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.
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.
A bug in banner notifications through the Messages app allows a string of characters sent via iMessage or SMS to crash an iPhone, MacRumors reports. Receiving the string of symbols and Arabic characters causes an iPhone to crash and quickly reboot after the message pops up in a notification. After the reboot, Messages will crash immediately upon opening, unless it’s being opened to the conversation containing the offending message. Even then, trying to navigate to another conversation in Messages will crash the app. Reddit users found that replying to the original message solves the problem if the Messages app opens directly to the conversation containing the offending message. But if Messages opens to the conversation list view, the app will crash when opened until another message is received.
If you can’t get someone else to send you a message, sending yourself a message through Siri or through the Share sheet in another app is an option to resolve the issue. While the character strand is very specific and unlikely to be sent by accident, a quick search proves plenty of people have already started using the message maliciously. Until Apple rolls out a fix, turning off previews for Messages will help mitigate the immediate effects of receiving the message, and if someone is repeatedly sending the message to shut down your iPhone, blocking them is always an option.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Apple will be discontinuing support for the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS effective June 9, 9to5Mac reports. Citing Apple internal documents, the report notes that the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3G (China), iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 3GS (China) will be designated as “Obsolete” in Asia-Pacific/Canada/EU/Japan/Latin America and all Apple Retail Stores, while these models will be designated as “Vintage” in the U.S., where Apple is still required to provide hardware service for a longer period of time as required by California law. The original iPhone, which was declared obsolete outside of the U.S. in 2013, will also lose its U.S. “Vintage” status and be added to the U.S. “Obsolete” list as well. Apple typically declares products “Vintage” when they have not been manufactured for more than five years, but less than seven. “Obsolete” products are those that have not been manufactured for more than seven years.
Visiting Beijing to tout Apple’s environmental strides in China, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Xinhua he is “very bullish on Apple Pay” for the country, despite a series of snags that has kept the payment system from going live there. Once Apple Pay is available, Cook said he believes China will adopt it even faster than the U.S. has. China has already become a more lucrative market than the U.S. for iPhone sales, with Apple overtaking local phone maker Xiaomi to become the top smartphone vendor in China. “I think China is a market where everyone will own a smart phone,” Cook said, adding he hopes to convince “a reasonable percentage” of that market to carry the iPhone. Apple is rapidly expanding its retail presence in China to meet growing demand, opening seven more Apple stores since the start of 2015 and planning to nearly double the current total of 22 stores by the middle of 2016. “Forty is a good objective for us for mid next year,” said Cook, “That is not where we want to end. We’ll keep adding from there.”
In a note to investors, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo — who seems to be right about Apple products more frequently than most analysts — has made 11 big predictions about new iPhone models to be released this year. Kuo sees new 4.7-inch and 5.5 inch iPhone models in mass production by late August, but doesn’t think a new 4-inch model is coming in 2015 for those turned off by the new larger iPhones. His predictions for the new “iPhone 6s” and “iPhone 6s Plus” models include Force Touch, an A9 processor with 2GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel camera and a rose gold color option. Here’s the full list:
(1) Force Touch will be the biggest upgraded selling point, but also one of the main bottlenecks of the supply chain. Force Touch can enhance user experience due to more input methods and support of handwritten signatures, which is beneficial for expanding in the commercial market;
(2) Screen will remain at 4.7 and 5.5 inches, with resolution the same as existing models. There will be no new 4-inch model;
(3) There will be an additional casing color, rose gold, matching the rose gold Apple Watch Edition;
(4) The camera will have a pixel upgrade, likely to 12 MP;
(5) One microphone will be added near the speaker to enhance voice quality;
(6) The A9 processor with upgraded 2GB LPDDR4 will be adopted;
(7) The bending issue will be improved by using different casing materials and internal mechanical design changes;
(8) If drop test issues can be resolved, the 5.5-inch model will have a limited number of units with sapphire cover lens;
(9) The recognition rate of Touch ID will be improved further in a bid to promote Apple Pay;
(10) Gesture control support; and
(11) It’s expected that mass production will start in mid-to-late August. Total shipments will be 80-90mn in 2015, with a 2:1 ratio of 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models.
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.
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]
Apple sold more iPhones in China than the U.S. for the first time in Q2, Reuters reports. Apple’s revenue in the country was up 71 percent to $16.8 billion over the quarter, fueled by gift buying around Chinese New Year. Apple sold 61.2 million iPhones overall in the quarter, up 40 percent from last year’s Q2, but down from the previous record-breaking holiday quarter. The larger-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have proven popular with customers worldwide, helping Apple overtake Samsung in global smartphone sales last quarter.
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.
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]
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.
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.
With yesterday’s release of iOS 8.3, users on Sprint and EE in the UK can now take advantage of Wi-Fi calling. While the feature was initially debuted in iOS 8, only T-Mobile supported it at initial launch; for whatever reason other carriers seem to have been excluded up until this most recent iOS update, with Sprint issuing a formal press release, and EE more quietly announcing it via a posting in their community forums. An update to Apple’s support article on Wi-Fi calling provides confirmation that the service is now available specifically on “T-Mobile and Sprint in the United States and EE in the United Kingdom.”
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.
Apple’s rumored expansion of its iPhone trade-in program to include non-Apple devices went live today in the U.S. and Europe, French blog MacPlus reports. The U.K. website for Brightstar, a third-party company that handles Apple’s trade-ins, indicates Apple is now offering Apple Store credit in exchange for select handsets from Sony, Nokia, Blackberry, Samsung, NTC and LG. The change to Apple’s exchange program was handled with little fanfare in the U.S., with the announcement buried on individual store pages according to 9to5Mac. This would seem to imply U.S. stores are accepting non-Apple devices for trade-ins, but it’s unclear when Apple’s website will provide a link to allow online U.S. users to get an estimate for the value of their Android phones.