Apple marks World AIDS Day with boost for Bono charity

In the name of corporate responsibility, the gadget giant is decorating 400 stores with Red signs and donating part of its sales to the nonprofit founded by U2's frontman.

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Joan E. Solsman
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CEO Tim Cook widened Apple's partnership with Bono-founded charity Red on Wednesday.

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Call it Apple hearts U2, part two.

The gadget giant is expanding its partnership with Red, an HIV/AIDS advocacy organization founded by U2 singer Bono.

"Of course corporations should have values, because people should have values," CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with USA Today. "And corporations are just a bunch of people."

Starting Wednesday, a day ahead of World AIDS Day, Apple plans to quadruple the number of stores bedecked with Red signs to 400. It will also widen the types of purchases that will funnel an unspecified percentage of the sale to Red, which helps provide AIDS/HIV medicines.

Among the products included in the latest Red initiative are the iPhone 7 battery pack case, Beats Solo 3 Wireless headphones, App Store games such as Angry Birds and Clash of Clans, and iTunes purchases like The Killers new album "Don't Waste Your Wishes." iTunes will also offer free downloads of Spike Jonze's 2010 AIDS documentary "The Lazarus Effect."

Apple also said it will donate $1 to Red for every item bought at an Apple Store using Apple Pay. Bank of America will match that if the Apple Pay purchase uses one of its cards.

"We put our weight behind lots of things in the civil rights area," Cook told USA Today. "Similarly, I think it's key that people think about what they stand for and help their communities. We always say that we want to leave the world better than we found it. So, we try to thoughtfully decide how we can do that."

Apple and its executive team have long had a close relationship with U2. Bono was close with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. In 2004, the company and the band released a special edition iPod with a facsimile of the band members' signatures on the back, and Red introduced a special edition iPod Nano in 2006.

The relationship faced some strain in 2014 when Apple launched an automatic download of a new U2 album to iTunes users worldwide. Some users revolted, worried that their accounts had been hacked or annoyed that music they didn't want suddenly showed up in their libraries.

Correction, 11:29 a.m. PT: Fixed the date in the reference to the automated U2 album download. That happened in 2014.