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Mophie releases new lineup of Powerstations with Lightning inputs

Mophie has announced a new lineup of power packs designed exclusively for Apple devices, featuring an Apple Lightning connector for power input as opposed to the more traditional micro USB port. The new powerstation models allow users to use a standard Lightning cable to recharge the battery pack, avoiding the need to pack an additional cable when travelling, since the same cable can also be used to charge an iPhone, iPad, or iPod directly. The new battery packs are available in four different configurations: the standard powerstation and powerstation plus each provide 6,040 mAh of power with two USB ports, with the base model priced at $60 and the plus model replacing a USB port with a built-in Lightning connector and priced at $80. Powerstation plus XL sports a 10,000 mAh battery and features a built-in Lighting connector and single USB port, while the powerstation XXL provides 20,200 mAh of capacity with three USB ports; both models sell for $100. The powerstation plus XL also uniquely features the ability to recharge wirelessly from any Qi-enabled charging pad. The new lineup is available exclusively from Mophie’s web site and in Apple Stores.

WeMo Mini adds direct HomeKit support via software update

Belkin has released a software update for is WeMo Mini smart switch that retroactively adds HomeKit support to the smart plug, CNET reports. What’s especially interesting about this update is that it represents the first sofware-only HomeKit implementations to arrive since Apple opened up the possibility last year at WWDC. Previously, HomeKit accessories have required a hardware security chip to integrate with Apple’s home automation ecosystem, requiring many vendors to either release entirely new accessories or provide HomeKit bridges to act as gateways. Belkin in fact released its own WeMo bridge earlier this year to tie in all of its existing WeMo accessories, but now thanks to Apple’s new software protocols, the WeMo Mini can simply be updated to allow it to tie into HomeKit without any requirement to use the bridge. It’s unclear how many other WeMo accessories will be getting the HomeKit software treatment, although the company tells CNET that it’s considering updating the WeMo Dimmer, in the very least. We’ll be putting the newly HomeKit-enabled WeMo Mini smart plug through its paces in the next couple of days, so stay tuned for a more in-depth look at how it all fits together.

Apple may be tightening USB Restricted Mode in latest iOS 12 beta

A new report from AppleInsider suggests that Apple may be tightening its new USB Restricted Mode even more, following a report last week that security researchers had found a loophole that could be used to work around the new security feature. While we have been unable to reproduce this in our own testing, according to AppleInsider, the fourth beta of iOS 12 has now removed the one-hour window during which a USB data device can be connected to an iPhone, basically requiring users to unlock their iPhone each and every time a computer or other USB data accessory is connected. The restriction still doesn’t appear to apply to Apple USB chargers or audio accessories such as Apple’s own Lighting EarPods, although some non-Apple charging and audio devices may still be affected depending on how they communicate with the Lightning port.

Doorbell category vanishes from Apple’s U.S. HomeKit page

Apple appears to have removed the “Doorbell” category entirely from its U.S. HomeKit accessories page, according to a report from 9to5Mac. The category previously featured the August Doorbell Cam with HomeKit support “coming soon.” August promised over two years ago to offer a retroactive update to is original August Doorbell Cam, however the company never said anything further about the feature after that, and the feature was conspicuously missing when the upgraded [August Doorbell Cam Pro][4] was released last year. Ring also promised earlier this year that HomeKit support would still be coming, despite its acquisition by Amazon. It’s unclear why Apple has removed the category, but it seems clear that for whatever reasons, Apple and its partners have been struggling to deliver on HomeKit integration for doorbell cameras, despite the otherwise expanding HomeKit ecosystem, which already includes several normal security cameras. The change also currently only appears to affect Apple’s U.S. HomeKit page — both the category and the August Doorbell Cam remain listed on the HomeKit accessories page in several other countries, including Canada, Australia, and the U.K., although it’s uncertain whether this is truly a U.S. specific change or Apple simply hasn’t updated the page in other countries yet.

Higher-power iPhone charger will only be available initially with new iPhones

Following reports earlier this year that Apple is likely to begin including a higher-power, 18 watt USB-C power adapter with 2018 iPhone models, [Mac Otakara] (via 9to5Mac) now reports that due to supply constraints, the new adapter will only be available bundled with the actual iPhone models, and not initially available to be purchased separately. According to the Mac Otakara report, Apple’s manufacturing partners will be running at full capacity just to make the adapters to be packaged with the new iPhone models, leaving no room for additional adapters to be produced. Of course, the upcoming 18 watt adapter is far from the only USB-C adapter capable of charging newer iPhones at full speed; Apple’s own 29W USB-C power adapter is already sold separately, and there are a large number of third party adapters already available, so the lack of initial availability of the new adapter shouldn’t be a problem.

Instagram moving away from SMS two-factor authentication

Instagram is building a non-SMS-based two-factor authentication system in response to increased efforts by hackers, TechCrunch reports. Since phone numbers can be stolen by hackers with relative ease — as outlined by Motherboard, all it takes is convincing a carrier customer service rep to port the number to a new SIM card — Instagram accounts have been prime targets for hackers since a password can be reset with only an SMS message. To defend against these sort of attacks, Instagram has told TechCrunch that it will be building a more modern two-factor authentication system that will use one-time passwords that can be generated by apps like Google Authenticator or 1Password. The social media network has been historically slow to adopt stronger authentication methods, not even implementing two-factor authentication at all until 2016 — long after most other social media networks had already adopted even more secure methods, but sadly only relied on basic SMS authentication, leaving the service vulnerable to SIM porting attacks. While Instagram is not alone in using SMS as a second authentication factor, it is one of the few major services that offers that as the sole option.

Apple has already stopped signing iOS 11.4, blocking downgrades

With last week’s release of iOS 11.4.1, Apple has already stopped signing the prior version, 9to5Mac reports, effectively preventing users from downgrading, despite the relatively minor changes in the iOS 11.4.1 release. Since downgrading is normally only an issue for users looking to jailbreak an iOS device, Apple’s move to quickly stop signing the older version may indicate that there are deeper security fixes under the hood in iOS 11.4.1.

Apple seeds fourth developer betas of iOS 12, tvOS 12 + watchOS 5

Apple has released a fourth set of betas to registered developers for iOS 12 and tvOS 12, following the usual two-week cycle after the release of the last betas earlier this month. iOS 12 beta 4 features a build number of 16A5327f and is accompanied by release notes outlining resolved issues from the last beta, including fixes to the Activity, Calendar, Phone, and FaceTime apps, as well as fixes to Screen Time, Siri, and Spotlight, among other smaller under-the-hood improvements.

Former Apple engineer pleads not guilty of stealing trade secrets

Former Apple Project Titan engineer Xiaolang Zhang has pled not guilty on the charge of stealing trade secrets from Apple, Reuters reports. Zhang was formally indicted last week on a single count of trade secret theft on the allegation that he had stolen a 25-page blueprint for an autonomous vehicle circuit board. The indictment followed an investigation by Apple’s Product Security Team and the FBI reported last week, with an FBI agent filing describing the circumstances around the charge and Zhang’s arrest as he was boarding a flight to China. At a hearing yesterday in San Jose, Zhang pled not guilty, and has retained his own lawyer who has declined by comment on the case. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California also declined to comment beyond simply acknowledging the indictment.

Lumen releases world’s first pocket-sized ‘metabolism hacking’ device

Digital health and wellness company Lumen has announced a new pocket-sized device that promises to deliver weight management and performance data simply by analyzing a user’s breath. The new pocket-sized device monitors a user’s metabolism by analyzing the amount of CO2 and other gases exhaled by the user, sending the data to a companion iOS app that uses an AI engine to determine whether users are burning carbs or fat for energy and provide immediate nutritional guidance and real-time insights from that data, building a nutrition plan that’s personalized for each user’s metabolism. Plans can be customized to help users lose weight, optimize workouts, or reach other health and fitness goals. Lumen’s eponymous product was developed in partnership with renowned design company frog to provide a premium luxury user experience in a portable device that can be taken anywhere for use on-the-go, and has been in testing since 2017, where the company notes that more than 300 beta testers hav already lost an average of 6.8 pounds in 30 days by following Lumen’s tailored recommendations.

Instapaper parts ways with Pinterest to go it on its own

Popular offline reading and bookmarking service Instapaper has announced that it will be leaving Pinterest to go its own way, only two years after the social media platform acquired it in August of 2016. Instapaper was one of the first apps on the App Store back in 2008, developed by Marco Arment who is more recently best known for the very popular podcasting app, Overcast. Arment sold Instapaper to Digg parent company Betaworks in 2013, and the service was later acquired by Pinterest a few years later. Today’s announcement notes that ownership will be transferred to a new company, Instant Paper, Inc., which is owned and operated by the development team that’s been building and supporting the app since it left the original developer’s hands in the 2013 acquisition. In the announcement, the Instapaper team emphasizes that not much will change in terms of the user experience, since the same team will be working on it, but now separate from the umbrella of Pinterest.

Apple shows off new emoji coming in iOS 12

In honour of World Emoji Day, Apple is providing a teaser of the new emoji that will be coming in iOS 12 as part of the Unicode 11.0 spec. Among the more than 70 new emoji characters being introduced will be a whole slew of additional options for representing people, including red hair, gray hair, curly hair, and no hair, new smiley faces that will include a cold face, party face, pleading face, and a face with hearts. New animal emoji will include a kangaroo, peacock, parrot, and lobster, and new food emoji will include a mango, lettuce, cupcake, and moon cake, alongside many others, including sports emoji, symbol emoji, superhero emoji, and more.

Apple loses key executives in India

Apple has recently lost three key executives in India, slowing down efforts to grow its business in the country, Bloomberg reports. Specifically, the head of national sales and distribution, the head of commercial channels and mid-market business, and the head of telecom carrier sales have all left Apple in recent weeks, reflecting Apple’s continuing struggle to expand its iPhone business in India. Sources familiar with the matter say that Apple’s Indian sales team is now being restructured to try to refocus its strategy. Apple has struggled with Indian regulators and high import tariffs since it began selling a locally produced iPhone SE last year, and while the Indian government has more recently relaxed its rules, Apple’s market share remains in the single digits, despite the fast-growing Indian smartphone market. Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly made very positive comments about the inroads Apple is making into India, however the numbers themselves seem to be growing at a much slower pace than many had expected, which according to sources is a result of struggling to build business relationships in the country and gain a better understanding of the Indian consumer market.

Adobe launching full Photoshop for iPad next year

Adobe is planning to shift its mobile app strategy once again with a full release of Photoshop for iPad, Bloomberg reports. The move, which is part of an effort to make its products available across as many device as possible and thereby boost subscription sales, would see a new full-featured Photoshop app unveiled at Adobe’s MAX creative conference in October, with the app scheduled to be released in 2019. The information comes from undisclosed sources, and engineering delays could still alter the timeline, however Adobe’s Chief Product Officer of Creative Cloud, Scott Belsky, did confirm that the company is working on a new cross-platform iteration of Photoshop, but declined to comment on when the new versions would be launched. “My aspiration is to get these on the market as soon as possible,” Belsky said in an interview. “There’s a lot required to take a product as sophisticated and powerful as Photoshop and make that work on a modern device like the iPad. We need to bring our products into this cloud-first collaborative era.”

Apple joins with suppliers to create China Clean Energy Fund

Apple has announced that it will be joining with its Chinese suppliers to create a $300 million investment fund for a new environmental project to connect suppliers with renewable energy sources. The China Clean Energy Fund will work over the next four years to invest in and develop clean energy projects with a goal of producing more than one gigawatt of renewable energy in China — equal to the energy required to power about one million homes. The new fund will help suppliers deal with the complexities of transitioning to clean energy by leveraging greater purchasing power, and will be managed through a third party, DWS Group, a company specializing in sustainable investments. ”At Apple, we are proud to join with companies that are stepping up to address the climate challenge,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. “We’re thrilled so many of our suppliers are participating in the fund and hope this model can be replicated globally to help businesses of all sizes make a significant positive impact on our planet.”

Apple patent suggests enhanced ‘Find My AirPods’ feature

A new patent reported by AppleInsider reveals that Apple may be working on a way to improve the technology in its “Find My AirPods” feature to allow users to better locate where lost peripherals may be located. Currently, the Find My AirPods feature, which was introduced in iOS 10.3, plays a sound through the AirPods that will help a user locate the lost earbud, but still requires the user to hear it. A new patent application filed last year, titled “Locating Wireless Devices,” would expand on the pinging function by using an array of two or more microphones on a device such as an iPhone to estimate the direction that AirPods are located in, and point the user in that direction. The patent also describes methods for using other sensors to determine the device’s physical location and using sound readings to determine the approximately location of the accessory, guiding the user to the spot with a compass-style user interface. Other possibilities include using audio in areas of the spectrum not normally audible to human ears, allowing for “silent” pinging that would provide location estimation without disturbing nearby users and avoid issues with noisy environments. As with most patent applications, the mere existence of a patent filing doesn’t guarantee that Apple is even working on a feature, much less that it will see the light of day, although this one seems like a logical extension of Apple’s current Find My AirPods technology.

Plex adds Grid View on Apple TV

Last month, Plex announced a new Grid View for its DVR and Live TV feature, allowing users to browse a programming guide in the more familiar user interface. While the new layout was originally only available in the Plex web app, the company has now brought it to the Apple TV platform, allowing Plex fans to take advantage of a more traditional DVR-style experience. Plex added Live TV support to the Apple TV last year, although the original user interface for the feature only allowed users to browse by show, similar to navigating Plex library content.

Apple axes photo printing service, points users to App Store Photos extensions

Apple is shutting down its long-running Photo Print Products service, 9to5Mac has discovered, directing users instead to third-party apps on the Mac App Store that provide Photos extensions — a capability first introduced in macOS High Sierra. The service, which has been available since Apple first launched iPhoto in 2002, began by offering simple prints, later expanding to albums, photo books, and even calendars. Later this year, however, Apple plans to discontinue the service altogether, with a note in the macOS 10.13.6 Photos app that indicates final orders must be placed by Sept. 30, 2018, and pointing users to third-party apps on the Mac App Store that include Photos Projects extensions. The Projects section has also disappeared entirely in the macOS Mojave betas by default, with the File, Create menu now only providing links to a page on the Mac App Store that provides an overview of available extensions.

Apple announces 2018 Back to School Promo offering free Beats headphones with an iPad Pro or Mac

Apple has announced its annual Back to School Promotion for 2018, once again providing free or discounted Beats headphones with select Mac or iPad Pro purchases. This year’s promotion is similar to the deal Apple offered last year, although it notably excludes the iPhone from the list of eligible products. This year, qualifying educational customers purchasing just about any Mac model can choose to receive a free pair of Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones, Powerbeats3 Wireless Earphones, or BeatsX Earphones, while those purchasing an iPad Pro can receive a free pair of BeatsX Earphones, or alternatively choose to purchase a pair of Beats Solo3 headphones for $100 — basically receiving a discount equal to the price of the otherwise-free BeatsX Earphones.

Apple faces patent lawsuit over ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ feature

Apple is being sued for patent infringement for its “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature that was introduced in iOS 11 last fall, according to a report by Patently Apple. A company by the name of SMTT Technology has filed a formal complaint in the California Northern District Court in San Francisco, alleging that Apple infringes upon a patent that it acquired from inventor Nick Bovis titled “Mobile device inactive mode and inactive mode verification” and claiming that Apple’s “Do Not Disturb while Driving” features mirrors the patent in question, accusing Apple of willful and deliberate infringement of the patent by “[gambling] that SMTM and Mr. Bovis would not have the business acumen or the capital to vindicate their claims under the Bovis Patent.”

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