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Apple releases iOS 9 GM seed, first iOS 9.1 developer beta

As in previous years, following yesterday’s event, Apple has now released the final GM seed for iOS 9 to registered developers. The GM seed is a final “release candidate” and barring any problems found in this version, it is expected to be identical to the final iOS 9.0 release scheduled to be rolled out to the public next week. Unlike prior beta updates, the GM seed does not appear to be available as an over-the-air update; developers will need to download the GM seed from Apple’s site and update to it manually via iTunes.

Along with the iOS 9 GM Seed, Apple has also already released the first beta version of iOS 9.1 to developers. The iOS 9.1 beta release notes don’t reveal much new in iOS 9.1, although it appears to include developer-level enhancements for new features introduced on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus yesterday, such as 3D Touch and Live Photos. The iOS 9.1 beta continues to support the same devices as iOS 9.0 and registered iOS developers can download the iOS 9.1 beta from Apple’s Developer site.

Apple making limited new Apple TV units available to registered developers

In order to give developers a chance to develop Apple TV applications in advance of the public release of the new set-top box, Apple is making a limited number of Apple TV Developer Kits available to registered Apple Developer Program members. To qualify, developers must already be members of the Apple Developer Program, must be located in one of 22 specific countries and must register to request a kit by Sept 11 at 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time. The kit includes the new Apple TV, Apple TV Remote, Power cord, Lightning to USB Cable, USB-A to USB-C Cable, and documentation. Apple notes that due to limited availability, priority will be given to teams that already have apps on the App Store, and developers will be notified of whether or not they have been selected beginning on Sept. 14.

In addition, Apple has already posted developer documentation on building apps for the new Apple TV as well as downloads and release notes of the new tvOS beta. Of particular note is that “the maximum size of an Apple TV app is limited to 200MB. Anything beyond this size needs to be packaged and loaded using on-demand resources.”

Apple increases AppleCare+ pricing for iPhone 6s

Apple has increased the pricing of its AppleCare+ plans for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus to $129 — $30 more than last year’s AppleCare+ pricing for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models. The less expensive $99 AppleCare+ for iPhone 6 and earlier models remains available, with the new pricing only applying to users purchasing AppleCare+ for Apple’s newest iPhones. The AppleCare+ plan for the iPhone 6s models is also included in Apple’s new iPhone Upgrade Program. The terms and conditions of the AppleCare+ program do not appear to have changed for the new models, however.

Numerous companies debut iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus cases

Today’s introduction of Apple’s new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus has already led a number of companies to reveal cases for the upcoming devices. We’ve already received plenty of new iPhone 6s cases from Spigen, including Liquid Crystal, Neo Hybrid, Neo Hybrid Carbon, Neo Hybrid EX, Perfect Armor, Rugged Capsule, Thin Fit and Ultra Hybrid. All of those cases are advertised as 6/6s cases — once we have the iPhone 6s in hand, we’ll see how they all measure up and post plenty of reviews, but until then, you can take a look at these other newly announced offerings.

Griffin has expanded its Survivor line of cases, adding the Summit and Journey models to its existing All-Terrain offering. The multi-layered Survivor Summit ($50 for iPhone 6s, $60 for iPhone 6s Plus), can withstand a maximum 10-foot drop and provides a textured grip. The case fully weather seals all ports and device controls to protect against rain, dust and sand.

Apple announces iPhone Upgrade Program

During its fall event today, Apple also briefly announced a new iPhone Upgrade Program initiative. Being introduced initially in U.S. Apple Retail stores, the program will allow customers to pay a monthly fee to receive a new iPhone each year. Pricing for the program starts at $32/month and would include AppleCare+ and an unlocked iPhone that could be used on a carrier of the customer’s choice. Users could then upgrade to the latest model each year, presumably an equivalent version to their current iPhone, appropriate to the price level they’re paying. Additional details are not yet available, although Apple did indicate that it plans to roll the program out to additional countries in the future.

Apple schedules iOS 9 release for Sept. 16

Apple has announced Sept. 16 as the official release date for iOS 9, the next major update to its mobile operating system. Originally shown in June at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference and then released into public beta over the summer, iOS 9 will add a number of new features including a more proactive assistant mode for Siri, Transit directions in Apple Maps, a News app for curated news feeds, split-screen multitasking for iPad users, and support for loyalty cards in Passbook, which is being renamed Wallet in light of its new role. The new version will also offer HomeKit support for new devices, as well as accessing HomeKit via iCloud, and support for wireless CarPlay connections. New developer features will also allow for smaller and more efficient iOS applications. The new version is also expected to run more efficiently on older iPhone and iPad models.

Apple reduces iCloud Storage Pricing

Apple has announced new pricing tiers for its iCloud Storage Plans, more closely matching the prices offered by competing services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft. Effective today, users can purchase 50GB of iCloud storage for $1/month (users previously only received 20GB for that price), 200GB for $3/month (down from $4/month), or 1TB for $10/month (down from $20/month). Users still get 5GB of storage for free, while the prior 500GB plan which was priced at $10/month has now disappeared rather than being similarly discounted.

Apple announces iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus

As expected, Apple also unveiled its next-generation iPhone models, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Sporting the new third-generation 64-bit A9 chip that promises 90 percent better graphics performance from the previous generation, the headline feature on the new models is a new 3D Touch feature which uses force touch sensors similar to the Apple Watch to provide an additional layer of navigation through the iPhone user interface. 3D Touch gestures will allow users to access shortcuts to frequently access features from the home screen icons, which appear as contextual style menus that pop up near the icon, enabling actions such as quickly taking selfies from the Camera icon or quickly composing a new email from the Mail icon.

Users can press lightly to peek at content — such as pulling up a map view from an address in a calendar appointment, pulling up a web page preview from a link in an email, or pulling up a calendar view when looking at a proposed meeting time in an email message. Pressing slightly harder will take the user directly into the new content area, and releasing closes the “peek” to return the user back to their original content. The new 3D Touch also enables distinct tactile feedback for actions. The app switcher can now also be accessed with a 3D Touch gesture at the end of the iPhone screen to more naturally bring up the panel of apps and then swipe across to switch apps. Selected third-party developers such as Dropbox, Facebook, and Instragram have also already implemented support for 3D Touch.

Apple debuts its new Apple TV

Apple today debuted its long-awaited next-generation Apple TV set-top box, incorporating what the company calls a “new foundation for TV” consisting of more powerful hardware, a modernized operating system, a completely revamped user experience and a development framework and App Store for facilitating third-party apps. The new Apple TV will include a remote that includes a glass touch surface and Siri support for interacting with the TV user interface. Users can swipe to navigate through menus, or give a wide variety of Siri voice commands to search for and play content, look up information, and navigate the Apple TV. A new Universal Search feature allows users to find content across multiple sources — currently iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and Showtime — as well as searching with Siri for content by type (“action films”), actor, or even guest star.

When viewing content, users can also click and swipe to scrub through a show with thumbnails preview images shown on the scrubber bar, or use Siri commands such as “skip ahead 7 minutes” to go forward, or “what did she say?” to skip back 15 seconds and temporarily turn on captions. Contextual information can also be looked up when watching a movie or TV show by issuing Siri commands such as “Who stars in this?” to see cast information, or even non-contextual information such as sports scores or weather. A notification overlay appears to provide information without taking the user out of the current video, and users can either dismiss or swipe up to pause playback and show more detail.

Apple introduces iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard, Pencil

Apple took the wraps off its long-rumored iPad Pro during today’s event in San Francisco, revealing a new 12.9” version of the tablet that provides a 2732 x 2048, 5.6 million pixel display. Combined with iOS 9, the new iPad Pro allows for iPad Air apps to run with more room side-by-side, and incorporates a third-generation A9X 64-bit CPU providing twice the performance of the prior A8X devices such as the iPad Air 2 — performance that can allow users to edit three streams of 4K video simultaneously. The iPad Pro features a variable refresh rate to save energy, providing up to 10 hours of battery life, and a new four-speaker audio system that provides stereo separation, and automatically balances left and right audio depending on orientation while providing three times the audio volume of the iPad Air 2. The iPad Pro comes in at 6.9mm thick, only 0.8mm more than the iPad Air 2, and weighs 1.57 pounds. The new device also features an 8MP iSight camera, a FaceTime HD camera on the front, 150Mbps LTE and 802.11ac with MIMO support, and Touch ID authentication.

To complement the iPad Pro, Apple also debuted a new physical keyboard accessory, dubbed the Smart Keyboard. Similar to the design of the Smart Covers that Apple has created for other iPad models, the Smart Keyboard uses the Apple dome switch key design from the new Apple MacBook which debuted earlier this year, covered with a custom fabric. The keyboard docks with the iPad Pro using a new “Smart Connector” on the long edge that provides power and data and attaches magnetically to the Smart Keyboard.

Follow iLounge’s live coverage of today’s Apple event

Follow @iLounge on Twitter during Apple’s event today for up-to-the-second coverage of everything new about the iPhone 6S, new Apple TV, iPad Pro, and any other surprises Apple has in store. After the event ends we’ll have all the details here, so check back regularly throughout the day for an in-depth look. Apple’s special event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. EST), and will be streaming live on Apple’s website and on Apple TV’s Special Events channel.

Last-minute details emerge before today’s Apple event

Ahead of what 9to5Mac believes will be Apple’s only event this fall, the site’s sources have spilled more last-minute details about the company’s new products. Contrary to previous rumors that had the iPad Pro starting at 64GB of storage, the new device will reportedly start at a base 32GB storage capacity — still double that of current iPad base models — priced at $800. 64GB and 128GB models are expected to cost $900 and $1,000, respectively, and LTE-capable models will tack on another $130 — bringing the total cost for a top-of-the-line iPad Pro to $1,130, just under the base price of a new Retina MacBook. In addition to camera upgrades, all-new “3D Touch Display” screens, improved A9 chips and more efficient wireless systems, the new iPhones are expected to feature always-on Siri functionality, allowing users to activate Apple’s personal assistant simply by saying, “Hey Siri” at any time. Current iPhone models have to be plugged into a power source to activate that feature.

The fourth-generation Apple TV is getting software upgrades too, expected to run a new iOS 9-based system appropriately named “tvOS.” While based on the current Apple TV OS, the new system reportedly includes plenty of new elements from iOS 9 and El Capitan, including enhanced transparency effects. And finally, although Apple Watch isn’t expected to get a second-generation version this year, the company is expected to debut new gold color options and bands at today’s event — a PRODUCT(RED) Sport band box has already been posted on Twitter — as well as possible announcements about the company’s collaborations with popular fashion brands. The event kicks off at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 EST) today.

Report: Periscope app coming to Apple TV

Twitter’s Periscope team has been secretly building an Apple TV app, TechCrunch reports. With Apple expected to unveil a new Apple TV set-top box tomorrow that includes an App Store (yet no official third-party SDK has been released), it seems Apple has approached some third-party developers quietly, in much the same way as the company handled its initial HomeKit rollout. Sources for the report confirm Periscope will be one of the first apps to debut for the new Apple TV, and although the specific functionality of the app has not yet been revealed, it seems likely that it will be focused on allowing viewers to watch Periscope streams on the big screen.

Apple Music Festival adds Carrie Underwood, Mumford & Sons and more

Apple has announced more headliners for its Apple Music Festival, including Carrie Underwood, Mumford & Sons and Ellie Goulding. Goulding will open the festival on Sept. 19 at London’s Roundhouse, and Underwood will become the first country star to headline at the event when she takes the stage on Sept. 21, according to NewsOK. Previously announced acts include Pharrell Williams, Florence + The Machine and One Direction. A full list of the festival’s headliners can be found here. Apple plans to make performances available for free to Apple Music and iTunes users live and on-demand, with Beats 1 and individual artists’ Connect pages providing continuing coverage of the event and access to backstage news and footage. Apple TV owners will be able to view the event in HD.

Apple, other tech companies fighting U.S. over privacy

Government officials considering a lawsuit against Apple after the company refused to follow a court order which would allow the U.S. Justice Department to see text message conversations between suspected criminals, The New York Times reports. Apple told the government that its iMessage system’s encryption prevented the company from complying with the order, prompting senior Justice Department and F.B.I. officials to suggest taking Apple to court. While Apple didn’t end up being sued over that incident, Microsoft is in court over a similar refusal to turn over emails in a 2013 investigation, after the company told federal officials that they’d need to get a warrant in Ireland since the emails were hosted on a server in Dublin. Both cases have drawn the attention of privacy advocates and law enforcement agencies alike, with government officials expressing frustration with the White House for letting tech companies “win” the public relations fight over data encryption. The Justice Department wants data currently protected by Apple’s end-to-end encryption to be subject to the same types of wiretap orders that phone companies currently face for voice calls. In a May letter to President Obama, Apple joined several other companies objecting to limits on encryption, saying any built-in vulnerabilities for law enforcement use could just as easily be exploited by malicious hackers or repressive government regimes.

Apple beefing up artificial intelligence research department

Apple is boosting the size of its artificial intelligence staff, looking to add at least 86 new positions to create smartphone features that predict what users will want next, Reuters reports. The company is recruiting artificial intelligence experts from PhD programs geared toward machine learning, which lets devices use previous experience to infer what users are likely to need in the future. The capability relies on computing vast amounts of data to provide those unprompted services, and while Apple pioneered the idea of the idea of a digital assistant with the introduction of Siri in 2011, experts say the company’s strict stance on privacy could undermine Apple’s ability to compete with the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook in the future. The company’s self-imposed restraints on pooling and analyzing user data means Apple’s only option would be analyzing the data on each user’s iPhone, which former employees said complicates the work at every turn. Companies like Google and Microsoft have far fewer qualms about accumulating and studying user data, allowing them to learn about users faster and create personal assistant features more suited to their daily routines.

Apple has acquired social media analytics firm Topsy and personalized podcasting app Swell, among other companies in the field. When asked for comment on the growing AI initiative, an Apple spokeswoman pointed to statements from senior VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi, who said the company is “adding intelligence throughout the user experience in a way that enhances how you use your device but without compromising your privacy, things like improving the apps that you use most.”

Report: iPhone 6S, iPad Pro to feature ‘3D Touch Display’

Ahead of Apple’s announcement tomorrow, 9to5Mac is reporting the new iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and iPad Pro are expected to feature a next-generation version of the Force Touch display, likely to be called “3D Touch Display.” The new screens will be able to detect and act on three different levels of pressure — a tap, a press and a deep press. Sources said this improvement allows Apple to add new shortcut gestures to apps in the iPhone version of iOS 9, eliminating the need for multiple button pushes to do things like starting navigation in Maps or adding songs to a playlist in Music.

In addition to the new screen, 9to5Mac said the iPad Pro base model will feature four stereo speakers and 64GB of storage — substantially higher than the 16GB starting capacity of previous models. The new iPad will likely also come in a 128GB model and be available with built-in LTE capabilities like current iPad Air and iPad Mini lines, but will feature an A9X chip considered to be a large leap over the iPad Air 2’s A8X. Upscale models are expected to cost more than $1,000, placing them closer to the price point now reserved for a smaller MacBook than that of the most expensive iPad currently on the market. Even with the top of the line model, Apple is expected to make customers buy the Force-Touch-integrated stylus and Bluetooth keyboard separately, further upping the price for those looking for a more robust experience. The company is rumored to have two versions of the keyboard in the works, with one similar to the Apple Wireless Keyboard previously sold with Macs and iPads and another that doubles as a case. While the new iPhones will probably be available in rose gold, the iPad Pro will start with the gold, silver and space grey colors we’ve already seen. Pre-orders may start in October, but production issues and supply constraints could keep the iPad Pro from shipping until the end of November.

Happy Labor Day from iLounge!

In observance of Labor Day in the U.S. (and Labour Day in Canada), iLounge will be on a limited posting schedule today. We will return to our normal schedule with regular updates on Tuesday, September 8. Have a great holiday!

Report: iPad Pro to be official name of large iPad, more details revealed

Days before Apple’s scheduled event on Sept. 9, 9to5Mac is reporting that the new larger-sized iPad will indeed be called the iPad Pro — a name we’ve used to refer to the device since reports of its rumored existence started years ago — while also providing some additional details on what the new device will look like. The report notes that the new models will feature a 2732 x 2048 display with a design similar to both the iPad mini and iPad Air, with a source saying that it “literally looks like a big iPad.” The iPad Pro will also feature the same camera configuration as other iPad models, with a FaceTime camera on the front and an iSight camera on the rear. Sources have also reportedly confirmed a Force Touch-based screen will also be coming to the iPad Pro, as well as a — for the first time — a stylus accessory for enhanced drawing and design apps. The stylus combined with Force Touch capabilities will allow for apps to take advantage of pressure sensitivity.

Although Apple is expected to introduce the iPad Pro during next week’s event, the company still does actually plan to ship the new iPad in November, when it will debut alongside iOS 9.1, with the new iOS version providing specific improvements for the larger display, including optimized Split-Screen app support, Picture-in-Picture video playback, and more. Apple is also expected to debut the usual gamut of accessories alongside the iPad Pro, including Smart Covers and Smart Cases in both polyurethane and leather versions, and expanded Bluetooth keyboard support is said to be present in the new iPad model as well, with rumors that Apple may be working on a new keyboard accessory of its own.

Mozilla begins rollout of Firefox for iOS preview

Mozilla has announced a limited release of its Firefox browser for iOS. Originally hinted at last December, Mozilla changed direction on earlier statements that its browser would only be made available on iOS if Apple were to loosen its restrictions and permit the company’s own web engine to be used. The first preview version of Firefox is being released exclusively in New Zealand so that the company can collect feedback from a limited user base in a single country. Highlighted features of this first release include Intelligent Search, which provides suggested search results and a choice of search providers, as well as Firefox Accounts, which allows users to sync browser history, passwords, and tabs between Firefox on the desktop and the iOS version. A Visual Tabs feature is also included to help users keep track of open tabs. Mozilla plans to release future previews in “a few more countries” prior to a full public launch of the browser scheduled for later this year.

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