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Apple expands Everyone Can Code program to half a million kids in Chicago schools

Apple has been expanding its coding classes for kids and even hinting at bringing the program to schools, and now the company is making good on its talk, expanding its Everyone Can Code initiative to nearly 500,000 kids in Chicago’s public schools according to a press release. “At Apple we believe coding is an essential skill, so we’ve designed Everyone Can Code to give everyone the power to learn, write and teach coding,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said. Starting this spring, Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago will expand Everyone Can Code curriculum and materials to reach students citywide, helping students build skills around coding and app development.

Report: Leaked bank documents show Apply Pay is coming to Brazil

Leaked documents from Itaú Bank, one of Brazil’s larger banks, show that Apple Pay will soon be available there, iHelp BR reports. After years of rumors and failed negotiations with that country’s banks, the Twitter handle @ApplePayBR has posted what appears to be the terms and conditions of using Apple Pay with Itaú Bank accounts, the strongest indication yet that Brazil will finally be getting Apple Pay. Itaú Visa Platinum Personnalité cardholders have confirmed that they get the posted message when trying to add their cards to the Wallet app in iOS, but those with different cards or other banks are simply getting an error message saying the service is still unavailable in Brazil.

Apple allows developers to make apps available for pre-order

While many games and other apps are announced well in advance of their release, Apple has never had a reliable method of signing up for the download in advance. The company just changed that, informing developers that they can now make apps available for pre-order on all Apple platforms. “Customers can see your product page and order your app before it’s released for download. Once your app is released, customers will be notified and your app will automatically download to their device,” according to the company’s new documentation.

Google releases experimental photo apps for iOS

After the popularity of its Motion Stills app exploded, Google has released a couple more experimental photo apps for use on iOS. Where Motion Stills turned short videos into stylized cinemagraphs and time lapses “using experimental stabilization and rendering technologies,” the new apps explore how object recognition, person segmentation, stylization algorithms, and efficient image encoding and decoding technologies can be used to make inventive new images. Selfissimo takes selfies to a more automated, photo booth-like experience, encouraging users to pose once the button is tapped and shooting black and white photos every time the subject stops moving. Scrubbies allows users to manipulate the speed and direction of video playback, making it easy to produce video loops that highlight moments and replay them. Both apps are free to download on the App Store.

Report: Apple acquiring music recognition app Shazam (Update: Apple confirms)

Apple is close to acquiring Shazam, the app that lets users identify songs, movies, TV shows and commercials by using a small portion of the audio or images, TechCrunch reports. Sources said the deal could be announced as early as today, with one claiming Apple could pay more than $400 million for the company. The app has been downloaded more than a billion times, but hasn’t been turning much of a profit. The app already integrates with Siri and sends lots of traffic to both Apple Music and the competing Spotify service. Update: Apple has confirmed its acquisition of Shazam to 9to5Mac, saying in a statement that Apple has “exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today’s agreement.”

Apple trying to block shareholder votes on climate change, human rights

After going to the US Securities and Exchange Commission to ask for permission to exclude a shareholder proposal mandating more diversity hires, Apple is asking the SEC for a similar pass to dodge votes on proposals about climate issue and human rights concerns, Reuters reports. In a letter to the SEC, Apple argued that at least four of the proposals it has fielded from shareholders relate to “ordinary business” and can be left off the proxy it is about to publish ahead of its annual shareholder meeting. Apple’s attorney specifically cited new guidance from the SEC issued in November, which gives company boards wide latitude in deciding which resolutions raise policy issues that warrant being put to a vote.

Jony Ive returns to leadership position on Apple’s design team

After handing off some of his day-to-day management responsibilities while Apple constructed its new campus, Jony Ive is back in direct charge of the product design teams, Bloomberg reports. Ive was named Chief Design Officer in 2015 after spending years as Senior Vice President of Design, handing off many of his management tasks to Vice President of Industrial Design Richard Howarth and Vice President of User Interface Design Alan Dye. But now, “with the completion of Apple Park, Apple’s design leaders and teams are again reporting directly to Jony Ive, who remains focused purely on design,” Amy Bessette, a company spokeswoman, said.

Apple provides look at how self-driving car technology handles pedestrians, rainy weather

Ruslan Salakhutdinov, Apple’s director of artificial intelligence research, shared some new details about the company’s AI developments that all seemed to revolve around self-driving cars, Wired reports. During a lunch talk at tech conference, Salakhutdinov discussed how the company is creating detailed 3D maps, teaching vehicles to navigate in unfamiliar areas and using camera and sensor data to spot cars, pedestrians and other obstacles on urban streets. The system was even able to pick out pedestrians when they were partially obscured by cars, which Salakhutdinov credited to recent leaps ahead in machine learning. “If you asked me five years ago, I would be very skeptical of saying ‘Yes, you could do that,’” he said.

Apple’s efforts to ban template-based apps pushing small businesses off App Store

Apple’s efforts to purge clone and spam apps from the App Store by banning those created by a “commercialized template or app generation service” has ended up driving small businesses off the platform as well, TechCrunch reports. While lots of template-generated apps are generic and don’t provide much in the way of functionality for users, many others are created by services that cater to businesses, churches, and other organizations who want to reach their small community with an app without paying the huge cost of creating a custom product.

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Apple hires TV veteran Michelle Lee onto Apple Worldwide Video team

Apple has added another high-profile name to its television content team with the hire of programming veteran Michelle Lee, Variety reports. Lee comes from Universal Television-based True Jack Productions, where she developed and executive produced a number of series, and has been named a creative executive at Apple’s Worldwide Video unit where she will report to former WGN America head Matt Cherniss who joined Apple in August.

Apple quickly works to patch HomeKit vulnerability in iOS 11.2

Apple has quickly closed the door on a HomeKit vulnerability introduced in iOS 11.2, 9to5Mac reports. The security flaw, demonstrated privately to 9to5Mac, allowed “unauthorized control of accessories including smart locks and garage door openers.” The report does not describe the vulnerability in detail and adds that it “was difficult to reproduce” but that it did allow access to pretty much any HomeKit-connected accessory once at least one iOS 11.2 device was connected to a HomeKit users’s iCloud account. Apple has apparently rolled out a server-side fix immediately that closes the hole and temporarily disables remote access to shared users; an iOS update is expected next week that will properly fix the problem and restore remote shared access.

Apple unveils best Apps, Music, Movies, and TV Shows for 2017

Apple has announced its editorial picks for the best apps, movies, TV shows, books, and podcasts available from its various online content stores. The App Store team noted four rising trends for 2017, including the introduction of augmented reality apps with iOS 11, a rise of real-time competitive gaming, and an increased focus on mental health and mindfulness as well as storytelling and reading. The 2017 iPhone App of the Year was the health and fitness app, Calm, while the very popular Affinity Photo won 2017 iPad App of the Year. In games, Splitter Critters was the top iPhone pick, and the open-ended exploratory puzzler The Witness was the 2017 iPad Game of the Year.

Apple stands to be biggest beneficiary of GOP tax plan

Apple could see as much as $47 billion shaved off its US tax bill under current Republican proposals, making it the largest beneficiary of the tax plan, Fortune reports. The Senate and House still have to reconcile their different versions of the tax bill to send it to President Donald Trump for signing, but the two chambers seem mostly in agreement that the $1.3 trillion that American companies are keeping offshore should be taxed at no more than 14.5 percent — a much lower rate than the current 35 percent rate for money brought home from overseas by corporations.

Apple releases watchOS 4.2 with support for Apple Pay Cash

After turning on Apple Pay Cash support in iOS 11.2 yesterday, Apple released the watchOS 4.2 update that also supports the new payment method. Users can now send up to $3,000 from their wrist or use proceeds they’ve collected from other users to buy things wherever Apple Pay is supported. As on iOS, Apple Pay Cash is available to users in the United States who are 18 years of age or older.

Amazon Prime Video app rolling out on Apple TV in US, Canada, UK, other parts of Europe

The much-hyped Amazon Prime Video app is rolling out to Apple TV for users in the US, Canada, UK and several other European countries. The app lets Prime subscribers watch Amazon’s original programming and other available content, features a watchlist for queuing up shows and movies, and supports the Siri Remote’s ability to search for content while in the app. News of the app’s pending release leaked out a day early after a Reddit user manually turned his device’s clock ahead a day and stumbled onto a story about Amazon Prime Video as the top feature in the App Store’s “Today” section. Apple quickly pulled the post, but not before it had been seen by plenty of others.

Apple acquires Pop Up Archive startup that helps make podcasts searchable

Apple has acquired Pop Up Archive, a startup that specializes in technology that transcribes and organizes audio files to make them more searchable, Nieman Lab reports. The company is known for producing podcast search engine Audiosear.ch, which shut down on November 28 — possibly after being acquired by Apple. The deal comes on the heels of Apple announcing in-episode analytics for podcasts at some point after the release of iOS 11.

Apple wins trademark court battle against Xiaomi

Apple has successfully prevented Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi from getting an EU trademark on the name “Mi Pad,” arguing that’s too similar to Apple’s own iPad moniker, Reuters reports. In its decision, the EU’s General Court ruled, “The dissimilarity between the signs at issue, resulting from the presence of the additional letter ‘m’ at the beginning of “Mi Pad”, is not sufficient to offset the high degree of visual and phonetic similarity between the two signs.” Xiaomi filed its trademark application in 2014, prompting Apple to complain to the EU Intellectual Property Office. Xiaomi can still appeal the decision to Europe’s highest court, but there’s no word yet on whether the company will.

Anki’s Cozmo Code Lab update enhances programming capabilities, adds new Constructor mode

Anki has expanded the capabilities of its Cozmo robot again in a new update to its Code Lab, adding a Constructor mode that includes six all-new minigames. The update gives Cozmo users acess to using ‘if’ statements, math operators, variables, function calls and more in their programs. Anki has increased the number and types of visual programming blocks available for use with Cosmo alongside the roll out of the vertically-oriented Constructor mode — structured to more closely mirror actual text-based code. The accompanying six minigames can be opened up and remixed as well, adding plenty of new options for more open-ended play.

Apple starts providing gift cards for Apple Watch trade-ins, adds new Sport bands

While Apple technically started accepting Apple Watch trade-ins last year, the company was just taking them for recycling without providing anything in return. Now the company has changed its recycling program to offer $50 to $175 on a gift card for the trades through a company named Brightstar, based on how functional it is and what model you have (size doesn’t seem to affect the payout at this point). Apple has also added new color options for the Apple Watch Sport band, now offering teal, orange and yellow options in its online store. [via 9to5Mac]

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