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.
In an unusual move, Apple has released a minor update to its iOS 9.3 beta released earlier this week. Rather than carrying a “beta 2” designation, the new beta appears in the iOS Software Update as “iOS 9.3 beta 1.1” — the first time we’ve seen a point release of a beta. Designated as build 13E5181f — a very minor update from the original beta’s 13E5181d build number, the release notes indicate that the new beta fixes “some cases of an issue customers encountered while updating to 13E5181d that caused devices to freeze on the Apple logo.” The new “beta 1.1” is available via an over-the-air software update or direct download from Apple’s iOS Developer Site, where it simply remains listed as “iOS 9.3 beta” with no mention of the “.1” update.
Apple may be on the hook for as much as $8 billion in taxes owing to the European Union, Bloomberg reports. A European Commission investigation which began in 2014 called into question Apple’s tax deals in Ireland, where the company’s European operations are headquartered. More recently, Apple agreed to pay $347m in back taxes to Italy after failing to declare revenue to that country’s tax authorities, instead transferring profits to its Irish subsidiary.
The European Commission has been contending that Apple’s deal in Ireland has allowed it to pay lower taxes to the Irish government by calculating its tax bill using lower operating costs in that country. Bloomberg’s analysis suggests that Apple’s foreign tax rate is about 1.8 percent, despite the company generating more than 50 percent of its revenue outside of the U.S. As a result of its findings, the European Commission may decide to enforce a tougher accounting standard that could require Apple to pay eight years of back taxes, covering $64.1 billion dollars in profit from the years 2004 to 2012, at a higher 12.5 percent tax rate. Notably, Apple is not alone in facing scrutiny from EU regulators, with other high profile companies including Starbucks, Amazon, and McDonalds also having had their tax policies reviewed by the Commission. Apple has also listed the investigation as a risk factor to investors in its financial statements for 2015, noting that if the tax rates were to change, Apple’s “financial condition, operating results and cash flows could be adversely affected.” A ruling on the matter could come as early as March.
Following the release of the iOS 9.3 Developer Beta earlier this week, Apple has now released iOS 9.3’s first beta for non-developers through its Apple Software Beta Program. In contrast to recent public betas, iOS 9.3 includes a number of new features and enhancements that will likely generate more interest from early adopters. 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.
A new report in Korea’s etnews indicates that Apple and Samsung Display are very close to an agreement for the display maker to supply Flexible Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) screens to Apple for its next-generation iPhones. The report suggests that the undertaking will require an investment of $7.47 billion in plant facilities and equipment, and will begin receiving orders from Apple as early as the end of the first quarter for between 30,000 and 45,000 sheets per month, with production likely ramping up to an additional 45,000 sheets per month in 2017. The report suggests that Samsung Display will be the primary supplier of flexible OLED screens to Apple, but not necessarily the exclusive supplier. A past report claimed LG would also supply OLED screens, while another report claimed Japan Display would be the supplier, and that the screens wouldn’t appear on iPhones until 2018.
A new report from the New York Post suggests that Apple may be looking at the possibility of acquiring at least some of Time Warner’s assets, which is likely to be sold off or at least have its assets spun off in the next few months. Citing a senior tech insider, the report notes that Apple may acquire Time Warner’s assets to help with developing a standalone TV service — a project that was originally reported to be in the works last spring, but was later put on hold due to difficulties in coming to an agreement with traditional broadcasting networks. A deal between Apple and Time Warner could provide Apple with significant headway in the streaming TV service market, potentially including CNN, Turner Sports, shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Sesame Street,” and the Warner Bros. library of movies and TV shows.
During an exclusive BBC interview, Tesla’s founder and CEO Elon Musk stated that it’s basically an “open secret” that Apple is making an electric car to rival Tesla’s. While Apple has not formally announced it is working on a vehicle, the company has registered numerous automobile-related domains such as apple.car and apple.auto and has been on a recent hiring spree for automotive-related talent. Musk noted that several of its engineers have been hired by Apple, among other companies, and felt that it was “obvious” that Apple would enter the car market, noting, “It’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over a thousand engineers to do it.” Musk said, however, that he doesn’t see Apple as being a threat to Tesla’s business — rather that he feels that it will expand an industry where there is currently room for more than one player. “Tesla will still aspire to make the most compelling electric vehicles, and that would be our goal,” Musk said, “while at the same time helping other companies to make electric cars as well.”
Apple has simultaneously released new betas for iOS, Apple TV and Apple Watch — iOS 9.3 beta 1, tvOS 9.2 beta 1, and watchOS 2.2 beta 1 are all now available to developers. The new iOS beta is available from the developer center. A public beta will likely be made available in the near future. Apple’s tvOS 9.2 includes the long-awaited addition of Bluetooth keyboard support to Apple TV, while the new iOS and watchOS betas enable the pairing of multiple Apple Watches to one iPhone.
Apple Music has topped 10 million subscribers, according to a new report from The Financial Times. The article notes the service has taken six months to hit the mark, while main competitor Spotify took six years to reach the same level. Last June, Spotify said it had 20 million paid subscribers, and 75 million monthly listeners — that number has almost certainly grown since then, but Apple is also taking a big cut of the growing streaming market, despite what we believe are persistent UI issues with Apple Music.
Apple has acquired Emotient, an artificial-intelligence development company, The Wall Street Journal reports. Emotient has been working on solutions that use artificial intelligence to read people’s emotions by analyzing facial expressions, a technology that has up until now been primarily targeted at advertisers to gauge viewer reactions. While it’s unclear what Apple might do with this acquisition, many Silicon Valley companies have recently been working to improve image recognition, and investing heavily in AI techniques. An Apple spokesperson confirmed the purchase but gave the standard boilerplate statement that Apple always makes after an acquisition, that Apple “buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
A new patent filing reveals that Apple is working on a new dual camera zoom lens system that could be incorporated into future iOS devices. Patently Apple reports on patent application 20160007008, simply titled “Mobile Camera System” which describes methods and systems by which multiple cameras can be used to provide an effective optical zoom. Some of the concepts include using two cameras to capture separate images of different visual fields, while others suggest that the cameras would employ different focal lengths to achieve similar results. The patent also describes images being combined or preserved to the storage medium as separate data structures for later processing. The patent also interestingly suggests that the solution could be applied to a desktop computer with a camera or even a “gaming computer with orientation sensors” suggesting that Apple may have more far-reaching goals for this technology.
Apple is releasing a limited edition of the Apple Watch Sport model in honor of the Chinese New Year. Debuting in new yellow gold aluminum and silver aluminum finishes, the new editions are paired with bright red straps, a color traditionally associated with good luck in Chinese culture. The special Chinese New Year editions sell for the same price as the standard Apple Watch Sport model, and are only available in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia from Jan. 15 to Feb. 22, although Apple is taking pre-orders as of today. [via Mashable]
In an interview with Mashable, Apple’s VP of Technology Kevin Lynch, who is widely regarded as one of the main architects behind the Apple Watch, explained how the wearable device has been designed to maintain extremely accurate time synchronization. Lynch noted that not only is the Apple Watch designed to be “extraordinarily accurate,” but that any two Apple Watches will remain in perfect synchronization, which can be demonstrated by holding them side-by-side and viewing the second hands moving in “perfect unison.” In the interview, Lynch describes the complex processes that Apple uses to maintain such highly accurate synchronization, including “curating” their own network of “Stratum One” Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers synchronized with atomic clocks at the U.S. Naval Observatory via GPS satellites, which then pass time information on to iPhones — those then synchronize time with Bluetooth-connected Apple Watches, incorporating corrections for time delays in communication.
Apple has agreed to pay €318 million (about $347 million) in taxes owed to Italy’s inland revenue service, according to a new report by La Repubblica. Stemming from an investigation that began in 2013, Apple’s Italian subsidiary allegedly failed to declare more than €1 billion ($1.3 billion) in revenue to the country’s tax authorities — a report that was confirmed as accurate by the Italian tax office. The final agreement came after several months of negotiations which appear to have resulted in Apple still being required to pay the full amount demanded by the Italian tax authorities for the 2008-2013 tax years. Apple was accused of transferring Italian profits to its Irish subsidiary in order to benefit from Ireland’s lower corporate tax rates by declaring its Italian subsidiary to be a “consultant” to the Irish company. Apple’s European operations are headquartered in Ireland, and Apple came under investigation by EU regulators last year, who suggested that the company’s tax deals in that country may in fact be illegal under EU law; EU regulators are expected to issue a ruling soon in the matter. [via The Local]
A new class action lawsuit alleges that Apple deliberately slowed down older iPhones with its latest iOS 9 upgrade as part of a planned obsolesce strategy, AppleInsider reports. The lawsuit was filed with a New York district court on Tuesday and seeks $5 million in damages, claiming that Apple was aware of potential compatibility issues when it released the iOS 9 software update for the iPhone 4S. The Plaintiff, Chaim Lerman, is accusing Apple of engaging in “deceptive trade practices” and “false advertisement” by claiming iOS 9 was compatible with older models, stating that the reality is that the update “significantly” interferes with iPhone 4s performance and that since users are preventing from downgrading once iOS 9 has been applied, owners are left with “an inoperable device” with no choice but to buy a newer model.
A U.S. court has dismissed the single remaining lawsuit against Apple regarding the delivery of iMessages to former iPhone users, Business Insider reports. A former iPhone user originally filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple earlier this year after she switched to an Android device and found that she could no longer receive text messages from other iPhone users. Apple acknowledged the problem and released a fix in May, however the suit persisted until it was dismissed in August based on a lack of clear evidence that all members of the suit had in fact suffered an inconvenience due to “contractual breach or interference” related to the iMessage system.
Following the dismissal of the original class-action suit, however, three individual but related plaintiffs pursued their own separate action, accusing Apple of “intercepting” iPhone text messages in violation of the U.S. Federal Wiretap Act. Apple had requested that the suit be dismissed after it was discovered that two of the three plaintiffs had already disposed of their old iPhones after they had filed the suit, and were therefore unable to demonstrate whether they were affected by the issue. The case was dismissed by U.S. Judge Lucy Koh, in a single-paragraph order.
Apple has officially spoken out against the U.K.‘s Investigatory Powers Bill, a broad proposed bill that would allow U.K. government officials to access website records, and would require companies to assist in bypassing encryption to access information on computers and phones. While it’s not surprising that Apple would oppose such legislation, the company only recently made a submission to the bill committee, The Guardian reports. Apple claims the bill could alter the way iMessage works. As Apple said in its submission: “The creation of backdoors and intercept capabilities would weaken the protections built into Apple products and endanger all our customers. A key left under the doormat would not just be there for the good guys. The bad guys would find it too.” This statement echoes comments made by Apple CEO Tim Cook in the past, and more recently during his interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes.
CBS’ 60 Minutes dedicated a great deal of its show to Apple last night in two “Inside Apple” segments. As expected, the segments included nothing that would be considered groundbreaking to regular followers of the company, but 60 Minutes correspondent Charlie Rose interviewed a number of Apple’s heavy hitters, including Jony Ive and Angela Ahrendts, among others, with Apple CEO Tim Cook as the main interview subject. Cook was questioned on the company’s culture, and its issues with manufacturing partners and taxes. Cook was typically vague about future products, as his response to Rose’s “How hard is it to say Apple will be in the car business?” was simply a shrug and a laugh. The second segment concluded with a glimpse at construction on Apple’s “Spaceship” corporate headquarters. The entire transcript of interviews done for the piece, along with additional videos, are available on the 60 Minutes website.
Swedish company Ericsson has announced that it has settled a patent dispute with Apple, Reuters reports.
Investment bank ABG Sundal Collier “believed the deal meant Apple would be charged around 0.5 percent of its revenue on iPads and iPhones by Ericsson,” as it stated in a note to clients. The “broad agreement” covers 2G, 3G, and current 4G-LTE technologies, Ericsson Chief Intellectual Property Officer Kasim Alfalahi said. Apple declined comment on the story.
Apple has announced the promotion of Jeff Williams, formerly Senior VP of Operations, to the position of Chief Operating Officer. Williams has effectively been serving as the de facto head of Operations at Apple since Tim Cook’s appointment as CEO four years ago — Williams was appointed VP of Operations in 2004, and later promoted to Senior Vice President of Operations in 2010, while the Chief Operations Officer (COO) role formerly held by Tim Cook under Steve Jobs remained vacant after Cook became Chief Executive in August 2011, leaving Williams as the senior executive on the Operations side. As a result, Williams’ appointment as Chief Operating Officer is unlikely to have much impact on his day-to-day responsibilities within Apple, although the promotion likely means an increase in compensation and is clearly intended to recognize Williams’ contributions to Apple over almost two decades, with Cook referring to Williams as “hands-down the best operations executive I’ve ever worked with.”