A little more than a month after its open beta period, Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant hit the App Store today. The free app allows users access to functions similar to those performed by Apple’s Siri, like getting answers to questions, but adds the ability to sync reminders between an iOS device and a Windows PC. Cortana is also able to track packages, flights, sports scores and stocks for those looking for up-to-the-minute updates, and a Notebook function stores information about a user’s interests and activities. But Cortana’s functionality is much more limited on the iPhone than on Windows phones where it’s fully integrated: Cortana isn’t allowed to change iPhone settings or activate when users say “Hey Cortana,” making the app less of a full replacement for Siri and more of a handy extension for iOS device users operating a Windows PC that they want to integrate with their device.
Apple has released its picks for best apps of 2015. The company picked Periscope (our runner up for App of the Year) as its iPhone App of the Year — calling it a game-changer that “made sharing and watching live videos an instant obsession” — and selected photo editor Enlight and stock-trading app Robinhood as its runners-up. Workflow won Most Innovative app for iPhone, and Instagram’s 3D Touch enhancements won it Best App on iPhone 6s. Lara Croft GO won Best Game of the Year for iPhone for its “beauty and clever design,” with Fallout Shelter and Mr Jump earning runner-up honors. Dark Echo was listed as the Most Innovative iPhone game and “immersive 3D Touch controls” won Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade honors as Best Game on iPhone 6s.
Apple has released iOS 9.2 today, adding several improvements and bug fixes related to Apple Music, News, and Mail. More specifically, the update allows Apple Music users to create new playlists on-the-fly when adding songs, places the most recently modified playlist at the top when adding songs to a playlist, and provides an iCloud Download button for downloading albums or playlists, as well as more detailed indicators to help you see which songs are available for offline listening. Works, composers, and performers are also now shown when browsing Classical music in the Apple Music catalog. Although it remains limited to users in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, the iOS 9.2 update adds a new “Top Stories” section to the News app. Large attachments can also now be sent via Mail Drop, mirroring the feature introduced in OS X Yosemite, and iBooks gets several improvements including 3D Touch support for navigating through books, listening to audiobooks while still browsing your library. Notably, iOS 9.2 also brings support for Apple’s USB Camera Adapter to the iPhone; previously an iPad-only accessory, this will allow iPhone users to import photos and videos from their digital cameras directly to their iOS photo library. The iOS 9.2 update also fixes a number of smaller bugs, and improves stability, and makes some accessibility improvements.
Apple is planning to unveil its second-generation Apple Watch at an event next March, 9to5Mac reports. Sources with knowledge of the plans said the new watches would ship by April, less than a year after the original hit stores. The sources also confirmed that Apple is working on the long-rumored 4” “iPhone 6c” and that new phone might also debut alongside the Apple Watch 2. A March announcement would be in line with last week’s predictions that the new phone would debut early next year, but details on what kind of hardware the new Apple Watch and iPhone models will contain is still up for debate.
Japan Display Inc.—a key supplier of the LCD displays used in iPhones—is rumored to be in talks with Apple to supply OLED screens for iPhones as early as 2018, Japanese newspaper Nikkan reports. Reports that Apple is testing OLED screens in its prototype iPhone 7 models have prompted speculation that Apple would be forced to move away from companies like Japan Digital and Sharp, which currently supply iPhone LCD displays. But Japan Display reportedly plans to have an OLED prototype line in place by next spring and is sending executives next week to pitch Apple on its plans for scaling up to mass production by 2018. [via G For Games]
Ford has announced that it will be bringing Siri Eyes-Free support to more than five million of its SYNC-equipped vehicles via a software update. The new update will be available to all vehicles equipped with the second-generation of the auto maker’s SYNC technology, dubbed “MyFord Touch” in North America, from model years 2011 to 2016, and will allow users to access Siri functions directly on their connected iPhone through the in-car control systems; a long-press of the voice recognition button on the steering wheel will engage Siri and users will then be able to issue standard Siri voice commands to place phone calls, look up phone numbers, get directions, set reminders, inquire about the weather, check and dictate text messages, and select and play music. Users will be able to download the update via Ford’s website at http://owner.ford.com.
A new research note by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has seemingly added weight to Wednesday’s report that Apple is indeed planning to release a 4” iPhone 6c in early 2016. Kuo believes the new model will resemble an upgraded iPhone 5s while including an A9 chip, NFC support for Apple Pay, and a metal casing with multiple color options. The camera specs are believed to be the same as on the iPhone 5s. Kuo notes that demand still exists for 4” smartphones, and estimates sales of 15-17m 4” iPhones by the end of this year, with the new iPhone 6c expected to account for 8 to 9 percent of total iPhone shipments in 2016. The price of the new iPhone 6c is expected to fall somewhere in the $400 to $500 range. Kuo also suggests that the addition of Apple Pay support will be a strong incentive for Apple to launch a new 4” model in order to expand that ecosystem to users who may wish to take advantage of the new payment system but don’t necessarily want to tote a larger iPhone to do so. [via MacRumors]
Citing unnamed sources inside Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn, Chinese site TechWeb claims a new 4” iPhone 6c will be announced in January and hit stores in February. The alleged insider said the new phone will have a metal body—flying in the face of previous reports that the 6c would have a plastic case similar to the 5c—but will still come in a variety of colorful options like the 5c. The new phone is expected to cost $400-$500 and offer Touch ID support, but no 3D Touch capabilities. Rumors about the 6c have been all over the map, but a few respected analysts expect the smaller phone to enter production in the first half of 2016. [via iDownloadBlog]
A new report claims that Apple is experimenting with no fewer than five different configurations of the new iPhone 7. According to G for Games, sources in China said prototypes include features like wireless charging, dual front cameras, USB-C ports compatible with headsets, displays able to read fingerprints, and multi-Force Touch capabilities. The company is also said to be testing AMOLED displays, although most rumors estimate that technology won’t makes its way into an iPhone until 2018. The site is quick to point out that its source has been right in the past, but isn’t a “certified” Apple Insider. Still, rumors of Apple getting rid of the Home button in favor of displays that can perform Touch ID fingerprint scans anywhere on the screen date back to June, and Apple has shown an interest in AMOLED screens as far back as 2013, so even if the new configurations don’t end up in the iPhone 7, it’s believable that Apple could be testing them out. Other recent reports claim Apple is mulling doing away with the iPhone’s headphone port entirely.
In a bid to slim its new iPhone down even further, Apple is considering removing the traditional headphone jack entirely, a “reliable” source tells Macotakara. The source said the new phones will likely be 1 mm thinner than current models, forcing Apple to ditch the headphone jack, since its port is based on a world standard that can’t be made thinner. While Apple has registered a patent for a thinner headphone plug, the new report suggests the company may be abandoning the idea of creating a completely new type of headphone jack in favor of connecting wired headphones through the Lightning port. The source said new “supplied ear pods” for the iPhone will have the Lightning connector, and Apple already supports Lightning cable MFi headphones, but very few of those have been introduced thus far. Bluetooth-enabled wireless headphones would also be an option for getting around the lack of a headphone jack, but obviously any change to the existing headphone jack risks serious blowback from users who would need new equipment to listen to their iPhone.
Disney has launched the subscription-based app DisneyLife for U.K. residents ahead of a planned global roll out, offering unlimited access to movies, shows, music, books, and more for £9.99 a month. The service provides unlimited streaming within the U.K. and downloads that expire after 30 days without an Internet connection. Users running the app on Apple devices with iOS 8 or iOS 9 installed can stream HD content, but videos downloaded for offline viewing aren’t available in HD. While there’s no native Apple TV version of the app, content from the app is supported on Apple TV through AirPlay with one catch: All audio and video is streamed in standard definition.
Apple has released a pair of betas to developers this afternoon — iOS 9.2 beta 4 and Apple TV’s tvOS 9.1 beta 3 are both available now. The new iOS beta includes a number of small changes, including support for AT&T’s NumberSync feature. iOS 9.2 beta 4 is also now available to public testers.
Citing “credible sources,” Macotakara claims Apple has a 4” “iPhone 5s Mark II” ready for production and shipment. If true, the new phone will feature a patchwork of Apple’s older technology, including the A8 chip found in the iPhone 6 and the f/2.2 aperture FaceTime HD camera found in the most recent iPod Touch.
The new report conflicts yesterday’s rumor from IHS analyst Kevin Wang claiming a new “iPhone 6c” with an A9 processor is on the way in mid-2016. Wang’s information seemed to back up a prediction made earlier this month by KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who also said a new 4” phone would feature the A9 chip and enter production in the first half of 2016. [via Apple Insider]
Apple is continuing its more rapid iOS development cycle, now releasing its third beta of iOS 9.2 to developers. Sporting a build number of 13C71, the beta again features sparse release notes that focus on minor fixes to UI and developer API issues. Registered iOS developers can download the latest iOS 9.2 beta from Apple’s Developer site.
A new Apple patent filing reveals that Apple may be working on a way to have an iPhone secretly enter a “panic mode” when unlocked using Touch ID with a specific finger. The patent, titled “Fingerprint Activation of a Panic Mode of Operation for a Mobile Device” and dated May 5, 2014, describes how a different mode of operation could be engaged by the detection of a specific finger on a fingerprint sensor, activating a “panic mode of operation” that would “automatically alter at least one standard operation of the mobile device,” such as restricting access to personal data stored on the device. The patent further describes how users could register multiple fingerprints to be associated with different modes of operation, presumably taking the implementation beyond a mere “panic mode” feature into calling up specific usage modes or profiles based on the finger used to unlock the device.
Apple is continuing its more rapid iOS development cycle with the release of the second iOS 9.2 beta to developers. This second beta, build number 13C5060d, again features sparse release notes that focus on minor fixes to UI and developer API issues, specifically focused on Apple Watch support, audio, dictionary, iCloud Keychain, networking, Safari, Video, and Wi-Fi calling. The iOS 9.2 beta continues to support the same devices as iOS 9.1. Registered iOS developers can download the iOS 9.2 beta from Apple’s Developer site.
Less than a week after the public release of iOS 9.1, Apple has already released the first beta version of iOS 9.2 to developers. The iOS 9.2 beta release notes reveal little about what’s new in this version, simply noting some minor issues in the beta surrounding Apple Watch support, iCloud Keychain, Safari, and Video, suggesting that these are areas being worked on. The iOS 9.2 beta continues to support the same devices as iOS 9.1. Registered iOS developers can download the iOS 9.2 beta from Apple’s Developer site.
A federal judge has upheld the $234 million in damages handed down by a jury that found Apple guilty of infringing on a University of Wisconsin-Madison patent earlier this month, according to Apple Insider. After the initial verdict, Apple filed a motion arguing that its A7 and A8 chips didn’t meet the strict criteria detailed in the suit, and filed another motion attempting to avoid damages by passing blame to chip manufacturer Samsung, but U.S. District Court Judge William M. Conley dismissed the motions and upheld the the jury’s ruling. A second lawsuit filed by the university, claiming similar grievances over Apple’s use of the same patent in processors found inside the iPad Pro, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, is still pending.
Some users opting to update their iPhone’s operating system overnight have noticed the process turns off any alarms they have set, Apple Insider notes. Overnight updates became available starting with iOS 9.0 and Apple addressed some problems with alarms in its iOS 9.0.1 release, but users began reporting the overnight alarm bug after last week’s iOS 9.1 update. Users have taken to Twitter to complain, but so far Apple hasn’t publicly addressed the issue.
According to several employees, select Apple Stores are about to begin testing a repair program that sends some iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s and 6s Plus devices off-site for repairs, 9to5Mac reports. Apple has previously completed all repairs in-store while customers wait, but the new pilot program will have Genius Bar employees shipping phones to a repair center if they’re unable to power on, won’t boot up past the Apple logo, or can’t connect to iTunes on a computer. Apple has communicated to employees that the change is being made because these specific issues take a significant amount of time to repair, increasing wait times for customers with simpler issues. A new automated system within the Genius Bar will determine whether the device can be fixed in-store or needs to be shipped out, and those customers agreeing to have their phones sent out for repair as part of the pilot program will be loaned a 16GB iPhone 6 to use for the three-to-five business days that it’ll take to service their device. Select stores in the U.S., Europe and Japan are taking part in the pilot program, but Apple hasn’t publicly announced the change or commented on which specific locations will be taking part.