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MCX Says Merchants Doing What's Best for Customers, Being Attacked for 'Challenging the Status Quo'

Following the publication of a blog post earlier today outlining some details of its upcoming CurrentC mobile payments solution and disclosure of a hack resulting in unauthorized access to users' email addresses, Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) held a conference call with members of the press to further address questions and concerns.

During the call, MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson and COO Scott Rankin clarified that MCX merchants who choose to accept Apple Pay are not subject to fines. As stated in the blog post earlier today, merchants are also free to leave the consortium entirely at any time without penalty beyond forfeiting the time and money already invested in the effort.

As a result, MCX certainly appears to be placing the blame for its member retailers' refusal to accept Apple Pay on the merchants themselves. Asked whether Apple Pay and MCX's CurrentC solution should be able to exist side-by-side, the executives noted that believe they will in the future and that it will take two or three major players in mobile payments to allow the entire market to thrive.

But pressed as to why some retailers such as CVS and Rite Aid have shut down NFC entirely rather than allow unofficial Apple Pay payments in their stores, Davidson argued that merchants know their customers best and are making the choices they believe are right for their customers. He said the merchants believe customers want more than just mobile payments, and CurrentC's integration of payments with loyalty cards and coupons will in his opinion prove to be the best solution.

On the topic of the hack

GT Advanced COO Blames Apple's Strict Sapphire Contract Terms for Bankruptcy Filing

GT Advanced's Chief Operating Officer Daniel Squiller yesterday filed some revised documents with the court, giving a bit more insight into what went wrong between Apple and GT Advanced that led to the latter company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

Shared by Fortune, Squiller's affidavit [PDF] delves further into the contractual obligations outlined in GT's agreement with Apple, which led to huge losses of money as the contract was highly favorable to Apple.

It was known that the terms of the contract prevented GT Advanced from selling its sapphire to customers other than Apple, but as it turns out, Apple also had a vast amount of control over GT's sapphire production. For example, GT was not able to modify equipment, specifications, or the manufacturing process without express consent from Apple, but Apple could modify the terms at any point. GT was also expected to fulfill any of Apple's purchase orders at Apple's demand, with severe penalties for failing to do so.
GTAT must accept and fulfill any purchase order placed by Apple on the date selected by Apple. If there is any delay, GTAT must either use expedited shipping (at its own cost) or purchase substitute goods (at its own cost). If GTAT's delivery is late, GTAT must pay $320,000 per boule of sapphire (and $77 per millimeter of sapphire material) as liquidated damages to Apple. To put this figure in perspective, a boule has a cost of less than $20,000. Apple, however, has the right, without compensating GTAT, to cancel a purchase order in whole or in part at any time and reschedule a delivery date at any time.

AT&T, Verizon Using 'Perma-Cookies' to Track Customer Web Activity

Both Verizon and AT&T appear to be engaging in some unsavory customer tracking techniques, using unique identifying numbers to deliver targeted advertisements to customers in what's called "Relevant Advertising." As outlined by Wired, Verizon is altering the web traffic of its customers by inserting a Unique Identifier Header or UIDH, a temporary serial number that lets advertisers identify Verizon users on the web.

According to Jacob Hoffman-Andrews of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the UIDH serves as a "perma-cookie" that can be read by any web server to "build a profile" of internet habits. Verizon users cannot turn off the UIDH, but opting out of the Relevant Mobile Advertising Program prevents the information from being used to create targeted ads.

Verizon has been using Relevant Advertising techniques for two years, but the tracking has gone largely unnoticed until recently, when extra data from Verizon customers was noticed. AT&T appears to be engaging in similar tracking activities, and is testing its own Relevant Advertising system.

According to Forbes, AT&T is testing a similar code insertion program that will allow websites to track AT&T customers. Like Verizon, AT&T has plans to make the tracking codes temporary as a "privacy-protective measure," but according to one of the researchers that discovered the tracking, Kenneth White, the codes that AT&T is sending to some customers are persistent.
AT&T does not currently have a mobile Relevant Advertising program. We are considering such a program, and any program we would offer would maintain our

Apple Disallows Previously Approved Calculator Widgets for iOS 8 Notification Center

Apple is forcing popular iOS calculator app PCalc to remove its Notification Center widget, which allows users to access calculator functions directly from the "Today" view of the Notification Center. According to Apple, widgets on iOS are not allowed to perform any calculations.

Apple's sudden decision to disallow PCalc's previously approved widget is somewhat surprising as the app is featured in multiple places in the App Store, including a section called "Extend Your Apps" featuring apps with unique widgets, and "Great Apps and Games for iOS 8," which also features a selection of Notification Center widgets.

PCalc was one of the first apps to be updated for iOS 8 and along with being featured on MacRumors in a list of apps with Notification Center integration, it was lauded for its convenient and unique use of the Notification Center in App Store reviews and in iOS 8 coverage from a variety of sites.

Apple appears to have some fairly strict guidelines governing the proper usage of Notification Center widgets. PCalc is not the first app that's facing the removal of its widget, as Apple previously pulled Launcher from the App Store. Launcher installed a Notification Center widget that provided access to quick actions like making a phone call, opening a pre-defined Maps route, or sending a tweet.

Apple's App Extension guidelines do clearly state that Notification Center widgets

European 'iWatch' Trademark Holder Plans New Android Smartwatch

Irish firm Probendi is seeking to capitalize on Apple's announcement of the Apple Watch earlier this year by using its existing "iWatch" trademark in Europe to launch its own smartwatch device. Probendi director Daniele Di Salvo confirmed in a recent RTE Radio interview that the company will "absolutely push ahead" with its plans to build a smartwatch device that will compete with the Apple Watch, reports news site Herald.ie.

Probendi owns an iWatch trademark in Europe and has been using the iWatch name for health and safety communication software. Di Salvo acknowledges the company's existing iWatch software product, but notes that "the name is easily associated with a smartwatch" when discussing the company's future plans.

It is unclear, however, how Di Salvo will be able to extend use of the iWatch name to a smartwatch, as the category protection for the company's trademark is somewhat limited within the computer software classification. Numerous other companies, including Apple, have filed for protection on the "iWatch" name in a variety of classifications and countries, something that may have contributed to Apple's decision to use the "Apple Watch" name for its product.

Speaking to RTE Radio, Di Salvo refused to comment on any potential discussions with Apple about the trademarked name, but did confirm that the company is in talks with Chinese manufacturers about producing a smartwatch device.
"We have been contacted by some very important manufacturers in China about the possibility of manufacturing a smartwatch and selling them with the name iWatch.

CurrentC Alerts Users of Unauthorized Access to Email Addresses

Just hours after publishing a blog post answering some questions about its upcoming CurrentC mobile payments system and touting the security of its cloud-based storage of sensitive information, the company behind the effort, Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) has alerted users of unauthorized access to their email addresses.
Thank you for your interest in CurrentC. You are receiving this message because you are either a participant in our pilot program or requested information about CurrentC. Within the last 36 hours, we learned that unauthorized third parties obtained the e-mail addresses of some of you. Based on investigations conducted by MCX security personnel, only these e-mail addresses were involved and no other information.

Details on the unauthorized access have not been disclosed, but iMore's Nick Arnott earlier this week took a look at some of the personal information being collected by MCX and CurrentC and noted that he could ping CurrentC's systems to look for valid registered email addresses on the system. While he did not find valid addresses, the system appeared capable of returning a substantial amount of personal information about such accounts.

Security has of course been one of the main selling points of Apple's new Apple Pay system, with data stored in a Secure Element on the device and payments authorized through Touch ID and tokenized account numbers being used instead of actual credit card numbers to process

Apple SIM Included With iPad for Customer Convenience, but iPhone Not Likely to Join In

Apple had the consumer in mind when it added a multi-carrier SIM card to its new iPads, said Apple vice president of iPhone, iPod and iOS product marketing Greg Joswiak in a recent Re/code interview (via Fierce Wireless). But that motivation does not mean the Apple SIM will be making its way to the iPhone any time soon, as Joswiak noted most consumers go directly to their carriers to buy iPhones, while the iPad more often is sold through Apple's retail channels.
"It's about the customer experience," he said during an appearance here at Re/code's Code/Mobile conference. "We ultimately don't know who you are going to use as the carrier, [and] we want to make it as easy as possible."

Joswiak said Apple has not discussed putting the Apple SIM into iPhones, but said that because of the way most customers buy an iPhone--through a carrier directly--the Apple SIM is not as well suited. "I don't think you're going to go to the Verizon store and say, 'Can you hook me up with AT&T?,'" he said.
With most iPhone customers committed to their carriers for a significant period of time, either through contracts subsidizing the phone cost or through payment plans, multi-carrier SIM cards make less sense for iPhones.

Apple's new universal SIM in theory allows customers to activate with one carrier and then switch to another carrier as needed, but there are some limitations. The Apple SIM is currently only compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and UK carrier EE. Verizon confirmed that is not adopting Apple's new SIM, instead requiring customers to activate with a Verizon-specific SIM.

MCX Confirms Retailer Exclusivity for CurrentC Mobile Payments, but No Fines for Leaving Consortium

Much of the Apple news in recent days has centered around Apple Pay and what Tim Cook referred to on Monday as a "skirmish" in which several retailers backing a competing mobile payments initiative known as CurrentC have shut down NFC payment functionality in their stores to prevent customer use of Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and other similar services.

Numerous sources have indicated that retailers backing CurrentC are contractually prohibited from accepting alternative forms of mobile payments, and sources told The New York Times that retailers breaking those contracts would "face steep fines."

Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), the consortium of retailers backing CurrentC, has now published a blog post confirming that retailers working with MCX are indeed required to back CurrentC exclusively. While the group does not directly address whether consortium members could be fined for accepting Apple Pay, it does say members may leave the group without penalty if they so choose.
MCX merchants make their own decisions about what solutions they want to bring to their customers; the choice is theirs. When merchants choose to work with MCX, they choose to do so exclusively and we’re proud of the long list of merchants who have partnered with us. Importantly, if a merchant decides to stop working with MCX, there are no fines.
While the lack of a fine for leaving the consortium means retailers such as CVS and Rite Aid could still pull out of the CurrentC effort and begin accepting Apple Pay, retailers are undoubtedly reluctant to do so as they view CurrentC has a key effort to

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Boost Apple's Customer Base in Europe, but Market Share Slightly Down in U.S.

Research firm Kantar WorldPanel has released a new report (via TechCrunch) highlighting global smartphone sales over the July-September period which saw the debut of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The report found that Apple's market share in major European markets is now higher when compared to the prior-year-period that saw the debut of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. However, Apple's share in countries like the United States and Japan were found to be lower when compared to the same timeframe last year.

Our latest data covers the first few days of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus being available in Europe and it is clear that demand has been high for the eagerly awaited new models. In Great Britain, where the new iPhone models started shipping on 19 September, Apple saw its sales share up by 1.7% compared with the same period last year, taking share of iOS to 31%. Across the major European markets, where the new iPhone models were made available between the 19 and 26 September, initial sales of the new iPhone models have overwhelmingly been from existing iPhone owners (87%).

Across Europe’s top five markets, the iPhone 6 has outsold the larger iPhone 6 Plus by five-to-one.
Apple's total market share in the U.S. hit 32.6% during September, which is down 3.3% from the 35.9% market share it held in the year-ago period. In Japan, Apple's market share reached 31.3% in September, which is down 15.9% when compared to the 47.2% market share it held during same time period last year.
In the US, market competition has been reinvigorated with LG and Motorola increasing

iOS 8 Now Installed on Over Half of Active iOS Devices

After five and a half weeks of availability, Apple's iOS 8 operating system is now installed on 52 percent of iOS devices, according to new numbers posted on Apple's App Store support page for developers.

iOS 8's installation numbers have increased approximately four percent over the course of the two weeks, which means adoption numbers are on the rise after several weeks of stagnation. During Apple's October 16 iPad-centric event, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that iOS 8 was installed on 48 percent of devices as of October 13, and before that, the OS was installed on 46 percent of devices on September 21.

The jump in iOS 8 installation numbers follows the October 20 release of iOS 8.1, which brought several new features that undoubtedly enticed iOS users to upgrade, including Apple Pay support, SMS Forwarding, Instant Hotspot, iCloud Photo Library beta access, and the return of the Camera Roll.

iOS 8.1 also addressed several notable bugs that had been present in the operating system for several weeks and that were the source of several user complaints about iOS 8. The update fixed Wi-Fi connection issues, Bluetooth problems, screen rotation bugs, and more.

Apple's own iOS 8 adoption estimates are based on App Store usage and are mirrored closely by data from MixPanel, which puts iOS 8 adoption at just over 54 percent. MixPanel's numbers suggest installation rates have been trending upwards since the release of iOS 8.1.

iOS 8's release was plagued with a number of early bugs that may have scared users away from updating. Ahead of launch, all HealthKit-enabled

Apple VP Greg Joswiak Apologizes for iOS 8.0.1 Bug, Points to Software Distribution as Cause

Apple's VP of iPhone marketing, Greg Joswiak, sat down for an interview with Re/code's Ina Fried and Walt Mossberg this afternoon, discussing iPhone 6 and 6 Plus supply, the flawed iOS 8.0.1 update, Apple Pay, and the Apple Watch.

According to Joswiak, the major iOS 8.0.1 bug that caused many iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users to lose access to both cellular service and Touch ID was caused by the software distribution rather than a flaw in the software. "It wasn't the software itself, it was the way it was distributed, said Joswiak. "We're very sorry."

The iOS 8.0.1 bug surfaced shortly after the software was first released, bricking many iPhone 6 and 6 devices. Apple pulled the update a few hours later, directed users to downgrade to iOS 8, and released iOS 8.0.2 to fix the problem the next day.

On the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Joswiak echoed a statement made by Tim Cook during Apple's recent earnings call, saying that while he's not sure which iPhone had higher demand, Apple is selling everything that it makes. According to Joswiak, Apple's goal isn't to sell the most iPhones, but to provide a better experience.

Repeating much of what Tim Cook had to say on Apple Pay and the situation with Rite Aid/CVS, Joswiak commented that retailers aiming to be successful will accept the way customers want to pay. He went on to state that Apple is focused on improving mobile payments for consumers, minimizing the amount of personal data shared and keeping that data safe from hackers.

Some of Joswiak's final comments were on the Apple Watch. When Mossberg implied that the Apple

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Apple Over 2011 MacBook Pro Graphics Issues

Back in January, we highlighted graphics issues being experienced by a number of owners of 2011 15-inch and 17-inch MacBook Pro models, with many users needing to pay for (sometimes multiple) expensive logic board replacements due to the issue. The apparent widespread nature of the issue has led to claims that it is a manufacturing defect that should be covered by Apple, with a change.org petition seeking relief from Apple now exceeding 20,000 signatures and affected users organizing in a Facebook group of over 5,000 members.

We noted in August that law firm Whitfield Bryson & Mason LLP had begun researching the issue, soliciting feedback from affected users to determine whether a class action lawsuit against Apple might be warranted. The firm apparently found sufficient reason to proceed as it has announced today that it has indeed filed suit against Apple on behalf of affected consumers.
Our firm recently filed a class-action lawsuit in a California federal court against Apple, Inc. on behalf of residents in the States of California and Florida who purchased 2011 MacBook Pro Laptops with AMD GPUs who experienced graphical distortions and system failures.
The firm is continuing to solicit feedback from affected users and is considering filing actions in other jurisdictions around the country.

The lawsuit lays out the plaintiffs' argument that the issues stem from hardware defects related to the lead-free solder used on the AMD graphics chips in the 2011 MacBook Pro models.
When the lead-free solder cracks it degrades the data flow between the GPU and the logic board.