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Apple releases sixth beta of iOS 10.3 to developers

Apple has released another new beta of iOS 10.3 to registered developers, with a build number of 14E5273a. The rapid beta cycle and increasingly sparse release notes suggest that iOS 10.3 is nearing public release. Unlike most prior beta update cycles, this time around no corresponding watchOS or tvOS betas have been released as of yet. A corresponding public beta update is expected in the near future.

Apple adds categories, new product updates to its HomeKit website

Apple has placed a renewed emphasis on updating its improved HomeKit page with updates on newly announced products, but may have let the cat out of the bag too early on the ecobee4 in the process. Apple recently updated the page with a new design, marking unreleased products with either “Announced” or “Coming Soon” tags and grouping HomeKit-compatible products into categories like Security, Fans, Lights, etc. where the devices were previously sorted by brand. Since Apple revealed the updated page less than two weeks ago, iDevices Wall Switch, iDevices Wall Outlet, and Netatmo by Starck Smart Thermostat have all lost the “Coming Soon” tag as they’ve been released, showing Apple’s commitment to maintaining and updating the page in real time. But in an interesting turn of events, the ecobee4 was originally listed as “Announced,” but now has been removed from the list entirely. With no other mentions of the product at all, it seems Apple may have spilled the beans on the new device before its own parent company was ready to make an official announcement.

Google releases Uptime app for watching and sharing YouTube videos

Google’s Area 120 program has just released a new iOS app called Uptime, allowing U.S. users to share YouTube videos with one another and chat in real time while watching them. The app also provides the ability to add reactions or comments, allows users to curate lists of their favorite YouTube clips and provides daily recommendations from friends and people you follow. The app is free on the App Store, but you’ll need to use the invitation code PIZZA to get in. [via TNW]

‘Game of Thrones’ stars to appear on ‘Carpool Karaoke’

“Game of Thrones” stars Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner will be among the celebrity duos singing behind the wheel in Apple Music’s new “Carpool Karaoke” show, the pair announced in a video on Twitter. The show — based on a similar comedy bit developed by James Corden for his own late night TV show — will now feature two or more celebrities in each 30-minute episode. Other notable celebrities confirmed for the project include Corden, Blake Shelton, Will Smith, Seth MacFarlane (of Family Guy fame), Ariana Grande, Shaq, and Michael Strahan. Apple has said it’s using original shows to make Apple Music stand out from other competing music streaming services, but the company continues to show interest in other shows outside the music realm as well.

European custom homebuilder WeberHaus to begin offering HomeKit packages

European custom homebuilder WeberHaus has announced plans to begin featuring Apple HomeKit in its SmartHome projects beginning this year. The company has been building custom SmartHomes for some time now featuring its own “WeberLogic 2.0” platform that utilizes the MyHomeControl app from Swiss company BootUp, however with HomeKit, WeberHaus is planning to increase the number of compatible devices that can be controlled, as well as adding more tightly integrated home control using iOS devices and Siri voice commands. “Apple HomeKit is the control solution of choice for home manufacturers around the world, delivering a simple and secure smart home solution for new home buyers,” said Klaus-Dieter Schwendemann, marketing manager at WeberHaus. The company’s press release also notes that it chose to partner with Apple as it feels that HomeKit technology is the “global standard for the smart home,” providing a “simple and secure” solution and “interoperability between different brands and accessories throughout the home.” WeberHaus is the first European home manufacturer to add support for HomeKit.

Apple says ‘right to repair’ bill would make Nebraska a ‘mecca for bad actors’

Following reports last month on Apple’s planned opposition to a new “right to repair” bill being tabled in Nebraska, the iPhone maker has apparently begun low-key lobbying efforts in the state, according to BuzzFeed News. Nebraska is one of eight states considering “right to repair” legislation that would require manufacturers to provide repair manuals and parts to independent repair shops. Proponents of the bill claim that this would result in customers having more options to fix their devices and ultimately lower repair costs, while those companies opposing the bill, including Apple, Samsung, and John Deere, cite concerns with safety and security issues for consumers as well as revealing trade secrets. Other states considering similar legislation are Kansas, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Wyoming.

Apple representative Steve Kester recently met with the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Lydia Brasch to discuss Apple’s position on the bill. According to Sen. Brasch, Kester told her that Nebraska would be a “mecca for bad actors” if the bill passed, suggesting hackers would flood into the state, but that Apple would not oppose the bill if phones were specifically excluded from the legislation. Notably, no mention was made of excluding other Apple devices such as iPads and Macs, which the bill would also apply to. Apple declined to comment on the Nebraska bill or any of its lobbying efforts in other states, saying merely that “limiting repairs to authorized vendors is the only way it can guarantee that genuine parts are used and that the devices are fixed correctly.”

Plex opens up Plex Cloud to all subscribers

Plex has announced that its new Plex Cloud feature, originally released as a limited beta last fall, is now available to all Plex Pass subscribers. The Plex Cloud service expands the capabilities of the company’s media streaming platform, allowing users to store their movies, TV shows, and other media content in the cloud rather than, or in addition to, running their own Plex Media Server at home. Although Plex Cloud integrated with Amazon Drive when originally launched in beta, the fully-deployed Plex Cloud service instead allows you to simply tie into your choice of three major storage providers — Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive — and use whatever paid storage you have available on these services.

Siri leads voice assistants in language support

While many AI researchers suggest that Siri is lagging behind competitors such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, one area in which Apple’s voice assistant clearly has the lead over its competitors is in its extremely wide language support. A new report from Reuters notes that Siri can speak and understand 21 different languages, with localized dialect support for over 36 countries in total. By comparison, Microsoft Cortana supports only eight languages for 13 countries, Google’s Assistant speaks four, and Amazon’s Alexa is limited to only English and German. Reuters also notes that Siri will also be adding support for Shanghainese, a special dialect of Wu Chinese spoken only around Shanghai.

Apple releases fifth betas of iOS 10.3, tvOS 10.2, and watchOS 3.2 to developers

Apple has released a fifth set of new betas to developers today — iOS 10.3 for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, tvOS 10.2 for Apple TV, and watchOS 3.2 for Apple Watch. iOS 10.3 contains Find My AirPods support, tvOS 10.2 boasts improved scrolling support, and watchOS 10.2 brings the screen-disabling Theater Mode to the Apple Watch, among other improvements. The betas are also accompanied by a fourth beta of Xcode 8.3. A public beta for iOS 10.3 should be available in the near future.

Apple ordering 3D imaging components from STMicroelectronics for ‘future iPhone’

Apple has ordered 3D imaging technology from STMicroelectronics slated to be included in a “future iPhone,” iGeneration reports. Sources familiar with the agreement said the 3D imagers are on track to begin production at a plant in Crolles, France as part of a joint collaboration between Apple and STMicroelectronics that began in 2015. Carlo Bozotti, CEO of STMicroelectronics, told investors that the company’s recent $1 billion investment in “new products and specialized technologies” was related to “a contract recently taken [which will lead to] substantial revenues expected in the second half of 2017.” Bozotti hasn’t named Apple as its customer, but sources have confirmed that’s the case.

Apple says many of the iOS vulnerabilities detailed in WikiLeaks release are already fixed

In a statement posted by Kif Leswing on Twitter, Apple claims that it is working on assessing all of the iOS vulnerabilities detailed in yesterday’s WikiLeaks release, but claims, “many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS.” The company touted its ongoing commitment to protecting customer security and privacy and urged users to make sure their devices are running the latest version of iOS. WikiLeaks claims the CIA has put a “disproportionate focus on iOS” as a hacking target and kept known vulnerabilities from Apple in defiance of prior U.S. government promises of disclosure.

Report: Apple still prototyping ‘iPhone Edition’ that may launch later than September

A new set of rumors from Macotakara claim the tenth-anniversary iPhone rumored to be making its debut this year could be called the “iPhone Edition” and include a dual camera similar to the iPhone 7 Plus in a 5” device that’s the same size as an iPhone 7. The site says that multiple prototypes are still under consideration by Apple, including varieties with or without a home button and varieties with thin-film-transistor LCDs or AMOLED displays. Aluminum, glass and white ceramic are also reportedly under consideration for the chassis, leading to speculation that with so many factors still undecided production on the device might start later than usual. The new report is firm on the idea that “iPhone Edition” will feature wireless charging, but previous reports have claimed Apple is still undecided on which type of wireless charging method to use.

WikiLeaks claims the CIA has dedicated resources aimed at hacking iOS devices

The latest release from WikiLeaks claims that the CIA’s Mobile Devices Branch dedicated considerable resources to create malware intended to ” infest, control and exfiltrate data from iPhones and other Apple products running iOS, such as iPads.” The agency allegedly obtained a number of “zero day” attack methods from fellow government agencies like the NSA and FBI, but purchased others from Baitshop and similar cyber arms contractors. While iPhones only make up around 14.5 percent of the global smartphone market, WikiLeaks suggests ” the popularity of the iPhone among social, political, diplomatic and business elites” explains the government’s “disproportionate focus on iOS” as a hacking target.

Apple Pay lauches in Ireland

Apple has launched Apple Pay in Ireland, making it the 14th country to adopt the mobile payment service and the first new addition this year. As of today, users who bank with Ulster Bank and KBC can now add their credit or debit cards to Apple Pay. Users of Wirecard’s Boon prepaid MasterCard can also add those cards to Apple Pay. Apple has long-standing business ties to Ireland, headquartering its international operations in the country.

Apple to open WWDC Scholarship applications on Mar. 27

Apple has posted details about its 2017 WWDC Scholarship program, which provides an opportunity for talented students and STEM organization members to attend the company’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference free of charge. In addition to receiving a free ticket to the event — which would otherwise cost $1,599 — this year it appears that Apple is offering WWDC Scholarship recipients free lodging in the form of shared accommodations. Applicants with extenuating circumstances may also be eligible for travel assistance. To be eligible for a WWDC scholarship, applicants must be 13 years or older, registered with Apple as an Apple developer, and enrolled part-time or full-time in a course of study or be a member of alumni of a STEM organization. The application process includes submitting relevant personal information, school or STEM membership information, a resume/CV, a “Beyond WWDC” essay, and creating and uploading “a visually interactive scene in a Swift playground that can be experienced within three minutes.” A team within Apple will judge applications based on technical accomplishment, creativity of ideas, and content of written responses. Applications will be accepted beginning at 10:00 a.m. PT on Mar. 27 until 5:00 p.m. PT on Apr. 2, and those selected to receive a scholarship will be notified on Apr. 21. Apple is offering up to 350 scholarships, although not all scholarships may be awarded.

‘iPhone 8’ to feature flexible printed circuit boards, Apple to move all iPhones to OLED by 2019

Samsung and Interflex are both ramping up production of flexible printed circuit boards to be use in Apple’s ‘iPhone 8’ later this year, The Korea Hearld reports. The FPCB components are used to connect the dedicated chips for components like the display and camera. Previous reports claimed the new OLED ‘iPhone 8’ will be made with a flexible display, but that the phone itself won’t be bendable or foldable because the other internal components can’t flex. While FPCBs don’t fully solve that problem, their inclusion could make the entire device less rigid than previous models.

Apple executives still vying to strike original content deals with Hollywood

Apple executives have been trying to woo several successful Hollywood TV and film products in recent weeks, according to a new report by The New York Post. A source indicated to The Post that Apple SVP Eddy Cue spoke to executives from Paramount Pictures as well as Sony’s TV and film units, suggesting that Apple is working on “something big.” Reports are that Apple has been vague about its ultimate goal in the discussions, however one executive who spoke with Apple was left with the impression that Apple is looking for a “transformative acquisition” rather than just making a deal to buy TV shows.

Apple selling ‘new’ 32GB version of the iPhone 6 on select Asian carriers

Apple is resurrecting the iPhone 6 in a 32GB version in Asia, according to a new report by 9to5Mac. The 32GB gold iPhone 6 is labelled as a “2017” model, which would technically be correct as Apple never previously released a 32GB version of the iPhone 6, meaning these are new devices being manufactured specifically for specific Asian carriers as entry-level devices. According to the report, the new model is expected to launch on Taiwan Mobile on March 10, and has apparently been quietly available in China for the past few weeks. Notably, this new 2017 iPhone 6 model will only be available through select carriers, not on Apple’s online store or in its retail stores. Taiwan Mobile is currently advertising the devices as part of a special limited-edition promotion as the most inexpensive iPhone the company has ever offered — it’s basically being given away for free with a 30-month contract plan. It’s unclear if it may come to other Taiwanese carriers or remain exclusive to Taiwan Mobile; it’s presently also being sold by one carrier in China. It’s very unlikely that the “new” model will extend beyond China, however.

Apple ends support for second-generation Apple TV

Apple has added the second-generation Apple TV to its list of vintage and obsolete products, effectively ending all support for the device in most parts of the world. While the second-generation Apple TV is well out of warranty coverage, Apple still continues to provide parts and repair services for its products for a period of 5-7 years after the last date of manufacture. The “vintage” designation for the second-generation Apple TV applies only in California and Turkey, where Apple is required by law to provide service for up to 7 years; in all other parts of the world, the device has been declared “obsolete” and is no longer eligible for any kind of hardware service. Apple typically declares products Vintage” when they have not been manufactured for more than five years, but less than seven. “Obsolete” products are those that have not been manufactured for more than seven years. [via AppleInsider]

Appeals court dismisses jury verdict against Apple in 2015 iTunes patent infringement case

A U.S. federal appeals court has dismissed the jury verdict from a 2015 patent infringement case that had ordered Apple to pay $532.9 million in damages, Reuters reports. The suit, originally brought against Apple in 2013 by Texas-based Smartflash LLC, had alleged that the Apple’s iTunes software infringed on three of its data storage patents. The original claim sought $852 million in damages as an entitlement to a percentage of sales of all of Apple’s devices capable of accessing iTunes at that time, while Apple claimed that the patents were invalid as Smartflash was purely a patent holding company that made no products, had no employees, and no U.S. presence, while also claiming the damages to be “excessive and unsupportable” due to demanding a share of the full purchase price of an iPhone for the sake of a single infringing feature. Although a federal jury awarded Smartflash $532.9 million in damages, these were vacated by the trial judge a few months later, however the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said this week that the judge should have ruled Smartflash’s patents invalid and set aside the original verdict entirely. The three-judge panel unanimously declared Smartflash’s patents as “too abstract” and stated that they did not provide enough detail in describing an actual invention.

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