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Apple Partners with China UnionPay to Bring Apple Pay to China in 2016

Update (18 December): iMore has a quote from Eddy Cue which lists some of the banks that will support Apple Pay in China; Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, Bank of Guangzhou, Bank of Shanghai, China Construction Bank, China Ever-bright Bank, China Guangfa Bank, China CITIC Bank, China Merchants Bank, China Minsheng Bank, Industrial Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Ping An Bank, Postal Savings Bank of China and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.

Apple today announced a partnership with China UnionPay, which will see Apple Pay available to Chinese customers as soon as early 2016. China UnionPay operates the Chinese inter-bank network and develops the UnionPay Card network – and its role in China is somewhat analagous to that of Visa and Mastercard.

“China UnionPay is dedicated to promoting payment innovations and providing secure, convenient mobile payment experiences for its hundreds of millions of cardholders, aligning multiple parties in the industry,” said Chai Hongfeng, executive vice president of China UnionPay. “We’re very excited to offer Apple Pay among a diverse set of innovative payment options that work with China UnionPay QuickPass.”

Apple says that it is working with China UnionPay to launch Apple Pay with 15 of China's leading banks, but provides no firm date apart from saying it will available as "soon as early 2016". According to Apple, the service needs to go through "tests and certification required by Chinese regulators". At this stage it is unclear which 15 banks will be supported.

China UnionPay cards are issued by over 165 financial institutions and can be used at more than 26 million merchants, 1.9 million ATMs and to date over 5 billion UnionPay cards have been issued. Today's announcement will likely make China the fifth country to support Apple Pay, with Spain, Singapore and Hong Kong also getting limited support for Apple Pay sometime in 2016.

“Apple Pay has revolutionized the way millions of people pay every day with their iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “China is an extremely important market for Apple and with China UnionPay and support from 15 of China’s leading banks, users will soon have a convenient, private and secure payment experience.”

Today's Apple Pay announcement is a big deal after a rather lackluster year for the service outside of the US. After launching in the US on October 20, 2014, Apple Pay finally expanded beyond the US in July this year when it lauched in the UK. But the UK launch was a bit of a shambles with just eight banks supporting the service at launch and just one of the "big four" – worsened by one of the banks delaying their support by a couple of weeks at the last minute. Then in late October this year Apple announced a partnership with American Express to bring Apple Pay to Australia and Canada, which it did in mid-November. Apple was unable, or perhaps unwilling, to make a deal with local banks – with numerous reports which say there was a deadlock between Apple and the banks over how much Apple should be paid from each transaction made using Apple Pay. The same limited, American Express only, Apple Pay support will roll out to Spain, Canada and Hong Kong starting in 2016.


Web Tools: A Web Inspector for iPad

Web Tools is a new app from developer James Finley of Ergo which aims to create a Safari-style web inspector for iPad. I've tried other solutions for getting the source of web pages via iOS, but, at least on iPad, I haven't seen any come close to being as well designed and implemented for the iPad's bigger screen.

Web Tools is an extremely simple app, with no interface elements except an address bar and a browser window. The address bar contains back and forward buttons, a reload button, and an inspect button. Load up a webpage in the address bar and tap the inspect button to see the web inspector slide up from the bottom.

Web Tools has a very similar design to that of Safari's web inspector for Mac. When you enable the inspector, it slides up to cover the bottom half of the web page (though you can easily drag to make it obscure more or less, depending on your preference). The inspector contains two panes, the first of which displays the HTML DOM tree for the web page. You can expand and collapse whichever elements you want to navigate through the DOM.

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Apple Music Gets Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour Video Exclusive

Re/code's Peter Kafka:

Apple and Swift are syncing up for a multi-pronged deal that will give Apple exclusive rights to a Swift concert video that debuts on Sunday, December 20, as well as her help on a big Apple Music marketing campaign. Swift, apparently, will get a nice check in return.

It’s easy to see what Apple gets out of the deal, because an Apple spokesperson was happy to talk about it: Access to the concert video will be limited to Apple Music subscribers — that includes both the 6.5 million people (or more) who are paying for the music service, as well as anyone in the free, three-month trial.

It's kind of amazing to look back at the history of Apple and Taylor Swift in the last six months. Back in June, Swift published a widely circulated criticism of Apple for not compensating artists during the three-month trial period of Apple Music. Famously, Apple responded swiftly to the criticism and within hours (on a Sunday no less) announced that they would change their plans and pay rights holders on a per-stream basis during the trial period. A few days after Apple's backflip, Swift announced that her album 1989 which was not available on any streaming music services, would be available on Apple Music.

Now Apple is paying Swift to launch 'The 1989 World Tour - Live' video, exclusively on Apple Music. Re/code's Peter Kafka is also reporting that Apple has also obtained the rights to use Swift's name and likeness in Apple Store promotions and Swift-branded iTunes gift cards. Taylor Swift is also today's interview guest on DJ Zane Lowe's show on Beats 1, you can find showtimes here.

Filmed at Sydney's ANZ Stadium in front of 76,000 fans, this exclusive concert film captures the excitement and energy of the hottest pop artist in the world. Interspersed with footage from her sold-out world tour and loaded with superstar guests, The 1989 World Tour - Live will be available exclusively on Apple Music starting 20 December.

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Apple News Can Now Feature Top Stories, Curated by Apple News Editors

(L-R) The Apple News launch screen after you update to iOS 9.2, the Top Stories channel in my Favorites section, the For You section which features Top Stories (note the red tag on the right).

(L-R) The Apple News launch screen after you update to iOS 9.2, the Top Stories channel in my Favorites section, the For You section which features Top Stories (note the red tag on the right).

Peter Kafka, writing for Re/code, reports that yesterday's iOS 9.2 software update also included a big new feature for Apple News:

Apple’s update for its iOS app, which begins rolling out today, has two components. Only one of them will be visible to regular users: Apple’s editors will curate a list of “top stories” they’ll display for all of the apps’ users, at least a couple of times a day.

That’s a change in philosophy from this fall’s launch, when the app was supposed to highlight stories based on each of its users’ tastes and reading behaviors.

That’s still going to happen throughout the day, but in the morning and in the afternoon, Apple will assemble a handful of stories it thinks all of its users would want to see. You know — like a newspaper.

After you install iOS 9.2 and open Apple News for the first time you'll be given the open of adding 'Top Stories' to your Favorites. If you do add it to your favorites, the 'For You' section of Apple News will prominently feature articles that Apple editors have deemed to be a top news story for the day. You can also go directly to the Top Stories channel in your Favorites to view all of the top stories in one place.

In my launch review of Apple News I was critical of the overall Apple News experience, which I found to be disappointing. One of my chief complaints was that you couldn't rely on Apple News to give you all of the day's big news stories – the lack of human picks and poor automated curation was readily apparent:

Arguably the most frustrating part of For You is the fact you never get a good sense of what the big stories of the day are. To me, this is vital to any news app, website, or service – I don't just want to read interesting articles that I might like, but I want to know the most important of those stories.

I've only spent 20 minutes with iOS 9.2 and the updated Apple News, but early signs are positive. The For You section began with stories which were prominently marked as a "Top Story" and indeed they were (mostly) appropriate. I was pleasantly surprised to see they even have Australian editors, curating the top Australian news stories. So I'm going to give Apple News a second chance and see if it fares any better with the addition of human curated top news stories, and I'll report back to you all next week.


Apple Publishes Best of 2015 App Store Lists for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV

Early this morning, Apple unveiled the 2015 edition of their annual Best of App Store lists – a collection of the best apps and games released on the App Store over the past 12 months. This year, in addition to iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps, Apple has added editorial picks for the newly launched watchOS and tvOS platforms, highlighting the best apps and games released by third-party developers on Apple Watch and Apple TV.

We debated. We argued. Everyone had favorites, but to make this list of 2015's finest, there could be no doubts. What you see here made the cut—they're the most visionary, inventive, and irresistible apps and games of the year. After you've browsed our selections, don't miss the titles that topped the charts in 2015.

In this year's Best of App Store, Apple has picked Periscope, The Robot Factory, Affinity Photo, HBO Now, and Dark Sky as apps of the year on its five developer platforms. On iOS, Apple also features special mentions for most innovative apps (Workflow on the iPhone), best app on the iPad Pro (uMake), and best app on the iPhone 6s (Instagram). On Apple TV and Apple Watch – the most recent additions to the App Store ecosystem – Apple hasn't picked any runner-ups, but instead they're simply showcasing the best apps and games. The iOS section includes apps that dominated the top charts as well, with Minecraft, Trivia Crack, Messenger, and Snapchat unsurprisingly in there.

Overall, Apple's picks offer a good mix of big budget titles and smaller, indie studios such as DeskConnect, Readdle, or The Soulmen. You can find Apple's complete Best of 2015 on the front page of each App Store today; a recap of all the winners and runner-ups (from the US App Store) is available below.

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Apple Airs New ‘The Future of Television’ Apple TV Ad

Apple aired a new one-minute Apple TV ad today, once again highlighting the device's new Siri features and native app platform.

Your favorite TV shows, movies, games and more are on Apple TV. The future of television is apps.

The commercial – unlike the company's recent iPhone ads – doesn't feature any voiceover; instead, it draws from Apple TV's selection of apps and content to show brief snippets of popular movies and TV shows from Netflix and iTunes, footage from the NBA app, scenes from The Simpsons and Pixar's Inside Out, and more. As for apps, games such as Asphalt and Guitar Hero Live make an appearance alongside icons of other apps from the Apple TV Home screen.

The commercial is an extended version of Apple's shorter Apple TV videos and is part of a campaign that also includes billboards reminiscent of the company's iconic six-color logo. You can watch the video below.

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Apple Releases iOS 9.2

Apple released iOS 9.2 today, bringing a host of bug fixes, improvements to system apps, and optimizations to Safari View Controller, the system's new unified web view based on Safari.

Introduced in iOS 9, Safari View Controller enables third-party apps to implement a native web view that presents webpages with the same engine and interface of Safari, accessing features such as iCloud Keychain and auto-fill. In iOS 9.2, apps updated for the new OS will be able to implement a swipe gesture from the left edge of the screen to dismiss Safari View Controller (a feature that had already been done in a custom fashion by apps like Tweetbot) – a more comfortable way of dismissing it than tapping a 'Done' button at the top of the screen. Also new in iOS 9.2, Safari View Controller's refresh button can be long-tapped to reveal additional reload options (just like in Safari) and action extensions can be used without issues on the currently open webpage. This will allow extensions such as 1Password and Workflow to run in Safari View Controller, which wasn't possible before.

Among other improvements in today's release, Apple lists minor but welcome changes to Apple Music (create a playlist when sharing a song, new download indicators for offline songs), a new Top Stories section in Apple News, the ability to 3D Touch in iBooks to peek and pop pages from the Table of Contents, and Mail Drop support in Mail for large attachments.

iOS 9.2 is available now via Apple's Software Update.


Automatic: A Smart Driving Assistant on Your iPhone [Sponsor]

There’s a mountain of data inside your car waiting to be unleashed, and all you have to do is plug in a quick little connector and download a mobile application.

Automatic is a smart driving assistant that plugs into your car's data port and lets you connect your smartphone (either iPhone or Android) with your car. By  talking to your car’s onboard computer and using your smartphone’s GPS and data plan to upgrade your car's capabilities, Automatic will allow you to easily diagnose your engine light, never forget where you parked your car, and save hundreds of dollars on gas.

Automatic learns your driving habits and gives you suggestions through subtle audio cues to drive smarter and stop wasting gas. Thanks to a map view available on your phone, Automatic can display a trip timeline after every driving session, showing you how you're doing with a Drive Score; the app can even track local gas prices and tell you how much you're spending.

In case of engine problems, Automatic can decipher what the "check engine" light means and show you a description of the issue with a possible solution. And thanks to a feature called Crash Alert, Automatic can detect many types of serious crashes and automatically alert local authorities as well as your loved ones when you can't.

Automatic is currently available in the US for iPhone and Android devices, with a 45-day return policy and free shipping in 2 business days.

MacStories readers can go to automatic.com/macstories to get $19.99 off and buy Automatic at just $80. For more information, check out Automatic's website.

Our thanks to Automatic for sponsoring MacStories this week.