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Apple releases iOS 8.4 beta with redesigned Music app

Apple has released its fourth beta of iOS 8.4 to developers. The new iOS 8.4 beta notably includes a redesigned Music app. With Apple Music set to debut on June 30, we should see iOS 8.4 on that date or before.

Apple debuts iOS 9, introduces Proactive Assistant

At its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco today, Apple took the wraps off iOS 9, the next version of its mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. As expected, iOS 9 was introduced primarily as building on the “foundations” of the operating system to improve battery life and stability, however several other new features were demonstrated, most notably improvements to Siri and a new Proactive Assistant feature. The Proactive Assistant will be able to provide more contextually relevant apps and information based on the user’s location and usual routines, such as bringing up an appropriate playlist when the headphones are plugged in during workout times, setting reminders for getting into the car, creating reminders based on the user’s current context such as a web page or iMessage, and automatically adding appointments from emails and looking up phone numbers from incoming calls based on information contained in emails. Search suggestions in Siri and Spotlight also become more contextually relevant based on trends, who the user has contacted, appointments, reminders, and more, and a new search API allows for content to be searched within third-party apps, deep-linked to bring up the specific information searched for directly in the app, along with a backlink to search results.

Passbook has been renamed “Wallet” and Apple Pay has also been enhanced, and in addition to launching in the U.K. in July, support is being added for loyalty and reward cards from a wide variety of stores, which will be presented based on location. The Notes app has also received a number of enhancements including a toolbar with formatting options for styles, a new feature to add checklists in Notes, and improvements to importing photos directly into Notes. A new drawing mode has also been added to allow users to sketch in Notes, and the iOS 9 Share Sheet will allow items such as web page links to be easily added to Notes as rich links. A new attachments view will also allow users to quickly see a list of attachments in Notes and access them directly from that view.

Apple confirms Apple TV to act as HomeKit hub

A new support document confirms the long-standing rumor that Apple TVs (third-generation or later) will allow users to control HomeKit devices using Siri even when they’re away from home. Devices running iOS 8.1 or later will be able to control HomeKit devices locally after downloading an app for each family of devices and entering a unique HomeKit code. After setup, Siri will be able to control the HomeKit products inside the house, but the iOS device may need to be unlocked when giving commands to certain products. For Siri to control a user’s home remotely, the same Apple ID will have to be logged in on the user’s iOS device and an Apple TV running software version 7.0 or later. For HomeKit devices to be grouped, they’ll need to be configured through the same third-party app before Siri can control them as a unit. The document includes a link to HomeKit compatible products and instructions for reconfiguring your HomeKit settings if you move or lose the device you use for control. Notably, Siri can’t be used to unlock your door, presumably for safety purposes.

Apple may debut new ‘Proactive’ assistant with iOS 9

Apple is planning to expand Siri and Spotlight functionality in iOS 9 to provide a more effective personal assistant, 9to5Mac reports. Dubbed Proactive, the service is expected to be similar in concept to Google’s Google Now service that is available on Android devices and in Google’s iOS app, leveraging services such as Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook, and third-party apps to provide relevant information to the user based on their data and device usage patterns. Integration with Apple Maps is also expected to allow the service to display points of interest, which will apparently be presented in a new augmented reality interface. The new service will reportedly be an evolution of the Spotlight search feature in iOS, and appears to be designed to be accessible from a panel to the left of the home screen — similar to where Spotlight was located prior to the iOS 7 design refresh two years ago.

Google Search will soon surface content from iOS apps

In the coming weeks, search results from the Google app and Chrome browser will begin including suggestions to use relevant apps available on iOS devices, according to a blog post from Google. In the above sample photograph, a search for a restaurant suggests using the OpenTable app to book a reservation. Clicking on the suggestion opens the app and guides it to the correct restaurant. The upgraded indexing of apps is starting with a “small group of test partners,” but who those partners are and what types of searches will suggest using their apps isn’t clear.

iOS 9 Transit feature to launch in select cities

Following an earlier report that Apple Maps will be adding Transit in iOS 9, a follow-up report by 9to5Mac provides more details on Apple’s initial rollout plans, indicating that at launch the service will be limited to a handful of cities around the world. According to sources familiar with the project, Apple’s Transit service will be coming to only a half-dozen cities at first, with the list including San Francisco and New York in the U.S., Toronto, Canada, and London, Paris, and Berlin in Europe. Despite this short list, however, Apple is reportedly already making plans to expand the service further, and is considering Boston, Massachusetts and Tokyo, Japan as two of the next cities on its list.

Report: iOS 9 to feature Force Touch support, updated keyboard

Apple has designed iOS 9 to support Force Touch capability — rumored to be coming in next-generation iPhones — and is making improvements to the OS keyboard, according to a report from 9to5Mac. Apple’s updated iOS 9 will offer similar functionality to the Force Touch trackpads in new MacBooks, integrating the new technology to bring pressure-sensitive scrolling to media players. Force Touch will also modify the way users look up words, allow them to add new events in Calendar, and drop pins in the Maps app, according to sources who have used the new iPhone prototypes. Since the updated iOS 9 will also power upcoming iPads, there is speculation that Force Touch capabilities will end up in future iPads, as well. Apple is also weighing options for keyboard updates, including easier access to the QuickType keyboard, an improved Shift key that makes it easier to see when Shift or Caps Lock is active, and a “longer” design with additional editing controls in portrait mode. Updates to iMessage are also expected, including improved read receipt settings and preferences.

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.

 

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