Apple lowers price of refurbished Apple TV units to $75

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Date: Wednesday, July 31st, 2013, 13:02
Category: Apple TV, News, retail

A little competition sometimes brings out a decent price.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has lowered the price of its refurbished Apple TV units to US$75, knocking 25 percent off the price of a new model.

The price drop could reflect Apple’s reaction to Google’s salvo against the Apple TV, which currently rules the roost among streaming devices. The refurbished model is now just over twice the price of Google’s Chromecast, but it also comes with a 1-year Apple warranty and a much wider feature set than Google’s streaming device.

Most recently, Apple added iTunes music purchasing to its set-top box, and a number of video apps have added AirPlay streaming capabilities over the last few months. Also, users may soon be able to use a touch to configure option to automatically set up their Apple TV devices in the near future.

Inside, the refurbished model has an Apple A5 processor, and it is compatible with high-definition televisions with HDMI and capable of 1080p or 720p at 60/50Hz. It can be purchased directly from Apple, with the refurbished device shipping within 24 hours. Depending on a customer’s location, it may also be available for in-store pickup.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Beijing-area scalpers buying up Genius Bar appointments, selling them online

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Date: Monday, July 29th, 2013, 06:28
Category: News, retail

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If you’re planning on traveling to China in the near term, you might want to be aware of this.

Per the Beijing Morning News, Beijing ticket scalpers have found a new way to make money on Apple: booking up all available Genius Bar appointments and then offering them for sale online.

Ticket scalpers usually make their money by buying large quantities of event tickets as soon as they go on sale, and then illegally selling them for more than face value once the event is sold-out. With Genius Bar appointments, they don’t even need to fork out cash in the first place: just use a bunch of email addresses to make the appointments, then advertise them online.

Appointments sell for 10- yuan (US$1.60-US6.40) in a country where the average monthly salary is equivalent to US$580. A Beijing Morning News reporter found there were no appointments available on the Apple site for iPhone, iPad or iPod. They contacted one of the advertisers asking for an appointment the next day, and were offered a choice of two local stores and two time slots. The reporter was sent login details for the booking by instant messenger, and was then able to access the booking on the Apple site to change the details to their own.

The reporter contacted Apple for comment, and had not received a reply at the time of writing.

If you’ve been traveling and noticed anything similar to this, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Mac mini ship times slip to 5-7 days, near-term Haswell refresh possible?

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Date: Friday, July 26th, 2013, 06:04
Category: Mac mini, retail, Rumor

When the ship times vary, a new product refresh could be around the corner.

Per MacRumors, Mac mini ship times on many Apple Online Stores have slipped to 5-7 business days.

This flies in the face of ship times for all the other Macs, as the other units on the online store have shipping estimates of “within 24 hours”. That said, most Apple Retail Stores do show availability for the mini, as does Amazon.com.

Apple sometimes does have temporary product shortages of computers mid-cycle, but they can also portend intentional drawdowns of stock ahead of a product refresh. The Mac mini is a candidate for an upgrade to Haswell processors, and it is coming due for a possible update in the near future.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Q3 2013 numbers, cites $35.3 billion in revenue, $6.9 billion profit

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Date: Wednesday, July 24th, 2013, 06:17
Category: Finance, News, retail

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There wasn’t massive growth, but the numbers were still good.

Per Macworld, Apple reported sales of US$35.3 billion, with net profit at US$6.9 billion for its third fiscal quarter. That translated to earnings of US$7.47 per diluted share. Apple’s revenue marked a record for the June quarter, ticking up 1 percent from the $35 billion Apple posted in last year’s third quarter. Still, profits fell 22 percent year-over-year, down from US$8.88 billion in 2012. Apple also reported a drop in profit during its fiscal second quarter of 2013.

With a tiny increase in revenue but a drop in profit, you’d rightly conclude that Apple’s gross margin dropped: For the quarter, it was 36.9 percent, versus 42.8 percent on the year-ago quarter. That’s because Apple’s most popular products now have lower margins than the top-sellers a year ago.

The company also says it has issued US$18.8 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and buybacks.

While Apple generally keeps a tight lid on future product announcement, company officials did reiterate a point made during its second-quarter earnings announcement in April—that the company plans to roll out new products starting this fall and into the next year. “We are laser-focused and working hard on some amazing new products,” CEO Tim Cook said in an statement accompanying Apple’s earnings announcement.”

Apple says it sold 32.2 million iPhones—a record for the June quarter. That’s up from 26 million iPhones in the year-ago period. For the U.S., iPhone sales rose 51 percent year-over-year, Apple says.

The picture was less rosy for iPad sales, but Apple has a perfectly reasonable explanation for the 14 percent drop in tablet sales from last year’s third quarter. A year ago, Apple introduced the third-generation iPad and enjoyed a full quarter’s worth of sales to the tune of 17 million units. This quarter, sales fell to 14.6 million iPads.

Still, Apple has plenty of reason to remain bullish on the iPad. Company chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said that the iPad ranked tops in a 2013 U.S. tablet satisfaction survey by JD Power and Associates. And during the quarter, the company inked a deal with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest district in the U.S., to roll out iPads to 640,000 students.

In fact, the iPad got the bulk of the credit for a strong quarter of sales to U.S. schools. According to Oppenheimer, the last three months generated the highest quarterly revenue ever for Apple’s U.S. education institution business.

Mac sales also fell in the quarter, down 7 percent from last year to 3.8 million units. Still, Oppenheimer pointed out that the 3.8 million Macs sold beat Apple’s own expectations. And Apple’s sales still were ahead of the total PC market, which saw sales contract by 11 percent according to estimates from research firm IDC. By Apple’s math, the Mac gained market share during the quarter.

The Mac was one of the few product lines to see any changes during the quarter, with Apple updating its MacBook Air lineup at the beginning of June by adding new Intel processors. Company executives had little to say about any impact those new laptops had on overall Mac sales, but Oppenheimer did call it the most successful MacBook Air launch to date, adding that customer response was great.

But during the call, executives implied that there were better things to come. Oppenheimer noted that June’s Worldwide Developers Conference included previews of both the Mac Pro and the next version of OS X, code-named Mavericks.

The iTunes Stores—which includes the App Store, Mac App Store, iBookstore, and the music, movies, and TV sections of iTunes—generated $4.3 billion in billings, Oppenheimer said, culminating in the best week and best month ever for App Store. That translated to quarterly revenue of US$2.4 billion, up 29 percent year over year. Total quarterly revenue from iTunes, software, and services generated US$4 billion in revenue.

Oppenheimer said that Apple now has over 320 million iCloud accounts, and 240 million Game Center accounts.

As for brick-and-mortar retail efforts, the Apple Store saw revenue of US$4.1 billion for the quarter, virtually unchanged from the year-ago quarter. Oppenheimer reported that Apple saw 16,000 visitors per store each week.

For the quarter, Apple had an average of 405 stores, with average revenue per store at US$10.1 million, down US$1 million from the year-ago quarter. Apple opened six stores across five countries during the quarter, giving it 408 stores around the globe; 156 of those outlets are outside the U.S.

The company plans to open nine new stores during the September quarter, giving it 27 new openings during the 2013 fiscal year. It’s not just about new stores, however: Apple says that it relocated four of its stores to more appealing spots; it will complete 23 such relocations before the end 2013 fiscal year in September.

Where stockholders are concerned, the company’s Board of Directors has announced another cash dividend, this one at US$3.05 per share of common stock, payable on August 15 to any shareholder as of August 12.

For the next quarter, Apple is predicting revenue between US$34 billion and US$37 billion, with gross margins between 36 and 37 percent. That sales figure would put Apple’s performance in line with the US$36 billion in revenue it reported in the fourth quarter of 2012. For the coming quarter, Apple also predicts operating expenses will be between US$3.9 billion and US$3.95 billion, with a tax rate of 26.5 percent.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Verizon follows trend, announces Edge smartphone upgrade program

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, July 18th, 2013, 07:46
Category: iPhone, News, retail

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If you’re a Verizon aficionado, this isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Per AppleInsider, in response to similar offerings from rivals AT&T and T-Mobile, Verizon on Thursday unveiled its new Edge smartphone upgrade program, offering subscribers the ability to upgrade to a new handset after six months.

Verizon Edge is pitched as a “flexible equipment payment plan,” allowing customers to spread the retail price of a new phone over a 24-month period. If users pay 50 percent of the retail cost of their smartphone, they can upgrade to a new phone in as soon as six months.

The new program is available for any smartphone that Verizon offers, including Apple’s iPhone lineup. Customers choose the phone they want along with a month-to-month service plan.

The full retail price of the handset is then divided over two years. Customers pay the first month of that plan at the time of purchase.

When a customer upgrades to a new phone after six months, the 24-month payment period starts over again. Verizon Edge, which launches for Share Everything customers on August 25, does not include any service contracts, finance charges or upgrade fees.

The announcement comes only a few days after Verizon’s main rival, AT&T, announced its own similar plan, dubbed Next. With AT&T Next, customers can upgrade their smartphone or tablet every 12 months with no down payment and no activation or upgrade fees.

Starting July 26, AT&T will allow customers to spread the cost of a new smartphone or tablet over a 20-month period as part of their monthly wireless bill. Subscribers will have the option to trade in their device and upgrade to a new model after one year.

Both AT&T and Verizon followed in the steps of T-Mobile, which unveiled its own program called Jump last week. That service allows customers to upgrade their smartphone as often as two times per year at an added cost of US$10 per month.

T-Mobile Jump allows customers to pay the same subsidized price for a new smartphone as a new customer. Subscribers are required to wait at least six months after enrollment, after which they will be able to trade in their phone and upgrade to a new model twice a year.

Verizon’s announcement on Thursday leaves out only Sprint as the only carrier among the “big four” wireless providers in the U.S. that does not offer an early upgrade subscription program.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Top three Russian wireless providers drop iPhone over subsidies, other costs

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, July 17th, 2013, 07:29
Category: iPhone, News, retail

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If you’re headed to Russia and need to pick up an iPhone, your options may have become a bit more limited, comrade.

According to Fortune, three major Russian wireless providers have stopped carrying Apple’s iPhone, with the largest telecom, MTS, dropping the handset due to the high subsidy costs associated with being an Apple partner carrier.

As reported last week, Russia’s largest provider by subscribership, MTS, announced that it would be dropping the iPhone from its lineup, saying subsidies and marketing costs were to blame.

“Apple wants operators to pay them huge money, subsidizing iPhones and their promotion in Russia,” said MTS CEO Andrei Dubovskov. “Now it’s not beneficial for us. It’s good we stopped selling the iPhone as these sales would’ve brought us a negative margin.”

Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt speculates three factors played a part in the “big three’s” decision to ditch Apple’s handset. First, Russian carriers are limited by the federal agency Rospechat, which does not allow subsidies on the same level as seen in the U.S. For example, MTS is not able to offer an iPhone 5 for US$199.

Duties and taxes are also higher than normal for Europe, with an unlocked 16GB iPhone 5 selling for roughly US$925 on on the just-opened Russian Online Apple Store, or US$276 more than an identical U.S. variant. Apple says US$140 goes to Russian VAT, while the remaining US$129 is for foreign exchange rates, import duties, and channel mark-up.

Finally, Apple’s contract requirements, specifically those pertaining to marketing, are said to be extremely stringent. Because the contract terms are unknown, it is impossible to tell whether Russian carriers are subject to any special clauses.

The future of the iPhone in Russia is unclear, though estimates from IDC suggest that demand for the handset was already on the decline, dropping to 8.3 percent in the second quarter of 2013, down from 9 percent in 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T announces Jump device upgrade/payment plan for smartphone/tablet early adopters

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, July 16th, 2013, 07:44
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, retail

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If you’re in the habit of snagging the new stuff as it comes out, this might come in handy.

Per Mac|Life, wireless carrier AT&T announced Tuesday a new initiative called AT&T Next, which allows consumers to buy a new smartphone or tablet each and every year with no downpayment, no activation fee, no upgrade fee and no financing fees.

The move is seen as a response to T-Mobile’s recent attacks against the traditional subsidy business model, AT&T Next allows customers to buy a new device and agree to pay monthly installments. After 12 payments, the device can be traded in for a new one, or the customer can own it outright after making 20 payments.

While rival T-Mobile US offers a plan that allows up to two upgrades per year, their Jump! offer requires a US$10 per month payment just for the privilege of doing so. By comparison, AT&T Next requires no additional payments, and drops the usual US$36 activation and upgrade fees, which may be incentive enough for customers to stick with the carrier.

Beginning nationwide on July 26, AT&T Next will be available for both new AT&T customers as well as existing customers currently eligible for an upgrade.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Best Buy begins offering trade-ins for older iPads, deal to run Friday and Saturday

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Date: Friday, July 12th, 2013, 06:50
Category: iPad, iPad mini, News, retail

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Hey, a deal’s a deal and this is why a competitive marketplace is a good thing.

Per Electronista, just a few days after Target began offering gift cards of up to US$50 for buying various iOS devices, competitor Best Buy has begun offering a trade-in program where buyers can trade their older iPads (iPad 2 and third-generation models) for up to US$200 in gift cards that can be used for anything the retailer offers, including the latest iPad and iPad mini.
The trade-in offer is only good for two days — Friday, July 12 and Saturday, July 13 — but the resulting gift cards can be used at the company’s online site or in-store. The company said that particularly pristine trade-ins may receive even more than US$200.

To qualify, customers must visit a brick-and-mortar Best Buy or Best Buy Mobile store that is accepting trade-ins. If put towards the current fourth-generation iPad, the US$200 minimum gift card would lower the price of a 16GB Wi-Fi model to US$300. If applied towards a 16GB Wi-Fi iPad mini, traders would pay only US$129 (plus applicable taxes). For some models in exceptionally good condition, the retailer says it will over more than the US$200 minimum card as a reward for trading in.

The company says it will recycle the iPads it receives in trade. While the program is a good way to upgrade an older iPad to the latest models, potential buyers are reminded that Apple is expected to produce new versions of the iconic tablets sometime in the fall.

Both the older iPads and the current fourth-generation ones will be able to run iOS 7 when it comes out later this year, leaving behind only the original 2010 iPad. However, only the iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch will have access to all the new features in iOS 7. The current iPad and iPad mini cannot access the Camera app’s panorama or live filter features, the third-gen iPad doesn’t get AirDrop, and the iPad 2 will lack both AirDrop and all the camera changes.

If you’ve taken Best Buy up on this deal and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple launches Back to School promotion, throws in $50 and $100 iTunes gift cards

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Date: Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013, 07:49
Category: iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, News, retail

Never look a back to school promotion in the mouth.

Per the Mac Observer, Apple kicked off its annual Back to School deals on Tuesday for educational buyers and includes iTunes Store, App Store and iBookstore gift cards worth up to US$100 with new Mac, iPhone and iPad purchases. The special deals are available now and run through September 6, 2013.


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The offer reads as follows:
“Buy a Mac for college and get a $100 gift card to spend on apps and more — and also save with education pricing. Or buy an iPad or iPhone and get a $50 card.
Qualifying products include Macs other than the Mac mini, plus the iPhone 4, 4S and 5, and the iPad 2, fourth generation iPad, and iPad mini.”

Not a bad thing and where a US$50 or US$100 iTunes gift card are concerned, it’s hard to go wrong there.

Apple sets up web site, offers refunds and credits for claimants in iTunes Store class action lawsuit

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Date: Monday, June 24th, 2013, 06:42
Category: Legal, News, retail, Software

It’s hard to argue with the results of a class action lawsuit.

Still, it might be a refund coming your way thanks to your children purchasing items via the iTunes Store.

Per AppleInsider, Apple appears to have finalized the details of its settlement agreement for a class action suit over in-app purchases on iPhones and iPads, with the Cupertino company offering millions of dollars in refunds and iTunes credits.

A home page for the settlement program went live recently, laying out the options available for claimants in the class action suit over Apple’s in-app purchase policies. That suit, filed in 2011, alleged that Apple’s structure for processing in-app purchases was insufficient to stop minors from charging tens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars to their parents’ accounts without permission.

Under the settlement agreement, Apple will provide a single US$5 iTunes Store credit to claimants in the suit or a credit “equal to the total amount of Game Currency that a minor charged to your iTunes account without your knowledge or permission within a single forty-five day period.” For claimants that no longer have an active iTunes account, a cash refund is available, as is the case for those whose claims exceed US$30 in total.

All United States residents are eligible for an award from the settlement, provided that, prior to May 2, 2013, they paid for an in-app purchase in a qualified app. The purchase must have been charged to their iTunes account by a minor without their knowledge or permission. The deadline to submit a claim is January 13, 2014, and the deadline to object to or opt out of the settlement is August 30, 2013.

In-app purchases stepped into the spotlight over the last few years as developers looked for a way to further monetize their apps. As the option became more popular, complaints arose that it was too easy for children to rack up sizable charges on their parents’ accounts.

Apple already had some protections in place to stop minors from abusing in-app purchases, but the company was forced by the attention from several cases to modify its iTunes Store listings in order to warn users which apps featured additional paid content. The company has since stepped up its educational efforts in order to bring parents up to speed on what they can do to head off unwanted expenditures.

If you feel you meet the criteria for a claim, head over to the web site and let us know how your experience panned out in the comments.