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Apple releases first iOS 11.3, tvOS 11.3 developer beta

Apple has released the first betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 to registered developers, with the improvements previewed earlier today, specifically new Animoji and the promised improvements to battery health monitoring resulting from the recent iPhone slowdown controversy. iOS 11.3 also brings back the Messages in iCloud feature that was promised for the initial iOS 11 release, with the release notes indicating that it’s currently “for testing and evaluation purposes” and adds that the feature will be automatically enabled — in the beta at least — for users who already have two-factor authentication and iCloud Backup enabled. In addition, the new iOS version also adds a new security protocol that will require users to re-enter their device passcode to authorize a Lighting-connected USB accessory if it has not been connected to the device for more than a week.

Preview of iOS 11.3 reveals new Animoji avatars, ARKit improvements, battery monitoring and more

Apple has released a preview of the new features in its iOS 11.3 software ahead of beta releases to developers and the public. The updated operating system’s Messages app will add new Animoji options — dragon, bear, lion and skull — as well as a Business Chat feature that lets users “have a conversation with a service representative, schedule an appointment or make purchases using Apple Pay” with select business partners, including Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo. Addressing the outrage over slowing down iPhones with older batteries, Apple has added a way to see the device’s battery health and a way to shut off the power management features that slowed down devices to preserve battery life.

Reports shed new light on Apple plans for 6.1” LCD iPhone

A new story from The China Times seems to back up well-connected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s claims about Apple’s upcoming 6.1” LCD iPhone, expected to sport an edge-to-edge display like the iPhone X (including the camera notch) but only a single rear-facing camera. Where Apple offered one LED iPhone last year as the high-end model, this year’s three-iPhone lineup is expected to feature only one LCD model, aimed at users who don’t want to fork out for the more expensive flagship iPhones. The stripped down device is expected to come with an aluminum frame instead of stainless steel and only 3GB of RAM where the other two will have 4GB.

Apple releases iOS 11.2.5 with HomePod support, Siri news, enhanced audio control

Apple has released iOS 11.2.5, an update that brings support for the company’s new HomePod speakers along with Siri’s audio news feature and support for remote control of Apple Music playback. The new iOS update will be required to configure the HomePod when it’s released on Feb. 9, allowing users to automatically transfer their Apple ID, Apple Music, Siri, and Wi-Fi settings to the new speaker, likely similar in the way that an Apple TV can be automatically configured from an iPhone or other iOS device. The update also adds the ability to remotely control Apple Music playback on Apple TV and (presumably) HomePod speakers; selecting an audio destination from the Music app or Control Center widget will now display additional compatible playback destinations as separate panels, which can be used to start and control playback on that device directly from Apple Music, independently of whatever is playing on the iPhone itself.

Cook apologizes for lack of clarity on iPhone slowdowns, promises transparency in coming iOS update

In an interview with ABC News, Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized for Apple’s failure to more effectively communicate its reasoning behind slowing down older iPhones with deteriorating batteries. When asked about the incident, Cook explained that Apple’s motivation behind the move was entirely on the user experience of ensuring users’ iPhones wouldn’t unexpectedly shutdown during seemingly normal usage such as making an emergency call, waiting for an important message, or wanting to “capture that moment that is fleeting with your camera,” and that Apple “felt it would be better to take something off of the performance to prevent that from happening.”  Cook added that when Apple released the iOS update that eliminated unexpected shutdowns last year, “we did say what it was, but I don’t think a lot of people were paying attention,” adding that “maybe we should have been clearer as well.” He went on to “deeply apologize for anybody who thinks that we had some other kind of motivation” and reiterated that “our motivation is always the user” and that “the user is at the centre of everything we do.”

Cook went on to add that Apple has been listening to the recent feedback very carefully, and in addition to “giving everybody a very very low price” on battery replacements, Apple has “thought through this whole thing and learned everything we can” and will be releasing an iOS update in the near future that will provide users with “the visibility of the health of their battery, so it’s very very transparent.” He added that iOS will also begin notifying users when performance throttling is occurring as well as providing the option to turn it off. However, in closing Cook added “we don’t recommend it, because we think that people’s iPhones are really important to them, and you never can tell when something is so urgent and so — you know, our actions were all in service of the user, I can’t stress that enough. You know, maybe we should have been clearer at a point in time, but out actions were always the purest, but again if anybody out there believes we did something nefariously, we apologize for any kind of thing that we did or didn’t do.”

Chinese consumer group joins others demanding information about iPhone slowdowns

A Chinese consumer group has joined the growing list of private citizens and government entities demanding information about why and how Apple decided to slow down older iPhones without informing users, Reuters reports. Chinese state news agency Xinhua said the Shanghai Consumer Council has demanded a reply from Apple by Friday about how the company plans to rectify consumer complaints that their old iPhones became sluggish after the iOS 10.2.1 update. Apple has already lowered the price of battery replacements for users with certain iPhones and promised software changes to let users monitor the health of their batteries, but the company is still facing multiple class-action lawsuits and demands from lawmakers to provide more information about the situation.

Number of lawsuits against Apple grows as US, French officials inquire about iPhone throttling

US Senator John Thune has entered the fray around Apple’s admitted slowing down of older iPhones, sending the company a list of questions about how it came to the decision to throttle performance on its devices without informing users, The Wall Street Journal reports. As Senate Commerce Committee chairman, Thune is looking for information on “how Apple has tracked customer complaints of processing performance and if Apple has explored offering rebates to customers who paid full price for a battery replacement before the company offered discounted rates last month,” noting that customers have complained that the battery replacements weren’t offered for free. Reuters reports a French prosecutor has also opened an investigation into the company’s actions after a complaint by a consumer organization alleging deception and “planned obsolescence of its products.” All the while Patently Apple has been tracking the number of class-action lawsuits over the move, which has now reached 30 — although some have more merit than others.

Apple, Intel downplay performance cost of fixing Meltdown, Spectre vulnerabilities

After addressing vulnerabilities in processors that left iOS and Mac devices open to security issues nicknamed Meltdown and Spectre, Apple is now convinced than the fixes rolled out to remedy the problems will have “little to no performance impact,” Reuters reports. Apple admitted that its devices were vulnerable to exploits that “abuse speculative execution to access privileged memory —including that of the kernel — from a less-privileged user process such as a malicious app running on a device,” but said fixes in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2 already help defend against Meltdown — even though there have been no documented exploits affecting customers. Since the exploits would require a malicious app to be downloaded, the recommended course of action is to scrutinize apps before downloading and only download from trusted sources. Intel — the company that produces the affected microprocessors — said Apple had seen no significant performance drop off from security updates and that any impact should be mitigated over time with future updates.

Apple issues clarification to Apple Stores after some seeking $29 battery replacements were denied

After some Apple users with an iPhone 6 or later reported being refused a $29 battery replacement at Apple Stores, Apple has issued new guidance to its retail locations instructing employees to honor all replacement requests, iGeneration reports. Following outrage over Apple’s admission that the company had been slowing down older iPhones to conserve battery power without informing users, the company agreed to replace the batteries in iPhone 6, 6s, SE or 7 devices for $29 — a substantial discount over the usual price for out-of-warranty battery replacements.

Face ID can’t be used for ‘Ask to Buy’ purchases on the App Store

Many users who bought the iPhone X this year got an unwelcome surprise at Christmas time, finding that they couldn’t use Face ID to authenticate “Ask to Buy” requests that require kids to ask for parental approval to make iOS purchases and downloads, Ars Technica reports. The “Ask to Buy” feature allows Touch ID to be used to approve the requests, but not Face ID, which has led to speculation that Apple knows there’s a risk of family members — especially children without fully formed features — being able to access another user’s iPhone X with Face ID and approve purchases without permission.

Apple facing class action suits over slowing down older iPhones

After last week’s admission from Apple that the company has been intentionally slowing down older iPhones without informing users, at least eight lawsuits have been filed in various federal courts seeking compensation and a reversal of the policy, CNBC reports. Apple has admitted that iOS updates since “last year” sent out to the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone SE and iPhone 7 included a feature “to smooth out” the power supply from batteries that are old, cold or contain a low charge. Apple claims without that software, an iPhone could just shut off suddenly because of another safety feature to keep internal components from getting fried when there are battery issues. One of the lawsuits — filed by attorney Jeffrey Fazio, who won users a $53 million settlement in 2013 over Apple’s handling of iPhone warranty claims — claims that, “Rather than curing the battery defect by providing a free battery replacement for all affected iPhones, Apple sought to mask the battery defect.”

Apple invests $390M in Finisar, company that makes lasers for iPhone X

Apple has announced a $390 million investment in Finisar, the company that produces lasers used in the iPhone X’s Face ID technology, according to a press release. The money is expected to be spent on research and development and high-volume production of the vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers that power Face ID, Portrait mode selfies and even the proximity-sensing capabilities of AirPods. Finisar will be remodelling a 700,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas to add more than 500 jobs for engineers, technicians and maintenance teams to dramatically increase production. This is the second grant from Apple’s Advanced Manufacturing Fund, which previously invested $200 million in Corning’s “revolutionary glass production methods.”

iOS 11.2 released over the weekend with fix for Dec. 2 crash bug, Apple Pay Cash

After online reports of a bug that appeared to be crashing iPhones just after the date rolled over to December 2, Apple rolled out the iOS 11.2 on Saturday, the first time the company has ever released an update on a weekend. Time-based notifications for certain apps began crashing or respringing the devices at 12:15 a.m. on December 2, specifically apps that issue repeated reminders throughout the day. Apple took the unusual step of releasing its iOS update on the weekend to remedy that issue, but seems to have rushed it out with some parts not operational. Apple Pay Cash, the method for using Messages to send person-to-person payments, is included in the release but not yet functional. Users have also reported problems with Face ID in iPhone X after updating, but most have found a reboot after installation clears up the problem.

Apple applies for foldable iPhone patent

Apple has applied for a patent for a foldable iPhone, Patently Apple reports. The patent expands on others filed by Apple, using advanced carbon nanotube structures to prevent corrosion in the foldable section of the display. While delicate internal components have made it impossible to create a folding device in the past, Apple’s latest patent covers a device that simply bends in the middle instead of being flexible all over, possibly side-stepping the internal component problem by allowing the two sides themselves to be mostly rigid. This is also the first Apple patent to list micro-LED as a possible display type, and also lists liquid metal as a component in the structure, saying “The material that forms layer 14-1 may be a shape memory alloy (e.g., nickel titanium) or a bulk metal glass (sometimes referred to as amorphous metal).”

iPhone X shipping time down to 1-2 weeks as production speeds improve

Well-respected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo told investors Apple has substantially increased its iPhone X production to meet high demand for the device, 9to5Mac reports. Kuo said Apple’s assembly partners are churning out anywhere from 440,000 to 550,000 units a day, up sharply from the 50,000 to 100,000 being shipped each day a month or two ago. Production yields have also improved at component suppliers’ facilities, and shoppers ordering the iPhone X have seen shipping times drop to 1-2 weeks because of the supply stabilization, down from the 5-6 week estimates that were seen shortly after pre-orders opened.

Apple rumored to be releasing second-generation iPhone SE next year

After rumors about an updated iPhone SE went nowhere this year, China’s Economic Daily News is again claiming that there will be a second-generation version of the device coming, this time in the first half of 2018. The new assembly plant in Bangalore, India that helped Apple get its foot in the door in India is now rumored to be the likely site to produce the new model as well. While Apple skipped updating the iPhone SE in 2017, markets like India and China still have high demand for a smartphone at a lower price point than the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X. Last month a questionable report from Tekz24 speculated about the hardware inside a new SE, including an upgrade to the A10 Fusion chip and slightly larger battery than the current device.

Freedom Mobile to begin offering iPhones on Dec. 8

Freedom Mobile is set to begin offering new iPhones for the first time, MobileSyrup reports. Freedom will provide the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X at all of its retail locations across Canada, alongside other older models in its western stores. Network upgrades have hindered the roll out of the older devices in eastern Canada, with Freedom promising to support those by “early 2018.” All of the iPhones are available for no money down and Freedom’s monthly payments amount to hundreds of dollars in savings over the outright price of the devices.

Apple looking to Intel for 5G modems as fight with Qualcomm continues

As Apple slugs it out in court with longtime modem supplier Qualcomm, the company is cooperating with Intel to prepare its devices for the switch to 5G technology, Fast Company reports. Qualcomm’s current 5G chips offer more specialized features, but a source said since many of those features won’t be widely adopted by carriers it’s likely Intel’s 5G modem will be more than sufficient for future iPhones. The source claims Intel has “multiple thousands” of employees working on the technology, calling the iPhone contract a “must-win” for the company. Apple first started splitting orders between Qualcomm and Intel with the iPhone 7 in 2016 and Intel has proved more than willing to customize its products for Apple. With Verizon abandoning the older CDMA networks that required Apple to keep some of its modem business with Qualcomm, Apple has one less reason to split orders for future devices.

Apple reportedly integrating streaming sports into TV app next month

Apple’s TV app is set to gain live streaming sports from ESPN next month, 9to5Mac reports. A source from a “major sports network” confirmed the launch date, claiming the update will arrive as part of iOS 11.2 on or around December 4, as well as being enabled on tvOS 11.2 at the same time. The app will gain live games from ESPN along with live scores and game clocks in a single interface. The app also includes the ability to receive live alerts for close games so users can switch back and forth. The feature is not yet live in any of the iOS 11.2 apps we’ve seen so far.

iOS 11.1.2 update released, fixing cold temperature problem with iPhone X screen

Apple has released the iOS 11.1.2 update, which contains a fix for the iPhone X’s screen becoming unbresponsive in cold weather. The update also fixes distortion problems in Live Photos and videos recorded by the iPhone X along with other minor bug fixes.

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