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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: Apple’s video strategy has Hollywood confused

Apple recently tried to work out an exclusive video deal with Chris Rock, but walked away from the discussions and let the comedian’s two stand-up specials go to Netflix instead, The Information reports. This latest chapter in Apple’s scattered efforts to acquire exclusive video content has added to the confusion in Hollywood over what types of media Apple has an interest in acquiring. The company has been working aggressively to land movies for iTunes—most recently securing the rights to offer Michael Moore’s “TrumpLand” earlier than other online providers—and has picked up shows like “Carpool Karaoke” that fit into its strategy for promoting Apple Music. But after meeting with TV producers and movie studios about developing original content for iTunes, Eddy Cue was quoted as saying Apple is “not in the business of trying to create TV shows,” adding that the company is more interested in offering suggestions and guidance. Apple is refusing to commit the large sums of money necessary to compete with streaming rivals like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, leading analysts to worry the company’s hesitation “could stymie Apple’s ability to increase market share for its streaming video device, the Apple TV, and lock more people into the Apple ecosystem.” [via MacRumors]

Report: Apple acquired technology, employees from streaming music startup

When streaming music startup Omnifone went bankrupt this summer, Apple acquired some of the company’s technology and at least 16 of its employees, TechCrunch reports. Apple was initially rumored to be acquiring Omnifone in June, and 16 of the company’s London-based employees have since changed their LinkedIn status to show they’re now working at Apple. Omniphone still owns over 50 patents related to streaming, downloading and digital media identification, but it’s unclear how many of those — if any — Apple has acquired. A source claims some of that technology found its way into Apple Music and iTunes, and the employees who joined Apple from Omnifone include engineers now working in iTunes and apps. Apple declined to comment on the story.

Apple releases iTunes 12.5.3

Apple has released iTunes 12.5.3, fixing an issue where albums play in an unexpected order, resolving problems that kept lyrics from displaying while listening to Beats 1, and making other minor bug fixes. Yesterday, Apple also released iOS 10.1.1 and beta versions of iOS 10.2, tvOS 10.1 and watchOS 3.1.1.

Apple moving $9 billion in assets to Ireland

Despite a bitter legal fight over its tax agreements, Apple is moving even more assets to Ireland, The Business Post reports. The company has relocated its international iTunes business to a data center in Hollyhill, Ireland from its current location in Luxembourg. The Hollyhill facility will now manage “iTunes business and content stores for more than 100 countries,” amounting to an estimated $9 billion in assets. Apple has been clear that it remains committed to doing business in Ireland even as it fights a ruling from the European Union that ordered the company to pay Ireland $14.5 billion in back taxes. [via Apple Insider]

Apple launches Spoken Editions of popular websites

After a quick test last month, Apple has officially launched its new Spoken Editions section under the podcasts heading in iTunes. Users can now get a spoken-word version of news updates from media companies like Time, Reuters, Slate, Wired, Mic, Bustle, Jezebel, and the Huffington Post. Apple’s simple pitch for the section targets people too busy to read their favorite websites each morning, offering narrated versions of the stories for those on the go. Providers are divided into categories that cover breaking news, politics, LGBT and racial issues, pop culture, lifestyle, business, and technology.

Apple to offer ‘Spoken Editions’ of written content from top publishers

Apple will soon offer “Spoken Editions” of written content from some publishers through iTunes, TechCrunch reports. Early versions of podcasts branded Spoken Editions from brands like Time, Wired, and Forbes have begun appearing on iTunes, offering users the ability to get the written news delivered in audio form so they can listen while doing other things.

Apple releases iTunes 12.5.1

Following the public release of iOS 10 today, Apple has also released iTunes 12.5.1, updating the design of Apple Music to match the new iOS 10 Apple Music app design, adding support for iOS 10 itself, and incorporating support for Siri and picture-in-picture video in macOS Sierra. iTunes 12.5.1 is available for download from Apple’s iTunes Download Page or via a software update in the macOS App Store.

Apple offering 10-movie bundles for $10 today to celebrate iTunes Movies’ 10th anniversary

Apple took to Twitter to announce the news that for today only, iTunes is offering six 10-movie bundles for $10 each to celebrate the 10th anniversary of iTunes Movies. The bundles are arranged by studio, with pre-selected movies from Sony, Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Lionsgate grouped together for purchase. You can view which movies are included in each bundle on iTunes.

Apple releases iOS 9.3.5 ‘security update’

Apple has released iOS 9.3.5, its third minor update in the past six weeks, coming only a little more than three weeks on the heels of the release of iOS 9.3.4. As with the prior release, the latest update appears to be another minor patch, with release notes merely describing it once again as “an important security update” that is recommended for all iOS 9 users. With iOS 10 expected to debut in the near future, iOS 9 updates will likely be limited to security patches such as these to accommodate older devices incapable of being updated to iOS 10.

Apple releases iOS 9.3.4 ‘security update’

Apple has released iOS 9.3.4, a minor update that comes a little more than two weeks following the release of iOS 9.3.3, and purports to fix at least one security issue with the release notes merely describing it as “an important security update” that is recommended for all iOS 9 users. With iOS 10 expected to debut in the next six to eight weeks, future iOS 9 updates will likely be limited to security patches such as these to accommodate older devices incapable of being updated to iOS 10.

Apple releases iTunes 12.4.3 to fix playlist sync bug

Only two weeks after the release of iTunes 12.4.2, Apple has released iTunes 12.4.3, a minor update intended to address a specific bug that caused changes made to playlists on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to not synchronize back to iTunes. Earlier this month, iTunes 12.5 also began appearing for users running the macOS Sierra developer and public betas, appearing mostly to add support for optimization features in macOS Sierra and Apple Music features in iOS 10; it’s unclear if the playlist syncing bug has been fixed in the iTunes 12.5 betas or not.

Apple bringing full iTunes Match capabilities to Apple Music subscribers

Apple is in the process of rolling out the more sophisticated audio fingerprint capabilities from its iTunes Match service to all Apple Music subscribers, according a new post by Jim Dalrymple of The Loop. Although Apple Music provides the ability to integrate a user’s own iTunes library tracks into a cloud-based “iCloud Music Library,” as Dalrymple’s post explains the matching capabilities of the Apple Music service have been limited in comparison to Apple’s $25/year iTunes Match service, meaning that users who subscribed only to Apple Music without also paying for an iTunes Match subscription were stuck with a “metadata version of iTunes Match” which relied on track information rather than acoustic fingerprinting to match a user’s own tracks with Apple Music’s collection, resulting in significantly less accurate results, such as live versions of songs being replaced by studio versions.

Apple releases iOS 9.3.3, watchOS 2.2.2, tvOS 9.2.2, iTunes 12.4.2

Apple released a big set of of updates yesterday afternoon, as iOS 9.3.3, watchOS 2.2.2, tvOS 9.2.2, and iTunes 12.4.2 were all launched to the general public. The updates mostly contain bug fixes and minor enhancements, but the iTunes update resolves a playback issue with short Apple Music songs in your Up Next queue. The updates are currently available. We’ll add to this piece this afternoon if there are any other major findings.

Rumor: Apple making longterm plans to retire music downloads? (Update: Source doubles down)

Apple has been making plans to completely eliminate music downloads on the iTunes Store, according to a new report from Digital Music News. Sources “with close and active business relationships with Apple” have told Digital Music News that the company is actively considering a two-year termination timetable, and discussions within Apple have begun focusing on not if purchased music downloads should be retired for good, but rather when it’s going to happen. A range of shutdown timetables are apparently being considered by Apple, with executives suggesting that the company no longer expects to run the service indefinitely, although it may ride out iTunes music sales for a few more years until paid music downloads are eclipsed by “a streaming-dominated industry.”

While it’s unclear exactly why Apple would want to kill off a profitable business market — music industry analysts expect that iTunes music download revenue will still be around $600 million in 2019 — there may be concerns within Apple that the availability of digital download sales are limiting the success of the Apple Music streaming service by providing iTunes and iOS users with options, and that the overlap between Apple Music and the iTunes Store is creating product confusion, both in terms of purchasing products and in the combination of other overlapping services such as iCloud Music Library and iTunes Match. Further, despite the revenue from digital music sales, analysts suggest that music purchases in this form are in rapid decline, dropping by 15 to 30 percent year-over-year, suggesting that Apple may be planning a proactive exit strategy in a world that’s moving progressively more toward streaming services.

Update: A two-word refutation from Apple, as spokesman Tom Neumayr told Re/code that the report is simply “not true.”

Update 2, 6/8/16: Digital Music News is standing firm with its 2-3 year timeframe for Apple phasing out iTunes downloads, saying that sources with knowledge of the company’s plans are still adamant despite public denials. The site claims music downloads have entered a “free fall” this year and the decision to finally pull the plug on music download sales will depend on how sharply sales decline, how quickly streaming accelerates and the internal politics at Apple. It’s interesting that the site is doubling down despite Apple’s firm denial after the initial report was released — there’s a good possibility that factions inside Apple may be split on this issue.

NBC Sports Radio now available in Music app

A live stream from NBC Sports Radio is now available for free through the iOS Music app or iTunes. The station joins NPR and BBC World Service as free listening options for Apple users and includes sports talk personalities like Mike Florio, Chris Mannix, Amani Toomer and Rodney Harrison. The update comes ahead of a rumored overhaul of Apple Music expected to be unveiled at WWDC. [via Apple Insider]

Apple releases iTunes 12.4.1

Less than a month after the release of iTunes 12.4, Apple has pushed out iTunes 12.4.1, a minor maintenance update that addresses a number of problems with VoiceOver, restores the option to Reset Plays, and fixes issues with Up Next playing songs in the incorrect order and crossfading between songs. The update is available for direct download from www.iTunes.com or via Apple’s Software Update tools.

Apple engineers visit musician’s home, are stumped by iTunes deletions

After going public with his gripe about Apple Music deleting 122 GB of music off his personal computer, musician James Pinkstone added a new blog entry detailing what happened when Apple sent two engineers to his house to investigate the issue. Running a special version of iTunes designed to document any further mass deletions, the engineers spent hours troubleshooting but weren’t able to replicate the issue. Of particular concern was that there is no pattern to what was deleted, with files of all types, sizes and genres suddenly disappearing.

Apple releases iOS 9.3.2, watchOS 2.2.1, tvOS 9.2.1, iTunes 12.4

Apple has released a whole slew of updates this afternoon, as iOS 9.3.2, watchOS 2.2.1, tvOS 9.2.1, and iTunes 12.4 have all been launched to the general public. The updates are mostly made of bug fixes and minor enhancements, but as alluded to last week, a few design and navigation tweaks have been made to iTunes. Also, the iOS update fixes a Bluetooth audio quality issue with the iPhone SE. The updates are currently available. We’ll add to this piece this afternoon if there are any other major findings.

Apple scrambles to fix bug deleting some users’ iTunes music

Apple has confirmed that an iTunes bug has delete locally stored music from some users’ libraries and said the company is working on a fix, iMore reports. Last week a blog entry from one Apple Music user claimed 122 GB of personal music files had suddenly gone missing from his computer. The post led to speculation that confusion over the “Remove Download” and “Delete Song” options in Apple Music had led the user to accidentally delete his songs across all devices when he had only intended to clear them off a secondary device, but an Apple spokesman later confirmed, “In an extremely small number of cases users have reported that music files saved on their computer were removed without their permission. We’re taking these reports seriously as we know how important music is to our customers and our teams are focused on identifying the cause.”

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