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GameStop Expanding Beyond Video Games with Aggressive Growth Plans for 'Simply Mac' Stores

Major video game retailer GameStop is making a significant push to broaden its business, expanding its retail operations with new brands and stores that will focus on Apple gear and AT&T Mobility products, reports The Star-Telegram.

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While the diversification will include a move into AT&T mobile services through GameStop's acquisition of Spring Mobile, of more interest for Apple users is GameStop's plans for Simply Mac, a chain of authorized Apple resale and repair shops that focuses on smaller markets where Apple has not shown interest in opening its own stores. Founded in 2006 in Utah, Simply Mac grew to eight stores by October 2012 when GameStop acquired a 49.9 percent stake in the Apple reseller. In November 2013, GameStop exercised an option to purchase the rest of Simply Mac, which now includes 23 locations focused in the western half of the United States, and GameStop has plans for a significant expansion of the Simply Mac network.
[GameStop CEO Paul] Raines said GameStop’s confidence in rapid growth at the small chains, acquired for about $110 million last year, is buoyed by their strong ties to industry leaders AT&T and Apple.

Steve Bain and Jason Ellis, the executives who built Simply Mac and Spring Mobile, continue to run the operations for GameStop and see strong growth opportunities. After opening 23 stores this year, Bain said, the company plans to open 50 more Simply Mac stores in 2015.
While its stores are smaller and lower profile than many of Apple's retail stores, Simply Mac's push to open nearly 75 stores through the end of 2015 appears to dwarf Apple's own plans in the United States. Apple typically opens around 30 stores per year, but at this point the majority of those are outside of the United States.
The “transformation,” as CEO Paul Raines dubbed it, is intended to keep GameStop growing and leverage its expertise in store operations and buying and selling used devices. He said he envisions GameStop as a “family of specialty retailers that make your favorite technologies affordable and simple.”
As GameStop expands into the lucrative mobile phone and Apple device market, the retailer plans to downsize its video games operations by closing up to 130 of its 6,400 GameStop stores sometime this year. Though video games will remain its primary focus, GameStop CEO Rob Lloyd believes the company's new technology brands could generate up to $1 billion in revenue and contribute up to 10 percent of GameStop's revenue by 2016.

This move into Apple's retail segment comes at a time when Apple is in the middle of a retail transition. The company is awaiting the arrival of retail head Angela Ahrendts, who is completing her transitionary period at Burberry. Apple also is rumored to be working on a mobile payments system under the leadership of Jennifer Bailey, who allegedly left her executive role in online retail to spearhead this new mobile initiative.

References to Siri for Apple TV Found in iOS 7.1 Code

Amid persistant rumors that Apple is developing a revamped Apple TV set-top box, new code appearing in iOS 7.1 indicates that the company is indeed working on building in support for Siri voice input on the Apple TV, as highlighted by 9to5Mac. The references are included in both iOS 7.1 and iOS 7.1.1, but not in earlier releases such as iOS 7.0.6.

siri_apple_tv_assistant
The file is a supporting property-list resource for Assistant (Apple's internal name for Siri), containing information about the feature. The UIDeviceFamily array declares what platforms are compatible with the feature.

As shown by Apple’s documentation, '1' and '2' represent the iPhone/iPod touch and iPad families. The '3' represents the Apple TV family.
References to a new Apple TV model were previously found in iOS 7 builds, and today's information suggests that voice input and feedback are likely to be included on the new device.

Apple's launch plans for a new Apple TV box remain unclear, with rumors of a late 2013 launch giving way to reports centering around an introduction in March or April of this year. Those rumors were then quashed by The Loop's Jim Dalrymple, leaving uncertainty about Apple's television plans. A recent product roadmap prediction from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo indicated that the new Apple TV could arrive around September or October of this year.

Related roundup: Apple TV

Apple's New 'Powerful' iPhone 5s Micro-Site Profiles Apps from Latest TV Ad

Apple today unveiled a new section on its website dedicated to the "Powerful" ad that made its prime time television premiere on Tuesday. The commercial promotes the message that with the capabilities of the iPhone 5s "You're more powerful than you think."

powerful-website-apps
The accompanying website continues this "Powerful" theme that promotes the iPhone 5s as having the power "to create, shape, and share your life. The power to do everyday things in extraordinary ways, and to do extraordinary things every day." The new page includes both a high-definition version of the television commercial as well as links to all the apps showcased in the advertisement. The apps include Star Walk [iTunes], Instant Heart Rate [iTunes], Word Lens [iTunes], AmpliTube [iTunes], Luminair [iTunes] and Pacific Rim [iTunes].

The "Powerful" ad features "Gigantic" by the Pixies [iTunes] playing in the background while iPhone 5s owners use their iPhone to play music, create art and even launch amateur rockets. This new television advertisement follows the company's earlier "Your Verse" campaign that showcases how individuals are using the iPad in amazing ways.

Sprint to Make All Devices Launched After February 11, 2015 Unlockable

sprint_logo-250x124 In an updated unlocking FAQ found on its website (via Android Police), Sprint has stated that it will make all of its devices released after February 11, 2015 unlockable for use on other domestic networks such as AT&T or T-Mobile.

The move is a part of the agreement that the five major U.S. wireless carriers and the Federal Communications Commission signed in December in order to allow customers to unlock their devices and switch carriers if they wish.
I've been told by another carrier that Sprint needs to unlock my SIM slot in order to use my phone on the other carrier's network.

For eligible devices, Sprint will unlock the SIM slot, to the extent that a device SIM slot is capable of being unlocked. It is important to note that not all devices are capable of being unlocked, often because of the manufacturers' device designs, and that even for those devices capable of being unlocked, not all device functionality may be capable of being unlocked. Specifically, devices manufactured with a SIM slot within the past three years (including, but not limited to, all Apple iPhone devices), cannot be unlocked to accept a different domestic carrier's SIM for use on another domestic carrier's network. Sprint has no technological process available to do this. In accordance with Sprint's voluntary commitment contained within CTIA's Consumer Code for Wireless Service (“Unlocking Commitment”), Sprint is working to ensure that all devices developed and launched on or after February 11, 2015 are capable of being unlocked domestically.
Last year, the Library of Congress ruled that it was illegal for certain mobile phone owners to unlock their phone unless given permission by their wireless carrier. However, the Obama administration filed a petition with the FCC last September asking that carriers be required to unlock mobile devices, which was then followed by the agreement [PDF] between the FCC and the five major U.S. carriers.

Sprint's move to implement domestic unlocking in all of its future devices will likely be followed by similar moves from other U.S. carriers, as all wireless providers pledged last December to implement the changes within 12 months.

Related roundups: iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6

Apple Fixes FaceTime on Older Versions of OS X, iOS 6 Still Not Working

facetime_ios_iconApple tonight released an update for FaceTime on OS X [Direct Link], which resolves connections issues and is recommended for all FaceTime users currently running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. The connection issues are presumably related to the problems reported last week which affected both older versions of OS X and iOS 6 versions of FaceTime.

Apple, however, has not yet addressed the problems with FaceTime that are in iOS 6. While it is encouraging that Apple released an update for FaceTime for OS X 10.6, Apple support's recommendations for iOS 6 users has been to upgrade to iOS 7. One user has quoted Apple support as saying that the only fix for iOS 6 is to upgrade to the latest version of iOS 7, with no current plans to release a fix on iOS 6 or iOS 5.

According to Apple's updated FaceTime troubleshooting page, users who are still having trouble with the application are recommended to update to the latest version of iOS or OS X.

Apple Debuts New 'Powerful' TV Ad Focusing on iPhone 5s [Updated]

Apple has debuted a new TV ad alongside Marvel's Agents of SHIELD tonight on ABC called "Powerful". The ad, which was first spotted by 9to5Mac, showcases iPhone 5s owners using the device to enhance their lives in multiple ways.


With "Gigantic" by the Pixies [iTunes] playing in the background, the app has users using the iPhone 5s to check their health, check for directions, create short monster movies, record videos, create art installations and more, including a band preparing to play a song. The ad ends with the tagline "You're more powerful than you think".

Apple has not aired an iPhone 5s ad since the seasonal holiday ad "Misunderstood", which has since been removed from its YouTube channel. In the meantime, Apple has instead focusing its advertising efforts on the iPad's "Your Verse" ad campaign.

Update 8:31 PM: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the ad as "Gigantic". It has been corrected to its proper name, "Powerful". Apple's official YouTube video for the ad has also been swapped in.

iWatch May Ultimately Replace iPod, No iPod Updates Expected in 2014

A research note (via Barrons) from Christopher Caso, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, reiterates previous analyst reporting about the iWatch, saying Apple is looking to enter production with a pair of screen sizes in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Caso says Apple has production targets of 5-6 million units, but believes the iWatch will "essentially replace the iPod in the consumer portion of AAPL's product lineup" and will see lowered iPod sales as a result of customers choosing the iWatch instead. The note says the iPod is not expected to be updated this year.

Ipodfamily
Apple CEO Tim Cook said earlier this year that the iPod "is a declining business", with sales dropping to under $5 billion in 2013, down from a peak of more than $8 billion in 2008. Apple's iPod lineup has not seen a significant update since Fall 2012, other than a minor color change to match the rest of Apple's portable offerings. The iPod Classic has not been updated in several years.

Apple has worked hard to have products at a variety of price points, from the $49 iPod Shuffle up to the 128GB iPad Air at $799, and then to the various Mac products.

Related roundup: iWatch

Google Covering Defense Costs and Damage Awards for Four Patents in Apple/Samsung Case

Google is covering lawyer fees and potential damage awards with regards to four patents in the ongoing Apple/Samsung patent case, according to a report from Re/code, quoting deposition testimony from a Google attorney that Apple introduced in court today.

Google's contractual obligations to defend Samsung relate to a "Mobile Application Distribution Agreement" between the two companies related to the distribution of Google applications, including Gmail on Samsung's Android devices. Samsung called several Google employees as witnesses as part of its defense.

The case between Apple and Samsung is seen by many as a proxy for the larger battle between Google and Apple over the company's respective mobile operating systems.

apple_samsung_logos
Apple played deposition testimony from Google lawyer James Mccoun, who verified e-mail in which Google agreed to provide partial or full indemnity with regards to four patents as well as to take over defense of those claims.

A Samsung representative said he could not immediately say which if any claims in the case for which Google is in fact providing the defense and indemnity.
Yesterday, Samsung argued that, if it lost at trial, it would only owe Apple $40 million in damages, substantially less than the $2 billion that Apple says it is owed for infringement of five of its patents.

Apple Allowing Non-Developers to Apply for OS X Beta Program

Alongside iOS 7.1.1, Apple has introduced a new OS X beta program that will see non-developers given an opportunity to download OS X betas before they are released to the public. Previously, participating in OS X betas required a developer account, priced at $99 per year.

betaseedprogram
Join the OS X Beta Seed Program and accept the Beta Seed and Confidentiality Agreement. Apple will provide a Beta Access Utility for your Mac, which gives you access to pre-release versions of OS X in the Mac App Store Updates panel.
Users can apply to join the beta program on Apple's new Appleseed Beta website, which allows users to apply using an Apple ID.Apple requires everyone who signs up to sign a confidentiality agreement, which prevents users from disclosing, publishing, or disseminating confidential information to anyone not also enrolled in the Appleseed program.

After agreeing to keep beta information confidential, Apple asks users to make a backup on their Macs before downloading a special Beta Access Utility App which allows a Mac to be enrolled for beta software updates. All updates will be delivered via the Mac App Store, similar to standard OS X updates.

iOS 7.1.1 Now Labels Apps with 'In-App Purchases' in Top Charts and Featured Sections

As part of iOS 7.1.1, released earlier today, Apple has implemented some minor changes to the iOS App Store to make it more clear which apps offer in-app purchases.

Apple has provided an "Offers In-App Purchases" disclosure on individual app detail pages since March of 2013, but now the App Store has been updated to include a small "In-App Purchases" notification for apps in Top Charts listings and on specific featured apps listings, such as in the "Great Free Games" category.

inapppurchases711
Old Top Charts view on left, new Top Charts view with in-app purchase disclosure on right

This expanded in-app purchase view allows users to determine which apps on the Top Free, Paid, and Grossing charts offer in-app purchases. The disclosure is also available on top category listings as well.

Apple's new in-app purchase warnings come following a January settlement with the FTC that saw Apple providing $32 million in refunds to parents whose children purchased unauthorized in-app items. Apple was also required to obtain express consent from consumers before billing them for an in-app purchase, a measure that it initially implemented with iOS 7.1.

In-app purchases have long been an issue for Apple, first landing the company in hot water with the FTC in 2011 after multiple parental complaints over children over-spending within apps. Apple has made many updates to its in-app purchase policies since that time, including requiring a separate passcode entry for initiating an in-app purchase and providing multiple notifications before a purchase is made.

Along with changes to the App Store, iOS 7.1.1 also includes improvements to Touch ID, Safari support for top-level domains such as .photo, and a few bug fixes. It can be downloaded over-the-air via the Software Update tool in the Settings menu.

Update 3:40 PM PT: Apple has notified developers that it is also adding new app content descriptions to the App Store.
You can now use the following descriptions: Medical/Treatment Information, Gambling and Contests, and Unrestricted Web Access (for apps that permit navigating and viewing web pages, for example with an embedded browser).
There are also new territory specific restrictions based on rating.

Related roundup: iOS 7

Apple Releases iOS 7.1.1 With Touch ID Improvements, Bug Fixes

Apple today released iOS 7.1.1 to the public, a month and a half after releasing its first major update, iOS 7.1. While iOS 7.1 included several visual tweaks along with the addition of CarPlay, Siri improvements, and Touch ID enhancements, today's minor update focuses only on bug fixes.

iOS 7.1.1, labeled as build 11D201, offers additional improvements to Apple's Touch ID, fixes a bug that impacts keyboard responsiveness, and fixes a bug involving Bluetooth keyboards with VoiceOver enabled. The update also includes Safari support for new top-level domains like .photo and .camera.

This update contains improvements, bug fixes and security updates, including:

- Further improvements to Touch ID fingerprint recognition
- Fixes a bug that could impact keyboard responsiveness
- Fixes an issue when using Bluetooth keyboards with VoiceOver enabled
iOS 7.1.1 can be downloaded via the software update tool in the settings menu on iOS devices.

Apple has also released a 6.1.1 update for the Apple TV.

Apple's In-Store Reuse and Recycling Program Now Offering Trade-In Credit for Used iPads

As part of a larger green initiative to help consumers recycle old iOS devices, Apple is now expanding its Reuse & Recycling program in the U.S. and Canada to include the iPad, reports 9to5Mac. Apple also is making it easier for consumers to purchase new devices with more flexible terms for applying in-store credits obtained when recycling an iOS device.

Previously, Apple's in-store Reuse & Recycling program accepted only iPhone models, which customers could trade-in for a store credit that could be used to purchase a new iPhone. Under this new plan, Apple will accept either an iPad or an iPhone for trade-in and will issue a credit that can be used towards a new purchase.

Customers may apply this credit towards a new iPhone or iPad, regardless of which device they are trading in, and they can even combine iPad and iPhone credits (with a limit of one of each device type) to apply toward the purchase of a new device. For example, a customer could trade-in an iPhone 5 and an iPad 2 to receive credits that can be combined to purchase a new iPad Air.

Apple yesterday confirmed it was expanding its Reuse & Recycling program to include all devices, regardless of their condition. Besides the iPad, Apple will accept for free any broken or older model Apple product providing customers with a way to easily recycle the device responsibly. If a recycled iPhone or iPad has some remaining value as determined by in-store Apple Specialists, Apple will issue a store credit.

This expansion is part of Apple's Earth Day celebration that began with the company's "Better"

Apple May Be Using 'Brightflash' Shell Company to Pursue iWatch Trademark Protection

Following our report yesterday about Apple expanding its trademark protection to use the "Apple" name in association with jewelry and watches in a number of countries, MacRumors has discovered that Apple may be quietly continuing to pursue trademarks on the "iWatch" name itself.

Evidence of Apple's interest in the iWatch name surfaced last June as the company began registering for trademarks on the "iWatch" name in a number of countries. Several major countries including the United States were not included in that list, and it was unclear whether Apple was holding off due to conflicts with pending trademark applications in those countries or if there were other issues in play.

At the time, reports mentioned several of those conflicting applications in the United States, but we now believe that one of those applications may in fact be Apple itself operating in disguise using a shell company by the name of Brightflash USA LLC. While MacRumors has yet to discover a smoking gun linking Apple to Brightflash, there are several pieces of circumstantial evidence pointing in that direction, thereby suggesting that Apple is indeed continuing to quietly lay the groundwork for an iWatch launch.

- Timing: Brightflash filed its iWatch trademark application in the United States on June 5, 2013, alongside the surge of applications by Apple in other countries during the span of June 3-5. While it is possible that the timing is a coincidence or the result of a separate company moving extremely quickly to apply for the mark after news of Apple's applications in other countries

Apple Reportedly Delaying Launch of 5.5-Inch 'iPhone Air' Due to Battery Issues

According to Taiwan's Industrial and Commercial Times [Google Translate, via G for Games] Apple's larger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 has been delayed and will launch in 2015. The report notes that the company is struggling with finding a sufficient battery that measures 2 mm or less to fit in the device's "very thin" profile.

Renderings of iPhone 6 (4.7'') and iPhone 6 (5.7'') based on leaked schematics
The report also notes that Apple suppliers are referring to the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 as the "iPhone Air", which has not been finalized as an official name for the device. If the claims are true, however, an iPhone Air would join Apple's MacBook Air and recently released iPad Air in carrying a similar name and delivering a product with a slim chassis.

Past reports have indicated that Apple's 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will launch first this fall, and have shared similar details about the 5.5-inch version being delayed due to production issues. A report from Reuters last month noted that Apple was having issues with in-cell production technology in the 5.5-inch version's display, with Japan Display, LG Display, and Sharp set to produce screens for the device.

In addition to a larger screen and thinner design, Apple's next-generation iPhone is expected to include a new A8 processor, Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and an upgraded camera featuring optical image stabilization. Apple is also said to be negotiating with carriers to increase the price of the iPhone 6 by $100.

Apple Takes Jab at Samsung in Full Page Earth Day Newspaper Ad

Apple is honoring Earth Day in a new ad found on newspapers across the UK that appears to also include a jab at rival Samsung, reports CNET.

The ad, which comes with a headline stating "There are some ideas we want everyone to copy," includes two paragraphs that allude to the company's ongoing patent trial with Samsung. Apple notes that there is "one area" where the company "encourages others" to imitate, calling for initiatives that are similar to its recent environmental efforts.

There's one area where we actually encourage others to imitate us. Because when everyone makes the environment a priority, we all benefit. We'd be more than happy to see every data centre fuelled by 100% renewable energy sources. And we eagerly await the day when every product is made without the harmful toxins we have removed from ours.

Of course we know we can continue to do better. We've set some pretty ambitious goals for reducing our impact on climate change, making our products with greener materials and conserving our planet's limited resources. So the next time we come across a great idea that can help leave the world better than we found it, we look forward to sharing it.
Apple and Samsung are currently in their second legal battle over accusations of patent infringement, with the former requesting $2 billion in damages from the latter. In its defense, Samsung stated that it only owes Apple $40 million, as the trial is expected to conclude and head into jury deliberations sometime this week.

The ad is one part of Apple's "Better" environmental campaign launched

Apple Now Accepting All Products for Recycling at Retail Stores

Apple will now begin accepting old products for recycling at all of its retail stores worldwide, reports The Associated Press. While the company has had a recycling program for quite some time, the terms for trading in a product would vary by device category.

For instance, those looking to trade in a Mac or iPad for recycling were limited to filling out an online form and shipping it with a prepaid label, while those looking to drop off an iPhone or iPod could bring it into an Apple Retail Store or ship it to a recycling center.

Now, customers are welcome to bring in all products to any of its retail locations, where the company will recycle them for free. While all devices will be accepted for recycling at no charge, those who bring in products that are in fair condition will also receive a store gift card.

Apple made changes to its recycling program in 2011, expanding the program to include more devices and older computers. Last year, Apple also introduced an iPhone trade-in program that allowed customers to trade in a device for a gift card that could be used toward the purchase of a new iPhone, which has since expanded to multiple countries.

The move comes as Apple launched its "Better" environmental campaign yesterday ahead of Earth Day, which included a video detailing the environmental efforts of its Apple Campus 2 project. Apple will celebrate Earth Day at its retail locations around the world by giving its logos green leaves and having its employees wear special green shirts. The company will also reportedly hold an event at its main campus in

Apple Retail Store Logos Gain Green Leaves in Honor of Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day, which takes place on April 22, Apple has started updating the logos of some of its retail stores with green leaf accents, a departure from the standard white logo.

For example, Apple's massive Nanjing East retail store in Shanghai has been updated with the green Earth Day logo, as it is just after 8AM on April 22 in China.

Image courtesy of Instagram user znnina
As noted last week by 9to5Mac, Apple is planning to celebrate Earth Day at multiple retail locations around the world, changing its logo and encouraging employees to wear special green shirts. The company is also planning to hold a special event at its headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Earlier today, Apple launched its "Better" environmental campaign, highlighting its efforts to lower its carbon footprint. Included in the campaign was a video detailing the construction of Apple Campus 2, which will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy sources.

(Thanks, Nina!)

Leaked Info on Third-Generation Thunderbolt Points to 40Gbps Transfer Speeds

Intel's third-generation Thunderbolt technology could see throughput increase to 40Gbps, double the current capacity of Thunderbolt 2, first introduced in Macs last fall, according to leaked information posted on a Chinese technology site [Google Translate].

The site says Intel's new Thunderbolt controller, code-named Alpine Ridge, will see power consumption reduced by 50 percent, support for PCIe generation-3, and charging capacities of up to 100 watts. Backward compatibility will be maintained through the use of connector adapters, but the new Thunderbolt connector itself will be reduced in size.

Last April, Intel first announced Thunderbolt 2 in April before seeing it move to the Mac in October. There is no indication of when the third-generation of Thunderbolt could make its way to

Leonardo DiCaprio Could Star in Sony's 'Steve Jobs' Biopic, Danny Boyle in Talks to Direct

Aaron Sorkin's Steve Jobs biopic may be directed by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The news comes a week after The Social Network director David Fincher failed to reach a deal with Sony, reportedly over fees.

Boyle is said to be in talks with Sony Pictures to direct the film, which uses material from Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography and will focus on three 30-minute scenes ahead of three product launches.

While Fincher was rumored to be interested in Christian Bale to play the role of Steve Jobs, Boyle reportedly has his eye on another big star -- Leonardo DiCaprio. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Boyle has approached DiCaprio to play Jobs in the film.

Aside from Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle has directed hits like 127 Hours, Trainspotting, and The Beach, which DiCaprio also starred in. DiCaprio has been in major films like Inception, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Great Gatsby. Boyle was also in charge of the opening ceremonies at the 2012 Olympics in London.

Aaron Sorkin completed the script for the biopic back in January, with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak working as a consultant on the film. No potential release date has been

Apple Continues Pursuing Mobile Payment Solution, Seeking to Hire Industry Executives

Apple is continuing with its plans to introduce a mobile payments service and has began interviewing senior payments industry executives to take on roles within the company, reports Re/code.

Apple is looking to fill two new positions, focused on building an electronic payment service based on the company's existing iTunes accounts. Millions of customers have personal accounts that already store credit card information, allowing them to make purchases within the Apple Store app, in retail stores, and through iTunes. Apple hopes to expand this to third-party avenues as well, both online and at retail locations.
The company has been meeting with potential applicants for two new positions at Apple focused exclusively on building a business around the hundreds of millions of credit cards it already has on file. Apple is seeking to fill head of product and head of business development positions, one of these people said.

"Their ambitions are very, very serious," one of the sources said.
Apple's interest in the mobile payment arena has been rumored for years but gained renewed attention in early 2014, when The Wall Street Journal announced the company was working on a new mobile payment service, hoping to allow people to use their iOS devices to make purchases for physical goods in apps and on the web as well as in retail stores using payment info stored in iTunes accounts.

Apple has also been in talks with Paypal about a possible partnership and reportedly mulled an acquisition of mobile payments company Square, though it appears an acquisition did not pan out.

The