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Apple releases iOS 9.3, tvOS 9.2, watchOS 2.2 betas

Apple has simultaneously released new betas for iOS, Apple TV and Apple Watch — iOS 9.3 beta 1, tvOS 9.2 beta 1, and watchOS 2.2 beta 1 are all now available to developers. The new iOS beta is available from the developer center. A public beta will likely be made available in the near future. Apple’s tvOS 9.2 includes the long-awaited addition of Bluetooth keyboard support to Apple TV, while the new iOS and watchOS betas enable the pairing of multiple Apple Watches to one iPhone.

Report: Apple developing new cord-free Beats earphones

Apple is currently prototyping an entirely new design for Beats Bluetooth earphones, according to a new report by 9to5Mac. Expected to launch alongside the iPhone 7 later this year, the new earphones will apparently be completely wireless, omitting even a cable to connect the left and right earpieces. Sources cited in the report suggest that the headphones will follow a concept not unlike the Motorola Hint and Bragi Dash. The earphones are also expected to include a noise-cancelling microphone system to facilitate better communication with Siri, and include multiple ear sleeve sizes for accommodate variations in users’ ear canals. An included carrying case will double as a rechargeable battery to power up the headphones when they are not being used. The new wireless headphones are expected to be a premium option that will almost certainly be sold separately from the iPhone 7.

The same sources have also corroborated recent reports that the iPhone 7 will eliminate the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, requiring wired headphones to connect to the Lightning connector instead. New Lightning-based EarPods will be released to support this as well, although it remains unclear whether Apple will continue to bundle EarPods with the iPhone or require them to be purchased separately.

Fast Company: iPhone 7 will be waterproof, drop headphone port, could support wireless charging

Numerous reports have suggested the upcoming iPhone 7 will drop the 3.5mm headphone port, and now Fast Company claims that will indeed be the case. The publication also claims the newest iPhone will be waterproof, as some have suggested. Additionally, the report claims the upcoming phone “will very likely support wireless charging.” A source told Fast Company that Apple will work with its audio chip partner Cirrus Logic to adapt the iPhone audio chipset to work with the Lightning port. The iPhone will also use some kind of noise-cancelling technology — the tech will reportedly enable Apple’s newest phone to remove background noise in both music playback and phone calls.

The source also believes that Apple will sell a pair of noise-cancelling Lightning earphones separately, rather than packaging it in with the iPhone. Regarding the waterproofing feature, Fast Company’s report does come with the caveat that Apple could pull waterproofing “very late in the development process,” as has happened before.

Report: iPhone 7 Plus to have 256GB model, larger battery

A new report claims that Apple’s upcoming iPhone 7 Plus will have an larger 256GB option, in addition to a bigger battery, further differentiating the larger 5.5” iPhone from the 4.7” iPhone 7. The report comes from Chinese site MyDrivers — the site also recently reported that a 4” iPhone will be arriving in April. It’s unclear if all the iPhone 7 Plus’ base storage capacities would increase, or if the 256GB will simply be an extra model. (We personally wouldn’t mind seeing both new iPhone 7 models starting at a 32GB base capacity at least, given the space now needed for larger apps and photos.) The larger battery claim — that the 7 Plus will get a bump to 3100 mAh from its current 2750 mAh battery in the iPhone 6s Plus — seems questionable, given Apple’s penchant for thinness, though the company could seek improved battery life through a number of other ways, as well.

Apple accused of deliberately crippling older iPhones with iOS 9 upgrade

A new class action lawsuit alleges that Apple deliberately slowed down older iPhones with its latest iOS 9 upgrade as part of a planned obsolesce strategy, AppleInsider reports. The lawsuit was filed with a New York district court on Tuesday and seeks $5 million in damages, claiming that Apple was aware of potential compatibility issues when it released the iOS 9 software update for the iPhone 4S. The Plaintiff, Chaim Lerman, is accusing Apple of engaging in “deceptive trade practices” and “false advertisement” by claiming iOS 9 was compatible with older models, stating that the reality is that the update “significantly” interferes with iPhone 4s performance and that since users are preventing from downgrading once iOS 9 has been applied, owners are left with “an inoperable device” with no choice but to buy a newer model.

Report: Samsung and LG to supply OLED screens for future iPhone models

Apple appears to be planning to source OLED displays from LG Display and Samsung Electronics, according to a new report from Reuters. The article, based on a report from the Electronic Times, adds more weight to other recent reports that Apple is testing AMOLED displays in a new Taiwanese lab in preparation to use the new screen technology in its next-generation iPhones as early as 2018. The report indicates that both LG and Samsung are close to a final agreement with Apple, although Japan Display was also reported to be in similar negotiations earlier this month. The new report also suggests that Apple will likely provide some funding to help with the investments, which are expected to require a combined $12.8 billion in capital expenditures to build up OLED production capacity to meet the new demand.

Report: China Mobile points to new 4” iPhone in April 2016

A China Mobile roadmap of the cellular company’s future plans reveals a reference to an upcoming 4” iPhone coming in April 2016, Chinese website MyDrivers reports. The report refers to the rumored iPhone as the “iPhone 7c” — it seems unlikely that Apple would release a “7c” before releasing any other version of iPhone 7, however. While the name is still in question — iPhone 6c seems to be a strong possibility — this is just the latest in a recent line of reports saying Apple would indeed release a new 4” iPhone in the new year. It’s believed the new iPhone will resemble an “upgraded iPhone 5s,” and will have an aluminum body, instead of the iPhone 5c’s plastic exterior. It’s also been reported that Apple is planning a March event, in which the company may unveil this new iPhone along with the Apple Watch 2.

Report: Apple to pay Ericsson 0.5 percent of iPhone/iPad revenue in patent deal

Swedish company Ericsson has announced that it has settled a patent dispute with Apple, Reuters reports.
Investment bank ABG Sundal Collier “believed the deal meant Apple would be charged around 0.5 percent of its revenue on iPads and iPhones by Ericsson,” as it stated in a note to clients. The “broad agreement” covers 2G, 3G, and current 4G-LTE technologies, Ericsson Chief Intellectual Property Officer Kasim Alfalahi said. Apple declined comment on the story.

Apple Hi-Res Audio coming in 2016?

Apple is planning to introduce higher-resolution audio in 2016, according to Macotakara. The Japanese blog claims Apple’s own Hi-Res Audio would be 96kHz/24-bit quality. The updated audio option could come to iTunes and possibly Apple Music this year, but we must note this has been rumored for some time — a similar report from the same source surfaced in May 2014. There’s also some debate about how much of an advantage higher bit-rate audio would make for most listeners. This report also claims third-party companies are preparing more Lightning audio products for 2016, as it’s been rumored that Apple could drop the standard headphone jack from the iPhone 7, forcing listeners to use Lightning-based or Bluetooth audio options.

Apple patent application reveals method for weatherproofing iPhone connectors

A new Apple patent application reveals that Apple may be working on a new method of weatherproofing iPhone connectors such as the Lightning port and audio jack, lending more credence to recent rumors that the company is working on making the next-generation iPhone waterproof. The patent application, titled Electronic device with hidden connector, describes using a layer of self-healing elastomer to protect sensitive electrical contacts in headphone and Lightning ports. Connectors would be able to penetrate the elastomer material to make electrical contact, but the material would re-seal itself upon removal of said connectors. Multiple examples are provided in the application, including applying the material to the opening of a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, lining the inside of the cylinder, or filling the audio jack completely with the material. The patent application was first filed in June 2014, and while rumors of a weatherproof iPhone 7 have been circulating recently, it’s unclear whether the methods described in this patent would be applied to the iPhone 7, some unspecified future device, or if they will make it into any future Apple device at all. [via AppleInsider]

Microsoft’s Cortana now available on iOS

A little more than a month after its open beta period, Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant hit the App Store today. The free app allows users access to functions similar to those performed by Apple’s Siri, like getting answers to questions, but adds the ability to sync reminders between an iOS device and a Windows PC. Cortana is also able to track packages, flights, sports scores and stocks for those looking for up-to-the-minute updates, and a Notebook function stores information about a user’s interests and activities. But Cortana’s functionality is much more limited on the iPhone than on Windows phones where it’s fully integrated: Cortana isn’t allowed to change iPhone settings or activate when users say “Hey Cortana,” making the app less of a full replacement for Siri and more of a handy extension for iOS device users operating a Windows PC that they want to integrate with their device.

Apple makes its picks for best iPhone, iPad and Apple TV apps of 2015

Apple has released its picks for best apps of 2015. The company picked Periscope (our runner up for App of the Year) as its iPhone App of the Year — calling it a game-changer that “made sharing and watching live videos an instant obsession” — and selected photo editor Enlight and stock-trading app Robinhood as its runners-up. Workflow won Most Innovative app for iPhone, and Instagram’s 3D Touch enhancements won it Best App on iPhone 6s. Lara Croft GO won Best Game of the Year for iPhone for its “beauty and clever design,” with Fallout Shelter and Mr Jump earning runner-up honors. Dark Echo was listed as the Most Innovative iPhone game and “immersive 3D Touch controls” won Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade honors as Best Game on iPhone 6s.

Apple releases iOS 9.2, watchOS 2.1

Apple has released iOS 9.2 today, adding several improvements and bug fixes related to Apple Music, News, and Mail. More specifically, the update allows Apple Music users to create new playlists on-the-fly when adding songs, places the most recently modified playlist at the top when adding songs to a playlist, and provides an iCloud Download button for downloading albums or playlists, as well as more detailed indicators to help you see which songs are available for offline listening. Works, composers, and performers are also now shown when browsing Classical music in the Apple Music catalog. Although it remains limited to users in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, the iOS 9.2 update adds a new “Top Stories” section to the News app. Large attachments can also now be sent via Mail Drop, mirroring the feature introduced in OS X Yosemite, and iBooks gets several improvements including 3D Touch support for navigating through books, listening to audiobooks while still browsing your library. Notably, iOS 9.2 also brings support for Apple’s USB Camera Adapter to the iPhone; previously an iPad-only accessory, this will allow iPhone users to import photos and videos from their digital cameras directly to their iOS photo library. The iOS 9.2 update also fixes a number of smaller bugs, and improves stability, and makes some accessibility improvements.

Report: Apple planning March event to debut Apple Watch 2, could also reveal ‘iPhone 6c’

Apple is planning to unveil its second-generation Apple Watch at an event next March, 9to5Mac reports. Sources with knowledge of the plans said the new watches would ship by April, less than a year after the original hit stores. The sources also confirmed that Apple is working on the long-rumored 4” “iPhone 6c” and that new phone might also debut alongside the Apple Watch 2. A March announcement would be in line with last week’s predictions that the new phone would debut early next year, but details on what kind of hardware the new Apple Watch and iPhone models will contain is still up for debate.

Japan Display to supply Apple with OLED screens by 2018?

Japan Display Inc.—a key supplier of the LCD displays used in iPhones—is rumored to be in talks with Apple to supply OLED screens for iPhones as early as 2018, Japanese newspaper Nikkan reports. Reports that Apple is testing OLED screens in its prototype iPhone 7 models have prompted speculation that Apple would be forced to move away from companies like Japan Digital and Sharp, which currently supply iPhone LCD displays. But Japan Display reportedly plans to have an OLED prototype line in place by next spring and is sending executives next week to pitch Apple on its plans for scaling up to mass production by 2018. [via G For Games]

Ford adding Apple Siri Eyes-Free to vehicles via SYNC software update

Ford has announced that it will be bringing Siri Eyes-Free support to more than five million of its SYNC-equipped vehicles via a software update. The new update will be available to all vehicles equipped with the second-generation of the auto maker’s SYNC technology, dubbed “MyFord Touch” in North America, from model years 2011 to 2016, and will allow users to access Siri functions directly on their connected iPhone through the in-car control systems; a long-press of the voice recognition button on the steering wheel will engage Siri and users will then be able to issue standard Siri voice commands to place phone calls, look up phone numbers, get directions, set reminders, inquire about the weather, check and dictate text messages, and select and play music. Users will be able to download the update via Ford’s website at http://owner.ford.com.

 

More details emerge on rumored 4-inch ‘iPhone 6c’

A new research note by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has seemingly added weight to Wednesday’s report that Apple is indeed planning to release a 4” iPhone 6c in early 2016. Kuo believes the new model will resemble an upgraded iPhone 5s while including an A9 chip, NFC support for Apple Pay, and a metal casing with multiple color options. The camera specs are believed to be the same as on the iPhone 5s. Kuo notes that demand still exists for 4” smartphones, and estimates sales of 15-17m 4” iPhones by the end of this year, with the new iPhone 6c expected to account for 8 to 9 percent of total iPhone shipments in 2016. The price of the new iPhone 6c is expected to fall somewhere in the $400 to $500 range. Kuo also suggests that the addition of Apple Pay support will be a strong incentive for Apple to launch a new 4” model in order to expand that ecosystem to users who may wish to take advantage of the new payment system but don’t necessarily want to tote a larger iPhone to do so. [via MacRumors]

Rumor: 4-inch iPhone 6c with metal body coming in February

Citing unnamed sources inside Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn, Chinese site TechWeb claims a new 4” iPhone 6c will be announced in January and hit stores in February. The alleged insider said the new phone will have a metal body—flying in the face of previous reports that the 6c would have a plastic case similar to the 5c—but will still come in a variety of colorful options like the 5c. The new phone is expected to cost $400-$500 and offer Touch ID support, but no 3D Touch capabilities. Rumors about the 6c have been all over the map, but a few respected analysts expect the smaller phone to enter production in the first half of 2016. [via iDownloadBlog]

Report: Apple testing dual front cameras, wireless charging, and more in iPhone 7 prototypes

A new report claims that Apple is experimenting with no fewer than five different configurations of the new iPhone 7. According to G for Games, sources in China said prototypes include features like wireless charging, dual front cameras, USB-C ports compatible with headsets, displays able to read fingerprints, and multi-Force Touch capabilities. The company is also said to be testing AMOLED displays, although most rumors estimate that technology won’t makes its way into an iPhone until 2018. The site is quick to point out that its source has been right in the past, but isn’t a “certified” Apple Insider. Still, rumors of Apple getting rid of the Home button in favor of displays that can perform Touch ID fingerprint scans anywhere on the screen date back to June, and Apple has shown an interest in AMOLED screens as far back as 2013, so even if the new configurations don’t end up in the iPhone 7, it’s believable that Apple could be testing them out. Other recent reports claim Apple is mulling doing away with the iPhone’s headphone port entirely.

Apple to drop headphone jack from next iPhone?

In a bid to slim its new iPhone down even further, Apple is considering removing the traditional headphone jack entirely, a “reliable” source tells Macotakara. The source said the new phones will likely be 1 mm thinner than current models, forcing Apple to ditch the headphone jack, since its port is based on a world standard that can’t be made thinner. While Apple has registered a patent for a thinner headphone plug, the new report suggests the company may be abandoning the idea of creating a completely new type of headphone jack in favor of connecting wired headphones through the Lightning port. The source said new “supplied ear pods” for the iPhone will have the Lightning connector, and Apple already supports Lightning cable MFi headphones, but very few of those have been introduced thus far. Bluetooth-enabled wireless headphones would also be an option for getting around the lack of a headphone jack, but obviously any change to the existing headphone jack risks serious blowback from users who would need new equipment to listen to their iPhone.

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