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Sprint announces Family Share Pack data plans

Sprint has announced its new Family Share Pack, a shared data plan that offers double the quantity of data as its competitors for similar rates. The included charts note the pricing breakdowns and carrier comparisons; Sprint notably bills the data as “high-speed,” though its cellular network has been criticized for offering sub-par performance in much of the United States.

Coming off its failed merger with T-Mobile, Sprint is doing away with its highly advertised “Framily Plans,” replacing them with the new Family Share Pack plans. In addition to the new data prices, for a limited time Sprint is offering up to $350 to buy out the contracts of customers switching from other carriers, via Visa Prepaid Card. The Family Share Pack will be available starting on Friday, August 22.

Report: 5.5” iPhone 6 to use 2915 mAh battery

A series of new photos of the alleged 5.5” iPhone 6 show a 2915 mAh battery, which would be a considerable upgrade over the iPhone 5s battery and the anticipated battery in the smaller, 4.7” iPhone 6—around twice the capacity of prior iPhone batteries. The new photos were posted by Apple Daily. According to leaked photos, the smaller 4.7” iPhone 6 may have a 1810 mAh battery, versus the 1560 mAh cell in the iPhone 5s. Even taking into account the additional power needed for the larger display, the 5.5” iPhone 6 could have significantly better overall battery life than the 4.7” model if these specs are true.

Apple to debut reversible USB Lightning cable?

A few allegedly leaked photos of reversible USB cables have popped up in recent days, with reports claiming that Apple’s new Lightning to USB cables could include the feature. The most recent photo comes from Sonny Dickson, who has leaked real Apple parts in the past, depicting a USB connector that would work with any standard Type A USB port, but could be inserted upside down or right-side up. It’s notable that Apple has filed a recently-revealed patent for a reversible USB connector, discussing a “tongue” with contacts on its top and bottom, potentially capable of determining which side’s contacts are being used and deactivating the other side’s contacts. [via 9to5Mac]

WSJ: Apple mulls sapphire for premium iPhones, iWatch

Less than a month from its expected iPhone launch event, Apple is considering using sapphire screens in the more expensive models of its upcoming iPhone and iWatch, according to The Wall Street Journal. The report notes that the first sapphire displays for those devices are “expected to roll off production lines this month.” It’s also reported that the company will use sapphire in more expensive models of the two new iPhones, “if it can get enough of the material.” The report suggests that sapphire-equipped iPhones would likely carry a higher price tag than the lower-end versions of the same models.

Although the report isn’t entirely implausible, rumors of material differentiations in Apple devices have rarely proved accurate in the past, though the company has sometimes restricted base models to one or fewer colors than higher-end models, and one iPod—the third-generation iPod shuffle—was briefly offered in a premium stainless steel version alongside aluminum models. With the new iPhone launch seemingly so close, last-minute changes to major components would be somewhat hard to swallow, unless production is running significantly behind schedule.

Report: Apple meets with Thai officials regarding iPhone 6 announcement

Thai officials revealed on Wednesday that Apple received approval to sell two new iPhone models in the country, and a new report notes that a seemingly displeased Apple has met with those officials about the disclosure. The translated report, from Thai Rath, also makes a point to note that the new devices may or may not be called “iPhone 6,” leaving some doubt into what the names of the new devices will actually be; “iPhone Air” has previously been floated as a possible alternative. Though Apple may be upset, it doesn’t seem the disclosure will likely affect the sale of the new phones in Thailand. The report suggests the phone could launch in Thailand in early October, after first hitting the market in late September. [via MacRumors]

Apple bans benzene, n-hexane in iPhone, iPad assembly

Apple has banned the use of two chemicals, benzene and n-hexane, in final assembly of its iPhones and iPads, the Associated Press reports. The company has drawn criticism in the past for using both potentially hazardous chemicals — workers reported n-hexane-related sicknesses in 2010, and by 2011, workers at an Apple manufacturing partner wrote a letter regarding their concerns and health issues due to n-hexane exposure. Though Apple claims an investigation at 22 factories revealed no evidence that either chemical endangered workers, the company is requiring all factories to test substances for the two chemicals on top of the general ban. “This is doing everything we can think of to do to crack down on chemical exposures and to be responsive to concerns,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives. “We think it’s really important that we show some leadership and really look toward the future by trying to use greener chemistries.” Apple also released a new message from Jackson on the company’s decision to ban the two controversial chemicals.

New iPhone 6 leaks show tapered front panel, more

More new photos of the alleged 4.7” iPhone 6 have been released by Feld & Volk. A closeup of the front panel reveals greater detail about the phone’s design, showing curved, tapered edges that should meet the rounded edges of the rear shell. Like the iPhone 5 and 5s, the power button has a metallic finish, which the volume and mute switches will apparently continue to have as well. The mute switch has changed internally, using rocker-style side pins rather than a sliding mechanism. Additional photos show components under the front panel, and a metal SIM card tray. [via MacRumors]

Apple approved to sell two iPhone 6 models in Thailand

Apple has received approval to sell two new iPhone models in Thailand, according to Manager Online. The approval was also confirmed in a tweet by Takorn Tantasith, Thailand’s Secretary General of the National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission.

It’s reported that Apple requested to sell two new models, A1586 and A1524. The request was filed on August 5 and approved on August 8. Considering the early approval, it’s possible that Thailand will be in the first launch wave for the iPhone 6. [via MacRumors]

New iPhone 6 rear shell leak posted

Two new photos of the alleged iPhone 6 rear shell have been posted on Twitter by Sonny Dickson. The photos of a scuffed-up shell show the round True Tone flash, and it appears that the ring around the camera is protruding. Antenna breaks are still somewhat of a mystery — it’s possible that these are unfinished shells, with antenna breaks to be filled later with another material — but it’s also possible that Apple will be using plastic covers for the antennas.

iPhone 6 part leak shows circular True Tone flash

A number of alleged iPhone 6 parts have been posted to nowhereelse.fr, with perhaps the most interesting part being a circular Apple True Tone flash. The roundness isn’t a true surprise, as multiple leaks and mockups have shown the iPhone 6 using a circular flash, replacing the current pill-shaped True Tone flash in the iPhone 5s. However, two different colors can be seen within the leaked flash module, so it does appear that this will be a new, circular version of the True Tone flash. Other parts in the leak include a metallic, opaque embedded Apple logo, as well as an external camera ring that may indicate a protruding lens.

Sprint to cease pursuit of T-Mobile

Sprint has decided to stop pursuing T-Mobile as a merger partner, The Wall Street Journal reports. The company also decided at a Tuesday board meeting to replace CEO Dan Hesse with Brightstar founder Marcelo Claure. It was first reported in December that Sprint was working toward a bid for T-Mobile. But facing opposition from regulators, Sprint has decided to refocus its efforts on its own rejuvenation. It’s expected that Sprint will make an official announcement today.

Apple’s 2014 iPhone event scheduled for September 9

Apple will hold an event to introduce its new iPhones on September 9, Re/Code reports. It’s believed that both the upcoming 4.7” and 5.5” iPhones will be unveiled at the event, though what it means for the respective release dates of the phones is still unclear; the company traditionally releases new iPhones roughly 10 days after they are announced. Apple declined further comment.

Apple using new AAE sidecar format for iOS 8 photos?

The latest iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite betas have revealed what appears to be a new file format for transferring non-destructive photo adjustments between different apps and Apple devices. When using Yosemite’s built-in photo transfer app Image Capture, iOS 8 JPEG photos transferred to the Mac now include an additional “AAE” file in an XML format, containing keys with names such as “adjustmentData,” “adjustmentBaseVersion,” and “adjustmentFormatIdentifier.” The AAE files are typically less than 1KB each for lightly edited files.

Although it is unclear why Apple would introduce a new way to store photo adjustments, the additional file could enable third-party apps to see the same version of a photo edited with Apple’s upcoming Photos app, or potentially export edits made with prior Apple photo apps such as Aperture and iPhoto. With the recent announcement that Apple will be ceasing development of Aperture and iPhoto—a change that has necessitated export workarounds for replacement pro photo apps such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom—it’s possible that the AAE files could provide a smoother migration path for users.

U.S. DOT mulling new ban on in-flight cell calls

The U.S. Department of Transportation may seek a formal ban on in-flight cellphone calls, reports The Wall Street Journal. Following a Federal Communications Commission proposal to allow in-flight cellular calling, airlines have suggested that they can self-determine whether cellphone service should be allowed, and have accused the DOT of overstepping its authority on this matter; some carriers hope to offer “passenger-friendly” ways to allow calls. According to the report, the DOT is reportedly planning to propose an in-flight calling rule nonetheless, though the department has said that “there is no final determination” on what that rule will be. Notably, a June report said that the DOT also seeks to give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the ability to regulate navigation in cars, as part of the Grow America Act.

Apple releases iOS beta 5

Apple has released iOS 8 beta 5 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch to registered developers. As expected, the release comes two weeks after the previous beta. We’ll update later on if there are any notable changes.

Update: Among other changes, users can now opt to store full-resolution photos in iCloud while keeping device-optimized versions of those photos on an iPhone. iOS users will also now be prompted to allow other devices to use phone numbers for SMS relay. Spirometry data types have also been added to HealthKit.

Report: Apple Stores to support carrier early iPhone upgrade programs

Apple Stores will soon allow customers to purchase new iPhones using early upgrade programs from carriers, including AT&T Next, T-Mobile JUMP, and Verizon Edge, according to 9to5Mac. It’s unclear whether or when Apple will support Sprint’s One Up program. The report claims that “many” stores will offer the purchase option in late August, ahead of the expected iPhone 6 September launch. At the moment, any iPhone purchased in an Apple Store must be bought with a two-year contract or at full price with no contract.

Congress passes bill to legalize phone unlocking

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill today that will legalize cell phone unlocking, following the Senate’s approval of the bill last week. All the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” needs now is for President Obama to sign the bill into law — a virtual guarantee considering the White House has already expressed its support for legally unlocking phones. The bill covers any device that operates on a wireless network. Currently, consumers need carrier permission to get a phone unlocked. However, the Library of Congress will revisit the rule again in 2015, so there’s a possibility phone unlocking could become illegal again in the future after this bill is passed into law.

Report: Apple could launch own mobile wallet this fall

Apple executives have had recent conversations about launching an iPhone-based mobile wallet as soon as this fall, according to The Information. The company has reportedly told partners its mobile payment system would contain “secured element” hardware within the phones that would store sensitive financial information. The Secure Enclave coprocessor in Apple’s A7 chip would likely fit the bill — as noted by Apple, it relies on a random number generator and encrypted memory to safely store information. It’s also noted that Visa is in discussions with Apple about a possible partnership to bypass third-party payment processors to lower costs.

Mobile payments from Apple have been rumored for years. But with Apple reportedly interviewing candidates for a mobile payment service, and CEO Tim Cook recently characterizing mobile payments as “an area of interest” while freely discussing the possibilities of such a service, perhaps we’ll see an iPhone wallet in the near future. [via MacRumors]

Report: Apple ‘tentatively’ plans mid-September iPhone event

Apple is “tentatively” planning an event for mid-September to announce the iPhone 6, 9to5Mac reports. Though not a surprise — numerous reports have all pegged September for the iPhone 6 reveal — the new report claims the second and third weeks of September are the most likely weeks for the event, though plans are still yet to be finalized. If the event was held on a Tuesday, as is commonplace, it would be held on September 9 or 16, with a likely product release on September 19 or 26. However, it’s unclear if both new iPhones will be announced or launched at the same time. According to the report, the 4.7” iPhone 6 will be showcased, but no decision has been made regarding inclusion of the 5.5” iPhone 6. Final details on iOS 8 will also be unveiled at the event.

WSJ: Apple asking suppliers to make 70-80M new iPhones this year

Apple is asking its suppliers to manufacture between 70-80 million units of its upcoming two new iPhones combined by Dec. 30, The Wall Street Journal reports. As noted in the report, this represents a significant step up from last year’s initial order of 50-60 million units for the iPhone 5s and 5c. It still appears there could be a delay with the larger model, as display makers are “struggling to improve the production of the larger 5.5-inch screens.” The in-cell technology used to create a thinner, lighter display is reportedly causing the complications, and using sapphire instead of glass could also present more issues. Additionally, sources said that Apple is asking component makers to prepare enough parts for 120 million new iPhones by the end of the year, in case the displays have a high failure rate.

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