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Report: Apple to release accessibility-related accessories in early 2016

Apple is preparing to release new accessibility-related accessories early next year, Macotakara reports. Such accessories may be released sometime from January to March 2016. It’s unclear what these accessories may be at this point, but Apple has repeatedly shown a commitment to increasing accessibility options for the disabled and impaired within its products, and releasing dedicated accessories for these users seems like a natural next step. Conceivably, such products could be introduced quietly during the next few months, or unveiled at a spring event with other new products.

Philips reverses course on Hue blocking of third-party bulbs

On the heels of yesterday’s news that Hue was set to begin blocking uncertified third-party bulbs from the Hue ecosystem due to “interoperability” issues, the company has now rapidly reversed course as a result of customer feedback. Philips has revised the notice on its developer blog, noting that while the decision was “made in good faith” to ensure an optimal customer experience, the company underestimated the impact that it would have on customers, and that in view of this it has decided to reverse the software upgrade so that lights from other brands will “continue to work as they did before” with the Hue system. The post notes that the company is working on the reversal of the upgrade and will soon confirm when this will be available to affected customers.

Philips is still encouraging third-party accessory makers to join the Friends of Hue partnership program so that their devices can be tested and certified to work seamlessly with Hue, and notes that customers using uncertified lights will likely still experience the same incompatibility issues that they have in the past, although Philips will no longer stand in the way of customers using other ZigBee LL capable accessories.

FAA announces drone registration program

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced its new registration program for owners of “small unmanned aircraft,” known to most as drones. The program will require owners to register all drones weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds, including payloads such as on-board cameras. A short list of examples has been compiled by the FAA — for instance, Parrot’s Bebop Drone must be registered under the new program. The normal registration fee is $5, but that will be waived for owners who register within the first 30 days (Dec. 21, 2015 to Jan. 20, 2016).

 

Apple releases improved Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader

Apple has quietly replaced its old Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader with an improved model that supports USB 3.0 transfer speeds now possible with the iPad Pro. The size, shape and $30 price of the accessory remain unchanged, and older iPads will still top out at USB 2.0 transfer speeds, making the new card reader most useful to iPad Pro owners. As before, inserting the reader into an iPad or iPhone with an SD card inside automatically opens the Photos app and organizes your pictures. [via iDownloadBlog]

iFixit tears down the Apple Pencil

iFixit has posted a teardown of the new Apple Pencil. The report notes the basic specs of the Pencil, noting a new Apple model number of A1603, and draws comparisons to the Microsoft Surface Pen and 53’s “iPad Pencil,” the latter of which oddly bears the same Pencil name and continues to be sold by Apple in its retail stores. The Apple Pencil box includes a spare tip along with a Lightning-to-Lightning adapter to allow users to charge their Pencils using any available Lightning cable instead of connecting the device to the bottom of their iPad. A Lightning Connector cap keeps that end covered when not in use, snapping into place with magnets, although it’s small enough to be easily lost when not attached to the Pencil.

Jony Ive gives insight into Apple Pencil’s creation

In an interview with the Telegraph, Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive explained the pains Apple has taken create a totally new drawing experience with the Apple Pencil accessory for the iPad Pro. The pencil’s sensor-filled tip gives the device capabilities no other stylus has, making it able to deliver a bold dot when pressed down hard on its tip or produce a lighter fanned effect when gently brushed on its side, just like a real pencil. But creating a device sophisticated enough to deliver those abilities created other challenges since, unlike a traditional stylus, the Apple Pencil needs to be charged. Ive admits plugging the pencil into an iPod through its Lightning connector removes some of the natural and intuitive feel the company worked to maintain with the device, but said his team endeavored to make it as simple as possible. “We don’t like to have to charge multiple devices and manage them either so one of the things we’ve worked extremely hard on is the actual process of charging.”

iPad Pro available in some US Apple Stores today

Apple opened online orders of the new iPad Pro today, and many Apple Stores across the US are showing the item is available for in-store pickup for those who don’t want to wait. The in-store pickup option currently doesn’t appear when placing an order from Canada. Those opting for shipping when they place an order online can expect to get their device Monday free of charge or Friday if they’re willing to pay an extra $19. Canadian orders don’t appear to offer the expedited shipping option either, with only free delivery arriving Monday listed as an option. And regardless of where customers are shopping, Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories for the new device are showing 3-4 week delays for availability, so be prepared to wait for the full experience.

Tim Cook talks iPad Pro, wonders why anyone would buy a PC now

On his tour of London this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook pushed the idea that the new iPad Pro is as versatile a product as the company has ever made with features that appeal to a broad range of users. In his interview with The Telegraph, Cook said the new tablet has the screen and speakers to give the average media consumer a much more robust viewing and listening experience, but when paired with the company’s keyboard case the device is powerful enough to replace a user’s notebook or desktop computer and challenge the PC’s dominance in the workplace. “I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?” Cook said.

When paired with the Apple Pencil, Cook said the device is the first of its kind to give creatives a true alternative to putting pencil to paper for sketching. Addressing criticism that the Apple Pencil is a stylus that users don’t need since their finger can do the same job, Cook told The Independent that the Apple Pencil has won over artists by going far beyond what a stylus can do. “The traditional stylus is fat, it has really bad latency so you’re sketching here and it’s filling the line in somewhere behind. You can’t sketch with something like that, you need something that mimics the look and feel of the pencil itself or you’re not going to replace it,” Cook said. “We’re not trying to replace finger touch, we’re complementing it with the Pencil.”

iPad Pro available online Wednesday, hits stores later this week

Apple has announced that the iPad Pro will be available for purchase online Wednesday and is set to arrive at Apple Stores and other retailers later this week. The Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard accessories will also be available for online order Wednesday. The announcement confirms previous reports that Apple would start selling the device on Wednesday and explains why Sam’s Club listed the iPad Pro as launching in its stores on Friday. It appears other third-party retailers have different sale dates listed for the device — Staples, for instance, has an availability date of Nov. 25.

Apple reveals Beats Pill+ speaker

Months after recalling the Beats Pill XL over battery overheating concerns, Beats has revealed the Beats Pill+ ($230), the company’s first speaker offering since it was bought by Apple last year. Not yet available for purchase, the Pill+ features four front-facing speakers, with Beats claiming users will be able to sync up playback with a second speaker using its dedicated app. The new speaker has a Lightning port for charging, boasts a 12-hour battery life on a 3-hour charge and is able to charge an iOS device while playing music. Beats Pill+ will be available in black and white color options, and it will launch in November.

Incipio acquires Incase

Mobile device accessory maker Incipio Technologies has acquired Incase Designs, which specializes in laptop bags and cases for Apple devices. The move comes on the heels of Incipio buying up iPad keyboard case and peripheral manufacturer ClamCase this June and two years after the company acquired speaker manufacturer Braven. Incase’s product lines further expand Incipio’s reach into Apple-specific accessories, while Incipio’s distribution network will allow Incase to expand its market globally. Financial terms of the deal remain confidential, but like Braven and ClamCase, Incase will continue as its own standalone brand with its own headquarters.

Zagg announces iPad Pro, iPad mini 4 keyboard lineup

Zagg has announced the release of its new Bluetooth keyboard lineup for the iPad Pro and iPad mini 4. Three new iPad mini 4 keyboards include the Slim Book ($120), Folio with backlit keys ($100), and Folio with non-backlit keys ($80), which will be available for order on Sept. 15 for the Slim Book and Sept. 25 for the Folio models. Two new iPad Pro keyboards are also coming in November — the Messenger Universal ($70) and the Slim Book Pro ($140). All of the new keyboards provide device protection, 135-degree viewing angles, and two-year battery life along with multi-pairing so that they can be used with multiple iOS devices or even Macs. On Thursday, Logitech introduced its Smart Connector-compatible keyboard for iPad Pro, Create, so it hasn’t taken long to see third-party accessories for Apple’s upcoming large-screen iPad.

Logitech announces Create keyboard for iPad Pro

Logitech has announced Create, the first third-party keyboard for Apple’s upcoming iPad Pro. The new full-sized keyboard will be compatible with Apple’s new magnetic Smart Connector. Create automatically connects to the iPad Pro when docked in the typing position, and the keyboard is powered by the iPad Pro itself. Create is said to be made of “tightly-woven premium fabric,” but few other details are known at this time. It will be released when the iPad Pro launches. Logitech has yet to reveal pricing information for the new accessory, but Apple’s own upcoming Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro will cost $169 at launch.

Report: iPhone 6S, iPad Pro to feature ‘3D Touch Display’

Ahead of Apple’s announcement tomorrow, 9to5Mac is reporting the new iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and iPad Pro are expected to feature a next-generation version of the Force Touch display, likely to be called “3D Touch Display.” The new screens will be able to detect and act on three different levels of pressure — a tap, a press and a deep press. Sources said this improvement allows Apple to add new shortcut gestures to apps in the iPhone version of iOS 9, eliminating the need for multiple button pushes to do things like starting navigation in Maps or adding songs to a playlist in Music.

In addition to the new screen, 9to5Mac said the iPad Pro base model will feature four stereo speakers and 64GB of storage — substantially higher than the 16GB starting capacity of previous models. The new iPad will likely also come in a 128GB model and be available with built-in LTE capabilities like current iPad Air and iPad Mini lines, but will feature an A9X chip considered to be a large leap over the iPad Air 2’s A8X. Upscale models are expected to cost more than $1,000, placing them closer to the price point now reserved for a smaller MacBook than that of the most expensive iPad currently on the market. Even with the top of the line model, Apple is expected to make customers buy the Force-Touch-integrated stylus and Bluetooth keyboard separately, further upping the price for those looking for a more robust experience. The company is rumored to have two versions of the keyboard in the works, with one similar to the Apple Wireless Keyboard previously sold with Macs and iPads and another that doubles as a case. While the new iPhones will probably be available in rose gold, the iPad Pro will start with the gold, silver and space grey colors we’ve already seen. Pre-orders may start in October, but production issues and supply constraints could keep the iPad Pro from shipping until the end of November.

Logitech debuts Logi BLOK cases for iPad Air 2

Logitech has announced its new Logi BLOK family of cases for the iPad Air 2, the first group of products to appear under the new Logi brand, which was introduced last week. The family includes the Logi BLOK Protective Shell ($40), the Logi BLOK Protective Case ($70), and the Logi BLOK Protective Keyboard Case ($130), all of which feature square corners to help protect the iPad. Logitech indicates the cases have been tested to withstand drops from up to six feet high and onto surfaces such as hard concrete, providing good drop protection with much less bulk and weight than many ultra-protective cases. The cases are expected to be available in August, with black, red/violet or teal/blue color options.

Logitech introduces new Logi label

Accessory maker Logitech has announced big branding changes in a blog post. The company revealed a re-imagined logo, creating a distinct “Logi” label to be applied to a new line of yet-to-be-disclosed products. Logitech has also hired its first chief design officer, Alastair Curtis, and touts a fresh dedication to “put design at the core of everything [they] do.” The new label will appear on the company’s “colorful and bold” new product offerings, but “Logi” doesn’t seem to be replacing “Logitech” as the company’s name completely. Instead, the company says the “Logi” logo will begin popping up “on select products in existing categories” as well as on new offerings.

Apple debuts ‘Apple Tested Cases’ web page

Apple has introduced a new web page on its site featuring a list of third-party cases that the company has tested and certified for use with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Titled “Apple Tested Cases,” the page provides details on testing the company apparently does on third-party cases, including ensuring proper fit, performing drop testing, and making certain that cases don’t interfere with the camera, acoustics, various sensors, and cellular, Wi-Fi, and NFC signals. This move follows a report late last year that Apple would be introducing more stringent requirements for MFi case makers, and could be a result of these new standards for case certification. The bottom of the page provides a link to all of the cases sold by the Apple Store, all of which presumably meet all of the specified requirements under the MFi program.

Nest debuts Nest Cam, updates Nest Protect and Learning Thermostat

Popular home automation device maker Nest has announced a major refresh of its entire product line, including the introduction of Nest Cam, a redesigned Nest Protect alarm, new features for the Nest Learning Thermostat, and a major update to its Nest iOS app. The new Nest Cam ($199) provides full 1080p HD video recording with motion alerts and night vision to allow users to keep an eye on their home from anywhere. A second-generation Nest Protect ($99) is now eleven percent smaller and provides a new split-spectrum sensor that uses two wavelengths of light to identify different types of fires and now provides the ability to silence alarms from the iOS app. The Nest Learning thermostat now gains the ability to notify customers when temperatures drop to help avoid frozen pipes, and adds tighter integration with other Nest products.

Monster: Apple booted us from MFi program over Beats lawsuit

Apple has revoked Monster’s MFi program membership, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Representatives from Monster reported the news, indicating that the move was in retaliation to Monster’s lawsuit against the now-Apple-owned Beats Electronics. Monster has been making licensed accessories under the MFi program since 2005, and many of its accessories have even been sold in Apple’s retail stores. David Tognotti, general counsel for Monster, stated that Apple’s chief litigation counsel advised him that their MFi agreement was being terminated as of May 5 due to their relationship with Apple no longer being “mutually beneficial” and that Monster’s lawsuit against Beats would “destroy the working relationship” between the two companies. Monster has reportedly paid Apple more than $12 million in licensing fees since 2008, and more than 20 percent of the company’s products are produced under the MFi program license. Under the terms of the agreement, Monster will still be able to sell its existing stock of Apple-licensed accessories until September, but will no longer be permitted to manufacture new MFi accessories.

Report: Apple killed Beats home audio project after acquisition

When Apple acquired Beats Electronics, the company killed a project aimed at creating WiFi-connected speakers that would play subscription music services straight from the Internet, Variety reports. Efforts to create a more complete, room-to-room Beats home listening solution ran into serious problems and delays, leading Apple to scrap it. In related news, Apple recently pulled the Beats Pill XL speaker off its website after a safety recall. The company has offered customers refunds, but no ability to fix or replace affected devices, fueling further speculation that Apple isn’t committed to the Beats hardware brand. Some of the Beats engineers working on the new speaker project have since left the company, and sources say around 50 percent of Beats employees have left or lost their jobs post-acquisition.

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