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Report: Apple moving toward mobile payments this fall

Eli Blumenthal, Special for USA TODAY 11:40 a.m. EDT July 24, 2014


Using your iPhone as a credit card? It could happen soon.

With rumors, patents and reports pointing to Apple releasing their long awaited smartwatch alongside a larger iPhone 6 this fall, there is new speculation that Apple will also venture into mobile payments. According to The Information, Apple is currently in talks with Visa and other credit card companies about a mobile payments partnership.

The new service would allow users to pay for physical goods on the web, in apps and in retail stores, turning the iPhone into a credit card. By allowing the iPhone to act as direct line of payment for credit card companies, the move would potentially allow for both retailers and their customers to save money by skipping fees normally paid to third-party payment processors. The Information also reports the company plans to run the system without giving up control to wireless carriers, many of who have been working on their own mobile payment solutions.

As for security, Apple has reportedly told some partners that its system would involve a "so-called secured element in the phones—a piece of hardware where sensitive information such as a phone owner's financial credentials can be stored." It's unknown if this hardware will be similar to the NFC (near-field communication) technology utilized by other mobile payment options such as Google Wallet or if it will be something Apple develops on its own.

Apple currently incorporates a "secure enclave" as part of the A7 processor to safely store fingerprints from the Touch ID sensor used on the iPhone 5s. It is possible the company could do something similar for securely storing financial data. The company is expected to incorporate the Touch ID sensor on future iPhones and iPads.

It has been rumored that the new mobile payments system would utilize Touch ID to authorize payments with Apple's Passbook app acting as a virtual "wallet" to hold the credit cards. The company is also expected to leverage the over 800 million iTunes accounts it currently has, a large number of which are attached to credit cards.

With the buzz around mobile payments, it's no surprise that Apple would be exploring entering the field. Forrester Research estimates that Americans will spend $90 billion through mobile payments by 2017, up from $12.8 billion in 2012.

(Hat tips to MacRumors and Apple Insider).


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Fidel Castro’s Niece Aboard Missing Air Algerie Plane

An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people, including Fidel Castro's niece, has vanished from the radar in a desert area of Mali, the airline said today.

Air navigation services lost track of the plane, an MD-83 model, about 50 minutes after it took off from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, en route to Algiers.

The airline said that there were 110 passengers on board as well as six crew members. The airport's Facebook page identified one of the passengers as Mariela Castro, a niece of the former Cuban strongman. Mariela Castro is a prominent gay rights advocate.

Burkina Faso's transport minister said 50 French nationals were among those onboard, along with 24 Burkina Faso nationals, six Lebanese, five Canadians, four Algerians, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian.

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News of the plane's disappearance came with Swiftair, the Spanish company that operated the plane, released a statement saying the plane had not arrived at its destination.

Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedraogo said the plane sent its last message around 0130 GMT (9:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday), asking Niger air control to change its route because of heavy rains in the area.

PHOTO: An Air Algerie plane disappeared from radar following takeoff in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, July 24, 2014.

AP Graphics Bank

PHOTO: An Air Algerie plane disappeared from radar following takeoff in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, July 24, 2014.

The flight path of Flight AH5017 from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers was not immediately clear.

Ouagadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali. Northern Mali has been the scene of firefights between the alliance of al-Qaeda affiliated fighters and Tuareg separatists against French troops supporting the Mali government.

A senior French official told the Associated Press that it seems unlikely that fighters in Mali had the kind of weaponry that could shoot down a plane, and that they armed primarily with shoulder-fired weapons — not enough to hit a passenger plane flying at cruising altitude.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Get real-time updates as this story unfolds. To start, just "star" this story in ABC News' phone app. Download ABC News for iPhone here or ABC News for Android here.

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Get paid for posts? Social networking’s new twist

AP 10:25 a.m. EDT July 24, 2014


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Facebook and most other social networks are built on the premise that just about everything should be shared - except the money those posts produce.

At least two services are trying to change that. Bubblews, a social network that came out of out of an extended test phase last week, pays users for posts that attract traffic and advertisers. Another company, Bonzo Me, has been doing something similar since early July.

"I just feel like everyone on social networks has been taken advantage of for long enough," says Michael Nusbaum, a Morristown, New Jersey surgeon who created Bonzo Me. "Facebook has been making a ton of money, and the people providing the content aren't getting anything."

Bonzo Me is paying its users up to 80 percent of its ad revenue for the most popular posts.

Bubblews' compensation formula is more complex. It's based on the number of times that each post is clicked on or provokes some other kind of networking activity. To start, the payments are expected to translate into just a penny per view, comment or like. Bubblews plans to pay its users in $50 increments, meaning it could take a while for most users to qualify for their first paycheck unless they post material that that goes viral.

"No one should come to our site in anticipation of being able to quit their day job," Bubblews CEO Arvind Dixit says. "But we are trying to be fair with our users. Social networks don't have to be places where you feel like you're being exploited."

Bubblews is also trying to make its service worthwhile for users by encouraging deeper, thoughtful posts instead of musings about trifling subjects. To do that, it requires each post to span at least 400 characters, or roughly the opening two paragraphs of this story.

Technology analyst Rob Enderle believes Bubblews, or something like it, eventually will catch on.

"I don't think this free-content model is sustainable," Enderle says. "You can't sustain the quality of the product if you aren't paying people for the content that they are creating. And you can't pay your bills if all you are getting are `likes.'"

Gerry Kelly of San Francisco has already earned nearly $100 from Bubblews since he began using a test version in January. His Bubblews feed serves as a journal about the lessons he has learned in life, as well as a forum for his clothing brand, Sonas Denim.

Though Facebook is by far the largest social network, it has a history of irking users. People have complained when Facebook changed privacy settings in ways that exposed posts to a wider audience. They have criticized Facebook for circulating ads containing endorsements from users who didn't authorize the marketing messages.

More recently, people were upset over a 2012 experiment in which Facebook manipulated the accounts of about 700,000 users to analyze how their moods were affected by the emotional tenor of the posts flowing through their pages. Facebook apologized.

Kelly still regularly posts on his Facebook page to stay in touch with friends and family, but says he is more leery of the service.

"They just take all your information and make all the money for themselves. It's insane," Kelly says.

Despite the occasional uproar, Facebook Inc. has been thriving while feeding off the free content of its 1.3 billion users. The Menlo Park, California, company now has a market value of about $180 billion, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg ranks among the world's wealthiest people with a fortune of about $30 billion, based on the latest estimates from Forbes magazine.

Advertisers, meanwhile, are pouring more money into social networks because that is where people are spending more time, particularly on smartphones. Facebook's share of the $140 billion worldwide market for digital ads this year is expected to climb to nearly 8 percent, or $11 billion, up from a market share of roughly 6 percent, or $7 billion last year, according to the research firm eMarketer.

Although it still isn't profitable, short-messaging service Twitter is also becoming a bigger advertising magnet, thanks largely to its 255 million users who also provide a steady flow of free content. Twitter's digital ad revenue this year is expected to rise to $1.1 billion, nearly doubling from $600 million last year, according to eMarketer.

Facebook and Twitter have become such important marketing tools that celebrities and other users with large social-media followings are being paid by advertisers to mention and promote products on their accounts.

Bubblews wants to make money, too, but it also wants to ensure that everyone using it gets at least a small slice of the advertising pie.

Dixit, 26, who started Bubblews with his college buddy Jason Zuccari, says the service got about 200,000 users during a "beta" test phase that began in September 2012. The service unveiled a redesigned website last week as it finally moved out of testing.

Bonzo Me is even smaller, with just a few thousand users since the release of apps for the Web, iPhones and Android devices in early July. The service has paid about $30,000 in ad revenue to users so far, according to Nusbaum.

Sandy Youssef of New Brunswick, New Jersey, likes being on Facebook, but she also intends to start posting video on Bonzo Me just in case she shares something that becomes a big hit.

"We are living in an age when the things you post on the Internet can go viral, so you may as well get paid for it," she says. "It's time to spread the wealth."


Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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A watch from Apple is the talk of the town

Apple hasn't announced it yet, but folks all over seem to know that it's planning to release a new digital watch that would interact with your iPhone and iPad. USATODAY's Jefferson Graham has the latest with his Talking Tech report.


VENICE BEACH, Calif. -- The product isn't available, but people can't stop talking about Apple's rumored new smart watch.

"I want it," says Ellen Rydell of Las Vegas.

Apple on Tuesday got patent approval for what it referred to as iTime, describing it as a digital watch that would interact with the iPhone, iPad and computers to receive texts and e-mail.

Analysts expect the watch to be introduced in October, following a September launch of a new iPhone.

It would be the first major product launch from Apple since the death of co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011. Others since have been updates on older products.

"I like wearing watches," Rydell says. "Being able to text on it would be cool."

The device wouldn't be the first of its kind. Samsung Electronics and LG introduced smart watches this month which interact with Android phones for texting and e-mail. Pebble and Martian introduced theirs in 2013. But none have caught on in a big way with the public.

To have a smart watch from Apple would make a huge difference, consumers say.

"It's Apple," says Nick Davis of Los Angeles. "They're awesome, and we're loyal to them. If there's something coming from Apple, we'd get it."

Apple this week said its iPhone continues to break records. The company sold 35 million iPhones in the recent quarter, up from 31 million in the year-ago quarter. Apple has an advantage over other companies in that it speaks directly to consumers with high-trafficked retail stores where it can show off new products.

The name Apple listed on the patent, iTime, may be a ruse. It was filed in 2011, and the company could release the product with that name; iWatch, the name analysts had given the device; or something entirely new. Apple could surprise folks with a name they hadn't thought of, as was the case when Apple unveiled the iPad in 2010.

It was known at the time that Apple had a tablet under its sleeve, but analysts and pundits were wrong on the name and pricing for the device.

A smart watch from Apple "sounds amazing," said Anthony Rezekalla of Los Angeles Wednesday. "It sounds like Google Glass (the computerized eye wear Google has yet to sell to the general public.) High tech stuff. That's cool. I want it."

Readers: Would you buy a smart watch from Apple? Let's chat about it on Twitter, where I'm @jeffersongraham.


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Shares of AT&T fall nearly 1.5% following earnings report – @EarningsCentral

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Chernin and AT&T to buy majority stake in Fullscreen YouTube network – @recode

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FCC serves notice to ISPs on speeds


Worried that you are not getting the broadband speed that you Internet service provider promised? The FCC has an app for that.

The agency issued an advisory today reminding ISPs that they must disclose accurate information about connectivity speeds and services for home and mobile broadband. The Federal Communications Commission has received hundreds of complaints on the issue over the last several months.

The FCC adopted ISP transparency provisions in 2011 as part of the Open Internet rules. That Open Internet Transparency Rule remains active even though a federal court struck down some of the agency's Open Internet rules as part of the ongoing legal battle over net neutrality.

The agency would not comment on whether it had any ongoing investigations into ISP speed issues. Its transparency rule requires that ISPs make available information about expected and actual broadband speeds, pricing and fees, as well as network management practices, "such as congestion management practices and the types of traffic subject to those practices," the advisory reads.

"Consumers deserve to get the broadband service they pay for. After today, no broadband provider can claim they didn't know we were watching to see that they disclose accurate information about the services they provide," said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in a statement. "The FCC's transparency rule requires that consumers get the information they need to make informed choices about the broadband services they purchase. We expect providers to be fully transparent about the details of their services, and we will hold them accountable if they fall down on this obligation to consumers."

Consumers should test their home broadband speeds using online tests and notify the FCC if their Net service doesn't meet its advertised speed. And to test mobile broadband speeds, the FCC has a Mobile Broadband Speed Test App for Android and iOS devices. Complaints can be filed on the FCC's site.

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider



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Amazon’s first phone may Fire up smartphone market


Amazon.com has sold a gazillion phones through the years, but until now, the e-commerce giant has never had to sell an Amazon phone. That changes with this week's release of Fire, the first smartphone designed by Amazon.

To contend with Apple, Samsung and myriad other smartphone rivals, an Amazon phone would have to be markedly better — or at least markedly different — what with Amazon coming at this so late.

Fire is different, thanks to an inventive take on 3-D and other new features, but it's also an attractive and solidly built quad-core 5.6-ounce phone with stereo speakers, a lovely 4.7-inch display and a high-quality camera. And sure, you gotta love shopping on Amazon. The device is designed to draw and keep Amazon.com customers inside a digital ecosystem that numbers 33 million songs, apps, games, TV shows, movies, books and then some.

But there's also a considerable learning curve, and I'm not ready to declare that the Fire phone is better than other premium-price handsets — this one starts at $199.99 with AT&T. Still, I like this phone and expect many features to light your fire, if not immediately, then in the future.

The innovation starts with a head-spinning 3-D-like feature Amazon refers to as Dynamic Perspective, made possible through the use of four ultra-low-power specialized cameras and four infrared LEDs. It's dripping with potential, though Amazon says a scant few of the 185,000 apps available for the Fire phone can exploit the new feature at launch. You can see where developers will be able to make good use of Dynamic Perspective in immersive gaming environments and other apps.

Your first glimpse at Dynamic Perspective comes on the lock screen. With the phone stationary, as you move your head, the foreground and background change perspective accordingly. It's a neat special effect that, unlike other 3-D displays I've encountered, didn't induce nausea.

Depending on the app or screen, as you go on to tilt, twist, swivel or move the phone from side to side or up and down, icons subtly move, scrolling happens, panels of menus, notifications and information appear and disappear again. This takes getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, the gestures mean you can often navigate with one hand.

In the USA TODAY app, for example, a flick of the wrist summons menus for News, Sports, Life, Money, Tech and other sections, and shortcuts to top stories. A similar gesture in Yelp brings up a menu from which you can search or check into eateries.

If you're listening to a song, lyrics can appear in a right panel.

In an app called Clay Doodle, the clay that you're trying to mold into an object moves and gets bigger or smaller as you approach or retreat.

As you navigate the phone, however, there are times you'll miss the absence of a dedicated "back" button, at least until you figure out the "swipe up" alternative.

Amazon has improved the home screen "carousel" interface of recently used apps familiar to Kindle Fire tablet users. (Amazon layers its own interface on top of Android.) There are now real-time updates you can act on immediately. Under a carousel icon for the Zillow real estate app, for example, you can see listings of homes for sale in the area.

Equally interesting is a new Firefly feature. By long-pressing a button on the edge of the phone, the rear camera becomes a souped-up scanner, capable of reading bar codes, QR codes, physical products, printed Web addresses, URLs, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and much more — more than 100 million items, Amazon claims.

I like that you can use Firefly to leverage the Amazon-owned IMDb X-Ray feature to not only recognize 245,000 movies and TV shows, but to deliver information on the plot or the actors in the precise scene you're watching. Firefly can also recognize 35 million songs, then create an instant custom radio station inside the iHeart Radio app. Or you can order concert tickets via StubHub.

Of course, Firefly is also a great big shortcut to the Amazon storefront. If a book is recognized, you can purchase the physical book, Kindle book, or audio book from the phone.

Firefly didn't work every time — you need decent connectivity — but I got it to recognize a Smucker's Apple Butter container, Poland Spring water and phone numbers in newspapers, posters, even on the side of a truck. You can instantly call, text or add the number to your contacts.

Alas, only 150 to 175 apps can take advantage of one or more of the new features (Dynamic Perspective, Firefly or the enhanced carousel view.)

When I wasn't using Firefly, the (13-megapixel) rear camera got good results shooting pictures and video.

Fire also incorporates the live 24-by-7 video support Mayday feature. I was a fan when it was introduced on the Kindle Fire HDX tablet; it's great for learning how to tackle an obscure feature. It's welcome on the phone, too, but I ran into connectivity problems at times trying to reach Mayday staffers.

Where does Fire lack a spark? A voice-assistant feature for making calls, sending messages or surfing by voice is weak compared with Apple's Siri, Google Now and Windows Phone's Cortana.

There's no fingerprint scanner as on the iPhone 5s or Samsung Galaxy S5, and Fire isn't water resistant, as is the Galaxy and some phones. The screen froze once. The glass back is prone to smudges. The battery is sealed.

You're limited to AT&T for now as Amazon's exclusive Fire partner. At $199, Fire isn't cheap, though it does come with 32 gigabytes of internal storage, 12 months of Amazon Prime (on-demand movies and TV shows, Kindle lending library access, two-day free shipping) and unlimited storage for your photos on Amazon's Cloud Drive.

There are reminders as you use the phone that this is Amazon's first go at it. But it's a strong first effort. Expect Fire to fire up the smartphone market.

E-mail: ebaig@usatoday.com; follow @edbaig on Twitter

The bottom line

Amazon Fire

$199 on two-year AT&T contract (32 GB) or $299.99 (64 GB). No-contract price is $649.99.


Pro. Solid and attractive phone has lovely screen. Dynamic Perspective has 3-D-like effect. Firefly. Mayday live tech support. Tangle-free ear buds. 12 months of Amazon. Unlimited cloud storage for photos.

Con. Learning curve. Voice assistant not as good as rivals. Fewer apps, too. Limited to one carrier (AT&T).


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Only one ‘iTime’ inventor still at Apple

SAN FRANCISCO — Two-thirds of the brainpower behind Apple's iTime smart watch patent no longer work at the company, but are working at rival Google.

Apple on Tuesday received a patent for an electronic wristwatch that in some drawings was labeled iTime.

The three inventors on the patent, No. 8,787,006B2, are Albert Golko, Mathias Schmidt and Felix Alvarez, all located in the San Francisco Bay area.

Of the three, only Golko — a former Motorola engineer whose LinkedIn profile says he's in iPod/iPhone product development — is still at Apple, according to the LinkedIn profiles of all three.

Schmidt is a product design engineer at Nest Labs, the Internet-connected thermostat company bought by Google. (That $3.2 billion acquisition was seen in part as a skills grab, as several of the Nest engineers came from Apple's groundbreaking iPod design team).

Felix Alvarez describes himself as a product design engineer at Google, which he joined in 2010. He has worked at Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Mobile Devices, where he worked on the Motorola Z9 slider phone for AT&T.

The departures are emblematic of Silicon Valley's tech scene, where established firms are in a fierce battle over top talent. Apple has dominated the smartphone market, but its share is growing at a slower rate as consumers turn to Samsung and phones with Google's Android operating system. Apple and Google are in fierce battle for what's seen as the next frontier for mobile technology — wearables.

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Apple gets patent for ‘iTime’ watch

Apple gets patent for 'iTime' watch


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Apple gets patent for 'iTime' watch

Apple's new smartwatch will apparently be called "iTime." The company was granted a patent Tuesday for a "mobile electronic device," complete with diagrams and a monicker for the new gizmo: 'iTime.'

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LOS ANGELES — Apple's new smartwatch will apparently be called "iTime."

The company received a patent approval Tuesday for a "mobile electronic device," complete with diagrams and a monicker for the new gizmo: 'iTime," in familiar Apple fonts.

The watch, which is expected to be launched in October, would be Apple CEO Tim Cook's first new product launch since taking over for the late Steve Jobs in 2011. All other introductions have been updates of previous models.

The patent was filed July 20, 2011.

In the patent, Apple points out that the watch will interact with computers, tablets and smartphones. Consumers should expect to be able to check texts and e-mail from the watch, without having to pull out their phones, and command the watch to deliver the weather—as well as the current time.

Apple's new watch won't be the first smartwatch. Samsung and LG just introduced new devices using Google's Android Wear technology, and others first hit stores in 2013 from Pebble and Martian.

The patent filing was first disclosed by the AppleInsider blog.

Follow Jefferson Graham on Twitter


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Starbucks, Burger King latest to remove tainted meat | USA NOW
Jul 22, 2014

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