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Report: iOS 9 will bring new security features, improve legacy device support

A new report by 9to5Mac provides some insight into Apple’s plans for iOS 9, expected to debut at WWDC early next month. As previously reported, iOS 9 will focus primarily on stability and optimization, however this new information reveals some new details about some of the features and improvements Apple is working on, particularly in the areas of security and legacy device support.

A new security feature, dubbed “Rootless,” is expected to significantly improve iOS security at the kernel level by preventing even “root” level administrative access to certain protected files on Apple devices. Sources have also indicated that Rootless will be a major deterrent to jailbreaking on iOS, making it much more complicated to hack iOS devices and install unauthorized apps. Apple is also said to be working on leveraging iCloud Drive for more of its back-end services. Services such as Notes — which currently uses IMAP to store notes on an email server — and the CalDAV-based Calendar and Reminders are being re-architected to store their data directly in iCloud Drive, which will provide better end-to-end encryption and faster and more reliable syncing services. A new “Trusted Wi-Fi” feature is also under development to improve security by allowing iOS devices to more transparently connect to specific, authorized wireless routers, although it’s unclear whether this last feature will be incorporated into iOS 9 or pushed back until a future point release or beyond.

In contrast to earlier reports which speculated that iOS 9 could possibly drop support for all but 64-bit devices, Apple is apparently optimizing iOS 9 to run more efficiently on older iPhones and iPads, even going so far back as the iPhone 4S and original iPad mini. The company is said to have restructured its software engineering process to ensure older hardware is better supported with iOS updates, building a “core version” of iOS 9 targeted at older devices and enabling features individually, as opposed to the former approach of building iOS 9 for newer devices and then disabling features to try and improve performance.

Report: Dual app viewing, multiple logins coming to iPad

In addition to the rumored iPad Pro expected later this year, Apple is said to be working on several additional hardware and software improvements to the iPad, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. Rumours have been circulating for some time now regarding split-screen multitasking on the iPad — a feature that was expected in iOS 8 last year — however sources now suggest that the side-by-side app support feature will arrive with iOS 9, and in fact may be introduced as soon as this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June and be available in the first iOS 9 developer betas.

Sources indicated that Apple originally intended to debut the split-screen feature with the iPad Air 2 last fall, however it was considered “too unpolished” and removed it from iOS 8.0 with plans to reintroduce it in iOS 8.1. Soon after, however, Apple was forced to reprioritize its engineering resources on the iPhone and Apple Watch, effectively tabling the feature until iOS 9. Latest plans suggest the feature will provide 1/2, 1/3, and 2/3 views, subject to the parameters of specific apps, with the screen able to display either two different apps side-by-side or two different views of the same app. It is still unclear, however, whether Apple will have the feature ready to show by next month. Sources also suggest that Apple may hold back the feature to debut it with the release of the “iPad Pro” later this year.

Support for multiple users on a single iPad is also said to be in the works, however sources suggest that this feature will not make the cut for the initial release of iOS 9, and it’s not certain whether it will arrive this year. However, Apple is apparently actively working on it in parallel with iOS 9 as it is a feature the company believes is “critical to the enterprise and education sectors,” suggesting that it could debut with the “iPad Pro” or as part of an iOS 9 point update.

Report: Apple to bring Apple Watch font to iOS 9

Apple plans on bringing its own San Francisco font seen on Apple Watch to iOS 9 and OS X 10.11, 9to5Mac reports. The font will replace Helvetica Neue, which debuted in iOS 7 in 2013. Though the San Francisco font was developed “specifically for legibility,” the idea to bring the font to iOS appears to have a mixed reaction within Apple — the report claims that higher-ups believe the font will help “iOS and OS X to avoid becoming stale,” but also notes that some Apple engineers don’t like the font, “which may look particularly rough on non-Retina screens.”

Refurbished iPad Air 2 models hit Apple Store

Apple has added refurbished iPad Air 2 models to its online store for the first time. The online store has several models and colors available, starting at $419 for Wi-Fi models and $519 for cellular-enabled versions. All the refurbished devices are discounted between 15 and 17 percent off the price of a new iPad Air 2 and include a one-year warranty. [via MacRumors]

Apple releases third iOS 8.4 beta to developers

Apple has released its third beta of iOS 8.4 to developers, continuing to focus on the new iOS Music app. Featuring a build number of 12H4098c, the release is also accompanied by a new Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment. The release notes for this latest beta indicate both improvements and limitations in App Extensions, the iTunes Store, Siri, Videos, and WatchKit, as well as with the new Music app. The new Music app appears to continue having a long list of issues that remain to be addressed, with limited progress since the first beta, although the language of several has been softened from phrases such as “does not work” to “may not work” suggesting that Apple is perhaps slowly working on improvements in these areas.

Apple experimenting with silver nanowire tech for ‘iPad Pro’ touch panel?

Apple has received samples of silver nanowire materials to be used for touch screens in a “large screen iPad, which will be released next year,” Korean outlet ETNews reports. The new material is thinner and more pressure sensitive than the indium tin oxide film used in current touch screen displays, allowing the silver nanowire to be incorporated into thinner devices. The more touch sensitive material could augment Apple’s Force Touch technology, already available in Apple Watch and newer MacBooks, and rumored to be featured in the coming “iPad Pro.” The silver nanowire can even maintain an electrical signal when bent or snapped, making it ideal for use in flexible screens. The material is also cheaper to create because rare materials like indium aren’t required and major display suppliers like LG and Samsung already have the ability to mass produce it. [via Apple Insider]

Report: New 12.9” iPad will feature Force Touch, Bluetooth stylus, NFC

A person familiar with Apple’s product plans told Apple Insider that the company’s new 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” will feature the Force Touch technology featured in the Apple Watch and new MacBook. The new touchscreen will sense different amounts of pressure from fingertips or the accompanying Bluetooth stylus, providing pressure-sensitive output. An alleged NFC radio inside the device will make for easier pairing of the stylus with the iPad and also allow the new device to serve as a payment receiving terminal for Apple Pay, although tap-to-pay functionality is unlikely. A USB-C port is also likely — cases based on alleged “iPad Pro” designs have included spaces for two port openings.

Twitter CEO hints at larger Spotlight integration

During yesterday’s quarterly earnings call, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said his company is working on injecting more tweets into the Spotlight feature on iOS and OS X. Spotlight already displays information from Twitter when users search for specific Twitter handles or certain hashtags, but how the search prioritizes hashtags is unclear. A search for hashtags including terms already occurring in a user’s stored messages can return no Twitter results at all, and even when a hashtag search produces results from Twitter, the results don’t match up with the same search in the iOS Twitter app. Costolo said Twitter is “working with Apple to surface great Twitter content and accounts directly in Spotlight Search on iOS and OS X, that also makes it easier and quicker to find great things on Twitter.” No timeline for the added integration or information about how it will function within Spotlight was offered. [via 9to5Mac]

Problem with iPad app grounds American Airlines flights

Multiple American Airlines flights were grounded Tuesday night over an issue with an iPad app used by pilots, The Verge reports. “Some flights are experiencing an issue with a software application on pilot iPads,” American Airlines spokesperson Andrea Huguely said. “In some cases, the flight has had to return to the gate to access a Wi-Fi connection to fix the issue.”

American Airlines has been using the iPad to replace bulky flight manuals since 2012, but the widespread outage of the company’s app Tuesday left the iPad screens of pilots and copilots on a few dozen flights completely blank, according to passenger Bill Jacaruso. American Airlines claims to have identified and solved the problem.

Apple releases second iOS 8.4 beta to developers

Apple has released its second beta of iOS 8.4 to developers, a release that continues to focus on Apple’s new Music app introduced in the original iOS 8.4 beta. Featuring a build number of 12H4086d, the release is also accompanied by a new Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment. The release notes for this latest beta indicate both improvements and limitations in App Extensions, CarPlay, App Store, iTunes Store, MFi GPS accessories, Videos, and WatchKit, as well as with the new Music app. Notably, the list of limitations in the Music app remains the same as in the first beta, suggesting that the development process may be proceeding more slowly than expected.

Security flaw opens iOS devices to attack using fake WiFi hotspots

Researchers at Skycure have exposed an SSL certificate security flaw allowing them to create a ‘No iOS Zone’ where most apps on iPhones and iPads running iOS 8 will crash while connecting to the Internet, even crashing the devices themselves in some cases. While the exploit is normally triggered by users manually joining these rogue Wi-Fi networks, hackers can also take advantage of the WiFiGate vulnerability to create fake Wi-Fi networks with names that iOS devices on some carriers will automatically join — for example any iPhone on AT&T will join any nearby Wi-Fi network with the name “attwifi” without requiring any user interaction. Once the device is connected, either automatically or manually by the user, apps attempting to make a secure connection with a server will crash. Heavy use of the device while it is exposed to the fake Wi-Fi location can even cause the device’s OS to crash. In some instances that crash led to a repeatable boot cycle, rendering the device useless while within range of the fake Wi-Fi hotspot. Users can avoid the problem by disconnecting from the offending Wi-Fi network and generally avoiding connecting to suspicious free Wi-Fi networks, although in the case of carrier-defined Wi-Fi networks, the user may be required to move out of range of the Wi-Fi network entirely, as many of these carrier settings cannot be overridden. Skycure has reported the problem to Apple and speculates that iOS 8.3 may have fixed some of the underlying issues. [via 9to5Mac]

YouTube app won’t work on older Apple TVs, versions of iOS starting in May

Google has announced that the YouTube app will cease to function starting in May for iOS devices running an OS older than iOS 7 — this likely refers to the older Apple-developed YouTube app that was discontinued in iOS 6. The change also impacts second-generation and older Apple TV units, which won’t be able to access YouTube starting in May unless Apple chooses to provide a software update for the older model. Users of the YouTube app on these older devices are already seeing a video notifying them of the change, but the app is still functional for now. In early May, users will only see the notification video, and will be unable to access any video content through the app. Google’s support page has directed users of older iOS versions to visit YouTube’s mobile site to view videos. Notably, Google’s official YouTube app for iOS remains listed as compatible with “iOS 6.0 or later”, so it’s unclear why iOS 6 users may be unable to access YouTube unless Google simply plans to drop iOS 6 support in the native iOS app.

Leaked cases may hint at ‘iPad Pro’ design details

Leaked cases revealed by Sonny Dickson may provide some details on the design of the alleged larger “iPad Pro” currently under development at Apple. Examining cases that claim to be for the new device, the report speculates that the new device will resemble the current iPads, but include stereo speakers located on both the bottom and the top of the device. The case design also suggests that components such as iSight camera and Touch ID button remain in their expected positions. The case design would also seem to confirm earlier rumors that the new tablet may be equipped with multiple ports, although it remains unclear whether both of these will be Lightning ports, USB-C ports, or a combination of both. Possible measurements for the iPad Pro can also be discerned from the cases; assuming that these cases accurately reflect Apple’s specifications for the new device, they show that the iPad Pro may be slightly thicker than the iPad Air, at 7mm.

 

L.A. school district seeking restitution over failed iPad program (Updated)

The Los Angeles Unified School District is looking to recover millions of dollars from Apple following the failure of an iPad-based curriculum program, the Los Angeles Times reports. Developed by Pearson, an educational consulting firm working as a sub-contractor to Apple, the $1.3-billion program was intended to provide iPads to every student, teacher, and school administrator. The devices began rolling out in the fall of 2013, however, the plan got off to a rocky start with declining political support, rising costs, and the resignation of the Superintendent who had spearheaded the initiative. Claims were later made that Apple and Pearson may have had an unfair advantage in the bidding process, leading to an FBI criminal investigation that remains in progress. The district suspended its contract with Apple last August.

Earlier this week, the Board of Education for the district held a closed-door meeting with its attorneys, authorizing them to look into possible litigation against both Apple and Pearson. According to district general counsel David Holmquist, new Superintendent Ramon Cortines “made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he’s dissatisfied with their product.” Holmquist sent a letter to Apple on Monday making it clear that the district will no longer accept or pay for new deliveries of the curriculum and related equipment, or any services related to the project.

Update: The federal Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an informal inquiry into the project regarding the legal use of bond funds, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Samsung creates exclusive team to build Apple screens

Samsung has created a team of about 200 employees working exclusively on displays for Apple, Bloomberg reports. The team provides screens for iPads and MacBooks, aids in product development, and only shares information about Apple’s business within the group, according to people with direct knowledge of the move. Even after years of legal fights between the two companies, Apple is Samsung’s biggest external customer, with Samsung set to produce Apple’s A9 processor for the next iPhone. LG, a rival for Apple’s display panel business, also has a dedicated team focused on Apple.

Apple releases iOS 8.4 beta to developers, with new Music app

Less than a week after the public release of iOS 8.3, Apple has already begun the developer beta cycle of the next iOS update, with the release of the first iOS 8.4 beta to registered developers. As expected, iOS 8.4 appears to focus primarily on a redesigned Music experience to pave the way for Apple’s upcoming streaming music service, with a number of significant changes to the built-in Music app, paralleling some iTunes features such as Now Playing, Mini Player, and support for adding to and managing the Up Next queue.

The Music app redesign is apparently being overseen by Trent Reznor, the creative head at Beats Music, who has reportedly been working on a secret project at Apple since at least last fall. This first iOS 8.4 beta, featuring a build number of 12H4074d, is also accompanied by an Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment, and notes about a dozen limitations with the new Music app at present.

It is expected that most of these are just issues related to the new Music app not being entirely finished in this first beta, and the app experience should improve through the remainder of the beta cycle.

Apple releases iOS 8.3, iCloud Photo Library comes out of beta

Apple has publicly released iOS 8.3, noting more than 50 new fixes and improvements across areas such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Messages, CarPlay, Family Sharing, Accessibility, Enterprise features, orientation and rotation features, and more. The update also boasts improved performance for launching apps, responsiveness of apps, Messages, Wi-Fi, Control Center, Safari tabs, third-party keyboards, and other features. Notably, with iOS 8.3, Apple has also removed the “beta” label from its iCloud Photo Library feature which debuted last fall, optimizing it to work with the new Photos app now available in OS X Yosemite 10.3.3. Other notable fixes and improvements include a new Emoji keyboard featuring over 300 new characters, the ability to filter out Messages not sent by people in your contacts list, a way to report junk iMessages directly from the Messages app, italic and underline formatting options on the iPhone 6 Plus landscape keyboard, and the ability to remove shipping and billing addresses used with Apple Pay. iOS 8.3 can be downloaded by going to the iOS Settings app and choosing General, Software Update, or by connecting your iOS device to iTunes and using the Check for Update option found on the iTunes device summary screen.

Photos of alleged iPad mini 4 rear shell appear

New photos and a video alleging to show the rear shell of the next-generation iPad mini have appeared on French blog nowhereelse.fr. The accompanying description notes that the shell includes two rows of ten holes for the speakers on either side of the Lightning port, differing from the number of holes on the current-generation iPad mini. Notably, the report also indicates that the lock switch has disappeared and the new shell appears more similar to the design of the iPad Air 2.

Alleged ‘iPad Pro’ photos show second Lightning port?

New images found on Weibo and posted by HDBlog.it may reveal some additional details about the rumored larger “iPad Pro” expected to be coming later this year. The images claim to show the edges and parts of the rear cover of the new iPad, ostensibly revealing a second Lightning port on the left side, a rear camera with the volume adjustment buttons, and the headphone jack and speaker grid. While the veracity of these images is completely unclear, the idea of a second Lightning port is not entirely unprecedented — early rumors for the original iPad suggested that the device would have an extra Dock Connector on the side for docking in either portrait or landscape mode, and an early iPad prototype with a second Dock Connector also later appeared on eBay, suggesting that Apple at one point considered the idea even for the original iPad. Apple has eschewed docks with more recent iPad models, however, it’s entirely possible that Apple may re-introduce a standalone dock or similar solution for the larger-screened iPad Pro.

Apple releases iOS 8.3 beta 4

Apple has released its fourth beta of iOS 8.3 to registered developers; it’s the second beta in the new iOS Public Beta program. This latest beta features a build number of 12F61 and details few changes in the release notes from the prior beta, with minor issues related to CarPlay, WatchKit, Spotlight and UIKit.

As with the third beta released earlier this month, this latest update is once again accompanied by a new beta build of the Apple TV Software, although it is unclear at this point what has changed in that particular version as Apple TV betas are generally not accompanied by release notes.

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