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NFC-Equipped iPad Air 2 Sparks Speculation of Future Apple Pay Registers for Small Businesses [Updated]

Earlier this week, a teardown analysis of the iPad Air 2 by iFixit surprisingly revealed the presence of a near field communications (NFC) controller chip that is identical to the one inside the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Apple never advertised the Air 2 as having NFC, and the tablet doesn't support contactless Apple Pay payments, so the inclusion of this chip is somewhat puzzling.

In a new article, Gigaom examines the reasons why Apple might include but not activate this hardware in its tablet device, speculating that the chip may eventually serve to help small businesses process payments.

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Portion of iPad Air 2 logic board showing NFC chip boxed in red (Source: iFixit)

In this scenario, the iPad Air 2 would serve as a cash register, potentially using the onboard NFC chip to process wireless Apple Pay payments without any additional hardware. The iPad already is gaining traction with small retailers for use as a mobile register, often in conjunction with a credit card reader and processing service such as Square. But with Apple Pay rolling out as an NFC system for payments, Apple could be eventually be looking to help retailers accept such payments with its hardware.
The key to NFC in the iPad Air 2 is that it affords the possibility of becoming an Apple Pay cash register with no dongle needed. Conceivably, it could expand the number of outlets that take Apple Pay from around 40 to anyone selling stuff who owns the latest iPad. It brings Apple Pay out from the big box store and into farmers’ markets and boutiques.
Such a system would appear to complement rather than replace existing credit card implementations used by small businesses, as Apple Pay currently has only limited distribution through the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and retailers would still need to accept traditional credit and debit cards. Businesses also still require credit card processing arrangements through either a bank or a separate payment service such as Square.

Apple Pay launched earlier this week with only a few hiccups in an otherwise smooth release. Early reports were favorable with most users noting that transactions were processed quickly and easily. Its biggest limitation is distribution, with only large chain launch partners officially accepting the payment service. But as Apple Pay evolves, it will be interesting to see whether the NFC-equipped iPad Air 2 and small businesses will play a bigger role in Apple's mobile payment plans.

Update: As pointed out by a number of readers, the lack of NFC antennas in the iPad Air 2 leaves it unclear how the iPad Air 2 could be used as payment receiver. Forum member GekkePrutser notes that the chip is likely included in the iPad because it houses the secure element where Apple Pay data is stored for the in-app payment feature that is supported on the new iPads.


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Amazon Visa Rewards Card Now Compatible With Apple Pay

According to reports on Twitter, Reddit and MacRumors forums, Amazon's Visa Rewards card is now compatible with Apple Pay. Amazon reportedly enabled the feature today, moving quickly to bring the mobile payments service to consumers who were disappointed in Amazon for not supporting Apple Pay at launch.

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Apple Pay launched on Monday with support from a large number of credit card companies and banks. Among the launch partners were Chase, which is the issuing bank for the Amazon Visa Rewards card. Amazon reportedly was the only Chase consumer card not supporting Apple Pay, sparking rumors that the retailer was deliberately rebuffing Apple's mobile payment efforts for competitive reasons.


Amazon dispelled these rumors by confirming it would enable Apple Pay soon, but few expected the rollout to happen so quickly. Customers with an Amazon Visa Rewards card should be able to add the credit card to Apple Pay with full support for mobile payments.


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Tim Cook Says Chinese Security Talks Were ‘Very Open’, Bringing Apple Pay to China a Priority

china-flagTim Cook was optimistic about Apple's relationship with China following a meeting with top Chinese government officials in Beijing on Wednesday to discuss data privacy and security. Cook told China's Xinhua news agency (Via Reuters) that he had "very open" talks with a senior official.
Chinese vice premier Ma Kai, a member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, met with the CEO of the world's most valuable company on Wednesday morning. They had discussed a series of topics including privacy and security. Cook described it as "very open", "fascinating" and "impressive", but he declined specifics.
As part of the interview, Cook also confirmed Apple's plan to launch Apple Pay and other technologies in China saying, "China is a really key market for us. Everything we do, we are going to work it here. Apple Pay is on the top of the list." Cook spoke to Xinhua News during his 4-day-long trip to China, which saw the CEO also visit a Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou City.

China is an increasingly important market for the Cupertino company, which now has 16 percent of the smartphone market share behind Samsung (23 percent) and Xiaomi (21 percent). Apple plans to expand its presence even further in the country by opening 25 new stores in the next two years.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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‘Continuity Activation Tool’ Enables Handoff on Older Macs

With iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple introduced "Continuity," a set of features designed to allow for deeper integration between Macs and iOS devices. Unfortunately, some Continuity features are limited to Macs with Bluetooth 4.0, which leaves many older Macs unable to access the new features.

Additionally, even though the 2011 MacBook Air and 2011 Mac mini include Bluetooth 4.0, Apple has opted not to allow them to access Continuity features. Luckily, many resourceful members of the MacRumors forums have come up with solutions to allow them to enable Continuity on their older Macs, and discussion on our forums has led to the creation of a set of instructions and a Continuity Activation Tool that should get Continuity working on Macs unable to explicitly support the feature.

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Created by Dokterdok (based on instructions compiled by UncleSchnitty) and available on Github, the Continuity Activation Tool is designed to activate Continuity by doing a compatibility check, creating backups of original System drivers, and disabling a Mac-model blacklist in the Bluetooth code that prevents Continuity from working on ineligible Macs. From there, it also whitelists Mac board-ids within the Wi-Fi code to get the feature working.

The tool can be downloaded as a zip file from Github and is installed by double clicking the app and following the instructions provided on the screen.

The Continuity Activation Tool will enable Continuity on the mid-2011 MacBook Air and the mid-2011 Mac mini with no additional hardware required, as both of those devices include Bluetooth 4.0. That means installing the tool should get Continuity up and running on those machines in just a few minutes.

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On older Macs that do not come equipped with Bluetooth 4.0, new wireless cards will need to be installed, which makes it more difficult for casual users to get access to Continuity. USB dongles that provide Bluetooth 4.0 will not work with the Continuity Activation Tool, and a list of wireless cards that will provide Bluetooth 4.0 for each older Mac can be found on the MacRumors forums.

Both MacRumors forum members and Redditors have confirmed that this method is able to successfully enable Continuity on a variety of Macs, including the mid-2011 MacBook Air, the early 2011 MacBook Pro, and the mid-2011 Mac mini.

The Continuity Activation Tool appears to enable all Continuity features when used successfully, allowing older Macs to access Handoff, Instant Hotspot, SMS forwarding, and Mac phone calls without an issue. Some of these Continuity features may work already on older Macs as they use a variety of different connection methods ranging from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi, but the tool is confirmed to get Handoff and AirDrop, both of which require Bluetooth, to work.

Users should exercise caution when using the Continuity Activation Tool, as it moves around low level files and there's a possibility it could cause problems. A backup is recommended before attempting to install the tool.


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Apple to Continue Evaluating GT’s Sapphire Production Progress, Looking for New Uses for Arizona Plant

sapphire.pngEarlier today, GT Advanced Technologies officially announced its settlement with Apple, which will see the two companies dissolving their partnership, ending their production agreement, and eliminating contractual ties that kept GT from selling its sapphire to other parties.

Under the agreement, GT Advanced will be selling off its remaining sapphire, along with 2,000 sapphire furnaces, with much of the proceeds going to Apple to repay the $439 million loan it provided to get the operation underway.

Apple has now commented on the settlement with GT Advanced, telling Re/code that GT's sapphire manufacturing process simply wasn't ready for production, and that a relationship in the future remains a possibility as the company's sapphire production techniques improve. GT will continue research work focused on creating sapphire boules over 165 kilograms.

Apple also says that it is going to look for other ways to use the Mesa, Arizona facility that it purchased for GT Advanced, which will be unused after GT fully shuts down operations at the end of December
"Apple put a lot of effort into an ambitious new sapphire manufacturing process with GTAT which is not ready for production. We're going to continue evaluating GTAT's progress on larger sapphire boule development, as well as consider other options for the facility. We remain committed to the city and we're going to work with Mesa and Maricopa County to help the GT Advanced employees who will be impacted by this find new jobs."
GT Advanced first filed for bankruptcy at the beginning of October, but the company was reportedly missing technical milestones as early as February, hinting at the trouble to come. While Apple was widely expected to use sapphire from GT Advanced for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus displays, the company opted to stick with Corning's Gorilla Glass after it became apparent GT would not be able to produce sapphire of the quality that Apple required.

Approximately 650 employees at the Mesa, Arizona sapphire plant have already been laid off, and a limited number of employees will remain employed until the end of the year in order to help GT Advanced wind down production at the factory, finishing the sapphire boules that are currently growing and shutting down and cleaning furnaces for storage and sale.


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Rite Aid Disables Apple Pay Support After Initially Accepting Payments

A growing number of Apple Pay users are angry with retailer Rite Aid following the reported disabling of the mobile payment service within the past 24 hours. Apple Pay should technically be compatible with any point-of-sale systems supporting NFC technology, but customers who made successful Apple Pay payments earlier this week have found their payments were being denied yesterday and today.

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Among the disgruntled users was Josh Hudnall, who shared his experiences and his conclusions that Rite Aid is deliberately crippling its payment systems to prevent Apple Pay transactions.
Today, Allison asked me to pick up a few things on my way home from the office, and I’m a major nerd, so naturally I was all too happy to oblige. I was equally disappointed, then, when my transaction was declined with a message on the terminal informing me that Apple Pay was not supported. The terminal mentioned Apple Pay by name. So the system is smart enough to know about Apple Pay and to decide not to take it.
Hudnall spoke to an associate who claims Rite Aid recently sent an email informing stores that the retailer is not accepting Apple Pay payments, and Hudnall speculates it is because Rite Aid is a supporter of the upcoming CurrentC payments system from Merchant Customer Exchange. Competitor Walgreens is also one of Apple's biggest launch partners for Apple Pay.

According to Twitter reports, the retailer also unexpectedly turned off support for Google Wallet at the same time. Rite Aid has not confirmed the shut down of these services, nor commented publicly on these reports.


Apple Pay launched earlier this week in a debut that was relatively smooth for most customers. As demoed in a McDonald's transaction, payments are processed almost instantly at supported terminals with the press of the Touch ID sensor on the phone.

The most publicized hiccup occurred with Bank of America customers, who were accidentally charged twice for their purchases. Bank of America confirmed that the issue only affected a small number of users who will receive refunds.


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Nike CEO Hints at Continued Partnership With Apple to Develop Stylish Fitness Wearables

nike_fuelband_seNike CEO Mark Parker sat down with Bloomberg's Stephanie Ruhle to discuss the company's brand and product strategy (via The Guardian). During the 13-minute-long "Market Makers" segment, Parker confirmed that he is bullish on Apple and the wearables market, hinting at a continued partnership between the two companies at the 9:45 mark.

Though Nike recently discontinued further development on its FuelBand fitness wearables, the sports and fitness company is not ready to abandon the wearables market, instead waiting for the market to mature beyond it current geeky status.
"I think it’s going to be a big part of the future, absolutely," said Parker. "I think the form it takes is critical. You can go from the very geeky kind of wearables today – we’ve all seen some of those – to what I think you’ll see in the future, things that are more stealth, more integrated, more stylish and more functional, yes."
Echoing his earlier comments, Parker suggested Apple may be part of Nike's wearables strategy with the Nike CEO noting that the two companies that have a long history of working together can do things together they couldn't do alone.
"Technologically we can do things together that we couldn’t do independently," Parker said. "So yeah, that’s part of our plan, to expand the whole digital frontier in terms of wearables, and go from what we say is tens of millions of users – right now there’s 25 million Nike+ users – to hundreds of millions."

Parker wouldn't divulge details on any upcoming Apple-Nike collaborations, but the companies traditionally have worked together to promote each other's health and fitness technologies. Apple has sold the FuelBand fitness bracelet in its retail stores, while the Nike+ Move app was among the first to support the M7 motion co-processor in the iPhone 5s.

The fitness partnership between Apple and Nike actually extends back to 2006 with the launch of Nike+iPod products such as the "Sport Kit" that allowed users to embed sensors in Nike shoes to wirelessly communicate exercise information to the iPod nano. Parker also has a long-term relationship with the Apple's leadership, having worked closely with both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, with Cook having served on Nike's Board of Directors since 2005.


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