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Best Buy Offers Pre-Black Friday Deals, Discounts iPad Air by $80

Like Walmart, Best Buy has decided to offer some pre-Black Friday sales, which start today and last through the weekend.

Best Buy is discounting all of its original iPad Air stock by $80 to $100, dropping the price of the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad Air to $319.99. Higher-capacity Wi-Fi only models are discounted by up to $85, while some cellular models are discounted by as much as $100. For example the 32GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad Air from AT&T is available for $479.99.

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Best Buy is also offering the fifth-generation 64GB iPod touch for $249.99, which is $50 off the standard retail price. The deal is available for all colors Best Buy has in stock, including Space Gray, Blue, Pink, Silver, and Yellow.

As for Apple accessories, Best Buy is selling the older Solo HD Drenched Beats by Dr. Dre headphones for $99.99, a discount of $70. The discount is available for black, white, and red models.

When Black Friday rolls around, Best Buy will offer some of the best deals available on Apple's newest product, the iPad Air 2. The retailer is planning to discount all iPad Air 2 models by $100, which drops the price of the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad Air 2 to $399. Best Buy will also be discounting all iPad mini 3 models, dropping the price of the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi only model to $324.99.

For a full list of Best Buy's upcoming Black Friday deals and the deals that other retailers are planning to offer, make sure to check out our comprehensive Black Friday Roundup.

Related roundup: Black Friday

Apple's Claims of Improved Performance on iPhone 4s and iPad 2 With iOS 8.1.1 Put to the Test

Following the launch of iOS 8 back in September, many iPhone 4s users reported widespread issues ranging from slow performance to choppy animations. With Monday's release of iOS 8.1.1 promising "increased stability and performance improvements for iPad 2 and iPhone 4S", Ars Technica has now put those claims to the test.
iOS 8.1.1 improves performance in a few specific places, ones that may well be important to heavy users. However, it doesn't improve responsiveness or consistency, two of the problems you'll notice the most if you upgrade from iOS 7. Let's look at the short list of things you can expect to improve if you're using an older iDevice and the longer list of things that won't.
In its study, Ars Technica found launch times of system apps like Safari, Camera, and Messages essentially unchanged from iOS 8.0 for users with Apple's A5-based phones and tablets. The one exception was Safari, which saw a minor improvement compared to iOS 8.0, but all system apps still took considerably longer to launch on iOS 8.1.1 than on iOS 7.1.2. Interface lag such as for bringing up the keyboard or Control Center also remains an issue for these devices under iOS 8.1.1

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The one bright spot Ars ran into was, surprisingly, in long-term speed and stability. Under certain circumstances, iOS 8.1.1 was found to in fact improve stability and performance despite the confines of 512MB of RAM on these devices. Tests involved loading up multiple memory-intensive tabs in Safari and then using multitasking to switch away from and then back to Safari to measure reloading times.
It's hard to say exactly what Apple has done to improve performance under these RAM-starved conditions, at least not without more input from Apple (the company has declined to comment for this story). We also can't list exactly when users can expect to see improvements, beyond the "play around in other apps and then jump back to Safari" test we've engineered here.

The best we can say is that something about the process of loading and ejecting processes to and from the A5's 512MB of RAM could cause slowness and instability in iOS 8.1, and whatever the problem was has been at least partially addressed in iOS 8.1.1.
Overall, improvements for A5-based devices under iOS 8.1.1 are minor, as has been shown in other testing, although some will appreciate the improved multitasking performance with Safari. As Ars notes, iOS 8.1.1 isn't exactly the vast improvement for the iPhone 4s that iOS 7.1 was for the iPhone 4, but it does offer nominal improvements to the overall experience without making other areas worse.

Apple's A5 devices are definitely showing their age, although they do remain on the market with the original iPad Mini and iPhone 4s being sold as low-end options and the fifth-generation iPod touch still being the current model of that device. The spread between these A5 devices and Apple's latest A8-based iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 models is indeed significant, and it is clearly posing challenges for Apple and developers alike to continue adequately supporting these low-end devices.

Clear Geographic Split Shows iPhone 6 Plus Especially Popular With Asian Customers

Apple's iPhone 6 continues to outsell the iPhone 6 Plus around the world, but the larger-sized phone is proving to be a significant hit in some markets, reports AppLovin in its latest November 2014 report.

According to AppLovin's analytics data, the iPhone 6 outsold the 6 Plus in an 80/20 ratio overall in the first 45 days of availability. While Europe, North America and Australia roughly follow this global sales distribution or lean slightly more heavily toward the iPhone 6, the trend changes in Asia, where the iPhone 6 Plus typically accounts for 35 percent or more of iPhone sales.

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South Korea, home to rivals Samsung and LG, is the only Asian country studied with an iPhone 6 Plus adoption rate below 35 percent. The country has a lower 71/29 split, perhaps related to competition from Samsung's Galaxy Series and LG's G3 phone in the large-screen market or simply due to customer preference for other reasons.

The split between iPhone 6 and 6 Plus may still be artificially constrained due to continuing shortages of the larger iPhone 6 Plus, but AppLovin's data offers an interesting glimpse of screen size preferences around the world. The ratio also varies significantly by data source, with a recent survey putting the U.S. ratio at 3:1 in favor of the iPhone 6 over the first four weeks of availability while AppLovin's data points to a 4:1 split.

As discussed by Apple's iPhone marketing chief Greg Joswiak at the Code Conference last month, the true ratio of demand won't be known until supply shortages are alleviated, but he did acknowledge that the ratio varies from country to country with Asian customers typically proving more likely to prefer larger screens, an observation supported by AppLovin's data.

Related roundup: iPhone 6

Foxconn Plans to Spend $2.6 Billion on Dedicated Apple Display Plant in Taiwan

Foxconn Technology Group has plans to spend NT$80 Billion, or $2.6 billion, over the course of the next two years on a new factory in Taiwan to produce displays exclusively for Apple, according to Bloomberg.

In a conversation with Sophia Chang, a public relations representative for Foxconn's display unit Innolux Corp., Chang stated that equipment installation will begin next month, although she would not confirm that Apple is the client for the facility. Following an urgent request for exclusive capacity, the mass production of panels is expected to begin by the end of 2015.

Chang also mentioned that the advanced sixth-generation display plant will be built at Innolux's Kaohsiung Science Park campus in Southern Taiwan. The forecast details that the funds for the plant will be spent over a two-year building period with the company planning to hire 2,300 employees to operate the facility.

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Foxconn has been a longtime manufacturer of Apple's products, primarily handling final assembly of the devices. After attempting to partner with Sharp in 2012 to focus on advancing LCD technologies, Foxconn was rumored to be in talks to utilize the Japanese display manufacturer's technology in order to start producing iPhone and iPad displays.

The company struggled to meet high demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus when the two phones launched earlier this fall, sparking a large-scale hiring effort by Foxconn to meet production demands. Demand has been so high that Apple has reportedly tapped secondary manufacturer Pegatron to boost production on the iPhone 6, and perhaps even the iPhone 6 Plus, to help meet demand.

The new Taiwan plant announcement comes as Foxconn has reportedly been in discussions for a $5.7 billion display factory in Zhengzhou, China. Foxconn has been angling to become a larger player in the display market, seeking to win orders for iPhone and iPad displays and avoiding the sourcing of those parts from vendors like Samsung, LG Display, Sharp, and Japan Display.

Related roundups: iPhone 6, iPad Air 2

Corning's Gorilla Glass 4 Promises Stronger Protection for Falls Onto Rough Surfaces

Corning today unveiled its new Gorilla Glass 4, its next-generation glass production that is even more resistant than previous versions to glass shattering drops. According to Corning, the company extensively studied shattered screens to understand how and why they break.

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Corning scientists examined hundreds of broken devices and found that damage caused by sharp contact accounted for more than 70 percent of field failures. The scientists then developed new drop-test methods that simulate real-world break events, based on thousands of hours analyzing cover glass that had broken in the field or laboratory.
The culmination of this testing was Gorilla Glass 4, which reportedly is two times stronger than competing products and can survive 80 percent of face-down falls onto rough surfaces such as sandpaper. The company also claims the glass retains most of its initial strength following a shatter-free fall.


Corning is long-time supplier for Apple, providing the Cupertino company with Gorilla Glass for its iPhone and iPad lineup. Apple considered using the scratch-resistant sapphire for its iPhone display, but its partnership with GT Advanced fell apart when the supplier declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

Corning says product shipments of Gorilla Glass 4 to customers are already underway, making it a strong candidate for inclusion on next year's iOS devices should sapphire remain an infeasible option.

Sony Drops Aaron Sorkin's Steve Jobs Movie, Universal May Take Over [Updated]

Despite Aaron Sorkin's Steve Jobs movie being in the casting process and moving towards full fledged production, Sony Pictures has dropped the movie and put it "in turnaround", which allows another large studio to purchase the movie and take over, reports Deadline. The report also notes that Universal Studios is the likely landing destination for the film.

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In a shocking development, the Aaron Sorkin-scripted film about Apple genius Steve Jobs has been put in turnaround by Sony Pictures, and Universal Pictures is making a strong play for the movie. The film, an adaptation of the bestselling Walter Isaacson biography, has Slumdog Millionaire‘s Danny Boyle set to direct, with Michael Fassbender recently courted to play Jobs. The film is produced by Scott Rudin, Christian Colson, Mark Gordon and Guymon Casady.
It's unknown why Sony Pictures, who has been developing the movie for two years, would drop the film as it is about to wrap up casting and enter production, but Deadline reports that Universal Studios is keen on picking up the movie and may do so by tomorrow. It is rare for a well-known project to be dropped by a studio and made available for rival studios to purchase.

As reported by Deadline, the film is unlikely to lose any momentum if it's picked up by Universal Studios, which suggests the movie will likely move forward with the filmmakers' current plans.

Recently, Christian Bale also dropped out of the film because he reportedly felt he was not right for the part. X-Men: First Class actor Michael Fassbender has been rumored to be the frontrunner for the role with Sorkin saying that casting announcements are imminent.

Update: According to The Hollywood Reporter, one reason Sony might've dropped the film was due to the shooting schedule. Director Danny Boyle wants to shoot in January 2015, when Michael Fassbender would be available, while Sony wanted to shoot later. A later date would be difficult for Fassbender as the actor has a commitment to shoot X-Men: Apocalypse in Spring 2015.

Mismanagement and Inexperience Contributed to GT Advanced's Sapphire Failures

It's widely known by now that Apple and GT Advanced's sapphire partnership fell apart after the latter company was unable to produce enough high-quality sapphire to meet Apple's production needs, but The Wall Street Journal has taken a deeper look into GT Advanced's failures and its defective sapphire boules, which ultimately led the company to file for bankruptcy.

GT Advanced COO Daniel Squiller suggested in a court affidavit that Apple had essentially forced the company into a contract with "oppressive and burdensome" terms that made it impossible for GT Advanced to produce quality sapphire and meet deadlines, but the profile from The Wall Street Journal, largely sourced from Apple's court filings, paints a different picture, putting much of the fault on GT Advanced's mismanagement.

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The partnership between the two companies may have been doomed from the start, as GT Advanced had little experience mass producing sapphire before it inked a deal with Apple. A first attempt at a 578 pound sapphire boule was reportedly "flawed and unusable," while another was "cracked so badly" the sapphire was unusable. More than half of the sapphire boules that took $20,000 and 30 days to produce ended up in a "boule graveyard."

According to employees that spoke to The Wall Street Journal, an effort to hire enough staff to operate the sapphire furnaces led to management problems as there were employees who had little to do.
GT quickly set out to hire 700 staffers. Hiring moved so quickly that at one point in late spring, more than 100 recent hires didn't know who they reported to, a former manager said. Two other former workers said there was no attendance policy, which led to an unusual number of sick days.

GT managers in the spring authorized unlimited overtime to fill furnaces materials to grow sapphire. But GT hadn't built enough furnaces yet, so many workers had nothing to do, two former employees said.

"We just kept sweeping the floors over and over," one of the former employees said. "I just saw money flying out the door."
As the months passed and GT Advanced failed to meet necessary production milestones in a timely manner, it became clear that Apple was not going to use sapphire in the iPhone 6. According to court documents, while Apple was going in an alternate route for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus displays, GT Advanced was burning through money, spending $248 million in a single quarter. As described by GT Advanced COO Daniel Squiller, the deal ended up causing GT to "divert an inordinate amount of its cash and corporate resources" into the Mesa, Arizona facility.

Apple ended up withholding a final $139 million loan payment from GT Advanced, furthering its financial woes, and though Apple attempted to lend aid in the form of a partial payment and delayed loan repayments, GT advanced opted to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in order to get out of its contracts after it "could not economically produce a product that Apple would accept."

Apple and GT Advanced reached an agreement to officially end their partnership in October, nullifying the terms of the original deal. GT Advanced has already begun shutting down sapphire production at the Mesa, Arizona plant and will decommission and sell its sapphire furnaces in order to repay the loan from Apple.

More on what went wrong with GT Advanced's sapphire production and images of some of the broken and cracked sapphire boules can be seen in The Wall Street Journal's original story.

Walmart Kicks Off Black Friday Sales Early With Discounted iPad Air 2, iPhone 6

ipadair2cWalmart today announced that it is planning to offer discounts on select Apple products a week ahead of Black Friday, with the deals kicking off on Friday, November 21 at 8:00 a.m. at Walmart stores across the United States.
"The retail environment is incredibly competitive and we know that our customers are looking to us for the lowest prices and great deals all season long," said Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S. "That's why we've more than doubled the amount of items included in our Pre-Black Friday Event. Combined with our Black Friday weekend, there is absolutely no other place to shop this holiday season."
Walmart will be selling the new 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad Air 2 for $489, with a $100 Walmart gift card included in the purchase. That essentially drops the price down to $389 for frequent Walmart shoppers and is nearly on par with Best Buy's iPad Air 2 deal, which will see the retailer discounting all of its iPad Air 2 stock by $100.

Walmart will be selling the 16GB iPhone 6 for $179 with a two-year contract, which is $20 off Apple's standard price, but it will also include a $75 Walmart gift card. A similar $75 gift card deal is available for the iPhone 5s, priced at $79 with a two-year contract. iPhone 6 and iPhone 5s purchases made with AT&T Next or Verizon Edge will require $0 down from qualified customers and will include the gift card.

Walmart's deals will be available for as long as "supplies last," but it's likely that hot ticket items like the new iPad Air 2 and the iPhone 6 will go quickly.

Earlier this month, Walmart began matching prices with Amazon.com and other online retailers, and Walmart will be matching prices on select Black Friday deals from other companies as well. Along with its pre-Black Friday sales, Walmart will be offering deals that are limited to November 27 and November 28 (the traditional Black Friday day), including a 16GB Wi-Fi only original iPad mini for $199 plus a $30 gift card and a $100 gift card with the purchase of an original iPad Air.

For a full list of Walmart's Black Friday deals and the deals other retailers have shared thus far, make sure to check out our comprehensive Black Friday Roundup.

Related roundup: Black Friday

Beats Music to Be Bundled Into iOS Early Next Year, Will Remain Paid Subscription Service

beatsAs part of Apple's revamp of its recently acquired Beats Music streaming service, the company plans to bundle Beats directly into iOS, reports Financial Times.
Apple will bundle the subscription music service it acquired from Beats into its iOS operating system early next year, instantly making it available on hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads – and ramping up pressure on Spotify, the market leader in music streaming.

The inclusion of the paid-for Beats service in an iOS software update could happen as early as March, according to people familiar with the situation.
The report notes that Beats will continue to be a paid service and will likely be rebranded under the iTunes umbrella. The move could come alongside the launch of the Apple Watch, with users able to push Beats music from their iPhones to the wearable device.

While Apple has praised the Beats Music model, highlighting the curation aspect of the service as a major reason for acquiring the company, Beats has struggled to gain subscribers. Estimates put Beats' subscriber base at just 110,000, dwarfed by several other services such as Spotify that offer both free and paid options. Apple's acquisition of Beats has been seen as major avenue to boost interest in the service, but so far cross-promotion has been fairly limited. A revamp of Beats under the iTunes banner and including access directly in iOS may, however, substantially improve customer interest.

Still, Apple has struggled with streaming music in its first foray with the ad-supported iTunes Radio. The service is still available only in the United States and Australia despite rumors of a significant international expansion for early 2014, and the service has reportedly underperformed Apple's goals of driving listeners to purchase tracks from the iTunes Store. But with a three-pronged strategy of traditional iTunes Store purchases, ad-supported iTunes Radio streaming and a subscription Beats service all integrated on iOS, Apple may finally be in a position to satisfy many music listeners.

Apple Replaces 'Free' Purchase Button Labeling With 'Get' in App Store

Apple has changed the wording for free games in its App Store, and the app purchase buttons that once read "Free" for apps with no cost now read "Get" instead. The change has been implemented on both the iOS App Store and the desktop App Store.

Apps that have an upfront cost continue to be listed with a price underneath, but apps that do not now display the new wording. "Get" has replaced "Free" in the main App Store view on iOS, on the App Store Top Charts, and on individual app pages. The main App Store view on the desktop is still using the former "Free" wording, but it's likely to update soon.

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It is not entirely clear why Apple has decided to replace Free with Get, but it may have to do with the growing sentiment that apps with in-app purchases are not free. Earlier this year, the European Commission asked Apple and Google to implement changes to the way they sell apps, to avoid misleading customers about "free" games that are not actually free.

Back in July, Google announced that it would cease calling games with in-app purchases "free," prompting the European Commission to pressure Apple into making the same moves by saying the company had not done enough to adequately address its concerns.

In a statement following the EU's accusations, Apple pointed towards its "strong" parental controls, labels for in-app purchases, and kid sections in the App Store. Apple also highlighted "Ask to Buy," an iOS 8 Family Sharing feature, and said that it would "continue to work with the EC member states to respond to their concerns."

As the App Store has evolved, Apple has made significant changes to attempt to adequately inform customers about in-app purchases. All apps with in-app purchases are clearly denoted with an "Offers In-App Purchases" disclosure on their purchase pages and in the App Store Top Charts.

Apple requires users to enter a passcode before making an in-app purchase, notifies consumers when an in-app purchase is about to be made, and obtains express permission with a popup warning. iOS 8 introduced even more control over app purchases, letting parents approve or deny their children's purchases via Family Sharing.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Phone Charger 'Upp' Launches in UK Apple Stores

Intelligent-Energy_image2-225x428_1.jpg.700x600_q85Energy technology group Intelligent Energy Holdings today announced the retail launch of the Upp in the United Kingdom. The Upp device is a portable power solution driven by a hydrogen fuel cell that is used to charge USB-compatible devices.

A rumor this past summer claimed Intelligent Energy was partnering with Apple on a patent acquisition and to potentially produce fuel cell technology for future Macbooks and other portable devices. It is unclear if this Upp sales deal is related to that rumored partnership, but Apple patent applications have revealed the company's interest in fuel cell technology over the years.

Using miniaturized hydrogen fuel cells, Upp can deliver instant energy boosts to any USB-powered technology such as smartwatches, phones, portable gaming handhelds, e-readers and digital cameras.

The Upp uses snap-on refillable cartridges, providing a charge which is equivalent to "the same speed as plugging it into the wall." The product can be purchased in a starter pack that comes with the Upp Fuel Cell and one Upp Cartridge for £149, or around $230.
“Upp represents the start of the next generation of energy devices, a signal to the portable electronics market that customers are ready to adopt transformative technologies," Intelligent Energy’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Henri Winand said about the device. "Consumers want energy independence as the demand and reliance on portable devices accelerates.”
The company promises that one cartridge will last for about a week. When in need of one, users can use the Upp smartphone app to find a local Upp Cartridge exchange, hand in the used cartridge, and purchase a new one for £5.95, or about $9. That week of power on average equates to about 900 additional hours of standby or 32 hours of call time, 26 hours of video, or alternatively an extra 40 hours of web browsing.

Pocket-lint went hands-on with the Upp and discovered a few minor caveats to the Upp's design, calling it a "weighty and large beast" and that it "lets out a weird hissing sound and faint odor" when charging up a device. They also pointed concern towards the small number of retail vendors offering cartridge trade-ins at the moment.
It's also worth noting that it's a fledging technology that will no doubt get better over time - hopefully lighter at least - and more widely supported. For now though, if you plan a long trip up a mountain or something, you might find the £149 starter pack (Upp cell and cartridge included) a useful addition to your gear.
The Upp also comes with a downloadable app that displays usage statistics, power levels, Upp Cartridge exchange locations, FAQs, and customer support and can be downloaded from the App Store. The Upp can be purchased at Apple Stores in the UK or on Upp's official website.

Apple Email Campaign and Online Store Update Highlight Holiday Gift ideas

Apple today revamped its online store and sent out emails to customers in preparation for the upcoming holiday shopping season. The new holiday promotion emphasizes gift ideas with a focus on iOS devices, Macs and Beats audio hardware.

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Immediately below the tagline "From one gift come many," Apple places its focus on its iPad line of tablets, which recently were refreshed with the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3. The company promotes the utility of the devices, noting how people can use the tablets to complete a variety of tasks, including choreographing a recital or exploring the North Pole.

Apple next highlights the Mac with an advertorial that entices people to create the next holiday classic in a subtle reference to last year's award-winning "Misunderstood" holiday commercial. Other showcased products include the Apple TV, new Apple Store gift cards, the iPhone and Beats by Dr. Dre audio accessories.

Apple traditionally offers a Black Friday sale to kick off the holiday shopping season with modest discounts on its product lineup. Apple has yet to announce its 2014 Black Friday promotion, but the company last year offered Apple Store gift cards with the purchase of select items including iOS devices, Macs and various Apple-related accessories.