Benjamin develops app for iOS, writes news, reviews and other items on 9to5mac, whilst also studying economics at university. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his writing on his personal blog. Contact Benjamin on Twitter or via email.
Dr. Dre joined Apple as part of the Beats acquisition last year. Dre’s contribution to (aside from branding) is questioned by critics but fans of his work will be pleased to know he announced his first new album in fifteen years, entitled Compton A Soundtrack. The album can be preordered on iTunes now ready for release on August 7th.
Dre announced his long-awaited new release on his Beats 1 radio show yesterday with rapper and former colleague, Ice Cube. The album will be exclusive to Apple, available to buy on iTunes or stream on Apple Music.
Following the launch of Apple Pay in the UK two weeks ago, Apple is continuing the rollout with the addition of two major banks, HSBC and First Direct. Customers who have credit cards or debit cards with those banks can start using Apple Pay now. As with other UK Apple Pay transactions, there is a £20 transaction limit at most retailers apart from those with upgraded payment terminals that support higher-value contactless purchases. The £20 limit is getting raised to £30 in September.
Apple is today launching its Back to School promotion for 2015. This year, it will give away a free pair of Beats Solo2 headphones with the purchase of an eligible Mac. Customers must either purchase an iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or Mac Pro with education pricing to qualify, including build-to-order configurations. The Mac mini does not participate in the deal.
Alternatively, customers can upgrade for an additional $100 to a pair of wireless Beats Solo2 headphones, rather than the usual $299 price. The announcement is not yet being advertised on Apple.com apart from a small mention on its rebates page. It is surprising that there appears to be no Back to School promotion for iPads this year, despite Apple pushing the tablet into education markets.
Apple will soon let manufacturers in its Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod (MFi) licensing program include charging pads for the Apple Watch directly in their accessories, according to sources. Currently, dock makers can only offer charging by making unsightly openings in their docks for Apple’s official charger to sit, forcing users to bring their own cable and install it, and compromising an ideal design and user experience in the process. By making charging modules available to manufacturers to use, however, customers will be able to buy docks and stands with integrated chargers without needing to use their own.
A report from Clammr collected data on podcast listening habits shows that iOS dominates Android on mobile usage. Despite Android having a larger install base of smartphone devices than iOS, the iPhone is responsible for the vast majority of podcast listening. According to the study, 82% of smartphone podcasting listening takes place on an iPhone with the iTunes Store podcast directory being a significant reason for uptake.
In addition, despite the vast array of third-party podcast apps available for the iPhone, the report says that over three-quarters of users listen to podcasts on the iPhone with Apple’s built-in native Podcasts app.
A new report out from KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo includes some interesting details about Apple’s planned fall product releases. Firstly, Kuo expects iPhone shipments to fall in the current quarter as anticipation builds for the new iPhone dubbed the ‘iPhone 6s’, although apparently ‘Force Touch yields are low’ which may constrict availability at the beginning. For Apple Watch, following a report earlier in the year to expect new materials for Apple Watch casings, Kuo claims Apple will launch new Apple Watch Sport color options to match the new iPhone.
This includes anodizing aluminum in either yellow gold or rose gold to match the gold options on the iPhone 6s and create a faux-Edition Sport model. Third-party coating services already exist for the Apple Watch (pictured above), but Apple’s additions would seemingly be for the aluminum, not steel models. KGI believes Apple shipped a “tepid” 3.9 million Apple Watch units to date.
There is also news of a new iPad mini covered in KGI’s report, as well as sales estimates for all of Apple’s products ahead of the earnings calls on Tuesday.
As we reported this morning, Apple has today launched a new version of the iPod touch, featuring a 64-bit A8 CPU. This breaks a long run of neglect for Apple’s cheapest iOS device, which last received an update way back in 2012. It will be a huge leap in performance over the previous iPod touch which featured an A5 SoC. Both the front and back cameras have been improved, with the back shooter now featuring 8 megapixels of resolution.
The new iPod touch is also available for the first time in gold matching the iPhone and iPad in addition to new dark blue and pink case options. The iPod touch is also getting a storage bump at least at the higher end — there is now a $399 128 GB model. The base $199 iPod touch remains the same with 16 GB of onboard storage, the 32 GB model is $249 and the 64 GB version is $299.
There are also updates to the iPod shuffle and iPod nano, although these are merely cosmetic changes to fascia of the products. The shuffle and nano now come in dark blue, pink and gold variants.
Apple’s talks with networks for its upcoming streaming TV cable service are well underway, according to the New York Post. The four main broadcast networks are involved: ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Apple’s 30% revenue share of the subscription fee remains a point of contention, but the report claims that negotiations are rapidly gaining momentum with Apple targeting a late fall launch of its new TV product.
Disney or CBS will apparently be the first companies to sign up with Apple and get the skinny TV package deal rolling. Apple wants to have channels like Disney’s ESPN and Discovery in the mix too. Apple is also interested in getting local live TV as part of the package, as has been previously reported. According to the report, Apple has worked out a way to speed up the process so it doesn’t have to negotiate with every local affiliate network across the country itself.
Pixelmator for iPhone and iPad has today been updated to version 2.0.2 bringing even more features to the popular image editor for iOS and Mac. This update adds a new kind of brush stroke called Dynamic Touch, which simulates pressure sensitivity by examining the size of the finger input that touches the screen. Larger surface area produces thicker strokes on the canvas. Similarly, using just the tip of a finger results in fine lines in the app.
Apple Pay has gone live in the UK today with over 250,000 officially blessed locations (although Apple Pay will work at any standard NFC terminal) and seven banks. In the runup to the launch, the main holdout has been Barclays bank who instead promoted their alternative ‘bPay’ service.
Now, though, they have changed their tune. Over Twitter, Barclays announced that it is actually ‘really excited’ about Apple Pay and will add support for the service to Barclaycard debit and credit cards in future.
HSBC appears to have let slip the release date of Apple Pay in the UK over Twitter. In a tweet that has since been deleted, a support representative from the bank said ‘Yes! It’s due to launch this Tuesday! We are excited too’. 9to5Mac previously reported the 14th July date for the expansion of Apple Pay into the UK a couple of weeks ago.
UK retailers also seem to think that the Apple Pay launch is imminent as signs showing support for the contactless technology have started appearing across the country, as noted by 9to5Mac readers and Matt Brian on Twitter.
Apple Pay logos are going up at UK retailers across the country ahead of an expected launch on Tuesday, July 14th. However, it seems retailers are jumping the gun slightly in getting their Point of Sale advertising up to date with Apple Pay logos in the country.
Apple Pay in the UK is supported by all major banks apart from Barclays. The long-awaited feature will not require a software update as Apple can push the necessary settings over-the-air. Transactions are limited to a £20 maximum. In September, this limit will be raised to £30. Even higher amounts are supported if retailers upgrade their payment hardware to support higher value contactless transactions with fingerprint authentication.
In an interesting development, Pitchfork reports that Apple is making music videos for artists in-house. It claims the music videos for Pharrell William’s ‘Freedom’, Drake’s ‘Energy’ and Eminem’s ‘Phenomenal’ were all made by Apple content studios. These artists have certainly helped with the Apple Music launch (with both Pharrell and Drake having their own radio show on Beats 1) so it wouldn’t be out of the question that Apple is ‘compensating’ them with produced music videos. It certainly seems like a good way of brokering a deal for music exclusivity.
Of course, the idea of Apple content creation is weird — especially in such a niche area of music videos. Pitchfork is adamant however and says that Apple is working with more artists including Purity Ring, Diddy and James Bay. Another Apple Music exclusive launching on Monday from ‘M.I.A’ is also said to feature a music video been produced entirely by Apple’s internal team.
The US antitrust regulators are reportedly looking into Apple’s subscription service rules for the App Store are anticompetitive and illegal under US law, according to Reuters. The main issue of contention is that the standard streaming music price of $9.99 per month is not attainable for Apple Music competitors as App Store rules enforce a 30% cut of all revenues made from within apps.
This means that streaming companies either have to take on significant profit cuts to stay at the $9.99 mark or charge more in the App Store to account for the 30% margin. The argument is that consumers will not want to pay $12.99 (approximately $9.99 with a 30% increase) per month for a streaming music service when they can readily buy Apple Music for $9.99.
Apple alerted developers to some App Store price adjustments earlier in the week and the alternative price tier details have now been posted. Apple has added other alternative price tiers in the past, but what’s interesting with these changes in particular is is that they are specifically targeted at offering really low price options for apps in a select few countries.
The new tiers enable developers to set prices for their apps way below the usual $0.99 price floor in India, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey. (Special pricing for China has existed for some time.)
For example, using the ‘Alternative Price Tier A’ means that apps are priced at 10 Indian Rupees. This is equivalent to about 16 cents in USD. Before the addition, the lowest price developers could charge in India was 60 rupees, which is about 96 cents.