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Sonos announces AirPlay 2 compatible speaker lineup

Sonos has announced more specific details on which of its new speakers will be gaining AirPlay 2 support this year, according to The Mac Observer. While the company announced last fall that AirPlay 2 support was in the works, that announcement provided no specifics. Now, Sonos has confirmed that AirPlay 2 support will be coming to “newer Sonos speakers,” specifically listing the Play:5, Playbase and Sonos One. Sonos notes that the older players simply don’t have the necessary processing power to support AirPlay 2.

Lexus 2019 ES to add CarPlay support

Lexus has announced that it will be bringing Apple CarPlay to its 2019 ES sedan, one of the last upscale car brands to gain support for Apple’s in-car platform. Notably, the new Lexus model won’t be getting support for Android Auto, although Alexa voice control is also being included, with features that will allow you to issue commands to your car from Alexa devices inside your home. Toyota has long been the lone holdout among major car manufacturers in adopting CarPlay, with the company only bringing support for Apple’s in-dash integration to its 2018 lineup, and obviously delaying into 2019 for its premium brand.

Google releases ‘Google Tasks’ for iOS

Google has released Google Tasks, the company’s first standalone app for natively managing tasks on an iPhone. The new app is part of a major redesign of Gmail that began rolling out today, and although the new app appears to be pretty basic, it promises to bring some order to the chaos that has been task management in Google’s apps — previously a hodge-podge between “reminders” that could be set in Google Inbox, Google Calendar, and Google Keep, and an older simple web-based “Tasks” apple that existed primarily within the Gmail web interface.

Tim Cook to have private meeting with President Trump

Apple CEO Tim Cook is scheduled to have a private meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office today, as first noted by Jon Passantino of BuzzFeed News. According to a later tweet by President Trump, the two will be discussing, among other things, “how the U.S. has been treated unfairly for many years, by many countries, on trade.” While this isn’t the first time Tim Cook has met with President Trump — Cook attended a panel with other industry executives last spring, but according to the White House schedule, this will be a private one-on-one meeting held in the Oval Office and closed to the press.

Apple releases iOS 11.3.1, fixing iPhone 8 replacement display problem

Apple has released iOS 11.3.1, addressing the issue with third-party display replacements reported earlier this month. According to the release notes, the update “addresses an issue where touch input was unresponsive on some iPhone 8 devices because they were serviced with non-genuine replacement displays.” The update notes also repeated the same cautionary warning first shown in iOS 11.0.3 last fall, stating that “non-genuine replacement displays may have compromised visual quality and may fail to work correctly.”

Apple snags rights to Ed Sheehan documentary, ‘Songwriter’

Apple has just won a big for world screen rights to Ed Sheeran’s new documentary, “Songwriter”, Deadline reports. Directed by Murray Cummings, the documentary shows Ed Sheeran at his beginnings, finding his handle on writing and performing his songs and working through his creative process. The deal is reported to be in the low to mid-seven figures for worldwide rights, and Apple is expected to make the release an event with a theatrical component alongside its release on Apple Music. The film made its world premiere in Berlin and made its North American debut this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. This marks the second Tribeca-premiered music documentary that Apple has acquired the rights to, following last year’s exclusive on the documentary based on legendary producer Clive Davis’ best-selling autobiography “The Soundtrack of Our Lives.”

Apple Music to strengthen push into country music with Nashville office

Apple Music is turning its focus to Nashville, Variety reports, with an announcement that Jay Liepis is relocating to Music City to head up a new team that will be “dedicated to being more involved with artists, managers, songwriters and the label community at large.” The move represents a new push into country music — an area that many of Nashville’s labels have lamented as lagging behind when it comes to the major music streaming services. Randy Goodman, Sony Music Nashville’s chairman and CEO, expressed his delight in the move by exclaiming “Thanks be to God!” adding that Liepis’ move to town will be “game changing” for the country music industry.

Apple VP Greg Joswiak, former designer Susan Kare to testify in Samsung damages retrial

As Apple and Samsung go back to court yet again, it appears from the newly-filed witness lists that top executives such as Tim Cook and Jony Ive won’t be called to testify. According to CNET, the lists include “industry experts and executives” from both Samsung and Apple, but not Apple’s CEO or CDO. Instead, Apple plans to call upon Greg Joswiak, VP of Product Marketing and Richard Howarth, a senior director on Appel’s Design Team who is also one of the co-inventors of the disputed patents. Joswiak is expected to testify on Apple’s marketing strategy and related market forces, while Howarth will talk about the design process at Apple and the patents themselves. The list of witnesses for Apple also notably includes Susan Kare, one of the original designers at Apple who was behind much of the iconic design of Apple’s original Macintosh computers, who could be expected to testify about icon and user interface graphics design in general, but may have some input on one of the specific patents involved in the case. Other expert witnesses that Apple may call include Ravin Balakrishnan, a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto; Alan Ball, an expert on industrial design; Julie Davis, a consultant with expertise in accounting and damages analysis; Karan Singh, a professor of computer science at the University of Toronto, and Tony Blevins, a vice president of procurement at Apple.

European Commission assessing Apple’s proposed acquisition of Shazam

The European Commission has announced that it will be more closely scrutinizing Apple’s proposed acquisition of Shazam in light of concerns about stifling competition in the streaming music service market. According to the press release, the Commission is opening “an in-depth investigation to assess the proposed acquisition of Shazam by Apple under the EU Merger Regulation.” on the basis that “the merger could reduce choice for users of music streaming services.” The Commission’s primary concern appears to be that acquiring Shazam would give Apple “access to commercially sensitive data about customers of its competitors” that would allow Apple to “directly target” those customers to encourage them to switch to Apple Music, thereby putting those competitors at a disadvantage. As a secondary factor, the Commission is also concerned that competitors would be harmed if Apple were to discontinue referrals from the Shazam app, although the Commission notes that it does not see Shazam as “a key entry point for music streaming services.” The Commission has set a deadline of Sept. 4, 2018 to come to a final decision.

Apple’s new App Store design can boost featured apps by up to 800 percent

Apple’s App Store redesign in iOS 11 is paying off for developers, with a new study from Sensor Tower (via TechCrunch) revealing that apps landing in the featured spots on the new App Store can see a boost in downloads by as much as 800 percent. The study analyzed data from Sept. 2017 to the present finding that the median U.S. iPhone downloads for apps that appeared in the “Game of the Day” spot increased by 802 percent during the week following the feature, as compared to the week prior. Apps landing in “App of the Day” saw a slightly lower but still significant boost of 685 percent. Increases were somewhat lower for apps simply featured in App Store Stories or App Lists, but still showed a demonstrable increase.

GE releases HomeKit-compatible window air conditioner

GE is now shipping its first HomeKit-enabled air conditioner in the U.S. Available exclusively at Lowe’s, the new 8000 BTU air conditioner features “WiFi Connect” providing compatibility with not only HomeKit, but also Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and IFTTT. Like most window air conditioners, the unit supports four-way air direction, three cooling speeds, and three fan speeds, and also includes a traditional remote control. [via AppleInsider]

J. Cole’s ‘KOD’ beats out Drake’s ‘Views’ streaming record on Apple Music

J. Cole’s new album “KOD” has set a new milestone on Apple Music for streams in the first 24 hours following release, surpassing 64 million streams on its first day, according to The Verge, and beating out the previous record holder, Drake’s “Views”, by almost one million streams. The Verge adds that out of the top 10 most-streamed songs in a 24-hour period, seven from “KOD” are now listed.

Foodspotting shutting down

Popular foodie app Foodspotting has rather abruptly announced that it will be shutting down entirely early next month. The plans were announced on the company’s website and in a “version 6.0” update to the Foodspotting app, which included release notes saying “All good things must come to an end – even Foodspotting” and pointing users to the company’s web site for more information.

Apple struggling to cut its dependence on Samsung for OLED displays

Apple is struggling to source OLED screens from manufacturers other than Samsung, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal. Apple has been trying to make a deal with LG Display as an alternative supplier of OLED screens for this year’s iPhones, thereby reducing its dependence on Samsung, but according to people familiar with the matter, manufacturing problems have caused LG to fall behind schedule. One the sources noted that Apple is now trying to decide whether it will be able to rely on LG Display to provide screens for the upcoming iPhone models expected to be released this fall. Currently, Samsung is Apple’s only OLED display provider, which puts Apple’s largest rival in control of pricing on the displays for Apple’s flagship iPhones, potentially driving up the price at which Apple can afford to sell devices such as the iPhone X. Analysts have reportedly been saying for months that Apple is in “urgent” need of finding another supplier for its OLED displays, however, LG has had mixed success with the quality of its OLED displays for other devices such as the V30 and Google Pixel 2 XL, suggesting that Apple would also need LG to step up its game if it were to become a secondary supplier, which may also be the source of some of the manufacturing delays.

New iPhone SE could launch in May, sans headphone jack

An updated iPhone SE may in fact be coming as early as next month, according to a new report by Mac Otakara [via MacRumors]. Speaking with case makers at the Global Sources Mobile Electronics trade show in Hong Kong this week, the Japanese website was told that a second-generation iPhone SE would still maintain the same physical size as the current iPhone, but could eliminate the 3.5mm headphone jack and possibly even move to a glass back with wireless charging capabilities, although case makers seem less certain on that last point.

Apple releases 2018 Environmental Responsibility Report

Apple has released its 2018 Environmental Responsibility Report, outlining the company’s progress throughout fiscal year 2017 in making all of its operations more eco-friendly. While Apple already announced earlier this month that it had accomplished its goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy sources for all of its facilities worldwide, the formal annual report on the company’s environmental initiatives outlines more of what that means, as well as progress that Apple has been making to protect the environment in other facets of its business as well.

Report: Apple considering dual-SIM 6.1” LCD iPhone model

Another new report by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that Apple may have plans this year for a dual-SIM iPhone model, 9to5Mac reports. The new investor note by Kuo suggests that the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone rumoured earlier this year, could be available in a version that would support dual-SIM technology, meaning that it would support two physical SIM card slots, and no eSIM support. This latest update adds to an earlier report that suggested Apple was considering a dual-SIM option for a new 6.5” OLED “iPhone X Plus” also rumoured to be in the pipeline for release later this year, which Kuo also corporate in his investor note, adding however that dual-SIM support will not be coming to the smaller 5.8-inch OLED version. Kuo also expects that the dual SIM iPhone would be priced higher than single SIM models, suggesting that the standard 6.1” LCD iPhone could sell for as low as $550, while the dual-SIM version might be priced in the $650 to $750 price range.

OtterBox releases new case designs for Solo: A Star Wars Story

OtterBox has announced a new series of special edition cases for “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” in advance of the film. The new designs are part of the company’s Symmetry Series, featuring the same level of protection against dumps and drops with graphics that pay tribute to Han Solo and his loyal sidekick. The “Millennium Falcon” case features the legendary ship that made the kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, while “Chewbacca” is a great option for fans of the wookie and “All or Nothing” displays symbols representative of a galaxy far, far away. The new case are available now from the OtterBox website for $44.95 for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 versions, and $54.95 for the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X versions.

Agile Tortoise releases Drafts 5

Agile Tortoise has released Drafts 5, a full rewrite of the company’s very popular quick note taking app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. The new version expands on the classic Drafts 4 experience with improved editing tools, tappable task marks for creating shopping lists and other quick tasks, and deeper customizability through app-wide themes and custom icons. The new version also provides better ways to organize information in Drafts, such as tagging, workspaces, next-previous navigation, and a new “Focus Mode,” and improves capture with SiriKit integration, allowing notes to be created in Drafts right from a “Hey Siri” command. Action and scripting capabilities have also been significantly enhanced, allowing for more advanced workflows. A full list of what’s new is available on the company’s website.

Report: New iPhone models may be coming this spring, likely iPhone SE updates

New regulatory filings discovered by Consomac (via 9to5Mac) suggest that several new iPhone models may be launching in the near future. References to new iPhone models were found yesterday in the Eurasian Economic Commission database, which has a solid reputation for accuracy in revealing products about a month before they ship, suggesting that new models could appear as early as May or June. Although the filing provides few useful details, logic suggests that this will be a smaller update, since Apple’s flagship iPhones are not expected to debut until the fall. While some reports have suggested it could be a slightly tweaked iPhone X, it seems much more likely that this would be the “iPhone SE 2” that we’ve been seeing sporadic rumours about over the past few months. More recent reports on an updated iPhone SE, however, have suggested that Apple may not have the resources for a major update, and that the most we’re likely to see is minor improvements such as a faster processor and lower price.

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