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Apple releases sixth beta of iOS 10.3 to developers

Apple has released another new beta of iOS 10.3 to registered developers, with a build number of 14E5273a. The rapid beta cycle and increasingly sparse release notes suggest that iOS 10.3 is nearing public release. Unlike most prior beta update cycles, this time around no corresponding watchOS or tvOS betas have been released as of yet. A corresponding public beta update is expected in the near future.

Apple adds categories, new product updates to its HomeKit website

Apple has placed a renewed emphasis on updating its improved HomeKit page with updates on newly announced products, but may have let the cat out of the bag too early on the ecobee4 in the process. Apple recently updated the page with a new design, marking unreleased products with either “Announced” or “Coming Soon” tags and grouping HomeKit-compatible products into categories like Security, Fans, Lights, etc. where the devices were previously sorted by brand. Since Apple revealed the updated page less than two weeks ago, iDevices Wall Switch, iDevices Wall Outlet, and Netatmo by Starck Smart Thermostat have all lost the “Coming Soon” tag as they’ve been released, showing Apple’s commitment to maintaining and updating the page in real time. But in an interesting turn of events, the ecobee4 was originally listed as “Announced,” but now has been removed from the list entirely. With no other mentions of the product at all, it seems Apple may have spilled the beans on the new device before its own parent company was ready to make an official announcement.

Siri leads voice assistants in language support

While many AI researchers suggest that Siri is lagging behind competitors such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, one area in which Apple’s voice assistant clearly has the lead over its competitors is in its extremely wide language support. A new report from Reuters notes that Siri can speak and understand 21 different languages, with localized dialect support for over 36 countries in total. By comparison, Microsoft Cortana supports only eight languages for 13 countries, Google’s Assistant speaks four, and Amazon’s Alexa is limited to only English and German. Reuters also notes that Siri will also be adding support for Shanghainese, a special dialect of Wu Chinese spoken only around Shanghai.

Apple releases fifth betas of iOS 10.3, tvOS 10.2, and watchOS 3.2 to developers

Apple has released a fifth set of new betas to developers today — iOS 10.3 for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, tvOS 10.2 for Apple TV, and watchOS 3.2 for Apple Watch. iOS 10.3 contains Find My AirPods support, tvOS 10.2 boasts improved scrolling support, and watchOS 10.2 brings the screen-disabling Theater Mode to the Apple Watch, among other improvements. The betas are also accompanied by a fourth beta of Xcode 8.3. A public beta for iOS 10.3 should be available in the near future.

Apple says many of the iOS vulnerabilities detailed in WikiLeaks release are already fixed

In a statement posted by Kif Leswing on Twitter, Apple claims that it is working on assessing all of the iOS vulnerabilities detailed in yesterday’s WikiLeaks release, but claims, “many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS.”

The company touted its ongoing commitment to protecting customer security and privacy and urged users to make sure their devices are running the latest version of iOS. WikiLeaks claims the CIA has put a “disproportionate focus on iOS” as a hacking target and kept known vulnerabilities from Apple in defiance of prior U.S. government promises of disclosure.

Apple to open WWDC Scholarship applications on Mar. 27

Apple has posted details about its 2017 WWDC Scholarship program, which provides an opportunity for talented students and STEM organization members to attend the company’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference free of charge. In addition to receiving a free ticket to the event — which would otherwise cost $1,599 — this year it appears that Apple is offering WWDC Scholarship recipients free lodging in the form of shared accommodations. Applicants with extenuating circumstances may also be eligible for travel assistance. To be eligible for a WWDC scholarship, applicants must be 13 years or older, registered with Apple as an Apple developer, and enrolled part-time or full-time in a course of study or be a member of alumni of a STEM organization. The application process includes submitting relevant personal information, school or STEM membership information, a resume/CV, a “Beyond WWDC” essay, and creating and uploading “a visually interactive scene in a Swift playground that can be experienced within three minutes.” A team within Apple will judge applications based on technical accomplishment, creativity of ideas, and content of written responses. Applications will be accepted beginning at 10:00 a.m. PT on Mar. 27 until 5:00 p.m. PT on Apr. 2, and those selected to receive a scholarship will be notified on Apr. 21. Apple is offering up to 350 scholarships, although not all scholarships may be awarded.

Apple executives still vying to strike original content deals with Hollywood

Apple executives have been trying to woo several successful Hollywood TV and film products in recent weeks, according to a new report by The New York Post. A source indicated to The Post that Apple SVP Eddy Cue spoke to executives from Paramount Pictures as well as Sony’s TV and film units, suggesting that Apple is working on “something big.” Reports are that Apple has been vague about its ultimate goal in the discussions, however one executive who spoke with Apple was left with the impression that Apple is looking for a “transformative acquisition” rather than just making a deal to buy TV shows.

Apple ends support for second-generation Apple TV

Apple has added the second-generation Apple TV to its list of vintage and obsolete products, effectively ending all support for the device in most parts of the world. While the second-generation Apple TV is well out of warranty coverage, Apple still continues to provide parts and repair services for its products for a period of 5-7 years after the last date of manufacture. The “vintage” designation for the second-generation Apple TV applies only in California and Turkey, where Apple is required by law to provide service for up to 7 years; in all other parts of the world, the device has been declared “obsolete” and is no longer eligible for any kind of hardware service. Apple typically declares products Vintage” when they have not been manufactured for more than five years, but less than seven. “Obsolete” products are those that have not been manufactured for more than seven years. [via AppleInsider]

Appeals court dismisses jury verdict against Apple in 2015 iTunes patent infringement case

A U.S. federal appeals court has dismissed the jury verdict from a 2015 patent infringement case that had ordered Apple to pay $532.9 million in damages, Reuters reports. The suit, originally brought against Apple in 2013 by Texas-based Smartflash LLC, had alleged that the Apple’s iTunes software infringed on three of its data storage patents. The original claim sought $852 million in damages as an entitlement to a percentage of sales of all of Apple’s devices capable of accessing iTunes at that time, while Apple claimed that the patents were invalid as Smartflash was purely a patent holding company that made no products, had no employees, and no U.S. presence, while also claiming the damages to be “excessive and unsupportable” due to demanding a share of the full purchase price of an iPhone for the sake of a single infringing feature. Although a federal jury awarded Smartflash $532.9 million in damages, these were vacated by the trial judge a few months later, however the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said this week that the judge should have ruled Smartflash’s patents invalid and set aside the original verdict entirely. The three-judge panel unanimously declared Smartflash’s patents as “too abstract” and stated that they did not provide enough detail in describing an actual invention.

Apple updates HomeKit page, adds new HomeKit promo video

Apple has updated its iOS Home webpage with a new design and improved layout, while also adding a new “Watch the film” link at the top of the page leading to a short promotional video demonstrating “a day in the life” of a HomeKit user.  The video clip, which runs for about 45 seconds, shows a woman getting out of bed and beginning her day with a “Good morning Siri” command, and then using the iOS 10 Home app and Home panel in the iOS 10 Control Centre to adjust the temperature on a Honeywell Lyric thermostat and trigger scenes such as “Breakfast Time” to start a coffee machine and other appliances attached to iHome SmartPlugs, a “Lock up” scene to lock a door using the KwikSet/Weiser Premis smart lock, and a “Movie time” scene on the Apple TV to dim lights and close blinds in the evening, among others. The new iOS 10 Home page also provides clearer information on the types of accessories that can be controlled by HomeKit along with a link to a page that shows a list of all of the HomeKit accessories that are either currently available or have been announced, along with a list of leading builders offering HomeKit packages for new homes.

Apple signs brief supporting transgender student in Supreme Court case

Apple has joined 52 other companies in signing a Supreme Court brief in support of a transgender boy’s fight over the right to use the school bathroom appropriate to his gender identity, the New York Times reports. The brief is being filed by the Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit organization that advocates for LGBTQ equality, and is asking the Supreme Court to side with transgender student Gavin Grimm in his discrimination case against the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia. Other tech companies that have signed the brief alongside Apple include Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Airbnb, eBay, Intel, LinkedIn, PayPal, Salesforce, Twitter, Yahoo, Yelp, along with several companies from other industries, including Gap, MAC Cosmetics, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Warby Parker and Williams-Sonoma. In a statement announcing the support, Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said “These companies are sending a powerful message to transgender children and their families that America’s leading businesses have their backs.”

Apple releases fourth beta of tvOS 10.2 to developers

Following yesterday’s release of iOS 10.3 and watchOS 3.2 developer betas, Apple has released a fourth beta of tvOS to developers today, continuing development on a new version that will bring features such as accelerated and improved scrolling within apps that present long lists of content, as well as Mobile Device Management support for enterprise and education environments, and support for the new hardware-accelerated VideoToolbox encoding and decoding framework and Apple File System (APFS).

Apple releases fourth betas of iOS 10.3 + watchOS 3.2 to developers

Apple released its fourth betas for both iOS 10.3 and watchOS 3.2 to registered developers today. iOS 10.3 for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch contains the Find My AirPods feature, among other changes, while watchOS 3.2 features the upcoming Theater Mode for Apple Watch. A new public beta for iOS 10.3 should be released in the near future.

Third-party screen repairs no longer void iPhone warranty

Third-party screen replacements no long void an iPhone warranty according to an internal memo recently issued by Apple, MacRumors reports. Until now iPhones with a non-original display weren’t eligible for any warranty repairs. Neither Apple’s standard one-year warrant nor AppleCare+ will cover issues with third-party displays or batteries, but now Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers have been instructed to offer replacements or repairs for in-warranty problems, as long as they’re not specifically issues with the new display itself. There are also a few catches — if the third-party display causes the technician to somehow break the iPhone or otherwise causes the repair process to fail, customers will be required to pay the out-of-warranty cost to replace the broken display, or even the cost of the entire device, if the damage is bad enough.

Apple reports that iOS 10.2.1 significantly reduces unexpected iPhone 6s shutdown issues

In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Apple has indicated that improvements made in iOS 10.2.1 have addressed most of the problems with unexpected shutdowns that some iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s users were experiencing. Apple notes that approximately 50 percent of iOS devices are already using iOS 10.2.1 and that Apple has been receiving diagnostic data from users on that version revealing a reduction of over 80 percent on iPhone 6s devices, and over 70 percent on iPhone 6 devices. Apple notes that in the unlikely event users are still experiencing unexpected shutdowns, with iOS 10.2.1 the iPhone can now restart without needing to be connected to power. In its statement, Apple emphasizes that these shutdowns are not a safety issue, however the company naturally wants to mitigate the inconvenience of the issue for its users. iPhone 7 models are not affected by the issue.

Apple issues statement opposing Trump administration’s rescission of transgender rights

Apple has issued a statement in response to President Donald Trump’s recent decision to rescind protections for transgender students that would have allowed them to use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Trump overruled his own education secretary’s recommendations, siding with his attorney general in a decision to reverse the Obama administration’s interpretation of nondiscrimination laws, stating that the directive was “improperly and arbitrarily devised ... without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.” In a statement to Axios, an Apple spokesperson criticized the Trump administration’s decision, effectively calling it a step back in the rights and acceptance of transgender students.

Apple believes everyone deserves a chance to thrive in an environment free from stigma and discrimination. We support efforts toward greater acceptance, not less, and we strongly believe that transgender students should be treated as equals. We disagree with any effort to limit or rescind their rights and protections.

Apple has long been a supporter of LGBT rights and anti-discrimination in general, getting involved as far back as early 2014 in urging the Governor of Arizona to veto a “religious freedom” bill that would have allowed businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians based on their religious beliefs. In 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook penned an op-ed column for the Washington Post in response to a similar “religious freedom” bill passed in Indiana, declaring such laws as dangerous, and stating that “These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.”

Apple claims EU made ‘fundamental errors’ in calculating $14B Irish tax ruling

Newly published details of Apple’s appeal to the EU over last year’s $14 billion tax judgment reveal the company claims the European commission made “fundamental errors” in calculating the tax bill, The Irish Times reports. Apple cited 14 separate objections to the ruling in the filing made on December 19, 2016, arguing that the commission misinterpreted Irish law, ignored expert testimony, and wrongly attributed income from intellectual property based in the United States to Ireland. After a three-year investigation, the commission ruled that Ireland had dodged international tax rules, letting Apple use its country as a tax shelter for profits from other European nations in exchange for maintaining jobs within the country. [via MacRumors]

Apple releases third betas for iOS 10.3, tvOS 10.2, and watchOS 3.2 to developers

Apple has released a third batch of new betas to developers today — iOS 10.3 for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, tvOS 10.2 for Apple TV, and watchOS 3.2 for Apple Watch. iOS 10.3 contains Find My AirPods support, tvOS 10.2 boasts improved scrolling support, and watchOS 10.2 brings the screen-disabling Theater Mode to the Apple Watch, among other improvements. A public beta for iOS 10.3 should be available in the near future.

Apple plans to begin iPhone manufacturing in India starting with the iPhone SE

Apple is planning to forge ahead with its plans to manufacture iPhone units in India, beginning with the iPhone SE, according to a new report in India’s Economic Times. Citing sources familiar with the company’s plans, the report indicates that Apple will initially assemble 300,000 - 400,000 units of the iPhone SE model at a plant in Karnataka being set up by Wistron, a company that Apple has contracted with for its manufacturing plans in India. Apple is expected to move ahead with its manufacturing plans without waiting for the concessions it has been requesting from the Indian government, with a source suggesting that Apple wants to “experience manufacturing in India.” A senior government official told the Economic Times that this is merely a small venture to get started, and that the concessions Apple is requesting from the country are “for the larger plans of the company to really scale up manufacturing in India.” A source in the contract manufacturing industry indicated that Wistron is ready to begin assembling the iPhones as early as April.

Report: Apple working on 4K for next-generation Apple TV

Apple is planning to release a new Apple TV sometime this year which will include ultra-high-definition 4K support, Bloomberg reports. According to people familiar with the plans, the Apple TV is internally codenamed “J105” and will also feature more vivid colors, but little else is known about the new device. Sources suspect that it may not include any other significant new features beyond the processor upgrade necessary to support the higher 4K resolution.

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