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AAPL Stock: 113.99 ( + 1.98 )

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Apple Japan to start 'Lucky Bag' promotion on January 2

Stores to open early, offer paid 'grab bags' that could be worth thousands

Apple Japan will begin its traditional promotion for Japanese retail buyers, known as Fukubukuro or "Lucky Bags," starting on January 2, the company has announced . The promotion involves customers buying one of several "grab bag" gift boxes for a set price -- last year it was about 36,000 yen, or roughly $300 in current US dollars -- that could contain very valuable gifts, and usually at least top the value of the list price. Some of the boxes contained iPads or MacBook Airs, for example.

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More iOS App deals for those last-minute gifts

Or how to use up all those iTunes gift cards you're going to get

Although we have mentioned some app bargains in our "beyond the last minute" gift guide this morning, the elves at MacNN and Electronista have been hunting up some additional discounts by shaking the App Store tree and seeing what falls out. We found a few more, so click through to save a bundle on some awesome app deals -- and don't forget to check back with us regularly for DealNN reports, Apple refurb store bargains, and our usual Friday Deals all year long!

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The Beyond-Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Apps, e-cards and other instant-delivery options for the procrastinators

We're some 40 years overdue for flying cars , teleportation and printers that can output copies of our dreams, but there are a few methods by which the chronic procrastinators of this world can still swoop in with a last-minute gift for someone at Christmas they'll actually like. While Amazon has closed the doors to physical delivery of any products at this point -- even for Prime members - by the 25th, you still have perhaps a few hours left to send a Boxing Day present, or get in now to ensure a timely New Year's gift. Or you can read on for more suggestions.

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Apple tops poll of Xmas gadget hopes for college students

Cash and gift cards still top want; Beats, iPhone, iPad, MacBooks top their categories

A new survey of college students contains lots of good news for Apple, with the company clearly the most-desired brand for holiday gifts in all the categories Apple competes in. Cash and gift cards are still king, followed by clothing, but electronics was the third most-popular category of gift, reaching second most-popular among males. The overall second-place finish of clothing was due to a strong preference compared to electronics by women rather than men. Apple and its new Beats brand, however, did well with everyone.

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Hands On: System Monitor (iOS)

Know exactly how much talk time you have left at a glance

Anyone who has been caught without a charger, or with no storage space left to download pictures, music, or apps when away from their computer, is aware of how frustrating that situation can be. It's not always easy to tell how much RAM, free space, or talk time a user has left on their beloved iPhone or iPad. However, System Monitor by Tekton Technologies, is a very useful app that keys users in to the inner workings of their devices.

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Hands On: PDFpen 2 for iPad (iOS)

Edit PDFs as well as read them in this updated essential

Here's a true story about what PDFpen 2 does. A Windows-based firm produced a year-end report that was about 80 pages and most importantly took many, many hours to create. It was all highly complex, auto-generated figures -- and one huge spelling mistake. They didn't see the mistake until the final PDF was about to be sent out to clients. Fixing it meant re-running the whole process, re-calculating everything: it meant not sending the report until tomorrow. Luckily, one guy in the firm had PDFpen on his iPad. He opened that PDF, typed in the correct spelling, sent the PDF on its way. Total time: five minutes -- and three of those had been spent on panicking.

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Apple supplier Pegatron promises to investigate labor abuses

Claims strict training, safety measures

Apple supplier Pegatron has issued a statement to the Taiwan Stock Exchange, promising to investigate and fix labor abuses uncovered through a recently-aired BBC documentary . The company states that worker safety is its top priority, and that it runs strict training for both regular workers and management. It also notes the use of external inspectors in audits -- presumably referring to the teams used by Apple -- and says that it offers many ways for workers to submit feedback. During 2014, the company has allegedly resolved 94 percent of complaints within three days.

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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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Apple's Cook, Williams 'deeply offended' by BBC supply chain expose

Williams tells Apple staff that company is improving labor conditions

In a new email memo to the company's UK workforce, Apple's Senior VP of Operations Jeff Williams claims that he and CEO Tim Cook were "deeply offended" by a BBC Panorama documentary exposing labor abuses in the company's supply chain . Specifically, Williams and Cook are said to have been "deeply offended by the suggestion that Apple would break a promise to the workers in our supply chain, or mislead our customers in any way;" Williams charges that " Panorama 's report implied that Apple isn't improving working conditions. Let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth."

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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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Hands On: Snapselect photo management app (OS X)

Clear out duplicates and manage your huge photo library better

Apple's professional photo manager, Aperture, had its advantages over its biggest rival, Adobe Lightroom -- and it is a shame the former been dropped (to be replaced with a new app, Photos for Mac, early next year). One thing Aperture was really good at was adding photos - so much so that we tended to do it over and over. Just not intentionally. One thing it was bad at, by contrast, was helping you find duplicates -- so a big photo library quickly became an unmanageably enormous one. Snapselect intends to fix this for users of Aperture, Lightroom, iPhoto -- and anyone who has tried to handle photos without using any of those programs.

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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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Apple rejects conclusions of BBC expose showing supply chain abuses

Ethics of Pegatron factories, Indonesian tin supply questioned

Ahead of the airing of a Panorama documentary on the subject , the BBC has published a web piece revealing the outcomes of its investigation into Apple's supply chain. The network went undercover, and charges that promises to protect the rights of workers were "routinely broken." In particular, the BBC found violations of standards for work hours, ID cards, dormitories, meetings, and underage labor at Pegatron factories on the outskirts of Shanghai.

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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, the 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: Mazec – Handwriting Input Method (iOS)

Scribble on iOS like you had a old Newton and good handwriting

People must really dislike Apple's on-screen keyboard for iPhones and iPads, because the instant we could try alternatives, we got alternatives. Some seem different for the sake of being different. Some, like TextExpander's one, add useful new features -- yet take away some of the usability. But then you get the odd keyboard like Mazec , which tries to offer a true alternative. Rather than typing, you scribble with a stylus -- if you've got one, and haven't lost it -- or with your finger.

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Hands On: Default Folder X (OS X)

Open and save documents faster with a utility that remembers where you go

If Apple has its way, then one day we will never save another document -- and we will never think about where it went. It will just be there when we want to open it again. That's nice. Until then, we open and save documents nearly as often as we check Facebook. Which makes it a shame that OS X rather fights us. You can open a document from this folder on that network drive and you can then save it on that folder on this USB stick, but it is a pain. Not much of a pain, let's not get carried away here, but try doing it twice and see how you feel. That's where Default Folder X comes in.

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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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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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Hands On: Movavi Video Editor (OS X)

Quick movie editor makes it easy to send video to social media

Try as you might, you're not going to revolutionize how video is edited: whatever application you're using, the process has been roughly the same since we ditched celluloid and razor blades. Equally, you're not likely to easily replace Apple's iMovie for ease of use, nor Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro X for high-end professionals. Movavi Video Editor , an editor for Windows that has just made the jump to OS X, definitely aims at being very simple to use -- but it's also intended for the ever-growing number of us who just want to quickly get video out to people.

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Jury finds in favor of Apple in iPod/iTunes DRM lawsuit

Decision reached in less than 24 hours

The jury for the iPod/iTunes DRM lawsuit has ruled that Apple didn't violate antitrust laws by blocking music from rival storefronts in iTunes software updates, Reuters reports. The verdict was rendered in less than a day, following closing arguments on Monday. Had the jury swung in favor of the plaintiffs, the company could have owed some $350 million in penalties.

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Apple confirms 10 more banks getting Apple Pay today

Orlando Magic's Amway Center begins installing terminals

Apple has today issued a statement confirming the addition of 10 more banks to the list supporting Apple Pay. These include Associated Bank, BB&T, Black Hills FCU, Commerce Bank, Dupaco Community Credit Union, Idaho Central Credit Union, First Tennessee Bank, TD Bank North America, WesBanco, and UW Credit Union. Some of these, such as Commerce , TD , and UW were already quietly announced elsewhere, for instance through a list on Apple's website. The New York Times adds , however, that Amway Center in central Florida -- home to the NBA's Orlando Magic -- will be getting Apple Pay terminals as of Friday.

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Apple, GT Advanced reach new deal on settlement, bankruptcy

Apple will get a little less, other creditors more in revised agreement

The judge in the New Hampshire-based bankruptcy court overseeing the legal wrangle between Apple and its former sapphire production partner GT Advanced Technologies has signed off on a revised agreement between the two companies that is intended to stave off additional court proceedings that could tie up the matter for years, from creditors who were concerned that Apple was getting paid first. The new deal doesn't change the fundamental tenets of the agreement, but allows other creditors more funds from the first sales of GT Advance's furnaces.

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Judges lean toward Apple on first day of e-book verdict appeal

Claims Apple was taking on 'predatory pricing' by Amazon

At least one, and possibly two, of the three judges overseeing the appeal of the e-book antitrust verdict against Apple , have expressed strong doubt about the entire basis of the case against the iPhone maker - with Dennis Jacobs, was "openly hostile to the [US] government's case" on the first day of proceedings, says Agence France-Presse . Apple is accused of conspiring with book publishers to artificially inflate the costs of e-books, with a particular aim at undermining Amazon. Jacobs today argued, however that Apple was a "new entrant" into an established e-book world, "breaking the hold of a market by a monopolist who is maintaining its hold by what is arguably predatory pricing."

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Reports: Yosemite Mail causing intermittent typing lag for some users

Apple Support Community members' exhaustive testing rules out 1Password as cause

On November 1, a thread was started on the Apple Support Community regarding an intermittent and troublesome lag when using Apple's Mail, the default email program, in Yosemite. User 'Andrew-StL' kicked off the discussion, reporting the issue while composing messages after updating from Mavericks to the then newly-released Yosemite, noting that the lag was not experienced while entering text in any other application.

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Canadian Competition Bureau probes Apple deals with carriers

Complaints say contracts may have been anti-competitive

The Canadian government's Competition Bureau is investigating complaints that Apple used anti-competitive clauses in the contracts it signed with phone carriers, Reuters reports. Although the Bureau stresses that it has yet to uncover any wrongdoing, it has only this week asked for a court order that would force Apple to turn over necessary documents. The organization hasn't said if it's pursuing similar orders for the carriers, which include Bell, Rogers, and Telus.

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Hands On: Battle Supremacy (iOS exclusive)

Take control of a tank in this simple WWII simulator

Developer Atypical Games has had success in the App Store before with their war simulation apps, titled Sky Gamblers: Cold War and Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders , in which both games focused largely on air combat. Now, the company has released Battle Supremacy , which puts players in control of their own tanks in this World War II-era simulation game. Will the company be able to win the ground game as it did with air supremacy? Read on to find out.

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Apple, IBM unveil first 'MobileFirst for iOS' apps for enterprise

Options cover finance, retail, telecoms, other sectors

Apple and IBM have unveiled the first iOS apps produced through their partnership announced in July . Available under the "MobileFirst for iOS" banner, the apps target clients in air travel, retail, insurance, banking/finance, government, and telecommunications. Some initial clients include Citi, Air Canada, Sprint, and Banorte.

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Bose products return to online, retail Apple stores

Reason behind disappearance still uncertain

Bose products have returned to Apple's online store and retail chain, reports say . These include products like the SoundLink III and SoundLink Mini speakers, and the QuietComfort 20i earbuds. Bose hardware vanished from the online store on October 17, and went missing from retail around the same time or shortly thereafter.

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Real vs. Apple lawsuit resumes with new plaintiff

Former ice dancer bought an iPod nano in 2006, making her eligible

A 10-year-old lawsuit between audio software maker Real and Apple, that was nearly derailed when both plaintiffs were found to have been mistaken about when and how they bought their iPods, is back on track following the discovery of an eligible person -- a 65-year-old ice dancer who bought an iPod nano in 2006. The case, which could have been dismissed if a qualified plaintiff wasn't found quickly, told the court that she had used iPods to help her practice ice-skating maneuvers. The judge, however, still noted that Apple now has "an appealable issue" should it lose the case.

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