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News

Report: New hi-res iPhones ‘as early as September’

Apple’s new iPhone will arrive in two screen sizes “as early as September,” Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review reports. The report claims mass production of LCD panels will start next quarter, noting the resolution of the handset “is expected to be significantly higher than that of current models.”  As previously reported, Nikkei claims the new iPhone will allegedly come in two screen sizes — 4.7” and 5.5”. Another report claimed the two screen sizes could be 4.7” and an even larger 5.7”.

Microsoft announces Office for iPad

As expected, Microsoft officially announced Office for iPad today at an event featuring new CEO Satya Nadella. Office for iPad will go live at 2 p.m. EST today with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint in the App Store. For free, users can download the apps to read and present documents. With an Office 365 subscription, users will get to create and edit documents.

Update: Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for iPad are all live in the App Store.

Apple patent may hint at sapphire touchscreens

A newly published patent application further hints at the possibility of sapphire displays in Apple products. The application for “oleophobic coating on sapphire” reveals a component that would feature a surface coating and transition layer on top of a sapphire glass base layer, which may be “a window for a portable electronic device.”

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A described method would allow fingerprint-repelling oleophobic coating to be used on top of the sapphire glass. It’s been reported that Apple’s new Arizona sapphire plant has the capacity for mass production, with some speculating new iPhone displays could be made of sapphire.[via AppleInsider]

Apple engineer shares details on iPhone creation

Apple senior software engineer Greg Christie has revealed a number of details about the birth of the iPhone to the Wall Street Journal. Christie and his team were struggling with the original iPhone’s software when Apple co-founder and then-CEO Steve Jobs told the group it had two weeks to figure it out, or it would lose the project to another team. Needless to say, the “shockingly small” team pulled through, creating features such as slide to unlock and placing calls from the phone’s address book. Christie was made available ahead of next Monday’s latest patent trial between Apple and Samsung — one patent Apple claims Samsung infringed upon is the slide to unlock feature. Among other details included in the article is a photo revealing a messy system used by Apple to test early iPhone software.

Apple working to add diversty to emoji

Apple is working on adding more diversity to the emoji keyboard character set, according to MTV Act. The website reached out to Apple CEO Tim Cook about the lack of diversity in emoji, and received a response from Katie Cotton, Apple Vice President of Worldwide Corporate Communications: “Tim forwarded your email to me. We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.” It’s unclear when such an emoji update could happen.

Former Delta VP joins Apple online retail

Bob Kupbens, former vice president of marketing and digital commerce at Delta Air Lines, has joined Apple. According to his LinkedIn page, Kupbens’ title is VP, Apple Online Retail. Advertising Age noted the title was unconfirmed, but regardless, Kupbens looks to play a large role in Apple’s online retail efforts. The news comes during a time of change for Apple retail, as Angela Ahrendts will soon take over as the company’s new head of retail as Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores.

Report: Apple sells 500 millionth iPhone

Apple has likely sold its 500 millionth iPhone during the past few weeks, Forbes estimates. There has yet to be an official announcement from Apple regarding the milestone; the company sometimes heralds large-scale sales in press releases, and at other times waits to mention them during media events.

Forbes notes that the most recent 100 million iPhones sold took “between two to six weeks less” than the previous 100 million. Apple sold 51 million iPhones alone in the first fiscal quarter of 2014, and added 1 million new users on China Mobile’s network in February following the Chinese carrier’s launch of the device.

Apps: FireChat, Photowall for Chromecast, Second Canvas Museo del Prado + Starbucks 3.0

FireChat is a new free app from Open Garden that lets users send messages to other nearby users without an Internet connection or mobile coverage, using iOS 7’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework to link users together. Users can see what FireChat users everywhere are talking about, or they have the option of creating conversations for just nearby users. The nearby chat function works best within 30 feet and may be ideal for events or private conversations between friends in a larger group. FireChat has limitations — it’s not possible to create private conversations, for one thing — but it’s an interesting idea with lots of potential.

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Google’s new Photowall for Chromecast is a free photo app described as a “Chrome Experiment.” Photowall lets users send photos from phones or tablets to a TV using Chromecast. The app takes users to a browser, where they can add pics one at a time. Anyone can participate using the provided link and code to make a live scrapbook of sorts. After the Photowall is finished, the app auto-generates a YouTube video of the experience. Google has some kinks to work out with the concept, but it’s a cool addition for Chromecast users.

Apple wins Japanese patent infringement ruling

Apple didn’t infringe on certain Samsung patents and won’t have to pay damages in a Japanese court ruling, Bloomberg reports. A Tokyo District Court ruled the iPhone 4, 4s, and iPad 2 don’t infringe on Samsung data communication patents. Samsung expressed their disappointment with the decision and noted that the company may appeal the ruling. Apple’s U.S. multi-patent battle with Samsung is scheduled to resume next week.

Apple ‘related’ search spotted in App Store

Apple is apparently testing a new feature in the App Store that offers users related term suggestions when doing a search. A number of reports have noted the new feature, though it appears it was first spotted by developer Olga Osadcha. Osadcha found the feature while using iOS 7.1.

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It’s noted that not everyone is seeing the new feature as of yet — iLounge’s editors have yet to see the function pop up when using our devices. It’s possible that Apple is rolling out the feature gradually.

NPR news channel coming to iTunes Radio today

iTunes Radio will add National Public Radio as its first news channel, Re/code reports. NPR’s channel is expected to go live today, and it will offer a free 24-hour stream of live news and pre-recorded shows. Additionaly, some local NPR stations will offer their own iTunes Radio channels “within weeks.” The report notes it’s also possible that on-demand NPR programming based on listening preferences and location may come to iTunes Radio in the future.

Update: The station, NPR News and Culture, is now live on iTunes Radio.

UK digital download taxes could increase in 2015

Digital downloads including App Store and iTunes purchases are due to see a tax increase in the U.K. under new laws next year, The Guardian reports. A new budget would force Apple and others to charge a 20 percent tax rate on such downloads. The budget closes a tax loophole that currently allows digital downloads to be taxed through other countries, with the tax rate sometimes dropping as low as three percent. Barring any changes, the new law is set to go into effect January 1, 2015.

WSJ: Apple talking with Comcast about streaming TV

Apple is talking with Comcast about working together on a streaming television service that would use an Apple set-top box like Apple TV, the Wall Street Journal reports. The deal would use Comcast’s cables to bypass web congestion, sources said. Using Comcast as a partner would, ideally, prevent buffering and other service issues that often plague streaming web video. Apple seeks to let users stream live and on-demand TV shows stored in the cloud, thus replacing a traditional cable box.

The report claims that at the moment, Apple and Comcast “aren’t close” to an agreement. Comcast would have to make “significant investments” in network equipment and other technology, while the two companies seem to disagree on which would control customer data — Apple wants people to sign on to the device using its Apple IDs, and the company is asking for a cut of the monthly subscription fees paid by customers. It’s noted that Apple was working on a deal with Time Warner Cable since mid-2012; Comcast’s deal to acquire Time Warner is currently being reviewed by regulators.

Report: Apple to launch Spotify rival, iTunes Android app?

Apple has “opened exploratory talks” with record executives about creating an on-demand music streaming service, à la Spotify, and the company is also considering making an iTunes app for Android, Billboard reports. The discussions are reportedly part of a strategy to help Apple cope with declining downloads in the iTunes Music Store. “They are feeling out some people at labels on thoughts about transitioning its customers from iTunes proper to a streaming service,” a major label source said. “So when you buy a song for $1.29, and you put it in your library, iTunes might send an e-mail pointing out that for a total of, say, $8 a month you can access that song plus all the music in the iTunes store. It’s all in the ‘what if’ stage.” Such a streaming service could be a standalone app. An iTunes spokesman declined comment.

The report also notes Apple is trying to stimulate more download sales by pushing catalog titles. iTunes executives have asked labels to clean up catalogs of their top 100 selling artists to prevent multiple copies of albums and redundant compilations from showing up in the store, with the hopes of reducing the available number of compilations for each artist to a more manageable number.

iLounge Game Spotlight: Star Horizon

Star Horizon ($4) is a new space shooter from Tabasco Interactive. A graphically impressive game, Star Horizon puts players into the ship of space fighter pilot. The on-rails shooter supports iOS controllers.

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Star Horizon certainly looks like a premium title. With nice, clear graphics and an impressive frame rate, it looks like everything you’d want out of a space shooter. Your ship dips and turns on a predetermined track as you pass by larger ships and fire upon enemies — sometimes you’ll take one out and zoom by the wreckage.

Golden State first NBA team to use iBeacons

The Golden State Warriors are the first NBA team to roll out iBeacons in their home arena, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. Oracle Arena in Oakland uses iBeacons to push seat upgrades, as fans with the team’s smartphone app — and cheaper seats — are prompted to upgrade when in the arena. The article notes issues with the plan, including a lack of extra tickets, and an estimate that the majority of users don’t leave Bluetooth LE on regularly, preventing them from receiving the notifications. A January report noted that 20 MLB teams plan on having iBeacons installed in their parks by Opening Day later this month.

Apps: Cosmos, NCAA March Madness Live, NFB StopMo Studio + The Very Hungry Caterpillar

FOX Broadcasting Company’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (free) is a companion app to the new 13-part FOX series, Cosmos. The app offers a full view of an interactive cosmic calendar which visualizes the history of the universe throughout the year. Episode sneak peeks and synopses are included along with additional videos, as well as a production diary and bios of those involved with the production. The visually impressive app stands on its own, but it’ll be of more use to fans of the show.

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NCAA March Madness Live from NCAA Digital (free) has upgraded to version 4.0 for the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The app has been redesigned for iOS 7. March Madness Live lets users log in with their television provider to watch live streaming tournament games on TBS, TNT, and TruTV. CBS games don’t need a paid TV subscription. Live radio broadcasts, game alerts, live scores, and an interactive tournament bracket are featured in the app. Video highlights are also included, as users can track “unbelievable moments” in real-time from each game.

China Mobile added 1M new iPhone users in February

China Mobile sold about one million new iPhones in February according to Chief Executive Li Yue. “We added 1.34 million new 4G users in February and most of them are iPhone users. We are happy with the progress as we are still building our 4G network and the coverage is only available in some major cities,” China Mobile Chairman Xi Gouhua told The Wall Street Journal. There were no details on specific sales for the iPhone 5s and 5c. China Mobile launched the iPhone on January 17.

Hacked EA game site phishing for Apple IDs

An EA Games server is hosting a phishing site that’s asking for Apple IDs, passwords, and credit card information, according to anti-fraud Internet services company Netcraft. Two websites in the ea.com domain use the compromised server, which redirects users to the actual Apple ID website after entering their confidential information. It’s possible that hackers accessed the site using vulnerabilities in an outdated version of WebCalendar 1.2.0 software. Netcraft notes that it informed EA of the hack, but the server and content is still online. [via CNET UK]

Apple CEO Cook slams new ‘Haunted Empire’ book

Apple CEO Tim Cook has issued a strongly-worded statement slamming “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs,” a new book by former Wall Street Journal technology reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane. Cook said in a statement to CNBC, “This nonsense belongs with some of the other books I’ve read about Apple. It fails to capture Apple, Steve, or anyone else in the company. Apple has over 85,000 employees that come to work each day to do their best work, to create the world’s best products, to put their mark in the universe and leave it better than they found it. This has been the heart of Apple from day one and will remain at the heart for decades to come. I am very confident about our future.”

Critically panned by most early reviewers, Kane’s book is based on 200 interviews with current and former executives, business partners, and others on the post-Steve Jobs era at Apple. The book’s description notes that Haunted Empire “reveals the perils and opportunities an iconic company faces when it loses its visionary leader.”

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