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Report: Apple in talks to launch virtual network service

Sources close to Apple say the company is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator service in the U.S. and Europe, Business Insider reports. An MVNO would let Apple sell service for data, calls and texts directly to users, leasing the space from existing cellular carriers but allowing users to hop from one carrier to another to guarantee the best service available in the area. The service is still very much in a test phase, with telecom sources saying it could take at least five years to fully launch even if it proves viable. Apple has been in talks with various telecoms for years over the service, with sources calling plans for the virtual Apple network an “open secret.” A 2006 patent shows Apple’s long-standing interest in the concept of allowing its devices to jump from carrier to carrier, and the company’s rumored plan to use Siri to transcribe voicemails would help chip away at existing barriers to the company’s ability to offer its own cellular service. Apple’s iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 already feature built-in SIM cards that are compatible with multiple carriers, and the company is currently in discussions with the GSMA, aimed at a new “common architecture” to simplify allowing devices to operate on multiple carriers’ networks.

Dr. Dre’s new album coming to iTunes, Apple Music on Friday

Dr. Dre shocked fans on Saturday, announcing during his Beats 1 show “The Pharmacy” that his new — and reportedly final — album will be released exclusively on iTunes and Apple Music this Friday, August 7. The rap icon said he secretly recorded the album after being inspired during the filming of the upcoming N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton.” “I was leaving the set, coming to the studio, and I felt myself just being so inspired by the movie that I started recording an album,” Dre said during the show. “And I kept it under wraps. And the album is finished.” The album, titled “Compton: A Soundtrack,” is available for pre-order on iTunes and features appearances by Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. This is the first album released by the rapper since 1999’s “2001,” and during the Beats 1 show Dre addressed why he never released the much-anticipated album “Detox,” saying simply that it “just wasn’t good” and it wouldn’t have been fair to release it to his fans. He is clearly more excited about his upcoming offering, saying, “All my friends came in and we all came together to build this thing. It’s going to be my grand finale.” [via Billboard]

Nokia’s HERE Maps sold to automakers in $3.1B deal

Nokia has sold its HERE Maps mapping service to Audi, BMW and Daimler, CNET reports — a move that could set up the automakers to compete with Apple and Google in the self-driving car arena. It was reported in April that Nokia was looking to sell its maps division, and the company was believed to be courting Apple, among others.

As Apple Maps vans are rushing to map the streets of major metropolitan areas worldwide in an effort to catch up with Google — and fueling speculation about Apple’s long-rumored electric car project —  the automakers have invested $3.1 billion to acquire Nokia’s mapping technology. The deal is expected to help the companies’ vehicles collect real-time updates on traffic, parking and other variables that would make self-driving cars a more efficient means of transportation. With Apple reportedly interested in using BMW’s i3 electric car as a starting point for its own vehicle, the expensive map acquisition may even provide increased leverage for BMW in further negotiations.

Report: Apple plans to use Siri to transcribe voicemails

Apple is testing a service that uses Siri to answer missed calls and transcribe voicemail messages, Business Insider reports. The iCloud service would then deliver voicemails in text form, preventing users from having to listen to their voicemail. Since it can be quicker to leave a voicemail than send a text, but quicker to read a text than access a voicemail, the rumored solution aims to bridge that gap and simplify the interaction from both sides. The iCloud Voicemail service is also able to relay information about where the phone’s owner is and why they’re unable to take the call. Apple employees are testing the service now with the hopes of rolling out the new feature some time in 2016, presumably in iOS 10. Apple has beefed up Siri substantially in recent months, adding commands to control HomeKit-enabled devices and providing more contextually relevant search results in iOS 9.

Leaked photos suggest thicker, Force Touch-equipped iPhones

Two new leaks further speculation that new iPhones will be Force Touch-equipped and have slightly thicker bodies. Alleged renders of the new iPhone 6S posted by uSwitch seem to reinforce previously leaked schematics suggesting the new iPhone will be slightly thicker than the original. The images are purported to be CAD renders sent by Apple to third-party case manufacturers ahead of the new phone’s release, which show that the new iPhone 6s will increase in thickness from 6.9 mm to 7.1 mm. The iPhone 6S Plus will get a similar boost, from 7.1 mm thick to 7.3 mm. uSwitch attributes the increase in thickness to Apple wanting to ensure their new phones don’t bend, but more leaks posted by French site NowhereElse suggest the increase in size may be to accommodate Force Touch technology.

Those images of an alleged iPhone 6S prototype show a rectangle cut out of the metal plate that usually separates the screen from internal components. The site speculates that the minor difference could be making room for Force Touch technology — expected to be one of the major changes coming in the iPhone 6S. But the rectangular space also bears a striking resemblance to the space left inside the Apple Watch for its taptic engine, so time will tell what actually ends up occupying that space.

Daily Deal: ZeroLemon ToughJuice 30000mAh Battery Pack

In today’s iLounge Deal you can pick up the ZeroLemon ToughJuice 30000mAh Battery Pack for only $59.99 – that’s 40% off the regular price. Keep the world’s toughest battery pack by your side through it all, and you’ll be fully prepared to keep your iPhone, iPad, camera, and more powered no matter the environment. With the ToughJuice, you can charge an iPhone 6 more than eleven times and juice up your iPad at full 2.4A speed. Even charge four devices at once with this extreme external battery pack.

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iLounge Weekly arrives Monday, sign up now

The latest edition of iLounge Weekly, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, will be arriving in subscribers’ inboxes early next week. iLounge Weekly is a summary of the week’s best news, reviews, and feature articles we’ve published, and it also features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.

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Report reveals additional details on Apple and BMW talks

Following news earlier this week that Apple and BMW had been in discussions last year about using the BMW i3 as a foundation for its own electric car initiative, a new report from Reuters suggests that those negotiations may yet resume at some indeterminate point in the future. Sources familiar with the original talks told Reuters that the dialogue between the two companies ended last fall due to Apple’s desire to explore developing the car on its own and BMW was cautious about becoming a “mere supplier to a software or internet giant,” but had seemed willing to consider licensing parts. While one source indicated that “exploratory talks between senior managers may be revived at a later stage,” recent staff changes in the upper echelons of BMW may complicate matters, with the new CEO focusing on internal priorities rather than new projects along with the departure of Herbert Diess, the board member who led initial discussions with Apple. BMW’s new head of R&D, Klaus Froehlich, has stated that Apple and BMW have much in common, but indicated that his company would not “consider any deal that forces it to open up its core know-how to outsiders.”

Review: PhotoFast i-FlashDrive MAX

Even with the ever-increasing capacity of Apple's iOS devices there's always a case to be made for needing extra storage, creating a market for Lightning-equipped external storage devices that allow users to offload and carry around additional media and other files without cluttering up their device. i-FlashDrive MAX ($60-$160) is the latest entry in this category, similar in concept to the Leef iBRIDGE that we looked at earlier this year. Claiming to be the "world’s smallest iOS FlashDrive", i-FlashDrive MAX eschews some of the aesthetics found in other solutions to provide a compact but highly portable solution for keeping your extra files handy on the go. The device is available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB capacities with USB 3.0 ($80/$100/$130/$160), while a slower USB 2.0 model is available in 32GB and 64GB capacities ($60/$70). We reviewed the USB 3.0 32GB model.

Report: New Apple TV to debut in September, subscription service to come later

Apple is on track to unveil its new Apple TV hardware this September, according to a new report from BuzzFeed News, however the rumoured TV subscription service won’t be accompanying it just yet. Several reports suggested that Apple originally planned to launch the new device at WWDC this past June, but refocused its efforts on Apple Music instead. A fall launch of the new hardware comes as little surprise, however there were expectations that Apple would launch a TV subscription service at the same time, however this latest news echoes a report from early June that suggested that it could easily be delayed into next year due to delays in finalizing licensing deals. The next-generation Apple TV is expected to be announced during the fall iPhone event and remains in line with what previous rumours have indicated, with a new, slimmer design and an Apple A8 CPU, a “drastically improved” remote with touch-pad input, Siri support, and an App Store and SDK to provide support for third-party apps.






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