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Apple opens Russian online store

Apple has launched its official Russian online store, offering Russian customers the opportunity to directly buy iPhones, iPads, iPods and more. In addition to a full product lineup, the store also offers customer support.

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An August report noted Apple was planning direct sales in Russia, though no brick-and-mortar stores have been announced as of yet. The iTunes Store launched in Russia in early December.

iOS 7 lets devs detect blinking, smiling in photos

New image detectors that recognize facial expressions — such as blinking or smiling — have been added to iOS 7 beta 2, according to a report. Facial recognition has been around since iOS 5, but the new APIs could allow developers to add new features based on particular expressions, such as taking a photo when no one in the frame is blinking. Although at this point the feature only appears in the underlying iOS APIs, it’s possible that Apple could include new features in its own Camera app for the official release of iOS 7, as new Camera features are usually instituted with each new OS. [via 9to5Mac]

Apps: Amazon Instant Video 1.4.3, iTunes U 1.3.1 + Rdio 2.2.1

Amazon Mobile’s Amazon Instant Video (free) has updated to version 1.4.3, which makes finding videos faster and easier using a dropdown menu on the home screen or a navigation bar on the browse screens. More personalized carousels have also been added to the home screen. However, the app still notably lacks AirPlay support.

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Apple has updated iTunes U (free) to version 1.3.1. Users can now check for course updates by using pull-to-refresh animation. The updated app also resolves issues regarding updating content and quitting unexpectedly. Support for Arabic, French, German, Greek, Italian, Russian, and Spanish languages have also been improved.

Rdio (free) has updated to version 2.2.1, and the app now offers Song Stations — users can create a station based on any song. It’s possible to see four upcoming tracks and skipping is unlimited. The new AutoPlay feature lets users hear more songs similar to the song they just heard. In related news, Rdio also announced the ability to add up to five members to a family plan.

Patents: Samsung seeks EU settlement, Apple loses Japan appeal

Samsung is in discussions to settle with the European Union regulator regarding charges that the company blocked Apple from using an essential patent. In December, the European Commission informed Samsung it was unfair in seeking injunctions over the use of essential patents. Samsung has been discussing a settlement for months, according to a source.

Meanwhile, Apple has lost an appeal in Japan. Apple claimed Samsung infringed a patent regarding the synchronization of phone/tablet media files with servers, but the previous August ruling for Samsung was upheld, rejecting Apple’s infringement claim. [via Reuters, Bloomberg]

Report: Microsoft to bring Xbox, PC games to iPhone

Microsoft will bring Xbox and PC games to the iPhone within this fiscal year, according to a report. Japan’s Nikkei says that Microsoft plans to team up with Japanese company Klab Inc. to bring its games to the iPhone, including Age of Empires—a title that will be free to play worldwide, with other games to follow. [via Reuters]

Apple releases iOS 7 beta 2 (Update: iPad release)

Apple has released the second beta of iOS 7 to registered developers, just two weeks after the first beta release of the new operating system. The second beta is available through Software Update in iOS settings.

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iOS 7 beta 2 is a 237 MB update that contains bug fixes and improvements. The update will also be available through Apple’s developer portal.

Update: iPad versions of iOS 7 are now available in the second beta, which is now available on Apple’s developer portal.

iPhone 5S photos show A7, camera flash/mic changes

Photos of an iPhone 5S prototype posted on MacRumors appear to confirm both a next-generation chip and multiple changes to the device’s camera flash and microphone system. While A7 branding is notably absent from the prototype, smaller numeric markings on the chip are consistent with true generational changes, seemingly indicating that this is not just an upgraded A6.

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Additionally, the flash is now very clearly shown as twin LED — the LEDs could possibly be different colors, perhaps for improved skintone color accuracy in low-light situations. Also, the microphone hole is now circular rather than pill-shaped, and the camera looks a little different, as well. However, this is an early prototype, so the design of the device may have already changed. Other alleged iPhone 5S photos were leaked last week.

Apple in-app purchase lawsuit settlement gets website

A new website details consumers’ rights in the iTunes Store child in-app purchase class action settlement against Apple. As previously reported, Apple will offer iTunes credits or cash refunds to qualified users who found their iTunes accounts charged due to a minor making an in-app purchase. The new website features a search for qualified apps, as well as important deadlines; January 13, 2014 is the deadline to submit a claim.

Company says new chips bypass iOS 7 authentication

A developer has released Lightning cables that allegedly bypass iOS 7’s new authentication feature, which warns users about non-certified Lightning accessories. iPhone5mod.com claims that it has cracked the chips, allowing the cables to bypass Apple’s authentication process. Apple could fix the iOS 7 software to identify these cables, but it’s likely that unlicensed developers will keep tweaking their products in efforts to bypass the warnings. [via 9to5Mac]

Ballistic debuts Hydra waterproof iPhone 5 case

Ballistic has announced the Hydra ($80), a waterproof and dustproof case for iPhone 5 that’s made to be particularly easy to assemble and disassemble. The company claims the case can protect an iPhone while being submerged in up to seven feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Made of silicone and polycarbonate, the case also guarantees drop protection for falls up to 8 feet.

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Hydra comes with an optional holster and swiveling belt clip. It is available now, and offered in five colors.

Report: TSMC to make Apple’s A8, A9 chips

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company has reached a three-year agreement to develop the next generation of Apple processors, according to a report. Using 20nm, 16nm, and 10nm process technologies, TSMC will manufacture A8 and A9 chips for Apple. Production of the A8 chips will start next month, with the processors expected to first appear in a 2014 iPhone release, sources said. The A9 and A9X chips will enter production in the third-quarter of 2014, with the processors expected to be used in later iPhones and iPads. [via DigiTimes]

iLounge Weekly coming Monday, giveaway update

The latest edition of iLounge Weekly, our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge, will be arriving in subscribers’ inboxes early next week. iLounge Weekly is a summary of the week’s best news, reviews, and feature articles we’ve published, and it also features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.

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Also time is running out in our June giveaways. In our Kensington Proximo Giveaway, iLounge and Kensington are giving away ten Proximo Bluetooth Proximity Monitoring Systems for tracking your iPhone, keys, and bags. In our MaxBoost Fusion Battery Case Giveaway, iLounge and MaxBoost are giving away ten Fusion Color Battery cases, each with a pack of compatible snap-cases for customizing them in your favourite colours. Simply fill out and submit the form on the giveaway page to enter; both giveaways will end on June 30, 2013 at 11:59PM Pacific Time. Good luck!

iPhone 5 headed to Virgin Mobile

Having offered the iPhone 4 and 4S for almost a year, carrier Virgin Mobile will begin selling the iPhone 5 starting June 28. It’ll offer the 16GB model for $550, the 32GB model at $650, and the 64GB model at $750; these prices represent a $100 savings over the standard, unsubsidized costs. Virgin Mobile’s monthly plans start at $30 a month, and offer unlimited messaging and data.

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New photos claim to show iPhone 5S

MacRumors has posted images it believes to be of inside and back of the iPhone 5S. One shot shows the electronic components of the rumored-device, including the battery and logic board, while the other shows a slightly redesigned rear shell. The site notes a few interesting findings: the logic board appears to match one shown earlier in the week, the chip has not been labeled with an A-series name, a date code indicates the chip was manufactured in October 2012, and the battery has a higher capacity than that of the iPhone 5. Additionally, the back of the device shows what appears to be a dual LED flash array. 

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Apps: Instagram 4.0, Lytro, Modern Combat 4 1.1 + XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Burbn’s popular photo-sharing app Instagram (free) has added video in version 4.0. The addition will provoke comparisons to Vine, but the two are much different: Instagram video lets users take video clips as long as 15 seconds, and 13 video filters are also available. Videos notably do not loop, as they do in Vine. Cinema, an image stabilization feature, is available for those using the app on an iPhone 4S or 5.

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Lytro, maker of the Lytro Light Field Camera, has released a Lytro (free) app for iOS. The company has awakened the camera’s hitherto-unknown Wi-Fi capabilities in order to interact with the app, letting users share photos to Facebook and Twitter. Lytro’s app also lets users save photos as animated GIFs that can be emailed or sent via text. The Lytro Light Field Camera lets users refocus pictures after they’re taken, and allows interactive “living pictures” to be refocused endlessly—a neat technology that our editors felt wasn’t ready for prime time after testing the camera.

Logitech to retain Harmony brand, sell Harmony Hub

Following an earlier public disclosure that it was looking to sell its Harmony remote control business, Logitech has announced that it will retain the well-known product line. In a release, Logitech said, “The company has determined that retaining ownership is in the best interest of its shareholders. The Harmony product line has gained momentum following the April introduction of the Hamony Ultimate product, which is available in major retail locations including select Apple stores in the U.S., and has exceeded the company’s expectations for customer connections.”

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Logitech also announced that the Logitech Harmony Hub – a bundled component with Harmony Ultimate and Harmony Smart Control that turns iOS devices into universal remotes – will be available for purchase as a standalone $100 product this August. Harmony Hub is a universal remote control accessory for iOS devices, consisting of a wall-powered 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi receiver, Infrared blaster, and Bluetooth 3.0 chip. The glossy black accessory transforms Wi-Fi commands sent by an iOS device into Infrared or Bluetooth control signals for TVs, A/V components, and game consoles. It’s an upgraded version of the company’s prior Harmony Link, notably adding better software and Bluetooth support.

Apple patent: Fingerprint scanner could be in bezel

A recently published Apple patent shows that the company is exploring a fingerprint scanner that can be included in a conductive bezel on a device. In the described invention, the user would swipe his or her finger over a surface of a sensor. The sensor would capture “thin strips” of a fingerprint during the swipe; the complete fingerprint would then be “assembled in software for use in authentication.”

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It’s unclear which bezel the sensor would be on, and whether it would be a visible or hidden feature. There has been speculation that Apple’s upcoming iPhone 5S will include a fingerprint scanner, most frequently believed to be embedded within the Home Button, but this patent suggests that other locations on the device are possible and potentially even preferable as flat, swipe-ready surfaces. It’s unknown whether the technology will make it into Apple’s next device, or future devices. [via Patently Apple]

Pegatron: Budget iPhone is coming, isn’t “cheap”

A Pegatron executive appears to have confirmed that Apple will be producing a new, lower-cost iPhone this year, while suggesting that it will not be “cheap.” While translations of the new report from Chinese are shaky, the company’s chairman allegedly said that the “price is still high,” and apparently said that the new device will bring greater value to the smartphone marketplace. It’s unclear whether this means Apple’s new phone will cost as much as the current low-end iPhone 4, or that Pegatron and Apple are already trying to ensure the public doesn’t associate the word “cheap” with the new device. A May report noted Pegatron would be the primary assembler of Apple’s new low-cost iPhone. [via China Times]

Apple patent chief leaves company

Boris Teksler, who headed Patent Licensing and Strategy at Apple for four years, recently left the company to join Technicolor, a French media and entertainment company. Teksler notably played a large role in the company’s patent battles with Samsung, and departed while Apple and Samsung remain tangled in litigation. [via Apple Insider]

Apple: 1B TV episodes, 380m movies downloaded

Noted within Apple’s official announcement regarding HBO GO and WatchESPN launching on Apple TV, the company has disclosed that iTunes users have downloaded more than one billion TV episodes and 380 million movies from iTunes. While the numbers pale by comparison with app and song download numbers, they represent interesting milestones for video content. Apple notes that iTunes users are now purchasing more than 800,000 TV episodes and more than 350,000 movies per day. The Apple TV now offers users more than 60,000 movies and more than 230,000 TV episodes.

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