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Apple setting up data center in China to comply with new cybersecurity rules

Apple is setting up its first data center in China to comply with new cybersecurity regulations, CNBC reports. The company will build the data center in partnership with local data management firm Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Co as part of a $1 billion investment in Guizhou province, an Apple spokesman said in a statement. “These regulations require cloud services be operated by Chinese companies so we’re partnering with GCBD to offer iCloud,” the statement read. Apple has faced increased pressure from China in the last year, with the government ordering the company to monitor mobile app users and pull The New York Times app from the county’s App Store. China has also voiced concerns over live streaming apps, but an Apple representative claims all of Apple’s safeguards for privacy are still in place. “No backdoors will be created into any of our systems,” the company’s statement said.

Apple earns four out of five stars from online privacy watchdog

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s newest “Who Has Your Back” report on how companies handle government requests for user data gave Apple four out of five stars, docking points only for the company’s lack of support for reforming the NSA’s surveillance programs. The EFF tweaks Apple for “not publicly [calling] for reforms to Section 702 to curtail the surveillance of innocent people,” but otherwise delivers high marks, including lauding Apple’s constant efforts to provide users with transparency whenever their data is accessed by government order. Many information requests also come with an indefinite gag order to keep Apple from disclosing when the government collects its data, and Apple’s standard procedure includes appeals for judicial review within 30 days of why each gag order should stay in effect. “If Apple receives notice that the nondisclosure order no longer applies, it will notify the affected customer(s) pursuant to Apple’s customer notice policies,” the EFF found. The company also scored high marks for its legal fight with the FBI after a terrorist shooting in San Bernardino led to a government request to develop a method to break into locked iPhones. [via 9to5Mac]

Rumor: ‘Sense of panic’ at Apple over iPhone 8 software problems

A source claiming to have knowledge of Apple’s iPhone 8 development said there’s a “sense of panic in the air” among engineers and designers over software problems, Fast Company reports. In addition to the wireless charging software problems reported earlier this week, Apple is reportedly having trouble with the new 3D sensors rumored to be used in a new facial recognition process for unlocking the device. With other rumors claiming that Apple is also having problems with the iPhone 8’s under-the-glass fingerprint scanner, facial recognition has been seen as a possible alternative for authentication, leaving the company in an even more precarious position if that software is not functional at launch.

Siri use down, but it’s still the most popular digital assistant

A new research report by Verto Analytics shows use of Siri is down 15 percent over last year, but the personal assistant is still twice as popular as its nearest competitor. Siri’s 41.4 million monthly active users still dwarfs Samsung’s S Voice at 24.8 million, but last year Siri boasted 48.7 million users. Other services, like Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana, are growing steadily because of their ties to the rising populary of home automation, but Alexa and Google Home’s mobile app still only have 2.6 million and 4.7 million users, respectively. Women and people over 45 were the key demographics making the most use of their digital assistants. [via TechCrunch]

Apple releases iTunes 12.7 for macOS High Sierra beta, with added Apple Music sharing features

Apple has rolled out iTunes 12.7 for users running the macOS High Siera beta, adding in new Apple Music sharing capabilities. Clicking on your profile picture in “For You” in iTunes 12.7 now takes you to a personal profile page showing your username, whichever playlists you want to share, and an “Edit” button that lets you adjust your profile and privacy settings (mostly to determine who can follow you). Once the update is available to the general public, users will be able to follow their friends, view that they’re listening to, and share their own recommendations. The update dovetails with the same social features coming in iOS 11 and helps to streamline and unify the Apple Music experience across various platforms.

Report: Apple has ‘just weeks’ to fix iPhone 8 fingerprint scanner or risk Apple Pay problems

In a new research note, Barron’s claims Apple is down to the wire with “just weeks to fix its fingerprint problem” or be forced to either delay the iPhone 8’s launch or do away with Touch ID altogether. Problems with the speed and accuracy of sensors embedded under the iPhone 8’s OLED screen has led Apple to delay orders on the necessary chips to run a fingerprint sensor, leading analyst Andy Hargreaves to conclude that if Apple doesn’t place the necessary orders by early August, the company will have to delay the device’s launch or drop the fingerprint scanning feature.

Apple adds three-year coverage to 1st-generation Apple Watches with detached back covers

Apple has updated its internal service policy to offer free repairs to first-generation Apple Watches whose back covers have become detached, MacRumors reports. Apple now admits “that under certain conditions on some first-generation Apple Watch devices the back cover may separate from the watch case,” which seems to usually occur when the device is being taken off its magnetic charger, according to many users on Reddit. To address the growing problem, the company has decided to provide the same three-year warranty for the back cover that it added recently for swollen batteries in all first-generation Apple Watches. Now Apple and Apple Authorized Service Providers will fix the back cover for free up to three years from the user’s original purchase date. Customers who have already paid for such a repair have been advised to contact Apple Support about a possible refund.

Apple releases third developer betas for iOS 11 and tvOS 11

Apple has released third betas for iOS 11 and tvOS 11, addressing a number of issues in the prior developer previews The release notes continue to list a large number of known issues that are still pending. A new beta for watchOS 4 has not yet appeared. Apple released the second set of betas on June 21, followed by very minor updates a week later, immediately prior to the release of the public bets for iOS 11 and tvOS 11.

Apple to open second renewable-powered data center in Denmark

Apple is planning to open a second data center in Denmark, to be run entirely on renewable energy, Reuters reports. The center is expected to power online services like the iTunes Store, App Store, iMessage, Maps and Siri for European customers. “The planned facility in Aabenraa, like all of our data centers, will run on 100 percent renewable energy from day one, thanks to new clean energy sources we’re adding,” said Erik Stannow, Nordic manager for Apple. The first announced facility in Denmark is scheduled to go online later this year, and the newly announced project should be up and running by mid-2019. Stannow said ‘the reliability of the Danish grid” was a key factor in choosing the county for two data centers, as well as an abundance of wind and biomass energy.

Apple opening office near Imagination Technologies months after severing ties to the company

Apple is opening an office near Imagination Technologies just months after severing ties to the company, The Telegraph reports. The move to open its own graphics technology development office a “stone;‘s throw away” from Imagination’s headquarters has led to speculation that Apple is intent on poaching away the British company’s top employees. In April, Apple announced its plans to part ways with the company that previously crated the technology to power the iPhone’s graphics, instantly cutting Imagination’s revenue in half and sending the company’s stock dropping. Imagination’s CEO has expressed doubts that Apple will be able to create its own graphics technology without infringing on his company’s patents, but the struggles since Apple’s announcement have forced Imagination to put itself up for sale. Apple was reportedly in talks to acquire Imagination in 2016, but a deal never materialized.

iTunes Store losing its dominance in movie rentals, sales

Apple’s market share of digitally renting and selling digital movies through iTunes — as high as 50 percent as recently as 2012 — has fallen to between 20 and 35 percent, The Wall Street Journal reports. While third-party tracking is basically nonexistent in the digital movie business, various studios have reported a serious decline in Apple’s dominance in the industry. An Apple rep didn’t dispute the estimates, but pointed out that iTunes rentals and purchases have hit their highest level in more than a decade over the past year. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that Apple’s movie rentals and sales rose 12 percent last year in the US, for a total of $5.3 billion in sales, but that growth is on account of a general shift to renting and buying movies online, not an indicator that Apple is outperforming the competition.

iPhone 8 rumored to come in four colors, may not ship with wireless charger

Tech blogger Benjamin Geskin claims the iPhone 8 will come in four colors, including a new mirror finish. Geskin posted images of a reflective case on a current iPhone to illustrate his point, but said an unnamed source hinted at a black or silver reflective backing joining some of Apple’s existing colors. If his information proves reliable, that would mean Apple is scaling back on its available colors since the iPhone 7 is available in five colors (or six if you count the special PRODUCT(RED) version that’s still available). The tweet didn’t provide any information about which colors would be cut from the existing slate.

Apple’s Bug Bounty program not paying enough to entice hackers

An Apple program that’s intended to entice hackers to reveal iOS security flaws in exchange for cash is failing to generate the necessary traction due to insufficient cash incentives, Motherboard reports. The program, announced by Apple’s security chief Ivan Krstic at last summer’s Black Hat conference, offers a cash bounty of up to $200,000 to hackers who discover and report vulnerabilities in the company’s products. However, almost a year later, the program appears to have struggled to take off, with many researchers reporting that they can sell exploits for considerably more money on the grey market than the mere $200,000 that Apple is willing to pay.

2017 32GB iPhone 6 model now available in Canada

Apple’s resurrected iPhone 6 is now being sold in Canada by Bell, Virgin Mobile, and Koodo, MobileSyrup reports. Quietly launched in Asia back in March, the 32GB iPhone 6 is a “new” version of the 2014 iPhone 6, featuring the same specifications as the original model, but available in the previously-unavailable 32GB capacity, and only available in Space Grey. Bell, Canada’s second-largest carrier, and Virgin Mobile, which operates on Bell’s network, are providing the special edition iPhone for free on select two-year contracts, or for outright purchase for $484 CAD; while Koodo is offering it for between $100 and $220 on various 24-month “Tab” contracts.

Jay-Z’s ‘4:44’ comes to Apple Music following Tidal exclusive

Jay-Z’s new album “4:44” is now available on Apple Music, following an exclusive release last week on the artist’s own Tidal music streaming service. When the album was released on Tidal, several reports predicted that it would be expanding to Apple Music and other services within the week, and earlier this week Jay-Z debuted a video for one of the album’s tracks on Apple Music, even while the album itself remained a Tidal exclusive. Even with its exclusivity to Tidal, 4:44 went platinum in under a week, although that certification also includes physical album sales.

Apple Pay expanding to additional banks in France, Italy, Spain, and Canada

Apple Pay is expanding to several new banks in Europe, MacRumors reports, with Apple having updated its regional web sites listing several new banks in France, Italy, and Spain as either now or soon to be supporting the mobile payment service. Apple Pay is available now in Italy at Banca Mediolanum for Mediolanum Card debit cards, and in Spain by prepaid mobile wallet provider Boon. Apple has also tacitly announced that Apple Pay will be coming later this year to Crédit Mutuel de Bretagne, Crédit Mutuel du Sud-Ouest, Crédit Mutuel Massif Central, and Crédit Mutuel Arkéa’s online banking subsidiary Fortuneo in France as well as mobile-only bank N26 in Spain.

Meanwhile in Canada, iPhone in Canada reports that Apple Pay has launched today for MBNA MasterCard users, following several months of from the credit card provider. MBNA Canada is a division of The Toronto-Dominion Bank, which introduced Apple Pay support for its own credit and debit cards in June 2016.

Apple expected to go ‘all-in’ on OLED screens for iPhones in 2018

Recent reports suggest that Apple may be launching a full lineup of OLED iPhone models as early as next year. A new report from Nikkei cites two industry sources, one of which suggests Apple is tentatively considering three new iPhone models for 2018, with the new design process already underway, although of course Apple’s plans are always subject to change. Further, sources among OLED suppliers suggest that they may not be able to keep up with demand if Apple expects to use OLED displays in all new iPhones in 2018. Analysts reiterated that Apple is still expected to release an OLED display in the “iPhone 8” premium model this year, but that two lower-end “iPhone 7s” models will continue to feature traditional LCD displays, and are expected to continue being sold into early 2019. [via MacRumors]

US government trying to intervene in Apple’s $14.8B EU tax case

The US government is trying to intervene on Apple’s behalf in the company’s $14.8 billion EU tax case, Reuters reports. In December, Apple appealed the European Commission’s ruling that it owed Ireland $14.8 billion in back taxes, and now an unnamed source “can confirm the United States filed an application with the European Union General Court to intervene in the case involving the retroactive application of state aid rules to Apple.” At the time of the ruling, the Obama administration claimed the EU was attempting to claim money that should be landing in US coffers instead, and since then the Trump administration has set its sights on creating a tax break that would allow companies to repatriate the estimated $26 trillion sitting in overseas banks. Europe’s second highest court, the General Court based in Luxembourg, is expected to hear the case late next year. Ireland is also backing Apple’s claims that the European Commission’s tax ruling oversteps its authority and is based on faulty math.

Beats 1 DJs reflect on 2 years anchoring Apple Music’s flagship station

As Beats 1 nears its second year as Apple Music’s flagship radio station, DJs Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden and Julie Adenuga reflected on their biggest moments so far in an Q&A session with High Snobiety. Lowe said he views Apple Music as a platform trying to take what it can from the old radio format and blend it with the “college, pirate, digital and blogs” model that’d driving much of new music discovery today. For Beats 1, that meant giving artists their own space to do things how they wanted. “We had to face up to the reality that the old expectations may not fit the artist anymore, Lowe said. “We have to trust the artists. Let them drive their own conversation. Trust that they know their audience.”

Reports claim iPhone 8 won’t support Touch ID, could replace it with 3D face scanning

Contradicting speculation that Apple had discovered a method to scan fingerprints that let them do away with a physical home button, well-connected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says the iPhone 8 will feature a virtual home button that “won’t support fingerprint recognition,” Street Insider reports. Kuo claims “the full-screen design doesn’t work with existing capacitive fingerprint recognition, and the scan-through ability of the under-display fingerprint solution still has technical challenges,” leaving Apple to scrap fingerprint recognition on the device all together to avoid production delays. Kuo adds that the iPhone 8 will support facial recognition with new 3D sensors, a claim boosted by a Bloomberg report that the new face scanner “allows users to log in, authenticate payments, and launch secure apps by scanning their face.”

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