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iPad Pro launch date Nov. 13?

The Sam’s Club website has listed iPad Pro’s release date as next Friday, Nov. 13. Sam’s Club is only selling the Wi-Fi versions of the iPad Pro. This listed release date contradicts an earlier report that iPad Pro would go on sale next Wednesday, Nov. 11, though It’s important to note that the earlier report only mentioned Apple retail stores and Apple’s own online store. There’s a possibility Apple itself could have the super-sized iPad in stock slightly earlier than other retail outlets, though this seems unlikely — a Friday release date would be more in line with Apple’s usual launch timeline. Apple still hasn’t announced an exact date for the device’s release, leading to continuing speculation. [via MacRumors]

Apple adds Categories to Apple TV App Store, code for folders found in tvOS

Apple has added Categories to the App Store for the new Apple TV, as the company continues to slowly improve the set-top box’s application catalog and add more app discovery features. Earlier this week, the App Store also gained support for Top Charts, although both features appear to remain limited to the U.S. App Store at this time.

Developer Steve Troughton-Smith has been poking around the tvOS code and discovered that tvOS actually has “pretty complete folder support” that appears to work the same way as on iOS, suggesting that the feature may be coming soon to a future version of tvOS, although it’s unclear as to why Apple has chosen not to implement folders at this time.

Apple patent describes a fingerprint ‘panic mode’

A new Apple patent filing reveals that Apple may be working on a way to have an iPhone secretly enter a “panic mode” when unlocked using Touch ID with a specific finger. The patent, titled “Fingerprint Activation of a Panic Mode of Operation for a Mobile Device” and dated May 5, 2014, describes how a different mode of operation could be engaged by the detection of a specific finger on a fingerprint sensor, activating a “panic mode of operation” that would “automatically alter at least one standard operation of the mobile device,” such as restricting access to personal data stored on the device. The patent further describes how users could register multiple fingerprints to be associated with different modes of operation, presumably taking the implementation beyond a mere “panic mode” feature into calling up specific usage modes or profiles based on the finger used to unlock the device.

Walgreens integrates Balance Rewards loyalty program with Apple Pay

Walgreens has announced that its Balance Rewards program now supports Apple Pay, allowing members to seamlessly earn rewards and use their account when paying with Apple Pay without the need to separately scan a Balance Rewards card or barcode. Members of the program can add a Balance Rewards digital card to the iOS 9 Wallet app and then use it at checkout with Apple Pay simply by holding their iPhone near the contactless reader and authenticating with Touch ID in the usual manner, and the appropriate rewards information will be sent. Walgreens is the first retailer to integrate its rewards program with Apple Pay, following the debut of the new capability with iOS 9.

Apple trains Siri on Apple TV for country-specific pronunciation

Apple has been training Siri voice recognition on the Apple TV to recognize movie and TV show titles in country-specific pronunciations, according to a new report from MacPrime (translated link). While Siri is available in more than 30 countries on the iPhone, on the Apple TV it remains limited to eight — Australia, Canada, Great Britain, United States, Germany, France, Spain, and Japan — and is notably not available even in other countries where the same languages are used, such as Switzerland. Asked why Siri support on the Apple TV was not available in Switzerland, where residents speak German and/or French, Apple responded by explaining that Siri on the Apple TV was designed to “put a special focus on television and film content,” specifically ensuring that it could quickly and accurately recognize film titles and names of actors, directors, producers, and so forth. To achieve this goal, Apple undertook efforts to teach Siri to recognize specific dialect and phonetic pronunciations for each country. This likely also explains why it has taken longer for Siri support for other features such as Apple Music to arrive on the Apple TV. The report notes that Apple is working on expanding Siri support to other countries, although the company has not given a firm date as to when this will happen. [via 9to5Mac]

Fireproof Games releases The Room Three

Fireproof Games has released The Room Three ($5), the third installment in its popular puzzle game series, following up on last year’s iLounge Game of the Year, The Room Two. The physical puzzle game puts you on a remote island where you must use your puzzle-solving ability to navigate the trials devices by a mysterious figure known only as “The Craftsman.” The Room Three continues the extremely detailed tactile world design of its previous chapters, with an easy pick-up-and-play design while expanding locations into new environments and multiple areas. A new eyepiece ability has also been added that allows you to explore the world in an even more miniature view, and an enhanced system helps you progress through the game more easily when you get really stuck. The Room Three also features alternate endings so that you can play through the game several times with different outcomes, along with a haunting soundtrack and dynamic sound effects, and iCloud and Game Center support for playing on multiple devices and tracking achievements.


GT Advanced agrees to pay off $439M debt to Apple

Apple’s erstwhile sapphire supplier, GT Advanced Technologies, has come to an agreement to pay off its $439 million debt, The Wall Street Journal reports. GT Advanced contracted with Apple in late 2013 to open a plant in Arizona to produce sapphire for Apple’s display screens and Touch ID sensors with financial backing from Apple to help fund the plant’s startup costs. However, GT Advanced ultimately struggled to get sapphire production going and filed for bankruptcy late last year. After some legal wrangling, the two companies came to an agreement, with GT given four years interest-free to repay its $439 million loan to Apple by selling its sapphire furnaces.

Microsoft’s Cortana for iPhone about to enter open beta

Microsoft has announced plans to release public betas of the iOS version of its Cortana app to Windows Insiders. The company has apparently been testing the app internally over the past six months, and is now ready to start inviting a limited number of outside users to try out an early version of the app. While the iOS version will reportedly not be as feature complete as the Windows 10 Mobile and Android equivalents, the general look and feel is reportedly the same, and the beta will support reminders, scheduling events, and sending emails. Applicants will need to be part of the Windows Insider program and the trial will initially be limited to those in the U.S. and China; those interested in signing up can complete an online survey to apply. [via The Verge]

Apple releases iOS 9.2 beta 2 to developers

Apple is continuing its more rapid iOS development cycle with the release of the second iOS 9.2 beta to developers. This second beta, build number 13C5060d, again features sparse release notes that focus on minor fixes to UI and developer API issues, specifically focused on Apple Watch support, audio, dictionary, iCloud Keychain, networking, Safari, Video, and Wi-Fi calling. The iOS 9.2 beta continues to support the same devices as iOS 9.1. Registered iOS developers can download the iOS 9.2 beta from Apple’s Developer site.

Apple releases first tvOS 9.1 beta

Now that the new fourth-generation Apple TV has been released to the public, Apple has begun its first developer beta cycle for its new tvOS operating system, releasing the first beta of tvOS 9.1 to developers today. With a build number of 13U5061d, the release notes identify a focus primarily on UI and networking issues, as well as fixes for developers testing Apple TV apps in the simulator. As with iOS developer betas, the beta versions of tvOS are intended for installation only on devices that have been registered with the Apple Developer Program; it is unclear whether Apple will be running a public beta of tvOS at this point as it has with iOS and OS X betas.

Apple TV: Plex now available, Top Charts come to App Store

Plex has released its very popular media streaming client for the new Apple TV, providing users of the new set-top box with the ability to legitimately access and stream their content from their Plex media server to their television. Although Plex has been available on other media streaming platforms for several years, the lack of an App Store for the Apple TV has forced many users to either AirPlay content from the Plex iOS app or resort to out-of-the-box hacking methods to present Plex content by taking over an existing Apple TV channel. The Plex app is free in the App Store and requires that users update to the latest Plex media server software on their NAS device or computer. Additional details can be found on the Plex blog.

In addition, Apple has added top charts categories to the Apple TV App Store, including “Top Paid”, “Top Free”, and “Top Grossing” apps. The Top Charts can be found on the top menu bar between Featured and Purchased. Top Charts appear to only be available in the U.S. App Store at this time; it’s unclear when they will be appearing in other countries.

Apple plans to expand ‘Personal Pickup’ internationally

Apple appears to be planning to roll out its “Personal Pickup” service internationally, according to a new report from MacRumors. The report notes that Apple employees in Australia, France, the United Kingdom, and other countries are currently undergoing training for a wider launch of the service, which allows customers to place an online order that can then be picked up at any Apple Retail Store within an hour. The service launched exclusively in the U.S. back in 2011, and it appears the international rollout could now come as early as November, perhaps in time for the launch of the iPad Pro.

Amazon to make call on Prime Video support on new Apple TV

Apple has told BuzzFeed News that support for Amazon Prime Video on the Apple TV is solely up to Amazon, claiming that “all are welcome” on the new Apple TV platform, suggesting that Apple hasn’t done anything to discourage Amazon from releasing its own Prime app for the new set-top box in the same manner as any of the other third-party streaming apps now available. Reports earlier this month indicated that Amazon would be banning the sale of the Apple TV from its online store, and this continues to be the company’s policy despite the new Apple TV providing support for a potential third-party Prime app. Amazon has reportedly not submitted an app for the new Apple TV, and a spokesperson for the company told BuzzFeed that they don’t “have anything to share” on the topic, suggesting that Amazon will likely remain the one major holdout on Apple’s new and more open media platform.

iPad Pro to go on sale November 11

Apple plans to begin selling the iPad Pro in its retail and online stores on November 11, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. The Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard are expected to be available for purchase on the same day. The new 12.9-inch tablet was announced by Apple in September, however the company previously only listed a general November release date, and while some reports suggested pre-orders might begin sooner, it now appears that the iPad Pro will be available in retail stores the same day it becomes available to order online.

Apple TV: Unboxing + comparison gallery

We’ve received the new Apple TV and have posted unboxing photos of Apple’s latest set-top box. We’ve also included a few shots comparing the new Apple TV to its predecessors, the third-generation Apple TV and the now classic original first-generation Apple TV. Look for our full, independent, comprehensive Apple TV review on Monday.

Apple’s AI development hampered by company’s secretive nature

Apple’s penchant for secrecy is likely slowing down its development of artificial intelligence technology, according to a new report from Bloomberg. Apple regularly eschews active participation in major artificial intelligence conferences attended by rivals such as Google, Microsoft, and IBM, instead sending representatives to merely attend and observe while keeping a low profile. Further, Apple’s representatives at these conferences are told not to identify themselves as Apple employees unless specifically asked. Researches and professors attending the conference describe Apple’s secrecy as being “off the scale” and the company as “completely out of the loop” when it comes to the latest development in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Siri for Apple Music, BBC iPlayer coming to Apple TV next year

While Apple Music will be available on the new Apple TV early next week, the ability to use Siri to search Apple Music won’t be available until early next year, according to Buzzfeed News. The new set-top box already incorporates Siri voice search commands for finding video content — even across multiple platforms — but it appears that this won’t be enabled for Apple Music out of the box. Considering that Siri can already be used with Apple Music on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, this seems like an odd omission and suggests that Apple’s resources have been stretched thin in getting the new Apple TV ready for release.

Nintendo announces first smartphone ‘game’ Miitomo, coming in March 2016

Nintendo has announced its first official smartphone “game,” The Wall Street Journal reports. Expected to debut in March 2016, the first new release by the famous video game developer will be titled “Miitomo” and will be a free-to-play app with in-app purchases that can be used to buy “attractive add-ons.” According to Nintendo CEO Tatsumk Kimishima, future iOS games released by the company will be pay-to-download titles — the company still plans to release four other apps by March 2017.

It’s not entirely clear whether Miitomo should be called a game, per se, as it appears to be more focused on allowing users to design their own avatars — Nintendo Miis -— to communicate with other users. In this sense, Miitomo appears to be more of a social app than a game, and Nintendo Executive Shinya Takahashi noted that the company is building the app to try and find ways to encourage shier users to talk and share things about themselves in the app. For example, it appears that Miis will automatically communicate with other Miis without your knowledge, helping people who are hesitant to talk about themselves to participate in the social aspect and “reveal a side of your friends you never knew.” It also appears that Mii avatars can be ported back into games on Nintendo hardware, suggesting this new release may be designed more as a companion app for current Nintendo fans rather than an entirely standalone experience.

Apple Stores to start selling new Apple TV this Friday

Employees have confirmed that Apple Stores will begin selling the new Apple TV on Friday, 9to5Mac reports. Apple Stores are already receiving shipments of the new devices and stores will be reorganized Thursday night to begin promoting sales on Friday. Earlier in the day Best Buy announced it will begin selling the device in its stores on Nov. 4.

Best Buy taking preorders for new Apple TV

Best Buy’s U.S. website is now accepting preorders for the new Apple TV, listing a release date of Nov. 4 for in-store pickup and offering free shipping for those who don’t want to visit a store. Users of Best Buy’s Canadian site are still only seeing the third-generation Apple TV listed for sale. The new device went on sale for both U.S. and Canadian users on Apple’s own website Monday, with the earliest possible arrival date listed as Oct. 30 for those opting for expedited shipping. Apple hasn’t informed customers when the new devices will be available for purchase in Apple Stores.

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