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Apple Store app gains new ‘Sessions’ section

Apple has released a significant update to its Apple Store app, promising users “a more personal, relevant in-store experience” with recommendations for products and in-store training sessions. The highlight of the update is a new “Sessions” tab which allows users to more easily find daily sessions be held in local Apple Stores on creative subjects such as photography and music, and sessions can be filtered based on the products that a user already owns. Users can also now view stock levels for their favorite products, and scan accessories using their iPhone in-store to get more information on a product, including information such as device compatibility. New order management features also allow users to view invoices, edit shipping details and custom engraving messages, and cancel individual items in an order — all capabilities that previously required a visit to Apple’s website.

Apple confirms fix is in the works for bug that allows Siri to access hidden notifications

In a statement provided to MacRumors, Apple has confirmed that it already has a fix underway for a bug reported earlier this week in which Siri could bypass privacy restrictions on third-party messaging apps, allowing for otherwise hidden messages to be read aloud, even when an iPhone is locked.

Apple up to 45 vehicles in its fleet of self-driving cars as Uber crash casts shadow on the industry

Apple has grown its fleet of self-driving cars from just three when the program started in April 2017 to a whopping 45 as of its most recent filings, The Financial Times reports. Those filings for legal purposes are the only indication Apple has given that the program even exists, and even sources inside the company still aren’t sure what final form of self-driving technology Apple may eventually offer to consumers, if any. Since Apple is so secretive about the project, it’s also unclear if the company has made any changes after a self-driving Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian earlier this week. Like Uber, Apple requires a human operator inside the vehicle during testing for safety purposes, but it’s unclear if the Uber driver even had time to react to the pedestrian who was killed. Uber has temporarily suspended its own testing in wake of the death, but preliminary reports seem to indicate the pedestrian was at fault in the accident.

Democrats interested in Apple’s download records on Trump administration officials

A memo released last week by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee could put Congress on a legal collision course with Apple if Democrats take back the House of Representatives, The Intercept reports. On page 20 of the document protesting the Republican decision to end the HIC’s Russian collusion inquiry, the Democrats proposed the committee go after Apple’s “records reflecting downloaded encrypted messaging apps for certain key individuals” of interest in the investigation. Encrypted communications app WhatsApp is another target of the proposed inquiry, but the Democrats won’t have subpoena power over any of the companies in question if they can’t manage to flip the House in November.

Apple announces education-focused event for March 27

Apple has announced that it will be holding an education-related event at a Chicago high school on March 27, Bloomberg reports. While specific details are vague, the choice to hold this event away from the usual vicinity of its Cupertino campus makes it a particularly unusual one. The invitation for the March 27 event simply notes that Apple will share “creative new ideas for teachers and students” and lists the location as Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago. It’s been several years since Apple has made any major announcements specifically targeted at the education market; the company held a similarly-themed education event in New York City in 2012, where it unveiled the iBooks Author tool, digital textbooks from major publishers on the iBookstore, and the advent of iTunes U as a standalone app targeted at handling online courses.

Apple’s new ‘Families’ page provides a unified collection of tips for parents

Apple has set up a new Families page on its website providing a one-stop collection of tips on all of the parental controls and other options that are available to support parents in helping their kids use their Apple devices safely and responsibly. The new page appears following recent concerns from investors that the company hasn’t been doing enough to protect children from the negative effects of increased device use, and the new Families page emphasis the efforts Apple has put into designing its products with families in mind, noting that the company has “put a lot of thought into helping parents choose what their kids can do with their devices.”

Apple announces WWDC 2018

Apple has officially announced details for its 29th Annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which will be held from June 4 – 8, 2018, once again at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. While this year’s announcement comes about a month late compared to WWDC 2017, registration has already opened today, two weeks earlier than last year. The opportunity to purchase tickets will once again be offered by random selection, and only those who are members of the Apple Developer Program as of today will be eligible to register for the conference, and registration will close on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. PDT.

Apple manufacturing partner building new assembly site in India

Apple manufacturing partner Wistron has secured the land to build a new assembly facility in the south Indian state of Karnataka, Reuters reports. The move could signal an expansion of Apple’s use of facilities in India to manufacture its products, as Wistron claims the facility will be used to create “smartphones, internet of things (IOT) products and bio-tech devices,” according to government filings. The new plant is expected to create around 6,000 jobs in the country, with local employment and resourcing serving as the enticement that has allowed Apple to gain increased access to the larger Indian electronics market.

Apple orders animated series from ‘Bob’s Burgers’ creator

Apple has added a comedy cartoon to its slate of upcoming TV programming, Variety reports. The show — called “Central Park” — comes from Loren Bouchard (creator of the hit series “Bob’s Burgers”) and has been given a two-season order. The musical comedy will be written by Bouchard, Josh Gad, and Nora Smith, and centers around a family of caretakers who live and work in Central Park. The show will also include Gad’s voice talents, alongside other stars like Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, and Titus Burgess.

Apple Maps adds bike sharing locations

Apple has quietly added bike-sharing data to Apple Maps, TechCrunch reports. Through a partnership with Ito World, the data includes locations for bike-sharing points from several different providers in over 175 cities across 36 countries. Users will be able to search for the nearest stations in any supported city simply by typing “bike sharing” or the name of the specific service, such as “BIXI.” While Apple Maps has had limited bike-sharing data previously, this new partnership provides a much larger data set than Apple was able to put together in-house, and allows Apple to benefit from Ito World’s data as more companies are added in the future.

Apple acquires digital magazine subscription service Texture

Apple has announced a deal to acquire digital magazine subscription service Texture from Next Issue Media LLC. The service charges users a flat monthly subscription fee and delivers unlimited access to more than 200 magazines, including People, Vanity Fair, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, and The New Yorker. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but Apple’s services head Eddy Cue said the company is “committed to quality journalism from trusted sources and allowing magazines to keep producing beautifully designed and engaging stories for users.”

Apple releases 12th annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report

Apple has announced its annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, providing insight into the company’s efforts to improve working conditions at its supplier facilities and protect the environment. Highlights of the report include the training of three million supplier employees on worker rights in the past year, the launch of health programs specifically targeted at female employees with a goal of training one million more women by 2020, and the repayment of $1.9 million in excessive recruitment fees to 1,558 people affected by bonded labor. While not to be confused with Apple’s Environmental Responsibility Reports, the Supplier Responsibility report does also cover environmental initiatives within the supply chain, including the expansion of zero waste to landfill efforts to India, deployment of alternative green cleaners in final assembly facilities, and a 37 percent average wastewater reuse rate with freshwater savings of 5.1 billion gallons.

Report: Analyst predicts lower-cost MacBook Air coming in second quarter

Well-respected KGI analyst is telling investors to expect Apple to release a more affordable 13” MacBook Air some time in the first half of the year, MacRumors reports. Kuo said the new MacBook Air “with a lower price tag” will land in the second quarter, but how much lower the price will be than the current $999 price tag for the current 13” MacBook Air isn’t clear. While Apple released new offerings in the MacBook Pro line in 2016, the MacBook Air has only received a minor processor upgrade since 2014, and the MacBook line essentially displaced the Air with a slimmer design in 2015. Kuo doesn’t speak to what kinds of hardware improvements would be featured in the new MacBook Air, but there is plenty of room for improvement since the current model is underpowered in just about every area compared to Apple’s other MacBooks, including processors, graphics and displays.

Apple testifies before Canadian Parliamentary Committee on iPhone slowdown issue

Representatives from Apple Canada appeared voluntarily before a Canadian Parliamentary Committee yesterday to respond to the recent scandal surrounding the slowing down of older iPhone models, the CBC reports. Answering questions from House of Commons’ standing committee on industry, science, and technology, Apple’s Canadian manager of legal and government affairs, Jacqueline Famulak, maintained that Apple did not intend for customers to think that it was being secretive regarding the reasons behind the slowing down of older iPhones. While Apple has continued to maintain that it made the decision to avoid unexpected shutdowns and thereby extend the life of older iPhone models, many consumers have accused Apple of a deliberate attempt to push customers to upgrade to newer iPhone models.

Apple launching its own medical clinics for employees

Apple has quietly rolled out a website that reveals the company will begin offering employees direct health care through its own in-house AC Wellness clinics starting this spring, CNBC reports. Joining the ranks of companies like Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan that have created similar ventures, Apple is working on staffing at least two clinics, with job postings for primary care doctors, exercise coaches, lab technicians and other more nebulous roles like “care navigator.” Apple was rumored to be interested in purchasing Crossover Health — the start-up that currently provides much of the Apple’s in-house clinic services — but has since scaled back its contracts with the company in favor of starting its own venture.

Apple hires Narcos, Hannibal producer Carol Trussell as Head of Production

Apple has hired seasoned producer Carol Trussell to serve as Head of Production in its Worldwide Video Programming division, Deadline reports. Trussell, who is scheduled to start next month, come to Apple from Gaumont Television, where she has been Head of Production for the past four years, overseeing a number of well-known series’ such as “Narcos”, “Hannibal”, “Hemlock Grove” and “F is for Family.” Prior to joining Gaumont, Trussell served as a product on the first season of “Hannibal” and was previously also a producer on other series’ including “Roswell”, “True Blood”, “Unnatural History” and “What About Brian.”

Report: Apple planning upgraded AirPods for later this year

Apple is currently working on two significant upgrades to the AirPods, according to a new report from Bloomberg, suggesting that Apple intends to regularly release updates to the wireless headphones. According to people familiar with the matter, a new model of AirPods could be coming as early as later this year which would include an upgraded wireless chip and “Hey Siri” support for calling up Siri without the need to physically tap the headphones. Apple also already reportedly has a subsequent model in the design stages for 2019, which would add water resistance.

New Apple TV trademark filing may indicate stronger gaming focus

A new trademark filing discovered by Patently Apple suggests that Apple may have plans for a stronger push into next-generation gaming technology for its set-top box. According to the report, Apple has updated its logo trademark for the Apple TV to expand its scope into all things related to gaming; Apple’s Trademark filing 87801324 was filed solely under class 028, which specifically covers “video game consoles; controllers for game consoles; video output games, namely, video output game machines for use with televisions; apparatus for electronic games adapted for use with an external display screen or monitor.”

Apple posts video with behind-the-scenes look at Portrait Lighting

Apple has shared a new video on its YouTube channel providing a brief behind-the-scenes look at how the company developed the Portrait Lighting feature for the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus, ranging from studying classic portraiture, bringing in top artists and photographers, and incorporating established lighting principles to build the machine learning algorithms used for the new photography feature.

Apple in talks to buy its cobalt directly from the mining companies

Apple is looking to buy the cobalt used in its batteries directly from the mining companies who dig it up, Bloomberg reports. Apple is one of the largest consumers of the metal—used in the batteries that power its gadgets—but is looking to go directly to the source for the first time amid rising competition from the burgeoning electric vehicle industry. People familiar with the matter said Apple is trying “to secure several thousand metric tons of cobalt a year for five years or longer” in discussions that have been going on for more than a year. While Apple may just stick with relying on its battery manufacturers and scrap the direct buying route, plenty of other companies are going straight to the source. BMW, Volkswagen and Samsung are all working on deals with mining companies to secure their sources, with some signing deals that extend for a decade or more.

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