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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.

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.

Rumor: Apple to release all-Retina iPad, MacBook Pro lineups in 2013

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, January 16th, 2013, 08:09
Category: Apple TV, Hardware, iPad, iPad mini, MacBook Pro, Rumor

Even though it’s a rumor, there’s got to be a nugget of truth in there somewhere.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has made his Apple hardware predictions for the upcoming year, and expects a bevy of new iOS and Mac product releases will help the iPhone maker address a wider swath of the market

Kuo, who has seen previous success in predicting future Apple products, says the company will introduce a number of new iOS devices in 2013, including an inexpensive iPhone 5, upgraded iPhone 5S, Retina display-toting second-gen iPad mini and a redesigned fifth-generation iPad, among others. He goes on to say that Apple will retire the non-Retina MacBook Pro line and replace it with an all-Retina lineup at a lower price.

Kuo is quick to note that none of the product forecasts are expected in the first quarter of 2013 and says “many” will be introduced in the second half of the year.

According to the analyst, Apple will release both an iPhone 5S with updated internals as well as an inexpensive version of the current iPhone 5 design with a thicker plastic chassis available in six colors. The iPhone 5S, which Kuo believes will launch sometime in June or July, will have largely the same aesthetic as the existing model, but will boast a built-in fingerprint sensor, improved camera and more powerful A7 SoC. A slightly revamped “new design” iPhone 5 is expected to go on sale as a less-expensive alternative to Apple’s flagship handset at around the same time, with the affordable price tag attributed to a plastic exterior that will be available in multiple colorways.

Kuo believes a new fifth-generation 9.7-inch iPad will launch with lighter frame and a more refined look, borrowing the narrow bezels seen on the iPad mini. In turn, the smaller tablet will move to generation two and get a Retina display that sports the same 2,048-by-1,536 pixel screen resolution as the existing full-size iPad. By using an identical resolution, app makers won’t have to make software changes to fit a new native format. The same thinking was used when the iPad mini was released with a resolution identical to the iPad 2.

As for Apple’s MacBook, the analyst sees an end of life for non-Retina MacBook Pros, which will be replaced by an all-Retina lineup that eschews optical drives. Pricing should be reduced to help move units. The MacBook Air will see little change besides a bump in internal specs as sizing down the high-resolution Retina display is seen as too steep a challenge at this time. Because the Air will not see a significant design change, the tweaked models are expected to arrive earlier in the year, with the all-Retina MacBook Pro line coming in quarter three.

In respect to the iPod product line, Kuo isn’t expecting much in the way of revolutionary changes. With the fifth-gen iPod touch released, Apple will likely introduce a cheaper variant of the current design without a camera and less built-in memory to reach a target price of US$199.

Finally, 2013 is expected to be the last year in which the Apple TV is considered a “hobby,” but Kuo doesn’t believe the company will introduce a full-fledged television set in the next 12 months. The existing media streamer is likely to morph into a serious business — possibly a full-fledged HDTV — in 2014, as Apple already has the infrastructure to support such a device with iTunes, the App Store and iCloud services. What the company lacks, however, is experience in the industry, especially concerning the establishment of a reliable supply chain. Kuo looks to the much-rumored “iTV” as a source of growth in the coming years.

Fourth-gen Wi-Fi, cellular iPad to arrive alongside iPad mini in China on January 18th

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, January 15th, 2013, 08:09
Category: iPad, News, retail

Come Friday, the newest and coolest iPad will be available in China.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Apple CEO Tim Cook has teased that Wi-Fi + cellular versions would hit China sometime this month, and it looks like January 18 is indeed the magic day. Cellular-capable versions of both the iPad mini and 4th gen iPad with Retina will be offered at Apple retailers and on the web via the Apple Online Store.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’re in/around China and have noticed the 4th-gen iPad or the iPad mini surface, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple prepping iOS 6.1 beta, build expected to go Golden Master

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Date: Monday, January 14th, 2013, 07:51
Category: iOS, News, Software

Just the term, “golden master”, it pretty much sounds awesome.

Per German web site iFun, Apple is said to be internally testing a new beta of iOS 6.1 that is expected to be the golden master build, suggesting the software is nearly ready to be released to the public.

Citing a “reliable source,” the web site reported Friday that the fifth beta of iOS 6.1 is about to be released to developers. The software is said to have gone through “extensive internal testing,” and if all goes well it will be the golden master of the software.

The software is expected to be released to developers either on Friday or potentially on Monday.

Apple began supplying beta builds of iOS 6.1 to its development community in early November. To date, there have been four betas seeded, the most recent arriving in mid-December.

Changes in iOS 6.1 are mostly minor, with the most significant user-facing additions including the ability to purchase movie tickets through Fandango with Siri, and a new prompt that asks users to enter security questions for iCloud when setting up their device for the first time.

For developers, iOS 6.1 includes an enhanced Map Kit framework that will allow third-party applications to search for map-based addresses based on points of interest. For example, a user could search the term “coffee” and the new framework would return the location of local coffee bars along with information about each one.

iOS 6.1 builds released to date have been compatible with the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, and iPhone 3GS; fourth-, third-, and second-generation iPad; iPad mini; and fifth-and fourth-generation iPod touch.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple to release updated iPad, iPad mini models in March

Posted by:
Date: Friday, January 11th, 2013, 09:42
Category: Hardware, iPad, Rumor

Come March…you may buy the next generation of iPad.

Per AppleInsider, a new rumor has pegged both the full-size iPad and iPad mini as due for updates in March.

Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets said his checks with industry sources at this week’s CES event in Las Vegas, Nev., indicated both the fifth-generation iPad and second-generation iPad mini will debut this March, just five months after the last update was announced.

White was told that the new “iPad 5” will be lighter and thinner than the fourth-generation model Apple released late last year. The updated model features a new A6X processor and Apple’s smaller Lightning chip but maintained the same design as the third-generation iPad released last March.

As for the iPad mini, White said the second-generation device is expected to have the same form factor. A new model would likely just have upgraded components, such as a faster chip.

No mention was made of a potential high-resolution Retina display in a new iPad mini. One report from last month claimed Apple was focused on boosting the resolution of the next-generation iPad mini.

Though many industry insiders attend CES, Apple does not have an official presence at the annual event. White did not indicate the source of his information aside from unnamed “checks” at the show.

White also reported last week that Apple is expected to debut new iPhones this summer in more sizes and colors, expanding the lineup from the current black and white options. He expects the new iPhones to debut in the May-June timeframe, which would be earlier than the last two years.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple looking into Sharp IGZO technology for future iOS device displays

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Date: Tuesday, January 8th, 2013, 10:28
Category: News

It’s a rumor now, but it highlights the idea of a cool thing that could come to the Mac before too long.

Per AppleInsider, Sharp this week Sharp stressed the importance of IGZO technology for the company’s future.



In attendance for Sharp’s event was analyst Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets, who lauded the abilities of IGZO technology. Sharp’s advanced displays were described as having twice the resolution of a conventional LCD screen with up to 90 percent power savings.

“Even after turning off the power of a device, IGZO allows the image to continue to be displayed on the screen,” White explained. He said he believes Apple is a “prime candidate” to adopt IGZO in future devices.

Apple has been rumored for years to be interested in Sharp’s IGZO display technology. One report from last year claimed that Apple investigated using IGZO panels in the third-generation iPad, but the technology was not yet ready for mass production.

Rumors again cropped up in December, claiming that Apple is evaluating IGZO display technology for its next generation of iPhones and iPads. The technology’s acronym stands for the materials that make up the advanced panels: indium, gallium, and zinc oxide.

White believes that Apple “increasingly requires new innovative display technologies to compete with Samsung.” A deal with Sharp could also reduce Apple’s reliance on LG Display, which initially struggled to meet required standards for the iPad’s Retina display in early 2012.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 could be en route to next-gen iOS devices

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Date: Friday, January 4th, 2013, 07:54
Category: Hardware, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News

Glassmaker Corning on Thursday announced Gorilla Glass 3, a stronger, more scratch resistant version of the current substrate used in the display of Apple’s iPhone and iPad lines of mobile devices.

Per Engadget, Corning unveiled its latest glass technologies including Gorilla Glass 3 and optical cables for use in fiber-supported protocols like Thunderbolt.



As for the next-generation Gorilla Glass 3, Corning claims the material is three times more scratch resistant than the previous version thanks to “Native Damage Resistance” technology. The company also claims that of the scratches that do occur on the glass, 40 percent fewer will be visible to the naked eye.

Not much information was provided pertaining to the optical cables, but the fiber format promises enhanced speeds and longer cable runs compared to current copper-based solutions. When Apple first launched Thunderbolt-compatible Macs and the Thunderbolt display, the company promised increased performance when optical cables hit the market. Thus far, production of the expensive components has been non-existent, but that is expected to change in 2013.

Corning Glass Technologies President James P. Clappin is scheduled to be a panelist on in the “Disruptive Technologies Impacting the Future of Games and Video” session at 11 a.m. PST on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and will discuss the role of specialized glass in consumer electronics like high-resolution 3D, HD video, internet-connected TVs and tablets, among other devices.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple in negotiations to purchase Waze map service

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Date: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013, 10:16
Category: iOS, Rumor, Software

When in doubt about your own technologies, maybe it’s time to go shopping.

Per TechCrunch and The Mac Observer, Apple is apparently deep in negotiations to buy the online map service Waze. Sources say the Mac, iPhone and iPad maker is willing to pay upwards of US$500 million for the company, although Waze is said to be holding out for US$750 million.

Waze’s twist on the online map and navigation market is social networking. The company gathers map data through users as they drive, and is seen as generally more accurate than some other online map services since users are contributing information daily. In contrast, Google’s Maps relies primarily on its own cars to gather data and street view photos.

Apple found itself with a marketing black eye after the release of iOS 6 in fall 2012 when it replaced Google’s Maps for its own service — a service that suffered from accuracy issues and missing location data. Apple responded with a public apology and a promise to “throw its weight” behind improving its Maps service.

The company also recently approved Google’s own mapping app for the iPhone, which brought back features missing from Apple’s own app such as public transportation information. With Google Maps available, competition in the navigation space ramped up a little, although Waze is apparently the only navigation app that gained serious traction after Apple released its own Maps app.

Apple also already has a working relationship with Waze since the company is providing some of the location data iOS 6 users rely on.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple to hold Q1 2013 earnings conference call on Wednesday, January 23rd

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Date: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013, 07:39
Category: Finance, News

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It’s nice to get the numbers back and see how you’re doing.

Per AppleInsider, Apple announced on Wednesday that it will reveal results for the first fiscal quarter of 2013 on Jan. 23, which will be followed by an earnings conference call expected to cover initial statistics for the holiday season as well as performance numbers for the iPad mini.

The announcement was posted to Apple’s Investor Relations web site and noted the conference call will start on Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 2:00 p.m. Pacific/5:00 p.m. Eastern. A live audio stream of the call will be available at this link.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple saw a 25 percent boost in profits thanks to strong sales of 44 million iDevices, including 26.9 million iPhones, for the three month period. Revenue for fiscal 2012 reached over US$156 billion on sales of more than 200 million iOS devices, 18 million Macs, and 35 million iPods.

For the upcoming report, Apple forecast revenue of US$52 billion and diluted earnings per share of about US$11.75 for the quarter ending in December. The multitude of new product launches and product line refreshes, like the iPad mini, iPhone 5 and newly redesigned iMac line, are expected to drive down gross margins that could equate to a decline of 400 basis points for the three month period.

Stay tuned to the PowerPage for up to the minute coverage on the earnings come the 23rd.