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App Store prices going up in Australia, Indonesia and Sweden

Citing changing exchange rates, Apple has notified developers that prices in the App Store will be increasing in Australia, Indonesia and Sweden over the next few days. Prices will also be going up for in-app purchase subscriptions, with Apple planning to send an email to subscribers notifying them of the increase and how to turn the subscription off if necessary. The strategy is a new one for Apple, which automatically canceled auto-renewed subscriptions when prices went up in South Korea, South Africa and Turkey earlier this year, requiring those users to resubscribe to opt in at the higher price. The Australian App Store is getting two new low-price tiers as well, echoing Apple’s changes to app pricing in India, Mexico and a handful of other countries in July. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple’s antitrust monitor is leaving for good

After a rocky two years at Apple, antitrust monitor Michael Bromwich is saying goodbye to the company for good, Bloomberg reports. Bromwich issued his final report on Apple’s e-book operations last week, noting the company’s strides toward compliance while still complaining that Apple had been less than forthcoming and often made his job difficult. In a letter to the federal judge who found Apple guilty of price fixing in 2013, the U.S. Justice Department recommended the monitoring be brought to an end, saying Apple has “implemented meaningful antitrust policies, procedures, and training programs that were obviously lacking at the time Apple participated in and facilitated the horizontal price-fixing conspiracy found by this court.” Apple said it is committed to fulfilling all the obligations the court laid out, including training, audits and antitrust risk assessment.

Happy Columbus Day + Canadian Thanksgiving!

Our editors are celebrating Columbus Day and the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday today. We’ll be back tomorrow, October 13, with our full slate of news and reviews.

We hope you, your family, and friends enjoy a relaxing holiday together.

Apple now selling SIM-free iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus

Apple is now selling SIM-free, unlocked versions of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus in its online store. This option lets users purchase a phone without immediately tying it to a carrier. The SIM-free iPhones do not come with a nano-SIM card — you have to get a card from a supported carrier. Customers will pay full retail price for these options, of course, which range from $649 for an unlocked iPhone 6s to $949 for a 128GB SIM-free iPhone 6s Plus. We’d prefer that Apple offer this option at launch, but it’s available now.

AT&T opens up Wi-Fi calling for iPhone

Despite FCC related delays last month, AT&T has now opened up Wi-Fi calling to all of its customers. While Wi-Fi calling had been available to users during the iOS 9 beta period, AT&T had delayed wider use due to pending approval on an FCC requirement to ensure that the new Wi-Fi calling feature can reliably accommodate the hearing impaired. The carrier was officially granted the waiver this week, enabling Wi-Fi calling for all subscribers with supported devices, including the iPhone 5c and later, running iOS 9. Following the granting of the FCC waiver, however, AT&T has publicly expressed concern that rival carriers such as T-Mobile and Sprint have “flaunted” FCC rules in enabling the feature without approval, and disappointment that the FCC has chosen to simply invite them to apply for similar waivers, ignoring their previous disregard for the rules. Users can now enable Wi-Fi calling by going into the iOS 9 Settings app and enabling the Wi-Fi calling option under the Phone section. Users will be taken through a setup process that will require them to supply an up-to-date emergency address to be placed on file for E911 services. [via 9to5Mac]

Battery impact of Samsung vs TSMC A9 chips overestimated? (Update: Apple response)

After revelations last month that Apple chose to use two different A9 chip fabrications in its new iPhone 6s models, a number of benchmarking tests have surfaced to suggest that the TSMC variant may offer longer battery life than its Samsung counterpart. A new report by MacRumors, however, suggests that many of these tests may have overestimated the impact of the larger Samsung chip on battery life under real-world conditions.

Apple TV, iPad Pro to be sold online in late October, in stores early November?

Apple will begin selling both the Apple TV and iPad Pro online in “late October” according to a new report from 9to5Mac. Citing reliable sources, the report notes that both devices are not scheduled to arrive in Apple retail stores until early November, but that they would be available online in late October. It’s unclear whether this would be for online preorders or whether the units will actually ship before the end of October, however. Apple previously set a November release date for the iPad Pro and a late October release date for the new Apple TV, although no mention was made of online vs. retail availability at that time. We’re still waiting to see if Apple announces a set release date in the near future for either device.

iBooks adds exclusive enhanced editions of Harry Potter series

Apple announced that enhanced versions of all seven of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are now available in the iBooks Store for download on iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Mac. These exclusive editions contain “interactive animations and elaborate artwork” as well as the full original text of the saga. This is the first time the Harry Potter books have been available digitally outside of the series’ own online store, the Pottermore Shop. Each book is currently available for $10 on the iBooks Store in English, with French, German, and Spanish versions of the books coming next month.

“I’m thrilled to see the Harry Potter books so beautifully realised on iBooks for the digital world; the artwork and animations in these enhanced editions bring the stories alive in a delightful new way,” J.K. Rowling said.

Report: Barclays to launch Apple Pay support in the UK early next year

U.K. bank Barclays plans to launch support for Apple Pay early next year, according to a customer’s blog post. Mike Jobson wrote Barclays CEO Ashok Vaswani asking when Barclays would make the digital payment method available and he claims to have gotten a response from Vaswani saying, “We have signed up for ApplePay [sic] and will launch it very early in the New Year.” Barclays was the last major holdout during Apple’s negotiations to bring Apple Pay to the U.K. and has been notably absent from the service since it launched there in July. [via Mac Rumors]

Apple reveals Beats Pill+ speaker

Months after recalling the Beats Pill XL over battery overheating concerns, Beats has revealed the Beats Pill+ ($230), the company’s first speaker offering since it was bought by Apple last year. Not yet available for purchase, the Pill+ features four front-facing speakers, with Beats claiming users will be able to sync up playback with a second speaker using its dedicated app. The new speaker has a Lightning port for charging, boasts a 12-hour battery life on a 3-hour charge and is able to charge an iOS device while playing music. Beats Pill+ will be available in black and white color options, and it will launch in November.

Antitrust monitor: Apple is ‘its own worst enemy’

In his final report to a U.S. district judge, antitrust monitor Michael Bromwich said Apple has made progress, but persistently raised objections to requests for information, Reuters reports. Bromwich acknowledges that the company has created new antitrust procedures, implemented training programs and improved engagement among executives, but said Apple’s combative stance cast an “unnecessary shadow over meaningful progress,” at one point calling the company “its own worst enemy.” Apple is still considering an appeal to the Supreme Court over the 2013 ruling that left the company with Bromwich looking over its shoulder in the first place. A federal court ruled against Apple’s first appeal to overturn $450 million in damages that U.S. District Judge Denise Cote imposed on the company for conspiring with publishers to fix e-book prices. Regardless of the appeal’s outcome, Bromwich’s time at Apple is officially over unless Cote chooses to extend his two-year appointment.

Report: Apple holding $181.1 billion in offshore tax havens

Apple is holding $181.1 billion in offshore tax havens, more than any other U.S. company, Reuters reports. A study by The Center for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund examined the Security and Exchange Commission filings of the 500 largest American companies, concluding nearly three-quarters of them are collectively holding more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes; Apple itself would owe an estimated $59.2 billion in U.S. taxes if the company wanted to bring its overseas money back into the United States. The study concluded that “Congress can and should take strong action to prevent corporations from using offshore tax havens, which in turn would restore basic fairness to the tax system, reduce the deficit and improve the functioning of markets.” Apple has generally stated in the past that the company pays all the taxes it owes.

Apple releases fourth iOS 9.1 beta, third tvOS beta to developers

Less than a week after the last iOS 9.1 beta release, Apple has now released a fourth beta of iOS 9.1 to developers. iOS 9.1 appears to be primarily focused on adding developer-level support for features such as 3D Touch and Live Photos on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, with this latest beta focusing on fixing a number of issues from prior betas. Registered iOS developers can download the iOS 9.1 beta from Apple’s Developer site; a public version of the beta will likely be following soon.

In addition, Apple has also released a third beta of tvOS for the new Apple TV, intended to allow developers to get a head start on Apple TV App Development prior to the public release of the new set-top box. The tvOS beta is intended only for those developers who have already received a development kit for the new Apple TV, as it only runs on the not-yet-released model.

Apple taking reservations for new iPhones in six European countries

Apple is accepting iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus reservations in six of the 40 countries where the new phones are set to debut this Friday. Customers in Belgium, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands can pick the model, color and storage size they want and reserve a phone for in-store pickup Friday, although iPhone 6s Plus models are still in limited supply at most locations. Reservations are limited to two per customer and valid government-issued ID may be required for pickup.

Apple adds transit directions for Boston, Sydney

Apple has quietly added Boston and Sydney, Australia to its list of cities where transit directions are supported in Apple Maps. The expansion solves a problem for some Australian users who were left without access to transit directions after Apple shut down the popular HopStop transit directions app earlier this month. HopStop covered cities in Russia, Israel and Australia that Apple Maps has yet to expand into with transit directions. Note: Though support has officially been added, not all users are seeing the feature as of yet. We searched both cities and no transit directions appeared to be available at the time of this writing.

Apple acquires artificial intelligence firm Perceptio

Apple has acquired Perceptio, a startup that develops tech which allows companies to run artificial intelligence on smartphones with less sharing of user data, Bloomberg reports. Since previous reports on Apple’s growing AI development push have cited the company’s demand that predictive recommendations be generated by a user’s device — not based on pooling and analyzing data like similar offerings from Google, Amazon and Facebook — the acquisition fits into Apple’s hopes to do as much processing as possible on local devices. Outside of its routine confirmation of the acquisition, Apple declined to comment on its plans for Perceptio.

Apple rolls out app thinning in iOS 9.0.2

Apple has fixed the iOS 9 issue that held up the release of its new app thinning feature. Users running iOS 9.0.2 or later will now receive device-specific versions of downloaded apps, provided the app’s developer has made such a download available. By tailoring app downloads to individual devices, developers can provide users with a variant containing only the features and capabilities that function on each device, minimizing the amount of space an app requires. How many developers have created device-specific variants of their apps so far is still unclear.

Apple Pay transaction numbers still low overall

A year after Apple Pay’s launch, the digital payment system is only accounting for 1 percent of U.S. retail transactions, Bloomberg reports. Apple Pay has suffered from a lack of promotion and limited support from retailers, but at Panera Bread — an early adopter of the new pay format — the percentage of Apple Pay transactions is in the low single digits. Even within Panera’s iOS app that lets users order from their iPhone, Apple Pay only accounts for around 20 percent of transactions. Vince Burchianti, chief financial officer of Firehouse Subs, said Apple Pay makes up about 2 percent of his company’s transactions. “Apple is just not even pushing it out,” Burchianti said. Apple’s lack of promotion is reflected in user ambivalence, with more than 75 percent of surveyed iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users saying they’d never tried the service.

Apple releases Apple Watch Hermès collection

After its announcement weeks ago, Apple has officially launched the Apple Watch Hermès, with prices starting at $1,100. The watch sports three leather band options and a custom face designed by Apple using fonts that mimic the classic Hermès style. The classic Single Tour band is available in both 38mm and 42mm sizes in brown and black. The Double Tour band — which wraps around the wrist twice — is only available in 38mm, but also comes in red or blue, while the wider Cuff style band is only available in 42mm in brown. The Apple Watch Hermès is only available at select Apple stores, Hermès stores and a few fashion retailers.

Apple to open Apple TV’s universal search API to more content providers

Apple plans to expand the new Apple TV’s universal search far beyond its initial launch partners, Buzzfeed reports. Universal search is one of the marquee features in the new device, letting users search once for a term and see results from multiple sources. The feature will support iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO and Showtime when the new Apple TV ships this month, but Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company is opening its API so other sources can make their content searchable as well, and he’s confident that providers will be eager to make their services compatible. “I think that many, many people will want to be in that search,” Cook said. “And that’s great for users.” Cook added that the new search will differentiate between paid and free options where users end up having the same content available from multiple sources.

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