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December 15, 2014

Apple’s Holiday Ad Tugs at the Heartstrings (Again)

iPad mini 3 centered

Apple is flexing its marketing muscles again this season with a new holiday ad called "The Song."

The 90-second TV spot highlights Cupertino's top products—the iPhone, MacBook, and iPad—in action as a teenager gives her grandmother the gift of nostalgia.

While sifting through what is presumably a two-generation-old stack of records, the girl happens upon a voice-o-graph recording her grandmother, Valerie, made for her grandfather, Raymond, more than 60 years ago.

Once the needle hits the 45rpm vinyl, an amateur version of "Love Is Here to Stay" crackles through the speakers. It's clear the granddaughter has had a stroke of brilliance, because the next moment, she's already copying the original recording to her MacBook Air.

There is a quick glimpse of Garage Band before she starts jamming out to her own version of the song with a guitar, piano, and even a pair of chopsticks.

While on the go, the girl bobs her head in time with her grandmother's voice flowing through what is presumably an iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

In the end, she surprises Valerie with an updated version of the 1930s jazz standard, accompanied by photos of her once-young grandparents, and, of course, tears.

"With a Mac, iPhone or iPad, you have the power to create thoughtful, emotional gifts and memories that transcend time," Apple's video description said. "It could be a movie, a homemade card or a song that brings generations closer together."

Only a month after launching its next-gen iPhones, Cupertino in October revealed the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3—available in silver, gray, or gold, and starting at $399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version. The updated slate comes with a Touch ID fingerprint scanner and support for the Apple Pay mobile payment system (though only within apps).

Apple offered up a similarly sentimental holiday ad last year.

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December 14, 2014

Apple’s Online Store Now Accepts PayPal

PayPal on Apple.com

Apple and PayPal might not be the best of friends, but the two are working a little closer now with Apple's integration of PayPal as an online payment option.

As first reported by Re/code, Apple is now allowing Apple.com shoppers to pay for goods with PayPal. Previously, buyers had to user a credit/debit card or an Apple gift card to complete a purchase.

The move might not sound like that big of a deal, but it's interesting, given that Apple Pay now makes Apple a bigger competitive threat to PayPal.

PayPal even felt the need to take out a full-page advertisement in three major newspapers, which criticized Apple over the naked celebrity photo hack issue, and suggested that PayPal was more secure than Apple Pay.



December 4, 2014

Apple Deleted Music From Rival Services Off iTunes

iTunes Tips

It turns out Apple has been controlling your music library since long before shoehorning U2's latest album into iTunes.

According to attorneys representing consumers in an antitrust case against Cupertino, the tech giant deleted music that iPod owners downloaded from competing services between 2007 and 2009.

As described by opposing counsel, those users who downloaded music from a rival service—like Real Networks—and tried to sync it with an iPod were met with an error message and instructions to restore the device to factory settings. Once the user followed through, those songs would disappear.

"You guys decided to give them the worst possible experience and blow up" users' music libraries, attorney Patrick Coughlin said in a California U.S. District Court, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

But Apple told jurors on Wednesday that the maneuver was a legitimate security measure - and intentionally cryptic so as to not confuse users.

"We don't need to give users too much information," Apple security director Augustin Farrugia testified, according to the Journal.



December 4, 2014

Apple Poised for ‘Record Quarter’ Thanks to iPhone 6

iPhone 6 Review

The iPhone 6 is a huge seller, obviously. But just how successful might surprise you.

According to new smartphone sales data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, Apple is on track for a "record quarter" thanks to strong sales of its iPhone 6. In the three months ending in October 2014, the Cupertino tech giant experienced a "huge jump" in sales across all major markets thanks to the launch of its latest handsets, Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director at Kantar, said in a statement.

"In major European economies, the U.S. and Australia, Apple's share of sales has risen," Sunnebo said. "This success is particularly evident in Great Britain, where Apple now has its highest ever share of sales with 39.5 percent. Most of these sales were driven by loyal Apple users. Some 86 percent of British buyers upgraded from an older iPhone model, only 5 percent switched across from Samsung."



December 3, 2014

Apple Patent Could Prevent Cracked iPhones

Apple patentWe all know that feeling of panic when a smartphone - seemingly in slow motion - topples to the ground. Is it cracked? Will I need to spend hundreds of dollars on a replacement, or risk glass scratches until my contract runs out?

These are real concerns for those of us with gorgeous but fragile smartphones, including the iPhone. But Apple might have a solution.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week awarded Apple a patent for a "protective mechanism for an electronic device," i.e. a gravity-defying handset with cat-like reflexes.

Thanks to an integrated motion sensor, the phone would detect when it is in freefall, then run rapid calculations to reposition itself in mid-air, landing in the safest way possible.

With an air of science fiction, the patent describes the phone's various sensors, including the accelerometer, GPS, gyroscopes, camera, and an as-yet-unreleased ultrasonic emitter, all working together to determine the iDevice's trajectory, spin, and angle of descent—in real time.



November 27, 2014

Report: Yahoo, Bing Vie to Replace Google on Safari

Safari Tips

The term "Google" has become synonymous with search, but Apple users may soon have to readjust and "Yahoo" or "Bing" a query.

While Google serves as the Safari browser's default search engine, the companies' agreement is reportedly set to expire next year, making way for Cupertino to choose a new partner.

And according to The Information (via Ars Technica), Microsoft (maker of Bing) and Yahoo are already in talks with Apple Internet Software and Services Senior Vice President Eddy Cue.

Upstart engine DuckDuckGo is also reportedly on the short list.

Yahoo recently announced that it will replace Google as Mozilla's default search engine for Firefox. And CEO Marissa Mayer has made it clear in the past that she wants to usurp Google as Apple's iOS search default.

Google declined to comment on the reports; Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



November 25, 2014

iPad Slump Signals ‘Massive Deceleration’ in Tablet Shipments

How We Test Tablets

The worldwide tablet market is poised for a "massive deceleration" in 2014 as iPad shipments continue to decline, according to a new forecast from IDC.

The analyst firm on Tuesday predicted that tablet shipments will increase just 7.2 percent this year to 235.7 million units, compared to 52.5 percent growth last year. The main reason for the decline? A slowdown in iPad demand.

In fact, 2014 is expected to mark the first full year of decline in iPad shipments. However, the iPad and overall market slowdown doesn't come as too much of a surprise as tablet lifecycles have continued to lengthen, IDC said.

"In the early stages of the tablet market, device lifecycles were expected to resemble those of smartphones, with replacement occurring every 2 to 3 years," Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, said in a statement. "What has played out instead is that many tablet owners are holding onto their devices for more than 3 years and in some instances more than 4 years. We believe the two major drivers for longer than expected tablet lifecycles are legacy software support for older products, especially within iOS, and the increased use of smartphones for a variety of computing tasks."



November 22, 2014

Report: Sony Ditches Steve Jobs Movie

Steve JobsIt seems like there's some major change regarding the Sony-backed Steve Jobs bio-pic every week. If it's not someone dropping out of playing the late, iconic Apple co-founder, then it's rumors about who could be Jobs incarnate (or Woz).

In this case, however, the news is that Sony Pictures is dropping the movie entirely. Oops. But it seems as though the film has been kind of a mess ever since Sony bought the rights to Walter Isaacson's best-selling biography in 2011.

According to the rumors, David Fincher was first planning to direct it, with Christian Bale as Jobs. But when Fincher dropped out, so did Bale. Attention then turned to Leonardo DiCaprio, but when he too bowed out, Bale's name re-appeared on the casting shortlist, and the Oscar-winning actor officially signed on. But he apparently had (another) change of heart and left the project.



November 20, 2014

Apple Swaps ‘Free’ for ‘Get’ in App Store

Apple 'Get' Apple is falling in line with the European Commission's request that app sellers do more to stop inadvertent in-app purchases.

Following Google's lead, Cupertino has removed all instances of the word "free" within its iOS and Mac app stores (with the exception of its own apps, like iMovie), and replaced them with the term "Get."

The new label clarifies what users can expect when downloading an app. Apps previously labeled as "Free" will now have a "Get" label. If those apps include in-app purchases, a small gray "In-App Purchase" label will appear below the "Get" button.

The move comes several months after the European Union chastised Apple for not moving quickly enough to stop inadvertent in-app purchases. At the time, the EU said Google had committed to removing the word "Free" from games that include in-app purchases by September, providing targeted guidelines for developers so they can avoid encouraging children to make micro-transactions, and requiring a password before every in-app purchase unless the consumer opts out.

"Get" in iOSThat first commitment is now live. Though it was requested by EU officials, Re/code said Apple confirmed the "Get" rollout is happening worldwide.

Google took a similar approach this fall, removing the word "free" from all games that contain in-app purchases. It has also provided targeted guidelines for developers, so they can avoid encouraging children to make micro-transactions.

Both companies require users to enter passwords when making purchases or downloading new apps from their app stores.

The EU, however, called out Apple's 15-minute window once the password is entered, saying that "should not remain the default setting in the future."

In the U.S., Apple in January agreed to refund at least $32.5 million to customers in an FTC settlement over unauthorized in-app purchases made my children.

Google made a similar deal with the FTC in September, agreeing to refund up to $19 million to customers. Google was sued in March by a California woman whose children made about $66 worth of in-app purchases over the course of 30 minutes.

Amazon, meanwhile, was sued by the Federal Trade Commission in July over accidental in-app purchases. The agency also asked that Amazon forfeit any money made from those unauthorized purchases.



November 19, 2014

Report: Apple to Add Beats Music App to iOS Devices

Beats Music

As iPhone and iPad users know, there are a few apps that stay on your device no matter what — Messages, Weather, Apple Maps, GameCenter, Stocks, etc. They come pre-installed when you buy your handset, and you can't delete them.

Soon, that list of mandatory apps could also include Beats Music. According to a report from The Financial Times, Apple is planning to roll the subscription music service it picked up as part of its $3 billion Beats acquisition into its iOS mobile operating system. This means, the service will be available on every iPhone and iPad — whether you like it or not.

The rollout is expected to happen at some point next year, possibly as early as March, sources familiar with the situation told The Financial Times. The move would mark Apple's first major push into subscription streaming music, a market that Spotify currently dominates.