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Bluetooth SIG announces Bluetooth 4.2

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has officially announced the adoption of Bluetooth 4.2. The new specification provides privacy, security, speed, and reliability improvements, with data transfer rates up to 2.5 times faster than previous versions, and reduced battery consumption. The new specification also includes an upcoming Internet Protocol Smart Profile (IPSP), expected to be ratified by year-end, which will extend Bluetooth to provide direct Internet access capabilities for smart devices via IPv6, allowing existing network infrastructure to be used to manage Bluetooth Smart devices rather than relying on proprietary protocols and gateway devices.

Verizon sponsoring ad-free listening to all U.S. iTunes Radio users

As part of its “Connection Day” promotion, Verizon is sponsoring a virtually ad-free iTunes Radio experience today. Featuring “limited interruptions,” instead of seeing normal ads on the service, iTunes Radio listeners will instead just see the message “Enjoy with limited interruptions courtesy of Verizon.” A banner ad will also occasionally appear, offering lucky listeners a $5 iTunes Store credit. The promotion is available today only and applies to all iTunes Radio listeners in the U.S., not just Verizon customers. iTunes Match users, who already have an ad-free listening experience, are not eligible to access the $5 iTunes credit promotion. [via 9to5Mac]

T-Mobile required to fully disclose throttled data speeds

T-Mobile has agreed to provide more accurate information to help customers determine when their mobile data speeds are being throttled, according to a new FCC release. T-Mobile provides “capped” data plans, however unlike competing carriers, the company simply slows down data speeds when users exceed their plan thresholds, rather than billing for overages. Although T-Mobile makes no secret about this throttling process, it was discovered that the company was exempting certain speed testing services from the throttling, incorrectly reporting faster data speeds than customers were actually getting.

Under the new agreement with the FCC, T-Mobile will now send users a text message once they’ve hit their high-speed data allotment, providing a link to an accurate speed test that will show customers their actual reduced speeds. T-Mobile will also apparently provide a “button” on smartphones linking to an accurate speed test, as well as providing more disclosures both on its web site and its customer communications as to which speed tests will provide accurate results.

Steve Jobs biopic picked up by Universal, Fassbender to star

Following news last week that Sony Pictures had decided to drop Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs biopic, sources have told The Wrap that Universal Pictures will now be picking it up. Sony reportedly dropped the movie due to shooting scheduling issues around director Danny Boyle and newly attached star Michael Fassbender, however the picture now appears to be back on track with Universal’s involvement. The film is expected to highlight Jobs’ key role in three of Apple’s most high-profile product launches, including the first Macintosh, and the 2001 debut of the original iPod. Recent reports have suggested that Jobs’ oldest daughter Lisa will have a major role in the film, helping to tie the segments together. A script was written by Aaron Sorkin and based on Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of Steve Jobs. [via MacRumors]

Google settles patent litigation with Apple’s Rockstar consortium

Google has come to an agreement with patent consortium Rockstar to settle all pending litigation, Reuters reports. Although the terms of the deal were not disclosed, a Texas federal court filing made public on Monday indicated that the two companies have agreed to settle “all matters in controversy between the parties.” The Rockstar group, consisting of Apple, Microsoft, and Blackberry (formerly RIM), among others, successfully outbid Google in 2011, paying $4.5 billion for over 6,000 patents from former telecom giant Nortel, covering a wide range of Internet and wireless communications technologies. Google subsequently penned an open letter accusing the group of waging “a hostile, organized campaign against Android” using “bogus” patents.

Last October, Rockstar filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming that the company was infringing seven Nortel patents related to search engine technology. At that time, Rockstar also filed infringement lawsuits against several other Android handset manufacturers concerning other patents. However, Google intervened on behalf of the handset makers, successfully halting the Texas proceedings while it petitioned a California judge to rule that devices using the Android operating system did not infringe the cited patents. This week’s filing does not indicate whether Rockstar has also settled with the Android handset makers, or whether Google has taken any further action in that regard.

Corning announces Gorilla Glass 4

Corning has announced Gorilla Glass 4, the latest version of the chemically-strengthened glass that has been used in iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads. Version 4 promises “dramatically improved performance” against drops on rough surface such as jagged streets, sidewalks, and parking lots, as screen breakage is “the #1 consumer complaint, according to Corning’s research.” Corning promises that the new version of Gorilla Glass withstands drops up to two times better than competing designs, while being just as thin and light as prior versions; it delivers marked anti-drop improvements at any thickness it’s manufactured to, and can withstand more pressure at a 0.4mm thickness than version 3 Glass at 0.7mm. While Apple sought to replace Gorilla Glass with manufactured sapphire screen covers from GT Advanced, that venture dramatically fell apart earlier this year, leaving Corning as the supplier for most of Apple’s device glass.

AT&T and Verizon working on VoLTE interoperability

Verizon Wireless and AT&T have announced that they are working on enabling Voice over LTE (VoLTE) connections between the Verizon Wireless and AT&T networks. VoLTE provides enhanced calling features and call quality for users of compatible handsets such as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but traditionally such enhanced features have been limited to users on each carrier’s own network, effectively dropping down to the more basic standard cellular call connectivity when calling users on another carrier. The proposed interoperability, due sometime in 2015, will allow AT&T and Verizon customers to make VoLTE HD Voice calls between networks, while also laying the foundation for Rich Communications Services (RCS) such as video calls and expanded text messaging features. Both Verizon and AT&T introduced an initial rollout of VoLTE services earlier this year, and customers in select markets with compatible hardware should already be able to take advantage of some of the VoLTE features within each carriers’ own network. T-Mobile has also reportedly already been testing interoperability across carriers, although that company has not announced a specific timeline as to when interoperability would be available. [via Engadget]

Microsoft debuts Surface Pro 3 laptop-replacing tablet starting at $799

While referencing both Apple’s iPad and MacBook Air as popular products people use—albeit with a need to alternate between using each for different purposes—Microsoft today introduced its new Surface Pro 3, billing it as “the tablet that can replace your laptop.” Surface Pro 3 has a 12” display with a 3:2 aspect ratio and 2160 x 1440 resolution, a Core i3/i5/i7 processor, integrated USB 3 port, Mini DisplayPort, microSD card reader, and the ability to connect to magnetic accessories. The entry level model for the tablet is 64GB, starting at $799, notably including a wireless pen and integrated handwriting recognition software. It runs Windows 8.1, including support for full-screen and windowed interfaces, as well as a two-app side-by-side mode.

While Surface Pro 3 weighs 1.76 pounds — more than an iPad Air — and also costs $100 more than a 64GB iPad Air, Microsoft’s entry-level price point puts the new tablet in direct competition with both higher-capacity iPads and the $899 MacBook Air. Focusing on comparing the device to laptops, Microsoft’s press release notes Surface Pro 3 is “30 percent thinner than an 11-inch MacBook Air;” it’s also significantly lighter, at 1.76 pounds versus the 2.38 pound MacBook, remaining lower than Apple’s weight even when an optional $130 Surface Pro Type Cover with keyboard and trackpad is attached. Surface Pro 3 will be available for pre-order Wednesday.

Windows Phone 8.1 supports Passbook passes

According to a post on WPCentral.com, Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 8.1 software allows Apple Passbook passes to be used natively. When a user chooses to download a Passbook pass, it will be downloaded to the Microsoft Wallet application, and can be used as if it were on an iPhone or iPod touch. It’s unclear what specific Passbook features are supported, or if Apple will put a stop to the process.

Report: iWatch to use LG stepped battery tech

Apple will use stepped lithium-ion batteries in its upcoming iWatch, according to a report from The Korea Herald. The batteries will be supplied by LG Chem, Samsung SDI, and Tianjin Lishen Battery, sources said. As the report notes, a stepped battery uses layers of batteries to offer more energy efficiency in a footprint similar to a regular battery. The report also suggests the iWatch is “unlikely to sport a curved screen.” LG Chem announced production of stepped batteries and curved batteries last year. LG’s G2 phone uses a step design to increase capacity in a small space.

A recent report suggested Apple was experimenting with magnetic induction charging for the iWatch, as well as new battery technologies, including solar charging, and kinetic charging — though that report noted some of the methods were “years” from happening. An Apple patent application from July revealed a flexible battery pack, while an early iWatch report said Apple was hoping battery life for the device could reach four to five days.

Zynga acquires Clumsy Ninja maker NaturalMotion

Zynga announced that the company has acquired NaturalMotion, developer of the Clumsy Ninja app, for $527 million in cash and equity. Zynga also announced it would lay off 314 employees, or 15 percent of its workforce. Though Clumsy Ninja was first introduced during the Sept. 2012 media event for the iPhone 5 and fifth-generation iPod touch, its release was delayed until Nov. 2013. The game has proven to be very popular despite the delay — Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said during Apple’s recent earnings call that Clumsy Ninja was downloaded 10 million times during its first week of release.

Report: Nest team to work on Google hardware

Google will keep its newly acquired Nest group intact to work on hardware for the company, TechCrunch reports. Nest, founded by “father of the iPod” Tony Fadell, will “not necessarily” work on thermostats or smoke detectors, as Google reportedly “would like Fadell to work on gadgets that make more sense for the company.” It’s possible that phones or tablets could be part of that plan. Google’s recent acquisition of Nest cost $3.2 billion.

Lunatik intros Lynk smart watch collection

Lunatik, the design company headed by Nike watch designer Scott Wilson, and known for its iPod nano watchbands, has launched a preview of its Lynk smart watch collection. Four smartwatches are included: Lynk, Lynk Pulse, Lynk Vapor, and Lynk Extreme. Lynk Pulse appears to be a heart-sensing version of the Lynk smart watch.

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Lynk Vapor is a more streamlined band-style watch, while Lynk Extreme is a more heavy-duty model. No pricing or release information has been announced yet.

Google announces $3.2B Nest acquisition

Google has announced it has agreed to acquire Nest for $3.2 Billion. Nest Founder and CEO Tony Fadell was formerly senior vice president of Apple’s iPod division, and has been referred to as the “father of the iPod.” The company is best known for its Nest Learning Thermostat, and recently released its Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Detector.  Apple currently sells both products online and in its retail stores. Nest will continue to operate under Fadell with its own brand identity. The deal is expected to close “in the next few months.”

Google CEO Larry Page said in a statement, “Nest’s founders, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, have built a tremendous team that we are excited to welcome into the Google family. They’re already delivering amazing products you can buy right now — thermostats that save energy and smoke/CO alarms that can help keep your family safe. We are excited to bring great experiences to more homes in more countries and fulfill their dreams!”

Fadell said in the same statement, “We’re thrilled to join Google. With their support, Nest will be even better placed to build simple, thoughtful devices that make life easier at home, and that have a positive impact on the world.” Reports suggested that Fadell left Apple on less than fond terms, and Nest has continued to hire former Apple engineers to work on its products.

AT&T offers T-Mobile users up to $450 in credits to switch

AT&T announced today that is now offering T-Mobile customers up to $450 in credits to switch their phone service over to AT&T. The deal, available for a limited time, allows T-Mobile customers to switch to AT&T and trade-in their current smartphone for a promotion card of up to $250 that can be used toward AT&T products and services, with the actual value of the trade-in based on the make, model, and age of the user’s current smartphone. AT&T will also offer an additional credit of $200 per line for T-Mobile users who transfer their wireless service to the carrier and choose a NextSM plan and either buy a device at full retail price or active a device they already own.

Bluetooth 4.1 announced as free update for 4.0 devices

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has announced the newest version of the Bluetooth specification, Bluetooth 4.1. Bluetooth 4.1 promises new features that will allow the spec to “work seamlessly” with LTE. Better connections will allow manufacturers to control the reconnection time interval — devices can reconnect automatically when in proximity to each other, and disconnect when apart, allowing for improved battery life and a better user experience. Bulk data transfer will allow for a more efficient transfer of data gathered away from one’s home computer — the example given by the Bluetooth SIG notes an efficient transfer of exercise data. A Bluetooth device can also now act as both a peripheral and a hub at the same time, allowing for greater interaction between devices. Most interestingly, Bluetooth 4.1 is an over-the-air update that won’t require the purchase of new devices — the Bluetooth SIG recommends that manufacturers “immediately” implement Bluetooth 4.1 in their devices.

Pebble watch receives full iOS 7 notifications

Pebble has announced today that its smart watch “is now fully integrated with iOS 7 and works seamlessly with Notification Center.” All enabled notifications will now be pushed to the Pebble — meaning app notifications beyond calls, emails, and texts. A new iOS app will enable the functionality. Pebble claims the app is currently “under review” by Apple, and will be available in the iTunes Store “soon.”

Google Authenticator update erasing user passwords

A recent update to the Google Authenticator app may be causing user’s one-time password credentials to be erased, potentially preventing them from accessing online services using two-step verification, according to several user reports in the Google Authenticator project group. Google Authenticator is an iOS app that allows users to store credentials for Google’s 2-Step Verification feature, and is also used for two-step verification with other third-party services such as Dropbox and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Although several iOS 7 beta users had reported problems with losing credentials in the app, it wasn’t until a recent update, presumably intended to address the iOS 7 issue, that the app began exhibiting the same behaviour for iOS users upgrading to the new version, resulting in users possibly losing access to some of their online services, particularly in cases such as AWS, where alternative “backup codes” are not made available. Users relying on the Google Authenticator app should avoid installing this update. Note that Google Authenticator uses an open-source one-time password generation method, so alternative apps are available, many of which were discussed in the same thread as a result of problems using the app with the iOS 7 betas.

Update: Google Authenticator appears to have been removed from the App Store, suggesting that Google may have pulled it while it works to address the issue.

App Store top earner for EA during quarter

Electronic Arts, one of the world’s largest game companies, disclosed that it made more money through Apple’s App Store than any through other retail outlet in the most recent quarter. Freemium games such as The Simpsons: Tapped Out, Real Racing 3, and The Sims FreePlay pushed mobile revenues for EA, surpassing the money made through both retail distributors and its own Origin download service. EA COO Peter Moore said Apple becoming EA’s biggest retail partner is “a first.” The company was also reportedly the most downloaded publisher on the App Store in the quarter. [via VentureBeat]

Report: Former iPod team, new hires focus iWatch on fitness

Apple’s rumored smart watch will focus on fitness, according to a new 9to5Mac report. Likely to be a wearable computer on the wrist, the “iWatch” is being developed by a team reportedly led by Senior Vice President Bob Mansfield, Vice President Kevin Lynch, and senior hardware director James Foster. Lynch, who was hired from Adobe in March, is reportedly focusing on the device’s “overall software vision.” His team consists of former iPod hardware and software designers, while Foster’s team contains sensor, chip, and battery experts. Fitness and fashion experts have reportedly been brought in to assist with developing and marketing the device, as well.

Former iPhone engineers are also reportedly working on the device, and some people from Apple’s acquisition of biometric security company Authentec are working on sensors for the smart watch. Interestingly, it’s noted that Apple has hired people who have worked on devices that analyze sleep patterns — Apple could be giving the users a reason to keep the watch on through the night, which might lead to recharging challenges. Other designers and developers on the team specialize in distance measurement and “integrating mobile devices with fitness equipment.” The report speculates Apple may also want to measure medical information in “a non-invasive way;” for instance, glucose levels could be monitored while wearing the watch. A release date for the watch is still unknown — it was originally believed the iWatch could launch this year, but a recent report claims late 2014 is more likely.

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