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Report: iOS 9 to focus on stability and optimization

Apple’s next major iOS update will be primarily focused on delivering stability, optimization, and performance improvements, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. While most major iOS updates have released at least a few landmark features, the rapid development pace has reportedly taken a toll on the operating system’s overall performance as engineering teams have been more focused on delivering new features than polishing existing ones. With iOS 9, Apple is apparently going to focus primarily on delivering under-the-hood improvements; fixing bugs and improving stability and performance, while also striving to keep the size of the OS manageable to accommodate users with lower-capacity devices.

The report speculates that it’s possible Apple may even limit iOS 9 support to newer 64-bit devices, essentially discontinuing support for the iPhone 5c, iPod touch, and first-generation iPad mini. This approach would be similar to the one Apple took with OS X Snow Leopard a few years ago, but it’s expected that Apple may still debut some new iOS features, such as Transit and Indoor mapping modes for its Maps app. However, features like these would be more dependent on back-end services than forming key new iOS components.

iOS 8 adoption rate reaches 72 percent

According to Apple’s developer website, approximately 72 percent of devices are now running iOS 8 as of February 2, 2015. While this number is up dramatically from estimates made in late September, it’s still lower than the 80 percent adoption rate of iOS 7 reported around this time last year. These latest statistics report that the majority of the remaining devices are still running iOS 7, and approximately 3 percent of iOS devices operate on some prior version. As not all devices are upgradeable to the latest iOS versions, this also includes users who may be unable to upgrade without purchasing a newer device. It’s also worth noting that these numbers are intended for developers and only include devices that actively connect to the App Store, suggesting that they may not be generalizable to the entire iOS user base.

Apple releases iOS 8.2 beta 5 to developers

Apple has released the fifth beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers, featuring a build number of 12D5480a. As with other recent betas, this latest one appears to be primarily focused on continuing to refine the development environment for preparing apps for the upcoming debut of the Apple Watch. This latest beta is also accompanied by a beta version of updated software for the third-generation Apple TV.

Verizon to allow users to opt out of web tracking ‘supercookies’

Verizon has apparently decided to implement an option in its mobile ad-targeting program that will provide Verizon customers with the ability to opt out of targeted ad tracking, according to a New York Times report. It came to light last fall that both Verizon and AT&T had implemented unique identifier headers (UIDH) on their respective mobile networks to allow for the tracking of web activity from mobile devices. “Users who do not want to be tracked with an identifier that Verizon uses for ad-targeting purposes will soon be able to completely opt out,” the company said on Friday.

As the earlier report noted, although Verizon had provided a means for customers to opt out of being actively tracked by the company’s Relevant Mobile Advertising program, there was no way to turn off the UIDH completely, meaning that other third-party ad networks could easily leverage this data, regardless of what Verizon chose to do with it. This latest announcement confirms that Verizon is changing course and will allow users to opt out from having the UIDH attached to their web traffic entirely. Users will need to actively choose to opt out, however, and critics of the tracking program — including the Electronic Frontier Foundation — have suggested that Verizon needs to go further, making the ad tracking an “opt in” program, as most consumers are unlikely to fully appreciate the privacy implications of this kind of tracking.

Apple releases iOS 8.1.3

Apple has officially released iOS 8.1.3 to the public, another relatively minor maintenance release that notes bug fixes, increased stability and performance improvements. The update also addresses problems some users have had signing into Messages and FaceTime, issues with Spotlight sometimes not displaying app results, and multitasking gesture fix for iPad users. The amount of free storage space required to perform an update has also been reduced, and new configuration options have been added for education standardized testing. iOS 8.1.3 is available as an over-the-air update or by updating via iTunes on a Mac or PC.

Report: Bank verification methods leave Apple Pay vulnerable to fraud

Verification methods used by many banks and credit card providers are leaving Apple Pay open to potential fraud, according to a new report by Drop Labs. While Apple Pay remains secure at a technical level – there have been no incidents of stolen iPhones being used for unauthorized purchases, or Touch ID or NFC being compromised — criminals are resorting to much lower tech methods of identify theft and social engineering to steal credit card information and use it with Apple Pay. In short, thieves are stealing credit card numbers the old fashioned way, and then loading them onto their own iPhones using Apple Pay, taking advantage of inadequate procedures used by some banks and credit card providers for verifying and authorizing cards to be used with Apple Pay.

As the Drop Labs report notes, all participating card issuers were required by Apple to build a “Yellow Path” for verifying cards added to Apple Pay. However, this experience varies with each issuer, with some requiring nothing more than a phone call – a method that can easily be used by an identity thief to add a stolen credit card to an Apple Pay device such as an iPhone. Part of the problem stems from this “Yellow Path” requirement initially being optional for card issuers, with Apple reversing course and making it mandatory less than a month before Apple Pay was actually launched. Card providers that had originally not planned out a “Yellow Path” verification process were thereby forced to build in this support on relatively short notice or miss the initial Apple Pay rollout.

While Apple Pay itself remains inherently secure, it’s ironically this secure “trust’ system built into Apple Pay — with features like Touch ID and secure NFC — that makes it more attractive for this type of fraud. Once a card has been verified and authorized for Apple Pay, no further checks and balances are implemented, making it easier to use a stolen credit card on an Apple Pay device than it would be to physically produce a counterfeit card from a stolen credit card number. [via Gizmodo UK]

Apple releases iOS 8.2 beta 4 to developers, adds Apple Watch support

Apple has released the fourth beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers. The latest release appears to add direct support for pairing an Apple Watch via Bluetooth, with a note in the standard Bluetooth settings directing users to use the “Apple Watch app” to do so. The note appears to link to the App Store, suggesting that an Apple Watch app could be available as a separate download that users will need to install, rather than being bundled with the future iOS 8.2 update.

Apple Pay coming to Canada in March?

Apple may be planning a Canadian rollout of Apple Pay as early as this March, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. Citing “sources close to the situation,” the report notes that Canadian launch partners are currently in negotiations with Apple. Those partners are also in the process of planning advertising and promotional material scheduled for a possible release in March. While the report notes that negotiations are still ongoing, it claims that several sources have indicated that Apple is also targeting that timeframe. It remains unclear at this time whether Apple Pay would be launched across all of the six major Canadian banks right away, or limited to only specific partners for the initial rollout.

Apple releases iOS 8.2 beta 3 to developers

Apple has released the third beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers, featuring a build number of 12D5452a. As with other recent versions, the latest beta appears to be primarily focused on fixes and enhancements to WatchKit to allow developers to continue preparing their apps for next year’s debut of the Apple Watch.

Apple ordered to turn over records in Canadian iPhone antitrust probe

A Canadian Federal Court has ordered Apple Canada to turn over documents to the Government’s Competition Bureau as part of an investigation into possible unfair marketing practices by the company, Reuters reports. The Competition Bureau, which is responsible for enforcing various competition and marketing acts on behalf of the Canadian Government, stated in a filing to the court that it believes Apple unfairly used its bargaining power from the popularity of the iPhone to negotiate contracts with wireless carriers that encouraged them to overprice rival phones, thereby reducing competition for the iPhone. Among other things, the Bureau is investigating whether the terms of their contracts with Apple may have discouraged carriers from reducing competing handset prices or encouraged them to charge higher prices for wireless services than they may otherwise have done.

Federal Court Chief Justice Paul Crampton stated that he would sign the disclosure order later on Wednesday, at which point Apple will have 90 days to turn over the documents to the Competition Bureau, including all of the agreements that it has with Canadian mobile carriers. In response, Apple’s lawyers have suggested that the company is considering launching a constitutional challenge to determine whether Canadian courts actually have the jurisdiction to force Apple’s wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary to turn over documents that are held by the California-based parent company. The Competition Act provides Canadian courts with this power, however, and both the lawyer for the Competition Bureau and Chief Justice Crampton have stated that these provisions have never been found to be unconstitutional, and that there is increasing consensus in the worldwide legal community that such provisions are legitimate.

Apple releases iOS 8.2 beta 2 to developers

Apple has released the second beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers, following up on the first 8.2 beta released with the debut of WatchKit last month. The latest beta features a build number of 12D445d and appears to contain mostly minor tweaks and fixes, particularly focused on enhancements to WatchKit as developers prepare apps for next year’s debut of the Apple Watch.

Apple releases iOS 8.1.2, fixing missing ringtones issue

Apple has officially released iOS 8.1.2 to the public, a minor maintenance release that notes “bug fixes” as well as addressing a problem with missing ringtones previously purchased through the iTunes Store. The ringtone issue has been noted in an Apple Support article, which provides instructions for either restoring missing tones by syncing with the associated iTunes library containing those tones, or visiting http://itunes.com/restore-tones from Safari on an affected iOS device after updating.

iOS 8.1.2 is available as an over-the-air update or by updating via iTunes on a Mac or PC.

Apple announces (PRODUCT)RED Gift Cards for Black Friday

In addition to the new (PRODUCT)RED app collection announced earlier today, Apple has released information on the Product(RED) iTunes Gift Cards that it will be giving out with qualifying purchases on Black Friday, with a percentage of each Gift Card donated to the (RED) Global Fund. Qualifying products include the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, all iPad Air and iPad mini models, iPod touch, iPod nano, Apple TV, all current iMac and MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models, and Beats Headphones and Speakers. iPhone and iPad buyers will receive a $50 gift card, Mac buyers a $100 card, and iPod, Apple TV, and Beats buyers will receive a $25 card. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus purchases are limited to two gift cards per household, as are iPad Air and iPad mini purchases. [via MacRumors]

Report: Apple plans to integrate Beats Music directly into iOS

Apple will integrate its Beats music subscription service directly into a future iOS update, according to a new report from Financial Times. Citing sources familiar with the situation, the report notes that the inclusion of the paid Beats service in an iOS software update could happen “as early as March” of next year. Although Apple has in the past debuted new services such as iBooks and Podcasts as standalone apps with their own update cycle, only later choosing to bake them into the core OS, music services such as iTunes Radio have traditionally been incorporated directly into the iOS “Music” app, suggesting that a redesigned music subscription service would be implemented in a similar manner, rather than as the separate app that currently exists for Beats Music.

After acquiring Beats earlier this year, Apple began working toward integrating the company’s Beats Music subscription service with its own music services, appointing Beats Music chief Ian Rogers to head up iTunes Radio, working to negotiate better subscription music rates with the labels, and reportedly planning to reposition Beats Music into a future service under the iTunes brand. Apple also notably included a Beats Music channel in an Apple TV update earlier this fall.

Apple opens up Lightning port to third-party manufacturers, begins accepting HomeKit plans

Apple will soon allow third-party manufacturers to use its Lightning port, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. Although Apple has long allowed accessory makers to produce accessories that connect to the Lightning and Dock Connector ports on iOS devices, it has not traditionally permitted third-party manufacturers to include the female versions of these ports in their accessories. For example, battery cases can include a Lightning connector for an encased iPhone, but must charge using some other form of connection, usually Micro-USB.

During Apple’s annual briefing for companies in its Made-for-iPhone/iPad (MFI) program, Apple revealed new Lightning connectors as well as specifications for female Lightning ports that manufacturers will be able to use in their own accessories. This will allow third-party accessory makers to reduce costs and create an easier product experience for users by providing a consistent charging connector between an accessory and an iPhone, iPad, or iPod. In addition, the new Lightning connector provides a lower profile design that should allow for easier compatibility with accessories such as docks and cases. Apple plans to make the new Lightning port and connector designs available to third-party manufacturers starting in early 2015.

Also during the summit in Shenzhen, Apple officially began accepting plans for HomeKit products for approval, according to another 9to5Mac report. As Apple’s MFI approval process is one of the final steps before third-party manufacturers are allowed to announce new products, this move suggests that new products designed to work with iOS 8’s HomeKit features may start to be revealed in the near future.

Apple releases iOS 8.1.1

Apple has officially released iOS 8.1.1 to the public, a minor maintenance release that notes “bug fixes” as well as “stability and performance improvements” for the older iPhone 4S and iPad 2 models. iOS 8.1.1 is available as an over-the-air update or by updating via iTunes on a Mac or PC.

US government posts iOS Masque Attack alert

The U.S. Government’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has posted an official alert regarding the iOS Masque Attack disclosed earlier this week. The notice summarizes the vulnerability, specifically noting that the vulnerability works “under a limited set of circumstances” and that “in order for the attack to succeed, a user must install an untrusted app, such as one delivered through a phishing link.” The bulletin goes on to reiterate the solutions provided by the original report: specifically that users should not install apps from sources other than Apple’s App Store or their own enterprise organization, should never click install from an app pop-up that appears on a web page, and if iOS shows an “Untrusted App Developer” alert, click on “Don’t Trust” and remove the app.

iOS camera app ProCam 2 adds “4K Ultra HD” video recording mode as $5 IAP

ProCam 2, a $2 still and video camera app by developer Samer Azzam, has added “4K Ultra HD video recording” via a $5 in-app purchase. Following a technique debuted in September by i4software in the $1,000 app Vizzywig 4K, ProCam 2 uses a hack to splice high-resolution still images together with an audio recording to simulate 4K video recording. ProCam 2’s videos save at 3840x2160 resolution, resulting in large file sizes—over 400MB per minute—with a promised 30 frame per second recording rate for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. A lower frame rate of “up to 25 fps” is promised for the iPhone 5s.

Unfortunately, ProCam 2’s actual performance on an iPhone 6 Plus typically reached only 15 to 25FPS during our testing, with a noticeably laggy shutter during recording. Videos are saved within the app in a 4K Videos folder, in a standard .MOV format that can play with obvious jitters directly on the device. The app is currently at version 4.0.1, addressing an iOS 7-related crash bug, but continues to suffer from many memory-related crashes when using the 4K recording mode. Vizzywig 4K has been reduced in price to $50, and now supports iOS 8.1, though notably with user complaints as to video quality.

Apple releases iMessage Deregistration Tool

Apple has released a new web-based tool to allow users to deregister phone numbers from iMessage. Designed to address a long-standing problem that users have experienced when switching away from the iPhone to other devices, the site provides instructions on how to deregister a phone number from Apple’s iMessage servers so that text messages sent from other iPhone users will be sent as SMS messages instead of via Apple’s iMessage network. The problem exists because the iPhone automatically registers a user’s cellular phone number with Apple’s iMessage servers when the user first sets up their device or inserts a new SIM card in their iPhone. Messages from other iOS devices sent to that phone number will travel via the iMessage servers instead of the cellular carrier’s SMS network — if users later switch their SIM card to a non-iPhone device, their number does not get deregistered automatically, so messages to that phone number will continue to travel over the iMessage network.

Apple acknowledged the issue back in May, shortly before a lawsuit was filed by a former iPhone user who was losing text messages as a result of the problem. Apple promised a fix was coming shortly thereafter, but other than advising users to disable iMessage before removing their SIM card—a suggestion that is often unreasonable as many users will have already switched to another device before discovering the problem even exists—the company has not provided a solution until now. The new web portal provides the same advice to deactivate iMessage manually for users who still have their iPhones, but failing that, users can now enter their phone number directly on the web page, and after confirming their number via an SMS confirmation code, their number will be deregistered from Apple’s iMessage servers.

Microsoft Office apps gain iPhone support, free editing

Microsoft announced the expansion of its Office suite for iOS, adding iPhone and iPod touch support to its Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps. Users can now view, create, and edit documents for free within all three universal apps — a free Microsoft account is all that’s needed. Documents can also be opened, edited, and saved from Dropbox in the updated apps.

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