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Apple releases fifth iOS 9 beta to developers

Apple has released the fifth developer beta of iOS 9. Featuring a build number of 13A4325c, the fifth beta once again lacks specific release notes, but likely continues to focus on improving the stability and reliability of the new features in the operating system. A new watchOS beta with a build number of 13S5325c has also been posted, which can be installed via a configuration profile that requires the corresponding iOS 9 beta to be installed, along with new betas of Xcode 7 and Apple Configurator.

Apple adds native Watch app support to TestFlight

With the release of iOS 9 and watchOS 2 on the horizon, Apple has announced that it has updated its TestFlight program to allow developers to roll out internal test versions of native watchOS 2 apps along with apps that take advantage of the new App Thinning features in iOS 9. The TestFlight platform allows developers to invite users to download official test versions of their apps before they are released on the App Store. While the platform allows for both testers internal to the developer’s organization as well as broader external beta tests, these latest changes currently only apply to builds distributed to internal users.

Apple announces 11m Apple Music trial subscribers

Apple has officially announced that Apple Music has reached 11 million subscribers, USA Today reports, a number not far off from last week’s unofficial report of 10 million subscribers to the service. Apple SVP Eddy Cue noted that Apple is of course “thrilled with the numbers so far” and added that two million of the eleven million subscribers have already opted for the $15/month family plan. Although all of these accounts still remain in the free trial period until the end of September, the current numbers work out to about half of the paid memberships of Spotify. The numbers also reportedly remain significantly short of Apple’s rumoured goal of 100 million subscribers.

Target testing in-store beacons for iOS app users

Target announced it is installing low-powered Bluetooth beacons in 50 of its stores, set to use the company’s iOS app to highlight products and special offers as customers walk through certain sections of the store. The beacons will track shoppers throughout the store and present limited recommendations depending on which section the customer is in – an alert that a nearby item in women’s apparel is trending on Pinterest, for example. Eventually Target hopes to provide more in-depth features, like reorganizing a shopping list based on the best path through a store or providing reminders if a user forgot an item once they make it to the checkout line.

The technology could even be used to pair employees with customers in need of assistance in real time. Users will have to “opt in” to share their location while in the store and allow the app to send push notifications to their phones. Target says it plans to limit those notifications to two per shopping trip, but in-app updates on the app’s “Target Run” page will offer deals in a social media-style news feed. Target said the 50 test stores – located in areas in and around Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle – were chosen because they represent a good cross-section of stores in various markets, according to TechCrunch. Expansion to other stores and support for Android phones is expected later in the year.

Judge denies class-action status to iMessage lawsuit

A federal judge has limited the scope of a lawsuit against Apple claiming the company’s iMessage system interfered with the delivery of text messages for former iPhone users switching to Android phones, Bloomberg reports. Plaintiff Adrienne Moore filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple in May 2014, arguing that the iMessage system hindered her ability to receive texts after she migrated her number to a Samsung phone running Google’s Android operating system. The iMessage system delivers messages from one iPhone user to another through a different process than standard text messages and Apple has acknowledged iMessages sent to unused Apple IDs may never reach their intended recipient if that user has switched away from an iPhone.

In November 2014, Apple released a deregistration tool allowing users to wipe their phone number from the iMessage system, but that same month the court ruled that Moore deserved a hearing to decide whether Apple had “interfered with her contract with Verizon Wireless” by not delivering her messages when she switched to a competing Android phone. The latest ruling from U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh states that the case can’t proceed as a group lawsuit because it’s unclear that all proposed members of the suit suffered an inconvenience due to “contractual breach or interference” related to the iMessage system. Moore’s lawyer couldn’t be reached for comment, and it’s unclear from the ruling whether Moore will still be able to proceed with her individual lawsuit in its current form or will need to file a new suit.

Apple Music starts offering replays of Beats 1 shows, joins Billboard charts

Over the past few days Apple Music DJs like Zane Lowe and Julie Adenuga have started sharing full replays of their individual shows on the Connect social network without any official announcement from Apple. The move seems aimed at capitalizing on the most popular aspect of Apple Music’s service so far – programs hosted by real live DJs –  and The Verge is speculating that Apple Music may expand on that success in the near future. The site reports that Apple is contractually allowed to launch up to five more Beats radio stations without renegotiating deals with artists and labels, saying another station based in Asia or Australia could be particularly appealing since Beats 1 is currently only live 12 hours a day. While industry sources have said labels are still skeptical that all of Apple Music’s current free-trial users will stick around once they have to start paying, the service is making other inroads to greater recognition within the music industry. Billboard announced that is has added Apple Music to the list of streaming providers used to compile data for the Billboard 200, Hot 100 and other charts, weighing streams from the service alongside those of competitors like Google Play, Spotify, Rhapsody, Amazon Prime and others.

Apple denies reported MVNO cellular service plans

According to a CNBC tweet, Apple has denied reports that it is in talks to launch a mobile virtual network operator service. The denial comes one day after Business Insider published a story claiming Apple was interested in leasing space from existing cellular carriers to provide its own service in which to offer data, calls and texts directly to iPhone users. As of this writing, Business Insider’s original story still ends with the line, “We reached out to Apple for comment on this story and will update if we hear back.”

Australian cellular carrier Telstra offering Apple Music free for 12 months

Australian cellular provider Telstra is offering customers a free 12-month Apple Music subscription when they sign up for an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus on the company’s Go Mobile plan. Users will receive an SMS message three days before their free subscription runs out and start being billed for the service automatically at the end of the free trial unless they cancel. Even users who have already signed up for Apple Music’s 3-month free trial are eligible for the full 12 months of Apple Music with a new cell phone plan. Telstra isn’t the first provider to use Apple Music to draw in customers, with T-Mobile adding Apple Music to its Music Freedom program that allows users to stream music from the service and not count it against their data limit. Data charges still apply to streaming Apple Music through Telstra.

The language of Telstra’s contract hints that a user’s bill for Apple Music after the 12 free months may be coming through the carrier itself, not Apple. Apple’s updated iTunes terms of service noted that carriers may start handling some Apple Music subscriptions, but Telstra would be the first. AT&T had a similar deal with the Beats Music streaming service, but when Beats Music was migrated to Apple Music those contracts were terminated, forcing users to set up new billing directly through Apple.

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.

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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.”

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.

Apple releases second iOS 8.4.1 beta to developers

Apple has released a second iOS 8.4.1 beta to developers. Featuring a build number of 12H318, this second release, like the first, provides no release notes, and likely simply addresses unresolved issues with Apple Music and other features from last month’s iOS 8.4 release. The latest build has not yet appeared for direct download on the Apple Developer site; it is currently only available as an over-the-air update to those running the first iOS 8.4.1 beta released two weeks ago,

Volkswagen adds CarPlay to 2016 lineup

Volkswagen has announced CarPlay support for almost its entire 2016 lineup of cars, with the first models expected to be arriving in dealerships this week. The company’s all-new Modular Infotainment Platform (MIB II) is being incorporated into the entire 2016 VW lineup, “in virtually every trim” and will include support for Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto, MirrorLink and Volkswagen’s own Car-Net connected vehicle services platform, the latter of which will integrate with VW’s iOS apps to provide features such as remote door lock and unlock, remote honk and light flash, last parked location, remote door and window status check, vehicle monitoring, and more. Volkswagen also plans to provide a VW Car-Net app for Apple Watch later this year that will allow customers to access vehicle features directly from their wrist.

Four different head unit configurations will be available depending on the trim level of the vehicle, with entry level models featuring a basic color touchscreen with a five-inch resistive 400x240 display and AUX-IN, SD card support, an iPhone/iPod-compatible USB interface, and Bluetooth support, but notably omitting CarPlay support. Select trims acrosss the entire Volkswagen line will include the “Composition Media” package which will include full CarPlay support along with a 6.3 or 6.5-inch 800x480 capacitive color touchscreen with proximity sensor along with the ability to sync two phones simultaneously, dual SD card slots, SiriusXM Radio, HD Radio, and FLAC support. Higher trim levels will offer “Discover Media” and “Discover Pro” head units which incorporate all of the features of the “Composition Media” package while adding integrated navigation features.

 

AT&T wants $100M data throttling fine thrown out

AT&T is asking the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to cancel a proposed $100 million fine levied against the company for throttling data speeds for users with “unlimited” data plans, The Hill reports. The FCC launched a complaint in October 2014 claiming AT&T slowed speeds for users who had used a certain amount of data each month without informing customers of the policy, then announced in June that it intended to fine the company for that practice.

In a July court filing, AT&T argues that it had properly disclosed its policies to customers – both in online postings and via direct text messages – and took issue with the proposed fine. The company is asking that courts weigh in on the legality of the fine – the largest ever handed down by the FCC – and that any action be halted until they reach a decision. “The Commission’s findings that consumers and competition were harmed are devoid of factual support and wholly implausible,” the company’s filing states. “Its ‘moderate’ forfeiture penalty of $100 million is plucked out of thin air, and the injunctive sanctions it proposes are beyond the Commission’s authority.” The FCC claims a “transparency” provision in a 2010 net neutrality order gives it the authority to levy the fine, but AT&T says that assumption is based on a misreading of a portion of the law taken out of context. The FCC declined to comment on AT&T’s latest filing.

Apple Music added to T-Mobile’s Music Freedom

T-Mobile has added Apple Music to its Music Freedom program, allowing listeners to stream Apple Music songs without counting against their data limit. The carrier is also offering customers the ability to lease an iPhone for $15 a month and allowing anyone picking up an iPhone before Labor Day to upgrade to the next model later this year at the same rate. “Now, every single customer who gets a new iPhone 6 this summer as part of this deal can simply swap it for the next iPhone, if they upgrade before the end of the year,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere wrote on the company’s blog. [via CNET]

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