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Apple joins Alliance for Open Media aimed at reducing size of online videos

Apple has added its power to the Alliance for Open Media, a collection of tech’s biggest names working to shrink the size of online videos to provide a better streaming experience, CNET reports. The group is creating a technology called AV1 to compress video before it’s stored or transmitted. Until now Apple has been a major holdout, but the company recently appeared as a “founding member” on the group’s website, sending a signal of newfound strong support. Apple has previously focused on the more closed HEVC/H.265 video format, implementing it for FaceTime over cellular in 2014, and more recently bringing it to iOS 11 for video recording. However the licensing fees involved in this more proprietary formats has limited its widespread adoption, necessitating background conversion to H.264 when sharing and exporting videos to ensure maximum compatibility. Moving to a more widely held standard across multiple platforms and companies could eliminate that step, but Apple hasn’t publicly commented on what joining the AOM will mean for its own formats.

Report: Jimmy Iovine leaving Apple Music in August

When his Apple shares from the 2014 sale of Beats fully vest in August, Jimmy Iovine will be leaving Apple Music, Billboard reports. The former Interscope CEO has been with Apple since the sale, but people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that Iovine is unlikely to stick around after receiving his final payout from the $3 billion deal. Iovine has been an important part of Apple Music’s successes — smoothing over a public feud with Taylor Swift and has securing exclusive deals with artists like Drake — but he’s also been a source of friction with other high-ranking executives, who have been in the middle of negotiations with artists and labels only to find Iovine was conducting his own separate discussions.

Apple, Intel downplay performance cost of fixing Meltdown, Spectre vulnerabilities

After addressing vulnerabilities in processors that left iOS and Mac devices open to security issues nicknamed Meltdown and Spectre, Apple is now convinced than the fixes rolled out to remedy the problems will have “little to no performance impact,” Reuters reports. Apple admitted that its devices were vulnerable to exploits that “abuse speculative execution to access privileged memory —including that of the kernel — from a less-privileged user process such as a malicious app running on a device,” but said fixes in iOS 11.2, macOS 10.13.2, and tvOS 11.2 already help defend against Meltdown — even though there have been no documented exploits affecting customers. Since the exploits would require a malicious app to be downloaded, the recommended course of action is to scrutinize apps before downloading and only download from trusted sources. Intel — the company that produces the affected microprocessors — said Apple had seen no significant performance drop off from security updates and that any impact should be mitigated over time with future updates.

Speck reveals Presidio Mount case that works with Scosche magnetic mounts

Speck has revealed its new Presidio Mount case, designed to work with Scosche’s MagicMount system. While most magnetic mount assemblies require a user to stick a metal plate to their phone or case, the Presidio Mount comes already equipped with the necessary plates embedded in the case, leaving users with a normal-looking case while providing the ease of using a magnetic mount while on the go. The Presidio Mount will be available in February for $45 for the iPhone X and 8 and $50 for the iPhone 8 Plus.

Elgato adds to smarthome lineup with Eve Button and updated Eve Room

Elgato has updated its Eve Room sensor and revealed the new Eve Button controller for managing HomeKit scenes and devices. The second-generation Eve Room ($100) still features the previous model’s monitoring of air quality, temperature and humidity, but the new version has its own e-ink display rather than just relying on the dedicated app to display information. Eve Room also now includes its own built-in battery that can be charged via USB instead of the 2015 model’s reliance on AA batteries — the first time we’ve seen Elgato include a rechargeable battery in one of its Eve products. The new Eve Room borrows its black and aluminum aesthetic from the award-winning Eve Degree that we reviewed last year, making for a much sleeker look to go along with the $20 price increase over the older model when the new device debuts in March.

Belkin’s Wemo smarthome brand rolls out HomeKit support with Wemo Bridge

After missing its promised roll out last fall, Belkin is bringing HomeKit support to its Wemo smarthome ecosystem with the Wemo Bridge, finally allowing users to integrate Wemo accessories with other HomeKit-enabled devices and control them using Siri. The $40 Wemo Bridge will allow owners to incorporate Wemo’s line of light switches, dimmers, motion sensors and smart plugs into room and scene configurations with more than 100 other HomeKit-compatible devices, providing easy control both when at home and while away. The Wemo Bridge simply plugs into a user’s Wi-Fi router through an Ethernet cable and then provides wireless access to all compatible Wemo accessories through the company’s dedicated app or Apple’s Home app.

Mophie launches Powerstation AC external battery pack

Mophie has announced the powerstation AC, its newest external power pack, incorporating a high-capacity 22,000 mAh battery with AC power and USB-PD outputs which provide fast charging for the iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, and iPad Pro, along with the ability to power the USB-C based MacBooks. The AC output port provides 100W of power for charging and powering electronic devices that normally require a wall outlet, while the USB-C port provides 30W of charging power under the USB Power Distribution (USB-PD) spec. Mophie promises up to 15 hours of extra battery life for the standard MacBook. A “Priority+ Charging” feature prioritizes delivering power to devices connected to the USB-A ports over charging the internal battery, and a premium fabric wrap provides a comfortable feel and scratch protection. The mophie powerstation AC is available now at mophie.com for $199.95.

UK set to ban stores from charging fees on Apple Pay transactions

The UK has a new law going into effect January 13 making it illegal for stores to add surcharges for customers paying with cards or contactless payment methods like Apple Pay, The Bristol Post reports. While most larger retailers weren’t charging fees for transactions, some smaller businesses and online stores were adding a penalty for those paying with certain payment methods. Now all in-store and online purchases made within the UK from UK businesses will be protected from added fees.

ConnectSense debuts new HomeKit-compatible outlet ahead of CES

After rolling out its original external Smart Outlet in 2015, ConnectSense is debuting a new HomeKit-compatible in-wall outlet, 9to5Mac reports. The hardwired version replaces a standard outlet and looks like the usual two-receptacle setup wil provide Wi-Fi controls that can detect when something is plugged in and how much power is being used. Each outlet can be controlled with the built-in touch controls, Siri voice activation or the HomeKit app. The price and release date haven’t been announced, but ConnectSense has set a Q3 launch target.

Apple Watch users reporting interference from ICU equipment causing problems

Apple Watch users working in intensive care units are reporting Apple Watch problems, 9to5Mac reports. One user with an Apple Watch Series 3 was experiencing reboots every 60-90 minutes while working in the ICU, and the issue continued even after the device was replaced, leading to speculation that ICU-related equipment is causing the problems. The problem has become so pervasive that there’s now a three-page support thread for the issue, but the only proposed solution so far is to run the device in airplane mode — which negates much of its usefulness. The issue hadn’t manifested itself in the Apple Watch before the Series 3, but Series 3 devices both with and without cellular service have been affected.

Apple buys app development company Buddybuild

Apple has confirmed its purchase of Buddybuild, an app development company that provides tools to streamline app creation, TechCrunch reports. No financial terms were disclosed, but the Canadian company’s platform will be rolled into Apple’s Xcode suite of iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS development tools. In the meantime, Buddybuild’s service will still be available for existing customers, but the company’s site isn’t accepting any new customers. Android development services are also expected to sunset in March, just as Apple discontinued TestFlight’s Android compatibility after acquiring that company.

Report: Some iOS games using microphone to track users’ TV habits

Games like Pool 3D, Beer Pong:Trickshot, and Real Bowling Strike:10 Pin found on the App Store could be tracking users’ TV viewing habits even when they’re not being played, The New York Times reports. The apps are all built using software from Alphonso, a start-up that specializes in collecting data on TV viewing for advertisers. Even when the apps aren’t in use, Alphonso’s software can potentially use a smartphone’s microphone to pick up on the TV shows and ads playing around the device, then use that information to target ads to the user, although the microphone is less likely to continue being used outside of the app on iOS devices due to Apple’s built-in limitations on background apps.

Report: GE bringing HomeKit support to some C-series smartbulbs early this year

After promising HomeKit support for its C-series of smartbulbs twice last year and missing both deadlines, GE is once again setting a target to roll out the feature to at least some of the smartbulbs in the first quarter of 2018, AppleInsider reports. GE made a similar announcement last May, with a C-Reach bridge intended to act as a bridge between the bulbs and the rest of a HomeKit-enabled network. Only the C-Sleep and white C-Life smartbulbs are currently expected to be part of the initial HomeKit roll out, both of which are currently available and already able to be controlled from iOS devices via GE’s own app.

Apple issues clarification to Apple Stores after some seeking $29 battery replacements were denied

After some Apple users with an iPhone 6 or later reported being refused a $29 battery replacement at Apple Stores, Apple has issued new guidance to its retail locations instructing employees to honor all replacement requests, iGeneration reports. Following outrage over Apple’s admission that the company had been slowing down older iPhones to conserve battery power without informing users, the company agreed to replace the batteries in iPhone 6, 6s, SE or 7 devices for $29 — a substantial discount over the usual price for out-of-warranty battery replacements.

Happy New Year from iLounge!

Happy New Year from all of us here at iLounge to all of you our faithful readers. We’ll be taking a brief hiatus as we prepare to ring in 2018, but will be back to our full publishing schedule on Tuesday, January 2, ready for a whole new year of Apple news, products and accessories. For a look back at 2017, check out our Best of the Year Awards and dive into our news and review archives if you want to go deeper. See you next year!

Apple files for ‘Connects to Apple Watch’ trademarks

Apple has applied for a pair of new trademarks for devices that connect to the Apple Watch, Patently Apple reports. The new trademarks are presumably intended to be used to help identify third-party health and fitness accessories that are designed and certified to work with the Apple Watch, which will very likely include both the recently unveiled GymKit equipment as well as third-party health monitoring accessories like AliveCor’s KardiaBand.

Apple fined $25K a day for withheld evidence in Qualcomm’s FTC case

A federal judge has ordered Apple to pay $25,000 a day for failing to turn over documents in a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against Qualcomm, Bloomberg reports. The FTC has accused Qualcomm of freezing out competitors and forcing Apple to use its chips exclusively, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins imposed the daily fine on Apple for not surrendering its documents quickly enough. Apple claims it has already produced more than 2.6 million documents for the case, but the company has until December 29 to turn over the rest or it will begin facing even larger daily fines, according to a court filing. “We have already produced millions of documents for this case and are working hard to deliver the millions more which have been requested in an unprecedented time frame,” Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock said. “We plan to appeal this ruling.”

Face ID can’t be used for ‘Ask to Buy’ purchases on the App Store

Many users who bought the iPhone X this year got an unwelcome surprise at Christmas time, finding that they couldn’t use Face ID to authenticate “Ask to Buy” requests that require kids to ask for parental approval to make iOS purchases and downloads, Ars Technica reports. The “Ask to Buy” feature allows Touch ID to be used to approve the requests, but not Face ID, which has led to speculation that Apple knows there’s a risk of family members — especially children without fully formed features — being able to access another user’s iPhone X with Face ID and approve purchases without permission.

Apple facing class action suits over slowing down older iPhones

After last week’s admission from Apple that the company has been intentionally slowing down older iPhones without informing users, at least eight lawsuits have been filed in various federal courts seeking compensation and a reversal of the policy, CNBC reports. Apple has admitted that iOS updates since “last year” sent out to the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone SE and iPhone 7 included a feature “to smooth out” the power supply from batteries that are old, cold or contain a low charge. Apple claims without that software, an iPhone could just shut off suddenly because of another safety feature to keep internal components from getting fried when there are battery issues. One of the lawsuits — filed by attorney Jeffrey Fazio, who won users a $53 million settlement in 2013 over Apple’s handling of iPhone warranty claims — claims that, “Rather than curing the battery defect by providing a free battery replacement for all affected iPhones, Apple sought to mask the battery defect.”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from iLounge

Happy holidays from iLounge! Our editorial staff is currently on Christmas break, and we will return Wednesday, Dec. 27, with new updates. In the meantime, check out our Best of the Year Awards for 2017 and our recent Reviews and Gear articles to help with all of your last-minute and post-holiday gift card shopping, and for anyone finding a new Apple device under the tree, our Tips archive should be of great help.

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