Apple Launches Annual ‘Back to School’ Promotion in Japan, Offers Free Gift Cards With Select Macs, iPad Pros

Apple has launched its annual Back to School promotion in Japan this week, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara.


While the promotion typically offers free Beats headphones in the United States and Europe, the Japanese edition offers students free Apple Store gift cards valued up to ¥18,000 or roughly $165 with the purchase of select Mac and iPad Pro models.

Apple is also offering qualifying students 20 percent off AppleCare+ coverage for select Mac and iPad Pro models.

The promotion runs February 6 through April 3.


This article, "Apple Launches Annual 'Back to School' Promotion in Japan, Offers Free Gift Cards With Select Macs, iPad Pros" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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O2 and Ericsson Apologize After 4G Service Outage Affects Millions of Smartphones

Cellular network operator O2 on Friday said its data networks had been restored after millions of smartphones across the UK and Japan were taken offline yesterday (via BBC).

A statement on its website said the 4G network was finally working again, after having been affected from about 05:30 GMT on Thursday.


Earlier, mobile network equipment supplier Ericsson said that an expired certificate was the reason behind the outage, which also created problems in several other countries. Ericsson UK boss Marielle Lindgren said the "faulty software" that had caused the issues was being decommissioned.

Both O2 and Ericsson issued a joint apology to millions of customers hit by the disruption. "I want to let our customers know how sorry I am for the impact our network data issue has had on them, and reassure them that our teams, together with Ericsson, are doing everything we can," said O2 boss Mark Evans. "We fully appreciate it's been a poor experience and we are really sorry."

O2 is owned by Spain's Telefonica and has the UK's second-largest mobile network after British Telecom subsidiary EE.

The company said voice calls were not affected by the problem, but some O2 customers said they could not make calls or send texts, despite having cellular reception.

The outage also had knock-on effects for other services that use the O2 network, such as Transport for London's electronic timetable service at bus stops, which stopped working for most of Thursday.


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Apple Reportedly Plans to Cut Price of iPhone XR in Japan Due to Poor Sales and Restart iPhone X Production

Apple plans to discount the price of iPhone XR models in Japan by offering subsidies to Japanese carriers, according to a new report out this morning.

The Wall Street Journal said the price decreases on the $750 iPhone models could come as early as next week, citing sources familiar with Apple's sales strategy in the region.

"A price cut within a month off the release is rare not just for Apple but for smartphone makers in general," said a senior official at a wireless operator, who monitors sales.

Analysts say weaker-than-expected demand for iPhone XR may mirror what happened with the iPhone 5c in 2013, where sales picked up the following year. Apple's higher-priced XS and XS Max models, released a month earlier, appeal more to tech's early adopters who typically fuel initial sales of new iPhones.
The decision comes in the wake of a WSJ report earlier this week that claimed Apple has slashed production orders for its latest iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR models due to lower-than-expected demand.

Part of the problem for Apple is that the iPhone 8 is apparently still hugely popular in Japan because of its affordability, given that it's cheaper than the XR and was still available when Apple launched the XS and XS Max.

According to WSJ's sources, Apple suppliers have also resumed making the iPhone X, the 2017 model that Apple no longer sells at its own stores. If Apple plans to sell the older model in Japan, it wouldn't be the first time the company has produced previously discontinued models for regional markets where it sees sufficient demand for cheaper devices. The strategy also allows Apple to benefit from lower-cost components and depreciated production line machinery.

However, supply chain sources who spoke to WSJ claim the resumption of iPhone X production is partly due to Apple's need to use OLED panels ordered from Samsung – panels that were previously earmarked for use in the iPhone XS and XS Max devices that have since been hit by swingeing production cuts.

Related Roundup: iPhone XR
Buyer's Guide: iPhone XR (Buy Now)

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Apple Shibuya Store in Tokyo to Re-Open October 26

Apple has announced the reopening of its Shibuya retail store in Tokyo on Friday, October 26 – the same day as the launch of iPhone XR – following renovation that began almost a year ago.


The Shibuya store opens its doors again on the same date as Apple's Covent Garden retail location in London, although the Japan store has been out of action for significantly longer.

During the near 11 months of renovation work, the medium-sized store is likely to have undergone significant remodeling to bring it in line with SVP Angela Ahrendts' objective to increase and modernize Apple's retail presence in the country, which is currently home to nine Apple stores.


Back in March, Ahrendts announced a five-year plan for Japan, which aims to boost and significantly increase the company's presence with "extensive modernization" and significant investment.

The Shibuya store has been around since 2005, but Apple opened a new store in Shinjuku, Tokyo, in April and another in Kyoto in August, after teasing the opening of more retail locations in the country.

(Via Storeteller.de)


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Apple Facing Investigation in Japan Over Accusations of Anti-Competitive Behavior

Japan's Fair Trade Commission is investigating allegations that Apple pressured Yahoo Japan into pulling back from its Game Plus platform in the country, reports Nikkei.

Yahoo last fall submitted complaints about its Game Plus platform, a web-based service first launched in July 2017. Game Plus is designed to let users play games without needing to download a full app.


52 companies were participating in Games Plus at launch, according to Nikkei, including major game makers like Square Enix, and Yahoo initially planned to expand the platform into other areas, like business software.

Yahoo cut its Game Plus budget last year and pulled back on promotions for the service. According to Yahoo, it did so because of "pressure behind the scenes from Apple." Such a platform competes with the App Store, where Yahoo also offers apps for sale.

Japan's Fair Trade Commission is said to be gathering information on the situation, which it says "may constitute interference in Yahoo's business prohibited by the Anti-Monopoly Act."

Nikkei says it's unclear how the investigation will proceed, as Japanese investment company SoftBank, a major Yahoo shareholder has stepped in to mediate. Companies also often hesitate to work with authorities, according to an attorney that spoke to Nikkei, which can make it difficult to prove wrongdoing.

Tag: Japan

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Apple Offers Free Repairs of Products Damaged in Japan Floods

Apple has announced that it will repair any Mac, iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, iPod, or Thunderbolt Display directly damaged by heavy rains in Japan in July, free of charge, so long as the product is actually repairable.


Affected customers can contact Apple by dialing 0120-27753-5 to arrange for pick up of any eligible products through the end of September, according to a notice on Apple's website spotted by Japanese blog Mac Otakara.

Apple will service the damaged products free of charge and then return them to customers, although there may be delays, as delivery services by courier companies are suspended in some areas due to damage from the floodwaters.

Record rainfall in southwestern Japan in July resulted in widespread flooding, landslides, burst riverbanks, and collapsed buildings across the region.

Tag: Japan

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Japan Watchdog Says Apple May Have Violated Antitrust Rules With iPhone Deals

Japan's antitrust watchdog on Wednesday said Apple may have breached antitrust regulations by forcing three major domestic network carriers to sell its iPhones cheaply and charge higher monthly fees (via Reuters).

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said that Apple had forced NTT Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank to offer subsidies and sell iPhones at a discount.

In the eyes of the FTC, this made it hard for the mobile service providers to offer lower rate plans for long-term subscribers and effectively denied consumers a fair choice.

Apple and its Japanese arm have told the FTC they will review their contracts in light of these criticisms, according to sources who spoke to Nikkei Asian Review.

Japan's FTC started investigating Apple's sales practices in 2016, but didn't punish the company after it agreed to revise its contracts with the carriers, according to Reuters.

Tag: Japan

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Apple Maps Vehicles Begin Collecting Street-Level Data in Japan

Apple Maps vehicles equipped with LiDAR sensors have begun collecting street-level data in Japan for the first time this month.


Apple will be surveying the Tokyo and Urayasu areas between June and October of this year, according to a new Apple Maps vehicles page created specifically for Japan, first spotted by Japanese blog Mac Otakara.

Japan is the 11th country where the vehicles are collecting data since the initiative began in 2015, alongside Croatia, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

To date, Apple has periodically updated a list of locations where the vehicles will be collecting data on its U.S. website, including other countries, but Japan now has its own localized page, perhaps to satisfy local laws.

The verbiage on the page has suggested that Apple could be working on a feature similar to Google's Street View for Apple Maps:
Apple is driving vehicles around the world to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps. Some of this data will be published in future Apple Maps updates.

We are committed to protecting your privacy while collecting this data. For example, we will blur faces and license plates on collected images prior to publication.
In 2015, Mark Gurman reported that Apple planned to launch a 3D street view feature, based on a combination of its existing Flyover mode with street-level data. He also said the data would help Apple shift to an in-house mapping database by 2018, reducing its reliance on third-party sources like TomTom.

By the sound of it, Apple's mapping data could be used for advanced augmented reality applications, as part of a future update to ARKit.

Early speculation suggested the vehicles could be the basis of an Apple Car, but those rumors quieted down after the vans were labeled with Apple Maps decals, and because Apple has shifted towards testing self-driving software with Lexus 450h SUVs near its headquarters in California.

If you spot an Apple Maps vehicle in a location yet to be listed on Apple's website, be sure to let us know at tips@macrumors.com.


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Apple to Close Last Remaining Apple Watch Pop-Up Shop Next Month

Apple is set to close its last remaining pop-up shop dedicated to Apple Watch next month. Signs displayed at the Tokyo shop, located in Shinjuku's high-end Isetan department store, were shared on Twitter announcing the closure.



The message reads, "This is a notice that Apple Watch at Isetan Shinjuku will close as of Sunday, May 13. Thank you very much for your continuous patronage."

The closure of the pop-up shop follows last month's opening of Apple's Shinjuku store, which is situated directly opposite Isetan and offers the full range of Apple products and services, including Apple Watch.

Japan's pop-up shop is notable for being the first of its kind to open, coinciding with the launch of the original Apple Watch in 2015. Apple has only operated three pop-up shops worldwide selling Apple watches and bands. The other two operated out of Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Selfridges in London. Both closed in 2017.

The closures appear to be part of Apple's strategy to promote Apple Watch as a health and fitness accessory first and a haute couture fashion detail second. The pop-up shops specialized in selling Apple Watch Edition models, gold versions of which sold for at least $10,000 and up to $17,000 when they hit the market.

The pop-up shops were essentially outlets for Apple's remaining inventory of 18-karat Gold and Rose Gold Apple Watch Edition models, which were discontinued in 2016 and replaced with the ceramic Edition models the company continues to offer online and in-store to this day.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4
Tag: Japan
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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Japanese Company Develops Mobile Payment System That Scans Your Palm Using Smartphone Camera

Following authentication processes like thumbprint scanning, facial recognition, and QR code entry, a company in Japan this week has shown off a smartphone-based payment system that uses your unique palm print to confirm transactions (via Nikkei). Japanese credit card company JCB created the system in conjunction with Tokyo company Universal Robots, with a trial run aimed at company employees beginning next month.

This isn't the first time palm scanning technology has been used for mobile payments, with U.S. companies Biyo and Keyo each launching their own versions of similar systems recently, although on a small scale. Those technologies require merchants to purchase special terminals that include palm-scanning cameras so that customers can pay with a hand wave at their stores, but JCB's system only needs a smartphone camera and requires no specialized equipment.

Image via Nikkei
Customers would be able to leave wallets and phones in their pockets with a palm-based payment system, developed by credit card company JCB, that merchants could use with just an everyday smartphone camera.

After users register by snapping a picture of their palm from a smartphone camera, merchants or stores could scan customers' palms by smartphone to match them against registered data. With no specialized equipment needed, it would be easier for stores to incorporate the system, unlike a previous dalliance by JCB into palm-based payment that required a special terminal.
JCB's system works by identifying registrants' hands based on the surface of their palms and the "distribution of veins underneath." Users register by taking a picture of their palm from an app on their smartphone and associating it with any supported payment information. Then, when at an appropriate store the merchant can scan the customer's palm using a smartphone camera and the system will match the received data against registered data. This way, users wouldn't even need to take out their own smartphone during the payment process.

JCB hopes the technology not only evolves into a widely used payment system, but also potentially "eliminates the need for cards and other forms of identification." The employee test is being enacted with the goal of exposing any security problems with the system, "such as fraudulent registrations or uses," as well as ensuring accuracy of the system. It's said to misidentify users "only once in 100 billion times."

While palm scanning technology hasn't been widely adopted, thumbprint and face scanning have become normal interactions for users around the world when paying for items with their smartphones, particularly on iOS devices. Apple's Apple Pay began with Touch ID on iPhone 5s in 2013 and eventually came to MacBook Pro in 2016. With the launch of the iPhone X users are now paying for products with Face ID, which quickly scans their faces to confirm identity and then authenticates the purchase after being tapped to a compatible NFC terminal. Touch ID and Face ID can also both be used within apps.

Tag: Japan

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