Streaming Music Contributed 75% of Total U.S. Music Industry Revenues for 2018

Streaming music services like Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora, and others are continuing to grow in popularity and in 2018, were responsible for 75 percent of total U.S. music industry revenues, according to a new year-end music industry report released today by the RIAA. [PDF]

Revenue from streaming platforms grew 30 percent year over year and hit $7.4 billion. Total music industry revenue for 2018 was at $9.8 billion, up from $8.8 billion in 2017 and $7.6 billion in 2016.


Digital downloads from storefronts like iTunes made up 11 percent of total revenue in 2018, and physical sales of records and CDs made up 12 percent. Digital downloads fell for the sixth consecutive year and were eclipsed by physical sales, which were also down, with the exception of vinyl record sales (up 8%).

Paid on-demand subscription services like Apple Music were responsible for much of the music industry's revenue growth, with ad-supported services and customized radio services making up a smaller portion of the growth.


Overall subscription revenues increased a total of 32 percent from 2017 to 2018, totaling $5.4 billion, thanks to 42 percent growth in the average number of paid subscriptions.

The RIAA does not break down revenue by subscription music service, but at last count, Apple Music had 50 million paying subscribers, while Spotify had 87 million.


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What It’s Like Using an iPhone SE in 2019

Apple discontinued the iPhone SE in September when iPhone XS and XR models were released, but in January, Apple started selling off its remaining stock via its clearance site for $249.

Every time Apple restocks the clearance site, available iPhone SE models go quick, suggesting there's still quite a lot of interest in the 4-inch device. We recently picked up an iPhone SE to see just what it's like using one in 2019.

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The iPhone SE was Apple's last 4-inch iPhone, and compared to a 5.8-inch iPhone X, a 6.1-inch iPhone XR, or a 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max, it's tiny. Coming from one of these phones to the iPhone SE almost makes the iPhone SE feel like a toy.

On the plus side, it's so small and light that it's easy to use one handed, something you can't necessarily do with Apple's biggest iPhones. With its aluminum backing, the iPhone SE is more durable than Apple's new all-glass smartphones.

The iPhone SE pre-dates Face ID, of course, so it's using a Touch ID Home button, which is great for those who continue to prefer fingerprint sensors to facial recognition.

There's also a headphone jack, which has been eliminated from all current iPhones (and the most recent iPad Pro models), and it has separate volume up and down buttons along with a power button at the top of the device instead of a side button.

Apple released the iPhone SE in 2016, so it's using three-year-old hardware. It has an A9 processor, which was also used in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus back in 2015, along with 2GB RAM (vs. 3 in the XR and 4 in the XS).


You might think it'd be noticeably slower than newer iPhones, but, surprisingly, for built-in apps it's speedy. When using Mail, Messages, Calendar, FaceTime, and other similar built-in apps, the iPhone SE is as speedy as 2018 iPhones.

It's not, however, able to hold up when using apps built for newer iPhones with more modern processors, nor does it have the same augmented reality capabilities. The camera is fine and is the same camera in the iPhone 6s, but it's lacking the improvements made over the last three years.

If you don't care about camera quality, prefer a smaller screen, and don't need to use processor-intensive apps and games, the iPhone SE is a compact, easy-to-hold smartphone that still holds up even in 2019.

Apple's clearance site continues to have iPhone SE models in stock that are unlocked, but ship with Verizon and T-Mobile SIMs. The iPhone SE with 32GB of storage is priced at $249, while the iPhone SE with 128GB of storage is available for $299.

Ahead of when the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR were released, there were some rumors suggesting Apple was working on a second-generation version of the iPhone SE 2.

Some of that information was conflated with iPhone XR rumors, though, and since the 2018 devices launched, we've heard no more about another 4-inch iPhone except for some chatter suggesting Apple has nixed all plans for a new iPhone SE.

At this point in time, it looks like the iPhone SE will continue to be the last 4-inch device available from Apple.


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First-Gen Apple Pencil Available for Just $80 on Amazon

If you have a sixth-generation iPad or iPad Pro model that predates the 2018 iPad, you might be interested to know that Amazon is currently selling the first-generation Apple Pencil for just $79.88.

At $80, the Apple Pencil is $20 less expensive than the standard asking price of $99, and it is the cheapest price we've ever seen on the accessory.


Apple does have an Apple Pencil 2 now, but it works exclusively with the 2018 11 and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, so if you have an older tablet, you'll still need to pick up the first-generation Apple Pencil.


Apple sells the first-generation Apple Pencil for $99, as do most other retailers. Discounts are rare, so if you've been waiting for a sale to pick one up, now might be the time.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Related Roundup: Apple Deals

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Comcast Used ‘0000’ as Default PIN for Xfinity Mobile Customers, Leaving Them Vulnerable to Hacking

Comcast's Xfinity Mobile service used "0000" as a default PIN for all of its mobile customers, which left them vulnerable to hacking attempts, identity theft, and more.

Comcast's decision to use simple default PINs for all of its customers came to light in a "Help Desk" article from The Washington Post included one Comcast customer's tech horror story.


Larry Whitted, an Xfinity Customer in California, had someone hijack his phone number, port it to a new account on another network, and steal his identity to commit fraud.

The thief put Samsung Pay on a new phone with Whitted's phone number and credit card then bought himself a computer at the Apple Store.

This was possible because Comcast does not ask its customers to create a PIN to secure their accounts to prevent them from being transferred to another carrier. Instead, Comcast uses the default 0000 code. From Comcast's support document:
We don't require you to create an account PIN, so you don't need to provide that information to your new carrier.

Taking control of a person's telephone number is a popular way to obtain logins for email, social media accounts, bank accounts, and more. Any site that uses a phone number as a way of authenticating data can be accessed when someone has your phone number.

Charismatic hackers who use social engineering techniques can often get access to phone numbers from customer service representatives who don't know any better, but many carriers have implemented PIN codes to make it more difficult. Not Comcast.

This has led to other Xfinity Mobile customers having their phone numbers hijacked as well, and with phone numbers used for so much, hackers can access a lot of a person's data.

Comcast says that it has since implemented new measures to make it harder to steal phone numbers and that it is "working aggressively" to create a PIN-based solution, something that common sense dictates should have been available from the time the service launched.

Comcast says that a "very small number" of its customers have been impacted by this issue, and rightly admits that having even "one customer impacted" is "one too many." Comcast claims that customers who were affected perhaps used passwords leaked in other data breaches

Tag: Comcast

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Foldable iPhones Could Have Self-Heating Displays to Avoid Damage in Cold Weather

The foldable smartphone era is fully upon us with the recent introductions of the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, and while it remains unclear if Apple will follow suit, the company has at least explored ideas related to foldable smartphones in patent applications over the past few years.

Huawei Mate X

In a patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today, titled "Electronic Devices With Flexible Displays," Apple explains that foldable smartphone displays could be prone to damage when bent in cold temperatures, and describes various heating methods to mitigate the issue.

For example, Apple says the portion of the display that bends could be heated by lighting up the pixels in that area of the screen. Alternatively, a "heating element or other heating structure" could be used, although Apple wasn't specific.

Apple's illustration of a folding device, along with an expanded view showing the bendable area of the display being heated

The patent application, highlighted by AppleInsider, notes that the foldable smartphone could have a magnetic latching mechanism that would prevent the device from being folded or unfolded in very cold temperatures to avoid damage to the display. This would be in environments "significantly below room temperature."

Apple files numerous patent applications every week, of course, and many of the inventions do not see the light of day. Patents are also very detailed, encompassing many possible ideas, even ones that Apple might not have any plans to advance. So, the exact implementation if any remains to be seen.

While unique, early foldable smartphones from Samsung and Huawei are far from perfect, with bulky designs and expensive price tags. Apple is unlikely to release a foldable iPhone unless it can meet the company's strict quality standards.

Last year, Bank of America analyst Wamsi Mohan predicted that Apple is working on a foldable iPhone for release in 2020, while an earlier Korean report said Apple was developing a foldable iPhone alongside LG. However, it's still not entirely clear if Apple will ever proceed with those plans.


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EFF Calls on Apple to Let Users Encrypt iCloud Backups as Part of ‘Fix It Already’ Initiative

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), perhaps the most well-known digital rights non-profit, today launched a new "Fix It Already" campaign with the aim of getting technology companies to implement new privacy features in areas where privacy is lacking.

According to the EFF, the issues that it is demanding a fix for are "well-known privacy and security issues" that have "attainable fixes." From Apple, the EFF wants the company to implement user-encrypted iCloud backups that are inaccessible to the company and thus to law enforcement.


iCloud content uploaded to Apple is encrypted at the location of the server and, with the proper legal requests, Apple can provide iCloud information that includes name, address, email, mail logs with date/time stamps, photos, Safari browsing history, iMessages, and more, with full details outlined by Apple on its privacy site. [PDF]

The EFF says that Apple should "let users protect themselves" and elect for "truly encrypted iCloud backups."

Apple has not encrypted iCloud backups because doing so would prevent Apple from being able to restore iCloud backups for users who have forgotten their passwords. As the EFF points out, though, Apple CEO Tim Cook has said in the past that Apple may move towards encrypted iCloud backups in the future. From an interview Cook did with German site Der Spiegel:
There our users have a key and we have one. We do this because some users lose or forget their key and then expect help from us to get their data back. It is difficult to estimate when we will change this practice. But I think that will be regulated in the future as with the devices. So we will not have a key for it in the future.
The EFF has demands for other technology companies in addition to Apple. Android, it says, should let users deny and revoke apps' internet permissions, while Twitter should end-to-end encrypt direct messages and Facebook should stop using phone numbers provided for account creation for targeted advertising.

WhatsApp should obtain user consent before adding users to groups, Slack should give free workspace administrators control over data retention, and Verizon should stop pre-installing spyware on some smartphones.

Tag: EFF

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Beats Partners With Japanese Fashion Brand Sacai for New Beaded BeatsX Headphones

Apple-owned Beats by Dre has partnered with Japanese luxury fashion brand Sacai to produce a new collection of BeatsX headphones. These models come with beaded cables that can be removed and customized to reflect unique patterns (via WatchGeneration).


Beats won't be selling these headphones to the masses, however, and is currently planning to launch them at an exclusive pop-up shop in Paris on March 4. It's unclear if the company has any plans to roll out the BeatsX + Sacai collection to Apple retail locations or online.
From Beats by Dr. Dre and sacai comes a collaboration that celebrates unique style and individuality. Sacai – an innovative label recognized for mixing high concept designs with functional utility – helps us find a balance between technology and fashion. Reimagined to let listeners incorporate their own creativity and identity, these BeatsX earphones prove that the best accessory to premium sound is personal expression.
There are three colors in the collection: Silver Red, Absolute White, and Intense Black. Each BeatsX + Sacai model comes with a carrying pouch that has a Sacai logo, and they're priced at a premium of around $200, over $100 more than the price of normal BeatsX headphones, which can be purchased for around $80-$90 on sale.


In a promo video shared on the Beats by Dre YouTube channel, Beats president Luke Wood said that the company was looking for a new partner who could reimagine its products with a different design and color. This led to Sacai's idea to incorporate beads onto BeatsX, creating a more fashion-first aesthetic for the in-ear headphones.


Beats is known for collaborating with a number of interesting and surprising brands, in the past including French luxury fashion house Balmain, designer Alexander Wang, and even Hello Kitty. Apple acquired Beats Electronics in 2014 for $3 billion, using the company's streaming service as a basis for what would become Apple Music in 2015.

Tags: Beats, BeatsX

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Qualcomm ‘Running Out’ of Time to Win 5G Modem Orders in 2020 iPhones Amid Legal Battle With Apple

Qualcomm may be running out of time if it wants to supply Apple with 5G modems for its 2020 iPhones as some rumors suggest.


In a research note today, analysts at investment bank Barclays said that while they originally thought Qualcomm had an opportunity to supply the 5G modems to Apple, they now believe that time "seems to be running out" unless the two companies can settle their bitter legal battle in the next few weeks.

Back in November, it was reported that Apple will tap Intel as its 5G modem supplier instead, but Barclays analysts believe that the modem design for 2020 iPhones "needs to be set now," and that the expected late 2019 availability of Intel's first consumer 5G modem "does not work with Apple's timeline."

Apple recently testified that it held conversations with Samsung and MediaTek as potential alternative suppliers, but it's unclear if those companies would be able to meet Apple's production, quality, and cost demands.

Apple is also reportedly working on its own cellular modems, but research and development appears to be in the early stages.

Last week, Intel confirmed that it expects the first consumer products embedded with its 5G chips to be released in 2020, the same year Apple is rumored to release its first 5G-enabled iPhone, enabling faster data speeds.


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Halide Devs Launch New ‘Spectre’ App for Capturing Long Exposure Photos

The developers behind the popular Halide photography app today launched an all-new app, Spectre. Spectre is designed to overhaul the way that we take long exposure images using some unique machine learning and stabilization techniques.

When capturing a long exposure image with Spectre, the app takes advantage what's described as an intelligent computational shutter to take hundreds of photos over the course of a few seconds. Because it's taking hundreds of images instead of one continuous shot, you can hold your phone while you take long exposure images with Spectre.


Normally, these kind of long exposure shots require a tripod or another stable surface to come out well, but Spectre uses image stabilization and its computational shutter to simplify the process.


Spectre's software can also do some neat things with the long exposure images that you capture with the app. It can remove crowds if you take a medium or long exposure photo in a touristy area, and it can create those neat blurred effects you sometimes see from long exposure images when capturing flowing water.

At night, there's an AI mode designed to create light trails for creative nighttime shots and light painting purposes.


All photos captured by Spectre are saved as Live Photos, so you can see the end result as a still photo or see the exposure process from start to finish. Spectre supports 3 to 9 second exposures in the app, and while the long exposure features won't work for all types of images, you can still get a decent shot in most situations because it's simply stitching photos together.


Spectre can be downloaded from the App Store for $1.99. It works on the iPhone 6 and newer and requires iOS 11 and up. Scene Detection features require iOS 12, while AI-based stabilization requires an iPhone 8 or later.

Tag: Halide

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Disney in Talks to Acquire WarnerMedia’s 10% Stake in Hulu, Resulting in 70% Ownership After Fox Acquisition

Disney is in active discussions with AT&T in an effort to acquire the 10 percent ownership stake that WarnerMedia has in Hulu, according to a report by Variety. Disney already owns a 30 percent stake in Hulu, and is soon to gain Fox's 30 percent stake once regulatory approvals for the Disney/20th Century Fox acquisition go through.


This means that if Disney does end up with both AT&T and Fox's stakes, it will own a 70 percent majority of the Hulu streaming service. The last remaining company with a stake is Comcast/NBCUniversal, and in a statement last month NBCU CEO Steve Burke said that "Disney would like to buy us out...I don't think anything's going to happen in the near term."

At this point, it's believed that even with a 70 percent control of Hulu, Disney would leave the platform as it is, focused on general entertainment with TV shows and films for subscribers to watch. In contrast, the upcoming Disney+ streaming service will be the platform where customers can get Disney-focused content in a more family-friendly environment.

For AT&T, the company is said to be looking to sell its minority stake in Hulu as it prepares to launch its own streaming service in late 2019. This service will be divided into three tiers: "one focused on movies; one with movies plus original programming; and a third tier comprising content from the first two along with WarnerMedia library content and licensed programming."

Apple's own entry into the streaming service market will happen soon, as the company plans to introduce its TV service at an event on March 25. While we will likely gain a lot of information about the service at that time, it's not expected to launch until the summer or fall of 2019.

Tags: AT&T, Disney, Hulu

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