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Report: WWDC will be mostly about software; hardware updates will come later this year

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has weighed in on his expectations for what Apple will be unveiling next week, citing the obvious unveiling of iOS 12 and related software updates, but notably throwing cold water on rumours that Apple could plan to unveil a new Face ID enabled iPad Pro; Gurman conceded that Apple is working on such a device — along with refreshes to its MacBook lineup — but that the hardware won’t be ready for an unveiling until later this year. Gurman also highlights a new initiative that Apple has been working on to help users monitor how much time they spend on their devices and using certain apps — a feature that Apple has dubbed “Digital Health” and is expected to be built into iOS 12.

Withings to return after buying back digital health business from Nokia

Withings co-founder Eric Carreel has announced plans to resurrect his brand after buying the digital health business back from Nokia earlier this month. Engadget reports that the re-acquisition has been gone through, although terms were not disclosed, and Withings will be selling the existing staple of Nokia-branded health products for now — most of which were originally Withings products in the first place that were simply rebranded by Nokia — but plans to relaunch the Withings brand by the end of the year and continue developing new connected health products as well.

Canadian motorist receives fine for looking at Apple Watch while driving

An Apple Watch user in Canada has received a $400 fine under the province of Ontario’s distracted driving laws for looking at her Apple Watch while driving, GuelphToday reports. Victoria Ambrose, a student at the University of Guelph, was stopped a red light in April when a campus police officer pulled up alongside her and noticed her looking up and down at a device several times. Ambrose also reportedly failed to notice the traffic light turning green, and didn’t proceed until the officer shone his cruiser side light into her car to get her attention. The officer subsequently pulled her over and charged her with driving while holding a hand-held communications device.

Scosche releases Rhythm24 Heart Rate Monitor

Scosche has released its new Rhythm24 waterproof armband heart rate monitor, the latest in its line of health and fitness accessories. Originally unveiled at CES in January, Rhythm24 builds on the company’s earlier Rhythm+ released back in 2014, with an expanded set of features and support for variable activity modes. Rhythm24 also provides 24 hours of battery life on a single charge, and is rated IP68 so it can be used during strenuous workouts without worrying about sweat, or even when swimming. Users can configure up to five standard training modes, and there’s also support for two multi-modes designed for biathletes and triathletes. Rhythm24 can also be used without any accompanying smartphone thanks to on-board data recording, which captures not only standard heart rate data but also heart rate variability (HRV), so it can help with recovery tracking as well as simply recording calories burned.

The Omni Group releases OmniFocus 3 for iOS

The Omni Group has released OmniFocus 3 for iOS, a major upgrade to the company’s powerhouse task management app that adds significant new functionality while decreasing its complexity in normal daily use. The biggest enhancement in OmniFocus 3 is the transformation of “contexts” into a more flexible system of “tags” that’s found in many other apps. While tags serve many of the same functions as contexts, users can now assign multiple tags to any task or project, reorder tags manually, and even assign a tag to appear in the Forecast view. Other new enhancements include a customizable inspector that allows users to hide fields that they don’t normally use, the ability to set multiple custom notification for any task or project and a revamped rules system for creating custom perspectives.

Apple orders new Emily Dickinson series with Hailee Steinfeld

Apple has signed a new straight-to-series order for a half-hour show about 19th century poet Emily Dickinson, Variety reports. The series is set to star Hailee Steinfeld in the title role, who is known for 2010’s “True Grit” along with “The Edge of Seventeen,” “Barely Lethal,” “The Homesman,” “Ender’s Game,” and last year’s “Pitch Perfect 3.” Alena Smith will serve as writer and executive producer, alongside David Gordon Green as directed and executive producer; Smith is known for her previous work on Showtime’s “The Affair,” and acclaimed HBO series “The Newsroom,” while Green is best known for directing the films “Pineapple Express,” “Joe,” and “Prince Avalanche.” The series itself is described as being a comedic look into Dickinson’s world as a contrast between the constraints of society, gender, and family and Dickinson’s own imaginative point of view.

Apple releases first betas of iOS 11.4.1, tvOS 11.4.1, and watchOS 4.3.2

Only one day after the release of iOS 11.4, tvOS 11.4, and watchOS 4.3.1, Apple has already rolled out the first betas of iOS 11.4.1, tvOS 11.4.1, and watchOS 4.3.2 to registered developers. The release notes for the new versions are basically devoid of any information at all, suggesting that they are focused almost entirely on fixing bugs and other issues that are too minor to even be noteworthy.

Apple Music launches new Global Publishing Division

Apple has launched a new internal division focused on music publishing, according to a new report by Music Business Worldwide, one of the first major new initiatives by newly-appointed Apple Music VP Oliver Schusser, who was promoted to head up Apple Music last month. Elena Segal, who was previously Legal Director of iTunes International and is well-known in the music publishing industry, has been appointed Apple Music’s Global Director of Music Publishing. The new division will also reportedly contain sub-divisions such as Operations, Commercial, Publisher Relations, and Artists & Repertoire (A&R).

All-OLED 2018 iPhone lineup unlikely, analysts say

Some analysts are rebuffing recent rumours that Apple may be dropping LCD displays entirely, Bloomberg reports, after an article earlier this week suggested that Apple was planning to go “all-in” on OLED for all this year’s models. Offering up several reasons why such a move is unlikely for this year, the report quotes analysts suggesting that it’s too early for Apple to make this decision, that adding that an OLED screen to the rumoured third LCD model would drive up the price to the level where there wouldn’t be a point in selling it, and that Apple might not even be able to secure the number of OLED screens it would need for the very large volume of iPhones that Apple sells, particularly considering that Samsung remains the only OLED supplier at this point, with LG Display still struggling to get its facilities up and running for mass production.

Analyst Gene Munster offers up WWDC predictions

Well-Known Apple analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures has offered up a research note with his predictions for next week’s WWDC Keynote. While some of Munster’s predictions are fairly obvious — he suggests for example that the event will be “software heavy” and include a preview of iOS 12 — some of his other predictions are more unique and interesting. Most significantly, Munster supports predictions that Apple will expand Siri by adding “new domains” such as navigation, email, and integration with spotlight search. Similarly, he expects new domains to be added to Apple’s CoreML machine learning framework, providing developers with more options for integrating AI into their iOS apps.

Plex adds Podcasts and a major revamp to its apps

Plex has announced a major update to its platform and mobile apps, introduced support for subscribing to and listening to podcasts, directly through the app, along with a significant redesign of its app experience that provides for faster navigation and a customizable home screen experience. New mobile apps for iOS and Android reimagines the Plex user experience to focus more on addressing what users want to watch or listen to rather than where it is coming from, and now allows users to customize their home screen to reorder or remove the standard sections like “On Deck” and add new ones from anywhere in the app. Users can also now easily combine content from multiple servers on their home screen — both their own and any other servers that they may be subscribed to — and there are now tabs at the bottom of the screen that can be rearranged easily as well, and even customized to allow users to focus on the media they prefer.

HomePod arriving in Canada, France and Germany on June 18.

Along with the announcement of AirPlay 2 support in iOS 11.4, Apple has also revealed that the HomePod will be going on sale in Canada, France, and Germany on June 18th. It appears, however, that Canadian French language support will be delayed, and these three countries also won’t be getting the HomePod Calendar support that just rolled out in iOS 11.4 and HomePod 11.4 until later this year.

Apple releases iOS 11.4 with Messages in iCloud and AirPlay 2 support

Apple has released iOS 11.4 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, adding the long-awaited support for Messages in iCloud and AirPlay 2. Messages in iCloud allows users to store and sync their Messages across multiple devices via iCloud, a feature which was initially promised in iOS 11, and made an appearance in the iOS 11.3 betas before being pulled from the final release. The update also includes support for AirPlay 2, which allows audio streaming to multiple AirPlay 2 compatible speakers — a list that presently only includes the Apple TV and HomePod running the corresponding tvOS 11.4 or HomePod 11.4 updates, respectively. HomePod 11.4 also brings stereo pairing to HomePod speakers, allowing users to set up two of them in a stereo configuration. Users can also now ask Siri to play music in any room or group of rooms using AirPlay 2, and music can be streamed throughout the house without any need to manually group speakers.

Elgato announces Eve Aqua smart water controller, Eve Flare portable lamp

Elgato has announced two new HomeKit accessories: Eve Aqua, a smart water controller, and Eve Flare, a portable color LED lamp. Eve Aqua allows users to convert any outdoor faucet into an intelligent water outlet, allowing HomeKit users to activate sprinklers or other water accessories from their iPhone or any Siri-enabled device such as a HomePod. Users can also create schedules in the Eve app, access Eve Aqua remotely when away from home (with a HomeKit hub such as an Apple TV, iPad, or HomePod), adjust sprinkler schedules based on weather, and track water consumption. Eve Aqua is available for pre-order now for $99.95 and starts shipping on June 25.

Philips releases major update to Hue app

Philips has once again overhauled its Hue iOS app, addle ressing a number of user concerns with the prior version and unveiling several user interface enhancements. This is actually the second time Philips has almost completely redesigned the app; a version 2.0 update in 2016 significantly improved the core functionality, adding rooms, routines, scenes, widgets, and home and away features, as well as improved HomeKit integration. Hue 3.0 focused more on the user experience with significantly improved navigation, including quicker access to scenes, colors, brightness controls, and light visualizations. The color pickers have also been redesigned to be easier to use, and there are 30 new picture scenes that the company notes were handpicked by lighting designers. Hue 3.0 also brings back the ability to create scenes from your own photos — something that the company inexplicably removed in version 2.0, although it remained possible through third-party apps and services such as IFTTT.

Apple going all-in on OLED for 2018 iPhones

A new report from South Korea’s ET News has added weight to recent reports that Apple will be going with OLED displays for all of its 2018 iPhone models, dispelling previous rumours that the company had planned to release a 6.1-inch model with a full-faced iPhone X style display, but in LCD rather than OLED. Citing industry sources, however, the ET News says that Apple has recently decided to adopt OLED across all three models of iPhone to be released later this year; although it notes the possibility of a fourth LCD model, it’s possible this could be referring to the rumoured “iPhone SE 2” refresh. [via MacRumors]

Apple now selling refurbished Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular + GPS models

Apple is now selling refurbished Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular + GPS models on its online store, marking the first time the LTE-capable model has been available for discounted purchase as a refurb unit. The refurbished Series 3 models only appear to be available in the U.S. at this time, and stock appears to have dwindled quickly since they were first posted a few days ago, according to MacRumors. As with most Apple refurbished products, the prices represent about a 15 percent discount over the equivalent brand new models, and are thoroughly inspected, tested, cleaned, and repackaged, come with Apple’s standard one-year warranty, and are eligible for optional AppleCare+ coverage.

Apple rejects Steam Link iOS app, citing ‘business conflicts’

Apple has rejected Valve’s promised Steam Link app, despite actually pre-approving it earlier this month, CNet reports. According to Valve, Apple informed them this week that Apple reversed its earlier approval due to “business conflicts with app guidelines that had allegedly not been realized by the original review team.” Valve added that it appealed Apple’s decision, explaining that the Steam Link app functions as a “LAN-based remote desktop” in the same way as “numerous remote desktop applications already available on the App Store,” but that the appeal was denied. While Valve didn’t go into any details on the specific reasons for the rejection — other than vague “business conflicts” — a later report by Reuters suggests that the conflict is likely connected to in-app purchases, noting that Valve spokesman Doug Lombardi told them that Steam had disabled purchasing in its iOS app, although he did not explain when or how this change was made. It’s unclear whether this will be enough to appease Apple’s App Store review team, or if other issues still remain.

Apple now offering free one-month trial of iCloud storage

Apple appears to have quietly begun offering free one-month trials of its paid iCloud storage plans, a new report by AppleInsider reveals. Although Apple doesn’t appear to have publicized this elsewhere, when users bump up against their free 5 GB storage limit, the prompt that encourages them to upgrade to the 50 GB tier now adds “your first month is free” followed by a large blue button reading “Get 50 GB Free For 1 Month.” Users tapping on the button are then taken to the standard page for changing their storage plan, where they can elect to benefit from a free month for any of Apple’s paid storage tiers. Once the user signs up, the subscription works much like any other Apple subscription services with a free trial, with the plan automatically renewing at its regular monthly fee unless users choose to discontinue it before the renewal date.

Vevo abandoning its own platform in favour of YouTube

The popular Vevo music video service is phasing out its own music video platforms in favor of YouTube, Variety reports. The company announced its plans in a blog post yesterday, stating that it “will phase out elements of our owned and operated platforms” in order to focus in its primary objective, which is “to grow the commercial and promotional value of music videos.”  The post goes on to note that the company’s catalog “will continue to reach a growing audience on YouTube.” Vevo, which is owned primarily by the major labels, has long had a distribution deal with YouTube, which through Google also owns a small stake in the company. While Vevo has traditionally reached most of its audience through YouTube, for the past few years it had tried to lessen its dependence on the service with its own set of apps for mobile devices and set-top boxes, and in fact even toyed at once time with the idea of launching a paid subscription service.

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