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Apple has a good Christmas, then gets a lump of coal from Italy

The week's big news and rumors in Apple land, including record-setting activations on Christmas and a $1.2M fine in Italy.

Were you one of the lucky ones on vacation this week? Then you might have missed a story or two. We've got you covered in this week's edition of Apple Talk Weekly.

The big news this week was numbers from last week's Christmas holiday. A research report from Flurry Analytics glommed together Android and iOS devices activated on Christmas day, noting that the combined number of 6.8 million devices was up 353 percent from the rest of the month, and 140 percent from the same day last year.

Making matters more interesting was a tweet a few days later from Andy Rubin, Google's senior VP of mobile, putting the company's own internal activation numbers at 3.7 million devices for the entire Christmas weekend. Crunching the numbers for that single day, Fortune columnist Philip Elmer-DeWitt then suggested Apple may have bested Google by about 1.6 million devices.

All was not so great for Apple this week, though. The company was slapped with a 900,000 euro fine by the Italian government, who said that Apple wrongly encouraged customers in the country to purchase its AppleCare warranty service to extend support on their gadgets, despite the fact that Apple is required to provide two years of complimentary support as per Italy's local laws.

You can read more about these stories and others, along with the usual dose of rumors below.

Apple Talk Weekly rounds up of some of the top Apple-related news and rumors. It appears every Saturday morning and is curated by CNET's Apple reporter, Josh Lowensohn.


Italy fines Apple $1.2 million over warranty issue
Apple was fined 900,000 euros ($1.2 million) by the Italian government this week for allegedly suggesting that customers pay for its AppleCare technical support service, even though they had two years of complementary coverage. Unlike in the U.S., Italy requires that companies provide two years of technical support with its products, rendering Apple's paid warranty extension service unnecessary.

Siri for non-iPhone 4S devices arrives (unofficially)
The effort to bring Siri to non-iPhone 4S devices hit a big breakthrough this week with the release of Spire, an application for jailbroken iPhones that gives iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 owners the voice assistant functionality. The software, which for obvious reasons is not endorsed by Apple, requires jumping through several technical hoops, but gives owners with older iPhone models a fully-working version of Siri.

Untethered iOS 5.0.1 jailbreak arrives
The first untethered jailbreak for iOS 5.0.1 was released this week, giving owners of the iPhone 3GS,iPhone 4 (both GSM and CDMA), iPad 1, and third- and fourth-generation iPod Touch devices a way to jailbreak their phones and install unauthorized third-party applications. While this particular version of iOS 5 had been jailbroken before, the newer method keeps the hack around, even if users rebooted their device.

Christmas day brings record iOS, Android activations
This Christmas sas one of the biggest ever for mobile devices. A research report from Flurry Analytics this week noted that the total number of Android and iOS devices activated on Christmas jumped 353 percent compared to the first 20 days of December, and 140 percent from the same day last year. Flurry, which notes that its analytics system is used by more than 140,000 apps, says that it's able to detect "roughly 100 percent of all new iOS and Android devices activated each day." However, the company has not provided a breakdown of which of these activations and downloads are associated with each platform.

Apple puts up iTunes Match explainer
Having trouble understanding what iTunes Match does and why you'd need or want it? Apple's trying to solve that with a new how-to page that breaks down how the service works with existing music libraries, and across multiple devices. Match made its debut last month, slightly behind Apple's original schedule. The $24.99-per-year service runs through your music collection and matches up tracks with ones Apple has licensed on its store, putting everything else on its servers.


Apple launching two iPads at Macworld|iWorld?
A report out of DigiTimes this week made two bold claims: one that Apple was releasing two new iPads as a followup to the iPad 2, and second that the devices would be unveiled at next month's Macworld|iWorld conference. Notably Apple pulled out of debuting any new products at the annual Macworld conference after its appearance in 2009, opting to hold its own events instead.

A third-party metal backing accessory for the iPhone 4.
A third-party metal backing accessory for the iPhone 4. Unpluggd

Next-gen iPhone to sport metal back?
Reviving a rumor that had been debunked by the release of the iPhone 4S earlier this year, Boy Genius Report this week claimed that Apple's working to bring metal backing to its next iPhone. Citing "a close source," the blog said Apple's next iPhone will be delivered in the fall, and sport a back made out of metal with a new side material akin to its plastic and rubber bumper cases. Reports earlier this year claimed Apple was planning to swap out the glass for a metal back in its next iPhone, but that turned out not to be the case with the 4S, which stuck with the same design.

Apple sourcing parts for 32-inch, 37-inch TV sets
The Apple TV set could be here sooner than later if a new report is to be believed. Citing sources in the supply chain, DigiTimes this week said that Apple is pulling together components to build 32-inch and 37-inch TV sets that will be ready to go on sale in the second half of 2012. The report also suggests that another Apple TV set top box is due next year.

Is this the iPad 3's home button?
It may not may be as exciting as a leaked screen or spy photo, but shots of purported home buttons for Apple's third-generation iPad made the rounds this week. Is it a different color, shape or size? No, but there are apparently a lot of them floating around says 9to5mac, which posted photos of the button next to those from the iPad 2. If anything, the part suggests Apple's not ditching the home button in the next version of the hardware, as some previous rumors have asserted. Alongside the home button, 30-pin adapter parts for the next iPad are also said to be in the wild.