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Apple releases first iOS 11.4 developer beta

Only four days after the public release of iOS 11.3, Apple has already begun testing of iOS 11.4, releasing the first beta to developers yesterday afternoon. The release notes for the initial iOS 11.4 beta list few significant changes, although they note the return of Messages in iCloud — a feature that was promised for iOS 11 last fall and introduced to beta testers in the entire iOS 11.3 beta before being omitted from last week’s final release. However, Apple once again indicates that the feature has been included only “for testing and evaluation purposes,” suggesting that it may still not be rolled into the final iOS 11.4 release either. The same conditions also apply to Messages in iCloud as for the earlier betas — users will be prompted to turn the feature on after upgrading to the iOS 11.4 beta, however users who have two-factor authentication and iCloud Backup enabled will have the feature activated automatically. No other new features are highlighted in the iOS 11.4 beta, which appears to still be lacking the AirPlay 2 features which briefly appeared in early iOS 11.3 betas before disappearing near the end of the cycle.

Update: AirPlay 2 has in fact returned in the first iOS 11.4 beta, but requires an AirPlay 2 compatible target device on your network, such as an Apple TV running the new tvOS 11.4 beta. HomePod doesn’t work as an AirPlay 2 target, and will likely require its own HomePod software update to enable the feature.

Apple releases iOS 11.3 with Battery Health, Health Records, Business Chat and more

Apple has announced the final public release of iOS 11.3, featuring a significant number of updates for a point release. Originally previewed in late January, iOS 11.3 promises new augmented reality experiences, new Animoji for iPhone X users, a new Business Chat feature that will allow businesses to communicate with customers via iMessage, a Health Records feature that helps users of participating medical institutions more easily view their medical records, enhanced data and privacy controls, and the Battery Health feature that will ensure users know when their performance is being throttled due to aging batteries on older iPhones.

GarageBand gets new “Toy Box” educational sound pack, TrueDepth facial control

Following today’s education event in Chicago, Apple has released an update to GarageBand for iOS unveiling a free new education-themed sound pack, “Toy Box”, along with support for controlling musical effects using the TrueDepth camera on the iPhone X.  The new sound pack includes over 400 Apple Loops, three drum kits, ten keyboard instruments, and five Live Loop grids, focused on education with sounds such as animals, vehicles, and counting to ten in different languages. TrueDepth camera support allows iPhone X users to control effects like guitar wah and synth parameters using facial expressions, and the update also adds a Modern Wah guitar stompbox effect.

QR code exploit could use iOS Camera app to misdirect users to malicious sites

Infosec has discovered a potential exploit using the QR code-reading capabilities of the iOS Camera app that would allow one URL to be displayed while directing users to another hidden link. The simple code tweak allows those generating a QR code to set their link to display a safe-looking or familiar URL in the iOS confirmation box that pops up when a QR code is scanned, only to deliver the user to another URL entirely that was placed later in the code. The issue has been reported to Apple but hasn’t been fixed yet.

Report reveals law enforcement routinely unlocks iPhones with dead people’s fingers

A new report by Forbes has revealed that it’s a rather common practice for law enforcement agencies to use the fingers of deceased suspects to attempt to unlock their iPhones. In the report, FBI forensics specialist Bob Moledor outlined a 2016 case where an agent used the finger of a suspect who had been shot by police following a stabbing rampage to attempt to unlock an iPhone found on the deceased. While Moledor added that this particular attempt didn’t work — the report speculates it may have been an iPhone 5 rather than an iPhone 5s — it was the first known case of law enforcement officials attempting to use a deceased person’s finger to unlock an iPhone using Touch ID.

Apple confirms fix is in the works for bug that allows Siri to access hidden notifications

In a statement provided to MacRumors, Apple has confirmed that it already has a fix underway for a bug reported earlier this week in which Siri could bypass privacy restrictions on third-party messaging apps, allowing for otherwise hidden messages to be read aloud, even when an iPhone is locked.

Canada’s mandatory National Public Alerting System to go live April 6

Canada’s new National Public Alerting System is scheduled to go live on April 6, and according to a new report from CTV News, the service will be mandatory for all users with no opt-out options available. While a report suggested that most wireless providers were pushing for an opt-out option that would allow end users to disable the alerts, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has decided that consumers will not be able to turn off the warnings. CRTC spokesperson Patricia Valladao emphasized that “There is a high importance that people—want it or not—receive these alerts,” a decision supported by Public Safety Canada, with assistant deputy ministry Patrick Tanguy adding that “When you’re getting those alerts your life is at risk. So it’s not there’s potentially a danger, there is a danger.”

Siri bug allows access to hidden messages on iPhone by asking Siri to read them

A bug discovered by Mac Magazine allows users to access hidden messages on an iPhone just by asking Siri to read them aloud. Apple has long allowed users to hide their notification previews in Messages — displaying only that a new message was received and keeping the contents private until the device was unlocked, and more recently extended this capability to third-party apps. The bug — spotted in both iOS 11.2.6 and the beta of iOS 11.3 — doesn’t affect Apple’s own Messages app, but it does allow messages in third-party apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Skype to be read aloud to anyone who asks Siri to do so, even when the device is locked. Apple has been made away of the bug but hasn’t commented publicly on the issue. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple thought to have two-year lead in 3D smartphone sensors

Most android devices won’t have 3D sensors comparable to this in the iPhone X until 2019, giving Apple a two-year lead in the burgeoning field expected to be worth billions over the next few years, Reuters reports. Three major parts producers said Samsung and others are too far behind Apple to get the tech into customers’ hands this year, leaving Apple out ahead on facial recognition, gesture sensing and immersive experiences for gaming and online shopping. Parts manufacturers Viavi Solutions Inc, Finisar Corp and Ams AG said Android producers are struggling to get access to the vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers that are central to Apple’s Face ID components.

Leaker’s latest photo shows ‘Blush Gold’ iPhone X he claims is in production

Well-known Apple product leaker Benjamin Geskin has posted photos of a “Blush Gold” iPhone X that he claims is in production now. The tweet includes a professional-looking shot of the back of the iPhone X in a copper-gold color and another grainier shot of a SIM tray in a different gold color. But Geskin has already been wrong about the number of colors the iPhone X would feature at launch and others have jumped the gun on speculation about the gold option being released, so we’ll have to see if the prediction materializes this time. The iPhone X currently only comes in silver and space gray.

Report: Apple developing its own MicroLED screens in secret California manufacturing facility

For the first time, Apple is developing its own MicroLED screens for testing purposes, Bloomberg reports. Sources claim Apple has made a “significant investment” in the program designing and producing the new displays at a secret California manufacturing facility near the company’s headquarters. MicroLED screens can be built slimmer than OLED displays while still delivering a brighter display that consumes less power thanks to different light-emitting compounds, but that makes them much more difficult to produce. Apple almost pulled the plug on the project a year ago and is still a few years away from putting its own screens in Apple products, but the move further emphasizes the company’s current trend toward trying to bring the design of more of its components in-house. In the meantime, Digitimes is expecting Apple’s screen suppliers to field up to 270 million orders in 2018, which will far exceed Apple’s best annual iPhone sales of all time.

Apple seeds sixth beta of iOS 11.3 to registered developers

Only a few days after Apple released a fifth beta of iOS 11.3, today the company has pushed out beta 6 to registered developers, featuring a build number of 15E5216a. This sixth beta release is not yet accompanied by a corresponding tvOS 11.3 beta. The release notes for the latest beta contain no significant changes, suggesting that Apple is primarily polishing iOS 11.3 for a final release, which is expected to be available by the end of this month.

Report says new iPad Pro could feature slim bezels, Face ID; throws cold water on iPhone SE update

A new report from the Economic Daily News backs up previous rumors that Apple plans to release an updated pair of iPad Pro devices this June at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference. A source said the display will measure about 11”  — which could possibly just take the same footprint of the current 10.5” iPad Pro and shave down the bezels to create a slightly larger display. The 12.9” model is also expected to get a refresh, and both are rumored to be getting Face ID support and faster eight-core A11X processors. The report also throws more cold water on rumors that Apple will be releasing an updated iPhone SE in the first half of the year, claiming that the three iPhones to be released later this year is all we’re likely to see.

Apple releases fifth iOS 11.3, tvOS 11.3 betas to registered developers

Only a week after the fourth betas appeared, Apple has released a fifth set of betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 to registered developers. The more rapid release schedule suggests that Apple is likely getting very close to a release date for iOS 11.3, which is expected to be available by the end of this month, and will add several useful new features, along with the battery health feature. As would be expected this late in the cycle, the latest betas of both iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 consist mostly of bug fixes and refinements, and there’s still no sign of the return of AirPlay 2 support of the iBooks redesign that were hinted at in early betas before being subsequently removed, suggesting that these features have been pushed off to a future release, possibly iOS 12 later this year.

Pair of patents provide look at waterproof Lightning connector, crumb-proof keyboard

A pair of patents show Apple’s interest in improving the seals on its devices, starting with a Lightning connector that creates a water-tight seal when inserted. Discovered by Patently Apple, one version of the Lightning connector features a tapered shape made of a “deformable material” that molds itself to the Lightning port to lock moisture out and keep the internal connections free from moisture.

Apple releases fourth watchOS 4.3 developer beta, new public betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3

Apple has released a fourth watchOS 4.3 beta along with new public betas for iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3, matching the fourth developer betas released earlier this week. Featuring a build number of 15T5199f,  the sparse release notes don’t suggest any significant changes since the prior beta. watchOS 4.3 is expected to bring iPhone music control back to the Apple Watch and allow Nightstand mode to work in portrait orientation. The latest beta also appears to resolve issues with weather information in Greater China and accuracy in the battery complication.

New video shows big benefits of battery replacement for older iPhones

While it’s already been shown that replacing the battery on an older iPhone speeds it up — and Apple has already admitted that they slowed the older devices on purpose when the batteries weakened — a new video is showing just how pronounced the benefits are. The video, posted by Bennett Sorbo, showed a slowed-down iPhone 6s completing a series of tasks in 5 minutes and 45 seconds, then showed the same device taking only 4 minutes and 33 seconds to finish them once the battery was replaced. The old battery left the 6s with a single-core Geekbench score of 1437 points and a multi-core score of 2485, where the device scored 2520 and 4412 respectively once the battery was swapped out. While users will soon be able to turn the throttling on and off at will, the video proves there are serious benefits to taking Apple up on its cheap battery replacement offer for eligible iPhones.

Apple releases fourth iOS 11.3, tvOS 11.3 betas to registered developers

Apple has released the fourth betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 to registered developers. While iOS 11.3 adds a few interesting new features, the fourth beta seems to mostly consist of bug fixes and relatively minor improvements, following the introduction of the battery health feature in iOS 11.3 beta 2. 9to5Mac found that the new code adds support for Brazilian Portuguese to the TV app, hinting that that app could be released in Brazil soon. There’s also no sign of the return of AirPlay 2 — removed in iOS 11.3 beta 3 — and the release notes still make no mention of it, so it’s unclear whether these are coming back in a future iOS 11.3 beta or will be pushed off to a later release.

Report: Apple plans to release ‘largest iPhone ever’ this fall

Apple is planning to release its “largest iPhone ever” alongside the successor to the iPhone X and a lower-cost model with some of the iPhone X’s features, Bloomberg reports. People familiar with the planning process said Apple is aiming to reach those customers who were interested in the iPhone X’s new features but balked at the $1,000 price tag, while still offering something new for those users who want the multitasking abilities and larger screen size of a “phablet.” “When you have a measurable upgrade in screen size, people go to update their phone in droves,” said Gene Munster, co-founder of Loup Ventures. “We saw that with the iPhone 6, and we think this is setting up to be a similar step up in growth.”

Report: Cellebrite has tools that can break into any device running iOS 11, including iPhone X

Cellebrite — the security firm that made headlines after rumors surfaced that it was responsible for breaking into the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone in 2016 — is now able to get into any iPhone running iOS 11, even the iPhone X, Forbes reports. The company hasn’t made any flashy public statements about the breakthrough, but its latest marketing materials claim the company can unlock and extract data from “Apple iOS devices and operating systems, including iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, iPad Pro and iPod touch, running iOS 5 to iOS 11.” Sources said Cellebrite is telling customers its engineers have devised ways to get around Apple’s most up-to-date security features, and it’s likely that the company’s tech was used to crack an iPhone X for the Department for Homeland Security last November. Apple hasn’t publicly responded to the news.

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