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Report: Apple Pay fees hindering rollout in Australia

Australia’s largest banks are balking at Apple Pay’s fees and slowing down the rollout of the payment service in their country, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Apple is reportedly demanding the same 15 cents on every $100 of transactions that the company is believed to receive from banks in the U.S., even though banks in Australia make half as much from interchange fees as compared to their U.S. counterparts. British banks struck a much tougher deal than those in the U.S., paying only a few cents on each £100 of transactions. With the reserve bank of Australia threatening to push interchange fees even lower — down from 50 cents to around 30 cents on each $100 of transactions — the timing of Apple Pay’s entry into the market makes the stakes of negotiations even higher for Australian banks.

Apple’s slice of the estimated $2 billion in interchange fees isn’t the only issue holding up talks. Commonwealth Bank of Australia chief executive Ian Narev said the CBA has been offering the same functionality to users through an app for Andriod phones for 2 years, so the introduction of Apple Pay isn’t as innovative in Australia as it was when it was introduced into the U.S. market in October 2014. Westpac, another Australian bank, also allows customers to pay with an Android phone, but notes that most customers still prefer to pay with their cards. National Australia Bank is rumored to be closer to a deal with Apple than the other major banks, but sources told Fairfax Media that a smaller bank may be the first to jump on-board, using an Apple Pay deal to appeal to iPhone users and draw in more customers.

Apple now offering L/XL Apple Watch Sport bands

Apple has introduced a larger size for its Sport bands, L/XL. The new size band is paired with the M/L band, while the S/M band is also paired with the M/L band. The new, larger sized band will fit up to 245mm wrists, where the M/L size fits up to 210mm wrists. Apple also introduced a 42mm Link Bracelet Kit for larger sizes — it extends the existing Link Bracelet an extra 40mm. Both the new Sport band and Link Bracelet Kit cost $49. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple scouting locations to test self-driving car

A new report from The Guardian reveals that Apple is in fact working on a self-driving car project in Silicon Valley, and has already began scouting for secure locations in the area to conduct testing. Documents obtained by the news agency reveal that Apple’s car project, dubbed Project Titan, may be further along than many previously suspected. The report reveals that engineers from a secret Special Project group within Apple met with officials from GoMentum Station, a former naval base near San Francisco that is being transformed to serve specifically as a testing ground for autonomous vehicles. The correspondence obtained by the Guardian cites a communication from an Apple engineer, Frank Fearon, to the base, stating that the company would “like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].”

An old naval weapons station, GoMentum Station is a high-security facility still guarded by the U.S. military with 20 miles of paved highways and city streets that make it particularly well-suited to the “testing validation and commercialization of connected vehicle (CV) applications and autonomous vehicles (AV) technologies to define the next generation of transportation network infrastructure,” according to officials. The facility has already been used by other car manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz and Honda to carry out experiments with self-driving cars. Apple has naturally declined to comment.

Court rejects Samsung’s appeal in iPhone patent suit

Samsung’s most recent appeal in the 2012 iPhone patent suit has been rejected, the San Jose Mercury News reports. On Thursday, the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Samsung’s request to re-examine the verdict that had ruled the company violated Apple’s iPhone patents — a verdict that had originally resulted in a judgement of more than $1 billion against Samsung (that award was later reduced). The appellate court upheld the core of Apple’s case against Samsung, essentially confirming the judgement that the South Korean company’s smartphones and tablets violated Apple’s iPhone patent rights. Other major Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Facebook, and Hewlett-Package had also backed Samsung’s appeal. This decision leaves an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court as Samsung’s only remaining recourse.

Apple TV service to be delayed to 2016

A new report from Bloomberg has confirmed an earlier report at the end of last month stating that Apple’s planned subscription TV service will be delayed into 2016. While the report notes that the company had wanted to introduce the service this fall, source familiar with Apple’s plans note that talks with TV networks such as subsidiaries of CBS and 21st Century Fox are progressing more slowly than expected. Further, Apple is apparently still working to build the network capacity to “ensure a good viewing experience.” As a result, Apple has reportedly canceled its original plan to announce the service in September with the beginning of the new network TV season, although the company is apparently still on track to introduce the rumored new Apple TV set-top box at the event.

Apple releases updated diversity report

Apple has updated its diversity report, outlining the company’s efforts in ensuring employment equality in the workplace. The latest report notes that Apple has hired over 11,000 women globally — an increase of 65 percent over the previous year — and that Apple hired more than 2,200 black employees and 2,700 Hispanic employees – increases of 50 percent and 66 percent, respectively, and that nearly 50 percent of all new U.S. hires in the first six months of 2015 were women, black, Hispanic, or Native American.

In comparison to last year’s diversity report, the breakdown now shows 54 percent of Apple employees identifying as white, with 18 percent Asian, 11 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent black. Three percent identified as belonging to multiple or other racial groups, while six percent did not declare their race. Gender distribution was 69 percent male and 31 percent female, globally, a one percent shift from last year’s numbers. In his comments released with the report, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated, “We are proud of the progress we’ve made, and our commitment to diversity is unwavering. But we know there is a lot more work to be done.”

Apple releases iOS 8.4.1, iTunes 12.2.2

Apple has released iOS 8.4.1 and iTunes 12.2.2, a pair of relatively minor updates that add fixes and enhancements mostly related to Apple’s Music and Beats 1 Radio services. iOS 8.4.1 notes fixes related to iCloud Music Library, adding songs to playlists, displaying album artwork, and resolves issues experienced by artists posting to Connect. iTunes 12.2.2 fixes a number of display and sorting problems related to Apple Music, and adds the ability to view a list of followed artists and see a schedule of upcoming Beats 1 programming. The iTunes update also allows artists using the Connect service to now post new content directly from within the iTunes app.

Apple increases iPad business focus, partners with 40+ companies

Apple is increasing its efforts to position the iPad as a work and business tool, The Wall Street Journal reports. With sales of the iPad having fallen recently, Apple has refocused its efforts on business computing, working with over 40 companies to build business solutions for the iPad. The move echoes last year’s partnership with IBM, but unlike that initiative, this appears to focus more on the small-to-medium business market.

Apple has reportedly involved officials from accounting firms and other partners in the business application program to train Apple business specialists, and has even invited some of its partners to present at a traditionally closed Apple sales conference. The company has also been working closely with its partners, reviewing apps and offering very detailed suggestions for improvements, and pairing up companies to build integrated solutions from complementary apps. Apple has internally referred to the initiative as the “mobility partner program,” although partners have been “discouraged” from using that name publicly. Further, in line with Apple’s typically secretive approach, many partners are still unclear on what their role will be in selling apps. The identities of most of the individual partners also remain undisclosed by Apple except in specific cases, so many partners don’t know who else is involved. Apple’s long-term goal has been described as hoping to sell curated bundles of applications for specific vertical markets, as opposed to simply leaving people to scour the App Store on their own, in turn positioning the iPad as a device that can be focused for specific business needs.

Apple becomes member of NFC Forum, takes seat on board of directors

Apple has joined the NFC Forum as a top-tier sponsor and taken a seat on the group’s board of directors, NFC World reports. Apple introduced an NFC chip last year in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to enable Apple Pay and is now in a prime position to help steer new developments in the technology. The NFC Forum’s website now lists Apple among its sponsor members – the highest level of membership – alongside companies like Samsung, Visa and Sony. Aon Mujtaba, a director of wireless systems engineering at Apple, has been appointed the company’s representative on the NFC Forum board of directors. In June Apple made a similar move, gaining voting rights and a board seat in Bluetooth’s Special Interest Group by becoming a Promoter Member. [via 9to5Mac]

Updated Apple Store app accepts gift cards

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.

El Capitan file hints at split-screen apps on iPad mini 4

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.

Falling currency value could raise iPhone prices in China

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.

EU ends one inquiry into Apple, begins another

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.

Leaked video hints at thinner iPad mini 4

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]

Iovine suggests Apple Music curation may come to Apple’s TV service

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.

TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington moves to Apple PR

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 releases fifth iOS 9 beta to developers

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.

Apple adds native Watch app support to TestFlight

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 announces 11m Apple Music trial subscribers

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.

Judge denies class-action status to iMessage lawsuit

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.

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