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Apple issues iOS 9.2.1 patch to fix ‘Error 53’ problem

Following reports earlier this month that certain unauthorized repairs made to iPhones were causing device failures,  Apple has now issued an updated version of iOS — version 9.2.1 — that will restore any iPhones that have been “bricked” with this error message as well as preventing future iPhones from being disabled in the event of third-party repairs. Apple has also issued a support document detailing the error and the process to update or restore devices that are affected by the issue.

Apple offers new iPhone trade-in installment upgrade program

Apple has created a new hybrid of its iPhone Reuse + Recycle Program and iPhone Upgrade Program, allowing users to trade-in their old iPhone and then pay for a new model in installments, USA Today reports. The new program, dubbed “Trade Up With Installments,” can cost users as little as $15 per month depending on the iPhone and other smartphone models involved, and it allows users to trade in an older iPhone or even an Android or Windows phone. iPhone models as far back as the iPhone 4 can be traded in, and the report estimates that users will pay about $15 per month for each step up in model, with an interest-free term lasting for 24 months, similar to Apple’s current direct iPhone Upgrade Program. The report provides examples, indicating that users could pay $14.54 to $14.58/month to move from an iPhone 6 to an iPhone 6s or from an iPhone 4 to an iPhone 5s, or at the other extreme, $35.37/month to move from an iPhone 4 to a 128GB iPhone 6s Plus. The program is expected to be available in U.S. Apple Stores today.

iPad Pro’s delayed release accelerated A9X chip development

A Bloomberg Business profile on Johnny Srouji, Apple’s recently promoted Senior VP of Hardware Technologies, reveals some interesting details about Apple’s timeline for the iPad Pro, noting that the larger tablet was originally planned for a Spring 2014 debut by Apple, but was delayed to a fall release after falling behind schedule. Notably, the iPad Pro as originally conceived would have included the same A8X processor found in the late 2014 iPad Air 2 model, but due to the delay and the expected debut of the iPad Pro alongside the A9-equipped iPhone 6s, Srouji was forced to scramble to move up the development of the A9X chip by half a year to have it ready in time for the iPad Pro debut. The Bloomberg profile goes on to spotlight Srouji’s background and history of contributions to Apple from the development of the company’s first A4 system-on-a-chip for the original iPad through to the unprecedented 64-bit A7 that powered the iPhone 5s.

Apple TV App Store launches app preview feature

Apple has made it possible for Apple TV users to watch previews of the apps available for their device and has encouraged developers to upload app preview videos in a message sent out today. The 15 to 30 second videos are intended to showcase the features, functionality and user interface of an app or game and can be watched by selecting the “preview” button on an app’s product page. Since the feature was just opened to developers, we haven’t spotted any apps that feature a preview yet — not even Apple’s in-house products. Guidelines for recording and submitting previews are available on Apple’s developer site.

Appeals court upholds Apple’s e-book settlement

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has upheld Apple’s $450 million settlement in an e-book price fixing case, rejecting a challenge by a purchaser who questioned the fairness of the settlement, Reuters reports. Apple is still appealing the ruling that it is liable for conspiring to raise e-book prices, but agreed to a settlement that leaves the company paying out different amounts based on how its appeal goes. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote agreed to a deal letting the company pay $450 million to compensate consumers and cover legal fees if the judgment is upheld, $70 million if the case is ordered to retrial and nothing at all if the liability finding is overturned. The challenge accused Cote of abusing her discretion in authorizing the settlement, but an expert witness testified that the deal, combined with $166 million of earlier settlements with the publishers, would likely provide consumers with more money than they claimed to lose in the suit. In today’s decision, the 2nd Circuit ruled that Cote did not overstep her bounds in approving the settlement.

Apple stops selling iPhone 4s, 5c models in India

Apple has stopped selling to iPhone 4s and 5c models to customers in India, The Economic Times reports. The move essentially doubles the price of an entry-level iPhone in the country, from the 12,000 rupees charged for the iPhone 4s to 24,000 rupees for the iPhone 5s. The move brings the Indian market in line with countries like the U.S. and Canada, where the iPhone 5s is already the low-end option available from Apple, but the move could impact the company’s sales to a greater extent in India, where the fastest growing segment of the cell phone market is priced below 20,000 rupees. Apple is making a strong push in the Indian market, planning to open its own retail locations and starting up a development center in Hyderabad expected to employ around 150 people on the Maps team.

Tim Cook’s open letter opposes court order to unlock iPhone

A federal judge has ordered Apple to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has responded with a letter noting that Apple opposes the court order. As reported by NBC News, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has argued that it needs Apple’s help to access encrypted content contained on the iPhone in question. The court ruled that Apple had five days to respond if the company believed compliance would be “unreasonably burdensome.” The iPhone is actually owned by the employer of the shooter, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, and the county has consented to investigators’ requests to search its contents.

Apple’s official response has arrived much earlier than five days. In an open letter titled “A Message to Our Customers,” Apple CEO Tim Cook has reiterated the company’s stance against creating a “backdoor” for government access to encrypted content. As the letter begins, “The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.”

Steve Jobs biopic available on Blu-ray, DVD today

After a rocky rollout, disappointing box office returns and pointed criticism from those who knew the Apple founder best, Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs biopic is available on Blu-ray and DVD today. The film, which traces Jobs’ life alongside three of his most iconic product launches, met with mostly positive reviews and garnered Academy Award nominations for stars Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet, but never really caught on with the general movie-going audience and was pulled from theaters after two weeks. Despite ruffling plenty of feathers at Apple, the movie arrived on iTunes today, though with no promotion or fanfare.

Apple Pay launching in China on Feb. 18, possibly coming to France soon

Apple Pay is set to launch in China on Feb. 18 for customers of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Reuters reports. The bank’s representatives broke the news on social media today, making China the fifth country to adopt the digital payment system. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the post, but Apple cleared the way for expanding into China last year by reaching a deal to use UnionPay’s terminals. The company’s China website lists 19 lenders as Apple Pay partners and state media is reporting that two others will launch the service on Feb. 18. Apple Pay has seen strong push back in countries with existing mobile payment methods and faces stiff competition from entrenched competitors in a Chinese market where consumers are already used to paying for things with their devices.

New Dr. Dre show made for Apple Music

After reports last week of Apple releasing its own original television show based on Dr. Dre, an insider has told Re/code the company’s video content is only being used “to extend Apple Music,” not as the company’s first foray into the TV business. News that Apple had produced a “dark semi-autobiographical drama” about the rap icon and Beats co-founder titled Vital Signs added fuel to ongoing speculation that the company is making an entry into the original TV programming business, with the largest question being how the show would be distributed. As with Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video and Taylor Swift’s recent concert film, the answer seems to be Apple Music. In the same way that Netflix funds original programming in the hopes of selling its primary service of delivering third-party content, Apple seems to be producing its own video programs to draw users to its Apple Music service. Sources familiar with the company’s plans say there is more video content to come, but its focus will primarily be pushing users toward Apple Music for the time being.

iPad Air 3, iPhone 5se expected to be available March 18

Following reports that the iPhone 5se and iPad Air 3 will be unveiled on March 15, it now appears that the models will also be available in Apple Stores three days later, on March 18, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. With the devices going on sale so soon after the event, sources suggest that Apple is unlikely to offer pre-orders for either of the new devices, although they cautioned that Apple’s plans could still change. In the case of iPhones, in particular, Apple has traditionally opened pre-orders within two to three days after it unveils a new model, with in-store availability coming one to two weeks later, around the same time pre-orders begin arriving in customers’ hands. While Apple’s iPad releases have been a little less consistent in this regard, it would still be unusual for Apple to release both devices in-store so quickly following a major Apple event. Sources have suggested that Apple has already begun ramping up production of the new four-inch iPhone, which is intended to bring the latest technology — specifically NFC for Apple Pay — to the iPhone 5 family for users who may be reluctant to embrace the larger iPhone 6 screen sizes.

Apple filming original ‘dark drama’ television series featuring Dr. Dre

Apple is forging ahead with plans for unveiling its own original, exclusive television programming, and is in fact already getting ready to announced its first television show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The series, which will reportedly be titled Vital Signs, is described as a “dark semi-autobiographical drama” featuring Beats co-founder and rap legend Dr. Dre, who now works in the upper echelons of Apple. Multiple sources are said to have confirmed that Dre will be both starring in and executive producing the six-episode vehicle, with the production funded by Apple.

Apple under fire for patent infringement from haptic feedback company Immersion

Haptic feedback developer Immersion has filed a lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of patent infringement. The lawsuit cites technologies such as 3D Touch, Force Touch, and the Apple Watch, as well as vibration patterns for ringtones and notifications, claiming multiple Apple devices are using its intellectual property, including all iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s models and all Apple Watch models. Immersion claims these devices infringe on two of its own patents related to tactile feedback, including U.S. Patent No. 8,619,051, Haptic Feedback System with Stored Effects and U.S. Patent No. 8,773,356, Method and Apparatus for Providing Tactile Sensations. The suit also names AT&T for reasons that are not entirely clear, although in the filing Immersion claims AT&T “encourages and facilities infringing use by others” through its sale of Apple products, and its offering of guides, directions, and other materials. Notably, however, no other mobile carriers are mentioned in the lawsuit. Immersion has also filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission to try and prevent the sale of the affected Apple devices in the United States. [via MacRumors]

Job post shows Apple emphasizing new complications, faces for Apple Watch

A job posting on Apple’s website shows the company is looking to expand its offering of clock face options for Apple Watch and add new complications that “push the envelope on human-computer interactions.” The Watch SDK released alongside watchOS 2 allows developers to write their own watch face complications, but so far Apple has only released three new official watch faces in watchOS 2 — Time-Lapse, Photo and Photo Album — and included another special complication for those buying the Hermès collection version of the watch. [via iPhoneHacks]

New comments hint at forthcoming streaming TV service from Apple

Recent comments from Apple’s main partner in content delivery hint at the company ramping up its in-house capability to provide faster downloads and streaming speeds to users, Business Insider reports. During an earnings call, Akamai CEO Tom Leighton forecasted a serious drop in revenue from one of the company’s “largest customers” — assumed to be Apple — resulting from “their increased do-it-yourself, or DIY efforts.” Apple is investing heavily in its own custom-designed data centers, and streaming services analysts have tracked OS X downloads now coming directly from Apple as opposed to their usual delivery through Akamai. Tim Cook has put a renewed emphasis on Apple’s commitment to online services like iCloud, but the improved in-house content delivery network would also bolster Apple’s rumored plans to offer streaming TV service, allowing the company more control over the streaming quality and lag that end-users would experience.

Screen protector installation now available at Apple Stores

Apple Stores worldwide began offering screen protector installation for iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus and 6s Plus users starting today. As previously reported, Apple has partnered with Belkin to place specialized screen protector installation machines in the back of stores, allowing customers to have their screen protector properly installed free of charge after they buy it. Two types of screen protectors — “Invisiglass” and “Anti-Glare” — are being offered. Apple will guarantee the installation of screen protectors and offer a free replacement and re-attempt at installation if the protector isn’t installed successfully for the customer. Many stores began rolling out the new process last week, but it is available everywhere as of today.

Russia mulling tax increase on App Store purchases, other Apple services

The Russian government is considering a bill that would increase taxes on a dozen categories of digital products and services offered by foreign companies like Apple, including ads, games, movies, marketplace transactions and cloud computing, Bloomberg reports. In a recent interview described as “peppered with expletives,” Russian Internet Czar German Klimenko said he is pushing to raise the taxes to level the playing field for Russian competitors, following the lead of other European countries. “When you buy an app from Google Play or the App Store anywhere in Europe, VAT is charged at the place of payment, but not here in our banana republic,” Klimenko said. The new bill proposes an 18 percent value-added tax on an estimated $3.9 billion in profits earned on digital media and services by Apple, Google and other foreign technology companies. Klimenko also railed against Apple’s compliance with U.S. sanctions on Russia after the country annexed Crimea, calling that decision “the point of no return.” Apple declined to comment on the proposed tax increase.

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.

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