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Alto’s Odyssey, sequel to hit snowboarding game Alto’s Adventure, coming later this month

In the followup to the popular side-scrolling snowboarding game Alto’s Adventure, Snowman is taking Alto and his friends to the desert in Alto’s Odyssey, available for pre-order now and set to be released on February 22. The new game preserves what we loved about the first, with simple, clean graphics and an uncluttered display putting the emphasis on the snowboarding mechanics and various tricks that can be accomplished.

Teardown reveals HomePod isn’t very repairable, but is built to last

Like almost all Apple products, the new HomePod isn’t very easy to get inside to let users execute repairs, but an iFixit teardown revealed the new smartspeaker is built to last. The mesh that covers the device has a net-like layer on either side of tiny wiry coils between, creating a covering that lets sound escape without letting dust inside. The top display is powered by an LED display that features a diffuser to provide the more cloudy, smoother look, and the same center array lights the plus and minus volume control symbols, with light being routed through guides and up through the symbol cutouts.

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Reporters without Borders warns journalists in China to close iCloud accounts

French nonprofit advocacy group Reporters without Borders (RSF) is calling on journalists in China to close their iCloud accounts in wake of Apple’s recent plans to migrate iCloud users in China to an outsourced Chinese company’s servers. RSF is suggesting that journalists and bloggers in the country who use Apple iCloud should either change their geographic region to avoid having their data migrated, or close their iCloud accounts entirely by Feb. 28, the day when, as RSF notes, “control of their data will pass to the Chinese state.”

Apple outlines HomePod repair fees

Apple has published a new HomePad Service and Repair page, outlining the warranty, service, and coverage options available for the new speaker. For users who opt not to purchase AppleCare+ for HomePod, Apple will be charging a $279 service fee for any damage that isn’t covered under warranty, or any service after the one-year warranty expires. By comparison, Apple is selling AppleCare+ for the HomePod for $39, which extends the warranty for up to two years and adds two incidents of accidental damage coverage for a $39 per incident service fee, meaning that a user purchasing AppleCare+ could replace a damaged HomePod twice for less than half the cost of a single non-AppleCare+ replacement. [via MacRumors]

With HomePod now on sale, Apple publishes user manual and new iOS Tips app entries

With Apple’s new HomePod now on sale in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, and preorders beginning to arrive, the company has published its HomePod User Guide, outlining the set up process and features of the new speaker. While the user guide reveals no real surprises in how the HomePod operates, it does provide some additional details in areas like HomePod settings, voice and button controls, and using Siri to work with Apple Music, HomeKit, Messages, Reminders, and Notes.

Apple dispels security concerns regarding leaked iOS 9 source code

While Apple has confirmed that recently leaked iOS 9 iBoot source is authentic, the company has dispelled any concerns users may have about the leak compromising iPhone security. In a statement to MacRumors, Apple emphasized that the leak is for iOS 9, a three-year-old operating system that is installed on less than seven percent of devices, and notes that “by design the security of our products doesn’t depend on the secrecy of our source code” and “There are many layers of hardware and software protections built into our products.”

Sennheiser releases Apple-exclusive version of Ambeo Smart Headset

Sennheiser has introduced a new all-back version of its Ambeo Smart Headset that will be sold exclusively in Apple Stores for $300. Unveiled last month at CES and designed expressly for iOS devices, the company’s new Ambeo headset connects via the Lightning port and features microphones on the outside of each earpice to provide 3D sound when recording audio or video, effectively creating what the company calls an “immersive life-like 3D sound.” The headset also leverages the external mics to employ noise-cancelling capabilities that let the user head outside sounds while listening to music. [via The Verge]

Apple loses Amazing Stories showrunners over creative differences

Apple has lost two of the production staff for its new “Amazing Stories” project, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Showrunner Bryan Fuller reportedly left the project this week citing “creative differences” that may have stemmed from Apple’s insistence on keeping its content “PG”. Fuller had developed Amazing Stories for NBC before the project moved into Apple’s purview, but reportedly was looking to a more edgy show in the style of Black Mirror, which sources suggest was not what Apple was looking for. A subsequent update to The Hollywood Reporter article noted that Fuller’s partner, Hart Hanson, has also exited the project, leaving Apple and Universal Television searching for a new showrunner.

YouTube for Apple TV gets a major facelift

Google has released significant update to YouTube for Apple TV, overhauling the user interface with an entirely new design that’s more resemblant of the user interface found in the YouTube apps on other platforms, and a departure from the more traditional Apple TV UI layout that YouTube had been following since the days before the tvOS App Store was unveiled two years ago.

Apple releases second watchOS 4.3 developer beta alongside new public iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 betas

Apple has released a second watchOS 4.3 beta along with new public betas for iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3, matching the second developer betas released yesterday. While the release notes are sparse, it appears from the betas that watchOS 4.3 will be bringing iPhone music control back to the Apple Watch and allow Nightstand mode to work in portrait orientation.

Microsoft Cortana gets updated with iPad support

Microsoft’s Cortana app has been updated for the iPad, offering a native interface for Apple’s tablet device. While the design remains largely the same as the iPhone version, which was released over two years ago but received a UI facelift last fall, the release notes also indicate that the app has gained some performance improvements, launching 20 percent faster than before — an important boost for a third-party voice assistant app, since unlike Siri, Cortana can only receive commands when running in the foreground. [via MacRumors]

ESPN to launch $4.99/month standalone streaming service

Disney is set to launch its first direct-to-consumer streaming service in the form of ESPN Plus, providing access to over 10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year from all of the usual leagues such as MLB, NHL, and MLS. Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Iger told CNBC that the service will also “include an array of live programming that is not available on current channels” and that it will roll out in the spring alongside a redesign of Disney’s ESPN app. The new service will be priced at $4.99/month and will be available for both iOS and the Apple TV when it launches. [via Engadget]

2017 iPhone models less susceptible to performance throttling

It appears that Apple may have made hardware improvements in its 2017 iPhone models to mitigate the need for the controversial performance throttling experienced by users of iPhone 6, 6s, and 7 series models. A new section in an updated support document on “iPhone Battery and Performance” referenced in the second beta of iOS 11.3 notes:

iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X models use a more advanced hardware and software design that provides a more accurate estimation of both power needs and the battery’s power capability to maximize overall system performance. This allows a different performance management system that more precisely allows iOS to anticipate and avoid an unexpected shutdown. As a result, the impacts of performance management may be less noticeable on iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.

The support document doesn’t go as far as saying that performance won’t suffer as batteries age in these newer models, but it does suggest that the level of throttling may not be as severe, indicating that Apple was likely able to solve some of the power consumption issues that previously resulted in unexpected shutdowns from older iPhone batteries.

Apple seeds iOS 11.3 beta 2 to developers with promised ‘Battery Health’ feature

Apple has released the second beta of iOS 11.3 to registered developers (a public beta is likely to follow soon), incorporating the promised Battery Health feature that should provide users with more insight into performance throttling that occurs on older batteries. As one might expect, the new feature can be accessed from the Battery section of the iOS Settings app, and provides a percentage indicator showing the battery’s relative health compared to when it was new, along with a section on “Peak Performance Capability.” A note at the top points out that batteries come less effective as they age, and provides a link to an Apple support article on iPhone Battery and Performance.

Apple’s health team loses medical researcher Stephen Friend

Apple has been making some high-profile hires in the medical research world, but one of its recent hires is already departing the company, CNBC reports. Stephen Friend, a well-known medical researcher who joined Apple in 2016 with a background in creating patient-focused research programs, is now listed as an “independent entrepreneur” on his LinkedIn page. The former Harvard Medical School professor joined Stanford’s Dr. Sumbul Desai, the former head of that schools Center for Digital Health as the company was working on “a medical records beta launched with the support of a dozen leading hospitals to aggregate all of this health information in one place.” That beta was released last month, allowing users to store information about allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and other vitals in partnership with hospitals like Cedars-Sinai, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Penn Medicine and the University of California, San Diego.

Apple Music hires music journalist Alex Gale to head up editorial operations

Veteran music writer Alex Gale has been hired to head up Apple Music’s editorial department, Variety reports. Gale has worked as a journalist covering the music industry for Billboard, Vibe, Complex and XXL, and will now be leading the team responsible for all of the written content found on Apple Music and iTunes. Gale is also expected to contribute to Beats 1 and may even cross over into video projects as Apple expands its operations in that area. Gale comes in at a big moment for Apple Music, which is set to surpass Spotify in paid subscribers this year.

Patent application shows Apple considering Apple Pencil that works on any flat surface, in midair

A recent patent spotted by Techtastic shows Apple is considering creating an Apple Pencil that works without an iPad. The patent — credited to three Apple engineers — describes monitoring a stylus using some combination of motion and orientation sensors, cameras and electromagnetic or sound-based triangulation methods to determine the stylus’ position and record its movements. The data would then be processed to create text or drawings.

Apple pulled Telegram app over child pornography concerns, returned it with a fix in place

Apple temporarily pulled the Telegram app from the App Store last week, and now 9to5Mac has confirmed that the app was pulled over the app being used to deliver child pornography. When the app was pulled, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said Apple had dropped it over concerns about “inappropriate content,” and a e-mail response from App Store head Phil Schiller now confirms his team “was alerted to illegal content, specifically child pornography, in the apps. After verifying the existence of the illegal content the team took the apps down from the store, alerted the developer, and notified the proper authorities, including the NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).” Schiller said his team has worked with Telegram to remove the offending content, ban the users who posted it and verified that the app developer “put in place more controls to keep this illegal activity from happening again” before adding the app back to the App Store.

Nike offering Apple Music, exercise program and merchandise rewards for working out with Nike+ app

Nike is offering a new set of rewards for those using the Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club apps to document their workouts, TechCrunch reports. The NikePlus Unlocks program will provide exclusive playlists from Apple Music, guided meditations from the Headspace app, credits for the ClassPass fitness app and more. Other offers for purchasing Nike gear through the app also have special rewards, like a free four-month subscription to Apple Music for buying certain shoes, for example.

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