Information service IFTTT launches Android app – @FastCompany

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Clashes spread across eastern Ukraine

DONETSK, Ukraine — Clashes between Ukrainian security forces, local protesters and pro-Russia activists spread across the region Thursday, with fighting at an arms depot, a city hall and at checkpoints near the restive city of Slovyansk, where the “people’s mayor” threatened to protect his men with hostages.

“About 40 minutes ago, an armed clash erupted on the outskirts of Slovyansk. Reports of one fatality and one injured person are being verified. Other roadblocks located near the exits from the city have been attacked as well,” a leader of the Donetsk region self-defense militia, Miroslav Rudenko, told Interfax news agency.

“At the moment it is very difficult to reach our militia members on their cell phones. A ‘combat situation’ has emerged in the city. I do not rule out that cell phone services could have been cut off,” Rudenko said.

It was unclear who was attacking the checkpoints in Slovyansk. Ukrainian military helicopters were reported in the area by local residents, but that could not be confirmed.

At Artemovsk, the Ukraine Defense Ministry said that 70 unidentified armed men, using automatic weapons and grenades, attacked an arms depot at Artemovsk. The Ukraine security forces pushed the attack back. One Ukraine soldier was wounded, the defense ministry said.

Local residents said they believed the attack came from anti-Kiev activists seeking access to the weapons depot.

The interim governor of the Donetsk region, and one of the richest men in Ukraine, Serhiy Taruta, said in an interview that the militant pro-Russia separatists in cities such as Slovyansk represented only a small percentage of the local population.

“There is a local problem and lots of criminal or half criminal elements are engaged in looting, plundering and unfortunately killing. The police have not been able to work effectively against these forces,” he said.

Taruta said he and his team have been actively negotiating with the pro-Russia activists and anti-Kiev protesters who have taken over or surrounded public buildings across the region.

In Mauripol, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said that the city hall had been cleared of pro-Russian protesters who had been occupying it for over a week. Avakov said the mayor was back at work.

Pro-Russian protesters and masked gunmen have been occupying government buildings across eastern Ukraine for nearly two weeks and refusing to recognize Ukraine’s fledging government.

Avakov wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday that the city hall in Mariupol “has been freed to resume work.”

But eyewitnesses in Mauripol said that the anti-Kiev protesters who were occupying the building were first attacked overnight by a group of masked men armed with clubs. Five people were taken to a hospital for injuries.

Russia warned Wednesday that it was prepared to retaliate against any attack on its citizens or interests in Ukraine.

The escalation came as U.S. paratroopers landed in Poland to begin training exercises intended to demonstrate support for American allies in the region.

“If we are attacked, we would certainly respond,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the RT television network in Moscow, recalling the five-day war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008, when Moscow acted to protect pro-Russian secessionists in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

“If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians, have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia, for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in accordance with international law,” he said.

“Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said. He also accused the United States of directing the actions of the Ukrain­ian government in a “hands-on manner,” noting that Ukraine had ordered Wednesday’s military action only after a Tuesday visit from Vice President Biden.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it was “ludicrous” for Lavrov to claim “that the United States has anything to do with Ukraine’s counterterrorism operation or that . . . we’re running the show or funding it.” She called Lavrov’s remarks “counterproductive and inflammatory” and noted that he gave no indication of a Russian plan to implement last week’s Geneva agreement to use Moscow’s influence to disarm the separatists and push for occupied buildings to be vacated.

President Obama said last week that he hoped to see Russia follow through “over the next several days” on the agreement, reached with the United States, Ukraine and the European Union. After White House meetings this week, officials said they anticipated that U.S. asset freezes and visa bans would be announced against a new set of prominent Russians by Friday.

Lavrov’s declaration, which echoes warnings given by Russia before its annexation of Crimea last month, followed the discovery in eastern Ukraine of the body of a local politician who supported Ukrainian unity. He had been tortured and dumped in a river after being abducted last week, Ukrain­ian authorities said Wednesday.

“The terrorists who effectively took the whole Donetsk region hostage have now gone too far,” Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said after officials identified the stabbed and bruised body of Volodymyr Rybak. His corpse and that of an unidentified man were found Saturday near Slovyansk, a city that international observers say is controlled by armed pro-Russian activists.

“These crimes are being committed with the full support and connivance of the Russian Federation,” Turchynov said.

Rybak was kidnapped last Thursday by four men in military uniforms who hustled him into a vehicle outside City Hall in Hor­livka, a depressed industrial and mining city about 26 miles northeast of the regional capital, Donetsk. Rybak, a local council member, had tried to lower the flag of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” at City Hall and replace it with the Ukrainian flag.

Rybak’s wife, Elena, said in an interview soon after her husband was taken that she feared the worst. “He was a police and knows how to defend himself,” she said. “He would not have gone anywhere without a fight.”

Her hands shook as she held a cellphone, waiting for a call. A friend told her that Rybak would call soon. “I don’t think so,” she said.

She and her adult son identified Rybak’s body Wednesday.

Vasilii Mirozhnik, who knew Rybak well at City Hall, said, “He was a regular guy, a popular guy, with strong opinions, always fighting for justice.”

Mirozhnik wore a Ukrainian flag pin on his lapel. Asked about it, he said, “Why not? It’s my country. I am proud of it.”

For many residents here, the flag they fly — Ukrainian or Russian — is of profound importance. In the past few days, people who want to remain in a united Ukraine — though with more self-government and more say over budget issues — have begun to assert themselves in rallies and flash mobs organized over social media.

Growing violence

There has been a rise in reports of beatings, disappearances and detentions in recent days. On Tuesday in Kramatorsk , the police chief was taken out of his station by armed men, the deputy mayor was beaten and the Security Service building was seized.

The Kyiv Post newspaper reported Wednesday that 12 people have been kidnapped over the past week in Slovyansk and Horlivka.

“It’s chaos,” said Yurii Zhuk, a fellow deputy on the Horlivka City Council with Rybak. He said he did not know who kidnapped and killed Rybak. “They’re outsiders,” he said. “Radical elements.”

Zhuk said that “the police were useless.” In a video taken right before Rybak was kidnapped, police officers in blue uniforms are visible in the crowd. “They’re demoralized,” Zhuk said. “They’re divided.”

Oleg Gubanov, another City Council member, said the killing of Rybak and other violence are driven by “third parties who want to destabilize the situation.”

Several Ukrainian reporters have been arrested. And an American journalist, Simon Ostrovsky, who works for Vice News, has been detained in Slovyansk since Tuesday. The leader of the pro-Russian forces in the city, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, said Wednesday that Ostrovsky had been detained by “self-defense forces,” Interfax reported. “According to our information, he is an informer for Pravy Sektor,” the right-wing Ukrainian nationalist organization, Ponomaryov told the news agency.

“The journalist has normal living conditions and is being fed,” he said.

To the north and west of Ukraine, a company of 150 U.S. paratroopers landed in Poland on Wednesday to begin exercises with the Polish military, a move that has been greeted with relief by Eastern European leaders who fear Russian military actions near their borders. Three other similar-size companies of U.S. troops will be sent to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the next several days.

Birnbaum reported from Moscow. Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.

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New Device Lets You Play With Your Cat By Remote Control

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“Where ‘wow!’ meets ‘meow’” is not Kittyo’s slogan—but it probably should be. The high tech device lets cat owners, when away from home, play with their at-home cat via remote control.

“The lives of cat parents who miss interacting with Fluffy while away from home will forever be changed in 2014,” Kittyo’s press release predicts. With the gizmo, a cat owner can talk to, watch, play with, take pictures of and dispense treats to Fluffy.

The stylish, cylindrical unit stands 9 inches tall and looks something like a cinch-waisted coffee maker. Its upper-half contains a laser, video camera and audio speaker. Its lower-half contains a treat-dispenser. Once the Kittyo owner has downloaded a free app, connected to wifi and set a password, he or she can operate Kittyo via any Android- or iOS-enabled smartphone.

Kittens accidentally shipped from L.A. to San Diego

One moment, kitty is staring blankly into space—surely wishing you were there. The next, you are there, sort of: You say into your phone, “Rise and shine, my precious boo-boo,” and kitty snaps smartly to attention, having heard your voice on the speaker. By remote control, you dispense a treat, and kitty purrs with pleasure. You send the laser beam skittering around the floor, and kitty gives chase. All these shenanigans you can watch in real time on your smartphone’s video. You can take pictures of kitty’s antics and send them to friends who, you can be sure, will be delighted to get them.

If, like your author, you hadn’t known that cats love laser beams, they do, says Kitto’s creator, Lee Miller. So long as the laser is rated at under 5 milliwatts, you run no risk of burning kitty’s eyes out. Or so he says.

Miller, 43, whose background is in graphic design, animation and video production, tells ABC News he got the idea for Kittyo one day while he was babysitting his friend’s kitten, Pasha. Miller was playing with a laser pointer, and Pasha was chasing its beam around the floor. “I thought, this is something that could be that could be controlled through an iPhone,” he recalls.

Playtime: keep your kitten active and healthy

He assembled a design team, and, with funding from a childhood friend, built a prototype.

Three days ago, he launched a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, the goal of which was to raise $30,000 to begin manufacturing of Kittyo.

It took 36 minutes to raise $30,000. In 24 hours, says Miller, Kittyo raised $100,000. Since then the campaign, now in day three, has raised an additional $13,427 from 1,276 backers. Miller aims to ship the first Kittyo units in November, with a retail price of around $189.

Like online dating, but for dogs and cats

Is there anything else comparable to Kittyo on the market? Not that ABC News could find. There are other high tech gadgets to keep cats entertained, but none that let the absent owner take such an active role.

After giving Kittyo the sniff-test, website Sparklecat.com exclaimed: “‘There’s an app for that’ just got a little more awesome if you are a kitty!”

Miller’s backer and childhood friend, Barry Markman, is “a big dog-person,” Miller says. Might there be a canine version in the offing? “Puppyo” (or some such)? Yes, he says, there might.

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FCC, in ‘Net Neutrality’ Turnaround, Plans to Allow Fast Lane – New York Times


Times of India

FCC, in 'Net Neutrality' Turnaround, Plans to Allow Fast Lane
New York Times
The proposed rules, drafted by Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and his staff, would allow Internet service providers to charge companies different rates for faster connection speeds. Credit Daniel Rosenbaum for The ...
FCC to Propose New 'Net Neutrality' RulesWall Street Journal
Competition is "watchword" for US wireless industry -FCC chiefReuters
NET BRUTALITY FCC Reverses Course on Net NeutralityDaily Beast
PCWorld -CNET -PC Magazine
all 82 news articles »
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First Take: For Apple, what comes next is what matters

NEW YORK —Short of something completely out of left field, it almost didn't matter what kind of second quarter earnings Apple CEO Tim Cook would report today—and in case you missed it, Apple earned $10.2 billion in net profits on sales of $45.6 billion in its latest quarter, besting analyst estimates overall. With sales of 44 million iPhones, Apple's iconic smartphone crushed expectations; sales of the iPad in turn came up short.

But what matters most, to consumers, to investors, to competitors—and to a loyal fan base that in some circles is growing impatient, is what comes next, and how whatever that is drives earnings in the next quarter, or more likely the quarter after that?

In an appearance earlier today on CNBC's Squawk on the Street one-time Apple CEO John Sculley begged the question many people have been asking of Cook: "Can he do the creative leaps" that was the hallmark of Apple when Steve Jobs ran the place and that have dried up of late?

So what does emerge from the creative pipeline? People pining for the next big Apple chart-topper are putting their faith in the long awaited iWatch. True believers in such a techie timepiece are dismissing the fact that most other early smartwatches have been disappointing, and are claiming that Apple's will be the product that finally makes the nascent wearable computing category explode, possibly in connection with an equally speculated on Healthbook app.

Apple move into television, at least in a grander fashion, has also been long rumored, and seems inevitable. The most likely outcome is a souped-up Apple TV box perhaps with iOS-based games and other apps. Apple has to notice that Amazon recently got into the set-top box business with Fire TV, joining a competitive space that includes the current Apple TV, Roku and Google's Chromecast. Expect Google push Android TV into the living room. (I'm not betting on a full-fledged Apple-branded television).

Count me among those who would be disappointed if Apple fails to bring out a larger screen iPhone 6 (or whatever it's called) to match the larger smartphone displays on rival phones.

It's also worth watching to see how Apple addresses the mobile payments space in the coming months, maybe as it expands upon what for now is apparently the seldom used Passbook app.

Apple is not scheduled to take the public stage again until June, at its annual Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco. Even at that folks may have to wait until later in the year before some or all these speculated on new products make any kind of mark--and for some that won't be soon enough.

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Apple beats estimates with earnings

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LOS ANGELES — Apple on Wednesday announced quarterly sales of $45.6 billion and net profit of $10.2 billion, beating analysts projections of $43.5 billion in revenue.

The results for the fiscal 2014 second quarter are slightly up from the year-ago quarter of $43.6 billion and net profit of $9.5 billion.

"We're very proud of our quarterly results, especially our strong iPhone sales and record revenue from services," said Apple CEO Tim Cook. "We're eagerly looking forward to introducing more new products and services that only Apple could bring to market."

Apple said it sold 43 million iPhones, 16 million iPads and 4 million Apple Macintosh computers in the quarter.

"Despite fears of recent softness, Apple knocked the March-14 quarter out of the park with iPhone sales and gross margin upticking nicely," said Brian Marshall, an analyst with International Strategy & Investment Group. The company, maker of the iconic iPhone, iPad tablet and computers, has been under pressure to compete with splashy rivals like those from South Korea's Samsung. The last new iPhone went on sale in September, and sports a 4-inch screen, considerably smaller than newer models such as Samsung's Galaxy S5, released this month, with a 5.1-inch screen.

Consumers know that Apple historically releases new iPhones and iPads in the fall, and in this quarter holds back on purchases, to wait for the new stuff.

Meanwhile, Apple is also on the losing end of a battle with Google's Android platform for the hearts and minds of mobile consumers. While the iPhone remains a huge hit and cash cow for the company, Android phones are out-selling the iPhone. According to researcher eMarketer, Apple's smartphone market share in the U.S. will rise to 40.5% in 2014, up from 40% in 2013, but Android will beat it at 50%, up from 49.5% in 2013.

Apple hasn't held a public event since last fall's launch of two new iPad models October 22, but will stage it's annual Worldwide Developer's Conference in San Francisco June 2nd. The conference historically touts new updates to the IOS mobile operating system for iPhone and iPad, and the OSX operating system for Apple computers. However, due to the pressure from investors, Apple could release, or spotlight, new iPhones.

Michael Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, believes larger iPhones "will create a stronger than normal upgrade cycle among Apple's loyal and growing customer base."

Follow Jefferson Graham on Twitter

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Apple sales knocked the quarter ‘out of the park’

Apple and Facebook had surprisingly good news Wednesday after the two tech giants reported their quarterly earnings. Both companies topped estimates in the latest reports. VPC

Don't start planning that funeral for the iPhone. Not yet anyway.

Apple, the maker of the popular smartphone, reported strong sales for a quarter in which analysts had expected iPhone sales to hit a slump.

Despite fears of recent softness, Apple knocked the quarter "out of the park, with iPhone sales and gross margin upticking nicely," said Brian Marshall, an analyst with International Strategy & Investment Group.

The iPhone business is healthier "than we and the Street previously expected," said Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, in a note to investors.

Apple on Wednesday announced quarterly sales of $45.6 billion and net profit of $10.2 billion, beating analysts' projections of $43.5 billion in revenue. The company also upped its stock-buyback program, splitting the stock 7 for 1.

"We believe our current stock price does not reflect the size of the company," CEO Tim Cook said on a conference call with analysts. The buyback shows "our strong confidence in the future of Apple."

The stock split takes place in June. On June 2, each shareholder will get six additional shares for each share held, "to make stock more accessible to investors," says Cook. The split will take effect on June 9.

Shares jumped more than 7% to $566.07 in after-hours trading. In regular trading, shares fell $6.95 to close at $524.75

FIRST TAKE: For Apple, what comes next is what matters

INTO THE FUTURE: Tech is going mobile — in a big way

The results for the fiscal 2014 second quarter are slightly up from the year-ago quarter of $43.6 billion and net profit of $9.5 billion.

"We're very proud of our quarterly results, especially our strong iPhone sales and record revenue from services," said Cook. "We're eagerly looking forward to introducing more new products and services that only Apple could bring to market."

Apple said it sold 43.7 million iPhones, 16 million iPads and 4 million Apple Macintosh computers in the quarter.

The 43.7 million iPhones beat Wall Street estimates of 38.5 million, notes Munster.

The company has been under pressure to compete with splashy rivals like those from South Korea's Samsung. The last new iPhone went on sale in September and sports a 4-inch screen, considerably smaller than newer models such as Samsung's Galaxy S5, released this month, with a 5.1-inch screen.

Consumers know that Apple historically releases new iPhones and iPads in the fall, and they tend to hold back on purchases to wait for the new stuff. But they didn't stay away in the quarter, continuing to buy the new iPhone 5s and 5c phones introduced in September.

EARNINGS: Facebook rides mobile ad sales to $885M profit

FIRST TAKE: Facebook takes on another transition as results surge

Meanwhile, Apple is also on the losing end of a battle with Google's Android platform for the hearts and minds of mobile consumers. While the iPhone remains a huge hit and cash cow for the company, Android phones are outselling it. According to researcher eMarketer, Apple's smartphone market share in the U.S. will rise to 40.5% in 2014, up from 40% in 2013, but Android will beat it at 50%, up from 49.5% in 2013.

Apple hasn't held a public event since last fall's launch of two new iPad models. In June it will stage its annual Worldwide Developer's Conference in San Francisco. The conference historically touts new updates to the iOS mobile operating system for iPhone and iPad, and the OS X operating system for Apple computers. However, the company could shift gears and release, or spotlight, new iPhones.

Michael Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, believes larger iPhones "will create a stronger than normal upgrade cycle among Apple's loyal and growing customer base."

Meanwhile, on the earnings call, Cook revealed sales numbers for the $99 Apple TV streaming media box for the first time, saying some 20 million boxes have been sold to date, bringing in $1 billion in revenue for both box sales, and the movies and TV shows it sells from the box for viewing. Rival Roku has sold 8 million streaming boxes to date.

Follow Jefferson Graham on Twitter

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Zynga revenue tops forecasts amid more exec shifts

Zynga reported first quarter revenue that topped Wall Street forecasts on Wednesday, as CEO Don Mattrick navigates the social games company's transition to mobile.

The company raked in $168 million in the first quarter, with a loss of one cent per share. Zynga was expected to generate $164 million in revenue and post a loss of one center, according to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Shares of Zynga jumped 3.6% in after-hours trading.

On mobile, Zynga says its mobile monthly active users grew 11% quarter over quarter, while its mobile daily active user base increased 10%. When including figures from NaturalMotion, the mobile games maker acquired by Zynga earlier this year for $527 million, its mobile monthly audience grew 45% compared to the previous quarter.

Overall, Zynga's monthly active users increased from 112 million during the fourth quarter to 123 million.

"We have established a strong base for 2014 and believe we are pacing well for a year of growth," said Zynga CEO Don Mattrick in a statement.

The mobile games space is a key focal point for Mattrick, as he employs his strategy for returning Zynga back to prominence. Mattrick says his goal is to generate more than half of Zynga's revenue from mobile by the end of the year.

Last week, the company launched FarmVille 2: Country Escape, built specifically for mobile users. The free game available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices has topped 4 million installs since launch and received "great feedback from our players," says Mattrick.

Meanwhile, Zynga founder Mark Pincus will step down from his role as chief product officer, but will stay on as chairman, the company announced. Last summer, Pincus hired Mattrick as CEO following a round of layoffs to help turn around the company's business. Zynga's first quarter revenue of $168 million is down from $264 million earned during the same time last year.

"It is truly a privilege to lead Zynga and I was honored when Mark asked me to join the company as CEO and guide its next chapter of growth," said Mattrick in an email to employees announcing the move. "Mark's mission to connect the world through games and his unwavering passion for social was a big reason why I joined Zynga."

The move is one of several new changes at Zynga. Xbox veteran Alex Garden will become President of Zynga Studios. Garden served as general manager of the Xbox Live online service. The company also hired Henry LaBounta as Chief Visual Officer, and will "work closely with Zynga's creative teams in developing emotive, high-quality experiences with visual
appeal that strike a chord with consumers," says Mattrick.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @bam923.

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AT&T now getting more growth from mobile than Apple

John Shinal, Special for USA TODAY 1:30 p.m. EDT April 23, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO -- The handheld vision Steve Jobs sold to AT&T in 2007 has come to pass.

The problem for Apple investors is that the booming market the company created with the iPhone seven years ago – and then boosted with the iPad three years later -- is now producing more growth for the wireless phone giant than it is for Apple itself.

AT&T reported Tuesday its strongest growth in long-term wireless subscribers in five years, "with smartphones and tablets leading the way," as AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens told analysts and investors on a conference call to discuss first-quarter results.

Just as important, a surging number of AT&T customers are switching to so-called usage-based pricing – paying based on how much wireless data they download from the Web -- rather than paying for the devices up front with the help of subsidies.

While the transition is putting a short-term hit on AT&T's balance sheet (as it has to write down the full price of such device sales immediately), the popularity of those plans also helped generate the company's strongest cash flow from operations in seven years.

"The move away from device subsidies accelerated in Q1," Stephens said, as the number of new and existing customers choosing so-called mobile share data plans tripled from a year earlier.

The Dallas-based company said that drove wireless revenue up 7% from a year earlier to $18 billion, also the strongest growth in years.

That year-over-year growth rate is now higher, in fact, than what Wall Street is expecting from Apple both for its most-recent quarter and for the company's full fiscal year.

Apple, which will report fiscal second-quarter results after the close of markets Wednesday, is expected to post flat sales for the period of $45.3 billion.

For the year ending in September, analysts expect Apple sales to rise 5.2%, to $180 billion.

That's down from 9.2% growth a year earlier, as iPhones and iPads face increasing price pressure from Android-powered devices made by Samsung Electronics and others.

Apple's growth is slowing even as "the smartphone (has become) the remote control of our lives," as Stephens said late Tuesday.

That sounds like the vision Jobs pitched to AT&T in late 2006 and early 2007, when he convinced the company to become the first U.S. wireless operator to sell and support the original iPhone.

Jobs also convinced AT&T (and later Verizon and others) to contribute massive subsidies to offset the high cost of the device, so more wireless consumers could afford such an advanced product.

Without those subsidies, which were as high as $400, the first iPhone would have been a niche device in terms of market share: awesome in power but out of the reach of the majority of phone buyers.

The only way for wireless carriers to make money from such an arrangement was if consumers started using their devices a lot more and agreed to pay for them based on a usage model -- rather than signing up for subsidized, unlimited data plans.

The handheld market Jobs foresaw is now here: a category of high-priced devices that consumers use for ever-more minutes every day, to download ever-greater amounts of text, photo and video files from the Internet.

Half of AT&T mobile shared accounts are now on plans of 10-gigabytes-per-month or higher, Stephens said Tuesday.

"The transition of our customer base can clearly be seen this quarter," he said, adding that the shift away from subsidized data plans to shared data plans "will have a positive long-term impact" on AT&T's business.

Whether the shift will produce the same benefits for Apple in the future remains to be seen.

John Shinal has covered tech and financial markets for 15 years at Bloomberg, BusinessWeek, the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal Digital Network and others. Follow him on Twitter: @johnshinal.

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AT&T stock falls after earnings report despite beating expectations, adding more than 1 million wireless subscribers – @TheStreet

AT&T stock falls after earnings report despite beating expectations, adding more than 1 million wireless subscribers - @TheStreet Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,