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Apple releases second developer betas for iOS 11.4, tvOS 11.4, watchOS 4.3.1

Apple has released a second round of developer betas for iOS 11.4, tvOS 11.4, and watchOS 4.3.1, approximately two weeks following the initial set of betas. The release notes reveal only minor changes and fixes compared to the first beta, which brought back Messages in iCloud expressly “for testing and evaluation purposes” and saw the return of AirPlay 2 support in iOS — both features that made an appearance during the iOS 11.3 beta cycle only to be removed before the final release. It remains unclear, however, whether these features are planned to arrive in iOS 11.4, or are simply once again being included solely for testing purposes.

Apple will repair 42mm Apple Watch Series 2 models with swollen batteries free of charge

Apple has advised Apple Store and Authorized Service Providers that it will be offering free repairs to Apple Watch Series 2 models that do not power on or have a swollen battery, according to documents obtained by MacRumors. In an internal memo, Apple noted that it “has determined that under certain conditions, some Apple Watch Series 2 devices may not power on or they may experience an expanded battery.” Coverage will be provided for up to three years from the date of purchase, regardless of warranty status. However, eligibility is specifically limited to the 42mm Apple Watch Series 2 models, although all S2 variants qualify.

Code in watchOS 4.3.1 suggests faint possibility of third-party Apple Watch faces

New code unearthed in watchOS 4.3.1 by 9to5Mac suggests the possibility that Apple may be at least considering opening up the development of Apple Watch faces to third party developers — something that many have been asking for almost since the wearable device first debuted. Code found in the NanoTimeKit framework that’s responsible for handling watch faces, includes a log message in the process that communicates with Xcode on macOS, declaring “This is where the 3rd party face config bundle generation would happen.” While the feature is very obviously not yet implemented — and well-known developer Steve Troughton-Smith tweeted that it may not even be an entirely new thing — it’s enough to suggest that it’s a possibility that Apple may have been at least considering. Whether it will come to fruition any time in the near future is another matter entirely, however.

Cardi B’s debut album sets new Apple Music streaming record

A new debut album on Apple Music has just set a new record for first-week streams by a female artist, The Verge reports, unseating Taylor Swift. According to Apple, Cardi B’s debut album, Invasion of Privacy, racked up over 100 million streams on Apple Music, doubling the record held by Taylor Swift’s Reputation by the middle of the week. Invasion of Privacy is now the fifth most-streamed album on Apple Music, surpassing The Weeknd’s Starboy and Ed Sheeran’s Divide. This is a particularly impressive accomplishment for Cardi B, considering that it’s her debut album, and also demonstrates how Apple Music continues to succeed as a platform for artists to debut albums on.

Apple updates iMovie for iPhone X, adds Metal support

Apple has finally released an update of iMovie for iOS adding support for the iPhone X. In addition to now being optimized for the Super Retina display on Apple’s flagship iPhone, the updated version also now uses Apple’s Metal framework for graphics processing. iMovie for iOS is one of the last of Apple’s own apps to gain iPhone X support — six months after the debut of the iPhone itself — and it’s also somewhat surprising that it’s taken this long for support for Apple’s own Metal framework — unveiled in 2014 and updated last June — to also arrive in the iOS version of iMovie. The update also notably requires iOS 11.2 or later.

Like many of Apple’s first-gen products, HomePod is selling below expectations

Apple has been lowering sales forecasts and cutting back manufacturing orders for its HomePod speaker amidst weaker than expected sales, Bloomberg reports, citing a person familiar with the matter. While Apple’s new smart speaker and a promising start out of the gate, with initial pre-orders and sales accounting for a third of the U.S. smart speaker market, by unit sales, that initial surge didn’t continue, and by the time HomePods arrived in stores, sales were “tanking” according to Ken Cassar, principal analyst for Slice Intelligence. Balanced out over the first 10 weeks of sales, HomePod only managed to gain 10 percent of the smart speaker market, as opposed to 73 percent for Amazon’s Echo family of devices and 14 percent for the Google’s Home speakers, with sales slipping from around a third of the market down to only four percent of the smart speaker market a mere three weeks after the launch. According to some Apple store employees, inventory has actually began piling up, with some locations selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day.

Apple appoints Oliver Schusser as VP of Apple Music & International Content

Apple Music has a new boss as the service also officially passed 40 million paid subscribers this week. In a memo obtained by Variety, Apple SVP Eddy Cue announced the promotion of Oliver Schusser to the new position of Vice President of Apple Music & International Content, making him the head of Apple Music Worldwide. Schusser, who has been with Apple for about 14 years, has previously led efforts outside of the U.S. related to many of Apple’s other content services, including the App Store, iTunes Movies and TV Shows, and Apple Podcasts, and has been working closely with Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, to whom Schusser will now be reporting directly in his new position.

New beta warnings suggest watchOS 5 will likely drop support for first-generation Apple Watch apps

Apple has begun displaying warnings about legacy watchOS apps in the watchOS 4.3.1 betas, 9to5Mac reports, suggesting that watchOS 5 may in fact drop support for original watchOS 1 WatchKit apps entirely. The move is similar to the warning dialog discovered last year in iOS 10.3 signalling Apple’s intention to discontinue support for 32-bit apps — a move that was made when iOS 11 shipped last fall. At the report points out, it’s also interesting that the latest watchOS beta has been numbered 4.3.1, despite it being released alongside iOS 11.4 and tvOS 11.4 betas, suggesting it’s a considerably more minor release.

Apple ordered to pay $502.6 million in latest twist in VirnetX patent suit

Apple has been ordered to pay $502.6 million to VirtnetX Holding Corp in the long-running patent suit between the two companies, Bloomberg reports. The case, which has been bouncing around the courts in various forms since before 2012, accuses Apple of infringing on VirnetX’s secure communications related patents in its FaceTime, VPN on Demand and iMessage implementations. Apple has been consistently denying and challenging these claims in court, of course, with the most recently result being judgment last fall against Apple in the amount of $439.7 million, higher than the original $368.2 million ruling from 2012, but considerably less than a 2016 judgement for $625 million. This latest verdict is likely to be a short-lived victory, however, since The Patent Trial and Appeal Board has already declared all four of the patents in question as invalid in other cases that are currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals, however these cases are still ongoing and those decisions are non-binding until all appeals have been exhausted.

Israel joins the list of countries investigating Apple over iPhone slowdown issue

Israel has added its voice to the chorus of governments who have been looking into Apple’s handling of the iPhone slowdown issues revealed late last year, Reuters reports. Israel’s Consumer Protection and Fair Trade Authority revealed this week that it is investigating Apple “over a failure to disclose to consumers that its software could slow performance in some iPhones,” adding in a statement that it has already questioned Rony Friedman,  the head of Apple’s operations in Israel. The Israeli agency holds the power to levy significant fines in civil proceedings, however a spokesman for the agency said it was too early to discuss that possibility. A spokesman for Apple in Israel has declined to comment.

Ikea releases its first Bluetooth speaker

Ikea has released Eneby, its first Bluetooth speaker. Available in two sizes — an $89 12x12 model and a $49 8x8 model — Eneby features a design typical of Ikea products, includes a removal soft fabric front, and is available in either black or gray. Eneby plugs into a wall in its base configuration, but it can also be used with a battery pack, sold separately for $20, to go portable with up to 10 hours of battery life. A knob on the front provides on/off and volume, bass, and treble controls. The smaller model comes with a handle for portability, and wall mounting and stand options are also available as separate purchases, and the larger version is specifically designed to fit in Ikea’s Kallax shelving units. [via The Verge]

Apple lands Asimov ‘Foundation’ TV series

Apple has made a deal to produce a TV series adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s famous Foundation trilogy, Deadline reports. The project is the brainchild of Skydance Television, which made a deal with the Asimov estate last June for the rights to develope a “sprawling series” based on the books, with David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman tagged as executive producers and showrunners. Goyer is co-writing the upcoming Terminator reboot and has worked on The Dark Knight, batman Begins, Ghost Rider, and the Blade franchise, and Friedman’s work includes Avatar 2, the War of the Worlds remake, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Deadline suggests that this latest deal signals an even higher level of ambition for Apple, following its morning show drama headlined by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, a re-imagination of the Spielberg classic, Amazing Stories, along with a Ronald D. Moore space drama, a Damien Chazelle series, a Kristin Wiig comedy, and others.

Third-party screen repairs causing iPhone 8 touchscreens to fail in iOS 11.3

Customers are once again experiencing problems with third-party screen repairs and iOS updates on Apple’s latest iPhone models, Motherboard reports. From information gleaned from repair shops, Apple’s iOS 11.3 update has been “killing touch functionality” in iPhone 8 models that have been repaired using aftermarket screens — iPhones that worked perfectly fine with the repaired screens prior to the update. According to Michael Oberdick of Ohio-based iPhone repair shop iOutlet, the repair community believes the problem is being caused by a small microchip that powers iPhone screens, and that some unknown component in the iOS 11.3 update kills touch functionality with that chip. Third-party screen suppliers have apparently solved the problem, but it requires the chip to be physically replaced in each affected iPhone.

Apple announces all facilities now fully powered by renewable energy

Apple has announced that all of its facilities worldwide — from retail stores and offices to data centres and co-located facilities in foreign countries — are now powered with 100 percent clean and renewable energy. This major milestone includes facilities across 43 countries, and nine additional manufacturing partners have also committed to powering all of their Apple production with 100 percent clean energy, bringing to the total number of supplier commitments to 23.

Report: Apple working on triple-lens rear iPhone camera

Apple may be planning to include a triple-lens rear camera in a 2019 iPhone model, according to Taiwan’s Economic Daily News (via MacRumors). The report claims that the new camera will still have a 6P lens design with 5x zoom, although it’s unclear on whether that’s a optical zoom or merely a digital or hybrid zoom; only the dual-lens iPhone models currently offer optical zoom capabilities by using the second lens for a 2X zoom — it’s conceivably possible that a third lens could similarly provide a 5X zoom. A three-lens rear camera could also provide even more improvements to low-light performance, if the use of such camera systems on competing phones are any indication.

Apple accused of infringing patents in Apple Watch heart rate sensor technology

Apple is facing another patent lawsuit, this time from a Michigan-based technology startup that claims the heart rate technology used in the Apple Watch infringes on its patented technology. The startup,
Omni MedSci, specializes in near-infrasrer and mid-infrared broadband lasers, and says that it met with Apple from 2014 to 2016 to discuss the use of its technology, but Apple broke off partnership discussions before later introducing technology using Omni MedSci’s approach. The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern district of Texas on Friday and claims that Apple willfully infringed on its patents and is seeking both damages and an injunction against the company.

Apple unveils (PRODUCT)RED Edition iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, Folio for iPhone X

Apple has once again released new (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition versions of its current iPhone models — in this case the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. The new colours are similar to last year’s (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, although they of course feature the new glass back design and more interestingly this year Apple has also chosen to go with a black front bezel versus the white bezel used in last year’s models. The new versions are otherwise identical to the standard iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus models, essentially just adding a new color option to help bolster mid-season sales and continue Apple’s tradition of supporting the (RED) Global Fund in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Upcoming Twitter API changes will break third-party apps

Upcoming API changes to Twitter will limit important functionality in third-party Twitter apps, according to a new post by a coalition of developers at Apps of a Feather. Back in December, Twitter announced plans to discontinue “streaming services” as of June 19, 2018, which as the developers point out will break both push notifications and automatic timeline refresh in third-party Twitter apps such as Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, and Twitterrific.

Apple expresses opposition to repeal of Clean Power Plan

Apple has formally stated its opposition to any repeal of the Clean Power Plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Reuters reports, noting that a repeal of the Obama-era program to reduce greenhouse gases would actually “jeopardize the country’s position in the race for investments in clean energy” and place the U.S. at a disadvantage in comparison to countries like China. In a filing to the EPA, Apple stated that “Repealing the Clean Power Plan will subject consumers like Apple and our large manufacturing partners to increased investment uncertainty,” adding that it would also threaten development and investments that the company has already made in renewable power.

Mophie announces Charge Stream Pad+

Mophie has announced the Charge Stream Pad+, a universal wireless charging pad that provided a universal charging experience for both Apple’s new iPhones and Samsung Qi-enabled smartphones. Following in the footsteps of the company’s Wireless Charging Base released specifically for iPhone users last fall, the new Charge Stream Pad+ includes ten-watt charging support for Samsung devices, as well as compatibility with all of Mophie’s Charge Force Juice Pack battery cases, while still maintaining 7.5-watt compatibility the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. Unlike the Wireless Charging Base, which used a standard power adapter, Mophie will be including a QC 2.0 wall adapter and USB-A to micro-USB cable to power Charge Stream Pad+, which otherwise appears very similar visually to the earlier charging pad. Charge Stream Pad+ will retail for $60 and is available now in Verizon stores, at Verizon.com, and mophie.com, and is expected to arrive in Best Buy and AT&T stores in the near future.

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