Japanese tax investigation ends with Apple paying $118 million

After an in-depth investigation, one of Apple’s Japanese subsidiaries paid ¥12 billion ($ 118 million) in back taxes, according to a report from the Yomiuri Shimbun. Japanese tax authorities ordered the payment after determining the company hadn’t correctly paid taxes on funds it had quietly funneled out of the country. This whole thing might sound a little dry, but hey — what better way to spend a Friday than to dig into some corporate cloak-and-dagger dealings? Let’s take a closer look.

First, here’s a little background. If you live in Japan and you buy an iPhone from Apple, that money goes to (who else?) Apple Japan. If you buy apps, movies or music from iTunes in Japan, however, that money goes to a different subsidiary: iTunes K.K. Ah, but there’s more: much of Apple’s intellectual property is owned by two subsidiaries in Ireland, and other Apple business units around the world pay those entities royalties to use that IP. iTunes K.K. had one such arrangement set up — when people used the iTunes service to listen to music or watch videos, the subsidiary owed part of its profits to an Apple-owned holding company in Ireland as royalties.

And why Ireland? Well, Apple had a lucrative structure in place that allowed the company to pay hardly anything in corporate taxes on that cash. (Tim Cook, by the way, strongly asserts this isn’t true.) Moreover, Apple has never and will never talk about how much those licensing fees are, so they’re widely seen as a tool to help keep Apple’s money away from the governments who want to collect their share. So, iTunes generates profits in Japan, and Apple ultimately wants it to go to Ireland where it’ll barely get taxed. The problem is, Japanese income tax law holds that a Japanese company (like iTunes K.K.) has to pay a roughly 20 percent withholding tax on royalties paid to foreign companies… like Apple’s Irish operation. That’s no chump change, so the parties involved had to get a little crafty.

iTunes K.K. didn’t make royalty payments to Apple’s Irish subsidiaries — it paid them to Apple Japan, the company’s other, separate half. Then, Apple’s Irish subsidiary sold iPhones to Apple Japan by way of an affiliated company in Singapore. Tokyo’s Taxation Bureau alleged that Apple Japan bundled those royalties into the price of the iPhones it was buying so the holding company in Ireland ultimately wound up with the amount the iPhones actually cost plus software profits that never got taxed. Apple kept this up between 2012 and 2014 and moved around ¥60 billion (or about $ 586.5 million) in the process. Japanese tax authorities wanted — and reportedly received — the back taxes on that shifted money, and now the case is closed.

If all of this sounds a little familiar, well, you’re onto something. Apple had to pay Italy’s tax bureau €318 million (or $ 348 million) after it was alleged the company underpaid its corporate taxes for six years. Oh, and then there’s the whole “having to pay back $ 14.5 billion to Ireland” thing for creating a tax structure EU regulators have called “illegal.” Playing by the rules won’t make anyone as obscenely rich as if they hadn’t, but man — Apple is probably getting a little tired of being batted around.

[Image credit: ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images]

Source: The Japan News

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iOS 10 review: Apple evolves

With iOS 10, Apple is basically polishing a pearl. iOS 8 introduced a vibrant and “flat” new aesthetic. iOS 9 was focused on refinement. So by this point, we should get something completely fresh and new, right? Well, not quite. Just like the iPhone 7, Apple’s latest mobile OS doesn’t look that much different on the surface. Instead, the company once again chose to focus on improving the overall experience. In particular, this year’s refinements collectively make the OS a lot more convenient (and help Apple play a little catch-up). If you’ve longed for some of the features you’ve seen on your friends’ Android phones, iOS 10 is more than enough to keep you under Apple’s spell for another year.

Getting started

iOS 10: review

At this point, moving to a new version of iOS probably feels routine. While there were widespread reports of the update “bricking” devices during its launch day, it looks like most of those issues have been ironed out. As always, though, be sure to back up your device before doing any sort of major upgrade. Even if you have your current iOS device set to automatically back up on iCloud, it’s still worth making a local copy through iTunes in case all hell breaks loose. (Also, restoring your phone from the cloud is much slower than with a local copy.)

There’s a good chance you’ve already been prompted to upgrade, but if you’ve procrastinated, head to the “General” section in the Settings app to manually initiate the update. Then just wait for the installation file to download (it’s over 1GB, so it takes a few minutes), and proceed with the installation. You’ll want to have your phone connected to a charger while you’re going through this process, unless your battery is almost full.

A revamped lock screen

Assuming all goes well, you’ll be presented with the all-too-familiar lock screen. This time around, though, it brings some new tricks. Swiping left bring you to the Today screen, which is now far more customizable than before. It’s basically a quick way to access widgets, which can do things like show you the weather, the latest news and your upcoming appointments. Naturally, there’s a bunch of built-in Apple widgets, but plenty of third-party developers are building them as well, including The New York Times, The Weather Channel and yes, even Google.

Swiping right from the lock screen brings up the camera, something that happens almost instantly on my iPhone 6S. Previously, you had to drag up from the bottom right of the screen to open the camera, which was a bit more difficult. I often missed the touch target completely, which left me swiping up a few times in futility. And, come to think of it, I’ve missed out on a few great photo opportunities because of that. Swiping right (get your jokes in now) has turned out to be a much more accurate gesture.

You can also do a lot more with the notifications that appear on the lock screen. If you have a 3D Touch-capable phone like the iPhone 6S or 7, you can interact with things like text messages without even leaving the lock screen. Some notifications will require you to unlock the phone to use 3D Touch features, but that’s just good security. Swipe down from the top of the lock screen to get your full list of notifications, all of which are also interactive using 3D Touch.

A more useful Control Center

If you swipe up from the lock screen, and indeed anywhere else in iOS 10, you’ll bring up the ever-useful Control Center. Instead of cramming all of its functionality in a single screen, it now spans two separate pages. The first houses all of the quick settings you’re familiar with — toggling on and off Airplane mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb and screen rotation lock — along with buttons for managing AirPlay Mirroring, AirDrop and Night Shift. And of course, those handy quick tools like the flashlight and timer are still at the bottom.

But, you might be wondering, what happened to the media controls? All of that is handled in the second page of the Control Center, which has room for more options. In addition to merely playing and pausing songs and skipping tracks, you can jog through your location in a track without leaving the Control Center. That’s particularly useful for longer files like podcasts and audiobooks. The bottom of the screen lets you easily switch between all available AirPlay devices on your current WiFi network.

The redesigned Control Center has ended up being one of the highlights of iOS 10 over my past few months of testing. I don’t have to jump into my iPhone’s settings or music/podcast apps nearly as much anymore. What’s the word for that? Oh right: convenience.

3D Touch (and Taptic Engine) finally feels useful

Apple introduced 3D Touch in last year’s iPhone 6S as a new method of smartphone interaction. Sure, it basically just replicated the “right-click” from PCs, but there was a lot to like in theory: What if you could just quickly access the most popular features of your favorite apps? Who wouldn’t want that? Even I was sold on Apple’s pitch back at the time, and over the past year I’ve grown to rely on it for apps like Swarm and Evernote.

The problem, though, is that Apple didn’t pay nearly enough attention to 3D Touch and the Taptic Engine in the 6S. While a handful of built-in apps and some third-parties adopted it, Apple almost seemed to distance itself from the feature after the 6S launch. Perhaps it was focusing its energy on the more powerful Taptic Engine that would be coming in the iPhone 7, but whatever the reason, many iPhone 6S owners felt like there was a lost opportunity to tap into 3D Touch (heh).

That’s less the case in iOS 7, where 3D Touch works in almost every part of the OS. There’s the notification integration I mentioned earlier, but I also learned to love the smaller additions, like using 3D Touch to change the brightness of my iPhone’s flashlight. Thanks to its more powerful Taptic Engine, the iPhone 7 also brings haptic feedback to simple things, like scrolling through the time in the Clock app, or scrolling through your library in the Music app. It gets to a point where you almost feel like you’re scrolling through a physical book, or a pile of CDs.

The Messages app takes on Snapchat

Apple really focused on improving its core apps in iOS 10, and the Messages app got the bulk of the upgrades. You can now change the intensity of iMessages (the chats labeled in blue that you’re having with other iMessage users), from a huge “Slam” effect that almost takes up the whole screen, to an obscured “Invisible Ink” message that has to be swiped to be read. The latter is particularly useful if you’re in a public place with lots of prying eyes. There are also screen effects that can accompany your notes, including a bunch of balloons, falling confetti, laser lights, fireworks and a shooting star. They’re fun at first, but they’ll be particularly useful for annoying your friends endlessly.

Just like the Apple Watch, you can send hearts (but of course, not your actual heart rate) and other symbols from within Messages using Digital Touch. You can also react to things people send you with “tapback” responses by double-tapping on them. You can also send a handwritten message by turning your iPhone into landscape mode (of course, you can also bring up the keyboard if you prefer typing this way). In the iOS 10 beta, you had to manually enable the handwriting mode, but it was also a bit hard to find.

The biggest change in Messages is that it now has an ecosystem of its own apps and sticker packs. By default, it includes apps for image and video searching (hooray easy-to-find animated GIFs!), as well as for sharing your most recently played Apple Music tracks. But you can easily add even more apps by hitting the icon of four dots at the lower left of the screen. (If that sounds confusing, you’re not alone. Apple’s interface around the entire Messages App experience needs some work, especially once you start piling in more software. It’s one area where I seriously began to feel the limits of the iPhone’s 4.7-inch screen, though it doesn’t seem much better on the 7 Plus either.)

Once you’ve made your way to the Messages App store, you’ll see a plethora of stickers, games and software that will appear right within your chats. It works just like the normal app store, except this time whatever you download shows up in the Messages app section. There’s also a good chance you’ve already installed apps that have brought along their own Messages apps, like Yelp, Evernote and Venmo.

Messages apps are similar to Apple Watch apps: They’re typically focused on a few functions that will work well within a chat. Yelp, for example, lets you share restaurants that you’ve recently viewed. Similarly, you can share specific movie times and locations with Fandango. One of the more interesting app implementations comes from OpenTable, which allows you to pick five restaurants and vote on them with your friends. Once you decide on a restaurant, you can complete the reservation process right from within Messages. (Eater has a good overview of how the whole process works.)

The games selection in the Messages app store isn’t huge, mostly consisting of simplistic board games at the moment. But it’s still cool to be able to play a quick game of chess with friends right from a text conversation. I suspect we’ll see plenty of multi-game entries like GamePigeon, which currently packs in pool, poker, sea battle, Go and a Scrabble-esque anagram title.

The Message app’s Stickers are merely that: Images that get sent to anyone, even friends on other platforms. Much like ringtones, they’ll likely end up being an easy way for Apple to get a few bucks from its users more often. But I’ll admit, the stickers are a lot of fun to use. I dropped $ 2 on the first collection of Pokémon pixel art. No regrets.

Apple’s intent with all of Message’s upgrades is pretty clear: It wants you to leave the app as seldom as possible, even if that means working even closer with third-party companies. Given the fast rise of Snapchat and Facebook Messenger, it’s not surprising that Apple is actually trying to cultivate its one successful “social network.”

Smarter Photos

So, about those other core iOS app upgrades: The Photos app now uses computer vision technology to make some sense of your piles of pics. For example, searching for “cats” brings up a healthy dose of my obsessive feline photography. It’ll also automatically detect the most common faces in your photos. While it’s up to you to actually name those faces, it’s still a big help if you hate organizing photos as much as I do.

Photos also creates “Memories,” or auto-generated slideshows of pictures from your library. It’s similar to the way Google Photos slideshows work in that they’ll typically focus on a single person or photos taken around a specific event. The Memories themselves are a combination of stills, Live Photos and video in your library. You can also set the music mood and length of each Memory, which will likely be useful if you’re throwing them over to an Apple TV to watch with a group.

Memories usually turned out well, though they’re still clearly a work in progress. Sometimes the software would choose photos with fingers blocking them, or pictures that I know for a fact have a better duplicate in my library. Still, it’s useful if you don’t want to build a slideshow on your own.

Refined Music

The new Music app actually looks very different from what came before, which isn’t the case for the rest of iOS 10’s updates. The new interface is all about large fonts, bold colors and disc art wherever possible. Those of you who were annoyed by Apple focusing more on its streaming music service than your own collection of tunes will likely be pleased, as your local library is the first thing to pop up. The “For You” section also does a better job of recommending tunes (as well as explaining why you might want to listen to them).

I’ve seen both praise and criticism of the Music app’s redesign, but personally I dig the clean aesthetic. But really, anything is better than the last iteration. One nifty addition: You can quickly access lyrics of songs on Apple Music from within the Now Playing screen. It’s not there for every song, but it’s an easy way to get prepped for karaoke.

Siri gets smarter, again

After launching to much fanfare, it’s almost as if iOS users have grown to hate Siri. She had a penchant for not hearing you properly, and her actual capabilities were fairly limited. That’s changing with iOS 10, as Apple has — you guessed it — opened up Siri to other developers. I was able to book Uber and Lyft cars, as well as send cash to a friend using Venmo, with only voice commands. You’ll still have to deal with some accuracy issues, but at least now Siri is actually starting to get useful.

Siri also powers contextual awareness in iOS 10’s predictive keyboard. So, on top of just trying to guess what word you’re typing next, it can do things like fill out contact information if you start chatting about someone’s phone number. And if you’re trying to schedule something, it can also tell you when you’re available by looking at your calendar. This feature still seems to be in its early stages, but it’s a fascinating way of implementing predictive intelligence.

Odds and ends

  • I didn’t talk much about iOS 10’s design because, honestly, nothing really changed. The home screen still looks like the same old wall of icons you’ve seen before.
  • Yes, I know we’ve seen plenty of these features in Android already. But at this point, everyone in the mobile industry is shamelessly getting “inspired” by the competition.
  • While iOS 9 offered up some big changes for iPad multitasking, iOS 10 doesn’t add much. The Control Center has a bit more room to breathe, but that’s about it.
  • You can finally remove built-in Apple software, like the much-maligned Stock app. But, to be clear, the app basically just disappears, it doesn’t actually get uninstalled.
  • It really feels like iOS 10 breathed new life into my iPhone 6S, and I’m hearing similarly good stories from people installing it on the iPhone 5. It also runs well on my first-gen iPad Air.
  • I didn’t have any HomeKit-equipped hardware to test out the Home app, but I’m looking forward to seeing how Apple tries to unify the messy IoT space.

Ultimately, iOS 10 is a collection of small, but important, changes to an already solid mobile OS. I would have liked to see a whole new design too, but what matters more is that actually using the OS is a significantly better experience. The combination of the new Today screen and Control Center has already saved me plenty of time.

We’ll probably end up seeing a major facelift next year, but for now, iOS 10 is an upgrade that Apple users should look forward to.

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Apple Pay now works with Squarespace sites

If you have a Squarespace site that you’re using to sell your wares, your online store can now accept Apple Pay via the iPhone and the upcoming macOS Sierra. Now visitors can buy stuff without digging out their credit card.

To make sure your site accepts Apple Pay, Squarespace notes that you should make sure your site accepts Stripe payments and enable the new online checkout experience in settings.

Shopify is also allowing its customers to add Apple Pay to their retail sites. The move by both companies not only reduces payment friction from Apple devices, it also adds an additional level of security since each transaction has its own unique token.

Source: Sqaurespace

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Apple can never release an ‘iWatch’ in the UK

Long before Apple actually launched its first wearable, a trademarking spree sent the rumour mill into overdrive. Understandably so, because what else could an “iWatch” be? The Swiss clocksmiths at Swatch weren’t best pleased with this application, however, challenging the filing with the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in 2014. The IPO recently brought an end to the dispute, siding with Swatch in its opposition of the trademark. It doesn’t really matter now, of course, with the Apple Watch already in its second generation. But, if the company ever wanted to launch an iWatch? Well, it can’t.

Swatch successfully argued that iWatch was too similar to trademarks it had already registered in the UK, namely iSwatch — a digital number released in 2013. Apple contested this on the basis it was known for the “i” prefix because of all its other iThings, so using the name iWatch was unlikely to cause confusion among consumers. The IPO thought otherwise, denying Apple the trademark. That’s true for smartwatches, anyway, with the company still allowed to use it for software, computer peripherals and components, as well as other things it wouldn’t really make sense to call iWatch.

Like patents, trademarks are a messy business, as Apple knows all too well. The company had to pay $ 60 million to secure the iPad trademark in China after a local firm laid claim to the name and briefly had tablets pulled from shelves. Apple famously battled with a Brazilian company over the iPhone trademark in the region, too, though that’s just another entry on a very long list of examples. In another iWatch dispute, a company that owns the trademark across Europe sued Apple last year, claiming that although it wasn’t stamped on any product, Apple was using the term behind the scenes to promote its smartwatch in searches and ads.

Via: BBC

Source: Intellectual Property Office

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The iPhone 7 is the walled-off computer Apple has always wanted

So Apple killed the headphone jack with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. But what does that really mean? Think back to the Apple’s origin story and the tale of the two young Steves, Jobs and Wozniak, building their first computer in a garage. From the start, Jobs pushed for simpler technology, with fewer ports, and less expandable options than IBM PCs at the time. And then there was the original Mac, which was criticized for requiring special tools to open up.

That philosophy has only evolved throughout Apple’s lifetime. Look at the iMac, the iPod and of course, the iPhone, all of which were vastly simpler, more “user friendly” (but less “tinker friendly”) than their competition.

Now we have portable computers whose only I/O port is Apple’s very own Lightning standard. No matter what you think of the headphone jack, there’s no doubt that losing it gives Apple even more control over what you can actually do with its latest phone. There won’t be any room for surprising innovations like Square’s credit card reader, or the shutter mechanism used by most selfie sticks. (Yes, there’s a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter included with the phones, but that still gives Apple more control over how that port is used.)

To create devices for the Lightning port, accessory makers have to sign up for Apple’s MFi (Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad) program. As we say goodbye to the 3.5mm jack, we’re also saying goodbye to a port whose history goes back over 100 years, and whose development was open to just about anyone. That not only gives Apple control over what you can do with the iPhone you own, it’s also another way for it to charge developers licensing fees. (It’s possible to make counterfeit Lightning devices, but Apple doesn’t exactly encourage that.)

That Apple is pushing users towards wireless audio, which still can’t reach the quality levels of wired headphones, isn’t too surprising. Even though it revolutionized the portable music world with the iPod and iTunes, Apple historically hasn’t been concerned about how things actually sound. Early iTunes songs were highly compressed 128kbps files, and Apple pushed its awful white earbuds on consumers for years. The EarPod was a step up in quality, but it still paled in comparison to similarly inexpensive alternatives. (They’re also a terrible fit in my ears; a slight head shake is all it takes to make the EarPods fall out, which doesn’t bode well for the AirPods.) Sure, buying Beats was a sign that Apple might finally be looking closely at audio quality, but that was also as much about brand recognition and software. At least the company was wise enough to debut a new wireless Beats lineup this week.

On the one hand, it makes sense for Apple to tighten its control over the iPhone’s hardware, it’s simply what the company has always done. The new MacBook was criticized for only having a single USB-C port, but at least that’s an industry standard. For anyone who’s used Apple products and felt trepditation over how it manages its ecosystem, the iPhone 7 is a red flag. It probably won’t be long before we see the company remove headphone jacks from the iPad and, perhaps, even the MacBook. Those are also devices where internal space is scarce, after all.

In what will likely be the beginning of a tech industry meme, Apple’s marketing head Phil Schiller said the reason the company dumped the 3.5mm port was “courage.” But as we’ve argued endlessly, that’s not really the case. A better word for Apple’s reasoning? “Opportunistic.”

Judging from the responses on the web, the Apple faithful (unsurprisingly) is fully onboard with the company’s decision to drop the 3.5mm jack. But as someone who’s invested in several pairs of great headphones, doesn’t want to have an annoying dongle sticking out of my phone all day, and enjoys the miraculous ability to listen to music and charge my phone at the same time, it’s a big problem. But most troubling to me, it limits what I can actually do with a device I own.

I won’t be upgrading to the iPhone 7, and I might even hold off on next year’s even more enticing redesign. For now, I’m planning to run my 6S into the ground. But I’m ready to give Android phones (with headphone jacks) an even harder look in the future.

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Apple kills off 16 GB storage for the iPhone 7

If you’re looking for just a little bit of on-device storage in your next phone, the iPhone 7 and 7-plus aren’t for you. At its fall announcement event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Apple revealed that its newest handset iterations will no longer offer 16GB hard drives. Instead, the new phones will offer a minimum of double that and be available all the way up to 256 GB. But don’t think you’re getting these devices for cheap. The iPhone 7 starts at $ 649 for the 32GB model and the iPhone 7 Plus starts at a jaw-dropping $ 769. Luckily, with Apple’s installment plan, those figures work out to $ 27 and $ 32 a month, respectively.

Click here to catch all the latest news from the Apple’s “See You” event.

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Apple launches 2TB iCloud storage for $20 a month

Apple has introduced a way to stop that annoying “full storage” iCloud message from popping up in the near future: a new tier that offers 2TB of space. The company has updated its iCloud pricing list ahead of its September event to include the new option, and it will cost you $ 20 a month in the US. 9to5mac, which first reported on the new tier, noted that there are rumors swirling around that Cupertino is launching a 256GB iPhone 7 during the event. If that’s true and you decide to get both, then you won’t have to worry about deleting photos and videos for quite sometime. The bigger storage option would also allow you to save more folders on iCloud when macOS Sierra comes out.

Of course, if you don’t need that much space, you can continue paying for iCloud’s lower tiers, starting at 50GB for $ 1. You can check out how much the 2TB option will cost you on Apple’s website, but take note that it could be available in your country even if it isn’t in the list. Just go to the iCloud menu in your device’s Settings app and tap on “Buy more storage.”

Via: 9to5mac

Source: Apple

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Apple iPad, Mac rumors suggest upgrades for power users

While we prepare to see the next iPhone on September 7th, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has delivered another batch of rumors centered around Apple’s iPad and Mac plans. According to his sources, along with a standalone 5K monitor the company is working on with LG (that would surpass even the 21:9 screens just announced) the next step for iMacs are the option of AMD GPUs built-in, while the Macbook Air is expected to get a USB-C upgrade that could mimic the current Macbook.

Otherwise, a thinner (of course) Macbook Pro could take its own notes from the Macbook with a flatter keyboard, plus what Bloomberg says is a “Dynamic Function Row” above the keyboard. Earlier rumors referred to an OLED touch bar, and combined with the upcoming Sierra macOS update, it could handle different functions depending on what software is active, like iMovie or Safari.

Finally, the iPad is expected to get upgraded display tech that zooms and scrolls faster, while a software update would make the Apple Pencil work across more software on iOS. The new iPad software is expected to arrive at some point in 2017, while the new Mac hardware is expected to debut later this year.

Source: Bloomberg

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Apple patenting a way to collect iPhone thieves’ fingerprints

Apple’s done a lot to curb iPhone theft via the “Find my iPhone” feature and encryption that locks out users if an incorrect code or fingerprint is used too often. However, it’s thinking about getting more proactive, judging by a recent patent application. It claims a method of “capturing biometric information for identifying unauthorized users,” including fingerprints, video or audio. The information could be stored or send to a server, where police could presumably use it to figure out who nabbed your device.

The system is pretty simple. The Touch ID sensor, front camera and microphone are already there, they simply need to be switched on without alerting the bad guy. In one scheme, the system could capture biometric data after a single failed passcode attempt; in another, it would only store it after a pre-determined number of failed attempts. On top of storing video, audio and fingerprint data, it could save and transmit “forensic” info like a GPS location. (The patent doesn’t specifically mention the iPhone or iPad, but those are Apple’s only devices with fingerprint sensors.)

Such a feature might be on shaky legal ground, however. Apple, maybe more than any company, understands the downsides of storing data without notifying users. And while it’s fun to speculate about patents, the tech rarely makes it into actual products, and this one has yet to be approved by the USPTO. Still, Apple can already track thieves, and such a scheme would let you nab them without having to traipse around the world.

Via: Apple Insider

Source: USPTO

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