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Apple announces annual Back to School promotion, excludes iOS devices

Apple has announced its Back to School 2015 Promotion, later than usual this year and notably excluding any iOS devices or iPod-related offers. Between July 23 and September 18, educational customers purchasing an iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or Mac Pro can also elect to receive a $199.95 credit to be applied to a pair of Beats Solo2 On-Ear Headphones or Beats Solo2 Wireless On-Ear Headphones purchased at the same time. The same promotion also applies to purchases made through the U.S. Apple Online Store, however for whatever reason the dates for online purchases are limited to August 6 through September 18.

Apple’s original Back to School promotions began in 2005 with the offer of a free iPod mini with the purchase of a Mac, a promotion that recurred annually in similar forms, changing to bundle an iPod nano and then eventually an iPod touch in 2010. After six years of including a free iPod with the purchase of a Mac, the promotion changed in 2011 to offer a free $100 iTunes Gift Card instead with the purchase of a Mac. Apple expanded the promotion in 2012 to also offer a $50 iTunes Gift card with the purchase of an iPad, and then again in 2013 to also include the iPhone. In 2014, the promotion switched from iTunes gift cards to Apple Store gift cards. This year marks the first time since the promotion began eleven years ago that no iPod, iOS device, or iTunes-related item has been included as part of the promotion.

Apple planning Touch ID Apple TV remote?

While Apple has been expected for some time to release a new Apple TV with a remote that would reportedly incorporate a touchpad, a new patent revealed by Patently Apple suggests that Apple may be looking to go a step beyond a simple touchpad with an integrated Touch ID sensor. While the patent itself remains broad, referring simply to a “sensor configured to detect a biometric characteristic of a user,” a fingerprint appears to be the element highlighted in the main drawings, and the text suggests that biometric authentication could be used both for authentication to access secure features such as parentally locked content, as well as identifying a user to select a specific viewing profile such as favorite channels. With the Apple TV being positioned as a hub for Apple’s new HomeKit home automation service, the sensor could also extend to home applications, again both for security and customization.

Report: Integrated Apple Watch charging coming to third-party accessories

Apple plans to allow MFi program partners to begin integrating charging pads into Apple Watch accessories, 9to5Mac reports. While existing Apple Watch stands offer a place to insert the standard Apple Watch charger and route cables through the stand, an integrated solution would provide a more efficient solution for consumers, allowing them to avoid having to insert and use their own chargers. The approach would reportedly be similar to how Apple provides components for third-party Apple Watch bands and Lightning cables, with MFi suppliers providing access to the charging components that accessory manufacturers would integrate into their own designs. The integrated charging pad would likely also provide for more design flexibility for third-party docks and stands. The program is said to still be in the early stages, with the component only available in “sample quantities” but Apple not yet open to accepting official plan submissions.

Apple releases second iOS 9 public beta

Apple has released the second public betas of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan, corresponding to the fourth developer beta released earlier this week. Originally announced at WWDC, the public beta of iOS 9 allows non-developers to preview an early version of iOS 9 prior to the final release of a stable version in the fall. Users who have already signed up on the Apple Beta Website 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.

Apple blocks App Store reviews from users running iOS betas

In a move sure to make app developers happy, Apple has blocked users running an iOS beta on their device from writing reviews in the App Store. Developers have been asking for the change because negative reviews from users enrolled in Apple’s Beta Software Program — based on an app’s inability to work with an obviously unsupported operating system — drags down the app’s overall rating and could hurt potential sales. Apple likely didn’t consider the issue a problem when developers were the only ones running a beta version of iOS, but with beta iOS versions being released to the public since March, it’s possible those less knowledgeable users don’t realize that many apps haven’t been designed to run with that software. Beta users trying to leave a review will now be met with a pop-up telling them that the feature isn’t available.

Notes from Apple’s Q3 2015 earnings call

Kicking off Apple’s conference call announcing its record-breaking numbers for Q3 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook reported that the company had its strongest June quarter ever, exceeding the high end of the company’s guidance by $1.6 billion and topping expectations for sales of the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch. A June quarter record was set for the iPhone with 35 percent growth, gains in marketshare in all geographic segments, and revenue up 59 percent in both developed and emerging markets. Cook also highlighted that this quarter had the highest switcher rate from Android that has yet been measured, and spoke about the iPhone’s continuing high customer satisfaction rate. The quarter also saw Apple pulling in revenue of $5 billion in services, with the App Store seeing its best quarter ever with 24 percent growth.

Cook went on to talk on the Apple Watch being a major highlight of the quarter, speaking on the initial launch of pre-orders in 9 countries on April 10th and the delayed retail availability due to demand exceeding supply by “a wide margin,” but noted that the Apple Watch has now expanded to a total of 19 countries currently and three more are expected to be added at the end of this month. Notably, however, Apple CFO Luca Maestri later stated that Apple will not be disclosing specific sales numbers of Apple Watch as they do not want to provide information “that would help [their] competitors.” Cook commented, however that Apple has received “incredibly positive” feedback from the Apple Watch, with a 97 percent customer satisfaction rate, and that Apple has been “very happy” with the usage statistics it is seeing for the wearable device. Cook went on to highlight how doctors and researches at leading hospitals in the U.S. and Europe are using the Apple Watch to improve patients’ lives in areas such as doctor-patient communication and patient health monitoring, and mentioned how the Apple Pay and Siri user experience on the Apple Watch is “nothing short of incredible” and noted that 8,500 third-party apps are now available for Apple Watch, stating “it’s a rare privilege to launch a new platform with such potential.”

Speaking about the launch of Apple Music on June 30th, Cook noted that customers and reviewers have loved the human curation features of Apple Music and how it’s helping people discover new music, with “millions and millions” of customers having signed up for the three-month trial period, and 15,000 artists on board to post on the new Connect service. Addressing the U.K. launch of Apple Pay, Cook noted over a quarter million of locations on day one, with credit and debit cards from the U.K.‘s most established banks, and highlighted how U.K. users can use Apple Pay for the London Underground, hoping it will become a model for other public transportation systems around the world. For Apple Pay in the U.S., Cook noted how the new Square reader coming this fall will bring Apple Pay to “even more neighborhood businesses” and how 80,000 small and medium sized businesses are being added every month. He also mentioned that American Express will be adding corporate card Apple Pay support next month, 700 universities and colleges will begin accepting Apple Pay this fall, and 1.5 million U.S. locations are expected to support Apple Pay by the end of 2015.

Apple Q3 2015: Record $49.6B revenue, 47.5M iPhones, 10.9M iPads

Apple reported its third quarter 2015 financial results today, with 47.5 million iPhones and 10.9 million iPads sold. The company posted quarterly revenue of $49.6 billion and quarterly net profit of $10.7 billion, or $1.85 per diluted share. In Q3 2014, Apple had revenue of $37.4 billion and net profit of $7.7 billion, or $1.28 per diluted share. Gross margin was 39.7 percent compared to 39.4 percent a year ago. International sales contributed to 64 percent of this quarter’s revenue.

For Q4 2015, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $49 billion and $51 billion, and gross margin between 38.5 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.

Home Sharing for Music returns in iOS 9 beta 4

After quietly dropping Home Sharing in iOS 8.4 and later tweeting that it would be working to bring it back in iOS 9, it appears that Apple has taken at least a partial step in this direction. iOS 9 beta 4, released earlier today, returns the Home Sharing option under Music in the iOS 9 Settings app, although the feature doesn’t yet appear to yet be implemented in the actual Music app. At this point, it remains unclear exactly how Home Sharing will be implemented in the new Music app and how it will interact with Apple Music and iCloud Music Library, but the appearance of this option in the latest beta suggests that Apple is at least working to address the omission.

Apple releases fourth iOS 9 beta to developers

Apple has released the fourth developer beta of iOS 9. Featuring a build number of 13A4305g, the fourth iOS 9 beta 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 13S5305d 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.

New fingerprint scanner tech could lead to Touch ID built into iPhone display

A newly introduced technology may soon make the dedicated fingerprint scanner in the iPhone’s home button obsolete, as Sonovation announced that it has created ultrasonic biometric sensors capable of reading fingerprints through Corning’s Gorilla Glass. Rumors have circulated about Apple looking to do away with the home button, and Sonovation claims to have developed the technology to make such a move possible — it’s unknown how far along Apple may be in developing its own version of such a method. Sonovation CTO Rainer Schmitt says the new scanners — bonded directly onto the glass display material — are “well suited for through-the-glass fingerprinting and specifically architected to deliver advanced security and ease-of-integration into mobile and IoT devices.” The company didn’t provide much in the way of details about how the new scanner works, but it claims 3D scanning can take place even when a finger is wet, dirty or oily without compromising accuracy. [via The Next Web]

Apple recruits another auto expert for rumored car project

The Wall Street Journal reports Apple has hired another major ex-auto industry executive, further fueling speculation about the company’s secretive car project. Doug Betts, who most recently led global quality for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, spent more than 20 years in the auto industry before landing at Apple this month. An update to Betts’ LinkedIn profile simply says he now works in “Operations” at Apple, but he joins more than 200 automotive industry experts hired by the company in recent months. While Apple has been tight-lipped about the project, this February sources claimed that the company is trying to produce a viable electric car by 2020. A settlement with vehicle battery manufacturer A123 Systems and the acquisition of GPS firm Coherent Navigation have also hinted at Apple assembling components to build a car. Earlier this year Apple hired noted autonomous vehicle researcher Paul Furgale and former Ford executive Steve Zadesky, but Betts could be the first executive to bring automotive manufacturing experience to the project. Both Apple and Betts declined to comment on the new hire.

Silcon Valley companies join Samsung in patent fight against Apple

Facebook, Google, Dell, HP, eBay and other Silicon Valley giants have joined forces against Apple, asking a judge to reconsider a ruling ordering Samsung to pay $548 million to Apple for infringing on the company’s hardware patents, Inside Sources reports. In a “friend of the court” briefing filed on July 1, the coalition said forcing a company to pay a portion of its profits for an entire line of smartphones or smart TVs — over a patent infringement on only one component out of the hundreds used in the device — would create a chilling effect on development in the industry. “Under the panel’s reasoning, the manufacturer of a smart television containing a component that infringed any single design patent could be required to pay in damages its total profit on the entire television, no matter how insignificant the design of the infringing feature was to the manufacturer’s profit or to consumer demand,” the group said.

In 2012, Samsung was found guilty of copying both the internal components and exterior look of the iPhone and ordered to pay more that $1 billion to Apple. A subsequent appeals ruling threw out the $382 million awarded to Apple for Samsung copying iPhone external design elements for its own Galaxy phones, but upheld all of the damages awarded over infringement on patents covering internal components. That left Samsung to pay the “total profit” to Apple, to make up for the potential iPhone profits lost to the competing product — and that worries other companies that see the potential for the decision to creep from hardware cases to those involving software products and online platforms. In June, Samsung asked for another review of the case on the grounds that letting the ruling stand would “invite overprotection and overcompensation for design patents,” but Apple has argued that the companies supporting Samsung – Google in particular, which owns the Android OS installed on Samsung’s Galaxy – have a direct stake in the fight and shouldn’t be viewed as objective observers. “Google has a strong interest in this particular case, is not an impartial ‘friend of the court,’ and should not be permitted to expand Samsung’s word limit under the guise of an amicus brief,” Apple told the court.

Apple and GSMA in talks to adopt embedded SIM technology

Apple is currently in discussions with the GSMA regarding moving to a standardized embedded SIM card in mobile devices, The Financial Times reports. The GSMA, which is an industry association responsible for developing GSM standards, has been working on an agreement among mobile operators to adopt a standardized embedded SIM card that would allow devices to more easily transition between different mobile networks. While all parties are said to be heading toward this “common architecture,” many of the technical specifications still need to be worked out, and mobile device manufacturers such as Apple would be under no obligation to adopt the new standard.

This initiative is separate from Apple’s own Apple SIM, which debuted last year for the latest iPad models. Those models still require a physical SIM card, but package a generic Apple version that can be activated on any participating carrier. The Apple SIM has received relatively limited adoption, with only a handful of carriers in the U.S. and one carrier in the U.K. supporting it. While Apple has declined to comment, the GSMA said it is “continuing to work with Apple to secure their support for the initiative” and that the organization is “optimistic” that a formal agreement can be reached. Apple reportedly pursued its own embedded SIM initiative about five years ago, with patents filed in 2010 and in 2013, although the idea failed to gain traction at the time as it was believed carriers feared Apple was trying to do an end-run around them.

Apple unveils new iPod touch, new nano and shuffle colors

Apple has rolled out its first major updates to the iPod since 2012, updating the iPod touch and adding new colors for the iPod nano and iPod shuffle. The new iPod touch has the same 4-inch screen size as its predecessor, but has also received a major iSight camera upgrade to 8MP to keep up with cameras in the iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2. The A8 64-bit chip will make for better speed in apps and improved graphics for gaming, while the addition of the M8 motion coprocessor from the iPhone will let the device track steps and other fitness-related information. Wireless capabilities also now include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1.The new iPod touch will likely come pre-loaded with iOS 8.4 and Apple Music, strengthening Apple’s push to get its new streaming service into as many hands as possible, and also features a 128GB model priced at $399, in addition to the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions, priced at $199, $249, and $299 respectively.

The updated iPod nano and iPod shuffle don’t get any internal improvements, but add new dark blue, pink and gold color options that are also available on the new iPod touch.

Apple releases iOS 8.4.1 beta to developers

Following the general release of iOS 8.4 to the public at the end of June, Apple has now released an iOS 8.4.1 beta to developers. The new beta features a build number of 12H304 with no release notes provided, although it seems likely that it addresses issues with Apple Music similar to yesterday’s iTunes 12.2.1 update along with any other new or unresolved issues from the iOS 8.4 public release.

Apple sued over iWatch trademark it doesn’t own

Apple is being sued for buying ad space on the Google results page delivered to users searching for the term “iWatch,” Bloomberg reports. Probendi, an Irish software developer, owns the iWatch trademark in Europe and has filed suit over Apple’s efforts to steer people typing that term into Google toward its Apple Watch website. Giacomo Bonelli, a lawyer for Probendi, said, “Apple never replied to our requests and objections, while Google said they are not responsible for links.” Right now, Probendi owns the name “iWatch,” which is estimated to be worth $97 million, but doesn’t have a product on which to attach it. Co-founder Daniele Di Salvo said the company’s plan to build a smartwatch that would be cheaper than the Apple Watch, run Android software and bear the iWatch name is “in standby.”

Neither Apple nor Google commented on the case. Google’s policy on the use of trademarks in its ad service says terms are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, with the company reserving the right to “enforce certain restrictions.” A hearing for the dispute is set for November 11.

Apple progressing in TV service negotiations, aiming for fall debut

Apple’s negotiations to add all four major broadcast networks to its proposed streaming TV service are gaining momentum, the New York Post reports. Sources say ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are close to gaining the rights to negotiate on behalf of affiliate stations to deliver local live TV feeds to users of Apple’s subscription TV service. Obtaining local programming has been a main goal for Apple to set the service apart from other cord-cutting options. Networks are reportedly offering affiliates like Tribune and Sinclair a cut of the profits to opt in and offer their feeds. Disney or CBS are expected to be first in line to sign a deal to anchor Apple’s TV bundle, but Apple’s insistence that TV partners give up 30 percent of the fee for subscriptions sold in the App Store is still a sticking point. Agreements already in place to prevent networks from charging some distributors less than others and details over the inclusion of cable channels like Discovery and ESPN are also still points of negotiation. Sources say Apple is still hoping to launch the service this fall despite holding off announcing the product at this year’s WWDC. “The platform is ready and it rocks,” a source told the Post.

Also of note in the report: Apple CEO Tim Cook and SVP Eddy Cue were recently spotted talking to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, leading some to speculate on an Apple TV “NFL offering.” Though completely speculative, it’s unclear what such an offering would be, considering the NFL’s new eight-year deal with DirecTV — that deal continues to give the satellite provider the exclusive right to air out-of-market NFL games.

Big pharma firms looking to integrate ResearchKit

GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s largest drug developers, is “currently working on integrating (ResearchKit) into clinical trials and planning to start in coming months,” Buzzfeed reports. GSK didn’t provide specifics on its plans, but Michelle Crouthamel, a project manager with the company’s Digital Platform Performance unit, said ResearchKit offers a chance “to improve patient engagement and data collection.” Purdue Pharma, another large drug developer, is also in the early stages of exploring possible uses for ResearchKit. Larry Pickett Jr., Purdue’s vice president, said his company has vetted the platform, but hasn’t committed to building an app to utilize it, nor has the company even determined what types of data they’re be interested in collecting.

While the apps developed so far using ResearchKit have come from non-profits and academic research centers, Apple’s Senior VP of Operations Jeff Williams says the company doesn’t limit who can use the platform in the name of medical advancements. ““We’re open to working with anybody that is going to make an impact on people’s health,” he said. “So we’ve made ResearchKit open-source so Apple won’t even control who uses it. We will control what we put on our App Store, but we won’t control who uses it.” Even so, not all big pharmaceutical companies have obvious interest in ResearchKit’s capabilities — Gilead Sciences and Pfizer both confirmed they have no current plans to use the platform.

Apple’s cut of streaming music rivals’ profits sparks antitrust inquiry

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into whether Apple’s cut of profits taken from rival streaming music apps violates antitrust laws, Reuters reports. Apple takes 30 percent of the $10/month subscriptions sold through iOS apps for streaming music competitors like Jango, Spotify, Rhapsody and others, leading those companies to complain that the higher-than-normal cut Apple takes forces them to charge more than they do on other platforms or see their profit margins eroded. Raising the price would mean making streaming subscriptions for competing music apps more expensive than Apple Music’s $10/month fee. Rivals could deny Apple its cut if users signed up for music subscriptions through their web browser instead of in-app, but Apple’s terms of service specifically prohibit advertising the app’s availability from other sources or linking to the company’s website from the app. These policies are more stringent than the ones Google places on app makers, and three industry sources said the FTC is looking at whether Apple’s tighter rules break any laws, but hasn’t the commission hasn’t yet started a formal investigation. Neither the FTC nor Apple commented on the issue.

Apple releases iOS 9 public beta

Apple has released the public beta of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan in its new iOS Public Beta program that began earlier this year. Originally announced at WWDC, the public beta of iOS 9 will allow non-developers to preview an early version of iOS 9 prior to the final release of a stable version in the fall. Users who have already signed up on the Apple Beta Website 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.

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