedly remain significantly short of Apple’s rumoured goal of 100 million subscribers.
A federal judge has limited the scope of a lawsuit against Apple claiming the company’s iMessage system interfered with the delivery of text messages for former iPhone users switching to Android phones, Bloomberg reports. Plaintiff Adrienne Moore filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple in May 2014, arguing that the iMessage system hindered her ability to receive texts after she migrated her number to a Samsung phone running Google’s Android operating system. The iMessage system delivers messages from one iPhone user to another through a different process than standard text messages and Apple has acknowledged iMessages sent to unused Apple IDs may never reach their intended recipient if that user has switched away from an iPhone.
In November 2014, Apple released a deregistration tool allowing users to wipe their phone number from the iMessage system, but that same month the court ruled that Moore deserved a hearing to decide whether Apple had “interfered with her contract with Verizon Wireless” by not delivering her messages when she switched to a competing Android phone. The latest ruling from U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh states that the case can’t proceed as a group lawsuit because it’s unclear that all proposed members of the suit suffered an inconvenience due to “contractual breach or interference” related to the iMessage system. Moore’s lawyer couldn’t be reached for comment, and it’s unclear from the ruling whether Moore will still be able to proceed with her individual lawsuit in its current form or will need to file a new suit.
Over the past few days Apple Music DJs like Zane Lowe and Julie Adenuga have started sharing full replays of their individual shows on the Connect social network without any official announcement from Apple. The move seems aimed at capitalizing on the most popular aspect of Apple Music’s service so far – programs hosted by real live DJs – and The Verge is speculating that Apple Music may expand on that success in the near future. The site reports that Apple is contractually allowed to launch up to five more Beats radio stations without renegotiating deals with artists and labels, saying another station based in Asia or Australia could be particularly appealing since Beats 1 is currently only live 12 hours a day. While industry sources have said labels are still skeptical that all of Apple Music’s current free-trial users will stick around once they have to start paying, the service is making other inroads to greater recognition within the music industry. Billboard announced that is has added Apple Music to the list of streaming providers used to compile data for the Billboard 200, Hot 100 and other charts, weighing streams from the service alongside those of competitors like Google Play, Spotify, Rhapsody, Amazon Prime and others.
BREAKING: Apple says it has not discussed & is not planning MVNO cellular service following reports saying it was planning on doing that.— CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) August 4, 2015
According to a CNBC tweet, Apple has denied reports that it is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator service. The denial comes one day after Business Insider published a story claiming Apple was interested in leasing space from existing cellular carriers to provide its own service in which to offer data, calls and texts directly to iPhone users. As of this writing, Business Insider’s original story still ends with the line, “We reached out to Apple for comment on this story and will update if we hear back.”
Australian cellular provider Telstra is offering customers a free 12-month Apple Music subscription when they sign up for an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus on the company’s Go Mobile plan. Users will receive an SMS message three days before their free subscription runs out and start being billed for the service automatically at the end of the free trial unless they cancel. Even users who have already signed up for Apple Music’s 3-month free trial are eligible for the full 12 months of Apple Music with a new cell phone plan. Telstra isn’t the first provider to use Apple Music to draw in customers, with T-Mobile adding Apple Music to its Music Freedom program that allows users to stream music from the service and not count it against their data limit. Data charges still apply to streaming Apple Music through Telstra.
The language of Telstra’s contract hints that a user’s bill for Apple Music after the 12 free months may be coming through the carrier itself, not Apple. Apple’s updated iTunes terms of service noted that carriers may start handling some Apple Music subscriptions, but Telstra would be the first. AT&T had a similar deal with the Beats Music streaming service, but when Beats Music was migrated to Apple Music those contracts were terminated, forcing users to set up new billing directly through Apple.
Sources close to Apple say the company is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator service in the U.S. and Europe, Business Insider reports. An MVNO would let Apple sell service for data, calls and texts directly to users, leasing the space from existing cellular carriers but allowing users to hop from one carrier to another to guarantee the best service available in the area. The service is still very much in a test phase, with telecom sources saying it could take at least five years to fully launch even if it proves viable. Apple has been in talks with various telecoms for years over the service, with sources calling plans for the virtual Apple network an “open secret.” A 2006 patent shows Apple’s long-standing interest in the concept of allowing its devices to jump from carrier to carrier, and the company’s rumored plan to use Siri to transcribe voicemails would help chip away at existing barriers to the company’s ability to offer its own cellular service. Apple’s iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 already feature built-in SIM cards that are compatible with multiple carriers, and the company is currently in discussions with the GSMA, aimed at a new “common architecture” to simplify allowing devices to operate on multiple carriers’ networks.
Apple is testing a service that uses Siri to answer missed calls and transcribe voicemail messages, Business Insider reports. The iCloud service would then deliver voicemails in text form, preventing users from having to listen to their voicemail. Since it can be quicker to leave a voicemail than send a text, but quicker to read a text than access a voicemail, the rumored solution aims to bridge that gap and simplify the interaction from both sides. The iCloud Voicemail service is also able to relay information about where the phone’s owner is and why they’re unable to take the call. Apple employees are testing the service now with the hopes of rolling out the new feature some time in 2016, presumably in iOS 10. Apple has beefed up Siri substantially in recent months, adding commands to control HomeKit-enabled devices and providing more contextually relevant search results in iOS 9.
Following news earlier this week that Apple and BMW had been in discussions last year about using the BMW i3 as a foundation for its own electric car initiative, a new report from Reuters suggests that those negotiations may yet resume at some indeterminate point in the future. Sources familiar with the original talks told Reuters that the dialogue between the two companies ended last fall due to Apple’s desire to explore developing the car on its own and BMW was cautious about becoming a “mere supplier to a software or internet giant,” but had seemed willing to consider licensing parts. While one source indicated that “exploratory talks between senior managers may be revived at a later stage,” recent staff changes in the upper echelons of BMW may complicate matters, with the new CEO focusing on internal priorities rather than new projects along with the departure of Herbert Diess, the board member who led initial discussions with Apple. BMW’s new head of R&D, Klaus Froehlich, has stated that Apple and BMW have much in common, but indicated that his company would not “consider any deal that forces it to open up its core know-how to outsiders.”
Apple is on track to unveil its new Apple TV hardware this September, according to a new report from BuzzFeed News, however the rumoured TV subscription service won’t be accompanying it just yet. Several reports suggested that Apple originally planned to launch the new device at WWDC this past June, but refocused its efforts on Apple Music instead. A fall launch of the new hardware comes as little surprise, however there were expectations that Apple would launch a TV subscription service at the same time, however this latest news echoes a report from early June that suggested that it could easily be delayed into next year due to delays in finalizing licensing deals. The next-generation Apple TV is expected to be announced during the fall iPhone event and remains in line with what previous rumours have indicated, with a new, slimmer design and an Apple A8 CPU, a “drastically improved” remote with touch-pad input, Siri support, and an App Store and SDK to provide support for third-party apps.
Apple has released a second iOS 8.4.1 beta to developers. Featuring a build number of 12H318, this second release, like the first, provides no release notes, and likely simply addresses unresolved issues with Apple Music and other features from last month’s iOS 8.4 release. The latest build has not yet appeared for direct download on the Apple Developer site; it is currently only available as an over-the-air update to those running the first iOS 8.4.1 beta released two weeks ago,
Apple Music has attracted more than 10 million subscribers in its first four weeks, according to music site Hits Daily Double, which cites unnamed music industry sources. Apple doesn’t publicly disclose streaming numbers, but rights holders who see the reports have reportedly been surprised by how big the figures already are. Numbers for some titles — specifically “a couple of cutting-edge hip-hop titles” — are already competitive with Spotify, which boasts 75 million users. Whether Apple can make it to its rumored goal of 100 million subscribers during the remainder of Apple Music’s three-month free trial — and how those numbers will fare once users have to start paying for the service — remains to be seen. [via 9to5Mac]