Category Archives: Front Page

Apple Seeds First OS X 10.10.2 Yosemite Beta to Developers [Updated]

Apple today seeded the first beta of OS X 10.10.2 Yosemite to developers, just three days after releasing OS X 10.10.1 to the public.

The new beta, build 14C68k, is available through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store and should be available in the Mac Dev Center soon. The beta also includes Safari 8.0.2 and an update to the Mail app (version 8.2).

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Like OS X 10.10.1, as a minor update, OS X 10.10.2 is likely to bring bug fixes and performance improvements to the operating system. OS X 10.10.1 introduced several reliability enhancements, including improvements to Wi-Fi, but many users have still been reporting issues with Wi-Fi stability in Yosemite.

Update: It appears that OS X 10.10.2 is causing the latest version of Google's Chrome browser to crash. Retina iMac owners are also seeing display issues with the beta.

Update 2: The Chrome/10.10.2 issue is related to the trackpad, and the crashing can be circumvented by using an external mouse and disabling the trackpad while the mouse is plugged in.


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Billboard 200 Chart to Incorporate Digital Track Sales, On-Demand Streaming Music

Billboard is planning a major overhaul of its Billboard 200 chart in the coming weeks, which will take into account the growing popularity of streaming music. Billboard's new methodology will shift away from simply tracking album sales, adding both digital track sales and streaming music into its algorithm.

Published weekly, the Billboard 200 is a chart that ranks the 200 best selling music albums in the United States. At the current time, the Billboard 200 chart only takes into account retail (both physical and digital) album sales, but the addition of digital track sales and streaming music from services like Beats and Spotify will allow the chart to give a clearer picture of overall popularity by taking into account consumption activity rather than measuring based on straight sales.

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Beginning on December 3, and measuring data during Thanksgiving week, the Billboard 200 will count 10 individual song sales or 1,500 song streams as a standard album sale. Billboard plans to incorporate data from every major streaming audio subscription service, including Spotify, Beats Music, Google Play, and Xbox Music. Ad-supported radio services like Pandora and iTunes Radio will not be counted, as Billboard is only planning to focus on on-demand services.
"Adding streaming information makes the chart a better representation of music consumption activity," says Silvio Pietroluongo, VP of charts and data development at Billboard. "While an extremely valuable measurement, album sales would mostly capture the initial impulse only, without indicating the depth of consumption thereafter. Someone could listen to the album just once, or listen to one track or a number of tracks 100 times. We are now able to incorporate those plays as part of an album consumption ranking throughout one's possession of an album, extending beyond the initial purchase or listen."
According to Billboard, incorporating individual song sales and streaming music could see some artists moving up the charts, including Ariana Grande and Maroon 5, both of which have higher streaming and digital song sales than album sales.

The methodology change was done under the guidance of music industry executives, to represent the growing popularity of streaming music services. According to Nielsen and Billboard's mid-2014 Music Industry Report [PDF] on-demand streaming music sales were up 42 percent year-over-year, with streams surpassing 70 billion songs.

On-demand streaming music services are now in over a hundred countries, and the most popular streaming service, Spotify, now has more than 10 million subscribers. Non-paid radio-style streaming services like Pandora have also exploded in popularity, with Pandora hitting 76.4 million active monthly users back in August.

Apple's own streaming music service, Beats Music, had only 110,000 subscribers when it was purchased by Apple, but it may see an explosion in growth next year as Apple is said to be planning to rebrand the service with a lower price. It may also be incorporated into iTunes and bundled onto iOS devices directly.

Though Billboard has plans to update its Billboard 200 chart with new methodology that takes into account streaming music services, a pure album sales chart called Top Album Sales will also be published to maintain the existing Billboard 200 methodology. Genre album charts will also continue to be sale-based at the current time.


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Best Buy Offers Pre-Black Friday Deals, Discounts iPad Air by $80

Like Walmart, Best Buy has decided to offer some pre-Black Friday sales, which start today and last through the weekend.

Best Buy is discounting all of its original iPad Air stock by $80 to $100, dropping the price of the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad Air to $319.99. Higher-capacity Wi-Fi only models are discounted by up to $85, while some cellular models are discounted by as much as $100. For example the 32GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad Air from AT&T is available for $479.99.

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Best Buy is also offering the fifth-generation 64GB iPod touch for $249.99, which is $50 off the standard retail price. The deal is available for all colors Best Buy has in stock, including Space Gray, Blue, Pink, Silver, and Yellow.

As for Apple accessories, Best Buy is selling the older Solo HD Drenched Beats by Dr. Dre headphones for $99.99, a discount of $70. The discount is available for black, white, and red models.

When Black Friday rolls around, Best Buy will offer some of the best deals available on Apple's newest product, the iPad Air 2. The retailer is planning to discount all iPad Air 2 models by $100, which drops the price of the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi only iPad Air 2 to $399. Best Buy will also be discounting all iPad mini 3 models, dropping the price of the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi only model to $324.99.

For a full list of Best Buy's upcoming Black Friday deals and the deals that other retailers are planning to offer, make sure to check out our comprehensive Black Friday Roundup.


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Apple’s Claims of Improved Performance on iPhone 4s and iPad 2 With iOS 8.1.1 Put to the Test

Following the launch of iOS 8 back in September, many iPhone 4s users reported widespread issues ranging from slow performance to choppy animations. With Monday's release of iOS 8.1.1 promising "increased stability and performance improvements for iPad 2 and iPhone 4S", Ars Technica has now put those claims to the test.
iOS 8.1.1 improves performance in a few specific places, ones that may well be important to heavy users. However, it doesn't improve responsiveness or consistency, two of the problems you'll notice the most if you upgrade from iOS 7. Let's look at the short list of things you can expect to improve if you're using an older iDevice and the longer list of things that won't.
In its study, Ars Technica found launch times of system apps like Safari, Camera, and Messages essentially unchanged from iOS 8.0 for users with Apple's A5-based phones and tablets. The one exception was Safari, which saw a minor improvement compared to iOS 8.0, but all system apps still took considerably longer to launch on iOS 8.1.1 than on iOS 7.1.2. Interface lag such as for bringing up the keyboard or Control Center also remains an issue for these devices under iOS 8.1.1

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The one bright spot Ars ran into was, surprisingly, in long-term speed and stability. Under certain circumstances, iOS 8.1.1 was found to in fact improve stability and performance despite the confines of 512MB of RAM on these devices. Tests involved loading up multiple memory-intensive tabs in Safari and then using multitasking to switch away from and then back to Safari to measure reloading times.
It's hard to say exactly what Apple has done to improve performance under these RAM-starved conditions, at least not without more input from Apple (the company has declined to comment for this story). We also can't list exactly when users can expect to see improvements, beyond the "play around in other apps and then jump back to Safari" test we've engineered here.

The best we can say is that something about the process of loading and ejecting processes to and from the A5's 512MB of RAM could cause slowness and instability in iOS 8.1, and whatever the problem was has been at least partially addressed in iOS 8.1.1.
Overall, improvements for A5-based devices under iOS 8.1.1 are minor, as has been shown in other testing, although some will appreciate the improved multitasking performance with Safari. As Ars notes, iOS 8.1.1 isn't exactly the vast improvement for the iPhone 4s that iOS 7.1 was for the iPhone 4, but it does offer nominal improvements to the overall experience without making other areas worse.

Apple's A5 devices are definitely showing their age, although they do remain on the market with the original iPad Mini and iPhone 4s being sold as low-end options and the fifth-generation iPod touch still being the current model of that device. The spread between these A5 devices and Apple's latest A8-based iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 models is indeed significant, and it is clearly posing challenges for Apple and developers alike to continue adequately supporting these low-end devices.


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Clear Geographic Split Shows iPhone 6 Plus Especially Popular With Asian Customers

Apple's iPhone 6 continues to outsell the iPhone 6 Plus around the world, but the larger-sized phone is proving to be a significant hit in some markets, reports AppLovin in its latest November 2014 report.

According to AppLovin's analytics data, the iPhone 6 outsold the 6 Plus in an 80/20 ratio overall in the first 45 days of availability. While Europe, North America and Australia roughly follow this global sales distribution or lean slightly more heavily toward the iPhone 6, the trend changes in Asia, where the iPhone 6 Plus typically accounts for 35 percent or more of iPhone sales.

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South Korea, home to rivals Samsung and LG, is the only Asian country studied with an iPhone 6 Plus adoption rate below 35 percent. The country has a lower 71/29 split, perhaps related to competition from Samsung's Galaxy Series and LG's G3 phone in the large-screen market or simply due to customer preference for other reasons.

The split between iPhone 6 and 6 Plus may still be artificially constrained due to continuing shortages of the larger iPhone 6 Plus, but AppLovin's data offers an interesting glimpse of screen size preferences around the world. The ratio also varies significantly by data source, with a recent survey putting the U.S. ratio at 3:1 in favor of the iPhone 6 over the first four weeks of availability while AppLovin's data points to a 4:1 split.

As discussed by Apple's iPhone marketing chief Greg Joswiak at the Code Conference last month, the true ratio of demand won't be known until supply shortages are alleviated, but he did acknowledge that the ratio varies from country to country with Asian customers typically proving more likely to prefer larger screens, an observation supported by AppLovin's data.


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Foxconn Plans to Spend $2.6 Billion on Dedicated Apple Display Plant in Taiwan

Foxconn Technology Group has plans to spend NT$80 Billion, or $2.6 billion, over the course of the next two years on a new factory in Taiwan to produce displays exclusively for Apple, according to Bloomberg.

In a conversation with Sophia Chang, a public relations representative for Foxconn's display unit Innolux Corp., Chang stated that equipment installation will begin next month, although she would not confirm that Apple is the client for the facility. Following an urgent request for exclusive capacity, the mass production of panels is expected to begin by the end of 2015.

Chang also mentioned that the advanced sixth-generation display plant will be built at Innolux's Kaohsiung Science Park campus in Southern Taiwan. The forecast details that the funds for the plant will be spent over a two-year building period with the company planning to hire 2,300 employees to operate the facility.

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Foxconn has been a longtime manufacturer of Apple's products, primarily handling final assembly of the devices. After attempting to partner with Sharp in 2012 to focus on advancing LCD technologies, Foxconn was rumored to be in talks to utilize the Japanese display manufacturer's technology in order to start producing iPhone and iPad displays.

The company struggled to meet high demand for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus when the two phones launched earlier this fall, sparking a large-scale hiring effort by Foxconn to meet production demands. Demand has been so high that Apple has reportedly tapped secondary manufacturer Pegatron to boost production on the iPhone 6, and perhaps even the iPhone 6 Plus, to help meet demand.

The new Taiwan plant announcement comes as Foxconn has reportedly been in discussions for a $5.7 billion display factory in Zhengzhou, China. Foxconn has been angling to become a larger player in the display market, seeking to win orders for iPhone and iPad displays and avoiding the sourcing of those parts from vendors like Samsung, LG Display, Sharp, and Japan Display.


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Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4 Promises Stronger Protection for Falls Onto Rough Surfaces

Corning today unveiled its new Gorilla Glass 4, its next-generation glass production that is even more resistant than previous versions to glass shattering drops. According to Corning, the company extensively studied shattered screens to understand how and why they break.

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Corning scientists examined hundreds of broken devices and found that damage caused by sharp contact accounted for more than 70 percent of field failures. The scientists then developed new drop-test methods that simulate real-world break events, based on thousands of hours analyzing cover glass that had broken in the field or laboratory.
The culmination of this testing was Gorilla Glass 4, which reportedly is two times stronger than competing products and can survive 80 percent of face-down falls onto rough surfaces such as sandpaper. The company also claims the glass retains most of its initial strength following a shatter-free fall.


Corning is long-time supplier for Apple, providing the Cupertino company with Gorilla Glass for its iPhone and iPad lineup. Apple considered using the scratch-resistant sapphire for its iPhone display, but its partnership with GT Advanced fell apart when the supplier declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

Corning says product shipments of Gorilla Glass 4 to customers are already underway, making it a strong candidate for inclusion on next year's iOS devices should sapphire remain an infeasible option.


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