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Apple releases iOS 9.3 with Night Shift, Notes + CarPlay improvements, much more

Apple officially announced the release of iOS 9.3 today during the company’s special event in Cupertino, and the update is now available. Originally released in January to developers, and then later as part of the company’s public beta program, iOS 9.3 is an unusually feature-packed update for a point iOS release, as we observed in our early analysis of the betas.

Apple reduces iPad Air 2 pricing to $399, drops 128GB model

With today’s unveiling of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Apple has dropped the pricing of the iPad Air 2 to $399 and $499 for the 16GB and 64GB versions, respectively. The 128GB version of the iPad Air 2 has also been removed from the lineup, forcing users who want a larger-capacity 9.7-inch iPad to opt for the new iPad Pro instead — albeit it for only $50 more than the 128GB iPad Air 2 previously sold for. The new pricing actually puts the iPad Air 2 pricing on par with the iPad Mini 4, although the smaller tablet retains its 128GB version at $599. All models continue to be available in both Wi-Fi only versions, or Wi-Fi + Cellular versions for an additional $130.

Apple unveils 9.7-inch iPad Pro, adds 256GB capacities to Pro lineup

Apple has announced a new 9.7-inch version of its iPad Pro, essentially upgrading the standard-sized iPad tablet to a “Pro” model, with features matching the 12.9-inch version debuted last fall. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro will include the same features as its larger counterpart, including the 64-bit A9X CPU and M9 motion coprocessor, support for the Apple Pencil and a new, smaller-sized version of the Apple Smart Keyboard, while the new screen is both a “Wide color display” and “True Tone Display,” the latter of which will automatically measure the color temperature of ambient light to produce a natural paper-white color under any set of lighting conditions.

Apple announces four-inch iPhone SE starting at $399

As expected from recent reports, Apple today announced the new 4-inch iPhone SE. Apple VP Greg Joswiak took the stage to highlight the new addition to the company’s iPhone lineup, explaining that, despite the popularity of larger-screened iPhone models, a market for a 4-inch iPhone still exists, as “some people love smaller phones” and many users are still new to the iPhone entirely, especially in markets such as China.

Apple formally unveils tvOS 9.2 update

Apple has officially announced the availability of tvOS 9.2, a new feature update for the company’s fourth-generation Apple TV. First released to developers in January, tvOS 9.2 adds several new features for Apple TV users, including support for using Siri for dictation into text fields — including speaking or spelling out passwords — as well as for searching the tvOS App Store. The update also adds the ability to organize apps into home screen folders, similar to the folder implementation on iOS devices, support for Live Photos taken on the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and new iPhone SE, and the ability to access a user’s entire iCloud Photo Library from the set-top box. tvOS 9.2 is expected to be available later today.

Apple reduces Apple Watch pricing, debuts new Apple Watch bands

Today at Apple’s special event in Cupertino, CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple is reducing the price of entry for the Apple Watch to $299, which will become the new price of the 38mm Sport Edition. The 42mm Sport Edition will now be priced at $349. The price reduction affects only the Sport Edition models — the various stainless steel versions remain in the $549 to $1049 range, depending on band selection.

Cook also announced a new selection of Apple Watch bands, including a woven nylon band series, as well as new colors for the sport and leather bands, and a new space black Milanese Loop band. Interestingly, Cook claimed that “about a third” of Apple Watch users regularly change their watch bands.

Supreme Court to review $548M judgment against Samsung for Apple patent infringement

The U.S. Supreme Court will review a judge’s decision to award Apple $548 million in damages from Samsung in a patent infringement case, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple had hoped the Supreme Court wouldn’t get involved, arguing that the lower court had appropriately assessed the fines. The Cupertino company also deemed the case “legally unexceptional” despite the high dollar amount involved. A federal appeals court upheld the awarded damages last December, but the Supreme Court will now hear Samsung’s appeal that the 1887 law cited is “outdated and too punitive for modern products such as a smartphone.” A jury ruled that basic design elements of certain Samsung smartphones were too close to Apple’s iPhone design, but Samsung argues that those design aspects don’t affect the functionality of the phone. [via Apple Insider]

Report: Apple experiencing ‘internal conflicts’ over use of customer data

Former Apple employees told Reuters that an admired and feared trio of employees internally known as “privacy czars” exercises extreme control over privacy standards set forth by CEO Tim Cook, sometimes standing in the way of profitable new expansions to the company’s business model. One of these “czars” is Jane Horvath, a lawyer who previously served as Google’s global privacy counsel, focuses on legal and regulatory requirements after being hired to formalize privacy practices in the wake of 2011’s “locationgate” scandal. She works alongside Guy Tribble, vice president of software technology and a member of the original Macintosh team who is venerated by other Apple employees for his ties to Steve Jobs. Tribble devotes substantial amounts of his time to working closely with engineers on privacy issues, as does rising Apple star Erik Neuenschwander, who has been known to review individual lines of code to ensure engineers are following through on privacy agreements.

Follow our live coverage of today’s Apple event

Be sure to follow @iLounge on Twitter for our live coverage and analysis of everything that happens on stage during Apple’s latest event today. We’re expecting to see the new 4” iPhone SE, a 9.7” version of the iPad Pro, and some new Apple Watch bands. Who knows what other surprises Apple may have in store? Following the event, we’ll have all the details on the company’s latest products here on iLounge.com, so check back regularly this afternoon. Apple’s “Let us loop you in” event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. EST), and it will be streaming live on Apple’s website and Apple TV’s Special Events channel.

Researchers exploit iMessage bug to decrypt photos and videos

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University discovered a bug in Apple’s iMessage software which allowed them to decrypt photos and video sent through the secure messaging service, The Washington Post reports. Apple says it partially addressed the problem with the release of iOS 9 last fall and will fully fix the issue with the release of iOS 9.3. “We appreciate the team of researchers that identified this bug and brought it to our attention so we could patch the vulnerability,” Apple said in a statement. “Security requires constant dedication and we’re grateful to have a community of developers and researchers who help us stay ahead.”

Airline passenger’s iPhone 6 catches fire mid-flight

The FAA and Alaska Airlines are investigating after a passenger’s iPhone 6 burst into flames during a flight, ABC News reports. Anna Crail claimed she was watching a movie on the phone when flames began shooting out of the device. “All of the sudden there was like 8-inch flames coming out of my phone,” Crail said. “And I flipped it off onto the ground and it got under someone’s seat, and the flames were just getting higher and a bunch of people stood up.”

Apple engineers may quit if ordered to unlock iPhone for FBI

Some employees at Apple may refuse or even quit if they are forced to unlock the San Bernardino iPhone, The New York Times reports. A number of Apple employees are said to be discussing their options if Apple is ordered by law enforcement authorities to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone in the current high-profile FBI case, with several suggesting they may even quit their high-paying jobs as opposed to undermining the security of the software that they designed. The New York Times interviewed several Apple employees, including engineers involved in the design and security of iOS, in addition to former security engineers and executives. Many of those interviewed echoed the arguments that Apple itself has made in its own legal documents — that their free speech is being impinged upon by an order to perform tasks that they would consider personally offensive. In Apple’s own final court brief, the company’s lawyers wrote that “Such conscription is fundamentally offensive to Apple’s core principles and would pose a severe threat to the autonomy of Apple and its engineers.” The interviews also shine a light on the internal culture of Apple, which reportedly retains the very anti-establishment views of its original co-founders, Jobs and Wozniak, something that venture capitalist and former Apple engineering manager Jean-Louis Gassée describes as “an independent culture and a rebellious one,” and adding that “if the government tries to compel testimony or action from these engineers, good luck with that.”

Apple releases Apple Events app on Apple TV for Monday’s event

In advance of Monday’s event, Apple has released its Apple Events channel as a standalone tvOS app for the new fourth-generation Apple TV. While the app doesn’t yet appear to be prominently featured on the tvOS App Store, it can be located via search, and provides functionality similar to the built-in app that automatically appeared on prior-generation Apple TVs.

With the new App Store model, Apple will presumably no longer be “pushing” the Apple Events app to the fourth-generationApple TV home screen — users will have to go and download it specifically if they want to watch Apple events live. Notably, prior generation Apple TV models do not appear to have the Apple Events channel available as of yet; it’s unclear whether Apple intends to exclude these devices from the stream, or whether the channel is simply yet to appear at some point before Monday’s event.

Apple denies receiving unfair tax breaks in Ireland

In testimony before a panel of European Union lawmakers, Apple argued that it pays all the taxes it owes in Ireland and doesn’t get unfair tax breaks there compared to other companies, Bloomberg reports. The company’s tax deal with Ireland has been under EU investigation since June 2014, over claims that the special arrangements “constituted illegal state support for the companies.” Cathy Kearney, a vice-president of the iPhone maker’s European operations in Cork, Ireland, said, “We feel that we’ve paid every cent of tax that is due in Ireland. We don’t feel that there has been state aid involved and I suppose we look forward to that outcome happening at the end of the day and being vindicated in that way. I would say that the Irish government also agrees with that view.”

Apple working on stronger, passcode-based iCloud encryption

Alongside redoubled efforts to strengthen iOS security, Apple is trying to make iCloud encryption so tough that the company won’t be able hand over information to law enforcement, but has concerns that such strong encryption could be a detriment to users who forget their passcodes, The Wall Street Journal reports. Apple’s current iCloud backups are encrypted, but not tied to a user’s unique passcode, so authorities can access content users back up this way with relative ease. Over the years Apple has provided police with information tied to a variety of court cases, but after FBI demands that Apple build a way to crack a terrorist’s iPhone, the company is faced with the possibility that it could be asked to hack into its own security systems. Tim Cook has reportedly told colleagues that he continues to stand by Apple’s goals to encrypt everything stored on Apple devices and online services, including iCloud. So in response to FBI pressure, Apple wants to re-engineer the iCloud backups with encryption based on each user’s passcode, making the company unable to decrypt the data without the proper passcode. That would take the keys out of Apple’s hands when the government comes asking for information, but it would also leave users who forget their passcode without a viable option for retrieving their personal data, leaving Apple in something of a quandary over how far it’s willing to inconvenience users in order to make its products more secure. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple releases iOS 9.3 beta 7

Apple recently released the seventh beta for its upcoming iOS 9.3 update. The new beta was released to both developers and public beta testers. With an iOS 9.3 final public release expected to come as early as next week, it’s already surprising that Apple has released a seventh beta installment. Although the release notes are sparse, it’s safe to assume that this seventh beta predominantly includes bug fixes and minor optimizations to tighten up iOS 9.3 before its final release. Apple also released a seventh watchOS 2.2 beta to developers. Anything particularly noteworthy will be found in a future update of our Inside the betas piece.

Apple reaches deal to bring remixes, DJ mixes to Apple Music

Apple has made a deal with Dubset Media Holdings to bring remixes and DJ mixes featuring popular songs to Apple Music, Billboard reports. With the rise of electronic dance music, copyright issues have presented a major hurdle to bringing user generated mash-ups and hour-long mixes to streaming services. Dubset has solved that problem with a proprietary technology that analyzes a file and identifies recordings inside it to properly pay both record labels and music publishers for the song’s use.

Apple to testify about EU tax deals

Apple will testify tomorrow before European Union officials, defending the company’s tax deals in Europe as lawmakers increase pressure on multinationals to pay more taxes on local profits, Reuters reports. While the European Parliament tax committee holding the inquiry has no power to order changes, the hearing reflects growing discontent over large companies avoiding local tax liabilities. Google, McDonald’s and IKEA will also take part in the hearing, while Starbucks and Fiat turned down the invitation over on-going legal squabbles with the EU over taxation. Apple’s tax deal with Ireland is still under EU review, but the company has repeatedly stated that it complies with all EU tax rules.

Apple adding ‘native’ ads that look like articles to News app

A new Apple technical document shows that sponsored “native” ads which look like news stories are coming soon to your News app feed. The new ads “display directly in the content feeds, inline with News articles.” They’ll feature the same title, text excerpt and small image fields, with the only thing setting them apart from news content being the “Sponsored” tag at the bottom of the story. Apple says the new ads “are intended to blend in with their surroundings” and will be set to display in the same font used for news stories. The sponsor can include its name in the disclaimer at the bottom of the ad or opt out, leaving only the word “Sponsored” in the space below.

Apple SVP pledges to improve App Store category algorithms

Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller has pledged to look into complaints that contend certain Apple Store algorithms are broken. Schiller responded on Twitter after two developers sent him a screenshot illustrating how the company’s categories in Canada and other countries sort apps, piling apps with names beginning in a number at the top of the heap and stacking similarly-named apps together to push other legitimate apps out of the top spots. Screenshot++ developer Wesley Dyson told Schiller, “Rip-off apps should never be showcased by Apple,” which prompted Schiller’s response. [via 9to5Mac]

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