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 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.
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.
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.”
In a move intended to promote its own Prime Video service, Amazon is banning the sale of competing video streaming devices on its online store, Bloomberg reports. An email recently sent to its marketplace sellers noted that it will no longer be selling Apple TV and Google Chromecast devices; no new listings will be permitted and existing listings will be removed on October 29. In the email, Amazon stated that “It’s important that the streaming media players we sell interact well with Prime Video in order to avoid customer confusion.” Prime Video is not supported on the Apple TV and Google Chromecast, although of course Amazon’s own Fire TV supports the service, as do other platforms by Roku, Microsoft, and Sony, which will continue to be permitted for sale on Amazon. With the new Apple TV supporting third-party apps, it’s unclear whether Amazon may opt to build a Prime Video app for Apple’s new set-top box platform. Apple’s new Apple TV is set for release this month, but no firm release date has been announced yet.
James Bell, former Chief Financial Officer and corporate president of Boeing, has been elected to Apple’s Board of Directors, Apple announced. Bell worked for Boeing for 38 years, and was the company’s interim CEO in 2005. Apple notes that Bell also sits on the board of directors at JP Morgan Chase, Dow Chemical Company, and CDW. “I am an avid user of Apple products and have a tremendous respect for the company’s ability to innovate,” Bell said in the release. “I am delighted to join the Apple board and look forward to contributing to its continued success in any way I can.”
“James brings a wealth of global, financial and industrial experience from his successful career at Boeing as corporate president and CFO,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said. “I am thrilled to welcome him to Apple’s board of directors and I look forward to working with him.”
Only a week after the last iOS 9.1 beta was released, Apple has now posted a third beta of iOS 9.1 for registered iOS developers. As with the prior beta, iOS 9.1 appears to be primarily focused on adding developer-level enhancements for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, for features such as 3D Touch and Live Photos. This latest beta focuses mostly on fixing a number of issues from the prior beta. Registered iOS developers can download the iOS 9.1 beta from Apple’s Developer site; a public version of the beta will likely be coming soon.
Apple has released iOS 9.0.2, the second minor maintenance update since the release of iOS 9 two weeks ago. This latest update fixes problems with turning cellular data usage on or off on a per-app basis, iMessage activation, iCloud backups, screen rotation when receiving notifications, and Podcast app stability. The iOS 9.0.2 update is available over the air via General, Software Updates in the iOS Settings app.
In comments made at the BoxWorks conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he believes businesses should work to address social problems when governments are unwilling or unable to do so, Computer World reports. Apple’s push to move itself and members of its supply chain toward renewable energy has proven more successful than government actions aimed at the same goal, with Apple holding a substantial enough sphere of influence to push others to comply and a willingness to undertake the effort despite the underlying financial costs. But while he may understand why governments have a difficult time making decisions that will have an economic impact, Cook said government has plenty of opportunities to affect change that don’t cost anything. “Equality is free. There’s no cost to it, and so it’s not - this week there’s a big budget crisis again and everybody’s yelling at each other about money - but to give people a basic level of human rights and dignity is free. And yet, over 200 years after we said ‘all men are created equal,’ it’s still not the case today.” Since coming out as gay last year, Cook has become a vocal advocate for the LGBT community, calling for passage of an Employment Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Traditionally, when Apple’s newest iPhone is released, we stop reviewing cases for the previous model. We’ve already received a number of cases for Apple’s newest iPhones, and it’s a bit trickier this time around — because while we’ll likely see some cases marketed solely as iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus cases, we’re currently seeing most companies billing their newest cases as compatible with both iPhone models, as in “6/6s” or “6 Plus/6s Plus.” There is a slight difference between the size of the 6 and 6s, of course, as well as the 6 Plus and 6s Plus. So obviously, these cases will not fit each phone in the exact same way.
Going forward, we will only be testing new iPhone cases on how they fit the 6s and 6s Plus. It’s quite possible that some cases will fit Apple’s last iPhones a bit better than these new models — but for a number of reasons, we’ll only be rating cases based on 6s and 6s Plus compatibility. Thanks for reading.
Apple has pulled an app that documented U.S. military drone strikes, saying it violated the company’s app guidelines by containing “excessively crude or objectionable content,” Gawker reports. Metadata+ was developed by Intercept editor Josh Begley as a companion app to the Twitter account @Dronestream, which publicizes American drone attacks based on information from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Starting in 2012, Apple rejected the app five times under the name Dronestream for being “not useful or entertaining enough” before finally accepting the app once its name was changed to Metadata+ in 2014. Over the weekend, users were informed through a push notification that the app had been pulled. The move has drawn the ire of critics who point out that an app reporting the news is being banned as offensive, and this isn’t the first time the arbitrary nature of Apple’s app guidelines has come under fire as censorship. Just last week the company sparked concerns when it rejected Ferguson Firsthand, an app that documented various accounts of the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and presented them in a 3D environment. Apple hasn’t commented on the story.
Apple announced that Apple Music, iTunes movies and iBooks are available in China starting today. The company pointed to offerings from Chinese artists like Eason Chan, Li Ronghao, JJ Lin and G.E.M. as well as international superstars like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran in pitching Apple Music to China’s users, promising playlists and radio stations tailored to the Chinese audience. Apple also emphasized the availability of movies from Chinese studios alongside Hollywood blockbusters in iTunes, making the best of both worlds available for rent or purchase. China’s user base gets access to paid and free offerings from iBooks as well, with Apple touting that its customers in China will finally have “access to Apple’s entertainment ecosystem with music, movies and books right at their fingertips.” Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue said China has become the largest market in the world for app downloads, and with China making up a large portion of Apple’s record-breaking 13 million iPhone sales last weekend, that pace shows no signs of slowing. Those users adopting Apple Music in China will get the same three-month free trial that American users enjoyed, then be charged 10 RMB per month for a single subscription or 15 RMB per month for a family subscription that covers up to six family members. On iTunes, new release HD movies will cost 5 RMB to rent or 18 RMB to buy, and iBooks will start at 0.5 RMB.
Google has released an update to Google Maps adding support for getting directions using the Apple Watch. This latest update allows users to route to home or work directly from the wearable device, or view any other directions that have been plotted using the app on the iPhone. In addition to Apple Watch support, the Google Maps iOS update also allows users to compare ETAs across driving, transit, walking and biking routes, and call businesses and get directions directly from a list of places in search results.
Apple Pay may be arriving in Canada as early as late October, according to a new report from iPhone in Canada. Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was in negotiations with the six major Canadian banks regarding a potential November launch for the mobile payments service, and now this latest report cites trusted sources within the industry that indicate that the banks and Apple appear to be on track. A number of payment processor companies have already begun advertising Apple Pay compatibility for their point of sale terminals, with contactless payments under $100 accepted in much the same way that physical Interac Flash, VISA PayWave, and MasterCard PayPass cards work now. Transactions over this limit are also “currently being worked on,” likely similar to the limits on Apple Pay in the U.K. At least one payment processor is also scheduled to meet with Apple in early October to discuss the rollout of Apple Pay. Plans are apparently to soft launch Apple Pay at Apple’s own retail stores and select restaurant chains, potentially at the end of October, with a wider rollout expected in November.
Google has announced a Family Plan for its Google Play Music All Access service, 9to5Google reports. Mirroring Apple Music’s similar offering, the new Family Plan allows up to six family members to share a single plan on separate Google Accounts for $15 per month, with the ability to listen on any device, and recommendations that are tailored to each account. A single user Google Play Music All Access plan costs $10 per month, and although Google originally allowed up to four devices to stream music simultaneously with a paid account, this ability now appears to have been limited to a single device, much like competing streaming music services. Google’s new Family Plan will allow streaming from multiple devices, although it’s unclear whether users will need to use separate accounts for this capability, or if they can share a single account and music library. Rival service Spotify also announced discounted additional $5 per user memberships for family members last year, resulting in “family plans” that range from $15-$30 per month, and has yet to make those available in all countries. It is unclear at this time whether Google will be initially launching its Family Plan in the U.S. only or in all countries where the service is available.
During a conversation with his former BBC boss, Beats 1 DJ Zane Lowe expressed some doubts about the future of Apple Music’s flagship radio station, The Telegraph reports. When Ben Cooper, controller of BBC’s Radio 1, asked Lowe if Apple Music needed Beats 1, Lowe candidly responded, “I’m not sure it does,” before going on to call the station a work in progress. Lowe left Radio 1 after more than a decade there and relocated his family to Los Angeles to take over hosting duties for Beats 1, but with Apple Music’s free trial period winding to a close for many users the host hinted at uncertain times ahead. “We’re working this out, time will tell,” he said. “We’ve been going three months, I don’t have the answers. I hope that there’s a place for it.” Apple has started sending notifications to Apple Music users whose free trials are ending in the hopes of converting those users into paid subscribers and is in the beta testing stage of making the service available on Android phones, but even Apple Music’s early successes have been met with skepticism from the music industry and Apple’s leaders have publicly admitted the app still needs work.
After Apple split orders for its new A9 chip between Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung, Chipworks is reporting that Samsung A9 chips are 10 percent smaller than TSMC A9 chips found in the same iPhone 6s models. While Apple has split orders for components to meet supply demands before, this is the first time such a critical component has not come from a single supplier, hinting that Apple faced serious supply issues in obtaining enough A9 chips to meet demand. Tests comparing performance and power use of the two different chips aren’t currently available, but in February sources said that Apple returned to Samsung because the company had a technological advantage over TSMC in its ability to shrink the size of transistors on its chips, allowing for a smaller chip that consumes less power. A Taiwan court has ruled that Samsung used trade secrets stolen from TSMC to construct its own A9 chip in the first place, but how that ruling will affect future A9 chip orders and Samsung’s relationship with Apple is unclear. In recent years Apple has tried to distance itself from Samsung, sending orders for the A8 chip in the iPhone 6 to TSMC before returning to Samsung as the primary manufacturer of the A9. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has announced that it will release its Q4 financial results on Tuesday, Oct. 27. As usual, the company will conduct its conference call at 5 p.m. Eastern time that day. Apple previously provided guidance for Q3 of revenue between $49 billion and $51 billion, and gross margin between 38.5 percent and 39.5 percent. As always, iLounge will provide coverage of the results.
Apple is set to pay the Los Angeles Unified School District $4.2 million of a proposed $6.4 million settlement regarding a failed plan to provide the entire district with iPads, the Los Angeles Times reports. The remainder of the money will be made up by not paying for recently purchased Lenovo laptops. The district’s board of eduction will vote on the settlement next month, and if approved, it will bring about the end of the ill-fated partnership between Apple and the district. The original $1.3 billion program aimed to provide iPads to every student, teacher, and administrator in the district. But early problems were exacerbated by claims that Apple and subcontractor Pearson, which provided the curriculum, were given an advantage in the bidding process.