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Apple highlights progress improving technology accessibility for people with disabilities

In recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day this week, CNET published a report highlighting some of the efforts Apple has been making to design its devices to help people with disabilities. Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s director of global accessibility policy and initiatives, discussed how Apple is always trying to add in new accessibility options year over year to improve the usability of its devices by people with various disabilities. CNET also spoke with Austin Pruitt, a two-time US Paralympian who has cerebral palsy from the knees down, and competes by racing in a wheelchair. Pruitt explained how the Apple Watch replaces a whole complicated set of sensors that he used to have on his wheelchair to track his workouts, adding “This has everything. This has my wheelchair and my walking, all in one.”

 

Carpool Karaoke Season 1 now free in Apple’s TV app

Apple has now made the first season of its “Carpool Karaoke” show available for free streaming through the TV app. First reported by Billboard, the series went live on Friday night at 6 p.m. ET, with the report noting that episdoes will “trickle” into the app with new episodes appearing every Friday at the same time. Carpool Karaoke originally debuted last August as an exclusive for Apple Music subscribers, however it appears now that Apple has renewed it for a second season, the company has decided to make the first season episodes available to all Apple TV and iOS users.

Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS + Cellular now on sale in four new countries

Apple has begun selling the cellular version of the Apple Watch Series 3 in Sweden, India, Denmark, and Taiwan, 9to5Mac reports. This brings the number of countries where the LTE model is sold to 16 in total. While Apple announced the new additions to the roster last month, the Series 3 with GPS + Cellular goes on sale in those new countries today.

Apple planning to launch branded ‘Apple Pay’ credit card

Apple is partnering with Goldman Sachs to launch a new joint “Apple Pay” branded credit card, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal. The new card could launch as early as 2019 and would replace Apple’s current rewards-card partnership with Barclays. The move would also signal Goldman Sachs’ first foray into credit cards, and people familiar with the matter have indicated that Apple and Goldman are still hashing out the specific terms and benefits of the card, such as planned perks for customers, but that the two companies seem to already have an agreement in principle to move forward. The partnership is also expected to extend into other services such as Goldman offering in-store loans to Apple customers purchasing iPhones and other hardware, likely similar to the current Barclays-backed Apple Rewards card that provides interest-free financing on Apple devices and allows customers to earn points toward Apple gift cards. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple scraps plans for Irish data center due to lengthy court delays

Apple has announced that it has abandoned plans for a new data center in Ireland, citing delays with the government approval process, The Independent reports. Apple committed to building an €850m ($1b)  data centre in Athenry, Co Galway three years ago, alongside a similar facility in Denmark, however despite receiving approval from Irish authorities in 2016, and from the Irish High Court late last year, Apple began wavering in its decision last fall after concerned citizens filed appeals with the High Court regarding the completion of environmental assessments and concerns about the impact on Ireland’s national electricity grid.

Apple may be adding Video Subscriptions to its TV app

Apple has plans to begin selling subscriptions to video services directly through its TV app, according to a report by Bloomberg, likely consolidating subscriptions previously available through individual iOS and tvOS apps. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report suggests that the aim is to both simplify the subscription process as well as make the TV app a more prominent one-stop hub for all video content.

Apple vying to participate in U.S. drone trials

Apple is among the companies who have applied to take part in a new series of drone tests that the U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to announce today, according to Reuters. Citing people familiar with the matter, Apple joins a roster of 200 companies which also include Amazon, Intel, and Qualcomm, who are looking to participate in the program that would allow for testing of drones in otherwise restricted use cases, such as night flights and those that extend beyond an operator’s line of sight. The experiments will be hosted by ten winning state, local, or tribal governments that have in turn partnered with companies that will be participating in the tests, and a U.S. official notes that the list of winners include projects focused on package delivery, environmental monitoring, precision agriculture, pipeline oversight and integrating drones near airports, although it’s unclear where Apple may fit into this, although a late 2016 report suggested that Apple has been at least contemplating the use of drones for improving Apple Maps’ data. [via MacRumors]

Another new Unicode text bug discovered affecting iOS Messages

The iPhone is prone to another Unicode text bug, being dubbed the “black dot” bug. Outlined in a new video by EverythingApplePro (via 9to5Mac), the bug was first discovered on WhatsApp on Android, although it affects several other platforms as well, including the iOS Messages app. The bug was originally spread with the “black dot” emoji, but actually relies on the crafting of Unicode text strings that contain thousands of invisible Unicode characters that cause the receiving device to churn through CPU cycles in an attempt to process them, and such a string received as an iMessage will cause the recipient’s Messages app to repeatedly crash, much like other special-text bugs recently encountered.

Apple pulling apps that share location data with third parties without consent

Apple appears to be cracking down on apps that are sharing location data with third parties, according to a report by 9to5Mac. Over the last several days, Apple has been pulling apps from the App Store, informing developers that they violate sections 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 of Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines, which cover privacy and obtaining user consent before collecting any kind of personal data, which of course includes location information. Emails sent to developers are advising them that Apple has determined “upon re-evaluation” of their apps that they are in violation of these sections of the App Store Review Guidelines, and that they will need to “remove any code, frameworks, or SDKs that relate to the violation” before resubmitting their app to the App Store.

Lightning port security mode looks to return in iOS 11.4

When Apple rolled out the first iOS 11.3 betas earlier this year, one smaller feature mentioned in the release notes was a new security protocol that would lock down a user’s Lightning port if it hadn’t been used for anything other than charging for more than a week. Specifically, Apple noted that users would be required to re-enter their device passcode to authorize a Lighting-connected USB accessory if it has not been connected to the device for more than a week. Although much like AirPlay 2 and Messages in the Cloud, this feature never made it into the final iOS 11.3 release, Elcomsoft notes that it’s back in the iOS 11.4 betas, with a report on exactly how it works and some of the ramifications of the new feature for iOS forensics.

Apple to require all iOS app updates to include iPhone X support starting in July

Apple has announced to developers that as of July, all app updates submitted to the App Store will need to support the iPhone X display and be built with the iOS 11 SDK. Apple has been enforcing the policy for all new app submissions since last month, following an announcement to developers earlier this year. With the latest announcement, the policy has been extended to any app updates that developers want to submit, which will help push actively developed apps to gain support for the iPhone X Super Retina display. Developers submitting updates will also presumably need to abide by the same App Submission Guidelines requiring that they include proper iPhone X screenshots with their updates.

Apple releases fourth developer betas for iOS 11.4, tvOS 11.4, watchOS 4.3.1

Less than a week after Apple released the third betas for iOS 11.4, tvOS 11.4, and watchOS 4.3.1, the company is back with its fourth round of developer betas. As expected, the release notes list only very minor changes, and although Messages in iCloud and AirPlay 2 support remain in place in iOS 11.4 beta 4, it’s unclear whether these will still make it into the final release. At this point, AirPlay 2 is only available with Apple TV devices running the tvOS 11.4 beta, although the HomePod will presumably get a similar 11.4 update by the final release — Apple is not making beta software available for the HomePod at this point.

Vudu update for Apple TV provides access to 4K Disney movies

Vudu has updated tvOS app with 4K support, which as Engadget points out now provides Apple TV users with an option to watch Disney movies in 4K — albeit at with a higher price tag. Disney has been the lone holdout among major studios in getting on board with selling 4K movies on the iTunes Store, which is believed to be due to Apple’s insistence on offering 4K and 1080p titles for the same prices; Disney charges a premium for 4K content on other platforms such as Vudu, but with the recent app update, at least Apple TV users who want to consume Disney content in all of its 4K glory and don’t mind the higher price will have the option to do so.

HomePod could gain Calendar support with iOS 11.4

Apple’s HomePod may be gaining Calendar support in parallel with the release of iOS 11.4, 9to5Mac reports. The addition of Calendar support would presumably allow users to interact with their iPhone Calendars app using Siri in much the same way as they currently can directly on the iPhone itself — something that has been conspicuously missing from the HomePod since it was released earlier this year. Currently, HomePod allows users to access messages, Reminders, and Notes from the primary user’s iPhone, but the HomePod set up screen included in the iOS 11.4 betas now displays the Calendar app icon during the “Personal Requests” stage of HomePod set up, although the text description still doesn’t mention it, and it currently isn’t functioning as it likely requires a corresponding HomePod software update, for which there is no developer or public beta available.

iOS 11.3 triggering microphone failures in small number of iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus devices

A small number of iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models appear to be experiencing a microphone issue following updates to iOS 11.3 or later, MacRumors reports. Apple appears to have acknowledged this issue in an internal document distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers this week, which was obtained by MacRumors, and provides details on the issue, which may prevent affected users from being heard during phone calls or FaceTime video chats. The document provides some preliminary troubleshooting steps to diagnose the problem, and adds that service providers can “request an exception” for this issue for iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus devices that are no longer covered by warranty of AppleCare+ coverage, although it doesn’t specify if the repairs will be completed entirely free of charge.

Texture’s Windows magazine app shutting down following Apple acquisition

Texture — the digital magazine subscription service recently acquired by Apple — will be shutting down its Windows app at the end of June. The Verge notes that Windows users have been informed via e-mail and an in-app note that indicates that the app “will stop working and will no longer be available in the Microsoft Store” after June 30th. Texture’s Android, Amazon Fire, and iOS apps are unaffected by this, however, suggesting that this is likely not about cutting off non-Apple users so much as retiring an app that appears to have been poorly maintained for years. The Verge report notes that the app hasn’t been updated in a long time, and the app’s reviews on the Windows Store consist mostly of users complaining about how poorly the app works, and how in some cases they can’t even download magazines — from an app whose entire reason for existence is to allow users to download magazines.

NPR announces acquisition of Pocket Casts

NPR has announced the acquisition of the popular podcasting app Pocket Casts by a consortium consisting of NPR, two public radio stations — WNYC Studios and WBEZ Chicago — and This American Life. The companies represent four of the top podcast producers in the U.S., and the announcement describes the acquisition as a move that “furthers public radio’s leading role as an innovator in audio discovery and distribution, while ensuring the continued support and growth of one of the most popular listening platforms on the market.” Former Executive Vice Present and General Manager at iHeartRadio, Owen Grover, has been tagged to become the new CEO of Pocket Casts, which will operate as a joint venture with the apps founders Philip Simpson and Russell Ivanovic remaining in unspecified leadership roles and the existing staff and developer team remaining in place. A new board will also be formed for Pocket Casts made up of “representatives of public media leaders” in order to “ensure development aligns with the mission-driven ethos of public radio.” [via The Verge]

Google expands Advanced Protection to include native iOS apps

Google has announced improvements to its Advanced Protection Program that will allow users of Apple’s native iOS Mail, Calendar, and Contacts to enrol in the program and and access Google’s services without having to resort to using Google’s own iOS apps. Google’s Advanced Protection Program is designed to provide a very high level of account security for users such as journalists, activists, executives, and politicians, who are likely to have a higher risk of targeted attacks against their accounts, although there are no restrictions on who can enrol in the program.

Apple orders new Octavia Spencer Drama ‘Are You Sleeping’

Apple has officially picked up the series “Are You Sleeping,” which will star Octavia Spencer, Variety reports. The drama, which is coming from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Chernin Entertainment/Endeavor Content, is based on a novel of the same name by Kathleen Barber, which discusses the problems of crime-solving playing out on a public stage. The show was created by Nichelle Tramble Spellman of “The Good Wife” fame, who will serve as showrunner, and the series is expected to specifically examine the U.S. obsession with true crime stories and the boom in podcasts related to them. Apple has ordered 10 episodes, but there is no word yet on when the series is expected to premiere.

Report: 2018 iPhones may ship with USB-C Fast Charging adapters

Apple may finally be deciding to bundle faster charging adapters with this year’s iPhones, according to a new post on Weibo, reported by MacRumors. The report suggests that Apple would be planning to “upgrade to USB-C support” for all of its devices by shipping them with a redesigned 18-watt power adapter and USB-C to Lightning cable. Notably, however, it doesn’t appear that Apple is switching to a USB-C interface, but rather merely bundling a USB-C capable adapter, essentially a lower-powered version of its current 29W USB-C power adapter, and the company’s standard USB-C to Lighting Cable. Currently, Apple only includes a basic five-watt power adapter with current iPhones, relegating even the most recent iPhones — to the slowest possible charging speeds. The Weibo report also suggests that the charger will see a new design, replacing the traditional square shape used since the iPhone 3G era. The report also adds that Apple will continue to restrict MFi partners from making USB-C to Lightning cables until at least 2019.

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