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Apple releases first HomePod software update

Alongside today’s release of iOS 11.3, Apple has also quietly released the first software update for its HomePod smart speaker. Identified simply as HomePod 11.3, the update weighs in at 2.36 GB and only notes that it “includes general improvements for stability and quality” making it unclear exactly what has changed. Apple has promised the addition of AirPlay 2 and stereo pairing support in future HomePod updates, however the omission of AirPlay 2 support in iOS 11.3 suggests that it may still be a ways off. The HomePod 11.3 update should be installed automatically, but users can also check for and install the update manually via Apple’s Home app on iOS 11.3.

Apple releases tvOS 11.3

Apple has also released tvOS 11.3 today, a relatively minor update for the Apple TV and Apple TV 4K that primarily adds performance and improvements for bug fixes, along with enhancements to Match Content support, automatic mode switching for AirPlay video sessions, and brings automatic frame rate switching to the older fourth-generation Apple TV. Users in Brazil also gain Siri support with the new update, along with access to Apple’s TV app, which has been pushed out in Mexico as well.

Apple releases iOS 11.3 with Battery Health, Health Records, Business Chat and more

Apple has announced the final public release of iOS 11.3, featuring a significant number of updates for a point release. Originally previewed in late January, iOS 11.3 promises new augmented reality experiences, new Animoji for iPhone X users, a new Business Chat feature that will allow businesses to communicate with customers via iMessage, a Health Records feature that helps users of participating medical institutions more easily view their medical records, enhanced data and privacy controls, and the Battery Health feature that will ensure users know when their performance is being throttled due to aging batteries on older iPhones.

Apple’s new ‘Music Videos’ section now online

Apple has added the promised Music Videos section to Apple Music in iOS 11.3, which may signal an imminent launch of the new update. The new section can be found under “Browse” in the iOS Music app or iTunes on a Mac or PC, and highlights Apple Music exclusives, curated playlists, and artist spotlights, similar to the music sections. Although the new Music Videos section was unveiled as part of Apple’s iOS 11.3 preview, it appears to be working fine for users of other recent iOS 11 versions. [via MacRumors]

Apple partner Foxconn acquires accessory and peripheral maker Belkin

Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn has acquired accessory and peripheral maker Belkin for $866 million, TechCrunch reports. The sale brings a lot of recognizable brands owned by Belkin under Foxconn’s umbrella, including Linksys, Wemo and Phyn in addition to Belkin’s own name. Belkin’s CEO and founder Chet Pipkin will stay on and operate the company “as a wholly owned subsidiary,” possibly also joining Foxconn Interconnect Technology’s management team at a later date.

Logitech releasing Logitech Crayon and Logitech Rugged Combo 2 case for new iPad

Logitech has jumped into Apple’s renewed push into education with two new accessories for the 6th generation iPad released yesterday. The Logitech Crayon uses technology first found in the Apple Pencil in a say that’s kid-friendly, connecting to the iPad without even requiring pairing and boasting an 8-hour battery life to last through the whole school day (or a very long car trip). The components are also built in a way that resists the destructive tendencies of little hands, with a pry-resistant smart tip that’s only removable with a special tool and a tethered rubber cap that can’t be lost. The flat design also makes it easier to grip for little hands and should help keep it from rolling off the table all the time.

GarageBand gets new “Toy Box” educational sound pack, TrueDepth facial control

Following today’s education event in Chicago, Apple has released an update to GarageBand for iOS unveiling a free new education-themed sound pack, “Toy Box”, along with support for controlling musical effects using the TrueDepth camera on the iPhone X.  The new sound pack includes over 400 Apple Loops, three drum kits, ten keyboard instruments, and five Live Loop grids, focused on education with sounds such as animals, vehicles, and counting to ten in different languages. TrueDepth camera support allows iPhone X users to control effects like guitar wah and synth parameters using facial expressions, and the update also adds a Modern Wah guitar stompbox effect.

Apple updates Clips with new Selfie Scenes, education-themed posters

Apple has released a content update to its Clips app, adding a collection of new styles, fonts, colors, layouts, stickers, and more. Specifically, the update adds four new Live Title styles, for new animated labels, nine new animated stickers, eleven new Apple-designed posters, including education-themed blackboard and notebook designs in line with the education event Apple held earlier today. iPhone X users also gain two new Disney-Pixar Selfie Scenes from “Finding Dory” and “Monsters, Inc.” In addition to the new content, the update also fixes some minor bugs and polishes up some of the design elements.

Nuvyyo releasing Tablo Dual Lite Over-the-Air Television DVR

The Tablo Dual 64GB Over-the-Air Television DVR released by Nuvyyo last year allows for recording live TV without a cable connection, but apparently users complained to the company about the $250 cost and were willing to deliver their own storage solutions. Nuvyyo has responded by introducing the Tablo Dual Lite, a $140 option that provides all of the TV streaming and one-touch series recording features of the Tablo Dual at a lower price. The new device will be available starting April 1 on Best Buy’s website and at some of the company’s other retailers. Digital services like metadata for programs airing over the next two weeks, access to advanced DVR features like one-touch series recording and out-of-home streaming through the Tablo Connect require a separate subscription, and as with all Tablo products, you’ll need an antenna to pick up the local over-the-air signal in the first place.

Tim Cook announces new 9.7” iPad that’s compatible with Apple Pencil

During today’s education event in Chicago, Tim Cook announced the new 9.7” iPad that is compatible with Apple Pencil. The $329 base device (or $299 when bought by schools) is the first non-Pro iPad to make use of the Apple Pencil and also features an A10 Fusion chip, but leaves out the Smart Connector and True Tone display of the iPad Pro. During the event Apple also touted a new line of low-cost accessories from Logitech in keeping with the affordability theme. Alongside the new iPad, Apple released updated iWork apps that are all compatible with Apple Pencil and showcased education applications for AR apps by dissecting a frog on the iPad using an Apple Pencil. The new models will be available to order starting today and ship sometime this week.

Marshall releases company’s first active noise cancelling headphones

Marshall’s new Mid A.N.C. marks the company’s first venture into active noise cancelling headphones, using four microphones to continuously measure and pinpoint ambient noise and block it out. The headphones boast “up to 20 hours” of wireless playback when active noise cancelling is engaged or more than 30 hours of wireless playtime without A.N.C. The headphones feature 3D metal hinges that rotate to provide a snug fit and a collapsible vinyl case with a red velvet lining. The Mid A.N.C. costs $269 and is available at Marshall’s website.

Microsoft rolls out iPad support with Edge iOS app update

Microsoft has released an update to its Edge iOS app that finally includes full support for the iPad. While iPad users have technically been able use the iPhone version of Edge on their device, the experience was less than ideal since the app was scaled up in an unappealing way and limited to portrait mode. The update doesn’t seem to include the ability to use the Apple Pencil for markups even though the Edge browser currently lets Microsoft tablet users mark up websites with a stylus.

Apple now accepting some Apple Watches as trade-ins at Apple Stores

While Apple has been providing gift cards in exchange for Apple Watches for months, the transactions up until now have been exclusively online. Now one Reddit user has found that Apple quietly started accepting in-store trade-ins as of today. 9to5Mac confirmed with Apple that the company’s retail locations are now accepting the trade-ins, and the spokesperson was careful to note that Apple Watch Edition models won’t be accepted. Users typically get between $50 and $175 depending on the model, but the Reddit user reported getting $100 for a 1st-Generation Stainless Steel Apple Watch that lists online at $75, so it’s unclear whether the online accounts are entirely accurate and the pricing model is consistent between locations.

Apple calls for more regulation amid Facebook data scandal

In light of the use of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica in unauthorized voter targeting efforts, Apple CEO Tim Cook has called for stronger government regulations on how data can be used, Bloomberg reports. Apple has usually come down on the side of privacy in showdowns with the government, and now the company is asking the U.S. Congress to create “well-crafted” regulations that prevent use of data without a user’s knowledge. “I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary,” Cook said. “The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life — from my own point of view it shouldn’t exist.”

Rachio releases Smart Sprinkler Controller and Wireless Flow Meter

Rachio has added some new options to its smart sprinkler lineup with the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller and Rachio 3 Wireless Flow Meter. The Smart Sprinkler Controller allows users to use cloud-connected software to control their sprinklers from anywhere at any time, and also includes enhanced Weather Intelligence Plus data to provide schedule adjustments based on the weather. A new long-range radio in the Smart Sprinkler Controller also communicates with the Rachio 3 Wireless Flow Meter to provide accurate water flow readings and alert the user when leaks are detected. While the devices are compatible with a wide range of smarthome control systems, it doesn’t appear HomeKit is one of them and there wasn’t any update on if and when HomeKit compatibility will be added. Both components are available for pre-order on Rachio’s website for $280, with the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller expected to ship in April and the Wireless Flow Meter shipping in May.

Grovemade releases stand for HomePod that solves ‘white ring’ issue

While the HomePod might not seem like the kind of device that needs a stand, anyone dealing with the “white ring” problem caused by the device’s silicone foot leaving residue on some wood surfaces might say otherwise. So Grovemade has produced a solution of sorts with its HomePod stand in variety of materials, including aluminum, wood and cork. The stands range from $20 to $49 and all include a microsuede foot to protect the surface underneath.

QR code exploit could use iOS Camera app to misdirect users to malicious sites

Infosec has discovered a potential exploit using the QR code-reading capabilities of the iOS Camera app that would allow one URL to be displayed while directing users to another hidden link. The simple code tweak allows those generating a QR code to set their link to display a safe-looking or familiar URL in the iOS confirmation box that pops up when a QR code is scanned, only to deliver the user to another URL entirely that was placed later in the code. The issue has been reported to Apple but hasn’t been fixed yet.

Report: Apple could launch its original video service as early as next March

Apple has at least 12 major video projects in the works and could be ready to launch its new video offerings to the public as soon as next March, The New York Times reports. The overall video project — which Apple reportedly is willing to spend upwards of $1 billion on — now has around 40 permanent staffers and is preparing to outspend Netflix, Facebook, YouTube and many other traditional TV studios to carve out its place in the landscape. The report emphasized what we’ve previously heard about Apple looking to pick up shows that have a ‘bright, optimistic’ tone that reflects Apple’s broad user base and efforts at remaining family-friendly.

Report: Cheaper iPad expected to launch soon may work with Apple Pencil

Well-respected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that Apple will double its shipments of the Apple Pencil this year, possibly by making a new, cheaper iPad expected to launch this week compatible with the accessory, 9to5Mac reports. Until now the Apple pencil has only worked with the much more expensive iPad Pro line, so it’s been a boon to artists and designers, but not a big seller for the tablets that tend to make their way into the hands of children. That could change during tomorrow’s education event at Lane Technical College Prep High School in Chicago, if Apple CEO Tim Cook reveals a low-price iPad that’s Apple Pencil-ready. Kuo also said it’s possible the iPhone will eventually support the Apple Pencil as well, but didn’t firmly commit to that coming in the near future.

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