Apple rumored to launch 4-inch iPhone 5se and new Apple Watch models in March

The iPhone 5S

A series of Apple rumors surfaced this evening, potentially revealing the successor to Apple’s underwhelming iPhone 5c.

Apple’s next iPhone

The next iPhone will be called the iPhone 5se (perhaps short for “special edition”), a report from 9to5Mac claims. It is said to feature a four-inch screen — like the iPhone 5, 5s, and 5c — with “a design similar to 2013’s flagship but upgraded internals, software, and hardware features that blend the old design with modern technologies,” says 9to5Mac reporter Mark Gurman.

In short, Apple’s next iPhone may be an iPhone 6, stuffed inside the body of a modified iPhone 5s.

Mirroring a December report, 9to5Mac says Apple will unveil the lower-price device during a media event in March.

Apple’s next Watch

The next major Apple Watch release isn’t expected until the fall, 9to5Mac says (contradicting earlier rumors), but a light refresh is apparently in the works for Apple’s March event. 9to5 writes [emphasis ours]:

Apple plans to announce new Apple Watch models in March. The new lineup will be similar to the September 2015 Apple Watch revision, bringing a series of new band color options to the Apple Watch lineup. We are also told that entirely new bands made out of new materials are in development in addition to partnerships with firms beyond Hermes.

Apple’s next iPad

The next iPad, purportedly the iPad Air 3, may also debut in March. 9to5Mac suggests that Apple plans a Spring release for the device, echoing an earlier prediction from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Apple has yet to publicly confirm the details above — and it surely won’t, if the tight-lipped company’s track record tells us anything. We’re reached out for comment on the matter anyways.










Get Ready For A Smaller iPhone 6s Mini

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 4.25.10 PM Are you reading this post on an iPhone 5s? Chances are the iPhone 6s is too big for your taste and you’re now holding onto your trustworthy iPhone 5s. But it’s time to rejoice! Many leaks indicate that a smaller 4-inch iPhone is in the works — and there’s a brand new one from M.I.C Gadget. It’s unclear when it’s going to be released, but there are many… Read More

Growth funds are dumping Apple stock on anticipated iPhone sales decline

An Apple iPhone 6 is seen on display at the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City

(By David Randall, Reuters) – Major U.S. growth mutual funds have been among the largest sellers of Apple shares over the past six months, fueling speculation that the company’s days of supercharged growth have come to an end.

Amid concerns that iPhone sales may be set to drop, the $77.3 billion American Funds Capital World Growth & Income Fund has sold all of its 1.7 million Apple shares since the end of June, according to Lipper data. The $9.3 billion Hartford Capital Appreciation Fund sold 1.4 million shares over the same period, reducing its position by 91 percent.

The selling of Apple stock by growth-oriented managers, who seek higher returns from fast-expanding companies, pushes Apple further toward being a so-called value stock – more appealing for its balance sheet or cash than its growth prospects.

Investors see Wall Street’s expectations of fewer phone sales this year as a reflection of a maturing U.S. smartphone market and the economic slowdown in China, where Apple has been deriving most of its growth.

They were jolted when Taiwan-based iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry Co – commonly known as Foxconn – said its revenue fell by a fifth in December, one sign that iPhone demand could be slowing.

The massive manufacturer also plans to cut worker hours over China’s week-long Lunar New Year holiday in February, a period when it previously had often paid overtime, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Wall Street analysts expect Apple to grow revenue by just 4 to 7 percent in the current fiscal year ending next September – down from 28 percent the year before, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The slowdown concerns have helped to drive Apple’s shares down almost 29 percent to $95.98 late on Friday morning, from last April’s peak of $134.54.

“The upside from the phone segment, which is what has carried them for several years, is becoming more limited,” said Tony Arsta, a co-portfolio manager of the growth-oriented Motley Fool Great America Fund, which sold all of its Apple shares – 2 percent of its assets – over the past six months. “They were able to juice it by introducing a bigger screen, but all the easy decisions have played out.”

Apple did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

VALUE STOCKS AND ACTIVIST INVESTORS

The transition of Apple to more of a value than a growth investment is underway at funds giant Fidelity.

Its growth-oriented Fidelity Capital Appreciation fund has sold all of its 2.48 million Apple shares since June, according to Lipper data. At the same time, the value-oriented Fidelity Series Equity-Income fund bought 1.05 million shares after having no previous stake, and making it one of the ten largest buyers in the second half of last year.

The Fidelity, American Fund Capital and Hartford Capital growth funds were among the ten largest sellers of Apple over the last six months of 2015. Fidelity did not respond to requests for comment and both American Fund and Hartford Capital declined comment.

Value fund managers are more likely to take an activist role, criticizing management and pushing for share buybacks, dividends, or restructuring to deliver shareholder returns because a company is not growing quickly enough to raise its share price, said Todd Rosenbluth, director of mutual fund research at S&P Capital IQ.

Apple has already seen activists move in. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn wrote a letter to Apple’s board in October 2014 calling the company “dramatically undervalued” and urging a bigger share buyback program and a dividend increase.

The company increased its share buyback program by 50 percent in April 2015, with plans to buy back $140 billion in stock by March 2017. It also increased its quarterly dividend by 11 percent, to 52 cents per share.

According to the most recent disclosures recorded by Lipper data, Icahn is the company’s fifth-largest shareholder, with 52.7 million shares worth approximately $5.8 billion.

TRANSITION CAN BE DIFFICULT

Apple already resembles a value stock by some measures. Shares trade at a trailing price-to-earnings ratio of about 10.5, based on earnings in its last fiscal year. That compares with a P/E of 95 for the fast-growth stock Facebook Inc .

Overall, 41.4 percent of growth funds hold Apple, a decline from 47.2 percent at the end of 2012, according to Lipper. Apple is held by 20.1 percent of value funds, up from 13.9 percent over the same period.

Companies that transition from growth to value stocks sometimes see share prices stagnate for long periods. Microsoft, a favorite during the late ’90s tech bubble, fell below $40 per share in July 2000 and did not trade above that price again for almost 14 years. Still, some growth-oriented managers are holding their Apple positions.

John Barr, portfolio manager of the Needham Aggressive Growth fund , has not reduced his 5 percent weighting in the company. He expects slower but steady growth.

“The law of large numbers is happening,” he said. “But nothing is dramatically broken with the iPhone market, and we think Apple is going to continue to be the innovation leader driving it forward.”

David Chieuh’s Upright Growth Fund has a larger share of Apple – 21.2 percent – than any other fund.

His fund was down 4.4 percent over the three months through Wednesday, partly because of Apple weakness, but it has outperformed the S&P 500 over that period.

Apple stock could fall another 10 percent before stabilizing, Chieuh predicted, but lower prices will make it more attractive – ultimately bringing in more buyers and lifting its share price.

Some investors are hoping that the biggest breakthrough product in Apple’s future will be a car – possibly an electric vehicle, suitable for car-sharing. The company has never fully acknowledged it has an automotive project, but the company has recruited dozens of experts from automakers.

For now, though, the lack of another big hit weighs on the stock price. Some of the recent decline stems from disappointment with the Apple Watch, which was launched last year, said Graham Tanaka, portfolio manager of the Tanaka Growth Fund .

“People thought it would be the next big thing, and it’s only an okay product,” he said.

Still, Tanaka is maintaining his Apple holdings because he expects the company to expand its line of smart products for the home – similar to Alphabet’s Nest line of products – including Wifi-enabled thermostats and home security cameras.

Such new products can increase dependence on the iPhone. In June, the first products compatible with Apple’s HomeKit software were launched, allowing users to tell the iPhone voice-assistant Siri to turn on lights or open door locks.

Hedge fund manager Morris Mark, managing partner at Mark Asset Management, meanwhile, is looking for Apple to sign deals with media companies such as Walt Disney Co to stream more of their live content through Apple TV, allowing consumers to cut their cable subscriptions.

That, in turn, would prompt more consumers to opt for an iPhone to manage and control their content libraries, he said.

“Nothing in the world is more important to Apple than the iPhone,” he said.

(Reporting by David Randall; Editing by Brian Thevenot and Martin Howell)










Apple will reportedly cut iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus production by 30%

Apple logo

(Reuters) — Apple Inc is expected to cut production of its latest iPhone models by about 30 percent in the January-March quarter, the Nikkei reported.

As inventories of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have piled up since they were launched last September, production will be scaled back to let dealers go through their current stock, the business daily reported.

Apple’s shares were down 2.2 percent at $102.97 in afternoon trading. The stock has lost about a quarter of its value from record highs in April, reflecting worries over slowing shipments.

“This is an eye-opening production cut which speaks to the softer demand that Apple has seen with 6s out of the gates,” FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives said. “The Street was bracing for a cut but the magnitude here is a bit more worrisome.”

Shares of Apple suppliers Skyworks Solutions, Qorvo Inc and Cirrus Logic, among others, also fell following the report.

Other companies affected include Sony Corp, which makes image sensors used in iPhones, and electronic parts makers TDK Corp, Alps Electric Co Ltd and Kyocera Corp, the paper reported.

LCD panel manufacturers Japan Display Inc, Sharp Corp and LG Display Co Ltd will also be hit by the cut in production, according to the report.

Production is expected to return to normal in the April-June quarter, the Nikkei reported.

Tepid forecast by Apple suppliers such as Jabil Circuit, which manufactures casings for iPhones, and Dialog Semiconductor GmbH in December stoked fears that iPhone shipments could fall for the first time.

As well, consumers may not see the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus as enough of an improvement over its predecessors, some analysts have said.

Wall Street has also tempered its view on the high-flying stock in recent months. Since early December, about a third of the analysts tracked by Thomson Reuters have trimmed their estimates on Apple.

For fiscal 2016, Apple is expected, on average, to grow revenue by under 4 percent, a far cry from the 28 percent revenue growth it achieved in the fiscal year that ended last September.

Apple was not immediately available for comment. The parts suppliers cited in the Nikkei report were not available for comment outside their regular business hours.

(Reporting by Anya George Tharakan and Lehar Maan in Bengaluru; Julia Love in Las Vegas; Editing by Maju Samuel and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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LG and Samsung will reportedly supply OLED screens for Apple’s iPhone

Trustify for iPhone

SEOUL (Reuters, Se Young Lee) — South Korea’s LG Display Co Ltd and the panel-making unit of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd will supply organic light emitting diode (OLED) screens for Apple Inc’s iPhones, the Electronic Times reported on Wednesday citing unnamed sources.

The report comes after years of speculation that Apple will start using the next-generation technology in its phones. OLED screens are thinner and offer better picture quality than the mainstay liquid crystal display screens.

Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reported last month that Apple plans to start using OLED screens for iPhones starting in 2018.

LG and Samsung Display are close to a final agreement with Apple for the screens, the Electronic Times report said, adding the two Korean firms plan a combined 15 trillion won ($12.8 billion) in capital expenditure to build up OLED production capacity over the next two to three years.

Apple will likely provide some funding to both firms to help with the investments, the paper added.

LG Display and Samsung Display declined to comment, while Apple could not be immediately reached for comment.

Samsung Display, which currently supplies OLED smartphone panels to parent Samsung Electronics and Chinese vendors, is likely getting bigger volumes from Apple than LG Display, the paper said.










Newzoo report highlights how ‘power users’ pushed mobile gaming to $30B in 2015

Clash of Clans capitalizes on all kinds of players to make $1 billion every year.

Check out all of our GamesBeat Rewind 2015 end of the year coverage here.

The worldwide adoption of smartphones has turned mobile gaming into a mammoth business.

This was the year that mobile gaming revenues reached $30 billion and that China generated more money for that sector than any other nation — even the United States. But those aren’t the only big milestones and changes to come to this space, according to a new report from research firm Newzoo that looks back at 2015. Entirely new regions turned into major players as device and networks penetrated deeper into emerging markets and some big-time acquisitions empowered tradtional gaming powers to finally get a significant grasp on this still-growing business.

Big growth in 2015

When it comes to growth, nothing is bigger than Asia. Those countries are coming online at a rapid rate with Android and iOS smartphones, and that saw Southeast Asia spending balloon to $1.8 billion in 2015 — that’s up a whopping 69 percent year-over-year. China, meanwhile, only saw growth of 46.5 percent. That was enough to help it eek out $6.5 billion in smartphone- and tablet-gaming sales. That makes it as big as all of North America, which also generated $6.5 billion but with a growth rate of only 15.1 percent.

China’s ascendance means that it now outgrosses both the United States and Japan, and it creates a worldwide market where global appeal is more important than ever.


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But while China and Southeast Asia kept thing interesting with raw earnings, it was Call of Duty and World of Warcraft publisher Activision Blizzard that captured the biggest headlines for mobile gaming over the last 12 months. That’s because the game-making company, which has excelled in the console and PC market for decades now, spent  $5.9 billion to acquire Candy Crush Saga megadeveloper King.

Activision’s tectonic shift into mobile gaming makes it clear that not only is this sector probably worth the money — but it also requires a level of expertise that makes King valuable.

After buying King, Activision is now the second largest game company in the world behind Chinese giant Tencent, which runs the billion-dollar free-to-play PC phenomenon League of Legends.

The power users that make mobile gaming so lucrative

The Newzoo report doesn’t dwell on results — it attempts to explain why this market is as big as it is. And the firm points to one key factor: power users.

The company defines two kinds of power users. The first is free marketers, which rarely or never spend money but play for 10 hours per week and provide word-of-mouth buzz for games among their friends, on forums, and across social networks.

Newzoo breaks down mobile gaming's power users.

Above: Newzoo breaks down mobile gaming’s power users.

Image Credit: Newzoo

In terms of demographics, free marketers are evenly distributed along gender and age groups. Spenders, however, are primarily male, and they’re mostly in their 20s to early 30s.

When it comes to employment, both kinds of power users mostly have jobs — although the students with no job make up 19 percent of free marketers. But all of that extra time makes these kinds of players valuable in another kind of way, according to Newzoo. The company points out that 49 percent of free marketers actively use Instagram. That’s compared to only 38 percent of all mobile nonspenders. These players are also a big reason that 28 percent of people discover new mobile games through friends and family.

Newzoo also reveals something a bit surprising: Free marketers are more likely to use a Samsung Galaxy Tab than the iPad or any other tablet.

Android tablets are more affordable and are also more common among people who play a lot of mobile games but don't spend money.

Above: Android tablets are more affordable and are also more common among people who play a lot of mobile games but don’t spend money.

Image Credit: Newzoo

When it comes to “big spenders,” however, Newzoo reveals that they are all about doling out those Benjamins no matter where they’re playing gmaes. It turns out that 71 percent of mobile gamers spend big on console and 69 percent also spend a lot on PC. I guess money is green no matter what kind of device is playing your games. That’s compared to 11 percent and 8 percent for all mobile gamers on console and PC, respectively.

Spenders also often absorb themselves in every type of content. 87 percent of these kinds of power users watch game videos on YouTube and 67 percent watch them on Twitch.

Finally, Newzoo reveals a common trait among a large majority of big spenders: they love to use prepaid cards. You might’ve guessed that by the size of those prepaid card stands at every grocery store and gas station you visit, and it’s true — 71 percent of big spenders buy a prepaid card at least once a month. Newzoo found that 38 percent of these gamers buy a prepaid card at least once a week.

In a mature market like the United States, you can see that most developers are already building their games around these various kinds of gamers. You make something fun to play and shareable for the free marketers while giving the big spenders a reason to go pick up a prepaid card or two. Having those kinds of groups playing off one another can then lead to something like Clash of Clans or Candy Crush Saga making $1 billion every year.

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Apple may cut Ericsson in for 0.5% of revenue on every iPhone sold

Apple-static-animation-final

(Reuters) – Swedish mobile telecom gear maker Ericsson announced it had signed a patent license deal with Apple, ending a year-long dispute and sending its shares up 7 percent on Monday.

Ericsson did not specify how much it would earn from the deal but estimated overall revenue from intellectual property rights in 2015 would hit 13 to 14 billion crowns ($1.52-$1.64 billion), including positive effects from the settlement with Apple, up from 9.9 billion crowns in 2014.

Investment bank ABG Sundal Collier said in a note to clients it believed the deal meant Apple would be charged around 0.5 percent of its revenue on iPads and iPhones by Ericsson.


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Ericsson Chief Intellectual Property Officer Kasim Alfalahi said the agreement was broad, covering the latest 4G-LTE generation of mobile technology, as well as the earlier 2G and 3G technologies.

“It means we can continue to work with Apple in areas such as 5G radio network and optimization of the network,” Alfalahi told Reuters, but declined to provide further financial details.

Ericsson filed a complaint against Apple over mobile technology license payments in January, responding to a lawsuit filed by the iPhone maker that month.

Analysts had estimated that if the dispute with Apple went Ericsson’s way, the U.S. firm would have to pay it between 2-6 billion Swedish crowns annually, based on estimates of levels of handset sales and royalty payments per phone.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Olof Swahnberg; editing by Niklas Pollard and Jason Neely)










Some hackers just won’t go away — to the annoyance of big tech companies

George "geohot" Hotz is working on a self-driving car.

Check out all of our GamesBeat Rewind 2015 end of the year coverage here.

George “geohot” Hotz just won’t go away, and big tech corporations are very likely annoyed about that. It shows that young hackers can grow up to be slightly older hackers who are still thorns in the sides of the establishment.

The 26-year-old hacker came back into the news this week as he unveiled a self-driving car built with off-the-shelf parts and his own custom software. A Bloomberg writer, Ashlee Vance, confirmed that the car drove itself on the I-280 freeway in the Bay Area. Tesla got a little testy and issued a statement to correct some of the impressions from the interview.

When he was 17, Hotz was the first person to hack the iPhone so that it could be unlocked from AT&T and used with other carriers.

And when he was 20, he hacked the security system of the Sony PlayStation 3 video game console. For the accomplishment, Sony greeted him with a lawsuit. He settled that and clearly went on to do more grown-up things.

We consider the video that Hotz created in response to Sony to be one of his finest moments.










Enlight and Lara Croft GO win Apple’s ‘Best of 2015’ app and game on iPhone

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Apple called Enlight for iPhone “the best all-in-one photo editor [providing] powerful tools that are easy to use,” and said Lara Croft GO “floored us with its beauty and clever design.”

Enlight by Israeli developer Lightricks (designed in a challenge to Adobe), and Lara Croft GO by Japan’s much-loved Square Enix, won app and game of the year respectively in Apple’s ‘Best of 2015’ round-up released Wednesday. Both are paid apps.

12355066_10153765488634509_1643791204_nIn all, Apple listed 25 top apps and games (in each category, so 50 in all) for its iPhone edition. You can check them all out by loading up the App Store on iPhone and clicking into ‘Best of 2015’ prominently featured at the top of the App Store landing page.

“We debated. We argued,” Apple wrote in the list introduction. “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.”

Apple also released separate lists for iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.

To whet your appetite, here’s a few colorful gameplay visuals from Lara Croft GO (find our full review here, and a discussion with Antoine Routon of Square Enix Montreal who worked on the title here):

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