iLounge will be on a limited publishing schedule today as we spend time with our families this Easter weekend. We will return to our full publishing schedule next week, as we await the release of Apple’s 9.7” iPad Pro and iPhone SE. And if you haven’t seen them yet, be sure to check out our comprehensive Instant Expert iOS 9.3 and tvOS 9.2 articles.
Amidst rumours that have been swirling about Apple’s desire to unveil original TV programming, a new report from The New York Times indicates that the company may be making its first foray into the arena with a show about apps. Apple announced earlier today that it’s working with Will.i.am and veteran TV executives Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens to create a new unscripted show that highlights the “app economy.” Apple executives have declined to discuss any specifics around the show, including even a title, timeline, or how the show will be delivered to viewers. Although it’s notably the company’s first original effort outside the music category — as Dr. Dre’s upcoming show is — Apple SVP Eddy Cue noted that this latest entry does not represent any “broader ambition” by Apple in terms of original productions or streaming video, although he notes Apple will “continue to explore exclusive projects similar to the series about apps or its push into music programming.” This particular project was apparently initiated as a result of a pitch by Ben Silverman, executive producer of several recent hit TV series’ such as “Jane the Virgin” and “Marco Polo.” Silverman worked with Cue to make “The Office” available on iTunes nearly a decade ago.
Sony has announced plans to develop mobile games for the “smart device market” under a newly-formed subsidiary, ForwardWorks Corporation. The new mobile gaming arm will “leverage the intellectual property” of a number of PlayStation games and characters in developing gaming applications for the iOS and Android platforms, although it appears that it will be focusing these releases on the Japanese and Asian markets. While Sony seems to clearly be following the lead of Nintendo, which debuted its first game Miitomo in the Japanese App Store earlier this month, in contrast to Nintendo’s efforts, it appears ForwardWorks will be delivering “full-fledged game titles” for users to “casually enjoy” on their mobile devices. [via TechCrunch]
Apple has been migrating more of its cloud computing to Google, but a new report from The Information claims the company is aiming to create its own extensive set of data centers and servers to bring all of its cloud services in-house. Last week CRN reported Apple has quietly been moving much of its cloud computing to the Google Cloud Platform and away from Amazon Web Services, whose infrastructure it uses to run online services like iCloud. Anonymous sources said Apple is now spending between $400 million and $600 million on Google’s services after becoming dissatisfied with AWS being unable to quickly load photos and videos on users’ iOS devices.
Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software, is said to be the company helping the FBI in its efforts to crack the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reports. Cellebrite officials refused to comment, but the company has been providing the FBI with decryption technology since 2013. Yesterday, a judge approved a two-week postponement of the FBI’s court action against Apple as the government explores a “third-party” method of unlocking the iPhone.
Google has been developing its own third-party keyboard for iOS that would incorporate the company’s search engine, The Verge reports. Sources said the keyboard has been in circulation among employees for months and is designed to boost the search traffic from Apple devices by providing one-button access to picture, GIF and traditional web searches. Like its Android counterpart, Google’s iOS keyboard also employs gesture-based typing, allowing users to drag their finger from one letter to the next and have Google guess their intended word.
Both the iPhone SE and 9.7-inch iPad Pro will include 2GB of RAM alongside their A9 and A9X processors, according to a tweet from TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino. This further puts the iPhone SE on par with the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus in terms of raw processing power, although the 9.7-inch iPad Pro comes in slightly less powerful than its larger counterpart, which includes 4GB of RAM. Panzarino also notes that the A9X in the standard-sized iPad is underclocked in comparison to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, although it’s worth noting that the smaller tablet can likely get away with less RAM and CPU power to drive the smaller display, which includes only slightly more than half the pixels of the larger model — 3,145,728 as opposed to 5,595,136.
After Monday’s big iPhone SE reveal, Apple’s online store seems to be acknowledging that most 5/5s cases will work with the new SE. Cases that were once listed as being for iPhone 5/5s are now shown as compatible with 5/5s/SE. All of Speck’s existing iPhone 5/5s cases are compatible with the SE, and the company will make its CandyShell Clear ($35) case, pictured above, available in the new size starting in April. A number of other companies have debuted cases for Apple’s newest devices.
Apple is reportedly in “advanced talks” to acquire British chip design company Imagination Technologies, primarily know for the PowerVR line of GPUs used in Apple devices, Ars Technica reports. Apple has owned a significant number of shares in Imagination Technologies since 2008 — the same year Apple acquired chip designer PA Semi and took over the design process for its own CPU cores. Buying out Imagination Technologies would move GPU design in-house as well. Imagination Technologies has been struggling in recent months, cutting 350 jobs just last week. When reached for comment, the company refused to deny a planned takeover by Apple.
U.S. prosecutors have postponed their showdown with Apple by two weeks to try a “third party” method for unlocking the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, Reuters reports. A federal judge granted the Department of Justice’s request to stall the hearing until April 5 while the FBI tries the newly discovered method to unlock the phone, which is at the center of a case which has seen Apple refusing to cooperate with the FBI’s request to develop new software for disabling the phone’s password security features. Until Monday, the government insisted it had no other way to access the iPhone, and lawyers supporting Apple said the timing of the request for delay suggests the DOJ feared it would lose a legal battle based on the assertion that it had tried every other way to get into the phone. “From a purely technical perspective, one of the most fragile parts of the government’s case is the claim that Apple’s help is required to unlock the phone,” said Matt Blaze, a professor and computer security expert at the University of Pennsylvania. “Many in the technical community have been skeptical that this is true, especially given the government’s considerable resources.” The government’s use of the All Writs Act had also recently come into doubt after a judge ruled the AWA couldn’t be used to compel Apple to unlock an iPhone in a similar case.
Apple officially announced the release of iOS 9.3 today during the company’s special event in Cupertino, and the update is now available. Originally released in January to developers, and then later as part of the company’s public beta program, iOS 9.3 is an unusually feature-packed update for a point iOS release, as we observed in our early analysis of the betas.
With today’s unveiling of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Apple has dropped the pricing of the iPad Air 2 to $399 and $499 for the 16GB and 64GB versions, respectively. The 128GB version of the iPad Air 2 has also been removed from the lineup, forcing users who want a larger-capacity 9.7-inch iPad to opt for the new iPad Pro instead — albeit it for only $50 more than the 128GB iPad Air 2 previously sold for. The new pricing actually puts the iPad Air 2 pricing on par with the iPad Mini 4, although the smaller tablet retains its 128GB version at $599. All models continue to be available in both Wi-Fi only versions, or Wi-Fi + Cellular versions for an additional $130.
Apple has announced a new 9.7-inch version of its iPad Pro, essentially upgrading the standard-sized iPad tablet to a “Pro” model, with features matching the 12.9-inch version debuted last fall. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro will include the same features as its larger counterpart, including the 64-bit A9X CPU and M9 motion coprocessor, support for the Apple Pencil and a new, smaller-sized version of the Apple Smart Keyboard, while the new screen is both a “Wide color display” and “True Tone Display,” the latter of which will automatically measure the color temperature of ambient light to produce a natural paper-white color under any set of lighting conditions.
As expected from recent reports, Apple today announced the new 4-inch iPhone SE. Apple VP Greg Joswiak took the stage to highlight the new addition to the company’s iPhone lineup, explaining that, despite the popularity of larger-screened iPhone models, a market for a 4-inch iPhone still exists, as “some people love smaller phones” and many users are still new to the iPhone entirely, especially in markets such as China.
Apple has officially announced the availability of tvOS 9.2, a new feature update for the company’s fourth-generation Apple TV. First released to developers in January, tvOS 9.2 adds several new features for Apple TV users, including support for using Siri for dictation into text fields — including speaking or spelling out passwords — as well as for searching the tvOS App Store. The update also adds the ability to organize apps into home screen folders, similar to the folder implementation on iOS devices, support for Live Photos taken on the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and new iPhone SE, and the ability to access a user’s entire iCloud Photo Library from the set-top box. tvOS 9.2 is expected to be available later today.
Today at Apple’s special event in Cupertino, CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple is reducing the price of entry for the Apple Watch to $299, which will become the new price of the 38mm Sport Edition. The 42mm Sport Edition will now be priced at $349. The price reduction affects only the Sport Edition models — the various stainless steel versions remain in the $549 to $1049 range, depending on band selection.
Cook also announced a new selection of Apple Watch bands, including a woven nylon band series, as well as new colors for the sport and leather bands, and a new space black Milanese Loop band. Interestingly, Cook claimed that “about a third” of Apple Watch users regularly change their watch bands.
During today’s Apple Event, the company expanded its HealthKit and ResearchKit initiatives with a new service dubbed CareKit. The new system will allow users to share health information with care providers and loved ones in order to better facilitate doctor-patient communication. Like ResearchKit, CareKit will be a framework rather than a specific app, allowing third-party developers to tie into the data and services provided by the CareKit APIs. CareKit is scheduled to become available to developers in April.
The U.S. Supreme Court will review a judge’s decision to award Apple $548 million in damages from Samsung in a patent infringement case, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple had hoped the Supreme Court wouldn’t get involved, arguing that the lower court had appropriately assessed the fines. The Cupertino company also deemed the case “legally unexceptional” despite the high dollar amount involved. A federal appeals court upheld the awarded damages last December, but the Supreme Court will now hear Samsung’s appeal that the 1887 law cited is “outdated and too punitive for modern products such as a smartphone.” A jury ruled that basic design elements of certain Samsung smartphones were too close to Apple’s iPhone design, but Samsung argues that those design aspects don’t affect the functionality of the phone. [via Apple Insider]
Former Apple employees told Reuters that an admired and feared trio of employees internally known as “privacy czars” exercises extreme control over privacy standards set forth by CEO Tim Cook, sometimes standing in the way of profitable new expansions to the company’s business model. One of these “czars” is Jane Horvath, a lawyer who previously served as Google’s global privacy counsel, focuses on legal and regulatory requirements after being hired to formalize privacy practices in the wake of 2011’s “locationgate” scandal. She works alongside Guy Tribble, vice president of software technology and a member of the original Macintosh team who is venerated by other Apple employees for his ties to Steve Jobs. Tribble devotes substantial amounts of his time to working closely with engineers on privacy issues, as does rising Apple star Erik Neuenschwander, who has been known to review individual lines of code to ensure engineers are following through on privacy agreements.
Be sure to follow @iLounge on Twitter for our live coverage and analysis of everything that happens on stage during Apple’s latest event today. We’re expecting to see the new 4” iPhone SE, a 9.7” version of the iPad Pro, and some new Apple Watch bands. Who knows what other surprises Apple may have in store? Following the event, we’ll have all the details on the company’s latest products here on iLounge.com, so check back regularly this afternoon. Apple’s “Let us loop you in” event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. EST), and it will be streaming live on Apple’s website and Apple TV’s Special Events channel.