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Apple Denies Rumors of Plans to Launch MVNO Carrier Services

Apple this morning directly responded to a recent rumor that the company would begin planning to launch its own MVNO service in both the United States and Europe, stating that it has "not discussed and is not planning" to become its own cellular carrier in the future.

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The MVNO service would allow Apple to become its own carrier, leasing space from existing network carriers and building SIM cards that switch from network-to-network as need be. Rumors about such a service have been around for a while now, and today marks the first time that Apple has directly denied the existence of any such feature being built by the company.

Apple rarely responds directly to rumors, but the company apparently feels the MVNO claims are important enough and far enough off base that they warrant an official response to prevent unwarranted expectations regarding the company's future plans.

Update 8:31 AM: Reuters shares the exact statement from an Apple spokeswoman: "We have not discussed nor do we have any plans to launch an MVNO."

Taylor Swift Shares Behind-the-Scenes Details of Her Apple Music Letter

taylor swift vanity fairIn an interview for the September cover story of Vanity Fair, Taylor Swift reveals her thoughts and reasoning behind the letter she wrote to Apple concerning the lack of monetary support for artists during Apple Music's three-month free trial period. The singer notes that she wrote the letter in the early morning hours after a few of her fellow artists sent pictures of their Apple Music contracts.
“I wrote the letter at around four A.M.,” Swift says. “The contracts had just gone out to my friends, and one of them sent me a screenshot of one of them. I read the term ‘zero percent compensation to rights holders.’ Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and I’ll write a song and I can’t sleep until I finish it, and it was like that with the letter.”
Swift's main concern was that her letter would be taken as whining, particularly since she had addressed a similar issue regarding Spotify last year, but after running the letter past her mother, Swift decided to publish it.

Apple did indeed listen, and later the same day reversed course on its decision and announced plans to pay artists during the initial free trial of Apple Music. In the Vanity Fair interview, Swift notes Apple's near-immediate response and genuine care for her and her fellow artists, further alluding to her public break from Spotify and that company's subsequent reaction to the pulling of her music from the service.
Says Swift, “Apple treated me like I was a voice of a creative community that they actually cared about,” she says. “And I found it really ironic that the multi-billion-dollar company reacted to criticism with humility, and the start-up with no cash flow reacted to criticism like a corporate machine.”
Although it's hit a few bumps in the road, Apple Music has been steadily providing its early adopters with exclusive tracks, celebrity-hosted Beats 1 radio shows, and personalized music discovery since its June 30 launch. Those who signed up on day one still have just under two months left to their three-month free trial, with monthly subscriptions priced at $9.99 for individuals and $14.99 for families after the trial. The company reportedly has ten million users on the free trial so far, but it remains to be seen how many of those will convert to paying users.

Sixth OS X El Capitan Beta Includes More Hints to 4K 21.5-Inch Retina iMac

Apple's sixth OS X 10.11 El Capitan beta, released on Monday, includes a few lines of code that yet again reference the possibility of a forthcoming 4K 21.5-inch Retina iMac, as discovered by Consomac [Google Translate]. A similar occurance happened back in June, when some code in the second OS X El Capitan beta referenced a 4K 21.5-inch iMac screen, but, as yet, Apple hasn't given any word on the veracity of the rumors.

Consomac's research into the code of the new OS X beta found three new files, two of which include screen resolutions that hint at the possible arrival of new 5K 27-inch iMacs, and the other with a 4096×2304 resolution. Like the second El Capitan beta, this code could potentially refer to a 21.5-inch Retina iMac display with 4K resolution coming down the line. Although, as Consomac discovered, an image accompanying the three files points to a design that will largely "remain unchanged" for the new line-up.

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Beginning last October, Apple launched a few updates for the 27-inch iMac with Retina Display, but the rest of the iMac line-up hasn't seen a proper upgrade since September 2013. The major reasoning behind the stalled upgrade cycle is the company waiting for Intel's various desktop components -- including the Broadwell and Skylake processors -- to be available for a more substantial update to Apple's smaller-sized desktop computer line-up.

An update to the 21.5-inch iMac line has been hinted at for a while now, including a rumor just yesterday from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that pointed to the iMac line gaining a significant boost this quarter. Kuo points to display improvements with greater color saturation thanks to a few new processors, but never references directly the arrival of a retina display for the 21.5-inch iMac line. Still, the timing with back-to-school shopping swinging into gear, and the lengthy update cycle of the 21.5-inch line-up, definitely suggests an impending update for the model sometime soon.

Related roundup: iMac , Tag: consomac.fr

Apple Seeds Sixth OS X 10.11 El Capitan Beta to Developers

Apple today released the sixth beta of OS X 10.11 El Capitan to developers for testing purposes, one week after releasing the fifth El Capitan beta and nearly two months after unveiling the new operating system at its 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference.

The update, which arrives as Build 15A244d, is available through the software update mechanism in the Mac App Store and through the Apple Developer Center.

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While early betas introduced minor design changes and features, the last few betas have focused on under-the-hood performance improvements and bug fixes to optimize OS X El Capitan ahead of its public release.


OS X El Capitan builds on the features introduced with OS X Yosemite, focusing on improving performance and user experience. Behind-the-scenes improvements in El Capitan have made a number of apps and processes on the Mac much faster, and the introduction of Metal makes system-level graphics rendering 40 percent more efficient.

Along with a new systemwide font, El Capitan includes a revamped Mission Control feature, a new Split View feature for using two full-screen apps at once, deeper functionality for Spotlight, and several new features for Safari, including Pinned Sites for housing frequently visited websites and a universal mute button that quiets all tabs.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan is available to both registered developers and public beta testers. After testing is completed, Apple will release El Capitan to the public in the fall.

Related roundup: OS X El Capitan

Apple Purchases Massive 43-Acre Development Site in North San Jose

Shortly after leasing a 300,000 square foot campus in North San Jose, Apple has expanded on its real estate holdings in the area, buying a 43-acre development site at 2347 North First Street for more than $138 million.

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the site, which consists of undeveloped land, is approved for up to 2.8 million square feet of office space, much like Apple's Campus 2 location in Cupertino. Apple has not submitted building plans for the site, and it is unclear what the company plans to do with the land.

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Map showing land bought by Apple and other available real estate in the same North San Jose area

Apple is expanding rapidly in the Bay Area. In addition to the second Cupertino campus and the 300,000 square feet of space leased in San Jose in July, the company made its first real estate lease in San Francisco last week, signing a deal for 76,000 square feet of office space.

Along with office space, Apple is also said to be seeking additional space for both industrial purposes and research and development, possibly for undisclosed projects like its Apple Car.
What's interesting in the latest transaction is that Apple opted to buy, not lease. It's possible Apple wants more control over whatever it does there, and simply felt more comfortable owning the land. In addition to office space, Apple has been in the market for broad swaths of heavy R&D and industrial space, industry observers tell me. The latter could be read as a tantalizing sign of Apple's interest in manufacturing, though such a possibility is for now market speculation.
The land that Apple purchased in North San Jose is located approximately 12 miles from its 1 Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino and is across the freeway from the Mineta San Jose International Airport. North First Street is already home to other major companies like Cisco and Samsung.

Update August 4, 5:57 AM: Apple has given a statement to Silicon Valley Business Journal regarding its general plans for the site.
"As we continue to grow, we're planning to build R&D facilities and some additional office space in San Jose," spokeswoman Rachel Wolf said in an emailed statement. "The property isn't far from the future home of our new campus and we're looking forward to expanding our presence in the Bay Area."


First Firmware Worm Able to Infect Macs Created by Researchers

A team of researchers has created the first firmware worm that's able to infect Macs, reports Wired. Building on "Thunderstrike" exploits uncovered earlier this year, the worm, dubbed "Thunderstrike 2," infects Macs at the firmware level, making it nearly impossible to remove. Embedded into firmware, malware is resistant to firmware and software updates, able to block them entirely or reinstall itself at will.

The worm was created by security engineer Trammell Hudson, who first discovered the Thunderstrike exploits, and Xeno Kovah, owner of firmware security consultancy LegbaCore. When Thunderstrike made waves earlier this year, it was a limited proof-of-concept attack with no known presence in the wild, but Thunderstrike 2 demonstrates a real-world worm able to target Macs using the same general vulnerabilities.


Thunderstrike 2, unlike the first demonstration of Thunderstrike, is able to infect a Mac remotely through a malicious website or email. Once on a Mac, it's able to spread itself to other Macs by hiding in the option ROM of peripheral devices like Apple's own Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter, external SSDs, RAID controllers, and more. Once infected by a Mac that has the Thunderstrike 2 worm, the peripheral would go on to infect any other Mac it connects to.
"People are unaware that these small cheap devices can actually infect their firmware," says Kovah. "You could get a worm started all around the world that's spreading very low and slow. If people don't have awareness that attacks can be happening at this level then they're going to have their guard down and an attack will be able to completely subvert their system."
Removing malware embedded into a Mac's firmware would need to be done at the hardware level, making it particularly dangerous. According to the researchers, Apple has not done enough to fix the vulnerabilities that leave Macs open to these kind of attacks.
"Some vendors like Dell and Lenovo have been very active in trying to rapidly remove vulnerabilities from their firmware," Kovah notes. "Most other vendors, including Apple as we are showing here, have not. We use our research to help raise awareness of firmware attacks, and show customers that they need to hold their vendors accountable for better firmware security."
Kovah and Hudson have notified Apple about the Thunderstrike 2 vulnerabilities, but thus far, Apple's only fixed one of five security flaws and introduced a partial fix for a second. Three of the vulnerabilities have not yet been patched, but it's likely Apple is working to get the flaws fixed in an upcoming security update.

More information on Kovah and Hudson's research and the Thunderstrike 2 exploit can be found in a lengthy report over at Wired.

Apple Said to Consider Becoming a Mobile Carrier by Leasing Network Capacity in U.S. and Europe

Apple is currently in early talks to launch its own mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in both the United States and Europe, according to information gathered by Business Insider. A few sources close to Apple suggest that the company is testing the service right now in the United States, with early negotiations beginning in Europe to bring the MVNO service overseas.

If completed, Apple would essentially become its own network carrier, freeing the company and iPhone users from any particular current carrier like T-Mobile or AT&T, and allow users to pay for the usual data, calls, and text services directly from Apple. The MVNO would allow Apple to lease space from network carriers already in the business of providing data to customers, with the Apple SIM card -- already included in the cellular versions of the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 -- picking up and switching between carriers on the fly for the best service possible.
iPhone 6 pic
As Business Insider points out, the testing of the MVNO service doesn't guarantee its eventual arrival for customers using an iPhone in the United States and Europe. But, if the company does intend to eventually become a carrier itself, it would be a fairly long-term goal of five years or more to be fully implemented.
If Apple is testing the service then there's no guarantee that it will launch, and if it does, it's not going to roll out anytime soon. Telecoms sources say that Apple is looking long-term with its MVNO, and could take at least five years to fully launch the service. Apple has been in talks with telecoms companies for years over its MVNO plans, and it's an "open secret" amongst carriers that a virtual Apple network is on the way.
Speculation surrounding Apple becoming its own wireless provider has been swirling for a decade now, resurging in various rumor and patent stories every now and again over the years. With Apple rumored to be in "advanced talks" with mobile standards organization GSMA in the production of a standardized mobile electronic SIM card -- which would allow customers to avoid being locked into a dedicated network carrier -- the company appears to at least be positioning itself for the possibility of a future MVNO launch.

More 'iPhone 6s' Display Assembly Photos and Renderings Revealed

Following the release of several photos of a claimed display assembly for the "iPhone 6s" over the weekend, Macfixit Australia has shared additional images of what appears to be the same display assembly, further suggesting the leaked images to be real internal parts for the next-generation iPhone.

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One of Macfixit's photos includes a quality control label showing a pass date of July 29, which, if legitimate, would put the assembly in a correct time frame for Apple's traditional September iPhone launches. The image also appears identical to those released over the weekend by repair company GeekBar, with the same possible cutouts for a taptic engine to fuel Force Touch and a slightly thicker frame.

A few possible third-party case manufacturer design renders have also been shared by uSwitch and Nowhereelse.fr's OnLeaks channel, backing the theory that this year's iPhone line will be slightly thicker than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Theories that support Apple's reasoning behind increasing the iPhone's thickness -- other than the inclusion of Force Touch -- include attempts to avoid another "Bendgate" controversy from last year with a stronger body. Height and width of the iPhones shown in the renderings are also marginally larger than the measurements for the current lineup.

While the iPhone 6 came in at 6.9mm thick, the iPhone 6S is 7.1mm, according to our source.

The iPhone 6S Plus, which was the model most often cited in the so-called 'bendgate' scandal, has also been body-building. It’s gone from 7.1mm thick to 7.3mm, we were told.
The renders also suggest that the "iPhone 6s" could be missing the slightly protruding camera found on the current lineup, perhaps made possible by the slightly thicker body. The "iPhone 6s Plus" renderings, however, continue to show a protruding rear camera. uSwitch does note the renders could simply be incomplete, so Apple's plans for rear camera designs remain unconfirmed. Otherwise, the site notes an overall similarity between generations, with a home button, volume rockers, lock switch, and screen size that make the new phones "largely indistinguishable" from last year's models.

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Even with the possibility of a thicker frame, the size increase of the so-called iPhone 6s would be small enough to allow most accessories and cases to function with both generations of the device. News and rumors regarding the "iPhone 6s" and "iPhone 6s Plus" have begun to proliferate in the past few weeks, and will no doubt continue to do so as we head into the iPhone launch season.

iPhone Battery With 1715 mAh Capacity Possibly Destined for 'iPhone 6s' or '6c' Appears

French site Nowhereelse.fr last week shared a photo [Google Translate] of a battery appearing very similar to an iPhone battery and labeled as being from Apple's usual supplier, but the battery's capacity of 1715 mAh leaves questions as to whether the battery is intended for the upcoming "iPhone 6s" or a smaller "iPhone 6c" that has reportedly been delayed or canceled.

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The battery's 1715 mAh capacity is lower than the 1810 mAh capacity of the iPhone 6 battery, indicating Apple would have to have increased power efficiency of the device for the "S" generation in order to achieve the same battery life as its predecessor. Given the consistent overall design of the iPhone 6 and 6s, it is unclear why Apple would reduce the battery capacity at all, unless other changes such as a thicker display panel needed for Force Touch support are reducing the internal volume available for the battery in the iPhone 6s.

Another option is that this battery is for Apple's rumored "iPhone 6c", which was reportedly a new 4-inch iPhone Apple had under development but which appeared to have been canceled or delayed earlier this year after supply chain evidence dried up. The battery in today's photo carries a manufacturing date of March 2015, so it does come from the timeframe when iPhone 6c claims were still circulating, although its capacity is higher than that of fellow 4-inch devices such as the iPhone 5s (1558 mAh) and iPhone 5c (1510 mAh).

One argument in favor of this being an iPhone 6s battery is the connector seen on the part, which appears essentially identical to the one seen on the iPhone 6 and distinct from that used on other iPhone models such as the 5s and 5c, but it is otherwise difficult to say what device this battery was planned for.

With roughly a month to go before the expected unveiling of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, part leaks are rapidly accelerating. Many of them will not reveal much given the similarities between the two generation's designs, but some subtle differences such as those on the display assembly may hint at changes for the upcoming device.

(Thanks, Ryan)

Apple Testing Service That Allows Siri to Answer Calls and Transcribe Voicemail

Employees at Apple are reportedly putting a new service through its paces, one that would allow Siri to not only answer a missed call instead of a pre-set voicemail message, but give her the ability to record and transcribe those message for users to read as text later (via Business Insider). The messages would be sent to users via iCloud, completely skipping the need to check voicemail.

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The so-called "iCloud Voicemail" service could relay information regarding where a user is and specifics as to why they can't pick up the phone, if given the permission to do so. According to Business Insider, "multiple Apple employees" are testing the new feature and if it stays on track, it could see a debut sometime in 2016 in iOS 10.
Apple's proposed solution is both incredibly simple and incredibly clever: People like to leave voicemails (it's often quicker to orally deliver your information than it is to type it in a text message). But they don't like to receive voicemails (it's a lot quicker to read a text than it is to listen to the other person talking at you). The new product will also bridge a generation gap: Older users like voicemails. Young people do not.

Apple sends voice data to company servers, where Siri converts the words spoken into text. iCloud Voicemail will presumably function in the same way, sending the raw voicemails to Apple, and Siri will then transcribe them and make them available on your iPhone.
Apple has doubled-down on Siri ever since the digital assistant's debut, with this year's launch of iOS 9 -- focusing mainly on performance enhancements and subtle design changes -- seeing Siri at the heart of the changes. The new iOS will allow the personal assistant to create contextual reminders, search more thoroughly through photos and videos, and grant users an easily-accessible curated list of contacts and apps in "Siri Suggestions," a quick left-swipe from the home screen.

Apple Expected to Launch New iMacs With Improved Processors and Display Quality This Quarter

imac_27_angleApple's iMac line is set to receive a significant boost this quarter in the form of a refresh including new processors and improved display quality, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Display improvements are said to arrive in the form of greater color saturation, but Kuo makes no mention of whether Apple is planning to extend Retina display options to the smaller 21.5-inch iMac lineup.
We believe Apple will introduce new iMac models in 3Q15, which are expected to have key selling points such as more powerful processors and much better display quality. We predict the panel will use a LED phosphor material called KSF to notably boost color saturation.
While Apple has released several 27-inch Retina iMac models since last October, the remainder of the iMac lineup has not been updated since September 2013 as Apple has had to wait for Intel to release new desktop processors that could allow for a substantial update. With Broadwell processors starting to trickle out and Skylake right around the corner, it appears Apple will finally be able to offer a substantial upgrade for the entire iMac family.

Kuo believes that an inventory draw-down in the second quarter, the upcoming new iMacs, and promotions such as the current Back to School program will drive strong sequential growth in iMac shipments for the current quarter, perhaps doubling quarter-over-quarter to one million units. The third calendar quarter is typically very strong for Apple's Mac segment with much of the world in the midst of back to school shopping.

Related roundup: iMac , Tags: KGI Securities, Ming-Chi Kuo

Claimed 'iPhone 6s' Display Assembly Revealed in New Photos

Chinese phone repair company GeekBar has shared a series of three photos today (via Nowhereelse.fr) showing what is claimed to be a display assembly for the upcoming "iPhone 6s".

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While the photos do not confirm that the device will be equipped with Force Touch sensing as has been rumored, they do appear slightly different from the corresponding parts for the iPhone 6.

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Meanwhile, M.I.C Gadget shares a few photos of what it says is a prototype version of the iPhone 6s. The device is not shown turned on and the photos themselves do not reveal any differences compared to the iPhone 6, but the source claims the device measures 7.1 mm thick, slightly thicker than the 6.9 mm iPhone 6 and matching the 7.1 mm iPhone 6 Plus.

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Rumors have suggested the iPhone 6s could be slightly thicker than the iPhone 6 in order to accommodate the new Force Touch technology in the display, but the slight difference would not be easily perceptible to users and could even allow many accessories to be compatible with both generations.

Related roundups: iPhone 6, iPhone 6s (2015) , Tags: micgadget.com, GeekBar