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Samsung, Intel and others rally to Apple’s side in Qualcomm legal fight

A group representing major tech companies has filed comments with the U.S. International Trade Commission backing Apple in its legal fight against chip maker Qualcomm, Reuters reports. The Computer & Communications Industry Association — a group that represents Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Samsung and Intel, among others — opposed Qualcomm’s request to block the import of foreign-assembled iPhones with Intel chips, claiming the move would cause “significant shocks to supply” of the devices. “If the ITC were to grant this exclusion order, it would help Qualcomm use its monopoly power for further leverage against Apple and allow them to drive up prices on consumer devices,” Ed Black, the CEO of the group, said in a statement. “What’s at stake here is certainly the availability of iPhones and other smartphones at better prices.”

Apple reportedly involved in R&D project with automotive battery maker

Apple is working with Chinese battery manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. on an secret automotive battery R&D project, Yicai Global reports. CATL split from Apple’s largest battery supplier — Amperex Technology Ltd. — in 2011 and has gone on to produce car batteries for National Electric Vehicle Sweden, according to Electrek. Apple didn’t comment on the story and has reportedly shifted its focus away from building an entire electric car on its own and toward autonomous driving systems, so what the company is researching and how it would be applied to Project Titan are unclear. [via 9to5Mac]

ARKit developer videos show maps, navigation overlaid on live camera feed

Two new videos posted to Twitter by iOS developer Andrew Hart show points of interest and navigation directions overlaid on what the device’s camera sees, illustrating one possible use for the company’s upcoming ARKit. In the first video, Hart moves his phone around from a London rooftop as the app points out points of interest in the skyline. In the second video, Hart types in “Starbucks” and is greeted by floating red arrows and a blue line displayed over the roads seen in his camera feed, leading him to his destination. The idea is similar to an Apple patent filed late last year for “Augmented Reality Maps” that layer map information and directions over live iPhone video, although the Apple model is displayed with the phone held horizontally and Hart said he’s only been able to get his working with the phone held vertically due to issues in ARKit. Hart said he plans to have his library up on GitHub this week.

Apple adds new ‘Customer Support’ role for App Developers

Apple has added a new “Customer Support” role to the iTunes Connect portal for app developers, allowing companies to provide designated representatives with the ability to respond to customer reviews on the App Store. The new role complements the change earlier this year that allowed app developers to begin responding to reviews on the App Store. Previously, only members of the developer’s team with the Legal, Admin, App Manager, or Marketer roles had the ability to respond to customer reviews; this new more specific role allows developers to more easily delegate this task to other members of their team without the need to provide unnecessary extra privileges.

Google Play Music gains CarPlay support

Google’s Play Music app has quietly gained CarPlay support in a recent update, allowing users of the streaming music service to more easily access and play content from their dashboard in a CarPlay-enabled vehicle. The addition of CarPlay support isn’t listed in Google Play Music’s release notes, so it’s unclear when the feature actually became available, but the addition of the feature was discovered and reported on reddit yesterday. Although Apple generally restricts what apps can be made available via the CarPlay interface — mapping apps seem to be excluded, for instance — support for audio apps has been available to third-party developers since CarPlay first debuted, and even Spotify, which competes directly with Apple Music, has had a place on the CarPlay dashboard since almost the very beginning, suggesting that the late addition of CarPlay support for Play Music has more to do with Google dragging its feet than any restrictions on Apple’s part. [via MacRumors]

Apple updates ‘Clips’ app with Disney and Pixar content

Apple has released an update to Clips, the video app that the company debuted earlier this year designed to help users easily create videos fro their photos, music, and video clips. The new version adds content from Disney and Pixar, allowing users to include Mickey, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck, as well as popular characters from Toy Story and Inside Out. New Disney-designed posters have also been included that can be added to videos as title cards, joining 10 new Apple-designed overlays and 12 posters. The update also makes improvements to Live Title editing, sharing, and provides other fixes to streamline the creation process.

Apple and Balmain unveil Beats Special Edition Headphones

Apple has released a new high-end collection of Beats headphones in partnership with French design house Balmain. Providing a new fashion-forward take on both Beats Studio and Powerbeats 3 headphones, the new models are priced at $250 for the Balmain Special Edition Powerbeats 3 — a $50 premium over the normal selling price — and $600 for the Balmain Special Edition Beats Studio — a markup of $220 over the standard Beats Studio headphones. The new style is available in two different color options: a neutral pinkish “Safari” version that is available exclusively through Apple and a green-tinted “Khaki” version which is exclusive to Balmain. Both versions have gold accents and feature Balmain logos and include suede, Balmain-branded carrying cases.

Apple releases iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2, watchOS 3.2.3

Apple has released minor updates to iOS 10, tvOS 10, and watchOS 3, focused exclusively on bug fixes and security improvements. iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2, and watchOS 3.2.3 will likely be the last updates to be released prior to the rollout of iOS 11, tvOS 11, and watchOS 4 expected in September, although it’s possible Apple may release one or two more very minor iOS 10 patches in the future for legacy 32-bit devices such as the iPhone 5 that won’t be capable of running iOS 11.

Apple starts online AI journal to publish research

Apple has started an online journal with artificial intelligence development research papers written by the company’s engineers, making good on its promise to allow employees to publish their findings to the great academic world. Last year Apple announced that it was breaking with its strict privacy rules to allow AI researchers to publish their work, ostensibly because it was becoming increasingly difficult to recruit top talent with such stringent rules in place. So far the site features a welcome message and the first article, “Improving the Realism of Synthetic Images,” an in-depth look at using realistic images to cost-effectively train neural nets.

Apple backs four manufacturing partners in suing Qualcomm

As part of its ongoing fight with Qualcomm, Apple is backing four of its manufacturing partners in their antitrust fight against the chip maker, Reuters reports. Foxconn, Wistron, Pegatron and Compal Electronics have accused Qualcomm of violating US antitrust law in response to Qualcomm’s attempt to force the companies to pay royalties that Apple told them to stop paying. “Qualcomm has confirmed publicly that this lawsuit against our clients is intended to make a point about Apple and punish our clients for working with Apple,” said Theodore J. Boutrous, a lawyer representing all four companies. “The companies are bringing their own claims and defenses against Qualcomm.”

Nintendo launches companion iOS app for Switch console

Nintendo has launched a companion iOS app for its Switch console, aimed at improving the gaming experience by making it more social. The app provides the ability to check leader boards for some games, invite others to play and even provides a voice chat option to be used while playing a game together. Users will need a Switch console, a Nintendo account and the supported games to make use of the app, which is free for now but will become part of a paid subscription service at some point next year.

Apple back to selling Nokia’s digital health products after patent dispute settlement

Apple has added Nokia’s digital health products back to its online store months after settling a patent dispute with the company. Nokia’s Thermo Thermometer, Body Cardio Scale, Body+ Scale, and BPM+ Blood Pressure Monitor are now all available on Apple’s website and available for pickup at Apple retail stores starting at the end of this week. Apple previously sold the items under the Withings brand, which Nokia officially retired last month after buying the company about a year ago. Apple has returned the health products to its store as part of a multi-year patent license, which will see Nokia providing certain network infrastructure products and services to Apple. The companies are also exploring future collaboration in digital health initiatives as Apple continues its push into the health field. [via MacRumors]

Samsung to produce processors for Apple’s 2018 iPhones

While the speculation swirling around this year’s iPhones is still at a fever pitch, Samsung already has its sights set on the 2018 model, with The Korea Herald reporting the company has purchased specialized equipment to produce seven-nanometer processors for Apple. Samsung is the sole provider of the iPhone 8’s OLED display and was a major chip maker for Apple as well until TSMC adopted the seven-nanometer process before its rivals. Since then Samsung has caught up and begun purchasing the extreme ultra violet lithography machines necessary to build Apple’s processors again. Sources claim Kwon Oh-hyun, the Samsung CEO who oversees component production, clinched a deal to produce at least some of the processors again starting in 2018, but how much business the company ends up taking back from TSMC remains to be seen.

Qualcomm CEO floats idea of out-of-court settlement with Apple

Despite a heated on-going court battle over patents and intellectual property, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf still sees the potential for an out-of-court resolution to the dispute with Apple, Fortune reports. Mollenkopf compared the case to others the company has fought over the years with other tech giants. “There’s not really anything new going on,” Mollenkopf said during the Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen. “Those things tend to get to resolved out of court and there’s no reason why I wouldn’t expect that to be the case here.” That said, Mollenkopf admitted he had no real news on a possible resolution to the case, and rhetoric on both sides is fairly intense. While Qualcomm claims its technology is “at the heart of every iPhone,” Apple argues that, “As Apple innovates, Qualcomm demands more. Qualcomm had nothing to do with creating the revolutionary Touch ID, the world’s most popular camera, or the Retina display Apple’s customers love, yet Qualcomm wants to be paid as if these (and future) breakthroughs belong to it.”

Report: Apple cracking down on iMessage Stickers

A new blog post from iOS Developer Melissa Chan of This Century Software indicates that Apple is tightening its policy on the number of iMessage sticker packs that individual developers will be permitted to publish in the App Store. Chan, who develops a large number of popular iMessage sticker packs, many of which have been prominently featured by Apple, began having her sticker packs rejected by Apple back in May under section 4.3 of the App Store Review Guidelines, which deals with “spam” apps in categories that have been “saturated.” When Chan managed to get in touch with Apple, she was informed that this was a “global policy decision” on the company’s part, with the suggestion that Apple is trying to push developers toward creating larger “container” apps for iMessage stickers, where individual sticker packs would be sold via in-app purchase. However, Chan notes that despite this seeming policy shift, Apple’s Editorial team is taking the “opposite stance” in continuing to feature the very types of small niche sticker packs that Apple is now trying to discourage developers from creating.

Apple showcases new emoji headed to iOS, watchOS, macOS later this year

Apple has released a sneak peek at the new emoji coming to iOS, macOS and watchOS later this year. The update includes more mundane changes like adding a sandwich to the food items and a bearded face alongside more socially conscious changes like a woman in a headscarf and a breastfeeding mother. A T-Rex has made his way into the animals section and zombies and elves will make their first appearance. To further celebrate World Emoji Day, the company is highlighting apps to create or utilize emoji in the App Store and has replaced some movie titles with emoji versions over in iTunes.

Australian government holds meeting with Apple over turning over user data on terrorists, criminals

Australian Attorney General George Brandis will meet with Apple this week to discuss gaining access to encrypted information from “suspected terrorists and criminals,” Sky News reports. Brandis said he hopes companies can be convinced to comply voluntarily, but said the country “will also be legislating so that we do have that coercive power if need be if we don’t get the cooperation we seek.” Facebook and other tech companies have raised serious concerns they will be forced by security agencies to hand over their user data. Apple won a very public fight with the FBI over the company’s refusal to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone and has supported the fights of tech giants like Google against having their data seized as well, but is under increased pressure in places like China to keep tabs on users and limit which apps are available.

Apple Music expands $99 annual Apple Music subscriptions to new countries

Apple has expanded the list of countries where a $99 annual subscription to Apple Music can be purchased. Most countries that have Apple Music also qualify for the reduced price annual subscription, with a few notable exceptions including Saudi Arabia, Norway, the Philippines and Peru. Apple recently included the $99 subscription option for all existing users after previously only selling a year for $99 through gift cards. Apple also expanded the ability to pay for its electronic services with PayPal internationally this month.

Apple cracks down on ad blockers that affect other apps

Future Mind, maker of VPN-based ad block programs like AdBlock, Weblock and Admosphere, has been informed by Apple that the company is “no longer allowing VPN/root certificate-based ad blockers on the App Store and will not be accepting updates of existing ad blockers that use those techniques going forward,” MacRumors reports. Tomasz Koperski, CTO of Future Mind, said Apple rejected the latest update for AdBlock for iOS, writing in its rejection that the app “uses a VPN profile or root certificate to block ads or other content in a third-party app, which is not allowed on the App Store.” The app is still available on the App Store — along with many other ad blockers — but Apple “has officially changed their policy regarding VPN/root certificate based ad blockers on the App Store and is no longer accepting updates of apps, which directly block content in third party apps.”

Facing delays, Apple is buying its own equipment to produce circuit boards

Apple has purchased “tens of millions of dollars” in equipment to produce the rigid flexible printed circuit boards it needs to build the new OLED iPhone 8, The Korea Herald reports. Apple doesn’t have its own production facilities, but has reportedly begun leasing the equipment to manufacturers to ensure its supply of the RFPCB components. The company was supposed to be securing the RFPCBs from Korea’s Interflex and Youngpoong Electronics and another Taiwanese company, but a source claims the supplier in Taiwan has backed out of the arrangement after the difficult work and strict quality controls made the project much less profitable. Interflex and Youngpoong Electronics are still expected to share the estimated 100 million RFPCB orders — with Apple shelling out to boost their capacities — but Apple is still looking for a new supplier in Korea to fill the gap.

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