Apple invests $1B in China’s largest taxi app

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Apple made the bombshell announcement today that it has invested $1 billion in China’s top ride hailing app. Didi Chuxing (formerly called Didi Kuaidi) is often described in U.S. media as Uber’s Chinese rival, but it already dominates the market by far. The company claims it fulfilled one billion rides last year and holds 87 percent of the country’s private ride-hailing market.

In an interview with Reuters, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “We are making the investment for a number of strategic reasons, including a chance to learn more about certain segments of the China market. Of course, we believe it will deliver a strong return for our invested capital as well.”

Didi Chuxing told Reuters that this is its single largest round of funding so far. It claims to currently complete more than 11 million rides a day and have over 14 million drivers on its platform. The company’s other major investors include Tencent and Alibaba, two of China’s largest Internet companies, and SoftBank.

According to a WSJ report from February, the company was then in the process of finalizing a round for $1 billion at a valuation of $20 billion. A Didi Chuxing representative said Apple’s investment is part of the same round, but declined to confirm the valuation. TechCrunch has also emailed Apple for more information.

In a press release, Didi Chuxing founder and CEO Cheng Wei said, “The endorsement from Apple is an enormous encouragement and inspiration for our four-year-old company. DiDi will work hard with our drivers, riders and global partners, to make available to every citizen flexible and reliable mobility choices, and help cities solve transportation, environmental and employment challenges.”

China is on its way to becoming Apple’s biggest iPhone market, but the company has faced a few recent setbacks there. After years of giving it a relatively free rein for a U.S. tech company, the Chinese government ordered the closure of iBooks Store and iTunes and Movies just six months after the services launched in China.

Furthermore, while Apple’s sales in China are still growing, it’s at a much slower rate than before as the Chinese economy becomes sluggish and the smartphone market in general faces less demand. Concerns about Apple’s reliance on China prompted activist shareholder Carl Icahn to sell his entire stake in the company earlier this year.

Investing in Didi Chuxing allows Apple to grab a foothold in the Chinese tech market that reaches beyond iPhones—and also gives it a new platform for its other technology. For example, if Didi Chuxing uses CarPlay, that gives Apple another outlet to sell software services in China beside the iPhone, as well as valuable data to tailor apps and maps for Chinese users. Didi Chuxing is also a major potential customer once Apple’s self-driving car comes to fruition.

Source: TechCrunch

New Windows 10 build released

Fine-tuned: Among the updates are improvements to the Start menu and Start screen, as well as several shortcuts to improve efficiency and ease-of-use. — Microsoft

Fine-tuned: Among the updates are improvements to the Start menu and Start screen, as well as several shortcuts to improve efficiency and ease-of-use. — Microsoft

Microsoft has announced the release of the new PC and mobile OS build, allowing users – among other updates – to try out Windows Ink, a hub for writing and sketching apps.

As part of the new Windows 10 Build 14328, users will be able to test the system’s new features, most notably Windows Ink, whose workspace includes sticky notes, a sketchpad, whiteboard and a screen sketch option.

The updates include improvements to the Start menu and Start screen, as well as several shortcuts, to improve efficiency and ease-of-use. A number of improvements to Cortana are intended to make the Windows personal assistant more accessible and useful.

Users signed up to the Windows Insiders program can test the new features and updates by visiting Windows Update and upgrading to the new build. — AFP Relaxnews

China ban on Apple services is a challenge for key growth area

People line up outside an Apple store as iPhone SE goes on sale in China, in Hangzhou

The blocking of Apple mobile entertainment services in China poses fresh challenges for the tech company as it prepares to report its first-ever drop in iPhone sales.

The news on Thursday that Apple Inc’s online book and film services had gone dark in China came at a vulnerable moment for the company. Apple executives have said that iPhone sales will fall for the first time in the company’s second quarter, and the results for that quarter will be released on Tuesday. Investors are sensitive to any signs of trouble in Greater China, the company’s second-largest market by revenue.

Apple executives have flagged the growing services business as a potential source of revenue as sales of the company’s flagship devices level off, upping the stakes for success in China, said analyst Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research.

“It raises questions in an area that we know long-term is going to be very strategically important to Apple,” he said.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that a state regulator demanded Apple halt the service. The move came after Beijing introduced regulations in March imposing strict curbs on online publishing, particularly for foreign firms.

Still, the outage is only troubling if it persists, O’Donnell said. Apple said in a statement on Thursday that it hopes to make the services available to customers in China as soon as possible.

Apple has a strong track record of working with officials in China, where it has launched a series of services including mobile payment Apple Pay, but some analysts questioned whether the company may receive a chillier reception in the future.

“Is this the beginning of more pressure on Apple by the Chinese government?” asked analyst of Frank Gillett of research firm Forrester. “It’s a symbolic turn, and the question is to what extent is it a harbinger.”

The company released its book and movie services in China only late last year, leaving Chinese consumers little time to form a habit.

“People who are buying iPhones in China aren’t buying them for iTunes,” said O’Donnell. “They are buying it for the status and the cachet of owning an Apple product, and that is really more about the hardware.”

Chinese consumers’ appetite for the phones themselves will be critical to quarterly earnings. Apple is expected to post its first-ever quarterly drop in iPhone sales, to about 50 million units, reflecting a saturated global market.

Wall Street expects adjusted earnings per share to drop 14 percent to $2.00 and revenue to drop 10 percent to $52.0 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Source: Reuters

Apple Watch reportedly took 52% of the smartwatch market in 2015

Apple Watch - Hermes wrist

According to a new research, the Apple Watch claimed 52% of the global smartwatch market in 2015, after less than a year on sale. The Apple Watch’s Android Wear competitors held only 10% of the market, according to Juniper Research.

Despite the Apple Watch’s popularity, Juniper has found that consumers are still wary of the category. Many are holding off on purchasing a watch, citing factors such as price. Some customers are also skeptical that a smartwatch would actually be a convenience.

While smartwatches’ most common claim to a use case is to improve convenience and ‘free’ users from their smartphone, several users and reviewers note that this simply shifts the burden of notification to another location, rather than lessening the load.

Juniper has found that, outside of the Apple Watch, the smartwatch market has been driven by devices with more basic functionality and lower cost. Most of these devices tend to have basic notifications and fitness tracking, without the ability to run apps. The largest markets for smartwatches in 2015 were, according to Juniper, North America, China and East Asia, and Western Europe.

Source: iMore

WhatsApp bug opened door to hacking

Fixed: A flaw in the Web version of WhatsApp made it possible for hackers to hide malicious code in seemingly innocent “vCards” containing contact information. — AFP

Fixed: A flaw in the Web version of WhatsApp made it possible for hackers to hide malicious code in seemingly innocent “vCards” containing contact information. — AFP

SAN FRANCISCO: WhatsApp recently patched a flaw that left 200 million users vulnerable to being hacked using booby-trapped digital cards for contact details, according to a US computer security firm.

Facebook-owned messaging application WhatsApp boasts more than 900 million users, some 200 million of them who access the service on computer browser software that mirrors activity from mobile devices.

A flaw in the Web version of WhatsApp made it possible for hackers to hide malicious code in seemingly innocent “vCards” containing contact information.

Opening tainted cards allowed viruses to infect computers, potentially allowing hackers to steal control or information, according to an online post by Check Point computer security firm.

Hackers would only need a target’s smartphone number and for the person to open the “vCard.”

Check Point said that it disclosed the vulnerability to WhatsApp last month and that an updated version of the application was released. — AFP

Source: The Star Online

Apple launches new iPhone 6s models, iPad Pro and Apple TV

Every Apple event is always preceded by intense speculation on what the company is about to release.

For this year’s event, the Internet rumour mill ground into overtime with a number of obvious and not-so-obvious predictions.

These ranged from the inevitable iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus devices to a new Apple TV and and a larger screen tablet called the iPad Pro.

Also, there were a few sure things which had already been announced, namely iOS 9, watchOS 2 and the next Mac OS X El Capitan.

So now that the event is over and all has been revealed, what did we get?

Same design, new stuff: While the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus share the same design as the iPhone 6, there are a lot of changes under the hood.

Same design, new stuff: While the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus share the same design as the iPhone 6, there are a lot of changes under the hood.

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus
Based on past experience, the iPhone model following a major new redesign differed little in looks, but got a speed bump and some hardware tweaks.

So after the iPhone 3G you got the iPhone 3GS, after the iPhone 4 you got the iPhone 4S and after the iPhone 5 was the iPhone 5S.

For the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, the Internet predicted that it will have the same design, but will be slightly thicker (to prevent any more “bendgate” incidents) and, most interesting of all, feature a new Force Touch capable screen.

So what did we get?

The Apple event indeed revealed the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus – while they look the same as the current models, CEO Tim Cook says they are very different on the inside.

Chief amongst these changes is the 3D Touch feature (looks like that’s what Apple is calling Force Touch now) and while we expected it, Apple’s implementation will completely change how you interact with iOS.

Using the same feature first seen in the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus take the whole “press harder” idea to a whole new level by adding new functions.

At its most basic, you can press down an app and bring up a context menu that shows your most-used actions relating to that app.

However, what 3D Touch really enables is a right-click paradigm in iOS – press harder in your summary of email messages and you’ll get to peek at the entire email, while pressing harder you’ll open the email proper.

See a link in iMessages? 3D Touch on it and you can pop-up a quick browser window to see the webpage – lift your finger to go back to your message.

In fact, instead of double-clicking on the Home button to bring up the multitasking menu, on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus you can do this by pressing down harder while in an app and swiping to switch between open apps.

On the hardware front, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus share the same resolution as before, but internally, many of the hardware features have been upgraded.

The processor is, as expected, a new A9 processor with an M9 motion co-processor, while the Touch ID sensor is now claimed to be even faster than before.

What’s an iPhone without a class-leading camera? The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus don’t disappoint – both come with an upgraded 12-megapixel image sensor which Apple claims not only captures more detail than before, but does this without compromising on detail and colour accuracy.

Apple is also introducing a feature called Live Photos with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus which captures a short video clip before and after your still photo so you can see your photos in motion when you press down on a photo.

Yes, we’ve seen this feature in another smartphone before.

More importantly, the new sensor also allows for 4K video recording and according to Apple’s Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus can edit 4K video directly in iMovie on the device itself.

The front-facing camera has also been upgraded to a 5-megapixel FaceTime camera and taking a trick from an old iMac, the LCD screen can be used as a makeshift flash to help illuminate your face when taking a selfie.

Oh yes, the rumours were also correct in that both new models are built on a stronger 7000 series aircraft grade aluminium alloy and cover glass.

While no local prices have been announced, a quick check on the US Apple Store reveals that the contract-free iPhone 6s will go for US$649 (RM2,800) for the 16GB version, US$749 (RM3,200) for 64GB and US$849 (RM3,650) for 128GB.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 6s Plus is priced at US$749 (RM3,200) for 16GB, US$849 (RM3,650) for 64GB and US$949 (RM4,100) for 128GB.

The US pricing is actually the same as before, but at our current exchange rate, the devices are going to be quite hard on the wallet unless Apple decides to charge a bit lower locally.

The new iPhones are slated for launch in the United States and some countries on Sept 12, while countries like Hong Kong and Singapore will get them by Sept 25.

As usual, Malaysia is not specifically listed in any of those launch dates, and we will probably have to wait till the end of the year before we can purchase one.

More TV: The redesigned Apple TV is bigger but offers more storage, an App Store and a new remote control. It ships in late October in the United States.

More TV: The redesigned Apple TV is bigger but offers more storage, an App Store and a new remote control. It ships in late October in the United States.

Revamped Apple TV
Having been left alone and unloved since the last update in 2013, the Apple TV was rumoured for a big update at this Sept 9 event.

Most of the rumours seem to agree that the new Apple TV would be larger, feature a touch-based remote control and a host of new services including an App Store, TV streaming service, Siri integration and more on-board storage than the meagre 1GB on current models.

However, the most exciting rumour was that the App Store would support games that could be played on the TV with a wireless controller.

Indeed, as it turns out, all the rumours were right and a new Apple TV was announced with more powerful hardware and an App Store.

It is physically larger than its predecessor but that’s because it’s sporting new powerful hardware and a lot of cool features.

For one thing, the remote is now touch- and Siri-enabled so you can swipe across the surface of the remote to access the menu options.

The real magic is in Siri – you can specifically ask for particular shows or genres as you’d expect but what makes it powerful is that you can ask specific questions like, “Show me the Modern Family episode with Edward Norton” and get Siri to find it for you.

Even more interesting is that if you missed a bit of conversation in the show, you can ask Siri something like, “What did she say?” and Siri will rewind the show back 15-seconds and temporarily turn on captions to help you catch what you missed.

Of course, with the appearance of the App Store, the new Apple TV can install not just entertainment apps but also games while the remote can be used as the game controller.

Music gaming company Harmonix, showed a very cool music-themed game called Beat Sports which takes advantage of the motion sensor in the Apple TV remote to offer gameplay similar to the Nintendo Wii games of yesteryear.

Also, games can be started on the iPhone or iPad and continued seamlessly on the Apple TV later.

Instead of simply being “based on iOS”, Apple is calling the iOS-based operating system on the Apple TV the tvOS.

The Apple TV is slated to be available in October in 80 countries.

There will be two versions – a 32GB version for US$149 (RM650) and 64GB for US$199 (RM850).

Bigger is better: The iPad Pro's 12.9in screen and more powerful processor allows for easy typing and a more notebook-like experience

Bigger is better: The iPad Pro’s 12.9in screen and more powerful processor allows for easy typing and a more notebook-like experience

iPad goes Pro
The iPad Pro rumour has been floating around for a while now and many agree that Apple has indeed been working on a tablet with a screen of 12in or 13in in size.

Apart from the screen size, the ability to run apps side-by-side and a rumoured stylus, however, very little information was leaked about this new device.

So did we get the iPad Pro? Yes, indeed, and it even has a stylus!

The iPad Pro comes with a 12.9in oxide TFT LCD screen with a 2,732 x 2,048-pixel screen – that’s  a whopping 5.6 megapixels with a pixels-per-inch density of 264 for anyone who’s counting!

The device runs on the new A9X processor which Apple’s Phil Schiller claims is 1.8x faster than the A8X processor it replaces with double the performance when it comes to graphics.

Schiller also showed off how the iPad Pro is actually powerful enough to edit three streams of 4K video simultaneously – that’s impressive considering that many PCs today still struggle with editing 4K video.

For the first time, the iPad Pro comes with a four-speaker system which automatically changes the stereo left and right channels depending on the orientation.

Apparently, all four speakers are used to subtly enhance the stereo soundstaging as well.

The iPad Pro also comes with a new magnetic connector which connects to an optional Smart Cover, a magnetic cover with an integrated keyboard – yes, we’ve seen a similar accessory for Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet already.

Lightning charge: The back of the Apple Pencil pops open to reveal a Lightning connector which can be plugged right into an iPad Pro to charge the stylus

Lightning charge: The back of the Apple Pencil pops open to reveal a Lightning connector which can be plugged right into an iPad Pro to charge the stylus

Finally, there’s the Apple Pencil – again, it’s similar to powered styli we’ve seen with other tablets and it recognises pressure as well.

What’s interesting, however, is how the Apple Pencil charges – the back of the stylus pops off to reveal a Lightning connector which plugs directly into the bottom of the iPad Pro to charge.

A number of apps compatible with the Apple Pencil were shown off, including one from Adobe called Photoshop Fix.

The iPad Pro starts at US$799 (RM3,450) for a 32GB WiFi-only version, US$949 (RM4,100) for a 128GB WiFi version and finally, a 128GB WiFi plus cellular version which will set you back US$1079 (RM4,650).

The iPad Pro ships in November in the United States, but there is no information yet on when it will be available here.

New storage plans:Apple also announced upgraded iCloud storage plans

New storage plans:Apple also announced upgraded iCloud storage plans

Conclusion
Well, there’s a lot more of “me-too” in this launch, with Apple adding many features to its devices which we’ve seen before in other rival models.

However, the 3D Touch features integrated into the new iPhones promise to be quite revolutionary. We can see many of these features actually being truly useful on a day-to-day basis.

The iPad Pro is an interesting device – again it’s sort of playing catch up to other large tablets out there, most notably the Microsoft Surface 3 Pro with its Type Keyboard and stylus, but it does take the iPad line into a new place.

Source: The Star Online