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Apple filming original ‘dark drama’ television series featuring Dr. Dre

Apple is forging ahead with plans for unveiling its own original, exclusive television programming, and is in fact already getting ready to announced its first television show, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The series, which will reportedly be titled Vital Signs, is described as a “dark semi-autobiographical drama” featuring Beats co-founder and rap legend Dr. Dre, who now works in the upper echelons of Apple. Multiple sources are said to have confirmed that Dre will be both starring in and executive producing the six-episode vehicle, with the production funded by Apple. It’s not clear exactly how the series will be distributed, although the report speculates it will in the very least be available somehow via Apple Music. Sources who have seen descriptions of the show note that each episode will focus on a different emotion and how Dre’s character deals with it, and also add that Sam Rockwell and Mo McCrae will also be cast in the show. The show is described by sources as a “dark drama with no shortage of violence and sex” and an episode that was filmed this week apparently featured an extended orgy scene. Apple is expected to release the first season all at once, similar to how Netflix has debuted its original programming, and is reportedly “very bullish” on the project.

Apple under fire for patent infringement from haptic feedback company Immersion

Haptic feedback developer Immersion has filed a lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of patent infringement. The lawsuit cites technologies such as 3D Touch, Force Touch, and the Apple Watch, as well as vibration patterns for ringtones and notifications, claiming multiple Apple devices are using its intellectual property, including all iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s models and all Apple Watch models. Immersion claims these devices infringe on two of its own patents related to tactile feedback, including U.S. Patent No. 8,619,051, Haptic Feedback System with Stored Effects and U.S. Patent No. 8,773,356, Method and Apparatus for Providing Tactile Sensations. The suit also names AT&T for reasons that are not entirely clear, although in the filing Immersion claims AT&T “encourages and facilities infringing use by others” through its sale of Apple products, and its offering of guides, directions, and other materials. Notably, however, no other mobile carriers are mentioned in the lawsuit. Immersion has also filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission to try and prevent the sale of the affected Apple devices in the United States. [via MacRumors]

CBS CEO Moonves notes Apple talks have stopped

Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, has noted that his company’s talks with Apple have basically stopped, CNN Money reports. While Moonves was cautiously optimistic about making a deal with Apple back in October, he now tells CNN Money that those talks have ceased, at least for the time being, stating that although CBS had conversations with Apple “awhile back” his company hasn’t “had any recent conversations with them” although he notes that many other new digital companies are eager to partner with CBS and other content makers. Asked whether he believed that Apple will enter the marketplace with its streaming TV service this year, Moonves’ response was “You’ll have to ask Apple that. I don’t know that,” supporting recent reports that suggest Apple has been frustrated at a lack of progress in dealing with content providers, and may in fact be looking to develop exclusive content instead.

Apple will source iPhone 7 ‘A10’ CPU solely from TSMC

Apple will be sourcing the new CPU for its iPhone 7 models exclusively from Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), according to a new report from The Electronic Times . The two companies reportedly reached a deal based on the Taiwanese company’s manufacturing process for 10nm chips and more advanced designs that provide better performance and efficiency. Although Apple had been rumoured to be looking for new suppliers for its A9 CPU in the two iPhone 6s models, the company went back to Samsung for at least some of its chips, splitting chip orders between both Samsung and TSMC. This led to a number of reports that the TSMC version of the A9 provided significantly better battery life than the Samsung version in at least some artificial benchmarks, with Apple tacitly acknowledging the difference but noting that it represents a two to three percent variance under real-world usage conditions. TSMC is expected to begin production of the A10 chip in June, with a ramp-up of its 10nm manufacturing process in the second half of 2016, ramping up to full production in 2017. [via MacRumors]

Federal bill aims to take regulatory power for phone encryption out of state hands

A new bipartisan bill introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives aims to bar states from introducing their own bans on smartphone encryption, The Verge reports. At the urging of local district attorney’s offices, assemblymen in New York and California have introduced identical bills that would ban smartphone encryption for phones sold in those states and fine manufacturers for each phone sold with secure disk encryption. While critics argue it wouldn’t be feasible to tailor phone encryption capabilities for specific states, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) have introduced the Ensuring National Constitutional Rights of Your Private Telecommunications (ENCRYPT) Act to override state and local government encryption laws, over concerns that having varying bills on encryption would endanger the country and the competitiveness of American companies.

Job post shows Apple emphasizing new complications, faces for Apple Watch

A job posting on Apple’s website shows the company is looking to expand its offering of clock face options for Apple Watch and add new complications that “push the envelope on human-computer interactions.” The Watch SDK released alongside watchOS 2 allows developers to write their own watch face complications, but so far Apple has only released three new official watch faces in watchOS 2 — Time-Lapse, Photo and Photo Album — and included another special complication for those buying the Hermès collection version of the watch. [via iPhoneHacks]

New comments hint at forthcoming streaming TV service from Apple

Recent comments from Apple’s main partner in content delivery hint at the company ramping up its in-house capability to provide faster downloads and streaming speeds to users, Business Insider reports. During an earnings call, Akamai CEO Tom Leighton forecasted a serious drop in revenue from one of the company’s “largest customers” — assumed to be Apple — resulting from “their increased do-it-yourself, or DIY efforts.” Apple is investing heavily in its own custom-designed data centers, and streaming services analysts have tracked OS X downloads now coming directly from Apple as opposed to their usual delivery through Akamai. Tim Cook has put a renewed emphasis on Apple’s commitment to online services like iCloud, but the improved in-house content delivery network would also bolster Apple’s rumored plans to offer streaming TV service, allowing the company more control over the streaming quality and lag that end-users would experience.

Apple Music available on Sonos starting today

After a public beta period that started last December, Apple Music is finally available on all Sonos speakers worldwide starting today. Apple Music users can add the service by selecting “Add Music Services” from any Sonos controller app, scrolling down to the Apple Music icon, and logging in. Sonos users will have access to the same For You, New, Radio and My Music categories they would see on Apple devices, and will be able to stream the entire Apple Music library through multiple speakers in separate rooms.

Screen protector installation now available at Apple Stores

Apple Stores worldwide began offering screen protector installation for iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus and 6s Plus users starting today. As previously reported, Apple has partnered with Belkin to place specialized screen protector installation machines in the back of stores, allowing customers to have their screen protector properly installed free of charge after they buy it. Two types of screen protectors — “Invisiglass” and “Anti-Glare” — are being offered. Apple will guarantee the installation of screen protectors and offer a free replacement and re-attempt at installation if the protector isn’t installed successfully for the customer. Many stores began rolling out the new process last week, but it is available everywhere as of today.

Russia mulling tax increase on App Store purchases, other Apple services

The Russian government is considering a bill that would increase taxes on a dozen categories of digital products and services offered by foreign companies like Apple, including ads, games, movies, marketplace transactions and cloud computing, Bloomberg reports. In a recent interview described as “peppered with expletives,” Russian Internet Czar German Klimenko said he is pushing to raise the taxes to level the playing field for Russian competitors, following the lead of other European countries. “When you buy an app from Google Play or the App Store anywhere in Europe, VAT is charged at the place of payment, but not here in our banana republic,” Klimenko said. The new bill proposes an 18 percent value-added tax on an estimated $3.9 billion in profits earned on digital media and services by Apple, Google and other foreign technology companies. Klimenko also railed against Apple’s compliance with U.S. sanctions on Russia after the country annexed Crimea, calling that decision “the point of no return.” Apple declined to comment on the proposed tax increase.

Lawyers threaten to sue Apple over ‘Error 53’ codes disabling iPhones

After reports that iOS 9 updates have disabled iPhone 6 and 6s devices that had third-party repairs done to their Touch ID sensors, law firms in the U.S. and U.K. are considering legal action against Apple, The Guardian reports. Users with iPhones that have been repaired by someone other than Apple or that have unrepaired damage have reported receiving an “Error 53” message when updating their device’s software, leaving the phone locked and completely unusable. Seattle-based law firm PCVA is preparing a class action lawsuit, saying it believes Apple’s stance violates several consumer protection laws, and the firm has offered to represent victims for free.

Apple releases iOS 9.3 beta 3, tvOS 9.2 beta 3, watchOS 2.2 beta 3 to developers

Apple has released three of its latest betas to developers today with iOS 9.3 beta 3, tvOS 9.2 beta 3, and watchOS 2.2 beta 3. The public version of iOS 9.3 beta 3 should be released later this week. We’ll update our iOS and tvOS “Inside the betas” article later on with any relevant information.

Indie game ‘The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth’ rejected by Apple over violence toward children

Apple has rejected an iOS version of the popular indie game The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth after deciding its content depicts “violence towards, or abuse of, children,” the game’s developer said on Twitter. The game, based loosely on the Old Testament story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac, revolves around the child protagonist’s efforts to escape the basement where he is being held by his mother. The console and platform versions of the game are rated Mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, but feature only cartoonish violence similar to that found in Limbo, another popular iOS title that had no trouble getting approved despite being a platformer where a child essentially dies over and over again. But promotional images for The Binding of Isaac show a child naked and weeping on the floor, and Nintendo initially rejected the game for the 3DS and Wii U over objections to “questionable religious content.”

Apple likely to receive approval to open retail stores in India

After filing applications last month, Apple is on track to receive the necessary approval to open its own retail locations in India, Bloomberg reports. A person with knowledge of the process said the Indian government plans to push through Apple’s application after the company resubmitted it in the proper format, but declined to provide a timetable for final approval. The source said Apple will likely qualify as a provider of cutting-edge technology, exempting the company from rules forcing single-brand retailers to obtain 30 percent of a product’s materials locally — a provision that could have all but doomed Apple’s venture in India, since the company makes most of its devices in China. Spokesmen for Apple and India’s Finance Ministry both declined to comment on the story, but after last month’s earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he is optimistic India’s business environment will improve and is looking forward to investing in the country.

Study finds Apple Watch is best fitness tracker for privacy, security

A new study finds that of eight fitness trackers on the market, only the Apple Watch regularly changes its Bluetooth MAC address to protect user privacy. While the Apple Watch alters the device’s MAC address every time it’s rebooted and around every 10 minutes while active, all the other trackers maintained the same MAC address for a period of months, leaving the user open to persistent monitoring whenever the tracker is operating independently and sending out “advertising” packets in search of another device. The joint study from the not-for-profit Open Effect and the University of Toronto found those transmissions can be used to track users and collect data about their behavior that falls far outside the original intent of the device’s intended purpose, reiterating privacy concerns often voiced publicly by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Conflicting reports over pink color to be featured in iPhone 5se

Ahead of the expected March 15 reveal of the iPhone 5se, conflicting reports have emerged about which shade of pink will be featured on the new iPhone. Macotakara reported that the new model will be available in the hot pink color that appeared in the new iPod touch and iPod nano last summer, instead of the rose gold featured in the iPhone 6s. 9to5Mac pushed back against that rumor, claiming its sources are holding firm that the new phones will be available in the same silver, space gray, gold and rose gold colors as the iPhone 6s models. Apple is even said to be adding a rose gold variation to the iPad Air 3, in an effort to keep hardware colors consistent across all of its iOS devices. New versions of the 12-inch Macbook and iPad mini may also be available in rose gold, but are unlikely to debut on March 15.

Report: Some third-party repairs ‘bricking’ iPhones with iOS 9

A new report from The Guardian notes that thousands of iPhone 6 users are claiming to have been left holding useless iPhones as a result of repairs carried out by non-Apple authorized technicians. According to the report, users who previously had iPhone 6 models repaired at unauthorized third-party service centers have encountered an “Error 53” when updating to iOS 9, leaving their devices locked in a completely unusable state. The problem seems to center on handsets where a Touch ID home button has been repaired by an unauthorized company or individual, but it has also reportedly impacted customers with damaged iPhones that have otherwise been able to carry on using them without repairs.

Challenges with third parties making repairs involving the Touch ID sensor aren’t actually new: A 2013 report from iMore, released shortly after Apple introduced Touch ID on the iPhone 5s, revealed the Touch ID sensor and related hardware on each iPhone unit is specifically paired to that unit, presumably for security purposes. Home buttons, which include the Touch ID sensor, cannot be swapped between even identical iPhones, and the iMore article states that “For DIY repairers, things just got a bit more difficult. When removing the screen, say to replace a cracked screen, you’ll also need to remove the Touch ID cable to transfer it to the new screen. Extra care will need to be taken to ensure the cable isn’t damaged.”

Report: Apple to bid on NFL Thursday Night Football streaming rights

Apple plans to put in a bid for NFL Thursday Night Football streaming rights, according to a new report from Variety. A report late last year indicated that the NFL was accepting bids for streaming rights for the package, having sent formal requests for proposals to several major digital media players, including Apple, Amazon, Google, and Yahoo — although it was unclear at the time whether Apple actually had any plans to submit a bid in response to the RFP. In the process of announcing two-year TV broadcast deals with CBS and NBC for the package earlier this week, the league also noted that it is “in active discussions with prospective digital partners” for global streaming rights to the same games. Although the league declined to comment on which companies it is specifically in discussions with, multiple sources indicate that Apple is among those looking to put in bids.

Apple to begin taking broken iPhones for trade-in, offer in-store screen protector installation

Apple is planning to launch two new retail initiatives for iPhone users, according to a new report by 9to5Mac. The first is an enhancement to the company’s Reuse and Recycle Program that it launched two years ago, allowing customers to bring in an older iPhone model to trade it in and receive credit toward the purchase of a new iPhone. Starting this week, in addition to working iPhone models, Apple will now begin accepting iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus units with damaged displays, cameras, and buttons, with sources indicating that the current trade-in values for such models will be $50 for an iPhone 5s, $200 for an iPhone 6, and $250 for an iPhone 6 Plus. Sources indicate that Apple believes this will encourage users to upgrade to a newer iPhone model, rather than simply paying for a standard iPhone screen repair.

Apple ordered to pay $625M to VirnetX in patent case

Apple has been ordered to pay $625.6 million in damages to patent-holding company VirnetX over its FaceTime and VPN patents, CNET reports. This latest lawsuit is a retrial of a 2012 award where Apple was ordered to pay $368.2 million; an appeals court dismissed that damage award against Apple and ordered a new trial for some of the infringement claims. VirnetX refiled the suit in January, covering these earlier infringement claims as well as infringements based on newer generations of iOS devices.

Apple has said that it plans to appeal the decision, with a spokesperson making the statement that “Our employees independently designed this technology over many years, and we received patents to protect this intellectual property.” The damage award is actually worth more than VirnetX, which is a small patent-holding company that doesn’t actually make any products of its own.

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