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Windows Phone 8.1 supports Passbook passes

According to a post on WPCentral.com, Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 8.1 software allows Apple Passbook passes to be used natively. When a user chooses to download a Passbook pass, it will be downloaded to the Microsoft Wallet application, and can be used as if it were on an iPhone or iPod touch. It’s unclear what specific Passbook features are supported, or if Apple will put a stop to the process.

Report: iWatch to use LG stepped battery tech

Apple will use stepped lithium-ion batteries in its upcoming iWatch, according to a report from The Korea Herald. The batteries will be supplied by LG Chem, Samsung SDI, and Tianjin Lishen Battery, sources said. As the report notes, a stepped battery uses layers of batteries to offer more energy efficiency in a footprint similar to a regular battery. The report also suggests the iWatch is “unlikely to sport a curved screen.” LG Chem announced production of stepped batteries and curved batteries last year. LG’s G2 phone uses a step design to increase capacity in a small space.

A recent report suggested Apple was experimenting with magnetic induction charging for the iWatch, as well as new battery technologies, including solar charging, and kinetic charging — though that report noted some of the methods were “years” from happening. An Apple patent application from July revealed a flexible battery pack, while an early iWatch report said Apple was hoping battery life for the device could reach four to five days.

Zynga acquires Clumsy Ninja maker NaturalMotion

Zynga announced that the company has acquired NaturalMotion, developer of the Clumsy Ninja app, for $527 million in cash and equity. Zynga also announced it would lay off 314 employees, or 15 percent of its workforce. Though Clumsy Ninja was first introduced during the Sept. 2012 media event for the iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch, its release was delayed until Nov. 2013. The game has proven to be very popular despite the delay — Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said during Apple’s recent earnings call that Clumsy Ninja was downloaded 10 million times during its first week of release.

Report: Nest team to work on Google hardware

Google will keep its newly acquired Nest group intact to work on hardware for the company, TechCrunch reports. Nest, founded by “father of the iPod” Tony Fadell, will “not necessarily” work on thermostats or smoke detectors, as Google reportedly “would like Fadell to work on gadgets that make more sense for the company.” It’s possible that phones or tablets could be part of that plan. Google’s recent acquisition of Nest cost $3.2 billion.

Lunatik intros Lynk smart watch collection

Lunatik, the design company headed by Nike watch designer Scott Wilson, and known for its iPod nano watchbands, has launched a preview of its Lynk smart watch collection. Four smartwatches are included: Lynk, Lynk Pulse, Lynk Vapor, and Lynk Extreme. Lynk Pulse appears to be a heart-sensing version of the Lynk smart watch.

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Lynk Vapor is a more streamlined band-style watch, while Lynk Extreme is a more heavy-duty model. No pricing or release information has been announced yet.

Google announces $3.2B Nest acquisition

Google has announced it has agreed to acquire Nest for $3.2 Billion. Nest Founder and CEO Tony Fadell was formerly senior vice president of Apple’s iPod division, and has been referred to as the “father of the iPod.” The company is best known for its Nest Learning Thermostat, and recently released its Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Detector.  Apple currently sells both products online and in its retail stores. Nest will continue to operate under Fadell with its own brand identity. The deal is expected to close “in the next few months.”

Google CEO Larry Page said in a statement, “Nest’s founders, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, have built a tremendous team that we are excited to welcome into the Google family. They’re already delivering amazing products you can buy right now — thermostats that save energy and smoke/CO alarms that can help keep your family safe. We are excited to bring great experiences to more homes in more countries and fulfill their dreams!”

Fadell said in the same statement, “We’re thrilled to join Google. With their support, Nest will be even better placed to build simple, thoughtful devices that make life easier at home, and that have a positive impact on the world.” Reports suggested that Fadell left Apple on less than fond terms, and Nest has continued to hire former Apple engineers to work on its products.

AT&T offers T-Mobile users up to $450 in credits to switch

AT&T announced today that is now offering T-Mobile customers up to $450 in credits to switch their phone service over to AT&T. The deal, available for a limited time, allows T-Mobile customers to switch to AT&T and trade-in their current smartphone for a promotion card of up to $250 that can be used toward AT&T products and services, with the actual value of the trade-in based on the make, model, and age of the user’s current smartphone. AT&T will also offer an additional credit of $200 per line for T-Mobile users who transfer their wireless service to the carrier and choose a NextSM plan and either buy a device at full retail price or active a device they already own.

Bluetooth 4.1 announced as free update for 4.0 devices

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has announced the newest version of the Bluetooth specification, Bluetooth 4.1. Bluetooth 4.1 promises new features that will allow the spec to “work seamlessly” with LTE. Better connections will allow manufacturers to control the reconnection time interval — devices can reconnect automatically when in proximity to each other, and disconnect when apart, allowing for improved battery life and a better user experience. Bulk data transfer will allow for a more efficient transfer of data gathered away from one’s home computer — the example given by the Bluetooth SIG notes an efficient transfer of exercise data. A Bluetooth device can also now act as both a peripheral and a hub at the same time, allowing for greater interaction between devices. Most interestingly, Bluetooth 4.1 is an over-the-air update that won’t require the purchase of new devices — the Bluetooth SIG recommends that manufacturers “immediately” implement Bluetooth 4.1 in their devices.

Pebble watch receives full iOS 7 notifications

Pebble has announced today that its smart watch “is now fully integrated with iOS 7 and works seamlessly with Notification Center.” All enabled notifications will now be pushed to the Pebble — meaning app notifications beyond calls, emails, and texts. A new iOS app will enable the functionality. Pebble claims the app is currently “under review” by Apple, and will be available in the iTunes Store “soon.”

Google Authenticator update erasing user passwords

A recent update to the Google Authenticator app may be causing user’s one-time password credentials to be erased, potentially preventing them from accessing online services using two-step verification, according to several user reports in the Google Authenticator project group. Google Authenticator is an iOS app that allows users to store credentials for Google’s 2-Step Verification feature, and is also used for two-step verification with other third-party services such as Dropbox and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Although several iOS 7 beta users had reported problems with losing credentials in the app, it wasn’t until a recent update, presumably intended to address the iOS 7 issue, that the app began exhibiting the same behaviour for iOS users upgrading to the new version, resulting in users possibly losing access to some of their online services, particularly in cases such as AWS, where alternative “backup codes” are not made available. Users relying on the Google Authenticator app should avoid installing this update. Note that Google Authenticator uses an open-source one-time password generation method, so alternative apps are available, many of which were discussed in the same thread as a result of problems using the app with the iOS 7 betas.

Update: Google Authenticator appears to have been removed from the App Store, suggesting that Google may have pulled it while it works to address the issue.

App Store top earner for EA during quarter

Electronic Arts, one of the world’s largest game companies, disclosed that it made more money through Apple’s App Store than any through other retail outlet in the most recent quarter. Freemium games such as The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Real Racing 3, and The Sims FreePlay pushed mobile revenues for EA, surpassing the money made through both retail distributors and its own Origin download service. EA COO Peter Moore said Apple becoming EA’s biggest retail partner is “a first.” The company was also reportedly the most downloaded publisher on the App Store in the quarter. [via VentureBeat]

Report: Former iPod team, new hires focus iWatch on fitness

Apple’s rumored smart watch will focus on fitness, according to a new 9to5Mac report. Likely to be a wearable computer on the wrist, the “iWatch” is being developed by a team reportedly led by Senior Vice President Bob Mansfield, Vice President Kevin Lynch, and senior hardware director James Foster. Lynch, who was hired from Adobe in March, is reportedly focusing on the device’s “overall software vision.” His team consists of former iPod hardware and software designers, while Foster’s team contains sensor, chip, and battery experts. Fitness and fashion experts have reportedly been brought in to assist with developing and marketing the device, as well.

Former iPhone engineers are also reportedly working on the device, and some people from Apple’s acquisition of biometric security company Authentec are working on sensors for the smart watch. Interestingly, it’s noted that Apple has hired people who have worked on devices that analyze sleep patterns — Apple could be giving the users a reason to keep the watch on through the night, which might lead to recharging challenges. Other designers and developers on the team specialize in distance measurement and “integrating mobile devices with fitness equipment.” The report speculates Apple may also want to measure medical information in “a non-invasive way;” for instance, glucose levels could be monitored while wearing the watch. A release date for the watch is still unknown — it was originally believed the iWatch could launch this year, but a recent report claims late 2014 is more likely.

Cypress Semiconductor intros Lightning audio dev kit

Cypress Semiconductor has announced a new development kit that allows companies to quickly create audio accessories for iOS Lightning devices. The CY8CKIT-033A PSoC 3 MFi Digital Audio Development Kit for Lightning is being offered to developers for $199, and as the name suggests, it streamlines the process of designing a custom system-on-chip (SoC) solution to process “bit-perfect” USB digital audio data from Lightning devices.

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Cypress notes that Apple’s Made for iPod/iPhone/iPad (MFi) connectivity specification has become very complex, now running more than 250 pages long with numerous changes and revisions. The CY8CKIT-033A incorporates the latest MFi specifications and is MFi-licensed, letting developers use a software solution to prototype hardware for Lightning audio accessories such as speakers and musical instruments. Over 100 components are found in the PSoC Creator software, which uses a drag and drop interface to lay out the processor’s feature; support for Lightning, older Dock Connectors, MIDI and USB interfaces are all included. Developers interested in the Kit will need to obtain an Apple MFi license before buying the kit directly from Apple’s MFi web site.

iWatch in late 2014, Retina mini delayed for small 2013 update?

A recent Apple hiring spree focused on the company’s rumored smart watch suggests that the device won’t be ready for launch until late 2014, according to the Financial Times. Apple is reportedly “aggressively” hiring for the project at this time. Though Apple has recently filed for the “iWatch” trademark in multiple countries, the release date for such a product still remains a mystery. Reports earlier this year suggested that the company was facing significant battery life issues as a result of a decision to use the iOS operating system for the watch, rather than sticking with the lower-power operating system built for the sixth-generation iPod nano.

Meanwhile, another report has surfaced suggesting that the Retina iPad mini will be delayed until 2014. This new report from Digitimes claims Apple is attempting to design a Retina display iPad mini with “an almost bezel-free look,” likely to be released next year. A “slightly updated” version of the current iPad mini may ship in the second half of this year.

Update: DigiTimes is now contradicting its own recent report, saying there will be no delay for the Retina iPad mini, which should launch in October. Once seemingly on the upswing, the publication’s track record of accuracy has returned to “highly questionable,” casting doubt on the veracity of anything it publishes regarding future Apple products.

Maclocks intros Apple TV Security Mount

Maclocks has introduced the Apple TV Security Mount ($45). Made from aluminum and colored black to match the Apple TV, the security mount includes a bracket and lock to keep an Apple TV secure. The design allows for proper ventilation to prevent overheating, and protecting against Wi-Fi signal loss.

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The Apple TV Security Mount can be secured to any flat surface using mounting holes in the bracket, and a security cable lock can be added for $20. Maclocks’ Apple TV Security Mount is available now.

Apple files ‘iWatch’ trademark in more countries

It has been discovered that Apple has filed for an “iWatch” trademark in Mexico, Taiwan, Turkey, and Colombia, just one day after learning the company filed for the same trademark in Japan. Apple has also apparently filed for the trademark in Russia. The easily found, widely reported trademark filings are unlike Apple; though a smart watch release from the company seems inevitable, it’s still unclear if this means we’ll be seeing the device earlier than expected. [via 9to5Mac, MacRumors]

Apple files trademark for ‘iWatch’ in Japan

Apple is looking to trademark “iWatch” in Japan, according to Bloomberg. The company filed for the trademark with the Japan Patent Office on June 3. A prior report noted Apple filed for “iWatch” in Russia, though that report could not be independently confirmed. The name of Apple’s rumored smart watch is still unknown, but “iWatch” is certainly a distinct possibility based on these reported filings.

Foxconn shows iPhone-compatible smart watch

Foxconn has demonstrated an iPhone-compatible smart watch, which it plans to release on its own as an iOS accessory. The watch can measure vital signs, as well as check phone calls and Facebook posts. Though other iOS-compatible Bluetooth smart watches have already been released — such as Martian’s Passport Watch, ConnecteDevice’s Cookoo and Pebble — Foxconn’s watch is notable because the company has been Apple’s key manufacturing partner for years, and most likely would not want to damage its relationship with the Cupertino company by directly challenging it. [via WantChinaTimes]

A new Wall Street Journal report notes Google is also developing an Android-powered watch. Samsung is also developing a watch, ensuring Apple will have plenty of competitors for its own rumored watch-like device.

Logitech to retain Harmony brand, sell Harmony Hub

Following an earlier public disclosure that it was looking to sell its Harmony remote control business, Logitech has announced that it will retain the well-known product line. In a release, Logitech said, “The company has determined that retaining ownership is in the best interest of its shareholders. The Harmony product line has gained momentum following the April introduction of the Hamony Ultimate product, which is available in major retail locations including select Apple stores in the U.S., and has exceeded the company’s expectations for customer connections.”

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Logitech also announced that the Logitech Harmony Hub – a bundled component with Harmony Ultimate and Harmony Smart Control that turns iOS devices into universal remotes – will be available for purchase as a standalone $100 product this August. Harmony Hub is a universal remote control accessory for iOS devices, consisting of a wall-powered 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi receiver, Infrared blaster, and Bluetooth 3.0 chip. The glossy black accessory transforms Wi-Fi commands sent by an iOS device into Infrared or Bluetooth control signals for TVs, A/V components, and game consoles. It’s an upgraded version of the company’s prior Harmony Link, notably adding better software and Bluetooth support.

Volkswagen to unveil iBeetle

Volkswagen is set to unveil iBeetle — a special edition Beetle with iPhone integration — at next week’s 2013 Shanghai Auto Show. The car itself will feature color schemes and options similar to the iPhone interface. Inside, a dashboard-mounted dock holds the iPhone, and a new app will connect the car to the phone wirelessly or through the dock. Volkswagen’s press release doesn’t specify which iPhone models will be compatible with the dock.

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The app will include features such as Spotify streaming, a social network reader, and in-car camera, and it will act as an additional on-board instrument, as well. The iBeetle will be available early next year. [via Autoblog]

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