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Apple to require all new iOS apps to support iPhone X starting in April

Apple has announced that all new apps submitted to the App Store after April 2018 will be required to support the iPhone X. In an e-mail sent to registered developers, the company heralded the new features that iOS 11 has brought to the iOS platform, adding that “Starting April 2018, all new iOS apps submitted to the App Store must be built with the iOS 11 SDK, included in Xcode 9 or later. All new apps for iPhone, including universal apps, must support the Super Retina display of iPhone X.” Apple’s page on Submitting iOS apps to the App Store also adds that developers should make sure their App Store product page showcases updates for the Super Retina display of the iPhone X, and provides additional tips for developers on how to make sure that their apps look great on the iPhone X and how to submit proper screenshots for their App Store pages.

New iOS 11 bug crashing iPhones when a special character is received

A bug in iOS 11.2.5 has been discovered that’s will crash the iPhone when a specific Indian-language character is received in a text message or e-mail, The Verge reports. Originally discovered by Italian blog Mobile World, the bug affects iPhones running iOS 11.2.5 as well as Messages and Safari on macOS, and has been confirmed as affecting not only the built-in Messages and Mail apps, but also third-party apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Outlook, and Gmail. The crash is triggered when the device receives the Indian language Telugu character, which will cause the iOS Springboard to crash and prevent the affected app such as Messages to open as a result of trying and failing to load the character, at least until the point at which another message is received.

Twelve South adds iPhone X version of its SurfacePad case in exclusive colors

Twelve South has released an iPhone X version of its popular SurfacePad case. Like other SurfacePad cases, this one sticks to the back of the device using the company’s SurfaceGrip adhesive and provides a thin layer of protection around the front and back of the device. The case includes automatic sleep/wake functionality when the case is open and closed. Like previous SurfacePad cases it folds into a stand to watch videos and includes slots to hold credit cards. The $50 case comes in the standard black and also cognac and teal colors specific to the iPhone X.

Apple considering placing orders for Chinese-made memory chips

Apple is considering buying some of the flash memory chips destined for use in the iPhone from Chinese manfacturer Yangtze Memory Technologies, according to Nikkei Asian Review. The little-known chipmaker is set to begin producing NAND flash memory chips this year, but sources close to the discussions with Apple said it will likely be 2020 or later before Yangtze can produce enough parts to meet Apple’s standards. The sources said the chips would be used only in iPhones destined for use in China, where Apple has been facing increasing pressure from the government on multiple fronts. Apple has shown a willingness to work with the Indian government to produce and assemble more of its products locally in exchange for more access to the country’s smartphone market, but it’s unclear if the Yangtze deal is part of any intervention on behalf of the Chinese government. Apple currently buys its NAND flash memory chips from Toshiba, Western Digital, SK Hynix and Samsung Electronics, and the company’s iPhone orders account for 15 percent of all such shipments worldwide.

Apple developing drama based on life of NBA star Kevin Durant

Apple is developing a scripted drama series based on the life of NBA star Kevin Durant, Variety reports. Similar to the series the company produced about Dr. Dre, the new show will explore Durant’s early basketball experiences as an amateur athlete, with an added focus on the “lives of the players, their families, and coaches.” The show — titled “Swagger” — is being produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Television, with Durant listed as an executive producer.

Facebook using iOS app to promote VPN ‘protection’ that also tracks user behavior

Users choosing the “Protect” option in the Facebook iOS app are being sent to download a VPN app that also allows Facebook to track their phone use, TechCrunch reports. Facebook acquired Onavo Protect and its VPN technology in 2013, but iOS users in the U.S. are just starting to see the redirect link in the main Facebook app that leads to the Onavo Protect – VPN Security app in the App Store. The app promises to safeguard private information and provide warnings about malicious websites, but it also gives Facebook the ability to monitor activity across all the apps on a user’s phone. Facebook reportedly uses those insights to spot new apps that are surging with key demographics and decide which apps to buy before they blow up or which features to steal from other successful apps, like when the company undercut Snapchat by adding similar features to Instagram. The Onavo Protect app is currently installed on more than 33 million devices, and it’s unclear how many of those users know just how much of their data is being sent back to Facebook while it’s in use.

Report: Apple Watch sales overtake entire Swiss watch industry for holiday shoppers

Worldwide shoppers in the fourth quarter of 2017 bought more watches from Apple than from every watchmaker in Switzerland combined, according to a new analysis from Statista. While Business Insider still notes that China still sells more watches than any other single country, the Swiss produce the iconic watch brands like Rolex and Swatch that have been staples in the industry for decades. The fact that Apple beat all those watchmakers combined over the holidays further bolsters Apple’s claim that the Apple Watch is the best-selling watch brand in the world.

Apple provides sneak peek inside lab where HomePod was developed

After yesterday’s look at the insides of a HomePod that iFixit ripped apart, today brings a tale from The Loop that includes a peek at all the parts preassembly — and the lab where they were all crafted. Kate Bergeron, Apple’s Vice President for Hardware Engineering, gave the publication a look at the company’s audio lab, where the HomePod and all other sound-related projects from Apple have come to life. Bergeron said the HomePod team started with the simple problem of achieving the same high level of audio quality in any shape of room, and over six years expanded from the audio team to include everything from thermals and computing to power and wireless, not to mention the experts required to craft all the different sensors that let the HomePod answer that first question. Gary Geaves, Apple’s Senior Director for Audio Design and Engineering, said the company has “built up the biggest acoustics and audio team on the planet,” drawing talent from “elite audio brands and universities to build a team that’s fantastic.”

Just-funded Plux wireless charging pad will have room for iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods

With Apple’s AirPower charging pad still yet to be released, competitors have been popping up with their own offerings that provide more features at what could prove to be a lower cost. The recently funded Plux is one of them, offering a 10W fast charging Qi-compatible multi-device charging pad large enough for an iPhone, AirPods and an Apple Watch. The pad also comes with a stand converter that allows for the use of Face ID and Nightstand Mode. While The Apple Post has quoted unnamed Best Buy sources that claim Apple’s AirPower charging pad will debut in March, there’s been no talk about price, so it’s hard to say whether the eventual $89 price of the Plux will be more or less than Apple’s own offering (even though Plux’s promo materials estimates AirPower will cost $199). But it’s very likely the $39 early bird price (still available as of this writing) will be less — even undercutting $60 offerings currently available from Mophie and Belkin while providing a larger surface and a less platter-like appearance. The charger is available in white or black and also comes with an AirPods wireless receiver and AirPods holder.

iHeartRadio editorial content added to Apple News offering

Apple News now features editorial content from iHeartRadio, according to a recent blog post from the music and news provider. While mainly known for its music service, iHeartRadio also generates news content on everything from entertainment and celebrity gossip to sports and politics. The new content is featured in the Entertainment section of Apple News, and iHeartRadio’s radio service is also available on iOS, Apple TV and through CarPlay.

HomePod’s Siri response accuracy lags behind other smartspeaker personal assistants

While Loup Ventures found the HomePod to be the best-sounding smartspeaker on the market, its inquiry also found the device’s Siri responses to be the worst of the pack for correctly answering questions. Siri on the HomePod only answered 52.3 percent of queries correctly, a sharp drop off from Google Home’s 81 percent success rate and even behind Alexa’s 64 percent and Cortana’s 57 percent. While Siri understood most of the questions (99.4 percent), the AI only got about half of them right. Siri shined in answering questions about local retail locations and where to buy certain products, but doesn’t support the questions about navigation directions, calendar dates, email and calling features that are offered with other smartspeaker assistants.

Alto’s Odyssey, sequel to hit snowboarding game Alto’s Adventure, coming later this month

In the followup to the popular side-scrolling snowboarding game Alto’s Adventure, Snowman is taking Alto and his friends to the desert in Alto’s Odyssey, available for pre-order now and set to be released on February 22. The new game preserves what we loved about the first, with simple, clean graphics and an uncluttered display putting the emphasis on the snowboarding mechanics and various tricks that can be accomplished.

Teardown reveals HomePod isn’t very repairable, but is built to last

Like almost all Apple products, the new HomePod isn’t very easy to get inside to let users execute repairs, but an iFixit teardown revealed the new smartspeaker is built to last. The mesh that covers the device has a net-like layer on either side of tiny wiry coils between, creating a covering that lets sound escape without letting dust inside. The top display is powered by an LED display that features a diffuser to provide the more cloudy, smoother look, and the same center array lights the plus and minus volume control symbols, with light being routed through guides and up through the symbol cutouts.

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Reporters without Borders warns journalists in China to close iCloud accounts

French nonprofit advocacy group Reporters without Borders (RSF) is calling on journalists in China to close their iCloud accounts in wake of Apple’s recent plans to migrate iCloud users in China to an outsourced Chinese company’s servers. RSF is suggesting that journalists and bloggers in the country who use Apple iCloud should either change their geographic region to avoid having their data migrated, or close their iCloud accounts entirely by Feb. 28, the day when, as RSF notes, “control of their data will pass to the Chinese state.”

Apple outlines HomePod repair fees

Apple has published a new HomePad Service and Repair page, outlining the warranty, service, and coverage options available for the new speaker. For users who opt not to purchase AppleCare+ for HomePod, Apple will be charging a $279 service fee for any damage that isn’t covered under warranty, or any service after the one-year warranty expires. By comparison, Apple is selling AppleCare+ for the HomePod for $39, which extends the warranty for up to two years and adds two incidents of accidental damage coverage for a $39 per incident service fee, meaning that a user purchasing AppleCare+ could replace a damaged HomePod twice for less than half the cost of a single non-AppleCare+ replacement. [via MacRumors]

With HomePod now on sale, Apple publishes user manual and new iOS Tips app entries

With Apple’s new HomePod now on sale in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, and preorders beginning to arrive, the company has published its HomePod User Guide, outlining the set up process and features of the new speaker. While the user guide reveals no real surprises in how the HomePod operates, it does provide some additional details in areas like HomePod settings, voice and button controls, and using Siri to work with Apple Music, HomeKit, Messages, Reminders, and Notes.

Apple dispels security concerns regarding leaked iOS 9 source code

While Apple has confirmed that recently leaked iOS 9 iBoot source is authentic, the company has dispelled any concerns users may have about the leak compromising iPhone security. In a statement to MacRumors, Apple emphasized that the leak is for iOS 9, a three-year-old operating system that is installed on less than seven percent of devices, and notes that “by design the security of our products doesn’t depend on the secrecy of our source code” and “There are many layers of hardware and software protections built into our products.”

Sennheiser releases Apple-exclusive version of Ambeo Smart Headset

Sennheiser has introduced a new all-back version of its Ambeo Smart Headset that will be sold exclusively in Apple Stores for $300. Unveiled last month at CES and designed expressly for iOS devices, the company’s new Ambeo headset connects via the Lightning port and features microphones on the outside of each earpice to provide 3D sound when recording audio or video, effectively creating what the company calls an “immersive life-like 3D sound.” The headset also leverages the external mics to employ noise-cancelling capabilities that let the user head outside sounds while listening to music. [via The Verge]

Apple loses Amazing Stories showrunners over creative differences

Apple has lost two of the production staff for its new “Amazing Stories” project, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Showrunner Bryan Fuller reportedly left the project this week citing “creative differences” that may have stemmed from Apple’s insistence on keeping its content “PG”. Fuller had developed Amazing Stories for NBC before the project moved into Apple’s purview, but reportedly was looking to a more edgy show in the style of Black Mirror, which sources suggest was not what Apple was looking for. A subsequent update to The Hollywood Reporter article noted that Fuller’s partner, Hart Hanson, has also exited the project, leaving Apple and Universal Television searching for a new showrunner.

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