Apple Pay Expanding to China, Possibly France and Canada’s Big Banks

Apple Pay has launched in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia to date, and the mobile payments service could expand to a fifth country this week: China. A customer service representative for China’s Guangfa Bank, using the bank’s public WeChat account, appears to have confirmed that Apple Pay will officially go live in the world’s most populous country on February 18 at 5:00 a.m. local time.

(Image: Sina via Tech in Asia)

Apple previously announced that Apple Pay will expand to China in early 2016 in partnership with UnionPay, a state-run interbank network that holds a monopoly on the country’s credit and debit card processing. UnionPay cardholders will be able to use Apple Pay on iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad – the latter for in-app purchases only. iOS 9.2 or watchOS 2.1 or later will be required, according to the screenshot.

In November, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple reached deals with China’s big four state-run banks, including the Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and Agricultural Bank of China, to launch its iPhone-based payments service in the country. The report said Apple Pay could launch by the weeklong Chinese New Year, which concluded on February 13.

That prospective date has since passed, but a pair of YouTube videos surfaced in January that appeared to show Apple Pay working with UnionPay bank cards in China for both in-store and in-app purchases. It is possible that Apple soft launched Apple Pay in China with select participating issuers in order to test the payments service, ahead of its official launch in the country in a few days.

Meanwhile, French website iGeneration claims that Apple is preparing to launch Apple Pay in France and could make an announcement in the first half of 2016 – perhaps at WWDC in June. The report claims it is unclear when Apple Pay will become available in French stores, nor does it have information about which banks and participating issuers will support the service upon launch.

Last, new evidence has been uncovered that hints at Apple Pay support coming to Canada’s big banks. Specifically, Twitter user ChaseFromm2016 recently discovered a „NetworkInterac“ string hidden in iOS 9.2.1 code, as shared by the blog iPhone in Canada. The same string was also shared on Chinese website Feng last month, in the screenshot pictured right, according to the report.

(Image: iPhone in Canada)

Interac is Canada’s official debit card network, adopted by the country’s largest banks and credit unions nationwide, including BMO, CIBC, Desjardins, Meridian, National Bank of Canada, RBC, Scotiabank, TD Canada Trust, and many others. TD Canada Trust already stirred speculation in October when it inadvertently listed Apple Pay as a method of payment on its website, before quickly removing it.

Apple Pay is currently limited to American Express cardholders in Canada and Australia, and the same partnership will be extended to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Spain later this year. Apple Pay is now available at more than 2 million retail locations, and Au Bon Pain, Crate & Barrel, Chick-fil-A, Cinnabon, Chili’s, KFC, and Starbucks stores now do or soon will accept the payments service in the U.S.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
Tags: China, Canada, France
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App Store and iTunes Experiencing Issues for Many Users Worldwide

Apple has updated its System Status page to reflect that many users may be unable to access, purchase, or update apps on the App Store on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Multiple other iCloud services are or were also experiencing downtime, including the iTunes Store, iBooks Store, iCloud Drive, and iWork for iCloud.

The issues began shortly before 7:00 a.m. Pacific and appear to be widespread, affecting customers in the United States, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere, according to social media posts. Apple TV services and Apple’s Volume Purchase Program are also affected by the service issues.

Update (9:10 a.m. Pacific): Apple’s System Status page shows that the App Store, iTunes, and other iCloud services have been restored.

Tags: App Store, iTunes, iCloud, downtime, system status
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Apple’s ‘Back to School’ Promotion in Australia and New Zealand Offers Free Beats Headphones

Apple today launched its annual „Back to School“ promotion in Australia and New Zealand, offering higher education students, faculty members, parents of students, and select other staff a free pair of Beats Solo2 on-ear headphones with the purchase of a qualifying Mac with education pricing between February 3 and March 21.

Eligible models include the iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac Pro, including configure-to-order versions, while the Mac mini and refurbished Macs do not qualify for the offer. The eligible Mac must be purchased from the online Apple Store for Education or by calling 133-622 in Australia or 0800-692-7753 in New Zealand.

The qualifying student or faculty member will receive one pair of free Beats Solo2 on-ear headphones in Gloss Black, Gloss White, Gloss Red, or Gloss Blue, as an instant credit. Apple also offers a credit of AU$259.95 or NZ$339.95 for Beats Solo2 Wireless on-ear headphones, with the customer responsible for paying the remaining difference.

Apple’s „Back to School“ promotion in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and elsewhere last July and August also offered students a free pair of Beats Solo2 headphones with a qualifying Mac purchase. Last year, students in Australia and New Zealand were offered an Apple gift card worth between $25 and $100 with the purchase of a qualifying Mac, iPad, or iPhone.

Read the terms in conditions in Australia and New Zealand for complete details.

Tags: Beats, Australia, New Zealand, Back to School promotion
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Apple Pay Gains Over 50 New U.S. Banks and Credit Unions

Apple updated its Apple Pay participating issuers list today with 51 additional banks, credit unions and financial institutions supporting the contactless payment service in the United States. Apple Pay now has over 950 participating issuers nationwide, and several more plan to support the NFC-based mobile payment service in the future.

The newly added Apple Pay participating issuers are reflected below, although it’s worth noting that some banks, credit unions and financial institutions listed may have already had support for the contactless payments service and are only now being reflected on Apple’s website.

The full list of new Apple Pay participating issuers:

Achieve Financial Credit Union

Advantage Federal Credit Union

Alloy Federal Credit Union

Altoona First Savings Bank

Altura Credit Union

Amalgmated Bank of Chicago

Associated Credit Union of Texas

Bank of Ann Arbor

Beehive Federal Credit Union

Brand Banking Company

Business Bank of St. Louis

Capitol Credit Union

Charlotte State Bank & Trust

Citizens Bank (AL)

Citizens Savings Bank

Community Credit Union

Credit Union of Texas

Earthmover Credit Union

Employment Security Credit Union

Family Trust Federal Credit Union

First Community Bank of Beemer

First Interstate Bank

First Service Federal Credit Union

First State Community Bank

Fort Community Credit Union

Georgia Bank and Trust

HomeStar and Financial Services

Houston Highway Credit Union

IDB-IIC Federal Credit Union

Katahdin Federal Credit Union

Lion’s Share Federal Credit Union

Mainstreet Community Bank of Florida

Marine Bank & Trust

Marine Federal Credit Union

Monona State Bank

Navy Army Community Credit Union

Northway Bank

Plaza Park State Bank

Reliant Community Credit Union

Security Bank and Trust Company

Silver State Schools Credit Union

Spencer County Bank

Summit Community Bank

Sundance State Bank

The Commerce Bank of Washington

Tioga State Bank

Torrance Community Credit Union

Total Community Credit Union

Triangle Credit Union

United Community Bank

USNY Bank

Apple is committed to an international expansion of Apple Pay, having launched the mobile payments service in Australia and Canada in November in partnership with American Express. Apple Pay is also coming to Hong Kong, Singapore and Spain this year, and the service will launch in China in early 2016 in partnership with UnionPay.

Apple Pay gained support for BJ’s Wholesale Club private label credit cards and 66 new U.S. issuers on December 15, plus nearly another 60 issuers on January 5. On the merchant side, Cinnabon, Chili’s, Domino’s, KFC and Starbucks will support Apple Pay in the U.S. starting this year.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
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Microsoft Offering Up to $250 Off Band 2 With Apple Watch Trade-In

A new program from Microsoft is encouraging Apple Watch users to switch over to the Microsoft Band 2 with a few tiers of trade-in initiatives (via Cult of Mac). The company is offering „as much as“ $150 for the aluminum Apple Watch Sport, $200 for the stainless steel Apple Watch with a Sport band, and $250 for the Apple Watch with Milanese Loop.

The Microsoft Band 2 itself costs $250, so the Milanese Loop trade-in offer is the only one available that would fully pay off the price of the wearable band. Microsoft is also accepting other wearables for users to trade for a new Band 2, including a FitBit Flex ($10), Sony SmartWatch 3 ($25), and Pebble Time Steel ($25). For any successful trade-in, a device must abide by a few stipulations listed by Microsoft:

• Device’s housing and band are completely intact without cracks or missing parts.

• Device is completely functional, including:

-All keys work.

-Device powers on.

-Device screen is not cracked or broken.

-Device screen responds to touch

-No security codes or PIN codes are required to operate the device.

The program runs for a few more weeks, ending on February 7, and is available only to users on the Microsoft Online Store in the United States and Canada. Microsoft unveiled the Band 2 at an event back in October, and launched it the same month, introducing a new curved screen with durable Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and an improved touch display on the wearable smartwatch.

Response to the new generation of the Microsoft Band wasn’t entirely positive, so the company’s new trade-in program could be an attempt to generate some sales for the device in the months leading up to the Apple Watch 2’s rumored launch in April.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2
Tags: Microsoft, Microsoft Band 2
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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Unlocked Lumia 950 XL is getting a firmware update in the US and Canada

Microsoft seems to have begun rolling out a firmware update for the unlocked version of its flagship smartphone, the Lumia 950 XL, in the US and Canada. Read more…

‘AlwaysOnline Wireless’ Debuts New Short-Term Cellular Data Plans for Apple SIM

Otono Networks today announced the launch of AlwaysOnline Wireless, a global LTE roaming network exclusively for iPads with Apple SIM. The roaming network will be available in 45 countries, but will expand to additional countries in the future.

AlwaysOnline will offer LTE data plans starting from $0.99 an hour for 15 MB, and users can pay by hour, data or megabyte. Otono CEO Emir Aboulhosn says that the company wants to offer short-term data plans for times customers „really need connectivity on-the-go“ like if they need to „catch up on email in the car“ or „get directions to their next meeting.“

AlwaysOnline’s roaming network is available in countries like Canada, Mexico, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia and more. However, the network’s plans aren’t available to the residents of the majority of the countries listed. The full list can be seen on AlwaysOnline’s website.

Last year, Apple introduced the Apple SIM with cellular models of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 sold in the United States and United Kingdom. The Apple SIM allows users to easily move between networks, taking advantage of short-term data deals when needed. More recently, the cellular models of the iPad mini 4 and iPad Pro have included Apple SIM support. The Apple SIM can now be purchased in 13 countries.

Earlier this year, Apple agreed to a deal with mobile connectivity company GigSky to bring Apple SIM cellular data plans to over 90 countries. While GigSky offers short-term data deals in more countries than AlwaysOnline, the latter offers even shorter-term data deals, enabling users to purchase hour and day-long plans.

Tags: Apple SIM, AlwaysOnline Wireless
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Xbox One buyers can choose an additional free game worth up to $59.99 today

Xbox One bundles – currently priced from $299 – are already available with a free copy of Assassins Creed Unity, but for today only, Microsoft is letting buyers choose another free game too. Read more…

Security breach exposes credit card details from 16 companies

A security breach has exposed sensitive credit card information belonging to the customers of 16 companies across the world, including numerous airlines, the CN Tower, and the San Diego Zoo. Read more…

Banks will spend big to take on Apple Pay

Having recently arrived in Canada and Australia, and with plans underway for a February launch in China, it’s safe to say that Apple Pay is taking over the NFC payments world. Which is exactly why, according to a new report, banks are ramping up their technology budgets in order to compete — concerned that tech […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)