Apple allies with Merchants Bank Co. to offer installment-based payment plans to Chinese customers

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Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2013, 09:06
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, retail

If you’re buying Apple equipment in China, there’s a payment plan for you.

Per Bloomberg, Apple on Thursday introduced a new option for Chinese buyers of iPhones and MacBooks, allowing them to spread the cost of purchases ranging from from 300 yuan (US$48) to 30,000 yuan (US$4,800) over as long as two years.

The new installment payment plans require a China Merchants Bank Co. credit card, with fees ranging from zero percent for a three-month installment plan to 8.5 percent for a 24-month plan. The payment structure likely represents Apple’s attempt at making its products, typically priced at a premium, more affordable for urban Chinese workers.

The article noted that Apple fell from fourth to sixth place in China’s smartphone market in the third quarter and now trails firms such as ZTE, Samsung, and Lenovo, whose smartphone offerings are more affordable than Apple’s iPhone.

Industry observers have long held that a cheaper iPhone would give Apple control over the growing Chinese market, and the financing move may allow Apple to retain its typical profit margins and brand image while widening its base of potential buyers in what will soon become the world’s largest market.

The iPhone 5, which hit the Chinese market last month, costs 5,288 yuan on Apple’s site, or about six weeks’ pay for the average urban worker. By comparison, handsets from competitors often cost less than 1,000 yuan.

Sales of other Apple products have demonstrated demand for the Cupertino company’s devices, as the iPad mini debuted to “insatiable demand” in China last December. Apple has increased its focus on the country accordingly, with chief executive Tim Cook visiting China twice in the past 10 months, most recently meeting with China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases seventh OS X 10.8.3 beta to developer community

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Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2013, 08:32
Category: News, Software

The betas, they just keep on comin’

Per AppleInsider, a seventh beta of OS X 10.8.3, Apple’s forthcoming maintenance and security update for the Mountain Lion operating system, was supplied to developers on Wednesday.

Sources familiar with the latest pre-release software said it is identified as build “12D54.” Any changes that may have been made to the software from its previous release are unknown.

Its release comes just over a week after Apple provided the last beta of Mountain Lion. That test software contained only minor changes from the previous build.

In earlier builds, developers have been asked to focus their testing on AirPlay, AirPort, Game Center, Graphics Drivers, and Safari.

Apple’s latest betas have touted a new “OS X Software Update Seed Configuration Utility” that retrieves new seeds through Software Update. When new builds are provided, Apple sends out notifications to install the update via the Mac App Store.

If you’ve gotten your hands on the new beta and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

AT&T to enable FaceTime for tiered customers with compatible iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2013, 08:00
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, News, Software

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Nothing like a little competition to get the wireless carriers to try to beat each other’s offerings.

That and the FCC yelling at you to do it sort of helps.

Per the company’s blog, AT&T announced on Wednesday it will enable FaceTime over cellular at no extra cost to any customers with a tiered data plan and compatible iOS device.

The announcement was made on the carrier’s website by Mark Collins, senior vice president of voice and data products. The change means that iPhone 4S customers with tiered plans will be able to make FaceTime calls over the AT&T network.

“We have already begun updating our systems and processes and expect to start rolling the update out to customers on an ongoing basis beginning in the next couple of weeks,” Collins wrote. “Customers do not need to do anything — the update will be applied automatically over the next few months.”

FaceTime over cellular will not come to older devices such as the iPhone 4 or second-generation iPad, even if they are running iOS 6. But that’s because the hardware does not support mobile FaceTime connections — a decision made by Apple, not AT&T.

Previously, AT&T had restricted FaceTime over cellular to customers who had switched to its Mobile Share plans, as well as those with an LTE device, such as the iPhone 5 or latest iPad, on a tiered plan.

AT&T came under fire for its initial decision, and the company was compelled to defend itself in a statement claiming its plan complied with Federal Communications Commissions that prohibit carriers from blocking services that compete with their own. The carrier argued that its decision was in compliance because AT&T does not offer its own competing preloaded video chat application.

AT&T began quietly activating FaceTime over cellular for more subscribers in November. At the time, some users who had grandfathered unlimited data plans said they too were able to use FaceTime. However, Wednesday’s announcement indicated the ability will only extend to customers who have tiered data plans.

If you get a chance to try FaceTime over AT&T’s cellular connections and have any feedback to offer about it, please let us know in the comments.