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Report: Apple releases iOS 8 beta 6 to testing partners

Apple has released the sixth beta of iOS 8 to its testing partners, including cellular wireless providers, according to BGR. This beta has not gone out to the standard broad array of developers, reportedly since the sixth beta has arrived too close to iOS 8’s anticipated Gold Master release in September. The report also claims this carrier build has already been rejected as a potentially final version due to an issue with using YouTube in Safari. A number of fixes can be seen in the beta’s release notes, for resolving issues with Continuity, Mail, Messages, Photos, Push Notifications, and more.

Sprint announces Family Share Pack data plans

Sprint has announced its new Family Share Pack, a shared data plan that offers double the quantity of data as its competitors for similar rates. The included charts note the pricing breakdowns and carrier comparisons; Sprint notably bills the data as “high-speed,” though its cellular network has been criticized for offering sub-par performance in much of the United States.

Coming off its failed merger with T-Mobile, Sprint is doing away with its highly advertised “Framily Plans,” replacing them with the new Family Share Pack plans. In addition to the new data prices, for a limited time Sprint is offering up to $350 to buy out the contracts of customers switching from other carriers, via Visa Prepaid Card. The Family Share Pack will be available starting on Friday, August 22.

Report: 5.5” iPhone 6 to use 2915 mAh battery

A series of new photos of the alleged 5.5” iPhone 6 show a 2915 mAh battery, which would be a considerable upgrade over the iPhone 5s battery and the anticipated battery in the smaller, 4.7” iPhone 6—around twice the capacity of prior iPhone batteries. The new photos were posted by Apple Daily. According to leaked photos, the smaller 4.7” iPhone 6 may have a 1810 mAh battery, versus the 1560 mAh cell in the iPhone 5s. Even taking into account the additional power needed for the larger display, the 5.5” iPhone 6 could have significantly better overall battery life than the 4.7” model if these specs are true.

Apple to debut reversible USB Lightning cable?

A few allegedly leaked photos of reversible USB cables have popped up in recent days, with reports claiming that Apple’s new Lightning to USB cables could include the feature. The most recent photo comes from Sonny Dickson, who has leaked real Apple parts in the past, depicting a USB connector that would work with any standard Type A USB port, but could be inserted upside down or right-side up. It’s notable that Apple has filed a recently-revealed patent for a reversible USB connector, discussing a “tongue” with contacts on its top and bottom, potentially capable of determining which side’s contacts are being used and deactivating the other side’s contacts. [via 9to5Mac]

iLounge Game Spotlight: Pako — Car Chase Simulator

Quick, easy-to-play games have always been popular on iOS, but the success of Flappy Bird and others seems to have further emphasized the “quick.” Pako - Car Chase Simulator ($2) by Tree Men Games certainly has more detail and thought than most of those titles, but we’re still talking about a game in which each round lasts not minutes, but seconds. It’s on sale for $1 for a limited time.

Pako is a basic-looking game that will remind some of the early Grand Theft Auto games, with a fun premise — you’re driving a car, so try not to crash. Yes, the police are chasing you, but the levels will give you enough of a challenge on their own without that hot pursuit. That’s due to the control scheme — tapping the left side of the screen turns left, tapping the right side turns right. And that’s it. Your car automatically travels at a steady speed. There is no braking, no going in reverse. If you’re going to swerve into a wall, you’re already too late.

FLA cites Quanta for further Apple labor problems

The Fair Labor Association has released new reports containing audits of two Apple supplier factories, both Quanta facilities, in Shanghai and Changshu, China. Both audits were done in August 2013. Issues cited include workers being charged hiring fees, given excessive consecutive work hours, not receiving pay for sick leave, and factories keeping incomplete information for chemical substances. Apple released a statement to TechCrunch, in which the company notes the Quanta facilities in question were included in its 2014 Supplier Responsibility Report.

The statement also notes that, “In the year since the FLA’s visit, we have worked closely with Quanta to drive meaningful improvements in areas identified by both the FLA and Apple. Apple conducted four follow-up inspections on top of the annual audits of both facilities, to ensure the needed corrections are in place.” Apple reports Quanta has averaged 86 percent compliance with its 60-hour workweek through the end of July this year.

Apple adds more vice presidents to executive webpage

Apple has added five new vice presidents to its executive profile webpage. The newly listed VPs include Paul Deneve, Vice President of Special Projects, Lisa Jackson, VP of Environmental Initiatives, Joel Podolny, VP and Dean of Apple University, Johny Srouji, VP of Hardware Technologies, and Denise Young Smith, VP of Worldwide Human Resources. According to the bios, all of the newly listed positions report to CEO Tim Cook. Full bios are available on the webpage, which now lists a total of 15 Apple executives in all; the additional profiles appear to be an effort to enhance the company’s public-facing executive diversity. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple shareholder files class action over anti-poaching agreement

An Apple shareholder has filed a class action lawsuit against Apple’s board and the estate of Steve Jobs, Patently Apple reports. The lawsuit is based on another suit involving Apple’s anti-poaching agreement with Google, Adobe, Intel — that case recently saw the defendants’ settlement proposal rejected. This new suit claims that Apple’s decision to enter the anti-poaching agreement damaged the company’s value. The suit, filed by shareholder R. Andre Klein, accuses Apple of breach of fiduciary duty, gross mismanagement, and waste of corporate assets.

Apps of the Week: Sago Mini Friends, Champ Man 15, Yelp 8.2 + more

New Apps

Hanx Writer (free) — Hanx Writer from Hitcents.com is a new writing app designed to mimic the experience of a typewriter on an iPad. Also, it was created by actor and noted typewriter aficionado Tom Hanks. Documents can be emailed, printed, and shared like any other, except that writing them will give you all the sounds and animations of a traditional typewriter. The app offers use of the Hanx Prime Select typewriter for free, and users can make in-app purchases to use different “typewriters.”

Sago Mini Friends ($3) — Sago Sago’s newest childrens’ app is Sago Mini Friends. It features characters from a few of the developer’s other games. Kids pick from one of five friendly animals, and visit the homes of the other characters to participate in very simple mini games. For those familiar with Toca Boca’s exploration apps such as Toca Town or Toca House, think of Sago Mini Friends as a more basic version of those, but for younger children.

WSJ: Apple mulls sapphire for premium iPhones, iWatch

Less than a month from its expected iPhone launch event, Apple is considering using sapphire screens in the more expensive models of its upcoming iPhone and iWatch, according to The Wall Street Journal. The report notes that the first sapphire displays for those devices are “expected to roll off production lines this month.” It’s also reported that the company will use sapphire in more expensive models of the two new iPhones, “if it can get enough of the material.” The report suggests that sapphire-equipped iPhones would likely carry a higher price tag than the lower-end versions of the same models.

Although the report isn’t entirely implausible, rumors of material differentiations in Apple devices have rarely proved accurate in the past, though the company has sometimes restricted base models to one or fewer colors than higher-end models, and one iPod—the third-generation iPod shuffle—was briefly offered in a premium stainless steel version alongside aluminum models. With the new iPhone launch seemingly so close, last-minute changes to major components would be somewhat hard to swallow, unless production is running significantly behind schedule.

Report: Apple meets with Thai officials regarding iPhone 6 announcement

Thai officials revealed on Wednesday that Apple received approval to sell two new iPhone models in the country, and a new report notes that a seemingly displeased Apple has met with those officials about the disclosure. The translated report, from Thai Rath, also makes a point to note that the new devices may or may not be called “iPhone 6,” leaving some doubt into what the names of the new devices will actually be; “iPhone Air” has previously been floated as a possible alternative. Though Apple may be upset, it doesn’t seem the disclosure will likely affect the sale of the new phones in Thailand. The report suggests the phone could launch in Thailand in early October, after first hitting the market in late September. [via MacRumors]

Apple bans benzene, n-hexane in iPhone, iPad assembly

Apple has banned the use of two chemicals, benzene and n-hexane, in final assembly of its iPhones and iPads, the Associated Press reports. The company has drawn criticism in the past for using both potentially hazardous chemicals — workers reported n-hexane-related sicknesses in 2010, and by 2011, workers at an Apple manufacturing partner wrote a letter regarding their concerns and health issues due to n-hexane exposure. Though Apple claims an investigation at 22 factories revealed no evidence that either chemical endangered workers, the company is requiring all factories to test substances for the two chemicals on top of the general ban. “This is doing everything we can think of to do to crack down on chemical exposures and to be responsive to concerns,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives. “We think it’s really important that we show some leadership and really look toward the future by trying to use greener chemistries.” Apple also released a new message from Jackson on the company’s decision to ban the two controversial chemicals.

New iPhone 6 leaks show tapered front panel, more

More new photos of the alleged 4.7” iPhone 6 have been released by Feld & Volk. A closeup of the front panel reveals greater detail about the phone’s design, showing curved, tapered edges that should meet the rounded edges of the rear shell. Like the iPhone 5 and 5s, the power button has a metallic finish, which the volume and mute switches will apparently continue to have as well. The mute switch has changed internally, using rocker-style side pins rather than a sliding mechanism. Additional photos show components under the front panel, and a metal SIM card tray. [via MacRumors]

Report: Apple, HP talked enterprise before IBM announcement

Hewlett Packard and Apple reportedly had talks about a possible enterprise partnership before Apple announced its IBM deal, according to The Information. HP has developed an enterprise mobile search product interestingly nicknamed “Enterprise Siri.” The main gist of the report is that HP has been discussing an enterprise deal with Google’s Android unit, as the partnership would develop Google Now into a voice tool that could search for company information. It’s unclear how serious the discussions were between Apple and HP. [via Business Insider]

Apple approved to sell two iPhone 6 models in Thailand

Apple has received approval to sell two new iPhone models in Thailand, according to Manager Online. The approval was also confirmed in a tweet by Takorn Tantasith, Thailand’s Secretary General of the National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission.

It’s reported that Apple requested to sell two new models, A1586 and A1524. The request was filed on August 5 and approved on August 8. Considering the early approval, it’s possible that Thailand will be in the first launch wave for the iPhone 6. [via MacRumors]

Apple honors Robin Williams with webpage, iTunes section

Apple is honoring Robin Williams on its website and in its iTunes Store following the recent death of the actor and comedian. A new “Remembering Robin Williams” webpage has been posted on Apple’s official website — a rare occurrence. Additionally, the iTunes Store now has its own “Remembering Robin Williams” section. The section gathers many of Williams’ movies in one place, in addition to the first season of his recent TV show, The Crazy Ones, and a few of his comedy albums.

Amazon introduces Local Register Secure Card Reader

Amazon has introduced its Local Register Secure Card Reader ($10), a mobile credit card reader to rival products from Square and PayPal. The iPhone and iPad-compatible card reader offers a 2.5 percent rate for swiped transactions — lower than Square and PayPal. Additionally, customers who sign up by October 31 will only pay 1.75 percent per swipe until 2016. Though the card reader costs $10, for a limited time, Amazon will credit the first $10 in processing fees for customers who create an Amazon Payments account and sign up to use the reader.

Skylanders Trap Team coming to iPad with portal, controller

Activision has announced the Skylanders Trap Team Starter Pack for iPad ($75). The newest video game in the popular Skylanders series features a special tablet edition that includes a wireless portal and wireless game controller, in addition to game figurines. For those unaware of the Skylanders series, the game uses real-life figurines that can be controlled within gameplay by use of an NFC-enabled portal; the iPad edition will use a Bluetooth LE portal and Bluetooth LE controller. Third-party controllers are said to work as a secondary controller in multiplayer mode. The pack will be released on October 5. [via FamilyGamerTV]

Apple diversity stats: 55 percent white, 70 percent male

As promised last month by CEO Tim Cook, Apple has released its first diversity report. It’s revealed that Apple employees are 55 percent white, 15 percent Asian, 11 percent Hispanic, and 7 percent black. The remaining 12 percent were made up of people who belong to two or more racial groups, another racial group, or did not declare their race. Those statistics were revealed alongside comparisons with race and ethnicity figures in tech, non-tech industries, and leadership. Apple is also 70 percent male and 30 percent female globally.

The numbers are accompanied by a Tim Cook letter. Cook writes that “inclusion inspires innovation” and that Apple believes other categories factor into diversity — “personal qualities that usually go unmeasured, like sexual orientation, veteran status, and disabilities.” Though Cook does point to Apple’s sponsorship of various rights groups, he also writes, “Let me say up front: As CEO, I’m not satisfied with the numbers on this page. They’re not new to us, and we’ve been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we’re committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products.”

Apple talking HealthKit with major healthcare providers

Apple has been discussing its upcoming HealthKit service with major healthcare providers, including Mount Sinai, the Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins, Reuters reports. The company has also talked about the service with Allscripts, an electronic health records provider. Though the report notes the talks “may not amount to anything concrete,” they illustrate how Apple is planning on making iOS-gathered health data widely available for health providers to view. As noted at this year’s WWDC, Apple is also working with the Mayo Clinic on an app that can notify doctors of abnormal results. However, there is still some skepticism that Apple will be able to deliver on the promise of HealthKit, considering differing hospital IT systems and data protection requirements of HIPAA.

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