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Top Stories  |   (Dec 21, 2014)

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Apple Pay already accounting for one percent of all digital payments

Whole Foods, McDonald's, Walgreens seeing biggest jump in usage

A study by research firm ITG suggest that Apple Pay -- introduced in October -- is already accounting for one percent of all digital payments - for comparison purposes, the three-plus-year-old Google Wallet system holds about four percent of digital payments. The firm also noted that those using Apple Pay increased spending using mobile payments, and tended to use the technology frequently -- resulting in a jump in sales at top merchants that accepted Apple Pay, such as Walgreens, Whole Foods and McDonald's.

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FBI: North Korea responsible for Sony Pictures hack, leaks [u]

Statement from FBI notes similarities between Sony Pictures hack and other intrusions by North Korea

[Updated with comments from President Barack Obama] North Korea is responsible for the attack on Sony Pictures , the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has now announced . The statement about the agency's investigation into the intrusion of the movie studio's computer network, and subsequent leaks, comes at the same time as messages supposedly coming from the hackers wanting Sony to do more than halt the release of " The Interview " movie.

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Hottest Apple products see improved supply for final Xmas push

The iPhone 6, iPhone 6 plus, and Retina 5K iMac ship times all drop

In the past month, shipping times have been variable for some of Apple's most in-demand products. However, ship dates for the two new iPhone models, the 6 and 6 Plus -- along with the recently-introduced Retina 5K iMac -- have dropped just ahead of the final push of gift-buying for the holiday season. Both online ship times and same-day in-store pickup schedules have improved.

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Analysis: Title II regulation, with forbearance, the best path forward

Double-talk from industry supports notion that some regulation would benefit consumers

Since President Barack Obama voiced his support for reclassification of ISPs as utilities , there has been much debate back and forth , and back again on the topic of "Title II" regulation of carriers. Would it be the dystopian nightmare anti-government zealots and the carriers proclaim, or would it provide a golden utopia of progress for consumers and American businesses alike?

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New USB thumb drive-sized device can take over computers

Requires physical access, but works on OS X, Windows, Linux

A new USB microcontroller -- roughly the size of a small thumb drive -- has been demonstrated as a proof-of-concept device that leverages a serious and unfixable vulnerability in USB easily take over and install malware on any unlocked computer. Though it requires physical access or tricking the user into inserting the controller into a USB port, the device has worrying implications for any computer left unattended for more than a minute -- the time it takes for the device to gain admin access, change network settings, install a backdoor and remove any obvious sign of intrusion.

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Job listing points to global Apple Pay growth, starting in Europe [u]

Apple targeting 'Europe, Middle East, India, and Africa'

[Updated with Chinese job listing] A new job listing indicates that Apple is actively working on expanding Apple Pay worldwide, beginning with Europe. The company is seeking an Apple Pay intern who will work with a London-based team. The listing states that Apple Pay is "set to expand across Europe, Middle East, India, and Africa," and that the London group will collaborate with "issuers, payment networks and merchants across Europe."

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Hands On: SuperSync (OS X, Windows)

Library syncing software for iTunes packed with features at a great value

Apple's iTunes media player has been around since 2001 -- meaning that for many users, it's likely that their library has traversed multiple system upgrades, duplicating and splintering across a variety of drives and mobile devices along the way. For this, there is SuperSync , an app designed to provide access to all your music in one location, allow libraries to be accessed via the Internet, and organize multiple music libraries as to stay organized. Aimed at DJs, avid music collectors, and anyone with multiple libraries, SuperSync aims to get all your tracks in a row. Pricing is organized by license packs, starting at $23 for 2 computers. We took a look at SuperSync for ourselves, and took some of its features for a test run.

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Sprint facing fines for charging customers for unwanted services

Potential fine of up to $105 million by FCC the latest in a crackdown on 'cramming'

Mobile phone service provider Sprint could be facing a fine of as high as $105 million or other disciplinary actions from the FCC after a study by the agency concluded that the carrier was willfully participating in a practice called "cramming," in which users are often tricked into signing up for "premium" services (such as ringtones or special messages) from a third-party, which then adds monthly charges to the user's bill. Like AT&T and T-Mobile before it, Sprint has run afoul of authorities for taking a cut of these scams, and thus having an incentive to allow them to continue, despite customer complaints.

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BlackBerry Classic ships with 3.5-inch square screen, retro appearance

Full keyboard, retro design main features of mid-range BlackBerry Classic

BlackBerry has formally launched a retro-styled smartphone it previously teased . Housed in a casing reminiscent of earlier models, the BlackBerry Classic has a few modern tricks up its sleeve to go with the familiar QWERTY keyboard, including an optical trackpad and a touch-enabled 3.5-inch 720x720-resolution square display.

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Hands On: Lenovo Yoga 2 Tablet

Lenovo Yoga 2 Tablet is an interesting device that offers good value

Lenovo has had considerable success with its beautifully-designed Yoga notebooks, which are renowned for being very flexible in the way that they can be set up for productivity or content consumption. The company tried to take this same successful formula across to its tablet line-up with the original Yoga Tablet, which ran Android. Second time around, the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 , mixes things up a little more on the multiple-configuration front, adding an optional keyboard to the equation, while adding a new model running Windows bundled with a Bluetooth keyboard. So is it worth taking a second look?

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Apple's iPhone gains share, will likely topple second-place Nokia

Overall smartphone market shows growth, but top two leaders lose share

According to new quarterly figures from industry analysts Gartner, enormous growth by Apple's iPhone has eroded worldwide mobile phone share -- including both smartphones and feature phones -- from top seller Samsung and second-place Nokia, with Apple potentially taking the second spot from Nokia after this quarter's expected record-breaking iPhone sales are announced. For the most recent quarter, Apple was within one percentage point of matching Nokia in a market seeing strong overall growth.

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Sony ignored security evaluation before GOP hack, more data coming

'Christmas dump' incoming with more 'interesting' Sony Pictures data

Months before the hacker intrusion on Sony Pictures' network, analyst firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) performed an analysis on the company's security, and found it lacking. More than 100 devices were found to be unmonitored by corporate security following an incomplete transition from a private security firm to an in-house team. As a result, any Sony response to network intrusion would be, in the words of the auditors, "slow, fragmented, and incomplete, if it would even happen at all." However, corrective actions proposed by PWC seemingly went undone, which left the doors to the company open, sometimes literally, facilitating the attack.

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Review: Kodak PixPro SL10 Smart Lens camera

Kodak hybrid device links smartphone with full-size optics

Smartphone imagery still widely varies. Large Megapixel counts don't make for a good image, and the optics in some devices are lacking. Kodak thinks they have a solution in the Kodak PixPro SL10 Smart Lens camera. Kodak's clip-on camera is an independent all-in-one 16MP cylindrical-shaped digital camera that attaches to both Android and IOS smartphones. The concept is not exactly new to the market, as Sony has their similar versions. Does the PixPro SL10 stand out? Check our review to find out.

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Review: Apple iMac with 5K Retina display

The Apple iMac with 5K Retina display delivers a stunning

The Apple iMac with Retina 5K display is the first Apple desktop computer to sport one of Apple's vaunted Retina displays. Although it has taken some time for the technology to make its way to the larger display format, the wait has been worth it. While introducing a Retina display on the iMac may not be the biggest surprise, Apple certainly raised some eyebrows when it revealed the price. In delivering its latest high-performance all-in-one computer with state-of-the-art display for $2499, it has also managed to redefine the value equation in the segment. Read on in our full review of the iMac with 5K Retina display To see why we consider its asking price to be one of the best computing deals on the market.

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Legal snag may bring halt to 10-year-old Apple vs Real case

Plaintiffs discovered to have bought iPods after DRM software removed

A 10-year-long lawsuit between Apple and Real in which the latter accuses the iPhone maker of deliberately altering its software solely to block Real's hack of Apple's FairPlay DRM software might be terminated over a previously-undiscovered legal issue found by Apple attorneys. Apple has informed the court that neither of the two women who represent the class of affected plaintiffs were, in fact, affected by the accused software change -- as they bought their iPods either before or after the software in question was in force.

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Apple already has 41 percent of phablet market with iPhone 6 Plus

Overall, consumers still prefer smartphones under five inches in size

In less than eight weeks, Apple's iPhone 6 Plus has already grabbed a 41 percent share of all US "phablet" (5.5 inches or larger in display size) sales, and is continuing to struggle to meet demand. A new study published by Kantar World Panel reveals that, despite much more publicity, phablets continue to make up only a small minority of smartphone sales -- but the category is growing fast. The finding is another blow for the struggling Samsung, whose Galaxy Note phablets now account for only five percent of such sales in the US, and only eight percent of phablets in China.

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Apple dominates mobile online shopping at 78 percent in US

Targeted emails outpace Google ads or search for merchant results

A new study that monitored US holiday shopping from mobile devices between Thanksgiving through to Cyber Monday showed results exactly in line with similar surveys from last summer, noting that Apple iOS devices accounted for about 78 percent of orders , with Android accounting for only 21.6 percent of online sales from mobile devices. Analytics firm Custora noted the consistency between holiday and non-holiday buying patterns, with iOS and Android showing the same respective percentages last summer as well.

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First Look: Alienware Alpha

Alienware Alpha punches well above its weight

The Dell Alienware Alpha is a micro-PC gaming console that has only just gone on sale recently. It was supposed to launch with Valve's Linux-based SteamOS , and is designed specifically as a gaming operating system to power "Steam Machines." However, the final release of the SteamOS has been delayed into 2015, and thus Dell has chosen to forge ahead with the release of its planned Steam Machine, running Windows 8.1 in the interim. As a micro-PC with console-style gaming in mind first and foremost, the system now ships an Xbox 360 controller rather than a Steam controller, and offers a makeshift Alien UI so that it doesn't require a keyboard and mouse to set up. Was it the right move to launch the Alienware Alpha without the vaunted SteamOS?

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Black Friday: Deals for musicians

Black Friday deals for musos offer great value

If you're a beginner learning to play a guitar, sing, play the bass or drums, or you are a veteran looking to further develop your skills there are some great Black Friday deals on offer at the moment on the net. This also extends to guitarists and other musicians looking for some great drum loops and samples to add flavor to your home recordings. Electronista has been on the lookout and spotted some excellent deals with Jammit , JamPlay and Platinum Loops .

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Happy Thanksgiving from MacNN and Electronista

Reduced coverage on US holiday gives us chance to be thankful for our readers

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our US readers from all of us here at MacNN and Electronista ! Today and tomorrow are traditionally very slow news days, so there will be reduced coverage through the holiday (except for our Black Friday and other deal-related posts, along with a hearty serving of giveaway goodness, never fear!) so that we can spend time with our families. We want to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to all of our readers, both long-time and new, for your readership, your comments and suggestions, and your news tips and corrections. We must also thank our sponsors, advertisers and the many developers and companies that help us keep our readers informed on all the latest and greatest in the tech world. We are grateful for your support.

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Hands On: Sproggiwood (Windows, OS X, Linux via Steam)

Charming roguelike dungeon-clearing game brings a touch of Finnish legend to the genre

Because of the accessibility of game design tools, independently-produced games are springing up on every platform. There's certainly no shortage of dungeon crawlers, roguelikes, or turn-based strategy games today. That doesn't mean, though, that Sproggiwood , by Freehold Games, should be overlooked. This turn-based roguelike has the player explore dungeons inspired by Finnish mythology, bringing peace to the land of Sprog.

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First Look: Google Nexus 9

Google Nexus 9 is the first high-end 64-bit Android on ARM device

The new Google Nexus 9 is acting as the single replacement for the Google Nexus 7 and the Google Nexus 10, which Google is marketing as being a "just right" compromise between the two sizes. It is also the first tablet from Google to feature a 4:3 aspect ratio (instead of 16:9), which is the ratio favored by Apple for its iPad range. Among other "firsts," it is the first Android tablet to launch with Android 5.0 "Lollipop," while it is also the first Android tablet to feature a 64-bit ARM-based processor. So how is it shaping up ahead of our full review?

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Google, Rockstar Consortium submit filing to end legal battle

Agreement reached November 12, set to end year-long legal battle by end of 2014

Google's legal battle with the Rockstar Consortium over claims that the search company infringes upon seven patents with the Android operating system appears to be coming to an end. According to a filing submitted to the US District Court of the Eastern District of Texas on November 17, both parties have agreed to settle their dispute.

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Hands On: LG G Watch R

LG G Watch R delivers breakthrough high-quality circular P-OLED display

We have previously taken a look at the LG G Watch , LG's launch device that helped to usher in Google's wearable platform, Android Wear. LG has introduced the next model in its Android Wear range, the LG G Watch R, which is a much more interesting and thoughtfully-designed smartwatch. Where the rectangular G Watch is quite nondescript in appearance, the G Watch R incorporates much more design flair and much more interesting technology.

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Apple Pay already dominating NFC contactless payment systems

Walgreens, others say Apple payment system is now most popular NFC payment method

Just a month after its debut, Apple Pay appears to be dominating NFC payment systems where it is available , according to reports, with the public quickly accepting the new checkout method due to its ease of use and speed. McDonald's recently noted that 50 percent of its contactless payments are now coming from Apple Pay, while Walgreens reports similar figures -- saying that the number of mobile transactions it has processed since Apple Pay's debut has doubled.

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First Look: Apple iMac with 5K Retina Display

Apple sells 5K Retina Display, includes powerful iMac computer for free

Apple has been adding Retina displays to its mobile product range over the past few years, but desktop users have missed out -- until now. Apple's new iMac with Retina 5K display has landed, with four times the pixel density of previous models - taking its total pixel count to an incredible 14.7 million pixels. But it is much more than just a pretty face: behind the stunning new Retina display, it packs a one-two punch of up to a 4.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 display and AMD Radeon R9 M295X with 4GB of DDR5 VRAM. We've been using it for the past week, and have some first impressions ahead of our full review.

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Amazon and Hachette battle ends amicably with e-book sales deal

Hachette allowed to set e-book pricing for all its titles on Amazon storefront

The long-running and rancorous dispute between publisher Hachette and Amazon seems to be over. Both companies have announced that a deal has been struck, with Hachette being able to set prices on the e-books that it sells. Other specific terms of the deal have not yet been made public, and will not likely ever face public scrutiny outside the publishing industry.

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YouTube Music Key launched in beta with offline listening option

YouTube music subscription removes advertising, adds Google Play Music All Access

YouTube has launched its often-rumored music service, just one day after a report claims it struck a major deal with independent record labels. YouTube Music Key is a subscription-based streaming service which offers advertising-free viewing of music videos on YouTube itself, as well as a few other features only paid subscribers will receive.

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Staples outlets begin accepting Apple Pay

All 1,400 US locations ready, retailer says

Business supply chain Staples has begun accepting Apple Pay at all of its 1,400 US retail locations, according to an announcement. Retail shoppers must have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. The company has also begun accepting Apple Pay through its iOS app , however, where people with an iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3 can also make purchases.

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Hands On: Apple iPad mini 3

Apple iPad mini 3 gets Touch ID, remains a match for the competition

Before Apple introduced the iPad Air last year, there would have been few who would have argued that it didn't need the iPad mini in its lineup. At the time, around 50 percent of tablet sales were going to smaller seven- to eight-inch devices, with the many of those sales going to Android devices. However, the iPad Air redesign was such a departure from the original iPad in overall footprint and volume that many Apple customers that had switched to the smaller iPad mini because it was lighter and easier to hold than the fourth-generation iPad, re-evaluated the larger 9.7-inch display option. So with the arrival of an even thinner, lighter and much more powerful iPad Air 2 , is there still a place for the iPad mini 3 ?

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