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Apple’s secret iPhone 6 digital payment system said to also include Visa & MasterCard


Sunday, August 31, 2014, 07:46 pm PT (10:46 pm ET)

Hot on the heels of a report that Apple has inked a deal with American Express, a second report has stated that the company has also signed deals with Visa and MasterCard.

Re/code initially reported that Apple is poised to unveil a digital payment system for iPhone 6 on September 9, allowing users to make secure purchases via their phone.

Later this afternoon, Mat Townsend of Bloomberg reported that deal are also in place with Visa and MasterCard. Neither Apple nor either of the two credit card vendors offered to comment on the issue.

An AppleInsider reader had earlier commented that MasterCard would be an initial partner, stating that “Mr. Gary Flood, MasterCard’s President of Global Products and Solutions, as well as Ed MaLaughlin [the firm's chief emerging payments officer] will both probably be attending the event” Apple has scheduled in Cupertino early next month.

The initial Re/code report had stated that AmEx was “one of several partners” that Apple will need to sign up, but didn’t indicate who else might be involved.

Apple has filed for patents that describe mobile payment systems utilizing NFC [Near Field Communications] technology. But to date, the company has relied on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for short-range wireless functions, most notably with the company’s proprietary combination of the two, dubbed iBeacon.

Rumors of NFC functionality in a future iPhone have persisted for years, and seem to appear leading up to just about every new handset launch. And though there have been a multitude of NFC-capable smartphones on the market for years, has never been an Apple product with NFC functionality.

One rumor that surfaced this summer claimed that Apple was accelerating work on a mobile payments system that could be ready by this fall, launching as part of the “iPhone 6.” That report claimed that Apple was in talks with partner companies, including Visa, in an effort to debut its own e-wallet platform.

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Apple ‘not likely’ to ship redesigned power adapter, Lightning cable with ‘iPhone 6′


Monday, September 01, 2014, 02:23 am PT (05:23 am ET)

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo on Monday poured cold water on recent rumors that Apple was preparing to migrate to a reversible version of the Lightning charge cable as well as a larger, possibly more powerful iPhone power adapter alongside its next-generation handset.

Photo via Sonny Dickson.

“We don’t expect the USB power adapter and Lightning cable for iPhone 6 to have significant design changes,” Kuo wrote in a Monday morning note to investors, a copy of which was provided to AppleInsider. Kuo cited “cost concerns and limited improvements to overall user experience that such changes would bring” before declaring the speculation “off the mark.”

Whispers of a new Lightning cable bearing a non-standard, reversible USB Type A plug at one end first surfaced in mid-August. A number of parts bearing the new design appeared online, but such a configuration — while technically feasible — is not sanctioned by the USB Implementers Forum, the USB standard’s overseers, and was thus unlikely to come directly from Apple.

Shortly after, photos of a new U.S. power adapter bearing a larger physical design that matches the current-generation adapters for Australia appeared on Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo. Similar new adapters were later seen for Europe.

It remains unclear what benefit such a change would bring, though most speculation at the time centered around an increase in power output to charge higher-capacity batteries in larger iPhones.

The rumors should be put to rest next week during Apple’s Sept. 9 media event in Cupertino. AppleInsider will be in attendance and will bring live coverage of every announcement from the Flint Center.

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Review: Razer’s Kraken Pro analog gaming headset


Monday, September 01, 2014, 06:21 am PT (09:21 am ET)

As with most Razer products, the Kraken Pro headset’s over-the-top aesthetics and unique features, like foldable ear cups, a retractable microphone and iPhone compatibility, are designed to set it apart from the crowd.

Razer is not known for its subtle designs and the Kraken Pro is no exception. In fact, the company has banked on this “love it or hate” philosophy to carve out a nice niche for itself in the crowded computer peripherals market.

I suspect Apple aficionados will fall on the “hate it” side of the equation, associating the bright plastic facade with early- to mid-2000s Windows machines than anything out of Cupertino. But do the features and sound quality make up for the Kraken Pro’s gaudy looks?


There are a few main things I look at first when determining the build quality of a pair of headphones: does the headband readily contract and expand; are the cans firmly attached; and does any wiring show potential for breakage. Combing over details like these helps spot potential weak points that could turn into big problems down the road, when the headset is put under strain. Heavy use can transform a pair of otherwise respectable headphones into a duct-taped amalgamation in the span of one good Pudge hook.

Thankfully, the folks at Razer seem to understand their audience and have built a headset that feels like it could take a decent amount of abuse. Primarily made of hard glossy plastic, the chassis feels solid in the hand, but is decidedly short of earning the ‘premium’ moniker. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Kraken feels a bit like a Transformer from the late ’80s — after they stopped making the great die-cast metal ones.

Despite the lightweight feel, I’d feel comfortable dropping the Kraken Pro or just tossing it aside after a really long gaming session without too much concern. The plastic may scuff up a bit after extended use and abuse, but it’s not going to crack or break without some effort.

Razer has opted not to allow the ear cups to rotate, but instead has placed a hinge at the base of the height adjusters so they can “collapse” up into the headband. Presumably for portability (which is a recurring theme with this headset) but because the pads on the cans are so thick and the attached wire is in the way, it just doesn’t work very well.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to fault Razer for not allowing the cups to swivel on their joints, it’s not a common practice for headphone manufacturers. It’s a pet peeve of mine though, because it leads to one singular problem that has plagued headset owners for ages; If you accidentally sit on these things, they will probably snap. It would have been nice to see them put some measures in place for this eventuality, but it’s hard to deduct points for it. Maybe next time.

The weak point will of the headset will end up being the cable connecting into the device itself. How many times have you tugged on a the cable to bring your headset closer when it’s just oh-so-slightly out of reach? Perhaps you’ve jumped up in excitement only to be violently yanked back down by the cord? It’s OK to admit it, we all do it every now and again. Video games are exciting.

Many device manufacturers have remedied this and given it ornate marketing names like ‘Magsafe’ or ‘breakaway cable’. Regardless of what it’s branded or how it’s implemented the intent remains the same; Make it easy to disconnect or even replace the cable should your users get overly rambunctious or grossly lackadaisical. Razer could take some cues from other manufacturers here. If you’re an overly animated gamer, try and stick close to whatever you’re tethered to.

The retractable microphone that slides in and out of the left earmuff is nice touch, and meant to encourage you to use these headphones places other than in front of computer or TV. It slides in and out with a semi-solid bendable cord so that you won’t look like you’re contacting mission control while out in public, and makes toting them around a bit easier.

In use


The headset is meant to hug your head tightly, and it does. This is meant to lock in as much sound as possible while isolating you from the outside world. The ultra-thick foam pads help a lot, but these are not active noise cancelling headphones. They do a decent job of insulating you from the outside, but you will absolutely hear anything loud near you, be it a sax battle on the subway[L] or the dull roar of an airplane if you’re too close to the engines.

There is no doubt that these headphones leak sound like crazy, too. People will hear what you hear, so cranking up the volume to block out the rest of the world is going to result in everyone knowing that you’re still listening to ‘Call Me Maybe’ on repeat. Carly may sing “It’s hard to look right at you baby”, but people will still stare.

It’s a mixed bag. On the one hand it’s good that they took the initiative to try and isolate the listener more, but I personally found the headset to feel a bit too constricting on longer play sessions (4+ hours) and removed it multiple times just to give my head a breather. If, however, you’re the type of gamer who plays in one to two hour increments then you should have less of a problem.

In terms of heft, the headset feels heavy and sturdy in your hand, but while resting on your head it’s mostly forgotten. The headband is mostly unremarkable, with the exception that it only has a very thin layer of padding on the underside. This will affect you more or less depending on your head shape. I found it to not matter, but I’ve no doubt others will take issue with it.

Overall I think most people will be fairly happy with the feel of the Krakens, depending on how long they plan to spend gaming. Razor claims that it’s the “most comfortable gaming headset ever” on their website, but I respectfully disagree. Taking them off every hour or two just to give your head a break is probably a good idea. Maybe taking a break a couple hours is a good idea anyway.

Sound Quality

If you’re looking for a well rounded pair of headphones, look elsewhere. Make no mistake these headphones are made for gaming first and foremost.

Some would call the bass “punchy,” but I would call it overzealous to a fault. This is a valid choice for gaming when bullets are whizzing by, gunshots are constantly going off, monsters are gnawing, super powers are charging, and there are explosions everywhere, but it absolutely devastates a good tune. On top of being overly punchy, I found the bass to sound hollow, with very noticeable distortion at higher volume levels.

The highs are mostly well realized at all volume levels, but the mid range sounds poorly defined, like it’s being encroached on from both above and below. The soundstage feels extremely claustrophobic as well, which leads to the unfortunate side effect that you are listening inside a small enclosed space — think the inside of a motorcycle helmet.

Whomever balanced the audio levels for these headphones had some very specific environments in mind, and as a result they just don’t pass as a good all around set of cans. If your intent is to use the headset primarily for gaming, then the balance is alright and you’re less likely to notice any major flaws. If, however, you’re going to do any music listening that overzealous bass and the clipped mids will make your favorite song sound kind of gross.

It’s worth noting that tested happened on systems with no EQ or audio effect processing for the sake of raw uniformity across platforms. You could potentially EQ some of these annoyance out.

Microphone Quality

Razer wisely chose to include a unidirectional microphone on the Kraken. That means less sound from other sources, and more directly from your face. Though not noise canceling, it does a pretty good job of blocking out ambient noise. During testing the microphone had no problem picking up my voice loud and clear – unfortunately it also picked up my mechanical keyboard as well. This is a pretty standard state of affairs though, and the microphone is of a fairly high quality for this type of device.

Software Compatibility

  • OS X: Tested on 2012 Retina MBP, connected into the dual-headphone/audio-in jack. Tested with Teamspeak, Mumble, Skype, Ventrilo and Steam. No issues.
  • Windows (8.1) (Xonar Essense STX): Same as above. Tested on all the same applications as OS X.
  • Xbox One: Works like a headset should. Unfortunately, due to the way Microsoft designed the Xbox One controller, you will have to buy a $30 adapter to be able to plug this in.
  • PlayStation 4: Just plug it into your DualShock 4 and go. Works seamlessly with the system.
  • iPhone 5s: It even worked here. Tested using the mumble app. If you’re running late for a raid and need to get on with your guild mates to coordinate (a scenario which i find more compelling than i’d care to admit) you’re covered.


There’s a lot of factors to take into consideration when looking for a headsets. What your price range is, what level of compatibility you need, how important is sound quality vs the quality of the microphone, etc. Razer has come up with a combination in the Kraken Pro that will hit the mark for a lot of people looking for a mid-range, highly compatible all-in-one solution.

My main concern is the quality of the audio. For all its focus on portability you would think that Razer would have spent more time making this a much more sonically rounded headset. If you’re looking for a general use pair of headphones to pair with a desktop or mod mic, there are much better options above and below this price range.

If your primary concern is an all-in-one headset with high device compatibility and gaming as a primary focus then it’s worth considering the Kraken Pro. Just have a listen to them first and decide if you can endure that super bass.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Where to buy

The Razer Kraken Pro retails for $79.99 when bought directly from Razer, but is currently available at Amazon for a discounted price of $54.50.

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Apple has discussed charging ‘around $400′ for its wearable ‘iWatch’


Saturday, August 30, 2014, 04:10 pm PT (07:10 pm ET)

Apple’s anticipated “iWatch” may carry a price of around $400 when it goes on sale, though the wearable device is likely to be offered at a range of price points, according to a new report.

“iWatch” concept by Martin Hajek.

The new details on Apple’s first wearable device were reported on Saturday by Re/code, which said sources at the company indicated executives “have discussed charging around $400″ for the so-called “iWatch.” But the report cautioned that pricing has yet to be finalized, and may not even be known by the company’s Sept. 9 event, when it’s expected to formally unveil the rumored product.

What to expect:
‘iWatch’ rumors

  • Early 2015 launch
  • Health fitness focus
  • Biometric sensors
  • iPhone connectivity
  • Two sizes for men women

Learn more

The same publication reported on Friday that Apple’s “iWatch” is not expected to launch immediately after it is finally disclosed. Sources have reportedly indicated that the wearable smart device will not end up on consumers’ wrists until early 2015.

If $400 proved to be the entry price of the device, it would be on the high end of the market. Newer Android Wear devices have generally been priced between $250 and $300, while the lower end of the market is catered to by the black-and-white Pebble, priced starting at $150 for its entry-level model.

Going beyond a possible $400 starting price, it’s possible that Apple could compete with luxury watches at the high end of the market. Earlier this year, in April, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities said that Apple’s “iWatch” could reach prices in the thousands of dollars with some premium models.

Pegging down a possible price range on the “iWatch” has been difficult for observers because rumors have not yet painted a clear picture of exactly what the device will be and what functionality it will accomplish. In fact, there haven’t even been any parts leaked from the device, as manufacturing is not believed to have yet begun.

The accessory is said to be an iPhone-connected smart watch that will collect and interpret health and fitness related data, while also providing the usual expected functions such as notifications.

Reports have claimed it will feature a touchscreen of some type, whether OLED or otherwise, and that the “iWatch” will run a modified version of the iOS platform that powers the iPhone and iPad. It’s expected to connect to and act as an accessory for the iPhone, and also to focus on tracking and measuring health and fitness data. To that end, it’s been speculated that the “iWatch” will be a key component of the new Health application built into the forthcoming iOS 8 update for iPhone.

Apple send out invitations to members of the media on Thursday for a Sept. 9 event, where the company is widely expected to unveil both the “iWatch” and a next-generation “iPhone 6.” While consumers may have to wait for the “iWatch,” it’s likely that the next iPhone will go on sale the following Friday, Sept. 19, after it is unveiled.

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Review: BlueLounge’s Kickflip is a low-cost way to make typing on Apple’s MacBook Pro even better


Saturday, August 30, 2014, 09:45 am PT (12:45 pm ET)

For all of the time and effort Jony Ive Co. have spent crafting their oft-imitated MacBook Pro designs, there is one problem that they’ve yet to overcome: laptop ergonomics are, by their nature, terrible. AppleInsider took a look at the latest accessory attempting to right this wrong, BlueLounge’s new Kickflip stand.

“The design of laptops violates a basic ergonomic requirement for a computer, namely that the keyboard and screen are separated,” according to Cornell University’s ergonomics reference site. The idea is that neither the keyboard nor the screen should be in a position that causes the user to deviate from their ideal posture, with neck straight and wrists at a neutral position.

With a laptop, this kind of optimization is impossible sans a phalanx of external accessories. Desk-bound laptop users have long employed docking stations, stands, external monitors, and wireless keyboards and mice to give their laptop the same ergonomic benefits as a properly-configured desktop machine.
Laptop users should optimize their environment for typing, rather than reading, if forced to choose.
These accoutrements don’t travel well, though. Using a laptop by itself on a coffee shop table or a hotel desk angles the users’ arms and forces wrists to a non-neutral position, an ergonomic no-no for typing.

So what are mobile laptop users to do? Faced with the choice of optimizing for neck posture or wrist posture, Cornell recommends that users lean toward the latter — and that’s where BlueLounge’s Kickflip can help.

We spent two weeks with the $19.95, 15-inch Kickflip model, using our 2011 MacBook Pro alone on a desk without the usual array of ergonomic accessories. BlueLounge also offers a smaller, $17.95 model that fits the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air.

Design Installation

The Kickflip is an extremely simple accessory, made of two pieces of plastic — attached at a hinge — and a strip of adhesive. The plastic feels sturdy, with a texture somewhere between soft-touch and a traditional hard finish.

The BlueLounge logo is embossed into the “foot” portion of the Kickflip, and peeks out from underneath the laptop when extended.

Running along the widest part of the Kickflip is a strip of what the company calls “German engineered gel adhesive.” This is the only thing that binds the Kickflip to the laptop, and we found it to be plenty strong while maintaining its adhesiveness after repeated repositioning.

Speaking of repositioning, we would’ve welcomed the inclusion of some kind of guide to help us put the Kickflip on straight. The installation process — remove cover strip from adhesive, press onto laptop — isn’t exactly difficult, but it is somewhat bothersome.

In Use

Energizer AA battery for scale. No bananas were available.

Using the Kickflip is even easier than installing it: flip the foot down when you’re sitting at a table, flip it back up when you leave. We found the additional angle on the keyboard to be a pleasant addition that made typing much easier, as it allowed our wrists to stay at a nearly-neutral angle.

As a bonus, the incline also helped lessen the sting of the sharp metal edges on the MacBook Pro’s wrist rests.

The Kickflip also adds a nearly-imperceptible amount of lift when closed, just enough to raise the MacBook’s rear feet off of the surface. That brings up our biggest gripe with the Kickflip: the lack of grip.
We like the Kickflip if for no other reason than that it helps alleviate the MacBook Pro’s sharp edges.
The Kickflip’s foot makes contact with the table surface along its edge. The tiny strip of hard plastic doesn’t offer much purchase, and we occasionally found ourselves accidentally pushing the laptop away when typing or using the trackpad.

On the natural wood desk we use in our home office, the problem is almost nonexistent. The slick melamine surface of the shared tables in our coworking space, however, exacerbated the issue and forced us to use a small piece of non-slip mat underneath — the kind usually used in the cabinets of boat galleys.

We also don’t like the way the foot “flops” out away from the laptop when closed, which occasionally cause it to snag when sliding it out of our bag. Even at the cost of complexity and additional dollars, we would’ve preferred that the foot be sprung to keep it more secure when stowed.

The Kickflip’s foot “flops” out slightly when not in use, sometimes causing it to snag on bags.


Subjectively, we feel noticeably less wrist fatigue when using the Kickflip than when we keep the laptop directly on our desk. Of course, the same effect could be had simply by propping up the back of our laptop on a book, but that’s not the most stable nor portable arrangement.

On balance, the Kickflip is a useful accessory that falls down just slightly thanks to a couple of questionable design decisions. The ergonomic benefits outweigh our minor grumbles, though, and we feel comfortable recommending the Kickflip without reservation for anyone who is often forced to use their laptop by itself on a desk.

Score: 3.5 out of 5


  • Greatly improves typing ergonomics
  • When closed, gives a welcome extra handhold to carry your laptop
  • Relatively inexpensive as Apple accessories go


  • Reduces grip on tabletops, sometimes causing the laptop to slide when typing
  • Foot doesn’t close solidly, causing some hangups when going in and out of bags

Where to buy

The BlueLounge Kickflip is available in 13-inch and 15-inch models directly from BlueLounge or via retailers like Amazon.

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Shares of Apple end week at all-time high with ‘iPhone 6′ & ‘iWatch’ hype at fever pitch


Friday, August 29, 2014, 02:08 pm PT (05:08 pm ET)

Apple stock reached an all-time high in trading on Friday, and also finished the day at its highest-ever closing price, as investors and customers alike are clamoring to see what the secretive company has up its sleeve for a Sept. 9 media event.

The New York Stock Exchange, credit Carlos Delgado via Wikipedia.

Shares of AAPL stock closed the day on Friday at $102.50, which is a new record. Intraday trading also reached $102.90.

The company’s stock trended upward since Wednesday as anticipation builds for the its event now less than a week and a half away. Though the date had already leaked, Apple made it official on Thursday, sending out invitations to members of the press for a Sept. 9 event in Cupertino, Calif.

The company is widely expected to use the event to formally unveil its next-generation “iPhone 6,” as well as an all-new wearable “iWatch.” Wall Street is particularly excited about the next iPhone, as Apple’s hot selling handsets account for the lion’s share of the company’s profits.

Less certain is how a so-called “iWatch” might affect the company’s bottom line, but investors may have to wait to find out: Though Apple’s wearable device is expected to be revealed Sept. 9, the latest rumors suggest the device may not be ready to launch until early 2015.

Apple’s current trading price has the company’s market capitalization valued at $613.76 billion, which remains well behind its highest-ever market capitalization of over $665 billion. Apple’s gains have also seen it nearly double its value from a 52-week low of $63.89, which occurred in September of 2013.

The company crossed the $100 threshold on Aug. 19, reaching levels the company had not seen since its previous all-time high in 2012, ahead of the iPhone 5 launch.

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