HomePod is finally on its way to Japan

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HomePod market share
It will be on sale “this summer.”
Photo: Apple

Apple is gearing up to launch HomePod in Japan — more than two years after the device got its first unveiling.

Smart speaker shoppers will be able to pick one up in the coming weeks for 32,800 yen (approx. $301). HomePod will then be available in a total of 11 countries.

WWII-era dispute could ensnarl release of 2019 iPhones

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iPhone 11 rumor from Olixar
Apple could feel the fallout from a dispute between Japan and South Korea.
Photo: Olixar

Another dispute between countries looms over Apple, but this one dates back to World War II and could cause the tech giant heartburn as it readies the lineup of 2019 iPhones.

Japan will tighten export restrictions on South Korea for materials used to make smartphone chips and displays beginning Thursday. Japan imposed the rule after a court in South Korea ordered Japan’s Nippon Steel to compensate South Koreans for wartime forced labor.

iOS 13 will read NFC tags in ID cards and passports in Germany

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German-ID-card-NFC
It’s already possible if you use Android.
Photo: Bundesministerium des Innern, für Bau und Heimat

iPhone users will be able to scan German ID cards, passports, and more when iOS 13 rolls out this fall, according to local authorities.

The functionality will allow digital versions of those documents to be carried on an iOS device so that they are always accessible. Recent reports have confirmed users in Japan will be able to do the same with national ID cards.

Apple Pay Express Transit en route to London

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doxo Apple Pay
It couldn’t be faster to pay for your ride.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple Pay Express Transit is on its way to London, giving travelers a quick and easy way to pay for rides.

Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed it is working closely with Apple to enable the feature “in the coming months.” It promises more information will be available at a later date.

Sharp’s clamshell folding smartphone actually looks good

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Sharp
Sharp’s folding phone looks pretty cool.
Photo: EngadgetJP

Every Android smartphone maker has a concept folding smartphone that turns into a tablet, but what if manufacturers used folding screens to make our smartphones smaller?

That’s exactly what Sharp has proposed with its first folding smartphone concept that turns a regular-looking smartphone into a clamshell phone kind of like the popular Motorola Razr.

Check it out in action:

Apple extends ‘limited time’ iPhone XR and XS trade-in offer in Japan

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iPhone sales
Apple's still trying to sell cheaper iPhones to customers.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s trade-in offer for the iPhone XS and XR in Japan shows no sign of being quite as “time limited” as Apple suggests.

Having previously been advertised in the country as ending January 31, Apple has now modified the end date to February 28. That gives fans in the country an extra month to take advantage of the deal. It also suggests that Apple still isn’t selling quite as many of its new handsets as it would like.

iPhone lets shipwrecked user call for lifeguard

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iPhone XS Max vs. iPhone XS size: Sometimes bigger really is better.
Waterproofing has helped the iPhone a lot.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

An iPhone user reportedly had her life saved after using her iPhone to call the coast guard after her ship capsized in rough waters. The woman, named Rachel Neal, was visiting Japan at the time, when she and her friends chartered a boat off the coast of Okinawa.

When the group wound up in the water, concerned about their safety, Neal’s waterproof iPhone allowed her to call for help. They were rescued 90 minutes later.

Today in Apple history: Apple opens its first store outside U.S.

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Apple's store in Tokyo's swanky Ginza shopping district.
Apple's first non-U.S. Apple Store was located in Tokyo, Japan.
Photo: Héctor García/Kirai CC

November 30: Today in Apple history: Apple opens first store outside U.S. in Tokyo's trendy Ginza shopping district November 30, 2003: Apple expands its retail chain outside the United States, opening its 73rd Apple Store in Tokyo’s trendy Ginza shopping district.

On opening day, thousands of Apple fans — possibly the biggest queue in Apple history — line up around the block in the rain to gain early access to the store, which offers five full floors of Apple product goodness.

Steve Jobs does not show up for the opening. However, shoppers hear a welcoming speech from Eiko Harada, president of Apple Japan.

Not so big in Japan? iPhone XR gets a local price drop

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iPhone sales
The iPhone XR may not be quite the massive hit many expected.
Photo: Apple

As rumored, Apple has slashed the price of the iPhone XR in Japan in an attempt to get more units into customers’ hands.

The lower price tag is courtesy of NTT Docomo, the country’s main mobile carrier. As of today, customers signing up for a 24-month contract can save around $100 on the cost of the device over its lifespan. The total reduction is from 36,000 yen down to 24,000 yen — plus mandatory contract fees.