Apple airs 2015 Christmas TV ad starring Stevie Wonder & Andra Daye

Nov 25, 2015 - 12:56 PM - by sparkyscott21

Apple on Wednesday uploaeded its annual Christmas TV ad to YouTube, which this year stars singers Stevie Wonder and Andra Daye.

The pair perform Wonder's "Someday at Christmas," a song from 1967 rallying against war, poverty, inequality, and hunger. At the very beginning of the ad, Wonder — who has been blind since infancy — can be seen mixing music on a MacBook by way of VoiceOver.

Apple has been running Christmas commercials since the early 1980s. Like many businesses, the company takes a more sentimental tone during the holidays, aiming to enhance its overall brand image.

While Apple's ads typically concentrate on a specific product or service, the latest one largely ignores overt references. It may however be a way of further associating Apple with music in a bid to attract Apple Music subscribers.

Last year the company's 2013 holiday ad, "Misunderstood," won a Creative Arts Emmy as the most "Outstanding Commercial." That spot featured a boy seemingly ignoring his family in favor of an iPhone, only to reveal that he was preparing a special video for them.


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Apple now owns the VR company that worked on ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Nov 25, 2015 - 12:39 PM - by sparkyscott21

What do Apple and Star Wars have in common? A company called Faceshift. Apple has now confirmed that it acquired a company that worked on the latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens.

Apple bought the Swiss real-time motion capture startup for an undisclosed amount of money, according to TechCrunch.

Unconfirmed reports earlier this year said that Apple planned to buy Faceshift, but Apple did not confirm the purchase and there was no evidence that money changed hands. But the tech site says it was able to confirm the deal from further sources, discovering “conclusive links between the companies.”

When asked to comment on the matter, Apple confirmed it did purchase the startup, which developed technology to create animated avatars and other figures that capture a person’s facial expressions in real time. But Apple did not explain why it did so. “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” Apple said, offering the same generic response it usually hands out for similar acquisitions.

Faceshift will be working for Apple out of Europe, TechCrunch said, though it’s not clear what Apple wants to do with the firm’s technology.

The Swiss company’s facial motion capture technology was used to animate non-human characters in Star Wars Episode VII, which is set to premiere on December 18th. In other words, big names in entertainment have already found ways to put this particular tech to good use, and Apple might also use it for movies and gaming products.

Apple has patents and assets that cover motion capture, facial recognition and augmented reality, TechCrunch adds, partly obtained via similar purchases — Apple acquired three similar European companies in the past, including PrimeSense, Polar Rose and Metaio.


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Danish man reports severe burns from Apple Watch following earlier, more minor report

Nov 24, 2015 - 1:38 PM - by sparkyscott21

Danish news site Ekstra Bladet reports that a man received severe burns from his Apple Watch, and has been waiting for several weeks for the results of an Apple investigation. Photos accompanying the report (below, not for weak stomaches) seem to show two long burn marks on the wrist of Jørgen Mouritzen, together with what appear to be burn marks on the strap.

Mouritzen and a witness to the event say that they are both certain the heat came from the Watch itself and not from any external source …

Apple’s PR agency in Denmark told Ekstra Bladet that it considers it a private matter with the individual concerned and would not therefore be commenting.

There have been sporadic earlier reports of burns from the Apple Watch, but these appear to have been much more minor — and are in many cases difficult to distinguish from simple skin irritation.

Apple has a support page in which it cautions that “a small number of people will experience reactions to certain materials.” It also advises that wearing the watch too tightly or loosely can cause rubbing. We’ve also reached out to Apple for a comment.


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Apple TV advertising goes beyond small screen with new billboard installations

Nov 24, 2015 - 1:26 PM - by sparkyscott21

Taking its Apple TV advertising campaign beyond the small screen and into the real world, Apple is in the process of plastering U.S. billboards with faux broadcast television test patterns rendered in colors borrowed from the company's original rainbow logo.

As seen in the photo, supplied by AppleInsider reader Erik, the nationwide advertising blitz mirrors a series of television commercials aired last week, each of which starts out with Apple's take on the familiar SMPTE color bars.

Created to showcase Apple TV's selection of tvOS apps, the six spots feature 15-second clips from popular games like Crossy Road and video streaming services like Netflix and HBO. The latest Apple TV commercial, for example, shows a snippet from "The Muppets Show" as seen on the WATCH ABC app.

While Apple has in the past relied on billboards to advertise its products, the company broke new ground with this year's "Shot on iPhone 6" campaign. Instead of blowing up professional product images, Apple scoured the Web for beautiful photos shot by actual iPhone 6 users.

Shot on iPhone was later expanded to incorporate videos on the Web and went on to win multiple Cannes Lions awards.

Apple most recently turned to billboard advertising to tout Apple Watch and Apple Music.

The fourth-generation Apple TV was announced in September alongside iPhone 6s and iPad Pro, with the first shipments arriving in October. The current version sports Siri integration, a new touchpad remote, a full-fledged App Store, onboard storage and powerful internals running the all-new tvOS.


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Apple Pay to reportedly launch in China by February

Nov 24, 2015 - 1:24 PM - by sparkyscott21

Rumors of Apple's entry into the Chinese mobile payments market gained momentum on Monday, as sources reportedly told Dow Jones and other outlets current plans hold for an Apple Pay launch by February 2016.

Word of the supposed debut arrived in a "breaking" tweet from CNBC, though the news outlet failed to offer further details, including specifics on how Apple plans to deal with regulatory hurdles, credit card processor partnerships and national bank agreements.

A more comprehensive report from The Wall Street Journal said Apple is well on its way to a release after striking deals with China's four state-run banks, meaning users would link Apple Pay directly to their bank accounts. Apple is aiming to launch Apple Pay before China's Spring Festival holiday on Feb. 8, the publication said.

It is no secret that Apple is champing at the bit to launch its touchless payment service in China, a sector that accounts for more of Apple's overall revenue with each passing quarter. So far, however, Apple Pay has yet to curry favor with Chinese banks and, more importantly, the state-owned credit and debit card processor UnionPay. Without UnionPay on board, Apple's card-based product is dead in the water.

Reports in 2014 suggested Apple was close to striking a deal, but discussion ultimately fell through. At the time, it was rumored that UnionPay was reluctant to agree to Apple's usage rates which, while identical to those in the U.S., the UK and other Apple Pay markets, is considered high for China.

Still, in May Apple CEO Tim Cook said he was "very bullish" on Apple Pay's chances in China, noting the country's growing middle class and high saturation of smartphone owners bodes well for mass adoption. Cook reiterated his stance on China's potential as a major growth driver during his company's most recent quarterly earnings conference call.

One option that gained traction late last year was a possible tie-up with Ant Financial, a subsidiary of e-commerce giant Alibaba. Ant runs Alipay, a popular online payments service that has seen middling success with QR code-based mobile transactions. Alibaba confirmed it was in discussions with Apple, but a finished product has yet to materialize.

Elsewhere in the world, Apple Pay is off to a strong start, though adoption is not on pace to usurp traditional payment methods anytime soon. Initially launched in the U.S. last October, Apple Pay reached UK shores in July and more recently went live in Canada and Australia last week.


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2017 Mirage will be first US Mitsubishi model with Apple's CarPlay

Nov 24, 2015 - 1:20 PM - by sparkyscott21

The 2017 Mirage hatchback will be Mitsubishi's first U.S. car with support for Apple's CarPlay standard, according to an announcement from the Japanese automaker.

The vehicle is slated to launch sometime in the spring of 2016, the company said. Like many new and upcoming vehicles, the Mirage will support Google's Android Auto standard as well.

Mitsubishi didn't offer any other details on the car's dash system, though audio will optionally be playable from a 300-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with ecoPunch, meaning high energy efficiency and low weight.

The company already has CarPlay on the 2016 Pajero, but only in Australia and some European countries.

CarPlay is only now beginning to roll out as a common feature, despite having first launched in March 2014. It took several months for the first compatible vehicles to arrive, and even then they were luxury models from Ferrari, Volvo, and Mercedes-Benz, out of reach for the average person.

Car makers such as Honda and GM are finally rolling the technology into more popular models. Improved adoption should happen in 2016, with a greater number of both makers and models.


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