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Report: iPhone 5se, iPad Air 3 set for March 15 unveil

Apple is looking to hold an event on March 15 to unveil a new iPhone, iPad Air, and Apple Watch band options, 9to5Mac reports, following a report last week that the new standard-sized iPad would be available in March, while also revealing that the rumored 4-inch iPhone model will debut at the same time. Sources suggest that the new “iPhone 5se” will include an A9 chip, improved cameras, Live Photos support, and Apple Pay, while mirroring the general design of the iPhone 5s and coming in at the same price, starting at $450 for 16GB, with a 64GB model also being available. The report suggests that the iPad Air 3 will look much as suggested in previous reports, with enhanced speakers, a possible rear LED flash, and a Smart Connector like that found on the iPad Pro. Apple will also reportedly introduce new Apple Watch bands and software at the same event, although it appears no actual new Apple Watch device hardware will be unveiled.

Alleged iPad Air 3 drawing shows Smart Connector, four speakers, camera flash

A drawing representing the alleged iPad Air 3 shows a number of rumored features for the device, along with a slight size increase. The drawing, published by Engadget, shows a Smart Connector and four speakers, in addition to a rear camera flash. If the drawing is correct, the new iPad Air 3 will be 0.1 mm wider and 0.05 mm thicker than iPad Air 2 — a thicker screen could portend Apple Pencil support. Another recent report featuring an alleged case for the device showed support for similar features.

iPad Air 3 case photos reveal Smart Connector support, four speakers

A Chinese company has posted photos of an alleged case for iPad Air 3. Spotted by Macotakara, the case photos reveal a small cutout on the left longer side of case where the Smart Connector would be on iPad Pro, implying that iPad Air 3 will also have Smart Connector support. The alleged case also has four speaker cutouts — two on each short side, like the iPad Pro. It also appears as if the camera hole has been extended, possibly to make room for an LED flash. The Smart Connector support is a new development — it’s possible this company may only be guessing at a final iPad design, as these cases are both early and extremely low-cost. However, early reports have noted the possibility of extra speakers and a rear LED flash. iPad Air 3 is expected to debut in March.

Apple building team for secret virtual reality project

Apple is building a team of experts in virtual and augmented reality, according to a new report from the Financial Times. The secret research team apparently includes hundreds of staff collected from a series of “carefully targeted acquisitions” and other VR companies, and it has already been building prototypes of VR headsets for several months. Apple experimented with virtual reality under Steve Jobs about ten years ago, but abandoned the technology at the time as not being sufficiently mature; however, the company has rekindled its efforts in the area over the past two years, beginning with the acquisition of motion sensor maker PrimeSense in 2013, followed by augmented reality company Metaio and motion capture company FaceShift last year, and most recently Flyby Media, an augmented reality company that previously worked with Google in developing 3D positioning technology for Project Tango. It’s unclear whether Apple aims to release an actual VR headset, some other more ambitious project, or simply apply the technology to its new car project. Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted obliquely at VR earlier this week when he responded to a question from analyst Gene Munster on the matter during Apple’s quarterly earnings call, referring to virtual reality as having some “interesting applications” and definitely not being a niche area.

Report: Apple aiming to unveil original, exclusive TV programming by September

Apple may be looking in a new direction in efforts to get its television streaming service off the ground. A new report from The Street reveals that the company has been in talks with Hollywood’s creative community since late last year about producing original TV shows that could be offered exclusively to iTunes customers. While Apple has yet to sign any agreements, two people with knowledge of the matter have suggested that Apple is ideally trying to get deals in place for September so it can announce exclusive content with the unveiling of the iPhone 7. The discussions are reportedly being led by Apple Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, who is effectively the force behind Apple’s entertainment initiatives, with Robert Kondrk, VP of iTunes content, also involved in the talks, according to sources. An Apple spokesperson naturally declined to comment on the matter. It was first reported in September that Apple had interest in creating original programming.

Wells Fargo, Bank of America ATMs to support Apple Pay?

Both Bank of America and Wells Fargo are currently developing contactless ATM solutions that could include support for Apple Play, TechCrunch reports. Citing sources familiar with the teams on the projects, the report notes that engineers at both companies have been assigned to build in Apple Pay options. Jonathan Velline, Wells Fargo’s head of ATMs, also implied that Apple Pay would be coming to its ATMs, noting that the company has been “working on the technology that allows us to hook to digital wallets [and] leveraging NFC on mobile phones to replace the card at the transaction at the ATM.” However, Velline noted that right now the company is only looking to support Android Pay for the initial launch, although he suggested that they’re looking at “lots of different mobile wallets” and when pressed, admitted it’s likely that Apple Pay is on the horizon.

Report: Apple working on iPhone model with wireless charging

Apple is working on developing new wireless charging technology for a future iPhone model, a new report by Bloomberg reveals. New technologies being developed by Apple would potentially allow iPhones and iPads to be powered from a farther distance than the charging pads used for current smartphones, according to sources familiar with the matter, and Apple is looking to overcome technical barriers such as power loss over distance. The Apple Watch currently uses magnetic induction technology for charging, and a patent Apple filed for in 2010 outlined a method of wirelessly recharging a device at a distance of about 1 meter, using an iMac as a hub. Although the technology is still in the early research stages at this point, sources suggest it could be ready for deployment on next-generation Apple devices as soon as next year.

Apple acquires LearnSprout, an educational software startup

Apple has acquired LearnSprout, an education technology startup, Bloomberg reports. LearnSprout creates software for schools and teachers to track student performance, and is currently used by more than 2,500 school districts across 42 U.S. states. The acquisition likely ties into Apple’s recent push into more sophisticated educational tools for the iPad with iOS 9.3, which will allow students to engage in interactive lessons and more easily share iPads within the classroom. In response to the acquisition, an Apple spokesperson gave the usual boilerplate statement that “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” LearnSprout’s CEO also did not immediately response to a request for comments from Bloomberg.

Facebook rolls out Live Video to US users

Facebook has announced the rollout of its Live Video feature on the iPhone to all Facebook users in the U.S., with expansion to the rest of the world “in the coming weeks.” Originally introduced as a trial in early December, the Live Video feature allows users to broadcast in real-time to friends, family, or other Facebook users via the Facebook app, initiated as a status update. Users can write a quick description and choose the audience that they wish to share with before going live. During the broadcast, Live Video users will see the number of live viewers, names of friends who are watching, and a stream of comments presented in real-time. Once ended, live video broadcasts will be saved onto the user’s Timeline like any other video.

Apple issues voluntary recall for certain AC wall plug adapters

Apple has issued a voluntary recall covering some of its AC wall plug adapters and world travel kits. The recall affects AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Continental Europe, New Zealand and South Korea, noting that in very rare cases, the affected two-prong adapters may break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched. The adapters shipped with Mac and some iOS devices between 2003 and 2015 and were also included in the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. The release notes that Apple is aware of 12 incidents worldwide, and specifies that the issue does not affect any other Apple AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom, or the United States, nor does it affect any Apple USB power adapters. Customers should stop using affected plug adapters immediately and visit www.apple.com/support/ac-wallplug-adapter for information about how to exchange their affected adapters for new, redesigned adapters.

Apple expected to debut iPad Air 3 at March event

Apple is planning to unveil its new iPad Air 3 at an event in March, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. After skipping the release of a new standard-sized Apple model at last fall, the new 9.7-inch iPad Air 3 is expected to replace the year-old iPad Air 2 with an upgraded model — possibly including a rear-facing LED flash, additional speaker grills to match the audio quality of the iPad Pro, and possibly even support for the Apple Pencil. A separate report from DigiTimes also seemingly confirms the March release, also suggesting that the new device will include a 4K resolution LCD panel and up to 4GB of RAM, although it should be definitely be noted that DigiTimes’ track record is unreliable, to put it mildly. 9to5Mac’s sources note that Apple is planning to hold its keynote during the week of March 14th, although the exact date is yet to be determined.

Apple releases second iOS 9.3 public beta

Apple has released the second public beta of iOS 9.3 through its Apple Software Beta Program. Released to developers earlier this week, the second beta makes a number of minor changes to Night Shift mode and CarPlay enhancements to Apple Music and Maps, along with adding a new button for Night Shift mode in Control Center. Be sure to check out our updated peek at what’s new in both the latest iOS 9.3 and tvOS 9.2 betas. Users who have already signed up for the Apple Software Beta Program should be able to log in and download the new versions now; users who haven’t signed up can do so at the same site.

Report: iPhone 7 Plus to sport dual-camera system, optical zoom

A new report from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo at KGI Securities is suggesting that the iPhone 7 Plus will include a dual-camera system that would incorporate two distinct lenses to create higher quality photos. The new system would reportedly incorporate the Linx camera technology that Apple acquired last year, allowing Apple to use smaller camera sensors to get the same or better results as the cameras in current iPhone models. Kuo’s report also suggests that the Plus will feature a 2-3x optical zoom. Notably, the report states that not only will the standard iPhone 7 not include the new technology, but suggests that it may not even be available on all iPhone 7 Plus models, instead being reserved for specific versions of the device — basically a “premium” model that would include the advanced camera system. [via 9to5Mac]

Notes from Apple’s Q1 2016 earnings call

Kicking off Apple’s investor conference call in which the company once again announced record-breaking numbers for Q1 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook reported again that Apple had its strongest financial results ever, with all-time record quarterly revenue, noting that this is a huge accomplishment given the “turbulent world” around us. To put the iPhone’s sales numbers in perspective, Cook noted that 74.8m iPhones sold represents an average of over 34,000 iPhones sold per hour, every hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for 13 straight weeks, adding that this represents 50 percent more than the volumes in Q1 two years ago, and four times the volume of iPhones sold five years ago.

Cook went on to explain that Apple’s results are particularly impressive given the “challenging global macro-economic environment,” highlighting how major markets such as Brazil, Russia, Japan, Canada, Southeast Asia, and others have been impacted by slowing economic growth and weakening currencies, with the Euro and British Pound both down by double-digits since 2013. Major currencies such as the Canadian Dollar, Australian Dollar, Mexican Peso, and Turkish Lira have also declined by 20 percent or more. Cook explained how these currency fluctuations have had a meaningful negative impact on Apple’s results, noting that with constant currency Apple’s earnings would have been more than $5 billion higher, or more than the total annual revenue of an average Fortune 500 company. Cook also highlighted that Apple continues to see growth in China, with revenue growing 14 percent over last year, and Apple saw its highest ever quarterly iPhone sales and record App Store performance in China. “Despite economic challenges all over the world, Apple remains extremely strong,” Cook concluded.

Apple sets Q1 record: $75.9B revenue, 75M iPhones, 16M iPads sold

Apple reported its first quarter 2016 financial results today, with 74.8 million iPhones and 16 million iPads sold. The company posted quarterly revenue of $75.9 billion and quarterly net profit of $18.4 billion, or $3.28 per diluted share. In Q1 2015, Apple had revenue of $74.6 billion and net profit of $18 billion, or $3.06 per diluted share. Gross margin was 40.1 percent compared to 39.9 percent a year ago. International sales contributed to 66 percent of this quarter’s revenue. For Q2 2016, Apple is providing guidance of revenue between $50 billion and $53 billion, and gross margin between 39 percent and 39.5 percent. Apple’s earnings call will begin at 5 p.m. Eastern time, and can be heard live on the company’s investor website.

Microsoft releases News Pro app for iOS

Microsoft has released News Pro, a new free news app. Unlike Apple’s built-in iOS 9 News app, News Pro appears to be geared more toward professional and business interests. Billed as “Your Work News Brief,” the app is designed to help users search for daily news relevant to their work field, with over a million topics to choose from. Users can link News Pro with their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to tailor their news feed to their work experience and personal interests, and the app will suggest new topics to explore and web sites to discover based on the user’s current profile.

Report: Apple to offer subscription content via News app

Apple is planning to expand its News service to provide subscription content through the iOS 9 News app, Reuters reports. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the report notes that the aim would be to give publishers with paywalls a way to limit access to their content, and would help to distinguish Apple’s offering from other online news apps and services such as Facebook’s Instant Articles. The move may address concerns raised by publishers, which cannot ignore Apple’s hundreds of millions of users, while at the same time preferring to still connect directly with readers. Making paid content available through the iOS News app would allow publishers to maintain relationships with their existing reader base and possibly attract new subscribers, although it’s still unclear at this time how Apple plans to authenticate subscribers or whether it would take its usual cut of subscription payments, as the company did with its prior Newsstand system.

Apple under fire again for VPN, FaceTime related patents

Apple is once again the target of a lawsuit from VirnetX concerning patents related to VPN and FaceTime technologies, Bloomberg reports. A lawyer for VirnetX told a federal jury in Texas earlier this week that Apple owes the company $532M for using the company’s patented secure communications technology. Apple originally came under fire from VirnetX in 2012, when Apple was ordered to pay the Texas-based patent holding company $368.2M for infringing on VPN patents used in the company’s FaceTime and VPN On Demand services in iOS — a move that prompted Apple to change the way VPN On Demand works on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. An appeals court later dismissed the damage award against Apple and ordered a new trial for some of the infringement claims, which this new lawsuit covers, along with infringements based on newer generations of iOS devices. An Apple lawyer stated that “Apple believes in fairness and protecting intellectual property,” adding however, that “VirnetX keeps moving the boundary, asking for more and more and more.”

Apple releases tvOS 9.1.1 for Apple TV with Podcasts app

Apple has released a software update to Apple TV with tvOS 9.1.1. The update includes Apple’s Podcasts app for Apple TV, which is placed up top and center once tvOS 9.1.1 has been installed. Other changes within the update likely include minor improvements and bug fixes. While the upcoming tvOS 9.2 update will be a more substantial update, the Podcasts app featured in the 9.2 beta has already made its debut, perhaps earlier than expected. tvOS 9.1.1 is available for download now in Apple TV’s Settings > System > Software Updates.

Report: Apple car project ‘at crossroads’

Apple’s “Project Titan” — the company’s automotive project — is at a “crossroads,” with the project team under a hiring freeze, according to Apple Insider. A source said Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive recently “expressed his displeasure” with the team’s progress, and executives are reportedly “unhappy with the project’s direction and progress.” It’s believed that Apple has more than 1,000 people working on the project.

This follows a recent article from The Wall Street Journal, which reported that Steve Zadesky, who “has been overseeing (Apple’s) electric-car project for the last two years,” is leaving the company. Zadesky, a longtime Apple employee who worked on the iPod and iPhone, is reportedly leaving for personal reasons. The timing of his exit is unclear, but it does appear there’s some instability surrounding Apple’s car project at the moment. Apple reportedly wants to ship its first electric vehicle by 2019.

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