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.
A photo circulating on Chinese blogging site Weibo purports to show the rear shell of a new iPhone, featuring two holes between the camera lens and flash, Letem Svetem Applem reports. There is no way of confirming the authenticity of the photo, which conflicts with leaked design renderings that show only the single microphone hole between the lens and flash, just like on the iPhone 6s. What the second hole would be used for is unclear, with some speculating it could be used for stereo recording but no one able to explain why one hole is larger than the other.
Less than a week after Apple announced a $1 billion investment in Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing, speculation has ramped up that the company is planning an initial public offering. Bloomberg cites internal sources that claim Didi Chuxing hopes to make an IPO in New York next year, with the timing pegged to how its battle with Uber in China plays out. But a spokesperson from Didi flatly denied the claim to TechCrunch, saying, “We currently have no IPO plan, so there’s no point of talking about location or schedule.” While data on the on-demand ride industry in China is spotty, analysts are in agreement that Didi is well ahead of Uber in China, claiming 14 million drivers and 300 million active users.
SEC filings show billionaire Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway investment company has bought $1.07 billion worth of Apple stock as of March 31. The news sent Apple’s stock up more than two dollars per share as of Monday morning, seeming to quiet concerns raised by billionaire investor Carl Icahn’s public dumping of his position in Apple last month. Icahn expressed doubts over Apple’s ability to expand its business into China after the country suddenly halted iTunes Movies and iBooks sales. Icahn had expressed a willingness to to buy back into Apple if the situation in China “was basically steadied.” For its part, Apple shows no signs of slowing its expansion in China, last week announcing a $1 billion investment in Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing.
The CEO of the British driving authority has hinted at the U.K. becoming the first country to make its driver’s license available through Apple Wallet, The Independent reports. Oliver Morley posted a mock up image showing a driving license installed alongside credit cards in Apple Pay with the caption, “So here’s a little prototype of something we’re working on.” There’s no word on when such a system would be up and running or how verification would work, but the image indicates that governments are beginning to see potential to expand on what Apple Pay has accomplished, and they’re placing a high degree of trust in the security of the system Apple has built.
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.”
Apple has invested $1 billion in Chinese ride-sharing service Didi Chuxing, CNBC reports. In a statement regarding the move, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained that the investment was intended to “help the company better understand the critical Chinese market.” With Apple’s sales flagging in China, and the company coming under pressure from Chinese regulators who seem to be moving to a “China first” economic policy, the move could also be seen as an attempt by Apple to encourage the Chinese government to perceive Apple’s business interests in the country in a more favorable light by directly supporting the Chinese economy. Cook stressed that he remains confident in the Chinese market, and noted that the deal “reflects our excitement about their growing business ... and also our continued confidence in the long term in China’s economy.”
Apple has been unable to recover any data from the iPhone belonging to the teen who went missing last summer, the Sun Sentinel reports. Fourteen-year-old boys Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen went missing at sea last summer, with no clues as to their fate until this past March, when their capsized vessel was discovered by a Norwegian supply ship, with some of their belongings, including Austin’s iPhone, still on board. Apple offered to help recover data from the iPhone when approached, but with the device having been submerged in salt water for over eight months, the chances of recovering any information were considered to be slim from the very beginning.
Although Canada’s major banks have finally gotten on board with Apple Pay, a new report in The Globe and Mail (via iPhone in Canada) suggests the banks paid a “steep price” for Apple Pay when it came to negotiations, despite the fact that many would have expected the “Big Five” banks to have the upper hand. The negotiations for Apple Pay apparently took months, and multiple sources have revealed that the terms of the deal would “suggest that the banks were not in the driver’s seat at the negotiating table.” Although neither Apple nor any of the Canadian banks have revealed any of the details, two sources told the Globe and Mail that they agreed to “15 basis points” which equates to $0.15 for every $100 transaction made through Apple Pay for credit cards, and $0.04 per transaction for debit card payments. While the base fee is reportedly similar to the original terms negotiated with U.S. banks when Apple Pay first launched, sources told The Financial Post that Apple got a slightly better deal in that credit card transaction fees lower to four basis points — or $0.04 per $100 — after an annual payment of $0.50 per card is reached. This arrangement has been described as more in line with Apple’s deals with banks in Australia and the U.K.
Following the more widespread launch of Apple Pay in Canada earlier this week, Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey revealed more details about the launch in an interview with The Financial Post, explaining some of the reasons for the delay of the more general launch in Canada. A Canadian launch of the mobile payments service appeared to be on the horizon for last fall, with early reports from the Wall Street Journal pegging a November launch date, and leaked bank websites in October making many believe that a launch was imminent. Despite this, however, it had appeared to many that negotiations between Apple and the major Canadian banks broke down, and in the end Apple Pay launched in Canada on AMEX only.
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.”
In the latest episode of his podcast, The Talk Show, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber has revealed “scuttlebutt” he’s heard regarding the long-term plans for the iPhone. In the discussion, Gruber confirms the wide range of rumors suggesting that this year’s iPhone model will likely remain in the same form factor as the prior iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s models, with a few distinguishing features to differentiate it. Gruber adds that he’s hesitant to even call this year’s model the “iPhone 7” right now for that reason, and suggests that this may be Apple’s first major departure from the traditional two-year ‘S” cycle, citing the iPhone SE as an example of an older design that’s now been used for a third time. Interestingly, Gruber also speculates that rumors about the dual-camera lens system only coming to the larger, 5-5-inch “Plus” iPhone model “doesn’t sound like Apple” and suggests that perhaps the rumor mill only has leaked schematics from the 5.5-inch iPhone and the 4.7-inch schematics haven’t leaked. While Gruber noted he was unwilling to “bet against it” as so much of the rumor mill has been suggesting it, the 4.7-inch iPhone is the best selling model, so it seems unusual that the dual-camera feature wouldn’t also be available on that unit.
Leaked ‘iPhone 7 Plus’ renderings show larger camera cutout and Smart Connector, lack headphone jack
Another round of alleged schematics provided to uSwitch appear to show that the iPhone 7 Plus will have a dual camera and Smart Connector, but lack a headphone jack. Leaked images sourced from Steve Hemmerstoffer of NowhereElse depict renderings of an iPhone 7 — which appears much like the iPhone 6s minus a headphone jack — and an iPhone 7 Plus that looks decidedly different. In addition to showing the three dots associated with the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector, the back of the larger phone has a bigger, oval-shaped camera cutout that lends more credibility to the rumor that the new Plus will feature a dual camera setup.
Nintendo’s next two smartphone games will be free-to-play, The Wall Street Journal reports. Smartphone game maker DeNA—who partnered with Nintendo to release the Miitomo app in March and has plans to release four more games by March 2017—announced that upcoming titles Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing will be “free-to-start apps.”
Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn is in the final stages of selecting a site in the Indian state of Maharashtra for its new iPhone manufacturing plant, The Economic Times of India reports. Sources familiar with negotiations said the Foxconn factory will cost an estimated $10 billion and focus exclusively on iPhone production. Negotiations are ongoing between Foxconn and India’s government, but a finalized deal is expected soon once Foxconn chooses the final location for its 1,200-acre facility.
As of this morning, Apple is allowing Canadian users with accounts at certain banks to add MasterCard and Visa cards to their Apple Pay account. MasterCard released a statement confirming that users with credit cards through Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Canadian Tire Bank and ATB Financial can use Apple Pay starting today, with BMO Financial Group to follow suit “in the coming weeks.” Visa hasn’t released a similar statement as of this writing, but the Apple Pay site lists CIBC and RBC Visa cards as compatible with Apple Pay.
A design sketch that French site NowhereElse claims to have obtained from an employee of an Apple subcontractor appears to show the height and width measurements of the new iPhone 7 to be the same as the iPhone 6s. The thickness isn’t labeled and there is no side view, so the new image sheds no light on whether Apple is doing away with the headphone jack. The camera cutout is slightly larger, hinting at some improvement to the camera and appearing similar to another leaked chassis photo from March. Both of those images look decidedly different than leaked schematics that purported to show an iPhone 7 “Pro” with a much larger camera cutout, which could mean one is wrong or that Apple has plans to make both.
During a meeting with Apple, seven top podcasters voiced serious concerns over the company’s apparent lack of interest in their business, The New York Times reports. Despite essentially creating the format for downloading “digital audio shows” in 2005, Apple’s cumbersome process for promoting shows and lack of solid tools for artists to share and monetize their work drew serious criticism, according to two attendees of the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Leaked screenshots obtained by MacRumors show only minor tweaks coming to Apple’s iTunes 12.4 redesign, expected to launch in late May or early June. The toggler to switch between types of media has been changed from the existing icons to a dropdown menu, with forward and back buttons that can also be used to flip between sections. The updated left sidebar provides quicker access to specific songs or albums within iTunes. Both the media toggler and sidebar can be edited to display only desired types of content.
A review left on Amazon by someone claiming to work for Apple hints at an Apple-designed HomeKit app coming in iOS 10. MacRumors matched the name of the reviewer to that of a LinkedIn profile for someone who works in Apple’s marketing department, and later confirmed the review was written by that employee. The review recommends a few existing apps to control smart home devices before concluding, “The next version of iOS due this fall will have a standalone ‘HomeKit’ app as well.”