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European Commission assessing Apple’s proposed acquisition of Shazam

The European Commission has announced that it will be more closely scrutinizing Apple’s proposed acquisition of Shazam in light of concerns about stifling competition in the streaming music service market. According to the press release, the Commission is opening “an in-depth investigation to assess the proposed acquisition of Shazam by Apple under the EU Merger Regulation.” on the basis that “the merger could reduce choice for users of music streaming services.” The Commission’s primary concern appears to be that acquiring Shazam would give Apple “access to commercially sensitive data about customers of its competitors” that would allow Apple to “directly target” those customers to encourage them to switch to Apple Music, thereby putting those competitors at a disadvantage. As a secondary factor, the Commission is also concerned that competitors would be harmed if Apple were to discontinue referrals from the Shazam app, although the Commission notes that it does not see Shazam as “a key entry point for music streaming services.” The Commission has set a deadline of Sept. 4, 2018 to come to a final decision.

Apple’s new App Store design can boost featured apps by up to 800 percent

Apple’s App Store redesign in iOS 11 is paying off for developers, with a new study from Sensor Tower (via TechCrunch) revealing that apps landing in the featured spots on the new App Store can see a boost in downloads by as much as 800 percent. The study analyzed data from Sept. 2017 to the present finding that the median U.S. iPhone downloads for apps that appeared in the “Game of the Day” spot increased by 802 percent during the week following the feature, as compared to the week prior. Apps landing in “App of the Day” saw a slightly lower but still significant boost of 685 percent. Increases were somewhat lower for apps simply featured in App Store Stories or App Lists, but still showed a demonstrable increase.

GE releases HomeKit-compatible window air conditioner

GE is now shipping its first HomeKit-enabled air conditioner in the U.S. Available exclusively at Lowe’s, the new 8000 BTU air conditioner features “WiFi Connect” providing compatibility with not only HomeKit, but also Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and IFTTT. Like most window air conditioners, the unit supports four-way air direction, three cooling speeds, and three fan speeds, and also includes a traditional remote control. [via AppleInsider]

J. Cole’s ‘KOD’ beats out Drake’s ‘Views’ streaming record on Apple Music

J. Cole’s new album “KOD” has set a new milestone on Apple Music for streams in the first 24 hours following release, surpassing 64 million streams on its first day, according to The Verge, and beating out the previous record holder, Drake’s “Views”, by almost one million streams. The Verge adds that out of the top 10 most-streamed songs in a 24-hour period, seven from “KOD” are now listed.

Foodspotting shutting down

Popular foodie app Foodspotting has rather abruptly announced that it will be shutting down entirely early next month. The plans were announced on the company’s website and in a “version 6.0” update to the Foodspotting app, which included release notes saying “All good things must come to an end – even Foodspotting” and pointing users to the company’s web site for more information.

Apple struggling to cut its dependence on Samsung for OLED displays

Apple is struggling to source OLED screens from manufacturers other than Samsung, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal. Apple has been trying to make a deal with LG Display as an alternative supplier of OLED screens for this year’s iPhones, thereby reducing its dependence on Samsung, but according to people familiar with the matter, manufacturing problems have caused LG to fall behind schedule. One the sources noted that Apple is now trying to decide whether it will be able to rely on LG Display to provide screens for the upcoming iPhone models expected to be released this fall. Currently, Samsung is Apple’s only OLED display provider, which puts Apple’s largest rival in control of pricing on the displays for Apple’s flagship iPhones, potentially driving up the price at which Apple can afford to sell devices such as the iPhone X. Analysts have reportedly been saying for months that Apple is in “urgent” need of finding another supplier for its OLED displays, however, LG has had mixed success with the quality of its OLED displays for other devices such as the V30 and Google Pixel 2 XL, suggesting that Apple would also need LG to step up its game if it were to become a secondary supplier, which may also be the source of some of the manufacturing delays.

New iPhone SE could launch in May, sans headphone jack

An updated iPhone SE may in fact be coming as early as next month, according to a new report by Mac Otakara [via MacRumors]. Speaking with case makers at the Global Sources Mobile Electronics trade show in Hong Kong this week, the Japanese website was told that a second-generation iPhone SE would still maintain the same physical size as the current iPhone, but could eliminate the 3.5mm headphone jack and possibly even move to a glass back with wireless charging capabilities, although case makers seem less certain on that last point.

Apple releases 2018 Environmental Responsibility Report

Apple has released its 2018 Environmental Responsibility Report, outlining the company’s progress throughout fiscal year 2017 in making all of its operations more eco-friendly. While Apple already announced earlier this month that it had accomplished its goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy sources for all of its facilities worldwide, the formal annual report on the company’s environmental initiatives outlines more of what that means, as well as progress that Apple has been making to protect the environment in other facets of its business as well.

Report: Apple considering dual-SIM 6.1” LCD iPhone model

Another new report by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that Apple may have plans this year for a dual-SIM iPhone model, 9to5Mac reports. The new investor note by Kuo suggests that the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone rumoured earlier this year, could be available in a version that would support dual-SIM technology, meaning that it would support two physical SIM card slots, and no eSIM support. This latest update adds to an earlier report that suggested Apple was considering a dual-SIM option for a new 6.5” OLED “iPhone X Plus” also rumoured to be in the pipeline for release later this year, which Kuo also corporate in his investor note, adding however that dual-SIM support will not be coming to the smaller 5.8-inch OLED version. Kuo also expects that the dual SIM iPhone would be priced higher than single SIM models, suggesting that the standard 6.1” LCD iPhone could sell for as low as $550, while the dual-SIM version might be priced in the $650 to $750 price range.

OtterBox releases new case designs for Solo: A Star Wars Story

OtterBox has announced a new series of special edition cases for “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” in advance of the film. The new designs are part of the company’s Symmetry Series, featuring the same level of protection against dumps and drops with graphics that pay tribute to Han Solo and his loyal sidekick. The “Millennium Falcon” case features the legendary ship that made the kessel run in less than 12 parsecs, while “Chewbacca” is a great option for fans of the wookie and “All or Nothing” displays symbols representative of a galaxy far, far away. The new case are available now from the OtterBox website for $44.95 for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 versions, and $54.95 for the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X versions.

Agile Tortoise releases Drafts 5

Agile Tortoise has released Drafts 5, a full rewrite of the company’s very popular quick note taking app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. The new version expands on the classic Drafts 4 experience with improved editing tools, tappable task marks for creating shopping lists and other quick tasks, and deeper customizability through app-wide themes and custom icons. The new version also provides better ways to organize information in Drafts, such as tagging, workspaces, next-previous navigation, and a new “Focus Mode,” and improves capture with SiriKit integration, allowing notes to be created in Drafts right from a “Hey Siri” command. Action and scripting capabilities have also been significantly enhanced, allowing for more advanced workflows. A full list of what’s new is available on the company’s website.

Report: New iPhone models may be coming this spring, likely iPhone SE updates

New regulatory filings discovered by Consomac (via 9to5Mac) suggest that several new iPhone models may be launching in the near future. References to new iPhone models were found yesterday in the Eurasian Economic Commission database, which has a solid reputation for accuracy in revealing products about a month before they ship, suggesting that new models could appear as early as May or June. Although the filing provides few useful details, logic suggests that this will be a smaller update, since Apple’s flagship iPhones are not expected to debut until the fall. While some reports have suggested it could be a slightly tweaked iPhone X, it seems much more likely that this would be the “iPhone SE 2” that we’ve been seeing sporadic rumours about over the past few months. More recent reports on an updated iPhone SE, however, have suggested that Apple may not have the resources for a major update, and that the most we’re likely to see is minor improvements such as a faster processor and lower price.

Cultured Code releases Things 3.5 with better tag filtering and other UI improvements

Cultured Code has announced Things 3.5 for both iOS and Mac, an update the focuses on a plethora of small but welcome improvements. Referred to as a “spit-and-polish” release, Things 3.5 now allows “Areas” to be collapsed for better viewing or long project lists as well as making it easier to apply and search for tags. A small but conspicuously missing feature from the Things 2 era also finally makes a return in this version with the ability to filter for items that have not been tagged at all. Additional improvements include significant copy-and-paste improvements, allowing lists of tasks and title/note combinations to be pasted in right from the clipboard, and the Things URL scheme introduced earlier this year can now be used to update existing tasks from other apps and external workflows. Things 3.5 is available now on the iOS and macOS App Stores as a free update.

August Apple Watch app now allows untethered Smart Lock control

As we discovered last week, August has released an update to the iPhone and Apple Watch companion app for its August Smart Lock, adding untethered lock control for Apple Watch users. With the new native watchOS app, users of any generation of August Smart Lock will now be able to check their lock status and control their lock directly from their Apple Watch, even when it’s not connected to their iPhone — a feature that will be a definite boon for users of more recent Apple Watch models that can already handle GPS-based fitness tracking and their own cellular data connections without the need for the iPhone to be on-hand.

Apple to leverage Texture acquisition to bring new magazine subscription plan to Apple News

According to a new report by Bloomberg, Apple is planning to leverage its recent acquisition of Texture to debut its own premium subscription offering. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report notes that the newly-acquired digital magazine app is expected to be rolled into Apple News, along with a new subscription service to help bolster the company’s online content and services revenue.

About explains ‘Hey Siri’ personalization in Machine Learning Journal

In a new post in Apple’s Machine Learning Journal, the company explains how personalization works behind the “Hey Siri” voice activation feature to reduce the number of false positives. The journal points back to an earlier entry that describes the general technical approach and implementation details of the “Hey Siri” detector and the more general, speaker-independent “key-phrase detection” problem, and begins with that as an assumed foundation for this latest paper, which focuses in on the machine learning technologies that Apple has implemented in developing a rudimentary speaker recognition system to reduce the number of false positives triggered by other people in the vicinity saying phrases that may sound similar to “Hey Siri.”

Apple releases second developer betas for iOS 11.4, tvOS 11.4, watchOS 4.3.1

Apple has released a second round of developer betas for iOS 11.4, tvOS 11.4, and watchOS 4.3.1, approximately two weeks following the initial set of betas. The release notes reveal only minor changes and fixes compared to the first beta, which brought back Messages in iCloud expressly “for testing and evaluation purposes” and saw the return of AirPlay 2 support in iOS — both features that made an appearance during the iOS 11.3 beta cycle only to be removed before the final release. It remains unclear, however, whether these features are planned to arrive in iOS 11.4, or are simply once again being included solely for testing purposes.

Apple will repair 42mm Apple Watch Series 2 models with swollen batteries free of charge

Apple has advised Apple Store and Authorized Service Providers that it will be offering free repairs to Apple Watch Series 2 models that do not power on or have a swollen battery, according to documents obtained by MacRumors. In an internal memo, Apple noted that it “has determined that under certain conditions, some Apple Watch Series 2 devices may not power on or they may experience an expanded battery.” Coverage will be provided for up to three years from the date of purchase, regardless of warranty status. However, eligibility is specifically limited to the 42mm Apple Watch Series 2 models, although all S2 variants qualify.

Code in watchOS 4.3.1 suggests faint possibility of third-party Apple Watch faces

New code unearthed in watchOS 4.3.1 by 9to5Mac suggests the possibility that Apple may be at least considering opening up the development of Apple Watch faces to third party developers — something that many have been asking for almost since the wearable device first debuted. Code found in the NanoTimeKit framework that’s responsible for handling watch faces, includes a log message in the process that communicates with Xcode on macOS, declaring “This is where the 3rd party face config bundle generation would happen.” While the feature is very obviously not yet implemented — and well-known developer Steve Troughton-Smith tweeted that it may not even be an entirely new thing — it’s enough to suggest that it’s a possibility that Apple may have been at least considering. Whether it will come to fruition any time in the near future is another matter entirely, however.

Cardi B’s debut album sets new Apple Music streaming record

A new debut album on Apple Music has just set a new record for first-week streams by a female artist, The Verge reports, unseating Taylor Swift. According to Apple, Cardi B’s debut album, Invasion of Privacy, racked up over 100 million streams on Apple Music, doubling the record held by Taylor Swift’s Reputation by the middle of the week. Invasion of Privacy is now the fifth most-streamed album on Apple Music, surpassing The Weeknd’s Starboy and Ed Sheeran’s Divide. This is a particularly impressive accomplishment for Cardi B, considering that it’s her debut album, and also demonstrates how Apple Music continues to succeed as a platform for artists to debut albums on.

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