Only six months after Apple began selling iBooks and iTunes Movies in China, the company has now been ordered by a Chinese Government agency to shut down sales, The New York Times reports. Although Apple originally had the Chinese government’s approval to introduce the services, a government regulatory agency — the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television — stepped in last week and demanded the services be shut down. While Apple has been unusually successful in introducing new products into the Chinese market, this about-face could be a sign of future problems brewing in China, which is Apple’s second-largest market.
Apple has published a Report on Government Information Requests covering how it handled demands for information from law enforcement agencies received during the second half of 2015. The company said the “vast majority” of those requests were for information about lost or stolen devices, about which Apple complied 80 percent of the time within the United States. Totals outside the U.S. fluctuated between 52 and 80 percent.
Apple has announced that it will be ending the iTunes Allowance program as of May 25, 2016. The allowance feature, which has been available on the iTunes Store for over a decade, was designed to allow parents to setup iTunes Store accounts for their children and automatically add a fixed amount of credit to the account each month. Apple has suggested that users instead move to the new Family Sharing feature debuted in iOS 8, which allows purchases by children on a shared family account to require approval by a parent on an item-by-item basis. Users can also still send iTunes Gifts electronically, either as a dollar amount or for specific items, and of course traditional iTunes Store Gift Cards remain an option as well. Apple notes that users will not be able to create new iTunes Allowances as of April 13, 2016, and existing allowances will automatically be cancelled as of May 25, 2016, with any unused credit remaining in the recipient’s account until it’s used, in the same manner as credit from an iTunes Gift or Gift Card.
Apple has been migrating more of its cloud computing to Google, but a new report from The Information claims the company is aiming to create its own extensive set of data centers and servers to bring all of its cloud services in-house. Last week CRN reported Apple has quietly been moving much of its cloud computing to the Google Cloud Platform and away from Amazon Web Services, whose infrastructure it uses to run online services like iCloud. Anonymous sources said Apple is now spending between $400 million and $600 million on Google’s services after becoming dissatisfied with AWS being unable to quickly load photos and videos on users’ iOS devices.
After a rocky rollout, disappointing box office returns and pointed criticism from those who knew the Apple founder best, Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs biopic is available on Blu-ray and DVD today. The film, which traces Jobs’ life alongside three of his most iconic product launches, met with mostly positive reviews and garnered Academy Award nominations for stars Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet, but never really caught on with the general movie-going audience and was pulled from theaters after two weeks. Despite ruffling plenty of feathers at Apple, the movie arrived on iTunes today, though with no promotion or fanfare.
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.
Apple is planning to introduce higher-resolution audio in 2016, according to Macotakara. The Japanese blog claims Apple’s own Hi-Res Audio would be 96kHz/24-bit quality. The updated audio option could come to iTunes and possibly Apple Music this year, but we must note this has been rumored for some time — a similar report from the same source surfaced in May 2014. There’s also some debate about how much of an advantage higher bit-rate audio would make for most listeners. This report also claims third-party companies are preparing more Lightning audio products for 2016, as it’s been rumored that Apple could drop the standard headphone jack from the iPhone 7, forcing listeners to use Lightning-based or Bluetooth audio options.
Apple has released iTunes 12.3.2, a minor update that adds the Apple Music enhancements related to browsing for Classical music that appeared in iOS 9.2 earlier this week — specifically the ability to see works, composers, and performers while browsing through Classical music in the Apple Music catalog. The new version also includes the usual stability and performance improvements. iTunes 12.3.2 is available as a software update in the Mac App Store, or as a direct download from iTunes.com.
After reports of multiple users being able to go over the old limit of 25,000 songs in their iTunes Match or iCloud Music Libraries, Eddy Cue confirmed Apple has “started rolling out support for 100k libraries,” MacRumors reports. When Apple Music launched in June, Cue promised Apple was working on raising the limit to accommodate larger libraries. Several users have documented pushing past the 25,000 song mark, but Apple still hasn’t updated its support page or made a public announcement, so it’s unclear how many users have access to the extra capacity and when the rollout will be complete.
The U.K. Intellectual Property Office has officially abandoned a private-copying exemption that made it legal for users to back up their music, putting a spotlight on possible problems ahead for Apple Music and iTunes Match users in the country, 1709 reports. The exemption was put in place last year to protect users backing up their own legally purchased music from the punishments faced by those pirating music online. The IPO’s decision not to submit a revised version after the U.K.‘s high court ruled against the exemption leaves U.K. users to wonder if their music libraries stored on personal devices or the cloud are still legal. While it’s unlikely that individual users will be prosecuted for backing up their music under the existing law, Apple will need to reevaluate the terms on which it offers many services since things like copying tracks into a user’s iTunes Match library or making songs in Apple Music available for offline listening now seem to violate U.K. law. [via Gizmodo]
Germany’s Federal Cartel Office is investigating Apple’s agreement for distributing audiobooks from Amazon, Reuters reports. The inquiry comes a little more than a month after Apple rid itself of a court-appointed antitrust monitor put in place by a 2013 ruling over the company’s conspiracy with publishers to fix e-book prices. The German investigation focuses on Apple’s long-term agreement to sell audiobooks from Amazon’s Audible business through iTunes. “The two companies have a strong position in the digital offering of audiobooks in Germany. Therefore, we feel compelled to examine the agreement between these two competitors in the audiobooks in more detail,” cartel office chief Andreas Mundt said in the statement. Both Apple and Amazon declined to comment.
Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue said Apple is working to increase the limit on iTunes Match from 25,000 songs to 100,000 songs “before the end of the year,” MacRumors reports. The $25/year service lets users upload their entire iTunes music library to the cloud, making all of their songs available on other devices using the same Apple ID. Since its debut, iTunes Match has been limited to a total of 25,000 tracks (although tracks purchased from the iTunes Store do not count against that limit). In June, Cue teased an upgrade to a 100,000 song capacity possibly arriving with iOS 9, but iOS 9 debuted in September with no update to iTunes Match’s maximum library size.
Only a week after the last iOS 9.1 beta was released, Apple has now posted a third beta of iOS 9.1 for registered iOS developers. As with the prior beta, iOS 9.1 appears to be primarily focused on adding developer-level enhancements for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, for features such as 3D Touch and Live Photos. This latest beta focuses mostly on fixing a number of issues from the prior beta. Registered iOS developers can download the iOS 9.1 beta from Apple’s Developer site; a public version of the beta will likely be coming soon.
Apple has released iOS 9.0.2, the second minor maintenance update since the release of iOS 9 two weeks ago. This latest update fixes problems with turning cellular data usage on or off on a per-app basis, iMessage activation, iCloud backups, screen rotation when receiving notifications, and Podcast app stability. The iOS 9.0.2 update is available over the air via General, Software Updates in the iOS Settings app.
Apple announced that Apple Music, iTunes movies and iBooks are available in China starting today. The company pointed to offerings from Chinese artists like Eason Chan, Li Ronghao, JJ Lin and G.E.M. as well as international superstars like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran in pitching Apple Music to China’s users, promising playlists and radio stations tailored to the Chinese audience. Apple also emphasized the availability of movies from Chinese studios alongside Hollywood blockbusters in iTunes, making the best of both worlds available for rent or purchase. China’s user base gets access to paid and free offerings from iBooks as well, with Apple touting that its customers in China will finally have “access to Apple’s entertainment ecosystem with music, movies and books right at their fingertips.” Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue said China has become the largest market in the world for app downloads, and with China making up a large portion of Apple’s record-breaking 13 million iPhone sales last weekend, that pace shows no signs of slowing. Those users adopting Apple Music in China will get the same three-month free trial that American users enjoyed, then be charged 10 RMB per month for a single subscription or 15 RMB per month for a family subscription that covers up to six family members. On iTunes, new release HD movies will cost 5 RMB to rent or 18 RMB to buy, and iBooks will start at 0.5 RMB.
Apple has released iOS 9.0.1, a minor maintenance update that fixes issues with the setup assistant, alarms and timers sometimes failing to play, video problems in Safari and Photos, and custom APN setups via external profiles. The iOS 9.0.1 update is available over the air under General, Software Updates in the iOS Settings app.
The second beta of iOS 9.1 has also been released for registered iOS developers, continuing the development of the next iOS update to add developer-level enhancements for the upcoming iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models. Registered iOS developers can download the iOS 9.1 beta from Apple’s Developer site.
Update (Sept. 24): Apple has now also released the same iOS 9.1 beta 2 as a public beta.
Apple has released iTunes 12.3, which addresses several issues with Apple Music support and enables two-factor authentication security. This latest release specifically notes fixes for Apple Music and VoiceOver support, reordering songs in Up Next, radio stations appearing in Recently Played, and syncing of Loved songs between iOS and iTunes. iTunes 12.3 is now available as a software update in the Mac App Store, or as a direct download from iTunes.com.
Speaking to The Guardian, Apple has admitted that it still has “homework to be done” on the Apple Music service. Oliver Schusser, the vice president of iTunes International, told the Guardian that a lot of work is still being put into improving the service, with “teams all around the world” focusing on editorial and playlists, but also adding features and “cleaning up certain things.” When asked about usability criticisms that have been levied against the service, Schusser reiterated that the service remains a priority for Apple, noting that it was a very big launch and they’re getting a “ton of feedback” but are “obviously trying to make it better every day.” Schusser also confirmed that Apple remains on track to launch Apple Music for Android devices and Sonos players this fall.
Schusser also stated that the download business has been “really, really healthy,” and iTunes continues to be a big part of Apple’s business on which they are still focused, as well. Dr. Dre’s recent release of “Compton: A Soundtrack Album” was streamed 25 million times in its first week, however, it still sold nearly 500,000 iTunes downloads in the same time frame. Schusser holds up Compton as a “really good example of how streaming and downloads can be successful side-by-side,” stated that they’ve proven “when there’s great content, customers will buy as well as listen.”
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.
Dr. Dre shocked fans on Saturday, announcing during his Beats 1 show “The Pharmacy” that his new — and reportedly final — album will be released exclusively on iTunes and Apple Music this Friday, August 7. The rap icon said he secretly recorded the album after being inspired during the filming of the upcoming N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton.” “I was leaving the set, coming to the studio, and I felt myself just being so inspired by the movie that I started recording an album,” Dre said during the show. “And I kept it under wraps. And the album is finished.” The album, titled “Compton: A Soundtrack,” is available for pre-order on iTunes and features appearances by Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. This is the first album released by the rapper since 1999’s “2001,” and during the Beats 1 show Dre addressed why he never released the much-anticipated album “Detox,” saying simply that it “just wasn’t good” and it wouldn’t have been fair to release it to his fans. He is clearly more excited about his upcoming offering, saying, “All my friends came in and we all came together to build this thing. It’s going to be my grand finale.” [via Billboard]