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Report: iPhone 5se, iPad Air 3 set for March 15 unveil

Apple is looking to hold an event on March 15 to unveil a new iPhone, iPad Air, and Apple Watch band options, 9to5Mac reports, following a report last week that the new standard-sized iPad would be available in March, while also revealing that the rumored 4-inch iPhone model will debut at the same time. Sources suggest that the new “iPhone 5se” will include an A9 chip, improved cameras, Live Photos support, and Apple Pay, while mirroring the general design of the iPhone 5s and coming in at the same price, starting at $450 for 16GB, with a 64GB model also being available. The report suggests that the iPad Air 3 will look much as suggested in previous reports, with enhanced speakers, a possible rear LED flash, and a Smart Connector like that found on the iPad Pro. Apple will also reportedly introduce new Apple Watch bands and software at the same event, although it appears no actual new Apple Watch device hardware will be unveiled.

Apple building team for secret virtual reality project

Apple is building a team of experts in virtual and augmented reality, according to a new report from the Financial Times. The secret research team apparently includes hundreds of staff collected from a series of “carefully targeted acquisitions” and other VR companies, and it has already been building prototypes of VR headsets for several months. Apple experimented with virtual reality under Steve Jobs about ten years ago, but abandoned the technology at the time as not being sufficiently mature; however, the company has rekindled its efforts in the area over the past two years, beginning with the acquisition of motion sensor maker PrimeSense in 2013, followed by augmented reality company Metaio and motion capture company FaceShift last year, and most recently Flyby Media, an augmented reality company that previously worked with Google in developing 3D positioning technology for Project Tango. It’s unclear whether Apple aims to release an actual VR headset, some other more ambitious project, or simply apply the technology to its new car project. Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted obliquely at VR earlier this week when he responded to a question from analyst Gene Munster on the matter during Apple’s quarterly earnings call, referring to virtual reality as having some “interesting applications” and definitely not being a niche area.

Report: Apple aiming to unveil original, exclusive TV programming by September

Apple may be looking in a new direction in efforts to get its television streaming service off the ground. A new report from The Street reveals that the company has been in talks with Hollywood’s creative community since late last year about producing original TV shows that could be offered exclusively to iTunes customers. While Apple has yet to sign any agreements, two people with knowledge of the matter have suggested that Apple is ideally trying to get deals in place for September so it can announce exclusive content with the unveiling of the iPhone 7. The discussions are reportedly being led by Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, who is effectively the force behind Apple’s entertainment initiatives, with Robert Kondrk, VP of iTunes content, also involved in the talks, according to sources. An Apple spokesperson naturally declined to comment on the matter. It was first reported in September that Apple had interest in creating original programming.

Apple acquires LearnSprout, an educational software startup

Apple has acquired LearnSprout, an education technology startup, Bloomberg reports. LearnSprout creates software for schools and teachers to track student performance, and is currently used by more than 2,500 school districts across 42 U.S. states. The acquisition likely ties into Apple’s recent push into more sophisticated educational tools for the iPad with iOS 9.3, which will allow students to engage in interactive lessons and more easily share iPads within the classroom. In response to the acquisition, an Apple spokesperson gave the usual boilerplate statement that “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” LearnSprout’s CEO also did not immediately response to a request for comments from Bloomberg.

Apple issues voluntary recall for certain AC wall plug adapters

Apple has issued a voluntary recall covering some of its AC wall plug adapters and world travel kits. The recall affects AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Continental Europe, New Zealand and South Korea, noting that in very rare cases, the affected two-prong adapters may break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched. The adapters shipped with Mac and some iOS devices between 2003 and 2015 and were also included in the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. The release notes that Apple is aware of 12 incidents worldwide, and specifies that the issue does not affect any other Apple AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom, or the United States, nor does it affect any Apple USB power adapters. Customers should stop using affected plug adapters immediately and visit www.apple.com/support/ac-wallplug-adapter for information about how to exchange their affected adapters for new, redesigned adapters.

Apple releases second iOS 9.3 public beta

Apple has released the second public beta of iOS 9.3 through its Apple Software Beta Program. Released to developers earlier this week, the second beta makes a number of minor changes to Night Shift mode and CarPlay enhancements to Apple Music and Maps, along with adding a new button for Night Shift mode in Control Center. Be sure to check out our updated peek at what’s new in both the latest iOS 9.3 and tvOS 9.2 betas. 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.

Notes from Apple’s Q1 2016 earnings call

Kicking off Apple’s investor conference call in which the company once again announced record-breaking numbers for Q1 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook reported again that Apple had its strongest financial results ever, with all-time record quarterly revenue, noting that this is a huge accomplishment given the “turbulent world” around us. To put the iPhone’s sales numbers in perspective, Cook noted that 74.8m iPhones sold represents an average of over 34,000 iPhones sold per hour, every hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for 13 straight weeks, adding that this represents 50 percent more than the volumes in Q1 two years ago, and four times the volume of iPhones sold five years ago.

Cook went on to explain that Apple’s results are particularly impressive given the “challenging global macro-economic environment,” highlighting how major markets such as Brazil, Russia, Japan, Canada, Southeast Asia, and others have been impacted by slowing economic growth and weakening currencies, with the Euro and British Pound both down by double-digits since 2013. Major currencies such as the Canadian Dollar, Australian Dollar, Mexican Peso, and Turkish Lira have also declined by 20 percent or more. Cook explained how these currency fluctuations have had a meaningful negative impact on Apple’s results, noting that with constant currency Apple’s earnings would have been more than $5 billion higher, or more than the total annual revenue of an average Fortune 500 company. Cook also highlighted that Apple continues to see growth in China, with revenue growing 14 percent over last year, and Apple saw its highest ever quarterly iPhone sales and record App Store performance in China. “Despite economic challenges all over the world, Apple remains extremely strong,” Cook concluded.

Apple sets Q1 record: $75.9B revenue, 75M iPhones, 16M iPads sold

Apple reported its first quarter 2016 financial results today, with 74.8 million iPhones and 16 million iPads sold. The company posted quarterly revenue of $75.9 billion and quarterly net profit of $18.4 billion, or $3.28 per diluted share. In Q1 2015, Apple had revenue of $74.6 billion and net profit of $18 billion, or $3.06 per diluted share. Gross margin was 40.1 percent compared to 39.9 percent a year ago. International sales contributed to 66 percent of this quarter’s revenue. For Q2 2016, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $50 billion and $53 billion, and gross margin between 39 percent and 39.5 percent. Apple’s earnings call will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern time, and can be heard live on the company’s investor website.

Report: Apple to offer subscription content via News app

Apple is planning to expand its News service to provide subscription content through the iOS 9 News app, Reuters reports. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the report notes that the aim would be to give publishers with paywalls a way to limit access to their content, and would help to distinguish Apple’s offering from other online news apps and services such as Facebook’s Instant Articles. The move may address concerns raised by publishers, which cannot ignore Apple’s hundreds of millions of users, while at the same time preferring to still connect directly with readers. Making paid content available through the iOS News app would allow publishers to maintain relationships with their existing reader base and possibly attract new subscribers, although it’s still unclear at this time how Apple plans to authenticate subscribers or whether it would take its usual cut of subscription payments, as the company did with its prior Newsstand system.

Apple under fire again for VPN, FaceTime related patents

Apple is once again the target of a lawsuit from VirnetX concerning patents related to VPN and FaceTime technologies, Bloomberg reports. A lawyer for VirnetX told a federal jury in Texas earlier this week that Apple owes the company $532M for using the company’s patented secure communications technology. Apple originally came under fire from VirnetX in 2012, when Apple was ordered to pay the Texas-based patent holding company $368.2M for infringing on VPN patents used in the company’s FaceTime and VPN On Demand services in iOS — a move that prompted Apple to change the way VPN On Demand works on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. An appeals court later dismissed the damage award against Apple and ordered a new trial for some of the infringement claims, which this new lawsuit covers, along with infringements based on newer generations of iOS devices. An Apple lawyer stated that “Apple believes in fairness and protecting intellectual property,” adding however, that “VirnetX keeps moving the boundary, asking for more and more and more.”

Report: Apple car project ‘at crossroads’

Apple’s “Project Titan” — the company’s automotive project — is at a “crossroads,” with the project team under a hiring freeze, according to Apple Insider. A source said Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive recently “expressed his displeasure” with the team’s progress, and executives are reportedly “unhappy with the project’s direction and progress.” It’s believed that Apple has more than 1,000 people working on the project.

This follows a recent article from The Wall Street Journal, which reported that Steve Zadesky, who “has been overseeing (Apple’s) electric-car project for the last two years,” is leaving the company. Zadesky, a longtime Apple employee who worked on the iPod and iPhone, is reportedly leaving for personal reasons. The timing of his exit is unclear, but it does appear there’s some instability surrounding Apple’s car project at the moment. Apple reportedly wants to ship its first electric vehicle by 2019.

Google paid Apple $1B to be iOS default search engine

A transcript of court proceedings between Oracle and Google has revealed that Google paid Apple $1 billion in 2014 to remain the default search engine on iOS devices, Bloomberg reports. An Oracle attorney said that Google and Apple have an agreement which gives Apple a percentage of the revenue Google generates through iPhone. While a revenue share of 34 percent was discussed, a Google attorney attempted to get the number stricken from the record, saying, “We are talking hypotheticals here.” The magistrate judge refused this request, but Google and Apple have filed to seal and redact the transcript. Both Apple and Google declined to comment on the proceedings.

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.

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