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Apple Store down again ahead of new iPad, Product(RED) iPhone launch

In an unusual move, Apple has taken the Apple Store offline for the second time this week in advance of today’s release of the new iPad and (PRODUCT)RED iPhone. Apple took its online store down early Tuesday morning in advance of the announcement of both products, indicating that they would go on sale at 8:01 AM PDT today. As all of the new products were already appearing on the Apple Store on Tuesday, most assumed that the ordering links would simply become active at the scheduled release time, however for whatever reason Apple has chosen to take its store offline again.

Apple acquires automation app Workflow

Photo: TechCrunch

Apple has acquired Workflow, a popular automation tool that allows users to tie together various apps on the iOS platform to create macro-like stored procedures, TechCrunch reports. While the financial terms of the deal are not yet available, the report suggests that it was a “solid payday” for the small team of developers. In the deal, Apple is not only acquiring the Workflow app, but also the team of Ari Weinstein, Conrad Kramer, and Ayaka Nonaka, and Nick Frey. Despite the acquisition, Apple will continue to offer the Workflow app on the App Store, making it now available for free.

Apple confirms iCloud and Apple ID systems have not been breached in response to hacker threat

Following yesterday’s report that a hacker group has been threatening to wipe hundreds of millions of iPhones if Apple does not pay them a ransom, Apple has unequivocally stated that there has been no breach of its systems. Although Apple neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the data the hackers claim to have, the company told Fortune that, if the list is legitimate, it was not obtained through any security breach at Apple, suggesting that the “alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services.”

Apple introduces Clips video app

Among all its product roll outs and updates today, Apple also revealed Clips, a new app that lets users create videos using photos, music and video clips. The app includes a Live Titles feature that lets users make animated captions over their videos simply by using their voice, providing a simple option for adding subtitles to videos that are perfectly timed to the subject’s words. The app also provides several Snapchat-like options, such as filters, stickers, speech bubbles, shapes and more. The app can even identify the people in videos to make it easier to send them a copy through Messages, and allows the videos to be posted on other sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The app is set to be released on the App Store sometime in April.

Apple unveils new upgraded entry-level 9.7” iPad, replacing iPad Air 2

Apple revealed its new iPad this morning, a 9.7” model that replaces the iPad Air 2 as the company’s entry-level iPad option. Simply called “iPad,” the new device features some minor improvements over the iPad Air 2, including a brighter Retina display, an A9 chip instead of the older model’s A8 and a slightly larger battery. The front and back cameras are the same, but the new iPad is a bit thicker — 7.5mm to the iPad Air 2’s 6.1 mm — and seems to lose the older model’s dual microphones. The new iPad is currently available in 32 GB and 128GB capacities and starts at $329 — $70 cheaper than the iPad Air 2, which is no longer available on Apple’s website.

Apple Store going down for ‘maintenance’ tomorrow morning, sparking rumors of product launch

Apple’s system status page is now showing that the company’s web site will be down tomorrow morning for maintanance. While the company has made no official mention of a product release tomorrow, Apple usually takes down its web site ahead of rolling out new devices, and the 8:30 a.m. EST end time for the maintenance correspondes with when Apple typically issues its press releases. The move also fits into the time frame reported by MacRumors last week, citing “reputable supply chain analysts” who said Apple would be releasing new products this week. While those sources provided no information about which products would be released, analysts have been predicting for months that new iPads would be released early this year, including a new “bezel-free” 10.5” version. [via MacRumors]

Politicians in New Zealand raise alarm about Apple’s tax arrangements

Despite making $4.2 billion in sales in New Zealand since 2007, Apple pays no taxes in that country, the New Zealand Herald reports. Apple has paid $37 million on that income, but the money went to the Australian Tax Office instead of staying in New Zealand. On that same sum, taxes in New Zealand would have totaled $357 million, but since Apple’s New Zealand operations are run out of Australia, the company is able to take advantage of a tax treaty that “sees dual claims on income tax default to where the company is controlled.” Several New Zealand politicians confirmed the deal was legal, but Deborah Russell, a recently selected Labour Party candidate, said Apple is taking advantage of “that age-old distinction between legality and morality.” Revenue Minister Judith Collins recently released tax reforms aimed at netting more income from international businesses operating in New Zealand, but it’s unclear how those changes will affect Apple. An Apple spokesperson said the company follows all international tax laws, adding that “Because our products and services are created, designed and engineered in the US, that’s where the vast majority of our tax is paid.” But the company is no stranger to tax feuds, and is currently embroiled in a battle with the EU over its Irish tax bill.

Hundreds of Apple engineers focused on augmented reality for iPhone, wearable glasses

Apple has combined veterans from its hardware and software operations with a group of talented new hires to build a team focused on creating ambitious augmented reality breakthroughs, Bloomberg reports. The team, run by former Dolby Laboratories executive Mike Rockwell, includes researchers who were previously working on Oculus virtual reality headsets, Amazon’s Lumberyard virtual reality platform and Meta’s augmented reality glasses project. Hundreds of engineers are now working on the project, which includes plans for wearable glasses and big improvements to the iPhone’s camera. Apple is reportedly working on making the iPhone able to “take a picture and then change the depth of the photograph or the depth of specific objects in the picture later,” using algorithms acquired in 2013 from PrimeSense. Other improvements would allow users to manipulate specific elements within the image — like rotating a person’s head 180 degrees while leaving the rest of the frame as-is — or place visual effects on top of a person much in the way Snapchat’s filters operate. The report didn’t shed any light on when 3D sensors or augmented reality applications would land on the iPhone, but recent rumors have hinted Apple may be testing its AR capabilities as early this year.

Apple extends AppleCare+ purchase timeframe to one year

Apple has extended the amount of time that customers can purchase AppleCare+ after buying a new iPhone to one year, according to a new report by MacRumors. Previously, customers purchasing a new iPhone had up to 60 days to decide whether or not to purchase Apple’s AppleCare+ protection plan, which increases the covered iPhone’s warranty coverage and telephone support to two years from the date of the device’s purchase and provides coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage during the coverage period.

Apple announces two more R&D centers in China

Apple has formally announced plans to expand its research and development centres in China, bringing the company’s total investment in R&D in the country to more than 3.5 billion yuan (~$500m). The two new centres announced today in Shanghai and Suzhou will join the centres in Beijing and Shenzhen that Apple announced last summer and last fall, respectively.

Apple releases seventh beta of iOS 10.3

Apple has released another new beta of iOS 10.3, only three days after the the sixth beta was released to developers. The seventh beta, featuring a build number of 14E5277a, is available today to both registered developers and members of Apple’s Public Beta program, and the rapid release of new betas suggests that iOS 10.3 is drawing closer to a public release, possibly corresponding with the rumoured release of new iPad models that could arrive as soon as next week.

Apple now selling 32GB iPhone 6 model in Belarus

Following the unusual re-launch of the iPhone 6 in a 32GB model in China earlier this month, Apple now appears to have expanded sales of the “new” 2017 iPhone 6 model to Belarus, AppleInsider reports. Belarusian Apple reseller i-Store is currently taking orders for the device, which is priced at 999 rubles (~$520) and only available in Space Gray. Much like its launch in Asia, the device is identified as “iPhone 6 (2017)” and is in a previously-unavailable 32GB capacity, making it clear that Apple has begun manufacturing limited quantities of the older model in a new capacity, likely targeted for sale as an entry-level model in emerging markets. The 2017 iPhone 6 otherwise has the same specs as the 2014 model, but will run iOS 10 out of the box.

Report: Apple hasn’t yet signed onto brief opposing second executive order on immigration

Despite its vocal opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration earlier this year, Apple has not joined other tech companies in signing on to a new lawsuit looking to block a second version of the Trump’s executive order, Reuters reports. Apple is reportedly among 60 technology companies, including Google and Facebook, that appear to have decided against putting their weight behind this new lawsuit. A legal brief was filed in federal court in Hawaii earlier this week representing 58 technology companies in opposition to the second version of Trump’s executive order banning immigration, but this accounts for less than half of the 127 companies that signed on to a similar brief opposing the first executive order last month. Airbnb, Dropbox, and Kickstarter are reportedly among the companies that did sign the new brief, while other companies that are conspicuously absent the second time around include Microsoft, eBay, Intel, Netflix, and Twitter.

More than 180,000 apps could be rendered useless if iOS 11 dumps 32-bit support

A warning dialog discovered by developers working with the iOS 10.3 beta stating that apps that have not been updated to include 64-bit support “will not work with future versions of iOS” has led Sensor Tower to determine that the new restriction could affect about 8 percent of apps on the App Store, effectively rendering them obsolete. While there’s no solid evidence that iOS 11 will be the final cutoff for apps that are 32-bit-only, Apple has only been accepting 64-bit new app submissions since Feb. 1, 2015, and forcing app updates to follow the same requirements since June 1, 2015. That means the apps that would be rendered obsolete wouldn’t have been updated since early-2015 anyway, making it unlikely that they’re terribly popular and entirely possible that many have already been abandoned by their creators.

Russian government finds Apple guilty of price fixing

After an investigation that started last August, Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service has found Apple guilty of price fixing, The Financial Times reports. The FAS claims Apple told 16 Russian retailers to set prices at a specific level and threatened to terminate sales agreements with those who refused to comply. In its statement, the FAS said Apple’s Russian subsidiary has been monitoring resellers’ pricing since the release of the iPhone 5s and when it found “unsuitable” prices, Apple “sent emails to resellers with a request to change them.” Apple hasn’t released a statement on the current ruling, but previously denied any wrongdoing. The company now has 3 months to file an appeal if it so desires. If the ruling stands, Apple could be fined as much as 15 percent of its sales in Russia. [via 9to5Mac]

Leaked image reveals Apple’s ‘iPhone Calibration Machine’

New images obtained by Motherboard appear to show the specially designed “iPhone Calibration Machine” that Apple uses for screen replacements. One former Apple employee said the machine appeared after the release of the iPhone 5s and was “not very Apple-like at all.” The ex-Apple Genius said the machine had a much more utilitarian feel than Apple’s consumer devices, resembling something more like “a big clunky machine that honestly looked like someone built it in their backyard.” The device requires different iPhones to be placed in specific molds before being placed inside and has at least one liquid inside the machine that forces employees to wear gloves to prevent damage to their hands.

Apple releases sixth betas of tvOS 10.2 and watchOS 3.2 to developers

Apple has released a sixth set of new betas to developers today — tvOS 10.2 for Apple TV and watchOS 3.2 for Apple Watch. The tvOS 10.2 update boasts improved scrolling support, and watchOS 3.2 brings the screen-disabling Theater Mode to the Apple Watch, among other improvements.

Well-known forensic scientist and iOS security advocate hired by Apple

Well-known forensic scientist and digital security advocate Jonathan Zdziarski has announced on his blog that he’s been hired by Apple. Zdziarski has exposed back doors into iOS in the past and is a popular security consultant for journalists whenever news about Apple security flaws breaks. After clearly getting Apple’s attention, Zdziarski said he has now “accepted a position with Apple’s Security Engineering and Architecture team, and [is] very excited to be working with a group of like minded individuals so passionate about protecting the security and privacy of others.” [via 9to5Mac]

Apple files amicus brief in support of Google’s fight against FBI’s overseas warrant

Apple has joined Microsoft, Amazon and Cisco in filing an amicus brief in support of Google’s refusal to hand over email records to the FBI, Business Insider reports. The FBI’s warrant requests records stored in Google’s servers overseas, and Google has argued against applying the Stored Communications Act to data stored outside the U.S. The brief filed by the other companies argues that seeking emails from a foreign data center would be perceived as an “extraterritorial act on the part of the U.S. government” and invite other nations to begin demanding records currently kept on U.S. soil for their own investigations. A Pennsylvania court has ruled that Google must surrender the documents to the FBI, but the company has said it will fight the ruling.

Asthma study proves ResearchKit data is accurate compared to other studies

Researchers from Mount Sinai Hospital have found that health data collected from Apple’s ResearchKit platform for one asthma study is reliable when compared to other methods, The Verge reports. The difficulty involved in recruiting study participants has made collecting data from smartphones—which is considerably easier—more appealing, but questions have always lingered about the accuracy of the data. The Mount Sinai study published in Nature Biotechnology suggests that the asthma study run with a smartphone app and that had data collected and reported by ResearchKit produced similar results to existing patient studies conducted with traditional methods.

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