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The latest edition of iLounge Weekly will once again be coming to subscribers’ inboxes early next week. iLounge Weekly is our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge. It’s a summary of the previous week’s news, reviews, and feature articles, meant to get you caught up on recent events. It also often 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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Apple seeds sixth beta of iOS 11.3 to registered developers

Only a few days after Apple released a fifth beta of iOS 11.3, today the company has pushed out beta 6 to registered developers, featuring a build number of 15E5216a. This sixth beta release is not yet accompanied by a corresponding tvOS 11.3 beta. The release notes for the latest beta contain no significant changes, suggesting that Apple is primarily polishing iOS 11.3 for a final release, which is expected to be available by the end of this month.

Google Maps adds wheelchair-accessible transit navigation

Google has added support for finding “wheelchair accessible” transit routes to its Google Maps iOS app in order to make getting around easier for users with mobility needs. Users can filter transit directions to only include wheelchair-accessible routes by going into the “Options” section where a new “Wheelchair Accessible” route type will appear alongside the options for best route, fewest transfers, and least walking. Google says the feature is “rolling out in major metropolitan transit centers around the world” starting with London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney, however this initial list may not be entirely comprehensive as it also appears to already be available in Toronto as well.

Apple announces education-focused event for March 27

Apple has announced that it will be holding an education-related event at a Chicago high school on March 27, Bloomberg reports. While specific details are vague, the choice to hold this event away from the usual vicinity of its Cupertino campus makes it a particularly unusual one. The invitation for the March 27 event simply notes that Apple will share “creative new ideas for teachers and students” and lists the location as Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago. It’s been several years since Apple has made any major announcements specifically targeted at the education market; the company held a similarly-themed education event in New York City in 2012, where it unveiled the iBooks Author tool, digital textbooks from major publishers on the iBookstore, and the advent of iTunes U as a standalone app targeted at handling online courses.

Apple responds to allegations that it is abusing French developers

Apple has responded to allegations that it has been treating app developers unfairly in France, following yesterday’s report that the French government was planning legal action against both Apple and Google over “abusive commercial practices” stemming from the strict controls Apple imposes on pricing, data use, and contract terms with app developers. In a statement to Le Figaro, Apple emphasized the advantages of its App Store for developers, citing strong relationships with “tens of thousands” of developers in France, and emphasizing that it has paid out over one billion euros to French developers alone. Apple also added that many small startups in France have been able to see their businesses grow to reach users in 155 countries, which of course Apple credits to its investment in iOS, app development, and the App Store. The company also emphasized its stance on privacy and security, noting that it has no access to user transactions within third-party applications.

Apple’s new ‘Families’ page provides a unified collection of tips for parents

Apple has set up a new Families page on its website providing a one-stop collection of tips on all of the parental controls and other options that are available to support parents in helping their kids use their Apple devices safely and responsibly. The new page appears following recent concerns from investors that the company hasn’t been doing enough to protect children from the negative effects of increased device use, and the new Families page emphasis the efforts Apple has put into designing its products with families in mind, noting that the company has “put a lot of thought into helping parents choose what their kids can do with their devices.”

Apple expands ‘Apple Music for Artists’ beta, reveals new iTunes promotional graphics

Apple Music has announced an expansion of the “Apple Music for Artists” beta program, allowing artists to sign up for access to data about how often their music is played, how users are finding it, where their listeners are located and more. The roll out of the beta earlier this year was limited to a few thousand artists, but now the program is seemingly open to all artists who have their tracks listed on Apple Music.

France taking action against Apple for ‘abusive commercial practices’ over app developer agreements

The French government is taking legal action against Apple and Google over “abusive commercial practices” related to app developers, Bloomberg reports. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire took issue with the strict controls Apple imposes on things like pricing, data use and the terms of contracts. “All that is unacceptable and it’s not the economy that we want,” Le Maire said. “They can’t treat our startups and developers the way they do.”

HomeKit-compatible ecobee Switch+ smart light switch available for pre-order, ships at end of March

The much-hyped ecobee Switch+ smart light switch will be landing in stores on March 26, ecobee President and CEO Stuart Lombard announced at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. The Switch+ uses far-field voice technology to provide voice control and is HomeKit-compatible, allowing users to control lights, music and other smarthome devices with Siri. The device has motion sensors and daylight sensors so that the lights can be activated by movement in a room or automated based on the time of day, and a remote sensor feature is coming later in 2018 through a firmware update, which will allow the Switch+ to use sensors to report room temperature to ecobee thermostats. It also has a nightlight feature, but sadly no dimming functionality. The switch also doesn’t work with two-way lights, so the light where it’s installed needs to be controlled by a single switch. The Switch+ is available for pre-order now and will ship later this month.

Apple announces WWDC 2018

Apple has officially announced details for its 29th Annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which will be held from June 4 – 8, 2018, once again at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. While this year’s announcement comes about a month late compared to WWDC 2017, registration has already opened today, two weeks earlier than last year. The opportunity to purchase tickets will once again be offered by random selection, and only those who are members of the Apple Developer Program as of today will be eligible to register for the conference, and registration will close on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. PDT.

Apple manufacturing partner building new assembly site in India

Apple manufacturing partner Wistron has secured the land to build a new assembly facility in the south Indian state of Karnataka, Reuters reports. The move could signal an expansion of Apple’s use of facilities in India to manufacture its products, as Wistron claims the facility will be used to create “smartphones, internet of things (IOT) products and bio-tech devices,” according to government filings. The new plant is expected to create around 6,000 jobs in the country, with local employment and resourcing serving as the enticement that has allowed Apple to gain increased access to the larger Indian electronics market.

Ultimate Ears debut new waterproof Wonderboom portable speakers

Ultimate Ears has added the new waterproof Wonderboom speaker ($100) to its lineup. The round speaker provides 360-degree sound and can be immersed in water up to one meter for up to 30 minutes, so it can withstand the rigors of a sudden rain storm or outdoor pool party. It also floats, has a hanging loop (to make it easier to fish out of a pool if it’s knocked in) and is drop-proof to five feet. The company claims the speaker can last up to 10 hours on its battery and has a 100-foot wireless Bluetooth range, and two of the devices can even be paired together to provide a more robust listening experience.

Apple updates MFi program with with specs for new Lightning audio cable, USB-C port

Apple has added specifications for USB-C ports and a Lightning to 3.5mm output cable to its Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod licensing program, 9to5Mac reports. The update will allow third-party accessory makers to include USB-C charging receptacles in certified iOS and Mac accessories. Accessory makers can also now create a Lightning to 3.5mm connector to allow iOS devices to be plugged directly into an auxiliary port. Previously users would be forced to use the Lightning to 3.5mm female adapter included with their device in conjunction with a male-to-male 3.5mm to connect, so this new cable spec should make things simpler for users looking to go that route for audio. Apple also announced a change to its MFi program logos, killing off the old device icons in favor of a simpler look with just the Apple logo.

Apple orders animated series from ‘Bob’s Burgers’ creator

Apple has added a comedy cartoon to its slate of upcoming TV programming, Variety reports. The show — called “Central Park” — comes from Loren Bouchard (creator of the hit series “Bob’s Burgers”) and has been given a two-season order. The musical comedy will be written by Bouchard, Josh Gad, and Nora Smith, and centers around a family of caretakers who live and work in Central Park. The show will also include Gad’s voice talents, alongside other stars like Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, and Titus Burgess.

Report says new iPad Pro could feature slim bezels, Face ID; throws cold water on iPhone SE update

A new report from the Economic Daily News backs up previous rumors that Apple plans to release an updated pair of iPad Pro devices this June at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference. A source said the display will measure about 11”  — which could possibly just take the same footprint of the current 10.5” iPad Pro and shave down the bezels to create a slightly larger display. The 12.9” model is also expected to get a refresh, and both are rumored to be getting Face ID support and faster eight-core A11X processors. The report also throws more cold water on rumors that Apple will be releasing an updated iPhone SE in the first half of the year, claiming that the three iPhones to be released later this year is all we’re likely to see.

Apple releases fifth iOS 11.3, tvOS 11.3 betas to registered developers

Only a week after the fourth betas appeared, Apple has released a fifth set of betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 to registered developers. The more rapid release schedule suggests that Apple is likely getting very close to a release date for iOS 11.3, which is expected to be available by the end of this month, and will add several useful new features, along with the battery health feature. As would be expected this late in the cycle, the latest betas of both iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 consist mostly of bug fixes and refinements, and there’s still no sign of the return of AirPlay 2 support of the iBooks redesign that were hinted at in early betas before being subsequently removed, suggesting that these features have been pushed off to a future release, possibly iOS 12 later this year.

Apple Maps adds bike sharing locations

Apple has quietly added bike-sharing data to Apple Maps, TechCrunch reports. Through a partnership with Ito World, the data includes locations for bike-sharing points from several different providers in over 175 cities across 36 countries. Users will be able to search for the nearest stations in any supported city simply by typing “bike sharing” or the name of the specific service, such as “BIXI.” While Apple Maps has had limited bike-sharing data previously, this new partnership provides a much larger data set than Apple was able to put together in-house, and allows Apple to benefit from Ito World’s data as more companies are added in the future.

Pair of patents provide look at waterproof Lightning connector, crumb-proof keyboard

A pair of patents show Apple’s interest in improving the seals on its devices, starting with a Lightning connector that creates a water-tight seal when inserted. Discovered by Patently Apple, one version of the Lightning connector features a tapered shape made of a “deformable material” that molds itself to the Lightning port to lock moisture out and keep the internal connections free from moisture.

Amazon brings Alexa calling and messaging features to the iPad

Amazon has expanded access to its Alexa calling and messaging options to the iPad and other tablets, Engadget reports. The feature already allowed Echo owners to communicate with iPhone users with the Alexa app installed, but today’s change opens it up to the iPad as well. The Alexa app can even call out from the iPad to any smartphone or tablet in the device’s contact list, provided it’s running the Alexa app, too — so the update isn’t limited to communicating with those with Amazon devices.

Apple acquires digital magazine subscription service Texture

Apple has announced a deal to acquire digital magazine subscription service Texture from Next Issue Media LLC. The service charges users a flat monthly subscription fee and delivers unlimited access to more than 200 magazines, including People, Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, and The New Yorker. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but Apple’s services head Eddy Cue said the company is “committed to quality journalism from trusted sources and allowing magazines to keep producing beautifully designed and engaging stories for users.”

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