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Developers pushing back against abusers of Apple’s App Store refund policy

Apple’s full control of its App Store refund policy has drawn the ire of developers who say the company is allowing users to abuse loopholes to cheat them, The Korea Times reports. Apple independently determines whether customers get refunds, with developers unable to even obtain information about users that receive the refunds. That forces developers to track down users manually to ensure they’re not still using the content for which they’ve received refunds. The disconnect has allowed unscrupulous users to buy paid content multiple times, request refunds, and then continue using the content without paying for it.

Apple lobbies for shared data, more public road access to test autonomous driving systems

In a letter to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Apple has expressed interest in cooperating with other companies to accelerate development of its autonomous driving technology, VentureBeat reports. Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity, sent the letter to advocate for a data-sharing program that would let companies swap “de-identified scenario and dynamics data from crashes and near-misses” while still maintaining the privacy that the company so closely guards. In the letter Kenner admits, “The company is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”

Apple Store app update allows purchases from Apple Watch

Apple has released an update to the Apple Store app, adding the ability for users to purchase accessories directly from their Apple Watch, as well as support for iOS 10 rich notifications. The Apple Watch app doesn’t yet provide access to the full Apple Store catalog, so users will be limited to purchasing accessories that they’ve already marked as favorites from the iOS app or Apple Store web page, and will need to pay using Apple Pay. As with other features in the Apple Store app, Apple notes that not all features may be available in all countries, so it’s unclear where Apple Watch accessory purchases will be available, or whether only certain products are eligible.

Apple releases fifth beta of iOS 10.2 to developers

Apple has released a fifth beta of iOS 10.2 to developers today, focused primarily on resolving issues with the new TV app expected to debut later this month. Notably, this latest beta release does not appear to be accompanied by corresponding tvOS or watchOS beta updates.

Apple reveals cause of unexpected iPhone 6s shutdowns

In a statement on its Chinese language website, Apple has revealed the source of the battery problem that has been causing iPhone 6s devices to shut down unexpectedly when the battery reaches 30 percent. “We found that a small number of iPhone 6s devices made in September and October 2015 contained a battery component that was exposed to controlled ambient air longer than it should have been before being assembled into battery packs,” Apple wrote. “As a result, these batteries degrade faster than a normal battery and cause unexpected shutdowns to occur.”

Report: 99 percent of fake Apple chargers found to be unsafe

Photo: BBC

Investigators have found that 99 percent of fake Apple chargers sold online failed a basic safety test, the BBC reports. Safety specialists UL tested 400 counterfeit chargers bought from 8 countries—including the U.S., China and Australia—and found that only three had enough insulation to guard against electric shocks. Trading Standards, the group that commissioned the study, warned buyers to be wary of chargers that don’t seem to fit easily into a socket or don’t bear a manufacturer’s logo and safety certification mark. They also warned that some safety markings are being faked, recommending that buyers check to see if their charger comes with instructions that include conditions for proper use, basic electrical safety advice, and details about how to dispose of the device safely. Apple is currently suing one third-party vendor that the company said put customers “at risk” with its counterfeit power adapters on Amazon.

Apple offering battery replacements for iPhone 6s models with ‘unexpected shutdown issues’ (Updated)

Apple is offering free battery replacements for some iPhone 6s users whose phones are unexpectedly shutting down. The program is limited to certain devices manufactured from September to October 2015, and phones are subject to an inspection prior to the repair to make sure the serial number is within the correct range. Customers can contact Apple technical support, an Apple retail store or an authorized Apple service provider to find out of their phone is eligible for the repair. Owners of an iPhone 6s who have paid to replace their battery to remedy the shut down problem are also urged to contact Apple about a possible refund. Before customers take their phone in for service, Apple recommends backing up all personal data.

Update: Apple has added a serial number checker to the program page, allowing users who suspect they may be affected by this problem to enter their iPhone 6s serial number online to see if their device is eligible for replacement under the program.

Report: Fitbit to acquire Pebble

Fitbit is putting the final touches on a deal to acquire Pebble, according to a report from The Information (via TechCrunch). The original report indicates that Fitbit will be paying a “small amount” for the well-known smart watch maker, which has been struggling recently with a downturn in investments that forced it to cut its staff by 25 percent earlier this year. The Information also indicates that the deal is more about Fitbit acquiring Pebble’s intellectual property and software assets, rather than the product itself, noting that Pebble and its products would be “closed down over time.”

Apple releases statement on iCloud Calendar spam

Apple has issued a statement in response to a problem that many iCloud users — including members of our iLounge team — have experienced in recent weeks, with spam being sent via iCloud calendar invitations. Spammers have been exploiting the fact that iCloud calendar invitations are sent via a dedicated iCloud communications channel that, unlike email, doesn’t presently include any anti-spam filters. In a statement tweeted by Rene Ritchie, Apple apologized, noting that some users are experiencing the problem. The company is working to address it by identifying and blocking the culprits, and working to filter the invites themselves.

In the meantime, users can work around this problem by logging into their web-based iCloud account online at iCloud.com, going to the Advanced tab in Calendar preferences, and opting to receive event invitations as email messages rather than in-app notifications, where email-based anti-spam filters will likely have better success at catching the bogus calendar invites.

Apple sending out drones to improve Maps data, adding interior building maps

Apple is planning on sending out airborne drones in the U.S. to improve data for its Maps application, Bloomberg reports. The company is also developing indoor mapping features for public buildings such as airports and museums. Apple applied for an FAA exemption in late 2015 that would allow it to fly drones for commercial purposes, and received approval earlier this year. The company has reportedly been putting together robotics and data collection experts to get the program underway. Drones would allow Apple to update map information much more quickly than the ground-based vehicles the company is currently using. Sources indicate that drones would examine street signs, track changes to roads, and monitor construction zones, with data fed back to Apple teams for rapid updates to the database behind the Maps app. Interestingly, the report also reveals that Apple has hired at least one person from Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery division to help run the drone team, which is being assembled in Seattle — where Amazon’s headquarters is also located.

Tim Cook allegedly tells customer AirPods to ship in ‘next few weeks’

In an email reply to a frustrated customer, Tim Cook has given a hint to when Apple’s AirPods will ship, MacRumors reports. In response to the customer complaint that he can’t charge his iPhone while listening to music, Cook allegedly wrote in regards to AirPods, “Sorry for the delay—-we are finalizing them and I anticipate we will begin to ship over the next few weeks.” MacRumors seems to believe the email is legit, but Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment. The wireless earbuds were supposed to be released in late October, but were delayed after the company determined they needed “a little more time” to get them ready. Retailers have expected release dates all over the place between December and January, but Apple’s site still shows them as unavailable and “coming soon.”

Apple Pay reportedly launching in Spain tomorrow

Sources at Banco Santander are claiming that Apple Pay will launch in Spain tomorrow, Spanish site Applesfera reports. Santander customers in the UK can already use the mobile payment service, and barring any unforeseen difficulties, sources at the bank said a public announcement about the launch in Spain will be made tomorrow morning. Apple Pay had a rocky start during its recent launch in Japan and is still not available in Germany despite rumors that it would arrive last month. [via 9to5Mac]

Netflix enables offline viewing for some shows and movies on its iOS app

Netflix is now allowing customers to download certain content through their iOS app for offline viewing. Not everything is available for download—with even the Netflix original season of “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” not making the cut yet—but fan favorites like “Stranger Things,” “Narcos,” and “Orange Is the New Black” are among the early offerings, along with a number of films. Movies and shows available for offline viewing will have a “download” button on the details page, and video can be downloaded in standard or high quality, depending on how much space you want to use on your device.

Apple adds four new items to (PRODUCT)RED lineup, games get custom content for World AIDS Day

Apple has announced it is taking part in the (RED) charity fundraiser to combat AIDS for the 10th straight year. Apple is adding four new products to its (PRODUCT)RED lineup, offering an iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case, iPhone SE Case, Beats Solo 3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones and Beats Pill+ Portable Speaker. All of the new products are available starting today. Apple is also donating a dollar to the cause for every purchase made with Apple Pay at the Apple Store, on the company’s website or through the Apple Store app, all the way up to $1 million.

Report shows Apple interested in heart monitoring hardware

Emails obtained by MobiHealthNews show Apple has been meeting with the FDA since July about two cardiac monitoring products. In the messages, Apple lawyer Robin Goldstein discussed “an introductory meeting where we will want to talk about two possible (and related) products in the cardiac space, as well as the associated regulatory and quality systems and requirements.” The emails don’t contain any information about the products, but the company recently patented a wearable electrocardiographic health device that could have been part of the discussion. CEO Tim Cook has hinted at ambitious plans for Apple in the health field, admitting that the scope of his vision might require devices other than the Apple Watch. Goldstein ‘s exchanges with FDA Associate Center Director for Digital Health Bakul Patel show a concern on Apple’s part about keeping the discussion private, with Goldstein at one point asking to cancel a larger gathering in favor of “a smaller meeting to discuss how Apple may engage with the FDA in a way that’s ‘non-regulatory’ so we can learn about your processes and thinking, and vice versa.”

Apple wins initial victory against Australian banks in Apple Pay fight

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a preliminary ruling against a group of Australian banks who wanted Apple to open up the iPhone’s NFC controller for use with their mobile payment systems. The banks had asked for the right to collectively bargain with Apple to negotiate for access to the iOS platform and for the ability to pass Apple Pay fees on to the service’s users, but in the draft determination, Chairman Rod Sims said, “While the ACCC accepts that the opportunity for the banks to collectively negotiate and boycott would place them in a better bargaining position with Apple, the benefits are currently uncertain and may be limited.”

Apple releases fourth betas of iOS 10.2, watchOS 3.1.1 to developers

Apple has seeded the fourth betas of iOS 10.2 and watchOS 3.1.1 to developers today. It’s now likely that iOS 10.2 will get its full public release soon, possibly next week. We’ll update with any noteworthy findings from the betas.

WSJ: Apple weighing cost of OLED iPhone, considering ‘more than 10 prototypes’

Apple is asking suppliers to scale up their production of OLED displays and submit samples for a curved-screen iPhone that could debut next year, The Wall Street Journal reports. But people familiar with the discussions said the OLED iPhone is far from a done deal, claiming the model is just one of more than 10 prototypes under consideration, and that there are growing concerns that the cost of the new screen might outweigh the benefits. Analysts think an OLED iPhone could cost up to $50 more to produce, and while the screens are thinner and more flexible than traditional LCD displays, other rigid internal components make it unlikely that the screen’s bendability will make much of a difference. Sharp President Tai Jeng-wu seemed confident that Apple would use OLED screens in at least some iPhone models next year during a speech last month, but isn’t bullish on the move being a game changer, saying, “We will make sample OLED screens, but I can’t see them having the potential to become a big market.”

Rumor: iPad Pro to ditch bezels, making 10.9” screen fit in current 9.7” size

Apple’s next iPad Pro release will feature a mostly bezel-less 10.9” model that’s the same size as the current 9.7” version, according to Macotakara. An “informed source in Taiwan” said that bezel will remain in the top portion of the device—where the FaceTime camera is located—but will be eliminated along the sides and the bottom, displacing the home button entirely. The source said the new tablet will also expand to 7.5mm in thickness, up from the current 6.1mm. The source predicts the larger iPad Pro will increase in thickness as well, and doubled down on its previous claim that Apple will release a third, smaller iPad Pro in the current iPad mini size. Rumors about Apple eliminating the bezels in its next iPhone to increase screen size have been floating around for some time, so it’s not impossible that the company is doing the same for its iPads, but we’d be a bit surprised to see such a dramatic redesign introduced in the iPad first.

Apple Black Friday deals kick off in U.S. and Canada

As expected, Apple has launched its Black Friday promotions in U.S. and Canadian Apple Stores, once again offering gift cards in place of discounts, as the company has done over the past few years. Apple is including a $150 gift card for customers purchasing a Mac, $100 for the iPad Pro, $50 for the iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE, and $25 Apple Watch Series 1, and fourth-generation Apple TV. Notably, Apple’s most recent product releases — such as the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Apple Watch Series 2, and new MacBook Pro models — are not eligible for the gift card promotion, and refurbished and educationally-priced products do not qualify.

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