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Apple to open WWDC Scholarship applications on Mar. 27

Apple has posted details about its 2017 WWDC Scholarship program, which provides an opportunity for talented students and STEM organization members to attend the company’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference free of charge. In addition to receiving a free ticket to the event — which would otherwise cost $1,599 — this year it appears that Apple is offering WWDC Scholarship recipients free lodging in the form of shared accommodations. Applicants with extenuating circumstances may also be eligible for travel assistance. To be eligible for a WWDC scholarship, applicants must be 13 years or older, registered with Apple as an Apple developer, and enrolled part-time or full-time in a course of study or be a member of alumni of a STEM organization. The application process includes submitting relevant personal information, school or STEM membership information, a resume/CV, a “Beyond WWDC” essay, and creating and uploading “a visually interactive scene in a Swift playground that can be experienced within three minutes.” A team within Apple will judge applications based on technical accomplishment, creativity of ideas, and content of written responses. Applications will be accepted beginning at 10:00 a.m. PT on Mar. 27 until 5:00 p.m. PT on Apr. 2, and those selected to receive a scholarship will be notified on Apr. 21. Apple is offering up to 350 scholarships, although not all scholarships may be awarded.

‘iPhone 8’ to feature flexible printed circuit boards, Apple to move all iPhones to OLED by 2019

Samsung and Interflex are both ramping up production of flexible printed circuit boards to be use in Apple’s ‘iPhone 8’ later this year, The Korea Hearld reports. The FPCB components are used to connect the dedicated chips for components like the display and camera. Previous reports claimed the new OLED ‘iPhone 8’ will be made with a flexible display, but that the phone itself won’t be bendable or foldable because the other internal components can’t flex. While FPCBs don’t fully solve that problem, their inclusion could make the entire device less rigid than previous models.

Apple executives still vying to strike original content deals with Hollywood

Apple executives have been trying to woo several successful Hollywood TV and film products in recent weeks, according to a new report by The New York Post. A source indicated to The Post that Apple SVP Eddy Cue spoke to executives from Paramount Pictures as well as Sony’s TV and film units, suggesting that Apple is working on “something big.” Reports are that Apple has been vague about its ultimate goal in the discussions, however one executive who spoke with Apple was left with the impression that Apple is looking for a “transformative acquisition” rather than just making a deal to buy TV shows.

Apple selling ‘new’ 32GB version of the iPhone 6 on select Asian carriers

Apple is resurrecting the iPhone 6 in a 32GB version in Asia, according to a new report by 9to5Mac. The 32GB gold iPhone 6 is labelled as a “2017” model, which would technically be correct as Apple never previously released a 32GB version of the iPhone 6, meaning these are new devices being manufactured specifically for specific Asian carriers as entry-level devices. According to the report, the new model is expected to launch on Taiwan Mobile on March 10, and has apparently been quietly available in China for the past few weeks. Notably, this new 2017 iPhone 6 model will only be available through select carriers, not on Apple’s online store or in its retail stores. Taiwan Mobile is currently advertising the devices as part of a special limited-edition promotion as the most inexpensive iPhone the company has ever offered — it’s basically being given away for free with a 30-month contract plan. It’s unclear if it may come to other Taiwanese carriers or remain exclusive to Taiwan Mobile; it’s presently also being sold by one carrier in China. It’s very unlikely that the “new” model will extend beyond China, however.

Apple ends support for second-generation Apple TV

Apple has added the second-generation Apple TV to its list of vintage and obsolete products, effectively ending all support for the device in most parts of the world. While the second-generation Apple TV is well out of warranty coverage, Apple still continues to provide parts and repair services for its products for a period of 5-7 years after the last date of manufacture. The “vintage” designation for the second-generation Apple TV applies only in California and Turkey, where Apple is required by law to provide service for up to 7 years; in all other parts of the world, the device has been declared “obsolete” and is no longer eligible for any kind of hardware service. Apple typically declares products Vintage” when they have not been manufactured for more than five years, but less than seven. “Obsolete” products are those that have not been manufactured for more than seven years. [via AppleInsider]

Appeals court dismisses jury verdict against Apple in 2015 iTunes patent infringement case

A U.S. federal appeals court has dismissed the jury verdict from a 2015 patent infringement case that had ordered Apple to pay $532.9 million in damages, Reuters reports. The suit, originally brought against Apple in 2013 by Texas-based Smartflash LLC, had alleged that the Apple’s iTunes software infringed on three of its data storage patents. The original claim sought $852 million in damages as an entitlement to a percentage of sales of all of Apple’s devices capable of accessing iTunes at that time, while Apple claimed that the patents were invalid as Smartflash was purely a patent holding company that made no products, had no employees, and no U.S. presence, while also claiming the damages to be “excessive and unsupportable” due to demanding a share of the full purchase price of an iPhone for the sake of a single infringing feature. Although a federal jury awarded Smartflash $532.9 million in damages, these were vacated by the trial judge a few months later, however the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said this week that the judge should have ruled Smartflash’s patents invalid and set aside the original verdict entirely. The three-judge panel unanimously declared Smartflash’s patents as “too abstract” and stated that they did not provide enough detail in describing an actual invention.

Apple updates HomeKit page, adds new HomeKit promo video

Apple has updated its iOS Home webpage with a new design and improved layout, while also adding a new “Watch the film” link at the top of the page leading to a short promotional video demonstrating “a day in the life” of a HomeKit user.  The video clip, which runs for about 45 seconds, shows a woman getting out of bed and beginning her day with a “Good morning Siri” command, and then using the iOS 10 Home app and Home panel in the iOS 10 Control Centre to adjust the temperature on a Honeywell Lyric thermostat and trigger scenes such as “Breakfast Time” to start a coffee machine and other appliances attached to iHome SmartPlugs, a “Lock up” scene to lock a door using the KwikSet/Weiser Premis smart lock, and a “Movie time” scene on the Apple TV to dim lights and close blinds in the evening, among others. The new iOS 10 Home page also provides clearer information on the types of accessories that can be controlled by HomeKit along with a link to a page that shows a list of all of the HomeKit accessories that are either currently available or have been announced, along with a list of leading builders offering HomeKit packages for new homes.

Report: 2017 iPhones to retain Lightning connectors but support Fast Charging via USB-C

A new research note from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo obtained by MacRumors sheds some new light on a report earlier this week that Apple could be replacing Lightning connectors with USB-C on this year’s iPhone models. According to Kuo, all three iPhones that are expected to launch this year will continue to use Lightning connectors, but will support USB-C power specifications to provide faster charging, likely similar to the specifications supported by the 12.9” iPad Pro. Kuo notes that the biggest technical challenge Apple is facing “lies with ensuring product safety and stable data transmission during a fast charge” and Kuo suggests that Apple will adopt new TI and Cypress power management chips, and that the rumoured OLED version may support even faster charging thanks to a newer battery pack design. The note doesn’t appear to provide any information on what type of power adapters or cables will be included with the upcoming iPhone models. Although current iPhone models can charge from a USB-C connection — including Apple’s 29W USB-C power adapter — they will still only charge at the same 5V/2.4A rate that Apple’s 12W USB Power Adapter provides, and further Apple has continued to only include a 1A charger with the iPhone, requiring users who desire faster charging to purchase the 12W adapter separately or supply their own higher-current USB power source.

Apple signs brief supporting transgender student in Supreme Court case

Photo: Al Drago/The New York Times

Apple has joined 52 other companies in signing a Supreme Court brief in support of a transgender boy’s fight over the right to use the school bathroom appropriate to his gender identity, the New York Times reports. The brief is being filed by the Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ equality, and is asking the Supreme Court to side with transgender student Gavin Grimm in his discrimination case against the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia. Other tech companies that have signed the brief alongside Apple include Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Airbnb, eBay, Intel, LinkedIn, PayPal, Salesforce, Twitter, Yahoo, Yelp, along with several companies from other industries, including Gap, MAC Cosmetics, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Warby Parker and Williams-Sonoma. In a statement announcing the support, Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said “These companies are sending a powerful message to transgender children and their families that America’s leading businesses have their backs.”

Apple Pay launches promotion and adds eight new partners in Japan

After a rocky initial roll out in Japan last year, Apple Pay has added support for eight new credit cards and rolled out a “New Life” promotion offering extra point rewards or cash back options for using cards issued by participating providers. American Express, APLUS, EPOS Card, JACCS, Cedyna, Pocket Card, Life Card and UCS joined the existing ranks of Apple Pay providers in Japan starting today, with each offering their own special rewards for purchases made between March 1 and April 30. American Express, for example, is offering 5,000 yen back for the first 20,000 Apple Pay users to make more than 50,000 yen in purchases during the period. [via Ata Distance]

Google rolling out $35-a-month YouTube web TV service

Over the next few months Google will be rolling out YouTube TV, a web-based streaming TV subscription service offering more than 40 broadcast and cable networks, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple’s rumored efforts at putting together a similar package reportedly stalled over negotiations with networks about the cost of programming, but Google has put together a package that includes network broadcasters ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox alongside major cable networks like ESPN, MSNBC and Fox News. Discovery, Viacom, AMC and Scripps are also in talks to be added to the service at a later date. The move is targeting both people who are keen to get rid of their cable subscription and an emerging group of younger customers who have never paid for a traditional cable TV package. “There’s no question millennials love great TV content,” said YouTube Chief Executive Susan Wojcicki. “But what we’ve seen is they don’t want to watch it in the traditional setting.”

Apple releases fourth beta of tvOS 10.2 to developers

Following yesterday’s release of iOS 10.3 and watchOS 3.2 developer betas, Apple has released a fourth beta of tvOS to developers today, continuing development on a new version that will bring features such as accelerated and improved scrolling within apps that present long lists of content, as well as Mobile Device Management support for enterprise and education environments, and support for the new hardware-accelerated VideoToolbox encoding and decoding framework and Apple File System (APFS).

‘iPhone 8’ to have curved OLED screen, ditch Lightning port for USB-C across all models

This year’s ‘iPhone 8’ will include a curved OLED screen and replace the Lightning port with a USB-C connector, The Wall Street Journal reports. People familiar with the process said Apple has already ordered enough of the flexible displays to mass produce at least one iPhone model. While the display will allow for a new curved edge on the device, the iPhone itself won’t be bendable or foldable because of rigid internal components.

Apple releases fourth betas of iOS 10.3 + watchOS 3.2 to developers

Apple released its fourth betas for both iOS 10.3 and watchOS 3.2 to registered developers today. iOS 10.3 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch contains the Find My AirPods feature, among other changes, while watchOS 3.2 features the upcoming Theater Mode for Apple Watch. A new public beta for iOS 10.3 should be released in the near future.

Third-party screen repairs no longer void iPhone warranty

Third-party screen replacements no long void an iPhone warranty according to an internal memo recently issued by Apple, MacRumors reports. Until now iPhones with a non-original display weren’t eligible for any warranty repairs. Neither Apple’s standard one-year warrant nor AppleCare+ will cover issues with third-party displays or batteries, but now Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers have been instructed to offer replacements or repairs for in-warranty problems, as long as they’re not specifically issues with the new display itself. There are also a few catches — if the third-party display causes the technician to somehow break the iPhone or otherwise causes the repair process to fail, customers will be required to pay the out-of-warranty cost to replace the broken display, or even the cost of the entire device, if the damage is bad enough.

iDevices adds dynamic automation, enhanced scheduling to ‘Connected’ app for HomeKit

iDevices has released a major update to iDevices Connected, the company’s app for controlling HomeKit-based devices, including its own Switch, Socket, and Thermostat devices. Version 3.0 of iDevices Connected adds support for HomeKit location triggers, as well as “characteristic” triggers that can initiate HomeKit scenes when another HomeKit device is controlled, such as activating an “arriving home” scene when unlocking a HomeKit-enabled door lock. The new version also adds new services and characteristics to expand Scene capabilities, and brings a number of enhancements to scheduling, including a visual timeline the presents schedules in a calendar-like view, the ability to save and re-apply schedules across multiple scenes, and an initial setup assistant to create a baseline schedule for iDevices’ connected thermostat. The app also allows individual iDevices products to be scheduled without having to create single-device scenes, and makes some nice improvements to energy reporting. Firmware updates for iDevices’ accessories are also included as part of this update, improving responsiveness and addressing several minor stability bugs pertaining to certain Wi-Fi configurations.

Apple reports that iOS 10.2.1 significantly reduces unexpected iPhone 6s shutdown issues

In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Apple has indicated that improvements made in iOS 10.2.1 have addressed most of the problems with unexpected shutdowns that some iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s users were experiencing. Apple notes that approximately 50 percent of iOS devices are already using iOS 10.2.1 and that Apple has been receiving diagnostic data from users on that version revealing a reduction of over 80 percent on iPhone 6s devices, and over 70 percent on iPhone 6 devices. Apple notes that in the unlikely event users are still experiencing unexpected shutdowns, with iOS 10.2.1 the iPhone can now restart without needing to be connected to power. In its statement, Apple emphasizes that these shutdowns are not a safety issue, however the company naturally wants to mitigate the inconvenience of the issue for its users. iPhone 7 models are not affected by the issue.

Mobiata announces sunset of FlightTrack 5 and FlightBoard apps

Mobiata has announced that it is shutting down its popular FlightTrack 5 and FlightBoard apps, effective Mar. 1, 2017. Although the company admits that it hasn’t provided many updates to the two apps in recent months, FlightTrack was one of the first and best flight tracking apps on the App Store, and quickly became a mainstay for iPhone travellers. Mobiata was acquired by Expedia in 2010, and although it continued to run largely as an independent unit in developing its FlightTrack and FlightBoard apps over the past six years, a recent “critical assessment” by the larger parent company regarding the demand for travel app products suggests that a decision was made to focus Mobiata’s resources on implementing the technology in FlightTrack and FlightBoard into the main Expedia app in order to provide a “one-stop shopping” travel app solution.

Harman announces first Wireless CarPlay implementation

Photo: Business Wire

Harman has announced the first successful commercial implementation of Apple CarPlay over a wireless connection, allowing vehicles using Harman’s infotainment systems to use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to connect to an iPhone for CarPlay rather than requiring a wired USB/Lightning connection. Harman’s press release notes that the solution is currently “being deployed in the market on HARMAN infotainment systems for a luxury German automaker,” and although it does not mention a specific automaker by name, it likely that it’s referring to BMW as this is the only automaker that is including wireless CarPlay support on current model vehicles. Although Harman has not disclosed plans to roll out wireless CarPlay to other automakers, it gave a statement to MacRumors noting its business relationships as a tier 1 supplier of infotainment systems to other automakers including Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep, suggesting that it could expand wireless CarPlay to other car makers in the future.

Report: Apple still considering several possible wireless charging solutions for ‘iPhone 8’

A new report in Reuters discussing the state of Apple’s work on this year’s iPhone reveals that Apple may not have yet settled on a wireless charging solution for the upcoming “iPhone 8,” despite the company’s recent entry into the Wireless Power Consortium backing the Qi standard. The Reuters report cites a person with knowledge of the matter who indicates that there are presently five separate groups at Apple currently working on wireless charging technology, suggesting that each group is pursuing and testing different standards to determine which of them will be Apple’s preferred choice.

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