Apple releases iOS 8.1 with Apple Pay, iCloud Photo Library, SMS Relay & Instant Hotspot, bug fixes and improvements.

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As promised, Apple on Monday released iOS 8.1 for public consumption. Users who have an older version installed on their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad can now update to the latest software over-the-air, by choosing Software Update under Settings > General.

iOS 8.1 flips the switch on Apple Pay in the United States on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, as well as the newly released iPad Air 2and iPad mini 3.

It also re-enables the missing Camera Roll album in Photos and beta iCloud Photo Library (in beta) while bringing additional Continuity features like Text Message Forwarding between iOS 8 devices and Yosemite Macs and more.

Apple Pay, a headline new feature in iOS 8.1 supports mobile payments in apps, on websites and at select brick-and-mortar locations. On devices that don’t have NFC, like the iPhone 5s, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, Apple Pay only works when you buy stuff online and through apps.

To recap, here are the supported devices for Apple Pay:

  • iPhone 6 (in-app, online and in-store purchases)
  • iPhone 6 Plus (in-app, online and in-store purchases)
  • iPad Air 2 (in-app and online purchases only)
  • iPad mini 3 (in-app and online purchases only)

Although Apple’s marketing materials don’t make the distinction between in-app and online purchases, Safari is technically and app. Moreover, company executives did say during the WWDC keynote that Apple Pay will be supported by participating online stores through a browser.

Apple Pay is also coming to Apple Watch early next year, extending Apple Pay to over 200 million owners of iPhone 5, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s worldwide, Apple said in a media release.

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Another cool new feature: Text Message Forwarding.

It lets you receive text messages in the Messages app alongside iMessages on Macs running Yosemite and iPads and iPod touches running iOS 8.1. Text messages are actually routed through a user’s iPhone, allowing you to both send and receive SMS directly from a Mac or iPad.

Text Message Forwarding requires that both your Mac and iOS device be on the same Wi-Fi network and have Bluetooth turned on for proximity.

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iCloud Photo Library, a built-in service that puts your entire photo library in the cloud, is now available as a beta to everyone in iOS 8.1. Once enabled in Settings > iCloud > Photos, your device will automatically upload and store your photos and videos in iCloud and sync any changes between devices.

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You can elect to “Optimize Storage” to keep device-optimized versions of photos on an iOS device or “Download and Keep Originals”, which stores full-resolution photos and videos on your device. Just to clear up any confusion, iCloud always keeps your snaps and videos in their original resolution.

Your iCloud Photo Library is also available via a brand new Photos app in iCloud’s web interface, depicted above, using any Mac or Windows PC running the latest version of Safari, Chrome or Firefox. And in early-2015, a Mac edition of iOS’s stock Photos app will launch allowing for the complete end-to-end photo-syncing solution between desktop, mobile and the web.

iCloud Photo Library is great, but you’ll quickly run out of space as every iCloud account includes a meager five gigabytes of free storage. Apple’s iCloud storage upgrade pricingisn’t the most competitive: the firm is offering 20 gigabytes for 99 cents per month, 200 gigabytes in exchange for five bucks per month, 500GB for $9.99 per month and 1TB for $19.99 per month.

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Compare this to the $9.99 1TB Dropbox Pro plan (same as Google).

Microsoft is offering 1TB OneDrive bucket for seven bucks per month and they’re also throwing in Office 365 for that price. By the way, if you’re serious about iPhone photography you should consider Yahoo’s Flickr service, which includes one terabyte of free storage for your photos.

As mentioned before, iOS 8.1 also brings back the Camera Roll album which went missing in iOS 8. The Camera Roll album collates only the photos you’ve taken directly on the device or saved from Mail and other apps. The Camera Roll comeback makes the operating system compatible with applications that required it, such as WhatsApp.

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The problem stems, as many have complained, from the fact that iOS 8.0 has removed the system-wide Camera Roll album for no apparent reason. In addition to these features, iOS 8.1 contains bug fixes, performance enhancements and several improvements listed below.

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iOS 8.1 includes other nice-to-haves

A new Enable Dictation toggle in Settings > General > Keyboards (seen above) is now available. Moreover, you’ll notice slightly larger app icons when managing your widgets in the Notification Center. The iBooks icon has been slightly redesigned and there’s now an alternative way to access privacy settings on a per-app basis, through their respective pane in the Settings app, as pictured below.

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Note that certain iOS 8 features are only available in select markets.

The operating system is compatible with:

  • iPhone 4s
  • iPhone 5/5c
  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone 6/Plus
  • iPad 2, 3 and 4
  • iPad Air and iPad Air 2
  • iPad mini and iPad mini 2
  • iPod touch (fifth-generation)

Apple announces record-smashing 10 million iPhone 6/Plus opening weekend sales!

When Apple sold 9 million iPhones in the opening weekend of iPhone 5S and 5C last year, it was assumed that would be the zenith; the cheaper 5C offered more opportunity, and launching in China for the first time offered untold opportunity. And then this year Apple sold 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units, with no China (yet) and a lot more cash at stake.

The report comes after Apple’s initial announcement that it had moved 4 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus handsets the very first day. As it turns out, it almost kept that pace up through out the weekend. And that was with supply constraints. According to CEO Tim Cook:

“Sales for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus exceeded our expectations for the launch weekend, and we couldn’t be happier,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We would like to thank all of our customers for making this our best launch ever, shattering all previous sell-through records by a large margin. While our team managed the manufacturing ramp better than ever before, we could have sold many more iPhones with greater supply and we are working hard to fill orders as quickly as possible.”

What Apple didn’t reveal is the breakdown of unit sales between the 6 and 6 Plus, although it’s not clear how helpful it would have been if they had; the 6 Plus hit shipping delays far faster in a way that hinted more at severe supply constraints than overwhelming demand.

Still, 10 million is hugely impressive given that the phones are pricier and lack the scale of launch countries that the iPhone 5 and 5S did. We’ll see how the numbers fully shake out once Apple catches up to the demand. In the meantime, a record is a record, and it seems as though the company hasn’t lost any of its shine.

Apple Q2 2014 earnings: 43.7M iPhones, 16.3M iPads, $45.6B revenue!

As expected, Apple is out with its financial report for Q2 2014 this afternoon. In a press release issued just a few moments ago, Apple announced that it sold 43.7 million iPhones, 16.3 million iPads, and pulled in $45.6 billion in revenue during its fiscal Q2.

Other than iPad sales, Apple beat the Street estimates by a wide margin. The Cupertino company also announced an accelerated strategy for its stock buyback plans, adding an additional $30 billion to the pot (for a total of $90 billion), as well as a 7-1 stock split…

Here is the full breakdown of Apple’s Q2 earnings:

  • iPhones: 43.7 million versus 37.7 million expected
  • iPads: 16.35 million versus 19.7 million units expected
  • Macs: 4.1 million versus 4.03 million expected
  • iPods: 2.76 million versus 2.99 million expected
  • Revenue: $45.6 billion versus $43.6 billion expected

And here are some comments from CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer:

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

“We generated $13.5 billion in cash flow from operations and returned almost $21 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the March quarter,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “That brings cumulative payments under our capital return program to $66 billion.” 

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The last time Apple split its stock was back in 2005. Shareholders will receive six additional shares for each share they hold and the share price will drop to around $80. The company also increased the dividend by 8% per share, and says it plans to do so yearly.