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September 4, 2014

Microsoft Tips New Version of Windows Phone, Lumia Denim

Lumia 830 BERLIN—Microsoft might license its Windows Phone OS to third-party manufacturers, but it really only wants you to buy Lumia devices. How do I know? Look no further than the new Lumia Denim update for Windows Phone 8.1, which the company announced at IFA on Thursday.

Lumia Denim—a much catchier name than Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2—combines the latest Windows Phone 8.1 update with exclusive enhancements for Lumia smartphones, particularly in the camera department. But I'll get to that in a moment.

Microsoft has introduced a feature called "Hey Cortana," which is a more convenient, hands-free way to activate Cortana, Microsoft's Siri-like voice assistant. All you have to do is say "Hey Cortana" and your phone will automatically be listening for you, even when it's in an idle state. Cortana is rolling out to new markets, too, including China, the U.K., Australia, India, and Canada.



September 1, 2014

Report: Apple Strikes Deal with American Express for iPhone 6 Mobile Paymens

Credit Cards

The Apple rumor mill continues as we get closer and closer to the company's September 9 event.

According to unnamed sources speaking to Recode, Apple has allegedly finalized a deal with American Express—just one of the partners Apple has to work with in order to launch a rumored new mobile payments platform. The end goal is to allow iPhone 6 owners to pay for goods and services using their phones, eliminating the need for credit cards, debit cards, or cash at certain retailers.

Of course, that does depend on which payment services Apple has signed up. It's also unclear just which retailers have agreed to participate in Apple's plans—we presume they would need some kind of technology to be able to extract the payment information from one's smartphone.

Nevertheless, that's another major partnership that Apple has brought on board. The Information previously reported that Apple has been successful in courting Visa as well. And it's widely rumored, though not confirmed, that Apple will indeed use NFC as the basis for its mobile payments. We can only presume that, somehow, Apple will also make use of a fingerprint verification system built into the phone itself for said payments—assuming Apple is continuing to employ Touch ID in the next iteration of iPhones.

It's certainly possible that Apple might scuttle the entire feature for its big September 9 reveal—or perhaps postpone its announcement until more partners have signed on board.

Still, it's been speculated that Apple has been very interested in somehow getting more use out of the millions of credit card records it currently has stored as a result of its customers' iTunes accounts. Allowing its iPhone owners to make use of that data in new and interesting ways seems like a natural evolution.

More importantly, having both Google and Apple finally playing in the same mobile payments space might bring some much-needed competition and attract the interest of even more retailers. For phone owners, that's a good thing—especially if you dream of a wallet-free future.



September 1, 2014

Report: Apple Pondering $400 Price Point for ‘iWatch’

Apple Sept. 9 Invite So, given the latest reports from 9to5Mac about Apple's aggressive public relations efforts, are the recent reports of the company's potential price for its new wearable true? False? A way to gauge consumer interest and backlash before Apple unveils the real price, if it even plans to do that at its upcoming September 9 event?

We'll leave that for you to decide. Right now, Recode is reporting that Apple is allegedly considering a $400 price for its to-be-revealed wearable (hereafter called the iWatch, even though that might not actually be the device's name). That's not the end-all, be-all price, however. Multiple versions of the device will allegedly cost "a range of prices," with some coming in under the $400 mark—if that ends up being the final price for one iteration of said iWatch.

Does that sound tentative? Yes. According to said sources, the price hasn't been finalized. There's no indication that it will even be finalized for the September 9 event where many presume Apple will be showing off its iWatch for the first time. And, as reports have recently suggested, there's no indication that Apple will even be able to start shipping the iWatch at any point this year. Those looking to get a first crack at the new wearable might have to wait until early 2015 to get their hands on one.

Nevertheless, if the $400 price point is true, that will be quite a bit higher than anything offered within Google's competing Android Wear smartwatches at this point. Will that ultimately matter? It remains to be seen—Apple has never been one to shy away from pricing its devices at what it feels makes the most sense, and its anxious fans aren't always that apprehensive about plunking down for new Apple products.

As for how Apple might differentiate between its various iWatch versions, that's anyone's guess at this point. It's been speculated that Apple might consider offering iWatches with different screen sizes, but there's only so much one can shave (or add to) a smartwatch before it becomes, well, less of a watch. In this case, Apple has to deal with fashion and form—a bit different of a beast than simply deciding to release two different sizes of a tablet, or laptop, or what-have-you.

And, as we mentioned up top, news of Apple pondering a $400 price point for its iWatch could all just be a clever ruse from the company to gauge interest (or hatred) as it works to finalize these details. That's Apple's PR machine for you—just one part of the company that's likely working a bit of overtime from now until early September.



August 28, 2014

Apple Sends Invites for Sept. 9 Event

Apple Sept. 9 Invite Apple on Thursday sent out invitations for a Sept. 9 event that is expected to include the launch of new iPhones and possibly the long-rumored iWatch.

"Please join Apple on September 9 for a special event," the invite says. "Wish we could say more."

As that message suggests, few other details were made available. The event information appears atop the traditional silver Apple logo, a bit of a change from last year's colorful invite, which hinted at Apple's multi-color iPhone 5c lineup. Things kick off at 10 a.m. PT in Cupertino.

Apple is widely expected to launch its next-gen iPhones next month. Rumor has it that Cupertino will release a 4.7-inch iPhone, as well as a 5.5-inch phablet for the first time. Though Apple chief Tim Cook has expressed doubts about phablets in the past, there's no question that phones with larger screens are all the rage at the moment. In some cases, they have eaten into small tablet market share as consumers look to save money and purchase just one device.

Whether Apple is finally ready to increase its phone sizes from 3.5 and 4 inches to 4.7 and 5.5 inches will be revealed on Sept. 9.

And while Apple's September events have largely focused on the iPhone in recent years, Re/Code this week reported that the Sept. 9 event will also include the launch of a new wearable - likely the iWatch.

The site, which also correctly predicted that Apple would hold its iPhone event on Sept. 9, said that Apple's wearable will tap into its new HealthKit and HomeKit e-health and home automation efforts.

New iPads are not expected to be revealed at the Sept. 9 event. For the past two years, Apple has held separate events in October to announce refreshes to its tablet lineup.



August 27, 2014

Report: iWatch Expected at Sept. 9 iPhone Event

iWatch Concept Apple is rumored to be hosting a Sept. 9 press event to show off its new iPhones, but a new report says that the iWatch will also makes it debut next month.

According to Re/code, Apple will "unveil a new wearable" at the Sept. 9 event alongside two new iPhones, which many believe will sport 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays.

Re/code did not specify that the device is indeed the iWatch, but said that the wearable will tap into Apple HealthKit and HomeKit, the e-health and connected home offerings Apple showed off at WWDC.

Re/code was also the one to report the Sept. 9 date. The staff, which was previously at All Things D, has a good track record when it comes to rumors about Apple events, so it's likely that a wearable is indeed on the agenda.

Of course, invites have yet to go out. They typically arrive about a week ahead of event, though, so be on the lookout next week.

Rumors about the iWatch, meanwhile, have been making the rounds for about two years. Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the D11 conference that wearables were "incredibly interesting," but didn't divulge Apple's plans, of course.

But the company has been snapping up executives with backgrounds in fashion, fitness gadgets, and watches - from Tag Heuer senior executive Patrick Pruniaux and Nike Fuel Band design director Ben Shaffer to retail chief Angela Ahrendts, who was previously at Burberry.



August 22, 2014

Report: Apple Display Changes Hold Up iPhone Production

Apple logo More reports of production problems with Apple's next-gen iPhone emerged this morning, with Reuters reporting that two suppliers are rushing to produce enough screens for the upcoming iPhone 6.

Production suffered a setback after the backlight that illuminates the phone's screen had to be revised, putting screen assembly on hold for part of June and July, Reuters said.

According to its sources, Cupertino wanted to slim down its smartphone by cutting the standard two layers of backlight film to only one. But the new format was not bright enough, and designers were sent back to the drawing board.

Still, it remains unclear whether the interruption will set the rest of production back, or if Apple will simply limit the number of phones initially available. According to Reuters, suppliers are working "flat-out to make up for lost time."

The news site tipped Japan Display, Sharp, and LG Display as iPhone 6 screen manufacturers. There is no word, however, whether those displays are made from the rumored sapphire glass.

Neither Apple nor those three companies immediately responded to request for comment.

Cupertino is rumored to be unveiling a 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch handset during a Sept. 9 media event.

When it does make its debut, China Telecom will sell an unlocked version, ZDNet reported today.

Recently leaked photos highlight tapered edges connecting to a round rear shell—something more reminiscent of the iPod than recent iPhones. Other images suggested the 4.7-inch "iPhone 6" will run on a 1,810mAh lithium-ion polymer battery. The phablet-sized "iPhone 6L," meanwhile, will have a 2,915mAh battery.

Other rumors include a light-up logo for notifications, as well as a reversible USB plug, and only 1GB of RAM.



August 21, 2014

More ‘iPhone 6′ Photos Leaked

iPhone 6 leak Another day, another iPhone 6 rumor: The folks at Apple device customizer Feld & Volk released a photograph of what it says is Cupertino's upcoming smartphone.

Posted to Instagram on Tuesday, the shot shows tapered edges connecting to a rounded rear shell—more reminiscent of the iPod than recent iPhones. There's a Lightning connector port, 3.5mm headset jack, and speaker holes.

MacRumors secured some additional shots, which show off the phone's top, side, and display. Last week, MacRumors highlighted several other shots from Feld & Volk, which provided close-ups of the power button and mute switch, both with a silver metal finish also expected to cover the volume buttons.

iPhone 6 LeakAccording to Feld & Volk, certain components now pivot slightly on internal pins to better fit the iPhone 6's rounded edges. Even the SIM card tray comes coated in the same silver metal finish, to blend in with the rest of the device, and make you feel extra fancy when replacing the SIM.

The shots come several weeks before Apple's rumored Sept. 9 event, where the company is expected to announce its next iPhone (or iPhones).

Early this week, more leaked photos—this time from China—suggested the 4.7-inch "iPhone 6" will run on an 1,810mAh lithium-ion polymer battery. For comparison, the flagship 5s sports a 1,440mAh battery. A second report said Cupertino's phablet-sized iPhone, also referred to by Taiwanese blog Apple Daily as the "iPhone 6L," will have a 2,915mAh battery.

Other reveals tip a reversible USB plug, which, as 9to5Mac noted, would let you insert a plug in either direction. Plus, G4Games said the next-gen iPhone will only have 1GB of RAM.

New iPhone reports have been emerging for months, indicating a new, more rugged sapphire display screen and a light-up logo for notifications, among other things.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



August 18, 2014

Latest iPhone Rumors Focus on Battery Power

Apple logo With just three weeks before Apple is expected to announce its next iPhone (or iPhones), the rumor mill shows no signs of slowing down.

According to photos leaked from China, for example, the first of Cupertino's two new handsets—the 4.7-inch "iPhone 6"—will run on an 1,810mAh lithium-ion polymer battery; the iPhone 5s sports a 1,440mAh battery.

A second report, from Taiwanese blog Apple Daily, shows three components set for Apple's phablet-sized iPhone, also referred to by the blog's sources as the "iPhone 6L."

However, Apple Insider was skeptical of those rumors, saying that the photos of the display and logic board—presumably meant for a 5.5-inch handset—are nearly identical to images leaked last week in reference to the smaller iPhone.

Elements like screw bosses, circuit board anchors, and circuitry can be found in the exact locations as their little sibling, which Apple Insider said is unlikely when building different sized smartphones.

The Taiwanese blog also showed off a never-before-seen photo of a 2,915mAh battery, which could be housed inside the 5.5-inch iPhone. But Apple Insider pointed to other recent battery leaks, which suggests the leaked batteries are meant for testing purposes only, and may not end up in the final product.

Meanwhile, other leaks tip a reversible USB plug, which - as 9to5Mac noted - would let you plug it in in either direction. And G4Games says that the iPhone 6 will only have 1GB of RAM.

Apple did not immediately respond to request for comment.

New iPhone reports have been emerging for months, tipping a new, more rugged sapphire display screen, a light-up logo for notifications, and more.



August 16, 2014

Report: Apple Gambles $700M on Sapphire iPhone Display

iPhone 6 sapphire display leaks, and it’s indestructible

Every cell phone owner is familiar with the overwhelming feeling of dread when your device slips out of your hand or gets knocked off a table. Did it scratch? Can I still send Snapchats through the cracked screen?

Apple's next-generation iPhone may ease those fears. The company is rumored to be replacing its Gorilla Glass screen with a new sapphire glass display made by partner GT Advanced Technologies.

But that sort of relief doesn't come cheap. According to The Wall Street Journal, Cupertino is gambling $700 million on the harder, more flexible material.

Typically used in airplane windows and armored vehicles to protect against extreme conditions, the massively expensive sapphire is often used only sparingly—perhaps as a scratch-resistant cover for costly watches.

Apple already uses the material, according to the Journal, to cover its iPhone camera lense and fingerprint reader. But what could widespread use mean for oft-damaged screens?



August 15, 2014

Report: Sprint to Get Aggressive, Launch Cheaper Plans

Sprint Logo Sprint is wasting no time mourning the demise of its rumored acquisition of T-Mobile and departure of former CEO Dan Hesse; new chief Marcelo Claure on Thursday reportedly announced service changes during a company-wide meeting.

According to LightReading, Claure will start his stint at CEO by launching new, aggressive pricing plans next week.

"We're going to change our plans to make sure they are simple and attractive and make sure every customer in America thinks twice about signing up to a competitor," Claure said during a Sprint town hall meeting.

"When you have a great network, you don't have to compete on price," the Brightstar Corp. founder added, according to LightReading. "When your network is behind, unfortunately you have to compete on value and price."

Sprint declined to comment on the report.