First HomePod Orders Start Shipping Out to Customers in the U.K.

Apple customers in the United Kingdom who pre-ordered HomePod have started receiving shipping despatch notifications this morning. Those who ordered before initial supplies began dwindling earlier this week can expect deliveries to arrive sometime on Friday, which is Apple's official launch day for HomePod.

Images via @ryancarter_94

As expected, it looks as if Apple is relying on DPD to courier the majority of HomePods to homes across the U.K. Using their tracking information provided by Apple, customers can use the DPD website or download and install the DPD iPhone app and request a time slot for delivery, which are subject to availability.

Earlier today, customers in Australia who ordered a HomePod for February 9 began receiving shipment notifications. It's Thursday evening on February 8 in Australia, so the first HomePod deliveries will begin in the country in just a matter of hours.

Customers expecting launch day delivery in the United States may be able to locate their HomePod's shipping information by going to the UPS website, selecting the track by reference number option, and entering the phone number associated with a HomePod order.

Apple is no longer offering the HomePod for February 9 delivery or in-store pickup, but John Lewis, Argos, EE, and Currys PC World may have stock available for U.K. customers, while Apple will likely have a supply of HomePods available for walk-in purchase in retail stores in the U.S., UK, and Australia on launch day.

(Thanks, Ryan!)

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Amazon Starts Taking Pre-Orders from U.K. Customers for Echo Spot

Amazon began taking pre-orders from U.K. customers for its Alexa-powered Echo Spot speaker on Tuesday. Announced along with all-new Echo models in September 2017, the compact display-and-speaker unit has only been available in the U.S. before now.

The Spot is capable of standard Amazon Echo functions like controlling smart home devices and streaming music, but can also show users additional information like song lyrics, weather forecasts, and the time on its 2.5-inch display.


The circular unit can also play content from Amazon Video and YouTube, just like its bigger brother, the Echo Show.

The Echo Spot costs £120, although Amazon is currently offering a discount of £20 per unit when two are bought together (£200). Pre-orders are expected to ship on January 24, which means the entire Echo family will be available to U.K. customers from then on.

The Echo dot was the top-selling Amazon device over the 2017 holiday season, as well as "the best-selling product from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon," according to the e-commerce company.

As Amazon's Alexa devices continue to dominate the smart speaker market, Apple has plans to release its own music-focused smart speaker device, called HomePod, early this year.

HomePod will be controlled mainly through the user's voice using Siri, and include access to Apple Music and other expected smart speaker functionalities, like asking about the weather, traffic, setting reminders, timers, and more.

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Amazon Readies Bid for English Premier League Soccer Streaming Rights

Amazon could be preparing to bid next month for the rights to stream English Premier League soccer matches, if a report by Bloomberg this morning is anything to go by.

According to a source familiar with the matter, the digital giant sees the English Premier League as a huge opportunity to draw more people to its Prime membership service in the U.K. and convert occasional customers into more loyal shoppers.


Amazon has already bought video streaming rights for live sport including tennis and the National Football League, but the Premier League remains Europe's most prized live sports broadcast asset and with a growing audience in the U.S., fits in perfectly with Amazon's broader strategy to bring more sports content to its global customers.

The e-commerce giant recently tied up a deal to produce a documentary series with Manchester City, the current Premier League leaders, which previously increased speculation that it might next pursue live soccer rights. Currently Sky and BT Sport share the rights to the EPL, following an auction in 2015 that saw the broadcasters splash £5.1 billion ($6.9 billion) between them for three seasons.

The next auction in February will see seven packages being offered by the Premier League, varying from 32 matches to 20 matches each. Amazon could bid for one of the smaller packages for broadcasting in the U.K., according to Bloomberg. Auctions for streaming rights in other markets are usually held separately. Both Amazon and the Premier League declined to comment.

Back in September, Apple revealed its own aspirations for offering more live sports through Apple TV 4K, with a new sports section on the device and in the new TV app offering integration with channels like ESPN. But despite sports generally being seen as a big selling point for any set-top-box device, Apple's offerings in the TV category remain skewed towards American audiences.

However, if Amazon chose to offer sports through its Prime Video app on Apple TV, it's theoretically possible that U.K. owners of Apple's set-top box could one day watch EPL matches through their Prime account.


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U.K. Smart Home Firm Hive Announces View Smart Camera With Detachable Camera Cube

Hive, the U.K. smart connected home company backed by British Gas, today announced the Hive View, a smart indoor camera with an emphasis on style and high definition livestream security.

The 130-degree wide angle lens camera is capable of 1080p live-streaming, automatic 16ft night vision, and includes Bluetooth 4.1 to simplify setup. Meanwhile, the design, by industrial designer Yves Béhar, features a separatable magnetic camera cube and a magnetic ball-and-socket base, together allowing for a multitude of viewing angles.


The magnetic base and rotatable head enables the camera to be mounted on walls and ceilings, but the more unique feature lies in the way the camera cube can be detached and temporarily relocated away from the mount, thanks to a built-in 2100mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery providing up to 90 minutes of power.

The Hive View is available in two color options – White & Champagne Gold and Black & Brushed Copper – and costs £189 for a single camera or £319 for a two-pack. A rolling 30-day camera history for up to two cameras, and a host of other member-exclusive benefits, can be included for £4.99 per month. Otherwise, the Hive comes with a standard 24-hour camera history.

It's worth noting that getting the cameras to work does not require a Hive Hub – all that's required is an Android or iOS device for the Hive app, although there's currently no HomeKit support. Hive also offers a Close to Home plan that offers a saving of up to £130 on the full range of Hive smart home products, including Hive Active Lights, Hive Window or Door Sensors, a Hive Active Plug, and the Hive Hub. Check out the website for more details.


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U.K. Smart Home Firm Hive Announces View Smart Camera With Detachable Camera Cube

Hive, the U.K. smart connected home company backed by British Gas, today announced the Hive View, a smart indoor camera with an emphasis on style and high definition livestream security.

The 130-degree wide angle lens camera is capable of 1080p live-streaming, automatic 16ft night vision, and includes Bluetooth 4.1 to simplify setup. Meanwhile, the design, by industrial designer Yves Béhar, features a separatable magnetic camera cube and a magnetic ball-and-socket base, together allowing for a multitude of viewing angles.


The magnetic base and rotatable head enables the camera to be mounted on walls and ceilings, but the more unique feature lies in the way the camera cube can be detached and temporarily relocated away from the mount, thanks to a built-in 2100mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery providing up to 90 minutes of power.

The Hive View is available in two color options – White & Champagne Gold and Black & Brushed Copper – and costs £189 for a single camera or £319 for a two-pack. A rolling 30-day camera history for up to two cameras, and a host of other member-exclusive benefits, can be included for £4.99 per month. Otherwise, the Hive comes with a standard 24-hour camera history.

It's worth noting that getting the cameras to work does not require a Hive Hub – all that's required is an Android or iOS device for the Hive app, although there's currently no HomeKit support. Hive also offers a Close to Home plan that offers a saving of up to £130 on the full range of Hive smart home products, including Hive Active Lights, Hive Window or Door Sensors, a Hive Active Plug, and the Hive Hub. Check out the website for more details.


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Apple Now Selling Refurbished 2017 27-inch iMac Models in Europe

Apple quietly updated several of its European online stores for refurbished products over the last couple of days, and has added its latest 27-inch 5K iMac models to the discounted listings for the first time.

The iMacs were first released in June of 2017 and feature Kaby Lake processors, faster SSDs, and AMD discrete graphics. Online stores in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Spain have all been updated with the new stock, although the largest range of configurations currently appears in the United Kingdom.


In the U.K., for example, an entry-level model with 8GB RAM, a 1TB Fusion Drive, a 3.4GHz i5 processor, and a Radeon Pro 570 is priced at £1,489, which is a £260 discount off the standard price.

This is the first time the machines have been available in refurbished stores around Europe since their introduction at the 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference. Apple first began selling the refurb models in the U.S. and Canada back in August.

In addition, Apple has boosted its European stock of refurbished 21.5-inch 4K iMacs, also released in June of this year. Apple has added a range of configurations, from low-end to top-of-the-line. As with all refurbished products, stock will fluctuate regularly based on the machines Apple is getting in for repair.

All of Apple's refurbished products go through a rigorous refurbishment process before being offered for sale, which includes inspection, repairs, cleaning, and repackaging. Refurbished Macs come with a one-year warranty that can be extended with an AppleCare+ purchase. For more tips on purchasing a refurbished product, make sure to check out our guide.

Related Roundup: iMac
Buyer's Guide: iMac (Neutral)

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Google Facing UK Lawsuit Over Alleged Tracking of Safari Users Between 2011-12

Google is facing a collective lawsuit in the United Kingdom over its alleged snooping of iPhone users, according to a new report in the Financial Times. According to the lawsuit, led by a former director of the consumer group Which?, Google illegally gathered the personal data of millions of iPhone users in the U.K. between 2011 and 2012.

Veteran consumer rights campaigner Richard Lloyd alleges the search giant bypassed the default privacy settings on Apple's smartphones which allowed it to track the online behavior of users browsing in Safari. Google then allegedly used the data in its DoubleClick business, which lets advertisers target content based on user browsing habits.

Original explanation of the "Safari Workaround" in 2012 WSJ article

The lawsuit, filed in London's High Court, claims Google's "Safari Workaround" breached the U.K. Data Protection Act by taking personal information without permission.
"In all my years speaking up for consumers, I've rarely seen such a massive abuse of trust where so many people have no way to seek redress on their own," said Mr Lloyd, who has set up a group called Google You Owe Us.

Google said: "This is not new – we have defended similar cases before. We don't believe it has any merit and we will contest it."
The case Google refers to occurred in the U.S. in 2012, after it and several other advertising agencies were discovered to be circumventing privacy protections in Safari for iOS in order to track users through ads on numerous popular websites.

At the time, Safari blocked several types of tracking, but made an exception for websites where a person interacted in some way — by filling out a form, for example. Google added coding to some of its ads that made Safari think that a person was submitting an invisible form to Google, and thus Safari let Google install a cookie on the user's phone.

Google halted the practice once it was reported by the Wall Street Journal, but argued that the tracking was unintentional and did not harm consumers. However, that didn't wash with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and the company was forced to pay a record $22.5 million fine over its use of the tactic.

Around 5.4 million people in Britain are said to have owned an iPhone between June 2011 and February 2012, when Google's "Safari Workaround" was active, and could be eligible for compensation, according to the U.K. lawsuit.

Today's news also marks the first time a collective action has been brought in the U.K. against a leading tech company over alleged misuse of data. "Collective action" is where one person represents a group with a shared grievance, similar to a class action lawsuit in the U.S.

Lloyd, who has secured £15.5 million ($20.8 million) in funds from a litigation company, said he expected each claimant would receive several hundred pounds in the event that they win the case. As a ballpark figure, a claim by 5.4 million people for £500 each would result in a £2.7 billion ($3.63 billion) payout for Google.

"We think there is a massive gap in the law in terms of consumer redress around data rights being breached," said Lloyd. He hoped the legal battle would result in a clear set of guidelines and precedent for consumers as to how they could act collectively in similar future cases.


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U.K. Government Targets Tech Giants Like Apple and Amazon Over Tax Payments

The U.K. government announced in Wednesday's annual budget that it plans to clamp down on tax avoidance by increasing the tax it collects from online giants such as Apple and Amazon.

In his Treasury speech to the Commons, Chancellor Philip Hammond said income tax would be charged on royalties relating to U.K. sales, even when they are paid to a low-tax jurisdiction and would not normally be taxed in the UK under current rules.


The new rules are due to come into effect from April next year, and estimates suggest they will raise approximately 800 million pounds ($1.07 billion) in extra tax over the next five years. However, Hammond admitted they would only go some way to balancing out the taxation treatment of digital firms, and that more would have to be done to tackle tax avoidance.
Multinational digital businesses pay billions of pounds in royalties to jurisdictions where they are not taxed and some of those relate to UK sales.

This does not solve the problem, but it does send a signal of our determination and we will continue work in the international arena to find a sustainable and fair long-term solution that properly taxes the digital businesses that operate in our cyberspace.
Apple recently came in for criticism when the so-called Paradise Papers revealed that the company sidestepped a 2013 crackdown on its controversial Irish tax structure by moving the majority of its offshore cash holdings to the small island of Jersey, a self-governed territory with loose ties to the United Kingdom.

The papers showed that Apple's two key Irish subsidiaries were managed from the Jersey offices of offshore tax law firm Appleby from 2015 until early 2016. Apple reportedly chose Jersey after exploring several potential tax havens, such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

Apple apparently turned to Jersey after European officials began to crack down on the so-called "Double Irish" tax structure it had exploited. The loophole allows for multinational corporations to funnel revenue through an Irish subsidiary, which in turn sends that money to another Irish subsidiary that has residency in a tax haven. The practice has enabled Apple to save billions of dollars in taxes globally.

Apple responded to the revelations contained in the Paradise Papers by saying that it made regulators in the U.S. and Ireland, and the European Commission, aware about the reorganization of its Irish subsidiaries, and added that the changes haven't reduced its tax bill.

Last year, the European Commission ordered Ireland to collect $14.5 billion in back taxes from Apple, after it concluded that the country's tax agreements with the tech giant represented "illegal state aid". Both Apple and the Irish government are currently appealing the ruling.

Apple has repeatedly highlighted its position as the largest taxpayer in the world and reiterated the fact that it holds overseas cash because that's where the majority of its products are sold. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that Apple is willing to repatriate some of its offshore cash holdings into the U.S., but he also recently said that tax reform is "sorely needed" first.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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U.K. Mobile Banking Apps Begin Offering Face ID Authentication Support

Two U.K. banks today updated their mobile apps to support Face ID, the facial authentication feature exclusive to iPhone X, which officially launches on Friday, November 3.

Nationwide and Bank of Scotland became the first mobile banking apps in the U.K. to provide compatibility with Apple's new facial recognition technology, which is set to replace Touch ID fingerprint authentication on all future iPhones and iPads, according to respected KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.


The two banking apps already provide a Touch ID option to authenticate customers when they attempt to log in to their accounts, so the fact that Face ID is being offered as an alternative option shows that the financial sector has full trust in Apple's new security technology, despite tests showing that it can be fooled by identical twins.

Apple has admitted that Face ID may not be able to distinguish between identical twins and in such cases recommends users protect sensitive data with a passcode instead. Otherwise, Apple says the chance that a random person in the population could look at your iPhone X and unlock it with their face is about one in a million (compared to one in 50,000 for Touch ID).

Face ID has proved to be reliable in early iPhone X reviews and first impressions, and it's also considered easy to set up and use, but Apple likely still has some work to do to convince the general public that facial authentication is the future. According to a research conducted by Top10VPN.com in October, over half (60 percent) of British consumers remain unconvinced by facial recognition. Only two in five (40 percent) consumers believing Face ID is a good idea, while 79 percent of Brits prefer to unlock their devices with a fingerprint or passcodes. (Poll sample size: 2,048 adults.)

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Buyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)

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Apple CarPlay Support Comes to BBC iPlayer Radio App

The BBC today updated its Radio iPlayer app to support Apple CarPlay, allowing vehicle drivers with the feature to listen to BBC radio more safely when behind the wheel.

A simplified touch interface has been adopted for the new in-car version, designed to be easy to fast-forward in a show or skip through entire episodes.


Apart from CarPlay and Android Auto support, the update also brings additional features to help make radio listening a more personalized in-car experience.

The new app interface is split into four sections titled Following, Listen Later, Downloads, and Stations. The Following section gathers favorited shows for easy access from within CarPlay, Listen Later lists shows tagged by users for future listening, while the Downloads section keeps shows ready for listening offline in areas with poor signal.

The BBC iPlayer Radio app is a free download for U.K. listeners available from the App Store. [Direct Link]


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