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Marshall introduces Minor II Bluetooth IEMs, updates Bluetooth speaker lineup

Marshall has announced Minor II Bluetooth ($180), a major new iteration of its original 2011 era Minor in-ear headphones. The new Minor II adds Bluetooth aptX while using an innovative ear-fit system with adjustable loops for optimal economic fit. Minor II Promises 12 hours of wireless playtime on a single charge, along with quick charge functionality that will get you back up and running with two hours of additional playtime after a mere 20 minutes of recharging time. Custom-tuned 14.2 mm dynamic drivers promise to provide rich highs, crisp mids, and clear, balanced bass, with the in-ear design allowing for a comfortable level of noise isolation that doesn’t completely block out your surroundings. A built-in microphone and Marshall’s typical multi-direction control knob allow for placing and receiving phone calls, triggering Siri, or wirelessly controlling music, and the magnetic earbuds connect together to stay in place around your neck. The Minor II Bluetooth also features the classic design details that Marshall is known for.

Grovemade announces leather band for Apple Watch Series 4

Govermade has announced its new Leather Apple Watch Band ($79) for the Apple Watch Series 4, featuring a clean and modern design that complements the Apple Watch aesthetic. The band is made from premium American vegetable-tanned leather that’s designed to age and patina over time for an elegant rustic look, and the absence of stitches or visible clutter provides a simple and minimalistic profile, along with the durable stainless steel buckle hardware. The band is available in both London Tan and Black.

Happy Columbus Day + Canadian Thanksgiving! (copy)

Our editors are celebrating Columbus Day and the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday today. We’ll be back tomorrow, October 9, with our usual slate of news and reviews.

We hope you, your family, and friends enjoy a relaxing holiday together.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI comes to the iPhone

After being ported to the iPad earlier this year, the latest instalment of Sid Meier’s venerable Civilization series, Civilization VI, is now available on the iPhone as well, and best of all it’s essentially the full console and PC experience, squeezed onto the iPhone, although not all of the expansion content is available as of yet. The new iPhone version is simply a universal app expansion of the iPad version, so anybody who already purchased the iPad version can play on the iPhone for free, while other users will be able to download what is essentially a trial version that allows for up to 60 turns before requiring an in-app purchase to continue. While the full price of the iOS version of the game is $60 — a price that Aspyr undoubtedly considers justifiable considering the full game experience — there’s an introductory deal offering the full game for $24 until October 16, 2018. Not surprisingly, the game requires an iPhone 7 or later model, or an iPad Air 2, fifth-generation iPad, or any iPad Pro, running iOS 11 or later. [via 9to5Mac]

Hifiman releases new and refreshed lineup of high-end headphones

Usually we can depend on audiophile companies to release new gear on some kind of schedule — it gives us time to keep up. Not so with Hifiman, apparently — we’ve received a veritable storm of press releases about new and refreshed headphones They’ve been busy.

Wi-Fi Alliance moves to version numbers, recommends new visual UI indicators

The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced that it is simplifying the naming conventions for Wi-Fi standards with the introduction of “Wi-Fi 6,” a new designation for the protocol otherwise known as 801.11ax. With the new standard comes a generational renaming of other recent Wi-Fi standards to provide more clarity on where they fit into the spectrum — 802.11n will become “Wi-Fi 4” and 802.11ac will henceforth be known as “Wi-Fi 5.” While one could assume that this would mean that older 802.11b and 802.11g technologies also get similar designations, such as “Wi-Fi 1” for the original 802.11b standard, the Wi-Fi Alliance’s announcement and corresponding Generational Wi-Fi User Guide provide no references to any standards older than Wi-Fi 4, so it appears the Alliance will simply be ignoring the prior standards, which makes some sense considering the majority of modern consumer devices provide at least Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) support.

Apple Store app adds Siri Shortcuts for iPhone XR preordering

Apple has updated its Apple Store iOS app, adding support for Siri Shortcuts for users in the U.S. pre-order the iPhone XR when it launches later this month. The feature is only available to members of the iPhone Upgrade Program, but will allow users to record their own voice command, such as “pre-order my iPhone,” after completing the pre-approval process, and then when pre-orders open, they can simply issue the voice command to pull up the pre-approval in the app to quickly complete the order. Outside of the U.S., the release notes for the latest version simply say that it offers “various improvements and performance enhancements” although these also appear to include optimizations for the new Apple Watch Series 4. [via 9to5Mac]

Plex Web Shows offers free on-demand streaming of curated episodic shows

Plex has announced Web Shows, a new feature that enhances the company’s media platform, offering unlimited, on-demand streaming of curated shows via the Plex app on any supported device, ranging from the iPhone to the Apple TV and beyond. The new feature, which is launching in “beta”, will be available to users regardless of whether they have a Plex Media Server or even a paid Plex Pass subscription, and will offer access to a multitude of web shows across a variety of interests such as food, home and garden, science and tech, entertainment, and pop culture. Including at launch at popular titles from independent creators including Epic Meal Time, ASAPscience, Household Hacker, People are Awesome, and The Pet Collective, as well as brand content from GQ, Saveur, Epicurious, Pitchfork, and more, and Plex plans to add new content on an ongoing basis to continue to expand what’s available on the service.

LTE tests show Intel-based iPhone XS significantly outpaces iPhone X, but falls short of Qualcomm

A new series of tests have revealed that the Intel LTE modems in Apple’s latest iPhones fall short of the Qualcomm chips being used in competitors’ devices. PC Magazine reports on a set of both lab-based and crowdsourced tests that show that the iPhone XS sports significantly better LTE performance than last year’s iPhone X, but still doesn’t quite match the performance of the Qualcomm X20-powered Samsung Galaxy Note 9. The iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max use a new LTE modem chip — the Intel XMM7560 — which is the first Intel chip to support all four U.S. wireless carriers, which has allowed Apple to drop Qualcomm entirely for this year’s models. However, in a lab comparison of hardware capabilities, PC Magazine had Cellular Insights measure the iPhone XS and competing devices using advanced Rohde & Schwarz measurement equipment, and then factored in real-world results from Ookla’s Speedtest database for the week of Sept. 24, 2018. While last year’s iPhone X lagged behind competitors largely due to a lack of 4x4 MIMO antennas, this year’s models incorporate the new antenna technology, which PC Magazine notes should “put them closer to par with other leading flagships.” This was generally borne out by the testing results, which saw the iPhone XS Max gaining a significant boost over the iPhone X, but still slightly outmatched by competing Qualcomm-based phones.

Apple expands Business Chat to ten additional countries

Apple has expanded its Business Chat feature internationally, after launching it in the U.S. with iOS 11.3 earlier this year. The new platform, which allows businesses to provide customer service via iMessage, is now available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Singapore, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, according to MacRumors. Alongside the expansion, a plethora of new brands are jumping on board with the platform, including Lithia Motors in the U.S., carrier Vodafone in Germany, Harvey Norman in Australia, Credit Suisse in Hong Kong and Singapore, and carrier KDDI in Japan, as well as Burberry and NH Hotels across multiple countries. The feature requires iOS 11.3 or later and lets iPhone and iPad users interact with customer service representatives to get support, schedule appointments, and even make purchases with participating companies directly in the Messages app; users can start a conversation by searching for a business in Maps, Safari, or via Siri and tapping on the Messages bubble if it appears.

Apple releases second betas of iOS 12.1, tvOS 12.1 and watchOS 5.1

Apple has released a second set of developer betas for iOS 12.1, tvOS 12.1, and watchOS 5.1, two weeks after the release of the first set of betas. Apple has not yet published release notes on the developer downloads page for this round of betas, but recent reports have suggested that the iOS 12.1 will add dual-SIM support for the new 2018 iPhone models, along with Group FaceTime and a collection of new emoji. A public beta of iOS 12.1 is also available through Apple’s Beta Software Program.

Apple announces more than 70 new emoji coming in iOS 12.1

Apple has announced that it will be bringing more 70 new emoji to the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac with the release of iOS 12.1, alongside upcoming software updates for macOS and watchOS. The new emoji characters can be found in developer and public beta previews of iOS 12.1 released today, including new characters with red hair, grey hair and curly hair, a new emoji for bald people, more emotive smiley faces and additional emoji representing animals, sports and food, along with moon cake, red gift envelope and nazar amulet emojis and softball, frisbee and lacrosse emoji for sports fans, luggage, compass and hiking boot emojis for outdoor adventures, and much more. The new emoji characters are based on the approved characters in Unicode 11.0, and Apple notes that it’s already working with the Unicode Consortium to add more disability-themed emoji to the keyboard for Unicode 12.0, which is slated for release in 2019.

Three Universities now support Student ID cards in Apple Wallet

Apple has announced that its contactless student ID cards platform has launched at three universities in the U.S. Students at Duke University and the Universities of Alabama and Oklahoma can now add their ID cards electronically to the Wallet app on their iPhone or Apple Watch and use it to pay quickly and easily for a variety of campus services ranging from laundry to lunch as well as using it to access campus facilities such as dorms, fitness centers, and libraries. The digital version of the student card can be used anywhere that the physical card would be accepted, both on and off campus, and works similarly to how a credit or debit card is used with Apple Pay.

UAG launches Product PNK case series for breast cancer awareness

UAG is joining the fight against breast cancer with a new line of Product PNK cases, designed to raise awareness and fund research. The new Product PNK Plyo series cases are available for all current iPhone models — including the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and upcoming iPhone XR — for $40 each, regardless of iPhone model. UAG is donating 100% of the profits of every Product PNK case sold during the month of October to charities that support breast cancer awareness. The cases themselves feature all of the same military-grade drop and shock protection at UAG’s other Plyo cases, along with the same sleek and minimalist translucent design. “Breast Cancer has affected us all in some way — whether it be family or friends — and UAG is beyond thrilled to support charities creating breast cancer awareness,” says Kaila Vandermey, Marketing Manager at UAG. “Through our Product PNK campaign, UAG will continue to support a cause that is close to all of our hearts.”

Miggo launches Pictar Pro advanced iPhone camera grip

Miggo has announced Pictar Pro, an enhanced and upgraded version of its Pictar iPhone camera grip that we reviewed last year. The new Pictar Pro, which has been launched as a project on Kickstarter, builds on the features of the original Pictar by offering even deeper control over the iPhone’s camera capabilities, along with four improved external camera control buttons, a “shark-skin” ergonomic grip, a unique viewfinder for shooting on bright days, and advanced video capabilities. The new Pro version also improved on the aesthetics, providing a classic solid satin-finish brass body for a more substantial feel that will remind users of a Leica camera experience. Pictar Pro also sports an internal battery with Qi wireless charging to provide extra capacity so you’ll never miss a shot.

Apple Pay Cash may soon be coming to Europe

Apple Pay Cash may be coming to at least some European countries soon, according to a new report by A reader of the French blog discovered a screen inviting him to set up Apple Pay Cash on his new Apple Watch and iPhone XS Max, with pages localized in French noting support for his French bank. The report also notes that a German Apple Pay Cash support page also appeared yesterday for the service. While nothing official has been announced by Apple of as yet, it appears the infrastructure is being put in place for an imminent launch. That said, this isn’t the first time that Apple Pay related references have been found on Apple’s site and elsewhere well in advance of an actual rollout of the service in other countries; Apple infamously added an Apple Pay support page in Germany two years ago, however the mobile payment service has yet to launch in that country.

Google Maps adds new ‘Commute’  feature, with Apple Music and Spotify integration

Google has announced a major update coming soon to Google Maps providing a set of new features targeted at helping daily commuters. A new “Commute” tab in Google Maps will provide one-tap access to both live traffic and transit information tailored to the user’s commute, with indicators showing whether everything is normal or if there are accidents or heavy traffic that will cause delays and necessitate budgeting extra time. Alternative routes will also be shown when there’s a delay, and users whose commutes involve both driving and public transit can now see helpful information about when to leave and for each leg of their trip, such as if there’s traffic on the drive to a transit station, when a train departs, and how long it will take to walk to the office. Real-time transit information has also been added in 80 regions around the world so users can see where their bus or train is on the map to help plan their trip more efficiently, and Google is even piloting a feature in Sydney, Australia that will allow users to see how full their next bus or train is. In addition, Google Maps will now integrate with Spotify, Apple Music, and of course Google Play Music so that users can control their music and podcasts directly from the navigation screen. The new Commute feature is expected to roll out globally this week on both iOS and Android via an app update.

FBI compels suspect to unlock iPhone using Face ID as part of a search warrant

A new report of U.S. Federal law enforcement officers forcing a suspect to unlock their iPhone with Face ID has been uncovered by Forbes, the first known case where this has happened with Apple’s new facial recognition technology. According to the report, the incident happened on August 10 as part of a child abuse investigation, when FBI agents searched the house of 28-year-old Grant Michalski of Columbus, Ohio. As part of the execution of a lawful search warrant, an FBI investigator told Michalski to put his face in front of the phone, and once Michalski duly complied, the agent proceeded to search through the suspect’s online chats, photos and other data deemed relevant to the investigation.

U.S. judge denies Qualcomm’s request to block iPhone imports

Qualcomm has lost its bid to block iPhone imports as part to its ongoing legal dispute with Apple. According to Reuters, Thomas Pender, a judge for the U.S. International Trade Commission denied Qualcomm’s request that iPhones with Intel chips be blocked from import due to patent infringement. While the administrative law judge acknowledged that the iPhone does infringe on one Qualcomm patent related to power management technology, he said that “public interest factors” outweighed granting Qualcomm’s request for a ban. In response to the decision, Apple said in a statement that “We’re glad the ITC stopped Qualcomm’s attempt to damage competition and ultimately harm innovators and U.S. consumers,” while Qualomm’s general counsel Don Rosenberg expressed pleasure that the judge found patent infringement, but added that “it makes no sense to then allow infringement to continue by denying an import ban,” as it “goes against the ITC mandate to protect American innovators by blocking the import of infringing products.” The two companies continue to battle it out in the courts, with Apple accusing Qualcomm of unfair licensing practices and Qualcomm accusing Apple of patent infringment. Qualcomm also recently upped the ante with a bombshell claim that Apple has in fact been stealing its trade secrets and handing them to Intel.

Doctors raising concerns that Apple Watch ECG feature could lead to needless anxiety

A number of doctors are raising concerns that the ECG feature on the new Apple Watch Series 4 could lead to a “whole new level of anxiety for hypochondriacs, unnecessary testing and panicked visits to emergency,” according to a new report by Canada’s National Post. While both Apple and the American Heart Association touted the new feature as leading to a quicker diagnoses of atrial fibrillation (AF) — a condition that affects approximately 34 million people worldwide, often with no obvious symptoms — studies have found that systemically screening large groups of people for AF “isn’t terribly productive” according to Montreal cardiologist Dr. Christopher Labos in an article published by McGill University’s Office for Science and Society. Dr. Labos went on to add that “The danger with any new medical technology is that in the enthusiasm to be an early adopter, for what is an admittedly cool gadget, we risk engaging in a population-wide screening strategy that is decidedly flawed.”

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