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Apple reveals some of its upcoming AI advancements for the iPhone

While Siri is the usual public focus of Apple’s artificial intelligence endeavors, a new Backchannel story points out that much of the behavior iPhone users notice in their device is also powered by the company’s increasing push to improve its AI. When the iPhone guesses which apps you’ll want to use next when you swipe your screen, that’s Apple’s AI at work, but the device also lashes together pieces of information from several places to provide a more complete picture. Machine learning helps Apple devices do everything from extending battery life between charges to identifying a caller who isn’t in its contact list by referencing emails. It’s also responsible for the iPad Pro knowing the difference between the Apple Pencil’s touch and the palm being dragged alongside it while a user is drawing, accepting the Pencil’s input while rejecting the palm’s. “If this doesn’t work rock solid, this is not a good piece of paper for me to write on anymore — and Pencil is not a good product,” said senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi. “If you love your Pencil, thank machine learning.”

Apple Music’s royalty rates complicate Spotify’s contract negotiations

Apple Music’s entry into the streaming music business has major labels asking Spotify for a larger share of its revenue, Music Business Worldwide reports. Spotify’s contracts with Universal, Warner and Sony have all expired, and while the labels want Spotify to up their revenue share from 55 percent to something closer to the 58 percent Apple currently pays, Spotify is trying to push what it pays even further down. Spotify is getting by on rolling month-to-month licensing agreements for the time being, but its decision to begin offering a carbon copy of Apple Music’s family plan with no long-term licensing agreements in place has rubbed labels the wrong way.

iFixit highlights ‘Touch Disease’ affecting many iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models

Photo: iFixit

A new report from iFixit highlights a design defect in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus that the company believes is affecting thousands of units. Referring to the problem as “Touch Disease,” iFixit describes a scenario where flickering grey lines appear at the top of the iPhone screen and touch functionality becomes glitchy or unresponsive. Apple Stores have generally refused to reocgnize the problem as an issue — particularly as many of the affected iPhones are now out of warranty — leaving many customers stuck with no choice but to purchase a new iPhone or pay for costly repairs. Notably, however, iFixit’s investigation claims that the problem is not even a function of the iPhone display, but is actually caused by two touchscreen controller chips located on the logic board.

Rebranded Nike+ Run Club app adds new tracking abilities

The Nike+ Running app has gotten a total facelift and a new name with version 5.0.0. Now called Nike+ Run Club, the app provides plenty of new options for runners, including the ability to create coaching plans that adapt to their schedule and progress. Post-run sharing options add a social aspect and allow runners to compete with their friends by hash-tagging runs.

Apple Music Festival set for Sept. 18-30

Apple has announced that its annual Apple Music Festival will run from Sept. 18-30 this year at London’s Roundhouse. The lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but U.K. residents will soon be able to apply to win tickets through Apple Music and Apple’s media partners. As always, Apple plans to make performances available for free to Apple Music users live and on demand. The event has been held in London annually under the iTunes Music Festival name since 2007, but was rebranded last year.

Report: Apple planning three iPhone models for 2017, one with curved OLED display

Nikkei Asian Review claims Apple is planning to release three iPhone models next year, including a premium device that will feature a curved display. A source familiar with Apple’s plans said, “There will be a 4.7-inch model, another that will be 5.5-inches and a premium handset that will be either 5.5-inches or larger equipped with a screen bent on the two sides,” noting the first two phones will feature the flat screen found on current Apple devices.

Apple investigating after two Foxconn employees died last week

Apple partner Foxconn said two workers at one of its manufacturing facilities died last week, The Wall Street Journal reports. A 31-year-old employee at the Zhengzhou plant that specializes in production of Apple devices climbed to the top of the building and leapt to his death after finishing his night shift on an iPhone assembly line Wednesday night. The man had been on the job only a month, prompting one fellow Foxconn employee to ask, “Why is it always the entry-level workers who jump?” A female employee from the same facility died in a train accident on her way to work Friday. Foxconn said it is cooperating with authorities investigating both deaths. Foxconn has worked to improve labor conditions since a series of suicides in 2010 and 2011, but as recently as last year an employee at the Zhengzhou plant was reported dead in an apparent suicide. In an official statement, Apple said, “We constantly monitor working conditions to ensure that they meet our strict standards, and we will investigate the incidents in Zhengzhou.”

Apple buys health data startup Gliimpse

Apple’s digital health team has made its first known acquisition, a personal health data startup named Gliimpse, Fast Company reports. The Silicon Valley company was started in 2013 and built its own software platform to allow people to collect, personalize and share a picture of their health data. Gliimpse was funded by Anil Sethi, a “serial entrepreneur” who spent the past decade working with health startups and got his start as a systems engineer at Apple in the 1980s.

Report: Apple passes on Lyft acquisition

Apple was reportedly one of several companies that held talks over the last few months to consider buying ride-hailing company Lyft, but didn’t end up making an offer, The New York Times reports. Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing company in which Apple invested $1 billion in May, was also mentioned as a possible buyer, alongside General Motors, Google, Amazon, and Uber. Didi Chuxing acquired Uber’s operations in China earlier this month, seemingly upending a partnership the company had forged with Lyft to fight Uber’s expansion into new markets. Lyft hasn’t publicly stated whether it will continue working with Didi Chuxing after the merger, which saw Didi founder Cheng Wei and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick join each other’s boards, and gave Uber a 20-percent stake in the combined company.

Apple releases iOS 10 beta 7 to developers

Only five days after the release of the sixth beta of iOS 10, Apple has released another beta of iOS 10 to registered developers. While the release notes don’t suggest any specific reason for the rapid release of a seventh beta, it presumably fixed some issues in beta 6, and the list of known issues continues to shrink from prior betas as iOS 10 nears its likely release date next month. A corresponding public beta of iOS 10 is also available through the Apple Software Beta Program.

Report: iPhone 7 to gain optical image stabilization

A new report from Nowhereelse (translated link) revealed a leaked photo of a camera sensor purporting to be from the upcoming iPhone. While the report notes that that photo doesn’t reveal anything meaningful about the technical features of the camera, and that without anything comparative in the photo it’s not even possible to estimate the size of the new sensor, it does indicate that the design of the sensor connects have changed and that it resembles the sensor allegedly designed for the iPhone 7 Plus, suggesting that the iPhone 7 camera will include the optical image stabilization features previously only found in the Plus models.

Frank Ocean releases new visual album ‘Endless’ on Apple Music

Frank Ocean has released a new 45-minute “visual album” Endless on Apple Music, in advance of his upcoming album Boys Don’t Cry, which was expected to be available exclusively on Apple Music earlier this month. An Apple Music representative has indicated, however, that “more from Frank” may be coming over the weekend. Endless features new songs by the artist and is set in the same warehouse where his recent web stream has been hosted.

Australian banks denied interim approval for joint negotiations in Apple Pay dispute

Australia’s anti-trust regulator has refused to grant interim approval for the country’s three largest banks to collectively negotiate with Apple to support their own mobile payment apps on the iPhone platform, Reuters reports. The three banks filed a joint application last month requesting permission from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to negotiate as a group to persuade Apple to give them access to its NFC hardware for their own third-party mobile payment apps separately from Apple Pay — a move that Apple noted earlier this month would compromise the iPhone’s security.

Report: Next-gen Apple Watch will not support cellular connectivity

Apple has been struggling with attempts to incorporate cellular connectivity into the new Apple Watch, according to a new report from Bloomberg. In an attempt to make the new version of the Watch less dependent on the iPhone, the company has been trying to implement wireless cellular hardware, but has been unable to resolve the power consumption of current cellular chips, which would make the battery life on the new Watch unacceptable, according to sources familiar with the matter. Apple has apparently begun looking into the use of lower-power cellular data chips for future generations of the Apple Watch, but no timeframe was provided for when this might happen other than that it won’t be making into this year’s models — sources revealed that even with an “aggressive” schedule, the earliest possible shipment for cellular models would have been this December.

Apple’s assembly sites in China hit zero-waste milestone

Apple has reached one of its biggest environmental goals in China, bringing all 14 of its final assembly sites into zero-waste compliance, the company said in a press release. All waste from the facilities is now either reused, recycled, composted or burned to create power. The company also announced a commitment from supplier Lens Technology to run its Apple operations on entirely renewable energy by 2018, making an “unprecedented” power purchasing agreement with local wind projects. Apple has made a serious environmental push in China, working to protect sustainable forest land for the fiber used in its packaging and partnering with local companies to create multiple solar energy farms.

Report: Apple going with ‘iPhone 7’ name for new phone, not releasing ‘iPhone Pro’

Citing a “reliable information source,” Macotakara is reporting that the new iPhone coming next month will be called “iPhone 7” despite months of speculation that the company would hold back that designation as it moves from a two-year to a three-year refresh cycle. The report also claims the expected dual-camera model will be named “iPhone 7 Plus,” backing previous reports that rumors of an “iPhone Pro” were unfounded. The story bolsters previous leaks about camera improvements, the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack and a haptic Home button, saying those changes are enough to warrant the move to a new numbered model over another iPhone 6 designation.

Apple making a documentary with hip-hop label Cash Money Records

Apple is making a documentary with Cash Money Records, home to hip-hop stars like Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Drake, Bloomberg reports. Cash Money co-founder Bryan Williams posted a picture of himself standing alongside Larry Jackson, the head of Apple’s original music content, to celebrate the new deal. People familiar with the arrangement said Apple is funding a documentary about the label, not securing all of Cash Money’s new albums to be Apple Music exclusives as had been speculated. Drake already has close ties to Apple — he hosts his own show on Beats 1 and made his latest album an Apple Music exclusive for its first week.

Leaked AT&T schedule hints at Sept. 23 release date for iPhone 7

An AT&T retail schedule obtained by 9to5Mac hints at a Sept. 23 release date for the new iPhone. Previous rumors predicted pre-orders for the new phone will start on Sept. 9, with a likely release date of Sept. 16. The leaked schedule shows AT&T highlighting extra hours needed for a “merchandising rest” on both Sept. 9 and Sept. 23. Either is a possibility: The wait between the start of pre-orders and the official release date for most iPhones since 2011 has been a single week, but last year’s iPhone 6s launch had a two-week lead time for pre-orders.

Key Apple Watch engineer provides details on device’s development

Bob Messerschmidt — who sold his company to Apple in 2010 and became a key part of the Apple Watch’s development — gave some insights into how products are created at Apple in a new Fast Company article. Working with Jony Ive’s Industrial Design Group constantly challenged Messerschmidt and his employees to redesign their components, specifically the heart rate sensor that became the Apple Watch’s marquee selling feature. When Messerschmidt told Ive’s team that he needed to put the watch’s sensors in the band so they’d make contact with the underside of a user’s wrist to get the most accurate reading, the response was a flat no. “They (the Industrial Design group) said very quickly that ‘that’s not the design trend; that’s not the fashion trend. We want to have interchangeable bands so we don’t want to have any sensors in the band.’”

Berkshire Hathaway increases its stake in Apple

After buying $1.07 billion of Apple stock in March, Berkshire Hathaway has boosted its total stake in the company to $1.46 billion, Reuters reports. Regulatory filings from the Omaha, Nebraska-based conglomerate showed the company had expanded its Apple holdings by 55 percent as of June 30, doubling down on the investment as other notable investors like George Soros and Carl Icahn are bailing on the company over concerns about Apple’s future prospects in China.

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