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Report: Next-gen Apple Watch to include FaceTime camera, iPhone-free Wi-Fi

New details from 9to5Mac provide some possible insight into Apple’s direction for the next-generation Apple Watch, said to be on track for a 2016 release. Citing multiple sources “familiar with Apple’s plans,” the report notes that the second-generation of the wearable device is expected to gain a FaceTime camera, greater iPhone independence with a “new wireless system” as well as additional models priced at a higher premium. Despite the new additions, battery life is expected to be similar to the current models.

The built-in camera would allow users to place FaceTime video calls directly via their wrists. An internal initiative named “tether-less” is expected to allow the Watch to operate more independently from an iPhone over Wi-Fi networks, using a more sophisticated wireless chipset that would provide support for basic communication tasks such as sending text messages and emails and receiving updated weather data. The enhanced Wi-Fi capabilities would also enable Apple to implement a “Find my Watch” feature similar to that found on Apple’s other devices, such as the Wi-Fi-only iPad and iPod touch. The report also reveals that Apple has decided based on market research that the majority of current Apple Watch users are satisfied with its battery life and content to charge their devices nightly, and the company is therefore said to be focusing its priorities on simply maintaining or slightly improving battery life in the next-generation model, while adding additional hardware features.

Apple is also reportedly looking into expanding the portfolio of Apple Watch models, focusing on introducing new premium models that will fill the gap between the high-end stainless steel Apple Watch and the gold Apple Watch Edition models, with price points between $1,000 and $10,000. It is unclear, however, whether Apple is looking to expand the Edition lineup with lower-priced variations, create higher-priced stainless steel models with more premium bands, or introduce an entirely new lineup altogether.

Apple again scores high marks from EFF for privacy, transparency

Apple has once again taken top marks in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Who Has Your Back? report, which assesses online service providers’ practices regarding privacy and transparency where government requests for access to user information are concerned. Last year, Apple earned six stars, the maximum score at the time indicating that the company adopted all of what the EFF considered to be best practices in this area.

In the report, the EFF states that it “commend[s] Apple for its strong stance regarding user rights, transparency, and privacy.” This year’s report evaluates companies based on five new criteria: whether the company follows industry-standard best practices, informs users about government data requests, discloses its policies on data retention, discloses content removal requests from government agencies, and has a public policy opposing backdoors for government agencies. Apple earned full marks across all categories, sharing the top spot with other companies such as Adobe, Dropbox, and Yahoo. In contrast, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter came in at four stars, while Amazon, Google, and Microsoft each only received three. The lowest grade this year went to AT&T, which received only one star.

Apple loses anti-competitive lawsuit in Taiwan

Apple has been fined nearly $650,000 after losing an anti-competition lawsuit in Taiwan, Reuters reports. The country’s Fair Trade Commission fined Apple in 2013 for requiring telecom partners to get the company’s approval for iPhone prices, subsidies, advertising content and price differentials between old and new phone models. Under Taiwanese law, once telecoms take possession of a phone, they can set prices however they see fit, the commission said. Apple countersued, but a judge ruled against the company. The commission claims this is the first case of a jurisdiction successfully defeating Apple’s practice of dictating pricing terms to its telecom partners. Apple could still appeal the decision; the company declined to comment when contacted.

Indie labels feeling shut out by Apple Music’s free trial period

Independent record labels are crying foul over Apple’s insistence that they provide their music without being paid during Apple Music’s three-month free trial, The Telegraph reports. British labels for artists like Adele and Arctic Monkeys have rejected Apple’s request for the unpaid trial period and don’t intend to cut a deal that would “literally put people out of business,” according to Andy Heath, chairman of lobbying group UK Music. Apple has confirmed it is paying a slightly higher-than-industry-standard 71.5 percent of revenues to rights holders in the hopes of assuaging doubts about the free trial period, but Heath said that solution misses the point. “If you are running a small label on tight margins you literally can’t afford to do this free trial business,” Heath said. “Their plan is clearly to move people over from downloads, which is fine, but it will mean us losing those revenues for three months.”

Heath confirmed ongoing Apple negotiations with some indie labels, but Billboard reports that others haven’t heard from Apple at all with only two weeks before Apple Music’s launch, leading them to speculate Apple will send out a mass-emailed opt-in contract soon. After a huge push for unique content, Apple Music is viewed as a big threat to Spotify, but if the company can’t lock down indie music rights holders before launch, Spotify could end up with its own advantage.

Apple Watch available for in-store pickup in some US states, UK, Canada, Australia

While you still can’t just walk into an Apple Store unannounced and buy an Apple Watch, starting today you can reserve a watch online for in-store pickup if you live in the U.K., Canada, Australia and some U.S. states. When looking at a specific watch and band combination, Apple’s online store now offers an “Interested in buying in-store?” option accompanied by a link to check availability at Apple Stores in the customer’s area. Apple Watch Sport models with a sport band are available at most Apple Stores, but more expensive models like the Apple Watch with a Milanese loop band seem to be in-stock at far fewer locations. Apple Watch Editions are even available for in-store pickup in ritzier locations like New York City’s Fifth Avenue Apple Store.

Hackers use app to steal passwords, data in iOS and OS X

University researchers have exposed a security flaw in iOS and OS X that lets an installed app exploit Apple’s cross-app resource sharing and communication to steal passwords from other apps and Apple’s Keychain, The Register reports. The team says they were able to upload their malware into an app that successfully passed the App Store’s vetting process. Once the app was downloaded, the researchers were able to raid users’ Keychain to steal passwords for iCloud, the Mail app and anything stored within Google’s Chrome browser. The team was able to steal banking credentials from Chrome, copy photos from WeChat and gain access to popular cloud service Evernote. Nearly 90 percent of a large sample of OS X and iOS apps were found to be “completely exposed” to the attack. Lead researcher Luyi Xing said his team informed Apple of the problem in October 2014 and complied with Apple’s request to hold off publishing the research for 6 months, but hasn’t heard back from the company since delivering an advance copy of the findings to Apple in February. Apple didn’t comment on the story, but Google’s Chromium security team has since removed Keychain integration for Chrome, saying the security flaw probably can’t be solved at the application level. AgileBits, which owns browser extension 1Password, said their company hadn’t found a way to fend off the attacks four months after the team’s disclosure. Since the malware was delivered in an app that got past Apple’s vetting process, the only protection for iOS and OS X users at this point is to scrutinize the developer before downloading an app and be wary of login prompts for things usually handled by Keychain.

Monster: Apple booted us from MFi program over Beats lawsuit

Apple has revoked Monster’s MFi program membership, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Representatives from Monster reported the news, indicating that the move was in retaliation to Monster’s lawsuit against the now-Apple-owned Beats Electronics. Monster has been making licensed accessories under the MFi program since 2005, and many of its accessories have even been sold in Apple’s retail stores. David Tognotti, general counsel for Monster, stated that Apple’s chief litigation counsel advised him that their MFi agreement was being terminated as of May 5 due to their relationship with Apple no longer being “mutually beneficial” and that Monster’s lawsuit against Beats would “destroy the working relationship” between the two companies. Monster has reportedly paid Apple more than $12 million in licensing fees since 2008, and more than 20 percent of the company’s products are produced under the MFi program license. Under the terms of the agreement, Monster will still be able to sell its existing stock of Apple-licensed accessories until September, but will no longer be permitted to manufacture new MFi accessories.

Apple walked away from deal with Uber for same-day deliveries

Apple considered using Uber’s fledgling delivery service in select cities, but instead made a deal with start-up courier Postmates for same-say deliveries, The Wall Street Journal reports. Uber has twice the number of drivers as delivery giant UPS, but the company’s delivery service has stalled, with some customers complaining about Uber’s inability to insure high-priced items. Uber says it is committed to making deliveries, but is still in the early phases of testing new approaches to using its existing infrastructure.

Apple investigated for anti-competitive practices in Canada

Canada’s Competition Bureau is looking into alleged anti-competitive practices in Apple Canada’s contracts with cell phone carriers, The Toronto Star reports. The bureau has filed requests for iPhone sales records from Rogers, Bell and Telus after court-ordered disclosures from Apple Canada last December left bureau investigators dissatisfied, a source says. A judge is expected to rule on the request today, and a bureau spokesman was careful to point out that there is no conclusion of wrongdoing by Apple Canada at this time. If the court finds Apple’s contracts with cell carriers unfairly prevent promotion of competing handsets, the carriers could renegotiate the terms of those deals as those respective contracts with Apple expire. Apple couldn’t be reached for comment.

Apple reveals Apple Music pay distribution

Apple has confirmed it will pay music rights owners slightly more than 70 percent of the revenue from the new Apple Music service, Re/code reports. U.S. music owners will get 71.5 percent of the $10-a-month subscription fees, while international rates are variable but average out to around 73 percent, according to Robert Kondrk, the Apple executive in charge of negotiating music deals. He says Apple’s payments are a few percentage points higher than the industry standard to account for rights holders not being paid during Apple’s three-month free trial of Apple Music, which was a bone of contention with music labels during negotiations.

Report: Apple killed Beats home audio project after acquisition

When Apple acquired Beats Electronics, the company killed a project aimed at creating WiFi-connected speakers that would play subscription music services straight from the Internet, Variety reports. Efforts to create a more complete, room-to-room Beats home listening solution ran into serious problems and delays, leading Apple to scrap it. In related news, Apple recently pulled the Beats Pill XL speaker off its website after a safety recall. The company has offered customers refunds, but no ability to fix or replace affected devices, fueling further speculation that Apple isn’t committed to the Beats hardware brand. Some of the Beats engineers working on the new speaker project have since left the company, and sources say around 50 percent of Beats employees have left or lost their jobs post-acquisition.

iOS 9 keyboard hints at ‘iPad Pro’

A tweet from developer Steve Troughton-Smith shows Apple has made big additions to iOS 9’s keyboard, hinting at the release of a long-rumored 12” iPad. When set to larger resolutions while running iOS 9, the iPad keyboard now adds Tab and Caps Lock keys and an entirely new top row of symbols that’s traditionally found above the numbers on a standard keyboard. Curly braces and a pipe symbol are also added in their usual places, next to the “P” key. The top row of symbols is also duplicated below the numbers on the second keyboard page, which manages to contain enough keys to eliminate the need for the third screen of keys.

Apple is also bringing full support for audio plug-ins to iOS 9, 9to5Mac reports. The support will allow Audio Units effects and instrument apps currently available on OS X to be ported over with only slight changes.

Apple’s retail bag check policies were brought to Cook’s attention

Apple CEO Tim Cook received complains directly from at least two retail employees regarding Apple’s bag search policies, Reuters reports. The Apple retail store policy of checking employees’ bags is at the center of a 2013 lawsuit alleging that the company should compensate employees for the time taken to conduct the searches, which are often done as employees are leaving after their shift has formally concluded.

In a court filing made public on Wednesday, unsealed employee complaints showed messages to Cook suggesting that the precautionary searches are “embarrassing and demeaning” and that Apple managers “are required to treat ‘valued’ employees as criminals.” One employee complaint noted that these searches “are often performed in front of gawking customers,” while another email sent to Cook by a retail worker in Beijing accused Apple of treating its retail employees “as animals” and thieves. Cook had reportedly forwarded the messages to Apple retail and human resources execs asking, “Is this true?” although the filing doesn’t include what responses Cook received to that inquiry, or what further action was taken as a result of it. Denise Young Smith, Apple’s vice president of human resources, however, did make a statement: “If it is simply a deterrent there has to be a more intelligent and respectful way to approach.”  A hearing in the lawsuit is expected to take place on July 2.

iOS 9 code hints at 1080p front camera in future Apple devices

Developer Hamza Sood has tweeted a photo of internal code from the first iOS 9 beta that hints at a 1080p front-facing camera in new Apple devices — possibly the next iPhones. The code suggests the addition of a front flash and support for taking panoramic photos and 240fps slow-motion video. The front camera for current iOS devices tops out at 720p and has no flash. It’s been rumored that Apple’s next iPhones will see a dramatic leap forward in camera technology.

Apple vans collecting Maps data in U.S., England and Ireland

Apple has confirmed that those camera-laden vans seen in public are indeed collecting images for use in Apple Maps. Apple has pledged to respect privacy while collecting its images, blurring faces and license plates before publishing the photos. The vans will be in some larger cities throughout the U.S., England, and Ireland until the end of the month. The push for adding images, combined with the new Transit feature coming in iOS 9 and a contract extension with TomTom, shows Apple is continuing its push to make Maps a viable competitor to Google Maps.

Apple releases iOS 8.4 beta with redesigned Music app

Apple has released its fourth beta of iOS 8.4 to developers. The new iOS 8.4 beta notably includes a redesigned Music app. With Apple Music set to debut on June 30, we should see iOS 8.4 on that date or before.

Apple Music allows for offline listening, lacks complete iTunes library for streaming

Subscribing to Apple Music will allow users to add music and video from the Apple Music library to their collection for offline playback, Re/code reports — the feature is also noted on Apple Music’s Membership page. Apple is also maintaining the support Beats Music had for non-Apple devices, with Windows PC support available for the June 30 launch and Android support due this fall. But the Apple Music streaming library doesn’t include everything in iTunes, as some have been reporting. According to Bloomberg, negotiations are still underway to add notable holdouts, like The Beatles.

watchOS 2 to add Activation Lock

Announced earlier today at WWDC, Apple’s watchOS 2 update for the Apple Watch will also add an Activation Lock feature, as detailed on Apple’s watchOS 2 preview page. Similar in concept to the feature introduced in iOS 7 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, the Apple Watch implementation of Activation Lock will require that users enter their iCloud Apple ID and password to reactivate the Apple Watch after it’s been erased, acting as a theft deterrent and ensuring that user’s confidential information that may be stored on the Watch remains safe. The introduction of the Activation Lock feature on the iPhone resulted in a measurable drop in iPhone theft rates, however a report last month lamented the lack of the important theft deterrent feature on the Apple Watch.

Apple to release ‘Move to iOS’ app for iOS 9

Although it wasn’t mentioned during Apple’s iOS 9 preview earlier today, a section at the bottom of Apple’s iOS 9 page reveals that the company also plans to release an Android migration app. Dubbed “Move to iOS”, the new app will likely be available as a separate download from the App Store as opposed to being bundled into the operating system, and will allow users to wirelessly move “contacts, message history, camera photos and videos, web bookmarks, mail accounts, calendars, wallpaper, and DRM-free songs and books.” The app will also help users “rebuild” their app library by suggesting downloads for free iOS versions of apps that the user had on their Android device, such as Facebook and Twitter, and adding paid apps to the user’s iTunes Wish List.

Apple debuts iOS 9, introduces Proactive Assistant

At its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco today, Apple took the wraps off iOS 9, the next version of its mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. As expected, iOS 9 was introduced primarily as building on the “foundations” of the operating system to improve battery life and stability, however several other new features were demonstrated, most notably improvements to Siri and a new Proactive Assistant feature. The Proactive Assistant will be able to provide more contextually relevant apps and information based on the user’s location and usual routines, such as bringing up an appropriate playlist when the headphones are plugged in during workout times, setting reminders for getting into the car, creating reminders based on the user’s current context such as a web page or iMessage, and automatically adding appointments from emails and looking up phone numbers from incoming calls based on information contained in emails. Search suggestions in Siri and Spotlight also become more contextually relevant based on trends, who the user has contacted, appointments, reminders, and more, and a new search API allows for content to be searched within third-party apps, deep-linked to bring up the specific information searched for directly in the app, along with a backlink to search results.

Passbook has been renamed “Wallet” and Apple Pay has also been enhanced, and in addition to launching in the U.K. in July, support is being added for loyalty and reward cards from a wide variety of stores, which will be presented based on location. The Notes app has also received a number of enhancements including a toolbar with formatting options for styles, a new feature to add checklists in Notes, and improvements to importing photos directly into Notes. A new drawing mode has also been added to allow users to sketch in Notes, and the iOS 9 Share Sheet will allow items such as web page links to be easily added to Notes as rich links. A new attachments view will also allow users to quickly see a list of attachments in Notes and access them directly from that view.

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