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iTunes Match celebrates one-year anniversary by billing you $25

Happy Birthday, iTunes Match!

Today marks the one-year anniversary of iTunes Match, the yearly-subscription service that allows folks to store their music libraries to the cloud for listening anywhere and anytime on any Apple device, and that means those who subscribed on launch day should begin seeing the annual $24.99 fee debited from their accounts.

iTunes Match launched Nov. 14, 2011 after being pushed back a month. Sound familiar? If for some reason you don’t want to enroll another year, better make sure to uncheck auto-renew.

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Elyse Betters

November 14th

Apple

Mac

Verizon halts dubious third-party billing on landlines, years after landlines were ‘in’

ImageOkay, okay -- landlines are still useful. But rapidly growing, they are not. That said, Verizon is caving to congressional pressure in a relatively minor way, announcing that it'll be banning certain third-party charges on landline bills. In political circles, the process is known as "cramming," where customers (oftentimes unknowingly) submit their number to certain third-party add-ons that have generated some $10 billion in revenue over the past five years. Sen. Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia is applauding the move, and also encouraging Congress to make this commonplace across all carriers. Curiously, there's no mention of mobile blocking, where consumers are regularly duped into subscribing to recurring fees via text-based competitions and contests. Perhaps when we've all moved on to telepathy, the feds can get right on that.

Verizon halts dubious third-party billing on landlines, years after landlines were 'in' originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 21 Mar 2012 14:27:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Darren Murph

March 21st

Uncategorized

Amazon’s web-based Kindle Store for iPad skirts Apple’s 30% fee

Amazon’s new web-based Kindle Store for the iPad reportedly helps the online retailer dodge Apple’s fee that it would otherwise pay through a native Amazon Kindle Store iOS application. Amazon’s subscription program typically charges retailers 30% of all generated revenues, which has caused retailers like Amazon to create new ways for customers to purchase goods without having to pay a fee. The Financial Times also recently pulled its application to avoid the same subscription charges, and we would not be surprised if other magazines, newspapers or retail app developers follow suit. It’s unclear if Apple will tweak its terms in an effort to hold on to subscription providers.

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Todd Haselton

January 13th

Apple

T-Mobile USA to receive AWS spectrum and a 3G roaming deal from AT&T breakup

Deutsche Telekom recently detailed the breakup terms AT&T agreed to following the deterioration of its planned acquisition of T-Mobile USA. Deutsche Telekom will receive $3 billion in cash and T-Mobile USA will benefit from fresh AWS spectrum as well as a new 7-year 3G roaming deal with AT&T. “As part of the break-up fee, T-Mobile USA will receive a large package of AWS mobile spectrum in 128 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs), including 12 of the top 20 markets (Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, Baltimore and Seattle),” Deutsche Telekom said in a statement. “The UMTS roaming agreement for the U.S. in T-Mobile USA’s favor has a term of over seven years and will allow the company to improve its footprint significantly among the U.S. population and offer its customers better broadband coverage for mobile communications services in the future.” The company also said that T-Mobile USA’s 3G network will grow from blanketing 230 million potential customers to covering 280 million people. Deutsche Telekom’s full press release follows below.

AT&T and Deutsche Telekom terminate agreement on the sale of T-Mobile USA

Dec 19, 2011

  • Deutsche Telekom receives record high break-up fee
  • AT&T will pay Deutsche Telekom USD 3 billion in cash
  • T-Mobile USA will receive a large package of Advanced Wireless Solutions (AWS) spectrum and long-term national UMTS roaming agreement
  • Deutsche Telekom’s guidance and planned dividend policy remain unchanged

U.S. telecommunications company AT&T Inc. and Deutsche Telekom have terminated the agreement on the sale of T-Mobile USA to AT&T. As a result, AT&T will pay Deutsche Telekom the break-up fee agreed in the contract signed by both companies dated March 20, 2011. This is one of the highest payments ever agreed between two companies for the termination of a purchase agreement. It includes a cash payment of USD 3 billion to Deutsche Telekom, which is expected to be made by the end of this year. In addition, it contains a large package of mobile communications spectrum and a long-term agreement on UMTS roaming within the U.S. for T-Mobile USA.

Both companies are in agreement that the broad opposition by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) and the U.S. telecommunications regulator (FCC) is making it increasingly unlikely that the transaction will close. Both companies are of the opinion that important arguments in support of the transaction have been ignored, such as the significant improvement in high-speed mobile network coverage for the U.S. market, as well as the positive employment effects. In addition there was no indication that either authority would move away from it’s non-supportive stance in return for concessions from the parties in terms of the scope and structure of the transaction.

As part of the break-up fee, T-Mobile USA will receive a large package of AWS mobile spectrum in 128 Cellular Market Areas (CMAs), including 12 of the top 20 markets (Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, Baltimore and Seattle).

The UMTS roaming agreement for the U.S. in T-Mobile USA’s favor has a term of over seven years and will allow the company to improve its footprint significantly among the U.S. population and offer its customers better broadband coverage for mobile communications services in the future. Population coverage will increase from 230 million potential customers at present to 280 million. As a result of the agreement with AT&T, coverage will be extended to many regions of the U.S. in which T-Mobile USA previously had neither its own high-speed mobile communications network nor the associated roaming agreements.

The termination of the agreement means Deutsche Telekom will go back to reporting T-Mobile USA as continuing operations in future. Deutsche Telekom’s guidance for the 2011 financial year remains unchanged as a result of this development, with adjusted EBITDA of around EUR 19.1 billion expected. At EUR 6.5 billion, free cash flow is forecasted to remain at the prior-year level or increase slightly. The guidance includes the T-Mobile USA contribution based on the average exchange rate in 2010 of USD 1.33 per euro. The free cash flow forecast does not include the settlement payment of EUR 0.4 billion relating to PTC in Poland or the cash payment of USD 3 billion from the break-up fee to be paid by AT&T.

Deutsche Telekom’s dividend policy also remains unchanged. The annual dividend payments are subject to the necessary board resolutions and other legal requirements.

Even following the termination of the agreement with AT&T, Deutsche Telekom exepects to remain within the communicated ranges for certain financial performance indicators used to assess the financial performance of the company. These are as follows: The ratio of net debt to adjusted EBITDA of the Group is to be between 2 and 2.5, the equity ratio is to be between 25 percent and 35 percent, gearing (ratio of net debt to shareholders’ equity) between 0.8 and 1.2, and liquidity reserves is to cover maturities of at least the next 24 months.

The cash component of the break-up fee directly reduces Deutsche Telekom’s net debt, thereby by strengthening the financial performance indicators affecting the company’s rating.

Deutsche Telekom would like to express its gratitude to AT&T and to Randall Stephenson and his team for the positive cooperation over the past few months. Our working relationship was characterized by fairness and respect at all times.

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Todd Haselton

December 20th

Uncategorized

Google to charge for Google Maps access starting in January

Beginning January 1st, Google will start charging a fee to developers and websites that frequently access its Google Maps API service, BBC reported recently. Developers will apparently be charged $4 for every 1,000 views after Google Maps is accessed more than 25,000 times in a single 24-hour period. BBC said Google expects the changes will only affect 0.35% of its user base. “We understand that the introduction of these limits may be concerning,” Google Maps product manager Thor Mitchell said. “However, with the continued growth in adoption of the Maps API, we need to secure its long-term future by ensuring that even when used by the highest-volume for-profit sites, the service remains viable.”

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Todd Haselton

November 2nd

Uncategorized

Apple’s fall from grace

Apple was a company that could do no wrong. Phones that dropped every other call… Location tracking scandals… Antennagate… A CEO who constantly parked his $130,000 sports car diagonally in handicapped spaces… Apple didn’t have to roll with the punches, the company would simply laugh at the punches or toss the press and public a few crumbs if need be. A week or even a day later, all was forgiven and Apple would continue on its path, making terrific products and mopping up industry profits while whistling to itself contently.

On Tuesday when Apple unveiled its brand new iPhone 4S, the fifth iteration of Apple’s revolutionary smartphone, things felt different. The company’s iconic co-founder was nowhere to be found, the venue was smaller, the applause seemed reticent and the product unveiled was not greeted with arms open quite as widely as they had been in the past. People seemed, in a way, bored.

Reactions from those who spent time with the device at Apple’s press conference were positive, of course, but it didn’t feel the same. What was different this time around? Members of the press and many consumers following the event felt that we were looking at a possible miss from the great Apple. Beyond nitpicking and whining about insignificant specs or other irrelevancies, many level-headed writers and pundits genuinely seemed to think that the iPhone 4S might be the beginning of the end.

Yes, investors were seemingly disappointed by Tuesday’s announcements, but this is hardly uncommon. Buy the rumor, sell the news. That Apple only closed down half a percent on Tuesday exhibits confidence in the company’s management, strategy and portfolio more than it does disappointment in the iPhone 4S.

And what about analysts? The finance crowd adores Apple, so they must have been jumping up and down in their penthouses, right?

“Apple no longer has a leading edge, its cloud service is even behind Android; it can only sell on brand loyalty now,” Gartner analyst C.K. Lu told Reuters on Wednesday. “Users may wait to buy the next iPhone; if they can’t wait, they may shift to brands with more advanced specs.”

“We had expected the company to announce two new devices, an iPhone 5 and a 4-plus,” JP Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz wrote in a note to investors. “We are disappointed that Apple did not introduce a thinner form factor, but we see the feature set improvements in the iPhone 4S and the broader pricing strategy as positives.”

Yes, we’re seeing some negative takes on the news, but have we seen any big names revise their estimates downward significantly? Of course not. Even analysts who were hugely bullish on a redesigned iPhone 5 are still confident that Apple’s reign will continue.

We’ve seen no real negative revisions on revenue projections either. In fact, Apple’s free iPhone 3GS and its $99 iPhone 4 have had the opposite effect in some cases. RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky, for example, wrote in a note Wednesday morning that Apple’s $0 3GS “may double Apple’s global addressable market, and may help address rising mid-market Android competition.”

And some analysts such as Wedge Partners’ Brian Blair had already modeled for this scenario. Blair, as some might recall, hit the nail on the head late last month. “We expect the focus of the new iPhone will be iOS 5, a speedier A5 processor and a higher resolution 8 MP camera with a small possibility of a larger 4 inch screen,” the analyst wrote in a research note on September 21st. Blair saw Apple selling 91 million iPhones this calendar year, and that staggering sum remains unchanged.

Some analysts even think the iPhone 4S and new cheaper iPhones 4 and 3GS will drive sales that exceed already-lofty projections. “While the moderate changes to the iPhone 4S might not drive the type of upgrade cycle that was seen by the iPhone 4, the lower prices of legacy models and broader availability on more carriers are still likely to deliver calendar Q4 phones sales in excess of our 21.5 million estimate,” BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk wrote on Wednesday.

But an interesting takeaway from yesterday’s announcement may simply be that Apple has fallen from grace in some respects. Apple is fallible, even if the 4S ends up being a success. A company that could do no wrong in recent history just, well, did wrong in the eyes of pundits who had previously viewed every Apple product announcement as a gift from the heavens.

It should have been bigger. It should have been better. It should have been more Appley.

There were skeptics after Apple unveiled the iPhone in 2007, and after the iPhones 3G, 3GS and 4 as well. But yesterday’s skeptics took a different tone. They didn’t wonder if Apple could succeed or nervously whine about missing features, they collectively shouted that Apple had lost its mojo.

But then there’s the imminent reality check. And from where I’m sitting, the iPhone 4S is oozing with mojo.

Apple’s iPhone 4 provides the most silky smooth user experience on the planet with the firm’s A4 processor running the show. The more powerful dual-core A5 chipset from Apple’s iPad 2 should somehow improve on that already-phenomenal experience, and it will empower Apple’s new golden child, Siri.

It should be noted that I was hugely skeptical of Siri’s significance ahead of Apple’s event on Tuesday, but I’m now singing a different tune. I think the concept and technology behind Apple’s new personal assistant service are phenomenal, and while Siri might not be a huge draw for consumers in the near term, the long-term implications are tremendous. Apple just made smartphones much, much smarter.

On the outside, there is no question that the iPhone 4S is the same device as its predecessor. It might have a revised antenna system, but the similarities are so great that Apple had to include the Newsstand icon in marketing images depicting the phone’s home screen as no distinction would be made otherwise. But is that such a bad thing? The iPhone 4 is still an engineering feat, and I’m not sure a more attractive smartphone exists to this day.

Naysayers said Apple couldn’t cut it selling just one or two smartphone models, and now Apple owns two-thirds of global smartphone industry profits. Led by Apple’s gray-haired iPhone 4, which launched in June 2010, Apple sold more smartphones last quarter than any other vendor on the planet.

The numbers will do the talking over the next few quarters, and I expect Apple’s iPhone sales to continue on the same skyward path right up to next year’s iPhone 5 launch and beyond. As of October 12th, Apple will sell three different smartphone models that range in price from free to $399. The company will address postpaid smartphone buyers from top to bottom, and rumors suggest we may even see an attack on the prepaid market in the near future. No company stays on top forever, of course, but Apple’s new smartphone lineup is hardly that of a company that has begun its descent.

Apple may have fallen from grace in a way, but until competitors can even come close to approaching the allure surrounding Apple devices and the user experiences they afford, don’t expect the company’s grip on the industry to loosen at all.

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Zach Epstein

October 5th

Apple
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