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Report: iPhone 7 Plus to sport dual-camera system, optical zoom

A new report from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo at KGI Securities is suggesting that the iPhone 7 Plus will include a dual-camera system that would incorporate two distinct lenses to create higher quality photos. The new system would reportedly incorporate the Linx camera technology that Apple acquired last year, allowing Apple to use smaller camera sensors to get the same or better results as the cameras in current iPhone models. Kuo’s report also suggests that the Plus will feature a 2-3x optical zoom. Notably, the report states that not only will the standard iPhone 7 not include the new technology, but suggests that it may not even be available on all iPhone 7 Plus models, instead being reserved for specific versions of the device — basically a “premium” model that would include the advanced camera system. [via 9to5Mac]

Notes from Apple’s Q1 2016 earnings call

Kicking off Apple’s investor conference call in which the company once again announced record-breaking numbers for Q1 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook reported again that Apple had its strongest financial results ever, with all-time record quarterly revenue, noting that this is a huge accomplishment given the “turbulent world” around us. To put the iPhone’s sales numbers in perspective, Cook noted that 74.8m iPhones sold represents an average of over 34,000 iPhones sold per hour, every hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for 13 straight weeks, adding that this represents 50 percent more than the volumes in Q1 two years ago, and four times the volume of iPhones sold five years ago.

Cook went on to explain that Apple’s results are particularly impressive given the “challenging global macro-economic environment,” highlighting how major markets such as Brazil, Russia, Japan, Canada, Southeast Asia, and others have been impacted by slowing economic growth and weakening currencies, with the Euro and British Pound both down by double-digits since 2013. Major currencies such as the Canadian Dollar, Australian Dollar, Mexican Peso, and Turkish Lira have also declined by 20 percent or more. Cook explained how these currency fluctuations have had a meaningful negative impact on Apple’s results, noting that with constant currency Apple’s earnings would have been more than $5 billion higher, or more than the total annual revenue of an average Fortune 500 company. Cook also highlighted that Apple continues to see growth in China, with revenue growing 14 percent over last year, and Apple saw its highest ever quarterly iPhone sales and record App Store performance in China. “Despite economic challenges all over the world, Apple remains extremely strong,” Cook concluded.

Apple sets Q1 record: $75.9B revenue, 75M iPhones, 16M iPads sold

Apple reported its first quarter 2016 financial results today, with 74.8 million iPhones and 16 million iPads sold. The company posted quarterly revenue of $75.9 billion and quarterly net profit of $18.4 billion, or $3.28 per diluted share. In Q1 2015, Apple had revenue of $74.6 billion and net profit of $18 billion, or $3.06 per diluted share. Gross margin was 40.1 percent compared to 39.9 percent a year ago. International sales contributed to 66 percent of this quarter’s revenue. For Q2 2016, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $50 billion and $53 billion, and gross margin between 39 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.

Microsoft releases News Pro app for iOS

Microsoft has released News Pro, a new free news app. Unlike Apple’s built-in iOS 9 News app, News Pro appears to be geared more toward professional and business interests. Billed as “Your Work News Brief,” the app is designed to help users search for daily news relevant to their work field, with over a million topics to choose from. Users can link News Pro with their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to tailor their news feed to their work experience and personal interests, and the app will suggest new topics to explore and web sites to discover based on the user’s current profile.

Report: Apple to offer subscription content via News app

Apple is planning to expand its News service to provide subscription content through the iOS 9 News app, Reuters reports. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the report notes that the aim would be to give publishers with paywalls a way to limit access to their content, and would help to distinguish Apple’s offering from other online news apps and services such as Facebook’s Instant Articles. The move may address concerns raised by publishers, which cannot ignore Apple’s hundreds of millions of users, while at the same time preferring to still connect directly with readers. Making paid content available through the iOS News app would allow publishers to maintain relationships with their existing reader base and possibly attract new subscribers, although it’s still unclear at this time how Apple plans to authenticate subscribers or whether it would take its usual cut of subscription payments, as the company did with its prior Newsstand system.

Apple under fire again for VPN, FaceTime related patents

Apple is once again the target of a lawsuit from VirnetX concerning patents related to VPN and FaceTime technologies, Bloomberg reports. A lawyer for VirnetX told a federal jury in Texas earlier this week that Apple owes the company $532M for using the company’s patented secure communications technology. Apple originally came under fire from VirnetX in 2012, when Apple was ordered to pay the Texas-based patent holding company $368.2M for infringing on VPN patents used in the company’s FaceTime and VPN On Demand services in iOS — a move that prompted Apple to change the way VPN On Demand works on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. An appeals court later dismissed the damage award against Apple and ordered a new trial for some of the infringement claims, which this new lawsuit covers, along with infringements based on newer generations of iOS devices. An Apple lawyer stated that “Apple believes in fairness and protecting intellectual property,” adding however, that “VirnetX keeps moving the boundary, asking for more and more and more.”

Apple releases tvOS 9.1.1 for Apple TV with Podcasts app

Apple has released a software update to Apple TV with tvOS 9.1.1. The update includes Apple’s Podcasts app for Apple TV, which is placed up top and center once tvOS 9.1.1 has been installed. Other changes within the update likely include minor improvements and bug fixes. While the upcoming tvOS 9.2 update will be a more substantial update, the Podcasts app featured in the 9.2 beta has already made its debut, perhaps earlier than expected. tvOS 9.1.1 is available for download now in Apple TV’s Settings > System > Software Updates.

Report: Apple car project ‘at crossroads’

Apple’s “Project Titan” — the company’s automotive project — is at a “crossroads,” with the project team under a hiring freeze, according to Apple Insider. A source said Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive recently “expressed his displeasure” with the team’s progress, and executives are reportedly “unhappy with the project’s direction and progress.” It’s believed that Apple has more than 1,000 people working on the project.

This follows a recent article from The Wall Street Journal, which reported that Steve Zadesky, who “has been overseeing (Apple’s) electric-car project for the last two years,” is leaving the company. Zadesky, a longtime Apple employee who worked on the iPod and iPhone, is reportedly leaving for personal reasons. The timing of his exit is unclear, but it does appear there’s some instability surrounding Apple’s car project at the moment. Apple reportedly wants to ship its first electric vehicle by 2019.

Report: iPhone ‘5se’ to have A9 + M9 chips, always-on Siri

Apple’s upcoming 4” iPhone — which may be called the iPhone 5se — will likely have “variants” of the iPhone 6s’ A9 and M9 chips, 9to5Mac reports. The iPhone will come in 16GB/64GB capacities, and will feature always-on Siri, in addition to Apple Pay support. It’s believed the new iPhone will have curved glass and resemble a smaller iPhone 6/6s — a recent photo posted on One More Thing’s forums (and pictured above) purports to show the new iPhone next to the iPhone 5.

Report: 4-inch ‘iPhone 5se’ to support Apple Pay, Live Photos

The upcoming iPhone with a 4” display will likely be called the “iPhone 5se,” according to 9to5Mac. Sources have said the “iPhone” posted in a recent video is a fake, and that the iPhone 5se — the “se” perhaps meaning “special edition” — is best thought of as an upgraded iPhone 5s, instead of a shrunken iPhone 6s. The iPhone will still retain a headphone port, but there will be a number of upgrades and changes, including an NFC chip for Apple Pay without use of an Apple Watch, the addition of Live Photos from the 6s, and the A8 and M8 chips and 8MP/1.2MP cameras from the iPhone 6. The straight, shiny edges of the 5s will be replaced by curved glass as seen in the 6 and 6s. 3D Touch reportedly won’t be making its way to the iPhone 5se, which probably isn’t a surprise to most. The phone is still expected to debut in March before a March or April release.

Google paid Apple $1B to be iOS default search engine

A transcript of court proceedings between Oracle and Google has revealed that Google paid Apple $1 billion in 2014 to remain the default search engine on iOS devices, Bloomberg reports. An Oracle attorney said that Google and Apple have an agreement which gives Apple a percentage of the revenue Google generates through iPhone. While a revenue share of 34 percent was discussed, a Google attorney attempted to get the number stricken from the record, saying, “We are talking hypotheticals here.” The magistrate judge refused this request, but Google and Apple have filed to seal and redact the transcript. Both Apple and Google declined to comment on the proceedings.

California bill would require ‘back door’ access to encrypted phones

Following New York’s introduction of a very similar bill, California is now considering a bill that would require smartphones to have a “back door” for access to encrypted content, ZDNet reports. Assembly Bill No. 1681, which has been presented as legislation for “Human Trafficking Evidentiary Access,” would “require a smartphone that is manufactured on or after January 1, 2017, and sold in California, to be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider.” Any smartphone that couldn’t be decrypted on demand would subject a seller or lessor to a $2,500 fine. If the bill became law, iPhones (and many other smartphones) could not be sold in California if their current encryption features remained intact. The bill was introduced by California assembly member Jim Cooper, who told Ars Technica, “For the industry to say it’s privacy, it really doesn’t hold any water. We’re going after human traffickers and people who are doing bad and evil things. Human trafficking trumps privacy, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.”

iOS 9.3’s Night Shift may get Control Center button

Apple’s Canadian preview page for iOS 9.3 reveals something the American preview page didn’t — a toggle for the upcoming Night Shift mode within Control Center. First spotted by Reddit user nickjosephson, the Canadian page shows a small lamp button for Night Shift, next to the brightness slider within an iPad’s control center. The toggle allows a user to select between “Turn On For Now” or “Turn On Until Tomorrow.” The new Night Shift mode makes screen colors warmer at night, to minimize the affect of blue light on a user’s sleep cycle. While this toggle hasn’t appeared yet in any released iOS 9.3 beta, the image is still up on the page, which makes us think we’ll be seeing it sooner rather than later.

Video shows purported 4-inch ‘iPhone 6c’

A new video purports to show Apple’s upcoming 4” iPhone, which may be called the iPhone 6c. The video, posted by M.I.C. Gadget, shows a phone that looks almost exactly like the iPhone 6s. M.I.C. Gadget claims the iPhone is “one of the first demo examples from Foxconn,” but noted that they don’t have additional tech specs or information about the device. The validity of such videos should always be taken with a grain of salt, but this isn’t completely dubious. Though it’s not always easy to judge scale, this alleged iPhone does appear to be a bit smaller than the 4.7” iPhone 6s. It’s been rumored that a 4” iPhone with a metal body would be coming this spring, and a familiar design wouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Apple introduces new, free Music Memos app

Apple has introduced a new free iOS app geared toward songwriters, Music Memos. The company sent out a press release and has also set up a webpage dedicated to the app. As Apple describes the app, Music Memos “can record any musical instrument through the iPhone’s built-in microphone in a high-quality, uncompressed format, then name, tag and rate it to start building a library of your ideas. The app can analyze rhythm and chords of acoustic guitar and piano recordings, and instantly add drums and a bass line to provide a virtual, customizable backing band that plays along to match the feel of your song. Music Memos can even provide basic notation that displays the chords that were played.” Think of it as a Voice Memos app for songs. Though the app may not be showing up in the App Store yet on your iOS device, it is indeed already available for download through iTunes. Music Memos requires iOS 9.1 or later, and it works on any compatible iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.

Apple Watch Hermès to be sold online starting Friday

Apple Watch Hermès, a special edition of Apple Watch which has only been sold in select boutiques, will be available for purchase online starting this Friday, Jan. 22, Fashionista reports. The watch will be available at both Apple and Hermès’ online stores. Prices for Apple Watch Hermès range from $1100-$1500, and come in 10 variations, differing by size and band. While some high-end shoppers may have been waiting for Apple Watch Hermès to become more widely available, it might make sense for any prospective Apple Watch buyer to wait just a bit longer to see if Apple will indeed introduce a new, revised Apple Watch this spring.

Apple looks to open retail stores in India

Apple has formally filed an application to open its own retail stores in India, according to India’s Economic Times. Currently, Apple sells its products in India through independent, authorized franchisee stores. A report from late 2014 claimed Apple was looking to open smaller “iOS” stores in the country, and although details are still unclear, those plans might be expanded to include full-sized Apple Stores. India recently relaxed foreign direct investment rules that should make it easier for Apple to establish stores in the country. Apple’s recently submitted proposal is currently being examined, India DIPP Secretary Amitabh Kant said.

ESPN president says Apple ‘frustrated’ by lack of progress in developing TV service

It’s still very unclear when Apple’s much-discussed TV service will make its debut on Apple TV, and ESPN president John Skipper mentioned the company’s frustrations in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Skipper said ESPN has “had discussions with Apple” about a streaming TV service. When asked if Apple had a “path to being a player in the TV industry,” Skipper was relatively upbeat, saying the company is “creating a significantly advantageous operating system and a great television experience,” but he also noted that Apple has “been frustrated by their ability to construct something which works for them with programmers.”

While Apple has long been working on its own TV subscription service, the company wasn’t able to ready the service for the debut of the fourth-generation Apple TV last year, and it’s unclear at this point just when such a service may debut. Judging by Skipper’s recent comments — and bolstered by past reports and whispers — it doesn’t appear the service will be ready anytime soon. Apple has recently been linked to both the NFL and Time Warner, but it’s unknown how much interest — if any — Apple has in getting involved with either entity as related to its TV service.

Apple releases iOS 9.2.1

Apple has released iOS 9.2.1, a minor update that contains security updates and bug fixes. Also included is a “fix for an issue that could prevent the completion of app installation when using an MDM server.” The update is available now through Settings > General > Software Update. Apple just released the iOS 9.3 public beta last week.

Apple wins sales ban on obsolete Samsung products in patent battle

The U.S. District Court in San Jose has ruled that Samsung must stop “making, using, selling, developing or designing software or code that helps its products infringe” on three particular Apple patents Bloomberg reports. While the patents in question deal with autocorrect, slide-to-unlock, and data detection, this ruling only affects devices no longer sold by Samsung, including the Galaxy S II, S III, and Note smartphones. Though the ruling will have a minimal effect on Samsung’s business, Apple will seemingly have a stronger position going forward in arguing that Samsung’s more recent devices still infringe on the same patents, as the companies continue to square off on patent issues. A statement from Samsung said that even though American consumers wouldn’t be directly impacted by the ruling, the company is still “very disappointed.”

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