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Tim Cook visits Canada, makes surprise drop-in at Toronto’s Eaton Centre Apple Store

Apple CEO Tim Cook made his first visit to Canada since becoming CEO, dropping in at the Apple Store at the Toronto Eaton Centre yesterday, The Globe and Mail reports. Cook’s unannounced visit to the Apple Store was a surprise for a group of grade 7 students who were attending a workshop to learn how to program robots using Swift, where Cook spoke about the importance of learning to code and Apple’s initiatives in education such as its “Everyone Can Code” program. Cook’s visit marks the first time an Apple CEO has come to Canada in almost 30 years; in addition to his appearance at the Apple Store, Cook also stopped by to see Shopify, noting their latest work in AR and VR technologies. [via iPhone in Canada]

Apple announces HomePod arriving Feb. 9, pre-orders open Friday

Apple has announced a release date for its HomePod speaker system, with the new device scheduled to arrive in stores on Feb. 9, and pre-orders opening this Friday in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Originally announced last June at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference for a late 2017 release, Apple later acknowledged that the new speaker system would be delayed saying the company “need[ed] a little more time before it’s ready for our customers.”

Apple expands Everyone Can Code program to 70 more colleges in Europe

After rolling out its Everyone Can Code program to more than 20 international schools last November and Chicago high schools last December, Apple has allowed 70 colleges and universities across Europe to offer the program to students, according to a press release from the company. “Education institutions in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal will offer App Development with Swift to prepare their students for future careers in app development,” the release reads. “The full-year course was designed by Apple engineers and educators to teach coding and app design to students of all levels and backgrounds.” CEO Tim Cook echoed earlier comments he’s made about the importance of teaching coding in schools, saying, “Since launching Everyone Can Code two years ago, we’ve seen growing excitement for the initiative from schools around the world, who are increasingly incorporating the curriculum into their classrooms.”

Nokia pulls Pulse Wave Velocity feature from Body Cardio over regulatory issues

Nokia has been forced to disable the Pulse Wave velocity feature that allowed its Body Cardio scale to measure arterial stiffness and high blood pressure, according to an updated FAQ from the company. The scale used the speed at which heartbeat-generated vibrations spread out along arterial walls and the time it takes for blood to flow from the heart to the feet to go well beyond the measurements a normal bathroom scale can make. But In the company’s updated support document, Nokia said it has learned the PWV measurements “may require a different level of regulatory approval. In light of this, the decision was made to turn off the pulse wave velocity feature.”

Graphics in iOS beta provide details about HomePod as device gets FCC approval

Apple’s HomePod has been granted FCC approval amid speculation that a release is imminent, and developer Filipe Espósito has uncovered a set of graphics in the latest iOS beta that hints at some of the device’s functionality, AppleInsider reports. The public FCC document leaves out guides and photos — which will be available to the public on July 17, likely well after the speaker is already available to customers. But the embedded iOS graphics have provided some hints about the new device’s functions, like providing custom responses tailored to multiple users or disabling voice control temporarily (possibly for situations like parties where voice controls could become a nuisance). The set of icons also features ones that represent water, temperature, a spinning fan and assorted other environmental items that likely tie into HomeKit controls.

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Apple unveils redesigned App Store web preview pages

Following a major overhaul of the App Store in iOS 11, Apple has quietly revamped the App Store’s web preview pages to bring them more in line with new iOS design aesthetic. The new layout opens up with a clear banner notifying users that they will need to open the App Store on their iOS device to actually download the app, followed by a cleaner title area with a larger icon, title, subtitle, developer link, ranking/rating information, and price. Below that the new preview page now focuses on screenshots rather than a description, with links to switch between iPhone, iPad, iMessage, and Apple Watch screenshots; Apple TV screenshots are notably absent from the new preview pages, however. Description and What’s New sections come after the screenshots, followed by a more conspicuous customer reviews section that features a design first introduced in the Apple TV App Store.

Apple leasing 200,000 square feet of space in Culver City

Apple is leasing 128,000 square feet of space in an office building in Culver City for its content production group, according to a new report by Variety. The location at 8777 Washington Boulevard was originally expected to be occupied by HBO, however they recently backed out of the deal, leaving the field open for Apple to move in. The news was first reported by The Real Deal; Variety subsequently confirmed the news with Thomas Small, the mayor pro tem of Culver City. According to The Real Deal, Apple also still intends to lease another 75,000 square feet at another nearby facility at 5500 Jefferson Blvd.

Cook apologizes for lack of clarity on iPhone slowdowns, promises transparency in coming iOS update

In an interview with ABC News, Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized for Apple’s failure to more effectively communicate its reasoning behind slowing down older iPhones with deteriorating batteries. When asked about the incident, Cook explained that Apple’s motivation behind the move was entirely on the user experience of ensuring users’ iPhones wouldn’t unexpectedly shutdown during seemingly normal usage such as making an emergency call, waiting for an important message, or wanting to “capture that moment that is fleeting with your camera,” and that Apple “felt it would be better to take something off of the performance to prevent that from happening.”  Cook added that when Apple released the iOS update that eliminated unexpected shutdowns last year, “we did say what it was, but I don’t think a lot of people were paying attention,” adding that “maybe we should have been clearer as well.” He went on to “deeply apologize for anybody who thinks that we had some other kind of motivation” and reiterated that “our motivation is always the user” and that “the user is at the centre of everything we do.”

Cook went on to add that Apple has been listening to the recent feedback very carefully, and in addition to “giving everybody a very very low price” on battery replacements, Apple has “thought through this whole thing and learned everything we can” and will be releasing an iOS update in the near future that will provide users with “the visibility of the health of their battery, so it’s very very transparent.” He added that iOS will also begin notifying users when performance throttling is occurring as well as providing the option to turn it off. However, in closing Cook added “we don’t recommend it, because we think that people’s iPhones are really important to them, and you never can tell when something is so urgent and so — you know, our actions were all in service of the user, I can’t stress that enough. You know, maybe we should have been clearer at a point in time, but out actions were always the purest, but again if anybody out there believes we did something nefariously, we apologize for any kind of thing that we did or didn’t do.”

Report: Apple in bidding war with HBO for new J.J. Abrams show

Apple is currently in a bidding war with HBO for a new sci-fi drama from J.J. Abrams, Variety reports. The series is rumored to revolve around a world’s efforts to repel a “monstrous, oppressive force” and marks Abrams’ first return to writing for TV since “Fringe” in 2008. Apple seems to be very interested in the sci-fi genre to begin its original video content venture, opting to revive Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” and order an original sci-fi show from “Outlander,” “Battlestar Galactica” show runner Ronald D. Moore.

BMW to charge $80 annual fee for CarPlay in its vehicles

While most automakers either offer CarPlay as a standard feature or charge a flat fee to include it, BMW is making a curious move to charge an $80-a-year subscription fee for the Apple feature, The Verge reports. Last year BMW added CarPlay as an option for a $300 one-time fee, but Don Smith, technology product manager for BMW North America, said the company will now offer the service free for the first year and then charge $80 each year after that to keep it active. “This allows the customer to switch devices,” Smith said. “A lot of people buy [CarPlay] and think it’s OK, but sometimes they stop using it or switch to Android.” While some may balk at having to pay every year to keep CarPlay active, the move is particularly geared toward those leasing cars, leaving those choosing a three-year lease paying less over the life of the agreement than if they opted for a $300 payment.

Apple opens Siri’s ‘Give me the news’ feature to US, UK, Australian users

Even though the HomePod has been delayed, Apple is rolling out Siri’s new “Give me the news” feature to iOS users in the US, UK and Australia, 9to5Mac reports. The update plays a daily news podcast when users ask Siri, “Give me the news,” with the default content coming from NPR in the US, the BBC in the UK and ABC in Australia. Users can switch the podcast by asking Siri to switch to CNN, Fox News or The Washington Post in the US, Sky news or LBC in the UK, or SBS and Seven Network in Australia. The feature hasn’t appeared in Canada yet.

Report: Manufacturing partner starts shipping HomePods to Apple

Manufacturing partner Inventec has begun shipping completed HomePod units to Apple, The Taipei Times reports. Sources said Inventec has sent 1 million of the devices to Apple, although one said, “revenue contribution from the product to Inventec is expected to be limited this quarter, as the initial shipment is not large.” The first million units is only a fraction of the 10–12 million expected to be built this year, with Inventec and Hon Hai splitting those orders. The HomePod was supposed to be released before Christmas, but Apple delayed it to a vague “early 2018” release, saying “we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers.” There’s no update on when the product will actually begin making its way to consumers.

App Store download revenue set to overtake amount made by entire movie industry this year

App Store downloads brought in $26.5 billion for developers in 2017, and Asymco’s Horace Dediu has unearthed some interesting stats about how that stacks up against other juggernauts of American business. If App Store downloads continue to increase at the same rate, the amount generated in 2018 will be more than the entire film industry combined, as well as more than the revenue taken in by the entire McDonald’s Corporation in 2016. In the coming year users will be spending about $100 million each day on apps, making the App Store segment of Apple’s business the equivalent of a Fortune 100 company in its own right. And these totals don’t take into account other apps offered from free by companies like Amazon and Uber that in turn are used by those companies to generate revenue. With Dediu estimating that “iOS enables about 50% to 60% of mobile economic activity,” he estimates that between economic activity and hardware sales combined, “the iOS economy cleared about $380 billion in revenues 2017” and is set to approach the $500 billion mark in the coming year.

Chinese consumer group joins others demanding information about iPhone slowdowns

A Chinese consumer group has joined the growing list of private citizens and government entities demanding information about why and how Apple decided to slow down older iPhones without informing users, Reuters reports. Chinese state news agency Xinhua said the Shanghai Consumer Council has demanded a reply from Apple by Friday about how the company plans to rectify consumer complaints that their old iPhones became sluggish after the iOS 10.2.1 update. Apple has already lowered the price of battery replacements for users with certain iPhones and promised software changes to let users monitor the health of their batteries, but the company is still facing multiple class-action lawsuits and demands from lawmakers to provide more information about the situation.

Apple makes deal to allow tipping to resume for Chinese users of WeChat app

Apple has reached a deal with Tencent that will soon allow the tipping feature to be turned back on in WeChat, The Wall Street Journal reports. Direct payments to content creators were disabled in WeChat and other apps last year when Apple informed the app makers that it considered the payments equivalent to in-app purchases — which means Apple would be entitled to 30 percent of the revenue being sent. The companies objected, arguing that Apple was looking to collect money for nothing since not even the app makers themselves were collecting anything from the direct payments sent from users to content creators.

Apple took meeting with AR component suppliers during CES

In another small move adding fuel to speculation about Apple’s augmented reality glasses project, the tech giant met with suppliers that produce the underlying technology to power the devices during CES, Bloomberg reports. Apple was among several larger tech companies that had discussions with suppliers, according to people familiar with the meetings. Apple is reportedly aiming to have the technology ready by 2019 ahead of a 2020 product release, but sources have admitted that launch timeline is “very aggressive” and subject to change.

India relaxes 30-percent local sourcing rules for Apple, clearing way for Apple Stores

India has relaxed the rules that have been keeping Apple from opening Apple Stores, clearing the way for the company to expand into the country, The New York Times reports. Indian law requires that companies opening retail locations source at least 30 perfect of the materials in the product’s construction from within India, which poses a big problem for Apple since the company sources materials and assembles its products mainly from China. The new rules allow single-brand retailers “to temporarily meet the 30 percent requirement by buying goods made in India and then selling them overseas.” That would allow Apple to buy Indian made accessories like iPhone cases and sell them outside the country to offset the sales it is making on its own products within the country. After five years those rules will expire and Apple will have to meet the full sourcing requirement, but by then it should be possible for Apple to rejigger its supply chain to comply. Apple began manufacturing the iPhone SE in India last year and has been allowed to sell them online, but had still been prevented from opening retail locations because the components were brought in from outside the country.

Apple mistakenly notifies US users of Chinese data center migration

Apple sent an email notification to several users outside of China mistakenly informing them their iCloud data was being moved to a Chinese company’s servers, TechCrunch reports. Apple had previously announced its move to migrate user data in China to government-run servers to comply with local laws, but some US users reported receiving an email telling them their data was being moved to the Chinese data centers as well. Apple sent a followup to users who received the email by mistake, assuring them that “only users with their Apple ID country set to China will have their iCloud data migrated to GCBD servers.” That wording is important, since setting their Apple ID location outside of China could prevent Chinese users from having their data on state-run servers.

Gracenote shows off app that integrates AM/FM radio with CarPlay

Gracenote has showcased a potential solution to remedy Apple’s lack of CarPlay support for local radio that also makes stations from around the US available, CNET reports. Known for creating tagging information for digital music, Gracenote has now created an app that combines local AM/FM broadcast stations alongside radio streaming options, all of which can be accessed from within CarPlay instead of leaving Apple’s user interface to manage the radio from the vehicle’s native interface. The app has an indexed list of radio stations from all over the US, sorted by genre and location for easy browsing, but the company doesn’t seem to have plans to make it available to consumers through the App Store. Instead, the company will be providing the tech to “partners,” which likely means automakers will be the ones that end up providing the solution to make radio available through CarPlay at some point.

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