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Battery impact of Samsung vs TSMC A9 chips overestimated? (Update: Apple response)

After revelations last month that Apple chose to use two different A9 chip fabrications in its new iPhone 6s models, a number of benchmarking tests have surfaced to suggest that the TSMC variant may offer longer battery life than its Samsung counterpart. A new report by MacRumors, however, suggests that many of these tests may have overestimated the impact of the larger Samsung chip on battery life under real-world conditions.

Apple TV, iPad Pro to be sold online in late October, in stores early November?

Apple will begin selling both the Apple TV and iPad Pro online in “late October” according to a new report from 9to5Mac. Citing reliable sources, the report notes that both devices are not scheduled to arrive in Apple retail stores until early November, but that they would be available online in late October. It’s unclear whether this would be for online preorders or whether the units will actually ship before the end of October, however. Apple previously set a November release date for the iPad Pro and a late October release date for the new Apple TV, although no mention was made of online vs. retail availability at that time. We’re still waiting to see if Apple announces a set release date in the near future for either device.

iBooks adds exclusive enhanced editions of Harry Potter series

Apple announced that enhanced versions of all seven of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are now available in the iBooks Store for download on iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Mac. These exclusive editions contain “interactive animations and elaborate artwork” as well as the full original text of the saga. This is the first time the Harry Potter books have been available digitally outside of the series’ own online store, the Pottermore Shop. Each book is currently available for $10 on the iBooks Store in English, with French, German, and Spanish versions of the books coming next month.

“I’m thrilled to see the Harry Potter books so beautifully realised on iBooks for the digital world; the artwork and animations in these enhanced editions bring the stories alive in a delightful new way,” J.K. Rowling said.

Report: Barclays to launch Apple Pay support in the UK early next year

U.K. bank Barclays plans to launch support for Apple Pay early next year, according to a customer’s blog post. Mike Jobson wrote Barclays CEO Ashok Vaswani asking when Barclays would make the digital payment method available and he claims to have gotten a response from Vaswani saying, “We have signed up for ApplePay [sic] and will launch it very early in the New Year.” Barclays was the last major holdout during Apple’s negotiations to bring Apple Pay to the U.K. and has been notably absent from the service since it launched there in July. [via Mac Rumors]

Apple reveals Beats Pill+ speaker

Months after recalling the Beats Pill XL over battery overheating concerns, Beats has revealed the Beats Pill+ ($230), the company’s first speaker offering since it was bought by Apple last year. Not yet available for purchase, the Pill+ features four front-facing speakers, with Beats claiming users will be able to sync up playback with a second speaker using its dedicated app. The new speaker has a Lightning port for charging, boasts a 12-hour battery life on a 3-hour charge and is able to charge an iOS device while playing music. Beats Pill+ will be available in black and white color options, and it will launch in November.

Antitrust monitor: Apple is ‘its own worst enemy’

In his final report to a U.S. district judge, antitrust monitor Michael Bromwich said Apple has made progress, but persistently raised objections to requests for information, Reuters reports. Bromwich acknowledges that the company has created new antitrust procedures, implemented training programs and improved engagement among executives, but said Apple’s combative stance cast an “unnecessary shadow over meaningful progress,” at one point calling the company “its own worst enemy.” Apple is still considering an appeal to the Supreme Court over the 2013 ruling that left the company with Bromwich looking over its shoulder in the first place. A federal court ruled against Apple’s first appeal to overturn $450 million in damages that U.S. District Judge Denise Cote imposed on the company for conspiring with publishers to fix e-book prices. Regardless of the appeal’s outcome, Bromwich’s time at Apple is officially over unless Cote chooses to extend his two-year appointment.

Report: Apple holding $181.1 billion in offshore tax havens

Apple is holding $181.1 billion in offshore tax havens, more than any other U.S. company, Reuters reports. A study by The Center for Tax Justice and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund examined the Security and Exchange Commission filings of the 500 largest American companies, concluding nearly three-quarters of them are collectively holding more than $2.1 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to avoid an estimated $620 billion in U.S. taxes; Apple itself would owe an estimated $59.2 billion in U.S. taxes if the company wanted to bring its overseas money back into the United States. The study concluded that “Congress can and should take strong action to prevent corporations from using offshore tax havens, which in turn would restore basic fairness to the tax system, reduce the deficit and improve the functioning of markets.” Apple has generally stated in the past that the company pays all the taxes it owes.

Apple releases fourth iOS 9.1 beta, third tvOS beta to developers

Less than a week after the last iOS 9.1 beta release, Apple has now released a fourth beta of iOS 9.1 to developers. iOS 9.1 appears to be primarily focused on adding developer-level support for features such as 3D Touch and Live Photos on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, with this latest beta focusing on fixing a number of issues from prior betas. Registered iOS developers can download the iOS 9.1 beta from Apple’s Developer site; a public version of the beta will likely be following soon.

In addition, Apple has also released a third beta of tvOS for the new Apple TV, intended to allow developers to get a head start on Apple TV App Development prior to the public release of the new set-top box. The tvOS beta is intended only for those developers who have already received a development kit for the new Apple TV, as it only runs on the not-yet-released model.

Apple taking reservations for new iPhones in six European countries

Apple is accepting iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus reservations in six of the 40 countries where the new phones are set to debut this Friday. Customers in Belgium, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands can pick the model, color and storage size they want and reserve a phone for in-store pickup Friday, although iPhone 6s Plus models are still in limited supply at most locations. Reservations are limited to two per customer and valid government-issued ID may be required for pickup.

Apple adds transit directions for Boston, Sydney

Apple has quietly added Boston and Sydney, Australia to its list of cities where transit directions are supported in Apple Maps. The expansion solves a problem for some Australian users who were left without access to transit directions after Apple shut down the popular HopStop transit directions app earlier this month. HopStop covered cities in Russia, Israel and Australia that Apple Maps has yet to expand into with transit directions. Note: Though support has officially been added, not all users are seeing the feature as of yet. We searched both cities and no transit directions appeared to be available at the time of this writing.

Apple acquires artificial intelligence firm Perceptio

Apple has acquired Perceptio, a startup that develops tech which allows companies to run artificial intelligence on smartphones with less sharing of user data, Bloomberg reports. Since previous reports on Apple’s growing AI development push have cited the company’s demand that predictive recommendations be generated by a user’s device — not based on pooling and analyzing data like similar offerings from Google, Amazon and Facebook — the acquisition fits into Apple’s hopes to do as much processing as possible on local devices. Outside of its routine confirmation of the acquisition, Apple declined to comment on its plans for Perceptio.

Apple rolls out app thinning in iOS 9.0.2

Apple has fixed the iOS 9 issue that held up the release of its new app thinning feature. Users running iOS 9.0.2 or later will now receive device-specific versions of downloaded apps, provided the app’s developer has made such a download available. By tailoring app downloads to individual devices, developers can provide users with a variant containing only the features and capabilities that function on each device, minimizing the amount of space an app requires. How many developers have created device-specific variants of their apps so far is still unclear.

Apple Pay transaction numbers still low overall

A year after Apple Pay’s launch, the digital payment system is only accounting for 1 percent of U.S. retail transactions, Bloomberg reports. Apple Pay has suffered from a lack of promotion and limited support from retailers, but at Panera Bread — an early adopter of the new pay format — the percentage of Apple Pay transactions is in the low single digits. Even within Panera’s iOS app that lets users order from their iPhone, Apple Pay only accounts for around 20 percent of transactions. Vince Burchianti, chief financial officer of Firehouse Subs, said Apple Pay makes up about 2 percent of his company’s transactions. “Apple is just not even pushing it out,” Burchianti said. Apple’s lack of promotion is reflected in user ambivalence, with more than 75 percent of surveyed iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users saying they’d never tried the service.

Apple releases Apple Watch Hermès collection

After its announcement weeks ago, Apple has officially launched the Apple Watch Hermès, with prices starting at $1,100. The watch sports three leather band options and a custom face designed by Apple using fonts that mimic the classic Hermès style. The classic Single Tour band is available in both 38mm and 42mm sizes in brown and black. The Double Tour band — which wraps around the wrist twice — is only available in 38mm, but also comes in red or blue, while the wider Cuff style band is only available in 42mm in brown. The Apple Watch Hermès is only available at select Apple stores, Hermès stores and a few fashion retailers.

Apple to open Apple TV’s universal search API to more content providers

Apple plans to expand the new Apple TV’s universal search far beyond its initial launch partners, Buzzfeed reports. Universal search is one of the marquee features in the new device, letting users search once for a term and see results from multiple sources. The feature will support iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, HBO and Showtime when the new Apple TV ships this month, but Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company is opening its API so other sources can make their content searchable as well, and he’s confident that providers will be eager to make their services compatible. “I think that many, many people will want to be in that search,” Cook said. “And that’s great for users.” Cook added that the new search will differentiate between paid and free options where users end up having the same content available from multiple sources.

Adobe releases Photoshop Fix, Capture CC apps for iOS

After dropping its Photoshop Touch app in May to focus on smaller, more specific apps, Adobe has rolled out its Photoshop Fix and Capture CC apps for iOS, giving users two new free tools for photo manipulation. Photoshop Fix, pictured above left, provides a slimmed-down version of Adobe’s flagship program aimed at providing the tools users most frequently want when retouching their pictures. Basic brightening, sharpening and cropping functions are here alongside more transformative options for blending, reshaping and smoothing. All Fix edits are saved in layers within a PSD file that can be exported to Creative Cloud and opened in other Adobe programs. Capture CC, pictured above right, is a little less helpful to the causal user, designed to extract color themes, vector graphics and brush textures from images to be exported to other Adobe programs for use within other projects. Both apps require a free account with Adobe to use.

New Philips Hue Bridge supports HomeKit, Siri

The new HomeKit-enabled Hue Bridge ($60) that Philips has been teasing for months is now available. The upgraded Bridge 2.0 allows users to control all existing and future Hue bulbs and lamps using Siri, courtesy of the updated Hue app. Siri functionality can be turned on in Settings once the app is downloaded, allowing Hue owners to issue voice commands to alter a room’s lighting, change the temperature on their thermostat, or lock their doors. Users can save various configurations like “wake mode” or “night mode” for routine use, but HomeKit integration will also provide for making fine adjustments on the fly, allowing a user to tell Siri to dim a particular light to 30 percent, for example. Upgrading to the new bridge allows existing Hue users to control up to 50 bulbs, but new users can opt for a starter kit ($200) that includes the new bridge and three A19 Hue bulbs.

Apple acquires speech tech startup VocalIQ

Apple has acquired VocalIQ, a UK-based startup company specializing in natural speech algorithms, The Financial Times reports. The company builds virtual assistants using machine learning technology, focused on providing a natural, conversational dialogue experience, and while such technology could conceivably be used to improve Siri, the report notes that VocalIQ was specifically focused on automotive applications, including a collaboration with General Motors.

VocalIQ had written a blog post earlier this year describing a “conversational voice-dialog system” that could be incorporated into a vehicle navigation system to reduce driver distraction from having to look at a screen. The company claims to have developed the world’s first “self-learning API” to “allow real conversation between human and the Internet of Things.” In another post, VocalIQ has noted that most of the big tech companies have produced vocal assistants that have fallen “well short of consumer expectations,” noting that solutions like Siri have “ended being used only as toys.” For its part, Apple confirmed the deal but made only its usual statement that “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” VocalIQ’s team, however, is expected to remain in the U.K. rather than being moved to Apple’s U.S. headquarters.

iPhone 6s more water-resistant than previous models

Photo: iFixit

Apple appears to have improved water resistance in the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, according to an analysis and teardown by iFixit. While the iPhone still isn’t certified as even water-resistant, much less waterproof, iFixit reports that Apple appears to have taken steps to prevent water damage, such as adding a new gasket where the casing fits together and surrounding the logic board and its components with a new silicon seal to prevent shorting and corrosion if water gets into the casing; this new silicon seal design was revealed earlier this year in an Apple patent filing related to waterproofing that was reported by Apple Insider, although the iFixit report notes that the seal is only one part of the overall patent.

Apple CEO Tim Cook talks privacy to NPR

In a recent interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel, Apple CEO Tim Cook emphasized how he feels that “privacy is a fundamental human right” and discussed how Apple and its products and services work to protect the privacy of its users. Cook stated that the government does contact Apple “from time to time”, and of course Apple will supply any requested information if the government asks “in a way that is correct” and have followed proper legal proceedings through the courts. However, he also noted that Apple can only provide information on its users “to the degree that we have information” and noted that Apple’s products are designed in such a way that most of users’ personal information remains on their own devices — in an encrypted form — rather than being stored on Apple’s servers. Cook also discussed the allegations that the government may ask for back doors into the systems of Apple and other companies, stating that any back doors can just as easily allow access to “bad guys as well as good guys” and stated emphatically that for that reason, “I don’t support a back door for any government, ever.”

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